February 09, 2017

My air fryer — What? I bought an air fryer?

Fries made from yukon gold potatoes.

I've been bested in my latest battle against the acquisition of new kitchen appliances by the powerful, almighty, fabulous-bargain-price, one-day-only-sale monster. I encountered the monster on a Facebook group for vegan air fryer enthusiasts, so what did I expect? I was there of my own free will, reading about other people's air frying fun, when the price notice popped up. And, I might add, I was conversant with the various models and their usual prices because I'd been researching them, just out of curiosity, you know. I didn't plan to actually buy one just then, but the one-day-only price appeared, and before I could stop myself I went to the Web page and clicked 'buy'. In the photo above you can see the first thing I made — oil-free fries. I ate them all myself, and, yes, they were good.  Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I seasoned them with granulated garlic, granulated onion and Old Bay Seasoning before I air-fried them.

Russet potatoes.

I've done lots of potato things, including crinkle cuts and wedges, and used different varieties of potatoes, and preparations. I've tried coating them with potato starch, pre-cooking them, etc., and have liked them all. Sometimes I have fries for breakfast.

The easiest thing is just to wash the potato, cut it into wedges and throw it into the air fryer. No matter what I do, the result is always delicious. One day I cut thin slices and made potato chips, but I ate them so fast I didn't have a chance to photograph them.

Russet potato.

My favorite potato to use is a russet, and a hefty russet like you see here (hand for scale :D) will make enough wedges or fries for three normal people or two greedy ones. (Or one incredibly greedy person.)

Although it's true I've eaten more potatoes lately than usual, I've also made a few other things in my air fryer. Like fried tofu cubes, for example. Here are some cubes I made to use in miso soup.

I've gotten much better at air-frying tofu since taking the photos here, and have started cutting the tofu into strips instead of cubes — I find it easier to cube it after it's done. And I'm frying it longer so it puffs up and becomes more crispy. I don't have any photos of my more recent efforts.

Here's a tofu experiment I did using three different coatings, but unfortunately, I neglected to write anything down, and now I've forgotten. It doesn't really matter though since everything I've tried has worked well, and most of the time I just air fry the tofu plain to use in other recipes.

Fries from garnet yams.

Sweet potato fries turned out great in the air fryer, and again, I didn't use oil. We gobbled these beauties up, and I was wishing I had more.


I did a little experiment with skinny carrots where I marinated them in tamari, a touch of maple syrup, liquid smoke and sriracha, before air frying them. They were tasty but I doubt I'll make them again. I also did tempeh strips with a homemade barbecue sauce. They came out a bit too dry, and I may try steaming the tempeh first, next time. We usually steam it before cooking but I was in a hurry.

Leftover pasta and tempeh.

I've also been using the air fryer to quickly reheat leftovers. I used it to reheat leftover pasta with tempeh chunks, and it tasted better than the original dish. The tempeh developed a nice crispy edge. It does an amazing job on leftover pizza. The pizza crust had a fabulous texture after its turn in the air fryer — better than at the restaurant! And I made onion rings!

This is my latest experiment — spring rolls stuffed with an egg roll filling of cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and air fried tofu. I would say it's a dish in progress —  I see great potential but it's not quite there yet.

This is my air fryer. If you're not familiar with air fryers, they cook with moving hot air similar to a convection oven. They achieve results comparable to deep fat frying but with little or no oil. Some people use a small amount of oil and others use none, depending on preference. If you use no oil, the food won't come out tasting like it's coated in grease, but it will be crispy and delicious.

I'm having great fun experimenting with my fryer, and am glad I bought it, but I'm still trying to figure out where to keep it. Right now it's on the counter where the Cuisinart food processor used to be, while I wait for my recalled processor blade replacement to arrive.* Once the food processor is reinstated to its usual spot, I'll have to figure something out. Unless ... the food processor moves to a new location. Hmmm. Hadn't thought of that. The food processor is a lot smaller.

Here's the inside cooking basket. It looks larger in the photo than it actually is. The machine itself is a bit bulky, but the cooking basket is only about seven inches square. I like the Phillips, which gets good ratings but is expensive (unless, you know, there's a one-day-only special) because it has a metal cooking basket rather than non-stick. If I'm cooking something sticky, like tofu, I use parchment paper. Another air fryer that is popular is the GoWise. But, there are lots — and the prices are coming down.

Anyway, there are many more people who know much more than I do about air fryers, and I can point you to them if you're interested. I'm a novice. One thing I do know, though, is while I was putting together the blog post, I got a strong craving for fries, and as you can see in the photo, they're ready. Got to go now.

* Cuisinart food processor blade recall

Cuisinart issued a recall for the blades in certain processor models because slivers of the metal can break off and become embedded in food. People have suffered injuries due to ingesting the metal. If you haven't yet checked to see if you have one of the recalled models, you should!

January 30, 2017

Spicy black bean and tomato stuffed yams

One of the reasons I started my blog was to keep track of recipes. I wasn't in the habit of using cookbooks or recipes, nor was I likely to remember exactly what I added to a dish to make it repeat-worthy. I wanted to force myself to keep a record of what I cooked so I could have a catalogue of recipes I could return to and make again. I recently had an old recipe pop into my mind, and I was able to look it up and make it for dinner instead of spending time trying to recollect what the ingredients were. It was easy and delicious so I'm sharing it again. The recipe was inspired by a cookbook review I did for Peta's Vegan College Cookbook intended to help college students with limited resources (like money, ingredients, equipment and time) feed themselves in a dorm or apartment. Although most of the recipes were not exactly my taste, a few, with some adjustments, were actually quite good. Spicy black bean and tomato stuffed sweet potatoes was one recipe that has stuck with us. My adapted recipe first appeared on the blog May 28, 2009 on a post describing the day I became a vegetarian. Now, eight years later, I'm re-sharing the recipe after making it and loving it once again. I'm changing the name from stuffed sweet potatoes to stuffed yams to reflect what we actually use.  

Update: I looked up the difference between sweet potatoes and yams and learned that my memory on the subject failed me. I should have done what I originally planned and written about it, but I was too lazy. The garnet yams I like so much are actually sweet potatoes. Sorry about the misleading title. The two vegetables are quite different. Here is a link to find out more about the differences between sweet potatoes and yams. There are also nutritional differences and the article provides a link to learn more.

Spicy black bean and tomato stuffed sweet potatoes
  • 4 medium garnet yams (or any orange sweet potato), scrubbed
  • one tablespoon oil or two tablespoons broth or water
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1-1/2 cups home-cooked black beans)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 15-oz.can diced tomatoes with green chilies, (or a can of diced tomatoes plus 3 tablespoons of diced green chilies from a can, or 1-2 finely chopped fresh jalapeños)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (if needed)
  • fresh ground pepper, lots
  • 1 small avocado (or vegan sour cream)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  1. Slice a very small piece from the end of each potato. (Or, you can prick them all over with a fork.) Bake at 425˚F for about 40 minutes or until nice and soft all the way through. You can bake them right on the oven rack. When they are ready, place them on a plate to cool slightly while you finish up the filling.
  2. Cook the onion, garlic and oregano (and jalapeños, if using fresh) in the oil (or broth or water if you don't use oil) for one minute. Add the beans, tomatoes, canned chilies (if using), paprika, salt and pepper. Heat gently until hot. Stir in two tablespoons lemon juice, and the parsley or cilantro. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Open the avocado and scoop out the pulp. Mash and mix with two tablespoons lemon juice, a tiny pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Split the potatoes lengthwise and gently push the ends towards each other to create a pocket.
  5. Fill the pockets with the bean mixture and top with avocado.
  6. Eat. Serves four.

Women's march Seattle

I don't usually like to bring politics into the blog, but I'll tell you, it's been a nightmare week watching the horror happening in the White House, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to participate in the woman's march to experience the joy of knowing first hand there are so many people who believe in the core values our country stands for.

The Seattle march organizers final head count was 200,000. And Seattle folks are continuing to protest about the refugee ban. Were you at a march?

January 19, 2017

BetaOats: "A non-dairy yogurt-style experience"

I recently had the opportunity to sample a new, fermented, yogurt-like product being made in the Seattle area. BetaOats is 100% vegan, probiotic, gluten free non-GMO, high in beta-glucan, high in oat fiber, soy and coconut free, allergen free.

Here's what the BetaOats creators have to say about their product on their Web site: "Oats are a superfood. Not only are oats delicious, but they are healthful. They are 100% whole grain, packed with soluble fiber beta-glucan, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. People from around the world have been using oats as a staple in their diets in various forms. A traditional method of fermenting oats, found in many cultures, produces a yogurt-like product, enhanced in flavor and nutritional value. Such fermented cereal yogurt-type snacks are called vellies.

At BetaOats we revitalize this old tradition and deliver a delightful and healthy oat-based experience to our customers. We work hard to make a product that will blow your mind with its goodness. It's all natural. It's free of gluten and dairy. It's a delicious probiotic. There is nothing not to love about it. Hungry already? Grab BetaOats and enjoy this guilt free mouthwatering snack.

Each package of our oat vellie contains 6.5 oz of oat goodness, prepared with only the essential natural ingredients, no preservatives or gmo's. Naturally high in beta-glucan, BetaOats vellie combines the beneficial live bacterial cultures of fermented oats, the creaminess of your favorite yogurt, and the refreshing flavor of tree-ripened fruit sourced from the Hood River Valley in Northern Oregon."

I loved the taste and texture of the product. It didn't have the tang or consistency of yogurt, but was more pudding-like, with a thickened, velvety quality. Although the number of grams of sugar seems high, the taste wasn't overly sweet. It was a perfect balance of tart berries and sweetness.

It's true I enjoyed my sample cups of BetaOats, but I tend not to buy foods with added sugar, and I usually avoid additives like xanthan gum. BetaOats seemed more like a dessert to me, and as such would probably be a much healthier dessert choice than most sweet products people select — especially for kids. It was extremely appealing in both taste and texture, very low in fat, and is a good source of probiotics.

I realize that sweetened yogurts are extremely popular, and it's usually easier to find a sweet variety than an unsweetened one. Everyone has their own opinion about what should or shouldn't be in their food, which is why I provide ingredient and  nutritional information about products I review, as well as information about taste and appeal.

If you live in the PNW, and have access to Vegan Haven in Seattle, or Marlene's Market in Tacoma or Federal Way, you can try the delicious, new BetaOats. Or, if Beta Oats appeals to you, and you can't find it in a store, you could request that your local stores (PCC?, Whole Foods?) begin to carry it.

Have you tried BetaOats? Would you be interested in a product like this?

Disclosure:  I was provided with two free cups of BetaOats to try. All opinions are my own except as stated in the review. I wasn't paid for my time or opinion.

December 30, 2016

Texas Caviar (black-eyed pea salsa) for good luck in the New Year

Just popping in for a few minutes to wish you a Happy New Year and share a recipe I've been making for New Year's Day for longer than I can remember. Eating black-eyed peas is supposed to bring luck in the new year. I first posted the recipe here in 2007, and periodically, when I can remember, ever since. We love it, and I'll be making it again this year, because, who can turn down the possibility of a little extra good luck. Especially now. And because it tastes great! You can find the original post, here.

In other news, if you have some free time over the next few days, I can recommend a few good movies we just saw. Both Fences and Jackie were terrific films, as was Lion, Fences being particularly profound. If staying home and binge-watching TV (while scooping up Texas caviar) is more your style, I highly recommend The Crown and Rectify. Rectify, just so you know, is incredibly intense viewing with extraordinary acting. We're currently binge-watching Last Tango in Halifax, and while it started out wonderfully pleasant, it's gotten a bit heavy-duty, though we still like it a lot.


Texas Caviar
  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
  • 3 jalapenos, minced. Use fewer if you don't enjoy  spicy food. If you hate heat, use a mild pepper instead of jalapeño. I use 3 and the spice is mild, in my opinion.
  • 1/4 cup dried (or fresh) tomato, chopped, or 1/4 cup sweet red pepper, chopped.
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced. If you dislike cilantro, use parsley. Tastes great with parsley!
  • 1/4 cup olive oil,
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground peppercorns
  1. Rinse and drain the beans.
  2. Place the beans in a shallow glass (or other non-reactive) dish with the scallions, cilantro, dried tomatoes and peppers.  
  3. Put the oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt in a one cup glass measuring cup, and mix together. Add the liquid to the bean mixture and combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or a few days. Stir occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly. 
  4. Grind some peppercorns over the top just before serving.
  5. Serve with substantial chips for scooping.
I used jalapenos from last summer's garden. I always freeze bags of whole, hot peppers from the garden or farmers market to use in cooking during the rest of the year. This was the first time I tried to use them uncooked. Couldn't tell they weren't fresh.

Fresh squeezed lime juice makes a superior salad but I would understand if you kept a bottle of lime juice (like Santa Cruz organic) in your refrigerator for "emergencies." The beans will still taste great.

I like to rinse and drain canned beans in a wire wok skimmer that I got in an Asian market years ago because I liked the way it looked. It's easier to clean than my fine mesh strainers and holds about one can of beans at a time.

This is an old recipe and I'll probably revise it to use less, or no oil. I'll update  if and when I do. Also, since I now have an Instant Pot, and cooking beans from scratch has become more fun, I'll probably use dried beans.

This year's beans, marinating.


December 15, 2016

But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan: review and recipe for Maple-Miso Tempeh Cutlets

Printed by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.

So, vegans, have you ever had a friend tell you they would love to invite you for dinner but they have no idea what they could make? What they don't realize, is a lot of us feel the same way about them. We agonize over what vegan dishes we can make to appeal to our non-vegan family and friends. I feel pretty lucky that my non-vegan dinner guests have been extremely accepting (or at least they are good liars!) of my vegan cooking, but I still spend a lot of time thinking about what foods would be most appealing. If you're always trying to come up with tasty vegan foods for omnivorous guests, Kristy Turner has a solution for you. Her new cookbook, But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan, 125 Recipes to Win Everyone Over is filled with recipes meant to delight the non-vegan eater. Of course, we vegans benefit from her creativity, too! Not only are the recipes satisfying, the book itself is a beauty. It's easy to read, and filled with gorgeous photos by Kristy's husband, Chris. Follow my link to amazon.com and 'look inside the book' for a generous preview of Kristy's compendium of general cooking-related information, as well as many of her recipes. Then order a copy for your bookshelf!

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

I sampled four recipes when I received my copy. The first one I tried was Kung Pao Cauliflower. I was craving Chinese food, and Kristy's version of Kung Pao "chicken" was mighty appealing. After enjoying the dish myself, I can easily see serving it to family; I can't imagine anyone not liking it. It's supposed to have green onion strands beautifying the dish as a garnish, but unfortunately, I took the photo before remembering to add the onions, so just picture it delicately graced with green onions. Delish!

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

The next recipe to catch my attention was Mushroom-Kale Skillet Hash. The end result was toothsome, but I had a bit of a problem following the directions for this one. The potatoes kept sticking to the pan, and refused to crisp up, even though I turned the heat down and added a splash of broth, as directed. They also took forever to soften — maybe I had mutant potatoes. I eventually decided to cook the kale in a separate pan and add it to the potatoes after they were finally cooked, because it didn't look like there was any way the kale would soften in that potato-filled pan. It all worked out in the end, and although I ran into a bit of trouble during the preparation, we definitely loved the final result.

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

My next delicious recipe adventure was Chinese Chickpea Salad. I may have taken a few liberties with some of the salad ingredients, but nothing major. It looks like I added some arugula, and used peanuts instead of almonds — and the original recipe was topped with crumbled rice crackers, which I didn't have. However, the basic idea of crunchy salad with cabbage, toasted chickpeas and miso-ginger dressing is what matters, and it was perfect.

Photo credit: Andrea Zeichner

The last dish I'll show you is Maple-Miso Tempeh Cutlets — I've even got the recipe to share. Tempeh is one of those foods that some people, even vegans, don't like, but, if there's one tempeh recipe that might tempt the recalcitrant, this may be it. It was wonderful the day I made it, and great the next day as cold leftovers. I'm thinking of bringing it to a family dinner this weekend. Either this or the Chinese Chickpea Salad — or both! Do you have a favorite dish to make when cooking for non-vegan family and friends?

Kristy and her publisher have allowed me to share a recipe with you, and I've chosen the fabulous Miso-Maple Tempeh Cutlets. I hope you'll try it. As I mentioned earlier in the post, you can see more of Kristy's recipes by looking at her book on Amazon.

Photo credit: Chris Miller. Printed by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.
Maple-Miso Tempeh Cutlets
Serves 4// Prep Time: 5 Minutes // Active Time: 20 Minutes // Inactive Time: 20 Minutes
Though it would be nice if the whole family were cool with you replacing the turkey or ham or whatever poor animal has to be the centerpiece of the holiday meal with something vegan, that’s not likely to happen. Not right away, at least. What we always do is bring along a vegan main dish that’s just for us (and the other vegans/vegetarians at the gathering). The rest of the family can still have their traditional main dish and you don’t have to sacrifice your lifestyle choice. Although I could bring a store-bought faux meat dish, I like to bring something homemade (I’m going to get far fewer jokes about some tempeh than if I’m heating up a “tofurkey”). These tasty tempeh cutlets, glazed in a savory maple-miso sauce, are best enjoyed the day they’re prepared. If you need to prepare them somewhat in advance, steam the tempeh and prepare the sauce so that all you need to do on the day of is cook the cutlets in the sauce.
  • Two 8-ounce (225 g) packages tempeh ¼ cup (60 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) liquid aminos (or gluten-free tamari)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons white soy miso (or chickpea miso)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Chop each tempeh block in half horizontally, then chop each half diagonally so you
    have eight triangles. 
  2. Fill a large shallow saucepan with a couple of inches of water and fit with a stea
    mer basket. Place the tempeh triangles in the steamer basket and cover with a lid. Bring to a
    boil, then reduce to a simmer. Steam the tempeh for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the triangles once halfway through. Remove the steamer basket from the pan (keep the tempeh in the basket) and set aside. 
  3. Dump the water from the saucepan. Combine the vegetable broth, liquid aminos, maple syrup, miso, sage, and thyme in the pan and stir to mix. Add the tempeh triangles
  4. and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Let the tempeh simmer in the sauce for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until the sauce is absorbed and starts to caramelize. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
For a killer Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich, slice one of the triangles width-wise so
that you have two thinner triangles. Use those in the sandwich.

Credit: Recipe from But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan!: 125 Recipes to Win Everyone Over 
© Kristy Turner, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review. All opinions are my own. The blog post contains Amazon links.


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