Sauteed Tofu … Coconut Style

I am having a love affair with nature’s most amazing fruit: the coconut. Today I was inspired to use it in my second created-by-me recipe, Coconut Sauteed Tofu.

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

16 oz. (extra) firm tofu, cubed

4 cloves garlic, minced

assortment of red, yellow, and orange pepper slices, cubed

shredded coconut

3-4 Tbsp. coconut vinegar

3-4 Tbsp. agave nectar

1-2 tsp. lemon juice

Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubed tofu when the oil is hot and let it cook in the skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in the minced garlic. After the tofu has been cooking for about 10 minutes, add in the peppers.

While the tofu is cooking, mix together the coconut vinegar, agave nectar, and lemon juice. When the tofu is starting to lightly brown, add the mixture to the skillet. Sprinkle shredded coconut (as much as you’d like) over the tofu in the skillet, and continue cooking, stirring often.

When the tofu is browned on all sides (and is at the consistency you’d like it to be), remove from heat and enjoy!

I would have taken a picture of my coconut sauteed tofu, but I was so hungry that I started eating the tofu as soon as it had finished cooking… I didn’t put it over rice or anything because it was delicious all on its own; however, it would taste great with rice or anything else you’d want to eat sauteed tofu with.

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A Recipe that Calls for Two

A couple weeks ago I got a new cookbook: Veganomicon. Flipping through the pages of the book and reading the recipe titles made my mouth water, so I was excited to try out some new recipes from it. It wasn’t until last night, though, that I had the time to devote to cooking a new recipe. I had my friend Jackie over for our weekly dinner and Mad Men event, and I had picked out the perfect recipe to balance my vegan diet with her diabetic diet: Roasted Eggplant Soup (with tomato and chickpeas). If you own Veganomicon, you can find the recipe on page 179.

The recipe said it called for about 1 hour 10 minutes to prep and cook; knowing my cooking abilities, I figured it would take at least 2 hours. I was pretty close to being right. What the recipe doesn’t tell you, though, is that it is far easier if you have a pair of helping hands. If it had been me alone in my kitchen last night, it probably would have taken me much longer to make the dish, not to mention that something probably would have burned while I was doing other steps in the recipe. The end result was worth the time and effort it took both of us to make it, though. It rivals the ratatouille experience, which is saying a lot for me.

It reminded me, though, that cooking isn’t really meant to be a solo activity. Cooking is more fun when you know someone else will be enjoying the food you’re making (which doesn’t happen often in my household since everyone who lives with me refuses to try my vegan dishes). When I’m alone in the kitchen, I like to turn on songs to keep me company, and I sing while I cook. While singing, dancing, and cooking can be a fun combination, it doesn’t quite compare to the feeling you get when you’ve got a helper in the kitchen to talk to and share the aromas of your culinary masterpiece with.

Cooking with someone else also revitalized my love for food and gave me a much needed prod to get back into blogging. I have so many posts I need to get up here, yet I’ve been diverting from sitting down and getting back to blogging. It feels good to be back. A big heartfelt thank you goes out to Jackie, who was my partner in mis-chef last night (yes, I spelled that wrong in an attempt to be witty).

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Eat to Live: A Conclusion

This week I had to give up the Eat to Live program. While I had seen benefits from eating such a clean diet, my wallet was beginning to feel the strain from having to buy so much food just to feed me. My body, when not eating things like bread or crackers with meals, needs a lot more food to feel full, and during one of my hungrier weeks (I go in cycles with how much I need to eat), I spent $200 on my food alone. Food that was just for me. Our current budget doesn’t allow for $800 a month to go for my food; maybe someday that could work, but right now I have to face our current reality of living on a budget.

I need to find a happy medium between the Eat to Live plan and simply eating whatever I happen to be craving for the moment; for example, instead of eating 90% of my daily intake from fruits and veggies, maybe I could eat 70% of my intake from fruits and veggies and still feel the health benefits.

Just this morning I went back to my morning coffee routine, and I feel like I am welcoming back an old friend. In order to not completely unwrite what good I had done by kicking the caffeine habit, I am drinking decaffeinated coffee (which I realize still has some caffeine in it, but not nearly as much as caffeinated coffee has).

While this chapter of my eating history is coming to a close, I still look forward to my renewed love of food in my vegan diet. I’ll have to post about the delicious Cuban Black Bean soup that had me salivating for an entire week, and hopefully I’ll have something to say about the Spinach Lasagna I’m attempting to make this weekend (with a “tofu ricotta” to substitute for cheese).

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Asparagus Soup: A Recipe Paraphrased

I think I did something monumental in my cooking life: I think I have come up with my own recipe. I’m not sure if I actually did because I don’t quite understand the vague line between creating your own recipe and using another recipe as a starting point for your own substitutions. I don’t know who gets to claim a “recipe”. But from what I understand, I think what I’ve done is entirely legal (and not plagiarism), so I’m going to share my first recipe with you: Asparagus Soup. I got the original idea from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s cookbook The Vegan Table; she includes a recipe for asparagus and thyme soup, but I didn’t have all the right ingredients, so I made adjustments accordingly.

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

Yields 4 large servings (roughly 2 cups per serving)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 leeks (white and some green parts), chopped

3-4 medium carrots, chopped

1-2 stalks celery, chopped

2-3 pounds asparagus (a bunch is generally close to a pound), cut into 1-inch pieces

2-3 squash (green or yellow), cut into 1-inch cubes

4 cups (32 oz.) vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 tsp basil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once it is heated, add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two (don’t let the garlic get brown). Add in the chopped leeks, carrots, and celery, stirring occasionally. Cook the vegetables until they are soft but not yet brown (about 5 minutes or so).

Add in the vegetable stock, water, asparagus, squash, basil, salt, and pepper, and bring to a light boil. Cover and turn down the heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the asparagus and squash are soft.

Allow the soup to cool slightly and then transfer the soup to a food processor. Blend the mixture until it is creamy. If your food processor is about the same size as mine, you may need to do this step several times (I was only able to get about 1/4 of the soup mixture into my food processor at a time). If you have to do it in stages, make sure you’re getting vegetables and liquid into the food processor for each round of blending.

If the soup mixture is cool, reheat it in a saucepan over low heat; otherwise, it is ready to enjoy. If you have fresh basil on hand, chopped fresh basil as a garnish in this soup is rather delicious.

When I tried the soup, I was surprised at how delicious it was. It has the consistency of split pea soup but all the flavor of roasted garlic and asparagus.

If you try the soup, let me know what you think!

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Ratatouille Experiment: A Success

Last Friday night, I went out to my local CSA farm and picked up my very first basket of fresh vegetables from my CSA share. I should have taken a picture of my beautiful basket and its fresh, lovely contents, but I forgot to get the camera out. I had fresh squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery, basil, and more.

When I woke up on Saturday, I made it my goal to find a recipe to maximize the use of my newly acquired vegetables. Not only did I want to use the vegetables while they were still at their freshest, but I also had dinner plans that night with my friend Jackie. She was coming over to enjoy some delicious vegan cuisine with me.

I found the jackpot in the Moosewood Restaurant’s Simple Suppers, a cookbook I’ve owned for over a year but haven’t made enough use out of. It was a ratatouille recipe. Prior to last Saturday, the only thing I knew for sure about ratatouille was that there was a cute movie about a rat who made ratatouille. I figured it was originally French (the name gives its origins away), but that was about the extent of my knowledge. I figured I’d give the recipe a whirl, though, because it called for most of the ingredients I already had in my fridge–the only things I had to pick up at the farmer’s market were onions, eggplant, and garlic (the garlic I ended up having to get at the grocery store).

The recipe directions claimed that only about 15-20 minutes of preparation were required (the other 40 minutes were cooking time), so I started prepping around 5:00 for a 6:00 dinner. At 6:15, I was still prepping…

My major roadblock is that I am not a quick chopper–when I have a knife in my hands, I tend to move methodically to make sure my fingers don’t get under the blade, and I haven’t quite figured out the art of mincing and dicing and chopping the way the pros do it. I also had no idea what I was doing with half of my ingredients. I had to stop several times to look up how-to videos on YouTube (thank God for YouTube!): How to Peel an Eggplant, How to Prepare Garlic… I hadn’t worked with onions in over a decade, so I even had to do a little refresher with how to peel them without taking off too many onion layers.

At one point, I even called my sister to ask questions about eggplant and garlic. I had never worked with natural garlic before, so I had no idea what to do with this head of garlic. It cracked me up because as I was pressing the head to separate the cloves and then thwacking the cloves to separate them from their peels, my sister was giving me directions based on the sounds she was hearing coming through the phone on my end. It totally reminded me of the episode of Friends where Ross is on a date wearing leather pants. The leather pants are making him sweat so much that he goes into the girl’s bathroom and takes off his leather pants to cool down. But then he couldn’t get them back on. So he called Joey, who told him to try lotion (among other things), and when Ross tries to pull his pants up with lotion-covered hands, his hand slips off his pants and hits his forehead with a ‘thwack.’ On the other end of the phone, Joey nods and says, “Sounds like it’s working.”

When Jackie arrived at 6:00, the ratatouille hadn’t even made it to the oven yet, so it was a good thing she didn’t arrive starving. During the 40 minutes of bake time, I prepared some sauteed Swiss chard, and Jackie taught me how to chiffonade basil (‘chiffonade’ is my new favorite word). The smells coming from the oven were aromatic, so when we finally sat down to eat, I was super-excited to try the ratatouille.

I fell in love. It was creamy and heavenly and … I can’t even find all the right adjectives to insert here to fully describe the awesomeness called ratatouille.

Unfortunately, I discovered that I really don’t like Swiss chard no matter how it’s prepared (I’ve tried raw, steamed, sauteed, and boiled). But not liking the chard meant that I could wipe off half my plate to make room for more ratatouille.

What made the ratatouille even more delicious was knowing that all the ingredients–except the garlic–came directly from local farms. My mouth is watering now just looking at these pictures and writing about the food. This recipe is a definite keeper and do-again-er!

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Vegan Inspiration?

I take inspiration for staying healthy from anywhere I can take it. And lately, I’ve been getting inspired by a TV show, but not necessarily a TV show you’d regularly associate with healthy living. For me, healthy inspiration comes from watching Man v. Food.

Travel Channel's Man v. Food

You’d think shows like Biggest Loser would be more inspiring because they focus on getting people healthy. But for me, I see those shows and get tired of watching as the contestants get bigger and bigger each year and treat the show more as a game than as a life-changing get-healthy push. I used to watch Biggest Loser and eat junk food at the same time. Not inspiring.

But with Man v. Food, I watch as Adam Richman challenges himself to eat massive portions of entirely unhealthy food, and I start craving fresh fruit and vegetables. I’m morbidly fascinated by what he’ll put into his body, and every time I watch his food get prepared, I renew my commitment to getting and staying healthy. The show inspires me both to eat healthy and to exercise. It also inspires me to stay vegan. That might sound counterintuitive, as Richman eats anything but vegan food on the show, but let me explain.

Last night’s new episode featured Richman in Cleveland, Ohio, eating a 14-cheese grilled cheese sandwich with large servings of french fries and cole slaw on the side. Altogether, it was a 5-pound platter. I used to love grilled cheese, and chances are, if I were to eat another one right now, I’d still love it. But as I watched 14 different cheeses get piled onto three huge slices of bread, my stomach turned. Watching the cheeses melt together and make a big gooey mess didn’t make my mouth water–it had the opposite effect on me. Watching people take omnivorous eating habits to the extreme and practically cut out anything to do with vegetables and fruits makes me remember that I used to do the same thing (though never to the 14-cheese grilled cheese extreme) and makes me want to stay on the current dietary path I’m traveling.

As a reminder, I’m vegan for health reasons. So as I watch the show, my main concentration is on thinking about the nutrients–or lack thereof–that are going into people’s bodies who choose to eat those oversized portions of meat, more meat, and maybe some potatoes fried in grease. And that visualization of what is going into their bodies (of what used to go into my body) inspires me to remain vegan.

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Eat to Live: Beginning Week 4

Last week was a magical week for me as far as my diet and health are concerned. The diet change finally started “clicking” with my body, and on Sunday when I ate two pieces of bread in one day (they were homemade pieces of bread that I had baked that day) on top of the 1/2 cup of cereal I had in the morning, I felt awful. Not mentally awful, but physically awful. My stomach felt like it had a brick sitting in it, and that’s when I realized my body was over needing tons of grains to get through the day.

My body also responded by losing nearly 3 pounds in a week. I know most people go through rapid weight loss right at the beginning of a dietary change for the better, but my body takes a little bit longer to respond, and last week was that highly responsive week. The rapid weight loss helped keep me inspired even through some stressful situations.

On top of all that, I’m starting to see other benefits, particularly in my skin. I’ve long battled skin problems (as I’ve mentioned before), and the past couple days I’ve started noticing how good my skin looks. My skin looks alive–it’s practically glowing. I’ve also noticed that I have more energy, so when I work out, I get a lot more exercise in and look forward to my next session (instead of dreading it). Overall, I feel great.

I feel a little like an infomercial, but with all the positive experience I’m having with the Eat to Live plan, I’d suggest it for anyone wanting to vamp up their health and energy.

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