Monthly Archives

December 2012

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Fried Tofu Po Boy: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 26

Happy Sunday!

Last night I had a going away party (5 days until Texas!), which meant really obnoxious private karaoke with a bunch of friends, far too much beer, and Mario: The Lost Levels until 4am.  Mike was passed out on the couch as his best friend and I conquered the game all the way up to level 8:3, which was a heroic feat – two stages from the end!  We’d never been that far before, not even sober.  But then there was this impossible jump, and I really wanted ramen but all our friend had was vegan chicken that I ate in the morning, and…I digress.

The point of my story is that I’ve been doing some major-league chilling today, and Mike took care of the entirety of brunch.  Which is another way of saying that I’m awesomely spoiled, especially because he made fried tofu po boy sandwiches.  Turns out they’re perfect post-hootenanny food – lots of carbs (bread!), tofu (deep-fried goodness!), and some vegetables in the form of coleslaw (still counts!).

Mike seasoned the tofu with things like kelp powder and soy sauce to evoke a “fishy” flavor, since po boys are usually a Louisiana seafood thing, and then the ‘fu was battered and deep-fried to crispy perfection.  These are best enjoyed immediately (the crispness of the batter wears off quickly), and though deep-fried is best, marinated and pan-fried tofu would probably be pretty good here too.

Fried Tofu Po Boy
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the tofu:

1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch squares
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon kelp powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

4 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
Pinch salt
1/2 cup club soda
A little non-dairy milk, for consistency (fairly thick and gloopy)

For the coleslaw:

2 cups coleslaw mix (or shredded green cabbage and carrot equal to 2 cups)
2 large dill pickles, chopped
4 tablespoons vegan mayo (Vegennaise is the best)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
Pinch salt

To assemble:

2 long baguettes, halved and sliced down the middle to make 4 sandwiches
Coleslaw (about 1/2 cup per sandwich)
Fried tofu (6 or 7 pieces per sandwich)
Mustard and hot sauce (like Sriracha), to taste

Directions:

1. For the tofu: combine the tofu, soy sauce, lemon juice, kelp and Old Bay in a bowl or container, and allow it to marinade for an hour, or overnight if you’re forward-thinking.

2. Heat 3 inches of neutral oil in a large pot to around 375 F.  While the oil is heating, make the tofu frying batter: In a medium bowl, mix the flour, Old Bay, paprika and salt.  Add the club soda and a little milk and stir until smooth.  Dredge the tofu in the batter and fry 6-8 tofu pieces at a time for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Set the fried tofu on a paper towel to drain.

3. Make the coleslaw: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

4. To assemble: Spread a layer of coleslaw on the baguette, followed by the fried tofu, mustard and hot sauce.

Check out that fried tofu perfection.

Serve this up with pickles, and if you’re feeling really hungry it would be great with a plate of fries or hashbrowns.

Sadly, this marks the last Vegan Sunday Brunch that Mike and I get to enjoy in each other’s physical company for a long, long time.  Our brunches will continue to live on, though, even if they’re enjoyed via Skype.  Thanks for that, modern technology!

Hope you’ve had a great weekend, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow on the last day of the year!

decadent treat food, recipes

Vegan Mushroom and Herb Gravy

Gravy is not a condiment I’ve always loved.  In fact, I didn’t start appreciating it until I became vegetarian, which wasn’t until I was an adult.  I think all that animal fat always weirded me out a little.
But vegetarian gravy isn’t weird at all, with its innocuous veggies, herbs and broth, and nowadays I’m a total convert.  Where in the past I would have eaten plain mashed potatoes (with a little margarine), I now slather my potato mountains in gravy, and it’s awesome.
Mike and I have made a lot of gravies, and we usually just wing it with no recipes or measurements.  I like it best with mushrooms since it adds a savory depth, and with fresh herbs – dried herbs just don’t compete.  

Vegan Mushroom and Herb Gravy
6 large servings (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1/2 a medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 white mushrooms, diced (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups vegetable broth (cut with a little water if your broth is very salty)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (to add a deeper brown color)
1 sprig rosemary, stemmed
15 sage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons Caesar Rim spice (optional but awesome; if omitting, just add a little more salt)
Lots of fresh-ground pepper

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the margarine over medium-low heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant, about 7 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute another 7 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to brown.  Add the flour, stirring frequently, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the flour browns.  Slowly add the vegetable broth while stirring (to avoid clumping) and turn up the heat to medium-high.  Bring to a gentle boil to thicken.  Stir in soy sauce, rosemary, sage, Caesar Rim spice and pepper.  Heat it for a couple minutes longer to allow the flavors to combine.  Adjust liquid to preferred texture if necessary.

You want your gravy to be just a little on the salty side, since it’s usually served with bland foods like potatoes, but you can alter it to your own taste.

Proceed to slather potato mountains, Tofurky, or life itself with gravy, and enjoy!  It’s really great with fries and melted vegan mozza, too, like we did here – poutine is another one of those foods that I didn’t get into until I started making vegan gravy, but it’s ridiculously awesome.  And apparently quite Canadian.

Tonight I’m having a going away party with some friends – nothing says “I’m leaving the country” like a private karaoke room.  Hope you guys have a great Saturday!

Menus

Vegan Christmas Feast 2012

Hey guys!
This Christmas, I lounged back while Mike whipped up a wonderful, traditional feast – well, traditional-ish.  Tofurky is traditional for me!

He made a simple baste for the Tofurky and chopped up some root veggies (onion, potato, carrot, beet), and finished it off with some fresh sage and rosemary.

It was as awesome as it looked – even Michael’s grandparents gave it the seal of approval.

And if you’re having a Tofurky feast, you need stuffing.

I am emanating intense contentment from being surrounded by stuffing and booze.

Homemade gravy (sans animal fat) is mandatory for such a feast – we made a gravy with mushrooms and fresh herbs to douse potatoes, Tofurky and life in.  And I’ll share the recipe soon!

Simple corn, olives and a variety of pickles rounded out the meal.

And a feast isn’t a feast without dinner rolls!  Alas, these were store-bought, but sometimes you gotta cut corners.  Still good!

And to finish it off, we’ve got some mashed ‘taters.  I am vehemently opposed to using store-bought non-dairy milk in savory cooking, so instead we opted on making homemade almond milk (blending an equal ratio of almonds to water and then straining out the pulp).  Cashew milk works equally well since it has a fairly neutral flavor.  And don’t forget the margarine!

And here it is, the happy ensemble.  My favorite part of the plate was probably the single two pieces of roasted beets – I could live off ’em.

Hope you all had great Christmas feasts – if I had the space in the oven, or the extra time, cabbage rolls and perogies would have made an appearance too.  Next time!

Brunch, recipes

Basic Tofu Scramble: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 25

Happy almost Christmas!

As of this moment I’m kickin’ back in small town Saskatchewan while two dudes are boxing on TV.  There’s a Christmas tree in the room, which is awesome and festive since our apartment was absolutely lacking in anything Christmas-y.  Since this is a low-key kind of day, I wanted a low-key kind of brunch – and once I realized I don’t have a single tofu scramble recipe on my blog, I knew what needed to be done.

Every vegan tends to have their own special tofu scramble recipe, and this is my favorite way to eat it – flavorful but mild, full of veggies and a little cheesy, perfect for topping with ketchup.  Or hot sauce, which I guess is the classier way to eat a scramble (but I am devoted to ketchup).

This recipe is infinitely customizable – I know it would be great with spinach or other greens, or even stripped down to simple tofu-onions-garlic.

Basic Tofu Scramble
Makes 4 small servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 white button mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 lb. extra-firm tofu
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the mushrooms and bell pepper and saute for another 5 minutes.  Crumble in the tofu and add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mustard powder and pepper.  Cover, stirring occasionally, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the liquid has mostly been absorbed.  Remove from heat, add the lemon juice, and season to taste.

Serve with toast and hashbrowns and fruit and breakfast sausages and any awesome brunch food you can think of – tofu scramble goes with anything.

And if you haven’t checked it out, I’ve almost completely finished updating the recipe section of my blog – there’s just a little over 100 of ’em.  I’m so proud of my happy food collection!  I’m excited to keep growing it while I’m at food school in Texas.

I’ll stop in tomorrow to share the only real Christmas-y food I’ve made this year, but at least it’s pretty awesome.  Hope you guys are having a great weekend and getting in lots of chill time!

recipes, salad

Carrot Ginger Dressing for a Meal-Sized Salad

So I’m not the biggest salad eater on the block.  It’s not salad’s fault – I like it just fine.  It’s just that I’m really picky about them.  Most restaurants charge way too much for skimpy portions with enough calories to fill you up for 15 minutes, and usually when I’m shopping I forget to add “random extra salad produce” to the list, and all of the other produce is spoken for in other meals.  Yeah, I’m a planner like that.

But occasionally I remember.  I think, “Damn, nothing would taste better for a Saturday lunch than a good ol’ salad.”  No, seriously.  Because when I make a salad, I make a freaking salad.

(Just so you know, this bowl is bigger than my head.)

Making a freaking salad means making a kick-ass dressing, or else what’s the point?  I’m not saying it needs to be complex, but it should definitely make you want to happily inhale your veggies.  If you’re looking for something new to try, give this carrot-ginger dressing a whirl – it’s packed with kick and flavor and now I want to eat awesome salads for every meal.

Carrot Ginger Dressing
Serves 2 large salads

Ingredients:

1 medium carrot, grated
2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons agave or other sweetener
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until relatively smooth.  Serve atop your favorite greens and veggies and enjoy!

(The dressing wasn’t very photogenic, but I’m sure you can imagine it.)

Some of my favorite salad toppings include tomatoes, carrots, beets, avocado, olives and tofu.  Use your favorites, but keep in mind that different colors and textures make for exciting mouthfuls.  Tofu makes a good protein for meal-sized salads, but 1/2 cup beans (per serving) would also be awesome (chickpeas ftw!).  I like adding things like avocados and olives because they’re nice and filling.

Speaking of variety, nothing beats store-bought salad mixes.  Unless you’re the type to go through oodles of greens, they often provide a dozen different types of lettuce in a convenient package, which makes for a more interesting salad than using just a single green.  The exception I make is for shredded and massaged kale, which I find perfectly exciting all on its own.  Yup, I’m wacky like that.

And now I’m off to see the wizard, or something like that anyway.  This is my last official piano teaching week before I’m off to distant lands (Hi, Texas!).  So take care guys, and happy salads!

Brunch, recipes

Vegan Okonomiyaki: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 24

Okonomiyaki.  Isn’t that a fun word to say?  Something so fun-sounding has to be awesome, it’s a rule.

Back in my manga-loving teenage days, okonomiyaki was a common food for the characters to eat, just like rice balls and ramen.  Did any of you ever read Ranma 1/2?  Ukyo had an okonomiyaki shop – she was engaged to Ranma when they were kids, but there was this whole thing where he and his dad ditched her on the side of the road, all the while Ranma thinking she was a boy, so she ended up throwing away her womanhood to be a master okonomiyaki chef.

My realization after typing that is: I need to read Ranma again.

So anyway, okonomiyaki is a fast food pancake-omelet-pizza hybrid.  It has flour (like a pancake), it’s eggy (like an omelet), and has toppings (like pizza) – or fillings, depending on how you make it.  Its circular shape suggests pancakes, but it’s savory like a pizza.  And depending on regional variations, it’s topped with mayo and okonomiyaki sauce (mostly ketchup, but we’ll get to that).

As a comic-loving kid, I decided to cook okonomiyaki for all of my friends on my 15th birthday party.  In retrospect it was a terrible idea – the internet wasn’t yet hefty with food blogs and recipes, I’d never cooked anything in my life before, and I didn’t even know what a yam was (some versions of it call for a specific kind of yam).  It was a disaster, and a couple of my friends who had good kitchen sense tried to salvage my mess.  Of course, I was happily oblivious to everything.

So I haven’t made it since, until this morning.  But the desire to create vegan okonomiyaki has been brewing inside of my soul for years.  I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s just because it is.  This recipe has been waiting to exist for 11 years.  And thank god it turned out this time!

Vegan Okonomiyaki
Makes 2 large pancakes 

Ingredients:

1/2 to 1 12-oz. pack firm silken tofu (less gives a pancake vibe, more gives an eggy vibe)
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon salt (to taste – depends on how salty the broth is)
1 teaspoon olive oil

2 generous cups shredded green or napa cabbage
3 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

1. In a blender, blend the tofu until smooth.  Use some of the vegetable broth to help it blend if necessary.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, nutritional yeast, turmeric and salt.  Add the tofu mixture, the rest of the vegetable broth and the olive oil and stir until combined (don’t over-stir).  Mix in the cabbage and green onions until combined.

2.  Heat a little oil in a large, non-stick pan* over medium-low heat.  Crepe pans work awesome for this.  Scoop half the batter into the pan and spread it out in a pancake shape, until it’s about an inch thick.  If you’re using a good pan, you shouldn’t have any issues at all with it sticking, but flipping is a little tricky because it’s so big – the best way is to use a flat plate.  Slide the pancake, cooked side down, onto a plate, then sandwich the plate and pan together so that the uncooked side falls onto the pan.  Cook each side of the pancake for 5-7 minutes, until golden.  Repeat with the second pancake.

Of course, okonomiyaki isn’t complete without sauces!  The first sauce is easy because it’s just mayo.  I know mayo on a pancake sounds weird, but you just have to try it to believe it – it helps that Vegennaise is infinitely more delicious than regular mayo.  The other sauce is tomato-y, because we all know ketchup and eggs are bff.

Simple Okonomiyaki Sauce

3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon vegan Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

This sauce makes enough to serve 2 large pancakes, and you’ll want about a tablespoon of mayo per serving.

*Important note: Use a really, really good non-stick pan for this – as much as I love cast iron, it doesn’t really do the trick here unless a) you make smaller-sized pancakes, and b) you use a LOT more oil.

Here’s the naked okonomiyaki pancake, just waiting for some good toppings.

Yay, good toppings!  The okonomiyaki is now happy.  As is my belly, and my soul.

Now I’m off to go dig up some old Ranma comics, because what’s better on a Sunday afternoon than good food and martial arts comedy?  Bet you can’t answer that!

cookbook reviews

Bold Vegan: Food of Southeast Asia Review

Hey guys!

Today I have the privilege of sharing a visually-stunning, delicious and unique cookbook with you.  I was sent an e-book called Bold Vegan: Food of Southeast Asia by Molly and Luanne, the dynamic duo behind the book.  Right off the bat, I loved the team – Molly the vegan, and Luanne the Malaysian omnivore – because when veganizing oft-meaty recipes, it’s very useful to have someone around who knows just what the meaty version tastes like.

Now guys, I’ve read plenty of e-books, but this one takes the cake for gorgeousness.  The layout and design is bright and bold, with ample amounts of yummy food pictures strewn throughout.  Check out the website for their cookbook to see some photos of the recipes contained within – so good.

Not only is the book beautiful, it’s very information-dense as well.  Molly and Luanne discuss the various regions in Southeast Asia, talk about lesser-known ingredients (with pictures!) like condiments and spices, and each recipe has a tidbit about its country of origin.  Each recipe also has a “spicy” and “difficulty” meter (1-5), which is really useful if you’re spice-sensitive (or spice-loving), or want to see at a glance how complex a meal will be to execute.

This cookbook is small, containing around 30 recipes (including several accompaniments), which I deem a good thing – it typically means the recipes contained are well-loved and best-of-the-bunch.

Of course, there was no way to prove the recipes had that best-of-the-bunch quality unless I got in my kitchen and concocted some meals!

I started with the Spicy Coconut Laksa, a Malaysian part-noodle, part-soup kind of dish.  It ranked 4 on the spicy and difficulty meter, which was good on both fronts – not only do I love spicy food, I love a good challenge as well.

In the background information on this recipe, they mention, “You know you got your Laksa recipe down when you or your guests start slurping, wiping their brow and runny noses throughout the meal!”  Yup, that’s my kind of spicy.  And it held true!

I found this recipe to be quite easy to make (there’s just a few parts to it), though you need to have good kitchen sense in order to improvise a recipe like this.  I only used 2 red Fresno chilies instead of 3 (they were really big) and omitted the hot chili oil, mainly because my curry powder is very, very hot and bitter.  I only used 4 tablespoons of curry powder (instead of 5) for this reason.  The end result was absolute perfection – it was very spicy, but matched my tolerance level.  If I had used the full amount of spice, it would’ve been too much for me.

Another change I made was to sprinkle a little brown sugar in each bowl – it really balanced out the flavors (again, this is pretty dependent on your curry powder).  Oh, and did I mention it was one of the best things I’ve made in a while?

When I ate it for lunch, I was all, “this is pretty damn good”.  Then I had it as an afternoon snack, thinking, “hellz yeah, this is where it’s at”, and then I had it for supper, when I officially determined that I would forever dream about this noodle soup and crave it always.  I also had it for a bedtime snack, and the tiny amount of leftovers for breakfast the next day…it was that good.

So after a smashing success with the first recipe test, I set out to try the Rich Butternut Squash Curry, originating from Indonesia.  I was looking for something homey and simple, and this only had a 3/5 difficulty ranking (and for the record, 3 ended up being pretty easy for me).

This was the first time I’ve made a curry out of winter squash (I used kabocha instead of butternut since it’s what I had), but I was particularly attracted to it because of its use of curry powder, coconut milk, star anise, and a lovely homemade chili paste that uses a crap-ton of ginger and garlic.

The nice thing about winter squash is it kind of dissolves when it cooks, creating a creamy, stewy texture.  This was heaven served atop plain brown rice with plenty of cilantro.  I made this for lunch and when Mike came home, the first thing he said was, “It smells incredible in here – I could smell it in the hallway!”  Ahh yes, is there anything better than fragrant, flavorful food?

With a second success under my belt, I was feeling confident enough to tackle a 5/5 difficulty recipe, and the Crispy Stuffed Pancakes with Pickles Onions (origin Malaysia) were calling to me.

I’ve never eaten anything like a savory stuffed pancake before, but this was the perfect introduction.  You could easily pick up the pancakes, which I guess is important for street food.  The filling was a mix of spices, ground round and aromatic veggies, and the pancakes were rolled really, really thin and then folded up like a package.  Which, honestly, ended up being a lot easier than it sounded!  A little time-consuming, but that’s why Mike was around to help with this one.

I made the Sambal Sauce to go with these pancakes as they suggested in the recipe, and I wasn’t crazy about it when I ate a spoonful of it, but as a condiment for the pancakes it was ideal, especially coupled with the quick pickled onions.  The only change I made to the recipe was to halve it and add a squirt of lemon juice.

Mike and I couldn’t get enough of these – they were so good.  I really love the Fresno chilies used in the sambal sauce – they make for more of a “slow burn” as opposed to an immediate fire in the face.  This meant that I could load on the sauce and not melt.  In fact, I didn’t really notice how spicy it must’ve been until I noticed Mike and I were sniffling.  Cleared out them sinuses!

—-

So guys, that’s three for three.  And not just “pretty good” wins, I’m talking “mind-bending foodgasm” wins.  I think this proves that the recipes are indeed well loved and best-of-the-bunch.

I love exploring new culinary cuisines, and Southeast Asian food is something I haven’t spent much time with.    I’m really glad I had a chance to taste some food from this cookbook and expand my knowledge!

And I know I’m at risk of sounding like a fangirl, but I really can’t find any cons about this book.  The recipes are really well-balanced – there’s easy and hard ones, ones with simple or specialized ingredients, ones that aren’t spicy and ones that are flaming hot, ones that are healthy and others that are more treat-like.  Some recipes use tofu, tempeh or seitan, and others are just veggie-based.

So my closing thoughts about this cookbook are as follows: 1) It’s awesome.  2) It’s awesome.  3) You should check it out because it’s awesome.