A Joyful Kitchen: Scrambled Tofu

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scrambled Tofu

Hello, tofu. I love you.

I am sitting here asking myself how I could have possibly waited so long to try scrambled tofu. It sounds a little extreme to any egg lover (I am a reformed egg lover) to scramble tofu in an egg's place. Absurd. Outrageous. Insane.

I am here, my friends, to assure you that my scrambled tofu was not just tastier than scrambled eggs, but infinitely healthier. Thanks to guidance from the Post Punk Kitchen and AllRecipes.com, I put this delicious little number together for brunch over the weekend.

By the way, I'd like you to know my egg-adoring husband loved this and even went back for seconds. We had our scrambled served up in a whole wheat tortilla and some fresh fruit on the side.

Tofu Scramble

1 package firm or extra firm organic tofu
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
a couple dashes onion powder
pepper to taste
1 cup peppers, onions and tomatoes, diced
1 link Tofurky sun-dried italian sausage, diced

Prep your veggies and sausage by dicing them in small-ish pieces and setting aside. There is no perfect size, you just want them to be able to get a little tender by the time the tofu warms through.

Mix together the turmeric, garlic powder, salt, onion powder and pepper in a small dish. This will help the flavors evenly distribute when you add them to the tofu.

Drain any water from the tofu. Give it a couple good squeezes to get the excess out. Don't press the tofu because removing too much water can leave you with a dry or rubbery scramble.

In a non-stick pan (you can spritz with olive oil if you wish) over medium-low heat, crumble the tofu to resemble scrambled eggs. Sprinkle half of your seasoning over the tofu and toss. The tofu will start picking up hints of yellow from the spice. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning and toss. Finally, add in your veggies and sausage and - you guessed it - toss again. Notice that you are not stirring...you don't want to make tofu slop. Just toss it together and the scramble-y texture should stay in tact for you.

Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. (The heat and temperature may need to be adjusted according to your range.) Your final product should come out moist (but not soggy), a bright yellow, and very flavorful. Serve in a whole wheat tortilla and enjoy!

Don't be afraid to swap out the veggies for others that you may like! Just remember that denser veggies may need to be pre-cooked so they're the right consistency at the end of your tofu cook time. Some shredded zucchini or sauteed spinach might be really nice in there.

A Joyful Kitchen: Healthy Lunch Ideas

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sure, it's great to take lunch to work or school every day because it saves money and is usually healthier. But who has the time? We're all busy, so making gourmet lunches is pretty challenging. I personally have to think about mine at the beginning of the week so I know what to grocery shop for, then make time each night to put things together.

At a loss for what kinds of things to tuck into a lunchbox? Here's a short list to get you started.
  • Peanut butter sandwich - yes, it's about as kindergarten as you can get. But dress it up with some fresh sliced fruit instead of sugar-laden jelly. Skip the fluffy bread for some hearty Ezekiel bread and you'll really stay full for the afternoon.
  • Vegan yogurt and a hearty muffin - this meal will suit your lunchtime at the computer (I hope you have a chance to get away though!). You can toss in some fresh fruit to your vegan yogurt, which is super easy to make at home, and get that comfort food feeling from a tasty carrot spice muffin.
  • Mexican salad - this is easy to throw together and make exactly to your liking! Pick your favorite greens and top with some black beans for protein. Add as much as you like of corn, chopped tomato, green pepper, cucumber, avacado, cilantro and onion. Instead of a heavy salad dressing, have some salsa or a fresh lime ready on the side. When you are ready to have lunch, pour the salsa or squeeze the lime on top. Waiting for this last step saves you from a soggy salad. Want a stricter recipe? Here's Tess Challis' Sexy Mexi Salad.
  • Veggie wrap - you can't go wrong when using hummus! How about a pita or tortilla schmeared with some hummus and filled with your favorite veggies and some sprouts? Yum! If you want to add tomato, you might consider packing it on the side and adding just before eating.
  • Soups and chilis - one of my favorite things on a cold or dreary day is a warm lunch. I often freeze my soup and chili so I can pull a portion out of the freezer on a whim. When it comes to lunches, a frozen individual serving not only is a quick save when I have nothing else on hand, but it also helps keep the rest of my lunch cold while it defrosts.
  • Leftovers - sometimes I don't want to have the same thing for lunch every day. What I do in that case is make extra servings of dinner and then package that up as lunches. What looks like a lot of extra effort to bring in a nice lunch is merely a little thinking ahead!
  • Fresh fruit and veggies - don't fall prey to a vending machine. Make sure you have snacks packed. I love fresh fruit and veggies during the day. Depending on your work/school environment, you may want to peel and chop things in advance. Awesome fruits are apples, oranges, peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, bananas, berries, cherries, kiwi. Great veggies are broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, pepper slices and maybe some hummus to dip them all in. Of course there are many more fruit and veggie options, but these are just get you thiking.
Don't forget to think green when you're packing a lunch. Invest in a basic reuseable lunch bag - they are under 10 dollars for a nice insulated one and it will last you years. Also get some reusable containers so you can minimize the number of baggies you use. And how about having some spare silverware to pack with your lunch? Instead of disposable forks and spoons, just bring yours home and was them. All of a sudden, the garbage you produce every days has gone way down.

Whether you are packing lunches year round or just getting ready to start a new school year, there are lots of ways to make a healthy mid-day meal. Don't give up. Don't let excuses get in the way of putting something together. Having a solid lunch can make all the difference in your energy through the afternoon!

Girl Meets Daiya...and Gardein!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today was my first encounter with Daiya cheese. I had read about lots of people using it, fared well with a different style of cheese alternative, and decided to give it a go. Not too shabby, although I have to admit that it will take a bit of getting used to. On first impression, I thought that it was a bit salty. On a positive note, it melted very well.

Tonight was a first for using Gardein, too. I had tried it at a local restaurant, so I knew what to expect but it was still a first time cooking with it. I basically used it just like I used to use chicken. I have to note that the pre-cooked Gardein was a little weird to handle. It was reminiscent of small chicken cutlets and it kind of put me off. It cooked up well, though, and I know it's just veggie protein so I am going to have to get used to the way it looks/smells/feels when it's just out of the package.

So what did I whip up with these two wonder-products? A vegan version of Mexican food I grew up with. Tonight we had quesadillas on made with Daiya and roasted peppers, onion, zucchini, tomato and Gardein. For sides I had smashed pinto beans and fideo with a smidge of avacado thrown in for fun. Overall, I thought the meal came out well. My husband really thought so - he had two plates full before I even made a dent in mine! This surprised me because he was born and raised in Wisconsin. I thought he would be extra critical of the Daiya but he thought that it had great flavor. I was floored.

So, that leaves me with Daiya and Gardein on my "continue to use" list. I am sure that I can find some tips for preparation somewhere online, and that with practice both these products can come in very handy.

A Joyful Kitchen: Recipe Testing

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So, since my last post, my resolution to focus more on need-to-get-done tasks quickly faded. My procrastination slightly improved, but my self-challenge not to watch 24 didn't go so well (better than normal, at least) and my Facebook hiatus was an epic fail. Sigh, there is always the chance to try again. If we succeeded on the first try every time, life would be blah, right?

What I did get done was a bunch of cooking. I tried out a bunch of new recipes and loved them all! I have them listed and linked to below, each with my own notes. No pics here, though. Just click through and the source will have a photo for you.
  1. Homemade vegan (tofu) yogurt - This recipe from Happy Herbivore was so easy! I followed the directions as written and then blended in some blackberries and strawberries. The recipe made more than I could use at one meal, but I wasn't sure about saving the yogurt over night. Just to be safe, I used it as a base for a smoothie later in the day. Yum!
  2. Whole wheat, fat-free pancakes - Another recipe from Happy Herbivore. The hubby and I enjoyed these for breakfast, served with the yogurt listed above, as a matter of fact. They were especially good with some maple syrup. I had planned on freezing a couple pancakes to toast up next weekend, but we ate the entire batch! Oops! Next time I will plan on making a double batch so I have extras on hand. Growing up, my parents always threw a couple pancakes in the fridge or freezer to enjoy a few days later. It's nice to have a "comfort" breakfast in a matter of minutes.

  3. Instant vegan alfredo - Last Happy Herbivore recipe of the post, I promise! I just happened to be surfing their blog and came across so many goodies I couldn't help myself. The alfredo sauce was awesome. We love alfredo but I always cringed at buying the stuff in the jar. This beats anything I've tried and it's so much more healthy. We enjoyed ours over linguine, steamed broccoli, and some Tofurky sun-dried tomato "sausage". It's worth mentioning that the leftovers worked out just great, so this could be a dish I could make a night ahead or pack for lunch. Mmm...

  4. Polenta with balsamic kale and white beans - I scored this gem from a site called C'est La Vegan. It was soooo nice. And easy! I served this with fresh sliced heirloom tomato. It has such beautiful color and great taste (thanks to the balsamic vinegar!) that I think it's one that I will note to make for guests.
All the recipes I tried out were pretty easy. I just take a bit longer the first time through because I'm double checking steps and whatnot. After a few tries, any of these would something quick to whip up. Also, don't let the word "vegan" scare you! I would proudly serve any of these dishes to a non-vegan or non-vegetarian.

I already have a list brewing for the coming week. I plan to make some vanilla peach jam, a bean-based veggie dip, and something that will provide me my first Daiya cheese encounter. By next weekend, I need to have a short list of some good freezer meals put together. I want to do a bit of cooking ahead before I start my fall classes and have to cut back on my time in the kitchen. It's a bummer because I have some non-recipe cooking I really want to try out, too! All in due time, I suppose. In the mean time, I have some dishes to wash!

A Joyful Kitchen: Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I couldn't wait to share this! And of course, I don't have a picture handy, but this is so easy you won't need one.

My husband and I drink breakfast smoothies most days of the week. It's a great way to get fresh fruit in, easy for enjoying on the drive to work, and light on the stomach - yet filling. Here's the catch, we don't load up on junk in our smoothies. With every week, I look for a new way to make it interesting and add more value. That way we don't get bored of this very nutritious part of our day.

This week's new item was carrot juice (Bolthouse Farms brand, specifically). I was just waiting to finish off the pomegranate juice before busting it open. I think I'm in love.

Fruit and Veggie Smoothie for Two

2 mangoes
2 bananas
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup carrot juice
A little bit of crushed ice

Toss everything in the blender and put the pedal to the metal! Add more carrot juice depending on your thick/thin preference. To make it for just one person all you have to do is use half the called for ingredients. Easy.

Spinach AND carrot juice, you ask? You can barely tell it's there. When I drink this, I taste banana with a hint of mango. The smoothie is intensely green (spinach, remember?) but don't let that scare you. Just think of all the goodness this is doing inside of you. Saying that it has loads of vitamin A is an understatement.

Really want to amp this up? You could toss in some peanut butter (yum!) or hemp protein powder.

Turning off "time sucks"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Laura Denoux, contestant on The Biggest Loser Season 7
Today I saw Laura Denoux, a contestant from The Biggest Loser Season 7, give a presentation about her weight loss and healthy living. She said that contestants were actually training 6-8 hours a day. This isn't breaking news, but it is a good reality check for the times I compare my slow gained results to Biggest Losers' dramatic weight loss.

I have been working on getting into better shape myself, so hearing Laura's spiel was just the reminder I needed. I struggle to get to the gym as often as I would like because I have a full-time job and I am a part time student. Ok, I am making a bit of an excuse there, but it (among other necessary life functions) really does keep me from spending 6-8 hours a day working out.

I do have "time sucks", though...
  1. Facebook! Enough said.
  2. 24...I am sucked into the storyline so bad that it is not uncommon for my husband and I to rack up 2-3 hours a night watching the show on Netflix.
  3. Too much time planning and not enough time doing. I probably spend more effort dwelling on something than it would take to do it.
Sadly, this takes time away from a lot of the things I know I need to get done! Then I end up feeling behind and frazzled. No good!

My resolve? No Facebook, Netflix or procrastinating for the rest of the week! My reward is a completed to-do list, which has been neglected for far too long, a chance to check in on my happy little Facebook world, and snuggle during an episode or two of 24. Plus, I am positive I am going to get a lot more gym time in. Get ready, get set, go!

Sugar Shock

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I successfully made my first batch of jam. It was mango lime freezer jam (a few steps shorter than traditional jam) and it turned out to be a beautiful shade of orange with little green slivers. More important than looks was the taste, though. It was like having a slice of key lime pie smothered in mangoes, which to me is awesome. The downside was how much sugar was used. No matter how pleased I was with my work, I couldn't ignore the sugar shock.

Ok, this wasn't literally sugar shock I was dealing with, but I was shocked at the amount of sugar the recipe required. I looked online for other suggestions but didn't come across anything substantial. Most of what I read said that without enough sugar, the jam wouldn't set right. Fine. I can use less sugar...but I want to know how much less sugar I can get away with before it's not jam anymore. Anything is better than the five cups of sugar called for in the recipe that only used three cups of fruit.

Dealing with sugar is such a pain. It's not just the sugar that we know about, but more sadly, the sugar that is hidden in everything we buy. Just the other day, I was enjoying my tofu ice cream and realized that it had corn syrup solids in it. If high-fructose corn syrup is awful for you, I can't imaging that corn syrup solids is much better. Unless I find out otherwise, that's the last time I'll buy that product! Just last week the CBS health blog posted about a report from UCLA that basically shows that high fructose corn syrup feeds cancer cells. Awesome!

"The study, conducted by scientists at UCLA, found that pancreatic cancer cells grew faster when "fed" with fructose. Study author Dr. Anthony Heaney, associate professor of medicine and neurosurgery at the university's cancer center, said it was likely that fructose would also speed the growth of other cancers as well."

I am very glad to have been ridding my home of high fructose corn syrup products. It does take effort to let go of favorites that are laden with the stuff (farewell, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ), but it's best for me in the long run. And I do try to help others become aware of what's in their food, but don't want to come off pushy. Besides, sometimes what they're purchasing is what they think is best for their budget. What have you had to let go of? How do you encourage others to read labels and decide to skip the high fructose corn syrup products?

A Joyful Kitchen: Recipe Testing

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I am all about trying new recipes. After several years of experience and some real stinkers, I've learned how to select my experimental cooking more wisely. Here's my thought process before jumping into new recipes...

  • Is this something I've been able to taste before? Could have been a friend's cooking, at a restaurant, etc.
  • Does it call for ingredients I am familiar with, or better yet, already own? Spices are too expensive for me to buy for just one occasion. If I buy a new spice, I prefer to know that it will actually get used before going bad.
  • If this is a recipe found online, how are the reviews? So often you can learn a ton from others readers' comments.
  • Do I have the time to follow through with making the recipe? Ugh! There's nothing worse than seeing all your ingredients go to waste because you were too busy to cook!!

This may seem a bit on the conservative time, but for me, it's worked. It keeps me expanding my palate (and recipe collection) at a reasonable rate. Plus, it limits what I experiment with to one or two times a week. This week I don't freak hubby out with too many new flavors :) Well, I can't blame it on him. We are all creatures of habit and there are some recipes that I don't want to accidentally work out of rotation. Nevertheless, it keeps eating interesting!

So here are some of the new cooking adventures I am embarking upon this week:
  1. Freezer mango jam: I am going to base the recipe and instructions off of three different sources to come up with my own. I've never made any kind of jam before, but I think I can handle it. I just hope I'm not going to waste the ingredients by throwing caution to the wind and not following a recipe to a tee the first time.
  2. Vegan spice cake: I used a recipe from Peace a' Cake as a base last night and it turned out pretty good. (I served it up with fresh peaches instead of frosting - yum!) I am going to make it again with a few more tweaks and test it on my co-workers. If it goes well, I'll post it.
  3. Tofu alfredo sauce: I found an excellent recipe from Happy Herbivore. I'm planning to serve the sauce over linguine with steamed veggies and faux sausage. I make this meal with Paul Newman's jarred alfredo sauce as a quick dinner, but would like to see how I do making the sauce on my own.

There are so many more things I would like to try, but I have to keep it realistic. Sadly, in a few weeks I'll be starting school again with a nine credit course load...plus I work full time. My goal is to keep writing and cooking even if it is only once a week or so. After 16 weeks I'll have a lighter course load and can hopefully make a bigger time commitment to my personal interests. Thinking about it all makes me cringe, but if I stay positive and proactive it will pass before I know it!

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