Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dinner Last Night

Music: My Austen film soundtracks' playlist on iTunes

Our quick dinner last night included barbecue-flavored tofu, fresh raw salad, and a grain pilaf dish. To make the tofu, take 1/2 lb of extra firm tofu, cut it in either slices or cubes. In a large lightly oiled saucepan, add the tofu and lots of your favorite barbecue sauce. I like Stubb's Spicy Bar-B-Q Sauce because I recognize all of the ingredients and it's nice and spicy like I like it. Cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, turning the tofu until it's lightly browned. Serve hot.

Here's the delicious grain pilaf I served with it; it's so quick and also nutritious. Try it instead the next time you want a rice dish.

Millet-Quinoa Pilaf
(from Dreena Burton's Vive Le Vegan!)

1/2 C millet
1/2 C quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1/4-1/2 C)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/3 C water

In a sieve, rinse the millet & quinoa well and drain. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add quinoa & millet and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often. When grains are dry, reduce heat to low, add the olive oil, onion, and sea salt. Cover & let cook a few minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered 5 minutes.

Fluff with a fork and serve. If water isn't completely absorbed, continue to heat on low or let sit a few minutes more. At this point, feel free to add other ingredients for more texture such as 1/4 C of dried cranberries, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or hemp seed nuts.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dill Dip

Music: Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns

One of my favorite dips has always been creamy dill dip. Next to onion dip that is. When I used to work at the St. Clair Shores Public Library in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, there was an amazing little library cafe (called The Galley Cafe in keeping with its lakeside location) that served up not only coffee but also homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches. And not just any old cafe stuff either but very unique and one-of-a-kind meals on a menu that changed weekly. It was the first time I saw dill dip used as a sandwich spread (in lieu of mayonnaise or mustard) and I quickly adopted the idea in my own kitchen. I used to buy it weekly in the summertime from the local grocery store's deli section. Then I became vegan and thought I couldn't have it anymore. Until now.


1/2 C vegan sour cream (such as Tofutti brand)
1/2 C Vegenaise
2 1/4 tbsp fresh dill (or 3/4 tbsp dried)
3/4 tbsp fresh parsley (or 1/4 tbsp dried)
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tbsp minced onion (I used green onions)

Stir all together in a bowl until well blended; let chill to enhance flavors. Enjoy as a dip with your favorite raw vegetables or use as a sandwich spread with crisp sliced radishes, cucumbers, sweet onions, avocado, greens, thick slices of tomatoes...whatever suits your fancy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Soup of the Week

Music: Journey on shuffle on my iPod

This week's soup has the spicy flavor of herbs and spices with the added texture of rice. Instead of the wild rice called for in the original recipe (which I don't always have in my pantry), I used long grain brown rice instead and it works wonderfully. Also, instead of blending the soup as the recipe suggests, I preferred a broth-like soup. But feel free to blend it to make it creamier if you like it that way.

One Wild Chick Soup
adapted from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced (her recipe called for 1 1/2 C of red onion, which would add a stronger flavor but look prettier)
3 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C uncooked long grain brown rice, well rinsed
1/4 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste (I like it spicy!)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 ground sage
1 14-oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
6 C water
2 vegan bouillon cubes
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

In a large soup pot, heat oil and add onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rice, and all spices, stirring to combine. Cover and let cook about 5-6 minutes, stirring a few times. Add chickpeas, water, and bouillon cubes and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer 40-50 minutes until rice is fully cooked and split so that you can see the inner grain. Remove from heat. If desired, blend with a hand blender, then season to taste with more salt and pepper.

This recipe makes a lot so feel free to freeze some of it if you don't think you will eat it all within three or four days.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So...What About Exercise?

Music: R & B on shuffle in iTunes

Today's smoothie: parsley, frozen strawberries, avocado, banana

Let me preface this post by saying that I've never been into team sports; I'm one of those people who have bad memories of waiting to be picked in gym class for kickball or volleyball. Oh, the dread. And, while I loved swimming, I was too chicken to go out for my school's swim team. But, growing up, from about age four, I took ballet until I was sixteen at both Pamela's School of Dance in Dearborn and the Rochester School of Ballet in Rochester. Needless to say, I wasn't a natural, however, I did learn some key things for which I'm forever grateful: discipline, grace, good posture, flexibility, and a deep love and appreciation for the arts, especially ballet and classical music (thanks, Mom!).

Anyone who has ever taken ballet knows how strenuous it is on the body. I was fortunate to never have injured myself but soreness and calloused feet were the norm. But the flexibility has stayed with me because I continue to practice daily yoga.

About twenty years ago, I took my first yoga class through Rochester Community Education with instructor Mariana Smith. She was wonderful; patient, attentive, and very knowledgeable. Her voice was soothing as she walked around the softly lit room (complete with meditative music playing in the background) during practice to correct here and there and offer alternative poses for those with knee or neck problems. Later, I took another class with a different instructor who did not do any of these things and I could see how some people could hurt themselves doing yoga.

I no longer take regular yoga classes (due to mostly expense and the fact that I prefer to do it solo) but I am thinking of taking the occasional class. I really need a new yoga mat, though; I'm currently using the same rug mat I've used since I started yoga and it has holes in it and is flaking onto my wood floors. Very bad. I'd be embarrassed to bring it to a class. I'm just worried about buying an expensive mat (they run between $45-65) and then having it be slippery.

Besides yoga, which I sometimes do twice per day (being underemployed such as I am), I walk for 30-45 minutes a day when the weather is nice. For me, that means over 40 degrees and sunny without any wind. I'm a big wimp about feeling cold. Here in Pittsburgh, the hilly streets create quite the workout to get the heart rate going.

Finally, I meditate every evening before I go to sleep for about 15-20 minutes. The best focusing technique for me is to picture the color white: white sand, white snow, white bright sun. Usually, at the beginning of a session, the white is smudged with lots of colors and, in my mind, I try to smooth white into my images. The more white, the deeper I'm getting into my meditation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tofu Rancheros

Music: Todd Rundgren on shuffle on my iPod

Last summer, while living with my parents, my mom tried tofu for the first time. She used to be a big cook so she is always curious about kitchen techniques and new recipes and, since she's not used to cooking vegan, she was usually poking around the kitchen while Jim and I were whipping up our meals.

So when she tried it I asked her what she thought. She said, "tastes and looks like eggs." That's why firm tofu is perfect for making these tofu rancheros. I looked at several recipes in my cookbooks, and came up with this on my own based on what I had in the fridge. Rolled up in Jim's homemade tortillas, they were delicious with some sauteed zucchini.

1/2 lb. (or 1/2 the package) of a 14-16-oz package of firm or extra firm tofu, crumbled (after drying it well, I just smash it with a fork in a mixing bowl until it's crumbly)
1/2 C salsa (or enough to make the mixture moist)
chopped veggies of your choice (I used onions, green pepper, jalapeno)
1/2 tbsp oil (just enough to lightly coat the pan)

In a nonstick fry pan, saute all veggies in the oil on medium heat until onions are translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add tofu and salsa and cook until lightly browned, about 3-5 more minutes. Add more salsa so it doesn't dry out. Serve hot.

Alternatively, I used the other 1/2 of the tofu package with some soy chorizo (instead of salsa) and veggies a few days later. Just as good and very spicy.