Gardein Holiday Roast

Hello, Happy Saturday–

I saw last week that a few people were visiting my blog because I had written about the Gardein Holiday Roast last year. I was excited to find it in 2012, because it was a newer product and we don’t always get those items here in Ohio. Thank you Whole Foods! I didn’t write much last year about how it turned out except for the last paragraph in this post, which didn’t say much. Sorry that I didn’t get any pictures, but here is the box.

Gardein roast pic2

I thought I’d tell you what I recall, in case you are thinking of buying it this year. I definitely recommend it for a vegan and, of course, a vegetarian Thanksgiving option. I recall it being very enjoyable and easy to make (bake for an hour). I’ve got another one in the freezer for this year. Last year I brought it to my family’s Thanksgiving for anyone who wanted to try it. Everyone who wanted to taste it was surprised to like it as much as they did, it seemed. I was bracing for a negative comment or two and did not get any. I would have eaten more, but wanted to share to anyone who wanted some…I thought the gravy was an essential part to tie it together and bring that creamy, moist mouth-feel to the dish. I added lots of extra cranberry sauce because that is truthfully my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

This year I also bought a Tofurky Vegetarian Roast I found on another trip to Whole Foods. Two vegan options for my two Thanksgiving meals this year. I guess this one has been around a while. I decided to make my own gravy for it, the Silky Chickpea gravy from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (sorry, recipe is not on her blog). I’ve read good things about it. I will try to remember to write it up and take pictures.

I love that when I went to Google images to find an image of this there was a pic of Paul McCartney in a pro-veg T-shirt! Paul is the greatest…

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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).

Trust Yourself Cauliflower

This came out really well-trust me. I went out on a limb over the weekend and only loosely (gasp) followed a recipe. I didn’t even measure everything exactly. And this has been, by far, my best roasted cauliflower. It’s based on this recipe, which I had followed closely in the past and found to be tasty and satisfying, but too oily for me.

best cauliflower

Here’s what I did:

Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4 as a side dish. But just try to be that restrained!

  • small head of cauliflower, cut into very small pieces (see photo), slightly damp.
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • about 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • coarsely ground pepper according to your taste

(Note: all seasonings should be adjusted to your tastes-trust yourself! You may need to increase amounts of all ingredients if you have a large head of cauliflower)

Directions: In bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, sea salt, onion powder, pepper, and any other seasonings you desire. Add in the cauliflower and toss. Taste a few pieces to determine if you want to add anything else. Add a bit more oil if needed; I like it best when there is a light layer of oil over most of the pieces, but they are not drenched.

Spread cauliflower out in 9X13 inch Pyrex glass baking dish or similar pan. I have had better results in this dish vs. my rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes or when lightly browned. Stir after 20 minutes and as desired to ensure even browning. I stirred twice at 20 and 30 minutes, and took mine out at 35 minutes. Watch it carefully for that perfect amount of brown and a bit of near-burn on a few tips.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash…A New Veggie Experience

Butternut Squash: (For those of you, like me, who do not know their squash names)

I was really anxious to cook my first Butternut squash based on all the tempting squash recipes I’ve seen in the blog world lately. I needed to conquer a new veggie anyways; it had been a little while. I’ve always had a soft spot for squash. I ate it as a child (remember packaged blocks of frozen squash in the frozen section?…) and occasionally as an adult from frozen as well.

I followed the general instructions from the blog I told you about last week, Oh She Glows. Because I just happen to be on crutches, I decided to modify my adventure to simple cooking of the squash without the additions that make hers look amazing. My primary goal was to get this thing cut up without losing my balance with a knife in my hand! I ended up peeling the uncooked squash as the recipe suggested and found out my peeler was not up to the task…so I peeled it by hand with a knife. I think I’ll try the cook first, peel later method next time. I was amazed and excited when I cut the squash in half and saw all the solid squash in there and just a small circle of “guts” in the bottom part. Like so many other fruits and veggies (e.g. mangoes, pumpkins) I expected a small return for all the work, but my butternut squash yielded a full 9X13 baking dish’s worth of cubed squash.

 

 

 

 

 

I cut it into 1″ pieces, placed in my Pyrex dish, and combined with 2 tbsp olive oil–way more than the recipe stated, but I messed up and though that was what I had read…sigh…I always seem to have one slip-up per meal…I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and baked covered with aluminum foil pierced for venting at 400 for 45 minutes. I will probably cook about 35-40 minutes next time…it was super soft, as you can see in the picture. At this point, I added my secret “spice”, also known as Trader Joe’s maple sugar, and stirred it in. This sugar has a slight maple flavor and is much less “adulterated” than other forms of sugar. I started to feel guilty about adding sugar to a vegetable dish and therefore stopped…sadly…I’d guess I stirred in about about two tablespoons. Only enough to taste the maple flavor very slightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing this squash was very easy (except for the peeling) and tasted wonnnderfuuulll…I think I can probably add a little more of the maple sugar too, if I want that maple flavor. Just stop feeling guilty, right?!

I ate this for four days, alone or in this crazy concoction one night…a vegan wrap with whole wheat tortilla, squash, spinach, Romaine lettuce, Daiya cheddar shreds, and my red lentils from earlier in the week (with Mexican seasoning). I know it sounds insane, but it worked. And I may even make it again someday. We will just hope it will not be on crutches. Hopping around the kitchen is exhausting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever cooked a butternut squash? What did you make with it? I think next time I would like to try a butternut squash soup. Happy cooking!

Vegan is the new vegetarian, or is it?

1994 was my first stint as a vegetarian, which lasted about a year..seems like ages ago…Clinton administration, way before 9/11, Pearl Jam and Nirvana days. I was primarily influenced to explore vegetarianism by two good friends (married), who never preached about vegetarianism, but obviously enjoyed it and never seemed to lack for great food. I still had a small apartment kitchen and minimal culinary skill, so logically I loved it when they cooked! I think I believed at the time, why not when it was probably better for one’s body anyhow and it was a bit of a challenge, a way to be different. So, eating veg was mainly for the “cool” factor I suppose. I had never been a huge meat fan, all the way back to the meticulous notes in my baby book kept by my mom (I was the oldest, what can I say?). Plus, I’ve always had an interest in nutrition, ever since my first running days in high school.

Fast-forward 16 years and here I am, definitely no longer worried about the “cool” factor, and still interested in nutrition. I decided in 2010 to look into all the information starting to seep its way into my somewhat fried/non-media influenced/post-graduate school brain–about organic foods, factory farming, etc. I now had the luxury of more time to read and watch movies such as Food Inc. What I read and learned blew me away–and along with internal questions raised by owning my first dog– I knew I never wanted to eat meat of any kind again. I was definitely a vegetarian for life this time.

I guess I’ve been internally struggling with the vegan thing since I made this decision. I had no idea vegan was the new vegetarian…Or so I recently read in this quote in a newish cookbook of mine called Quick Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson: “As a plant-based diet becomes more mainstream, ‘vegan’ has become the new ‘vegetarian’ “. I had to laugh…this was precisely how I was feeling!!! I finally make the jump to vegetarianism for good and now it’s not good enough??!! I was not even fully clear on what vegan meant when I made the change! Sure, I know celebrities had been apparently talking about it for years. But I had hardly followed any celeb news for years. But apparently now even burger-stuffing Bill Clinton was a vegan! (Disclaimer-I did not set out to tie our former president into my post repeatedly, but somehow I have!).

What have I learned through this realization? I feel that the vegan community…which I interact with through the blog world and Internet, VegNews magazine, and cookbooks, seems like an accepting community. Sure, there are über-passionate people, but I have not felt uncomfortable with that. I kind of admire activists in general. It seems in general, the vegan community (which certainly is not a club or a bunch of people with identical views, goals, or spokespersons) accepts people where they are, maybe vegetarian exploring vegan, or a person just exploring a reduction in meat consumption or better health.

I have learned that it’s ok to be where I am. I can own five vegan cookbooks and still make my own decisions about how I choose to be compassionate to animals or eat healthfully. I have also learned that eating vegan or mostly vegan is probably the most healthful way to go. Yes, it’s also awesome for the environment and yes, it’s not that hard to get protein at all. These concepts can be explored anywhere on the web. And I truly feel vegans create the best veg-friendly recipes out there. I was one of those vegetarians who overdid cheese as I cut out meat and vegan cooking provides more healthful (especially less saturated fat) options.

I have discovered through my own explorations of cooking without dairy/eggs I do feel best with minimal to no dairy products. I’m more neutral on eggs. I’m not going to force any more drastic change on my family (two kids in the teen/preteen years here) and I’m not going to grill a friend on the ingredients in her dinner rolls or of that vegetarian soup she is serving. I’m not going to make my mom or aunts any more confused about what to fix for a gathering. I will be ok with a dab of cheese in the bean dip or an egg in my muffin batter. I live in the midwest of the U.S. and I can choose how to participate in my culture, which as most cultures, includes food as an important shared phenomenon. I don’t know many vegans here, and that’s fine with me. I don’t know if there’s a name for what I am describing (my philosophy) and I really feel a name is not necessary. It’s ok and that’s where I am today.

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The “old” veg cookbook collection!

PS…this is the first post I’ve managed to create on my iPad. I still can’t get the pictures exactly where I wanted, but I hope it looks ok. I’m also curious how you feel about this topic and welcome any and all comments.