Orange-marinated Tofu

During dinner last night I commented, “this is a stereotypically healthy meal.” It was also a stereotypically vegan meal: brown rice, tofu, kale, and corn on the cob. While it sounds kind of boring, and it’s true that it wasn’t the most amazing meal ever, it was very flavorful and I felt good about eating it, so here you go:

Orange-Marinated Tofu
Lightly adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/spicy-orange-tofu-136875
By “adapted” I mean I looked at this recipe briefly, went into the kitchen, and proceeded to pour mysterious amounts of what I thought I remembered were the ingredients together without measuring. So my measurements are guesses. I did eliminate most of the oil, however.

1 pound extra-firm tofu, sliced into 1/2″ slabs
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
squirt of agave nectar
6-8 dried red chilis, lightly crushed between fingers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all the ingredients except the tofu together in a large shallow dish, then submerge the slabs of tofu. Let marinate for at least half an hour. When ready to bake, pour off most of the marinade, then bake for about half an hour.

My tofu was an herbed variety from Twin Oaks, which explains the specks.

For the kale, which was market-fresh, I just sauteed a bunch of (super delicious farmers market) garlic in some avocado oil, added the kale and stirred to coat it, then poured in a few tablespoons of vegan broth, then reduced the heat, covered, and cooked until limp.

My weekend has been raccoon-intensive, as I worked at the sanctuary both days due to volunteer shortages, and we have 43 – about to be 45, as two more were set to arrive after I left – raccoons. I literally had to clean several of the cages with a raccoon – sometimes two – on my head, which makes it very difficult. Some of them were so rambunctious, it’s worn me out! Here are four trouble-makers:

They are so anxious to “help”. Here an assistant fills his “pond” with fresh water for me:

Raccoons love, love, love water.

Actually, raccoons love just about anything they can get their little hands on. We provide a wide variety of toys and objects for them to play with. Wind chimes are fun for them to grab (and destroy), and pleasant to listen to.

I made the mistake of putting a paper towel down and completely forgetting about it. When I returned to the cage later to fill the pond, I found these two fighting over something it took me a moment to recognize: the shredded, soggy remains of my paper towel. Sometimes cleaning their cages is like taking one step forward, two steps backwards. No wonder I’m exhausted.

Raccoons are certainly not the only wildlife I see at the sanctuary. Currently the big show are the deer, including these twin fawns:

This morning in the drizzle, I encountered this doe …

… and this young buck.

And now, I must go get ready for the play Mark and I are going to see in celebration of the 11th anniversary of our first date!

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Poached Tofu Cutlets

Holy cats, have I been busy! I don’t know why, but October is always an insanely busy month for me. I guess part of it is both our birthdays, and our anniversary, and Halloween, and I always end up travelling – sometimes multiple times – in October. I’ve also been working a lot lately. All that that is why I haven’t been posting much.

We went to Charleston, SC a couple of weeks ago to visit Mark’s family. We left mid-week and right before we left, I did a quick sweep of the refrigerator for perishables and realized I hadn’t used the tofu I’d made that weekend, so I quickly threw it in a container and popped it in the freezer. I’m not a huge fan of frozen tofu; the texture doesn’t win me over as it does some, and it is so sponge-like it always seems to absorb so much salt it tastes too salty. Nonetheless I wasn’t about to waste homemade tofu, so in the freezer it went.

I was looking for a way to use it and came across this post on the wonderful Just Bento. This idea is totally ripped off of Maki, but for my broth I just started pouring things into my Dutch oven, trying but not really to keep the sodium down.

Poached Tofu Cutlets

1 block frozen tofu, thawed
3 cups vegan broth (I used “chicken”-flavoured)
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

cornstarch

Slice the tofu into four slabs like this:

Whisk together the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch in a Dutch oven or wide saucepan then add the cutlets. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or longer. I think I left mine for 45 minutes or so.

Remove the cutlets from the broth …

(In the wild, poached tofu is the same color as bamboo chopping blocks in order to elude knife-wielding cooks.)

… and coat with cornstarch.

Pan-fry on both sides in olive oil, or do as I did and grill on an electric grill (I brushed the grill with oil first):

Meanwhile you can thicken the (strained) leftover broth with some cornstarch (add the cornstarch to a small amount of cold water then whisk it in and heat until thickened) to make a gravy, though that’s optional.

Look at these baby sweet potatoes I got. LOOK AT THEM!

I love baby vegetables almost as much as I love baby animals. They’re tiny and sweet…just like Torticia! (By the way, upon hearing what they were, Mark informed me he hated sweet potatoes, but he tried them anyway and liked them! I know because he actually ate them! Baby vegetables are awesome!)

Plated meal:

Wow – this was the best meal I’ve made using frozen tofu, and though I’d be hard pressed (haha, like my tofu) to call the broth low-sodium, it wasn’t too salty. The texture was good too: chewy, but not overly sponge-like. Very flavourful. I think I still prefer my tofu fresh but it’s great to know I can make something really good with it even if I end up having to freeze it. And actually, frozen homemade tofu is probably better than non-frozen store-bought tofu.

In other news, I had pre-ordered then forgotten about Harold McGee’s new book Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find it on my doorstep this evening. It’s almost as big as the mega-wonderful On Food and Cooking, though not nearly as dense, and looks like it contains a bazillion helpful hints. I’m almost (but not quite) sorry it arrived today, because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed between work, social obligations, and the seven or eight “spooky” books I just bought for Halloween, which were added to my queue of..oh geez, 37 books. (In other news, I’ve read exactly 100 books so far this year!)

And …

Gomez, light of my life, fur of my clothes. My kitten, my cat. Go-mez-ian: the tip of your tail twitching to and fro across my toes. Go. Mez. Ian.

He is Mez, plain Mez, in the morning, standing on my chest. He is Mezzie when he plays. He is Mezzaluna in the kitchen. He is Gomez on the vet bills. But in my arms he is always Gomezian.

…and for Halloween he is Dracula!

Which is extra awesome because growing up I had a cat named Dracula, who prior to Tigger, Brachtune, Gomez, and Torticia, was the greatest cat who ever lived, and though he now has to share the title, still has a very special place in my heart. (And my skin; I have a tattoo of him.)

(My mom made Dracula’s Halloween costume just like she made all of mine!)

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Grilled Marinated Tofu with Gravy

I know I have been remiss in posting of late; I guess I haven’t been very inspired in the kitchen these last few weeks. Frankly, I’m making tonight’s post more out of obligation to post at least once a week than because it’s anything special. In fact, although it’s an easy, quick, and tasty meal, grilling tofu seems a little stereotypically vegan in a way I generally try to avoid on this blog (I’m trying to prove we don’t just eat tofu). Moreover, this is far from original. Nonetheless, Mark WAS scraping his plate clean after this meal (I offered to just go ladle him a bowl of the gravy for dessert), so it’s husband-approved and it was a good weeknight meal.

Grilled Marinated Tofu with Gravy

1/2 -1 pound tofu (I only had about 8 ounces of tofu, which may be fine for two normal people, but wasn’t really enough for one normal person and a Smark)
1 cup vegan broth (any flavor)
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp thyme
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the gravy
all of marinade above
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour

In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients (everything above except the tofu and gravy ingredients).

Slice the tofu into 1/4″ slabs.

Put the tofu in the marinade and marinate for 1/2 hour or longer (up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).

Remove the tofu, reserving the marinade.

I grilled the tofu on my George Foreman grill. You could also do it on a stovetop grillpan, or pan fry it, or bake it.

Meanwhile, to make the gravy, in a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil and flour to make a roux.

Slowly whisk in the marinade (you can optionally strain it first as I have done here).

Continue to whisk until gravy is hot and thickened.

Grill, fry, or bake the tofu until lightly golden.

I served my tofu with roasted asparagus: doused with a vinaigrette of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, pressed garlic, salt, and pepper then roasted at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Also served with a mixed grain side from Trader Joe’s that was heavy on the Israeli couscous.

Although Mark enjoyed this meal, I didn’t get any photographic evidence of it, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this. But here he is during our recent visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History (by the way, it’s not recommended you try to visit the Smithsonian during the Cherry Blossom Festival – it was incredibly crowded, even on Easter).

And finally, guess what I saw on a Metrobus during my commute yesterday …

I thought that was pretty cool.

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Okara Tempeh: don’t try this at home

Those of you who have been here a while may be aware of my ongoing battle with okara. I make tofu just about every week and have tried – really tried! – to put the leftover okara to use, but nearly everything I do with it fails. When I had The Book of Tempeh out of the library, I learned you can make tempeh from okara, and as my tempeh-making skills have become full-fledged, I thought that sounded like the perfect idea. So this weekend I did just that. If you’re the impatient type, I’ll save you the suspense: I won’t be doing it again.

I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure. If I had used the resulting tempeh in some recipe in which it needed to be ground or crumbled, it may have been fine. But, having read that okara tempeh is common in Indonesia, the birthplace of tempeh, I figured I’d make some sort of Indonesian dish with it. That all went pears. But I’ll share it with you nonetheless, if for no other reason than there is very little about okara tempeh on the internet – and not one picture that I could find.

After straining my soy milk to make tofu, I spread the leftover pulp – the okara – onto a baking tray.

Because I know that tempeh will fail if the soy beans are too wet, I decided I’d better dry the okara out a bit, so I baked it at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

Then I let it cool to room temperature and mixed it with a tablespoon of vinegar and 1/2 tsp powdered tempeh starter, just as I would whole-bean tempeh.

I put it in a perforated baggie and then in the same contraption I always use for incubating tempeh: a yogurt maker fitted with a steaming rack.

It was hard to tell when this tempeh was done because you’re looking for mostly-white mold to form on it, and okara is white, whereas it’s easy to tell when whole-bean tempeh is done. After 30 hours or so, I figured it was as done as it was going to get and put it in the refrigerator. It smelled like it should (a bit mushroomy) and it had a few black spots (which is normal for tempeh), but it seemed more fragile than normal tempeh. I was skeptical already.

The next day I decided to use it in a meal. I removed it from the baggie, finding it flimsier than my tempeh usually is. I cut it in half so I could see the interior. It looked…crumbly.

Nothing about it suggested there was anything wrong with it, however, so I proceeded. And honestly this is pretty much what I expected okara tempeh to look like. I chopped it up into bite-sized pieces.

A lot of traditional Indonesian recipes call for deep frying the tempeh. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve deep fried something at home, however, and not only would Mark not eat anything I deep fried, I don’t want to eat it either. So I decided to brown the okara tempeh by pan-frying it in a moderate amount of oil. I used a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.

The tempeh cubes sucked all the oil up, leaving a completely dry wok, after about a minute. My wok is well-seasoned and the tempeh wasn’t sticky, so dry-frying was no big deal….until the tempeh began crumbling like mad and the crumbs started burning. It got smokier and smokier in the kitchen (and the whole house) and the tempeh cubes got smaller and smaller. They looked like croutons. Or what I could see of them behind the increasing wall of smoke.

Though shrinking, the tempeh cubes weren’t really getting all that crispy, but I eventually couldn’t take the smoke any longer and dumped them out into a colander …

… which I then shook vigorously, knocking the burnt crumbs off and through the holes.

The cubes look brown, but they are spongy, not crispy!

Then I had to get all the remaining crumbs out of my wok so I could make the main dish. I use a bamboo brush.

One thing I can say is even after soaking up all oil almost immediately, the tempeh did not stick at all, and the crumbs brushed right out. However, I don’t think I would ever make okara tempeh again unless I was planning to deep fry it. It may well have turned out well if I had deep fried it….

Too late for deep frying. I soldiered on. I ground up some shallots, garlic, soy sauce, and sambel olek:

Then I heated a small amount of coconut oil in the wok and briefly fried the tempeh cubes again with some minced ginger. Again, the tempeh almost immediately soaked up the oil.

I added some chopped carrots and bell pepper.

Then I mixed in the shallot mixture, followed by a cup of coconut milk.

As I heated the mixture through, most of the tempeh cubes simply dissolved, making a grainy rather than smooth, milky sauce, with few distinct pieces of tempeh.

It was edible, but overall pretty dumb. I won’t be making okara tempeh again and I recommend you not bother.

Okara remains my nemesis. So here is a lilac from our backyard.

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How to Make Soy Milk (again!) and Soy Yogurt

I’ve recently gotten back into making yogurt. See, a year or so ago I mentioned I wanted to start making yogurt and my aunt gave me her old yogurt maker. And for a while there I was making a batch every week. But I kind of got out of it because it was sort of annoying to make. I’d used Bryanna’s method and Susan from Fat-Free Vegan’s method, and while both of them made consistently successful batches of yogurt, the adding of thickeners bothered me for some reason. It seemed like the whole process was a lot harder than it needed to be. Not that either method was difficult (they are very similar), and not that I’m one to shy away from difficult tasks in the kitchen, but when making staples on a weekly basis, I like the process to be as quick and easy as possible.

It was Wild Fermentation that changed everything. Sandor Katz claimed making soy yogurt was no different than making dairy yogurt (which I’ve never done but which looks very easy and never calls for thickeners), and he shared what I have found is the secret: adding less pre-made yogurt to the warm milk. And nothing else! He himself had read in another source that yogurt cultures don’t like to be “crowded” and that less is therefore more. All of the other recipes I’ve found for making soy yogurt call for 1/4 to an entire cup of existing yogurt to be mixed into a quart of soy milk. Sandor Katz called for just one tablespoon. And it works! No need for thickeners or fuss. It’s so easy I’m back to making it all the time.

Soy Yogurt

1 quart soymilk, preferably freshly homemade
1 Tbsp soy yogurt, with live cultures (can be from your previous homemade batch)

I’ve already explained how to make soy milk, but I figured I’d document it again for this tutorial. But if you already know how to make your own soy milk or if you want to use commercial soy milk, just skip down to the “*******” below.

To make about a quart of soy milk, soak 4 ounces of dried soy beans over night (I use 4 handfuls, which is actually a bit more than 4 ounces). It’s not necessary, but I put the dry soybeans in the blender and pulse a few time to break them up. Then I add water to the blender and swirl it around, causing the hulls from the beans to float up to the top, which I then pour off. I repeat this a few times, then I top it off with water and soak the beans right in the blender.

The next morning (or 8 hours later), set a scant 4 cups of water over medium heat in a medium large pot.

Meanwhile, drain the soaked soybeans, then put in the blender (if they aren’t already there) with fresh water to cover by 1/2 to 1 inch or so. Blend very thoroughly.

Pour the blended soybeans into the water and stir. Heat over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the soymilk as it has a tendency to rise up and boil over very quickly.

If the soymilk gets very foamy on top, you can skim the foam off.

Meanwhile, set up your strainer. I use a 4-cup measuring cup (although I should really use a larger one, and I’ll show you why in a moment), a strainer, and a piece of cheesecloth. Set the strainer in the measuring cup and line with the cheesecloth.

When the soymilk is ready, pour it into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Now, usually I’m doing this with two hands and as the soy milk filters down into the measuring cup, I lift the strainer out of it to make room for the milk. I didn’t take into account that this time I’d be taking photographs and not have two hands, so I didn’t lift the strainer and the soy milk overflowed. Oops! If I were any smarter than I am, I’d be using a bigger receptacle in the first place, but I like using something that has a spout and that’s what I have.

I sort of close the cheesecloth up into a sack and bounce it up and down on the strainer, settling the bean pulp – or okara – and pushing most of the soy milk out. I don’t worry too much about squeezing all of the liquid out because I’m trying to keep this process as fast as possible, but you can get really into it and mash it with a potato masher if you’d like.

Here’s the okara. You can save it for another purpose, although if you’ve been a reader for a while you’ll know that I have issues cooking with okara so I’m not going to think any less of you if you throw it away or compost it.

The worst part about making soy milk, by the way, is cleaning up the pot. It requires a lot of scrubbing.

You now have soy milk. If that’s all you’re here for, you’re dismissed. You can add a sweetener if you’d like. Frankly, I don’t bother any more. I used to add agave nectar or maple syrup or even a bit of sugar, but the only things I use soy milk for are the occasional loaf of bread (I use water more often, however) and putting on breakfast cereal and most cereals are already too sweet as it is.

Back to the yogurt.

******* If you are using pre-made soy milk instead of making it now, gently warm it – in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave – until just before boiling: about 180 to 190 degrees. Then follow the instructions below.

If you have one, stick a thermometer in the soy milk. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. You want the soy milk to cool to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This took about 45 minutes for me (though you can speed it up by putting it in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath). If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick your finger in it. If you can leave your finger in without burning it, it’s cooled sufficiently.

While the soy milk is cooling, sanitize and prepare the container(s) in which you’ll be making the yogurt. You can do this by running them through the dishwasher, or you can either submerge them in boiling water for a few minutes, or do as I did and rinse them out with boiling water.

If you are using a yogurt maker, plug it in and set the sanitized container(s) inside. The warmth will help any water clinging to them evaporate and it’s helpful for the containers to come up to temperature before adding the yogurt.

If you don’t have a yogurt maker, there are many incubation ideas floating around the internet. What I’d probably try first is the oven, using either the pilot light of a gas oven or the light bulb of an electric oven. I’ve never used this technique so I’m not going to discuss it, but you’ll find plenty of ideas if you google it.

When the soy milk is cool enough, whisk in 1 tablespoon of pre-made soy yogurt. If using store-bought, make sure it contains live cultures; it will say so on the container (Whole Soy does). You can also use a tablespoon of your previous batch of homemade yogurt. I’ve read that after six rounds of using your own yogurt, you should make your 7th batch using store-bought again to refreshen the culture, but I haven’t really tested this out because I haven’t managed to make yogurt for 7 consecutive weeks and have had to buy new yogurt before that anyway. When you buy the commercial yogurt, you should make sure it’s plain flavored, although since you’re using so little, I imagine you can get away with a flavored variety if that’s all you can find. I’d probably use vanilla if I couldn’t find plain.

If the soy milk gets foamy or bubbly when you whisk it, you can skim the bubbles off to prevent your yogurt from containing bubbles.

Pour the soy milk/yogurt mixture into your prepared containers.

Incubate. I’ve seen it said both that soy yogurt takes less time and more time to set than dairy yogurt. Having never made dairy yogurt, I can’t tell you which is correct. But I did notice that since using this thickener-less method, my yogurt’s actually been setting in less time than it did before: in as little as 4 hours. This picture was taken after 6 hours. It may have been ready in 4 hours, but Brachtune and I sort of ended up taking a little nap and I didn’t check it.

I happened to be flipping through The New Farm cookbook yesterday for an unrelated reason and came across their yogurt making section. Their method is similar to this except they call for more pre-made yogurt. But they did include a little trick for telling if your yogurt is done. If, when tilted to the side, the yogurt comes cleanly from the side of the container, it’s ready. It’s probably hard to see here, but that’s exactly what my yogurt is doing.

Refrigerate for about 3-4 hours, during which time the yogurt will further firm up, before eating.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy yogurt is mixed with granola, sliced bananas and other fruit, and drizzled with agave nectar.

I know this has been very long, but if you’ve made it this far, I shall reward you with pictures of Brachtune being beautiful.

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Soy Milk

I make my own soy milk and tofu, the former because commercial brands are too sweet and the latter just because it’s fun. When I tell people I make my own soy milk and tofu, I often get strange looks as if it had never even occurred to the person that tofu can come from any source other than a plastic tub in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Some people aren’t even sure what tofu is made of. Tofu is made from soy beans! The only ingredients in tofu are soy beans, water, and a small amount of coagulant, which I’ll get into later.

Before I start my tutorials on making soy milk and tofu, I’d like to say that much of what I know about making these items comes from Maki’s tutorial on Just Hungry, which is pretty much the definitive article on the subject, and this post on Bryanna Clark Grogan’s (one of my favorite cookbook authors) site. I can’t hope to improve on either of these tutorials, and I recommend you read both of them thoroughly because I’m pretty lazy about it and you’re going to get much better information from them. But this is something I do every week and I thought I’d share it with you in the hopes of making you realize neither process is nearly as complicated as I bet you think it is.

A quick word about electric soy milk makers: if you have a decent blender, you don’t need one. I have to admit that after the first couple of times I made soy milk, I managed to squirt okara all over my face, body, and kitchen, and – looking like an actress in a really bad porno – plaintively informed my husband I needed a soy milk maker. But then I figured out how to keep the okara in the bag and off my face, and I now think soy milk makers are ridiculous. And this from someone with a serious kitchen appliance addiction.

A little terminology for you: okara is the word for the mashed up soy beans that remain after you have squeezed out all the “milk”.

In this post, I’ll show you how to make soy milk, which is the first step in making tofu. I’ll save the tofu part for a later post so I don’t overwhelm you. To make soy milk, you need dried soy beans, a large pot, another large pot or a large bowl, a colander or large strainer, and an “okara bag”. An “okara bag” is just a piece of muslin folded in half and stitched on two sides, leaving one side open and forming a bag. You want to make it large enough that you can fold the edges over your pot or bowl; see the photos below. You can get muslin at any fabric store and it is very cheap. Some people use cheesecloth instead of muslin, but I don’t recommend this because it’s too easy for the okara squirt out when you are pressing it later, and although there are heavy kinds of cheesecloth they say are re-usable, it just seems very messy to me.

You can make as much or as little soy milk as you like at a time. I’ll assume here that you want to make about 2 quarts, because that’s how much I make to make tofu. But for drinking purposes, I halve this recipe and just make one quart because that’s all I need. If you make double this recipe, though, you’ll need to use a large stock pot to cook the soy milk: it expands a lot, so you need extra room.

So to make about 2 quarts of soy milk, put 8 ounces of dried soy beans into a bowl and cover with a lot of water. The soy beans will double in size, so put them in a big enough bowl and use enough water. Let them soak for about 8 hours. Here are my soaked soy beans:

The first few times you make soy milk, you will want to follow the directions precisely, what with the weighing and the measuring. Later, you may find shortcuts, as I have. For example, I noticed that my little fist grabs almost exactly one ounce of soy beans, and I often just grab 8 fistfuls of soy beans and call it a day. See, I’m a very imprecise cook. I have no right to be explaining how to do things to other people!

After soaking, drain the soy beans and put half of them into a blender. Measure 8 cups of water and put into a large pot over medium heat. When changing the yield on this recipe, this is easy to remember: one cup of water for every ounce of dried soy beans. That’s all you need to know! Allow the water to come up to temperature as you blend the soy beans. Add enough water to the blender to cover the soy beans by about an inch or two. The more water, the easier time your blender will have, so be generous:

Now blend, blend, blend! And blend some more. You want to make a very smooth mixture, that looks like this (or a little thicker, I don’t know why that looks so thin):

Pour the mixture into your large pot, and repeat with the remaining soy beans. You should have enough room in the pot for the contents to double, as it may swell up quite a bit. Simmer this mixture over medium heat for about 20 minutes. When it begins to swell, it’s ready, and you want to be watching it because when it starts to swell, it will very quickly swell higher than you expect, quite possibly over the sides of the pot if you aren’t careful. Ask me how I know this.

While the mixture is simmering, get another pot or a large bowl ready. Place your strainer or colander into it, and then line the colander with your “okara bag”, like this, except don’t pull up the one side as I did here so you could see the arrangement:

Carefully (because it’s hot), pour the soy bean mixture into the lined colander, and let it sit for a moment or two as the liquid slowly drains down into the pot or bowl:

Now here’s the part that caused me so many problems in the beginning. You want to squeeze all of the liquid out of the bag, making the contents – the okara – as dry as possible. At least that’s what I read, and for some reason I got it in my head that I had to REALLY squeeze on that bag so incredibly tightly that the okara came shooting through the weave of the fabric…and onto my face. What I would do is pick the bag up out of the colander, spin it around to seal it at the top, and, wearing gloves because it was hot, squeeze and twist as if my life depended on it, bent on draining every last drop of milk out of that bag. It’s a good thing I milk soy beans and not cows. But then I decided to just relax and MOSTLY get the liquid out of the bag by just pressing it with a potato masher against the colander and if the okara didn’t end up quite as dry, well, too bad. And what do you know, I no longer ended up with white stuff all over myself and I got just as much milk out of the bag anyway. The lesson here is to NOT take all your frustrations out on the okara bag and squeeze or press it just enough.

And now guess what! You’re done! Woo! Lift the colander out of the bowl or pot and YOU HAVE SOY MILK! If you are making tofu, you are ready to move on to the next step (coming soon). If you plan to drink this soy milk, or use it on cereal, you have the option of adding sugar and/or flavoring. I just add a bit of sugar, maybe 2 Tbsp per quart (which would be 1/4 cup if you used the measurements I’ve used here), but I don’t like it very sweet and if you are used to commercial soy milk, you may find you need to wean yourself from their excessive use of sugar. As I read somewhere, don’t be afraid to add sugar in any amount, because chances are you still aren’t adding as much as the commercial brands do!

I also often use maple syrup instead of sugar. You can add a pinch of salt if you like. If you like vanilla flavored, add that, or cocoa for chocolate milk.

The finished product (in a lovely glass pitcher I got from King Arthur Flour…have I mentioned my problem with that place? But seriously, it tastes better stored in glass than in plastic.):

I know I’ve been very wordy here, but once you do this a couple of times, it takes next to no effort. If I use the last of my soy milk on my cereal in the morning, I throw my four fistfuls of soy beans into a bowl, cover with water, and head out to work. When I get home, I just whip up the soy milk at the same time I’m making dinner. The only part that requires any thinking is making sure the pot it’s in doesn’t boil over, and since I’m right there working on dinner, that’s no problem.

And a final word about okara: don’t throw it away! You are supposed to eat that too! You’re supposed to be able to add it to all sorts of baked goods, although honestly, I haven’t had much success doing so. It seems to make baked goods leaden. I’m probably doing something wrong though. The best thing to do with okara is make Susan V’s Okara “Crab” Cakes. (By the way, Susan’s Fat-Free Vegan blog is one of the best food blogs out there and one of the inspirations for this blog.) The truth of the matter is I usually throw my okara away…and feel really guilty about it. I end up with a lot of it though. If nothing else, I should be composting it, but I haven’t started composting yet. So I challenge you to outdo me and use your okara more wisely. I really should be getting twice as much use out of my soy beans and saving even more money. If you know of any great uses for okara, please share!

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