Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Easy Weeknight Asian - Pad Thai

I love Pad Thai. It's quick and easy, fun to eat, and very versatile. This is another weeknight meal that only takes about 15-20 minutes from start to finish. Real Pad Thai uses fish sauce, so I substituted for tamari. I also left out the egg.

2 1/2 Tb. lime juice
1/2 Tb. lemon juice
2 Tb. sugar
2 Tb. tamari
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. Thai chili paste

1/4 box (about 2 oz.) thin rice noodles
1 Tb. oil
1/2 bag broccoli slaw
1/2 block smoked tofu
1 tsp. minced garlic

Green onions, chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Unsalted, roasted peanuts, chopped
Toasted sesame seeds
Additional chili paste
Lime wedges

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add rice noodles and stir. Turn off heat and let sit for about 8 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, heat a skillet with oil. Add slaw, tofu, and garlic and saute until crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, lemon juice, sugar, tamari, garlic, and chili paste. Add it to the stir-fry and simmer another minute or two. Remove from heat. Drain and rinse the noodles and return to the pot. To serve, place hot rice noodles on a plate, top with stir-fry, and then top with desired toppings. Serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!

Easy Weeknight Asian - Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Tofu

I'm going to post two of my favorite recipes. I often make them in the same grocery period (the two weeks between each payday...) because I can split some of the same ingredients up for another meal later in the week (hooray for Pad Thai!). This first recipe is a real quickie, only about 15 minutes from start to finish. To help cut time I buy smoked tofu and broccoli slaw mix. Around here the price slaw mix is comparable to buying all the fresh veggies and making it yourself. Anyway, this dish really isn't that spicy, even with the chili oil. It also has a nice peanutty flavor and provides a satisfying crunch.

Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Tofu:
Peanut sauce:
1/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbs. smooth peanut butter (I use Skippy Natural. It's good stuff).
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 Tb. agave nectar
1 tsp. chili oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
A few shakes of toasted sesame oil

1 Tb. oil
1 tsp. chili oil
1/2 bag of shredded broccoli slaw
1/2 block smoked tofu, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 (8 oz.) pkg. udon noodles

Green onions, chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Unsalted, roasted peanuts, chopped
Toasted seasame seeds

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the udon noodles, and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, add oil and chili oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add slaw mix, tofu, and garlic and saute a few minutes or until crisp-tender. While all this is going on, make peanut sauce by whisking all the ingredients until smooth. When noodles are done, drain and rinse. Add the noodles, along with the peanut sauce, to the stir-fry. Turn off the heat and mix to coat the noodles with sauce. Divide into bowls and sprinkle with green onions, cilantro, peanuts, and sesame seeds to serve. Enjoy!


I adore freshly made pico de gallo! It's quick, easy to make, and good on just about everything. Here's a basic recipe to begin with, but feel free to adjust to your liking. I like mine a little sweet, a little salty, lime-y, and with a good heat! I also choose to use Roma tomatoes because they have a good flavor, but are low on seeds and pulp. Enjoy!

5 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced (remove the seeds for a little less heat)
1/4 c. cilantro, losely packed, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Prepare all ingredients. I also roll my lime around on the table until it's soft to release all its juice. In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, and salt. Mix well. You can also store it covered in the refrigerator for a couple days.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentine's Day Dinner, Part 2


I'm sure most of you are not familiar with Flarts, and well, I've kind of created them after seeing them on tv. There's this amazing cartoon called "Chowder" and it plays on Cartoon Network. It's about this little boy who's an apprentice to a chef named Mung Daal (all the characters have food names). It's a really funny cartoon and it has a cult following. There's lots of references to things older people would get (like songs or movies), the concept is ridiculously cute, and Chowder (along with Mung Daal and Schnitzel) are just plain loveable. 


In the famous, "I'm Not Your Boyfriend" episode, Panini (a girl character) gives Chowder some Flarts, which are like a heart-shaped cookie. He munches on them throughout the episode. I love this cartoon so much I decided to pay homage to it and make this cookies. After all, they are famous for romance...

This show is pretty quirky, and some of the food items have funny names. There's a dish called "froggy apple crumple thumpkin" as well as "old thyme cow pie". Then there's "grabbles" (a fruit), "slomatoes" (a vegetable), "grubble gum" (a candy) and so on. I really love this cartoon! It's such a nice change from all the other cartoons you see on tv nowadays.

1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
1/3 c. vanilla soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 small jar (10 oz.) organic raspberry preserves

1. Whisk together the white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. 

2. In a large bowl, beat margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. 

3. Gradually beat soymik, vanilla extract, and almond extract into the margarine mixture until combined. Beat in flour mixture until a soft dough forms. 

4. Pat the dough into a ball, cover it well with plastic wrap, and then place it in the refrigerator to chill for a least an hour. If you skip this step, the cookie down will be extremely hard to work with. 

5. After removing the dough from the fridge, turn out onto parchment paper and roll out until the dough is about 1/8-1/4 in. thick. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, press hearts into dough, making them as close together as possible without overlapping. DON"T PULL APART. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes. You can skip the re-chilling if the dough is still nice and firm and they seem to pull off the paper easily without ripping.

6. Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and top with cut-out hearts. Bake for about 15 minutes and let cool on the pan (to crispen them up).

7. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook raspberry preserves until reduced to about 1 cup. It should take about 15 minutes or so. When cool, place about 2 tablespoons jam on one heart cookie and top with another to make a "jam sandwich". 

There you have it! My vegan rendition of "flarts"!

This recipe makes a delicious sugar-type cookie. You can cut them out in shapes, or roll them into balls, bake them soft or bake them crispy. You can morph them into thumbprints or snickerdoodles, or roll them out and ice them like a traditional sugar cookie. Have fun! 

Sorry I don't have a picture of any "flarts", but I do have a recipe modification!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies:
To make jam thumbprints, prepare the recipe as above. Starting from Step 4: 

After removing the chilled dough from the fridge, roll pieces of dough between your hands to get balls about an inch or so in diameter. 

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and using your thumb, make a little indentation in the center of each ball.

Fill each ball with about 1/2 tsp. of preserves of choice (I usually use raspberry or blackberry), basically just enough to fill the well you made. 

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for two minutes, then let cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

St. Valentine's Day Dinner, Part 1

So for Valentine's Day, I decided to make my wife a special meal. We've gotten away from going out to eat because we got to the point where we were doing that way too often, so instead I made her an Indian-themed meal. We had tofu simmered in a medium-hot sauce by Jalfrezi. I found it at the health-food store. It's completely organic and vegan and it has a wonderful aroma. It's full of bell peppers, coconut, onions, and Indian spices. I'll work on that recipe next...

Although I'm not a wine expert, I thought the spices of this meal paired well with a California pinot grigio, but any slightly dry or semi-dry white wine will do. I think wine always adds a little romance and Valentine's Day should be full of it!

1 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water, or more if needed
flour for dusting

Combine white flour, wheat flour, and salt. Add water and combine. Add enough water to make the dough form into a ball. With your hands, make 8 balls of dough the size of ping pong balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball out until it's about 5 inches in diameter and thin. Be sure to dust every once in awhile with flour so that the chappatis don't stick. In a hot, ungreased skillet. Cook each chappati one minute per side (two minutes total) or until the dough puffs up a little. Repeat the cooking process for each chappati. If you have a gas stove, hold it over the flame for a bit until it starts to puff out. If you have an electric stove, cook it a little longer in the skillet (it won't puff out a whole lot). They're best when served hot, but are very good room temperature too.

Yellow Rice
1 c. Basmati rice
1 3/4 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. turmeric

Rinse rice. Add water, salt, and turmeric to rice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes.

The tofu was drained, cut into cubes, and sauted until golden in a skillet with a little bit of oil. I then took a short cut and added a jar of Jalfrezi bell-pepper and coconut "simmer sauce" and 1/2 c. of water to the skillet; covered it, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. I served the tofu over rice with a chappati.

For this meal, I went all out! I covered our "sitting pillows" with a large green tapestry and I lit two pomegranate-scented candles, one on each side. In the space between the pillows we placed our plates and wine glasses (we wanted to face each other as we ate). The "flarts" (which are famous for romance...) were sat off to one side, while our hookah, loaded with coconut shisha sat off to the other. After the meal came dessert, and after dessert came the hookah!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Southern New Year's Day Soup

Photo courtesy of Vegetarian Times

This recipe is from the January 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. I had been wanting to try kale for a long time, and this recipe beckoned to me. It's been changed a little from it's original version (mostly to veganize it). It's sooo good, especially when served with some nice hunks of bread! 

It's called New Year's Day Soup because in the South there are three things you need to eat on New Year's Day to have good luck in the upcoming year: greens, black-eyed peas, and stewed tomatoes. However, I'd recommend eating them all year round!

Southern New Year's Day Soup:

2 Tb. olive oil
1-2 leeks, quartered, white and light green parts chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 Tb. poultry seasoning
8 oz. kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn into smaller pieces
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz. or so) can black-eyed peas
2 c. vegetable broth
1/2 c. farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and saute 5 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and poultry seasoning, and saute 1 minute more. 

2. Stir in kale and cook another 5 minutes, or until leaves are wilted, tossing occasionally. 

3. Add diced tomatoes, black-eyed peas, vegetable broth, pasta, and 3 c. water. Stir and simmer 15 minutes or until pasta is done. Enjoy!

About 5 servings/130 calories each

To take a look at the original version, click here

Chickpea Tagine with Butternut Squash

This recipe came from the October 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. Tagine is a North African stew, often incorporating ingredients such as saffron, cinnamon, raisins, currants, nuts, citrus fruits, olives, or cumin. It's a regional dish so the flavors vary. I've changed it a little bit from the VT version, basically substituting raisins for currants, maple syrup for honey, and soy yogurt for Greek yogurt. I was originally going to serve this with some Israeli couscous, but the Butternut in the pantry was calling my name. I spiced it was similar seasonings, baked and mashed it, then served it underneath the tagine. The flavors were delicious together and the soy yogurt complemented all the sweetness nicely. It also filled the house with an amazing aroma!

I'm sure this would also be good without the squash, if you'd like.

2 Tb. olive oil (divided)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tb. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 (14.5 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 c. raisins
1 Tb. maple syrup (divided)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (divided)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne (red) pepper
1 butternut squash, halved and seeds removed
Plain soy yogurt

Prepare squash:
Place 1 Tb. oil, 1/4 c. water, and squash halves in a roasting pan. Drizzle with 1/2 Tb. maple syrup and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Cover and bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.

When the squash is half done, prepare the tagine:
Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute a few minutes, or until onion slices are soft. Stir in chickpeas, carrots, raisins, spices, maple syrup, and 2 cups water. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

Before serving:
Scoop the squash out of the shells and mash. On each plate, place a layer of squash under a layer of tagine. Serve with a dollop of plain soy yogurt!

4 servings/350 calories each (includes squash and yogurt)

I hope to get better at my picture-taking and food styling, so please, bear with me!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Texas Chocolate Cake!

Earlier today, my wife got off work and said, "man, I should've brought us home two slices of chocolate cake". The cake we have at work is horribly delicious, and unfortunately, not vegan. It's so good, but I feel bad after eating it. Glad she left the cake at work, but eager to do some baking, I told her that I would love to bake her a chocolate cake and got right to work. One of my favorite cake recipes of all-time is for Texas Sheet Cake, a moist cake often made with buttermilk, eggs, and butter. Feeling adventurous, I decided this was the cake for us! It only took about 15 minutes to whip up, and 30 to bake. It's heavenly! I was so proud! This is the first vegan cake I've ever made and it opens a whole new door into vegan baking for me! I brought this over to my cousins' house (who are omni he-men) and was told that this was one of the best cakes they'd ever eaten! They had no clue it was vegan. It's so moist and airy that it puts other non-veg cakes to shame. It's delicious, you must try it!

NOTE: While reading this recipe, you might scoff at the idea of vinegar, but DON"T leave it out! Vinegar is important because it reacts with the soda to help the cake rise. Without it, the cake would become very dense, like a brownie (hmm...). Also, I use rice vinegar (plain, unseasoned) because it has a very neutral taste unlike say, apple cider vinegar (which I just plain don't like).

1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1 c. Turbinado sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rice vingear
1/2 c. strong coffee
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. sliced almonds, optional

1 (1 oz.) square unsweetened (vegan) chocolate
1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tb. hot water

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, vanilla, rice vinegar, coffee, and water. Add the flour mixture a little at a time to the wet ingredients, then stir until well-mixed. Pour into a greased and floured 9" x 13" x 2" pan and bake for 30-45 minutes (I had mine on a baking stone so it only took 30 minutes to cook. Without a baking stone it might take another 15 minutes or so) until the cake springs back when touched or a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate completely in a medium bowl. Add the powdered sugar and stir until smooth, adding one or two tablespoons of hot water to help smooth it out. Glaze the cake while still warm, and sprinkle with sliced almonds (if desired).
Let sit about 15 minutes before serving.

8 servings/270 calories (without almonds, 255)

Omit cinnamon.
Omit coffee and substitute with water (1 c. water total).
Omit almonds.
Use the above glaze or substitute with your favorite vegan frosting/icing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Quick Brussels Sprout Skillet

I've been wanting to try brussels sprouts for ages! The other day, when I was at the store with a friend of mine I asked her, "have you ever tried these? Did you like them?" When she told me she liked them and that those particular sprouts were nice and tasty, I bought about 2 lbs. of them. I had seen an issue of Vegetarian Times where they cooked them with walnuts, so I thought I'd try it (with walnuts, that is). This dish is great. I've never had brussels sprouts before and I must say, I'm now a fan. Serve with some cooked quinoa or a baked potato for a full meal, or serve as a side dish.

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
5 Brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1/2 Tb. olive oil
2 tsp. agave syrup
1 tsp. lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a dry skillet, toast walnut pieces until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plat. In a medium skillet, saute onions, peppers, sprouts, and garlic until golden, about 8 minutes. Add lemon juice, agave, and 1 c. water. Partially cover and simmer another 5-8 minutes (on medium still) or until water has evaporated and sprouts are tender. Stir in walnut pieces. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Let's Make a Tofu Dinner: Step-By-Step Tofu with Coconut Rice

Many people are intimidated by tofu, and I can see why. It's hard to imagine that a mushy white block of curd can somehow be transformed into a meal of gourmet proportions. It seems as though all the recipes you find on the web leave out a few steps and that mushy white block of curd still remains mushy and white even though you've tried frying it, baking it, marinating it, sauteing it... To make this easy, I'm going to give you a step-by-step play on how to make a simple tofu dish, full of flavor, and free of cruelty. It's in three parts, just to make it easier on you. This dish only takes about 30 minutes to make, from start to finish.

Coconut Rice:
1 1/2 c. Basmati rice
1/2 (regular-sized) can coconut milk
2 c. water
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. turmeric

1/2 can coconut milk
1 1/2 Tb. tamari or soy sauce
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 tsp. chile paste (such as Sriracha)
1/4 tsp. turmeric

1 block extra-firm tofu
1 red pepper
1 onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
oil to saute

Ready? OK! To make this meal we got a planned procedure from start to finish:

1. Drain tofu and place on a plate. Top with another plate and set something heavy on it. I usually use my glass sugar jar. The tofu needs to drain at least 15 minutes.

2. Rinse rice.

3. Bring rice, water, coconut milk, salt, and turmeric to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 20 minutes.

4. While rice is cooking, cut up your veggies. Slice the onions and peppers. Set aside.

5. Prepare the sauce. Mix the coconut milk, tamari or soy sauce, brown sugar, chile paste, and turmeric. Set aside.

6. Heat a skillet on medium with a little oil.

7. Give the tofu one last drain, then cube it and add to the hot skillet, turning up the heat a little if necessary. Brown on ALL sides. Remove from skillet and place on a plate.

8. Add the sliced onions, peppers, and minced garlic to the hot skillet. Add a little more oil if necessary, then saute over medium-high until golden and delicious-looking.

9. Add cooked tofu to the skillet. Add the sauce to the skillet and stir.

10. Check on the rice. Has it been 20 minutes yet? Is it done? If so, turn off and remove from heat. Keep covered.

11. Let tofu, onions, and peppers simmer on medium-high until the sauce is thick, about 5-10 minutes.

12. Spoon rice onto plate. Spoon tofu mixture over rice. Serve with a little more chile paste if desired.

There you have it. 12 steps to delicious tofu! And you thought it would be complicated. I wish I had seen a step-by-step tofu method when I was first looking to cook it. The first couple of times it didn't turn out that good! Lol.

Here's a few tips to use when you're working with tofu:
Always brown it first. It helps the tofu firm up and absorb flavors better, and it helps get rid of excess water.

Simmer, simmer, simmer. Simmering the tofu for at least 10-15 minutes helps it absorb sauce and flavor and make it oh-so-yummy.

Drain it! At least 15 minutes, or until water stops coming out of it. If you walk away from the kitchen for an hour it'll still be okay.

Baking tofu is a GREAT idea. It helps lock in flavor and add texture. Here's an easy baked tofu recipe. 

There's also rumors you can freeze it, but I haven't experimented too much with that.