Monday, June 18, 2012

Poppy Seed Fruit Salad

I've really been hitting up those summer foods. Sandwiches, cole slaw, cool pickled veggies, and now fruit salad. Because really, I love fruit salad. I actually prefer it to other desserts that one might bring to a BBQ or potluck. Cold fruit just tastes better when you're hanging out outside!

That's right. I'm gonna eat this salad. 'Eff you urine test!

There's a lot of recipes out there that call for a creamy dressing made of mayo. Which aside from being not vegan, also makes it more fattening (completely negating the fact that you're eating fruit), and makes it more perishable. Not a good idea when you're going to be bringing a dish somewhere where it will be out in the heat. This fruit salad is unique because it's a perfect blend of ripe, tropical fruit and the summer berries that are at their peak now. Nothing boring in this salad! It also has a "dressing" made of pureed honeydew, which lightens the overall salad and gives it plenty of flavor. Oh, and it's got poppy seeds in it, which I'm a huge fan of, and can eat all the time now because I don't have to worry about losing my job. Lol.

Anywho, this recipe is based on one found on the Whole Foods website, only it's been changed to make it taste better and be more convenient. Don't get me wrong, I love papaya (which is what the original called for), but most of the time in stores they aren't ripe at all. And they're huge! Substituting mango with papaya still gives it plenty of tropical flavor, but they're easier to tell when they're ripe and you aren't left with a bunch of fruit. I also left out the cantaloupe. Cause that stuff is gross. Lol.

Oh, and just a piece of advice. Taste the fruit as you go. Nothing ruins a fruit salad quicker than fruit that's not at it's prime. Oh, and wash that fruit! Just make sure to drain off any excess water before you add the "dressing".

Poppyseed Fruit Salad:
2 c. sliced strawberries
2 c. honeydew melon, cubed, divided
1 c. fresh blueberries
1 c. chopped mango
1 banana, ripe but not overripe (it needs to be somewhat firm), chopped
2 kiwis, peeled and chopped
2 Tb. fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 Tb. liquid sweetener
1 Tb. poppy seeds
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of ginger

1. In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, 1 cup of the honeydew, blueberries, mango, banana, and kiwi. Set aside.

2. In a blender, combine the remaining one cup of honeydew, lemon/lime juice, liquid sweetener, poppy seeds, cinnamon and ginger. Blend thoroughly.

3. Toss the dressing with the fruit, coating all of it. Cover, and let chill for a couple of hours before serving.

I didn't really do the math or anything, but it's about 150 calories a serving, and this recipe makes about six good-sized servings.

Maybe one of these days I'll veganize the fruit salad I grew up eating (swapping out mayo for Veganaise, marshmallows for Dandie's, etc.), but for now, I just really enjoy eating this one in all it's fruity fresh glory!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Sandwich: Tofu Banh Mi

I've been on a packaged broccoli slaw kick here recently. That stuff is great. It's usually just a smallish packed with broccoli stem and carrot matchsticks (I'm not even sure if there's any cabbage in there) and it's very multipurpose. I use a bag every time I made Pad Thai, when I made slightly-more-authentic tacos, and as an effective time-saver when making a quick stir-fry. My newest use of it? My Tofu Banh Mi.

The Banh Mi is a Vietnamese-French fusion sandwich. Back in the days when France colonized parts of Indochina, they would take their native foods (like their glorious baguettes) and incorporate them with the local fare (like pickled vegetables and grilled meats). That's what happened to create the Banh Mi. It's usually not vegan, but I've played around and came up with a quick and easy vegan version that uses baked tofu and lots of crunchy veggies.

I usually bake up the tofu beforehand, and then when I want to make a sandwich I just pull together all the stuff and it's ready in 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can make the "pickled" vegetable mix early in the morning and take the sandwich ingredients with you to lunch (I pack my lunches) and then assemble the sandwich right before eating it. The sandwich recipe below makes one sandwich, though it could easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc. The baked tofu recipe uses a full package of tofu and makes about six servings of tofu, so you'll have leftovers for later.

Tofu Banh Mi:
1/2 c. packaged broccoli slaw mix
1/8 c. shredded carrots
1 green onion, white and green parts, sliced
2 Tb. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sugar/liquid sweetener
Big pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tb. Veganaise or Reduced-Fat Veganaise
Sriracha, to taste
1 (4.5 inch) section of baguette (I love sourdough here)
1 to 1 1/2 servings of baked tofu cubes (depending on how hungry you are, lol), recipe follows
Romaine lettuce leaves
Sliced English cucumber
Chopped cilantro

1. In a small bowl, combine the broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, chopped green onion, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Mix well and set aside.

2. Spread the baguette with the Veganaise and sriracha. Layer it with the lettuce, cucumber, cilantro, and baked tofu. Using a slotted spoon or fork, place the slaw mixture on the sandwich and replace the top part of the baguette. Enjoy!

Simple Baked Tofu:

1 pkg. tofu (the high-protein super firm variety is great for this recipe), pressed, drained, cubed
2 Tb. soy sauce or tamari
1 Tb rice vinegar
1/2 Tb. oil (peanut or canola is good)
1 tsp. sweetener of choice
1 tsp. sriracha or chile-garlic paste (sambal oelek)
a few drops toasted sesame oil (adds umami!)

Preheat oven to 375

1. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sweetener, chile paste, and toasted sesame oil. Add the tofu cubes and swirl to coat.

2. Add tofu and soy sauce mixture to the pan and bake at 375 for about 35 minutes, or until firmed and browned on all sides. Toss the cubes around every once and awhile while baking, and swirl in marinade if necessary. 

This is a very good basic baked tofu recipe. You can also embellish on it and make a Thai version, a Chinese version, an Italian version, etc. I just find the 2:1 soy sauce to vinegar ratio my way to go. Also, the longer you bake it, the more chewy and delicious it will become.

It's not the best picture ever, but as you can see, it is a sandwich literally overflowing with deliciousness. And check out that tofu! I was mostly hungry and without the patience to stage a pretty photograph, lol.

This Tofu Banh Mi is definitely a cool, crisp sandwich perfect for a hot, summer day!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quick Pickles and a Tour of My Place!

Hi, everyone!

I think I've finally gotten myself completely settled into my new apartment. It took me almost a month, but I guess sometimes that's how long it takes!

My place is a little 600 square feet den in the basement of a log cabin. I have windows in my bedroom (so that birds can wake me up at 5:00 am... but I love it!), so it's still nice and light inside there. I love the fact that it's "earth-sheltered" because the temperature stays fairly consistent and because I feel all safe. I have a horrible fear of storms/tornadoes and even now, as an adult, when I'm back home and I see the clouds start to darken I start to freak out. So long story short, that's why I picked a graduate school that was NOT in the Midwest (also because I'm a plant biologist and I'm not interested in studying corn or soybeans). And, when I was looking for an apartment and I found this cute little nook, I knew I had to live here. It's got an open kitchen/dining room, a bedroom, and a bathroom.

As you can see, it kind of looks like a log cabin on the inside. Lots of pine woodwork and trim. I'm also cooking with gas now. I love cooking with my gas stove, lol. The other side is just my comfy chaise that I sit in and a small tv. Oh, and I think maybe you noticed that I have a new member of my family?

This is Zoe (or Zoey). She's a four-year-old-ish lab mix. A friend of my also got accepted into grad school, but he was gonna be moving into a large apartment complex in Houston. He made the painful decision to hand her over to me so that she could be happy. You know, so she could run around on the farm all day and play with the other dogs here, rather being cramped up in a small apartment all day. She loves it here. I don't even need to put her on a leash. She just runs around and comes inside when I call her.

I normally wouldn't care too much about showing y'all my bathroom, but I have to because I have the most awesome shower curtain ever. It was sold out for ever, so I was put on a waiting list for this biatch but I eventually got one. Best $30 I ever spent!!

I got it at Plasticland ( Pretty much everything they have there is like it was made for me, and don't even get me started on those clothes or those shoes!!

Then finally, we have the bedroom. I was gonna do blue and brown, but my bed and dresser turned out to be super dark, and I didn't want to buy new blankets, so I went with purple and dark brown.

So there you have it! My apartment. It's nice and quiet. I don't have noisy neighbors, or busy streets, or anything to distract me from my studies. Heck, I don't even have a roommate to distract me (thank goodness!). I hope to stay here for a long time, and I definitely wouldn't mind staying here the entire duration of my grad school career.

Anyway, enough about me! I promised y'all a recipe in my last post and I'm here to deliver! I'm going to a cookout today and I'm bringing along my Poppy Seed Coleslaw and these Quick Pickles. That coleslaw recipe is better than before since I finally got around to updating it. I used Reduced-Fat Veganaise, but regular or another brand is okey dokey too.

These pickles are super easy to make and stay good in your fridge for two weeks. They're crispy and crunchy and just tasty. You'll be surprised at how fresh they taste when you make them! And just a word of note, I sterilize my jars before I make anything like this. I do that by boiling a canning jar and the lid for 10 minutes. I'm a little paranoid, I suppose, but it's not necessary because of the vinegar. Another bonus: homemade pickles like this have less sodium than jarred ones.

Quick Refrigerator Pickles:
1 med. sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 medium English cucumber, thinly sliced (the long skinny ones with edible peel)
1 c. rice vinegar
2 Tb. sugar (whatever kind you like, just not something with too much flavor)
2 bay leaves
1  1/4 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1. Place onion and cucumber into a heat-proof nonreactive bowl. Glass pyrex is best. Set aside.

2. Bring vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, mustard seeds, salt, and 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

3. Pour over onion and cucumber. Cover loosely with a clean towl and let cool completely. Make sure you stir occasionally to submerge the vegetables. Once cool place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

This recipe doesn't make a whole lot, but I'd definitely say a large Mason jar full (though that depends on the size of your onion and cucumber! If you like pickles (and especially the bread and butter kind) you will definitely like these. Also, it's kind of fun to say you made your own. Have a great evening!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Green Posole Seitan Stew

So I'm sure many of you are aware of my love for Viva Vegan by Terry Hope Romero. I have a huge list of recipes I would like to make and I would love to completely cook my way through her book (and believe me, I don't say that about all cookbooks!). Her seitan recipes are killer (I've made them all) and I plan on working my way through all the beans-and-rice recipes next.

One of the final recipes I made before I left Missouri was her recipe for Green Posole Seitan Stew with Chard and White Beans. I made a big ol' pot of this, prepped all the garnishes, and ate that throughout the second-to-last week (before I had to pack up my kitchen and live off of Chipotle and Amy's frozen entrees...). Anywho, I did make a few changes to this recipe based on what I had available to me, but for the most part I tried to stay true to the recipe (she knows best, after all!).

Here are a few of the changes I made:
  • For starters, I picked up a can of crushed tomatillos. The recipe called for fresh, but I don't really know how to pick out fresh ones. Also, at the time, it was cheaper (and easier) to just use canned.

  • I used vegetable broth instead of beer, simply because I didn't want to buy extra ingredients when I was trying to use up the ones I had. I'll be buying myself a six-pack of some Modelo or something to use in the next recipes I try because I have a kitchen again (yay!!!).

  • For the white beans I picked out a can of mayocoba beans. They are a small, buttery white bean used in Latin American cooking. I scored those at Big Lots. Apparently, they are similar to a bean used in a kind of Indian curry as well (they're sometimes called canary beans). These beans held up in the stew quite nicely.

  • I used half a package of frozen, drained spinach instead of Swiss chard, since it needed to be used up. Also, I like chard, but they aren't my favorite type of greens. Though I suppose if they were free I would eat them...
  • And finally, instead of canned hominy I used dried corn. This was definitely not a time-saver. I impulse bought a small bag of it awhile back since it was labeled "blue posole" and because I had seen this recipe in the book. In order to use it to make this posole though, I had to soak it overnight, cook it for two hours on the stove, and then cook it in the recipe. It had great texture though. I would totally use it again (hmmm, maybe in the Red Posole?

I really liked this stew. I even got my boyfriend to eat a couple of bowls of it ("so this is what now? Seitan? You made it? It's pretty good. I can see why you like it". Lol.). And of course, with each bowl I ate I topped it with some raw onion, fresh lime, crunched up tortilla chips, and cubed avocado. It made a great, filling meal and the leftovers were just as tasty.

In other news, the town I live in also has a Trader Joe's. As soon as I found out, I had to go check it out myself. Kansas City had gotten one a few months before I moved but I always went to Whole Foods instead. I was all about that salad bar and kombucha off the tap, lol. It was kind of like I expected, but I was also pleasantly surprised. I'm able to get a lot of my basics there, as well as a good variety of frozen veggies, and I like that a lot. They had this fresh stir-fry mix that I combined with some tofu, a half-serving of leftover fresh fettucine, three tablespoons of Trader Joe's Island Soyaki, and some leftover sliced squash and zucchini. I topped it with a few sliced almonds and it was awesome. Especially once I picked out the baby corns and bamboo shoots that I found out I don't like. Ha. But seriously, it was good, and it came together in about 15 minutes.

I plan on doing the majority of my shopping there. I bought a lot of stuff and it only came out to be about $30. That's quite a difference from the prices I was used to paying! I also do some of my shopping at Earth Fare and Kroger when I can get good deals. For example, right now Kroger has the large cartons of Vita Coco coconut water on sale for $4.50. That's a really good price. And let's not forget Big Lots of course, lol. In general though, I'm trying to be more consciencious of my budget now that I'm a grad student and have a few more bills to pay (helloooo student loans). Anywho, that's about all for now. Have a great afternoon!

Oh, and I swear my next post will have a recipe!