Saturday, February 5, 2011

Veggie Fajitas

I think if I had to pick, Mexican food would top the list of favorites. My favorite, of course, is Tex Mex, but I'll try almost any Mexican food restaurant. My favorite is my neighborhood restaurant, Los Caporales. The owner knows us, is always friendly and they have the BEST salsa EVER.

The biggest problem with any Mexican restaurant, though, is finding something vegan. Oh, vegetarian is easy, but vegan? Not so much? Just about everything has cheese on it or in it. And some serve cheese enchiladas with a meat gravy! Yuck and double yuck!

We like to cook Mexican often at home. There is always something different - tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, fajitas. I swear, I never get tired of it.

Veggie Fajitas

Olive oil
One onion, sliced
1 T. chili powder
1 T. paprika
1/4 t. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise and into half moons
1 green pepper, sliced
4 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced
1 t. tamari
1 can black beans, drained
Whole wheat flour tortillas
Daiya mozzarella style shreds

Saute onions, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper in olive oil, until onions are soft. Add zucchini, green pepper, mushrooms and tamari, cook until veggies are heated but not soft. Stir in the beans and heat through. Spoon some in a line down a flour tortilla, sprinkle on some Daiya, roll up and enjoy!

Feel free to add sliced avocados or salsa or anything to your liking!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Orange Tofu with Coconut Lime Rice

How many times when you are watching tv do you see the ubiquitous Chinese takeout boxes? It seems whenever characters onscreen do takeout, it's Chinese. Kind of like every time you see a character with a grocery bag, there is a loaf of French bread sticking out. As if these food items are so recognizable, that no one can mistake what is going on. It strikes me as amusing.

There are several Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants near where I live. We have our choice when we get in the mood for something delectably Asian. More often than not, though, when the family's taste buds are so inclined, they ask me to make something at home. Nothing beats homemade in their minds, and I so agree!

Orange Tofu with Coconut Lime Rice

2 t. arrowroot powder
1 t. orange zest
1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
3 T. tamari
2 T. maple syrup
2 T. apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1/8 t. salt
1  package extra firm tofu, frozen in package, boiled to thaw, pressed and drained and sliced into 1/2 thick squares
1/4 c. green onions, thinly sliced
1 T. sesame seeds

In a shallow baking dish, mix arrowroot powder with orange juice until powder is fully dissolved. Mix in orange zest, tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, garlic cloves, sesame oil and salt. Combine well. Add tofu and be sure to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate and marinate at least an hour. Place in cold oven, bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Turn tofu over and bake again, uncovered for a few minutes more, until sauce is bubbling at the edges. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions and serve with Coconut Lime Rice.

Coconut Lime Rice

1 c. rice (we like basmati)
13-1/2 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 c. water
1-1/2 t. lime zest
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 t. salt

Combine all ingredients except zest in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 35-45 minutes. Stir in lime zest and serve.

Jennifer Lee, in her book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles points out that there are “some 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States—more than the number of McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFCs combined.” Americanized Chinese food includes variations of the original dishes from China or new creations from the United States. Take, for example, the fortune cookie. Its origins are often contested, but a general consensus concludes it was created in San Francisco.

Also, chop suey, a dish of chopped meats cooked with vegetables like cabbage, celery and bean sprouts cooked in a thick sauce, was allegedly created by Chinese immigrants who came to California to mine for gold and work on the Transcontinental Railroad. They used whatever ingredients were available and also created dishes modified to suit a non-Chinese population.

Take General Tso, for example. General Tso’s chicken is virtually unknown in China but there was a real 19th-century general named Tso in Hunan Province who was involved in the bloodiest civil war in human history but his “long march across China” did not explain how “his long march across America" came to pass.
The driving force behind Chinese cooking is the desire to adapt and incorporate indigenous ingredients and utilize Chinese cooking techniques. I see this here in Texas with Mexican food, using local ingredients with a Mexican flare. We call it Tex-Mex, and I have to admit, I favor it over more traditional Mexican food.
If you like Chinese food, experiment with some dishes, like this Orange Tofu dish and have fun with it. Buy some chopsticks (but be aware of the environmental impact and get some that aren't disposable), watch a Jackie Chan movie (no one can move quite like that man can!) and be sure to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Greek Gyro, Vegan Style

We love to go to the Texas Renaissance Festival. There is always something new to see there. It's also the place where my husband and I have tried new foods for the first time. One of those foods was a Greek sandwich called a gyro (yeer-ro). It was difficult at the time to find a local place that made them, so we were limited to the Renfest to indulge our taste buds. Now you can buy one at the mall food court. When I went vegan, it was one food that no longer graced my menu.

Until now.

Greek Gyro, Vegan Style

Dry ingredients:
1-1/2 c. vital wheat gluten
1/4 c. tapioca flour
2 T. chickpea flour
2 T.nutritional yeast
1 t. onion powder
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. rosemary
1/2 t. parsley
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. white pepper
Wet ingredients:
1 c. vegetable broth
1-1/2 T. tahini
1 T. dry white wine
1/2 T. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. vegetable broth
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. white pepper

Tzaziki Sauce (recipe follows)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well. Knead mixture for a few minutes.  On a large sheet of foil, shape seitan to fit inside a steamer. Wrap in foil, but not too tightly. Place the foil packet in the steamer and steam for 55 minutes.
In a shallow container, combine the marinade ingredients. Slice the seitan as thinly as possible and add to marinade. Coat the seitan well, cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Make Tzaziki Sauce.
Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium. Add the seitan and any marinade and cook until hot.
Serve in pita bread or flour tortillas, with some chopped red onion, peeled and chopped cucumber, chopped tomato and shredded lettuce. Drizzle on some Tzaziki Sauce.

Tzaziki Sauce

1/2 c. vegan yogurt
3/4 t. Dijon mustard
1-1/2 T. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c. peeled and chopped cucumber
2 T. fresh parsley, minced
2 green onions, minced
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. dill
pinch cayenne and black pepper
1/8 t. salt

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Gyros are an American-Greek sandwich. Most food historians generally agree the name "gyro" and the current sandwich are both recent inventions originating in New York during the early 1970s. Gyros are believed to have originated in Greece. (They’re similar to the döner kebabs of Turkey and shawarma of the Middle East, which are slices of meat, rather than a minced loaf.) The process starts with boxes of raw beef and lamb trimmings, and ends with what looks like oversized Popsicles the shade of a Band-Aid. In between, the meat is run through a four-ton grinder, where bread crumbs, water, oregano and other seasonings are added. A clumpy paste emerges and is squeezed into a machine that checks for metal and bone. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it? It still amazes me what people will eat, especially when they don't know what it is exactly. And yeah, I was one of the guilty. But then, I used to eat at McDonalds, too. Hydraulic pressure — 60 pounds per square inch — is used to fuse the meat into cylinders.

A proper American-Greek Gyro gyro is made with meat cut off a big cylinder. This meat is cooked on a slowly rotating vertical spit or gyro, implying the circular spinning motion of a gyroscope. The sandwich maker slices off strips of the warm meat when the sandwich is ordered, heats pita bread on a griddle or grill, and then serves the meat on the bread, topped with the sauce which is usually garnished with lettuce and tomato.

It is similar to a Turkish Doner Kebab: Slices of marinated lamb, mutton, beef, veal, or chicken which are stacked on a vertical spit and roasted at a vertical grill. It is served as a type of sandwich stuffed into Turkish bread, rolled into flat bread, or laid atop diced flat bread and topped with sauces.

This type of sandwich has been known, and sold on the streets, by the people of Greece, the Middle East, and Turkey for hundreds of years. Greek historians believe that the dish originated during Alexander The Great’s time, when his soldiers used their long knives to skewer meat and kept turning the meat over fires.

Gyro is probably the most often mispronounced food name. Even its fans usually do not get the pronounced correctly - whether it is mispronounced as "jee-rohs," "jai-rohs," "gee-rohs," The correct Greek pronunciation is “yee-rohs.” The varied names have geographical origins from different peoples’ languages.

However it is made or sold, I'd much rather have the cruelty-free version. It is tasty and filling and I know exactly what is in it! Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. It is really quick and simple to whip up, the steaming time is the kicker. But you can make this a day ahead, let it sit in the refrigerator until ready to cook and your family will love you for it!

Seitan on FoodistaSeitan

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cajun Tofu

Living in a big city in Texas, we get quite a variety of ethnic foods. Mexican, of course, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, you name it,  you can find it here. Living next door to Louisiana, we also get Cajun dishes, and man, oh, man, it is fantastic!

Cajun Tofu

One pound extra firm tofu, frozen in the container, boiled to thaw, drained and pressed and sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 T. plus 1 t. Cajun seasoning
2 T. olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. parsley

Sprinkle both sides of the tofu slices with salt and 1 T. of the Cajun seasoning. Set aside.
In a small pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the green pepper, celery, green onion and garlic until softened. Stir in the tomatoes, soy sauce and parsley, 1 t. Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes to let the flavors blend.
While the sauce is simmering, heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook until browned on both sides. Add the sauce to the skillet and the tofu and heat through, about five minutes. Serve.

If you aren't a fan of tofu, this dish could very well make you a convert! It is just that good!

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans with a tour group. We spent a great deal of time in the French Quarter.

I loved the architecture there. We would walk along and come upon street performers, from mimes to musicians. Plenty of interesting shops and interestingly placed art work.

We had the pleasure of being treated to a meal prepared by an entertaining chef named Kevin Belton.

Now, I don't ever see him making a tofu dish, but the school was very accommodating. The menu was set for the guests, but when I asked for something for a vegan, they were happy to make me up something special. It was absolutely delicious! We got to wash it down with an ice cold local beer.

I don't even drink beer, but I had one, just to get in the spirit of the whole evening. And it was even vegan friendly!

I very much want to make a return trip to New Orleans. There was so much there to see and so much I didn't get to see, confined to a tour group schedule as we were. For now, though, I can remember my trip fondly, and indulge myself in Cajun foods I make at home.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Easy Minestrone

The temps are dropping all over the country and folks are hunkering down. I don't get snow where I live (no, really, there is like a bubble over my neighborhood - when my friend 10 minutes away can build a snowman and we didn't get a single flake, I can say that), but we do get freezing temps. When those days come, we light up the fireplace, make up some hot chocolate or cider (or in my case, tea!) and enjoy a good soup or stew. This one does that nicely!


1 T. olive oil
One onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 t. allspice
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
2 bay leaves
1 t. dried or 1 T. fresh rosemary
4 c. vegetable stock
2 c. water
Half a bag of frozen corn
Half a bag of frozen green beans
1 bag of pasta, shape your choice (I used vegetable spirals)
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried oregano

In a large pot over medium heat, add oil, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper and allspice. Stir until onion begins to soften. Add tomatoes, beans, bay leaves, rosemary, stock and water. Turn up heat to high and bring to a boil. Add corn, green beans and pasta, cook about 10 minutes until pasta is almost cooked. Add additional thyme and oregano and more water is necessary. Enjoy!

Be sure to watch the water, as mine initially turned into more of a stew than a soup. If you have kids, use a fun shaped pasta instead of traditional pasta. We served ours with buttered toast, but garlic bread would probably have been a perfect accompaniment (note to self: next time make garlic toast).
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