Tag Archives: vegan

Jar Lunch: Thai Peanut Tofu Spread

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

This is an old recipe of mine that somehow has never made it onto this blog. I love flavored tofu spreads. You can eat them on a bagel, in a wrap or on a sandwich. This recipe would even be good in a fresh spring roll with some lettuce and sprouts. Here we’ve packed it in jars with vegetables and whole wheat flat bread for dipping.

Thai Peanut Tofu Spread
Makes 5 cups (10-15 servings)

20 ounces high protein, extra firm tofu
1-1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon chili paste
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar*
1 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup chopped peanuts or cashews

Press the excess liquid out of the tofu. You can watch a quick video on that technique here. I use two cutting boards instead of plates, slice the tofu lengthwise into two thinner pieces, and wrap them in a kitchen towel to absorb the liquid. This step is important, as you want to get rid of the tofu liquid so it can absorb the liquid you are adding to the recipe.

In a food processor, pulse the ginger and garlic until finely minced. You may need to open the food processor and scrape down the sides and pulse again to get all of it minced. Add the peanut butter, coconut milk, chili paste, tamari, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix in the food processor until thoroughly combined, about one minute.

Cut or tear the tofu into several smaller pieces and add to the peanut mixture. Pulse the food processor until the mixture is combined and the tofu is chopped into small pieces. Leave some texture, as pictured below:

Finally, put the peanut mixture in a medium bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients.

Though we love this stuff on bagels, we packed a jar lunch with about 1/2 cup of tofu spread in a half-pint jar along with a pint jar of carrots & cucumber and another half-pint with triangles of whole wheat flat bread.

Cucumber rounds are great for dipping.

It reminds me of little Levi in kindergarten getting “carrot cookies” from his teacher in the school garden. They were just slices of carrot. That would make these cucumber chips.

*You can substitute a different sweetener of choice, but don’t omit sweetener entirely as it will throw off the balance of flavors.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.


Filed under food, recipes

Make it from Scratch: vegan seitan nuggets

One of our biggest strides this year has been in the “buying less processed food” department. This is an exciting development. If we learned anything when we were eating for $5 a day, it was that making things from scratch beats any coupon hands down. Look at our homemade soy milk. The numbers are in: we spend about 53¢ on a half gallon of plain organic soy milk compared to the $2.69 store bought containers. A little quick math:

($2.69 – $0.53) x 2.5 (average half gallon containers per week) X 52 (weeks in a year) = $280.80 annual savings

Just like that, we trimmed $280 from our annual grocery budget by making one grocery staple at home. The more things we start making ourselves, the more we save. Another big budget saver for us lately has been cooking big batches of beans in the pressure cooker every week instead of buying cans. Organic canned beans aren’t cheap. I haven’t done the math, but there are significant savings there. This is the financial benefits alone. We are also creating less garbage and eliminating weird chemical ingredients from our food and its packaging.

The next step is to keep trying new recipes for food made from scratch. We need to find recipes we like that are easy enough to work into our busy schedule. Yes, our time is valuable, but we’re not superheroes for spending an extra 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there in the kitchen. Or even an hour or two when you are multi-tasking a few recipes at a time and making double batches of them all to stock up the fridge and freezer.

A big budget item for vegetarians can be meat analogues. All those veggie burgers, nuggets, and sandwich slices are spendy. For our budget and our health, we try not to buy that stuff too often. It is processed food, and it is easy to fall into the trap of buying and eating it a lot when things get hectic.

When I came across Joanna Vaught’s seitan nugget recipe, I was intrigued. I’ve made my fair share of homemade seitan, veggie sausage and burgers before. Never nuggets! I loved the way she compared the nutritional values of different nuggets. Hers win! So I decided to test them out.

They were a huge hit with the whole family. We loved them. In all honesty, of course we prefer the texture and the junk-foodiness of some of the store bought veggie nuggets. We don’t allow ourselves to buy them very often, though, so homemade nuggets will be a welcome addition to our dinner schedule. The recipe really was faster than some of my other homemade seitan making experiments. I made two batches pretty quickly, and plan to make more soon to put in the freezer.

Next up: I’m going to test out a couple of Vegan Dad’s lunch meat recipes(Veggie lunch meat and Hickory Smoked Veggie Turkey). Wish me luck.


Filed under food, goals

Vegan Tofu Royale: Indian tofu in tomato-cashew gravy

It’s no secret we are obsessed with this shahi paneer recipe from Show me the Curry. This stuff is magical. Don’t get me wrong, some of the magic comes from the paneer, but most of the magic comes from the sauce. It’s a rich and flavorful tomato-cashew gravy. Shahi means royal, and is this sauce ever royal. So I’m just gonna roll with it and call my vegan adaptation Vegan Tofu Royale.

While we do eat dairy, we don’t eat it daily and we don’t generally keep dairy milk in the fridge. After wasting leftover milk a few times, I started using light coconut milk in place of milk. It tasted even better, which inspired me to try this paneer dish 100% sans-dairy.

Vegan Tofu Royale

1 pound extra firm tofu*, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¾ cup raw cashews
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 small onions, finely diced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped (remove seeds and membranes for mild heat)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place cubed tofu in a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon of canola oil and the lemon juice. Toss to combine, until coated. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet prepared with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Sprinkle generously with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden.

In a small sauce pan, combine cashews and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

Using the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, sauté the onions over medium-high heat until they begin to dry out. Add the garlic, ginger, and serrano pepper and cook 2-3 more minutes.

Add tomato sauce and stir well. Cook, stirring frequently, until the oil begins to separate. While the tomato sauce is cooking, put the coconut milk and cashews in the blender. Vent the blender lid and place a towel over the top. Blend until the cashews are completely smooth.

Once the tomato mixture is ready, add spices and mix well. Pour in the cashew mixture and stir. Before adding the water, you can use it to get the remaining cashew cream from the sides of the blender. Just place the water in the blender, cover tightly with the lid and shake.

Finally, add the water, sugar, and about a teaspoon of salt to the pan. Stir while bringing the mixture to a boil. Add the baked tofu and stir to combine. Salt as needed to achieve the perfect balance of salty-sweet.

Makes 6 servings (one scant cup each). Serve over about a cup of rice with a generous side of peas.

*If your tofu is packed in water, press it. Don’t know how? Get directions here. We usually opt for high protein tofu in the vacuum-sealed, clear plastic packaging without water.

Note: If you enjoy dairy and are heading over to make the original recipe with paneer, might I suggest using ghee in place of the 2 tablespoons of oil you use to cook the sauce? You won’t regret it.


Filed under food, recipes

homemade soy milk

After spending years being reluctant to own yet another single-use kitchen appliance, we finally decided to take the leap and buy a soy milk maker. We chose this machine for its ability to make raw milks, excellent reviews, and a $10 off deal. We even decided to overlook the atrocious use of comic sans on the machine’s label. I think the final push was our consumption of homemade iced soy lattes over the summer coupled with a certain teenager’s consumption of bowls of cereal drowned in soy milk (bowls plural, as in more than one per day).

Once we had our new machine, we just needed to buy bulk organic soybeans from the co-op. They look so nice in this vintage mason jar, I may have taken too many photos.

Then we had to remember to soak 3/4 cup of beans overnight for 8-10 hours. We have mostly stopped buying canned beans, so we’re really good at this step. By morning, the soybeans are more than double their size!

Then you just fill the pitcher to a line, add the soaked beans, put the top back on, plug it in and push a button. It does its thing for less than 30 minutes and beeps at you when it is complete.

This is the okara, or soy pulp, you strain off when it is done. I thought this step would be harder or messier. You really just have to stir the okara around a bit to let all the liquid drain off. The cool thing is that you can use okara to make veggie burgers or other things, so more bang for your buck. Prepare to hear the results of some okara recipe testing in the near future.

Once it is strained, voila!

Well, okay, maybe not voila. We usually buy plain soy milk instead of vanilla. One of my pet peeves is making something savory and being stuck with nothing but vanilla soy milk in the fridge. Still, even the plain stuff is sweetened and flavored. So far we’ve made 4 batches and just added about a teaspoon of sugar per cup (or less), a couple pinches of salt, and sometimes vanilla. We have deemed this more than adequate. The only thing it isn’t good enough for yet is those iced soy lattes. The flavor isn’t quite as good as store-bought. However, we are really encouraged that we have the recipe so close when we’ve been making it less than a week.

Our next experiment will be to try the recipe in this video from Everyday Dish. I have high hopes about the secret ingredient: barley malt powder.

More to come on this topic! Like a cost breakdown, and perhaps a perfected recipe in the near future.


Filed under food

It’s peanut butter chili time

We didn’t mean to fall of the face of the, er, blogosphere. We’ve gone full speed ahead into our goals for February. I’m walking to work everyday while I’m on a humane work schedule for awhile. Jess is doing yoga again. We’re trying to fit in further exercise at the gym and so far mostly failing at that. We have, however, met our big goal of tracking our food on sparkpeople.com and that is going really well.

We’re also almost completely cooking healthy food at home. I bet you’re wondering what we ate for our first meal out. This Friday Jess worked in Seattle, and Levi and I met her there. Not before stopping in Ballard for some cupcakes and con pannas.

That is the only coffee that has been purchased at a coffee shop so far. We have been pretty content with drinking toddy and stove-top espresso at home.

Strawberry frosted cupcakes with chocolate ganache and some heart sprinkles! The perfect way to celebrate the somewhat stressful end of Levi’s first high school semester. He was doing non-stop homework for the last 3 weeks.

I don’t have pictures of our dinner out. We decided some good ol’ vegan Chinese from Bamboo Garden in Seattle was worthy of our money. We gorged ourselves on fried rice and noodles and deep fried faux chicken, and as always they commented on how tall Levi has gotten. Many of the same people are there that have known him since he was a baby. Perfect place for our first meal out!

We are no longer calculating the cost of everything, but we’re still making a lot of the same food:

We had to make those delicious broccoli quiches again.

And we’re really getting into our groove on meal planning. This weekend we easily plotted out an entire week’s worth of food. That is an improvement over our usual 3 or 4 day ahead plan. I think before too long we will have worked out a perfect spreadsheet for a week of meals. It still is time consuming when you add in making the grocery list and doing the shopping.

Here’s the first of the really successful new recipes we’ve tried since our $5 a day project ended:

vegetarian chili with peanut butter

If you remember the black bean espresso chili, AKA Baller’s Chili, you know we love secret ingredient chili recipes. Well, I now have two absolute favorite chili recipes. Once again I reduced the oil in the original recipe to keep the fat down a little. I figured 1/2 cup peanut butter was enough, so I just used a tablespoon of olive oil to sauté the onion and garlic. This recipe was TO DIE FOR.

If you were dying to know if we are still obsessed with peanut butter, you have your answer.


Filed under family, food

fifteen down, fifteen to go!

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.30 yesterday, January 16, 2011.


overnight steel cut oats with raw apple and toasted pecans $0.59


2 large organic carrots $0.16
4 butternut stuffed shells with tomato porcini sauce $1.28


chickpea of the sea sandwich on day-old whole grain bread $0.92
blueberry pineapple smoothies $0.86


banana $0.25
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter $0.11
½ cup almond milk (Levi) $0.13

total $4.30

It’s vegan week over at the kitchn, so tonight’s dinner (linked above) and tomorrow’s will both feature recipes from some of the wonderful things they are posting. The chickpea of the sea sandwiches* were simple and everyone agreed it’s a dinner we’d eat again. We added a little kombu seaweed to give it a fishier flavor.

Last time we ate steel cut oats, Caitlin mentioned in the comments that she prepares them the night before by just bringing them to a boil and then covering and letting the oats soak overnight. That reminded me that my friend Emma had posted about her soaked oatmeal, although that version involves adding a bit of yogurt (or other acid medium like kefir, lemon juice, etc.). Apparently people have been soaking oatmeal as long as they’ve been eating it, and the fermentation breaks down the phytic acid that can prevent the absorption of nutrients.

This time we tried the overnight soak where you bring it to a boil the night before, and it was so much easier than the last time we cooked them. I also preferred the texture. I think we’ll try the lemon juice method next time.

*Somehow I misread the recipe and used half as much filling per sandwich, which tasted great as it was! But the price was based on half a serving per sandwich.


Filed under food

vegan chipotle corn chowder

This is one of the standby dinners we make once or twice a month. Apparently I haven’t made it in awhile because Levi announced that he couldn’t wait to eat it as he pestered me to get cracking on dinner.

Makes 8 servings

one recipe creamy vegan base, below
1 tablespoon olive oil
large onion, chopped
large red or orange bell pepper, chopped
4 cups water
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
32 ounces frozen corn
1 – 2 tablespoons pureed chipotles in adobo, to taste*

Prepare the creamy vegan base.

Heat a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and once hot saute the onions until they are golden and soft, 7-10 minutes. Add the bell pepper and saute another minute. Next, add the water and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

Add the corn, chipotle, and creamy vegan base to the stockpot. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes some. Transfer about half the chowder into a blender. Remove the center of the lid to vent, covering with a folded towel. Puree until smooth, and return to the stockpot. (An immersion blender doesn’t work as well for this step.) Stir to combine and serve.

creamy vegan base

2 cups water
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons corn starch

Place all ingredients in a blender and allow to soak while you prepare the rest of your recipe. Just before adding the base, blend until smooth. No chunks of almond should remain. This may take up to two minutes.

* You can puree cans of chipotles in adobo in a food processor and store in a jar for an extended period of time. If you don’t want to puree them for other uses, just blend 1 – 3 peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo along with the creamy base.

Full nutrition information here, calculated via the sparkpeople.com recipe calculator.

This cost us 72 cents per serving based on our purchase of a 20 cent onion, a $1.50 orange bell pepper, 38 cents for the potatoes (an ultra cheap 10 pound bag), $1.89 for corn, $1.56 for bulk almonds, and 25 cents for fresh lime juice. The tomato paste was leftover from our chili, and everything else we keep on hand.

As I’m analyzing this, I discovered our checker must have messed up when weighing our bulk almonds. This quarter of a cup said it was .39 pounds and $1.56. The ones we bought for a previous recipe were 50 cents for twice as much.


Filed under food, recipes

day four

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.98 yesterday, January 5, 2011.


peanut butter & banana baked oatmeal $0.43
dollop of homemade blackberry jam (from our preserves)


We were all over the place, eating miscellaneous leftovers or skipping lunch entirely.
Krista slept through lunch (it would be impossible to explain my odd hours)
Jess ate seitan mole chili $1.30
Levi ate shahi paneer $1.56 (we’ll use this cost to calculate)


vegan chipotle corn chowder $0.72

oven baked chickpeas $0.30


carrots $0.19
8 ounces yogurt $0.72
coffee with 1/4 cup almond milk (.06 for the milk and the coffee was free)

total $3.98


– Hopefully you already saw our peanut butter & banana baked oatmeal recipe.

– I’ll be blogging the chipotle corn chowder recipe separately.

– Baked chickpeas: rinse and pat dry a can of chickpeas. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add your favorite seasonings (we used cumin, smoked paprika, salt & pepper). Bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Crunchy and protein rich. We split a batch between the three of us for dinner, so the cost was a can of chickpeas divided three ways.

– We’ve been buying 32 ounce lowfat yogurt containers and portioning them into 8 ounce servings. We hope to make it to Trader Joe’s soon for their affordable big containers of organic yogurt, since it is best for dairy to be organic.

COFFEE. As we approached the very beginning of this project, I was at a loss as to what we were going to do about coffee. Generally we each visit a coffee shop at least once a week. Sometimes more. At home we usually alternate between buying from a local roaster (Olympia Coffee Roasters or sometimes Stumptown), the co-op (where we can get OCR which is all organic, and other organic/fair trade beans), and $6.99/lb beans from Fred Meyer.

We used up the last of the co-op coffee we had on hand by day 3. And we will still count coffee as free while we plow through this free sample of coffee we snagged awhile back at Coffee Fest.


(Sorry, guys, for not trying your coffee while it was fresh. It’s still good stuff.)

As for coffee making methods, we have a small collection of coffee contraptions, including: a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker, a toddy maker, a couple french presses, and a vacuum extraction coffee maker I still haven’t mastered. No, we don’t have a drip machine. And right now we are hooked on the Bialetti. Usually in the summer we live off of toddy.

So, right here and now I vow to calculate the cost of coffee per Bialetti cup once we run out of our free goods. It is going to be kind of a pain, but we will make it happen.

It is kind of incredible to realize that a soy latte usually costs us about $5, and by skipping that weekly latte we’re also paying for a whole day’s food.


Filed under food

Just Desserts

One of my favorite Olympia hotspots is the Bearded Lady. Wholesale bakery by day, the Bearded Lady turns into a sweet kitchen open to the public a few nights a week. Late into the night on Thursday, Friday and Saturday you can get delicious desserts, superfluous cupcakes, and sweet seasonal treats. Their menu changes every month, though, so you have to move quickly if you try a dish and love it. They serve cold brewed coffee, tea, iced water and every kind of milk. They often have cupcake specials or cupcakes to go, for when you don’t have the time for a full fancy dessert. We’ve spent hours here this summer, going on dates, hanging out with groups of friends, killing time. No, they do not serve dinner. Only dessert! What’s better than that?

This is a vegan whoopee pie stuffed with espresso ice cream, and served with a tiny cup of dipping chocolate. I ate this several times before they retired it. I eat vegan, gluten-free and conventional desserts, so believe me when I say this did not “taste vegan” at all. The bearded ladies make their own ice cream, and it’s exciting to see the crazy ideas they manifest into ice cream.

This delicate little morsel is a piece of gingerbread with roasted plum and roasted plum ice cream on top. Again, they make all this ridiculous ice cream themselves and it’s practically obscene. The whole thing is topped with caramel sauce and a half-circle florentine made from magic. The toffee, nutty florentine was everyone’s favorite flourish. My friend Angela ordered this at least once a week for an entire month. I bet she still dreams about it.

The beautiful bearded logo is hand painted on the storefront window by a local sign painter, Ira. It’s really popular with the locals, who stop and stare and photograph it pretty often (click here to see someone’s photo of the sign from the street)

This is a plated dessert I have dreams about. The centerpiece is a frozen chocolate souffle, sweet and creamy and cold enough to beat the mini heat wave we’re experiencing. It’s floating in an ocean of the dipping chocolate that we’re all obsessed with. There are homemade graham crackers (gluten-free, somehow, and yet they taste delicious), and the crowning, show-stealing glory of homemade marshmallows, which are toasted to a crispy perfection with a torch in the bearded kitchen. It’s a deconstructed, amped up, hyperbolic reference to a s’more. As a professional Girl Scout, it is my duty to love this dessert.

YUM! The new menu starts this week and I am on the verge of passing out with excitement. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our next four weeks of sweet fine dining.



Filed under food, summer

when life gives you spongy seitan, make seitanade

Ugh, the worst thing that can happen when you make homemade seitan is a whole recipe’s worth of spongy seitan. It happens to the best of us. Unfortunately, I made a double batch yesterday. Two whole batches of super spongy seitan. It’s not inedible, but it ain’t good.

taste = good, texture = not desirable

I baked it after it came out of the broth spongy and wet. It certainly looks a little better, and it tastes pretty good, but that texture isn’t the most appealing for a protein. So I decided to make a loaf out of some of it, and here’s what I did:

salvaged seitan loaf

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finally diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2/3 a recipe of seitan (perhaps 2 cups? the recipe was from Vegan Vittles)
1 can navy beans
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon vegetarian worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3 small carrots, grated
1/3 cup oatmeal

I sauteed the onion and celery until nice and golden, an then added garlic and sauteed a minute longer. Put everything but the oatmeal and carrot in the food processor and pulsed until well combined, being sure to leave some texture. My seitan was already on the salty side, so I didn’t need any salt. Then I just added in the grated carrot and oatmeal and combined. Threw it into a greased loaf pan and baked at 375 for about 45 minutes.

ready to go in the oven

It’s a work in progress. Next time I’d do bread crumbs instead of oatmeal, and add more, and use more seitan. It came out a little softer than I’d like, but we all agreed it was freaking delicious, especially with gigantic salads on the side: baby greens, cabbage, grated carrot, green onion, cucumber, and black beans. There was going to be red bell pepper, but I cut it open to find a big ol’ worm inside. Blech! Lucky for you, I was too grossed out to take a picture.

I think I’m gonna try to shred some of the seitan for tacos and turn some more into faux sausage patties. Even if it’s not perfect, it has to beat buying expensive, packaged proteins from the store.


Filed under food