Barbecue Tofu with Baked Beans and Cheesy Mash

TofuBarbequeWith daylight savings time and the longer evenings, I just can’t wait for those summer cookouts. It’s fun to pull out the grill on a regular old weeknight and turn out some great barbecue!

Whether you like it smoky or spicy, savory or sweet, there’s no reason to give up your favorite barbeque flavors as a vegetarian or vegan. Tofu has a wonderfully absorbent quality when it comes to flavors. It’s especially so when it is frozen, thawed and pressed  beforehand.

Here’s a basic barbecue flavored marinade, that can be used by itself or along with your favorite barbecue sauce at grill time.

Smoky BBQ Tofu Marinade

¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or mirin)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika or chili powder

Blend all ingredients and pour over tofu. Makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 1 pound.

There are so many sides to choose from, but on a weeknight, I choose the easiest to prepare. Here is a quick and easy baked bean recipe that can be baking in the oven while you prepare the rest of the meal. It is sweet and tangy with a rich tomato flavor.

Homemade Baked Beans

courtesy of Jenna Weber (www.eatliverun.com)

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp hot sauce
8 oz tomato sauce
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 350
In a cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes or until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds more.
Add the maple syrup, tomato sauce, salt, ground mustard, hot sauce and ketchup and simmer for five minutes.
Add the beans and bay leaf, stir, then cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, stirring once during the baking process.
Allow to cool and serve warm.

Serves 4

Cheesy mashed potatoes is the simplest side dish of all, provided you have some leftover cheesy sauce hanging around in the fridge, which I think everyone should! https://veganflavorista.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/sexy-cheezy-sauce/

Cheesy Mash

courtesy of Vegan Flavorista

Wash and dry four big potatoes. Place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave 10 minutes. Mash with unsweetened non-dairy milk until desired consistency is reached. Stir in a big dollop of Dijon mustard, then season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Take about 4 scallions, washed and dried, and snip them with kitchen shears right into the potatoes. Stir to blend.

Gently reheat cheesy sauce and drizzle over warm mashed potatoes. Heavenly!

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Plant-Based: On The Cheap

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“I would try the plant-based diet, but I can’t afford it!” A phrase I have heard often. But, it’s a myth that a plant-based lifestyle has to blow your grocery budget. And it doesn’t have to include strange ingredients you’ve never heard of. A healthy, whole food diet can actually be totally the opposite. A simplification.

Keeping in mind the basic foods your body needs  makes shopping so much easier:

  1. Protein (beans, peas and lentils, nuts, nut butters). Remember that one type of bean, legume or nut choice in combination with a grain or healthful vegetables provides enough protein in a meal. There’s no need to overdo it.
  2. Complex Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains).
  3. Fats. The health benefits of processed oils is still a controversial subject in the science of nutrition, so I will simply offer that many foods contain naturally occurring fats such as nuts, coconuts and avocado. Choose oils conscientiously and use  sparingly if you are concerned about calories.

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Here’s a list of healthy and inexpensive foods to get you started:

  1. Apples
  2. Bananas
  3. Brown rice
  4. Creamy natural peanut butter (multi-purpose protein for toast, sandwiches and sauces)
  5. Dried black or other beans (easier to cook than you think. Google it)
  6. Dried lentils (even easier and quicker than beans)
  7. Frozen fruit
  8. Frozen mixed vegetables
  9. Hummus (homemade tastes best and is cheaper if you sub peanut butter for tahini)
  10. Rolled Oats (they micro cook in two minutes)
  11. Russet Potatoes (let me count the ways to prepare this cheap and filling vegetable)

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Although a constantly rotating variety of produce (eating the rainbow, as they say) is ideal, it is not within everyone’s budget. It’s okay to eat apples and bananas all week. The point is, you are eating fruit! You are getting vitamins and fiber, water and minerals. All good stuff!  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Sometimes you will splurge on the raspberries or juicy peaches in season. And it will actually be a treat, because your flavor palate is now accustomed to the natural sweetness of fruit sugar, as opposed to all the jacked-up laboratory produced sweeteners in processed snacks. It actually prefers it.

IMG_0852.jpgThe food industry is always coming out with new products. And that’s just what they are. Products, that are processed. Not whole and healthy foods in their natural state. There’s nothing wrong with these products as long as they are kept in perspective–as only the smallest part of our overall caloric intake.

Upcoming posts will feature recipes and ideas for simple and delicious meals that make going plant-based a sustainable choice without breaking the bank!

 

 

Stock Options: Vegetable Broth

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The classical foundation of a successful soup or sauce is a well made stock. In vegetarian cooking many cooks use prepared stocks, bouillon cubes, powders and pastes. However,  to avoid the excessive sodium and fat contained in prepared products, a fresh stock can be made easily at home.

Most importantly, to create a clean, delicious tasting stock, the vegetables must be fresh, organic if available. This recipe will produce a light, delicate result, perfect for a broth based vegetable soup or sauce and the flavor can be intensified with the addition of tamari or soy sauce and heartier vegetables such as mushrooms, leeks or parsnips.

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This is the classical French method I learned in culinary school. I find it worth the little bit of extra effort to create a very pure, clear result. I hope you give it a try!

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Basic Vegetable Broth

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

2 large celery ribs, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

8 cups cold water

1 Bouquet Garni (see below)

Combine all ingredients in a stockpot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to an active simmer and allow to reduce by half, uncovered (about 1-1 1/2 hours). Lightly skim off any foam that accumulates on top of the stock. Do not stir the pot. This will help avoid cloudiness.

Strain through sieve, pressing lightly against vegetables with the back of a spoon to catch juices. Season to taste with sea salt. Store covered in refrigerator up to 3 days. May be frozen for 3 to 4 months.

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Bouquet Garni

1 square piece of cheesecloth (approximately 4″x4″) rinsed and squeezed out

Kitchen twine

Handful fresh parsley stems

3 springs fresh thyme

1 Bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 clove garlic

Place flavoring ingredients in center of cheesecloth. Gather and tie into a sachet with enough length of twine left to tie to the handle of the stockpot (careful to trim the end so it doesn’t catch fire on a gas stove).

Keep it Simple Smoothie

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A smoothie can be a tasty, quick and efficient delivery system for several servings of fruit and/or veggies at one time. This recipe provides an easy to prepare method using fruits and vegetables you probably have on hand. You don’t need a $400 blender either, just a humble household model will do.

Once you see how truly easy smoothie-making can be, play around with the fruits, substituting melon or kiwi for the pineapple, apple juice for orange, mango chunks for banana–you get the idea. It’s not an exact science.

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Simple Green Smoothie

Large handful fresh spinach or other dark, leafy greens (chard, kale, etc.)

1 ripe banana, fresh or frozen

1 cup frozen pineapple chunks

1/2 cup orange juice

Place greens in blender with juice and puree until smooth. Add banana in chunks along with pineapple and a bit more liquid if needed ( I use ice cold water). Blend it up and enjoy!

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

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It’s still winter where I live, in sunny Florida. Happily, our little cold snaps are short-lived. This is great weather for curling up in a blanket with a hot bowl of nourishing soup.

This broccoli soup is refreshingly light as compared to the traditional butter, milk and cheese recipe many of us grew up with. It is thickened by the puree of vegetables, and lightly finished with a rich and flavorful blend of cashews, silken tofu and seasonings  combined to create a wonderfully cheese-like experience that compliments vegetables, nachos, pizza, tofu scramble, and many other dishes.

Broccoli Soup

  • 1 tbsp. Canola oil
  • 1 White onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks Celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds Broccoli
  • 4 cups Vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp. Sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups Spinach leaves, fresh, packed
  • 1/2 recipe Cheezy Sauce (see below)
1.Trim and chop broccoli, including stems, reserving 2 cups of florets.
2.In a large soup pot, saute onions and celery in canola oil until transluscent, about 10 minutes.
3.Add broccoli, except reserved floret, and stir in stock, salt and pepper. : Cover and bring to simmer over high heat. Decrease heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, until very tender.
4.Stir in spinach and continue to simmer until wilted. Puree with immersion blender until smooth.: Add broccoli florets and simmer until tender.
5.Drizzle individual servings with cheezy sauce and serve immediately. Yields 4-6 servings.

Cheezy Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Cashews, raw
  • 12 oz. Soft, silken tofu
  • ¼ tsp. Garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. Onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. Turmeric
  • ½ tsp. Yellow miso
  • ½ tsp. Paprika
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Chipotle powder
  • 2 tsp. Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp. Water

Method:

1.In a small pot, cover the cashews with water, and boil for about 8 minutes to soften. Drain and let cool.
2.In a food processor, process cashews until they’re finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Everyday Vinaigrette

I’ve been on a bit of hiatus the past few weeks, from my usual healthy eating and exercise plan. Sometimes my best intentions get sidetracked by this thing called life.

Finding my way back, a fresh, colorful salad is a perfect start, with my good ole’ go-to vinaigrette. I drizzle it on everything: sandwiches, pizza, pasta, even mashed potatoes! You won’t miss the oil–I promise!

Everyday Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, finely minced (optional)

1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced  (or red onion)

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Fresh ground black pepper

Agave nectar to taste

Method: Whisk ingredients together. Taste for tartness, adding agave nectar as desired.

 

Recipe adapted from The Happy Herbivore Everyday Cookbook by Lindsay Nixon