Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vegetable "Veg-Out" Soup and Apartment Hunting

Although I am not looking forward to moving yet again, since my lease expires in August it is time to find another dwelling. I should probably get a trophy for most moves in the time period of 10-years, but then again, I am ready to retire the idea of such a trophy and settle in a place for a longer period of time. I guess I am not going back to NYC anytime soon. I have grown fond of Boston, and living here is just fine with me.

Apartment hunting is the only type of hunting I will ever engage in, and as much as I like seeing other apartments and having a front row seat view to how others live, I am in a sense over it. Instead, I would like a perfect apartment to come to me. I know! The audacity!

I feel the same way about food sometimes, meaning I want to eat something great, but I feel low in energy to execute that feeling into a dish. I made Vegetable "Veg-Out" Soup on a day like that, and I was pleased with the results.

Try it for yourself and be sure to let me know how it turned out.

Vegetable "Veg-Out" Soup
Vegetable "Veg-Out" Soup 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-oz) package mushroom of choice, sliced (use the stems!)
2 small/medium yellow squashes, ends trimmed, sliced into half-moons
3 cups fresh spinach, packed
1 (15-oz) can garbonzo beans/chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup brown rice or grain of choice
7 cups vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons sea salt (use more or less depending on preference)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
Looking good! 
In a large soup pot, sauté the onion, carrots and mushrooms over a medium heat in olive oil, for about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue sautéing for another two minutes. Add a splash of water if necessary to prevent from sticking to the pot. Stir often.

Add all the seasonings, brown rice, and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 35-45 minutes until the rice or grain of choosing is cooked.

Fifteen minutes before the soup is ready, add the squash and garbanzo beans to the soup pot, and finish cooking the soup until you reach the 35-45 minute mark.

Turn off the heat, add the spinach, and stir. The spinach will wilt on its own without the need for further cooking.

Taste for seasonings and add more salt or pepper or both depending on preference. Use an immersion blender to blend 1/3 of the soup in the soup pot to create thicker consistency. Alternatively, transfer 4 to 5 cups of soup to a blender and blend until smooth, and add it back to the soup pot.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Baked Tofu Pate and Feeling Under Pressure

Heads up VKP readers, there is a long blog entry ahead unlike my usual brief style. Today's featured recipe is Baked Tofu Pate which I came up with on a night I did not feel like putting too much effort into my dinner menu, but I also wanted something flavorful in spite of my laziness. You will EVENTUALLY get to the recipe....

I am certain you can relate to feeling [rarely or often] like the carpet is being pulled from under your feet. To add to this distress, you have front row seat to this Carpet Pulling Event and it is all happening to you in a slow motion. Additionally, your mind is flooded with automatic negative thoughts, and you have nightmares and/or day-terrors about these thoughts during slumber and when awake.

An example of an automatic negative thought includes, but is not limited to:

"I can't interpret Independent Groups T-tests. I never do things right." 

Sound familiar? Not the part about the T-test, but the overall concept of automatic negative thoughts that we all have and struggle with on a daily basis. Although I am generalizing, [if you don't fall into this category, consider yourself lucky] there is something to be said about learning how to be kind to yourself.

Mark Twain's quote below illustrates how our minds work.

"My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which have never happened." 

We scare ourselves into thinking we are not capable of pushing ourselves due to fear of failure, and often continue living our lives without working on changing our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. During such times, we tend to use avoidance to help us cope with our feelings.

Instead of avoidance, I have started working on facing thoughts and feelings in effort not to fall back on the vicious cycle of negativity towards myself. This cycle is rooted in automatic negative thoughts.

Now I practice reframing these thoughts of mine to positive ones. To do this, I ask myself: "what can I learn from this experience?"

It takes practice, EFFORT, patience, and time. The more you do it, the easier it will become.

An example of reframing an automatic negative thought listed above is the following:

"While I don't have experience with interpreting statistical tests, I am going to tutoring each week. I have noticed I gain a better understanding of the logic behind these tests with each session, which means that I am doing something right

Cheers to Independent Groups T-tests as well as all the other ones I love to love! - see what I did there.
Baked Tofu Pate
Baked Tofu Pate 

1 small onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 slices bread of choice (I used sprouted whole wheat bread)
1 (15-oz package) extra firm organic tofu, drained and padded dry
2 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons less sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup, plus additional to coat the top of pate
1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats, not instant oats (Add at the end and do not blend!)
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil (Add 1/4 cup for a richer flavor instead of using 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons miso paste of choice
Salt to taste (About 1/2 teaspoon)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (About 1/4 teaspoon)

*Non-stick cooking spray to coat and oil the loaf pan.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a food processor or high speed blender, process the onion and garlic first. Then add the two slices of bread, tofu, spinach, soy sauce, ketchup, corn starch, poultry seasoning, olive oil, miso paste, salt and pepper, and blend.

This may take a while, depending on the kitchen tool you use. You may have to stop a few times, scrape the sides, and pulse again. If you find yourself not being able to process all the ingredients with ease, add 2 tablespoons of water, vegetable broth or olive oil. I found myself having to add water, and found it helpful to move the tofu along.

Once the mixture is smooth or almost smooth, place it in a bowl, and add the oats. Mix well, and transfer the mixture to an oiled mini/small loaf pan. Spread the mixture with a spatula evenly. Now add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of ketchup on top of the pate and spread it evenly.

Bake for 50 minutes to one hour depending on the desired consistency. Allow 15 minutes cooling time before serving. Remove from loaf pan and slice. Spread it on toasted bread or serve it over greens.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
I sliced and pan fried it and served the pate over organic pea shoots. I used leftovers as a sandwich spread. Tastes great hot or cold! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chinese Five Spice Tempeh Stew and Master's Degree in Meowing

Othello, my 14 year old feline rival has been keeping me awake at night since he came into my life long ago. Today is Sunday, and yet I was rudely awaken at 6am for no apparent reason other than to feed him.

The way Othello operates to get what he wants is brilliant. He starts with meowing, and when that does not work, he starts shredding any type of paper lying around, and speedily moves onto jumping on shelves and throwing whatever lives on them on the floor. I have lost many splendid things by Othello's paw when he pushed down precious objects. Mostly, these were my jewelry boxes which I collect for some odd reason.

Othello! He is a very accomplished feline who holds a Master's Degree in Meowing. 
I can't stay mad at this old guy for too long though. After all, he earned his Master's Degree in Meowing fair and square. It is time I recognize his accomplishment, don't you think?

Cheers to felines!


Chinese Five Spice Tempeh Stew. I served it over raw kale and topped it with organic pea shoots.
Chinese Five Spice Tempeh Stew

1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 (8-oz) organic tempeh of choice, crumbled into medium sized pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (Tamari may be substituted)
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, depending on heat preference
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup split mung beans (red lentils may be substituted)
1/2 cup millet (any grain may be substituted)
7 cups vegetable broth

In a large soup pot, sauté the onion, carrots and tempeh in canola oil, over a medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. Keep adding a splash or two of water when necessary, to prevent from sticking to the pan. Stir often. Add all the seasonings, and garlic, and continue sautéing for another two minutes.

Add mung beans and vegetable broth. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes until the beans are creamy.

Fifteen minutes prior the stew is ready, add the millet to the pot. Stir and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and serve.

If you are using a grain other than millet, be sure to adjust cooking time. For example, if using brown rice, you may add it to the stew 20 minutes prior the stew is ready.

You got this!
Eat your greens. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Red Cabbage Beet Soup and Good-Bye Winter!

Alas! the winter has left, and I am still struggling with accepting the inevitable entry of a warmer season. It takes me a while to get used to it, and from hearing others talking about their excitement of winter being gone, I feel alone in my season preferences. However, it is COOL to be different, so there!

I refuse to stop making soups, and will continue making them until winter rolls around yet again. If you are a soup fan like me, you will enjoy this strange soup conception I came up with below. It works flavor wise, and most importantly, it is really easy to make.

Cheers soup lovers!
Red Cabbage Beet Soup. I served it with cooked red beans and a 'hunk' of bread. 

Red Cabbage Beet Soup

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 carrots, peeled, and diced
1 medium red cabbage, outer leaves and core removed, shredded or thinly sliced
3-4 medium/small beets, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-oz can) crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon or more sea salt, depending on preference
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
6 cups vegetable broth (additional cup may be added if too thick)

*1/2 cup cooked red beans per one serving of soup, for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, sauté the onion and carrots in olive oil over a medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add garlic, and all the spices, and continue sautéing for another minute or two. Add a splash of water if necessary to prevent from sticking.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 45 minutes, until the beets are fork tender. If the soup gets too thick, add another cup of vegetable broth during cooking.

Turn off the heat, taste for salt, and add more if necessary. The soup should be sweet, but not that sweet. Confusing? Let me explain. You want to taste the sweetness of the beets in this soup and when adding too much salt, the beet flavor will not come through.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup, but not entirely. Leave some chunks of beets and cabbage for texture. Serve with cooked beans on top and vegan sour cream if you have it.