299. Fennel Apple Quinoa Stuffing [GF, Vegan]

Fennel Apple Quinoa Stuffing | GF, Vegan | Ann Ning Learning How

Quinoa is a great alternative for the Gluten Free among us.  Before I talk about quinoa (keen-wah) some more, let me just give a shout out to the Honey Baked Ham guy who helped me out in November 2010.  He read the fear in my eyes and told me, “It’s going to be okay.”

Yeah, it was fine because my friend, L, was there to do the actual cutting of my pre-cooked turkey.  I also Skyped earlier in the day with my family.  I held up a huge bag of Yukon Golds and was like, “Mommy, what do I do with these?”

But back to quinoa – it’s a seed, not a grain.  However, I’ve heard of it referred to sometimes as a “pseudograin,” and it has a mixed reception in the Grain-Free community.  Since I am not eating meat presently I’ve embraced quinoa since I love the hearty texture, and the fact that it’s a complete protein.   SCORE!  I wouldn’t consider it a low-calorie food, though, so I’m still mindful of serving size, but in the grand scheme of things I’m glad quinoa is on my list of “okay to eat” things right now.

Pure quinoa is gluten free – but if you’re purchasing a mix just be careful to verify that it’s certified GF if you need it to be.  This stuffing is a great alternative to the usual bread stuffing or its processed GF counterpart.  Mommy never actually stuffed the bird when we were growing up – actually, I heard that this practice is frowned upon now as unhygienic.  Anyhoo, Mommy always made a glutinous sticky rice we called “stuffing” with Chinese sausage, shitakes, and chestnuts for Thanksgiving.  Yum!  I wanted to do a quinoa/vegan version this year and this is what I came up with.

I’ve never cooked with fennel before, but I like the licorice-taste it imparts and I just sliced it up (only the bulb, not those pokey things) and went for it.  I broth-sauteed this so there is no added oil, but feel free to cook it how you choose.  I would definitely recommend, though, that you use red quinoa (it’s prettier) that has been cooked in leftover soup/broth.  I’m pretty sure this gives it a tasty boost.  I used some roasted carrot soup and some veggie bisque (recipe coming tomorrow) as well as veggie broth.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Fennel Apple Quinoa Stuffing (GF, Vegan)

Serves around 5

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (I used red quinoa cooked in soup/broth – the flavor boost is strongly recommended)
  • 1 bulb of fennel, sliced
  • 1 green apple, e.g. granny smith
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, e.g. baby bella, sliced
  • 5 chestnuts (or more/less – your preference)
  • Veggie broth, for cooking
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Mrs. Dash no salt
  • Salt and pepper

In a big pan or wok, bring a splash of veggie broth to state of rowdiness over high heat.  Toss in the mushrooms.  Add a splash of balsamic, a pinch of Mrs. Dash no salt, and stir.  Lower the heat and cover for 2 minutes.  Add in the fennel and apple.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir and cover again for 1-2 minutes.  Add the quinoa in and stir.  Season to taste.  Drop the chestnuts in and heat everything through.

Other Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Food:  click here

114. PBCC Quinoa Oatmeal

114. PBCC Quinoa Oatmeal



Target Launch Tues Dec 10| Ann Ning Learning How

Please pray that all goes well logistically and we will get the incorporation and banking issues squared away for the target launch date of Dec 10, or sooner.


293. A Very Vegan Thanksgiving (Slow-Cooker Meal)

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving | All-in-one Slow-Cooker Meal | Ann Ning Learning How

This is an all-in-one slow-cooker meal, meaning you cook the whole dinner in one crockpot.  One of the tips people gave me for disabled cooking was that the crockpot is your friend.  But Mommy’s crockpot is big, and I’m often just cooking for me.  So I got an adorable mini slow-cooker on sale at Target last week – $9.99 for a 2-qt cooker.  YEAH.  Plus, I chose the red one, and red makes me happy.

This recipe is based on one by Kathy Hester in Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just For You!  She has a section on “Vegan Squares” –  complete meals you cook in one slow-cooker by wrapping up the different dishes in foil or parchment paper and layering them in the pot.  The idea of cooking food in packets (e.g. on the grill, or in the oven) is not new to me, but cooking in a crock pot is.  Good thing I consulted Hester’s book before diving in.  I did, however, make some significant changes to use what I had on hand and to adjust for my preferences.

If you have a bigger slow-cooker I would not hesitate to just double the recipe.  This quantity, however, works for me.  It would also be great for Lt. Cmmdr R – my lovely friend who is also trying a Vegan Experiment of her own.  Her husband, C(Kh), does eat meat presently, so I’d go for some rotisserie chicken or something on the side.  Oh yeah – this is the first time I tried tempeh.  It’s a fermented soy product that hails from Indonesia.  You can find it near the tofu (I got mine from Whole Foods, not sure what other stores carry it).  I like it – it’s meatier than tofu and you can taste the fermentation action.  I will likely try some other variations as I ramp up this vegan learning curve.  But this is a great start – you just open the package, cut the tempeh up, and put it in the crock pot.

Slow-Cooker Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner

Serves 2ish
Based on K. Hester’s recipe in Vegan Slow-Cooking for Two or Just for You

Layer 1: Tempeh and Gravy

  • 8 oz (1 package) tempeh, cut into 6 pieces.
  • 1 c water
  • 2 Tb nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp of Mrs. Dash no-salt
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 Tb arrowroot (sub cornstarch)- reserve for use just before serving.

    Put everything (except arrowroot or cornstarch) in the bottom of your slow-cooker and stir to combine.


Layer 2:  Quinoa Stuffing

  • 1.5 c cooked quinoa (cooked in broth/soup for flavor.  I used leftover red quinoa that had been cooked in a mix of ½ veggie broth and ½ carrot soup – delicious!)
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 2 mushrooms, e.g. baby bella, sliced
  • splash of veggie broth
  • handful of craisins
  • handful of walnuts
  • pinch of Mrs. Dash no-salt
  • salt & pepper

Put everything in a bowl and stir to combine.  Tear a piece of foil or parchment paper big enough for your packet.  Put the paper/foil over a bowl to help you form your packet.  Pour the quinoa mixture over the paper/foil/bowl.  Fold the ends up so you have a nice packet.  Place over the tempeh in the slow-cooker.


Layer 3:  Maple Sweet Potatoes

  • · 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and sliced (I kept the skin on bc my motor skill did not feel up to peeling, and I figured that my potato was organic so… But it’s up to you – this is preference.)
  • · splash of maple syrup
  • · splash of vanilla extract
  • · dash of cinnamon
  • · tiny pinch of salt


Put everything in a bowl and stir to combine.  Make it into a packet like you did with the quinoa.  Put the potatoes on the top and close the slow cooker lid.  (I had to press mine down a little).  Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 hours.


When it’s time to serve dinner, take the lid off of your slow cooker and remove the 2 packets into bowls.  Be careful – it’s hot.  I used tongs.  Remove the tempeh to a bowl.  Add a little hot water to your arrowroot and stir until smooth.  Then stir it into your tempeh gravy.  Cover and let it thicken while you plate up the other food.  Mine thickened a lot – I was surprised.  It was a good gravy.   By the time you get everything out of the packets and onto plates your gravy will be ready.  Pour it over your tempeh and enjoy!

Other Thanksgiving Food ideas:  click here.





289. Easy Custard and Trifle

Easy Custard and Trifle | Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving | GF, No Refined Sugar | Ann Ning Learning How

I made this a couple of months ago for a dear friend’s baby shower.  This baby shower had been the work of many months because I was so excited!.  Not “active” work, mind you – just Pinterest-board brainstorming work (on my part – my friends did the real heavy-lifting).    I joined forces with the Aunty and then hit up KAR to host the shin-dig.  Thanks for opening your beautiful home to us, KAR xoxo!!  I then got distracted by the possibility of having to have surgery. But thankfully, I got a reprieve on surgery and was able to party on with my friends.  Happily, the baby (a sweet little girl) has arrived safely, to the great joy of us all.  And now I’m going to post this custard (so easy!  It’s made in the Vitamix) and how to make grain-free trifle.

Actually, I lost the grain-free cake recipe I used, so this will just be instructions on a method, not an actual recipe.  (I just tried to Google the original again, but I can’t find it – sorry.) I’ll just tell you my criteria first.  PS.  This would make a lovely non pumpkin-pie dessert alternative for Thanksgiving.

Trifle Criteria:

  1. High quality ingredients – e.g. pasture-raised eggs, organic grass-fed milk, organic fruit.  I was probably more concerned about this than my friend – but in feeding an expectant Mommy with a history of food sensitivity I wasn’t going to take chances.  I probably benefited from the quality of ingredients, too.  Oh yeah – I verified that my ingredients were “okay” before proceeding.
  2. Grain Free – Grain free is actually an Ann/Ning thing.  My friend can tolerate a little gluten, but I wanted to go grain free for this one anyway.
  3. Easy to make custard – my adopted Grandma E. used Bird’s custard in her trifle (a favorite)!  I didn’t want to use a mix, though, and so I Googled easy custard recipes.  There are many simple ones in terms of ingredients, but there is whisking and pouring involved that is beyond my kitchen mobility skills presently, so I wanted to make a custard of my own.

Easy Vitamix Custard

Inspired by Vitamix’s recipe

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 3 Tb arrowroot powder
  • 5 dates or ¼ cup of raw honey – I’ve done both; if you don’t like the taste of honey, go for the dates, or the syrupy sweetener of your choice
  • splash of vanilla
  • small splash of almond extract

Combine everything in your Vitamix and run on the highest setting for 6 minutes.  I put a small paper towel under the plastic knob in the rubbery top to aid with catching the foam.  It does foam up, so watch it.  I don’t know if it was user error, or what, but sometimes I had a tough time keeping the custard from bubbling up over the lid.  The first time I made this there was no problem.  Then I kept on making it bc it was so good, and I couldn’t keep it in the blender!  I generally set the timer for 6 minutes and tried to go for a total time of 6 minutes.  Once I failed to close the lid properly (I blame the vision deficit) and had to jump ship.  I poured the rest of the custard into a large pyrex and microwaved it.  The egg got a little solid, but it was blended nicely still.  To make it smooth again I finished it off with the immersion/stick blender and it was fabulous.

Because I am me, I was concerned about the Vitamix’s capacity to heat the custard to an appropriate temperature that would be safe for eating eggs.  So I Googled it.  The safe temperature we’re looking for is 160 degrees.  I used the thermometer and when running the Vitamix for 6 minutes, the custard reached 170+ – I breathed a sigh of relief and poured it to cool into a large measuring cup.  Cover the surface with plastic wrap when cool and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Trifle Method:

You should have trifle-making in your arsenal of life-skills.  I happen to live with the Trifle Ninja, Baker Smurf Mommy, so I was quite confident going in to this.  This is what you need to do:

  • Timeline:  assemble your trifle on the morning of, or just before your event.  You don’t want it to get soggy.
  • Fruit flavors:  I’m assuming you’re using fruit (as opposed to chocolate or pumpkin).  Choose your fruits – they can be frozen.  I used bags of organic frozen peaches and strawberries (2 small bags each).  Defrost and drain by setting in a strainer/colander for a while before assembly.
  • Garnish for the top: Don’t use frozen here.  Pick some fruit that looks pretty – I chose some plump rasberries.
  • Cake:  I opted to make a grain-free cake with a large splash of vanilla and a little splash of almond extract.  Trifle is a great place to experiment bc the cake gets broken up – prettiness is not a requirement.  I just looked up a plain grain free cake, replaced some of the eggs with flax eggs, changed the flavoring, decreased the sugar and used a natural sweetener instead, and doubled it bc I was making a HUGE trifle.  You could do the same or just use a mix, or buy some pound cake or sponge cake from the store – you choose!
  • Whipped cream – I used a pint of grass-fed heavy cream.  Mommy beat it up for me in her KitchenAid.  I think she might have added a little vanilla/almond and a touch of honey.  This gets mixed with the custard, though, so it takes on the custard’s flavor.
  • Assembly:  Just layer from the bottom up:  fruit, custard cream (a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture), cake, repeat.  Top with custard cream and your fresh fruit.


282. “Cheesy” Veggie Bake [Vegan]

"Cheesy" Veggie Bake |Vegan| Allergy-friendly Thanksgiving Recipe | Ann Ning Learning How

Hi, everyone!  Let me give a special shout out to my vegan readers – thanks for coming here!!  I’ve been pondering the way I eat over the past week or so (pondering heavily, more than I usually do), and I’m going to give a vegan eating plan a try for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  When I went grain and dairy free this summer to see if it helped my skin (it didn’t – it turned out to be a contact issue, not food-related) I did feel better.  It was hard to eat out and be grain/dairy free, but Boo Boo helped me request what I needed and monitored my salads to see if they had really excluded the parmesan etc. or had forgotten. The additional exclusion of meat should give my digestive system a rest, I hope.  CMD can tell from looking at my tongue that I don’t do a great job of digesting meat in general, even when I think my body is performing relatively well.  Don’t worry – I will be getting plenty of plant-based protein.  Mommy’s watching (she always is).   Happily since I have been practicing my kitchen mobility a lot I am ready to prepare the food I need the way I need to.

I am so glad to be able to do this.  I am also accessing my spreadsheet and pivot table skills to construct my meal plan and shopping list.  Why do you need a pivot table, you ask?  Bc I like to sort my ingredients by store and section (e.g. produce, frozen, condiment) and I haven’t figured out an easier way to do this.  If you know, please tell me, because the difference in my vision and motor skills makes spreadsheet-construction rather arduous, but the effort will be worth it in terms of minimizing time and energy at the store(s).  FYI I didn’t know any other way to do this before I got sick either.  On the Tuesday/Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2010 I made a similar list so I could breeze in to my stores and get what I needed quickly.  I learned pretty fast that I should have started planning earlier when I showed up at Great Harvest Bread Co. and they told me they had sold out of dinner rolls that morning.  Boo.  I was happy with some pillowy-soft whole wheat rolls from Winco that I packed up for L&E since they came in a HUGE pack and I figured they’d make good sammies with the leftovers I was also packing.

The fact that I can prepare my own food is also good in that it doesn’t make too much additional work for Mommy, although she’s more than willing, and will likely help me chop things for my salads.  I will only cook what I’m going to eat since my method of preparation (goodbye for now, oil) will likely not be to my daddy’s taste.  On Friday we all enjoyed particularly good chunks of baguette that came with our meals at Panera.  They were hot, and Tanpo really enjoys hot bread.  When I saw that he really liked it I said, “I’ll bake you bread, Dad!”  He declined, however.  When I asked why he didn’t want me to bake bread for him he indicated that he was not in the market for what he termed, “Weirdo Bread.”

Ummm…I would have made it out of regular flour for him!!  But I guess we shouldn’t be eating all that bread anyway.  That’s why Mommy hasn’t made it in a while – she knows we’d polish off loaf after loaf as soon as she took them out of the oven!  But I couldn’t help but remember Hannah and Joshie’s reaction to my baked goods this summer.

227.  Thin Mint Brownie Pie [GF, Vegan]

227. Thin Mint Brownie Pie [GF, Vegan]

PS.  I made this because I really wanted mac & cheese, but without the “mac”…and without the “cheese”.


“Cheesy” Veggie Bake [Vegan]

preheat oven to 350 

For the sauce:

  • 1 c raw cashews, soaked and rinsed
  • ½ c water
  • ¼ block of silken tofu
  • ½ c nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ onion
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • dash of “fun” vinegar
  • salt & pepper

For the Veggies:

  • around ½ head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • around 2 c frozen veggies – I used carrots and kale

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in your blender and puree until nice and smooth.  Put your veggies into a greased dish and pour the sauce over them.  Bake at 350 for around 45 minutes.


280. Baked Butternut Apples – Thanksgiving 2013

Baked Butternut Apples | Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving | Ann Ning Learning How

Thanksgiving is almost here!  Well, it’s a month away, so don’t panic if you haven’t started planning.  The one time I hosted Thanksgiving (kind of) I foolishly waited until Thanksgiving Eve to do the bulk of my shopping.  Yeah.  That didn’t work out so well.   These days I have some dietary preferences I didn’t back then, so I’m going to post some allergy-friendly dishes you can prepare for your Thanksgiving Feast if you’re so inclined.

Ruthie made squash ‘n apples a few weeks ago.  I think she learned it from her mom.  They were SO good, and such a nice side dish for our dinner.  I love butternut squash but I have never relished the squash-cutting process, although I’ve heard that cutting a butternut squash is easier than cutting, say, an acorn squash.  Let’s not go there. In fact, let’s not go anywhere with a knife.  I can’t bear to be near anyone using a knife, and I am squeamish about handling anything other than my serrated butter spatula, so I’m content to pay a little extra for some ready-cubed butternut squash.  Trader Joe’s sells it in bags, and Wegman’s has nice 1 lb boxes.  Well worth the moolah, in my book.

Some onions would be nice in here if you’re into onions.  I’m thinking of when Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions the dish “apples and onions” in Farmer Boy (I think).  The notion of apples ‘n onions (e.g. served with pork chops), always fascinated me. I am Asian, so this sort of thing is strangely exotic even though it’s home-cooking, plain-food sort of fare.  Well, this dish is very plain indeed – I just added apple juice (use cider if you have it) to amp up the apple flavor.  Don’t wait for Thanksgiving – make this tonight!

Baked Butternut Apples

Preheat oven to 350, grease a large baking dish

  • 1 lb butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 green apple, cubed (e.g. Granny Smith)
  • ¼ c apple juice or apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • salt and pepper


Toss everything and season with salt ‘n pepper.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.