Buttercup squash is simple and delicious

Buttercup squash is simple and delicious

A buttercup squash has been sitting on my kitchen counter since before Christmas. Lately, with extra cooking time on my hands due to the pandemic, I’ve been going a bit crazy testing out different ways to cook veggies. I began doing the same thing in my head with the buttercup squash. 

I finally split it open. It looks too good to cover up with spices. Sure, it's a popular vegetable for tempura and curries. Today, I think I'll go back to basics with this tasty squash. 

Buttercup squash has plenty of taste by itself

When I remember its Japanese name, kabocha (pumpkin), I remember a simple, tasty way of cooking and eating buttercup squash, Japanese style. My friends in Tokyo had a saying:

“The more Japanese cuisine you eat, the more delicate your taste becomes.”

I suppose a lot of foreigners in Japan (like my friends at the time) consider this a way to defend bland flavors. Yet I found it to be true. Flavors like seaweed and soy were alien to my younger, parochial taste buds. My knowledge of winter squash varieties was pretty limited, only remembering the longer butternut and acorn squashes from my childhood days. These squashes also have thick skins, so they are not typically good to eat. 

My first taste of kabocha, buttercup squash, was simply divine. The outer skin is thin and is fine to eat. In the picture below some of the skin is removed, but you don’t have to. This squash is thicker and sweeter than the winter squashes I grew up with, almost a cross between a yam and a pumpkin. Buttercup is rich in vitamins A and C, and plenty of fiber, too. 

Buttercup squash cooked traditionally in Japan

I found it tough to get used to some of the odd cooking smells in Tokyo in my first few months of living there. I couldn’t imagine the buttercup squash being any good, as it was simply boiled with a big hunk of kelp.

Kelp is a thick seaweed that is often used in Asian cooking for flavorings and soups. I could find nothing appetizing of the look or smell of kelp. Yet somehow, the flavor it added to the squash was enjoyable – and delicate. I was hooked.

Kelp was fine as a flavoring, like a bay leaf, I thought. At first, I would set it aside if it found its way to my dish. But over the years, I’ve come to realize and value the nutritious impact of sea veggies, and look for them, including kelp, as staples in my kitchen.

Leftover buttercup has many uses

Since I live alone, I usually look for the smallest squash I can find. Buttercup squashes can be quite large, and a lot of food for one person. If you use this recipe, you can keep the cut-up cooked squash in a large container for almost a week and serve it in various ways. I like it cold or hot, and sprinkle roasted sesame seeds over it for an added boost of vitamins. 

I like to use the cold cut up pieces in salads. Leftover squash can also be thrown in at the end of a stir fry with other vegetables and/or rice.  Blend it up with broth and sauteed onions for a quick buttercup soup. Add it to a curry. The bold, sweet flavor of buttercup lends itself well as a complement to many dishes. 

Buttercup squash made easy

Buttercup squash made easy

Buttercup squash has a bold, sweet flavor that complements many meals from spicy curries to this simple, boiled or steamed version.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: side dish, winter squash recipe
Yield: 4
Author: Michaela Kennedy

Equipment

  • pot for boiling or steaming
  • cutting board and knife

Materials

  • 1 small buttercup squash seeds removed, cut into cubes
  • 2 pieces kelp
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Instructions

  • Put all ingredients into a large pot. If steaming, put steamer tray in the bottom of the pot.
  • Fill the pot with enough water to cover the squash. If steaming, fill up as far as the tray. Remember to check frequently so you don't run out of steaming water.
  • Boil for about 15 minutes, longer if steaming, or until tender when pierced with a fork.
  • Serve as a side dish with or without a little of the stock.

I also adore buttercup squash roasted or as tempura. But I try to stay away from fried foods or cooking too much with oil. This simple recipe gives me just as much satisfaction as recipes that call for oil.

Have you ever cooked buttercup squash? What's your favorite way to prepare it?

Orange protein smoothie, my #1 happy drink

Orange protein smoothie, my #1 happy drink

The first time I had an orange protein smoothie, I was hooked. I discovered protein powders for the first time back in the 1990s when i was living in japan. I had just finished a health column on tofu and knew it had some amazing health benefits. I was wary of overly processed foods to begin with; moreover, I was living on a shoestring budget in Tokyo, and was not about to start buying pricey processed powders.

I didn't have to look far for a substitute. There it was in my refrigerator: tofu as the protein source to throw into my orange protein smoothie, vegan of course. 

The original orange protein smoothie

While tofu has been a staple product in Japan for centuries, few consumers were experimenting outside of traditional Asian dishes with tofu in the early 1990s (at least where I could see). My Japanese friends were shocked and amazed that I would make a drink out of tofu. Yet each time they tasted my concoction, they all loved it. 

I’m sure others, probably a lot of them Westerners, had come up with the very same idea. But in those days, we had no Internet to find each other. Since then, I've gone on to find all sorts of ways to use tofu. Check out my recipe for orange cranberry bread. The added tofu makes it rich like a pound cake.

My original vegan orange protein smoothie was:

  • 1 cup (8 oz.) orange juice
  • One serving of tofu (⅕ of a block) – silken, or any texture is fine
  • 1 banana
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Blend with 2-3 ice cubes. Drink slowly (to avoid a sugar rush).

Tofu smoothies and other test shakes

After discovering my new breakfast love, I decided to try various flavors of tofu smoothies. But to be quite honest, I never found one I loved as much. The flavors have to taste right on your tongue. I tried chocolate milk powder. My taste buds revolted. I don’t know, the tangy sweetness of the orange and banana work so well that you’d never guess there was tofu in the mix.

When I was younger, this orange tofu smoothie was my robust breakfast that kept me running up and down subway station staircases all morning. But as I get older I’m more in tune with my body’s reaction to sweet things. Orange juice, while good in small doses, can still trigger a sugar spike, if blood sugar is something you are watching. 

A word about tofu

When I discovered how versatile tofu is, I started doing all sorts of test recipes with it. But when I returned to the United States, I came across a plethora of fear-mongering hypes on whether tofu might be dangerous. For a long time I stopped eating tofu on a regular basis.

Years and many medical studies later, tofu, despite being a processed food, has proven to offer many health benefits. Dr. Axe explains in his article on tofu the various health benefits, including debunking its bad reputation around cancer:

May Protect Against Cancer

Despite tofu’s reputation as a cancer-causing ingredient, promising research is proving just the opposite. In fact, studies show that soy consumption could be tied to a lower risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, prostate cancer and stomach cancer.

While more research is needed to understand the cancer-fighting properties of tofu, some research indicates that it could be due to the presence of powerful soy isoflavones.

Even more impressive, one study published in Integrative Cancer Therapies noted that these isoflavones could even improve the efficacy of cancer treatments while relieving several side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. (Read original article)

These days I make my orange smoothie with altered ingredients, making it a bit healthier yet still a tasty breakfast or midafternoon treat. Instead of OJ I will put a whole medium orange (peeled) in the blender with a cup of water. Throw in three dates instead of maple syrup for more nutrients and less sugar spike. Soak the dates in the water for 20 minutes before blending, for a smoother shake. 

Of course, you can take your own tofu smoothie to the next level by adding your favorite greens or seeds. I can really go overboard with my green smoothies. But this recipe is a nostalgic treat for me, so I don’t mess with it too much.

Here is the healthier version of my orange tofu smoothie recipe:

Vegan orange protein smoothie

This vegan orange protein smoothie is packed with power to take you through your morning. Drink as a mid afternoon snack to power up your afternoon.
Prep Time8 mins
Cook Time2 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Keyword: smoothies, Tofu, Vegan
Servings: 1 serving
Author: Michaela Kennedy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water 8 oz.
  • 1 serving of tofu 3.5 oz., ⅕ of a block - silken, or any texture is fine
  • 1 banana 1 cup of strawberries or other berries are good substitutes, too
  • 3 dates soaked in the cup of water for 20 minutes helps make it smoother

Instructions

  • Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor.
  • Blend with a few ice cubes for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Enjoy!

 

Vegan orange cranberry bread to gush over: 3 tips for a mouth-watering treat

Vegan orange cranberry bread to gush over: 3 tips for a mouth-watering treat

Why a vegan orange cranberry bread was stuck in my head, I’m not sure. I never baked one. In fact, my family grew up on canned cranberry jelly, and oranges never made it into cakes in our house. Orange cranberry bread, vegan or otherwise, never crossed my mother’s radar. So, I took what lessons I’ve learned from my 2020 vegan baking test kitchen and came up with an instant favorite in my growing quick bread repertoire – vegan orange cranberry bread with fresh cranberries.

Vegan orange cranberry bread recipe tips

This pandemic year I’ve tried a number of different approaches to vegan quick breads. For this vegan orange cranberry bread I am giving you the 3 secrets I’ve discovered for a truly mouth-watering experience:

  1. Fresh fruit
  2. Fresh juice and zest
  3. Tofu

Vegan orange cranberry bread best ingredients

1. Choosing fresh, frozen or dried cranberries

This year I bought two lbs. of cranberries at a great in season price. I’ve never felt savvy with cranberries, and the dried ones have too much added sugar for my liking. I had no idea what I was going to do with the cranberries once I got them home, but I couldn’t pass up on a grocery bargain. 

Fresh Cranberries } All Vegan Foods

Use fresh cranberries for a vegan orange cranberry bread bursting with flavor.

You can’t just eat cranberries. Well, you can technically. They are too tart for the average palate to eat alone, which is why the dried versions have so much sugar added to them. Many people like baking with the dried, because then you don’t have to add extra sugar to compensate for the tartness. It’s also convenient to keep ingredients like dried cranberries in the baking closet.

Since going vegan three years ago, I feel so much healthier with my plant-based choices and less junk in my diet. Trust me, I know from experience that just because you eat vegan does not mean you eat healthy. So I pay ever closer attention to plant-based choices.

I also want my plant-based baking to be as healthy as possible. And there's not a whole lot out there that can beat the power that cranberries pack. Fresh cranberries are bursting with antioxidants, and their remarkable tangy flavor makes a New Englander proud. I like taking the extra step with fresh fruit. Frozen cranberries work well, too, as long as they have nothing added to them. Don't thaw them before baking.

2. Oranges instead of orange juice 

The orange cranberry bread recipe calls for ¾ cup of orange juice, and I had just finished drinking the last bit in the OJ carton. But the two oranges in the fridge gave me exactly ¾ cup of juice, and the needed amount of orange zest. Logically you’d think, hey, if these fresh cranberries are so tart, why add orange zest, too? Don’t think, just add it. We’re talking about the balancing of some bold flavors here. As for the orange juice, I squeezed as much of the pulp out as well. Texture and zest, oh yes.

Whenever you bake, you want to add something acidic. In other recipes I may use a couple of tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, and that’s plenty. We can use a lot more orange juice here because it has natural sugars.

3. Tofu and cornstarch for light texture

Adding tofu to quick breads has been a huge revelation for me. I’ve tried a variety of egg replacements, with flaxseed and water as my go-to substitute or apple sauce, They both work, but the result is not always as fluffy as I hope. So, finding this combination of tofu and cornstarch creates a pound cake-like texture in your quick breads. Yum! 

Previous to this recipe, I had been testing a variety of egg substitutes. You can buy blends at the store that are labeled egg replacements, but I prefer to know a few basics so as not to become reliable on yet another premade product.

I’ve noticed some bakers insist that only silken tofu is acceptable for baking. I say that’s hogwash. The basic difference between the firm qualities of tofu is the water content. If you are concerned with limiting your water content in a recipe, use the firmest tofu you can find. It makes little difference since once it goes in the blender, as it will become smooth.

Tofu is processed, of course. Even so, the health benefits of tofu make this a magical ingredient to add to the quick bread. The reports from tofu medical studies have been better than most Westerners expected or even hoped. Below is an excerpt from a  WebMD report that lists some of the more surprising health benefits:

Coronary heart disease Plant estrogens may help make it less likely that you'll get heart trouble. That's because they improve how well your endothelium works. That's the tissue that lines your blood vessels and the inside of your heart.

Cholesterol levels Research shows that if you eat 10 ounces of tofu a day, it can lower your levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol by 5%.

Osteoporosis. When estrogen levels go down after menopause, women can lose bone mass. Plant estrogens in tofu can make up for that drop-off. Tofu is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, which is good for bone health, too.

Prostate cancer If you have this disease, eating tofu may keep your prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels low. This means the cancer grows more slowly or not at all

Read original report at webmd.com

Below please enjoy my newest addition to my quick bread recipe card box, vegan orange cranberry bread. I almost stopped after blending the liquid ingredients and tofu, since it reminded me of one of my original favorite smoothies – check out my vegan orange protein smoothie for a fund tofu drink, too!

Vegan Orange Cranberry Bread Recipe

Here is my new favorite festive treat. Sprinkle sugar on top, or make an icing out of powdered sugar, vegan butter and soy milk for an extra decadent treat.

Equipment

  • 1 medium loaf pan
  • blender
  • 1 large bowl
  • measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup/180 ml orange juice about 2 oranges
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest about 2 oranges
  • 4 oz. / 120 g tofu any firmness
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups / 25 g flour of your choice all-purpose or gluten-free (don’t use whole wheat)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp / 25 g cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar your choice, or any substitute: coconut sugar, date syrup, maple syrup, xylitol, etc.
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or your choice of vegan block butter, 1 stick, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. oil I use olive or coconut

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line  a 4.5 x 8.5 in. loaf pan with a strip of baking parchment, or grease so baked loaf does not stick.
  • In a small bowl, mix fresh cranberries with 2 tsp. flour until they are well coated. Set aside.
  • Spin tofu, orange juice and vanilla extract in a blender or processor until smooth.
  • Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, salt and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. *NOTE: if you use liquid sweetener, blend it with the liquid ingredients first.
  • Add melted butter, oil and orange zest to the flour mixture and stir until everything is coated.
  • Gradually cut the wet ingredients into the dry to form a batter. Fold in the cranberries.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 75 minutes until a thin knife inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. I like to tent, loosely cover, the top of the cake with tin foil in the last 20-30 minutes of baking so it doesn’t get too dark on top.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. You can then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely before slicing.

 

Vegan orange cranberry bread with fresh cranberries

Pumpkin bread, my go-to winter quick bread favorite

Pumpkin bread, my go-to winter quick bread favorite

Pumpkin bread was not a known recipe in my family growing up. The only quick bread that ever made it to the oven was banana bread, with no additions, no variations. My introduction to pumpkin bread – and its simplicity to bake – came in junior high school home economics class (yep, I’m that old). We not only learned how to bake a quick pumpkin bread, but we also baked it inside the pumpkin puree can that we had brought to school for the lesson.

Pumpkin bread in a can

That was pretty cool, to bring home a pumpkin bread that looked like a can, made all by myself. We had been instructed to bring extra empty cans if possible, as one batch would fit in two or three cans. My mom was amazed, and I had a new love for experimental baking. And pumpkin bread.

There are plenty of places around the web that will show you how to bake in a can, even decorate the cans as gifts. If you want to turn quick breads into DIY Christmas gifts, here’s a good example of how to do it. (WARNING: not a vegan recipe in the link, just an example of DIY baking with cans!) 

Balancing healthy and tasty in your pumpkin bread

I’m about the taste, and I’m here to give you my favorite recipe that I’ve developed over time. It calls for oil, which, yes I know, is not the healthiest choice. Yet as one of my favorite chefs Derek Sarno of Wicked Healthy Food fame says, “If you don’t think it’s healthy, don’t eat it and go make something else. But if you want to taste something that reminds me of my childhood, then this is the way to do it.”

With that, I've gone back to adding oil to my quick breads, and most often it will be coconut oil. You can use applesauce as a replacement if you want to be strict. But I love the lighter texture that you can get with the oil. If you want to go oil-free, just make sure you mix the batter as little as possible.

Baking pumpkin bread is a sweet smelling treat

The aroma of pumpkin bread baking makes the whole house feel toasty. When I was younger I preferred no added options in my quick breads. As I've grown older, I know how nutrient-packed huts and raisins are, so I like to include them – and they are a nice combination with the pumpkin and spices. This time I broke away from my traditional chopped walnuts and added chopped pecans. The pecans have a rich flavor similar to brown sugar – without the added processed sugar.

Pumpkin Bread

This pumpkin bread is moist and packed with nutrients. Have a slice for breakfast or snack. Serve as is or with vegan butter. Great recipe for holiday parties or cold winter afternoons.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 5 mins
Keyword: pumpkin bread vegan, quick breads vegan
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin or winter squash puree fresh or canned
  • 1 cup (10-12) medjool dates soaked in one cup of water
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted (substitute applesauce for oil-free)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water set aside for 15 mins.
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice, nut milk or water add sparingly if wet ingredients are too thick
  • 1 cup baking powder
  • 1 cup oat flour make with rolled oats in blender/processor
  • 1/2 cup almond meal or flour nuts in the blender works
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Notes

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan, or line with parchment paper. 
Blend all the wet ingredients together until smooth, in a blender or food processor. The consistency should be thick, almost like pudding. If it’s too thick, add the orange juice slowly and sparingly to make it manageable, but not runny.
Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. I run mine through a sifter so I won’t come across chunks of flour or baking soda in the final baked pumpkin bread. Alternatively, you can use a whisking tool to mix the dry ingredients and break up any small clumps.
Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry, a portion at a time until everything is moist. Do not over mix, as it will make the baked bread come out gummy.. Mix in the nuts and/or raisins. Bake for about 65 mins, or until a knife is inserted and comes out clean. Cool on a rack or heat-safe surface.
*A gluten-free flour blend  is a nice option here. Regular white or unbleached flour is fine - personally, I’d stay away from whole wheat flour, as it is hard for many to digest.
**Or make your own blend: 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp  ginger powder, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp allspice. 
***Add pecan or walnut halves and pieces to the top before baking. Tent the pan with tin foil for the first 40 minutes so the evans do not burn.
For treats or holiday gifts, pumpkin bread that everyone will love

I can never wait, and always dig in about 5 minutes after it’s out of the oven. Of course, it crumbles all over the place. I suggest letting it cool for an hour or so, letting the pumpkin bread set before cutting. The best is to cut it the next day, when the bread has had a chance to settle.

One thing to note about offering vegan baked goods to non-vegans: they do not always appreciate the effort. Yet this pumpkin bread is so filled with flavor that no one is going to miss the eggs. In addition, you can use nut milk for the water and liquid, but somehow I feel the orange juice is the secret here. 

When my mom taught me how to make a big fruit salad for the first course at Thanksgiving, she pulled a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator. With one finger tapping the side of the carton, she said, “Here, a few splashes of this is the key to a sweet fruit salad.” 

I remembered her words as I started to bake. As it turns out, a few splashes of orange juice works great in pumpkin bread, too.

General Tso’s tofu created as a festive holiday recipe

General Tso’s tofu created as a festive holiday recipe

General Tso’s tofu is one of my favorite dishes served in North American Chinese restaurants. Often I see it made with deep-fried tofu chunks, broccoli and a sugary sweet sauce. Because I have a complicated relationship with sugar, I make my own sauce. My new version below is oil-free and low in salt. I made a few replacements, and the result is festive! It’s still sweet, but the sugar substitutes are much easier on the body’s blood sugar levels. It’s my new take on General Tso’s tofu. I call it Holiday Tsofu.

Comfort food and General Tso’s tofu

It’s Nov. 5, Friday morning of Election 2020 week. As I sit here, looking down at my late breakfast – or early lunch, depending on your view – I note that I’ve slipped into a bit of anxious thinking about the election 2020 that only a big bowl of comfort food can soothe. I’m about to dig into my comfort leftovers, my new holiday dish. I coined it, “Holiday Tsofu.”

How Holiday Tsofu emerged from General Tso’s Tofu

I’ve been cooking and baking this week to ward off the waves of nervous fidgeting that fluctuate with bursts of dance. One moment in the news I’m seeing the promising and growing lead of a voice of reason, the next I see zany claims of a desperado. It was my AVF partner Susanne that suggested some comfort food with a tasty sauce.

When my friend Susanne told me that her elderly mother in Denmark was following the US election closely, it gave me new pause – pause to realize either we are that important globally, or this has been the Best. Soap Opera. Ever.

As Jimmy Kimmel asks, can’t we catch a break and have just one boring day?

To be honest, I did not think I would invest this much time and thought into the election. And I’ll be the first to admit that spending this much time trolling the news feed is not so healthy. Yet no one will deny, in years and decades to come, that this was a most remarkable time in US history.

So caring about good nutrition is part of, not just my therapy, my maintenance.

I love it when something creative blossoms out of stressful weeks. Let me tell you about how the Holiday Tsofu came about.

While chatting with Susanne, gossiping about the election (yes, confessions help, too) I started wondering what to cook for dinner. She sent me a link to her favorite General Tso’s tofu recipe. I took it into the kitchen.

In his recipe post, Andrew Olson of the One Ingredient Chef points out the dubious history of how the name of the dish came about. Personally, I’m solely interested in its comfort value. I was not daunted, either, by the fact that this recipe is a far cry from one ingredient.

Ingredients are easy to interchange. I’ll tell you what I did. I opened the fridge and started pulling candidates out.

The pre-cut cauliflower florets and block of tofu in the refrigerator would go well together. A half of a large red bell pepper would offer a dash of color. The scallion on the counter would work nicely in place of green onions.

Diabetic considerations for General Tso’s tofu

In the beginning of my post above I mention blood sugar levels. I want to address how important it is for all of us to be aware of how much sugar and salt we ingest, no matter what our age. Unless you are a strict plant-based whole foods eater, chances are you consume a lot of sugar  and sodium unwittingly.

Because so many prepared foods are loaded with salt and sugar, we can avoid some of these pitfalls simply by creating our recipes from scratch and making substitutions.

I always at least halve the salt called for in a recipe, or leave it out altogether.

Many people, for example, think it’s a lot easier to buy bottled General Tso dressing. Bottled dressings often have high fructose syrup or some other refined sugar (and not necessarily vegan) as well as high quantities of salt. You have better control of all that, quickly and conveniently with staples in your own cupboard.

Here is my recipe for:

Holiday Tsofu

General Tso's tofu with cauliflower| Allveganfoods

 

Holiday Tsofu (General Tso's tofu with cauliflower)

Holiday Tsofu is my variation on General Tso's tofu, using cauliflower and red peppers, It's a tasty and festive dish for the holidays that you can serve as an appetizer or main dish with your favorite rice.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Tofu, Vegan
Author: Michaela Kennedy

Ingredients

  • 16 oz firm Tofu (450g)
  • cup cornmeal (50g)
  • 2 Tbsp rice flour or other gluten-free flour
  • tbsp black pepper or pepper mix
  • ¼ tbsp chili powder or cayenne (optional)
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets (200g)
  • 1 small red bell pepper or ½ large
  • 1 small or ½ large shallot (or your choice of onion)

Dressing

  • ¼ cup low-salt soy sauce (60ml)
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar (in case your seasoned vinegar has sugar in it, cut back on your sweetener to balance it out) (60ml)
  • 2 Tbsp maple or date syrup
  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (I like to grind them)
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). I’m going out this weekend to buy an air fryer, which would be great with this recipe.
  • Drain and press out excess water from the tofu. Then break it up into bite-sized pieces.
  • Mix up the dry coating ingredients in a shallow bowl, Roll the tofu chunks in the coating and place in a baking pan lined with parchment paper.* Bake for a half hour, or until the chunks are golden brown.
  • When the tofu is done, prepare the vegetables. Sauté the cauliflower in a pan with a little bit of water. Add the chopped onion and chopped red pepper. Add the sauce and mix it all up, and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Then mix in the tofu chunks until everything is well blended.
  • Top with toasted sesame seeds and serve with your favorite rice - I prefer white jasmine or basmati, as my body does not digest brown rice well.

Notes

Susanne told me this General Tso's tofu works great in her air fryer, and I’m excited to try it out for myself. But baking is fine. I’ve tried an oil spray or drizzling a tiny bit, but I’ll tell you, I feel so much better when I skip the oil completely.

 

I did the 21-day smoothie diet, and I didn’t stop

I did the 21-day smoothie diet, and I didn’t stop

A smoothie diet has become my go-to remedy when I have not been eating well or want to do an effective detox. If one thing this Covid-19 lockdown has shown me, is how I rely on my daily smoothie to steer me towards wholesome food choices the rest of the day. I don't know about you, but when I got laid off back in March 2020 due to the pandemic, I started baking. I baked, I ate, and I did not make my daily smoothie that I used to take to work every morning. Combine that with some sofa lounging and there I was five weeks later and 10 lbs. heavier. Now I'm not a fan of using the d-word, but if a smoothie diet – or even simply drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement – can melt away the excess weight, I'm all for it.

Sharing the smoothie diet plan

So now it's summer, I'm back to work, and I've let go of the excess weight, thanks to the smoothie diet plan. I've also changed the way I drink smoothies, so I can receive optimum goodness without the sugar spike. Why, you may ask, would anyone have a sugar spike in a smoothie that you don't add sugar to?

If you let your blender do all the work that your mouth would normally do to break down food, it stands to reason that you are flooding your body with calories it can't assimilate all at the same time. This revelation does not mean that a smoothie diet is bad. Dr. Michael Gregor explains how smoothies work in the body in the video below:

Here are a few of the main points that Dr. Gregor makes in the video:

Juices are the only reason that you have a higher blood sugar spike, so we don't want to drink fruit juice, right? We're on whole foods so you know if you just drink juice you throw away all the fiber.

“But smoothies, right, you blend it all together so you have a whole food, right? But the reason they have a higher sugar spike in your bloodstream drinking a smoothie than just actually eating all the fruit, like in a bowl, is not because of the the liquid versus solid. It's the speed of consumption. If you have a big bowl of fruit and you had a green smoothie like well the kale and all that, right? How long it would take you – like awhile – to chew it to get through that

But a smoothie, you pop a straw in, I mean you can suck it down like 60 seconds. That's the only difference. So you just sip your smoothie. Like, how long would it take me to eat the fruit I just made, 20 minutes? Okay well I will sip this smoothie over the next 20 minutes and that's what you do, and then the same blood sugar. You actually absorb more nutrition because you can never chew that good and you're blending up all the stuff, breaking all those cell walls, getting all that wonderful nutrition into your body.

I did the 21-day smoothie diet, and I didn’t stop, read why. Click To Tweet

Judging by all the fiber products on the market, we know that fiber is important in our diets. Dr. Gregor explains that when we simply drink juice, we miss out on the polyphenol phytonutrients, the most important components of plant foods. By most estimates, up to 80 percent of these polyphenols are actually attached to the fiber. So, when we juice a carrot or other vegetable or fruit, we throw away the pulp. We away all those polyphenol phytonutrients that are attached to the fiber.

Dr Gregor goes on to say:

If they're attached to the fiber, what good are they to us? Ah, they're good bacteria.
When that fiber gets down to our gut, our gut bacteria in our colon eat the fiber and release the polyphenols that get absorbed into our system, circulates through our body, gets up to our brain, helps our eyesight, all those sorts of other things.

And so, you're missing out on all that nutrition that's attached to the fiber when you throw it away. Now if you juice your carrot and then take the pulp, put it back in the juice fine make carrot cake, something, just don't throw it away.

Smoothie diet basics

Knowing how important whole foods are, I hardly ever drink juice anymore. I do love smoothies, nevertheless, so I throw my favorite plant-based goodies into the blender. Many smoothie recipes suggest adding some juice or nut milk. But following the advice above i don't want to overwhelm my smoothie diet with unnecessary ingredients, so I always choose water as the liquid base. This is my personal choice. I'd rather eat nuts than drink them with out the fiber goodness.

smoothie diet 21-day challenge

Here is my basic outline for smoothies:

  • 2-3 helpings of greens – a scoop of your favorite greens powder and greens other than leafy may be included, such as cucumbers and celery.
  • 1-2 helpings of fruit – I usually add berries and one more, like mango, banana or dates
  • water – add a cup, more or less to your own liking, or water + ice.
  • herbs – a thumbnail of ginger, a tsp. of cinnamon, a pinch of fennel seeds, or try different favorites for flavor.
  • flaxseeds – a staple for vegans, throwing it in the smoothie diet is an easy way to get your daily tablespoon of flaxseed nutrition.

Join us in the smoothie diet challenge!

Are you looking for a quick solution to start feeling better and dropping excess weight? If you're looking for a complete life transformation over the next three weeks, then you’re in the right place! Whether you need to lose the last 5-10 lbs or you want to get rid of 40lbs or more, this will work for you. This diet is extremely flexible so even though this program is 21 days you can continue using it for as along as you want to lose as much weight as you want!

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