Friday, March 27, 2009

Tofu Buffalo Sticks

I haven't been cooking or baking much lately, but that going to change. For one thing, I am teaching two different cooking classes within the next month, and I always make a practice of creating new recipes for this. My friends have also been asking me to cook for them and teach as I go along. I recently made my friend Spicy Tofu Triangles which was served with brown rice and steamed collards with a raspberry red wine vinegar sprinkled on top. Tofu is one of my favorite foods to play with, since it can be so versatile and absorbs flavor so nicely.

Last year I decided I needed to create a recipe to make something similar to buffalo wings. I looked up a variety of recipes and used them to give me a start. I played around with different hot sauces and using fresh onion, or dry, and how much of this and that to use. The final recipe was made for my parents and niece and nephew. Kids are such great food tasters since they won't lie to you if they don't like something. Luckily, no lying was needed and everyone gobbled up all the tofu I made by the end of the night.

Buffalo Tofu Sticks
1 lb Tofu, firm
2 Tb Oil
1/3 cup Unbleached White Flour
2 tsp Paprika
1/4 cup Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 Tb Tabasco Chipolte Hot Sauce
2 Tb Ketchup
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Tb Agave Nectar
1 Tb Lemon Juice
Place all the sauce ingredients into a blender. Blend until the sauce has a smooth consistency and set aside.
Cut the tofu block into 32 sticks. Mix together the flour and paprika for the batter in a wide mouthed bowl. Place the tofu sticks in the batter, a few at a time, to cover the tofu with the mixture. Set aside and finish covering all the tofu sticks with the batter.
Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. You may need to cook these up in two batches. Place the battered tofu sticks in the skillet and cook until all sides are golden. Add the sauce and cook until all the sauce is absorbed and adhered to the tofu sticks.
This is great served with Mac & Cheese and steamed broccoli!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Visit to Eugene

Last weekend I visited one of my favorite food places in the world, Pizza Research Institute (PRI) in Eugene, OR. I love this place for so many reasons and feel personally connected to the people who run it, even though we have barely talked in the many years I have eaten their fabulous creations. I hadn't been in for a year, but the owner still recognized my face and sincerely asked how I was doing. Many, many years ago, my picture showed up in the Eugene newspaper after my involvement in a fur protest in San Francisco. They cut out the photo and told me how they had it displayed on their home refrigerator, and did so for many years. The first time I saw them after the newspaper photo, I was given a free homemade soda as a reward for my involvement.

PRI offers the best a vegan could ever hope for. Their vegan "cheesy" topping is a tofu base which is creamy and tasty. I don't know any statistics, but I am sure they sell more vegan pies than ones made with cheese. The basic pizza comes with marinara sauce, spinach and more, so even if you did not want to splurge on additional toppings, you will still be happy. PRI is not afraid of trying new and different flavor combinations as well, although I am not always game to try it since I can only get down there every once in a long time and know what I like. Their "Chef choice" pizza is usually topped with more vegetables than imaginable and usually includes corn on the cob which looks really interesting in disks around the pizza surface. If you are in Eugene, you must go to this place. But I must warn you, you will be addicted!

I also visited a place with lots of amazing memories for me, Morning Glory Bakery & Cafe. It is hard for me to sit down and order from this place, because it is not the same as when the original owner had control over the quality of the food and service. I was the first employee that original owner first hired, when her business was a very popular bakery which delivered baked goods around town. I did order one of my old favorites, The Fushion. It is a potato omelet folded over an amazing array of tofu, tomato, onion and spices topped with a fabulous homemade sour cream. This was not as good as I remembered (and had way too much tumeric which I am not a fan of anyway) but even with these issues, it was still very enjoyable. Oh, and the Dill Roll that came with the breakfast was luckily, just like I remembered it. I was saddened when I looked in their pastry shelves, though. When I worked there the shelves were lines with the most surprising visual of scrumptious vegan baked goods including flaky croissants, gooey cinnamon rolls, muffins, coffee cake, cookies and so much more. This was the place where my vegan baking skills were developed and my life in activism was supported. I will always have very fond memories of the place.

Luckily Eugene now also offers The Sweet Life Bakery with many vegan options including cheesecake, cakes of all flavors, cinnamon rolls, cookies and more. I usually go for the cake. They had a Chocolate Pistachio Rum cake with layers of their vegan cream cheese frosting which was so delightful I didn’t want to share (but I did a little). I definitely had my fill of great vegan treats on my visit down to Eugene which was suppose to have little to do with food.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mac & Cheese with Gluten Free Options

Most vegans have a version of Macaroni & Cheese that they like to make.  There are so many different recipes to make a vegan version, you could have a new mac & cheese every night of the week.

When I first started to eat vegan, there weren't all the hip cookbooks now available.  Luckily there was one which I found to have lots of flavor.  The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook helped me appreciate a vegan diet and all the possibilities with my new diet.  There are some great recipes for baked goods, what to do with nutritional yeast and make it taste wonderful and even how to make your own tempeh and soymilk.  The recipe for Macaroni and "Cheese" Casserole showed me a new love for this old time favorite dish.

For most of my vegan life, I have made the cheese sauce for the noodles and baked it as directed in the original recipe.  Recently I started just mixing the sauce with the noodles and have found this to be a creamier version I am really enjoying.  There is also less fat used in my version of the recipe which I will share with you today.  I am no longer on my gluten free diet, but luckily last month I was so I have gluten free options  to share as well.  Now this dish can be enjoyed by even more people!

Mac & Cheese

1/3 cup Soy Margarine
1/2 cup Unbleached White Flour*
3 cups Water
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Garlic Granules
2 Tb Braggs
2 Tb Oil
1 cup Nutritional Yeast
16 oz. Pasta*

*For gluten free options use 1/3 cup White Bean Flour instead of the unbleached white flour and rice, quinoa or corn pasta instead of wheat pasta.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and set aside.

In a medium pan, bring the water to a boil.  In the mean time, melt the soy margarine on medium heat.  When melted, add the flour and blend with a whisk to make a roux and allow to cook until smooth and bubbly.  Add the boiling water (carefully) along with the salt, garlic granules and braggs.  Continue to heat until the sauce starts to thicken.  When it reaches a good consistency, add the oil and nutritional yeast and whisk until fully incorporated.  Add the cooked pasta to the cheesy sauce.  Serve right away or add your own twist and then serve.

Other options:  Some people like adding a pinch of tumeric for a more orange color.  You can also add chipolte tabasco sauce for a unique flavor, add hickory smoke, add tomatoes or other vegetables, add tempeh, tofu or setain to the dish, use flavor themes such as a mexican twist and even use different types of pasta shapes.  Be creative!