Barbecue Tofu, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

barbecue tofu

A great meal for "meat and potatoes" kinda folks.

For the tofu:

One block pressed tofu (see “Tofu Tutorial”) cut into thin slices

Barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. After pressing, lay tofu in a single layer in a large baking pan and cover with barbecue sauce. Bake for about 45 minutes, flipping slices once.

Check to see if slices are firm to your taste. If not, in a lightly oiled frying pan, saute them for a few minutes on each side before serving.

For the mashed potatoes:

4-6 potatoes (I like Red/Russet or the small Yukon Gold kind best). Number of potatoes depends on how many people you are serving and how hungry you are. In general, 1 potato = one serving. I don’t peel them, since all the good nutrients and stuff are in the skin – I just scrub them really well and mash up the skins along with everything else. You can totally peel them if that’s what floats your boat, man.

4-6 cloves garlic, minced (Again, use your discretion. I would go with about 1/2 – 1 whole clove per potato, depending on size.)

Margarine to taste (I like Earth Balance)

Plain Soymilk to taste

Large spoonful Tofutti cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

NOTE: I’m sorry about all the vague amounts in this recipe! I’m sure you all made mashed potatoes when you were kids – right? Maybe? At Thanksgiving or something? Hopefully you remember how it’s all about mixing in ingredients until the potatoes taste right to you. Just experiment with this recipe – you can’t really go wrong with potatoes and butter(y spread, as the case may be).

Bring a large pot of water to boil. (You should probably start doing this when you put the tofu in the oven.) Drop potatoes in water and boil until they feel soft when you poke them with a fork.

In a large bowl with a potato masher or other suitable utensil, mash up potatoes. Then, using this same instrument or a handheld mixer, blend in the garlic, some softened margarine, some soymilk, and the spoonful of tofu cream cheese. Add more soymilk and margarine for taste and texture, and lastly add however much salt and pepper you desire.

For the green beans:

About 16 oz FRESH green beans, rinsed and with ends trimmed

About 1 Tbs. margarine

salt and pepper to taste

Since the potatoes are garlic-y and the barbecue is a strong flavor, I kept these veggies simple.

Steam the green beans. If you buy them ready to eat in a plastic bag, you can trim a corner off the bag and steam them in the microwave, according to package directions. If you bought them loose, put them in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water, and toss periodically until soft.

Toss hot beans in a serving dish with margarine to coat, and salt and pepper to taste.

barbecue tofu 2

Serve it all up hot together on a plate! You may want extra barbecue sauce on had for the tofu, in case it dried out a bit, and you’ll probably want some extra margarine to put on top of the potatoes. This is so filling and delicious.

Enjoy!

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A Tofu Tutorial

marinated-baked-tofu

Marinated Baked Tofu

Tofu can be a weird and intimidating thing to learn to cook with – but I promise, once you do, it’s not that hard, and it’s totally worth it.

A WHOLE LOT of my recipes involve tofu, so I thought I’d put out this little tutorial for you to refer back to.

If nothing else, please remember that cooking with tofu involves some advance planning if you want it to be really good. All that said, here goes:

First, for a firm texture, buy extra firm tofu. I’ve always had better luck with the refrigerate kind packaged in water than with those little vacuum seal boxes. I don’t trust much food that isn’t refrigerated. Also, if you freeze and then completely thaw tofu before you’re ready to use it, it takes on a thicker texture. To get in the habit of this, the day you do your grocery shopping, stick tofu in the freezer. The next day, transfer it to the refrigerator. That way it will be ready when you want to use it.

Tofu absolutely has to be drained if it’s going to be good. The way I do this is to put the block on a flat surface on top of a dish towel or several layers of paper towel, put towels on top of it, then put a plate and something else heavy on top of that, (like books or a can of food) and leave it for an hour. When the water is out it cooks way better. So if you know you’re going to be cooking, set the tofu out to press/drain ahead of time.

Now you’re ready to slice it up and marinate, crumble, fry, bake – whatever you have in mind!

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High-Protein Foods for Your Vegan Diet

So my awesome cousin Sarah, who has been vegetarian for a few years, just decided to go completely vegan. When she did, she told me that she was feeling hungry all the time. This is a complaint I hear fairly often from people, and the best explanation I’ve found through research is simple: Not enough protein in your diet.

Now, I know everyone says that it’s impossible to get enough protein as a vegan, blah blah blah. That’s bullshit. There are plenty of tasty high protein foods you can eat, which will keep you feeling full and healthy. Trust me, I haven’t eaten meat since I was 10 years old. I went completely vegan sometime around my 14th birthday – and all through middle and high school I was a serious dancer. I had an athletically demanding routine of up to 5 dance classes per week – oh, and I was on the cross country team. And I’ve never had problems with being underweight or undernourished.

The thing is – you have to learn to cook, at least a little bit. But cooking can be fun! That’s totally what this blog is about! Going vegan involves changing a lot of your eating habits, but once you do, it becomes an easy routine. (Really.)

So anyway, here’s a list a came up with for Sarah of some protein-rich foods that would keep her feeling full. Then I realized it might be a good things to share in this space. So without further ado:

– Tofu

   I don’t know if you’ve cooked with it before, but it’s a life saver for me. It can be in anything, and it absorbs flavor really well. Admittedly, it does tak some practice cooking with. One of my favorite things to do is make tofu barbecue – you seriously just crumble up the tofu and mix with barbecue sauce on a pan on the stove until it’s hot. Most people don’t like the consistency of tofu, but there are a lot of things you can do to make it former.

First, buy extra firm tofu. Also, if you freeze and then thaw tofu before you’re ready to use it, it takes on a thicker texture. Also, tofu absolutely has to be drained if it’s going to be good. The way I do this is to put it on a flat surface on top of a dish towel or several layers of paper towel, put towels on top of it, then put a plate and something else heavy on top of that, (like books or a can of food) and leave it for an hour. When the water is out it cooks way better.

– Tempeh

   Tempeh has TONS of protein. You can buy it in health food stores and places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Unlike tofu, it doesn’t take any special preparation. It comes in a rectangle, all you do is slice it up and cook it. You can cut it in strips and saute it with some sauce to put on a sandwich, or chop it up in cubes and throw it in a stir fry. I like to put it in beans and rice.

– Beans

   Very filling. I don’t like to just eat straight beans by themselves, but I eat them in a lot of stuff. Black beans are my favorite. I like to make black beans and rice – if you use brown rice and tempeh or seitan, it’s a really filling meal, since all three of those things have lots of protein. (I usually throw in a red pepper, an onion and some garlic too.) Black bean soup is also good, and you can buy it in a can. Black beans are in tons of mexican recipes as well. Some other beans to try: Garbanzo (aka chickpeas), red, navy or kidney beans.

– Quinoa

   You can find this in health foods stores, or even those new healthy sections at the regular grocery. It’s  a grain, and you can use it in any situation that you would normally use rice. It has a lot more protein.

– Other Grains

  When you eat rice, brown rice has the most protein. If you combine brown rice (which is a second strain protein) with a green vegetable (which has iron) they make a whole protein. (For example, eat it with broccoli, asparagus, spinach or green beans.) Other grains like barley or millet have a lot pf protein, but honestly I don’t cook with them very often. Oats have protein, so oatmeal is a good choice for breakfast.

– Seitan

  I think this is the most meat-like of any meat stand-in. It’s made from wheat gluten, not soy. It’s kind of hard to find, but it is really really good. It’s pretty much only in health food stores, in my experience.

– Bagels

   Surprisingly, these generally have a lot of protein, if you buy a good brand. Also, whole-grain bread has more protein than white or wheat.

– Nuts

  Raw nuts especially are good. Oh, and if you ever get sick of peanut butter, try almond butter – it’s delicious.

– Faux meat and dairy products (that I actually like)

– Tofurkey slices

– Tofutti cream cheese (I think this is sooooo good)

– Tofutti soy cheese (There is no awesome vegan cheese. This is ok every once in a while on sandwiches, or grated on pizza. Of all the soy cheeses though, I think this is the nicest. Doesn’t melt very well though…)

– Smart Barbecue (You can find this in the produce section at the regular grocery store. It comes in a single-serve pouch. Tons of protein, pretty tasty.)

– Soy crumbles (Whatever brand is vegan – they’re good for chili.)

– Almond Breeze almond milk (If you ever want to change it up from soy milk)

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Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

 

What's so good about a cupcake? Knowing that this little cake is aaaaaall yours.

What's so good about a cupcake? Knowing that this little cake is aaaaaall yours.

For the cupcake:

1 cup soy or almond milk

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (This may seem like an odd, esoteric ingredient, but it’s in a lot of vegan cupacake recipes, so it’s worth investing in.  Whe it mixes with the soymilk it acts as a binding agent.)

3/4 cup sugar (As always, make sure you have an organic/vegan variety)

1 cup canola oil (Better for baking than vegetable oil, trust me. Better for you, too.)

2 tsps vanilla extract

1 tsp mint extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

To make: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes. Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Now, in the large bowl, mix in the rest of the wet ingredients: the sugar, oil, vanilla and mint extracts. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until there are no big lumps left.

Pour batter into cupcake pan lined with baking cups, about 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick come out clean. Transfer out of pan and let cool completely before icing.

 

For the mint icing:

1/4 cup margarine (I like Earth Balance brand), softened

3 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs soy or almond milk, or soy creamer

1 1/2 tsps mint extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Drop of green food coloring, if you have it or want to buy it (I didn’t.)

Cream the margarine for a minute to soften it. (It may be more effective to do this initial step with a fork than an electric mixer.) Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, and soy milk one splash at a time, mixing with a handheld mixture each time until all incorporated. (Icing can be finicky. If your texture is not smooth and creamy, trying adding more of dry or wet ingredient, depending on which way it needs to go.) Add the mint and vanilla extracts and food coloring and mix.

For the Chocolate Ganache topping – YOU NEED THIS. On its own, the mint icing kind of tastes like toothpaste. It only take s a minute. Trust me, don’t get any wise ideas about skipping this step.

3 Tbs. soy or almond milk, or soy creamer

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Bring the soy milk to a boil on the stove in a small saucepan. Mix in the chocolate chips and stir constantly until melted and mixed. Let cool before topping cupcakes.

To Assemble: Frost the cupcakes with mint icing. Dollop the chocolate ganache on top of this in spoonfuls, letting some of the icing peek out from underneath. You can garnish these with half a chocolate sandwich cookie (pictured), a fresh mint leaf, a small mint candy, or whatever your heart desires.

Enjoy!

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Some Quick Veg News

One more reason to love the Bleeding Heart Bakery:

Bleeding Heart

The Bleeding Heart Bakery – my favorite Chicago pastry institution – had an awesome booth at Riot Fest this weekend. This is my favorite bakery EVER for so many reasons. I bought my Riot Fest tickets at their store (located at Belmont and Damen), and I was so happy to see them at the Fest and chat with Michelle. I even bought a back patch! Check out the bakery, and treat yourself to some goodies – you’ll definitely be glad you did. (Bleeding Heart is not exclusively vegan, but they have enough vegan options to keep anyone happy.)

 

One more reason to love Bust Magazine:

Isa

Bust Magazine has a new food column, Nickel and Dined, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Moskowitz is the author of vegan cookbooks Vegan with a Vengeance (one of my favorite and most oft-used cookbooks), Veganomicon, and Vegan Brunch, co-author of another of my most-often-used cookbooks, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and is the genius behind the Post Punk Kitchen. This month’s recipe is Apple-Pumpkin Risotto with Caramelized Onions. It looks delicious and I hope to try it soon. Check out the magazine, and Isa’s website!

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Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting

 

Pumpkin-chocolate chip cupcakes with cinnamon icing. Quite possibly the most delicious variety of cupcakes I've made so far.

Pumpkin-chocolate chip cupcakes with cinnamon icing. Quite possibly the most delicious variety of cupcakes I've made so far. Full of bold, complimentary flavors.

 

So several highly regarded friends told me that these are the crowning jewel of my cupcake career. I think they may be right – and I’ve baked a fair few batches of cupcakes. I don’t think the pictures quite do them justice, but there you have it. I need someone with better culinary photography skills.

Note: This recipe is adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Any vegan baker should have this compendium.

Also, this recipe makes 24 cupcakes. You will want that many. If you think you won’t, or you have no friends to share cupcakes with, cut it in half, it will still work just fine.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

1 15-oz can pumpkin (be sure to get the plain kind, not pumpkin pie filling)

2/3 cup canola oil

2 cups granulated sugar *

1/2 cup soy or almond milk

2 tsps vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon (tip: cinnamon and other spices are waaaay cheaper when you buy them from the bulk bins at health food stores, rather than in little jars from the supermarket)

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips

 

For the frosting:

1/4 cup margarine, softened

1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened (I like Tofutti brand, which is available at most health food stores and many typical groceries)

2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar) *

1 tsp vanilla extract

2+ tsps cinnamon

splash soy or almond milk

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line cupcake pan with baking cups.

In a mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, soy milk and vanilla. Sift in flour, baking powder,baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Stir together with a spoon. (In vegan baking it is best to stir batters by hand rather than with an electric mixer. This keeps air in the batter, which will make your finished product more fluffy, and keeps the batter from getting gummy.) Fold in chocolate chips.

Fill baking cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes.

Take them out of the pan and let cool fully before icing.

 

For the frosting:

Cream together margarine, cream cheese and vanilla. (Ok to use an electric mixer here – it’s very hard to do without one.) Add in the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup batches. Mix until it’s creamy. If it’s too stiff, add splashes of soy milk to correct the texture – but not too much! Then mix in cinnamon. I’m not exactly sure how much I used – often when I cook I just keep adding spices until it tastes right, so taste test your icing as you add cinnamon. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

cupcakes

Ooooh, spooky Halloween plate!

Assembly:

Frost cupcakes. Before you eat, try sprinkling the top with some cinnamon sugar for a nice texture. Or, for fancy presentation, stick a half cinnamon stick in each cupcake before serving. (These parts are not edible of course, but you can always stick them in your cider or tea!)

Enjoy!

 

* A note on sugar: Make sure yours is an organic/vegan variety. Some refined or processed sugars use bone char in the manufacturing process as a whitening agent.

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Autumn-Time Stew

 

A yummy blend of fall-friendly flavors.

A yummy blend of fall-friendly flavors.

 

 

So it’s getting cold outside. Definitely the weather for hot drinks, soup and something hearty, like this stew. Quick to make and very filling, it’s also filled with seasonal vegetables, so head to your local farmer’s market! Serve it with some toasted, crusty bread.

 

Ingredients:

1 small red onion, chopped

5 medium mushrooms or one large portobello cap, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced (optional, but I always love garlic)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large potato or a couple small red potatoes, chopped

3+ cups vegetable broth or no-chicken broth

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste

1 15-oz can tomato paste

1 package tempeh, cubed (tempeh is a soybean-based meat alternative, available in health food stores – it’s really not too hard to fin, I promise)

1 can chickpeas (aka Garbanzo beans)

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

 

Uncooked fixin's for the stew.

Uncooked fixin's for the stew.

 

In a large soup pot, saute onions, mushrooms, garlic and carrots for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent. The carrots take longest to cook, so make sure they’re on their way. The potato also sometimes takes a bit long to get tender, so you may want to consider zapping it in the microwave for a moment before chopping it. (Make sure to poke holes in it so it doesn’t explode!) Add the potato, broth, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, black pepper and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the tempeh and chickpeas and simmer, stirring so that nothing begins to stick to the pot. As you cook, you may need to add more broth if your stew seems to be getting too thick, or sticking too frequently. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in the peas just a moment before you turn off the heat. Let stand for about five minutes before serving so that the flavors can blend.

Dish it up into some bowls, and serve with warm bread. Enjoy!

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