Tofu Banh Mi with Pickled Carrots and Daikon

Nothing says summer more than street food and beer – but it’s even better when you can make it at home! I was looking for a reason to use the fresh basil, mint and cucumbers picked from our neighbors Dory and Andy’s garden who thankfully have quite the green thumb and are so generous with the neighborhood kids tramping through their carefully tended vegetables and raspberry bushes.

This tofu and veggie Banh Mi with pickled daikon and carrots is fresh, bright and crunchy with a hint of spice and is totally crave-able. Sadly, it doesn’t compare to the outstanding lemongrass tofu Banh Mi we used to buy at Nhu Lan Bakery in Chicago but hey it definitely hit the spot. I also experimented with adding the same ingredients to lower calorie Vietnamese rice paper wraps which was also a big hit.

Ingredients

  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 tofu block of your choice (I would recommend Trader Joe’s baked sriracha tofu)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch free Thai basil
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • French bread roll or Vietnamese bread roll, both toasted slightly in oven or toaster oven until crunchy
  • 2 TB mayonnaise (vegan or regular)
  • 1 TB sriracha
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Pickled Daikon and Carrots

  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 medium daikon, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Bring the pickle mixture to a boil in medium sauce pot, then sit and let cool. Pour over carrots and daikon in a mason jar or glass Tupperware container, then seal and let marinate at least 1 hour in fridge but up to 12 hours overnight is ideal. To make sriracha mayo just combine mayo, sriracha and lime juice in small bowl. If you want it thicker to smear on bread base just leave out lime juice and squeeze on top of sandwich once assembled instead. Assemble sandwich with all ingredients and gulp down with beer!

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Barley and Greens Bowl

  I wish I had taken a better picture, but alas I ate this dish so fast the photo staging just wasn’t happening. 


Whole grains are important sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are not found in refined or “enriched” grains. One serving of hulled barley is high in protein, low in calories, helps lower your cholesterol and even has 60% of your daily fiber requirement. It also contains iron (for those looking for non-meat sources if iron), and is very high in thiamin – which would have devastating neurological effects if not included in your daily intake. 
This barley and greens bowl is a great way to introduce barley into your diet. The grain and edamame combo are tossed in an Asian-style salad dressing, but the tangy lemon juice and salad greens topped with creamy avocado and tofu definitely takes it up a notch. The recipe stems from from Clean Green Eats by Candice Kumai. It’s simple, satisfying, healthy and clean. So eat away!

BARLEY AND GREENS BOWL

  • 1 1/2 cups pearl or hulled barley
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled organic edamame
  • 1 cups wild baby arugula
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • 2 blocks savory, baked, organic tofu (firm or extra firm), cut into cubes and cooked to your liking
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Combine the barley and the water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice, oregano, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the slightly cooled barley and edamame to the bowl and toss to coat. Add the arugula and kale and toss gently to combine. To serve, top with tofu and avocado slices.

General Tso Cauliflower

Today’s recipe is not going to win any beauty contest. But then again, neither will I — unless it’s a leg contest. I think I could win that. But like me, this General Tso Tofu dish is authentic and unexpectedly flavorful, even with a bleak “resting face”.

This dish comes from Bakeaholic Mama and has that wonderful thick and creamy Chinese sauce with gingery garlicy flavors. A few things to note on where I went wrong – make it in small batches rather than all at once to ensure the cauliflower florets cooks thoroughly and still get that crispy outside. Mine was more “steamed” than “fried”. Also, use a wide and deep pan, not a wok. I did add a package of diced Chinese smoked tofu which added a kick of protein. cauliflower

GENERAL TSO CAULIFLOWER
1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 tbs soy sauce
Peanut oil for frying

For the sauce:
2 1/2 tsp minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs peanut oil
Brown rice for serving
Green onions for garnish

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg until a you form a batter. Toss cauliflower in batter until evenly coated, then set aside for about 15 minutes. In a heavy bottomed fry pan, add 2 tbs of peanut oil and heat until the pan is hot. Toss in cauliflower florets and fry over medium heat until evenly browned on all sides. Once cauliflower is prepared, start your sauce. In a separate sauce pan, add sesame oil and peanut oil with your garlic and ginger and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. Mix in remaining sauce ingredients and whisk constantly over medium high heat, until it comes to a low boil. Once sauce has thickened, add to the fry pan you cooked your cauliflower in and toss with fried cauliflower. Over medium low heat, toss the cauliflower until it is evenly coated in the sauce. Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.

Optimist Broccoli and Tofu

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I like to think I’m an optimist, but this week I’m going to go ahead and say that this week’s sentiment is I’d rather stab a fork in my eye. After a grueling week at work learning the tough lesson that you learn from failure rather than success, I awoke on joyous Saturday with what felt like shards of glass in my throat and a wheezing cough, and then discovered that a leak in my closet had seeped into 60% of my wardrobe and had soaked all of my leather boots which are now lying helplessly in my bath tub. So naturally I thought about what to eat for dinner.

As a result, I made a delicious gingery peanuty stir fry covered in sriracha which I’m going to call Optimist Broccoli and Tofu. It’s actually based on a simple chicken version from the popular blog Kalyn’s Kitchen so I only take credit for substituting tofu. My broccoli had actually gone soft after almost a week in the refrigerator so I just chopped off the florets and soaked them in cold water for a few hours, brightening them right up into crunchy fresh bites! I love those reminders that plants are living organisms.

OPTIMIST BROCCOLI AND TOFU
1 container of tofu baked into Roasted Spicy Tofu Treat from earlier blog post
2 heads of broccoli chopped into florets
2 red bell peppers, cut into small 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

PEANUT DRESSING
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 Tablespoons ground ginger root (not dried ginger)
1 Tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
1/3 cup water

Make tofu according to Roasted Tofu Special Treat and let cool. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, ground ginger, crushed and water. Taste the dressing and see if you want to adjust the seasonings. Heat a large wok on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add 3 Tablespoons of water and immediately throw in broccoli and red pepper. Stir frequently for 5 minutes then add peanut sauce and thoroughly combine. You want the broccoli to remain a bright green color and still have a crunch. Turn off the wok, then stir in the tofu and thoroughly combine. You can serve this right away or refrigerate for a few hours. Garnish with chopped peanuts when serving. Happy eating!

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Vegan Spring Rolls, for Type-A Personalities

haircutTwo things happened this week. It snowed. And Asher had his first haircut. Both were unpleasant experiences, but mercifully short-lived and the results were admittedly delightful!

spring roll As a result of the cold weather, I decided to make a Thai coconut soup with fresh spring rolls for dinner and was blown away at how EASY the spring rolls were to make. Seriously. They had a lovely freshness from the mint and basil, balanced with the crunchy colorful vegetables and the flavorful dipping sauces.

I just stocked up on chili garlic sauce ($2), plum sauce ($2), rice paper rolls ($2), extra firm tofu ($1.50) and some crunchy fresh veggies totalling my cost at under $10 for several night’s worth of spring rolls. My only gripe is the prep work in julienning and dicing, but it was a one-time task while Asher and Everett played in their toy kitchen and now my little Virgo heart is singing at all the organized containers in the fridge for the week!

THAI VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS
Rice paper rolls
Bean sprouts
English Cucumber, julienned with skin on
Romain lettuce, thickly shredded
1 bag carrots, peeled and julienned
1 bunch cilantro, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch mint, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh Thai basil (or regular basil), washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 container of Extra Firm Tofu (prepared as per my earlier post Roasted Tofu Special Treat)

Lay out a clean dish dowl on the counter. Soak once rice paper roll in a bowl with warm water for 30 seconds, then remove and lay falt on the dish towel to rest for 30 seconds. Evenly distribute a medium pinch of lettuce, mint, basil, and cilantro in the middle of the square. Top with carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts and tofu – but don’t overfill! Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed from one end to the other leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the left and right sides inward like a burrito, then fold bottom over and complete rolling the remaining half. I found that the rice paper rolls tend to stick to counter tops, so it was helpful to peel them off the dish towel and try to get a tighter roll. These can also be made a day ahead, just wrap in fridge and cover with a wet paper towel to keep moist overnight.

Also, for those that are following Weight Watchers these are only 2 points each. Can I get an “Oh yeah”

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

pumpkins Wellllll it’s October, which means Asher starts fighting to put on his jacket. In honor of this fall tradition, this past weekend we took the boys to Goebbert’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch for some corn mazing, camel rides, overpriced kettle corn, and giraffe feeding. The frugal mom that I am, I brought us a picnic instead of paying $15 for microwaved pizza but of course the moment we settled down to eat Asher ran around the picnic area removing all the signage from the tables advertising their hot Halloween deals and featured food items. The senior citizen employee in charge of the lunch area followed him around methodically placing them all back on the table, at one point even reaching under our own table to pick up the sign he had mashed into the ground. Needless to say, soon after the Oreos were done and Asher visited the zebra it was time to go home.

cabbage casserole To unwind after a long day, I opted for a hearty winter casserole dish which is a vegetarian riff on stuffed cabbage. I stole the idea from Kalyn’s Kitchen which features a beef version which I naturally changed to tofu, but I think textured soy protein would be even more flavorful! This entire dish costs around $10 – $15 and serves 8.

STUFFED CABBAGE CASSEROLE

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 boxes extra firm tofu, or 1 lb textured soy protein
1 large onion, chopped small
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 Tablespoons paprika (the original recipe calls for Hungarian Paprika if you have it)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (for seasoning meat mixture and cooked cabbage)
1 heads green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 15 oz can petite dice tomatoes with juice
1 15 oz can tomato sauce or 1 jar of tomato sauce
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups low-fat cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large glass or crockery casserole dish with non-stick spray. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in frying pan on medium heat and fry diced onions for 5 minutes until onions are transluscent. Add the minced garlic, dried thyme, and paprika and cook about 2 minutes more. Then crumble the firm tofu with your hands and add to the onion mixture. Add the diced tomatoes with juice and tomato sauce. Let mixture simmer until it’s hot and slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut cabbage in half, cut out the core, and remove any wilted outer leaves, and then chop the cabbage coarsely into pieces. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven with high sides, add the cabbage and cook over medium-high heat until the cabbage is wilted, turning it over several times so it all cooks. Season cabbage with salt and fresh-ground black pepper. When the tomato sauce mixture has cooked 15 minutes, stir in the 2 cups of cooked brown rice and gently combine. Spray a large glass casserole dish with non-stick spray and the layer half the cabbage, half the meat mixture, other half of cabbage, and other half of meat mixture. Top with cheese and bake in oven for 40 minutes. Turn on the broiler for 5 minutes at the end to crisp the cheese and top layer of the casserole.

Pho, Pho and Away!

tentOn Friday, Asher woke up with a high fever and a cold sore on his mouth so naturally we built a camping tent in our living room. That’s him in the background playing on his toy laptop and moaning, while Everett wonders what’s going on. Today, he finally ate his comfort food of crappy Kraft mac and cheese, which inspired me to share my most favorite sick day soup – Vegan Pho!

I am very proud to say this is actually my husband’s recipe and is one of my all-time favorite foods. The broth is full of sweet and spicy exotic spices, and the udon noodles mixed with the crunch of fresh herbs make this a soul satisfying dish. And because this recipe requires whomever in your household is least likely to burn themselves to roast the ginger over a fire, your house will have the added perk of smelling like sweet delicious roasted ginger!

VEGAN PHO
1/2 bag of udon noodles
6 quarts of vegetable broth OR 6 quarts of water with 2-3 bullion cubes
1 bunch scallions
8 cloves of garlic
3” ginger root in skin
6 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole bay leaves
1 container extra firm tofu
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Toppings
1/2 head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 head of purple cabbage, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped peanuts
1 container of bean sprouts
1 bunch of Thai basil, whole leaves
1 bunch of cilantro, whole leaves
1/2 jalapeno sliced into circles, seeds removed
1 lime sliced into quarters
Sriracha sauce

Bring a medium pot filled with water to a boil. Add udon noodles and cook for 15 minutes. Drain noodles and run under cold water for 2 minutes, then toss with sesame oil to prevent sticking. Cook tofu according to my previous post Roasted Tofu Special Treat. Using stainless steel tongs, roast the whole ginger over your stove’s open flame about 5-7 minutes then set aside. In a large pot, bring vegetable broth to a boil then add whole ginger, scallions, garlic, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise, and soy sauce. Boil on medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove all solids from the broth so it is a clear, light brown color. In serving bowls, combine two parts broth to one part noodles. Arrange toppings side by side on a large serving plate and allow guests to add desired amounts fresh to their pho. Heaven! Serves 4 -6.