Seriously Amazing *Vegan* Herb Crackers

Since we’re in a seemingly neverending spiral of virus mutations, the unvaccinated, and overworked healthcare professionals, I’m still trying to limit my exposure to PEOPLE. Not that it’s too difficult for me as I’m solitary by nature, but it’s still kind of annoying.

I had done my Traders shopping and when I came home, I realized that I had totally forgotten to get the kind of crackers I love to accompany Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese. Read about my love for THAT here: https://enchantedseashells.com/2021/04/06/yum-miyokos-vegan-cream-cheese/

Instead of doing what was normal practice in the old days, I didn’t run out and make that one purchase. Resourceful me decided to bake my own crackers. I haven’t done that in years and it’s so easy, I wonder why it took me this long to remember that! An added plus is no wasted plastic or containers, so I’m helping the environment too…

Tips: I substituted 1/2 cup buckwheat flour for all purpose flour. Next time I won’t do that because buckwheat is such a strong flavor. While it’s lovely in pancakes and soba noodles, it’s a bit too much here.

On the other hand, I gotta say that the smell of the herbs in the oven was so fragrant! It perfumed the entire house. I used all the herbs I have in the garden, but you can add whatever you like, including poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. **Roll extremely thin for crispiest crackers. I didn’t cut them in perfect shapes or use a pizza cutter because I was too lazy and wanted them done in a hurry, but I kind of like the rustic look.

Ginger-Lime Quick Bread **Vegan**

All that rain we had yesterday made it literally impossible NOT to bake, so I did.

We had about 1 1/2 inches of rain and our strongest winds were 45+ mph. Stores closed in our little village because of power outages and streets were flooded.

My friend’s lime tree exploded with limes last week, so now I have about fifty limes as a result of her generosity. I juiced A LOT OF THEM and froze in ice cube trays. These are the juicy sweet Mexican limes that are so amazing in margaritas and guacamole. LImes + tequila = heaven.

I created this recipe after reading tons of similar ones on the internet.

After the worst of the storm passed, it was still windy but FREEZING. A hot mug of fragrant ginger tea was just what I needed along with a couple slices of yummy Ginger-Lime bread.

It came out soo moist and tender, I definitely recommend and will make again and again.

PS I can’t change the recipe graphic but I forgot the amount of ginger tea. Should read 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.

“Why are the cookies green, Grandma?”

UH OH. AB 2.0 is growing up. No longer does he simply shove as many cookies in his mouth as he can, or muffins, or cupcakes.

Now he’s more discerning and I hear these words and the skeptical tone in his voice, because he KNOWS why they’re green and he wants confirmation.

“Why are these cookies green, Grandma?”

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“Green? Do they look green to you?” I say, stalling for time to think of the right thing to say. I really wanted him to eat those cookies.

“I know why they’re green. Why do you put kale in EVERYTHING, Grandma?”

“Do you love kale more than me, Grandma?” (That’s a joke.)

The last time this happened Dad saved the day by interjecting, “They’re spooky cookies for Halloween, T! Aren’t they so scary and cool and yummy?”

Good one, Dad, I thought to myself. Our eyes wouldn’t meet or we’d both start laughing.

He ate them, but was definitely not trusting the veracity of the response.

OK it was a lie. There was LOADS of kale in my lentil oat raisin cookies, and I didn’t do a good enough job to disguise that fact. I’ll do better next time.

I don’t condone lying, but in this case, T doesn’t eat enough veggies and this has always been my secret weapon to make sure he eats greens so I’m satisfied that he gets a balanced diet. He’s a clone of his dad, very tall and very thin with a metabolism that I’d DIE for.

It’s the same thing we do with smoothies (I did it when Dad was little, too). I fill it chock full of veggies, but with the addition of blueberries or strawberries, it really masks the green. Don’t tell him, OK?

Thank goodness his little sister hasn’t yet learned to question the provenance of the muffins we just baked and didn’t see me slip a cup of chopped kale in the batter. She’ll eat pretty much anything. So far.

Here’s the recipe for Kale, I mean SPOOKY cookies…

November Edition: Convo #854 with the Angels | Letting Go of Expectations

I found what I THOUGHT was going to be a really fun cooking and art project to do with the Angels…and it didn’t actually turn out as expected.

Focaccia Bread Art is a newish trend where you decorate focaccia with fresh vegetables and herbs to make beautiful edible art. Have you heard of it? It was started during the pandemic shutdown by Teri Culetto. The self-proclaimed Vineyard Baker of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, started creating art with focaccia bread as her canvas.

Focaccia is simple to prepare (see recipe below). I made the dough and cut up all the veggies and herbs, olives and cheese and tofu, so the kids would each have their own canvas to decorate. I parboiled yams and cut them out as jack o’lanterns since it was around Halloween time and themes are always good.

Each child received dough and a platter filled with more than everything they might need because I knew that there would be a lot of eating going on at the same time and that was my secret plan.

Then all hell broke loose with the 5.5 and two-year-old. With only one rolling pin, there wasn’t a whole lot patience while one rolled and one waited, so I had to save the moment and a melt down by creating another one with a dowel I found.

One angel (less than angelic) didn’t like it because their plates were DIFFERENT colors, so I heard a lot of “It’s not fair! Why don’t I have the same exact one!”

Dad solved the issue (which I was planning to ignore) by getting the SAME EXACT plate and all hurt feelings were soothed. With only one child, I didn’t ever have to experience that kind of behavior so it was a learning experience for me, too.

It was such a fun project and they enjoyed themselves so much so we did it another time, too.

Here’s the result from their first attempt….and below it is what I THOUGHT they were going to create. Letting go of expectations and allowing them to create their own masterpieces was a wise decision for sure, even though my OCD was slightly triggered.

It didn’t matter what they looked like, The Angels were very proud of their creations and ate them all up, including all the veggies, so it really was a success!

Do you see any resemblance at all? Nope, me neither.

For more ideas, go to Instagram and search for Focaccia Art and try it yourself!

As you can see, it didn’t matter what it looked like, it was a fun project for the Angels in spite of the sibling rivalry.

Here’s my go-to easy Focaccia Recipe. Pizza dough works great, too

1 + 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 TBS olive oil
Using a heavy duty mixer (or a strong arm) beat all ingredients together for about one minute. The dough will be wet and sticky but resist the urge to add more flour. With the dough hook (or your strong arm) start kneading until the dough becomes elastic. Scrape it into an oiled blow, cover and let rise under double, about two hours. When dough has doubled in size, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn dough onto well floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Flatten with your fingers into an 8-9 inch round or rectangle. I had the kids use a rolling pin at first and then they dimpled the dough with their fingers. Brush on olive oil and start decorating with all of your prepped ingredients. Be creative! Let rise for fifteen minutes. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.

‘When in doubt, toss it out…”

Do you do that?

Do you check for mold on your food and eat it anyway or do you do as my RN mom did, throw it out?

I used to be pretty lax about eating questionable food, whether it was moldy-ish bread or food that had been sitting in the refrigerator for a while. My mom was always lecturing me about botulism and blah blah blah, I don’t remember what she said as I usually stopped listening to her, but I wish I had paid more attention!

Last night I made a batch of lentil veggie soup with black beans and tofu because I wanted to transform it into veggie burgers. I picked fresh celery and chard from the garden; added carrots and broccoli and herbs. It was all happily bubbling away on the stove and smelled really good.

Then I looked in the refrigerator and spied a jar of tomato sauce that had been opened but was still half full. I think it had been there for a couple of months. I don’t often use prepared tomato sauce because I prefer making my own from scratch but I thought it would add great tomato-y flavor. It looked OK and wasn’t past the expiration date, so I poured it in the pot. That’s when I noticed the cap was full of mold and spores and fuzzy stuff.

I surely wish I had thought to look BEFORE I added it, but that’s another lesson learned.

Gross, huh?

What to do? Did that mean my soup was contaminated? Should I take a chance that cooking it would kill whatever the bacteria was?

I agonized because I HATE to throw away food, especially since I had just added a whole container of tofu.

I researched and queried and the results weren’t clear. Some said it’s fine as long as the mold was only on the lid, some said to toss it out.

I’ve had food poisoning before (not from MY cooking haha) and it’s more than unpleasant. I will forever be reminded of the food poisoning scene in Bridesmaids, one of my all time favorite films.

According to the USDA, mold can cause allergic reactions or digestive and respiratory problems. Certain kinds of molds produce poisonous mycotoxins that make people sick or cause infections and one might even need to be hospitalized.

Anyway…I’m sure my mom would be very happy to know that I tossed it out. All of it.

I then had absolutely nothing to eat for dinner. Not one single thing, so I ate a bowl of oatmeal accompanied by a glass of wine in my sparkly new goblet.

Definitely follow me for more cooking and fine dining tips!

Vegan Banana Buckwheat Pancakes w/Homemade Almond Milk

This turned out to be a drizzly and dreary Sunday morning, perfect for my famous buckwheat pancakes.

I had a couple very ripe bananas, so I figured that would be a great flavor enhancer but I didn’t have any liquid (just juice and wine haha) and didn’t feel like going to the store.

In vegan recipes, nut/oat milk is interchageable with cow’s milk and eggs aren’t really necessary. I didn’t have any plant milk but I did have raw almonds.

I’ve never made my own “milk” but this seemed like a good time to try. It’s super super easy. I was thinking of separating this into two posts and I still might, but since the recipe for vegan pancakes needed plant milk, I combined them.

Almond Milk

First, soak about one cup of almonds in bowl with four cups of water. The recipes recommend soaking for a minimum of four hours to overnight, but I’m impatient so I only waited a couple of hours.

Pour all of it into a high powered blender. This is when you can add a bit of salt or vanilla if you wish. Blend until it’s creamy and smooth.

Use a nutbag or strainer to separate the nuts from the liquid. I didn’t have a nutbag so I used a doublemesh strainer and then I squeezed the last bit of liquid with my very clean hand.

Cover and store in refrigerator. Definitely save the leftover pulp for baking.

Soak

Blend

Strain

Chill and enjoy!

Time for…

Vegan Banana Buckwheat Pancakes

Preheat griddle or pan

2 very ripe bananas
1 cup almond (plant) milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar or agave
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch sea salt (optional)
Mash the bananas with a fork. Add milk, oil, sugar, vanillla.
To the liquid ingredients, add all at once
1/2 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder.

Stir by hand until combined. Don’t overmix or pancakes won’t be fluffy.

When the griddle is hot, use a small amount of vegan butter to coat the surface.
Ladle the batter and watch for bubbles on the surface of the pancake.

When air bubbles start to rise to the surface at the center of the pancake, flip the pancake. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Serve with organic maple syrup or agave or jam. YUM. Super moist and fluffy!

It’s a Pink Kitty Cat Kind of Day

“Owl or kitty cat, what will it be?”

“PINK!”

“What kind of birthday cake should I make for you? Pink owl or pink kitty cat?”

“Pink PIGGY!”

Too late, I already baked and decorated a little pink strawberry frosted kitty cat cake with a pink sparkly collar.

Two-years-old today; bright and beautiful.

This cake might not win any design awards at The Great British Baking Show, but it was a total hit with one particular little girl who loves the color pink and all kitty cats.

Happy Birthday, little princess!

Kale and Chard: A Burning Sensation

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same stupid thing over and over again with the same results — not learning the lesson — and I must confess that applies to me here!

I grow a lot of chard and spinach and lettuce and kale. They all seem to thrive at Casa de Enchanted Seashells. I cook some, freeze some, annoy everyone by putting it in every baked good from brownies to cookies, and I love to eat it raw.

That’s where this started. For a while, I’ve been picking chard and kale while I’m outside gardening, just to enjoy being Mother Earth in action.

For a similarly long time, I’ve noticed that after I eat raw kale and chard and sometimes spinach, my throat starts to burn, not like I ate something spicy, but like I mixed bleach and ammonia and inhaled it (yes, I’ve done that, too, accidentally of course).

After several experiences of this painful throat, I finally did what I should have done the first time, I GOOGLED the symptoms.

Lo and behold, it’s a THING.

Maria Hepler, RDN, CLT: Calcium, which is an essential nutrient for strong bones, can be found in many green leafy vegetables, such as collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, kale, and Swiss chard.

However, oxalic acid, an organic acid found in spinach, chard, and beet greens, and moderately in kale, among other plants, binds with the calcium they supply and reduces its absorption, so in their raw form these should not be considered a good source of calcium.

What are the symptoms that one has eaten too much oxalic acid?  These include burning in the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, weakness, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Spinach contains phytic acid and oxalic acid. It may be better to steam the spinach and not to eat it raw.

For sensitive individuals, even small quantities of oxalic acid  eaten regularly can lead to kidney stones or bladder crystals, along with the problem of calcium depletion. 

Does this mean we shouldn’t add kale or other greens that contain oxalic acid to our smoothies? Not necessarily. Cooking or steaming these vegetables can significantly reduce the amount of oxalic acid present, which will help with calcium absorption (make sure to drain your greens thoroughly as the oxalates go in the water).

If this is a concern, it’s best to precook leafy greens and store them in the freezer (in individual portions) for quick access.

I never used to notice this reaction to acidity in raw greens but now that I know, I will definitely stick to picking lettuce for my garden treats.

Adapting To Circumstances

More craziness from my little Universe, but I’ve learned to adapt.

The repairman will be here in a few minutes. While I’m HOPEFUL he will be able to find a solution and fix the oven immediately, there are no guarantees.

Since I still have working burners (the oven is a separate built-in wall version), I searched around for recipes that could work on a cooktop.

I discovered Skillet Granola, tried it, and LOVE the way it turned out. I used my own recipe with oil and maple syrup and a lot of cinnamon. The extras like raisins and hemp seeds and coconut can be added later, but the actual oats are crispy and delicious. AND I didn’t overheat the entire house, which is something to remember when it really gets summery here. Now my original Angel Boy will have his granola, so I’m a happy mom.

My research also revealed many recipes that can be adapted for a cooktop: brownies, manicotti, even pizza. In the unfortunate event that this repair needs a part that has to be ordered, I am much less stressed now than I was yesterday because I’ll continue to fulfill my very important Grandma job of feeding all the creatures.

Thank goodness the anticipated breakfast burritos and buckwheat pancakes are not in any danger.

*Still no resolution with my WordPress issue, but I’ve accepted that the problem might be bigger than an UN-Happiness or Sadness Engineer can help me with. It’s the Universe sending me a message over and over again. OK OK! I hear you loud and clear. I will set it aside for now as it’s obviously NOT the right time.

**An update on the missing pan…still nowhere to be found. This is a real mystery and I have no clue.

The Ultimate Avocado

Feast your eyes on this beauty!

It’s a Reed avocado, a gigantic variety grown by a very generous friend. I’ve tried to grow avos but don’t seem to have the green thumb it takes to be successful.

It’s more than twice the size of a regular Fuerte avocado; about six inches long and weighs approximately two pounds.

I LOVE avocado in its purest form; split open and scooped out of the shell; beautifully green, rich, smooth, and creamy. Guacamole is my second favorite way to eat avos–what I don’t really care for is the trendy avocado toast, it tastes weird to me.

Did you know that the seed is edible too?

Practically everyone knows how good avocados are for health, but the nutrient contents of the seed itself might just surprise you. The seed contains about 70 percent of the total nutrients in the whole avocado. For its antioxidants and soluble fiber count alone, the avocado seed single-handedly beats any other fruit and vegetable available on the market. To include the seed in your diet also means to benefit from more potassium, copper and vitamins B, C, E and K than if you simply relied on the pulp.

The Avocado Pharmacy

From an even greater health standpoint, the seed is antimicrobial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. Simply because of its profoundly high antioxidant count, it helps to reduce free radical damage inside and out. This has the benefit of reducing cholesterol levels, boosting immunity and protecting the skin from wrinkles or even sun damage.

Preparing The Seed From Scratch

To enjoy the wonderful benefits of the avocado seed, simply crush or grate the seed and blend it into a smoothie. It can also be juiced or turned into tea by steeping it in hot water. If you’re not going to use it right away, it can be dried and stored for later. The avocado seed has a bitterness quite unlike the pulp, but it is nonetheless enjoyable once you get accustomed to it.

Imagine how many people simply trash the seeds after they eat the “good” part of the avocado. This often neglected part of this super food is just one more bonus that adds to the legendary status of the avocado. Learn more at: https://www.avoseedo.com/

Have you ever tried to eat an avocado seed?