Killer tofu

October 7, 2009

Miss me?

Rhetorical question!

Did you ever watch Doug? It reminds me of sleepovers at my friend Cassie’s apartment in elementary school. Her apartment had Zax lightswitch plates and her dad made breakfast on Saturday mornings. It was awesome and made me really want to live in the apartment. On an unrelated note, I also aspired to be a cashier at that point in my life. Having now lived both of those dreams, I know they both suck. But I still had a lot of fun walking up and down the cash register aisles at Office Depot.

Anyway, one of those Saturday mornings I spent at Cassie’s, we watched an episode of Doug featuring awesome mythical band The Beets’ seminal hit, “Killer Tofu,” which I loved, even though I probably didn’t eat tofu until maybe a dozen years later.

Take note of awesome lines like “I can eat my sugar cereal, but it makes my teeth bacterial.”

There’s a point to this, beyond random childhood memories.

Tonight’s dinner had some killer tofu in it.

sweet and spicy stirfry

sweet and spicy stir fry

This was an eggplant, red pepper, and tofu stirfry with a generous helping of crushed red pepper and garlic, balanced out with a little rice wine vinegar and ground ginger. I was pretty nervous about the eggplant, but since I’ve been enjoying it so much roasted and baked, I had to give it a shot. Success! I’m looking forward to having it again for lunch tomorrow.

It more than made up for yesterday’s disappointingly bland chili, and left me with enough room for a slice of this awesome apple cake I made last night. I’d share a picture, but they’re fairly awful. I need more light bulbs, stat. But, seriously, I’m two for two with cakes from The Food Librarian, and I keep finding more recipes I want to try. Food + librarians = obviously a good match.

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Catching up: salad

August 30, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I thought these last three weeks just breezed by!

Maybe I didn’t realize it as much last year at this time, since I spent half of the month on vacation, but for anyone who teaches or works in higher education, August is basically a lost month.

But that’s no excuse. This is a cooking blog.

And I have been cooking. Some decent food, some frustrating food (I’m looking at you, brown rice risotto OR two hours of my life that I spent standing over a hot stove on a hot day saying “Matt, come here, I think it might be absorbing some liquid! I think it’s working now… Wait, never mind, it still tastes like sticks.”), and then some disappointing food (zucchini polenta tart that should have been good but just didn’t get along with my oven and wow did it really not look like the picture on her site).

But when life gets stressful and you’re starting to run out of confidence in your ability to cook normal meals, it’s time for some salad.

We’ve had lots of them over the past few weeks, but allow me to highlight a few:

Heidi Swanson's Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad

Heidi Swanson's Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad

We had this over plain old green leaf lettuce, but it would basically be good over anything because it is, perhaps, the greatest salad of all time. And, as a testament to it’s goodness, Matt asked if we could have it again later that same week. That’s just not the kind of success I usually associate with cucumbers and tofu.

I used the rest of the avocado from that one to try to recreate my favorite black bean salad from Toto’s Tacoz. You may notice that the beans look a little worse for the wear. That’s what seems to happen when I freeze them and heat them up later. They still taste good.

not quite as good as Toto's

not quite as good as Toto's, although my oven-roasted chips are better.

It’s basically homemade nachos, but, you know, better for you. Because of the lettuce? We tried it again last week with pinto beans and actually had some cheese on hand, which helped contribute to the nacho-ness of it all. This also expands nicely to feed a crowd. All you need are chips (I just slice up tortillas with a pizza cutter, spray some oil over them, toast them in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes per side, and enjoy. You could also buy a bag, but this is much cheaper and also tastes better), lots of lettuce, a few cups of black beans, some avocado, and, if you’re in the mood, a cilantro-lime dressing would go quite nicely. So does salsa. We took an earlier prototype to a Dia de los Muertos party a few years ago that sticks out in my mind as one of the most surreal experiences in my recent memory. There was all of this food and we met a few really fascinating people I haven’t seen since. And someone told me my jacket “look[ed] smart” as we were leaving. And then we saw a coyote on the way home.

This next salad turned out much better than I thought it might when I was throwing stuff together in a pan.

hot and cold salad

hot and cold salad

This was staggeringly easy. All I did was chop and soak a few dried tomatoes in some boiling water for about 20 minutes, get Matt to wash and rip a head of lettuce into smaller pieces, heat a few cloves of minced garlic in a hot pan with olive oil, rinse off some thawed frozen cannellini beans, add those to the pan when the garlic is fragrant, then liberally add red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper, and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. I added the tomatoes and another splash or two of lemon juice and bam. The perfect salad topping, already dressed and ready. I added some feta for some extra saltiness. This would also be really good in a grain salad, especially with barley or something else that’s hearty and chewy as a base.

And here ends my homage to salads and their utility (and deliciousness) during times of stress. Up next: pasta!


Double dinners

June 24, 2009

By some scheduling accidents of my own doing, I am working from 8am to 8pm tomorrow. Which means that tonight I made two dinners. I wanted to make some peanut sesame noodles that we could eat both tonight and tomorrow, but I misjudged my supply of soba noodles and it turns out that I was wrong. So I was left with a fully prepared meal that I didn’t want to eat yet and half a block of tofu.

Ever since we thawed out our wedding cake (which was, miraculously, still delicious; that’s the beauty of peanut butter and jelly cake with buttercream frosting), I have been feeling this compulsion to clean out the rest of the freezer. Since I had this half block of tofu, I rooted around and found a bag of frozen “stir fry vegetables” that we were going to use for pasta salad or something, but I made the executive decision to actually use them as they were intended: in stir fry. For frozen vegetables, they actually turned out fairly well, although the picture on the bag was a total lie. It looked like a balanced mix of green things and carrots, red peppers, and mushrooms. There were literally two mushrooms in there, and I only saw one pepper. But, whatever, if you stir fry anything in sesame oil and douse it with a soy sauce/rice vingegar/ginger/garlic/crushed red pepper sauce, it tastes fine.

do you see any red peppers? no. i didn't think so.

do you see any red peppers? no. i didn't think so.

This was cheap, too. Cheap cheap. Especially compared to those frozen bags of “stir fry” that are supposed to be a complete meal so they cost $5.99 or something. If I’d been really smart I would have added the half bag of “peppers and onions mix” that I have taking up space in the freezer. More peppers in the meal and more space in there for beans and chocolate. But I guess I’m not really smart.

the breakdown

1 bag of “stir fry vegetables” = $1.00
1/2 block extra firm tofu at $2.69/block = $1.35
1 cup short grain brown rice = $1.00
1T sesame oil= $.40 (this is really a pantry staple but it’s much more expensive that oils I usually use, so I feel like I should count it separately)
and some pantry staples (crushed red pepper, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ground ginger)

grand total = $3.75

That’s $.94 a serving. Which is cheap. Also, did I mention that I can actually see the bottom of one of the shelves in the freezer. That’s worth something.


Grilling in

May 25, 2009

Even if Memorial Day wasn’t the unofficial start of summer, the fact that it was 88 degrees in our apartment at 7:00 this morning would have tipped me off to the change in seasons. Over the past few nights, I’ve learned my lesson about seasonally inappropriate cooking. First, it is not the most awesome idea to make a spinach ricotta quiche when it is 90+ in the kitchen, however delightful it ended up being.

And  then there was this black bean soup and sauteed asparagus with cilantro pesto and lime cream…

delicious, if ill-advised

delicious, if ill-advised

It’s just too hot for soup now. It’s time for me to get real with my menu planning.

Last night’s curried beans and greens were a little better, as they required only some stovetop simmering.

basically everything I like to eat in a single bowl.

basically everything I like to eat in a single bowl.

Tonight, in honor of the holiday, we grilled in. We don’t grill out because 1) we don’t have a grill, 2) we don’t have a yard or really even anything resembling one (as much as I’d love to call the alley next to us a yard, it’s just not realistic) and 3) I’m really more of an indoors person.

What we do have is the will to grill. Also, a grill pan, a stove, and a bulk bag of bamboo skewers. Bring it.

These were pretty basic extra firm tofu, pepper, and mushrooms skewers, marinated for a few hours in a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and sriracha. Apparently the reason I’m constantly disappointed by tofu is that I’ve been buying that silken stuff, which is the only kind they usually have at Dillon’s. When they have tofu at all. I got this at the coop and it’s like a new world of tofu. Substantial tofu. Now I know why restaurant tofu always tastes better than mine. Because it is.

on the grill

on the grill

In the grill pan over medium for 2 minutes or so per side.

all done

all done

And what’s a cook-in without slaw? I made a mix of broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, mixed bean sprouts, and a dressing of rice vinegar, honey, ginger, and oil.

and I never even had to leave the house.

and I never even had to leave the house.

Okay, I’m off to sit in the sweat lodge that is my living room.


Risottotorial.

May 15, 2009

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way it’s that risotto is not a weeknight food. At least not for someone who is consistently dead asleep by 10pm. It’s actually perfect for Friday nights for me, because I find the whole process very soothing and I also usually have just enough of that frantic pre-weekend energy to push me through.

Tonight was a good risotto night, as it’s been kind of dark and rainy all day, my back isn’t hurting as much – which is either progress or doctor-approved high doses of Aleve – and, oh yeah, we’re broke and couldn’t go out on a date like normal people.

In case you’re new, you might not know that I do not make traditional risotto because I don’t really like arborio rice. I can’t put my finger on why, but it just never really does it for me. Barley, though, barley is like gold in this house. Gold that sells for 1.31 a pound.

Anyway, it’s made the same way. Let’s take a little journey supplemented by photographs, shall we?

  1. Heat 5 cups of liquid (any combo of broth and water) over medium in a saucepan.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add about a cup of chopped onion (embarrassingly, I didn’t have an onion on hand, or even frozen chopped onions, so I had to skip this step).
  4. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and heat until fragrant.
  5. Add a little over a cup (probably about 1 1/4 cup) and cook, stirring, until coated with the olive oil.IMG_2199
  6. Add about 1/2 cup of dry white wine.IMG_2200
  7. When the wine has cooked down, start adding the broth. Add about 1/2 cup at a time and let that absorb before you add more. Repeat until all of the broth is absorbed. This usually takes about 40-45 minutes.IMG_2201
    Okay, true confession: sometimes I just dump all five cups of the broth in with the barley and let it go. I know, I know. They’re going to take away my home chef identification card. To my credit, I did it the right way this time.
  8. I made spinach risotto this time around, so I added 1/2 a bag of frozen cut spinach when I poured in the last of the broth.
  9. When all liquid is absorbed, add salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to taste.
  10. Stir and heat over low until all cheese is melted. IMG_2202

I had mine with baked tofu and some roasted asparagus and zucchini.

I really need to take Food Blogging 101: Plating

I really need to take Food Blogging 101: Plating and Food Photography

I’m having kind of an insane craving for oatmeal cookies, so I think I may need to go deal with that.


Suffering succotash

April 19, 2009

This week was a little too heavy on the pain and fatigue for my taste, but I’m pretty proud of myself for actually managing to cook some easy meals that were healthy, too. It’s easy for me to lose focus when I’m fatigued, to go out to eat (usually not something balanced or even healthy) or to just eat peanut butter and ice cream for dinner because it’s so easy (and, let’s face it, delicious). But I try to remind myself that eating real meals with actual vegetables and proteins and  grains is almost guaranteed to make me feel better, even if it takes effort.

orzo succotash

orzo succotash salad

The “succotash” is kind of controversial because I used black beans instead of limas, but, what can I say? I like to think outside the box. And we didn’t have limas. And I wanted it to be kind of Mexican themed. I made this Wednesday night, which was probably the peak of my fatigue, when I came home and sat down and didn’t think I’d be able to get up again, ever. There may have been some tears of frustration. But I’m strong-willed, so I pushed myself up and made this dinner in about 7 minutes. All I did was cook 1/2 cup of orzo and then add it to a can of black beans, a can of corn (both drained and rinsed), and a half a pint of grape tomatoes, which I quartered. I wanted to make a nice lime dressing for it, but the bottled lime juice I had is past its date. So I tried to just spice it up with some cumin and cayenne, but it was still bland  and emotionally unfulfilling. I had to follow it up with a bowl of cereal.

stir fry salad

stir fry salad

This one was inspired by a wakame rice salad recipe from Clean Eating. But that one takes two hours, and requires wakame. This one took about 20 minutes and required whatever I had on hand. Basically just brown rice mixed with stir fried tofu and veggies (peppers, onions, carrots, mushrooms) and dressed with a tasty soy sauce/rice vinegar/oil/ginger combo, the only part of the recipe I actually followed.

Last night we got ice cream at the campus dairy bar at 5:30 and when I was finally hungry again, all I wanted were sweet potatoes, so dinner ended up being peppermint ice cream, roasted sweet potatoes, and some random roasted tomatoes. Very fancy.

Tonight, I made something else from the Tropical Vegan Kitchen.

spicy bolivian-style lentils over quinoa

spicy bolivian-style lentils over quinoa

It was supposed to be over rice, but, as you know, we just had rice. And I like to shake things up.

This meal took a little longer, but I had some energy from the gym so I went for it. Totally worth it. What makes the lentils “Bolivian-style”? Chipotle puree! This was so easy. All you do is take a 7 oz can of chipotles in adobo and puree them in the food processor until smooth. I only used a teaspoon of puree here, but it was enough to add a ton of awesome flavor and smokiness to the whole dish. And I have a ziploc bag full of it in the refrigerator, so I need to brainstorm other uses. Any ideas?

We hit up the Tulip Festival in Wamego today, so I think I’m going to go enjoy some of the cookies and wine we brought back. Dessert of champions.


I like to make curry.

March 22, 2009

In Seattle, it seemed like half of the restaurants I went to had some kind of vegetable curry on the menu. Something else always won out when it came time to order, but I’ve been thinking about curry since then.

After a very glamorous day of doing things like grocery shopping and taxes and not cleaning the bathroom, I decided to make my curry dream a reality. I turned to my favorite recipe source – Heidi Swanson. I had almost everything for this curry, so I went for it.

cashew-less cashew curry

cashew-less cashew curry with brown basmati rice

The only cashews I have on hand have been in the refrigerator for over a year and apparently nuts go bad so I wasn’t willing to take that risk. I just subbed in a bunch of extra tofu, cauliflower, and green beans.

This was so easy, and while I thought it lacked some depth, Matt said it had good flavor and good heat, so who am I to judge? Although, to be fair, he’s under the influence of cold medicine and this movie, so I’m not sure he’s to be trusted.

On that note, I think it’s time for me to hit publish and exit the living room. Sun Ra is really starting to freak me out.