Sunday, 28 September 2014

Our First Square Foot Garden

So I really can't take credit for our square foot husband made the wooden structure himself and lovely took care of all of the plants from seeds. He did a lot of research on when to plant and how many you can plant in each square. Getting 16 different vegetables in a square foot is pretty amazing.

Hubby planted the seeds with the girls in around May - I think he was a month late in the growing season but we still had new growth in September. Around October everything started to go.

It was so satisfying watching your food grow and know exactly where it came from and it was wonderful to offer your guests a salad that is entirely from your own garden! Love it!

Our girls decorated the outside, which promptly washed off with the first rain fall.

First sprouts of life...

Green abundance with everything going strong! 

Starting to see first flowers and edible leaves.

As you can see I've picked all the lettuce leaves. My spinach was a bit disappointing :(
The watermelon is growing well as are all the other vegetables!

Tomatoes in the sunset :)

Pretty moths courting on the butternut squash flower.

Our first beet harvest!

Delicious lettuce - I loved making salads directly from my garden. Amazing feeling to feel self sufficient!

A little medly of some of the vegetables we harvested...

The sugar snap peas were amazing!

The watermelon, and baby watermelon grew so fast.

The jalapeno plant... 

A rainbow of beets ... 

Butternut pumpkin squash... 

Last few days of growth...

My herb garden...
(Flat leaf parsley, mint, basil & parsley)

 The wildflowers I planted from seeds grew amazingly with little effort...

A little Utah jay bird that came to visit...

  The sun setting on the last of our harvest before the weather starts to get cold. 

Some of the recipes I made with my harvest;

Jalapenos = Jalapeno Poppers
Green Tomatoes - Fried Green Tomatoes
Butternut Squash - Thai Red/Yellow Curry with Pumpkin
Carrots = "Chicken" Pot Pie
Butternut Squash Flowers = Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Beets = Golden Beet Hummus
Lettuce = Green Bean, Tomato & Avocado Salad
Sugar Snap Peas = Chilli Jam Stir Fry
Baby Leeks = Potato Leek Soup
Tomatoes = Simple SalsaBruschetta (one of my favourite things on the planet)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Chilli Cheese Dip

This recipe from Delish Knowledge is so delicious - hubby loved it and he normally hates anything involving nutritional yeast! I couldn't get it as smooth as it looked on the original recipe but it was still yum.

Chilli Cheese Dip


1½ cups cashews, soaked for at least an 1 hour, drained
1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk (I used soy)
2 tsp. chili powder
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup minced onion
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 15 oz. cans, black beans
12 oz. fresh salsa


Drain and rinse the soaked cashews.
Place the cashews, orange bell pepper, milk, chili powder, and nutritional yeast in a high powered blender (I use my Blend-Tec). Puree until thick and creamy, about 3-4 minutes.
In a large saucepan, add the minced onion, taco seasoning, black beans and fresh salsa over medium heat. Stir constantly until heated through, about 7-8 minutes.
Add in the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
Season to taste with salt/pepper if needed.
Garnish as desired and serve.

Vegan Buffalo Wings

This recipe comes from Vegan Dad's "Ultimate Vegan Hot Wings" although obviously I had to make it gluten free. As with all seitan I've ever made, it's quite heavy and bready. Maybe that's just a gluten free thing, I'm not sure, not having ever tried real seitan. Hubby things he can improve on the recipe - he's a bit more adventurous with the experimentation than I watch this space! Ranch Dressing recipe from Chow Vegan.

Vegan Buffalo Wings

Makes about 30

1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp poultry spice
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup GF vital wheat gluten

1/2 cup fine corn flake crumbs
1/2 cup GF flour (I used brown rice)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tsp oil
1 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Sauce (heat these ingredients in a saucepan)
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp ketchup


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sided cookie sheet with foil and lightly oil.
Place mushrooms, onion, and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add oil, spice, salt and blitz. Add gluten and process into a smooth dough. Add water gradually process into a smooth paste (you may not need all the want the mixture to be like dough).

Remove dough from food processor and roll into a cylinder about 14" long.
Slice into 1" pieces and roll them into a smaller cylinders. Slice that in half if they are too long, then flatten slightly.

Mix together ground corn flakes, flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
Combine soy milk and vinegar in a separate bowl.
Toss seitan in 2 tsp of oil. Toss seitan in corn flake mixture.
Dip seitan soy milk mixture, then toss in cornflake mixture again. Place on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 mins, turn over, then bake for another 10 mins.
Coat wings with all but 1/4 cup of the sauce. Bake for 5 mins, then use a spoon to scoop up excess sauce and re-coat the wings. Bake for another 3-5 mins, until bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool 5 mins. Toss in remaining sauce and serve. Serve with vegan ranch dressing.

Vegan Ranch Dressing
Makes a little over 1/3 cup


1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup Vegenaise or other vegan mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion powder
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Chill until ready to use.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Basic Gluten Free Pastry

I changed this recipe from Maggie Beer's Gluten Free Pastry Recipe.

Basic Gluten Free Pastry


1 cup water
2 tspn salt
90g unsalted vegan butter
150g gluten free flour Plus 1/2 cup extra for kneeding
2g xanthan gum
2-3 egg replacers


Preheat oven to 200C/400C\F.
In a heavy based saucepan combine the water, salt and butter.
Bring to a simmer and add the flour and Xanthan gum. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.
Lower temperature and continue to cook until pastry comes away from the sides and is well combined. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Whisk the egg replacer to combine and add half the egg mixture slowly, incorporating fully before adding the final half.
If the mixture is a dough texture when you add in the first half, you may not need to rest of the eggs mixture.
Turn out onto a surface on which you have placed a further ½ cup gluten free flour and knead until shiny.
Try to incorporate as little flour as possible so the pastry does not go crumbly.
Chill pastry then using a rolling pin roll the pastry between two pieces of baking paper greased on both sides. Roll to half a centimetre thick and place in pie tins.

Properties: browns beautifully, has a nice crispness and holds in moisture. Has a nice potato undertone which is very pleasant. Has a great shelf life, up to 5 days in fridge without going mouldy.

Note: You could add 2 teaspoons of powder sugar and make a sweet pastry for fruit pies.

Note: Gluten Free flour: Maggie use a mix of blended potato flour, rice flour, and maize flour. Or you can purchase ready made gluten free flour mix from health food shops or supermarkets.

"Chicken" Pot Pie

I got this recipe from a magazine and changed it gluten free and vegan. I used Beyond Meat Faux Chicken Strips and chopped them finely in a food processor but you could easily use tofu too.

"Chicken" Pot Pie


1 lb faux chicken or tofu
1 cup carrot, sliced
1 cup frozen green peas
1⁄2 cup celery, sliced
1⁄3 cup vegan butter
1⁄3 cup onion, chopped
1⁄3 cup gluten free flour (I used brown rice)
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1⁄4 tsp celery seeds
1 3⁄4 cup vegan chicken or vegetable broth
2⁄3 cup non-dairy milk
2x 9 in unbaked pie crust (I used Maggie Beer's Gluten Free Pastry)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. 
Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. 
Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. 
Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. 
Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. 
Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Going Shampoo Free

Should be called Going Shampoo Free - An Experiment In Patience

So everyone has heard about the "no poo" craze and it all makes sound sense (although personally I hate that term cause it sounds like you're not getting enough fiber). Commercial shampoos are full of harmful chemicals that strip the natural oil from your hair and create the need for us to keep shampooing, not to mention the cost to you and the environment with all those chemicals going down the waterways and plastic bottles being discarded! The list of reasons to go "poo" free goes on...

People always used some form of cleansing of their hair but commercial liquid shampoo wasn't really available before the 1930s and people washed their hair with soap once a month!!! Clearly we've gone down a terrible consumer driven path somewhere if we are shampooing every second day! Anyway as a big advocate of DIY and natural holistic remedies I thought I would give this a go. I had a friend (male) who just stopped washing his hair and said his hair was fabulous after 2 weeks. It looked good to me too, I never would've known!

So full disclosure, about 4 months ago I tried it the way he tried it (just nothing and occasional rinsing with water in the shower) and after 6ish weeks I still had greasy hair and I a little discouraged. I have fairly thick wavy hair so from what I had read and been told I had imagined by week 4 that my hair would have re-calibrated and I would have luscious Brave style hair (apart from not being a redhead) so I did what you're not meant to do, I gave up :(

In fairness most people I've read the comments of give up after a few days or a week but having thick wavy hair I only wash my hair twice a week to begin with.

So I think I know where I went wrong... All the experiences I'm reading about used some form of cleansing, just not shampoo. I used nothing.

I have read that most people have success with the baking soda rinse/apple cider vinegar rinse combo but if you scroll down the comments of these blogs you'll find that many people also did not have success with that combo...even worse, they claim it ruined their hair. Something to do with baking soda not being the same PH as your scalp and ripping your hair apart. Call me vain, but that alone scared me into looking for alternatives.

I found a honey "shampoo"/apple cider vinegar rinse combo that worked for Lauren on Empowered Sustenance,  so I thought I would try that. Obviously switching the honey for agave...having a similar PH level. My friend in Japan, Faith, is also trying it with her own herbal concoction which I will steal from her at some point. Faith also looked into buying the JR Liggett Shampoo Bar but a closer inspection of the ingredients shows it's just natural soap. In fact, almost the exact same ingredients I use in my own homemade soaps...any excuse for a plug ;)

So here it shampoo free adventure...take two!

Started; 14th September, 2014 

Me after my last shampoo. 
Was having an ok hair day...for once!

18th September, 2014

So it's been 4 days...
My hair is slightly greasy and I'm wearing it up a lot at work...mainly buns.
It doesn't smell but I'm paranoid it does. Slight amount of small dandruff flakes showing (and sticking to the grease!!!!) but it's because I developed scalp psoriasis after moving to Utah, USA from Sydney, Australia ...I think a combination of hard water and lack of humidity. Seriously it's so dry here I feel like I've gain 10 years if wrinkles in 1 year :(
Another reason I want to try this and really stick to it this time.
I'm hoping once I move somewhere more humid my skin and hair will renew and moisturize magically like sea monkeys!

20th September, 2014

Today I washed my hair for the first time since I went shampoo free. I used a "Honey" Shampoo and ACV rinse recommended on Empowered Sustenance.

"Honey" Shampoo - 1 Tbls Raw Honey (I used raw agave) mixed at a low temperature with 3 Tbls water.
Once mixed well you can add a few drops of carrot oil which is supposed to be great for hair. I didn't use this as I didn't have any. The add a few drops of essential oil if desired. I used Rosemary Essential oil.
Pour over scalp and massage in before rinsing. Then use ACV.

ACV - 1-2Tbls Apple Cider Vinegar mixed into 1/2-1 cup water.
Dip ends of hair in solution, the pour over scalp and let sit in hair for a minute before rinsing out.

Once my hair dried it felt ok. It still was slightly waxy on top and dry at the bottom (Dryness could be the lasting effects of a recent Ombre job though). My hair feels much less greasy than it did before I washed it so that's nice. Before that I hadn't even got it wet. I have a feeling I'll be wearing it up a lot LOL

Before the "Honey" Shampoo/ACV routine

After the "Honey" Shampoo/ACV routine, dry hair

22nd September 2014

I wore my hair out today and it looked ok, I think. To me it looked a bit waxy at the top but I got a few compliments on it so hopefully no one else saw the grease.

24th September 2014

So it's been 10 days already! Yesterday I wore my hair out again and I think it looked fine but today I wore it in a bun cause I felt like it looked greasy. I went to wash it tonight and when I brushed it out (as is the routine of us wavy/curly haired lassies) I could really see how greasy it was at the top so I tried to brush the oil down a bit. I ordered one of those pine wooden brushes too which is supposed to be the shizzit when it comes to "poo" free hair. So I washed it tonight with the agave shampoo and used a little bit of lime essential oil and rinsed with the ACV. Feels a little bit heavy on top and dry on the ends but then it felt like that last time too so I think it takes a few days before it feels normal again.

26th September 2014

12 days in, still feeling a bit greasy despite washing is 2 days ago so I'm wearing it up for a while - I might try using the baking soda solution next time just to change it up a bit!

28th September 2014

Two weeks! Yesterday my hair was feeling very greasy so instead of washing it I had a relaxing bath with Epsom salts, baking soda and tea tree oil and soaked my head in it.

My hair feels a little less greasy but still a little greasy today. Here's some pics before I soaked it...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Palak "Paneer"

This was one of my favourite Indian dishes before I went vegan, "palak" meaning spinach and "paneer" meaning cheese. Traditionally it's made with homemade Indian cottage cheese squares in a pureed spinach sauce. I got this recipe from the amazing blog Vegan Richa.

Palak "Paneer"
Serves 2-4


Spiced Tofu:
2 teaspoons oil
14 oz firm tofu block, pressed and cubed
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala**
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kala namak (this is also known as Indian Black Salt and really gives that sulfur/salty flavour)
1/2 tsp cayenne(to taste)

Spinach curry:
2 cups packed Spinach, washed, chopped if large
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup almond milk or coconut milk
2 Tablespoons soaked cashews, soaked for 15 minutes in hot water
4 cloves of garlic
an inch cube of ginger, sliced or grated
1 chili pepper or to taste
1 medium tomato chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
1 teaspoon raw sugar or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

In a pan, add oil and heat on medium heat.
Chop up the tofu and add to the oil.
Mix to coat and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add all the spices under Spiced Tofu and mix to coat.
Continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, partially covered on low-medium heat.
Meanwhile, wash the spinach and add it and all the other ingredients under spinach curry except garam masala to the blender. Blend into a smooth puree.
Add the puree to the sizzling tofu. Mix well. Add garam masala to taste.
Cook covered on low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the raw garlic smell is not detectable and desired gravy consistency is achieved. Taste and adjust salt and spice.
Drizzle some cashew cream and Serve hot with Naan, roti or other flat breads, or with quinoa or rice.
Add pepper flakes for added heat. Sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon powder for variation.

**Garam Masala
I have found this hard to find in the USA so you can easily make your own;

1 Tbls ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Zucchini Brownies

A great way to sneak some vegetables into your kid's (or husband's) meals without them suspecting foul play ;)
I got this recipe from My Gluten-Free Kitchen.

Zucchini Brownies


2 cups good all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used this gluten free mix)
¾ tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using a flour blend that has xanthan gum)
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup melted unsalted butter or margarine, or canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Additional ⅓ cup to ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips for topping


Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease a 7"x11" cake dish, I use a piece of baking paper at the bottom as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat sugar, applesauce, butter/margarine/oil, and vanilla extract for 30 seconds.
Add flour mixture and continue beating for about 1 minute, until mixture resembles wet sand.
Add the shredded zucchini, then the cocoa powder, and mix on low until combined.
Stir in the 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Pour brownie batter into pan and smooth down.
Sprinkle extra ⅓-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips over the top of brownie batter.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until brownies are set. This will have a soft center, if you want a harder brownie, leave in for an extra 5-10mins.
Allow to cool slightly and slice with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
Cool on wire rack.
I had them warm with vegan vanilla ice-cream - YUM!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Beet & Ricotta Baked Shells

This is delicious comfort food! You can easy switch out the beets for spinach. YUM!

Beet & Ricotta Baked Shells


GF pasta shells
1 cup vegan mozzarella

2 large beets, peeled and chopped
(8oz) 1/2 cup vegan ricotta
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan
1 Tbls fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp white truffle oil (optional)


Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
Wrap beets in foil and bake for 40 minutes or until soft.
Boil water and cook pasta shells until they are Al Dente, then drain and rinse with cool water.
In a food processor blitz the beets, ricotta, Parmesan, truffle oil, basil, salt & pepper.
Grease a baking tray and pour in 1/2 the marinara sauce.
Spoon the ricotta filling in the shells and place back into the tray, as close together as possible.

Cover with the remaining marinara sauce, cover tray with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
Sprinkle with vegan mozzarella and bake for another 10 minutes.