Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Tofurky Breakfast Links (vegan)


Tofurkey Breakfast Links packaging
 Sausage is one of those things from my pre-vegetarian days that I really enjoyed a lot. I've made my own sausages, and I've had Morningstar Farms and quite liked the taste and texture, but it was time to try something completely vegan, so I picked up a package of Tofurky Breakfast Links for about $4.25.

The recommended preparation: "Cut diagonally into 3/4" slices or cut down the middle lengthwise and pan fry until golden brown." So... that's what I did, as you can see. I coated the pan with a little non-stick spray and used medium-high heat. They looked quite attractive.

Time for a bite. The texture was a bit soft and spongy - not surprising as the primary ingredients are water, vital wheat gluten, canola oil, and tofu. I would like a little firmer texture, but they were acceptable. Next time I might use slightly more oil in the pan and crisp them up a little more.

Prepared per package suggestion

On seeing the flecks of black pepper and red pepper, I wondered how spicy they would be - but not to fear, they were somewhere between mild and medium. (My five-year-old said, "Mommy, the reason I don't like these is I need to take a drink every bite. They're too spicy." But she's also at a very picky stage in her food life.)

After the first link, I ate the next one wrapped up in a piece of toast with sweet & spicy mustard. Lovely! The mustard really complimented the seasoning in the sausage.

The links are sizeable for breakfast, about the size of a traditional hot dog. They'd be a nice alternative to veggie dogs on the grill. I'd think like them with grilled onions or kraut.

Nutrition commentary: 4g of fiber, yay! 11g of protein, yay! Too bad they don't reduce the sodium content.

Nutrition info per link, from the packaging:

Size: 1.6 oz. (5 per package)
Calories: 130
Fat cal: 50
Total fat: 6g
Sat fat, trans fat, & cholesterol: 0g
Sodium: 330mg (14%DV)
Total carb: 6g
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 11g
Vitamin A, Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 2%
Iron: 4%

Bottom line: I would buy them again if they were on sale, or if I was having omni guests, as they have the traditional look of sausages. On the other hand, I can (and have), made my own sausages which are just as tasty, for less money. But if convenience is a factor for you, these are definitely worth trying.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Maggie's Vegetarian Cafe, Lincoln, NE

I had occasion to travel to Lincoln, NE, today to drop my daughter off with her father. (Must confess it isn't my favorite reason to travel, but I mitigated it somewhat by turning it into a ReallyQuiteTasty roadtrip.) I tried out HappyCow.net's mobile app to maneuver my way to Maggie's Vegetarian Cafe. Maggie's features a small menu of wraps, soups, salads, and select entrees with an emphasis on local/seasonal foods.

First, I was surprised at how small the indoor seating area was, but it had a cheery shade of green on the walls and was attractive while avoiding being either overly kitchy or hipsterish. My friend and I ordered at the window and then sat down. (Be prepared - Maggie's does not accept credit/debit/atm cards.)

I really wish the person behind the counter would have smiled. She seemed bored.

The food was fine - not amazing, but certainly sufficient. I had the Un-Fried Falafel wrap. (There are three other vegan wraps on the menu, including Curried Tofu, Baked Tofu, and Spicy Hummus.) The falafel was tangy and seasoned nicely and I couldn't find any fault with it (nor anything that made it stand out). I did appreciate that it wasn't oily or greasy at all, so I liked the un-fried-ness of it.

My friend ordered a garden salad with toasted sesame dressing, hold the onions and tomatoes (heresy, I say!). Though my friend likes sesame, he said the dressing on the salad was overwhelming. However, I really like sesame and enjoyed the dressing quite a bit - it's a matter of taste, I suppose.

For my almost-kindergartener daughter, I ordered the peanut butter/banana smoothie. The flavors were distinct (yup, definitely peanut butter and banana), the consistency was good, and I appreciated that it wasn't overly sweet. My daughter, who lives on sunlight and carrots, pronounced that it was OK. That's pretty high praise from her!

Something I enjoyed were the posters showing the producers/growers/artisan suppliers - nice touch. Overall, a nice experience and I'm sure I will return again... but not before checking out other vegetarian/veg-friendly spots.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Like Vegetables

Shhh, I'm memorizing this, so I can bust into a verse and chorus at a time of my choosing.

Creamy Coconut Pie. (I said "PIE!")

Creamy Coconut Pie
You have got to try this pie.

This is the first time I made this recipe. When I finally tried a slice (it was hard to wait long enough to let it chill!), it was like a coconut was making love to my mouth. The filling reminded me of sweetened condensed milk. If you've always been vegan or non-dairy and you don't know what sweetened condensed milk is... well, it's like this stuff. If you have friends who have never had tofu or are avowed tofu-haters, make this pie for them. (Unless they're allergic to soy, of course. That would just be mean.) Don't tell them what's in it until later - they'll probably ask you how you made this amazing thing, anyway. See more commentary following the recipe.

Creamy Coconut Pie [From How it all Vegan! Irresistible recipes for an animal-free diet, by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer.]

Classically creamy and light as a cloud, this is the kind of pie dreams are made of.

2 cups soft tofu
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups dry sweetener [white sugar, turbinado, sucanat, whatever...]
2 1/4 cups coconut, shredded
1 graham cracker pie crust (p. 151 [of How It All Vegan!])

Preheat oven to 350F. In a blender or food processor, blend together the tofu, oil, vanilla, salt, and sweetener. Pour into a large bowl and fold in 2 cups of the coconut. Pour into a graham cracker pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut on top and bake for another 10 minutes, until filling looks set and centre is firm. Serve chilled.

What I used:
• Tofu: Mori-Nu light firm silken tofu
• Oil: Peanut oil, as I thought it would be light tasting for desserts.
• Sweetener: Yes, I used white sugar. I hardly ever do this, but it was a dessert, I splurged. The pie was very sweet. Frankly, I enjoyed it, but some people might want to reduce the sugar to 1 cup.
• Coconut: Unsweetened, raw coconut flakes. Wow, am I glad I used unsweetened coconut.
• Graham cracker pie crust - I made my own ahead and made sure it was cool before using it. "Comment" me below if you want the recipe, it was awesome and easy.

A slice of coconutty love

What I did:
I used a food processor for the blending; and when I added the oil, I streamed it slowly into the processor so it really incorporated. You want this to really process/blend, so it's smooooooooth and the sugar dissolves and there aren't any tofu-y lumps. I suggest scraping the sides down at least once, because when you first start up the food processor or blender, some pieces of tofu will probably go flying and stick to the sides.

When I sampled the filling, I'm pretty sure my eyes rolled to the back of my head. I did add 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice - not part of the original recipe - to mitigate the very slight tofu taste, and it worked great.

I had to cook the pie longer than the total of 25 minutes... it was closer to about 35 minutes until I felt the center was beginning to set. Next time - and there will definitely be a next time - I will cook it for about 20-25 minutes and then add the coconut topping and return it to the oven for the second bake.

It's like manna. Seriously.
Some day soon, I’m going to try making this in an 8x8 or 9x13 pan, with a thicker graham cracker crust. I will probably fold in some almonds or walnuts or pecans, and I might even try adding lemon or lime juice, but the pie – as a pie – is really quite tasty!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Quick Sweet Potato & Rosemary Pizza

This isn't really a recipe (no exact proportions) as much as an idea. I'd been craving sweet potato and rosemary pizza, and if you've ever tried it, you'll know why. If you've never tried it before, you must. Here's what I did - I had one medium sized sweet potato, and it made three flatbread pizzas. Don't skip the rosemary, pepper, or olive oil - they add a lot of fragarance and flavor. I'm sure you could use whatever crust you wanted or make your own. But with flatbreads (pitas, wraps, whatever), it's really easy, and really fast... and of course, really quite tasty. [EDIT: I have just learned from the company that Flatout breads are not vegan; wanted you to know.]


Ingredients:
Flatout Flatbread Healthy Grain Multi-Grain with Flax
Extra firm water packed tofu
Sweet potato, raw
Daiya mozzarella style shreds
Rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar or balsamic syrup

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 375F. Press the water out of the tofu and slice it as thinly as possible. With a vegetable peeler, peel the sweet potato into strips/slices. On each flatbread, sprinkle a little Daiya, then arrange the tofu and sweet potato slices on top. Sprinkle with more Daiya, rosemary, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar, and bake until crust is starting to crisp and the Daiya is melty. (I baked two of them on an extra large pizza pan, side-by-side; the third one I baked right on the rack - each way worked fine, I just had to watch them.)

I ate two of them, by myself, because they were so good. Oops. (Oh well, with the Flatouts, at least they weren't all that calorie-laden!)


What are your favorite vegetarian/vegan pizza toppings? What's the most unusual thing you've had on pizza?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orange Greens & Mushrooms served with Blackened Tempeh

Orange Greens & Mushrooms w/Blackened Tempeh
I had a big mess of fresh greens leftover from making Jana’s Spring Garden Soup. The greens were still crisp, as I had wrapped them in a damp paper towel and placed them in a loose produce bag in the fridge, but I wanted to use them up before they got limp, so here’s what I improvised. You can start with a LOT of greens because they’ll cook down. I had a very large colander full. Sorry to admit, I ate the whole lot in one sitting.

Ingredients for the greens:
1-3 TBS olive oil
2-6 garlic cloves, depending on your love for garlic, and the amount of greens you’re using
1/2 to 1 entire onion (yellow, white, or red)
4 to 8 oz. mushrooms (I used white – you could get fancier with this)
Fresh greens: kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, whatever
1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable base, bouillon, or strong stock
1 orange
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Ingredients for the tempeh:
1 block of tempeh – whatever kind you like
1-2 TBS olive oil
“Blackened” seasoning to your liking

Preparation:
Clean, dry, and chop the greens roughly and set aside. (I recommend taking out the spine of the kale and the collard greens.) Separate the onions into rings, or half-rings and set aside. Roughly chop the garlic. Slice the mushrooms fairly thick. Zest half of the orange, reserving the zest and that half of the orange (slice the other half of the orange for garnish). Slice the tempeh into 1/4” thick slabs.

Directions:
In a very large skillet (or heavy soup pot - you'll need a lid for either) heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat (...without the lid... unless you want a fire). Sautee the onions, mushrooms, and garlic until the onions start to turn translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the greens and vegetable base/bouillon/stock. Cover and reduce heat to simmer; simmer until the greens are not quite tender.

While the greens are simmering, heat a medium-sized nonstick skillet on medium to medium-high. Brush the tempeh slices with olive oil and sprinkle with blackened seasoning on both sides. Put them in the skillet and cook until browned, checking that they don’t burn, while finishing the next steps.

Remove the lid on the greens, increase heat to medium, and add the orange zest and a good squeeze of the half that you zested. Add salt & pepper, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced and the greens are as done as you would like. Plate it, garnish it, serve it, and enjoy it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Indian Cauliflower Curry Recipe


Cauliflower Curry

I was in the mood for curry, but don’t have garam masala on hand. When I came across this recipe, I had to try it. (http://bit.ly/9c2Kss) I already had all the spices on hand, and fresh ginger – perhaps you do, too? I liked that it didn’t call for anything too exotic, and the description said “This authentic Indian curry recipe is both vegetarian and vegan.” Well, I’m all for authentic.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp peanuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
1 cauliflower, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation:

In a blender or food processor, grind together the ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts, garlic, spices and water. Sautee the onions in vegetable oil over medium high heat about 3-5 minutes, or until onions turn clear. Add cauliflower and spices mixture and cover. Allow to cook another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until cauliflower is almost done. Add lemon juice and allow to cook for 3 more minutes. Enjoy!

I have a two-cup food processor which I thought would be great for making the spice mixture. I ended up having to add some liquid to actually get the stuff to grind. I added another TBS of water and 1 TBS of olive oil. It did smell heavenly though!

As I was breaking my head of cauliflower into florets, I realized that it was a huge head of cauli, so I only used half of it. In addition, I added one small potato (diced, with the skin - to remove it is a sin!) at the same time as the onion, and a small green pepper when I added the cauli.

Perhaps I didn’t have the heat high enough, but it took much longer than 10-12 minutes for the cauliflower to be done.

Might I suggest adding some extra firm tofu? Maybe some chickpeas too. If you wanted to be fancy with the thing, a slight char on the cauliflower would add something to the dish - perhaps this could be accomplished with a few minutes of broiling the cauliflower before adding it to the recipe.

The recipe couldn’t be much simpler. The end result was pretty. Although it didn’t have the complexity of some of the Indian dishes I completely adore, it was quick and satisfied my need for Indian food, and it was really quite tasty.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jana's Spring Garden Soup

Greens are becoming readily available at farmer’s markets, supermarkets, and maybe even in your own garden or patio box. If you have dandelions popping up in your yard, here is a recipe that makes great use of them. Why just pull weeds when you can pull and eat them? (Presuming, of course, that you don’t spray them with herbicides.)


I made this recipe exactly as it appears in How it all Vegan!: irresistible recipes for an animal-free diet, by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer. Recipe commentary follows.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

RQT visits The Parthenon, Lincoln, NE


The Parthenon
Greek, but not in Greece.
Living in the Midwest, if I were only to limit myself to vegetarian restaurants, I would never dine out. I like to give recognition and patronage to places which specifically give some attention to vegetarians and vegans.

It's great to be able to quickly find veg*n options on a menu. The Parthenon Greek Grill and Taverna has four entrees specially denoted as being vegan (orzo stuffed peppers, stuffed portabello mushroom, roasted walnut spaghetti, and sweet red peppers over linguini), and several more vegetarian options that are veganized by holding the feta. (View the Parthenon menus.) Having said that, it would be especially helpful if the menu indicated which other dishes are vegetarian or vegan, perhaps with a small icon next to the name of the dish.

Vegetarian Dolmathes

I started with an appetizer. The vegetarian dolmathes ("grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, served chilled with a wedge of lemon") were lovely and understated; the seasoned rice had a dense creamy texture which contrasted nicely with the tartness of the grape leaves. [The order comes with six dolmathes - but as you can see, I couldn't wait for the photo and had to eat one straight away!]

Stuffed Portabello Mushroom
The stuffed portabello mushroom was attractively presented on a bed of fresh spinach. It was a nice portion and stuffed abundantly - in fact, the dish was more about the sun-dried tomato & basilfilling than about the mushroom. When I actually got down to the bottom of the plate, the mushroom itself was smallish. But luckily, the dish was served with pita wedges and so I ate the filling like a spread. Entrees are served with a choice of Greek potatoes, vegetable of the day, or klitharaki [orzo in tomato sauce]; rather than selecting potatoes (since the dolmathes were starchy), I chose the vegetable of the day, baked cauliflower - a simple dish with a surprising hint of cinnamon hidden among the herbs and spices. (It was vegetarian, but not vegan, as it contained a sprinkle of feta.)


Sweet tooth?

There's a lot more to the restaurant than covered by this brief review - special events, theme menus, a full wine menu and wine events, catering, and live entertainment. The Parthenon is owned by the Kaza family, and I had the opportunity to speak with George Kaza, who stopped by the table to visit. The wait staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the dishes, and eager to make recommendations.

Why dine at one of the chains, when you can make a trip to a great local place like this with nice atmosphere, a big menu with many veg*n options?

The Parthenon Greek Grill and Taverna
5500 S 56th St # 100
Lincoln, NE 68516-1878
(402) 423-2222

Mother's Day: Breakfast in Bed

[Some of my friends no longer have their moms. If this is the case for you, do something special for yourself in honor of your mom on Mother's Day. Surely you are one of the greatest of your mother's accomplishments! Enjoy these muffins.]

Blueberry Muffin - really quite tasty!

Breakfast in bed: Mom deserves it.

Keep it simple – the kids should be able to help. Keep it non-messy - nobody wants syrupy residue in bed. Finally – keep it tasty. Today’s blueberry muffin recipe comes from Good Housekeeping’s Simple Vegan! Delicious meat-free, dairy-free recipes every family will love. Round this out with a glass of vanilla soy- or almond-milk and some sliced oranges. If you don’t have a bed tray or serving tray, try using a roasting pan, cookie sheet, or even a cutting board.


Blueberry Muffins

When retooling a recipe to be egg-free, oil and/or fruit purees are often used to provide the moistness eggs typically supply. In this recipe, applesauce plays that role.


Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Makes: 12 muffins


1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups plain unsweetened soy milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries (see tip)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Place oats in blender and blend until finely ground.

3. In a large bowl, combine oats, all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In small bowl, with fork, blend soy milk, applesauce oil, and vanilla; stir into flour mixture until flour is moistened. Fold in blueberries.

4. Spoon batter into muffin-pan cups (cups will be very full). Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Remove to wire rack; serve warm, or cool to serve later.


TIP: If it’s not blueberry season, feel free to substitute frozen blueberries. Just add 3 to 5 minutes to your baking time, as the frozen berries will lower the temperature of your batter from the get-go. A few blueberry streaks will make your muffins look homemade, but don’t thaw the berries before adding them to the batter or you’ll end up with a big purple mess.


[NOTE: the nutrition information given in the cookbook lists each muffin as “about 80 calories” but I believe this is a typo and should read “about 180 calories”. The preceding recipe in the cookbook is very similar for whole-grain carrot cake muffins using the same muffin base proportions, and is is listed as “each serving: about 190 calories”. –Really Quite Carrie]

Further notes: This isn't the most completely amazing vegan muffin recipe ever, but I selected it because it's pretty healthy, and I wanted to give kudos to Good Housekeeping for publishing a vegan cookbook. It's important to support those mainstream venues which promote vegan ideas/foods to their followers and bring attention to "the cause." Click through to take a look or order. When you order through RQT, you help support this blog.