Friday, February 18, 2011

Seitan isn't Satan, but tofu sure is.

So I'm over halfway through my meat-free February!! It has been an uphill battle... I find myself craving things I don't normally crave - BBQ wings for example - but I've had some fun with new recipes and trying new things.

I gave tofu one shot out to eat last week, and it was terrible. I've had it prepared well before (namely at Thai Express in Clifton) - when they saute the tofu in a sauce so it's crispy and flavorful... but not so the last time I had it (at a different Thai restaurant that will remain nameless. There's gotta be better options than tofu! YUCK!

So my main new discovery has been this seitan stuff. Seitan is wheat gluten - wheat flour is rinsed until all the starch dissolves and what's left is this elastic mass that has a similar texture to ground beef. I got some to try at Park+Vine, and it worked out pretty well. I crumbled it and sauteed in in oil, and it was good both in a salad and later as a "phony coney" - cranberry walnut bread (locally made, also from P+V), seitan and cheddar cheese melted in the toaster oven. YUM.

(pics: Upton's Naturals Seitan and spinach salad with raspberries, oranges, honey sesame sticks and seitan)

I've also had good success with beans. For Super Bowl Sunday I made a really fantastic black bean and sweet potato chili adapted from Serious Eats (using Arrogant Bastard Ale), and tonight for dinner I just made the best freakin' black bean burgers of probably ever. Yes, seriously. Ever.

See? They were fantastic. 

 Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

1 16 oz can black beans, rinsed and dried
1 8 oz can chopped carrots, rinsed and dried
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
4 TBS minced garlic
1/4 cup flax seeds (gotta get that protein!)
1 egg
3/4 cup Italian seasoned croutons, smashed
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, garam masala
 1. drain and rinse the beans and carrots, and squish them with a fork in a bowl until they're all mushed.

2. loosely chop the onion and red pepper with a knife, put the pieces into your food processor with the garlic and flax seed. (10 points if your food processor is with the immersion blender like mine). Chop it up until it's really fine, then strain out most of the liquid through a mesh colander or one with small holes.

 3. Combine the pureed vegetable mixture into the bean bowl. Add egg, croutons and bread crumbs. Add the spices a little at a time until the mix tastes good. Stir to combine - the mixture should be easy to work with and not crazy sticky - if it is, add more bread crumbs. Use your hands, you know you want to.

4. Form into patties whatever size you like - I made 3 big ones and 4 sliders and some meatballs for later this week. It makes a good amount of food - probably enough for 3 or 4 guys. Bake the patties on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Add a little mozzarella cheese 3 minutes before removing.
I served my sliders on toast with mango chutney and brown mustard. 

No fat, all protein and vegetables and wonderfulness - and it was REALLY filling. Enjoy!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Mom is Awesome.

 No seriously. She's amazing. The woman raised two kids for 12 years, and regularly outdid herself in terms of domestic, family and school affairs. For example: Once long, long ago, if I had friends spend the night over the weekend, Mom would make pancakes for breakfast.

Not just pancakes, though, a special recipe from scratch.

And not just from scratch pancakes, but pancakes shaped into various shapes - initials, cats, christmas trees, flowers... you name it.

This is how us Kesslers operate: above and beyond. There is always a way.

So anyway, she came to visit me about a month ago while I was (and still am) in the throes of the Very Cold Apartment experience. And she decided I needed curtains for my many windows (7 windows for a 3 room apartment! Amazing... and cold.)

Not just curtains, though... handmade curtains.

And not just handmade curtains, but curtains with black out fabric attached, in order to block light and retain what little heat my poor pad may have.

So she took measurements, we figured out the colors (hey, that interior design degree still comes in handy sometimes!) and two weeks later, hey, presto!  She also made a futon and ottoman cover. And some pillow covers. And they all look AWESOME.


 Living room


Futon/Ottoman cover. 

Hey... they seem to like it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meat-Free February

My friends Janice and Andy did a vegetarian diet for the month of January, and it got me thinking. I don't eat much meat to begin with - the occasional slice of bacon/chicken broth to flavor my soups, shrimp, sushi and sometimes burgers when I go out to eat. People often ask me if I'm vegetarian and I say, "I eat what I want!" It makes them laugh, but it's true. I often eat vegetarian meals because they're tasty (and cheap!), but I will answer the siren song of a delicious burger without hesitation.

But we all know how good it is for you, for the planet, for humanity, for the future, to cut back on meat consumption. So I'm going to try it.

I have trouble sticking to resolutions, mainly due to forgetfulness and lack of interest. So I'm thinking I will try not eating meat for the month of February. It's only 28 days, and it will be fun finding new recipes to try out. Of course I'm taking you with me ;)

Yesterday I kicked off my meatless February with a grilled goat cheese and spinach (and Grippo's BBQ chips) sandwich from Tom + Chee. My friend Shannon gave me a recipe for that night's dinner - she calls them "Nom Wraps": tortillas with cream cheese, spinach, sauteed red onion, roasted butternut squash, and sliced green pepper.

They were REALLY nom!! Thanks lady!