Basic Pan-Cooked Tofu

Sometimes my eating is just everyday sort of stuff. Well, my everyday sort of stuff. Here is how I cook some tofu when I am in basic mode. For example, I might need something to put on top of the quinoa or brown rice I cooked earlier in the week. So here it goes…remember, I said basic! In my book that means quick. Nothing fancy here.

1. Press your extra-firm tofu using a tofu press or the heavy book method or press lightly on all sides with clean towels/paper towels. The goal is to get rid of the extra moisture after you have removed it from the packaging liquid.

2. Next lay tofu on a cutting surface and cut into slices (sort of like cutting a stick of margarine into slices). I recommend cutting into about 10-11 slices for quick cooking.

3. Heat up a light coating of oil on medium heat in  your non-stick pan. I got this Danny Seo skillet for Christmas, and I am very happy with it…however, the pan definitely needs a light coating of oil before you start.

4. Pan-fry the tofu for about 5 minutes or until the “down” side is golden brown, or darker if you prefer.

tofu lightly browned

5. Flip the tofu slices when ready and cook the other side, about 5 minutes.

6. If you want more (Asian) flavor before taking the slices out, pour a light amount of soy sauce into the center of the pan and flip the tofu over a few times to coat. This will lead to a more flavorful but less crispy outer coating.

tofu cooking in ds pan

7. Use this basic tofu anyway you want. Ideas include: dipping into bottled sauces such as an Asian sauce, honey mustard, or barbecue sauce. Serve over a grain such as brown rice, quinoa, etc. Serve over veggies such as stir-fry veggies or stir-fried spinach/greens.

tofu on plate with cilantro

This was my tofu, after being tossed–while still in the pan–with a little soy sauce. I dipped it into Panda Express bottled Orange Sauce and ate it over rice. Easy lunch on a non-work day!

Maybe my battles with tofu are officially over. Peace Out!

P.S. Angela from a blog I admire very much (Oh She Glows) did this very similar post this week as I was compiling mine. Here’s another take on pan-frying tofu, with vastly superior photography (smile).

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Just eat more plants!

New Year’s Resolutions? I’m not too into them. I find I’m usually working towards the same long term goals every year. They are good goals, but they are ongoing because they include hard work and time. Every year. That’s just me. As you might guess, an ongoing goal is to eat more plants…

I read a lot of blogs, and try to leave comments. I find myself often saying “Keep eating plants!” or “Keep eating more plants!” It seems like a great phrase to encourage anyone who is (hopefully) thinking about going veg or is dabbling in eating more fruits and veggies. Even for the non-vegetarian world, it’s a good thing.  After all, it’s not rocket science anymore…everyone, I mean everyone has to know by now…we all need to eat more plants and less of the bad stuff. And we all know what that stuff is, right? So it’s my new year phrase, my mantra for every day–Just eat more plants! (My apologies to the footwear company where this thought may be loosely rooted).

Along those lines, three ways I am working on this (non) goal:

1. Awesome organic “Power Greens” salad mix I found at Whole Foods…spinach, kale, and red and green chard. They are all young greens and very tender to eat.

 

Power greens salad 1

 

2. Meal Planning–I am using a chart to write down three home-cooked meals I will make each week and then making a complete grocery list for all needed items. The real change for me is trying to cook in bulk. Doubling recipes or whatever it takes. Cooking and prepping on the weekend or one of my days off. My inspiration comes from Diana at Veggie Next Door. She’s got loads of veg tips, enjoys veg cookbooks also, and will certainly get you in the mood to eat at restaurants around Chicago. Cooking large amounts is a challenge around here with 2/3 other family members having much larger appetites than mine. I never seem to make enough with standard recipes to have leftovers! It’s just not instinctive at all for me to cook large amounts. The purpose of my plan is to have some leftover meals, maybe two each week. This leaves less tendency for us to get take-out on my 2 work nights. I am also cooking a large batch of brown rice each week in my Zojirushi cooker, which I still need to do a post on. I love this rice cooker, mainly because of the timer and its ability to cook oats. Cooking the rice has been a time saver to use in planned or unplanned meals or to take to work. I alternate the rice with a large batch of quinoa.

3. Attend a VegFest or similar event this year–VegFest Asheville NC or Chicago…or Vegetarian Summerfest in PA, seem most realistic for me. I hear they have cooking/nutritional seminars and of course, the food! Here is a great calendar of these events and more.

Keep on eating (more) plants…

 

 

 

Greens and more greens…and a recipe

I hope you had great holidays; it seems that all of us get some time off from the regular routine, no matter what we are celebrating. Personally, the whirlwind of the week before Christmas just about did me in. I had a huge amount of work due the 21st on a project related to my job, and a million other things to do. I’m glad that’s over. Now I feel peace…

Extra free time is such a gift, seriously. I have so enjoyed using my WordPress blog reader and checking out old and new blogs that I have not had time for.  I’ve had time to delve  into recipes without worrying about time requirements or rushing somewhere…

I received a new cookbook from my mom, which I love-Wild about Greens, by Nava Atlas. This is such a beautiful book. If you are a book lover, you will relate…pleasing green colors on dust jacket (color green enhances serotonin production in the brain, you know), nice feel to the pages, illustrations throughout that help me with identification of my greens, and easy to follow directions, with tons of tips. I made a few recipes already which turned out well. I think she has set me straight on kale chips…they definitely turned out better than my past attempts.

Here is a picture of her Kale Salad with Dried Fruits and Nuts in a fun container I found at TJ Maxx. This was still delicious 2 days later! In Wild About Greens, Nava gives basic directions for massaged kale salads and easy variations. I used Craisins and walnuts. Although I had made a variation of this in the past, she provided the best instructions I have seen. Click here for Nava’s quick video on making a massaged kale salad, which I got from her website VegKitchen.

kale salad in frigoverre container

 

I’ve also meant for a very long time to share the following recipe I developed. I can’t believe I found this picture of it too. Just before I started this blog in March 2012, I was building confidence with cooking quinoa and greens. I saw an email at work that our hospital was having a cooking contest for Nutrition Month. I think the top meal would be served in the cafeteria. I tinkered with this recipe a bit and submitted it, sure that I would be in the top few. It is a quick, well-rounded, gluten-free, plant-based meal. It was not meant to be, and I will admit I was disappointed that I never heard back from them. But here it is.  I like to think at least one of the folks that judged the recipes took this one home and is using it…He, he, we all have our daydreams…

 

IMG_0260

 

Easy and Colorful Spinach and Quinoa (Entrée)

Ingredients:

1 c quinoa grain

2 c water

1 vegetable bouillon cube (use cube designed for 8 oz of broth) if desired to add flavor to the water–can be omitted if desired

1 TBSP +1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2 tsp minced garlic from jar (approx 4 small cloves)

¼  cup pine nuts

8 packed cups washed and ready to eat fresh spinach (approximately 10 oz in weight). You can add in more if desired because it will reduce down significantly in cooking.

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup Original flavor Craisins (or any sweetened cranberries)

 

  1. Using small sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to boiling, then add the bouillon cube and stir to dissolve. Add the quinoa, stir, and reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer according to package directions, until water is absorbed (usually 10-15 minutes). Fluff quinoa, remove from heat, and keep covered.
  2. As the quinoa is cooking, heat olive oil in large non-stick skillet on medium until hot. Add garlic and pine nuts and stir for 1 minute. Keep the skillet on medium for the remainder of cooking.
  3. Add about ½ of the spinach and stir constantly to coat and distribute the oil mixture.
  4. Once spinach is mostly wilted, move it to the outside of the pan and add the remaining spinach in the open “hole” in the center. Stir the fresh spinach in the middle for 1-2 minutes. Stir the entire pan as needed to evenly cook the spinach.
  5. Stir spinach mixture frequently and once nearly fully wilted, add salt, pepper and Craisins.
  6. Stir another 1-2 minutes to warm but do not overcook the spinach. Add more pepper to taste.
  7. Serve the spinach (with some of the toppings included) on top of a large spoonful of quinoa. Combine them if desired.

Recipe is easily adjusted to add more spinach, pine nuts, or craisins if desired.

Serves 3-4

Entire recipe takes 25-30 minutes.

 

Have you ever entered a recipe contest? Do you like to fix greens?

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

green bean casserole

Another holiday approaches with many family and group meals. I am craving green bean casserole–the classic. I ponder…can it be made vegan? I mean, can it be made vegan and be acceptable to those used to the classic recipe?

I scoured the net for several days, looking for a recipe that sounded good and did not involve growing my own beans. Meaning, not too complex…just a foolproof recipe I can pull out every year during holidays and serve to anyone. I thought I had a winner when I decided, unfortunately after buying several ingredients, that I was headed for disaster. I was perplexed by the eternal questions of the recipe reader…is the sage ground or leaf? What is the range of acceptable baking pan sizes…9 by 13? 8 by 8? I started over and made this recipe from the Earth Balance spread website with a few modifications (see below for my modified version).

Results? I was thrilled. My new dish I can bring to holiday meals. I suppose you really can’t go wrong with 4 oz of fried onion! Yum. I haven’t tried it out with a crowd yet, but I think it will go over well.

Green Bean Casserole, modified from recipe posted on Earth Balance website

Serves 6-8 depending on serving size (tricky area here, don’t you think?)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I question if this is needed, but I wasn’t risking disaster…but next time I will try 1 Tbsp)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

3-4 small button mushrooms, sliced as thinly as you can. You may want to use more if you like a stronger mushroom flavor; this was fairly mild.

2 14-oz cans green beans, well-drained or equivalent in frozen or fresh beans (I used frozen 365 Brand cut green beans, steamed first)

1 4-oz can of French-fried onions

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the Earth Balance spread on medium to medium low and add the flour, stirring well. Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, garlic power, and onion powder, stirring frequently until this thickens. Whisk in the nutritional yeast, vegetable oil, mushrooms, and about 1 oz of fried onions.

3. Combine the sauce and beans in a 9X13 or similarly sized casserole dish. Bake 10 minutes.

4. Remove the casserole, sprinkle the rest of the fried onions on top of the casserole and bake for another 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Happy Holidays to all. May the new year bring more peace. Everywhere.

 

 

End of the Year Cookbook Roundup

I like cookbooks a lot. I like books a whole lot. I guess it’s a logical thing. I’ve seen  a few top 10 cookbooks of the year lists. I’m going to list a few cookbooks that I either bought or borrowed from the library this year that I liked and really used (not just eye candy). These are in a general order of most favored at the top…and some are older, I warn you. I just discovered the world of vegan cookbooks this year. Until then I was using my old cookbooks from my 20’s when I went through my first vegetarian period.

Chloe's Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way

1. Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli-Interesting yet mostly non-time consuming recipes, that taste delicious. I have fixed the Avocado Toast at least three times. Amazing and so simple. Every time I look through it, I find something I want to make.

2. Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero…very popular, but here’s why I love it…great information in the beginning 44 pages of the book. It helped me learn how to cook many a vegetable and grain. I spent an embarrassing number of evenings last winter reading this part and learned tons that I have been able to apply to my everyday cooking, shopping, and eating. I was so happy when I looked back in my records and found that I ordered this in January, so it could be in my list. I know it’s full of great recipes too, but so far I have only used basic ones such as several in the quite thorough section on cooking tofu.

3. Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson-I used this during the summer when I knew I was getting an unfamiliar (to me) vegetable in my delivery. Quick and simple recipes that seemed to highlight the vegetable and not the sauce, if that makes sense.

4. Everyday Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Nixon–I’ve only had it a week from the library, but it’s already a favorite. Her recipes include (mostly) ingredients I already have at home. I will be getting my own copy soon. Heck, it may be at the top of the list soon. Last night I made her Sweet Potato Dal, another recipe with red lentils in it…It had a really rich flavor, and did not include any added oils. (She does not add any oils, in the Forks Over Knives manner-see my last few posts). Later this week I plan to make Sweet and Sour Tempeh, and without planning I already have all the ingredients. Love that.

5. Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan-I find these recipes a little more time-consuming, but I love the book for its information on tools, techniques, etc. (more than the typical cookbook and really helpful stuff). I really like the Un-Tuna Salad I had read so much about. I even bought kelp granules for this one! She uses macrobiotic techniques, which I am just beginning to learn about. I’m planning to make her Sea Veggie Sushi rolls next.

These are all still available through online sources and probably in some larger bookstores.

I am trying to find a good vegan green bean casserole recipe right now. Test number one is tonight. I’ll try to share soon.

Happy Cooking, and please share your fave cookbooks of the year, whatever type they are!

Cookbooks and Books

I made another recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook by Del Sroufe. The Veg Cookbook Club (check them out!) has moved onto a new book, but I’m still plodding through some recipes from Forks Over Knives that I never got to last month. It has over 300 recipes and I do think I will be using it in my healthy cooking rotation. Probably not so much when I want a rich not-so-healthy meal. Which is never, right? Sure…

Red Lentil Dal was a winner for me. I love Dal of all types…Unfortunately, I was the only one in the family to eat much of it. For the next time, I will probably cut it in half to reduce the mountain of leftovers, even after I ate it three times! I will also cut the onion in half as I did in the other Forks Over Knives recipe I tried. This did have a bit too much onion for me. Something in the combination of spices (maybe the turmeric?) and red lentils always gives this type of recipe a crazy color. But I still love my red lentils unconditionally. See below, served with Tofutti “sour cream”…

red lentil dal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next cookbook: A find at the library: The Good Neighbor Cookbook by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg, published in 2011. No, it is not vegetarian, but it has plenty of veg recipes and others that I can easily convert. It contains (I quote from the cover here), “Easy and delicious recipes to surprise and satisfy new moms, new neighbors, recuperating friends…” The book has recipes for other occasions also, including condolences, block parties, and community, religious, or business gatherings to name a few. Just about covers it all! I’ve always wanted to be the good neighbor or friend who shows up with the pan of lasagna or similar dish at the first opportunity, but I only actually achieve this about 25% of the time. I hope to find a few standby dishes that I can whip up quickly.

The Good Neighbor Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, I just finished up The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals by Jenny Brown. I had a special interest in the book because Jenny Brown is the founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. I happen to have a brother who lives in  Woodstock, NY. We are hoping to spend a week with my brother this coming summer, and now I definitely hope to visit the sanctuary. Truthfully, I never heard of farm animal sanctuaries until I started reading about veganism. The book is a good read. I loved the way she shows the personalities and intelligence of the animals. It won Editor’s Pick: Book of the Year from VegNews magazine. I have always loved the book Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White from a very young age. I can’t turn down a chance to get to know some big Wilburs!

What have you been reading or cooking from?

Cooking from Forks Over Knives Cookbook

I’m following along with the Veg CookBook Club this month. I wish I was “cooking” along, but that doesn’t seem entirely accurate; I have only managed one recipe so far in November! The book is Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, by Del Sroufe. The documentary by the same name was released in 2011 and is a very informative movie on health reasons to go vegan. I highly recommend it and couldn’t possibly do it justice by trying to summarize. Two weeks ago, I managed to make the Barley and Sweet Potato Pilaf the night before I was working a half day and leaving for a conference. This is the preface to explain the hurried pictures.

I know it’s goofy for a vegetarian, but I’m not a huge onion fan. Because they typically are needed for flavor, I decided to cut the amount of onion in half. I just don’t like them in large amounts, in every fork or spoonful. The Forks Over Knives folks believe in cooking without oils and the recipes often call for cooking onions and garlic (or whatever the starter vegetables may be) in water. I was anxious to see how this would work. It worked fine in my enameled cast iron pan. You add a tablespoon or two of water when needed…no sticking problem encountered. I also liked the fact that this recipe is a single-pan dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, I used dried tarragon due to availability issues at my grocery. The pilaf seemed like it might be rather bland until I added the freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest at the end. I loved the flavor, with freshly ground pepper added too. This would especially taste great as a spring dish.

Not a bad start to this book, even with the onions! I think I will keep going with this book for the next month. If you are curious, check out the Veg CookBook Club. If you read the blog comments, you will get a feel for whether this might be a cookbook for you. It could very well be at your library too! Additionally, if you explore the Forks Over Knives website, I saw some great recipes posted there.

I just had to share that the Gardein Holiday Roast was worth the wait until Saturday. The omnivore adults surprised me by (every one of them) tasting it and commenting that they thought it was good. They were quite intrigued by the resemblance to the “T” word and the ingredients list. Very tasty, especially with extra cranberry sauce added along.

Have a splendid week!

Good Finds this Week including Thanksgiving “Roast”

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I’m really excited about! I found Gardein Holiday Roast at Whole Foods on Saturday by searching the entire store (the guy near the front taking holiday orders was not sure if it was in stock yet). I was unsure whether I could find this vegan “faux” holiday roast because I don’t live near Whole Foods for frequent checking and I thought they might go quickly. This looked terrific in VegNews magazine. Gardein makes some tasty products which are designed to be the plant-based protein source in a meal. This is my third Thanksgiving as a vegetarian, and my first time to try a product like this. It will be fun to have a “main dish” I can eat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some other things I stocked up on that I can recommend. I love red lentils and can’t find them at my local grocery. The last time I was at Whole Foods about 3 weeks ago, their normal slot on the shelf was empty. I wistfully found a store employee and asked whether there could be red lentils in the back. I felt a little self-conscious at that point, but I just had to check. Red lentils cook in 20 minutes and can be added to soups, simmered with any sauce or broth, and seem to come up often in vegetarian recipes.

The Nature’s Path organic instant oatmeal is my favorite quick breakfast when I don’t make oatmeal in my rice cooker. I love the blueberry, flax, and cinnamon combination.

I’ll admit I haven’t tried the 365 brand organic canola oil yet, but it’s definitely better to use organic canola from what I have read. See this post for details.

Lastly, Soy Boy Tofu Lin is Asian flavored organic tofu which is already marinated and cooked. I just cubed it and added it in my veggie stir fry towards the end of cooking, to heat it through. I love how easy that is when you don’t want to press, marinate, and cook the tofu. And tofu and I have an ongoing battle anyways, don’t we?

Have you found any interesting products lately? Are you preparing for Thanksgiving yet?

Fall Cooking and that Little Election Thing

Hi there! Yes, it’s been a little while. You see, we live in Ohio, USA. I’ve been busy standing by my answering machine hitting the delete button upon receipt of political calls all day and evening long. It was hard to cook that way. I was afraid my machine would become overloaded and somehow bring down the entire power grid in my house. You get the picture. Yesterday Ohio let out a collective sigh of exhaustion and became a humble and insignificant place once more. So, here’s what’s on my mind…

I tried, but could not stop cooking squash. Hey, it’s healthier than cooking desserts, right? I made another spaghetti squash, which was once again awesome (see the last post). I made a small acorn squash, which in keeping with my natural cooking karma, was a debacle. I thought it was becoming darker green as it cooked in the oven. In fact, it was becoming charred. Luckily, I took it out before it started smoking. I had tried the same basic baking method I discussed in my last post. This time I used a green acorn squash and not the more unusual white acorn squash I had cooked last week, thinking it was the “typical” acorn squash. I am pretty convinced that I might need to give up on all colors of acorn squash…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry salsa served with blue corn chips

Last weekend, I made a cranberry salsa, following the recipe on a bag of Paradise Meadows brand fresh cranberries. I’m going to write it out here, in case you don’t want to go to the website. The bag and website recipes are identical. I will tweak this recipe next time to chop the green onions myself (the recommended 3 inch pieces did not shred with the medium processor blade) and to mix the sugar and lime juice together before adding. I will probably decrease the sugar by about 1/3 to start and then adjust from there. It may be just as delicious with less sugar.

The salsa was a hit with the adults who tried it. I must admit, I didn’t go out of my way to share and consumed about 75% of it! I plan to serve this over Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. This recipe is something different to serve or bring to gatherings. In addition, I firmly believe all things with cilantro are perfect…

Cranberry Salsa (recipe by Paradise Meadows)

  • 1 12 oz bag of Paradise Meadows cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1  bunch green onion, cut into 3-inch lengths (see my note on this)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a medium blade. Chop to medium consistency. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Serve at room temperature.

Lastly, I received the Forks over Knives Cookbook by Del Sroufe for cooking and participating in the November Veg CookBook Club, but have not yet started cooking from it. My first recipe will be (I hope soon!) Barley and Sweet Potato Pilaf.

Enjoy your cooking adventures! I will be enjoying my silence.