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Tofu-riffic Tacos!

Pickled red onions on a taco?!  Oh bay-bee!  The favor combination of the vinegar-y onions, creamy guacamole and the spicy, smoky sauce on the tofu is other-worldly good.  Like something I’ve never tasted or even imagined.  You may think you don’t like tofu, but after trying these tacos, you’ll be running to the store for more!  We came across this combo in a Denver restaurant called Fuel Cafe–a tricky place to find in an industrial part of the RINO district–click through the images on their page to get a feel for the place.   Well worth the journey for tacos like these.

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To get started, you’ll need to pickle a red onion.  It’ll need time to chill and be ready for your tacos.  You can make the pickled onion ahead of time.

ingredients for pickled onions

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced.

Slice the onions as thin as you can.

slice thin

Blanch the onions in boiling water for about 10-20 seconds.  You don’t want to blanch the color out–if you see it starting to fade it’s time to drain them!

blanch

Drain completely in a colander and return to the now empty but still warm blanching pot.

drain

Add the vinegar, sugar and salt along with enough water to just cover the onions.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute.

add vinegar sugar salt water

Place onions and vinegar into a jar and chill.  The onions will turn a beautiful fresh hot-pink color!  So pretty!

in a jar

Now that your onions are chilling, prepare the sauce–it’s essentially the same as for sofritas.  The sauce can be made ahead of time.  You’ll need:

ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 2 poblanos, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili blend–like a fajita mix or a chili powder of your choice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a splash of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup broth–I use No Chicken broth
  • 1-2 TBSP tomato paste
  • NOTE-ignore the tofu, I recycled the pic from the sofritas post!  🙂

Roast your poblanos, either in a 400F oven or on your grill.  I chose my outdoor grill–it was a beautiful day!  Roast, turning until blistered on all sides.

roast poblanos

Place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal to steam.  This will help the skins slip right off.

steam poblanos

When the peppers have cooled enough for you to handle them, peel by rubbing them gently with your fingers.

peel poblanos

Then remove the seeds and stem.

seed poblanos

Place the cleaned poblanos in your blender.poblanos in blender

Then add the chipotles, cumin, chili blend, salt, garlic powder, oregano, lime juice and broth.

everything else in blender

Blend until smooth, transfer to a bowl and stir in the tomato paste.  Set aside.

add tomato paste

Now for the tacos!  You’ll need:

ingredients tacos

  • pickled red onions (see recipe above)
  • prepared sauce (see recipe above)
  • 1 (14 0z) package extra firm tofu–always choose organic tofu to avoid GMOs
  • prepared guacamole–buy it or make it yourself.  Mine is simple–avocado, garlic powder, salt, lime juice, and cilantro.
  • corn tortillas
  • chopped lettuce
  • chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges

Drain and then press the tofu by placing it on a clean kitchen towel.

drain tofu and place on towel

Wrap the towel around the tofu and place something on top to help press out most of the remaining liquid.

add weight to press water out

Let the tofu sit for at least 15 minutes (up to 30 minutes) and then cut into cubes, by cutting through the side and then cutting long sticks.  Finally cut the sticks into cubes.  The cubes will be about 1/2 inch on a side.

cube tofu

Spray a fry pan with oil and place over medium high heat.  Add tofu cubes and fry, stirring occasionally to brown on all sides–or as many as you can get.  Don’t worry about getting every cube perfectly browned.  🙂

fry tofu

Reduce heat to low and add enough sauce to coat the tofu–about half of the sauce.

add sauce

Stir to coat.  Now it’s time to put the tacos together!

stir to coat

 

Warm the tortillas inside a kitchen towel in a microwave or however you like to warm them.  Place a bit of lettuce, then tofu cubes, then a bit of guacamole, then pickled onions and finally a sprinkle of cilantro.  Look at them!  Like art!

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Squeeze a lime over the top, pick one up and have your first wondrous bite.  Oh my.

Both the sauce and the onions can be made ahead to speed up the tacos when you’re ready to make them.  Is this my new favorite way to eat tofu?  Yessssssss!  Mmmmmmmmmm-yummy!

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Filed under dinner, lunch, recipe, restaurants, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian

Avocado Garbanzo Sammiches

Oh glorious garbanzo, how I love you.  You make fabulous dips and spreads, delicious soups and curries, and the most spectacular sammich salads.  When I saw you pairing up with avocado, oh my.  Swoon.  A huge thanks to Amuse Your Bouche for introducing the two of you.  ❤

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Run to your pantry and fridge!  Your mouth will be so happy.  🙂

ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste–I added this at the last minute–yum!
  • pita pockets and tomato for serving

Skin and pit your avocado and place it in a bowl with the drained chickpeas.  Mash them together with a fork or potato masher.  Leave a few “half” garbanzos for a nice texture.

mash chickpeas and avocado

Stir in green onions, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper, and garlic powder.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

add cilantro onion lime

Spread inside a pita, add a few tomato slices (I like roma tomatoes) and lunch is served!  I enjoy this sammich even when it’s cold outside.

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The creaminess of the avocado pairs nicely with the meatiness of the garbanzos and is perfectly punctuated by the onion and cilantro.  Lime brings the freshness and prevents the avocado from browning.  Leftovers can be safely stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for a day or two.

If you’re like me and enjoy a chickpea salad, you might also want to try my Curried Chickpea Salad Sammiches.  Yum!

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Filed under Garden produce, lunch, recipe, salad, vegan, Vegetarian

Vegan Baked Ziti

Cold weather always makes me want to bake something.  Something warm and aromatic and comforting.    Something your grandmother might have made for the family.  Something that feels like a hug and tastes like a whole lotta love.  I give to you the perfect answer:  Baked Ziti!

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I had never made baked ziti even before becoming vegan, and never had a grandmother make it for me.  But for some reason, the squat little rigatonis in my pantry thought that’s what they should be.  Who am I to argue with cute pasta?!  To the Google!  A few short clicks later, I had two recipes to inspire me; one classic, and one vegan.  Here’s what I came up with:

ingredients

For the ziti:

  • 1 pound short tubular pasta, such as rigatoni or penne or ziti, prepared according to the package
  • 1 pound vegan sausage  (I used Gimme Lean brand–very sausage-y)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped  (I had chopped bells from my garden in the freezer and used them)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar prepared marinara sauce  (I had most of a jar leftover from making pizza)
  • Vegan Parmesan for topping

For the cashew ricotta:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover them by at least an inch
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP of fresh basil or 1 1/2 tsp dried
  • a couple shakes of paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400F and spray a 9×13″ pan.  Prepare pasta according to the package.

Drain cashews and place in a food processor with lemon juice, garlic, basil, paprika, and salt.

all in the processor

Blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.  This should take 3-5 minutes.

blend until smooth

Brown the sausage.  It can be hard to tell when vegan sausage is brown.  Cook, breaking up with a spoon or spatula until it doesn’t feel sticky anymore.  Use a splash of veggie broth or No Chicken Broth (my personal fav) to help keep it from sticking to the pan.

brown sausage

Add onions and peppers and cook until onions are transluscent, about 5-7 minutes.

add onions and peppers

Add tomatoes and marinara, stir to combine.

add tomatoes and sauce

Add cooked pasta and cashew ricotta.  Doesn’t that ricotta look amazing?!

add pasta and ricotta

Stir to coat the pasta evenly and transfer to the prepared 9×13 pan.  Shake some vegan Parmesan over the top.

spread in pan

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the top pasta is getting a tiny bit crisp.

baked

Scoop out with a serving spoon and get your smile on.  You’re gonna feel like your Grandma stopped by with a warm apron-wrapped hug and some pasta to show how much she loves you.

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Just the thing when winter comes a-callin’.

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It snowed almost 6 inches the night I made the ziti.  We were expecting a dusting to MAYBE an inch.  Brrrrr!  It sure was pretty, though.

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Our crab apple trees looked just lovely, and leftover ziti was a perfect warm-me-up after playing outside in the snow.

 

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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, Garden produce, lunch, Potluck, recipe, vegan, Vegetarian

Vegan-tastic Zuppa Toscano

I haven’t been to Olive Garden in quite awhile…all that cheese and cream sauce and sausage, oh my.  I still remember the Zuppa Toscano, though.  Creamy and spicy with potatoes, greens and sausage; an ultimate comfort soup.  A soup you can make a meal out of.  But so not vegan.  Waaaaah.  Until now, that is!  Hurray for cashew cream and vegan sausage!  Hurray for a warm bowl of soup on a cold and rainy night!

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The original recipe’s been making the rounds on Facebook. Aside from veganizing, I also changed up some of the cooking to squeeze out even more flavor.  This link matches the image and the general idea of the recipe shared around Facebook.  Here’s what you’ll need for the vegan version I made:

ingredients

  • 1 lb. vegan Italian-style sausages ( I only had 3 sausages from the 4 pack, which worked out OK and reduced the fat in the recipe)
  • 4-6 potatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves
  • 32 oz. No Chicken broth
  • 2 c. kale or Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1 c. raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover them by an inch
  • 4 tsp corn starch
  • 2 cups No Chicken Broth
  • salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

Lightly spray a non-stick pan with oil and brown the sausages.

brown sausage

Remove sausages from pan, cut each in half lengthwise and then slice into half-moons.

chop sausage

Chop the onion and peel the garlic.

chop onions peel garlic

Saute the onion in the same pan used for the sausage, adding a bit of No Chicken broth to deglaze the pan, releasing the yummy browned sausage bits into the onion.  Yum.  Saute until onions are translucent; about 5-7 minutes.

saute onions

Mince or press the garlic and add to the pan and continue to cook until garlic becomes fragrant; an additional 30 seconds or so.

add garlic

Scrub and chop potatoes into 1/2″ dice.

chop potatoes

Transfer potatoes, sausage, onions, garlic and 32 oz No Chicken broth to a slow cooker; veggies and sausage should be covered.  Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.  Potatoes should be tender.

sausage onions garlic potatoes and broth in crockpot

After the cooking time, wash kale and remove the stems.  I only needed 2 leaves.  Chop into 1/2 to 1″ -ish pieces.  Small enough to stay on the spoon, but not so fine so it gets lost in the broth.

chop kale

Drain the cashews and place them along with 4 tsp corn starch and 2 cups No Chicken broth into a blender and blend until smooth.  This may take from one to five minutes–check it by rubbing it between your fingers–you want it as smooth as possible.  You may need to scrape down the sides during the blending time.  (Remember how to do this for future creamy soups and sauces–it’s creamy vegan MAGIC!)

cashews corn starch and broth

blend until smooth (1)

Add the kale and cashew cream to the crock pot, and cook an additional 30 minutes on high to thicken.

add kale and cashew cream

Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.

season

Ladle into bowls, add a nice warm wedge of bread or bread sticks and prepare to be amazed!  So, so yummy!  Michael pronounced it good enough to include in a weekly rotation; high praise.

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This is definitely NOT low-fat, but not too bad.  Fat comes from that light spray of oil, 10 grams per serving (1 link) of sausage and 13 grams per serving (1/4 cup) of cashews.

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While the soup was warming my house with its spicy aroma, it was cold and drippy outside.  I stood at the window, watching birds busy at the feeders and noticed someone else was watching the birds as well–the neighbor’s cat, Keshet!

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Keshet tends to do more watching than stalking and rarely kills a bird, but I have seen her with a mouse in her mouth, so I’m OK with her bird watching if she also keeps a few mice from trying to get into my house as the weather chills.

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Eventually my cat, Pookie wandered over to watch birds, and Keshet as well.

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You can see how dreary the day was in that last picture.  A great day for a vegan-tastic soup!

 

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Filed under comfort food, crock pot, dinner, lunch, Potluck, recipe, vegan, Vegetarian

Meaty Beany Chili

My fav goddess of all things vegan, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, recently published a new cookbook.  Naturally, I felt I NEEDED to buy it, so I did (with a little help from a timely coupon from Barnes and Noble).  Her cookbooks have become the go-tos of my journey into vegan land; great recipes that come together quickly and easily, peppered with Isa’s entertaining brand of snark.  What’s not to love?!  Make this recipe and then trot on out or click into your favorite bookstore to buy a copy of Isa Does It.  You’ll be glad you did!

On with the recipe then.  This is now my go-to chili.  Really meaty without even a touch of real or vegan meat.  Warming.  Spicy.  Satisfying.  You can make it in a crockpot.  Bazinga!  Have a look and see for yourself:

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I altered the original recipe ever so slightly–I only had a 14-oz can of tomatoes, so subbed in some cherry tomatoes I froze from last summer, subbed pinto beans for the kidney beans, and used No Chicken broth to saute the onion, pepper and garlic, as well as in place of the water called for in the original.

ingredients

  • enough No Chicken Broth or Veggie Broth to saute
  • 1 yellow onion, diced medium
  • 1 green pepper, seeded, diced medium
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, thinly sliced (seeded, if you want it less spicy)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Several dashes fresh black pepper
  • 1/8th teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups No Chicken Broth (plus extra as needed)
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (or 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes plus 2 cups frozen, pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz can)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz can)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Seems like an intimidating list of ingredients, but fear not.  You’ll just methodically measure things out and pretty much dump things into a slow cooker!

First, saute the onion, green pepper and jalapeno until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes or so.

onions and peppers

Add the garlic, and continue to saute until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds.

add garlic

Dump the saute into your crock pot along with everything else on the list. Give it a stir, cover, set the cooker on low, and leave it alone for 8 hours–lentils should be tender.  You may want to adjust seasonings after cooking, and possibly add a bit more broth to thin as needed.

saute in the crock pot

add the rest

give it a stir

Voila!  Get home from work, your house smells amazing and you get to enjoy the yummiest chili ever for dinner!

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This is a hearty chili that will not only satisfy, but take the chill out of a winter day.

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You can also make this in a pot on the stove–see the original recipe for instructions.

 

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Filed under comfort food, crock pot, dairy-free, dinner, lunch, Potluck, recipe, Vegetarian

Muy Bueno Vegan Tamales

Yesterday, I made my favorite chili-stuffed peppers, which always leaves me with extra stuffing.  I’ve turned that stuffing into burritos, I’ve turned it into enchiladas; both delish.  This time I got to thinking: tamales!  My friend, the Google, provided me with lots of inspiration–recipes without lard or butter, but still used a fair amount of fat, and some that used very, very little fat.  I decided on one that used vegan margarine, thinking it might create a dough that would be closer to tamales I’ve enjoyed before.  I reduced the margarine by half and upped the other liquid.  The dough was super workable and the resulting tamales were, well, muy bueno!

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Another reason to love this recipe is that it only makes 12 tamales.  Very do-able.

ingredients

  • 4 ounces dried corn husks
  • 2 cups masa harina (a corn flour–find it in most grocery stores)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan margine, room temperature
  • About 1 1/2 cups warm “no-chicken”  broth, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups of the vegan filling of your choice.  I used my pepper stuffing, there are a couple more that sound yummy here.
  • sauce of your choice

First, 15 minutes before starting the dough, soak the dried husks in warm water, using a plate to weight them down.

soak husks

Then, mix the masa harina with the baking powder and salt.  Set it aside.

Whip the margarine until it becomes fluffy.  Add the masa and broth alternately until a light, soft and non-sticky dough is formed.

whip butter, ad masa

soft dough

Pat each corn husk dry and place on a surface, the pointed end toward you.  Roll a two-inch dough ball and place it near the top of the husk.

2 inch dough ball

Smoosh (yes, this IS a culinary term!) the dough ball into a square about four inches per side.

smoosh to 4 inch square

Place 1 1/2-2 TBSP filling down the center and top with the sauce of your choice.  We like enchilada sauce.

add filling and sauce

Roll the husk from the side, encircling the dough and filling.

roll

Fold up the bottom and tie with a little strip of husk if you want.  If you’re making tons of tamales, they’ll hold each other together as they pack in the steamer.  I worried the ones on the edges might flop open, so I tied them.  They’re kinda cute that way; yummy little presents.  🙂

fold up bottom

tie

Place them into a steamer basket open side up, place it over boiling water and put a lid over them.  Steam for 50 minutes to an hour–until the dough firms and pulls easily from the husks.

stand up in steamer

all 12 in steamer

place lid

When they’re steamed, unwrap your yummy little presents and enjoy!

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We had just a couple each, with a bowl of squash blossom soup.  We’re expecting a freeze tonight, so I picked all my squash and squash flowers.  The last time we’ll enjoy the soup until next summer, but I’m planning on LOTS of tamales!  Can’t wait to try all sorts of fillings!  Especially at Christmas–tamales are a Christmas tradition I thought I might need to do without. What will you fill your tamales with?

 

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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, dinner, Garden produce, Gluten-free, Holiday foods, recipe, side dish, Vegetarian

Barb’s Pesto

My neighbor Barb is one of the reasons I’m vegan.  She and her family have been low-fat vegan for a while and finally convinced Michael and I to give it a try.  We did, we’re more healthy, we love it!  Low-fat vegan cooking is a whole new beastie, when you’re used to olive oil and cheese and eggs.  Barb is my go-to girl when I have questions like, “but how do you saute?”  I love basil and make pesto every summer to preserve that lovely summery flavor all winter.  But pesto has cheese.  And oil.  So, I went to Barb with a “but how do you…” question and of course, she had the answer.  So yummy, so fresh.  And an added bonus–no nuts!  Barb’s allergic to tree nuts, so naturally, she makes her pesto without them.  How could it be yummy without oil and cheese and nuts?!  See for yourself:

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Here’s what you’ll need:

ingredients

  • 8-12 cloves of garlic, depending on the size and how much you like garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 limes (2/3 cup)
  • juice of 1 lemon (1/2 cup)
  • garlic salt to taste, or just regular salt–again, depends on your garlic tolerances  🙂
  • 1 bag (16 oz) frozen corn, thawed
  • black pepper to taste
  • enough fresh basil to fill your processor

Place everything in the bowl of a food processor with the chopping blade in place.

all in the processor

Process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed.

process til smooth

To freeze for later, place 1/2 cup pesto into containers–I use snack size ziplocs and then place them into a labelled freezer bag.

package to freeze

Or, enjoy right away:  on pasta, with crackers, with veggies, on a yummy garden-fresh tomato….

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What do you like to eat pesto with?

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Filed under Canning and preserving, dairy-free, dinner, food gifts, Garden produce, lunch, recipe, salad, side dish, Vegetarian