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Saturday, April 25, 2015


Best Blog Tips

We have a bulk food store in our nearest town now, and they carry an interesting array of whole grains.  One that caught my eye was "Purple Prairie Barley", so I bought a small amount. But I never got around to using it until a few days ago. 

I knew already that barley is a grain very low on the glycemic index, providing slow-acting, longer-lasting energy, and that it's a good source of soluble (viscous) fiber, too.  Purple barley has an added bonus in that it is a variety sometimes called “naked barley,” or hull-less barley, which doesn't need pearling, so it still has the bran and germ intact. In addition, as we know, the colors in foods usually indicate the presence of antioxidants, and that's certainly true of purple barley!

"A press release on 15 August, 2011 by Ohio State University announced that anthocyanins, chemicals that offer red, blue and purple color to foods, are capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact... Lead author of the study, Dr. Monica Giusti, commented, “These foods contain many compounds, and we’re just starting to figure out what they are and which ones provide the best health benefits.” Giusti added, “All fruits and vegetables that are rich in anthocyanins have compounds that can slow down the growth of colon cancer cells, whether in experiments in laboratory dishes or inside the body.” ...The bran fraction of purple barley has a significantly higher antioxidant activity than its paler cousins, by as much as six times."
See source links at

So this is a really nutritious grain, besides being a lovely color! It also has a nice chewy texture-- it's not mushy or slimey.  I decided to make a hearty full-meal salad with my cup of Purple Prairie Barley, utilizing foods that I had in the refrigerator and pantry already. The result was delicious, nutritious and very colorful!

Printable Copy

Servings: 8
This beautiful whole grain, bean and vegetable salad was a real hit and so nutritious!

Cook the barley several hours ahead of making the salad:
1 cup Purple Prairie Barley
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
Other salad ingredients:
2 cups rinsed and drained cooked or canned chickpeas
2 large red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (more or less)
1 cup chopped celery (with leaves)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or chopped dried apricots)
4 large  or 6 small green onions, chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup Oil Substitute for Salad Dressings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbs agave nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbs dark sesame oil
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. To cook the barley, mix the barely, water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn down, cover and cook on Low for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the barley is tender, but a bit chewy, and all of the water has been absorbed. Cool at room temperature.

2. While the barley cools, prepare the other salad ingredients and make the Dressing by whisking or shaking all the ingredients together.

3. Combine the cooled barley, other salad ingredients and dressing and refrigerate.  The salad is best when served at room temperature.


The same day that I made the salad, I needed to use up some of my homemade vegan "ricotta", and I also had some of my "Potted Tofu" in the fridge that was getting quite "ripe"!  (The links to the recipes are in the recipe below.)  I decided to make a spread-- spreads are always handy to have around to use on rye crisp, toast or vegetables for a quick snack.  It turned out very well!

Printable Copy

Serves 12

6 ounces of any kind of vegan "Feta" (such as my "Potted Tofu" or Quick "Feta" Crumble)
2 7/8 cups (1 lb.) unseasoned vegan "Ricotta" (I used my Okara/Cashew Ricotta, but you could use my Tofu/Cashew Ricotta or Almond Ricotta)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon onion granules
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes in oil, rinsed under hot water and squeezed
extra-virgin olive oil, Kalamata olives, parsley 

Combine all of the ingredients EXCEPT the sundried tomatoes in a food processor or high-speed blender and process until smooth.  Add the tomatoes and process briefly-- you want it to have a little texture.  

Scoop the spread into an attractive bowl, smooth it out, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the olives and parsley.

Serve with crackers (we like rye crisp), thin slices of crusty bread, or raw vegetables.


Thursday, April 16, 2015


Best Blog Tips

 UPDATE!  Jeannie, another Blogger, wrote and asked me how this shortening would work in a vegan "buttercream" frosting and how it would hold up at room temperature. 

 I didn't want to make a big dessert, since we overindulged at a family event over the last two days, so I made a very small version of my basic vegan "buttercream": 1/2 cup of the Rainforest Shortening, frozen and sliced into tiny cubes; 12 oz. organic powdered sugar, 5 tsp. non-dairy milk or other liquid of choice; 1 tsp. vanilla.  I beat it in an electric mixer until fluffy and left it at room temperature (albeit, not super-warm) for about 5 hours and then spread it on some tiny ginger snaps-- it held up nicely!

 After I developed my palm oil-free vegan "Buttah" and worked on it until I was satisfied enough to share it with the wider world (see and ), I played around with developing a palm oil-free vegan shortening that would be firm, but higher in monounsaturated fat than polyunsaturated or saturated fat.  But it went by the wayside as I pursued other projects. Shortening doesn't play a large part in my cooking style, so it wasn't terribly important.

But this week I was wondering if I could make a low-fat (or lower-fat) vegan pastry that was more flaky than the oil-based pastry that I've used and enjoyed for years. I decided that I needed to use a solid fat, but I didn't want to resort to anything made with palm oil or hydrogenated fats, or even the darling of the moment, saturated fat-rich coconut oil.  (Why not?  I recommend this article and the information here, here and here.) So I revisited my palm oil-free shortening recipe and quickly had good results.

This shortening has exceeded my expectations. It's easy to make and contains only 3 ingredients. It contains more liquid oil than solid fat, and yet stays solid in the refrigerator. (It will not stay solid at room temperature.  I recommend keeping it frozen until use.). It contains more monounsaturated fat than the saturated or polyunsaturated fats, which is a good thing. (Read this article for information on that and on the confusing reports about fats in the last few months.) And it worked beautifully in my new, flakier low-fat pastry recipe (recipe below), which uses HALF the fat of a traditional pastry recipe.

So, I'm not recommending using this, or any, fat with abandon.  But, for times when you need a solid fat for a particular recipe, this is a product with a much healthier fat profile than palm oil shortening (never mind that palm oil is extremely problematic-- see the information at the end of this page.)

So, without further ado, here are the recipes....


The shortening looks yellow due to the color in the lecithin, which emulsifies the two fats.
Printable copy
(April 14, 2015)  (Store in the freezer)
Servings: 36    Yield: 36 tablespoons/2 ¼ cups  
NOTE:  I use deodorized cocoa butter in my homemade palm oil-free vegan “Buttah”, but you can use the less expensive “natural” (UN-deodorized) type of cocoa butter for this recipe, since it contains only a small amount. The cocoa butter you use should NOT be soft at room temperature-- it should be very hard and almost shatter when you cut it.
EQUIPMENT: You will need a small kitchen scale for this recipe-- it is the most accurate way to measure the cocoa butter. 
You will also need an inexpensive candy thermometer; 6 medium-sized silicone cupcake liners, or a silicone ice cube mold that makes 6 or 8 large ice cubes (½ cup each), or 2 silicone molds that will each hold a little over a cup; a deep heat-proof (Pyrex) bowl or measuring vessel that holds at least 4 cups; and an immersion/stick blender.

Freshware Jumbo Cube Silicone ice cup mold with six 1/2-cup cavities
3.8 oz (108.9g) organic food grade cocoa butter (preferably fair trade), “shaved” or cut into small slices with a knife
1 1/2 cups canola oil (you could use high-oleic safflower or sunflower oil instead, if you like)   
2 tsp liquid soy or sunflower lecithin (This is necessary to emulsify the oils-- without it the oils will separate.)

Have ready 6 medium-sized silicone cupcake liners, or a silicone ice cube mold that makes 6 or 8 large ice cubes (½ cup each), or 2 silicone molds that will each hold a little over a cup, placed in 2 small cake pans.

Place the cocoa butter slices or pieces in a deep heat-proof (Pyrex) bowl or measuring vessel that holds at least 4 cups, and either 1.) melt in the microwave for a couple of minutes, or 2.) place the dish in a double boiler and melt over simmering water. Cool it to 90ºF. (You can speed this up by placing the bowl or dish in a large bowl of cold water or by placing it in the refrigerator.)

When the melted cocoa butter is 90ºF, add the oil and lecithin and immediately start blending with the immersion blender. Blend with a slight up and down motion for a couple of minutes, or until well mixed. (The mixture will not be creamy, but liquid and yellow from the lecithin.)

Immediately divide the mixture evenly between your silicone molds. Place right away into the freezer for about an hour. The shortening should be solid and easy to be released from the liners or mold, wrapped in plastic wrap and kept frozen.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per tablespoon): 108 calories, 108 calories from fat, 12.2g total fat, 2.46g saturated fat, 6.31g monounsaturated fat, 2.86g polyunsaturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 0mg potassium, 0g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 0g protein.

For comparison of fat profile: 

Hydrogenated palm oil shortening, per tablespoon: 13g Total Fat, 12g saturated fat, 0.3g Monounsaturated fat, 0.1g Polyunsaturated fat
Coconut oil, per tablespoon: 14g Total Fat , 12g Saturated fat, 0.8g Monounsaturated fat, 0.2g Polyunsaturated fat 
Vegetable Shortening, per tablespoon: 13g Total Fat, 12g Saturated fat, 5g Monounsaturated fat, 3.6 g Polyunsaturated fat 

Makes 1 single pie crust

The plasticity of shortening makes it very easy to rub or cut into flour – resulting in a very flaky, crust.  This tender lower-fat crust is flakier than my oil crust for that reason, but utilizes my non-hydrogenated, palm-and-coconut oil-free homemade shortening for more monounsaturated fat than saturated and polyunsaturated. And I use half as much shortening as the classic Crisco pie crust recipe of the same size.

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
10 tablespoons (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp light granulated organic unbleached sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 tablespoons cold soy yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons cold non-dairy milk
4 tablespoons frozen Rainforest Shortening (recipe above), cut into evenly-sized 1/4-inch cubes 
NOTE: Return the shortening to the freezer  while preparing the other ingredients.
TIP from Betsy DiJulio of The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes: "I freeze my shortening (and "butter") for biscuits, grating it into the fllour, so your hands barely touch it and, hence, don't begin to melt it. Just spray your grater with nonstick spray first for easy clean-up."

In a medium bowl, whisk together the two flours, salt, baking powder and sugar.

In a cup, whisk together the yogurt and nondairy milk and set aside in the refrigerator

Add the cubed shortening to the flour mixture and, using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, cut or rub the shortening shortening into the flour. Occasionally, make sure you reach down into the bottom of the bowl and toss the ingredients to make sure all of the fat is combined with the flour mixture. Continue until the shortening is broken into pieces the size of small peas among smaller particles.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry mixture and quickly mix with a fork until you can press the mixture together into a ball.  If dry particles remain, add a few drops of water-- just enough to moisten.  Flatten the dough a bit, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out. NOTE: Roll out on baking parchment or a silicone mat to avoid using alot of flour.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 142 calories, 7 calories from fat, 7.3g total fat, 1.42g saturated fat, 3.61g monounsaturated fat, 1.71 polyunsaturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 121.1mg sodium, 91.1mg potassium, 17g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber.

FOR COMPARISON: Nutrition Facts for Classic Crisco Pie Crust
Nutrition (per 1/8 of crust), Calories 190 (Calories from Fat 110), Total Fat 12g (Saturated Fat 3g), Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 150mg, Total Carbohydrate 16g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 0g), Protein 2g
(from  PS: They didn't have all of the elements that I have in my recipe software.)


Monday, April 13, 2015


Best Blog Tips

I haven't been blogging for weeks now!  Between the holiday, granddchildren visiting, and getting over a cough that just doesn't want to quit, time has gotten away from me!

Today I made this soup for our lunch.  I've been making it since the 1970's, but have never posted it, for some reason. Took it for granted, I guess. It's a soup version of Francis Moore Lappe's recipe for Lentils, Monastery Style in her ground-breaking book "Diet for a Small Planet", which was very influential in starting me on the road to vegetarianism. I have made a few changes over the years-- this is the latest version and I thought I'd share it with you. This soup was perfect for this chilly April day with some home-baked bread.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 6

This soup makes a good addition to anyone's repertoire of lentil recipes-- simple, yet sophisticated and full of flavor; filling, yet low in calories.  With a food processor to chop the veggies, it's very easy to throw together. PS: The wine is important!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped (use a food processor if you have one)
1 large carrot, grated, or chopped (in food processor with onions, if you're using one)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium vegetarian broth
1 14-ounce can canned diced tomatoes (with juice) OR 1/3 cup good-quality tomato paste
2 cups water
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon salt
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry (or 1/2 cup non-alcoholic wine such as Riesling)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
soy parmesan to sprinkle on top, or you can use any mild vegan grating cheese that melts (optional)

1. In a large pot sprayed heat the oil over medium high-heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté  until the onions have softened. OR, alternately, you can place the olive oil, chopped onions and carrots in a microwave-safe bowl or casserole and microwave, covered, on High power for about 5 minutes, or until the onions have softened.

2. Combine the vegetables in the soup pot with the marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf, broth, tomatoes (or tomato paste), water, lentils, and salt.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender. Add the wine, parsley, and pepper to taste. Simmer a few more minutes, taste for seasoning and serve with the vegan Parmesan sub or grated vegan cheese, if you like.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 206 calories, 44 calories from fat, 5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 933.7mg sodium, 590.5mg potassium, 30.4g carbohydrates, 11.9g fiber, 7.6g sugar, 10.9g protein.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Best Blog Tips HAPPY EASTER!

The Aztec royalty liked their chocolate with some chile in it, and modern chefs and chocolatiers have made this combo popular with at least a portion of chocolate lovers. This is my contribution-- a spin-off from the Fudge-y Light Vegan Brownies in my book "The Fiber For Life Cookbook". These are a little richer-- they taste positively decadent! 

Printable Recipe

Serves 12
Yield: one 9 x 9" OR 7 x 11" pan, 12 bars

Dry Mix:
1/2 cup regular whole wheat flour (not pastry flour)
2 1/2 tablespoons your favorite chile powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Flaxseed/Egg Replacer Mixture:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon Ener-G or Orgran egg replacer powder
Cocoa Batter:
1/3 cup vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah)
1 cup brown sugar, packed (or you can use Rapadura or Sucanat)
1/2 cup organic cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon water, Bourbon, rum or Kahlua
grated zest of 1 organic orange
3/4 cup (4 oz.) organic, dairy-free semisweet small chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 x 9", or 7 x 11" baking pan and line the bottom with cooking parchment.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, chile powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place the 1/4 cup water, flax seeds and egg replacer in a blender. Blend on high for several minutes, until the mixture is "gloppy" like slightly beaten egg whites, with little brown flecks of flax skin throughout. (OPTION: you can blend the mixture with a hand/immersion/stick blender, but this works best if the flax seeds are ground in a coffee/spice mill first.) Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the vegan butter gently over medium heat OR melt it in a medium-small microwave-proof bowl in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then stir in the cocoa, vanilla, water or liquor, and orange zest. Fold the Flax Seed/Egg Replacer mixture into the cocoa mixture. Add the Dry Mix and stir briefly just to blend. It is a thick batter. Add the chocolate chunks or chips and the pecans and stir to mix.

To bake the brownies:
Spread on the brownie batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a wet spatula. Bake for about 15-17 minutes. You may have to experiment with timing, according to your oven (try to use an oven thermometer to check the temperature, which can vary even in new ovens), and according to how fudge-y you like the brownies.

Cool on a rack, then cut into 12 squares. Serve at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per bar): 230.1 calories; 44% calories from fat; 12.1g total fat; 0.0mg
cholesterol; 117.7mg sodium; 217.2mg potassium; 32.3g carbohydrates; 3.7g fiber; 18.1g
sugar; 2.6g protein; 4.9 points.


Monday, March 23, 2015


Best Blog Tips
My Homemade Colloidal Oatmeal Skin Cream
I know this is a food blog, but I just have to share this skin cream recipe with you-- actually, though you wouldn't really want to eat it, it wouldn't harm you to do so!

I have an off-and-on problem with eczema on my face and chest, and it's been "on" for the last few years.  It's better since I got rid of all detergents and palm oil from my life (there are detergents in SO many things-- shampoos, conditioners, etc-- and many of them derived from palm oil). I don't use anything scented.  I won't go into everything I do or use, or have tried, but, suffice it to say that I've done extensive research and that I prefer not to use cortisone creams (having had a bad rash from one in the past).

Lately, I've been using ground oatmeal and warm water as a facial scrub and it always feels really nice after that, but I still was getting some redness and flaking-- not very day, but enough to be discouraging.

So I have been reading and watching videos about the benefits of colloidal oatmeal-- which is really just finely-ground oatmeal boiled with water to extract the colloidal material. Basically, it boils down to this: "The many clinical properties of colloidal oatmeal derive from its chemical polymorphism. The high concentration in starches and beta-glucan is responsible for the protective and water-holding functions of oat. The presence of different types of phenols confers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Some of the oat phenols are also strong ultraviolet absorbers. The cleansing activity of oat is mostly due to saponins. Its many functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent."

There are many commercial products that contain colloidal oats (see this article), but most of them have some ingredients that I find objectionable, and they can be very expensive.  So, I did some research, and looked up lots of homemade recipes.  Many had expensive and even hard to find ingredients.  So, I just went for it yesterday and made my own cream with what I had around the house.  I ground rolled oats to a fine powder-- much cheaper than buying colloidal oat powder to make colloidal oatmeal-- it's the same thing!

I'm so pleased with the results!  The cream was easy and cheap to make and feels wonderful on the skin-- it doesn't feel greasy, it just makes the skin feel soft.  And, best of all, my facial skin is already better one day later! But I would use this even if I wasn't prone to eczema!

Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Keep refrigerated

1/2 cup very finely-ground oatmeal (best ground in a clean dry small electric spice mill to a powder, or in a home grain mill, or a dry high-speed blender)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons shea butter
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon soy or sunflower lecithin (this is an emulsifying agent)
(NOTE: If you don't have lecithin, or can't use it, try using 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon or guar or xanthan gum instead.)
1000 mg vitamin C tablet, crushed to a fine powder (for preserving qualities)

Whisk the oat flour/powder and water together in a medium pot or deep microwave-safe measuring beaker or bowl.  Either stir it on the stovetop until it comes to a boil, then urn down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes OR microwave at high power for 5 minutes.  Either way, it should result in a thick "glop".

Strain the "glop" through a fine mesh strainer into a deep container that you can use with a immersion blender.  

Melt the shea butter over low heat in a small pot, or on half power in a small microwave-safe vessel, in one minute increments.

Pour the olive oil, melted shea butter, lecithin and crushed vitamin C into the oat "glop".  Blend with an immersion blender until it is creamy and emulsified.  Place in scalded jars with tight lids and refrigerate.  Keep refrigerated between uses.


Sunday, March 22, 2015


Best Blog Tips


This is something I've been working on for several weeks.  Uttapam (or ooththappam or Uthappa) is a South Indian or Tamil pancake-like dish made with a batter of grain (such as rice, semolina or millet), or grain and legumes, similar to dosa batter. Dosa is thinner and crepe-like--sometimes crisp and sometimes softer. Uttapam is a thick pancake, with toppings of vegetables added to the "pancake" when it is just ready to be flipped over. Uttapam is sometimes called an "Indian pizza".  It's a common breakfast and snack food in Southern India.

I was interested in making uttapam for my husband as a more interesting way for him to eat oats, and as a way to includes legumes in a breakfast food.  Oats and legumes contain lots of soluble fiber, which is helpful for many conditions, such as angina. After perusing many South Indian cooking blogs, I was interested to find that oats are being incorporated into Indian cuisines because they are a healthful addition to diabetic diets, and diabetes is unfortunately becoming more prevalent in India,

I tried some quick recipes with rolled oats or quick oats and urad dal (hulled, split black gram-- easy to find in Indian markets and well-stocked grocery stores) and they were good, but I realized that I wanted a fermented batter, leavened with the natural fermentation of the oat and legume batter sitting overnight.  The fermentation in good for the gut and it makes the batter foamy and full of flavor, with no added leavening.

I decided to start the batter with soaked oat groats (whole oats) and either urad dal, moong dal (split hulled mung beans) or the easily-available split yellow peas. Our local Real Canadian Superstore carries urad dal in their  bulk section, so I had plenty of it on hand and that's what I have been using most often.  But yellow split peas are another excellent option.

Soaked Oat Groats

This is not an "instant recipe, but the "hands-on" time is very minimal and the finished batter can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or so-- it just gets better!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 18 uttapam
Yield: about 6 cups batter
An excellent breakfast, lunch, supper or substantial snack dish. Serve with your favorite dal or sambar, and/or chutneys, and perhaps some non-dairy yogurt or cheese. The Nutrition facts are for one Uttapam, without toppings. NOTE: You can use this batter to make dosa as well.

1  cup oats groats (whole oats)-- you could substitute steel-cut oats, if necessary
1 cup  urad dal (split, hulled black gram), moong dal (split, hulled mung beans), or yellow split peas
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (NOTE: This is a fermentation aid, but, if you can't find them, omit.)
For the Batter:
2- 2 1/2 cups mixed soaking water from oats and dal
1/2- 1 teaspoon salt
For Cooking: (amounts will vary depending on how many uttapam you are making at one time)
oil for greasing the pan
thinly-sliced onion
thinly-sliced vegetables of your choice (could include: sweet potato, cooked potato, squash, cabbage, kale or other greens [dry], halved grape tomatoes, chiles, any color bell peppers, halved grape tomatoes, grated carrots, grated coconut, chopped cilantro, green onion, or leeks, etc.
Non-dairy cheese shreds
For Garnishing:
Your favorite dal or sambar (here's a good sambar recipe:
Indian chutney and/ or raita (vegetable and yogurt salad, made with non-dairy yogurt)
chopped fresh cilantro, basil and/or mint

The day before you plan to make the Uttapam, about 6 hours before you go to bed:
1. In separate bowls or pitchers, cover the oats and dal or split peas with water by several inches.  Add the fenugreek seeds to the dal.  Cover with a clean cloth and let stand at room temperature for about 6 hours.

Just before you retire for the night:
1. Drain the soaked oats and dal separately, saving the soaking water.
2. If you have a large, high-speed blender, you can blend the drained oats, drained dal, salt and 2 to 2 1/2 cups reserved soaking water all at once.
3. If you have a less sturdy blender, blend the oats with 1- 1/4 cups soaking water, and the dal with 1- 1 1/4 cups soaking water in separate batches and then mix them together in a large bowl with the salt.
4. Whichever way you do it, the batter should be like a pancake batter-- thicker than a crepe batter-- but very smooth.
5. Scrape the batter into a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a lid or towel.  Place in a warm-ish spot (maybe the oven with the light on) and leave overnight.

In the morning the batter should have risen a bit and be full of bubbles.

1. You can use it immediately, or place the batter in a covered jar or storage container and refrigerate for up to a week.  It will get more flavorful as it sits! If you are cooking some uttapam, immediately, prepare your veggie toppings and veggie cheese, if using, and set out your Garnishes.  Have some plates heating in a low oven.

To cook the Uttapam:
1. Have your veggie toppings ready and heat your favorite pancake skillet or griddle over high heat until cold water sizzles when sprinkled on it.  Turn the heat down to medium-high and spray with a bit of oil from a pump-sprayer.  I use a soup ladle with a rounded bottom that holds about 1/3 cup to scoop out some batter and also to spread the batter.

2. For each uttapam, pour the ladle-full of batter into the center of the pan and , starting from the center, use the bottom of the ladle in a circular motion going outwards to shape a round "pancake" about 6" across.

The uttapam pancake should be full of little holes from the fermentation in the batter.

Cover the pan briefly, if you like.  When the bottom is golden brown, quickly sprinkle the top with a handful of your veggie toppings, press it down lightly into the batter, loosen the bottom of the uttapam and quickly flip it over.

Cook just until the veggies look cooked and a bit charred.  Serve at once, veggie side up, or you can make several at a time and keep them hot in a 200 degree F oven until you are ready to serve.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per “pancake”): 55 calories, 4 calories from fat, .5 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 54 mg sodium, 123.1 mg potassium, 9.6 g carbohydrates, 3.2 g fiber, .5 g sugar, 3.4 g protein, 9.8 points.


I had a brainstorm last night while trying to fall asleep (long story)-- why not use fruit on the uttapam batter instead of veggies, and serve with maple syrup (maybe with some vegan ricotta or vegan yogurt).

I decided to make blueberry uttapam this morning and served it with  maple syrup-- it was fantastic!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Best Blog Tips

Oh, yes, there will be another version!  But I just couldn't wait to post about it.

Suspiro de Limeña is a romantic name for a luscious dessert with a long history.  The name means "A Limenian Woman's Sigh".  It's a fabulous Moorish-based dessert that can be traced back to the early 1800's in Peru. (Most rich and sweet Spanish desserts have Moorish origins.) Evidently is was created by Amparo Ayarez for her poet husband, José Galvez.  Because the dessert is both intensely sweet and delicate at the same time, he named it in honor of his wife.  It is immensely popular in Peru.

I decided to make this the other night on the spur of the moment (almost) for company, since I made some other Peruvian dishes for dinner.  (Many of you already know that my father was Peruvian.) What encouraged me to try a vegan version of this usually egg-and-dairy-laden sweet treat were the threads on Facebook about vegan meringue (check out this group and this one. This particular meringue is made with sugar and, of all things, chickpea cooking broth (or the liquid in a can of chickpeas). Yes, you heard right.  And, it works-- read on.

I can't really take much credit for this particular confection, except for putting it together. It is basically dulce de leche (which is called manjar blanco in Peru) with egg yolks, topped by a soft Italian meringue made with port.

For the pudding itself, I used the Un-Dulce De Leche recipe from Terry Romero's great book on vegan South American cooking, "Viva Vegan" as the starting place for the pudding.  It's delicious!  It takes a little time, but it's worth it for a treat now and then. Terry's recipe, if you don't have the book, is available online as a PDF file here.

For the meringue, I didn't used the exact recipe that is being discussed on Facebook-- it's for baked meringue.  I used a version from The Gentle Chef which is meant for a lemon meringue pie.  The recipe is here.

Here's the meringue after beating.

So here are the basic directions, and then I'll tell you why I want to do another experiment:

For the Manjar Blanco, make 1 1/2 times Terry's Un-Dulce De Leche recipe (or just double it and you'll have some left for another recipe.) NOTE: I followed the recipe exactly and I used So Delicious Original Coconut Coffee Creamer.  However, it didn't thicken as much as I'd hoped, so I ended up adding another 4 tsp. of tapioca flour with a little more creamer at the end and that did the trick.

To finish the pudding, set aside 2 1/2 cups of the Manjar Blanco in a tall pitcher suitable for immersion blending (save any extra Manjar Blanco for drizzling on another dessert).  In another container, with an immersion blender, blend until smooth : 1/2 cup firm silken tofu (or medium firm regular tofu) with 1/4 teaspoon nutritional yeast and a pinch of black salt. Pour some of the Manjar Blanco into the tofu mixture and blend until well-mixed.  Scoop this back into the remaining Manjar Blanco and briefly blend until smooth.  

Distribute this pudding evenly between 6 small pudding dishes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Now make the meringue, following this recipe.  It makes alot, so you will have some left for another dessert, or you can cut the recipe in half.  I used Xanthan gum, but there are two alternatives.  I used 1/2 cup of the broth from cooking chickpeas (there is a white bean option, too).  My chickpea broth is quite viscous because I let it cook down just to the top of the beans. I used the vanilla and added a teaspoon of cognac.

Now, here is why I want to try this again: the meringue is supposed to made with port.  #1, I didn't have any; #2, I wasn't sure if the meringue would work with that much alcohol. Next time I will try it with 1/4 cup chickpea broth (perhaps reduced down from 1/3-1/2 cup to 1/4 cup) and 1/4 cup port.  If that works, I will be brave and try it again with just port.  You never know until you try!

You can immediately spoon some of the meringue on top of the puddings, swirling it a little with a small spoon.  Refrigerate (uncovered) until serving.  The meringue did "sink" a little overnight in the fridge, so I would advise eating it within a few hours of making it.

Sprinkle the meringue with little ground cinnamon.

So, stay tuned for updates, and, if you decide to try it yourself, let me know how it goes!