Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thai Basil-Coconut Tofu

This recipe is from Big Vegan by Robin Asbell. We're growing Thai basil, and I needed to put it to good use! This recipe was spot on. Here are some modifications:

- I used the dressing as a marinade for tofu, which I then cubed and baked, rather than stir-fried
- I put the dish over rice instead of rice noodles 

- I then roasted the broccoli and carrots, rather than steamed them, to bring out more flavor

The dish uses coconut milk, but isn't heavy (only 1/4 c of the milk for the dressing/marinade), so it's not like a curry. Good summer dish, in other words. The dressing works really well as a marinade if you let the tofu soak in it for a few hours. I always bake the tofu at 425 F until it is firm, chewy, and turning dark brown. Mushy tofu is a strict no-no in our abode. 

Moral of the story: use that Thai basil! It will be worth it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Factory Farming - The Cruelty Factor

Here's an investigation that has just added to their website. I haven't read it, because I know this would be agonizing. But, if you are still on the edge about the cruelty of factory farming, please do read it. This is something everyone needs to feel agony over (since only this will change these practices).


Warning: you may feel a certain mental discomfort; this is your conscience. Welcome it. It is here to make the world a better place for us all. Humans and animals alike.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Morrocan-Spiced Dinner Salad

Dinner salads are the bomb. Throw everything in a bowl, and not only do you have a quick, easy meal, you have all of your greens, veggies, protein, and (maybe even) grains in one nice little spot! 

I wanted to add raisins to this salad, and thus added some warm and sweet Middle Eastern spices to the dressing. If you don't have wheat berries, you could probably use rice just as well!

 Morrocan-Spiced Dinner Salad - Serves 2

1/2 c uncooked wheat berries (or rice, preferably brown)
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1/4 c chopped celery
2 tblsp raisins
2 tblsp sesame seeds
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
1/8 c chopped fresh mint 
2 scallions, chopped
3 c chopped lettuce or spinach
2 medium carrots, cut into sticks (optional)


juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1/2 tsp agave syrup (or sugar)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Wheat berries take a while to cook. Put 2 1/2 c of water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add the wheat berries, bring to a simmer, and cook for an hour, or until tender (but they'll still be nice and chewy), stirring occasionally. Drain and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of your salad ingredients, tossing all except the lettuce/spinach and carrots together in a bowl. Add the cooked wheat berries. Whisk together your dressing ingredients, then pour over the salad and stir to coat. You can keep it in the fridge until ready to use, or serve immediately. 

Serve the salad over a bed of chopped lettuce or spinach. Complete the salad with carrot sticks, if you like. 


Friday, July 20, 2012

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

Here's the first dinner I ever cooked: Cornmeal Crusted Tofu, from Veganomicon.

It was an instant success, and has stayed with us ever since. 

This recipe is definitely worth checking out!
However, this time when I made it I tried baking the tofu instead of pan-frying it. It wasn't just as good- it was an improvement! Even on an already 'delish' dish. I just made sure to spray it a few times with olive oil while it baked (400 F, 35-40 min). The crust turned out so.... crusty...

 Along with the tofu, I roasted some broccoli with fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and EVOO spray, and also roasted some chopped red potatoes. About five minutes or so before the tofu was done, I topped some of the pieces with fresh sage leaves. Southwestern-y decadence!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chimichurri Soy Curls

Continuing the culinary dive into Soy Curls...

If you want to expand your soy horizons beyond tofu and tempeh, check out Soy Curls from Butler Foods. Then try out this recipe!

So, this recipe is the chimichurri sauce recipe in Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan! cookbook. The recipe is really delicious, and, it turns out, goes great with Soy Curls. 

After rehydrating the soy curls, saute them in a stainless steel or cast iron skillet. Add some lite soy sauce to the pan, to just moisten the curls and add a nice "browning vehicle". After the curls turn brown and begin to blacken in places, turn the heat to low and add the chimichurri sauce. Stir to coat, and serve with chopped tomatoes and avocado.

Added to this dish are the whole wheat tortillas, also from Viva Vegan!. The key to good homemade tortillas is to get them as thin as possible. Really, you need a tortilla press for this- it makes the job much easier and keeps your tortillas nice and round. Also, don't forget to use Spectrum Shortening - it's vegan and non-hydrogenated, and you can find it at most grocery stores. Onward, to "comida latina", vegan-style!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pretzel Rolls!


Sometimes mistakes turn into something great... That's what happened when I made the soft pretzels from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I wanted to added roasted garlic to the dough, but forgot to do the roasting! So, while the dough was rising, I put the garlic in the oven anyway and tried making some pretzels, with a "twist"...

To roast garlic, chop the top off of a bulb (yes, the entire bulb), drizzle some olive oil over the top, then wrap the bulb in tinfoil. Roast for 40 minutes in a preheated oven set to 400 F. 

After garlic is roasted, it gets super soft and mushy. This is a good thing! Squeeze out those cloves of garlic, and either mash them with a spoon or chop them up with a knife. Either way, you'll eventually get a nice roasted-garlic paste.

To make garlic pretzels, punch down your dough after it's done rising and divide it into eight equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a long rectangle, about 6-8 inches long by 2.5 inches wide. Keep the other pieces under a moist towel while not working with them. 

Now, spread some of your garlic paste along the rectangle-shaped dough, and roll length-wise to form a log. Now you have roasted-garlic pretzel rolls! Boil in baking soda water for 30 seconds as usual (see the recipe in the book!), cover with course salt, and bake. 

And, in the meantime, check out some nice pics of some homegrown tomatoes...

Stewed tomatoes, anyone?...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Indian Platter

I love tabouleh. Loads of fresh parsley and loads of lemony bliss. Here it is next to some falafel, chutney, and tahini sauce (recipes below). Normally one doesn't think of parsley as a main ingredient; but really, one should! Parsley, like greens in general, is quite healthy: anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A... So, without further ado, here's my go-to tabouleh recipe!:

Keep-it-simple Parsley-loaded Tabouleh - serves 2-3

2 bunches curly-leaf parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c cooked bulgur wheat
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together your ingredients and serve; or, put in the fridge an hour or two ahead of time for maximum flavor!


When making falafel, I usually follow the recipe found here. For the egg I substitute Ener-g Egg, a great all-purpose egg replacer. Also, instead of frying the falafel, I bake it at 400 F for 25-30 minutes, spray the patties with olive oil, and flip them halfway through. Mm...delicious, guilt-free baked falafel... and, what really makes this a great part of a meal is some tahini sauce! Check out this recipe:

Cheater Dill-Tahini Sauce - makes about 1/2 cup

I call this "cheater" because, instead of using fresh dill and cucumber as many tahini recipes call for, I mince some dill pickles as a convenient substitute. The end result is a truly "finger-lickin' good" sauce, worthy of the most-worthy falafel.

1/4 c tahini
juice from 1/2 lemon
two cloves garlic, grated or minced 
1 tsp dried parsley (or, add some chopped fresh parsley...)
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c dill pickles (I use the sandwich chip kind), minced
1/8-1/4 c water
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the tahini with the lemon juice. Add in the garlic, olive oil, and parsley, and stir until everything is thoroughly combined. Add the pickles and mix, then add the water a tablespoon at a time until the sauce reaches your desirable consistency (I like mine dippable but not very thin). Add salt and pepper to taste. Yum!

Easy Pita Chips - serves 2-3

And, lastly, here are some crunchy, salt and peppery pita chips to finish off the platter! The recipe for the chutney can be found in one of my earlier posts, although a word of caution: you may want to cut the spices to about 2/3 of the amount called for, as the chutney ended up being fairly pungent. Or, make extra tahini sauce and dip these suckers in that!

2 whole-wheat pitas
olive oil spray 
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Now, first you'll need to separate the two sides of your pita bread rounds: with a small knife, cut through the rim of the pita, then pull the two sides apart. You'll end up with 4 rounds, 1/2 the thickness of the original rounds - better for crisping! 

Next, cut the rounds into quarters, and place on a greased baking sheet (or two). You don't want the edges of the pieces touching. Now spray the pieces with olive oil (or, if you don't have spray, brush some olive oil on each piece), sprinkle evenly with the cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges begin to look crispy and the tops reveal spots of golden-brown. 

Alternatively, if you have a toaster oven, you can toast them in there too!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Dairy-fied Culture

"Drink your milk." 
"If you don't drink milk, you'll get osteoporosis." 
"You need milk to get enough calcium in your diet."

Sound familiar? We've all heard it, all our lives. That is, all of us in the U.S. at least, where the dairy industry has fashioned our food pyramid in its own image. There isn't anything quite so unnecessary in one's diet as dairy products. As one columnist recently noted in the mainstream New York Times, the prevalence of osteoporosis is actually highest in Scandinavian countries, where animal milk consumption is highest. And, of course, there's the fact that the majority of people worldwide are lactose intolerant (if milk is necessary, how are any of these people healthy and osteoporosis-free?).

Milk (as are all dairy products) is high in saturated fat. It's also (along with all dairy and meat products) exceptionally-high in protein. And, guess what a high protein diet causes? Yep, osteoporosis. Check out this article.

Ok, so that's one human-health aspect related to dairy. But what does all this entail, if anything, morally-speaking? Consider the cruelty of the dairy industry, for a moment, as depicted here, here, here, and, well, pretty much any readily-available sources (and there are many) you can check into yourself. Now, when dairy was necessary, and we all had to drink cow's milk as a basic facet of maintaining our health, one might, on pain of momentarily shunning their sense of morality, nevertheless argue that the practices of the dairy-industry, though bad, are necessary. After all, human health is more important than the health of other animals. So yeah, the industry is (sort-of) bad, but we need milk! Maybe, just maybe, we can work on making conditions a little better, if that will sufficiently mitigate our moral-culpability. (Except, that would interfere with efficiency of production, so precious when considering how our gallant U.S. dairy industry needs to deliver milk to its 300,000,000+ valued consumers, gosh all mighty!). 

But, well, even this argument is untenable. Milk and dairy are unnecessary (and, it turns out, a net-detriment on human health, at least, for those who live in a society where all nutrients are readily available and in abundance). So all these animals are, in fact, living god-awful, painful, uncomfortable, wretched lives for no reason other than to continue making the dairy industry a profit. This isn't even cynical. It's reality. Better to face it and acknowledge it, better to understand it, than to ignore it and play a role in the perpetuation of animal cruelty (yes, actual pain and suffering- this is not an abstract phenomenon we're talking about) on a grand (indeed, the grandest) scale. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Seitan Puff Pastries, Hot Habanero Sauce, and Roasted Tomato Salsa

Ok, bear with me... this is a meal with a lot of parts! If I hadn't accumulated all of these parts over time, doing this meal in one day would have been a bit overwhelming... but, you can pick and choose from the following recipes, sub stuff you already have in your kitchen, or make it a several-day food project- either way, your taste buds will be rewarded!

Part 1: Habanero Hot Sauce

Uh, can we say HOT?? On, this sauce is labeled "liquid fire." This is not an understatement! There are several modifications I made to the recipe, to make it edible for a spicy-food weakling like me:

1. I halved the recipe, and on top of that halved the amount of habaneros; but I still used the entire 15 oz. can of peaches
2. Instead of peaches in heavy syrup, I used peaches in light syrup
3. As the comments suggested, I just added a smidgen of mustard (about 1 1/2 tsp)
4. Lastly, after the sauce had been processed in the food processor, I reduced it over the stove to bring out the flavors and exploit the thickening-properties of the sugar:

Here it is getting reduced!

Now for a word of caution: Handling habanero peppers without gloves was a mistake. A few hours after seeding and chopping them, my fingers were really burning! Even the next day I could feel the effects. Not pleasant. So, please, use protection! :)

Final comments: Even using half of the habaneros called for, this sauce is pretty darn hot. A little goes a long way! However, the flavor is good, and the thickness of the sauce after reducing it turned out perfect. 

Here it is next to the roasted tomato salsa (Part 5, below):

Part 2: The Seitan 

After going several years as a vegan without delving into seitan, a while ago I decided to try making it after getting tired of seeing so many recipes use it and knowing I'd have to somehow substitute tofu or tempeh if I made these recipes (still, not a bad option). Anyway, the seitan turned out delish, and is now another staple in our house. The recipe I usually follow is from the author of the Happy Healthy Life vegan blog. For half of the dried spices a superb addition is 1 tsp ground fennel seeds. I make 1 or 2 logs of seitan at a time, slice it, then stick it in the freezer to use whenever I need it next! 

If you haven't made your own seitan yet, give it a try! It's kinda fun. :) On the other hand, if you just want to get down to the recipe (Part 4, below), it's quite acceptable to buy some premade seitan at the store!

Part 3: The Puff Pastry

Mm, puff pastry... so flaky... so soft, so crispy... so buttery... Yes, it is an addictive and delicious product. I could eat and eat it, but that wouldn't turn out well in the end... But once in a while it is just something you need to indulge in! I haven't bought premade puff pastry (I'm frightened of all the stuff in it). But this is certainly an option if you want to make this recipe. Plus, homemade puff pastry is somewhat of a commitment. On the other hand, you could also make the recipe using empanada dough- a perfectly yummy choice in itself!

If you do, however, want to endeavor in making puff pastry yourself, follow the directions here. You'll have to sub vegan butter for the butter in the recipe. I used Earth Balance. Let me tell you: there are those who would disavow the homemade vegan puff pastry, since it doesn't use "regular" butter; but that would be mere prejudice! This puff pastry turned out spectacular. It freezes well, too, so you can extend its life for several months. 

A note: yes, when I made it, the butter was spilling out on just about all sides. But I did not fear. I baked it as normal, and it didn't matter a bit! Just make sure to keep the dough floured as you roll it out, both on the top and bottom, since the butter will make it stick to your rolling surface and rolling pin. You may want to brush away excess flour; but I didn't, and it didn't seem to matter. Puff pastry power! I love you, puff pastry...

Part 4: The Seitan Puff Pastry - makes 4 servings (8 pastries)

Check out these beauties! Here is the recipe for the filling. Be sure to have all of your components for this one ready, as once you start cooking, you'll be adding stuff in quick succession. Also, be sure to make the salsa (Part 5, below) ahead of time, as the tomatoes need to roast for 50 minutes.

1 c seitan, sliced
3 tbslp canola oil
2 tblsp lite soy sauce
2 tsp taco seasoning
1/4 tsp dried oregano
juice 1 lime
1/2 c diced tomatoes, undrained (fresh or canned)
1 tblsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
few pinches black pepper

Preheat a stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Add the canola oil, then put in the seitan. Saute for about a minute (seitan cooks quickly; cook it too much, and it gets too hard). Add the soy sauce, and stir a few times, coating the seitan. Add the taco seasoning, oregano, and lime juice, and stir to coat. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and black pepper, and stir until the tomato paste has been fully incorporated. Cook, stirring a few times, for 5-8 minutes, until the thinner liquids have evaporated but the mixture is still moist and saucy. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

To assemble: Roll out your puff pastry into a square about 12" X 12", and about 1/2 cm thick. Then cut the pastry into 4 squares, and roll these squares out until there about 6" X 6". Imagine the square being divided into two triangles: place about 1/8-1/4 cup of filling onto the center of one of these triangles, then fold over the other triangle. Pinch the edges together, then place on a greased cookie sheet. 

Once all of your pastries have been made, place the sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops of the pastries have turned a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

Part 5: The Roasted Tomato Salsa - makes about 1 cup

You don't need salsa to go with these seitan pastries; on the other hand, why the heck not have it! This salsa tastes even better after sitting in the fridge for a few hours, so, make it in the morning or the night before your ready to use it!

2 c tomatoes (about 2 lbs.), chopped in half if smallish, quartered if biggish
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp habanero hot sauce (recipe above), or other hot sauce (you made need to add more if your hot sauce isn't as hot as this one)
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
few pinches black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the tomatoes on a greased cookie sheet, skin up, then spray lightly with olive oil. Roast for 45-50 minutes, until dark spots appear on the skin of the tomatoes.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare all of your other ingredients. Place them in a food processor. When your tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peal off the skins and discard, adding the tomatoes to the food processor. Process until relatively smooth (I like chunky salsa, too, but a thinner salsa will be scooped up by your pastries better). 

Place the salsa in an airtight container and stick in the fridge for anywhere from 2 hours to overnight, to develop the flavors. Serve alongside seitan puff pastries, or, just use it for chip dipping!

Finally, we're finished! Now on to the best part... (that is, the eating!)...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Animals are just stuff

The struggle for the protection of animals' right to live free from the harm that humans cause them is a formidable one. That's because the balance of power is strongly tipped in favor of those (e.g. the meat and poultry industry, the largest segment of U.S. agriculture) who consider animals to be mere things, just other stuff that we can do with as we please. The pain and stress that factory farming and other practices in which humans engage actually cause for animals is apparently less than a faint glimmer on the horizon of rational people's conscience. 

Such people include American Farm Bureau lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher. Yes, what a valiant crusader against those pesky people who advocate for animal welfare protection. I mean, come on, supporting legislation which would require that "food purchased for federal programs come from animals raised with enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and stretch their limbs"? If that isn't an unreasonable, immoral, and- most of all- a radical legislative move, I certainly don't know what is. 

Ms. Thatcher agrees with me. Like she says, "The good news is that the people [Representatives Diane Watson, D-Calif., and Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.] who introduced it are a little bit lower ranking in the scheme of things than the people who did before." Thus, such legislation and others like it hopefully fail to find any traction. Yes, that is good news, indeed.

We're right behind you, and right behind those you lobby for, Ms. Thatcher; just wait for a sec while we get some photos of your clients' farms to show the public just how safe and comfortable the animals in them actually are. ...uh-oh, wait, that would be a criminal act. But why try to criminalize something that would make people proud to support and buy from factory farms?

Kudos, Ms. Thatcher. Kudos, Meat and Dairy Industry. Once again you show how, in this brave new world of ours, it truly is might that makes right. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Broccoli Salad + Mock Chicken Salad

For anyone needing a quick lunch or dinner idea who has an Earth Fare store close to them, try checking out Earth Fair's mock chicken salad at the fresh food case. This thing is super good. It's also super vegan, but, would any carnivore shun this dish after trying it...? It's highly doubtful! This is also a great easy go-to if you're new to veganism and need a little moral support from a ready-made meal that delivers wonderful deliciousness. 
Now, on to the broccoli salad...

Salad is always a good choice, especially in the summer. However, vinaigrette dressing recipes tend to be heavy on the oil- this dressing recipe is therefore relatively reduced in fat, tastes fresh, and still boasts a great flavor.

Broccoli and Tomato Salad with Red Onions and Herb Vinaigrette

Salad ingredients:
1 c sliced broccoli
1 c sliced tomatoes
1/8 c (guesstimated) sliced red onion
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil, chiffonade

Dressing ingredients:
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1/8 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste 

Mix the salad ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss the salad in the dressing to coat. Done!

To boost the flavor, make this an hour or two in advance and stick it in the fridge until ready to serve.