Monday, June 20, 2016

Vegan Week's Menu for Summer

Looking for an nice Vegan menu? Here are some ideas for your summer dining : )

Quick, Easy, Tasty - can't beat it! 

Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )

Mediterranean Chickpeas & Vegetables 

Asian Peanut Noodles 

Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )

Black Bean and Corn Salad 
Wrapped in a Tortilla with Lettuce

Peas & Artichokes Yachni 

Sausage Patties, Vegan 
Serve with Naan for Wrapping -with all the fixin's - Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Mustard, et
And Chips on the side along with Carrots & Celery for Snacking

Monday, June 13, 2016

Brownie Batter Dessert Dip (Healthy - Regular or Nut free)

Brownie Batter Dessert Dip With Pretzels

This dessert dip tasty enough to make you feel like you should "sneak" it - but healthy enough that you don't have to! Even better - it has only 6 ingredients, and is SUPER easy to make!

It's inspired by a recipe that I found on Win-Win Food, but I altered it substantially to my own tastes. Quite simply put - I needed more chocolate - a lot more chocolate! And more Vanilla. And more sweetness. I also played around with the sweeteners to suit my cooking style and varied and the nut butters - because I was very curious how this would taste with Peanut Butter added! I also wanted to experiment with a nut-free variation. But, the idea is thanks to Win-Win Food

This is a Dessert Dip - but you could probably eat it for Breakfast or for Lunch, and call it a healthy meal! 

You'll find two versions below - one with Nut Butter & one without for those who need to avoid added fats. 

Healthy Brownie Batter Dessert Dip
Blend in a food processor till very smooth - drizzling in a little water as needed to achieve desired texture
   1 can (15 oz) black beans (drained and rinsed)
    3 tablespoons Peanut Butter or Almond Butter*
    5 T Honey or Maple Syrup
       OR 8 Packets of your favorite Calorie-Free Sweetener
    3 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
    1 ½ teaspoons Vanilla
    Dash of Salt

Taste and adjust sweetness as needed. (If you prefer, you can use 1/2 Honey  & 1/2 Calorie -Free Sweetener) 

Brownie Batter Dessert Dip with Fruit

Almond Butter allows the Chocolate to be the predominant flavor, but Peanut Butter gives a little of that Peanut Butter & Chocolate Milkshake-type effect, if that's your preference : )

Healthy Brownie Batter Dessert Dip - Nut Free Version
Blend in a food processor till very smooth - drizzling in a little water as needed to achieve desired texture
   1 can (15 oz) black beans (drained and rinsed)
   6 T Honey or Maple Syrup
       OR 8 to 10 Packets of your favorite Calorie-Free Sweetener*
    4 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
    1 Tablespoon Vanilla
    Dash of Salt
    Water as needed - about 1/2 cup

Taste and adjust sweetness as needed - beware of using TOO much calorie-free sweetener, as too much may have an aftertaste. You can use 1/2 Maple Syrup or Honey  & 1/2 Calorie -Free Sweetener for the best of both worlds.

Serve with any or all of the following: Strawberries, Bananas, Apple Slices, Pretzels, Mild Cookies. Or Frozen Bananas. Or just a spoonful out of the container . . . . Use your imagination! : )

Monday, June 6, 2016

Transitioning to Bifocals

My New Bifocals
Since I was a child, I've heard people talk about bifocals. How hard they are to adjust to. Or sometimes how impossible they are to adjust to. How expensive they are. How frustrating they are. And so on.

But, in recent years, it became obvious that I was going to need bifocals. I've been very nearsighted since childhood. I got my first glasses when I was 10, and I'm one of those people who cannot see the Big E at the top of most eye charts. Without my glasses, I cannot function at all. I cannot see details of anything more than about 7" from my face.  I cannot see faces of people as they walk by. I certainly couldn't drive a car without my glasses. But, at the same time, I am becoming farsighted (developing Presbyopia). With my single vision glasses, I could not see things that are CLOSER than an arms length away. And then, if I moved them an inch or so further, they would become blurry again. Generally speaking, I had to take off my glasses to do tasks like reading or sewing, and had to hold the material I was looking at very close to my face.

This made certain multi-tasking tasks impossible. Everyday things like:

Reading a recipe while cooking.
Supervising children while reading.
Glancing at a map while trying to spot the names of roads on road signs.
Glancing up at the Priest while reading along with him in the Gospel.
Looking at my Icons while praying prayers in the Prayer book.
Being aware of my surroundings while reading labels at the grocery store.
Typing on my laptop while looking at the screen.
Write an item on the grocery list while looking at the list through my glasses.
Sewing something by hand while watching a video with my daughter.

Well, you get the idea. It was time. I HAD to have bifocals.

I dreaded it. I checked with several friends, and got the same warnings as always. If you're lucky, you'll adjust in 2 or 3 weeks. If not, you might spend a lot of money only to get headaches or other unpleasant symptoms.

I dreaded the potential price. I had heard reports of people paying $500. to $1000. or more for the things.

But, it was a necessity.

So, after I got my eye exam with a bifocals prescription,  I went to the local Eye-Mart (note, this is NOT an affiliate ad or a paid promotion of any kind - just a good customer experience).  I ordered the exact same frames that I bought last time, and the kind of bifocals that don't have a line. The bifocals without a line give me a transitional area that makes it possible to see the computer screen, as well as an area that allows me to read books. I also ordered the polycarbonate lenses because otherwise my lenses might look like the proverbial bottoms of coke bottles. 

My glasses were ready the same afternoon. Thanks to the identical frames and the no lines lenses, they looked EXACTLY the same as my old glasses.

The store personnel encouraged me to allow a couple of weeks adjustment period.

I found that the adjustment was INCREDIBLY easy! After about 1/2 hour transition time, I was able to wear the new glasses to drive home. By the next day, the adjustment was 95% done.

Occasionally, I glance down through the reading part of the lens to see steps or the floor - and of course that is blurry. I have to bend my head down to look at the floor.

If I look through the exact little spot where things are a little curvy (the sides of the reading area), and turn my head at the same time,  I can make it seem like a floor or a table has waves moving through it. But really, after a tiny bit of practice, these things just aren't problems.

To be honest - I'm wondering what all the fuss was about! This is a breeze!

The new glasses (not including exam) were about $129. - that included all extras like the polycarbonate lenses. If I had wanted a second pair, I would have only had to pay the $50. extra fee for the polycarbonate lenses, so I could have elected for two pair for about $179.

If you're needing to get bifocals, don't be scared! It can be a great experience!

Now, I can

Read a recipe while cooking.
Supervise children while reading.
Glance at a map while trying to spot the names of roads on road signs.
Glance up at the Priest while reading along with him in the Gospel.
Look at my Icons while praying prayers in the Prayer book.
Be aware of my surroundings while reading labels at the grocery store.
Type on my laptop while looking at the screen.
Write an item on the grocery list while looking at it through my glasses.
Sew something by hand while watching a video with my daughter.

And - just a side note. Some people worry about bifocals as a bad sign that they're getting "old." I am only middle aged, but if God blesses me with a long life, that is something to be grateful for!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Greek Broad Beans (Fava Beans or Koukia)

Vasiliki's - A restaurant that makes Greek food like Yiayia would!

Broad Beans are incredibly delicious & healthful, but very hard to find here in the U.S. The first time I ever tried them prepared this way was in Cyprus at an amazing restaurant called "Vassiliki's" in Choirokitia.

Choirokitia - a Cyprus Neolithic Archaeological site

Greek Broad Beans (Fava Beans)

My dear Sister-in-Law taught me to cook them - and they're easy! But, finding the right kind of Broad Beans (they have to be the large variety, dried, split & hulled) can be a little tricky here in the U.S.

Split, Hulled Large Broad Beans (Fava Beans)

Well, last week, I found a bag of them at the specialty store, and decided it was time to make some - they're a family favorite.

Cyprus-Style Broad Beans
Rinse and Sort
1# of Shelled, Split, Dried, Large Broad Beans
Very Coarsely Chop about 1/2 a bunch
Bok Choy (6-8 large leaves, cut in coarse 1" or 2" pieces)
Add Broad Beans and Bok Choy to a large pot
Cover with water - about 8 cups of water should be right
Bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, till done. This doesn't take as long as most beans - generally the cooking time will be about 40 minutes, but will vary depending on the age of the beans.

They're done when the largest beans are JUST tender, and the smaller ones have fallen apart.

Serve with Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil & Salt for each diner to season his or her own. It is customary to pour a generous quantity of each over the beans and vegetables. (I omit the oil on my own portion, and it is still quite good without oil)

At the table, offer accompaniments such as Bread, Olives, Salad, Raw Onions & Hot Pickled Peppers.

That's it! So easy, and so delicious!

Note: This is NOT a good dish to prepare in the slow cooker, although it may appear to be at first glance. Broad Beans can be toxic if they do not reach a hot enough temperature while cooking, and slow cooking carries a risk with this type of beans (as well as with Kidney Beans).

Also, there is a cultural taboo against serving these beans to young children. I fed these to my daughter before I became aware of the taboo, then after I found out about the custom, I did some internet research. It seems that this taboo developed because SOME people are allergic to this bean (rather like peanuts in America) - so if you have a child you're feeding, it's your call.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Concord Cunningham, the Scripture Sleuth

This year, we discovered a great set of fun reading books for elementary aged kids!

Concord Cunningham, the Scripture Sleuth books are wonderful. They're the kind of book that get with the intention that my daughter will read them as part of her schooling. But, before we even get the opportunity to incorporate them into school, my daughter has devoured the book - reading it cover to cover. The only time she stops is to race across the room and grab her Bible from a shelf to look up the next clue!

Concord Cunningham is a wholesome, Christian schoolboy who helps his Dad solve mysteries. Think "Encyclopedia Brown" but Christian. The books teach Christian values and respect for Parents. Concord solves mysteries by finding one last clue in his concordance - the Bible reference for the clue is given at the end of the short story so that the reader can look up the clue in his or her Bible. This way the reader is learning logic (by solving the mystery) and Bible reference skills all at the same time. And it's all presented in a format that couldn't be more fun.

No - this isn't an "affiliate link" I didn't get a free copy or any money - I just LOVE how much my daughter loves this series, and wanted to share it!

Concord Cunningham, the Scripture Sleuth

Monday, May 16, 2016

Three Minute, Three Bite Brownie for One

If you're craving a Brownie, but don't want bake an entire pan, here's your solution. It's quick, it's
easy, it's Vegan - and there's no obligation to finish off 15 more Brownies in front of the T.V. tonight : )

These are really delicious - fudgy, dense, chewy - they really hit the spot when you're craving a Brownie!

If the batter seems WAY too thick, add a few drops of water till it's just right. With such small quantities, you have to use a little more of your own judgment on texture of batter. 

Three Minute, Three Bite Brownie for One
Basic Method
Mix together in a small, microwavable dish
(I use a Pyrex Custard cup - as seen in the picture)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cocoa
Dash Salt
1/2 Tablespoon Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Water
8 Chocolate Chips
Pat down
Microwave 30-45 seconds (depending on how crunchy you like it, and the power of your microwave)

Or, make it like this if you have my mix on hand:

Three Minute, Three Bite Brownie for One
2 Tablespoons StuffedVeggies Cake & Cookie Mix
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1/2 Tablespoon Water
1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
1/2 Tablespoon Oil
6 or 8 Chocolate Chips
Microwave in microwave safe dish for 30 to 45 seconds.
Cool enough that you don't burn yourself!


Vegan Cookie Mix for the Pantry

A canister of homemade Vegan Cookie Mix
Measure into canister, shake & store
4 1/2 cups Flour (your choice - unbleached flour or whole wheat pastry flour)*
2 cups Sugar (your choice, brown, white or turbinado/raw sugar)**
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lemon Snack Cake (Vegan)

What is a "Snack Cake"?

It's a cake that is simple, quick to make, and is usually served in its baking pan, informally.

It's the kind of cake you can make if you're the kind of family that invites guests over and THEN decides what to make.

Not that we ever do that ; )

It might be frosted with a simple frosting, or it might just be dusted with powdered sugar. For this picture I used the remainder of the store bought frosting I had on hand, but the previous time I made it,  I whipped some up from scratch (no picture of that because it disappeared too fast!)

This is the kind of cake that you can whip up for guests while you're making dinner, and not miss a step : )

Just combine the ingredients in one bowl, stir, pour into prepared pan and bake.

Of course, if you prefer, you can use the batter to make a quick batch of cupcakes.(cupcakes bake at the same temperature, but for a shorter time - about 30 to 35 minutes)

Before mixing Cake Batter, Oil an 8x8 square cake pan or a round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Easy Vegan Lemon Snack Cake
Mix in a single bowl, till batter is smooth:

2 1/2 Cups stuffedveggies Vegan Cookie & Cake Mix (recipe here)
2/3 Cup Water (or a smidge more - enough to make batter like a thick, fast food milkshake)
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Light Flavored Oil (I use Sunflower)
A few drops of Yellow Food Coloring (I use 8)

Stir all ingredients together in one bowl. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit - until done (toothpick inserted in center is clean, cake pulls away slightly from edges of pan - you know - the standard cake-doneness tests)

Cool before serving warm. For best frosting results, wait till entirely cool so frosting doesn't melt. But, if it does melt a little, it's still tasty! : )

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