Anti-Cruciferous Stir Fry

Today was unusually helter-skelter for the whole family.  Everybody is helping to roof a house (except me ~ I’m holding down the fort doing all the cooking, cleaning, etc.)  Due to the heat, they quit early today, so K and I went to get some much-needed groceries once she showered.  It took us so long that once we got home she had only 20 minutes before she and R had to leave for Vacation Bible School, where they are key staff members!  No time for her to even eat, let alone fix something first.  Hubby came home for 5 minutes before he had to go back out for an appointment.  That left N (my son-in-law) and I at home, because J is out of town.

Now, N has unfortunate allergies to all cruciferous veggies, as well as sesame and sunflower seeds.  It makes K pretty nuts avoiding all those things at the grocery store!  And eating out?  Forget it.  Do you know how much sesame oil and sunflower oil are in things?  Bah.

I knew I needed to make something nourishing for everybody to eat once they landed back at home ~ but no idea what that should be!  I threw on a pot of rice, because at least that could be simmering while I came up with something amazing.  I’ve been hungry for a rice bowl of some sort (whether Chipotle-style or stir-fry-style, I wasn’t fussy.)  I remembered some chik-style strips I bought on clearance, so began to build an idea from there.  Originally, I was thinking lemony-“chicken”-asparagus, but it kinda morphed from there.  It didn’t seem like it would make enough.  So, while I stood at the freezer door digging for the asparagus, I saw some other bags of frozen stir-fry-esque veggies.  I started tossing this and that in until I had a pan full of yummy nutritious veggies!  Overall, it took more time and effort to decide what to fix than it took to throw it all together.  🙂

In retrospect, one of the new kinds of “veggies” I found on sale at the health food store I would not buy again.  Frozen bags of mushrooms just don’t have a marvelous texture.  I believe I would either skip them, use fresh ones (if I had them on hand), or even open a can of random mushrooms (usually I have portabellas in the cupboard.)

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Anti-Cruciferous Stir-Fry

  • 1-2 T. organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 5-8 oz. frozen tri-colored peppers
  • 1 10-oz pkg. Woodstock frozen mixed mushrooms (I recommend fresh or canned, actually)
  • 1 10-oz pkg. Woodstock frozen snap peas
  • 1 12-oz pkg. frozen asparagus spears, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 c. of your favorite “chicken” substitute
  • 1 heaping T. cornstarch (or arrowroot)
  • 1 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • juice from 1 very small lemon
  • hot cooked brown rice

Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan.  Toss in the onion and carrot pieces and begin sauteing them.  Open up all of the frozen veggie bags and stir them into the frying pan, along with the “chicken” substitute.  Squirt Bragg’s back and forth across the veggies and stir again.  Turn the heat up to medium-high to get everything really cooking, as frozen veggies take so long to stir-fry.  You should see a fair amount of liquid form in the bottom of the pan ~ this is as it should be.  Stir the veggies often.  When they are to the tenderness you prefer, mix the cornstarch, chicken-style seasoning, and water together, stirring the mixture into the veggies until everything looks a little shiny from the thickened sauce.  Remove from heat and sprinkle the lemon juice over it all.  Stir.  Serve over rice with extra Bragg’s on the table.

Quinoa Pilaf

Another night of staring into the cupboards trying to decide what to fix because what was on my planned weekly menu just wasn’t happening tonight (this seems to happen for various reasons way too often.)  Another episode with nothing jumping around in the pantry or freezer when I stared into them saying, “Fix me!  Fix me!”  😀

The great thing about this dish that I finally created is that it is super filling, fairly fast with little hands-on during the actual cooking time, and it is versatile.  If you like peppers, toss some in.  If you dislike mushrooms, leave them out.  If you have fresh mushrooms or frozen chopped onions, use them.  If you like ginger, try adding some of that with the onions.  Quinoa PilafAnd those cooked greens pictured on the plate next to the pilaf?  Well, right after the picture was snapped and I took a bite, they ended up tossed together with the quinoa ~ and they were spectacular together!  If you don’t feel like dirtying a second pan, you could just throw a bag or two of frozen spinach right into the quinoa while it is cooking along with a little extra salt.  Ta-da!  One-dish meal.

Quinoa Pilaf

  • 2 ribs of celery (I used celery hearts), split lengthwise and diced
  • 1 small-medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small can mushroom pieces, or 4 oz. of fresh ones, diced
  • 4 c. water
  • 2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. dillweed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

In a large frying pan, saute the celery and onions in the olive oil while you dice up the carrots.  Toss the carrots in when you are finished, as well as the mushrooms.  When veggies are softened, pour in the water, quinoa, chicken seasoning and lemon juice; stir.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  When the quinoa begins to show tiny little curls popping out, then sprinkle the lemon juice and dill over it all and stir.  Add the garbanzo beans.  Leave the lid off and simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed and the quinoa is fairly fluffy.

Serve with cooked greens and perhaps a slice of lemon to squeeze over it all.

Thanksgiving Soy Curls and Gravy

A couple of weeks ago I won a package of Butler soy curls from Somer over at Vedged Out.  I love soy curls.  They are versatile and cooperative to work with.  This time I needed them to step up in a big way.  Let me explain….

Yesterday I made the weekly trek to the health food store.  On my list was our Thanksgiving entree.  We’re reading labels more carefully these days than ever before due to increased allergies.  (Hubby and I really should avoid wheat and my sil cannot get a hold of anything from the cruciferous family or the sunflower/safflower seed/oil family.)  It was time to really check out every single ingredient in the roll we buy once a year.  Now, mind you, this single time out of the year we have been known to wink at some egg whites for this particular tradition.  (GASP!)  However, not only did our traditional long-looked-forward-to entree have eggs in it, but now it had non-fat milk, too.  Oh, and did I mention that vital wheat gluten plays a major roll in its creation, as well?  *sigh and ugh*  I called hubby to get his opinion on what to do.  This was, after all, just about his only tradition that matters to him (that and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas) and he has not wanted to give it up in the past.  He told me, “Hon, I trust your creative powers to whip up something great to replace it, either with soy curls, or something else.  We can try it out this week and if we really aren’t excited by it, then we’ll visit the possibility of buying the roll of fake stuff.”

How can a girl not take up such an encouraging challenge?  🙂  I bought some portabella mushrooms and headed for home.

The jury was divided on this dish.  Out of 5 of us, 2 loved it, 2 thought it was okay, and 1 said that with extra salt it was pretty good (this from the guy who salts everything before he tastes even it.)  One of the guys asked if I could do half this way and half BBQ!  lol

I think when I make this on Thanksgiving, I will tweak it a little bit more.  I am going to add an extra tablespoon of chicken-style seasoning into the soy curls (already included below), and toss in a little bit of minced garlic.  Perhaps one of your favorite dried herbs could make an appearance in it, if you wish.  If you experiment, please let me know what you do.

Thanksgiving Soy Curls

  • 2 c. water
  • 2-4 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, depending on how salty you want it to be
  • 4+ T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 1 tsp. rubbed sage
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 6 c. soy curls
  • 8 oz. portabella mushrooms, diced
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil

In a very large frying pan or a Dutch oven, combine water, Bragg’s, and seasonings and heat on high.  Add soy curls and toss.  When it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and continue turning the soy curls over and over until all of the water is absorbed.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.  In the same frying pan, saute the mushrooms and onions in the olive oil until softened.  Transfer the soy curls back to the frying pan and mix everything together.  Continue heating everything until the soy curls are toasty warm again.  Serve with gravy.

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This gravy recipe is mildly adapted from a cookbook called Vegetarian For Life (although I believe all the recipes in it are actually vegan.)

“Chicken” Gravy

  • 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. brown rice or barley flour (I recommend the barley flour if you are not gluten intolerant.  In a pinch, you could use whole wheat, but the flavor pales in comparison.)
  • 3 T. chicken-like seasoning
  • 2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 4 c. water

In a 2-quart saucepan, mix the oil with the flour and chicken seasoning.  Stir in the Bragg’s.  Gradually stir in the first 2 cups of water until it is smooth and getting thin; then add all of the last 2 cups.  Heat, stirring often, and finally stirring constantly as it begins to thicken.  When it boils, turn the heat down and simmer to desired thickness.

This can be made a day ahead ~ just be aware that it will thicken upon standing, so you won’t want to simmer it very long.  It will thicken some as you reheat it.

Sauerkraut Special

A friend of mine went to her husband’s home country of Poland to visit his family.  She is vegetarian and I guess it was a challenge to eat at restaurants at times.  She told me about a dish her father-in-law had that sounded pretty tasty if it could be veganized.  It was full of sauerkraut, mushrooms, and various meats.  I thought it would be fun to give it a try.  Now, I love sauerkraut…if it’s well-rinsed.  If it’s full-strength, it is a little too much for me.  If you like it super strong, then go for it!  😀

I didn’t use a lot of different types of veggie “meat” substitutes here, though it was my intention to do so.  Unfortunately, when I reached for some veggie burgers to chop up for this, they were gone.  *sigh*  If no one has raided your supplies to fill their bellies, then toss in 2-3 different things ~ try soy curls made into chicky strips, soy burgers or crumbles, Tofurkey links, etc.

Sauerkraut Special

  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. (or more!) portabella mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 pkg. Tofurkey Italian ‘sausage’ links, sliced/diced
  • 4-6 c. frozen hash brown shreds, or shredded fresh potato (to be honest, I didn’t measure this…I just eyeballed about how much I wanted in the dish)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 large jars of sauerkraut, rinsed (unless you like potent sauerkraut)

In a very large frying pan (mine was non-stick) saute the onion, mushrooms, Tofurkey links and potatoes in olive oil.  I didn’t measure the oil, because I just kept adding a bit as they cooked.  If it looked too dry – as if things were going to start sticking – I added a bit more.  Cover.  Cook until the links begin to brown and the onion softens well, stirring occasionally.  Toss in the sauerkraut and heat thoroughly.

Serve with soy sour cream, if desired.

Vegetable Tofu Penne

I should probably rename this recipe for the blog, because when I went to reach for my pasta in the cupboard, I discovered it wasn’t penne at all.  It was shells.  It’s not that penne and shells taste differently.  But the texture isn’t quite the same.  And ~ honestly ~ it doesn’t look as interesting with shells.  Oh, well.  Shells it is!

One dish meals are marvelous inventions.  However, if you end up with a crowd to eat this, just put a fresh veggie tray out with colorful produce and it will really make your table pop!

This recipe happened the first time because of what was pouring out of the garden!  Since then nobody wants me to wait until the peak of summer to serve it.  It’s best ~ and amazing ~ when you have fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and fresh basil (!), and raw spinach, and….oh, you get the idea.  Other veggies can show up in this, too.  I’ve used eggplant, broccoli, and asparagus, too.  Any way you fix it, though, it will make your taste buds happy.  Leftovers reheat in the microwave well, or you can eat it as a cold pasta salad if you are like me and my daughter (the guys head for the microwave.)

One note ~ not everyone loves sun-dried tomatoes.  I tried leaving them out, but the flavor wasn’t the same.  Even those who pawn their sun-dried tomatoes off on me after picking them out of their own serving complained that it didn’t taste as good without them.  So…even if you have to pick them out later, don’t leave them out.

Vegetable Tofu Penne

  • 1 lb. penne pasta (or other style)**
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 very large onion or several smaller ones
  • 2-3 lg. garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3-4 small zucchini, diced or quartered
  • 16 oz. firm or ex-firm tofu
  • Braggs liquid aminos
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, frozen chopped spinach, or leftover cooked spinach
  • 1 can portabella mushroom pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (not petite diced)
  •  ½ c. sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
  • 2 T. basil (more if fresh)
  • 1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Veggie (soy) Parmesan cheese or mozzarella style
  • salt to taste

In a large non-stick skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until a few pieces of onion are just beginning to brown.  Add zucchini and garlic; stir.  Heat water for the pasta to cook while you continue the next steps (toss in the pasta when you notice it boiling and cook according to directions on box – it should be ready when the vegetables are.)  Drain and then break up or dice the tofu and stir to the zucchini.  Squirt in some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, zig-zagging quickly back and forth across the skillet a few times.  Sprinkle the chicken-style seasoning across the tofu and stir until well distributed. If you are using fresh or frozen spinach and/or fresh basil, add at this time.  Wait a minute or two before adding the tomatoes and mushrooms, unless you are using leftover spinach. Toss in the rest of seasonings, stir in veggie Parmesan cheese to taste, and turn down the heat.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and combine with the veggies. Serve with extra veggie Parmesan.

**Since I wrote this recipe, manufacturers have ceased to fill their pasta boxes with 16 oz.  They now put in 13.25 oz.  The funny thing is that the boxes are still the same size.  So, buy 2 boxes and fill one of them to the top.  That will give you approximately the 1 pound box that the recipe calls for.  Or just use less pasta.  It’s your call.  🙂

Scrambled Tofu

Remember how I told you in the last post that you would see the Chicken Style Seasoning  used often in my recipes?  Well, here is the first example.

This is one of my kids’ favorite foods.  I serve it regularly on Friday evenings for supper.  (Once when I made it on a different night, R came in the door and exclaimed, “Mmmm!  Smells like Friday night!”)  Most of my family likes just plain ol’ scrambled tofu – don’t get cutesy or creative, Mom – and I like it dolled up a bit.  Just in case you like interesting, creative food, I’ll give you some ideas on what to do.  I’ll show you pictures of the plain dish vs. a fancier version, too.

An aside comment ~ every mom, every cook deserves at least ONE good eater in the family who loves just about every dish (flavor and texture) set in front of them and who doesn’t have a long list of food dislikes.  My 6-ft. tall, 17-year-old son is that one for me.  The tofu pictured below with the added extras was for lunch one day when just the two of us were home.  There are rarely leftovers with J at the table!  I think there are 2 solitary foods he doesn’t like – bananas (which he’ll eat in smoothies or banana bread) and asparagus.  What a joy!

Here are the various stages of the cooking process, from just-stirred-in seasonings, to browned and browner.  (You can click on them to see them full-sized.)  My family prefers it a little crispified.  They also like bigger pieces than I used here.

   

Scrambled Tofu

  • 1/4-1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 1 lb. extra-firm water-packed tofu
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (the one sold in a squirt bottle)
  • 1 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. dill weed (please don’t leave this out!)

In a non-stick skillet, saute chopped onion in olive oil until softened.  (Depending on the quality of your skillet, you may need more or less oil.)  As onion is cooking, rinse and drain tofu and break into bite-sized, or smaller, pieces.  Once onion is softened, toss tofu with the onion and oil.  Drizzle Bragg’s in a fairly quick zig-zag motion over the tofu.  Not every piece will get a squirt, but the tofu is relatively porous, so it will transfer to all of the pieces fairly evenly after stirring.  Stir to mix it in.  Continue cooking the tofu over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle the seasonings over the tofu and stir until well distributed.  Continue cooking to desired texture, stirring occasionally.  It will brown nicely if you are patient.  If you are in a hurry, just heat and eat.

Variations:  You may saute with the onions, or in a separate pan to be tossed in later, a variety of options – peppers, greens, mushrooms, soy meat substitutes such as Tofurkey Italian Sausage-style links – sliced/diced, artichokes, etc.  Use up some left-over cooked grains by serving the vegetables and tofu over it, or spoon some directly into the tofu or vegetables and heat it along with them near the end of the cooking phase.

This picture shows sauteed frozen tri-color pepper strips (a great time-saver and a good option if you don’t have fresh ones on hand), frozen artichoke hearts – broken up with the back of a spoon after cooking a while, mushrooms, fresh baby spinach that wasn’t being eaten quickly enough in salads, and some left-over rice.  I used a hint of olive oil at the beginning with just the peppers and artichokes until they started to thaw enough and “melt,” causing some juices to allow for steaming the greens.  Once these 2 items were well on their way to being cooked, I tossed in the rinsed spinach.  Since I discovered my fresh mushrooms (the reason I was making this recipe in the first place was to use them up – arg!!) had gone bad, I substituted a can of portabello mushroom pieces at this point, too.  Just before throwing in the rice to heat with the veggies, I scooped the excess liquid out of the pan, leaving a bit to flavor the rice.  The tofu was nicely browned by then, so I scraped it into the veggies, too, and lunch was served!