Wednesday, December 6, 2017

CREAMY, SEEDY TOFU "GOAT CHEESE" SPREAD

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I make alot of hummus for snacks, but one day I wanted a change of pace-- a spread that is easy and fast to make, with what I had in the house.  I came up with this cheese-y spread and my husband went nuts over it and some omnivore guests did, too.  It is very yummy!

Ordinarily, I would have made this with extra-firm silken tofu, but I didn't have any in the house, so I used medium-firm ordinary tofu, which I pressed in my tofu press.  When there was about 3/4-inch of liquid on top the the tofu, I weighed it and it weighed 12.3 ounces, exactly as much as a box of silken tofu.  It worked just fine in the recipe and costs quite a bit less than silken tofu.

There are a few tofu presses on the market-- I have a Tofu Xpress, which takes a 1 lb. block of tofu:
 

For pressing more tofu at once, I have a small (1.6 L) inexpensive Japanese pickle press, similar to this one, which can press 700g/1.5 lbs of tofu at a time.  


This is the model I have:


I know it looks flimsy, and, when I posted once about this on Facebook, people had a hard time believing that it could handle pressing tofu-- but it does just fine! I've seen a picture (which I cannot locate now) of a pile of tofu squares being pressed in a large round Japanese pickle press.

NOTE: If you don't have a tofu press, here's a link with three other methods to extract some of the liquid from tofu.  Oh, and don't pay attention to any advice that says you can only press firm tofu.  I press medium-firm tofu all the time.

This is what medium-firm tofu looks like:

"Medium-firm tofu has a rougher texture than soft—curds are visible—but will still crack with handling. It can have a droopy appearance due to its moderate moisture content, and it's a good choice for dishes that don't require much manipulation, like braising or boiling. Because there is more whey in medium-firm tofu, it may break up during vigorous stir-frying, and pan-frying can lead to sad, deflated tofu planks."  Photo and quote from http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/shopping-cooking-guide-different-tofu-types.html



Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S CREAMY, SEEDY TOFU "GOAT CHEESE" SPREAD
Servings: 6
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
 This is a rich tasting, nutritious and inexpensive spread, enjoyed by vegans and visiting omnivores alike. It's even better after refrigerating for a day or two, so you may want to double or triple the recipe. We love it with flat breads, celery sticks, rye crisp crackers, or pita crisps.

1 lb. of medium-firm tofu, pressed down to 12- 12.5 oz. and drained
OR 1 box (12.3 oz.)    extra-firm SILKEN tofu
1/2 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds, soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes and well-drained
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds, soaked with the sunflower seeds (see line above)
OR 1 heaping tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon    light brown miso  (or a little more to your liking)
1 tablespoon    lemon juice  (or a little more to your liking)
1/2 tablespoon    nutritional yeast flakes  
1 large clove    garlic, crushed  
1/2- 3/4 teaspoon    salt  
 OPTIONALS (1 or both):
2-3 large sun-dried tomatoes in oil, rinsed, drained and chopped  
2 tablespoons    minced chives or green onions (just the green part)  

Place everything except the Optionals in a food processor and process for several minutes, or until the mixture is VERY smooth. You may have to stop the machine and loosen the mixture from the outside walls of the processor bowl towards the middle with a spatula once or twice. If using, pulse in the sun-dried tomatoes and chives briefly, just to distribute. Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per 1/4 cup serving): 154 calories, 93 calories from fat, 11.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 305.3mg sodium, 214.7mg potassium, 6g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, less than 1g sugar, 10.2g protein, 4.6 points.

Enjoy!



Monday, November 20, 2017

EXPERIMENT WITH FOLLOW YOUR HEART (EARTH ISLAND IN CANADA) VEGAN EGG, AND A CRUSTY LOAF OF SOURDOUGH BREAD

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My dinner tonight:
Steamed green beans, the sourdough bread I baked this morning (with a bit of my homemade vegan Butter-y Spread) and a vegan Italian omelette, or frittata, with mushrooms, red peppers and onions, made with Earth Island (or Follow Your Heart in the USA) "Vegan Egg" and their Vegan Parmesan Grated, plus a few of my own additions-- I'll recount what I did with my experiment after I brag about my crusty bread. DH Brian is visiting family in Montreal and Quebec City, so I'm on my own for a few days. Yesterday, I decided to refresh my two jars of yogurt-based vegan sourdough starter (my starter recipe and instructions here) languishing in my refrigerator. I discovered that one can ferment 2 one-quart jars of starter in the Instant Pot on the Yogurt function. It takes only 4-6 hours-- faster than my usual method of placing it in the oven with the oven light on. I ended up making four jars of fresh starter with some of the old starter fresh warm soymilk and flour (two jars went home with my friend Holly), and using the remaining old starter in a flatbread dough and dough for a crusty sourdough loaf. Somehow, I couldn't bring myself to throw any of it out.

                               Bubbly fresh sourdough starter.

The flatbread came out pretty well, but not very nice looking, so no photos. But I my crusty no-knead 1/2 whole wheat sourdough bread was a success!

 
I made a few changes--I used a whole cup of sourdough starter (I figured that it would be a bit weak, since it was old, so perhaps more would be better) and I added 1/4 tsp. instant yeast to the water, just in case. Otherwise I followed the recipe as given.


I baked it in a preheated stoneware "cloche" made from a Pampered Chef 11" deep dish pizza baker covered with an upside-down 12" Pampered Chef baking bowl (got the two of them for about $13 at a thrift store-- see picture of a similar set-up above). There are other ideas for pans in the blog sourdough bread blog post linked to above. The crust was really improved in this stoneware-- dark and crackly.

 



Okay, now about that omelette, or fritatta...

I and two of my vegan friends were excited to finally aquire some of those cute little egg boxes with the "Vegan Egg" powder in them (it took a while for this product to be available in Canada, under the brand Earth Island:



Our first impression of a "Vegan Egg" omelette, following the directions given by the company, was positive, though it seemed a bit too firm.  It set up so fast-- pretty amazing!  So, for a couple of weeks I have been meaning to play around with this to have a more tender and slightly more tasty version.

What I did, to make one large omelette for two (I'll have the leftovers for beakfast) and my plan was to blend the Vegan Egg with the ice-cold water called for, and some medium firm tofu to tenderize it.  I also added some egg-y smelling black salt (Kala namak-- it's actually pink, BTW) and a little nutritional yeast.

The results were very good-- tender, but easy to remove from the pan.  As you will see in the recipe below, I baked it as a frittata rather than cooking it on the stovetop, but I plan to try the stovetop method for a regular omelette next time.

Here's what I did:


BRYANNA'S "VEGAN EGG" OVEN-BAKED ITALIAN OMELETTE (OR FRITATTA) WITH VEGETABLES
Serves 2

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

While the oven heats up, place a  lightly oiled 10" cast iron skillet or pie pan in the oven.

Slice and saute the vegetables you want to use-- I used a small onion, a medium-sized red bell pepper, and 3 medium sized cremini mushrooms, all thinly-sliced and lightly salted. I actually cooked them on a cookie sheet under the broiler of my oven until they wilted and browned bit.

While they were cooking, I blended the omelette ingredients, using:
3/4 cup ice-cold water
1/2 cup medium-firm tofu, crumbled
2 level T. "Vegan Egg" powder
1 T. nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 T. dry sherry (optional)
1/4 tsp. black salt

I spread the broiled veggies in the hot skillet and quickly poured and spread the eggy mixture from the blender  over the vegetables and out to the edges of the pan. 

I topped the mixture with about 1/4 cup of vegan parmesan.

I baked the omelette for 20 minutes, removed it from the oven and cut it into four quarters, and sprinkled a bit of salt and freshly-ground black pepper on top.  

Delicious and tender!

Enjoy!


Monday, October 30, 2017

EASY, INEXPENSIVE, NO-COOK, OIL-FREE VEGAN CREAMER

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This creamer is suitable for those with nut allergies.
After almost 11 years of blogging, I found myself writing fewer and fewer blog posts every month, and then... nothing new, for about two months.
But, recently, my interest has been sparked again.  
My current interest is in cutting way down on the amount of oil and expensive (never mind potentially ethically and environmentally suspect) tree nuts that we  use in creamy vegan mixtures, such as sauces, cheeses, mayo, ice creams, spreads, etc.. My reason for this concern is only peripherally related to the fact that we are trying to lose some weight, as well as paring down the food budget.
I know that nuts are good for us and I will certainly use walnuts, pecans, etc., in baking for special occasions or for our weekly treat, but it has bothered me for some time now that so many cashews and coconuts are used in vegan cooking these days. (Oh, and don't forget about almonds!)

Do I have your attention??

I have been writing a new blog post with my explorations on the above subjects, so stay tuned in the next few days, if you are interested.


In the meantime, here is one of the successful recipes that has come out of my exploration of these concerns... a rich-tasting, creamy vegan coffee creamer.  I was very fond of So Delicious Coconut Original coffee creamer-- good mouthfeel, not too sweet-- but it is no longer available in Canada.  We drink Silk soy milk, but I didn't care for Silk creamer-- too sweet.  So, here is what I came up with for occasions when a creamer is needed-- not only in hot drinks, but to drizzle on fruit crumbles and crisps, or hot cereal.




This homemade creamer is so easy to make and very inexpensive because it utilizes cheap, nutritious, plentiful and surprisingly versatile raw shelled sunflower seeds instead of nuts. You can control the sweetness, it's smooth and creamy and doesn't separate. (And, according to http://fsi.colostate.edu/sunflower-seeds-draft/ , 85% of the North American sunflower seed is still produced in North and South Dakota and Minnesota.)



Printable Copy
BRYANNA'S RICH VEGAN SUNFLOWER SEED CREAMER

Yield: 1 3/4 cups
Servings: 14
2 tablespoons per serving

VARIATION: For a"Cooking Cream", omit sugar and vanilla. 

1 1/2 cups "Original" soy milk, or other creamy plant-based milk (NOT canned coconut milk)
1/4 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds, soaked for 15 minutes in boiling hot water
3 to 4 tsp unbleached granulated sugar OR 2 to 3 tsp agave nectar or maple syrup (or to your taste)
1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
pinch salt

Drain soaked sunflower seeds well.  Add all the ingredients, including the soaked seeds, to a high-speed blender.  Cover and start on Low speed, gradually turning it up to the highest speed.  Blend for several minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

NOTE: I recommend that you strain the creamer through a nut bag before going to the next step.

Pour into a 2-cup bottle or jar with a secure lid (best to scald with boiling water first).  Refrigerate. Shake well before use. The creamer should be used within about 5 days.

Nutrition Facts (calculated using 4 tsp. sugar)
Nutrition (per 2 T. serving): 33 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.8g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 34.7mg sodium, 50.5mg potassium, 3g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, 1.4g sugar, 1.8g protein, 1 point.







Enjoy! (and stay tuned)


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

SWEET & TENDER VEGAN CORNMEAL MUFFINS WITH COCONUT & RAISINS (OR OTHER DRIED FRUIT)

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A good friend of ours was coming over for coffee this morning, so I wanted to bake something simple but yummy.  I've had a hankering for cornbread lately, but I haven't been baking at all lately, mostly because of the heat.  However,  it was a bit cooler this morning, so I thought I would make some muffins-- a-little-bit-sweet cornmeal muffins to go with the coffee and satisfy my craving at the same time. They turned out well-- just sweet enough, nice and moist, not high in fat, and with a bit of coconut crunch.

The whole wheat pastry flour, which is lower in gluten than regular whole wheat flour, and the wetter batter, results in a very tender and moist muffin, despite the smaller than usual amount of oil.


Printable Copy

BRYANNA'S SWEET & TENDER VEGAN CORNMEAL MUFFINS WITH COCONUT & RAISINS (WITH VARIATIONS)

18 large muffins
This is a variation on my favorite Yankee-style cornbread. It’s moist and corny, high-fiber and low in fat.

DRY MIX:

2 cup fine cornmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup soy, chickpea or pea flour
1/2 cup granulated unbleached organic sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
WET MIX:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups + 6 tablespoons nondairy milk  
1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea cooking broth) OR unsweetened smooth applesauce 
1/4 cup oil 
ADDITIONS:
1/2-2/3 cup fine shredded coconut
1/2-2/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries, or other chopped dried fruit  
VARIATIONS: 
If you like, use 2/3-1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans instead of coconut; and/or use 1-2 c. fresh cranberries or blueberries instead of the dried fruit.
            
Turn oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease 18 muffin cups (preferably) with my Homemade Cake Release or oil.

Whisk the Dry Mix ingredients together well in a large bowl. Whisk or blend the Wet Mix ingredients together and add to the Dry Mix, along with the coconut and raisins or dried cranberries, etc.. Mix briefly. The batter will be wetter than most muffin batters, but don't worry! 


Ladle the batter into the greased muffin cups. The batter will be right up to the tops of the muffin cups. Bake 20 minutes. Test for doneness with a clean toothpick.


Place the muffin pans on racks and let sit for about 5 minutes, then release the muffins and serve warm.


Nutrition Facts (Made with aquafaba and  1/2 cup each coconut and raisins.)
Nutrition (per serving): 183 calories, 49 calories from fat, 5.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 253.7mg sodium, 256.9mg potassium, 30.9g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, 9.9g sugar, 4.4g protein, 5.3 points.

Enjoy!








Tuesday, August 22, 2017

LENTIL AND RAPINI STEW WITH SPICY VEGAN SAUSAGE

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 Even though I am part Italian, I only discovered rapini a decade or so ago. Being partial to "bitter greens" (which include arugula, radicchio, mustard and turnip greens, sorrel, young dandelion greens and curly endive), I was attracted by this "new" vegetable when I first saw it in a grocery store. Rapini, which is also called 'broccoli raab" or simply "rabe”, only slightly resembles broccoli. It has tiny bunches of broccoli-like blossoms on long stems in the midst of large spiky leaves.



Unlike common broccoli, which is from the cabbage family, rapini is related to turnip, but it grows in the same way as broccoli, except that it's ready to harvest earlier and can be grown all year round in temperate climates. The flavor is pungent, with a slightly spicy bite, which makes it a great foil for bland ingredients, such as white kidney beans, pasta, rice, polenta (Italian cornmeal) and potatoes. It can take seasonings that have big flavors, such as garlic, spicy vegan sausages and hot peppers. Try using it in lasagne, stuffed savory crepes, ravioli filling, stuffed pasta shells, quiches and soups. I love it so much that I actually crave it sometimes!

Italian cookbooks as far back as the 14th century included rapini recipes. The classic Italian preparation is to braise it in olive oil and flavor it with garlic, anchovies (I use miso instead!) and bread crumbs; or simply sautéed in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper. The blossoms, leaves and stalks are equally edible and flavorful. Rapini is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare. The stalks tend to grow to an equal thickness, making even cooking a snap.


In supermarkets, rapini comes in bunches of 1 to 1 1/4 pounds. Look for slender, crisp stalks, bright color, fresh-looking leaves and relatively few opened buds. Plan on 3 to 4 servings from each bunch or 2 servings per bunch if you plan to use it as part of a main dish-- with pasta, for example. Store it in zipper-lock bags in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week. Because it is usually eaten cooked, you can also blanch it for 2 minutes in boiling water, "shock" it in ice cold water, drain it and freeze it in this semi-cooked state for future use in recipes.


Before cooking, rinse the greens well in plenty of cold water. Trim only the end of the stems and discard them (there is very little waste with rapini!). Cut the rest of the stems, leaves and tops crosswise into 1 to 2-inch lengths. Some cooks like to blanch the rapini before cooking (see paragraph above), to reduce its bitterness, but I don't bother with that unless I want to use the plain, cooked rapini in a recipe. I like that slightly bitter edge!


Rapini is a also nutrition powerhouse, by the way. It is low in calories (only 25 in a cup!) and sodium and has no fat or cholesterol. What it does have is plenty of vitamin A (110% of the Recommended Daily Value), vitamin C (130% of the RDV) and vitamin K, as well as potassium and folic acid. Potassium, along with folic acid, fiber and the bioflavonoids found in the cruciferous vegetables may help prevent the risk of stroke. Rapini also provides iron and calcium and like other cruciferous vegetables, contains nutrients, compounds and antioxidants that appear to have cancer-fighting benefits.


Fortunately, there are many delicious ways to enjoy rapini, and there are several other recipes on this blog:

Mediterranean-Style Bean Stew with Rapini & 
Vegan Sausage

Italian-Style Cannellini (White Kidney Beans) with Rapini (Broccoli Rabe)

Farfalle (bowtie) Pasta & Rapini with Italian Walnut Sauce

Tagliatelle with Rapini, Onion, Chickpeas & Creamy White Bean Flour-Based Vegan Bechamel

Tortino di Patate (Layered Potato Casserole with rapini, onions, vegan Italian sausage,and vegan cheese.)

The following recipe (from my book "World Vegan Feast") is one of those simple Italian-style stick-to your-ribs stews-- delicious with a green salad and crusty bread to soak up the juices.  



Printable Recipe


BRYANNA'S LENTIL AND RAPINI STEW WITH SPICY VEGAN SAUSAGE
(From my book “World Vegan Feast”, Vegan Heritage Press)

Serves 6

1/2 pound (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) dried brown lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
2 cups canned tomatoes and juice, chopped
2 cups tasty vegan broth 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 spicy vegan sausages, such as Tofurkey Italian "Sausages" or Field Roast Chipotle "Sausages", sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 to 1 1/4 pounds (1 bunch) rapini (broccoli raab-- see above), tough stems removed, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch lengths 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram (or 1 1/2 teaspoons, dried) 
1/2 cup vegan parmesan substitute (such as Go Veggie! or Follow Your Heart [EarthIsland in Canada])

Mix the drained lentils, tomatoes (with juice) and broth in a medium pot. (If you are using dried herbs, add them now). Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.


While the lentils are simmering, heat the olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté them until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and onions to the lentils.


Brown the sliced sausage slices in the same skillet sprayed with oil from a pump sprayer. Add the sausage to the lentils. Add the sliced rapini and the fresh herbs (if you have not added the dried ones already) to the lentils and cook an additional 5to 7 minutes or until the rapini has wilted.


Serve the stew hot in shallow soup bowls, topped with the vegan parmesan. 


Nutrition Facts


Nutrition (per serving): 342 calories, 66 calories from fat, 7.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 568.6mg sodium, 748.1mg potassium, 40.3g carbohydrates, 17.8g fiber, 7.4g sugar, 26.9g protein, 9.3 points.

Enjoy!



Monday, June 19, 2017

PERUVIAN-STYLE RICE AND VEGETABLES WITH VEGETARIAN "SCALLOPS"

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It's been a long time since I last blogged.  I guess I just needed a break.  I'm happy to say that some inspiration is returning and I've been playing around with veganizing some more Peruvian recipes.  (In case you're new here, my father was Peruvian and I still have family there.)



My Abuelita's (Grandmother) house in Miraflores, Lima (it is now a restaurant).


My late father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina
The Urbina Family in Lima, Christmas 1954; Abuelita in the center, my father in the back row on the far right, standing behind my mother; my sister Karin on the far right in the first row, on the floor; and I am just behind one of my little cousins, who is third from the left on the floor.

Peruvian food is delicious and colorful.  It is a heady mixture of the cooking and foodstuffs of the indigenous people, the invading Spanish, African slaves, and immigrant from Italy (the second largest European group in Peru after Spanish), China and Japan.  I've veganized a number of Peruvian recipes on this blog and in workshops, but still have a long list to get through. (If you type "Peru" in the search bar of this blog, all of my Peruvian food posts will come up.)


Sometimes it can be difficult to find Peruvian ingredients outside of large cities, so it's not unusual for me I have to improvise, while striving to preserve authentic flavor. (I live on a little island off of Vancouver Island on the West Coast of British Columbia.) I do my best and try to stock up on authentic Peruvian condiments, etc. when I make one of our infrequent trips to Vancouver.  


Anyway, on to the recipe! Peruvians love seafood, and the following recipe is a vegan version of a well-known and popular Peruvian rice and seafood dish.  (Rice was brought to Peru by the Spanish, by the way, and is served at almost every meal, often in the company of the indigenous potato!)  I hope you enjoy it!




Printable Copy


BRYANNA'S ARROZ CON CONCHAS VEGETARIANAS

(PERUVIAN-STYLE RICE AND VEGETABLES WITH VEGETARIAN "SCALLOPS") 
Serves 4
This makes a satisfying light supper on its own, or an excellent side dish for a more elaborate meal. I use less fat than they would in Peru, by the way.

1-2 tablespoon olive oil and/or vegan butter

about 24 vegan "scallops"-- made from mushrooms (see below), tofu or gluten-based "Sea Meat" **(See below recipe for making mushroom scallops; see this page for how to make tofu scallops, and see this page for how to make my "Sea Meat" scallops.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 tablespoons Peruvian aji amarillo paste (See Notes at end of recipe for where to purchase and also a possible substitute.)
1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels (In Peru these would be large white kernels, but I use North American yellow corn kernels.)
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and diced small
1 cup thawed frozen green peas (or thawed shelled frozen edamame [green soybeans])
2 cups "Sea Stock" (vegan "seafood" broth-- see recipe below)
1/2 cup dry white wine, OR 1/4 cup Pisco (Peruvian grape brandy) or dry sherry
3 cups cooked long-grain rice (I prefer  converted/parboiled rice, but you can use a long grain white rice such as basmati)
1 cup EACH diced red bell pepper and orange bell pepper
salt to taste
For Serving:
chopped fresh cilantro, or Italian parsley, or a mixture of mint and basil
lemon or lime wedges

First of all, heat the vegan butter and/or oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet.  Add the "scallops" and saute until they are lightly browned.  Remove the "scallops" from the pan and set aside.


Add the next 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until softened.  Stir in the aji amarillo paste (or substitute).  Add the diced carrots, peas, wine and "Sea Stock". Cook, stirring now and then, for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is somewhat reduced.  


Add the cooked rice and the diced peppers.  Toss well and keep cooking, uncovered and stirring now and then, until the rice has soaked up some of the liquid. Taste for salt and add as necessary.  Stir in the sauteed "scallops".  Heat briefly and serve sprinkled with cilantro or alternates, with wedges of lemon or lime to squirt over the rice as desired.




Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per serving): 400 calories, 101 calories from fat, 11.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 423.6mg sodium, 729.9mg potassium, 62.5g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 11.1g sugar, 10.5g protein, 11.8 points.

NOTES:

You can use my Tofu "Scallops" (recipe at this link), or my "Sea Meat" (gluten-based) "Scallops", recipe at this link), 




or "Mushroom Scallops":













Making "Mushroom Scallops":

Many recipes these days call for using thick slices of stems of King Oyster mushrooms  or King Trumpet mushrooms.  They are expensive and very hard to find where I live, so this is what I do:
I use large ordinary white mushroom caps, or even cremini mushrooms, stemmed, and cut out rounds with a small biscuit cutter. (PS: I use the scraps for mushroom soup.)




Then scrape off  the gills with a grapefruit spoon.

And peel off the brown skin (if you are using cremini mushrooms) with your fingernails (it comes off easily).






Aji Amarillo (the dried version of aji amarillo/Peruvian yellow pepper is often called aji mirasol):

In the USA you can purchase Aji Amarillo Paste in many Latin American food stores, or online Latin American food purveyors, or on amazon.com.
In Canada, it's overpriced on amazon.ca, but, if you live in a large city you can probably find a Latin American food store that carries it, or order it online from this Vancouver store chain.  
A substitute might be a Jamaican Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce mixed with pureed roasted large yellow bell peppers (Scotch bonnets are "fruity" like aji amarillo, but much higher on the heat scale!)




BRYANNA’S VEGAN “SEA STOCK”

Yield: 4 cups
This is a handy recipe for vegan “sea-meat” recipes.
From: http://www.veganmainstream.com/2014/01/23/homemade-vegan-seafood-satisfies-some-nostalgic-cravings/

6 cups hot water

10 medium dried shiitake or Chinese black forest mushrooms
1/2 oz dried kombu seaweed
2 teaspoons light miso
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetarian “oyster” sauce (see recipe and info on commercial brands below)
1 teaspoon salt

Simmer the mushrooms and kombu, covered, in the water for 30 minutes. Strain in a colander. Save the mushrooms for another dish, if you like. Discard the kombu. Stir in the miso, vegetarian “oyster” sauce, and salt. Dissolve thoroughly. Strain through a fine sieve. Refrigerate.


Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per 1/2 cup): 18.6 calories; 6% calories from fat; 0.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 318.5mg sodium; 75.3mg potassium; 4.3g carbohydrates; 0.6g fiber; 1.5g sugar; 0.7g protein ; 0.3 points.


VEGETARIAN “OYSTER” SAUCE:
Chinese oyster sauce is a favorite flavoring, thick, rich-tasting, and slightly sweet. I use the vegan version frequently to coat plain tofu for use in stir-fries and fried dishes instead of chicken, and, of course, it’s essential in some Chinese dishes. As well, it can add rich flavor to homemade seitan/grain meat. If you can’t buy it, it’s easy to make a very acceptable substitute (see below).

You can find commercial vegetarian versions, made with mushrooms, in some Asian groceries and large supermarkets (and online, including at amazon). Sometimes it is labeled “vegetarian oyster sauce” or “mushroom oyster sauce". It is also marketed as “vegetarian stir-fry sauce” (Lee Kum Kee brand-- a very common one). It keeps for a long time in the refrigerator. However, it can be difficult for people in some areas to find, so I am giving you a recipe for a homemade version.


BRYANNA’S HOMEMADE CHINESE VEGETARIAN MUSHROOM “OYSTER” SAUCE (ALSO KNOWN AS “VEGETARIAN STIR-FRY SAUCE”)

Makes 18 liquid oz., or about the same as a commercial bottle

NOTE ON MUSHROOMS: For the dried mushrooms, you don’t need expensive shiitakes—just use the inexpensive dried Chinese mushrooms (or Chinese forest mushrooms) that are easily available. Snap off the stems and discard them, then grind the mushrooms to a powder in a DRY, clean blender or coffee/spice grinder.


1 1/2 cups boiling water

6 tablespoons ground dried Chinese mushroom (see note above)
6 tablespoons Chinese brown bean sauce or paste
OR use 5 tablespoons mild brown miso + 1 tablespoon water
6 tablespoons soy sauce
6 generous tablespoons brown sugar,
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in
1 tablespoon cold water

Blend all of the ingredients EXCEPT the dissolved cornstarch in a blender until as smooth as possible. Pour into in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling over high heat.  (IMPORTANT: leave the plastic cap out of the center hole in the blender lid and cover it with a folded towel, so that the hot liquid doesn’t explode.) Add the dissolved cornstarch and stir until thickened. Cool and store in a covered jar or bottle in the refrigerator. Since it is quite salty and sweet, it should keep for several months.


NOTE: You can, alternatively, microwave the mixture, with the cornstarch, in a medium bowl and cook on 100% power for about 1 minute, then whisk. Repeat until thickened and store as above.


Enjoy!