Un-Lobster Rolls

lobster rolls

Every single time summer rolls around, I start to crave super summery foods. To the point where nothing else will do. If it’s not bright and fresh or full of summery flavors, I really don’t want to eat it.

So I’ve taken things into my own hands here.

I present, vegan lobster rolls!

…served on hamburger buns because that was all we had and I was, honestly, way too lazy to go to the store.

You’ll need:

  • 1 package firm tofu, pressed.
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/3 c vegan mayo (I used Just Mayo. Pick your favorite)
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard (or whatever mustard you like)
  • garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Bread of your choice- preference given to hot dog buns or actual nice rolls. Don’t be lazy like me.

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Steps:

  1. Chop up your block of tofu. Think about how pieces of lobster look on the rolls and try to mimic that the best you can.
  2. Sautee up the tofu in some oil with 2 tsp Old Bay and some salt and pepper. Get some good color on the tofu.
  3. Let the tofu to cool a bit and chop up your onion.
  4. Add all ingredients except bread into a mixing bowl. Combine.
  5. Serve on toasted bread vessel, top with some chopped chives, and serve alongside potato chips.

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Taco Night!

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Tacos are the actual easiest and most delicious food ever.

If you do them right.

None of that cheese and tomato and lettuce stuff.

These tacos, not counting marinade time, took approximately 10 minutes to put together. They’re vegan, they’re healthy, they’re fresh, and they’re delicious.

I really don’t know what else to say about them. Tacos are one of my favorite week night meals because of how insanely easy they are to make. This recipe works for two at home looking for a quick bite or can be doubled into some real easy entertaining.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small can chipotle sauce
  • 1 can black beans NOT drained or rinsed
  • 1/2 block firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 small handful cilantro
  • Juice of 1-2 limes
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • 4 soft tortillas (2 tacos per person)
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional but delicious)
  • 1 6 pack of your favorite summer beer

Steps:

  1. Combine 3 tablespoons of the chipotle sauce in a container with the spices, mix.
  2. Add tofu to the marinade, cover, and put into the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes-2 hours.
  3. Mince onion and cilantro, mix together. Add the juice of half a lime.
  4. Pop open your black beans, dump into a pot with 1 tablespoon chipotle sauce and the juice of half a lime. Cook these on low until hot, 15-20 minutes.
  5. While the beans are cooking, heat an oiled fry pan over medium heat. When hot, add marinated tofu.
  6. Cook tofu for 5-7 minutes, stirring.
  7. This is the fun part! But only really works with a gas oven. Turn a front burner on low (like, 2) and toss the tortillas onto the grate. Periodically flip until you have some color and the tortilla is warm. Hands down the best way to heat tortillas.
  8. Add tofu, onions, and cilantro to the tortillas.
  9. Serve alongside black beans topped with more onions and cilantro and the slices of avocado.

Pair with your favorite beer and enjoy!

marinating tofu

minced onions and cilantro

minced onions and cilantro

cooking blackbeans

cooking tofu

fire the tortillas

cooked tortilla

assembling tacos

Bog wave by Kona Brewing Company

 

Big Wave by Kona Brewing Co. is my sumer favorite!

taco dinner is served

Baked Tofu Steaks and Roasted Asparagus

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Farmers Market season has begun in Chicago! To celebrate, we immediately bought the best looking asparagus bunch we could find and took it home for roasting.

But asparagus is definitely more of a side, even in vegetarian land. I suppose I COULD try to make it a main dish. Or I could serve it alongside this bomb-ass tofu and be much happier.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 block firm tofu, sliced into 4 pieces and pressed.
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • rosemary (either fresh or dried)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 big bunch of asparagus
  • olive oil

First and foremost, preheat your oven to 400*F

Combine the syrup, mustard, vinegar, rosemary, and some salt & pepper into a flat-bottomed dish for marinading. Insert tofu and leave for an hour or so.

I know, the sauce sounds weird but I promise it’s the most delicious savory sauce you will ever eat. Pulled it from a chicken recipe that involves roasting chicken thighs in it. If meat’s your thing, I say go for it.

tofu marinade

While your tofu is marinading and getting delicious, tend to your asparagus. Trim the bases as much as you need/want for the super woody stuff. I usually trim around an inch depending on how it looks. Use your own judgement.

Lay the asparagus out on a foil covered baking sheet and get ready to make them wonderful.

drizzle some olive oil over the stalks, add the salt & pepper and any other flavor-enhancing devices you would like. I have a spice mix that I put on almost everything but I have no idea what it contains. I think there’s some dried minced onion, garlic, black pepper? No idea but it tastes like heaven.

Roll the asparagus around in the oil and spices and let them get solidly coated.

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Back to your tofu. You should have let it hang out for 15-20 minutes. Go ahead and transfer the steaks into a lightly greased baking dish and drizzle some extra of the marinade on top. You know, for added levels of delicious in the oven.

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Put both the asparagus and the tofu in that 400*F oven for approximately 20 minutes, give or take.

Then sit back, pour yourself some wine, enjoy the sunset, and get ready for a delicious dinner.

Aforementioned sunset to enjoy.

Aforementioned sunset to enjoy.

After 20 or so minutes, your asparagus tops should look crunchy. The tofu should have firmed up, dried out, and taken on some toasty good color.

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For plating, include a salad of spinach greens and drizzle everything once more with the leftover marinade, which is now a sauce. [[please note this is not something you can do with raw meats as the marinade will be contaminated]]

Serve with a side of wine, candles, and romance!

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Mental Health Day Vegan Tofu Pot Pie

Sometimes, Chicago is graced with 19+ inches of snow in a single day. Sometimes, lots of other things happen in a single day and you get overwhelmed and need a day. And sometimes, that happens when your person has a day off. That was yesterday. Sweatpants, endless coffee and tea, puppy cuddles, and our never ending marathon of Alton Brown’s Good Eats — my absolute favorite cooking show. There’s a reason our fish is named after him.

We’re sitting around watching an episode about savory pies. And he starts talking about Chicken Pot Pie. I’m suddenly transported back to my childhood when I would come home from school to find out the freezer version would be served for dinner that night. And I got unnecessarily excited. That stuff was GOOD! But loaded with sodium and not very actually good for you.

Now the problem with vegans watching cooking shows is that more often than not, all recipes contain dairy, eggs, and meat. And that’s not good eats (see what I did there?!) in our kitchen. But this was a pretty simple adjustment, particularly with a premade pie crust hanging out in the fridge. And thus, the ultimate in comfort food came out of the kitchen.

Get ready

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You will need:

  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 block soft or firm tofu, cubed (not silken!)
  • 1 cup frozen veggie mix
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp of butter (keep them separated)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups veggie stock (low sodium)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Ground celery seed
  • 1 premade rolled pie crust
  • Herbs & spices: garlic powder, paprika, parsley flakes, salt, pepper

Steps:

Preheat your oven to 425*F. In a skillet, melt the 2 tbsp butter over med-med low heat. Once melted, drop in your onions and season with your preferred amounts of the herbs and spices above. Let these go for a while. Make them brown. Don’t get impatient. Brown is important.

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I’m interrupting this recipe for a small rant about brown food. It tastes good. No doubt about it. If you start your soupy foods with a good base of brown food, you’re going to have deliciousness previously unrivaled in your kitchen. Trust me when I say your patience waiting for brown food will be rewarded. I’m going to let Anne Burrell share how I feel about brown food in this link (You only need to watch for a few seconds. You’ll get the idea). It’s better to cook your onions for closer to 10 or 15 minutes and have a nice color on them than go for 5 and not have as good of a flavor base.

End rant. Onto the tofu! Scoot your onions over to one side of your pan and scrape your tofu into the rest. Sprinkle with more seasoning and cook the tofu. This should take around 5 minutes to get some color, a little bit of crust, and a lot of delicious. All together now, “brown food tastes good!”

Very good.

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Start with your frozen mix. Sprinkle that on the top of the tofu and onions for a few minutes. Let the steam start to defrost them. Otherwise they’ll take the temp of the pan down too far and that is not good eats.

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Once they’ve steamed a bit, go ahead and mix them in and continue to sautĂ© to achieve — you guessed it — brown!

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Now go ahead and make a hole in the middle of your mess of delicious. Just scoot the veggies and tofu to the sides and form a nice little landing pad for that last tablespoon of butter. On the circle of delicious, sprinkle the tablespoon of flour. Once the butter has melted, mix everything back together. This is a roux of sorts that will create that wonderful thick sauce. Because you’re doing it in the pan with the veggies, you’re basing your sauce in that wonderfully amazing brown food.

Stir this around and let the flour cook for a bit. While cooking happens, mix your veggie stock and milk. Pour that mixture on top of the veggies and tofu, and stir.

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I know, I know. It looks like soup, not like pot pie filling. Work with me here.

This is where I added the celery seed. Normally, I would reate the base of this with carrot, onion, and celery but I’m working with what I had in my kitchen. Celery seed will bring in that bit of flavor. Increase your fire to medium/medium high and bring this to a boil. Keep stirring occasionally. Once you achieve bubbles, stir constantly for a minute or two, then drop the heat to a simmer and walk away for 4-5 minutes. This gives the flavors a chance to meld and marry. More flavor.

While your filling is thickening, go ahead and grab a circular baking dish. You’re looking for anything but metal here. Spray that baby down with some cooking spray. Prep your pie crust as well. Unroll, unfold, whatever it may be.

When you have achieved desired sauce thickness (remember, it will continue cooking in the oven), remove form the heat and pour into your dish.

mmm, saucy thick goodness

mmm, saucy thick goodness

Top with your pie crust. With a paring knife, cut a few slits for venting purposes (unless you like cleaning up exploded pot pie from your oven. Then don’t), give the top a spritz of cooking spray, and insert into oven. Walk away for 15 minutes and let the magic happen.

That filling said "I'm too delicious. Can't be contained."

That filling said “I’m too delicious. Can’t be contained.”

Let it sit for 5 minutes to give the filling one last chance to set up before serving. My favorite serving method is family style.

Comfort food, delicious, and vegan. Nom nom nom.

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Vegan Tofu Benedict with Avocado and Beer Bread

So let me tell you about my Saturday morning.

7:00 rolls around and the dog upstairs scampers down the stairwell (which our bed shares a wall with so we hear everyone going up and down) and wakes Zoe up. Like every morning. Suddenly Zoe realizes she also has to go outside so we get all bundled up in our respective coats, venture out into the world, and greet the day like any good dog should. Come back inside, have some doggy breakfast, and decide to curl back up in bed for another hour or so before her mommas have breakfast.

This has all taken about 45 minutes. We climb back in bed, get cozy, have some petting and cuddling the dog time, and then the sound of a helicopter starts in the distance. This is a pretty standard noise- as are airplanes. Living so close to a massive airport, you get a lot of air traffic.

The sound crescendos as it usually would. But when it reaches its peak, it doesn’t stop. It just continues. And continues.

And continues.

I get out of bed to see what in the world is going on. Zoe has curled up under the covers to hide from the noise (and get warm) at this point. Sarah and I are both bemoaning the fact that it is 8am and why why why does this need to happen. I look out the window and there is a literal helicopter hovering in what looks like the driveway of two buildings over.

Literal actual helicopter hovering. I kid you not.

Literal actual helicopter hovering. I kid you not.

My first thought is “what in the…” and my second was “Well, this is going to be a fun one for the blog”

It hovered for a while, eventually flew up to the top of another high rise with something mechanical attached. Hovered up there for a while and flew down with something else mechanical that looked like it had been through hell (that building had had a fire earlier in the week. I’m guessing this was a replacement). Our neighborhood news posted on their facebook later in the day that, yes, it was a mechanical delivery. But at 8am on a Saturday, I don’t care what your excuses are. I want to go back to sleep.

Zoe somehow managed the sleeping thing. Bless.

Zoe somehow managed the sleeping thing. Bless.

So 20 minutes later, silence has fallen on the western shore of Lake Michigan. And I cannot fall asleep. Zoe was out, Sarah was out, I was 100% awake and browsing Instagram. Looking at everyone’s delicious Saturday morning breakfasts, I went “I need to turn this morning around. Breakfast is the way to do that.”

And, thus, the vegan tofu benedict with avocado and beer bread was born.

Insert angelic choirs singing here.

Insert angelic choirs singing here.

Took to pintrest, found this recipe, and worked with what I had in the kitchen. After cooking up a storm and making some much needed coffee, I went to wake the cuddle bugs. Sarah’s reaction when she saw what was on the table was, “Oh man. I am spoiled rotten.” And with that, Saturday was successfully turned around.

Vegan Tofu Benedict with Avocado and Beer Bread (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 4 thick slices of beer bread (I use this recipe. Will share the full thing within the next few weeks)
  • 4 tofu steaks, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 recipe vegan hollandaise (recipe below)
  • big leafy greens (I used Kale. butter lettuce would work great. spinach. whatever you got)
  • Tomatoes (I used 2 cherry tomatoes per tower of delicious. slices of tomatoes would work. again, whatever you got)
  • 1 sliced avocado.

Steps:

  1. Cook those tofu steaks. Season with something tasty. I did salt, pepper, and chili powder. 3-4 minutes per side in some oil over medium heat. Get some color on those babies.
  2. Warm or toast your bread. Whatever floats your fancy. These slices of bread were too thick and too crumbly for the toaster and we have no broiler. So. I find that 15 seconds on a plate with a wet paper towel on top brings any bread back to life.
  3. Assemble! Bread, greens, tomato, tofu, hollandaise, avocado.
  4. Serve with coffee, wake up everyone in the house, devour.

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Vegan Hollandaise

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 non-dairy milk
  • 1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2-3 tsp lemon juice
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Steps:

  1. Put the butter in a saucepot over medium heat and melt to lightly bubbly.
  2. Whisk in flour until a paste forms.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk until well combined.
  4. Increase the heat to medium/medium-high and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Take off the heat, add in nutritional yeast and seasonings.
  6. Optional poor timing step: If you, like me, made this first and then made everything else, your sauce is going to continue thickening and cool slightly. Add a tablespoon of very hot water and whisk in. It will bring it back up to temp and loosen the sauce so it’s, ya know, pourable.

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Get ready for delicious! What’s your favorite breakfast food?

Crispy Marinated Tofu Steaks

Before I went vegetarian, I had never really tried tofu beyond what appears in miso soup. It was this mysterious substance that I had heard an alarming amount of horror stories about and was, admittedly, more than a little terrified to try out. Even after going veg, I had an incredibly hard time bringing myself to try cooking it. I would order it places and eat it without issue but it still baffled me within the walls of my own kitchen. It took on the flavors of what it was cooked in- so how to cook it? I eventually adventured into the world of tofu and am incredibly happy I did. Now we always have a block in the fridge waiting to be turned into something delicious.

My latest discovery came to me from Chef Alton Brown. He’s a favorite of mine (we even named our fish after him!) and I was showing my lady the glory that is Good Eats. We settled in for his Tofu World episode and, while none of the dishes offered a dairy or egg free option, I was able to adapt one into what has quickly become a quick dinner staple.

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Crispy Marinated Tofu Steaks

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices (1/4″ thick) of firm tofu
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp white cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 separated teaspoons garlic powder (or 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp powder)
  • salt & pepper
  • any other of your favorite savory seasonings. I use a cuban blend from a local spice shop.
  • 1/8 c flour
  • Oil for pan frying

Steps:

  1. Sandwiched between towels, press your tofu. Lay them out and place a baking sheet on top with some sort of weight on top of that. I use our extra large peanut butter jar. You could use any heavy object you desire. Leave for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Prepare the marinade in a shallow dish. Mix soy sauce, cooking wine, hot sauce, 1 tsp garlic, pepper, and any other seasonings (you can leave the salt out of this bit- the soy sauce takes care of that)
  3. When the tofu is done being pressed, place the steaks into the marinade and leave for 15-20 minutes per side. While this sits, mix the flour with remaining spices.
  4. Dredge the tofu in the flour giving it a thin but thorough coat. This is for maximum crisp!
  5. In a frying pan, pour enough oil to coat the pan approx 1/8″ deep and heat over medium heat until ripples form and the oil is toasty.
  6. Place each tofu steak into the oil and fry 2-3 minutes per side. Remove onto a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  7. Serve with greens, rice, noodles, on toast, or whatever else you can come up with. I like to top mine with an extra squire of sriracha. Pictured, it is served on top of some Indian leftovers. Delish!

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Nookie’s

Chicago has an obsession with brunch. Being raised in Chicago, I, too, have an obsession with brunch. Finding brunch places with good vegan options is often rather difficult. We happened to wander past Nookie’s Edgewater (also known as Nookies 4) while my cousin was visiting. Intrigued, my lady took to the internet and investigated their food offerings. We were more than happy to discover that they had a vegan option on their menu. A brunch place within walking distance of our apartment with a vegan option?! Suddenly, a lazy Sunday morning turned into a whirlwind of picking out clothes, putting on some make-up, and heading out into the fall chill for some food.

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As expected, there was a wait- only about 20 minutes. When we finally got to our table, we immediately started off with hot drinks- coffee for her, China black tea for me.

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We gave the menu one more glance to make sure we hadn’t missed another vegan dish and, concluding we hadn’t, ordered the smoky tofu with whole wheat toast, a bloody mary for me and a mimosa for her.

 

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The food was amazing. The tofu was cooked perfectly. A heap of veggies including mushroom, green onion, and tomato added some color. The smoky flavor rounded everything out. With a side of herby potatoes and sauteed spinach, I was in breakfast heaven.

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This place will definitely remain as a treat and not a regular occurrence but I, for one, am glad to have found it. How bout another shot of that plate. So good!

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