Monthly Archives: November 2011

Vegan White Sauce

So, the pot pie we made last week has cream of mushroom soup in it. For a vegan option, I frequently use this white sauce recipe instead:

Blend smooth:
1/2 c water
1/2 c raw cashews
1/4 c cornstarch
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp onion powder

Pour into a saucepan.

Rinse blender with 4 cups of water and add to saucepan. Bring to a boil and lightly boil 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.

(Sometimes I reduce the water by a little bit if I want a more concentrated sauce.)

Other uses for this recipe include, but are not limited to:

  • Chicken – er, garbanzo – a la king (add a small jar of pimento and mushrooms if you like mushrooms, then serve over pasta or rice)
  • Cream of Whatever Soup (just add appropriate flavourings). Lots of casseroles call for cream soups.

I hope this is helpful! This recipe is a staple in my house.

Money-saving note: Sunflower seeds are a cheaper alternative to cashews and work beautifully in this recipe.

Make-ahead tip: This recipe makes the equivalent of 4 cans of cream of mushroom (10oz each, or 1 1/4 cups). You can freeze it in 10oz portions and pull it out whenever you need it.

Categories: freezer meals, recipes, soy-free, substitutions, vegan | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Chicken Out: Chickenless Pot Pie

We already talked about my favourite beef substitute in the previous post. So, what about chicken? Chicken a la king, chicken potpie, chicken nuggets? Must we give up such deliciousness?

Hardly. The answer can be found in a tasty, unassuming little legume called a garbanzo. Or a chickpea. (Is that a regional thing, calling it one or the other?)

Anyway. Seasoned with a little chicken seasoning during cooking, garbanzo beans make an excellent substitute. And, since Thanksgiving is this week, I’m going to share with you a recipe I have done almost every year for Thanksgiving since I got married: Chickenless Pot Pie.

This recipe is not vegan. Next week, I’ll share options of how to make a vegan version of the same thing.

Chickenless Pot Pie


1 double pie crust (top and bottom)
2 carrots, chopped or sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/4 c onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped
1 T olive oil
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2-3 c cooked garbanzo beans (reserve liquid)
3/4 c frozen peas
3/4 c frozen corn

Sauté carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in the olive oil until tender.

Stir in cream of mushroom soup. Add garbanzo liquid until it is a nice consistency. Stir in garbanzos, peas, and corn.

For my crust, I added about a teaspoon or so of thyme to the pastry.

Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.

Where are you from, and do you call them garbanzos or chickpeas?

Categories: entrees, nut-free, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Here’s the Beef: Shepherd’s Pie

I’m a (relatively new) Seventh-day Adventist and therefore have only been introduced to the strange and ‘spensive world of Faux Meat, Adventist Style, in the last few years of my life. Worthington’s line of meatlike substances with fanciful names like “FriChik“, “Stripples” and “Big Franks” are common at potlucks and, for some families, regular use.

These fake meats are fairly tasty, I must admit, but they’re pricey and rather packed with sodium and odd, unpronounceable ingredients. So I’ve never been fond of using them. Occasionally I indulge in a Big Frank, if someone else pays for it, but that’s about it. The way I figure it, I am vegan because I don’t WANT to eat meat; generally I don’t want to eat imitation meat, either. (This excludes Frontier Organic Bac’uns. OMNOMNOM.)

When I got married, I had a lot of recipes that were favourites that involved meat, of course, and to please my husband I had to come up with some sort of substitutes so I could still make my favourite dishes and us both be happy.

Today I’m going to talk about ground beef, and I’ll include a recipe for good measure. Ground beef is a common, common thing. I grew up eating tons of it.

My ground beef substitute of choice: PINTO BEANS.

I happened upon it by chance one day while making a spaghetti sauce and that’s what I just happened to have a can of in the cupboard. They are tasty, take on a variety of flavours quite well, and add nutritious bulk to many recipes. Dry pinto beans are usually under $2 per pound, while ground beef might be $3 or more per pound. That adds up to quite a bit of savings over time.

Two examples:

  • Pinto beans + taco seasoning + sauteed onions/garlic: instant taco filling
  • Pinto beans + oregano + basil + tomato sauce + sauteed onions/garlic: spaghetti sauce

Okay, here’s a recipe: Shepherd’s Pie for Shepherds Who Love Their Animals Too Much to Eat Them, or People Who Maybe Aren’t Even Shepherds at All

3 cups cooked pinto beans (you can use canned as well)
1 c chopped onion
2 cans green beans, drained (or 4 cups frozen)
2 cans tomato sauce
6-8 potatoes, cooked and mashed with milk, butter, and 1 egg (vegans can skip the egg, use appropriate margarine, and unsweetened non-dairy milk OR blended oats OR blended cashews)
1 c grated cheddar cheese (vegans can use Daiya or homemade cheeselike substances, or skip altogether)

1. Get the potatoes going. I don’t peel my potatoes. I just wash them, eye them, and chop them up. If you prefer peeled, go ahead. Put them in water and start them cooking. It will usually take around 20-30 minutes until they come to a boil and are soft.

2. Saute onion. Put in the bottom of a 13×9 pan. Add pinto beans and stir together.

3. Spread green beans over pintos/onions, and tomato sauce over green beans. Just add enough tomato sauce to make it wet, not look like soup.

shepherd's pie

This is what it will look like, except don’t add quite this much tomato sauce. Oops. (Also, I was out of regular onions, so I just dumped some fresh chopped green onions in this particular batch.)

4. When your potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash them with the milk and other stuff. Spread this mashed potato mixture over the filling.

shepherd's pie

Before spreading, distribute blobs of smushed potato thusly all over the surface.

shepherd's pie

Then use a knife or other type of utensil to spread the smushed potato blobs all over the surface.

5. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. For the last 15 minutes of baking, sprinkle cheese substance of choice on top if desired.

shepherd's pie

And here it is toasty brown and golden and ready to eat.

Categories: entrees, nut-free, recipes, soy-free, substitutions, vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Playing With Bread

The bread recipe in my previous post is a blank slate on which you can write a myriad of bready flavours.

Let’s start with talking about flours. What kinds of flours besides (or in conjunction with) wheat work well? Below are some ideas of kinds you can try (or not!) and approximately how much you should use. Whatever flours you try, always start with just a cup or so. If the gluten content doesn’t seem drastically affected, try adding some more!

  • Spelt flour can be used interchangeably with wheat. I have frequently done this.
  • Soft white wheat flour is also a great idea, especially if you have children who aren’t sure about the idea of brown bread, because it makes a very light-coloured but no less healthy wheat bread.
  • Rye flour has a very low gluten content. If you want rye bread, I would not recommend using more than 2-3 cups for two loaves. The bread will get more dense the more you add, and will not rise very well. I personally like the hint of rye flavour but not a heavy bread. (Some day I’ll do a post specifically about making rye bread because, uh, I’m still working on perfecting that one.)
  • Millet flour gives bread a soft, delightful texture and a hint of nutty flavour. For a two-loaf batch, I recommend 1-1.5 cups.
  • Corn flour is zero gluten. I’ve yet to have good luck using it and don’t recommend it for a yeast bread – yet. 🙂

Then there are the oils. Olive oil is my favourite to use in almost everything. However, because I’m out of olive oil currently, I’ve been using a lot of plain old veggie or corn oils. For something more exotic, you can try peanut or sesame oil. (I haven’t ever used either of those last two in bread. Yet.)

What about add-ins? In my template recipe, it calls for flaxseed (ground). I usually do a mixture and usually about 1/2 cup of each add-in. Start with only 2 or at most 3 add-ins until you get a feel for how each one affects your bread. Other things you can use instead of or along with the flaxseed:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Rolled oats or other rolled grains
  • Ground or finely chopped nuts
  • Dehydrated minced onions
  • Caraway seed (use 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Rosemary or other herbs (use 1-2 tablespoons)

Do you have favourite flours besides wheat flour or favourite add-ins that I don’t have listed? If so, I would love to hear what they are!

Categories: substitutions, vegan | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Delicious Homemade Bread Anyone Can Bake

Someone once said:

If girls were taught how to cook, especially how to make good bread, their education would be of far greater value.

(Boys can benefit too!)

Now, how about a recipe using delicious grainy goodness?

I’ve had a lot of issues making bread. Most people have. But because I usually can’t bring myself to shell out $4 or more for a loaf of bread that’s actually reasonably healthy, I’ve made it myself. With endless issues. It sank. Or it was gooey. Or it felt like I should sell it to the third little pig for his house. You name it, it’s happened to me. I tried all the recipes friends and family would throw at me and checked out book after book from the library, and while I’d occasionally get a freak good result, the frustration and failure was monumental. I gave up for a long time and my husband took over the breadmaking for several months.

UNTIL I BEGAN USING THIS RECIPE, and I have never had a failed loaf of bread since (even though I continued on to modify it slightly, because that’s how I roll).

The measurements in black text make 1 loaf. The numbers in red are a double recipe for 2 loaves. I recommend making just one loaf for starters.

1.5 (3) c warm water (if you’re going by a thermometer, 105-115 degrees; I just stick my finger in it)
1.5 (3) Tbsp sweetener of choice – agave, honey, or sugar
1.5 (3) Tbsp yeast
1/4 c (3/4c) ground flaxseed (optional)
1.5 (3) Tbsp olive oil
1.5 (3) tsp salt
1.5 (3) c white flour or (3/4 c) gluten flour
3-4.5 (6-9) c whole wheat flour

Place warm water in a large bowl. Add yeast and sweetener and whisk to dissolve yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes, until you see the yeast bubbling and frothing rabidly on top of the water. (This is called proofing the yeast, to make sure it’s alive and functional.)

Yeast and sugar

Here is my yeast with three blops of brown sugar.

Whisked Up

Now I’ve added the 3 cups of warm water and whisked it up.

Frothing Yeastiness


Add flaxseed, oil, and salt. Add the white flour and stir 1-2 minutes. This will help develop the gluten to make a light loaf of bread.

Flaxseed, oil, and salt

Adding in my ground flaxseed, oil (corn oil in this case), and salt.

Add remaining whole wheat flour about a cup at a time until you can handle the dough without it sticking to your hands. [I don’t really count the cups I put in; I just add until it feels right, because it seems to vary depending on weather and temperature and other factors.]

Knead the dough in the bowl or on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes. Add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to your hands. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean, damp towel, and let rise in a warm place approximately an hour until doubled. [Just keep an eye on it, because I find it often will double long before an hour hits, and you want to not let the yeast die out. 30-45 minutes is usually what I do.]


Stirring in my flour

Kneaded lump

It’s all kneaded and ready to rise. (Yes, the picture is blurry. I have lousy lighting conditions in my current place of abode.)

Punch down the risen dough and knead a little to work out air bubbles. Shape into a loaf (or two loaves) (or divide dough into 12-16 equal blobs and shape into buns!) and place in oiled bread pan (or cookie sheets for buns). Cover with towel again and let rise 30 minutes approximately, until nearly doubled. Preheat the oven to 350 during this time. [It will continue to rise the first minute or so in the hot oven, sometimes quite dramatically!]

First Rising

After rising for a while, it’s ready to punch down and shape into loaves!


Here I’ve cut the blob of dough in two equal parts.

Rolling out the air bubbles

You can squish the bubbles out by hand if you like; I usually roll it out and then roll it up tightly.

Second rise

In the loaf pans ready to rise the second time.

After rising

Ready to go into the oven to bake!

Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom. [After about 30 minutes, I take the loaf out of the pan and just put it right on the oven rack for another 10 minutes or so. This gets a good crust on the bottom and seems to help keep the bread from being soggy.] (Buns usually go 20-25 minutes, and you can just turn them upside down on the cookie sheets to crisp up the bottom.) Cool on a cooling rack.

All done!

Out of the oven, cooling on a cooling rack!

I also let the bread sit out at least overnight before putting it away. 24 hours would be ideal. It really cures it nicely.

In my next post, I’ll share some substitutionary ideas you can try out once you’ve mastered the plain template above!

Categories: around the kitchen, bread, nut-free, recipes, soy-free, vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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