Friday, July 23, 2010

bettah feta

I have to say that I love feta cheese. I splurged last night and made spinach pie, but if I had the time I would have made some tofu feta according to the following recipe, and could easily have made vegan spinach pie! Here's the Vegan Chef's recipe for tofu feta:

Tofu Feta Cheese

Recipe By: The Vegan Chef

1 lb. extra firm tofu
3/4 C. water
1/2 C. mellow miso
2 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. salt
1/2 t. garlic powder

Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise. Turn each half cut-side down on the board, cut through the outer edge of the block of tofu 3 times to yield 4 tofu cutlets from each half. This means that the block of tofu yields 8 tofu cutlets. On a large cookie sheet, place a layer of paper towels, then all of the tofu cutlets in a single layer, followed by another layer of paper towels, and finally place another large cookie sheet on top. Place several large cans or something very heavy on top of the cookie sheet and leave tofu to sit for 1 hour. This process is known as cutting tofu into cutlets and pressing. I use this technique a lot as it makes the texture of the tofu much firmer.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients and set aside. After the tofu has pressed for 1 hour, cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the cubes of tofu in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Pour the marinade over the top, cover with the lid, and gently toss the tofu. Chill and allow the tofu to marinate for several hours. Shake the tofu cubes before using. The tofu feta cubes can be used in salads and sandwiches. Kept refrigerated, the tofu feta will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

some quick favorites

Everyone needs some go-to meals, and I have a few favorite sandwiches, salads, and other speedy dishes. These are guaranteed hunger-busters, and make you feel good to have eaten them. They are also, depending on which bread you use for the sandwiches, all vegan to boot!

BEST SANDWICH: On a grill, cook up two or three thin slices of eggplant. Using your choice of bread (I have found a vegan ciabatta that is awesome) layer eggplant, spinach, roasted red peppers, and sprouts. Slather the top piece of bread with kalamata olive spread or your favorite tapenade (pesto works as well, but make your own to avoid the Parmesan) and grill as you would grill a panini. I have a George Foreman counter-top grill, and use this first for the eggplant slices and then for the whole sandwich.

EASY VEGGIE SANDWICH: In a pita pocket, spread some hummus, and add thinly sliced cucumber, tomato, lettuce or spinach, and sprouts. Super easy and delish!

FAVORITE VEGGIE BURGER: I grill (again, on the George Foreman grill) a veggie burger. I like many different types, including spicy blackbean. The best brand I've come across is Morning Star Farms. I put a nicely grilled burger, cut in half, into a whole wheat or flax pita, add in spinach or herb salad mix, tomato, sprouts, and Nayonaise which is a vegan mayo alternative.
QUICK SUPPER SMASH: One of the simplest and quickest suppers ever - but I'll admit, no one else in my family will eat it as a "meal." In one pot, warm a can of black beans (rinsed and drained) until smash-able. In another pot, cook up some frozen corn or cut fresh off the cob and heat. Mix together the bean smash and the corn, add a little salt or fresh salsa and scoop up yummy spoonfuls! I like mine mixed with Sisters' Salsa from Blue Hill, ME. Nice and fresh with a great cilantro flavor.

MY FAVORITE SALAD RIGHT NOW: I have been buying the organic herb salad mix at my local grocery store. It has a nice mix of flavors including cilantro, which I personally love. I top a nice big bowl of these greens with pine nuts, shelled sunflower seeds (organic), craisins, some chunked cucumber, and either roasted red peppers or sundried tomatoes (dried and rehydrated is better than packed in oil). I top it with oil and vinegar, or a nice balsamic vinaigrette.

These are some of my daily dishes, and are good standbys when I don't feel like trying a new recipe or making up a new creation. Hope you enjoy too!

Monday, July 19, 2010

vegan thai coconut soup - tom kah gai

This is a vegan version of one of my favorite soups modeled after Thai Tom Kah Gai soup. The vegetables can be modified like crazy, as can additions of rice noodles, and if you are cooking for non-vegetarians you can always add in shrimp or cubed chicken.

1 carton "no-chicken" broth
2-3 tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Aminos (vegan soy sauce substitute)
2 tbsp red curry paste
3 stalks lemongrass, smashed flat and cut into 2" strips
1 cup pea pods or snow peas
1/2 c. carrots, coined or thin strips
1 large can stewed whole tomatoes, drained, rinsed, and diced
1 can straw mushrooms, drained
4 shitake mushrooms, caps only, cut into strips
raw sugar, to taste
1 tsp molasses
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 can bamboo shoots
1 1-inch piece of ginger, trimmed and sliced
1 can water chestnuts
1 small bunch of cilantro, leaves only, chopped
2 cans low-fat, unsweetened coconut milk

1. In large stockpot combine broth, Bragg's, and curry paste - whisk and bring to a boil.
2. Add lemongrass, boil 10 minutes. You can remove the lemongrass, as it is inedible, but many people like to chew on it for the flavor so you can also leave it in the soup.
3. Add pea pods, carrots, tomatoes, both types of mushrooms, sugar, molasses, zest and juice from lime, bamboo, ginger, and chestnuts. Bring to a simmer, simmer until carrots are desired consistency - approximately 15 minutes.
4. Stir in coconut milk and cilantro, bring just to a simmer, turn off heat and serve. This soup also has great flavor if you prepare it the day before and warm it before serving - the flavors intensify overnight.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Farmers' Market Inspiration - Vegan Raspberry Scones

Well, on a rainy Sunday what else is there to do but make the rounds of the local Farmers' Markets? I love the idea of local produce and goods, and the Downeast Maine area has a wealth of local farms with everything from goat cheese to beet greens for sale on Saturdays and Sundays. Together with my husband and daughter, raincoats and cash in hand, we made the local rounds.

First stop was the Blackhouse Farmers' Market on the Surry Road in Ellsworth. This is a weekly market, held from 11-2, and featured a minimal amount of produce, but beside the various farm stalls there were woodworkers, yarn spinners, local syrups and jams, and baked goods. From a farm in Brooksville, we purchased a pint of raspberries, some beautiful little cucumbers (only 50 cents each!) and a delicious scone... more on that later. We also saw a great woodworkers' display of little wooden toy cars, the entire proceeds of which go to local area hospitals.

The second market we tried turned out to be held on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, so I will have to attempt that one again and see if there are different vendors than the Blackhouse Market. However, in the spirit of the day we made a short trip down 1A to the Annie's Pride Market, which is open seven days a week. This is a great little store and cafe. The produce is awesome, and we rounded out our purchases with a bag of beet greens and a bag of swiss chard. There was also an appetizing menu of quesadillas in the back cafe, but we passed on that to get home for lunch instead.

Inspired by the morning's festivities, I've now baked a batch of raspberry scones, by modifying a recipe on recipezaar. I believe I've modified it enough to call it my own, so here it is!

1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 c. organic rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
dash sea salt
3/4 c. raw sugar (turbinado sugar)
1/2 c. vegan butter, softened (I use Earth's Balance)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. soymilk
1 c. fresh raspberries (be generous)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a round baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
3. In separate bowl, combine the softened butter, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and soymilk.
4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring gently until moistened throughout. Gently add raspberries and stir. Do not overmix, you will end up with gray-blue scones.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cut into pie-shaped wedges once cooled and serve.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

One Week of Camping, Hold the Meat Please

Well, our week-long camping extravaganza has concluded and it was a smashing success. There were four adults and three toddlers (ages 2, 3, and 4) and many daytime visitors added in. Added into this, realize the camp has no electricity or running water! Indoor plumbing? Not unless you use the toddler potty!!

Luckily, we are all outdoorsy-type folk and really enjoy getting away from it all. We could not have picked a better week either - it was sunny sunny sunny and hot hot hot every day until the day we packed up. Life on the lake was the place to be, and campfires every night were the perfect way to end a great day.

Eating was an adventure. We had a small gas refrigerator as well as several coolers, and so were able to keep quite a large amount of food on hand. We had a campfire to cook on, of course, a small charcoal grill, and a gas stove in the camp.

Breakfasts were mostly cereal with soymilk. Lunches were a variety, from sandwiches to noodle dishes to leftovers, but the dinners were the best. Besides being vegetarian, I had to cook for toddler tastes, strict carnivores, as well as a gluten-intolerant husband! Needless to say, planning was a priority and despite a few bumps in the road (what, no lobsters?) we had many a night of great food.

Burgers and dogs was an easy enough night - for the gluten-free option, we used corn tortillas. The strict carnivores got kielbasa dogs (a step up from the hot dog) and jalapeno-bacon burgers, and of course a good veggie burger for myself. The kids got some Hebrew National or Kayem dogs - as good as it gets for a hot dog, really. I probably could have bought some better quality rolls, but in the interest of money I just stuck with normal rolls, but did opt for organic ketchup. This meal (had two nights) was rounded out with some good salad.

Another night was pasta. We had tomato-basil and spinach angel hair for most folks, and some rice vermicelli for the gluten-free option. I used three jars of organic marinara that was also dairy-free (I am trying to be vegan when possible), and stirred in a container of crumbled silken tofu, a box of frozen cut-leaf spinach, and some zucchini and summer squash. For the carnivores, I fried kielbasa, sausage, and meatballs in a separate fry pan and they were able to mix and match as they pleased.

A third dinner was fajitas. I sauteed a HUGE batch of veggies in safflower oil with some garlic, salt, and pepper. It included vidalia onions, garlic, red and green bell peppers, summer squash, and zucchini. In a separate pan, I cooked up some black beans and lightly smashed them. In a third pan, we sauteed some shrimp in olive oil with a light dusting of paprika, and that provided the meat option for carnivores. The last step was frying some corn and flour tortillas, cut up some avacado, lettuce, and get some bowls of salsa and cheese.

A fourth dinner was stir-fry, and I will say this is one of my favorites. I began with cubed extra-firm tofu and three-grain tempeh pieces, sauteed in Bragg's Liquid Aminos (a vegan soy sauce alternative, and super yummy). In a second pan, I sauteed veggies - again, onions, garlic, peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash with the same sauce. In a third pan, I sauteed some shrimp, chicken, and what was left of the kielbasa - a little strange for a stir-fry, but it worked. Finally, I cooked up a great batch of jasmine rice. People mixed and matched, and it pleased all palates.

Most other nights were left-overs or repeats of what we had. I did make a great meal of pancakes with a nice multigrain mix by Arrowhead Mills, and it's very nice because you can make it with water instead of milk.

While the planning was a little overwhelming, I will definitely say it was a great trip. I liked being in charge of the food as I knew I could make each night a vegetarian option, and keep my family members happy as well. I hope we do it again next year, I've already got some great ideas for menu options!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vegan Chili - a camp success!

Well, despite it being summer I made a big batch of vegan chili to take to camp. Seeing as we'd need lunch (for 12!!) I cooked up this chili and froze it. I figured it would help cool the food in the cooler, and would thaw nicely for lunch on our third day or so. Sure enough, even the carnivores ate several bowls and agreed it was a good batch! Here goes!! As a side note, due to some recent reading, I've switched to Safflower Oil for sauteing, as it tends to do better with a high heat than EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil.)

2 tbsp Safflower Oil
1 large Vidalia Onion, diced
4 Clove Garlic, smashed/minced
1 Green Bell Pepper
2 medium Carrots, chopped
1 large or 2 medium Sweet Potatoes
1 can White (Cannellini) Beans
1 can Red Kidney Beans
1 can Dark Red Kidney Beans
1 can Black Soy Beans or Black Beans
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 carton no-chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chili Powder (approx 1 tbsp.)
Cayenne to taste

1. Heat oil in pan. Add onion, garlic, and saute until onion are translucent - about 5 minutes on med heat.
2. Add pepper, saute 3 more minutes.
3. Add all carrots, sweet potato, all beans, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until all veggies are soft - approximately 25-30 minutes.
4. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, and cayenne.

** Optional add-ins - 1 box frozen chopped spinach, 1 carton silken tofu, crumbled, and other veggies as you wish!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recipe Success - Eggplant "Parmesan"

1 small eggplant cut into circles about 1/2 inch thick)
1 jar roasted red peppers (whole, not sliced)
Non-stick spray (Pam)
1/2 bag fresh baby spinach
1 jar Bertolli vineyard marinara
1 bag linguini (I used brown rice organic linguini)
"Veggie Shreds" Parmesan shaker
"Veggie Shreds" Mozzarella, shredded

(If cooking for a carnivore, as I was, include 2 butterflied chicken breasts)

1. Bring water to boiling in a large pot, add pasta, and simmer until done. Add salt if desired. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Begin warming marinara sauce in large pot on medium. After about 10 minutes of heating, add 2 handfuls of baby spinach. Allow to simmer long enough for spinach to wilt.

3. On a grill (I used my indoor grill - George Foreman-style) grill the eggplant slices first, and set aside. I then grilled the butterflied chicken breasts. It took about 5 min per eggplant slice, turning once, and about 8-10 minutes for the chicken, flipping once.

4. In one 9" pie pan (I used glass) spray the non-stick spray and put the circles of eggpplant evenly spaced across the pan. Do the same for the chicken in a 8" square casserole dish.

5. Top the eggplant and chicken with 1/2 of a roasted red pepper, and about 1/3 cup of the marinara spinach sauce.

6. On the eggplant, top with veggie shredded mozzarella, and then parmesan. You can do the same on the chicken, or use real cheese (again, mozz. and parm.)

7. Bake the Parmesans for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and eggplant is soft (and if doing chicken, make sure it is cooked through.)

8. Add the remaining sauce to the linguini, and serve alongside the parmesan!

Feel free to omit all chicken steps if you are not cooking for a meat-eater =)