Monthly Archives: October 2009

Healthy Halloween Apple Cake

Vegan Apple Cake

I confess: this cake was not made for Halloween, and in fact, was eaten well before Halloween arrived. But since it’s Halloween, and since the words “Healthy” and “Halloween” go so well together, I’m going to pretend the two are somehow related.

Speaking of things that have come and gone, our Orchard Cottage apples have just about been picked clean. For a while there, we had more apples than we could eat, and my mind was constantly racing for creative things I could do with them.

One concept that struck my fascination was apple cake. I wanted to make a cake that was not too sweet, heavy on the apples, and the perfect pairing with afternoon tea.

In my incessant Googling, I came across something called a “Jewish Apple Cake”. Its Jewish origin is a bit dubious, and the name probably has more to do with its lack of dairy products than its association with Jewish tradition. According to a self-proclaimed “wise old Jew” on chowhound, “the apple cake made by Eastern European Jews is pretty similar to apple cake made by Polish Catholics and the one made by Orthodox Russians.”

Whatever its origin, the principal is the same: the Jewish Apple Cake is a moist bundt cake, with a layer of apple in the middle, and another layer on top. While the traditional recipe may be dairy free, it does contain eggs. But in all other respects this was just the cake I was looking for. So I improvised.

For the batter, I adapted the recipe for Caramel Apple Spice Cupcakes from Veganomicon, cutting down the sugar by half and omitting the frosting. I then filled a 9″ round pan with half the batter, then a layer of sliced apples, then the rest of the batter, and finally, another layer of apples.

Vegan Apple Cake

This cake had the strange effect of getting better with age. After the cake cooled, I had my first bite, which was fine, but a bit more muffin-like than cake-like. In truth, I was a little disappointed. But the day after that, the cake had taken on a much moister, crumbly texture. And after another day, it was magically even better. It went really well with a cup of tea, and was even extra delicious with a little blob of peanut butter on top.

The verdict: this is a fabulous cake to have around for snacks and tea time. For cake, its farely low-cal and low fat. Each serving (based on 8 servings) has about 209 Calories and 5.4g fat. But best of all, it’s delicious and chock full of apples. Just look at this cross section:

Vegan Apple Cake

Vegan Apple Cake

3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/6 cup canola oil
1/6 cup applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp preserves (apricot or orange is good)
1 Tbsp water (or more if necessary)

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9″ cake pan with parchment paper (here’s how).

Whisk together the soy milk and lemon juice, and allow to sit for a minute to curdle.

Add the oil, applesauce, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat well. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir only until just moistened.

Pour half of the batter into the cake pan and spread it uniformly across the bottom. Layer half of the apples on top of the batter. Add the rest of the batter and then another layer of apples.

Mix the water and preserves to form a spreadable glaze. Baste it over the top of the cake. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool before serving.

Serves 8. Per serving: 209 Calories; 3.6g Protein; 5.4g Total Fat; 37.1g Total Carbohydrates


How to Make Nut Butter with a Food Processor

DIY Almond Butter

Okay so the picture’s not very nice. That’s some almond butter I made the other morning on a whim out of raw, unskinned almonds. I wasn’t sure if it could be done in the food processor, but this website assured me it was possible.

I was so pleased with the results that I’ve since made roasted hazelnut butter and raw cashew butter. Now, toast awaits (my current bread is a wholemeal spelt loaf made using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s recipe for Malted Grain Brain, using spelt flour in place of wheat flour – it’s tasty!).

This is so exciting. A 170g container of raw organic almond butter costs £4.89, but I can buy 3kg of whole organic almonds for £22.60. Assuming those 3 kilos of almonds would make 3 kilos of almond butter, that’s £7.50 per kilo for homemade almond butter versus £28.76 per kilo for the jarred stuff. In other words, a huge savings of £21.26 per kilo!

But enough accounting. Here’s how it’s done:

How to Make Nut Butter with a Food Processor

  1. Acquire as many nuts as you like – I did mine in about 150g batches, but I’ll probably increase this significantly as the first few batches were so successful and disappeared quickly
  2. Roast the nuts if desired
  3. Put them in the food processor and turn it on to a high speed
  4. Be patient – it will take a while for the processor to pulverize all the nuts.
  5. Stop the food processor every so often to scrape the sides, but give it a good 2-3 minutes of uninterrupted blending between scrapings.
  6. Keep processing and scraping until the nuts start to clump up in little balls – this means it’s starting to give up some oil and form some buttery goodness!
  7. Add a little oil if you want – this isn’t at all necessary, but it does help achieve a smoother, more spreadable butter (if you look on the ingredients of some nut butters, especially cashew, you’ll sometimes see that they’ve added some oil for this very reason)
  8. Keep processing until your nut butter reaches the desired consistency

Overall, it takes about 10 minutes to make and it’s so delicious! If you want to do this, I highly recommend reading Make Your Own Nut Butters at Backwoods Home Magazine, which gives some more details about specific nut butters along with some pretty pictures.

Carrot and Walnut Tofu Neatballs

Carrot and Walnut Tofu Neatballs

I don’t know where the phrase “neatball” comes from, but it seems to have been universally applied to all vegetarian versions of the classic meatball.

I first saw a variation of this term at Victory’s Banner restaurant in Chicago, which serves “Neatloaf Sandwiches” (they are delicious, FYI). Since then, I’ve come across various recipes for neatballs, including the spaghetti and beanball recipe in Veganomicon and this impressive lexicon of vegan neatball recipes. But none of these satisfy my ball craving as much as this neatball of my own creation.

My neatballs are based on three ingredients: carrots, walnuts and tofu. What I love about this recipe is

  • It uses no breadcrumbs or other bread products – many similar recipes use something floury to bind everything together, and you end up with more of a bread-ball than a neatball. And since neatballs are destined to go with pasta or a nice roll, adding more carbs to the mix seems like overkill. This recipe is all tofu and veggies – carbophobes rejoice!
  • It’s a great use for frozen tofu which, when thawed, squeeze dried and crumbled, takes on a spongey, almost breadcrumb like texture
  • Their flavor is heavenly – the aroma and deep flavor of the toast walnuts perfectly compliments the sweetness of the carrots
  • The outside is nice and crispy but the inside is moist and firm
  • They hold their shape very well, without crumbling apart as soon as you stab a fork into them

Of course, what makes these meatballs come alive is a good tomato sauce and some pasta or a nice roll to go with it. One of the best things I ate last week was this neatball sub sandwich:

Neatball Sub Sandwich

Mind the mess – but isn’t that what a neatball sub is all about?

Also tasty is the classic spaghetti and neatball pasta meal (a glass of wine and a nice salad helps). I suspect this same mixture would also do well as a stuffing for cannelloni, pasta shells or manicotti. Or as a filling in vegan lasagna.

Carrot and Walnut Tofu Neatballs

Spaghetti and Tofu NeatballsA food processor really comes in handy for this dish. You can even use it to do all your chopping. But you can do without if you finely chop your veggies! Some fresh herbs really kick this up a notch – especially basil and pesto. Also, I’ve had pretty good success making these with unfrozen firm tofu and a little bit of breadcrumbs, and skipping the silken tofu completely.

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, grated
1 cup walnuts,
450g firm (not silken) tofu, frozen, then thawed
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
juice from 1/4 lemon
150g firm silken tofu (about 1/2 box)
olive oil for greasing
salt and pepper
Saute the garlic, red onion and carrots in the olive oil until soft.

While that’s going, take the frozen tofu and squeeze out as much water as you can (I suggest tearing it into a few pieces and squeezing each piece with your hands over the sink. Don’t worry if it crumbles apart – that is its destiny!)

In a food processes, blitz the walnuts until they are roughly ground.

Add the firm tofu, herbs, lemon juice and sauteed veggies. Blend until everything is about the size of breadcrumbs.

Now, with the food processor running, start adding the silken tofu a spoonful at a time. When it looks like things are coming together, stop, and try to make a test ball. If it all holds together well, you’re ready to go. If not, add a little more silken tofu. Also, you may need to scrape the sides and bottom of your food processor as you go.

Form the mixture into balls (I like to make mine fairly small, about the diameter of a quarter) and place on a well oiled cookie sheet or roasting pan.

Bake at 350F/180C for about 15 minutes. Rotate the balls and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Makes about 25 neatballs. Per ball: 58 Calories; 3.3g Protein; 4.4g Total Fat; 2.3g Total Carbohydrates.

Spaghetti and "Neatballs"


Friday Foodie Highs and Lows

Taking a rest weekend from walking and such. Been feeling a bit under the weather and sore in the ankle. But not too sore for food. It was a day of ups and downs in the meal department. Breakfast featured a special treat: creme fraiche. And the afternoon’s tart experiment was fairly successful. But dinner disappointed – I made potato pancakes with red onion instead of yellow onion and it just wasn’t the same. But what can you do? Have dessert I guess!

Food and Exercise Log | Friday, October 16, 2009


Buckwheat crepes with fresh fruit and creme fraiche

Buckwheat Crepes with Fruit and Creme Fraiche

The creme fraiche was a real treat, especially with the raspberries (and a bit of raspberry jam).

Recipe: Buckwheat crepes


Leek and Mushroom Tofu Tart

Tart tasting

A small taste to sample the tart experiment.


Leek and Mushroom Tofu Tart with Bread and Salad

Mushroom and Leek Tofu Tart

I guess the tart passed the test. We had this for lunch with salad and some fresh baked no knead bread.


Tart Infusion #3

Tart snack


Potato pancakes with white bean croquettes and cabbage salad

Potato pancakes, white bean croquettes and cabbage slaw

Kind of disappointed by this meal. The croquettes were too dry. The potato pancakes were not the same with red onion instead of yellow. But the slaw was delicious, as was the tofu dip (with chives, adapted from Veganomicon‘s horseradish and dill dip) and apple sauce and homemade apple sauce.


Potato pancakes (the yellow onion is important!)
Winter Slaw with Red Cabbage, Apples and Pecans

Leek and Mushroom Tofu Tart

Mushroom and Leek Tofu Tart

I’ve recently become obsessed with pies and tarts. Is it because I own both a pie tin and a tart pan and I feel like I should use them? Is it because I like to eat food encased in pastry (a h3 possibility)?

Whatever my reasons, I’ve been particularly keen on making nice vegan tarts – a tough order when most pastry shells are based on butter. But practice makes perfect, right? So I’d like to report on my latest experiment in creating this vegan mushroom and leek tofu tart with millet crust.

This was my most successful tart yet (Tim’s words, not mine) and we ate it all up in a day. I think that means it was a success, though admittedly, it still needs some work.

What I liked about this tart:

  • The creamy leeks
  • The roasted tomato on top
  • The simplicity of the herbs and spices in the filling (only thyme, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice)
  • The texture of the filling – it held it’s shape nicely without being too dry
  • The crispy edges of the millet crust

What I didn’t like:

  • There was little contrast between crust and filling – I couldn’t really tell the crust was there unless I was eating the edge
  • Only one tomato – the tomato really shined in this dish but the sporadic slices left me wanting more

I won’t post a precise recipe, because it still needs some work, but I will describe my process for making it.

The crust

I wanted a wholesome crust with some bite and texture. Mark Bittman has a recipe for a Pinto Bean Tart with Millet Crust in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. The crust is dead easy to make, and the technique is easily adaptable to other grains like polenta and quinoa:

Millet crust detailHeat up 1 tablespoon of neutral oil (like grapeseed or corn) on medium heat. Add the millet and, stirring constantly, toast until it is golden and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Add one cup of water and a good pinch of salt. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until its cooked.

Bittman says it takes 20-30 minutes to cook the millet, but it took mine quite a bit longer. You really want the millet to break apart so you end up with a porridge-like consistency. Its okay to have a few whole grains in there, but again, it should be more like oatmeal than rice.

There wasn’t quite enough of the crust to fill my tart pan, so I added a tablespoon of polenta and a splash of water to the mix. Finally, I let it cool a bit then pressed it into an oiled tart tin to form a crust.

Overall, it’s a nice crust, and probably better suited for a bean tart than a tofu tart. I also think it could benefit from being baked on its own for a while before adding the filling. An experiment for next time!

The filling

Tart cross-sectionThe inspiration for this was the growing pile of leeks in our fridge (courtesy of the organic veg box) along with some mushrooms that desperately needed to be used and an open bottle of white wine. I also took some inspiration from a few quiche recipes I found on the interwebs.

Here’s a summary of its parts:

3 Tbsp olive oil (give or take)
3 leeks, thinly sliced
5 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp dry white wine
8oz firm tofu
2 Tbsp soy milk
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 tomato, sliced thinly

I heated the olive oil in a pan on medium heat then added the leeks and sauteed these for about 10 minutes until they were really soft. Then I added the mushrooms and cranked up the heat to max and cooked until the leeks started to caramelize. Then I added the white wine and cooked until it evaporated.

The tofu, soy milk, corn starch and lemon juice went into the food processor. I whizzed this up for a while, stopping a few times to scrape the sides of the food processes or adding a touch more soy milk until I achieved a consistency much like thick yogurt. I added this to the leek and mushrooms along with some thyme, salt and pepper. I checked the flavor and it seemed nice enough. Okay, it was delicious… I couldn’t stop taking nibbles of the irresistibly creamy mushroom and leek.

I took this mixture and pressed it into the tart shell, then added the sliced tomato on top. Finally, I brushed a little olive oil on the tomatoes and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and thyme.

I baked the tart for about 30 minutes at 350 F / 180 C. This is what it looked like when it came out:

Mushroom and Leek Tofu Tart

What I’ll do next time

  • Either use polenta as the base or give this Easy Olive Oil Tart Crust a try from Chocolate & Zucchini
  • Cover the top entirely in tomato slices
  • Add more salt to the filling
  • Experiment with different herbs and spices in the filling

Inspiration for future tarts

This tart has definitely reinvigorated my pursuit of amazing vegan tart and pie recipes. A few projects I’ve got in mind:

  • Spinach and mushroom tart
  • A vegan version of my mom’s sweet potato quiche
  • Vegan pumpkin pie (though it’s hard to compete with my family’s traditional pumpkin pie recipe)
  • Some kind of sweet tart involving custard and fruit
  • More pies using this perfect oil pastry. I’ve used this for apple pie and I can vouch for its flaky goodness.

Fast and Delicious Tempeh Sandwich Slices

Smoky Tempeh Sandwich

I’ve previously blogged about this tempeh as a tasty filler for veggie reuben sandwiches, but the recipe really deserves a post of its own.

These smoky tempeh slices have been rocking my world this week. They make phenomenal sandwiches, but are just as tasty on their own as a snack (you will have a hard time resisting the urge to eat them straight out of the pan).

In addition to their great flavor, this tempeh is also very easy to make and requires no marinading. Instead, the tempeh slices get boiled with a delicious cooking juice, allowing them to soak up all of the flavor in a matter of minutes right in the pan.

A few ideas for tempeh sandwich fillers:

  • Lettuce, tomato and vegannaise
  • Avocado, tomato and sprouts
  • Avocado, tomato and sauerkraut
  • Any kind of shredded veggie, like carrots or cabbage
  • Sauteed mushrooms and onions
  • Roasted tomatoes

Smoky Tempeh Sandwich

Smokey Tempeh Slices

8 oz. tempeh
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp olive oil
Bring a small put of water to the boil, add the block of tempeh, and let it simmer for 10 minutes (you can skip this step if you want, but boiling the tempeh does help it absorb more flavor).

While the tempeh boils, make the marinade by mixing all of the liquid ingredients together except the olive oil.

Remove the tempeh from the boiling water and slice it thinly (about 1/8″ thickness).

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the tempeh slices and pour the marinade on top. Bring the marinade to a boil and simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Brown the tempeh on both sides, adding more olive oil if necessary.

Serves 4. Per serving: 157 Calories; 11g Protein; 9.5g Total Fat; 9.3g Total Carbohydrates; 0mg Cholesterol; 457mg Sodium.


Wednesday Squats, Sandwiches and Salsa

A large ear of cornApple Oats with Toasted PecanMonica's Magic Tempeh SandwichUgly tacoTabbouleh snack

Food and Exercise Log | Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Squat Thrusts and Strength Training

Another circuit with the monkeybar gym.

I warmed up with 10 minutes of skipping and squat thrusts then repeated this circuit twice:

12x assisted pull-ups
12x angle push-ups
12x assisted dips
12x chest presses


Oatmeal with Apples and Toasted Pecans

Apple Oats with Toasted Pecan


Tempeh Sandwich with Cabbage and Salad

Monica's Magic Tempeh Sandwich

I really wanted a reuben, but the for lack of sauerkraut, the sauteed cabbage had to do. This sandwich was a treat, made possible by some organic mayonnaise we received as a free gift in a recent Riverford Organic Vegetable Box. I’m not usually a huge mayo fan but this stuff really won me over. Whipped to perfect, the mayo is nicely airy but still rich and delicious, and absolutely magical when under a layer of nice tomato.

Here’s a little blurb about the mayo from the Riverford website:


Our mayonnaise is made by Andy & Mandy Johnson in Devon who have around 1,000 laying hens kept to Soil Association organic standards.

Pasteurising the eggs was the main hurdle in making mayo from their own eggs. Andy & Mandy discovered a small company that developed a machine capable of pasteurising whole eggs in their shells, making mayo from their own eggs viable.

Organic mayonnaise produced by the people who care for the hens who lay the eggs.


After that amazing sandwich, I needed either a walk or a nap. Tim and I walked to the Oaksey post box to drop off some mail, about a 3-4 mile round trip.

Snack Attack

Tabbouleh snack

Writer’s Residence Wednesday Treat

Corn chips, salsa and a bottle o’ beer

Writer's Residence Wedneday

Writer’s Residence Wednesday is Tim’s and my designated day for getting shit done on our small business. At the end of the day, we usually celebrate with a couple of beers. Today I upped the ante with some chips and homemade chipotle salsa, which we shared while wrapping up some important internet haxx0ring.

Writer's Residence Wedneday

Recipe: Smokin’ Hot Chipotle Salsa


Pinto Bean Tacos with Roasted Corn and Cabbage Slaw

Ugly taco

I love tacos. It’s my favorite comfort food (next to tempeh sandwiches and pizza). Plus they go really well with cold beer. The picture ain’t pretty, but the taco was delicious. As was the corn. We have a lot of it at the moment, another gift (paid for) from the organic box. But I don’t mind, we love corn. And this stuff is huge!

A large ear of corn

Does Exercise Boost Immunity?

Running is a popular topic among my circle of friends. I don’t run personally, but I know a surprisingly large number of crazies who run marathons, and a few other aspiring crazies who run recreationally and occasionally hint at training for a marathon.

Many people see running a marathon as symbol that they’ve “arrived” at physical fitness. And yet, the same people often comment on how bad marathon training is for the body. Sure, you might have zero body fat, but you’ll also have put a lot of stress on your bones and joints. Not only that, but lots of people I know seem to more apt to catch colds while training. Can this really be good for you?

Tim pointed me out to this interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times about exercise and immunity. Recent studies suggest that moderate exercise may boost immunity, but push your body too far and exercise has the opposite effect.

Why exercise effects your susceptibility to cold and flu is still unclear, but the studies suggest why, once you’ve caught the bug, intense exercise can make it worse.

… viruses evoke an increase in what are called T1-type helper immune cells. These T1-helper cells induce inflammation and other changes in the body that represent a first line of defense against an invading virus. But if the inflammation, at first so helpful, continues for too long, it becomes counterproductive.

And here’s an interesting statistic:

1,694 runners at the 2000 Stockholm Marathon informed researchers about any colds or other infectious illness they developed in the three weeks before or three weeks after the race. Nearly one-fifth of the runners fell ill during that time period. That’s higher than the rates in people generally, but it still means that the overwhelming majority of runners didn’t get sick.

Does Exercise Boost Immunity?

Tuesday in Food and Fitness

Banana and Almond Butter on ToastTim's Magic Tofu Stir FryTabbouleh and Hummus on ToastTim's Magic Tofu Stir FryRich and Creamy Mango Sorbet

Food and Exercise Log | Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Morning Stretch

Not much to report here. A fairly easy going stretch on a morning that felt a little bit slower than usual.


Oatmeal with Apples and Toasted Pecans

Oatmeal with Apple and Toasted Pecans


Toast with Bananas and Almond Butter

Banana and Almond Butter on Toast


I had a two-hour driving lesson this morning, with a few harrowing encounters that set me on edge. A long walk around the farm fixed me, and made me hungry for lunch!


Tabbouleh and Toast with Hummus and Salad

Tabbouleh, Hummus, Salad and Bread

You know what I love? The combination of tabbouleh, toast and hummus… all at once:

Tabbouleh and Hummus on Toast


Tim’s Magic Tofu Stir Fry

Tim's Magic Tofu Stir Fry


Mango Sorbet

Rich and Creamy Mango Sorbet

Feasts from the Freezer

Impromptu Lentil Loaf with Cashew Gravy, and Roasted Cabbage and SpudsRed Beans al FrescoWholemeal Seed Toast with Peanut Butter and BananaWholemeal Seed BreadWholemeal Toast with Fruit and Almond Butter

After the weekend’s dinner party cookery, I wasn’t in the mood to be too ambitious in the kitchen on Monday. So I looked to the freezer, where I thankfully stored loads of leftovers from days gone by: creole red beans, cornbread, green lentils, cashew gravy. Lots of potential.

The red beans and cornbread made for a tasty, quick lunch (it would have been quicker if I could hadn’t bothered to saute some leeks and spinach, but I gotta have my greens!).

Dinner was a surprise hit. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe for the simplest bean burgers and turned it into a loaf with the brown lentils. It was mighty good! And dead simple: lentils, rolled oats, onion, egg, a spoonful of tomato paste, parsley, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. This could be easily veganized with some tofu or “flax eggs” instead of the eggs. It took about 10 minutes to put everything together (mostly due to the fact that I had to thaw the lentils in a pan – it would have been quicker if I took the lentils out of the freezer earlier to thaw).

One quick tip about lentil loaves: mix this stuff with your hands. It’s the best way to really mush up the beans in with the other ingredients and ensure a loaf that isn’t too crumbly.

I’m looking forward to using the leftovers in a sandwich. Meatloaf sandwich anyone?

Food and Exercise Log | Monday, October 13, 2009

Skipping and Such

More Morning Mist

Warmed up in the coooold cold outdoors with a bit of skipping. Then did some pushups, sit-ups, squat thrusts and flex arm hangs.


Wholemeal Toast with Fruit and Almond Butter

Wholemeal Toast with Fruit and Almond Butter


PB and Banana on Toast

Wholemeal Seed Toast with Peanut Butter and Banana


Creole Red Beans, Cornbread, Corn, Sauteed Spinach and Leeks

Red Beans al Fresco


Vegan Cornbread
Creole Red Beans


Curious cows

Post lunch walk around the farm. A little over an hour.


Impromptu Lentil Loaf with Cashew Gravy and Roasted Spuds and Cabbage

Impromptu Lentil Loaf with Cashew Gravy, and Roasted Cabbage and Spuds