Thursday, August 27, 2009

Southern Fried Tofu

A lot of people are afraid of tofu. I, dear friends, used to be one of them. I remember making a dinner for my good friend Jerry once. I thought I could just replace ground beef for tofu and I couldn't have been more wrong. I stomached it just because I hate being wrong, but we both knew it was absolutely not good. However, I have now mastered the art of tofu, both combining it with other ingredients to make something completely unexpected and cooking it as a meat substitute. Thank goodness. It's cheaper, healthier, and so easy to use.

I was browsing recipes to find a 'fried chicken' substitute. I've been craving fried goodness lately, something I can dip into hot sauce. I found a recipe on Jaclyn's Vegan Yumminess and had all the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a try. OMGoodness, it was pure Heaven.

Southern Fried Tofu
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

1 lb Firm Tofu (I like to freeze mine first, then thaw it out. It gets extra chewy this way)

1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp ground rosemary
1/4 tsp celery seed (I didn't have any celery seed, so I just put a pinch of celery salt instead)

2/3 cup plain soy milk
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour, as needed
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Tofu: Cut the tofu horizontally into three equal slabs. Wrap the tofu in a clean towel and press it gently all over with your hands to extract as much moisture as possible.

Seasoning: Combine all ingredients in a wide, shallow bowl (or tupperware!) Stir until blended.

Coating: Combine the soy milk and lemon juice in a small bowl, and stir well. Place the flour in a separate small bowl.

1. Cut each slab of the pressed tofu into 4 triangles, making a total of 12 in all (I usually just cube the block of tofu). Working with one piece at a time, dredge the tofu in the flour. Shake off any excess. Next, dunk the tofu in the soured soy milk. Immediately dredge the tofu in the seasoning mix, making sure it is well coated all over.

2. Coat a large, heavy skillet with a thin layer of vegetable oil, and place it over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tofu pieces in a single layer. Cook until the bottoms are well browned. Turn the pieces over and cook each side until well browned.

3. As soon as you remove the tofu from the skillet, place it on a plate lined with paper towels to blot off any excess oil and keep the surface of the tofu crisp.

We served this with some mashed potatoes (covered in green chile sauce) and a few dipping options. We had Frank's, the always-faithful hot sauce. I also put out some General Tso sauce. The Frank's worked better. This tofu was crispy on the outside, PACKED with flavor, and absolutely delicious. There were leftovers and I had them for lunch the next day. They aren't as crispy, however, the flavor is more potent. I will be making these again.......possibly tonight since now I'm craving them!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream

Dear Isa Chandra Moskowitz,

You are amazing. Your phenomenal recipes are a work of art. I have never been disappointed when trying to recreate something that you put out to the world. You are an inspiration and I love you.


I had to try Isa's recipe for Moussaka when I saw it. The ingredients weren't over the top and it was packed full of fresh vegetables that I love. It also involves cooking with wine. Cooking with wine is one of my favorite things. A little for you...a little for me...

When I made this Moussaka (which is Greek, by the way), I paired it with the ever-delicious rosemary asparagus and some homemade kalamata olive bread. I was inclined to make the bread when our landlady brought over pounds and pounds of flour that she wasn't going to use. I made a loaf for us and a loaf for her.

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup olive oil
4 large shallots, thinly sliced (I used scallions because shallots aren't in season here)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes (I had a 28-oz can on hand that worked marvelously)
1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine (Really? Promise me you won't choose the vegetable broth over the wine...)
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 bay leaf

Pine Nut Cream
1 lb soft silken tofu
1/2 cup pine nuts, plus additional for garnish
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp arrowroot powder (I used cornstarch)
1 clove garlic
Pinch of nutmeg
1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly oil 3 baking sheets or shallow pans.

Prepare the vegetables

1. Wash the eggplant and zucchini, trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/4-inch-thick slices. Rub the eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a towel.

2. Place each vegetable on a seperate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/4 cup of oil among the three sheets and sprinkle with salt (except the eggplant, if salted already). Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet, making sure each sheet is completely coated. Drizzle a little extra olive oil on the eggplant, as it has a slight tendancy to stick. Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is ok. Roast the pans of eggplant and zucchini for 15 minutes, or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the vegetables to cool.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce

1. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occassionally. The sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt.

Make the pine nut cream

1. In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. Add the garlic, tofu, arrowroot (cornstarch), nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.

2. Lightly oil a 9 X 13 inch pan. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce in the pan, then add successive layers in order of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, then half the breadcrumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer of each eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and bread crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.

3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This has to be one of my favorite dishes yet. Cody didn't love it so much; he wasn't a fan of the pine nut cream. I have to be honest, the pine nut cream was so much like ricotta cheese, it was amazing. Well, for me anyways. He did, however, love the sauce. It was pretty fantastic. I think overall he was just turned off by the fact that this dish was nothing but vegetables and tofu. I can understand that...I guess. :)

The asparagus was delcious, as always, although it would have been better in the asparagus roaster constructed by CCC&E. The kalamata olive bread was ok. I'm going to have to figure out a way to make it a little lighter; it was pretty hard but the taste was great. Once I have that one worked to perfection, it'll be up!

I'd like to thank the academy...

As many of you may know, I started this blog for my friends & family. After I made the decision to go vegan, so many people would ask me why...or what I ate...or how I could make such a massive lifestyle change. This blog was to give the answers to all of those questions and to prove it wasn't me just blowing smoke.

In the few months that I've had the blog up and running, I've noticed that there are more non-family & friend followers than family & friends. I think that is wonderful. It makes me so happy to know that other people are interested in what I have to say...and what I make for dinner! This morning, I had a new comment on my Beer Bread blog from Living and Loving In L.A.. I follow her blog and she follows mine. She was thoughtful enough to give me the Adorable Blog Award

I am absolutely flattered that she thought of my blog, and now, I would like to pay it forward. The rules are to nominate 4 blogs that you think are worthy of the Adorable Blog Award. Here's my pick:

(Living and Loving In have an adorable blog. Since you've already been awarded, though, I'm going to spread the wealth. xo)

Better Together
Out of Africa
Cupcake Kitteh
Albuqueruqe Beer Scene <-No, their blog is not cute. It's manly, it's full of beer, and it rocks. It needs recognition, though, so it's being awarded.

Thanks to all of you for keeping me sane during work, and for keeping me updated on the lives (and beer) that I hold so dear. Love you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beer Bread

I'm the kind of girl who believes fresh, warm bread out of the oven can solve every problem in the world. I mean, really, it doesn't get much better than homemade bread. The smell of it invading your kitchen, the steam coming off a fresh slice, and the fact that it isn't packed with unnecessary preservatives.

I'm married to the kind of guy who believes beer is the greatest thing since sliced bread. :) Him and Chuck brew their own, he drinks it on a regular (but not too regular) basis, and he's quite knowledged in micro brews.


This recipe for beer bread is the best I've ever had. I use Guinness when I'm in the mood for a heavy, thick bread. If I want something lighter, I use Bud Light. It doesn't take a lot of work and I always have the ingredients on hand, so it's perfect to accompany stews and pastas of all kinds.

Beer Bread
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup melted soy butter, olive oil, or canola oil (I use olive oil just because I like the taste better!)
1 12 oz bottle beer
2 tbsp dried garlic
2 tsp melted soy butter

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a loaf pan.

2. Stir the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a big bowl. Add the butter or oil, then slowly add the beer. Combine until just mixed.

3. Pour the dough in the loaf pan. Shmear (that's a technical term!) the dough with the 2 tsp melted butter, then sprinkle with the dried garlic.

4. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan, slice, and eat till your belly is full.

This bread is so simple and so wonderful. Cody loves it, I love it, Dei & Chuck eat it up, and I've had a few friends make it and love it. I highly recommend it in the place of store-bought bread. Cook it up as a warm snack or to accompany your favorite dinner. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shepherds Pie

Oh, Shepherd's Pie. How I love you.
Another glorious meal that reminds me of my childhood (thanks, mom!). It's one of those meals that Cody loves, too; all the food in one serving. No thought process necessary.

Obviously I don't use the traditional lamb here. Duh. Straight up Boca Crumbles, some mushroom gravy, broccoli (instead of carrots, but you can use whatever you'd like!), and mashed potatoes. Yum!

Shepherd's Pie
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

1 package Boca Crumbles
1 jar mushroom gravy
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 head of broccoli
4 tbps soy butter
1/4 cup soy milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium pan, heat the Boca Crumbles and mushroom gravy. This is where I add a little bit o' this & a little bit o' that, just like my mom would do.

2. Fill a medium sauce pan with just enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain.

3. In a small sauce pan, steam the broccoli till bright green, about 8 minutes.

4. Add the soy butter and soy milk to the potatoes. Spice them up with some salt & pepper. Mash away!

5. In a pie plate, put all the meat mixture, top with the broccoli, and top with the potatoes. I add an extra slab of butter to the top of the potatoes, just for fun. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown a bit on top. Serve and enjoy!

Deidra has claimed that this is one of her favorite vegan meals, and Cody & I can finish off the whole thing in 2 days by ourselves. Serve it along with some homemade bread and you will not be disappointed!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe

The next few weeks are going to be rather hectic; The Music Man goes on NEXT WEEK, so our rehearsal schedule is nonstop. The day after The Music Man's last show, I start school. Sometimes I wonder if I'm insane! :) Anywho...on nights that we have certain rehearsals, it doesn't make sense for me to drive all the way home from work beforehand. I'll stop off at Dei & Chuck's, snack on some dinner, and drive up the road for rehearsal. Like tonight, for instance. I go to work, hang with MacKenzie, then go to rehearsal, then home. I packed myself a lunch but forgot to pack dinner, too!

Since I only had one meal with me, I decided I was going to treat myself to lunch. It's Monday...I got my first paycheck last I'm in a really good mood. I deserve it! I looked up restaurants on Happy Cow to find a Vegan-friendly restaurant near work. That's where I found it.

Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe
My own personal piece of Heaven on Earth.
The little green leaf next to food items marks their vegan dishes...which is nearly every one.

After going to the post office, I decided to head over there and check it out. The girl behind the counter was informative and quite friendly. Since I had previewed the menu, I had an idea of what I wanted. The South Indian Sampler Plate sounded perfect since it had a little bit of everything. I asked her if it was entirely vegan, she said yes, and also told me that anything on their menu can be made vegan and gluten-free. Because I wasn't already in love with this place. Next, she asked if I wanted something to drink, and I was not about to pass up Chai Tea in an Indian restaurant. Immediately she asked if I wanted it iced and with soy milk. <3 <3 <3 Yes & yes.

I sat down with my number and a few minutes later, the cook brought my food out to me. The plate was massive and consisted of a little bit o' this and a little bit o' that. It had one Masal Dosa (think thin crepe filled with spicy vegetable mix and some coconut chutney to go with it), a piece of Vadai (kind of like potato latkes), a bowl of Sambhar (spicy, brothy, yellow split mung bean soup with far my favorite thing on the plate), and two Idlis in the soup ( rice, lentils, and cilantro steamed into moist cakes). The total cost of my lunch was $9.95, which included a free refill on my absolutely perfect Soy Chai. I didn't even make a dent in the platter, so I will be eating the rest for dinner.

The Sambhar was absolutely phenomenal. The perfect blend of spicy & sweet...the vegetables were tender and the Idlis had a texture that was new & wonderful. The Vadai was fried...which automatically makes it good...and its flavor was mild yet unique. I thought it was great dipped in the coconut chutney. The Dosa was different. My taste buds weren't prepared for its potent flavor, so it took a few bites to really understand what they were putting out. Once I got accustomed, though, it was all I could do to not finish it off in one sitting.

When I was just about ready to throw the towl in, the manager came over and introduced himself to me. I had seen him going around to other guests but I assumed they were regulars and he was just saying hello. As it turns out, he just likes to connect with the visitors that grace the cafe. He explained to me that Annapurna's wasn't just about good food, it's about balance. Annapurna is a Sanskrit word meaning "complete food" and is also the Goddess of food and abundance. Annapurna's delivers food that is "complete", using Ayurveda (the Science of Life). It teaches people to pay attention to how and what we eat and to take responsibility for our own health. It incorperates six tastes in every meal: Sweet, Bitter, Sour, Astringent, Salty, and Pungent.

To my husband, family, and friends who might think that sounds too hippie for them, stop your judgemental thoughts in their tracks. It was the perfect ambiance, the perfect food, and just enough friendliness to make my great day even better.

A gigantic two-thumbs up for Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe. I will be frequenting this marvelous restaurant often. If you live in the Albuquerque (or Santa Fe) area or you're planning on visiting, please make this one of your places to visit!


Tastiest Pizza Ever

For the past few years, I've been trying to master the art of pizza dough. I've had some really good dough before (Greenfields, anyone?), but I've also had some disasterous dough that had the texture of a cracker and the taste of cardboard. I've tried a few different recipes and Robin Robertson's recipe is officially the best I've ever had. In fact, the carnivorous fam even said it was the best they'd ever had. You know it's got to be good!

The first time I made it, I made 2 pizzas. I used regular tomato sauce on one and the second I used a tasty pesto sauce. To be honest, I prefer the pesto! I topped both with various ingredients: artichoke hearts, pan-seared eggplant, toasted pine nuts, onions (except on Deidra's pieces)...that's the great thing about pizza. You can put WHATEVER your heart desires on it and chances are, it'll be marvelous!

Basic Pizza Dough
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour rising time
Cook time: 30 minutes, or until done

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

1. In a small bowl, disolve the yeast in 2 tbsp warm water and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Combine the flour and salt in a food processor to blend (I did mine by hand!). With the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture, oil, and remaining 2/3 cup water and process to form a ball.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 mintues. Transfer the dough into a large oiled bowl. Spread a small amount of oil on top of the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. The dough is now ready to be used. The pizza needs to be cooked at 450°F for about 12 minutes.

Once your dough is ready to use, get creative! Once I made a CoCo's Curry pizza...curry for the sauce and some fried chicken (yes, this was years ago) and lots of cheese. Have some veggies you need to use up? Throw 'em on there! It's your pizza...have fun with it!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Spinach Balls

For our housewarming party a few months ago, I created a spread of delicious vegan appetizers for everyone to munch on. Yes, they were delicious. Yes, they were labeled. That's how I roll. Anyway, I decided to put a poll up on the blog to see which recipe I should post up. I posted the Red Chile Tofu up just because I made that for dinner, too, and it was just killer. I couldn't NOT put it up. There were a few other things, too, like hummus, which might go up at a later date in time. However, much to my pleasant surprise, the winner was my gram's Spinach Balls that my sister sent me the recipe for.

These Spinach Balls taste like home. If you know what I'm talking about, great. If not, start making these for special occasions and never stop because they're delicious, easy, and everyone loves them.

Gram's Spinach Balls
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

2 pk frozen spinach, thawed
3/4 c melted marg
2 c stuffing
4 egg replacers (I used flaxseed)
1/2 c parm cheese (Veggy Parm is really good!)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Squeeze all the liquid from the thawed spinach. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until completely combined.

2. Put on a lightly greased baking sheet and cook till they start getting brown and crispy on top, about 20 minutes.

You can serve these hot or cold, for lunch or dinner, to kids and grown ups alike! What a tasty, versatile snack!