Pink Beans and Rice

A few weeks ago, I found a vegan blog with, what I think is, the funniest title: I Eat Food.  No duh.  But the recipes on it looked delish, and I couldn't wait to try some of them.  (I did find one really odd thing about the author though; he doesn't like mushrooms!  Oh, horrors of horrors!)  I found a recipe that seemed to be heaven sent just for me- Pink Beans and Rice.  Lately, I have still been craving rice for some really strange reason, and I still have a huge bag of pink beans floating around that need to be used up.  I also just happened to have some Morning Star burger crumbles on hand, and so the dish was born. 
I have to say, it has a bit of a Mexican flair, which was just right with me.  This is, as I pointed out to M, a great dish for sore muscles... which seem to be a problem with us this weekend!  (Blame the YMCA instructors)  Once the prepwork for this dish is done- meaning cooking the rice and beans- it should take all of 15 minutes working time to throw in a pot and let simmer.  And the results are excellent!  Nice and warming, filling, and a very nice mixture of flavours that would probably go well with almost any other dish.  Great for cooler weather, and it makes a ton.

Pink Beans and Rice

Adapted from I Eat Food

Serves 8

1 1/3 cup dried pink beans, cooked
1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1 large onion, chopped
1 smallish bell pepper, chopped small
6 cloves garlic, pressed
1 ½ cups boca crumbles
2 cups canned tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 tbsp Better Than Bullion Vegetarian Beef Flavour
2 tbsp bbq sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 1/4 cups uncooked brown rice, cooked (which equals 3 1/3 cup cooked)

Heat a large dutch oven coated with nonstick spray over medium high heat with a bit of water. Add the onions, and sauté until soft, about 7-8 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic, and for a couple minutes more, until they are cooked. Add all of the ingredients except the rice, and simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Stir in the rice, and cook for 10 more minutes, adding water to get the texture you desire. Serve.


A Heavy and (Of Course) Delish Stir Fry

Another one of those lovely clean-out-the fridge recipes.  I don't know who doesn't love those... I sure do.  Anyway, I was very pleasently surprised to see how good this one turned out.  So much better than I though it would.  And it took so much less time that I had predicted, too, which is always nice.  I know, this isn't the prettiest stir fry, but who cares when it is something that you just want to gobble up at lightning speed? 

Anyway, I really think straw mushrooms are growing on me.  And the balance of the bean sauce in the sauce (that sounds kind of weird) was perfect, so yay for this recipe.  The tofu knots are always something that both M and I really enjoy, and so are the walnuts, which I have just recently discovered as another nuts possibility for stir fries.  Hehe, I got to use another one of my monster onions in this recipe, too.  I love those babies!  They are awesome, and totally outdo any onions that you could ever find. 

Black Bean Sauce Stir Fry

Serves 4-6

Adapted from CookShareEat.com

• 6 oz soba noodles, or any other kind of noodle, cooked
• Veggie broth, as needed
• 3-4 Tbsp black bean garlic sauce (I just happened to have just over 3, so I usedit up…)
• 3 Tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp mirin
• 1 tbsp agave nectar
• Chili sauce, to taste
• 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
• 1 monster onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
• 3 heads baby bok choy, chopped
• 1 large portabella mushroom, chopped
• 3 cups shiitake mushrooms, cut into large pieces
• 1 can straw mushrooms
• 1 leek, tough green stems removed, chopped
• 1 large carrot
• ½ package dried bean curd knots (75 grams), soaked
• 4 green onions, sliced into ½ inch pieces
• Walnuts

1. In a small bowl, combine black bean sauce, soy sauce, mirin, nectar, chili sauce, and corn starch. Set aside for later.
2. Heat a wok coated with nonstick spray over high heat. Add the onion, and sauté for a minute, then add the carrot and leek, adding broth as needed. Cook for another minute, until heated up again. Then add Portobello and shiitakes, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until almost almost tender. Add the green onions, and cook for another minute. Add the bok choy, cook for another minute, and then add the sauce, bean curd skin, and straw mushrooms. Cook until it’s done to your liking.
3. You can either stir in the noodles, or serve them separately. Top with walnuts.


Bamboo- Fresh!

So, I was adventurous enough to give fresh bamboo shoots a go today.  I actually bought them quite awhile ago, but have never had the chance to make this dish until today for lunch.  The original recipe is from that amazing cookbook called Wok.  The weird thing, though, is that the bamboo shoots in their picture look nothing like the ones I got from the Asian market. 
Oh, it was kind of funny- M and I had no clue what these were when we got them.  I was pretty sure they were bamboo shoots, but there was no lable or anything.  When we were checking out, they rang up as bamboo shoots, and I said "Oh, look.  We guessed right."
So, we ended up with this for lunch.  And I have to say, I almost hesitated when I was cutting up the bamboo shoots because they looked so darn funny!  But they went in, along with the odd assortment of veggies that were lying around.  I do have to say, I think M and I are big fans of hoisin sauce!  That stuff tastes great, and gave this dish a boost in flavour.  I would certainly make this one again, and perhaps serve it over rice.  I think the alfalfa is another really unique thing about this stir fry.  I never would have thought of it, but Wok said to top it off with alfalfa, and so I obeyed.  The sprouts add a pleasant crunch, and M said it made her feel like she was eating a salad.  Which I kind of felt like too.  A darn good salad.  With bamboo... go figure.

Bamboo Shoots and Veggies in Hoisin Sauce

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Wok

1 lb fresh bamboo shoots, cut into halves (I don’t know how many pounds I used, but it was about 3-4 cups, one box at the Asian market)
½ lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup snap peas, trimmed
2 baby bok choy, chopped
1 tbsp yellow bean sauce
1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
Alfalfa sprouts

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a wok over medium high heat. Add the bamboo and mushrooms, adding more water as needed throughout. Stir fry for about 2 minutes, then add the celery, pepper, and peas. When the mushrooms are about tender, add the bok choy, yellow bean sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, and hoisin sauce. Cook until all veggies are tender, about 4 more minutes. Serve topped with alfalfa and parsley.


Really Over-Stuffed Tofu

Last night I decided to give Fat Free Vegan's Stuffed Tofu recipe a go.  Although I decided to add a few more veggies, I didn't think that that would really change all that much.  Appearently it did.  Although making the tofu pockets was not hard in itself, there was WAY too much filling to fit inside of them.  It turned out to be some sort of casserole. 
I think that this is a great recipe- slightly bland, but a good starting point.  Thus, I have edited it to where I think this this dish would turn out great, and with a lot less trouble than M and I went through.  My experience with this dish was not really that great- the rice seemed to not want to cook, so we just served that on the side.  Also, both M and I agree that a separate gravy, like Fat Free Vegan calls for, is not really necessary for this.  Also, I solved the blandness problem by adding a bit more soy sauce to my serving, along with a bit of black bean sauce. 
Like I said, this is a great recipe- not really like anything that I have made before.  But I really have no clue how Susan made her's work out to be so perfect.  Ah.  The mysteries of a professional chef...  Honestly, I think some people can work miracels. 
But anyway, here is my version of Tofu and Veggie Casserole- not nearly as fancy as what Susan came up with, but tasty nonetheless.  And much less time consuming, to boot.
One last thing- I bet if you wanted to add nuts, almond slivers or walnuts would taste fantastic!

Tofu and Veggie Casserole

Inspired by Fat Free Vegan

Serves 4 as a main dish

1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed

1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, coined
2 small ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. ground sage
3/4 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 cup long-grain brown rice, cooked
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp black bean sauce

1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ can straw mushrooms
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp ground sage
1 3/4 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. Liquid Smoke
salt and pepper, to taste
Cut the tofu into thin, large rectangles.
Heat a large frying pan coated with nonstick spray over medium high heat. Saute the onions and carrots for 2 minutes, then add the celery, garlic, and shiitakes. Continue cooking until about half way done, then add the bell pepper. When all veggies are tender, remove from heat. Mix in the thyme, sage, rosemary, pepper, basil, soy sauce, and black bean sauce. Move to a separate bowl.
Reheat the frying pan, and add the small onion and garlic. Saute until onion is tender, and then add the remaining ingredients- straw mushrooms through salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to convection 350. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray, and then add half of the bell pepper mixture. Top that with half of the tofu slices, and then top that with all the rice. Put on the remaining tofu, then bell pepper mixture, and top it all off with the straw mushroom dressing. Bake for about 20 minutes, until heated through.

Orange Pho Noodles

As I was hunting around for ideas on how to use up some left over pho noodles, I stumbled upon this recipe on Vegan Dad's blog.  I thought I would give it a whirl, and see how things turned out.  I added a few more veggies, as usual, and increased the sauce a bit.  Even with these changes, when I first ate it, the stir fry seemed kind of bland, so I though about it for a minute, and darted back to the kitchen for some hot sauce and five spice powder.  That seemed to lived it up a little bit.  Actually, with those additions it was quite tasty.  I think, though, that this recipe could do with a bit more work, and here I have posted what I think would be the ideal recipe. 

This combination of veggies should work well, and the marmalade always seems to add extra depth to orangey dishes.  Hopfully I can give this version a whirl soon...

Orange Pho Noodles, Tofu, and Veggies

Serves 4

Inspired by Vegan Dad

3.5 oz Pho noodles, cooked in boiling water for a minute or two and soaked for 45 minutes
8 oz tofu, pressed and cubed
1 red pepper, sliced into slivers
2 baby bok choy, chopped
2 1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 ½ cups snap peas
4 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped
6 green onions, cut into 1"pieces
3 tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp miso paste
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup sugar free orange marmalade
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp five spice powder, or to taste
2 tsp chili sauce, or to taste

1. Mix together the soy sauce, corn starch, miso, orange juice, marmalade, agave, five spice powder, and hot sauce in a small bowl.
2. Heat a wok over high heat with a bit of water. Add the broccoli and shiitakes, and sauté for 2 minutes, adding more water as needed. Add the peas and, and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until shiitakes are about ½ way done. Add the bell pepper and onions. After 2 more minutes add the bok choy. When the bok choy has wilted add the sauce and tofu, and heat through. Add the noodles, and stir until hot and everything is coated with the sauce.
3. Serve, topped off with peanuts.


More Udon- with Walnuts!

I think M's favorite kind of noodle is udon.  I really, really do.  I can't say that myself, becauce I love all kinds of noodles, really, but udons are great!  I love their texture, and their thickness makes them seem so luxurious and rich.  The miso- based sauce in this recipe seemed to really do the trick for the veggies, and both M and I loved the walnuts.  The mixture of veggies is really quite vibrant- I love the look of this stir fry too- very photogenic!
We had never actually had walnuts on a stir fry before, but when I saw this recipe, I was inspired to take some of it's basic elements, change the veggies, and came up with this recipe. 
I added a little hot sauce to my bowl, but I just wanted a little heat tonight.  The noodles don't really need it, but it was an excellent addition, I thought. 

I created this recipe with veggies enough for 3 servings, because that is the amount on udon that needed to be used up.  Just increase the sauce a bit, and add a few more veggies, and this could easily become a four serving dish.

Ooooh!  I had a little project of placemats going on, and M and I finally finished them this morning.  On one side, they are neon yellow with flowers, and on the other they are black with big colourful circles.  I will try to post a picture soon.  They are quite nice, and they look great.  It's cool to be able to say they are homemade! 

Miso Walnut Udon Noodles

Serves 3

Inspired by  Gardian.co.uk

½ large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, coined
3 green onions
3 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 cup snap peas, trimmed
1 generous cup broccoli, cut into florets
6 oz tofu, pressed and cubed
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp miso paste
3 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp agave nectar
Water or broth, as needed
3 servings fresh udon noodles, cooked
Walnuts, for topping

Mix together the miso, mirin, soy sauce, and agave. Set aside

Heat a wok over medium high heat. Add a bit of water, and add the carrot and shiitakes, adding more water as needed to prevent sticking. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the broccoli and peas along with the ginger and garlic. Stir fry for 2 more minutes. Then add the green onions and bell pepper. Cook until veggies are almost finished, then add the sauce and tofu. Heat through, add the udon, and stir until the sauce has coated everything. Serve, topped with walnuts.


Spicy Browned Curry Tofu and Veggies

Wow.  This dish turned out... really spicy.  Not to mention good smelling and tasting... but still.  M and I were actually crying a little bit at the end of our bowls.  But, despite the heat (foodwise, and outdoors, still), it turned out to be something quite memorable!
This is another dish that I adapted from the cookbook Wok.  It was originally called Spicy Fried Meat, and used pork, and had lots of oil and cucumber.  But, obviously, neither of those sit well with me, so I decided that some changes were in order!  At the last minute, I asked M what other veggie we should throw in, becauce the pile looked rather skimpy, and she liked my suggestion of cauliflower.  I actually really liked that addition, so yay.
The tofu seems to take forever to brown properly, but M and I were patient, and I think it was in the wok for atleast half an hour.  We were well rewarded though, and it was so nicely browned.  And I have included the original amout of chili sauce and curry paste in the recipe, but, just warning you, it's HOT. 
We served ours over a bed of raw green cabbage, but this would also be a great dish to have over rice or with noodles.  I might give rice a whirl next time... we'll see.

For some reason, this week I have been craving mushrooms.  M and I made a trip to the Asian market yesterday, and we came back with a boatload of mushrooms.  They have a really strong odor, but I don't really mind- nor, thankfully, does M.  It's actually quite envigorating.  But our fridge is exploding with things of Asian origin... need to work on that.

Spicy Browned Curry Tofu and Veggies

Adapted from Wok

Serves 4

1 tsp peanut oil

1 lb tofu, chopped (I did triangles just for a change here)
½ tsp pepper
4-5 tbsp soy sauce
3-4 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp stir fry sauce
1 tbsp chili sauce
1 ½ tbsp yellow curry paste
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, sliced into florets
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½- 2 cups purple cabbbge, shredded
2 large king oyster mushrooms, chopped
8 black olives, sliced
8 green olives, sliced
2 baby bok choy, chopped
Nutmeg, to taste
Peanut for garnish

Heat the peanut oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the tofu, and fry for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl.

Mix together the pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, stir fry sauce, chili sauce, and curry paste in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat up the wok again, and add a little water. Add the cauliflower and shallots, and stir fry for 2 minutes, adding water as needed. Add the mushrooms, cabbage, and garlic, and cook until fairly heated through. Add the bok choy and both kinds of olives, and cook until bok choy is wilted. Stir in the sauce, and add the tofu and nutmeg. Heat through, and serve when all veggies are done, topped with peanuts.

Serve over rice, noodles, or raw green cabbage, with plenty of tissues and water.


Apple Cole Slaw

This is an odd little cole slaw that I had obtained quite a long time ago from All Recipes.  I say odd because it is quite simple, and yet is so utterly delicious!  And, atleast to me, the ingredients seem like quite an odd combination.  But, every so often  I get a craving for a cold, crunchy, creamy salad, and this is the one that comes to mind.  The ingredient are something that M and I always keep around, so, as we were really out of things for lunch today, I decided that this would fit the bill for cooling us off on another one of these ridiculously hot days. 
I normally just eyeball the ingredients when I make this cole slaw, and they are really quite flexible.  I also sometimes play with the ingredients, and would encourage you to do the same! 
One thing, though.  The apples need to be coated in lemon juice, if the salad is going to sit around very long, because that will prevent them from going brown.  What I did this most recent time was, since the juice was in a little plastic bowl, I put a couple apple slices in there and shook it up.  I have also just dipped the apples in the juice.  Just whatever seems practical at the time.
It's also very easy to make more servings of this, if you have more mouths to feed...

Apple Cole Slaw

Adapted from Allrecipes

Serves 2, generously

2 1/2 cups chopped cabbage

1 unpeeled red apple, cored and chopped
1 small carrot chopped
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 green onion, chopped
3 tbsp fat free mayonnaise
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

Mix together the cabbage, apple (coated with lemon juice), carrot, pepper, and onion.  Add the mayo, sugar, and remaining lemon juice, and stir to coat.  Refridgerate until ready to serve.


Udon Noodle Stir Fry

Several months ago, I had seen this most amazing picture of a noodle stir fry.  It really must have made an impression on me, because I think I actually dreamed about those noodles several times.  Long, thick, lucious noodles with a slightly sweet and soy-saucy sauce, mixed with some of my favourite veggies in the whole world.  To my dismay, though, I could not find the website again.  I searched, and, finally!  I had rediscovered that website with those noodles that had been haunting me. 
I took the recipe and modified it a bit, adding more veggies and such, and could hardly wait to try it.  The only major change was that M and I could find nothing but fresh udon noodles- none of the big yellow ones that the original called for.  But the stir fry turned out so excellent- the noodles were delicious, the sauce perfect, and the veggies were all among my favourites.  Especially the king oyster mushrooms! 
You can find the udon noodles in the frozen/refrigerated section of the Asian markets.  Mine were part of a soup mix, but I through the seasoning packets away as they contained squid extract.  The noodles were vegetarian, though (obviously).  I have got to do more cooking with udon, now that I know I can buy them.

Udon Noodle Stir Fry

Serves 4

Inspired by Melting Wok

16 oz fresh udon noodles
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, chopped
12 oz king oyster mushrooms (3 small or 2 large)
1 red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups snap peas
2 baby bok choy
5 oz spinach
2 ½ cups red cabbage
1 egg, beaten
½ tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp stir fry sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp mirin
½ tbsp hot sauce
Pepper to taste
Cashews or peanuts for garnish

Mix together the corn starch, stir fry sauce, soy sauce, agave, mirin, and hot sauce in a bowl. Set aside

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles until they begin to separate, just over five minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a bit of water in a wok over medium high heat. Add the cabbage and mushrooms, and stir fry for a minute or so. Add the bell pepper, garlic, and peas, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the green onion and bok choy, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the spinach, stir until wilted, then create a crater in the middle of the veggies. Pour in the egg, and allow to sit for several minutes, until the egg is almost cooked through. Stir in the egg and add the sauce, and cook until heated through. Serve, topped off with nuts.


A New Twist on Steamed Spinach

This is another recipe that I got from the cookbook The Food of Vietnam from the library.  It only has 5 ingredients, but it has such a powerful taste!  The original recipe was called Pan-Fried Water Spinach with Yellow Bean Sauce, but I skipped the frying part and made the dish without the oil.  I think my least favourite thing about this dish is that even though I spent almost an hour in the kitchen tearing off the stems from the spinach, it yeilded only 2 normal sized servings.  Oh well... I did use baby spinach in place of the water spinach, because that is what we had on hand.  The cookbook said that the best substitute would be regular spinach, but you use what you have, right?

Actually, the story behind the spinach is kind of funny.  When M and I last went to the grocery store, we got this HUGE bag of baby spinach becuase it was so much cheaper than where we normally get salad greens.  I was laughing so hard when we got it.  The spinach looked really good too, and just needed to be stemmed and run through the salad spinner, and it was ready to go!
I think the unique ingredient in this spinach recipe is the yellow bean sauce.  I found our jar next to all of the stir fry sauces, but no telling where you could buy one in other stores.  The bottle that we bought was a really dumb design, though.  The sauce is really thick, and the bottle has such a small opening, I had to use a knife to get the stuff out.  Studpid manufacturers.  But the flavour was incredible- it was so strong, I have to say that this is not a dish, as M put it, that goes unnoticed.  It is quite salty, but the dominent flavour is very hard to describe.  It's almost bitter, but not quite.  Anyway, I highly recommend trying it out.

Sauted Spinach with Yellow Bean Sauce

Serves 2
Adapted from The Food of Vietnam

2 servings spinach, with water from washing still on leaves (when it is steamed, so TONS more than you would think)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp yellow bean sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a large kettle coated with nonstick spray. Sauté garlic and green onions in a bit of water for about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook until it is almost all wilted, about 4 minutes. Add the yellow bean sauce and salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach is entirely wilted.


Pho and Mock Beef

Around two months ago, I tried this seitan beef recipe from Vegan Dad's blog to use in a stir fry and a salad.  It was really quite tasty, and had a great texture and flavour.  I modified it a bit, cutting out the oil, and I dry-fried them instead of using oil.  It was so wierd how they almost smelled like real beef when they were cooking!  I never would have guessed that something like that was possible with non-meat ingredients.  Incredible recipe, Vegan Dad!  Only, the first time I made them, the pieces seemed pathetically small after frying, so I researched setian a bit more (it was my first time working with the stuff).  It seems that most recipies call for boiling the setian in broth, so I decided to try that.  It was quite... cool.. to see how much bigger the pieces got,  and how much of the water they absorbed.  So, if you are unframiliar with setian and are more than slightly dismayed when you see how small the pieces are, never fear.  Just boil it!

And now about the Pho.  When I was visiting my aunt and uncle, my aunt highly recommended trying this soup.  She told me that it was Vietnamese, and was usually made with beef, but it could be made vegetarian.  Well, of course I had to eventually give it a shot, and yesterday was the day.  I thought there were quite a few interesting ingredients in the few recipes that I looked at, and the one I finally settled on looked like it was authentic enough, without having to chase all over for ingredients in bags that neither M nor I can read.  The one thing, though, that we couldn't find at that certain store was anise, which made me really mad because I had seen it before.  Murphy's law, I guess. 
But the soup was quite fun to make, and rather easy too for the amount that it made.  I used official pho noodles, of course, which seemed rather bland until I added chili garlic sauce to my serving of the soup- M thought they tasted just fine as is.  The broth was rather interesting I though, especially with the cinnamon stick and the five spice powder.  It was sweet, but it fit just right with the soup.  Most certainly, it was not a heavy broth at all, and very clear.  And the veggies were, of course, great, as was the beef..!  This is a very unique soup, and unlike anything that I have ever had before.  I really should try more of this Vietnamese stuff... you know?

Mock Beef

Adapted from Vegan Dad

Makes enough for two recipes, I guess

1/4 cup TVP (textured vegetable protien)
2 tbsp vegetarian stir fry sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp bbq sauce sauce
1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce, or something similar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 tbsp water (if needed)

Mix all the wet ingredients with the TVP and let sit for five minutes or so.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything hold together, adding water as needed.  Roll the dough into several long snakes, as thin as possible, and cut into pieces.  Keep in mind that they will double in size when boiled.
Heat a large frying pan coated with nonstick spray over medium heat.  Saute the beef for 5 minutes or so, until browned. 
Boil a large pot of broth, and then add the beef and let simmer for about an hour.  Remove from broth.  They can be frozen, but I don't know how long- atleast a couple weeks, probably.
The broth can still be used later, it tastes really good!

Vegetarian Pho

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Gastronomy

• 7 oz flat rice noodles
• 1 1 inch piece ginger
• 1 stick cinnamon
• 3 vegetable bouillon cubes
• 8 cups water
• 1 ½ tablespoons Chinese five spice
• ¼ cup soy sauce
• 1 ½ tbsp sugar
• 1/2 recipe mock beef
• 1 leek, top tough part removed
• 1 onion, chopped rather large
• 1 ½ cups bean sprouts
• 8 oz. mushrooms (any variety, but something with a heavy flavor would work best like king oyster or shiitake)
• Extra soy sauce
• Chili garlic sauce
• ½ tsp Black pepper
• Limes, cilantro, and/or basil, to serve

Cook the rice noodles in boiling water for 1 1/2 minutes, remove from heat, and let soak for 45 minutes or more, until they stop expanding.
Bring the 8 cups water to a boil in a large soup pot.  Add the ginger, cinnamon, bullion, five spice powder, soy sauce, and sugar.  Stir to dissolve the bullion cubes, and simmer for atleast 45 minutes, the longer the better.  When ready to use, remove ginger and cinnamon.
Heat a wok over high heat.  Add a few tablespoons of water, and saute the onion and leeks for 5 minutes, adding water as needed.  Add the mushrooms, saute for 2 more minutes, then add the bean sprouts and pepper.  Cook until all veggies are tender, about 3 more minutes.  Then add the beef, and stir.
To serve, place some noodles in the bottom of a large bowl.  Top with the veggie mixture, and then ladle the broth over everything.  Add extra soy sauce and chili garlic sauce to taste, and garnish with basil, limes, and/or cilantro.


Tofu Another Way- on the Grill

Quite a while ago I got a cookbook from the library called The Food of Vietnam.  I have heard multiple people praise Vietnamese cuisine, and wanted to know exactly what defines this popular cooking catagory.  To my dismay, there were only a couple of vegetarian dishes in the whole book, but there were several that looked like it would be easy to adapt, replacing the meat with tofu or something. 
Apparently, the Vietnamese are really big on fish sauce too, and I have heard that soy sauce makes a good substitute.  Also, I have used vegetarian stir fry sauce in place of fish sauce several times as well.  I think one of my favourite parts of Vietnamese cooking, along with so many other peoples', is the noodles.  Who doesn't love noodles?  The come in so many variteties, and in so many shapes.  It's fun to see what's out there!  Another highlight is the spring rolls, and the use of abundance of fresh herbs.  I do have to say, basil has got to be one of the best herbs out there.  And the basil plant in the garden is still going strong.  For now...

This certain recipe was originally called Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles.  Well, at first I was planning to turn it into Grilled Tofu with Rice Noodles.  Then, I kind of went wild with the changes.  I amped up the marinade, as tofu is more bland than pork, and decided to toss in some veggies for good measure.  And then I ended up dropping the noodles, atleast for this round, out of sheer lazyness. 
What I think is the most interesting thing about the dish is the "garnishes" you are supposed to serve with it.  The recipe called for cucumber (which I hate), bean sprouts, fresh herbs like basil and cilantro, pickled veggies like cucumber and radishes, rice noodles (duh), and peanut dipping sauce.  I decided that carrots would be a good sub for the cucumber, and I was puzzled about how to make the peanut dipping sauce because it called for chicken liver.  What really made me mad, though, was that when M and I looked for the pickles, we couldn't find a single vegetarian one!  They either had squid paste, or fish sauce, or something weird like that.  Grr.
In this round of the kabobs, I used button mushrooms and onion along with the tofu, and served with bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves, and ketchup and bbq sauce for dipping sauces.  So, I think it's safe to say that this dish is not vietnamese, but tastes good all the same- M agreed!  Honestly, I love kabobs.  They are fun to make, fun to eat, and fun to say.  And look so pretty, too.
Oh, funny thing about the ketchup/bbq sauce.  M and I used it to stick the basil leaves to the tofu and veggies.  It works!

Tofu and Veggie Kabobs

Serves 4

Inspired by The Food of Vietnam

1 lb tofu, pressed and cut into sizable chuncks
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp miso paste
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
3 tbsp bbq sauce
5 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rive vinegar
Pinch of dried chili flakes

Grilling veggies, like mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion

Fresh herbs like basil and cilantro
Bean sprouts
Dipping sauce
Pickled veggies
Rice noodles

Mix together the first set of ingredients minus the tofu, and then add the tofu and the other grilling veggies.  Marinade for 1-2 hours.
Preheat the grill for medium high.  Skewer the tofu and veggies on kabob sticks, and grill for about 10 minutes on foil coated with non-stick spray, until, well, they are grilled.
Serve on a plate with the rest of the ingredients as garnishes.

Confetti Soba Salad

All that I can really say about the creation of this salad is that I found two really good recipes, and kind of mashed them together, and then ended up throwing a few more ingredients in the sauce to end up with a delicious and satisfying salad.  Another great recipe for a summer's day, but I am sure it could quickly become a fantastic stir fry as well. 
The story begins with, as usual, my hunt for recipes.  I found a website with a post called Cold Noodle Salads for Hot Days on The Kitchn, and was quickly attracted by the lovely pictures and tantelizing ingredients.  I was wavering between two salads, one called Bun Chay and the other Soba Noodles with Wilted Bok Choy, so I decided to combine the ingredients, kind of, and throw in a few ideas of my own. 
The results were fantastic, and M agreed.  This is kind of like the Otsu, but more in look than in taste.  It has more of a darker flavour, and is not quite as springy.  Still, the boatload of veggies make this an excellent dish, and add lots of colour- thus the name.  Enjoy!

Soba Confetti Salad

Serves 6-8

Inspired by Soba Noodles with Wilted Bok Choy and Bun Chay

1 very large or two small carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
3 baby bok choy, stems and leaves separated and both cut into thin slices.
4 oz soba noodles
6 scallions, cut into ½ inch or so slices
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 cup bean sprouts
8 oz tofu
2 tbsp agave nectar
3 tbsp mirin
5 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
¾ tsp Chinese hot mustard powder
Fresh herbs like basil

Cook the soba noodles according to the package. It should be about 8 minutes, if you can’t read it! Drain, cut the noodles into smaller pieces (this makes life a lot easier, but if you insist on not doing this, then be my guest), and put in a large bowl.
Heat a pot over medium-high heat (I used the same kettle). Add the bok choy leaves and sauté, adding water as needed, for about 3 minutes, until wilted. Remove to the bowl.
Heat the pot one more time, and add the peanut oil and tofu, and fry for 15 minutes or so, until the tofu becomes lightly browned and firm. Add to the bowl as well.
Add the carrots, scallions, cabbage, and bean sprouts to the bowl.
In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients except the herbs and cashews until the miso is dissolved. Add to the noodle mixture, and stir to coat. Chill (or just leave it out) until ready to serve. Serve at any temperature, topped with herbs and cashews.

Just to say this again, this would probably make a great stir fry too. Just chuck the veggies in a wok!


Bean Curd Skin and Pho Noodle Stir Fry

Once again, I fell in love with one of those beautiful pictures while nosing through the internet.  I really have absolutely no clue why those pictures always do me in, but they sure get me every time!  Although, I did end up modifying this recipe so much that it looked nothing like what was posted on The New York Times website.
But honetly, I think mine turned out just as pretty as theirs!  At the last minute I decided to throw some cashews on top too, which made M estatic.  The odd thing, though, was that although the recipe I adapted this from featured green beans, that would be one of the things that I would omit next time I make this.  They didn't really seem to fit, somehow... that, and the jicama that I decided to throw in because it needed to be used up.  So I have made those changes in this version of the recipe- that's why they are in the picture.  I though broccolini would be a good replacement, so there you have it!
I really wanted fresh water chestnuts in this too, as I have never had them and have heard tell that they are ten times better than canned, but the store I went to was all out.  Boo hoo!
But, although I was not overly impressed with the version that I made, it did have it's virtues, and I think this updated version that I am posting here would be quite excellent. 
I really can't seem to get enough mushrooms or noodles, can I?

Tofu Skins and Veggies with Pho Noodles

Inspired by The New York Times

Makes 4 large servings


• 4 ounces dried pho noodles, cooked and soaked for at least 45 minutes
• ½ package dried bean curd skin knots, soaked until soft (75 grams)
• Water, as needed
• 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
• 1 ½ tbsp chili garlic sauce
• 1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
• 1-2 tbsp mirin
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 package beech mushrooms
• 3tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
• 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
• 2 cups white caggage, shredded
• .75 lb shiitake mushrooms
• 1 bunch broccolini
• 1 lb fresh water chestnuts, cooked
• 2 carrots
• Cashews

1. Mix together the soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, agave nectar, and mirin.
2. Heat some water in a wok over medium high heat. Add the carrots, sauté for a minute, then add the cabbage and ginger. After two minutes add the shiitakes and brocolini. After about 2 more minutes add the rest of the veggies along with the sauce. When that is heated through add the noodles and tofu and heat through. Serve when the sauce has thickened slightly and all veggies are finished, topped off with cashews.


Now I Remember Why I Don't Eat Wraps

This recipe had caught my eye a few weeks ago when it was first posted on the Cheap Healthy Good blog.  I hadn't had a wrap in ages, and I knew M is extremely fond of them.  So I decided to give this recipe a whirl, and see how things turned out. 
The filling for this wrap is expecially good- roasted bell peppers, white beans, and spinach.  Roasted red peppers are really a favourite, and a real treat too because they are quite a bother to make.  Either the peppers are two dollars a pop because it's winter, or M and I avoid the oven like the plauge when it is a hundred plus degrees outside.  But I managed to get the roasting done at seven in the morning, which helped some. 
I have found the easiest and fastest way to roast peppers is to coat a pan with nonstick spray, cut the peppers in half and stem them, and broil the peppers for about 15 minutes.  Then I stick them in a plastic bag, zip it, and the steam from the peppers tends to loosen the skin.  You can then peel and seed them, and chop how you like.
Anyway, back to the recipe.  It turned out to be just the right, light (no pun intended) thing for a lunch on a very hot day.  M and I filled them with cabbage, alfalfa, and spinach along with the peppers and beans, and were very satisfied with them.  The only issue I had, and M had trouble with this too but is doesn't bug her as much, was that stuff falls out, and the whole wrap comes undone.  That is the one thing I can't stand about eating wraps.  I ended up eating mine with half of it lying on the plate with my fork holding it closed.  It looked odd, and probably was very bad manners, but there you have it.  Yum!

White Bean, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Wrap
Serves 6.

Adapted from Cheap, Healthy, Good

1 ½ cups white beans
2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 wraps
Baby spinach, cabbage, and/or alfalfa sprouts

1) Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add beans and peppers, and let marinade.
2) When ready to serve, divide among wraps, add spinach, cabbage, alfalfa, and whatever you want.
3) Wrap.