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Posts Tagged ‘tofu’

I had a long day at work and when I got home, I was hungry and wanting to relax. Fortunately for me, there is one simple solution to both of those problems: COOK! I know a lot of people don’t enjoy cooking or it is something that they don’t think of as a relaxing activity. I guess it’s just one of the little quirks that makes me the person that I am. Since I was hungry, I wanted something quick but at the same time, I didn’t want to just eat a bunch of junk. I had to improvise. From my kitchen, I grabbed the following items.

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 block of extra firm tofu
1 package of Trader Joe’s lentils
1 bottle of Siracha sauce.

That’s it, 5 ingredients. Time to cook! I quickly slice the onions up into teeny tiny little bits and then I minced the garlic. While I was doing that, the tofu was being pressed between a couple of plates to make sure it was as dry as possible.

This is where the flavor lives

With the onion and garlic finished, I grabbed the tofu and cut it up into small squares. At that point, prep work was done and it was time to get rocking. I quickly sautéed the tofu in some olive oil while I dealt with a page from work because apparently, I don’t spend enough time in my day dealing with people’s computer problems. With the problem solved and the tofu getting a nice golden color, I set it aside on a baking sheet and added the onion to the pan. That’s the point when the whole room started to smell real good.

Once the onion was looking nice, I added the garlic and sautéed  it for about 30 seconds. Then, I dumped in the package of Trader Joe’s lentils. They are already cooked and ready to go so it was one less thing I had to deal with on my own. They taste really good and, when used in a dish like this, are acceptable over stuff you might cook on your own. While they heated up, the tofu went under the broiler to finish up. While the tofu broiled, I remembered that I had a bottle of Siracha that needed my attention. A very generous amount of sauce went into the pan.

After the tofu was complete, I added it into the lentil mixture and that was it. From the skillet it went onto the plate and I was enjoying a hot dinner that was healthy and very flavorful in a short period of time.

Spicy lentils and tofu

 

Tofu cooked to golden brown goodness

Before I started cooking, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I walked into the kitchen, surveyed what I had and, on the fly, came up with something that sounded good. That’s where having a solid understanding of basic techniques is really important. If you want to be a good cook, learning lots of recipes really isn’t the way to go. It’s all in the technique and learning how to have fun putting those techniques together to create something new.

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From time to time, I give my thoughts about something that I’ve tried or experienced. I always do this because I like something. I have never made anything from this blog nor have I ever received anything from anyone/anything I write about. I don’t have any plans to change this policy. With that in mind, please enjoy this non-compensated review of a product I just tried and really liked.

I’m always looking for new ideas for vegetarian recipes and decided the other day to try my hand at a quick stir fry. I was wandering the aisles of the grocery store for ingredients, I realized I needed some soy sauce for the stir fry. It’s not something that I keep in my pantry because it’s basically salt sauce. However, this would be an exception. That’s when I saw a bottle of Annie Chun’s Chinese Stir Fry sauce. It caught my eye and I read through the ingredient list. It was vegetarian though the label said it was processed in a plant that processes meat products (you have been warned if you’re a hard core vegetarian). The sodium content was still on the high side but it was less than the soy sauce that I was holding in my other hand. I decided to take a chance on it and went home with everything I needed for a quick dinner.

I cooked the brown rice, chopped up garlic, ginger, carrots, asparagus, onions and got a big handful of snow peas ready. I cooked all the veggies in some olive oil in my wok and, after removing them, browned up some cubed extra firm tofu in the wok. At this point, the rice was done so I pulled it off of the burner and dumped it into the wok with the tofu and added the vegetables that I’d set aside. Once everything was mixed, I added the bottle of sauce. One bottle was enough for the stir fry that I made. My goal was to make enough to have dinner and lunch the next day.The bottle was enough to let this happen. When I tasted the results, I was quite pleased with the taste. The sauce added a really nice flavor and, since it was more than just soy sauce, allowed me to get a bit more of a Chinese takeout flavor than I would have gotten on my own. If you happen to be planning on making a stir fry any time soon, I would highly recommend trying this sauce as part of the recipe.

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I’ve been trying to find some healthy and vegetarian ways to re-create some of my favorite foods and tonight I achieved my greatest healthy, vegetarian version of a classic yet. I made jambalaya. Yes, the classic Cajun food that brings together all three food groups, pork, chicken and shrimp and blends them with veggies and rice into a meal that is so good that you remember the experience of having it for years to come. It really is one of the best foods around and I attacked it with gusto and have made a new version that is loyal to the spirit of the dish but is significantly healthier. Behold! My creation!

This delicious dish was the result of a few days of thinking about how to pull off this feat and reading a bunch of different recipes. Eventually, I put everything together and came up with this. Keep in mind this is Jambalaya so it’s a bit of an intense recipe and will take some time to do. However, it is totally worth it.

Vegetarian Jambalaya
1 package Trader Joe’s 3 grain Tempeh – prepared per my post on Tempeh bacon
1 pound extra firm tofu
1 tbsp. olive oil plus more for tempeh
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Magic seasoning
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes. I use a Hunts brand called Fire Roasted tomatoes. They are really good in this
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
Liquid smoke
1 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s low sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup brown basmati rice, uncooked

  1. Drain the tofu and wrap it in paper towels. Press it between two plates to squeeze out more liquid.
  2. While tofu presses, prepare the tempeh. Slice it thinly and give it a bit of cover in liquid smoke. Saute in olive oil until crispy on both sides.
  3. While the tempeh is cooking, slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then cut into long, thin strips. Cover these strips in Cajun Magic seasoning and broil them for 5-8 minutes to continue to get liquid out of the tofu.
  4. Set prepared tempeh and tofu aside.
  5. Saute the onion, bell peppers and celery in the olive oil for at least 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.
  6. Add bay leaf, cayenne pepper, Cajun Magic, tempeh and tofu to the pan. Break the tofu and tempeh into smaller, bite-sized pieces while stirring everything together.
  7. Add tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Gently simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Pour rice into the pan and stir well.
  9. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid.
  10. Remove the bay leaf, add any more seasonings you like and serve. Preferably with Tabasco sauce.

I decided to make the recipe this way because it allowed me to capture at least two of the essential elements of jambalaya. The tempeh will serve as a replacement for the pork and the tofu is a good substitute for the chicken. The liquid smoke adds the flavor that is missed by removing pork from the recipe. I left out the seafood but personally wouldn’t be against having some fresh shrimp in there. I also added red bell pepper to the recipe in order to have a bit more flavor. I would have put okra into it had I been able to find any (for some reason, okra isn’t readably available in Maine). Once I sat down to eat this jambalaya, I was surprised at how well it came out. I expected it to be good but I didn’t think it would be as good as it was. I thought I’d be messing with the recipe for a while trying to figure out a good combination of ingredients and methods to capture the essence of this classic food but I pretty much got what I wanted on the first try. That never happens to me, but I’m not complaining. If you choose to try this recipe, give yourself some time and then savor it when you’re done. It’ll be worth it.

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Sometimes, there are foods that I am aware of but I have never had the opportunity to try or have not made myself. Last night, those two forces combined into one fantastic dinner. For a long time now, I have known about tempeh: a soy product that is related to tofu but contains grains in addition to the soy protein. I had never had it and didn’t know what to do with it. Then, I saw a recipe for tempeh bacon. Needless to say, this intrigued me. I bought a block of tempeh, got out my cutting board and my sharpest knife and sliced the tempeh as thinly as I could. I then covered the tempeh with liquid smoke and seasoning for flavor. I proceeded to fry the tempeh slices in some hot olive oil and they came out crispy, brown and DELICIOUS.

I really liked the flavor of the tempeh. It is a bit earthier than tofu and it’s a lot easier to work with. You don’t need to press it or worry about getting the liquid out of it. Plus, it’s really versatile for cooking. You can bake it, saute it, fry it or steam it just to name a few preparation methods. I took my tempeh “bacon” and I put it on top of a salad. It took an otherwise standard salad to a whole new level. My daughter came out as I was making it, saw the tempeh sitting on my plate and asked me, “Is that BACON?” I explained to her that it wasn’t and offered to let her try some but she politely declined. I think her words were something along the lines of rather having her teeth pulled out than have to try something that gross but she’s only 10 so I can’t blame her for not being as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods. If you are looking for new ways to expand your vegetarian arsenal, I would really suggest checking out this great ingredient. It looks a little weird but it works great in just about anything I’ve seen it in.

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Today I went to the store and picked up a bunch of stuff that I’m going to use to work on creating a few new recipes. Once I have a recipe or two, I’ll post them here along with pictures of what I have come up with. For now, a sneak preview.

  • French Green Lentils
  • Red Lentils
  • White Quinoa
  • Red Quinoa
  • Polenta
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Red Pepper
  • Orange Pepper
  • Jalapeño Pepper
  • Carrots
  • Red Onion
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Tofu
  • Various herbs/spices
  • Low Sodium organic vegetable stock

I’ve got a few ideas about what to do with some of the ingredients but I haven’t come up with anything firm yet. I love going to the store and finding ingredients that I either really like or have wanted to work with for a while and just picking them up with the intent of cooking something with them. It’s a challenge to come up with something good and interesting and I’m going to have fun doing it. The great thing is that all of the produce was local and organic so whatever I end up making will have supported local farms and farmers. It’s a win/win for everyone.

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This evening I made the sesame crusted tofu that I had found the recipe for earlier this week. It was as good as I thought it would be. The tofu was crispy and the sesame seeds were the perfect touch to give the tofu some really nice flavor. The ultimate test of just how good it was came when my wife told me that it smelled really good and she wanted to try a bite. I couldn’t believe it. She actually wanted to try tofu! My wife usually doesn’t want to get anywhere near tofu and she’s never tried any of the tofu dishes that I have made. Even better than her wanting to try it was when she told me she liked it and would like to try my BBQ tofu the next time I make it.

I think that was one of the happiest moments I’ve had since I started to make changes in the foods that I cook so that I can eat healthier. I know when I make and enjoy something good for myself. It’s really nice to make something and have someone else tell me it’s good. I’ve had to learn to use so many new ingredients and new cooking methods and it’s nice to get positive feedback from others who enjoy my food. Not only does it give my ego a bit of a boost (though I am making a point not to let it get out of control) but it makes me happy that I’m able to introduce someone to a new ingredient or show them that there is a “healthy” food that they really can enjoy. I used to like cooking for others because it meant doing something nice for them. Now, in addition to that, I’m helping them discover ways that they can make positive changes for themselves.

As people discover that they can enjoy eating healthy, it becomes easier for them to envision making the changes that they want to but haven’t been able to. This is a key to making long term changes. When I felt trapped in my own body and was hopeless to change, I was unable to think about eating healthy. Even when I decided to try to lose the weight and change my lifestyle I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it. Food is such an integral part of who we are and it’s something with deep seated cultural and emotional components. To change what we eat is to, sometimes, change who we are. I didn’t want to be some hippy wimpy vegetarian who ran from the sight of a medium-rare steak. I couldn’t imagine myself being a skinny vegetarian who could get blown over by a strong gust of wind. My mental image of eating healthy was as out of synch with reality as my weight was out of control. As I began to learn about new recipes and realize that I could make some really good foods that were entirely meat free I felt empowered to change. There was a lot of freedom that came with that realization and now I hope to be able to use my skills to help others feel the same. To cook healthy and to provide hope to others wanting to eat healthy is a wonderful thing.

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Tofu can be a valuable source of protein, iron...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve really begun to enjoy cooking with tofu. I use extra firm tofu to cook with or silken tofu in place of yoghurt in smoothies. I’ve been on the lookout for good tofu recipes and have found three that I am anxious to try. I’ll probably make one or two of them this weekend. Stay tuned to see my reports of how they tasted and pics of how it looked.

Sesame-crusted tofu

Serve these “steaks” with soy sauce and a green-onion garnish. Be sure to use firm tofu. Brown it gently so that it loses some moisture before coating it with bread crumbs and sesame seeds, then browning again.

Ingredients

1 pound firm tofu, drained

1/4 cup fat-free milk

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons plain dried bread crumbs

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil or canola oil

12 green (spring) onions, ends trimmed, cut in half crosswise, then halved again lengthwise

Directions

Cut the tofu crosswise into 12 slices. Place the tofu slices in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes on each side. The tofu will brown slightly and lose some of its liquid. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper until well blended. On a large plate, combine the bread crumbs, white and black sesame seeds, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix until well blended. Dip a tofu slice into the milk mixture, and then dredge in the sesame seed mixture. Repeat dipping and dredging with the remaining tofu slices.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Arrange the tofu slices in the pan and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Add the green onions to the pan and saute until they begin to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Divide the green onions among individual plates. Top each serving with 3 tofu steaks and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Nutritional Analysis

(per serving)

Calories 265 Monounsaturated fat 4 g
Protein 24 g Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 17 g Sodium 391 mg
Total fat 14 g Fiber 6 g
Saturated fat 2 g

Tofu and mango curry

This vibrant dish is enlivened by sweet bursts of mango. To make basil chiffonade, stack several leaves, roll them up lengthwise into a bundle and slice thinly across.

Bill Joseph's pic of Tofu & Mango Curry

Bill Joseph's pic of Tofu & Mango Curry

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 shallots, minced

2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, peeled and seeded, then diced

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 cup low sodium vegetable stock or broth

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1 stalk lemon grass, tender bottom 4 inches only, quartered lengthwise

1 1/4 pounds extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 cup shelled edamame

1/2 cup diced mango

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade

Directions

In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato, curry powder and coriander and simmer until the tomato begins to soften, about 1 minute.

Add the stock, coconut milk and lemon grass. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Remove from the heat.

In a nonstick sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, sprinkle with the turmeric and cook for until tofu is thoroughly browned. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Add the curry sauce to the pan, raise the heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the edamame and cook until the edamame are tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Return the tofu to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the mango and salt and stir to combine. Discard the lemon grass.

Divide the curry among warmed individual plates and garnish with the basil. Serves 4.

Nutritional Analysis

(per serving)

Calories 395 Monounsaturated fat 6 g
Protein 39 g Cholesterol 132 mg
Carbohydrate 26 g Sodium 353 mg
Total fat 15 g Fiber 5 g
Saturated fat 2 g

Stir Fried Tofu with Gingered Vegetables

This was originally a recipe that called for chicken. I have substituted tofu for it. Because of the changes I’ve made, I do not have accurate nutritional information for this recipe.

Ingredients

1 package extra firm tofu

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups broccoli florets

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 1/3 cups sliced carrots

1 1/3 cups snow peas

1 large red bell pepper, sliced into strips

1/8 teaspoon (or to taste) hot pepper flakes

4 teaspoons rice vinegar or sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

Directions

Wrap the tofu in paper towels and place on a plate. Put another plate on top of the tofu and place some heavy soup cans on the top plate to press liquid out of the tofu. Leave for 15 minutes.

While the tofu is being pressed, head oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the tofu and cut it into strips. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes to remove any more water.

Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tofu and cook, tossing with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown. Turn off the heat and transfer the tofu to a plate.

Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water until the stems just begin to get tender, about 1 or 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the sesame oil and garlic cloves to the wok. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic is fragrant and lightly golden. Remove the garlic, add the ginger and cook for another minute.

Turn the heat to high, add the carrots and cook, tossing with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Add the peas, red peppers and hot pepper flakes, continue tossing with the spoon and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tofu, broccoli, vinegar and soy sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Serve immediately over a bed of brown rice. Serves 4.

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