Another sushi bowl

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Everyone around us is sick. People at my office, kids at school – it seems the flu is going around. It’s in times like this that it’s so important to eat whole foods and veggies in every colour of the rainbow. I’m convinced that the extra servings of veggies helps us fight off infection.

This bowl was inspired by sushi – it’s not the same as my previous sushi bowl recipe – this one has roasted tofu, sweet potato, bok choy and king mushrooms. I’ve included the veggies from all our favourite sushi rolls. We crumbled nori on top but only remembered after I took the photos and we had dug in. These are the flavours we love so the meal disappeared quickly!

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My son’s bowl has cubed roasted tofu, sweet potato, cucumber, red pepper, grated carrots, avocado and sesame seeds over white rice.

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My daughter’s bowl has the same but also includes bok choy. The tofu was marinated in a couple tablespoons of white miso, 1/4 cup soy sauce, a tablespoon of mirin and a tablespoon of sesame oil. I let it sit in the marinade while the oven preheated to 350 F and then just poured it all on a cookie sheet and cooked it, flipping once, for about 20 minutes. They’re savoury and delicious.

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The grown-ups had spicy king mushrooms as well. The recipe is from The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East: 150 Asian-Inspired Recipes–from Soba Noodles to Summer Rolls. They had a spicy sauce that was really nice with the rest of the meal.

This kind of a meal really works well with kids who like to keep their flavours separate. Everything may be touching (this can be an issue) but it’s easy to pile in only the foods you know your kid will eat. It’s nice to encourage new foods but every meal doesn’t have to include a challenge to overcome. This meal has lots of variety and points of entry with kid-friendly foods (cucumber, shredded carrots, avocado, sweet potato, white rice).

Rotini, tofu parmesan and garlic bread

Pasta, tofu and garlic bread

I’ve been out of town most of this week – leaving my teacher husband with the kids, while it snowed repeatedly during the week report cards are due. So when I picked up the kids from school and got home (later than usual), there were dishes to do before starting dinner.  What I needed was something simple that the kids would eat.

Dinner tonight was rotini with leftover tomato sauce, garlic bread and tofu baked in garlic/tofu marinade smothered in tomato sauce and melted Daiya cheese.

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My son’s not a tomato sauce fan but he’ll tolerate some on his pasta if it’s topped with nutritional yeast. I didn’t bother putting any sauce on the tofu. If you have a picky eater, this meal is worth a try. It was gone before I could say, “eat with your fork!”

The garlic bread is whole wheat store-bought bread with vegan butter and the Daiya cheese melted under the broiler. My daughter likes powdered garlic granules but my son was hanging around when I mentioned them, he ran away and hid under the table. This is the drama that ensues when they’re overtired and hungry.

If I had had enough energy, I would have used real garlic for the adults but it didn’t happen tonight.

Here’s how I made the tofu.

Garlic/olive oil baked tofu in tomato sauce and cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (gives it some flavour)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 block tofu
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegan cheese

While the oven is preheating, mix the marinade in a wide dish. Slice the tofu into the thinest slices you can (I was able to make 6 slices). Rub each slice in the marinade and let it sit while the oven is heating.

When the oven is ready, bake the tofu for 20 minutes. When the  tofu is cooked, flip it and put a spoonful of tomato sauce on each slice. Sprinkle it with a bit of cheese and broil until melted.

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Serve with whole wheat pasta and whole wheat garlic bread and you’ve got an easy, nutritious meal that the kids will scarf down. Good luck!

Okonomiyaki and teriyaki tofu with rice

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My husband and I met in Japan when we were fresh university graduates looking for adventure and well-paying jobs. I lived in Osaka for the better part of the year but when the choking heat of summer came, I didn’t want to live in the dry, dusty city anymore. It’s not just in Osaka that I feel this way in the summer, in Canada, the summer heat feels like a punishment to be endured until the weekend comes and I can escape to the countryside.

I moved to the West coast of Japan to a smaller town steeped in historical tradition called Kanazawa. The climate in Kanazawa was quite different than what I had grown used to in Osaka. It was wetter and cooler so that a common saying we heard from our students was though you may forget your lunch, don’t forget your umbrella.

In summer, it was very hot and humid and in the winter, there was often slushy snow that could stick around for a couple of days. In Osaka, if it snowed, it was a rarity and would most likely melt with the rising of the sun.

My husband and I taught at the same language school and it turned out we both had Mondays and Tuesdays as our days off. We also had a wanderlust and were up for trying just about anything new. We explored the region and its cuisine on bikes, would take short train trips into the mountains for picturesque hikes or longer train rides to destinations known for their hot springs or more challenging hikes.

As I said, Kanazawa is known as a town where the population loves its traditions and I took classes in whatever was available to a foreigner with a weak grasp on the language. I learned about ikebana (the art of flower arrangement), took lessons on the koto (a Japanese string instrument), used traditional methods to guild chopsticks in gold leaf, visited the wooden houses where Geisha used to live, visited the samurai district, attended tea ceremonies, learned paper crafts and visited the famous Kenrokuen regularly (which has been ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan).

Not ones to stay in the same place for long, we moved back towards the Osaka region after having lived in Kanazawa for several months. We settled in the countryside in Nara prefecture. Once again we had a hub from which to explore parks, onsens (hot public baths) and hiking trails.

We lived in a very small town this time surrounded by rice paddies and we encountered few foreigners in this isolated region. I worked for a company that supplied native English teachers to the school board so every working day was an adventure. I was given a new school or destination every day. I didn’t know how old the kids would be that I’d be teaching or how many classes I’d teach that day. By this point, I had learned enough of the language to get by without a translator.

I’d hop a few different modes of transportation and either someone would meet me to take me to a school or I’d find my way on foot, and being blonde and blue eyed, they knew why I was showing up at their door. Someone at the school (probably the vice-principal) would usher me from class to class where I would play games and read stories to the children. It was a fun job without much responsibility.

The whole point of this trip through my memory is that yesterday, my son said he’d like dinner pancakes for dinner. And so, I thought of okonomiyaki. Something special about Japan is that it’s a country with so much culinary history. In cities that are so close together it’s hard to know when you’ve left one and entered another, each city is known for its unique cuisine.

Here in Canada, everything is set apart with wide open spaces and cities are distinguishable more for their landscape than their culture. We share similar cuisines and culture across the wide country with only subtle differences. (Maybe other Canadians would disagree?)

In Japan, each city has its flavour. Literally. So if you want the best okonomiyaki, you go to either Osaka or Hiroshima. Okonomiyaki are savoury pancakes (also referred to as Japanese pizza since you can change the toppings). They are made with cabbage and an eggy dough, covered in a sweet brown sauce, topped however you like it and often drizzled with Japanese mayo (I could write a whole post about Japanese mayo – I’m not a fan) and heaped with fish flakes (I also never liked the flakes).

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We’ve made okonomiyaki many times at home but not for many years. I’ve recently tried a few recipes but they weren’t authentic. Last night, I tried this one. It was good but I’ll be tweaking it a bit next time to come up with one that is a closer match to my memories of the okonomiyaki we ate regularly.

In my mind, it should be thicker, heartier and they need toppings. I made these small and thick to ensure they cooked properly and because I wasn’t  sure if the kids would like them. It was only when we went to eat them that I remembered what was missing. I’ll keep you posted if I’m able to come up with a good match now that my memory has been stoked. And I know the kids are on board! The next batch will be the size of our plates and won’t require anything on the side.

The okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is quite different and includes noodles. But for me, real okonomiyaki is the Osakan variety.

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We had the okonomiyaki with white rice and tofu teriyaki – which was nice. We skipped the mayo, didn’t have any toppings and didn’t even try to replicate the fish flakes – ewww!

Steamed veggies, tofu and barley

vegan barley bowl
My barley bowl is covered in a savoury miso ginger sauce.

I had a short first day at the office and made it home to make a quick dinner before skating. I went for an old familiar – a bowl as many call it. Meaning: a grain topped with veggies, a protein and a sauce. This is as simple as it gets and it’s always a winner at our house.

You can vary the ingredients, keep it plain for the kids and top it with whatever sauce you’d like. The kids gobble it down like little bunnies. And I’m happy because I know they’re getting a healthy meal and we’ll be out the door in no time. Seriously – we only had 15 minutes to eat!

The grain today is barley. I got it going while I cubed and marinated the tofu. For the kids, I added a teaspoon of vegan butter to their barley since I knew they wouldn’t have any sauce. My son has rejected barley in the past but he has since forgotten that he declared he didn’t like it. I added the butter just in case. And it worked!

The tofu is marinated in a bit of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. I let it absorb the flavours while I preheated the oven to 350. Then I baked them while the barley cooked, flipping a couple times. They’re done when they’re crispy and you can’t resist popping one in your mouth!

I steamed a selection of the veggies that we had in the crisper. I rarely steam our vegetables – so bland – but it tasted nice and clean today. I guess I was craving simplicity.

The sauce is a miso ginger sauce made with olive oil, miso, rice vinegar, maple syrup, a bit of fresh ginger and water to thin it out a bit. Popped it in the blender until smooth.

I also sprinkled black sesame seeds on top.

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The kids’ barley bowls are simple and they love them.

This is clean eating! Food like this just makes my body happy.

Not-fried seitan with mashed potatoes, peas and corn

Breaded seitan and tofu
The kids had a piece of the fake chicken (centre) and breaded tofu. They ate it with ketchup.

Super early this morning, my son asked me, “When you get a new cookbook, do you always want to play with it?” Yup. I like to work my way through the recipes in the book and get to know it well so when I have a craving for something specific, I know where to start.

Yesterday, I made a batch of seitan to make the fake fried chicken from The Edgy Veg: 138 Carnivore-Approved Vegan Recipes. The seitan recipe was different from others I had made. Instead of baking or simmering it in a broth for an hour, it was wrapped in tin foil and baked. This formed fake chicken breasts that were crispy on the outside and nice on the inside. Today, this seitan was then dipped in a fake egg dip made out of soy milk and cornstarch and breaded.

At this point, I should have dropped them into a deep fryer. But I don’t have one and I didn’t want to fry them in a deep pan. I decided to bake them in a hot oven to see how they turned out. The end result was crispy and nice though, admittedly, it would have been more authentic in a deep fryer. None-the-less, my daughter declared this the best dinner ever! (A compliment she often bestows on our meals.)

Once all the seitan was dipped and breaded, we had lots of the dip and breading left. I’ve never found a seitan recipe that my son enjoys (he only likes the seitan at Zen Gardens) so I sliced a block of tofu into fingers and coated them in the breading. There was still plenty of dip and breading left over so I dipped a few mushrooms (deep fried breaded mushrooms have always been a weakness for me).

I set the oven at 425, covered a baking sheet liberally with canola oil and baked everything for 10 minutes, flipped them, baked for another 5 minutes and another 5 minutes. They all turned out so well, we did another batch of mushrooms with the rest of the mushrooms we had in the fridge.

Seitan and mashed potatoes
The gravy was an onion and mushroom gravy. The breaded mushroom is in the bottom left corner. We dipped the seitan in a spicy barbecue sauce.

I wanted this to be a KFC-like dinner so I made mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and corn on the side. My son didn’t like the seitan but gobbled the rest of the dinner down. My daughter said she wanted me to make this whole meal every day!

Being liberal with the oil is a necessity. Any breading that didn’t come in contact in the oil did not get golden brown. Overall, it was a good meal – though a lot of work for one dinner. Something I would consider a special treat – not on the weekly rotation!

Tofu roast with stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy

Roasted tofu with stuffing
Tofu roast fresh from the oven.

Whenever we have a special occasion that traditionally revolves around a roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and etc., I make this tofu roast. It’s fussier than most meals that I make but the end result is a version of the traditional meal that does no harm to the turkeys. Plus the added prep makes it a special meal.

Over the years that I’ve been vegan, I’ve made this countless times. The flavours can be changed but the end result always pleases. The tofu is shaped into a bowl, stuffed with the stuffing and then closed into a ball. It is coated with a glaze and baked for about an hour. The secret is that it must all be made in advance so the tofu keeps its shape and does not fall apart.

This recipe is very versatile so that it can be adapted with any flavourings that are traditional in your holiday meals. The end result is pure comfort food and despite the forward-planning required, it’s not difficult to make. It’s great for get togethers since most of the work is done ahead of time so you can spend the day with your guests.

Before you start, make sure you have cheese cloth. You can buy it at any kitchen supply store and often at grocery stores.

Tofu roast with stuffing

  • 2 blocks of tofu (extra firm)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • stuffing made how you like it

For the glaze

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Press the liquid out of the two blocks of tofu. I put them in a colander over a bowl, cover with a small plate and top with two cans of beans. Let them sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. This is really important so ensure that they have had enough time to drain excess liquid or it won’t keep its shape.

While the tofu is draining, make a batch of stuffing according to your favourite recipe. Let it cool.

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Tofu blended into a dough to shape into a bowl for the stuffing.

Once the tofu has been properly drained, break it into chunks and put it in a food processor. Add the garlic, nutritional yeast and the soy sauce. You can also add poultry seasoning, a teaspoon of thyme and rosemary or any other seasoning you’d like as long as you don’t add much liquid at this stage. I keep it very simple since we’ll be serving it with cranberry sauce and gravy. And the tofu will be coated in a glaze that will seep in and add flavour while it bakes.

The food processor should turn the tofu into a sticky, uniform dough. Once there are no more chunks of tofu or garlic, prepare to shape the bowl.

Line a large colander with cheese cloth. Use enough to have the cloth hang over the sides of the colander. The excess will be tied to shape and hang the roast.

Press the tofu into a bowl shape in the cheese cloth so that it coats the sides of the colander – see the picture below.

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Tofu pressed into a bowl shape in a colander lined with cheese cloth.

It doesn’t have to be perfect – just spread it around so there’s a layer of tofu up the sides of the colander to about the same level. Reserve about 1/2 cup of tofu for the bottom.

Pour the stuffing you made into the middle of the bowl. Put enough to cover the bottom of the bowl and up the sides. Any extra stuffing can be baked in a side dish but you should be able to fit about three or more cups of stuffing into the roast.

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Stuffing the tofu roast.

Press the remaining 1/2 cup of tofu over the stuffing to form the bottom of the roast. Do your best to cover all the stuffing but don’t worry too much about it because it will all come together when you tie the cheese cloth.

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Sealing the bottom of the tofu roast.

Now take two diagonal corners of the cheese cloth and tie them together tightly so the knot is in the middle. Do the same with the opposite corners so there are two knots in the middle of the roast. Tie the ends of the cheese cloth around a wooden spoon so that it can hang over the colander or another deep bowl.

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Shaping and setting the tofu.

The tofu must hang like this in the fridge overnight so that it will keep its shape when you remove the cheese cloth. Any excess liquid will drip out of the tofu.

About an hour and a half before dinner time, preheat the oven to 400. It’s time to remove the tofu from the cheese cloth. Cut the cheese cloth and carefully turn the tofu ball into a lidded baking dish.

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Tofu roast ready to bake.

Now it’s time to make the glaze. Combine the glaze ingredients and keep a pastry brush handy. Coat the tofu ball with the glaze, fill the baking dish with vegetables (coated in olive oil), cover it with the lid and bake it for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove it from the oven, brush it with the glaze and return it to bake for another 15 minutes without the lid. This time, use the remaining glaze and let it bake for the last 15 minutes (it should take about an hour to cook in total).

Roasted tofu with stuffing
Tofu roast fresh from the oven.

Slice and serve with cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes and all the other traditional sides. I’ve made a mushroom and onion gravy, fresh cranberry sauce, baked potatoes, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes.

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Sliced tofu roast with stuffing in the centre.
tofu roast with stuffing and cranberries
Tofu roast covered in cranberry sauce and gravy with potatoes and carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes.

Enjoy!

If you need more detail about the recipe or how to make cranberry sauce or gravy, let me know in the comments.

Ginger miso noodle soup

Here’s another super easy weeknight meal that can easily be customized and it will boost your immune system through the cold evenings. It’s a ginger and miso broth over noodles and tons of vegetables. Feel free to use whatever you have in the fridge for this one!

vegan noodle soup
The kids’ soup has a lot of vegetables. They’re big and easy to identify – which makes it easy to pick out the mushrooms for my son.

This meal will take about 30 minutes – maybe less if you’re handy with a knife. Let’s get started!

Broth

  • fresh ginger root (about 2 inches)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth or water
  • 2 tsp miso paste (it doesn’t matter what kind of miso you use)

Soup

  • package of asian noodles of your choice (I used rice noodles)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 block of tofu (firm)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas or other podded peas
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms

Prepare the broth. Slice the ginger and garlic into thin slices. Chop the carrot into chunks. Throw the ginger and carrot in a large pot over medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. If it sticks to the pot, it’s fine. Just scrape it off with the wooden spoon. When they’ve started to brown and smell nice, add the vegetable broth or water and simmer it all together for about 15 minutes while you make the rest of the soup.

Prepare the noodles according to the package directions.

Chop all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Cube the tofu.

When the broth has been simmering for 15 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the ginger and the carrot (if you want – my kids like the overcooked broth carrots so I keep them in). Scoop out 1/2 cup of broth and add the miso to it before returning it to the pot – you don’t want to overcook the miso since it’s a fermented food.

Toss the vegetables and tofu into the broth and let it cook for a couple minutes. While it’s cooking, put the sesame seeds and hot sauce out on the table.

Divide the noodles among the bowls. Pour the broth and vegetables over the noodles and you’re done. Enjoy!

Vegan noodle soup
I’ve topped my serving with sesame seeds (both white and black) and hot sauce.