My name is Kim and I am addicted to biscotti. The Veganomicon recipe is so easy and simple. I made a small switcheroo in the almond anise recipe and it is impossible to stop eating them.  Sealed up tight, packaged with some organic fair trade coffee, they should make a great gift this year.




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cheap, healthy and beautiful

I have mostly passed through my acne phase. I still get the occasional, and I have given up on ‘perfect’ skin until such time as I can pay a dermatologist and a cosmetic surgeon thousands…  so for the most part I really just need something gentle for cleansing and moisturizing my skin every day.  And I have *definitely* passed into the crow’s feet phase. And the forehead wrinkle phase.

For what it is worth, a little disclaimer– product does not help my wrinkles. What helps my wrinkles visibly is a taking a tablespoon of  Udo’s 3-6-9  blend (gag, but it really helps) each day, drinking plenty of water or decaf herb tea, and getting some rest and exercise to de stress.

Okay back to skin care.

I used to love Suave water rinsable cold cream, even in my acne prone younger days.  I think that depending on your skin type, drying out your skin can actually aggravate a tendency to break out, and alcohol-free soothing washes with spot treatment with harsher chemicals are the ticket for me.  But I am not wild about putting petroleum products on my skin.  I love Juice Organics skin products, but they are expensive and they come in extra packaging that just adds to the landfill.  I read that olive oil makes a great eye makeup remover and figured it had to be easier on my eyes and skin than the Beauty Without Cruelty stuff I was using.

I had to overcome some squeamishness but I have started using pure coconut oil like cold cream on my face– splash with water, rub in oil, splash with water, dry– and, straight out of the shower, like lotion on any other dry bits. My skin feels great, the oily feel goes away nearly immediately.  I love it, and no chemicals. When I get anxious about teen-type skin issues, I slap some generic benzoyl peroxide ointment on the trouble spots.

Try it with caution… if you check the internet you read all sorts of miracle claims for coconut oil, but I also read that one blogger had a terrible revisitation of her acne. So take it slow. Now that I have bragged about it I will probably have a blowout worthy of my teens! But so far, all good.

Coconut oil has cleansing properties and only costs 6-10 dollars for a jar that lasts a while.  I want to get a small attractive dish with a lid (like my grandma’s milk glass candy dishes) to put a bit of it in to set by the sink, like my friend Vidya, and then I can leave the rest of the jar in my fridge so it won’t go bad. I think it takes a long time to go bad… but it lasts a long time, too, you only need the teensiest bit for your face each time.

Wishing you soft, pretty skin cheaply, chemical free and in good health.

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Lost Coconut Custard Pie with fresh strawberries

I add ‘with fresh strawberries’ because Veganomicon’s Lost Coconut Custard Pie is not a dessert to be served to the faint of heart without plenty of good fresh unsweetened fruit on top. It is incredibly sweet. My son said something I imagine I will never hear from his mouth again–  ‘I think it is too sweet for me.’

The tartness of the berries made it perfect, absolutely delicious… use organic strawberries because the pesticide commonly used on strawberries especially in California is frightening indeed!

Without the berries the sweetness overwhelmed. It isn’t just the amount of sugar, which is considerable– it is the naturally sweet flavor of coconut milk and unsweetened coconut.

I am not your coconut person. I wanted to make it specifically because my husband loves strawberries. And he liked it. He doesn’t have the sweet tooth that plagues me and the kids– so a dessert he enjoys is something indeed.

I used a ready made shortbread crust (gasp! sacrilege!). Isa has plenty of crust recipes in Veganomicon but I am just too intimidated by crust. I just wanted to try the pie. And it was good. Really good. I know I can make a vegan shortbread crust myself… maybe some day when I have a real kitchen again.

It was easy. Only two ingredients were a little hard to get. I had to mail order agar flakes,  a kind of gelatin made from seaweed instead of from animal bones, supposed to add some kind of nutritional value but I do not know what– ten dollars just to make a pie! But I can use it again.  I used unsweetened coconut flaked very small, not like the huge flakes of Baker’s you find at the grocery store. I found it at Henry’s. The smaller coconut flakes are more appetizing to me. I am just not a coconut person.

And because we are moving out of our teeny weeny apartment in LA tomorrow and checking into another teeny weeny apartment in San Diego Monday… well, we had to use it or throw it away and it wasn’t going to eat itself. Thank goodness for those strawberries!

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As the week winds down: Chick Peas Romesco with Garlic Saffron Rice and Chick Pea Cutlets with Mustard Sauce, plus Pound Cake

The Veganomicon cook book is such a score. Thank you Mom and Dad! It was my Christmas gift year before last and we have eaten so many good meals from it.

I made the soy yogurt pound cake last night, the lemon variation… the recipe is a little temperamental but it turned out YUM, YUM. I am heartbroken that in this land of Good Karma Rice Ice Cream and Mushrooms that Actually Taste Good, I cannot find agar flakes… I am dying, DYING to make up the coconut pie and put strawberries on it. I just know my husband will LOVE IT. Phoo. But I digress.

Supper tonight was Chick Pea Cutlets with Mustard Sauce, and Vidya’s South Indian sauteed Cabbage.

I will sing Vidya’s praises in another post. I want her to write a cook book. Problem is, she does not measure! She just knows. I will follow her around the kitchen one visit, and write it all down. Her cooking is fresh, flavorful, bright veggie heaven, often wrapped in beautiful light rice crepe thingies. But that is another post for another time.

The cabbage and cutlets weren’t particularly suited to each other but I wanted to use up the cabbage before it went bad. I HATE to see produce goes bad, and it happens far too much at my house. And I digressed again! But I hate to give you an incomplete picture of the vegan doins at our house.

Anyhoo… Chick peas Romesco is a brilliant, sassy, tangy little dinner, chick peas simmered in a slightly hot (as in spicy) sauce of tomatoes and roasted  red peppers. Deee Lish, especially served with the Veganomicon Saffron Garlic Rice. Son ate two bowls, husband gave it a thumbs up and ate thirds, little girl ate the chick peas but not the rice or the sauce. She will get there.  At least she got some protein.

I LOVED the Chick Pea Cutlets. In my opinion it was fine dining good but chicken fried steak satisfying.  You could really get your teeth into them, you know? And so flavorful with the Mustard Sauce– dijon mustard, cooking sherry, garlic, thyme, veggie broth, capers, soy sauce MMM!– also from Veganomicon. It was a real delight. And the little ‘un just slopped ketchup on ’em and ate ’em up.

This is another recipe that needs doubled if you are cooking for more than a couple of hungry people. I recommend that you fry, not bake. I baked and it made them dry and crunchy. A good soaking with plenty of olive oil before baking might have helped… also my delightful husband helped me make them and did not realize there was vital wheat gluten in them and so helpfully kneaded them even more than I already had… next time I think I will also cheat and food process the chick peas before I start. Forget mashing, too difficult.  So don’t handle these too much.

I wish you food even close to as good as what I have enjoyed cooking and consuming these these past couple of days. I just bought a sewing machine… it is about to be my husband’s turn as I shift domestic gears. Glad he is a good cook.

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Early week: Cauliflower and Cremini Mushroom Pot Pie with Olive Biscuit Crust

Veganomicon‘s cauliflower pot pie– heavenly! My meat eater husband said this is lovely. It tastes like meat! My son ate seconds. The only one not pleased was my six year old but she is crazy cause it was gooo ood.

Cremini mushrooms are a whole different experience from their pale, tasteless, icky counterpart the usual supermarket mushroom. But the white supermarket mushroom was all I could get in Alabama. I have never even laid eyes on a Cremini before.

I hate cauliflower AND mushrooms, but this was soooo good. The herbed white sauce is the best I have ever tasted and the biscuit topping is lovely too.  Just don’t handle the dough much, makes it tough.

Isa says to cut the biscuit topping into diamonds. Nothin’ doin’. In an expression of my feelings for the family I cook to feed each day and my sublime joy when I cook– hearts, duh!

If you make this for a family of more than two or three hungry people… I suggest you double it.

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banana-uh, allspice bread and fig smushed almond anise cookies

The bread is rising as I speak– no, write. I was having what Kim and I call a banana emergency. I don’t know how I missed the cardamom pods and malt extract in Nicola Graimes’ recipe. I wouldn’t know where to shop for them anyway so substituted agave nectar and  allspice. We will see how that goes. It is not a sweet bread. It has disturbingly little sugar. These darn vegans, never enough sugar or salt. I am hoping it will be good for toasting for breakfast. Is there a bad homemade bread?

The cookies are from Veganomicon, Fig Smushed Almond Anise. My friend Kim Russert makes and decorates borracho cookies at the holidays, with rum-soaked anise seeds. They are a lot like shortbread, deceptively plain, and frankly it is not possible to stop eating them until they are gone.  I attempted them and they just weren’t as good.  So every so often I attempt something with anise in hopes of duplicating the can’t stop eating thing. I had almonds I needed to use… short of simply flying across country to make them with her, this is the best I can do.

I will let you know how it goes.

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This week: Salad, Stuffed Shells, Sweet Potato Pie

My Dad and Dr. Mercola are on a tear about how dangerous it is to eat large amounts of unfermented soy products such as tofu. I agree and tend to cook from whole food and use rice milks and ice creams instead of soy, but sometimes tofu or other soy products are just such a fantastic shortcut you just can’t do without it.

This week, per my meat-eater husband’s request, I made homemade tomato pasta sauce with fresh herbs and poured it over shells filled with Vegan with a Vengeance Tofu-Basil Ricotta. Even my picky kids had seconds. Delish.

The good thing about Tofu-Basil Ricotta (besides being soooo tasty smothered in homemade tomato sauce) is the nutritional yeast. Let’s be honest– the vegan diet can be dangerously short on B12. Long term effects of B12 deficiency can be very scary. Nutritional yeast helps right that imbalance. And it is tasty, tasty, tasty, too.

To go with, I served a salad based on a Nicola Graimes recipe– slivered blanched almonds, golden raisins, oranges. I added a few perfect mint leaves, citrus champagne vinegar, a little sugar, a pinch of sea salt. I sneaked in a huge nutrition punch with Udo’s 3-6-9 Flax, Sesame and Sunflower oil. You couldn’t even taste it, or its odd flavor simply complimented the mixture, one or the other. I served it on spinach leaves– c in the oranges makes the iron in the spinach available to your body– and it was so delicious, like a dessert. The kids even ate it, always the hallmark of vegan food success.

Finally… my stepson loves Pie. Any Pie. He is too big for me to pick up and throw on the bed or throw myself on him and tickle him like I could do when he was small, so I do a lot of communicating through food.

He requested sweet potato pie. I once claimed to make the best sweet potato pie in Alabama and perhaps throughout the southland. It involved eggs, butter, sweetened condensed milk, and resembled butterscotch pie rather than sweet potato. So good!  What to do now that I am vegan? I hadn’t as yet found a good enough substitude.

But Albertson’s had organic yams, and I resolved to be brave and try.

I was dismayed to find that any recipe called for egg replacer or tofu. How could I thicken without those? Egg replacer often has a ‘taste’ and I honestly am trying to get away from the tofu.

So I decided to experiment. I mashed together 1 stick Earth Balance nonhydrogenated vegan margarine, 1 HUGE sweet potato baked in the microwave, a cup of organic sugar more or less, a half teaspoon of allspice, a half teaspoon of salt (go easy on the salt, it is WAY too easy to oversalt!) and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice. I heated this to melt the margarine, and then mixed 1/2 cup of flour with water to make 1 cup to thicken, and continued adding rice milk  (1/2 cup or a bit more, maybe?) and cooking til it was pudding consistency.

You have to cook flour puddings to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid scorching, to get rid of the floury taste. Once it boiled and cooled a bit  I added a full big dessert spoon of bourbon vanilla from Trader Joe’s and poured it into a storebought shortbread crust and chilled. Nutrition + pie – tofu or egg replacer = …

My son had two slices for breakfast. Ahh… he knows the way to my heart.

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