Thai Lettuce Wraps with a Sweet Ginger Sauce

Tofu Thai Lettuce Wraps with a sweet garlic and ginger sauce.

(Rachel – The Vegan-Eatin’ Daughter)

I love P.F. Changs. It’s my go-to special occasion restaurant when I get to do the picking (I’m still working on Jared and Asian food–baby steps). In fact, that’s where I asked to go for Mother’s Day. We took Jackson along and sat outside on the patio on a beautiful Spring day. As usual, the service and food were both great. Their chefs understand and respect vegan diets, which makes eating there so easy. However, the view was of a busy mall parking lot and there was an out of control gnat problem. I longed for my own patio with our country pasture view and my own personal fly swatter.

I’ve started to notice more often than not, I regret dining out. Whether for comfort, ease with Jackson, or control over what goes into our food, I just really prefer eating at home these days. So this week, I made my own version of P.F. Chang’s famous lettuce wraps. Fine dinin’ in my t-shirt and yoga pants on my own back porch. Aahhh.

Just like theirs, these can be made with tofu or chicken. The sweet ginger sauce is good enough to drink. And since you made it at home, their really will be no one around to judge you if you choose to do so. Just make sure you save some for the lettuce wraps.

Arrange the lettuce cups in a pretty flower-like arrangement and serve the cashews, cilantro, and green onions right on the cutting board for a fun and easy presentation.

Thai Lettuce Wraps with a Sweet Ginger Sauce

Serves 4 entree sizes or 8 appetizer portions

Ingredients

Stir Fry
1 block of firm tofu, crumbled or chopped into small cubes (could also use shredded or chopped chicken)
canola oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chili pepper, sliced thinly
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 14.5 oz can baby corn, drained and chopped
1/2 c. diced canned pineapple (reserve juice for sauce)
1 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained and roughly chopped
1 8 oz can bamboo shoots, drained
2 green onions, chopped
several lettuce leaves (iceberg or romaine work nicely)

(Other veggies like shredded carrots and cabbage would work well in this too)

Marinade & Dipping Sauce
1 T. canola oil
2 T. fresh ginger, minced or finely diced
1 T. garlic, minced
1/2 c. Braggs Amino Acids (or Soy Sauce)
3 T. sweet chili sauce (in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores)
2 T. brown sugar
1 c. pineapple juice (buy a 15 oz can of diced pineapples and use juice here and pineapples in stir-fry)
1/2 c. veggie broth or water

Toppings
1/2 cup toasted cashews, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
1 green onion, chopped

Directions

Marinade & Dipping Sauce
In a sauce pan, heat canola oil on medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Set aside 1 cup. When you get the stir-fry going, bring remaining sauce to a boil, then simmer on med-low to reduce for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir-Fry
Use half of the reserved sauce to marinate the tofu or protein for 30 minutes or longer. (This can be done the night before to save time the next day.)

In a large skillet or wok, heat about a tablespoon or so of canola oil on medium high. I like to chop as I cook, so chop the onions while the oil is heating, then chop the garlic and add it, then the chili, then the mushrooms, baby corn, pineapple, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots.

In a separate nonstick skillet, heat about two tablespoons of canola oil and the tofu on medium high heat. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining reserved sauce and cook for a few more minutes. Then, combine the tofu with the veggies. Add the green onions at the last minute. (Follow similar steps for chicken, but adjust cooking time as needed.)

Serve in lettuce cups, with chopped cashews, cilantro, and more green onions for toppings on the side and individual sides of the dipping sauce.

Notes: I changed the recipe slightly from what is pictured. I cooked the tofu with the veggies and it tasted good, but didn’t pick up as much color as it gets when cooked on it’s own, so I adjusted it so yours should have more color than mine did. Also, the lettuce I used was Living Lettuce. It looked really pretty, but got mushy too fast. It needs something sturdier like romaine or ice berg.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Thai Lettuce Wraps with a Sweet Ginger Sauce
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-pm
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Crispy Southern Fried Tofu

Crispy Southern Fried Tofu

(Becky, the Butter Lovin’ Mama)

When Rachel and I pitched our new book we described it as Alicia Silverstone meets Paula Deen.   This fried tofu recipe is the perfect mingling of a young vegan chef with an older southern cookin’ mama.

Say the word “tofu” to non-vegans and vegetarians and wait to see how quickly they respond with some form of the words “yuck,” “spongy,” or “blah.”

What I’ve discovered about tofu is that it is indeed “yucky, spongy and blah” until you cook it correctly.  I now love and often prefer it to meat, as long as it is sautéed or baked in a coating until caramelized, or…. fried. Let’s be honest:  frying is not the healthiest method of cooking anything. However, as a treat, it is one of the tastiest ways to cook anything.

My 5 year old  grandson Georgie is staying with us this week,  and had never experienced  Kentucky Fried Chicken. He laughed and laughed when I told him we were going to get “chicken in a bucket” for dinner.  (At the end of a week with a five year old, this Nonny was losing touch with her normal cooking groove.  Lack of sleep and  uninterrupted thoughts will do this to a person, as adorable as he may be!)   But one taste of KFC chicken leg and he started humming happy “mmm…mmmm…MMM’s” and saying things like, “I can’t stop eating this!” and “This is the best chicken I ever had.”  He had three pieces before he finally paused to lick every finger on his hands.

Georgie chowing down on his first piece of southern fried chicken, Colonel Sanders style

Granted, a roast chicken is much healthier, but now and again, there’s just nothing like a good ol’ southern friend chicken.  Or tofu.

Rachel and I were together in Phoenix  this past fall, when we both ordered the crispy tofu and noodles dish at an Asian restaurant.  When we took a bite of the tofu and it actually went “crunch,” it was a revelation.  Tofu can crunch?  Not only that, but the inside of the crunchy coating was a pillow of silken perfection.   I had to duplicate it. This recipe below turned out at least as good as that lovely crunchy tofu in Phoenix.  It’s a wonderful “gateway recipe” to get people who are afraid of tofu to give it a try.

Becky’s Southern Fried Tofu

Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients

1/2 block tofu, diced in squares about the size of a dice (little more than 1/2 inch squares)

1/4 c. teriyaki sauce

1 t. sesame oil

1 T. thai chili sauce

canola or coconut oil for frying

1/2 c. cornstarch

1/2 t. sea salt

/3 c. toasted sesame seeds

More teriyaki and chili sauce for coating and dipping, if desired (to personal taste)

2 slices fresh lime

1/4 c. chopped green onion

Directions:

Fill a medium sized  sauce pot with oil until it is one and one half to two inches deep. Heat oil at medium high. (Or use a fryer.)

Use medium saucepan filled 1 1/2 to 2 inches with oil

Mix teriyaki sauce, sesame oil and chili sauce in a shallow bowl.  Use a spoon to toss and coat the pieces of tofu lightly.

Next, toss the tofu  in a shallow bowl of cornstarch mixed with 1/2 t.  salt.

Tofu marinated, tossed in cornstarch. After frying you will roll in the bowl of sesame seeds.

Carefully place tofu in small batches  in sauce pan or fryer. Using a heat proof slotted spoon, turn the tofu until it is golden brown on all sides and remove with the same spoon (tapping to drain off oil) to a shallow bowl with sesame seeds.   Gently toss the tofu in sesame seeds.  Taste and if needed sprinkle with a very light dusting of sea salt.

Can use as an appetizer just like this, or coated in a bit more teriyaki sauce with a side of edamame.

Variation: Delicious also served with a variety of Asian sauces (such as teriyaki, black bean, hoisin, low sodium soy, Thai Sweet Chili sauce,  plum sauce, hot chili sauce , lime, sesame oil, grated ginger), chopped green onions, and served with a slice of lime over a bowl of rice and steamed veggies.  A sprinkle of chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro is wonderful with this dish as well.

Southern Fried Tofu

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Crispy Southern Fried Tofu
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-oj
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Sweet and Smoky Tilapia

Becky's Sweet Smoky Talapia

I raised my kids on a lake in the country in small town Texas.  I had three sons who all loved to fish, and by the time my youngest, Gabe, was six,  he could dig for his own worms, bait his own hook, walk out the back door to the dock and pull in a small crappie (pronounced “croppie” ) or two.

His older brothers would paddle the boat out further and catch bigger bass, and Gabe longed to catch a bass with all his little heart.  One day, I was being interviewed  “live” on the radio, via telephone.  I think I was discussing my first book, Worms in My Tea (co-authored with my mom, Ruthie), when the door to my office swung open, and a large mouth bass nearly smacked me in the face.  When I calmed down from the shock of a fish flying in my office, I realized the fish was on the hook end of a fishing pole, being held by one excited little boy on the other end.

“Mom!” he yelled. “I caught a bass!”  He sure did,  and the news of it was broadcast live, somewhere on the radio in middle America.  I managed to wipe fishy lake water from my brow, congratulate Gabe and carry on with the interview.  These are things professional mothers do.

But I digress. I started this blog post thinking about crappie, and how, though they aren’t very big,  they are, as we say in Texas, “some good eatin’.”  And we ate a lot of them.  So when the small fish, tilapia, seemed to swim out of nowhere into our supermarkets and on to the foodie scene as the new Rock Star of mild, affordable fish, I couldn’t help thinking how much they looked and tasted like crappie.  In fact, who knows? They might just be crappie, with a fancy new name.

I loved tilapia at first bite.  And it’s the best last-minute dinner! Even if it is frozen, it thaws in no time. Below is one of my favorite fish dishes.  It’s fast, it is easy, it tastes amazing with its sweet, smoky, spicy, citrus flavors.   And look how beautiful it is!  Serve with an ear of fresh corn and a salad with avocado, and you’ve got a beautiful plate of healthy “good eatin’.”

Here’s something you may not know about tilapia, but as soon as you read this you can tell your friends and amaze them with it.  Or just sound like a fish fact Know-it-All.  Tilapia can be found in the Sea of Galilee, and are sometimes called “St. Peter’s fish.” This comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth.   (Matthew 14:24-27.)

Becky's Sweet and Smoky Talapia

Becky’s Sweet and Smoky Tilapia

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter

4 medium to large tilapia fillets

2 T. smoked paprika

2 T. cumin

3 T. brown sugar

salt and pepper

1 lemon, cut in half

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Put oil and butter in rectangle pan (large enough to hold tilapia without overlapping) and put in oven until butter has melted.  Tilt pan until it is evenly coated.

In small bowl, mix paprika, cumin and brown sugar.  Lightly salt and pepper both sides of 4 fillets. Lay tilapia fillets side by side in the buttery pan. Turn over so both sides are coated with oil/butter.  Generously sprinkle tops of tilapia with the brown sugar-spice mix (using all of it), patting  it in gently as you would a rub or blackening seasoning.  Squeeze one half lemon over all.

Put in oven for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Then turn oven to broil and watching carefully, broil the tops of the fish until the spice mixture starts to caramelize.  Remove,  serve with the remaining lemon half, cut in pretty slices as garnish.

Variations: Try this method with other fish and other spices you enjoy!

Vegan Variation:  Use Earth Balance instead of butter, pressed or plain tofu slices or veggie burgers instead of fish.

Blackened Tofu

Rachel made this with thin slices of pressed tofu & Earth Balance, following the above directions exactly and said it was delicious!

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet and Smokey Tilapia
The URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/11/sweet-and-smoky-talapia

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