October 12, 2017

My favorite granola

The recipe makes two large pans of toasty, crunchy granola.

In the fall of 2010, I was gifted several coupons for free, and discounted make-your-own-books on Blurb.com, and I had the great idea to create cookbooks as holiday gifts for my immediate family members. I already had loads of photos, recipes and text from my blog, plus I was a graphic designer — it would be a piece of cake, so to speak. In my excitement, I 'forgot' that all the photos were sized for the Web, and would have to be re-edited for print. The text had to be edited, too, and the Blurb software was nothing like the professional layout software I was used to. I was constantly frustrated by not being able to design the book exactly as I wanted, and not to have access to my favorite fonts. But, I worked day and night — literally — until I had produced a 120 page, lavishly illustrated cookbook. Good thing I had all the coupons, as the cost of buying one of the books at actual price is substantial. I just looked on Blurb to see if my book was still there. It is, and a paperback copy sells for $46.99! (Granted, Blurb did a fabulous job on the printing, and the paper is beautiful, but, seriously? Who buys a cookbook for $46.99?) They even have an online preview where you can look at every page of my book in miniature. (If you're curious ... just click on the book and the pages turn) I see that Blurb now offers a way to design a book with Adobe InDesign. It's also possible to create the book using whatever software you prefer, make a PDF, and use the PDF to print the book. I guess the PDF feature was available when I made my book, but I was too far into it before I realized the personal  limitations of the free Blurb software, and the thought of starting over when I found out about the PDF option, was worse than just finishing what I had already started. In spite of the huge amount of work, and the frustrations, the end result was worth it. Everyone who received a copy seemed pleased, and in spite of all the difficulties, I was glad I had done it. The Blurb software, while a bit frustrating to me, would be fine for someone not as invested in professional design as I was at the time. If you start now, you should be able to finish a book in time to give as a holiday gift to a special someone. It doesn't have to be a cookbook— poetry, photography, stories — anything, really. There are many more choices of personal online printers now besides Blurb, some of them much cheaper. Blurb will give you great results, though. They now even offer lay-flat binding — for a price.

The liquid and dry ingredients are best mixed together by hand, as in, use your hands.

My husband got out the cookbook recently to find something to make for dinner, and I started looking through it. I didn't get far when I found my old favorite granola recipe which appeared on this blog in March, 2009. It's been years since I've made, or eaten, granola, and I was eager to revisit the recipe. Another blogger I know had recently posted about making granola, and although I never got around to checking out her recipe, the word "granola" was etched in my brain. Granola. It just has a delicious ring to it.

The recipe was just as good as I remembered, and I've been crunching it for breakfast all week. It's a breakfast that really satisfies, and keeps me full for hours.

A bowl of crunchy granola with soy milk.
Crunchy granola
  • 7 cups rolled oats, GF if needed
  • 1 cup hemp hearts (GF if needed), OR 1 cup hulled sesame seeds, OR 1 cup raw wheat germ
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, in halves or pieces
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (opt.)
  • 1 cup apple juice (I add 3-4 tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate to a cup measure, and add water to make 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave syrup, or sorghum, or 1/2 cup rice syrup)
  • 1/3 cup almond butter (or other nut or seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (opt.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (opt.)
  • 1 cup chopped medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 to 1 cup non-dairy dark chocolate chips (optional) (I used 3/4 cup this time)
  1. Mix together the oats, hemp hearts, cashews, sunflower seeds, coconut and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the apple juice, sweetener and almond butter in a small pot and warm over low heat, whisking to dissolve the almond butter. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, cinnamon and ginger, if using.
  3. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. I used my hands for this because the spoon was too slow. Be sure to mix up the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Divide between two large baking pans and bake in a 325˚F oven for ABOUT 40-45 minutes. While it's baking, stir about every 10 minutes to toast evenly and to prevent burning. The bottom and edges will toast first, so stir them in.
  5. When it turns golden brown, turn off the heat and allow to sit in the oven about 30-40 minutes to continue drying.
  6. Remove from the oven and stir in the fruit. You will probably have to break up the dates if they are very soft. Let cool completely, then stir in the chocolate chips if you dare. (It's breakfast, after all. Be sensible!) If you do add chocolate chips, really let the granola cool well before stirring them in or the chocolate will melt. Yes, it will. I guess I didn't wait long enough because my chocolate chips melted. They still tasted great but the surprise of crunching on a chocolate chip was sacrificed for the taste of chocolate flavored granola. 
  7. Serve with your favorite plant milk.

October 06, 2017

Spicy hemp breakfast sausage - vegan, gluten-free

From the air fryer.

A few years ago, Nov., 2014, to be exact, I came across a recipe in Vegetarian Times for Spicy Hemp Breakfast Sausages.  I was intrigued. All the vegan sausages I'd ever made in the past depended on gluten, as in vital wheat gluten, for their texture and stability. The recipe used hemp seeds and masa harina to make the sausage dough. (You can find certified GF masa harina, and hemp seeds, but you can't assume all brands are GF due to contamination. Bob's Red Mill sells both.)

Mashing the beans into the spice liquid to cook until dry.

First you make a spice mixture, rehydrate the masa harina with some of the spice liquid, then stir in the hemp. Next you cook and mash the beans a little at a time with spice liquid until all the liquid evaporates, then you stir the bean mixture into the hemp hearts and masa harina. Refrigerate overnight, then shape and cook the sausage patties. I cooked some of the patties in my air fryer, and those were my favorites. The rest of the sausage patties were baked in the oven then frozen for future use. I baked them on parchment paper on two large pans, cooled them, then cut the paper into patty-sized squares and used the squares to stack the patties and pack them into a freezer bag. I've also cooked them in a small amount of oil on a cast iron griddle, and they turned out great. Yesterday, I reheated a frozen one in the air fryer, and it worked perfectly.

Refrigerate the mixture overnight before shaping into patties.

So, if I've been making these for three years, why haven't I ever mentioned them? Sometimes I question what 'easy vegan recipe' means. Does easy also mean instant? The sausage recipe is easy enough — anyone could do it — but it does take a little patience to work through all the steps. I never shared the recipe because I thought it might not fit with the 'easy vegan' theme, but it's so good, you might want to add it to your repertoire at least for special occasions, even if you consider it too much trouble for a regular rotation. I'm thinking of incorporating it into a Thanksgiving recipe, for example. The texture isn't the same as if it contained gluten, but the seasoning is spot on, and the taste and texture are great.

Toasted Olivia GF bread, garden lettuce, hemp sausage, dijon, jalapeño-stuffed olive.

As I mentioned earlier, the recipe originally appeared in an issue of Vegetarian Times, so I contacted the magazine to see if they would grant me permission to reprint the recipe. It took some time (a long time) to hear back from them, but they said no. That means if the magazine ever stops publishing, and takes down it's Web site, linked recipes will no longer be available. This has happened to me in the past when I linked to a recipe on a blog, so I prefer to share the actual recipe rather than a link. But for now, here is a link to the recipe. I'd rather share the actual recipe, but a link is better than nothing. The sausages are satisfying as part of a breakfast plate, or as a sandwich filling at lunch, or with veggies and a grain or potato at dinner. Do they sound like too much trouble? I admit, I'm often put off if a recipe has too many steps or requires chilling overnight, but this recipe makes a LOT, so you can eat some now and freeze some for later. You can also store the mix in the refrigerator for a few days, and fry some for breakfast each morning. This works especially well if you make just half a recipe. If you follow a gluten-free diet (or even if you don't) and have been longing for a sausage recipe, I encourage you to try this one.



Note: I just want to remind people that although it's tempting, it's not okay to reprint someones recipe or photos as your own. You can share a list of ingredients, but not the directions. You can adapt a recipe, but changing one ingredient isn't enough. You can also create a new recipe based on one you admire, and say you were 'inspired' by the original. In all cases, you should link back to the original recipe. When I searched for the spicy sausage recipe, I was surprised to find it, including the original photo, on a few blogs, without so much as a link back to Vegetarian Times. One blogger merely changed the order of ingredients, slightly changed the directions, and took credit for the recipe. I also found a slight variation of the recipe using chickpea flour instead of masa harina. If you have questions about what the rules are for sharing recipes, you might find this post helpful.

September 19, 2017

Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: cookbook review



Once you start cooking from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: Healthy Plant-Based Recipes With a Kick, you will never complain about bland vegan food again. Whether you're looking to spice up your own diet, or prepare fabulous foods to impress omnivore family and friends who may think vegan food is boring, Celine's newest recipe collection will provide the recipes you need to create beautiful and seriously flavorful vegan food.

Although not a gluten-free cookbook by any means, if you need your food to be gluten-free, (or soy-free or oil-free), Celine has you covered with clearly marked recipes and instructions that make it easy to find the kinds of meals you're looking for. In a hurry and need a fabulous dish you can make in 30 minutes? There are recipes for speedy, richly flavored dishes, too. In addition to instructions for creating the sumptuous dishes, there's a generous section called Staples, with directions for making homemade versions of, in Celine's words, "striking spice mixes, umami-packed broth, bright and tangy finishing sauces, and more." I admit to being someone who typically eats a pretty simple diet, and maybe you are, too, but when you are craving a flavor-intense meal, this is the book you need.


We tried several of the recipes, and were not disappointed. The first one we sampled was Tamarind Miso Soup, and it was an eye-opener. The tamarind paste completely changed the flavor of the vegetable-packed soup from what we were used to. I wish my photo had turned out as well as the soup, but, unfortunately it did not, so words will have to suffice.


Next, we sampled Smoky Kale and Chickpeas With Miso Peanut Drizzle. I think we've had this at least three times since receiving the book. Need I say more? Seduced by the great flavor and ease of preparation, we had to force ourselves to move on and try other recipes. I think this will become a standard in our dining repertoire. (You can find the recipe reprinted on The Vegan 8 blog.)



The next selection was Five-Spice Teriyaki Bowl, served over gluten-free buckwheat noodles, and cooked by my husband. He must have neglected to read Celine's recipe introduction warning about the "warm, yet pungent licorice-like flavor of five-spice powder." She cautioned about star anise and fennel haters, of which I AM ONE, but he added the full two teaspoons of five-spice to the pot anyway. This was his first (and maybe last) time cooking with five-spice powder. It didn't end well. The dish was beautiful and 'fragrant', and even though I only had one mouthful before exhibiting intense irrational behavior, I could tell that others might find it excellent. My husband sure liked it. I've been trying for years to teach myself to like anise and fennel, but I'm not there yet. I could have enjoyed a quarter or possibly even a half teaspoon, but not two. Not two. Remember, you can always adjust the seasonings you're adding to a dish to accommodate your personal preferences.



Last night I made Red Curry Veggies, and we loved it. One of the reasons I chose the recipe was because it featured green beans, and we had a bagful of fresh green beans from our son and daughter-in-law's garden. I also had a zucchini from my neighbor's garden which I used instead of the eggplant in the recipe, and a few pieces of leftover air-fried tofu from the night before which I threw in just because. The curry was excellent, and will probably show up at our next meal for company.

I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking.  

Just a note: The cookbook has one of those nifty bindings that allows it to stay open while you use it.

Author Celine Steen, is the talented writer, recipe creator and photographer behind the popular vegan blog, Have Cake Will Travel, as well as the author or co-author, and photographer of 12 vegan cookbooks including The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, Whole Grain Baking, and Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, Page Street Publishing Company. I was not paid to write the review. All opinions are my own.

This post may contain Amazon links. 

June 13, 2017

Date Lady coconut caramel sauce

I've mentioned previously that I don't have much of a sweet tooth. My idea of sweet is usually another person's idea of 'not too sweet'. I didn't eat much candy growing up — because I didn't like it. I remember once finding a box of Valentine's Day chocolates I'd been given by a boyfriend, stuffed away into a drawer, a year later. A few of the chocolates were missing, however, because before stashing the box away, I'd searched for, and eaten, the caramel-filled chocolates. Caramel was the one candy I liked. Maybe that's why I like dates so much — they are reminiscent of caramel, and work well for making a vegan, vanilla-spiked caramel sauce, and giving baked goods a hint of caramel flavor. When I was offered a sample jar of Date Lady coconut caramel  sauce, what could I say but yes?

Date Lady's new syrup is not only easy to use and delicious, it's made from natural, organic, GMO-free, gluten-free ingredients. The sauce starts with a base of 67% organic dates and then includes organic coconut cream, organic vanilla extract and baobab powder.



"'From the beginning, we have always wanted to produce a caramel sauce that was made with traditional ingredients and methods,' said Colleen Sundlie, President, Date Lady. 'Our initial Date Lady Caramel Sauce was a top-seller, but we had trouble wrapping our head around the fact that we couldn’t get a detailed ingredient list for the organic flavoring. So, we decided to move forward and take on the challenge of creating new recipes using only food to create rich and creamy flavors.'"


I tried my syrup on a scoop of mint chocolate chip coconut ice cream. The syrup's flavor straight from the jar is rich, dark and delicious, with a velvety taste of coconut cream, but I'm afraid the flavor was a bit overpowered by the sweetness and mintiness of the ice cream. I was wishing I had vanilla ice cream to try instead, but, it's possible ice cream may be too sweet for the syrup to be its best.



I was thinking I needed something more cake-like to really showcase the flavor ... or maybe a waffle. And yes, it was perfect on the waffle, eliciting an enthusiastic "mmmmm" from both my husband and myself. I think it would be excellent drizzled over a bundt cake or on top of a muffin. Any slice of plain cake would be transformed with a bit of Date Lady coconut caramel sauce.

Normally $7.99, the coconut caramel sauce will be featured in a one-day flash sale on June 15 for $5. This would be the perfect time to grab a jar, and enjoy a bit of the luxurious topping. 

DATE LADY COCONUT CARAMEL SAUCE ($8.99, 11OZ. JAR)
100% Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, Non-GMO
Ingredients: Date syrup, Coconut Cream (coconut, water), Coconut Oil, Vanilla Extract, Baobab Powder, Pectin, Sea Salt

I was given a free jar of coconut caramel sauce for review purposes. I was not paid for my review. All opinions are my own.

June 09, 2017

Everyday Vegetarian, cookbook review and recipe

Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. 
All rights reserved.

I usually only accept vegan cookbooks for review, but I made an exception for Everyday Vegetarian for several reasons. The book, by the editors of Cooking Light, contains more than 150 vegetable-centric dishes using easy-to-find ingredients. Although only 20 percent of the recipes are vegan, most experienced vegans could easily turn a majority of the other recipes vegan by a simple substitution or two — rice syrup instead of honey; plant milk, vegan butter or vegan cheese instead of dairy, etc. The recipes are straightforward, easy to follow, and each recipe is accompanied by an appetizing full-color photo.

So why am I reviewing a vegetarian cookbook? (No, I'm NOT a newly minted ex-vegan. No, no, no — never!) Vegetarianism and veganism seem to be on an upswing right now. More and more restaurants are offering vegan options, and more people than ever are expressing curiosity about plant-based and vegetarian diets. However, even when the interest is present, changing one's diet can seem like an insurmountable task without some sort of gentle introduction. Not everyone wants to be hit over the head with a 'be-vegan-or-else' mandate. Some folks prefer to ease into change more slowly. Lots of vegans, myself included, were vegetarians for a few years before becoming vegan. People give up animal products for different reasons. For some it's for health, others care deeply about reducing animal suffering, some might become plant-based for the environment. Some embrace multiple reasons for dietary change.  I try to accept people at whatever dietary stage they are, and help them move forward, which is why I'm reviewing Everyday Vegetarian; I think it's a great stepping stone to helping people move towards a vegetarian, and hopefully, vegan diet. Or just to add more plant-based meals to the menu.

No matter what their dietary motives are, I'd guess most people want their food to taste great, and that is where Everyday Vegetarian steps in.  Written by the editors of Cooking Light, it brings creative, colorful, delicious vegetarian and vegan cooking expertise into an already popular, mainstream cooking forum. I think it would be an extremely appealing cookbook not just for established vegetarians and vegans, but esprcially for those just starting to incorporate more plant-based choices into their diet. The people who are looking to make plant-centric changes to their diet, no matter how small those changes start out, are the perfect target audience for Everyday Vegetarian. (Note that the cookbook doesn't address food sensitivities so you will have to make your own adjustments to the recipes if you must, or choose to, avoid certain ingredients. I'm used to adjusting recipes for my own dietary needs so this isn't an issue for me, but I wanted to mention it for those who might be interested.) While easy cooking methods and familiar ingredients are emphasized, the authors also encourage readers to be open to trying new ingredients and flavors. For those just venturing into the whole foods, plant-based cooking experience, a description of ingredients and where to find them is helpfully included.

Asian stir-fry quinoa bowl - photo by Andrea

I have to say, I was delighted with the recipes I tried. They were easy, beautiful and delicious. The vegan recipe for Asian stir-fry quinoa bowl was so good, belying its everyday ingredients and simple preparation. It looked and tasted great — I loved it.  The main thing we did differently was cook the tofu in the air fryer — just because we love our air fryer so much, but that's certainly not a requirement for the excellent recipe!

Roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat spaghetti bowl - photo by Andrea

We also tried roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat spaghetti bowl — another seemingly simple vegan recipe with outstanding flavor. As I mentioned earlier, the recipes don't take food sensitivities into account, but if you are used to making adjustments for your own health and taste preferences, it shouldn't be a problem. For example, instead of whole wheat spaghetti, I subbed quinoa spaghetti to accommodate my gluten intolerance. And a sweet pepper was used instead of a chile pepper, because that's what we had. Next time, it will be a chile pepper.

There are so many more recipes I want to try, such as one pot green curry stew with potatoes and cauliflower, black bean cakes with ginger and cilantro cream, whole roasted carrots with black lentils and green harissa, tempeh with charred peppers and kale, etc., etc.

If you are looking to add more plant-based recipes to your diet, Everyday Vegetarian is a cookbook I recommend. If you're already vegetarian or vegan, you'll find lots of wonderful recipes to inspire you.

I have permission from the publisher to share the recipe for roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat spaghetti bowl with you. Hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we did.

Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. 
All rights reserved.

Roasted cauliflower and chickpea whole wheat 
spaghetti bowl Hands-on: 35 minutes Total: 35 minutes Serves 4

This one-bowl meal is an ideal option for healthy meals on the go; It comes together quickly and can be made ahead. It gets wonderful texture from the chickpeas and cauliflower, nuttiness from the whole-wheat pasta, and rich umami flavor from the miso and tahini. You’ll find the miso paste in the refrigerated produce section and tahini in the international aisle.

  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into 1-inch florets (about 31/2 cups)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6 ounces uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti
  • ½ cup firmly packed parsley leaves
  • 1 red chile pepper, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Combine the cauliflower, chickpeas, oil, black pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake at 425°F for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and lightly browned.
2. Place ¼ cup water, miso, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a mini food processor; process until smooth.
3. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, omitting the fat and salt. Drain. Divide the noodles evenly among 4 bowls. Top evenly with the cauliflower mixture. Drizzle evenly with the miso dressing; top evenly with the parsley and sliced chile. 


Excerpted from Everyday Vegetarian by the editors of Cooking Light. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved. 
..............................................................................................................

EVERYDAY VEGETARIAN: A Delicious Guide for Creating More Than 150 Meatless Dishes by the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, May 16, 2017, $21.95) was sent to me at no cost. I was not paid for my review. All opinions about the book are my own.

May 25, 2017

Baking experiments etc.



I sat down to write a post about my pizza and bread baking experiments with a few air fryer photos thrown in, but when I went through my last few posts to make sure I wasn't repeating myself, the fry photos attacked me, and I had no choice but to give in and make a batch. At least I know my blog is inspiring somebody, even if it's only me. The fries have a half teaspoon of oil, a sprinkle of coarse salt and too many crushed red peppers. They were delicious, yes, but a little too spicy for me, and now my nose is running. I guess it's a small price to pay for fries-on-demand. I usually make them sans oil but wanted to see if they would be a lot different if I used some. Maybe a little different, but I like them so much plain that I think I'll stick to that method when air frying for myself.



About a month ago I started experimenting again with making gluten-free pizza crust. You can see the results above, topped with mozzarella made from the recipe in Miyoko Schinner's book, The Homeade Vegan Pantry. It was a crust raised with baking powder but not yeast. After I made it I watched a video about applying science to gluten free baking, specifically pizza, and was surprised that I'd added most of the recommended ingredients on my own. I felt so scientific, and intended to take it to the next level, but it never happened. (The ingredients included: Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix, millet flour, coconut flour, psyllium husks, sugar, baking powder, salt, almond flour, flax eggs, water.) Before making the dough, I'd thought about what ingredients I should add, and why I was adding them. The crust was good, but not great. After watching the video, I decided to increase certain ingredients and add additional ones, and now I'm trying to  inspire myself to try it again tonight, so perhaps there will be an update soon. Sadly, I don't have homemade mozzarella, but I'll just make a cheese sauce. The aforementioned video said to make the dough very wet, spread it on a pizza pan, bake it in a slow oven for 45 minutes to dry it out, then let it cool while preheating the oven to 425˚F. Add the toppings and bake about 15 minutes. I'll have to watch the video again, but the long, double baking time might exceed my attention span. Perhaps I will selectively incorporate ideas from the video.



I discovered an interesting thing about the pizza while heating up the leftovers. I used my air fryer to heat the leftover slices, and they improved dramatically — becoming crisp on the bottom and chewy inside, just as they should be. Maybe there is something to that scientific double baking time.

As for the cheese, it takes two days to make the mozzarella, but once the ingredients are mixed and cooked, it practically makes itself. Most of the time is just waiting for the cheese to ripen. The recipe is called oil-free melty "mozzarella," and I made the sauerkraut juice version. I recommend it, but would probably make the Rejuvelac version next time.



In addition to making pizza with the homemade mozzarella, I also made a vegan version of poutine. I've never actually had poutine made with cheese curds and gravy, so I can't speak to how my version compares, but I can tell you, with mushroom gravy and mozzarella, it was damn fine (as Agent Cooper would say). I swear, if my air fryer ever breaks, I will immediately replace it.


Along with my pizza trials, I revisited the buckwheat-millet nut-and-seed bread that has appeared on the blog periodically — here, here, and here. I've slowly been making changes to the recipe, and when I'm satisfied, I'll post a revised version. The original, unyeasted, naturally leavened loaf is still delicious, but I've been working on a yeasted version in an attempt to make the texture lighter. My husband recently had some dental work done that requires him not to eat nuts or seeds for a month, so the bread is on hold for a couple more weeks. I can't eat the whole loaf by myself.



Here are a few more random dishes made with the aid of the air fryer. (Baking in the oven or frying in a pan are alternatives to the air fryer.) When I air fry tofu, I find it most efficient to cut the tofu into strips, then cube it after it's done. So here's what it looks like before I turn it into a recipe. (It takes a lot of will power to not just eat it as is.)



Fancier-than-usual miso soup, or any miso soup, is always welcome at our house. I love to add air fried tofu to miso soup.



Vegetables and (air fried) tofu with peanut sauce is a fast option when we're too tired or lazy to think of something new for dinner. My husband found a recipe called almost instant peanut sauce on the Forks Over Knives Web site that was surprisingly delicious, and turned a simple dish into a wonderfully satisfying meal.

My dog is patiently waiting for me to take her for a walk, so I'm going to conclude my post here. I'm working on a cookbook review, and a new product review which I hope to finish soon. 

April 29, 2017

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins, with polenta



I tend to try a recipe, love it, and never make it again. If my husband, on the other hand, tries a recipe and likes it, he makes it again and again until neither of us can stand the sight of it. That's what happened to the recipe I'm sharing today, twice, but he made it recently and, unsuspecting, I tasted it and said, "this is delicious, what is it?"

It seemed vaguely familiar, and turned out to be a recipe I had posted back in 2008, and again in 2012. With some minor changes to the ingredients, I'm re-posting it again since we enjoyed it so much. I want to occasionally share some of the older recipes that have become buried in the archives, and this one deserves another look.

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins, served over polenta (serves 2 to 3 adults)
 
The polenta

The polenta is based on a recipe from Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon. The author says it's an old Tuscan peasant recipe.
  • 1 cup course grind cornmeal (our co-op sells a bulk coarse grind labeled "polenta")
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (not brewers yeast powder), optional but recommended
  1. Oil a 3 quart oven-proof skillet or dish. Put all ingredients in the dish and mix together casually.
  2. Put the dish, uncovered, in a pre-heated 350˚ oven. Bake for 40 minutes, undisturbed. After 40 minutes, stir and bake 10 more minutes, if needed. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Creamy, dreamy, heartwarming polenta. Mmm.
I always make the polenta in a 3 1/2 quart enameled cast iron casserole pan from Le Creuset. It's one of three pieces of the cookware I own, and it gets used nearly every day. Because the pan isn't supposed to go directly from cold to hot, I put the polenta in the oven when I turn it on to pre-heat, and start the timer when the oven reaches the correct temperature. Lately, I've been making the polenta in my Instant Pot, but if you don't have an Instant Pot, the oven method is foolproof and easy.

the braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins

Based on a recipe that I think was from the NY Times, but I'm not sure. The inspiration may have come from Parade Magazine.

  • 1 pound collard greens (I used a large bunch - no idea what it weighed) (or you can use kale, which was in the original version of the recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or low sodium veg broth
  • 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (one slice of bread should be about right- use gluten-free bread if desired)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (I use dried cranberries when making this dish for a certain raisin-hater)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (shiitake are recommended)
  • one good sized carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (unseasoned)
  • salt to taste, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Wash greens, remove any thick stems, coarsely chop and set aside the leaves.
  2. Place the tofu cubes in a small bowl and drizzle with one teaspoon tamari. Toss to coat all the cubes. Let sit five minutes.
  3. Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or skillet. Add the tofu cubes and cook over high heat until browned.*
  4. Turn the heat down. Add the mushrooms, cashews and bread crumbs and sauté until they are lightly browned. Stir in the raisins. Remove mixture from pan and set aside.
  5. Add the other tablespoon of oil to pan, add the shredded carrot, increase heat to high and add the greens. Stir to mix, then cover and cook about three minutes until the greens have wilted but are still bright green. (Be careful not to burn them.)
  6. Reduce heat, stir in sugar and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the tofu mixture. Spread over polenta and serve.
Sometimes I spread the polenta on a large serving platter and arrange the veggies 'decoratively' on top. You can garnish with parsley and olives if desired.

*I used my air fryer to fry the tofu without oil. I let the tofu cook while I prepared and cooked the rest of the dish, and added it at the end. The tofu takes about 20 to 30 minutes in the air fryer. Low sodium vegetable stock was used to sauté the veggies.

The whole vegetable part takes about 15-20 minutes including prep time, so plan accordingly so you can have the veggies and polenta finish cooking about the same time.

April 18, 2017

How to impress the kids with an air fryer



Two of my young grandchildren recently spent the day with us, and at one point during the visit I saw my nine-year-old granddaughter looking at my food blog on my husband's computer. I had no idea she even knew about the blog, and I asked her how she found it. "I just googled your name," she said. "Look. I'll show you how." Okay. That was weird. But it got even better.

"I love looking at pictures of food," she said. "Want to see my favorite thing?" she asked. "Ummm sure," I answered. She then went to my air fryer post and found a photo of French fries.


This is the photo she showed me. "Fries are my favorite food. I wish I could have these right now," she said, wistfully. "You can!" I answered, and less than 20 minutes later, she was sitting in front of a plate of puffy, crispy fries, which she devoured. I think the air fryer has become the most used appliance in the kitchen. And I now have super powers!

I admit, in the beginning days of owning the air fryer, I was so obsessed with fries (and tofu) that every time I went to make something in the air fryer, I ended up making one of those two things. I've expanded my repertoire a bit, though if I'm being honest, they are still my favorites.

April 05, 2017

Seattle Vegfest 2017



Before heading to the latest incarnation of Seattle Vegfest, I checked my last vegfest blog post for inspiration, to get myself excited to head down to the Seattle Center, and spend several hours battling the crowds for samples and insight into the newest vegan and vegetarian products. (Vegfest includes vegetarian as well as vegan items, so we have to ask before sampling any unfamiliar foods to make sure they're vegan.) If I'm being honest, I think the 2015 post was a much better post than this one is going to be — better photos, better samples — maybe you should go read that one instead of this. (Just kidding.)

Some of my favorite products and people weren't there this year, including So Delicious. I was really looking forward to sampling So Delicious cashew ice cream. And Jill from Someday Farm B&B wasn't there either. At least Miyoko Schinner was there to give a cooking demo. I'm sure you know her from Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, or from one of her cookbooks, Artisan Vegan Cheese, The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Japanese Cooking, or Now and Zen Epicure. I have all of her cookbooks and have been to many cooking demos and a book talk. At Vegfest this year, she made almond feta, which she then used to make stuffed shells. It really doesn't matter what Miyoko makes, her demos are always entertaining and informative. She did a very amusing demonstration of how to peel almonds by bringing a bunch of kids from the audience on stage and having them shoot almonds at the crowd. One of the samples I tried and admired at Vegfest this year, was Miyoko's Kitchen smoked mozzarella — excellent!



We also attended a cooking demo by Chef Ramses Bravo, executive chef at TrueNorth Health Center. He made a couple of vegetable dishes that looked delicious. Chef Ramses has a cookbook, too, (which I reviewed here), so I was interested in seeing him in person. When I reviewed his book, I was cooking with, and eating, a lot more oil than I do now, so it was fun to watch an oil-free cooking demo.



In between the cooking demos, we systematically wandered all the isles of the room to seek out as many samples to try as we could. It was so crowded I had trouble getting good photos, but beyond the crowds, we weren't as intrigued by the food as we have been in the past. That said, we did try a number of foods we really liked. Above, you see my husband happily holding a dish of delicious polenta about to be topped with a condiment that was so good, he ended up buying a jar on the spot.

Hero The Mighty Condiment Giardiniera.

I had just tasted the condiment, Hero The Mighty Condiment Giardiniera, on a cracker, and agreed we should take a jar home. It contains sweet red peppers, celery, carrots, Spanish olives, Serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, pickled pearl onions, canola oil, white vinegar and salt. It's vegan, gluten free and GMO free, but not organic. It's made in Seattle so I don't don't how widely available it is.

We tasted a  a bunch of stuff I didn't get photos of like Frooser, a frozen soft-serve type snack made entirely from whole fruits and veggies, and Wildwood GF baked tofu. Hodo Soy, which I wrote about here, was sampling their wares so of course, we tried some. We also tried numerous versions of kombucha (our favorite is still GTs), and I got to try a sample of Go Umami baked tofu bar from House Foods, which I'm told will be available soon in Seattle, but which tasted extremely salty to me. I have to say, though, I have strong reservations about how many single serve products wrapped in plastic we consume. What do you think about that?

Samples from our bag.

Before we left the hall, we renewed our membership in Vegetarians of Washington, and received a large bag of samples and coupons for free products and restaurant meals. The bag included the usual suspects as well as bottles of kombucha, Odwalla fruit smoothie. and more. There was even a full box of So Delicious ice cream sandwiches, which my husband is enjoying. In the photo above you can see a bit of what we brought home in our bag. I already buy the hemp hearts in a big bag, and add them to smoothies and baked goods. Haven't tried the Teechino, yet, and loved the Thin Stackers from Lundberg, which we will probably start buying.



My favorite item may have been the NadaMoo mint chocolate chip organic coconut ice cream. Whoa — delicious! I'm not even going to look at the ingredients until it's gone — why spoil a good thing. I've never had NadaMoo but it's definitely a most impressive dairy-free ice cream. Have you tried it?



Last but not least, is a jar of Make Me Smile, from Pascha Chocolate. It's made in Belgium for Pascha Chocolate in Toronto. Make Me Smile is a fruit and chocolate spread. When I tasted it, I was surprised at how incredibly sweet it was, and looked again to see the ingredients, because the label said it was made from fruit and chocolate. It is made from fruit, but it's made from fruit concentrates (pear, apple and date), sugar, fair-trade cocoa and citric acid. I think if you have a sweet tooth, you might love it, but for me the sweetness was too intense and overpowering. I couldn't eat more than a bite or two of my cracker, and had to run to the kitchen for a jalapeno-stuffed green olive chaser — shows you where my taste buds lie.

I'm sure I'm leaving some tasty things out, but I've described what I remember most from Seattle Vegfest 2017. I'll probably attend again next year, and hopefully pay more attention to photographing the goods!

March 30, 2017

Sauerkraut sushi? Maybe not.



When the rain stops and the sun comes out in Seattle, you don't grab a quick shower, throw a load of clothes in the washer, or write a blog post. You go outside and plant the parsley! The parsley that's been sitting on the deck waiting for this moment is now in the ground. And it's raining again. Oh well. I was kind of hoping the sun would stay out for a while longer, but this season has been especially rainy and sunless. Normally, Seattle has a lot less rain than many other large cities, like New York, D.C., Baltimore, etc. It's often overcast and gloomy, though, except in later spring and summer, when it tends to be gloriously sunny and dry. Today, though, I'll probably be taking the dog for a walk in drizzle, and thinking about the parsley spreading its roots and preparing to grow bigger as the weather turns to spring. But first, a random post about some of the food we've been eating.



About the sushi in the post title ... I had a terrible craving for sushi. With a quantity of sushi rice in the pantry, and my Instant Pot standing at the ready, I got busy cooking rice and thinking about what to fill the rolls with. The fridge was bare of interesting things, and I wasn't in the mood to go shopping — it was probably raining. Not a cucumber. green onion or avocado in sight, and no creative thoughts in my brain. Nothing but a jar of sauerkraut stood out as a possibility. Let's just say I won't be making sauerkraut sushi again, and you shouldn't either. Not as the only add-in. Perhaps it would be an interesting flavor along with other, more colorful items like roasted red peppers or fried tofu.



I've been having loads of fun with my new air fryer; I use it constantly for everything imaginable. Here is a bowl of rice and veggies with air fried tofu and a sweet/sour sauce.



Leftover dinner salad filled with arugula — my favorite green of the moment — made a pleasant lunch. Although we eat a lot of salads in the summer, sometimes I forget to eat them in the chilly, gloomy months. And when I do consume raw greens in the winter, they have to be special. This is a Chinese salad with mandarins and toasted peanuts from Kristy Turner's cookbook, But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan, 125 Recipes to Win Everyone Over, which we can't help but make again and again.




The leftover salad nicely complemented leftover Thai food the following day. Most of our lunches are made from leftovers. I love leftovers.



My husband made tacos last week, and I wanted a cheesy topping, but I only had 10 minutes before the start of the Rachel Maddow show, to which I'm currently addicted (it's Pacific time here so she comes on at 6 p.m.). I made cheese sauce in under 10 minutes so I could get to the TV in time to watch. I didn't use a recipe, which made it faster, and didn't write it down, which I'm sorry about since it tasted so good. I made it in the Vitamix with approximately 1/2 -3/4 cup of cashews, 1 cup of hot water, one clove of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder, 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast flakes, two roasted red peppers from a jar, 1 scant tablespoon of tapioca starch, dash of rice vinegar (no time to squeeze lemon) and salt. After it was blended to a creamy sauce, I cooked it in a small pot to thicken it a bit more. It tasted great on the tacos, and now the leftovers are being spread on crackers and toast. I've been making vegan cheese sauces since the 80s, when I first acquired a copy of The Farm Cookbook, then later, from The Uncheese Cookbook and Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. Since then, vegan cheese has skyrocketed in popularity, and every vegan cookbook and vegan blog has multiple recipes available. If you don't feel like making one up based on past experience, just look for a recipe online. You won't have a problem finding something appealing. I have a few favorites that I turn to again and again — when speed isn't an issue! When I need something fast, and don't have time to undertake a recipe, I wing it.

The toast is made from the buckwheat millet bread I wrote about here. I've been experimenting with the bread again, and when I finish, I'll post an updated recipe.

I ran into a little problem after I made the bread because the air fryer bumped the toaster from its accessible location on the counter. The bread absolutely needs toasting to be at its best, so now the air fryer is also a toaster! And, it makes better toast than the toaster ever did. Love my air fryer!

March 16, 2017

Hodo Soy tofu products are now available nationwide

Hodo Soy Thai Curry Tofu Nuggets served with veggies over rice.

When we travel to San Francisco, our primary purpose is to visit a loved family member, but I'd be lying if I said we also didn't look forward to the city itself — and the food! I have a number of posts on the blog about our visits to San Francisco, and the great times we have had exploring the Bay Area, and eating in the amazing vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. Another of the things we always enjoy is visiting farmers markets like the one at the Ferry Building, and the Marin Farmers Market. When I go to a store in Seattle to buy a lemon or a lime or dates — I buy a lemon, a lime or dates. When I go to the farmers markets in and near San Francisco, I have to choose among 10 different varieties, all grown nearby. It's mind boggling. Even the tofu seems more exotic. It was at one of the farmers markets that I first tried Hodo Soy tofu, and I loved it so much, it really bugged me that it was only available in the Bay Area. Whenever I visited San Francisco, I always had to have some. The Hodo Soy tofu has a texture that is firm, chewy and almost squeaky. It's kind of like fresh cheese curds, if you've ever had those. And the yuba is so good. When I read they had started selling nation-wide, I was so excited. The Whole Foods near my house carries it, though the selection and availability are limited. So far we've only seen the curried tofu nuggets and the spicy yuba noodles, but hey, it's a start!

Hodo Soy Spicy Yuba noodles served with mixed veggies and miso soup.

You might be wondering what yuba is. When a pot of soymilk is heated, a skin forms on the surface. The skin is yuba. The skin is removed, and a new skin is allowed to form. The process is repeated over and over again. The yuba can be used fresh, or it may be frozen or dried. We often buy the dried form rolled up into tubes, which we re-hydrate and cook in soup, especially miso soup. The sheets can be used to make wraps. The Hodosoy Spicy Yuba Noodles are something special. They come in a vacuum pack ready to eat, or add to a dish.

Since last summer, I've been cooking pretty much fat-free, but when using prepared foods or eating out, fat-free doesn't apply. The tofu nuggets are fried, but the fat content doesn't seem terribly high to me and the taste is excellent. We don't eat them very often, but they add a great taste and texture to our dinner when we do.








I've included photos of the box fronts and backs so you can see the ingredients and other information. I hope you can find Hodo Soy products where you live. They are so delicious.



Here's one last image of the Thai curry nuggets served with a homemade curry sauce over rice.

p.s. I was not given free product to write a review. I wrote it because I enjoy Hodo Soy products and wanted to share  information about them.

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