Friday, December 30, 2005

World Tour

Andrew left yesterday for Hong Kong. He's meeting his brother there and then they're heading down to Australia for a poker tournament and some travelling. It's a three-month trip and they've got a blog, but it seems to me like one of those blogs that's really just for your family and friends, like one big inside joke.

So how do I appropriately Christmas-gift a boy who's about to take off to a warmer climate? I'm no slouch - my kitchen's been one of the last stops for many an ex-boyfriend/grrlfriend before they hop on a plane for an international tour (of course in the past they've always been heading off to play in a rock band or do some organic farming, not hitting casinos).
I make travelling food.

World Tour Granola Bars

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1 cup dried fruit (choppped and pitted dates, raisins, dried unsulphured apricots, dried cranberries, unsweetened shredded coconut, etc.)
1/4 cup apple juice, (non-dairy) organic milk or filtered water
2 cups rolled grains (oats, kamut, rye)
1/4 cup hulled millet and/or amaranth
1 cup raw seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, sesame) or chopped nuts
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar (if using brown rice syrup or barley malt, bump it up to 1/3 cup)
1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp. nut or seed butter (non-hydrogenated peanut, almond, tahini)
2 tbsp. oil (unrefined/non-hydrogenated organic coconut oil or olive oil), plus a bit more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup applesauce or 2 organic free-range eggs (if you use eggs, you gotta promise me they're not from a factory farm - I mean it!)

Preheat oven to 350oF.
In a small bowl, soak dried fruit in the juice (or milk or water).
In a large bowl, combine the rolled grains, millet, seeds (I like a combination of a few different kinds), cinnamon and salt. Add the honey, molasses, nut butter and oil, plus the contents of the small bowl (fruit with soaking liquid). Mix just until well combined.
Lightly oil a 8" x 8" baking pan, spread mixture in evenly and bake for 30 minutes, until golden and slightly crispy. Remove from oven, cut into 10 rectangles. Once cool, store in an air-tight container for up to a week.
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-adapted from this recipe by Rebecca Wood
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back on track

Today's the day for the return of knitting content!
It took braving yesterday's day-after-boxing-day-25%-off-everything sale at Romni to do it. (Yes, I know I should have gone the extra distance to my favourite yarn store and yours, but I had about five skeins-worth of credit note at Romni.)
I present to you the class of 2006:
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From left to right: Lamb's Pride, both worsted and bulky, in various colours; Crystal Palace Kid Merino (the poor grrl's version of Rowan Kid Silk Haze at $6.80/ball instead of $23 - but who're we kidding? it's nowhere near as nice); Manos del Uruguay, in both solids and varigates; a Noro Kureyon; Louet brown alpaca roving (ha! it's not for spinning silly, don't you think I've got enough on my plate?, it's for thrums); and finally, some 12" Addis (the day Denise makes 12 inches possible will be a joyful one indeed, but until then, I've got to compromise).
Smooshing them all them all together in one little shot makes it look like not a lot of wool, but you see there's a lot of wool there, right?

Not completely exhausted from post-Christmas sale chaos, I continued east along Queen Street West in search of some winter boots. Last winter I learned that it's not worth waiting for the sales when it comes to winter coat shopping, and this year I'm learning the same holds true for boots - there's nothing out there for my common-lengthed-though-a-little-wider-than-I'd-like foot this late in the season. (Last year I bought these really hot boots that were a little too narrow I guess because they permanently fucked up my feet, not to mention I couldn't keep the salt stains off 'em for anything - and yes, I've tried vinegar and water.)
So I finally returned to the trusty Blundstone store to get a pair of brown boots (this'd be the time to mention that my three-year-old black Blundstones hardly look a day over a year and a half, and although they are not always the hottest grrl footwear option they are arguably the best quality, sensible footwear you'll find for about $150 - not to mention all the midwives are wearing them). And that's where I ran into Amy Singer, who was very friendly, and though she didn't even ask when the next issue of Take Back the Knit was coming out, I blurted out almost immediately that I was having guilt about the long delay in publication.

Inspired by all the new fibre that won't even fit in my fibre chest, and trying to distract myslef from the guilt of a substantially lighter wallet, I started in on a new herringbone scarf for myself.
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Gawd I love this stitch.
So far this season I've been sporting the one I made last March, but the colours weren't really working with my coat (not that anything doesn't go with beige, but as a fellow knitter you understand that my rationalization for knitting a new garment doesn't need to be logical).

This morning Anna, my elementary school friend and Ripe #4 cover grrl, is coming for buckwheat and millet waffles so I better shake a leg!
Friday, December 23, 2005

Rejoicing in the light

Now that solstice has passed, the days are actually getting longer.
This is certainly something to celebrate.
I wrote the following piece for my university student newspaper three years ago, but it's one of my favourite pieces I've written, so I'm posting it here. If you don't have a copy of Ripe #2 you've likely never read it.

Winter Warmth
I had intended a piece about Winter Solstice. I was looking forward to doing some research and reporting back about the origins of Yule festivities and encouraging the addition of more earth-worshiping traditions to folks' typical December celebrations. However, the reading I have done has simply enforced my feelings about winter that have been burrowing a place at the back of my brain since it started to get cold this year.
This is the season for appreciating
darkness and rejoicing in the light.

In this age of production and consumerism, the month of December seems to be filled with the panic of getting papers in and exams done for the end of the semester and then heading home to rush around to find the perfect gifts for loved ones. I have often wondered who came up with this confusing paradigm of chaos before celebration. And the stress doesn't even need to be self-induced. Upon entrance to any mall in the month before Christmas, the blinking lights and shmaltzy music makes my head spin, makes me forget what I even came in for. I feel the need to turn around, go home and hibernate under my plush duvet.

When I stayed with some good friends in Halifax two Decembers ago, they were really into conservation of heat to save money. The thermostat in their apartment was set at 12oC. If the temperature dropped below 12, the heat would come on, but only to bring it back up to 12. We spent a lot of time in bed and mostly in one bed to really maximize heat potential. We played cards in bed. We read in bed. We listened to music in bed. They did their homework in bed. We planned meals in bed and only got out of bed to cook. Food was consumed, of course, in bed. It was wonderfully cozy. This was our modern from of hibernation.

It'd be nice if during the colder months in this climate we could show more respect for the nature of the season. Winter is the time to slow down and keep warm. Of course my little call to action, or less action in this case, may not be practical for everyone. We do what can and participate in the things that interest us. I have a few friends who are getting up with the sun these days and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. That may not be your cup of tea however. There are lots of little things to be done that are seasonally appropriate.
Make a large pot of tea and put a cozy on it so you can enjoy it the rest of the day. Hold the mug of warm liquid between you hands, take in the signs of the season you can see though your window. My favourite witch, Cait Johnson suggests taking some time to sit at twilight:
Be quietly with the dark.
Think of the fertile, nurturing darkness of the womb.
What are you gestating now?
What dreams do you have for the future?
What hope do you bring forth?
Think of the Earth Mother, in labour during this dark season
to birth the Sunchild.

Lighting candles is nice when you really appreciate the warm glow (just make sure they're beeswax or veg wax, as parafin's really dirty). Reminders of the sun, like strings of dried orange rounds and cranberries look really nice hanging in the kitchen. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves are wonderful warming spices that can be incorporated into lots of baking, or throw some into a pot of apple cider and heat it up on the stove. Curl up in a chair and knit something cozy - wear the finished garment with an appreciation of the sheep that gave you its wool. The spiritual aspect of these things may sound a little kooky to you, but I assure you that it all has value. We all deal with or appreciate winter in different ways, but taking a moment to be peaceful and warm is not wasted on the world.
Friday, December 16, 2005

And the rest is gravy

I hope you don't mind that I've still got nothing but food on the brain.
This week I thought I'd offer up some gravy recipes for those of us with more plant-based diets, as it can be a challenge to avoid being left out in the cold for all these holiday family dinners. (And I'll add pictures just as soon as make them again myself.)

The familiar scenario:
As the only vegetarian in your family, you awkwardly take your place at the table with the standard fare before you - holiday-appropriate meat, stuffing, gravy, roasted veg, steamed veg, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, butter. You spoon a few vegetables on your plate and wish for something wholesome and flavourful that will never appear on your aunt's table. Your uncle says "How do you expect to get your protein without meat?" in a harassing-disguised-as-caring tone as he reaches for the plate of dead no-way-it's-free-range bird.
Well this time, you tell 'em you eat beans, and you don't need to be a consumer of animal bodies and their bi-products to sauce up a good winter feast! Get everyone around the table to taste the gorgeous gravy you brought and maybe you'll get some converts.

Creamy Cashew Gravy

This recipe is adapted from one of my first vegan cookbooks - this seventh-day adventist book that Cheendana turned me on to called A Good Cook... Ten Talents by Frank and Rosalie Hurd. You really ought to keep your eyes peeled for it in used book stores - it's quite a cultural experience!

1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, crushed or grated
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup cashews*, ground
1/2 tsp. celery seeds (optional)
1 1/2 cups filtered water
2-3 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in an additional 1/2 cup water
freshly ground pepper to taste

* I prefer to buy raw whole cashews and roast them myself for 5 minutes and then grind 'em.

In a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat, saute the garlic in oil for just a few minutes (don't let it get crispy!). Add the cashews, celery seeds, water and tamari. Turn up the heat. Stir in the starch mixture, and stir constantly until it all comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and grind in some pepper.
Serve over steamed or roasted veggies. Also great on Lentil Loaf or tofu 'cutlets'.

Rosemary Mushroom Gravy

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. portabella, cremini or white mushrooms, chopped (organic preferred)
3 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1-2 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary)
a coupl'a good twists of the ol' pepper mill
1 1/2 cups filtered water
2 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in an additional 1/2 cup water

Heat the oil in a skillet. Stir in the mushrooms, tamari, rosemary and pepper. When mushrooms are tender, add the water and bring to a boil. Slowly stir in cornstarch mixture and cook at a low boil, continuing to stir, until the gravy is clear and thick.

Miso Gravy

I reworked this recipe of Rebecca Wood's in Michelle's Sackville kitchen while dancing around to the Arcade Fire (having just seen them at the Halifax Pop Explosion). It was November-grey out and the perfect thing to serve with baked squash, sauteed mushrooms and some sort of steamed greens.

1 tbsp. miso (get the stuff that you buy from the health food store's cooler - the 'shelf-stable' stuff ain't as nutritious)
1/4 cup filtered water
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium leek (root and green top removed), finely diced*
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 tsp. fresh / 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. flour (light spelt, whole wheat, barley...)
3/4 cup organic soymilk (unsweetened preferred)
1 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
a few good twists of the pepper mill

*Leeks can be sandy - rinse 'em well. If you don't have leeks you can substitute with a small yellow onion.

In a small bowl, mix miso into the water and set aside. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toss in the leek and garlic and saute until leek is lightly browned - about five minutes. Stir in the thyme and flour and stir constantly for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is lightly coloured and creamy rather than grainy. (Turn down the heat if needed to prevent browning.) Whisk in the milk and tamari and stir constantly until mixture thickens - about 3 minutes. Stir in the miso puree and cook for an additional 2 minutes - don't let this boil! Grind in pepper. Serve immediately over vegetables, beans or grains.
Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sweetness and Spice

Okay, so it seems I can't excite you with barley and beets, but how about some tasty sweet treats? (And as I have no knitting to speak of.)

A mid-December Sundae is the time that my mum hosts her annual Cookie Exchange Party. It's been a dozen or so years that she's been throwing this party now, and it's always a key reminder for me that Christmas is fast approaching.
The way the party works is this: everyone brings two tins of cookies - one to eat and one to share. You show up, lay out all your cookies on the table with everyone else's, spend a few hours stuffing your face and mingling amongst a couple dozen middle-aged feminists, and then you load up one of your tins with other people's cookies and head home.
My mum and her partener, David, go all out for the event - Date-filled Rosewater Shortbread (pictured here), Chocolate-dipped Hazelnut Cookies, Mincetarts with Hardsauce, Scones with Whipped Cream and Jam, Mulled Cider...

...but here are the kinds of treats I like to make.

Hairy Ginger Cookies

There's not really hair in these cookies - if there was, they wouldn't be vegan! The use of fresh ginger root instead of the powdered stuff leaves cookies with these little stringy bits. Just make 'em - you'll see.

2 2/3 cups flour (plus possibly a couple more tablespoons)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup fresh grated gingerroot
organic sugar to roll cookies in

Preheat oven to 350oF. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add maple syrup, molasses and oil. Take the grated gingerroot in your hands and squeeze some of juice out into the bowl before tossing in the pulp (this allows for better distribution of gingery flavour). Mix just until all the flour has been absorbed.
Roll dough in to little balls (if they're too sticky add a little more flour) and roll 'em around in a bowl of sugar before placing them on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen smallish cookies.

Variation for ginger snaps or ginger bread people:
Reduce amount of baking soda to 1/2 tsp.
Roll out dough onto a floured surface and use cookie cutters (people) or the rim of a glass (snaps). The cookies will be thinner though, so you'll have to keep a closer watch on then in the oven and reduce baking time by a couple minutes.

Stevia n' Spice Cookies

Like I was gonna go without cookies this holiday! These babies are wheat-, dairy-, egg- and sugar-free - perfect for kids, diabetics, candida-sufferers or anyone who just wants a healthier dessert option. I just worked this recipe out yesterday - lemme know if you experiment with it at all.

2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup rye flour
7 packets of SweetLeaf Stevia Plus*
2-3 tbsp. raw flax, sesame or poppy seeds
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
a few good twists of the black pepper mill
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup vanilla non-dairy milk
optional: the zest** from an organic orange

* Stevia is like a herbal version of asparthame - without the scary side effects or the disgusting taste! Like other sugar-free sweeteners it's often far more concertrated than 'regular' sugar so you wouldn't use it teaspoon for teaspoon. Every brand tastes slightly different - I like the one mentioned above.

** Zesting tip: When grating the orange rind, do it lightly - one grate on an area and then move on. Grate, rotate, grate, rotate. You don't want the white pith in there - it's bitter. My favourite tool for this is a Microplane Rasp.

Preheat oven to 375oF. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, stevia, spices, baking soda and salt.
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Add the oil, milk and orange zest if desired. Mix just until all the flour has been absorbed.
Form dough into a rectangle (about an inch-and-a-bit thick and 4 inches wide)
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and slice width-wise, about 1/4-inch thick.
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Place them on an oiled unrimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
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Chocolate-dipped Clementines

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/4 cup organic (non-dairy) milk and/or filtered water
5 or more clementines, peeled and broken into scliffs (you know you can get organic ones now, hey?)
cinnamon for sprinkling

1. Melt chocolate and milk/water on low-medium heat in a double boiler, stirring pretty regularly (keep a good watch on it and remove from heat once it's smooth and melty - I've burned chocolate on more than one occasion!).

2. Lay out some parchment paper on a cookie tray. Pick up a scliff of clementine and dip the bottom half to two thirds in the chocolate, and lay it gently down on the cookie tray. Repeat until you run out of chocolate and/or fruit.

3. Sprinkle with cinnamon and allow to cool in the fridge for half an hour. Gently peel treats off the parchment and arrage on a pretty plate to serve.
Friday, December 09, 2005

Pink Pearls

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Barley, Fennel, Spinach and Beet Salad with Pine Nuts

Andrew made this salad for us the other night. Not only is it satistfying to eat, but it's wonderfully festive looking. Here's a slight adaptation from a recipe by Rebecca Wood, from her book The Splendid Grain.

1 cup cooked pearl barley
2-3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup finely diced fennel bulb
1/2 cup steamed julienned beets
1 cup schiffonade (thinly sliced) spinach
3 tbsp. lightly toasted pine nuts

If you've just cooked the barley (start with 1/2 barley and 1 1/4 cups filtered water and a pinch of sea salt - you'll have a bit left over), smooth it out in a medium-sized bowl to allow it to cool a bit.
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the barley, add the fennel and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to two hours.
Add the beets, spianch and pine nuts and gently toss. Serve immediately.

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Friday, December 02, 2005


Curried Golden Split Pea Soup

Warming, both visually and in taste, this soup makes a lovely meal - especially at this time of year. What follows is slightly adapted from The Angelica Home Kitchen by Leslie McEachern.

First, make the curry spice mix (you'll have lots left over but that's a good thing because it's really delicious):
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 2-inch long piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 tsp. cardamom pods
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp. ground turmeric
1 tbsp. ground ginger

Put the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and fenugreek seeds in a dry 8-inch skillet.
Over medium heat, toast the spices for about 3 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan all the while. Set aside and allow to cool.

Grind the spices to a fine powder in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Pour into a bowl and mix in the turmeric and ginger.
Store in an airtight container.

Now the soup:
7-8 cups water or vegetable stock*
1 1/2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
1 3-inch piece dried kombu**
2 tbsp. oil (unrefined organic coconut or olive oil)
2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)
3 medium carrots, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb (or celery - about 1 rib)
1 tbsp. homemade curry powder (as explained above)
1/4 tsp. cayenne (if you want some extra heat)
2 tsp. sea salt, or more to taste
fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish

* If you're going to be eating the soup right after you make it, use 7 cups of water. It thickens as it cools, so if you're making it for later on, use 8 cups.
** Kombu's a great sea vegetable that, when added to legumes, makes them more digestible and adds minerals. Find it at your health food store or an Asian market.

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Put the water or stock, peas and kombu in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer gently for about an hour, until the peas have turned to mush.

While the peas are cooking, grab a medium-sized skillet and put on the stove over medium heat. Pour in the oil and add the onions. Then throw in the carrots, fennel (or celery), spices and salt.
skillet of veg
Saute for 5 minutes, and stir to prevent sticking. Lower the heat, cover the skillet and sweat for an additional 12 minutes.
Scrape the contents of the pan into the soup pot. Pour a wee bit of water into the skillet and swoosh it around before pouring that into the pot too (you don't wanna be losing any of those spices).
Simmer for another 8 minutes, adjusting seasonings to taste.

Serve sprinkled with cilantro or parsley.


Andrew with soup

"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

jae's first book!

Get It Ripe cover Have you seen my award-winning whole foods cookbook Get It Ripe: a fresh take on vegan living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008)? Keep your eyes peeled for it!
To join the Facebook group for the book, go here.


about the blog:

about the cookbooks:

While I love hearing from you, and read each and every one of your e-mails, please understand that I just cannot respond to all of them due to the rate at which they're coming in these days!

If you have a question, I might have already answered it here.

in the press

live in person!

come see me:
* Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR, August 26-28, 2011.

...but better yet, check the calendar for details!



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    Microcosm Publishing
    projet Mobilivre/Bookmobile project
    Rabble: news for the rest of us

    inspiring ladies...
    Action Grrrlz
    Ayun Halliday
    Bitch Magazine
    Blood Sisters
    Code Pink
    Evalyn Parry
    Guerrilla Girls
    Hip Mama
    Inga Muscio
    Kristin Sjaarda
    Margaret Cho
    Michelle Tea
    Sarah Merry
    Shameless Magazine
    You Grow Girl: Gardening for the People

    Fellowship for Intentional Communities
    Free Will Astrology
    Ontario Women's Directorate
    Oxfam Canada
    Public Dreams Society(Vancouver)
    The Ruckus Society
    Urban Harvest
    Vipassana Meditation