Napa Cabbage and tofu sticks

The end of the year is almost here.  This year was the 175th anniversary of St. Anns’s Episcopal  church in the South Bronx.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic places. It was completed in 1840 by the Morris Family  many of whom are interred in the church. They owned about 2000 acres right where Jonas Bronk once lived as well as part of New Jersy. Lewis Morris, a founding father, signed the  U.S. Declaration of Indpendence and his son, Governeur Morris, was a signatory of the Articles of Confederation and took part in the Phiadelphia Convention where he and Benjamian Franklin spoke out against slavery.  He was a firm believer in a strong central government and has been given credit for being the writer of the final version of our consititution. He is also know as a staunch supporter and aid to Washington and the continental army for helping raise funds.


This is a Napa Cabbage which I have  never seen in a typical grocery store.  I  have to admit I’ve done very little shopping in main stream grocery stores since deciding to go vegan two and a half years ago.  Even if you have never seen one, you’ve probably eaten it.  It is a main ingredient in Chinese dumplings, Kimchi, and stir- fry.  There are two types — the short squat one picture above and an elongated one. I buy the short one because is has more green leaves.   I use the leaves for this dish and the bottoms I put into soup. Napa Cabbage and tofu is one of my wife’s favorite meals. Our usual  dinner meal consists of a large green salad, a small bowl of greens or a small bowl of soup, and then the main course.

There are only 7 everyday ingredients in this dish.

a 19 oz package of tofu

a Napa cabbage

Onions Garlic Gnger
Onions Garlic Ginger

one medium chopped onion

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tbsp. grated ginger

cooking oil. I use Safflower.

Open and rinse the tofu. Place the four squares on a plate, cover with a dish and microwave for 7 minutes.  When it finishes let is sit there in the mricowave and let it cool a bit. It will stay hot for a long time. Take the dish of tofu out of the microwave. Drain the water.

Tofu sticks
Place a cutting board on top of the tofu and balance a heavy weight, like a 5lb canister of flour, on the cutting board. You want to press all the water out of the tofu. When it is hot, the tofu easily gives up all the water.  After it cools, slice each cake in half and then into thin strips. Lay them length-wise on a strip of paper towels and roll them up and put them aside. When finished drying put them on a plate.

Thinly slice the Napa cabbage starting from the top down to the red rubber band you see at the top of the post. Save the bottoms for some other use.  You should have a colander full of cabbage.


Now you are ready to cook. I use a 12 -inch non-stick pan.  Put the oil in the pan at medium heat. When hot, put in the onion, ginger, and garlic.  Cook that until it just starts to brown. Add half of the tofu. It will fill the pan. Let it sit for a few minutes. Then with a fork or chop sticks turn it over. It will start to brown and shrink. Now you can add the rest of the tofu. Cook until all the tofu is mostly brown on all sides. As it browns, you can flip the strips with a spatula. When they are done slide them out onto a plate.image

Now fill the pan with half of the cabbage. You can add a little salt. The cabbage will wilt quickly. When it wilts down, add the tofu sticks. Put the rest of the cabbage on top and let it wilt. Stir with the spatula. Keep cooking until it all cooks down. I serve this with long grain brown jasmine rice.


Thinly sliced Napa cabbage
Thinly sliced Napa cabbage




Mushroom Pasta

Mushrooms and linguine
Mushrooms and linguine

If you like mushrooms this dish is for you. It’s quick and easy.  I often have it for breakfast and it’s a great way to use leftover mushrooms. When at the age of seven  I went to live with my grandparents they didn’t have a refrigerator and the nearest store was a mile away.  Grandma got ice from the milkman and stuck it in metal box that sat in the garage. The coolest spot. If you don’t have a refrigerator you aren’t eating much meat, and any leftovers have to be eaten the next day.  We ate a lot of unusual breakfasts.

We did all our shopping in a long low white building that had FARMERS MARKET written on the side in big barn-red block letters. Inside was a bazaar:  Stalls full of everything: used books, toys, shoes, clothing for anyone of any shape,  pots and pans, dishes, canned items. The stall owners announced a special sale in broken English as you passed by.  She always stopped at a one that had baskets filled with different colored and shaped dried beans, lentils, and spices.   The aroma of the dried spices would make my mouth water.   I hoped she would buy big creamy looking lima beans — my favorite.  She sometimes stopped at a cheese stall, stocked with cheeses of all shapes and shades of orange, some hanging from strings  from rods above the other cheeses. My siblings and I would hold each other’s hands and noses hoping she wouldn’t buy Gorgonzola — my grandfather’s favorite. She always bought few large round crispy loves of bread that had big holes inside, like swiss cheese. That bakery was our favorite stop because the saleswoman would give each of us kids the cookie of our choice.

The most important stop, and what Grandma saved for last, were the vegetable stands. There was always a sense of excitement there, people milling around, the air rich with a loamy, earthy smell.  Large outdoor stalls stood in a circle, overflowing with fruits and vegtables — piles of  artichokes, apples, glossy black eggplants so shiny you could almost see your reflection in them, carrots, beets, tomatoes, green beans, sometimes fava beans (another favorite), 50 lb bags of potatoes. They didn’t mess around, it was all about food and lots of it.

White-aproned women stood in front of each stand — two bulging pockets, one for change, one for bills, at the ready. The women yelled out prices. The men bagged the purchases. My grandmother would bargain for the best price. Sometimes we’d walk away with baskets of mushrooms.  My grandmother was a huge advocate for child labor. We peeled the mountain of mushrooms. That night we ate bowls of mushrooms cooked in their own liquid, dipping chunks of the fresh, crispy bread in the juices.  What was leftover topped macaroni the next day. Both wonderful meals. Here is my jazzed up version of that meal.

This is for one serving

4 oz mushrooms sliced

3 cloves garlic sliced

4 oz whole wheat pasta


1 and 1/2 tsp mushroom seasoning.  La Bo De can be found in Korean stores or online.

2 tbsp.  Shiitake Stir-fry sauce OR Vegetarian Mushroom Oyster Sauce. Wan Ja Shan brand is my favorite, both vegan.

A pinch of red chili powder

4 tbsp water.

A little olive oil to taste.

While you start the spaghetti (I use just a quart of water), put all the ingredients in your pasta bowl. Cover and microwave for 5 minutes on high, depending on your  microwave. This can be done on top of the stove but why dirty a pan.

When the pasta is done pour just a little of the pasta water into the mushroom mixture. This adds some flavor and also keeps the pasta from sticking together and you can get away with using less olive oil.

I hope you enjoy this.

Vegan Swedish Apple Pie

Vegan Swedish apple pie
Vegan Swedish apple pie

Now that autumn is here and apples will soon be fresh and plentiful I wanted to post this easy frugal dessert.

This recipe has been around for ages. It’s sliced apples with a tasty cookie dough on top. Can something like that not be a family hit?  It’s probably the same sort of dessert that Mrs. Bronk made for her family back in 1639.

Jonas Bronk, an educated Swedish man, and his family were the first Europeans to settle in the area.  Then a Dutch colony in dire need to increase population, the lure of opportunity and land brought Bronk to the new world.  He created a homestead of about 680 acres that he named Emaus after the place Jesus first appeared to his followers after his resurrection. Unfortunately, Jonas died only four years later. The nearby river was called Bronk River.  Bronk became Bronx due to a misspelling and  later became the name of the entire county. That’s how the Bronx got its name.

I never thought we would live in the Bronx, but frugal folks love a good opportunity. I saw a newspaper ad for apartments at  Co-op City, Bronx over twenty years ago.  At the time Co-op City was also in dire need of people. Many of the original tenants had died off or moved away leaving a tenth of the 15,000 apartments vacant. It was like a fire sale. We were told by people we would get our throats slit or be robbed in the elevator the minute we got here. Kinda scary, but an apartment with water views from every window…  Wow.

We took multiple trips here and walked around at all different hours without incident. The only scary thing were the skunks strolling around late at night. Our “liberal” friends were voicing the usual irrational fear many white people have of black folks or people of color — which describes 90% of our neighbors.

Co-op City  is one of the safest of New York City  neighborhoods.


Vegan Swedish Apple Pie

3lbs apples peeled and sliced. I use Empire, use any variety or combination that stays together during cooking.

1 cup plus 1 tbsp of non white sugar or vegan white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup flour

3/4 cup Vegan butter – Earth Balance

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbs water

A few tablespoons of non dairy milk

Egg replacer equivalent for 2 eggs.  I use Ener-G.  Use whatever form you are familiar with.

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:   Set a rack in the middle of oven. Preheat to 350° F.

Piled apples
Piled apples

Mix sliced apples with the 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Put them in a buttered, deep dish pie pan.

There are two ways you can make the topping.

The first way would be to mix the sugar with melted butter, add milk, water, and vanilla and then add that to the combined dry ingredients: flour, salt, egg replacer, and baking powder. Mix until something like a pie dough forms.

The other method would be to just cut the cold butter into the flour, add the sugar and salt as if you were making a pie crust. Add the wet ingredients until you have a a thick dough.

Spread the dough over the apples. Pat it smooth with your fingers until the apples are completely covered.

Bake in the middle of the oven, at 350º F for an hour. Let cool before eating.