Monday, December 28, 2009

Making Revolutions (not resolutions) for 2010


"Each of us has a valid sense of "I." We also share fundamental goals: We want happiness and do not want suffering. Animals and insects also want happiness and do not want suffering, but they have no special ability to consider how to achieve deeper happiness or overcome suffering. As human beings, endowed with this power of thought, we have this potential, and we must use it." - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

It looks like it's that time of the year again to make New Years Resolutions. It's kind of a mundane tradition, don't you think? I mean, do you even remember what your New Years Resolution was last year? Do you remember the year before? How long after New Years do you spend trying to achieve the goal, or do you pretty much forget about it after the ball drops? When I used to make resolutions, I would usually try the first few months of the year... and then I would drop the ball!

Why do we make New Years Resolutions anyway? Let's break this down.... For me, resolutions are about picking a specific thing that I want to work on, that I want to change, or something I want to add to my life to make me feel better or happier. I think a lot of the time they are the same for everyone... exercise more, get together with family more, eat better, get a better job, make more time for friends... or maybe it's a little more selfish... like buy that big screen tv, buy a house, or purchase a new outfit once a month. These are all things that we believe will make us feel better in the end. They are things that we have slacked on, things we want to change about ourselves, goals we have set out to achieve, or things that we just feel we need to work a little harder on so we won't have regrets later, and therefore, will be happier in life.

Why do we wait until New Years to do this? Who made up that tradition? If we look at the big picture, we pretty much have the same goal, and that is to achieve happiness and to end suffering. This is something that should be a life long goal and practiced daily, and I think, as a community, we should change the tradition of making resolutions each year based on what we need to fix about ourselves to celebrating the accomplishments of the past, and looking forward to the achievements of each year, all the while making the promise to continue this in our daily practice.

According to the Dalai Lama, the best way to achieve happiness and end suffering is to have compassion and benefit your life to others. Not that we shouldn't make sure that our specific needs and wants aren't met... that is important too. But, I think the point of this practice is that it leads to good Karma, and the more we do to help others, the more good Karma we will have. In other words, Karma takes care of meeting our needs.

There are many things we can do to show compassion. Without sounding preachy, one way to show compassion is by making the commitment to cut down on animal and meat consumption, or do away with it all together. When you make the commitment to do this, you are helping the environment, world hunger, the planet, ending animal cruelty, and most of all... you are choosing to improve your personal health.

Here are a few facts about how leaning towards veganism is a compassionate choice:

-Industrially raised livestock causes an estimated 18% of greenhouse gasses, and that is destroying the atmosphere

-Factory farms demand so much land and feed that it threatens rainforests

-We use so much feed for the animals on factory farms, and this threatens third world countries. If everyone stopped consuming meat, we could use those grains to feed at least twice as many starving people.

-Cutting out animal products means eliminating the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and several types of cancer. You will have more energy and trim your waist line. You will also you also cut the risk of other health problems such as diabetes because when you cut out animal products, you tend feel better and make healthier choices.

-Also, it's an ethical decision. We all know that factory farming is cruel and twisted, but people still consume animals out of habit. It's become an addiction. I hear people say that they would miss the bite or texture of meat, but feeling good about everything that you put into your body tastes much better... it lightens up your life. Plus, there are "meat replacements" that will give you that bite if you are ever feeling a craving. These replacements are also good for the transition phase between eating meat and eliminating it.

Now I know that may all sound preachy, but I am not trying to convince you to go vegan full force. I am just asking that you try to cut out meat from your diet at least one day a week. If everyone on the planet did that... think of how much we would be helping the rainforests, animals, starving people, and personal health. There is always room for improvement, so if you are already cutting out meat one day a week... make it two, and so on. There is actually a movement called Meatless Mondays who's goal is to cut meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet. I hope you are interested... here is the website

Also, make an effort to find out about more where your food is coming from. Seek out farmers markets to buy locally grown fruits and veggies so that you can support and keep the money within the community. If you eat meat, do you research to find local farms so that you can see where your meat is coming from. See movies like Food Inc so that you are aware of how the meat industry operates, and so you can start to look for local farms where the animals are eating the right food, are hormone free, and most of all, are being treated ethically. Read books like In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, You Don't Need Meat by Peter Cox, or Eating Animals by Johnathan Safran Foer to understand perspectives from experts on factory farms and the food industry. Get vegan cookbooks to learn more about how to live the vegan lifestyle and to overcome the myths such as food is boring, you won't get protein, i don't have enough time to be vegan, and so on.

Alright... so you might already be vegan, and being vegan isn't the only way to have compassion and help others... there are also many charities you can donate to. In this article, Nicholas Kristof, columnest for the New York Times, has composed a list of organizations that he has encountered that tackle global poverty in creative ways. He is focusing on the more unknown charities such as The Afghan Institute of Learning. This is an aid group run by Afghan women that run education programs, training centers and clinics, emphasizing local buy-in and self-reliance. Or, a Bangladeshi antipoverty organization called BRAC, that has had huge success serving tens of millions of people there. It emphasizes organizing village women and promoting education, health and microfinance. Another is Developments in Literacy They build schools in Pakistan, particularly for girls. These schools can help protect us from terrorism. There are many other charities in this article that are well worth while and put their efforts towards improving the world and communities, so give it a read.... and pick one.

I hope that I gave you some good ideas for 2010 and beyond. Whether you decide to start your path towards cutting meat consumption, or are choosing to give to one of the charities in the Kristof article (or both), you are doing your part to end suffering, break down boundaries, and overcome distances between people in communities. In the future... I am not going to end the year by asking you what your new years resolution is, but I am going to ask you what events in the past years brought you the most happiness.

Since I started with one, I will end this blog by quoting His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "As you calm your mind and your heart, your agitation and worry will naturally subside, and you will enjoy more happiness. Your relationship with others will reflect these changes. And as a better human being, you will be a better citizen of your country, and ultimately a better citizen of the world.

I will leave you with this video from Playing for Change, which is a foundation dedicated to connecting the world through music by providing resources (including, but not limited to facilities, supplies, and educational programs) to musicians and their communities around the world. This is a beautiful example of what is possible when we bring communities together.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Short Story About a Pomegranate by Monica


It was a dark and stormy night. I was having some tea, and my cat, Oliver, was curled up on my legs as I was flipping through the channels on my tv. I already had dinner, but my body was telling me I was still a little hungry... or at least wanted something to snack on. So, I got myself up.... being careful to slide Oliver over in the same position so he could just fall right back asleep. I flipped on the light in my kitchen, and started eying the contents in my fridge... I looked towards the bottom and I noticed a pomegranate peeking through the bottom drawer. Just last week, I had purchased a pomegranate because I was seeing them pop up in recipes, but I had never tried one. I stashed it in the drawer, and kept forgetting I had it. Sometimes, as I was at work, or out shopping I would remember and say to myself... I have to try the pomegranate later.... but it left my mind as quick as it popped in. This was my moment... I absolutely had to try the pomegranate.... I had no idea what to expect.

I have always been interested in pomegranates since I first heard about the myth of Persephone and Hades in my Greek and Roman mythology class my freshman year of college. I loved that class.... my teacher was so passionate about these stories and every class just captivated me. For some reason the one about Persephone fascinated me the most.... it's my favorite myth to this day. If you are not familiar with it... here is a short version:

Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the earth, harvest, and seasons. One day when Persephone was picking flowers, Hades, the God of the underworld, abducted her. Demeter was so saddened that she could not find her daughter, and because of this, the earth was starting to deteriorate. Helios, the Sun God, finally told her what had happened since he could see everything. While Persephone was in the underworld with Hades, he tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds... anyone who eats or drinks in the underworld is doomed to stay there for all of eternity. So, the deal was that Persephone could stay on the earth with Demeter for a few months of the year, and she had to go back to Hades in the underworld for the other ones. This myth also explains how seasons came to be. When Persephone was on earth with her mother, the world bloomed with beautiful flowers and vegetation... this is Summer and Spring.... then when she goes to the underworld... the world grows dark and cold.. this is Fall and Winter. Isn't that fascinating? I love that story.

Anyways... enough of Mythology... here is my story:

So, all I knew about pomegranates was that a lot of people drink the juice, and that you are only supposed to eat the seeds, and that there are little white seeds inside the juice sack. So, I just decided to cut one open, but I didn't know how messy it was! I mean... I had should have worn old clothes and goggles since it squirted all over me! Then, I saw that there were seeds all through the pomegranate and I really wasn't sure the easiest way to extract the seeds. So, I just got out a few with a spoon and it just seemed really complicated and time consuming. I thought... there has to be an easier way to eat a pomegranate. So, I put the few in a bowl, grabbed my laptop, and started searching..... How to de-seed a pomegranate. I was eating the seeds the whole time and realized that eating a pomegranate is a pain too. I was just eating the juice sacks and discarding the small white seed in the middle. I found it tough to eat around the white seed... I wasn't getting enough. As I was searching I came across some interesting information... one thing that I found is that the white seeds are edible, and that most of the nutrition and fiber lies within those seeds! I was so excited to hear this. I read a bunch of other sites and message boards and most people said that they did consume the seed, but some didn't, and it really relied on preference. So, I just decided to start eating the whole seed since I hated trying to eat around them. It was no problem at all, liked it the same, and got used to it pretty quick.

I also found a better way to extract the seeds from the pomegranate. If you soak it in water for a few minutes... the seeds can be peeled away easily, and they float to the bottom, then you just have to sift out the rind, drain the water from the seeds, and they are ready to eat! This is the site that I used, which takes you step by step in de-seeding a pomegranate: http://mideastfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques/ss/deseedpomegrana.htm

I also learned that pomegranates are a big part of all mythologies and religions. You can read about many of them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate

All in all... once you learn how to do it... it's not a messy task. But do it right and be careful... the juice can stain. As far as the taste goes... I thought it was sweet and a little tart. I actually think it tastes like a sweet red wine, or a grape wine. Pomegranates are sure to be in my future and I can't wait use them in salads. Hopefully I will have a recipe for you soon!

How do you like your pomegranates? Do you have a favorite recipe? Do you eat the whole seed, or just the juice? Tell me your pomegranate story......

Pomegranate on Foodista

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Leftover Tip: Veggie Curry Noodle Bowl


Last night, I ordered Red Thai Curry to go for dinner. As I was eating it, I realized that they always give you so much curry sauce, and you really don't need to eat it all at once. So, I took the sauce I had left over in a bowl and refrigerated it. Tonight when I made dinner... it was quick and easy. I decided to boil some udon noodles. As those were cooking, I used a skillet to cook broccoli, green onions, a yellow onion, sliced carrots, white mushrooms, and 3 cloves of chopped garlic in about a 4th cup of veggie broth. When everything was cooked, I added about a 4th cup (if that) of the left over red curry sauce (and I still have more left over), and mixed everything together. I drained the noodles and mixed that in with the sauce and veggies too. When it was all done... I had a wonderfully delicious curry udon bowl! What do you do with your leftovers?

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Evolution of a Cupcake

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes


I am not much of a baker......I am more of a what's in the fridge and how I can I make that into a meal kind of girl... it usually turns out to be a stir-fry, noodle dish, or soup. But, since I have lived in my place for about a month now... I wanted to feel like my place is a home, and nothing makes a house a home more than the aroma of freshly baked deserts swirling around your kitchen. Also, you can't go wrong with cupcakes, and they are so convenient! You don't need a knife or a fork.... or even a plate if you're not a messy eater.... or if you are... who cares! They are delicious, put you in a good mood no matter what, and you can take them anywhere.

So, below is how to make a desert that will make you smile:


Things you will need:

-Cupcake liners
-Muffin pan
-Three good sized mixing bowls
-whisk
-mixing spoon or an electric mixer
-Ice Cream Scooper to pour the batter into the muffin pan (a ladle will work too)

A quick note: When you pour the batter into the pan, fill 3 quarters of the way full.
For the Cupcakes (12 servings)
**If you omit the peppermint extract and chocolate chips from the ingrediants below, this is the basic chocolate cupcake, which you can use for anything.

1 cup soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar (carbon free, if possible)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all purpose flour (unbleached)
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I use green and blacks)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini vegan chocolate chips

For the Icing
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I used jungle soft shortening)
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy milk
1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
small drop of green food coloring

Top with mini vegan chocolate chips

Directions:
-Make sure the oven rack is in the middle of the oven... that is where the cupcakes cook the best.
-Preheat the oven to 350
-Place the cupcake liners in the muffin pan

Whisk together the apple cider vinegar and soymilk in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. (I have no idea why..... but it works). Add the sugar, oil, vanilla, mint, and almond extracts, and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, add the flour, coca powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients together, and start to pour in the dry ingredients to the wet ones in three batches so that you're not struggling to mix it all together at once. You can do it manually, which I used to do... but since I started using my mix master.... it's become my best friend.... after my cat. Make sure it's mixed until no large lumps remain (a few tiny ones are okay. Pour in the chocolate chips and mix in the batter. I used the small mini ones, but you can use the normal size chocolate chips or even crushed ones. Also, the chocolate chips don't have to say vegan.. just read the ingredients... most semi sweet or dark chocolate is vegan.

Once the batter is ready, pour into liners. I use a ladle to do this... it's not the easiest way, but it works just fine. The best thing to use is an ice cream scooper. You get the same size each time and there is less mess. Make sure to fill them three quarters of the way full since they rise. Bake 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When the pan has cooled off, take the muffins out and place on a cooling rack or just somewhere where they can cool off.

Directions for the Icing:
While the cupcakes are cooling.... start to make the icing. I also used the mix master for this, but feel free to mix manually. I know you can do it!

Cream the shortening for a few seconds to soften it. It's easiest to do this with a fork. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and a splash of soymilk and mix to incorporate. Continue to add the sugar and milk and mix until everything is incorporated and mixed together and smooth and creamy. Add the mint and vanilla extracts and coloring and mix to incorporate. You have the option here to mix in the chocolate chips in the batter, or leave them out to top them off depending on preference.

To assemble the cupcakes:
Once the cupcakes have cooled.... you can start to put the icing on the cupcakes. You have to really make sure they are cooled or the icing will start to melt on them. So, wait about an hour. I never use a pastry bag... it's not my style.... but maybe one day I will. You can though. the cookbook I am using says to use a bag with a #21 star tip and pipe the icing onto the cupcake in a spiral form outside in. I actually just use a spoon and plopped the icing on the cupcake and then used the spoon to layer and smooth on the top of cupcake. I kinda like the homemade look to them, and they also all end up looking different when you don't use the pastry bag. If you didn't add the chocolate chips to the batter, take about 5 to 7 of them and top off each of the cupcakes.

There you have it.... Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes .... eat as many as you want!

Afterthoughts:
I was invited to a Christmas Eve party at my friends house, so I brought these cupcakes to contribute to the party. I used a recipe from a cookbook called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have made other cupcakes from this book for the people I work with, and they are always a huge hit! I know my friend that invited me over loves mint, so I decided to borrow this recipe of the Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes from this book with two or three minor adjustments.

What's great about making vegan deserts is everyone is so impressed...... and they say things like... what did you do to get them so moist since eggs aren't used? I wish I had some special ingredient to mention.... like chick peas... or parsnips...but I just say.. ummm... flour... oil... soymilk? It just goes to show.... things are just as good or better when they are vegan! Another thing I love is how people tend to feel better about eating it because they assume it is healthy..... and I am okay with that, but the truth is, these are filled with lots of sugar so they are probably not much healthier. Who cares though.... they are amazing... and eat them in moderation and you'll be fine! And, even if you don't eat them in moderation.... you'll still be fine! You can't go wrong!

Chocolate Mint on Foodista

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vegetable Stock



First off, I apologize that I did not get to this earlier. There is one more night of Chanukkah, and I wanted to have a good vegetable stock posted so you would have enough time to cook and enough soup throughout the holidays. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I slacked off a little. It's alright though, because soup is satisfying anytime.....it's probably my favorite food, and this recipe will give you enough to make now and freeze for later. You can use a good vegetable stock for almost anything! You can make a nice Pho... which is a vietnamese soup... and the vegan version is called Pho
Chay (Pho is actually a beef or chicken soup with Pho noodles, but Pho Chay was actually created for the buddhist temple since they do not eat meat). Vegetable stock can used to make any noodle soup, a miso, a curry, a Thai Tom Yum, a mushroom and barely soup, or even to cook couscous or saute vegetables... the options are endless!

Ingredients
You will need: Cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, stock pot
20 cups filtered water
3 yellow onions, roughly cut, skin on
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 carrots (large/med), roughly cut, peeled
3 parsnips, peeled, roughly chopped
3 medium turnips, roughly chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup dill - loosely chopped
1 cup parsley - loosely chopped
6-8 springs thyme
a handful of basil leaves
4 bay leaves
garlic powder
onion powder
sea salt
pepper
olive oil

Directions
Chop up all of the vegetables. They can be chopped in large pieces, so there is no need to spend time chopping many pieces or worrying about making them look pretty. In a large stockpot, heat the oil. Saute onions and garlic for about 5 minutes on medium heat. I learned this from Post Punk Kitchen. Cooking the onion and garlic first really does help to bring out the onion flavor, and leaving the skin on the onion gives the soup a fabulous golden color. When you are finished, add all other vegetables and fresh herbs, and bring to a boil. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and let simmer for an hour and a half, uncovered.

Let broth cool until it's an okay temperature to handle. Strain into a large bowl or pot with cheese cloth or a very fine mesh strainer. Press the vegetables with a gentle but firm pressure to get all the moisture out. Using the cheese cloth is easier. Just keep squeezing until you get all of the juices out from the vegetables to get a savory stock. Then discard veggies, and keep enough stock in your fridge that you will use up to 3 days, and freeze the rest.

Some Afterthoughts:

A good vegetable stock is something that can be a a little time consuming to make, but that's why you make so much at once... so you always have it on hand. It's way better than using the store bought ones because then you end up with a broth loaded with sodium, msg, or "flavoring". However, I use store bought stock a lot, and there are some decent ones if you take the time to read the ingredients, but you still don't get away with a preservative free one! You can add other vegetables such as mushrooms, kale, or other seasonings for a deeper flavor. You can really add anything that is in your fridge so that it doesn't go bad and get wasted. Anyways, I ended up making a two-noodle soup with kasha and vegetables for Chanukkah instead of matzoh ball soup. I didn't have the motivation to make homemade matzoh balls this year, but I will eventually! I hope you enjoy!

Vegetable Broth on Foodista

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Orecchiette Onion Pasta with Kale and Garlic Sauce




Hi Everyone! I hope you are having a great week. Last night I went to a yoga studio that I had never been before called Shine on Yoga . I had one of the best yoga classes in a long time. They have a great special right now.... $20 for unlimited yoga for 2 weeks for new students, so I am definitely going to take advantage of that. I love yoga, and trying out new classes and instructors.... you learn something new every time and it's a great way to calm your mind. I really think that if everyone did yoga... then we would have world peace.

Anyways... On the way home, I knew I wanted to make something simple and delicious, and had a great idea for a garlic sauce. I also remembered that I had orecchiette pasta in my pantry and knew that I was going to put these two together. Below is my garlic masterpiece:

Ingredients to Roast:
2 Leeks
1 bunch green onions
about 15 shallot cloves

Ingredients to Boil:
3 leaves of kale
Orecchiette Pasta

Sauce:
3 tbls lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt
red pepper flakes
about 10-15 garlic cloves

Start by preheating the oven to 375

Peel the shallots, and cut the big ones in half, but leave the small ones whole. Slice the leeks in half, then slice each half width-wise. Peel and cut the green onions into about 1 inch pieces. My goal was to make the veggies chunky. Also, peel the garlic cloves... using big and small cloves...whatever you have. Place everything, except the garlic, in a bowl and pour some olive oil and a pinch of salt on the onions and mix to coat. Place on the baking sheet, and use a spatula or spoon to flatten out so it is a single layer. Add the garlic to the oily bowl and coat them as well. Place that on the baking sheet in a separate corner. When the oven is preheated, put the veggies in there for about 20-30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes and flip if needed with a spatula. Any garlic or pieces that are too dark...remove and you will add this to the dish later because you do not want to burn anything. When I did this... I only had to remove a small piece of garlic so it would not burn. keep checking and take out when everything is cooked through and slightly brown. The garlic should be browned and soft so you can mash it.

While the veggies are cooking... start the water for the pasta. I added a small amount of olive oil and salt to the water just for taste. While you are waiting for it to boil, prepare the kale. I used 3 leaves.. devained... and I actually just ripped them into pieces rather than cutting it. Maybe I was lazy, but it worked fine for me! Set the kale aside.

When the water boils... cook the orecchiette according to package. I used a box, and I used a little over 2/3 of the box. The only reason for this is because I thought I would save a little extra for some soup. But, you can make as much as you want... you might just have to adjust the sauce ingredients... which is no problem! The box I used said to cook for 11-13 minutes. I cooked the full 13 minutes. When the orecchiette has about 40 more seconds to cook... add the kale to the pot. Just let it cook down in the water... this takes about 30-60 seconds. Just continue to mix and push down....it will cook down quick and fit into the pot. When it is cooked down... no more than a minute.... drain the pasta and kale.

When the onions and garlic are finished... Pour the pasta, kale, and onions into a big enough bowl. Now, you can start to make the sauce. Get a bowl and mash the garlic. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Mix everything together well. You can probably use a food processor, but I just mashed and mixed. It won't be totally smooth because you will have chunks of the garlic skin and won't mash totally... but that's why it's so good! Pour that over the pasta and onions. Add some salt, red pepper flakes, and then mix together. You might have to taste and add more lemon juice or salt to adjust to your liking. It's better to start small and add to it. When you have adusted the taste to your liking... serve in a bowl... and enjoy!


This was the perfect dish for a late night meal after a yoga class. The sauce is not too involved, but has just enough flavor. It was totally simple, but did take some time since there was chopping and roasting involved... but it is totally worth it. Just pour a glass of wine and play sodoku while you are cooking... that's what I did. I hope you enjoy!

Kale on Foodista

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vegan Vietnamese Pepper and Garlic Noodle Bowl with Spicy Tofu


















Who doesn't love Vietname
se food?!? Everything about it has so much flavor and is so refreshing.....especially the noodle bowls. One place that makes one of the best is called Little Saigon in Orlando, FL. I have been ordering and eating their noodle bowls for a few years now, and I think I finally have mastered how to make a good vegan vietnamese noodle bowl. This recipe seems complicated, but it's actually pretty simple. You just have to be good at timing things out when cooking different ingrediants. It does take some time because of the draining of the tofu and chopping of vegetables, but well well worth it! You can always skip the tofu if you are short on time, and have the same wonderful outcome!

Just some quick notes: I used what I had in my fridge... feel free to experiment with whatever vegetables you have available. I happened to have baby bella mushrooms, but this would be great with shiitake, or any other Asian mushroom. But, I was very pleased with how the baby bella mushrooms turned out.

I use Braggs liquid amino just because it is lower in sodium than soy sauce, and I can't tell the difference much in taste, but any type of soy sauce will do. If you use soy sauce... try to use tamari or shoyu vs any type with preservatives.

As far as the vegetable broth goes... use any kind you like. I use Kitchen Basics. There is way less sodium and they don't use MSG. It's totally natural. I used to use Swanson until I realized they used MSG. If you don't have it available, use water, and just adjust the ingrediants to taste.

I don't use a lot of salt ever. As you can see, I didn't mention using any except for flavoring the tofu. The Braggs and vegetable broth have enough sodium so there is no need to ever use salt in this dish. I originally did not cook the tofu with salt, and it was a little bland, so I added it in the recipe. Just use a small amount to taste.

As far as heat goes on the stove.... I use medium to high heat... you want to hear everything sizzle, but you don't want it to be so hot that it smokes and your food starts to burn. So, use your judgment on that.

Good Luck!

Vegan Vietnamese Pepper and Garlic Noodle Bowl with Spicy Tofu

Rice Sticks (1/2 of a bunch) - You can find these at your local Asian grocery store. Buy a lot of them and use them often!

Vegetables:

4 to 6 Baby Bella Mushrooms (or any kind of mushroom you like), sliced
1 bunch of Broccoli
1/2 red pepper (cut into big cubes)
1/2 green pepper (cut into big cubes)
1 bunch green onions (white parts and green), cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the green slices longer since they cook different
1 Yellow Onion (small or half of a big onion, cut into med to large cubes)
4 good size cloves garlic, chopped

Sauce:
2 tablspoons Braggs liquid amino or soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable broth (or water)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
black pepper

For the Tofu:
Firm or Extra Firm Tofu (not silken)
minced onion
red pepper flakes
garlic powder
sea salt to taste
sesame oil
olive oil

The Uncooked:
a handful of chopped lettuce
a small handful of chopped cucumber
about a tablespoon of fresh cilantro
about a tablespoon of fresh basil, cut into slices

Directions:
You have to be able to time this dish right so that the veggies stay crisp while you are cooking the tofu and noodles. But, if you have a hard time cooking a lot of things at once, you can always cook the tofu first, then the veggies second, and noodles last. You know how you work best in the kitchen, so use your judgment. It might take some practice, but I know you can do it!

Fist you have to drain the tofu. It's pretty simple. Use about three paper towels folded on a plate. Place the tofu on top of the folded paper towels. Then, use the same amount of paper towels on top of the tofu, and place something heavy on top of that. You might want to use a large freezer bag in between the top paper towel and whatever you are using to drain the tofu. The reason for this is that if you are using a book you like, you want to avoid a water stain on it. I used a phone book, so I could care less. You want to flip the tofu about 10-15 minutes in and change out the paper towels. Continue to drain on the other side. Once drained, cut into med to thin slices length-wise.

While the tofu is draining, start chopping up the vegetables as mentioned above. During that time you might be able to flip the tofu, and start draining the other side. You will eventually cook the veggies and tofu in a separate pan. For the veggies I use a wok, and the tofu I use a big skillet. ....but use what you have.

Don't start cooking the veggies until you get the tofu started. After you have sliced the tofu - it's time to season it. Sprinkle your desired amount of garlic powder, minced onion, red pepper flakes, and sea salt on the tofu. Take your fingers and pat the seasonings in. Then flip the tofu over and do the same on the other side.

Get everything ready on the stove
-a pot ready with water in it for the noodles
-the wok - with the liquid ingrediants in it.
-the skillet

Coat the large skillet with sesame oil and olive oil... not too much... just enough to coat the pan. Heat the pan to med-high heat and when it is hot, place the tofu in carefully. You can cook in two batches if you can't fit it all in the pan. You want to cook about 10-15 minutes on each side, flipping carefully. You might have to go back and forth between cooking the veggies in the wok to flip the tofu. The tofu should be a golden brown, and crispy on the outside when finished. Some pieces, depending how thin and what part of the skillet it's on, take longer, so just be patient.

While that is cooking, heat the liquid ingredients in the wok on medium-high heat, and when it is hot start by putting in the garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes and put in the onions and cook for about 3-5 minutes until cooked through, but crispy. This might be a good time to boil the water in the pot and begin to cook the noodles according to the instructions on the bag. While you are waiting for the water to boil for the noodles, continue to cook the veggies in the wok. Throw in the peppers and until desired doneness (about 2-3 minutes), then the mushrooms, then the green onion, and last the broccoli. Then, top with the black pepper. I used probably about one teaspoon. Mix everything together and continue to stir-fry for a few more minutes. You want everything to be cooked through, but crispy....the broccoli should be bright green and the mushrooms should be sauteed. Even though I say 3 to 5 minutes... you are the judge of when something looks cooked. Don't forget about the tofu!

Drain the noodles when they are finished cooking. When the tofu is done, remove it from the pan and place on cutting board or paper towel or plate... your choice. Turn the wok on low heat at this point, and pour the drained noodles into the wok. There still should be some liquid, so toss everything together until the noodles are coated with the sauce. I like to cut them in half... it makes it easier to toss. Turn off the wok and remove from heat. If you leave it on the heat, then the noodles will start to stick... so remove immediately.

Transfer the noodles and veggies to a bowl. throw in a handful of lettuce and cucumber, a pinch of cilantro, and about two leaves of sliced basil. I cut two pieces of tofu into matchstick slices and placed on top. Mix together

Enjoy!

Afterthoughts:

I love this dish because there is so much flavor involved depending on what you get in each bite whether it is a refreshing piece of cucumber, the spiciness of the red pepper on the tofu, or the freshness of the cilantro and basil. You can't go wrong with this dish, and you will probably have left over tofu for about three more meals... so you don't have to go through all of the work of draining and cooking it again for awhile. Please try it out and let me know what you think. Afterwords... you can do what I did... make some Rooibos tea and sit on your porch and watch the storm while typing up a recipe. It makes for a peaceful and fulfilling night.

Namaste