Friday, February 1, 2013

Plant-Empowered Breakfast or Brunch

Since Matt and I adopted a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, nothing has changed (with the exception of what we put in our shopping cart). We still enjoy food and we love going out to eat. We have generally found that most restaurants accommodate our dietary preferences, particularly for lunch and dinner. Breakfast and brunch can be challenging since most dishes are egg- and milk-based.

We did find Lovin’ Oven, a quaint little restaurant in Frenchtown, NJ, that’s “vegan and vegetarian friendly,” and we frequent it on occasion. It’s a lovely 40-minute drive along the Delaware River. Once you get there, it’s impossible to not be completely drawn in by all the wonderful little shops that line the streets, including author of Eat Pray Love Elizabeth Gilbert’s store Two Buttons (in fact, Lovin’ Oven shares real estate with it).

When we don’t visit Frenchtown, we generally eat breakfast at home. The funny thing is when I did eat meat, breakfast was probably my most favorite meal to eat out -- so giving it up for the most part definitely took some getting used to.

While I still miss it at times, I’ve discovered that I really like whipping up vegan breakfast and brunch dishes at home. I also love that I control the ingredients -- sugar content, flour type, non-dairy versus dairy milk, whole grain bread versus that dreadful white stuff. Eating at home absolutely has its perks!

Tofu scrambles are Matt’s favorite and we have some fun by adding different ethnic flairs -- think Mexican, Mediterranean and Indian. Matt is so open to anything and everything that cooking for every meal is oftentimes one big creative experiment!

Dylan, Ryan and Sienna gravitate towards pancakes and french toast. And I am all too happy to accommodate. Two or three different meals at a time is very common for breakfast in our home.

What I’ve most enjoyed is watching our kids make the transition from sweetening their dishes with pure maple syrup to fresh fruit such as bananas and apples. I can’t wait until we’re into berry season.

If you’re looking to dazzle friends and family with a plant-empowered breakfast or brunch -- or just want to whip up something quick, easy and delicious for yourself -- I highly recommend the following recipes. Tried-and-true and absolutely loved!

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French Toast

2-3 ripe bananas
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (If you like cinnamon as much as we do, increase it!)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Bread (We use Ezekiel Sprouted Whole Grain Bread)

Blend bananas, non-dairy milk, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla in blender or food processor and pour mixture into pie plate or wide dish. Gently dip bread slices into the mix, coating both sides (TIP: After I dip the bread, I use a knife to scrape off the excess mix on both sides of the bread). Fry in medium-hot skillet until golden brown (you can use a bit of nonstick spray to prevent sticking). Serve with pure maple syrup or fresh sliced fruit.

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes by Roberto Martin (Ellen & Portia’s chef)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 cup quick oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour (We use Spelt)
2 bananas, chopped
Frozen blueberries (optional)
Nonstick spray

Blend non-dairy milk and oatmeal. Add baking powder, salt, flour and bananas. Blend until smooth. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Heat a pan or griddle and keep on very low heat. Spray the cooking surface, then measure about 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Drop in a few blueberries, if using. Cook about five minutes per side, flipping when air bubbles form. Serve with pure maple syrup or fresh fruit.

Tofu Scramble
I picked up this recipe from Oprah when she and her staff went vegan for a week. It’s super easy and sooo good.

For pretty much a solid year, I was anti-tofu. I didn’t want to try it or cook with it. It seemed too slimy. Once I got over my mental hang-up, I became hooked. The key is to drain the tofu really well. Tofu is a culinary chameleon. You can use it in almost any dish and it picks up perfectly the flavors and marinades of whatever it is you are cooking with.

Helpful hint: Cut the block into fours. Line a cutting board or large plate with several sheets of paper towel. Place the tofu blocks down and line several paper towels on top of the four blocks. Place a heavy cookie sheet (or two -- heavier the better) on top of the blocks and leave for about 10-15 minutes. It comes out soooo dry and ready to cook!

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, cut into chunks
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 Roma tomatoes , chopped
1lb. firm tofu , drained well and cut into bite-size pieces
Tamari to taste (We use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and sauté the onion for 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the garlic, nutritional yeast and spices, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the pepper and mushrooms, stir-frying until tender and crisp.

Add the tomatoes and tofu. Gently stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the tamari sauce and season with fresh pepper.

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