Archive for March, 2010

Jerk-Style Tofu


1 block tofu, sliced into appox. 1/2- inch wide slices

1 T dried thyme

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp mace

1 tsp scotch bonnet pepper, minced

1 T minced onion

2 T agave syrup

3 T coconut or macadamia nut oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper


Combine all ingredients of the marinade in a ziplock bag and add tofu.  If you need more volume to cover the tofu, add a bit more oil.  Marinade at least a few hours up to overnight, turning it every so often so that both sides are seasoned.  Remove from marinade and brush off the thyme leaves else they will burn.  Grill it up to heat through and serve with plantain mash.

Plantain Mash


3 ripe plantains, diced

1/2 onion, diced

1 T golden raisins

2 cloves garlic, minced

Few sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp mace

salt, to taste

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

pinch of allspice

coconut or macadamia nut oil


Sauté the onions, garlic and plantains in a drizzle of oil until the onions have softened.  Add in 1/2 cup of water and the raisins as well as the thyme and mace.  Simmer over medium low heat until the water has evaporated.  Test the plantains for softness.  If they need more cooking time, add another 1/2 cup of water and repeat.  Once softened, continue to cook until the edges have crisped up a bit like home fries.  Mash part of the plantains leaving a portion of them intact for texture.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Remove the thyme stems and serve.

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I try to avoid adding highly processed oils, saturated fats and mayonnaise-type products to our food.  We happen to believe that it’s a healthier way to eat.  Keeping this in mind, I will always opt away from the commercial and toward natural whole food replacements in order to create a more nutritious version of a dish if it’s at all possible.   As a consequence, a great deal more flavor and phytonutrients are incorporated into what we eat via herbs, spices, nuts, seeds and fruits.   This salad is bound together with raw cashew butter [ground cashews], while  mustard and dill are used to punch up the flavor.  You could certainly add some vegan mayo to this if you prefer.

Chopped Cauliflower Salad

This can also be used as a great sandwich filling and works especially well in wraps and pita pockets.


1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets and lightly steamed [5 minutes]

1 T stoneground mustard

1 T cashew butter

1 T raw cashews, chopped

1 T raw sauerkraut

1 dill pickle, diced

1 T fresh dill, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste


Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until evenly mixed and finely chopped.  You can adjust the consistency if necessary by adding more mustard or cashew butter.  Ultimately, the texture is up to your tastes.

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Barbecued Udon Noodles with Grilled Plum and Broccoli Stalks

I did not include amounts for the ingredients because it’s really up to your tastes and how much vegetable/noodle ratio you prefer.  These particular vegetables coupled with the grilled plums are fabulous for flavor, color and texture with the barbecue sauce.


Udon noodles 

plums, cut into six wedges each

broccoli stalks, peeled and cut into planks

kale, cut into shreds

carrots, cut into oblong slices

celery stalk, cut into oblong slices

sesame seeds

canola oil

Asian-Style  Barbecue Sauce


Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  If you have dry udon noodles then cook them, if you are using pre-cooked, then use the water to warm them.

Heat a grill pan on medium high and place the plum wedges and broccoli planks in the pan.  Cook on each side until you have caramelized grill marks.  Remove to a plate and set aside.

Drizzle some canola in a large wok-style pan and turn heat on medium high.  Stir-fry up the carrots and celery and then add the kale.  Cook until softened but still vibrantly green.

Add barbecue sauce to the cooked and drained noodles and mix well.  Toss the noodles with the carrots, celery and kale.  Serve garnished with the grilled plums and broccoli stalks and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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A Bowl Half Full


This dish best reflects my state of mind these past few days.  I’m sure this picture or some variation of it shall remain tucked back behind my retina somewhere for many months to come as it guides another kind of inner vision.  Spring is finally here once again, and yet I am looking toward autumn and the bounty of that season, as represented through the sharing of an abundant harvest.  I’m amazed at how quickly things change as only last week I was focused entirely upon spring and cherry blossoms, asparagus and impending garlic scapes.  I’ve come to realize that when you invest that creative and most personal part of yourself in what you love most and share it with others, people notice even if you do not know they’re watching.

This coming autumn shall bring with it a new experience that both intimidates and excites me.  I have been invited to teach a vegan cooking class representing the wholesome bounty of botanical foods at the venerable and world-class Rancho La Puerta spa.  The motto of this amazing place is “siempre major” which, when translated, means “always better”.  In order to achieve this goal, the founder, Deborah Szekely, also maintains that there needs to be constant change.   Having recently reinvented my own world and redefined my place in it by adopting a compassionate lifestyle coupled with respecting my body through exercise and conscious nourishment,  I have lost nearly one hundred pounds and have never felt more energized physically, mentally or spiritually as I do now.  I eagerly look forward to meeting this remarkable woman and the opportunity to share my own passion for compassionate whole foods with her and her guests.


Hubbard Squash Bowl with Asparagus, Orange and Roasted Garlic Chips

When I see a trough or bowl-shaped food, I immediately start dreaming of ways to fill it and make use of the natural vessel.  This recently happened with a gorgeous deep-orange piece of Hubbard squash.


squash [I had a piece of Hubbard, but any would do.]


garlic, sliced

orange segments, without membranes

fresh basil

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 T organic or turbinado sugar


Preheat oven to 400°.

Clean the squash, removing any seeds and stringy material from the inside.  [If the squash is thick-skinned, like a butternut, peel it.  If it has a softer and edible skin when cooked like an Acorn or a Hubbard there is no need to peel it and actually is a great fiber source.]  Lightly spray the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and black pepper.  Roast until the edges are browned and the squash is fork-tender.  This should take from 45 minutes to an hour depending upon the thickness of your squash.

While the squash is roasting, pour the balsamic vinegar into a small pan and add the sugar.  Simmer on medium low heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Set aside.

Lightly spray the asparagus with olive oil and roast for 10-15 minutes

Pour some olive oil into a small pan and heat to medium.  Place the sliced garlic into the hot oil and cook until they begin to turn golden.  [Do not let them get too brown or they will be bitter.  The now garlic-flavored olive oil should be reserved and used for other dishes or in salad dressings.]  Drain on a paper towel.

Spoon a teaspoon or so of the olive oil used to crisp the garlic slices into a small pan and sauté the orange segments until warmed.

Place a piece of squash on a plate, trough or bowl shape up, and lay the roasted asparagus and oranges atop.  Garnish with the garlic chips, torn basil leaves and a drizzle of balsamic syrup.

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Tofish ‘n’ Chips

I grew up beside the ocean in Southern California, and because of that it will forever be a part of me.  I love the scent of the kelp, the sand, and the water and am one of those odd ducks that actually approaches a beached kelp pile in order to breathe its scent in deeply and investigate which critter hitched a ride to shore with its torn holdfast.  Yet, since we no longer consume sea creatures, a bit of creativity with botanical foods was called for in order to mimic the flavors of seafood.  Also, since this tofu variant was deep fried, I felt the need to compensate by roasting the chips rather than frying them.  They taste better roasted and are a heck of a lot better for you.



2 cups dried organic soy beans, soaked overnight

3 kombu dried fronds

¼ cup arame kelp

10 dried turkish bay leaves

roasted nori super-fine strips, cut into tiny pieces

lemon pepper

Braggs Sea Kelp Delight seasoning

cheesecloth x 2

candy thermometer

calcium sulfate [3 T suspended in 3 cups 180° water]

tofu mold

Please read the procedure for making tofu prior to attempting this variation to familiarize yourself with the overall process.

To a large stockpot add 5 quarts water and the kelp.  Soak for 30 minutes.  Add heat to the stockpot and bring to just under a boil.  Strain through a cheesecloth to remove kelp.  Return to the stove.

Add half the soaked soybeans to a blender and cover by an inch with the kelp broth.  Blend until liquefied.  Decant into the stockpot.  Repeat the process with the remaining soy beans. Add the bay leaves and bring the soybean slurry to 180°.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Strain through cheesecloth into a clean container.

Return the kelp and bay-flavored soy milk to the stove and bring back up to 180°.  Add 3/4 of the calcium sulfate slurry and let sit for 10 minutes to allow large curds to form.   Ladle the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth to drain the majority of the whey off.  Transfer about an inch-thick layer of these curds into the cheesecloth-lined tofu mold.  Sprinkle some finely chopped nori, lemon pepper and Braggs Sea Kelp Delight seasoning over the layer then cover with a new layer of the partially-drained tofu curds.  Repeat until you have 3 layers and end with a layer of tofu curd.  Press for 30 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl of iced water and soak for an hour.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Oven-baked Potato Wedges


Russet Potatoes

olive oil

sea salt

freshly-cracked black pepper


Cut Russet potatoes into wedges and spray lightly with olive oil or for an interesting flavor use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a 400° oven until golden brown.  This should take 45 minutes to an hour.

Mushy Peas


one bag frozen peas

12 fresh mint leaves [Or more if you favor a strong mint flavor.]

Earth Balance vegan margarine

sea salt

freshly-cracked black pepper


Put a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.  Add peas and cook until the peas are hot.  Drain and transfer peas to a food processor.  Add a pat of Earth Balance margarine and a dozen mint leaves.  Pulse until incorporated but not so much so that you have a smooth paste; you want texture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Frying the Tofish:

8 oz AP flour

a bottle of vegan beer

1 cup brown rice flour

Old Bay seasoning

canola oil


Heat canola oil to 350°.

Make the batter by whisking the beer into the AP flour and add a tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning.

Place a cup of brown rice flour on a plate and mix in a couple of teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning.

Pat the tofu dry and cut into slices.  Dredge in the seasoned brown rice flour.  Dip into the beer batter and deep fry at 350° until brown and crispy.  Drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.  Salt while hot and serve with oven-baked potato wedges and mushy peas.

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This is one of the easiest and fastest dishes to put together on this planet.  It’s also one of the most delicious.  H’s sister loves this meal so much I made it twice for her when she visited this past year and named it in her honor.  The orange zest adds an unexpected pop of  flavor that really wakes up the sauce.


Broccoli in No-Oyster Sauce with Cashews and Orange Peel


4 cups broccoli cut into florets

1/3 cup raw cashews

Peel of one orange

1/3 cup vegetarian oyster sauce [It can also be labeled as vegetarian mushroom sauce.]

1/3 cup vegetable broth [This is optional.  I prefer to dilute the oyster sauce because it’s very thick/salty at times.  If you don’t want to add in vegetable broth simply double the amount of vegetarian oyster sauce.]

1 T cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water


Steam broccoli for 4-5 minutes until fork tender.  While the broccoli is steaming, add oyster sauce and vegetable broth to a boil in a large fry pan or wok-style pan.  Add orange peel and cashews.  If the sauce needs thickening, pour in the cornstarch a little bit at a time.   Allow the sauce to thicken in between additions. [ You want it thick enough to coat the back of a spoon so that it will also coat the broccoli.]  After the broccoli is fork tender and the sauce is the right thickness, add broccoli to the sauce and mix well.  Serve over rice or noodles.

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Oh yes, I did




So, yeah.  It was another one of those “why not”moments.  I do love my salty and my sweet together and I couldn’t think of a better combination than a riff on my favorite candy bar of times past.  The tofu keeps it from being cloyingly sweet and gives the dessert a custardy texture.  I took some pieces from this very same block and passed them along to a couple of local vegan friends and I was given two enthusiastic thumbs up.  

*Walks off following my errant thoughts and cravings*







One recipe of fresh silken tofu

salted and roasted peanuts

2 dark chocolate bars, divided [One for the tofu and one to be used as garnish.]

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed [You could use a bit more, up to 1/3 cup more, I’d say, for a thicker sauce.]

1/3 cup non-dairy yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

brown rice flour

coconut oil for pan frying


Make the caramel by adding the yogurt and brown sugar to a pan and bringing to a bubble while stirring over medium heat.  Add the vanilla extract and salt and allow to cook for a few minutes.   Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

Make the tofu as per the recipe with one modification.  Rather than directly ladeling the curd into the tofu mold, add a stage wherein you ladel it to a separate cheesecloth draped colander set over a bowl beforehand.  This will remove the majority of the whey and will prevent your filling layers from being washed out. 

Ladel out drained tofu to an inch depth in the mold. Drizzle on some caramel and sprinkle with peanuts and chocolate but do not completely cover the layer. [ If you completely cover the layer then later when slicing,  the tofu will not hold together well as the layers will slide off one another.  You need some tofu-tofu contact for structural reasons.]  Add the next layer of tofu.  Continue this twice more and end with a layer of curd.  Press for 45 minutes and then soak in a bowl of iced water for an hour.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pat tofu dry and cut into slices or blocks and dredge in brown rice flour.  Pan fry until all sides are golden brown [This is easier to do if the initial shape is a cube.]  Garnish with caramel sauce, peanuts and dark chocolate chunks.  Serve while warm and enjoy!


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A Lighter Mash


Cauliflower and Potato Mash with Roasted Garlic


1/2 head cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets

3-4 cups potatoes, cut into large cubes [You basically want twice the amount of potato as cauliflower.]

8 cloves roasted garlic [Just wrap in foil with a drizzle of olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.]

Earth Balance vegan margarine

non-dairy creamer

2 tsp horseradish

a couple of pinches of freshly-grated nutmeg

sea salt

freshly-cracked black pepper


Steam cauliflower until fork tender and transfer to a bowl of ice water;  set aside.  Cover potatoes by an inch with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Cook until fork-tender.  Add the cauliflower to the pot with the potatoes.  When the water regains a boil and the cauliflower is reheated, drain into a colander.  Return to the pot and let the heat evaporate some of the residual water.  Add the roasted garlic, nutmeg, horseradish, margarine and creamer. [I used 1 T margarine and 2 T creamer.  The amounts will depend upon the consistency of your own mash so I would add the creamer last, and a bit at a time,  to determine how much you need for your preparation.  You will need much less creamer than in traditional potatoes because the cauliflower has a higher water content.  If you like a richer mash then use more margarine.]  Mash until you reach a desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and a pool of mushroom gravy.

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There are times when I want to take an enormous bite of food and feel the substance of it in my mouth.  I also want that bite to be packed with flavor.  Until recently, this was an issue in my relationship with tofu.  As lovely as it is, in order to imbue it with stronger flavors it has to be cut into smaller sized pieces so a marinade can penetrate into the curd and/or sauced heavily.   Neither option scratched my itch.  Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted at the grocery store, it was time to do it myself.

I recently wrote about making fresh tofu at Velvetpark and will reprint the procedure here because this is now the tofu I use in my recipes unless specified.  Trust me, fresh tofu does make a difference.

How to make Fresh Soymilk and Homemade Tofu: 


2 cups organic soybeans, soaked overnight in water

filtered water

3 tsp natural calcium sulfate (gypsum)

candy thermometer

tofu mold [This is the one I use and it makes a double block of tofu:  Wooden Tofu Mold]



Place soybeans in a blender and cover with water by an inch.  Blend until liquefied.  Transfer to a large stockpot and bring up to 5 quarts with water.  Simmer at 180-200°F for 30 minutes.  Strain through cheesecloth into a fresh pot.  At this point you have soy milk.  See how easy?

Return the milk to the stovetop and bring to 200°F .  Add 3 tsp calcium sulfate to 3 cups of boiling water and mix well.  Pour ¾ of the mixture slowly into the soy milk, very gently stir through once.  (You do not want to agitate the milk at this point or the light and fluffy curds shall fall apart and become particulate.)  Turn off the heat and allow it to sit, untouched, for 10 minutes.  If the liquid (whey) is cloudy add the remaining coagulant if, however, it is clear then there is no need.  Transfer the curds to a mold lined with cheesecloth and place a weight upon the top.  Press for 30 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of ice water and soak for an hour to set. 



Chicken-Fried Tofu Steak with Slow-cooked Mushroom Gravy

This is a substantial meal that is guaranteed to satisfy any rumbling belly and should yield four servings.  This recipe yields 4 cups gravy.

For the Gravy:

1 onion, diced

8 oz crimini mushrooms, diced [You could use whichever mushroom blows your hair back.]

6 cloves garlic, minced

fresh thyme [I tied 6 sprigs together with kitchen twine to make a bundle.]

5 cups mushroom broth, divided

sea salt

freshly-cracked black pepper

½ cup white wine [I used a sauvignon blanc that I had on hand.]

olive oil

¼ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg

AP flour

¼ cup non-dairy creamer, optional  [I used So Delicious original coconut creamer.]


Sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic, mushrooms and thyme and sauté until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are starting to dry.  This should take 30 minutes or so.  Add the wine and turn up the heat to simmer off the alcohol.  Add 4 cups of mushroom stock and reduce heat back to medium low.  Simmer until reduced in volume by half.  Transfer half of the gravy to a blender and pulse until pureed.  Return it to the pan.  Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. 

In a separate pan whisk together the flour and 2 T olive oil, cooking for a few minutes until the flour has a nutty scent.  Add one cup warmed mushroom stock, whisking as it’s added.  Add the roux to the gravy and bring to a low boil until thickened then reduce heat.  You can add in the non-dairy creamer at this point if you wish a more Southern-style gravy.


For the Chicken-Fried Tofu:

Fresh silken tofu curds ready to be placed into a mold

½ cup mushroom gravy

1 T steak sauce

1 T fresh parsley, chopped

¼ cup flax seeds

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup brown rice flour

4 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper

canola oil, for frying


Ladel some fresh tofu curd into the mold to a depth of about an inch.  Mix the steak sauce and parsley into the gravy and spoon 1/3 over the layer of bean curd in an uneven pattern.  Repeat twice more and then end with a final layer of curd.  Press for 30 minutes.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool. 

[If you are using a store-bought tofu then 2 blocks would equal one of the homemade’s amount.  Simply treat the tofu the same from here on out, cutting each block in half to create four portions.  The texture of the homemade is on the softer side, somewhere between an extra firm silken and a soft regular tofu.  It’s up to your tastes which variety of tofu you choose to use.]

Add flax seeds and ¾ cup water to a blender and blend on high until homogenized.  Set aside in a bowl to thicken.  Place rice flour in a bowl and mix in half of the spices.  In a separate bowl mix the remaining spices with the bread crumbs. 

Pat the tofu dry with a paper towl and cut into 4 steaks.  Dredge in the seasoned rice flour and then dip into the gelled flax seed before coating with bread crumbs.  Place into a pan of hot oil and brown on each side.  Set on paper towels to absorb excess oil. 


I served mine doused with the mushroom gravy over a cauliflower and potato mash with collard and beet greens.  This was some serious vegan comfort food.




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Grilled Curried Tofu and Almond Butter Salad

Using almond butter and lemon juice rather than a faux mayonnaise makes this salad significantly healthier for you.  Almonds are a great non-dairy source of calcium and the chia seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids.  Turmeric, in the curry powder, contains curcumin which is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.  Oh and that adage “an apple a day…”? Believe it.  Apples alone contain at least ten thousand identified phytonutrients.

This salad is great served on fresh, crisp Romaine lettuce spears but you could just as easily fill a pita pocket or as H likes to have it, wrapped up in a soft whole wheat tortilla.  I’ve given the amounts I used to make a salad for two.


4 slices firm silken tofu [or whichever tofu texture you prefer], sliced into ½ inch thick planks

½ red apple, diced

½ red bell pepper, diced

¼ cup raw almonds, chopped

1 celery stalk with leaves, sliced

1 T almond Butter

freshly-squeezed lemon juice

chia seeds (could substitute with poppy seeds)

sparkling apple cider

curry powder

sea salt

freshly cracked black pepper


Add one tablespoon curry powder to a volume of apple cider sufficient to cover the tofu.  Marinate refrigerated for as long as possible, up to overnight. 

Sear the tofu until it has grill marks, cool and then dice.  Add to a bowl along with the apple, red bell pepper, almonds and celery.  Whisk together almond butter and enough lemon juice to create a loose dressing. Add to the salad and mix well.  Sprinkle with chia seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste.  [You can add more curry powder to the salad if you like a stronger curry flavor.  I would mix it in with the dressing so that it becomes well dispersed.]

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