Spicy Peanut Tofu, Kale, and Chard

I LOVE the internet.

First off…I hate talking on the phone, so the internet is my central method of communication: I can e-mail, message, or text whenever I want. I can consult my dog’s Facebook page to see what my nieces and their kids are up to…and I can share pictures of my dogs doing ridiculous things (yeah, yeah, my dog has a Facebook page).

I also access all my news online: sure, The New York Times allows you to read only ten free articles per month, but clear your browser and you’re good to go for another ten.

Because we don’t have a TV, I also access all my entertainment online–books, audio books, podcasts, movies, and TV series are all only a click away.

And, until we retired last May, I also performed a great deal of my work online since all of our courses were either partially or fully online.

However, one of the coolest things about living online is that you can look in your fridge, see what you have, and then search for a recipe with those items. More often than not, you’ll end up with a long list of recipes.

And the best part: the recipes are invariably reviewed, so you quickly know whether it’s crap or worth a try. Quite the departure from looking through cookbooks and simply taking a chance!

I was dying for a stir-fry this evening, but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’re not going into town until tomorrow and, other than onions, jalapeno, and ginger, I had only what’s growing on the deck: kale, chard, and beet greens.

Fortunately, I managed to find this very well-reviewed recipe online, which I adapted with the addition of soy sauce, sambal oelek, and Better Than Bouillon vegetable paste. I also topped it with cashews, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds!

Spicy Peanut Tofu, Kale, and Chard

Spray a pan and saute until onions are soft:

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 TBS grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder

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Blend in the bullet or blender and add to the pan and simmer until it thickens:

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 TBS Sambal Oelek
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable paste

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Once the mixture is simmering, add the following and simmer until the kale is softened:

  • 10 ounces (or so) chopped baby kale, Swiss chard, and beet leaves
  • 1 package puffy tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

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Serve over brown basmati rice, sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds, and top with a handful of cashews.

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IT. IS. SO. DAMN. GOOD.

Oh, and the last thing I love about the internet: I can save all my adapted recipes and food experiments on this blog for future reference…and to share with my little community of plant-based foodies!!

 

 

Desperation Stew

Okay, that title might be a tad histrionic, but we’ll get to that later.

Whenever I’ve fallen off the healthy, plant-based wagon for a bit, I’m always desperate for my super-healthy red lentil stew. It’s filling, healthy, super-quick (particularly for a legume-based soup) and always delicious. You can vary the vegetables depending on what you have in the garden or larder, but you always need potatoes and lentils.

Lentils I have; potatoes, I have none.

Indeed, we haven’t been in to Courtenay for groceries for a couple of weeks, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I always like to see how long we can go between visits into town.  And there’s always SOMETHING I can make: we have tons of canned and dried beans of various varieties, tofu, flour and yeast aplenty, and bushels of kale and romaine in the garden. We even have some great veggie burgers we’ll likely have for dinner this evening. Heck, I could have made any number of meals…

But…I wanted my special lentil stew because I always feel healthier almost immediately after having a bowl.

Here’s what I had:

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Yes, two carrots, an onion, garlic, and a bunch of kale and half of a zucchini from the garden. My zucchini plant this year yielded exactly ONE zucchini and I used the other half to make a loaf of zucchini bread for friends visiting Hornby yesterday. It was only when Em asked if I didn’t have any frozen vegetables that I had the brilliant idea to use frozen hashbrowns in place of fresh potatoes (I also noticed frozen corn in there, so I threw a handful of that in as well).

Now, the frozen hashbrowns might seem like a bit of an odd choice, but, first off, they’re McCain’s Shredded Hashbrowns and they contain nothing but potatoes (no salt, oil, nothing….oh, there is some citric acid to retain colour). If you like hashbrowns, these are the bomb-diggity: spray your sandwich grill with a bit of oil, line it with a layer of these babies, close it for fifteen minutes, and voila: delicious, crispy, low-fat hashbrowns!!). In fact, I must’ve read the ingredients on EVERY damn package of hashbrowns in the freezer case before I discovered the beauty of these relatively healthy frozen potatoes.

diced-vegetable-hashbrowns

Anyway, I thought I’d try them in the soup:

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And believe it or not, the soup turned out to be surprisingly delicious (though I think I’d give the corn a pass in the future)!!

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Super Healthy Vegan Pizza

So the plan for this evening is to create the healthiest possible vegan pizza with as many organic, homemade ingredients as possible.

The crust is homemade whole-wheat bread dough.

The “cheese” is  homemade meltable mozzarella: Part I and Part II

For the sauce I used homegrown tomatoes that were a gift from friends from Vancouver and fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary from my garden.

I used this simple sauce recipe–it’s very fresh tasting because of the fresh tomatoes and herbs:

Fresh, Vegan Pizza Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes
  • handful of fresh oregano
  • handful of fresh basil
  • handful of fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sugar)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Blend it all up in the blender well in advance of pizza preparation, so the fresh herbs have a chance to meld into the sauce.

The toppings include fresh basil from the garden and fresh baby kale (also from the garden).

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…and the vegan pizzas turned out brilliantly!!

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Vegan Cheddar: Meltable!!

I was SO pleased with the meltable mozzarella that I’m now on a bit of a Miyoko Schinner jag. The next vegan cheese I’m trying (from her Artisan Vegan Cheese) is the Meltable Vegan Cheddar!

Meltable Vegan Cheddar

Ingredients:

Stage 1:

  • 1 cup plain soy yogurt
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 TBS nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2.5 TBS brown miso
  • 1 tsp salt

Stage 2:

  • 5 TBS tapioca flour
  • 1 TBS kappa carrageenan powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Directions:

1.  Process the ingredients:

Put the “Stage 1” ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.

2. Culture the cheese:
Transfer to a clean glass bowl or container, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, until mildly sharp in flavour. I just took the blade out of the food processor, replaced the cover, and let it sit for the prescribed time.
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3. Thicken the cheese:

Transfer to a heavy medium saucepan and whisk in the tapioca flour and carrageenan. For a stretchier consistency, whisk in the optional xanthan gum. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with the whisk, until very smooth, thick, gooey, and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Form the cheese:

Pour the mixture into a glass container (like this adorable little brie baker) and smooth the top. Let cool completely at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until firm.

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Wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a ziplock bag, meltable cheddar will keep for about 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

Update: My niece, Dana, and her boyfriend, Keith, were up for the day today (Sunday, August 21st) and we tried the cheddar melted on black bean burgers and it was delicious! Keith (not a vegan) even enjoyed it!

Here’s a pic of my cutie-pie from a few months ago…

IMG_0699

Oh, and I’ve started up a batch of rejuvelac in order to make some Sharp Vegan Cheddar.

Rejuvelac “is a raw food made by sprouting a grain, soaking the sprouted grain in water for about two days at room temperature, and then reserving the liquid.” Some people (likely hippies and crazy people) ACTUALLY DRINK IT, but I’m using it to make sharp cheddar…in a few days.

You can use any whole grain to create rejuvelac, so I used quinoa.

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Vegan Meltable Mozzarella (Part II): Success!!

I’m sure I left you on the edge of your seats yesterday (see Vegan Meltable Mozzarella Part I) as you awaited the conclusion of my meltable vegan cheese experiment (haha!).

Soooo….after waiting about twenty-two hours for the vegan cheese base to get “tangy,” I was ready for the next step, which is to cook and thicken the mixture (as outlined in Part I):

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To thicken the mixture, you use tapioca starch, kappa carrageenan, and xanthan gum….

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…which you whisk into the mixture over medium heat:

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And then stir like hell until it’s all smooth and shiny and unified:

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I’m glad I watched the video from Part I because you can actually see the moment when the mixture gets all shiny.

I don’t have an ice cream scoop, so I just scooped the mixture in two big wooden-spoonfuls into the brine (8 cups ice water with a tsp. of salt mixed in):

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Now, it cools pretty quickly, and though in this picture, it looks like the brain my Psych prof office-mate used to store  in a corner of our shared office (in an ice-cream bucket full of formaldehyde!), the result really has the texture of mozzarella:

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I did a practice run of melting it on a cracker and the texture was PERFECT!! It melts MUCH better than the Daiya. Now, the result is not hard enough to grate; the texture is more like a raw mozzarella in texture (a bit like Bocconcini), so I’ll likely end up tearing it into shreds to top a pizza.

And here it is topping crostini with Yves’ Vegan Ham–notice how it melts and browns! It really is the most perfect vegan cheese I’ve ever tasted!!!

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Next, I’m going to try Miyoko Schinner’s meltable cheddar!

And this evening, I’m going to use my meltable vegan mozzarella to create the world’s healthiest vegan pizza!

 

 

 

 

Vegan Mozzarella (Part I)…and it’s Meltable!

We had a houseful of guests last week, and for their final evening, I made pizza–two regular vegetarian pies and one vegan pie. Funnily enough, even the non-vegetarians enjoyed the vegan one as much as the regular vegetarian pie!

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And…honestly…can you tell which of these two pies is vegan?!! …I didn’t think so!

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Now, I’ve been refining my various ingredients throughout the summer, and one thing I’ve been dying to try is making my own meltable mozzarella, rather than using the exorbitantly priced Daiya. My other objection to the Daiya is that it’s highly processed and the stuff I’m trying is not.

Daiya_Shreds-US_3D_Mozza_500x500

So, I did my research first and found that Miyoko Schinner is the big vegan cheese guru, so I ordered two of her books. For good measure, I ordered another book as well–this one by Michael Conroy. After reading about a thousand recipes, I settled on one of Schinner’s:

Next, I, over the course of a couple of weeks, I gathered my ingredients–two of which I had to order from Amazon!!

Vegan Meltable Mozzarella

Here’s a short video of the process:

Ingredients

1 cup soy yogurt

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup canola oil (I used vegetable oil because I had no canola)

2 tsp salt

6 TBS tapioca flour

1 TBS kappa carrageenan powder

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Directions:

1.  Process the ingredients:

Put the yogurt, water, oil, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy, occasionally stopping to scrape down the blender jar and move the mixture toward the blades.

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2. Culture the cheese:
Transfer to a clean glass bowl or container, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, until mildly sharp in flavour.
3. Thicken the cheese:

Transfer to a heavy medium saucepan and whisk in the tapioca flour and carrageenan. For a stretchier consistency, whisk in the optional xanthan gum. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with the whisk, until very smooth, thick, gooey, and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Form the cheese:

To make a brine, put the ice water and remaining teaspoon of salt in a large bowl and stir until the salt dissolves. Form the cheese into balls using a small ice-cream scoop, dropping them into the brine as you go. They will harden almost instantly. Cover and refrigerate, keeping the cheese stored in the brine.

Okay…so I’m now I have to wait until tomorrow for step three!

To be continued….

 

A “Pear-Shaped” Mango-Fig-Avocado Salsa

Several years ago, a colleague/friend from another college asked me for a letter of reference for a Dean’s job, and in our back-and-forthing about it, he used the expression “pear-shaped” (as in, “…and if this whole thing goes pear-shaped, I still have my current position to lean back on”). I’d never heard the expression, but thought at the time it was the most marvellous expression I’d ever heard. To “go pear-shaped” means “to go (badly) wrong, to go awry.”  I’m surprised I’d never heard it since it’s apparently a Britishism and, more particularly, an RAF expression (and both my parents served in the RAF during the Second World War).

In any event, a few days ago, a neighbour brought over some lovely peppers and tomatoes…along with a handful of small green pear-shaped things, and (like the expression “pear-shaped”) I had absolutely no idea what they were.

Figs. They were figs.

Figs_030213_0001

So, as it turns out, I have not only vegetable dyslexia, but fruit dyslexia as well.

I ate one, and it was very good, but INSANELY sweet, so I figured I’d save the other three until I found a good recipe for them, and today I found one (well, two, as it turns out).

The recipe I finally decided upon was a mango, fig, and avocado salsa. I settled on it because I had all the ingredients and exactly THREE figs. But I was also humming and hawing about another one–a tomato-fig salsa–so I had both tabs open on my Macbook before finally deciding on the mango, fig, and avocado salsa. I started to make the salsa and was well into it…when my e-mail pinged and I stopped to check it.

And that’s when things went pear-shaped.

After checking my e-mail (yet another message from the Green Party asking for $$), I inadvertently went back to the wrong recipe and started adding things that didn’t seem quite right (like garlic, lime zest, balsamic vinegar).

And yet…the salsa turned out surprisingly well–very fresh and delicious!!

Here we go:

Mango, Fig, and Avocado Salsa 

  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • ½ semi-firm avocado, cubed
  • 3 figs, chopped
  • ¼ red onion, thinly diced
  • 1 TBS cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 TBS lime juice
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp salt, or to preference

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the avocado last and toss gently. Serve with tortilla chips.

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20/10: would do again in a New-York minute!