Herbaceous Babe is going to be a little less regular in the days to come as the author gets launched in her professional career. Keep checking back, because there's no telling when a new post will appear!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Dehydrated Flax-jacks

It's not often I find a dehydrator at my disposal. And in fact, being a product of my instant culture, I don't like them very much except for preserving purposes. I prefer meals that can be prepared, start-to-finish, in less than an hour. But it had been so long since I had eaten pancakes that, by the time I received my new cookbook, I had become quite pliable.

Behold, the flax-jack: a flax-banana-pear smoothie without the cup. Okay, that doesn't really sound appetizing.... It's one of only three recipes in the entire book that does not have a cooked option - go figure. The banana is the predominate flavour, and though I rather enjoyed it, my sister found the texture a bit disconcerting. It's times like these when one must remember to appreciate an 'alternative' dish for its intrinsic value, and not compare it to the thing it is intended to imitate. Like I said, I liked them.

This is another flax pancake recipe from Amber Shea Crawley, but not the same as the one in her book.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Practically Raw" & Hot Cocoa

All week my brain has been a-whir with wondering what to eat for Christmas dinner. One can only consume so much squash, sweet potato, kale, mushroom, and lentils before the belly begins to yearn for Spring and the asparagus it brings - not to mention green beans, snap peas, cucumber, zucchini, and weather warm enough to venture into a raw-er diet.

Almost in response to my silent musings, the delivery truck pulled (or rather, slid) into the yard with a Christmas care package from my grandparents: Practically Raw by Amber Shea Crawley. As I leafed through the 240-page tome, I thought aloud, This gal gets it! The recipes and their ingredients were simple, written for real people with real lives, complete with substitution suggestions and both raw and cooked options. Informational bubbles and sidebars offer practical tidbits about nutrition, organic vs conventional produce, nut soak-time, and much more. The best part is that most raw recipes are automatically gluten- and soy- free! I've perused several raw and vegan books over the last year, and this is the best book I've seen by far. I look forward to curling up with this book and a hot cup of Crio Brü.

Crio Brü is prepared just like coffee, but it's made of antioxidant-rich cocoa beans that are naturally caffeine free. Vegans rejoice, because now there's a simple alternative to those instant hot cocoa packets! *insert victorious cackle here*

So what am I cooking for Christmas? Flaxjacks - raw, gluten-free pancakes. I'll let you know how they turn out ;)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Raw Fudge and Mousse

Have you ever thought you knew a recipe by heart - and been wrong? Yup, I've been there. It was mousse day without a decent avocado, so we opted for fudge and set some cashews to soak. A few hours later, I opened the uncook book and oh no!  This recipe called for almond butter and chopped walnuts... no cashews :(

I had a decision to make: make the recipe and save the cashews for later, find a recipe that did use cashews, or substitute. Well, since there weren't any walnuts in the house (and they're optional anyway), the choice was fairly easy.

After blending the nut butter, nuts, agave, and cocoa in the food processor, I pressed the mixture into a 9"x9" pan (lined with parchment) and left it to set in the refrigerator. But there were still more cashews! Well, when life gives you cashews... make mousse anyway.

About the time I started making the fudge, I peeled and froze some overripe bananas. If it makes a great base for "ice cream", why not mousse? I'll tell you, the cocoa has to battle the banana for flavour pre-eminence. The avocado, on the other hand, is cloaked rather nicely (though I would recommend pre-mashing to optimize sneakiness). The banana is still tasty, but I think next time I'll substitute with a slightly greener banana.

And now it's time for Feature Failure. This week's guest: GF Thumbprint Cookies.

GF flour is tricky business, and I knew even after an extra 1/4c applesauce that my all-purpose was too dry (the recipe calls for oat, almond, and tapioca flours). It wasn't even soft enough to make the necessary indentation - hence the volcanic appearance. If I just think of them as a savoury snack, they're not so bad.... That's what I told myself. Then they cooled, and not even the chickens could eat them. Oh well. I don't miss cookies that much anyway. At least, that's what I'll tell myself until I work up the courage to try again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Winter Bean Soup

Can I just tell you how ridiculously delicious this soup is?! Nope - words fail to capture the perfect blend of flavour, texture, and nutrition packed into this glorious bowl of pure genius.

Oven-roasted butternut squash, tomato, onion, carrot, kale, and white beans with a kiss of thyme will warm your belly and leave you satisfied on those cold winter evenings. Forewarning: Sister and I ate the entire pot - a projected 6 servings!

*Skip those overpriced tetra-paks and make your own vegetable stock! Save your veggie ends and peelings in a freezer bag until you have enough. Fill a large pot with water, add veggie pieces, boil for a few hours, and strain. It makes the house smell a little weird, but so worth the savings!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bean Burgers!

It all started with an interview at Down in the Valley Gluten-Free Bakehouse in Burnsville, MN. I figured knowing what their products taste like would be a good idea, so down the road to Valley Natural Foods Co-op I went.

There were GF pies, cookies, brownies, a few other items - all pleasant options, but I really wanted something I hadn't made at home yet: hamburger buns!

What goes better with hamburger buns than a super-simple vegan burger. Seriously, four ingredients (beans, flax meal, nutritional yeast, and water) mashed or processed together, shaped, and fried in a skillet. (These were made with Adzuki beans.)

Honestly, the bun was pretty standard, and perhaps a bit on the dry side, but paired with a few slices of juicy tomato and crisp lettuce, and nobody will notice ;)
*I don't think the buns are vegan, but hey, you can't win 'em all at once. If you have a GF vegan bun recipe, I'd love to try it sometime!

Greek Sandwich (Vegan Gyros??)

*This post is labeled nut-free. However, some individuals with nut allergies may have a reaction to sesame seeds (contained in the hummus).

Gyros, shawarma, and tacos al pastor are variations of doner kebabs, by definition "meat roasted on a spit." Though my family makes lamb and tzatziki on "Greek night," I make my own GF lafa (a pocketless pita which I jokingly refer to as "non-bread") and stuff it with hummus, tomato, cucumber, lentils, and Mahatma saffron yellow rice.  (Note: this is one of my few packaged products indulgences. I never seem to get the same effect making it from scratch.)

Okay, the lafa was not very pliable, making this meal somewhat difficult to eat, but it is so delicious and definitely worth both the work and the mess. Then again I'm still in the experimenting stages with the whole GF flour thing, so I'm bound to find the right ratio eventually... right?

Yes! A 1:1 ratio of GF flour and water with a dash of flax meal fried in a skillet makes a pancake-like lafa. Keep the temperature a little lower than medium so the lafa cooks thoroughly.

 See those beautifully golden brussels sprouts? Learn how to make your own here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Energy Bites

Perhaps "bite" isn't quite accurate, since each 1-1/2" morsel takes 3-4 bites... but "balls" isn't a very appetizing word.

The hardest part of making this delicious snack is deciding which fruit and nut combination to use (alright, the rolling segment is pretty messy, but that's half the fun)! 1-1/2c dried fruit and 1c nuts makes 32. We used figs, cranberries, and almonds roughly chopped in a food processor, hand-rolled, then coated Shake-n-Bake style in almond meal to minimize stickiness. So simple, and perfect for taking the edge off of afternoon munchies :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lentil "Meatballs"

Since becoming a vegan, I've lost my desire for animal products almost entirely. So when I start craving meatballs with potatoes and gravy, I get really confused.... Blame it on the fact that the holiday season is upon us, bringing with it the nostalgic awareness of how much I can't eat. But there is hope, for countless others who have gone before have emerged victorious with gluten-free, soy-free alternatives to the food we once loved!

Lentil "meatballs" over mashed sweet potatoes with a dollop of sweet onion gravy.

The lentil mixture I made up the day before. Make sure the lentils are quite soft and mash more than half of them to help the balls hold together. I didn't end up using any flour (gf or otherwise). The potatoes took about 10 minutes, the meatballs about 5 (cook time, after prep).

Second day, I cooked them closer to med-low for longer, as I waited for the rice, creating a crispier, more meat-like consistency, and they held their heat better to boot.

Honestly, the sweet potato and lentils were a bit of an odd couple (so why do I keep doing it??), and I would have preferred a smooth mushroom gravy instead of the onion. The braised broccoli and rice, however, complemented the "meatballs" incredibly well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cozy Mushroom Bowl

Sometimes it's fun to experiment with raw recipes. But not when it's cold outside. Then I want something that hugs me from within. Like this Cozy Mushroom Bowl from Oh She Glows:

The original recipe uses millet, but quinoa is my eternal favourite. Flavour, consistency, nutrients, warmth - this dish has it all. When all is said and done, what more is there to do but make it, love it, and repeat.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Eggless! Mushroom Kale Quiche

People keep asking, "How is that even possible?" The French word quiche comes from German kuchen, meaning cake. No eggs required.

Allow me to over-simplify this recipe:

Combine cooked chickpeas, cashews, water, tahini, lemon juice, thyme, arrowroot powder (or cornstarch), and chives in a food processor. Sauté  mushrooms in olive oil and liquid aminos until brown, add garlic and kale, then stir until wilted and bright green. Add vegetables to food processor and pulse. Place batter in muffin tins and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. I added a bit of salt, but I didn't use nutritional yeast.

Mine are considerably greener than the original recipe. I probably used twice the amount of kale. It was dark. It was a bit crumbly. It was good. Still, I wish the chickpeas had been a bit more prominent. Next time, I'll either save the extra kale or serve it on the side.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Garbanzo Chocolate Chip Cookies

*Surprise bonus post! These cookies are a real hit with celiacs and non-celiacs alike. Serve them at a party and enjoy your friends' reactions when they find out the "secret ingredient."

You know how some alternative recipes brag that they taste just like the real thing? Well, these ones really do. You can't taste the chickpeas any more than the baking powder through all the peanut butter, chocolate, agave, and vanilla.

Texanerin says this recipe does not taste good without the chocolate chips or cold. She's absolutely right. They're not bad after they've cooled, but they keep that fresh-from-the-oven gooey-ness even at room-temperature, which just feels weird... But hey, even the fourteen-year-old liked them, so I'd say this recipe is for keeps.

*If you're making this recipe from dry chickpeas instead of canned, 1/2 cup of dried beans will make about 1-1/2 cups cooked. It takes more time, but produces less gas.

*Making your own peanut butter is easy: raw peanuts, a little oil, and a little salt in the food processor until smooth.

*For a more uniform chocolate experience, I grated a semisweet chocolate Baker's square (If you don't have one, chop your chips or use cocoa powder and a little extra sweetener).

Now, I keep getting the question: "Are you sure chocolate chips are gluten-free?" Many chocolate chips are made with GF ingredients but not necessarily on GF equipment, so shop depending on your level of sensitivity. If you're wary of cross-contamination, Enjoy Life  and Sunspire sell chocolate chips that are both gluten-free and vegan.

My blueberry scones were much less successful.

We could blame it on the fact that we made our own rice flour in a coffee grinder, or we could place the fault squarely on the shoulders of the coconut, but these babies tasted like chalk-dust. (I speak from experience on this one.) Being determined to eat my failures as well as my successes, this was my breakfast for several days in a row (accompanied by a tall glass of homemade nut milk).

Then came the road trip. Halfway to Texas, I was groping blindly through the food box for some delicious, salty trail mix when my fingers fumbled upon some sort of dense powder. As I mentally reviewed the packing list, my curiosity grew. The bag was opened, and an unmistakable odour assaulted my olfactories: coconut. My last scone had bitten the dust, and I felt no guilt in ditching its remains at the next trash receptacle.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Ravioli et al

My mom has The Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook by Linda Fraser. Unfortunately it is of little use to a gluten-free vegan. Still, we were determined to try the Pumpkin-Stuffed Cilantro Ravioli.

The filling is just pumpkin, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and ricotta cheese. We made cashew cream to replace the ricotta then set to work peeling the pumpkin... The instructions were not clear about whether the pumpkin was cooked or raw. (Note to self: cook pumpkin before peeling next time.)

Also tastes great on crackers!

We used chickpea flour and substituted flax for the egg in our pasta - and ended up with a dough so soft and gooey it was nearly impossible to shape the ravioli. But we prevailed!

Admittedly, not my most glamorous photo. In fact, I almost forgot to take a picture. The tomato sauce lent a bit of moisture to the still-too-thick pasta but stole much-deserved attention from the pumkin.

Day two found the remaining dough even more unmanageable and, it being a particularly eventful week, I didn't feel like messing around. A fully-sliced baby eggplant and a dollop of inspiration later, I had a picture perfect meal for one.

A few short years ago, you could not have paid me to eat an eggplant. Perhaps the subtle, titillating bitterness is an acquired taste, but I prefer to think of it as "sophisticated." Either way, I thought a squirt of lime would finish off the dish perfectly.

Stuffing persists, and my creativity is spurred onward. Behold: the mushroom cap.

THEN one lazy Sunday, I was cruising the web for inspiration, and Eureka! I found it: Rosemary Pumpkin Paradox. Who ever heard of a cheese-less quesadilla? It's silly. It's preposterous. It's amazing! Serve with marinara, or for a spicier, more authentic flavour, try marjoram and serve with salsa.

There seems to be no end to the possibilities. It also tastes good as a cracker spread.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Smitten Kitchen is my favourite (non-vegan) cooking blog. Good reading. Good eating. And a dream come true.

Even before I became a vegan, before I really started cooking, I wanted to make ratatouille the way Remy and Linguine made it. Thin slices of courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), et poivron (pepper) snuggling in a bed of tomato puree infused with garlic, onion, and thyme... I was singing Le Festin almost the entire time it was in the oven.

Pre-bake picture

I highly recommend small variety eggplant - not just because it stacks better with the zucchini, but because they aren't as bitter. Large purple eggplants work well enough, but they have to be peeled and "sweated" first.

Mandolines are wonderful, but they always shred my eggplants :-( No matter how much confidence you lack, you can probably get a more uniform cut using a sharp knife.

Since all of my veggies were smaller than I'm used to, I doubled the recipe, making four people happy and one person unhappy (the 14-year-old was not a fan). 

It always surprises me how much vegans can eat. This was my optimistic first helping. The second was much bigger :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carrot Cake (and GF flours)

Most of the time, I'm perfectly content to be a gluten-free vegan. But every once in a while... I just want to gorge myself on that-which-is-forbidden. Equally tempting is the urge to describe, in-detail, the thoughts and sensations that necessitated today's guiltless baking experiment. But I shall resist, and share instead my comfort food solution: carrot cake.

The recipe calls for chestnut flour, which I don't have. And being indecisive, I took advantage of my grand GF selection by splitting the batter into four parts and comparing how each turned out.

I felt like Goldilocks: "This one is too firm... This one is too soft... This one is just right!"

1) Arrowhead Mills GF All-Purpose Flour
Batter was the consistency of cookie dough. It did not rise at all. Top colour was golden with some dark gold peaks. Inside was moist and gumlike, but firmer when cooled.

2) Namaste Buscuits, Piecrusts, & More Mix
Batter was porridge-like, rose slightly with an evenly golden top. Inside was moist and sponge-like: might need more baking time.

3) Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo Flour
Batter was the consistency of regular muffin batter. It rose to a beautifully round, golden puff. Inside was dense and smooth, and just a touch on the dry side, a bit like cornbread. Baked 35 minutes.

4) Almond Meal
Batter was soupy and sunk in the middle during baking. Inside was still extremely wet: perhaps longer bake time at a lower temperature? Flavour was good, but you'll need a spoon. One advantage to vegan baking is that you don't have to worry about under-cooking :)

It's hard to say which one was "best," since every person has different preferences. Sister likes 2, Brother likes 3, Mother likes 4, and I'm torn between 1 and 3...

And of course, no carrot cake is complete without cashew cream cheese frosting! (Real Sustenance's frosting has coconut in it.) I used 1/4 c water to get the right consistency... Now I need to find another GF cake recipe, because I have five times more frosting than I actually need (a very good problem).

So, why such a difference? Every grain, pseudo-grain, and legume has distinct characteristics: flavour, density, moisture, self-rising properties, etc. That's why GF recipes and all-purpose blends often have complicated mixtures of flours, starches, and gums. That's why one flour makes great muffins but horrible pancakes or pasta. The GF all-purpose I see most often in recipes is Bob's Red Mill, but I've never tried it myself. Experiment, and see what works for you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vegetable Pot Pie

My stepfather is a man after my own heart when it comes to cooking. He reads recipes, looks in the fridge, and creates something all his own.

Simmer veggies in water until tender, adding GF flour to thicken into a stew, and top with a GF pie crust. Our veggies included mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, sweet potato, herbs and spices. The pie crust was simply one part water, two parts GF flour* and a bit of olive oil. It was just a tad too sticky to use a rolling pin, so I just flattened it with my hands. Too soft for hard tack and not salty enough for saltines, I really liked it and may actually make some saltines from this recipe.

*At least, I thought that's what I did until I tried to make it again... Keep adding flour until it's dry enough to work (but not too dry). Made with Namaste Biscuits, Piecrusts & More flour mix. There's a recipe on the bag - maybe I got the water and oil quantities switched around...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Mashed sweet potatoes, black beans, onion, and cumin cuddled into a corn tortilla and smothered in a spicy tomatillo sauce - gets me every time.

The original recipe calls for three sweet potatoes, but two has proved more than enough for me to fill 14 stuffed tortillas. I also needed to double the sauce, and substituted a can of green chiles for the jalapeño. The smell was nose-grabbing to say the least, but my spice-loving palate thought it was just right. (When I make this for mother, I use a bell pepper and cut the other spices in half.)

This is my favourite vegan recipe of all time, but I could not seem to get a good picture to save my life... Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist, but here's another just in case:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms (or Tomatoes)

I admit that fungus is not on the Herbaceous Faves list. However, these little guys weren't too bad. Inspired by a recipe on Foods for Long Life, my dear mother used a different pesto recipe when I wasn't looking.

Pesto comes from the Italian word pestato, which means 'to pound or crush' (pestle comes from the same word). Pesto Genovese is typically a blend of garlic, basil, pine (pignoli) nuts, olive oil, and a hard cheese such as parmesan. For vegan pesto, substitute ground nuts and nutritional yeast.

These guys are really easy and make a great side or a simple lunch. Just pack your pesto into fresh button or cremini mushrooms (or some small variety of tomato) and enjoy!

Raw Almond Flax Pizza Crust

No food blog is complete without a pizza recipe, right? Well, here's one everyone can enjoy... unless you're allergic to nuts (in which case, check out the recipe link at the bottom).

The Rawtarian and RawGuru apparently agree that this is a pizza crust worth trying, since the excessively wordy recipe appears verbatim on both websites. Allow me to guide you through the gab:

In a food processor, combine 2c almond meal, 1c ground flax, 1-1/2T olive oil, 1T each of basil, thyme, and rosemary, 3/4tsp salt, and 1/2c water*. Flatten on a dehydrator sheet and set the blowers to 115 degrees. Seven hours (or so) later, your pizza crust is ready for you to rain down lavish affection in the form of sauce, veggies, and or course, nut cheese.

A glorious balance of heartiness and delicacy, this 1/4" crust would also make great crackers or sandwich bread.

If you prefer a thinner, more flavourful crust, try this tomato-flax crust by Big Raw Blog. Unfortunately I have no picture right now, but this is one of our favourites.

*Why add a full cup of water to something you're going to dehydrate? I'll never understand it...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nut Cheese and Milk

When it comes to staples, I tend to compare a few recipes and improvise. Taking cues from We Like It Raw, Rawmazing, and Rawxy, I killed two birds with one stone by making milk and cheese at the same time! Our featured varieties, largest to smallest, are Original, Basil-Oregano, Garlic-Paprika, and Cilantro-Mustard.

Soak nuts overnight (skip if you must, but it helps produce a smoother cheese). Drain, then throw in a blender with a bit of fresh water until smooth. Strain through a cheesecloth or BYO bag into a 2-qt jar and fill with water. Add vanilla and agave to taste.

Place nut meal into a bowl. Add liquid until cheese can hold its form. Throw in a probiotic, nutritional yeast, and/or lemon juice to create that tangy cheese flavour. (Ours are made with just the probiotic.) Set in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.

So which nuts are best? Cashews are the most common choice, with macadamia and brazil nuts close behind. We used hazelnuts. I don't think it matters... It amazes me, though, how basically the same recipe can produce different results. From the firmer cheeses linked above, to the ricotta-like spread we made, to cream cheese and cashew cream.

Nuts are easy to over-do on a raw GF vegan diet. They are a versatile alternative, replacing dairy, meat, and flour in many recipes. Remember, everything in moderation.

Food Pyramid poster available from

Monday, September 10, 2012

Banana Bread: Love At Third Bite

*Due to being late again (FYI: timed posts don't work), Herbaceous Babe presents a double-feature for your culinary pleasure.

The problem with "transition foods" is that we often expect the alternative to taste like the original. Such was the case with this raw banana bread.

The taste was surprisingly subtle, even slightly bitter. Nevertheless, I found myself coming back for more. Dense though it is, I thought I'd eat the entire sheet...

This is not a very labour-intensive recipe, assuming you have the almond meal and carrot pulp on-hand. Who does that? Bear with me for a moment.

Making nut milk is easy-peasy. Click here.

If you don't make your own juice (or simply don't save the pulp), just grate a few carrots and squeeze out excess liquid. More liquid won't hurt; it'll just take a bit longer in the dehydrator.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blueberry Cardamom "Cheese"cake

Raw. Vegan. Blueberry. Cardamom. Cheesecake.
Seriously, what more could you ask for?

The original recipe is my kind of easy. Walnuts and dates in the food processor for crust, blueberries, cashews, cacao butter, lemon juice, agave, vanilla, and cardamom in the blender. Assemble (they used muffin cups) and freeze. Simply delicious.

Cardamom flavour is just right. Any more would overpower the blueberry; any less would be indistinguishable. Consistency was a bit grainier than I'd prefer, but there are several remedies for that:
1) Soak the cashews to soften them.
2) Put the cashews in the blender before the blueberries.
3) Pulse longer than your impatient palate suggests.
Had I done even one of these, my cheesecake would have been perfect in every way... although it seemed smoother the second day...

The recipe says to set the cheesecake in the fridge or freezer. Right before lunch, I transferred my beauty from the freezer to the fridge (to avoid broken teeth and frozen tongues)... Yeah, bad idea.

True, it was the first raw soup I actually liked, but it wasn't cheesecake. Freeze, then let it defrost a few minutes before serving. Of course it isn't rock-hard, so waiting is optional. Skip the crust, and call it ice cream. No matter what its name, this dish is de-lish :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tomato Basil Zucchini Pasta and Nut "Parmesan"

Victory! Finally a gluten-free raw vegan meal that is quick, easy, and (most importantly) delicious! With a little help from our friends at Whole Foods and my own intuition, my first attempt at Zucchini Pasta was a success. *contented sigh*

*Save yourself some dishes, and eyeball your quantities.

Julienne zucchini on a mandoline*. Dice tomatoes. Throw in some herbs (I used basil, oregano, and chives), drizzle with olive oil, and add a splash of lemon. Sprinkle with nut cheese (see below) and enjoy! Prep time is about 5-15 minutes, depending on the number of servings you make, and does not require any forethought - as long as you have the ingredients. If something is missing, improvise! Substitution is half the fun :)

*If you don't have a mandoline, a potato peeler or a large-holed cheese grater will do.

Nut cheese has been my family's saving grace through this transition. Nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, nuts, and salt ground in a food processor. We've used cashews, almonds, brazil nuts... the sky's the limit! ....Okay, nuts are an easy thing to over-do on a vegan diet, so eat responsibly :)