Monday, November 26, 2012

International Food Stores

I love going home because my mom loves to cook just as much as I do. We end up spending all our time grocery shopping and cooking, often overwhelming ourselves with how many things we want to make.

It's that time of year when I run out of all the staple ingredients: flour, sugar etc. I was also running out of tahini and miso paste and lately have been on a hunt for finding cheap non-water packed tofu. I had heard that tahini is a whole lot cheaper if you buy it at an international food market. I mentioned all of this to mom and we decided to spend the day checking out all of the international food markets in the area.

We started the day (which happens to be a Sunday) off with a little tradition: Sushi Zushi for  $3 bloody marys and a roll of sushi. We didn't have too long of a list and really were just ready to explore what these foreign markets had to offer. The first two we went to were middle eastern markets. These stores had a lot of things we had never heard of and a lot of products I wanted to research. Lemon loony and rose water being two of the ones that stood out the most. We did find out that the rumor of cheap tahini is true. For all of you that love tahini, stop getting it at your average grocery store. We found a 32 oz jar for $6. Usually an 18 oz jar costs around that much. It doesn't matter if you only use tahini for hummus, because it will last for a long time in your pantry. If you keep up with a lot of my weird recipes you will notice I use tahini in a lot of vegan sauces. So good! We also ended up finding coconut milk for 99 cents and some cold pressed olive oil from Greece. The olive oil was a little pricey but after trying it i decided it definitely worth it. The best thing I found at the international food market was homemade while wheat pita bread. The best part, 6 pitas for $1.19 and they were so soft and tasty.

I was also searching high and low for some cheap tofu and was failing miserably. The international food markets didn't event sell water-packed. I figured I'd have moe success at an Asian market. So off we went tot this tiny Japanese market. Bingo. Tofu for $1. I am not sure the difference between water packed and not but I for some reason I was stuck on finding the non kind. We also were successful in finding cheap white miso and even found some dried seaweed to try.

Basically, if you are in the market for some international food and don't want to spend an arm and a leg it is best to go exploring. Whole foods is great, but it just doesn't cut it for this type of thing.

So now that we have gone on a shopping adventure mom and I have a long list of crazy dishes to tackle.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sweet Treats - Cupcakes

In October I spent two Saturday's in a row baking cupcakes. I usually don't bake but it was nice to make something sweet instead of savory. The first weekend I made vegan banana chai cupcakes and brought them to the Vegan Bake sale at Counter Culture, rumor is - the bake sale raised quite a bit of money for the Sara animal shelter. I also brought a couple to a halloween party I attended. The cupcakes got great reviews, I would giggle to myself and then tell everyone "guess what, they're vegan!"

 The recipe for the vegan banana chai cupcakes was one I have had for awhile, but I haven't made in a while because I really had no reason to. As much as I love sweets, I can't eat 24 cupcakes before they go bad.

The vegan banana chai cupcakes comes from Key Lime Pie Kitchen. I haven't checked out this blog recently though, I'll have to put that on my to-do list.

As most people know, baking usually needs to be precise, so I (for once) followed this recipe to the "T."

Vegan Chai Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger ( I used fresh grated)
2/3 cup canola oil ( you can also substitute coconut oil for this)
1 1/3 cups soymilk (almond)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 medium bananas (make sure they are pretty ripe so they are easy to mash)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with paper liners. 
In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. 
In another bowl combine oil, milk, vanilla and mashed banana. I recommend putting the banana in the bowl first and mashing it before adding the other liquid ingredients. 
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Stir till combined, but try to not over mix. Fill the cupcake tins 2/3 full and put in the oven for 18 minutes. 
I had a lot of leftover batter so I made mini cupcakes - these went in the oven for a little bit shorter time. I just kept checking with a toothpick until it came out clean, about 10-15 minutes. 
Cinnamon- Chocolate Frosting: 
1/2 cup vegan margarine (I used a coconut spread)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
Powdered Sugar
Almond Milk (or soy, rice, etc)
1 tsp vanilla extract
With an electric mixer beat together the margarine, coca powder cinnamon and salt. Starting with 1 cup of powdered sugar, start pouring 1/2 cup in slowly while mixing. Then add a splash of the milk. Repeat this until the frosting is thick. It will take a lot more powdered sugar than you would expect. 
Once the cupcakes are cool, add the frosting. Then eat them and share with your friends. 
Frosting cupcakes is one of my least favorite things, the frosting gets everywhere and you keep having to lick your fingers (ok I'm not complaining about that). Seriously, frosting gets messy. When it came time to make cupcakes for my friends birthday I came across for a recipe called "self-frosting nutella cupcakes." My friend loves nutella, so it was perfect!
(Not perfect, but i'll explain when I get there)

These are easy cupcakes you can make with few ingredients and not a lot of time.  You can easily make these cupcakes vegan as well, I just didn't want to try anything because they were for my non-vegan friend and I was in a hurry. So they were half vegan. :)

1/4 cup butter (The coconut spread I used for the other cupcakes)
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325 and line muffin tins with paper liners. Combine the butter, oil and sugar in a bowl and beat till light and foamyish. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add it to the wet ingredients. Beat on a low speed until just combined. The original recipe did not include the milk. When I combined all the ingredients the mix seemed really thick so I decided to add milk to make it a bit thinner.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. Next put some nutella in a bowl and put it in the microwave for 10 seconds. (this will make the nutella soft so that you can make swirls in the batter).
Plop a spoonfull of the nutella into each cup of batter and then swirl with a toothpick, bamboo stick or knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cupcakes are springy to the touch.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's all about the {veggiestyle} BBQ in Texas

Texas is all about the BBQ and it makes it gets difficult when I am craving some good ol Rudy's BBQ sauce but all I can put it on is a baked potato (lame). So when I came across this amazing looking recipe for tofu in pineapple BBQ sauce, I couldn't wait to give it a try.

Tofu BBQ over rice
The unfortunate part is that I have been so busy lately (especially in the evenings) that I don't have time to even throw everything in a crock pit and let it do it's own thing for 8 hours. Seriously, it's ridiculous. So for the time being I decided to just make the barbeque sauce and cook it all in the oven.

The key to this recipe is freezing the tofu. I never thought about doing this before, but it really changes the texture... I now want to stock my fridge with tofu so that's it's there any time I need it.
Defrosting the tofu is the only part that was time consuming.

The original recipe came from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and it is excellent. Next time I will have to try it in the slow cooker.

Start by freezing 2 14-16 oz packages of Hard/Firm tofu for 24 hours. The best way to do this is to drain the liquid out and then put the tofu in a freezer baggie. When it comes to defrosting the tofu, I recommend just using the microwave until the tofu is all the way (or mostly soft) all the way through. If it's not all the way soft in the middle, you can slice the tofu and put it in a hot water bath for a bit.
Look at all this garlic

Pre-heat the oven to 350 while making the sauce.

BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 large onion, chopped (I used white)
  • 8 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates (about 2.5 ounces) << Prunes can be substituted 
  • 1 1/2 cup crushed pineapple in own juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 inches ginger-root, peeled and minced (about 3 tablespoons minced)
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or lite soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • generous grating of black pepper
  • Salt, (optional), to taste
Sauté the onion on medium high heat until most of the onion starts to brown, then add the garlic - the garlic doesn't have to be super finely minced. Put the onion and garlic in a blender (my blender produced a smoother sauce than than my food processor) and add the rest of the ingredients besides the tofu.  Blend the ingredients until the sauce is at the consistency you want. 

Slice the tofu into bite-sized squares and put into a oiled or greased baking dish. Cover the tofu with the BBQ sauce. It will seem like a lot of sauce, but use all of it. Put the dish with the tofu and bbq sauce in the oven covered for 30 mins. When I made this dish I didn't have foil, so I just used a cookie sheet to cover my dish. After 30 minutes, uncover the dish and cook for 20 more minutes. 

Tofu BBQ taco with sliced roasted brusseles sprouts
This recipe made a lot of servings, especially for a single lady like myself. So I did a lot of different things with it. I ate it with rice, by itself, on corn tortillas as tacos, with roasted brussels sprouts. It was good no matter how I tried it. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sweet Potato & Black Bean {veggiestyle} Empanadas

Ever heard of putting black beans and sweet potatoes together in one dish? Probably not. This combination may sound strange, but it is definitely one I will never forget. Previously I have made sweet potato black bean tacos, super easy, super delicious. This time however, an idea sparked, from a commercial nonetheless. Have you seen that Grand's biscuit commercial where they basically show you how to make "unsloppy joes?" From the look of it, they just made an easy american version empanada type dish. I began to wonder what veggie options I could use.  I eventually decided on the sweet potato bean mixture... here's how it goes

Grand's Biscuit Sweet Potato & Black Bean veggiestyle Empanada's 

  • 1/2 medium white onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 medium sweet potato cubed (pretty small)
  • 1 pkg Grand's biscuits (I used their whole wheat version)
Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add olive oil. Throw in the chopped onions and cook till fragrant. While the onion is heating, bring a pot of water to a boil and cube the sweet potato. Boil the cubed sweet potato until soft enough to mash.

 Add the tablespoon tomato paste and stir. Once well combined, add beans continue to stir. Add the water (I added a little less than 1/3 cup and added some Zing-Zang Bloody Mary mix to fufill the 1/3 cup).  Stir and let sit on low heat for a bit while you flatten out the biscuits.

Remove the biscuits from the package and flatten them. Make sure they are big enough to have a filling in them but not too thin.  I don't think I flattened mine enough, because when they came out of the oven they were a little doughy for my taste.

By this time, your sweet potatoes should be soft enough to mash. Drain the water and mash them in the pot you boiled them in. You might save some of the water, just in case they need to be a little softer. Once they are mashed, add them to the beans and mix well. 

Now you get to fill the flatten biscuits. Use about a tablespoon of the sweet potato black bean mixture and place the mix close to the middle but also to one side of the flattened biscuit. Fold over and seal the edges, you can also use a fork to help seal down the edges. 

Throw those babies in the oven and let them cook for about 10 minutes or until they start to brown.

Since mine turned out kind of doughy I added a little leftover sweet potato, black bean mixture on the top!

I also made two with a banana-nutella mixture. YUM! One package of biscuits makes eight empanadas. I plan on freezing a couple for a later date. 

You can literally put anything in these flatten biscuit, makeshift empanada things, super easy and cheap!!