Monthly Archives: August 2010

Curried Tofu and Onions

I got a TofuXpress for my birthday and I can’t stop using it! It’s amazing! It presses the water out of the tofu — within seconds you can pour some off. I have let mine sit everywhere from 3 hours to overnight (longer than necessary on both counts) and it squeezed the tofu to about 1.5 inches tall.  By squeezing all of the water out, it not only soaks up whatever you put it in (it even comes with a lid so you can marinate it right in the machine) but it cuts easily and doesn’t crumble (unless you want it to) when you’re cooking it.

I decided the first recipe I would make should come from the manual of vegetarian recipes that comes with it, and chose this because I had all of the ingredients! It was DELICIOUS. Even better, it was really fast and easy to make. I served it with Israeli couscous infused with curry, which made them go together perfectly.

Ingredients
• 1 pkg. extra firm tofu, preferably with the water pressed out!
• Non-stick spray or olive oil
• 1 can coconut milk
• 1 sweet onion, chopped
• 1/4 c. chopped walnuts or cashews
• 1-2 Tbsp. yellow curry powder
• 1 tomato, diced
• fresh cilantro, chopped (about 4 Tbsp.)
• cayenne pepper
• salt

1. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes.

2. Add spray or a bit of oil to pan (I used olive oil) to a large pan and heat to medium. Add diced onions and brown (but don’t burn!) them — this took me about 10 minutes or so.

3. Add curry and coat onions, then heat for 1 minute. I started with 1 Tbsp. and added about another half (maybe more) later. It was spicy for sure, but not too spicy. I’d start with 1 if you’re not sure.

4. Add coconut milk and heat for 1 minute, then add chopped tomato, tofu, nuts and cilantro. I had about 1/4 c. raw cashews in the freezer, so that’s what I went with. (These have actually come in very handy since purchasing them to make the vegan baked pumpkin ziti with cashew ricotta for the first ever cooking club).

5. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Add cayenne pepper and salt to taste (I only added a bit of each)

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Butterscotch Cheesecake

Yum. Let’s just get that out of the way. I won’t leave you waiting in suspense. This recipe ended up being delicious. As in, I could eat this for dessert almost every day delicious. And it wasn’t all stick-t0-the-roof-of-your-mouth sticky and sickeningly sweet like you might sometimes think when you hear the word “butterscotch.”

My sister had a baby yesterday — her third boy. If that doesn’t deserve some version of her favorite sweets, I don’t know what does! She loves butterscotch and the butterscotch pie with meringue I made her for her birthday in January was an epic fail. I’ve never gotten around to doing a cautionary post about it, but I think in this case a picture will get the point across just fine:

I decided butterscotch cheesecake must exist and did a quick Internet search. I had a lot to do today, so it had to be quick, and this recipe (which was listed on several Web sites)  sounded like it would fit the bill. Fast, only a few standard ingredients and freezable. Why freezable? I think when you’re pregnant you can go for that second slice of cheesecake — I mean, after all the baby wants more, right?

After is a different story. I think S wouldn’t as much appreciate me shoving a whole cheesecake in her “now I lose the baby weight” face. SO, I decided mini cheesecakes would do the trip. The family can eat, a bite or 2 at a time, as much as they want, and in a couple of days (or… before if we’re smart) we throw the rest in the freezer.

Here’s the recipe, which is supposed to work for a 9″ springform pan. For me, it filled about two dozen mini muffins and eight regular muffin cups. I’ll buy an ingenious mini cheesecake pan before I do this again so it will be prettier for you. For these I used regular muffin pans with paper liners.

Ingredients:
1/3 c. butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
3/4 c. water
1 3.4 oz package butterscotch pudding and pie filling mix
3 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
whipped cream
crushed butterscotch candies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Mix melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar. Press into bottom of pan. I baked for about 3 minutes (I normally do about 5 for full cheesecakes) even though the directions didn’t say to. It certainly didn’t hurt anything!

2. Mix sweetened condensed milk and water in medium saucepan. When well mixed, add pudding mix and cook over medium heat until it is thick and bubbly.

3. Beat softened cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. When well blended, add butterscotch mixture to it.

4. Fill cheesecake pan (or mini muffin cups!) They puff up quite a bit when they bake, but as soon as they start to cool they (more than) sink in, so keep that in mind and go ahead and fill ’em up.

5. For full cheesecake, bake for 50 minutes or until edges start to turn brown. The center will be a bit wobbly still. For the mini cups, I decided to make for 13 minutes and test it out. Both sizes passed the toothpick test (stick a toothpick in the center; if it comes out clean, you’re good to go!) so I yanked them.

6. Let cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator. To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip and top with crushed butterscotch hard candies.

This is a great twist on a classic cheesecake with just a hint of butterscotch! I’ll definitely be making these again and again.  I’d say they could be frozen up to 1 month for maximum deliciousness. Thaw in the refrigerator (probably overnight if a whole cheesecake). And enjoy!

A morning surprise

Aren’t these purple bell peppers beautiful? Maybe it’s just because I haven’t seen one before, or because they’re so far outside of the normal “vegetable colors” (right, other than eggplant), but I was so happy to come up on these guys at one of my favorite area specialty markets.

A bit of research reveals little, only stating that the color, in addition to green, can be red, yellow, orange, white, purple or rainbow depending on when it’s harvested and whether it was deliberately harvested to have a tendency to be purple.

Comfort Food: Vegan French Onion and Shitake Soup

OK, so maybe it’s not French Onion Soup if it’s got shitake mushrooms in it, but I’m not sure what makes it “French” anyway (I used Chilean wine in it, after all). Either way, this is a favorite comfort food of mine and I haven’t found a way to make it since going veg that really tasted like it used to with beef broth. My homemade stock was never “meaty” enough and I haven’t tried some of the new mushroom broths out there.

Kroger has been stocking its organic and veg section (usually by the produce department) with some amazing stuff lately, and I was excited to find this not-beef, gluten free vegan “beef” bullion recently. Instantly, I thought of French onion soup. I just so happen to have a pot of thyme growing like crazy on my front porch too — even better.

I dug into the recipe box and found the one I used to make back in the day. I have no idea where it came from and didn’t follow it exactly, so I’ll just tell you what I did since I really liked the end result!

Ingredients:
Onions (1-2 lg. yellow or a bag of the smaller ones)
6 c. broth (i.e. 3 cubes of that not-beef bullion)
fresh thyme leaves (about 2-3 tsps or more if you don’t have a bay leaf like me)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine or similar
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 c. red wine
salt and pepper to taste
vegan cheese
crusty bread or baguette

1. Add oil and butter substitute to a hot pot. I finally snagged some of the Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread I’ve heard so much about, and it really is good! I tried some on the multigrain baguette I bought and it really tastes like butter.

2. Add 6+ cups of thinly sliced onions to the pot — feel free to guess/approximate the amount and add them as you slice. I’ve yet to find a good way to prevent crying while cutting onions. If you have any tips, please share!

3. I cooked the onions over medium heat, covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then dropped in the garlic cloves and cooked for another 15 minutes or so. Once the onions started to brown a bit, I added salt and pepper and a giant handful of thyme. I didn’t measure and I didn’t take it off the stems. I figured the leaves would mostly fall off on their own and I could fish the stems out, along with the garlic, when I served it. Most recipes say to include a bay leaf (which also should be fished out later), but I’m out so I didn’t worry about it.

4. At this point, I also chopped up a package of washed, sliced shitake mushrooms. I guess I thought it would make it a little richer and it just sounded good. After all this cooked down for about 10 minutes or so, I added 1/2 c. of red wine. Most recipes ask for sherry (which is just a fortified wine that has salt and is a little sweet). I had a bit of cooking wine left (again with the salt, which helps shelf life, and is OK in a pinch. I can’t seem to keep actual wine around for too long, so it’s nice to have this on hand). SO, the 1/2 c. was a little cooking wine and the rest from my bottle of Chilean syrah I had.

5. I let this cook down for a bit, turning everything slightly burgundy, until there was no standing liquid (or alcohol I’m sure) left. Add your stock and let simmer for a while — if you have willpower stronger than mine and can wait that long.

6. Since I don’t have the crocks most people put in the oven to get their cheese all melty on top of the soup, I toasted a couple of slices of my baguette and cut them into bite size chunks, then topped with my new favorite vegan cheese, Daiya, which I finally picked up at Whole Foods last weekend. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it’s melty and delicious (especially on pizza!)

Sunday Brunch: Cafe Muse

I love breakfast. Eating it, making it, or — better yet — letting someone else make it for me! After 2 years of hearing about its award-winning, nationally recognized (no lie) grilled cheese, I finally made it to Cafe Muse in Royal Oak for a baby shower recently (Baby O is now 3 days overdue. Come on,  already!).

My squeeze isn’t as much into breakfast — he starts his day with a blueberry-banana protein shake, a cup of coffee and some peace and quiet. I think after a week in which we were both so busy we barely saw each other, he decided to indulge me and suggested we go out for brunch today.  D had never been to Cafe Muse, and happily took me up on the suggestion.

While it’s usually the opposite, the wait for an outside table was only about 25 minutes and inside was more than an hour. They have a great system set up though — instead of having to huddle in the entrance with a cup of coffee or linger nearby, they sent us out on downtown Royal Oak and said they would call when our table was ready. That’s smart for so many reasons: 1) Time flies. You don’t realize how hungry you are and you get to walk around window shopping. 2)  Oh, wait — you get to actually GO shopping, come to think of it. We first shot down to Starbucks to get a little coffee to tide us over, then went into a few shops. I ended up with a great bracelet from Sole Sisters and D snagged me some amazing art postcards from Lift nearby.

We had a great time walking around Royal Oak — something we used to do regularly on the weekends and don’t do enough these days. Our table was ready in no time. It was a little windy, so everyone seemed to be bundled up and wanting to sit inside. We were more than happy to indulge in some finally comfortable weather and put up with a little wind.

I ordered the vegan scramble at the baby shower and was determined to go for something a little sweeter (like the carrot cake pancakes, maybe? Or lemon-blueberry ricotta pancakes?). I couldn’t resist a different vegan scramble though! This one had tofu, basil, tomatoes, vegan chorizo and vegan parmesan cheese and came with fruit, toast and whipped sweet potatoes that are so ridiculously good. Oh — and I decided to indulge in a bloody mary. I deserve it right? That’s practically a meal in itself, but somehow I was able to clean my plate and polish off the bloody mary.

Miss C, a self-proclaimed vampire after missing her second front tooth a few days ago, already had breakfast earlier in the morning, so she just got a blueberry muffin that came gooey, warm and delicious. Next time she’s going for the Boston cream pie pancakes with chocolate though.

D went for his usual — a giant bowl of yogurt, granola and tons of fresh berries. Often when he gets this somewhere, there are just a few berries sprinkled on top it seems. This helping was so big, he couldn’t even finish it.

What a great family Sunday. I think we all walked away satisfied and feeling good. I’ll certainly go back, hopefully at some point sampling something on the sweeter side if they can stop coming up with such delicious-sounding scrambles…

They have dinner now too, but sadly only have a couple of veg options and it seems no vegan ones. Maybe once they settle in serving dinner that will change.

Gardein BBQ Pulled Shreds

I think even meat-eaters would like this pulled-pork like barbecue goodness. I was skeptical, even though I like this kind of thing, but Gardein’s meat-free BBQ Pulled Shreds were delicious! Even better that I get almost half the protein I need in a day in just one serving, and there’s only 2 grams of fat.

I was skeptical of the taste of the barbecue sauce more than anything, but I even liked that a lot! Perhaps it was the “new bold bbq sauce” it touts on the front of the package.

In addition to protein you get a bit of vitamins A and C, calcium, fiber and 45 percent of your daily iron — not bad!I t only costs about $4 and you can toss it in the microwave in the bag it comes in, so it’s fast, easy and way cheaper than even get a sandwich at Subway these days. Even better.

Cooking Club: Veggie Peanut Noodle Goodness

This is our last of the Asian Cooking Club meals — did we have a ridiculously amazing feast or what? We’ve got another slated for early September — I can’t wait to see what we all come up with!
Grace improvised on this dish, but sketched out a good guess at just how she made her yummy veggies, which were served with peanut noodles and a cucumber salad for garnish.
Here it is, in her words:
Ingredients
• a few dashes of sesame oil (I like the dark stuff)
• 1 small yellow onion, diced (about tennis ball size)
• 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
• 1 container panda tofu
• 1 heaping tablespoon minced ginger
• 1 inch lemongrass (optional)
• many dashes of braggs or low sodium soy sauce
• a few dashes of rice wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon red curry paste (thai kitchen)
• 2 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter (or more!)
• 2/3 of a head of broccoli cut to bite size pieces
• 3 small-medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
• 1 red bell pepper
• 5-6 leaves fresh basil
• 1 tbsp gomasio
Garnish optional
• 2-3 inches of cucumber, thinly sliced
• a handful of snow peas, thinly sliced
• 3-4 leaves fresh basil
• a few wedges of lime
1. Heat pan with sesame oil, garlic, onion, a pinch of salt and pepper, for about 3 minutes or however long it takes to chop tofu, add tofu, ginger, microplane some lemongrass on top (optional!).
2. Throw enough braggs or low sodium soy on to lightly coat most of it, add a dash or two of white wine vinegar, and cook for a 2-3 minutes.
3. Add peanut butter and curry paste, and fry for 5-10 minutes (i like mine really cooked!) while chopping carrots, turn on water for noodles, and add carrots, cut bell pepper, toss that in, chop and add broccoli next and let if cook, stirring occasionally until the noodles are done.
4. Throw some fresh basil on top and a tablespoon of gomasio and let sit while draining the noodles, serve with cucumber, snow peas, lime and more fresh basil for garnish.
I like making this dish because it’s very versatile and though I’ve made countless variations, it always turns out great no matter what. I don’t have to time anything, it just goes in a constant rolling order. I sometimes use less peanut butter and add sunflower seeds at the end, or add a little veggie bullion if the veggies seem lackluster or I don’t have lemongrass. Sometimes I throw in mushrooms. Dried lemongrass doesn’t really work. Dried basil is fine in a pinch!  It usually tastes better with more cooking and even reheated for the second day!