Vegan Fish Sticks, A Love/Hate Tale

Before I tell you about these vegan fish sticks, I want to share something. My British friends find it hilarious that Americans call it chicken fingers instead of chicken strips because, duh, chickens don’t have fingers. Which we all know and that’s probably what makes them so palatable. But my American friends (me too, when I first heard it) think it’s funny–for the exact same reason–that they call it fish fingers instead of fish sticks.

But when I point it out, I’m the nerd.

Anyway on to these delicious vegan fish sticks we tried out recently by Vantastic. I’m not getting paid by them, by the way. This was just the brand we chose to try because we were familiar with them from our time in Germany.

These were good for what they were, which is fried fish-scented tofu. Because I knew this would be a one and done (but if you’re interested it’s calorie friendly at 62 calories per stick), I was able to enjoy it with the nostalgia of my seven year old self, who loved fish sticks and fries with lots and lots of ketchup.

But we’re grown ups now so we fancy it up…sort of. Mostly, we had baked sweet potato fries.

The sticks were seasoned as much as you really can season something that’s pre-cooked but since we popped them in the oven, they were tossed with salt, pepper, garlic granules and smoky paprika. It helped, but not as much as the ketchup! The fries were also tossed in a spice blend with a little bit of oil and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, which I loved about this meal, it was super low key.

No muss.

No fuss.

This isn’t meant to be gourmet vegan food and that’s all right, it was a reminder of how much I loved them as a kid. I almost certainly wouldn’t buy these again but if you’re interested they are calorie and wallet friendly.

It’s not pictured but I’m pretty sure I ‘paired’ this with an ice cold dark beer.

My husband convinced me not to take any photos after I “slathered” it with ketchup, which I totally didn’t do. I created a little pile of my hot ketchup & Sriracha blend to one side and dipped the fries & sticks into it. Respectfully. Not at all like a feral child.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Have you recreated any vegan fish dishes? Drop links below!

Thai Spring Rolls

Thai spring rolls_01
Thai spring rolls with shrimp and basil

Food, for me, has always been about more than sustenance. In college food was a treat from the special reservation-only shrimp or steak dinners to my Wednesday takeout while I watched Dawson’s Creek. I would rush home from Mock Trial practice, place my order for pizza or grinders (those are super delicious warm sandwiches on the tastiest toasted bread you have ever sank your teeth into), get into my comfy clothes, pop a vodka cranberry into a glass and get giddy when the first strains of Paula Cole’s “I don’t wanna wait” started.

I don’t think the food had much to do with it considering my love—even today—of Dawson’s Creek, but whenever I think of that time the food always plays a role.

Today though, when I think of food I think of the event surrounding a new dish. The first time I tried Indian food I was in Washington, D.C. after a week of DNC training. The food was awful and it would be about 3 years before I ate a good Indian dish. The first time I ate sushi was in 1996 before it was “all the rage” because I read some chic lit novel and it sounded delicious and sophisticated to a teenage girl eager to be an adult. I have tons of these, but I won’t bore you with them all lest I use up all the space on the internet!

Ah, I lied…there’s one more. But it’s relevant, I swear.

Spicy Coconut Moqueca

When it comes to TV chefs everyone has their favorites. I’m partial to Rachel Ray mostly because it was her easy and accessible style of cooking that prompted me to change my life by cooking my own meals and becoming more conscious of what I put in my body. Of course Rachel’s portion sizes leave something to be desired but I can’t fault her for that. I also love Tyler Florence because he’s all big and Southern and the man can cook! He’s definitely tested my skills as an amateur chef but I do make a few mean dishes thanks to his TV guidance.

But my TV chef crush, if you put a gun to my head, is Anthony Bourdain. That deep voice and the way he uses his words in that Beat Generation cadence…well let’s just say the food he introduces me to from all parts of the globe isn’t the only thing that gets my mouth watering. Given my desire to see as much of the world as I can before these lids shut permanently, it makes sense that I’d flock to this type of food appreciation show now that I am on my own journey to visit far flung regions of the world.

What’s my point, other than giving you way too much information into my Bourdain crush? Well it was an episode of Parts Unknown that inspired me to try out this Moqueca (sounds like MO-Cake-Kah) recipe. Of course I have neither the access to, nor the skill to handle blowfish so I used plain old white fish in my recipe. Specifically I used cod filets which I often have on hand because you’ll never know when a fish & chips craving will strike. Anyway I saw this recipe and I knew I’d have to try it and this is my first attempt.

Seafood-Shroom Burger

When it starts to warm up outside I like to challenge myself to find creative ways to enjoy some of my favorite dishes…but lighter. I’m not much of a red meat eater anyway because some of the things they do to beef, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. I indulge occasionally but I usually end up regretting it because I feel so heavy and lethargic.

So one area where I really try to keep things fresh is The Burger. I honestly can’t say I miss traditional beef burgers but I do love a variety of other burgers. Most of the time I’ll take a boneless skinless chicken or turkey breast and throw it in the food processor with scallions or onions, herbs and spices and make my own lean mean burger. But that gets old and now that it’s finally starting to warm up I’d like to be able to have burgers more often and on the grill.

Spicy Paella

Paella featured I It has been awhile since I’ve enjoyed any culinary treats from Spain. The last time I hit up a Spanish restaurant it was in the birthplace of Einstein and unfortunately the food was not as great as its most famous citizen!

I didn’t get the paella but my husband did and boy was he disappointed. The bite I had only whetted my appetite for the real thing. So the next time I hit up the Kaufland I decided to pick up what I needed for some truly fantastic paella.

Full disclosure: this was my first time making paella and after consulting a few chefs I mixed together what sounded best and this is what I came up with. I have to say though that the fruit di mare mix I found was superb! It has the world’s tiniest shrimp, octopus, calamari rings, mussels and chunks of white fish. Basically it is a seafood lover’s delight.

One ingredient that I did add but not at the suggestion of any of the recipes I found was turmeric. I use it when I make Spanish or Mexican style rice because it gives it that vibrant yellow color along with the smoky taste for authenticity. You can generally find this bright yellow powder in the spicy aisle of any big supermarket or in the ethnic aisle alongside various curries and cardamom. If you can’t find it, no big deal just go with the natural color and flavor.

If you’re making this for a gathering I suggest you slice and dice your fruit first so the sangria has time to chill before dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 bag (about 500g) mixed seafood
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup brown rice
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • Sea salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cups broth/water (I used ½ fish broth and ½ water)
  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tsp. each: oregano, basil and thyme
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

spicy paella

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large, deep skillet.
  2. Add in onion, season with salt and pepper, then cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until onions are translucent and starting to brown.
  3. Stir in garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
  4. Add cherry & sun dried tomatoes, and stir.
  5. Add herbs, spices, bay leaves and rice, stir until blended.
  6. Add in water & broth combo, then bring mixture to a boil.
  7. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Add in seafood mix and cook another 10 minutes or until water has been absorbed.
  9. Enjoy with Spanish wine, sangria or just pick your poison!

I have to say that while this wasn’t the best paella I’d ever eaten in my entire life; it was incredibly flavorful and delicious. I will add it into my meal rotation until I have perfected it. I’m thinking next time that a bit of cumin will enhance the smoky flavor and fresh seafood will take this dish to the next level.

How do you make your paella?

Juicy Salmon Burgers

I won’t pretend that I am the pinnacle of good health, but I do try my best to only feed my body good things these days. I quit smoking almost a decade ago (yay me!) and I’ve lost about fifty pounds but I still indulge in alcohol because it tastes yummy and I love it. But what I do is stay away from processed foods that I used to love like salami, bacon and even my beloved prosciutto. Then I began to feel sluggish after a juicy steak so when I was in the States I satisfied my beef craving with bison.

Here in Germany however Bison isn’t so easy to come by…do they even have bison floating around here? I haven’t had beef in a couple of years, since I visited my steak-loving papa and even then I got a delicious cut of bison at Ted’s Montana Grill (everyone check it out if you have one near you). But the thing is beef just doesn’t taste like it did back in the day when I was a kid, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have burger cravings. I am a red-blooded American, after all.

Beer & Seafood Soup in a Bread Bowl

I wouldn’t say that I lead a sheltered life as a young child but I was a fully grown adult before I had the luxury of eating soup from a bowl made out of bread. I was living in Boston back in 2004 and working hard for John Kerry and sharing a huge coastal house with a bunch of college grads. We decided to go to New Hampshire to look around and check out the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. After indulging the guys in endless hours and thousands of bullets at a gun range we were in search of nourishment.

Since none of us were from the Northeast we were all New Hampshire virgins but we stopped at this really great seafood restaurant on the water. In addition to having some of the bluest water I’d ever seen at the time, this place made a killer lobster bisque in a delicious sourdough bread bowl. Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was the MJ but I ate nearly every inch of that bowl except the über soggy bottom section.

Mediterranean Sardines & Herbed Bulgur

In my recently rediscovered love of all things whole fish I decided to give sardines a try. I mean, I’ve had sardines before but usually of the canned and packed in oil variety, but I’ve never had the actual fish in all its bony glory. So when I spotted these babies in the frozen section—not fresh but since I’ve no experience with them I figured it was good enough—I snatched’em right up.

Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout & Sweet Corn

One of the things I miss most about being near my grandmothers and my home in Chicago is a good fish fry. Of course you can find them just about everywhere, but everyone does food their own way and when I have a craving for fried fish—which isn’t often—I want it the way my taste buds remember it.

So I decided to make use of some whole rainbow trout I came by at the supermarket to make my own fish fry, complete with farm fresh corn on the cob.

classic fish fry

The key to any good fish fry is the seasoning and breading ingredients. Fish breading isn’t the same as chicken breading; it is a far different creature and makes all the difference in the world. The main ingredient to breading fish is cornmeal. In the U.S. you can find cornmeal in different grain sizes (small, medium or large and coarse vs. smooth) but here in Germany you can only find superfine cornmeal, which works GREAT for creamy polenta. It actually worked better than I would’ve thought for the breading too, which is awesome since I didn’t have much choice in the matter.

Feta & Spinach Bulgur w/Salmon

Growing up I wasn’t really introduced to many cuisines around the world. In my town there was Mexican-tons of Mexican—and there were plenty of Chinese restaurants. Not Thai or Vietnamese or Japanese, just plain egg rolls and fried rice Chinese food. But a few months ago I ate bulgur for the first time as part of a yummy Middle Eastern dish.

I was hooked.

how to cook bulgur
When you need a simple & healthy meal, this is IT!

The bulgur was fluffy with the perfect amount of salt and it was made with just a little bit of turmeric to give it a nice smoky flavor. Served with some succulent chicken and beef soaked with coconut milk and seasoned with cumin and curry and a variety of spices. Needless to say I have spent the last few months trying to perfect the taste of the bulgur to no avail. Although bulgur requires the same 2 to 1 ratio as rice, it requires much less time to become too soggy to eat.

Roasted Trout & Garlicky Pasta (Or My Night In Italia)

I have recently re-discovered my love of whole fish after a traumatic experience in high school that involved me gutting my own recently caught Blue Northern. But my taste buds reminded me that whole fish is succulent and the flavors are so clean that even frozen fish tastes (almost) as good as the freshly caught variety.

Even though my hubs is a vegetarian and I have severely reduced my meat intake, I just can’t shake the fish. Maybe it’s because it’s so fresh and so delicious that I simply can’t resist but also because I need my brain food to pound away on a keyboard all day long.

homemade pasta sauce
Once you get over the eyeballs, you’ll LOVE the taste!

I’ve been experimenting with different types of seasonings—ginger, mint, limes & blood oranges, nutmeg, jalapenos, shallots and cocktail onions—and this time I thought I’d go with simple Mediterranean flavors.