My First Daring Baker’s Challenge


Despite the veritable cornucopia of vegan foods available, many vegans find themselves rendering vegan many recipes from their pasts, things that we could refer to as comfort foods. Sometimes it’s a fairly easy exercise – swapping meat with a fancy rendering of tofu or seitan or tempeh – but sometimes veganizing something proves to be a wee bit more difficult, or at least, requiring a bit more imagination…

I happened upon The Daring Bakers, a fab group of blogging, whisk-wielding chefs, and realized right away that they were to offer me the challenge I was seeking : by accepting their monthly challenges, I would be forced to sharpen my vegan-baking skills, and would in the process learn how to better substitute all the things I avoid.

Our challenge recipe was for “Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake” from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. The party cake sounded like a great, basic white cake recipe to use for birthday parties & the like, but my main task was to replace the 4 sticks of butter and 8 egg whites, and change up the cow’s milk for the soy milk. I know that there are oodles of already tried-and-true vegan cake recipes out there, but I wanted to stay as true to the real recipe as possible. I would have rather used an egg substitute like Ener-G for this particular cake because if would have helped with the “light & fluffyness” factor, but it’s unavailable where I live. I opted for ground flax seeds, which worked really well, and imparted a lovely soft “bananaish” flavour to the lemon-scented cake. I also had to cut way down on the butter – the recipe called for 1 stick – and I was really worried about the way the cake would turn out with these drastic changes, but I am happy to report it was absolutely delicious!

As you can see from the photo, the flax did change the color of the supposed-to-be- pristine-white party cake, and yes, it was more moist & dense than light & fluffy, but we devoured it! I also obviously had to tinker with the buttercream frosting recipe as it called for eggs and butter, and I only iced the top layer of the cake because it just would have been too much for us (I also added some yellow color for a bit more festivity since we used this cake for my super-cute visiting mom’s birthday cake). The lemon flavour worked so well with the raspberry preserves and the flaked coconut, and we all had seconds (and thirds…).

I almost backed out of my first challenge because I was concerned about deviating too much from the original recipe, but I am so glad I sucked it up and dove in. It was also extra fun because my mom and I baked this up (while my usual baking partner, the Guppy, took her nap). Don’t get me wrong, I love baking with my little Guppy, but I think it was the first time I ever did a baking project with my mom!

I’d like to say thanks to this month’s challenge host Morven for taking the time to choose this wonderfully challenging recipe which gave us room to groove and move in our own individual ways!

Welcome Her With Cupcakes!

jellydougnut.jpgSince my mom’s arrival on Tuesday I have been just zipping around, basking in mumma-land. As is often the case when we live on the other side of the world from our family, well, I don’t get to see my fam very much. At all. So when we have visitors from North America, it’s a really, really big deal.
It’s especially the Guppy who is on cloud nine having her Pamma here to cuddle and play with.

Pamma is omni, but she is more than willing to be a gracious guest and has been loving our vegan cuisinefests. I want to say up front that while my folks and I have extremely different opinions on many things (let’s just say I live on the left, they live on the right), but they have always been very supportive of my decision to live cruelty-free, and have been since I announced my vegetarianism when I was 16 years-old. Encouragement coming from self-described squares (ok, maybe a little), well, I would just like to say “you guys rock, mumma & dad” (I wish my dad could be here, but this is a Pamma-only visit).

I have so many yummy things to post on, but for now I’ll leave you with the Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes from Vcon, which I made to welcome Pamma, and which were, of course, delish!


Bread Baking Day


One of the many things I admire about French culture is the richesse of the rites and rituals of life’s most simple pleasures. Shifting one’s focus from the glitz and plastic of the eventfulness and moving to better celebrate the event itself. The daily trip to the boulangerie for your baguette, the importance of choosing the right head of lettuce for your salad or taking the time to greet each individual when arriving somewhere rather than a blanket – hey. I like that. Life is, as Hemingway so aptly phrased it, A Movable Feast. Amen.




Trying to emphasize the joy in the quotidian is my aim, and I stumbled upon this wonderful blog event: Bread Baking Day which does just that. A diverse group of foodie-bloggers who commune once a month to share their daily bread. I only just baked my first loaf of bread about six months ago, but I’m hooked (jar of sourdough starter in fridge), and I am thrilled to have found an event to convene with other confirmed and wanna-be bread bakers for inspiration.

I find the ritual of baking bread to be (at the risk of sounding a little bit out there) a veritable spiritual experience. Very grounding, but spiritual at the same time. Maybe there is something in my genetic memory that feels rekindled and soothed by the kneading, the unmistakable smell of bread baking in the oven, a feeling of community-family-unity wafting from the kitchen… or maybe it’s just my stomach growling?

This month’s host Wild Yeast (who has a really beautiful blog with truly wonderful photography – food for the eyes) chose the theme “Celebration Breads” and with so many things to celebrate for so many different cultures during the month of March, it was difficult to decide.

I had been eyeing the recipe for raisin soda bread in Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan for some time now, but hadn’t gotten around to making it – and decided that Saint Patrick’s Day was my opportunity. Despite it’s dense look, this bread was not heavy, but a bit spongy (in a good way, I don’t have my baker’s jargon down) it was très moelleux, but had a nice, crunchy crust, and had just a hint of sweet. The Guppy and I enjoyed it for our “quatre heures” or tea, and it thrilled me to see her eating something with raisins in it! (She’s in that “I’m almost three and don’t need to eat anything” phase.) It was also the easiest-to-make bread I’ve ever thrown together.


Jen’s Raisin Soda Bread from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer

*notes : the recipe states that you can use cranberries in lieu of raisins, or you can add 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest.

  • 2 1/4 cups ap flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sugar (I only used one)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I used both white & normal)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used plain soy)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

“Pre-heat the oven to 350°F(175°C). Lightly oil a 9-inch bread pan and set aside. (**In a small bowl, add milk & cider vinegar and just let sit & curdle.) In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and raisins. Add the milk and vinegar and gently stir dough until “just mixed”. Pour evenly into loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 1 loaf.

**I find that mixing the vinegar & soymilk and letting them curdle makes for better leavening than just mixing them into the flour at the end.

EDITED TO SAY: Generally Bread Baking Day posts don’t go up until closer to the first of the month, but since my super-cute-mumma is coming to visit from the states I wanted to be sure to get this up on time!

The Bunny!

I woke up and wanted to hurry to get out for my run, when I heard squeals of joy emanating from the living room…

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The Guppy knew that today was “Bunny Day”, and she was up and in the living room standing before her basket, repeating excitedly, “Mumma, Mumma, look!”

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How exciting! Baby felt bunnies hatching from vegan chocolate eggs!


Madame & Monsieur Lapin (Monsieur is easily recognizable by his little French moustache and pink attire…because male-folk do wear pink!) were my first attempts at sewing with a machine (more on that another day…). I followed the free Wee Bunny pattern from Wee Wonderfuls. Monsieur Rabbit was my first attempt (er, pas terrible or not-so-great as we say in French), but Madame Rabbit is much cooler (and looks darn good for just having a brood of felt bunnies!). The little felt bunnies are from the cutest book in the world which I want to blog about when I get the time so I won’t steal the thunder from a future post.

The Bdefilles.jpgunny of Spring didn’t forget me, as I found this beautiful book in my basket and cannot wait to start a billion projects…

The Stray Cats

Permettez-moi de vous présenter :

Sacha, Lou & Princess Angel Kitty
(As named by the Guppy)

I am an ever-evolving Fish. From time to time I look back on who I was 2, 5, or 10 years ago, and I have to laugh at the way everything twists and turns and changes. Up until about 3 months ago the only reason I’d ever picked up a sewing needle was to attach my point shoe ribbons or elastics, and that was because I had to. I didn’t sew loose buttons, they just sort of fell off and whatever sorry shirt they’d belonged to made it’s way to the back of the wardrobe rotation. I brought my pants to be hemmed by professionals, even though I should have used the money on something else. I didn’t even own anything vaguely resembling what could be called a “sewing kit”.


Things change, thankfully, and now I feel like I just can’t master stitches fast enough or find the time to make everything I want to.

My first real attempts at hand-sewing : “Pointy Kitty”, a free down-loadable pattern from one of my favorite “crafty” blogs Wee Wonderfuls. There are always great photos and wonderful ideas, plus lots of softy patterns to be had (some free, some not). Ms. Lang is one of those neat and talented Fish that you wished was your sister or your neighbor. She’s always got a tons of nifty ideas and projects going and has a very subtle, muted style which is so nice in contrast to the neon-plastic world of today. Even if you’re not of the nimble-fingered, her blog is a pleasant respite from the rush-rush-rush.

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Lou was my first attempt, and taught me a great deal. Princess Angel Kitty & Sacha are for my niece & nephew’s birthdays (which were, er, a few weeks ago) and Lou has adopted the Guppy. Or vice versa. Now I just need to send these kitties state-side without crushing them.

Super-Delicious Fonio Casserole!

Have you ever heard of fonio? Well, I hadn’t up until a few years ago. It is this fabulous, beautiful little gluten-free grain that is wonderful to cook with and it’s addition to your kitchen is a great way to mix it up with some of your traditional dishes (I sounded hip, right? I’m such a nerd.) Nutritionally speaking, it’s similar to whole wheat, and taste-wise it blends well with whatever you’re making, like pasta or couscous would.


The following is from Wikipedia (I love wikipedia! Can you imagine growing up with this type of free resource at your disposal! Lucky punk kids…):

Fonio is the smallest of all species of millet. It is one of the primary cereals of southern Sudan and Ethiopia in Africa. Fonio has continued to be important locally because it is both nutritious and one of the world’s fastest growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as six to eight weeks. It is a crop that can be relied on in semi-arid areas with poor soils, where rains are brief and unreliable. The grains are used in porridge and couscous, for bread, and for beer.

Couscous, bread and beer…que des bonnes choses! All yummy things in my book! You can find tons of info on fonio with google. I personally found more in French than in English. You can also find some great info at the Food Lorists blog. The entry is in English, plus Chef Yann has added nutrition info and some great pictures : informative indeed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love one-pot meals and casseroles because they save time and I am the only dish-washer the Fish household has! I think I’ll have to officially change the name of my blog to “Musings From The Casserole”- what do you think? This is another post-long-Sunday-run dish because it’s a great mix of protein and carbs, and because of the parsley and garbanzo beans, has a great iron count to boot! This dish definitely has a Maghrebish feel, reminiscent of a veggie couscous. You can easily play with the spices, and jack up the heat with some cayenne or some harisa.

Please note :While Fonio seems relatively easy to purchase or order in most health food stores here in France, I’m not sure where it can be found elsewhere in the world. I’m sorry!


Super-Delicious Fonio Casserole

  • 1 cup Fonio
  • 5 cups veggie broth (or again, just water or H2O + bouillon powder)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 450g/1lb cooked garbanzo beans, well rinsed if canned
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • chopped garlic (I added 5 cloves, but we are garlic people)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, mixed in just before serving

Mix everything in a casserole dish, cover, and bake at about 350f/180c for 35mins or so. Take it out and give it a stir, add some water if it’s looking dry, and put it back in until the carrots are tender, probably about a half an hour depending on the size of your carrot chunks. Let it sit a few mintues (like, while you’re chopping & rinsing your parsley), and add the parsley. I served this with a soy yougert and fresh cilantro sauce (soy yogert, chopped cilantro, a little salt, a little lemon juice in blender, whizz, et voila).

I think I’ll have to officially change the name of my blog to “Musings From The Casserole”- what do you think?

Couldn’t Be Easier Quinoa Casserole

I’m crazy about quinoa! It’s like a super-food as it’s considered a complete protein, is high in iron, and cooks up very quickly. Even NASA thinks it’s groovy! Here’s a blurb from wikipedia:

“its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. This means it takes less quinoa protein to meet one’s needs than wheat protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosporous and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Quotes are good. Pictures are sometimes better:



This is one of my “go-to” recipes after my long Sunday runs because it’s warm and hearty and I can stretch and shower while it’s in the oven. It is so simplistic, but really good. Even Mr. Fish – who wrinkles his nose if it looks too healthy – really likes it.

Couldn’t Be Easier Quinoa Casserole

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup yellow or green lentils
  • 1 cup dried split peas
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-6 cups veggie stock (or if you’re me, vegan bouillon powder & water)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (or real ones in the summer!)
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary (crumble it up between your fingers, first)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (same)
  • salt & pepper to taste.
  • 1 tablespoon wet mustard (optional)

Put everything in a roasting pan or baking dish, stir, and put in your oven at about 350f or 175c for say 40 minutes. Take it out, give it a stir, add some water if it is looking dry to you (I often do), cover and return to oven for another 20 minutes or so. Take it out and give it a little stir, add a little water if you think you should, and put it back in for about 10 minutes, or until everything is done. If it seems dry to you, just add more water or stock and let it sit with the cover on.

This is the basic recipe, but you can add mushrooms, chopped celery or finely chopped carrots…pretty much anything you want. The spices are also easy to adjust.

Hope you like it!

Back From Five Freezing Days In The South of France


This is one of my favorite paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, the French painter who took the name of the beautiful city of Toulouse as his pseudonym (he was not in fact from Toulouse, but Albi, a gorgeous medieval city about 60k from where I was – Saint-Sulpice – very near Toulouse). This really hasn’t much to do with our trip, but since we were near Toulouse, and we went to Toulouse often during our visit…er…ok, anyway…


Spring has most definitely spring down there, there were blossoms and flowers and buds galore…but with the exception of my daily runs and literally running to the car or to the house to escape the hail and pelting rain, we didn’t really get to be part of the beauty outdoors. You can see my brush with the elements here.

The beauty we did get to enjoy was inside the toasty-warm walls of my in-laws home. We had such a wonderful time- especially the Guppy who was so excited to have other people around from the moment she woke up (we don’t get to see much of our families & extended families so this was a very special treat).

My in-laws have a beautiful home and they had a roaring fire going at all times keeping the house feeling very cosy and homey, and they were so great about my vegan dietary considerations. During their visit to our house during the holidays I had cooked up a vegan storm, wielding whisk and spatula to make satisfying meals for omnivores (and to charm the in-laws of course!). So it was only natural that they suggest I help cook up some dinners- because creating healthful, varied, vegan meals takes some planning and experience, and if you’re not used to it, well, it may seem a bit daunting.

The really big hit dish of our vacation was this fabulous recipe for orange chicken-style tofu. I have seen this recipe floating about all over the blogosphere, and it has lots of variations, but this is a great “base” recipe that you can easily expand on. For example I use way more orange juice – at least a cup – which means that you need to add more corn starch or arrowroot to compensate for the added liquid. I also usually add at least 1 red and 1 orange pepper, an entire sweet onion, and chunked pineapple.

My super-sweet 19-year-old nephew proved to be a wiz in the kitchen! He not only helped me make the orange-tofu, but he was also my main helper when rolling the 49 spring rolls for our final dinner there (my fingers were all puckery when I was done!). He was also amazing with the Guppy who just fell in love with him. He was so great with her, very intuitive for such a young guy, knowing if she needed a juice box or some applesauce, etc., and had no problem letting her jump on his bed or “hang out” with him while he was playing guitar (he even played on demand for her…)

It was also so fun to hang with my sister-in-law, L. She is so handy and crafty- a real inspiration with so many great ideas for various projects. She graciously donated a skein of yarn and some needles and showed me a great pattern for a skull-cappy-chuky thing, which I need to make time to finish. Plus she gave me various huge fabric scraps to amuse myself with.

Now if only we could find jobs down there…we’d pack up and move in a flash!





Here is some beautiful mimosa that lined part of the path where I went for my (almost) daily run when in the southwest of France this past week. You could smell it for meters around, even in the freezing cold and wet, it looked and smelled amazing! It’s common to give mimosa sprigs to women (we gave some to the Guppy’s mamie for la fête des grand-mères last year). Strong and beautiful from roots to tips, just like we women!

A bit back I was cruising around and saw this inventive culinary way to celebrate International Women’s Day and I just had to participate. I knew I would be cutting it close as we’d probably be coming back from our week in the Southwest, but I decided this was something I wanted to do! I have so many incredible, strong, beautiful women in my life- from the past, in the present, and I am sure that they’ll still be there in the future! I was very fortunate to spend the week with my brother-in-law’s family, and his wife L is a great example of one of the many hip fish I get to swim with. She took time to show me how to knit a cap (working on that), generously donated random pieces of fabric for me to play with, and was just generally a super-cool fish.

So here is my YELLOW contribution to the day…


These are the Lemon Gem Cupcakes from Vegan With A Vengeance, topped with the Lemon Icing and the finishing touches of the vegan sprinkles were added by the Guppy, who is also a pretty cool little lady.

EDITED TO ADD: I’m really not cupcake obsessed. Really. I wanted to make lemon tarts, but these were just quicker & easier. Picking my battles, one cupcake at a time.


CATASTROPHA! When Good Cupcakes Go Bad… or Learning To Be “Present”

Sunday I am usually bustling about with end-of-weekend hurriedness, trying to get it all done *now*: a fun Sunday treat (like cookies, or cupcakes, or something with flour and sugar), a real, sit-down (at the table) dinner, wrapping up lesson plans, recuperating from my long run, etc. Well, this past Sunday was no exception, but I needed to get us all packed up for a few days near Toulouse in the South of France with Mr. Fish’s brother-in-law and his family. Mr. Fish was called off (conveniently?) to play sound engineer, so I had to pack the bags, organize the stuff (it seems like since the Guppy arrived we have all this…stuff). Oh, and I promised my work pals that I’d bring them a treat Monday morning before we hit the road (often my edible ‘thank you’ card, and my little vegan propaganda tool).

Have I learned nothing from my yoga practice? Being in the present, really doing what we are doing, not thinking about the billions of things that need to be done or that you’re not doing…it really is vital to a happy existence. And to happy cupcakes.


I wanted to make Coconut Heaven cupcakes from Vegan With A Vengeance as a petit merci for someone who loves coconut. So far, sounds logical, right? The Guppy and I had nearly everything for our trip under control, so we began adding flour, sugar, etc. got the cupcakes in the oven and the Guppy in the tub. I rocked. It was all under control…


And then these horrible looking things came out of the oven. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not horribly superficial, crater-riddled cupcakes are still cupcakes, and they can be made to look more beautiful with some icing or sprinkles or something, but these things were all greasy and heavy, and when I tried to take one out of the pan, well, it was like a wet sponge. Despite a nagging feeling urging me to just look away, I felt compelled to try one. It tasted like a sort of ruined coconut flan. Huh. I pondered this kitchen catastrophe and it dawned on me that I used the entire container of coconut milk. Why did I do this? The recipe only called for a little less than half! I think because I was thinking of a million other things, about everything except the coconut milk. Oh sadness…

Be in the now, people. Your cupcakes will thank you!