To-Fish Sticks

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I have had the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook by Jennifer McCann for awhile, and I have tried numerous recipes successfully for my family.  For some reason I never tried the Tofu Fish Sticks.  I think the name scared me, like I would have to put in a ton of effort or something.  While searching this morning for inspiration in the kitchen, I revisited this wonderful cookbook and was drawn to this recipe.  After reading it, I saw actually how very simple it was.  You cut some tofu, dredge it in soy milk and batter, then bake.  Well, these were a HUGE hit tonight at dinner in my house.  All 4 kids have them a thumbs up, and it felt good to start our busy week off with a nice home cooked meal.

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So for all you tofu skeptics out there, I would encourage you to try these delicious, nutritious renditions!  The only thing I was missing was the tarter sauce, which I will make the next time we have these.  Actually, I am going to give you 4 recipes from tonight’s meal.  It seems like a lot, but most of the work was in the prep and this was actually a pretty simple meal to prepare.  The meal is 100% vegan except for a tiny, tiny amount of ghee on the beets, which you could easily omit.  I use ghee for the flavor and to add a little bit of animal fat to our diet for variation.  I also used some honey in the carrots and green bean vinaigrette. You can read about some of the health benefits of ghee vs. butter here.

Moving on to the recipes!  First up are the Tofu Fish Sticks, which my family renamed To-Fish Sticks. These are gluten free and vegan!

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To-Fish Sticks (recipe taken from Vegan Lunch Box)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cup fine cornmeal
  • 2/3 Cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. kelp granules
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill weed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound firm tofu, drained
  • extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with olive oil spray. Combine first 9 ingredients in a high power blender until it turns into a coarse meal. (Note: modify this to your taste. For example, I added extra kelp granules, along with some nutritional yeast. I also omitted the onion powder because I had none, so I doubled the garlic powder). Transfer powdered blend to a wide baking or pie dish. Put soy milk into a bowl. Cut the tofu into just under 1/2 inch slices, then cut those in half. This gave me 18 sticks. Dip the tofu stick into the soy milk, then place it in the cornmeal mix, making sure to heavily coat on all sides. Place in the baking dish (I sprinkled on extra cornmeal mix on top of the tofu sticks), and sprinkle them with olive oil.  Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy.

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Next up, the beets.  So super simple, but such a wonderful flavor.  Thinly slice a red beet and an orange beet (more if needed).  Spray bottom of a shallow baking dish (I use a pie pan). Place your beet slices in the pan and sprinkle with olive oil.  I also added a touch of ghee.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until beets are tender.  I like to cook mine until they just start to get crispy around the edges.

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Now for the potatoes.  Cut some golden potatoes into 6-8 pieces, depending on the size of the potato. Boil in water (with a little salt and pepper added) until tender.  Drain the water and place the potatoes back in the saucepan. Coat with some vegan butter and freshly chopped parsley.  Done!

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Finally, the veggies.  This is another recipe from Vegan Lunch Box. It is such an easy vinaigrette to make and so flavorful!  I will tell you that I completely forgot to add the tarragon as listed below. I also added some honey to the vinaigrette to slightly change the flavor.  I loved the way it turned out! I also added some fresh crushed garlic. Keeping that in mind, here is the original recipe below:

Green Beans and Carrots in a Tarragon Vinaigrette (original recipe taken from Vegan Lunch Box)

Ingredients:

  • 3 baby carrots (cut into matchsticks)***
  • 1 handful fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • freshly ground black pepper

***I used regular carrots, sliced then then cut them into tiny matchsticks

Add green beans and carrots to a sauce pan with a little bit of water. Bring water to a boil, then lower temperature, cover and simmer for a few minutes until beans are tender. I like mine tender but still a little crunchy. Remove the cover and increase the heat to boil off the rest of the water. This shouldn’t take long, so if you find that for some reason you have a lot of water left after you do this for a few minutes then just go ahead and pour off the excess water.  (At this point I added some crushed garlic to the pan and cooked for a few minutes). Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients (I added some honey to mine and omitted the tarragon) and toss with the vegetable mix. This vinaigrette could be used with a lot of different foods.  Try it and you will see how simple, yet flavorful it is. It really jazzes up your basic vegetable and brings it to a whole new and fun level!

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3 Days of Whole Foods (Adults)

Day 1

Breakfast:  Egg Scramble (egg, mushroom, baby kale & onion), coffee with small amount of sugar and half & half

Snack:  fresh squeezed orange grapefruit juice (1 1/2 Cups)

Lunch:  Salad (spinach,egg salad, carrots, tomatoes, blueberries, sunflower seeds, ground flax seeds, coconut aminos)

Snack:  oranges, grapefruit

Dinner:  Stir-Fry (Tofu, snap peas, mushrooms, carrots, red peppers,onion, broccoli, bok choy)

Stir-Fry

Stir-Fry

Day 2

Breakfast:  oatmeal with raisins & strawberries/raspberries, coffee with small amount of sugar and half & half

Snack:  grapefruit

Lunch:  Egg Salad Avocado Smash over cabbage slaw

Snack:  Green Tea

Dinner:  Roasted tempeh/sweet potatoes/carrots/asparagus

Green Tea

Green Tea

Day 3

Breakfast:  2 hard boiled eggs

Snack:  Raw carrot sticks

Lunch:  Leftover dinner

Snack:  **denser more nutritional snack was necessary because I participated in the boy’s run-a-thon at school and ran almost 5 miles total**  Whey protein shake (banana, nut butter, whey protein powder, crushed ice, rice milk)

Dinner:  Brown rice bowl (brown rice, avocado, tomato, red onion, black/pinto beans, corn, leftover stir-fry vegetables)

Roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus, tempeh, carrots

Roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus, tempeh, carrots

Recipe: Veggie Filled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Stir-fry is a perfect way to incorporate tons of different vegetables into a meal.  Prepping the night before by cutting all the veggies or having little hands help you cut the veggies makes this meal quick and easy to put together.  Using rice noodles that take only a few minutes to cook also makes it super fast and gluten-free!  My oldest son called this the “best meal ever”.  As you will see in another picture below, I took a little extra time and sauteed veggies separately.  It seems to be more appealing to the kids when they can pick for themselves what goes into their dish.  They are also more willing to try new things when they are presented separately.  I am estimating amounts below to let you know what I used, but you really can just pick any and all vegetables that you want to use.  You can really make this dish anything you want to!  My last trick is that I cooked it without sauce because again, my kids like to do it themselves!  Ghee is the key to slightly flavoring the veggies, and then some of us added coconut aminos, some of us soy butter, and some of us nothing at all!

Veggie Filled Stir-Fry

Veggie Filled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Veggie Filled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

feeds family of 6 (with few leftovers), adjust quantities to suit your family’s size

Ingredients:

  • 1 package shredded carrots
  • 1 package snap peas
  • 1/2 bunch celery
  • 1 bunch bok choy, stalk separate from the leafy part
  • 1 package white mushrooms
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu
  • ghee
  • Asian stir-fry oil or peanut oil

Drain water and remove tofu from package.  Wrap in paper towel or kitchen towel and place in a dish, covered with a plate.  This encourages the excess water to drain out of it.  Chop all veggies.  Melt 1-2 Tbsp. ghee in a large saute pan on medium-high.  Cook carrots and snap peas for a few minutes until slightly tender, but still crispy.  I cover and let cook for a few minutes, then remove cover and stir for another minute or two.  That’s it!  Do not overcook.  You want nice crisp veggies.  Remove carrot and snap pea mixture from pan and cook celery and bok choy the same way, adding more ghee.  Again, remove and repeat with mushrooms and onions.  In same pan, cover bottom with stir-fry oil.  Cube tofu and add to pan.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.  Repeat until tofu is golden brown.  They key to sauteing tofu is to remove most of the water before cooking, using plenty of oil in the pan, and cooking on medium-high heat.  Finally, cook your rice noodles according to package, and voila, a delicious whole food meal!  Toss with some coconut aminos (tastes like soy sauce) or you favorite stir-fry sauce and enjoy!  There is something for everyone!

Cooked Stir-Fry Ingredients

Cooked Stir-Fry Ingredients

Coconut Aminos

Coconut Aminos

I cannot say enough about coconut aminos, my recent discovery in the health food store.  I cannot believe I have never used this wonderful product.  It is a simple way to flavor food, and the added benefit is that it is soy free! Give it a try…..super tasty!!!

Need more ideas for dinner?  Try this or this.

Recipe: Gluten Free Vegan Stir-Fry

Gluten Free Stir-Fry

Gluten Free Vegan Stir-Fry

Gluten Free Vegan Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

  • brown rice noodles (pictured below)
  • peanut, sesame, or Asian stir fry oil
  • soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • extra-firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups slaw mix (shredded cabbage/carrots)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 zucchini, quartered into thin pieces
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced thin
  • 1/2 head broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • 3 carrots, sliced thin
  • peanut sauce (see recipe below)
GF Rice Noodles

GF Rice Noodles

  1. Cook noodles according to package.
  2. Roast broccoli on 425 for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Saute onion, zucchini and celery on medium-high in stir-fry oil until tender.
  4. In separate pan, steam carrots until tender.  Remove lid to allow remaining water to evaporate.
  5. Remove carrots from pan, and in same pan saute tofu on medium-high in stir-fry oil until crisp.
  6. Remove tofu from pan, and in same pan add slaw mix with a splash of soy sauce.  Stir for a few minutes to combine.

Peanut Sauce

I did not measure for this sauce.  Add the following (approximates; I did not measure) to the Vitamix and adjust to taste:

  • few large spoonfuls of peanut butter
  • few Tbsp. soy sauce
  • few Tbsp. white balsamic or brown rice vinegar
  • small squeeze of honey
  • water (to desired consistency)
GF Stir-Fry

GF Vegan Stir-Fry

Normally with stir-fry I throw all the veggies in together to saute; however, this sometimes ends in my children eating noodles and tofu 🙂  This time I took the extra time to saute things separately and it worked great.  This way the kids could pick and choose what to top their noodles with.  This was a tasty and simple dish to throw together.  The thing I loved most was the crunchy cabbage/carrot mix that was barely cooked.  Most of the work was in the veggie cutting.  You could save time by buying chopped veggies or cutting them ahead of time.  Also, it is easy to substitute any veggies that you have on hand.

Speedy Supper Series: Salads

Salad

Salad

OK, so this salad might not look that appetizing nor have the best presentation, but I am posting it to prove a point.  Salads are one of the easiest dinners because you can just chop up a bunch of stuff and throw it on a plate.  This is, quite literally, what I did for this meal.  I pulled a bunch of stuff out of the fridge without much thought, some of it already cut from previous meal prep, and some of it not.  The only thing I had to cook for this meal was the tofu.  Oh, and I also made sweet potatoes as extra for the kids, especially the boys, who had swim team practice.  Listed below are all of the things I piled onto this delicious salad:

  • baby greens salad mix
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • red pepper
  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • sautéed tofu
  • tomatoes
  • artichokes
  • kalamata olives
  • raw walnuts
  • raw sunflower seeds
  • olive oil

Now, none of my children will eat a salad on their plate, I admit it!  BUT, my girls will eat half of my salad (literally) off my plate.  They won’t use their fork; it has to be mine, but they will eat the salad this way.  Not the best manners, but I will take salad eaters over manners in this situation!  My boys will eat various parts of the salad separately on their plate.  When I make salad for supper, I do not make different food for my children.  They can eat various parts of the salad, and with this meal they also had tofu and sweet potatoes.  I still serve the salad weekly because my hope is that they will eventually turn into salad lovers!  Maybe………

Whole Food Kid’s School Lunch

Whole Food Kid's School Lunch

Whole Food Kid’s School Lunch

  • Carrot sticks
  • Strawberries/grapes
  • Homemade whole wheat cinnamon pretzel balls
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Dinner leftovers (homemade flour tortilla wrap filled with brown rice and tofu)

I made this lunch the night before school.  I would recommend doing this if possible.  There is much less pressure of time constraints, and it usually doesn’t take that long if you do it coinciding with kitchen clean-up.  With the dinner leftovers as you can see, this was quick to come together.  I did make the whole wheat cinnamon pretzel balls.  They took under an hour start to finish, and I made them as we were straightening up the kitchen.  I have enough to use them as a snack tomorrow or the next day.  It is rare that I have dinner leftovers unless I make soup, so this was a treat and I promptly packed them up into the boy’s lunches!