Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tofu Primavera

Last night, my air conditioning was on the fritz and the temp outside was a balmy 96 degrees. My friend Ally invited us over for dinner--she was making a shrimp pasta dish, so I said I'd whip up a tofu sauce... I cubed tofu, and sautéed in olive oil, until it started to brown, then I added mushrooms and some herbs to season. I tossed in a handful of flower, and let the flour brown a little, and then de-glazed with soy milk to make a béchamel sauce. I added frozen peas, cracked pepper, a little salt and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. It was a great topping for the pasta--we served steamed asparagus on the side. I don't have a picture because I was at the neighbors, but even though I thought I had made a lot, it was devoured by the omnivores in the house.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Robot Boulanger

That's what my bread machine is called in French--I know this because the instruction manual is bi-lingual. I much prefer to call it Robot Boulanger (or Robot B-pronounced "RowBow Bay", for short. I really like the idea of a robot making my bread.

At any rate, in the middle of a thunderstorm last night, James and Selma decided we needed more bread. (This is the main drawback of homemade bread--you eat more of it. Lots. More.) So they loaded up the machine--I lobbied and won for an experiment making vegan buttermilk wheat--we substituted soy milk mixed with lemon-juice for the buttermilk. But I didn't have high hopes--I personally would never bake in a thunderstorm--barametric pressure definitely effects the way things rise. But Robot B. defies convention--he produced a beautiful loaf that is now almost gone. (less than twelve hours after it was made.)

OK, I didn't take a picture, because really, this loaf looks just like the last one--but it really does taste like a buttermlk loaf as I remember it--the crust is awesome, almost baguette-like, and inside the bread is nice and chewy and a little bit denser than a regular white or wheat loaf with smaller holes. This would make great sandwich bread if we'd stop eating it right off the loaf.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cracked Wheat Bread Recipe

We had a request for James' veganized version of the Cracked Wheat Bread, so here goes:

1 1/2 C. water
2 T. Fearn Powdered Soya (or other powdered soy milk--we use this one because it's simple--no added sugar or other ingredients, and it's cheaper--it's not, however, organic.)
2 T. Spectrum Organic Shortening
2 T. Agave Syrup
1 1/2 t. salt
1 c. stone ground whole wheat flour
2 1/4 c. unbleached flour
3/4 c. fine bulgar (cracked wheat)
1 1/4 t. yeast
a small amount of vegetable oil

If you're making this by hand, dissolve the yeast in the water warmed to a tepid temperature, and mixed with the agave syrup. Allow the yeast to proof (form bubbles on top.)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and bulgar. Add the water/yeast mixture and the shortening and combine, then knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and place in a warm spot to double.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down and form into a round or shape into a loaf, lightly oil the dough, and place onto a baking sheet or in a greased loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise again for 30 minutes.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 50 minutes or until crust is firm and golden brown.

If you're using a bread machine, follow the general instructions for your bread machine--ours has us load the ingredients in the order listed above, set the machine to the whole grain setting and begin. (James says, "If you're using a delayed setting, make a small well in the flour and put the yeast in the well to protect the yeast from touching the water and activating before the baking process starts.")

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Homemade Bread

Thanks John Markos for your guest post! We've been doing some baking in our house too.

Selma and James have gotten out the bread machine--it's been idle for a few years now. We used to make bread almost every day when we first got it. It's an older model--the kind that makes the tall loaves--but the recipes that came with it are very good (especiallly if James prepares them, for some reason, I don't have as good luck with baking in a machine, I like to get my hands in the dough.)

At any rate, tonight they made a cracked wheat loaf. It finished after everyone else went to bed and I just had to steal a little taste while it was still warm... So good--very crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

They make a few adaptations to the recipe to veganize it--Fearn Soya powder instead of dry milk, spectrum organic shortening instead of crisco (of course crisco's vegan but not very healthy.)

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Careful with that Replegg!

Hello, I'm John Markos O'Neill, Amy's brother and a guest poster.

For my wife's first Mother's Day (we have an 11 month old), Amy (my sister) and my mother encouraged me to make a vegan version of the simple coffee cake from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. This version replaces the milk with soy milk and the egg with egg replacer. I told Amy that I think "egg replacer" is a pretty sad name for an egg substitute. They should use something snappier, like Replegg!

Sara (my wife) and John Haley (my son) went out for an afternoon hike on Saturday. This gave me the chance to make the cake.

So anyway, we had pretty much everything in the recipe in our cupboard except for pecans. I guess we already ate the pecans that Grandma Jean gave us for Christmas. I went down to Good Life, the local grocery, about six blocks away from our house. They had little bags of pecans for over ten dollars and at first I thought there was no alternative. Then I realized they had pecans in the tiny bulk section -- it's a small grocery. These were much less expensive, I think four dollars in total, for enough to make two cakes.

If you're using egg replacer, you should make sure that you use the correct ratio of Replegg to water. When I was making the cake, I mistakenly used tablespoons of Replegg instead of the teaspoons indicated by the egg replacer box. This made the cake's consistency a little funny. I didn't realize that I had goofed until after the cake had been baking for a while. Also, the recipe called for crushed pecans. However, I didn't do a very good job of distributing them evenly over the cake.

I called my mother and sister and asked them for help. At first I couldn't get my mother on the phone so I talked to my Dad instead. He convinced me to go for another try. Amy and I agreed that I had used the wrong ratio of Replegg to water. Also, my mother implied that I shouldn't just crush the pecans but rather that I should chop them as well. I quizzed her a little more on this. "So when you make this cake, you usually chop the pecans?" She said that yes, she did.

I had everything I needed except for brown sugar, which I bought at Chiotras grocery next door. This time I did everything correctly and the coffee cake came out nicely. Whereas the first (bad) cake was a little too doughy and flat and had a slight baking soda aftertaste, the second (good) cake was fluffy and springy and tasted like a coffee cake should.

Lesson: always remember that baking is a very precise activity, really a form of domestic chemistry. If you don't follow the directions to the letter, peril will ensue.

Anyway, Sara and John Haley got home a little earlier than I expected them to so they saw both versions of the cake. As it turns out, Sara really liked both of them! Amy told me later, "I forgot to tell you -- Sara really likes this cake." John Haley tasted a bit of it too -- I think it is the sweetest thing he's ever had. We took the "good" cake to a picnic on Sunday and it was a big hit with our friends.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Old Favorites

I wanted tofu for dinner, but didn't want to stand over the stove frying it, so I unearthed a recipe Selma used to love as a toddler (and I always loved it too!) It's sesame baked tofu from The Lucky Palate a meal delivery service I used to work with. My friend and former owner and chef, Devra Gartenstein has a cookbook, The Accidental Vegan that spells out this simple, but yummy and "grounding" as Dev says, recipe. I always adapt it a bit using more tahini, less soy sauce, a little water--I baked almost 2 pounds of tofu, so I'll have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. The great thing about it is, it's low-mess--you can mix the sauce in the baking pan, and then just put the tofu in make sure it's coated and put it in the oven.

I served it with basmati rice and haricots verts (which Selma steamed herself, she was very proud).

Anyone else have baked tofu recipes they love?

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Pasta and Lentils and Artichokes, Oh My!

We had an old standby tonight that I hadn't made in a long time. "Pasta with Lentils and Artichoke Hearts" from The Moosewood Restaurant Lowfat Cookbook One of my favorite all-time collections. I had a fiber arts class to teach in the afternoon--and I never want to cook after I get back from class, so I decided to do a bit of prep earlier in the afternoon. I chopped my onions, cooked the pasta, cooked the lentils, so it was just a matter of heating and assembly when i got back... Yummy! The flavors are cumin, coriander and lemon juice mixed with the red lentils, tomatoes and artichokes. I left out the red pepper flakes that give it a nice bite because of the kids, but I put them on the table so folks could add them if they wanted--kids and adults all cleared their plates and I have lots of leftovers--yeah!

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Here's the

Originally uploaded by plainsight.
Fried tofu and macaroni salad I wrote about the other day when I was having network issues... We've switched from DSL back to cable and things are much better...


Originally uploaded by plainsight.
This used to be a frequent quick meal in our house, but I hadn't made them in a while... Tortillas, refried beans, nutritional yeast... Grilled and topped with salsa, avocado and lime. We had them on Friday night, with great success...

Monday, May 01, 2006

I took a picture but...

I spent far too much time repairing my DSL connection, and I now don't have the energy to upload, etc. Anyway, tonight we had fried tofu--coated with nutritional yeast and sprinkled only with salt. So yummy. I may have said this before, but I think the secret to making good fried tofu is patience. In fact, I used to think it needed to be breaded, but it doesn't really need anything at all... just some oil and enough time to form a crust.

We also had a macaroni salad--simple, easy--macaroni, frozen mixed veggies (which I didn't steam, I just let the hot pasta thaw them), mayo (any variety--I sometimes make my own with silken tofu, but this time used a jar), chopped black olives, yellow mustard, black pepper. It was very yummy too-but I found the peas and corn in the mixed veggies to be a little sweet--so next time I might counteract with some more spices, or use different veggies.

Now that the weather's nice, Selma's been asking for potato salad too--so I think I'll add that to the menu for this week. Maybe with some baked beans... mmmm...

I also wanted to mention, that I haven't been able to comment recently on others' blogs because my DSL connection had ground to a virtual halt--I could read posts in my aggregator, but pages would time out when I tried to click over to comment--I'm sorry everyone. I hope this gets fixed soon!