Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Bonanza!

I know I am behind here, but I do have a lot of great stuff to post.  Let's just get going.

Today is my birthday.  To celebrate, my husband and I let my son go to play with his friends for the day and we went out to lunch and did a little shopping. Food shopping. At Wegmans.  Just for the good stuff since the big weekly shop was already completed, we were just there for an early lunch and fun items.  For lunch, we ate at the cold and hot bars, which have excellent vegan options. I got a beautiful hot tofu dish with hot & sour sauce, fresh brown rice, veggie lo mein, steamed Chinese veggies and an Italian bean salad, all were excellent.  My husband got vegan red lentil stew with a rosemary focaccia roll and roasted Brussels sprouts.  To drink, we both had Vita Coco, 100% coconut water.  A little strange if you ask us, but tolerable.

Then, on to my present.  I wanted to make these home made, vegan protein power bars and needed the Amazing Greens drink powder I actually needed the Amazing Meal, but Wegmans didn't have it so I just got the drink powder.  I also got a container of Wegmans brand, Non-GMO, Organic Soy protein powder.  Yeah, baby!  Birthday present time. I also picked up some organic celery to make chickpea "mock tuna" salad for our late lunch (recipe to follow as well).  I had all the rest of the ingredients and a soaked (but still needing to be cooked) pot of organic chickpeas at home.

The recipe I used for the vegan protein bars belongs to Hannah Kaminsky, the BitterSweet blogger and she is a talent.  I highly recommend her blog and have her cookbooks on my amazon wish list!  I added about two tablespoons of roughly chopped freeze dried raspberries since I happened to have an open bag, and that worked as a nice, tart addition to the sweet flavors in the bar.  Here they are, they are a very dark green and appetizing (to me, anyway).  They were delicious! My toddler ate them as well.

I love the dark green color with the bits of raspberry showing through.  Totally a do-again.

Next up was the Chickpea "Mock Tuna" Salad.  I LOVE this salad and it is from one of the first blogs I checked out on advice from a friend (Thanks, Nancy, I remember!).  She is a little irreverent, but we know that is all in the good fun of making delish vegan vittles.  This is the mock tuna salad I always talk about.  I don't use the kelp powder (only because I don't have it) but I don't think it's necessary.  In addition to the chopped celery, I add one small chopped carrot and probably about 1/4 cup minced onion.  I don't put pickles IN it but I serve them on the side.  You know, you make it just however you like your regular tuna salad.  This is a GREAT recipe to try nutritional yeast because it calls for so little, but it works amazing magic along with the soy sauce (I use organic Tamari, as I prefer its taste to regular soy sauce) to make chickpeas taste like tuna.  It REALLY does.  I make mine in the food processor (all ingredients except the onion, celery and carrot) to get the chickpeas all shreddy and tuna-like.  Then I turn it out into a bowl and add the veggies and some extra mayo (if needed) and some extra salt and pepper, if needed.  I also like it with garlic powder (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp).  This is what we ate for our late lunch.

Now if that don't look like deli tuna salad, I don't know what does.  Oh, deli tuna salad :-).  But this is so much healthier for you, cruelty free and tastes better, too.  SUPER yum.

And, unfortunately, spring has decided to give us a pass for this week.  I know I mentioned something about amazing hot chocolate a few weeks ago, then it got all springy and I forgot about it.  Winter has returned for the moment, so, I'll give it to you as you might need it!  Here it is, with permission from The Urban Vegan, (I would also recommend buying her book, it is a STEAL on amazon!).  Dynise also has an excellent blog.  Survived on these for the last few weeks while my son decided to try dropping his 2-3 hour afternoon nap :-).

Here is the recipe:

1 cup full fat soy milk (I used Original Silk in the refrigerated section)
3 tablespoons best quality chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (at least 60%)
1 tsp vanilla (I use Penzey's vanilla)
1/2 to 1 tsp agave syrup (I use light, organic agave)

Heat everything in a small stainless steel pan over gentle heat and stir until chocolate is melted and milk is hot, just starting to steam, but not boiling.  I use a little whisk to stir it well while it s melting.  It is really delish.  I also found I could use two tablespoons of chocolate and it was still really good (and about 70-80 fewer calories and 4-6 fewer grams of fat, depending on the brand of chocolate).  With three, though, it is stupendous.

Hoping we don't need too many more of these (though any excuse to drink them is a good excuse).  Common' spring, we're rootin' for ya'!

And for National Carrot Cake Day, I participated by making the Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Creme Cheese frosting by Annie Shannon.  Meet the Shannons is veganizing the Betty Crocker Cookbook, and they are right on target.  It was FANTASTIC.  Here is the link to the blog post containing the recipe

They were ASTOUNDING and their (vegan, of course) creme cheese icing will be my go-to recipe from now on (but I reduce the amount of sugar a bit).  Check out the comments to see which ingredient I balked at, but then, I became a believer.  Whoah.

Have a great week guys, stay warm, eat some great food.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Amazing Marinade for Tofu or Tempeh!

So, I have tried a lot of marinades for tofu & tempeh, but once I hit this one, I stopped dead in my tracks.  It looked just a tad different than the other recipes and I knew it was going to be great.  Basic ingredients, no time at all to prepare and it tastes great cold, hot or in between.  It is so useful to have two pounds of sliced, marinated tofu in the fridge that I will do it on a regular basis.  We ate ALL of it and I used it for two full dinners (you will see below).  Once I had room in the container after using up some of the tofu, I added a brick of steamed tempeh (sliced into quarters and steamed 10 minutes in my stainless steamer, or 10 minutes in some simmering water before adding). And we ate all of that!  It didn't last the two weeks that it could have.

I got permission from Bryanna Clark Grogan, amazing vegan cook and author, to post the recipe.  It is from her book, Nonna's Italian Kitchen which is a TOTAL steal for $10.27 on Amazon. I highly recommend it.  It's perfect for other Vegan Fazools out there, and I know you are out there!  Especially old-school Italian mommas and grandmas who want to go vegan but didn't think the recipes could translate.  They do.

Breast of Tofu or Tofu "Chicken" 
Now you guys know how I feel about plants not tasting like meat, but it DOES taste the most like chicken of any tofu dish I have ever tried:
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup soy sauce (I use organic Tamari, I find it makes a big difference in the flavor)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (great time to try it, guys)
2 tsp. crumbled, dried sage leaves (I used ground sage and it was fine, Penzey’s brand)
OR 2 tablespoons of fresh sage
½ tsp dried rosemary or ½ tablespoon fresh
½ tsp dried thyme or ½ tablespoon fresh
½ tsp onion powder

2 pounds extra firm or pressed tofu (I press the extra firm one, too, so it can really absorb the marinade)  You could use firm, too, but extra firm is better.

Get out a 5 or 6 cup rigid plastic container/Tupperware that is square or rectangular (ideal) with a tight fitting lid.  Put your marinade ingredients right into the Tupperware and whisk or just stir them up (I like whisking everything with my tiny whisk!). Press the tofu (with your TofuXPress if you’ve got it!), slice it into ¼ inch slices and place it in the marinade so it is tightly packed and covered with the liquid.  Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks, shaking daily.  That’s it! 

You can pan fry it plain (cook over medium heat in a non-stick skillet until golden brown on both sides), you can “oven fry” it, as I did, coating it with some seasoned flour or cornmeal (For 6 slices I used about 1/3 cup cornmeal, 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, ½ tsp of dried oregano.  I breaded the slices by spooning it onto one side, putting that side face down on a lightly oiled and foiled baking sheet, then spooning some more breading onto the up-facing side.  Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes per side, or until they get lightly browned and crispy).

You can use it cold in sandwiches or in salads, too.  Great for that.  

I used it sliced and heated a bit over some garlicky spinach linguine with sauteed mushrooms (you can't see the  mushrooms in this picture, they are under there!):

And I "oven fried" it and served it with sauteed Swiss Chard (w/ garlic & cranberries) and some rice pilaf:

I hope you guys try this, it is really, really amazing.  You can generate many layers of flavor if you use it in combination with other things, or by coating and cooking it (as I did above, and as Bryanna does in her book with seasoned flour).

Let me know how it goes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can You Recycle Your "Cartons" (aseptic & regular)?

Another non-recipe post, but I had to share this because it is a source of confusion for many.

I am really upset.  Let me put it this way, for the last 12 months or so I have been throwing away ALL of my soy milk and other non-dairy milk cartons (the refrigerated larger carton, as well as the aseptic kind, different sizes).  Other common aseptic containers/cartons are juice boxes for kids, broth and tomato cartons on the shelves at the store, etc.  All the non-dairy milks have a version that is aseptically packaged: soy, almond, oat, hazelnut, rice, etc.

Once we went vegan at the beginning of Dec. 2009, I tried recycling the Silk half gallon cartons a few times.  We still lived in Philly and they took them (but they took everything in Philly and just threw out what couldn't be recycled, so I was never sure what was up with these). Once we moved to New Jersey in January 2010, they would get thrown back in my driveway (classic New Jersey).  The cartons weren't imprinted with the universal recycling symbol (the triangle of arrows thingy), so I thought that was it, and they couldn't be recycled.  So, I've been throwing them out and complaining that that is CRAZY to produce a so-called environmental product in non-recyclable package.  I was only partially wrong.  Read on.

So, I started searching.  Came across this website: which was really old (from like 2001) but mentioned that the aseptic folks have spent a lot of time and money trying to educate consumers about how to recycle their containers (um, how about printing any information ON the cartons?).  They mentioned that Coca Cola had a list of aseptic recycling locations, and to call their number, 1-800-888-6488.  I actually called it.  It is now Minute Maid, but the operator who I spoke with was very nice and gave me this website: 
This is the website for the Carton Council (did you know there was one?)
Their website lets you put in your state and then displays all the towns that currently recycle "cartons" which is what both the bigger refrigerated soy milks are called as well as the smaller, aseptic containers.  And, guess what? My town was listed.  I promptly called the Public Works and spoke to a very nice lady.  I told her what happened several times last year to my cartons (thrown in my driveway) and she explained that the recycling of cartons in my town is new (like in the last 6 months or so, she wasn't sure) so to try again.  She told me to call her back if they guys throw it in the driveway again.  Likely, she said, they just need some reminding of the new recycling rules.  Victory.

I love a happy ending.

There are still many areas of the country where you still absolutely cannot recycle cartons/aseptics (many places distinguish different types of "cartons" so check your town's recycling rules).  Aseptic and carton recycling is mostly new, within the last few years.  Check to see if your town recycles cartons.  It is a well organized website and easy to use.  The search box is right in the middle of the home page (revolutionary, I know).

Oh, and my next post will be about junk mail, or what we can do to stop it.  When is it going to become ILLEGAL?? It is incredibly wasteful and horrible for the environment.  And it is very difficult to stop.   It seems to be the only thing keeping the USPS in business. I feel badly for the workers, but we need to stop this now outdated and totally wasteful practice.  More to come...

I'll keep you guys posted, no pun intended.