Today’s Breakfast

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The new seasons always inspire me to cook, the problem is that Holland doesn’t really participate in this eternal natural ritual of seasonal changes, well not really. Even though the trees are fuller, the grass is greener and the sun blesses us with more frequent sporadic visits, there is still not a feeling that the summer has arrived. It feels like Easter is about to pop up. Nevertheless I enjoy time demarcations and if nature won’t give me that framework, I’ll attach myself to the man made version:the school calendar. This is the time when regardless of the weather life seems to change pace. Kids finish the school year and vacation plans begin to materialize. In our family’s case our youngest daughter is finishing grade school and end of the year performances are coming to an end. My son’s homeschooling year came to a natural diminuendo, as his rehearsal schedule with the National Ballet Academy became more frantic in preparation for their yearly final performance. Our older kids are also planning their summer exits and my husband has already taken a look or two at the map of Italy, somewhere around Florence, where it seems will be putting our new canvas army tent for some weeks this summer.
Getting up in the morning on these “summer” sundays when the business of the yearly schedule seems to have water down gives me a rush of possibility, creativity and inspiration to take more time to have fun in the kitchen. Summer time to me means time, of course, dry, sizzling hot weather would be fun and do wonders for my need for vitamin D, but I’ll settle for time, precious, old fashion time, to cook, think, read, make plans and comtemplate.

Little Musli Fruit Yogurt Pots
musli with nuts(homemade is best of course)
fruit of choice
yogurt(soy, regular, or my version of coconut cream mixed with lemon juice and a pinch of salt)
cinnamon
mint leaves

-make nice layers beginning with the musli
-garnish with fresh mint leaves and sprinkle with cinnamon

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Baguette with Sautéd Wild Mushrooms, Beet Greens and Fried Tomatoes

wild mushrooms
olive oil
garlic
fresh thyme
beet leaves
tomatoes cut in thick slices

-sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil, add garlic and salt and cook stirring until they loose their liquid
-take out of the pan and use the same pan to sauté the beet greens, first add a bit of olive oil to the pan
-add a pinch of salt and cook the greens until they wilt
-remove greens from the pan
-add 1tbs olive oil to the pan and add the tomato slices until the become darker and shiny, add a pinch of salt
-cut a whole wheat baguette open and place the cooked ingredients on it
-cut in serving portions

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Hiziki, Spinach and Sweet Potato Bake

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Hiziki, Spinach and Sweet Potato Bake

1 1/2 cup soaked hiziki(soaked for at least 10 minutes)
1 onion cut in small cubes
1/2 red pepper cut in small cubes
3 minced cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 kilo spinach
1 big sweet potato cut in chunks and steamed
1 tbs tamari
1/2 cup water
1 zucchini sliced diagonally
about 5 leaves of filo, each one brushed with olive oil
chili powder
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbs pine nuts

-sauté onions and garlic in the olive oil
-add the red pepper and a pinch of salt
-add hiziki and cook a bit more giving it a couple of good stirs
-add tamari and water, cover and cook for 10 minutes
-add the cooked sweet potatoes and tamari and cook for about 5 more minutes
-add the chili and spinach and continue cooking until the spinach begins to wilt
-add pine nuts
-line an ovenproof dish with the layers of filo(each brushed with olive oil)
-put the Spinach hiziki filling in the filo and place the slices of zucchini nicely on top
-brush the zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt
-bake at about 180*C for about 15 minutes, taking care the sides of the filo don’t burn

I served this dish with brown rice and a green salad, for dessert I am still contemplating the idea of fresh fruit with a drizzle of coconut cream!

Pancakes -Spiked Apples

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Pancakes are saviors as additions to a quick lunch when my kids come home from school for their lunch break. We have less than an hour so it better be quick!
Mostly I like to also have made a bean or vegetable soup before hand the maybe the day before to go with the pancakes. In this recipe you can skip the Grappa if you are afraid of getting your kids drunk(the alcohol evaporates with cooking anyway).
About Chia seeds, besides being very nutritious and providing stamina, they are great egg replacers, a tablespoon of Chia dissolved in a bit of water and added to a cake, bread or pancake and is the same as adding an egg. One of these days I will make a tofu omelette with Chia, it may work.

Panckes
1 cup spelt white flour
1 cup spelt whole flour
1/4 cup corn flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs chia seeds dissolved in 1/4 cup water
about 4cups of grain, nut or soy milk
water to add and create the desired batter consistency if the milk gets absorbed too quickly and the batter becomes too thick
coconut oil for cooking the pancakes

Spiked Apples
2 apples cut in thin slices
1 tbs coconut oil
a pinch of salt
a tiny pinch of chili powder or chipotle
2 tbs coconut sugar
cinnamon powder
raisins soaked in the Grappa or in water
1/2 Grappa (about)

Pancakes
-put all the dry pancake ingredients in a bowl
-add the liquid and the chia seeds soaked in water
-stir well and add extra water if the batter is too thick
-heat up a heaving frying pan and put a teaspoon of coconut oil in it
-add one big ladle full of batter to the pan with oil and turn the pan so that the batter coversas much of the pan as possible
-cook one side until it begins to get golden and then turn pancake over
-done!

Spiked Apples
-heat coconut oil in a broad pan
-add the apples, the pinch of salt, chili, and cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally
-add the cinnamon and the coconut sugar, stir
-add the Grappa and raisins and cook about 2 minutes until the alcohol is gone
-serve on top of the pancakes

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Spinach Butternut Squash Filo Pastries

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Spinach Butternut Squash Filo Pastries

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Braised Tomatoes


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Braised Cauliflower

One of my kids is a ballet dancer and just like my other 3 children grew up on a vegetarian/macrobiotic diet. Today after a hard day of training and rehearsals for his end of the year performance, he came home a bit alarmed about a trainer’s comment regarding the dangers of consuming too much soy and the potential effect on his physical development, specially muscle building and his intake of female hormones. I know that soy can be controversial and that some people will have nothing to do with it. On the other hand I know that there are millions of people, including strong men, for whom soy is a basic source of protein and an important part of their traditional diets. The soy that we consume at our house is not genetically modified, we make our on soy milk and get the best quality tempeh, tofu, miso and tamari. Nevertheless I felt compelled to change our dinner menu a bit for his peace of mind.
The Spinach Butternut Squash Pastries where originally supposed to be Spinach Tofu Pastries, but I must say that the butternut substitution worked beautifully, and I would definitely choose it the next time above the tofu version.

Spinach Butternut Squash Filo Pastries
spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 butternut squash cut in chunks and steamed
lightly roasted pine nuts
1/4 cup chia seeds
filo dough
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
Extra olive oil for brushing

-cook the spinach with the olive oil and garlic and a pinch of salt until wilted
-puree the spinach with a hand blender
-mix in the butternut squash, pine nuts and chia seeds and adjust the salt
-roll out the sheets of filo one at a time and brush olive oil on it, place another sheet on top and brush again with oil
-repeat this process 4 times and on the final and top sheet sprinkle about 1/2 of the breadcrumbs and then place the spinach filling on top horizontally across the middle of the filo sheet
-fold the sides inwards first and then make a roll
-brush the roll with olive oil
-repeat this procedure until you don’t have any more filling and/or dough
-place on an oven tray covered with wax paper
-make diagonal or vertical slits on the rolls with a knife
-bake for about 20 minutes at 180*c

We ate this delicious rolls with brown rice cooked in vegetable broth, kidney beans, braised tomatoes, braised cauliflower, a green salad and nori condiment.

Will I eliminate soy from our diet? No, but I will re open my curiosity for the soy issue now that my 16 year old son has questions about it. What are the effects soy as a major source of protein on a growing ballet dancer.

As Dutch as Apple Pie

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This is the sort of pie that you come across in almost every cafe, bakery or restaurant in Holland. It is usually served with lots of whipped cream and most likely accompanied by coffee. It tends to be a mid morning or mid afternoon treat. In my vegan version the coconut oil replaces the butter and the soy milk the cow’s milk. Instead of whipped cream you can use unsweetened coconut cream, of course you could also use the fake whipped creams available but they don’t taste as good and have way too many ingredients, some of them don’t even sound edible!

11 jona gold apples
125 grams coconut oil
200 grams coconut sugar
vanilla
1 tbs baking soda
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
400 grams white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tbs cinnamon
4 tbs rice syrup
2 tbs arrowroot

-pre warm oven to 180* c.
-peel and core apples and cut them in slices
-oil a round spring form pan
-in a bowl mix coconut oil, coconut sugar, vanilla, a pinch of salt until well mixed and light
-add the flour, baking soda and baking powder
-add soy milk and oil and mix. Until the dough forms a ball
-spread half of the dough on the prepared spring form
-put half of the apples on top the dough in the prepared pan and sprinkle with 1 tbs cinnamon and drizzle with1tbs rice syrup and the arrowroot
-put the rest of the apples on top and sprinkle with 1 tbs cinnamon, rice syrup and arrowroot
-roll out the other half of the dough about 1/2 centimeter in thickness and cut in 8 pieces of 1 1/2 centimeters width,and one long strip for around the edges of the pie
-place the dough strips in a diagonal pattern on top of the filling
-place the long strip around the edge of the pie
-place the pie in the middle of the oven until it becomes golden brown, about 40 minutes( depending on your oven)
-check it regularly to make sure it doesn’t brown too quickly, if it does lower the oven to 150*c

Busy Weekend

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My husband’s fermented products(posts coming soon)

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Braised Tomatoes

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Burger Study(before cooking)

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Anna’s Birthday Cake

Busy weekend….. and yes I also have those days when I don’t feel like making dinner, or going to the store to get ingredients. After a weekend of exams, and a children’s birthday party, which included a sleepover the last thing I felt like doing was dealing with dinner this sunday.
I decided to not go shopping for ingredients and use left overs and whatever else we had in the fridge.
These last days I have been trying to come up with a great recipe for burgers, one that it consistent and reliable and for that practicing is essential. I figured that I had enough ingredients around to experiment, and I must say that this batch of burgers was pretty good. To accompany these burgers I used some left over braised tomatoes from the day before, red onion, olives, as well as my husband’s pickled red cabbage, finely grated carrots, and avocado. For dessert there was left over chocolate cake from our party, accompanied by a cup of yerba mate green tea. All of it was delicious, but I am glad this weekend is over, I just wish I didn’t have a sink full of dishes, specially after drinking my husband’s extremely delicious homemade beer, which really knocks me down!

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Study on Burgers

1 container of tofu mashed
2 cups of cooked brown rice
1 onion finely minced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 finely grated beet
1 celery stalk minced
2 tbs chia seeds
2 tbs pine nuts
2 tbs sesame seeds
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbs nutritional yeast
1 tbs tamari
1 tbs vegamix
1 tsp oregano1 tsp basil
1/2 cup soy flour

-mix all the ingredients together
-to make the mixture stick better you can can blend the ingredients for a couple of seconds with the hand blender, but really just 2 seconds, you really want to avoid a smooth puree texture.
-form the burgers and shallow fry in your oil of preference.

Braised Tomatoes

3 tbs olive oil
4 tomatoes cut in half
3 cloves of garlic
sea salt

-heat the oil in a broad pan
-add the tomato halves and let them cook and char at medium heat
-add the garlic and let them cook until the tomatoes begin to wilt, become aromatic and irresistible, you’ll know when that is.
-use this to accompany your burgers or a million other dishes. I will come back to this recipe at so e point again because it is the basis of some delicious dishes

Chocolate Cake Frosting

I want to share this recipe because it works really well and it’s delicious!

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 coconut sugar
1/4 cup date syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 ripe banana

-put all the ingredients except the banana in a glass bowl inside a heavy pan with cooking water(au bain marie), and stir regularly until all sugar crystals are dissolved and the mixtur is smooth and shiny
-cut the banana in small pieces and added to the chocolate mixture and blend it with the hand blender until full incorporated and smooth
-let it cool completely before using, it will get stiffer when it cools off
-use it on any thing you would use a chocolate frosting….. So good!

Cheezy Tofu

Eat with bread or cracker, or as filling for some veggies, or as a filling for dates, or in salads delicious mixed with seasonal tomatoes and basil!

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Among non vegetarians tofu often gets a bad wrap. I can understand why if you look at it from the perspective of the “normal” western taste. Westerners in general are not so enthusiastic about bland tastes, we like strong flavors and extremes: fat, sweet and salty. But due its modest and bland character, tofu is a very agreeable and willing to comply with the idiosyncrasies of our western taste. We can fit tofu into many different costumes and the “cheezy” costume is one that can be approached in several different ways. Why create the illusion of cheese? Well, one reason could be a desire to not eat animal products due to one or all of the many reasons out there: animal welfare, environment, allergy to dairy, avoidance of saturated fats, etc…. while at the same time having a cultural attachment to the texture, taste and feel of cheese; recognizing the need to eat foods which are not only good for us, but also fit with our traditional sense of what food means in a cultural and social context. To me part of the magic of cooking involves the fun of playing with wholesome traditional ingredients to achieve a desired taste and feeling which would make dishes fit into our own personal concept of what an enjoyable eating experience is, while maintaining personal and environmental good health.
To make dishes that excite you, you must learn to understand your characters(ingredients), and see their potential role in the drama of your cooking.Tofu may seem like a nondescript bystander, but why not see it as a white canvas, with all its possibilities?

1 package of tofu
2 tbs. olive oil
sea salt
1 tsp of miso or vitamix
1/4 pine nuts
extra olive oil

-crumble the tofu with your hands and then puree it with the hand blender
-add 2 tbs olive oil and salt and blend well
-add miso or vitamix, blend
-add the pine nuts, leaving a tbs for later
-blend again, but just for a second as to not to puree the pine nuts too much
-place mixture in a ceramic ovenproof dish, or in another oven dish
-drizzle the extra olive oil on top(about 1 tbs)
-put in the oven at 200*F for about 10 minutes, looking at it regularly so that it doesn’t burn.
-the last 2 minutes of baking sprinkle the left over pine nuts on top

Bulgur Spinach Pilaf

Bulgur Spinach Pilaf

This recipe is based on a recipe I found a couple of years ago in one of my favorite food blogs, The Kitchn.
It was a big hit at our Easter Brunch, but it’s great dish for pretty. Much every occasion, specially for the summer days.

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1 onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
6 ounces bulgur wheat
1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) vegetable stock(a bouillon cube is fine)
salt and pepper
10 1/2 ounces spinach
leaves torn from a small bunch of mint
extra-virgin olive oil

For the labneh:

1 1/8 cups (9 fluid ounces soy yogurt)
1 garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt

For the tomatoes:

12 plum tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon harissa
2 teaspoons coconut sugar

For the onions:

2 onions, very finely sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
juice of 1/2 small lemon

You have to start the labneh the day or night before. Just line a sieve with a bit of cheesecloth and set it over a small bowl. Put the yogurt into the cheesecloth and refrigerate the whole thing. The yogurt will lose a bit of excess moisture over the next 24 hours, leaving you with a firmer mixture, a bit like cream cheese. Help it by giving it a squeeze once or twice. Tumble the yogurt into a bowl. Add the garlic, a little salt and mash it all together. Cover and put the labneh into the refrigerator until you need it.

-Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and put them in a small roasting pan or ovenproof dish. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, harissa, some salt and pepper, and pour this over the tomatoes.
-Turn them over, making sure they get coated, ending with them cut-side up. Sprinkle the soft brown sugar over the top and put in an oven pre-heated to 350F degrees.
-Cook for 40-45 minutes (less time if you use smaller cherry tomatoes), until the tomatoes are shrunken and sweet.
-They can either be hot or at room temperature when you add them to the pilaf, so you could do this part in advance.

-For the pilaf, saute the chopped onion in half the olive oil in a fairly heavy-bottomed saucepan.
-When the onion is soft and translucent add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
-Tip the bulgur into the pan (on top of the onions you just sauteed), pour in the stock, and season. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let the bulgar simmer in the stock for about 15 minutes.
-All the stock will have been absorbed by then. Cover the pot and let the bulgar sit to fluff up for another 10 minutes.
-Take the stalks off the spinach and wash the leaves well. In a covered pot, cook the leaves in just the water that clings to them after washing. they will wilt in about 4 minutes.
-Squeeze out the excess moisture and chop the leaves very roughly. Saute the spinach for a few minutes in the remaining olive oil and season it well with salt and pepper. Stir this into the bulgar wheat.
-Quickly cook the finely sliced onions in very hot olive oil – you want them golden brown with some crispy bits.
-For the last minute of cooking time, add the cinnamon and brown sugar. Stir this around and, once the sugar has melted and begun to slightly caramelized, add a good squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper.
-Layer the different components in a broad, shallow bowl: tip in the bulgar wheat, sprinkle on half the mint, then the tomatoes, then the rest of the mint. Break the labneh into lumps and scatter them over the tomatoes. Now strew the onions on top, drizzle with a slug of extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.

Today’s Tofu with a hint of Italy

You must try this and serve it to somebody who hates tofu, you may have created a convert.

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I dislike labels, and although the word vegan describes most of my food choices I don’t feel the need to call myself a vegan. My inspiration for cooking and eating comes from the sanity and beauty that the kingdom of plants provides me with and the way in which it helps me cook dishes that are not only delicious and healthy, but also create a feeling of connection and comfort.

I love traditional regional cooking and probably the only aspect that I would admit disturbed me when I changed to plant-based cooking many years ago, was not being able to reproduce dishes in the traditional way(no eggs in a flan, no cheese on the pizza, or fish in the paella)
Veganizing a dish, or taking out some major component from it(the meat, the dairy, the eggs) seemed as if I were committing a major trespass, breaking the rules and ignoring the tradition, something like changing the instrumentation of a Beethoven string quartet. It wasn’t until I realized that the art in cooking is about these changes and that these changes is what keeps the art alive. Back then classical composers did change the instrumentation to their works when necessary, they improvised on their own ideas and on that of others, this is what kept their music alive, real and flexible, what made it sustainable.

The use of animals as a main source of food in our present society is not only unnecessary, but it makes our life in this planet unsustainable and this seems like a pretty good reason to reinterpret the traditional cooking customs in a way that will serve our health and our environment without denying the fact that these traditional flavors play an important role in our identity.

Tradition is intimately connected to culture, and culture gives us a sense of identity. This is a funny statement coming from someone whose cultural background and loyalties are so scattered as mine are. Nevertheless this may be at the root of my search for tradition within the vegan cuisine and my lack of attraction to nouvelle cuisine, molecular gastronomy and similar abstractions in the cooking world.

When we eat we are not only eating a particular food, but we are also ingesting a vision, a concept of what food is and is meant to do, as well as literally taking in a cultural statement. Although food is consumed to fulfill a biological need for nutrition, on another level it may be another sort of nourishment that we get and look for in a French Cassoulet or in a Cuban Black Bean Soup.This nourishment is not unlike some of the love and comfort that we may find in a beautiful painting, a poem or in the piece of music which at a given moment helps us connect to something intimately ours as well as vastly universal.

Cooking does this, it nourishes the body and the mind. In my cooking I try to make connections. Smells, tastes, colors, sounds, all strike a chord within us which connects us to ourselves and our surroundings. Vegan cooking doesn’t carry the long tradition that most of us have grown up with and as a result may leave some people with a sometimes unconscious dissatisfaction, which may eventually lead to binging, eating excessively or reverting to consuming animal products(unfortunate when it happens by default).Changing to a vegan diet is kind of like moving houses, you have to make your new house yours, put up some of your old pictures, invite your family and friends, and of course make new friends and create new memories and traditions so that your house doesn’t always feel new, so that you can create new connections.

I love creating connections through cooking!

Today’s Tofu with a hint of Italy
4 slices of tofu
2 tomatoes cut in half
1 tbs olive oil
4 tbs bread crumbs
1/4 cups grounded walnuts mix with 1 tsp. nutritional yeast, 1 tsp. of minced fresh basil and sea salt
grated dried chipotle or chili powder
4 tbs of tamari mix with 1 tbs mirin

-heat olive oil in a broad heavy pan
-place tofu slices and tomato halves cut sides down in the pan with the olive oil
-cook until the tofu is golden on both sides. Turn the tomatoes as well, but make sure that they get the most cooking on the cut side.
-sprinkle with a light dusting of grated dried chipotle or chili powder
-add the tamari/mirin mixture. Make sure that most falls on the tofu slices to avoid burning the sauce
– sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly on the tofu and tomatoes
-drizzle with tsp of extra olive oil
-let it cook for a minute
-add the walnut mixture
-warm up for a couple of minutes and serve

Hiziki Pastry

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2 cups of soaked hiziki
1 onion cut in small dice
3 garlic cloves finely minced
1 carrot cut in small cubes
2 Tbs olive oil
2 or 3 Tbs tamari
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chipotle adobo sauce or a sprinkle of another chili pepper

-in a broad saucepan saute the garlic and onions in olive oil until the onions are shiny
-add the carrots, and hiziki and continue sauteing
-add the tamari and rice vinegar
-add the chipotle and cook until the vegetables begin soften up
-let it cool down and proceed to make the crust

crust:

2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbs arrowroot
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup water

-mix the dry ingredients
-mix the wet ingredients separately
-mix wet and dry ingredients together to make a nice dough
-roll the dough with a rolling pin between 2 pieces of waxpaper
-make a rectangle shape
-place the filling in the middle of the rectangle going down the center in the length
-fold the sides overlapping each other and seal the ends of the strudel by pressing with your fingers, if there is too much dough hanging over cut it with a knife
-make 3 inches diagonal cuts on the top of the strudel to let the vapor escape
-bake in a hot oven(180 c) for about ½ hour