Friday, August 28, 2009

Crack tempeh

To think that I never used to be a fan of tempeh. It just tasted oddly nutty, with a slight fermentation. Ew. Now, you can't keep me away from it. I usually have 4 or 5 packages sitting in my fridge waiting to be cooked up. My favorite things to do with the cultured bean? Slice it up and pan fry it in garlic, soy sauce and maple syrup to make tempeh bacon. Or, marinate it in apple cider, tomato paste, garlic, worcerstershire sauce and whatever else I have lying around, pan fry it and serve it up in tempeh reubens. Mmm...tempeh reubens.

These were my two favorite ways to make tempeh...until now. For lunch yesterday I made the most simple and addicting tempeh salad. Seriously, I don't know what makes it so good; it's one of those things were the whole is greater than the parts. I fondly refer to it as Crack Tempeh.

The recipe came from the Native Foods Restaurant cookbook, which as usual I tweaked to fit what was in my lil cupboard.

Crack Tempeh

1 package (8 oz) tempeh, sliced widthwise and lengthwise into 4 pieces
2-3 Tbs olive oil
2Tbs soy sauce
4 Tbs water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Vegenaise
Scallions, herbs or whatever your heart desires to throw in


1. Heat oil in pan over med-high. Add tempeh patties and cook a couple of minutes each side until golden and crispy, adding more oil if needed.

2. Mix the soy sauce, water and garlic in a bowl and add to the pan.

3. Lower heat and cook til the liquid has been absorbed.

4. Allow tempeh to cool slightly, and chop roughly into chunks.

5. Combine tempeh, vegenaise and whatever herbs you're using in a bowl.

That's it! I served my tempeh crack on a bed of romaine lettuce with basmati rice and the most delicious balsamic dressing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raw foodism and Macrobiotics - How to Reconcile!

I did some research today on raw foodism and macrobiotics; two things I've been very interested in learning more about, but haven't had the time to research. I bought and read cover to cover "The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics" and then did a bunch of research about raw foodism on the internet. It's hard to reconcile the two, and my head is swimming a little bit.

Raw foodism is based on the premise that cooking food destroys beneficial enzymes and that nutrients are supercharged when not cooked. Because of this, foods are not heated to above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprouting and dehydrating are two common forms of preparations for things that can not be consumed raw (i.e. beans) or to have variety.

A macrobiotic diet is more about balancing "yin" foods with "yang" foods and eating foods on a spectrum. Yin foods are those that are considered stimulating; overstimulating yin foods like sugar, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate are to be avoided, or at least only eaten in moderation. Yang foods are considered grounding and strengthening. Consuming too much of the edgy yang- meat, eggs, salt, are harmful and cause you to feel sludgy. At the base of a macrobiotic meal are cooked grains, steamed veggies, and pickles to help aid in digestion.

So here's the conundrum; Eat raw and worry about being too harsh on the body, or eat macrobiotic and worry about destroying all the beneficial enzymes. (For some reason I have this weird visual of the cute little enzymes baking in the sun to a burnt crisp.)

As with any diet, I think it's most important to listen to your body's intuition. For example, I've been feeling very sludgy lately, so I was craving raw foods earlier today. I made a delicious raw wrap that consisted of a sunflower seed pate with sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes and cilantro and a tahini dressing (ok, not 100% raw, but good enough for my first attempt.) I wrapped it all in an ezekial wrap (sprouted grains) and thought it was absolutely delicious!

Later on today, though, the thought of consuming more seeds about sent my stomach into a tailspin. NO, THANK YOU. So, I took a page out of the macrobiotic book and had brown rice, pan seared swiss chard, seitan and a nutritional yeast gravy. Again, not completely macrobiotic, but it was grounding, comforting and seemed the perfect mix of that elusive yin/yang balance. One of my twitter friends eats raw every day until dinner; not something I'd do every day, but definitely a good way of looking at it...

It will be interesting to see my journey into these new philosophies. To me, food philosophy has always been a life philosophy; how I eat is indicative of how I move through the world. I'm excited to take what I'll learn from both raw foodism and macrobiotics, put my own spin on it, and continue to move through the world consciously.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Staycation Bucket List

Two weeks of staycation is a glorious thing. No plans, no schedule to keep to, no alarm clock, no owing people all kinds of work and being stressed out about it. I could do everything or nothing, and that suits me just fine. Being an INFP Meyers Briggs type of gal, I truly like to dwell in possibilities; not nailing anything down til the last minute.

We did have tentative plans to go to either Key West - visiting Sublime Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale along the way, or to North Carolina for hiking, tubing and mountain biking fun, but it seems that the hurricane season would have other plans, as both KW and NC are going to be affected.

Ah, well, then, I will stay home and putter. What's on the list to do? Here's my staycation bucket list:

1. Cook as many recipes from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen cookbook as I possibly can. It's Florida, it's August and it's flippin hot. Mangos, avocados, coconut anyone?

2. Go through the house and purge; I used to pride myself on being a minimalist. I slept on an air mattress on the floor for many years and moved around so many times; each time selling what couldn't be packed in the car. Now, I've stayed put in Jacksonville for so many years, I've accumulated enough stuff for umm....probably 4, yes 4, households. Too. Much. Stuff!

3. Shop for organic produce, making sure to include intimidating painful looking veggies like celeriac and sunchoke. What the hell do you do with sunchoke, anyway?

4. Read all my favorite cookbooks again, including Cookin Southern Vegetarian Style, Nonna's Italian Cookbook, and new friends, Tropical Vegan Kitchen, Vegan Brunch, and the Native Foods Cookbook. Actually, who am I kidding? My kitchen bookshelf will probably be empty due to all the cookbooks being next to my bed, stacked up precariously.

5. Do things to make the house cheery, like how I just hung up sweetly adorable kitchen curtains. With three teenagers living here, this house can use all the cheer it can get. Whose idea was it to have kids, anyway?

6. Drink wine in the afternoon, preferably chardonnay, most definitely buttery. Or perhaps, a nice bloody mary in the morning?

7. Pick up the crochet hook and start to knit a cheery (there's that word again) shawl, to beckon Fall. There's a great one from The Happy Hooker that I've been wanting to make; it's lovely and pink.

8. Take walks, ride the bike on the river walk, go swim in the ocean.

9. Consider the future.

10. Visit a Greek Orthodox, Episcopal or Catholic church. It's been a long time, and I love the smell of insense. It's so serene.

11. Take long breaks from the computer, or anything technological. I get so out of balance, so fast.

What else? What would you do with 2 weeks off and no plans??

Monday, August 17, 2009

Family Dinner 1 : I shall never eat again

To paraphrase and change the words of a famous quote from The Princess Bride, (which is only the best movie in the entire world), I Shall Never Eat Again.

This is what I always say after family dinners. The plethora of vegan delights my mom makes is enough to stuff me for a lifetime; or at least until my next meal. Last night was my belated birthday dinner, since mom had gone to Texas to visit her best friend, my Aunt Lynn, for a couple of weeks.

The preparation for the meal began on Wednesday, when my mom called to see if I had any special requests. Oh shoot, I wasn't prepared. Ummmm either Gigi Seitan, which is a a hazelnut encrusted seitan that I got off the internet somewhere, which somehow was renamed to my mom's nickname, Gigi, or seitan stroganoff. What else? VEGAN MASHED POTATOES. I can not live without vegan mashed potatoes. For dessert, something either lemony, coconuty or peanut banana buttery; cook's choice! Chocolate could show up, but only in a supporting role; I'm not a huge chocolate fan. I typically shoo it aside.

Fast forward to Sunday at 2:30pm, and the whole lot of us (3 teenagers, Stephanie and me) were barreling down I95 towards mi mama's ready for an afternoon of cooking, eating and family revelry. Puff Kitty tried to sneak in the car to come too (he heard there would be fish on the menu) but we booted him out, as there weren't enough seat belts.

Vegan items on the menu:

Seitan Stroganoff: So, seriously, stroganoff has got to be one of the most comforting foods in the world, next to mashed potatoes and mac n cheese. This version starts with portabello mushrooms, onions and flour-dusted seitan chunks sauteed in a goodly amount of oil, til done, about 5-10 minutes. About half way through, add sherry (about half cup?) and cook til reduced. Add several go-rounds (go-rounds are travels around the pot) of vegan beef powder, add a few more splashes of sherry, and saute some more. Add as much vegan sour cream as you want, stirring in to create a creamalicious sauce. Season to taste.

Roasted beets with chopped herbs, red pepper, red onion and balsamic: I truly don't think I've ever met a beet I didn't like. Raw beets, roasted beets, cooked beets. They taste like the earth to me, which is in a weird way, serves as a very spiritual eating experience. My favorite way to eat beets is to roast 'em, slice 'em, and slather them up in a horseradish vegenaise dressing. YUM. PS, mom I might have gotten the ingredients wrong on this one.

Stuffed pan-fried rice packets: My mom got this recipe from a blog somewhere. She didn't print it off, but she remembered enough of it to mom-ize it. Here's the deal: Savory asian filling , stuffed into a softened rice paper wrapper (easily obtained from an Asian grocery store), folded into little rice paper packet jewels, and pan-fried. My mom stir fried coconut-ginger tempeh (store-bought) with a chopped onion. I softened the large rice paper sheets one at a time in a shallow pan of water. You put a few tablespoons of filling in the center of the rice paper sheet, and fold burrito style; sides in, top side over, and then bottom side under. Heat some vegetable oil (we used Grapeseed Oil), add the packets and pan-fry until golden on each side. We made some wasabi-mayonnaise dressing as a creamy topping. Delicious!

Sour Cream 'n Chives Mashed Potatoes: Mashed potatoes are heavenly and divine. All the clouds in heaven will be made of mashed potatoes, I am certain. I have a direct line to God, and I was informed as much. These were simple: boiled, drained and mashed with a goodly sized amount of vegan sour cream, some Vegenaise for good measure, (because everything is better with Vegenaise) and a generous handful of chopped organic chives. I could really eat these mashed potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, forever. Except that I shall never eat again, so there's no need.

Bunny Carrots roasted in mustard oil: So this is truly a Gigi special; 3 bunches of baby carrots with tops (she sent the tops home with me so I can make my newest favorite side dish; Sesame miso carrot tops!)

Macaroni Salad: Cold squiggly noodles of your choice, tossed with cans of peas and kidney beans, drained and rinsed, chopped celery and red onion, with a Vegenaise dressing. Very simple, very fast and makes a ton! I had the leftovers for breakfast this morning.

Braided rustic bread: My mom makes the best homemade bread. It is always the best complement of textures: crusty on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. This was delicious! Boy child finished it off as a snack tonight. (Eschewing the bhagala polo, which will be tomorrow's blog)

Banana bundt cake with peanut butter frosting: One of my favorite cupcakes, turned into a cake! Very moist, with a faint touch of chocolate in the batter and studded with chocolate chips. Great birthday cake! Unfortunately, I had to shovel the bites in and coax them down, since I ate probably the equivalent of 3 pounds of food before dessert. Still, it was worth the mild discomfort.

All in all, an amazing family dinner. Thanks mom; can't wait til the next one!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad with Brown Rice

Sunday night's dinner unexpectedly took me 3 hours to make (homemade grilled arugula pizza and Mediterranean chopped salad) and ended in the kitchen looking like a bomb had occurred, so this week I decided to be a tad less industrious in my cooking.

For dinner growing up, my mother often "whomped" things together to create some delicious concoction. Once she whomped together an african-style coconut curry with pigeon peas. I think that was about 10 years ago, and ever since, I've wanted to cook with pigeon peas.

This weekend at Barnes and Noble I bought The Tropical Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. It's hotter than the hinges of hades here in the August Florida heat, so I've been wanting lighter dishes that whip up fast. I flipped through The Vegan Mediterranean Kitchen and found an easy dozen or so recipes that I want to try, one of them being the Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad with Brown Rice.

Here's the recipe, which is modified to fit what I had in my fridge :)

Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad with Brown Rice (modified from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, Donna Klein)

1 can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice, cooked according to directions, with 1/2 Tablespoon garlic salt and some fresh or dried thyme added to the water.
1 Tablespoon Jerk seasoning (I didn't have any, so had to make some of my own)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp dried thyme


1. Set cooked rice aside to cool

2. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice, oil, thyme, garlic, salt, jerk seasoning, and sugar in large bowl.

3. Add peas, tomatoes and celery and mix to coat. Set aside for flavors to blend for 10-15 minutes.

4. Combine peas with rice and mix to fluff. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Caribbean Pea Salad

The verdict: Delicious! Everyone wants this again, and it was such a relief to only be in the kitchen for about a half hour. Half hour recipes are sounding great right about now! This recipe would also be great with other veggies added: the original recipe calls for chopped bell peppers and scallions.