Veggie Sushi

First Attempt at Sushi

I’m nothing if not ambitious, my friends!

Veggie Sushi

Veggie Sushi

My family’s Easter gathering is tomorrow, and as a vegan (and even as a vegetarian), if I don’t want to starve, I have to bring at least one dish I can eat. It’s all good; I don’t expect anybody to bend over backwards to make sure there’s something for me to eat. This holiday, I decided to try something new: veggie sushi.

I’ve never had sushi before. In fact, I spent the first 36 years of my life misinformed, thinking that “sushi” meant “fish.” (It doesn’t; sushi is actually the rice). What gets wrapped in that rice? Anything you want! Including veggies.

So I got myself a $4 bamboo sushi rolling mat, and set to work.

First, I prepped (way too many) veggies.

Sushi veggies

Sushi veggies

I had red peppers, sundried tomatoes, avocado slices, green onions, carrots, and cucumber slices. I also had some shiitake mushrooms and steamed asparagus on the side, and a small batch of buffalo tempeh and a small batch of ranch tempeh spread (inspired by PPK’s Spicy Tempeh Rolls).

I got to rolling. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be – though the rice is super sticky (keep your hands wet!), and it seems I was over-stuffing my sushi rolls a bit. Still, it all seemed to work out. I need more practice getting the rice to the ends of the nori sheets, though.

This roll was a simple avocado, carrot, and green onion roll.

Rolling up sushi

Rolling up sushi

My 10-pack of nori sheets only had 9 sheets in it! Gypped! That’s OK… since I was over-stuffing the rolls, I only had enough rice for 9 rolls anyway.

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

(Please pardon the “well seasoned” cookie sheet. I need new ones). I left some of the ingredients sticking out of the ends, because in the very first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen, Isa did that, and the end pieces looked cool with stuff sticking out. I’m not sure mine will look quite as cool, but can’t blame a girl for trying.

Next, I discovered just how not-sharp my formerly-awesome-sharp-knife is. Not so good for cutting sushi. I cut up one roll and taste tested it (pretty good!), but I’ll cut the rest up tomorrow.

The result: my very first veggie sushi:

Veggie Sushi

The result: veggie sushi, first try

Not so bad, eh?!
I made a couple buffalo tempeh & cucumber rolls, a couple ranch (actually, Sanctuary Dressing) tempeh and avocado rolls, and a variety of mish-mosh veggie rolls.

I feel like something in there probably needed some salt, but maybe that’s where the soy sauce for dipping comes in.

I’m definitely stoked about sushi now! Can’t wait till July for my Vegas trip, where I will be checking out some Vegas sushi.

What’s your favorite sushi filling?

Apples and Miso?

Oh, tofu. I have neglected thee. It’s not you, it’s me. You’re flexible and accommodating. You’re always there when I need you – even if you require some thawing first. (Yes, I freeze some of my tofu). Really, it’s not you. You’re everything that is good and true. It’s me. I’ve been too lazy to give you the time and space you need to shine.

I haven’t had tofu in a few months. Why? Who knows. I like tofu. You can turn it into basically any flavor. I’ve just been lazy, I guess – finding it too much of a PITA to bother with the whole tofu pressing process and the marinating. So when I saw this recipe in Isa’s cookbook, I decided to buy some fresh tofu and just go for it.

Appetite for Reduction has a recipe for Apple Miso tofu that sounded like it might go well with some stir fried veggies and basmati rice.

Apples and miso? Really, Isa? Well, OK… if you say so. You’re the chef. I like apples. I like miso. Let’s rock this!

My version turned out more moist than it was supposed to – the tofu never really browned. But that didn’t stop me from loading up my plate.

Apple Miso Tofu Stir Fry

Apple Miso Tofu Stir Fry

The verdict? It was freakin’ delicious – maybe my favorite tofu dish to date.

I sauteed some stir fry veggies in tamari and threw some basmati brown rice in the rice cooker for the occasion.

Apple Miso Close-Up!

Apple Miso Close-Up!

And that’s even with me cheating and not marinating for very long. (Heh – I say “not very long” but that really means, “hardly at all.” I might have marinated the tofu for, oh, 10 minutes? Isa recommended 1-8 hours).

I’m sorry, tofu. I can still be lazy sometimes. Please forgive me!

Maybe “impatient” is a better word.

At any rate, having apples with dinner is pretty darn cool.

No-Mess Sweet & Sour Tofu

I just received my first issue of Vegetarian Times magazine (I love magazines!!), and was excited to see a section with some recipes made using FOIL! Recently, my sister-in-law Amanda suggested I try roasting veggies and such with foil for easy clean-up. I hadn’t thought of that (I’m new to this “cooking” thing, remember?!) So when VT came to my rescue with some recipes, I barely waited a day to try one out.

My first foil adventure is with the Sweet & Sour Tofu Packets recipe from the May/June 2010 edition of Vegetarian Times. I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand, leaving out a few spices and using a bag of frozen organic tri-colored peppers instead of the recommended fresh red and green ones. Still, it turned out really good!

Sweet and sour tofu ingredients

I’m totally hooked on these Garlic Gold nuggets from Kath’s Open Sky Store. They’re tasty and crunchy and organic!

TofuI’m also totally digging tofu. It’s so versatile! And it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. This recipe originally called for Asian-marinated tofu, but as hungry as I was, I just couldn’t bring myself to commit to the hour or so required for a proper soaking. I knew, however, that the tofu would pick up the wonderful flavors of the pineapple and coconut milk, so I wasn’t worried.

I learned a tofu trick from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s “Food for Thought” podcast over at Compassionate Cooks. She recommends freezing the firm varieties of tofu, then thawing them before using. It makes the tofu much easier to drain (you can almost wring it out!) – no more stacking towels and books on your tofu blocks. It worked really well for this recipe and saved me a good 20 minutes or so.

making packetsHere’s a packet, ready to fold up and pop into the oven! Tofu, veggies, pineapple, and a sweet-and-sour coconut milk sauce. I learned some cool things about coconut milk from another recent book purchase – Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide by Brendan Brazier. He explains how that while coconut milk is high in saturated fat, it is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids that the body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. That’s a good thing for people looking for a quick energy boost or for weight loss. It also contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.

Sweet and sour tofu over brown riceTada! My packets turned out a little runny – I drained off some of the liquid before storing the remaining leftovers, but hadn’t figured that out in time for this plate! I served the sweet and sour tofu over brown rice. It was exactly what I was expecting – yummy, sweet, and sour. This meal came together really quickly and had very little clean-up due to the use of the foil packets. Thumbs up!

[recipe-show recipe=sweet-and-sour-tofu]

Gnowfglins: Soaking Grains

I’m wrapping up Lesson 2 in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on healthy and traditional cooking, and tonight’s dinner featured a technique I learned this week: soaking grains. Well, I actually learned this last month in the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge, but for that challenge, I soaked flour for baking. Today, I soaked rice and made it from scratch.

I’ve never made “real” rice before; all of my rice experience is of the boil-in-bag, instant variety. This was the other extreme!

It’s important to soak grains to prepare their nutrition to be fully utilized by the body. Whole grains contain enzyme inhibitors and other natural substances that can actually interfere with digestion and block absorption of minerals and vitamins. Soaking the grains in an acidic solution neutralizes these substances to make the grains’ nutrients more available in digestion.

I started with a cup of dry brown basmati rice. I soaked the rice in 2 cups of filtered water with 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar. (Lemon juice or other acidic liquids could also be used). I let my rice soak for 9 hours, though overnight is even better. One benefit (besides the nutritional benefits) – this process cuts down the actual cooking time of the rice.

When my rice was ready to go, I drained the soaking liquid and replaced it with filtered water (though you could cook the rice in the soaking liquid – I wasn’t sure if I’d like the tang of the vinegar in my rice, so I played it safe).

Then, I cooked the rice and turned it into Nutty Carrot Rice!

To go with my rice, I made an Italian breaded chicken breast. I actually get 2 meals out of 1 chicken breast, so I made 2, which should feed me well next week.

Add some baby spinach with vinaigrette on the side, and you’ve got… dinner!

Chicken and riceThe rice was very good – a nice departure from plain ol’ boring rice. It had a bit of a kick to it – I guessed at the cayenne pepper and used 1/4 teaspoon, and I think I probably should have cut back to 1/8th. (I like spicy food, but “spicy” to me is “mild” to the rest of the world). It complemented the chicken very well, and had a nice, nutty flavor. Nutty rice with a kick! Mozzarella cheese would have been good on the chicken, too. I didn’t have any!

The rice recipe makes 6-8 servings (I ended up with 7), so I’ll be eating rice for a while….

Try it out! This was an easy combo, and the whole meal clocked in around a half hour prep, a half hour cook time, and around 375 calories (assuming you eat the entire chicken breast). Lots of vitamin A, too.

[recipe-show recipe=nutty-carrot-rice]

[recipe-show recipe=italian-breaded-chicken]