Sunday, June 26, 2011

Curried Split Pea Soup

I've had a bag of dried split peas sitting in my cupboard for awhile now. I saw them while I was cleaning my kitchen today and thought I should actually do something with them. So I decided to make good ol' split pea soup. I hated split pea soup as a kid. Canned ones were way too mushy and way too salty. And homemade ones had chewy, overcooked ham pieces. So gross. But awhile ago I saw Alton Brown make a Curried Split Pea Soup on Good Eats and my faith was restored. His soup was smooth, not mushy, and properly seasoned. My version is based on this recipe, just minus the ham and add some green bean for extra nutrients. 

Curried Split Pea Soup
1 cup dried split peas
1 tps of vegan butter 
2 cups water
Pinch of Salt
2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen, cut into bite size pieces 
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 tbs curry powder
1 tbs garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Put the split peas in a bowl and pick out all the bad looking pieces. Cover with water and soak for at least 2 hours, overnight if you can.

Drain and rinse the peas.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the peas and cook until slightly tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the two cups of water and the pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer then cover and cook until completely tender, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the peas to a bigger pot. You could saute them in the pot too, but I think they cook more evenly in the skillet.

Whether using frozen or fresh green beans, cook them first. I used frozen so I microwaved them. I suggest steaming fresh ones. Add the cooked beans to the pot along with all the remaining ingredients, then mix together.

To make the soup a thicker, puree it in a blender. Reserve about a cup and half of the pea and bean chunks first to add back in after. This way the soup has some texture and isn't just green mush.

Once it is pureed to a smooth texture, return it to the pot and add the reserved chunky soup back in. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 25 minutes.

 Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy. The curry gives it nice background flavor without overpowering the richness of the peas and beans. Love the color too.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Easy Rice Bake

I hate when it's almost time to go grocery shopping so you don't have enough of anything to make a real recipe. For dinner tonight, I decided to follow in the footsteps of generations of housewives and make a baked casserole. Casseroles became household favorites because they were a cheap way to stretch a a few ingredients into a hearty meal.  They really took off when companies like Betty Crocker made prepackaged versions like Hamburger Helper (ha, a Hamburger Helper commercial came on TV as I typed that). But, they aren't vegan and aren't the healthiest. I made my own version instead. I had some fresh basil and canned pasta sauce that needed to be used up, so I made an Italian-style rice bake. You can make a pasta bake with this recipe too, just replace the rice with any pasta you like. Besides being tasty, this dish is a good way to clean out the fridge. You can throw in whatever veggies or leftovers you have kicking around.

Italian-Style Rice Bake
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cashews
1/4 of a tub of silken tofu, drained
1 cup pasta sauce 
1 cup frozen veggies (carrots, peas--whatever you have in the freezer)
1 cup canned beans (I suggest white or pinto)
Anything else you want to clear out of the fridge or freezer

Everyone claims to have the secret to perfect rice, so cooked the rice according to your own method.

While your rice cooks, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.

To make the "pesto", add the basil, garlic clove, cashews, and olive oil into a blender. Blend until the cashews are ground up and the mixture is smooth. Next add the tofu and blend until smooth. I suggest adding the tofu separately so the nuts gets thoroughly ground up. 

Put the "pesto" into a large bowl. Next add the pasta sauce and mix together.

Now add your veggies, beans, or whatever else you want. I had a few fake chicken strips left over so I threw them in too.

Now add your cooked rice and mix it all together.

Spread evenly into your baking dish. Normally casseroles and other bakes are covered with cheese.  You could cover this with some vegan mozzarella, but I took a little healthier approach by just topping it with some Italian breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven, until the top is golden and crunchy.

This will easily feed a family of four or a college kid for a couple day. It would go lovely with a nice spinach salad too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tofu Parmesan

So, I know I called this dish tofu parmesan, but there is no parmesan in it. But, to be fair the mozzarella is the best part of chicken or eggplant parm so I think my title is still fairly accurate.  I love eggplant parm. I thought about it the other day, which is where I got my inspiration for this dish. I guess someone could argue this is more like Italian-style baked tofu but whatever. You can add some vegan parm into the batter, I just didn't have any on hand. It's delicious either way. 

Tofu Parmesan 
1 block tofu
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 cup+2tbs flour, (I used rice, but any kind is fine)
1/4 tbs Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup soy milk, unflavored
2 tbs Ener-G Egg Replacer + 1 tbs water, mixed
1/4 vegan mozzarella (Try Dayia)
1/2 tbs soy sauce
1 tps garlic salt
Pinch of pepper

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.

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. 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.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients, it should be slightly thick.

Dip the tofu steak in the cheese batter, coating well on both sides.

Place on the baking sheet and put it in the oven.

I forgot to set a timer so I don't know exactly how long it took to cook. But something around 20 minutes I guess. Check yours after 15 just to be safe. It will be all golden and crispy when ready.

I had some basil-tomato sauce I made last week that needed to be eaten so I slathered my tofu with it. I loved the crispy and cheesy crust.
If you want to make this more chicken parm like, top it with the sauce and more cheese and bake for a few minutes longer. If you want to make this a full meal, pair it with some pasta and nice green salad.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Haupia, Coconut Pudding

Picture from here
Sometimes I browse the bakery section at normal grocery stores to see how horrible those innocent looking treats really are to remind myself why I am vegan. I know that sounds weird, but I wish everyone would do this just once. Take the time to actually read the ingredients in those doughnuts or cakes, and you will probably never want to eat them again. But one day I came across something I had never seen before. It was a small little white square covered with shredded coconut. It had only a few simple ingredients, was fairly low in fat and calories, and was made at a local bakery. And it was vegan. I bought the little white square and surprised when I bit into it. It was squishy like gelatin, but sweet and coconutty. I am not a fan of gummy or jelly things, but I love coconut so I was torn on whether I liked the treat or not. And to be honest, I am still torn. Yet, this is the second time I have made this dessert at home.

Haupia is a technically coconut pudding made from starch and coconut milk, but has the texture of gelatin. Gelatin is not vegan (ever heard the saying "take the horse to the glue factory"?) so I was kind of skeptical that the haupia square at the store was labeled properly. But my skepticism was set aside when my homemade version was just as gelatinous.

I can't find much information on the history of haupia besides it became popular after World War II and was originally made with arrowroot starch. It is easy to make but requires your full attention while cooking. This recipe is based on two fairly similar recipes, one from a luau recipe website and one from Both recipes call for cornstarch, which I don't use that often so I usually don't keep in the cupboard.  I was about to cave and buy some when I realized that Enger-G Egg Replacer, which I usually have on hand because it is so versatile, is made from starch. So I gave it a shot and it worked just fine.

A side note about canned coconut milk I mentioned in my Yellow Curry post: light coconut milk is a waste of money.  It is just watered down normal coconut milk and usually costs more. Save the money and just add water yourself if you want cut down on calories.

1 and 1/2 cans coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Enger-G Egg Replacer or cornstarch 
1/2 cup shredded coconut 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt


In a small sauce pan, heat the coconut milk, water, and sugar over medium heat while continuously whisking. 

When it is about to boil, gradually add the egg replacer or starch and continue to whisk.

When it starts to thicken slightly, add the vanilla, salt, and shredded coconut flakes and continue to whisk.

Remove from the heat when it is smooth but as thick as pudding.

Pour into desired dish and chill for at least two hours so it can fully set up. Here is a little advice on what shape of dish to use. The first time I made this, I tried to replicate the one I got from the store so I used a square pan so it would be just as thick. But the pan was too small so it came out really thick. Since I don't like squishy/gelatin things, I used a sheet pan this time so it would be thinner. But it was too thin and did not come out of the pan very nicely. So, I next time I make this I am going to use medium-sized square pan, and shoot for around 1/2 inch thickness.

Since they did not come out of the pan in a decent looking form, I didn't take any final pictures. But I promise they were yummy, if you like squishy things that is. I topped mine with some additional shredded coconut too, it helped cut down on the squishyness.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hawaiian Mac Salad

When you order a Hawaiian plate lunch, you can be certain of two things: large portions and macaroni salad. They usually aren't vegan so I have to order all rice instead.  But to keep up with my Hawaiian post trend, I thought I should make my own version. There isn't anything that makes this dish unique to Hawaii besides the fact it's very popular here. It's pretty much the same recipe you mom makes for picnics. I kept everything traditional, the only difference is I used Veganaise instead of mayonnaise.

Mac Salad
2 cups large elbow macaroni, dry
1/4 cup carrots, grated
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup Veganaise
1 tbs sweet relish
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package.  Drain and set aside.

Broke college kid doesn't have a grater, so I chopped my carrots

Grate the carrots and chop the celery.

The glass bowl makes it look like it's sitting on the counter.

In a large bowl, add the macaroni, carrots and celery. Add the Veganaise and relish then mix together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Veganaise is the best thing ever. Way better than dairy mayo.

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. This gives the macaroni time to absorb all the flavors.

I ate mine on it's own, but it's a fabulous side dish for any, now I wish I made some BBQ tofu to go with this.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pineapple Fried Rice

What could be more Hawaiian than pineapple? To learn about the history of pineapple in Hawaii, visit the Dole website, they explain it better than I can. FYI,  the maze at the plantation on Oahu is hard.

Pineapple is very sweet and juicy. I have to admit that I don't like them on their own, too sweet for my taste. But I love them for cooking and baking because they pretty much eliminate the need for any additional sweeteners.

They have been used as an anti-inflammatory since ancient times and have lot of vitamin C. They are also a great source of manganese and thiamin. It also has an enzyme that aids digestion so it is good after a heavy meal.

However, this fried rice dish isn't heavy at all. It is a nice balance between sweet and savory. I used canned pineapples because I hate peeling and coring whole ones. When buying canned fruit, make sure it is stored in 100% juice, not syrup. No one needs extra sugar water. I also used edamame (whole soy beans) instead of peas because it gives it more texture.

Pineapple Fried Rice
2 cups cooked brown rice
Sesame oil 
1/2 block of firm tofu, drained
1/2 cup onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 inch of fresh ginger
2 medium carrots
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 cup pineapple, canned or fresh 
4 tbs soy sauce
2 tps rice wine vinegar
1 tps red pepper flakes
Green onion, chopped, for garnish

Everyone has their own technique for making rice, so make it the way you like and set aside to cool. It will "fry" easier when cooled.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Next chop the tofu, carrots, and pineapple into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the sesame oil. Add the tofu and cook until the outside is slightly golden. Then remove from the skillet.

If needed, add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onions are slightly golden.

Next add the carrots, cook until tender.

Add the rice, cooked tofu, edamame, and pineapple. Mix together well.

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Add to the skillet and mix in well.

Press into a flat layer and let it cook for a few minutes. Break it up, press it flat again, and cook for another few minutes. Repeat until it reaches desired level of "fried." 

Sprinkle with the green onion before serving and enjoy a sweet taste of Hawaii!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Purple Sweet Potato Salad

I realized I live in Hawaii but haven't made any Hawaiian food yet! So the next few posts will be devoted to Hawaiian dishes. 

I knew sweet potatoes came in other colors, but I have only seen orange on the mainland. The first time I went to the Hilo Farmers Market, a lady was selling a bag marked "potatoes" for $2. I thought awesome! Cheap fresh little finger potatoes. When I cut into at home, I was surprised that they were purple inside.  I asked my roommate at the time, who was from Maui, and she looked at me like I was crazy. "They are sweet potatoes...You know like Thanksgiving casserole?" 

Purple sweet potatoes, or ‘uala,  are a member of the morning glory family and are native to Japan.  Japanese immigrants brought them to Polynesia more than a century ago. However, it is believed that the Polynesians brought some form of sweet potatoes with them on their travels throughout the Pacific prior to the Japanese introduction. All sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also have tons of fiber and vitamin A.

Although common to Hawaiians, they were totally strange to me. I love them now though. Not only are they my favorite color, but they are also delicious. They aren't quite as sweet a the orange or yellow ones, and bit more starchy. They are great for fries or chips, but I love them in curries.

I decided to make a healthier version of a very common side dish in Hawaii: potato salad. Potato salad and macaroni salad are  are always part of the classic Hawaiian plate lunches. But, they are loaded with fat and calories, and I have yet to find a plate lunch place that has a vegan version. For this recipe, so no one can argue I took the Hawaiian-ness out of the salad, I used as many local products as I could. Local organic purple sweet potatoes, and carrots, plus Sweet Maui onions, and Maui Sweet Onion dressing from Rainbow of Tastes.

This recipe calls for some very specific ingredients and if you can get them, great! If not, you can always adapt the recipe to what you can get. However, I would not recommended using regular orange sweet potatoes in this recipe. Like I said, purples are starchier and sturdier, more like a real potatoes than creamy orange sweets. If you cannot get purples, just use regular potatoes.

Purple Sweet Potato Salad
8-10 small purple sweet potatoes, peeled and chop into chunks
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/4 Sweet Maui Onion, diced finely
2 tbs sweet pickle relish
1/2  to 1 cup  Maui Sweet Onion by Rainbow of Tastes
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fill a pot 2/3 of the way with cold water.

They aren't solid purple, more like marbled.
Rinse, peel, and chop the sweet potatoes into chunks. Put in the pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat.

 You can shred the carrots if you like too.

While the potatoes cook, dice the carrots, celery, and onions.

Still purple when cooked.
Once the potatoes are soft enough for a fork to be inserted with little resistance, remove from the heat and drain. You do not want them totally smushy like for mashed potatoes, but soft enough to eat and still remain in chunks. Do not rinse, it will make them smushy. Let them cool for a few minutes. The potatoes will absorb more flavor while warm, so don't let them cool entirely before dressing. 

I should have got a bigger bowl...
In a large bowl, add the potatoes, diced veggies, relish, and dressing. I recommend putting the dressing in a little at a time so you don't over do it. It takes a minute for it to absorb. Mix it all together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Try not to mash up the potatoes too much.

Cover and let it chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
 I love the colors, and the sweet onion dressing is the perfect compliment to the sweet potatoes.