Grilling Tofu

Tofu can be either really bad, taste like nothing or awesome. Everything hinges on the preparation and the recipe. One of my favorite ways to eat tofu is grilled, and as long as it’s on top of the meat and not the other way around, my entire family gets to eat a satisfying meal.

Extra Firm Tofu This isn’t even a real recipe, it’s such a simple thing to prepare. Just one package of Extra Firm Tofu, I could eat the entire thing my self but I’ve got self-control issues.

Tofu Cut into 8 SlabsDrain and press out some of the moisture then cut across into 8 slabs.

Tofu basted in vegetable oil and seasoningsAdd vegetable oil and your favorite seasonings. This is one thing I like to add a bit of salt to, tofu is bland and while grilling brings out some nice flavor a little salt does help.

Vegetable Seasoning MixI use the Club House seasoning mixes on almost everything.

What's On Your GrillCook it on the top shelf of your grill with the flame low. It takes as long as chicken legs to get nice and crispy on the outside and chewy in the center. I only get to have 5 of the 8 pieces because even my meat eaters like to get at least a taste.

Spicy Grilled Sweet Potato

I’ve suffered barbecue trauma at the hands of partners past. There was the veggie burger with mysterious crunchy bits I’m sure were particles of grill that I simply could not gag my way through, even if it was $4.99 for 4 patties – way back when that would have bought 16 frozen patties made from something resembling beef. Barbecue sauce and processed cheese slices can only hide so much. That’ll learn me for requesting my veggie burgers not be bathed in beef burger drippings.

I’ll probably never get over the time I sent my ex boyfriend to pick up a barbecue that was on sale. The bastard was so cheap he wouldn’t even spend my money, so he came back with the exact same barbecue I already had. The one that was college dorm sized – perfect for a couple of burgers or hot dogs – not so good for a family that likes real food. His thinking was either I didn’t need a bigger barbecue because I was a vegetarian or that I didn’t deserve to have a nicer barbecue than him. I suspect the latter.

These days, the only men in my life are the ones I gave birth too and I run my own barbecue. It’s one I bought myself, and with the help of a Canadian Tire employee, took out of the box in the parking lot so that we could fit it in my car. Once it was home I assembled it by myself. Without the ex who was a complete twat, I find I enjoy the entire beer-in-hand grilling experience, even if I wish him a very satisfying good old ‘go fuck yourself’ often.

Yes I can hold a grudge and no, I won’t apologize for it or pretend otherwise.

My boys, the only men whose opinions matter these days, always appreciate my efforts. For them there’s still meat on my grill, but the star of the show will always be the grilled veggies.  Sweet potatoes are one of our favorites. Even with two meat eaters in the house, our meals are heavily weighted to the vegetable and starch dishes so you may need to cut the quantities for your own family.

  • 2-3 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2-3 tsp of Dried Chili Flakes
  • 1-2 tsp of Ground Ginger
  • 1-2 tsp of Ground Clove
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.

Cubed Sweet PotatoPeel and cube your sweet potatoes into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes. The 2 sweet potatoes I used this time were massive so the result was probably 8 cups. In my house, it’s never enough.

Chili Pepper FlakesAdd your chili pepper flakes. Measurements given are  suggestions because everyone has their own heat tolerance. I adore heat with my sweet, but my oldest likes even more heat yet. Keep in mind that the heat develops over time, so if you are prepping in advance you may prefer less chili pepper flakes.

GingerAdd ground ginger – again this is very much to taste – it’s only wrong if it’s too much for you.

Ground CloveAdd your ground clove – another flavor I love and use heavily. You may prefer less.

Add your salt and enough vegetable oil to evenly coat the sweet potato. Don’t worry about excess, it drains away on the barbecue. It’s more important to make sure you have your pieces coated. You are looking to have enough oil to cook the outsides fast. This makes a sort of spicy crust or shell that keeps all the sweet inside. When everything goes exactly right, the result is little spicy-sweet flavor bombs for your mouth and believe me, it’s better than candy.

The Full MenuHere’s the complete meal – marinated tofu on top, honey garlic sausages and spicy grilled sweet potato. I never get seconds of any of it.

 

Spicy Rice and Black Bean Wraps

Spicy Rice & Black Bean WrapsRice is such a versatile grain. Once you know the ratio of rice to liquid you can invent any recipe you want. Need a pilaf? Saute some onion, some garlic, maybe a bit of celery or mushrooms. Add your rice, your broth and a bit of frozen spinach. Maybe some slivered almonds for a bit of crunch. 45 minutes later you’ve got a side that’s much lower in sodium and chemicals than any packaged rice dish you can buy.

When I’m serving pork chops I like to make Spicy Rice and Black Beans. It’s a dish my son requested after he moved back home. I had failed to show him the proper way to make it so he was dumping a jar of salsa in rice to get the same effect and eating it in a wrap for lunch.

Coincidence being what it is, I had just seen a recipe on Pinterest for homemade Flour Tortillas. We prefer a larger tortilla so I make 8 rather than the suggested 16. Preparing the tortillas from scratch adds about a half hour to the meal preparation. The first time I tried the recipe I rolled out all the tortillas before cooking, but I’ve found as long as the first two are ready to cook I can easily roll and cook them at the same time.

Spicy Rice And Black Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp of minced garlic
  • 1-2 chopped jalapeno, either fresh or jarred.
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of frozen black beans or 1 can of black beans
  • 3/4 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2-3 tbsp of Club House Tex Mex seasoning mix
  • 1 cup of frozen corn – optional
  • 1 pkg of large flour tortillas

Directions:

In a large sauce pan, saute onion, garlic and jalapeno in a bit of water until tender. Rinse rice under cold water until water runs clear. I used to only buy Uncle Ben’s rice until a Jamaican friend of mine showed me this little trick. Add rice, tomatoes, beans and water to the pot. Cover and simmer on low for 40-45 minutes until rice is tender and most of the liquid absorbed. Spoon rice onto tortillas and wrap.

From Pinterest – Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder

Now that I work normal hours and with both of my boys living at home again, I find myself taking a little bit more pleasure in the process of making meals. I’m still not inclined to spend more than an hour on any meal we eat, but I do put more thought into what I’m preparing and I take more pleasure from the effort that goes into the food I serve.

Lately I’ve been mixing up our weekly menu with recipes from Pinterest. I think we all have that “someday I’ll make this” board, so why not? Last week I decided to go with Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder from Ciao Chow Bambina. If you are not already following her on Pinterest you should be – her page is mouth-watering. I’m not going to post the recipe here, I made so few alterations to the original recipe that I’m only going to mention the changes.

The only ingredient required that isn’t normally found in my house were the Poblano peppers. I’m fortunate in that I live in a community with a large population of seasonal workers from other countries. This means I’ve got a wide array of ethnic foods to choose from in my local grocery store. Pobalano peppers, or at least the ones we had, taste almost the same as green peppers. Don’t be fooled though, you may not taste much heat but it’s there. I got some of the juice on the back of one of my fingers and it burned for a while.

The original recipe also calls for grilled corn on the cob. Obviously corn on the cob isn’t in season in December, and after years of eating the exceptional varieties of sweet corn my parents grow in their garden I’m not willing to buy corn on the cob in any season. I also don’t have an indoor grill or the inclination to stand outside at the barbecue during these short cold days. That said, I’m sure there was a certain amount of flavor missing from my dish with its ungrilled frozen corn (corn my mother froze from her garden) and I wonder if it could be replicated by toasting the kernels in a non-stick frying pan?

The absolute best part of this recipe is that the chicken is cooked separately from the vegetables. So when I seasoned my thawed chicken breasts, I also cubed and seasoned a half-block of tofu. I baked the protein in the oven until the chicken was cooked through and the tofu had some nicely toasted edges. I omitted the bacon completely and just before adding the protein to the dish, I separated out enough of the chowder mix for myself into it’s own pot and then completed both as the recipe indicates.

Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder

So go check out the recipe for Mexican Poblano Chicken Chowder, you’ll love the vegetables and spicy creamy broth whether you choose to have it with chicken or tofu.

 

Weights And Measures And Emergency Substitutions

I was making Gingerbread tonight from a new recipe. The recipe called for 1 1/2 sticks of butter or 12 tablespoons. Which kind of made me scratch my head a bit. When I first started my adult life, my mom gave me a copy of the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. Quite honestly, I would be lost without it!

Getting back to that 12 tablespoons of butter, on the inside front cover of my cookbook is a list of conversions.

Weights and MeasuresOn the inside of the back cover is even more awesome – an emergency substitution list!

Emergency SubstitutionsSo anyhow, I used a 3/4 cup of butter for my gingerbread, which should be cool enough to try now.

 

Fast And Easy Tortellini Soup

Faster Than Take-Out - Tortellini SoupEver have one of those nights where you get home late from work or you forgot to take something out to thaw? It pays to have a few fall back meals that you can whip up in a snap. Here at home, I’ll serve pancakes or scrambled eggs and a vegetable. It’s not that I don’t like take-out, I love pizza or Chinese Food, it’s just that I think those things are treats, something you really wanted instead of ordering it because you didn’t feel like cooking.

Sometimes you’ll find a recipe that’s so easy, you’ll find yourself reaching for it when you’re too exhausted to even think of cooking. One of those meals for me is Tortellini Soup. This Tortellini Soup is faster than take-out, a whole lot cheaper and probably a lot healthier.

The ingredients are simple, and I usually have them on hand. Frozen cheese tortellini, onions, minced garlic, frozen spinach (I buy the kind that’s frozen in pucks and add them to a lot of different things) and a can of chopped tomatoes and it cooks in one pan. How much simpler could it get?

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of minced onion
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of minced garlic
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth -or- two bouillon cubes and 4 cups of water
  • 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of oregano or italian seasoning
  • 1 pkg of frozen cheese tortellini
  • 4-6 frozen spinach “pucks”Frozen Spinach and Frozen Tortellini

Preparation:

Saute onion and garlic in a bit of water until the onion is translucent. Add broth, chopped tomatoes and seasoning. Bring to a boil.

Add frozen tortellini and spinach. Simmer until the tortellini is tender. Serves 4.

Tortellini SoupI like mine with a sprinkling of cheese, because everything tastes better with cheese. Sometimes I wonder if this would be good with a bit of Italian Sausage browned up with the onion and garlic. Maybe I’ll try it someday and see what the meat eaters here have to say.

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Browsing through Pinterest one day I came across a recipe for Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili and because I’ve always enjoyed my sweet with a bit of heat I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to buy out of season tomatoes for cooking, but intrigued enough to come up with my own cheap version. I used canned tomatoes in place of the fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. I also used canned jalapenos, I don’t know if they’re cheaper than fresh but the shelf-life is a lot longer. Of course you could use canned black beans too, but why when cooking and freezing beans is so simple?

My household has two young adult men and myself and this made enough for two meals and a couple of lunches but if you’re a true singleton, you could easily portion and freeze the leftovers. I’ve been told by my oldest that it tastes even better the second day.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium sweet potato chunked into bite sized pieces
  • 2 796 ml cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups of cooked black beans
  • 2 cups of frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup of Club House Tex Mex seasoning mix
  • 1/4 cup of sliced canned/jarred jalapeno peppers or a couple of fresh sliced jalapeno
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp of dried chili flakes
  • 2 cups of water

Using 1/4 cup of water saute onion and if using fresh, the jalapeno until soft. Add the sweet potato, canned tomatoes, black beans and corn along with seasoning mix, chili flakes, jalapeno and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling reduce heat and simmer until sweet potato is tender and some of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 hours. It takes a while to cook, but while it’s cooking requires very little attention.

I served our sweet potato and black bean chili with fresh bread, since I consider chili and bread dip one and the same. If you would like to see the recipe that inspired me click the link – Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili.

You Have Time To Cook Dried Beans

Cook Dried BeansOften people resort to canned beans because they think it takes a long time to cook dried beans, and it actually does take a long time to cook them. But beans can simmer on the stove all day with barely any attention from you. Which is why even when I was working 80 hour weeks I still had time to cook dried beans.

If you’re wondering why I take the time to cook dried beans just take a look at the goo in the bottom of the can next time you open up a can of beans. Black beans from a can are gray, black beans cooked from dried are black. Canned beans are very high in sodium. Beans cooked from dried have no added salt, although rumor has it adding baking soda to the soak water cuts the gassiness of beans.

Price is a big reason too – I cook up the biggest sized bag of dried beans I can find and then freeze them in one cup portions. For $3.49, I get the equivalent of 11 cans of beans at $0.99 each – on sale.

What you need:

  • Freezer bags or containers
  • 900g of dried beans
  • Stock Pot
  • 16 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar

How:

You can do this one of two ways. You can cover the beans with cold water and leave to sit overnight (or while you are at work), or you can cover the beans with water, bring to a boil and then turn the stove off and let stand for an hour. Once done, make sure the beans are well covered with water and simmer. Go fold laundry and whatever else you need to do, just watch that the beans are still covered with water and occasionally check the beans to see if they are tender. If they aren’t keep cooking.

Cooked Black Beans If they are drain them, bag them and throw them in the freezer.

Bagged Cooked Black BeansSo are you wondering what the vinegar is for or did you already think “Oh my God! Look at this pan”?

Pan after cooking beansCooking beans leaves a white residue on the pan and a bit of vinegar will dissolve it.

Cooking Times (not including soaking)

  • Black Beans – 1 – 1 1/2 hours
  • Chickpeas – 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  • Kidney Beans – 1 – 1 1/2 hours

For Lentils (30 minutes), Split Peas (45 minutes), and Black Eyed Peas (45 min to 1 hr.)  do not presoak.

So go cook some beans and tomorrow I’ll tell you what to do with them.

Sweet Potato Dog Chews

My dog has a thing for rawhide chips. It must be a chip, no rolls or anything else. A while ago I was out and couldn’t find any chips in the store I was at. What they did have were these sweet potato dog chews, and since my dog loves sweet potato I decided to try them. Both dogs loved them but at $8 a package, it seemed a bit too indulgent. The package ingredients were simple – sweet potato and nothing else which had me wondering if I could make them. Last night I decided to try making some sweet potato chews.

Sliced Sweet PotatoI scrubbed two roundish sweet potatoes and sliced them into 1/4″ thick slabs. I spread the sliced sweet potato on my cooling racks and put them in the oven at 170. And left them for a few hours – actually I went to bed and forgot all about them but my oven shuts off after a certain amount of time.

2014-11-30 08.43.57They’ve already been canine tested and approved, and two sweet potato made almost as many sweet potato dog chews as that $8 package. Plus, I’ve still got a few sweet potatoes for Sunday Dinner.

Winter Comfort Food, Oven Stew With Biscuits

As much as I look forward to barbecue season in the spring, I love oven season too. When the days get shorter and colder, oven stew with a biscuit topping is my favorite winter comfort food. I’m a vegetarian in a houseful of carnivores so I cook two versions at the same time. One with chicken breast and the other with tofu. Biscuit Topped Oven Stew

Stew Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups of cubed chicken breast or cubed firm tofu.

Cubed Tofu and Cubed Chicken

  • 1 med onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup of carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of celery chopped
  • 1 cup of frozen cut green beans
  • 1 cup of frozen corn

Chicken Stew and Tofu Stew

  • 4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth.

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium roasting pan. Bake at 400 for an hour. Once the chicken is cooked and everything is bubbling increase oven temp to 450 and prepare biscuits.

Biscuit Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp of Baking Powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of margarine
  • 1 cup of milk

I double everything when I’m preparing vegetarian and carnivorous at the same time.

Instructions:

  • Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  • Cut in margarine until it looks kind of like oatmeal.
  • Add the milk and mix with a spoon (not a mixer or your biscuits will be tough) until thoroughly mixed.
  • Drop spoonfuls on top of the hot stew and put it all back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes

This isn’t a fast dish, but from the time it first goes in the oven until it’s time to add the biscuits you do nothing. I took my dogs for a walk tonight while the oven did it’s thing. It smelled divine when we walked back into the house, I just added the topping and 15 minutes later it was ready to eat.