Not Just Tofu

Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Not So Useful

In Cookbooks, Recipe, Uncategorized on August 24, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Ok, not every cookbook is going to be helpful.  I have bought over 40 cookbooks over the last 5 years and not all of them are useful.  I have some that I use for inspiration because their dishes are beautful on the page but complicated to execute.  I have some cookbooks that use English (UK) measurements, grams and pounds instead of spoon and cups.  I am own English (UK) written cookbooks that have different names for ingredients that may not be available in my area. I have also bought cookbooks because 1 or 2 of the recipes caught my eye and then when I go through the book again I realize that I can only use 1 or 2 recipes.  These are all examples of what not to do. 

It is great to buy cookbooks and it’s even better if you use them.  I haven’t used all my cookbooks yet, but it is something I am trying to make a practice of.  Meal planning is the best way not to throw away grocery dollars.  By buying a cookbook that is pretty but not practical for your life is throwing away money.  I admit some cookbooks are so affordable but not so pracitical.  For example, I went to Borders bookstore and got caught up in the bargain buys section of the store.  While in bargain buys, I found a vegetarian cookbook “Homestyle Vegetarian” published by Bay Books.  I use this book for inspiration in creating my own original recipes.  This book is not practical for my life because when I come home after a busy day, I am not trying to cook elaborate meals.  I want something quick, healthy and delicious.  “Homestyle Vegetarian” is more for the entertaining, intermediate, experimental cook who is math capable because measurements are in grams and pounds. 

A better cookbook is “Vegetarian Cooking Commonsense Guide” by Bay Books which is still a little experimental but has more approachable recipes that can be executed after a busy day.  I can find most of the ingredients at my grocery store or farmers’ market which is very important to me.  Lastly, it has great pictures which are ideal for beginners because you want to know if you are cooking the recipe correctly.  It not only has pictures of the finished product, it also has step by step pictures which are the best tutorial for new cooks.  Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

The next time you pick a cookbook, give it the NOT JUST TOFU once over:

  • Can I use this cookbook on weekdays or weekends?
  • Do I recognize the ingredients used in the recipes?
  • Are these ingredients available at my grocery store or farmers’ market?
  • How extensive are the recipes?
  • Does the cookbook have pictures?

Don’t throw away money.  Invest in practical cookbooks that will help making a meal easier. 

For my go to cookbooks, please check out my cookbook referrals from July and June.

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Where Is This?

In Englewood, Local Eats, Restaurant Experience on August 24, 2010 at 1:25 am

Do You Know This Address? 

The building in the picture is known by a few herbivores and carnivores in the Englewood, NJ area.  It has been acknowledged in both the NY Times and the Bergen Record as a great place to eat.  Why? This little gem is “Best Dumplings” and has the greatest dumplings I have ever tasted.  I used to order my dumplings from the Chinese food restaurants but not anymore.  These Korean dumplings are light and full of flavor.  I recommend the vegetable dumplings that are filled with cabbage, carrots, scallions, lo mein noodles and are wrapped in dumpling wrappers that can be steamed or fried. 

Today I introduced my little dumpling spot to two of my coworkers who are dumpling eaters but have never had them from Best Dumplings.  I ordered my usual of 8 fried vegetable dumplings with ginger dipping sauce for $5.00.  One coworker ordered steamed kim chi dumplings and the other ordered dumpling soup but with chicken dumplings.  We shared and sampled each others’ dumplings and invited our other coworker who was intrigued by the aroma.  After she sampled the different dumplings, she too wanted to find Best Dumplings.  For the first time, I sampled kim chi dumplings and LOVE them!  They are a little spicy and full of flavor and worth every bit of the $6.00 she spent. 

My husband and I love Best Dumplings.  I have never regretted going into the restaurant that didn’t look like a restaurant.  If anything, I think that it is one or the best find in Englewood.  The costs are low; 8 pieces for $5.00 or 12 pieces for $7.00.  They also have freshly made frozen dumplings available for you to cook at home.  Besides the dumplings, I also like the buns which I never had before trying them at Best Dumplings.  Another product that I find necessary to have in my pantry is their Ginger Dipping Sauce made in house.  This stuff is not just for dumplings, I used it in stir fry, over home made lo mein and even vegetable egg rolls.  It is a little bit spicy but not to the point where you have to run to a glass of water.

You know a place is good when your non-vegetable eating 7-year-old tells you that he likes them.  Another sign of a good restaurant is when you see the police make it one of their spots.  I am telling you, try Best Dumplings, you will not be disappointed.  You may never eat a dumpling from the Chinese food restaurant again.

Best Dumplings located at 16 Humphrey Street, Englewood, NJ 07631

Vegetarians Eat Breakfast Too

In Recipe on August 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm

YUM!!!!

I know that the blog is called “NOT JUST TOFU” but I don’t want to overlook this great ingredient, tofu.  So far all of my recipes have been for lunch or dinner but what about breakfast?  So you decided not to eat eggs or milk which means that cereal and omelettes are no longer a part of your diet.  Today is your lucky day; I am going to share with you the best tofu scramble recipe I have ever thought of.  Just thinking about it makes me go YUM!

Tofu with Wilted Arugula Breakfast Taco

Ingredients

  • 1  (14oz) package of Firm Tofu, pressed
  • 1 cup of Arugula, chopped
  • 1Tablespoon of Turmeric
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Crumbled Feta Cheese (Optional)
  • Avocado, cut up
  • Sliced Tomato
  • 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • Whole Wheat tortilla (taco size)

 Tools

  1. Knife
  2. Cutting Board
  3. Frying Pan
  4. Measuring Spoon
  5. Silicone Spatula or Wooden Spoon

 Recipe

  •  Preheat pan with Olive Oil
  • Add minced garlic, cook for 30 seconds
  • Crumble pressed tofu in the pan and cook for 2 minutes
  • Add Turmeric, Salt and Pepper to the tofu and cook for 2 minutes
  • Transfer the cooked tofu into a bowl and mix in chopped Arugula
    • Warm tortillas in the microwave for 10 seconds and build your taco
    • Add 2 spoonfuls of tofu mixture to each tortilla
    • Top with chopped avocado, Feta crumbles and Tomatoes
      Tomatoes are sliced and seasoned with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

 Other Tofu Scramble Pairings:

  • Baby Spinach and Cremini Mushrooms
  • Roast Red Peppers and Caramelized Spanish Onions
  • Black Beans, Salsa and Monterey Jack Cheese

Frozen Pasta Saves the Day

In Cooking Tips, Editorial, Food, pasta, Products, Recipe on August 20, 2010 at 5:56 am

Good One

Sometimes there is not enough time in the day to get dinner on the table by 6. On those busy days, I turn to frozen pasta. Last Friday, I stumbled upon a new techinque to cook frozen pasta.
In the search to cook something interesting, I went to Whole Foods and purchased a pound of fresh spinach pasta that I was going to dress in a garlic cream sauce. In my haste, I overcooked my pasta and was left with a pot full of cream sauce.

What should I do? What could I do? I dumped the spinach pasta and went to my freezer, pulled out a bag of frozen ricotta capellini and dumped it into my garlic cream sauce. Added some left over pot water to the cream sauce and let it cook for 7 minutes. Believe it or not it worked so well that my husband asked me to make it again Saturday night where my sister and cousin both commented that it was good and they are not vegetarians.

So next time your grocery store is having a sale on frozen pasta, pick up a few bags. You never know when you will need it to save the day.

I Feel For…

In Cooking Tips, Editorial on August 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm

As a new vegetarian, you may have cravings for things you used to eat.  Some you of you may even give into those cravings and buy a burger or fry chicken, but you don’t have to.  Often your favorite dishes are created due to spices and condiments.  If you have chosen to be a vegetarian, you can’t be afraid of spices because they are your new best friend.  It also helps to have an open minded about new ingredients, especially vegetables.  Together new spices and vegetables will allow you to create similar dishes that hit the same spots on the tongue that your meat dishes did.  Being a vegetarian does not mean that you have to miss out, it is more about training your palette.

I am not a big fan of meat substitutes for 3 reasons.  First, meat substitutes are expensive; the average cost for a pack of 4 veggie burgers is $4.00 while ground turkey which ranges from $2 to $4 makes more than just 4 burgers.  Secondly, most meat substitutes have a high sodium count which is dangerous if you already have high blood pressure. Lastly, I feel if you are going to be a vegetarian that you should depend on vegetables, fruit, beans and grains to create your dishes.  Even though I don’t really like substitutes, I realize that they are quick fix for cravings.  Veggie burgers satisfy the burger graving because of the texture and the flavors.  Quorn chicken substitutes really take on the texture and color of chicken and work well for the chicken craving.  Gardein products are great because they have a variety of products for that more gourmet graving.   Check out my meat substitute page to learn more.

I have a few suggestions that can help you slowly transform your taste buds.  Many diet specialists say that you have to train your taste buds in order to avoid the traps that bring you right back to square one.  Being a vegetarian is no different. 

Easy Swaps

  • Steak – Marinated Grill Portabella Mushrooms with crispy fried onions and A1 Sauce
  • Chicken Fingers – Tofu marinated in Old Bay seasoning battered in Crunch Corn Flakes
  • BBQ – Grillled Eggplant with Barbeque Sauce
  • Burger –  Vegetarian Burger with the works and special sauce (mayonnaise, relish and ketchup)

I know that Portabellas don’t taste exactly taste like a burger, but the texture is very meaty and the steak seasoning has the spices that will bring out the smoky and hearty texture of a burger. I don’t suggest you top it with American cheese though, but Parmesan, Provolone or even Asiago cheeses are a great swap.  After a few attempts, you will crave new vegetarian favorites and a taste for meat will be a thing of the past.  I don’t eat a lot of meat because I have learned to transform my taste for meat into a taste for well cooked vegetarian dishes. 

Marinated Grilled Portabella Steak

Next time you go to the grocery store, spend a little extra time in your spice and condiments aisle.  Your lifestyle change is going take some creativity, but it is worth it!

*Photos provided by Google Images

What Kind of Vegetarian Are You?

In Editorial, Restaurant Experience on August 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

There is more than one type of vegetarian.  Which vegetarian have you decided to be? 

Most Popular Vegetarian Categories

  1. Fruitarian:  will not kill any animal or plant for food.
  2. Lacto Vegetarian:  eat dairy but no eggs are included in this diet.
  3. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian:  eat dairy and eggs
  4. Pescatarian: eat fish and shellfish      
  5. Vegan: will not eat dairy products or eggs.

Su Healthy Cuisine - Edgewater, NJ

As you see, there is a range in lifestyle.  Most beginners are Pescatarian because it not as strict as the other types.  For me, being a vegan is not even an option but Alvin has considered once or twice.  I know a couple of vegans and eating out is a challenge.  Fortunately, I came across a vegan restaurant in Edgewater, NJ called “Su”.  While reading “Bergen Magazine”, Lisa Oz (Dr. Oz) wife reported that she is a fan of this restaurant.  I am making this spot one of my “need to try” restaurants for Not Just Tofu.  The strictest diet is that of a Fruitarian because they will not kill even plants for food.  No matter your choice, it is all possible. 

I have chosen to be a part time demi- vegetarian.  What does that mean?  It means that 75% of my diet is based on vegetarian dishes and 25% on meat which I consider to be poultry and red meat.   My husband is a Pescatarian, due to our Seventh Day Adventist beliefs we do not include shellfish or scavengers in our diet.  As a Seventh Day Adventist, it is encouraged that believers respect their temple (body) by eating the “original diet” of fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.  It has been well documented that exercisers of this belief are among the healthiest in the world.  Check out the PBS documentary “The Adventist” which documents the vegetarian beliefs of the church.

I don’t know your reason for becoming a vegetarian.  For many folks, it is health issue.  For this generation, the decision is based on disgust for animal cruelty to the point that they won’t even wear leather. I admire folks who make the decision not to eat meat.  I haven’t made the decision to become a full-time vegetarian but the changes that I have made have helped me to lose weight, improve my complexion and digestion.  No matter your choice, you can do it!  Do it for your body, your family and most of all for you.

*Photo provided by Great P on http://www.Yelp.com

Eggplant the New Chicken

In Recipe, salad, Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Eggplant is the new chicken.  I am so serious; with the right technique it can be as filling and crispy or savory as the other white meat.  I am sure that you have had Eggplant Parmesan or Eggplant Rollitini but there are a multitude of recipes for eggplant. Last week I tested eggplant in two different ways.  The first was the Shake and Bake Eggplant Strips with marina sauce which were great.  The second recipe was a Fried Eggplant Salad with Zucchini & Baby Spinach.  My office mates loved it and I hope you will too.

I know that one of the complaints is that eggplant can sometimes have a bitter taste.  The trick is to slice and salt the pieces, and then blot them with paper towel to take of the bitter water that comes out.  You really have to blot the eggplant, not doing this well can leave you with salty eggplant.  To prevent over salting the eggplant, don’t season with salt in the recipe.  The residual salt left in the eggplant is enough for the recipe. 

Shake and Bake Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Eggplant cut into ½ inch strips
  • ¾ cup of milk or plain soy milk
  • 1 envelope of Shake and Bake breading
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese for topping
  • Non Stick Cooking Spray

Tools

  • Non Stick Cookie Sheet
  • Bowl
  • Plate

Recipe

  1. Spray non stick cookie sheet with oil of your choice
  2. Preheat nonstick cookie sheet in the oven at 450 degrees
  3. Take a few strips of eggplant and dip into the milk
  4. Bread the eggplant with the Shake and Bake breading
  5. When all the strips are done, place them on preheated cookie sheet for 15 minutes
  6. Topped finish eggplant with Parmesan Cheese
  7. Serve with your favorite Marinara Sauce

 Fried Eggplant Salad

Ingredients

  • Eggplant cut into ½ inch rounds
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups of seasoned Panko Crumbs
  • 1 cup of unbleached flour seasoned with:
    • 2 tsp of Seasoning salt
    • 2 tsp of Onion powder
    • 1 tsp of Garlic powder
    • 2 tsp of Paprika
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • ½ cup of sweet red pepper sliced
  • ½ of a yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bag of baby spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 1 tbsp of fresh oregano, for garnish
  • No Salt Seasoning
  • Balsamic vinegar, for finishing

Tools

  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Large Frying Pan
  • Tongs
  • Plate lined with paper towel

 Recipe

  1. Preheat pan over medium heat with Olive Oil
  2. Dip sliced eggplant into flour, then egg, then Panko breadcrumbs
  3. Fry breaded eggplant until golden brown on each side (3 minutes)
  4. Drain on paper towel lined plate
  5. After frying the eggplant use the same pan to sauté the onion, peppers and garlic
  6. Add sliced zucchini, and no salt seasoning, cook until slightly soft (5 minutes)

Assemble Salad:

  1. Plate baby spinach on platter
  2. Top with cooked zucchini mixture and cooking liquids
  3. Place fried eggplant on the side
  4. Garnish with fresh oregano and grated Parmesan Cheese
  5. Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar

Healthy Comfort Food

In Recipe on August 9, 2010 at 12:05 am

Fried Tofu

Every now and again, I get a hankering for comfort food.  I was raised by two very good Jamaican cooks.  American style comfort food was not something that they cooked often or well.  Macaroni and cheese usually came from a box, instead of fry chicken we had stew chicken and potato salad was loaded with mayonnaise.  When Alvin came into my life, I had to think twice about American comfort food that he could enjoy.  Alvin loves macaroni and cheese and cooks the box version, but the sodium is too much for his high blood pressure to compete with.  He likes potato salad but he doesn’t really like mayonnaise or eat eggs, so imagine the challenge I ran into.  I will be honest with you, I still can’t fry chicken but I can fry some tofu!  Just because the page is called Not Just Tofu does not mean that we won’t cook tofu. 

My solution to enjoying comfort food is to make it healthier.  I modified 3 dishes: fried chicken, stovetop macaroni and cheese and potato salad.  I now make fried tofu, whole grain stovetop macaroni and cheese and confetti potato salad.  These recipes are great for your next cook out, picnic or potluck. 

Fried Tofu

  • 1 package of Firm Tofu, sliced into 6 steaks (press the tofu for 15-30 minutes)
  • 1 cup of milk or plain soy milk
  • 1 cup flour (seasoning for flour 1 tbsp of: paprika, onion powder, garlic powder 1 tsp: of cumin, chili powder and black pepper and 2 tsp of sea salt)
  • 1 ½ cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of canola oil

Recipe

  1. Heat oil in frying pan
  2. Dredge each tofu steak in seasoned flour
  3. Dip into the milk
  4. Dredge in seasoned breadcrumbs
  5. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side
  6. Drain on paper towel

 

Stovetop Macaroni Cheese 2 Cups of whole grain or whole wheat elbows cooked

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Cheese Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp of unbleached flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of Cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp on grated Parmesan Cheese

 

Recipe

  1. Melt the butter
  2. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute
  3. Add milk ¼ at a time and whisk till smooth
  4. Whisk in Cheddar cheese
  5. Stir in Parmesan Cheese and cook for 1 minute
  6. Combine cooked pasta into the cheese sauce, cook for 2 minutes

*Add grated Cheddar to finish

Confetti Potato Salad 

  • 2 cups of chopped Idaho potatoes, cooked (reserve 1 tbsp of potato water)
  • ¼ chopped green peppers
  • ¼ chopped red sweet peppers
  • 1/4 chopped shredded carrots
  • 1 tsp of chopped red onions
  • ½  tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of onion powder
  • 2 tbsp of sweet relish
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp of Light Mayonnaise with olive oil or Soy Mayonnaise

Recipe

Combine all the ingredients and chill for at least an hour.  Sprinkle with Paprika

Curry in a Hurry

In Recipe on August 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Vegetable Curry and Rice

My experience with curry is not what most might think about when they think curry.   West Indian curry is different from East Indian curry because it is not always spicy and does not contain coconut milk, lemongrass or other popular Asian flavors.   The smell of curry is very comforting to me.  As a child, my mom would cook curry chicken when she was short on time.  At Thanksgiving it was normal to have curry goat and turkey.  When Alvin my husband came into my life, I had to experiment with vegetarian curry.  We use to use a gluten product called “Mock Duck” but the market I use to buy it from closed.  Lately, I have been using curry as a spice for more than just curry.  Alvin, my husband, uses West Indian curry to make the best fried fish, lentils and stew.

This vegetable curry is inspired by my Trinidadian friends, the Phillip family.  The combination of potatoes and chick peas known as chana are sold with roti.  Roti is similar to flat bread or Indian naan and is used to wrap the curry chana inside or as a utensil to pick up the chana; I prefer the later method.  This curry is full of flavor, packed with protein, and a meal without the rice.

Vegetable Curry

  • 16 oz can of chick peas, drained and rinse
  • 1 cup of Idaho russet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup of water or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup of carrots, cubed
  • 1/3 cup of onions, diced
  • 2 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1/2  cup of sweet peppers, diced
  • 2 tbsp of West Indian curry powder
  • 1 tbsp of No Salt Seasoning
  • 2 Dry thyme sprigs or ½ tsp of dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Tools

  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Spatula
  • Stock Pot

Recipe

  1. Heat oil in stock pot
  2. Add onions, garlic, sweet peppers and scallions; cook till soft
  3. Add carrots, potatoes and chick peas, heat through for 3 minutes
  4. Stir in curry powder, coating all the ingredients and cook for 3 minutes
  5. Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and no salt seasoning cook for 3 minutes
  6. Add water or vegetable broth and thyme, simmer for 30 minutes

P.S. This dish is so much better the next day.  It is great by itself but you can try it with Naan or rice.

I Found Istanbul in Brooklyn

In Restaurant Experience on August 8, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Have you ever gone into a restaurant without rhyme or reason?  This pass weekend, Blossom, my girlfriend, and I had the pleasure of eating at “Istanbul Park” in Brooklyn, NY.  On the way to the car, we looked around for a restaurant to have lunch and there was “Istanbul Park.” This restaurant served Turkish and Mediterranean food in a cozy, chic setting.  One of my favorite things about Blossom, my friend, is that she is a foodie like me; we are open to eating anything vegetarian.

Cozy Istanbul Park

When the waiter brought us the menu, we didn’t know what most of the dishes were but we excited to taste it all.  Vegetarians have options here.   I find that there are a lot of options for vegetarians if they are willing to try international food.  We ordered the cold appetizer sampler which is a sampling of all their appetizers which included humus, babaganoush, eggplant salad, grape leaves, yogurt sauce and sautéed spinach with really great olives.  This sampler comes in two portion sizes, large and small. We opted for the small which was only $10.95 and came with fresh warm focaccia like bread.  Our hot appetizers were falafel served with a side of humus and Sigar Boregi which are fried phyllo pastry filled with Feta cheese and parsley.  These dishes average $6.00 each and can easily serve 2 people.

The highlight of the meal was the desserts; they were delicious!  We could have just eaten baklava but we have had it before.  Instead we opted for Almond Pudding and Rice Pudding.  Yes, I know what rice pudding is but after eating this dish, I will never eat the stuff in the orange container again.  The restaurant manager gave us a dessert on the house because he felt compassion for 2 women who couldn’t make up their mind.  I am so glad he was so nice because what he brought us was better than the desserts we ordered.  Kazandibi is a flan like dessert that I can not pronounce but translates into Brown Top Pudding.  This pudding was soooooo goooood!!!!  It was made from milk, sugar and vanilla but it had a deep flavor like coffee.

I give Istanbul Park 3 out of 4 stars because it was a great experience.  It ended up being a great hidden jewel that most people probably pass by everyday.  So the next time you are curious about a restaurant, just try it.  You can find out more about Istanbul Park’s menu, take out and catering services at www.menupages.com.

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