Vegan Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

BEEF AND BROCCOLI STIR FRY

I needed a quick dinner and had just the right ingredients on hand for a “Beef” and Broccoli Stir Fry. Of course mine will be vegan and I will use Seitan instead of beef and I will make a few other adjustments so my finished dish will be very tasty and free of sugar.

Seitan is something I use on occasion, though not weekly. It is easy to make and I promise to show you how to do it sometime. But tonight I am just home from work as many of you are too on a weekday and I am using store-bought seitan. (say tan—not satan!) Seitan is essentially  a wheat product in which the starch and the bran has been washed away leaving just the gluten, which is the protein part of the wheat. So you see it is a somewhat refined product and not a whole food. This is why I use it only once in a while.

“G L U T E N !!!!!” you say? “But isn’t gluten bad for you? Some people are even allergic to it, arent’ they?”

Yes, I’m sure some people really cannot tolerate gluten but that isn’t the fault of innocent wheat. Whole grains, including wheat, do have protein in them and we vegans eat whole grains and grain products as part of our protein intake. But some people may not be able to assimilate seitan if their system is not in a condition to do so.

Gluten-free folks, please don’t get upset! You can substitute tempeh or tofu and it will be delicious especially if you do the marinating part.

I’m mid-reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and I had a cognition about gluten based on Campbell’s expose of the shenanigans that have been going on for decades between the government, the medical establishment, the media and food industry giants to make us believe certain falsehoods about animal-based versus plant-based foods.

I thought about how gluten intolerance has become a modern dietary dilema relatively recently and I strongly suspect that those promoting the evils of gluten have a vested interest in keeping the meat and dairy industries at peak profit. Coupled with the degradation of our food supply and the increasing difficulty in getting regular, organic, whole, unprocessed, un-sugared food (at least in the Western world) it is no mystery to me why many are so worried about gluten!

Is it possible that if people are convinced by all the no-carb, high animal protein dietary programs around that they shouldn’t eat carbs, and if people don’t differentiate between simple and complex carbs and mostly only eat the simple, refined ones anyway, that they could reach a point where they can no longer tolerate gluten?

But I digress, sorry. Here’s my version of fabulous

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry!  (Serves 3)

Measurements are approximate and mostly according to your tastes. I myself don’t measure any of it.

  • 8 ounces of pre-cooked seitan, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (rice wine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 cups of broccoli florets and stems
  • 6 baby bella mushrooms, cut into chunky wedges
  • roasted sesame oil or olive oil
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon kuzu

Marinate the cubes of seitan in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin and chili pepper flakes. This will be a strong mixture and you need it strong in order to get enough flavor into the seitan.  Let the seitan marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients—or at least a half hour.

Wash and cut the broccoli florets. Try to make them about the same size so they will cook in the same length of time. Trim the outer layer of the broccoli stem and discard. (These tend to be too tough!) Then slice the stem in diagonal 1/4 inch thick slices. Broccoli stems, by the way, can be very sweet and delicious!

Dissolve the kuzu in water and set it aside until you are ready to make your thickened sauce.

Begin the stir fry by heating up your oil in a wok or low, wide pan—medium high flame. Saute the broccoli stem pieces for a minute or so and then add the florets and a pinch of sea salt. Next add the mushrooms, another pinch of sea salt and the ginger and stir fry until the veggies are cooked but still a bit crisp.

Add the seitan and the garlic. As the seitan is already cooked, it just has to heat up. If you like a milder garlic taste, add the garlic in the beginning so it cooks more.

When everything is done, add the marinade and the kuzu dissolved in water. Keep stirring as the liquid thickens and will take on a glossy appearance. If there isn’t enough sauce, just add more of the liquid ingredients and use more kuzu dissolved in water. This will depend somewhat on whether you’re serving the stir fry over noodles or rice or just eating it by itself.

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Creamy Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I was out looking for a fast dinner one night and picked up some “Moroccan Creamy Soup” to try. Somehow I got the impression that it was a vegetarian soup, but darn, I think it was made with chicken broth. The soup was nevertheless delightful especially in its consistency and the way it was seasoned.

The main ingredients were chickpeas and spinach and I could taste cumin and perhaps cinnamon. There were onions and some garlic in the soup as well. The creaminess of the soup I bought came from milk or cream and that didn’t thrill me.

So I decided to make my own version of this soup using a vegetable broth, chickpeas, spinach, onions, garlic mushrooms, spices and for added creaminess–a little coconut milk.

Luckily I was able to save this last little serving for a photo!

Luckily I was able to save this last little serving for a photo!

Moroccan-Style Creamy Chickpea Soup

No need for much of a recipe here. I didn’t measure anything. I just constructed the soup this way:

  • Cooked chickpeas in vegetable broth, partially blend leaving at least half the beans intact. I used 2-3 cups of cooked chickpeas.
  • Dice an onion and saute in olive oil with some salt until the onions are translucent and sweet. Continue to saute to caramelize the onions. Add this to the soup.
  • Add garlic and mushrooms.
  • I added some seitan chunks since I didn’t want chicken. Seitan is made by creating a dough from whole wheat flour and then washing out the starch and the bran. The protein (wheat gluten) is left. I will show you how to make this in the near future.
  • Add the coconut milk until it is creamy enough for you
  • Season with salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, allspice and a bit of cayenne. Taste. Adjust. Taste again.
  • Add spinach at the end. I was making about 2 quarts of soup and used about 2 cups of chopped spinach.
  • I garnished my soup with a few slices of Preserved Lemon Rinds, which some of you know I just love to use! If you don’t have this, try a thin strip of lemon peel.

I served this yummy soup with a side of olives and a simple salad. It got almost all eaten up before I had a chance to take a picture for this post! I finally ensconced the last little serving to the back of the refrigerator and we had our “photo shoot” today.

I wanted to see if I could capture steam in the photo and I did just barely. Can you see it? I can probably because I know it’s there!

Maybe if I circle my steam in bright pink you can squint real hard and imagine you can see it!

Maybe if I circle my steam in bright pink you can squint real hard and imagine you can see it. Hey! That sort of works!

I have not even reached the “amateur” status in food photography just yet but I’m working on it. However my soup cookery is quite good!

Souper Bowl Sunday

When I hear “Super Bowl,”  I think:  Souper Bowl.  That’s because I absolutely love soup!

Soup became one of my favorite types of food when I was very young and the Campbell’s soup company was offering a “Campbell’s Kid” doll if you sent in labels from your soup cans.  My flavor was tomato and I ate lots of it to get that doll.

Other than that, I pretty much ignored the existence of soup until I studied macrobiotics and we had miso soup for breakfast every day.  Really?  Soup for breakfast?  How odd was that! Turned out miso soup is incredibly satisfying to make and eat and is a wonderful thing to start your day out with.  It gets your digestive system going, it alkalizes your blood, and there are unlimited variations you can create in the way of miso soup!

Miso Soup

Image via Wikipedia

So I learned how to make that and found out I really, really love soup.  I also learned as a cooking student to make lots of other soups to serve as a starter for dinner as well as for breakfast.  Bean soups, whole grain soups, veggie soups – seems we never ate the exact same soup twice.  That’s because the world of soups is infinitely variable!

I used to make huge batches of eight different soups for my local health food store to sell.  That was back in the 80’s. I had a five-gallon soup pot!  I found out that soup is one type of dish that is very easy to make in large batches without much trouble.  That’s probably why we have “soup kitchens” for the homeless or unfortunate.  You can feed a crowd with soup!

Coco Eating His Soup, 1905, by Pierre-August R...

Image via Wikipedia

Soup-making solves many family diet issues and it is economical.  You can get people to eat more veggies by putting them in soups.  You can get people to eat more complex carbs by using beans and whole grains in soups.  Soup can be comfort food.  It can also be food a sick person is willing to eat when they don’t want other foods.  A young child can quickly become very handy with a spoon if he or she is given some not-too-hot soup to eat.

You can make your soups light or hearty, or start with a light soup and make it richer later on and vice versa.  You can also use up your kitchen leftovers and last wilting bits of veggies from the bottom of your refrigerator crisper by putting them into soup.  And of course you can make enough soup to last a few meals or freeze the soup for later.

Soup is easy too.  There are lots of recipes around for soup and if you haven’t tried making your own soup then I recommend starting with a recipe or two until you get the hang of it.  Mostly you may want to know about the broth for the soup and how to get that.  That is the only part that may seem a bit labor intensive.

Most of my soup broth comes from saving the water I used to boil vegetables.  I don’t always even use a special broth and just make the soup using water and using seasonings to bring out the delicious, natural flavors of my ingredients.  Sometimes my “broth” consists of bringing spring water and a 2-inch piece of kombu seaweed to a boil.  The seaweed adds plenty of minerals and a mild flavor to the water.

My only caution on the subject of soups is to be alert if you’re buying soup that’s already made or in a mix.  Even in the natural food store, you really have to read the labels because cane sugar juice is in a lot of the canned or pre-packaged soups and broths.  You can also buy powdered miso soup mix and soups that only require adding boiling water.  All of these are pretty salty and the quality of the ingredients is definitely not equivalent to what you can make at home from fresh ingredients.  I don’t recommend these salty mixes.  Same goes for the “ramen soup” mixes you can buy in the dollar store.  Read the ingredients sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

Probably I should include a recipe or two here.  I hesitate because there are so many good ones around and my recipes are very simple.  My soups (and yours) become unique by how they are varied, how high-quality the ingredients are, and in the care and attention given to preparation.  So before I slap down a recipe, I’d like to give you my top five tips on soup-making:

1. The broth is the basis of the soup and should be of the highest possible quality.  If you are using water, make it spring water.  If you are buying pre-made broth, don’t buy one with sugar in it and make sure it is organic.

2. If you are going to make soup with beans in it, use kombu seaweed also.  The minerals in the seaweed help you digest the beans without getting flatulence.

3.  I love an immersible hand blender!  You can make a creamy soup without cream by blending the soup especially if it is something like a winter squash soup.  Some grains, beans and even vegetables can be blended into a nice, creamy consistency.  This also works for a cold cucumber soup.

4.  To make a richer-tasting soup, try sauteeing some of the ingredients before adding water or broth.  Sauteed onions and garlic, for instance, can really change the taste of the soup.

5.  Garnish your soup.  You can use parsley, ginger, sliced scallions and many other interesting touches.  These add another layer of flavor to your soup and make the presentation beautiful and appealing.

And here are a couple recipes to start out with:

Miso Soup

4 cups of spring water

4-6 inch piece of wakame seaweed

1/8 small onion (organic)

1 large kale leaf (raw) or ¼ cup of cooked & sliced kale (organic)

1/8 cup of firm tofu (organic)

½ – 1 Tsp. barley miso

1 scallion

Put the spring water into a small pot.  Soak the dried wakame seaweed in the water for about 2-3 minutes until it’s soft enough to cut.  Take out the seaweed and cut the thick spine off.  Cut the spine into small pieces and add back into the water.  Cut the leaves of the seaweed up and put them back into the water.  [Alternative would be to buy pre-cut pieces of wakame and just add a tsp of that to the water.  No soaking or slicing is needed then!]

Slice the onions into very thin slices.  Bring the water and wakame seaweed to a boil and add the onions.  While the onions are cooking, wash and cut the big kale leaf into small pieces.  You want everything in the soup to be small enough to pick up with the spoon when you’re eating it, i.e. bite-size.

Cut the tofu into small bite-size cubes.

When the onions have become translucent and sweet-smelling, add the kale.  When the kale starts to turn bright green (this only takes about a minute) add the tofu.

Simmer all this for a few minutes until the kale becomes tender.  Just simmer, no heavy boiling.  Meanwhile take the miso paste and dissolve it in a little of the soup broth so there are no lumps of miso.  You can use the back of a spoon or anything you have that works.  I use a special Japanese bowl called a “suribachi” that comes with a special masher called a “surikogi.”  This works perfectly and I have them because I make miso soup very often.

When the soup ingredients are tender, turn the soup down so it isn’t boiling at all.  Then add the miso dissolved in hot broth.  At this point you can turn the stove off and the miso will cook in the hot broth.  The miso will break down and look cloudy and it is done.

Serve it out garnished with a few slices of the white end of the scallion.  This makes 2-3 servings.

You can add small, thin cuts or slices of your favorite vegetable(s) to vary the soup recipe as you like and experiment from there.

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Hearty Barley Soup

1 cup rinsed barley

2-inch piece of kombu seaweed

pinch of sea salt

5 shiitake mushrooms

2 quarts of spring water

2 onions, diced

1 cup of diced parsnip

1 cup of diced rutabaga

1/2 cup of minced parsley

3-4 cloves of garlic

soy sauce to taste

sliced scallions as garnish

English: Close-up of a piece of homemade seita...

Image via Wikipedia

1 cup of diced seitan (vegan “wheat meat”)

Optional protein: diced beef or chicken if you are not vegetarian

Bring the water, kombu and shiitake mushrooms to a boil.  Simmer the stock until the mushrooms are tender.  Remove the mushrooms, discard the stems and dice the mushroom caps and add them back to the pot.

Add the onions and simmer until sweet and translucent.  Then add the garlic, parsnip, rutabaga, seitan and barley in that order.  Simmer the stew with enough water to cover the barley until it is tender, about one hour.  Add a little more water to get your desired thickness.  Add the parsley at the last minute and season with soy sauce to taste.  Serve in a bowl with scallion garnish.  Some lightly boiled greens or a salad with some whole grain bread would go well with this dish.

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So I say make every Sunday “Souper Bowl Sunday!”  Take some time to make a great soup that you can eat all week!

(No offense to you football fans, but Super Bowl Sunday means to me that we have but a few short months before Opening Day of Baseball Season.)