Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Okara adventures

I made tofu today and had all that leftover okara again. It's perfectly acceptable to throw it away, as I've only used about 15p worth of soybeans to make the tofu, but for some reason, I just want to figure out something to do with it. As I've made fresh tofu which must be eaten the same day (to be at its best), and for some reason thought it was a good idea to make onigiri (which is a Japanese rice ball--except mine aren't technically onigiri since I used a vinegar dressing in the rice, creating sushi rice. But since I didn't fill the rice balls with anything, I don't think they're sushi, either--*shrug*!), I thought I'd use the okara to try to make some sort of Asian-style something to serve with the meal. (We're also having stir-fried cabbage as a side dish.) So I mixed garlic, ginger, a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and vital wheat gluten to the okara. I pinched the dough off in little wads thinking I'd make some sort of chicken-style chunks. I dropped them into boiling water and it became INSTANTLY apparent that the dough was too soft for boiling! I fished them out of the water and they were like sponges that were so completely soaked they are falling apart, if you can imagine such a thing. I figured what the heck, pressed them down with a slotted spoon while draining into the sink and glopped them out on a baking sheet and into the oven they went. They are now in the oven, becoming whatever it is they are going to become. If they're okay, I'll coat them in sweet and sour sauce or something. If they're not, I must remind myself that I still have under £1 invested in them and it's okay to fling them directly into the bin! So we shall see.

More later!

Well, it's only 5 minutes later, but I'm back. I decided it was too much trouble and flung them in the bin. I also steeled myself and threw the rest of the okara in the bin as well. In future, remind me to always just THROW away the okara! It's cheap and I don't need the hassle!

Monday, 23 March 2009

White Miso Soup

I've posted miso soup recipes before, but this one was so yummy I had to post.

5 dried shiitake mushrooms and a sheet of kombu about as big as your hand, covered in boiling water and allowed to steep for hours--all day in this case--then remove mushroom stems and slice the caps thin; discard the kombu--keep the soaking water, it's the base of the soup! Return the mushrooms to the broth and set aside

1/2 small white onion, finely sliced

1 tsp rapeseed oil

2-3 sticks of wakame seaweed, crumbled fine

2 scallions, sliced thin, including white and green parts

sweet white miso paste to taste (some like their soup stronger than others)

2-3 cubes of fresh tofu per bowl

The amount of water and miso paste you use is determined by how much soup you want to end up with. I made enough for two hungry people and enough left over to take for lunches the next day, so probably enough for 6 if having with a traditional full Japanese meal.

Saute onion slices in rapeseed oil until soft. Add soup stock and mushrooms, wakame and green onions. Bring to simmer. Put a big dollop of the miso paste in a big ladle and dip the ladle into the soup to get some broth in the ladle; mix to thin out the miso, then submerge ladle completely and stir miso into soup broth. Taste and continue mixing in miso paste until as strong as you want it. (Sweet white miso paste has a very mellow and savoury taste. We like a lot of it!)

To serve, place fresh tofu cubes in bowl and ladle soup over the top. Garnish with more fresh scallions.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Tofu Revueltos a la Mexicana

Today's breakfast: Mexican Scrambled Tofu

1/2 small onion, minced
1 small tomato, diced very fine
a bit of fresh green chile, minced (depends on how hot you want the salsa)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the above ingredients to create pico de gallo and set aside.

Then cut up:
the other half of the small onion
2 corn tortillas, cut in 3 by 1/4 inch strips
1-2 tbs oil

Cook these in a non-stick pan until onion is translucent and tortilla strips are limp.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine:
1 packet mori-nu firm silken tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch sage
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of dried ancho chile flakes

Pour the tofu mixture into the pan with the onions and tortillas and cook until done to your liking. Serve topped with salsa, guacamole if you want, and some toast.

(The photo above has some black beans in it. It's from the net, as usual!)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Haters and Hominy

I just read a novel in 2 sittings: Hater by David Moody. It's touted as a combination of '28 Days Later' and 'I Am Legend', and that is a pretty good description of it. I could not put it down! Guillermo Del Toro has picked up the movie rights to it, and a sequel (Dog Blood) is due out in 2010. In essence, ordinary man and council worker Danny McCoyne narrates as society falls apart--because some people out the clear blue suddenly start attacking and viciously killing whoever they happen to be with when the 'change' happens to them. They're not zombies or vampires, and there's no way to predict who this will happen to or when. I couldn't put the book down! I've found some reviews online which I agree with:

Matthew's review: Hater

SF Signal review: Hater

Blood of the Muse review: Hater

On to the hominy! The other day I placed an order for Mexican food at, and included a bag of dried hominy. So today, I'm making pozole. As most of you know, pozole is traditionally full of pork and lard! But here's what I came up with:

Carla's vegan pozole

3 cups of cooked dried hominy (or equivalent in canned, but it doesn't have the same texture unless you can get a can of Juanita's hominy, which is so much better than Bush's best and those others--that's for my American readers!)--if you're cooking from dry, you'll cook it the day before because you have to boil that stuff for about 4 hours to get it tender enough to start this recipe!

1 can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained (you could also cook these from dry if you're like that)

1 can of tomatoes

1 cup TVP chunks

1 med. onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 Tbs unrefined rapeseed oil (or any vegetable oil)

2-4 tsp of dried crushed ancho chiles

1/4-1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder

2 tsp oregano or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

lime wedges for garnish

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil. Add hominy, beans and tomatoes plus 2-3 cans of water. Add the TVP chunks. Bring to a simmer. Add the chiles and continue cooking on very low simmer for several hours, until the liquid is reduced to make a thick stew. The hominy and beans should be soft, the TVP chunks will still have that curious meaty chew. Add oregano, salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over each portion.

This is one of those dishes that gets better with age, so savour the leftovers!

Serve with some green leafy vegetables and a salad if you feel bad about eating so much stodge. It is traditionally served with sliced radishes, thinly sliced cabbage, tortillas, and avocado. (See photo--which I nicked from the net!) I've never seen those round red radishes here in England, and they didn't have avocados in Co-op lime it is!

Buen provecho!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Round the world in 80 plates

Yes, I'm chuffed with chickpeas. Cuckoo for kadala. Ga-ga for garbanzos. Bonkers for bengal gram.

Well, we've had chickpeas two days in a row, anyway!

Last night, we had chickpea quinoa pilaf, with spinach and tomatoes, and a sort of squash thoran that I made up. (A thoran is a kind of dry south Indian curry that has coconut in it.) It was great!

Today for dinner, I attempted to make Kadala Curry from a southern Indian cookbook. Wow, was it hot, even though I cut the red chiles down from 7 to 3, and then was faint-hearted enough not to add them all. We love highly seasoned food, and even we couldn't get over how hot it was. I'm thinking the author must use a different size red chile than what I bought, but it calls for 'dried red chiles' and what I bought is just labelled 'dried red chiles.' Anyway, now I know that in this book, forget the amount called for and go with what my instinct tells me is right. I don't know why this happens to me so often when I attempt to try a recipe word-for-word. There is no way any human being with a functioning mouth could eat that curry with 7 chiles in it--not the ones I bought anyway! The results were very tasty, if too hot, but there's always next time. The sauce was great for sopping bread in!

Anyway, that's chickpeas twice in two days. Not every meal, though.

For lunch, I went all out with a Japanese menu: white miso soup, chirashi zushi, kimpira cabbage and sauted tofu blocks with black sesame seeds. It was so scrummy. We had a house guest who said nothing, but ate everything (except her smoked takuan pickle and pickled ginger with sisho leaves--I forget we eat 'out of the ordinary' things until someone comes round.) Maybe I overwhelmed her with all those little plates and dishes, but I do love Japanese tableware!

Between meals, I made champurrado, which I haven't made in years and years. It's a Mexican hot chocolate thickened with corn masa. You use something called a molinillo to whisk up a froth on it. Yummy.

Veganized champurrado

2 mugs full of soy milk
6 tablespoons Mexican hot chocolate mix (or a mixture of approximately 3 heaping teaspoons cocoa, 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste, and a pinch of ancho chile pepper--adjust all amounts to suit taste)
1 tablespoon corn masa, mixed with 2-3 tablespoons of water
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt

Heat soy milk in sauce pan, add chocolate mixture. When beginning to simmer, stir in corn masa and cook until thickened, then add vanilla and salt and whisk up a froth, if desired.

And for breakfast, it was vegan french toast with fresh strawberries and maple syrup. (Houseguest wouldn't eat hers. Never mind--she said she wanted toast. Derek ate most of hers anyway!--She did text us when she got home to say thanks for all the food, so that's good!)

It was certainly a culinary trip around the world today, then!

This renewed interest in cooking is probably not going to help my attempts to lose a couple of pounds, but oh well. I'm sure it will soon pass, and I am trying to keep things relatively healthy--and they are all definitely still vegan!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Driving and eating

Yesterday my driving instructor told me that the driving test is changing. They are going to separate it into three parts: theory, a practical test in just manoeuvres, which may or may not be conducted on purpose-built 'courses' at various testing centres across the UK, and a 'free-style' driving test during which the examiner gives you a series of instructions (such as 'Progress east to the first roundabout, turn left, carry on then take the second right and park up in front of a shop.' Or something like that). So she encouraged me strongly to book my theory test and get it out of the way so that we can do my practical as soon as possible. Great. I am definitely going to get my licence before this new nonsense kicks in!

On a better note, it was a good lesson. I backed around a corner and did a turn in the road. She told me to practice round and round the test centre because that's the area where people tend to commit the errors that cause them to fail.

Last night I made two more recipes from Veganomicon, Lemony Roast Potatoes and Sauted Seitan with Spinach and Mushrooms. These recipes were not as spectactular as the last few I've made. They need tweaking in seasoning and processes. Next time I make the Lemony Roast Potatoes, I'm going to roast them in my usual way in an open roasting tin, rather than in a covered casserole as Isa instructs, and add the seasoning after the potatoes are pretty much cooked. And for the seitan recipe, I need to really cook the seitan to get some brown on it for deglazing, and cook it longer to make it tender, and I'm also going to add Marmite to increase the 'umami' qualities of it.

Anyway, can't expect every recipe to be a complete ass-kicker. I admit, I used a lot less olive oil than Isa says--1/3 a cup? Come on! I don't want to weigh 300 lbs by Easter, do I? And to my great disappointment, I found out the last minute that I don't have any oregano, so had to substitute basil, which is tasty but didn't give the potatoes the intended Greek-ish taste. I also didn't have any white wine for the seitan recipe, so that might have had some impact on it.

The weather this moring is absolutely awful. Looks like a monsoon out there, and I have to walk to work in it. I've got my rainproof trousers and beloved Paramo hillwalking jacket, though. Ugh.
My day off was yesterday, now it's 5 days straight, Sunday off, then 9-7 on Monday. Still, I'm grateful I'm still in employment at this point.

I didn't sleep too well last night. For the first time in my life, my tinnitus actually woke me up--three times. The only thing I can think of that I did yesterday was listen to my hypnosis CD with little speakers on each side of my pillow to get the 'headphone' effect. (I can't use headphones, they give me an instant headache). And then I listened to my favourite Deva Premal CD (Dakshina) while doing some housework, and I did have it turned up loud enough that I could hear it while moving about the house. It was playing on the computer speakers. My tinnitus is always loud, and I mean really loud. But some things do aggravate it more. Gotta be careful.

Hope everyone has a great day!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa Stir Fry

This is the third recipe I've made from my new copy of Veganomicon, and it was fantastic. Red and white quinoa are cooked with pineapple juice, then combined with a stirfry of red peppers, green peas (I used edamame), garlic, ginger, fresh pineapple, scallions, hot chiles and loads of fresh basil and mint. Before you eat, you squeeze a quarter of a fresh lime over it! It was so tasty, even though the recipe says it serves 4, hubby and I ate it all between the two of us. (Which is not unusal, actually. We almost always eat a 'serves 4' or 'serves 6' recipe between the two of us. Who are these people who eat such small portions, anyway?)

The recipe is on page 175 of Veganomicon, but I think you could probably just knock one together using the description and the picture.

I have to say, though, that while I usually don't follow recipes to the letter even the very first time I use them, so far I have done precisely what Isa says in the book and the results have been fine. That isn't always the case for me, I often find that recipes that sound odd to me turn out odd. Like the time I tried to make Isa's vegan matzoh ball soup from 'Vegan with a Vengeance.' I thought the cooking times sounded off, but followed the directions. They were awful and falling apart overcooked.

Actually, come to think of it, I didn't follow this one to the letter. Isa says to make the quinoa the day before and refrigerate overnight. I didn't see the point of that so just cooked and used it hot right then and there. Turned out fine. I can tell, though, that if you put this dish together and managed to have leftovers, it would taste even better the next day because there'd be time for all those glorious flavours to get to know one another.

Try it! (Google it--I'm sure someone somewhere has been naughty and posted the recipe...)

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Pass Your Driving Test

I bought this CD the other day and listened to it on Wednesday night before my lesson on Thursday. My driving instructor and I were both a bit astonished by my change in attitude on my lesson on Thursday. Even though I made mistakes on my manoeuvres and committed several what they call 'minor faults', I felt much better about the whole experience. At the end of the lesson, my instructor said I it was our best lesson ever. She remarked on the fact that I actually smiled.

Last Sunday, before I got the CD, I had a rather disastrous practice session with poor hubby, that ended up with me too stressed out to drive the car home. We were only two streets away from our home, but I was so wound up, I couldn't stomach the thought of even being in the car at all, so I walked home and he drove the car home. (Fortunately for me, he is the personification of patience and saintly good will, so did not angrily announce upon my return that he would never take me out to practice again, as anyone else likely would have done). Let's just say my pain-body made an appearance. It was a bad day.

I got the CD on Wednesday and listened to it that night. It was very relaxing. The next day at work, I felt a sort of nervous energy all day. It was a strange sensation in the chest. As the time for my lesson approached, I realised I wasn't feeling anxiety as such--it was actually excitement! Excitement only mildly tinged with the usual nervousness. Not dread at all. A positive energy! It was a weird new feeling about driving lessons, I can tell you.

The CD has two 30-minute tracks, one for the Practical Test and one for General Driving Anxiety. I have been listening to the anxiety one. I've listened to it 3 times now. I intend to listen to it every other day from now on, and the test one every night on the run-up to my test, in addition to the anxiety one. Basically, the CD spends about 20 minutes getting you into deep relaxation with your eyes closed, then about 5 or 6 minutes of suggestions, then you listen to some music with your eyes open and that's it.

Today I went out with Derek again for a practice session, which didn't go perfectly because we kept getting lost, I didn't flip out or even lose my temper. I did my manoeuvres and while they weren't perfect at least I did them, and I drove all the way home. It was worlds different from last week's attempt. For me, just getting in the car to practise at all is something of a major breakthrough. I feel very proud and that at last I may be making genuine progress. Last night I took 3 theory tests using a practice CD and I passed them all! That's the first time I've passed a practice theory test and I did 3 in a row!

In fact, I am so pleased with the results from this CD already that I am considering getting more by this Glenn Harold fellow. He has one called 'Exercise & Fitness Motivation' and one called 'Lose Weight Now', one called 'Letting Go, Moving On'--I could use all of those!

For now, though, I'm going to continue with this driving one. It certainly seems to be helping.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Every vegan knows

...a tofu chocolate pudding recipe, but that's no reason not to post yet another one! We think this one tastes really good, especially when rolled up in a veganized Staffordshire oatcake!

This is typical vegan behaviour--tofu is meant to be stir-fried or used in soups, right? And Staffordshire oatcakes traditionally are wrapped around bacon or sausage and egg with loads of grated cheese. But so what! Vegans make everything our own--can't be ruled! We don't care, whatever it is we're gonna change it to suit ourselves, so take this recipe and do the same with it.

Personally, I think a box of silken tofu blended with a banana can be the basis of many a yummy thing. Smoothies, puddings, even cake batters. Go nuts!

My Super Quick and Yummy Head-Whangingly Rich Chocolate Tofu Pudding Stuff

1 box of mori-nu silken tofu
1 ripe banana
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g dark chocolate (72%)
1-2 tsp cocoa powder
agave nectar to taste
maybe a pinch of salt

Using a stick blender, combine the tofu and banana until it is totally smooth. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Blend the chocolate into the tofu mixture. Take a bit of the tofu mixture into the little bowl you melted the chocolate in (because why mess up another bowl?) and stir in the cocoa a little at a time to make a paste. (This gets rid of the lumps). Add the vanilla. Add several squeezes of agave nectar. When that's all blended and smooth, add it to the tofu mixture and blend the whole thing some more. Taste it and adjust sweetness by adding more agave nectar until it's yummy. Spoon into 4 individual serving containers with lids (I like little plastic ones) and put it into the back of the fridge to thoroughly chill. It does set up very well.

You can substitute maple syrup. Almond extract might be nice instead of vanilla. Play around with it!

And now a better-late-than-never shout out for VEGANOMICON's WORLD FAMOUS CHICKPEA CUTLETS. I just made these for the very first time tonight. Having checked out Veganomicon several times from the library and reading recipes over and over (yet never making them), I finally decided to buy my own copy, and this is the first recipe I tried from the book. This recipe is absolutely all over the web, as predicted by Isa in the book. I nabbed the photo from a blog called Vegan Dad, because I can never be asked to take photos of my dinner--I'm too excited about eating it to remember to photograph it. Anyway, we had ours with smashed potatoes, steamed curly cabbage and gravy. The cutlets were very, very easy to make and we both inhaled them. Super cheap, too, much cheaper than the frozen vegan schnitzels we sometimes buy from Holland & Barrett. So click on the link above, copy the recipe out, check out Google Images for photos of people's chickpea cutlet attempts, and then try it out yourself. They really are yum!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Dharma message for the day

DO NOT BE CONCERNED WITH THE FRUIT OF YOUR ACTION--just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord. ~Eckhart Tolle, 'Practising the Power of Now'

I have been thinking about this quote for hours, since I first read it in 'Practising the Power of Now.' I know that this practice is what I need, more than any other. Even though the title of this blog is 'Dharma in the Dishes', referring to a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh that espouses this same practice, I still struggle continuously with staying out of what Eckhart Tolle calls 'psychological time' (ie, being stuck in thoughts of the past or the future and rejecting the now). If what I'm doing right now is the purpose of my life, there is no failure. I am doing it right now.

...even in the most simple actions, like turning the pages in a phone book, or walking across the room. The main purpose for turning the pages is to turn the pages; the secondary purpose is to find a phone number. The main purpose for walking across the room is to walk across the room; the secondary purpose is to pick up a book at the other end, and as soon as you pick up the book, that becomes your main purpose. ~Eckhart Tolle, 'A New Earth'

Right. So the next time I try to reverse round a corner, I will remember that my purpose is not to back around the corner perfectly, but to look over my shoulder. Then my purpose is to turn the wheel, then to take the turn off, etc. And the fruit of the action will take care of itself. (Instead of looking over my shoulder, fearing that I will be unsuccessful and totally freaking out, which is my usual method!)

I can apply this lesson to every aspect, every moment of my life. ... And just typing that sentence, I began to feel anxiety about whether or not I can do it--in the future. While right now, my purpose is actually to type this sentence.

This really is a profound practice.

Thai Okara Cakes

I made this today to use up the okara left over from my tofu making.

2 fat cloves garlic
1 small bird chili
1 small shallot
1 chunk of galangal about the size of the end of your thumb
1 stalk of lemon grass about the size of your pinky

Mince all the above and cook them briefly in a bit of coconut oil.

Combine leftover okara (about 1.5 cups) with the aromatics listed above. Add salt to taste and breadcrumbs made from 2 slices of wholemeal bread. Add about 1/4 cup of oatmeal.

Form into patties and bake in the oven until golden. Coat the patties in melted coconut oil first if you want them to have a more 'fried' texture on the outside.

I served this on a bed of steamed spinach with chopped tomato sprinkled around the edges of the plate, and with a thai peanut sauce drizzled over the top. (I was feeling 'Master Chefy' I guess). The peanut sauce was from a packet.

These were fragrant and delicious!!

Forgot to take a picture, though. So you'll just have to imagine them. The pic below is just one I found online, but they did look a lot like this:

Just imagine those on a bed of spinach with peanut sauce drizzled over. :)