Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vegan Macaroni and "Cheese" (new Earth Balance brand, including analysis), Smoked Tofu, Reduced Water Tomatoes

My daughter loves vegan macaroni and cheese and I thought that I'd prepare some for her tonight. I like to make my own "cheese sauce" (I described this past April the Food for Life recipe that I use) - even my wife, who never liked cheese, likes it, and it has about 1.8 g of fat per serving, which is reasonable). I also like the convenience of the boxed Road's End Organics macaroni and "chreese". A staple in our house is Earth Balance's spreads, which we use as our non-hydrogenated margarine, and now Earth Balance has a new "cheddar mac and cheese".

At her urging, I bought the new Earth Balance product today and made it for her and me. I cooked it with a little onion and chopped kale, and served it with a little smoked tofu. They had some very tasty tomatoes at Whole Foods today that were made with minimal water to give an undiluted tomato flavor, and I served slices atop mixed greens with some dried oregano.

Dinner was good! I liked the Earth Balance product, but I also like the Road's End and my homemade ones. I am happy that my daughter is not only amenable but actually encouraging of mixing vegetables into the macaroni - I was going to add broccoli ("trees") and onion, but she requested kale instead of broccoli. The tomato was great! My daughter enjoyed dinner and said that this new Earth Balance macaroni product is her favorite boxed one.

I thought that I'd do a little comparison of the three approaches to making vegan macaroni and cheese. First, let's consider nutrition. Here are copies from the respective manufacturer's web sites of nutrition facts and ingredients.

While they are both obviously processed and won't be anything but an occasional treat at our house, they clearly aren't duplicate versions of each other. The chreese, like my homemade product, uses tapioca as a thickener. Tapioca works well, but requires much stirring and cooking down with added liquid. A benefit of the Earth Balance product is the ease of preparation since no tapioca is used - just a few tablespoons of plant milk are added to the cooked pasta (and Earth Balance spread, which I skipped), and then the powder packet is just mixed in.
It's difficult to read the small writing in the chreese nutritional information, but both products are comparable in fat with a surprisingly modest 1.5-2g of fat per serving. They are both significant sources of sodium, especially Earth Balance's product with 550 mg (vs. 390 mg) per serving. The chreese product has a good 7g of fiber per serving, while the Earth Balance has only 2g. The chreese product has about twice as much protein, and has significant amounts of iron, B12, and folate.
The sauce that I make has, per serving, 36 calories, .8 g protein, 4.6 g carbohydrate, 1.8 g fat, .3 g fiber, and 223 mg sodium. I don't have the breakdown of the other nutrients, but, depending on the brand of nutritional yeast used, can be a significant source of B12. Of course, this doesn't take into account the pasta that is used, and the other two analyses do.
None is of course suitable as a staple, but they are all reasonable to enjoy once in a while. All three are surprisingly low in fat. My homemade sauce is the low sodium winner. Chreese, however, is the overall winner with significant fiber, B12, and folate, though, of course, the homemade one can be customized.

Taste Nutrition Convenience Comments
Earth Balance Good Highest in sodium Easiest This will probably be something that I stock because my daughter seems to so like it
Road's End Good Significant fiber, B12, and folate Easy I'll try to get her to enjoy this as well periodically because it is more nutritious
Homemade Perhaps best - creamy Lowest in sodium and can be significant in B12 Not bad It's fun to make this from scratch and I hope that I can engage my daughter by helping to make it

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Angel Hair Tofu Shirataki with Vegan Vodka Pasta Sauce and Vegetables, Vegan Sausage, Raw Kale with Baby Corn (for Kiddo and Daddy)

My wife left this morning for a wedding that she is a bridesmaid for and returns on Monday. So my daughter and I are on my own. At times like these, I like to offer my daughter foods that my wife normally wouldn't eat.

We were thinking of pizza, but I didn't have time to make dough, didn't have a pizza shell, and didn't have the occasional frozen pizza in stock. Macaroni and vegan cheese was another thought, but I didn't have shells or boxed macaroni and "shreese" (there is a new boxed product by Earth Balance that we will pick up soon to try). Soy is healthful and we have tempeh reasonably frequently, but my wife has problems digesting tofu. My daughter and I love tofu and it agrees with us. I picked up a few days ago an interesting tofu pasta.

Tofu Shirataki is made from yams and tofu, and I picked up their angel hair cut. The online hints suggest draining the pasta, patting it dry, chopping it a bit, and then pan sautéing it to dry up the moisture and warm the noodles. Instead, I dried the noodles the best that I could, including gently pressing down on them, chopped them with a few cuts of the knife, then mixed most of them (I saved some - my daughter loved the raw noodles and so I saved some for her to eat for lunch the next day or so) with yummy Victoria Vegan Vodka Sauce that I had on hand. (I had first simmered the sauce, along with some bell pepper, garlic, and onion.) I served with some nutritional yeast (and mixed some red chili pepper into mine).

My daughter loves baby corn and wanted that with dinner. I served it atop raw kale (which she also likes), and heated a vegan smoked apple sage sausage. Both of us enjoyed dinner!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cauliflower Stew, Vegetable Uttapam (No Added Fat)

  • Head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 zucchini, chopped into 3/8" cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped into 1/8" or finer pieces
  • 1/4t dried oregano
  • 1T miso
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 t turmeric
  • 1/4 cup onion chopped to 3/8" cubes

  1. I put all of the ingredients except the turmeric and onion into my InstantPot and cooked at high pressure for 3 minutes.
  2. I let the pressure cooker come down in temperature so that I could open it (one could slowly release pressure, as well). I added the turmeric and onion, and served.
I also served uttapam, a tasty South Indian pancake. We soak urad dhal - black lentils with skins off and white or brown rice, then blend in our Vitamix blender and let ferment over at least a day or two, then cook on a cast iron griddle with no added fat, but with a little onion, ginger, and bell pepper (I'd rather use jalapeno but we didn't have any. In the picture, the side with the vegetables is on the bottom.)


I liked the cauliflower but my wife found it too bland. The cauliflower was a bit softer than I had hoped for, though it was good if I were making a stew or soup. I thought that it was just right in terms of water content, but my wife thought it was too liquidy. The uttapam, as always, was good.

Ideas for the future

I should try a similar dish but with the cauliflower cooked for just 2 minutes. Some Indian garam masala and jalapeno would be good. I wonder if kernels of corn or lentils would go well.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cooking chickpeas in a pressure cooker: Chickpea with Quinoa, Broccoli, and Marinara served with Jerk Tempeh and Avocado

This past weekend for a potluck dinner, we brought a quinoa and chickpea dish that was my wife's creation. I used the Instant Pot to prepare the chickpeas. I found well done step-by-step directions for preparing chickpeas at a nice blog, Low Fat Vegan Chef. Instant Pot recommends a cooking time of 35-40 minutes unsoaked, or 20-25 minutes soaked.

I'll have to fine tune it, such as by adding baking soda, salt, or kombu (my wife likes an Indian chaat spice mix, and uses that instead), but what I did was put dried chickpeas in the Instant Pot, covered the chickpeas with boiling water, and let it sit, covered (I just put the Instant Pot top on), for about an hour (this is the Low Fat Vegan Chef's quick soak method). I drained the chickpeas, put enough water back in to just cover the chickpeas, and cooked for 23 minutes on high pressure. It was good, though it could have cooked a bit more. I think I'll try 25 minutes next time or skip the soaking entirely and just go with 40 minutes in the pressure cooker.

By the way, one reason I got this pressure cooker in the first place was to make yogurt. I found a simple approach that calls for just putting unsweetened soy milk with vegan yogurt starter into the Instant Pot and pressing the yogurt button; it's done 9-10 hours later.

So, on to tonight's dinner. This weekend, my wife mixed the chickpeas with Indian chaat spice, as well as quinoa. It was good but could use more flavor, so I reinvented it tonight. I mixed in some marinara sauce, a bit of chopped onion and chopped shallot, soy sauce, and dried oregano, and simmered for 10-15 minutes. I also sautéed, with no added fat, tempeh and shallot, then put a little soy sauce on top and sprinkled on jerk seasoning.

Dinner was good! My wife and I agreed that the additions were quite worthwhile to the chickpea and quinoa dish.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Golden Beet with Potato, Waterless Peas and Carrots, Guacamole

My daughter was hungry and had in mind some leftovers, but I wanted her to also have some freshly made vegetables. She asked for peas, and I offered peas and carrots; it used to be a staple for me growing up, and I thought that it would come out well cooked waterlessly with my Saladmaster cookware (a healthy way of cooking slowly over low heat). Whole Foods Market had a good sale over the weekend on organic avocados ($1.50 each) and we all enjoyed guacamole.

  • Two golden beet roots, peeled, very bottom and top removed, then cut into 1/2" cubes
  • One Russet potato cut into 1/2" cubes (organic so unpeeled - if not organic, peeled would be better)
  • 1/4 cup Broccoli stalk cut into 1/4" cubes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup onion cut into 3/8" cubes
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper cut into 3/8" cubes
  • 1/2 t finely chopped ginger
  • 1T miso (1/8t or a tablespoon of reduced sodium soy sauce could be used if there is no miso)
  • 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
  • Last one
  • Two carrots cut into 3/8" slices
  • One cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 t tarragon
  • 1/8 t salt

  1. I put the beet, potato, broccoli stalk, and water in the Instant Pot and let it cook at high pressure for 9 minutes. I was out of garlic and bouillon cubes or would add them, as well (perhaps 3 cloves garlic chopped to 1/4" - they will end up tasting mild like roasted garlic). Instead of a cube of bouillon, I used the broccoli stalk.
  2. I let the pot come down in temperature for a few minutes then let remaining steam out and added the onion, bell pepper, ginger, miso, and black pepper, stirred, and served.
  3. While the beet was cooking, I put the carrots and peas into a small Saladmaster stock pan and cooked waterlessly. To do this, I covered the pan and let it heat up over medium heat till the vapor release started rattling, then I turned the heat down to low to try to get the rattle to stop. I cooked for about 30m, and continued to leave it on till I served, mixed with tarragon and salt.
I also made guacamole with avocado, shallot, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and rosemary.


Everything was excellent, thanks to the pressure cooker and the waterless cooking. I was particularly surprised by the main course with the beet and potato. The flavor was great, and the bell pepper and fresh onion added welcome crunch. I really enjoyed the peas and carrots - the flavors were intense. The guacamole came out great! An avocado can have 20 or 30g of fat or even more. Though we ate much less than one avocado each, I still won't label this dinner as a no-added-fat one.

Ideas for the future

Garlic in each of the three dishes would have been nice. I was originally going to saute some tempeh and mix it in with the beet dish but was out of tempeh and came up with the idea of using the miso, which turned out to be a good idea. A little bit of raw onion in the peas and carrots could have been nice.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Asparagus-Tempeh-Olive Medley, Baguette with Marinara, Sungold Tomatoes (No Added Fat)

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Green Lentils with Potato and Kale, Quinoa (No Added Fat, partially Waterless Cooking)

I thought that I would make a dish with lentils in the Instant Pot pressure cooker. I've had good luck including small squares of kale, and thought that I would experiment with tomato; this past Sunday I enjoyed including green tomato in a pressure-cooked dish, but wanted to try a dish where a more robust tomato flavor would fit in. As a final touch, I had some preserved lemon and thought that it would contribute a nice taste. I was free to spice the dish as I made a vegan grilled cheese sandwich and a variety of vegetables for my daughter.

Instead of brown lentils, I used French lentils. I skipped the garlic and jalapeno, and served raw onion at the table to be mixed in

  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 vegan bouillon cube
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic roughly cut into approximately 1/4" pieces
  • 6 medium red potatoes (approximately 1 1/2") cut into quarters2
  • 2 carrots cut into 1/4" slices
  • 3 leaves kale, roughly hand cut into approximately 3/4" squares
  • 1 red onion cut into 3/8" cubes; 1/2 reserved
  • 1 medium tomato cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t cumin seed

  1. I put the lentils, water, bouillon cube, turmeric, and garlic in the Instant Pot and cooked for 12 minutes on high pressure; I let it finish and cool down till I could remove the top
  2. In the meantime, I put in the potatoes, carrots, kale, half of the onion, and tomato into my large 3 quart Saladmaster stock pot; I should have preheated the pot, but it's okay not to.
  3. I mixed the ingredients then, with no added liquid, covered the pan and set on medium; once the vapor button started rattling, I reduced the heat to low and cooked for 20m.
  4. Once the 20m was up, I mixed the lentils, remaining half onion, salt, and cumin seed into the cooked stock pot ingredients, and served.
I also had made some quinoa (1 : 2 ratio of quinoa to water; I first sautéed some bell pepper and onion, then added the quinoa, water, and bouillon cube, and served with a bit of salt).


Dinner was good! I thought that the potato could have been cooked another few minutes, but my wife liked it as is with a good bite. The combination was good and the moisture was just right and not runny. The lentils went well with the quinoa.

Ideas for the future

I think I'd cook the vegetables in the stock pot a bit longer so that the potato would have been cooked just a bit more - maybe 5 more minutes. A little bit of jalapeno could go well with the lentils.

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Cornbread Pizza for Myself

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Macaroni and 'Cheese', Vegan Sausage

I made dinner for just my daughter and myself. Vegan macaroni and "cheese" is one of her favorites, and that's what I made, serving it with salad and a vegan Field Roast sausage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lentils with Artichoke Hearts, Seitan and Corn over Baby Greens (No Added Fat)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Stew reinvented with Eggplant and Salsa, Uttapam (Almost No Added Fat)


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower served with Limed Jerk Seitan and Heirloom Tomato topped with Hemp Seeds (No Added Fat)

I don't often eat cauliflower; I occasionally enjoy a bit raw in a salad, or perhaps cooked Indian-style as part of a curried dish. But I've heard of creamy mashed cauliflower and what I've heard is that it's easy and quite tasty. An online search came up with just such a recipe from a blog called A Vegan and a Vitamix. I modified it slightly to double the liquid and garlic, and add nutritional yeast. The recipe calls for initially steaming the cauliflower florets for about 13 minutes, and I used a hint about steaming cauliflower in a pressure cooker which suggested 3 minutes of steaming under high pressure would do (the Instant Pot website has a good summary of pressure steaming). Here is the recipe with these modifications.

  • 1 cup water
  • Medium head of cauliflower cut into maybe a half dozen smaller pieces, leaves and large stem removed and remaining cauliflower cut into sections of florets (I guess it could be cut into the individual florets, but it would have taken more time and been more difficult to keep atop the steamer trivet)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened (homemade) almond milk (this is a staple for us, but any other plant "milk", preferably unsweetened, could be used)
  • 3T nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  1. I put the trivet (just a little metal basket or shelf to get ingredients up off the water level and off of the pot sides) in the Instant Pot, and put the cup of water in, double checking that the trivet was above the level of the water (it was - if not, I'd reduce the water till it was at least a bit below the trivet).
  2. I then added the cauliflower, closed the pot, and selected "Steam", which is high pressure steaming; I set it to 3 minutes.
  3. When I was ready for the cauliflower, I let out any remaining steam and pressure (just a few minutes later, there was little pressure left), and put the cauliflower into my Vitamix blender (any reasonably powerful blender should do).
  4. I added the rest of the ingredients (garlic, almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper) and, using the tamper (a pole that pushes ingredients down into the spinning blades), blended on a variable setting of about 7 (out of 10; beyond that, the blender can go into a high speed mode) till the cauliflower was homogenized. It was soft and pliable, but not runny - for those who want it a bit softer, some more milk could be used.
  5. That's it! I served it, using the plastic Vitamix long spatula to scrape out remnants.
I also made my signature lime-marinated jerk seitan (a video is available) by sautéing with no added fat in a cast iron pan seitan and onion, then mixing in lime and jerk seasoning (I prefer to first marinate the seitan in lime, but not when I am cooking in cast iron), as well as a bit of salt.


Dinner was great! What a nice and easy recipe that cauliflower dish is - it's a winner! I think that I overdid the garlic, though my wife enjoyed it. The nutritional yeast was a good addition - just enough to lend a subtle hint. We always love the limed jerk seitan!

Ideas for the future

I'd like to try this again but cut the garlic in half. Maybe I should try this as is but with the garlic pressure cooked, making it have a milder roasted flavor. My wife suggested that a little bit of chunk in the form of some raw onion cubes might be nice, though I'm not sure. I wonder what similar dishes would be like with other vegetables like turnips or some other mild vegetable.

While I was preparing the seitan, I came up with an idea - seitan would be good with some raw tomato mixed in (and maybe raw onion) when served. Another idea would be to mix in some pressure cooked green tomato to get just a subtle tomato flavor.

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Stew with Jade Pearl Rice (No Added Fat)

One of the families in my daughter's preschool just had a baby, and I was honored to be on the list of folks bringing a dinner over. I decided to make a stew with Jade pearl rice, as I could easily make a large quantity and save enough for our own dinner before taking the food over.


(Since the sweet and other potatoes were organic, I left the peel on; otherwise, they should first be peeled.)
  • 1 cup small (about 1 inch long) fingerling potatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, frozen cubes approx. 3/4"
  • 2 cups sweet potato cut into 5/8" sections the length of the potato, and then quartered
  • 2 cups of a heirloom variety of potato similar to Yukon gold plus another 2 1/2 cups Yukon gold potatoes (or a total of 4 1/2 cups Yukon gold), cut into 5/8" cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic cut roughly into 1/4" cubes
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups carrots, cut into 3/8" chunks
  • 3 cups onion cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1T ginger, diced to 1/4"
  • 1/2 cup broccoli stalks, cubed to 1/4" pieces
  • (Optional) 1/2 cup stewed tomatoes; 1 cup green tomato cut to 3/4" cubes could be substituted, or the tomato could be skipped entirely
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • (Optional) 1/2 cup dry red wine (I omitted because I didn't have any small open bottles, but wine adds a nice subtle flavor, and the heat removes almost all of the alcohol)
  • 3 cups mixed bell peppers (different colors add to the presentation) cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 16 ounces (2 boxes of my favorite brand, WestSoy) seitan strips cut into 3/4" pieces
  • (Optional) 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • (Optional) 1 cup (compressed) baby spinach leaves
  • 3T lemon sage (basil can be substituted)
  • 1/4 t dried oregano
  • 1/4t freshly ground black pepper


Potatoes or sweet potatoes take 7-9 minutes to cook in my Instant Pot pressure cooker when cut into cubes; frozen chunks of butternut squash take 10-12 minutes; broccoli stalks take 3-4 minutes; carrot chunks, onions take 2-3 minutes; and bell pepper chunks take 1-3 minutes. I wanted the vegetables crispy and knew that I could simmer further to soften, if necessary, so aimed to undercook the recommended times a bit. Here is what I did.
  1. I put all of the potato, squash, sweet potato, the 3 cloves roughly cut garlic, and the cup of water in the electronic pressure cooker and set on high for 3 minutes.
  2. To avoid overcooking, I quick release the steam then added the s a bit. I was surprised - all the ingredients were definitely done and maybe a bit too soft. I was going to add the other ingredients and then return to pressure cooking, but instead just emptied the pot and saved the cooked vegetables.
  3. I put the carrot, onion, ginger, broccoli stalk, stewed tomato, bouillon cube, salt, and boiling water into the empty pressure cooker and cooked on high for 2 minutes 
  4. I quick release the steam, then added the bell pepper, seitan, nutritional yeast, herbs, and black pepper.
  5. I added the baby spinach and stirred. Spinach cooks down nicely but all it needed in this stew is to be stirred in and allowed to sit for a few minutes before serving.
I also made Jade pearl rice by sauteeing, with no added fat, some onion, garlic, mushroom (oops! I had meant to but had forgotten the mushroom!), and bell pepper, then adding a vegan bouillon cube, and water and rice in a 1 1/2 : 1 ratio for 20m.


I have never cooked a stew this way; in the past, I've not pressure cooked and have never included healthful sweet potatoes, squash, or nutritional yeast. I also enjoyed trying using a variety of potatoes and introducing tomato and broccoli stalks. I added a bit of fresh red hot pepper to my wife and my servings, and took some hot pepper to the friends.

I was delighted that the family to whom I took the food all seemed to enjoy the meal, even the young children. My finicky daughter didn't like the stew, but my wife and I did. It had just the right amount of liquid - less and it wouldn't have been a stew.

Ideas for the future

Larger pieces of the baby fingerlings were just the right consistency, as were all the other vegetables, except the sweet potato, squash, and most of the potatoes. The good news is that this can all be made in one batch by putting all the vegetables except the bell pepper (and seitan, nutritional yeast, and herbs) in the pressure cooker initially and just cooking for 2 minutes! I should try another stew variant with some additional vegetables, such as, perhaps, celery, zucchini, and okra. Not for my wife, who can't digest tofu, but some 3/4" cubes of pressure cooked tofu (as I described on July 6th) would also be good. Chopped kale or mustard greens would be good, too.

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