In a Bit of a Pickle

After the winds and rain subsided, I checked on my garden and discovered two previously hidden cucumbers.

I remember planting a few seeds of the pickling variety but everyone was all mixed up and I couldn’t tell which was which until I saw these gigantic specimens.

I haven’t completely decided if I’ll eat them fresh and possibly not pickle them, because I didn’t discover any others that were ready.

And this one, too, not quite as deformed.

I’ve had success with pickling vegetables, here’s a post about that:
https://enchantedseashells.com/2015/07/06/easy-peasy-refrigerator-pickles-meatlessmonday/

There was an unexpected sprinkle this morning; not forecasted, but welcome nonetheless.

Happy Monday!

EASY Three-Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

The Angel Kids always request my homemade ice cream when they visit but that usually involves ingredients I personally don’t like to use or eat, although I do it for them.

Feeling sorry for the chunk of body part that was chopped off a couple days ago, I thought that a bowl of chocolate ice cream would make me feel much better.

I didn’t want to go to the store and buy vegan ice cream loaded with all kinds of chemicals and other ingredients that help it replicate dairy ice cream and I’m allergic to coconut which is the mainstay for most vegan ice cream, so I decided to make my own.

I had an unopened container of almond milk from the kids’ recent visit and decided to do a little experimenting.

The result was SO satisfying. It actually tastes very similar to a fudgesicle and that’s not a bad thing.

It’s not super creamy but it’s very chocolate-y and yummy. Substituting one cup of full fat coconut milk for one cup of almond milk or a little corn syrup would provide a much smoother texture but all I really cared about was the chocolate. If I make it again, I will add a couple tablespoons of maple syrup, but this is a quick and easy recipe.

I think this is a great recipe to use for homemade popsicle molds. I didn’t, but you could add mini chocolate chips or berries and that would be yummy, too.

It’s fun to experiment and I’m never sorry if I fail because I’ll try something different next time, but this was a success.

PS If you’re counting, I don’t consider vanilla to be an ingredient!

Grape + Blueberry Jam

All my grapes became ripe at the same time which made an easy decision to embark on a grape jam project.

I found lots of recipes for grape jelly but I wanted to include some of the texture that a whole grape can provide and not merely strain out the skins and pulp for the juice.

Always experimenting, I also had a half full container of 100% pure blueberry juice that I used for the Angel’s smoothies so they wouldn’t be refused because they were a yucky GREEN color. It perfectly masks the kale and spinach, teehee.

Every summer, my mom and I used to make pickles and jams and preserves, enough jewel-colored Mason jars to last until the following spring, but I haven’t done it in a while.

She was way more scientifically precise than I could ever hope to be as I never had her patience, but most of the time my creations taste pretty good.

It’s hot and humid, not the greatest weather to cook pots of boiling grapes, but once I started, I was committed to finishing this project.

I didn’t can them in a proper water bath but filled containers for the refrigerator and freezer.

The most time consuming part was separating every grape from its tiny little stem–thank goodness my grapes were seedless — so I set aside about four cups to use whole, and cooked the rest of the grapes separately to strain. I might have zero patience but I’m clever!

At the last minute I decided to add ginger and cinnamon. Those two ingredients elevated the flavor more than I could have imagined.

I lost the identification tag, so I don’t know exactly what type of grape I have, but they’re seedless and very sweet. This was only half of the grapes I used.

I cooked them in two pots, added the sugar equally along with ginger and cinnamon, and skimmed off the white foam:

Strained the one pot of grapes that weren’t cleaned as diligently…

After that, I combined both pots of grapes, added the blueberry juice and pectin, let it come to a rolling boil for another minute, and the mixture was ready to fill freshly sterilized containers. I wasn’t going to use pectin because I thought there was enough natural pectin, but I had some and it’s vegan, so I added it.

Disaster! I’m sure most people are smarter than me and wouldn’t fill plastic containers with boiling liquid. Life lessons, right? I licked a bit off the counter and it’s DELICIOUS. Don’t you think that container reminds you of Picasso’s melting clocks? I do! Such a mess.

Much better!

I had to hurry and sterilize a lot of glass jars and didn’t have time to scrape off the labels, but they’re clean and bacteria-free. After cooling, it jelled beautifully. I’m very happy with the results!

Here’s the recipe I created.

Happy Valentine’s Day | For Chocolate Lovers | Vegan Lentil Brownies

I’ve had a bit of success with Black Bean & Beet Brownies and Lentil Cookies but I’ve never tried simply Lentil Brownies, so I baked some this morning before it got too hot to have the oven on.

They look good, right? But the real question is how do they taste?

If you’ve ever had Black Bean Brownies, you might have detected a slightly weird beany texture, so I hoped this lentil version would eliminate that.

These brownies are TRULY surprisingly yummy! They’re very moist and chocolate-y. I can’t tell they contain lentils, which IS a wonderful source of protein, so this is also a healthy snack.

Tips:
1. Really cook the lentils until they’re mushy.
2. Refrigerate the pan for at least a couple hours after frosting before cutting and eating.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Healthy Super Bowl Recipe! Easy Veggie Burgers

These veggie burgers would be great for the Super Bowl along with guacamole and a gigantic pitcher of margaritas.

Add vegan mayo and/or ketchup and it’s so delicious, trust me!

I continually experiment with different ingredients to try and provide as much nutrition as possible and still taste good.

This is a complete meal for lunch or dinner or even on the go and it’s super easy because this time I used canned beans. Of course, you can always start with dried beans, but I used what I had on hand.

TIPS:
*Quantities can be adjusted for your specific needs; I like to make a lot so I can freeze some.
*They can be ovenbaked or in a pan on the stove.
*Use whatever veggies you like.
*I like to cook them until they’re crispy and crunchy on the outside for texture and because they hold together better, also because it makes them easier to pack and freeze.
*They’re delicious hot or cold; perfect for a hike or beach day.

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.

‘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!

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.