“Cleanse” day 2

When you hear “vegan and gluten-free,” do you feel a pall of dullness wash over you? Let me show you it doesn’t have to be that way!

When I’m doing one of these fun/silly diet challenges (not “diet” in the sense of weight-loss, which I’m not into, but “diet” as in “what I eat”), the best time to do them is a time like this month, when I’m working at home and have all the time in the world to cook. You can expect to see lots of posts this month; brace yourselves.

Today’s menu:

Breakfast: Tofu scramble; fried O’Brien potatoes; agave ketchup (recipe below)

tofu scramble and O'Brien potatoes

Morning snack: Figs and raspberries

figs and raspberries

Lunch: Salad with vinaigrette (olive oil, cider vinegar, a touch of agave nectar)

salad plates

Afternoon snack: guacamole and chips (James made the guacamole with onions, jalapenos, and garlic. He asked me if I wanted him to clean it up for photos, but I said Nah, we’re just gonna sit and watch movies with it; this is how it looks.)

guacamole and chips

Dinner: Polenta with wild mushrooms. The morels didn’t look good, so I got porcini, chanterelles, and baby buttons. Cooked down with onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper. Served over fried polenta sticks. I used this method, but left out the animal products and added olive oil and a little bit of nutritional yeast for “cheesiness.”

polenta and mushrooms with broccoli on the side

These photos are by way of saying that even if there’s a food you don’t or can’t eat, you don’t have to sacrifice abundance. I don’t believe in deprivation, and there’s no reason a vegan, gluten-free life has to be dull and drab.

Oh, and here’s the recipe for the ketchup. Let me know if you improve on it. I love ketchup!

Agave Ketchup
Recipe type: Condiment
The texture isn't the same as bottled ketchup, but this version is free of white/refined sugar, and uses gluten-free apple cider vinegar. You can actually leave the agave out, but then the ketchup will be (obviously) less sweet.
  • 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste (I used organic, because the only ingredient is tomatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon amber agave nectar, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons water
  1. Mix everything but the water, then add the water a tablespoon at a time until the ketchup is the consistency you want. Makes about a cup of ketchup.


DIY Mom Food: Sunshine Jelly and Blood Orange Jelly

Sunshine Jelly, with or without blood oranges, tastes like jelled sunshine.

It’s been a gift to me that my mom is a cheapskate frugal cook.

sunshine jelly

My mom taught me not to buy something if I can get it cheaper or make it myself. She taught me to shop the sales, and never to buy garlic salt—”Salt is cheap! Don’t pay garlic money for a container half full of salt!” So I was ripe for the picking when a wave of DIY sensibility swept my social circles in the ’80s and early ’90s. For a summer, I lived on a farm in upstate New York, helping Laura Tobiason, the woman who owned the place, to can and freeze a metric butt-ton of applesauce, peaches, nectarines, green beans, wax beans, and so on.

When I returned home, I was more ready than ever to turn my decent cooking skills into homesteading ones, even though it would be nearly twenty years before I would even learn the word “homesteading”.

So there I was, living in a communal-living house, trying to learn things I’d never learned from my mom, but with a spirit of foodie adventure that I got directly from her. I’ve told you about my bread bricks. We won’t talk about The Great Sauerkraut Debacle of ’92. But I dove in there and learned all I could about living a life heavy on the homemade, and light on the consumerist chaos being pushed at us all the time. I started reading anything I could find on self-sufficiency and simple living. I watched my housemate’s little baby thrive on just breast milk and rice cereal made at home by grinding our own brown rice (he must be 20 now; freaky!). I learned to bake bread, and sprout seeds, and cook some things for myself that most people I knew bought in the grocery store.

Among all these keen DIY skills, I gradually developed the ability to make jams, jellies, and preserves. I’d learned a little about canning on Laura’s farm, and the rest I picked up from the Ball Blue Book and, eventually, rec.food.preserving.

The jelly I return to most often is something I started calling “Sunshine Jelly” because of how beautiful and bright and yellow it is, and how it tastes like you found a way to jell up fresh sunlight. Officially, it’s called “Certo Citrus Jelly”. The recipe is at the Kraft/Certo site. They didn’t pay me to tell you about it; I just like the jelly.

It usually takes me more than 6 oranges to make 2 cups of juice. Sometimes, if I’m short on orange juice, I use a little juice made from concentrate to make up the difference. One time, in place of two of the oranges, I used blood oranges, and this beauty was born. Oh, my, the fuchsia delightment!

blood orange jelly

If you’re new to preserving, I recommend trying this easy, safe, brilliantly impressive-looking jelly.

And then give me some. I gave away my last jar.

closeup of blood orange jelly