My Vegetarian Kitchen

Stories of a vegetarian food snob in Northern California


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Vegan Cuts Subscription – Part Deux

May’s Vegan Cuts box arrived recently! How exciting! This month’s box attained awesomeness status just by having a pack of Hail Merry macaroons in it – they are so ridiculously addicting!

OK, enough with the exclamation marks…and on with the commentary…

  1. Beanfields Bean and Rice Chips – as the name may indicate, these chips are made of beans - and they have some fabulous flavours
  2. SuperEats Kale and Chia Chips – ok, I confess, I haven’t really jumped on the kale chip bandwagon…I’d rather eat my kale sautéed.
  3. Saffron Road Harissa Simmer Sauce - I’ve used a few of their other simmer sauces in the past – makes for a super quick dinner when the little one isn’t cooperating – a perfect pantry item.
  4. Barbara’s Snackimals Cereal – my favourite Barbara’s product is the Peanut Butter Puffins – but I’m willing to expand my horizons.
  5. Mario Pitted Black Olives – as someone who consumes olives from the jar on a regular basis, the accessibility provided by olives in a pouch is sheer genius
  6. Mary’s Gone Crackers – I’ve enjoyed these crackers, but they are definitely not an all-purpose cracker – I particularly enjoy them with hummus.  Also, my local Costco carries these in a large box – much more economical than any other store.
  7. Nature’s Bakery Lemon Fig Bar – this bar has potential and decent ingredients – just not sure how I feel about a lemon and fig combo
  8. Jiva Hot Chocolate Cubes – if I’m ever on the run, and there is no Starbucks in sight, I guess I could whip up on my own hot chocolate with one of these.  I’m more intrigued on just trying one of the cubes on their own.
  9. Meatless Select Fishless Tuna – this particular item makes me want to throw up in my mouth a bit.  I don’t know if I have it in me to even open the can. Perhaps I can give it out as a party favour?
  10. Hail Merry Macaroons – saving the best for last, these macaroons are golden…and our local Whole Foods is evil with their prominent display of them…I usually can’t resist.

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A Birthday Subscription to Vegan Cuts

A wise friend once said “Good friends bring good things”.  An even wiser friend got me a subscription to Vegan Cuts for my birthday this year! Woohoo! I’ve seen so many posts about the Vegan Cuts subscription, but never took the leap to actually sign up.  I’m looking forward to trying out all these goodies…they’re mine…all mine…

April’s box contained the following items:

  1. Simply Straws – a BPA-free glass drinking straw – looks like the perfect size for smoothies – will be interesting to see how long it takes for me to break this
  2. Nuttzo – nut butter made of seven nuts and seeds – this is probably a step up from Justin’s when it comes to healthy options
  3. Vigilant Eats – oat cereal with macs, vanilla, hemp and cacao – I’ll have to save this for a day when it isn’t 80F outside during breakfast (holy heatwave, California!)
  4. Nii Foods – almond butter bar with chocolate chips and seeds – my current bar of choice has been NuGo Organic; looking forward to changing it up
  5. Mediterranean Snacks – I used to buy these lentil chips regularly when I was being strict about a gluten free diet.
  6. Numi Organic Tea – this brand is one of my favourite (second to Two Leaves). The option of a savory vegetable based tea is intriguing.  In an attempt to improve my digestion, my acupuncturist once recommended started any raw meals with a hot soup – I’m sure this tea would serve a similar purpose.
  7. MCT Lean – I’m always wary of pea based protein powders – I have yet to find one that I can actually stomach (there’s something about the pasty aftertaste that I can’t handle, which is why I usually stick to a whey protein).  We’ll see how this one goes!
  8. Oatworks – this beverage intrigues me – why would anyone need to have their oatmeal in liquid form? Oh well, its a good thing to keep in the diaper bag for a quick snack in a pinch!

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Vegan Arugula and Dill Frittata (but I cheated and added feta)

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I picked up a bag of arugula from the farmers market this past weekend – it definitely isn’t salad weather around here. I was looking for ways to use arugula in a warm dish, and the two options that appealed to me the most were an arugula pesto or a frittata. We had just had pasta the other night, so I decided to go with the frittata.

I looked to Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Brunch book for a recipe – all of the recipes in this book are idiot-proof in my opinion…and don’t leave you wanting for more as I sometimes find with many vegan recipe books. There is a swiss chard and dill recipe in the book, and I used the same basic idea she had (tofu and nutritional yeast) to make my own version that only required the use of my cast iron pan.

I started off by straining a block of tofu and leaving it out so it would give off as much liquid as possible. I then sautéed the veggies – garlic, jalapeños, shredded zucchini and arugula. I opted to shred the zucchini because I was then able to squeeze a lot of liquid out of it before adding it into my pan. While the veggies were cooking, I crumbled the tofu by hand in a bowl until it was smooth and seasoned it (I also added feta to the mix but this is optional).

Sauteed garlic, zucchini and arugula

Sauteed garlic, zucchini and arugula

Once my tofu mix was ready, I added it into the cast iron pan and mixed the tofu and veggies together. I then used a potato masher to spread and flatten the mix into the pan before I popped it in the oven for 25 minutes at 400F (I had already started roasting potatoes for a side dish while all of this was going on so they would be ready at the same time as the frittata).

Arugula and Dill Frittata baked in a cast iron pan

Arugula and Dill Frittata baked in a cast iron pan

I served the frittata with potatoes and avocado – I love having brunch for dinner, but this could easily be made the night before, left in the pan in the fridge and then baked in the morning for brunch.

Frittata served with avocado and roasted potatoes

Frittata served with avocado and roasted potatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano, minced
  • 2 small zucchinis, shredded and liquid squeezed out
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 block tofu
  • 1 tsp brown mustard
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • generous handful of fresh dill, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta (optional)
  1. Preheat over to 400F
  2. Drain tofu and set aside in a strainer.

  3. Saute garlic, jalapeños and zucchini in some oil in a cast iron pan until they have softened – add arugula to the mix. Turn the heat off in the pan once the arugula has wilted.
  4. While the veggies are cooking, squeeze out as much water as possible from the tofu and crumble by hand. Add the mustard, nutritional yeast, dill and salt and pepper to the mix.
  5. Add the tofu mixture into the pan and mix well. Using a potato masher, spread the mixture into the pan into a solid, even layer.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes – allow to sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


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Beating the Chills in California with Vegetarian Pho

OK, before the wisecracks begin about “chills” in California, it really has been cold here – so cold that we have had to protect our citrus trees and winter garden from the elements.  Also, in my defense, houses here really aren’t built for cold weather, so when the temperature drops below 0 C (or 32F), you really feel it!

Protecting our fruit trees from the freezing nights

Protecting our fruit trees from the freezing nights

All this cold weather talk led to making pho for dinner tonight.  I’ve made versions of pho in the past, but have never gotten the broth to taste quite as deelish as my favourite local pho joint.  This time, I think I got it (almost – it could have used a bit more salt and a bit more heat – but that’s an easy fix).

I started off by making the broth for the soup by toasting coriander seeds, anise and cinnamon in a pot, and adding in water, along with an onion, carrot and some celery.  I knew I was onto something when the smell of this broth started to spread through the kitchen.

Pho broth

Broth simmering on the stove

While the broth simmered, I sautéed some tofu in a cast iron pan and prepped my veggies.

Carrots, celery and mushrooms

Carrots, celery and mushrooms

We’ve planted bok choy in our winter garden – hopefully it will survive the cold spell. In the meantime, I’ll continue to rely on the farmers market.

Bok choy

Bok choy

My favourite brand of rice noodles is Annie Chun’s (FYI, the noodles are on sale with a 20% coupon right now on Amazon). I boiled these in a pot for about 4 minutes. While the noodles were boiling, I added the veggies to the tofu and lightly sautéed them – you don’t want mushy veggies in your pho, so just sauté them enough so they get a bit of colour.

I placed the noodles in a large bowl, followed by the tofu and veggies and then ladled in the broth. The bowl was topped off with fresh jalapeños, scallions and a lime wedge. I would have added cilantro as well, but I forgot to grab it from the garden while it was still light out.

A steaming bowl of vegetarian pho

A steaming bowl of vegetarian pho

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 block tofu, cubed
  • 8 mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 bok choy, trimmed
  • 1 box flat rice noodles (you could also use vermicelli)
  • lime wedges, sliced jalapeño, scallions, cilantro and anything else you’d like for garnish
  1. In a large pot, toast the coriander seeds, cinnamon and star anise on low heat until fragrant. Add the water, onion, carrot and celery. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for about 20 minutes.
  2. While the broth is simmering, prep veggies and sauté tofu. I let the tofu sauté in my cast iron pan on fairly low heat – just to get a crispy texture on the outside.
  3. Once the broth is ready, follow the directions on the rice noodles (the Annie Chun noodles recommended boiling for 4 to 5 minutes).  I used the same 4 minutes to add the veggies into the tofu to sauté together – season to taste.
  4. Build your bowl by layering the noodles, tofu and veggies, broth and then top with your favourite garnish.


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Poblano Enchiladas with Cashew “Cheeze”

I had been looking for a vegan alternative when making enchiladas that didn’t require beans. I decided to try making my own “ricotta” style filling using soaked cashews, which proved to be a great success. Another reason why I really liked this recipe was because I was able to let the summer vegetables from our garden be the star of the dish.

I started off by sautéing onions and poblano peppers – poblanos are super easy to grow and we had an abundance in our garden this year.  I did these up with some cumin and chipotle chili powder in my cast iron pan.

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To make the “cheeze”, I soaked the cashews for an hour in boiling water – if you’re able to plan in advance, you can soak the cashews in regular water for a few hours instead.  Make sure you are using raw cashews – you can save a bit of money if you opt to buy cashew pieces instead of whole cashews. Trader Joe’s sells them in 1 pound bags which should make enough to serve 6 (or two pizzas).IMG_3100

In the food processor, I pureed the cashews with some salt, pepper, lemon juice and fresh cilantro.  I was going to post a recipe for this, but I forgot to keep track of how much I used.  Just taste the mixture – if you’re willing to eat it on its own, you’ve hit gold :).IMG_3102

By the time I was ready to fill the enchiladas, I got a bit lazy, so I just layered the tortillas (I used corn tortillas to make the dish gluten-free) in a pan, followed by layers of “cheeze” and the pepper mixture.  I then baked it for about 30 minutes and served it with fresh avocado.IMG_3109

I’ve used this “cheeze” in lasagna as well as on pizza – instead of cilantro, I used fresh basil from the garden, which was just as delicious.  It also tastes great leftover the next day, so you can always make extra to pack a lunch or get a second meal out of it.


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Gluten Free and Eggless Homemade Bread

I’ve been on the hunt for a store-bought, eggless, gluten free bread because I’ve been craving a slice of toast for weeks now (especially since my boss gave me a jar of her homemade plum jam – that jam is phenomenal!). I finally found a loaf at Whole Foods, but it was $9 for a very small loaf of bread! I like fun food finds as much as the next person, but that just seemed too steep for me. I decided it was time to pull out my bread machine and start googling like a mad woman.

Just so you know, it was just as difficult to find a recipe online – the vegan recipes I did find required so many different flours that I just didn’t want to add to my pantry at this time. I finally came across the following recipe, and the bread turned out fantastic.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup warm (110°) water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 3/4 cup GF all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Flour)
  • 3/4 cup tapioca flour (or arrowroot powder – same thing)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 Tbsp xanthan gum
  • 2 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast
  1. Mix the all-purpose flour, tapioca flour, brown rice flour, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.
  2. Add the water, oil, salt, and honey to the bread machine in the order listed. Gradually add the flour mixture to the machine. Make a small well in the center of the flour (make sure no liquid pokes through) and add the yeast into the well.
  3. Set the machine for either the white or basic bread cycle (or the gluten free cycle if your machine has it) and a medium crust. Also, unless the size is preset, set the size to 2 lb.
  4. Remove the bread from the machine and let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the bread from the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 30 – 45 minutes before slicing.

I’m enjoying a slice of this bread toasted with Spring Hill butter and plum jam (and a cuppa Earl Grey of course).  I’m going to have to maintain some level of control with that whole loaf of bread waiting for me…the possibilities are endless right now!


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Experimenting with Cashew Cream – Tomato and Basil Pasta

I feel like blogging is a habit I need to form again – or maybe all my crazy work travel to San Diego is putting a damper on my “free” time. Whatever the case may be, I feel as if I just haven’t had a chance until this weekend to sit back and come up with something new to try out.

Making a cream sauce using a cashew base has been on my to-do list for months – I’m not a fan of any of the fake cheese products on the market, so in general, I’d rather do without. That being said, making my own creamy or cheesy sauce using cashews seemed like a healthy way to incorporate another variety of nuts in our diet – and help us avoid eating foods made in a science lab.

I had a fresh bunch of basil from my CSA delivery last week – I decided to make a tomato basil sauce to serve with whole wheat spaghetti. I used onion, lots of garlic, homemade tomato paste (from my freezer) and fresh basil as the main ingredients in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • large bowl of salted warm water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 serrano chili (or more or less – depends on how brave you are)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • non-dairy milk of choice – I didn’t use any, but good to keep on hand in case you need to thin the sauce – another option would be to save the pasta water
  • 4 servings of whole-wheat spaghetti
  1. Soak the cashews in the salted warm water for about 3 hours – I used mineral salt as my salt of choice
  2. I didn’t have any vegetable broth already made, so I just simmered the stalks from some broccoli (which I never use otherwise) and a celery stalk with some salt for about an hour while the cashews soaked. If your broth is already made, warm it up to just before boiling./li>
  3. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  4. While the pasta cooks, drain the cashews, and blend them with the warmed vegetable broth – you may need to scrape down the sides to make sure all of the pieces are pureed fully. Add the serrano chili and a few basil leaves into the blender and blend completely.
  5. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it into a colander (I always reserve some of the pasta water just in case). In the same pan, add some olive oil and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic into the mix until it also softens.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook until it mixed into the onions completely – then add a ladle of the cashew mixture into the pan and stir until it all comes together.
  7. Add the rest of the cashew mixture into the pan and stir thoroughly – if the sauce is too thick, use some non-dairy milk or the pasta water to thin it out. Add the fresh basil and mix in the spaghetti.

My conclusions? I think this recipe was a success! The huz said that if he hadn’t seen me using the cashews, he probably wouldn’t have known that I hadn’t used real cream.  I rarely have heavy cream in the refrigerator – soaking some cashews for a couple of hours is so easy to do as a quick substitute if necessary.

I served the pasta with some grilled asparagus we picked up at the new San Jose Farmer’s Market at San Pedro Square – it’s nice to know that we have another option if we can’t make it to our regular farmers market on Sunday.


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Vegan Japanese Feast – Sushi, Tempura and Miso Soup

Ever since our trip to Japan, I have been meaning to fire up a feast of my own, similar to the one we experienced in our cooking class. I can’t believe it took me five months to finally try those recipes on my own again. I took advantage of having a quiet day on Christmas Day where there were no other distractions to finally cook up my own storm.  You’ll notice that many of the same ingredients are used over and over again in the various items – makes it fairly easy to stock your pantry to have these items readily available.  Also, if you buy a wheat-free soy sauce, these recipes would be gluten free as well.

I started by making dashi (soup stock) out of kombu – during our class, it was described to us as being similar to kelp – luckily, kombu was readily available at my local Japanese market and I didn’t have to go hunting for an alternative.

To make the dashi (stock):

Ingredients

  • 10 sq cm of dry kombu
  • 1L water
  • 1 or 2 dried shittake mushrooms, if desired (provides an earthiness to the stock)
  1. Rinse the dry kombu.
  2. Let the kombu (and mushrooms if using) sit overnight in the refrigerator in the water or simmer it on low heat for 10 minutes – it is important to follow this specific step to prevent sliminess

The next item I attempted to make was tempura – I started out with making small pieces of broccoli tempura to use in some rolls. Most tempura batters call for a long list of ingredients, including eggs and various types of flours, but I kept mine simple and it was a success. I mixed equal parts rice flour and cold club soda – my first batch of tempura turned out to be much better than the second – I think it was because I made a smaller batch of batter the first time around, and the club soda was fizzier and colder the first time around as well.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice flour (I used brown rice flour and it worked just fine)
  • 1 cup cold club soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch cayenne
  • veggies prepped and sliced to your liking (I used yams, zucchini, broccoli and green beans)
  1. Mix the rice flour and club soda until the batter is no longer lumpy – do not over mix.
  2. Add the salt and cayenne.
  3. Allow the batter to sit for about 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, heat up some oil (I used vegetable oil) in a wok or tempura pan.
  5. Add a spot of the batter into the oil to test to see if it is ready – if the batter quickly floats to the top, your oil is hot enough.
  6. Dip your veggies into the batter and place them into the oil – I used wooden chopsticks for this process – kept my hands clean to be able to manage other tasks at the same time.
  7. Your tempura is ready when the batter has turned a light golden brown.
  8. Serve immediately.

For the tempura sauce:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dashi
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • grated daikon (optional)
  1. Mix the liquids together and begin to simmer on low heat.
  2. Add the sugar to the mix and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add the grated daikon before serving if desired.

I made the tempura sauce in advance and left it in the pot. I brought it up to a simmer just before serving.

Using the remaining dashi, I made a batch of miso soup. To make the soup, I brought the dashi to a boil (after removing the kombu) and added in 3 generous tablespoons of red miso.  Once it had all mixed together, I turned the heat off.  When I was ready to serve the soup, I brought it back up to a boil and added in chopped green onions and tofu to the mix. Easy-peasy!

The last item I made was a large variety of sushi rolls. I started out by making the sushi rice using the following recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear.
  2. Combine rice and water in a pot and allow to sit for 30 minutes before cooking.
  3. Bring to a boil and stir once.
  4. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, mix together the rice vinegar, agave nectar and salt – warm up the mixture slightly (I used the microwave) and ensure that it has all mixed together consistently.
  6. Remove from heat and let the rice stand in the covered pot for 10 minutes.
  7. Place hot rice in a large (preferably wide and shallow) glass bowl – make the sure the bowl is not metal.
  8. Toss the rice gently with the vinegar mixture with a plastic or wooden spoon.

I’m not going to go through a tutorial of how I rolled the sushi, but we had a large variety of items to fill the rolls with. We made a spicy “tuna” roll by crumbling the Hot and Spicy flavor of Tofu Life tofu and mixing in some Sriracha – it was one of my favorite combos.  We also had our broccoli tempura, avocado, plain tofu, sweet potato and daikon to mix in to various combinations.

We also tried making some rolls with Soy Wraps – these colourful wraps were easily to work with and gave a bit of variety to the rolls – they were especially helpful when we ran out of rice (the rolls weren’t as pretty, but tasted just fine).


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Vegan Peanut Butter Cups – Reese’s, eat your heart out

Fun times were recently had catering appies and desserts for a dear friend’s baby shower. I wanted to make an assortment of mini desserts to serve – for no other reason than any food in miniature form is automatically awesome.

For the dessert assortment, I made (with the help of some fantastic folks) cinnamon cupcakes with an apricot jam filling and lemon frosting, mini berry crumbles (using my favourite standby recipe) and peanut butter cups.

For the peanut butter cup recipe, I looked around on various blogs and websites – I ended up choosing Alicia Silverstone’s recipe from her blog, The Kind Life. The recipe made 24 mini pb cups.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
  • 1/4 cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener
  • 1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips
  • 1/4 cup soy, rice, or nut milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts
  1. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
  5. Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.
  6. Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.
  7. Top with chopped nuts.
  8. Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving.
Here’s a picture of the peanut butter cups as we were filling in the graham cracker/peanut butter layer – unfortunately, I forgot to take an after picture (I know, blogging suicide, right?).


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Amaranth, Pepitas and Almond Granola – The End of Store-bought Cereal

I generally don’t eat a lot of cereal because I prefer savory breakfasts over sweet ones, but in a pinch, I’ll grab a bowl of cereal to have with yogurt. I have been meaning to make my own granola, and finally came up with what I think is a perfect combination of ingredients – and to top it off, the ingredients are all gluten free (if that is a concern for you).

I’ve been meaning to experiment with amaranth for a while now. This gluten-free grain is a great source of protein along with other minerals. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is very high in phytates, which can inhibit mineral absorption – it is important to cook or soak the grains before consuming. I also added pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) which are a great source of protein, iron, omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids, amongst other minerals.

To make the granola:

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp amaranth seeds, popped
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1-1/2 cup oats
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Begin by popping the amaranth – heat up a pan on medium-high heat until a drop of water placed in the pan sizzles.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of amaranth seeds, cover the pan, and move the pan around so the amaranth doesn’t stick. You should hear a faint popping sound as the amaranth cooks. Make sure your pan is hot enough, and keep it moving so the grains pop evenly and don’t burn.
  4. Repeat the process three more times with the remaining amaranth – the whole process should take less than 10 minutes.
  5. Mix the amaranth along with all the remaining ingredients in a bowl, until everything is well coated with the maple syrup.
  6. Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper and spread a layer of the ingredients onto the pan.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes – stir the granola, and then cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  8. Allow the granola to cool on a cooling rack before placing into a container.

This granola is delicious as a snack on its own, but I am looking forward to mixing some up with my favourite yogurt or with some warm almond milk in the morning for breakfast.