Easy Broiled Breakfast Sandwiches and the Best Tofu Ever

A breakfast sandwich is a beautiful thing. Portable, warm, savoury and nourishing, it’s the perfect way to start a cool autumn day. Of course, sometimes you go grocery shopping hungry and by the time you get home you’re considering eating tofu with Italian dressing to stave off the hangries. Breakfast sandwiches are food for then, too. I pulled these together in 10 minutes flat before unloading the groceries into the fridge. You can make the tofu filling at the beginning of the week, and have warm breakfast sandwiches all week long in the time it takes to toast and English muffin. How good does that sound?

The tofu marinade is deceptively simple. If you’ve never tried broiled tofu, I recommend you do. Almost all the omnis I know prefer their tofu broiled over any other method of preparation. In part, I think it’s because broiling allows the tofu to retain its shape and texture well. Also, I think it absorbs marinade best when cooked in this method, even if it hasn’t been soaking it in long. Broiled tofu is especially nice with a sweet marinade, such as maple-garlic-soy, as the sugars form a sticky coating and char just slightly. In this case, this perfectly savoury blend of nutritional yeast, garlic and tamari soaks into the tofu leaving a distinctly eggy impression, especially with the black salt added at the end. If you don’t like the taste of eggs, which are faintly sulphur-ish in aroma, omit the black salt. You can use this recipe for your rice bowls, sandwiches, vegan benedicts or snacking tofu.

Dans ma bouche!

Dans ma bouche!

Easy Broiled Breakfast Sandwiches and the Best Tofu Ever

For the Tofu:
1 lb extra firm tofu- choose the most smooth-textured one you can find, avoid crumbly or spongey brands. You want something close to the texture of cooked eggwhite.
1.5 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup strong stock (I used Better Than Bouillon Vegetable)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tbsp olive oil or melted Earth Balance (I particularly like the EB with this- if you use hot stock, it will melt the EB)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Pepper, to taste
Black salt, sprinkled over to taste

For the Sandwiches:
Whole wheat English muffins
Daiya cheddar or your favourite alternative
Vegenaise or your favourite vegan mayo
Sliced tomato
Optional: sliced green onion, veggie bacon or zucchini/mushroom slices (broiled alongside the tofu), marmite, ketchup

Prepare tofu marinade. Preheat your broiler. Assuming your tofu is a rectangular prism, cut it in half to make two squares, and cut each square into 1/2-inch slices. Toss together marinade ingredients. Arrange tofu on a nonstick cookie sheet and coat in marinade thoroughly over both sides. Allow to sit as you prep your sandwich ingredients.

Broil tofu and prepare sandwich fillings. Slice your tomatoes, English muffins, and any other vegetables you’re using. Place tofu under the broiler for 2 minutes. All the marinade that was on the tops should be dry and absorbed by now- if not, your broiler may not be hot enough or your tofu may be too far away from it. Baste with marinade, then place back under the broiler for two more minutes, along with the English muffins so they can toast. Baste again, then add Daiya to the top of the tofu. Broil until just melted and the English muffins are toasty.

Assemble sandwiches. Spread mayo on the inside of both sides of the English muffins. Place tomato on one side, and tofu on the other, cheese up. Add any of the extra ingredients you may want, the black salt and the pepper to taste. Squish both sides together. Bon appetite!

New foster kittens! About 5 weeks old and full of snoozes.

New foster kittens! About 5 weeks old and full of snoozes.

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Campfire Soup

Soup, boiling away happily

Too hungry to chop wood, just burn the log whole. Soup, boiling away happily.

Everything tastes better when you eat it outdoors. This is the simple truth captured in grill and patio furniture ads everywhere. Take a meal that would be way easier, more convenient, and likely more comfortable to prepare and consume indoors, relocate the whole shebang outdoors instead, and voila! You have a party. This is what you buy into when you go on a picnic, and when you purchase your Sims that 300, 000 Simoleon gazebo they’ve been eyeing. Eating outdoors makes food taste better. We believe it’s true, and so it is.  

This applies to camping, too. Except when you’re camping there are several, slightly less twee reasons for your appreciation for food. For one, you’re probably starving. Camping is a lot of work. Setting up tents, scrounging for kindling, chopping firewood, finding places to pee, getting in and out of layers constantly to keep warm enough without sweating (otherwise you’ll be cold at night). When you’re working hard without really realizing it (because you’re having so much fun!) you build up an appetite. Anything you cook will automatically taste better. All that fresh air helps too, as the more you are exposed to the elements, the more of your body’s resources are used up- you get thirsty and hungry faster outside. Lastly, you’re probably so busy that you’ve only started cooking when you’re hungry, not accounting for the extra time that fire building takes. As such, you’re only getting around to eating way past the point of being merely hungry, well into the murky and dangerous realm of being truly hangry

Then you add bad weather to the mix and things all get much, much worse. Building a fire in the rain is hard. Keeping a fire going in the rain long enough to boil a pot of water is extra hard, and sometimes impossible. Being wet and cold and hangry is a dangerous combination that I suggest you avoid under any circumstance, but which is nonetheless sometimes unavoidable in camping situations. When I was a Scout leader, in times like these, we’d pull out the Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Powdered chicken bouillon with extra salt added, flecks of dehydrated parsley, a distinct flavour of celery and small, quick-cooking wheat noodles. This salty, satisfying broth whipped up in five minutes flat, and, when smothered in saltines, was like mana from heaven for depleted, defeated campers. It wasn’t particularly nourishing, but when you’re camping, cold and hangry, it tastes like the most delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth. 

In coming up with this campfire soup, I was going for that same warm-you-to-the-bones, nourishing, wonderfully salty and savoury feeling. So, I started with my favourite salty, MSG-ridden seasoning, Vegeta. Go ahead and use something healthy if you must, but what you’re really going for here is a strong, salty chicken-style broth with flecks of parsley. I added a few real vegetables, small tofu cubes, and soup noodles, because I wanted it actually nourishing- not just tricking my body into thinking it was getting something worthwhile. Lastly, my new favourite addition to any brothy soup- matzoh. Matzoh holds it’s form in broth in a way that is satisfyingly chewy, almost like a noodle, and a far cry from the spongy, semi-dissolved mass that results from saltines left soaking too long. Without further ado, here is the recipe! It absolutely does not need to be made in cast iron, over a campfire, or eaten outdoors- but I promise you it won’t taste nearly as good otherwise.

Boil faster, darn it!

Boil faster, darn it!

Campfire Soup

1 block firm tofu, cut into 1cm/ 1/2 inch dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into large 1 inch dice
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3 mm thick rounds
2 stalks of celery, cut into 3 mm thick slices
2 minced cloves garlic
1/2 package of soup noodles
Vegeta or bouillon of choice, added to taste
3 tbsp Earth Balance, or margarine of choice
pepper
matzoh

1) Over a steady fire, heat your 8 quart cast iron Dutch oven

2) Saute your onion in the margarine until just starting to turn golden. Add the remaining vegetables and saute until just beginning to soften, stirring occasionally

3) Fill the pot to 2 inches below the rim, put on the lid and bring to a boil

4) When boiling, add soup noodles, tofu and broth powder, starting with about half of what you think you’ll need

5) When noodles are cooked, adjust seasoning and add pepper.

6) Serve steaming mugfuls with broken matzoh to grateful campers

 

 

Sultry Sweet Potato and Chipotle Chili

My lady over at IGVD shared her famous bean burger recipe recently… She says it’s my burger recipe, but in fact I am just the person who came up with the chili recipe that makes an approximate fuckton of leftovers that she got stuck with, and so needed to come up with ingenious ways to use it all up. To make matters worse, she added too much chipotle (despite my strongly worded warning) and so concocted this burger recipe to dilute that somewhat. Since her recipe goes along with my chili so nicely, here it is- my favorite chili! I have no pictures of it, so here’s something cute instead.

MEOW

MEOW

This is a pretty cheap, healthy, warming chili that uses the classic flavour combination of chipotles and sweet potatoes and then adds a healthy dose of seductive depth from cocoa and cinnamon. This is a true pantry dish, you can keep the ingredients on hand and whip it up when you have a crowd coming over or when you need a special meal. You’ll only need up to a quarter cup of chipotles in adobo altogether, depending on your heat tolerance. The remainder freezes well squished flat in a baggie, then you can break off however much you need the next time you want to spice up your rice or beans. If the chipotles are too hot, but you want some more smoky goodness, add some smoked paprika or natural smoke flavour. Be sure to use fair trade cocoa, preferably dutch-processed (darker in colour and flavour). You can substitute a couple of cups of cooked quinoa or even brown rice for the veggie ground round, just add some more veggie stock to balance the flavours. If you happen to live with someone who is afraid of vegetables (like I do), you can puree all ingredients up to the addition of bay leaves after cooking them, then return them to the pot and continue with the recipe.

Cans:

1 large can diced tomatoes (28 oz. preferably no salt added)

1 small can Mexican stewed tomatoes (19 oz.,or 1 small can regular tomatoes plus 1 tbsp chili powder)

2 small cans pinto beans (14 oz.)

2 small cans black beans (14 oz.)

1 small can green chilies (7.6 oz., look in the Mexican section of your grocer)

1 tbsp from small can chipotles (7.6 oz. Start with a tablespoon, and slowly go up from there, checking for heat as you go. Chop carefully with gloved hands.)

1 can corn (or about a cup and a third of frozen corn- add the juice from the can if you’re a big fan of corn)

oil for cooking

Veggies:

1 large peeled sweet potato, cubed into bites, about three cups

2 large peeled carrots, diced, about two cups

1 large yellow onion, diced, about two cups

1/2 a head of garlic, minced

1 or 2 bell peppers, whichever kind you like, diced, about a cup

stems from 1 bunch of cilantro, about 1/3-1/2 cup, washed well and minced

Flavour flavour:

1 veggie bullion cube (I use fake beef kind, more if substituting grains for soy, or to taste)

1 tbsp Ancho chili powder (or some other dark chili powder, not chili flakes)

2 bay leaves

1/4-1/2 cup fair-trade cocoa

2 tsp cinnamon

Soy:

2 packages veggie ground round, beef style (or substitute 2 cups of a cooked whole grain)

Garnish (optional, but awesome):

chopped cilantro leaves, chopped green onion, lime wedges, soy plain yogurt or sour cream, soy cheese

Saute the onions and carrots in a bit of oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat in your largest pot. When the vegetables are translucent, add the cilantro stems and the garlic, cooking for about a minute. Toss in the tomatoes, chipotles, bullion, chili powder, bay leaves and all the beans. Bring to a boil and add the sweet potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and the liquid has reduced a bit, about 20 mins. Add the cocoa, cinnamon, ground round, bell pepper, corn, green chilies and adjust for flavour. This is where you may decide it needs more heat (chipotles or Ancho chili powder), smokiness (chipotles or smoked paprika, salt (bullion), or depth (bullion, cocoa, blackstrap molasses might do it). By starting with a conservative amount of spices, you can build it up slowly and hopefully avoid the risk of going overboard. Be careful not to add too much cinnamon–as tasty as it is, it’s supposed to play a supporting role in this dish, and can easily overpower the subtle flavours of the chilies and cocoa. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then serve it up and allow people to garnish their own bowl. We served this with plain, steamed collards, cut into ribbons, and Jackie’s tasty corn bread with margarine and agave nectar for dessert. Heavenly.

Pumpkin and Chard Risotto

If you’ve been reading this blog, you get by now that I work an awful lot, producing food for gazillions of people every week. You might think this leaves me totally sick of cooking and eating chickpeas out of the can for dinner most nights. But in fact, I only eat beans out of the can some nights! Weekends are usually reserved for cooking with/for my delightful friends. First, because otherwise I’d never see them, and second, because they have functioning kitchens that I can usurp.

On Saturday we had a Pumpkin All The Things! day with a few folks (who have a great kitchen). Originally we had planned on doing savoury pumpkin ravioli, but couldn’t find vegan wonton wrappers on a Saturday (they only sell them at the Kosher market). So, we improvised and came up with this great risotto.

Believe me when I tell you, this tastes waaaayyy better than it looks.

Believe me when I tell you, this tastes waaaayyy better than it looks.

The tangy, crunchy chard contrasts so nicely with the creamy, rich pumpkin. Mushrooms were added for some texture, along with my favorite ever Smoked Apple Sage Field Roast sausages. The end result was so delicious we all sat numb from overeating watching NFB videos until we could roll out the door.

Pumpkin and Chard Risotto

For the basic risotto:

Olive oil and/or Earth Balance, for cooking
A bottle of buttery, oaky Chardonnay
Vegetable broth
2 cups arborio rice
2 yellow onions, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced

To stir in near the end of cooking the rice:

2 cups pureed unsweetened pumpkin
3 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram, or 2 tsp dried
1.5 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp dijon
Salt and Pepper

To stir in just before serving:

1 large bunch of chard, any colour, thoroughly washed and chopped- Stems into 1/2 inch slices, leaves into 1-inch cubes
4 Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages, broken with your fingers into small, rough bites
1 pint mushrooms, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp tamari
Juice from half a lemon
A splash of wine
Olive oil, for cooking.

Start by preparing your basic risotto. Fry the onions in plenty of oil til they are golden, then add the rice and garlic, stirring constantly until just toasted. Stir in a cup of wine, pour yourself a glass while you’re at it. Once the wine is absorbed, add stock a ladleful at a time, allowing it to be fully absorbed between each addition.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and sausages to be stirred in at the very end of cooking. Sautee the mushrooms over medium high heat in the olive oil until almost all golden, then deglaze with a splash of wine. Once that wine is cooked down, add the chard stems to the mushrooms for a few minutes, and finally the chard leaves and the garlic along with the tamari and lemon. Set the vegetables aside, and in the same pan brown the sausages until mostly golden. Deglaze with a little more wine if things have been sticking. Set aside wit the vegetables.

When the rice is just barely soft enough to eat, but still slightly firm, stir in the pumpkin, marjoram, thyme, dijon, and nutritional yeast. Add another 1/2 cup of wine. Stir in the veggies and sausages that you have set aside, and adjust seasoning if required.

We ate this with delicious roasted red pepper and onion fougasse, but if were up for it we would have made a nice salad to go with.

Put it in your mouth, or how to bake like a professional!

I live a pretty charmed life. I admit it. I get to bake batches of cookies and muffins and tarts every week. This week alone I have baked a variation of the whole wheat chocolate chip cookies from VCIYCJ, the vegan and gluten free muffins from Naked Foods (chocolate orange raspberry variation), and about 150 shortcrust fruit and custard tarts. And it’s only Wednesday. I get to pick out the recipes I want to make, the ingredients that look best from the market, and I even get to be the first to sample everything, warm and melty straight from the oven. Then, I get to pack one or two for my loves and I leave the rest at work to contribute to someone else’s waistline. It’s an ideal scenario for everyone involved.

Just do it. You know you want to.

See this? You need to taste it to be sure it’s good. It’s a mitzvah.

I am not going to share a recipe with you today. Instead, I will share some insight I have gained in my experience as a professional cookie sampler. I mean, baker. That’s right.

  • The first batch never works out as well as subsequent batches. Keep the first batch small.
  • The darkest chocolates don’t melt as nicely or taste as good in baked goods as they do plain. Stick to no higher than 70% cocoa for most applications.
  • Sample your dough. You are a vegan baker, there is nothing gross or potentially fatal in your dough, so give it a taste and see how you feel about it before sticking it in the oven.
  • In fact, taste all the things before putting them in your dough. Your sugar, your salt, your soymilk, your chocolate. Much sampling is required. This prevents disasters, especially if you’re cooking for 300 and the sugar is right next to the salt.
  • Cook with coconut oil as your fat, coconut milk as your liquid, and chopped good-quality chocolate instead of chocolate chips.
  • Always add more chocolate and more vanilla than called for, at least by half.
  • Don’t overwork your dough. Beat the heck out of your wet and dry ingredients when they are separate, but only delicate lady fingers should touch the two together. Unless you’re cooking gluten free, in which case go for it.
  • Vegan things like to stick more than non vegan things, and gluten free things like to fall apart with alarming ease. Use muffin liners, and give them a spray with oil to be extra sure.
  • It things are sticking, let them sit in their pans a bit before transferring them to a cooking rack. They’ll usually loosen up a bit.
  • There is always a fail-cookie, -muffin, -tart. It happens with every batch. It can usually be identified by its weird shape, unwillingness to unstick itself from the pan, or by just plain falling apart when you go to pick it up. Your job, as a professional in the kitchen, is to dispose of the evidence as quickly as possible by consuming all trace of it.

That is all for today, MoFo-ers! 150 more tarts await me in the morning. I will dream of tiny dancing fruits. You, my friend, should dream of chocolate.

photo (1)

Life in Montreal/ Slurpy Noodles (aka The Best Dish Ever)

I don't know why Elvis has a bandaid on his crotch. Probably tore his pants moving fridges.

Native Montrealers flock to run-down, old-timey second-hand stores for all their home appliance needs. The stale cigarette stench and glitter-plastered interiors are just a bonus. http://wikimapia.org/1695232/Ameublement-Elvis

First, you should know that Montreal apartments don’t come with fridges or stoves. Fucked if I know why. It’s not like 19 year-olds rolling out of college have savings lined up for the purchase of household appliances. They’re lucky if they’ve got beer money for the party next weekend. To make matters worse, we have had some of the weirdest architectural rules on the continent due to a sordid mix of terrible policy making, the mob, the church, the police, and the real estate board. That story requires a whole new post, but the gist is that you can’t get an apartment in the Plateau of Montreal without at least a flight or two of sketchy, half-broken, ice-covered external stairs that you have to move appliances up and down every time you bail on your lease in search of a noncorrupt landlord (good luck).  As a result of all this there is a thriving circulation of used appliances working its way through craigslist, second-hand stores, and the sidewalks of the student ghetto on the first of each month. None of which have ever made it into my home.

After careful consideration of the broken-ass stairs up to my third-story flat, my roomate and I decided that perhaps it would be best if we just got a mini fridge and hot plate rather than doing the traditional neck-breaking rite of passage that the locals endure to make it into their apartments.

This actually works surprisingly well for us, by and large. She mostly lives off my leftovers, I walk by three grocers on my way home from work, cold beer is available right across the street til 11pm. We have a system. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.

But right at this moment, only the second burner on my ancient hotplate is working, and the fridge is turning everything into inedible blocks of ice. Except the PBR. It’s actually making the PBR drinkable. So after feeding ice carrots and shards of crystalized arugula to Lady Rattington (the local cute fuzzy thing), my guy and I sauntered off to the store in search of nosh. An hour later, we were home with fixings for the Best Dish Ever.

My friends, without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce you to, literally, the best dish ever. What makes it so good? Let me count the ways!

  • It comes together in maybe 30 minutes.
  • It’s cheap.
  • You can get all the ingredients anywhere at any time of year.
  • There are a million substitutions you can make.
  • The most important ingredients are ones you can keep on hand in the pantry
  • It makes a ton or a little with about the same amount of effort
  • It is delicious. It’s literally stuff to write home about. People taste this shit and facebook it before they get to the second bite.

This is not so much a recipe as a serving suggestion, but I’ll do the best I can to make it clear enough for you to reproduce with reasonable success after a few tries.

Slurpy Noodles

Ingredients:

1 block Extra firm tofu, cubed
1 cup Dried shiitakes, soaked and sliced, or use fresh, or criminis, or whatever.
2 cups Greens- baby bok choy, soaked seaweed, kale, etc. I usually just go with one.
2 packs Noodles- the thick, vacuum-packed wheat noodles that stay inexplicably fresh outside of the fridge. They look like worms. Moreso when covered in saucy goodness.

Sauce:

1 tbsp Garlic chili sauce– careful, some brands have fish, etc. The measurement is a guide, adjust to taste
1 tbsp Tamari, or more at the end if things need more salt
1 tbsp Fermented tasty salty things- I usually use umeboshi, but fermented black beans work well
2 tbsp Mirin- preferably the real kind, can omit
1 tbsp Toasted sesame oil, plus more to drizzle over
2 tbsp Rice vinegar (use this to taste, be careful if using the seasoned variety cause it’ll throw off the balance of everything else)
Black pepper- I don’t know why, it just makes it for me.

Optional:

Peppers, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro and lime, hot peppers, sesame seeds, etc.

For this recipe to work, all you need to do is brown your mushrooms in a hot oiled pan, then add the tofu to brown lightly, then add the greens. Mix the sauce ingredients together and add with the greens, toss on a lid to steam it all for a minute or two, and then mix in a big bowl with your noodles (boil them first to loosen them up, or nuke them in a bowl of water). Easy peasy.

Slurpy noodles

Seriously. You’ve got to try them. The tastiest worms ever.

Perfect Vegan Pumpkin Pie

This really is the perfect pumpkin pie. It comes together quickly, it has perfect pumpkin pie flavour, the texture is firm and silky, and there’s no soy aftertaste. I couldn’t ask for a better pie. You might want a more spicy pie, so add a bit more of the spices- it tastes pretty much the same raw or cooked, so make sure it tastes good to you before filling your crust.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1/2 cup Silk coffee creamer, other brands might work too.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups canned pumpkin- I used an organic brand that was very dry and firm- it needed to be spooned out of the can, it wouldn’t come out on its own. You want your pumpkin to be this dry, so consider straining it in cheesecloth.
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg, salt
1/4 tsp cloves

You will need a 9″ pastry crust that has not been blind baked- stick it in the freezer for at least 30 mins before your bake time. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and place your rack in the middle. In a food processor blend first the tofu and creamer until smooth, then blend in the sugar and corn starch until smooth, then all the remaining ingredients. Fill frozen pastry crust and wrap the crust edges with strips of tinfoil to prevent burning. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for another hour, checking every so often to ensure the crusts aren’t burning and the filling is setting. Let cool on a rack, then transfer to the fridge over night to set completely. If you can wait that long. I decorated mine with pretty pastry stars, but you probably aren’t as nerdy as me, so a dollop of cashew cream will do fine for garnish. Or a cup of coffee, if you are like me and think pie=breakfast food.