Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tofu: Round two

Last week Abel and I had the luxury of spending a day off together and decided to give tofu another go.  The tofu scramble we had was a success, so we were pretty optimistic.  

The result of our faux "BLT" looked a little something like this: 

It got a little charred as I probably kept it on the pan too long on one side but quite frankly I found an awesomeness in the charred bits -- mmmm char.

The instructions I used can be found here -- the link should direct you straight to the BLT segment.  As much as I love my cookbooks I always sigh a tiny bit of relief when I know I can actually watch someone go through the process and see how its done. 

This time we made sure we got the right tofu (as opposed to my silken oopsie the week prior).  

Extra Firm but NOT silken extra-firm. Yay!
And if you watch the youtube video I linked to, it made no reference to whether or not that particular tofu she was using was pressed prior to cooking.   

Me, I went ahead and pressed ours and let it sit for a few hours.  I'm not exactly sure how long it needs to be pressed but right after breakfast I set up my tofu pressing items:

(Quite elaborate, I know)
I'm quite certain one book would have been sufficient but I wanted to show that tofu who was boss.  It sat for about 4 hours until our tummies began to whimper with a longing for lunch. 

After pressing it was definitely quite dense.   I cut them as thinly as I could with our sad little knife and into the pan they went. I was a bit worried they weren't quite thin enough but in the end it all worked out just fine. 

The video calls for ten minutes prior to flipping but time escaped me by a few minutes and mine got a little more crisp.  Once flipped, they sat for another 4 minutes and then in went the soy sauce, the nutritional yeast (which I am officially in love with) and liquid smoke. 

Extra charred (oops).   

While I was prepping the main component of the dish, Abel was busy chopping up some sun dried tomato to add to our avocado mash and prepping some kale to pop into the oven. 

End result:

Two thumbs up from each of us. 

The only modifications we would make for this next time would be to cut down on the soy sauce a bit. The strips were a little too salty for us -- oh and a nice crusty ciabatta bread would be absolute heaven.  

Regardless, the slimwiches did the job nicely and after all was said and done (and eaten), our tummies were quite satisfied and our tastebuds rejoiced.  

Tofu scramble: Check!
Tofu BLT: Check!

It's safe to say that our tofu hesitation is slowly turning into an exciting adventure.  Next round of trials will be at the end of the week: 

Friday: A Vegetable Saute w/Pasta in a Mock Cream Sauce (using silken tofu)
Saturday: Pineapple Baked Coconut Tofu adapted from K's Veg Recipe

Even though our month is just about over, I'll continue to write up the experience during the next few weeks and follow up with any after thoughts.  We both plan on staying primarily plant based as the year continues (I say primarily because there will be some exceptions I will get into in another post).  

Hope everyone is having a great week!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Project Plant Based Update

One of my new years resolutions is to start being better prepared and organized.

By the looks of this blog it may not appear as if I've been succeeding but just as any life change it takes time and dedication to make commitments.  Especially for a procrastinator like me.  

The updates of the blog may not be happening but I can assure you that Abel and I are following our plant based month quite well.  The holiday weight gain I seemed to have accumulated (more from stress rather than holidays) is slowly trickling back off and Abel is melting away right before my very eyes.  

So far this month we've tried the following new-to-us items:

Coconut Milk -*my personal favorite 
Almond Milk-* a close second
Oat Milk- *made from Angelas site -- not my favorite of the non dairy milks BUT I like it enough to make it again when I'm out of other milks.  Super easy, super cheap!
Soy yogurt- * not very crazy about and I probably can do without it
Silken Tofu - read on for THAT experience....

I have to admit eliminating the diary has done absolute wonders for me already.  My rosacea is so much more toned down, my skin has never been clearer and though I fear this may be too much information -- my digestive system is finally ... how you say....


Thats qutie a big deal for me as it's been an issue for years.  Not a terrible life altering medical issue, mind you... just something that never seemed to work consistently.  These days things are a little more clockwork and though I'm sure not many people are interested in hearing such a thing, I for one am relieved.  No pun intended.

As for the tofu.... well we're almost at the end of our project month and its taken this long for me to bite the bullet and give tofu another chance.  Everywhere I turn I read the best meal to introduce someone to tofu is a simple tofu scramble.   Considering I introduced myself to tofu last year and nearly gagged at my attempt to make buffalo tofu, I seriously needed a  recipe with a surefire guaranteed satisfaction. 

In defense of the initial tofu I first bought last year, it I had no idea of the differences in textures or that it often times needs to be pressed to get a desired consistency depending on how it is to be prepped.  

Even now I'm in the dark when it comes to all of this as I accidentally bought the wrong tofu for our scramble.  Taking a cue from The Happy Herbivore, I picked up what I thought was extra firm tofu but it ended up being extra firm SILKEN tofu -- which Lindsay says is a no-no for this recipe. 

At the risk of already messing up the ingredients Abel and I decided the mushiness of the tofu may actually be ok considering scrambled eggs are textured similarly. My worst fear was that they would be watery though.  I did come across a few recipes online that actually call for silken tofu in scrambles and though none of them said to press this particular tofu my fear of a watery mess told me to press it anyway.  Just in case.

Due to time constraints though I probably only left it pressing for about 5 minutes as we prepped the rest of our breakfast.  It wasn't just the scramble we were eating, we were putting it into tacos with guacamole and a side of orange wedges --  this was another safety net for me.  Surely the tofu couldn't taste TOO bad paired with tortillas and avocado, correct?  

So we went ahead and followed through with the recipe. We seasoned the tofu, tossed it around the pan a bit and though it did stay a bit of a mushy mess I was quite surprised at the overall look once it was all heated through and ready: 

This is what our scrambled tofu looked like in the pan: 

I realize a pic of them plated as tacos with a side of orange wedges would have probably made more of an appetizing photo, but my stomach was demanding food and we had grocery shopping to do before Abel went into work so there was just no time to get all martha stewart with our plate settings.  So little time, and so little (hunger) patience!

In the end, the meal got 4 thumbs up and we would definitely make it again the next time we're hankering for breakfast tacos.  

Round two with Tofu will come on Wednesday when we make "BLT"s.   Can it be that tofu can make a tasty stand in for Bacon?   We'll be using the recipe from Vegan Mashup  and I promise I'll have better photos to document the experience ;) 

Tofu may just be redeeming itself in my book but it may be too soon to make such a bold prediction.  

I'll have to work on making a time block for myself to update this blog more consistently as the change alone in dropping dairy from my personal diet has made more than enough of an impact for me to continue this experience after the month is up.  

I'll also get a separate post up with Abels feedback and any changes he may be noticing while undergoing this project.  For now I just wanna throw out a quick thanks to those who have offered their advice and suggestions on our initial blog post of this experiment.  And also for sticking around even with the huge lapse of blog updates!!

Changes, they are a'happening!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wait, did I say VEGAN????

Day 5 of the new year and as Abel and I embark on what I called a "vegan" adventure I realized by Day 2 that we may have bitten off more than we could chew.

I never once stopped to think of checking all of the products in our pantry that I assumed were already naturally vegan. Mainly salsas, marinara and other sauces, not to mention a huge factor like plain sugar.  Clearly I was underestimating how big of a leap the lifestyle change would be. (So much for doing my homework on the matter)

By Wednesday (Jan 2nd) I had worked myself up in a tizzy worrying that we already failed our experiment.

Rather than allow anxieties to build up over whats "right" and "wrong" in our fridge and pantry, I am now more than likely inclined to refer to this plan as more of a transition into plant based eating.

Not that its important to "label" our lifestyle but I do feel its important to pause and rearrange things, to admit we were not prepared if only to say 'hey, this is NOT an easy peasy transition.  And quite frankly, its ok to admit it"

So in terms of where we are going from here we're planning our meals as primarily plant based and for the moment we aren't splitting hairs on whether or not our marinara, salsas or sauces have traces of dairy or sugar in them.  

Aside from that, the only obstacle we are facing is replacing the protein in our breakfasts and snacks.  I'm not a huge fan of soy products or protein powders though we do use a splash of soy milk in our daily cup of joe, its still at minimal use.   In terms of replacing our milk consumption, Abel has found a strong liking to rice milk and its what currently sits in our refrigerator.   Unfortunately the non dairy milks (aside from soy) don't seem to come close to the protein value of dairy milk so we're still going to be looking into other alternatives.

When it comes to lunches and dinners, our bean and veggie intake cover the protein we need wonderfully, its still just the snack and breakfast portions of our days. Considering they are both paired with fruit servings, our protein replacement needs to harmoniously play with fruits.   Tofu and edamame are both options I am aware of but as with soy milk, I'd like to keep that consumption to a minimum.  There are far too many conflicting reports on the benefits of soy consumption so I'm keeping things in a balance.   Well, that and I've never been a fan of edamame and tofu is still a bit daunting.

For now, a side of roasted chickpeas is going to fulfill our protein needs in snacks but if anyone has any other suggestions for snack and breakfast proteins we are all ears.

We're also going to do our best to limit any "faux" store bought meats, primarily because I haven't done much research and am a bit leary of what they consist of and also because of costs.  In the past I've tinkered with seitan recipes and though we love homemade seitan strips for gyros it's still not a product I'd like to use on a regular basis.

Definitely have a  lot more research to do, I probably sound like I'm a little all over the place but that is exactly why we set up this blog in the first place.   To document the trial and error process and learn from it as we babystep our way towards the healthy eating lifestyle.

No shame in this game :)  As I said, any advice, suggestions, comments, sympathy, etc is always welcome!  We'll be updating a little more frequently with the tools we do have to help us along the way.  Books, blogs, spices, resources etc -- anything thats helping us stick to the healthy side of life.