Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lentil Bowl #3- Mexican Red Lentil Stew with Lime and Cilantro

Lentil Bowl #3- Mexican Red Lentil Stew with Lime and Cilantro over Oven Baked Potato Sticks

(Serves 8-12, and can be halved).


  • 2 C. Red Lentils 
  • 4 C. Water 
  • 2 T. Coconut Oil 
  • 2 Onions, chopped fine (I did mine in Food Processor) 
  • 2 C. Celery, finely chopped (also did in Food Processor) 
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped 
  • 1-2T Garlic, minced (for DIY jar mince, go here ) 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground Turmeric 
  • 2 tsp. ground Cumin (grind the seed in a Coffee Bean Grinder) 
  • 2 tsp. Chipotle spice (or Chili Powder) 
  • 2 cans roasted tomatoes or Organic Roma Tomato Sauce (Costco)
  •  2 C. Vegetable Broth 
  • Celtic Sea Salt to taste 
  • 1/2 C. fresh-squeezed Juice of Lime 
  • 1+ C. chopped fresh Cilantro 
  1.  Put rinsed and drained Lentils into a medium pot and add 4 cups water. Bring just to a boil, turn heat off, and put lid on. Let lentils sit for 30 minutes. 
  2.  While lentils sit for 30 minutes, chop onions, celery and red bell pepper. I used my geriatric (but lovable)(and still high functioning)Cuisinart Food Processor (that I bought several years ago from a Priest off Craigslist). 
  3. Next, mince garlic (or add in a teaspoon + from a jar of mince garlic.) 
  4. Melt the Coconut Oil on medium-low heat in a heavy dutch oven or soup pot, and saute the onion, celery and bell pepper just long enough to soften(about 3-5 minutes). 
  5. Add garlic and stir around for a few more minutes. 
  6. Add the spices-- ground turmeric, ground cumin, and chile powder-- and stir for about a couple of extra minutes. 
  7.  Add canned tomatoes and vegetable broth. 
  8. Add lentils and stir in well (no lumps). Allow the stew to simmer for 15 minutes to a half hour(30 minutes). 
  9.  While the Lentil mix cooks, rinse off the Cilantro and chop it finely. 
  10.  Squeeze limes. When it looks like the simmering pot is almost done, add the Cilantro and Lime Juice, stirring in. 
  11.  When the fragrance is overwhelming and the lentils have blended into the rest of the stew, it's ready! 
  12. Serve hot, with additional cut limes, additional garnish of Cilantro, and hot sauce for whoever is into that. 
*Hot sauce and additonal Chili powder may be added during the cooking process if desired.
 **There are several versions of Mexican Lentils online. I would like to acknowledge that this recipe has been most closely adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lazy Enchilada Casserole (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Lazy Enchilada Casserole (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

I am all for wonderful lazy casseroles (one of my faves is lazy cabbage rolls)-- this enchilada casserole means that you get the same wonderful flavour and texture without actually having to mess around with making the enchilada rolls (unless you are really great at doing them, in which case, go to it!).  You just put down a thin layer of the vegan cheese (queso or kay-so) on the bottom of the casserole pan (either covered already covered with parchment, or oiled), a layer of tortillas, the enchalada filling, a top layer of tortillas, and then the rest of the queso!  You can see how it is pretty much a piece of cake / pastel(?)  Have fun, and enjoy this luscious recipe!  It makes a fantastic potluck entree that will be much appreciated!

To make this again I would start by assembling the ingredients the day before, and I would cook the beans (separately, the white beans and the pinto beans) and put them in mason jars (or other containers) in the fridge, ready to go!  The next thing I would do is to make the Vegan Cashew-White Bean Cheese.  This can be done on the day of the making the casserole, but before you actually get going with all the other prep.

How to Make the Vegan Cashew-White Bean Cheese/Queso:
Put the following into your blender carafe and mix up together until smooth and silky.  If it is not quite as pourable as you need it to be (like thick melted cheese, a little thicker than hollandaise sauce), then add another 1/2 C. of non-dairy mylk.

  • 269 g / 1.5 C. soft cooked White Beans (I use a small piece of *kombu while cooking)
  • 70 g  /    .5 C raw Cashew pieces (the pieces are less expensive than the intact nuts)
  • 24 g /    1/4C Nutritional Yeast
  • 120ml/   .5 C.Non-dairy Mylk 
  • 1 tsp.             Chili Powder or Chipotle Powder
  • 1 tsp.             Celtic Sea Salt
  • (optional: 1-2 T. of chopped chillies or pickled jalapeno-- if you know how they taste)
Set aside the Queso in the Blender Carafe if you have a food processor available to make the tomato sauce, otherwise, pour the Queso into a pitcher.

Making the Enchilada Casserole:
*Preheat your oven to 350F /180C, and either oil an 11x8 inch (28x20cm) pan, or lay parchment down (makes cleanup so much easier!)

*Assemble the following ingredients:
  • 2 T. Coconut Oil
  • 1 large Onion, minced
  • 2 small Red Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3-6 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Cumin seed, ground in your Coffee Grinder
  • 1-2 tsp. Chili Powder or Chipotle Powder
  • 4 diced fresh, ripe, organic Roma Tomatoes (or 1 1/2 C diced Tomatoes)
  • 1-2 T. Celtic Sea Salt
  • 2 - 15-oz (425 g) each cans of Pinto Beans, or 3 Cups if you've cooked them yourself
  • 1 diced Zucchini (about 1 1/2 C.)
  • 12 6"/15cm Corn Tortillas
  1. In a Wok or griddle, SAUTĒ the onions and the bell pepper for 5 minutes in the Coconut Oil on medium heat.  Add in the Garlic, Cumin, Chili powder, for a minute more.  Then add in the Tomatoes and cook, uncovered on medium, for about another 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer all of the sauté to a Food Processor, and PROCESS until smooth, adding in Celtic Sea Salt-- add extra to your taste at this time.
  3. MIX the tomato sauce and the Zucchini and Pinto Beans in a large mixing bowl.
  4. POUR a thin layer of Queso onto the Parchment in the casserole pan and spread around.
  5. POUR the Tomato, Bean, and Zucchini Mixture over the thin layer of Queso in the pan, and even out, into the corners, etc.
  6. Place the rest of the Tortillas evenly  (overlapping is fine) over the Enchilada Filling.
  7. POUR the rest of the Queso over the top of the Tortillas.
  8. COVER with Aluminum Foil
  9. BAKE until heated all the way through, 30 - 45 Minutes
  10. SERVE with a tender greens or cabbage salad, and GARNISH with chopped Cilantro.
This recipe is an adaptation of the "Inside-Out Enchilada Casserole" in The Great Bean Book by Kathy Hester.  All bean-lovers and new vegans need to get hold of this excellent cookbook!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lentil Bowl #2 with Mushrooms,Caramelized Onions and Quinoa (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Lentil Bowl #2 with Mushrooms, Carmelized Onions, and Quinoa - on a bed of Baby Greens

I got the idea for Lentil Bowl #2 by googling "mushrooms lentils"-- it seemed to me to be a lovely mix.  Of course there are thousands of variations online.  I chose the one with the image that showed a heap of mouth-watering carmelized onions on top of the lentil dish.  Then I went about making changes based on what I had to work with and what I prefer (eg., I added in the quinoa vs. a bed of rice, and amped up the portions so that this recipe makes enough for four to six servings.)

Lentil Bowl #2 with Mushrooms,Caramelized Onions and Quinoa

Precooked lentils and starches are a boon when it comes to the series of "Lentil Bowls" that I am featuring here on Organic Granny. If you soak and cook extra lentils you will speed up the whole maddeningly* fragrant cooking process the next time, and you will save a ton of money by not buying the tinned organic lentils. Just stick the left-over pre-cooked lentils and quinoa or rice into the fridge or freezer after it has cooled. What a feeling of bounty! (NB:  the scent of the carmelized onions and the mushrooms cooking will drive you mad if you don't get to eat them within the hour!)  This recipe was inspired by one at http://markbittman.com/  The recipe they used originated in Mark's The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living .


2 T. Coconut Oil, (or more as needed)

2 large organic Onions, halved and sliced thinly

1.5 lb./600+ g Mini Bella Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (or your choice of mushroom)

3 C. cooked brown or green Lentils, drained

1 tablespoon Dill Weed, dried (more if fresh Dill is used)

1/2 to 1 C. Boiling Broth (Mushroom boullion cube is nice)

2 C. pre-cooked Quinoa (can be cooked at the same time in another pot)

Salt and black Pepper

1. I use a Dutch Oven to cook in.  You could use a very large skillet or wok.  Put 2 tablespoons coconut oil in one pot over medium heat. Add the onions when hot and stir frequently as they cook until they are honey brown (but never let them burn), for maybe 15-20 minutes; remove to a warm bowl.

2.Add the fresh mushrooms next, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and let the mushrooms cook, with no stirring or peeking until they release their liquid (about 5-10 minutes). Remove the lid. Stir occasionally, continuing to cook until the mushrooms are somewhat shrunken, dry and even a little crisp, (up to about 10 minutes).

3. Stir in the lentils, the boiled broth, Quinoa, and the dill weed; add salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, to warm everything through, for about ten minutes (or more, and stirring more, if your lentils are frozen). Serve garnished with the caramelized onions over a bed of tender greens-- a splash of Balsalmic Vinegar on the greens will tend to gently "cook" them (and adds a little more flavour).  Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lentil Bowl #1: Pineapple Lentils over Coconut Lime Sweet Potato (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Even if you are not a huge fan of lentils, this particular recipe will answer a deep need on a cool winter's night when you have put out all day for the Man and are just ready for something comforting and satisfying!  It will feed 2 - 4 diners, depending on the hunger and the usual inputs.  I'm calling this Lentil Bowl #1, so expect some more quick and yummy one-dish lentil recipes!

The potatoes in the above picture are white 'sweet potatoes' and not the bright orange yams we expect when we say 'sweet potato'.  They have the texture of  sweet potato, and they ARE very sweet (ooze syrup when baked) but they have a more neutral flavour.  Yams work extremely well also, so use either.

Ingredients for the Lentil part:

1 T. Coconut Oil
1/2 Small Onion, chopped fine
2    Garlic Cloves, minced
1 C. Pineapple, chopped small (I use Costco's frozen Organic Pineapple-- smells like the tropics!)
3 C. cooked Brown or Green Lentils
2 T. Maple Syrup
Shot of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Marjoram
1 tsp. ground Cumin
Celtic Sea Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, fresh ground, to taste
Cayenne Pepper, to taste

  1. Heat Coconut Oil on medium and add in onions and garlic, saute-ing until translucent.  About 5 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add other ingredients up to the Salt and cook until simmering.  Decrease heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 20-35 minutes until the flavours mix and the fragrance drives you crazy. Season with Salt, Pepper and Cayenne.
  3. Serve over 4 medium sweet potatoes (if they are yams) or 8 smaller sweet potatoes (like the ones used in this recipe-- small, thinner tubers) that have been baked, then scraped from the skins into a hot bowl with 1/4 C. of Coconut Dream or other light coconut milk, and the juice of one large lime is mixed well into the potato.  Add salt and pepper, taste, and then taste again and add more coconut milk or lime juice as desired.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roast Pepper - Potato Comfort Soup

Roast Pepper-Potato Comfort Soup
This roasted pepper-potato soup is a delicious, nutritious, warming comfort food that everyone will love. It is vegan (although you are free to plug in your animal products as subs) and gluten-free. The fragrance while it is cooking will draw everyone in the neighbourhood on a cool day. My dog is also much attracted by the fragrance.

  • 3 T. Coconut Oil or Ghee (if not vegan)
  • 3 - 4 Organic Red and/or Orange Bell Peppers
  • 1 Medium or 2 Small Organic Yellow Onion(s)
  • 1 Large Organic Potato, peeled and diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Liter / Quart Organic Vegetable Broth (or use 2 Organic Vegetable Bouillon Cubes in 1 Liter of Water)
  • 1/4 C. non-dairy Mylk, made from organically-grown nuts, soy, etc.
  • Cayenne, Celtic Sea Salt and Pepper to taste  
  • Roast the Peppers:  Wash and dry them.  Place them each in the oven, close together under the grill on the rack (no pan needed).  Turn oven to "Broil" or "Grill" and close oven door.  Grill for around 3-5 minutes, until black (and fragrant) and then turn on to another side.  (Use oven gloves) Do this until all sides of pepper are black.  Put the peppers in one of those brown paper bags you have been hoarding.  Fold the top over.  Let them steam in there for about 10 - 15 minutes.  You can do some of the other prep while that happens.  Then take them out, remove seeds, remove skins (should come off with no problem whatsoever), and coursely chop.  Set aside.
  • Heat up a Dutch oven or medium-large soup pot to melt the coconut oil/ghee.  Add in the chopped onions and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes.  Add in the potatoes and stir around in there for another couple of minutes (just to cover surface with oil).  Then add in the garlic and roast peppers.  Stir continually and cook for another 2 or so minutes.
  • Add the stock and, stirring, bring to a boil.  Simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are soft.
  • In a blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth.  It's a good idea to either let it cool somewhat before blending, or to make sure you do only half portions at a time and hold the lid down so it doesn't blow off via the pressure of the heat and steam.  Biggo mess, that.  
  • Return the soup to pot and, over low heat, add the cashew cream or nut milk or other non-dairy milk. Stir well.
  • Add in Salt, Pepper and Cayenne to taste
  • ...............

    From Chris Wark of #ChrisBeatCancer, his latest best selling book: 

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Organic Borscht with Basil, Red Lentils and Purple Cabbage (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Delicious & Fragrant Organic Borscht with Basil, Red Lentils, and Purple Cabbage

I was at Costco today and saw a 2-4 servings package of ready-made beet borscht for ... are you ready?... $12+ change!!!!!  I knew I had beets at home in the fridge (thanks to that wonderful organic-vegetable-growing son of mine who harvested close to 3000# of beets this Fall!) and I DO know how to make borscht, so I could hardly wait to get home to make such a valuable-- and delicious of course-- soup.

And this borscht I am making is ORGANIC, it does not have any GMO possibilities, or high fructose corn syrup lacings.  This recipe will feed 5 people... so, I guess it must be worth about $25?  You can make it too:


  • 2 Tbs. Coconut Oil
  • *4 small Onions, halved and sliced (3 cups)
  • *1 T. organic dried whole Basil
  • *2 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt
  • *6 cloves Garlic, minced
  • *3 medium Beets, peeled and grated, or pulsed until fine in Food Processor
  • *Greens from beets (or bunch of Swiss Chard) sliced into thin ribbons
  • *2 C. Purple Cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
  • *1 tsp. freshly ground Black Pepper
  • *½ cup small Red Lentils
  • *2 L. (or 2 Qt.) Filtered Water
  • *1 ½ T. Caraway Seeds
  • *1 ripe Avocado, for garnish, OR whirl up Cashew Sour Cream  (at the link, scroll down to find recipe)
  • *8  Lemon wedges

1. Heat Coconut Oil in a large, heavy pot. Add Onions, Basil, and Celtic Sea Salt; and sauté for about five minutes to soften.  Add in the Garlic next, stirring and cooking for an additional minute . Add in Beets, Cabbage, Lentils, Pepper and, Water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Add liquorishy Caraway Seeds and Greens or Chard. and cook until the Green have wilted (about 3 to 4 minutes).
2. Serve soup hot or cold, garnished with Avocado Slices and  a squeeze of  Lemon.


From Chris Wark of #ChrisBeatCancer, his latest best selling book: 

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*The above recipe was an adaptation of a borscht recipe on Vegetarian Times.com site.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Recipe for Homemade Ginger-Grape Jam: Easy Peasy

This luscious Ginger-Grape Jam is made with my own organic seedless green grapes! *Recipe for cakes below
The kitchen smells of Jam.
 Ginger-Grape Jam.
 It is a dark rainy night in the Comox Valley. This is the kind of night that Grandmothers use to make jam.

 We have a grape arbour that produces sweet seedless green grapes. This was a long hot, dry summer-- apparently the kind of growing season that these grapes enjoy!

Originally the grapes  were used for wine-making. But we call them "Table Grapes". We freeze each little gem and use them in smoothies for most of the winter. And we make Jam.  Please note: This jam was made with ORGANIC seedless green grapes during ORGANIC WEEK! 

 So, let's get right to the recipe:
Pick the grapes (at least 1 Kg/2 pounds) and soak 20 min. in basin of water with 1/4 C. Vinegar mixed in.

  • 2 pounds/ 1 Kg Fresh, Ripe Grapes
  • 1/4 Cup / 60 g Sugar or other Sweetener
  • 1/2 Lime, Juiced, Fresh lemon is a good substitute
  • 1 thumb-size fresh Ginger, grated

In a heavy pot, put the grapes and cover with the sugar (I used Coconut Sugar).  Stir and cook on medium high burner.  I mashed down with potato masher.  Keep simmering and stir occasionally.  I also blended with a stick blender, but you can just use the masher and smooth it as you stir/cook.
Add in the Grated Fresh Ginger.  Keep simmering and stirring until the jam starts to get very thick and sticky.  When you clear a spot on the bottom of the pan you know the jam is "ready" because it will not flow into that cleared space as quickly as it did when it was runny.  It will thicken more as it cools.  Finally, add the Fresh Lime Juice and stir for another few minutes.  Remove from the heat and let it cool!  Bottle.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thornless Blackberry Blessings

Thornless Blackberries are the most prolific fruit in our back garden.
Thornless (or prickle-free) blackberries are a cultivar of other blackberries -- maybe wild blackberries, but most often, other commercial varieties, such as loganberries.

Wild blackberries still spring up with wily abandon on most empty lots in the Pacific Northwest (Canada and the USA).  When we came to Vancouver Island nine years ago this Fall, I was thrilled to hike around our neighborhood berry patches with a pail every summer.  Most of our neighbours were quite incredulous at my  industry-- why was I picking so many berries?  Most of them picked enough for a pie or a few jars of jam, and that was it.  The novelty had worn off.  They had so many other wonderful fruits and berries to choose from, many growing in their yards.  At the time, my husband and I were falling in love with-- actually, fast becoming addicted to-- green smoothies.  We were amazed by the simple abundance of the FREE blackberries.  We filled up our freezer with them.  We chugged blackberry smoothies all winter.  You can find some delicious blackberry smoothie recipes here.

A couple of years after we arrived our then-Pastor sold his house and moved.  Before doing that he thoughtfully (well, maybe not thoughtfully if you were the purchaser of his property, lol) dug up some of his prized plants and gifted them among friends.  We were very privileged to get his most beloved Thornless Blackberry bush.  We positioned it in a far corner of the yard, set aside as a sort of 'arbourage' or minor-orchard.  For the first two or three years the bush did not put out anything substantial-- in fact, we forgot about it for the most part.

Then, in about year #3 I was doing some sort of clean-up work and came across what had been "that little blackberry bush".  Imagine my surprise to find that some of the branches were well over 6' long, dragging their bounty of berries into the neighbours' yards (3 neighbours' yards, as a matter of fact).

Since that time I have been harvesting a good portion of our winter's berries from the sole [overgrown] bush.  This year I get 1/2 to 3/4 of a 1-gallon pail of berries picked each morning.  What we don't use in our morning smoothie goes into a bag in the freezer.  It is loaded.  The wasps covet this bush as well. I happen to respect the hard-working ornery little critters do (to keep down other insects) earlier in the season, but I will keep an eye out to see that they don't suck away more than their share.

Here is a fascinating video by a guy showing the method he uses of espalier-ing his blackberries.  I plan to do a sort of modification of this to get my blackberries into submission.

The benefits of not having thorns is huge!  Health benefits of the Blackberry are also huge:
  • rich in bioflavonoids and Vitamin C: strengthens the connective tissue-- collagen-- and maintains elasticity and flexibility of the body's arteries and veins allowing for healthy blood flow-- may help to alleviate varicose veins
  • low in calories, and of course, low on the glycemic index-- only 62 calories per cup
  • very low in sodium
  • very high in antioxidants- in fact, the HIGHEST of berries - but to get a real anti-cancer boost, it is important to eat the blackberries au naturel-- skip the cooking and pass on the sweeteners (smoothies count as being in a natural state!)
  • Eat them raw everyday and be guaranteed that your brain is alert and clear of "fog"
  • The high tannin levels (tannin gives tea its bitter edge) in blackberries may calm down intestinal pain and inflammation, subdue diarrhea, and alleviate hemorrhoids
  • Make a tea with the (bitter) leaves, using honey or stevia to mask the flavour-- an uplifting morning drink with none of the caffeine stimulation of coffee
  • Juicing the berry regularly can help people with menstrual problems because it's effective in helping the blood to clot  
Here is the Blackberry plant this year:

Here is a pile of things you can make with blackberries (just click to see):

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

25 Things You Can Do With Lavender

I love lavender. Beautiful hues of purple. Drought resistant. Heavenly scent. Edible. Organic. What is not to love?  Here are 25 Things You Can Do With Lavender (if you have other suggestions, please add below!)

1. Scent your Linens:  Put sprays of dry lavender in with your sheets for a pleasant, relaxing effect.
2. Protect your Wardrobe: Hang Sachets filled with lavender buds to repel moths and bugs.
3. Make Lavender Chocolate Truffles for that everything-chocolate Auntie with a birthday.
4. Create a beautiful Lavender Bouquet for your wedding.
5. Bake a Lavender Cake for that Summer Tea Party.
6. Stop a Heat Stroke in its tracks with a couple of drops of Lavender Essential Oil
7. Braid an enchanting Lavender Wand.
8. Chill out with Lavender Ices (ever so elegant!)
9. Spritz home-made Lavender Water to disinfect and before storing linen and clothing.
10. Wash doggie down with home-made Lavender Doggie Shampoo and repel fleas.
11. Relieve a headache with a hot or cold Lavender Tea Compress.
12. Drink a cup of Lavender Tea to bring down your social anxiety.
13. Fill a jar with dry lavender buds and sink a beeswax or soy candle in the centre for ..um..simple bliss.

14. Homemade Lavender Jam or Jelly is just plain exquisite.
15. Sew up a Lavender Sleep Pillow.
16.  Encourage pollinators by growing lavender... it blooms over a long period from Spring to Fall.
17. Clean up your house with lavender-infused vinegar.
18. Design an impressive Lavender Labyrinth or Maze formal garden
19. Home-made Lavender Bath Salts make a welcome hostess gift!
20. Create a summer Lavender Wreathe
21. Rub Lavender Salt into your meat as you cook it for a wonderful flavour
22.Grow Lavender as a small business if you have as little as a 300' X 300' growing space.
23. Enlist dried Lavender as part of a natural Flea Control program with your doggie.
24. For itchy insect bites, massage in a drop of Lavender Essential Oil and coconut oil.
25. Vacation with Lavendervisit a circuit of fabulous Lavender Farms in your area or elsewhere.

I grow a few drifts of lavender in my own yard and hope someday to have a formal lavender garden in the back (when the septic field has been replaced by a sewer system -- they keep promising and rescinding.)

What are YOUR Lavender Dreams?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Keeping the Deer Out of Your Garden

Traditional Landscape by Sterling Landscape Architects; Designers SURROUNDS Landscape Architecture + Construction
 You may have deer trespassing into your yard, hoping to get a meal around your patio. Or, as in the case of our son, you might have bunnies chomping up your strawberries (leaving the lettuces intact-- there goes that myth)or neighborhood dogs-without-boundaries bouncing through your tomatoes. What to do? What to do?

Well, traditionally, an elegant fence (like the one above) is an adequate barrier to roaming, intrusive critters.

Here are some suggestions to keep other critters out of your garden area:

Cats are usually drawn to a veggie or flower garden because of the loose soil that is easy to dig up and dispose of their feces.  Cat feces are not suitable to compost or dig in as fertilizer because they are carnivores, and as such, may harbour pathogenic bacteria and viruses in their feces that can cause illness for humans.

Cats can climb up over fences, unless you cap the tops of your fences with something like gutter-covers OR rig up something like coyote rollers, PV pipe suspended on wires.  You can see more about that idea here.

Both cats and deer don't like the scent of plants like rosemary or lavender.  Planting small "hedges" of either would be pleasant for humans and deterrent to the deer and felines.  Cats also do not like the scent of rue, and pennyroyal.  In fact, cats steer clear of the coleus canin ("scaredy cat plant") and citrus or citrus-scented plants like lemon thyme and lemon grasses.  Also in the smell-and-deter family is a product called "ShakeAway" that uses a glandular mix of predator urine, including coyote and bobcat, that can be shaken over the garden area.  Not sure if humans can smell this or not.  Because cats tend to return to the same ("comfortable") spot to defecate often, it is useful to leverage their distaste for wet ground by watering plants often in that area, and/or by washing down the area of cat urine as much as possible.

Cats apparently do not like getting stuff between their toes, or materials that they sense they might get their nails snarled up in.  Simply laying down something like chickenwire or birdblock on the ground and fastening with U clips-- or laying it over mulch-- will keep them off that area.  You can cut pouches out to allow your plants to grow.  Similarly, other prickly or ridged "mulch" will generally keep them away-- including rose and holly clippings, pine cones, bamboo skewers planted upwards, and the shards of eggshells.  They generally do not favour larger gravel stones (in flowerbeds for example).  They apparently also do not like human hair (a place to compost after a haircut) and there is some divergence of success with using teabags and coffee grounds to deter.

A step-up from using a water pistol to spray them when you see them readying to make a deposit, is a motion-detecting "scarecrow sprinkler" that throws a blast of water when nearby motion is detected.

I know that a small barking, cat-chasing dog can keep cats out of the garden (as long as she is around).  The same goes for crows, some years.

I have tried to represent the most humane methods of keeping cats and deer out of the yard.  Please don't use cayenne pepper (may be harmful), moth balls (most definitely toxic to cats and small children AND the soil that you are growing your food crops in), electric fencing, or any number of other nasty ways of getting expelling critters from your yard.  The most creative suggestion I came across was to plant a patch of catnip in close proximity to a sandbox.  It is quite likely that the cats will loll in the catnip-- make it their own pleasure haven-- and then do their business in the nearby sandbox.  Yes, you will have to clean up the feces from the sandbox, but you won't have to clean them out of your garden.

To get some ideas on how to humanely rid your garden of moles go HERE.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Food Wars on the Island

Our smallish Canadian city (12,000 souls) is a battleground for the grocery big stores: Costco, Walmart, Superstore, and Sobey's (via Thrifty's, that used to be a Vancouver Island chain in the not-distant-past).
Safeway will be closing May 2014. Read more HERE
Safeway recently opted out, or was opted out when Sobey's failed to follow through on the purchase.  Target (or Tar-jay as I hear it called by the 30somethings who shop there) also has a grocery section, but it is nothing much, mostly American brands we've seen on TV for years and already know are poison.

We have another large store in town called Quality Foods, and in 2012 (I think) it won a national grocery store award.  However, over the last couple of years QF has been receiving  injections of support from the rival SaveOnFoods cartel (aka Jimmy Pattison).  The irony is that QFcame in and set up in the same mall location that had been vacated by SaveOnFoods.  A greater irony is that another rumor has it that the Safeway location is being taken over by The Overweightea-SaveOnFoods.  

Rumors are just that.  I'm just putting out there the speculations that I've heard fired around town.

We're wary in this community.  How will these power moves affect us as consumers on an island where only 6% of our food is reported to be produced locally?  We've already seen cashiers and other grocery retail employees shoved out in a mass, and it doesn't seem like things are looking much better for the Safeway employees.  Someone I know who worked there for many years is leaving, at age 60, without a real pension.    But what about the 'cheap food' thing-- will we end up with aisles of manufactured food-like products, little locally-grown organic items?  I'm not a fortune-teller by trade, but it is scary to speculate about the possibilities.

You can feel things are heating up.  I noted tonight that Walmart has store hours until 11pm every day of the week.  Only the big boys can compete with that.  They have also begun to display their non-food merch in much the same format as Target.  QF is focusing on offering good quality food (a fair amount of organics, gluten-free items, health food items, etc.) with "Manager's Specials" and a daily discount on foods of your own choice.  QF also has an attractive sit-down restaurant with Starbucks and the in-store cafeteria partnering.  Indeed, partnership is a big theme.  Did you know that community groups can use the QF Boardroom for free just by scheduling it a week or two in advance?  Last time we checked, the White Spot restaurant in town, which has a generous-sized room for private lunch meetings, was charging something like a $60 cover charge for that.

All of these stores have a smallish organic products section, and various organic items in their freezers.  Walmart has the least.  They have piles of green organic bananas, though, at 97 cents a pound.  Costco, last time I was there, had NO organic produce, although quite a lot of processed organic items, such as barbeque sauce, cereals, and bulk drygoods like organic chiaseed and coconut palm sugar.  QF and Thrifty's do get local organic vegetables.

The one gem we have in our town for a good selection of locally-grown, fresh, organic produce and a great array of whole foods and other items, is our local "Edible Island Whole Foods Market".  The clerks are friendly and knowledgeable about nutrition.  The prices are a little higher, but you will definitely find a higher quality of food here.  

We are also blessed to have a vibrant local vegetable and fruit-farming community with a reputable Farmers' Market operating throughout the year, and in the growing season on Saturdays and Wednesdays.   Many of us do a little organic vegetable gardening and have a fruit tree or berry bushes either in our yard or nearby.  We are not in risk of malnutrition or starvation here, but we are also not anxious to let go of our current good fortune with a variety of good-quality food.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The "Swedish" Bike Helmet

I am in the market for a bike helmet because recently I broke down and bought a bike.  I have been considering doing that for a very long time.

True, I walk 5 miles a day and if I need to go to town I can either drive or catch a ride with my hubby.  However, I do want to do my bit for the environment, and bicycling is every so much more eco-friendly than driving a vehicle that runs on fuel (probably more friendly than driving an electric car as well when you consider that the electrical energy is often STILL produced by burning coal).  

I need an adult carrier/basket like THIS
So, I chose a bike that is easy for me to get my legs over-- I needed a lower type bar than many I have tried.  I also didn't particularly want to have gears to bother with, that is how old-fashioned I am.  And I like handlebars that are curved in the old school way, as well.  So, here is a picture of me on my new bike (which also has a chain guard that extends over the entire chain-- how cool is that?).  I am going to purchase a basket that isn't so cutesy and pass this one on to my granddaughter.  But, in general, I am ready to rock and roll!

Except for a helmet!!

And we know how important they are to keeping our tofu-soft brain in good shape!

So, I went to the usual places and tried on those stream-lined plastic lids.  I will likely succumb to one, but for now I am "researching".  If you like your helmet, you are more apt to wear it! These are examples of the sort of helmet I would really like (for me & my granddaughters):
Watch how it works:

And a couple of other helmet types that I wouldn't mind owning:
Do you have a helmet you really like?  Share any of your 'bike helmet' stories and/or comments please! :

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Baked Tofu and Spanish Rice- the PERFECT supper!

Fragrant, toothsome baked tofu and spanish (brown) rice!  This combination recipe might have been in Frances Moore Lappe's 1971 "Diet for a Small Planet" but if it was, it likely included some cheese and olive oil.  This particular recipe is LOW fat..... way low......... like, the only fat in this recipe is in the tofu and veggies!  But the flavour....... (oui oui... in Canada we use the tasty French way of spelling flavoUr)........ wow!

And next to the taste is the fragrance of the marinade-covered tofu as it bakes!  Oh yum yum yum-

But on with the recipes!!

SPANISH RICE (6-8 servings)


2 cups dry Brown Rice 
1 red Onion, chopped
1 C. chopped Broccoli, fresh or frozen
3 Garlic cloves, crushed 
1 C. Water 
1 C. organic vegetarian Pasta Sauce (or 6 oz. Tomato Paste)

Salt, to taste

  1. Cook the rice according to directions, or as you normally do
  2. In a wok, or large pot, combine the onion, broccoli, garlic and water, and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until water is evaporated and veggies are tender.
  3. Add rice, vegetarian Pasta Sauce, and salt to the veggies, coating the rice with the sauce.
BAKED TOFU (2-4 servings)


1lb./500 g.(or near that) of ORGANIC, NON-GMO Tofu
2 T. Tamari Sauce or good organic Soya Sauce
2 T. Water or unsalted Vegetable Broth 
2 tsp. Sweetener (brown rice syrup, agave, palm sugar, etc. or 1/8 tsp. Stevia)
2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar 
2 tsp grated Garlic 
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh Ginger 
1/4 tsp. freshly grated Black Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C
  2. Put a piece of parchment or foil on the bottom of a small baking pan
  3. Slice the tofu in half across the block (from side to side) and then cut into smaller pieces, carefully fitting into the pan so that they are well-packed
  4. Mix all other items together and pour evenly over the tofu
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes
These two recipes are changed forms of recipes found on the NutritionMD site, part of the sites operated by PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

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