Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Vegan Blueberry - Lemon Bars

The harvest fruit is just pouring in these days, and the blueberries, sad to say, have pretty much reached the end of their season (thanks also to the little flocks of birds who make daily forays to the bush before and after I arrive).

This yummy vegan dessert is a fruit swap for a recipe using strawberries (link below BLUEBERRY-LEMON BAR recipe).  I don't have any strawberries on hand, but I did have all the other ingredients + blueberries, so....

There is a magic ingredient that allows this vegan recipe to look and taste like a lemon bar made with eggs.  Well, maybe 2 magic (that is, unusual) ingredients depending on how hip you are in your vegan subbing and general gourmet exploration of the vegan life.

Also, if you are suffering from diabetes and/or are obese and want to lose weight the healthy way, you might be interested in the excellent free online series of videos starting Tuesday July 30th with many of the inspiring Forks Over Knives physicians and scientists making speaking appearances.  Vegan physicians.  You can find out more and link to the video series by taking this 45-second quiz to see how your personality either helps or/and hinders your weight-loss plan. Click>>>



*8" x 8" square pan-- the original recipe author insists on this!  9"x9" is too big.  Won't work!

*Parchment Paper to line the pan 

*Lemon Squeezer.  I use an electric one that keeps the seeds from dropping through (see below) but any kind of squeezing apparatus is fine (the electric one is also very fast and preferable for anyone who has wrist problems, arthritis, etc.)

*Food Processor and/or Blender-- Food Processor is easier to get into but the blender does a smoother job for the fruit portion of the recipe.

*Large-ish mixing bowl

*Large-ish pot/pan for cooking the sauce

*Steamer or Steamer Basket for Magic Ingredient #1

*Fridge/Freezer-- don't think this will work if you are camping.


(This is the most delish vegan shortbread crust I have come across)

  • 1 C.    Oat Flour (use GF Oat Flour if you want to keep this Gluten Free)
  • 1/4 C. Coconut Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. Fine Sea Salt
  • 1/4 C. Coconut Oil, melted
  • 1/4 C. Maple Syrup (the real stuff, not the pancake take-off)
  • 1 tsp.  Almond Extract (or Vanilla)
=== Go ahead and make the crust since it will need to be cool before you add the filling!  Preheat the oven to 350F/177C.  Line the 8"x8" pan with parchment paper (important).

  1. In the large bowl whisk all the dry ingredients together: oat flour, coconut flour, salt.
  2. Stir in the 'wet' ingredients: Melted Coconut Oil, Maple Syrup, Almond Extract
  3. Stir well.
  4. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir dough a couple of times-- it should be soft and slightly spongy.
  6. Spoon the dough into the lined pan.  I began pressing it down uniformly from the middle of the pan until it covered evenly from corner to corner.
  7. Prick in several places with a fork.
  8. Bake for about 12-14 minutes or until the edges are beginning to tan ("barely golden").  The crust should be softly set but not yet crisp.  Let it cool completely in the pan.  Go ahead and prepare the filling.
  • MAGIC INGREDIENT #1: 1 C. peeled, small-cubed (1/3" cubes) Yukon Gold potato (about 1 medium potato)
  • 1 C.   fresh  OR  frozen blueberries, thawed
  • 3/4 C. fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice (3 - 3 1/2 juicy lemons)
  • 2 T.    arrowroot starch
  • 1/2 C.  Coconut Oil, melted
  • 1/4  C.+ 1 T. Maple Syrup
  • 2 T.      Almond Extract (or Vanilla)
  • MAGIC INGREDIENT #2:  1/4 tsp. Hawaiian Black Lava Salt ("Kala Namak") which has a slight sulphur undertaste that will make the filling have a somewhat egg-y taste (or just use fine sea salt)
===I'm keeping to the original author's instructions for the filling:
  • Make sure you have exactly a cup-full of potato cubes, no more, no less, and steam until fork-tender. Avoid steaming in the Microwave.  I steamed in my Instant Pot set for 10 minutes, but the author recommends using a steamer or steamer basket for 20 - 25 minutes
  • Put the blueberries in the blender or food processor and process until pureed.
  • Let the potato cool a bit, and add it, lemon juice, arrowroot starch, coconut oil, maple syrup, almond extract and black salt to the carafe of the blender or food processor, and run for about 3 - 5 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.  It should be slightly thickening and smooth.
  • Transfer the blueberry filling to the large saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until the filling thickens-- this happens fairly quickly, so be careful not to overheat or to leave the stove for more than a couple of seconds.
  • Pour the filling carefully over the crust-- for me, it just all slid into place, but you might need to spread it with a spatula.  
  • Loosely cover the pan (I used a spare piece of parchment paper) and put the pan into the freezer for 3 hours (to speed up the process) OR just place in the refrigerator to set if you are not in a big hurry.  After placing it in the freezer, (for the sped-up version) put it in the fridge.  It will firm up and set the longer it is in the fridge.  
  • When you feel that it is sufficiently dense in texture, gently remove the bar from the pan and set on a cutting board.  Cut into 16 equal sized (small) pieces.
  • Return the bars to the pan and the fridge until ready to serve.  Leftovers (haha) will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
=== Enjoy!  Ashley's original strawberry-lemonade bar recipe is found HERE.

Here is the handy-dandy electric Black and Decker lemon juicer that I use:

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.


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:


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.

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?


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.

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