Veggieversary!

Yes, it’s a made up word, I think. Veggieversary is the anniversary of becoming vegetarian (or I suppose it could be vegan also). This coming weekend is my 2 year point! I will always have Memorial Day Weekend to help me remember, and because we are going out of town this weekend, I am writing this early.

Here is one reason I took action on my long-standing thoughts about becoming a vegetarian. In full disclosure, I will tell you this is actually my second (and I believe the last) trial of the veg thing. I had tried it for a year when I was in my 20’s and gave up, feeling protein deprived and demoralized. I had no idea how to fit vegetarian cooking in my busy work life back then.

Charlie is the first dog I ever owned. We grew up without pets, until I was 9, and a cat we named Marble found us. From then on we were cat fanatics. I never knew a dog well. In 2007, I was hoping for a stray cat to come adopt us, because my husband did not want a pet in the house, and it seemed silly to seek one out when we did not know how our son with asthma would react to pets. The boys wanted a pet badly (read: cat or dog) and the youngest son was especially sad at the start of each school year that he did not have a pet to mention when introducing himself at school. I thought a stray cat might stay outside for a while and eventually make its way in, which we all know is how these things usually go!  Literally, within 2 weeks of that wish/prayer, this dog, whom we named Charlie, was dirty and loose in my yard. We tried to find his owner, and we never did. So I had my first dog! He was trained, loyal from day one, and cuddly–he is a lap dog, in fact. Getting to know a dog really started me thinking about why we eat some animals and not others. And you know the rest!

I decided to eliminate meat from my diet as I read books on the topic under a tree at a soccer tournament 2 years ago. I have been thankful every single day that I made the decision, and I know it was right for me. I had been telling myself to wait until the kids were gone to college…I’m so happy I did not put it off. Really, what in the world was I thinking?

Here was my veggie recipe for the week…Yes I am still trying out roasting every veggie under the sun! Hopefully now that school and all that craziness is ending for the boys, I will finally get to the farmers markets and have the chance to be more creative and adventurous.

I used this recipe as written, although my slices were closer to 1/4 inch thickness. The sweet potatoes were tasty. I like leaving the skin on…so good. I would like to try this again and experiment with some flavor combinations–maybe some minced fresh ginger, maple syrup, smoked salt…the possibilities seem endless.

http://www.food.com/recipe/roasted-sweet-potato-slices-37089

Here is what mine looked like. Note: The plate was designed by my brother when he was 3. I inherited my grandmother’s set we made for her. I just love how little kids draw people!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Advertisements

Tofu is so easy…(not!)…Part 1

The truth is, vegetarians can get by without tofu these days. It’s not absolutely necessary. I can go weeks without giving it a thought, and then have a week like this week when I have purchased 4 containers! I’m striving to make the perfect tofu…because somehow it always seems to taste the best at restaurants or prepared by someone else, and that is frustrating.

Here is part 1 of what I have picked up on about tofu so far. (Side note, I only buy extra-firm tofu, so these tips may not apply to the softer tofus).

Pressing is essential! I mean it really is. I have had some really bad results over the years when I did not grasp this. Some, if not most, cookbooks and sources recommend this method, which I will call the brute force method: Drain tofu, place on cutting board, lined with kitchen towel or paper towels. Place more paper towel or towel on top of tofu block, then another cutting board, then place as many heavy books on the top as you can. Maybe a chemistry book from your past can come in handy here. BUT, here is what can happen…a thunderous crash ensues, books tumble into the sink, time is spent to reassemble this craziness so you can get the extra moisture out of that darned tofu. Tofu does not seem to want to release its moisture in perfect symmetry; hence the books are always sliding off to one side. Or as happened to me once, the tofu just breaks up under this overwhelming weight into a messy heap…then it is impossible to slice or cut into nice cubes like I prefer. I don’t want “heap-a-tofu” for dinner.

Here is my latest method, inspired by Mark Bittman, whose book “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” is yielding some nice tips. He is in the gentle school of tofu pressing, pressing with 1-2 pounds of weight. Now I drain it, place the block on the cutting board with 1-2 layers of paper towel on it. I put more paper towel on top of the block and then a mini cutting board. On top of this is one nice little 16 oz. can of anything. Then I leave it alone for 30 minutes to several hours. When I pressed some moister Nasoya brand tofu last night, I replaced the paper towels a few time because they became saturated quickly. Here’s my method:

Why press? It cooks better, firms up a little better, and soaks up flavors better, which is what tofu does best. How to cook it? Lots of options there also. My favorite method I had used and enjoyed eating before this week, was pressing, marinating, and then broiling. It was time consuming and messy to clean up, but delicious. However this week I used a method I felt was less intensive (but worked for me as I was home and doing multiple tasks at once). This method can be summarized as pressed, marinated, baked. It worked just as promised, so no need to hover near the oven. My method and recipe were adapted from one of my favorite books “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I used 1 block of tofu, 1 cup of a local sweet and slightly tangy barbecue sauce, a rough 2/3 tsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp canola oil.

Directions:

1. Drain and press tofu at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes cut your block of tofu into 8 slices, as if cutting bread.

2. Mix BBQ sauce, soy sauce, canola oil. I marinated one hour.

3. After marinating one hour, I sprayed my cooking sheet with non-stick spray, and baked the slices at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I flipped them at this point, and cooked 10 more.

4. Serve any way you want! I ate my BBQ slices over plain quinoa with cooked broccoli mixed in the same bowl. I also had one slice with warm macaroni and cheese I had fixed.

The verdict: one son tried it and stated he did not like tofu, which was expected. Other son (victim of the great Tofu incident of February 2012–we won’t go into details in midst of a recipe) is not ready to eat tofu again. However, success was achieved when we rushed out to a program at the school (hence the rushed picture I took) and husband came home from soccer and polished most of it off! I had the last slice at work the next day over quinoa and the flavors were even better.

In the next week I plan to try a new recipe with sprouted tofu (supposedly easier to digest-I have to learn more about this) and tofu on the grill. I need to find out if the Tuesday Farmer’s Market is open too.

One last fun thing–I made these business cards on Vistaprint to hand out to friends in case they want to check the blog out. Just arrived today as I worked on this post. I loved the design they had with the veggies. I did black out my phone number for this picture.

I’d love to hear how you cook tofu! Have a good week.

Thankful for some little things

I have been feeling a little sorry for myself in the cooking realm. Here’s the recap: Husband with outrageously overactive metabolism (read: vegetarian food does not satisfy or fill him up), fairly “picky eating” children (if only I knew back then what the research says about exposing kids to foods when young). And now, the new development …older son just got braces and is in present but improving pain. Trying to put a good meal on the table has been tough.

Yesterday I had a realization, that maybe I could find a few positives in the last few weeks. Frustration is just a non-productive cycle for me. After all, I am always finding ways (however miniscule) to improve our diets and move the other members of the family towards vegetarianism–at least when I do the cooking–because frankly, I don’t want to cook meat. And in honor of Mother’s Day this weekend…”Because I’m the mom, that’s why!!!”

Here are my little things:

1. One of my sons said last week “I like the whole wheat kind better”…I had served regular spaghetti for the first time in a while. This is big news. Due to the new braces, we’ve been having even more pasta around here. They will never see regular pasta again.

2. We have been doing pretty well with the whole family going meatless on Mondays for “Meatless Mondays”. This week I made whole wheat spaghetti with Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce (the best ever) and crumbled Morningstar “sausage” patties and salad. Yes, I am still trying to interest my sons in salad. Still a work in progress…

3. I found a refreshing healthy summer drink. Maybe not for every day (still has lots of sugar)…but probably better for us than soda. Sparkling Blackberry Izze with a little fresh lime juice squeezed in and then a skinny lime wedge pushed into the bottle. The lime “cuts” the sweetness down just a little as it floats at the top. I also like the clementine flavor, especially with spicy foods. Izze drinks are all natural with no added sugars and no refined sugars.They are in the natural foods section of my local store.

I have been keeping up with my vegetable trials (asparagus, brussel sprouts, collard greens) lately, but I did not deem them successful enough to write about. I think everything will cook and taste better when purchased at the farmer’s market in upcoming months.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the fabulous moms out there, including mine!