Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vegan Cooking 101

Look at me! Look at me! My very first Vegan Cooking Class!

This afternoon I was the star of the vegan show at Gourmet on the Run in the Morrison Plantation in Mooresville!  I was so excited about the dish I was going to share but also very nervous.  What if no one shows up?  What if I burn something?  What if I look like a complete dork?  Ok, so maybe I looked like a dork either way...but the class was a success and I didn't even burn anything!

For this class I had two missions: First, teach others that vegetarian cooking does not have to be difficult, weird, or gross!  Introduce items like Quinoa and Tofu to some vegetarian newbies and teach a skill that not many know: rolling a Spring Roll.

The second mission was to create a healthy meal that is fun and easy to make with children for submission into the Make Time for Change Recipe Contest.  For every healthy recipe submission on a blog, Foodbuzz and Frigidaire donates $50 to Save the Children, an organization dedicated to providing access to healthy food for all children.  If you visit their website and join, they will make another donation of $1! 

For this submission, I pulled a fun, family-friendly recipe and enlisted the help of some kiddos to help me roll it out!
I arrived early at Gourmet on the Run to set up (and ease my nerves).  Linda, the owner, was super supportive, offered lots of great tips and was so generous to let me cook in her kitchen!  Mr. Kummerow acted as my personal photographer and videographer (I can't wait to finalize the video to show you!).

I was so excited when my "students" started to arrive and I quickly began cooking my Spring Roll ingredients.
  1. Steamed Butternut Squash
  2. Quinoa
  3. Rice Noodles
  4. Marinated Tofu

I also chopped some veggies to include in the rolls:
  1. Red Bell Pepper
  2. Cabbage
  3. Carrots
  4. Cilantro
  5. Avacado
Then we were ready to roll!
Several of the students expressed their gratitude for demonstrating the spring rolls, and making them roll their own.  They mentioned they probably would have never tried something like this on their own through a recipe if they hadn't experienced it first hand.  Like them, a good friend of mine demonstrated how to make spring rolls for me, and now I make them all the time!

However, I want to encourage you to make these on your own, even if you don't have someone to demonstrate making them in person.  Trust me, they are super easy and fun and the kids will love them!

Spring rolls are so versatile!  You can stuff them with nearly anything!  For a typical Asian spring roll we used tofu, carrots, cabbage and peppers.  For a fun twist I made spring rolls with quinoa, butternut squash and cilantro!  You could pull out leftovers and stuff even those into a spring roll! 
I had so much fun teaching the cooking class today!  I will be scheduling another one soon and I encourage you to check it out if you can!  We had such a good time and I am already thinking of recipes for my next class! 

Now, here are all the recipes from today:

Quinoa and Butternut Squash Spring Rolls

1 package rice spring roll wrappers (can be found at any grocery store in the Asian section)
1 butternut squash
1 cup quinoa (can be found by rice at most grocery stores)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Bring two cups water to a boil.  Stir in 1 cup quinoa and boil for 5 minutes, uncovered.  After 5 minutes, cover the pot with lid, remove from heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, peel the skin from the butternut squash with a standard, hand-held peeler.  Trust me it isn't very difficult but you will need a decent peeler.  Slice squash in half and scoop out goopy insides with large spoon.  Dice your squash into 1/2" pieces.  In large stock pot with steamer basket, bring water to a boil.  Pour squash into steamer basket and cover.  Steam for 10-15 minutes until squash is tender.

Let quinoa and butternut squash cool slightly before making your spring rolls.

To roll your spring rolls, dip one wrap into a tray of water (room temperature).  Flip and dip again.  Shake dry, gently.  Place on a towel, and dab dry with another towel.  Carefully move wrap to a cutting board or hard, clean surface.  Place 2 tbsp quinoa, 2 scoops squash and a pinch of cilantro into center of wrap.  Fold two opposite sides to barely meet in the middle.  Fold top down and then roll baby roll.  The wrappers become sticky and pliable as they dry so they will roll easily and stay shut. 

For step-by-step rolling photos visit here.

Asian Spring Rolls

Perfect Tofu (recipe below)
1 package rice noodles (found in Asian section at most grocery stores)
1 red bell pepper
3 carrots
1/4 head green cabbage
1 avacado
1 package rice spring roll wrappers

In small sauce pan heat 2 cups water to boil.  Add rice noodles and boil for 3-5 minutes until soft.  Drain noodles and cool.

Meanwhile, finely chop your red bell pepper, shred your carrots and and shred the cabbage (I used my food processor for shredding and it works awesome!)  Also, dice your avacado and prepare your Perfect Tofu.

To prepare your spring rolls, follow recipe above, substituting a small handful each of tofu, rice noodles, carrots, pepper, cabbage and avacado.  You will want about 1/2 cup of ingredients in each roll.

Perfect Tofu

Juice of 1 large lemon
1 tbsp. soy or shoyu sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. finely chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper to taste
1 package extra firm tofu

Before cooking with tofu you want to drain and press the water out! I typically do this by opening the package, pouring out the water, wrapping the tofu block completely in clean towels and stacking it between two plates. Then I pile on heavy objects to help press all the water out for up to 30 minutes. If you are scared of the texture, this step is certainly going to help!

Next, dice tofu into small, 1/2" pieces. Stir together lemon juice, soy or shoyu sauce, olive oil, cilantro, garlic and black pepper. Pour marinade over tofu in a bowl or container. Marinade for 30 minutes to several hours in the fridge.

To sauté, spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray, heat over medium heat and place diced tofu in pan. Cook on each side for 8-10 minutes, until a firm crust forms on tofu. You do not want to turn too often, or you will not get this nice brown edge that really enhances the texture of tofu.

Tahini Dipping Sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
juice from one fresh lemon
1/4 cup water

Mince your garlic and then press with the back of a spoon to create a fine garlic paste. Combine with tahini and stir well. Slowly add in one teaspoon of water at a time until your sauce resembles a thick cream. Squeeze lemon juice into sauce (taste as you go) until the flavor tastes good to you (no exact science here!).

I gave two hand outs that help explain some of the processes a little differently.  Check them out!

The Perfect Tofu
Welcome To Vegan Cooking

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