Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tofu and Dip

I recently purchased a used copy of The Vegetarian Way - Total Health for You and Your Family (Virginia Messina and Mark Messina).

What a fantastic resource and cook book! If I was just starting to investigate "vegetarianism" this is one of the books I would recommend. I really enjoy reading about the science of food and this book devotes a good 80% to that very subject. The authors know of what they write - Virginia is a registered dietitian, with a MA in public health nutrition, and Mark holds a PhD in nutrition. Topics cover a wide range, from the obvious: getting started, making the transition, stocking the pantry, meal planning, etc. to pregnancy, breast feeding, the older vegetarian, children, the athlete, the teenager. Other chapters cover traveling and weight control (a perennial favourite in our culture!) The book is divided into 5 parts with a total of 24 chapters. Recipes are at the very end - a nice, varied selection - vegan, quick to prepare and so far, absolutely delicious!

This evening I prepared the Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce - I was very pleased with the results (a tangy alternative to ketchup).

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 lbs firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water
Cut the tofu into pieces and brush each piece, lightly, with oil. Spread in 1 layer on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler. Broil on both sides for about 10 minutes until crispy and golden brown.

In a bowl, mix all other ingredients, less the water. Then add just enough water to give the sauce a creamy consistence. Use as a sauce or dip for the fried tofu.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Indonesian-style Tempeh & Coconut Curry

1 small head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces,
1 8.5 oz (240 g) pkg. tempeh, thawed,
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil,
1/2 c (120 ml) diced onion
1 cup mushroom caps & stems
1 clove garlic, minced,
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh ginger, minced,
1 14 ox (398 ml) can coconut milk,
1 tbsp (15 ml) mild curry paste,

Steam the broccoli until tender-crisp, then plunge it into cold water and set aside to drain. Cut the tempeh in half. Using a sharp knife, cut each piece into 2 thin layers. Heat 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the tempeh and brown on both sides. Remove the tempeh from the pan and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. Return the pan to low to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil. Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the coconut milk, curry paste, and tempeh pieces. Simmer gently, covered for 10 minutes. Add the steamed broccoli pieces and heat through. Serves 4. (Serve with plain rice, a green salad or simple stir fry of julienned carrots and snow peas.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rice and Beans

This is another quick to assemble, nourishing dish: Caribbean Beans & Rice.
I typically use the following ingredients: 1 onion, 2-3 cloves minced garlic, 1 stalk celery (diced), 1 carrot (diced), 1 red pepper (diced), 1 large can stewed, diced tomatoes + an equal amount water, 1 large can beans (black or your choice) drained, 1 can corn drained, 1 cup rice, dried hot red peppers (a few pieces), Tabasco sauce, Turmeric 1 tsp, vegetarian chicken soup base powder 1 tbsp.
Fry the onion & garlic & celery & red pepper in a small amount of oil (until onion translucent). Add spices and veg'n chicken soup base powder. Add rice and keep frying a few minutes. Gradually add the remaining ingredients. Bring the pot up to almost a boil, then turn down to simmer for 30 minutes or so. The liquid should absorb nicely during this time, leaving a fluffy mixture of rice, beans and vegetables. (This is one dish I completely eye-ball as I have made it so many times, but just a reminder, when using rice....the equation is 2 (liquid) to 1 (rice)...hence 1 cup rice needs 2 cups fluid, in this case the fluid from the tomatoes + extra water.)

Of course, now I need to go downstairs and check my pot to see if my "eye" was accurate enough tonight?

(Rice & Beans was recommended, in times past, as a 'complete protein' for those choosing a vegetarian diet. However, current research now says it is not necessary to combine foods at a single meal to get all the amino acids . As long as you are eating a balanced, varied food diet, you should obtain ample amounts of protein.
You will also notice I have used Turmeric; this is one of those spices that has great health benefits (anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory), hence I look for opportunities to add it to my daily intake. More about Turmeric on future posts.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chili....the variations are endless

Chili is one of my favourite dishes to prepare - it takes very little time, is nourishing, and there is always enough left-over for lunches or another dinner.
As the title says, they are numerous recipes for chili, but here is how I put together a big pot. Each chili tastes slightly different as I do not measure and the ingredients vary from one week to another. I would recommend this method to awaken your culinary soul!

Ingredients (usually!):
2 (19 oz) cans of beans (red kidney, chickpea, black-eyed, etc.), vegetarian ground round (optional), 1 can corn, 1/2 large green or red pepper diced, 1 onion diced, 2 stalks celery diced, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chill powder, pinch dried hot chili, 1 can tomato soup + 1 cup water, 1 can (or less depending on your taste) tomato paste, Tabasco or similar - a few drops to taste, salt & pepper taste. <<
As mentioned, feel free to add whatever you have on board in your kitchen in the vegetable department. Keep in mind that you want some resiliency in your vegetables, meaning, not to mushy when cooked.>>

Assembly: in large pan, heat up 1 tablespoon oil. Brown onion, garlic, celery and spices. Add pepper. Drain your beans and add to pot. Add soup, water and tomato paste. Mix well. Add your "ground round" if using and corn. Temperature should be in the med-high range, but once you notice mixture bubbling, you can cover the pot and turn down to a simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes.

Most important tip - keep tasting & smelling & looking at the chili. Is it hot enough (meaning spicy)? What does it smell like? Is the consistency what I want? I like a thick soupy consistency.

When I was learning to cook as a teenager (at school and home), following a recipe was stressed (and results were assumed if you followed your recipe correctly). Generally, this has not failed me, however, I am always inspired by cooks who use their senses to cook (my husband is great at this). This is what I would like to encourage in my own hands on cooking.

Best of luck with YOUR version of chili!

(Serve with rice or crusty bread or corn bread. My husband tops it with shredded cheese, and I sprinkled some nutritional yeast on my bowl. Nutritional yeast was suggested to me just yesterday as an alternative to cheese (such as Parmesan) - I was quite impressed. It did taste cheesy much to my surprise.)