Seitan, Stripped

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Earlier today, I was standing in line in a local coffee shop, when I was tapped on the shoulder by one of my colleagues from work.

“Oh, hi there! Great to see you! What brings you to my neighborhood?”

We had a nice three minute conversation until it was my turn to order. On my way out, I met a member of my coworker’s family, wished them both a good day, and waved goodbye. As I walked away from the coffee shop, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a pane of glass. Then I came to the horrific realization that my tank top had slid down and about an inch of my zebra print bra was exposed. How long had it been that way? How many people had seen? Why do these things always happen to me?!

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I had been thinking all morning about what I was going to write about in my next blog post. With the humiliation of my unintentional striptease on my mind all afternoon, these seitan strips seemed like an appropriate topic.

I made these a couple of months ago, when Kyle decided he wanted to reduce the amount of soy in his diet. I cook with soy-based protein sources quite often, so his request required me to branch out a bit. As I struggled to put together the meal plan and grocery list that week, Kyle suggested that we cook with seitan. I’ve used the ingredient before, but I find that the pre-packaged seitan that is sold in stores tends to be high in sodium, so I’ve shied away from it.

A little research taught me that it’s a very high protein food, so I determined that it was worth investigating further. I quickly discovered that seitan is easy to make at home, where you can control the amount of sodium, with just a few ingredients. Most of the salt comes from the broth that it’s cooked in, so I searched for a low sodium vegetable broth and a few more essential ingredients, then I got to work. My stripped-down version has just the ingredients I want in my seitan, and nothing more.

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The basic recipe includes vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, water, liquid aminos or soy sauce, oil, broth, and seasonings. I made mine in a slow cooker according to this recipe from the Cathe’s Kitchen blog.

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The dough for the seitan comes together pretty quickly, then it gets dropped in a slow cooker bath of broth, onions, garlic, and herbs to simmer for a few hours. This time of year, when it starts to get pretty hot outside, I am a big fan of slow cooking to keep my kitchen cool.

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The seitan loaves look kind of creepy when they come out. I think my first batch had too many air bubbles, but I’ll get the texture down with some practice.

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The loaves freeze and defrost really well, so I recommend that you make a big batch. When you are ready to serve them, simply cut into slices or strips and cook them like you would chicken cutlets. If you want to simmer them in a sauce, it is best to brown them in a pan first, which makes the texture less spongy.  My favorite way to prepare them so far has been to marinate and grill them. I have only done them on the George Foreman indoor grill, but I am looking forward to getting them on my charcoal grill this summer.

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The strips are delicious when marinated in cilantro and lime, grilled to perfection, then stuffed into warm tortillas with roasted poblanos, corn and tomato salsa, and avocado.

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Whether you are looking for a way to prepare store-bought seitan strips, or you are experimenting with your own homemade version, this taco recipe is a simple introduction to seitan. The marinated and grilled strips are also great in sandwiches and on salads. I tossed them with some toppings over rice to bring to work for lunch, and they even tasted great reheated in the microwave.

Cilantro Lime Seitan Strips

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb plain seitan (store bought or homemade), sliced into strips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon agave syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, agave, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Spread seitan strips in a shallow baking dish. Cover with marinade.
  3. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove seitan from marinade and grill for 6 minutes on each side, or until dark grill marks appear. Brush with marinade while grilling if desired.
  5. Serve hot. Stuff into warm tortillas, sandwich between two slices of bread, or place on top of rice or a salad. Cover with desired toppings and enjoy!

Stay cool and have a great week!

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Slow Cooking for Vegetarians

When it’s 100 degrees outside, most people avoid turning on their ovens or stoves. This is not the time for baking, roasting, frying, or braising. We do enough of that just laying out in the sun (except for maybe the braising, unless you count mojitos and tanning oil as braising liquids). When summer weather turns brutally hot, anything that raises the temperature of the house is out of the question. Perhaps that is why outdoor grilling is so popular in the summer. Who wants to bring the heat inside, when you can keep it outside and make even more delicious food with the help of your grill?

Another option for cooking healthy and delicious meals at home without heating up the house is dusting off the slow cooker. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But that certainly does not mean you have to give up cooking altogether.

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The beauty of slow cooking is that you can do it any season in any temperature, and, despite the name, it’s actually pretty quick because it saves time. That means home cooks have more time for hanging out with their families, putting in an extra hour at the office, gardening, bicycling, reading, ordering another round at happy hour. . . you name it. In my opinion, the slow cooker is an underrated kitchen appliance. It is an important weapon in the home cook’s arsenal of time saving devices, and it does not get the credit it deserves. For those of us who want to have it all, the slow cooker helps make our dreams come true.

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Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there for slow cookers contain meat. A quick search for slow cooker or crock pot recipes returns the same meat-centric dishes every time: pork BBQ, pot roast, taco meat, chicken and dumplings, beef curry, turkey chili. What is an I-want-it-all vegetarian cook to do, when she just doesn’t have the time to stand over the stove all evening to prepare a meal?

Do not panic. Remain calm. Do not order takeout. Get creative instead. Read through these menu suggestions. Plan ahead and let the slow cooker do the work for you while you are out saving the world, or whatever it is you do when you’re not stuck in your very hot kitchen. Whatever you do, do not let the meat eaters have all the fun.

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Without further ado, let’s get on to the recipe roundup! We have some meatless mains as well as some fun dishes thrown in, so let’s get cooking.

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Vegetarian Gumbo with Brown Rice from Vegology

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Slow Cooker Peach Butter from Vegology

Cranberry Apple Butter from Vegology

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Unsloppy Joes from AllRecipes.com. Modification: chop everything and toss it in the slow cooker, cook on low 6-8 hours.

For a lighter version, try it wrapped in a collard leaf, a la Eating Bird Food.

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I love how the heat from the filling just barely steams the collard leaf from the inside out.

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Make BBQ Tofu by crumbling extra firm tofu into the pot of a slow cooker, adding a jar of barbecue sauce, and cooking covered on high 2 hours or low 4 hours. I used McCutcheon’s Apple Butter BBQ Sauce, plus a little turmeric, for the batch pictured above.

Here are some ideas from the pages of some favorite bloggers:

Spicy African Peanut Stew from Peas and Thank You

Vegan Curried Pumpkin Soup from Eating Bird Food

Homemade Greek Yogurt from Bran Appetit

Sweet Potato and Lentil Veggie Chili from Daily Garnish

The list goes on and on, and I could give you a dozen more suggestions, but I think the point has been made. Vegetarians can slow-cook too! Now that I have shared some of my favorites, I am interested to hear what suggestions you have.

What is your favorite dish to make in the slow cooker?

Have you ever tried to make anything unusual in your slow cooker, like chocolate cake or homemade yogurt?

Have any tips (or cautionary tales) to share?

Slowing Down


After an unplanned break from blog writing, I am back with a recipe! I explained in my last post how Hurricane Irene caused me to move veg:ology to the back burner for a week. The short version of the story is this: I worked 94 hours in 8 days, I drank gallons of coffee, and I ate a whole lot of free catered meals and carryout sushi. By the end of the second weekend of storm duty, I had a long To Do List of neglected chores, but what I felt that I really needed was to slow…. down….

I took my time with the chores and bought myself a new work bag while “out shopping for groceries.” I walked the long way to the coffee shop. I spent two hours on a NY Times crossword instead of catching up on blogs (sorry friends). While I folded laundry, I roasted eggplant for dinner. I made iced French roast coffee and cooked bourbon peach butter while I slept last night. This morning, when I woke up to the heavenly smell of warm peach butter simmering in the crock pot, I finally felt calm. Veg:ology is back and it feels good.

Slow Cooker Peach Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fresh peaches (6-7 medium)
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • juice of one lemon

Preparation:

  1. Fill a large pot of water with water and heat over high heat until boiling. Fill a large glass bowl halfway with ice water.
  2. Cut an X into the bottom of each peach. Place the peaches in the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the peaches with tongs and place immediately into the bowl if ice water. Let peaches soak in cold water for two minutes.
  4. Remove peaches to a cutting board and dry them. Remove the skins (no peeling!) by sliding them right off and into the garbage. Cut in half, remove pits, and dice the peaches.
  5. Spray a crock pot with cooking spray and add the peaches. Stir in bourbon, sugar, spices, vanilla, and lemon juice.
  6. Place two chopsticks or two butter knives flat on opposite sides of the pot and place the lid on top of them to create a small vent in the top of the pot. This will allow some of the moisture to escape and thicken the sauce.
  7. Turn the crock pot on to low and cook for 12 hours or overnight.
  8. When the peach butter has cooked, use an immersion blender or food processor to puree to smooth.

 

Check out this perfect combination of summery peach butter and autumn pumpkin cream cheese, made to be enjoyed at my favorite time of year.

I love the change of seasons! Thanks for hanging in there, things will be back into full swing soon!

Cranberry Apple Butter

This one is kind of old news and I have been meaning to post about it for the last few weeks. As I scraped the bottom of the bowl of cranberry apple butter this morning and poured the sweet and thick spread over my pumpkin muffins, I realized it was time to share this recipe with the world.

Cranberry Apple Butter (adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

  • 3/4  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup  honey
  • 1/4  cup  cranberry apple juice
  • 1  tablespoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cloves
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 10  medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced (about 2 1/2 pounds)

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in a 5-quart electric slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low 10 hours or until apples are very tender.

The original recipe says:

“place a large fine-mesh sieve over a bowl; spoon one-third of apple mixture into sieve. Press mixture through sieve using the back of a spoon or ladle. Discard pulp. Repeat procedure with remaining apple mixture. Return apple mixture to slow cooker. Cook, uncovered, on high 1 1/2 hours or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally.”

After I realized how difficult it was to get my apple mixture through a mesh strainer, I decided to do things a little differently, with great results. At this point, I broke out my immersion blender and blended the chunky apple butter right in the crockpot. I am always looking for reasons to use that little guy! It’s my power tool.

In this instance, the slow cooker and  immersion blender yielded a thick, sweet and tart apple butter that keeps in the fridge for a few weeks.The aroma of sweet cooked apples and tart cranberries lingered for a few days.

The recipe said one week, but after eating it from an airtight container in the fridge for three, no one in my home has died yet. Given my care for clean and safe food preparation and my tendency to perform much better with stovetop cooking than baking, I think we are at much greater risk for a baking-related fire disaster than we are for a foodborne illness.

Once you peel, core, and dice the apples, this recipe is so easy to make and delicious to eat on bread, muffins, oatmeal, and more. You could even try it on your Thanksgiving turkey (or tofurky for that matter). The smell that filled my apartment was better than any apple-scented candle I have ever burned. Now go forth and slow cook!