This Tofu is to Die For!

This tofu is to die for!  Really?  I’ve never heard anyone say that before.  Has anyone ever heard that in all the history of tofu-dom?  I’ve heard of dishes with tofu in them that were to die for…. good pad thai comes to mind, but tofu in and of itself?  It certainly caught my attention when a new friend told me that her sister’s recipe for baked tofu was to die for.  When I told her I admired but was a bit dubious of this description of tofu, we decided that a great way to cement the friendship and get to know each other better was to have a cook-off to share and make some favorite recipes together.

Bearing the ingredients to make vegan parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese-y ball (also vegan), roasted (no stank) broccoli and some pre-made nut butter bliss balls, Mr. Bigg Sis, My favorite Son and I set off for our friend’s house where they would try to kill us with tofu.  What can I say, we like to live life on the edge…. (Don’t say you aren’t impressed ’cause I can feel it from here!)

Little did we know that our friends were not only treating us to baked tofu but oysters (clearly not vegan, but oh so fabulous).  Everyone rolled up their sleeves and got to work – with My Favorite Son making spiral potatoes, Mr. Bigg Sis shucking oysters with Mr. Host and me baking deadly tofu with Ms. Host.  Luckily for all of us the soy-based suspense was limited as Ms. Host already had a batch of baked tofu in the oven so we didn’t have to wait long to try the dangerous dish.  It was in fact delicious!  Everyone in my family agreed and we happily munched slabs of tofu while preparing all of the other delicacies I mentioned above.

What a lovely way to get to know people better.  We had a great meal, lots of laughs and learned some new favorites.  Ms. Host and I concluded that the generous amount of onion powder in the recipe is very important to the success of the baked tofu, or as she stated in her love for this tofu, “I think it’s the onion powder that makes this stuff like crack to me.”  Another tofu statement for the books…. or the blog!

I give you, straight from Ms. Host’s sister Nancy:

To Die For Baked Tofu!

3, 16 ounce packages of Firm or Extra Firm Tofu
1 cup flour (we used GF)
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 Tbsp Lawry’s seasoned salt
2 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp wheat bran (we left this out to be GF)
1 stick vegan margarine or butter (1/2 cup) melted (we used Earth’s Balance Vegan margarine)

Mix dry ingredients together with fork. Have melted margarine / butter in saucepan on stove over low heat.

Drain tofu on a cotton cloth, & slice each block into 1/4 inch thick slices. Dip each piece of tofu in melted margarine/butter and remove it from saucepan with spatula.

Place into breading mixture. Coat thoroughly in breading mixture.

You can use a fork to scoop breading over the tofu, and then place on cookie sheet that has been greased with olive oil. When cookie sheet is full, pour any leftover melted margarine/butter over tofu pieces. Bake at 375 on the lowest shelf of the oven for 1 hour, turning after 1/2 hour. (If breading has not quite adhered to tofu, after 1/2 hour, just cook about 10 minutes longer before turning.)

Watch it towards the end of the hour as it is much tastier when still just a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Don’t overcook! Baked tofu keeps well in fridge, can be frozen and makes great sandwiches.

Enjoy!  Preferably with new friends:-)

Quick Quinoa, Beans and Salsa

Biggest Bro created a long running dinner favorite in my household which consisted of brown rice, black beans, salsa & cottage cheese.  (This is incredibly fast and easy if you use leftover rice and canned beans.)  Both my fellas always liked this but when that dang doctor told Mr. Bigg Sis not to eat dairy anymore, this one fell off the radar.  (Actually we are very grateful to that doc because Mr. Bigg Sis is much healthier since we ditched the dairy…, but it DID get in the way of some of our fast favorite dishes!)

Now the Sis Sisters usually just replace, substitute, re-vamp and redundify😉, but none of the vegan cheeses we have tried with this concoction brought the same level of enthusiasm… until now that is.  So I’m going to share one of those annoying recipes that gives you ingredients, but no amounts.  I am usually not irritating…. Okay, Little Sis reads this and I could be very irritating when we were children…. Okay, maybe not just then…. can we just move on from the irritating thing now?

I am giving you only ingredients because this is a “put out the ingredients and let each family member put together their own perfect combo” recipe.  I know my 15 year old loves this concept, and only requires a reminder that there does need to be a reasonable amount of veggies in his bowl.  I love it because it is a little easier for both clean up and preparation.

At any rate, Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook once the water boils, and in that time the rest of the ingredients were prepared and then – oh yum!

Ingredients:

1) Cook quinoa according to package directions

2) Kale sauteed in olive oil, garlic and cumin seed
Get your clean kale greens ready (I used about 3 big handfulls)
Heat about 2 tsp of oil
Add a minced or pressed clove of garlic and 1/2 – 1 tsp cumin seed
Once garlic and cumin seeds are fragrant, add kale and stir
After kale looks darker green and shiny, add about 1/4 cup water and place cover on pan
to steam
Turn off heat

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3) Offer vegan parmesan
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
Blitz these ingredients in the blender – don’t go too long or you will create seed butter!

4) Drain and rinse can of black beans (or kidney beans – or whatever beans you have)
Heat the beans up a little so they don’t cool everything else down.

5) Open containers of salsa😉

Mix!

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We will be having this again… So easy and perfect on a busy night when you don’t want to spend much time cooking.

Sugar Back on my Back and the easiest ‘Sweet’ Treat Ever!

It does seem to happen every year.  After the holiday season the bar has been reset and my sugar problem has started creeping back in on me.  It never gets back to the days of eating multiple fireballs each day and spending my entire allowance on candy, but it is a slippery slope my friends and I am thinking that like the Grinch, my little dog Maxx needs to grab the back of my shirt and pull hard.

Little Sis and I did a whole series called Sugar Busting chronicling and encouraging our journey (and perhaps yours) to reduce sugar, but it appears to be a life long battle with hills and valleys / highs and lows / fruit and pixie stix…. Gag, but I did love pixie stix back in the day.

I may be beyond the temptation of Pixie Stix but the amount of dark chocolate I eat has been creeping up, along with a penchant for bottled sweet salad dressing and the ‘need’ for something a little sweet after meals.  And it’s not just weight and cavities that are cause for concern.  A link has been found between sugar consumption and heart disease regardless of the quality of the rest of a person’s diet. And there are other health issues with

As we preach in Baby Steps to Better Health: A Guided Journey to Healthier Eating, I am trying to cut back and replace that chocolate (and okay some baked goods as well!!) with something healthier that fits the bill.  If I totally deny that sweet craving I’m likely to go back to the chocolate with a vengeance!

Enter my 15 year old son who although he is becoming a bit more rebellious lately where Mom’s food offerings are concerned, he is helping me out!  As part of our rule that one must have a piece of produce prior to eating a less healthy snack (P.E.P. – pre-emptive produce – also in the book), he often chops an apple, sprinkles on a bit of cinnamon, pops it in the microwave for a few minutes and presto – pie filling type dessert that is warm and wonderful and has no added sugar.  I added a few broken up walnuts so the snack would fill me up longer.  Fabulous.  I ate it.  I felt satisfied and able to pass up the chocolate…

As for cutting back, I have stopped taking dark chocolate in my lunch bag….. too easy to eat too much of it.  And who says I need a piece of chocolate to get through the afternoon, anyway?  I don’t.  After all, the best reward and motivator is to treat my body with respect and reward myself with health.  A little bit doesn’t hurt, but I know when I am slipping down the slope.  And when I notice or have trouble remembering the real rewards, I go back to sugar busting and baby stepping.  Eventually I am back on track.

Here’s a photo of the apple…. good luck to you if you have a sugar monkey on your back.  It is possible to let the monkey get back to the trees, so hang in there.

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Teriyaki Roasted Broccoli

The search continues for broccoli that both My Boy (er… young man…. almost 15!) and I both like.  Mr. Bigg Sis is not at all picky, (one of his many fine qualities), but ever since I was pregnant with My Young Man broccoli has fallen to the bottom of my vegetable list.  But it is SO very good for you that I simply can’t forget about it.  I have roasted broccoli before to good effect, but My Young Man was not sold on plain roasted broccoli.  He does love Asian flavors however and perhaps the combo of flavor and roasting would please us both!

I decided to try a teriyaki sauce and a google of said delicacy led me quickly to an easy version from allrecipes.com:

2/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cooking sherry
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced

I cut the sugar in half and used vermouth instead of sherry because I recently substituted vermouth for madeira and figured that would work here as well.  I also used granulated garlic because I was out of fresh, but normally would definitely opt for fresh whenever possible.

To make teriyaki broccoli, preheat oven to 400.  Cut broccoli in bite sized chunks.  Mix teriyaki sauce and toss  with broccoli.  don’t over do the amount of sauce.  It should be a light coating on the broccoli.  Pour onto a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes – checking at 10 minutes for your preferred level of done-ness / tenderness.

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The brown you see on the broccoli is teriyaki sauce sunk in – not burning.

And if you are chopping and roasting, might as well throw in a pan of red potatoes cut in fry-like shapes, and roasted with oil, salt and pepper.  For me, I then know that My Young Man will enjoy something on the plate!

I also had some chicken and doused that with teriyaki and baked at 400 for about 15 minutes.  One oven, 3 dishes, reduced stank, happy eaters.  My Young Man says this is the best way he has ever eaten broccoli (although he still wouldn’t choose it over potatoes).  Any positive comment about broccoli is a very welcome thing and noted as a success!

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Other broccoli dishes?

Broccoli Meatballs
Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup
Broccoli Burgers
Bok choy & Ginger & Broccoli

And just in case you are new to our blog…. We can help you meet your goals to eat healthier and feel better.   Follow our gentle, sensible “Baby Steps to Better health: A Guided Journey in Healthier Eating”  Great for you or someone you love:-)

 

 

Flop to Fantastic in 1 Broccoli-Laden Burger Bite

We Sis Sisters can’t seem to leave well enough alone.  Little Sis is an inveterate messer-arounder of recipes and I frequently stray from the written path myself.  But I recently had a hankering for a straight from the recipe veggie burger and I couldn’t decide between Little Sis’ incredible Nutshroom Burgers and the Broccoli Meatballs that made the year end list…. which I have never tried.  Shame on me for never trying Broccoli Meatballs.  I thought I could burgify those balls, which hardly counts as recipe tampering, but couldn’t get the nutshroom burger taste out of my mind.  AND I had 2 heads of broccoli because Mr. Bigg Sis and I both acquired broccoli a day apart without revealing the haul…. (poor communication plagues modern hunter gatherers it would seem).

So of course you see where this is heading…. Recipe meddling and a ‘Get your chocolate out of my peanut butter’ moment had arrived…. The result I was hoping would be a new combination even be better than the originals.

Well at first I thought, no – what a flop!  Literally.  These burgers are too wet.  I couldn’t flip or flop them tidily after baking for 30 minutes.  But having poured some expensive ingredients and invested in actually eating dinner that night I decided patience was in order.  So I reached way down deep to find the little tiny pieces of patience that exist somewhere in the rather un-necessary organs like my appendix or gall bladder and managed to let these babies cook another 20 minutes or so.  The result?  A tougher outside that allowed for flipping (and another 10 minutes of baking) and a tender inside that remained tender for the leftover burger taken to work 2 days later on a whole grain bun.  Wow these things rock and pack a powerhouse of nutrition.  Truly tasty and packed with broccoli.  Nothing wrong with that.

One could probably speed up the cooking by adding some oats or something, but I don’t think I will mess with this concoction.  I will just make them on a weekend when there is lots of time for them to sit in the oven….. and eat them all week!

A name for this glorious combination?  Nutshroom Broccoli Bombs?  Brocshroom Burgers.  Beats me.  I just call them ‘Broccoli Mushroom Patties THAT ROCK’

1 cup chopped onion (I used sweet onion)
1 large clove garlic
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
salt to taste
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos (or soy sauce)4 cup broccoli cut into chunks and steamed or nuked still soft but not mushy (if you use bits of stem, cook that longer)
1/2 cup almond butter

Pre-heat oven to 350
Saute onions and garlic in a little oil until translucent.  Add mushrooms and any broccoli stem you might be using.
Cook until mushrooms are shriveling and even a little browned if you can be that patient
Add salt, rosemary and liquid aminos
Stir and saute another 5 minutes or so.
Pulse the cooked broccoli in a food processor to make small but not mush
Remove and place in mixing bowl with flaxseed and almond butter
Pulse the onion mixture in the food processor.  This should be pretty mushy.  Make sure you get all the scrapings from the pan.
Add to the mixing bowl and mix together
I used a big flat wooden spoon to shplunk patty type dollops on parchment paper on a baking sheet
Bake for 30 minutes or until firm enough to flip

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Bake until firm on both sides but still soft in the middle.
Have people try it without telling them what it’s made of.  Or take the Calvin approach (from Calvin & Hobbes) and tell your children it is monkey brains.  Mine would be more interested in that than anything that contains broccoli.

I don’t really care what these contain….. okay that’s not true.  I’m thrilled they are full of wholesome ingredients because I will be eating a lot of them!  Have you eaten your broccoli today? 😉

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Kinder Exercise – Feel the Nice Burn

NiceBurnSo there’s a nice burn as opposed to a mean burn?  Campfires can be a nice burn, a sip of Irish coffee is a nice burn but muscles burning mid-workout is kind of a mixed bag.  It hurts, but the burn is an indicator that you are working hard and building some new muscle.  Lately, however the burn associated with exercising has been cerebral rather than muscular.  More precisely I have been recognizing some negative vibes in my life that are a result of my workout activities.  And I am guessing that this negativity affects some of you, even if you do not exercise regularly.

Yikes!  What is all this about negativity?  Working out is supposed to be good for you.

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Balsamic-Honeyed Pecans

I love the idea of giving homemade food gifts to friends and family at the holidays, but most of my old choices seem like ‘too much’ these days.  Who really needs more cookies, fudge or homemade candy?  Of course it is not nice to deprive people of these things entirely but I feel very confident that none of the people upon whom I usually bestow gifts will go without.  Ideally the gift is nourishing and satisfying… special but not unhealthy.

I have made spicy roasted nuts in the past (Roasted Chili Lime Nuts), and these will be the gift for some folks, but I couldn’t shake the notion that I should make something on the sweet side.  The solution was to try roasting pecans with balsamic vinegar and honey.  The balsamic gave a little depth of flavor without having to use a lot of sugar.

I made some to put on the salad at Thanksgiving and ate all of the extra very quickly….. so I should probably plan on making theses babies very close to gift giving time so that I actually leave some for the giftee.

Bonus!  They are also not hard to make.  But don’t tell anyone!

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We Did It! Our Book Is Finally Ready!

You do it…..
No you do it…..
Mom!!!!

You may have heard our Mom jokes before, and of course now that we are ‘all grown up’ we try to leave our long suffering Carni-Mom out of such things, but our book, Baby Steps to Better Health: A Guided Journey in Healthier Eating and this blog, really started out just like that.

I, Bigg Sis, was living in TN, Little Sis was (is) living in MD, and thank goodness for digital communication and one fee phone systems because we talked almost every day on whatever medium was available.  We frequently discussed food and trying to get our kids to eat healthy foods, and our own journeys of slowly changing our diets to try to handle health, energy, weight and vitality issues.

One day, Little Sis said, “Somebody should write a book about this stuff.”
“You should write it,” I replied.
“No you should write it,” she countered…..

After discussing whether or not we were qualified to write such a book we realized that our own experience was valuable and as a nurse and a teacher, maybe we even had some other skills and knowledge to throw into the mix.  So the banter ended with, “We should write it.”

We started with the blog to flesh things out and get our writing joints limbered up, and now, almost 3 years later, some of what is in the blog, plus much more information, organization, coordination, and recipes, we have our book.  If you are a fan of the blog, don’t worry, this is not the end of My Sister’s Pantry.  (We are kind of hooked as well, and now that the book is done, we might even post more frequently.)

At any rate, the book is available on Amazon, complete with lovely art work by Little Sis’ wonderful daughter who is known as “Ms. Picky Pants” or MPP on the blog.  So, yes, we have actually lived the difficulties of getting children to eat more healthfully and have seen wonderful results from the endeavor that go far beyond physical health to include more knowledge, better choices when not monitored and lots of family time in and around the kitchen.  Our lives are forever changed.

We thank you for helping mold this journey and hope that you will consider taking a deeper journey with us through our book (also available as an e-book), or that you will consider sharing the book with someone you love who is seeking change in how they fuel their life.

January 1 is right around the corner and although many heartfelt efforts to engage a healthier lifestyle are born and die every January, perhaps a guide built on experience that encourages and introduces change a baby step at a time will be the tool causing this January’s efforts to endure!

Be well.  Eat well.
The Sis Sisters / Bigg Sis & Little Sis
Lisa & Julia

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

As if you need another pumpkin recipe….. but, wait!  You do need this pumpkin recipe because it is a breakfast recipe.  It is not easy to bring vegetables into breakfast in a culture that often considers breakfast to be the 12-hour-after-dinner dessert.  Seriously.  So…. this recipe seems a bit dessert-y but with the touch of sweetness coming from bananas and cinnamon.  Plus you get fiber, vitamin A, potassium and other nutrients coming your way via pumpkin.

It was my original attention to make this in the crock pot overnight.  But I forgot.  Ooops.  The crock pot is (unfortunately) not a magical pot into which you can put nothing and remove something yummy hours later.  However, it did not take long to throw this together, so being the early riser in my household, I threw it together in about 10 minutes and into the oven it went.  The sleepy heads still had to be awakened to enjoy this healthy treat.

Don’t get uptight about measuring – It’s merely a layering job that you then bake at 350 for 35 minutes or so.  I don’t mean to give you too vague a recipe, but the amounts of egg and milk you use is dependent on the thickness and heartiness of the bread, so you’ll have to just feel it out a little.  You want the bread to be a bit soaked so that the resultant dish will be moist, but not floating.

Pumpkin Banana French Toast Bake

Enough bread for 2 layers in a 9X13 baking dish – healthy bread would be ….. healthier😉
(I used ezekiel bread and it took 12 pieces)coconut oil (or your favorite oil to grease the baking dish
6 – 10 eggs
1/2 – 1 cups milk
1 – 2 tsp vanilla
about 1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 banana
Handful of walnuts
shredded un-sweetened coconut
cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350
Grease the baking dish
Beat together the eggs,
Add and mix in vanilla, pumpkin and milk
Lay the bread in a layer on the bottom of the dish
sprinkle walnuts, cinnamon, coconut and banana slices over the bread

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Pour about half of the mixture over the bottom layer
Add another layer of bread
Sprinkle more coconut and/or walnuts if you like (I did coconut)
Pour the rest of the mixture over the bread.

 

Bake until firm (again, depends on amount of eggs/milk and heartiness of bread) .  20151115_080409

There may be banana juice bubbling up, so try to determine whether you are seeing banana juice or egg/pumpkin mixture looking wet.

This was very yummy and did not require any sweetener to make it wonderful.  The banana adds a lot, but you could try it without – or with raisins or dates….. or something else.  Let us know if you try something different!

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Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family!

 

The Beauty of the Pretty Good Dessert

Not the description you read in a restaurant menu.  “Please make a selection from our Pretty Good Dessert Cart,” ……… “Our Pretty Good Desserts are a perfect way to end your meal!”

What’s so good about a “Pretty Good Dessert”? It’s a perfect way to fill that little itch for dessert without being too indulgent, AND you don’t have this stuff sitting on table, or counter, or in the freezer which slowly disappears as passersby shave off a little more whenever they find the excuse to ‘pass by.’  I have that problem with pumpkin brownies, because although much healthier than the average brownie….. I can’t keep my hands off of them.

So to go along with the “Pretty Good” Chocolate Chia Pudding that I posted a few weeks ago, I share with you another Pretty Good dessert posted by Snack Girl.  I don’t think she will be insulted by my calling her desserts pretty good.  She is very level headed and I think would agree with the value of a pretty good dessert.

You have probably heard of mug cakes….. throw a few ingredients in a mug and get 1 serving of cake (which avoids the whole passer-by shaving entirely!!).  For some reason this idea has been stuck in my 14 year old’s considerably tenacious craw for some time.  So he was the perfect candidate to give a banana-based mug cake a try.  (Of course I didn’t advertise it that way, but he helped me, so the ingredients were indeed on the table.  And there aren’t many!)

Chocolate Banana Mug Cake

Not a chocolate mug – don’t eat the mug😉

This is fast and easy – and makes enough for 2 people

20151101_190607Ingredients:

1 medium banana
1 egg
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar

Mash and squish and whisk all ingredients together.

Pour into 2 mugs

Before

Before

Microwave each mug by itself for 1 minute or until firm on top.  Mine was fine after 1 minute.

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After

You can invert it onto a plate (it slid right out) or eat straight from the mug….. You could even make this tonight!  My son wanted to try this again, but not on the same night.  So while it might not knock your socks off,  it will be satisfying and tasty…… and enough.  And that’s Pretty Good!

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