Hi. I'm Wendy (Wendakai). I'm writing this health-oriented blog because I have colitis and celiac disease and am now on a gluten-free, vegan diet. I went kicking and screaming into that, I can tell you. I'm also at risk for Type 2 diabetes. Mom to an Aspie teen, wife to a working man and in my cronehood, I'm looking to stick around a bit yet and share what I learn with others. There are also other resources posted here for those seeking information on a healthier lifestyle, recipes, info and more. I hope you get something out of what's here. :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Please Tell Me You Like Veges

When you're on a vegan diet, you really need to like vegetables.  If you don't, then you're going to be one of those very pale, pasty-lookin' people who really isn't healthy ~ what a friend once called, "a mac n' cheese" vegetarian.

Some people don't care for some vegetables because of the way they've been served in the past.  I get this.  My mom liked her asparagus boiled to within a molecule of its existence.  By the time she was done "cooking" it, all the nutritional value of the stuff was in the water she'd boiled it in.  In fact, my brothers used to drink the asparagus water, so they got the goodness.  What my mom and dad got was limp, soggy green worms, call it the vegetable.  I tried it once.  I didn't try asparagus again until well into adulthood.  It had been grilled with garlic, and I really liked it.  I`ve been cooking it that way ever since and very much enjoying it.

So, sometimes it isn`t the vegetable that`s the problem, it`s the way it`s been presented to us.  My fave way of having veges, is raw.  This is a simple, delicious and healthy way to enjoy veges, especially with hummus.  Ok... here we go again.  I`ll bet you`ve tried store-bought hummus and didn`t care for it.  I get it.  I thought it was a little like dipping my veges into toothpaste.  But you know, it`s easy to make your own.  I have given the recipe for hummus in another post, but I just want to remind people that you can use any nut or seed butter in it that you like.  (Store-bought is almost always made with tahinni, which is sesame seed butter.)  I use Sunbutter, or sunflower seed butter.  I like the flavour and helps me create the creamy hummus that I enjoy.  So remember, you can do any variation on the theme that you like ~ whatever flavour you like (my fave is lemon/dill), whatever consistency you like.  When you are the creator, you can make it they way you like it. :)

Often I make myself a brown rice (gluten-free) pasta to go with a medley of veges and a lettuce leaf filled with hummus for my lunch.  Today I made a sandwich.  This was an idea my daughter came up with, and it's a good one. 

First grill up some mushroom slices.  Portabello mushroom slices are great for this, but today I used crimini mushrooms.  Also throw in some rings of onion.  Cook them the way you like them... from lightly sauteed to crispy.  I prefer them more on the crispy side. 

We use Food for Life brown rice, gluten-free, vegan bread.  Thaw it in the microwave for best results .. to the desired softness. Spread some hummus on each slice.  (No kidding... it works great as a condiment.)  Cover the bread with the mushroom slices and add the onion.  Put on the lid.  Serve with a green salad, or with a medley of raw veges with some hummus for dipping, or with some brown rice pasta salad.  (This is made with veganaise of your choice along with some g-free dijon mustard and suitable seasonings.  I like rosemary and/ or basil, McCormick's garlic powder, salt and pepper. Make it they way YOU like it.)

Just another idea for eating a healthy, yummy plant-based diet. 

I'll give my recipe for hummus again here, for ease of use:

1 can organic chick peas
1 generous dollop sunflower seed butter
at least 2 tbsp. lemon juice (some lemon zest is nice too if desired)
several dill fronds or many shakes of dried dill weed
fresh basil and parsley leaves  (dried is exceptable if you don't have fresh)
salt and pepper to taste (pssst... use lots, and use real salt, not table salt, and coarse ground pepper)
2 or 3 good-sized cloves of garlic

Place all in food processor and whhrrrrrr.... adding water as necessary to get it to the desired consistency.

Give it a try.  Don't be afraid to experiment and make things the way you like them.  I went kicking and screaming into this vegan diet, but the fact is, I have never eaten so well.  A plant based diet is a great way to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and your weight.  This is not a fad.  It's the way to good health.

Friday, May 4, 2012

More Fun with Black Beans!

The black bean patties I've tried so far were all good, but I am on the hunt for GREAT. I am closer. Last night I added a cup of cooked quinoa to a small can of black beans (drained and rinsed) and mashed. Then I added a tbsp. of GF Worchestershire sauce, salt and pepper, MCCORMICS garlic and onion powder,  a handful of Daiya cheese shreds, 1 grated carrot, about a half cup of sauteed, chopped mushrooms, and 2 tbsp. of ground chia. It still seemed just a little mushy, so I added 1 tbsp. of rice bread crumbs as well. The consistency was just right, so I fried up some patties and some meatballs in garlic olive oil. Yum. I served us each a patty, with homemade red/purple potato salad and creamy coleslaw (both made with veganaisse). It was so good, I had some leftovers for breakfast this morning. :)

This meal was vegan and gluten-free; also free of nightshades.  There are other black bean patty recipes below.  It's been fun to experiment and you can't really "fail," only create patties that you may like either more or less than the last one.  So start with a small can of black beans, drain and rinse them, then experiment with the ingredients and seasonings you like best.  I suggested McCormick seasonings because they are gluten-free... at least, it would seem.  Other seasonings often contain fillers or "natural" flavours that are made with gluten.  If you are gluten-free, please make sure your seasonings and flavourings are as well. (Vanilla extract for instance, is often made in grain alcohol.  That's grain, as in gluten.)

Also try to add some Omega-3 ingredients, such as Chia and/or freshly ground flax seeds.  You can even add protein powder if you can have it.  It will help absorb the moisture of the black beans, and add protein to your vege patty as well. 

Have fun, and enjoy!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Meatballs ~ No Meat!

I took a notion to make meatballs, and maybe a veggie patty or two. But, of course, these had to be made with something other than meat. I remembered reading that sweet potato and black beans make a nice mixture, but I couldn't find any recipe. So I decided to wing it. My first effort was a little mushy. I needed a binder, but I don't eat eggs either, and I wasn't that big on GF crumbs. A friend suggested ground flaxseeds. Hey! Good idea! So I tried it.

Here's the recipe... very simple: Saute some chopped mushrooms and a small, chopped onion. Set aside. Into a bowl place 3/4 cup boiled and mashed sweet potato; 3/4 cup canned organic black beans, drained and rinsed; 3/4 cup ground flax seeds; salt, pepper and spices of choice. Now you could use a food processor if you want, but I'm getting tired of washing mine, so I got hold of a sturdy fork and applied elbow grease to mash up the black beans, and then mix everything together.

Get your clean hands in there and fashion meatballs about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter, and/or fashion a patty or two. (I got about 16 meatballs and one patty out of this batch.) Place into a warmed skillet coated with oil. (I used garlic olive oil.) Cook them on low-medium heat, turning as necessary. Watch them... you want them browned and warmed through, but not blackened. ;o)

Once they're cooked, pack them into a container, cool and refrigerate. (This helps them "set" or firm up.) When it comes to serving, add them to what you want ~ rice, pasta and sauce, potatoes and veges... whatever you like. Just warm them in the microwave and you have a yummy, healthy, vegan addition to your meal that's loaded with fiber and Omega 3. Enjoy!

Now I'm adding more to this post because I made this a couple more times with adjustments, one of which was to make a meatloaf. The first one was good. The next one was soggy. ;p Never one to be hindered by failure, I tried again, making more adjustments and made some giant meatless meatballs. Here's what I did differently: I left out the sweet potato. It is a nice mix with the black beans, but I find that these vary in moisture and too much moisture is a bad thing for meatless meat. So this time I just drained and rinsed a can of black beans and crushed them with a fork, then added the sauteed chopped onions and portobello mushrooms. Into a food processor I put about 3/4 stalk of celery, 3 carrots and 2 cloves of garlic... whrrrrr. All chopped up, I added these to the mixture. Then I put in a tbsp. each of Tamari sauce, GF Worchestershire sauce, and GF hot sauce. (Read the label on your Tamari to make sure it's wheat free. Apparently there are some misguided brands out there.) Then, to absorb that moisture you need the ground flax seed. You can also add some almond "flour" if you like. I also added a couple tbsp. of raw sunflower seeds put through my grinder, and 3 tbsps. of GF flour, and for good measure, a tbsp. of instant onion soup mix, GF of course. (optional) Salt (in moderation, especially if you use the onion soup mix) and pepper, and just a little (optional) Tex Mex spice (being sure that it is also GF). Once all this was thoroughly mixed and a nice, firm consistency, I made giant meatballs and placed them in a lightly greased muffin tin, baked at 350 for about 45 mins.

My plan was to cool and refrigerate them before use, but as soon as they were cool my daughter and I had to try them. They were so good right out of the oven that we each ate one. :)

Don't be afraid to experiment in search of the texture and flavours that you like best. The worst you can do is fail, and failure is just learning.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Simple Gluten-free, Vegan Pumpkin Bread

So, I've been experimenting a little lately... trying new flours and checking out recipes from some new resources... at least, new to me. I tried a couple of things though that definitely belonged in the FAIL column. I had a container of pureed pumpkin in the fridge I wanted to use up and pondered for a moment, then I rejected the notion of another experiment and decided to keep it basic. A pumpkin bread was called for here. A simple, basic, gluten-free, vegan pumpkin bread.

Here's what I did.

Into a bowl I measured: 1 cup whole bean flour; 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF flour; 1/4 cup almond flour; 2 tsp GF baking powder; 1/2 tsp sea salt; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 1/2 tsp ginger; about 1/2 cup brown sugar, loose. (You can use another sweetener, but if it's liquid, remember to adjust the liquid ingredients accordingly.)

I stirred up the dry ingredients well, then added: 1 egg replacer; 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin; 3/4 cup organic lemonade. (Yes, you can just use a couple of tbsp fresh lemon juice, either in water, or you can sour the milk of your choice.)

Stir till all the dry ingredients are moistened. Scoop batter into greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for roughly 50 minutes. (Ovens may vary.)

No FAIL column in sight here. I wound up with a lovely, moist, spicey pumpkin bread that my daughter, at left buttering a slice, thoroughly enjoyed, as did I, with no butter of course. Makes a great breakfast, as well as a good snack. :)


Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Easy Meal Ideas

Two comfort foods, a mighty meal.... and a partridge in a pear tree?

A perennial fave for young folk: mac n' cheese. Thing is, my daughter is dairy- and gluten-free, so this mac n' cheese is made with brown rice macaroni and Daiya cheese. It doesn't take long to cook this macaroni... no more than 8 mins, then drain and rinse well. Return to the empty pot, add Daiya cheese (I use a mixture of cheddar and mozz flavours), place pot over still warm burner and stir. Once the "cheese" is mostly melted, add a little butter. Now, this is just basically a plate of starch, so to give it some redeeming nutritional value, I saute some onion, garlic, mushrooms and whatever other veges are handy and mix them in. She doesn't seem to mind. Obviously this is a sometimes, "comfort food" meal and not for all the time. I can count on my daughter to work this off.

Stuffed potato: clean and nuke a nice large potato of choice. When it's tender and has cooled a bit, cut it in half, scoop out most of the potato and put it in a mixing bowl. You can use what you like to cream the potato. I used a little soy cream cheese (soy sour cream works too) to add some protein to it, and a little butter for yum. I also added some Daiya cheddar for flavour and some of those sauteed veges to it as well. I smooshed it all up together and packed it back into the potato skins. Put it back in the microwave and gave it a warming blast before serving.

Last, but certainly not least, the very nutritious fish dinner. Though vegetarian now, my daughter will still eat fish and eggs. These wild salmon fillets went on special at a local store and I stocked up. First I put the asparagus and mushrooms into a pan lightly coated with garlic olive oil, then, after turning them, I added the salmon fillet, sprinkled on top with tarragon and parsley, and a generous squirt of fresh lemon juice. The potato is nuked, just to complete that ol' fashioned "meat n' potato" model.

These are just some of my daughter's faves. All can be made your way or adjusted to your tastes. Bon apetite!

Friday, December 2, 2011

G-free, Vegan Shepherd's Pie

No kidding. Doesn't it look good? It really was.

Now, I'll confesss, wasn't my first try. Just to start with I needed to make my own vege broth.. there's stuff in commercial broth that my daughter can't have. So I loaded carrots, celery, onion, garlic and more into my crock pot, added water, and made broth. Thing is, I didn't have any faith in it. I mean, it didn't have bones, skin and all those animal parts that make a broth strong and rich. So I went ahead and made my first vege shepherd's pie with the broth straight up. Oooo... a little too strong. I made a date to try again.
Segue to yesterday when I rehydrated some shitake mushrooms to put into my vegan lasagna. When I was done, there sat the water I'd rehydrated them in. Oooo, I thought... can't waste that. Hmmm... time to try that shepherd's pie again? Yep.

So into the crockpot it went, along with onion, garlic, carrots, celery, some pieces of sweet potato that I've been experimenting with lately, along with some thyme, oregano and basil, and a couple pieces of asparagus and broccoli as well. This time I didn't underestimate it. When it was done and drained through a sieve, that was strong vege broth. I put some away in the freezer for another time, and treated what was left like a concentrate, adding water, salt and pepper, and using just water to dissolve the tapioca starch that would thicken my "gravy."

Now, first of course, I sauteed just a whole bunch of mushrooms. I really find these are a great replacement for meat in a vegan recipe. I also added some pieces of asparagus to the fry pan, and onion and garlic. Then I added the broth, water, salt, pepper, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. I thickened the whole thing with the tapioca starch. Meanwhile, I had made mashed potatoes, using soy cream cheese and Daiya cheese to cream them, with a little salt and pepper.

I scooped the veges and gravy into the oven-safe ceramic dishes (they have a name, but it always escapes me). Then I covered this with the mashed spuds and garnished with a bit more Daiya cheese shreds. I baked it for a bit, just to melt the "cheese" shreds a little, then turned on the broiler to brown up the top of it.

Mmmmmm.... success! It was really good.

Now, I've been experimenting, as I say, with sweet potato, and I had some already mashed in the fridge I meant to add to the potato on top of mine, to make it a little healthier. But I forgot. When I told my daughter about this she said, "only on yours?!" Hmmm... I told her I didn't think she'd like it... necessarily. But hey, she's up for the experiment too, so next time, I mix sweet potato with regular potatoes on the top of this culinary glory too see how that goes. Sounds good to me. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stuffed Peppers, Gluten-free and Vegan!

The first time my husband encountered stuffed peppers was at my Aunt’s house. She liked to make stuffed peppers for company. He loved ‘em. He asked me to make them.

Oy. I had never made them and by the time he asked, my aunt was no longer available to ask for the recipe. I asked a cousin, but I’m thinkin’ he didn’t have the recipe. ;o) So I did the unthinkable... I looked in my favourite cookbook, and there it was! I didn’t know, of course, if this recipe was anything like my aunt’s, but it seemed pretty basic, so I gave it a try. He loved ‘em!

Since then, stuffed peppers weren’t something I made a lot, but at regular intervals, like when the four packs of peppers were on sale at my local grocery store, I’d make them. Everyone in the family likes ‘em, even though my daughter doesn’t actually eat the pepper ... just the stuffing.

Well, recently, green peppers were on special in the four packs again, but our diets have undergone some changes since I first made stuffed peppers. I am gluten-free vegan, my daughter is g-free, dairy-free vegetarian, and my husband just wants the meals he’s always had. ;o)

Ack... it’s like running a restaurant some days. But here’s what I did with the stuffed peppers:

Bring water to boil in a big enough pan to blanche the peppers. Cut off the tops and seed them, then blanche them for about 4 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water and place them upside down on a towel to drain. Using the same pot (to save on dishes... empty out the water; save for vege broth or discard). To stuff the peppers you need:

olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 of the pepper tops, chopped
6 large mushrooms, washed, sliced in half, then each half sliced some more
1 - 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Tamari sauce
dried basil, to taste, salt and pepper
1 - 250 gram package Uncle Ben’s Bistro Express Wholegrain Brown rice, no preservatives
1 cup Daiya cheese shreds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the saucepan with olive oil. Saute the sliced mushrooms, onion and pepper for several mins. Add the diced tomatoes, tamari sauce, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for a few mins. Add the rice and warm. Add the Daiya cheese and stir till melted a bit. (Save a few shreds to top the peppers with.)

Place the peppers into a casserole dish. Salt the peppers a bit, then fill with the rice mixture. Put any leftover filling into the casserole between the peppers. Put the few leftover shreds onto the tops of the stuffed peppers. Cover and bake for roughly 30 mins. Remove lid. Allow peppers to rest for a few mins., then serve with whatever else you like.

I served my little stuffed red pepper with a green salad. I served Hubby’s larger green pepper with a meat patty, because he doesn’t really want to be a vegetarian. (I notice he only ate half of his meat though.) My daughter’s larger green pepper was served alone... with some of the extra filling sort of spilling off to one side. Have it the way you like it!