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!

From the News Desk

Hi Friends. I have to tell you, I’ve not been able to cook much again this week. Not by choice, certainly. I’m recovering from a leg surgery which left me with extensive bruising throughout my leg. Ugh! Today I’m even using crutches to see if it helps if I stay off the foot, which is ultra-bruised and swollen.

I collected some interesting news and facts for today.

Happy Meatless Monday! School districts including Baltimore and Detroit now implement Meatless Monday in their districts. My family may not have agreed to go vegetarian, but they know to expect this on Monday. They have agreed on whole wheat pasta, which I am so thankful for. In my opinion, Whole Foods 365 organic is the best one. I buy a lot of it. On Mondays I often make 365 pasta, mix in a jar of sauce, place in a baking dish, and top with a little mozzarella cheese. Then I bake…I also cook Morningstar not-sausage patties and crumble, to be placed on the pasta if desired..It’s an easy meal and we all like it. My runner son now wants whole grains because it will help his running (slow release of energy vs sugar spike). ^**^ ^**^ ^**^ This is me imagining jumping up and down because I can’t really do it…

I bought the October issue of Veg News a few weeks ago. It is such a good issue, I seriously have 13 page corners folded for future reference…reading ideas, recipes, or a product to consider buying.

Some interesting news from Veg News-
The USDA has estimated that in 2012 American meat consumption will decrease 12.2% from the 2007 level. Good for us!

A very informative article titled The Hunger Shame by Marla Rose discusses how world-wide increasing demand for meat along with the world population increasing to 9.1 billion by 2050 is a huge disaster in the making for feeding the world. Basically, animals eat tons of grain that could be feeding many more people than the meat feeds. What goes in does not equal the output. I find this frightening and sad when you consider that we already have hunger issues around the world.

Other news: I heard on the radio this week that 10% of Australians are vegetarians! Wow.

I know I haven’t been cooking or sharing any recipes while I’m off my feet. But do I ever have a site for you to visit, Oh She Glows, a vegan blog. You will not regret it. Go to the tab for recipes if you really want to be blown away! Angela’s recipes are a party for the eyes and super healthy. Recently she gave her recipe for toasted pumpkin seeds and tips for cooking and using Butternut squash…Oh, how I am dying to use these recipes…I do have Butternut squash coming in my delivery tomorrow and plan to cook it no matter what…hmmm, let’s pretend I didn’t say that, Mom…

Have a great week! If you try any of the recipes from Oh She Glows, please let me know how it turned out. So many choices!

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.

Let Them Eat…Salad?

Interestingly, I just found out through Wikipedia that the quote that inspired this title is NOT believed to have been uttered by Marie Antoinette, who was thought to be so out of touch with the commoners that she stated “Let them eat cake!”…You never know what you might learn when a title comes to you…

Getting back to veggies, my oldest son is eating salad! I think he ate salad five times in the past week…you have to understand this is an achievement on the scale of my dog learning and using five French words in a week!  I am thankful (because I think this is helping) that I have learned to make a better salad in past months, using Romaine hearts like these:

How did this come about you might wonder? We went to a meeting and luncheon last Sunday for his high school cross country team (he started high school this week). The coaches and captains touched on the goals for the year which included maintaining healthy habits during the season. They went further to state the goals were: Eating healthy, avoiding drinking of soda the entire season, and getting 8 hours of sleep per night. Wow…is this great stuff or what for someone just entering high school? That night I offered a plate of salad and he said “yes” and “I already had salad today at lunch”. (I could not see him eating because the team sat together). Salad twice in one day…I’m still in awe. Amazing what a bit of motivation and peer pressure can accomplish.

Vegetarian cooking tidbits and discoveries for the week:

  • We had some good spinach and cheese burritos which I doctored up by adding about a cup of cooked plain quinoa before rolling them up. It was very filling and easy. I may be adding quinoa in all my enchilada/burrito recipes, which seem to be a favorite theme lately.
  • I found out that cooked quinoa can stay in the refrigerator a week after cooking. I usually throw out out my leftover quinoa after 3 days or so. Yep, I took a microbiology class at one point and I’m a little paranoid…
  • Here is our quick dinner tonight…made a run to Trader Joe’s yesterday and picked up more Pakoras (picture below). I guess you could call them little dumplings filled with potato, onion, chick pea flour, sweet potato, spinach, cilantro and so on…According to the label they are pretty high in sodium (950 mg for 4 Pakoras) but otherwise I think they are decent: 3 g fiber, 4 g protein, and even 8% of daily iron! I should disclose that they are fairly spicy-it’s an Indian/Pakistani food. They are marked vegan also.

So, let us eat Pakoras with a healthy salad tonight…And I wouldn’t mind getting 8 hours of sleep…

Face plant with the eggplant

This week I received my first order from the produce delivery service I’ve been excited about (see the two previous posts). It worked out well–arrived well before dinner–which is not necessarily guaranteed in their delivery time frames. Everything appeared to be of the utmost quality…and most of it has been. The only disappointment was the broccoli–it looked excellent at first glance. I went to wash and prepare it the next night and one of the two stalks had quite the bug infestation. I am fine with finding a bug or two, especially in organic fruits and veggies, as long as the quality of the food item is still good. After all, we need insects in general and I am most grateful to not have pesticides in my food! I had to pitch that one. The other stalk looked ok, but after I steamed it and the tops loosened a bit, it was obvious there were cities of tiny little guys hidden up there. Darn!This company is great and will credit for any bad produce. I just don’t think I want to complain-it is understandable that this can happen, but hopefully not often. And I got a discount on my first order anyways. I’ll call them next time if needed.

However, I really met my match with the eggplant. Such a beautiful veggie! Maybe I will just get a fake one to keep on my counter because I love the look of them! I consulted Veganomicon, as usual, and decided to slice and roast, thinking I’d enjoy slices that day and sandwiches after that. Keep in mind, the skin was still on…Somehow eating the sliced eggplant with skin just did not work for me. Ever since I have had children, I truly have a stronger gag reflex. Did my hair go straight with pregnancy…no, of course not! But I can now gag on a vitamin! Although I did not physically gag in this scenario, it was exceedingly close. And it was too late to pull the skin off and enjoy it that way. When an appropriate amount of time has gone by (maybe next month summer) I will definitely try again with skin-removed eggplant in a yummy ratatouille.

I had been contemplating a blog post about my new favorite summer lunch (ok-sometimes it’s dinner), so this seems like a good time for it. I call it “All-in Mexican Salad”. It’s quick, easy, and flexible…

All-in Mexican Salad

serves 1-2 depending on appetite

Ingredients:

Romaine hearts, chopped (I typically use one stalk and end up with a little leftover, maybe enough for one small side salad later)

Muir Glen Organic Salsa (feel free to use any salsa, but this makes it for me. I love this salsa!)

Shredded cheddar cheese or cheese alternative

Plain Greek yogurt or nondairy substitute

Broken tortilla chips

Anything else you want, or want to use up! This included for me today-chopped cucumber and grape tomatoes. Other possible additions: avocado slices (awesome), onion, olives, squeezed fresh lime juice over the top, fresh cilantro-either mixed in with the greens or on top, beans, or chopped up veggie burgers. I don’t need a dressing with this, but that could be another addition.

This is my favorite salsa-very natural, and if you are counting calories, the whole jar is only 140 calories. It’s my “dressing” for the salad.

I have found Romaine hearts (I have tried a few brands and all were good) to be the key to really fresh salads in general. They last a long time in the fridge. You do have to wash them, but I think that keeps them fresher (the fact they were not already washed and cut, as in prewashed bagged salads). They are more costly than buying a regular head of romaine, but you don’t end up discarding any leaves. Quick and easy to wash and chop. Even after washing and chopping, they last many days in a sealed container. If you have not tried them, I respectfully recommend you give them a try!

I have become more comfortable with less worry over protein. All veggies have protein (after all how does a cow become a protein source…by eating veggie matter!), so if I feel I need even more protein in this meal, it really is easy to add a higher protein food to help meet the daily requirements. Examples include: the Greek yogurt, beans, leftover quinoa, or veggie burger. But I don’t feel it’s absolutely necessary to add it to this salad every time.

I hope you enjoy this quick and adaptable idea!

Lastly, I am excited that I am going to have a giveaway of a new copy of one of my favorite cookbooks in the next month. I can’t wait to share a terrific meat-free cookbook with someone; so stay tuned.

Have a great weekend! And I am curious, how do you feel about insects on your produce? Do you overlook a few?Note added later: Just to be clear, I am asking if you are ok keeping the produce if you removed the insects from the produce as you washed it…not advocating eating them.