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Hi internetz!  I kind of got sick of tending to all of the chores of the Internet for a while (partially due to the daunting task of dealing with the lack of space in my flickr account…which I’ve been avoiding) and needed a break from blogging.  However, today I made a sandwich that I couldn’t keep to myself.

I have no idea where this little bit of logic came from (about the apples and the tofu), but the results were delicious.  I decided I wanted a toasted sandwich with an avocado-Dijon spread for lunch – something along the lines of what I created for an article in our university paper.  It was a delightfully easy sandwich made from lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, red onion, and seasoned, pan-fried tofu slices.  The spread was just mashed avocado and Dijon mustard.  The problem I was having today though is that I am currently not eating any soy products in an attempt to figure out if I have a soy allergy.  So, no tofu.

So why not apple slices?  I started by making my avocado spread, with the intention of putting lettuce, cucumber and tomato on it, and calling it a sandwich.  Then, this nagging little voice told me to look over at the fruit bowl.  The textures and flavours of the cucumber and apple just seemed to be calling out to be paired together.  This was the results:

Apple Sandwich

Apple Sandwich

1/2 avocado

Dijon mustard

1/2 apple, cut into centimeter-thick slices

handful of thin cucumber slices

lettuce

optional- a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds

2 pieces of toast.

Mash the avocado and stir in Dijon to taste.  Spread on both pieces of toast.  Assemble the rest of the ingredients onto one slice of toast, and then place the other on top.  Eat immediately.

Don’t be scared of the whole fruit-in-your-sandwich thing; this is absolutely delicious!  It went well with the nice spring weather.

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First, I would like to bust a myth; vegans do not live off tofu alone.  (Gasps fill the internetz.)  Varying your diet is a good thing!  However, tofu is a good friend of mine.  So after some cooking advice requests from friends that resulted in a tofu night as well as inspiration for a student newspaper article I wrote, I’d like to share a little on how to prep tofu.

Tofu can be prepared in about a gazillion ways.  Today, I’m basically going to share just one way to prepare it for two different dishes.  For these dishes, you will want to buy regular extra firm tofu (not the silken kind…it’ll crumble easier, so it isn’t very beginner-friendly.  More on other types of tofu to come later).  When you open a package of tofu, it’s a good idea to rinse it off first.  Any leftover uncooked tofu (assuming you have leftover) should be stored in the fridge, covered in water.  The water should be changed every day.  The packages say that they keep for 3 days after opening, however that looks as though it doesn’t account for the whole storing in water thingy, and I’ve had tofu stay very fresh up to a week after opening.

Both of these recipes are created by basically frying tofu cubes in a pre-heated pot or pan with a little oil.  The trick to doing this well is not to get flip-happy; let the tofu turn golden on the side that’s facing down before you stir it!  I cook tofu on medium heat to make it a little chewier on the outside, but some people prefer it cooked on a lower temperature.  Also, this can be done in a non-stick pan without oil too, and you will still get nice, golden tofu.  I will often skip the oil when I make myself lightly stir-fried veggies and tofu in a non-stick pan for a quick meal.  Actually, if you’re not worried about getting the outsides golden, then just lightly heat your tofu cubes and call it a night (half the time, I don’t really care if the tofu in my stir-fries is golden on the outside).

Tofu marinates very well.  Try putting it in a marinade for at least an hour, and it’ll soak up a bunch of flavour.  Also, being meat-free, you can re-use the marinade as a sauce for the same dish later.  Glee!

When cutting tofu, make sure you don’t cut it into pieces that are too small or too thin.  I would guess that a good rule of thumb is to keep everything at least a centimeter thick, or it might crumble badly while cooking (which can be a desired effect at times).  Also, if cooking tofu to add to veggies or the like, cook the tofu first.  You may even want to cook it and set it aside while the veggies cook, and add it back in after if you fear it’ll end up getting too beaten up in the stir-fry process.

Ready for some recipes now?

Miso French Onion Soup

Since this one’s supposed to be richer and almost gravy-like, I would cook it with the oil and the sugar, however if you were wanting to make a healthier version, by all means skip those two ingredients and cook the tofu and onions in a non-stick pan.  I didn’t bother with the bread or the fake cheese on top, because I personally was in it for the rich broth and excessive amount of onions myself.  That and soggy bread makes me irritable.

(Serves one.  Multiply for more.  I’m actually guessing at the measurements a bit, just so that you know.  I never measured this one out.)

– 1/2 onion, chopped in fair-sized pieces

– 1/4 block of tofu

– a little cooking oil (not pure olive oil, as it’ll heat too hot, and have the wrong flavour)

– a small spoonful of not-so-refined sugar

– Freshly ground pepper.

– 2 cups water or veggie broth

– 2 tbsp of miso paste (or to whatever strength you prefer)

– (oh, and if you want some greens, wilt a little bok choy greens in here too!)

Fry the tofu and onion together in the oil, adding in the sugar to speed up the caramelizing and browning processes, and give everything a slight glaze.  Season with pepper.  It should look like the picture below, where the sides of the tofu are slightly brown in places, and the onions are turning transparent.  Note that for the onion’s sake, you’ll need to stir this more often than you normally would stir tofu, but the sugar will help with the browning so it’ll be ok.

tofu-and-onions

Add the water or broth, and heat until warm, but not boiling.  Remove a little of the warm water or broth and stir it into the miso paste.  Add the miso to the rest of the soup and stir well.  Again, make sure none of this ever comes to a boil, or your soup will be bitter.

Tofu Stir Fry

Of course there’s never been one true way to make a stir-fry, but some people like a place to start from.  This is the stir fry from our tofu night.  Serves fourish.  Again, sorry for the not so exact measurements.

– a block of extra firm tofu

– cooking oil (optional)

– Green onions

– broccoli

– Chinese bean sprouts

– bok choy

– carrots

– any other veg your heart desires (am I missing anything we used that night?)

for a simple sauce:

– soy sauce

– lime juice

– a little not-so-refined sugar or maple syrup, but keep this to a minimum

– freshly grated ginger

– fresh or powdered garlic

– dried chili (we used 2 chilies)

– a little corn starch

Cook the tofu either in oil, or in a nonstick pan.  Note- if you’re using a really nice wok (like somebody’s…you know who you are…) you won’t need much heat to do this, so keep it on medium-low!  Warm up the wok to medium-high, and tir-fry the veggies for about 3 minutes (or more if you’re not into crispy veggies, but I urge you to try it).  Add a sauce, such as the one I described above (blend everything together before adding), or just a little soy sauce.

Sorry there’s no picture…we kinda forgot the camera part-way through cooking.

More tofu tutorials in the future.

Holy lengthy title, Batman!  Bear with me, this post is going to be somewhat longer too, but for convenience’s sake, I’m not going to divide it up.  I’ll try not to go on long-winded rants, and just show off lots of pictures of food.

Oh, and just in case I’m showing this site off tonight to a class at the university, I thought I’d say hi, ECMP 355!!

First on the long list: sushi.  I went to the grocery store, and lo and behold, there were fresh shiitake mushrooms!!!  I have worked with dry before, and while they taste fine, the smell of them makes me nauseous.  However, the smell of the fresh ones was entirely different, and so beautiful!  I opened the bag, and this warm, earthy, rich smell floated up to meet me as I sniffed hesitantly.  The whole time I chopped these, I was drooling.

Shiitake

So, one of the rolls was a combination of crumbled extra firm tofu, sesame seeds, and diced-up fresh shiitake mushrooms, which I cooked together until the mushrooms shrunk, and then added a sauce made of tamari soy, freshly grated ginger, and sesame oil.  I cooked off the sauce, and then used this as a filling.  My other rolls were carrot, lettuce, and bean sprout; and avocado and cucumber.  Served with a side of edamame beans.

Sushi Rolls

Now for the cookies.  Actually no picture, here.  Just an alteration of another Kid’s Company’s Coming recipe into something friendlier/less sugar-laden.  I feel comfortable posting this recipe even though it started from a cookbook because I’ve changed it so much.  Seriously, I did this with half the sugar they called for, and a little bit of dates, and could have probably still have removed more of the sugar, as they were very sweet.  Actually, please go ahead and mess around with the sugar-to-dates ratio, and share how they turn out.  While you’re at it, why not experiment with taking out some of the oil in this recipe too (I left it in this time for a treat), especially if you’re using lots of dates.  I made these to brought these to class (and yes, we still bring cookies to class in university), because if you keep the cookies small, this batch makes lots.

Fiddle Diddles, or Haystacks, Minus the Sugar-Induced Coma

– 1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter Substitute

– 1 cup or less Natural cane sugar (check out this site, this brand is both affordable and vegan, except for the honey products!)

– approx. 1/3 cup chopped dates

– 1/2 cup soy milk or some sorta nut milk (use unsweetened, there’s already enough sugar here)

– 6 tbsp cocoa powder

– 3 cups quick cooking rolled oats (not the instant ones)

– 1 cup medium shredded, unsweetened coconut

– pinch o’ salt

– 1tsp vanilla extract

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat to melt butter, and to soften the dates so that they can be stirred in.  Mash dates into mixture well.  The book says to bring it to a boil, but I don’t think it’s overly important, here, as long as everything’s melted and blended.

Add everything else, mix well, and drop small rounded spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.  Cool, possibly in the fridge or freezer.  Should make around 40 cookies (I think I had thrity-something, wich isn’t too far off).

Also working out an awesome bread recipe, but that’s gonna have to wait.  It needs a little work.

Finally, we’ve come to my lunch today.  I had no school, so I had time to raid the fridge.  This isn’t the fanciest recipe in the world (like most of my fridge-raid hashes), but it sure did turn out good.  I don’t know what to call it, though.  It’s got some Thai influences, but isn’t really, truly Thai, or even necessarily Asian for that matter.  And if I call it a quesadilla, I’m afraid every person in Mexico may spontaneously shudder (what with the lack of cheese, or cheese substitute).  Anyway, whatever it is, it was mighty tasty, and filled with more coconut!  If you’re feeling special, toast the coconut first, along with some sesame seeds.

Sesame-Coconut Quesadilla-like Thingy

Nikki’s Lunch Thing that’s Kinda Like a Coconut-Sesame Thai Quesadilla

Sorry, I’m going to make you use your best judgement for the quantities, here.

– a tortilla

– sauce ( large spoonful of tahini, some soy sauce, spritz of lime juice, a little rice wine vinegar, and freshly grated ginger, mixed together well.)

– about 1/5 block of extra firm tofu, crumbled

– soy sauce

– handful chopped fresh garlic chives

– grated carrot

– bean sprouts

– a little shredded, unsweetened coconut

(an epic view of the ingredients)

Epic Lunch

Spread sauce on tortilla (use extra for dipping later, if you like, but don’t overdo the sauce inside the tortilla, or you’ll have a mess).  Fry tofu crumbles in nonstick pan (or regular pan with a little oil) until they begin to turn golden, then add a little soy sauce to flavour and add colour.  Cook off soy sauce (should only take a few seconds), and add to one half of the tortilla shell.  Pile on top of that the rest of the ingredients.  Fold over other half of shell, and place on a tray in toaster oven, heating until just warmed and lightly crispy (about five min, I think).  Don’t over-cook, or the sprouts will be iffy, and you’ll burn the shell.  This can be done in a microwave, but results will be sub-par.  In fact, if you have no toaster oven, I recommend wrapping this up and cooking it in a frying pan briefly.  Otherwise, if you’ve folded it in half and toasted it, cut it into quarters before eating.

Don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth.  I just haven’t blogged in awhile.  Truth be told, it’s not because I haven’t been cooking- it’s because I’ve been cooking too much.  I wanted to get in a few more cooking days before university started up again, and I’ve been meaning to blog about the things done on these days, but, you know, sometimes sleep wins over computer time.

Then, uni started, and I’ve been trying to get in the swing of classes, and figure out when my actual spare time (aka- time outside of classes not occupied by reading textbooks or writing papers), lies.  Yet, I’ve somehow still found a lot of time to cook, just not to blog.  And I’ve found time to spend perusing health food stores.  Hey Reginans out there- the guy at Eat Healthy Foods bought his family’s farm, and next summer, he’s gonna get a bunch of awesome produce in all the time.  Its like a farmer’s marked that runs every day, and is open late!  Oh, and the Earth Balance shortage in Regina is over! Yeah, that’s right, there was a city-wide shortage of vegan butter substitute.  No, the vegans didn’t attack the stores in one fell swoop; the manufacturer that was supplying our city shut down, and all the stores had to find new suppliers.  So, I finally got to taste Earth Balance for the first time.  It’s good, but I still tend not to use much; I never was a daily consumer of butter or margarine.  Can’t wait until Christmas, though, when I can use it to make whipped shortbread!

So, here’s a catch-up recipe.  When I took the picture, I had actually created the freshrolls via fridge raid, so there’s a few variations on my usual recipe, but the usual recipe is below.  We had these gorgeous farmers’ market cukes that needed eating, so instead of adding lettuce, I added lots more cucumber than usual, and omitted the lettuce.  I also found some leftover cooked tofu from another night which I chose to use instead of making the tofu in this recipe.  Also, I didn’t technically use rice vermicelli- I found this green bean and pea flour vermicelli that I had to try instead.  It tasted very similar, but had a slipperier texture, disintegrated less easily, and looked like fiber-optics when wet.  Here’s a close-up.

Green Bean and Pea Pasta

Simple Fresh Rolls

Fresh Rolls!

(Quantities of each ingredient will really depend on how much you intent to make, and what you have on hand, so I’m kinda stumped on giving you exact measurements, here.  I’ll try, but don’t follow these too closely!  Besides, this is a great recipe for improvising.)

– extra firm tofu, about 1/2 block, cut into thin slices

– sauce to cook tofu in, if you don’t want to use plain tofu (I use about a 2 tbsp tamari soy, 2 tbsp lime juice, 2tsp of some form of sweetener, and sometimes fresh grated ginger)

– grated carrot, preferably not the flavourless baby carrots, maybe one cup?

– thinly sliced cucumber, maybe one cup?

– shredded lettuce, or cabbage, or something else leafy- a cup at least

– cooked rice (or other flour) vermicelli, cut into short pieces, about 2 cups

– thinly sliced water chestnuts, about 1/2 cup

– any other personal favourite veggies, or maybe some cilantro, if you’re in to that (oh, is my dislike of cilantro showing?)

– rice paper rounds (comes in a large package that’s more than enough.  Maybe make sure you have at least ten or more before starting)

– dipping sauce of your choice (optional, however home-made peanut sauce is a tasty choice)

1.)  Prep the veg and noodles while cooking your tofu.  In a non-stick pan (or a regular pan with a little oil), brown your tofu strips or cubes, then add sauce and allow to simmer, and reduce if necessary.  Keep all of the ingredients neatly organized and ready to be assembled.

2.) Boil some water.  In a round cake pan, or other large, shallow tray, pour some boiling water, and add cold water until it’s just touchable.  Submerge a rice paper sheet, and let soak for 30 seconds.  Carefully remove without letting it overlap on itself, and allow it to drip off briefly.  Place on flat surface.  Arrange a little of each filling item centered near the top of the roll. (It will take some practice to get the quantities right.  I add lots of rice noodles myself.  In the end, the rolls will work best if they’re well-filled, but overfilling is also a risk.)  Roll up tightly like a burrito with both ends closed.  This will take a few tries if it’s your first time, but you will get the hang of it.  Set finished roll aside.

3.) Repeat the whole soaking and rolling process until you have enough fresh rolls, or use up your ingredients.  You will have to add more hot water with each roll, by the way.  If the water at all, this doesn’t work.

4.) Eat.  Share, maybe, if you’re feeling generous.  Note, these don’t keep for extended periods of time- they get rubbery after 8-5 hours, so they’re best consumed asap.

Still a little bogged down by moving, and haven’t had time to focus too much on the kitchen (in relativity to my usual kitchen obsession).  I did, however, decide the other day that making bread would reduce any stress I had.  I used the bread recipe from an awesome book I found at the library, the Zen Monastery Cookbook.  It’s not necessarily a vegan cookbook (it’s ovo-lacto vegetarian), but almost all the recipes are listed with vegan alternatives, with the intention of helping people transition to a more compassionate diet.  Besides being a great transition cookbook, it’s also just a great book for general food knowledge.  For example, the bread-making process is explained in a manner that you not only know which actions to go through to arrive at the final product, but you understand how you created the final product, and therefore you are left with the type of cooking knowledge that allows you to grow away from the recipes and create your own delicious inventions.  My favourite cookbooks are the ones that leave you room to grow.

Interestingly, this book discussed a topic that was already on my mind- Waldorf Salads.  (To be honest, I didn’t know that this was the term used to describe a fruit and vegetable salad until I read this cookbook).  I had originally intended to share a recipe for a Waldorf salad that I made up, but it seemed rather redundant.  So, instead, I’ll share another recipe combining the greatness of fruits and veggies.

So, why do we feel an instinctive need to separate fruits and veg?  They are soooooo delicious together!  I’ve been thinking about how to combine the two a lot lately, and haven’t had time for any great, controversial experiments, but I did make this:

Peaches and Glazed Tofu Wrap

Peaches and Glazed Tofu Wrap, Unwrapped

Ingredients:

– glazed/marinated tofu, cut into cubes, a handful- (I used leftovers from another meal, cooked in the Orange Stir Fry sauce found in the Zen Monastery Cookbook)

– large handful of Lettuce

– 1/2 peach (don’t you dare ask me what to do with the rest of the peach!  Tell me I’m not the only one that eats half the ingredients as I’m cooking…)

– handful grated carrot

– a few dates, chopped up

– a tortilla

Compile everything together on the tortilla, wrap it up, and either eat it, or put it in your lunchbox for work the next day.  The marinade on the tofu, and the juice from the peaches should eliminate the need for any other sauces.  Sorry for the lack of exact measurements.  Make sure the flavouring used on the tofu is one that will be complimentary- mine was a sweeter sauce with garlic and ginger, but I imagine a balsamic flavour would go great in this too.  Enjoy the combination of fruits and veggies.

PS- people are still finding my blog by searching for “batman” and “ice cream” together.  Is that just my friends now, doing so because they know I’m watching my stats, or is this seriously something that people commonly search for?  Oh, and from my last blog entry, Keikaisu mentioned a Mediocre Spiderman…I’ll put up a link in time that makes that make more sense.

PPS- this should be the vegan theme song…