Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vegan Nachos

I love going to vegan restaurants where you can order absolutely anything off the menu--it's so stress free!  But I would also love to go into a chain restaurant and order something and say, "veganize that, please."  Although we try to eat really healthy food at our house, sometimes we get cravings for things that are a little more junky, but vegan nonetheless.  The other day I wanted something quick and easy, and we had just bought some organic tortilla chips and salsa at Costco, but I wanted something a little more substantial--NACHOS!  This is one of those things I would love to order in any restaurant and have then veganize.  I quickly looked in the refrigerator to check on the Daiya Cheese situation, then the pantry to see if I had any canned black beans.  Damn!  Out of black beans, but what do we have here?  A few more cans of Amy's Organic Vegetarian Chili.  Sliced canned black olives, score!  So here's what I threw together in 10 minutes, baked for 15 minutes, and satisfied my family's junk food cravings.  This is also great for parties and potlucks where it can be balanced out by lots of other more healthy options.

Vegan Nachos
  • Organic corn tortilla chips (Or make your own by baking corn tortillas; less oil)
  • 1 15 oz can Amy's Organic Vegetarian Chili
  • 1 small can organic sliced ripe olives
  • 1 bag Daiya Cheddar Shreds
  • 1 cup or more organic salsa or pico de gallo
Spread enough chips on  a jelly roll pan to completely cover the pan a few chips deep.  Spoon chili over chips, sprinkle with sliced olives, then sprinkle Daiya Shreds on top.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove and spoon salsa/pico de gallo over hot nachos.  Transfer to a platter or individual plates with a spatula and eat out on your deck or patio with some nice vegan brews or margaritas!  If you have some guacamole on hand, serve that on the side as well!

Watch the sodium.  A lot of the above ingredients can be fairly high in sodium, which is why a fresh pico de gallo might be better than jarred salsa (event the organic varieties can have higher sodium content).  Also, I don't think Amy's Chili is anything special in the world of totally tasty homemade vegan chili, but we had bought some to try out, and although it's not my favorite to eat out of a bowl as a meal, it worked great on nachos and made this quick and easy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The World's Best Chick'n Salad

As I said before, Soy Curls are my favorite mock meat right now, and we use them to substitute for chicken strips and beef strips in many different recipes.  Chop up those chick'n strips and you can make your favorite chicken salad as well!  Here is my new favorite Chick'n Salad recipe.  People will swear it is made with real chicken!

World's Best Chick'n Salad
  • 1 8 oz bag Soy Curls
  • 3/4 cup vegan white wine
  • 3/4 cup low sodium No Chicken Broth
  • 6 organic spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 ribs organic celery, finely chopped
  • 1 organic Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup (or more if needed) Veganaise vegan mayonnaise (I use the reduced fat)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper or more to taste
Boil the wine and broth together in the microwave making sure to keep the end amount at 1.5 cups.  (This is the minimum amount of moisture needed to rehydrate 8 oz of Soy Curls.)  The chick'n will not be cooked further, so make sure the wine boils enough to eliminate the flavor of alcohol.  Add Soy Curls to hot liquid and leave for 10 minutes (you may need to place a weighted plate on top so all the curls get to absorb the liquid.)  While those are re-hydrating, chop your celery, onions and apple and place in a large mixing bowl.  When curls are re-hydrated, let cool, chop into small dice, and place in mixing bowl with chopped veggies.  Sprinkle in black pepper and mix to combine.  Add Veganaise and mix well until you get the creamy consistency you want.  Use as you would any chicken salad in sandwiches or stuff some tomatoes.  In the pictures below, we stuffed tomatoes with this Chick'n Salad and with our Fegg Salad from my March 8, 2012 post. 

Which do you think people will eat first? The Chick'n or the Fegg?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Indian Dal With Brown Basmati Rice

Wow!  It's been a while since I've posted anything here so I better get crackin'!  We've been enjoying a lot of favorite dishes these days, so I have not been terribly creative of late, but I did come up with quite a nice Indian Dal a few weeks back.  I looked at a bunch of recipes online: some were simple; some seemed more complex.  Mine is some type of hybrid and I kept it easy, of course.  We serve this lentil soup with brown basmati rice, and it's a hearty meal on its own.  This recipe will easily make twelve servings, but it's kind of tough to limit yourself to just one serving unless you have a big salad and other dishes coming afterward!

Indian Dal With Brown Basmati Rice
  • 2 cups organic brown basmati rice
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 lb organic red lentils
  • 9 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp red curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large organic tomato, finely diced
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
So, pressure cooker for the rice, Dutch oven for the soup.  Get the rice and the 4 cups of broth into the pressure cooker on a high burner and lock the lid on.  When pressure valve pops up turn heat to low and set timer for 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop the onion and saute in a bit of water over  medium heat in the soup pot.  Add ginger and garlic and continue sauteing until onions are translucent. Keep a bit of water in the bottom of the pot so nothing browns too much.  Add all of your spices and stir, add lentils and  9 cups of broth.  Turn heat to high, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and let simmer with lid on for 20 minutes.  When the timer for the rice goes off, remove rice to a cool burner and let pressure decrease naturally.  By the time the soup is finished, that pressure valve will drop.  After the soup has simmered 20 minutes, stir in the tomato and cilantro and simmer 5 more minutes.

Presentation - My wife says I'm all about the presentation and well, sometimes I am.  I use a 4 oz Asian tea cup as a rice mold, inverting the rice into the center of a standard size soup bowl.  Then I ladle about a cup of the dal around the rice island.  You can add some additional cilantro on top as garnish as well.

A note about the spices: as I said, I looked at a lot of different recipes online and some had long lists of spices.  I just took out all of the spices in my pantry that were often used in Indian cooking.  The red curry powder, yellow curry powder, and garam masala are all spice blends anyway, so combined they probably are equivalent to a much longer list of individual spices!  LOL  I just winged the amount at 1/2 tsp each (except for the cayenne and black pepper) and the finished product had a great mild flavor with a very slight kick from the cayenne and a bright, fresh hit of cilantro.  You can certainly adjust any of the spices to your taste, or use a different mix of what you have available in your pantry.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Broccoli with Beef--Veganized!

My wife and I recently went through about fifty banker's boxes full of paperwork, receipts, holiday decorations, and odds and ends from closets and drawers after our most recent move.  We also repaired and reorganized a secretary desk so that we could actually store office supplies in it and use it as a desk. (What a novel idea!)  This activity was strewn over several days and produced two very important results: 1) we discarded a lot of old paperwork that was now trash, donated unused items and reduced the number of banker's boxes we needed from fifty down to twenty two! and; 2) we found a few stashes of unused gift cards to various stores, over $400 in value!

Among these gift cards we had $50 to spend at Barnes and Noble.  Since my wife and daughter both have Kindles, there weren't a lot of books they wanted to physically purchase, so they let me buy several more vegan cookbooks to have on hand.  Later at home, as I was thumbing through new recipes, I came across a new product called Soy Curls in one of the books.  There was a brief description of what they were and it intrigued me enough to look them up online--what a find!  Here is the website so you can look at the product information yourself: Soy Curls  There was a list of retailers on the website and I was hoping to find that our brand new Whole Foods in Lynnwood carried them, but no such luck.  An Albertson's just a few suburbs away did carry them, however, so I took a twenty minute drive on a beautiful day to try them out.  The following Broccoli with "Beef" recipe was my first use of them and the result convinced me that I would transition from using TVP (textured vegetable protein) to using Soy Curls instead.

As you know from previous posts, I use TVP or dehydrated soy chunks a lot and it can mimic meat texture and flavor really well when re hydrated properly.  TVP is made from defatted soy flour and is highly processed so it is a fractionalized food as opposed to a whole food.  Soy Curls are processed as well, but are made from non GMO whole soy beans without chemical pesticides.  So, it's closer to a whole food than TVP is, and because it has the natural fat left in, the texture is actually more genuinely meaty and gave my recipe a superior result.  The best news is that you use them the same--re hydrate with water or broth or, as I always do, half broth half wine.  Soy Curls end up producing "beef" strips or "chicken" strips instead of chunks, but if you are making a stew, for example, you can cut the strips into chunks after re hydrating.  So now, when you think of beef strips, you can use Soy Curls for Asian stir fry recipes, Mexican fajitas and burritos, stroganoff, "steak" sandwiches, etc.  And when you think of chicken strips, again think of stir fries, fajitas, pasta with "chicken," etc.  You can make them more like pork and put them in a slow cooker with barbecue sauce for a pulled "pork" effect, or you can cut the "beef" strips into chunks for stews or the "chicken" strips into chunks for chicken salad.  You have to try these out to wean your families off of meat--they are less expensive* to buy, better for you, and can probably fool most people!

Veganized Broccoli with "Beef"
  • 1 8 oz bag Soy Curls
  • 2 cups vegan Merlot wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tsp half sodium Better than Bouillon No Beef paste
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced ginger root
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 additional cup cool broth
  • 3 lbs organic frozen broccoli
  • Ground black pepper to taste
In an extra large skillet (I use my 14 inch skillet which I also use for things like paella) heat the wine and water and bouillon paste to  boiling.  Turn burner off, add Soy Curls, place lid on skillet and set timer for 10 minutes.  You can remove the lid and stir every once in a while to make sure that all the curls have contact with the hot liquid.  While the curls re hydrate into strips, slice your onions, mince your garlic and ginger, and mix the corn starch with the additional cup of cooled broth.  When the timer goes off, remove the lid and turn your burner to medium heat and add onions, garlic and ginger.  Saute with the curls until onions are translucent and there is little liquid left in the pan. At this point add about a half cup water to deglaze the pan and stir until brown bits come off the pan, add frozen broccoli and put lid back on, turn heat to low and simmer until broccoli is cooked but still bright green.  Remove lid, add soy sauce and remaining broth with corn starch and continue stirring until sauce is thickened.  Turn heat off and serve with steamed brown rice.  This quantity will easily serve eight people.  I think next time I have to make something sweet and sour!  MMMMMMMMMMMM!

Lower fat, lower sodium and way cheaper than take out!

*An 8 oz bag retails for $3.99 and will produce 24 oz of "meat." If you buy bulk direct from Butler Foods you can get the cost down to $2.54/8 oz, and that cost includes shipping expenses!

Whole Food Smoothies

Here is something I started making for my family on mornings when there is little time to cook or eat.  Yeah, it's a smoothie, but there are no added sugars or even fruit juice.  It's made from tofu, walnuts, and whole fruit only.  It comes either extra thick or super extra thick!  The ingredients are per 16 oz smoothie.  I can make three in my Ninja blender.  My wife and I go out walking every morning and sometimes this is our reward when we get back--yum!

Whole Food Smoothie Ingredients
  • 3 oz silken firm organic tofu--1/4 of a 12.3 oz package (I use the aseptic Mori Nu Organic Non GMO) The silken blends better than the non silken; the firm tofu has higher protein content than the softer tofus
  • 1 organic banana, peeled
  • 1 organic seedless orange, peeled (the riper and juicier the better!)
  • 1 oz walnuts (I keep a huge bag in our freezer)
  • 1/3 cup organic frozen blueberries
  • 2-6 (depending on size) organic frozen strawberries
Depending on the size banana and orange you use, this smoothie will have between 500 and 600 calories with approximately 14 grams of protein, no added sugar, a serving of omega 3 fat from the walnuts and it will fill you up--as long as you can suck it through the straw! (You may want to get some of those extra wide bubble tea straws for these smoothies!  LOL)

"Do you want your smoothie thick or thick thick?"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's Easter Without Vegan Deviled Eggs?!!

You're heading toward another holiday, and suddenly you decide that you miss some of the special foods of the season.  What's a vegan to do?  Fake it.  Veganize it.  Pre-vegans eat eggs; we eat feggs.  You could make your own ham flavored seitan, there are plenty of recipes for that, but again it's usually going to be full of sodium and more processed components.  These feggs are made from organic tofu, organic potatoes, seasonings, Veganaise, and they will satisfy your craving for deviled eggs.  You bring these to the family get together and let everyone eat cholesterol free feggs.  They will simply wonder why they are in potato shells!

Deviled Feggs
  • 2 lbs organic extra firm tofu (drained and crumbled)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • black pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup Veganaise
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 15-20 baby potatoes (look for red and russet potatoes that are approximately the size of eggs)
  • black salt
  • paprika to garnish
Clean potatoes and place in cold water in pot to boil.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and let boil for about 20 minutes (time will depend on size of potatoes; check by inserting sharp knife into center of largest potato).  While potatoes are boiling, add tofu to large cast iron skillet and add seasonings.  Stir and saute over medium heat until tofu resembles scrambled eggs.  Turn heat off and transfer tofu to a large mixing bowl.  When potatoes are done, drain hot water and replace with cold tap water to cool potatoes.  Cut each potato in half and place on serving plate (they will cool faster so you can better handle them).  When potatoes are cooled, use a melon baller to scoop out most of the potato flesh leaving the skin and about a 1/4 inch of potato.  Add the potato flesh to the bowl of tofu mixture.  When all potatoes are scooped, use a fork to thoroughly mix in potato flesh with tofu, add Veganaise  and mustard and mix well.  Spoon in tofu/potato mixture into scooped out potatoes and mound on top.  Sprinkle with paprika to garnish, and for an authentic eggy aroma, sprinkle a tiny bit of black salt on each fegg just before serving.  Black salt is available at Indian food stores.  It is a mineral salt that is purplish or pinkish gray and has some sulfur in it, hence the eggy aroma.  Go easy on it--it just takes a tiny amount to give a salty hit to your feggs!

If you have some of the tofu mixture left over, "How about a nice fegg salad sandwich with a left handed glass of Tang?"  "Thank you, Mrs. Loopner, but I'm vegan now and I don't drink Tang anymore!"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beans and Greens

Well, I have been using canned beans for so long that I have not made a recipe using dried beans in ages.  But, I had some dried beans in the pantry and decided that I wanted to test out the true ease of the pressure cooker for these tough legumes.  Perfect results, every time!

Now, most cooks know that when you begin a recipe with dried beans, you need to soak them first.  There are a number of reasons for soaking beans, and if you need any convincing about this step, here is a site that explains what you need to know: Why should I soak dry beans?  If you are going to soak beans the traditional way, you would need to soak them overnight in 3-4 times the amount of water as you have beans (lentils, split peas and other softer legumes do not need pre-soaking).  To quick soak beans in a pressure cooker, rinse and sort beans, add to pressure cooker with 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt per cup of beans.  (Do not worry so much about sodium content, this first batch of salt water will not penetrate the beans too much and it will be drained away).  Turn heat to high and lock lid in place, bring to full pressure, reduce heat to low and cook for two minutes.  Quick release by running cold tap water over top of pressure cooker in sink.  Drain beans, rinse with fresh water and drain again.  Now your beans are ready for your recipe.

Beans and Greens (Kidneys and Kale)

2 cups dried organic kidney beans
2 bunches organic kale
6 cups water
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Broth paste

Quick soak your beans as above, rinse, and add 6 cups of water to beans in pressure cooker.  Turn heat to high and lock lid in place.  Bring up to full pressure, reduce heat to low and set timer for 15 minutes.  While beans are cooking, rinse and finely chop kale.  In a small, non stick saute pan, add cumin, coriander and turmeric and heat over medium heat for five minutes or so, stirring every so often so all the spice gets some heat.  It may smoke a bit and fill your home with some nice aromas.  When your timer goes off, quick release steam by running cold tap water over pressure cooker in sink.  When valve drops, remove lid, add remainder of ingredients, including spices, and stir until combined.  Lock lid back on pressure cooker and place back on same burner but be sure heat is turned off.  Set timer for 15 minutes.  Kale is a green that really holds its texture even when cooked.  The resulting "stew" is chewy and meaty without meat!  Serve over cooked brown basmati rice.  This is simple comfort food that will satisfy you and your family any time the weather says "soup tonight?"