Tag, We’re It

Sue tagged me.  And since hers is my favoritist blog ever, I decided I should respond in kind.  No matter how long it took me.

Rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.

2. Share 5 facts about yourself

3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).

4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

So without further ado, 5 facts about me:

1. I was an entrant into the past two Next Food Network Stars. At one point, my video had an 89% approval rating and that was before I voted for myself.

2.  I am a vegetarian, but I still cook meat.  A chef must know how to cook all things, so I still practice meat cookery.  To taste, I put a bite in my mouth and then spit it out.  My wife is used to it.  The people at the Kansas City Culinary Institute are still getting used to it. 

3.  The greatest thing I ever cooked was a ginger filet.  It was a nice organic grain fed filet with grated ginger and a powdered ginger, salt and pepper served with a red wine gravy.  Unfortunately, by then I was a vegetarian and had to spit out my taste bite.

4.  I am writing a game.  This should establish me geekcred.

5.  My favorite color is purple.  This is a huge problem because I graduated from the University of Kansas and our school’s second most hated rival (Kansas State) is purple and white.  Fortunately, I bleed crimson and blue, but I do buy purple pens.

Okay, I am tagging:

Logtar
Bea
Game Dame
Gooby’s Mom
http://seansquawks.com/

Stir Fry Seitan

Part of my challenge with vegetarianism, especially as I head towards more strict vegetarianism, is getting protein.  For the human body to function, even at rest, the USDA recommends 50g of protein per day.  For those who do not eat meat,  ingesting that much protein can be tough, especially when many vegetarian sources of protein (notably beans) do not contain complete proteins and must be paired with other foods to get all the required amino acids.

The go-to protein food for many vegetarians is tofu.  Which is great, but the problem is that the way I like it (firm or extra firm tofu put into stir fries or fajitas) takes about 2 hours to do right.  When the boy is hungry, that’s way too much time.

Enter Seitan (pronounced, unfortunately, as say-tun or as everyone’s favorite bringer of evil, Satan.)

Seitan has allowed me to keep my vegetarianism once already and may be what lets me stay vegetarian a second time.  The first time occurred maybe two months after I decided to stop eating meat.  I had taken my son to a restaurant for dinner and sat down next to a man enjoying a slab of ribs.  The smell of the sauce from those ribs nearly threw me into an absolute frenzy to the point I wanted to reach across the aisle and take the ribs.  On pain of death if necessary.

After complaining to my wife that I could not do the vegetarian thing anymore, she reminded me of an article in Vegetarian Times where they did vegetarian pulled pork with seitan.  One trip to Whole Foods later, I had a package of seitan which I cooked in some barbecue sauce and voila! vegetarianism saved.  Crisis averted.

Anyway, I am finding myself in a situation where I need more protein.  Suddenly things I would not normally eat, namely kidney beans and cheese sandwiches, taste like gourmet food fit for royalty.  My wife again reminded me that seitan, made from wheat gluten, is very high in protein and that I should consider fixing it and eating it more often.

Last night gave me the chance to try out her suggest.  We invited a vegan friend over dinner.  My wife said she was going to fix stir fry, but when our son needed her attention, I ended up fixing dinner.  This is what we had:

  • 1 Package Seitan, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons of soy ginger sauce (may substitute with 2 more tablespoons of tamari and 1 teaspoon of ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 medium or 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 pinches of kosher salt
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4in. coins
  • 1 leek, sliced into 1/4 in coins
  • 1/2 cup of broccoli florets
  • 1 broccoli stem cut into 1/4 in. coins
  • 3 portabellas cut into 1/2 in. wide strips
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  1. Boil the seitan over medium low heat in the 1/4 cup of tamari, soy ginger sauce, ginger, and garlic powder for 10 minutes or until it is soft all the way through.
  2. Bring the heat to medium high, add the olive oil, and sauté the seitan for three minutes to give it a little structure.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions.  Add 1 pinch of kosher salt.  Cook until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the green pepper, carrots, leeks, broccoli florets, broccoli stem. and another pinch of salt.  Cook until carrots reach desired softness.  This step is pretty much up to each individual cook.  I like my carrots to have a bite to them, so I cook them for maybe 10 minutes.   Some may want them to cook longer.
  5. Add the portabellas and the final pinch of salt.  Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the corn and cook for about a minute.
  7. Add the last two tablespoons of tamari and cook for another minute.

Serve over rice and enjoy! 

Oh, and on a side note, I can’t wait to tell my family that liking seitan keeps me vegetarian.  Especially when I pronounce it properly.

Cheap Entertaining or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof

This idea has really started to resonate with me.  After a Christmas party that carried a nearly $20/head charge, the Super Bowl, and my birthday coming up, entertaining has just been on my mind.  I try to stay away from entertaining as a topic here because there are many excellent blogs that cover it.  However, I did want to make this post.

 

So from personal experience I can say that parties are expensive.  Buying food, wine, beer, and cocktails can cost hundreds of dollars before party favors or plastic china (you know, the good stuff).  These tips will help control the costs and make the party fun.

1. Do Not Be Afraid to Have a Liquor Potluck 

Unless the cook has a reputation as a wine collector or beer expert, she should not be afraid to ask others to bring the booze.  This eases the financial burden on the cook and scratches off at least one store from her errand list.  More importantly, it lets others take a role in the party.  Guests that enjoy wine or have a favorite beer or mix a great cocktail are more than happy to share their passion.  Also, having others share their liquor will broaden everyone’s alcohol horizons.

2.  Make the Expensive Items

While it okay to buy from the store, sometimes this is not always the best strategy.  If a home cook can prepare a dish more cheaply than it can be purchased (barbecued items are a good example) the cook should strongly consider making it rather than buying it.

3.  Leave Healthy at the Store

A party is a time to eat junk food, fried foods, and desserts; all of those things that most people eschew during the normal work week.  This means that the party host does not need to worry about buying the best organic produce, reduced fat cheeses, or leaner cuts of meat.  All of these things cost money though their absence will scarcely be missed by partygoers.

4.  Buy in Bulk

In larger cities, most cooks know someone who has a wholesale club membership or have one themselves.  Because the cook is preparing food for a large number of people, this is the ideal to use those memberships.  If such a store is not available, the cook should still try to buy things is as large of cans as possible to lower the per unit cost.  Lastly, depending on the store, the cook may be able to negotiate a lower price on a larger order.

5.  It is Okay to Limit the Wow

While it is generally good to have one or two signature dishes at a party, not everything needs to be made with filet, lobster, and shrimp.  Sometimes the best dishes are the cheapest.

Keeping the Resolution: Oven Fries

I try to cut fried foods out my diet when attempting to Keep my Resolution and lose weight.  Despite the fact that there is something insanely delicious about food submerged in oil, it is not healthy.  Yes, I realize that there are ways to make fried foods healthier but that does not mean that deep fat frying is as healthy as say baking or microwaving.

I do not want to give up my fried foods, though, so I have tried to find different ways to prepare fried foods without actually frying.  This gave birth to my wife’s and my oven fries recipe.  This recipe uses a two stage approach (baking and then broiling) to produce a perfectly cooked french fry suitable for the finest dijon ketchups.

You will need:

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of seasoning salt (optional, recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. Cut the potatoes into your favorite fry shape.  We tend to use 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch by 2 inch pieces.  There is no rhyme or reason to the size, it is just what our family prefers.  Cut the potatoes into whatever size you would like, but remember the deeper the potato, the longer the cooking time and adjust accordingly.
  3. Wash the potatoes to remove excess starch and pat dry.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil and cut potatoes until the potatoes are covered in a thin coating of oil.  This will let them brown.
  5. To really minimize oil usage, buy an olive oil spritzer and sprtitz the potatoes.
  6. Bake the potatoes for 15 minutes or until the are start to dry.
  7. Set the oven to broil and continue cooking until crispy.  In my oven this is 3-5 minutes, but depending on the strength of the broiler and the positioning of the rack, it could be less time.
  8. Immediately after removing the fries, sprinkle the salt and any desired spices on top of the potatoes.

Serve with hamburgers or sloppy joes or hot dogs as normal.

Keeping the Resolution: Saute Without Oil

This is a little trick I have used many times when trying to remove fats and oils from cooking healthy.  Instead of sauteing in oil, many types of food can be sauted in broth or stock or soy sauce.  The liquid, especially if it is contains a little bit of fat, will prevent the food from burning and will act as a medium of transfer.

To do this:

  1. Heat the skillet and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 to 1/4 inch high.  That should be less than a quarter of a cup.
  2. Add the food and cook as normal.   

Now, the texture of the finished product will be different.  The broth or stock is not going to crisp up the food being sauted like an oil would, but it is going to be much lower in fat and, for many dishes, the cooking liquid will add flavor.

Other Tips About Oil

Whenever possible, cook with heart healthy oils like olive oil.  Olive oil contains a good amount of fat, but doctors have shown how the fats from olive oils can be good for the body when taken in small doses.  So no matter which oil is used,  keep the amount of oil to a bare minimum.

When eating out, ask the chefs to limit the amount of oil they use or eliminate it entirely.  One of my personal vices is Chinese food, but it is heavy and fatty, even the non-deep fried items.  I have taken to asking the chef to make the dishes without oil.  They tend to look a little puzzeled at first, but then prepare a dish that tastes almost exactly like the heavy, oily dish.

Keeping the Resolution: Mexican Lasagna

This is something I cooked up last night as I stood before my pantry trying furiously to figure out what to serve the boy and I.  At some level, I hate to even list it as a healthy recipe since it uses so many canned goods (high in sodium) but at the same time, it was pretty easy to throw together.  

On thing to note, as printed this recipe uses Fantastic ground beef replacement (technically I used the sloppy joe mix) which tastes amazing.  Even before I became vegetarian, I would use their taco meat instead of ground beef because I got the same flavor with far less fat and calories.  It has a place in even the most die-hard meat and potatoes family as long as it is used in Mexican foods, sloppy joes, and lasagnas where the texture of the meat is not 100% important because the texture is just a bit off.  If you do not have Fantastic or another meat substitute, feel free to use lean ground beef that you have washed before putting into the lasagna.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of red pepper flake
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (red would work well, too)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 box of lasagna noodles
  • 2 cans of dice tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, sage mix)
  • 1 box of vegetarian ground beef replacement, prepared per package instructions
  • 1 can of low-fat or vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1 can of chili beans, drained
  • 1 bag of low-fat Mexican cheese blend
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. Put a pan on medium flame and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the red pepper flake and the garlic.  Wait 15 seconds and add the peppers, onions, and pepper. 
  3. While the vegetables are getting soft, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the lasagna noodles and prepare according to the instructions.
  4. When the vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes, a healthy pinch of salt, and the Italian seasoning.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat so that it bubbles, but it is not at a full roiling boil.
  5. Now is a good time to make sure the meat substitute is cooking.
  6. When the noodles are ready, construct the lasagna by first putting a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.  Then add a layer of noodles. 
  7. Mix the Fantastic meat replacement and the refried beans and spoon them onto the lasagna.  Add another layer of noodles.
  8. Mix the black and chili beans, then spoon them onto the lasagna and spread them out.  Add the final layer of noodles.
  9. Top with a good layer of the tomato sauce and the bag of shredded cheese.
  10. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts, usually 10-15 minutes.
  11. Serve on a plate with a good ladel of tomato sauce.

Enjoy!

Keeping the Resolution: Healthy Specials on Food Network

(Sorry, this should have gone up Sunday night, but I had Internet woes…) 

I started watching a special on healthy recipes on the Food Network that aired last weekend that I got me thinking.  It was a clip show taken from seven different shows that purported to offer healthy meals for the home cook.  Unfortunately, I have to say that I was pretty disappointed

Even on a good day, I am pretty anti-clip show, but this one was worse than normal.  The opening dish was Ina Garten’s breakfast yogurt parfait made with fruit, honey, and toasted almonds.  Okay, sounds pretty good, despite the fact it was not exactly something that could be thrown together before running off to work.   Unfortunately, the coup de grace for this special struck about three minutes into the recipe and the whole thing got erased from the DVR after Garten toasted the almonds.  Adding heat to almonds breaks down their 14 grams of heart healthy fats in the nuts into 14 grams of their unhealthy counterparts which pretty much defeats the purpose.

I make this point not to be critical of Garten or the Food Network.  But rather as a warning.  The first is to be aware that toasting almonds makes their fats go bad (I wasn’t aware of this until recently.   I found out the morning I had an article due and had to rewrite an entire recipe because of it).  Secondly, when someone says a recipe is healthy, it may mean different things.  I have found this to be especially true of Healthy Appetite on Food Network.  The show’s host, Ellie Krieger, often makes recipes in which she hides nutritous ingredients in her recipes, but does not necessarily make them low cal or low fat (which is what I need when I eat healthy.)

To key here is to remember that eating healthy means different things to different people and so that the health-concious eater still needs to read labels and look at what is being put into the food he or she eats.  Especially when it comes to low fat foods, which often replace fats with more sugar.

Anway, this week is dedicated to helping everyone keep their resolutions to lose weight.  Come back tomorrow for my take on healthy eating low fat style.