Category Archives: vegan

Sweet and Sour Tofu Meatless Balls

Think of the tofu as a mince that you add diced vegetables to, coat with a batter and fry or bake. Dip those into any sauce you like (here, Sweet & Sour) and you have a low fat, high-protein meal that freezes well.

There are three steps:

Prepare the tofu

Prepare a sauce

Combine

Ingredients

For the Meat-less Balls

  • 2 packages of extra firm or firm tofu
  • ½ – 1 cup of minced vegetables
    • (a mix of seasonal vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, turnip, onion, bell pepper, sweet potato, pumpkin)
  • ¼-½ cup of starch (corn or potato
  • Seasonings
    • ½ each teaspoon onion, garlic, chili powder, salt

For the crust

  • ½ cup of starch
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs onion powder (to taste)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs garlic powder (to taste)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs chili powder (to taste) (optional)
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs/panko
  • 1 cup milk or plant based milk

For the sweet and sour sauce

base

  • ¼-⅓ cup sugar (brown or white)
  • ¼-⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs catsup
  • ¼ cup soy sauce (light is preferred, but dark will do)

+

slurry

  • 1 cup liquid (water or pineapple juice or a blend)
  • 2 tablespoons of starch (corn or potato)

Directions

  1. Drain the water from the package of tofu.
  2. Place between a dish towel and place something heavy upon it.
  3. Let the tofu press for 30 – 60 minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

Prepare the crust

  1. Combine ½ cup of starch with the spices and sift. Set aside.
  2. Pour 1 cup of milk or plant based milk in a bowl and set next to the starch.
  3. Pour 1 cup of bread crumbs into a bowl and set that next to the milk.
Seasoned flour, a liquid, and the bread crumbs all neatly lined up.

Prepare the sweet and sour sauce

  1. Combine the sugar, vinegar, catsup and soy sauce in a bowl and stir to dissolve the catsup and sugar. If the sugar does not dissolve, you can heat it in a small sauce pan.
  2. Combine 1 cup liquid with the starch and stir to dissolve. (The starch will settle at the bottom. This is normal.)

For the meatless balls, fried

  1. Peel and mince your vegetables. The smaller the cut, the easier they are to incorporate into the mixture.
  2. When the tofu has pressed, crumble it in a bowl and mix in the vegetables. 
  3. Add ¼ cup of starch and mix. Squeeze a handful of the mixture in your hand. If it holds together, shape into balls. If not, add more starch until you can form balls. You can also press the mixture into shapes.
  4. Roll the balls in the spiced starch.
  5. Dip the balls into the milk.
  6. Coat the balls in the bread crumbs and set aside.
  7. Heat oil in a pan to fry.
  8. Fry the tofu balls in the hot oil until well browned. 
  9. Drain on paper towels.
  10. In a saucepan combine the sweet and sour sauce and the slurry. 
  11. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. It will thicken after the boil. 
  12. Dip the fried tofu balls into the sauce and serve over rice. 

For the tofu balls, baked

  1. You can either mist the tofu with oil or bake directly in a very hot 250C/400F oven for 30-40 minutes. The oil will give the tofu a very firm crunch.

Alternatively 

  1. After the tofu balls are fried, stir fry 2 – 3 cups of sliced vegetables in hot oil. 
  2. When done to your liking add ¼ of the sweet and sour base and bring to a boil. 
  3. Add the slurry. 
  4. Bring to a boil. The sauce will thicken. 
  5. Add the tofu. 
  6. Serve over rice. 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. As I’m learning how to blog, if you have any suggestions on how I can improve, please write them in the comments below. Also, let me know what you think of my recipe.

Mushroom Tarts:

Flakey tart shells filled with sweet potato or pumpkin puree and topped with grilled or fried mushrooms.
Any mushroom will do but here I’m using Japanese mushrooms.

I came across a picture for a beautifully plated, grilled ‘Hen of the Woods‘ (aka Maitake) mushroom months ago. These are inexpensive where I live and so I started grilling them. Maitake have a wonderful mouthfeel and are full of umami; I wanted to turn them into a healthy, inexpensive meal, and so started making them into tarts. Here the tarts are put on a puree of sweet potato or winter melon (I use Japanese kabocha) to fix the mushrooms into place in the tart while adding a new texture and layer of flavors.

For the Mushrooms

Size varies by location. Any mushroom will work but we enjoy maitake and shimeji mushrooms because they grow as a unit and are much easier to shape because of it.

Directions

  1. In a well oiled iron fry pan, layer your mushrooms.
  2. Salt to taste.
  3. Cover them with something heavy (such as a smaller fry pan) and put them on high heat for five minutes and check. They will be fully cooked. Cook them to your desired color and texture.
  4. Flip the mushrooms and cook till they reach the color and texture you want

You want them to be a beautiful color.

Sweet Potato Filling

Sweet potatoes are delicious in savory dishes. A steamed sweet potato has more moisture and, in my experience, is easier to work with. But you can make a delicious filling with a baked sweet potato.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (about 400 -600 grams), steamed or roasted.
  • Salt to taste

(optional ingredients)

  • Up to ¼ butter or up to ¼ cream
  • ½ tsp cumin or ½ tsp each thyme and tarragon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Up to ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Puree the sweet potato in a food processor with the salt and any combination of options ingredients (except the walnuts) and process until smooth.
  2. Mix in the optional walnuts, if using, after the sweet potatoes are pureed.
  3. Layer the bottom of a tart shell
  4. Layer on top of the shell grilled mushrooms and any other roasted vegetables you like.

Winter Squash/Kabocha Puree

If you can not find Japanese squash in your markets, a pumpkin, butternut or other winter squash will do nicely.

  • 400 – 600 grams of Winter Squash/Kabocha, steamed or roasted
  • Salt to taste

(Optional Ingredients)

  • Up to ¼ cup butter
  • ¼-½ tsp chilie powder
  • roasted garlic (to taste) and ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • Up to ¼ cup walnuts

Directions

  1. Puree your steamed or roasted squash with salt and whatever combination of the optional ingredients you like (except the walnuts).
  2. Mix in the optional walnuts, if using, after the squash is pureed.
  3. Layer in the bottom of a tart shell and layer with mushrooms and your favorite roasted vegetables.

After you’ve made your fillings, simply spread one of your fillings into a tart shell and layer the mushrooms on top. I add lots of other roasted vegetables to make pleasing presentations.

The Onion Sandwich — Caramelized Onions

(recipe follows)onion sandwich_055

People who comment or send me mail tell me I can improve my blog by talking more about my life. From their advice I have been adding bits and bytes. A part of my life story I never speak about is poverty: I grew up poor. After my parents divorced my mother and I were so poor we couldn’t afford a vacuum. My mother borrowed one every couple of months from her half-brother’s wife. (To clean the carpet we used the back side of tape.)onion sandwich_058

We were poorer than most because my mother was unable to work — why is another story — and so we depended on welfare, food stamps, and kindness.

onion sandwich_054

Sometime in the 80’s the government started cutting the welfare and food stamp programs. I was used to not having much. Our furniture came from hand me downs, our TV a tiny, portable black and white. I only ever had a couple of pairs of pants and a few shirts. This was the baseline for my day to day — but I didn’t know how good I had been living until those cuts came into effect. One example should make my meaning clear.onion sandwich_053

I came home from school one day to my mother eating an onion sandwich: Two slices of day old bread, a slice of raw onion, French’s mustard. We had nothing else. I recall she smiled, said it was delicious and wished she had know — which sounded plausible through her souther drawl, but the sadness in her eyes gave up the lie.
onion sandwich_052

I broke out of what I hear called a The Cycle of Poverty. I am aware that a lot of my choices are a reaction to having been poor. I have 37 pairs of shoes because I grew up having just one, poorly fit and used to the last — but I don’t waste money and never borrow.
onion sandwich_051

Although I rarely talk about it, I own up to where I came from. I know from experience that you can chose how to remember what’s passed. To a degree you can reshape a memory — or honor it to let it go. So I took the pungent onion and made it sweet; I crafted my own mustard to make it mine; I bought the very best bread and made an Onion Sandwich.

(note: this is also used in Savory Pie)

Caramelized Onions

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

onion sandwich_045

 

tier one (you must use)

  • At least 2 pounds of brown onions sliced thin (I fill my 12 liter/quart stock pot which reduce to about 2 cups)
  • Up to 2 tablespoons of butter (you really don’t much, the water in the onions will prevent them from sticking for most of the cooking)

tier three (optional)

  • Up to 1 tablespoon sugar (near the very end to help caramelize the onions or further sweeten them, taste before adding sugar)
  • Up to 1/4 cup strong beef stock near the very end of cooking (to loosen the brown bits at the end of cooking)
  • Up to 1/4 cup water (to loosen the brown bits at the end of cooking)

Method: Put your butter or oil in a large pot. Peel your onions, remove the root end and cut in half lengthwise and slice thin. Add them to the pot with the butter. When you’ve finished all your onions put the pot on the stove and turn it on medium to melt the butter. Don’t stir the pot until it’s heated up, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the pot and make a decision:

If you’re going to be in the kitchen and want the dish to finish quickly turn the heat up to high and stir every five minutes or so. They’ll finish in about an hour, depending on the volume. If you want to relax, turn the heat to low and come back and stir the pot ever 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the volume and heat, this method will take a minimum of three hours. 

Your onions will go through three distinct phases:

  1. Individual slices slowly becoming a mush with a lot of liquid, almost like a soup. This phase is the longest and requires the least amount of attention.
  2. They will start sticking to the pot. Here you have stir more often, but there’s still a lot of liquid. At this point you’ll notice the start of a color change from translucent to light brown.
  3.  Finally they will brown during which you need to constantly move the onions in the the pot, scraping the brown bits off as much as you can. Those brown bits are flavor.

The temptation is to remove the onions when they start to stick. Don’t. Reduce the heat if you wan to but bring them to a dark brown. When they are near dark brown, this is where you would add sugar. When you can no longer scrap the bits off the bottom and sides of the pan then they are done. Remove them from the pan. You can also remove all but a tablespoon or two and add either 1/4 cup of water or strong beef stock to loosen the remaining brown bits of flavor at the bottom of the pan. I keep these separate from the caramelized onions to flavor other dishes.

You can see an example of caramelizing vegetables here.

onion sandwich_060

caramelized onions
3 kilos (8 pounds) reduced to about 2 cups caramelized onions. Notice the brown bits, at this point I can no longer scrape them off, so the onions are finished. At this point I add water or broth to get those bits of flavor stuck all over the pan — don’t waste all that flavor!

 

homemade mustard with canned green tomatoes and broccoli in custard in a pastry shell
homemade mustard with canned green tomatoes served with my onion sandwich