Chile Crusted Tofu

And we’re back… sorta. I have been moving and establishing my new life so like every other  american that means I have been making a lot of quick foods and dining out. Tonight I couldn’t bring myself to eat another tostada so I decided to dig in my sort of  stocked pantry and pick out something to make. A box of firm tofu and some spices? hmm. I dug through one of my favorite cookbooks and spotted a pretty easy recipe. Chile Cornmeal- Crusted Tofu. Sounded easy enough and most of the ingredients were spices. Oops I didn’t have cornmeal.. but I did have a box of panko bread crumbs. My soymilk was vanilla flavored and I definitely do not have lime zest. Hunger kicking in I decided to just go for it and fill in the gaps. I figured even if my dinner came out terrible hopefully the act of cooking would get me back in the groove.

Chile Crusted Tofu
vegetable oil for frying
1 lb extra firm tofu, drained
1 cup soy milk
2 tbs cornstarch
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbs chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp salt

Cut tofu into 16 triangles

In a shallow bowl mix soy milk and cornstarch. Dissolve the cornstarch in the soymilk and set aside. Fill another bowl with your flour. In your third bowl mix bread crumbs, chile powder, cumin, cayenne and salt.

Heat about a 1/4″ of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Usually set your burner around medium-low heat. (My method to getting the right oil temperature is making the oil just hot enough that I feel like I am going to burn down the kitchen, but not hot enough to actually burn it down.)

Take tofu, dip it in your soymilk, into your flour, back into the soymilk and then cover with breadcrumbs. Fry until it is crispy.

Side notes: Frying is something that once you get the hang of is a pretty quick way to cook some dinner that will meet all of your greasy desires. I was feeling a little crazy so I added some garlic powder, onion powder and turmeric into my breadcrumbs and a little bit of liquid smoke into the soymilk. I’m not sure it helped much…

Review: Eh. Fried tofu always leaves me wishing I had baked it instead. The crispy breading is good, but what breaded and fried food doesn’t taste good? The tofu usually tastes like… tofu and I end up over salting and dipping it in bbq sauce. So a potentially healthy dinner (tofu) goes quickly down the tubes. I couldn’t taste much of the seasoning so after about 3 pieces of greasy tofu I was full and feeling gross. Maybe someday I will figure out the best fried tofu recipe.

Update: After sitting uncovered in my fridge for two days eating these cold and dipped in goddess dressing is pretty good… or maybe I’m just hungover.

Original recipe can be found in Veganomicon. P.125. I highly recommend you buy this book. Almost everything I have made out of it has been awesome.

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Superbowl Treats

My Roomate is hosting a Superbowl party. He is very excited because this is the one day a year that he brings out his football shaped serving dish. (oh and because of his love of the game, eh whatever) I personally would rather be watching the puppy bowl but I will admit that the Superbowl is very exciting for me, from a culinary standpoint. Everyone invited has been told to bring a dish and I cannot wait to consume offensive amounts of tortilla chips dipped in various processed foods. If there is one thing I love, it’s food that is terrible for me that other people brought.

So knowing that 3/4 of the guests will probably go the salsa, guacamole, chili, queso dip route what should I make?! I have decided to go with a recipe I have been hanging on to for about 3 years but have avoided due to an inability to veganize. (which btw my general potluck food rule is to make something vegan, that way everyone feels welcome) In this instance I know everyone here is sports sports sports man man man. They don’t give a shit about vegan. They want their brownies, with eggs and milk chocolate. What better to make than Stout Brownies!

Stout Brownies
6 tbs butter
8 oz dark bittersweet chocolate, chunks
3/4 c white chocolate chips
4 eggs
1 c sugar
1-1/4 c (10-12 ounces) Stout beer- I used Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, you can use Guinness. A chocolate stout would probably be amazing.
1 c flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil.

Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined. 

Beat in flour, cocoa powder and salt into melted chocolate mixture. Whisk in stout beer and 1/2 c. of your semisweet chocolate chips. The batter will seem a bit thin. Pour into prepared baking pan and top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake 25 to 30 minutes on center rack in the oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

Side Notes:
I have no idea where I got this recipe over 3 years ago, I know it was somewhere on the internet. I edited it (as always) to make it a little less fancy, to not have to dirty 3 bowls and not have to use a mixer. I hate doing the dishes. I forgot to put salt in my brownies and they still taste amazing, so if you hate salt or can’t eat too much or are just feeling lazy or something it is probably safe to just leave it out. Also the recipe calls for 10 oz of beer, my bottle was 12 oz and I didn’t feel like drinking the rest or throwing good beer out so I included it. Those 2 extra ounces worked out totally fine.

I have to say these are seriously some good brownies. Fudgie, a little cakey, an awesome aftertaste. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with brownies.

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Lentil and Vegetable Stew

1 lg onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic cloves, minced
2 12oz  packages frozen vegetables (italian blend, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, lima beans, red bell peppers, and Italian green beans, but any chunky vegetables will work)
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 15oz can cooked lentils
4 c vegetable broth
1 1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/3 c quinoa
2/3 c canned pumpkin
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion in a large pot until it is soft, when almost done add the garlic. Add frozen vegetables, diced tomatoes, lentils, and broth. Cook medium high until it comes to a boil. Add quinoa and simmer until it is tender, about 15 minutes. Add pumpkin and cook for 5 more minutes, adding a little water if it seems too thick.

Side Notes:
-I had a little trouble locating canned lentils but was able to find Goya brand in the international aisle at my local grocery store.

-Although it tastes better, peeling and mincing garlic is a total pain. Especially because EVERY recipe ever calls for it. I choose to go the lazy overpriced route and buy minced garlic in a jar. Generally the flavor is not as intense as regular garlic so depending on my mood I will add a few more spoonfuls than the recommended amount.

-See my previous post about quinoa if the inclusion of that ingredient is freaking you out.

While this recipe is good on a cold day my (less fancy than the original recipe) version tasted like a pretty traditional stew. The prep time was pretty easy, just dicing an onion and opening cans which is nice, but waiting around for things to boil so you can add more ingredients sometimes provides for some boring moments in the kitchen… I thought the addition of the lentils were a good idea but the quinoa didn’t really do much for me and added an extra 5 minutes to cook time. I wonder if this recipe would be good thrown into a crock pot and cooked overnight. 

Original recipe can be found here: Fat Free Vegan

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The lazy mans quinoa

Quinoa is an ingredient that seems to have quite a buzz about it lately. I like to consider it the new couscous. According to Wikipedia it is a grain that has edible seeds. It has a high protein content and provides ammino acids which somehow makes it a complete protien?  Ok. Whatever. You know how to use Wikipedia too.

I personally like quinoa because I think it tastes good, it’s a nice addition to a meal and has a bit of a nutty flavor to it. The weird thing about quinoa is everyone I talk to says you have to rinse the seeds before you use it or it has a very bitter flavor, which subsequently has turned at least 4 of my friends off from experimenting with it. Maybe I haven’t been using it in dishes where it is plain enough for me to actually taste the quinoa, maybe I magically am buying non bitter quinoa or maybe everyone is just being crazy? Either way I never rinse my quinoa. The first time I bought it was out of a bulk bin where no instructions were to be found so I never bothered. I would like to think that it’s like draining your rice. Ok you should drain your rice because it might be dirty or too much starch or whatever the reasons are people have… but I personally do not have any interest in dirtying (or honestly, going out and buying a fine enough mesh strainer) another thing in my kitchen. Plus when quinoa gets wet it is so small and sticky and gets everywhere I don’t even know how I would get it out of my strainer without a giant mess. Not all of us have husbands or dishwashers to clean up after us. Besides, a little dirt don’t hurt. Right?

So. Go buy some quinoa. (the white kind, I have never really used the red, therefore I do not endorse it ) throw a bunch in the next vegetable soup you cook and have some complete proteins and ammino acids with your dinner.

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About the “Chef”

Before we get started I feel like maybe I should do a little introduction about myself and the foods I tend to eat. I was born and raised in Ohio on a diet that was dominated by  canned vegetables, iceberg lettuce, meat and a sprinkling of processed foods. I would say I had a pretty typical American diet, leaning towards the health conscious. I never had food coloring or white bread, pop (yes, I say pop. See: Ohio) was limited to less than one a day, Sprite only, and we never ever had caffeine. Fruity pebbles were forbidden and pop-tarts were always a special treat. My grandparents lived in the same house so cooking with grandma was a frequent past time. Dinners were usually home made and we almost always ate at the table.

After high school I moved into my first apartment. It was a studio with a tiiiiny kitchen. Practically no counter space, a sink that didn’t drain properly and a smaller sized refrigerator. Being the typical college student totally unsure of how to properly take care of myself (we can talk about my “punk rock” lack of showering another day) I bought alot of microwave meals, ate out plenty and enjoyed lunch with my friends in the food court at school. My diet was pretty horrible and I’m sure my food budget was ridiculous… but what’s a budget to a 19 year old anyways? One day while grocery shopping with my friend Susie she mentioned that she wanted to try being a vegetarian. Oh college, the land of new thoughts and experiences. Having never really considered it or thought too much about the food I eat in general I asked her why and she said she wasn’t really too sure, it sounded like a good idea and something worth trying. In the frozen pizza aisle we placed a $5 bet to see who could go longer without eating meat… I won the bet about 6 months into it, but 10 years later I still don’t eat meat.

Subtracting one major thing from my diet was enough to catapult me onto a learning path that I am still on. Out of desperation to eat something other than vegetables on bread at Subway or beans and rice at Skyline ANOTHER time I started looking up recipes and implementing the skills I had watched my grandma and mom utilize my entire childhood. Usually people have the freshman 40… I had the freshman -10.

Ten years in the making and I am now the girl who cooks alot, eats weird foods, knows how to make some mean brussels sprouts and insists on having a pantry stocked with things like tvp, wheat gluten, liquid amminos and nutritional yeast.

I might be ten years ahead on my food path but I swear it isn’t that complicated and I will help where I can. I don’t care if you eat meat or post that you added meat to any recipes I share and I promise my diet is not always about health. It is about food, flavor, variety and not eating out. Sometimes I eat frozen cheese pizza dipped in ranch dressing for dinner and I seriously love some canned green beans with butter and Crazy Jane’s Seasoning Salt, just the way mom makes ’em… I just happen to be a vegetarian.

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“But you’re a good cook and I’m not.”

Quite often I am told “You’re a good cook.” I’m really not. Yes I cook alot. Yes the food I make tends to be quite delicious. (if I do say so) But really, I am not a good cook. If I have any kitchen talent at all its a knack for choosing recipes that turn out well. Honestly nothing I do in the kitchen is magical or anything any of you readers wouldn’t be able to accomplish yourself on a Sunday afternoon.

There are some people in the world that are able to stand in their pantry, grab a few ingredients and whip up something incredible. Those are people I consider to be good cooks. My Grandma is one of those people. I have seen her take all of the leftovers from Christmas dinner, mix them together into some kind of weird gravy-covered hash and have everyone rave. To be honest that born in food talent seriously intimidates me. But I think I have transcended the kitchen phobia in another way, I am comfortable there as long as I have my recipe safety tether.

The food I make serves me one purpose and one purpose only- I’m hungry. It’s not beautiful, usually not expensive and hopefully not too labor intensive. If I could eat out for every meal and not be broke or weigh 1,000 lbs I would love to leave the food prep to the real chefs. Sadly this is not my reality.

Anyone can do what I do and I am hoping this blog will stand as a little introduction to all of my “non cooking” friends to a world of little planning, little effort and delicious results. I hope to share all of my “secrets”, tricks, and general food for thought (hopefully for your mouth too.) I promise not to dive too far into food politics and as you can probably tell by my poor grammar, lets keep this laid back. Cooking is all about food, and food is fun! Right?

Lets do this.

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