Friday, July 19, 2019

Summer Cooking: The New Solar Oven

Here is my latest "cooking gadget"-- An American Sun Oven -- solar oven.  It is some swanky item and it has been on my mind for a long time.

So I ordered it.

And then my husband and I were ill with a virus for about a month during which there were many beautiful sunny days, but we didn't have the energy.

Hahah... energy.  The one thing that the solar oven brings to mind is energy-- from the sun!  Solar energy.

Yesterday I opened the box and took it and all its accouterments out and laid them on the kitchen table.  I re-read the manual and watched the video online.

We took it into the backyard and learned how to adjust the leg so that I could follow the sun at the right angle.  I learned how to "focus" the incoming sun as well as position the oven properly.  I learned how to shut the various 'clasps' so that the heat would not further escape.

I made up a delicious baked bean dish so we could use the beans this weekend for burritos or perhaps Haystacks (that famous Adventist Salad where you pile lettuce, nacho chips, and a bunch of salad stuff in a "haystack" shape and then put baked beans and cheese on top). (fake cheese for us vegans).

I had fun running in and out and watching it cook, re-positioning it for the sun, etc.


WHA...?????


But as the the afternoon wore on (I didn't start the cooking process until noon), I noticed that the temperature went from 350ish down to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  I couldn't see what had gone wrong.  I also noticed that sometimes it seemed like there was a wind (it is a windy day) blowing inside because the little swinging rack was gently swinging away. 

And because it looked so delicious at 4:30, I decided it was done.  But when I tried the beans I was disappointed to find out that they were still very firm.  So I put it in the regular oven to finish it off.  We will see what we will see.

I think I need to get out there earlier as they casually mention 8:30 AM in their talk about the recipes.  Earlier in the day, and hopefully, with NO wind in the chamber (at one time the glass window was all steamed up).  I believe that the clasps probably need to be tightened up with a screw driver and untightened when the food is done.  Perhaps cool air was leaking in through the front as well.  I will have to do some looking to see if that is what was happening.

I am not feeling defeated.

I will be back with some successful recipes.

You can watch for them by signing up with me on Pinterest and Instagram where I will notify you of any successful solar cooking (and other vegan recipes, etc.).

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

REVIEW: YES Cacao Botanical Chocolate Bars: Dirty, KarmaMellOwl and GabaBaba

YES Botanical Chocolate Bars
Okay, as a big promoter of eating organic foods, I admit that I generally share recipes for whole food plant-based dishes that contain organic fruits and vegetables-- if you have been here before, you know the recipes: vegan soups, stews, 'cheeses', sauces, casseroles, breakfast foods, etc.
But what could I do when I received an email asking if I would consider reviewing some CHOCOLATE BARS?? (or more accurately, 99% organic, vegan, wild-sourced, organic, botanic cacao bars with No GMOs, and studded with healthy botanicals (herbs, spices, tea, mushrooms, essential oils??)).
They are also NOT ROASTED which means... tah dah.... RAW VEGAN!!  Oh, and handmade (I guess that means that they DO NOT have the chockies going down the conveyor belts like this classic clip we remember from an I Love Lucy episode:


OF COURSE I SAID 'YES' TO REVIEWING 'YES CACAO' BOTANICAL CHOCOLATE BARS!

And then because I live in Canada, it took several weeks to pony-express the package here via CUSTOMS from Santa Cruz, California.   Just when I thought they had either forgotten to put the package in the mail, that it was a big old scam to get my banking ID or whatever, or maybe there there was a crisis of some sort with our countries' trade relations.... they arrived!!

3 small, flat packages wrapped well so as not to crush their precious cargo.  Here are my reviews of each of the 3:

The 1st BAR Reviewed: DIRTY-- LAUNCH INTO YOUR DAY with Shilajit, Tulsi, Reishi, Maca




My husband and I had just come back from a dinner at my fave vegan eatery in our small city.  We had ordered their spinach burrito, forgetting how massive it is.  Delicious veggie fare with rice and beans and corn and a veggie sour cream topping and salad.

 We were still feeling quite full when we arrived home and found the package with the chocolate in it.  However, chocolate seemed like a very nice little dessert.  We each had a couple of the small squares.  They were silky smooth, dark cacao-- the difference from dark chocolate is that cacao doesn't have the sort of biting bitter edge that dark chocolate does, which I appreciate.  I could sense a tingle of Peppermint-- and when I read the ingredients, I did, in fact find organic Peppermint Oil as the last ingredient listed, so presumably, the smallest portion of the  botanical ingredients was the Peppermint Oil.  I liked the hint and do know from long-time use of essential oils, that Peppermint oil is quite assertive, even when minuscule amounts are used (for example, just dipping the tip of a toothpick into Peppermint oil and then into a cup of hot water is enough oil to flavour a cup of peppermint tea.)

Besides just the teeny hint of Peppermint Oil there was nothing that shouted "this chocolate is full of healthy herbs, reishi mushroom, and maca".  The flavour was pleasant and we also  noted that we felt a warming sensation when we ate it that was also pleasant.

I appreciate the cute little zip-lock feature on the packages so that one can keep the remnants of chocolate 'fresh' in a cool place, as advised on the packaging.

There was certainly no 'medicinal' taste such as one finds in certain chocolate-flavoured diet 'treats' that are claimed to be healthy because of various 'supplement' additives.  I am pretty impressed with the flavour and the mouth appeal of the "Dirty" bar.  It also seemed that just a couple of squares were sufficient, and that I wasn't hit with the sort of 'crave' response that I often have when eating regular chocolate.

Here are the ingredients for the "Dirty" bar:  (some of them I still have to google, such as Shilajit and Gynostemma.)


Very tasty, and all the ethical and health features impress the heck out of me, as I said at the beginning.  The price is a little steep at $5 USD (about $6.71 CAD) but good organic, fairtrade chocolate runs to that these days in the local stores, and doesn't have half the 'benefits' that these bars would seem to have.  As well, these 'botanical' bars are being marketed in much the way that supplements are, and there is a line on the front of the package that reads: "Benefits are cumulative with regular use."  While I am not a big fan of 'supplements', preferring whole food, plant-based eating, I might still buy into the notion that a square of this chocolate every day  is worth a trial (in the case of the 'Dirty; bar, with the goal of "grounding."

Where can you get the 'Dirty Bar'?  Not in Canadian stores at this point, but if you live in the United States, you can find several locations and are able to look them up on the YES Cacao site.  <<order at the site if you live in Canada.
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the 2nd Bar, GABA BABA reviewed: (FIND YOUR NATURAL RHYTHM with GABA, Kava, Blue Lotus, Turmeric)

Cutesy little name for this bar, capitalizing on GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid.  Astonishingly, GABA is an "inhibiting neurotransmitter" and helps in regulating excitability in mammal (human) nervous systems.  GABA is also responsible for the regulation of muscle tone.  Again, if you expect to feel instantly calm when eating your first Gaba Baba bar, you will be disappointed-- as it says on the package: "Benefits are cumulative with regular use."  Other botanical ingredients are listed below.

Like the last bar, "Dirty", the cacao-cacao butter mixture was silky smooth in the "Gaba Baba" bar with lovely mouth-appeal and a nice dark chocolate-y taste.  Again, because it is cacao, there was no bitter after-taste like you often find in chocolate that is made from cocoa powder--which has undergone varied treatments before the process of making the chocolate.

It seemed to me that the Gaba Baba bar had less of a pronounced flavour than did the 'Dirty Bar' in which I picked up both hints of Peppermint essential oil and Tusli ("Holy Basil")-- I like both flavour combinations equally.

Both of these bars were delicious and satisfied my desire for chocolate, but after a couple of small tabs, I did not feel compelled to gobble down the whole bar as I often do with other chocolate bars.  I just felt satisfied and content to put them back in their little zip-lock package until the next time I felt the need for a hit.

Each three piece segment of the bar spells Y-E-S which I guess you could say is positively affirmative of this bar?
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SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST (OOPS-- spoiler! )



the 3rd BAR reviewed- KARMA MELLOWL with Turmeric, Bacopa, Lions Mane: MASTER YOUR MIND!

As you can see from the package, only 41% of Karma MellOwl is composed of Cacao, considerably less than the other two bars.  This bar has slightly more sugar content (6%), and a whacking 12 g of Fat (4 g more than the Dirty Bar has).  Besides regular sun-dried cane sugar it contains organic Lucuma in second-listing position, an indication that they have used quite a bit of lucuma.

Lucuma is a fruit grown in the Andes and often used to sweeten ice cream and other foods.  It is said to taste similar to Maple Syrup or Butterscotch.  The pulp contains a full range of sugars: glucose, fructose, sucrose, inositol, as well as citric acid.  The sweet butterscotchy flavour of the Karma MellOwl bar is likely because of the amount of Lucuma used with a boost in cacao butter and a cut back in the proportion of actual cacao.
Lucuma Fruit- CC BY-SA 4.0
One other interesting botanical in this bar is the Lion's Mane Mushroom.  The Lion's Mane showed up in our local health food store this past couple of months, so I know that they grow around here.  This fungus grows on hardwood trees and contains compounds that are supposed to be significant for the brain.  They don't look like other mushrooms you might see in the bins at your grocery store:
Lion's Mane growing on a hardwood tree. 

While I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to sample all three of these  handmade botanical-cacao bars, I have to say that if I were given only one, I would choose the Karma MellOwl.  I love the sweet, butterscotch/caramel notes and I probably have most need for the botanicals related to the brain that are in this bar (being 68 and now hyper-aware of how brains can slam downhill into dementia if we don't take care of stimulating them).  But mostly I would choose this bar because it is so gosh-darn delicious!!

I encourage you to go and take a look at the YES Cacao website and find out more about the 'superfood' botanicals that are in these bars and other features that I only glazed over here.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Braised Red Cabbage Over Baked Sweet Potato- Rainbow YUM

Braised Red Cabbage over Sweet Potato
 I recently purchased Anthony William's Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself and the Ones You Love with the Hidden Healing Powers of Fruits & Vegetables and although I am a skeptic around the "medical medium" tag, I was excited by the book's layout.  He introduces what he calls the Holy Four: Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs & Spices, and Wild Foods (Raw Honey being the only departure from the vegan whole foods listed as life-changing).

Each "life-changing" item, example: Cranberries, contains an Introduction explaining why the food is included, Conditions (such as allergies, staph infections, etc.) that eating the food can help with, a section on Symptoms (that could point to conditions that can be healed), Emotional Support and a Spiritual Lesson (for those who follow Louise Hay and other New Age gurus).

There is also a section on Tips and a RECIPE that uses the various life-changing foods, and highlighting the one that you have chosen to look up.

Soooo... we have tried a few delicious recipes and talked about some of the tips.  But the recipe-meal that has really excited us is this braised red cabbage over sweet potato.  Sweet Potato and Red Cabbage and a sauce that contains turmeric, ginger, olive oil and raw honey not only tastes exquisite, but it is power-packed with nutrition, and soooooooo beautiful to look at (remember, the deepest, brightest colours are the ones to go for with vegetables).  I have slightly modified the recipe, as happens with recipes-- you may do that also!


Here's one of the TIPS from the book's section on Sweet Potatoes: 'After you've cooked a batch of sweet potatoes (steaming and baking are the healthiest preparations), set some aside to save for later in the fridge.....a few bites of sweet potato when you are having trouble sleeping in the middle of the night will help get you some rest." p. 177
I would suggest that this recipe is well suited to anyone who has been vegan for quite a while, because chances are you will have most the ingredients on hand already-- and it also is a great choice for those transitioning to vegan who are looking for recipes that are simple to make, nutritious, and delicious.  Everything you see on the plate you can get at a nearby grocery store (with the exception of raw honey), or maybe from your back garden?



RAW HONEY??  Yes, this is the nutrient-packed sweetener that Anthony William recommends, and no, it will not work for many vegans.  For those who see honey as being flower parts merely passed through a bee's body, it is an acceptable choice. Our son (long-time vegan) calls himself "Beegan" when making the decision to eat a little raw honey.



So, here are the INGREDIENTS required for this recipe:

  • Makes 2-4 servings:
  • 4 Sweet Potatoes
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, minced ( I put the Garlic in the Sauce instead-- see below)
  • 1 Onion, diced (I used a red onion to match the red cabbage haha)
  • 1 T. Coconut Oil (Optional-- we left it out and used water for the sauté)
  • 1 small Red Cabbage (goes a long way)-- shredded or finely chopped
FOR THE SAUCE:
    • 1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • 1 T. Raw Honey
    • 1 T. Lemon Juice (I used a cube of Lemon-Garlic.  See HERE).
    • 1 T. Grated Fresh Ginger

GARNISH:  4 T. Minced Parsley

(If you are feeding 4 people, double the quantity of  ingredients for the sauce)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/204 degrees C  
  2. Bake the potatoes on a bake sheet for 45-60 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
  3. In a large pan sauté diced onion (and garlic, if you going to do that) over medium heat  5 to 10 minutes, stirring until the onions are translucent and soft. (Or follow directions for Instant Pot) 
  4. Add in the cabbage and sea salt, along with 1/2 cup of water.
  5. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes until the cabbage is tender.  Stir occasionally and add a splash of moisture as needed.
  6. Split open the sweet potatoes and mash slightly on the sides.  Stuff generously.
  7. Make the sauce just before serving the potatoes.  Add the sauce ingredients (except for raw honey) and stir until bubbly (1-2 minutes).  Remove small pan from the heat and stir in the raw honey.
  8. Garnish with fresh parsley.

You can grow your own sweet potatoes, even in Canada... I am.... see HERE.

Try Best Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Sweet Potatoes

Get Anthony William's book "Life Changing Foods" from Amazon HERE.



Friday, May 17, 2019

Making Basic Whole Wheat Bread Using a Stand Mixer and a Dehydrator


I am always on the look-out for great videos** that can illustrate a concept or recipe that I am including on my blog.  "Making Basic Whole Wheat Bread" is a current interest of mine.  I have the books.  I have bookmarked the links.  I went out and bought a Kitchen Aid stand mixer after having drooled and dreamed about one for a very long time.  I thought that I would start turning out perfect bread loaves (something I have never in my life done) but it was not to be.

This looks like a high maintenance bread recipe, eh?  Stand mixer and dehydrator for raising the dough?  I can see my grandmother chuckle.  She was always able to make more loaves from scratch than I could from with whatever "no fail" recipe I had at hand.  But somehow I know there are others out there who have the fancy equipment and are dreamers like I am.  This bread is for you!


Please watch the video (above) to get all the fine points you will find transcribed below in the recipe.  A video is really worth about 10,000 printed words, right?  After you watch the video you might want to copy and paste and print the following recipe:

RECIPE FOR MAKING BASIC WHOLE WHEAT BREAD USING A STAND MIXER

Set up the Mixer.

INGREDIENTS:

Measure out :
10 C. Fresh-Ground Whole Wheat Flour OR 6 C. Whole Wheat/ 4 C. White Flour (60% Whole Wheat)
1 T. Sea Salt
2 T. Instant Dry Yeast
6 T. White Sugar
5 C. Water at 110 degrees F. (you can barely keep your finger in it for 10 seconds) From the "The Back to Eden Cookbook" there is a suggestion that you use nut milk instead of water to get a tastier bread.

METHOD:

1. Set up the Mixer with the Cookie Mixer (General Mixer)
2. Add 5 C. W/W Flour to bowl
3. Add 1 T. Sea Salt to bowl
4. Add 2 T. Instant Dry Yeast to bowl
5. Add 6 T. White Sugar to the bowl
6. Put on your General Mixer / Cookie Mixer
7. Raise your bowl (Kitchen Aid) or Lower your Mixer (Viking)
8. Mix on LOWEST setting for a minute to get all mixed together
9. Slowly add the 5 C. of 110 degree F. water while the mixer runs on lowest setting
10. After water has all been poured in, let it continue to run for about another minute until mixture is fully incorporated.
11. Begin to add other 5 C. of flour little by little. You can turn up the speed on the mixer when the flour will not be flying all over. You may NOT need all 5 C. of flour.
12. Bread should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. When you see that the dough is pulling away, stop the mixer and Lower the bowl (Kitchen Aid), Raise the mixer (Viking)
13. Remove the cookie dough mixer.
14. Put in the bread hook and Raise the bowl (Kitchen Aid), Lower the mixer (Viking)
15. The dough hook should pull the dough from sides of the bowl more. You may increase the speed again. .
16. Wait for flour to work itself in before adding any more (and keep your eye on the sides of the bowl)
17. Add small amounts of flour until the pulling away is pretty much complete
18. The magic in the bread happens when it pulls everything off the sides and it sticks unto itself and not to the mixer.
19. When you judge that all the flour is off the sides, stop the machine and flip the bread dough over carefully to see if there is any flour on the bottom of the pot.
20. Run the mixer for another minute or so, adding another tablespoon of flour if you think it is warranted. Whole wheat dough is better a little on the wet side than it is if it is too dry (=bricks or paperweights). Stop the mixer and lower the bowl (Kitchen Aid) or raise the mixer (Viking)
21. Remove dough hook.
22. Pat dough lightly to even out a bit in bowl.
23. Let it rest for about 20 minutes (make yourself some tea?)

RAISING THE DOUGH IN THE DEHYDRATOR

My old Excalibur-- bought on eBay, back when people did that-- makes a good dough raiser.  95 degrees Fahrenheit
You do not need to use the dehydrator-- it is standing in for something people have used for generations called a "proof box".  If you live in a house where lots of bread yeast is in the air, you can just do it old-school, sitting on top of the fridge with a warm damp cloth on top.  Or in a very cool oven (100 degrees F.) I have this idle dehydrator that I am experimenting with.

24. Get the Excalabar Dehydrator ready for the raising.
25. Take out all shelves except for one.
26. Put a flat tray of warm water on the bottom of the dehydrator
27. Fit the dehydrator shelf  just above the flat tray of water
28. Place the bowl of dough with a clean damp tea towel (linen works great) over the dough bowl and engage the setting for the raising.
29. Raise for one half hour (30 minutes) to 1 hour.
30. Preheat baking oven to 410 degrees F.
The dough rose enormously after 30 minutes in the dehydrator!

31. DO NOT PUNCH THE DOUGH DOWN. There will be big air bubbles in the dough and the bread will have holes in it. Put the bowl back on the mixer and using the dough hook, mix down for about a minute and a half. (Really, watch the video a couple of times)
32. If you want a fluffier loaf of bread, you can let it do a rise in the bowl for another 30 minutes in the dehydrator, or you can divide it into loaves/buns at this point and let it rise for about 20 more minutes on the kitchen counter before putting into the oven to bake. If you choose to do the second rising, then preheat your oven to 410 degrees before putting the bread in the dehydrator (and kneading afterwards with dough hook again).
33. Bake bread for about 30 minutes for a small loaf. About 20 minutes for buns. (This recipe made me 3 medium sized loaves)
34. Cool completely on racks before slicing.  If you want a tender crust, pat the crust when you put it on the racks with a sponge dipped in olive oil (this is from the "The Back to Eden Cookbook").       I haven't tried that... yet.

**I am very thankful to the woman who made the video for this recipe.  She appears to have had a blog with the recipe on it, but it no longer exists, so I took the recipe from the video and transcribed it to fit with adjustments as to what I was planning to do.

HERE ARE SOME OTHER BREAD-RELATED ARTICLES:

Bread Baking Tips by Darlene Blaney, PhD Nutritionist

Cranberry Orange Bread Recipe (Healthy Choices Recipe)

Millet-Honey-Nut Bread Recipe by Wyona Hertwig, Master Baker

Multi-Grain Sunflower Seed Mineral Bread Recipe, by Wyona Hertwig, Master Baker

Grandma's Health Bread Recipe (Adventist Cooking School)

Mediterranean Pocket Bread Recipe (Adventist Cooking School)



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