Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lessons Learned

I remember the nurse putting some kind of mask on my face as I lay down on the
operating table and said sweet dreams. After that, I had no recollection what happened to me during my gall bladder surgery in the late eighties. I never, however, forgot the impression that experience gave me. I learned that it is okay to let go of ones control of life. I did that during my surgery and everything turned out well.

Recently a similar learning experience occurred to me except it was a lumbar surgery that did not happen to my disappointment.  I prepared so hard for the procedure. Getting the physical exam and MRI on time.  Remembering countless things: the special soap to use for a week, the nose thing twice a day, the meds I had to skip and the herbs and spices I could not use. I did not want to forget these countless do s and don't s.

Plus I had to do some preparations for after the surgery. Preparing food during recuperation when I could not cook. Cleaning the house and clearing anything I can trip on. Doing my laundry. Clean, clean which I seldom do.

I got the news on the phone that the insurance did not approve the surgery the day before I was to have it. I was on my way upstairs to launder sheets on the bed of our guestroom which I might use while recuperating. I felt what a prospective bride might feel when the groom backs out. Such a letdown.

I was told I would have to appeal which I did that same day. But as the day progressed, it sank in that the process would take time.

I cried every single night as I waited for the insurance to finally approve the surgery it declined. The urgency I felt to have it for several reasons plus the nerve wracking preparations that I had to do contributed to the frustration and anger that ensued.

I got over these emotions after a week and learned an important thing along the way. Things can wait and I could learn to do so. Urgency sometimes is in the mind.  I hope this experience will stay with me especially in moments I just have to have something that I want urgently.

I lived through the disappointment and survived,  like most other times in my life. I just need to realize things will happen just not in my preferred time but God's time.

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobong Asado

This is a hybrid dish that combines the flavors of two iconic Filipino dishes, adobo and asado. I had this during the Christmas party of the Philippine American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh (PAPAGP). It was prepared by Amy, one of the members. I fell in love with the taste of this delectable dish which comes from the Pampanga region of the Philippines.

It takes two steps which can be both conveniently done in the slow cooker. First you prepare the adobong chicken then add the ingredients to the cooked adobo to give the dish the taste of asado. The second step or both steps for that matter can be done in the stove top if one prefers.

My husband, my picky taster, gave this two thumbs up. It is good the first day but even better the next. One can easily use leftover chicken adobo and add the asado ingredients later. Whatever works.

Chicken Adobong Asado

Adobo Step

  • 4.5 lbs chicken legs or thighs
  • 1 cup soy sauce 
  • 1/2 cup vinegar 
  • 8 garlic cloves 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 2 tsp peppercorn

Asado Step

  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-8 oz can mushroom, drained
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 green pepper sliced

Place the first six ingredients in the slow cooker or the ones in the adobo step and cook at high setting for 4 hours or at low for 8 hours.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of the adobo sauce then add the rest of the ingredients or the ones in the asado step. Slow cook for 2 hours at high setting.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Easy Broccoli Ham Quiche

Men do eat quiche. My picky taster, my husband, loved this.

I had asparagus ham quiche made by my friend Chris yesterday during the luncheon hosted by our gracious friend Dottie. We all loved it and I was determined to make it. Since I did not have asparagus I subbed broccoli when I made it for breakfast this morning. . The result is just as satisfying as Chis’ quiche.

Quiche is now my go to dish for the holidays when we have plenty of ham leftover we just do not know what to do with it. With good old Bisquick preparing it is a cinch.

Easy Broccoli Ham Quiche

  • 1-10 oz frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 cup ham, chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 2 slices American cheese, cut into
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Bisquick mix
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a large pie plate with cooking spray. 

Place the onion, ham and broccoli in the pie plate. 

In a bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour to the ham mixture. 

Bake for 35 minutes or till the toothpick comes out clean.

Christmas Tree at PPG

How I love thee. With
you I get to pose with Aunt
B and smile with glee.

Vegan Garlic Walnut Spread

Amazing! Excellent taste. Great consistency. Easy to prepare. The secret ingredient is bread to get that spreadable consistency. No oil or beans or tofu or cheese or yogurt was used. Just bread. Yes bread. Straight from your pantry.

This is so good I used the crust I cut off from the bread to wipe off the spread left on the blender I used. It looks and taste like liver pate without being made from chopped liver. For flavor, I used dry basil as the herb but you can utilize others like oregano, thyme etc. The original recipe this was adapted from included cilantro as one of the ingredients which I did not use but you can. You can also add chives or green onions if you like.

This can be used as a spread for sandwiches and crackers or toppings for pizza or on top of steamed vegetables or soup like a pesto.

I served this at the potluck December meeting of the Plant Based group I belong to and the members liked it. Here are pictures from the potluck.

Easy Garlic Walnut Spread

Adapted from this recipe

  • 2 pieces bread, crust removed
  • 1 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste 
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 to 4 tsp dry basil
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder

Soak the bread in enough water for around five minutes. Set aside. 

In a food processor or blender add the walnuts and garlic until they are pulverized.

Add the bread that has been squeezed dry and blend.

While the motor is running add the lemon juice until the mixture is pasty in consistency. You can add water to adjust the consistency if you need to. I did not have to do that in my case.

Add the rest of the ingredients as you mix by hand till you get the taste you want.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tropical Fruit Salad with Almond Pudding

I wanted a vegan fruit salad with a creamy dressing. This is different from the others I have made before. No chia seeds nor coconut milk were used. No tofu based dressing either was used. No nut cheese or vegan yogurt was used.

Instead I just utilized almond milk and cooked it with cornstarch. I flavored the mixture with vanilla and almond extracts and juice from the canned fruits used. Maple syrup can be added but is optional. The result is a delicious luscious dressing.

If you have not discovered what Dollar Tree store offers it is about time that you do. I bought the canned fruits I used for this recipe there. Only a dollar each. These canned fruits are hard to even find in grocery chains. Papaya mix with passion fruit juice. How exotic is that. And then there are good old mango slices. Yum.

Both canned fruits were bought from Dollar Tree for you guessed it, a dollar each.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Almond Pudding

Almond Pudding

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in two tbsp water or almond milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Place the milk in a small sauce pan. Heat at medium heat. When you see it beginning to bubble add the cornstarch in water or milk and start whisking vigorously till the mixture boils and thickens.

Take out of the heat and add the maple syrup if using, vanilla and almond extracts. 

Tropical Salad

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1-15 oz can mango slices, drained, saving 2 tbsp juice
  • 1-15 oz can papaya mix, drained, saving 2 tbsp juice
  • Almond pudding (recipe above)

In a small blender or food processor mix the walnuts and brown sugar till fine. Set aside. 

Arrange the mango and papaya slices in a dish. Add the almond pudding on top and add the fruit juices. Lightly mix. Distribute the walnut brown mixture on top.

He Was Born

Because He wants to
be with us. He loves us. More
than just to save us.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mister Grinch Xmas Lesson

He took gifts away
but not their hearts. They were still
happy. Love taken not.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Raw Chocolate Rum Raisin Balls

Raw. Vegan. No dairy. No added sugar. Instead these balls have lots of good stuff including rum.

My friend Claire gave each of us in our line dancing class a little box with boozy tasting chocolate balls which I devoured in two sittings. I texted her for the recipe but had not gotten a reply so I decided to use as a guide a recipe from my friend Sally Lipsky’s book “Beyond Cancer, The Powerful Effect of Plant Based Eating”. The recipe was called Raw Cocoa Bites which she obtained with permission from the Naked Food Magazine.

I did some tweaking to the original recipe and this is what I got below. It has that deep boozy chocolatey taste of Claire’s balls while using the healthy ingredients in Sally’s recipe. I did not stop tweaking the recipe till I was happy. Here it is.  My gift to you all.

Raw Chocolate Rum Raisin Balls

  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 6 prunes
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp cocoa + more for coating
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup raisins that have been soaked in  2 tbsp rum or more

Place the carrots, prunes and walnuts in a blender or food processor and blend till fine. 
In a bowl combine the rest of the ingredients including the rum that the raisins were soaked in and mix with fork or by hand. Add  the carrot mixture to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Shape into balls and roll in more cocoa powder.

What Love Is

Love's a decision
not a feeling. It's sticking
to the journey. Growth.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Vegan Non Anchovy Garlic Spaghetti

Rachael Ray is one of my favorite celebrity cooks. One thing that fascinates me in her cooking is her use of anchovies in pasta dishes. She assures you that once the anchovies are sauteed in EVOO, her trademark abbreviation for extra virgin olive oil, you would not detect their fishiness at all. They rather impart a delicious saltiness that excites the umami receptors in your tongue.

She prepared a simple spaghetti dish with anchovies yesterday on her show and like at other times when I watch cooking segments my craving for the pasta dish skyrocketed. When that happens I just have to prepare it. I decided to make my life exciting by throwing in a challenge. Make it vegan. Here is my attempt with all the tweaking I made.

Somewhere in my search in the internet I read one source using soy sauce as a substitute for anchovies which I followed. If I had miso paste I would have added it instead.

Rachael mentioned that cheese is never added to seafood dishes in Italian cooking but she did anyway by adding parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs she used as toppings. In my case I used nutritional yeast and skipped the bread crumbs.

I tried as best as I could to not add too much salt in developing the flavor of the dish. Adding the nutritional yeast helps since it does not have salt in it and yet imparts a cheesy flavor. The added garlic powder and lemon zest and juice also help stimulate the centers in the tongue to compensate for what would have been achieved by salt. The result of all the tweaking is a pasta dish I can devour in one sitting, make it that two, whatever. I like this. You will too whether you are vegan or non vegan.

Vegan Non Anchovy Garlic Pasta

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • 2 tbsp oil 
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast plus 2 tbsp for topping
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Do not forget to save one cup of the pasta water.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add the garlic, onion, celery and walnuts  Saute the mixture till the vegetables are cooked.

Add 2 tbsp nutritional yeast and the rest of the ingredients including the pasta water and stir and heat the mixture.

Add the mixture to the spaghetti and mix till sauce coats the pasta. Top with the two tbsp of nutritional yeast.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Yearning for Peace During Time of Self Doubt

Only to find not
in gobbled food, but His love

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

This is an easy dinner to prepare for your family on Sundays. You can dump the ingredients in your slow cooker and forget it while you are in church. Just prepare the noodles or mashed potatoes or rice when you come home. Zap some frozen vegetables and you and your family will have a complete delicious meal to relish.

Old and young alike love meatballs. So no need to worry. This dish is a crowd pleaser.

I am watching my salt so I decided to tweak the recipe I found in this website by using dry onion and garlic flakes instead of a packet of Lipton onion soup mix. I also reduced the A1 steak sauce to just one tablespoon.

One more important thing, my friend Emma suggested adding 1/2 teaspoon coffee granules. Guess what? It deepened the flavor of the sauce without you using additional salt or steak sauce. Who knew. You would not know there is coffee but instead your taste buds will enjoy the enhanced umami taste of the dish. My picky taster, my husband, gave this dish two thumbs up.

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

Adapted from this website

  • 2 lb bag frozen meatballs
  • 1-10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup, low salt preferably
  • 1 soup can full of water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 1 tsp dry garlic flakes
  • 1 tbsp A1 steak sauce
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules (I used decaffeinated)

Place all the ingredients in the crock pot. Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low. I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting. 

Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes or rice.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Saturday, December 16, 2017

In the kindness of people

Have I seen the face
of God. A village it took
to get His will done.

Note: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Vincent Silvaggio, the nurses, especially Jackie, and the support staff, especially Carol, at The Three Rivers Orthopedic Associates located at UPMC St. Margaret for their patience and understanding during these challenging past few weeks. I am grateful for the extra effort they put in which reflects their compassionate care for their patients. My love and prayers to them all.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Vegan Carrot Potato Soup

It is definitely winter these past two weeks here where I live. It has been cold, namely that type of weather that makes you want to go home to a cup or two of hot soup. Here is an easy, healthy and delicious one.

I had a similar soup at my favorite restaurant, Flowers in the Attic, located five minutes from my house. Below is a picture of the soup with the portobello sandwich I ordered with it.  Oops I already ate the soup by the time I took the photo. It was that good.

Slow Cooker Vegan Carrot Potato Soup

  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 1 tsp dry garlic flakes
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup non dairy milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • dash each thyme, paprika, cayenne and oregano

Add all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low. I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours. 

Mash the mixture or use a stick blender till smooth or to the consistency you prefer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Allow the tears to fall

We're human with a
a heart that breaks, a soul that weeps.
Feel the pain. Allow.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Slow Cooker Chipotle Salsa Verde Chicken

If you are craving for something creamy and spicy but too tired to cook, do not call for delivery or take out. Just dump the ingredients of this chicken recipe in the crock pot and you are good to go. Just five ingredients at that. My picky taster, my husband, loved this.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Salsa Verde Chicken

  • 3 lb chicken thighs, with skin or skinless
  • 1- 16 oz salsa verde
  • 1 tbsp chipotle from bottle, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1/2 cup half and half

Place all the ingredients in the crock pot. Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours. Serve over rice.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Slow Cooker Vegan Apple Soup

The recipe for this delicious soup was inspired by the one provided by my friend Roberta. It has appeared in the website Genius Kitchen.

I made a vegan version skipping the butter as well as the cheddar cheese.  The butter was used in the original recipe to saute the onions. Since I was using the slow cooker I decided to substitute dry onion flakes for the fresh onion and in turn did not see the need for the sauteing step nor the butter.

The original recipe also included cheddar cheese which you add at the end but I did not find that necessary nor did I use a vegan substitute for it but you can. For me the soup was delicious without it.

Roberta warned me to double the recipe since it is addictive. It was so I found and so would you. Perfect autumn or winter soup.

Slow Cooker Vegan Apple Soup

Adapted from Genius Kitchen

  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 apple, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup non dairy milk
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook for 3 hours at high setting or for 6 hours a low. I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pain and Suffering

From them we can be
transformed but it would need us
to stop, contemplate.

Note: Gleaned from Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation Saturday, December 9, 2017.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Holiday Spirit

Special, welcomed. Full
of giving, sharing. Mirrors
purpose why Christ came.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

Vegan Acorn Squash Chickpea Stew

I like the sweetness of the squash blending with the heat of the chipotle in the coconut milk tomato base. Somehow they form a symphony of flavors that you want more of it over rice.

One of the ingredients are the stem with leaves from the cauliflower that you discard. Why not use it so I thought and I did. It gave crunch to the dish. I did not use the core though. 

I microwaved the whole squash after making one inch slashes all over it about a millimeter deep. About a dozen or so. I find this better than pricking holes on the squash which tend to result in dry vegetables   I opted to have still firm flesh so I used six minutes as cooking time. 

Vegan Acorn Squash Chickpea Stew

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 tsp oil 
  • 1 onion, sliced 
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cups coconut milk from can
  • 1 tsp curry powder 
  • 2 cups cauliflower stems, chopped
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 tbsp chipotle, chopped
  • 1 -15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 -15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Make one inch long slashes around the whole acorn squash. Microwave the whole squash for 6-8 minutes. Scoop the seeds and remove the peel. Cube the squash flesh.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and ginger in the heated oil till they are cooked. Add the rest of the ingredients and braise till the vegetables are cooked.

Serve over rice.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Olives

There are things in life that are meant to be together. One of them is the combination of beef stew with olives.

In this recipe, I got a lot of help from my pantry and I am okay with that including bottled salsa as the tomato base of the dish. I also included pickle juice to add a little something something to the dish.

For the olives, I used the ones from the Giant Eagle deli that were leftover from Thanksgiving. Bottled ones are fine too. However, the little brine from the deli olives add a little bit more flavor.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Olives

  • 2 lb beef, cubed
  • 1-16 oz bottle salsa
  • 1 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 1 tsp dry garlic flakes
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp pickle juice
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup olives (I used mixed ones from the deli but bottled ones are good too)
  • 1 cup whole button mushrooms
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped

Add all the ingredients in the crock pot. Cook for 4 hours at high or 8 hours at low setting. I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 3  hours at slow cooker setting.

Life Is

A little bit or
more of joy, sorrow, triumphs,
failures, laughter, tears.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vegan Cauliflower Sweet Potato Meat Loaf

I was in a plant based meeting last night and two members expressed their desire to have a good meat loaf recipe that does not crumble and also that can be shaped into a chicken leg or something. In other words, a mixture that is pliable and yet hold its structure upon baking.

I have prepared meat loaves, meat balls etc using walnut cauliflower as the meat substitute (see this vegan Filipino embutido or Filipino meat loaf recipe and the links herein for the other recipes using this meat alternative). Since I have success with this duo, I decided to use it for this meat loaf recipe which aims to be close to the classic American meat loaf.  I actually based the recipe on this meatball one and just added the cauliflower.  I also adjusted the ratios of the other ingredients as to make the mixture pliable and yet sturdy upon baking.

Since I am watching my salt intake, I skipped adding salt or Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce but you can if you want.  However, I was pretty happy with the result without them.  The nutritional yeast which has no salt at all gives that umami kind of salty taste plus that cheesy parmesan flavor.  Feel free to add more spices which I had to be wary about since I am having surgery next week. They warned against certain spices.

I like the texture of the loaf.  I was able to cut the meat loaf into slices without it crumbling.  It is moist but not too pillowy.  You can put the slice on two pieces of bread and it would hold its form.  It was pliable before baking, I did not attempt to shape it to a chicken leg. I will leave that to Linda one of the members who has that as her goal. For Nancy, I hope you like the texture.  No, it would not disintegrate as your  other recipe.  Do play herbs and spices to suit your taste. Whew> I think I found the recipe for the classic American meat loaf.

Vegan Cauliflower Sweet Potato Meat Loaf

  • 1 tbsp chia seeds soaked in 3 tbsp water for 10 minutes
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cauliflower head, cut in quarters
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp dry minced onions
  • 1 tsp dry minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 cup approximately baked sweet potato, mashed
  • black pepper, fresh ground according taste

Preheat oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place all the ingredients in the blender and pulse till well mixed.

Transfer in a small loaf pan and bake for 20 minutes.