Monday, June 24, 2019

Dish Detergent - DIY and Zero-Waste - $1.00 per liter - I've Done It!

Dish Detergent - DIY and Zero-Waste – I've Done It! 

I've finally created and tested a true DIY, zero-waste dish detergent. Only two ingredients needed. (Links below). It's truly effective and costs only about a dollar a liter to make. Yayy!

I’ve been making, creating, and perfecting DIY laundry detergent for years. (There are a lot of really bad, useless recipes out there, believe me.) But I’ve yet to find anyone who’s come up with a DIY, zero waste dish detergent out there in all of internet-land.  

The key word is detergent. Not a soap. A detergent.  

A detergent has a grease-cutting surfactant. Surfactants cut grease. Soap contains a saponified fat – a fat such as tallow (animal fat), or olive oil, coconut oil, or glycerin. I wanted something that would cut fat, not contained it.  

During all my DIY laundry soap trial-and-errors, I discovered that many bar soaps would coagulate into a gel when grated and melted in boiling water. That’s great if you want to turn Coast deodorant soap into a body wash or even a bar of Doctor Bronner’s into a liquid laundry soap by adding borax. It didn’t work as dish detergent. It didn’t cut grease. The fatty stuff just floated in the dishwater.  
I came across a dish detergent in bar form called Vim (as in vim-and-vigor). It’s been around for decades in Great Britain and Canada, but you have to use it in bar form; that is, melt it into a sink-full of hot water. I bought some, grated it, and it melted right away in hot water but didn’t coagulate into a gel at all. I wanted something gel-like; Dawn dish detergent comes to mind. I’m single and wash dishes one or two at a time – not a whole sink load. 

During my laundry soap experimentations, I remembered coming across a retro, germicidal bar soap called Dettol from Great Britain. It jelled up like crazy when it had been grated and melted into boiling water – so much, that I kept having to dilute it just to get it into a pourable form. I stilled had a couple of bars left and took a look at the ingredients. Guess what? No saponified fat of any kind! It was not actually soap, but a strong, germicidal detergent in bar form.  


I grated a half bar of Dettol, melted it into a liter of simmering water, let it cool into a gel, added it to my 2 liters of Vim liquid (made by melting a half bar of Vim into 2 liters of hot water), and hit it with an immersion blender. I ended up with three, one-liter squirt-bottles of thick, slightly foamy dish detergent, lemon-scented, and in a retro turquoise color. Nice! 
But would it work? Would it cut grease and act as a liquid dish detergent? 
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’! 

I squirted it in a bowl of water, gave it a mix, and it stayed mixed; not floating to the top like the  gelled soap did.  

I coated a glass with margarine, gave a little squirt and swish, and the glass was sparkly clean. 
For the real test, I coated my hands with Crisco, gave a squirt, and while washing my hands I noticed it was all released into a milky wash in the sink; my hands were squeaky clean in an instant.  

Success! This stuff works! 

And what a bargain! Yes, you have to procure Vim and Dettol, but a half bar of each results in 3 liters of dish detergent. Store it in a gallon container and add it to your little squirt bottle as you need it. Let’s break it down:  

Vim: $14.00 for 3 bars = $4.66. Half a bar is $2.33 
Dettol: $6.13 for 3 bars = $2.04. Half a bar is $1.02  
So, for $3.34 you have 3 liters of really good dish detergent. And you made it yourself. And no plastic was used.  

Is it all-natural? Oh, hell no! Was it tested on animals? Probably, Sixty years ago. Vim and Dettol have been around since the 1950s. 

Like I said, for so long I wanted to find a DIY, Zero-waste dish detergent. I couldn’t find one. Now, I have one.  

And you do, too.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Carrot Salad with Creamy Cashew-Ginger Dressing

I think we all have unpleasant memories of church-supper carrot salad that our grandmothers seem to enjoy: That concoction of grated carrots, claggy mayonnaise, canned pineapple if you were lucky, and black raisins. Why they enjoyed this, no one knows. Perhaps it was a staple during 1950s high school Home Economics classes and it “stuck.”

Here, we happily get a raw food makeover that is much healthier, gorgeous to look at, and is rich and satisfying to-boot. Mayonnaise is replaced with a zippy ginger-cashew dressing with golden raisins as its base. Sweet, tri-colored carrots get a spirilized treatment and fresh pineapple replaces the canned stuff. All in all, a very appealing raw-vegan makeover that’s sure to please.

4 Servings

4-5 tri-colored carrots, spirilized
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup raw cashews
½ inch knob of ginger
½ cup water
¾ cup diced, fresh pineapple
Additional cashews for garnish

Blend the raisins, cashews, ginger, and water in a high-speed blender until smooth. Toss the dressing with the spirilized carrots, add the pineapple, and garnish with extra cashews. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Authenic Mapo Tofu

This is one of my favorite and most often-made recipes. I love Szechuan cuisine and I worked diligently to develop a recipe that was the real deal. The combination of fiery pepper, complex flavors from the bean paste and fermented black beans, along with a sweet, oily, gutsy sauce make it incredibly satisfying – So much so that your carnivore friends will never realize they’re dining on a vegan recipe. (Why tell them?)
Serve this over white or brown rice. It’s a perfect vehicle. Or, if you want to go really healthy, serve it over roasted veggies like broccoli, zucchini, carrots, and cabbage; veggies that will let the classic Szechuan tastes shine through. Do this, and you’ll have a low carb, high protein, vegan food item – Really threading that dietary needle!
Note: Feel free to add minced garlic. I just don’t happen to like the smell or the taste of it. Minced ginger? Its flavor tends to get lost in production.
I like to toast the Szechuan peppercorns in a dry skillet, grind them to a powder, and keep it in a plastic bag in the fridge. That way, you don’t need to repeat this process each time you prepare this recipe. I’ve included links to Amazon throughout the recipe for the hard-to-get items. Buy them once and you’ll be making this Szechuan classic over and over.

6-8 servings:

2 12-oz. blocks of extra firm silken tofu
2 cups water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 Tbs doubanjiang (broad bean paste)
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs toasted sesame oil
1 ½ Tbs corn starch
1 Tbs finely ground red pepper
1 Tbs ground, toasted szechuan peppercorns
3-4 green onions, chopped, including green part

Dissolve the corn starch in 2 cups of water, add the soy sauce and set aside. Heat oil in large saucepan and add the broad bean paste and fermented black beans. Stir until heated through, add red pepper, heat through, and then the corn starch-water mixture. Add the Szechuan peppercorns, sesame oil, sugar, and heat until thickened. Add the tofu. Use a potato masher to mash the tofu into desired size. Add green onions and serve. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Kofta Balls in Tomato Sauce - The Oldest Vegan Recipe

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare . . .

Did you know that devotees of Krishna have a cuisine all their own? Go to any Krishna restaurant and the food items will be readily identifiable.

For about ten years, I lived in Dallas Texas which has a large, vibrant Krishna community. Every year on World Food Day, they would provide free meals all day long and I volunteered my services in the kitchen of their gorgeous restaurant, Kalachandji's. So, that’s how I became familiar with their cuisine.

First of all, one will notice a vegan vein. Being strict believers in the principle of karma and reincarnation, nothing is served that involves the killing of animals. "Every meal gives the gift of life," is one of their tenets. 

Being that the Krishna movement is a form of Vedantic Hinduism, most food items will have an Indian flavor to them with one notable difference:  Krishna devotees strictly refrain from eating onions or garlic, for both, they believe, are offensive to God and that they arouse sexual desires. In the place of garlic and onions, you’ll find the ever-present and very unique spice called asafetida or “hing”. It is the powered, dried gum resin of a herbaceous plant and, in its raw state, has a very strong odor reminiscent of . . . well . . . kitty pee.

Believe me, if you spill it or leave it uncovered, your dwelling will smell like a tom-cat has left his mark. However, once cooked, it does impart a musky, evocative flavor reminiscent of onions and "that" flavor is the truly the mark of Krishna cuisine.

One of my favorite dishes is their Kofta Balls in Tomato Sauce. The devotees at Kalachanhdji’s served many trays of it every year on World Food Day in Dallas and it was always a staple in the countless daily meals that the Krishna community provided to the homeless and shut-ins throughout the year.

A more tasty, appealing, nutritious, and inexpensive entree would be really hard to find. This was a quintessential “vegan meatball” long before – nay, decades before -- “vegan” had ever come to the forefront.

It’s a first cousin to spaghetti and meatballs but with a Vedantic twist: Garbanzo bean flour (besan) is mixed with spices, including the ever-present asafetida, grated cauliflower, grated cabbage, rolled into balls and deep fried. These are served with a flavorful tomato sauce (yes, with asafetida) over pasta.

Oh, and another quality about asafetida is that it prevents flatulence. Hey, we've got cauliflower, cabbage and bean-flour going on here but nary a toot follows the meal;  

Perhaps that may be the non-offensive part.

The result is meat-less meatballs that are surprisingly juicy. Very juicy in fact. I frequently prepared this dish when I was a Cistercian monk and, even though one jocular monk referred to my kofta balls as "coughed-up balls", they all enjoyed them.

Start with 1 ½ cups of besan (garbanzo bean flour)
1 Tbs garam masala 
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½  tsp turmeric
½ tsp asafetida
½ tsp cayenne
Mix in:

2 cups grated cauliflower (which is really 1 whole cauliflower)
2 cups grated cabbage
Mix it all together with your hands and really squoosh it together. (I like to don latex gloves for hand-mixing and squooshing) The grated cauliflower and cabbage exude just enough juice to bring it all together. You’ll have a moist paste which can be formed into 1-inch balls.

Form them in 1-inch balls. Place them aside whilst continuing with the rest:

Tomato Sauce:

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp asafetida (“hing”)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt

Fry the spices in the oil, add the tomatoes, sugar, and water. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a fry-pan with a half-inch of oil and shallow-fry the kofta balls for at least 12 minutes, 6 minutes on each side, until dark golden brown. (You really want to avoid undercooked insides, so don't make the balls any more than an inch in diameter.)

Note: Please do not consider baking them. The original recipe from decades ago called for frying them in "ghee" i.e. clarified butter. Frying them in the oil of your choice is consolation enough. This is one vegan food item where indulgence is totally required, substantiated, and justified. . . 

. . . Heat the oil and ride the wave.

Place them in the above-mentioned tomato sauce for 10 minutes and serve over pasta.

Devotees offer a prayer over each food item and set aside one serving of each recipe as an offering to Krishna. However, I never saw what they mysteriously did with it afterward.

If there's a Krishna temple in your city, check it out and see if they have a restaurant. Many of them do and I’ve always appreciated their unique cuisine. The smell of jasmine incense is usually wafting in from the adjoining temple giving the restaurant its own other-worldly ambiance.

Aside from its very identifiable flavor, there’s just "something" very appealing and special about consuming vegan offerings from our Vedantic companions. 

Regardless of one's outlook, I doubt there isn't something auspicious about consuming thoughtful, spiritualized sustenance that we cannot all acknowledge, regardless of the faith from whence it comes.

Do enjoy -- I beg of you. They're absolutely divine. 

Hare Krishna . . .

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Here's the thing I missed most when I became a semi-fundamentalist vegan -- Pizza!

I now live in Chicago and voluptuous, orgasmic, deep-dish pizza is ingrained in our DNA. I especially missed it on those nights when I’d had one-or-a-half-dozen too many and it would’ve be oh!-so easy to click on my Grubhub account to have an ooey-gooey deep-dish, Chicago-style vegetarian-with-pineapple insouciantly appear within the hour. . . 

. . . sigh . . . We’ve all been there. Don’t you dare say you haven’t.

Yes, we have vegan options. There’s the ever-present cheese-less roasted vegetable pizza perched among the others at Trader Joe’s. Or, you could buy a ready-made crust and forge out with your own. . . .
But wait! That vegan pizza at TJ’s turned out to be my savior. (Yes, it tasted like unsalted spackle when I tried it on its own), but let’s bring it home to dress up. With a few alterations, our inexpensive little spackle-puppy can become our convenient, satisfying, juicy vegan pig-out, go-to deep dish pizza that would thwart any Grubhub temptation. 

Our little secret to Chicagoans: Let our veggies become the "deep" part of the pizza.

Here’s what you always need to have on hand:
(Seriously. Always have this on hand.)
  • A pound of frozen chopped spinach.
  • A 10-oz. container of fresh crimini mushrooms (or any brown mushrooms) in your freezer.
  • 1 28-oz. can of marinara sauce. You’ll need half.
  • “Parmegan cheese” in your fridge. As much as you like. (Blend 1 cup roasted, salted cashews in a food processor with ¼ cup nutritional yeast, and ¼ tsp onion powder until crumbly. If using raw cashews, toast them in a dry pan. If using unsalted cashews, salt the mixture to taste. You get the idea. Keep this on hand in your fridge as you would the nasty ready-made Parmesan cheese we used to eat from the green container.)

1. Remove the frozen spackle pizza from the container, line a baking tray with foil and spray it with vegetable spray, and place the pizza on it.

2. Thaw the spinach under running warm water in a colander, toss in the mushrooms, and squeeze the hell out of it with your hands, grinding up the mushrooms. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Give it a good sprinkle of salt and mix it in. Don’t forget that.

3. Pour half the 28-oz can of marinara on the pizza, spread with the back of a spoon to cover; mound with the spinach-mushroom mixture and coax it to the edges. Cover the pizza. Pile it on.

4.  Sprinkle liberally with the “parmegan cheese” – as much as you like. Douse with olive oil and bake twice as long as the directions say.

Thick, juicy, indulgent, vegan pizza results.

Let's review: Keep a cheap spackle-pizza in the freezer along with frozen, chopped spinach, frozen cartons of crimini mushrooms, and marinara sauce in the pantry. (How hard can that be?) Finally, keep “parmegan” cheese on hand in the fridge. 

Trust me. You’ll never be unsatisfied; never without a decadent pizza again. 

Deep Dish Vegan Goodness!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Enchilada Casserole: THE Best Casserole EVER

In the endless quest to create a casserole that (1) is easy to make (2) that everyone will eat (3) that is nutritious to-boot; I've come up with a lot of recipes that fit the bill. 
But this is one that is so appealing, so satisfying, so freakin' scrumptious, that it'll have you stealthy poking in to it before it's served -- and your guests will be lucky if there's anything left!

I grew up in South Texas and longed for the taste of true Tex-Mex. Trust me. This is the taste of enchiladas, south of San Antonio and north of Laredo. 

Did I mention that it has a nutritional value that is off the charts? 

Enchilada Casserole:

(Prepare recipes for Enchilada Sauce and Mexican Cheese below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Combine the following ingredients into a large bowl:

1 cup cooked brown rice (yielding 2 cups)
10 corn tortillas, diced into half-inch pieces
1 lb. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 recipe of Enchilada Sauce (see below) or substitute a 28 oz. can of your favorite enchilada sauce. 

Pour half of the mixture into an oiled 9 x 13 casserole dish, dot with ½  recipe of Mexican Cheese (see below), add remaining rice/tortilla mixture, top with remaining Mexican Cheese, and dot with your choice of salsa (I like chipotle salsa). Cover with diced raw onion, drizzle with olive oil and bake for one hour at 400 degrees. Decorate with diced green onions and red jalapenos.

Enchilada Sauce:

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Sauté all ingredients except the tomatoes in olive oil until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes

Mexican Cheese: 

Blend the following ingredients in a food processor, scraping down as necessary:

1 10 oz. package of firm tofu
½ cup roasted cashews
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mushroom Paprikash - A Taste of Hungary

Back in the 1990s, I was an actual monk in an actual monastery. (Cue the chorus of angel voices here.) Anyway, I taught myself to cook Hungarian food because most of the elderly monks came over from Hungary during the 1950s and I wanted to give them a taste of their homeland. Also, I wanted to COOK – I was fine with the poverty, chastity, and obedience, but I missed cooking. Hungarian food was my ticket back into the kitchen.

So, remembering the robust taste of Hungarian paprika, sour cream, and hearty peasant fare, I veganized Hungarian chicken paprikash. Hearty cremini mushrooms take the place of the chicken and I developed a nifty cashew sour cream. By the way, Hungarian food can be pretty spicy (“csípös”) so feel free to oomph up the cayenne pepper.

Oh, and here's a photo of yours truly, rollerblading in the monastery parking lot. Perhaps it's no surprise I'm no longer a monk. 
A lean, mean, praying machine

I’m really pleased with this dish. Not only will it make a Hungarian monk long for his homeland, (it’s that good) but we can enjoy it too.

Mushroom Paprikash

Cashew sour cream: 
Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in boiling water for 30 min. Drain off water and blend cashews with ¼ cup water, 1 ½ tsp cider vinegar, 1 ½ tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp salt. Then, proceed with recipe:

16 large cremini mushrooms, halved
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks
3 Tbs Hungarian paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ recipe cashew sour cream
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
Margarine and oil for frying. (I like Earth Balance)
Your choice of noodles. (Barilla veggie spirals are vegan)

Fry the mushrooms face down in margarine until well-browned. Don’t turn them over; don’t touch them. It’s important that they get really brown on the cut side. After they’re brown on one side, they’re done. You’ll need to do this in two batches.

Add the onions and bell pepper and sauté until slightly tender. Add the spices along with a little oil for frying in order to let the paprika “bloom” which, apparently, is hugely important to Hungarians. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Return the mushrooms to the sauce, stir in the sour cream, and serve over pasta. Serve the additional sour cream on the side for topping.


© 2015 by Jon Buckner Wheat. All rights reserved.