29 November, 2006

Down the Richelieu River Part 3

Our first morning in the US was cool and grayish. The wind was getting stronger and the weather radio announced the speed of wind to be 15 knots.

We enjoyed yet another porridge breakfast, drank the coffee, and went to explore the neighborhood in search of the map. Right next to the “Barcomb” marina we saw another one. The owner spoke French and, as it turned out, was from Canada. Just like everyone else he was very surprised to find out that we crossed the border by kayaks and suggested that we take a break for one day, because of the very windy weather conditions: “The wind is at least 20 knots and won’t die off until late afternoon”.

We decided to take off despite the warnings. Our plan was to cross to the East side, through the hole in the half-burned wooden rail-bridge and check the weather conditions on the other side.

It was the first time I’ve paddled in such windy weather. If usually a paddler has to fight the current, we had to fight the wind, which was pushing the boats, and the paddles, slowing us down to 1 km/h (instead of regular 4km/h). We also had to pay attention to the direction of the waves (it’s not fun to flip-over in the middle of the unfamiliar crossing) as well as the half-burned poles of the old bridge sticking out of the water. Some of the poles were short enough to be hidden by waves and only when the water would recess we would see their dangerous ends couple of centimeters away from the boats.

But all is well that ends well and almost an hour later we were paddling next to the Eastern shore realizing that the wind is as strong here as it was on the other side. The rain started drizzling over our heads; we “parked” the boats, and decided to wait until the wind dies off.

Anna and John came home an hour later. They were quite surprised to find 2 kayakers on their front yard;

- Judging by the sky, the weather won’t change until tomorrow – said Anna, - but you are welcome to crash in the corner of the yard.
- Would you need an extension cord? Something warm? I won’t be OK until I’ll know that you are good – said John.

It feels SO comforting to meet people who are nice to the crazy kayakers ;)

And so we had half a day to set up the tarp and the tent, watch the rain, rest, eat (Thai soup and Vegetable couscous with textured vegetable protein), and get ready for more adventures.
To be continued ....

28 November, 2006

Turnovers and Samosas

Savory Cornmeal-Whole Wheat Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp garlic salt
½ cup water
5 tbsp chilled butter (Earth Balance) cut into small pieces
1 large egg (I use Ener-G egg replacer)

Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, yellow cornmeal, baking powder, and garlic salt in a food processor; pulse until combined.
Add water, butter, and eggs; oulse 3 times or just until combined (do not form a ball)

Note: I needed to add more water, but I was using less cornmeal (I didn’t have enough) and more all-purpose flour.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface; knead gently 4 to 5 times.
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 5 ½ - inch circle on a lightly floured surface.

Yield 12 dough circles.

Potato, Leek, and Mushroom Turnovers

Yet another modified and veganized recipe.

3 cups (½-inch) cubed red or Yukon gold potato
2 cups chopped leeks (~ 1 big leek)
¾ cup water
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
4 oz white mushrooms
½ onion sliced
2 tbsp vegan Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 tbsp soy or rice milk
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegan cheddar cheese. I used 1 packet of the Road’s End Organic cheddar cheese mix.
4-5 drops of liquid smoke
Pinch of oregano (I think mint would be good, but I didn’t have any to try).
12 Savory Cornmeal – Whole Wheat Dough circles.

Boil potatoes until tender. Coarsely mash with a fork (or potato masher). Stir in leeks, chives, Parmesan, milk, salt, liquid smoke, spices, and pepper.
In a small skillet fry onions and mushrooms. Let the mix cool down and then add it to potatoes.
Preheat oven to 425º
Place the Savory Cornmeal-Whole Wheat Dough Circles on a lightly floured surface. Spoon ¼ cup potato mixture into the center of each dough circle. Fold dough over filling; press edges together with a fork or fingers to seal.
Place turnovers on a large baking sheet. Pierce top of each turnover once with a fork. Bake for 17 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serve warm.

Sweet Potato Samosa

3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups frozen petite green peas
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
12 Savory Cornmeal-Whole Wheat Dough circles

Boil sweet potatoes until tender. Drain, coarsely mash, and stir in peas.
Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes. Add mustard seeds, coriander, and curry powder; sauté 2 minutes. Add onion mixture, salt, and pepper to potato mixture; stir well. Cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 425°.
Place Savory Cornmeal-Whole Wheat Dough circles on a lightly floured surface. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture into center of each dough circle. Fold dough over filling; press edges together with a fork or fingers to seal. Place samosas on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pierce top of each samosa once with a fork. Bake at 425° for 19 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

The recipes come from "Cooking Light``

Down the Richelieu River Part 2

Nothing bothered us during the night and the morning was calm and pleasant. Our third day was as sunny and warm as the previous ones. Eric was getting impatient to get to the boarder so I made a fast porridge breakfast, packed everything in the boat, and waited for him to get ready. The river was busier that day; the little fish were jumping out of the water, the motor-boats were zooming by, and the fishermen were waiting for their catch in their crafts.

After half-a-day of paddling we finally reached the “big golden buoy”. The concept of border always puzzled me, and if it is pretty straightforward on the ground, I couldn’t wait what would the Canadian-American boarder look like in the middle of the Richelieu River. As it turns out the actual boarder is identified by the big golden buoy but the office of the American Border Patrol where you have to register your crossing is in the nearest marina.

“Barcomb” marina made me think of the American movies: a saloon-type of place that smells like beer and French fries, the regulars sitting at the bar, the barwoman (Sue) running the place, and ….. two Canadians dressed in the wet-suits, clogs, bandanas, and spray skirts asking about registering the kayak-crossing. All the head turned when we entered the place and we were explained that during the off-season the officer waits in his office for a phone call, and once we fill out the paper he would come to talk to us. While waiting for the officer we met Steve who told us stories about his life all over the States.

An hour later the officer showed up......

It was the first time he saw kayaks crossing the boarder and had no idea how to fill up the necessary papers. After talking to the head-office he registered the boats and we were free to go! However, it was getting dark and we had to look for a place to stay. We went back to the bar to inquire about the nearest beach where we could’ve spend the night, but everything nearby was a private property so Sue offered us a patch of grass next to the marina, which was more than enough for our tent.

The evening and the morning after were somewhat surreal. The street right next to us, the highway-bridge on the left, houses, cars, people ….. although Rouses Point is a very little and quiet city. We ate the dinner (another Thai soup and Thai yellow curry with vegetables and textured vegetable protein over rice noodles), drank some tea, went back to marina to say “Goodnight” to Sue, who was watching “House” and cuddled up in the sleeping bags.
To be continued ....

27 November, 2006

Vegetable Patties

These patties made me think of Spring in the middle of Fall. I slightly modified the recipe from “Les Indispensables Plats Végétariens” (thank you Tra!!!). I had hard time frying the patties, because they would fall apart. Make the patties small and plump, and do not rush to turn them over, when frying.

2 big potatoes cut in big cubes
1 onion thinly sliced
½ cauliflower (just the florets)
1 cup of green peas (frozen, fresh, or caned) cooked or raw
1 cup of fresh spinach, minced
2 bell peppers cut in small cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tbsp of ground coriander
1 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced
1 ½ tbsp of ground cumin
1 tbsp of salt
2 tbsp of fresh coriander, more to garnish
Bread crumbs (~50 grams)
Olive oil
Green onions, minced to garnish (optional)

Boil potatoes, onions, and cauliflower until tender. Drain and mash with a fork, or potato masher.
Add peas and spinach to the mixture. Mix well.
Add peppers, garlic, ginger, spices, salt, and fresh coriander. Mix well and mash more, if needed.
Form little patties, cover with bread crumbs, and fry until golden brown.
Serve garnished with cilantro and/or green onions.

Down the Richelieu River Part 1

Our 7 days trip to the Chaplain Lake started on the bright Saturday afternoon. We drove to the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and put our kayaks in the water next to the St. Therese Island. The day was warm, the sun was up high, and we were impatient to discover the beauty of the lake.

According to the calculations we would get to the border the next day and spend the whole week paddling among the islands, visiting Plattsburgh, and crossing to Vermont. The paddle down the canal was calm and effortless. The sun was still quite bright above our heads, the weather was wonderful, not too hot or too cool, the water was calm, and the people walking on the shore were friendly and smiley. After couple of hours of paddling we snacked on “Clif” bars and decided to keep going despite the approaching evening. After couple of more kilometers we saw ….. the locks!!! Jean-Claude warned us that there were 7 locks on the Richelieu River. Starting as low as the St. Therese Island we were sure to clear all of them, but … alas! …. we couldn’t go any further and had to portage!!!! It was the first portage in my life (kayakers are not as used to caring their belongings as canoeists) and I hated every second of it. The boats were very heavy, still filled with all the food, and I was pretty tired. I tried to “cheat” and most of the time Eric was carrying 80% of the boats’ weight (but hey, he is the guy, right?) ;)

The portage was done and the river opened up in front of us; the big marina on one side, motor boats anchored next to the shore…. The sun was going down but we decided to paddle “just a bit more” until we would find a nice place to crash. The river at night looks almost mystical. At one point the light mist raised over the water and we would try to guess what was coming up in front of us judging by the dimmed lights.

It was getting darker and colder and we had to stop for the night. On the shore at our right we’ve noticed a street lamp…. Yeah a street lamp in the middle of nowhere. It turned out to be the end of the road with a huge house on one side and an empty lawn on the other. The house was dark and uninhabited so we assumed that our “squatting” for the night would not cause any problems.

The temperature dropped significantly and as soon as we stopped moving we felt chills. We changed in the set of dry clothes, and while Eric was putting up the tent, I made a big pot of chili to keep us warm and full. Before we knew, the chili was eaten and we were both crawling in to the tent, half asleep.

“Is everything OK?” – a man’s voice woke me up in the morning.
“Yeah, we are good. Is it your terrain?” – answered Eric.

It turned out that the owner of the house came home late last night and did not notice us on his land. He had nothing against us staying for couple of days. He even explained to us that the apple trees were sick and apples were not very good, whereas plums were much nicer and we should feel free to pick as much as we want.
Eric went to pick some plums and I started the breakfast:
Orange juice followed by fried potatoes with mushrooms and vegan sausages. And definitely some coffee.

It was getting nice and warm, we didn’t want to waste any more time so we packed our belongings in the boats and set off. Our next destination was the American boarder.

Paddling on the river is quite different from paddling in the canal. You have to pay attention to upcoming boats, to the coast line, to the bottom that could get shallow pretty fast. Moreover, you should not paddle anywhere but stick to the canal, separated by green and red buoys. But the best part of paddling in the river is the WAVES that passing boats leave behind. We would stop every now and then to bob on the waves, or to cross them perpendicularly.

Once again, we were taking it easy and before we knew we were passing the Lennox Fort. Checking with the map Eric announced that we would still not make it to the American boarder today, and the Fort would be an ideal place to stay for the night.

The sign said “no camping” but the island was empty, so we decided to go in the Fort and ask if we can camp for one night. It turned out that the offices were closed and the only man we’ve met said that during the off-season period we would not bother anyone by pitching the tent in the corner of a huge field.

The field was big indeed with picnic tables, trash cans, and nice access to the water – a true heaven for kayakers. We made the camp and I slowly got to cooking. This time it would be a light soup from the “Thai cuisine” and to stay faithful to the Asian cuisine I made stir-fry vegetables with rice noodles.

Amazing part of camping in autumn is the speed of weather and light change. Early in the morning you don’t want to get out of the tent because it is quite chilly outside, but once you stay in the sun for two-three minutes you get warm and even hot. The sun keeps working hard the entire day and the temperature rises significantly but towards four-five o’clock it gets cooler again and when the sun sets you have to put on your warm fleece, hat, and gloves. It all happens very fast because the sun sets in the matter of an hour or so and the darkness falls fast.

Once the supper was finished we made some hot tea with Marzipan “Ritter Sportchocolate – our favorite dessert – and we were both ready to get in our sleeping bags.

to be continued .....

20 November, 2006


Inspired by the latest "vegan_cookoff" theme and the Amazon order that I've received I decided to finally make pizza.

For the dough I followed the recipe from "Nonna's Italian Kitchen : Delicious Home-Style Vegan Cuisine":

1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water
1/2 tbsp baking yeast
1/2 tsp unbleached sugar
3 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt

After "testing" the yeast by combining it with water and sugar and letting it stand for 10 minutes (it suppose to froth up, but mine didn't); I've mixed the flour, oil, and salt. I've kneaded dough for good 8 minutes until it became nice and uniform and made a ball out of it.

Note: it is better to mix in only half of flour the first time, let the dough rest for a bit and then continue with the rest of flour, oil, and salt.

The ball was placed in a bowl, where it sitted, covered with a towel, for an hour. It doubled in size and then I punched it down and kneaded just a bit more.

Note: the more times the dough will rise and "fall" the more "puffy" would it come out at the end (a tip from my hairdresser)

I used only half of the dough (the other hald is waiting wrapped in plastic in the fridge) and roll a nice crust for the pizza. As I've learned, it doesn't have to be too thin, unless you want a very thin-crust pizza, like the one I made.

Then I made Chuncky Tomatoe Sauce:

1 can of diced tomatoes with herbs
4 garlic cloves minced
1/2 tbs ground oregano
1 tbs grlound basil
1 tbsp olive oil

Sautee garlic in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and spices. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Melty White Cheez from Joanne Stepaniak's "The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook"

1 1/2 cups of soy milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp sesame tahini
2 tbsp cornstarch (kuzu or arrowroot)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Blend all the ingridients until completely smooth.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly with a whisk until very thick.
Extra: I added couple of drops of liquid smoke and it turned out great.

And the toppings:

Tofurky Italian Sausage
Marinated artichokes (my boss gave a huge jar of those)
Green peppers

I arranged everything but "cheese" on top of the dough and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Once the pizza was ready, I've spread the cheese and ..... mmmmmmmm was it ever good!!!

Note: to speed up the process prepare the toppings while the dough is rising and make cheese once pizza is in the oven

Today my pizza received a highest possible compliment - a colleague of mine (very picky eater who thinks that all vegan food is weird) tried a piece and LOVED it! I am making more pizza for her this week!!!

14 November, 2006

Camping Chili

This recipe is rather fuel-consuming because of the cooking of beans and potatoes.
There are several ways of reducing the cooking time:

- Use canned beans (increases the weight and the trash, but significantly reduces the cooking time)
- Use instant rice and mung beans which are smaller and take less time to cook
- Use instant beans (I’ve personally never tried it but can’t see why it wouldn’t work)
- Use dehydrated cooked beans.

I like to cook chili on the first night of our trip. I usually soak beans for ~24 hours before the trip, rinse them, put in Nalgene bottle and cover with water. The beans still have time to soak during the first day of the trip but I don’t have to be extra careful about rinsing them.

Potatoes could be substituted for by using instant mash potatoes which would decrease the cooking time and the fuel consumption.


1 potato or sweet potato
1/2 onion
2 garlic cloves (when camping use “tubed” garlic paste – the wonderful invention)
~1/2 cup pre-soaked beans (from my experience, black beans are the best, they cook the fastest)
1 tomato (either fresh or dried. If you are using dried tomatoes you can add some “tubed” tomato paste)


You can use the vegetables of your choice – here are my favorite:
Zucchini (dehydrated or fresh)
Peppers (dehydrated or fresh)
Mushrooms (dehydrated)

Powdered/”cubed” vegetable broth
Chili powder

Ground cumin
Thyme (if you like it)
Ground coriander
Salt/pepper/cayenne pepper
Half a pack of “fake meet”. I use Yves Mexican or Original “Ground Round”.

Fry onion and garlic. Add some cumin and any other spices while frying.
Add diced potatoes, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms. Fry until the vegetables (peppers and zucchinis) get slightly soft. Add tomatoes and fry a bit more. Pour water and add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, add chili powder and beans. Simmer until beans are tender. Add “meat” and cook until thoroughly hot.

Serve topped with corn chips, guacamole, cilantro, and/or green onions.


1 avocado
1/2 tomato
1/4 onion (green onions)
Lime juice (optional)
Garlic paste (optional)

Mash avocado, add diced tomatoes, onion, and couple of drops of lime juice. Stir well until combined.

Eggplant curry

As promised, here is a food-related post.

On Sunday I decided to cook a veganised version of the "Eggplant and Parsnip curry" from the "Vegetarian; the best-ever recipe collection" by Linda Fraser. I modified the recipe by substituting parsnip for sweet potatoes and changing the amount of some ingredients.

Here is the "modified" vegan version of the recipe which was SO tasty:

Eggplant and Sweet Potatoes Curry
1 large eggplant, diced
2 medium size sweet potatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper
3 onions
4 garlic cloves
1/2inch piece of ginger
4 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups of white basmati rice (you can use the brown variety, but adjust the cooking time)
3 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 block of soft tofu
~3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chili powder
3 oz of sultana raisins
6 oz of cashew nuts (the original recipe calls for unslated ones, but I was using salted ones by mistake - there was no taste difference)
1/2 cup of vegan "butter"
Cilantro to garnish

Cover rice with cold water and let stand for 35-40 minutes.

Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse the salt off.

Process 1 onion, garlic, and ginger in the food processor until minced. Add 2 or 3 tbs of water and process some more to make a paste.
Sllice red pepper and 2 remaining onions.

Prepare 1 cup of "yogurt". If you have your favorite recipe - use it. I just passed the soft tofu in the blender and mixed in some apple cider vinegar to get the sour taste.

In a large skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Fry onions for 10-15 minutes on medium-high heat until golden. Set aside

In the same skillet fry 4oz of cashew nuts for 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Add raisins and fry for 2-3 minutes until they puff (I did not wait for raisins to puff). Set aside.

Add 1 tbsp of oil to the skillet and fry potatoes for 5 minutes. Set aside. Fry eggplant, together with red pepper and remaining cashews for 5 minutes. Drain on the paper towel

Add oil and fry the onion-ginger-garlic paste until it turns golden. Add spices (cumin, coriander, chili) and fry for another minute. Add yogurt and slowly bring the mix to boil, add the vegetables (eggplant, pepper, potatoes) and the broth. Bring to boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile cook the rice in 2 cups of water for 5-6 minutes, until slightly undercooked.

Pour the vegetable mixture in the oven-proof pan. Add rice on top. Scatter fried onions on top of the rice and sprinkle with raisins/nuts mix. Dot with butter. Close with the double layer of aluminum foil and a cover.

Preheat the oven to 300F
Place the dish in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Serve garnished with cilantro springs.

The taste of this curry is quite delicate and balanced. It tastes as good on the second day.

13 November, 2006


The food-related post or two are coming up tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are new "toys"

"Komperdell" Antishock Fire Trekking Poles - a "not a gift" birthday gift from Eric

"Max-mtn" mat - a gift to myself (?)

Getting ready for winter!!!

07 November, 2006


Here is an article on food dehydration that Eric found. It looks like the only vitamins lost during the dehydration process are vitamins A and C.

Drying Foods

UPDATE: unfortunately the link to the original article is broken.

04 November, 2006


These truffles were so good that I made them twice in a row. First time I followed the recipe; the only substitutions were Rum extract instead of Almond simply because none of the stores in the area carry almond extract. I also used sweetened coco-flakes but no sugar for coating.
The second time I was ready to experiment. I grated some orange rind (thank you Pasha for advice), still used Rum extract and sweetened coco-flakes, and mixed in the mass melted chocolate chips (not too much – you don’t want the chocolate to overpower the taste). The result was chocolaty and the final flavor was more complex.

The truffles should be served immediately, or stored in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer up to 2 months.

½ cup chopped almonds
2 cups pitted dates
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
¼ tsp. almond extract
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbs. sugar (the recipe doesn’t specify, but I think that icing sugar should be used)
Pinch of salt

Toast almond in skillet over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, or until light brown. Set aside
Place dates in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from heal, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Drain reserving 1Tbs. liquid until smooth.
Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in almonds, vanilla, ½ tsp cinnamon, almond extract and pinch of salt.
Spread coconut on plate. Sift cocoa, sugar and remaining ½ tsp cinnamon into bowl.
Form date mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll in coconut, and then cocoa mixture.

Makes about 3 dozen.
The picture I've used to illustrate the post comes from the Bruges Chocolates web-site.