Surviving on Soft Foods

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

I feel like such a fool. In my defense, I had no reason to suspect anything was wrong. Little did I know I was heading down the road to overexerting my jaw. It had all the makings of a perfect storm – just back from a teeth cleaning with an unfamiliar substitute dental hygienist, a tendency to chew on one side of my mouth, and munching away on chewy and hard things like tortilla wraps and nuts.

To give my jaw a break and a chance to heal, I’ve been living a soft foods diet. You would not believe how long it took me to come to this realization (hence the feeling like a fool part).

I started with the usual suspects: mashed potatoes, hummus, yogurt and any number of smoothies from Blueberry Banana to Oatmeal-Carrot Cookie.

Jook

It’s also been soups galore around here, easy to make and comforting to eat bowls of jook (Chinese rice porridge). I just make sure to cut into teeny tiny pieces whatever extras going into the jook. And the immersion blender has been my best friend for smooth blended soups like Beet Soup and Chipotle Cauliflower Corn Chowder.

Thai Lime Rice and Punjap Eggplant

It’s times like this when it’s handy to have things like Tasty Bite Punjap Eggplant sitting around the pantry. Roasted eggplant in a tomato and onion sauce that’s so soft it’s practically a sauce, served with quick cook steel cut oatmeal instead of rice. And to get some greens in, saag spinach.

Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza

Instead of pan frying Trader Joe’s frozen Thai Vegetable Gyoza, I dropped them into boiling water for what amounts to very large wontons. Cook on medium to low heat for about 8 minutes or so, and eaten with a dipping sauce of ketchup mixed with a little soy sauce and sriracha.

Vegan Apricot Almond Scone

Luckily, I can still enjoy Sweet Aha! scones and cupcakes since they’re so fluffy and moist. Although I had to be extra careful eating the almond and apricot parts of the above scone.

My jaw is finally getting a little better, albeit at glacial speed. The hard part is not prematurely jumping back into eating everything and re-injuring myself. It’s probably going to be awhile yet before it’s totally back to normal. Any other ideas on what to eat?

Vegan “Salisbury Steak” Asian Style

Vegan "Salisbury Steak" Asian Style

A recipe transformation hit the kitchen today and made a bit of a mess. Instead of neatly dumping the ingredients for an Asian Lentil Loaf into a pan and be done with it, patties were formed to become Asian Salisbury Steak with ramen noodles no less.

I gotta say despite the extra time and cleanup, the transformation was for the better. A crisp patty instead of a limp slice of lentil loaf is a plus any day in my book. Of course since it’s baked, it’s only crisp when it’s first out of the oven. And who knew ramen is so good with gravy on it?

Vegan “Salisbury Steak” Asian Style
Makes about 10 patties

4 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, then chopped
1 medium leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
2 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
A sprig of cilantro, chopped (optional garnish)

Gravy
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the rest of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Scoop out a 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape into a patty on a oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, gently flip over and bake another 15 minutes.

While the patties are baking, make the gravy. Heat the broth with the soy sauce and sugar. Combine the cornstarch with a little bit of cold water and mix until smooth. When the broth comes to a boil, slowly add the cornstarch mixture and stir to desired thickness.

Serve the patties with ramen noodles and top with the gravy and cilantro if using.

One Handsome Owl

Vegan Handsome Owl Sandwich

Ah, the joys of a road trip on spring break – the open road, the sun on your face, the wind rushing by, the challenge of finding something vegan to eat. For me, it’s that long stretch between San Jose and the Central Coast where eating options are bleak.

Any snacks that I actually remember to bring with me have long been eaten. Sure there’s always fast food chains or unknown restaurants where vegan inquiries are met with blank stares and the sound of crickets.

Then an Ike’s Place opened in Salinas of all places. Although Google maps had me driving the long way around to get there. Maybe it thought I should do a little sightseeing before arriving at Ike’s. It’s actually located not that far off of the 101 freeway.

Typical Ike’s, there’s something for everyone with separate sections of meat, vegetarian and vegan sandwiches made by super friendly folks. And the wait wasn’t too bad either.

I previously tried the Meatless Mike and the Vegan Backstabber at their Redwood Shores location. This time I went with a Vegan Handsome Owl – teriyaki, vegan breaded chicken, vegan cheese and wasabi mayo on dutch-crunch bread.

Delicious, a bit messy to eat, but so nice to be able to enjoy a good vegan meal at a pit stop.

Woo-hoo, Soup’s On!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Here I am, once again reviewing the newest 30 minute vegan cookbook from serial author Mark Reinfeld, Soup’s On! Like my previous review in this series, I’m going with recipes I’ve never tried before.

First up is the Cream of Mushroom Soup (page 127), which I’ve only ever had the canned kind. Homemade is super easy to make and much more mushroomy. Most of the recipes include a list of possible variations, it’s very handy to customize to your own taste preferences.

I did quite a few: subbing out different kinds of mushrooms; sautéed the garlic and onion in oil; used coconut milk instead of soy creamer (that last one wasn’t actually an official variation but I figured what the hay).

I also made the Vegan Crème Fraîche (page 195) to go on top. Never tried regular crème fraîche before, so I didn’t have anything to compare. While it tasted fine and added a richness, I could do without it. Although the author likes to suggest it as a topping for a number of recipes, I didn’t think the soup needs it.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

I didn’t plan on making the Creamy Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup (page 125). Much too lazy to go to the store, I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand for this particular recipe (don’t you just love it when that happens? And with the recipe variations, the likelihood of that happening is greatly increased). And just like that, another canned soup bites the dust in favor of making it myself.

Mole Soup with Veggies

Holy Mole Soup with Veggies (page 145), any soup that’s got chocolate chips in it is a soup with my name on it. So much flavor. But it felt like it needed a little something to help soak up all that flavor, so I served it with rice and roasted tofu.

Happy Pho Brown Rice Noodles

I got a package of Happy Pho brown rice noodles that I’ve been itching to try after gobbling down Strawberry Spring Rolls using their brown rice spring roll wrappers. Saving the spice packet that came in the box for another day, I made the Vietnamese Pho Real Bowl (page 74).

I had to adjust the cooking time as the noodles only took 1 minute instead of the 7 minutes in the recipe. But I love the star anise in the broth and I’ve since made it numerous times throwing in whatever noodles and veggies I had available.

Vietnamese Pho Bowl

That’s the thing about this cookbook, the recipes really are endlessly adaptable and pretty easy too. I didn’t try any of the raw or dessert soups as I’m waiting for Spring and Summer fruit and veggies to hit the local farmer’s market to dive into those recipes. And then, soup’s on.

Vietnamese Pho Real Bowl
Serves 6 to 8

6 cups vegetable stock or water
3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari or other soy sauce
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons seeded and diced hot chile pepper, or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
3/4 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon mirin (optional)
8 ounces beef- or chicken-style seitan, with marinade
3 ounces uncooked thin rice noodles
1 cup thinly sliced napa cabbage
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Place the vegetable stock in a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the rice noodles, cabbage, lime juice, green onion, and cilantro. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the rice noodles and cabbage and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lime juice, green onion, and cilantro and stir well. Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick before serving.

Variations
- For a gluten-free version, replace the seitan with cubed and roasted tofu.
- Add 1 cup of small broccoli florets, sugar snap peas, or snow peas.
- Add 2 tablespoons of chiffonaded Thai basil instead of, or in addition to, the cilantro.
- Add 2 tablespoons of miso paste and stir until dissolved just before serving.

From the book The 30 Minute Vegan Soup’s On by Mark Reinfeld. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) 2013. www.dacapopresscookbooks.com

Disclosure: I received the book free of charge from the publisher to review. The opinions and experience with the book expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

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Happy Pi Pie Day

Mini Raw Mixed Berries Cheesecake

Seeing as I’m just as bad in math as I am in baking, the only way to really celebrate Pi Day (3/14) is to make the easiest kind of pie, no-bake Mini Raw Mixed Berries Cheesecake.

Chocolate Galaxy Banana Cheesecake

Deliciously easy as well is the Chocolate Galaxy Banana Cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky and that one is baked. And yes, I like to make my pies mini. It’s sorta like built-in portion control.

Patxi's Chicago Pizza Palo Alto Review

Prefer something more savory and don’t want to cook? Patxi’s Chicago Pizza got you covered with a vegan deep dish pie with a whole wheat crust, fresh spinach, garlic, red onion and Daiya cheese.

California Pizza Kitchen Review

Or California Pizza Kitchen. The pizza I usually ordered used to be called Vegetarian with Japanese Eggplant, now it’s named California Veggie. But it’s basically the same – baby broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, and red onion. Get it with no cheese on their crispy thin crust.

Any way you slice it, this is my kind of math. Happy Pi Day!

This post contains an Amazon link, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on the link and make a purchase of anything.

DIY Vegan Pressed Sushi

Vegan Pressed Sushi

Tired of eating the same ol’ cucumber sushi roll? or avocado roll? or some other vegetable roll that’s equally as pedestrian? Me too.

As a remedy, I decided to make pressed sushi also known as oshizushi, where rice is pressed into a rectangular shape using a wooden mold. But I didn’t have a wooden mold. Looking around the kitchen for a diy hack, I spied the tofu press. Hey, that’s a box shape and it’ll do the pressing for me to boot.

Since it’s diy, I went with some of my all-time favorite ingredients: roasted trumpet mushrooms and carrots, shiitake mushroom namul, spicy yuba strips from Hodo (the same people that make the tofu for Chipotle’s sofritas), and massaged kale which strangely enough kinda looks like nori seaweed. You can see it there on the top.

Vegan Pressed Sushi

Pressed sushi seems much easier to make than sushi rolls. After all, it’s just packing ingredients into a box. The challenge is in the layering since you go from the top down. One layer ended up sliding around as it only had carrots and kale, nothing to really anchor it down like rice.

Lesson learned. While the layer fillings can be whatever your stomach desires, the rice is what holds it all together.

Vegan Pressed Sushi

Make a batch of sushi rice
Assemble any number of your favorite fillings, candidates include:
Roasted vegetables such as trumpet mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, squash
Raw vegetables such as cucumber, carrots
Shiitake mushroom namul
Yuba strips or baked tofu strips
Massaged kale or cooked spinach
Avocado
Nori seaweed sheets

Cut the ingredients to fit into the mold.

Line the tofu press with plastic wrap so that it hangs over the sides. Decoratively arrange alternating strips of whatever you want to be on the top at the bottom of the mold. Dip your fingers into a little bowl of water so the sushi rice doesn’t stick to you and spread a thin layer of rice over the strips. Be careful not to mess up the arrangement.

Next, lay in a piece of nori seaweed cut to size. Continue layering various ingredients in between the rice and nori layers. Pressing down gently as you go along. End with a nori sheet as that will become the bottom of the finished pressed sushi.

Put the top on the tofu press and press for about 5 minutes or so. Apparently there’s a newer version of the tofu press with a lighter tension spring. If you have one of those, you could probably press it a bit longer.

After pressing, remove from the press, use the plastic wrap to gently coax the sushi out. Slice using a sharp knife and a wet cloth. Wipe the knife with the cloth before each slice so it doesn’t stick. Arrange on a plate to serve.

This post contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

The Vegan Divas Cookbook

Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Milk Soup

Silent for far too long, the cookbook review department is revving up with a slew of upcoming reviews. The first is The Vegan Divas Cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco. Being on the West Coast, I haven’t ever heard of the New York City bakery which the cookbook is based on.

Fortunately for the hapless baker that I am, the cookbook isn’t limited to just baked goodies. There’s savory plates and treats. And soups too, like the above Spiced Red Lentil and Coconut Milk Soup (page 156). First time using dried lentils, it was easy and much quicker to cook than I had imagined (and I have a wild imagination).

Sugar-free Carrot Cake

Hapless or not, I had to try at least one baked dessert, Sugar-Free Carrot Cake (page 102). Still, I was sweating bullets over the batter. It looked very thick. Was it too thick? I have no idea. Crossing my fingers, the pan went into the oven. I was on pins and needles the entire half hour it was in the oven, I’m just not meant to bake. It actually came out fine, maybe a little on the dense side.

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Peanut Sauce

A very tasty savory treat was the Roasted Kabocha Squash with Peanut Sauce (page 164). If only it wasn’t so hard to cut into, I was afraid for my fingers. It was well worth it though, I pretty much love anything roasted. But there’s gotta be an easier way to cut up the squash.

Orange Tofu Yogurt

Tofu Yogurt My Way (page 30) on the other hand was super easy to make. And you can flavor it any way you like. I went with oranges for an orangesicle kind of a flavor. I didn’t have any granola so it’s topped with walnuts.

While I liked the taste and knowing exactly what’s in it. I didn’t feel like it’s really a yogurt as it doesn’t have any probiotics. One of the reasons why I eat yogurt in the first place is to get the beneficial bacteria. Perhaps it should be “yogurt” in quotation marks.

Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart

Having never tried avocado in a dessert before, I made the Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart (page 96). I really like raw desserts. They seem easier to make, there’s no baking involved. They usually have healthier ingredients and use other sweeteners besides sugar.

While making the filling, I taste tested it and it’s so good, sorta like chocolate pudding. I could have eaten the filling as is, before it even went into the crust. You just know it’s going to be awesome when the individual components are good on their own.

Instead of one 9-inch tart, I made mini ones and froze them for about a week while I was away on holiday. After letting it thaw in the fridge, it’s totally fine. So smooth and rich tasting – no weird avocado taste at all, just chocolatey goodness.

I may never get to New York City to visit The Vegan Divas in person but the cookbook’s easy recipes and gorgeous photos more than makes up for it.

Raw Chocolate Avocado Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart, serves 10 to 12

Chocolate Crust:
2 cups (200 g/7 oz) pecan halves
1/4 cup (28 g/1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons (28 g/1 oz) liquid coconut oil
1/4 cup (74 g/2.6 oz) maple syrup
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g/0.05 oz) kosher salt

Chocolate Avocado Mousse:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (191 g/6.7 oz) vegan semisweet chocolate morsels
3 small, ripe avocados, pitted and flesh scooped out
1 tablespoon (7 g/0.25 oz) arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon (0.75 g/0.026 oz) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract
1/4 cup (28 g/1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
1/3 cup (80 g/2.8 oz) almond milk
2/3 cup (198 g/7 oz) maple syrup
1 tablespoon (15 g/0.5 oz) smooth peanut butter

Make the crust:
Brush the bottom and sides of a 91/2-inch springform pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until crumbly (you should have some finely ground pecans and some pieces no larger than 1/4 inch). Add the remaining crust ingredients and pulse until just mixed. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press it onto the bottom of the pan with slightly wet fingers or a spatula. Place the crust in the freezer to set while you make the mousse.

Make the mousse:
Place the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on medium (50%) power for about 3 minutes, stopping to stir it every 45 seconds. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool slightly.

Combine all the remaining mousse ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and process until smooth.

Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the mousse into it. Smooth it into an even layer and freeze, uncovered, for about 2 hours until firm.

Serve the tart:
Remove the tart from the freezer and unclasp and remove the side of the pan. Place the tart on a serving plate and allow it to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

From The Vegan Divas Cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Disclosure: I received the book free of charge from the publisher to review. The opinions and experience with the book expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.

This post also contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

A Sweet Resolution

coffee-chocolate-cupcake

It’s 37 days into the new year on the Gregorian calendar and day 7 on the lunar calendar. How’s your New Year’s resolution going? I don’t normally set resolutions or goals but this year is different. I have a goal. A secret goal – to try every single flavor of Sweet Aha! cupcakes. Shh, don’t tell anyone. Especially not my waistline.

With so many flavors, all natural and organic, how can I not try them all? Oh sure, I could have gone with something like eat healthier, eat more kale, eat more fiber. Blah, blah, blah. But why? When I can have a coffee chocolate cupcake. You can’t look at the above photo and not be nodding your head yes, yes, yes. One bite and you would never guess it’s vegan.

While I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I love the smell of coffee. Since Sweet Aha! uses real coffee, it has a nice subtle, authentic taste of coffee as well as caffeine. But it’s not too strong. It reminds me of See’s coffee candy lollypops (if you grew up in California, you may remember those from high school fundraisers). I’ll take my coffee as a cupcake any day.

strawberry-cupcake

The strawberry cupcake will take you back to the days of strawberry-flavored icing as a kid. But this frosting with its beautiful pink color and taste is made with actual strawberries (available year around at the San Mateo farmer’s market). The vanilla cupcake is just your standard cupcake but provides a nice contrast to the strawberrylicious frosting.

Sweet Aha! Cinnamon Raisin Scone

Oh no, I succumbed and tried a breakfast scone instead. I’m not usually a scone eating person, I don’t care for the dry, crumbly texture. But the cinnamon raisin scone from Sweet Aha! are entirely different. They’re soft and like their cupcakes not overly sweet.

I’m off to the gym so I can keep up and achieve my sweet resolution for the year.

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