Cornmeal Pancakes

In this city, noted for its bagels and the ubiquitous Sunday brunch, it can often be a slight challenge for the “_____ free” crowd (fill in the blank; they all fit). The notion of alternating sips of coffee and orange juice as your friends nosh on pancakes, french toast and, sigh, bagels and lox sounds rather alienating — and unappealing —  if you ask me.

I’m usually a shut-in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Maybe I’ll sleep in, maybe I’m up studying, reading or drinking coffee. At any rate, I’m usually still wearing whatever I slept in the night before. Still, when my parents are in town I tend to feel rather lazy sleeping in any later than 8 a.m., at which point they’ve already woken up, walked my dog and taken a quick trip to the farmers market for some fruit and veggie essentials. Usually, we’ll go to church, then head to brunch. So I’ve picked up a few brunch tips along the way. One option is to go unconventional. Think Indian. One especially exciting discovery was the daily 12-4 brunch at Brick Lane Curry House for something like $11, which gets you all-you-can-eat access to several varieties of curries, rice, soups and sides. Caracas Arepa Bar does a weekend brunch from noon-3 that is equally filling and unique. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if you’re in New York — now or ever — GO TO CARACAS. You’ll thank me. I’ve been for brunch only once, but did appreciate how, unlike many other Mexican/Latin American restaurants, Caracas doesn’t forgo their roots by offering the usual eggs and meat fare during brunch. You can still get their famous gluten-free cornmeal arepas, just prepared in different ways. Word of warning: expect to wait outside for a table. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.

So, if you’re going out and worried about what you can eat, I’ve found that the further you can get from standard American fare, the better (that is, if you can’t eat pancakes, waffles, eggs, french toast, etc.). If you’re looking to stay in and enjoy a lazy weekend morning as I often do, try this recipe for cornmeal pancakes. In the true spirit of brunch, I’m offering a two-for-the-price-of-one recipe: a sweet and savory option. Now the only thing you’ll have to worry about is which option to go with.

Lemony Cornmeal Pancakes:

Please Note: This recipes makes a very thin, crepe-like pancake batter. It’s important to drop batter a few inches apart and that your pan is very hot before cooking pancakes, so that the batter doesn’t spread.

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

1/2 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill; medium grind)

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/2 cup water

zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon pure vanila extract

Warm Blueberry Sauce:

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

2 teaspoons arrowroot

1 tablespoon agave nectar


1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (brown rice flour through salt). Add wet ingredients and lemon zest and whisk vigorously and batter is smooth and slightly frothy on top.

2. Spray or rub large non-stick or cast-iron skillet with canola or grapeseed oil. Heat over high heat. When skillet is hot (allow a few minutes), pour batter in scant 1/4 cup-sized amounts, making sure to leave an inch or two of space between each cake. Cook 1 1/2-2 minutes on the first side, until bubbles start to form on the outside edges. Flip and cook for about another minute or two, or until the second side is golden brown. Repeat steps 1 & 2 with remaining batter.

3. To make blueberry sauce: add ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan and stir to combine. Heat over medium-high heat until bubbly and sauce begins to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Serve over pancakes.

Savory Southwestern Cornmeal Pancakes:

Same as cornmeal lemon pancakes with the following changes: omit lemon zest. Reduce water to 1/4 cup. Add: 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (drained; canned is fine); 1 4-oz can diced green chiles; 2 scallions, sliced; 1 teaspoon chile powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Serve with sliced avocado, salsa, guacamole, or anything else you think you might enjoy!


Carrot Cake

carrot cakeThis carrot cake is one of my favorite new recipes. I made it this morning while witnessing an epic snowstorm in the making outside my window. The sweet, nostalgic smell of carrot cake somehow seemed perfect against the backdrop of billowing snow. Since I don’t have class on Fridays and am still recovering from my nasty little cold, I found being holed up in my apartment to be a perfectly fine way to spend the day. My dog, on the other hand, was a little less thrilled about the weather, since he was belly-deep in snow during much of our walk.

Anyways, back to the recipe. I love it because it’s moist and flavorful, and spongey rather than dense. Don’t get me wrong; I actually really love a dense, carrot-packed carrot cake. But this version is a foolproof cake recipe that I’m certain will satisfy all crowds. I had a “Miranda” (re: Sex and the City) moment today when — after sneaking small slices off of the sheet of cake throughout the day — I suddenly realized a quite sizeable chunk of it was missing. Whoops!

The coconut frosting I used is made from coconut-based ingredients and splashed with a hint of apple cider vinegar for some tanginess.  The way I made it, the frosting will set completely when it’s on the cake, which is why I add it in two batches. If you pour it on all at once, I think too much of the frosting mixture will seep into the warm cake. If you want to try a cream cheese frosting recipe instead, try this one from Elana’s Pantry. I haven’t tried it, but can attest to her recipes being pretty spot-on. I would suggest using Follow Your Heart vegan cream cheese and soy milk for a dairy-free version.

In other dessert-related news, I recently discovered a great blog called madcap cupcake. It is my new web obsession. I could gaze at the photographs alone for hours, and the recipes (many linked to other great blogs) — albeit not all gluten or sugar-free — are all vegan.  I’m sure madcap cupcake will be a great source of inspiration for me in the future. I also love the cruelty-free angle. I’m taking an animal law class right now, and without getting too in-depth, I’ll just say that I’ve learned enough already to know that the world could use a good, cruelty-free recipe blogger. You go, Marika!

On that note, I hope you all enjoy this gluten-free, sugar-free, “cruelty free” carrot cake as much as I did.

Tip: toast the walnuts on a flat baking sheet at 350 for 10 minutes before using

Gluten Free Carrot Cake:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup grapeseed oil

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup hot water

1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)

2 cups shredded carrot

1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup fruit sweetened dried cranberries

Coconut Frosting:

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons potato starch

2 teaspoons coconut flour

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup lite coconut milk


1. Make frosting by blending all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Make sure coconut oil is liquified beforehand. If solidified, let jar sit in a warm bowl of water for 10 minutes. Chill frosting in refrigerator while preparing cake.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl (sorghum flour through salt). Add grapeseed oil, agave and hot water and whisk until batter is smooth. Fold in applesauce, carrot, walnuts and dried cranberries. Turn out batter into a pre-greased, 9-13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Let cake cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. When cake is slightly cooled, pour or spread 1/2 of the frosting mixture over cake. Cover and let cool in refrigerator until frosting is set (firm to the touch). Pour or spread the remaining mixture over the cake and let frosting set completely before serving.

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Miso Soup

Sore throat? Check. Cough? Check. Snow storm headed into New York tomorrow? Check. If there were ever a night for a big, warm bowl of miso soup, tonight was it.

I thought about ordering delivery. That way I could just curl up and rest without dirtying up the kitchen. Problem is, I was in the mood for miso soup, and I’m not aware of anywhere where miso soup is sold in large quantities and will be delivered a la carte. My friend Liz told me that once when she was sick, she just ordered eight of the small bowls of miso soup from a sushi place. I thought about doing that, but then I remembered I had bought some shiro miso awhile ago, and it was still unopened. That’s when I decided to try a homemade miso soup. Guess what? It was easier than ordering delivery. And faster, too.

Miso Soup:

6 cups water

1/3 cup shiro miso

2 tablespoons coconut amino (substitute wheat-free tamari if you can’t find it)

1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar

2 green onions, sliced

2 kale leaves (stems removed), sliced

~ 1/3 of a block extra firm tofu, diced

1 sheet sushi nori, torn into pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste


1. In a medium to large soup pot, bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Whisk in miso, coconut amino and plum vinegar. Add green onion and kale and stir until kale has wilted.

2. Remove from heat and stir in nori and salt. Add more to taste.


Caramelized Onion and Shiitake Pizza

It happens. You think you’re doing great, happily enjoying your new gluten-free life. You feel better. You might even look better. You start even saying things like “I don’t even miss pizza.” And then it happens. You see someone walking past you on the street, or walking into work from lunch, holding a big, fat, cheesy slice of pizza. And just like that, you start to feel alone, left out, dejected.

Don’t worry, though, because when that moment comes, you can go online, look up this savory gluten free pizza recipe, and make it. Right away (it’s really simple to make, I promise).

Sure, this pizza is a little different than the ones we were all used to once upon a time. But that doesn’t make it any less delicious. First of all, the crust is basically a socca. If you’ve had socca before, you know how delicious it can be. I’ve been really obsessed with this socca-as-pizza idea lately. Last time I attempted it, though, I went with a buckwheat flour batter and more traditional pizza toppings. It was good. It hit the spot. But after making this tonight, I can tell you one thing. There’s a reason the French use chickpea (garbanzo) flour to make socca. There’s also a reason that French cuisine (even of the non-Parisian variety) is emulated around the world. They simply know what they’re doing.

This “socca pizza” is crisp on the edges, ever-so-slightly chewy in the middle, and perfectly savory on top. I used Follow Your Heart vegan mozarella and a little sprinkling of nutritional yeast for some nuttiness to top it all off. It’s the perfect treat to ward off those gluten-free (or perhaps vegan) blues and to remind you that you don’t have to choose between feeling better and eating well (or alternately, eating well and helping the planet).

A few notes: You will need a cast-iron (or otherwise oven-proof) skillet for this recipe. The “dough” is not really going to look like dough. It’s more of a batter, like a crepe batter. You can feel free to experiment with different toppings, but I would stay away from “wet” toppings or sauces unless you cook the crust for longer from the start, or else you might end up with a soggier middle.

Yield: 1 9″ cast-iron skillet-sized pizza

Socca (crust) batter:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt


2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

~ 4 ounces (a little less than half a block) Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella cheese, grated with a microplane grater


1. Preheat oven to 450. Place a well-oiled 9″ cast-iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together ingredients for socca batter until frothy (about 2 minutes). When skillet is hot, pour in batter and place back in preheated oven. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until edges are browned and middle is firm to the touch.

3. While crust bakes, make topping by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and onions and stir to coat with oil. Saute onions until dark brown, about 7 minutes. Add shitakes and cook for another 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and transluscent.

4. When crust is cooked, spread onion and mushroom mixture over top and sprinkle with nutritional yeast (optional) and “cheese.” Bake until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.


Gluten-Free Brownies

When it comes to brownies, most people are aware that there are two schools of thought: cakey and fudgey. I am definitely a fudgey girl, though the last brownie recipe I posted here might as well have been called “fudge” because they were so dense and rich. I decided to go a bit more classic today. No mint, no coffee, no nuts, no frosting. Just plain, old fashioned brownies. They are still in the “fudgey” category, though there is a hint (just a hint) of cakeiness.

In addition to liking my brownies fudgey, I also tend to like them less than sickeningly sweet. I’m aware that “sickeningly sweet” means different things for different people, though, so feel free to play around with the amount of agave in these brownies, but be aware that it might change the texture (and moisture) the more you add.

You can, of course, add nuts or chocolate chips (1 cup of chopped, toasted walnuts proved to be very tasty here) — anything you normally like in a brownie. I do like, though, that these brownies call for very few ingredients and are relatively fuss-free, especially when you consider that they can be made using just one bowl.

Update: following some reader feedback, I’ve made some specifications below that I think will ensure these babies turn out right. First, I’ve indicated below that the bananas used should not be overripe (i.e. no brown spots). I would have noted this earlier, but I had no idea that the ripeness of the bananas would make such a difference. Thanks for prompting me to figure this one out, Lauren! . Below is a photo of a brownie from the new, improved method.


Yield: about 9-12 brownies


2/3 cup mashed banana (about 2 small bananas — yellow; not too ripe)

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery spread, melted

3/4 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, applesauce, agave, buttery spread and vanilla. Add in flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and whisk until mixture is smooth.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased 9×9″ or 8×8″ baking dish.* Bake for about 30-40 minutes (brownies should still be somewhat soft in the center — but shouldn’t “jiggle” when you shake the pan).

4. Let cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

* I’ve made these brownies with both sizes. The 9×9″ brownies are more chewy (more brownie-like, as pictured), while the 8×8″ will be much more thick and cakey, almost like a chocolate cake — both good!

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Citrus Jicama Salad

Ironically, while I was in the midst of testing my 4th batch of streusel bars, I actually got hungry. I was craving something light and clean to contrast the sweet and buttery bars. I usually make a jicama salad with mango and mint. But grapefruit is in season and mango is a little harder to find these days. Plus, I just read somewhere (or maybe I saw it on The Dr. Oz Show, though I’m a little ashamed to admit this) that grapefruit can speed up your metabolism. It is also quite low on the glycemic index and is high in fiber. This salad is one of those rare combinations of super-healthy and low calorie while still being sort of addictingly good. You can adjust the dressing according to your taste — more or less agave, more salt, less oil, etc. Be sure to get really juicy lemons and limes for the dressing. I didn’t measure exactly when I made mine, but I know that the lemons and limes I used yielded a lot of juice. If yours are slightly less juicy, just adjust the rest of the ingredients proportionately.

Cirtus Jicama Salad:

1 jicama, peeled and diced

1 grapefruit, segmented (membranes removed using hands)

1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffoned or minced


juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)


Combine jicama, grapefruit and mint in a salad bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat.


Creamy, Vegan Mac and Cheese

vegan mac and cheese

If there were a Family Feud category for “comfort foods” (and I’m sure there was at some point), how many people would go with mac and cheese as their first pick? I don’t think I’m alone on this one; mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. In this spirit, I created a mac and cheese that could be made in your slow cooker for those inevitable lazy nights. Only one pot needed — and you don’t even have to cook the pasta!

I know there are many nights that I get home from class and want to take Woodley for a run or run some errands, but looming in the back of my mind is making dinner when I get home. I dread working late into the night just to enjoy a home cooked meal (my college days of cereal and granola bars for dinner, I’m happy to say, are over). With this recipe, you can throw everything into the slow cooker, run some errands, and come back to a warm meal. I must warn, however, that some intermittent stirring is a must with this dish — so make the errands quick. Or even use the time to watch Oprah(ok, so not everyone is the fan I am, but you can feel free to sub in your favorite show here) or take a cat nap. This is supposed to be comfort food, after all. Why not make the rest of your evening comfortable and lazy as well?

Serves: 4-5

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese:

1 8-oz. box gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (uncooked)

florets from 1 head of broccoli, washed and chopped

2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1/2 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cream cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup water, divided


1. Add all above ingredients (only 1 1/2 cups water) to your slow cooker. Stir and cover. Set on a low setting for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

2. After 1 hour has elapsed, add another 1/2 cup water. Stir. After 1 1/2 hours has elapsed, test macaroni for doneness before serving. If needed, you may add an additional 15 minutes to cooking time. Watch closely, though, to make sure pasta does not overcook.

3. If desired, to serve, toast 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes in a saute pan for a few minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle over individual servings.

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Vegan Caesar Salad

vegan caesar saladCaesar salad is one of those ubiquitous menu items. It ranges anywhere from a pre-packaged container of stale croutons and wilted lettuce at the airport to the real good stuff that’s tossed tableside, to order, at the best Italian restaurants. As a result, the legitimacy of any given Caesar is sometimes questioned, let alone a vegan Caesar.

I’m always hesitant to put together a recipe that seeks to omit an inherent ingredient in a classic dish. Look at any Caesar recipe. It may be eggless. There may or may not be anchovies. Some include mustard. But there is almost always going to be parmesan cheese. That’s what makes it so good.

I’m sorry to inform anyone that I haven’t found the magical vegan substitute for parmesan. For many vegans, a popular alternative is nutritional yeast, which I used in this recipe. It’s nutty — and, by definition, nutritious — but I wouldn’t hold your breath if you’re looking for an exact match. That said, I invite you to suspend your notion of what a “Caesar” salad should or should not taste like — or include. This is just a good, creamy, salty, nutty, tangy dressing with the spirit of a classic Caesar and without the eggs or anchovies. Or the parmesan cheese.

In lieu of croutons, I sometimes use chickpeas for a bit of texture and a touch of protein. I also like to use my focaccia recipe for croutons. I toss cubed focaccia in a little bit of olive oil and baking them at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

Use 1 head of chopped, crisp romaine lettuce for this salad. This will serve about 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as an entree salad. The dressing recipe makes plenty of dressing, so store any remaining dressing in a glass jar in refrigerator. It will definitely keep for a few days, if not longer (it’s never lasted long enough in my fridge for me to find out). 

Vegan Caesar Dressing:

1 clove raw garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 scallion, white part only

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

salt and pepper to taste


Blend all ingredients  for dressing in a blender until smooth. Toss romaine with just enough dressing to coat lettuce. Serve right away.


Chocolate Espresso Cookies with Banana and Walnut

I’m off to Puerto Rico this weekend for a wedding, so this will be my last post for a few days (I know, poor me). Unfortunately, I haven’t done my bikini body any favors by deciding to test several batches of cookies prior to leaving. I’m pretty darn sure it was all worth it, though, because these may be the best flavored cookies I have ever had. Ever. Ok, maybe I’m just a little amped from the caffeine kick (there’s 1 tablespoon of ground coffee per batch), which is perfectly fine with me because I need to stay up to pack!

I like to use Spectrum Organic Shortening when baking cookies, but for some reason I’ve been having the darndest time finding it anywhere! Even my neighborhood health food store — a usually reliable shortening source — has been out of it for about a month. Has anyone else been having this problem? Please tell me this isn’t going to be a permanent thing. Anyways, I went with my second go-to: Earth Balance Buttery Spread. It’s vegan and there are several varieties, soy-free and organic options included.

I’m confident that everyone will enjoy these cookies as much as I did. They are kinda cakey in texture, but also gooey, chewy, and crisp — all the things that cookies are supposed to be. It’s essential that you toast the walnuts beforehand, because that is where the depth of the flavor comes from. The diced bananas add a nice contrast of texture and are sort of reminiscent of melted chocolate chips in texture. Oh, I just love these cookies!

Yield: about 15 cookies

Gluten Free Espresso Cookies with Banana and Walnut:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground coffee (your favorite roast)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (room temperature)

2/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped (see below for directions on toasting)

2/3 cup diced banana (about 1 small banana)


1. Toast nuts: preheat oven to 350. Lay chopped nuts flat on a baking sheet. Bake nuts in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until fragrant and browned. Watch closely to make sure the nuts don’t burn. Remove nuts to cool. Leave oven temperature at 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together buttery spread, agave and vanilla until smooth and there are no lumps. Slowly add dry mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Fold in banana and toasted nuts.

3. Drop batter onto a pre-greased baking sheet in rounded tablespoon-sized drops. Leave a little space between each cookie. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes (give or take about a minute depending on whether you like them gooey or more firm). Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


Pan Glazed Ginger Tofu

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of eating at Kuma Inn, a small, intimate, reasonably priced Filipino-Thai tapas restaurant (bonus: it’s also BYO). All of the dishes were quite good, but Gennaro and I both particularly liked a really delicious tofu with Thai basil in a soy-mirin broth. It reminded me of how good tofu can be. So, if you live in New York or are in for a visit, be sure to check out Kuma Inn for good food, a fun atmosphere, and good music to boot (Chef King Phojanakong doubles as DJ as well).

Inspired by Chef King’s flavorful dish, I came up with this simple yet flavorful dish, and in doing so broke out of my plain, baked tofu rut. This tofu was lick-the-plate good, with a sweet and spicy sauce that goes great with some plain rice and vegetables to round out the meal. If you like a firmer tofu, you can bake the slices before adding it to the sauce, or sear it on each side before slicing. If you’re in a tofu rut like I was, this recipe is a must-try.

Pan Glazed Tofu:

1 block extra firm tofu, halved lengthwise then cut into square slices 1/4″ thick

1 teaspoon olive oil (plus more for baking)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons reduced sodium wheat-free tamari

3 tablespoons agave nectar

3 green onions, sliced, greens topped off (save for garnish)

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1-2 Thai chile peppers, sliced (optional)

1 teaspoon arrowroot

fresh cilantro (optional) for garnish


1. If baking tofu first, preheat oven to 350. Lay tofu slices flat on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients in a bowl for the sauce. Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add sauce. Heat until bubbly, then add tofu. Toss to coat and simmer until sauce has reduced to desired amount. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion tops (optional). Serve immediately.