Monday, 23 September 2013

Vegan Chickpea Donairs recipe

So I am impressed with myself today on two accounts.
Firstly, this blog has over 10,000 views, YAY!
Secondly, I am very proud to introduce my FIRST EVER RECIPE that I actually made up, out of my own head, all by myself!
I am known to be a good cook in my social circles, but I've been a good cook of the recipes of others.  This is the first real recipe I've ever created and I'm really quite proud of it because it was astoundingly delicious.  And also really easy, much moreso than the genuine article, and no ick-factor that comes with "mystery meat".

Anyway, enjoy and please do make it and leave some feedback in the comments!  I'd like to know what tweaks you've made.

So without further ado, I present:

Vegan Chickpea Donairs
Serves 2-4 people
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.  Or at least until you eat it.

  • 4-6 pitas
  • 2 cups cooked/canned chickpeas
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Vegetables of your choice for toppings - Could include peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, etc.
  • A batch of the awesome vegan donair sauce you can find here.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice and spices.  Pour the liquid over the chickpeas and mix well.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread the chickpea mixture on the lined sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. While the chickpeas are cooking, make your donair sauce and chop up whatever veggies you want for toppings.
  6. When everything is done cooking, layer the donair chickpeas, veggies and sauce on your pita.  Roll up and enjoy!  This recipe is messy though, so you may want to give your donair a tinfoil diaper like they do at the store if you're planning on not eating it over a plate!
And that's all there is to it.  :)  It's a tasty, spicy, filling recipe that went over really well at my house, I hope you enjoy it too.


Monday, 16 September 2013

When subject matter gets serious: a pair of book reviews

While I like to consider myself a "jane of all genres", I have often been diagnosed as a great reader of adventures and comedy.

However, this past week I found myself keeping company with two VERY heavy, emotional and deeply saddening works of fiction.  This was unusual for me not because the books were sad (call  me a cold-hearted bitch but I really do enjoy a good unhappy ending), but because I will rarely follow a heavy, emotional book with a second book of the same nature.  I typically like to break them up and intersperse some lighthearted children's works or maybe a cute graphic novel in between these emotional heavyweights.  Just for the sake of my emotional health, and my supply of tissue.

But without further ado, I present the two reviews.  The first is a classic of Russian fiction and criticism of Stalinist repression; the second is a work of YA fiction that forces the reader to confront their deepest fears.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

This book was my pick for book club this month, for which our selected genre was fiction in translation.  I have developed a great love for mid-20th century Russian fiction and satire due to the wonderful, insightful writings of Mikhail Bulgakov.  Beyond his most widely read The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov has a substantial list of works which were not published until long after his early death, due to his overwhelming criticisms of life in the Stalin-ruled USSR.  With Bulgakov as the foundation for my experience of Russian literature, I had some expectations going into One Day.  And all of my expectations were met and greatly exceeded.  One Day takes the reader into the bitter, unmerciful world of a Soviet prison camp through the eyes of Ivan Denisovich Shukov, a former soldier who is imprisoned after being accused of going AWOL.  By the time the reader is introduced to Ivan, he has already been incarcerated for several years.  Solzhenitsyn spares nothing in his description of camp life, from Ivan's rejection at the medical facility to the meagre meals and bitter cold in which the imprisoned men are forced to work.  But the part that really hits the reader square in the gut and conscience is how grateful Ivan is that this day of his is a particularly good one.  He is so thankful that he managed to stay out of solitary confinement and received an extra tiny piece of black bread.  The last few pages of this book describe how Ivan drops off to sleep in a state of contentment.  This is so difficult for the reader to digest after reading the descriptions of all the awful abuses of camp life.  The contrast pulls on the emotions and adds even more to the reality of the experience and the appreciation of those awful circumstances that Solzhenitsyn instills in the reader.  Overall, this book was a difficult read due to the all too true descriptions and subject matter of the work, but absolutely worth reading. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
 Having read Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking triology, I also had expectations when approaching A Monster Calls, which I had been meaning to read for a very long time.  A Monster Calls is just so incredibly different from Ness' other work, I quickly disregarded what I remembered from those books and looked on this one with fresh eyes.  In this disturbing teen read, a 13-year-old boy is visited by a monster which forces him to confront the disturbing realities of his life.  And I can't tell you anymore than that without completely spoiling the book, which I wouldn't want to do because EVERYONE should read it.  Books don't often make me cry, but this one had me darn close at the end.  The writing is lyrical even though it is told from a 13-year-old perspective, and the accompanying illustrations are perfectly suited to the tone of the story.  The story is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, it is truly a unique work of fiction which conquers very difficult subject matter without being trite or melodramatic.  The message of the story is incredible, and I very honestly would recommend this book to anyone who is capable of feeling feelings, because A Monster Calls will make you have so many of them.

So after all that strenuous emotional reading, what am I reading now?  I'm working on some non-fiction reads on information consumption for an online course I'm taking.  Talk about switching gears!

Ciao for now.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Harvest (round 2!) - end of the gardening season

So it's September!  It's now dark outside when I get up for work and there's a distinct chill in the air in the AM too.  So it's time for an (almost) last garden update now that we are officially in "harvest season".

Now I say "almost" last update because the only thing still growing and producing right now is the pumpkin plant.  I'm planning to leave my mini-pumpkins grow until the frost comes, so hopefully they'll have another good solid couple of weeks to a month to get some size on them.  The largest right now is probably about 5 inches in diameter.

Anyway, on with the harvest!

Lone zucchini
So my zucchini plant only produced this one lone zucchini so far.  Technically it could still do more but I don't think it will.  The zucchini plant spent the whole summer looking thoroughly unhappy and unhealthy.  And almost every time a new zucchini would form, it would turn yellow, then black.  I don't know if that was due to too much water or not enough heat or what the culprit is.  Usually you don't have to worry about zucchinis not growing, the problem is typically catching and picking them before they get ridiculously over-sized.  So not a great year for these but glad I at least got one.

Wee onions

Now these were technically supposed to be BULB onions.  They never really grew too well either, but I think their problem was that they were shaded by a larger plant.  I would give them a sunnier bit of real estate next year.  They grew OK but they are much more the size of pearl or pickling onions than a bulb.

Last of the lettuce

 So in the end the lettuce yield for this year was three large heads.  I'm not sure why only part of the row grew, but I think it might have been a similar case to the onions where shade was a factor. 

Obscene amounts of parsley

 One plant that was hugely productive this year was the parsley plant.  Thank god I only planted one.  It was a starter that I put right beside the back step in it's own little corner.  It did tremendously well, and along with having fresh parsley all summer, I had a huge amount for dehydrating.  A full dehydrator's worth gave me one of those little ziploc snack size bags of parsley.  Which is a lot, and will probably last me forever. 

More carrots

With one row of carrots planted, I ended up with three pullings of about this amount, which is two solid handfulls each.  Which is a pretty decent yield in my estimation.  Next year I would thin them out a bit more to increase their size (I don't use any plant foods or fertilizers or chemicals to try to achieve this, my garden is treated only with compost).


  One set of plants that really surprised me were the cucumbers.  I had given them up for dead when they were looking really sick in July, but four of the six came back and produced some cute little cukes for me.  They are small but incredibly tasty.

The letdown...

This is the entirety of the yield from my pepper plants.  On the left is the single bell pepper that was produced, and on the right are my two teensy jalapenos from my so-called "early" plant.  It was just really REALLY not a good year for peppers, they need significant stretches of hot weather to get the job done, and full-blown summer never really happened in Alberta this year.  So it's a bit disappointing that this is all that grew, but not really unexpected.

So that is the end of the season for my tiny little garden!  Overall, I would rate year one as a good experience despite the soggy and cool weather.  Hopefully next year we will have a bit better of a growing season and I'll be able to try a few more plants.

An update on the pumpkins will be forthcoming, stay tuned!