Friday, May 3, 2019

Simple Spice Cake - Oil Free

I've been involved with theater for the past few years and I had the privilege to portray Mrs. Frank for a production of The Diary of Anne Frank earlier this year. Because of my interest in food, I volunteered to make the food that was part of our onstage scenes. There's a scene for New Year's Day 1944 celebrating with spice cake. Historically The Diary of Anne Frank is one of many stories of Jews hiding during the holocaust, and it takes place in Amsterdam, Holland.

I loved spice cake when I was young and hadn't had any for years until I was looking for a recipe for this play. I hope you enjoy this simple version. It isn't overly sweet and I like it that way.

Spice Cake - Oil Free

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (185 degrees Celsius). Prepare a large loaf pan or a square  (8"x 8") cake pan using parchment paper to line pan.

Mix and set aside:
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed (dark preferred)
1/4 cup water

Mix in separate bowl and whisk to mix (using a small sieve to sift any lumps):
1 1/2 cup whole grain flour (can be whole wheat pastry flour)
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon Chinese five spice OR pumpkin spice

Mix in a separate 2 cup liquid measuring cup the following:
1 cup applesauce (can be part pumpkin puree)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons dark molasses (not blackstrap, unless you prefer it)
ground flax seed & water as directed above - add here to liquids

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients. It should be a fairly stiff batter. Pour and spread into your prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes (less for cupcakes*) or more until toothpick inserted comes out clean. After removing from the oven, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then remove and cool.

You may add a bit of grated carrot, zucchini, etc before baking. If batter seems too moist and not stiff, add some more flour, a little at a time, before you bake. Some people like dried fruit or nuts (I added chopped dates to the one in the photo above).

Note on the spices: I really like to use Chinese five spice for this, as it tends to have star anise flavor and is like taking the cake up a notch from the pumpkin spice most people are used to. I also prefer Chinese five spice that does not include pepper, which might be hard to find, but you can use the pepper versions too. I plan to post my own spice blend recipe for Chinese five spice soon. Most people have a ready made pumpkin spice that can be used, otherwise you can follow my recipe for that here.

Optional sauce topping: I have used a simple strawberry sauce as a topping sometimes. You can make this by pureeing fresh or partly thawed frozen strawberries in a blender with a little water and your choice of sweetener if needed. It is a nice addition. I originally used strawberries because we also ate strawberries in the play in another scene. I never used it this way onstage, but it was a fun thing to have for the cast party! =) You could use another fruit for the same idea. You may frost instead if you like after it cools. I like it plain without any extra anything on top.

*Cupcake tip: You can use canning lid rings (no lid) on a cookie sheet if you don't have a muffin pan. It holds cupcake papers/liners nicely for cake batter. This is what I do, since I don't own a muffin pan. This was how I made spice cake cupcakes for our concession stand for snacks at intermission for the play.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Tiger Nut Milk

We first tried tiger nuts when we lived in Ghana, West Africa. I would say the taste is reminiscent of a cashew, but much more fibrous and yet sweet, like a mild apple sweet. In Africa, we ate them much fresher and just like a nut, popped them into our mouth. I found them at a store from this company and picked them up. I was not disappointed. Since they were dried, I needed to rehydrate them with water. They are not actually nuts, but tubers that grow in the ground. Full of fiber and nutrition, they are also gluten free and safe for those who cannot have dairy.

Tiger Nut Milk

2 cups of dried tiger nuts soaked in a quart jar (or equivalent), filled to the 3 cup mark with water

Soak for about 3 days, draining the water, rinsing, and adding fresh water each day. I soaked mine in the refrigerator. Make sure your water is completely covering the tiger nuts plus about 1 inch, each time.

In a strong blender, blend the rinsed and drained soaked tiger nuts with water and fill up to about the 5 cup mark in blender. Run for about 3 minutes. Use a nut milk bag to filter the fiber-filled pulp from the liquid milk (Obviously, this will remove much of the fiber - If you want to use the fiber in baked goods, by all means go ahead). Use less water for thicker, creamier milk and more water to thin it, whatever you like. This ratio worked well for me as it was creamy, but not too rich.

Taste. You can use as is, or add whatever add-ins you like (sweetener, vanilla, etc.). I don't add anything preferring it's natural sweetness. Use up within about 2 days as it is best fresh and will turn quickly after that. Otherwise, you can try and freeze it in freezer safe containers, but the fresh consistency may not be the same.

Today I used it with my soaked rolled oats for a muesli type breakfast. Other things I added to my rolled oats: sliced fresh banana, sunflower and sesame seeds, chia, flax, bee pollen, goji berries and pumpkin seeds. So good!

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Date with Cacao Nibs & Nut Butter

Sometimes you just need something sweet and creamy and crunchy and chocolatey all at the same time. Enter the date (Medjool pictured), raw cacao nibs, and some peanut butter or almond butter (or cashew butter - oooooh, yum). Really everything you need for a delicious snack. 

Just short and sweet.

You're welcome. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Homemade Matzah & The Feast of Unleavened Bread

We are in the season of the Feast of Unleavened bread. We had a lovely Passover Seder with friends of ours this past Shabbat. So in light of this season, I thought I would share a homemade matzah recipe, no matter how you spell it (matzo, etc).

 Whole Grain Matzah - Unleavened Bread

Move two oven racks to the top and near top positions. You will be baking these in the top 1/2 to 1/3 of your oven. Prepare cookie sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine in a bowl (or in a food processor):

3 cups whole grain flour (I used a combination of spelt, wheat, corn and einkorn flours, and a few whole seeds of millet, flax and sunflower)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix well (if using food processor, use "s" blade or dough blade on pulse setting until combined well). Add flour as needed to get a dough that isn't sticky, but not too dry. Divide into 12 pieces (or for the size above, they were more like 14-16 pieces per batch). Roll out, adding flour as needed, to keep from sticking. You can roll out extra thin for a more cracker-like type of matzah or you can roll a little thicker to get a softer and thicker matzah. After rolling, make sure to pierce with a fork or dough docker to keep the matzah from rising. Bake on prepared sheets for 6 minutes per side, for a total of 12 minutes baking time. (The size of matzah in the photo above is about a larger hamburger bun size that is flat, but not as thin as cracker type.)

Variations: I added basil and sun-dried tomatoes to one batch. My son added honey to another batch. He also added basil and oregano to a batch that we eventually made into small matzah pizzas last evening. I want to try adding some garlic next. You can come up with variations just by adding favorite seasonings or add in finely chopped fruits or vegetables.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Preparing the Seder and Apple Walnut Charoset

This is a mixture on the Passover Seder plate symbolizing the mortar used by Hebrew slaves in Egypt. You may use a mixture of different kinds of apples. I used only Gala apples this year and it was delicious. This is Ashkenazic style charoset (or haroset, depending on how you spell it). 

Apple Walnut Charoset

Combine in a bowl:

3 large apples, cored and chopped
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (black preferred, but English will work)
1/3 cup Concord grape juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
honey or maple syrup, optional - to taste

Cover and chill. This recipe may be prepared using a food processor on the pulse setting to desired consistency. I like mine a little more on the finely chopped side.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Reflections: Where we are in the journey...

Hello everyone! Can you believe it will be 10 years ago that I started this blog - next month, in fact!

I thought it would be good to write about where we are in our journey today. So many things swirling about in my mind as of late. I realize that I am not where I want to be in some things, and yet so much further along than I thought I would be in other things, at the same time. As in life, our choices greatly depend on what's available, our experiences, and more. Many things involve others along the way. I have always believed that if progress is made in a positive direction, it's better off than before. If you can make good big changes quickly, good for you, especially if it involves moving away from something destructive. I will speak up for the baby step idea though, it can't be overlooked as a more permanent option for most.

It might get a little long, so hang on!

While my family and I continue our vegan diet (as originally summarized in my "food philosophy" blog posts, we have changed things here and there. We have gone from using wheat (and other gluten grains) to gluten/wheat free for a few years, and now back again with an emphasis on organic whole grains and doing more of our own baking if we can. As you know, I really love making our own food from scratch. I still favor organic if I can. Local and sustainable food sources are important to me.

While at one time, we used to have daily green smoothies (I still love them!), it's not quite as often anymore. We now also balance our breakfast choices with some organic rolled oats (soaked or cooked) with nuts, seeds, and dried/fresh fruit, or even a breakfast of whole grain toast with some yummy avocados or even coconut butter. Leftovers should not be overlooked either, and we are known for checking out what's in the fridge to eat in the mornings.

We tend to eat out less than we did before, mostly for financial reasons (as of this month, we are debt free!). When we do go out, we try to choose a reasonably healthier version of cuisine to enjoy. Lately, we have been doing added oil free at our house, so eating out can be a challenge, but we also allow ourselves to have the vegan options at restaurants without a lot of requests for no added oil (we try to choose the best options we can without customizing our orders).

Regarding eating foods without added oils: I have found that we are adjusting quite well, in fact. My son, who will be turning twenty soon, embraced it from the get-go. He routinely now makes his stir-frys and sautés with water or broth, and we all still eat just fine. We don't have the greasy feeling in our mouths when having "fried" rice and such. Added oils contribute a lot of calories and not much else. We do routinely still use foods like nuts and nut butters, shredded coconut (what I make our coconut butter from), seeds, avocados, etc.

We prefer eating foods in their whole form, more or less. We have now adapted our diet to be what most people call a whole food, plant based diet.  I have always believed that eating real food, as close to it's original form, is best for everyone! The term vegan has almost become synonymous with no animal products, but vegan processed/junk food is welcome. That is not my philosophy here at Vegan Footprints! You can continue to find wholesome foods and recipes here!

We continue to adopt habits that help us not only save money, but are better for the environment. That means to us, using cloth napkins at mealtimes, cloth handkerchiefs (preferred by my family anyway!), reusable water bottles (stainless steel is our preference - I can't remember the last time I drank or even bought a one-time-use bottle of water),  recycling what we can (which is expanding all the time!), and buying things with less packaging (or none at all). Having said that, recycling isn't everything, and we are trying little by little to do low/zero waste instead. Our trash is considerably less, amounting to about 2-3 small kitchen size trash bags per month. We compost our food waste and recycle what we can otherwise.

When we do buy things, whether it be clothing, school/office supplies, furniture, kitchen misc., etc., we try to find it second hand first. There are so many things that are still useful out there. I look for yard/garage sales, thrift stores, consignment shops, antique places, flea markets, etc. Friends sometimes will offer things they don't need anymore. I tell them if I can't use it, I can donate it for them.

There are so many benefits to not buying disposable products! This goes for just about anything bought that is meant for one single use only. I will add here that we still buy toilet paper, so for those of you wondering, you can breathe a sigh of relief! Ha, ha! Seriously though, just think about bottled water (I have survived without), paper tissues/napkins/towels/plates (you can eliminate), plastic wrap/foil/plastic bags/utensils (I have not bought these for years), and the list goes on. I even have lined up a still-good-to-use antique safety razor. Just today, I realized that along with writing this blog for ten years, I have also used a reusable menstrual cup for even longer!

Cleaning products in my house now consist of an all purpose liquid soap (which we use for hands, body, hair and household cleaning purposes), vinegar, and baking soda, along with all kinds of brushes and rags. Along with a second hand acquired Rainbow vacuum (for a total of only $40, which includes a power head!), a few essential oils, and a feather duster, we can cover just about anything. We can't forget our small brush that cleans out our reusable stainless steel straws! Love those straws for our green smoothies!

For storage containers in our kitchen, we generally use glass or stainless steel. It might be canning jars, in all sorts of sizes, to glass storage which I can bake, freeze or use in my cupboards. I bake mostly using an assortment of stainless steel pans. Using silicone mats for easy cleaning and no added oil baking and roasting. To go shopping, I try to have reusable cloth bags for carrying groceries. Keeping them in the car helps tremendously!

My husband and I will celebrate 25 years married this year. So glad he is the one who has been by my side in our journey together. My children have grown to be taller than me - not a great feat since I am only 5' tall! My daughter is just now reaching that milestone, having passed my shoe size awhile ago! My son has graduated from our homeschool a couple of years ago now and will be moving out soon. My daughter is still in middle school, so we will continue for a good few years yet. I am happy to have found a good homeschool rhythm for us that's been working well for us this year! And it involves much less paper and textbooks than before, so I am happy about that for sure!

I understand the fewer possessions I have, the easier it is to clean, move and generally take care of what we call "our stuff".  My house is less cluttered. And less clutters my mind when I have things in order. And the fewer things I have to put in order, the better. Currently we live in a nice rental, so if and when we do own a home, I know we will have to have a few more things. Currently though, because we do not need to mow a yard, we enjoy the space we gain from not having any kind of mowing equipment whatsoever! With only one garage, which we do use for our car, it can get tight in there! We actually sold our oil changing equipment, in favor of getting our oil changed in our town, where it's done quickly and with a car wash as well!

Recently, my husband and I repainted our antique secretary desk. I held off for so long, because I really love wood, but I am so glad we did it. It really brightens things up and doesn't look nearly as worn. I polished up the metal pulls and realized how nice they really are! This is one of only two pieces of furniture we have owned from even before we were married when someone gifted it to my husband just shortly before we were engaged.

I have found that decluttering as found in Marie Kondo's books, has been a game changer for me. The way she categorizes things in a home has made my life easier and more organized than ever, without all the unnecessary things in the way. I continue to remember things from reading her books that still aid my efforts. And I tell others about it too. I really like helping others to come to a place of satisfaction in their own homes using Kondo's methods.

In the last three years, I have enjoyed being part of the stage again. I haven't acted on stage since my high school and college days, so it is challenging me! About five years ago, my son wanted to be part of the community theater in town, so that's how it started. It wasn't until I saw an advertisement in the local paper for auditions for a favorite musical of mine, that I realized it was something I thought I wanted to do. I didn't want to regret not doing it. So I auditioned, along with my daughter. I got a nice part to come back to the stage! And because of my love for singing, being part of The Sound of Music musical was really an honor (role of Sister Margaretta). Both my son and daughter also were in that production as well. Since then we have participated together in two other plays, Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden (Mrs. Sowerby). Last year, it was an honor to be part of Cheaper by the Dozen, my biggest part yet (Mrs. Gilbreth)!

I am still a music lover and a couple years ago, we chose to acquire a bigger piano. We found it second hand from the first owner (now in her eighties), who has owned it new since she was my daughter's age. I love my antique baby grand! My children also play and we all enjoy the sound. And yes, it does bring me joy. I play to relax and could use even more time on it. Along with some piano books people gifted us, some hymnbooks we have, and a good metronome, we are all set to play for years to come. Our musical collection also includes a recorder, ukulele, a couple of Djembe drums, and guitar in this house. You can never have enough music in the house! As homeschoolers, I feel it has been well worth our time to learn music. For anyone really, it adds so much to life!

The Lord has been good all along the way. He remains faithful. May God bless you and yours today! Shalom!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fire Cider - Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

I waited six weeks to strain my Fire Cider. I guess because I wanted it good and strong!

Before and after...
October 10, 2017 - Day one
November 28, 2017 - Six weeks later

I had another gallon jar to put my strainer bag in so I could transfer it all over.

I squeezed out as much as I could from the strainer bag. The next photo shows the bulk of vegetables I had after six weeks.

And here is the unsweetened amount of liquid I got today below. The straight Fire Cider, to which I added honey to taste. I would've used maple syrup, but I am out at present. Honey is a good soother when dealing with sickness. 

These are quart jars. After I added honey, I netted about 2 ¾ quarts total of Fire Cider. The leftover strained vegetables are in my freezer, because I figure it can give good flavor to other recipes. Today we used some in a dressing to add some zing to a cabbage and zucchini slaw we made for lunch. I can add them straight from the freezer/partially thawed to blended salad dressings, hummus and other sauces and blended soups to add flavor. Nothing goes to waste if I can help it! 

Freezing the vegetables for other uses. 

So that is how things turned out. Now I am officially ready for the cold season that is now upon us. This week ends in December, so none too soon. I hope you stay warm this season. If not, make a little Fire Cider for your own house! Just an ounce or two will do, every day.  Enjoy!