Sunday, April 27, 2014

Beer-Battered Tempeh Bites

Good morning on this very dreary and rainy Sunday.  It was kind of neat waking up to so many loud rumbles after our big Thunder win last night.  The first thing Jay said this morning was "the Thunder are coming back home!"

For the sake of all the OKC Memorial Marathon runners, I do hope it clears out quickly.  They had to postpone this morning's race from 6:30 to 8, and I'm sure everyone is eager to get going.  This is one of the first years that I haven't participated in the event in some form or fashion, and it definitely makes me a little sad.  I'll be thinking about everyone running this morning and wishing them the best of luck!

If you're looking for a new healthy meal to make this week, have I got a recipe for you!

Each week, I receive a "meatless Monday" e-mail from the Humane Society of the United States.  Even if you aren't a vegetarian, I love the idea of taking a break from meat at least one day per week.  Just a small change like this can make a huge positive impact on your health, the environment, and the welfare of animals.

Check out this great video for more info on "meatless Mondays."
I've gotten some awesome recipe ideas from the Humane Society, and this week was no exception.  These beer-battered tempeh bites were unbelievably good.  Trust me, you will not miss the meat!!
Beer-Battered Tempeh Bites
(Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States)
Serves: 6

1 cup unbleached white or whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2/3 cup beer of choice (we used our home brew!)
2 8-ounce packages tempeh
1 cup canola or grapeseed oil

1. Cut the tempeh into thin bite-sized bits.

2. In a shallow bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt. Then add the beer and mix again.

3. Add the oil to a frying pan and turn the burner to medium heat. Dip the tempeh pieces, a few at a time, into the beer batter. Carefully put the tempeh in the hot pan in batches and sear the pieces until they are golden brown on one side, then turn them to brown the other side. Drain the cooked tempeh on a paper towel. Repeat until all the tempeh is cooked.

4. Enjoy as a simple entrĂ©e with your favorite dipping sauce, or as a salad topping.  

This recipe was easy to cut in half for two people - I just used one package of tempeh instead of two.  And if you can't find tempeh, you could use cubed extra-firm tofu instead.

Served here with an Okinawa sweet potato and sauteed kale. 
If you'd like to start receiving your own meatless Monday recipes via e-mail each week, you can sign up here

Have a happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adventures in Eating

A plant-based diet does not have to equal bland or boring.  Whenever I feel a food rut coming on, I look up a new recipe or pick up some interesting ingredients at the store and figure out how to work them into a meal.  I also love going to the farmers market and trying new foods that look appealing - fresh, in-season veggies are the best tasting kinds!

This week, a few new items sparked my interest in the produce department.  Here's what I found:

Okinawa Sweet Potatoes
Jay and I are very intrigued by unusually colored foods.  (To clarify, I am referring to natural colors - Fruit Loops don't count!)  It's normal to find yellow tomatoes, purple potatoes, white eggplants, and black rice, to name a few, in our kitchen.  We can't resist trying things that are out of the ordinary, and veggies packed full of color always seem so much more flavorful, nutrient-rich, and fun!

At our most recent trip to Sprouts, we came across a new type of sweet potato that we had never seen before.  This is an unusual occurrence, because, when it comes to sweet potatoes, we are quite experienced.  These small, lumpy Okinawa potatoes were imported from Japan and had light brown skin with an unusual dark purple flesh.  
The Okinawa potatoes were extra sweet, even for sweet potatoes.  In fact, I read that the people of Okinawa and Hawaii often serve them boiled and cut into chunks at the end of a meal - for dessert!  I chose to bake mine in the oven and then top with some coconut oil and sea salt.  They were a great compliment to our spicy sauteed kale and beer-battered tempeh bites (more on that recipe to come!). 

My mom and I recently tried out a new plant-based Mexican restaurant in town, and we ordered jicama wraps as an appetizer.  The crispy root vegetable (similar to a turnip) was thinly sliced and used to wrap up fresh tomato, avocado, and sprouts.  It was topped with a delicious mango salsa.  
I loved the wraps so much that, when I saw jicama on sale at the grocery store, I immediately snagged one to make at home.  
Jimaca is nice and crunchy when eaten raw, and it makes a great addition to all sorts of salads and slaws.

I almost used our jicama as a salad topper, but then I came across some various recipes online for baked jicama fries.  I had no idea what jicama would taste like cooked, but I was eager to find out!

I used a vegetable peeler to remove the skin and then cut the jicama into french-fry shaped pieces.
The fries were then tossed with some olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, cayenne pepper, and chili powder.
I couldn't resist snacking on a few of the raw fries, and they were delicious!  They would have made a great crunchy side dish or appetizer right then and there.

I still wanted to know what the cooked fries would taste like, so I restrained myself from eating them all and popped the rest into the oven for about 30 minutes at 400, stirring once.
The cooked fries tasted very similar to the raw version, just hotter (duh) and slightly more "fry-like."  I was glad that they didn't lose their crunch.  The fries were the perfect side dish with our tempeh lentil sloppy joes.
You can learn more about jicama and how to use it here

Have you tried any unusual foods lately?  I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

One Pot Tempeh Lentil Sloppy Joes

Hi there!  How's the week going so far?  State testing + Thunder playoffs + OKC arts festival have made it a busy one for us (but mostly fun!).

Tuesday night, I was looking to make something super easy yet slightly different from our usual staples (meaning not some sort of "big bowl" or soup).  I had several packages of tempeh and lots of lentils to use up, so I decided to combine them to make a better-for-you version of the sloppy joe.

I never ate sloppy joes growing up, but, years ago, Jay introduced me to the standard meat + canned sauce version.  They were definitely easy and tasty, but not so high on the nutrition-meter.  However, with a few tweaks and substitutions, you can "healthify" the recipe really easily.  I made these using just one pot and had them on the table within about 30 minutes.  We served them open-faced atop toasted Ezekiel bread with jicama fries on the side (a post on jicama coming soon!).
One Pot Tempeh Lentil Sloppy Joes
Serves: 2-3
Time: 30-40 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package (8 oz.) tempeh, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup water
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon (vegan) Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste
1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Saute garlic, onion, celery, green pepper, crumbled tempeh, oregano, and red pepper flakes for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent and pepper has softened.  You can add a few tablespoons of water if ingredients start to stick.
2. Add the water, lentils, ketchup, barbecue sauce, vinegar, and Worcestershire.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring regularly, until lentils are soft but not too mushy. 
4. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce as desired.
5. Serve on toasted bread or buns. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

4/18-4/20: Weekend Highlights

Happy Easter!  I hope you all enjoyed a fun-filled spring day!

My three-day weekend was nice and relaxing.  Here are a few of the highlights in photo form.

Finally watched Frozen while recovering from my cold Thursday night.  Now I completely understand what all the hype is about!

Some shopping, including my first ever trip to Lulu Lemon.  I'm really excited about my new gear for spin class!

 A vegan Mexican lunch at Tamazul with my mom.  Everything they serve is plant-based and delicious!

Pedicure with my friend Zenie.  My feet are ready for sandal weather.

Porch time enjoying a new batch of home-brew with Jay and the dogs.

And cheering on our team as they won their first playoff game against Memphis.  Go Thunder!

White bean chili with jalapeno and lime from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.  You can't go wrong with any of those recipes. 

Healthy Easter brunch at my mom's with fruit salad, vegan blueberry muffins, veggie quiche, and carrot cake baked oatmeal (with coconut milk whipped cream).  Yum!

Sunday spin class at Moxieride!

I'm not quiiite ready to go back to work's testing time in the 7th grade, which means a busy and crazy few days for all involved.  I'd better go rest up - there's a new season of Mad Men on Netflix that's calling my name!

See you later!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Beer Making 101

Jay has been dabbling in beer-making for a few years now, and he is becoming quite the pro!  The ingredients are sometimes a bit inconvenient to buy locally, so for his birthday in February I signed him up for a beer-kit-of-the-month club.

Now, all of the necessary ingredients are delivered right to our doorstep each month to make a unique and seasonally appropriate beer.  It's fun trying so many new varieties!

While Jay is the primary beer-maker in our household, I usually always help him out along the way.  It does require some special equipment, but you can always start with a beginner kit that provides everything you need.  Jay used a "Mr. Beer" kit when he first began brewing, but he has since graduated to more advanced equipment to make larger batches (five gallons) from scratch.

I won’t go into too much detail, but here is an overview of the basic process that we used to make a “Flat Tire” style ale. (Thanks to Jay for helping me write it out.)  The steps will vary a bit depending on the type of beer you make.

Step 1: Steep the grains in 2-3 gallons of water.

The grains are put into what is basically a giant tea bag and steeped for 10-30 minutes at 155 degrees.
Step 2: Add in the malt extract while the pot is off the burner. The kits usually come with either a dry malt extract (DME) or a liquid malt extract (LME).
Step 3: Bring mixture to a boil and add bittering hops.
The mixture then has to simmer for an hour, so at this point we took a break and watched a couple episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” while we waited. The beer-making process involves a lot of waiting around and babysitting the pot!

Step 4: Add in flavor hops for the last 2-5 minutes of boiling. You now have “wort”(pronounced wert).  Everything that comes in contact with the wort needs to be sanitized from this point onward.
Step 5: Cool the wort and transfer to the primary fermenter.  Add water until you have reached 5 gallons.

It takes a while to cool this much liquid, but you want to do it as quickly as possible.  It's important because the heat will kill the yeast if it’s too hot.  Luckily for us, there was snow on the ground when we first started this batch!
Step 6: Sprinkle the yeast on top. This is where the magic happens. The yeast will consume the sugars, resulting in alcohol and CO2. You can watch the process be taking hydrometer readings and watching the CO2 bubble out of the airlock.
Step 7: After a week, we transferred the beer into a glass carboy and allowed it to continue fermenting for another week. This step isn't totally necessary, but it filters out some of the sediments on the bottom.

I forgot to take a picture, but here is an old photo of a previous batch in the glass carboy right before being transferred to the keg.
(Don't worry, the little yellow floaties are just lemon peels!)

Step 8: After two weeks total, add sugar and transfer beer to bottles or keg. Store in cool, dry place for at least two more weeks.

We like to use a kegging system because it is a LOT easier to clean one keg than it is to clean and cap 54 - 12 ounce bottles. Once you add more sugar to a closed pressure system (keg), the yeast will again consume the sugar and the CO2 will pressurize the keg naturally!

Jay built us a kegerator a few years ago.  Sparkling water on the left, beer on the right.
Step 9: Chill your beer. For best results, allow beer to chill for another week or two (if you can wait that long) before drinking. Since liquid volume compresses in cold temperatures, we have found that the beer is better carbonated (and tastes better) if you wait at least one week after chilling. 

Then, you are ready to enjoy your home brew!

The entire process takes about 6 weeks, but, as you can see, most of it is just waiting around.  It is so much fun when you finally get to taste your creation (and the beer tastes even better when you know you made it yourself!).  Plus, you get 5 gallons of high quality beer on tap for only around $.75/beer.  Can't beat that!
After having a little cold all week, I am happy to be feeling better just in time for the new beer to be ready.  I've already enjoyed a couple of these this weekend!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekend + Roasted Cabbage Steaks

Hi there!

I hope you all had a great weekend.  Jay and I did a ton of gardening, only to be greeted by a wave of SNOW this morning.  Snow in April...whaaat?!  Hopefully, we got all the new plants covered in time so they can survive this random cold snap.

Wendy is sure excited about the fresh veggies and herbs coming soon!
We also planted a new tree and some flowers, although the big stars right now are our tulips.  They were looking amazing this weekend!
Of course, we had to do our usual house cleaning and grocery shopping trip.  Here's a pic of our food for the short week ahead:
In other news, I have a new favorite roasted vegetable - cabbage!  On Saturday night, we made "cabbage steaks" to have with tofu and pearled couscous.  They were delicious.  And they taste just like steak.

Just kidding. 

But they are really good!!
To make these, we cut a small head of organic cabbage into one-inch thick pieces.  I rubbed down each side with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and fresh-ground pepper.  I also drizzled on a little balsamic vinegar.

We baked them for 30 minutes at 425, flipping once.
There were a couple "steaks" left over, so yesterday for lunch I heated them up and added them to some quinoa veggie burgers along with avocado slices and Sriracha.  What a burger!
We finished off our weekend of good eats with another artichoke appetizer and a tasty lentil dish from No Meat Athlete.  That book has the best recipes. 
When it came to exercise, I made time for my new favorite workout - spin class!  Bri, my friend from work, teaches at Moxieride in OKC on the weekends.  Moxieride combines traditional high-intensity cycling with upper body exercises.  My arms and shoulders are really feeling it today!

Bri does a great job of keeping the class pumped up with her motivating instruction and upbeat music choices.  It's hard work but a lot of fun!  I purchased a Groupon for a 10 class package, so I will definitely be going back on a regular basis.
If you are in the market for a great workout in the Oklahoma City area, you should totally check out one of their classes. 

See ya soon!