Wednesday, May 11, 2011

General Tso's Got a Brand New Bag

I don't know who General Tso was, but I'm a fan of his tofu. The spicier, the better. What I don't like is when my beloved spicy-sweet dish comes with these grease-logged sponges of tofu. Here's my version, using a method of oil-free, dry frying the tofu that I learned from Vegan YumYum. The sauce recipe is from VegWeb and is one of the top recipes on their sites. I served this over quinoa that had been cooked with a touch of tamari and lots of steamed broccoli.

General Tso's Non-Greasy Tofu
serves 4
  • 1 block firm or extra firm tofu
  • several scallions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 table spoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sherry, optional
  • 1 to 2 tsp crushed red pepper, depending on your thermostat
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch + 1/4 cup water, combined
Geometry time: Cut the block of tofu into 8 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two squares. Cut the squares into two triangles.

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Needs to be at least ten inches across to fit all the tofu. Lay the tofu on the hot skillet, and depress with a strong spatula. Water will be released and will "dry fry" your tofu. When side one is golden, flip to side two. Repeat.

When tofu is done, set aside on a plate. In the same skillet, reduce heat to low and add scallions, ginger, and garlic with 1 tablespoon of water. Stir so that nothing burns and let cook for 2-3 mins. In the mean time, combine the remaining ingredients in a measuring cup (except for the cornstarch mixture.) Add liquid to the skillet, increase heat to high. Add the tofu and allow to slightly reduce. 

Add cornstarch/water mixture, stir to combine. It should begin to thicken and look glossy. Turn off heat, let set for a moment. Serve tofu and sauce over your grain and broccoli.

...and thanks to Kevin for--once again--helping me get the shot. You may be a nursing whiz kid now, but you're photo skillz aren't forgotten. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where do you get your protein?

From my muffins, of course!

If I had a nickel for every time I've been asked this, I'd still want to pull my hair out. Since becoming vegan, I've become much more focused on nutrition and have done a lot of research on clean eating. Even experts disagree on how much protein you need. Some say you should calculate your weight in kilograms (2.2 lbs per kg) and eat 1 gram protein for each kilogram of body weight. I'm of a slightly different camp. Having completed a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell via Dr. Campbell's program, I really don't think we need so much protein. If you divide your body weight in pounds by three, you should eat that many grams of protein.

For example, if you weight 150 lbs, you should eat 50 grams of protein daily.

I spent a couple weeks tracking my protein intake with a handy iPhone app. Despite avoiding animal products  I'm somehow (shockingly!) getting more than enough protein. (Also of note: we don't eat processed, protein-heavy, "mock meat" products.) These scrumptious little muffins are one of my favorite protein-friendly baked goods. I have adapted my own recipe from Bittersweet Vegan. My version is a bit lower fat, since I'm also of the opinion that we really don't need so many lipids in our lives. This is a good breakfast recipe, very nutritionally dense and not overly sweet.

Quinoa Spice Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy/almond milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, optional (if you like sweeter muffins)
  • 1 cup berries (blueberries, or rehydrated dried fruit like cherries or cranberries)
  • Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease muffin pan or 12 muffin cups.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • In a separate smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients and stir to well combined.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl of dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. I recommend tasting before adding the brown sugar to assess whether you want this recipe sweeter or not.
  • Scoop into prepared muffin vessels.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. They're done when a toothpick inserted to the center is dry.

Notes: You can certainly add other nuts, like 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans. 

Bonus! I plugged this in for a nutritional breakdown of each muffin: 167 calories, 5 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrate, 4.3 grams fiber

Veggie Burger of My Dreams

Truth be told: sometimes you just want a sloppy burger. I grew up on Gardenburgers. My dad would throw them on the grill with the family fare and place them on their own little separate plate when finished, secluded from the meat juice. On a bun with all the fixin's, they were divine.

I'm not a fan of all the store-bought varieties these days. They're either full of "textured soy protein," which I try to avoid. Or they're a pretty penny. I've been known to make some homemade veggie burgers. They're pretty good, but they always make me think of this Eddie Murphy sketch about the "welfare green pepper burger"...

A friend tipped me off that the famous Chicago Diner burgers are incredibly simple to make and use all whole-food ingredients. Plus, the recipe is readily available online! Though Vegetarian Times states that this serves eight, it makes exactly EIGHTEEN burgers for me. I bake them, freeze them on cookie sheets, store them in a freezer bag, and grill them as needed.

While store-bought burgers generally run about $3.99 for four, these are about five dollars of ingredients for eighteen burgers!