Asian Noodle Salad with Seared Tofu

I was busy grilling the tofu for this recipe when a friend popped by to pick up his daughter from a play date. “Mmmmm…something smells good Lori – what are you cooking?” he asked. “Marinated tofu steaks!” I proudly replied. “Oh gross – that’s nasty!” he quickly shot back. Guess I won’t be inviting him to dinner anytime soon ; )

Tofu (and soy products in general) might just be one of the most controversial foods out there. Depending on which research paper or magazine article you are reading- it’s either touted as a wonderful superfood or a hormone disrupting poison. And frankly there appear to be good arguments on both sides of the fence.

I have done quite a bit of research on my own and came across a great article on the Harvard School of Public Health website that gave a comprehensive overview of “smart approaches to choosing protein for your diet.” This particular quote came from the end of the “Straight Talk about Soy” section:

Eat soy in moderation. Soybeans, tofu, and other soy-based foods are an excellent alternative to red meat. In some cultures, tofu and soy foods are a protein staple, and we don’t suggest any change. But if you haven’t grown up eating lots of soy, there’s no reason to go overboard: Two to 4 servings a week is a good target; eating more than that likely won’t offer any health benefits and we can’t be sure that there is no harm.

One thing to also keep in mind when buying tofu is that over 90% of soy bean production in the US is genetically modified and the crops are heavily sprayed with toxic herbicides. So be sure to read the labels and choose a tofu brand that is non-GMO and organic.

And now there is the matter of taste – most people assume that it will either taste bland or disgusting. But believe it or not I actually like it and so do my kids. With the right marinade and seasonings, it can be really delicious. We eat it approximately once a week just cut up and sautéed in a stir fry, marinated and breaded in crispy tofu wraps or seared into steaks.

So – to tofu or not to tofu – that is the question? At the end of the day there is no magic bullet, one-size-fits all approach to healthy eating. Do your own research, read labels, listen to your own body and do what’s best for you. This salad would be tasty with our without the tofu but if you are a tofu fan or would like to try it for the first time then go for it! This salad will make you a tofu-lover for sure.

Asian Noodle Salad with Seared Tofu Steaks

tofu salad 3

1 package of organic non-GMO firm tofu, drained
1 cup of tamari (soy sauce)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. agave nectar
2 tbsp. pure sesame oil
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 package of soba noodles (buckwheat)
1 head of broccoli, chopped small
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup shelled peanuts

To marinate tofu: cut the block of tofu into 1 inch slices and place in a shallow dish with a lid. Cover with tamari and sprinkle with garlic powder and shake it around to marinate the slices. Place in the fridge for an hour, shaking occasionally.

tofu salad 1

To make the dressing: combine vinegar, agave, sesame oil, ginger, salt and pepper in a jar with a lid. Cover tightly and shake vigorously.

Cook soba noodles according to package directions – adding broccoli florets into the boiling water at the same time as the noodles. Drain noodles and broccoli and set aside.

tofu salad 2

The tofu can either be seared on a hot frying pan on the stove or on the barbecue. For stovetop: Heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium-high heat. Add tofu slices and cook approximately 5 minutes per side until lightly browned. For BBQ: Heat to medium high and place marinated tofu slices directly on the grill. Cook 2-4 minutes per side. Cut each slice in half lengthwise for serving.

Arrange lettuce on 4 large dinner plates or 6 smaller plates. Top with a portion of noodles/broccoli and tofu slices. Drizzle with dressing. Garnish with fresh cilantro and peanuts.

Enjoy!

Tofu Sloppy Joes

As a child of the 70’s and 80’s with 2 working parents, I ate my fair share of packaged foods. Yes we had many home-cooked meals, but we also regularly indulged in Hamburger Helper, TV Dinners, Frozen Pizza, Kraft Dinner and Chef Boyardee products (I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I loved all of these things although the beef ravioli was my absolute favourite).

And do you remember Sloppy Joes? My mom would fry up some ground beef, add in a packet of Sloppy Joe mix and some tomato sauce and we’d dollop it on top of big crusty buns. Messy, kid-friendly and delicious!

As a health conscious person and non-meat eater, I mostly try to stay away from those foods today- but every once in a while I get a craving for a good old-fashioned throw-back meal. That’s why when I saw a recipe for Tofu Sloppy Joe’s in the Moosewood Cookbook I just had to give it a try.

sloppy joes 1

These babies were delicious! Runny tomatoey goodness on top of Kaiser rolls with wedge potatoes and a salad on the side made for a tasty, protein-rich and somewhat decadent meal that everyone tucked into (as an alternative – you could also serve the mixture on top of rice, quinoa or noodles).

So stock up on the napkins and try this new take on an old classic. You might also want to set the scene by pumping up some New Kids On The Block music, teasing your bangs and slipping into a jacket with shoulder pads, hoop earrings and neon leg warmers ; )

Tofu Sloppy Joes (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)

sloppy joes 2

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 cake extra firm tofu, squeezed to remove excess water and crumbled (look for an organic non-GMO brand)
1/2 of a large can of diced tomatoes (I like Eden Organic brand)
1 can of sliced organic mushrooms
2/3 cup pasta sauce (I like Eden Organic brand)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6-8 large buns
Grated vegan or regular cheese (optional)

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and sauté onion and garlic for approximately 5 minutes until softened. Add red pepper and carrot and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the crumbled tofu, tomatoes, mushrooms, sauce, basil, coriander, brown sugar and salt and simmer together for 10-15 minutes. Add additional salt and black pepper to taste.

Slice the rolls and fill with desired amount of Sloppy Joe mixture. Add grated cheese if desired.

Enjoy!

 

 

Veggie Pho Soup

Before I had children and while I was still figuring out my career direction, I spent a few years as a public relations consultant at an agency in downtown Toronto. Although I realized pretty quickly that this particular career path wasn’t the one for me – I did learn a lot during those years and I am especially thankful for the people I met, the skills I honed and the fun I had during that time.

If I am being completely honest, one of my absolute favourite things about working in the middle of a big city was the opportunity to grab some friends and head out for lunch at one of the many amazing restaurants in the area. And there was one particular little spot close to my office called Yummy & Healthy that I absolutely adored. I went there so much that the sweet owner got to know me and would start prepping my Vegetarian Pho Soup as soon as I walked in the door. I couldn’t get enough of that fragrant and spicy broth and the heaping portions of rice noodles, veggies, sprouts and tofu…..delicious!

I have tried many times over the years to recreate that soup and I just haven’t been able to hit the mark…until now. I was fiddling around with a recipe from a recent edition of the Vegetarian Times Magazine and bingo-  I came pretty darn close!

The key to this Pho soup recipe is all in the broth. I threw a bunch of herbs and spices into a big pot and let it all cook together for at least an hour. Then I strained everything out and was left with a tangy and delicious base to build upon. Once the broth is ready to go – I simply simmered my add-ins of choice right in the soup. (However, if you are adding noodles, I would recommend cooking them separately and putting them into the bottom of your serving bowls and scooping the soup over top so that they don’t get too mushy.)

Although Yummy & Healthy is no longer in business, I’m paying homage to the owner and to the many trips I took to that restaurant with this recipe. Wherever the owners ended up – I’d like them to know that the young woman with blue eyes, the sloppy French braid and the ill-fitting Fairweather suit who sat in the corner slurping her noodles would like to thank you for the inspiration : )

Veggie Pho Soup (adapted from Vegetarian Times, Feb 2014)

pho

10 cups vegetable broth (I used 3 cubes of mushroom bouillon mixed with 10 cups of water)
1 cinnamon stick
2 round slices of lime (with rind)
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger cut into thin coins
3 whole garlic cloves
The stems and roots from one bunch of cilantro (save the leaves for garnish)
3 tbsp. tamari (soy sauce)
1 tsp agave nectar
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 stalk broccoli, cut into small pieces
2 stalks of bok choy, chopped
2-3 cups of bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
3 oyster mushrooms, cut into small pieces
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
Rice noodles of choice (I used PC Thai Rice Stick Noodles)
Extra tamari and Sriracha Sauce for flavouring

Place vegetable broth, lime pieces, garlic, cinnamon stick, cilantro stems, tamari and agave into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain and throw out flavourings. (At this stage you can make your soup right away or save the broth to use at another time. It also freezes well.)

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, rinse and set aside.

Bring broth back to a simmer and add in tofu, broccoli, bok choy and mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add sprouts and cook 1-2 minutes longer.

Scoop a generous portion of noodles into the bottom of a soup bowl. Top with broth and veggies and sprinkle with cilantro. Add additional tamari and sriracha for flavouring if desired.

Enjoy!

Protein Packed Hash Browns

I almost called this post “Holy Crap She Is Actually Posting a Recipe!” because it’s been so freakin’ long since I shared a food idea on my blog. Yes I am still cooking- although perhaps thawing and reheating would better describe my time in the kitchen of late. And I must give credit where credit is due and mention my sweet hubby who has also been doing a lot of the cooking (ahem…ordering in) as we’ve been adjusting to a busier schedule.

The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favourite magazines Vegetarian Times. Anyone who has ever said that a plant-based diet is boring should pick up a copy of this mag and browse through the pages. Beautiful, delicious and creative dishes fill every issue and I always attempt to make at least one recipe from my monthly edition.

These hash browns are savoury and a bit spicy so feel free to omit the cayenne if you are making them for the kids. I served them with pancakes for a “breakfast for dinner” kind of night and they were a huge hit. You could also serve them alongside a big salad and a hunk of baguette for a hearty lunch or dinner. Oh and a tip from my family – a shot of ketchup takes these babies to the next level!

Protein Packed Hash Browns (adapted from Vegetarian Times, Sept 2013)

hash browns

1 package of extra-firm tofu (organic and non GMO), rinsed, patted dry and cubed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow pepper, chopped
5-6 yellow fleshed potatoes, cubed
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 pinch cayenne
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the cubed tofu and sauté for 5 minutes, flipping a few times until the chunks are lightly browned. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.

Add the other 1 tbsp. of oil to the same pan and sauté the garlic, onion, yellow pepper and potatoes for approximately 10 minutes or until potatoes are starting to brown. Toss in the tofu and add the spices. Saute for 7-8 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender and browned. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Bibimbap and my new Le Creuset Pot

Don’t you love it when you mention something that you would like to buy for yourself in passing to another person and they remember what you have said? And then on your birthday or as a surprise they give you just the thing you desire! How wonderful!

My husband is actually quite good at this and my Tiny Devotions necklace on Valentine’s day is a great example (I won’t bring up the Butler Bag fiasco from a few years ago though…still too sensitive ; )

I have been coveting a Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish for a long time. It’s the kind of pricey purchase that was hard to justify buying for myself so you can imagine my delight when my sweet sister (who’d overheard me pining over it) had a beautiful blue one all wrapped up under the Christmas tree for me this past year. I absolutely adore it!

la creuset pic

I have been dying to use it and as I was flipping through my Moosewood cookbook I found the perfect recipe to christen my special pot- Bibimbap. Super cool name eh? I was drawn to it right away and I knew I could get the kids to try it just because the name is so unique.

I’ve learned that this dish is actually one of Korea’s most famous culinary meals and it is believed it was originally served at ceremonial gatherings to honour one’s ancestors. It is traditionally served in individual clay pots called tukbaege and features an array of colourful vegetables, sprouts, meat or tofu and a chili sauce all served over rice.

The finicky part about making this delicious dish is that each veggie is cooked individually and then arranged over the rice. It is a bit time-consuming but the end product was beautiful and very yummy. I kept a large platter beside the oven so that as I finished one veggie I would transfer it to the tray and cover with tinfoil so they would stay warm. And don’t worry if you don’t have the same pot – any oven-safe casserole dish will do just fine.

Thanks to Jodi for the gift, to Moosewood for the inspiration and to Korea for such a lovely, tasty and awesomely named dish.

Bibimbap (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)

bibimbap

4 cups of freshly cooked white rice
2 ounces of mixed dried mushrooms
1 cup of green beans, trimmed and halved
1 tbsp olive oil (plus more if necessary for cooking veggies)
1 carrot, peeled and halved and cut into thin strips
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 zucchini quartered and cut into strips
1 medium onion, cut into strips
1 small package of organic extra-firm tofu, rinsed, drained and cubed
1 cup bean sprouts
1 sheet of toasted nori snipped into thin strips (you can buy a pkg of sheets at most health food stores)
1-2 tsp Asian Chili paste
2 tsp dark sesame oil
Dash of sea salt

Prepare your rice according to package directions. Immerse dried mushrooms in boiling water, cover and set aside for 20 minutes until soft.

Blanch green beans in boiling water for 4 minutes and then drain well. In a skillet or a wok, heat olive oil on medium heat and then stir fry the beans for 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet, place on a platter, cover and set aside.

Stir fry the carrots, bell peppers , zucchini  and onion separately until just tender, adding a tsp of oil after each veggie if necessary. (carrots approx 4 min, peppers approx 3 minutes, zucchini approx 2-3 minutes and onion approx 2 min). Place each vegetable in a separate pile on the platter and keep covered. Quickly stir fry tofu for 1 minute to warm and add to platter.

Drain the mushrooms, trim off any hard stems and thinly slice. Blanch the sprouts in boiling water for 1 minute and drain.

Oil the bottom of a casserole dish and scoop the rice into the bottom. On top, arrange the mushrooms, tofu, nori, green beans, carrots, zucchini, onion, peppers and sprouts in attractive mounds or circles around the perimeter and in the center.

Stir together chili paste and sesame oil and drizzle over top. Season with salt. Cover with a tight lid.

Place the dish on the stove top over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the rice sizzles and everything is piping hot. Enjoy!

Veggie School Lunch #2- Crispy Tofu Wraps

My all time favourite restaurant is Fresh in Toronto. All vegetarian and vegan fare that is so darn delicious that even your non-veg friends will rave about it. And the best dish on the menu for my money is their Magic Tofu wrap. A whole wheat wrap stuffed with shredded lettuce, grated carrot, onion, sprouts, crispy tofu and the most amazing sauce on the planet. Throw in a side order of quinoa onion rings and some organic wine and I’m in heaven!

Lucky for us owner Ruth Tal has written several cookbooks so that we can enjoy her glorious recipes at home. I’ve made several of them and they’ve all been a hit at my house. For some strange reason my kids love tofu and I think it was this introduction using crispy tofu that first got them hooked.

Did you know that in addition to being a good source of protein tofu is also full of iron? It’s true! In fact, the only meat that has more iron than tofu is beef liver. I’ll take the tofu thank you! Unfortunately soy beans are one of the most genetically modified crops so make sure to buy an organic brand that is guaranteed GMO. I like extra firm tofu for this recipe and it’s best if you rinse it and pat dry with a tea towel before you slice to make it easier to work with.

This wrap makes a great school lunch and on-the-go dinner. For school days I just wrap it up in tin foil to retain some of the warmth and send a side of their sauce of choice. At Fresh they make a wonderful vegan mayo but my kids prefer Ranch dressing, my husband likes hummus and Vegennaise and I like a good bbq sauce myself (try Amazing Dad’s BBQ Sauce). The possibilities are endless with this wrap so have fun and experiment to find your favourite combinations. Or you can be like my 2 year old and just dip the tofu slices in ketchup and enjoy!

Crispy Tofu Wrap (adapted from Refresh, Ruth Tal)

Crispy Tofu Coating
1 cup flaked nutritional yeast
½ cup wheat germ
1 tbsp garlic powder
½ tsp each of sea salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients on a plate and set aside.

crispy tofu crumbs

Marinated Tofu
1 package organic extra firm tofu
½ cup tamari
2 cups water
4 tsp garlic powder
Cut tofu into ¼ inch thick slices. Lay them in the bottom of a bowl or dish and pour the tamari, water and garlic powder over top. Swish around to marinate and let stand in the fridge for 15 minutes to ½ an hour.

crispy tofu slices

Wrap Fillings and Extras
12 whole wheat wraps (or wrap of choice)
1 pack of pea shoots or sprout of choice
2 cups grated carrot
1 cup finely diced onion
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 zucchini, shredded
2 tomatoes, diced
½ cucumber, diced
2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for each new batch of tofu as necessary)
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dredge the marinated tofu in the Crispy Tofu Coating and cook in pan until browned on both sides – approx. 4 min per side. Place the cooked tofu in the oven to stay warm while you fry all of the slices.

crispy tofu inpan
Warm tortillas in the oven. Place 3-4 tofu slices in the wrap and top with veggies and sauce of your choosing.

crispy tofu wrap guts

I often cook up a huge batch of crispy tofu and then keep it in the fridge and reheat it in the oven for on-the-go wraps or to throw on top of stir-frys throughout the week. crispy tofu wraps