Miso-Ginger Stir-Fry

I have a confession: I actually made this recipe months ago. I wanted to post it then. But it was hot out. I mean, really hot. And I kept thinking that no one in their right mind would want to make stir-fry in the middle of July. At a time when other bloggers were posting salads and grilled vegetables, I was making stir-fry. And so, as much as I was in love with this dish, I decided to sit on it and wait for a time when this recipe was a bit more suited to the weather.

You’ll notice that for a stir-fry, this recipe uses very little oil. Again, it was July when I made this. My parents had just returned from the vegetarian summerfest and were influenced by the many doctors and health experts singing the praises of a low-fat vegan diet. I learned that wine is a great cooking tool for braising or making sauces, as it adds a lot of flavor without added fat. For me, this is especially true in stir-fries. My mom took a Chinese cooking class when I was younger at an amazing Chinese restaurant my family still frequents. One of the revelations from that experience was that almost every stir-fry sauce at that restaurant utilized white cooking wine, lots of garlic and very little if any soy sauce. True Hong Kong style Chinese sauces are light and clear, not thick and brown, as is so common in Americanized Chinese places would have us believe. (For those interested in eating at the best Chinese Restaurant, in my opinion, in North America: Harvey Lo’s Yummy House in Windsor Ontario. It’s divine).

Of course, with the addition of miso, this is more of a Japanese-Chinese fusion dish. I love miso for flavor in dressings and sauces. It makes a really great stir-fry here — tangy, almost sweet and salty combination of flavors. And finally, it’s that time of year where I can make this without losing 5 pounds of sweat in the process. Hooray for fall!

Serves: 3-4 with rice

Low Fat Miso-Ginger Stir Fry:

My new secret to a good stir-fry is to bake the tofu before adding it to the rest of the dish. It tends to get crispy on the outside, but remains intact, rather than crumbling like tofu so often does when its cooked in a skillet or wok.

2 tablespoons refrigerated white miso OR 3 tablespoons white shiro miso (not refrigerated)

¼ cup white wine

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons arrowroot + 2 tablespoons water, whisked together

2 tablespoons vegetable broth

1 head broccoli florets, chopped

1 red bell pepper, julienned

4 shiitake caps, sliced

½ yellow onion, sliced

Baked Tofu:

¼ teaspoon sesame oil (omit oil and use some veggie broth for an oil-free baked tofu option)

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry. Sliced or cubed.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together sesame oil and tamari in a shallow bowl. Dip slices of tofu into mixture and and then lay flat on non-stick or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together miso, wine, tamari, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Set aside.

3. In a very hot wok, add broccoli, bell pepper, onion and vegetable broth. Stir over high heat until broth evaporates and vegetables begin to soften. Add in shiitakes and pre-made sauce. Stir until sauce reduces by about 1/2 and vegetables are softened but still crisp. Add in arrowroot and water mixture and pre-baked tofu. Stir until sauce is thickened. Serve immediately.

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Tofu Scramble

My mom and I have been brainstorming our Easter Day menu and decided on a brunch theme. When I started this new “diet,” brunch was one of those things that was out of the question. Now, it’s one of my favorite menus to experiment with. I love a challenge. The latest brunch challenge that’s eluded me of late is a crustless vegan quiche recipe. I’m working on perfecting it before next weekend. In the meantime, I’m posting this tofu scramble recipe I’ve had in my archives, for those who might be looking into planning their own Easter menus in advance. I am well aware that tofu scramble is far from the most innovative of vegan recipes, but it’s hearty and healthy and it’s always a welcome accompaniment to roasted potatoes and vegetable in my home.

The truth is, I’ve never make this recipe the same twice. The one posted here is the only one I took the time to write down, but really, it’s pretty amenable to change. For a more Southwestern theme, you can reduce or even omit the turmeric and add some chili powder, melt some vegan Daiya shreds on top and finish with salsa and diced avocado. For this particular recipe, I also went a bit lighter on the spices than I’m used to, but figured my readers are all quite capable of — and likely inclined toward — making their own adjustments. Although it’s not pictured, I usually saute some portabello mushrooms with the onion and red pepper. Portobellos are my absolute favorite addition to tofu scrambles.

Tofu Scramble:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 lb./15 oz. extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Directions:

1. In a large saute pan or skillet, over medium-high heat, add oil, onion and pepper. Saute until onions begin to brown and soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add spices and toss with vegetables.

2. Add tofu and toss with spices and vegetables until coated and colored. Add salt and white pepper and toss. Saute for about 3 minutes, or until water is evaporated and tofu is slightly browned. You can add more turmeric for color or cumin to taste, plus more salt to taste. Serve immediately.

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Tofu Broccoli Stir-Fry

While I like to consider myself a healthy person, this classification is occasionally challenged as I learn about the food philosophy of some of my blogging peers, read a report on the potential dangers of an ingredient I’m frequently using, or listen to someone else’s take on what we should be putting into our bodies. While healthy debate and ongoing curiosity about our ideal dietary choices is probably a good thing, at times the information can be downright confusing. Depending on who you listen to, either fat, carbs, protein, soy, sugar, cooked food or processed food is the enemy.

I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or a scientist. Maybe this is the reason I’m not firmly committed to any one philosophy. I stopped eating animals because I learned the backstory of what happens to them before they’re our food (though I’m also fairly skeptical of the healthiness of many animal products). I stopped eating gluten and sugar because bloodwork results told me these were two of the reasons I was constantly sick. Pretty much everything else is (almost) fair game.

That said, I do adhere to some personal — albeit somewhat loose — rules for what to eat. They are as follows:

1. Too much of any one thing is probably not a good thing.If I eat a carb-loaded breakfast or lunch, I’ll go with salad for dinner. If soy has been a constant presence for the day, I make sure to ease off of it for awhile. While fruit is full of vitamins and often fiber, it can also be high in sugar, so I eat it much less often than I would actually like. This “rule” could probably re-stated as follows: much like one’s investments, one should diversify her diet.

2. Whole food is almost certainly better than processed.But I won’t kill myself over the occassional processed ingredient, because I’m fairly sure that it’s not going to kill me.

3. Listen to your body.I stopped eating kiwi when I was about five years old because it made my throat itch like crazy. I was not yet reading full books or doing fractions, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out when something’s not right. Your body is smart. Listen to it.

4. Have an open mind.

My final rule — to be open-minded — sort of indirectly inspired this stir-fry. Over Thanksgiving, my uncle loaned my mom this book called Eat to Beat Cancer*. The book lays out a general diet plan for cancer prevention, along with individual sections aimed at preventing specific types of cancers. But the primary focus of the book seems to be on the list of super cancer-fighting foods from different foods groups, along with a few common foods to avoid (dairy being the main culprit). Some might scoff at a book that professes to help prevent a disease that has preyed on many seemingly healthy, active, health-conscious people. But my take is that there’s really no harm in making a point to eat more of at least some of the foods on the list, many of which are indisputably healthy in their own right. And if it helps to prevent cancer, well, hooray! If not, what did I really lose?

Of the foods that jumped out to me from the book were broccoli, soy and sesame seeds (now do you see where this stir-fry comes into play?) Still, you can basically choose any protein or vegetables you wish for your stir-fry. The sauce is really the star here, and will probably bring any combination of other ingredients to life. I’ve been trying out stir-fry sauces for seemingly as long as I can remember, and have never been completely happy with how they turned out. Whether they were too salty, too sweet or too sour, I’ve just been somewhat unimpressed until I tried this recipe the other night. It’s not necessarily adapted from any recipe in particular, though it’s probably inspired by many of those I’ve seen over time. Just the perfect sauce to help get more broccoli, tofu and sesame into my diet — whether I really need it or not!

* Bonus fact about the author: according to Amazon.com, he received his doctoral degree in environmental toxicology from my alma matter, The University of Michigan (so this book must be legit).

Serves: about 4

As far as I know, pretty much every ingredient for this stir-fry can be purchased at Trader Joes or at your local grocery store. I love when that happens; when a recipe is accessible to just about everyone.

Stir-Fry Sauce

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari (of course, non gluten-free folks can use regular soy sauce)

3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 teaspoons cornstarch (or arrowroot starch)

2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

You will also need:

15 oz. extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cubed

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used grapeseed)

1 head broccoli florets, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients for stir-fry sauce. Set aside.

2. Heat oil* in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet. Add tofu and saute over high heat, stirring occassionally, until all sides are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli and stir-fry sauce and toss until broccoli has softened and sauce has reduced by about half, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Serve over brown rice or with rice noodles.

* I also saw on Dr. Oz that tossing your food in the oil before cooking instead of heating the oil in your skillet helps to preserve the benefits of whatever oil you’re using. I didn’t do this (I forgot), but you could always toss your tofu in the oil first if you wish to do so.

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Key Lime Cheesecake

When I was younger, I was the girl who listened to exclusively broadway musicals, who didn’t have cable, and who read books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights at the age of 10. So, when a friend invited me to a Bare Naked Ladies concert with her (yes, I still managed to have at least some friends), I was surprised to find out that, not only were these “ladies” not at all naked, but that they were actually men.

I guess you could call this recipe the Bare Naked Ladies of key lime cheesecakes. Not only did I not use key limes (just the normal, everyday variety), but I also didn’t use any cheese. Or cheese substitute. And Gennaro was a little thrown off by my initial cheesecake description because he said the texture is somewhere between a key lime pie and a cheesecake. But what was I going to call this, Regular Lime Cheesecake-Like Tofu Thing? Key lime cheesecake was much more simple.

In my last post I mentioned my never-ending (and never accomplished) to-do list. In addition to that, I could have mentioned snaping photos at the Union Square Greenmarket, which wouldn’t exactly be fair, because it has become more of a hobby ( an escape from the to-dos in my life) than anything else. Some of my prints are available on smugmug (I also provided a link in my sidebar). I went to a local art supply store yesterday, which, incidentally, was filled with NYU art students and made me realize that in my next life, I want to be an artist. Anyways, I found out that you can purchase some pretty cheap 8×10″ mattes that fit 5×7 photos. Once my prints were matted, I slipped them into some clear, 8.5×11.25″ clear slips and sealed them (also available at art supply stores or paper supply stores). Before I knew it, I had some professional-looking photos, and that was it for my Christmas shopping. It’s feeling like a homemade gift kind of year…

So, a final word on my Bare Naked Cheesecake. I’ve been working on a cheescake-ish dish for awhile. I discovered the recipe for the perfect crust, and have been tinkering with the filling ever since, which is where things have gotten tricky. You see, my crust calls for 1/2 cup of almond meal, and another 1/4 cup of Earth Balance. That’s 3/4 of a cup of fat-filled ingredients. They may be mostly good fats, but they’re calories nonetheless, which is why it was my goal to stay as low-fat as possible for the filling. While coconut oil and processed dairy-free cream cheese may have made excellent additions here, I went with agar flakes, which provide a firm texture without any added fat or calories. So while this might not taste or feel exactly like a “real” cheesecake (though I think the crust is as close a gluten-free, sugar-free substitute as you can get…) you can rest knowing it’s much, much better for you as well.

I’m also off agave (again) after this dessert, and I tried to go easy on it as it was. You could definitely up the sweetness if you wish, but as a serving suggestion, I recommend making the recupe as-is and drizzing some agave on the top to serve, for those who want it.

The Perfect Cheesecake Crust:

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Almond Meal (or similar brand)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (cold; tightly packed)

2 tablespoons agave nectar

zest of one lime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with a sharp, steel blade. Process until the crust is the texture of damp sand. Turn out into a 9″ nonstick springform pan (you may need to pre-grease if not non-stick). Press evenly into the bottom of pan and slightly up the sides of the pan, using the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until browned evenly along the edges. Let cool.

Lime Filling:

I used mango in the filling to add bulk and to enhance the tropical flavor. My mango was barely ripe, so it did not do much to change the texture or sweetness of the dish. The riper the mango you use, the more sweet and dark your cheesecake will likely turn out, and the more the mango flavor will come out (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

1/2 cup water

9 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice (requires about 2-3 limes, depending on size and juciness)

1 tablespoon agar-agar flakes

1 16-oz. package firm tofu

1 cup not-too-ripe mango, diced

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup agave nectar

zest of 1 lime

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, bring water, lime juice and agar flakes to a boil. Whisk until agar is dissolved. Reduce to a simmer and, using fingers, crumble tofu into saucepan. Stir to combine and heat until tofu is heated through.

2. Pour ingredients from saucepan into a food processor fitted with a sharp, steel blade or a high-speed blender. Process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process again until smooth. Pour mixture over pre-baked crust and place in refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or up to 8 hours (the longer, the better, to enhance the flavor) before serving.

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Greek Salad

If you’re not new around here, you may have noticed a new addition to the site conspicuously lurking in the sidelines. Hm. What’s that link to Amazon products doing there? Well, after over a year of posting my recipes, listing my favorite, must-have ingredients and crediting those cookbooks that have inspired me along the way, I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to provide a link to all of these gluten-free products, sugar substitutes, gadgets and books right here, so that I don’t have to worry about the fact that my mom has to drive an hour to get her hands on NuNaturals’ vanilla stevia, or the fact that I have readers who tell me that they can’t find bean flours anywhere? And, I thought, given how many people I’ve steered toward books like “Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking,” wouldn’t it make sense to link to that book here, where I’m (hopefully) providing some support and advice for those with similar allergies and restrictions?

In full disclosure, whenever someone clicks on a link on the side and buys something based on it, I get, like, a nickel or something. While I may be an unemployed former law student with impending loans to pay off, and living in the most expensive city in the world (ugh), I’m not so desperate that I need the rare nickel deposited in my account. I just figured it was a good, efficient way to share those products and books that have helped me thrive as a gluten-free, (mostly) vegan, sugar-free food lover.

Ok, onto this salad. I am a Greek salad FREAK. I mean, I think a good Greek salad is heavenly. And yet, I’ve had plenty bad. So by now I’ve assembled a pretty good formula for failure and success. Success: good romaine lettuce. Failure: iceberg. Success: Fresh cooked beets. Failure: the canned stuff. Success: good, kalamata olives. Failure: bad kalamata olives (um, duh) — or worse, no olives! Success: a good, creamy-yet-not-too-thick-dressing. Failure: Too-thick-dressing. Success: good quality feta…

…and that’s where a great vegan Greek salad has eluded me until now. The feta. With a little help from the internet, I learned that some tofu drizzled with red wine vinegar and some other flavorings could be masqueraded as the real deal. Still, I was skeptical. Very skeptical. It took my own series of experiments with this idea before I considered it a satisfying — if not exact — substitute. Hey, I didn’t say that for a good Greek salad the feta portion had to actually be feta, I just said it had to be good. This savory, briney tofu creation is quite good. My secret is to use a really good, raw fermented red wine vinegar for the marinating. It’s better for you, and I think it tastes better as well. Eden makes a very good one (actually, the it’s the only raw red wine vinegar I’ve seen).

I hope you enjoy this healthy, crunchy, salty Greek salad as much as I did! I listed the recipes for the various components separately below.

Tofu Feta:

1 package firm tofu, drained (extra firm will work, though I prefer firm for this recipe)

1/3 cup raw fermented red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided

Directions:

1. Crumble tofu into a medium-sized, shallow glass dish. Whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt in a separate bowl and pour over tofu. Add two tablespoons of nutritional yeast and let sit for about 15 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in the remaining nutritional yeast. Taste for salt.

Greek Dressing:

1/2 cup grapeseed oil vegenaise

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Directions:

1. Whisk all ingredients well until smooth or add to a jar and shake vigorously.

Other Salad Ingredients:

Romaine lettuce, chopped

Beets, cooked and chopped

Kirby or Persian cucumber, chopped

Red onion, thinly sliced

Kalamata Olives (pitted preferably), drained

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Banana Pudding

Gennaro’s birthday was last Wednesday and I struggled to come up with anything to make that would rival the 3-course Nobu knock-off meal I made last year — one which took exactly two days of prep, planning, and research and one full day of cooking. Somehow — as fun as that all may sound, I know — I lacked the energy or enthusiasm to attempt a repeat performance this year. Still, I wanted to do something special.

One of the perks of being a New York resident is being in the city long enough to try a place multiple times and really seek out the the best dish at any particular restaurant. Or the best, most delicious baked good at a bakery. Before becoming an official resident, and like most visitors of New York, I made a point to see what all the Magnolia Bakery hype was about, back when cupcakes were a hip and trendy thing (are they still? I’m not hip enough to know…) And truthfully? I didn’t understand the hype. The cupcakes were good, no doubt, but they were overly sweet and not that light, and certainly not at all unique or noteworthy. But, we’re all human, and the lack of cupcake spectacularity (is that a word?) didn’t stop us from going back. Multiple times. Obviously, this was all before I realized that pretty much everything that Magnolia had to offer was way off-limits for my poor, agonized digestive tract. Slowly we came to learn a little-known secret: the cupcakes are not the best thing Magnolia has to offer. The real deal there is the banana pudding, which quickly became our new favorite guilty pleasure.

And so you have it: another birthday, another New York favorite knocked-off in my kitchen. Too bad I didn’t know that the secret to this banana pudding was to let it sit overnight, because the night-of pudding was somewhat flavorless and underwhelming. Oh well, I thought. I’ll try that one again some other time. I packaged up the rest of the pudding left it at that. The next morning, something prompted me to have some of the pudding leftovers for breakfast (yep, that’s how I roll). And boy, did one night make a difference. Rich, banana-y, and slightly addicting, I had to consciously cut myself off so I could save the rest for Gennaro.

So, moral of the story? If you decide to make this, you have to promise to let it sit overnight. Otherwise — much like my reaction to Magnolia’s infamous cupcakes — you won’t understand the hype. And, because I wasn’t going to let a little thing like gluten intolerance rain on my banana pudding parade, I added my recipe for homemade vanilla wafers (gluten, dairy and sugar-free, of course) below. I used millet flour for the cookie recipe. I have to say, it came out nicely, but I did notice a slightly grainy, bitter aftertaste with the millet flour. Has anyone had this problem before? It was no issue once mixed with the pudding, and virtually disappeared when totally cooled, but the lack of explanation after a diligent Google search left me a bit puzzled as to why that may have happened.

Oh, and of course, after declaring myself agave-free as of late, I decided to use agave in this recipe. I guess I’ll have to eat my words. Or my pudding.

Pudding:

2 packages extra firm Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (room temperature)

1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified

1/3 cup agave nectar

4 medium bananas, not too ripe (try to find some that are a perfect yellow), divided

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cookies:

Makes about a dozen

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour (or make your own, thanks to this tip from Lexie’s Kitchen)

1 cup millet flour

1/4 tsp. xanthan gum

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tp. baking powder

1/3 cup Spectrum Organic shortening

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, salt, xanthan gum and baking powder. In a separate medium bowl, using an electric hand mixer, cream together agave, shortening and vanilla. Add dry to wet ingredients and use hand mixer to mix until incorporated. Make tablespoon-sized balls of cookies and roll into spheres. Lay onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten with hands. Bake in preheated oven for 14-16 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Let cool. Repeat if necessary.

2. Make pudding: Add all ingredients for pudding, but only 2 of the 4 bananas, into a blender and blend on high until smooth. Taste for sweetness and adjust according to taste. Set aside.

3. Assemble pudding: When cookies have cooled, crumble 3-4 of them onto the bottom of a 1.5 to 2 qt. glass bowl (exact size isn’t too important). Using the remaining 2 bananas, cut slices (about 1/2 a bananas worth) of banana over the cookie crumbles so that the slices lay evenly over the cookies. Pour 1/3 of the pudding mixture over the sliced bananas. Repeat 2x. Line the outside edge of the top of the pudding with remaining banana slices. Cover and refridgerate overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

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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

Directions:

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.

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