Monday, July 27, 2009


Best Blog Tips
Cleaning beets and beet greens from our garden

The weekend before last DH and I were on Salt Spring Island (BC) visiting his stepdaughter Kathy and her DH James, along with kathy's brother Pierre and family from Quebec City (who had not been "out West" for 18 years!). DH's sons Sean and Laurie were also there, along with Laurie's girlfriend Meghan, and their half-brother Tommy, with his daughter Aimee (who lives on Salt Spring) and son Tyler. It was the first time that all 4 brothers had been together in 18 years-- a photo op if there ever was one! Cousin Tristan, Kathy and James' son, also showed up.

So, it was nonstop talking (largely in French, in which DH is fluent, but not me!) and eating! We had tons of fresh, organic fruit, including the best strawberries EVER from Kathy's daughter Tali and her DH Dave's large organic garden, and we utilized fresh produce from Salt Spring and from our own Denman Island garden, particularly fresh beets and greens which are growing abundantly in our little garden. All of this fresh produce was enjoyed by the omni's as well as visiting vegans!

It was a really fun and relaxing weekend, full of sun, children (Pierre and Natalie's 2 daughters Jeanne and Rose, and Tali's 2 kids, Jasper and Chiara) family stories and pictures, and swimming at the nearby lake. DH and I got to sleep in a lovely big tent out in the trees, which was cool and breezy at night.

On the first night we had a lovely salad and DH's famous vegetarian spaghetti sauce and bread, with a yummy new beet salad (see recipe below) that I made:

The next day everyone went to the Farmer's Market in Ganges, the biggest town on Salt Spring, and I stayed behind to make lunch, which we ate outside:

That's a platter of roasted beets with fresh Italian parsley from my deck garden in the center; with Armenian flat bread, my Creamy Low-Fat Hummous, local bread, and a trio of salads that I made.

Hummous and roasted beets on the left, and a Middle-Eastern tahini-parsley salad in the center, a made-up-on-the-spot potato/sweet potato/green bean salad in the back, and cooked beet greens with my mother's lemon salad dressing (recipe below) in the foreground.

For dinner there was another green salad, leftover lunch salads, chile (Kathy made a veg and a non-veg version), corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and a fruit crisp. The omnis had salmon and chicken-- we vegans had Breast of Tofu.

Our last meal on salt Spring was Sunday breakfast, prepared by Pierre's wife Natalie-- big blueberry pancakes (with local organic blueberries), served with maple syrup which Pierre and Natalie brought from Quebec.

Kathy sharing a laugh with her sister-in-law Natalie.


Printable Recipe

Servings: 4

This colorful and delicious salad is a veganized version of a recipe from Joyce Goldstein's "Mediterranean Fresh".

Yogurt Dressing:
1 recipe Rich "Bulgarian-Style" Tofu Yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons aquafaba or Fat-Free Oil Substitute for Salad Dressings
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt to taste
8 large or 12 small beets, steamed or roasted, and skinned
1 large bunch of any kind of tender but sturdy greens, such as baby kale, beet greens, radicchio, arugula, chard, etc. (a mixture)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dillweed (or 2 teaspoons dried)
3 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until smooth. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

Slice the beets to the size you prefer. Clean, trim and dry the greens and slice about 1/4" thick. Just before serving, mix them with the beets in a salad bowl and sprinkle with the dillweed and walnuts. Add the dressing and coat the vegetables. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving)
: 272.9 calories; 50% calories from fat; 16.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 447.6mg sodium; 952.6mg potassium; 24.5g carbohydrates; 5.3g fiber; 14.7g sugar; 19.2g net carbs; 12.1g protein; 6.0 points.

I don't really have a recipe for the cooked beet greens with lemon dressing. Just cook some trimmed beet greens (or any other greens), cool them off and squeeze them as dry as you can, then slice them thinly. Toss with the following dressing (you may need to multiply it, depending on how many greens you cook) and serve. So simple, yet so delicious!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 4
Yield: a scant 1/2 c

My mother, Eve Urbina, never bought prepared salad dressing. This is my version of the one we had on our big daily bowl of salad greens when I was growing up. My mother never measured, but I have figured out a formula for those who like to use exact amounts. This method of mixing is easy and convenient for small amounts made just before dressing the salad, but there's a method for making a laarger amount, too.

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small clove garlic, minced or crushed
3 tablespoons aquafaba or Fat-Free Oil Substitute for Salad Dressings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

With the back of a teaspoon in a small round-bottomed bowl (or use a medium-sized mortar and pestle), mash together the salt and garlic until it is like a paste. (The salt grains will help mash the garlic to a paste and the garlic juice will dissolve the salt.)

Whisk in the broth and lemon juice with a fork, or small wire whisk.

If you prefer to make a larger amount ahead of time, a good method of mixing larger amounts is to place all of the ingredients (using crushed garlic) in a Tupperware QuickShake® container, or a jar with a tight cover, and shake until well mixed.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving)
: 64.8 calories; 92% calories from fat; 6.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 119.3mg sodium; 12.5mg potassium; 1.4g carbohydrates; 0.1g fiber; 0.2g sugar; 1.3g net carbs; 0.1g protein; 1.8 points.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Best Blog Tips
The "Tofu Xpress"

I've just been given the opportunity to test out a great new gadget for the vegetarian and vegan kitchen-- a nifty tofu press called the "Tofu Xpress". It was invented by a clever Pennsylvania woman and is the result of 5 years of testing. Here's how it works (pictures taken by me in my kitchen!):

I pressed a 1 lb. block of commercial medium-firm tofu. You put the spring-activated top over the tofu and snap in place:

Place the whole thing in your refrigerator for 30-60 minutes:

Look at the water that was pressed out of it in the next picture. I weighed it after pressing and almost half it's original weight (16 oz.) in water was pressed out! It weighed 8.6 oz. after pressing for an hour.

After pressing, I sliced it into 8 slices and placed it back in the Tofu Xpress (drained and washed), with a marinade (2 parts light soy sauce and 1 part maple syrup with a little sesame oil), covered it with the flat lid and let it marinate in the refrigereator for a few hours:

Then I browned the slices in a nonstick skillet over high heat with the marinade poured over it:

I turned the slices over and cooked them (watching carefully) until all of the marinade was soaked up and the slices were appetizingly glazed:

The tofu was delicious! It had a different texture and mouth feel than commercial extra-firm tofu, I found. It was firm all right, but smoother and not as dry-- it's hard to explain!  It makes the BEST scrambled tofu-- see my version of Julie Hasson's great tofu scramble using pressed medium-firm tofu.

I am sold on this press! It would be especially useful if you make your own tofu. You can then press your finished tofu to the firmness you desire without balancing weights on top! You can also use this press for squeezing the liquid out of cooked or thawed, frozen greens, shredded cabbage, eggplant slices, etc..

Also, some folks can only find the softer, medium-firm tofu, or that's the only kind they can get that's organic. Now, they can make it as firm as they like! Furthermore, bulk medium-firm tofu is often far less expensive (and not over-packaged) than commercial pressed tofu, so that, even when you figure it by the pressed weight, you save money.

You can order it via this page, and there is an introductory discount. (BTW, I am not getting a commission for sales on this product-- I just think it's a great gadget!)

All the best,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Best Blog Tips
A glass of fresh, cold homemade tofu milk!

We're just back from an overnight stay in Nanaimo, BC with some old friends-- very relaxing. Who knew that Nanaimo (known mainly for it's malls and where you go to get the ferry to Vancouver here on Vancouver island, and, everywhere else, as the birthplace of Diana Krall) has such pretty views?

Above is a view of Nanaimo harbour and marina from our 8th-floor hotel window. It looks like a postcard shot, doesn't it?

But Nanaimo is actually home to many things we treasure, such as the best Value Village I know of (where I get at least 90% of my clothes), some great walks, the best music store in BC (Fascinating Rhythm, where Elvis Costello is sometimes spotted while visiting his wife's hometown), some of the best blues music in BC, and some great restaurants. We had lunch in one of them, Aladdin's Cafe, on the Victoria Crescent-- an unpreposessing Lebanese family restaurant with a super vegan plate. (You can stuff yourself on authentic Lebanese tabouleh, stuffed grapeleaves, baba ganoush, hummus, spicy carrots, felafel, and homemade wholewheat pita for under $12!)

The Rant:
I wish we'd eaten at Aladdin's Cafe for dinner, too! We went to a well-known mainstream restaurant (in deference to our hosts) and there was a vegan item on their menu that looked promising-- a "Risotto Stack" with lots of vegetables and "grilled tofu". It was nicely presented and the risotto wasn't bad, but there wasn't much of it. The veggies were colorful, but absolutely plain, steamed. You would think that for $18 a plate they could have taken the time to season them with a little olive oil and herbs, or something! And the tofu, all 4 tiny wedges of it, was deep-fried and TOTALLY tasteless! Non-vegetarian restaurants (unless they are Asian) so often serve tofu in a way that lets me know that the chef has never tasted the dish! Have they never heard of marinating? Apparently, many chefs are under the impression that vegans are ascetics who don't care for the excitement of seasoned food! Grrrr! That'll teach me-- next time I'm in a non-vegetarian, non-Asian restaurant, I'll stick with the pasta! Have you had any similar experiences?

Anyway, on to the recipe-- I ran out of soymilk before we left for Nanaimo, and I didn't want to make a batch before we left, so I made some Tofu Milk from my first cookbook, "The Almost No-fat Cookbook". I hadn't made it in years and was quite chuffed (as they say in the UK) by how easy it was to make and how nice and creamy it tasted, so I thought I'd share. (I keep some boxes of silken tofu in my pantry at all times!)

(Next weekend we head for Salt Spring Island to visit DH's family, including some from Quebec City.)

Printable Recipe

Servings: 8
Yield: 2 quarts

This is a great recipe to have around if you run out of your favorite non-dairy milk. Not the best for hot beverages, but great for cereal, smoothies, shakes, and just plain drinking, as well as for cooking and baking.

I developed this recipe when the Mori-Nu boxes of silken tofu weighed 10.5 oz. Now they weigh 12.3 oz.! I haven't figured out an easy way to increase this without making a huge amount, so just slice off 1/6th of the box on one end and save that tofu for a smoothie or something, and use the larger part in the tofu milk!

And, BTW, this milk is much lower in nutrients than soymilk, so, like rice milk, it is not meant to be a nutritional substitute for soymilk or dairy milk! (1 cup Rice Dream Original contains 120 calories, 2 g fat, 11 g sugars, and only 1 g protein, so the tofu milk is superior in protein and lower in sugars and fat-- see the nutrition facts for the tofu milk below the recipe.)

10.5 oz extra-firm silken tofu (See directions for measuring this amount of tofu without weighing in the text above.)
3 cups cold water
1 cup more cold water
2-3 tablespoons granulated organic unbleached sugar or alternative
1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (omit if it's for cooking savory items)
(or use 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract instead)
3/4 teaspoon salt
enough cold water to make 2 quarts total

If you have a large blender, such as a Vita-Mix, you can just add all of the ingredients to the blender and whiz like mad!

If you have a smaller blender container, or a less powerful blender, follow these instructions:

Blend the tofu and the first 3 cups of water until very smooth. Add the next 1 cup of water, the sugar, vanilla (if using), and salt and blend again.

Pour this into a 2-quart container and add cold water to make 2 quarts. Stir well, pour into sterilized 1-quart bottles, cap tightly and refrigerate.

Shaek before pouring, as this tends to separate on standing. This milk will keep about a week in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1-cup serving)
: 32.7 calories; 19% calories from fat; 0.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 202.1mg sodium; 57.4mg potassium; 3.9g carbohydrates; 0.0g fiber; 3.5g sugar; 3.9g net carbs; 2.8g protein; 0.7 points.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


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STILL haven't been cooking much! This week it's new flooring upstairs (kitchen, living, dining) and everything has been out on both decks! It's finally coming together! Anyway, this is what we had for lunch today-- very simple and very yummy. It's also something different to do with leeks, besides soup!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 4 (or 2 very hungry people!)

This is a very simple homestyle dish from Northern China, where leeks are used frequently. This is a great winter meal. This was adapted from a recipe in Ken Hom's Vegetarian Cookery (BBC Books, London, 1995), and appears in my book, Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen.

12 oz extra-firm tofu sliced into about 5/8" slices
2 teaspoons oil
12 oz (2 medium) leeks, well-cleaned, tough leaves discarded, and shredded with a sharp knife (white and green part)
2 teaspoons oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Cooking Sauce:
4 teaspoons Szechuan chili garlic paste
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 cup light vegetarian broth

Heat a large heavy nonstick skillet with the first 2 teaspoons oil over high heat. When it's hot, add the tofu slices. Cook them over high heat, watching carefully, until they get crispy and golden on the bottom, and then turn them over and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and slice the pieces into small triangles. Set aside.

Add the last 2 teaspoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the leeks and garlic. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes.

Add the tofu and the Cooking Sauce. Cook 3 minutes more and serve immediately with steamed long grain brown rice.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
151.6 calories; 37% calories from fat; 6.4g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 297.6mg sodium; 337.3mg potassium; 15.5g carbohydrates; 1.8g fiber; 4.3g sugar; 13.8g net carbs; 8.1g protein; 3.2 points.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Best Blog Tips

Happy Canada Day (July 1st), and Happy 4th of July! (I can celebrate both, as a dual citizen!) Both holidays are often celebrated with a barbecue. What can a vegan serve (or bring) that will knock the socks off the omnis? Read on! I'm sharing an idea for a vegan kebab and a killer homemade barbecue sauce.

Tofu Kebabs with peppers, mushrooms and onion. I had soaked the extra-firm tofu cubes in the Breast of Tofu marinade (this is in just about all of my books, or use the  marinade for Crispy Marinated Tofu Slices from my book "World Vegan Feast") for several days (the recipe is here, too), anticipating a meal such as this. I just threaded them on skewers with the veggies, slathered on my Bourbon BBQ Sauce (see recipe below) and grilled them, serving them on a bed of Basmati rice. (Or, alternately, you could serve them in some sort of flatbread, such as pita.)

Printable Recipe

Yield: About 3 1/4 cups

Jack Daniels is vegan, by the way!

2 cups ketchup (can be the organic kind)
1/2 cup molasses (your favorite)
1/3 cup bourbon whiskey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbs vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (homemade recipe here)
1 Tbs Asian hot sauce (no fish) such as Sriracha
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2 tsp. paprika (can be a smoked paprika)
1 tsp. garlic granules
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. liquid smoke
(See info about liquid smoke here.)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Place in a covered jar and refrigerate.

Servings: 13

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup):
96.1 calories; 2% calories from fat; 0.4g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 92.9mg sodium; 399.1mg potassium; 21.0g carbohydrates; 0.6g fiber; 15.9g sugar; 20.4g net carbs; 0.9g protein; 1.8 points.

© Bryanna Clark Grogan 2005

Enjoy the holidays!