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Food and Cooking Stuff

I went price shopping today and found that Berkeley Bowl is a lot less expensive than where we usually shop. I'd noticed before that their produce was a lot less expensive than Andronico's, but today I saw that their meat is a lot less expensive, too. Their chicken breasts were $2/lb cheaper (though still prohibitively expensive at $5.69/lb).

Berkeley Bowl also sells tofu, seitan, and tempeh. The tempeh costs almost exactly the same per pound as their chicken breasts, but the seitan is quite a bit more expensive. I guess those aren't good choices for replacing chicken in the Crock-Pot. The bulk tofu, on the other hand, was quite cheap (50¢/cake), so I'll have to look for some good tofu recipes. (wesleysgirl, I know you cook vegetarian ... any suggestions?) Too bad I don't have a regular-size wok. (I only have a tiny one, if it hasn't gotten lost over the years.) I have lots of pots and pans, but it seems I somehow never have the one appropriate to the task at hand.

It's very important to me that we start eating healthier, but it's more expensive than living on frozen dinners and canned soup. It's relatively easy if I can cook entirely vegetarian, but there are so many things that Shannon doesn't eat that it makes it difficult. I'm doing a bunch more online recipe research today, though I already know what I'm cooking this weekend: a simple red lentil and bulgar pilaf which I've made before and love. It's good with a side of veggies. I also like to mix corn into it.


Bulgar and Red Lentil Pilaf
(slightly adapted -- by my friend Janet -- from a recipe in World of East Vegetarian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey)

1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
1 tablespoon olive oil or any vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic (or more, to taste), peeled and minced
1 cup bulgar wheat
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
freshly ground black pepper

Pick over the lentils and wash in several changes of water. (I did this in a strainer.) Put in a bowl, add 2 cups water, and soak for approximately 6 hours. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

Heat the oil in a heavy 2-quart pot over a medium flame. Saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the bulgar wheat and lentils. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes, or until the wheat is lightly browned. Add the parsley, salt, and water and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat to very low, and simmer for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit, covered, for 20 minutes, or as long as you can stand it. Add the black pepper and mix.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Anyway, back I go to the recipe hunt. Wish me luck finding good vegetarian recipes with no beans and no dairy.

Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
wesleysgirl
Jan. 25th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
I'll dig up a couple of tofu recipes for you some time in the next day or so. What kinds of things does Shannon *not* eat? I do have a handful of veggie recipes that a number of traditional-food-loving people have liked...
kimberly_a
Jan. 25th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
Shannon doesn't eat beans or dairy. He doesn't like bell peppers, cooked carrots, zucchini, or eggplant, but he'll eat them if they aren't the main ingredient in the dish. I think that's all. Oh, and I don't like olives.

I'd love to see any recipes you come up with. If only I could watch you cook them so I could learn from your experience!
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)
Wow, those are some restrictions! The no-dairy isn't too difficult, at least. Hm. Will he eat split peas? Does he eat the lentils in your recipe here, or is that just for you?
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
Yeah. The combination of no beans and no dairy makes vegetarian cooking difficult. He eats split peas, and he's going to try the lentils this weekend to see what he thinks. I'm not sure about lentils in the long run -- we'll have to see -- but I'm glad he's willing to try.
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 03:35 am (UTC)
Rice Lentil Polou is awesome, and easy to make, and the leftovers are excellent, too.

Brigit Soup is excellent -- people rave about it. The red bell pepper and the carrots are shredded, so maybe less noticeable?

Thai Potato Curry is delicious, but if you try it be cautious with the curry paste because with Thai, too hot is TOO HOT. Better to have it a lot less hot the first time around.

Penne with Broccoli Rabe is good.

I still have to find my tofu recipes -- they aren't typed up but I'll look for them tomorrow.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 05:38 am (UTC)
Those look good! I'll have to give them a try. I've always been intimidated by the recipes in your journal because you seem to know how to cook so well, but I should check them out more carefully.

Thank you!
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
Believe me, I really don't know how to cook all that well. Maybe I'm just fairly good at following directions? All of these recipes are quite simple -- I doubt very much you'd have trouble with any of them. :-)
cindygerb
Jan. 25th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
One thing that makes home cooking more economical is that you make several meals worth of food at a time.
kimberly_a
Jan. 25th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm cooking expensive meals, but the cost still comes out to be more per meal. At least if I cook with chicken that's true. Vegetarian meals seem to come out about the same as frozen dinner/canned soup meals. Healthier, but about as expensive.
wolflady26
Jan. 25th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
I love tofu. I oftentimes fry it in a regular pan as a stir fry, either alone or with various meats as well as veggies. Mushrooms, tofu, a bit of ham, onions and garlic, whatever other veggies that Shannon will enjoy, sauteed with soy sauce and served over vermicelli noodles is awesome. High-grade frozen veggies makes it an even easier meal.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
I'm not really comfortable enough with cooking to be able to wing it. I need a recipe that tells me how long to cook things and in what amounts. I've found some good recipes for stir-frying today.

How do you get the water out of the tofu? Some of the recipes say to get rid of the excess water, but they don't say how. I'm sure one of my cookbooks could probably tell me.
wolflady26
Jan. 26th, 2007 09:05 am (UTC)
I put it between two plates with paper towels on either side, and then put a heavy book on top of the top plate. I leave it like that for 15 mins or so. Luckily, I don't find the tofu I get to be very watery, so even when I forget to do that it still turns out well.
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
Yup. You can do it for longer, too, if you want to. People who are not already fans of tofu might like it better if you freeze it, then thaw and press the water out. This gives it a much chewier, meatier texture (but also makes it a lot more sponge-like for soaking up things like marinades, so be aware of that.)

One thing I like to do with tofu is slice the block into maybe half inch slices. Dip each slice in teriyaki sauce for a second or two, then coat in a mixture of nutritional yeast flakes (which you could get at a Whole Foods type store, usually bulk in a bin so you can buy just a little to try it) and bread crumbs. Fry in a pan until golden brown on each side. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy taste -- it's very yummy sprinkled on popcorn -- and is rich in B vitamins (thus good for those of us prone to depression, women in particular.)

You can also put tofu in a traditional stir fry, just like you would chicken or whatever. Press the water out, cut into cubes, toss in a little soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, then cook at a very high heat, stirring, until nicely browned. Then you can pull the tofu out and do your vegetables and sauce as usual, adding the tofu back in at the last minute (depending on the brand/style you're using it can get a little fragile, so better not to cook it for ages and ages while sturdier vegetables are softening.) You can also buy stir fry sauce in bottles at the store -- various flavors etc.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
So if you freeze tofu, do you just need more marinade than you otherwise would? Or is there some other effect from the new texture? I think Shannon likes tofu already -- he ate vegetarian with me all the time when we first met -- so there's no real problem there, but it might be nice to freeze it for a change of pace once in a while.

Thanks for the info re: cooking tofu too long in a stir-fry. Why do you do the tofu first, rather than adding it last, since the other stuff needs to cook longer? Is it to keep it from breaking while mixed with the other food, or something else?
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, you'd probably need more marinade. You would not want to use something like soy sauce in that case, because the tofu can end up absorbing an awful lot of liquid and the soy sauce makes it REALLY salty.

You do the tofu first in a stir-fry because otherwise it's hard to get it a nice golden color (the other stuff crowds it too much and there's not enough space for the tofu to touch the pan.) You might not care if it gets a golden color, though, in which case it's fine to just add everything at once. I like the fact that cooking it on its own gives it a little bit of a "skin" -- I like the texture it adds.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
I know the "skin" you're talking about, and it definitely adds something to the texture. I definitely prefer it. Now I know how and how not to get it. Thanks.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
That sounds nice and easy. Of course, now I find myself fretting over how *large* a book to use. But I always find something to worry about.
wolflady26
Jan. 26th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
Heh. Answer: Pretty large. I use "The Joy of Cooking" because it's nice and hefty. But you don't have to smash it, just weight it down. I'd go for a thickness of 2-3 inches.
wolflady26
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
By the way, I also have a kind-of-sort-of recipe here. The thing is that all of the ingredients just need to be warmed and (in the case of the veggies) softened a little bit, so I don't have exact times or anything, just the order of throwing things in so that the faster-cooking ones don't end up burned.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
I think that recipe is a little too free-form for me right now, because I don't really have a good sense for how long it takes to cook things. I'll try it after I have some more experience under my belt.
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
The way I do it is -- tofu wrapped in a clean dishcloth, set on a plate, cutting board on top, then something nice and heavy on top of the cutting board (a couple of large cans of spaghetti sauce, a dictionary, the base of the blender... LOL!)
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC)
How long do you do it? 15 minutes? Or longer?
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC)
I've done it for as little as 10-15 minutes (if I'm running late) and as long as an hour.
kimberly_a
Jan. 27th, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
Does it make a difference to the texture if you do it for longer? What's different?
wesleysgirl
Jan. 27th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC)
I don't think it makes much of a difference either way, no. The idea is to get some of the water out so that it's not so wet, but the timing is more about convenience than anything else.
kimberly_a
Jan. 27th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Ah. Thank you. It's difficult to learn technical things like this from cookbooks and online recipes. Everyone assumes you already know.
wesleysgirl
Jan. 27th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
Yes, and things like tofu etc are definitely trickier than more traditional American fare!
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC)
Sesame Stir Fry

1/4 cup peanut butter
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp honey

1 pkg firm tofu, pressed and cubed
2 minced garlic cloves
1 bunch broccoli, cut up

(Optional - sesame oil, sesame seeds, chopped peanuts)

Mix first 4 ingredients into a sauce in a small bowl.

In skillet or wok, heat a little bit of oil (sesame oil if you have it) until very hot. Stiry fry tofu until golden brown and set aside.

Add a little more oil to pan -- add garlic and broccoli, stir, then pour in 1/4 cup water and cover the skillet so the broccoli can "steam." (I generally skip this whole part by steaming the broccoli in a special little tupperware microwave steamer thing we have.) Add tofu back to the pan once broccoli is reasonably softened, add sauce, stir fry for a minute or two until everything's hot and mixed up. Optionally, sprinkle with sesame seeds or chopped peanuts. Serve over rice.
kimberly_a
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for mentioning the broccoli steaming thing. I usually steam broccoli in the microwave and have never found anything wrong with it, so that's probably what I would do, too. But I would have been afraid to change the recipe if you hadn't mentioned it.
wesleysgirl
Jan. 26th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
I like doing it in the microwave because it's so quick! :-)
silversliver
Jan. 28th, 2007 09:39 am (UTC)
You could make the rest of the crock pot recipe as listed, and only put in tofu for the final 10-15 minutes.
kimberly_a
Jan. 28th, 2007 09:52 am (UTC)
I was wondering about that, but I wasn't sure if the tofu would accumulate any flavor that way.
silversliver
Jan. 28th, 2007 10:05 am (UTC)
It won't be flavored through like the rest of the dish, but it will have a bit of flavor, especially if there is a broth or some Asian spice (cumin, ginger, soy sauce, etc.) content.
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )

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