June was a full month of road-tripping through the Southwest, family time with family I don't really know in Southern IL, too much work and some big life changes. I was given an amazing gift in the form of a scholarship to my yoga studio! Yay Urth! The beloved is now member number 3 of the loveshack household, trying to be as veg as possible (Amazing, people, it's amazing and inspirational and driven by his own desires and it makes my heart sing, even when he mentions probably, maybe being OK eating "happy" meat...For the record, this girl doesn't believe in "happy meat, but she believes in people going at their own pace and doing the best they can and also really loves this person, whether he believes in "happy meat" or not.), and requesting a more calorie and protein dense meal plan. I am really, really loving being able to cook for someone else and am finding trying to balance my desires for the über healthy and low-cal/fat meals and his need for fat, protein, and carbs a useful exercise in my ED recovery. It's definitely easier to feel very comfortable actually eating meals with veganaise, or some cashew cheese, or whatever, when you have the love, support, and enthusiastic "yumming" of a happy partner! Guys, I ate half of a vegan chocolate croissant today and did not freak out and did not spend the rest of the day planning how far I should run to burn it off. I AM MAKING SERIOUS PROGRESS OVER HERE.
July is off to a great start with a potential October internship at Animal Place, an interview to do some home-cooking, and the much anticipated quitting of the job at the not-vegan restaurant I shall not name that serves not vegan food and labels it vegan, and soon I'll never have to say "would you like bacon with that?' again unless I am referring to Tempeh! Yahoo! I will say, that I am already feeling a little bit of missing for my amazing co-workers though, seriously, I work with the nicest, most driven and funny and sweet-hearted folks at that place. But, as I said to C-- Ditch the crap job, keep the lovely friends. Best of both worlds.
C is not much of a kitchen-lover, but this past weekend he cheerily chipped in to help me make a sushi "labyrinth" for our much anticipated viewing of The Labyrinth at Hollywood Forever with our delightful (newish, yay!!!) friends, Dana and Paxton, who I've just realized share initials with another couple I love (and miss) Danica and Peter. (Come visit LA guys!) Even though Saturday was vegan pizza day, the hot weather found me craving sushi and C and I's addiction to all things Vietnamese threw me the idea of pairing maki with spring rolls for a delightful "labyrinthine" platter. (Or, actually 2...See that paragraph about me cooking like someone who lived through a war!) D&P brought some amazing picnic foods (like that spinach /phyllo thing you see below) including the most ridiculous spicy maple almonds, ever and a fabulous fairytale time was had by all!
The thing about sushi is that there are a lot of steps, but if you prep ahead, you can make a lot of rolls with not too much time spent laboring in the kitchen. Brown rice sushi has always been my favorite way to go and I like to keep my home-made rolls simple (unless I make some spicy tempeh "tuna")-- blanched veggies, avocado, maybe some almond butter. But, I'll give you my tips below and my recipe for sriracha citrus tofu spring rolls with peanut sauce...An easy crowd pleaser that will solve your Vietnamese cravings without any worries about creepy non-vegan food contamination.
Did I mention I got food poisoning in Southern IL and am back on the NO NON VEG RESTAURANTS path... Nothing like barfing on an airplane my friends, nothing.
Brown Rice Sushi "Buddha Belly Rolls"
A friend used to make these for me and they've become my favorite combo for at home sushi. Make the rice and slice and blanch the veggies the day before while you're making dinner or prepping for the week and the rolls take a lot less time when you're hungry and ready to eat, or running late getting ready to party!
1 cup short grain brown rice
1 T sugar
1 T rice vinegar
1 T mirin
1/2 t sea salt
1 head broccoli sliced into long skinnies, you want to keep a lot of stem here as the florets can really only be used to poke out the ends of your rolls
3 carrots (peeled) and sliced into long skinnies
1 bell pepper, sliced into long skinnies
1/2 mango sliced into (you guessed it, long skinnies!)
1 avocado sliced into long skinies
1/2 c raw almond butter
** We also made some using some leftover minced cilantro, basil, and mint from the spring rolls and they were extra, super amazing, so I recommend making some like this if you're chopping herbs already !
nori sheets (this makes about 12 rolls, so you'll need about 12 sheets)
To make the sticky rice, cook the brown rice in 1.5 cups of water and stir in the the sugar, rice vinegar, mirin and sea salt while it's still very warm. Chill in the fridge and let come to room temperature before using. You can make your rice a day ahead NO PROBLEM. In fact, I recommend doing so!
Blanch the broccoli and carrots and then dry them well. To do this I steam these guys for about 3 minutes MAX and then immediately dump them into a big bowl of ice water. You want them to keep most of their crunch. I also usually do this ahead of time.
When you're ready to make your rolls have all of the components assembled on separate plates / bowls so you can grab things easily. Keep a clean kitchen towel and bowl of cool filtered water at your side.
Spread about 1/4 cup of rice evenly over the bottom third of one piece of nori. Wet your fingers and take about 1/2 tablespoon of almond butter in your hands and work it carefully into a little snake. Press it into the center of the rice. Neatly arrange slices of mango, carrot, broccoli, red pepper and avocado over the almond butter. You want just one "line" of each component running the entire width of the nori. Keep your filling contained and sparse. Wipe your hands. Lift the bottom of the nori and pull it over all of the rice and fillings, using your thumbs to guide the nori and your fingers to keep the rice, etc. tucked in neatly. Pull back on your edge and then roll your maki as tightly as you can. Use wet fingers to seal the roll and then set aside. Repeat until you run out of rice!
When you slice your maki use a sharp serrated knife and clean it and get it wet between every cut. This will keep things looking tidy! Serve with tamari, wasabi, pickled ginger and a smile.
Sriracha-Citrus Tofu Spring rolls
10 oz super firm tofu (I like wildwood, but know this can be a divisive choice!)
2 T sriracha (I use Organic Valley, because it's vegan and organic, but you can use the rooster if you wish!)
Juice from 2 sweet oranges and 2 limes
1 T tamari
1 T maple syrup
1/2 package of raw kelp noodles
1/2 cup of napa cabbage, shredded
1 carrot shredded
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1/2 cup mint, minced
1/2 cup basil, minced
8 rice paper wrappers
2" ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 c natural peanut butter (meaning there are two ingredients, peanuts and salt)
2 T sriracha
3 T tamari
1 T mirin
1 T maple syrup
Warm water to thin
To start, press your tofu for about an hour. Blend the sriracha, citrus juice, tamari, and maple in a bowl. Slice the tofu into 8 1/4" thick rectangles and marinate over night (or for at least a couple hours).
Bake the tofu at 375 on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I like to do about 15 minutes on each side. Slice each rectangle in half length-wise so you have 16 pieces of tofu.
Make the peanut sauce while your 'fu's are baking. In a small food processor, mince the garlic and ginger until very fine. Add the peanut butter, sriracha, tamari, mirin, and maple syrup and blend until creamy. Thin the sauce to your desired consistency by adding warm water 1 T at a time. (I usually use no more than 1/3 cup of water.)
Again, you'll want to assemble your components before you start rolling. You'll need a pie plate full of hot water, a clean flat surface like a large dinner plate, and a clean kitchen towel.
Soak a sheet of rice paper in the hot water until soft and sticky. Lay it out on the dinner plate and arrange 2 pieces of tofu, a small handfull of kelp noodles, a small handful of napa and carrots, and a generous portion of minced herbs on the botton third of the wrapper like you're making a tiny burrito. I like to stack the components like floors in a building so that when you slice the rolls you can see each layer clearly. Rolling rice wrappers is basically the same as working with a sticky tortilla, so pull the bottom over your fillings, pull back on everything, fold up your ends and roll tightly! Repeat until you're out of tofu.
I like to serve these sliced in half, with the peanut sauce in a big communal bowl! As a note, this makes enough peanut sauce to garnish these rolls and to make a decent portion of peanut noodle salad the next day, or later that night, or whenever you just need more peanut sauce. It's addictive stuff.