Sunday, July 20, 2014

High-Protein Baked Tofu

I have never baked whole tofu. Usually, I bake it and marinate it sliced. I have seen tofu being baked whole and I thought I would try it for myself. The tofu has an elegant look when prepared this way. This is my new favorite technique of preparing tofu. Try it out for yourself.

High-Protein Baked Tofu 
High-Protein Baked Tofu 
*This recipe requires marinating overnight. 

1 (16-oz package) high protein organic tofu, drained
1/3 cup less sodium soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten-free option)
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses, maple or agave syrup
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika or regular sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Perfect snack! 
Whisk together soy sauce, molasses, pepper, garlic, paprika and oregano. Place the drained whole tofu in a container, pour over it the marinate you just made, and close the container tightly. Store in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to flip this container over once in a while so that the marinate can be distributed evenly over the tofu.
Tastes great sliced in a sandwich. 
Next day and when you are ready to bake the tofu, preheat the oven to 450F. Coat a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tofu on the baking pan and pour any remaining marinate over the tofu. Bake it for 15 minutes on one side. Flip it over on the other side and bake it for another 15 minutes.

Allow 10 minutes to cool off before slicing. Serve hot or cold. Store in the refrigerator, in a tightly closed container, for up to 4 days.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Easy Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry

I have a confession to make. I have never made a stir-fry prior to this recipe. I am not sure why this cooking method never appealed to me before. However, I am a changed person now after trying it out for myself.

Stir-frys are a great way to use up leftover grains and vegetables that may be sitting on your counter or in a refrigerator, waiting for some action. If you don't fancy the same vegetables I used, then use any vegetables you like. Additionally, quinoa may be substituted with brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, pasta and so forth.

Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry
Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry

2 cups cooked quinoa (see below for instructions)
1 medium yellow zucchini, diced
2 cups shredded cabbage
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas, defrosted

*Non-stick cooking spray for frying.

Sauce Ingredients
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten-free option)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic (or 1 garlic clove, minced)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced)
1 tablespoon organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
Quick and simple meal! 
Let's begin with cooking the quinoa. Place one cup of rinsed quinoa in a medium pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Stir-fry time! Preheat a large pan over a medium heat and coat it well with non-stick cooking spray. You can use about 1 to 2 teaspoons of canola oil instead of the non-stick cooking spray. Add the zucchini, cabbage and green onions. Fry for about 8 minutes and stir once in a while.

You may be wondering why these vegetables are not seasoned with salt. Salt pulls moisture out of vegetables and prevents them from getting crispy. We want crispy vegetables, so do not add salt.

While the vegetables are frying, prepare the sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients.

Once the vegetables have been frying for about 8 minutes, add the green peas and the sauce you just made. Mix and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring. Done!

Store in the refrigerator and in a tightly closed container for up to 4 days.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ultimate Scrambled "Eggs" Served Two Ways

I was never a fan of eggs even as a vegetarian. There was something about the smell of frying eggs that made me uncomfortable. If you are the opposite of me, and you like the taste of eggs, but you no longer eat them, this recipe will rock your world. I hope.

When I made this recipe, I was told by a non-vegan these scrambled "eggs" taste like the real thing. You be the judge.

Saving one male chick at a time by eating vegan "eggs."

Ultimate Scrambled "Eggs"
Ultimate Scrambled "Eggs" 

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (add at the end)
1 (14-oz package) organic firm or extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped (optional)

*Non-stick cooking spray for frying.

Let's make the sauce first, which will give these "eggs" their runny and creamy egg like consistency.

In a medium pot, combine all of the dry ingredients including the spices. Mix well using a whisk. Now add the vegetable broth. Turn on medium-high heat and continue whisking the sauce until it starts to bubble and thicken. This should take about less than 2 minutes. Do not walk away from the pot. Remove from the heat and add the Dijon mustard.
The sauce combined with crumbled tofu makes these "eggs" look and taste freakishly real. 
Onto the "eggs." In a large bowl, combine all of the sauce you just made and all of the crumbled tofu. No need to press the tofu a day ahead. You can add the green onions at this point, if using.

The last step is to pan fry the "eggs." You can divide the "egg" batter into two "equal" halves and make one half now and the other half the next morning. You can also make the entire "egg" batter at once. I opted to make a half first and I stored the other half of it in the refrigerator for the next morning. I made sandwiches the next day following the directions below.
Pan fried "egg" sandwich
To make sandwiches, preheat a large non stick cooking pan and coat it with non-stick cooking spray. Place about 2 tablespoons of the "egg" batter you just made between two pieces of favorite bread. I used whole wheat bread and added fresh spinach in between the bread and the "egg" layer to prevent the bread from becoming soggy. By the way, there is no need to separately pan fry the "egg" batter before assembling and frying the sandwiches.

Pan fry each sandwich (I made 3 sandwiches using about half of the "egg" batter) until crispy and golden, for about 3-4 minutes, on medium-low heat, on each side.
If sandwiches are not your thing, use the "egg" batter to make scrambled "eggs." Preheat a large non-stick cooking pan over a medium heat. Coat it with non-stick cooking spray and add all or half of the "egg" batter. Sauté for about 10 minutes and stir once in a while. If you like your "eggs" more runny, decrease the sautéing time to less than 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and taste for additional seasonings. Serve with toast.

Store in the refrigerator, in a tightly closed container, for up to 4 days.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha) and Easy Saucy Carrots

Buckwheat or kasha is a popular grain used in Polish cooking. It was first cultivated in the Balkan region of Europe circa 4000 B.C. The most traditional way of making kasha is to serve it with mushroom gravy. I chose not to make a mushroom gravy this time because the Saucy Carrots - ha! ha! - I am making along with kasha are enough. There is no need for additional sauciness.

Carrots are a lovely vegetable that are a staple in Polish cooking. They are cheap and nutritious. Moreover and in my humble opinion, carrots should be a base to any meal, in addition to onion and garlic of course.

My mom is a carrot enthusiast and she adds tons of carrots in any meal she makes. This is her secret way to make my brother eat vegetables. It works and he has no clue in spite of his intelligence. Sorry brother. I had to go there.

Mom told me about her favorite way to make carrots which  is to cook them in a flavorful broth. I used a mushroom bouillon cube to flavor the carrots, but you can use any vegan bouillon cube or broth you fancy.

Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha) and Easy Saucy Carrots 
Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha)

1-2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 medium sized portabella mushrooms, roughly chopped (with gills)
1 (15-oz can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (any 15-oz can of cooked beans may be substituted)
1 and 1/2 cups roasted buckwheat (also known as kasha)
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon marjoram
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried dill
3 cups mushroom broth or 3 cups water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a large pan, in oil, over a medium heat, for about 10 minutes. Add all the spices while sautéing these vegetables.

Now add the buckwheat and mushroom broth or 3 cups of water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube. Stir, cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until all the broth is absorbed and the buckwheat is fluffy. This should take about 15-16 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the buckwheat. Turn off the heat, stir in the chickpeas, and taste for additional seasonings.  Serve with a side of Saucy Carrots.
Easy Saucy Carrots
Easy Saucy Carrots 

6 large carrots, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mushroom broth or water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube (enough to cover the carrots)
1-2 teaspoons corn starch

Before we begin, a few words about boiling carrots. There are few tricks that help to keep the carrots' nutrients while boiling.

First, leaving the skin on helps the carrots retain nutrients. I buy organic carrots, and I am comfortable leaving the skin on. If you can't do that, be sure to peel your carrots carefully so that only a thin layer of skin is peeled. No double peeling per side.

Second, when chopping the carrots, be sure to cut them in a bigger size rather than smaller pieces. This helps with keeping the nutrients as well.

Lastly, cover the carrots with barely enough liquid. Use this liquid at the end of cooking time as the sauce base. That way, nothing gets wasted and the nutrients are preserved.

Let's make Saucy Carrots! Ha ha! Start making this dish at the same time you are preparing the Mushroom Chickpea Buckwheat (Kasha) and also during the time you are sautéing the onion and mushrooms.

In a medium pot, add the chopped carrots, and cover the carrots with mushroom broth (or water and 1 mushroom bouillon cube). Do not add too much liquid, you need enough to cover the carrots, but do not submerge them completely. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the carrots are soft, but not mushy. The cooking time will depend on the amount of the carrots. This can range between 20 to 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat, season with salt and stir. Remove about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid from the carrots into a bowl and whisk in 1 teaspoon of corn starch. Add this cooking liquid with corn starch back into the carrots and stir. It will thicken and make a nice sauce. Add another teaspoon of cornstarch, following the same directions, if the sauce is too thin. The sauce takes about a minute or so to thicken.

That's it! Let's eat.
Perfect match! I added additional dried dill on both for garnish. 
Store both dishes in the refrigerator, in separate and tightly closed containers, for up to a week.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tempeh and Red Cabbage Stew - Polish Bigos - and Happy 4th!

It is very uncanny that I am offering you a Polish recipe on the 4th of July, but what can you do? It just turned out that way.

Bigos is a traditional Polish stew made out of sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) as the base ingredient. Sometimes, bigos is also made from fresh cabbage and this version is less popular. However, it is just as flavorful.  

I don't know about you, but I hardly ever have sauerkraut frolicking in my kitchen. During times like these, fresh cabbage is my go-to ingredient.

I spoke to my mom recently and she told me about this stew. Mom's flavorful description enticed me to make bigos this week. I chose red/purple cabbage instead of white because purple foods have SUPER POWERS, but you can use cabbage of choice. I also personalized this recipe using tempeh. Skip the tempeh if you like. You can substitute it with your favorite cooked beans. Be sure to add them to the stew at the end of cooking time. 

Tempeh and Red Cabbage Stew
Tempeh and Red Cabbage Stew
*This recipe requires at least 1.5 hours cooking time. 

1-2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced into half moons
1 (8-oz package) organic tempeh of choice, cubed
1 medium red or white cabbage, shredded and core removed
4-5 large carrots, peeled and shredded
4 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
2 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole allspice seeds (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 cups mushroom broth (or 3 cups water and 2 mushroom bouillon cubes)

In a large soup pot, sauté the onion and tempeh in oil, over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir often and be sure to add a splash of water or two (about 1-2 teaspoons) to prevent from sticking to the pot. Add all spices and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Be sure to add a splash or two of water again to prevent from sticking to the pot.

Add the cabbage, carrots, mushroom broth, cover and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 hour. Uncover the pot, and continue cooking until all of the broth has been absorbed (about 1/2 hour). Be sure to stir once in a while.

Turn off the heat and taste for additional seasonings. At this point, you can remove the bay leaves. Be sure to look out for the whole allspice seeds, if using, when eating. I eat these seeds in the stew, and I do not mind it at all.

Serve over mashed potatoes or have it with slices of your favorite bread.

Store in the refrigerator, in a tightly closed container, for 3-4 days.
Smacznego or Bon Appetit!