Friday, April 24, 2015

The Great Vegan Protein Book | Review + Giveaway!

Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes did it first with Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!, followed by Whole Grain Vegan Baking and Vegan Finger Foods and have done it again with their newly released The Great Vegan Protein BookBut what do I mean by it, anyway

When Tami and Celine get together and write a cookbook, something magical happens. Beautiful, balanced and creative recipes emerge. Gorgeous photos are styled and shot and welcoming headnotes are thoughtfully written. They've created a trademark look and feel in all of their cookbooks that is unique, welcoming, warm and approachable. 

For their newest title, Celine and Tami have crafted a cookbook that serves as an answer to the looming question vegans have been asked once or a hundred times since going vegan: how do you get your protein? Packed with more than 100 recipes, TGVPB not only gives tons of protein-powered ideas, but also makes creating them fun, easy-to-make and varied.

Want a sandwich? Try the Tempeh Banh Mi, Barbecued Seitan or Provençale Tofu Salad Sandwiches

Want to use up those lentils? Try their Split Pea Patties, Savory Edamame Mini Cakes or Baked Falafel

Want something different for dinner? Try their Well-Dressed Tofu Bowls, White Chili, Cacciatore Chickpea-Smothered Cauliflower Steaks or Home-style Pot Pie

And for dessert, Tami and Celine have Sesame Berry Squares, No-Bake Choco Cashew Cheesecake and Cacao-Coated Almonds

And there's breakfast too! Gingerbread Quinoa Granola, Pudla ... and Apple Pie Breakfast Farro, that I'm excited to share with you here! This breakfast farro is a great way to get protein at the start of your day, and is packed with texture and flavor. The kind folks over at Fair Winds Press have not only allowed me to share this awesome recipe here, but also are offering a copy of The Great Vegan Protein Book to one reader through this post!

To enter, just leave a comment below that includes your favorite source of plant-based protein. I'll randomly pick and announce a winner on April 28. Shipping is restricted to the US/Canada and the UK only ... good luck!

Apple Pie Breakfast Farro

There’s no shame in admitting that hot cereal usually isn't your cup of tea for breakfast. We’re in the same boat actually, but we happen to be smitten with this cinnamon-flavored bowl. Let the apples retain some texture for the tastiest results. 

8.8 ounces (249 g) quick-cooking dry farro
3 McIntosh apples, or any favorite apple, cored and chopped (about 18 ounces, or 510 g)
¼ cup (48 g) Sucanat or (38 g) light brown sugar (not packed)
1⅛ teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus optional extra for garnish
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (235 ml) plain or vanilla vegan milk, warmed, as needed
1 or 2 recipes of nuts from Seed and Nut Ice Cream (page 93), or toasted nuts of choice
Pure maple syrup, optional

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Protein content per serving: 19 g

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add the farro and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-high and leave uncovered. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes until al dente or the desired consistency is reached. Drain and set aside. 

Place the chopped apples, Sucanat or brown sugar, and cinnamon in the same large pot you used to cook the farro. Heat to medium-high, stirring to combine the ingredients. Once the apples start to release moisture, lower the heat to medium and cook until the apples are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Note that the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the apple bits and what kind of apple you use. You’re looking for tender bits, but not applesauce.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir the vanilla into the apples. Add the cooked grain into the apples and serve immediately, topping each serving with as much of the warm milk as desired. Top each serving with a handful of nuts, extra cinnamon, and maple syrup if desired.

Recipe Notes

• While quick-cooking grains usually retain less nutrition than their less processed counterparts, the total amount of uncooked farro used in this recipe still contains 30 g of protein. That’s a pretty impressive amount for something prepared in a flash, and convenience is frequently key when whipping up a breakfast meal.

• You will need 3 generous cups (weight will vary for other grains) of cooked grain to prepare this dish: We prefer using grain that is al dente to get a nice texture and a nutty flavor. If you prefer a more tender grain, cook it to your own personal taste.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rouxbe Update: Halfway Complete!

I am halfway through Rouxbe's Plant-Based Professional Certification Course! Read my previous updates about Rouxbe here, here and here.

When I put Halfway Complete! into this blog post title, I was so happy looking back at my progress so far at Rouxbe—what I've achieved, the connections I've made, the bad habits I've broken and the new techniques I've learned and perfected.

But it also makes me kind of sad. I only have halfway more to go!  I've loved the process of going through each task, especially the hands-on cooking tasks—putting together my mise en place, learning about and practicing a new technique or plating my finished dish. It's been a rewarding and positive experience so far, so I'm going to relish that as I dive into my tasks for the next half of the course. Is it going to be a lot of hard work? yes. But will it also be fun and worth it? If it's anything like the first half of the course—which I'm sure it will be—then absolutely. 

Up until I started Rouxbe, I mostly relied on the Internet to learn about cooking. But the information that I found randomly online—although useful—often didn't flow together in a way that made much sense. When looking at several sites to learn how dishes were prepared, the information I found was inconsistent and sometimes even had conflicting instructions, because they were written by different authors with varying levels of expertise.

So what I love and appreciate most about Rouxbe at this point in the course is that by teaching foundational cooking techniques, methods and principlesit's guided me along on an orderly task-based path that flows seamlessly together in a way that makes sense. The course starts with basic tasks, then weaves those tasks into more advanced tasks, creating opportunities to form connections that I wasn't able to make from my previous random visits online. And because it's designed by Chef Chad Sarno, a leader in the plant-based cooking world, the course content is top-notch, consistent and comprehensive. Best of all, it not only expertly instructs, but also empowers. With the completion of each task, I feel a little more confident, a little more excited and, well ... a little more legit in the kitchen.

For one of my recent tasks, I made Rouxbe's vegan pho stock

Adding things like star anise, cinnamon, mint, orange slices and cloves with carrots, onion and dried shiitake was new to me. I usually just throw frozen vegetable scraps into a pot and let caramelize then simmer to make homemade stock. Never again! I loved how this recipe produced a beautiful aroma and the best golden stock I've ever made. 

Once the stock was cooled, I strained it and pulled together ingredients for the next step: Rouxbe's vegan pho with greens and mushrooms. Cooked rice noodles, crunchy snap peas and fresh bok choy were placed into the bowl, then finished with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, sliced jalepeños and mushrooms. I loved making and eating this gorgeous pho, which has gone straight to the top of our list of "go-to" dishes.

If you are considering taking the course yourself, Rouxbe's next seating starts May 7. You are given six months to complete the course at your own pace. If you are curious but not sure you want to enroll yet, you can also sign up for a free seven-day trial and try it out for yourself. 

Stay tuned for another Rouxbe update sometime next month: I am looking forward to sharing with you what I've learned and done in the following weeks!

Rouxbe generously waived my tuition in exchange for blogging about my experience and sharing my honest opinions about their Plant-Based Professional Certification Course.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Easy Miso Soup

Yields: 4 cups
Time: for heated dashi - 25 minutes
Time: for chilled dashi - 12 hours

There's not that much to making a good miso soup and there shouldn't be. Once you've made your vegan dashi, you'll just add in some miso paste, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil to the warmed broth, plus whatever else you think should go into the serving bowl. 

It's key here to only add in the miso to the warmed dashi right before serving. Miso is fermented and packed with nutrients and excessive heat can degrade those. I absolutely love South River Miso brand, but can't find it in the South Bay, so Miso Master has become my go-to brand here.

You can prepare the vegan dashi by placing a piece of kombu (which can be found in any Asian market) in cold water to steep overnight or simmer the kombu for about 20 minutes before serving. Either way, once that's done, there's not much left to do to finish the miso soup. You can leave it plain or minimally adorned with tofu cubes and seaweed, or pack in some noodles and vegetables as you like. 

for the vegan dashi
3X3 piece of kombu
4-5 cups water
4 dried shiitake caps

to finish the broth
1 TB of miso per cup of dashi, any kind you like
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

to serve (optional)
sliced carrot
sliced scallions
tofu cubes
sesame seeds
wakame seasoning 

To start the dashi, first clean the kombu by wiping it down gently with a damp cloth, do not rinse it. Cut a few slits around the edges of the kombu. (see below)

To make hot dashi, place 5 cups of filtered water, kombu and shiitake into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a small simmer over medium heat (do not boil) for 20 minutes. Lower the heat a bit as needed if it starts to boil. Skim any froth off the top of the water with a skimmer. Remove the kombu and shiitake before serving. (You can reserve the shiitake for making stock later or slice it up and put it into the miso soup.) 

To make cold dashi, place 4 cups of  filtered water, kombu and shiitake into a container, cover and allow to sit 12 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the kombu and shiitake before serving. 

To prepare the miso soup, ladle the vegan dashi into bowls. If using cold dashi, gently heat it on the stovetop first. Season with the miso, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, adding any extra components as desired.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fire Noodles with Crispy Tofu

Serves 2
Time: 30 minutes

As far as food preferences go, Jeff and I couldn't be more opposite. In addition to me being vegan and him being not-vegan, but always willing-to-eat-vegan-stuff-I-make, he eats the same meals day after day, and always at the same time. I eat only when I'm hungry, no matter the time is, and like to try new things as often as possible. At my most enthusiastic, I've teared up over a great meal or cursed quietly after an amazing first bite. Jeff's reaction is always more of the socially acceptable and polite variety, usually followed with a shrug and a yeah, that was good when asked.

But more pronounced is our difference of opinion on spice. I love the clean burn of thai chilis, seeing a neon oil slick on top of curries and smelling the aroma of a well-balanced chili sauce wafting off a dish. But anything remotely spicy is kryptonite to Jeff, and he can detect the tiniest speck of it in anything. So when I make a dish with sriracha, sambal, thai chilis or any dried chili spices, I'm on my own.

The other night, I was craving something spicy, so I made this dish. After the first bite, "fire noodles" seemed like an accurate name. Sure, there's sambal in there, but it's the thai chilis that make these noodles scary hot. After googling "fire noodles," I learned that this is an actual thing, with an actual following. I have no idea how this version compares, but if you like heat, this fits the bill and can be scaled up or down to your liking.

for the sauce
1 TB coconut oil
1 TB minced ginger
1 TB brown sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup sambal (use a little more or less to taste)
1-3 thai chili peppers, sliced or left whole, dried or a mix of the two (optional, obvs)
2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk 

for the tofu

1 block tofu, cut into 8 slabs (no need to press)
1 cup panko
1/4 cup sesame seeds, white and/or black
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup water
oil, for sauteing

to serve 

2 servings of noodles, any kind
broccoli or your vegetable of choice, sauteed 
crushed peanuts
sliced scallions

To make the sauce, melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add in the minced ginger and allow to fry for about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, then add in the brown sugar and stir to coat. Add in the rice vinegar, stir, then add in the peanut butter and stir until liquefied. Add in the sambal and thai chilis (if using), stir, then  pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a small simmer, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and cover.

To make the tofu, combine the panko and sesame seeds in one bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the white rice flour and water until smooth.

Preheat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a thin layer of oil to the bottom. Dredge the tofu in the rice flour/water mixture, then press into the panko/sesame seed mixture until evenly coated. Place into the hot pan and allow each side to become golden brown, a few minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Boil the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain, then toss them with the sauce. Transfer to serving bowls, topping with the vegetables, tofu, crushed peanuts and sliced scallions. Serve immediately.