Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Artisan Bread in Minutes

I often post photos to my Facebook page of the bread I make and I often get questions about it so I decided to do a blog post about it so I can make it simple and just link people to it.

I love fresh bread but I'm a bit impatient and I really hate kneading. I own a bread machine and that's fine but it doesn't really give me the crusty type of bread I most enjoy. I also have to get the water temp just right and that is really annoying. I usually make my husband do it.

Back in October of 2015, the website Craftsy had a super deal going on.. pay them $10 and you can watch as many of their classes as you want for the month of October. The classes range in price from $15 and up on sale so this was a great deal. I made a huge list of all the classes I wanted to take and most of them were food related. I spent hours every day watching these classes and I learned a lot.. I mean, a lot.

I've really upped my cooking and baking games and we are enjoying it with fresh salsas, fresh tortillas, fresh bread, stir fry and the list goes on.

One class I came across and took was Zoe Francois Artisan Bread in Minutes. That sounded like my kind of bread.. no kneading! So, I took her class and loved it, I highly recommend it if you're interested. I found out she had a book that covered what was in the class, plus a ton more so I got it. The book is big and beautiful and full of recipes and instruction. It's worth every penny.

Here is the basic bread recipe.

Before I take you down this rabbit hole... do you need to buy all of the things I talk about in this blog post? No. Of course not. People have been making bread for centuries so you can do it with flour, water, yeast, salt and an oven.. but these things I mention do make it easier. I'm all for easy. So.. if you can afford to invest it all or some of it, great.. if not.. no biggie. A cookie sheet and some parchment paper is fine too.

 If you can't do the class, get the book.. I'm happy I did the class and bought the book.

The basic point of this bread is that you mix it up in a bucket, let it rise and then stick it in the fridge for later use. Once it's proofed you have fresh dough available for immediate use. Fresh bread with a couple rises in a couple hours, pizza can be ready to go in half an hour. You can get multiple loaves out of each bucket.

I mostly make baguettes and pizza with this dough but it does so much more. It's really an all purpose dough and having it pre-made and ready to go is pretty amazing.. it's nice to be able to have fresh bread in a couple hours. You can make cinnamon rolls, boule (larger round loaves), naan, focaccia, rolls, and fancy breads.

The first thing I'll talk about is ingredients. Normally I'd use whole grains but in this I use simple all-purpose white flour. The book has more recipes if you want to expand into using different flours, including gluten free. I use yeast that I buy in big blocks and store in the freezer. I use kosher salt.

The next thing.. tools.

Kitchen Scale 

Zoe recommends weighing the flour for an accurate amount of flour. I've linked to a basic one that I don't own so I can't speak to how good or bad it is. You want one that weighs in grams. Do your research. You should just have a scale if you cook. Seriously.

Dough Bucket and Lid

This is one of those things that makes it easier. You can pour the water in, add in the yeast and whisk to dissolve and then stir in the flour and salt. Then you can do your first rise and your refrigeration all in one container. You just need to make sure you have room in the fridge for it.

Dough Whisk

You may think a regular spoon will work... it won't.. at least not as easily as this will.

Steel Pizza Stone

I've owned the stoneware kind and they always break. It's annoying. This time I decided I'd invest in one that would never break. This thing is heavy. We use it for pizza and baking the boules.

Pizza Peel 

If you're going to buy a stone, but the peel. This is what you use to put the raw pizza onto the hot stone and to remove the cooked pizza from the hot stone. I linked to an inexpensive one but research this to find one that meets your needs. Use flour or cornmeal to make sure it doesn't stick and will move freely from the peel to the stone.

Baguette Pan 

I love baguettes so I invested in this special pan. I use this with parchment paper. I'm sure other brands are available but I will always choose Chicago Metallic over another brand so that is what I linked to. I put this on top of a jelly roll pan and into the oven.

Water Pan

Another thing Zoe recommends is using a larger pan underneath the stone or pan that you will toss ice cubes into in order to bake the bread. This helps you get a nice crumb and crust. I use a large lasagna type baking pan. I couldn't even fnd one in order to link it for you. It has to be metal because you will be adding cold ice into a hot pan and glass will break. You also need it deep enough to hold the melted ice. I don't use the water method when I make pizza.

So.. there ya have it. I know it seems overly involved but it really isn't. I've been making this bread since October and I've even given it as gifts.. it's delicious. I don't think I'll ever make bread any other way now.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

McDougall Big Cup VS. Maruchan Instant Lunch

I think all of us have eaten ramen at some point in our lives. Some of us had to eat it because it was cheap and easy to get but I also think some of us just enjoyed it. However, I think most of us have come to terms with the fact that the cheap ones are a sodium nightmare and shouldn't be consumed at all. 


Well, I have good news! There exists a good ramen! It's full of fiber and protein. It has half the sodium of the cheap kind. It has organic noodles and it doesn't have any of the yucky ingredients like MSG. It is also vegan, fat free, oil free, dairy free and cholesterol free!

They also taste good! 

The other good news is that McDougall's has a variety of flavors and they even have soups that all fit into the healthy slot and come in the single cups. You'll also find gluten free options and oatmeal. I love the Black Bean with Lime soup. 

Now, I suppose if there is any bad news, it is that they aren't as cheap as the Maruchan cups. I can find them online in 6 packs for around $10 to $12, so they average anywhere from $1.40 to $2 a piece depending on where you get them and what sort of discounts you can get but it's still affordable and your health is worth paying for better ingredients. They can be made with boiling water or in the microwave and are perfect to take to work.

Check out, and McDougall's own website, but also research to find other places. Many local supermarkets will carry them as well in their health sections but you'll pay a closer to retail price. McDougall's has a variety of foods that you might want to check out!

Here is a run down of their ingredients and a chart comparing their nutritional details. 

McDougall Vegan Chicken Soup with Organic Ramen Noodles Big Cup

Organic Baked Ramen Noodles (Organic Wheat Flour, Brine, Salt), Yeast Extract, Vegetables* (Carrots, Garlic, Onion, Corn, Spinach), Organic Potato Starch, Organic Cane Sugar, Spices, Lime. *Dried.

Maruchan Instant Lunch, Chicken Flavor 

Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Contains One or More of the Following: Canola, Cottonseed, Palm) Preserved by TBHQ, Dehydrated Vegetables (Carrot, Corn, Green Peas, Onion, Garlic, Celery Stalk), Salt, Powdered Cooked Chicken, Chicken Fat, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Corn, Wheat and Soy Protein, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Dehydrated Soy Sauce (Wheat, Soybeans, Salt), Spices, Yeast Extract, Chicken Broth, Soya Lecithin, Potassium Carbonate, Sodium (Mono, Hexameta, and/or Tripoly) Phosphate, Sodium Carbonate, Turmeric, Silicon Dioxide (Anticaking Agent), Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Lactose.

How do they compare?

The Instant Lunch cups are listed as one serving while the McDougall's Big Cups are listed as two so I posted the McDougall's as one serving and adjusted the numbers so it's a fair comparison. Let's be honest.. we're gonna eat the whole cup. Keep in mind, your total sodium intake for the day should be kept under 2,300 mg. 

Serving size
  50 gr   64 gr
  180   290
  580 mg   1,190 mg
  8 g   7 gr
  1 gr   12 gr
Saturated Fat
  0 gr   6 gr
  4 gr   2 gr
Organic Ramen?
  Yes   No
  Yes   No

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Shelly's Coconut Shake

Feel free to share but please link back to this blog. 

This morning when I was deciding what type of smoothie to make for myself, I saw that I had some coconut milk leftover in the fridge so I figured I needed to use that up and I had a great idea .....

Back before my plant eating days, I used to love to get a coconut shake at a local chain place called Beef a Roo. They are known for their large menu of shake flavors and I really wanted to try and replicate that thick, rich, creamy, nothing but coconut flavor in a healthy, vegan way.

I think I did it!

There is a little bit of plan ahead prep here - coconut milk ice cubes! These will change your smoothie life! Last week, I made some peanut sauce and had half a can of leftover coconut milk that I didn't want to waste so I poured it into ice cube trays and froze them to add to smoothies.  Don't use regular ice in this. It will water it down. Make the effort to make the coconut milk ice cubes.. they will be delicious in any smoothie you make!

Shelly's Coconut Shake

6 oz cocont milk (the canned kind, shake it before opening)
2 oz almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
1 frozen banana
2 coconut milk ice cubes
1 tbsp maple syrup
dash sea salt

Combine in a blender until smooth. This should be thick like an ice cream shake.


Add in some vanilla protein powder for a boost.
Add in cacao to get a chocolate coconut shake.
Add in some pineapple for a Pina Colada shake.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Original Recipe - Chili Cheese Corn Chips

Feel free to share this recipe. I just ask that you link back to this blog, please.

I love Fritos!Jjust three ingredients - corn, oil and salt.

I used to really like the Chili Cheese flavor but going vegan ended that love affair.... altho, to be honest, the chemical crap in those also just turned me off once I started to pay attention to and care about what was in the foods I was eating.

Just look at this ingredient list... MSG! Sugar? Multiple dairy sources? Gross.

  • Whole Corn, Corn Oil, Chili Cheese, Seasoning (Salt, Whey, Spices [Including Chili Pepper], Cheddar Cheese [Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Whey Protein Concentrate, Wheat Flour, Tomato Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Onion Powder, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Romano Cheese [Part-Skim Cow's Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Dextrose, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Butter [Cream, Salt], Sodium Caseinate, Buttermilk, Citric Acid, Garlic Powder, Extractives of Annatto, Caramel Color, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, and Lactic Acid).

Note: this recipe calls for citric acid. You can find it in the canning section of the grocery store. It's an excellent ingredient to have in your kitchen. It gives food a tang like lemon juice does but in a powdered form. I use it quite often.  I'm sure these will taste just fine without the citric acid but it does give it that little bit of oomph.

If you noticed, there is tomato powder in the original, and even tho I have that in my kitchen, almost no one else will and it isn't always easy to get your hands on that so I decided to make it without the tomato powder to keep it simple. I don't think my version is missing anything without it.

One thing I'd suggest is to make a few spice packets since you'll have everything out anyway... why not make a few baggies of the spice mix and then you just have to dump and shake next time!  Plus, you'll be making these a lot.. I promise you.

Chili Cheese Corn Chips

1 10 oz bag of plain Fritos or similar type corn chip (not the tortilla kind)
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt (you may want less here depending on how salty the chips are, start with 1/2 tsp and go from there)
1/8 tsp citric acid.

Place all the spices into a small bowl and mix well. Dump the bag of corn chips into a gallon sized baggie and add the spice mixture. Toss the chips with the spices until coated. (don't add any oil, the oil on the chips is enough) Make sure you remove the air in the baggie for storage or they will go stale.. if they even last that long.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Original Recipe - Adobo Vinaigrette

I love eating at Chipotle and I've heard tale of how great their honey vinaigrette is but I've never tried it because I consider honey to be a cruel product so I don't eat it. 

I searched the web for clone recipes and they all had so much sweetener and so much oil that I just decided to create my own. This still has quite a bit of oil but less than the recipes I found.

This recipe makes about 10 tablespoons and each tablespoon is about 105 calories. Yes, kinda shocking but it's really good and if you toss it with your greens, you can probably use less. At least it isn't full of weird fillers!

You'll need to grab a can of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for this. You'll find them in the aisle with the Mexican food products.

I used Suzanne's Just Like Honey as my honey alternative. It's a blend of brown rice syrup, maple syrup and agave nectar. You can sub any of those instead. Start with the 1 tablespoon and if you'd like it sweeter, you add more but it will affect the calorie count on the dressing if you do.

Adobo Vinaigrette 

I blended this in my mini food processor/chopper type appliance. You can also use a Magic Bullet. I blended everything except the oil first and then added the oil in.

1/2 cup vegetable oil (not olive)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 chipotle in adobo pepper (I used a medium sized one)
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp honey alternative
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Miyoko's Kitchen Review

I used to be a very big cheese lover/eater before I went vegan. I don't really miss cow cheese but I miss the richness that cheese can add to a dish. I've certainly found vegan ways to make my favorite cheesy dishes from mac & cheese to nachos to au gratin potatoes and I'm perfectly happy with those.

If I had to admit I missed anything about cow cheese, it might be the whole cheese and crackers thing. I used to love a good cheese curd or a smooth and rich spread over a Triscuit. I even enjoyed a stick of string cheese now and then.

I've made delicious cashew cheese spread here at home that has made me exceptionally happy and I even bought Miyoko's Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook, but I have to admit... I don't have the patience to do it. It takes planning and aging and that weird rejuvelac stuff. I don't have the desire or motivation to make rejuvelac so that is why I haven't tried making the cheeses.

I had first heard about Miyoko's plans to bring her cashew based 'cultured nut product' to retail a good year ago thru Miyoko's Kitchen. She isn't allowed to call it cheese in California but I'm going to call it cheese in this blog post because that is what it is to me.

I watched as she set up her manufacturing facility and warehouse, watched her tease the packaging and names for the products and I even watched her roll it out.. from debuting at various food conventions and even to her actual online sales launch. I sat and watched as bloggers were given freebies for review and I waited to see what everyone thought of it.  I started hearing the rumblings from people that had been able to try it and I searched out actual blogger reviews.

From the moment it became available online I longed for it but the shipping costs were holding me back out of principal. I hate paying for shipping. The 2 day Fed Ex shipping runs from $9 to $30 depending on where you live and how many boxes you buy. I am, of couse, in the zone as far away as possible from California. I knew that the odds of this product every making it to stores in my midwest area, were slim to none. I might eventually see it come to Whole Foods but that is still a one hour drive (each way) away from me and you can't guarantee the product will be there when you decide to go.

However ... one day, Miyoko sent out an email with a code for $10 off and that is what finally spurred me on to place an order. (she's also done free shipping so watch out for those deals!)

I was able to justify paying $5 shipping vs $15 for the 4 pack I had chosen.  We'd have to pay the gas prices to drive an hour and back if Whole Foods ever did get it around here so it seemed like it made sense to just order it.

When I placed my first order, Miyoko's Kitchen had packages of 3 or more of the cheeses pre-packed but now they have a mix & match procedure so you can try the flavors you want to rather than buy in a pre-packed grouping.

Right now, you can order a minimum of 3 boxes to a maximum of 10 boxes in an order. If they'd open it up to be as many boxes as you wanted, it might help those of us in Zone 3 because then we can order in bulk and share the shipping costs. We can do 10 boxes for ourselves but I often split the order with a friend. The cheese does freeze well according to the website but we don't keep it around along enough to do that!

Overall .. these are amazing. There is no one that would ever know these were made from cashews. If I didn't have the package in front of me and I knew for a fact it was vegan. I'd think someone was flat out lying to me. It's THAT good. There is no weird texture or aftertaste. These are so good that I won't even cook with them.. I want to eat them in their full, straight on glory .. simply on a cracker.

When I first saw the size of these, I was a little disappointed thinking they wouldn't last long but I was completely wrong... one wheel lasts a decent amount of time. I've been having cheese and crackers just about every day. I slice off about a half ounce wedge of three flavors at a time as a snack with Triscuits and it takes awhile to work thru a wheel and that is with my husband enjoying some a few times a week as well.

I've been able to try almost all of the flavors available right now so here are my opinions:

Double Creams Selections- These are a thick, rich cream cheese that you'd use on a bagel or a cracker. It's perfectly smooth and thick and amazing. They melt in your mouth.

  Garlic Herb - This is probably my fave of the double creams. I love them all but if you forced me to choose one, I'd choose this. It has a nice balance of garlic and herbs. it's exactly like a fancy cream cheese. I like mine on Triscuits. I did try it on a bagel but I feel like you need to use too much in that capacity and it's too good for a bagel. The husband liked this one a lot. It was limited edition.

  Sun Dried Tomato Garlic - this has a lovely tomato-y vibe to it.. almost like a pizza cream cheese.

  Chive - this is a nice classic cream cheese flavor. Perfect.

French Style Winter Truffle - This one was a bit weird for me. I love truffle flavor but I didn't get that from this. It's a soft cheese with minced mushrooms. This didn't work for me on a cracker. I just didn't like the texture. The flavor was nice but it was not a cheese I'd use for crackers so I had to find a new use for it. I used half a wheel to make a delicious cheesy alfredo type sauce to use over linguine. I melted it with some soy milk and it was delicious and very fancy. I wouldn't buy this again simply because for me, it makes a pricey mac & cheese.

Spring Thyme - This was a special limited edition flavor that is similar to the Provence one. It has dried thyme on it. It's a very hard cheese so I wasn't a huge fan since I prefer to spread it on crackers. It has a stronger flavor.

High Sierra Rustic Alpine - this is a mild, creamy cheese. A little drier than the double cream type but very spreadable. I like this one but I tell people it's the least exciting of the flavors. It's delicious but doesn't have a flavor that I can really put a lot of adjectives to. I'd buy it again tho.

Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash - This is one that I was both hesitant to try and intrigued to try. It seemed really weird to me but also like it could be incredible so I figured I needed to at least try it and hope one of us liked it enough to make sure it didn't go to waste!  It is coated with black vegetable ash. I don't know what that means but I hoped it wasn't going to taste like an ashtray... that was the thought my brain had as I was wrapping my thoughts around trying it. Well, it's delicious... the ash gives it a tangy sort of bite. I really liked it and I've re-ordered it.

Aged English Sharp Farmhouse - This is the only one I wouldn't eat again. It's too sharp for me. It reminds me of the sharpness of blue cheese and I don't like that. The Farmhouse cheeses are drier so it isn't as spreadable unless you let it sit a bit to warm up.

Aged English Smoked Farmhouse - This is probably my favorite. It's the driest of the cheeses. It isn't super smooth. It flakes but you can still use it on a cracker. Sometimes it's creamier than other times. Sometimes it just takes a little extra strength to work on a cracker. It does grate but it's soft so it doesn't come out like parmesan but I've successfully grated it onto chili. It has a delightful smoky edge to it.. melts in your mouth like the rest tho. My husband likes this one too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Original Recipe - Perfect Hummus with Variations.

Feel free to share this recipe but please link back to this blog.

Ah, hummus.... it seems lots of people love it.  Commercial hummus is ok.. it does it's job but homemade is always better and so much more affordable.

I'm a bit of an odd one when it comes to hummus. I'll buy it with good intentions of using it and I usually end up tossing it out. I don't know why. It's great as a wrap spread or with veggies, pita wedges or crackers and it's the best snack - - - low fat, lots of protein and fiber and it's something you can dig into without guilt. 

We have a local Mediterranean restaurant that makes the best hummus... I can eat an entire plate of it by myself but if I bring leftovers home, I don't eat it... I don't know why. I really don't. 

Anyway ... I learned from Ellen Degeneres's chef, Roberto Martin, that adding water was the key to perfect hummus and he's right! He has a great cookbook called Vegan Cooking for Carnivores and while his recipe was fine... I needed to make my own with more seasonings and flavor. 

I wanted to replicate the one made by our local place. Roberto doesn't use tahini and I don't either .. it's high in fat and I'm not a big fan of the flavor and why add oil and fat if it tastes great without it? Turns out, my local place doesn't use Tahini either .... they use toasted sesame oil! 

You'll need a food processor for this. Side note about the plum vinegar ... that is a staple in my kitchen and I like it for the tang it gives the hummus but you can skip it if you don't want to buy it or can't find it. I'm not sure I'd sub anything else tho. 

Shelly's Perfect Hummus (base version)

(1) 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed.
1/4 to 1/2 c water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp plum vinegar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
dash pepper

Put everything into your food processor and blend for 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and whipped. Start with the 1/4 water and add more util you get it the thickness/thiness you'd prefer. 

Now, if you want some variety..... punch of the flavor and add in other goodies!

Garlic Hummus (shown) .... just add a spoonful of minced garlic on top and stir in! Adding in roasted garlic is really good too!

Basil Hummus ... toss in some fresh basil leaves.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus .. you can top the basic hummus with minced pepper or toss it in to blend it up. I like to buy the roasted peppers in the jar and use those.

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus ... toss in some pre-soaked tomatoes. Choose the oil free ones if you can.

Olive Tapenade Hummus ... top with a spoon full of jarred or homemade tapenade.. or just use minced black and green olives.

Chipotle Hummus ... add in one chipotle in adobo and blend it in.

You can also thin it with water and use it as a salad dressing.