Growing Your Own Produce – Square Foot Gardening

Anybody else reading this blog live in Canada? Are you reading this during Winter 2013-14? Then enough said. I’m sure you’re going as crazy as I am. This winter has been the absolute worst. Non stop freezing temperatures. More snow than we know what to do with. Give us a break and bring an early Spring, mmmkay Mother Nature!?

In order to mentally escape from this winter’s reign of terror, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gardening. Last summer was the first opportunity I had to finally start a garden of my very own. We finally had a house and a yard of our own, and I wasn’t about to wait another year (after MANY years of apartment living) to get going, even though we had been in the house under 6 months and were mid-bathroom renovation. So my husband and I researched, planned and executed our garden. We were so happy with the result, I wanted to share the experience with you all! I hope it inspires you to grow something, no matter if it’s on a large or small scale.

We started our gardening research with a book called All New Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew. If you are considering growing anything, whether you have a tiny amount of space, or have a huge yard, get your hands on this book! I think it is the best resource you can use. If you follow the method in this book, I can pretty much guarantee you will actually enjoy gardening. All it really takes is a proper set up, and most of the rest of the time is spent enjoying it. It is not only efficient, but you do not have to worry about learning how to improve whatever existing soil you might have. You don’t need to own a bunch of gardening equipment (who wants to go out and buy a rototiller!?), fertilize, spend hours bent over weeding (any weeds that come up are tiny, and pull with your fingertips out of the perfect soil!), and you can scatter your garden around as you wish instead of having one big boring row garden at the back of your yard!

So once we decided we were going to create a square foot garden, we needed to plan how much we wanted to grow and where we could grow it in our yard. After some Google searches on garden planning tools, I came across an online garden planner software. The one I used is GrowVeg.com (I have no affiliation to this company – I am sure there are other planners out there, this is just the one I use). Although a tool like this is not necessary, I found it to be really helpful, especially as a gardening newbie! We decided that we would need a total of five boxes of varying sizes. Two of them would have trellis for anything we needed to grow vertically.

We also decided to grow a big variety and to start everything from seed ourselves. I realize this may have been quite ambitious for our first time at all of this (which the book even warns against) – and it might be for some, but my husband and I are the “go big or go home” type people. We wanted to just go for it. After all, we had been waiting for this opportunity for many years. If you are overwhelmed by going big or a lot of work the first time, then start small. You can always build up your garden and your knowledge over time. Do what works for you!

tomato, leek and onion seedlings

Tomatoes, Leeks and Onions

Once deciding on what we wanted to grow with the help of our garden planner, next we found a source for seeds. We were not about to put a ton of work into starting our garden, and end up having some genetically modified hybrid freak plants to eat in the end, so we were picky when choosing our seeds. We found a local heirloom seed company offering organic, untreated, non-GMO , open pollinated seed. Wonderful! And since we used the GrowVeg garden planner, we began receiving emails to let us know what seeds to start indoors, and when! How awesome is that? It definitely made our ambitious plans go smoothly. We made a set up in our basement with fluorescent lights, small heater, fan and a table and got our seeds going in the necessary phases. Everything we started from seed worked! It was a great feeling of success.

plants started from seed in the basement

The most important component of getting our garden going properly with the square foot gardening method was the soil blend made of 3 components, called “Mel’s Mix” by the square foot gardening book. If you don’t do this right, you are not going to get the kind of success you should with square foot gardening. So we sourced our soil ingredients from a garden center and a local company providing high quality compost, and figured out the quantities needed in preparation for building and planting the garden. Those little plants growing in our basement soon needed a home! Next came gathering the building materials (the square foot gardening book has lots of information on construction). We chose cedar (untreated, of course, so we don’t contaminate our soil) so the boxes will be around for years to come. Cedar also smells amazing… We built the boxes according to the plans we made, put the weed cloth on the bottoms with a staple gun, and moved them around the yard into position.

components of soil mix for square foot garden

building garden boxes for square foot garden

arranging square foot garden boxes

Once the boxes were ready, we blended our soil mixture on a large tarp so we could get ready to fill out garden boxes. After double checking everything was exactly where we wanted it, we filled the boxes. What a feeling of accomplishment! The hardest part was over.

blending mel's mix soil mixture on a tarp

square foot gardening boxes filled with soil

Before planting, the last step was creating “the grid”. Also very important to square foot gardening. You need to see where each square foot is in your boxes. It made planting seeds and transplanting with the proper spacing a breeze (and can I even say…fun?). We used sturdy, small strips of wood to create our grids for the boxes.

square foot gardening grid with holes poked in the soil to show plant spacing

a table of transplants ready to go in the garden boxes

Now our plants could settle in their homes. And boy, did they grow.

planted square foot garden with trellis

We put up trellis to support any crops that can grow vertically. We also enclosed each box with chicken wire to keep the rabbits out.

Finished square foot garden yard with mulch between garden boxes

Finishing touches were added to our yard. It really brought the whole thing together.

The plants (and seeds that were soon-to-be-plants) were happy in their little garden boxes…

6 by 3 square foot garden box with chamomile, green onion, onion, oregano, broccoli, cabbage, corn

From top: chamomile, green onion, onion, oregano, broccoli, basil, cabbage, corn.

8 by 2 square foot garden box with trellis and tomato, pepper, cucumber, tomato, parsley, peas, calendula, tomato, basil, cucumber, bush wax beans, more tomato and cucumber, zucchinis

From top: tomato, pepper, cucumber, tomato, parsley, peas, calendula, tomato, basil, cucumber, bush wax beans, more tomato and cucumber, zucchinis.

2 by 3 Square foot garden box with Kale, lettuce, spinach, beets

Kale, lettuce, spinach, beets.

Square foot gardening in pots. Dill, pepper, calendula, pumpkin, chives.

Square foot gardening in pots. Dill, pepper, calendula, pumpkin, chives. The pepper loved growing in a pot, while the pumpkin wasn’t happy and died.

Square foot gardening with root crops such as carrots, parsnips and leeks required a deeper box to grow

The root crops such as carrots, parsnips and leeks required a deeper box to grow.

pumpkin and squash in a square foot garden

Pumpkin and spaghetti squash. These required 2×2 squares for each.

growing square foot garden

Beginning of July

square foot garden growth, end of July

End of July. What a difference 1 month makes!

Mid-to-later August growth.

Mid-to-later August.

square foot garden growing pumpkin and squash vertically

Ever see pumpkin and squash grow vertically? I was pretty proud of these beasts.

Here are some shots of goodies we had throughout the summer…

white blooms on apple tree

Did I mention our house has apple trees!? How perfect for us. These were the blooms we saw while we first planted our garden back in May.

gala apples

Gala apples. The other tree is Golden Delicious!

pea pods

Pea pods starting to grow

having coffee and harvesting herbal flowers in a square foot garden

One of my favorite things was coming out to the garden in the morning with my coffee and caring for the garden, harvesting, etc. A great way to start the day.

Harvest of lettuce, spinach, beet greens, chamomile and calendula.

Harvest of lettuce, spinach, beet greens, chamomile and calendula.

ripe raspberry on a rasperry bush

Our home also came with raspberry bushes!

small corn cobs

The corn cobs didn’t grow very big. I’m not sure if they were worth the space. However, non-GMO corn is difficult to find, so growing my own might be the best option.

harvested yellow wax beans

Yellow wax beans. Our one square foot of beans produced a lot and I will grow an additional square next time.

20130728_110721

large pumpkin (34 pounds) grown in square foot garden

We got one GIANT (34 pound!) pumpkin from our plant. Next time I plan on growing small sugar pumpkins, but how impressive is this!?

broccoli head

We grew several broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprout plants. The plants got enormous and we only had one plant produce a head. Sad face. Next time I won’t grow these. They would probably be better off grown in the front yard and they’d end up looking like tropical plants or something, but not crammed into one square foot of the garden where they shade out other plants.

harvested heirloom zucchini

I loved the look of these zucchinis. Heirloom vegetables are the best! We got tons of them from our two giant plants.

spaghetti squash

We got about 5 spaghetti squash from one plant and they were amazing.

dinosaur kale

We had a ton of dinosaur kale.

table full of ripe tomatoes

The tomatoes were destined for salsa and sauces.

A tiny carrot with small sweet peppers in the background.

A tiny carrot with small sweet peppers in the background.

Harvest of cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, apples, onions, beets, and squash.

Harvest of cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, apples, onions, beets, and squash.

Pumpkin, carrots, peppers, beans, herbs, leeks, squash, parsnips.

Last harvest of the season as the frost was on its way. Pumpkin, carrots, peppers, beans, herbs, leeks, squash, parsnips.

Are you going to try a square foot garden this summer?

Smoky Cashew Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Eeep! I haven’t been making posts lately. I think I can blame it on buying our first house about a year ago; it made for a busy summer including our first garden (and I hope to do a gardening post later to share my experience). I created something today that’s pretty delicious, and since I’m kinda proud of my creation, I decided I’d better get posting this in a timely fashion.

Oh, by the way, you can now Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I’m sure many of you have gatherings coming up with friends and family. Maybe you’re hosting or bringing something to a gathering. I think these would be a crowd pleaser, unless you are trying to feed these to a mushroom-hater. I used to be one of these mushroom haters but now I stuff my face with them! I guess my taste buds grew up.

Instead of the traditional processed cream cheese as the base, I used a home made cashew cheese. This cashew cheese is super easy; it’s just a matter of trying to remember to soak the cashews and then popping everything into a food processor or high speed blender. It’s worth the small amount of effort required to whip up a batch.

I wasn’t precise when making this recipe so my measurements could be off a bit. I think it should be quite forgiving though as long as you have the cashew cheese right. Please do let me know if you try my recipe out!

Smoky Cashew Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Makes 12 mushrooms

  • 12 whole fresh mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil of choice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • ~8 oz. cashew cheese, probably around 1 cup (picture a regular tub of cream cheese from the store and filling it with cashew cheese) – recipe here 

    I didn’t blend my cashew cheese until ultra creamy, it still had a slight chunky texture.You can use any extra cashew cheese to dip crackers or veggies

  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ~1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • liquid smoke, to taste (should be around the bbq sauces in the grocery store)
    This gives a bacon-y flavor.
  • Tamari, to taste
stuffing for vegan stuffed mushrooms

Don’t judge my 50′s kitchen.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray of choice (I use a sprayer similar to this one and fill it with olive oil).

Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off the stems and chop them extremely fine, discarding the tough ends.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushroom stems and sauté until soft and caramelized, about 2 minutes.

Add to a bowl with the cashew cheese, and add pepper, cayenne pepper, and about 4 drops of liquid smoke, and the same number of drops of Tamari soy sauce; and stir until blended.

Fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

cashew cheese vegan stuffed mushrooms

Enjoy!

baked cashew cheese vegan stuffed mushrooms

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Delicious Vegan Wrap (or Sandwich) Filling – Starring Chickpeas

If you are someone who likes something portable to eat but you don’t want to buy processed garbage, then try this out. I think this recipe is pretty quick and easy to make, (AND DELICIOUS!) and the great thing about it is you can take it for lunches all week, and there is no heating required. It keeps pretty well in the fridge for about 5 days. Just don’t pre-load the filling into the wraps (if you’re using wraps) until the night before you’re eating it because otherwise it could make for a soggy lunch.

I was inspired by a recipe I found for a vegetarian chickpea sandwich filling on allrecipes.com and tweaked it to make it vegan (and full of good stuff). This recipe can be flexible with the kind of veggies you use. I like to stick with crunchy veggies like fresh cucumber, celery, carrot, and I’ve recently subbed in bell peppers which worked really well too. Use what you have kicking around, add more, whatever you like!

I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Vegan Chickpea Wrap (or Sandwich) Filling

Makes ~6 large servings – lasts basically all work week for my hubby and me, so you can cut the recipe in half if you don’t need so much.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (19 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed, then mashed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped – green or red onion would probably work well too
  • 2 carrots, chopped finely
  • ¼ cup hemp hearts (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped cucumber
  • 2 tablespoon veganaise (I use Earth Island Grapeseed Veganaise, for those in Canada I buy this at Superstore, natural foods isle where they keep the refrigerated stuff) – if you’re not down with veganise, perhaps mashed avocado would work just as well? It would just turn a bit brown throughout the week.
  • lemon juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • Optional: add 2 teaspoons of curry powder (you can do this to change it up if you make the recipe regularly)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • put in a wrap, with sprouts and/or greens of choice

Directions:

  • Drain and rinse chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Pour chickpeas into a medium size mixing bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher.
Chickpea wrap whole ingredients

The photos show a bit of a backwards order. I got too excited about photographing this which caused me to forget to mash the chickpeas first, separately.

mashing chickpeas

Thankfully I had everything neatly separated for photographing, so I made do and mashed the chickpeas off to the side, then combined everything.

  • Mix in celery, onion, carrots, hemp hearts, cucumber, veganaise (to taste), lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

chickpea wrap filling

  • Add filling to a wrap with alfalfa sprouts/greens.
chickpea wrap

Poor photography :( I kept forgetting to take a photo of the finished wrap so I had to take this on my phone. Forgive the injustice to this delicious wrap!

Enjoy the fresh flavors!

Easy, Quick, Healthy, and Flavor Packed – Lentil Soup with Wilted Spinach

Reading this recipe really doesn’t do it justice, you’ve got to make this easy soup yourself. I was surprised at how flavorful this turned out – it’s definitely a favorite and I’ve made it several times now. So now I am sharing! I think the key to the flavor here comes from the bay leaf and lemon juice.  Also, I don’t know if you can get much cleaner and healthier than this soup!

I came across this recipe in my cookbook Thrive Foods. (Lots of goodies in that book!)

Lentil Soup with Wilted Spinach

Makes 4 servings – I recommend doubling and freezing if you’re into that.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry lentils, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

lentil soup ingredients
Method

In a large soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute until garlic is fragrant and begins to turn golden.
Pour in the vegetable broth, and add the lentils and bay leaf. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

lentil soup broth
Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary to maintain a broth around the lentils.

lentil soup
Stir in the lemon juice and the spinach and cook for 2 minutes longer, or until spinach is bright green and has wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm. (Remove the bay leaf kids, it’s not meant to be eaten.)

adding spinach to lentil soup

wilted spinach in lentil soup

Wilty

The delicious result…

lentil soup

Easy Delicious Green Enchiladas

Well, since I have been so lame at posting anything lately, I wanted to get this goodie up! I was thinking the other day about how good these were and wanted to finally share this post.

I went to a local Mexican restaurant that offered veganized versions of most of their menu (so happy to see a restaurant carrying vegan cheese and cream options to add that extra something to vegan Mexican food). I had their green enchilada and it was so good I knew I’d have to find a recipe to make them at home.

I came across a simple and very tasty recipe for Green Enchiladas on a blog called Vegan Dad. It is thrown together pretty quickly with pre-made ingredients like the salsas, canned chilies, and canned refried beans. If you decided to get all adventurous you could always do these from scratch, but sometimes life is too busy and you need a good ‘n quick meal!

Green Enchiladas

INGREDIENTS
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (don’t skip – it’s SO good)
- 2 cans Old El Paso green chiles, with juices *Note: these are not spicy and they really make the flavor of the dish, be sure to include them!
- 1/2 cup tomato salsa – this is where you can choose your spicy level; choose wisely because the green salsa added at the end tends to be a medium spice.
- 2 cups finely chopped veggie lunch meat (or refried beans, which is what I opted for)
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese (I recommend Daiya Jack Style Wedge) plus more for top, optional
- 10 large tortillas
- 1 1/2 jars green salsa (the amount you use depends on how spicy you want it)

Green Enchiladas
METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 x 11 baking dish.

Heat oil in a saucepan over med-hi heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5-7 mins, until translucent. Add chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon and mix well.

onion for Green Enchiladas

Add chiles, salsa, and beans to the pan and bring to bubbling.

filling for Green Enchiladas

Stir in cheese if using, and adjust seasonings to taste. Remove from heat.

filling for Green Enchiladas

filling for Green Enchiladas

Oooh, the creaminess!

Place 1/10th of the filling in a tortilla and roll up. Place in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining filling and tortillas. Cover everything with green salsa and as much cheese as you want.

Green Enchiladas ready for the oven

I went the spicy route and slathered these bad boys up with green salsa!

Bake for 20 to 25 mins, or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Arriba!!

Backpacking Meals, Vegan Style

This post may come at an unseasonable time of year, however after thinking about it – perhaps not! If you’re like me, the miserable cold (in Canada anyway) and lack of decent quantities of sunshine makes me dream of summer and planning summer adventures. Otherwise I’d get pretty depressed.

I spend a lot of my summer planning, preparing for, and going on trips that get me outdoors and away from the city. Camping, hiking/backpacking, and canoeing trips keep me pretty busy during the few summer months we get here. After enough experience from several years of these activities I’ve become more organized. At least I try to be. When it comes to food, I seem to always be more frantic at the last minute trying to pull our meals together. That’s why I hope to do more pre-season preparation while I have the time during the winter months.

So you might be thinking…how the crap do I get meals together many months in advance? The answer is – with my trusty food dehydrator! I love this device and don’t know how I lived without it. This past year I decided instead of trying to find and purchase decent vegan dehydrated/freeze dried meal pouches when I need to pack compact, light weight meals for backpacking trips (which by the way are packed with a ton of sodium and chemical crap), I would be able to make better, healthier, and CHEAPER dried meals myself.

Making meals and dehydrating them takes time, so it’s not really a great idea to start preparing these while you pack. Maybe I just take too long at everything, but packing for a trip and packing the food takes a long time, so if you add the “make your own dried meals” aspect to the process, you will be a little sick of getting everything ready for your trip and probably not want to go through the trouble of making your dried stuff own again. So yup (* note to self…), start early :)

If you ever embark on adventures like mine, perhaps these meals to follow will inspire you. I might have not documented my process very well because these photos are, in fact, from my once typical rushed process during the summer – it’s pretty hard to remember to take pics at times. But hopefully you get the idea…

The following are photos of my meals coming together and I’ll post the recipes at the bottom:

Jambalaya with Quinoa

jambalaya with quinoa

jambalaya with quinoa

jambalaya with quinoa

jambalaya with quinoa

Spread on the dehydrator tray lined with parchment paper

dried bag of Jambalaya with Quinoa

Ta da! The result!

Nice, compact, light meals great for packing into your hiking or canoe pack. I tend to fill my (80 litre!) pack to the brim so the lighter, the better. Here is a visual of said pack. It sits taller than me.

hiking with pack on scenic trail

Greek Red Pepper Dip

food processor filled with dip ingredients

blended dip ingredients

dip spread on dehydrator tray

When this stuff is nice and dry, I put it in the blender to make it into powder so it can rehydrate properly.

I used this in a wrap, pictured below. I also re hydrated potatoes and peppers to add to the wrap. (The potatoes were sliced and cooked before dehydrating.)

wrap with greek red pepper dip and veggies

Similarly, I make sauces which are dried kind of like the hummus (greek red pepper dip above) and powdered in the blender for use at camp. My husband and my favorite is probably the Mac and Cheese sauce from a recipe I’ve posted on this blog before. We both love this recipe and make it often, and it makes a lot of sauce so we just throw the extra on the dehydrator. Awesome!

I came up with a great combo for camp, inspired by a recipe from a non vegan cook book for asian beef lettuce wraps. The peanut sauce is so tasty and I use it for a sauce for dried TVP (textured vegetable protein) which of course will get re hydrated at camp. I also rehydrate some peppers and onions, fry them, then combine with the TVP and sauce. I’m gourmet like that sometimes.

Peanut Sauce

preparing peanut sauce in blender

peanut sauce on liquid dehydrator tray

peanut sauce from asain lettuce wrap recipe (3)

The top, darker looking bag is the sauce before powdering. The other is the TVP, and the other dried veggies for this recipe are in the background.

Finally, don’t forget about good ‘ol dried fruit! I have another previous post on drying your own fruit. You can snack on it, add it hot or cold to breakfasts, etc.

Now for the recipes used:

Jambalaya with Quinoa – from Backpacker Recipes website

dehydration time: 8 to 10 hours
makes 6 to 8 servings
3 cups quinoa (rinsed and drained)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onion (minced)
2 bell pepper (minced)
20 fresh mushrooms (minced)
56 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
30 ounces canned white beans (drained)
2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • Place the quinoa in a saucepan with 5 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender and translucent. Set this aside.
  • Heat a fry pan over medium-low heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onions, bell peppers and mushrooms and stir for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, beans, and herbs and bring to a boil, let in simmer for 5 minutes. At this point your kitchen should be filled with a heavenly smell.
  • Add the quinoa to the mixture and blend.
  • Spread this mixture out onto dehydrator trays and dehydrate. I did it overnight on the plastic trays that hold moisture, and I had to flip the food over in the morning to fully dry it all.
  • This then goes into ziplock bags. On the trail I simply put the Jambalaya into my cook pot, added water to cover the food and brought it to a boil and simmered a couple of minutes, and then let it sit several minutes to fully hydrate. The amount of water you add is something you need to experiment with, if you add too much you just end up with a bit of soup to finish off your meal with. I do stir the mix while heating to be sure that it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

Greek Red Pepper Dip – from Backpacker Recipes website

Dehydration Time: 5–7 hours
Makes 4–8 servings

2/3 cup roasted red peppers
2 19-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 tablespoons lime juice
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons capers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of kosher salt

At Home

  • (I just used store bought) Roast the red peppers according to the instructions on page xref. Once they’ve cooled, peel them and chop them into 1/4-inch pieces.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or large bowl if using a hand blender. Process them until you have a thick paste.
  • Spread evenly on lined dehydrator trays, keeping the mixture about 1/4 inch thick. Dry for 5 to 7 hours or until the mixture crumbles and is thoroughly dry. Store in a medium ziplock freezer bag.

At Camp

  • Rehydrate the dip using a formula of 1 1/2 parts dried mix to 1 part water. Wait 5 to 10 minutes then add a little more water if it’s too dry. Serve as a dip with Greek pitas or your favorite crackers or use as a spread in a wrap.

Peanut sauce

1/4 cup light coconut milk
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
4 tsp low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
4 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp honey or agave
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp hot Asian chilli sauce

Combine ingredients in blender, then dehytrate. At camp, re hydrate sauce by adding boiling water to consistency and let it sit; once sauce is ready add to re hydrated pan fried veggies and re hydrated TVP, simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until the mixture heats through and has had a chance to absorb the flavor.

Wild Rice Mushroom Soup

I love the flavor of this comforting soup. A great fall recipe full of mushroomy and creamy goodness! I adapted this recipe from a cookbook called The Vegetarian Collection.

The original recipe calls for two different types of mushrooms, dried and fresh. I think you can use whatever two types of mushrooms you like, use what you have on hand.

 

- makes 6 servings -

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 cups sliced or chopped mushrooms. Use two types of mushroom.
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or mushroom broth
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice (follow package directions or this link)
  • 1/4 cup plain (unsweetened) almond milk

 

If you plan on using some dried mushrooms, make sure you pre-soak them.

In a large skillet, heat half of the olive oil over medium high heat. Sautee mushrooms and 1/4 tsp of the salt until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add broth, cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.

mushrooms in broth

 

In a large saucepan heat remaining oil over medium heat and fry onions, celery, garlic, thyme, pepper and remaining salt, stirring often until very soft, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and 2 cups water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, wild rice and almond milk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Remove from heat, enjoy!

mushroom soup with broth added

wild mushroom soup

Pure delish!! Definitely a new favorite. Serve it with a salad and you’ve got a great, healthy meal.

Creamy Rice Bowl – A New Favourite Recipe

This recipe involves making a spice blend, a sauce, and the recipe. But a little work is SO worth it, you won’t be disappointed! I love the flavor of this recipe so much that I could probably eat it every day. The great thing is this recipe also freezes very well, so you can double the batch and freeze some (if you don’t eat it all) for future meals. So at least this way you save on time the next time you want to eat it – which, if you’re like me, you will crave it regularly. I’m drooling a little while posting this one.

This recipe comes from Thrive Foods, another great Brendan Brazier book.

Shanghai Rice Bowl

(recipe claims to serve two but I think it makes more – depends on how big of an eater you are I guess)

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise (or chopped smaller if you like)
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp tamari (or could be replaced with soy sauce, etc)
  • 3 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and halved if large (I just used reg. sliced mushrooms)
  • 4 cups cooked brown basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup tahini sauce (recipe below)
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs (recipe below)
  • 2 cups sunflower sprouts (I used an alfalfa sprout mixture)
  • 2 Tbsp hulled hemp seeds (Hemp Hearts)
  • 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas (I just tossed in the entire can)

Tahini Sauce (makes more than you need for single recipe)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (I’m not a huge parsley fan, so I halve that amount)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

In a blender, process garlic, parsley, salt & lemon juice until smooth. Add water & tahini, process until smooth. Add a bit of water if too thick. Can be stored in a container in the fridge for 4 days. (You only need 1/2 cup of this sauce for the single recipe above).

Mixed Herbs (makes more than you need for single recipe)

  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp dried dill
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried sage

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container – it will last forever. Just rub it between your fingers before using to release the flavors. Use on pastas, salads, rice bowls, etc. Or save it for every time you make this recipe!

OKAY DON’T GET INTIMIDATED AT THIS POINT. I realize it looks like a lot, but it’s really not! Here comes the easy part:

  • Make sure you’ve cooked your rice if you haven’t already. Let it cook while you get the rest of the recipe together and set aside until you need it.
  • Put the water in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the bok choy and cover. Steam until the bok choy is almost tender (5 minutes). When the water evaporates, add 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, 2 Tbsp of the tamari, and the mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes until bok choy and mushrooms aare tender. Set aside.
    bok choy and sprouts

    Some prepped bok choy, with the sprouts ready for later.

    Sauteeing mushrooms and bok choy

    Oooh, steamy!!

  • Get a large pot, or you could possibly use the pot you cooked the rice in if it’s large enough. Combine the 4 cups of cooked rice with the 1/2 cup tahini sauce, 4 Tbsp olive oil, and 4 Tbsp tamari. Sprinkle with 2 tsp mixed herbs and add in the sauteed bok choy/mushroom mixture. Give this all a good stir.blender with tahini saucemixed herbs
  • Then stir in the sprouts, hemp seeds and chickpeas.

    Finished creamy rice bowl

    Not the best final shot. I was distracted by the deliciousness so I forgot about proper photography!

  • ENJOY!!

Summertime Soba Noodle and Raw Vegetable Salad

Nobody really likes to sweat in their kitchen in the summer time (although I tend to do this at times, due to my lack of outdoor cooking space). I tried this recipe a while back and thought it would be a great summer time recipe to post. The only heat it requires is to boil a pot-o-noodles! It’s also a quick recipe, and you can make a big batch and eat all week if you like.

The original recipe came from a blog I stumbled across, Cookie + Kate.

Serves approx. 6

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces soba noodles (100% buckwheat kind if you want to ensure gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium tamari (or soy sauce, just be sure it’s reduced sodium or it will taste too salty)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking of spiciness)
  • 1-2 bunches green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro (I am not a cilantro fan, so didn’t use much. I usually use a little parsley in place of cilantro.)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/4 head of green or red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 3 whole carrots, shredded with vegetable peeler
  • 2 cups shelled edamame, steamed
  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional ingredients for extra flavor
  • one lime, juiced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • peanut butter! (do it!!)
Instructions
  1. Cook soba noodles according to directions, and rinse in a colander.

    dry soba noodles

  2. Chop up all your vegetables, and toss into a bowl with the soba noodles.

    diced veggies

    soba noodle salad

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari, sesame oil, canola oil, rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes.

    dressing for soba noodle salad

  4. Pour the dressing into the pasta and veggies and toss well to combine. Eat right away or put it in the fridge to have the flavor mingle.

    soba noodle salad

You Can Call Me Mrs. Blogger – Back to Blogging with a Vegan Honeymoon Adventure in South America

Well, I am FINALLY back to blogging, after not posting anything for over 3 months. You see, wedding planning is almost like a second full time job, so I had no choice but to neglect my blog. I still cooked great vegan food, however didn’t document much of it. But I do have a backlog of things to post, so I’ll be working on that.

So now I’m a Mrs!! We had an amazing wedding and the hard work did pay off…

bride and groom

After the wedding we went on a honeymoon in South America. It was such an amazing way to unwind after over a year of wedding planning, and to start off our lives as husband and wife. Our trip went something like this: Quito, Ecuador then the Galapagos Islands, back to Quito, then to Otavalo, then back to Quito, and then sadly back home. We definitely could have spent more time in South America; it was an amazing place to visit.

I could go on and on with stories of our adventures, however this is a food blog and I wanted to focus on our experience as two vegan travelers on another continent. Overall, we ate very well and didn’t have many issues. It just took a little effort.

I could tell you being prepared is key, however we were not really prepared for this trip. We didn’t have much time to spare with the wedding planning, so we kind of winged it, but it all worked out. A couple of tools we picked up along the way became very handy – our Lonely Planet guide book we picked up at the airport, and an English/Spanish speaking stranger we met who wrote out a list of “no’s” of what we do not eat as vegans. The guide book listed some vegetarian restaurants and Spanish phrases, and the list clearly defined what we didn’t want to consume in our meals. The list went as follows – no queso, no leche, no huevos, no mantequilla, no carne, no pollo, no pescado. Now try to repeat that one! In Ecuador, meat means only pork or beef – chicken is chicken, and fish is fish. They also don’t know the term dairy, so you have to list cheese, butter, and milk. So it was good to be as clear as possible!

The airlines were an issue. But who ever has a good experience with airlines? We were not fed a single vegan meal as we requested. We ended up being so hungry on the way there that we broke down and ate a vegetarian meal with cheese and probably eggs. But we lived…although I will be sending an angry email to said airline very soon. We learned after this experience and brought a ton of snacks on each flight afterwards.

Eating in Ecuador was quite inexpensive! Our first meal we had was lunch, which only cost us $2.50 US each. We came across a vegetarian Asian restaurant not far from our hotel.

vegetarian restaurant sign

vegan food platter

Not bad for $2.50 – cabbage slaw, rice, veggie mix, soup, lentils, popcorn, and fresh juice!

vegan food platter variety of food

It was delicious and we were stuffed!

We went to the grocery store often to fill up on snacks. Ecuadorians do seem to like their meat, eggs and dairy, but it seemed they eat more variety and less processed foods than in Canada/USA.

bulk bins of legumes

vegan snacks from the grocery store

An example of one of the snack bounties we picked up – sweet potato and plantain chips, peanuts, dark chocolate.

When we visited the Galapagos Islands, we basically lived off a boat so we were served all our meals on the boat. We of course requested our vegan meals when we booked the trip, and they happily accommodated this. The chef did a great job and we ate a lot.

For breakfast it was always lots of fruit, toast with jam, granola, coffee and fresh juice. One of my favorite things about eating in Ecuador is that they always had fresh juice. It was so delicious! I never want to drink juice from a box again. Also, our dessert was always fresh fruit. Here is a fruit salad we had for dessert:

fruit salad

Here are some more of the meals we ate on board the boat:

vegan soup

vegan plate of food

Rice, veggie/potato mix, salad with cucumber and hearts of palm, fried potato & onion patty (so yummy!)

soup with greens

vegan food plate including plantains

Plantains, cabbage salad with avocado, potato cake with peanut sauce, rice

vegan food plate with beets

avacado salsa salad

A part of one of my fav meals on the boat. This avocado tasted marinated in lime juice or maybe in the salsa itself. The whole thing was tasty and filling.

Okay, I just had to share a pic of a visitor to our boat (we also got to snorkel with them and I love these creatures!)

sea lion

And now eats in Quito:

fresh fruit plate

fresh pineapple juice

Fresh pineapple juice, YUM!

bread with jam

Fresh bread and jam. They also have amazing jam flavors in Ecuador!

Manatial Vegetarian Cuisine restaurant sign

We made a couple visits here, their food was amazing!

fruit bowl with granola

Breakfast at Manantial – fruit bowl with granola, coffee with soy milk…

fresh blackberry and passionfruit juice

…and fresh blackberry and passionfruit juice!

spicy mushroom and zuchhini mix with garlic bread

More Manantial eats…this was sooo good! Appetizer – spicy mushroom and zuchhini mix with garlic bread.

salad, avocado, potato cakes, fried tofu, vegan chorizo sausage

My dinner pick: salad, avocado, potato cakes, fried tofu, vegan chorizo sausage.

vegan burger plate

My hubby’s choice, vegan burger. It was wheat based, so probably seitan, and he said it was probably the best burger he’s had!

On to El Maple in Quito:

El Maple Vegetarian Food and Bar restaurant

vegan burrito

Vegan burrito. They removed the cheese and topped it with this red sauce instead. Yum!

vegan burger

My husband said this wasn’t as good as it looked, unfortunately.

And now on to Otavalo, a more rural city about 2 hours outside Quito.

Deli Cafe Restaurant

vegan nachos

These were awesome nachos loaded with good stuff!

vegan burrito

Bean burrito filled with mostly the same thing as the nachos had.

guacamole nachos

The best guacamole I’ve ever had!

Our hostel just outside Otavalo was amazing. If you ever go here, I highly recommend staying here at the Hosteria Rose Cottage. Some reasons:

Rose Cottage Hosteria sign

priviate cabin

Our cozy little accommodations at Rose Cottage. Not your typical hostel!

hammocks with a mountain view

Beautiful, peaceful place to chill.

view at Hosteria Rose Cottage

baby black cow

One of the friends hanging around the hostel.

We showed up to Hosteria Rose Cottage with no reservation. They didn’t speak much English but happily cooked us vegan dishes that were wonderful! We only got a couple nights there but wished we could have stayed for weeks.

Wow, that was quite the post! I hope you all enjoyed it and I hope it will help you eat wonderful vegan food when you travel.