Ginger mock chicken

When people talk about comfort food, I mostly understand what they’re talking about, but I don’t really get it, to be honest. I don’t know – I think I’m just not someone that really values food in the same way I see others value it. I have friends who truly LOVE food and I love going on foodie adventures with them and trying new restaurants around town and I truly do appreciate when food tastes really good, but they just have a totally different kind of appreciation than I do. They fall into worship for it, but I just kind of move on. Sometimes I wish I was more like them – that I could love the food the way they do or that I could feel the way a good meal appears to make them feel, but sometimes it’s plain old depressing. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t had a good meal in ages and I chalk that up to not having deep feelings for the food that I eat.

Here’s something about being vegetarian/vegan. There are some amazing and wonderful recipes out there, but there are also some pretty lame ones. I’m for ingredients lists that contain whole ingredients no matter what I’m cooking. I get it from my mom, but I’m not really into the whole can of mushroom soup, packet of french onion soup cooking style. I’m also not big on subbing in those processed stand-ins like veggies burgers, dogs, salami, pepperoni, etc. Most of the time.

There is one recipe, however, that gets me every time. I make it maybe once a year because it isn’t all that healthy – I mean the main ingredient is JUST THE GLUTEN after the starches from wheat flour have been washed away. But it serves as such an amazing stand-in for chicken or any meat, really. (If you’ve heard of seitan, this is it.)

I can’t claim this recipe as my own. Back in March of 2009, Sarah Kramer sent me this recipe to test. I have no idea if it eventually made it into one of her cookbooks or which one, but I’ve continued to use it ever since. And to this day, I have no idea who Linda is.

Linda’s Ginger “Chicken
This recipe has served as comfort food in the Sperling/Cuddington household for many, many years. It is good for colds, stomachaches, and bruised psyches. Enjoy! – Linda

The Mockchicken” can be made in advance of the Ginger dish to save on time and will keep in fridge for 6 days or freezer for 6 months.

MockChicken
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
1 cup water

Broth
4 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt

Ginger Dish
3 – 3 inch pieces of fresh ginger, washed and sliced paper thin (approx 1 cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, finely chopped (garnish)

In a medium bowl, stir together the wheat gluten and water until it becomes elastic. Knead for 5 minutes and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil. Slice gluten into 1-inch chunks and drop carefully into broth. Reduce heat, cover with lid, let simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until broth has reduced. In a large pot on medium-high heat saute the ginger in oil for 3-4 minutes or until ginger starts to soften and change color. Add “chicken” and saute 2-3 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Add the soy sauce, cover pot with lid and turn down heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce evenly coats the ingredients. Once “chicken” is cooked, in a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water. Add into pot and stir together well until sauce is thickened.

Makes 4-6 servings.

This is a recipe that I’ve kept entirely to myself until recently. The first time I made it and offered some to Kevin (or at least the first time he actually braved trying it) he was astonished and said, “that is REALLY good.” Um, yeah. When I made it again last night, we devoured it.

I serve it with rice and a side of broccoli. Perfection.

Lessons in canning

I put canning peaches in my list of things I wanted to do this month on sort of on a whim. On one hand, I have always wanted to learn to can foods, but on the other, it’s always seemed like a really complicated – and, frankly, risky (I’m afraid it’ll give me the power to inadvertently kill someone) – practice. Then I saw that Urban Digs had organic peaches at the farm stand. They said they were seconds and perfect for canning and it seemed like a sign. Two days later, we headed over to the farm and in the meantime, I studied the literature. All of it.

25. Awesome August Day 9

Aside from being delicious, peaches are a good fruit to include in your diet for a number of reasons. They are rich in vitamins and beta carotene, help lower cholesterol and lower the risk of depression among other things. Check out a more expanded list of peach facts here.

This may seem like a boring detail, but it is so absurdly ME that I can’t resist sharing. We got to the farm and upon being greeted, I immediately asked about the peaches. Sure enough, there was a box on display. We looked at it – and this is where we get authentically and ridiculously Carly – I immediately thought there is no way that one box will be enough. “We’ll take two!” And that’s how we became the proud new owners of 40 pounds of Okanagan peaches.

You see, I always start strong, but my finish is a little weaker. I have a large collection of yarn, knitting needles and patterns and only about four very basis scarves to show for that. Halfway through Canning Day, as I was still in the middle of my first box of peaches, I wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into.

So, by the time Canning Day had rolled around, I’d meshed together all of my learnings and devised a plan of attack. I’d mostly combined the overall peach plan from BC Tree Fruits with Simply Canning’s raw pack method and rolled up my sleeves.

Here’s the short version of how to can peaches (description, not instruction):

  1. Clean your jars
  2. Make a sugar syrup
  3. Peel peaches
  4. Stuff peaches into jars
  5. Fill jars with syrup
  6. Put lids on jars
  7. Process jars in hot water

And here are a few things I learned in the process.

  • 40 pounds is a lot of peaches. It was lucky that the day before my project, I’d mentioned to my parents that I was doing this and mom said, “Do you want my canner?” Uh, YEAH! With the canner came two dozen .5 litre jars and that, friends, that was a lifesaver. (I’d bought twelve litre jars. Ha!)
  • It’s best to do some pot/vessel management pre-canning. There is a complex balance to navigate between all of the actions at play at any given point. There is the canner itself, a pot to keep the syrup hot, a pot to boil the peaches for skinning and you will also need to keep the jars you plan to use warm. This can occupy another element on your stove or, as I found out midway through the day, you can, run the jars through the dishwasher and keep them warm in there, plucking them out as needed.
  • Before you get started, make yourself lots of counterspace, empty both sinks if you have two and keep lots of clean tea towels at hand. I thought I did the first, didn’t do the second and accidentally got the third one right.
  • Don’t make plans for when you’re done. This is mostly because it’s going to take you much longer than you think and/or all freaking day. Also, to this end, get lots of podcasts or Netflix movies lined up ahead of time.
  • Coffee. Plan for it. And have a runner loved one on hand to take care of the necessities – food, drinks, sanity.
  • It isn’t the end of the world (or all of your hard work) if you do, after trying your best, have air bubbles in your jars. Given how much emphasis there is on getting rid of them, I thought someone might die from bubbles, but it turns out that it’s just good advice/best practice. We’re all going to live. (I really wish I’d know this before and not after.)
  • It’s even more rewarding than I imagined. I’m not going to lie – I’m pretty proud of myself.

My work is not complete. Next up: finding a place to store the peaches, all thirty-four (34!) jars of them.

Happy holiday hummus

For each of three holiday events we’ve attended over the past couple of days, I’ve been asked to bring my hummus. I’ve always liked it, but this proves others do too. Sometimes you have to listen to the people.

If feelings can be had for hummus, mine would be labelled strong. I believe that hummus is one thing that should always be made at home. For one thing, it’s super easy. For the other, the stuff in the stores just doesn’t cut it. I know that because I’ve broken my unwritten rule enough to have tried them all.

Hummus is a magical snack because it’s easy to grab and go, it’s satisfying and offers a good dose of protein and fibre. Pro tip: pair it with cut veggies and it’s a great make and take for parties and other events if you want to make sure there’s something for you to munch on if you’re adhering to a limited diet. I also like to make up a batch at the start of the week for mid-afternoon hunger pangs at the office and/or to dollop on top of a salad or dinner bowl.

I’ve made and modified this recipe so many times that the only place it’s stored is in my head, but here’s how I do it…

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Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • one onion, sliced
  • five or six cloves of garlic
  • one 540 mL can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I like to set aside a few for garnish)
  • 3/4 cup of tahini
  • juice of one and a half lemons (or to taste)
  • one jalapeno (I like to seed half of the pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
  • one teaspoon(-ish) of salt

Directions

  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and whole garlic cloves for a few minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Add all ingredients into a food processor. Process until smooth.
  3. Garnish with chick peas you set aside before processing. Serve in cute bowl with veggies, crackers or pita.

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