Friday, September 30, 2011

Vegan & Veg Blogs

When I first tried out a vegan diet, I was just reaching the tip of the iceberg on the vegan (and food) blogging world. Since then, I've found so many more wonderful food sites, so I'm adding to my original list more blogs that have great photos, personality, and recipes. This will be updated, I'm sure!

These sites inspire me to...  (try things like Chia seeds, waste time, avoid work, take pictures of what I eat, spend way too much time trying to take a good photo of food and arranging things on a plate)....... make a better blog (if only I had more time!)


Vegetarian: (and a few non-veg specific)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Veggie-Stuffed Zucchini

Recipe adapted from The Happy Go Lucky Vegan

I'm not a big fan of peppers (actually, I just plain don't eat them- they upset my stomach) - so I was pretty excited to try a variation to stuffed peppers. I actually really loved the filling in these- it was flavorful and delicious! I ended up making extra filling and having it for lunch, and also using the sauce on a stir-fry the next night too.

The sauteed filling: I added chard & asparagus to the original recipe.
Ingredients: for 2
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large zucchini (I used 1 zucchini and 1 summer squash since I love squash!)
  • ~1/2 cup finely diced carrots
  • ~1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 cups chopped spinach (or Swiss chard, or a combo- which is what I did)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp oil (for pan)
  • 2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp sirracha, or to taste
  • Optional: other veggies, such as a few chopped spears of asparagus, or water chestnuts or green beans.
Prepped & ready for the oven!
    1. Mix the sauce: soy sauce, vinegar, and sirracha.
    2. Prep all veggies: chop celery, carrots, and leafy greens. Cut the zucchini in half and use a Tbsp or spoon to scrape out the seeds & middle. You can save this middle, roughly chop, and use it in the stuffing. (I recommend adding a spoonful of the sauce to each halved-out zucchini and letting it soak in while you prep the other veg).
    3. Preheat oven to 350.
    4. Heat oil in saute pan and cook the garlic for ~1 min. Add carrots, cook 2-3 min, then add celery & zucchini chopped insides, cook 1 min, then add the greens and cook ~2min. Add the sauce, and cook a few more minutes, until greens are wilted. Don't overcook the veggies, as they will cook more in the oven; but the carrots should be slightly tender. (NOTE: I also added some chopped asparagus - I cooked them separately, until almost done, and added them to the stuffing before putting it the oven. It was a good addition).
    5. Place the zucchini halves on tinfoil-lined cookie sheet, and spoon in the veggie filling. Wrap the stuffed zucchinis loosely in the tinfoil, and cook ~15-20 minutes until zucchini is tender, depending on the size of your zucchini (for the squash I used, I only cooked for about 15 min, since it was smaller)
    The verdict: a good recipe, but despite the filling being flavorful, overall it came out a little bland. It may be my zucchini was too big, but I think, as noted above, it would help a lot to pour a little sauce into the hollowed-out zucchini prior to adding the stuffing, and let it soak in while you are prepping the stuffing. The sauce & stuffing were delicious and flavorful, so really it just needed to soak into the base better.

    My husband and I also decided, next time: 1- sub the tamari for regular soy sauce (we're not gluten free, and the tamari tastes a little off), 2- use peanuts instead of cashews (the cashews I used didn't have any flavor, and I really think peanuts would bring out more here). Also, we thought adding a little peanut sauce for more flavor would be good- try drizzling a bit over the top. I could also up the sirracha a bit more- I played it safe and just used maybe 3-4 drops, but next time, I'm adding more!

    Looking forward to trying this again! Thanks to Jesse at Happy Go Lucky Vegan for the recipe inspiration!

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Brussels Sprouts and Maple Almond Tofu

    I saw this monstrosity of a Brussels sprout stalk at Trader Joe's yesterday, and just had to get it. I *might* have looked a little odd walking home from the store with it. And then I *might* have taken some silly pictures with it (sorry, evidence withheld).

    Seriously, this thing was huge.
    The stalk actually yielded about 3-4 cups of Brussels sprouts! With all those sprouts, I had to come up with a recipe to use them in. I thought I'd try 'em out paired with a maple tofu recipe I found on Finding Vegan. I used about 2 cups of them for the recipe here. So many sprouts, so few mouths to feed.... we'll be eating them for the next few days ;-)

    If you have an aversion to Brussels sprouts, see my post of different cooking methods for them- and try them roasted. Totally different flavor- takes out all of that bitter bite and replaces it with that awesome roasted veg taste. Mmmm.

    Beautiful Brussels Sprouts!

    Recipe for tofu and topping adapted from The Mighty Vegan's maple dijon tofu. This is also inspired by the tempeh and Brussels sprouts recipe I posted earlier (from Lux Hippie). I wanted to incorporate the Brussels sprouts in a new way since I had them. Luckily this recipe is a keeper, and worked well with the Brussels sprouts!

    Serves 4.
    For the tofu:
    • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained (I drain the package and then press the tofu with a paper towel a few times on each side to remove the excess water)- don't use softer tofu, it will fall apart!
    • 1/2 cup maple agave syrup
    • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    For the almond topping:
    • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
    • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
    • 1/8 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp maple agave syrup
    For the Brussels sprouts:
    • ~2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters lengthwise (yep, QUARTERS)
    • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp Maple or plain agave syrup
    • Dash sea salt
    1. Combine the syrup, oil, pepper flakes, and salt for the tofu marinade by whisking together. Slice the block of drained tofu into ~1 inch thick slices, and marinate the slices in the sauce for about an hour (or do ahead and store in the fridge for a few hours!). After the hour, make sure you save the marinade. I started the next steps after about 30-40 minutes into the marinade time.
    2. Combine the dry almond topping ingredients in a food processor until coarsely chopped; add in the oil and syrup and pulse. Set aside for step #5.
    3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Quarter the Brussels sprouts and toss with desired amount of oil, syrup, and sea salt. Time it so you start cooking the Brussels sprouts when the marinating time is about over. Place the Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet and cook in oven for 20 minutes, stirring at least 1-2 times during the process.
    4. While the sprouts are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a pan and cook the marinated tofu slices until golden brown on each side. (Try not to bring too much marinade into the pan at this point; it will make the cooking time much longer on the tofu to get it fully cooked & brown).
    5. After the sprouts have cooked 20 minutes, reduce oven temp to 375. Place the tofu on another cookie sheet, this one lined with parchment paper, and spoon the almond topping on the slices. Place the tofu cookie sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes (you can leave the sprouts in as well to keep warm, just give them another stir).
    6. While the tofu is in the oven, put the marinade in the pan you cooked the tofu in, and simmer on low to make it into a thicker syrup. (You may want to check that your Brussels sprouts don't get charred; when they are quartered like this, I've found that 25 minutes at 400 is perfect).
    7. Remove tofu from oven. I plated by putting a slice or two of the tofu over the Brussels sprouts, and then drizzling with the marinade.

    BIG thanks to Mighty Vegan for an awesome tofu recipe. The flavors of the almond crunch topping, sweet maple, and tangy Dijon blend so well. It was delicious, filling, and perfectly complemented by those roasted Brussels sprouts.

    The complete dish. YUM!

     Notes: The original recipe had a little fresh rosemary in the almond topping; I didn't have any, but I bet it would be good.

    I had plenty of marinade left, so if you are running low on ingredients, feel free to halve the marinade if you are serving for two. The leftover tofu would be fine cold the next day for lunch without it.

    Speaking of leftovers, I also had some extra almond topping- which would actually be GREAT on some coconut ice cream, or over baked apples. I love multi-purpose recipes!

    Almond-crusted tofu coming out of the oven!

    Another thing I learned through this dish: good tofu takes time. I've been eating tofu for over 12 years, and what I've realized is that while you can eat it after merely opening the package, if you want it to really taste good, you need to spend some time on it! In this recipe, in addition to letting it marinate for 1 hour, the pan-cooking probably took about 10-12 minutes to get it nice and golden, plus the additional 10 minutes in the oven. But oh my it was worth the wait ;-) This recipe does NOT get my "quick and easy" label, but then again, it wasn't difficult... just a tad bit time consuming.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Oh, you're vegetarian?

    In college, I studied abroad one semester in Australia. It was wonderful and exciting, but I had to laugh every time I told someone I was vegetarian. The response was unequivocally, "Oh, would you like chicken or fish, then?"

    Despite being a country that loves its meat pies, I don't blame the Australians; this was over 10 years ago, and I've gotten that kind of response in many places. It's pretty rare to hear that today, but I'm wondering if it's being replaced by something else...

    "Oh, you're vegetarian? Would you like cheese or cheese?"

    Enter a new phase of meatasaurus misunderstanding: the Dairy Age. While I'm pretty sure most people these days understand that vegetarianism, in fact, does not include chicken or fish, I'm becoming a little frustrated that the go-to vegetarian dish always seems to be something dairy-focused; pasta smothered in cheese or creamy sauce=dinner or cheese sandwich=lunch. (Ok, it's not that bad here in SF, but we've been traveling a bit recently, and I'm sad to say these are still the primary veg options in many places). This is partly why I recently tried a vegan diet. Ironically, by adopting what is commonly believed to be a highly restrictive diet, I found my options opened up in new ways. By saying no to cheese, eggs, and yogurt, I opened my eyes to new snacks and meals, to more fresh vegetables and fruits, and totally innovative recipes.

    I can't say I know I want to go vegan forever, but I can say this: what's wrong with more vegan dishes, more vegetables for the vegetarians (heck, for everyone)? Without thinking about it, I end up eating vegan maybe 70% of my meals when I cook for myself. I think we could all benefit from taking some recipe ideas from vegans.

    Here are some vegans posts I've found that dispell some Meatasaurus Myths:
    • The protein myth - Dreena Burton has compiled an excellent resource of vegan protein sources, sure to put to death the age-old question of where vegans get their protein. And it's not just soy-based foods: fruit, legumes, nuts, grains, and veggies all contain more than enough protein for healthy living. See her comprehensive post, including plenty of informative graphs and statistics, here. Also, there's a nice write-up of Animal vs. Plant protein in this post towards the bottom of the page.
    • The 'say no to everything' myth- (story at the bottom of the post)
    • The myth of no options- check out all these mouth-watering photos! (*Update: I've actually found my options have OPENED as a vegan compared to when I was a vegetarian, since I'm more inventive, track down new ingredients, and make myself more exciting dishes).
    • And some of my thoughts on the whole vegan thing... here
    I've actually found that vegan recipes (yes, meaning ones without ANY animal products) are the most creative and interesting ones I've ever tried. And by "interesting" I don't mean "tastes bad"! For the past month, even though "technically" my "vegan month" is over, I've only made vegan baked goods, just because I think it's more exciting (and they taste just as good!). When new and different is also tasty and healthy, why not?

    So that's my random, anti-cheese rant. My husband would die. For the time being, I do still like dairy (in moderation)... but I don't want to be forced into having cheese/eggs/dairy be part of every meal when I go out, when there are so many amazing (plant-based only!) other choices out there! I'd just like the non-veggers out there to realize how awesome vegan foods can be, and hey- to live a little and try more of 'em.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Expanded Oatmeal

    I learned a few tricks from Chocolate Covered Katie:
    Pretty simple tricks, but useful & nice to change things up a bit! You simply add more water  (~1.5 cups) to the oats prior to cooking, leave in the microwave for some extra time, and then store uncovered overnight to allow the oats to soak up all the liquid. For extra taste, I used 1/4 cup of vanilla almond milk, rather than all water.  I also added some raisins, nuts, and a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

    I was a little skeptical that this was going to be some bland weight-loss trick. I'm not into that. While it was a little bit more like porridge mush than full-on oatmeal, I did actually like it- the consistency was new and different. Usually I've found plain oats to taste really boring, but something about adding the extra liquid brings on a new texture that tastes better. Microwaving the banana and using it as a sweetener, too, IS a good trick! Very flavorful & caramel-y.

    My tips: I'm going to omit the salt or use only a pinch next time- it tasted too salty for me. While I didn't mind eating the oatmeal cold, next time I think I'll warm it up after adding the banana, since I think it will taste better that way.

    A nice change from the usual instant oatmeal! Katie also has some other great oatmeal ideas I'm looking forward to trying.

    Broccoli, Chickpea, Tomato & Bean Salad

    I've posted the recipe for this salad previously here: Broccoli, Chickpea & Tomato Salad

    I changed the original just a tad by adding black beans for more protein! Filling, refreshing, delicious, and sooooo easy to make!

    Dressing is a Dijon mustard/olive oil/vinegar mix (I use 1 Tbsp of each- slight change from the original). Onion may be omitted (as done in these pics- didn't have one and didn't miss it!).

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Corn Salad Mix-up

    Another quick, easy, delicious recipe favorite here! This is a variation/combination of two corn salads I've posted before- the corn & avocado salad and the fresh corn salad. Very easy!

    Ingredients: (serves 2)
    • 3 large ears sweet corn
    • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 medium avocado, sliced into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
    • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 cup black beans
    • ~1 Tbsp lime juice, fresh
    • Sea salt to taste
    1. Shuck & steam the corn until just tender- let boil for about 3 minutes. Remove & rinse with cold water. Let further cool.
    2. Remove the corn from the cob by slicing off in strips using a large knife. 
    3. Combine corn, tomatoes, beans in large bowl and add oil, salt, and lime juice; toss lightly. 
    4. Add fresh herbs just before serving.

    I actually did not have black beans, but think they would go nicely with this dish; instead, for protein, I added in about a cup of chic peas when we ate this. It's a versatile base dish that you can do a lot with!

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Mediterranean Succotash

     I love succotash because it is so easy to make, and pretty quick too. Recently I altered my traditional succotash recipe to a more Mediterranean-themed dish. It was great! Here's what I did:

    • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts 
    • 1 can of cannelini beans
    • 1 package frozen corn
    • 2 cups chopped tomatoes 
    • 3/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
    • 3 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
    • 1 clove garlic
    • Sea salt and pepper to taste
    1. Briefly rinse the frozen vegetables and can of beans.
    2. Mince the garlic clove. Using about 1 Tbsp of oil from the sun dried tomatoes, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan. (Using the jarred oil helps add that Mediterranean flavor, but if you are using packaged sun-dried tomatoes not in oil- rather than the jarred in oil kind- you could always use regular olive oil and add extra spices).
    3. Add the artichoke hearts and corn, and cover for about 5 min on medium heat to thaw. 
    4. Add the beans and tomatoes, and simmer for about 10 additional minutes until well heated.
    5. Add salt & pepper to taste, and just prior to serving, sprinkle with fresh basil.

     Great for leftovers too!

    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Figgy Banana Bread (lowfat, vegan)

    Nearly overripe bananas... sitting in my fruit basket. Nothing fills me with the sudden need to try out a banana bread recipe like that sight.

    OK, actually, I've never made banana bread before (somewhat shocking, given my love of baking and the fact that baking my Mom's pumpkin bread has kind of become "my thing"). But THIS morning, my close-to-extinction bananas DID compel me all the way to making my first-ever batch of banana bread.

    Since I recently discovered how good vegan baked goods can be, I wanted to make vegan banana bread. Searching for recipes, I was drawn to one: "the best vegan banana bread" from  The Baking Bird. Since I didn't have applesauce, and only had nearly 2 bananas (I ate part of one before I completely decided to go for making the bread- oops ;-) ), I altered things a bit. I also thought, hey, while I'm already changing things, why not make it non-fat too, and leave out the oil? What's baking (and life) without a little experimenting?! (Note: if you use non-fat milk and cooking spray, there will be nearly no fat; if you use almond milk there will still be very little).

    The result was yummy!

    Ingredients: (for one small-medium loaf)
    • 2 very ripe small-medium bananas
    • 1/4 cup maple brown sugar instant oatmeal, cooked according to package instructions (YUP! That's right, I subbed instant oatmeal for applesauce. No, I'm not crazy)
    • 1 Tbsp maple (or plain) agave syrup
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk (My favorites are Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, or Silk's Nonfat Vanilla Soy Milk)
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2-3 figs (I used T.Joe's Calamyrna Figs), chopped into small pieces
    • ~1/2 Tbsp Vegan butter (such as Smart Balance- check for 'vegan' on the label- I use Smart Balance Light Original with Flax- or Earth Balance) or cooking spray for greasing the pan
    1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
    2. Mash the banana in a large bowl. Mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. (For the instant oatmeal, just cook according to package instructions- I kept mine slightly thick rather than soupy/watery). 
    3. Mix together in a separate bowl the dry ingredients, and after well sifted, add to the wet.
    4. Mix well, and then add the chopped figs. Use a small to medium sized dark non-stick baking pan, and grease with spray or non-dairy butter. Add a little flour and tap around til lighted coated to help the bread easily slide out.
    5. Cook for ~30 minutes (timing will depend on the size & type of pan you use. Start checking after 20 minutes, cooking until lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean).
    6. Optional step: after removing from oven, spread a little bit of Smart Balance (or other vegan butter) on top, and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar. 
    7. Cool... or eat a few slices hot! ;-)

    Notes: The bread was slightly dense and a little chewy from using the oatmeal instead of applesauce (and not using any oil). But it was also very moist, packed with delicious flavor, and healthy too! This recipe might be good for mini-muffins too; you could even add a little fig jam into the center.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Bannana-berry Smoothie

    It's a hot day, so my husband and I whipped up this refreshing smoothie for breakfast:

    Ingredients: (I actually didn't measure anything, so these are estimates) - makes enough for 2 large smoothies.
    • 2 small-medium ripe bananas 
    • 1 cup fresh sliced & washed strawberries
    • 1/2 cup fresh washed blueberries
    • 1/2 cup Kefir (or sub: vanilla yogurt)
    • 1/4 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
    • 1 Tbsp agave syrup
    • 2-3 cups ice cubes
    Blend to enjoy!