The Goddess Weighs In

Living Large and Healthy

Random Thoughts As I Embark On An Adventure

When my father died I got a little money and thought that maybe a retreat or “fat farm” might be good for me, but when I started pricing them out the cost was unbelievable.  One such place was going to cost in the range of $40K US for approximately 12 weeks, not including airfare, incidentals and the like.  Given that one has access to personal trainers, life coaches, massage therapists and calorie controlled meals I suppose one could make the case that for what you get it’s a fair price, but it’s also a prohibitive price for most of us.  I put the idea of a weight loss vacation out of my mind for a few years and then spurred on by the experience of a fellow blogger, I started thinking that maybe I could have a similar experience if I created my own personal “fat camp”.  I considered the services that I would need like a massage therapist, a life coach, a personal trainer, a pool, a gym and I started to design a two week program that would mimic the programs I had read about. The problem with my plan was that I was going to be spending a lot of time running around to the gym, and back and forth to appointments, plus the more I thought about it I realized two things.  One, being at home meant that I would be tempted to maintain the status quo and two, that two weeks didn’t seem long enough to make sustainable changes.

When I was in Florida this May I was in the pool or the ocean daily, often several times a day, and I paid attention to my portion sizes.  I wasn’t dieting and I certainly wasn’t going without, but I wanted to avoid that overfull feeling that makes me sluggish and uncomfortable. At the end of the two weeks I felt good, my clothes felt a little looser and I realized that Florida was the best place for my personal boot camp.  I had access to the pool, several walking destinations with a trolley service that could bring me home if I got too tired, a few pieces of exercise equipment in the clubhouse and a clean slate in the kitchen since I don’t keep any food in the place when I’m not there.  I decided that a month in Florida would be great, two would be better and that I would design a calendar of activities including swimming, walking and exercise DVD’s, and maybe even finding a local yoga studio to keep me motivated and help me meet some like minded people in the area.  Then I had to figure out to make it happen.  I looked at my finances and figured that it would take me a year to save up two months salary in order to take a leave from work.  I was disappointed that it would take that long and worried that I would lose the momentum that had started in May and then in a flash of genius I remembered that I was in the process of renegotiating my mortgage and that without too much effort I could borrow a little money effectively from myself.  I am naturally risk adverse and my top priority is paying down my mortgage so that I can eventually be completely debt free, but I am investing in a long and healthy future and that is by far the most important investment I can ever make.

The next step was making a solid plan for the two months with small goals and larger goals and a daily check list of activities that increase in intensity or frequency with each week.  My therapist helped me with this and helped me keep my goals challenging, but also manageable.  Each day starts with swimming, followed by walking and then when the sun is highest I will retreat to do some writing.  Then more swimming, some yoga and early to bed. There is time for fun in the schedule, it’s not that rigid, but I do have tasks to accomplish each day.  I’ve also decided that I will actually only stay in Florida for six weeks and that that last two weeks of my leave will be back at home working to increase the activity in my 9-5 life.  This is perhaps the biggest adventure of my adult life, at least so far, and it starts on Tuesday.

– I am cleaning like a madwoman.  It’s always nice to come home to a clean house after a vacation, but I really don’t want to be distracted or stressed by clutter upon my return.  I’ve been working on decluttering for a while, but this last month I’ve really been putting on the push.  My guest room is now empty, save some boxes in the cupboard that I need to go through, I’ve completely rearranged my bedroom and got rid of some shelving that was just taking up room, and in the past month of so I have thrown out nearly 50 bags of garbage, plus recycling and sizable donations to the Goodwill.  I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do than clean my house, but I’m really enjoying and benefiting from the changes.

– I met with my blood pressure specialist a couple of weeks ago and after months of testing and poking and prodding it turns out that the biggest culprit in my high blood pressure is my weight.  It’s not like I didn’t know losing some weight would help, but knowing that it is the main culprit definitely ups the ante and underlines the need for something

– After all my planning the one thing that hadn’t occurred to me was that I might get lonely.  I will be checking out a social site  It sounds like a dating site to me, but I have been assured it’s a place to find like minded people who want to go out and do various activities like hiking, walking, eating out and the like.

– I’m also going to be checking out a site called  It was recommended by a friend and I thought I would see what it has to offer.  Hopefully it is more than just an elaborate calorie counter.

– I’m excited and a little nervous.  Just the way one should be when she starts an adventure!

– the Goddess


Milestones, Timelines And Other Stuff Like That

Today I turn 41. Today “the Goddess” turns 2. Today is the deadline for my 40 Challenges.

My goal for the challenges was to expand my comfort zone, try new things and declutter my life a bit.  I have definitely made great strides in all of those areas, but I have not finished my challenges.  This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to complete them, but I am going to give myself an extension.

I managed to complete 21 challenges.  Some of those contained 40 parts so I’m going to consider this experience as a win so far and it will be a bigger win when I complete the rest of the challenges.  I’ve been sidelined a couple of times by health issues this year and weather played a factor in some of the challenges, and sometimes poor planning and poor time management screwed me up, but I also recognize that I bit off a little more than I could chew on this one.

This is not a whine or a shirking of responsibility, simply another life lesson that I have to learn.  There are 168 hours in a week and after sleeping, working, and the boring stuff there are only so many hours left to track down horses, schedule lessons and cover the city in knit goods.

Case in point in reducing my craft stash I have so far knit 43 hats, a baby afghan, two cowls, and six dish cloths, plus I have the following on needles – two cowls, a dishcloth, three afghans, and two mittens.  I also have five thumb-less mittens, three of them in the same pink because apparently I’m expecting to run into a three handed woman in my travels.  Actually I don’t judge, a three handed man might like the mittens as well.

These are most of the hats including the lovely Sara modelling her new hat.  (The blue balloon is wearing a cowl and the pink balloon is wearing a scarf hat.)

40 hats

If you are thinking of creating your own challenges I strongly recommend it.  This year I have  met new people, tried new food and fitness choices, and pushed my comfort zone much wider than it’s ever been.  I would offer a couple of caveats however.  Challenges with multiple parts can become daunting, on-going challenges like eating fruit are fine, but can’t be checked off your list until the very end, and attempting a skill is likely better than having to master it.  For example I bought a hula hoop, and I decided that the challenge would be complete when I could get it going.  I would have been happy with one solid revolution, but despite my efforts I’m afraid I’m only moderately better than this little darling.

Perhaps an A for effort, but there is very little hula in my hoop as yet and so the challenge remains.

In the meantime I am planning my challenge for my 41st year.  In some ways it is actually bigger than this challenge, but it will be a more personal journey.  I’ll write about it soon, but think 100 days and you’ll get the idea.

– the Goddess


The Goddess Had A Great Day!

If days were songs then I would put a day like yesterday in high rotation on my play list.  I met up with a couple of long time friends and we strolled about, stopped to observe exotic plants, took in local architecture, taught me a little Canadian history, visited a farm, added a fourth to our trio, had a lovely lunch, and performed a minor civic duty before parting ways mid-afternoon.

Not only did I have fun, but I managed to bust three challenges yesterday and one by complete fluke.  I asked my friends Vicki and Fiona to join me on a Toronto stroll and I emphasized the word stroll meaning I wasn’t aiming to break speed or distance records, but I did want to discover a part of Toronto I wasn’t familiar with.  We met at Allen Gardens and toured about while Vicki snapped photos of me for my photo shoot challenge.

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We then walked through Cabbage Town and en route they told me not only that we were close to Riverdale Farm, but that indeed a horse was in residence.  We did have a slight time restraint as we needed to pick up Vicki’s daughter after her dance class nearby, but we had just enough time for me to pet a horse.  His name wasn’t posted, nor was his gender and I must say I didn’t look too closely, but I feel he was a he.  He seemed more interested in his lunch than communing with me, but I was able to sneak in a couple of pats and I managed to pat a sheep for good measure.  The cow was keeping her distance though or I would have had the farm animal hat trick.

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On our way back to feed the meter and pick up Sid the kid we came across a dog who seemed lost.  Vicki and I did the awkward look around thing hoping the owner would appear, but Fiona jumped into action, ran across the street and checked him for tags.  He was well looked after and friendly and then suddenly took off as his owner appeared across the park and we were back on our way.

Lunch was at the Hair of the Dog, a quaint pub with a dog theme and then we headed back to my car on Gerrard. On the way back Fiona spotted an elderly man who had fallen, up ahead and once again she dashed off to see if she could help.  Fiona, Vicki and two good Samaritans, who saw the commotion and ran across the street to help, got the gentleman up, but we assessed that he was unable to walk unaided and I called an ambulance. Soon we were back on our way and the day ended with Vicki and her daughter heading back to Allen Gardens to visit the turtles and me dropping Fiona at St. Lawrence market.  I would have done a little shopping myself as that is a favourite spot, but by then the walk was taking its toll on my back and hips.

I played around with Map My Walk and while it doesn’t account for walking through parks and farms and such all tolled we strolled roughly 5 km.  Today my bum feels like it may well fall off and my hips are sore, but I have fond memories of a wonderful day.  I got to spend time with friends, bust three challenges and I proved to myself that I could do the walk.  I sometimes get caught in a spiral where I doubt that I can do something and so I don’t even try, instead of pushing myself a bit and proving myself wrong.  I’m glad I found the courage to push myself yesterday.

As we walked we discussed other places in Toronto that we might like to explore and I think that a stroll of Little India might make for a nice adventure this summer.

– the Goddess


Going For Thai

Challenge 20 was to go for a Thai Massage.  I learned about this form of massage a few years ago and from what I could tell it involved a practitioner guiding one through a series of yoga like movements.  I wanted to try it because as a big girl it would mean that someone could help me push a stretch that little bit further, but as a big girl I was also intimidated because I worried that I might be “too much” for a practitioner to handle.

I looked around on line for a place close to home, but I wasn’t having a lot of luck and then a few weeks ago I was deleting old emails and I checked out my spam folder and there was a message from FitZone Plus offering special introductory rates for Thai Massage.  It was kismet.  FitZone Plus is size inclusive so if they were offering it they must be prepared for someone like me, I like to support FitZone Plus because I like what they offer and there was a discounted price which made my frugal heart very happy.

There were only a couple of spots available and the email was a few days old so I immediately emailed to see if there was any chance I could nab one of the spots and I did.

There was a slight hiccough to the plan when the therapist cancelled the night before and they had to scramble to find a replacement.  While FitZone Plus was able to find another therapist they weren’t able to honour the discounted price, but they were apologetic and did offer that I could cancel or reschedule which I appreciated.  In for penny, in for a pound I opted to keep the appointment and I wasn’t disappointed.

The therapist was a slight woman named Nora and after filling out a health form we got started.  She explained that Thai massage has been around for thousands of years and it is based on meridians.  Originally it was done in pairs and each partner was trained in Thai massage.  Now obviously the practice has been modified so that non practitioners can receive the benefits. Nora told me that a full Thai massage would take nearly two and half hours and that even she, a former gymnast, would have trouble with a few of the poses due to her back issues.  My experience with Yoga has taught me to only go as far as I can and with that in mind Nora worked me through a variety of gentle stretches and poses.  For the most part I was sitting on the floor supported with a bolster under my hips as she worked my most troublesome areas the hips and lower back.  She explained what she was doing and we chatted and I allowed myself to relax and take it all in.  At one point she was talking and although she was digging into my hips which her knuckles it seemed her voice was a little further away and very clear for someone who was obviously in an awkward position.  I turned and realized that what I thought had been knuckles was actually her feet.  I had forgotten that Thai massage practitioners use their whole bodies to manipulate and massage.

My 60 minutes was over too soon and given my back and hip issues Nora suggested that if I did wish to do it again that a 90 minute session might be better.  Sadly as many Thai massage practitioners are not Registered Massage Therapists and therefore not covered by my health insurance I’m afraid that it will have to be a treat as opposed to a regular activity for me, but I enjoyed the experience and I hope I can create some room in my budget for another session soon.

– the Goddess

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The Goddess Belts Out The Tunes

Last night I took a couple of friends with me and we sang our hearts out at a Karaoke place uptown fulfilling Challenge 11.

When I put karaoke on my list I assumed that one had to get up in front of a bar full of people and sing like one sees in the movies, but when I started asking friends to recommend a place to go their first question was whether I wanted a bar setting or private rooms.  My friends and I opted for a venue with private rooms and singing in front of them was enough of a challenge, but they were very forgiving and we all had a blast.

We went to a place called Twister Karaoke near Yonge and Finch in Toronto and while it was recommended I’m not sure I would return to that particular establishment.  My one friend and I had the distinct feeling that karaoke was the legitimate front business for something untoward. It was only a feeling, and the people were nice, but I think next time I’ll choose another spot.

My one recommendation for karaoke is to have some songs in mind before you go.  We spent a lot of time going through the menu and at times I was disappointed that they didn’t have songs that I knew or a few songs turned out to be much harder to sing than we would have thought when we choose them.  Regardless we had fun and there are already plans to go again.

I didn’t get any pictures while we were singing since it was too dark, but here is a snap from dinner of me trying out my friend Sara’s new ear bling.

Cynthia with ear bling

– the Goddess


Vegan Recipes I’ve Learned (36-40)

Woot!  These are the last vegan recipes I’ve tried and this challenge is done!  I’ve learned some new recipes and some new spice combinations, but the nice thing is that most of these recipes weren’t so different from things I already enjoy to eat so incorporating vegan dishes into my life really hasn’t been that great a challenge.  As I’ve said before I’m just not ready to go completely vegan and vegetarianism isn’t a healthier choice since I found I was eating a lot more bread and cheese, but incorporating new foods and options into my diet and reducing the amount of animal fat and animal protein in my diet feels like a step in the right direction that I can maintain.

36. Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites (Source)

Yield: 15 small bites

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 120 grams pitted Medjool (not honey) dates (about 8 )
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cherries (I accidentally bought unsweetened, so I added some brown sugar to taste)
  • 3 tbsp dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raw pecans
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste

1. In a food processor, process the almonds until finely chopped. It’s ok if some bigger pieces remain. Just be sure not to pulverize it into a flour as you want some texture.

2. Remove 1/3 cup of the processed almonds and set aside for the final step.

3. Now, add the pitted dates in (along with the almonds already in the processor) and process until finely chopped and sticky. A dough will start to form. Add cherries and process again until combined. The mixture will likely form into a large ball. If this happens, break it up with a spoon and process more if necessary.

4. Add in the chocolate chips and pecans and process until they are just chopped. Add salt to taste. Pulse in the reserved 1/3 cup almonds for texture. Roll into small balls. Place in a container or baggie and store in the fridge or freezer.

37. Strawberry Lime Granita (Source)

  • 1 pound/450 grams fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 5-6 tbsp fresh lime juice, to taste
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup water

1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until smooth. Adjust agave or lime juice to taste.

2. Pour mixture into a 9-inch square pan (or equivalent non-stick pan) and place into freezer for a couple hours. Once an hour, scrape the mixture with a fork to break it up a little. The whole process takes about 4-5 hours of freezing, but this may vary based on your freezer.

3. When it’s firm enough, scrape/shave it with a fork or spoon and serve in a parfait glass. Cover and freeze leftovers in the freezer until ready to enjoy.

I made a lemon granita before that was good, but pretty tart.  This was just the right mix or sweet and sour.

38. Holiday Cocktail (Source)

  • 1 ounce vodka (about 2 tablespoons)
  • handful fresh cranberries (or thaw frozen)
  • 2-3 lime slices
  • ice
  • 1/4 cup 100% pure unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Agave nectar or other liquid sweetener, to taste (I use 1/2 teaspoon agave)
  1. Add the vodka into a 16-ounce tall glass. Add a handful of cranberries and a couple lime slices. Add the ice on top.
  2. Pour in the cranberry juice followed by the club soda.
  3. Add a squeeze of lime juice (if desired) and agave to taste. Stir to combine.

I left out the booze and the handful of cranberries and this was pretty good.  Next time I might do it with gingerale for a little more zip.

 39. “Husband’s Healing Stew” (Source)

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small sweet onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground corriander
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper and 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups organic vegetable broth (not low sodium), or more as needed
  • 1, 28-oz can diced organic tomatoes (no added salt)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked raw buckwheat groats, rinsed (or grain of choice)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked pearled barley, rinsed (or grain of choice)
  • 1/2 cup frozen Edamame (or bean of choice)
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 5-10 shakes red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt + Black pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot over low heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the chopped sweet onion, green onion, and minced garlic. Heat over low until translucent, about 5-8 minutes.

2. Stir in coriander, cinnamon, and two bay leaves and heat an additional two minutes. Add in the chopped vegetables (zucchini, peppers, carrots) and cook for about 5 more minutes.

3. Stir in the diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, rinsed buckwheat and pearled barley (or grains of choice). Simmer on low-medium heat  for 20 minutes.. Add a bit more broth or water if necessary and reduce heat when needed.

4. After 20 minutes, add in the lemon juice and additional seasonings- all to taste (minced parsley, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper).

40. Oatmeal Squares (Source)

  • 2.5 cups regular rolled oats (not instant oats), divided
  • 3 tbsp chia seed
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5 cups almond milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 2 tbsp nut or seed butter
  • 1 banana, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • Dry sweetener, to taste if you want them a bit sweeter 

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8 inch square pan with two pieces of parchment paper.

2. In a blender or food processor, blend/process 1 cup of the oats until a flour forms. Or you can just use 1 cup of oat flour.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: oat flour, 1.5 cups rolled oats, chia, flax, baking powder, salt, cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: milk, syrup, nut/seed butter, banana, vanilla until no clumps remain. Add wet to dry and stir until combined. Add dry sweetener to taste if desired. Fold in any nuts or dried fruit that you desire.

4. Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth out. Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly golden along edge and it springs back slowly when touched. I baked them for 40 minutes, but baking time may vary. Place pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes, carefully remove, and cool on rack before slicing.

– the Goddess

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Vegan Recipes I’ve Learned (31-35)

31. Peanut Stew (Source)

  • 1 large potato
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1/2 C crunchy, natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • Rice or rice noodles for serving

1. Chop the potato, microwave until soft, approximately 4 minutes on high (actually I boiled it on the stove)

2. Put 1 Tbsp oil in a large pot or Dutch oven.  Chop the onion and saute on medium/high heat.  Add the potato, the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 C crunchy peanut butter, half can of garbanzo beans, and thyme.

3. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes on low. Serve over rice or rice noodles.

I added some hot sauce to give this a bit of bite and next time I might add a little coconut milk to make it a little creamier.

32. Granola Nut Clusters (Source)

  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup raw pecan halves
  • 3 tbsp brown rice syrup (I used corn syrup)
  • 6 tbsp gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2-3 tbsp Sucanat sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • Heaping 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Scant 1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 275F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place walnuts and pecans into a large mixing bowl. Pour on brown rice syrup and stir very well until combined for about 60 seconds. The aim is to completely cover them in syrup.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oats, coconut, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour it onto the nuts and mix until combined. Some of the oat mixture will not adhere to the nuts and this is ok.

4. Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet including any oats that didn’t stick. Spread into a single layer. Garnish with fresh ground nutmeg. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan, and bake for another 10-13 minutes allow to cool on the pan.

5. Once cool, break apart clumps and store in glass jars or Tupperware containers.

33. Broccoli “Cheese” Soup (Source)

  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4-4.5 cups chopped broccoli florets (2 heads, stems removed)
  • 1.5 cups peeled & chopped potatoes (about 3)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)
  • Low-fat vegan cheeze sauce, divided (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
  • herbamare & onion powder, to taste
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley, plus more to garnish
  • Vegan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  • Smoked Paprika, to garnish (optional)

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil, onion, and garlic over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Cook for about 5-6 mins.

2. Add in the celery, broccoli, and potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Now, add the broth, nutritional yeast, and cayenne pepper and simmer for another 15 mins or so until the potatoes are just fork tender.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the cheeze sauce (see below) while the soup simmers.

4. Carefully transfer the soup (in two batches) into a blender. Blend until almost smooth (I left it a bit chunky, but you can blend as much as you wish) and place back into the pot. Stir in the cheeze sauce, reserving 1/3 cup for later.

5. Stir in optional lemon juice, salt, pepper, and optional herbamare all to taste. Finally, stir in the minced parsley and ladle into bowls.

Oh this was just too fussy for me.  Too many bits and pieces and things to watch.  I make beaded Christmas balls that take approximately 8 hours a piece, but I found this recipe more annoying.  It was tasty enough, but being that I am not opposed to eating cheese, I doubt I will make this again.

34. Low-Fat Vegan Cheeze Sauce (Source see above)

  • 1.5 cup unsweetened, unflavoured almond milk
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance or other non-dairy buttery spread
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Melt the Earth Balance over medium heat.

2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/4 cup milk until all clumps are gone.

3. Whisk in the remaining milk (1.25 cups) as well as the milk and flour mixture into the pot. Whisk in the nutritional yeast. Reduce heat to low-medium.

4. Add Dijon, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste and whisk frequently over low heat until the sauce thickens, for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat once thick.

35. Holiday Soup For The Soul (Source)

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (not low sodium)
  • 6 cups water, boiled
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1.5-2 cups cooked black beans (about one 15oz can)
  • 1 tsp  curry powder
  • Pinch  of cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the chopped sweet onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the chopped carrots, chopped zucchini, and minced garlic, and continue to sauté for 5-7 minutes.
  2. Place the bouillon cube into a medium sized bowl. Boil 6 cups of water and pour over the bouillon cube. Stir well to dissolve. Add bouillon mixture, tomatoes, red quinoa, black beans, spices and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. (I used a packet of boullion and just tossed it in with the water and everything else and nothing bad happened.)
  3. Add the roughly chopped spinach, stir well, and cover. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
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Vegan Recipes I’ve Learned (26-30)

With the weather outside being frightful it’s time for some hearty comfort foods, vegan style.

26. Vegan Chili 

I often make this to use up vegetables in my crisper so each time it’s a little different, but this is a good place to start.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin, or to taste
  • 3 tbsp chili powder, or to taste
  • pinch salt, or to taste
  • pinch cayenne (the last chili powder I bought at a Jamaican grocer and it had quite a kick, so again this is to taste)
  • 1 can each: black beans, kidney beans, chick peas
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice or 1 large can of tomato juice
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Tbsp tomato paste if it needs thickening

1. In a large pot, add the oil and heat over medium.

2. Add onions first and when they start to go transparent, add in the carrots.

3. When the carrots start to soften add in the garlic and peppers.

4. Cook until everything is soft.  Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook for about 30-40 minutes on low to medium heat.

For more texture you can add textured vegetable protein (TVP) or I like to add some peeled and cubed eggplant.  They will cook down to almost nothing so picky eaters don’t usually notice, but the seeds give a bulky texture similar to ground beef, though softer.  When I make this with meat I often use half extra lean ground beef and half eggplant and most people don’t realize the eggplant is in there.

27. Ribollita (Source)

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 400 ml can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound kale, stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
  • 4 cups  cooked white beans
  • 1/2 pound crustless loaf of bread
  • 1 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • lots of well-chopped oily black olives

1. In a large pot over medium heat combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and onion. Cook for 10 -15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid browning.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up. Stir in the kale, 3 cups of the beans, and 8 cups of water.

3. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.

4. In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a  splash of water – until smooth. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Stir both the beans and bread into the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 – 30 minutes.

5. Stir in the salt and the lemon zest.

6. Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate overnight. Finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped olives.

28. Crock Pot Apple Sauce (Source)

  • 8 to 10 apples, peeled, cored, and cut in chunks
  • 1/3 cup apple juice or water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.
3. Stir to blend and mash lightly, if desired.
This does not look like the jars of apple sauce from the grocery store.  Despite the amount of sugar it’s a little more tart than I expected, but I quite like the taste and the texture.  I doubled the recipe because I have quite a large crock pot, but I didn’t need to double the water.  I think next time I will put in half a cup instead of two thirds for a double batch.  When it was hot it seemed like the perfect pairing for ice cream, sadly I only had heavenly hash and it really needed a good vanilla ice cream. My picture does not do it justice.

29. Endurance Crackers (Source)

  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepita seeds (or pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp grated sweet onion
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • Herbamare, to taste (optional)
  • Kelp granules, to taste (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix the seeds together.

3. In a small bowl, mix the water, grated garlic, and grated onion. Whisk well.

4. Pour the water mixture onto the seeds and stir until thick and combined.

5. Season with salt, and optional Herbamare and Kelp granules, to taste. Add spices or fresh herbs if you wish.

6. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet with the back of a spoon until it’s less than 1/4 inch thick.

4. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, slice into crackers, carefully flip with a spatula. Bake for another 30 minutes, watching closely after about 25 minutes. The bottoms will be lightly golden in colour. Allow to cool completely on the pan. Store in a container or plastic baggy.

I was skeptical about these and they seemed a little fussy, but they were actually really easy to make and despite being a little on the salty side (I’ve never used Herbamare before and didn’t realize it was basically salt) they are pretty good.  I may experiment with a sweet version of these, but I do really like them savoury.  They remind of of sesame sticks.


30. Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto (Source)

  • 1 cup dry pot barley
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp Miso, mixed with 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp  salt, to taste

1. Rinse pot barley  and place into medium sized pot with a lid. Add olive oil, basil, and oregano and stir well until barley is coated with oil. Turn heat to medium until barley begins to sizzle.

2. Add in the garlic and reduce heat to low-medium. Cook for 1 minute and then add  the tomatoes, milk, water, nutritional yeast, miso, and salt. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil and then cover and reduce heat to low.

3. Cook, lightly covered for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, being careful not to burn the barley on the bottom of the pot.

4. The mixture should be creamy, but not soupy, and the barley will be very chewy. Serve immediately.

This stuff is dense.  I added a cup more water when it was “done” and let it cook another 20 minutes to absorb the extra water and the barley was much less chewy and a lot more palatable.  Next time I will add a lot of veggies to this to lighten it up because after eating a hearty bowl it felt like lead in my tummy.

– the Goddess

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Vegan Recipes I’ve Learned (21-25) Indian Style

I’m cooking along on this challenge (pun intended).  I bought an Indian cookbook years ago called What’s Cooking Indian by Shehzad Husain and it remains one of my favourite cookbooks.  It is not vegetarian or vegan in fact one recipe is called Tomatoes Cooked with Meat & Yogurt which always strikes me as funny because of the emphasis, but it’s a clear cookbook with pictures of each recipe, plus pictures of how things should look at different stages in the preparation which I really appreciate.  Below are five recipes I’ve not only tried, but which have become staples in my home over the last ten years.

21. Vegetable Curry (taken from What’s Cooking Indian, page 104)

  • 8 oz turnips or rutabaga, peeled
  • I eggplant
  • 12 oz new potatoes
  • 8 oz cauliflower
  • 8 oz button mushrooms
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 oz carrots, peeled
  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-2inch piece of fresh ginger root, chopped finely
  • 1 or 2 green chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 Tbsp mild or medium curry powder or paste
  • 1 3/4 C vegetable stock
  • 1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 C coconut milk
  • 2-3 Tbsp ground almonds
  • salt
  • fresh cilantro sprigs to garnish
  1. Cut the turnips or rutabaga, eggplant, and potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.  Divide the cauliflower into small florets.  Leave the mushrooms whole or slice thickly.  Slice the onion and carrots.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, turnip or rutabaga, potato, cauliflower, and carrots and cook gently for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic, ginger, chilies, paprika, ground coriander and curry powder or paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  3. Add the stock, tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms and season with salt.  Cover and simmer for approx. 30 minutes or until tender stirring occasionally.  Add the green pepper, cover, and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
  4. Smoothly blend the cornstarch with the coconut milk and stir into the mixture.  Add the ground almonds and simmer for two minutes, stirring all the time.  Season with salt, if necessary.  Transfer to warm plates and serve hot, garnished with cilantro.

I now make this from memory, but I also play with the ingredients.  I tend to leave out the mushrooms and I tend to omit the coconut milk, cornstarch and ground almonds and it’s still a good curry, just not as rich or creamy.  I also add whatever veggies I have on hand, and use the tomatoes and eggplant as the base.

22. Potatoes with Spices & Onions (taken from What’s Cooking Indian, page 108)

  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 2 medium size onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger root, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 14 ounce can new potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Baghaar
    • 3 Tbsp oil
    • 3 dried red chilies
    • 1/2 tsp onion seeds
    • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
    • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and saute until golden brown.  Reduce the heat, add the ginger, garlic, chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, and salt and stir-fry for about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  2. Drain the water from the potatoes.  Add the potatoes to the onion and spice mixture.  Sprinkle the lemon juice into the pan and mix well.
  3. To make the Baghaar, heat the oil in a separate pan. Add the red chilies, onion seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds and fry until the seeds turn a shade darker.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour the baghaar over the potatoes.

I’m not a huge fan of canned anything, especially potatoes, but these are delicious.  I have also used the sliced canned potatoes and they turned out quite well.

23. Chick Pea Curry (also called Garbanzo Bean Curry) (taken from What’s Cooking Indian, page 124)

  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 fresh green chilies
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 large potato
  • 14 ounce can chick peas, drained
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and saute until golden brown.
  3. Reduce the heat, add the ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic, chili powder, fresh green chilies and cilantro leaves to the pan and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the water to the mixture in the pan and stir well to mix.
  5. Cut the potato into small cubes.  Add the potatoes and the drained chick peas to the mixture in the pan, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the curry.

24. Spiced Rice & Lentils (taken from What’s Cooking Indian, page 154)

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 3/4 cup masoor dhal (red lentils)
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Combine the rice and dhal and rinse twice, looking for any stones.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and saute for approx. 2 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat, add the ginger, garlic, and turmeric and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  4. Add the rice and dhal to the mixture in the pan and blend together, mixing gently.
  5. Add the water to the mixture in the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Just before serving, add the salt and mix to combine.

25. Spicy Corn  (taken from What’s Cooking Indian, page 154)

  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 fresh green chilies
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp butter (substitute with vegan margarine)
  • 4 dried red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  1. Thaw corn.
  2. Place the cumin, garlic, coriander, salt,  1 green chili and onion in a mortar and pestle or a food processor and make a smooth paste.
  3. Heat the margarine in a large, heavy-based skillet.  Add the onion and spice mixture and fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally for approx 5 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed red chilies to the skillet and stir to mix.  Add the corn to the skillet and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
  5. Chop and add the remaining green chili, the lemon juice, and a few fresh cilantro leaves to the skillet, stirring occasionally to combine thoroughly.


What’s Cooking Indian, Shehzad Husain, Whitecap Books 1998


Vegan Recipes I’ve Learned (16-20)

My friend Sara has a “sour tooth”.  The first time I met her she ordered a pasta dish and then after a few bites she asked the server for vinegar.  She said she knew we would think she was odd, but that she liked things sour.  I actually didn’t find it all that strange since days before that I had contacted my friend Sean in desperation as my bean soup was flat and he suggested adding a bay leaf, but more importantly a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to give the soup a bit more punch.  I took his advice and made quite possibly the best soup I’ve ever made so when she asked for some vinegar I knew what she was up to.  What I never expected though was the extent of her craving for sour.  Since our first meeting I have watched her add countless lemon slices to her water, float her french fries in vinegar and suck on lemons.  Recently I found a recipe for salt and vinegar potatoes (see below) and I immediately sent her the link because I knew she would like them.  We were both surprised that the potato slices are boiled right in the vinegar, but it is a perfect way to capitalize on maximum pucker.  As I continued to search for recipes I found one for a lemon granita and then an idea was born.  I would make a meal for Sara that was sourlicious.

The main course was a meat loaf as Sara is not a vegetarian or a vegan, but everything else was vegan and I slipped lots of veggies in the meatloaf when no one was looking.  We had the salt and vinegar potatoes, an arugula and baby spinach salad with a simple vinaigrette, pickled vegetables (from a jar),  a tangy barbecue sauce and to finish it off the  lemon granita.  All washed down with virgin margaritas.

The margaritas were simple to make and tasty, my favourite kind of recipe.  I made the simple syrup ahead of time and we added more lemon juice to sour it up a bit, but I will definitely make this recipe again, possibly as a party punch. The granita took the longest to make, but actually it was a pretty simple recipe and I made the initial syrup ahead of time so it only took about three hours to make while Sara and I chatted and cooked.  The result was lemon snow.  It was a little too sour for my taste, and I think next time I might add strawberry juice or a bit more sugar, but it was a really nice, light dessert.  Better suited to a hot summer’s day than a chilly evening in November, but still very tasty.  I can imagine serving it as an elegant finish to a dinner on the patio.

The only wrinkle to our meal was the Salt and Vinegar potatoes.  They were simply too sour.  The recipe suggested white wine vinegar, but we used regular white vinegar instead.  It was given as an alternative and this recipe was developed from one that called for white vinegar so it seemed a safe change.  Next time I think I would still use white vinegar, but I would dilute it by half.  The potatoes were edible, but just.  Even Sara’s sour tooth was overwhelmed.  Otherwise the meal was pretty good, and I loved the barbecue sauce, it was a bit of a witch’s brew of ingredients, but you just heat them up and you’re done.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

16. Virgin Margarita (recipe)

  • 2 ozs simple syrup (see below)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ice
  • 1 wedge lime (garnish)

1. Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously (you can add 1oz of tequila for a bit of kick).
2. Pour into a glass.
3. If serving frozen, combine the ingredients in a blender with 3/4 cup ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass.
4. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Simple Syrup (recipe)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  1. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  2. Let cool completely, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

17. Tangy Barbecue Sauce (recipe)   

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Discard bay leaf.

18. Greens with Vinaigrette (recipe)

Basic Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

Italian Vinaigrette

  • basic vinaigrette (use EVOO and red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Mustard Dressing

  • Italian vinaigrette
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 -3 teaspoon honey (optional) or 1 -3 teaspoon another sweetener, to taste (optional)

Lemon Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  1. Let stand 10 minutes to rehydrate dried herbs and/or blend flavors.
  2. Shake again then dress salad as desired.

19. Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potatoes (recipe)  

  • 2 cups white wine vinegar (next time I will try 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water)
  • 1 pound  waxy potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. Pour the vinegar into a medium saucepan, then stack (or arrange) the potatoes so the vinegar covers them completely.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are just fork tender. You want them to hold their shape, so they don’t fall apart on the grill later.
  3. Let the potatoes cool in the vinegar for 30 minutes. Drain well, then very gently toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Heat the grill to medium high. Grill potatoes, covered if possible, until golden on one side, then flip and grill the other side – roughly 3 – 5 minutes per side. Serve sprinkled with salt to taste.

20. Lemon Granita (recipe)

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of about 6 medium lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemons, rind of (about the peel from 1 medium lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

1. Combine 2 cups of the water with the sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Add the salt, stir, and remove the pan from the heat.
4. Stir in the remaining water and let cool to room temperature.
5. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
6. Meanwhile, place a shallow metal 2 1/2 qt container (such as a large cake pan) in the freezer to chill.
7. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, and extract to the chilled sugar mixture; stir until well blended.
8. Pour into the chilled metal pan.
9. Place the pan in the freezer for 30-60 minutes, or until ice crystals form around the edges.
10. Stir the ice crystals into the center of the pan and return to the freezer.
11. Repeat every 30 minutes, or until all the liquid is crystallized but not frozen solid, about 3 hours.
12. To serve, scoop the granita into chilled dessert bowls or goblets.
13. If the granita has become too hard, scrape it with a large metal spoon to break up the ice crystals. Serve at once.

– the Goddess

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