Tuesday, November 9, 2010

veganmofo.2.1: Oden (part II)

After I mentioned the oden that I made last week, one of my friends asked me to teach her how to make and so we had a dinner date over the weekend. I basically followed the recipe from last time, but this time around I left out the potato and added some soba noodles 10 minutes before taking the stew off the heat. we also threw in some vegetable that looked like celery except the leaves were different and it tasted better than celery - a different variety, perhaps - and some chopped onion at the beginning instead of scallions at the end. It turned out just as good as last time!

This is an example of how I do food prep in my kitchen:

And the oden, served up and ready to be eaten:

Monday, November 8, 2010

veganmofo.2.1: My Favourite Green Smoothie

Back home, I used to make overly-complicated smoothies. Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink smoothies. I think my usual was something like: 1 banana, 1/2 avocado, a huge handful of kale (sometimes some sprouts as well), some blueberries, some almond butter or tahini, ground flax, some hemp protein powder, and enough almond milk to make it smoothie-consistency.

Here, I can't be so elaborate with my smoothie, having so little space and all. At the most basic, it consists of a handful of spinach, 1 or 2 bananas, and water. That is the bare-bones minimum though. I have a smoothie most mornings for/with breakfast, and it satisfies the old sugar monkey quite nicely.

One morning this past weekend, my friend who lives down the hall had a nasty hangover and wanted a healthy, light breakfast, so I made an extra smoothie and gave it to her. This is the evidence mid-smoothie-making (I usually do blender stuff on the floor because the power cord for it is too short for my desk/counter):

And here is the finished smoothie, just before taking it over to my friend:

Ingredients: 1 handful of spinach, 1 1/2 banana, a couple of cubes of frozen mango, a big tablespoon of hemp seeds, and a mix of soymilk and water to make it smoothie-consistency.

Friday, November 5, 2010

veganmofo.1.5: Welcome to My Tiny Kitchen

 Just in case you didn't believe me when I said that my kitchen was 'unfathomably tiny' I thought I'd show the evidence. When I told friends that I was moving to a 150-square foot apartment (or is it 140? I can't remember now) in Tokyo, they said "good luck with that!". And it doesn't feel as small as a Canadian apartment of the same size would, but that is because it is so compact and efficient - for the most part. I do dearly miss my old kitchen, though. Here is the tour of what I have now:

This is the stove and sink. There is one gas burner, no oven, and no counter. You see one cabinet about and one below, and that is all the storage space I have! As you can see, spices, oils and vinegar are lined up around the stove, and dishes are drying on the little shelf to the left of the sink.

And here is the rest of the kitchen: the fridge (just larger than a beer fridge) and microwave. I'm not generally a fan of microwaves and haven't owned one for years, but this one came with the apartment and it does come in handy when one has only one burner and no oven. Tea, coffee, rice, seaweed, bananas, and seasonings sit on top. And you also see my most trusted kitchen appliance, the mini-blender - a very worthwhile investment as I use it nearly daily for making green smoothies and salad dressings. In the absence of a counter, I have to move things over to my desk for kitchen prep, which is just to the right of the fridge.

So, now you know all about my tiny kitchen! And I dare anyone to find me a kitchen that is smaller and can still be called a kitchen (dorms with microwaves don't count). Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

veganmofo.1.4: Squash and Adzuki Beans

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm trying to avoid sugar in my diet for the long-term. This is very difficult for me, as I've been raised on crazy amounts of sweets since I was a baby. As a kid, when I had friends over, their eyes would pop when they saw all the candy and cookies and ice cream we had. You know how most college kids gain weight when they move away from home? Well I actually lost weight because I no longer had a candy shop for a pantry!

As an adult and as a vegan, I've been much healthier in terms of the sweets I do eat, using natural sweeteners and whole-grain flours and such, but a wholegrain vegan muffin still does not replace a healthy whole foods meal or snack. In the recent past, sometimes if I went to a vegan-friendly restaurant or cafe and couldn't afford a meal and a dessert, I'd skip the meal and just get dessert. Or sometimes I would get an energy bar and a sweetened soy latte and call it lunch. I think these poor habits crept up on me, as over the summer my energy got really low and I went to the doctor and found out I was anemic. I knew it was totally my fault for not eating a balanced vegan diet. I just can't seem to find a balance of eating sweets only every once in a while - I want to eat them every day! It's an emotional attachment I think, wanting to 'treat' myself when I'm feeling down or am bored or stressed.

So I want to cut out sugar until I know I've broken my emotional attachment to it, and then maybe I'll start introducing small amounts of sugar every once in a while, or maybe not - who knows. I've cut sugar and coffee together before, but after a week or two I always caved in because I felt too tired and blah without them. So this time I decided to just cut the sugar and keep the coffee (I am an architecture graduate student after all, and I usually just have one cup of coffee in a day anyway). It has been almost two weeks now, and I feel fine! I didn't notice any withdrawal symptoms like headache, just the occasional craving when I'm feeling down or tired. I think my body was just really ready to quit this time.

Now, when I want to 'treat' myself, I'll take a hot bath, watch a movie with a nice cup of tea, or take myself out to dinner. I'll share some of my other coping strategies later, but diet-wise, I've been eating lots of squash lately (in case you didn't notice) - it satisfies my want for something sweet and starchy.

earlier this week I got to sleep in, and I really felt like baking. Except I don't have an oven (to make savoury muffins). So how to satisfy my desire to bake? I thought about pancakes. They are a cake, of sorts. How can I make a yummy pancake without sugar that feels like a baked good? I decided to combine squash and adzuki beans - both are naturally sweet, they are a lovely combination, and they were both in my fridge. So I did some experimenting, and here's the result:

Unfortunately my gas stove does not like cooking things at a low temperature, so burning was a problem (I burnt my last pancake, even at the lowest heat and with constant checking). They were also a bit greasy for what I'm used to (I used to make pancakes with spray oil, which I don't have here) but they did hit the spot at the time.

Then tonight I had more cravings (long day), so I went home and stuffed some squash with polenta and adzuki beans, served alongside a simple but tasty salad with cabbage, mizuna, snow peas, bean sprouts and a sesame oil dressing. By the time I was finished dinner, the cravings were completely gone, and now I feel fine. So yay for squash!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

veganmofo.1.3: Squash Risotto with lemony tofu

Last night I made a risotto with brown rice, (more) buttercup squash, and some lemon-marinated tofu. It made for a yummy weeknight dinner.

The recipe was based on this one, and it was very easy. I first soaked 1 cup of short-grain brown rice. Then I combined 1 package of firm tofu with 1 minced clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and the juice of one lemon, crumbled it all together and put it in the fridge for awhile. I chopped up 2 cups of buttercup squash (leaving the skin on) and 1 leek. I sauteed the leek in 1 tbsp of olive oil for a couple of minutes, then added the squash. Then I added the rice (drained and rinsed), fried it for a couple of minutes, then  added 2 cups of vegetable broth, 1/2 cup sake, and 2 tsp soy sauce. I brought it all to a boil, then down to a simmer, and then cooked it for an hour, stirring every once in a while and adding water as needed to get the right consistency. Then I took the tofu out of the fridge, folded it into the risotto, and I was done.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

veganmofo.1.1: Oden (part one)

Oden is a Japanese hotpot or stew. I'd never eaten or made one before, but with some simple instructions from another ppker who used to live in Japan, I decided to try it out.

I first boiled some water in a pot, then added a handful of of sliced shittake mushrooms and a piece of kombu. I simmered them for maybe 10 minutes, then added half a tsp of veggie stock powder and some soy sauce. Then I added some chopped buttercup squash and potatoes (both unpeeled because I like to keep the nutrients) and cooked for about 15 minutes more. Then in went some chopped cabbage and fried tofu (you can buy fried tofu at the markets here, it isn't flavoured or anything but I like the texture of it, and I'm sure chopped firm tofu would be fine too). I cooked for 10 minutes more, then added some chopped bok choy, scallions, a splash of sake, and a bit of sesame oil, and cooked just until the bok choy had wilted. Tested the broth to see if it was salty enough, and it was ready!

Verdict: seriously delicious. I think I could eat this for every meal of the day. And it's so easy to just be able to throw things in one pot and not measure and have it turn out so well. I see many versions in the future: I'll definitely try kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) next time, and also try adding udon instead of potato and also some napa cabbage.

veganmofo.1.0: Cafe Eight (vegan cafe/restaurant in Tokyo)

My, it's been a very long time since I've blogged. But now I'm back, hopefully for good this time (at least for November, anyway). This may warrant a second intro:

So. I am currently studying architecture in Tokyo for a semester. Tokyo is not so kind to vegans, but it is possible to manage, of course. Most people can't fathom any type of diet that excludes fish, so I cook at home a lot. I live in a tiny studio apartment with an unfathomably tiny kitchen, so I can't go all gourmet most of the time, but I eat pretty well in general. You will see.

For Vegan MoFo I'll be blogging about living the gaijin student vegan life in Tokyo: cooking, grocery-shopping, eating, restaurants, cafes, etc. But minus sweets and desserts because I'm trying to avoid sugar (and all things sugar-like) for the time being.

Tonight I decided to take myself out for dinner after a long day of presentations at school, and I chose Cafe Eight. Cafe Eight is in Daikanyama (a fun little neighborhood) and is seriously the best vegan restaurant ever, of anywhere I've been. So of course it's the best in Tokyo, in my opinion. Firstly, all of the food I've tried is delicious and wholesome and wonderful. Secondly, you can hang out and do work or read or whatever for a couple of hours and nobody minds. It's kind of weirdly casual and formal at the same time, if that is possible. Thirdly, good music. Fourthly, the dessert display is gorgeous! Maybe I can't eat any of it anymore, but it all looks so pretty. See? Nutty fig loaf, chocolate-covered nutty fig loaf, pumpkin pudding, mont blancs, banana nut pudding, NY-style cheesecake, swiss roll things, tofu tiramisu, various types of breads... And all vegan, with unrefined sweeteners and wholesome ingredients, yeah!

The only thing I wish Cafe Eight had was a brunch menu, but alas.

Tonight I had the daily curry and some darjeeling tea. The curry has chickpeas, veggies and brown rice, and it comes with a lovely salad with a tahini-based dressing and some delicious marinated tofu cube and veggie thing that may or may not supposed to be feta (I mean, I don't care because it all tastes good). Check it out:

I love you Cafe Eight. You make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.