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Posts tagged ‘broccoli’

Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

Have you had it up to here with boring stir-fry? Give this one a whirl!

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Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

I’ve been vegetarian for six years, and my favorite dishes have changed and expanded ever since. But like a loyal friend, tofu and broccoli has always been there for me. It’s reliable, it’s easy to make, and it makes it seem like I put way more effort into lunch or dinner than I actually did. What’s not to love?

Well, one thing that could lessen the love is a lack of variety. I like making tofu and broccoli because it’s fast and dependable, but even fast and dependable can be made better with a little sprucing up. Enter Chinese 5-Spice. Chinese 5-Spice is a blend of black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves – it’s warm, it smells great, and best of all, it’s pretty cheap!

What follows is not only my secret for the easiest vegan meal you’ll ever make that doesn’t come from a can, but also a method to jazz it up with a very flavorful seasoning.

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Tofu: "Please, make me pretty!"

To start, take about a quarter of a block of tofu and cut into bite-size pieces. Sometimes I cut the tofu into cubes for faster cooking and easier stirring; but in this dish, you’ll want relatively-larger pieces for easy frying. You can pat your tofu somewhat dry if you like, but don’t drain it or make it bone-dry – you’ll want some moisture to help the spice mixture stick! No eggs or oil required.

Heat a blend of olive and sesame oils in a skillet on medium. Meanwhile, put about 1-2 tsp of Chinese 5-Spice into a small bowl with a flat bottom (you can also use a small plate, just be careful to not send the spices flying everywhere as you dredge). When the skillet is hot enough, dredge each piece of tofu in the spice blend to coat evenly. The moisture from the tofu will make the spice blend cling to it and form a nice coat.

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Once each piece is coated, add it to the skillet and start frying!

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Allow the tofu to cook on one side for up to 5 minutes, then flip. Scoot all of the pieces to one side of the pan, then add your broccoli. Adding the broccoli at this step as opposed to earlier allows it to cook through without getting soggy or burnt – it’ll be just perfect!

You may also have some extra spice left in your bowl (as I often do). Instead of cursing at your wasted spice, take what’s left and sprinkle it over the broccoli! Stir the broccoli so it gets coated in both oil and spice; if the broccoli seems dry, spray with some cooking oil. Do not add water or excess oil, as this will make the spices fall off off your food and into the skillet; we’re not eating the skillet for lunch so it shouldn’t get all of the seasoning! Once the remaining 5-Spice has been added, sprinkle both the tofu and broccoli with some sea salt to bring out the flavor further (avoid soy sauce as this will also wash off your spices).

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Yummy

Allow the tofu and broccoli to cook for about 5 minutes more, then turn off your heat and serve! I like eating this over a bed of quinoa for extra protein, but you can substitute your grain of choice – or use no grain at all! Happy eating!

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Once More on the Go: The Assateague Crab House

Last week I was on a mini-summer vacation in beautiful Ocean City, MD. I’d never been to this beach, but I definitely want to go back, especially to Assateague Island!

In addition to sun and sand, one of the first things that often come to mind when one thinks of the beach is seafood – lots and lots of seafood! Being a vegetarian, though, I do not partake of this beachside staple (so please folks, stop offering me fish when I say I’m a vegetarian). What’s a vegetarian to do when she’s in seafood utopia, especially in an area well-known for crabs? Let’s find out!

Beautiful beach on Assateague Island. In addition to food photos, you're going to get some beach shots in this post

When one is vacationing in Maryland, especially near the Chesapeake Bay, one can expect to see and hear about crabs wherever you go. I must’ve driven by at least twenty roadside stands that said they had the best crabs in the area. While I support local food and roadside farmer’s markets, I wasn’t going to be partaking in this particular delicacy (even when I ate meat, I wasn’t the biggest fan of crab – or any seafood, really). But especially since I was traveling with two omnivores, I knew a crab shack was in my future. We ended up choosing The Assateague Crab House, a small restaurant located just outside of Assateague Island.

Whatever your position on crab/seafood, I think we can all agree that the decor of this place is pretty damn awesome

Naturally, the menu consisted largely of seafood; however, there were vegetarian options to be found amongst the side dishes, many of which can be made into a meal! Your best bet, especially if you’re a vegan, would likely be the baked potato. It’s considered a side and only costs $2. Unfortunately though it’s only available after 4 PM; so you might need to be a little more creative for lunch. Their sides also include apple sauce and an ear of corn, also about $2 each. The ear of corn I had with my meal was very tasty and, I’m certain, local; since the only thing I saw more of than signs for crab were corn fields. It also tasted like it was just picked; and it wasn’t drowning in butter or salt, which was good (I like a taste of seasonings, not an avalanche).

Assateague Crab House also offers some veg-friendly appetizers. We ordered a basket of broccoli bites for the table, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. I was expecting nugget balls of pureed broccoli and possibly cheese, but what we got was whole pieces of broccoli fried in batter, almost like the South’s answer to tempura; or perhaps a hush puppy with broccoli inside. While still not the healthiest thing in the world, it was very tasty and I could tell that the broccoli was fresh before it met the fryer. If you want something kinda greasy and very good, give them a try!

They taste great on their own, but if you're not a vegan, they also come with ranch dip on the side

For my main entree I had a simple grilled cheese sandwich. As a note, a grilled cheese is NOT on their menu – they were kind enough to make one for me when I asked. So, it might be worth asking them to make a vegetable sandwich or other vegan/vegetarian sandwich if you go – they’re very accommodating! It can never hurt to at least ask!

So vegetarians, when you are in seafood country, fear not – you can definitely get some tasty vegetables and have a delicious meal, even if you go to a crab shack! I definitely recommend Assateague Crab House if you’re in Ocean City. It’s a nice place to stop for food before visiting the beach, trails, and wild ponies on Assateague Island!

Yup, wild ponies! Why aren't you packing your bags for Assateague right now?

Swiss Chard and Broccoli Quiche with Fried Green Tomatoes and Green Beans

Nope, we’re not reviewing a movie with Mary Louise Parker – we’re frying up some tomatoes!

Swiss Chard and Broccoli Quiche with Fried Green Tomatoes and Green Beans

This blog is no stranger to Southern-style dinners, and especially with the current heat wave reminding me of summers in NC, I’ve been inspired to do more Southern-style dishes as of late. Despite my time in NC, though, I’d never had fried green tomatoes until last year. I’m always a little wary of cooked tomatoes, because cooked red tomatoes don’t always agree with my stomach. But I finally tried a fried green tomato, and now I’m hooked. Fortunately my local farmer’s market just started selling green tomatoes again, meaning my habit can be prepared easily at home!

I found this recipe for vegan fried green tomatoes online. I may love fried green tomatoes, but I don’t want to make them with eggs! Fortunately I found a recipe which uses a flax egg as opposed to Ener-G egg replacer – nothing against Ener-G, it’s just that I have a bag of flax meal at home already, and I didn’t want to have to run to the store to make these. I began by slicing one green tomato from top to bottom in half-inch slices. This is very easy to do, as green tomatoes (simply a tomato that hasn’t ripened or turned red) are very firm and sturdy, and won’t spill everywhere like their red counterparts often do!

Yummy

I sprinkled each slice with some salt and pepper on each side, then prepared my dredging plates. I created an assembly line of bowls chronologically lined up, starting with almond milk and continuing to all-purpose flour, my flax egg, and corn meal, with the corn meal being closest to the oven/skillet. Before I started dredging, I heated some olive oil in a skillet so that it would be hot and ready by the time my first tomato slice was. Then, it was as simple as taking a tomato slice, dredging in milk-flour-flax-corn meal, then throwing it on the skillet!

I cooked each slice for about 2-3 minutes on each side, so that they got nice and crispy. I then transferred each slice to a plate with a paper towel, and sprinkled each slice with a bit more salt and pepper while they were still hot. I made my fried green tomatoes last, but they can safely sit for a bit while you fry up the whole tomato, as well as while you serve up the quiche and green beans; since they are of course very hot right off the skillet!

As good as fried green tomatoes are, they alone do not make a meal. I decided to serve them with a vegan quiche as the main course. I love quiche, and I have been cooking with this recipe for a spinach and broccoli quiche for a few years now. It’s a simple recipe and will impress vegans and non-vegans alike!

To start, I sauteed some spring onions, garlic, broccoli, and swiss chard in a skillet for a few minutes. I used swiss chard because I didn’t have any spinach on hand. I used a small crown of broccoli florets, as well as six medium swiss chard leaves, stems removed. This may seem too large an amount when you’re tearing the leaves and adding them to the skillet, but trust me, they reduce quickly and vastly!

The incredible shrinking swiss chard - yes, there are six giant leaves in there!

The rest of the quiche is really easy to make, especially if you’re using a pre-made pie crust. In a food processor I combined half a block of extra firm tofu, half a block of firm silken tofu, almond milk, yellow mustard, Indian black salt, nutmeg, and an even blend of paprika and cayenne for the ground red pepper in the recipe. For those wondering, Indian black salt is a specialty salt that adds an egg-y flavor to dishes thanks to a natural sulphurous flavor. You can usually find it in specialty spice shops (I got my bag from the Tea and Spice Exchange). However, regular salt will do just fine if you don’t have Indian black salt (or don’t want to spring for it). I then poured the mixture into a bowl and folded in the vegetable saute; then added the mixture to the pie crust. The recipe calls for vegan parmesan as an option; and instructs you to blend it with the tofu. I used nutritional yeast instead, and sprinkled it over-top the tofu mixture once it was in the crust. I then baked the quiche for 35 minutes on 400 F, leaving the quiche on warm as I fried the green tomatoes.

I wanted a simple side veggie to complement the heavy fried green tomatoes, so I simply simmered some green beans for about 10 minutes in water and salt. You can use canned or frozen if you like; but I chopped up some fresh beans and they were delicious, and a nice, quick addition to the meal. Once the cooked beans were on the plate, I seasoned them with cracked black pepper.

This meal is perfect for a warm summer night, and the quiche feeds a lot of folks; so unless you’re serving this at a dinner party, you’ll have a lot of leftovers! The quiche and the fried green tomatoes fill you up without making you feel bloated; and many of the ingredients can be purchased locally right now, as they are in season (I bought the green tomatoes, green beans, swiss chard, spring onions, garlic, and broccoli all at the farmer’s market). Enjoy!

Lazy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli and Carrots

Who wants noodles?

Lazy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli and Carrots

Noodles (and pasta in general) are one of my favorite foods. However, they are especially high in carbohydrates! Now, I’m not an anti-carb person. I still can’t believe the Atkins Diet (and its ilk) has any merit in our society, and they’re great for an exercise boost. However, with their being light in fat, even complex, whole wheat carbs can be easily overeaten; especially if you fall into one of two traps: 1) everything else I’m eating is healthy now that I’m vegetarian, so I can eat loads of pasta and it won’t affect me, and 2) one serving of pasta has an okay amount of protein – imagine if I had two (or more) servings!

Well, unless you run marathons or bike up 100-mile mountain trails everyday, pasta is best enjoyed as a single serving, and in moderation. Most restaurants give you at least 3-4 servings of pasta in a single dish, which I can easily devour; and while this is fine every now and then, pasta at home should be monitored more carefully. On the flipside, though, a single serving of pasta or noodles is not all that filling on its own. Adding a sauce might help, but what I’ve found is that ultimately, the pasta should be either equal to or less than the amount of veggies it goes with. Rethinking the noodles as a side or portion of the meal, as opposed to the entire meal, definitely helps!

One of my favorite sauces to prepare for noodles is a peanut sauce, and most recipes I’ve encountered are fast and reasonably easy to prepare. However, after I’ve done some aerobics and walked home from the gym, I want food now; and even my go-to recipe for peanut noodles seems really long and complicated (mostly because it involves heat). So, I came up with a lazy version that provides the basic flavors of peanut noodles with a lot less work. Efficiency!

To start, mix together all-natural peanut butter (one made with JUST peanuts and salt maximum – no sugar, no trans fatty acids, no palm oil, no nothing), agave nectar, lime juice, Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce, and cayenne in a small bowl until well-mixed; the sauce will darken to a light molasses color when it’s done. The all-natural PB that I use is very liquidy, even when stirred (such PB tends to separate); but this will work to your advantage when stirring your sauce, as it will already be mostly smooth anyway! More reasons to ditch non-natural peanut butter.

The PB I buy (Whole Foods All-Natural Creamy Peanut Butter) also has flakes of peanut in it, giving a nice texture

The sauce can just relax while you prepare everything else. For the noodles, I used buckwheat yaki soba, though angel hair pasta or another thin noodle will do in a pinch. Buckwheat yaki soba is loaded with protein, but it also has a TON of carbs! One bundle (some packages bundle the noodles into individual servings about the diameter of a half dollar) has over 60 grams! Again, fine for that triathlon in the Rockies, but not for everyday consumption. However, because of the protein and buckwheat, yaki soba is very dense and so you can divide this serving in half easily. They’re also easy to prepare – once the water is at a boil, you drop the noodles in and they’re basically done within a few minutes.

Sometimes folks like to have peanut noodles alone or with some small vegetables like peas and corn; but I like adding a lot of vegetables and sometimes tofu. However, with power houses like broccoli and carrots in this dish, plus the peanuts, a protein like tofu wasn’t even necessary. I sauteed the veggies with ginger-infused olive oil, garlic, and onion; if you don’t have the ginger olive oil, you can add some fresh minced ginger root. The veggies only need to saute for a few minutes, so everything can be done in less than 30 minutes, which is key when you’re hungry! After everything is prepared, you strain the pasta, combine with the vegetables, then toss everything with the sauce. Instant lunch!

While the noodle serving has been cut in half for individual servings of this dish, there is still a high carb count; as well as a high protein and fat count; so again, I recommend eating this either before or after a workout. It is a power meal and while eating pre/post-workout is not a requirement, just know that it is indeed a full meal despite its small size!

Lazy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli and Carrots (Serves 2)

¼ cup all natural PB

1 TB agave nectar

2 tsp lime juice

1 TB soy sauce

1/8 tsp cayenne (or more if you want it to be extra spicy!)

1 bundle soba noodles

1 TB ginger-infused olive oil, or regular olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/4-inch piece of onion, finely chopped

1-inch piece fresh ginger, diced (if using regular olive oil)

1-2 cups of broccoli florets

2 small carrots, cut into coins

Mix the PB, agave, lime juice, soy sauce, and cayenne in a small bowl until smooth and well-incorporated. Set aside.

Prepare soba noodles according to package instructions in a large saucepan.

In a skillet, heat oil on medium, then saute the garlic, onion, and ginger (if using) for a couple minutes. Add the broccoli and carrots, and cook for no more than 3-5 minutes. You want the color to deepen and the vegetables to heat through, but not to be soft.

Drain the soba noodles and return to the pot. Add the vegetables, then the peanut sauce. Toss until sauce is incorporated. It may “disappear” into the noodles and veggies but the flavor is all intact! Serve hot.

Welcome Back, Farmer’s Market!

Spring is almost over, and summer’s just around the corner. And in these parts, that means that the Farmer’s Market is back! *throws confetti*

Well, truth be told, the farmer’s market that I frequent is technically open year-round; but they spend the winter selling breads, cakes, tea, and pickles. While yummy, this doesn’t exactly constitute a well-balanced diet. So once the ground thaws and the plants start growing, I’m back at the Farmer’s Market faster than you can say “sweet potato.”

While sweet potatoes were not to be found at the market this week, I did find an amazing bounty. Anyone concerned that Farmer’s Markets won’t have everything you need produce-wise, look around. Today alone I purchased cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, spring onions, zucchini, yellow zucchini, kale, and miniature cucumbers. The market also had carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, yellow onions, basil … you get my drift. It’s well-stocked.

Not only are these markets well-stocked, but the produce is fresh and looks amazing! For instance, I found a head of cauliflower that was bigger than my own noggin. Check it out:

Attack of the 50 Ft Cauliflower!

Speaking of colossal, check out these spring onions. I’m just gonna laugh at the ones they keep in the store now, shipped in all the way from California. Hey CA, keep your minis – VA’s got the big guns!

What I’m most intrigued by, though, are the yellow zucchini. I’ve never had this variety of zucchini before, and while I have an iffy relationship with summer squashes (they sometimes make me nauseous), I couldn’t resist their pretty yellow color and the following description: “buttery taste.” I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes with these guys, and of course sharing my results!

Don't confuse yellow zucchini with yellow squash!

In short, my first 2011 foray to the Farmer’s Market was a success, and I look forward to getting local produce again through Autumn. To fresh and local eating!

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula with Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce

Mm, pasta.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula w/ Tomato Basil Sauce

I love a good pasta meal for lunch or dinner, but especially lunch, since the carbs give me a great mid-day boost. I also love loading the pasta dish with veggies, so I can bulk it up without meats or mocks. Plus, the veggies give the dish such a nice color!

But the make-or-break, of course, is the sauce. I love me some fresh sauce, but a lot of recipes can be complicated or require a ton of simmering time. Enter Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce! This sauce is fast, easy to make, and largely fresh. What’s not to love?

Mm, sauce.

I started by using a whole tomato, some fresh basil, and a smidge of onion – as in, I chopped off about 1 1/4-inch slice. I would’ve used whole garlic cloves as well, but I’d used the rest of my garlic to make Golden Pizza Hummus, so I made due with garlic powder. I pulsed these ingredients in a blender, then transferred them to a sauce pan, where I added tomato paste (adds more flavor and makes for a deeper red), olive oil, and salt/pepper. I simmered the sauce while I made the pasta, and all were done in record time!

As for the pasta, I boiled some whole wheat penne for about six minutes, which made it al dente, just the way I like it. I also added broccoli and fresh arugula which was still on the stem. I chopped the arugula until I got to nothing but stems, then discarded the remaining stems; but you can add them if you want. I like to add the veggies to the boiling pasta about one minute before the pasta’s scheduled to be done, so that the veggies can cook a bit without getting too mushy. Then you just drain the pasta and veggies, return to the pot, then toss with your freshly-made sauce. Presto! A fresh pasta dish made with fresh sauce, all within 30 minutes.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula with Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce (serves 1)

Sauce:

1 small-medium tomato, quartered

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

A slice or two of one yellow onion, quartered

1-2 cloves of garlic OR 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder

2 TB tomato paste

1 TB olive oil (optional but recommended)

Salt and pepper, to taste.

Place the fresh tomato, basil, onion, and garlic in a blender and pulse until pretty smooth, but not completely pureed (unless you don’t like chunky sauce). I highly recommend pulsing instead of straight-up blending, as this allows for greater control of the texture.

Transfer to a small sauce pan and add tomato paste. This will deepen the red color, so don’t worry when you initially pour out the blended ingredients and they look pink and bland. 🙂 Stir and heat over medium heat. Simmer for a few minutes over medium, making sure the sauce is good and bubbly, and the red color has a chance to really deepen. Add the olive oil and seasonings, then reduce the heat to low, simmering for at least five minutes more.

While the sauce cooks, make your pasta.

Pasta:

2/3 cup dry whole wheat penne

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 cup chopped fresh arugula

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then add the penne. Cook for six minutes, adding the broccoli and arugula after five minutes. Drain completely, then return to the pot. Toss with tomato basil sauce, then serve.

Winter Blend Saute with Ginger-Infused Olive Oil

Today’s magic ingredient – olive oil infused with ginger!

Ooh, ahh ...

In addition to yellow sun-dried tomatoes, I found this enticing little bottle at Eataly tucked within more varieties of olive oil than you can shake a stick at. It’s what the title claims – extra virgin olive oil infused with ginger oil. Simple, but intriguing enough for me to buy for future experiments. I’m dreaming of the pasta dishes, hummus spreads, and dipping plates I can make with this, but for now, I used it for a simple saute.

Sauteing is probably my favorite way to prepare veggies. I don’t like boiling them or roasting because I feel like this kills them too much, and aside from depleting the nutrients, taking away their vitality, blah blah blah, they just taste bad when you overcook them. I’ll only accept mushy vegetables if they’re called potatoes and they’ve been mashed (coming soon: perfect mashed cauliflower!). However, most health texts will say to steam your veggies instead, and while this sometimes works, I find them a little dull this way. Why not just eat them raw in this case? Enter the saute – cooks veggies to a perfect crisp without overcooking or frying. Voila!

One of my favorite dinners is basically to throw a ton of veggies and a protein into a skillet and go to town. Tonight I created a simple saute with the ginger olive oil, diced garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, seitan, and dashes of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Many times I’ll add soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos, as well as nutritional yeast; however, I wanted to go minimal this time to let the flavors stand out on their own. All were served over a bed of long grain brown basmati rice, though any grain will do, really.

But what about the ginger oil? I think it added a nice heat and flavor to the veggies especially. What I liked the most was that it added the punch of ginger without adding ginger chunks (which aren’t pleasant to bite down on) or using weak ginger powder. I would definitely use it again.

I call this a winter blend saute because I went to NC State University, where they regularly served a vegetable dish called Winter Blend that consisted of broccoli and cauliflower. However, bless their hearts, they boiled these perfect veggies into oblivion, which resulted in mushy blandness where crisp pleasure should’ve been. Enjoying them in a saute is much better, trust me.

Winter Blend Saute with Ginger-Infused Olive Oil

1 TB ginger olive oil (you can use regular oil if you like, just maybe add some chopped fresh ginger or ginger powder)

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets

1/4 to 1/3 cup seitan chunks, sliced thinly (tofu works too)

Sea salt, cracked black pepper, and cayenne, to taste

Heat the oil on medium, then add the garlic and saute for a minute or two until golden; be careful not to burn. Add the broccoli, cauliflower, and seitan, and saute for a few minutes, allowing the vegetables to darken in color. Add the seasonings and cook until vegetables are done and seitan is starting to brown. Serve over rice.