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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
NOTE:I have slightly altered my recipe so that it is a bit more solid. April 6, 2016

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, 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.

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.

Updated on April 6, 2016
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Keep refrigerated between uses.
Note: This recipe can be cut in half, if you prefer.

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
4 tablespoons shea butter
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (OR any mild oil that works for you!)
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 (2 qt.) microwave-safe measuring beaker or bowl (it boils over easily).  Either stir it on the stovetop until it comes to a boil, then turn down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes OR (my preference) 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 your blender-- push it through the strainer with the back of a spoon.  

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 until it is creamy and emulsified.  Place in 2 scalded pint jars with tight lids and refrigerate. It will firm up when cooled. 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 (steel cut oats or rolled oats can also be used)

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)-- (steel cut oats or rolled oats can also be used-- I've used both successfully)

1 cup  urad dal (split, hulled black gram), moong dal (split, hulled mung beans), or even red lentils, chana dal 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.

6. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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!