The Best Meat and Dairy Alternatives (all your old recipes need not change)

What an incredible time to be vegan.  My goodness, when I was a vegetarian fresh out on my own there was some weird hotdog/Alpo thing in a can.  That was it.  I ate a lot of burritos and spaghetti.  I learned to be creative and have always loved spices and sauces.  Now that I can add delicious plant based alternatives to dairy and meat into my cooking, my guests, and especially my husband, are always pleasantly surprised and satisfied.  It opens up a lot of opportunities for trying to recipes and expanding dinner options.  And it adds a lot more fun in the kitchen.  I don’t particularly love meat but I do enjoy the added textures and creaminess from some of the animal product alternatives now available.  It also allows us to keep our old tried and true and family recipes because we can just sub out what we need.  Food makes memories, brings people together, and creates comfort.  I have no desire to harm animals (and I am sure you don’t either) and I know that near 100% of ailments can be reversed and prevented with a plant based diet.  We won’t even go into the ecological, economical, and karma benefits.  So, here’s what’s out there!

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English muffin pizzas with Miyoko’s mozzarella, orange peppers, and olives with Caesar salad. (Try Daiya Caesar dressing)

Best Dairy Alternatives

“But I LOVE cheese,” um, everyone says.  Scientific fact that cheese affects the brain the very same as heroin.  Truth.  So, we are all actually addicted to cheese.  There are some companies coming to our rehab rescue.

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Rustic Alpine “cheese” wrapped in pie crust and baked like Brie.  Topped with homemade peach jam and served with crackers and a glass of wine….oh my.

Miyoko’s has many different varieties of cheese.  She has rounds of cheese platter ready cheese, like Rustic Alpine, Smoky Cheddar, and Truffle.  She has cheese spread.  And I love them all, whether I get them from the store or online, but what I really love is her butter.  Oh my, it tastes like the real deal.  Cooks the same, spreads the same, and it’s healthy.  No weird ingredients in any of her products.  Cashews and other delicious ingredients are fermented just like dairy to get the taste.

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Fresh popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with truffle salt, basil, nutritional yeast and Violife parmesan.

Violife is…I have no words….so damn realistic, you could fool a cheese maker.  No kidding.  (I was a cheese maker.)  Made from pea protein and other delicious ingredients, you cannot go wrong. The new cheeses do not have that weird rubber aftertaste and they melt.  Try the cheddar or provolone slices.  Make a grilled cheese on sourdough and spray the outside of the bread lightly with olive oil spray and then top with shredded parmesan.  Fry.  The best grilled cheese ever.  Their parmesan is our favorite.  I sneak it around in my purse when we go to restaurants.

And I can’t forget Kite Hill!  Best cream cheese and ricotta.  Better than dairy.

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Bakes fries with homemade cashew cheese, Beyond Meat, guacamole, and all the fixings.

Best Meat Alternatives

Beyond Meat is so convincing my daughter won’t eat it.  Try their burgers.  Try the ground.  The “chicken” is just okay.  But the beef alternatives are great.  Oh, and try the sausage!

Bob’s Mill TVP.  GMO soy will cause problems.  GMO anything will cause problems.  Soy stops bone loss and balances estrogen levels while supplying calcium and vitamin D.  Bob’s is GMO free and it cooks up in chilies or soups or nachos or whatever just like ground meat.  And it’s super cheap.

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Gardein anything.  Lord, they are good.  Always vegan.  Crab cakes (put in hoagies with homemade slaw), fish sticks (with French fries), meatballs (with Victoria Vegan sauce and pasta), meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and corn), and so much more.

I do tend to say away from the super processed, large company owned, GMO, and not-so-vegan brands like Morningstar and Boca.  Quorn is the best for chicken flavor and they are coming out with vegan options as we speak.

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The “I’ll never go vegan”ers. 

My granddaughter is funny.  Independent.  Funny.  “I don’t like vegan food.”  “I don’t want vegan food.”

We then name off dozens of foods that she likes or loves that are vegan.  Most people do not realize how easy it is and how many things are already vegan or have a vegan-ready counterpart next to it at the store or in your pantry.  Maybe we need a new name for vegan food.  How about GOOD FOOD.  I’m a good foodist.  And with the help of innovative new chefs and companies, it’s that much easier to get good food on the table.

 

The Well Stocked Pantry and Repurposed Antiques

I love interesting furniture pieces.  These were cubbies in a hardware store in 1950.  I love the original stenciled numbers.  I bought it at an antique store ten years ago and it was the primary showpiece, holding my tincture bottles, in my shops.  It now holds a place in my kitchen.  I realize that it is getting really dingy looking.  Sixty-nine years of army green can only hold up for so long.  (Spoiler alert!  Next week I am revamping my kitchen.  Can you guess what color the cubbies are becoming?)  I just sold my Hoosier yesterday to make room for my new kitchen idea.  It held glasses and barware.  You can take any old piece and reimagine its purpose.

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I love this idea with the pantry items.  It looks fun and unique while being practical.  Things do tend to get lost in the back of the pantry or spoil.  I end up buying way too many of one thing over time, thinking I am out.  This is a great way to keep track of what pantry pulses I have on hand.  It makes grocery planning easy.  And it serves as dinner inspiration.  Choose a grain or legume, see what veggies I have on hand, think up a theme, and go!  Dinner is on.

Sourdough Making 101

Sourdough is a fermented food, therefore making it easy to digest.  A piece of organic sourdough warm from the toaster with Miyoko’s butter (vegan) smeared across it is divine with a cup of coffee in the morning.  Memories are made around loaves of bread.

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The original starter is from The Amish Cook’s Family Favorite Recipes by Lovina Eicher and is easy to put together.

3 packages of active dry yeast and 1 cup of warm water.  Pour into a small container with a loose fitting lid and refrigerate for 3-5 days.

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Now we add the starter feed. 

Add to that 3/4 cup of sugar (When did everyone get so funny about sugar?  It seems about the time artificial sweeteners came on the market.  Sugar is a plant.  Use organic sugar preferably.)

3 Tb instant potatoes (Bob’s is good, no extra weird ingredients.)

1 cup of warm water

Mix these up and then add the starter in with it.  Keep it on the counter with a loose fitting lid (it has to breathe) for 5-12 hours.  It will get bubbly.

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Use 1 cup of starter and place the rest in the refrigerator for 3-5 days and then feed again, then bake more bread.  I put a note on my calendar every five days.  Pitch the 1 cup if you aren’t making bread.  Sound like a lot of work?  If you have time for Netflix binges, you have ten minutes to work on your sourdough!

Now let’s make some bread!

Dear Lovina was an Amish mama and her recipe that follows the starter is for three loaves of bread.  That is a little much for just me and Pa so I adjusted it to my own tried and true bread recipe.

Mama’s Rosemary Sourdough

Pour one cup of the sourdough starter into a large bowl

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Add 3 cups of white, unbleached, organic flour (You can use 2 cups of white and 1 cup of wheat or other flour but do not exceed that ratio or you will have a cement block.  Been there, done that.)

1 Tb+ of fresh rosemary

1 ts of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of warm water

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Blend well and let sit overnight on the counter or 3ish hours if you are starting in the morning.  Cover with a plate.

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Sprinkle dough with flour and use a wooden spoon to pull the dough into a ball.  Knead 20 times in bowl.  Sprinkle more flour if needed to keep from being terribly sticky.  Cover with plate again for another hour or two.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Sprinkle dough with a little cornmeal and shape into a ball.  Spray cast iron pan or cookie sheet with oil and then sprinkle with corn meal.  Place dough on sheet or pan.  You can spray the top of the dough with oil then grate some vegan parmesan on top or add a little more garlic powder.  (Violife is the most convincing parmesan in the world.)  Bake for 40 minutes.

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Cool on rack.  Let cool before serving or the steam will make the center doughy.  Store in an airtight bag.  Tastes best with laughter and wine, or in blessed silence with tea.  Really up to you.  Enjoy!

 

Colorful Curry Winter Slow Cooker Soup

Need something quick, delicious, seasonal, and nutritious, oh, and easy?  This soup is perfect for cold nights in or for company.  It’s various colors add different antioxidants to the dish which boost immunity.  The beans give it protein and satiates hunger.  The layered flavors are savory with just a touch of heat and salt.  One pot, quick prep, and the meal serves 4-6.

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4 small potatoes

1 yellow/orange beet

1/4 of a purple cabbage

3/4 cup of baby lima beans (or other bean)

2 Tb curry powder of choice

2 ts of garlic powder

5 cups of broth (Preferably from the root cellar.  I used red chile/corn.)

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Chop vegetables and layer everything into crock pot and set to low for 8 hours.  After 6 hours I add 1 Tb of salt because I don’t put any in my broth.  Adjust accordingly to what your soup needs.  It may not need any extra.

Serve with delicious, warm sourdough bread (tomorrow’s recipe)!

What the World Eats (and being aware of what we eat!)

I saw the photo montage go by on my Facebook feed of What the World Eats.  Each photograph of a family in a different country with all the food that they eat in a week.  It took me by surprise, really.  Many of the countries that I thought would have healthier food choices did not.  And the ones that I would consider healthy had little more than five bags of staples like beans and rice.  What really astounded me though was the sheer amount of processed food.  My goodness, big companies have made their way around the world.  One photo showed liters and liters of Pepsi.  Packages of pre-cut meats.  Boxes and boxes of processed foods.  And some produce.  It made me think, What am I eating? What would our photograph look like?

Just for a day I began photographing my meals.

When we had our practically off-grid farm there for a bit, we were practically self-sufficient.  We had a root cellar filled with fruits and vegetables.  A freezer full of local meat and my own cheese curing from my own goats.  What that photo wouldn’t show is all the food that went to feed the animals that I consumed.  (Nor would it show the chronic heartburn, weight gain, and gout.)  What do I eat now? was a question that would ultimately help me see what I could make myself and just how much processed food I consumed.

Breakfast- I love a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  I buy the organic box of raisin granola for $4-$5 and it feeds me for five days with roughly four cups of cereal in the box.  I wrote a book many years ago called, Gone Vegan, and I pulled out that trusty manual to find my old granola recipe.  It is so good and it made doubled the granola in roughly 40 minutes for a fraction of the price.  One less box I need to send to recycling and one less plastic insert that goes in the trash.

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Homemade Granola

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 6 cups of oats with 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 T pumpkin pie spice, and 3/4 cup of canola, sunflower, or safflower oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Spray a cookie sheet with oil and after mixing all ingredients well, pour onto cookie sheet.  Drizzle with agave or maple syrup.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.  Then add 1 cup of nuts and 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit (I used pecans, raisins, and cranberries) and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  Stir a few times after it comes out of the oven as it’s cooling to keep it from sticking or clumping.

Now, this is delicious with almond milk.  And indeed, I can make my own cashew, hemp, or almond milk.  But, I usually buy the carton because it lasts longer.

Lunch- For lunch I had a power smoothie.  My Vitamix is ten years old (a new one is on my wish list) so I have to juice the big stuff first.  I put in the juicer a large leaf of aloe, 3 apples, 3 carrots, a big handful of chard, and a chunk of ginger and turmeric.  Then I poured that into the Vitamix and added a big banana, spirulina, maca, hemp protein powder, pumpkin pie spice, frozen berries, a dollop of both peanut butter and coconut oil.  A drizzle of maple syrup or agave and on the machine goes.  I split it in half and send my husband with his tomorrow in his lunch and drink my half with a few crackers and vegan cream cheese and jam that I preserved.  I could certainly make my own crackers but they aren’t quite as good as organic Ritz style.  But maybe I will work on that this week!  I do buy packaged vegan cheeses and meats.  The packaging is far less waste than the actual act of raising meat and dairy and the karmic value of going vegan is astronomical as well as the lessened impact on the environment.

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Dinner- Pizza with a homemade, 15 minute crust.  I topped it with my own preserved tomato sauce, vegan mozzarella and cream cheese, a ton of spices, and a bunch of delicious vegetables.

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The next night we had vegan carne asada with crisp oven fries, cashew queso, Beyond Meat crumbles, guacamole, tomatoes, and homemade red chile.

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The Big Picture– Well, I have a bit to go, don’t I?  But being aware is the first step to doing better.  So, yes, we use some packaged items and some of them could be made and some of them are the lesser of evils.  But produce is a large part of our diet and so are healthy grains.  I grow all of our produce for the four months we garden and I preserve a few hundred jars of produce a year.  This year with my expanded gardens and vertical gardening techniques, I hope to produce doubled what I have been.  This continues to increase our nutrition intake and lessen our footprint even more.  Preparing more ethnic dishes, like Indian and Mexican food allows the use of more beans and pulses, further increasing our health, and costs less environmentally and monetarily.

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Vegan cheesecake with homemade chokecherry sauce

As Americans especially, we have a lot of unwiring to do.  I hope in a year or so to look more like the family from Guatemala (sans meat) then the one from America.

http://time.com/8515/hungry-planet-what-the-world-eats/

 

 

Making Rosehip Meade- Part 2 (bottling)

Just a sip from atop the dredges.  I sat outside on my front porch in the cool air in my rocking chair, watching the birds in my trees, while smelling the contents of my small glass.  There was a only a few tablespoons in it.  A little rough yet, but the underlying aromas of flowers and apples came dancing up from the honey liqueur.  Ah, yes, this will be quite lovely come June.

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‘Twas time to bottle the meade, my friends.  Meade is a honey wine that can be spelled with or without the e but I do love my words to be pretty so I shall keep the e on the end of my meade.  I knew the gallon jug was ready to be bottled because all the blurping and slight bubbling had ceased and all was calm in the carboy (the twirly thing on top.)  Out came the siphon and the tube.

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I would love to have a system with corks and all that but I can afford jars with stoppers at this point and the bottles are lovely and they do just fine.  They have been in the dusty root cellar so a soapy bath was first on the list.  Make sure everything is super clean.

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Now, remove the carboy and the lid from the wine.  Take the cap off the bottom of the siphon pump.  Warm the end of the tube in tap hot water to loosen and shimmy that thing onto the other end of the siphon.  Place the pump in the wine and the tube in your first jar.  Pump contents in, leaving about an inch or so headspace.  It will continue evolving in the jar.  This is a live product and a lovely one at that!

Try not to pull up the sludge from the very bottom as you siphon.  That is where the yeast and remaining plant matter falls.  I was able to get three 32 ounce bottles filled.  Lid secured, they will set in the root cellar for six months or until a good midsummer party.  Best drunk by moonlight and near an outdoor fire pit.

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Wash everything well and in the spring we will make dandelion wine!

How to Grow, Use, and Keep Fresh Herbs

Herbs are so heavenly.  Not only are they filled with nutrition to lower cholesterol and improve circulation and immunity, they give everything a taste of fresh summer.  A bite of excitement.  A perk to the senses.

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If you aren’t used to having fresh herbs in your food, it may take a little bit to get used to.  One might be more accustomed to mint in their tea than mint in their salad!  Just start small and add more as you go.

Try cilantro on top of Asian, Indian, or Mexican food.

Parsley is nice atop savory dishes.

Basil and Oregano, of course, are the king and queen of Italian food.

Thyme is delightful baked on top of squash halves and potatoes.  Same with rosemary.

Soups adore to be simmered with dried herbs then topped with croutons and fresh herbs.

Rice with mint or couscous or in salad is refreshing.  A mixture of herbs even better.

How to Grow

In the summer, herbs grow wonderfully in the garden.  In the winter, one might want to start some in a window sill.  The plastic containers used to hold washed salad from the store are great for starting plants.  Fill 3/4 of the way with potting oil and dampen.  Sprinkle seeds on top.  Sprinkle a light amount of soil on top.  Spray with a water bottle and put lid on.  Set in sunny spot.  Use water bottle to keep seeds from drying out.  The lid does create a greenhouse effect.  Don’t overwater or the seeds will mold!  If the top soil is getting dry, give it a good spritz.  When seedlings are an inch or so tall, remove lid and continue to grow delicious herbs!

How to Chiffonade

This is the best way to chop herbs.  For leafy herbs, roll several leaves together into a small log then starting at the end slice them into small ribbons.  Smaller herbs can be minced.

How to Store

The best way to keep fresh herbs, whether harvested or store bought, is to keep them in water like a nice bouquet of flowers.  My basil actually grew roots after four weeks!  But usually fresh herbs will last about a week to ten days.  Cilantro likes to be in water in the refrigerator.  They lose their oils over time so do attempt to use them as soon as you can.

Easy Flautas with Spicy Cashew Queso

I promised on my Instagram (@katiesanders0223) that I would share a super easy meal to get on the table in 30 minutes or less, Flautas!

Oh my, these delicious, savory, crisp at the edges, smothered in Spicy Cashew Queso sure taste like a lot more time went into them.

You can start with leftovers if you wish, any roasted vegetables, beans, veggie meats, etc.  Blend them together with some taco seasoning.  Or grab a bag of Beyond Meat or other veggie crumbles and sauté with onions and garlic, or simply put in refried beans spiced up with taco seasoning.  All depends on what you have on hand.

Now put a layer down the middle of a flour tortilla and roll it up.  Place side down on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  Repeat with the rest and leave a little space between flautas so they get nice and crisp.  Spray tops with a little oil spray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 5-10 minutes until nice and toasted.

Top with guacamole, vegan sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, cilantro, and queso!

Spicy Cashew Queso

Meanwhile make the vegan queso (which is plant based and so good for you!)  This recipe was adapted from a recipe by a blogger @ConsciousChris in Thrive magazine.

Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in a doubled the water for a few hours.  (So you will have to plan ahead)  Strain and put in good blender.

Add 4 Tb of sriracha or favorite hot sauce

4 Tb nutritional yeast (cheesy and very high in B12)

1/2 ts sea salt

1/2 ts of smoked salt (opt.)

1/2 ts of cumin

1/2 ts pepper

1/2 ts garlic

1 cup of hot water

Doug is the master of the vegan queso so he adds more of this or that to our liking.  I like a little bit of hot garlic chili in mine.  It is savory and delicious on nachos or poured over flautas!

Three Juice Margarita

One can’t seriously have Mexican food without a margarita, can they?

Fill a beer glass 1/3 of the way with orange juice, 1/3 apple juice, and a good splash of cranberry juice (let’s all get 100% juice, not from concentrate, shall we?) and a shot of tequila.

 

 

Making Rosehip Meade- part 1

Meade, which is honey wine, is one of the oldest beverages noted in history.  It’s beginnings simply a way to preserve the harvest.  A way to make medicine.  When the water wasn’t safe to drink, alcohol was a safe drink.  Beer and wine are simply fermentations, preserving techniques.

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The number one task for a homesteader is to get everything done timely.  One can’t wait too long or we miss the opportunity.  Rosehips should be harvested just before frost.  However a few days after frost is when I gathered my basket and began to harvest the delicious fruits.  Rose hips are the bulb left after the rose is gone.  It is ready when it turns red.  The fruit is one of the highest sources of vitamin c.  Their medicinal quality is that they are an effective anti-inflammatory and really nice for joints and arthritis in the winter months.

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As it would happen, I missed my chance by a bit but did manage to harvest a cup and half of rosehips.  As I passed the fragrant lavender hiding beneath a pile of leaves, I couldn’t help but snip a bit of that too.  The intention was to make rosehip wine.

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As I decocted the rosehips, I tried to figure out the ratio to make a smaller batch of wine with my humble two cups of herbs when I thought of honey.  That would be delicious with it.  Then I realized I could make Meade and the herbs will just make it better.

Rosehip Meade

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of rosehips and 1/2 cup of lavender stems and leaves.  (You can use any herb or berry) with 4 cups of water.

Boil for 10 minutes.  Smash with a potato masher a few times during the process and at the end.  Put lid on and let sit for 8 hours.

Meanwhile, dissolve 4 cups of honey in 11 cups of very warm water.

You can get a jug and lid with a carboy (the nifty aerator thing) at a beer and wine making supply shop or online.

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Strain herbs through a sieve lined with cheesecloth.  Pour juice and honey mixture into a gallon wine making jar.  Leave a little space from the top (see picture) to allow air flow and bubbling.  Add 1/5 of a package of white wine yeast and stir well.

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Replace lid and add carboy.  Pour enough vodka or rum into the carboy to the lines as a disinfectant.  (Leave it in there.  The air bubbles through it.  Most recipes call for a chemical but I’d rather use alcohol.)  Set on counter out of the sun for 4-6 weeks until bubbling stops.

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I have noticed that red wine yeast really puts on a show, and the white wine yeast is a bit more subtle.  As long as everything goes well, we will meet back here to bottle it!  We will be enjoying it by our Midsummer party!

Growing and Preparing Horseradish

Horseradish is delicious.  I just ran out of the jar from last year but luckily it is time to harvest again!  Another round of snow is set to arrive Wednesday so I am busy in the gardens putting beds to sleep and harvesting the rest of the root crops.  Horseradish is one of them.

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If you could get a plant start from someone or from a nursery in the spring, horseradish will reward you with delicious roots for years to come as it spreads quite nicely.  I only take about half or two thirds so that there is plenty to grow back.  You may need a shovel to loosen a bit.

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Horseradish is medicinal (as most plants are), and is excellent for sinuses and upper respiratory infections.  You can tincture them in alcohol with Echinacea and garlic for a powerful antibiotic.  Or you can take the culinary approach to medicine.  A most delicious one, I must say.

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Scrub the roots clean in fresh water.  Cut into two inch pieces and place in a food processor.  I like to add a small beet to mine for vibrant color but we had no spring crops and very, very few fall crops this year, so no beets.  Grind on high for a bit until it gets nice and chunky.  Add in a touch of vinegar for consistency and preserving.  I used 2 Tablespoons for four roots.  Continue processing until it looks nice and blended.

One might want to take the bowl outside before opening the lid.  I never remember to do this.  The fumes are mighty and a bit stingy.  Beware.  Scrape down sides, see if it needs any more pulsing.  Pour into a small canning jar and keep in refrigerator.  The vinegar will mellow the heat over time.

Add to mashed potatoes or cocktail sauce or whatever you like.  What do you like to have horseradish with?