Feelin' Chalky

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Peanut (Butter) Gallery

Well, after surviving almost 2 weeks without any dairy I can officially say I am done with it.  I really thought that it would be harder than it has been, but since I have been slowly edging dairy out a step at a time -  first ice cream (because unlike the rest of my family, that was the easiest place to start - plus I found some amazing coconut milk and soy ice creams), second milk, third and final, cheese.  I do have to say...I still longingly think of cheese...but I also longingly think of sleeping more than 5 hours in one sitting...and we all know that's what dreams are for, right?

I am testing out some more new recipes - mainly ones that can utilize alternative protien sources like tofu, tempeh, and seitan.  It's nice to have some new "tools" in the cooking arsenal, but I still fix the fam ground turkey or chicken 1-2 times a week even though I don't partake.  I have also been doing some sort of bean and whole grain dish (rice, quinoa, etc.) everyday - so any kind of recipes that use them in a creative way have been on my list as well.

I have had several people ask for more recipes that use tofu because they want to learn to cook with it.  Let's start with the basics...what the heck is tofu (and all of its strange counterparts) anyway???

Tofu - basically it is by method a "cheese" of sorts.  I say this because it is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the curds into a block.  Sound familiar?  There are different types: silken/soft, firm, and extra-firm.  Silken tofu is great for desserts and smoothies whereas firm/extra-firm are more easily cooked - baked, fried, grilled.  It is very bland in flavor and has almost no odor which makes it take on the flavors of the foods/spices you put with it.  It originated in China.  For more on tofu, click here: Tofu

Tempeh - fermented, cooked, and hulled soybeans that are formed into a white "cake." It originated in Indonesia.  I think it is most similar in method to blue cheese.  Blue/Bleu cheese gets its flavor by the mold that grows on it - same deal here, only it is a different kind of mold: Rhizopus.  The flavor is more intense than tofu and kind of nutty - and the texture is dense and slightly chewy.  For more info on tempeh, click here: Tempeh

Seitan - not a soy product at all!  Seitan is wheat gluten - sometimes called, "wheat meat."  It has a similar look and texture to meat when cooked - which is where it gets its name.  Popular in restaurants as a mock meat.  Can also be made at home.  I have not tried this yet, but I am anxious to give it a whirl.  For more info on seitan, click here: Seitan

I wanted to include a recipe that I made last night using tempeh...it was everything and more than I expected.  My husband ate every last bite which is always a good indication of whether the recipe is a success or not!  The soup is similar to an African dish I made in a level 3 foods class I took in college as an elective called "Groundnut (peanut) Stew."  (by the way...such a fun class - loved it - should have just gone to culinary school!)  I found this recipe in a WW magazine I had lying around, and I am so glad I did.  It has a little bit of everything in it - give it a try - this is for you, Viv!

Spicy Tempeh-Peanut Soup

1 (8 oz) package three-grain tempeh, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. grated, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb red potatoes, diced
1 (14 1/2-oz) can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-oz) can low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 c. water
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c. raw, natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
2 Tbsp. chopped, fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

1. Spray a non-stick skillet with olive oil and set over medium heat.  Add tempeh and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to plate.

2. Spray a dutch oven or stock pot with olive oil and set over medium heat.  Add onion and bell peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, ginger, cayenne, and salt until blended.  Add potatoes, tomatoes, broth, and water; cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Stir in zucchini and tempeh and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes and zucchini are tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in peanut butter until blended and smooth.

At this point, you can also let cool completely and then freeze the soup in an air-tight container for up to 2 months.  I served the soup over some brown basmati rice using my NEW (and wonderful) Aroma ARC-998 16-Cup Cool Touch Digital Rice Cooker, Stainless.  I love it.  :)  Back to the soup.  I garnished the top with cilantro and a few peanuts.  Here is what it looked like:

For those of you who think that a Vegan diet is bland and boring...you HAVE to try this soup...and for all the rest...you HAVE to try this soup!  The peanut butter is fantastic with the cayenne and garlic and ginger...and the cilantro really plays a beautiful part as well.  My kids were convinced that the tempeh was chicken and since I am not one to stifle the imagination, I didn't tell them any different! ;)

Meanwhile...I have been purging my pantry (finally) of all junk and processed crud-ola.  I am so proud of my accomplishment, that I had to share.  (mainly because there is nothing in my house that is organized) Here is my de-junked pantry (OK, I still have a few things in there that could qualify as junk):

And my de-funked and de-junked fridge:

Yes. There are hot dogs.  What can I say...my kids still like them...sigh.  BUT I did find one that they like that is sans Nitrates/Nitrites.  It is by Oscar Mayer and it's called Hardwood Smoked Turkey dogs.  That makes me feel a little better when I hit the pillow at night!  :)

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