Sunday, January 25, 2015

Eggplant and Cabbage over Breaded Eggplant Cutlet on a Harvest Grains Bed with Tempeh (No Added Fat)

I wanted to make an eggplant dish tonight and looked back at my notes from December 29th, my last home-cooked meal of 2014. I had cooked with liquid for 7 minutes and then, for 3 minutes, pressure cooked eggplant, kale, and water, then mixed in onion, seitan, and marinara.

I noted then that "the main dish would have benefited from some garlic, either separately grilled and diced and then mixed in at the end or, for a milder flavor, added to the pressure cooker at the beginning .... The marinara was good but I think a more spicy sauce would be even better, perhaps an Indian spice sauce (which would, however, preclude my daughter's enjoying the dish), or at least perhaps a doubling of the marinara sauce. Capers could have been nice in the main course, as well.... I should make several more dishes with eggplant cooked this way. Perhaps I could then try additional ways of cooking eggplant (slow cooking?) in my Instant Pot."

I still would like to slow cook eggplant but came up with the idea of serving a sautéed and then pressure cooked eggplant atop some breaded eggplant cutlets that I had in frozen form from the Dominex company. These cutlets are so low in fat (10g if one were to eat the whole pound of eggplant in the package, but we used at most half of the package for three of us, or less than 2g of fat per person), that I still classify this meal as a no-added-fat one. Instead of kale, I used some cabbage, and, instead of a water sauté, I sautéed the way I normally do with no added fat or liquids. Here is what I did:

Ingredients
  • Medium eggplant cut into 3/8" cubes
  • Approximately a cup (about 1/2 of my large onion) of onion cut into roughly 1/4" x 1" strips
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Approximately a cup (about 1/5 of the head that I used) of cabbage cut into approximately 1/4" x 1" strips
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • Salt to taste (try 1/4 t)
  • (Optional) 1 or 2 t capers
  • (Optional) 1/4 t lemon pepper or freshly ground black pepper
  • (Optional) 1/4 t tarragon
  • (Optional) Crushed red pepper or hot sauce to taste
  • Approx. 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • (Optional) One slice per serving Dominex or other brand breaded eggplant cutlets (of course, cutlets can be made, perhaps by partially cooking eggplant slices and then dredging in a bit of plant milk and bread crumbs)

Process
  • I put the eggplant and onion into my Instant Pot pressure cooker and turned it on in sauté mode, clicking the Adjust button to cook on low.
  • I cooked for about 10m, stirring occasionally. There was (only) a little bit of sticking; natural juices from the eggplant came out and kept things moving quite nicely.
  • After about 10m, the eggplant was softened and the onion clear. I turned the pressure cooker off.
  • While the eggplant was cooking, I put in a cast iron pan heated over medium-high the breaded eggplant and cooked, flipping several times, till nicely cooked and gently browned on both sides. (I also made some grains, described below.)
  • I added water and briefly stirred, which helped to release any little bit that was still sticking onto the pan.
  • I also added the cabbage and bouillon cube, then covered the Instant Pot and cooked on high pressure for 2 minutes.
  • I let the pressure come down a bit then when I was ready to serve, I slowly released remaining pressure and opened the top.
  • I mixed in the salt, capers, lemon pepper, and tarragon (but didn't use spicy heat, though my wife and I added a bit of hot sauce at the table) and served atop a bed of "harvest grains" (see below) and eggplant cutlet for my Dad.
  • My Dad doesn't eat garlic but the rest of us do, so I mixed in the marinara and stirred, putting the Instant Pot back into a low sauté for a few minutes, then served as I did my Dad.
I also prepared some "harvest grains" that I had purchased from Trader Joe's. It is a mix of Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa made simply by using a ratio of 5 parts grain to 7 parts water, along with a vegan bouillon cube, that I brought to a low 10-minute simmer and then immediately served; any grain, such as quinoa (really a seed!), wild rice (really a grass!), rice, or other would work well. Tempeh, browned just with the residual oil in occasional cleaning of the cast iron, completed the meal and made for additional good nutrition and a nice presentation.

Results
 
We all loved the meal, even my sometimes finicky daughter, who particularly liked the breaded eggplant. The combination was quite nice, and worked well together. I don't often shop at Trader Joe's, but should go back to get this nice grain mixture.

 
Ideas for the future
 
Garlic and maybe a little wine cooked into the main course would be good as might be a little nutritional yeast mixed in at the end. Some crookneck squash or perhaps black beans would also make a good addition. I am glad that I came up with the idea of using the breaded eggplant in combination with the pressure cooked eggplant, and should explore using breaded eggplant as an accent or anchor for additional meals.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Romanesco Cauliflower Stew, Spicy Seitan on English Muffin

We were out all afternoon and stopped to shop at Whole Foods Market on the way home, where my daughter enjoyed vegan pizza. I was left to put a quick late meal together for my Dad, wife, and myself.

Among many other items, we picked up Romanesco cauliflower, an intriguing-looking vegetable that we don't often get. I remembered fondly some nice cauliflower dishes that I have made, such as a pressure-cooked one this past September that I modeled tonight's main course after.

Last night, after dropping off a pressure cooked tofu dish and Jade pearl rice for friends who just had a baby, we stopped at a favorite restaurant, Fiction Kitchen, for dinner. We had some leftover sautéed seitan, perfect for serving on an English muffin. Here is what I did:

Ingredients

  • Head of Romanesco (or other kind of) cauliflower cut into florets with larger florets halved
  • 1 carrot cut into 3/8" slices and then each slice quartered
  • Leek; root removed and then about 1 1/2" or so of bottom cut into 1/8" strips (approx. 1/3 to 1/2 cup) and well washed
  • 1T ginger
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • (optional) 1T miso
  • (optional) 1/4 t turmeric
  • (optional) 1/4 t black sesame seed
  • 1/4 t (or to taste) salt; I used "black salt" (kala namak)

Process
  • I put all of the ingredients except the turmeric, sesame seed, and salt into my Instant Pot and cooked on high pressure for 2 minutes (it's amazing how well one can cook in so little time when pressure cooking!).
  • When I was ready to serve, I slowly let out remaining pressure and mixed in the remaining ingredients.
I also put a bit of mustard on English muffin halves, added the heated seitan leftovers, and topped with hot sauce. Because my Dad doesn't eat leftovers, I served his muffin with heated refried beans.

Results
Every time I pressure cook cauliflower it sure does taste great! We all loved dinner. I'm taking several dinners over to friends this coming week, and am thinking I should prepare some cauliflower dishes for them. This was really good tonight!

Ideas for the future
Nowadays, I rarely have jalapeno or other hot peppers in stock, but a bit of a hot pepper would have been good in the main dish. The ginger was good but maybe a little too subtle - it sounds like a lot, but maybe 2 T of chopped ginger would be good in this dish.

It would be fun to try cooking cauliflower in a waterless way, as well. It seems like pressure cooked cauliflower is a very tasty proposition, and I should try additional vegetable combinations, such as, perhaps, okra, green tomato, or just barely cooked potato.

Finally, I found an interesting sounding cauliflower and citrus salad recipe online. I can easily modify it to be vegan. I don't think that I would have thought of this flavor combination on my own, and should try this recipe.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Leftover Sticks and Stones Pizza, Lentil and Corn Stew

We were looking forward to going out to see Nrityagram Dance Ensemble performing nearby tonight. I wanted to put a quick meal together and had a few slices of leftover pizza from Sticks and Stones - I heated a slice for my daughter with vegan Daiya "cheese", and a slice each for my wife and myself cheeseless (my Dad doesn't eat leftovers, so he had a larger salad instead of pizza).

I liked the thick brown lentil dhal that I made in early December, a month and a half ago. Though it doesn't really go with pizza, I decided to use my Instant Pot to make something similar and honor our time constraints.

Tomorrow, I am taking some food over to friends who just had a baby a dozen days ago on January 11th. As I described when we had a baby about the same age, fenugreek is supposed to help with lactation, and I thought I'd include it in tonight's dinner to see how it comes out pressure cooked. Here is what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup lentils (I wanted to use either green or brown, but had a bit of both, so just combined them)
  • 3 times (i.e., 1 cup) as much water
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 3 small Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • (Optional) 1 carrot cut into 3/8" slices
  • 1 compressed cup greens (I used kale leaves, stems removed)
  • 3 scallions cut into 3/8" pieces
  • 1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen)
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 t salt (I used kala namak, black salt)
  • Additional water equal to 1/8 as much as used before (i.e., 1/8 cup)

Process

  • I put the lentils, first batch of water, bouillon cube, and potato (I wanted to include carrot but just had two carrots, and preferred to save them for the meal I'm bringing over tomorrow) into the pressure cooker and cooked on high pressure for 12m.
  • I let it sit for a few minutes then slowly released pressure and removed the cover of the Instant Pot.
  • I added the remaining ingredients - greens, scallions, corn, spices, and 1/8 cup water - and cooked on high pressure for another 3m.
  • When the cooking was done, I gently released pressure and served, along with the reheated pizza and hemp seed-topped tomato.

Results

The pizza was, of course, good. We really liked the lentil dish! I thought that the consistency was nice and thick. The fenugreek didn't add more than a subtle but good taste. I liked the texture that the corn added. It was a good meal!

Ideas for the future

I should try similar dishes with additional combinations of types of lentils. I'll bet some celery would be good in this.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kiddo's Kale and Tangelo Salad, Tofu Shirataki Noodles with Marinara, Vegan Sausage

My wife ate leftovers on her own early so that she could see a film. I took advantage of not cooking for my wife by using tofu shirataki noodles (my wife has problems digesting tofu and unfermented soy). My daughter had a good idea of having a kale salad with tangerine; we didn't have tangerines in stock, but had Minneola tangelos, and I suggested that she make a salad, perhaps with capers and massaged kale - she agreed but didn't want to have the kale massaged for some reason.

It was nice having my daughter helping with dinner. I made a simple marinara sauce and heated a Field Roast vegan sausage on a cast-iron pan with no added oil. Dinner was good! I thought that my daughter had a clever idea that was nutritious, and she did a good job presenting it.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sprouted Brown Rice, Waterlessly-Cooked Broccoli and Seitan with Marinara, Salad

We enjoyed celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday yesterday by visiting a nice children's museum a little over an hour away and stopping in Greensboro, NC enroute home to eat at a restaurant that we like, Sticks and Stones. They use a clay wood-burning oven to make tasty pizza, including many vegan options (without cheese or with vegan Daiya brand "cheese" that my daughter loves).

We also stopped by a Whole Foods Market where I was happy to find in the bulk section some germinated (sprouted) brown rice (GBR).
This was a short-grained brown rice, and the Lundberg rice company recommends a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 3/4 part water simmered for 30m and then, removing from heat but not taking the cover off, steaming for another 10m. I've seen slightly different suggestions, so decided to go with a 1:2 ratio for 25-30m followed by 10m of steaming.

Sprouting of rice is said to be beneficial because it takes about half the time to cook, is easier to digest and less heavy than regular brown rice, and because it boosts gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid that is said to have a variety of benefits, including boosting one's immunity and lowering blood pressure. It is softer than regular brown rice (i.e., when cooked) and is said to have a milder flavor.

I was anxious to try GBR and decided to cook it with broth, as I usually do, but with no other additions. Incidentally, I found a nice article on making GBR which involves soaking the raw rice for up to 3 days in water kept at around 86-104°F. It seems to me, akin to the yogurt function, that this could be a nice feature for a future version of the Instant Pot that I love to use and it looks like the new model just out that supports a smart phone (which I don't have!) should be able to do it! In fact, the new model allows one to get real-time data about the cooking and create custom recipes which can then be shared. Wow! But I digress. Here is what I did for dinner tonight:

Ingredients

  • A bit over half a cup of germinated brown rice
  • Twice as much water
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 3 scallions cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 bunch broccoli, stems saved (for future use) and cut into mouth-sized florets (approximately a cup or bit more)
  • 6 ounces seitan chunks
  • Approx. 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


Process

  • I put the rice, water, and bouillon cube into a small stock pan and brought to a boil.
  • I covered the rice and simmered on low for a half hour, then removed from heat and let it sit for 10m.
  • When I was ready to serve, I (should have but forgot to!) stirred the rice first.
  • While the rice was cooking, I made the main dish by putting into a large Saladmaster stock pot, (in this order) the scallions, broccoli, and seitan. I covered and cooked on medium high till the vapor lock began rattling, then cooked for about 20m on low heat.
  • I mixed the marinara in, let it get heated over low heat, and served my daughter (who doesn't love garlic), then added the garlic and let it continue to simmer on low a few minutes before serving to my wife and myself.


Results

Dinner was good and satisfying. But let me get directly to the rice. My wife couldn't tell a difference between the GBR and regular brown rice. That surprised me; maybe I'm a super taster or just a foodie, but I found it significantly different. The rice was softer and less chewy, as I had read it would be. I like chewy rice, so this wasn't an advantage. I found the flavor rather muted. I like the taste of brown rice, so this, also, wasn't an advantage.

I should do more research into whether GBR really has significant health benefits. It was significantly more expensive then regular brown rice and, even if I start making it myself, does take extra effort. I didn't mind how it came out in terms of taste or texture, and it does have the benefit of adding an interesting taste variation on brown rice. The quick cooking of GBR isn't a big benefit for me as I typically use whole-grain rices like Jade pearl or Madagascar pink which cook in even less time; alternatively, I could cook rice under pressure in a shortened time.

I classify this meal as no-added-fat, though I added just a few sunflower and hemp seeds to the salad. By the way, I also made a drink with a little bit of fat. I've been buying and enjoying fresh pineapple recently, and while I was cooking tonight, I decided to make a pina colada drink; I blended 1/2 can (there is 24g of fat in the full 13.5 ounce can, and I made drinks for my wife, daughter and myself, so we each got about 4g of fat) of reduced fat coconut milk with a bit of pineapple (including the core) and frozen strawberries - plus a touch of maple syrup. I also mixed in just a bit of carbonated water. The strawberry pina colada was great and well worth making again, though with strawberry, it didn't need the extra sweetness of the maple.


Ideas for the future

The garlic was a welcome addition tonight; my Dad doesn't eat garlic but didn't eat dinner with us tonight. The main course would have been even better if the garlic were cooked into it from the beginning. A bit of nutritional yeast and basil would also be nice in the main course.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Apple-Fennel Soup (cooked waterlessly before blending), Leftover Seitan with Mushroom and Potato, Baby Arugula with Olive and Preserved Lemon; Note on Hot Chocolate and Lemon Oil

I taught a Food for Life class two days ago, including using fennel, and had about a bulb of fennel on hand. I found a fennel apple soup recipe online that calls for sauteing onion and then adding fennel and apple pieces and cooking for 5-10 minutes on medium heat till soft, then blending with stock. I decided to use that approach as an inspiration and try coming up with my own recipe.

At last week's banquet, the restaurant made a very tasty seitan, mushroom, and potato dish, and we still had leftovers. I served it along with a baby arugula salad with tomato, olive, and preserved lemon. My Dad doesn't eat leftovers, so I skipped the seitan but added some raw cashews to his meal. Here is what I did:

Ingredients
  • 1/2 medium onion cut roughly into approximately 1/2" pieces
  • Fennel with fronds (leaves) reserved, bulb roughly chopped into approximately 1/2" pieces, and stems saved for future use
  • Apple; mine was organic, so I didn't peel, but otherwise it should be peeled; in any case, the apple should be roughly chopped into approximately 1/2" pieces
  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes (peel kept on if and only if organic), chopped into approximately 1/4" or 3/8" pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • Salt to taste (I used approximately 1/4 t)
  • 1/8 t dried dill weed
  • (Optional) 1t fresh or frozen basil

Process
  1. I put, in this order, the onion, fennel bulb, apple, and potato into a small Saladmaster stock pot and, covered, brought to medium high heat. Once the vapor lock started rattling, I reduced the heat to low until the rattling stopped, and cooked for about 20m. (Instead of waterless cooking, one could just gently cook the ingredients on medium heat, stirring occasionally.)
  2. I put the cooked vegetables into my Vitamix blender (any blender would do), along with the rest of the ingredients, and blended to a puree.
  3. I sampled the soup and found it to be too sweet, so added a small shallot and blended; it was still too sweet. I wondered what to do, so tried adding 3 leaves of kale, stem and all.
  4. I blended on high a few minutes till the soup was steaming hot. In a regular blender, the pureed soup could be poured into a pan and heated.
  5. I served, topped with a garnish of fennel fronds.
I also served the leftover seitan dish, as well as the salad.

Results

Dinner was good but I was critical, more than the rest of the family who seemed to enjoy it a little bit more than I, of the sweetness of the soup. It was good but I didn't taste much fennel and it was, well, a bit too sweet. It was reasonably thick and didn't need cashews added to the blending, as I thought it might, to thicken. The seitan was great, and the salad was quite good.

Ideas for the future

I would like to continue to experiment with an apple-fennel soup - or maybe a pear-fennel or some other sweet fennel soup. Next time, I'd use half as much apple. My Dad doesn't eat garlic, but a hint of garlic, maybe a clove or possibly two, would be nice in this dish. The kale wasn't really necessary, but added good nutrition today. I could use maybe one leaf of kale next time for a hint of color and, of course, the nutrition, but I'd like to come up with something savory to counteract the apple and make its sweetness a bit more subtle. Cumin might be good.

Note on Hot Chocolate and Lemon Oil

Incidentally, I had my daughter help me to make soymilk-based hot chocolate earlier in the evening. I rarely use a powerful ingredient I keep in my refrigerator, Boyajian brand lemon oil, but was inspired by recently trying a surprising but excellent combination of organic lemon ginger chocolate with black pepper. So I mixed in not just cinnamon and vanilla (and later topped with freshly ground nutmeg), but also a drop or two of the oil. As the Boyajian website states, "Our citrus oils are natural essences that are cold pressed from the rind of the fruit. Extracts and flavorings don't come close to the remarkable intensity of these oils. Use sparingly in place of zest or peel. As a general rule, start with 1/2 teaspoon per cup of dry ingredients, plus 1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid ingredients in any recipe."

The hot chocolate was excellent, and we both loved it! I should use these strong oils occasionally (I also have lime oil), as they impart a powerfully pleasing flavor.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Remade Spaghetti Squash cooked Waterlessly with Sweet Potato, Mekong Flower Rice, Leftover Tempeh and Other Banquet Dishes

We still had a lot of leftovers from our banquet on Sunday, so invited a friend to dine with us. I heated the leftovers, including adding marinara to roasted vegetables as I did two days ago, and made a side to accompany them of organic brown Mekong Flower rice with kale and onion.

I also remade the spaghetti squash dish from earlier in the week by cooking it in a waterless fashion; I put in onion and sweet potato into a large Saladmaster stock pan, then added the leftover spaghetti squash dish. I covered and heated on medium high till the vapor lock started vibrating, then I reduced the heat to low till the lock stopped and cooked for 20-30m (actually longer, but that just kept it warm).

My Dad doesn't eat leftovers, so I waited until our friend arrived to show off how easy and quick it is to cook with the Instant Pot. I quickly chopped some vegetables (sweet potato, kale, onion), put them into the Instant Pot along with 1/4 cup of water, a bit of turmeric, a little salt, 1/2 t of black sesame seed, and a vegan bouillon cube, and cooked for 3m for another dish - it took about 10m from start to finish!

Everything came out well and my friend said he loved the meal. I was pleased with how the spaghetti squash dish didn't stick at all even after a long slow cook, and, as always, loved how tasty the pressure cooked dish was.

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