Sunday, December 24, 2006

All I Want for Christmas is Peace, Love and Cupcakes

Merry Christmas! I have returned to the blogging world. After taking three graduate classes this summer, I finally have time to work on this much-neglected blog. Since it is the holidays, I am visiting my family and making them much-needed vegan goodies. First, I made Christmas Bread from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. I also made Sparkled Ginger Cookies, Maple-Walnut Cookies, and Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Moskowitz. For Christmas dinner, some of my family feasted on sirloin steaks :( but my mother and I had Seitan with Mushroom Wine Sauce from The Vegan Planet. But the food that everyone scarfed down with Christmas hallelujahs, were the Gingerbread Cupcakes, from Isa's newest cookbook, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Here is a photo of the three that are left (for now), next to our Christmas tree and a very old gingerbread ornament (probably not as tasty to eat).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tofu can be tasty

Yes, tofu can be tasty. Unfortunately, it has a rather bad reputation, mostly from people who have tried to cook it on their own, and failed. I hope that this post and the ones that follow help you to figure out how to cook, bake, and do just about anything culinary with these blocks of wonder. Just read on and see what you're missing!
Crunchy Chocolate Truffle Pie, from Vegetarian Times magazine, October 2005 issue (Oh wow! This is possibly the best tofu dessert I have ever had. All of the people I tested this on (including in-laws, family, and co-workers) raved about it. Of course, I got the usual reaction when I mentioned that it had tofu in it... but at least they tried it!).

Pronunciation: "toe-foo"

What is it? (How it's made): Tofu is a bean curd made from what else - soybeans! The process, much like making cheese, involves curdling soymilk (with nigari or a type of salt).

It usually comes in a square, water-packed box. Traditional, or Chinese tofu must be refrigerated. It can range from extra-firm to soft. Japanese tofu, or silken, comes in a box that can sit on the shelf and requires no refrigeration. It too can range from firm to soft, but its texture makes it useful in different recipes than the traditional kind.

Here are some photos of different types of tofu (The first photos are two of the "silken" Japanese type that don't need refrigerating. The second photo is the firm Chinese style that does.)

History: Like many of these ancient foods, tofu's history is somewhat muddled. There are three theories as to its first creation, the most popular of which seems to be that tofu was accidentally created when a salt was added in an attempt to flavor soybeans. Writings of tofu appear as early as 900 A.D., but one theory has it created as early as 100 A.D. Another theory suggests that the Chinese attempted to make the bean curd after learning about cheese making processes from the nearby Mongols.

At any rate, we do know that tofu was popular in ancient China over 2,000 years ago. It was popularized further by the Buddhists' vegetarian lifestyle and spread throughout Asia and Japan. Westerners did not become familiar with tofu until the mid 20th century when, much like tempeh and other soy foods, tofu was brought into mainstream knowledge by the Adventists and other vegetarians. (Information from:,, and (Soyfoods Center).

Health benefits: High in protein, iron and calcium. Zero cholesterol! A good answer to the question of, "But what about your dairy?"

Myths and tips: My favorite quote comes from cookbook author, Sarah Kramer, in, "La Dolce Vegan!" (2005) She states, (in response to the statement: 'I hate the taste of tofu')- "That's ridiculous. Tofu on its own is bland but has the ability to take on the flavor of whatever ingredients it's cooked with. I think that what you're really saying is that you're afraid of trying new things. Get over it."

Sarah is correct. Every good cookbook will tell you that tofu is like raw chicken or flour. It doesn't taste good until you do something with it, because it's not meant to be eaten on its own! Its whole virtue is that it lacks an overwhelming flavor and takes on the flavors that you put it in. (On that note, I have always loved eating raw tofu- the firm kind only. I guess I am weird!)

Tips- Pressing/Draining: While the smooth, soft kind typically doesn't get "pressed," firm tofu is usually pressed to release the extra liquid. This helps it retain its shape while cooking and make the recipe less "mushy." I place a heavy can on top of the tofu (see photo below) and let it drain onto a paper towel and plate for about 30 minutes. You can also slice it horizontally and drain it this way more quickly.

Browning: When browning tofu cubes such as for a stir fry, turn them very gently. I often use a long-handled fork to turn each individual piece, to insure they brown on every side. If your tofu cubes crumble, then you either didn't drain it enough or you're turning it too frequently or too rough (See photos below).

Refrigeration: Once tofu is opened (either kind) it must be refrigerated for a max of five days. It must be kept submerged in water during this time, and it's recommended that the water be changed daily.

Common uses: You name it, you can make it with tofu! From sauces to stir-fries, from smoothies to lasagnas, tofu can do it. You can even make desserts with tofu! It can act like a binding agent, replacing eggs in vegan recipes, as a filler as in stuffed vegetables or as a meat-replacement as in stir fries. The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More Soy "Food" Recipes

I chose to post recipes and information about soy "fake meat" items first, because I figured that people who are just transitioning to veganism or vegetarianism (or those just curious) would be most amenable to trying these foods. I actually don't prefer to use meat alternatives, hence the few recipes. Please post a comment and let me know what you have tried!

Here are some more recipes ideas for soy foods! Enjoy!

This is actually a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, for Scrambled Tofu. It rocks. However, the soy sausages are just the frozen variety...Fake Meat! Too real for me, but taste in the next photo...

Thyme-Scented White Bean Cassoulet, from Cooking Light magazine, October 2004 issue (Wow and yum! The "sausage" was so real, I almost had to pick it out! Without the sausage, this cassoulet wouldn't have been the same. Oh, and this is not the finished version. I forgot to take a photo of the final recipe before we scarfed it down!)

Soy "Foods" (Meat Alternatives)

Spicy Sloppy Joes, from Vegetarian Times magazine, March 2006 issue.

Pronunciation: (Depends on which food product! See the other posts, such as "tofu" or "temepeh" for individual pronunciations).

What is it? (How it's made): Processed soy foods are typically made in factories, although you can make some at home. They can be found in almost any meat-like variation you can imagine. There is "fake": bacon, ham, turkey (both sliced and "Tofurky" for Thanksgiving), bacon sprinkles, burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, ground beef, meatballs, sausage, chicken, chicken nuggets... It seems like new ones are created daily!

**N.B.- Not all fake meat products are made from soy! Some are made with vegetables, like these incredible portobello mushroom "meatballs" I had from Costco at a recent party.**

History: Interestingly enough, these meat analogs have been around longer than most would think. In China, faux meats were created with tofu and yuba over 1,00 years ago. Once again (see my tofu page and others for more Buddhist references), the Buddhists gave rise to these food items and Japan caught hold of the idea (probably in the 1400s) and created their own. In the U.S., the Seventh-Day Adventists are again credited with the creation of some of our first meat alternatives. In the early 1900s, several innovative people created faux meat products, though some were created from gluten, not soy.

Companies like White Wave have been making soy foods since the 1970s, and other companies since the early 1900s. They began creating these foods in response to raised consumer awareness of health issues such as cholesterol. Of course, it has been in the past twenty or so years that the "fake meat" products have really taken off, as vegetarianism has become more widely practiced in the United States. These food products have been popular in Asian countries for centuries!

Health benefits: Some of these products, like most processed foods, are high in sodium and other unnecessary things. They are best eaten in moderation (a couple times a week won't hurt, but every day would be overkill). There are so many other foods out there, it would be a shame to overdo these items. Otherwise, they are a convenient source of protein for vegetarians.

Myths and tips: "They won't taste anything like the real thing." Also, "They taste too much like the real thing!" Actually, these foods are touch and go in response to those myths. Some, like the sausage and ground beef style, taste eerily like the real thing (eerie for vegetarians, who might be trying to avoid the meat flavors/textures). Others, like the Tofurky and bacon only taste similar in minute ways.

Tip: These products are often pricy, not to mention high in sodium. Your best bet is to try a few out and find the types and brands that appeal to you. For instance, I really love Morningstar Farms' Spicy Black Bean burgers. They don't taste anything like real burgers but more like... well, a spicy bean pattie! I've also heard that Boca Burgers are the best alternative for meat-eaters, but I've found them to be chewy and not very authentic. Again, you should try out different brands to find your favorites. Read, "The Soy Daily," for more about the different types and brands.

Tip: Cooking times and procedures for these foods vary, but I have found that grilling the burgers and hot dogs tends to dry them out. Also, unlike traditional grillers, they only need a couple of minutes on the grill and thus tend to be burned by meat-grilling enthusiasts! These are much better in the microwave.

Common uses: The soy crumbles featured above are a great addition to chilis and stews. They were used in the above recipe for Sloppy Joes, and thoroughly enjoyed by my meat-eating husband! The fake sausages are good for breakfast food, but I prefer them cooked in other recipes, such as cassoulet. Most other fake meat food products can be used in the same way that their real counterpart would. Word to the wise vegetarians - try these on yourself before you go serving them to meat-eaters!

Add to this blog! Tell us which recipes you tried, how they turned out, and what you learned about soy meat alternatives!

Where's the Meat?

After years of patiently answering the question, "But where do you get your protein?" I thought it was high time that I do this site. It began as a project for graduate school that took on a life of its own. This is dedicated to all the vegans out there that are tired of trying to explain their eating lifestyle (more on that, later). Now they can just say, "go read the Where's the Meat? blog." Welcome to all foodies, whether omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan! I hope this site inspires you to try a new alternative to meat and opens your eyes to the many possibilities of vegan cooking!