Mattoni's Cooking Blog

A veg*n cooking blog with photos, recipes, hints, secrets, and street cred. Get with it, sucka.

March 23, 2006

Toni's Tip #5 - Draining Tofu

It's hard to keep from tearing apart that asceptic carboard cube and devouring all the soybeany goodness tofu has to offer...but you must be patient my child. Before you chop up your tofu and throw it in a pan, you are going to want to drain it first. This not only makes the tofu easier to work with, but once drained, tofu will soak up the flavor of the ingredients you cook it with. You win both ways!

To drain tofu, you need:
some paper towel
a container large enough to hold the tofu
a weight to press the tofu down

and of course, a block of tofu.

Cover the bottom of the container with a few laters of paper towel and place the tofu on top.

Now cover the tofu with more paper towel, and put your weight on top of that. I'm using a little statue my uncle sent me from Africa. You can use a book if there are no African statues handy.

Avocado Spread

Avocadoes were on sale three for $5 one day, so I bought three, not thinking I could have just as easily gotten the sale price on two, or one. I used the first two within a few weeks but the last one seemed to hang around a bit longer. I was just sick of avocado by then, I guess.

This is a good way to use up that last avocado in something that's just as versatile as it is tasty and nutritious. Avocados have a lot of Vitamin E, Vitamin B, potassium and fiber,not to mention they act as a "nutrient boosters," allowing your body to absorb more fat soluble nutrients like alpha- and beta-catotine.

People who would like to reduce saturated fats in their diet can benefit from avocadoes, too. The fruit is a good substitute for butter and other fatty substances.

Avocado spread can be made a variety of ways -- the basic ingredients are avocado, lemon (to increase shelf life and add flavor) and whatever spices one may feel necessary. For this spead, I am using equal parts pinto beans and avocado. The pinto beans add a little more fiber and even out the fat content. They make the spread baking-friendly, too.

1 avocado
1 cup pinto beans
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Blend the avocado, beans, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the mixture out into a jar or plastic container and mix in the garlic and red pepper. You can keep this in the fridge for a few weeks and use it as a butter replacer or a tasty spread.

March 21, 2006

Spicy Lettuce Tofu Hugs

Lettuce is sick of all the Tofu bashin' it decided to show it some love.

1/2 brick Firm Tofu
Shitake Mushrooms
Matchsitck Carrots
Bean Sprouts
Boston Lettuce
3 tablespoons crushed peanuts
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
Peanut Sauce (I'm waiting for Matt to perfect the recipe for homemade sauce, til then I buy the pre-made from House of Tsang)

Dice tofu into small cubes, in a frying pan brown the tofu in the sesame oil. You can use whatever oil you like, I like the taste of sesame oil and it can cook at a slightly higher temp than oilve oil.

Keep heat low and let the tofu cook for a few min on each side.

Until it looks like this:

Then add the vegetables (except the lettuce), however much you like of each. Add the lime juice and cook vegetables until they are slightly tender.

Add crushed red pepper and peanuts and mix in with vegetables and tofu.

Spoon the mixture into one of the lettuce leaves and top off with a bit of the peanut sauce.

March 19, 2006

Garden Slice Pizza

It's St. Patrick's Day weekend and I just got home from the annual Clare Bed Race in Clare, MI. We got third place! We were celebrated by all! We were almost run out of town! I'd say it was a pretty successful weekend.

What better way to celebrate than by making a pizza with a lot of green stuff? Hooray for pizza day!

Cornmeal pizza dough
2 cups pizza sauce
3/4 cup avocado spread (or just plain avocado mash)
1 cup broccoli
1 cup zucchini
1 cup asparagus
1/3 cup green onions
2 medium jalapenos
Assorted seasonings

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out the pizza dough onto a stone or greased pan.

Spread the avocado bean spread on the flat dough, reaching about an inch from the edges.

Cut up all your vegetables -- broccoli florets, zucchini coins, diced asparagus, jalapeno slices and chopped green onions.

Add the larger vegetables (broccoli florets and zucchini) to the pizza. They should hold well in the avocado spread.

Sprinkle the asparagus all over, filling the holes between the zucchini and broccoli.

If you like a spicy pizza or want to add a little more flavor, now is the time to add whatever you would like. I am using nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy/nutty sort of flavor that goes nicely with green vegetables (especially squash, like zucchini). It's also chock full of vitamin B12.

Spoon, or just pour, the sauce over the vegetables. Make sure to cover them almost completely, so the sauce will soak through them while the pizza cooks.

Sprinkle the green onions and jalapenos on top.

Bake in the 425-degree oven for 25 minutes, or longer, depending on how you like your crust. Typically, when the edges start to brown, the pizza is done.

Grab a slice and chow down.

Different vegetables or crusts can be use, of course, but be sure to take into consideration the cooking times for each.

Cornmeal Pizza Dough

This is a very easy, very quick way to make a no-rise pizza crust. There are only a few ingredients and, unlike recipes that require a long leavening time, this only takes about 20 minutes.

1 cup flour (separated into 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 package yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup very hot water

Put 1/2 cup of flour, cornmeal, sugar, and yeast in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Add 1/2 cup of the hot water.

Mix everything up until you get a clay-like dough.

Add the other 1/2 cup of flour, the remaining 1/4 cup of hot water and mix that in, as well.

Once you have an elastic dough, let it sit covered in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Now the dough is ready to be rolled out and used as a pizza crust.

If you like, you can add spices or peppers to the crust. If you are making a sweet pizza, maybe you want to add cinnamon or allspice, if you are making the traditional pizza, basil, oregano or garlic might be a better choice.

March 15, 2006

Toni's Tip #4 - Fun-Do!

I got a little fondue pot as a gift and was very excited to try it out. Why not break it in with a few friends and a bottle of wine? Fondue can be made so many different ways. Basically, anything that you can heat and dip things in = fondue.

My choice? Chocolate.

I got a bag of semi-sweet chips and melted them in the microwave to begin with and then transfered it to the pot; there's a tea light under the pot that keeps the chocolate warm. There are electric versions of fondue pots, too, if you're into that kinda thing.

The items we were dipping included strawberries, raspberries, and pretzel sticks. Dave liked the strawberries.

After eating for a while we thought that marshmallows and graham crackers would make good options as well.

There are no rules here, go crazy with it. Its a great way to get interactive with your food.

Roasted Ginger Soy Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus

2 tablespoons of minced ginger
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the bottoms of the asparagus off 1 to 2 inches -- this part is tough when cooked if you don't cut it off.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan.

Put Asparagus in the pan with the ginger and soy sauce. Roll the stalks around so they are coated with the sauce.

Cook for 15-20 min. You don't want to overcook them -- asparagus tastes best when it still has a bit of crispness.

You can also do the same thing with green beans; just reduce the cooking time to 10 min.

Makes a great appetizer.

March 12, 2006

GO! Muffins

I used to have trouble doing what needed to be done. I shirked responsibility, only to face the cold, hard consequences later on. I'd procrastinate. I'd excuse myself. I'd do anything I could to put off what was expected of me.

And then I made these muffins.

These muffins are delicious, they are expeditious, and they give meek persons extrordinary bravado. In short, these muffins have fruit, vegetable, protein, fiber, natural sugars, and a homebaked goodness even a swarthy port floozy would settle down for. After eating one Sunday morning, I got my career best in the 3-mile dash around my neighborhood. Who knows, maybe they will make you a better person, too.


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 1/2 tablespoons soy protein powder (or egg equivalent like Ener-G or flaxseed meal)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup apple butter
1 cup carrot matchsticks
1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup water

1 can (6 ounces) pineapple juice
1 cup raisins
1 cup sunflower seeds

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
(not in ingredients picture)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Peel the carrot and cut it into matchsticks. Put the carrot matchsticks into a little container with the 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of water. Put the container in the fridge while you take care of the other steps.

Mix the flour, bran, baking soda, baking powder, and protein powder in a bowl.

Add the cinnamon, allspice, raisins, sunflower seeds, pineapple juice, and apple butter (basically everything else except the carrot/lemon juice mixture).

Mix everything up a bit, and then add the carrot/lemon juice mixture. It's going to foam up a bit; that's the lemon juice reacting with the baking powder. It's just like the 5th grade science fair!

Mix everything up well and spoon it into greased muffin pans.

Bake the muffins in the 325-degree oven for about 35-40 minutes. When they are done, let them cool off before you take them out of the pan. If you try to take the muffins out of the pan when they are still warm, they are more able to fall apart.


Any kind of nut or berry is good with this recipe.
If you don't like apple butter, 1/3 cup canola oil can be a good substitute.
Orange juice can be substituted for pineapple if that is all you have.
The protein powder is basically used as a binding agent in this recipe, so any type of egg equivalent is an acceptable substitution. I used protein powder only because I was trying to make a "energy" muffin. Let the record show that I succeeded, hands down.

March 05, 2006

Toni's Tip #3 - How to cook spaghetti squash

Not gonna lie, this is a bit of a pain in the a**, however the reward of delicious spaghetti squash is well worth it.

1. Buy spaghetti squash -- don't be tricked by imitators such as the butternut squash.

2. Cut squash in half lengthwise, this is my least favorite part for one of two reasons: 1. I don't think I have a good enough knife to be cutting through the squash, one of those pumpkin carving knifes would be key here. 2. There is no strong man, or person for that matter, readily available for me to pass this task off to (note to self: increase weight on chest press)

3. Once you get it cut open scrape out the seeds from the middle (oh yeah did I mention to pre-heat the oven to 400?... do that).

4. Lay the squash halves skin side up on a baking sheet and cook for 30-40 min (skin will start to look slightly translucent)

5. Remove from oven, let cool for a bit. Here's the fun part, somehow in the process of cooking this squash the meat of it turns into this amazing stringy noodle like mass when scraped out with a fork, hence the name spaghetti squash.

6. You can eat it just like spaghetti or make Toni's delicious spaghetti squash pizza bake.

Sweet and Spicy Seitan (with millet)

There are many meat substitutes on the market today. Meatballs, deli slices, "chicken" strips, and many other items are readily available at a store right down the street from me. Of course, in buying one of these, I am inadvertantly supporting corporate giants, genetically modified organisms, factory farming, and other less than illustrious institutions. Strangely enough, some of these meat substitutes still contain egg and dairy (scratches head).

I once thought becoming vegan would add hours to my grocery store time, as I would have to read ingredients lists in depth. Here's a tip for those of you who think the same -- buy your ingredients fresh and don't screw around with that premade stuff. It's cheaper and better for you.

A common food item in veganism, adopted from, Asian cultures, is seitan. Seitan is basically wheat gluten (the binding agent in flour), flavor, and water. It is allowed to sit, like a yeast bread, cooked in a boiling broth, then cooled and grilled on a skillet to form a "meaty" texture. It is a great substitute for meat, as you can flavor it to your liking, using any spices you like. You can also find some premade seitan at many health food, Asian, or vegetarian stores. I recently tried making my own, using a "chicken" style recipe. Going along with the Asian theme, I borrowed an idea from a Chinese restaurant menu and made my own "General Tso's" sauce. Instead of fried rice, I used a healthier version -- bolied millet with green onion.

1 cup seitan (a few pieces)
1/4 cup millet
1/2 cup green onions
2 teaspoons chili pepper
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons rice flour

Like most all grains, millet increases in size when it is cooked. You need about 4 times as much water as millet. Bring the water to a boil and then add the millet. Stir occassionally so it doesn't burn and crust the pot. It should take about 30 minutes to cook, during which time you can do the other steps.

Remove the ends of the green onions and discard. Then dice them.

In a medium pan, heat up the pineapple juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce over medium heat.

Add the chili pepper and gently stir for a bout a minute more. The idea is to distribute the flavor uniformly, so your mouth doesn't flame up when you get a bite of the pepper.

Add the rice flour and stir until it's dissolved completely. If there is any caking, turn the heat down and keep stirring. You really don't want to burn anything at this point or it won't taste as good.

Add the seitan and begin to coat the pieces with sauce.

Keep the seitan in the pan until the pieces are covered with sauce and heated completely.

By now, the millet should be done. Add the green onions and some salt if you like.

I think the different tastes here go good with iced tea, and the millet is a good way to even out the spicy sauce.

You can use rice instead of millet. If you have an aversion to spicy food, feel free to cut the chili pepper out completely. If you add a tablespoon or two of cider vinegar to the sauce, before the rice flour, you will have a pretty good sweet and sour sauce.