Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

July 14, 2008

 

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

After the HH and I had been dating for about four months and he’d already passed the “willing to tolerate my multiple quirks and neuroses” test, I decided it would be acceptable for him to finally meet my family and old friends in Montreal.  I cajoled coerced begged invited him to join me one weekend as I headed east.  We arranged to stay at the CFO’s place, to visit with the rest of the family, to attend a dinner party at my friend Babe’s, and to spend the remainder of our time sight-seeing; the plans were all set.

And then, during the drive across the highway, the HH contracted some bizarre, sci-fi worthy flu virus and ended up spending the entire visit in bed–febrile, congested, inflamed and sullying tissue after tissue with unsavory bodily fluids.  My relatives encountered a slightly dazed, highly medicated, Rudolph-nosed guy who didn’t make the greatest impression (he’s made up for it since). 

Ever since that sniffling début, it’s become somewhat of a running gag in our house:  whenever the HH and I travel to Montreal, one of us is inevitably sick (most recently, it was my turn; I suffered a wicked sinus headache for the first day, but recuperated by the second).  The only time we both felt fine, turned out the CFO was the one with a terrible cold, which she unwittingly passed on as a parting gift to me. Two days after returning to Toronto, I was felled once again. 

It may be a cliché to say that men are babies when it comes to having colds, that they whine and complain and moan, even as a woman suffering the same symptoms would simply drag herself from bed and get on with it. Well, not my HH.  As in most things, he and I are total opposites when it comes to illness:  if the HH gets sick, he retreats to bed, lies inert for about 48 hours, then emerges, like Ripley out of a stasis chamber, exactly as he was before.  (The first time this occurred, I was truly alarmed: I was certain the guy had croaked on me, as he literally slept for two days without even getting up to eat or drink).  I, on the other hand, am more likely stricken with a chronic, pervasive, low-grade, not-quite-debilitating-but-definitely-quite-annoying set of symptoms that lasts anywhere from four days to two months. I can function, but I’m miserable while I’m doing it.

One weekend a few weeks ago, Chaser had her first encounter with the HH’s unique form of healing.  After he crawled into bed, I closed the door, as usual, so Dad could sleep it off. The Girls were entirely thrown off their regular routine. They moped about outside the bedroom, looking rather–well, hang-dog.

Finally, around 5:00 PM, the door swung open and there he was–and vertical!  The Girls were ecstatic (“Does this mean we get to go to the trail now??”). Even as hope faded when the HH plunked himself in front of the TV, a dull patina of illness still coating his visage and a network of sheet-wrinkles, like tributaries on a map, spread across his face, those Girls still stuck by their Dad. 

I headed to the kitchen to whip up something hearty for the HH’s first meal back in civilization. Before I could even grab a spatula, however, there were The Girls at my feet, staring patiently.  Ah, yes, I’d forgotten that 5:00 PM is dog dinnertime. (“Right, Mum.  Food trumps sick owner. Sorry Dad, but you’re on your own.”)

As to the humans’ dinner, I decided on tempeh, a food I love but don’t eat often enough. Pairing a vague notion of BBQ season with a half-consumed jar of apple butter, I had my starting point. I realize there’s a plethora of BBQ recipes out there around this time of year, from the archetypal Wingz at Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk to these recent lovelies at Happy Herbivore and another fairly recent version at Vegan Dad.  But I was determined to use that apple butter, so I just grabbed a few other items from the fridge and began to mix.  

The results were, after all, very pleasing.  The tempeh’s meaty texture works well with the slightly spicy, slightly sweet flavors of the sauce. If you like BBQ sauce with a kick, you’ll enjoy this dish.  Unfortunately for the HH, he missed out on that particular gustatory pleasure, as his nose was still too congested for him to really appreciate the taste.  Still, the high protein content of the tempeh worked well to help rebuild his stamina, and he was back to work the following day. 

But I think we’ll hold off on any more trips to Montreal–for a little while, at least.

Because of tempeh provides such a healthy source of protein, I’m submitting this to Sangeeth at Art of Cooking Indian Food for her Eat Healthy–Protein Rich event.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Tempeh

These are slightly sweet, slightly gooey with a spicy kick.  I assume they’d be even better if actually cooked on a grill, but this baked version was equally tasty.

TO VIEW THE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

Well, it’s certainly been a poster week for “Beginning of the Summer Semester” at the college:  long lineups outside the Chair’s office (but really, doesn’t it sound better as “Office Chairs”?), students transferring from one class to the next, questions, emails; scheduling changes so speedy that students barely have time to check their timetables before they’re registered in a new course. Yep, it’s kept me on my toes, with nary a minute extra to indulge my extra-curricular activities (really, now! Get those minds out of the gutter!). Activities such as writing this blog.  (Oh, and to all my students this term: Hi, Guys!)

Taking part in my Total Health course hasn’t actually helped much with the dearth of spare time, either.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I am loving this course, and it’s kept me on the Path of Righteous Eating for the past 2-1/2 weeks (and I must admit, I am feeling MUCH more energetic and lighter so far). 

Apart from our homework (see the Coda at the end of the post), the course requires that one prepare and eat healthy food.  No, I mean ÜBER healthy food–the type I learned at nutrition school:  nothing pre-packaged, nothing processed, nothing with chemicals, additives, sugar, wheat (or even flour, if I’m going to be really strict about it), nothing alcoholic, and, perhaps most difficult of all, nothing chocolate.  (Yep, that’s right; those muffins and cupcakes I wrote about last time?  Verboten.  Banned. Prohibited. Technically not allowed.  So was it lack of willpower or courageous defiance that prompted me to bake them?  I’ll let you be the judge.) 

What this directive translates to, for the most part, is spending more time in the kitchen.  More time peeling parsnips, more time scooping seeds out of butternut squash, more time cutting leaves from collard stems, more time dicing onions, more time chopping, slicing, sautéeing, stirring, simmering, pouring, spreading, baking, cutting.  The only part that doesn’t take more time is eating.

Well, for those of you who’ve been visiting this blog for a while, you may have inferred that, when it comes to cooking, I’m all about “easy.”  As much as I relish veggies, whole grains, dried beans or legumes and raw nuts and seeds, I am less than enthusiastic about the time required to transform those raw materials into something worth its all-natural, unrefined, organic, hand-harvested, Artisanal Celtic sea salt.

The other night, having spent the day on campus, I got home a little later than usual.  I was hungry. In fact, I was ready to eat dinner right that very minute.  But dinner, unfortunately, was not ready for me.  Perusing the contents of the fridge and considering what I could throw together that would satisfy both me and the HH, I came up with this lovely millet and pepper dish. 

My health course has been highlighting gluten-free grains, and millet is a definite winner in that category.  Great for heart health and (like all whole grains) ample in fiber, millet also offers antioxidant properties at par with, or superior to, many fruits and vegetables (such as helping prevent breast cancer, Type II diabetes, asthma or postmenopausal symptoms).  Finally, it’s generally considered to be the “most alkaline” of whole grains, meaning that it supports the natural pH (acid-alkaline) balance in our blood.

For most of you, this would likely serve as a sidekick to a separate main attraction (whether tofu, tempeh, meat, or whatever).  For me, it ended up as the entire meal, though I’d caution that this really isn’t protein-rich enough to use that way very often. 

The best part was that it came together quickly, and still tasted great.  The combination of mild curry and coconut milk adds an Asian undertone to the dish, complimented by the sweetness in the red peppers.  When the veggies are combined in a casserole dish with the grain, the millet becomes imbued with a lovely golden color that’s a great visual counterpoint to the red.  Pretty to look at, pleasingly aromatic and ready in a flash–it’s the perfect date side dish!

With its peppers and fresh basil, this is a great submission to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, started at Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

Easy Millet and Red Pepper Pilaf

From start to finish, this dish can be ready in about 20 minutes.  It’s also great the next day.

1 cup (250 ml.) vegetable broth

1/2 cup (125 ml.) coconut milk

1/2 cup dry millet

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large red peppers, cored, seeded and chopped

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 small tomato, diced

1 tsp. (5 ml.) mild curry powder (or more, to taste)

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground coriander

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Grease a large casserole or spray with nonstick coating.

In a medium-sized pot, combine the broth and coconut milk, and bring just to the boil over medium heat.  Add the millet, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the millet is soft and most of the liquid is absorbed (if it’s not ready after 20 minutes, continue to cook for 5 minutes at a time and check until done).

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to coat the veggies with the spices, and continue to cook another 5-10 minutes, until onion is soft. 

Stir the veggies into the millet mixture and turn into the casserole.  Bake until heated through and slightly browned on top, 20-25 minutes.  Serves two as a main course or 3 as a side dish. May be frozen.

Total Health Coda: This week’s lesson involved, once again, eating mindfully.  We actually did the “eating a raisin” meditation that I mentioned in a previous post.  The major insight for me, though, was delivered through an exercise we did at the end of the class (after we’d sampled at least four delectable, healthy dishes).  We were asked to tune in to our bodies to seek any lingering sense of hunger, and, if so, to determine where it resided.  Many in the class identified a metaphorical “hunger,” somewhere in the chest, or vicinity of the heart.  As the teacher remarked, “You may feel as if you’ve eaten enough, yet still feel hungry.”  In other words, this is clearly not a hunger for food per se

For some reason, I found this realization revelatory:  What? You mean it’s okay to just feel hungry, and not do anything about it? You don’t have to eat when you feel that way?  Of course, I’d encountered similar sentiments over the years in books, on websites, or at lectures, but somehow honing in on the exact spot of the “hunger” made it abundantly clear that eating, in so many cases, is used to satisfy emotional yearning as well as physical appetite.

Tofu Quiche for Thirty

January 15, 2008

The weather continues to annoy me, what with all the grey and gloom and snow and slush.  Too much shadow (and so I take umbrage at the weather. Bah.)

Consequently, I wasn’t all too thrilled when I remembered that I had to drive about 40 minutes just to teach a cooking class this evening at a local RCSS.  Besides, the coordinator had called me on Friday to tell me only six people had signed up!  I love doing these classes, and the intimate number of participants is always nice because it allows for one-on-one attention, but this darned Canadian winter just seemed too intimidating (the temperature was supposed to drop to -4 C this evening, which meant a slippery drive home at 9:00 PM). 

Well, what a surprise when I showed up to the kitchen, only to be informed that the class was fully booked, with 30 people!  Although I’ve previously baked quantities beyond that (muffins for 300, anyone?), I’ve never prepared such large quantities of food, all at one time, in front of an audience.

Luckily, the coordinator was a trained chef who could chop onions and skin tomatoes like nobody’s business.  He had the prep work done in a flash, and when the class started, all I had to do was don my chef’s cap, chat about my recipes, and basically have a good time.  The only difficulty I had was stirring a quinoa salad for 30 (I knew I should have gone to the workout club this morning!)

Even though the participants were neither vegetarian nor vegan, they arrived in such large numbers because the class was entirely gluten-free and they all had issues with gluten.  One of the dishes I demonstrated was Tofu Quiche, a big hit with my HH as well, so I thought I’d share it here.  I’ll post some of the others as well over the next while. (Sorry there’s no photo–I actually brought my camera with me to the store, then forgot to take a pic as the hungry crowd devoured the meal).

Egg-Free Quiche with Millet Crust

 This quiche is great for anyone on a gluten-free diet.  The unusual, mild millet crust is the perfect accompaniment to the smooth and flavourful quiche filling.  Vary the vegetables in the quiche according to your taste—almost anything goes!  

For the crust: 

1/2 cup dried millet

1 cup vegetable broth

pinch of sea salt 

For the filling: 

1 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced small

2 roasted red peppers or 1 fresh, sliced into thin strips (or one of each)

1 carrot, grated fine

1 cup very firmly packed spinach or chard leaves, stems removed, chopped

700 g. silken or soft tofu (about 2 cups)

1 Tbsp. white miso paste

2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari 

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease a pie plate. 

Make the crust:  Pour millet into a small pot and add water.  Bring to boil over high heat, then lower heat to simmer, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes.   Uncover and stir.  The millet should be a bit mushy, with some moisture still in the pan. 

Immediately pour the millet into the pie plate and, using the back of a spoon or wet hands (and being careful not to burn yourself!), press the millet into the pie plate to make a “crust.” (Dipping the spoon or your hands in water helps). Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes until slightly dry to the touch. 

Make the filling:  Heat oil in a large frypan and sauté onions for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft.  Add the pepper, carrot, and spinach, and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and other ingredients begin to soften.  Cover and turn off heat. 

In a food processor or blender, mix the tofu, miso, tahini, and soy sauce until very smooth. Pour the mixture over the vegetables in the pan and stir to combine well. Turn into the crust in the pie pan. 

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until top is light golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving (the quiche firms up as it sits–it’s actually better the next day!).  May be eaten hot, at room temperature, or cold.

Makes 8 servings.