Tofu Trials: Tofu Parm

June 29, 2012

Hi everyone! Its FRIDAY! 🙂  And I’m hopefully making my way through the streets of St. Louis by now.  While I’m away, I thought I’d do a small segment (With some guest posts!) on a topic that I always find really interesting to talk about.

tofu.

I’m pretty sure I just saw everyone cringe.  And that’s EXACTLY what’s so interesting to me about it.  So many people have this knee jerk reaction when I mention tofu.  I used to have the same knee jerk reaction. Its…its tofu.  Its this white blob of tasteless stuff in some scary sort of liquid.  Pretty appetizing, right?  What’s funny, is that tofu can actually be pretty tasty, ifyou take the time to prepare it correctly.  And even then, its not THAT much time to prepare.  Strangely enough, it is now one of my absolute FAVORITE things to eat.  A complete 180 from my original perceptions.  Tofu can be a fun, easy and healthy addition to a meal.  And here’s the kicker, making, eating and ENJOYING tofu, doesn’t mean you’ve automatically sworn off meat for the rest of your life.  Its perfectly acceptable to appreciate and enjoy a tofu dish every now and again, without having to give up all of the other things you eat.   Its just that tofu has this strange reputation for being…something.

SO.  In an effort to change that thought process, I’ve come up with a devious little plan, called the Tofu Trials, where i’ve asked two of my non-vegetarian, “oh, its Tofu, no I can’t cook that” friends to try any tofu recipe of their choice, make it, eat it and write about it.  They didn’t have to like it, they didn’t have to not like it, I just wanted them to be honest.  The result is pretty interesting, I think 🙂  But of course, I couldn’t ask my friends to do something without participating (and who am I to pass up a chance to cook tofu).  So this week, I threw together a quick and easy summer meal, recreating one of our favorite sandwiches, the Chicken parm, with tofu.

The recipe is simple enough and like most recipes, one of the most important parts about prepping the tofu is to PRESS it.  Super easy to do, and there’s a great example of pressing in a later post.  But this helps to drain out and get rid of any excess liquid that may make your tofu mushy when its cooking.  While I don’t mind it as much, most people aren’t big fans of it.

After I pressed the tofu, I made nice thin slices, dipped them in some almond milk and then coated them in a self-made breading mixture of flour, spices and nutritional yeast.  After that it was into a hot grill pan with some “made it in a hurry marinara” (a simple recipe of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, tadaaaaaaaaaaa).

Check out those grill marks!

Once they were properly cooked on all sides, its as easy sub roll, tofu, sauce, chomp.

Literally!

I sprinkled some nutritional yeast on top and served it with a side of sauted’ squash/zucs and onion. mmmmMMMMMmmmmm.

Did I mention it makes great leftovers for lunch the next day? Its a bogo deal for meals!

So there you have it! A simple and easy meal that you can make with tofu chicken or even eggplant.  New to tofu or just want to join in the fun?  Cook up a tofu dish and write about it, message it to me or leave a link in the comments if you blog about it.  Happy weekend!! 🙂

xo

 

 

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The Traveling Vegetarian

June 28, 2012

SUMMER VACAY!

The husband and I are heading out for our annual trip to St. Louis, complete with 5 glorious days of baseball.  Brandon grew up cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals and while we both enjoy cheering for the home team here in Bal’mer, his heart will always be with the St. Louis teams.  So I’ve packed up my requisite Birds gear (the red stuff, not the orange, check), the spf gazillion (its supposed to be H.O.T.) and we’re just about ready to go!

Vacations have a way of destroying an healthy routine we’ve got going on.  I’m all for splurging, especially when you’re away, but its a whole new ballgame (no pun intended) when you have any dietary restrictions, self-imposed or otherwise.  Now, I love our family vacations, but St. Louis is not exactly known for its vegetarian/vegan friendly meals and with 100+ degree temps predicted for the duration of our stay, running outside isn’t exactly in the cards either.  So i’ve put together a little survival guide.

Eats:

We’ll be driving out to St. Louis, starting tonight – which means I can get in a good hearty and filling dinner tonight before we go.  I’m planning on making a Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili in a Bread bowl.  I know I know, its hot out, but something about a warm meal is a little more satisfying, than a cold one, especially for those of us taking the first leg of the driving trip -raises hand-.  I’ve never tried a bread bowl before, so I’m hoping it’ll a) go well and b) add just enough carbs to the dish to help us feel full.

For the rest of the drive we have some snacks packed along to help us stay awake and satisfy any of those munchies we’ll get during the drive.  We’re really trying to save money, so whatever we can do to cut costs while on the trip is a-ok with us! Growing up, we used to make the long drive up to Maine and we’d pack full lunches in coolers, grapes, cheese, veggies and sandwiches.  Since we’re driving through the night, our meals won’t be nearly as extensive, but we’ll still have a sandwich for the mister and a green smoothie for me.  Some hard candy, veggies and chips to top it off and of course, two big Nalgene jugs of water.  I think i’ll throw in two of my Chocolate Chip Scones too, that way we’ll only have to stop for coffee if we decide we don’t want a big diner breakfast in the morning.   I also made some quick energy bars for our bike rides, which will be great to throw in my purse and carry with me in case I get caught without

Its easy to control what we eat when I’m packing the food, the hard part is when we get into St. Louis itself.  I know from my most recent trip out there that the tendency is to throw cheese or butter on anything that remotely resembles a vegetable.  Luckily, i’m getting a lot more comfortable at asking for orders to be modified.   And I have two other tricks up my sleeve.  Take a look!

http://www.happycow.net/ :  This website is great! It allows you to search by city and identifies a number of vegetarian, vegan, as well as veggie/vegan friendly restaurants and markets.  Not only can it help you find some great new restaurants, but remind you of things you’d like to do while you’re out and about! For instance, who knew that the Schafly brewery had some veggie/veganizable options available.  Brewery tour, beer and a pub lunch sounds right up our alley.

http://www.veggiehappy.com/venue.htm :  Next up!  We’re obviously a baseball loving family.  We hit up Camden Yards whenever we can, make it out to Busch Stadium at least once a year and even find ourselves down in DC to watch the Nationals play every now and again. Unfortunately, stadiums are not always the best place to find some vegetarian options.  And who wants to eat a salad while everyone else is chowing down on a hot dog?!  This website is a great resource for sports loving veggies everywhere.  You can search by team (for both baseball and Football, I believe they’re working on NBA as well), and check out any options at the stadium ahead of time!   The site is really great in that it lists which of the veggie dogs/burgers/chicken patties are vegan or not (you’d be surprised how many arenot!).  Lucky for me, the Cardinals have more than a few awesome selections to choose from.

Does anyone else from the area have any suggestions??

Workouts:

I’ll be the first to admit that exercise is the LAST thing on my mind when I travel.  But i’m also willing to admit, that maybe – JUST MAYBE it needs to happen.  Maybe.  ugh.  So here’s what I’m planning on doing.

bike rides:  One of the reasonss we’re driving out this year, is so that Brandon and I can have our bikes and take one or two trail rides while we’re away.  Since its going to be so hot, we’ll probably keep these to a minimum and enjoy them earlier in the day, but its still a great way to get a workout in.

treadmill:  Since the start of summer I’ve been avoiding the treadmill lik ehte plague.  But with the temps as high as they’re going to be, running outside is not a viable option for me.  Neither is running longer distances on a treadmill, it IS vacation afterall.  So I plan to get in some speed work.  Keep the distances short, but the pace fast.  I haven’t done a speed interval workout in a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng time and I think if I start to incorporate them back into my training, i’ll definitely see an improvement in my endurance and times.

strength:  I’m no stranger to the weight room and I’ll be missing two of my body pump classes while i’m away.  So I’m definitely hoping to get in some lifting sessions to keep up to speed and not fall too far behind again.  Its also pretty easy to bang out some yoga and strength training moves while chilling out in the hotel room using just my body weight.  Pushups, lunges, burbpees, dips…

Plus, lets not forget, we never tend to stay in one spot for very long, so we’ll be doing a ton of walking while we’re out and about.  Water bottle in hand, of course 😉

How do you stay in shape when you’re traveling?  Do you make it work or don’t even bother?

I have a few fun cooking posts lined up for you guys – so I hope you enjoy them and your weekend!

xo

Better late than never!

June 27, 2012

You guys, I swear I had a weekend a few days back.  I was going to post about it yesterday, but then I got offered the chance to babysit the world’s cutest little girl.  And I took it.  Can you blame me?! I thought not.  But I’m back today and as promised – drumroll please – my weekend!

Two things this weekend, that I feel should be mentioned.

A)     Things happen when I’m allowed to watch the Food Network on Saturday mornings.  Things like chocolate cake.

But ya’ll, this is my FIRST EVER chocolate cake from scratch, #1.  Number 2?  My first ever DOUBLE LAYER chocolate cake.  Isn’t she beautiful???

I’m proud to say, that even though I KNOW desserts are never going to be “healthy” persay, this is a Veganized version of a recipe from Jamie Dean (Yes, Paula Dean’s son…).  And when you can eliminate more than a stick of butter and a gajillion pounds of sugar, I call that a relatively healthy dessert.  Win. J  Now, I have a chocolate cake to eat.  Fail.

 

The SECOND fun thing that happened this weekend, was the 5k race I alluded to on Friday.  What makes this so special is that I ran it with my friend here in B’more, Lil. You know her from her ca-ray-zy gym schedules and in a few days you’ll know her for her mad tofu skillz, but today you get to know her as a newbie runner!

The race itself was HOT and sunny, even though we started at 8 AM on Sunday morning.  I say I always learn things from my races, or try to.  So what did I learn from this race?  A few things.  First, that I’m super bad at pacing myself (sorry Lil).  But the second thing I learned stems from that and from running with a friend.  Without getting into too much detail, I’m pretty sure Lil had a PR this weekend and I’m pretty sure it was because she refused to let me walk more than she did or finish before she did.  We ended up with the EXACT same time.  No joke.  We started and finished stride for stride and she, whether she realized it or not, broke through a mental/physical barrier of what she thought she’d be able to do.  She may hate me now, but I’m still proud of her 🙂

As for my weekly update of Marathon Mondays – here goes! It ain’t pretty folks –cringe-

Running: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.  In case you DIDN’T know what that means, it means non-existent.  I can’t even remember if I ran before my 10 miler. I want to say not.  I didn’t run at all before the 5k.  And before this starts to sound like a bragging game, let me be the first to say that I feel LAZY.  And like a sluggish beast.  My schedule has gotten a little less structured lately due to a transition period at work.  And while you may think “oh that’s awesome, she can run when she wants!”, and while you may be right  – the ugly truth is, without that structure, I am completely lost! I’m trying to keep a schedule as best as possible, but I’ve been going to bed later and waking up groggy and tired.  I’ve been skipping runs and workouts.  BAD.  I know that if I want to run this upcoming Marathon in October, even though it seems far away still, I really need to start working on getting back into shape and into Marathon shape, or else its going to kick.my.butt.  I’ve made it to my Body Pump class and keep with my yoga pretty regularly (thank goodness).   Today was the first day I forced myself out of the lazy zone and go for a run.  It was a lot better than I expected, I felt strong and endurance wise not too bad – but I know its not something I can just ignore.  So here’s what I’ve decided to do.  There are 3 days left in June (side note: WHAT?!) and we’re on vacation for 2 of them, which is a whole new set of problems.  I’m going to do my best to get out for workouts each day and when I get back from Vacay, its game.on.  No excuses.

Eating:  I have been a CARB MONGER this week ya’ll.  I don’t know what is going on, but its been non-stop bread cravings.  I don’t eat a lot of it on a regular basis, so I want to believe its evened out now.  But I don’t really believe that.  I’m getting back on track with eliminating late night snacking (or trying to, darn cake!) and trying to eat more veggies and protein with each meal again.  Right now I’m on deplete the fridge of perishables duty, since my husband’s idea of lunch is a PB sandwich everyday.  Thanks babe, way to take one for the team 😉

The other biggie I NEED to get better at, is water consumption.  Lately its been more java and less aqua.  Luckily we don’t keep soda in the house, so that’s not an issue.  But its still pretty clear that I am not drinking enough water and I’m starting to feel the effects of that.  Headaches, drowsiness, always warm.  So I’m working on getting much much MUCH better at that.  I’ll keep you posted J

Whew.

Its Yoga for me tonight! Hopefully a much better practice than last weeks.  Although my anger managed to help me bang out some determined balance poses, its not something I think is smart to incorporate into a yoga practice that often.  I’m in a much better place emotionally today than last week, so fingers crossed 🙂

xo

Happy Monday everyone!  I usually like to take today to recap my weekend and talk about my marathon training (or lack thereof).  And while I do have fun things to tell you about my weekend, will you forgive me if I push that off for just a day and introduce something new?

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’d really like to learn more about cooking and while I don’t have the time or funds to ship off to culinary school, I do have other resources available to me.  I’ve started to work my way through that cooking textbook I borrowed from my brother and thought it’d be fun if I shared some of the things I learn along the way with you guys!  Ideally, I’d like to post this column of sorts once a week so we can work through the chapters at a decent pace and I was thinking Sundays would be a great day to do it.  Ideally, I’d also post the first post on a Sunday, but the first day of class is always a bit kooky, right? 🙂  Right!  And as an FYI – i’m planning putting together a page specifically for the posts on this column, so they can be easily accessed in the future.  So look for that over here —->

So today is the first installment of it, but pretend it came yesterday.   I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I am certified to or pretending to teach a class on Culinary arts, rather just hoping to share what I learn along the way!  Conversation, suggestions, questions, tips on any of the stuff I bring up would be a lot of fun, for readers, writers and commenters, so chat away down there 🙂

Rather than go through every single thing I’ve learned in each chapter, I think I’ll spend more time highlighting the things that were most interesting to me.  The first chapter, as usual is a lot of background information, setting you up for the things you’ll be learning in the subsequent chapters.  For this “course”, it means learning some culinary history, some vocab and getting a general idea of how a kitchen works.  So here goes!

The chapter focused on some of the main players in the development of restaurants and cuisines.  For instance – did you know that the first restaurant, was sort’ve scandalous?  Until then, guilds would specialize in one particular item (be it baking, soups/stocks, pastries, etc) and that was that.  Until along came a guy named Boulanger, who was the first to open up a restaurant that served a variety of foods that were made on the premises.  The restaurant industry, so to speak, was significantly helped along by the French Revolution, of all things.  That’s because the revolution abolished what was left of the monopolies that the guilds had over cooking and allowed the common folk access to chefs that used to work for the now downsized aristocracy.

Now, we have a whole slew of restaurants that can range from simple eats to grande, classic, nouvelle, new American and even fusion cuisine.   It seems that cuisines started out being pretty intricate and fancy, focusing on the hows and whys of cooking and refined presentations.  With the development of new cuisines such as nouvelle and new American, there started to be more emphasis on the simplicity, freshness of flavors and use of fresh, local produce.  I think one of the most interesting developments is the creation of fusion cuisine, where there’s a combination of ingredients or preparation of a meal from two separate ethnic or regional cuisines.  While I can appreciate all the different types of cuisines, I think I fall under the category of the new cuisines, I like when my meals have simple but delicious flavors, that are created from local ingredients.  And some of my favorite restaurants are Spanish Fusion restaurants.  Yum!

One of my favorite parts about this chapter, was the section that listed all of the different jobs of chefs (aka a brigade) that go into the preparation of our meals, as well as the serving of our meals.  Even though it was fun to learn the French names of chefs who specialize in all of the different components for a meal, I was even more interested in the job titles for those who work in the dining room.  Here’s a list:

The Dining Room Manager – also known as the maitre’d.  This guy/gal we’re all pretty familiar with.  They seat us and at the fancier restaurants, help to develop a menu, train the staff and creates the seating charts.  They’re an “overseer” of sorts.

Wine Steward/Sommelier – if you go to a nicer restaurant, these folks will help you pick out a nice bottle of wine to go along with your meal!

Now here is where it starts to get a little more involved than what I ever thought:

Head waiter – I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one in action, but these guys are responsible for service in the entire dining room.  In actuality, American service tends to not utilize these, so its pretty rare that we’d see one.

Captains – these guys are responsible for taking your order and doing any on-site prep beside the table.  So if you order a Steak Diane, a homemade ceasar salad or a whole fish, or anything that involves “a production” beside your table, the captain is who you’ll see!

Front Waiters – responsible for serving the food and making sure your table is set for the appropriate course.  I think a combination of the captain and the front waiters are what most folks these days are used to seeing.

Finally, the back waiters – aka the busperson.  Charged with clearing the tables and keeping the water glasses full!

So the next time you go out to eat, keep in mind all the things that people are doing and see if you can pick the different jobs out as they happen!

It was a typical first chapter, but an interesting and enlightening one.  Its amazing to think of all the different jobs that go on behind the scenes.  Even crazier?  To think that we perform almost all of these jobs ourselves in our own kitchen each day! Yikes!

I’ll end with a quote that I thought was particularly relevant to something I was struggling with a few weeks ago.

“A chef should not be inventive, simply for the sake of invention”. 

xo

This weekend I’m excited to be running the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k with my friend, Lil.  Its her first race, but I’m hoping it won’t be her last!

I know a lot of people make the argument that paying to run doesn’t make sense, but to me, its more than just running.  Its an experience and it got me thinking about all of the races I’ve had the opportunity to participate in and some of the things I’ve learned from each – take a walk down memory lane with me, won’t you?

 

November 24th, 2011 – I ran my first race, joined by my little brother and his friend, a (sort’ve) local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day!  I hit my goal of 30 minutes for less.  Training for this race helped me to realize that I could run if I wanted to and that I wasn’t bound by 3.1 miles at an 11 minute pace.  I knew I was hooked and signed up for an 8k in December.

December 3rd (?), 2011 – I ran a second 5k in order to keep read for my long (at the time!) 8k race in the upcoming weeks.  Although I didn’t PR for the race at all, I enjoyed the run and learned the difference between pushing myself and just going for a run, all while jumpstarting my enthusiasm for training.

December 11th, 2011 –  The biggest race of the year! My 8k (5 miles or so) race in DC!  It was a cold delayed start, which had everyone grumbling and I can remember thinking that some of the scenery wasn’t as pretty as a run through DC should’ve been!  It was also the first race that I actually pushed myself through and ended, as per the advice of Brandon, feeling like death.  But it was worth it! I PRd in both distance and pace, crushing my projected finish time.  After this, I started thinking “maybe I could run a little further…”

March 28th (I think), 2012 – I did.  “pushing deep ain’t always pretty, but turns out its worth it…totally”.

June 9th 2012– I had the awesome chance to be with my other brother for his very first race, another 5k.  Seems I have a habit of getting people out of their comfort zones, for the better!

June 16th 2012 – Another first of sorts for me, a 10 mile run through the streets of Baltimore.  Its one of the biggest races in the area and didn’t disappoint! An early beer was the perfect way to celebrate another great run and I was reminded how amazing a racing community can be.

Which brings us to this Sunday, June 24th, 2012.  It’ll be my 7th race and the last one I’ve signed up for (so far!) between now and the Baltimore Marathon (eeeep!) in October.  I’ve been in a bit of a running slump lately, but looking back on everything had been a great reminder of not only how far I’ve come, but all the things I’ve learned and accomplished along the way.  So, here’s to the next 7 races, milestones, records broken  and lessons learned!

xo

 

Know that feeling?

June 21, 2012

You know that feeling when you have a half day at work and so you don’t pack a lunch because you figure, “hey, its a half day, i’ll get home early enough to have a solid lunch before heading out to be the only Vegan within a 20 mile radius of a crab feast with your husband for his work”, but by the time you wait 30 minutes in the heat for the bus to get to you, you get to your car, drive home you realize you left your keys in the office back at work.  So you drive back to work, park on the streets with the change you scrounged up from your change purse because you left your wallet in your husband’s car, get in, grab keys, are reminded of the crappy work environment you’re dealing with, battle traffic the whole way home, make it in the door, to open an email that reminds you AGAIN of the crappy work environment you’re dealing with, then realize that its too late in the day to make a full lunch, since you’ll be leaving soon for the crab feast, that may or may not have beer and whose options for those who “don’t eat crab” include fried chicken, corn on the cob, salads and fruit?

Yeah.  That was fun.   But I got some sweet corn for tomorrow night.  Small victories?

xo

Inspiration

June 20, 2012

Its another couple of long hours before I can get into my Yoga class tonight, until then – here are a few things to inspire, based on one of my favorites lately, Dancer Pose (or Natarajasana).

 

 

 

Strength, balance and grace all rolled into one.  Do you have a favorite?

xo

(1) source ;(2) source ;(3) source