Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fresh Herb & Tofu Summer Rolls

 Lately I've been feeling uninspired in the kitchen, so I usually go back to eating things I love or want to eat more of: enter the spring/summer roll. They are fairly quick, easy to make, and can be made with whatever you want! I chose pretty simple ingredients, but you can substitute or change anything. My only rule is do not skip the fresh herbs. It makes a huge difference in eating a bland spring roll without them. I also want to say that I was afraid of making spring rolls for the longest time, which is silly because of how easy they are. Don't be afraid! You will be so proud and then kick yourself for ever thinking these were difficult (like I did).

Fresh Herb & Tofu Summer Rolls
Makes 12 (or more)

  • 1 package spring roll wrappers
  • 14 oz. extra-firm tofu, pressed for at least 30 minutes and cut into thin strips
  • 1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil/olive oil
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 green onions, green & white parts, sliced
  • 2-3 cups of shredded romaine/iceberg lettuce
  • 2.5 TBS fresh mint leaves
  • 2.5 TBS fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2.5 TBS fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular basil)
  1. Make sure all of your ingredients are prepped before you start rolling. I like to put my filling ingredients on the largest plate I have, so I can easily grab and roll. Make sure you have a cutting board or plate to roll on too (cutting board is recommended).
  2. Preheat a large skillet on medium-high. Add about 1-2 tsp of sesame oil. Add the tofu strips and cook 5 minutes, until browned. If the tofu starts to stick, add a little more oil as needed. Flip, cook 5 mins more until browned/crispy and remove to a plate. Feel free to skip this step completely and leave the tofu raw.
  3. Fill a large skillet with enough water to submerge a spring roll paper. Bring to a boil, then gently simmer on low. 
  4. There may be a way to do this without slightly burning your fingers, but this is how I do it (mostly because my fingers are used to burns). Grab a spring roll paper. Place it in the water. When you notice the edges coming up, gently press them down into the water. Submerge for 10-15 seconds (or according to your package directions).
  5. When removing the paper from the water, gently try to stretch it out to its original shape, which you can do more successfully on the cutting board. Just be careful not to tear!
  6. In the middle of your paper (I tend to do middle but slightly more towards the bottom, leaving some space), put a small handful of lettuce. Top with 2-3 slices of tofu, then 1 slice of avocado. Add a sprinkling of green onions then place a few of each herb leaves of top.
  7. Gently fold the sides in towards the filling. Take the bottom of the wrapper and gently, yet tightly, roll upwards and over the filling until the spring roll is wrapped. You did it! Yay!
  8. Feel free to serve with Thai peanut sauce, sweet chili sauce or sriracha. These definitely get better after sitting in the fridge for a bit.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Les Bouchées Quotidiennes

This is possibly my new favorite cocktail because it tastes like a sweeter version of a Negroni. I've been searching for different ways to use pomegranate molasses and this might be the tastiest way yet! If you've never tried Campari, I highly recommend it, but only if you like slightly bitter, strong alcohols. 

For  Father's Day last weekend, I decided to make dinner for my parents and Mike. I grew up eating lots of Southern food (minus the lard and ham hocks), like collard greens, fried cornbread, BBQ chicken and black-eyed peas. Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry encompasses everything I loved as a child, and more, minus the meat and dairy. If you love Southern/Soul food, I can't recommend this book enough. These are the first recipes I've made from it, but they were so easy and pretty much every recipe does not require "special" ingredients. For this dinner, I made Creole Hoppin'-Jean and Johnny blaze cakes (aka johnny cakes with jalapenos). I think I could eat this meal every single day and never tire of it. The texture of the Johnny blaze cakes were incredible, even though they were a little tedious and took a while to cook (it's totally worth it though).

Whenever I make pie, I always ask myself why I don't make pie more often. For dessert on Father's Day, I made this chilled chocolate pie with an oat-almond crust. I left out the strawberry compote and bought some rice whip instead (mostly because we devoured all of our local strawberries). This is probably the easiest vegan/GF pie I've ever made. The crust held up wonderfully and everything came together smoothly and quickly. My favorite part about this pie? The texture was incredible. Getting the texture right for a vegan pie filling is something I've had trouble with in the past, but this one was creamy, thick, and delicious. 

I made this Tuscan kale + tomato pasta this week, which actually ended up giving us two dinners. The sauce was very "soupy", which I liked in some ways. We omitted the Parmesan rind, which I'm sure would add a lovely flavor to the sauce, so ours turned out slightly bland. If going the vegan route, add some dried Italian herbs/oregano/salt when the sauce is finished and extra fresh thyme and basil leaves for serving. This sauce came together quickly and was very easy to make, but I think I liked it better the second night (see below).

I had a ton of leftover tomato sauce from the Tuscan kale pasta, but did not want to eat pasta again. Two pounds of pasta in two days (for both of us) is not okay with me, as crazy as that sounds. Suddenly I remembered the eggs in tomato sauce that I've been making for weekend breakfasts every now and then, and wondered if I could do the same thing here. Here's the beauty of this recipe: we left the tomato sauce in the pot we cooked it in, with the lid, in the fridge. For dinner, I just put it on the stove to boil, straight from the fridge, lowered the heat to simmer (covered) for 10 minutes. Then I cracked four eggs gently into the tomato sauce and cooked 5-7 minutes until pretty much set, then 2-3 minutes off the heat uncovered. We ate these eggs over buttered toast with extra tomato sauce, fresh thyme and basil. You could also serve this over Italian polenta for an extra delicious dinner!

The most abundant herb in my garden is fennel. I hate licorice candy, but I am a sucker for how fennel smells and tastes. Plus, the big, green fronds are so pretty shooting every which way from the middle of its pot. But what on Earth will I do with all of this fennel? Yes, I can take out the root and eat it, but then I will have to grow fennel all over again. Well I did find one way: potato soup! Fennel fronds are the perfect balance for a creamy, potato-corn soup. I used this recipe with these changes: I omitted the tofu bacon, used 4 fresh corn cobs instead of 1 cup, omitted the nutritional yeast and jalapenos. I also broke my corn cobs in half and added them to the soup while it simmered, then removed them before taking it off the heat to blend it. I think I used about 1/4-1/3 C of torn fennel fronds to stir into the soup. Also, this soup is a cinch to make. There is no sauteing, or oil, and it takes about 30 minutes or less with prep time included. Always a plus!

One thing I am trying to be better about is using leftovers from one dish for a completely different one in the same week. Earlier this week, I made this curry soup with jasmine rice and tofu croutons (not pictured because I have made it before). There was a ton of rice and half a package of tofu leftover. Last night I used both of these to make peanut butter + kale fried rice. I added broiled sesame tofu, Thai basil, sriracha and chopped peanuts. Sadly there are no leftovers because we ate all of it in one sitting. This is definitely going on my "too busy to care" meal rotation during the school year. The ingredients are simple and it takes maybe 10 minutes to pull together. The sesame broiled tofu is something I go back to again and again because of how simple it is. You can find the recipe in this post.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Omelette aux herbes fines avec des courges d'été

Hi all! So I've been experimenting with omelettes lately, and although I'm not very good at them (as you can see), I decided to share this recipe anyways because it was so good! Sometimes we get tired of the same old scrambled eggs, over easy or the runny 7-minute eggs, so this is a nice alternative. Use any summer vegetables you want (we have used tomatoes and basil before), but I happened to have an abundance of market yellow squash this morning. Also, I am well aware that this probably not the traditional French way to make an omelette, but it's delicious and that's all that matters, right?

Omelette aux herbes fines avec des courges d'été
Serves 2
  • 4 eggs (2 per person)
  • almond milk (or other non-dairy/regular milk)
  • 1-2 small summer squash/zucchini/other summer produce, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt + pepper
  • 1.5 TBS fresh herbs, finely chopped (we used Thai basil, oregano and thyme)
  • vegan/regular butter
  1. When I make omelettes for two people, I cook the vegetables first and then divide it onto two plates. This it makes it easier when cooking, or you could use a big pan for a larger omelette, if desired. 
  2. If you are making individual omelettes preheat a small pan on medium. Add a small pat of vegan butter or a quick glug of olive oil. Add the squash and a pinch of salt. Cook until seared on most sides (look for some black spots) and cooked through, 3-4 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, whisk your eggs in a bowl. I usually whisk two at a time so I can measure it out evenly. Whisk two eggs with a splash of almond milk, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, until smooth. 
  4. In the last minute of the squash searing, add the garlic and stir. When finished, remove from heat and divide between two plates. Return the pan to medium heat and add a small pat of vegan butter. 
  5. As soon as the butter melts, add your eggs and swirl the pan gently so that it moves around. Sprinkle your herbs over the eggs. I also stir the uncooked eggs in the middle very gently with a fork to help it along. I find that this creates a much fluffier omelette at the end. 
  6. When the bottom is set and pretty much cooked, sprinkle as much squash as you can on one half of the omelette, but be careful not to crowd it. Gently flip the side with out fillings on top of the side with them. Let cook for a minute or two, and flip again. You can fold your omelette a third time (which is what I did in my photo), or leave it as it is. 
  7. Cook until the insides are done to your desired texture and the outside is a lovely golden brown color. Remove to a plate. If you have leftover squash filling, sprinkle it on top and feel free to garnish with more fresh herbs. Repeat this process with the second omelette. 
  8. Bon appétit!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Les Bouchées Quotidiennes

Hi everyone! So did I mention that I got another recipe testing position? Well I did and it's for one of my favorite bloggers: An Unrefined Vegan. This was my first recipe I made for her, and I can't say much, but it was a delicious, lemony creamy pasta with steamed broccoli! I also wanted to mention that I finally bought a vegetable steamer basket last week. Since taking my nutrition class, I realized how important it is to keep the vitamins and minerals intact in my vegetables so they don't diffuse into the water (which is how you can lose most of them). So I invested in a steamer to try to keep as many vitamins and minerals as I can! I highly recommend getting one if you can.

I spent a few hours at the farmer's market last weekend and had a great time. Mike was out of town so I prepared myself a fancy lady dinner: a big salad with organic romaine, farmer's market cherry tomatoes and a silken-tofu fresh basil dressing. I also roasted some potatoes with fresh rosemary, whole garlic cloves and olive oil (highly recommend trying this!). And of course, one of my favorite cocktails: elderflower lemonade and gin!

I am so happy that I've been keeping up with most of my summer goals this year! I'm lame and make a list every single April/May of things I want to try over the summer. One of them was to make sushi, which I FINALLY did last weekend! An employee at Sur La Table recommended this silicone sushi mat because it doesn't stick to the nori/rice, and she was right! Luckily my friend Sofia has made sushi before, so I let her roll some first. We used this spicy tempeh nori roll recipe from Veganomicon. This recipe is great for first time sushi makers because it's easy, has minimal ingredients, and oh my gosh it's tasty. It almost tastes better than some sushi I've had in Greensboro! We were very pleased with how these turned out!

Sofia and I had a fancy food party last weekend, which consisted of making sushi and my hands down no questions asked favorite zucchini fritters. I have made these once before and there is just no comparison to any I've ever had before. The ingredients are so simple, but the outcome is absolutely incredible. I don't know if it's because of the cast iron skillet or grating the zucchini through a food processor, but these are the tastiest little zucchini fritters in the world! To make them GF, just sub bob's red mill GF all-purpose flour. It's that easy!

I've obviously been on a fresh herb kick lately, so I decided to make these herbacious eggs with cilantro-lime brown rice. These eggs have cumin seeds, turmeric, fresh oregano, coriander, and fresh thyme. As you can imagine, the resulting flavor is craaazy good. I could have eaten four whole eggs this way by myself. The cilantro lime rice is the perfect background for these eggs, and I'm sure adding vegan sour cream/cashew cream on top would make it even tastier. If you're vegan, I'm positive that you could make a tofu scramble or omelette using the same herbs and get the same results!

Somehow I've never put chia seeds in smoothies, but now I think I always will. It makes the smoothie thick, almost fluffy, and delicious! This is a strawberry ginger smoothie, which is the perfect accessory to a good book!

This is another recipe testing dish: a white bean salad with a creamy Italian dressing! I seriously can't wait for this book to come out! Everything has been so delicious so far.

I had some leftover tempeh from our sushi rolls, so I made some tempeh "bacon" with it. I just cubed the tempeh into small pieces, chopped leftover onion and two cloves of garlic. I sauteed the onion and tempeh in oil, on medium until the tempeh was lightly browned. I then added some soy sauce, liquid smoke and apple cider vinegar until it was absorbed into the tempeh (just enough of each to make it taste like bacon and light on the liquid smoke). Then I added the garlic in the last few minutes of cooking. Served on some GF toast slathered with vegan mayo, it was the perfect breakfast and lunch with a side of Thai pickles!

I bought a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard at the market last weekend for only $2, so instead of using it for my favorite minestrone recipe, I decided to try something new. I made this bowl of quinoa, swiss chard, and roasted sweet potatoes with a tangy miso sauce. This recipe is super easy to make and is great for all seasons! I left out the chickpeas due to laziness and tested another recipe instead, which was lemon-garlic baked tofu. And obviously, everything was drizzled with sriracha! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Les Bouchées Quotidiennes

Have you ever tried broccoli slaw? This was the first time I've made/tasted it, and it was amazing. Good thing it keeps well in the fridge for a week because I kept eating it for days. It has the perfect balance of tangy, sweet and toasty. I made mine in a food processor, which cut down on some of the prep time. I served it with baked potatoes and baked BBQ tofu for a well-rounded meal. This tofu recipe was super easy and delicious too!

Lately I've been trying to make recipes that I put in my notebook 3 or more years ago, when I was still living at home. It's a weird feeling for me to make something that I made years ago in my parent's kitchen. I cooked a little when I still lived with them, but I didn't start really experimenting until a couple of years ago when I was on my own. In my own kitchen, I kind of flew off the handles and tried cooking everything. I was completely enamored with it, and still am (obviously). I have faint memories of my mom making this lemony collard green pasta with me, when I still lived with them. I was probably still learning to mince garlic with out slicing my fingers. It blows my mind how far I've come with cooking in just two or so years. Anyways, this pasta recipe is incredible and a cinch to make, so it's perfect for any weeknight dinner! 

I love potato salad, but this is no ordinary kind of potato salad. It's made with blue potatoes (although you can use red), chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, fresh corn, cilantro, and many other delicious ingredients. Although it's pretty spicy, it's refreshing at the same time. This is perfect for any hot summer night and this dish is definitely better if you let it chill in the fridge a couple of hours. It reminds me of the burrito bowls from Chipotle, which sounds weird I guess, but much healthier! Serve over romaine with some beer and you're set! This recipe is originally from Appetite for Reduction.

My latest and greatest downfall (besides buying more cookbooks): sushi with ikura. And yes, I ate all of this. I also FINALLY bought a sushi rolling mat yesterday! Can't wait to use it because I can't keep going out for sushi once a week.

Salads are one of my favorite things to pull together on days where I don't have leftovers. This one is adapted from this fully loaded kale salad and includes: farmer's market tomato and raw kale, carrots, red onion, avocado, hemp seeds, leftover toasted pecans (from the lemony collards pasta), and a delicious maple tahini dressing. I always feel full and energized after eating a big salad, so I'm trying to incorporate them into my lunches lately.

I have a thing for corn chowder. The best thing my mom makes, hands down, is any type of soup. But her corn chowder is something else all together. It's perfect in winter, when it's super cold, or in the summer, when fresh corn is abundant. The best thing about corn chowder is there are a million different variations on it, and you guys know how much I love recipe variations! This one is a summer curried corn & vegetable chowder from Appetite for Reduction. Isa was the first person to hook  me on to adding coconut milk and lime to corn chowder, after making this garden version with fresh basil and chives. The coconut milk and lime adds a completely different flavor profile to a regular corn chowder. This one also has a lot of curry powder and cilantro, so it's bursting with different flavors. You will certainly be seeing different corn chowder recipes on here all summer! 

One reason why I love summer is that I can go crazy in the kitchen for a few hours with out having to worry about (too much) homework. This is all I can say about these chipotle lentil burgers: they are the best veggie burgers I've ever made or tasted. And besides that, they are incredibly easy to make! I don't know how to explain the flavor of these except it's a deep, smoky one. Top with vegan mayo and maybe add some bread & butter pickles, if desired. I also made these baked onion rings to serve with the burgers. I used GF all purpose flour and GF breadcrumbs (some with GF panko). This was my first time tasting onion rings (ever) and they were magnificent! I could have eaten an entire plate of these. Both of these recipes originally come from Appetite for Reduction.

We haven't even had these banana pepper plants for two weeks and they are growing fast! Earlier this week they were just tiny flowers. I can't wait to pickle these!

One of my other food downfalls are spicy vegan sandwiches with avocado, tomato, and vegan mayo. I adapted this from the buffalo tempeh recipe in Appetite for Reduction. I used tofu instead of tempeh because I accidentally bought tempeh with gluten in it (whoops!). I didn't let the tofu marinate, but I certainly would if you have time. It was still delicious with all the sandwich fixins and sides. I highly recommend adding a few fresh basil leaves to the filling above for an extra tasty summer sandwich!
Update for a third sandwich option: vegan mayo, bread and butter maple bourbon pickles, buffalo tofu & fresh basil. Trust me.