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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Something's amiss!

Goodness gracious me!  I have been MIA all this week!  I apologize to my followers...all 11 of you.  :-)  I've been extremely busy with all the crazyness that is happening in Madison right now with the solidarity movement.  How amazing is this, though?!  It feels so good to be apart of something this big!  Well, as I had blogged last weekend, I went down there with some friends to give away muffins in the name of "Vegans for Unions."  It was a huge success!  Everyone was extremely appreciative, and they were gone in a snap!  We even met some fellow vegans down there.  It was so great, that we've decided to do it again tomorrow!  I made some delicious muffins from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: blueberry giner spelt, triple berry bakery style, and lemon poppyseed.  Yum!

Unfortantely for me, I'm on a cleanse currently, so no sugar or gluten for me!  (more on this tomorrow) Rats!  I have been told on good authority that they are quite delicious, though. :-)

So for all of you that support unions and veganism, go ahead and make a batch and give it away to your local protesters today!  There are protests sprouting up all across the nation, and it all began here!!!  Yay for my little liberal hub in Madison.  I love this city and this state.  What's disgusting?  Union busting!  Make Walker quit his Koch habit!
My favorite sign yet, though "Walker, your Koch dealer is on line 2."  He refuses to talk to the people, but he'll talk to you if you pay up!

Blueberry Ginger Spelt Muffins
Makes 12

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1 cup almond milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/4 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375.  Lightly grease a muffin tin.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices.  Make a well in the center and add the yogurt, milk, canola oil, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  Fold in the ginger and the blueberries.  *If using frozen, just keep them in the freezer until you're ready to fold them in so they don't bleed into the batter.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tin; it should almost fill the entire tin.  Bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife inserted through the center of the muffin comes out clean.  Let cool for a few minutes in the tin before transferring the muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Makes 12

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375.  Lightly grease a muffin tin.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add milk, lemon juice, oil, zest, and vanilla.  Mix just until all wet ingredients are moistened.

Fill the muffin tin three-quarters full and bake for 23 to 27 minutes, until muffins are lightly browned on top and a toothpick or knife inserted through the center comes out clean.  When cool enough to handle, transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Bakery-Style Berry Muffins
Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soy yogurt
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 375.  Lightly grease a muffin tin.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the yogurt, milk, canola oil, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  Fold in the berries.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tin; it should almost fill the entire tin.  Bake for 26 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife inserted through the center of the muffin comes out clean.  Let cool for a few minutes in the tin, then transfer muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vegans for Unions!

That's right!  Tomorrow morning I am getting up with some fellow vegans and we are going to bake as much food as we can for the protesters that have been camping out and getting up at the crack of dawn to show their support.  If you are interested, just contact me!  We are going to be making: pancakes, muffins, scones, and hopefully mini-donuts.  I'll try to think up some more treats.  This is what democracy is all about.  Get off your butts and DO SOMETHING!!!  I went down there today with "Yogis for Unions" and did 108 Sun Salutations in the middle of the Capitol rotunda.  We began and ended with 3 collective Ohms with the whole crowd.  It was an experience of a lifetime.  The energy there is absolutely amazing.  I was exhilarated to share my energy with all the people there!  So share your energy in any way you know how!  Mine is through yoga and veganism.  What's yours?

Everybody knows you can't begin your day of protesting (or practicing yoga) without something good to eat.  I began my day with some raw goodness: Banana Raisin Oatmeal from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen.  This stuff tastes just like oatmeal (just not warm) and is packed with wholesome goodness.  It takes minor advance prep, because you have to soak the groats overnight.  It's simple to make and absolutely delicious.  Since it's raw, you get more nutrients and tons of fiber from the groats!  The recipe doesn't call for it, but I added a tablespoon of ground cinnamon to the mix.  Delicious!
Ani's Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods Recipes

Banana Raisin Oatmeal
Makes 4 servings

2 cups groats, soaked overnight, and rinsed well
3 bananas, chopped
2 tablespoons water, as desired
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)

Put soaked oats, bananas, and water in the food processor and process until mixed well.  For a thinner consistency, add another 1/4 cup of water and process.  Add raisins last and pusle to mix them in.

Enjoy as is, or serve really thick with a side of nut mylk.

Will keep for one day in the fridge.

Optional: Drizzle 1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar on top of each bowl of oatmeal. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stand up for Your Rights...and Waffles!

Way to go Madison!  I am so honored to live in this city with so many amazing activists!  In case you've been living under a rock, Governor Scott Walker has proposed a Budget Bill that sneaks in a provision that limits union bargaining rights.  The plan is also to make teachers pay more for health insurance and pensions.  Considering how much they make, this is preposterous!  What is this clown thinking?  This isn't about paying more, though, it's about stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights.  I would like to say how much I respect and admire all the teachers and other protesters that are participating in this fight.  And way to go State Democrats for fleeing the state so the bill couldn't be voted on!  At least they show solidarity with their constituents!  What's great is that one Democrat, Lena Taylor posted her status on Facebook as "brb."  Fantastic!  Unfortunately, I have been at work all week, and I haven't had the opportunity to make it down to the protest.  Tomorrow I will be there from 9-12 with my fellow yogis doing yoga up on the capitol to show my support for the unions!  I'm bringing an extra mat, so come on down and join the fun! 

Oh, and what better way to start out a day of protesting then with some Blueberry Waffles?!  Nothing, I say!  This recipe is simply delicious!  It calls for lemon icing, but I like them simply with agave nectar or maple syrup.  I have become especially fond of agave nectar, and I think it's great on these!  This recipe is from Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm.
Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday

Make 10

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 container blueberry soy yogurt (scant 2/3 cup)
1 1/3 cup soy milk
5 tablespoons water
1/3 cup oil
1 cup fresh blueberries* (see note about using frozen)
Cooking oil spray for the waffle iron

*If using frozen blueberries, keep them in the freezer until the last second.  Reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dry misture.  When you're ready to add the blueberries, take them out of the freezer, measure them, and mix them with the reserved dry mixture.  Then fold them into your mixed batter in no more than three folds.  This will prevent your batter from turning a gray-purple color.

Preheat your waffle iron. 
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, soy milk, water, and oil.
Combine the wet ingredients with teh dry ingredients, then gently fold in the blueberries.
Spray your waffle iron with a little bit of cooking oil spray and make a test waffle.  Follow the instructions or your preferred directions for your waffle maker.  (This recipe makes 10 waffles if each waffle uses 1/2 cup of batter.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Comfort Me!

**A note about my previous blog.  I made a minor edit, and I would like to take time to apologize for having offended one of my readers.  Even though we exhibit incredible compassion towards animals with our choices, sometimes we forget to show equal compassion towards our peers.  Just a minor slip of the tongue and you have hurt someone, because you chose to speak, or in this case write, without thinking about the consequences of those actions.  I would like to say that Vegantines was a splendid event and I appreciate all the hard work that went into making it happen.  The caterers are no reflection on the hosts who did a tremendous job!

Woah, we're having a heat wave!  That's right folks, it was a balmy 40 degrees out today and we're supposed to get into the 50s tomorrow?!  Nuts!  Ah, but mother nature is cruel and she's going to give us a big ol' smack in the face come next week with another cold snap.  So what better way to spend those cold nights then to cook up a comforting hot meal at home.  Nothing I say!  As spring is nearing, we won't be craving those comfort foods much longer, so let's get them out of our system!  This week I had been craving one of my very favorite meals Pad Thai.  I used to make this meal like it was going out of style due to an ex who was extremely fond of it and would harrass me continually to make it.  (Not that I needed much convincing.)  Well, it had been ages since I made this...okay, like 4 months.  This recipe comes from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau.  It's simple and heats up very well.  You can be creative and add whatever veggies you like to the mix: snow peas, broccoli (my fave), red peppers, whatever tickles your fancy.  I really love using local organic sprouts in place of the generic bean sprouts.  Double up of the spice if your adventurous like me!

Pad Thai

8 ounces rice noodles
Sesame or canola oil, for sauteing tofu
1 package extra-firm tofu, pressed* and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce
1/3 cup lime (or lemon) juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped broccoli or snow peas, steamed or stir-fried
1 bunch scallions, chopped (including green parts)
1 cup bean sprouts
Sliced lemons, for garnic (optional)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions, drain, and immediately return them to the pot, secured with a tight lid to keep them from drying out excessively.  They will re-moisten once you add them to the sauce below. 

Heat oil in a pan and satue tofu until golden brown.  Sprinkle on salt and pepper while it's cooking.

In a bowl, mix together peanut butter, sugar, tamari, lime/lemon juice, and red pepper flakes.  Set aside.

In a separate large-size saute pan, heat oil or a little water or stock and add garlic and broccoli; stir-fry for 5 to 10 minutes, until broccoli turns bright green.  Add scallions and saute for a few minutes more.

To that pan, add the cooked noodles, tofu, peanut butter mixture, and bean sprouts.  Combine well, and cook just until all the ingredients are heated through.  Garnish with slice lemons and cilantro, if using.  Serve immediately.

Yields: 4 servings

Per serving: 387 calories; 17g fat; 18g protein; 44g carbohydrate; 4g dietary fiber; 0mg cholesterol; 1423mg sodium.

*Pressing tofu: I've said it once, and I'll say it again, get a TofuXpress!  This is a wonderful tool for your kitchen.  Press the tofu to desired consistency.  (You can use something flat like a plate or cutting board then place heavy items like books on top of that to press it as well.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Have Mercy

Last night I attended Alliance for Animals' 3rd annual Vegantines.  This event is wonderful and all the money goes to a great cause.  The Heart of Madison award winners and the speaker Rae Sikora were very inspiring.  Going along with the theme of Valentine's Day and love, Rae presented us with many instances where animals demonstrate their love, even across species barriers.  She pointed out that, while these animals constantly demonstrate their understanding of our complex emotions, we have little insight into theirs.  The only way that we ever understand them is if it is relateable to our own emotions.  It is very short-sighted to believe that animals aren't fully capable of love, pain, anguish, happiness, depression, anxiety, etc.  Anyone that lives with an animal, knows that they have seen these emotions in their companions.  To believe that these emotions are only exhibited in our house pets is absurd!  Farm animals and fish are completely capable of feeling these complex emotions, and if they are left to live their lives freely, you can witness this yourself.  There is nothing to distinguish between the beings we call our "pets" and those beings we call "food."  We are all in this fight of life together.  All we want is to be free so that we can live our lives and be happy.  We are all capable of love.  Widen your circle of love and compassion this year to include all beings.

Please take a moment to watch and share this film.  If you consume any animal products, you must watch this video to find out exactly where your food comes from.  Please take the time to share this with someone you love.  It is not only about the love for animals, but love for yourself.  You don't want to consume this kind of pain, fear, anguish, and disease.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You Can Do It!

The most common response I get from people about my veganism is "I could never do that."  Well, guess can!  Really, people, it's not that difficult.  Sure, it's tough to eat out, but why do you want to poison your body with fast food anyway?  Because it's quick and easy?  Well, then expect a quick and easy deterioration of your body and health.  Listen, I know how daunting it can seem, especially when the majority of America consumes animal products at every meal.  They're everywhere!  I used to go to Tom's drive-thru and eat a whole plate of cheese curds.  So believe me, I know how hard it is to kick the habit!  And that's just what it is.  Fast food, fattening and salty food for that matter, is addicting.  It should really be added to the list of "drugs," because that is exactly what this food is.  (If you can even call it food.  It's been so processed beyond recognition, that I would call it "food-like substance.")  So come on people, kick it and kiss your sweet, lumpy ass good bye!  You will feel lighter, happier, stronger, and healthier! 

I realized today that in my quest to Vegucate everyone, I forgot to do a blog for newbies.  How dare I!  I've been including some awesome recipes and advice, to be sure, but I would like to give all you newbies the necessary materials to help you along your way.  My friend and co-worker Levi told me today that he's going vegan for 30 days!  Woo-hoo!  Kick some ass!  I would like to dedicate this post to you and say how awesome you are for taking on this challenge.  Once you get started, you'll find it's really not that challenging at all!  For all my other non-veg readers, I dare you to go vegan for 30 days as well!

So, first things first.  When I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian back in 2004, the first thing I did was order a Vegetarian Starter Kit from PETA.  I would also suggest Erik Marcus' Utlimate Vegan Guide.  Here's the online version:  I was completely clueless, but eager to learn.  I read a cute little book called the Vegetarian Manifesto here.  I would suggest this for teenagers rather than adults, but it inspired me right then to eventually become vegan.  The idea was too foreign for me then to wrap my mind around, but it planted the seed.  The first book that I would suggest you read is Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn here or Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer here.  Thanking the Monkey provides excellent information and resources, while attempting to keep it light with some humor thrown in.  Eating Animals is a great book about the author's quest to vegetarianism.  He gives great accounts from both sides of the spectrum, farmers that raise animals for slaughter to activists that break into factory farms. 

You may now be asking yourself, "yeah, but what do I eat."  Oh-ho-ho!  Everything!  Do you honestly think that animal products are the only things to eat?  Oh contrare, mon frere!  Ever hear of jack fruit?  How about daikon?  Not eating animal flesh and their secretions opens up a whole world of opportunity, so don't fucking waste it by eating a bunch of vegan processed crap.  Sure, it's vegan, but the point is to be kind to the animals AND your body.  Be kind.  Eat real food.  My favorite artwork on what to eat: here.  I suggest buying a cookbook and picking out some recipes with fruits and vegetables that you've never tried.  Don't be scared, just try it!  For years I thought I didn't like a whole slew of foods, which included pretty much all vegetables.  I don't think I really ate any vegetables.  Of course, my mother use to feed me veggies out of a can, so it's no wonder.  Those aren't real vegetables.  The real vegetables are found in the produce section, not in the canned foods section.  Be adventurous!  Don't be boring!  I've been vegan for nearly 3 years (anniversary coming up April 5) and I'm still finding fruits, veggies, grains, legumes and nuts that I've never tried.  Can you believe I hated nuts growing up?  Man, I was a snooze fest! 

So what cookbook to start out with?  My very first cookbook was Eat, Drink, Be Vegan.  here My sister bought this for me.  While I love this book, I don't think it's a good overall starter.  The best book, for sure, would be Veganomicon by, you guessed it, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Home Romero here.  They do a good job of covering all the basics in the beginning of the book with staple pantry items, different cooking terms, utensils/kitchen ware, etc.  Oh, and do yourself a favor, buy yourself some nice pots and pans and knives!  Oh how I love my Wusthoff knives!  They are sexy!  I giggled like a little girl and after every slice exclaimed "look at this" when I first used them.  I drove my ex-boyfriend nuts for weeks! 

Supplements.  Now you can get all your nutrients from your food (and please do) except for Vitamin B-12 and D.  They are usually found in fortified foods, but if you want to be on the safe side, go ahead and take a supplement.  I covered this in an earlier post, but there are a whole slew of vegan supplements on amazon and at your local co-op.  (Please go to your co-op for these things.)  Just be sure that they are vegan.  It will say it right on the label.  Make sure you're getting Vitamin D2 not D3.  D3 is animal sourced, usually coming from sheep's wool or fish oil.  Here's a great resource for supplements on  I follow Erik Marcus religiously.  I suggest you do as well.  He's a amazing! 

Stocking your pantry.   Odds are that you haven't spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  If you have, props to you!  But if you're like me, you spent about 5 minutes in the kitchen.  Enough time to unwrap the plastic on your meal and pop it in the microwave.  Well, when you first start your cooking journey, it can be really, really intimidating, especially when you look at a recipe with a huge list of ingredients.  The trick is to flip through your cookbook and find the recipes that have a short list of ingredients, or mostly ingredients that you already have.  This way you'll slowly accumulate ingredients to create a beautifully stocked pantry!  It took me over a year to get a decent pantry, so don't sweat it if you currently only have a handful of items.  A great thing to do is to look for deals in your monthly co-op paper to get even more bang for your buck.  Also, buy in bulk!  Bulk items will save packaging and money.  If you haven't joined your co-op, then go do it already!  It costs $10 to be a lifetime member.  Here you'll find the best produce and the best people!  :-)  I mean, don't you want to shop at a store where Chad Vader is the night shift supervisor?  Well, not every co-op is as cool as Willy St., but they all still rock!

Well, I hope that covers most of the bases for the newbies.  If you have any questions, please shoot them my way!  I will be more than happy to help you out.  If I don't know the answer, I'll figure it out!  Welcome to a new, compassionate, beautiful you!  You rock!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Looking Good Hotcakes!

When the temperatures outside are subzero (high of 8 degrees today), personally I don't want to do anything but stay in, cook a hot meal and watch a good movie.  My kitties were certainly happy I spent the evening at home for once, and they're so incredibly warm and cozy!  So on my menu for this evening?  Pancakes and Pride and Prejudice.  Excellent decision, I may say.

I was inspired by my friend Kira last night, who mentioned pancakes and how she had never made them from scratch.  For shame!  ;-)  Pancakes are incredibly easy to make, and with this recipe, you can't get them wrong.  Light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious!  This recipe is appropriately named "Perfect Pancakes" from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch.  I will say it again, and surely it won't be the last.  I love Isa!  This book is one of my favorites.  You can purchase it here.

Perfect Pancakes
Makes 8 4-5 inch pancakes

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional, but really...don't skip!)
2 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 to 1 1/4 cup plain non-dairy milk
2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cooking spray

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat for at least 2 minutes (and up to 5 minutes).

In a large bowl, sift together the slour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center and add the oil, water, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Mix just until ingredients are just combined.  Do not overmix!  A few lumps in the batter are just fine.  (If you overmix, the pancakes will become thin, tough, and rubbery.  The less you mix, the thicker and fluffier they will be!)

Spray the pan with a light coat of cooking spray (or a very light coat of oil).  Pour pancakes one at a time and cook until bubbles form and the top looks somewhat dry (about 3 minutes).  Flip over and cook for another minute.  Serve!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Keen on Quinoa!

Quinoa: (keen-wah) - this wonderful seed is considered a pseudocereal, much like amaranth.  Not exactly a grain, not a grass, but extremely delicious!  Quinoa is high in protein and fiber and cooks up in a cinch (about 15 minutes on the stove top!).  I jut recently discovered this superfood and I'm hooked!  It's great in anything from salads, stews, or served up with a bunch of sauteed veggies.  I will actually just throw on a bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and go to town.  Yum!

My new favorite recipe involving quinoa is Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds from Appetite for Reduction.  This recipe is simple, quickly thrown together and absolutely delicious and filling!  I had a real hankering for a salad this last week, so I made this and I was pleased as punch.  The best thing about this salad is that it tastes even better the longer you let it sit!  As I've said before, I cook for myself, so this is important when the meal has to last me for 4 days.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans & Toasted Cumin Seeds
Serves 4
Gluten and Soy free

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup finely diced plum tomatoes (about 4)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3-4 limes)
2 teaspoons light agave nectar
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup finely chopped scallions
Mixed greens, for serving

Cooking quinoa: Mix 1 cup of uncooked quinoa with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grain is tender and the water has been absorbed.

Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl, if it isn't already cooling in one.

To toast the cumin seeds, preheat an 8-inch pan over low heat.  Place the cumin seeds in the dry pan and toss for about 5 minutes.  Immediately transfer to a medium side mixing bowl.

Add the tomatoes, lime juice, agave nectar, and grapeseed oil (I used organic, local sunflower oil) to the mixing bowl and mix well.  When the quinoa has cooled, mix it in.  Fold in the beans and scallions.  Taste for salt.  You can serve immediately or let sit for a bit for the flavors to meld.  Serve over greens.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jerk It Out!

One of the best activities during the winter to escape the cold, besides going to hot yoga, is getting in the kitchen and cooking up a hot meal.  I crave comfort food like mad in the wintertime, so I decided to make Broiled Blackened Tofu with Butternut cocunut Rice and Jerk Asparagus all from Appetite for Reduction.  I was not disappointed!

I had a little mishap using my broiler, though.  I've never used the broiler before (I should be slapped, I know), so I didn't realize that there's 2 settings you need to set the dials to on my stove.  I got one, but realized it halfway through that I didn't have the other dial set correctly.  Woops!  So my tofu wasn't exactly blackened, but well done.  It was still good, though!  I had a problem with my seasonings falling off too, so I would suggest scoring the tofu a little bit so it will stick better.  That may be because I didn't broil it correctly, though.  Ah, well.  Just play with it and you'll figure it out!  That's half the fun of cooking!

Anyway, tofu mishaps aside, the dish was delicious!  A little note on cooking tofu.  You'll always want to get extra-firm tofu if you are cooking it in dishes like these.  I only use soft tofu if I'm going to be using a processor.  I suggest getting Trader Joe's Organic Extra Firm Tofu.  It's the best!  If you've never pressed tofu before, it's a little bit of a tricky operation.  If you don't have a TofuXpress press, get one!  It's one of the best things I've bought recently.  It's so simple and finally I no longer have to have a balancing act going on in my kitchen.  One less stress.  The "conventional" way is pretty much all improv.  Find out what works best for you.  Remove the tofu from the packaging and dump out the water.  Gently squeeze out as much of the water from the tofu that you can without having it fall apart.  Be very gentle.  Next fold up some paper towels (you'll want them to be rather thick) and place on the bottom and top of the tofu block.  Place this on a dinner plate.  Next come up with anything firm, flat and heavy to stack on top of the tofu.  I had been using a cutting board to place on top and then I stacked as many heavy cookbooks on top without crushing the tofu.  You'll have to check on it routinely to make sure the books don't topple.  I usually pressed it for about an hour, but just watch it to see how much water is being squeezed out.  The more moisture you get out of the tofu, the firmer it will get and the better it will taste (in my opinion).  Nobody likes spongy tofu.  Or just get a TofuXpress and you just drop it in, turn the knob, pop it in the fridge and forget about it. less thing to worry about!  You can purchase it here.

This dish is so yummy!  The tofu is nice and crispy on the outside.  The rice is creamy, savory, a little sweet because of the coconut and butternut squash and it really hits the spot on a cold winter's day.  The jerk asparagus has a great kick to it, which compliments the rest of the dish quite well.  Big thumbs up from me! 

Broiled Blackened Tofu
Serves 4
Gluten free if using tamari

Spice blend:
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced

Everything else:
1 block tofu (about 14 oz, pressed), sliced into eights
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce)

On a dinner plate, mix together the spice blend and set aside.

Adjust the broiler (if necessary) so that the baking sheet will be around 6 inches away from the heat.  Preheat the oven to broil.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Poke each slice of tofu with a fork three or four times, to let the flavors seep in. 

Drizzle the olive oil and soy sauce on the far side of the baking sheet, in a puddle.  You'll be laying the tofu onto the sheet, so just make the "puddle" area off to one side.  Dip each slice lightly into the sauce mixture, enough to lightly coat each side.  Then dredge in the spice mixture, pressing firmly to make sure the spices will stick.  Place the tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Spray the tops with a little cooking spray.  Place the tofu in teh broiler and broil for about 12 minutes, flipping once about halfway through.  Keep a close eye on it; broilers vary from oven to oven and you don't want your tofu to burn!  The tofu is done when it looks dark and black in some spots.  Thus the blacked!  You can slice each piece into lengthwise strips, if you like.  That makes for a nice presentation with teh blacken crust and stark white interior.  Serve ASAP.

Per serving (1/4 of recipe): Calories: 100, Calories from fat: 60, Total fat: 7g, Saturated fat: 1g, Trans fat: 0g, Total carb: 5g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars, 2g, Protein: 9g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 240mg, Vitamin A: 15%, Vitmain C: 45%, Caclium: 20%, Iron: 15%

Butternut Coconut Rice
Serves 6
Gluten, Soy free

1 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups water
A pinch of salt
2 pounds butternut squash
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

First, preheat the oven to 400 (for the squash) and cook your rice according to package directions, or however you prefer to cook rice.  I rinse the rice and then add it to a 2 quart pot along with the water and a pinch of salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, immediately lower the heat as low as it will go and cook for about an hour.

For the squash, slice off the bulbous part.  Slice in half lengthwise, exposing the seeds.  Scoop the seeds out with a tablespoon.  Slice the long par tof the squash in half lengthwise as well.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the squash face down on the sheet.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Once it's soft enough to pierce with a fork, remove it from the oven and let it cool.  (Place it outside to cool if possible; that'll speed things up.)  when the squash is cool enough to handle, proceed with the recipe.

*Alternate way of cooking squash:  I really like to roast my squash so it carmelized a little bit.  If you want to try this way, then preheat the oven to 425 instead.  Peel the squash and cut into 1 inch cubes.  Lightly spray with olive oil and spread over a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 20 minutes, flip, spray a little more olive oil, then bake for 20 more minutes.  The outside will be spotted brown (carmelized) when done.  I espeically love to roast squash, season with salt and pepper and eat this as a snack.  Yum!

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat.  Saute the shallot in the oil, using a little nonstick cooking spray if needed, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the ginger, garlic, lime zest, red pepper flakes, and salt and saute for another 2 minutes.  Turn down the heat to low.

Scoop the flesh out of the squash and add it to the plan, along with the coconut milk.  Use a potato masher (or a fork) to mash the butternut into a creamy consistency.  Add the rice and stir well.  Add 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth and mix well.  You can add up to another 1/4 cup of broth to get a creamier consistency if you like.  Add the lime juice, taste for salt, and serve!

Per serving (1/6 recipe): Calories: 240, Calories from fat: 40, Total fat: 4.5g, Saturated fat: 2g, Trans fat: 0g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 5g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 140mg, Vitamin A: 330%, Vitamin C: 60%, Calcium: 10%, Iron: 10%

Jerk Asparagus
Serves 4
Gluten, soy free

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound asparagus, coarse ends removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Lime wedges, to serve

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the ginger and garlic in the oil for about 30 seconds.  Add the red pepper flakes and thyme, plus a splash of water.  Let is sizzle for a few seconds.  Add the asparagus, salt and spices.  Use tongs to toss and coat, adding a few splashes of water if it seems dry.  Saute for about 10 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the ends are slightly frizzled.  Serve immediately.

Per serving (1/4 recipe): Calories: 40, Calories from fat: 10, Total fat: 1.5g, Saturated fat: 0g, Trans fat: 0g, Total carb: 6g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars, 2g, Protein: 3g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 150mg, Vitamin A: 15%, Vitamin C: 10%, Calcium: 4%, Iron: 15%

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Seitan is My Motor

Don't give me credit for this one.  My sister came up with the little spin on Cake's "Satan is My Motor."  It's our future plan to make shirts and wear them during a 5k in the future.

You may be asking yourself, "what the hell is seitan."  Well, today is your lucky day! (If you don't have a gluten allergy, of course.)  Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten.  Often it is called "wheat meat."  The great thing about seitan is that it soaks up flavor beautifully.  I especially love using it in stews, stroganoffs and curries.  If you see "mock duck" on a menu, that's seitan!  While you can purchase packaged seitan at the store, it's much more fun and cost efficient to make your own.  Only a few simple ingredients, but careful because it's tricky to get the right consistency.  I find the more you knead it the better it gets.  Also, when you simmer in the broth, you must be careful to keep the heat low otherwise it gets spongy and falls apart.  You can make seitan with just wheat gluten and flour, but I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Simple Seitan recipe for Veganomican.  I used 2/3 of the seitan and made Portobello Pepper Steak Stew.  I love stews in the winter, and this one packs a punch.  Spicy, savory, and filling!  This will warm you right up!  The textures of the portobellos coupled with the seitan make this a crowd pleaser with any meat eater.  This is from Isa's Appetite for Reduction, which is quickly becoming my favorite cookbook. 

Simple Seitan
Makes 1 pound

1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater

8 cups cold water plus 3 vegetable bouillon cubes, or 4 cups broth plus 4 cups water

Mix together the gluten flour and yeast in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the veggie broth, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic.  Pour the wet into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has been absorbed and the wet ingredients are partially clumped up with the dry ingredients.  Use your hands to knead the mixture for about 3 minutes, until the dough is elastic.  Divide with a knife into three equal pieces and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit.  (Now I disagree with her method.  I say, have at it!  Knead it for as long as you can to try to get as many air bubbles out as you can.  This makes for a firmer, "meatier" texture.  Otherwise it's just too spongy and you risk it falling apart when boiling.)

Prepare the broth:
Fill a stockpot with water, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce and add the wheat gluten pieces.  Cover and bring to a boil but watch carefully; you don't want it to boil for very long or the outside of the seitan will be spongy.  Try to catch it as soon as it boils and then lower the heat as low as it will go so that it's at a low simmer.

Partially cover the pot so that steam can escape and let simmer for an hour, turning the seitan occasionally. Turn off the heat and take the lid off; let sit for 15 minutes.

Remove from the broth and place in a strainer until it's cool enough to handle.  It is now ready to be sliced up and used.  If you have extra seitan, store in the cooking liquid in a tightly covered container or freeze in a freezer bag.


Portobello Pepper Steak Stew
Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups seitan, sliced thinly
1 red onion, slice into 1/4 inch half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch strips
A big pinch of salt
2 portobello caps, slice into 1/4 inch strips
3 cloves garlic (double it!)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (you can do this with your chef's knife, turn sideways and press down firmly)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (double it for a spicier kick!)
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the seitan in 1 teaspoon of the oil for about 5 minutes, until browned.  Remove the seitan from the pan and set aside.

Saute the onions and peppers and a pinch of the salt in the remaining oil until the peppers are slightly blacked, about 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, fennel seeds, thyme, remaining salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, and saute for 3 more minutes, until the mushrooms have released their moisture.

Add the red wine and bring to a boil over higher heat.  The liquid should reduce in about 3 minutes.

In a measuring cup, mix the flour into the broth to dissolve into a slurry.  Lower the heat a bit and add the slurry to the pan.  Mix well and let thicken for a minute.  Add the seitan back to the pan and let the stew thicken further; in about 5 minutes it should be slightly thickened but smooth and luscious.
Taste for salt and seasoning and serve.

Oprah's "inside" investigation of Cargill's meat processing plant.

First of all, I would like to say how wonderful it is that Oprah and her staff went vegan for a week.  That is an amazing accomplishment and I'm thrilled that she has propelled vegansim even further into the mainstream.  She has decided to adopt Meatless Mondays at Harpo, their headquarters, and they have now started offering a vegan option everyday.  Way to go Oprah!

I do, however, have a big problem with her investigation at Cargill.  Keep in mind, that she said 20 other slaughter houses denied them access.  Cargill agreed, but let's think about this.  They definitely don't want any bad press, especially on Oprah, so they're going to make sure that they choose the cleanest facility.  You can also expect an extreme bias by their spokesperson who is giving the tour through the plant.  Also, it is very obvious that they have slowed down the line for this interview.  Slaughterhouses typically operate at much higher speeds than this.  You might notice that they also refused to show the "knocking" process.  This is where a large metal bolt is shot through the skull of the animal, supposedly knocking them unconscious.  Because they normally run at a much higher speed, this process is not efficient.  Mistakes happen, and they happen often.  This means when the animal is lifted by its ankle and then "stuck" with a blade in its neck so that it may bleed to death it still may be fully conscious.  Imagine, a 1200 lb animal lifted by its ankle.  That has to hurt!  There have been reports of animals writhing and screaming as they bleed to death.  Sometimes workers will stick a blade in the anima's neck to sever it's spinal cord.  This immobilizes the animal making the worker safe from its thrashing, but the poor animals are still fully conscious of everything!  It is very obvious that these animals are still alive when this is done, but because of the production line, they cannot wait for the animals to be "knocked" again.  Also, because of the high speed operation, animals are often not even dead by the time they get to the skinning.  This means the animals are literally skinned alive.  You don't believe me?  Watch an undercover Mercy for Animals video, and believe me!  They even skin poor calves alive.  I made myself watch the video, and you should do the same.  Okay, so let's move down the "line."  These animals are "sprayed down to prevent disease like e-coli."  Do you honestly think spraying the flesh with a hose will rid it of disease?  I don't think so.  Then the animals' flesh is indiscriminately ground up into ground beef.  That means that burger that you eat may be 20 different animals.  Then you notice how the Cargill spokesperson says "you have to have respect for the living creature that they were and that means making use of everything and letting nothing go to waste."  Out of respect?  If you truly respected the animal you wouldn't kill the fucking thing.  And letting nothing go to waste?  That's so your company can make the most profit it can.  It has absolutely nothing to do with respect.  This video makes me so angry.

Want to know where your meat actually comes from?  Watch these videos below.

I would also suggest watching "Earthlings" and reading "Slaughterhouse."  Don't trust the corporations that want us to consume their product.  Trust the undercover investigations that shed light on what is actually ocurring, or better yet, witness it yourself.  I plan to make my own trip to some farms this summer.  I think it's important for us all to see.  Yes, it's hard to watch, but that's the point!  If you can't watch it, then how can you eat these animals and their by-products.  You are consciously supporting a system of complete cruelty.  The USDA and FDA don't do shit, so don't think that just because it's "free range" or "organically raised" that it counts for anything.  Often that just means the animals are fed organically and has nothing to do with their living or slaughter conditions.  The "organic" meat is sent to the same slaughter house as the non-organic.  The only way to make sure that you're not supporting this system is to give up meat and animal products all together.  Period.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut!

So Courtney and I were a bit nutty this past weekend and in celebration of national Vegan Pizza Day we wanted to make a dessert.  Well, we decided to make two dozen cupcakes for this event.  Two dozen?  Yes, we're freaks.  This was probably a bad decision, considering I ate 5 of them.  Eek!  I'm paying for it now.  With cupcakes so delicious, though, how can you resist?  We made Maple Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting and Candied Walnuts as well as Rosewater Pistachio Cupcakes.  Like I said, we were feeling a little nutty!  ;-)  Just eat in moderation or be like me and work it off in hot yoga!

Maple Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cupcs all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 cup sugared walnuts (recipe follows), finely chopped
Maple Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Sugared Walnuts
1 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Dash salt
Dash ground cinnamon

To make the sugared walnuts:

Preheat oven to 275.  Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  Open oven and shake the pan after about 4 minutes.  Watch carefully so as not to burn!  Remove from oven and place in a bowl to cool.  (You can also toast them on the stovetop.  Just place the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat and toss frequently for a few minutes.)  Lightly grease a large piece of parchment paper and have it ready because you will need it at the end of the next step.

Pour sugar, maple syrup, and salt into a large, cold, heavy bottom skillet.  Turn heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon till sugar starts to melt and bubble, about 5 minutes.  Continue stirring and cook another 3 to 4 minutes until mixture is thick, amber brown, and smells like caramel.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in the walnuts and cinnamon, stirring to coat each nut.  Immediately spread coated walnuts on greased parchment paper, using a spatula to spread out the nuts and avoid forming large clusters.  Allow to cool completely on sheet before handling or eating. 

To make cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. 

Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl; set aside and allow to curdle for a few minutes.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg into a separate bowl and mix.  Whisk the maple syrup, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla and maple extract into the soy milk mixture.  Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients; stirring till large lumps are gone; fold in chopped sugared walnuts.  Fill the cupcake liners two-thirds of the way.  Bake 18-20 minutes.  Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.  Frost with Maple Buttercream Frosting and sprinkle with Sugared Walnuts.

Maple Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance)
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer (any non-dairy milk)

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.  Add the vanilla and soy milk, beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons rosewater
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch cardamom
1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios, lightly toasted if desired
Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting
Chopped pistachios, for garnish (1/2 cup)
Pink decorating sugar crystals (about 1 tablespoon), optional

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, non-dairy milk, oil, sugar, and rosewater.  Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, bakings powder, cardamom, and salt.  Mix until relatively smooth.  Fold in pistachios.  Fill liners three-quarters of the way.  Bake 20 to 22 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting. 

Frosting: Use the recipe above, just omit the maple extract and instead add a teaspoon of rosewater.