Buttery Tofu and Vegetables with Spicy Plum Sauce

Italian Prune Plums, just a small portion of my 3 pound Costco purchase.

I bought three pounds of fresh prunes.

I’ve never bought a single fresh prune, let alone three pounds of them.

What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking “What a deal, three pounds of prunes for only $7!”

At Costco, among the pallets of 50-pound bags of dog food and cases of toilet paper bigger than my bathroom, three pounds of prunes and $7 purchases seem like nothing … until the cashier tells me the total sum of all my “little” purchases and I try to find room in my crisper, already filled with a 10-pound bag of organic carrots, for the case of prunes.

Technically, I think they are plums, Italian Prune Plums. They taste and look a lot like plums,  just a little more tart. Jackson and I enjoyed snacking on them fresh out of the over-stuffed crisper drawer for awhile. I put them on a pizza, with caramalized onions, vegan applewood sausage, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, and grapes. Prune pizza, who knew it would taste like a little slice of sweet and savory heaven?

One night, I chopped them up and threw them in pot on the stove while I heated up some of another impulse Costco purchase, a huge box of spring rolls. Can you see I have a problem? Anyway, the prune plums reduced into this gorgeous sweet red sauce. With a dash of spicy chili paste, it made the perfect dip for a spring roll. Though I could eat egg rolls and pizza every night, I probably shouldn’t. So, I needed a recipe that would really make a dent in my prune inventory without putting unsightly dents on my thighs. Last night, I made the prune plum sauce again and served it with buttery roasted vegetables and tofu over brown rice. All the flavors were rich and deep and the colors were so beautiful.

I’m almost out of prunes now and I’m tempted to buy three more pounds.

All the ingredients people love to hate–prunes, brusel sprouts, tofu, and cabbage–in one glorious dish that proves those haters wrong.

Buttery Tofu and Vegetables with Spicy Plum Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients

Buttery Tofu and Veggies

  • 2 slices of tofu, lightly pressed with paper towel to absorb extra water
  • 1 c. Cabbage sliced into thin long strips
  • 1 c. Carrots, cut into thin long strips
  • 1/2 c. Onions, sliced into thin long strips
  • 1 c. Brussel sprouts, sliced in half
  • 1 T. Earth Balance or prefered butter
  • 1 T. Olive Oil
  • 1 T. Braggs Amino Acid (or Low Sodium Soy Sauce)
  • 1 t. Agave + a extra drizzle for tofu
  • 1 t. Kosher Salt
  • 1 t. Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • sprinkle of dried parsley, optional for color

Spicy Prune Plum Sauce

  • 2 c. Italian prune plums (or any variety of plums), chopped into small chunks
  • 1 t. Chinese chili paste
  • 1 t. Agave
  • 1/4 t. salt

Serve with brown rice.

Directions

Buttery Veggies and Tofu

Coat veggies and tofu with sweet and salty buttery blend.

Preheat oven to 400. (My oven has a convection roast setting that works nicely for this, but you certainly don’t need it). Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and spread out sliced veggies and tofu.  Mix butter, oil, Bragg’s, agave, salt and pepper, and use a pastry brush to lightly coat the veggies and tofu. Drizzle tofu with a little extra agave and a pinch of parsley for color. Cook vegetables and tofu, stirring veggies after about 10 minutes. Roast until the carrots, onions, and cabbage are soft and the Brussel sprouts are golden brown, 20-30 minutes total.

Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in these veggies. These pretty multi-colored

Buttery, flaky, and moist tofu reminded me of baked fish.

Plum Sauce

Chop up plums into small dices.

Chop plums into small dices, heat on medium heat for five minutes, stirring often. Add agave, chili paste, and salt. Continue to cook and stir for about five more minutes or until the plums turn into a beautiful red chunky sauce. Delicious with a bite of buttery flaky tofu or with fried spring rolls.

Sweet and spicy, this plum sauce was the star of the plate.


Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad

My sister and my nieces, Whitney and Tori, age 9 and 11, are here this weekend and we are enjoying them so much!  The youngest one, Whitney,  is quite the  food connoisseur, and has made me feel like the best cook on the planet with her over-the-top compliments.  She describes the food on the end of her fork as one would describe a fine wine, “I can taste the layers of flavor! The hint of coconut, the tang of pineapple…”

As soon as she arrived from Texas she asked if we could make my sweet n’ spicy meatloaf again, together.  She remembered it from three years ago, when they last came to Colorado!  We did, and she said she loved squashing the meat and the seasonings together with her bare hands.   When she took a bite of the cooked finished meatloaf she raised her hands, rolled her eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “This is even better than I dreamed it would be!”

Yesterday, I let the girls paint pictures outside under our tree and beach umbrella,  and then made them each virgin cocktails. (Cranberry Sprite, OJ and slices of lemon, lime and orange on ice.)  Whitney took one sip and said, “This is delicious!  In fact, it is as good as meatloaf!”   I wonder how many bartenders have had compliments like that.  “This Long Island Tea is as tasty as meatloaf!”  Gotta love kids.

With such an appreciative food critic in the house, it really spurred me on to bring out my inner chef.  This is a very simple Asian salad that packs a powerful burst of flavor with very few ingredients, one the whole family loved!   The key is the salt.  Be sure to use sea salt, the best you can find. McCormicks now has a sea salt grinder, where you can grind fresh flakes of sea salt on to your food.  It is quite good!  You will be amazed how good fresh sea salt can be and the “layers of flavor” that come from using the finer, gourmet versions of it.   This dish combines the smooth, richness of avocado with the crisp crunch of cucumber, the warmth of sesame oil and sesame seeds, and that final touch of freshly flaked sea salt.   So easy, but so gourmet at the same time.   I guarantee you, it is even as good as meatloaf!

Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad

Serves two to three

Ingredients

1 ripe but still firm  avocado, cut in bite sized pieces (we like a lot of avocado, so I sometimes double the avocado in this recipe)

1/2 English cucumber (or regular cucumber with seeds removed , but peel left on) cut in bite sized pieces

1 t. fresh lime juice

pinch sugar

1 T. sesame oil

1 t. sesame seeds (toasted,  white or black seeds –black seeds are actually quite pretty, but I did not have them on hand)

fresh sea salt to taste

Directions:

Gently coat the sliced avocado and cucumber in a bowl with lime juice, pinch sugar, sesame oil and seeds. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Serve in a low-rimmed edge blow or plate.


Sweet n’ Savory Asian Meatballs

(Becky, the Mama.)

“Now, that’s a good meatball,” my husband said as he took a bite of these amazingly moist Asian meatballs.

Quick. Name the scene and the movie that came to my mind in that moment.

If you guessed the scene with Rosie and the meatballs from The Wedding Singer, well, you get this free recipe for meatballs in your inbox today!

And if you didn’t guess correctly, you not only get the recipe free, but here’s the dialogue from the movie that left me smiling.

Adam Sandler is teaching a darling little old lady singing lessons, so she can sing to her husband on their 50th wedding anniversary. As he turns to leave after the lessons Rosie says, “But your payment!” And Adam Sandler’s character Robbie says, “My payment. Can I get it to go?”

Rosie calls from the kitchen, emerging with a sauce pan. “You’re such a sweet boy…letting an old woman pay you with meatballs.”

Robbie dismisses her protest. “They taste so good, it’s like I’m ripping you off.”

“I don’t have any clean Tupperware.”

“All right, definitely next time.”

“Don’t be silly. Now hold out your hands.”

He obeys and she plops a giant messy meatball in each of his hands and encourages him to taste one on the spot. He sweetly obliges, in spite of the awkwardness and takes a bite, then looks up at her and smiles. “That’s a good meatball.”

Let me tell you, the recipe for these meatballs are so good you’ll have people begging to eat them out of their hands!

They are made from ground turkey, so it is a surprise how moist and savory they taste. The sauce is just to die for: thick and rich, sticky with hoison sauce balanced by the tang of lime and vinegar and chopped green onions. Serve over rice with assorted chopped veggies and you’ve got a one bowl wonder.

Unless, that is you prefer to skip the fork and bowls, and eat them with your hands, Wedding Singer style.

Sweet n’ Savory Asian Meatballs

Serves 4
Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Ingredients for Meatballs:

1 lb to 1.25 lb ground turkey

3 peeled cloves garlic

1/4 red onion

1/2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 T. sesame oil

1 T. olive oil

1 egg

1 1/2 pieces soft fresh bread, torn into small pieces

1 inch square, fresh peeled ginger

Directions for Meatballs:
Put all ingredients into food processor and process the above into a thick meatloaf like mixture. Add more oil or a little water if needed to keep the processor moving. Roll and pat this mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. Mixture will be a little sticky so you may want to grease your hands with a little olive oil, to help the process.  (They don’t have to be perfectly round either… ) Don’t worry, the meatballs firm up beautifully, but also stay moist, when cooked. )

Bake uncovered 400 degrees in an oblong Pyrex pan that has been sprinkled with olive oil, turning periodically, and baking until the meatballs are golden on the outside and cooked on the inside about 20 minutes. If they are cooked through but not browned, run them under the broiler to get the outsides nice and brown and crispy!

Ingredients for Sauce:

2/3 c. bottled hoison sauce

1/4 white or rice vinegar

1 grated garlic clove

1 t. grated fresh ginger

1 T. soy sauce

Juice from 1/2 fresh lime

1 T. sesame seeds

2 T. chopped green onion

Directions for Sauce and Putting it All Together:
Put first 5 ingredients into a big sauce pan, and simmer for about a minute, until good and hot.  Add juice from lime and then, gently put cooked meatballs in sauce and cover them all with sauce, heating until the meatballs are nice and hot.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onion. .Serve over rice (jasmine is our favorite) with any steamed or sautéed vegetables that you like.  (May also garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro and additional lime or hot sauce, if you like.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet n Savory Asian Meatballs
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-D3
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


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