Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spicy Braised Tofu/Week 1 Review

Happy Easter! After a very exciting weekend of entertaining family, we didn't really feel up to cooking tonight. Our restaurant options are severely limited with our new diet. Lucky for us... Maia and Cecily LOVE sushi! With today's gorgeous weather, we figured sushi take-out in our backyard would be a lovely ending to the weekend. Much to our dismay, and even more to the girls', the Sushi restaurant turned out to be closed for the holiday. Boo! Fortunately, we had all the ingredients for Spicy Braised Tofu, a favorite of mine from childhood. My parents have made it for the girls on numerous occasions- I cannot stress how much they love it. Tonight was no exception- both kids ate HUGE bowls of it. I doubled the recipe and served it with brown rice, and there were no leftovers. I also chopped up some broccoli and added it to the tofu and sauce just a few minutes prior to serving- it was well received by everyone.

We've officially completed seven days of our dairy-free vegetarian diet. We are honestly awed by what a success it is. Maia really seems like a different kid these days- physically, she looks so different! Her color is amazing- her skin tone is healthy, her cheeks have some color, and she just looks vibrant to us! Her energy level is also incredible- we went for a long walk on a beautiful beach yesterday afternoon- she did not complain once. We couldn't believe it! We're excited to keep it up!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Veggie Matzo Ball Soup and Challah

For Wednesday's dinner, I decided to try a vegetarian version of Matzo Ball Soup and Challah. (A wonderful friend recently gave me a lesson in Challah. My husband and kids LOVE it, and it's become a regular staple in our home. I often make it on Fridays, and we have it as our afternoon snack with a smoothie. I was experimenting with dairy Challah, using milk and butter, but we're back to the non-dairy version that is equally delicious.) The soup recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. The soup was delicious; everyone in our family gave it two thumbs up. I think the secret is taking the time to make the Mock Chicken Stock, though I have no idea if it actually tastes like chicken stock- I just know it's flavorful and yummy. (I did this on Tuesday afternoon while I was making dinner for that night.)

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Balls
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
2 Tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup matzo meal (I used Whole Wheat matzo meal)

Soup Broth
3 Tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 cups Mock Chicken Stock (recipe follows)
4 cups water

Matzo Ball Cooking Liquid
4 cups Mock Chicken Stock (recipe follows)
6 cups water

5 scallions, minced (I forgot to get these at the store)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (forgot this as well)
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 - 3 tsp soy sauce, or to taste

Whisk together all of the matzo ball ingredients, adding the matzo meal last. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 mins or overnight.

Warm the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, garlic, salt, thyme, dill, and pepper. Cover and saute on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown, 10 - 15 minutes. Add the stock and water and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 mins.

Bring the ingredients for the matzo ball cooking liquid to a simmer in a large pot. Roll the matzo dough into Tbsp-sized balls, and drop carefully into simmering broth using all the dough. Cover the pot and simmer for 35 - 40 mins, until balls are firm, tender, and heated through.

To serve, sprinkle some chopped scallions and parsley and a few drops of sesame oil and soy sauce in the bottom of individual soup bowls. Remove matzo bowls from their cooking liquid and place a few in each bowl. Ladle in the hot soup broth and serve immediately. (My husband got home late and just reheated his complete soup in the microwave- it was just as delicious.)

Mock Chicken Stock

14 cups water
7 cups chopped onions
4 cups chopped celery
4 cups peeled and chopped carrots
4 potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
2 heads of garlic, broken apart (no need to peel cloves)
5 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 bunch of fresh parsley (I forgot the parsley)

(The veggies only need to be roughly chopped, no need to spend much time on them.)

Put the water in to a large stockpot on high heat. Add the vegetables to the pot, then stir in the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, turmeric, salt, and parsley. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 15 mins. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Set aside to cool and then strain. The stock can be used right away, refrigerated for 4 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. This makes about 8 - 10 cups. (I used 8 cups for the matzo ball soup and still have enough stock left for another soup recipe.)

Sweet 'n Sour Lentils

For Tuesday's dinner, I decided to make an old favorite from when I was a kid: Sweet 'n Sour Lentils. I couldn't find a recipe at home, so I looked for one online. I used this one I found through a Google search: Sweet and Sour Lentils. I served the lentils with brown rice. My husband was a bit wary when he saw the dinner, but loved it, as did I. The kids... I went a little light on the honey (I doubled the recipe and used 8 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar but only 7 Tbsp of honey). Next time, I'll add a little extra honey to the kids' and I think they'll be much more inclined to eat it. Cecily ate more than half her serving, Maia was a bit of a struggle but she did eat enough by our standards.

Seitan Stir Fry with Ginger Soy Sauce

Monday was our first Veganish day, and it went pretty well. I packed a special snack for Maia to take to school (dairy-free carrot bread), but we were happy to discover that the friend bringing snack for the class brought something she could eat (sun butter and jelly sandwiches). For dinner, I made a favorite- Seitan Stir Fry. We eat a fair amount of soy and tofu, so I like to mix things up a big with other yummy protein choices. My kids LOVE seitan, so until we find out Maia can't have wheat (we're hoping to never find this out!) it will be a staple in our house.

Seitan Stir Fry
A mix of veggies chopped into bite size pieces (I used broccoli, carrots, peppers, a leek, snow peas, zucchini, mushrooms, kale, and asparagus)
1 package seitan (found in the tofu section at my Whole Foods)

Warm oil in a wok or large saute pan, add all veggies and seitan and cook until they almost reach desired tenderness. Add ginger soy sauce a cook a few minutes more until sauce is heated. Serve over quinoa, brown rice, barley, etc., etc.

Ginger Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce (I use reduced sodium wheat-free Tamari)
1 Tbsp Grated Ginger (adjust according to taste)
Mix all the ingredients together. (I start with one batch and double it depending on how large a stir-fry I'm making.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Adventure

I was doing an okay job of cooking and blogging through the summer... and then we went on vacation and school started. And, well, it was impossible to get it all done. I kept cooking but couldn't find any time for writing about it. We're starting a new culinary/dietary adventure, and I'm going to try writing about it- I'm looking for motivation and inspiration!

Our older daughter, Maia, is 4 1/2. Over the years, she's had many respiratory issues from mild colds to three bouts of pneumonia. As a baby, she definitely showed symptoms of a dairy sensitivity, if not an outright allergy. Our pediatrician didn't think so, but we saw a number of alternative health practitioners (mostly acupuncturists) who thought her symptoms clearly pointed in that direction. We took her off dairy for about 3 months and it made a huge difference. We very gradually reintroduced it, and she seemed to handle it fine. Not wanting to live without cheese ourselves, we didn't and continued eating dairy, though we were careful and very cautious about introducing it to our younger daughter.

Maia is now being diagnosed with a mild case of asthma. When she does get a cold, she gets an incredibly awful cough that lasts for many, many weeks and keeps her from sleeping, playing normally, etc. (It's worse at night and when she's active.) We've also noticed that her energy has been very low lately. We've been giving her asthma treatments for 4 days now (pulmicort and albuterol via a nebulizer), and they have made a huge difference in treating the cough. (We see the doctor for a follow up today, and it's likely the diagnosis of asthma will be made at this appointment.) We, don't, however like the short and long term side effects of these medications, and are interested in seeing if there are other ways we can manage the asthma or even eliminate it.

We did lots of research over the weekend and kept coming across recommendations to remove dairy from the diet of someone who suffers from both asthma and/or frequent respiratory illnesses. (There's a duel going on in theories of asthma and the influence of dairy on it- one theory believes that dairy increases mucus production which affects the lungs which causes an increase in asthmatic symptoms. A second theory believes that asthma itself is a symptom of a dairy allergy. Both theories agree that removing dairy from the diet can alleviate most symptoms of asthma, if not remove them entirely.) Given Maia's history with dairy, this seems a logical place for our to start. So... we are now a mostly Vegan family. (I say mostly because we will continue to eat some eggs as well as honey.) Our biggest challenge is giving up cheese. We all love it, and it has made up a huge part of our diet (the reason we didn't give dairy up entirely in the first place!) I've ordered a number of highly recommended vegan cookbooks and am anxiously awaiting their arrival. I'm also trying to find a reasonable yogurt replacement. We already consume a good amount of soy, and I don't want this to significantly increase. We tried coconut yogurt in the vanilla flavor- not a huge hit, but better received when I mixed in some Gorilla Munch. I'm going to get some more flavors today and see how those are tolerated. For tonight's dinner I'm going to make Sweet 'n Sour lentils. I remember loving it as a kid, and am hopeful Maia and Cecily will have a similar feeling. We'll see...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Peach Blueberry Cake

We've had lots of blueberries and peaches in the last week or two.  When I was a kid, my mom made a delicious Blueberry Peach Kuchen (a german cake).  I searched for a recipe, but couldn't find what I thought I was looking for (and my Mom was away, so I couldn't call and get the recipe from her).  I found one for a Peach Blueberry Cake on Epicurious that sounded delicious and got great reviews.  We made it and it was fabulous!  (I was a little skeptical of how long the recipe listed for a bake time- 1 hour and 45 mins, but it really did need that long!)  I made another version yesterday using whole wheat for the crust and adding in cherries.  The cherries were great, the whole wheat crust not so much.  It was fine... and if I'd had that first I might not have minded, but in comparison to the crust with only all-purpose flour, well... it just didn't compare.  All in all, a great summer dessert we highly recommend!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Corn Fritters with Aged Cheddar and Arugula

I started this blog with partial hopes for it helping me to reduce my spending on groceries.  I wanted to track what we were spending and where we were spending it, and then figure out ways to reduce it.  In the midst of this, I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Both are wonderful, thought-provoking books. They've made me realize that there is nothing more important that I could spend our money on than the food that feeds and nourishes our family.  They've also given me some context for thinking about where our food comes from- where and how it is grown, how it is transported, how it is handled, etc.  I'm now trying to purchase as much of our food as possible from local sources, talking to the farmers who grow our vegetables, seeing the chickens that lay our eggs, putting money back into the community in which we live.  I'm also trying to make sure I use everything we buy, and hope this will be where I will be able to save some money.

With our new hopes for food, I purchased two new cookbooks in the last week.  Both are by Deborah Madison, a favorite cookbook author of mine.  Local Flavors approaches cooking from a seasonal perspective- the recipes are organized around what you would likely be able to find at a Farmer's Market around the same time.  Vegetarian Suppers is a lovely book of fairly quick vegetarian dinners that can be made on a weeknight when time might be shorter.  We made our first meal from Local Flavors last night and it was fabulous!

Corn Fritters with Aged Cheddar and Arugula from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

6 ears sweet corn, enough to yield 3 cups kernels (from our local CSA)
2 eggs, beaten (from a local farm's free range, pasture fed Chickens)
4 scallions, finely sliced (from our local CSA)
1/2 cup chopped parsley (from our local CSA)
2 Tbsp shredded basil or dill 
1 cup grated or crumbled cheese (aged cheddar, goat cheese, feta, swiss, gouda, jack, etc.)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
unsalted butter or oil for frying
3 handfuls arugula, stems trimmed (from our local CSA)

1.  Slice the tops of the kernels off the corn, then reverse your knife and press out the milk.  Mix the kernels and scrapings with the eggs, scallions, herbs, cheese, and as much flour as can easily be absorbed.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and some pepper.

2.  Melt enough butter or heat enough oil to cover a wide skilled generously.  Divide the batter roughly into sixths and drop into the skillet.  Fry over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes, then turn and brown the second side.

3.  Place a fritter on each of 6 plates and top with the arugula leaves (we thought our fritters were too pretty to be under the arugula, so we put them on top).  Serve right away.

This was pretty quick and easy, and delicious!  We were thrilled to have leftovers and gobbled them up for lunch today.