Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Simple Sauteed Tofu with Crispy Sesame Kale

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I make this dish every week. It's easy, tasty and requires very little prep and cleanup—perfect for a weekday dinner. The tofu requires no pressing or marinating, and can be topped with whatever sauce you're in the mood for. I like it drizzled with a bit of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce or just a side of sriracha. When rinsing the kale during prep, make sure to dry it thoroughly with a kitchen towel before you place it into the oven; otherwise, it will just steam instead of crisping up.

One bunch of kale, stems removed and ripped into small pieces
1-2 TB toasted sesame oil
1 TB sesame seeds
pinch of salt
1 block of tofu, sliced whatever way you like
olive oil

Preheat oven to 275. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and place the well-dried off kale onto the sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with the sesame oil and season with a pinch of salt. Place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

While the kale is baking, heat a small amount of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the tofu pieces into the pan and saute for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and fry on the other side for about 5 minutes.

Remove the kale from the oven and flip the pieces over. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until well-crisped. Serve immediately with the tofu.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vegan French Onion Soup

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The other day, I watched the Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian prepare French Onion Soup on Ten Dollar Dinners. It looked so hearty and elegant, yet really simple. It inspired me to try it out, so I put on my vegan thinking cap and came up with this version. I really love onions, but have never caramelized an entire pot of them. It was definitely worth the hour-and-a-half wait to do this, because the taste was absolutely amazing: this was one rich, sweet and smoky soup. Fresh thyme is essential here—it really compliments the onion-infused broth and gives it a rustic and earthy feel.

3 large Vidalia onions
5 TB Earth Balance
1 TB flour
1/2 cup sherry
4 cups homemade vegetable stock
1 Not-Beef bouillon cube
5 springs of fresh thyme, tied with baker's twine
2 bay leaves
sliced baguette pieces, toasted
Daiya shreds, mozzarella-style

Start by slicing the ends off of the onions and peeling them. Slice them vertically in half, then slice each half thinly into half-moon shapes.

In a large dutch oven, melt the Earth Balance over medium-low heat. Add in the onion and sprinkle with some salt. Cover and let them sweat for 45 minutes.

Uncover, stir and sprinkle with a little more salt. Increase the heat to medium and saute for 45 minutes more, or until a rich caramelized color is achieved.

Sprinkle the onion with flour and stir well for about a minute. Add in the sherry to deglaze the pot and then throw in the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Slowly pour in the stock and add the Not-beef bouillon cube. Simmer for about 10 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves and thyme.

Ladle the soup into small crocks and place a toasted baguette on top. Sprinkle with some of the Daiya and place into a 400-degree oven to melt for about 7 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Raw Almond Matcha Cakes

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Since I recently began
making my own almond milk, I have a lot of leftover almond pulp lying around that I need to repurpose. I originally had a plan to add some spices and chocolate to the pulp to flavor and bind it together, until I came across some forgotten matcha powder in the back of my cabinet. I  immediately decided I'd use that for its unique flavor, vast nutritional properties and brilliant green color. The result were these delicate, tiny and super-kawaii cakes.

2 cups raw almond pulp
1/4 cup raw agave syrup
1/2 TB matcha powder
1/2 TB wheatgrass powder
1 TB raw virgin coconut oil (at room temperature)
1/4 cup tahini
1/8 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, incorporate well and shape using cookie cutters or form into balls. Refrigerate between waxed paper for about an hour to set.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Deep Fried Daiya Cheeze sticks

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The other day, I stumbled across The Vegan Zombie website's video on how to make cheeze sticks and was excited to try their method. Since Daiya is available most commonly in shredded form, transforming it into a solid shape by melting it is asking for trouble—it can stick to the bottom of the pan, seize up or do other weird things. TVZ bypassed these potential issues by using a double boiler to melt the cheeze, then refrigerated it so it could be sliced into sticks for breading and frying ... genius!

2 packages of Daiya cheeze, mozzarella style
1/2 TB onion powder
1/2 TB garlic powder
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup white rice flour
1.5 tsps Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water in a small bowl
vegetable or canola oil

Heat a small amount of water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Place a round glass pyrex bowl into the saucepan, so the lip of the pyrex fits snugly over the lip of the saucepan. Once you see the water boiling below the pyrex dish, add in one package of the Daiya, and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.

After about 5-7 minutes, the Daiya will melt and form a squishy ball. Toss in the half of the onion and garlic powders, stir again and transfer to a small square or rectangular glass pyrex dish. Repeat these steps with the next package, smoothing the top of the melted Daiya as much as possible. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you are ready to fry, combine the cornstarch and white rice flour in a large bowl. Place that, along with the bowl of the Ener-G mixture, near your stovetop. Slice the cheeze into strips (I made 6 big strips and cut them all in half).

Heat plenty of oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. You can tell when the oil is ready by inserting a wooden spoon into it—if bubbles form around the spoon, your oil is ready.

Working in batches, dunk the cheeze sticks into the Ener-G mixture, then coat in the cornstarch mixture. Immediately drop them into the oil slowly, about 2-3 pieces at a time. Fry for about one minute, then transfer to a paper towel to drain.

Serve immediately with marinara sauce.

These also freeze and recrisp very well when refried. Just be careful when dropping them into the oil in case any ice crystals have formed. Only fry one or two at a time to ensure the temperature of your fry oil doesn't plummet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lemongrass Tofu with Satay Sauce

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A couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of Keo's Thai Cuisine in a used book store—I bought it specifically for the satay sauce recipe that, besides looking amazing, appeared to be very easy to veganize (traditional satay sauce typically contains milk and fish sauce). I've tweaked Keo's version of satay sauce numerous times and we now enjoy this version with grilled lemongrass tofu.

I really like making the entire menu below during the summer months—all of the components present a perfect blend of fresh, cool, spicy and rich. You can prep everything here in the morning (except for the rice and grilling) to enjoy a light, relaxing and flavorful dinner in the evening. This recipe makes a lot, so it's perfect for sharing with a few people.


For the tofu and marinade:

2 blocks of firm tofu, pressed and sliced any way you like
6 TB vegetable oil
4 stalks fresh lemongrass hearts
(reserve the outer stalks for making tea later)
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 TB curry powder
1 TB agave nectar
TB vegan fish sauce or soy sauce
pinch of dried habanero powder (or more to taste)

For the satay sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, finely diced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tsp curry powder
3 TB chopped fresh lemongrass hearts
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup almond milk
cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 tsp tamarind paste
2 TB vegan fish sauce or soy sauce
3 TB dark brown sugar
the zest of one lime, plus the juice
1 cup of chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

For the fruit salad:
2 fresh mangoes, peeled and diced
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 lime, zested and juiced

For the rice (not pictured):
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
3 TB raw virgin coconut oil
1 TB ginger, minced
1 tsp fresh
jalapeño, minced (or more to taste)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Place all of the marinade ingredients (except for the tofu) into a food processor and blend for 15-30 seconds. Scrape the marinade into a large pyrex dish, and then place the tofu pieces into it, flipping them around to ensure they are well coated. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to grill.

To make the satay sauce, heat the 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat. Add in the next six ingredients and saute for three minutes. Add the coconut and almond milks and then the rest of the satay ingredients (except for the chopped peanuts), and lower the heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

While the satay sauce is simmering, make the fruit salad by tossing together the mangoes, blueberries, lime zest and juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Before you are ready to fire up the grill to make the tofu, place the rice and water into a rice cooker to steam.

Grill the tofu over medium heat for about 7 minutes on each side. Once the tofu comes off the grill, I like to place it back into the pyrex dish to recoat it in any leftover marinade.

Once the rice is ready, saute the coconut oil, jalapeño and ginger over medium-low heat in a medium-sized saucepan for 2 minutes. Toss in the cooked rice and fold in the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

The satay sauce can be served warm or cold. Sprinkle with the peanuts before serving.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Raw Almond Milk

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I've been drinking a lot of Vega shakes lately for breakfast and have gone through countless boxes of almond milk to mix the powder in. I decided to try making my own almond milk this week and it was surprisingly easy. Raw soaked almonds. Water. Blender. I'm going to start making this on the regular. It's cheaper, tastes better than store-bought almond milk and yields a nice almond pulp, which can either remain in the milk or strained out. I've strained out the pulp this time, and have placed it in my freezer until I can figure out a good way to repurpose it. Update: Here's one -- Raw Almond Matcha Cakes.

2 cups raw almonds, soaked overnight in plenty of water and drained
8 cups water
vanilla bean (optional)
raw agave nectar (optional)

Place the water and almonds in a blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes. To strain out the pulp, line a tall and thin pitcher (enough to hold about six cups) with a nut milk bag and slowly pour the contents through the bag into the pitcher. Slowly squeeze the bag until all of the nut milk is transferred to the pitcher. Add in some vanilla bean and/or agave if you want some sweetness, but I think it tastes better plain. Serve chilled.

If you've sifted out the pulp and would like to store it for using later, measure out the pulp into 1/2 or 1 cup servings and refrigerate or freeze it in ziploc bags.