Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Humintas: Bolivian Tamales

After receiving my package from Bolivia, I researched Bolivian food.  While majority of it isn't vegan, because it uses fresh ingredients and simple cooking methods, it can easily be adapted. After looking at many mouth watering recipes, I saw humintas and knew I had to make them. They are pretty much just the Bolivian version of a tamale. I had a hard time fiding a basic recipe online, so I based this one on several. I also used followed some advice my friend Leslie gave me.

Although they are not complicated to make, they are time consuming (especially if you have to ground your corn by hand because your blend broke like me). But, I promise they are worth it.

I made a green chili and cilantro sauce to go with them. It's a perfect compliment for the slightly sweet corn, and it's not overly hot so don't be afraid. 

Green Pepper and Cilantro Sauce
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup green onion
2 hot peppers
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
Red pepper flakes

If you have a blender or food processors, just throw everything in there and blend until your desired consistency.

Fresh from Farmers Market.
If you have a broken blender like me, finely chop the cilantro and green onions.

I really wished I had my blender to do this

Chop the peppers in half and remove the stem, membranes and seeds. I left a few seeds since I like it hot. Then chop finely.

Add the cilantro, green onions, and peppers to a small bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients. Mix together well, then let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the flavors develop.

3 cobs of corn, with husks still attached 
1/2 corn meal
4 tbs Engr-G egg replacer
1 tomato
1/4 cup vegan cheese (I used Daiya mozzarella)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Only use fresh corn, canned will not work.
Carefully remove the cobs from the husks. Don't rip or tear them, they are what you cook the corn filling in.  Remove the silk and rise clean.

Watch it, the kernels like to fly off.

Next cut the kernels off the cobs. This can get a bit messy so I suggest  doing this in a bowl so the kernels don't end up everywhere.

Mashing by hand sucks.
Now, put the kernels in the blender with the corn meal and blend into a slightly sticky paste. I unfortunately had to ground mine by hand (the nice thing about being a geologist is I usually have a nice piece of rock laying around that can be used as a pestle. And yes mom, it's clean!).

Next, remove the seeds from the tomato and chopped finely. Add to the corn mixture.

Traditionally the humintas are stuffed with the cheese, but I am not that talented yet. Add the cheese and egg replacer, then season with the salt and pepper. Mix together well.

Bring a few inches of water to boil in a large pot on the stove.

In another pot, put a few inches of cold water and set aside.

Sort the corns husks into large and small pieces. The large ones are will be the wrappers and the small ones will be used to tie the humintas shut.

Once it's boiling, place the large husks into the boiling water for about 10 seconds. This makes the husks easier to work with.Then dunk straight into the cold water.

Spray a pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray. 

Now time to fill the husks. Spread enough of the corn mixture, 2-3 tablespoons depending on size of the husks, into each husk in a thin layer. I  suggest laying several husk on top  of each other, it is easier to fill and tie. I also suggest oiling the inside husk before you put in the filling. I didn't do this and my huminitas stuck a little bit.

Not the easier thing to do, but it gets better with practice.
Now fold over the sides to make a little package. Then tie shut with the smaller husks like string.

Not the best wrapping job ever....

Place the humintas on the pan or cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes. They are done when the husks are browned and steam is no longer coming off them.

I thought they might open, but I didn't have any more husks.

Mine burst open because I didn't wrap them tight enough. I should have used more husks and tied them better. They still tasted amazing, and the few that did stay closed were the best ones.

I topped them with sauce and ate them while they were still hot. Since most of mine stuck to the husks, I had to scoop them out. But normally, they should come right out and be eaten freely. Sweet, cheesy, and very filling.  The sauce provided a nice contrast. I can't wait to have authentic ones, let's hope I get to go to Bolivia soon!
Viva las humintas!

The recipes I based this on:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From Bolivia, with Love.

I have the coolest friends ever. Leslie, who I have mentioned twice before, showed her madre my quinoa post and she decided to send me Bolivian treats. The package came yesterday morning, I was very excited when the office called me to say it arrived.
Lovely whole grain treats and a fun post card.

First of all, there was a lovely post card with a picture of hot air balloons and a nice message on the back. It made me smile :-) She also sent these little grain bars. Some are quinoa, some amaranth, and some canahua. I tried one of each, they were all delicious. They aren't sweet or salty like most American-made granola or cereal bars. Since there are no fancy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or chocolate, the grain flavor really stands out (proving the point that when you use quality ingredients, you don't need to add all that other stuff). The amaranth is my favorite, it kind of has a nutty flavor.
Loved them all, but the amaranth is my fave.

The other item in the package was popped quinoa, which I've never had before. I've had "puffed" rice (aka Rice Crispies) and seen other puffed grains in the health food store, but I have never tried them before. They look like Rice Crispies, just rounder. I must confess, they look yummy but I am not sure what to do with them. The most obvious answer is quinoa crispy treats, but I feel like its a tragedy Americanize a lovely Bolivian gift. Despite the writing being in Spanish, the ingredients in the recipe on the back were straightforward enough I could figure out what it says. It suggests making like a quinoa yogurt parfait with fruit, which does sound good but I am not sold on the idea yet. I started researching recipes for how to use it, but ended up getting side track with Bolivian recipes.  So, look out for an upcoming Bolivian food post with popped quinoa in it somewhere.

Not sure how to use it yet, but can't wait to try it.
Thank you so much Beatriz for my package! I really want to come visit now. Leslie sent me a post card last time she was there, it has gorgeous mountains and cute fuzzy llamas on it. I hanged it over my desk as inspiration to graduate so I can come see Illimani for myself. I'm going to look for Hawaiian things to send you both too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Peaches and Cream Oatmeal

Most mornings I eat oatmeal for breakfast. It's cheap, filling, and very good for you. Want to know why doctors recommend it for people with high cholesterol? Pour some dry oatmeal into a cup then pour some oil on top. The oats will suck the oil right up. That is essentially what it does to the fat in your blood. I'll post a few links at the bottom that will explain more.

I had some canned peaches in the cupboard so I thought some peaches and cream oatmeal would be a nice way to kick off my Monday. Obviously being vegan I don't use real cream, but I use something even better: chilled coconut milk. When you chill coconut milk it thickens into a cream. However, it thins out again when it warms up, but it will last long enough for you to eat it. It's really easy to do, just stick a can of coconut milk in the fridge for at least an hour. Open it up and there you go, a can of coconut cream.

This is one of my favorite breakfasts. The peaches and shredded coconuts are sweet enough that you don't need to add any extra sugar. This recipe makes one serving, but can be easily multiplied for more.

Peaches and Cream Oatmeal
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup water
1/2 cup peaches, canned or fresh, drained and cut into slices
1 scoop (mine was pretty generous) chilled coconut milk
1 tbs shredded coconut

Add the oatmeal and water together in a small bowl. Microwave for two minutes, or according to the package directions. It should be completely cooked.

Add the peaches, then top with coconut milk, and sprinkle on the shredded coconut.

Stir together and enjoy!
Here a few links that explain more:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cheesy Fried Tofu

Oh my God. This is one of the best things I've ever made. I had Daiya cheddar left from my Mexican Pizza, and couldn't face another burrito (I've been eating them all week for lunch). I already planned on making collard-green-style Swiss chard, so that lead me to thinking about my Southern dinner the other night. Then it hit me, cheesy fried tofu. I couldn't find a recipe for it online so I decided to just add cheese to my fried tofu batter. This recipe is for one serving, but is so simple it can easily be multiplied to feed more people.

Tastes better than chicken.
Cheesy Fried Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs flour 
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup+2tbs flour, (I used rice, but any kind is fine)
1/2 cup soy milk, unflavored 
1 tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tbs soy sauce
1 tps yellow mustard
3-5 shakes of Tabasco sauce 
1 tps garlic salt
Pinch of pepper
1/4 cup vegan cheddar cheese (try Daiya) 
Oil for frying

Drain the tofu.

Place several sheets of paper towels on a flat, clean surface. Put the tofu on the paper towels, then place some more paper towels on top. Now get something heavy (I use my science textbooks, my mom uses stone bookends) and place it on top. This will squeeze out all the liquid so it will get a denser texture when cooked. Leave this for at least an hour, but the longer the better.

Next, place the tofu in a freezable container and freeze over night.

Drained, frozen, thawed, and marinated.
The next morning, place it on the counter to thaw.

Once fairly thawed, sliced in half lengthwise so it's like 1/4 inch thick steak. I normally don't like to cut tofu into steaks, but I figured the cheese would stick better to a bigger piece. Since I am only cooking for me, I put one half back in the fridge for another day. Pour the 2tbs of soy sauce over both sides and let it marinade for at least a half an hour.

In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tbs of flour with the salt and pepper.

In another bowl,  mix together the remaining ingredients. It should make a chunky batter.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when some water sprinkled in sizzles and bounces right out.

I don't know why the batter looks more yellow in this one...
Now time to fry. First, coat both sides of the tofu steak in the dry flour mixture.

Pile it on, get a nice thick crust.
Next dip it into the cheese mixture. Make sure it is thoroughly coated in a thick layer.

I had some butter in the pan too, that's why the oil is a bit brown.
Next place in the hot oil. Cooked on both sides until golden brown and crispy.

I was so eager to try the tofu, I almost forgot to take final pictures! It was crispy and gooey, just like I imagined. I loved it with spicy Southern-style Swiss chard. Best fried tofu ever.

I hurried through the photos because I wanted to try it so bad!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Cheese" and Veggie Pizza

I haven't made a "traditional" style pizza in a long time because I don't like most vegan cheese---and because I like my hummus version better anyways. There was a sale on Daiya cheese so I thought I would give the mozzarella a try since I like their cheddar.

I was a little disappointed because it tastes just like the cheddar. I wanted the slightly salty and creaminess of the mozzarella, instead it was slightly sweet and dense. These are good qualities for cheddar cheese, but not mozzarella. They must use the same formula, just minus the food coloring. I didn't hate it, but I would not call it mozzarella. It's just a nice generic white cheese substitute.

I used my usual array of veggies I bought pre-chopped from the salad bar at the grocery store. But, this time I loaded it up with fresh basil. I even added some to a store-bought sauce. The rich herb flavor blended really nicely with the sweetness of the cheese.

Cheese and Veggie Pizza
1 pre-baked pizza crust (try mine)
1/2 cup tomato basil sauce
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella cheese (Try Daiya)
Handful fresh basil
Handful fresh kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 of a tomato, sliced
1/8 cup red onion, sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Spread the sauce evenly over the pre-baked crust.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella.

Place an even, single layer of basil on top of the cheese.

Top with the remaining veggies.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the veggies are cooked. Since this is non-dairy cheese, it will not get all bubbly and brown like real mozzarella does. It will burn if you leave it in the oven longer than 15 minutes. Although it doesn't bubble, it does get pretty gooey. 

It was yummy and definitely a nice change, but I still like my hummus version better.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Taste of the South: Collard Greens, Black-eyed Peas, and Fried Tofu.

One of my favorite vendors at the Hilo Farmers Market had a special on greens---kale, Swiss chard and collard greens. I got a bunch of each for only $5 total. Like I said before,  your local farmers market will always have the best deals. I haven't had collard greens before so I thought I'd make  a whole Southern dinner to have the full experience: collard greens, black-eyed peas, and fried tofu.

Love the deep green color.

Collard greens are amazing. Although kind of bitter raw, they are buttery and rich when cooked. They are also loaded with vitamin C, fiber and can even fight cancer. And it smelled sooooooo good while it was cooking. I looked up a bunch of recipes and decided to stay pretty traditional, just minus the bacon. I based this recipe on the Kickin' Collard Greens from (although Paula Dean's recipe looked really good too).

However, I am no stranger to black-eyed peas. They are buttery like collard greens but saltier, which is why they are perfect for a salt queen like me. I've tried several recipes before, but I came up with my own recently. It's still fairly traditional, just minus the bacon and add some Tabasco.

Now, do not freak out at the sound of fried tofu. It is amazing. For those people who say they don't like tofu, I question how they had it prepared. Is plain, unseasoned, undercooked chicken good? No. So why would plain, unseasoned, uncooked tofu be? Tofu will take on the flavor of whatever you cook or marinade it in, so don't be afraid to experiment and slather it in anything. There are also several preparation techniques that can alter the texture to be more meat-like too.  For fried chicken, I recommend freezing it, which I explain later in this post. There are many fried tofu recipes on VegWeb, but I had trouble with most of them. I came up with this recipe after many trial and errors. The tofu needs to freeze overnight. The other two dishes come together quickly, but you need to plan ahead for the tofu. 

My kitchen smelled so good!

Collard Greens
1 large bunch collard greens (sorry I don't have a precise measurement)
1/2 tbs olive oil
1/2 large white onion
2 cloves of garlic
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop into smaller pieces so it cooks faster and is easier to eat.
Wash and dry the collard greens. Chop off the ends, the stem is edible so only take off the browned parts.  Chop the greens into 2 inch pieces.

Chop the onion and garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Don't burn the garlic, it gets bitter and nasty.
Add the onions to the pot, cook until tender and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about another 2 minute. Be careful not the burn the garlic, it will ruin the flavor.

Add the collard greens and mix together well. Cooked for another few minutes, just until the leafs start to wilt.

Pour in the vegetable broth then season with the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Try not to open the lid unless absolutely necessary.

Spicy Black-Eyed Peas
1 can black-eyed peas, drained
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup white onion
1/2 tbs chili powder
1/2 cup water
5-10 shake of Tabasco sauce, depending on taste


Put everything into a small pot, mix together well, and cook over medium-low heat until majority of the liquid is gone, about 10 minutes. So easy!


Fried Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
1tbs soy sauce
1tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp Ener-G Egg replacer
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
2 shakes Tabasco sauce
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
Olive oil

Drain the tofu.

This part may sound crazy, but it is very necessary. Place several sheets of paper towels on a flat, clean surface. Put the tofu on the paper towels, then place some more paper towels on top. Now get something heavy (I use my science textbooks, my mom uses stone bookends) and place it on top. This will squeeze out all the liquid so it will get a denser texture when cooked. Leave this for at least an hour, but the longer the better.

Next, place the tofu in a freezable container and freeze over night.

It will have a slightly leathery appearance.
The next morning, place it on the counter to thaw.

Once fairly thawed, combine all the marinade ingredients and marinade the tofu for at least 2 hours. I know it's weird to put more liquid in when you just spent all that time getting it out, but now you are putting in flavor.

Marinated and dried again.
Pour off the excess liquid and pat the tofu dry.

Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch strips. You can cut it lengthwise so it's more steak-like, but I find it doesn't fry as evenly.

Batter tastes pretty good on its own too.
Now, in a small bowl mix together all the ingredients for the batter, except the 1/4 cup flour and second pinches of salt and pepper.  It should make a fairly thick mixture.

In another small bowl, mix together the remaining flour,  and salt and pepper.
1 tbs of olive oil, only 120 calories and gets the job done just fine.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Get the pan good and hot. The pan is ready when a sprinkle of water sizzles and bounces straight off. You really don't need tons on oil if you have the pan heated properly and are patient.

Now it's finally time to bread and cook the tofu. It's best to set-up an assembly line: dry flour bowl, batter bowl, then the your heated skillet.

First, lightly coat the tofu strip on both sides in the flour.

Next dip the the strip in the batter, making sure it is coated in a thick layer on both sides.
Then drop it straight into the hot pan.

Repeat with the remaining strips.

Cook on each side till golden, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Plate up your fried tofu with generous scoops of the collard greens and black-eyed peas. It went lovely with a glass of ice cold lemonade.

The tofu is crunchy on the outside and has the perfect "meaty" texture" on the inside. Some mushroom gravy would be good with the tofu....too bad I didn't think of that beforehand. However, just like chicken, it also goes wonderfully with ketchup (and a bit more Tabasco).  
Tastes like chicken, but even better!

The black-eyed peas are a bit spicy and the buttery collard greens are heavenly. This meal is not only a good balance of flavors, but so good for you too. I am normally not a big leftover fan, but I am more than happy to have this again tomorrow.