Monday, April 30, 2007

Spicy Tofu with Peaches over Rice

Liv & I began planting the garden (occasionally taking breaks to take photos) while Art prepared the following meal. He enjoys cooking, and with equal enthusiasm, we eat it up! This meal was specifically prepared with Gaia's 'Sweetie's Recipes' idea in mind.

For the record, we planted 2 broccoli, 1 cauliflower, 1 habanero pepper, 2 tomato, and a grove of onion -- and we still have plenty of room.

Now for the food... Take it away, Art!

This is my favorite tofu dish. It's sauteed in chipolte chili pepper and Mr. Yoshida's sauce was selected this time as the marinate. The dish is a combination of three things: tofu, over rice, with peaches. Unfortunately, peaches are out of season, so in sticking to the recipe, canned peaches are substituted for what will soon be fresh peaches when they are in season. As sides I always prefer collard greens with this tofu recipe, and I also prepared vegan peanut butter cookies.

Get the grilling kind, I prefer Nasoya "firm" which says it's for grilling.

Cut the entire tofu package into 1/2 inch pieces that are each about the size of a deck of cards. You want them big so that they are easier to keep intact in the pan. Put the pieces into a dish and sprinkle the chilli pepper on first, then dump about 1/2 cup of sauce and swish it around. Then carefully add the tofu steaks to the pan with some soy butter (1 tablespoon will be enough), or olive oil if you prefer, and just add the tofu and cook over medium heat, try to only turn them once or twice. I let them cook for like 10 minutes per side, 0n low heat (high heat seares the tofu quickly, locking out the sauce, and making it burned and dry). You can keep adding the leftover sauce into the pan as needed, or just dump it all in at once. Separately, cook up your favorite rice; I prefer jasmine or basmati, this time I used jasmine rice, 1 cup for 2 1/2 cups of boiling water, which took about 20 minutes to prepare.

I would use the rice cooker for the rice, but, collard greens do so well in the rice cooker that the rice had to be done on the stove. The collard greens are easy. You wash them, then cut out the center stem, and then toss them into the rice cooker (with the steamer attachment at the bottom) and add like 1/2 cup of water, sprinkle in a few dashes of salt, and toss in some soy butter or Earth Balance (1 tablespoon or so). Then, cut a couple of peaches up, and have them ready. You serve the dish with a bed of rice, then tofu pieces, then peaches, and you kinda cut it all together and mix it up and it's delicious. The collard greens are a good strong compliment to the tangy/sweet flavors.

The peanut butter cookies were also easy. 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups peanut butter -- mix the dry stuff first, then toss in a couple pinches of baking powder, then add in the peanut butter (use creamy because it mixes better). Ball up the dough, put 1 inchers onto the cookie sheet (use cooking spray) and mash down with two fork presses, making a criss-cross. Cook them at 350 for 13 minutes, then let sit on the sheet out of the oven for 5 minutes, then put onto a drying rack for 15 minutes and they will be ready after dinner is over. I put everything "on" at the same time, so plan to toss in the first cookie sheet, turn on the collards in the cooker, put on the saucepan with water for rice, and put the tofu saucepan on the stove all at the same time, and then everything will be done at the right time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kitchen Harmony

A challenge for me in the kitchen is keeping my four and two year old girls occupied while I cook. I enjoy cooking with them, but sometimes that isn't what they want to do, and I become distracted trying to entertain or play referee. Countless times I've burned something, forgotten how many cups I've already added, skipped a crucial step, or even abandoned the recipe altogether.

Today, I came up with a simple solution. I gave each girl a large cookie sheet, a bowl of pinto beans, along with several cups and utensils. They were little chemists -- measuring, sifting, & pouring. They enjoyed this more than I can express. Even better, there was no cost involved, and the clean-up was minimal. We were all in the kitchen together doing what we enjoyed, it was beautiful. I can't believe I didn't think of this idea before!

I've been itching to try the 'Seitan O' Greatness' after seeing it on all your blogs. I didn't have Worcestershire sauce, so I subbed Kitchen Bouquet and was pleased with that. I also pictured my little jar of organic tomato paste, because it's so handy to just take out a tablespoon, cap it, and store in the fridge. No longer will I buy it in cans. I took Crystal's tip and made four little logs instead, and liked how that worked out, but only cook for 60 minutes if you go this route. I wasn't pleased with the spice combo, but think baking seitan is the way to go.

This is better than Andersen's split pea soup, which is a quick stand-by meal for the girls.

Vicki's Split Pea Soup
2 cups split peas
10 cups boiling water
2 cups baby carrots, cut in circles
1 tsp. sea salt
1 clove elephant garlic, crushed & finely chopped
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1.5 Tbsp. tamari

Here's How:

Boil the split peas with salt for about 30 minutes, until they are soft and begin to break down.

While the split peas boil, sautee the onion & garlic in the vegetable oil until translucent.

Add the onion, garlic, carrots, & tamari to the soft split peas and cook until the soup is creamy.

Soup needs bread. So I whipped up some '
Easy French Bread' from La Dolce Vegan! I've made this before, but wanted to try individual rolls. Here it is divided among muffin tins just before popping in the oven with black sesame seeds on top.

Can you smell these? They were superb warm with Earth Balance. This is the only recipe you need for dinner rolls.

With the girls still sifting the pinto beans, I even had time to make dessert! This is a new cookbook for me. I've seen
Emmy blog about it, and at Food Fight they say it's the best vegan cookbook of all time.

I made 'Oatmeal Cookies' following the recipe exactly, only I cut it in half because 5 dozen cookies seems a bit excessive! lol! Half-ing the recipe yielded 15 cookies for me. These are the kind that you need to use your hands to form and squish them down, because they don't flatten themselves. They are simple, timeless, and delicious!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Restaurant Review: The Natural Cafe

While staying at the in-law's in California, they kept urging us to "go try the new veggie restaurant." The Natural Cafe has several locations: Downtown Santa Barbara, Uptown Santa Barbara, Old Town Goleta, Newbury Park, Westlake Village, San Luis Obispo, Moorpark, and Santa Maria -- all locations are basically 101 fwy West/North of Los Angeles.

This restaurant is not 100% Vegetarian, but they do have many Vegan options and not just salads. There's tofu, tempeh, humus, falafel, and even soy ice cream.

You order the food at the counter, take a number, and they bring the food out. You help yourself to silverware, condiments (all organic), and water. It's a casual atmosphere and the location we visited had a pretty outdoor patio.

'Vegan tomato soup with red potatoes' was the soup of the day, so I started my meal with a cup of that. It had big chunks of red potatoes, carrots, tomato, and basil. The flavor was just right and I found myself wanting more. The nutty whole wheat bread on the side was perfect for dipping.

Starting at the top with Art's meal, you see 'Dalai Dog' for $4.25 -- It's a tofu hot dog served on a whole wheat bun with mustard, red onion, ketchup and relish. They threw some blue corn chips on each of our plates, even mine, which was 'Tempeh Tacos' for $6.50 -- Ground soy tempeh in a zesty red sauce on corn tortillas with vegan cheese, topped with shredded lettuce, and I asked them to leave off the sprouts. In the middle, you see a side of 'Sauteed Tofu' $2.50, which Art ordered and didn't finish cuz it was too dry. No matter, we'll be back because that's about all there is for veggie food in the area. We were just thrilled to go out to eat without having to tell the chain-restaurant waiter what's up. You should go too if you're in the area. :o)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Whoo Hoo! Goodies in the mail!

I received a phat little package this weekend from the super-cool, ultra-informed and compassionate KleoPatra! What a treat, and thank you so much!

"Pigs Are Friends Not Food" -- doesn't this sticker *scream* Kleo?! With my blurry photo, you can't quite make out the web address at the bottom:

My girls helped me open it up, and Liv immediately claimed the spider as hers and tossed the Salamander bracelet to Abi to equalize it. My swift momma hand swiped the 100% vegan Endangered Species dark chocolate bar with raspberries for a later indulgent. Check out the adorable photo of Kleo and Mattie - that's on our fridge, held up by the San Diego magnet. Thank you for brightening our day! :o)
I hope everyone had a fabulous Earth Day, even though for most of you E-Day is everyday. Together we CAN! Peace.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Plum Nutty Cobbler-Muffins

These muffins are just like a hand held fruit cobbler...

But let's start at the beginning...

I wanted to do something with the last few perfect plums from our Harry & David box, so I googled, and came up with this fantastic recipe from foodgeeks. I altered it as follows, and it's currently my favorite muffin recipe. This is a cobbler-lovers dream muffin.

2 Firm Plums, peeled & sliced in 6 wedges

2 C. Flour
1 C. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Sea Salt
4 Tbsp. Earth Balance, melted
1/4 C. Coconut Oil
3/4 C. Vanilla Silk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Coconut Extract
Cinnamon, to dust the top

Heat oven to 350* Prepare the fruit.

Mix dry ingredients, add wet. Scoop batter into 12 lightly greased muffin cups.

Insert a plum wedge into each cup - they'll stick out and that's fine. Sprinkle with Cinnamon.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let them cool a little before you devour them.

BTW: We're home from California, and I'll share more of our adventures after I unpack! :o)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tamales & Travel

1. Prepare all the filler ingredients.
Let your imagination go! We've used many items over the years, and anything goes. This time, we used blackeyed peas & corn. Basic ingredients come alive inside corn husks, so you don't need anything fancy. As an aside, you gotta visit the Hollywood Farmer's Market (Sunday 8-1, Selma & Ivar) for outstanding tamales by Corn Maiden.

2. Mix Masa according to the package, and set aside covered in the fridge.

3. Soak one bag corn husks in a large bowl with warm water for several minutes. Cover with a plate to weigh the husks down. Separate & pick out the best ones (most complete & biggest intact), rinse, and lay to dry on a towel.

4. Place 1-2 Tbsp. masa onto a husk. Spread around a little, and gently lay filler ingredients on top.
*Resist the urge to pack them too full. Make them smaller, and they'll work better. You should have more masa as compared to other ingredients. Go light!*

5. Fold them burrito style. Turn it over, and burrito fold into another husk. If it's a secure package, put it in the finished pile. If it's a flimsy wrap, repeat with another husk.

Art has the technique down, and I'm grateful that he happily obliges my request to wrap the tamales.

6. Fill the tamale cooker or steamer with water. The water should be below the rack. We got our tamale cooker for a reasonable price at the regular grocery store.

7. Stack the tamales on the tray, and put on the lid. Set stove on LOW for at least 3 hours, we let ours steam all day. Remember to replenish boiling water as necessary. They'll feel firm in the husk when done. Serve immediately, or reheat in the microwave. Freeze some for a quick & delicious meal at a later date.

I'm looking forward to being in California for the next several days. We'll be in Fresno over the weekend for the percussion player's wedding who plays in this band that Art produces. We'll also be spending time in Claremont where Art is working. Both cities are unknown veggie territory for me, so I'll enjoy scouting veg*n eateries and markets. I checked Happy Cow and Veggies on the Road for some leads, and would love to hear from you.
I'll have access to a computer, and I always have high hopes! See you soon. :o)

Sunday, April 8, 2007


for the oat topping:
3/4 C. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 C. whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C. Florida crystals, packed
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 stick Earth Balance, melted
for the filling:
3 plums & 2 pears, cut up
1/4 C. Florida crystals
1 Tbsp. brown rice syrup
1 lemon, juiced plus zest

Preheat oven to 375*, lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
Combine the dry ingredients for the topping, then drizzle in the EB until well mixed.
In a separate bowl gently toss the filling ingredients, then transfer to prepared pan. Distribute oat topping over fruit.
Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes (I covered mine loosely with foil toward the end because the topping threatened to burn before the fruit was tender) Top with Soy Delicious if you want, but it's really tasty on it's own, or sprinkled with toasted almonds! :o)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Polenta Pizza & Fancy Fruit

Bring 4 Cups Vegetable Broth to a boil. Reduce heat and slowly whisk in 1 Cup coarse polenta. Continue whisking 5 minutes, then replace whisk with a wooden spoon. Stir until spoon can stand & polenta comes away from sides of pan. Stir in 2 tablespoons of softened Earth Balance and season with salt & pepper. Spread the mixture over the base of a pizza tray. Brush the polenta with oil and bake at 300* for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and top it.

Ours had:
Artichoke Tapenade (artichokes, olive & sunflower oil, green olive, key lime, vinegar, salt & yummy spices)

1 Can Black Beans (drained, rinsed, tossed with 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce)

1/2 C Vegan Mozzarella, grated

1 Roma Tomato, sliced

We've been digging some simple desserts lately. For Christmas, some friends generously got us into the
fruit-of-the-month club from Harry and David, which is such a treat. Here, you see an orange, and below is some grapefruit, and just today we received a box of juicy plums.