I started freezing tofu by chance; I had three blocks of tofu in my fridge back in December and as I was leaving the country for a month, I didn't want them to go bad in my absence. I put them in the freezer and crossed my fingers, hoping for the best. Fast forward more than a month and I thawed the tofu out in the fridge. The consistency had definitely changed; the tofu was a little drier, more chewy. What was interesting though is that after freezing/thawing, the tofu absorbed marinades much, much better, and as a result, became more flavorable. Also, it was easier to get the moisture out of the block and hence, it would fry up more quickly in the wok. So if you're a tofu eater, I definitely recommend trying the freezing technique and see how it works for you. The only downside is that it takes a LONG time to thaw the tofu in the fridge; a warm water bath is a good option if you need it more quickly than that.
This article on the health benefits of soup came at the right time yesterday as I was deciding to experiment a bit in the kitchen. In December, I had made a green lentil soup the conventional way -- toss ingredients into a pot, boil, and then simmer. The result was good, if not a little bland, and I made a mental note to revisit this soup again in the future. The future arrived on Saturday and this time, with a whole afternoon stretching in front of me, I decided to experiment with a slow cook lentil soup.
Now I don't have a crock pot (well, a tiny one, but that one is reserved for oatmeal), only an electric stove. Luckily, the stove has a setting between 1 and Off called "Lo" and for the most part, that's what I kept the stove on for the 3 hours I was cooking the soup. I'm sure a gas stove would probably be better for something like that. The point is to avoid boiling the soup and to allow the flavors to seep in and also retain the nutritional value of the soup.
Anyway, the soup came out very rich, flavorful and the veggies were perfectly cooked. I would recommend checking in on the soup every 10 to 15 minutes or so to stir it and check on the "doneness" of the veggies. The recipe below makes about 3-4 servings or so. I served it over basmati rice for a hearty winter's dinner.
Ingredients 1 tbsp butter 1 small onion, dices 1 sprig fresh rosemary 3 cloves garlic 1 cup chopped celery 1 cup chopped carrots 2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped 6 baby red potatoes, diced 2 cups dry green lentils 4 cups vegetable broth 1 bay leaf 1 tsp red pepper flakes salt & pepper to taste
Directions Over medium heat, sautee onions in butter until translucent. Add garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and salt.
Still on medium heat, add celery, carrots, and potatoes. Stir. Add salt and pepper if needed. Cover for 3-5 minutes.
Add lentils and tomatoes. Stir well. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf. Stir well. Lower heat to lowest possible setting and cover. Stir every 10 to 15 minutes.
The soup should cook within 2 to 3 hours. Salt and pepper to taste, or add tabasco for additional spiciness if needed. Serve as a soup or over rice for a one-dish meal. Enjoy!
Here is a recipe for Star Anise Lace Cookies from Gourmet magazine (sniff, sniff). It's a super easy, kind of odd recipe, but they do come out super thin and almost lacy (in a circular lace pattern). It's not at all a typical cookie and I think it would be really good as an accompaniment with a fruity ice-cream. My one complaint is that it 'feels' very buttery and I'm tempted to reduce the amount of butter from 5 tablespoons to 4 next time around. Still, taste-wise these are fantastic cookies and probably will add a good bit of originality/creativity to a traditional cookie spread.
We had a great menu for the lunch this afternoon -- it went very well. Definitely more relaxing than going to a restaurant, especially since one couple had a baby and it's just easier to deal with a baby, I think, in a home environment than in a restaurant.
Appetizers were simple -- just cheese (pepper jack and chedder) and crackers (multigrain and plain). For the actual lunch, we served a green lentil soup, followed by gnocchi tossed with tomatoes, basil and garlic, and roasted asparagus with sesame seeds and balsamic vinger. For toppings, we included salt/pepper (because I always under-salt/pepper), pecorino romano grated cheese (YUM!) and fresh basil. For dessert, I made chai cupcakes with cream cheese frosting with cinnamon.
Drinks served included ye run o' the tap water, sparkling cranberry juice, Coastal Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and chocolate peppermint coffee. We had sparkling apple juice as a back-up but didn't need to use it. Incidentally, the sparkling cranberry juice is really, really good.
It was a less complicated menu than I had originally planned, but we had just enough time to pull it together and clean up the place before our guests arrived. Also, it was a simple enough menu but with enough fresh touches like the basil really made the meal. Everyone had a really good time and our lunch party was a success. We're already looking forward to the next one!
Company is coming over tomorrow for lunch and because I have Friday off, I'm going to do most of the preparation today. Keep in mind that I still have an impassable second bedroom and enough boxes stacked in the dining room/kitchen to equate an entire Northwest US forest. Clearly, a trip to the recycling center is warranted.
Anyway, I'm trying to come up with a main entree. I've been debating on quiche. I've made -- or attempted to make -- the quiche recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook a bunch of times but my last attempt was the biggest disaster ever. I'm convinced there's something about the proportion of ingredients that's just not right, and maybe a different recipe will have different results. But then if it doesn't turn out and I'm just challenged at quiche-making, then what are my other options?
I think quesadillas are a great fallback because it's really hard to mess those up. I thought about making individual frittatas with bell peppers and tomotatoes, but it requires 12 eggs, which if you think about it is a lot of eggs. I think tofu steaks might be good with some spiced veggies, but I don't know. It just doesn't appeal to me the way a nice, fresh spinach and mushroom quiche does.
So far the menu has taken on a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavor: sangria, sGreek salad, lentil soup, and chai cupcakes for dessert. Appetizers are still up for debate -- maybe just cheese and crackers? Or breaded paneer bites? Oh the options and the lack of culinary skills!
This isn't the most exotic recipe around, but it's super easy and tasty to make, and fits three key categories: vegetable, grain, and protein. Well, the vegetable is a little stretch, but I'm counting the tomato sauce (which comes out of a jar) as a vegetable. Nothing here was homemade and I whipped this dinner up in about 15 minutes and it was perfectly proportioned and satisfying. I love that in a meal.
I started off by thawing two veggie burgers, broken into halves, in a frying pan on the stove. I used Morningstar mushroom lover's burgers, but any burger will do. Meanwhile, I was also boiling water on another burger for the pasta.
After the burgers were mostly thawed through, I removed them from heat and chopped them up into bite size chunks.
I put the chunks of veggie burger back into the frying pan and then added the tomato sauce. The tomato sauce came out of a jar, and for those of you interested in the details, I like the Classico brand and this time around, I used Sweet Basil sauce. One of these days I'll make my own tomato sauce, but certainly not on a weekday and definitely not after a tough workout when I'm absolutely famished! I let the tomato sauce and chunks of veggie burger simmer about 4-5 minutes while I finished draining the pasta. Doesn't this look yummy?
And finally, after the pasta was drained, I poured the warm sauce over the pasta, and enjoyed myself a rather quick, tasty, and healthy meal. Not inexpensive, because veggie burgers aren't really that cheap anymore -- about $4 for a package of four now -- but still, this meal probably cost me about $3, which is still cheaper than going out to eat, which is what I would have done in the past when I was starving after a workout. Much better for the waistline and the wallet!
I'm having an avocado renaissance, which started with avocado sushi, and then this weekend, I decided to make guacamole. Guacamole is pretty easy to make and it can be as complicated as you want it to be. My uncle, world famous guacamole maker and keeper of the top sekrit family recipe passed down for generations, told me that simpler is better. Accordingly, my guacamole had just a few ingredients: avocados, green onions, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and for flavor, red pepper flakes, fresh lime & lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Cutting avocados is a newly acquired skill for me. I cut them from the top and then all around the equator of the avocado. If I do it correctly, it doesn't turn into a big mess, and I can actually pop the avocado open and see the pit nestled on one half and a nice round indentation on the other half.
I mashed the avocado with a soup ladle (for lack of a better mashing tool) and then mixed in diced cherry tomatoes, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and mixed it all together. I then sprinkled the whole thing with lots and lots of fresh lemon and lime juice and then added salt and pepper to taste. I didn't have chili peppers, so I used red pepper flakes sparingly to add that bit of spiciness. The end result was served with organic corn tortilla chips. Yum!
It's that time of year when the taste buds start yearning for something fresh and tangy, and this soup from Spain is a perfect starter or a side for any meal. I've always loved gazpacho, even though it seems weird to eat a soup cold. But this one is just perfect. I've sampled several different gazpachos over the last few weeks as the weather has gotten warmer and finally today decided to try it myself. In the past, I've made it using tomato juice as a short-cut, but today, I decided to go as authentic as possible and make it from scratch and selected a wide variety of delicious veggies to go into the soup. The only one I omitted was celery (by accident) but I had plenty of other veggies from red peppers to cucumber to flavor this soup.
I chopped everything pretty roughly -- it was all going into the blender anyway. I added plenty of onion (white & green both), green pepper, red pepper, cucumber, and lots and lots of tomatoes -- 7 or 8, if I recall correctly. I then transferred it to a glass pan so I could season it properly. I squeezed fresh lemon juice on the veggies, and then drizzled everything with red wine vinegar and olive oil. I also added salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Once I had stirred and mixed everything to my satisfaction, it was into the blender with the mixture! I used both the grind and puree settings. Gazpacho should be mildly chunky. If it looks like pico de gallo, it's way too chunky. Smooth like a tomato soup is way too pureed. There should be some texture to the soup, but not enough to actually have to chew or bite down on a piece. I had to experiment with a few settings before I got it to the right consistency.
Once you have blended to the right consistency, transfer it into an appropriate container, and then chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours prior to serving. The longer you leave it chilling, the better the flavors will mesh together. You can top this soup with the avocado salsa I described in this post, tortilla chips, or croutons and green onions, as I did. In some versions of this soup, you can even add ice chunks for a little more textures and to get the soup really cold. This soup will make a great accompaniment to the southwest quesadillas or even your traditional grilled cheese sandwich.
For Sunday brunch today, I made Southwest-style quesadillas with avocado salsa. It was a pretty tasty and filling lunch, which surprised me because I didn't really put much filling into the quesadillas, but I think the black beans and whole wheat tortillas helped tame the hunger pains for a good four to five hours after eating. These are incredibly easy to make and just really good and simple. For the filling, I used roasted red peppers, corn (thawed), black beans (thoroughly rinsed), green onions, and spinach (cut very finely), with a sprinkle each of salt, pepper, and red pepper.
I had two pans going on the cook top, one a Calphalon which didn't require any grease, and the other a plain stainless steel which I learned the hard way required a spray of Pam or something similar. I usually warm the pan up first before putting the tortilla on it and then I sprinkle about a teaspoon of Cheddar cheese and then spoon the filling on there. I then sprinkle a little bit more Cheddar cheese on top of the filling, and put the other tortilla on top. After about 3-4 minutes, I flip to cook the other side.
The avocado salsa is super easy. Just slice an avocado, add diced tomatoes, and sprinkle the whole thing with fresh citrus -- either lime or lemon to keep the avocado from browning -- and serve. This is definitely one of those meals that tastes wonderful warm, but it will work cold as well, maybe with a gazpacho soup? Hmmm... I think I have my next project.
Mochi ice-cream -- I love this stuff. The sticky chewy outer shell and the yummy cool and rich ice-cream inside. I've only had it a couple of times and today I was elated to discover a nearby restaurant (walking distance!) has it on their menu. So far I've tried green tea, red bean, strawberry, and Kona coffee. I've also had lychee ones. The mango flavor is the only one I haven't tried. The green tea is by far my favorite. These things are fairly expensive as ice-cream goes so I found a recipe online for a day when I'm feeling pretty ambitious.
The rice is the "lime rice" mentioned in gratuitous Chipotle post here. The recipe is pretty simple -- boil water, and then add lots of lime, cilantro, green onions, salt, pepper, and rice. Voila. A rather tasty rice dish to go along with the tofu.
The tofu was marinated in lemon juice and herbs with the veggies for two days. I then baked it at 450 F for 15 minutes and then let it sit. The tops of the tofu were nicely brown, but the rest of it remained a little soft. I'm going to have to work on that a bit.
All in all, I would say this entire meal took 45 minutes to make, and that includes prep. The tofu dish I pre-assembled on Sunday afternoon so all I had to do today was pop it into the oven. I also had plenty of leftovers, so that makes lunch at work pretty easy this week.
I promised T'Other Liz a picture of tonight's dinner, which is not to be confused with the tofu bake from the other night. This is a Greek couscous salad, with a side of spinach salad, and then I quartered a lemon and also a lime to add a little bit of tang to the salad. I also had a small tablespoon of hummus on the side, just for a little bit of texture and protein.
The couscous veggies included green scallions, tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers. Other ingredients included plain feta cheese and instead of using plain olive oil, I used about 20 ml of lemon olive oil for seasoning. As always, I skipped the salt and pepper.
The spinach salad is pretty self-explanatory. Just a few spinach leaves, some diced tomatoes, and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. So, who wants to come to my house for dinner?
Today, I prepped a lemon herb tofu bake with veggies. Right now, I'm at the 50 percent complete mark. It will spend the rest of today and most of Monday in the fridge, before heading into the oven for Tuesday evening dinner. Jemima suggested I post a "before" picture, so you all can see how my food looks BEFORE it explodes.
I was reading my favorite vegan blog today -- Vegan Yum Yum -- mostly because I love looking at the pictures -- food Pr0n at its best -- and I stumbled on this recipe which I know the Trek-minded of you will be greatly amused by. In all seriousness though, this version of hasperat looks amazing and I can't wait to try it out. Now I'm curious as to how a vegan site will deal with gagh!
I really like looking at the pictures on this website. The cupcakes are particularly mouth-watering, but so far, my only action has been drooling. Baking season is coming on us and I'm contemplating going the Kraft Food & Family route. It's more realistic for one pot cookers like yours truly. I especially recommend the chocolate mousse recipe; I substituted a really nice dark chocolate for the Toblerone, used low-fat whip cream, and garnished with raspberries per the pictures and it was scrumptious and done in the advertised 5 minutes.
Since the last post was about salsa, I thought I'd post this recipe for a salsa I tried this weekend -- Avocado and Corn Salsa. It's pretty simple to make, very colorful, and just pure yum. It made a great complement to the bean & corn filling for my burritos (in a wheat tortilla). Plus, it's just another one of those great recipes that tastes wonderful but requires very little effort to please.
Here's an interesting article on jarred salsas. I really like Pace picante sauce, and Tostitos has a fairly decent one. I do like some of the gourmet salsas -- especially anything made with black beans and corn -- but they tend to be pricey and found only in boutique type stores which is no fun when you're a discount shopper likes yours truly. Anyway, for those of you who love salsa, it's a fun article.
Incidentally, making salsa is super easy. Take a tomato, take an onion, take a pinch of chilis, a handful of cilantro, and cut it all up, and mix it in with some lime juice. You can blend it to your degree of chunkiness. If you leave it as is, it makes a refreshing pico de gallo for a hot summer day.
I admit, I stole 'stoup' from the omnipresent exuberant Rachel Ray. 'Stoup' is a cross between soup and stew, and in my case, it means Spanish rice gone woefully wrong but in a totally tasty way (no, I didn't splat rice all over the place! You people!). This happens to be my fallback recipe on Sunday evenings when I'm entirely too lazy to make something that requires more effort than stirring. It's quick, simple, gets all your nutrients into one pot, and did I mention it's rather inexpensive? And also that there's only one pot so clean up is a cinch? Total prep time is about 10 minutes, and total cooking time is about 40 minutes.
1 can garbanzo beans (or kidney beans), drained 1 can sweet corn, drained 1 can stewed tomatoes with garlic, oregano and basil 1 green pepper, chopped 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, chopped 3 tbs vegetable oil 1 cup rice 1 cup water 1 pinch red pepper flakes 2 tbs cumin 1 pinch corinder seeds salt & pepper & sugar to taste
1. Sautee the rice in the vegetable oil until golden brown. This is also the time to add all the red pepper flakes, cumin, corinder seeds, garlic, and onion.
2. Once the rice is golden brown, dump in the can of tomatoes, juice and all. Fill the tomato can with water and dump the water into the pot. Stir.
3. After about 5-10 minutes, add garbanzo beans and corn. Stir.
4. At about the 20 minute mark, add the green pepper. Stir.
5. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is soft. Be sure to stir occasionally. The final product will be overall watery, but mmm mmm good! Add salt, pepper and sugar, if required, for taste.