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lazy vegetarians are everywhere. this is a collection of easy recipes and tips for dining out for vegetarians with little time or effort.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making jelly becomes a hobby

So my obsession with jelly and jam making is becoming more and more, well, obsessive.
I’m starting this journey now and will be experimenting throughout the winter so that I will actually be good at the art of preserves by the time the fruit seasons are in their prime.
If anyone knows of good places for picking fresh fruit, send me an email and I’ll file that knowledge away for when it’s time.
A few weeks ago I tried an apple jelly that I was quite pleased with, so this past weekend I spent too much money and time on fruits and jars and got to work.
My grand experiment was to try a handful of different recipes from a website I found from the Nation Center for Home Food Preparation,, that has dozens of recipes and instructions for home canning and preserving. I can’t confirm or deny the notion that I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time on that site lately.
Part of my experiment was to substitute coconut sugar for regular sugar in one of the jams to see how much of a difference that makes.
Not the best idea I’ve had.
Pineapple jam calls for:
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple
3 tbsps. lemon juice
3 1/4 cups sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin.
Combine the pineapple, lemon juice and sugar in a large pot and stir well. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir constantly. Once it reaches a boil, let it boil hard for one minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the pectin.
I made this with the coconut sugar first. The sugar tastes good, would probably be great in baked goods or coffee, but turned my pineapple jam a rough looking dark brown color.
Not the most appetizing color for jam.
Also smelled a little like it was burnt, so I’m calling that an all around failure.
Same recipe made with regular sugar turned out great.
Their grape jelly recipe was really simple as well.
6 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
2 pouches liquid pectin
18 oz. frozen grape juice concentrate.
Combine the sugar and water stirring constantly over high heat. Bring this mixture to a rolling boil, then allow to boil for one minute.
Remove from the heat and stir in the liquid pectin. Once that’s stirred in fully, add the thawed grape juice concentrate and stir.
By far, my favorite was a strawberry-kiwi jam. The only one of these to call for fresh fruits and the most complicated as well, but definitely tastes great.
For this one you’ll need:
3 cups crushed strawberries
3 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp minced crystallized ginger
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar
I just cut the stems off of the strawberries and tossed them in the food processor. Diced the kiwi the same way, but not for as long in the food processor to allow them to be a slightly larger size.
Toss both of those in a large pot with the lemon juice, pectin and ginger and bring that to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and stir well.
Once boiling again, let it roll for about a minute, continuing to stir.
With all of the jams and jellies, skim any foam from the top and ladle into jars.
You can get detailed instructions on the jarring process online and in many books, but the basics are, clean the rims, place the sterilized lids on the jars, submerge in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. The next day, if the center of the lids are popped up, open, clean, put new lids on and boil again.
One really helpful tip I got before starting to make jams was to put a tablespoon of butter into the pot with the fruit to reduce the foam that needs to be skimmed. Using Earth Balance margarine does the trick, but keeps the jams vegan.

Crusted Tofu

Tofu is a staple in every vegetarian diet and is often the dealbreaker when cooking for onmivores.
If you’re cooking a vegetarian meal for a mixed crowd, as soon as meat eaters hear the word tofu, they are done.
Preparing the tofu right can help make it tolerable for them, because we know you’ll never win over the tofu haters completely.
Pan fried with a cornmeal crust is one way to do that.
I always press the water out of the tofu with paper towels and a couple of plates. Pressing tofu and getting excess water out of it helps with the texture.
There are devices out there that do this task for you, but the cheaper way is to put a layer of paper towels above and below a brick of tofu on a plate. Put another plate on top and put a few pounds of weight on top of the plates. It should be enough pressure to slowly squeeze out the water, but not enough to crush the tofu.
Next create the liquid mixture, mix the soymilk with cornstarch to make it thicker, totally disolving the corn starch.
In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients well.
After about 20 minutes of pressing the tofu, slice the tofu and then cut into triangles.
Dip in the liquid, then coat with the cornmeal mixture.
Fry in about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil, allowing each side to brown, then drain before serving.
1 pound of tofu
1 cup soymilk
2 tbsps. cornstarch
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsps. cajun seasoning
1 tsp. cumin
Oil for frying

Carrot and white bean soup tastes better than it sounds

Recently I got a box of veggies and fruits to sample from Suburban Organics, a local company that delivers produce from organic farms to the doorstep of their customers. I was sent a box to review and the company left a good first impression — check it out at
The idea of this service is pretty awesome since there is nothing lazier than waiting at your house for your groceries to be brought to your front door.
We’ll go with the bad side first since it is actually the lesser part of my opinion of the company.
The only thing I didn’t like is the lack of control over what comes in that box. You can order just veggies, just fruit or a fruit and veggie mix, but you get an assortment from what they have on hand that is fresh and seasonal. I have no idea what to do with beets.
That said, the quality of the produce is fantastic. All organic, some local, and a pretty broad variety of fruits and veggies. They offer a variety of sizes for the boxes as well. The box I received was a small, but was more produce than a single person can really use, so the “Little” box would probably be the one for me, but a variety of sizes and delivery schedules are offered.
So I chose to make a carrot soup with some of the goodies in the box.
Start by sauteing the onion in a large pot with the olive oil. Add the garlic after a couple of minutes and allow to saute until the onions are soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients except for the beans.
Allow to cook over medium-low until the carrots get soft.
Put it all in a blender or food processor and puree. Make sure to not overfill so you don’t have hot soup spraying out the sides. Yes, I learned that lesson the hard and painful way once upon a time.
Put the pureed soup back in the pot and add the drained and rinsed beans and allow to heat for a few more minutes so the beans can cook.
It tastes great with some fresh avocado chunks on top.
6-8 carrots, chopped roughly
1 red onion, diced
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can navy or great northern beans
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsps. olive oil
1 fresh avocado for garnish

Vegan cookie bars

The best thing about making cookies is that there is really no wrong combination of ingredients.
You think of a few things that might taste good together, chances are they probably will in cookie form.
Cookie bars have that same advantage.
These particular cookie bars are simple and turn out great with very little effort.
Start by putting the dry ingredients in a large bowl and sifting them together.
Add the margarine, apple sauce and peanut butter. While mixing these in, add the vanilla extract and molasses.
The applesauce is the egg substitute and will give moisture to the dough, adding a little extra apple sauce will make them softer.
Mix all of these ingredients together until they are a soft dough and the ingredients are fully blended.
Stir in the granola, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
You can use rolled oats instead of the granola.
To make this vegan, simply choose a brand of semi-sweet chocolate that has no milk.
Press the dough into a lightly greased 13 X 9 baking pan. Spread all the way to the edges of the pan and bake at 350 for 18 minutes.
If the edges are brown and the inside is still slightly soft, they are done. The inside will solidify as they cool.
Let them cool some before cutting so that they don’t crumble as easily.
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup Earth Balance, softened
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup granola (or rolled oats)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup dried cranberries