Favorite Vegan Recipes of 2016

Happy New Year! It’s actually 2017! Can hardly believe it, and we’ve been “retired” for three and a half years now! (we “escaped Silicon Valley” in July of 2013). In June of 2016 I “went vegan” following the whole food plant based diet, and Tim followed soon after. With a few slip ups (yes, he had some ham at Xmas dinner with the neighbors) and a bit of mayo on my Portabello burger in a restaurant here and there — we’ve been pretty “good”. We’ve both lost weight and kept it off, and feel our digestion is much better overall.

Here are some of our favorite new recipes and go to food choices from the last six months, in no particular order:

  • Black Bean & Potato Seitan Roast with Vegan Mushroom gravy Seitan Roast Recipe
  • Creamy Vegan Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo — I add fresh steamed broccoli.  Recipe here

    fettuccine
    Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash with cranberry sauce — I served this at our Thanksgiving Recipe here
  • Vegan Parmesan — I used all cashews which worked fine, this stuff is MAGIC!! Recipe here
  • Cauliflower Tacos (from the Thug Kitchen cookbook)
  • Homemade Pinto “refried” beans / bean & rice burritos or enchiladas
  • Vegetable miso soup — start with onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, cabbage. Veg stock and some Miso after veggies are tender to taste. You can add any veggies you have on hand that you enjoy.
  • Breakfast muffins, my recipe — 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 C rolled oats or muesli, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 T flaxseed meal mixed with 6 T water (set this aside to thicken while you gather the other ingredients). 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 to 1 C apple sauce (or grated fresh peeled apple, or pumpkin puree), chopped walnuts (1/2 cup or a bit more), Plant milk to muffin consistency (start with a half cup, add enough to get a sticky but not sloppy batter).  Add several chopped (pitted) dates for sweetness as needed. Bake at 400 for 25 min (makes 12 muffins).
  • Morning Porridge — we have a mix of Muesli and rolled oats, berries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut and flax seed meal (sometimes Chia seeds). Cooked on the stove with water. Tim adds Hemp protein powder and I add a tablespoon of Almond Butter and Molasses. We really look forward to this and have it almost every morning now.
  • The “Big Ass Salad” — everything fresh, great for the summer when you have fresh garden tomatoes and other things — add what you like to fill a dinner plate or huge bowl.
  • Portabello Burgers with oven fries – –
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    Portabello Burger

    removed dark gills from underside and stem, clean and marinate in vinegrette, bake or saute. Serve on bun with fresh lettuce, tomato and avocado — make oven fries with fresh russet potatoes.

So, I’m still struggling with WordPress and pressed “publish” instead of “preview” — but wishing you and yours and very happy and peaceful 2017!

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The Fine Art of Distraction

Will 2016 be our new Annus Horribilis? I’ve had a hard time coming back to blogging after this U.S. Presidential election.  Not a fan of our new “President Elect”, I’ve been filled with disbelief that such a man could have gone as far as he did, and what that means in terms of reflection on the character of our country and commentary on our world today.

During the last month of the election, as a way of distracting myself from all the negativity, I decided to do a “30 paintings in 30 days” painting challenge. I started in October and finished just after the election. Every day I posted something to my personal Facebook page — plein air, still life, interior study or a portrait from the drawing group I attend twice a month (pastel). It was a great way to loosen up the brush, so to speak. To approach painting more like sketching, quickly and less over worked. I’ll post a few of them here…

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Acorn squash
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Kelly Ridge

Thanksgiving came and went as well, we had our first Vegan “ThanksLiving” and invited our neighbor friends to join us — they were open to the idea, and seemed to enjoy the faire. On the menu — Stuffed Acorn Squash (I followed the “Hot For Food” recipe with some modifications — http://www.hotforfoodblog.com/recipes/2013/12/15/stuffed-acorn-squash), maple glazed carrots, green beans with slivered almonds, smashed red potatoes with fresh parsley, apple and pumpkin pies, rolls and veggie/hummus appetizers that our guest brought. Yum!

As a new vegan, I’m also faced with challenges this holiday season — I’ve been invited to a luncheon where a main dish will be served that has meat in it. I offered to bring an entree to share, and was shut down with “the menu has already been decided on” — guess I’ll fill up on salad and bread? What do you do in these situations if you are Vegan or Vegetarian? Does it get easier? Somehow I feel that because I’ve only been at this for the last 6 months, I shouldn’t “make a big deal about it” and just eat meat if it’s there…. but that feels wrong now. Any feedback?

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Tea Cup

 

Delicate Creatures

Over the past few years, I have watched helplessly while several dear friends lost their husbands — entering a season of my life that is not easy to accept. We try to offer help, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, even a safe vessel for anger — yet nothing seems terribly helpful.  My husband Tim, a tall powerfully built man, does have some medical conditions — and I have laughingly called him a “delicate creature” over the years. He is more sensitive to heat and pain than I am — although he very strong, and most people assume he is quite healthy.  But last week my dear sweet husband of almost 30 years was, in the space of a few hours, thrust into a life threatening medical condition. And it is for the the grace of the universe, swift and sure medical attention, his will and the heartfelt prayers of those who love him – that he is alive today.

It is often said that life can change on a dime, we know this truth in our bones, yet it is still jarring to fully comprehend “this is happening to us now”. The day this happened (and I won’t go into medical details here for his privacy) we had been having a regular day, filled with errands like a trip to the home store to purchase bags of soil and the materials for a second raised bed in our backyard,  lunch out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, carefully navigating the menu to be as vegan as possible (yes, still doing that!). The weather was warm, and our contractor was starting a new project in our entryway – removing old dated tile and fake rock and replacing it with more modern surfaces.

After dinner the symptoms began, and with some fumbling around and a 911 call later I was filling out paper work in the local hospital.

Déjà vu. I had found my mother after a fall in 2009 that broke her hip, I had also found her the morning she died. This time I was calm, but my mouth was dry.

The drive home after he was admitted to the hospital, in the darkness of early morning was tense – nighttime roadwork on the local highway complicated things. In the days to follow I would come to know the hospital – which we had never visited before in our three years here. My trips home in the evening were at dusk, and I was careful to avoid the deer families crossing the roads near our home. To cause injury to one more delicate creature might send me over the edge. Life held the heightened feeling of extreme preciousness — Tim’s life, my life, and all the living things around me.

Luckily, Tim was in the right place, surrounded by the right people to help him. It was scary, but I had no residual guilt about “not doing the right thing”. We can do all the right things, diet, exercise, rest – and still “shit happens”. What we learned was that type II diabetes, even when well managed, can mask symptoms. As we go forward we will be more proactive and suspicious about any and all things. More tests, more questions, more water, more rest, more exercise – and yet we need to calm down and live too. Life cannot be lived on full alert.

Just a few weeks before we had danced and laughed at a nephews’ wedding. More of that please…

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Abracadabra in only 6+ years…

So… this happened, right outside our window, as I was dusting the top of a bookcase a few days ago…

Which is one of the many things we just love about our new ‘hood in rural Northern California. And that brings me to the topic of this post, the very slow quick change of renovating a badly run down home. Yes, we did it. We purchased the worst home in the best neighborhood back at the end of 2010. We actually saw it once, rejected it, and then took another look as the price fell further. It was eventually bank owned. Several of our current neighbors had also looked at it and thought “too much work”. They were right… but the VIEW!!

Here’s a little montage of exterior “before” pictures… we used to call it the “blue boat”.

2010 OUTSIDE

It was a sad blue monstrosity with a whole lot of dry rot, deteriorated wood siding, leaking deck, leaking windows and extremely dated on the inside. There was no back yard marked out, no fencing, rickety wood staircases, rusty metal railing out front… you get the picture. A Money Pit.

But.. we saw potential — That VIEW!

Our first task, after the purchase in the fall of 2010, was to find a contractor — fast. However this proved difficult in our new locale. No one was interested, many showed up to see the mess and submitted bids scrawled on scrap paper, or were very vague and faded away. We finally located a contractor from a neighboring town, who could actually use the computer, smart phone, camera and gave us a real bid. We grabbed him. Unfortunately perhaps not the best choice… but at the time it seemed like our only choice.

There was a lot going on in our lives at that time. My mother was very ill, and passed away in November 2010. Tim and I were both working in the Bay Area, and relied on phone calls, emails and photos to tract the progress on this property. We knew the priority was to get going, redo and seal the deck, replace all the windows and sliding doors, replace the siding with stucco, and massive interior work. Priority: “Button it up for the winter”.

For the most part, it went well, and we were (mainly) pleased with the work. However… somethings were not done was we had hoped. Shortcuts taken, attitudes changed… Long story short, in 2013 we had to sue this contractor as the deck was still leaking, and other things had not been done correctly. He refused to work with us, so we took the legal route. That in itself was a long drawn out, expensive process. But… eventually…we won. The settlement was not as much as we really needed, but enough to get most of the major rework done.

So…in early 2016 our new contractor ripped up most of the deck, replaced joists and studs, another local metal worker fabricated all new metal railings and cement staircases. We had a major setback when the deck topping product failed after careful application (and we fought with this company, via our credit card, to get this cost refunded). Our new contractor stuck by us, and together we found a different solution … and Voila:

2016 OUTSIDE

We are quite pleased with the results, and lack of mold in the garages below the front deck! What a long, slow process this has been. But persistence definitely paid off, teamwork, patience and time… We really enjoy the peace and tranquility here!!

Below: State owned property right behind us with great walking trails — this was taken in the spring.

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Carrot Cake Cookies (low sugar, vegan & gluten free)

This is a recipe I created for my husband, who has Type 2 diabetes. It’s become a real favorite. He watches his sugar intake, even fructose, aiming for 5 gm or less per serving on most things.

As you can see, I get a lot of “help” in the kitchen from the furries…  Bella, our long haired Manx loves to lounge right where I need to step!

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Low sugar, gluten free “carrot-cake” cookies

Combine dry ingredients:
1-1/2 cup Almond meal “flour”
1 cup Oat flour (make: use food processor to pulverize rolled oats) OR Quinoa flour.
2 T Chia seed
2 packets organic stevia
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 T shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Mix well, set aside

Combine 2T ground flaxseed meal with 6T water in small bowl, set aside

Mix in separate bowl:
1 cup shredded raw carrot
15 pitted dates, pulsed in food processor to fine mince
1/4 coconut flour oil (melted)
1 cup chopped nuts (I’ve used pecans & walnuts)
1 cup almond milk (or soy or cashew, low fat version)

Add flaxseed mixture once it’s thickened (acts like eggs in recipes)
Combine dry with wet.
Let sit 10 min, mixture will thicken as chia seeds absorb moisture

Bake in heaping tablespoons size, 26 min at 350 degrees
Makes about 32

Enjoy!

 

Falling in love with my own life.

These last few months, perhaps coinciding with the finish of the seemingly endless building construction we’ve had going on here, I’ve noticed a new peace and contentment settling over me. A full three years after leaving “Silicon Valley”, I feel a sense of grace sparkling over daily tasks. The joy of watching the garden grow in a rather inhospitable environment, running errands and lunching out with my husband, the hours spent painting in my home studio or at the art center drawing from life with other artists in the portrait group I attend a few times a month, Vinyasa yoga classes a few mornings a week, morning walks with Tim before the heat of the day sets in, enjoying time with neighbor friends on their boat out on the lake, snuggling with a cat and taking a nap when the body feels tired. Nothing earth shattering, just pleasant perfect moments building one after another creating sweet days I could only dream of before.

There were many years of working in cubicles or even in my home office where I hardly had a chance to look up from my computer, where I was lucky to get outside for a few minutes during the day. And so many nights when I waited long into the darkness of the night for Tim to get home from work. Dinners eaten so late, on to bed with sour stomachs, waking too soon to repeat the process.

I feel truly blessed to live this new life, I am slowly unclenching the stress response that used to feel so normal. I lived in the center of the flight or fight response, primed to do both, easily. So much anger…

It all melts away as I realize that this is my real life now, I don’t have to go back, I won’t ever have to shoe horn myself back into that cramped, restrained cubicle.

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Remembering…

Unlike many people, I grew up with a vegetarian in my immediate family – my maternal Grandfather. We were very close, and I spent a great deal of time during childhood with my grandparents. Grandfather decided to become a vegetarian as an adult, part of a spiritual commitment to Theosophy (https://www.theosophical.org/), to which he devoted much time and attention. I don’t believe it was ever a “health” decision, other than for spiritual health.

At Kings Canyon, "Far Horizons" camp, California.
1961 with Grandpa, Kings Canyon National Park, camp “Far Horizons”

Lucky for him, my Grandmother was a skilled cook, and willing to spend the time experimenting with recipes that would accommodate his needs.  She would often bring “Carrot Nut Loaf” to family gatherings, while the rest of us enjoyed roast chicken, turkey or steak.  They also ate two very different meals at home, as she never embraced vegetarianism or Theosophy (being a staunch Methodist through and through), but she never complained about the added work – at least when I was in earshot!

His diet, as I look back on it now, was not particularly healthy. He ate a lot of full fat dairy (buttermilk and strong cheeses were favorites), and an excess of sugar (baked goods, ice cream and full sugar sodas). During his last decade he developed type II diabetes, and later suffered several ischemic strokes and a final fatal heart attack at age 83.

Although vegetarianism didn’t appeal to me, after reading about the whole foods plant based diet and its positive affects on health, the “cleaner” vegan approach called to me. I fully expected to be repeating the past, cooking two meals like my Grandmother before me, but within a few weeks of this new “regime” my husband joined the experiment. It is so much easier when people living under the same roof eat together and share the same diet! And I often think back on my Grandmother, struggling with cooking extra dishes – and wonder what amazing things she could have accomplished with my food processor, high speed blender and juicer!

I found this recipe thanks to Vegan Prairie Girl  (http://veggieprairiegirl.blogspot.com/2009/11/carrot-and-cashew-nut-roast.html) and it seems similar to the one my grandmother used. She also made some sort of a mushroom gravy to go on top.

Recipe
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups carrots, cooked and mashed
2 cups cashew nuts, ground
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. tahini
1-1/2 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)
*1 teaspoon yeast extract*
Juice of 1/2 lemon
*1/3 cup stock* from the carrots
salt and pepper

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until soft.
2. Mix together with all the other ingredients and season to taste.
3. Place in the mixture in a greased loaf pan.
4. *Cover with foil* and bake at 350F for one hour.
5. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.
6. Leave to stand in the baking pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out.

BarbGpa1961