The stuff we affectionately call Tofu

I have been a vegetarian my whole life (give or take a brief period in high school and after college ,when I ate some chicken every once in awhile). For me, it is about what feels healthy and what I am used to. I’m not so big on the moral righteousness of it. The mainstream animal production industry totally grosses me out, but a lot of what is gross about it applies to how we get our eggs and vegetables, etc, so I can’t really complain. Or I can, but that would be a rant for another post.

Anyway, a big part of being a vegetarian for me has always been eating lots of tofu. I love tofu and ate a lot of it as a child (though not as much as my brother did, who used to eat it raw with ketchup, gross!).  But here are some of the challenges I have with tofu.

It has no flavor. I suppose this is good and bad, given that it means the tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it, but that often takes more work and thoughtfulness.

It ends up as a bowl of mush (along with a comb and a brush… goodnight moon anyone?). Texture is often a big issue with tofu, I have a hard time with tofu scrambles for this reason, because unless it is fried, tofu still often has that mushy texture.

Enter the savior of kitchen appliances: the SLOW COOKER!

I have two tofu slow cooker recipes to share, but first I want to tell you why cooking tofu in the slow cooker is a good idea. It solves both the above problems. It makes the tofu super firm and have a lot of texture because it draws the water out. Also, it infuses the flavor as if you had marinated it for days. Yum. I love how both of these recipes use miso paste, which we had in the house because while I was pregnant I had this idea that I was going to make my own miso soup. I did. Once. It was not good. I don’t even like miso soup. Anyway, I highly recommend both of these, though we are partial to the one with spinach in this house.

Enjoy!

Japanese-Style Braised Tofu (The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Combine in a bowl with a whisk: 1/4 cup miso paste (recipe calls for white, we had yellow, which worked fine), 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon honey.

Take one pound of firm tofu and cut into 1/2 inch slices, or as I like to call them, tofu steaks. Coat the tofu (both sides) in the sauce and lay into the slow cooker. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. We like to turn the tofu a few times because the edges get really crispy and almost burnt.

Just before serving, add 1 pound of washed spinach (the recipe called for 1/2 pound but we found that wasn’t enough). Continue to cook in the slow cooker just long enough for the spinach to get wilted, maybe another 10 minutes.

Remove and put on plates. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

Miso-Braised Tofu and Shallots (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Thinly slice 3 shallots (we only had one so we substituted with 2 small onions, which worked well). Spread them over the bottom of your lightly oiled slow cooker.

Make your tofu steaks (1 pound cut into 1/2 inch thick slices) and put them on top of the shallots.

In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons miso paste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 tablespoon water. Pour this over the tofu and shallots.

Cook on low for 4 hours. Delicious!


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Slow Cooker Soups

So we have been doing lots of slow cooking lately.

Here are a few of the wonderful recipes we have been making. Both are from the cookbook: Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.

French Onion Soup

So I have never eaten or made french onion soup before, but my wife loves it and we got a huge bag of onions from Costco, so I was inspired to give it a try.

Making the soup is fun because it means cooking the onions forever! It also means you have to like the smell of onions taking over your house for a full day (and then some). Start by thinly slicing 4 sweet onions and throw them in the slow cooker with 1/4 cup of olive oil on the bottom.

That is a lot of onions. Then you cook them on low for 8-10 hours OR LONGER! They get super soft and caramelized. I couldn’t resist stirring them from time to time especially since they get stuck to the sides.

About an hour before serving, you add 5-6 cups of homemade vegetable stock and cook on High an hour (or till hot enough for you).  When you add the stock you salt and pepper to taste. I think I added about 1-2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

The soup is delicious with crusty toasted sourdough smothered in melted Swiss cheese.

Chipotle-Kissed Red Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I have made this before and it was okay, so I made a few changes this time. I made it for the group of moms that get together every week or so (I like to call us “the moms who lunch) and it was my turn to host. It was a hit. I think the key to it is being able to personalize the amount of chipotle you get to add. It is also one of those recipes where you have to do a little sauteing ahead of time, but it is worth it because the peppers and onions get all melty.

Chop up an onion, a red bell pepper, and a clove of garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the above ingredients and cover until softened, about 5 minutes.

Peel and cut into 1/2 chunks about 4 sweet potatoes (the recipe says 1.5 pounds).

When the onion mixture is soft add 1 tablespoon of chilli powder (I did a heaping tablespoon) and let cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the sweet potatoes and coat with the spices. Throw all that in the slow cook.

Add 14.5 ounce can of tomato (recipe says crushed I used diced which I think I like better), 15.5 ounce can of red beans (drained and rinsed), 1.5 cups of water and about 1.5 teaspoons of salt.

Now, the recipe says to cook on low for 6-8 hours. This will turn your potatoes into MUSH! If you want it that way, go for it. I keep trying to turn it off in time for the potatoes to have a little bite. So far they are still pretty mushy at 5 hours, maybe next time I’ll try 4.5 hours. I think our slow cooker is particularly hot as well. Obviously you want to the potatoes to be cooked and tender, but I would prefer them not too mushy.

When you are ready to serve, blend some chipotles in adobo sauce (chilis, sauce, seeds and all) in a blender (or the magic bullet) and serve on the side. I recommend serving it with some grated sharp cheddar and homemade cornbread.

Enjoy!

-Rachel

Broth, Brussels, and Baking

Warning: This post is recipe heavy. But don’t worry, there are lots of pictures.

Broth

So I have always wanted to cook with my own vegetable broth, I have just never had the time/energy to make my own. But when I made soup the other day (http://wp.me/p1Y51C-U) it occurred to me that it would be much better with homemade vegetable broth. The slow cooker makes it so easy to make broth. I turned it on before bed and when I woke up there was my broth. All I had to do was strain it. Easy as pie!

Picture of the vegetable broth before bed.

Brussels

We are saving most of the broth to make the Potato Leek soup again, but here is the first thing we (and by we I mean my lovely wife) made with it. This recipe is adapted from the Saveur magazine website (more on how much I love Saveur later). It is always interesting to make things vegetarian, especially when the recipe calls for far rendering

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Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Cranberries, and Caramelized Onion:

2 tbls olive oil

3 oz. of morningstar bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 medium onion, sliced

1/4 dry white cooking wine (the original recipe called for vermouth, but unless you already have it sitting around, you can just use white wine)

1 cup vegetable broth (made at home in the slow cooker!)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (we ran out and used some raisins in addition to the cranberries, delicious)

6 oz. of penne (original recipe called for fettuccine, but it was great with penne)

2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat 1 tbls of the oil in a large heavy bottom skillet (we used our beautiful orange dutch oven). Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Set bacon aside.

2. Add the other tbls of oil turn the heat to medium-high. Put the Brussels sprouts in, cut-side down and cook until they are brown. Then add the onion and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add the broth, wine, and cranberries and bring to a fast simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the sprouts are soft.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss continuously over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed (if its too dry, that is what the reserved cooking water is for.) Season with salt and pepper and serve with the Parmesan and bacon on top. Delicious

Baking

We have been feeding the baby greek yogurt, but clearly she eats it slowly so I figured I had to do something with the leftover yogurt. I went to my trusty Moosewood cookbook and found a ridiculous recipe for Cardamom Coffee Cake. However, it is supposed to be made in a budnt pan, which we don’t have. So I thought I would cut the recipe in half and try to make muffins. A great success.

Here is the recipe as I made it: Cardamom Coffee Cake Muffins (makes 12)

2 sticks of butter (OMG so much butter, delicious!)

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom

1 cup yogurt (she says you can also use sour cream or buttermilk)

Nut mixture:

1/8 cup of brown sugar (I eyeballed it in a 1/4 cup measuring cup, cause who has a 1/8 measuring cup?)

1 1/5 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 and fill muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a large mixing bowl (I used the Kitchen Aid) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Then add the vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients (not including the nut mixture).

4. Add the flour mixture, 1/3 of it at a time, alternating with the yogurt. Stir just enough to blend after each addition. Do not overmix. At this point I stopped using the Kitchen Aid, took the bowl off the stand, and mixed with a wooden spoon.

5. Combine the nut mixture. I used the magic bullet!

6. In the muffin tin, fill each tin half full with the batter, then a layer of the nut mixture, then the rest of the batter on top. They will be full to the brim. Spread flat (as best you can).

7. Bake for 30 minutes. Make sure a knife comes out completely clean to check if they are done. Let cool.

In the muffin tin and out. See the layer of the nut mixture? Yummy!

Also, just a note. If you happen to make chocolate cookies, and you have leftovers, and you happen to have some mint chocolate chip ice cream in the fridge, and your wife is a genius, you should make these:


Learning to like soup

I don’t like soup.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. I make an excellent corn chowder from the Moosewood cookbook and I can enjoy a good lentil soup every once in awhile but basically I don’t like soup. I would never order it at a restaurant and it is never my go to dinner. My wife loves soups, of many varieties, even orders it when we go out sometimes (I find this shocking), but since I hate it, we rarely have it at home.

Enter the slow cooker.

Yes, there are many wonderful things you can do with the slow cooker, but one of it’s main functions is slow cooked soup. I’m hoping that the things I don’t like about soup (watery, not enough flavor, no substance) will be alleviated with the slow cooker. I think the amount of time will give things more flavor. That’s my hope.

Tonight’s dinner: Chipotle-Potato Soup with Frizzled Leeks. Sounds good right?

Here is the recipe:

2 leeks, whites only (one of which you throw in the slow cooker with the potatoes and one of which you lightly fry in some oil, hence the frizzled part.)

2 tbls of olive oil

1.5 pounds of potatoes (which was only like 4 potatoes, I thought  it would be more and we now have a 15 pound bag of potatoes from Costco)

6 cups vegetable stock (okay, I need to start making my own vegetable stock. I have been using cheap boullion cubes and I think they really affect the flavor, especially in a soup like this).

Salt to taste

1 or 2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

You start by turning the slow cooker on high, adding 1 tbls of olive oil and throwing one leek in, to start softening them up. Then you peel and dice the potatoes (wish my slow cooker could do that for me!).

Then you throw the potatoes and vegetable stock in and cook it on low for 6-8 hours (I cooked it for almost 8).

Then you fry the rest of the leeks in the rest of the oil and put on a paper towel to drain. Set aside. Blend all the chipotles and set aside. You add the chipotles and the frizzled leeks to each surving depending on how spicy each person wants it.

Once the soup is done blend and serve with the chipotles and leeks!

Here is what it looks like before blending:

Here is what it looks like ready to eat:

Pretty, right?

Now the taste test. It was okay. I think quality stock would help next time. And I added too much chipotle to mine. But my wife liked it. I kept asking her what she likes about soup and she said, “its warm.” That didn’t explain it enough to me. My other problem, I realize as I start to get hungry again 30 minutes later is, I’m sorry, but that is not dinner. I think it needed a grilled cheese sandwich with it. I think I could like any soup that comes with a grilled cheese sandwhich.

-Rachel

 

Breakfast Bread Pudding

Ok, while the baby is having some happy tummy time, I will post about the much requested Breakfast Bread Pudding. But first, why do I love my slow cooker?

It often involves that one dish, and no other dishes, which is amazing for someone like me who hates to do dishes.

The recipes are interesting and involve flavor that develops over a long period of time.

I can leave it on while the baby and I go for long walks, do errands, or meet fabulous people for lunch.

Its just fun!

This is from a cookbook called The Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

Start by lightly greasing your slow cooker. I just used cooking spray, but a lot of it, and make sure you get up the sides.

First you cube 4.5 cups of French Bread, which is not a whole loaf as I somehow imagined it would be. Its more like 3-4 large slices. Set that aside.

Then peel and chop 3 large apples, I used Macoun, but the recipe called for cooking apples, and a heartier apple probably would’ve been better, since my apples were pretty mushy, though maybe they were meant to be that way.

Combine the apples with:
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all spice
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups milk (I used leftover whole milk, yum!)
1/4 cup maple syrup

Set that aside.

Then you have to cook 12 ounces of soy sausage. I just used a whole role (14 ounces). This is the most annoying part because it involves a pan and because that stuff is so hard to break up and brown.

Once all your components are ready you layer it like this:
half the bread
then half the apple/milk mixture, pressing down the bread to make sure it gets soaked
half the sausage
the rest of the bread
the rest of the sausage
the rest of the apple/milk mixture.

Then you cover and cook on low for 6 hours. My slow cooker finishes everything 30 minutes-hour early. So I turned it on at 12:40am and turned it off around 6:15am and it was perfect, any longer and the sides would’ve started to burn.

The only other thing about this recipe is that when you take a bite, you have to make sure you have some of each component otherwise it is too sweet or too savory, i.e. my first bite had too much sausage and it was overwhelming.

Let me know how if you make it and how it goes.

Okay, off to heat up some leftover Breakfast Bread Pudding and get the baby dressed for the day (we slept till 9am, after waking up every few hours since 2am). We are attempting a trip to Occupy Boston today. Hopefully we will make it and I can post about it, with pictures!