Category Archives: quick and easy

Finally! Fresh Food Fast: Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, Greens and best of all Pea Shoots

I signed-out Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast from the local library a few weeks ago and have since ordered my own copy.

It took me awhile to get use to the layout of the cookbook and at first I was less than impressed  – even though I made this fantastic Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup out of it.  It is a seasonal cookbook, divided into spring, summer, winter and fall.  The recipes are paired, giving you a tasty meal with two easy to prepare dishes.  Each paired recipe gives you a shopping list, pantry list, and plan of attack so you can complete the meal in as little time as possible.

This was the part that turned me off.

I felt that the shopping list and procedure for preparing the meal outside of the recipe was overkill and to be frank a waste of paper.  However, the recipes, with full on Berley style, are fantastic, easy, and full of pizzazz and creativity.  It is the recipes, the most important part of any cookbook, that compelled me to change my mind, get over the parts of the layout I didn’t like, and pick up a copy for myself.

This tofu dish was much more than a simple stir fry.  The tofu, noodles, and bok choy are all cooked up separately, giving you a noodle bowl-type meal instead of just a stir fry and since the greens are quickly cooked in the same pot as the noodles, the dishes are kept to a minimum.

The glazed tofu was delicious with just a hint of sweetness from the honey (EPC swore it was maple syrup), but the piece de resistance was the accompaniment to this spring meal whose recipe Berley included.  The pea shoot salad was served atop the other ingredients to lend a tender fresh taste.

Pea shoots were a first for EPC and I and we both loved them.  They taste exactly the same as snap peas, but are much more tender and, being pea shoots, they are much “cuter” as well.  Peter Berley included sunflower sprouts in his salad, but I choose to leave them out and go for some straight pea shoot goodness.

I should also mention that I the pea shoots were a much appreciated spring-like presence in my last Organic Box.

Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, and Greens

1 pound of firm tofu, cut into 12 slices
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon of crushed red chile flakes
2 tablespoons oil

enough noodles for 4 people
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and trimmed – pre-washed spinach works too and makes it extra fast!

2 cups of  pea shoots
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Bring water to boil in a large pot
  • Blot the sliced tofu on paper towel to remove excess water
  • Mix 6 tablespoons soy sauce with the vinegar, honey and red chiles in a small bowl and whisk to combine
  • Heat a large skillet (I use my 12-inch cast iron) and add the oil.  Let it warm up and then add the tofu slices in one layer.  Fry the tofu for 5 minutes until the bottom is browned
  • Flip the tofu and top with the soy sauce mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened – about 5 minutes
  • When the water boils add the soba noodles and cook according to the package directions.
  • When the noodles are cooked, drain and rinse.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds and toss to coat.
  • In the same pot, with enough water to cover the bottom, add the bok choy and steam for about 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and oil with a dash of salt.  Add the pea shoots and toss to mix.
  • Serve the noodles topped with greens and tofu with a sizeable garnish of pea shoots.
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Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please! Part 2

Hello, it’s Ally again.

Thank you for all the positive comments on my first posting about the gluten-free baking class that Kelley and I attended at the City Arts Centre last month.

If you remember the last post featured light and fluffy celiac-friendly scones and this post goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and features crisp thin homemade gluten-free crackers!

So, let’s get right to it!

First off, even though you make your own flour, this is probably the simplest recipe I have ever made!

Making the nut flour is possible in a “drinks” blender, if it is built for it.  My blender  is made for crushing ice for slushy drinks and it worked, but for best results use a food processor.  In fact, your standard run-of-the-blender would likely not be powerful enough.

Our instructor, Jody Shenkarek, got this great cracker recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog:

Gluten-Free Nut Crackers

2 cups nuts and/or seeds (Kelley, Jean & I chose mostly sunflower seeds with sesame, pumpkin, cashew and almonds)
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toppings: salt, herbs, garlic … whatever you like. We left them plain, but the recipe advises brushing them with Braggs liquid aminos and sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

  • Preheat oven to 360 °F (not 350°F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix nuts/seeds into a flour in a blender or food processor.
  • Put in a bowl and add egg, water and salt. Stir until a stiff dough is formed.
  • Divide in two and place half on each of the two baking sheets covered in parchment.
  • Roll out into rectangles about 2 to 3 mm thick. If dough is sticky (you bet it is!) put another sheet of parchment on top to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
  • Cut into sticks or squares mist with a little water and sprinkle on toppings.
  • Bake for roughly 10 minutes – you must watch them as they burn easily.
  • Store in jars. Make sure they are perfectly airtight as these have no preservatives and you want them to stay crisp.

These turned out so great in class, in fact out of the two cracker recipes we tried this was by far the best one.  In case you are watching your salt intake you can leave it out; Jean and I thought the added salt was quite unnecessary for our taste, while Kelley thought it was just right.

Since the crackers turned out so great and the recipe left me some latitude to to try different nut and seed combos, I couldn’t wait to experiment with different nut mixes at home.  I finally got around to it towards the end of February which was a very busy day for me.  In hindsight, I would have had much better results if I hadn’t felt rushed….

Here are the proportions of nut and seed mixes that I tried out:

Pecan: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 ½ Cups Pecans!

Pistachio: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, 1 Cup Pistachio’s, ¼ Cup Sesame

Pumpkin: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup Sesame, 1 Cup Pumpkin.

Cashew: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 Cup Cashews

I love to experiment when I’m cooking and rarely stick to the recipe when making a meal, because I like more spices than most recipes call for.  Baking on the other hand is not quite as flexible, but I was fairly certain that I could safely experiment with this recipe.

So for half of the pecan mix I added about an 1/8 cup of defrosted frozen blueberries, and with half of the Pumpkin mix I added 1 tablespoon of fennel candies, which I love.

As I mentioned, I was quite rushed and tried to do too much in too little time (2 ½  hours), so I did not pay enough attention to the thicknesses when I was rolling out the cracker dough.  In addition, I only own two cookie sheets so I was pre- rolling the nut mixtures on parchment, while the first batch was in the oven, and finally, I do not own a rolling pin so I was rolling out with a juice glass.

Sigh.

As you can imagine it was a bit crazy.

To achieve better results each batch should have been split between two baking sheets rather than trying to crowd it all onto one.  Adding the berries and candied fennel certainly made for yummy flavour combos but those turned out to be more biscuit-like than the crispy cracker I was after, and they had to be refrigerated which kept them moist. Although tasty, very “uncracker-like”.

I wanted snack crackers that could be eaten without toppings so I deleted the salt. My personal favourite is the Pumpkin with Candied Fennel, next is Pecan, because they are my favourite nut and I cannot get enough of them. The Cashew was most popular with friends – even those who generally don’t favour cashews. I think it is because they were the most “cracker-like” in flavour, were the best thickness, or rather THIN-ness, and worked with toppings or with dips. I did love the taste of the pistachio sticks but they were much too thick, though I could call them mini-biscotti, and pretend that was on purpose.

I highly encourage you to try out this recipe as it is very simple and quick for a single batch, then you could comment back to Kelley about your successes, experiments and tasty mistakes!

Click to print recipe

Vietnamese Pho – Vegetarian Style!

I was directed to this great recipe on the Veg News website by my co-worker’s girlfriend.  At work one day he commented on how she had made this great vegetarian Pho, so I was delighted when the link showed up in my inbox a few months later.

I have never had real authentic Pho with beef, so I can’t say if the soup tastes like it should or not. Regardless, it is a great soup and both EPC and I slurped it all up for dinner tonight.

No leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I wasn’t sure if the soup would be as good as the name  – Faux Pho.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time this weekend mentioning to my husband that I would be making Faux Pho, or was that (ahem) Pho Faux, for dinner on Sunday. I guess the soup was pretty stellar, because any annoyance he might have felt at my play on words over the course of weekend was remedied as he finished up his second bowl.

The soy sauce, Chinese five spice powder and of course the seitan make this into one meaty soup quite unlike anything I have had before, except maybe at Padmanadi.  And what do you know, it looks like Padmanadi is having an all you can eat vegetarian buffet this Feb 3 and 4 in celebration of Chinese New Year!

The Vietnamese Faux Pho was quick, easy and delicious, so we will definitely be having it again.

FYI:  I subbed one heaping cup of coarsely grated carrots for the mung bean sprouts, used Green Cuisine plain seitan (available at Planet Organic) and upped the amount of fresh lime juice considerably

Click here for the recipe

Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

Well, even though we had to push the car into a street-side parking spot,  we made it to my work Christmas Party in January in one piece and only a few minutes late.

I cannot believe the amount of snow that has fallen in Edmonton over the last 10 days.  It is astronomical!  It must around 40 cm by now and word on the street in another 10-20 cm by the Tuesday.  And cold!  I do not think the thermometer has made it over -20°C in the last week.

Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, I have come to terms with the fact that I live in a cold Canadian city, but with all this snow I wish it would warm up a bit so we could at least enjoy it.

In order to cope with the weather I was reminiscing about our winter holiday to Cancun last Christmas.  We stayed at The Westin Hotel and Spa and the poolside restaurant served a fantastic tomatillo salsa before each meal.  After eating the salsa every day for a week I didn’t get tired of it, but instead decided that I needed to get the recipe for myself.

The chef gave up the recipe with pride and I tucked it into my suitcase, saving it for a snowy day when I needed reminding of warm weather flavours.  I love tomatillo salsa, or green salsa as it is often called, and with the added avocado it is even better.

At the party last night I served the salsa with tortilla chips, but it would be great stand-in anywhere you would use a standard red tomato salsa.

I plan to make up another batch this week!

Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

4 or 5 green tomatillos
3 tablespoon chopped onion
1 -2 serrano or jalapeno chiles, chopped (I removed the seeds to reduce the heat)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado, mashed

  • Remove the husks from the tomatillos, wash the fruit with a bit of soap and rinse well.
  • In a small pot cover the tomatillos with water and bring to boil.  When water is boiling, reduce heat and  simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove tomatillos from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  • Add tomatillos, onions, chile, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cilantro to a food processor.  Pulse until mixture is well combined.  Let cool.
  • Stir in avocado before serving.

Click to print

Feeling like Carmella Soprano: Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

I was first introduced to ziti while watching The Sopranos.

In Season Two Carmella brings an aluminum pan of baked ziti to her daughter Meadow’s dorm room.  I wondered, what in the world is ziti.  I had never heard of it and I recalled that the dish had been mentioned a few times in Season One.  At first I thought it was an Italian dish, which it is, but I found out the name of the dish is based on the pasta shape.  As you all know, something not uncommon in Italian Cuisine.

EPC and I always eat whole wheat pasta, so I was delighted when I went to the Italian grocery store last month and found whole wheat ziti (they had whole wheat orzo and cavatappi too!).  I knew that my fabulous Jack Bishop Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook had a recipe for Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, so I decided to pick up a few boxes of ziti and give it a try.

It is had to believe how the shape of pasta can affect the way tastes.  For example, I really dislike whole wheat penne, but quite enjoyed the ziti, and cavatappi is my favourite pasta of all time.  Perhaps it not just texture and shape that affects the taste, but also the appearance.

Regardless what it is about pasta and its shapes, EPC and I enjoy pasta in its various forms about once a week.  This particular dish is a keeper and the quick tomato basil sauce of Bishop’s is a nice departure from canned or bottled sauces.

Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, minced
250 grams of mozzarella cheese, grated
4 cups (450 g) of uncooked whole wheat ziti
1/4 cup of parmesan, freshly grated
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Set large pot of water on high heat.
  • Then start the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and pepper to taste
  • Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let stand until pasta is ready.
  • Oil a 9X13 glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°C
  • When the water is boiling cook the ziti 2 minutes less than suggested.  It will complete cooking in the oven.
  • Stir the ziti into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir to coat
  • Pour half the sauce and pasta mixture into the baking dish.
  • Top with half the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Add the remaining pasta and  top with the rest of the cheeses.
  • Bake until the cheese browns – about 20 minutes.

Click to print

Quick and Easy Veggie Burgers

I absolutely love homemade veggie burgers!

Store bought ones are nice too – especially if you are in a hurry.  But how would you feel about quick and easy homemade veggies burgers?

I have been looking around for good veggie burger recipes, some good and some not so good.  The good news is these veggie burgers are extremely quick to make, easy  to put together and they hold their shape.  They taste great too!  The chipotle chile powder adds more flavour than it does heat without making the burgers taste overly smoky.  It might be worth trying some cheddar cheese in place of the parmesan.  We paired the burgers with guacamole and fresh tomato, forgoing the mustard and ketchup, and it worked wonderfully with the burger’s seasonings. These burgers are easy enough to have come under my “do not have a lot of time to cook on a weeknight, because we have somewhere to go afterwards” meal category, and tasty enough for me to make them again.

Tonight we took the in-law’s dog Murphy for a walk.  They are out of town and he is being boarded at a kennel.  We figured it would be nice for him to a see a familiar face or two during his sojourn.

So, I got home from work, got the burgers started, ate and headed off to meet Murphy all before 6:30.  That is fast!

I should mention that I adapted this recipe from the fantastic new cookbook that EPC and I picked up a couple of weeks ago,  Lukas Volger’s Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.    The book has received rave reviews and I am excited to try other recipes such as  Beet and Brown Rice Burgers and Smoked Tofu Burgers. There are over 30 different burger recipes, many of which are gluten-free (12), vegan (15) or both (9).

Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Veggie Burgers

1 1/2 cups of black beans
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Freshly ground pepper, 4 or so turns of the pepper mill
3/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs

  • Mash the beans with a potato masher, add the eggs, cilantro, cheese, spices and salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°C
  • Add the bread crumbs and stir to mix.  Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes so the breadcrumbs can soak up the moisture.
  • Moisten your hands and shape the burgers into four patties.
  • Lightly spray your oven proof fry pan (I used cast iron) with oil and saute the burgers for 5 minutes or so on each side.  You want them to brown and form a nice crust
  • Transfer the pan into the oven and bake for 10 -15  minutes until heated through.

Click to print

Dosa with Chickpea, Potato and Yam

As I type this the taste of tonight’s dinner is still lingering on my tongue.

A blend of indian spices, fried bread, and zesty coconut chutney are making me feel quite content as I contemplate the end of another weekend. We went to see The Flaming Lips in concert on Friday night (amazing!), picked up some carrots and Macintosh apples at the Farmer’s Market, hung out Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria with friends for dinner on Saturday evening, and ran errands today. The weather was fantastic this weekend and it made it up to 27°C yesterday.   I am glad I made time for a walk Saturday afternoon, because you can be certain this will be our last nice weekend. Although we were not too busy and managed to get lots of sleep, I was feeling low on energy when the time to cook dinner rolled around.

I like to make something a little special for Sunday’s supper, but today I did not want to make the effort. Luckily, I know myself enough to be in tune when laziness strikes and I had an easy dinner planned. Of course, once you taste it, you would have no idea it came together so quickly.

I also cheated a bit. I could make the wonderful Indian pan-fried flat bread from scratch, but why bother when I can pick up an instant dosa packet (they are gluten-free) at the Indian Grocer or Superstore and have the batter ready to go in about 5 minutes. I suppose if you were feeling extra lazy you could serve the filling rolled up in a tortilla, but it wouldn’t be the same. The delicious blend of lentil and rice flour is something that you don’t want to miss!

Dosa with Chickpea, Potato and Yam

1 potato, peeled, diced and boiled until tender (about 1 cup)
1 yam, peeled, diced and boiled until tender (about 1 cup)

1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne chili powder
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 19 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

  • Peel, chop and boil the potato and yam for 15 minutes until tender. Drain and reserve.
  • Saute onion and garlic on medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes
  • Add cumin, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne and stir to coat
  • Add tomatoes and cook,  stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
  • Add chickpeas, potatoes and yam. Mash the potatoes and yams while cooking for about 10 minutes until heated through.
  • Stir in the yogurt, salt and cilantro. Remove from heat and set aside while you make the dosas.
  • Dosas are easy, just follow the instructions on the box. Please use a non-stick pan and cook each dosa in a cooled pan. I run my pan under cool tap water between each dosa.
  • When each dosa is ready spoon a couple spoonfuls of filling down the centre, roll up the sides and secure with a toothpick.
  • I like to serve it with Aki’s Brand Coconut Chutney

Click to print