You would think that by my mid-30s, and having been a vegetarian the majority of my life, that I would have tried to make fried tofu before. Alas, it was one of those things that I was scared to make because I had never watched someone make it. One thing I have learned about myself is I tend to do better after watching someone demonstrate, maybe a reason I became a teacher. Although I was intimidated by the task, once doing it, we realized how simple and tasty the dish could be. Kids and adults would love this crispy on the outside and firm on the inside tofu. This is definitely going to be a classic in our house.
I used my Spring Break as an opportunity to research making fried tofu. We quickly decided that it was best to find a vegan recipe, since we would enjoy the recipe with our vegetable stir fry. Of course, no recipe worked with what we tend to keep on hand. I did not want to resort to using eggs, it just seemed silly to introduce dairy to the dish. So, I combined a few recipes for the dish below, and made sure it was consistent with our pantry. Feel free to modify to work with yours!
Fried Tofu (Vegan)
- 1 package of extra firm tofu
- 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1 tb nutritional yeast
- t tb minced garlic flakes
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup of oil
1. Slice the tofu loaf in half horizontally. Then, cut it in half vertically. Cut again horizontally four times. This should make tofu pieces about 1 inch deep and 2-3 inches long. Place a paper towel on a tray, then tofu, then paper towel, and finally a plate on top. Let the tofu press for 15 minutes.
2. Stir together the panko, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once the mixture is even, dredge the tofu through and place on a plate. Once you are done with all the tofu, put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to help the breading set.
3. Heat oil in a wok or caste iron pan. Heat medium/high**. When ready, place a few pieces of tofu in, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Don’t shift it around.
Once the bottom has browned, flip. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you need to, keep the tofu warm in your oven at 200, while you finish the batch. Enjoy with fried rice, or any other dish.
*** Please use caution with the hot oil. Some general thoughts, don’t use anything that has touched water when lifting the tofu, or the oil will go nuts. Also, I like woks when frying, because they give depth for the oil, but also give you space to sit back. Turn the oil down if it is splattering.
Here is a fantastic recipe from our neighbor and long time friend KDK. Everyone can use a good bean recipe, and Cuban black beans are even better!
Growing up my mom worked full time as a teacher and got home just in time to get dinner on the table. So there wasn’t a lot of room for originality and we didn’t eat big, elaborate meals. We ate simple food that was easy to fix and good for us. My mom is a huge fan of a healthy, well balanced plate and taught me the importance of a “rainbow of colors” on your plate (I still use it to this day when I make dinner). My mom also didn’t grow up in the U.S., she was born and raised in Cuba. So, while she didn’t cook tons of Cuban food every night (my dad is American and very “meat and potatoes”), black beans were a weekly staple in our house. Over rice, pureed into soup, in dip, you name it, we ate it. To this day, I judge every plate of black beans I eat against my mother’s. Whenever we go home we ask her to make them, and she makes them now for our kids. Occasionally I try my hand at it, and I know it’s not quite as good, but they’ll do when she’s not around. The key to good black beans is time. They’re not hard to make, not ingredient heavy, they just take time and patience. I love to eat them over some brown rice, but they’re great in tacos, as a soup or even under a nice Tuna (sorry, we’re not vegetarians!) with some fresh avocado. Enjoy!
KDK Mama’s Black Beans
- 1lb. dry black beans (I use Goya)
- 6 cups water
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 1 green pepper (diced)
- 8 cloves garlic (diced)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1. Soak the beans overnight. In a pinch, you can use hot water instead of cold, mix with beans, bring to a boil, and then let sit for an hour. But it’s better to just let them soak all night.
2. Cook covered on high until they boil. When boiling, lower heat (keep covered) and cook for 45 minutes.
3. In frying pan saute onion, green pepper and garlic in the olive oil.
4. When beans are done, take out 1 cup and mash (I use a potato masher, but my mom uses a good old-fashioned fork). Then return the to the pot and add in the sauteed vegetables. The add the salt, pepper, oregano, sugar and bay leaf.
A few weeks ago, I decided to delve into my very large recipe archive on Pinterest, and cook a new recipe a night. This was a bit of an ambitious goal, and I have to admit that one night I broke down and just cooked white beans with a jar of masala sauce and called it a night. However, the main point was to introduce new recipes that seemed to be easy, healthy, and most importantly, comprised of ingredients we already keep in our pantry. I wanted to update my weeknight routine, and it needed to fit with my new years resolution of being kind to my body. We enjoyed a delicious Inside-Out Spring Roll Salad, Butternut Squash Wontons, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito, a vegan version of a Pasta Puttanesca, and a few others. Some were delicious, others did not live up to their picture.
What I learned about myself is that I can not, under any circumstances, stick to a recipe. The project was to follow 5 Pinterest recipes, and what do I do? I lighten the dressing on Spring Roll Salad. We cut down on the clean up by compacting the cooking process of the wontons by roasting the butternut squash and garlic together. For the burrito, we removed the cheese, and added salsa and guacamole to give moisture. Finally, the pasta needed major changes. So much so, that I realized I had made a different version of the Italian classic. We loved the results so much that I decided to write it up on the blog
Pasta Puttanesca, meaning “Whore’s Pasta”, is usually cooked with sardines, olives, tomatoes, and capers. The idea is that the recipe is comprised of items people in an lower income economic group could quickly pull together dinner from their pantry. Now, Italian purists have certain convictions about recipe authenticity. Just look at the comments section of the original recipe, where they slammed the author for having cheese and fish together–something that had also struck me odd about the recipe, but I digress. However, Italian food is also fluid based off of seasonal ingredients, much less rigid then say French food. Originally, Puttanesca should have sardines, and well, being vegetarian, that just wasn’t going to happen. Cooked during winter, we had no fresh basil. Plus, I wanted to make this dairy free, so we had to drop the cheese. So, this meant I needed to play with portions and find a happy medium so we wouldn’t miss the ingredients. We added more olives and much more spice, and the result was a dish with a little more complexity. This is definitely an easy, healthy meal to add to your repertoire. Enjoy!
- olive oil
- 1 cup of onions, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes (14 oz)
- 1 can of olives, roughly chopped (not pre-chopped)
- 1/4 cup of capers
- 2 tb dried basil
- 1 tb dried oregano
- 1 tb red pepper flakes, crushed
- 1lb of whole wheat cappellini or angel hair
1. In a large saute pan, put in two tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic with the onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the next 8 ingredients. Let the sauce simmer, and stir occasionally. Simmer for 20 minutes
2. Meanwhile, boil water. Once the sauce seems to have blended together, cook your pasta in the water. Drain, then fold the pasta into the sauce. Serve hot.
We love cucumbers around here. Ever since Serafina started chomping on solids, cucumbers ranked among her favorite foods. I have heard from parents that some of her classmates say they want a “Serafina lunch,” which apparently means tomatoes, cucumbers, pita, cheese bites, and hummus. They tell their parents that “Serafina loves cucumbers.” I thought I was the lazy parent tossing a bunch of healthy ingredients in her little lunch box, and in the end she started a lunch trend.
The other night, we had our best friends over for dinner. Serafina and their daughter Elaine ran wild with giggles around the house. It is amazing how wonderfully these two get along, they truly are partners in crime. The filled the hours playing red light/ green light, stoller derby, and joint coloring on the easel while wearing the same strand of Mardi Gras beads. We decided to roast asparagus and try out the zucchini fritters we enjoyed at Christmas. After doubling the ingredients and adding scallions, I realized I wanted to have a light side for a healthy dinner. Thus, I tossed together a cucumber salad, normally a summer treat, and it worked perfectly for our dinner. In fact, upon sitting at the table I realized I had made a plate filled with green deliciousness, worthy of a St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
- 2 English Cucumbers
- 1 tb kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of sliced red onion and chopped
- 1/4 cup of chopped dill
- 2 tb champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
1. Slice the cucumber in half, lengthwise. Using a peeler or melon ball spoon, hold the cucumber over a sink, and carve out the seeds in the center. Next, slice the cucumbers horizontally. Place in a bowl and toss in the salt, red onion, and dill.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
3. Check your cucumbers and drain any of the water at the bottom of the bowl. Then, pour the vinegar over the cucumbers. Let flavors meld for a bit before you serve. Right before you do share your salad, spoon the dressing at the bottom back on top of the cucumber salad.
We are big fans of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Not only did the author, Deb Perelman, create an enjoyable book to read, but the recipes are innovative without being overly done. A former vegetarian, she even has a section for vegetarian mains. We have tried a few recipes from the cookbook, and all of them end up simple to create and delicious. I highly recommend the cookbook.
A few Saturday nights ago, we decided to have a simple, at-home date night: streaming Netflix and a homemade pizza. Using Perelman’s recipe as a guide, with a few minor adjustments, we created this shaved asparagus pizza, and immediately devoured it. The combination of the scallions and asparagus are phenomenal.
Note: I changed the cooking heat, since pizza dough needs to cook from the inside a little slower than what she had provided. I also added Pecorino to give the cheese some kick. We also used whole wheat pizza dough.
Shaved Asparagus Pizza
- Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
- 1 bunch of asparagus (20 stalks or so)
- 1/2 cup of thinly sliced scallions
- 2 cups of shredded part-skim mozzarella
- 1/4 cup of Pecorino cheese
- 1 tablespoon ground pepper
- Sprinkling of Parmesan
1.Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
2. Roll out your pizza dough on a pizza peel covered in corn meal. Cover the dough with mozzarella and Pecorino.
3. Using a peeler, hold the stalks and peel the asparagus, making shavings. Top the pizza with the shavings and scallions.
4. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan and ground pepper.
5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, raise the heat to 500, and bake for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is golden and the asparagus lightly browned.
Taco salad is often drenched in cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing, making it a definite unhealthy menu choice. Sometimes, when we want a light weeknight meal and find an almost empty bag of tortilla chips tempting, we toss together this combo to make a much healthier version. There are so many ingredients, and topped with a quality salsa, you can really enjoy the dish without the fat.
Healthy Taco Salad
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup of water
- 1 bag of Boca Soy Crumbles
- 1 cup of black beans
- 2 cups of romaine lettuce, sliced horizontally
- 1 cup of sliced tomatoes
- 1 cup of corn
- 1 cup of salsa
- 2 cups of tortilla chips (preferably the broken bits at the bottom of the bag)
- avocado, hot sauce, and onions (optional)
1. Mix together the seasoning ingredients. Once it appears even, pour in the water and stir together.
2. On a stove top, saute the soy crumbles in the taco seasoning. Add in the black beans and cook over low for 10 minutes.
3. Assemble your salads, romaine lettuce on the bottom, then soy crumbles, corn, tomatoes and salsa. Mix in the tortilla chips.