Friday, December 24, 2010

Seitan Pot Roast

Nothing says comfort food like a pot roast! The centerpiece of many Sunday dinners, it is soul nourishing food. Placed in a crockpot, it's mouth-watering scent wafts through the home, welcoming all who enter. And the best part is leftovers! So many things you can do with them!

Seitan Pot Roast

1 onion, chopped
1-3/4 c. vital wheat gluten
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
1 t. onion powder
1 t. thyme
1-1/2 c. water
3 T. Braggs aminos
1 T. ketchup
3 large carrots, sliced
5 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
1 c. vegetable broth
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper

Spread the onion along the bottom of the crockpot.

In a bowl, mix the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, onion powder, thyme and 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the water, Braggs and ketchup. Pour liquids into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Knead this for about 2 minutes. Mold into a nice shape, and place the raw seitan in the crockpot, on top of the chopped onions.

Arrange the carrots and potatoes in the crockpot around the seitan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the the vegetable broth. Place lid on crockpot, turn to low and let cook 8 hours.
Slice the seitan roast and serve with the vegetables. Enjoy!

If you have never used a crockpot, my first piece of advice is - go buy one! When purchasing a crockpot, look for one with a removable liner. They are much easier to clean. They come in many sizes and shapes, so pick one that suits you. I have two. One round, one oval and both large. I've found the oval shaped one does seem to take longer to cook.

The LOW setting is about 200 degrees, and the HIGH setting is about 300 degrees. In other words, it gets hot! Make sure it sits on your counter away from the edge, to avoid any little fingers accidentally touching. One hour on HIGH is equal to two hours on LOW.

Only fill the crockpot one half to two thirds full. The foods will not cook properly if the appliance is filled to the brim. If the food and liquid level is lower, the foods will cook too quickly. Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid. Don't lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour. To check progress without lifting the lid, spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it's easy to see inside. Liquids do not boil away in the crockpot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crockpot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.

Cooking times. Most people want to try adapting their favorite stews and sauces to the slow cooker. The chart below explains how to adjust cooking times.

Oven/Stove Top Time      Slow Cooker (Low Setting)     Slow Cooker (High Setting)

15 - 30 min.                     4 - 6 hours                               1.5 - 2.5 hours
30 - 45 min.                     6 - 8 hours                               3 - 4 hours
45 min - 3 hours               8 - 16 hours                             4 - 6 hours

The crockpot is ideal for working people who must be away from home all day (or for those days when you must run errands or attend meetings, or for when you're entertaining and want to get the food preparation done early). The food will simmer for 10 to 12 hours on Low if you must be gone all day or you may cook the food in 5 to 6 hours on High. It is a very simple appliance to operate and you will find that the cooked food is very tasty. If you are a working person or one who knows they will have a very busy day, you can do most of the chopping and measuring the night before. Then refrigerate these ingredients until the next morning. If your crockpot has a REMOVABLE liner, you can assemble and refrigerate the food right in the liner which will be easy to pop into the crockpot the next morning. Be sure you don't fill the crockpot so full that the food pushes up on the lid.  Protect the crockery liner. Do not subject it to sudden temperature changes. Do not preheat the cooker and then add food. Do not pour cool water into the crockery liner while it is still hot after food has been removed.

CLEANUP: As soon as you remove the food from the crockpot, uplug it and fill the liner with VERY HOT soapy water (DO NOT ADD COOL WATER!!). Let the liner soak while you eat. When the water has cooled, you can swish out the liner and rinse it and put in in the dishwasher. Mine are crockery and HEAVY, so be careful not to drop and break your liner! NEVER IMMERSE THE OUTSIDE PART OF THE COOKER OR LET THE CORD GET IN THE WATER!! Wipe the outside metal shell with a damp soft cloth and dry with a towel.
I have used a crockpot for years and have only ever had to replace one, when it quit cooking on LOW. They are a fabulously convenient appliance to use, and make dinner preparation a snap, especially on those days when I am extraordinarily busy. Having dinner ready and waiting is a blessing!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Raid the Pantry Chili

We've all had those moments when we are confronted with a ravenous horde (otherwise known as our family) and realized, much to our chagrin, that we really should have gone grocery shopping earlier but just didn't manage to fit it into our day. Ack! That's when it is handy to have a few staples on hand in the pantry.

Raid the Pantry Chili

Into a Dutch oven, add:

24 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. paprika
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1/2 c. bulgur
2 c. water

Bring everything to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook about 45 minutes. Serve however you like; my family likes to eat their chili over crunched up tortilla chips.

Chili is a stew-like soup made entirely with meat, chilies, or chili powder (or both) and according to what region of the United States that you live in, it can also include beans. "Con carne" means "with meat."

There are many legends and stories about where chili originated and it is generally thought, by most historians, that the earliest versions of chili were made by the very poorest people. J. C. Clopper, the first American known to have remarked about San Antonio's chili carne, wrote in 1926:

"When they have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat - this is all stewed together."

According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend and tale, it is said that the first recipe for chili con carne was put on paper in the 17th century by a beautiful nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. She was mysteriously known to the Indians of the Southwest United States as "La Dama de Azul," the lady in blue. Sister Mary would go into trances with her body lifeless for days. When she awoke from these trances, she said her spirit had been to a faraway land where she preached Christianity to savages and counseled them to seek out Spanish missionaries.

It is certain that Sister Mary never physically left Spain, yet Spanish missionaries and King Philip IV of Spain believed that she was the ghostly "La Dama de Azul" or "lady in blue" of Indian Legend. It is said that sister Mary wrote down the recipe for chili which called for venison or antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. No accounts of this were ever recorded, so who knows?

Some Spanish priests were said to be wary of the passion inspired by chile peppers, assuming they were aphrodisiacs. A few preached sermons against indulgence in a food which they said was almost as "hot as hell's brimstone" and "Soup of the Devil." The priest's warning probably contributed to the dish's popularity.

The only thing certain about the origins of chili is that it did not originate in Mexico. Charles Ramsdell, a writer from San Antonio in an article called San Antonio: An Historical and Pictorial Guide, wrote:

"Chili, as we know it in the U.S., cannot be found in Mexico today except in a few spots which cater to tourists. If chili had come from Mexico, it would still be there. For Mexicans, especially those of Indian ancestry, do not change their culinary customs from one generation, or even from one century, to another."

If there is any doubt about what the Mexicans think about chili, the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili con carne as (roughly translated):

“detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.”

Chili historians are not exactly certain who first "invented" chili powder. It is agreed that the inventors of chili powder deserve a slot in history close to Alfred Nobel (1933-1896), inventor of dynamite.

Wherever it came from, it is one of the most versatile dishes I know of. It tolerates variation to variation, and always come out good.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Better Than a BLT

Bacon. Who doesn't love bacon, the smell of it, the sound of it sizzling in the frying pan. Who doesn't like it?

Well, me. Gross.

I do, however, love the smell of anything made with maple syrup, and thinly sliced tempeh, marinated with a mixture containing maple syrup? Yum! I've tried the fake bacons (facon) out there, but honestly, I much prefer to fry up some tempeh bacon if I want something smoky and maple-y in a dish.

Better Than a BLT

Tempeh bacon (recipe follows), diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
salt and pepper to taste
3 green onions, chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Mix everything together. Spread some Vegenaise on two slices of bread, toasted or untoasted, your choice. Add the vegetable/tempeh mixture, top with some romaine lettuce, enjoy! This is better fresh than the next day, so eat up!

Tempeh Bacon

One package of tempeh (I use Lightlife Organic Tempeh)
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. cumin
a dash of cayenne
1 t. liquid smoke
1 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
More olive oil

Slice the tempeh as thin as you can slice it without it falling apart. Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish and soak tempeh in marinade for 1-2 minutes.

Turn saute pan on high, add some olive oil. Lay the tempeh flat on skillet, in a single layer. Allow to cook until nicely brown on one side, about a minute, then flip. Allow to cook for another minute on other side-or until both sides are crisp and browned. Lay cooked tempeh on paper towels to drain and cool. Sprinkle with black pepper and thick sea salt to taste.

Tempeh is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia, almost certainly in Central or East Java. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. Tempeh is unique among major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan.

In the West tempeh is usually sold in cakes 6 by 8 by 3/4 inch thick. These are sliced then served fried, baked, or steamed. When fried, tempeh's flavor and texture are meaty, resembling those of southern fried chicken or fish sticks. Before cooking, soy tempeh contains 19.5% protein, compared with 17.9% for hamburger and 21% for chicken, on average.

Tempeh is a wonderful, high protein, southeastern Asian treat. Not only does this collaged cake of fermented soybeans have a distinctive nutty taste but its nougatlike texture readily absorbs the different flavorings with which it is cooked.

Tempeh processing could be the oldest food technology in the history of Javanese people. The people of Java, without formal training in microbiology or chemistry, developed a remarkable family of fermented foods called tempeh. Serat Centhini/Centini, a book published in the 16th century, indicates that tempeh had been produced and consumed by the time of its publication. Tempeh might have been introduced by the Chinese who are making a similar product, soybean koji, which are dehulled soybeans fermented with Aspergillus molds. The use of Rhizopus as tempeh starter in Indonesia may have been due to its better adaptation to the Indonesian climate. The earliest reference to tempeh by a European appeared in 1875 in a Javanese-Dutch dictionary. In Indonesia, traditionally and in dictionaries since at least 1875, the name for this food was written témpé , with various accents being used, especially to indicate the ay pronunciation of the final letter "e." Soy tempeh was called témpé kedelé . In August 1972, when Indonesia modernized its language as part of an Indonesian-Malaysian effort to make the two similar languages even more similar, the accents were dropped and the word came to be spelled tempe (still pronounced TEM-pay).

The rise of tempeh's popularity in Java and its spread to other parts of Indonesia and other countries of the world began in the 20th century. In the 1970s the banana leaf as container for the production of tempeh was replaced by the use of plastic bags.

In Europe, tempeh is known through the Dutch who once colonized Indonesia. In 1895 the Dutch microbiologist and chemist Prinsen Geerlings made the first attempt to identify the tempeh mold. The first tempeh companies in Europe were started in the Netherlands by immigrants from Indonesia. The first English written article appeared in 1931 the book "Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies ", written by J.J. Ochse. The earliest popular article about tempeh was a 7 page story published in France 1982 in Le Compas.

In the USA, tempeh has been known only since 1946 with the publication of "Possible Sources of Proteins for Child Feeding in Underdeveloped Countries", in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the 1960s there was new interest in tempeh with research in tempeh at the Cornell University (New York) and at the USDA Northern Regional Research Center (Illinois). In 1961 Mary Otten was the first to begin making tempeh.

Great deal of the credit for introducing tempeh to the American public goes to The Farm, a large spiritual and farming community in Summertown (Tennessee).

The first commercial tempeh shop was started in 1975 by Mr. Gale Randall in Undadilla, Nebraska. An article by R. Rodale in "Prevention" in June 1977 brought him and his shop national prominence.

In the 1980s when the tempeh industry expanded, the media showed new interest and a lot of articles appeared in scientific journals. During 1983 about 1 million commercial tempeh was produced.

If you want a more detailed history of tempeh, and it is rather quite long, I discovered, you can read more in History of Tempeh: A Fermented Soyfood from Indonesia.

Soybeans are regarded as equal in protein quality to animal foods. Just 4 ounces of tempeh provides 41.3% of the Daily Value (DV) for protein for less than 225 calories and only 3.7 grams of saturated fat. Plus, the soy protein in tempeh tends to lower cholesterol levels, while consuming protein from animal sources tends to raise them, since they also include saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition to healthy protein, some of tempeh's nutritional high points include:

Riboflavin: 4 ounces of tempeh provides 23.5% of the DV for this B-vitamin. A nutrient essential for the transfer reactions that occur to produce energy in the mitochondria, riboflavin is also a cofactor in the regeneration of one of the liver's most important detoxification enzymes, glutathione.

Magnesium: Tempeh also provides 21.9% of the DV for Nature's blood vessel relaxant, magnesium, in just 4 ounces. In addition to its beneficial role in the cardiovascular system, magnesium plays an essential role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including those that control protein synthesis and energy production.

Manganese and Copper: That same 4 ounces of tempeh will give you 72.5% of the DV for manganese and 30.5% of the DV for copper. These two trace minerals serve numerous physiological functions including being cofactors for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

In addition, soy foods like tempeh are rich in dietary fiber. When eaten, the fiber in tempeh binds to fats and cholesterol in food, so less is absorbed. In addition, tempeh's fiber binds to bile salts and removes them from the body. Since the liver gets rid of cholesterol by transforming it into bile salts, their removal by fiber forces the liver to use more cholesterol to form more bile salts, leading to lower cholesterol levels overall. The fiber in tempeh also provides preventative therapy for several other conditions. Fiber is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins and remove them from the body, so they can't damage colon cells. Tempeh, which is made from high-fiber soybeans, may therefore be able to help reduce the risk of colon cancer. As a matter of fact, in areas of the world where soy foods are eaten regularly, rates of colon cancer, as well as some other cancers, including breast cancer, tend to be low.

If you have never tried tempeh, this is an excellent time to do so!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Minestrone

The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

Where I live, the summers can be unbearable. We don't get snow, and, on the rare occasion it flurries, people will rush outside to stare in wonder, attempting to create a snowball out of the slushy stuff. What the heck, I do it, too, despite having spent my childhood and a small portion of my adulthood living in states where the weather was described by locals as *Winter and July*. I don't miss the snow much, but have to admit that new layer of white on the ground can be breathtakingly beautiful!

Despite the fact that where I live now, we can sometimes be found wearing shorts in the winter, those days that dip toward freezing invite a fire in the fireplace, curling up with nice hot cuppa and a good book, and something warm and yummy for the tummy.

Winter Minestrone

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
One large carrot, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
One turnip, peeled and diced
One rutabaga, peeled and diced
One bunch collards, rolled and sliced
Two cans diced tomatoes
One can garbanzo beans, drained
One can kidney beans, drained
One quart water
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, carrot, celery, turnip, rutabaga and collards, until a little softenened and brightly colored. Add the tomatoes and beans. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to simmer about 30 minutes. Season to taste.

This makes a very mild, but filling, soup in a very short time. Serve with a good bread for dipping and enjoy!

Before becoming vegan, I never ate turnips or rutabagas. No reason other than when I was eating a meat-based diet, there was little variety. We tended to stick to the tried and true, rather than seek out new and different foods to experience. Now I look for things I haven't tried. It has been like a new world of food has opened up to me! Sad, really, to make that realization. I watch non-vegans now, and how they are so hesitant to try new things. I don't mean exotic foods, I'm talking vegetables, like okra or turnips or fennel or eggplant. As for me and mine, we savor each new dish, each new ingredient, finding varieties of ways to use them - and are having a blast doing it! Cooking has once again become an adventure, and never a chore.

A "true" root vegetable should meet two conditions: grow underground and play the role of a root for the plant, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the ground. The following vegetables are examples of true root vegetables: carrots, horseradish, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, salsify, and turnips. They are actually the taproot of the plant, which is formed from the very first root that the seed put out.

Generally, though, the term is used for any underground part of a plant that we eat. Even though onions and leeks are both related, we would call an onion a root vegetable but not a leek, as leeks grow aboveground.

Root vegetables have never been very fashionable. Throughout history, they were largely seen as peasant food.

Before there was agriculture, there was the turnip. That’s how old the turnip is. Turnips were cultivated some 5,000 years ago and may have been eaten as long as 5,000 years before that. Turnips were as important to the Romans as potatoes were to the Incas. Believe it or not, the venerable tradition of the “Jack o’ Lantern” started out with turnips, not pumpkins.

All turnips have a snowy white flesh. The differences in varieties mostly involve outside coloring and size. Some have reddish rings around the crown of the vegetable, others purple. Flavors are essentially the same although larger turnips (3 or more inches in diameter) which appear later in the winter tend to be more pungent than the smaller (11/2 to 2 inches) turnips that appear earlier in the season. Major turnip varieties include Purple top, White Globe, White Egg, Golden Ball, Amber and Yellow Amberdeen.

A 3.5 ounce serving (100 grams) of turnips has 30 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram each of protein and dietary fiber, 60% of the Daily Values (formerly the RDA) for vitamin C, 2% for iron and 3% for calcium. Turnips are also a fair source of potassium and folic acid.

The history of the rutabaga is much shorter, but a little livelier! In the early part of the 17th century, Swiss botanist Casper Bauhin crossed a cabbage with a turnip and got a rutabaga, sometimes called a yellow turnip. It became popular in northern Europe and, in fact, derives its name from the Swedish rotabagge. (Rutabagas are sometimes called swedes.) Rutabagas were adopted by the British in the early 1800s as economical cannonballs. Although they did not pack the same explosive force as cannonballs they made quite an impression. This practice was discontinued when the Brits noticed their foes cooking the spent rutabagas in their soups.

Instead of white flesh, rutabagas have a yellow-orange flesh that, like yellow-flesh potatoes, give an impression of richness or butteriness. They’re also sweeter and denser than turnips with less moisture. On the outside rutabagas are half yellow-orange, while the other half is burgundy or purple. To increase their shelf life, most rutabagas are waxed. Commercially available rutabagas tend to be larger than turnips. The three main rutabaga varieties are American Purple Top, Laurentian and the Thomson Strain of the Laurentian.

A 100 gram serving of rutabagas contains 46 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram each of dietary fiber and protein, 11% of the DV for vitamin A, 43% for vitamin C, 6% for calcium and a small amount of iron. Rutabagas are also a decent source of potassium and folic acid.

The major turnip and rutabaga producing states are California, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington. A significant amount of both is imported from Canada.
Both rutabagas and turnips are members of the mustard family. The good news is that because turnips and rutabagas are in the same family as cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, they have many of the same health benefits, particularly as cancer fighters.

So do be sure to try turnips or rutabagas, and this minestrone is an easy way to do it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crispy Tofu

I have been collecting recipes since I was 15. In human years, that was a long time ago! But seriously, I am the recipe queen. When I became vegan, I did start going through my collection and tossing many that were meat based. I stopped doing that when the proverbial light bulb went off, and I realized I could veganize just about anything! Well, most anything, but you get the idea. It has led to some rather tasty new dishes!

Crispy Tofu

1 package of extra firm tofu, frozen in the package, boiled, sliced thin
Plain soy milk
1/2 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 c. garbanzo bean flour
1/4 c. chopped pecans
2 T. flaxseed
1 t. paprika
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. salt
pinch of black pepper
Olive oil

Pour soy milk into a flat bowl for dipping purposes. Mix up all the dry ingredients in a separate flat bowl for dipping. Heat oil in frying pan.
Dip tofu slices first in milk, then coat well in the dry ingredients mixture. Fry in oil until nicely brown on one side, flip and fry on other side. Serve.

You can serve it with any kind of gravy of your choice.

My family laughs at me, claiming they always know when Mom has been frying based on the amount of smoke in the house. Ha ha. Because this teasing in not unwarranted, I have learned a few things about frying along the way.

•Choose an oil with a high smoke point. The idea here is that there should be as big a difference as possible between the smoke point of the oil and the cooking temperature recommended. For frying at 375ºF, try canola, safflower, or grapeseed oil. If you prefer olive oil, like I do, the olive oil grade "olive oil," is excellent because it has a higher smoke point (410º F) than virgin or extra virgin oils.

•Use a spatter screen to protect you and keep your stovetop clean. Seriously, otherwise you will have little dots of oil on everything in a two foot radius.

•If you are deep frying, leave a margin of at least 2 inches at the top of the pan to prevent oil from overflowing when food is added and help keep spattering contained.

•Just before you start to fry the food, sprinkle about a quarter teaspoon of coarse kosher salt into the oil to keep it from splattering.

•Be sure the food is patted dry before immersing it. Drops of moisture can cause spattering. No kidding! Any moisture will make the oil spit and if you don't want to get popped, watch the moisture! Coat pieces well with dry ingredients to help cut down on any spattering.

•Lower food gently into hot oil; don't drop it from high up.

•If using tongs, keep them pointed downward to prevent hot oil from dripping down the handles. Having done this more than once with boiling water, I can attest to this!

•Work in small batches. The temperature of the oil decreases as soon as you add food to it.

•Monitor the oil temperature carefully and make sure it doesn't go above what the recipe specifies. As particles collect in the frying oil, the smoke point lowers, which increases your chances of fire. I use a metal strainer type utensil to remove as much of the particles as I can.

Frying need not be a scary or even dangerous cooking method, if you follow some simple rules. Enjoy!

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