Miso Sauced Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu

This week’s meals have had a distinct East Asia theme – Monday night I was at work so long that I said screw it and picked up some dinner from Thai Spice rather than cook. My go to is the Pad Woon Sen with chicken or tofu – I prefer the cellophane noodles to thick pad thai noodles. C really likes the Tom Kha with tofu – and that’s a development after four years, C will eat tofu as the protein of the meal… Umm, yeah blew my mind too.

Then on Wednesday I was able to finally test out this vision I had for a recipe I’m doing for a cooking class – and obviously I’m going to share it on the blog too. 🙂

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The idea started when C and I made the Spicy Ramen recipe from Pinch of Yum. While the ramen was good, I couldn’t help but just stand by the counter dunking my tofu into the miso sauce – without putting it in the broth. When looking to create my own version, I decided to go away fro the traditional ramen noodles because they can be really high in sodium and some fat. Since the miso is salty enough, I decided to go for a soba noodle. It was definitely the right choice.

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If you’re not sure if you’re a tofu fan, it’s probably because you’ve never had it prepared correctly – lots of places just deep fry the heck out of it and it’s like biting in to a sponge. Umm, no, just no. That texture is for dips, mousses, and sauces, not the “meaty” portion of the meal. The key is to press the tofu to get rid of excess liquid and prevent that spongy texture. I also prefer the baked or grilled tofu to the pan fried – for some reason I have better luck with the first two methods.

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Miso Sauced Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu

Serves 2 very large or 4 normal portions

Ingredients

  • 16 oz firm or extra firm tofu
  • Vegetables of choice – I used a convenient mixed stir-fry blend with broccoli, sliced carrots, pea pods, and kale
  • 2 large shiitake mushrooms, cut thinly length wise (optional)
  • Green onion for final taste and garnish

Spicy Miso Sauce

  • 1/2 small or 1/4 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c red miso paste
  • 1/4 c yellow miso broth concentrate (can use this for both misos if can’t find the red)
  • 2 T sambel oelek – chili paste – if using a garlic chili paste, omit garlic cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T mirin – like rice wine for cooking
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1T (scant) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp red curry paste (optional but encouraged)

Directions

  1. Begin by draining and cutting your tofu into eight slices (dividing the width of the tofu block). To compress tofu if you don’t have a fancy contraption, lay tofu slices on a level surface on top of some towels and paper towels, then place an addition layer of towels and paper towels on top of that. Place a large board – I use my cutting board over the top – then weigh down with heavy books. Cook books work great! Wait at least 30 minutes.
  2. While you’re pressing the excess liquid out of the tofu, you can get started on the miso sauce and preheat the oven to 400F.
  3. In a food processor, puree all of the spicy miso sauce ingredients. It will be a thick sauce. Scrap out into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Once the tofu is sufficiently pressed, you can arrange to slices on a non-stick baking sheet or one covered in foil and lightly oiled. Brush tofu lightly with olive or vegetable oil, then brush on a layer of the miso sauce. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until they’ve reached your desired level of crispiness.
  5. While the tofu bakes, start a large pot of water boiling for the noodles.
  6. In a large pan, sauté the vegetables and mushrooms until cooked but vegetables are still slightly crisp. You can also cook the mushrooms separately first and then add back in at the end of the vegetable cooking. Add a tablespoon of the miso sauce to the vegetable pan and stir. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.
  7. Once water has reached a boiling point in the large pot, add in soba noodles and cook as directed – cooked through, but not mushy, about 6-8 minutes. Drain noodles and place in very large bowl.
  8. In the very large bowl, toss together the noodles and vegetables with 1/3 c miso sauce to start. Add additional sauce until noodles have reached the desired level of flavor, some additional splashes of water may be needed to ensure even sauce coverage. You will have left over sauce – don’t worry that’s a good thing to save for later. 🙂
  9. Plate noodles and serve with crispy tofu – brush tofu with additional miso sauce layer once out of oven.

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Seriously in love with this sauce. Beware it is really salty, because well, miso is salty and full of umami goodness.  The miso paste will have a more concentrated flavor as will the red miso, so if you want to just do the yellow or the broth concentrate, that works too! And miso is a really good health food – it’s fermented which means it has some of those good bacteria, it also is packed with nutrients including iron, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins. Maybe I should start switching all of my regular broth recipes to miso?

I’d also recommend making an extra 16 oz of crispy tofu to dunk later in the left over miso sauce – as Martha would say, it’s definitely a good thing.

Do you ever get on a theme week with food? With leftover miso paste, what are some of your favorite dishes that require miso?


Roasted Poblano and Cauliflower “Cream” Soup

It’s January and it’s cold. Of course being winter, that’s not really surprising, but I’m always unpleasantly surprised whenever the temp drops below freezing. And with all of the chill, it has me thinking about soup – and why not a hot soup that is spicy as well. 🙂 Win, win?

When looking for more flavors of New Mexico to incorporate into cooking classes at work, I had an inspiration for a healthier poblano cream soup. When looking for an option for a cream base alternative, cauliflower immediately popped into my head. Maybe cauliflower is still a hit vegetable in 2017? It’s so versatile – everything from pizza crust to “rice” to cream soups. And you definitely won’t miss the full fat – the cauliflower puree is so creamy it still feels just as decadent with less than 200 calories for 2 cups – or about 1/8 of the recipe.

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They say you love things more if you’d put a lot of work into it or paid a high price. I went into a battle for this soup – while chopping the poblano peppers, some capsaicin sprayed into my eye and boy did it BURN. I flushed my eye out for a good 20 minutes until it felt even remotely back to normal. Blood, sweat, and so many tears.

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Roasted Poblano and Cauliflower “Cream” Soup

Makes about 8 – 2cup servings

Ingredients

  • 3-4 poblano chiles, roasted (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (~8 cups), cut up
  • 4 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 c additional water as needed
  • 1/2 c cream or half & half (optional)
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 4 c corn, I used frozen, but fresh is also great!
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions

  1. If roasting your own poblanos, there are a couple of options – you can grill them on an outdoor grill, under your oven broiler, or over the flame of a gas stove top. If using your gas range, the large burner works best – place 2 poblanos at a time over the flames, rotating when one side gets sightly charred with tongs. Set chiles aside to cool until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot with a bit of oil on the bottom, sauté the onions until translucent and soft.
  3. Add in the garlic and wine. Cook to reduce the wine until almost all has evaporated.
  4. Add in the cauliflower and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft.
  5. While your cauliflower is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the celery until soft.
  6. While the celery cooks, remove the seeds from the chiles (use gloves and eye protection if you have it) and chop into whatever size pieces you like best. Set aside momentarily.
  7. To the celery pan, add the corn and dried spices. Cook until corn is soft, then add in the chopped/diced poblanos. Cook until warm or “cream” soup is done.
  8. Moving back to your large pot, once the cauliflower is soft it’s time to puree.
  9. In three batches, blend all of the large pot contents – adding additional water to make it the consistency you want. Depending on the power of your blender, you may need to add even more additional water or other liquid in order to puree.
  10. Once the contents is all pureed, dump everything back into the large pot and add you cream or half & half.
  11. Add the corn and poblano mixture to the cauliflower cream base, stir to combine and bring the temperature back up to almost boiling.
  12. Garnish with green onion, parsley, or any other large pieces of the roasted poblano.

Nutrition Based on 1/8 of recipe with Half & Half (~2 cup serving)
Calories 174, Total Fat 3g, Sodium 233mg, Cholesterol 6mg, Carbs 32g, Fiber 6g, Protein 7g

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I also love, love, love this new patterned tray I found at World Market – not sure why I hadn’t been there in so long, but it took all my restraint not to walk out with an entire cart of items. But I did practice restraint and managed to make it out with just this tray and the ottoman it’s sitting on.

Stay warm out there!


Fall Kale Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with a Cider Viniagrette 

We’re now past Halloween but I’m still in the pumpkin mood. I loved this display at the Sprouts a couple weeks back. I even pick up a few for the front door – obviously they were the edible kind. And because Halloween is past I’m thinking of baking up a few of my pumpkins  – hopefully I’ll get a couple new recipes.

I dreamt of this salad when I was trying to figure out something else to do with a kale salad that wasn’t savory. Then it hit me – squash doesn’t need to be savory (although sage and squash is pretty tasty). And wanting another more tender alternative to apple, I turned to the pear. If you’re looking for a fresh bite of fall, this definitely hits the spot and you can do it warm too.

Notable Nutrition – Kale/dark green and squash. Both have fantastic vitamin A. So this salad is a treasure trove of that all too important for hair, skin, and nail nutrient.

Kale, Butternut Squash and Pear Salad

Serves 4 large salads

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of curly kale, chopped fine
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 Bartlett pears, diced
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c chopped, toasted walnuts

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 c olive oil

Directions

  1. Peel, de-seed, and cube butternut squash (dice size). Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and roast squash at 375F for 30 minutes or until soft and can be pierced with a fork.
  2. In a mason jar, mix the vinaigrette ingredients and shake to combine.
  3. In a large bowl toss together the finely chopped kale, pears, squash, and cranberries.
  4. Plate the salad, sprinkle with walnuts (divided between plates), and drizzle with vinaigrette.

In other news, at the beginning of November C and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary. It’s been a good few years – lots of travel and adventure (one of the things we both like best to do with each other), growth as people (me, I’ve definitely grown to accept that someone else can help take care of me sometimes), learning each others quirks, and finding how to best compliment each other. I don’t think complete would be the right word because we were both very whole people when we met (and wouldn’t have worked if we weren’t) – very individualistic. And one of the things I still really value is our ability to remain individuals and know that we don’t need to have the same hobbies and activities.

Although I will always contest that we make our own decisions and that you can rebel against fate, I do have to believe some people were meant to come into your life for some purpose or period of time. Throughout my life I’ve met some people that upon a closer look have nearly met at different times (usually at opposite sides of the country). C happens to be one of those people where the 4th time was the charm. In chronological order – both had plans/dreams of doing undergrad at Johns Hopkins 04/05(we both made other decisions), we both almost moved to Boston in 08/09 (again life took us other places), while life took me to UIUC – it also took one of C’s good friends there for grad school where C happened visit and be at an event I distinctly remember running past one Saturday (but I didn’t stop that day), and finally life took us both to Albuquerque. I think life is funny sometimes.

Have you ever had any weird “should have met” coincidences?

One of our next adventures will be to Portland. Any advice on places to eat?


Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

It is finally pumpkin spice season, although if you ask me that is any time of year. I do pumpkin all year long, it’s so great for vitamin A. But since the rest of the country/northern hemisphere does pumpkin in fall – September/October is the acceptable time to roll out the pumpkin spice. 

I’ve been looking for a festive option for my energy bites and after a few trials – I really find most of the date versions of energy bites too sweet (and maybe I’d dated out), I arrived at these. I also added a chocolate drizzle. You can have them with chocolate or without – but if you haven’t tried pumpkin and chocolate together I’d recommend trying it at least once. 

I also caved and paid for pumpkins – I’ve grown up with pumpkins for free because my parents raise and sell them but since I now live thousands of miles away, I can’t get a shipment for free. 😦

Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

Makes 20… I just make them about quarter diameter?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c pecans
  • 1 T flax seed
  • 3-4 T maple syrup
  • 1-2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 c + 1 T almond butter
  • 3 T pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanila

Drizzle (optional)

  • 1/3 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1 T coconut oil

Directions

  1. Put oats, flax seed, and pecans in a food processor and pulse until ground into a fine crumb. Add vanilla and pie spice and pulse to combine. (Can add flax in the second addition with with spice and vanilla if a more whole form is desired). 
  2. Add in pumpkin and  almond butter. Pulse to combine – pushing down when necessary. 
  3. Lastly gradually add maple syrup to make cohesive “dough”.
  4. Roll dough into small bite size balls and slide into fridge to store or hold shape. 
  5. If using the chocolate drizzle, heat chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, stir to combine and repeat heating and stirring until fully melted together and smooth. 
  6. Drizzle chocolate over balls or dip bites directly into chocolate – return to fridge to harden. 

Eat and enjoy! They are such a great option for handling those holiday flavor cravings. 

While testing this recipe I tried a version for a work client without the pecans, and I definitely like it better with pecans since pecans and pumpkin just go so well together.  I also prefer the almond butter to peanut butter since peanut butter has such an powerful flavor in my opinion – delicious, but not sure I’m ready to mix my peanut butter and pumpkin just yet. 

What are some of your favorite fall flavors? Pumpkin reminds me of home. Do you find yourself craving more comfort foods and the weather cools? 


Roasted Peach and Blackberry Salad

Is anyone else sad that summer is almost over? I know, technically not until later September, but Labor Day really signifies the end for many of us. While I absolutely love cool evenings and signs that fall is coming, I still miss the carefree feeling of summer. Sweaters are my favorite type of clothing, but I would wear shorts year round if I could (with a sweater though – shorts and sweaters are fine together right?). Oh, and I can’t forget about boots either! Maybe I am ready for fall?

 

But before we jump too quickly into fall, lets talk about the fresh produce – the end of summer usually means stone fruits and I am beyond excited that peaches are finally ripe on the tree. We trimmed back our peach tree a lot this year and only got four extra large peaches but if you can find some at a farmer’s market they typically taste just as good.

I was dreaming of this salad after seeing it on a menu a couple weeks ago – roasted peaches, blackberries, and a local feta. Since I didn’t order it that evening I wanted to see what I could come up with myself.

I would say that it turned out pretty good! I added some pomegranate seeds for an extra pop of color and crunch in addition to the pumpkin seeds. And naturally arugula because I just love spicy greens or at least those with more flavor!

Roasted Peach and Blackberry Salad

Serves 4 large or 6 medium salads (and is easily scaled!)

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-to-large peaches
  • 2-3 cups of blackberries
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded or ~1 cup of seeds
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 8 oz feta cheese
  • 8 cups arugula or other spring mix
  • Your favorite vinegar for dressing

Directions

  1. Prepare two large sheet pans with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425F (option to use broiler at 500F too – but watch carefully).
  2. Wash and dry all produce. Cut peaches into slices and arrange on one baking sheet. Evenly distribute blackberries on the other.
  3. Roast peaches and blackberries in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 425F or until tender and slightly “toasted”. If you choose to broil, this will be closer to 5-7 minutes. (Roasting on the grill is also a great summer option!).
  4. While fruit is roasting, arrange greens on plates or in a large bowl.
  5. Remove fruit from oven and let cool slightly.
  6. To arrange the salad, layer peaches first, then blackberries, feta, pomegranate seeds, and pepitas.
  7. Drizzle with your favorite vinegar or dressing. I personally love just a 18 year thick aged balsamic.

Time to eat!

This is a great salad served with salmon or other heartier fish. Since I’m a bread-aholic, I would also accompany this with a biscuit, light scone, or toast. You could take this for lunch by mixing the toppings together in one container and then topping the greens once your ready to eat. If you mix the arugula with everything and have it sit too long, the arugula will not be the freshest.

What are your favorite end of summer fruits and vegetables? Are you looking forward to fall or mourning summer? 


Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Dips

Most dietitians love grocery shopping and I am definitely in that majority. While I do write a list and stick to it the best I can, so of my favorite food shopping experiences are when I don’t really have an agenda or major meal plans and I get to find inspiration. I was at Sprouts a few weeks back and Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter was on sale. And while I’m usually a plain old all natural peanut butter sort of gal, it was an impulse buy I couldn’t refuse. And I’m glad I didn’t!

While the chocolate and hazelnut spreads are good, maybe I had just a bit too much traveling around Greece (because we couldn’t buy PB) and perhaps a few of those pounds were from all of the delicious Nutella. If it was just a few weeks vacation it may have been no big deal, but alas it was a full semester. Now, I typically like to “make” something with my chocolate and hazelnut spread. I’ve also found Justin’s to be slightly less sweet.

If you’re looking for a chocolate vegan cream pie, chances are you’ll stumble on a tofu pie. And while I love pie, I like the freedom to dunk and dip whatever I’d like into that delicious, fluffy, goodness. (Oh, BTW, my dad made me this awesome board – it’s made of cherry and black walnut. He made me another too with oak and black walnut. From trees taken off my grandparents’ properties. Aren’t they beautiful! I wanted a large serving board and he sure delivered.)

It’s pretty much that simple, just tofu and your favorite nut butter.

And since it’s tofu, it’s packed with even more protein… although I wouldn’t call it low fat, it definitely satisfies hunger.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Dips

Makes about 4 cups all total

Ingredients

  • 16oz firm to medium firm tofu (I think the firm has a richer texture but you can change to your preference)
  • 2/3 c all natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 c Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
  • 2 T soy milk (or other milk alternative)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T sugar (if needed)
  • Your favorite fruits for dipping

Directions

  1. Drain tofu and divide into two 8oz blocks.
  2. Cut first block into smaller chunks and put in food processor.
  3. Add the peanut butter and half of the soy milk, sugar, and vanilla. Puree until very smooth. Depending on consistency, you may need to add a touch more soy milk.
  4. Scrape peanut butter dip into a bowl or storage container.
  5. Moving on to the chocolate – cut the second 8oz tofu chunk into smaller chunks and put in food processor.
  6. Add the chocolate hazelnut spread and second half of remaining sugar, soy milk, and vanilla. Puree until smooth and scrape into second bowl.
  7. Serve with fruit and/or graham crackers.

It’s the richness of a tofu pie in a smaller portion! I love my peanut butter with bananas, apples, and grahams.

The chocolate hazelnut goes great with strawberries. Holy yum.

It didn’t add too much sugar because I already really like tofu and tend to prefer my nut butters on the saltier side. I also can’t taste certain bitter compounds (weird FYI about myself) – so if you do find it somewhat bitter, feel free to add a touch more sweetener.

Is that not the best snack spread or what?!  After school or after work snack, whatever floats your boat. Does anyone else treat work and school nights the same?

What are some of your favorite snacks? Do you ever find yourself wishes that your favorite deserts could be made in mini/portion controlled forms?


Banana Bread French Toast Style Oatmeal

Even though I’m just back from vacation, I feel like I’m getting the vacation blues after being back to work for a week. Or maybe it’s just an entire week or two with a case of the Mondays? Some days I really connect with Sadness from Inside Out (Disney Pixar) “I’ll just lie here until tomorrow”- I think she might be my favorite character from that movie. Occasional melancholy is perfectly healthy. …In any case, maybe some yummy food will turn things around (noting that food can neither fix nor solve a problem), which is exactly why I went for some healthier comfort food.

And since breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day, we’re back to breakfast! I’ve been on a major hot oatmeal kick lately and this time around adding some extra protein with an egg.  Yes, you heard that right, the best way to get the creamiest oatmeal is whipping in and egg. While yogurt is still my all time favorite and go to breakfast, these oats have been creeping their way up and are relatively “quick” to throw together before heading out the door for work.

Banana Bread French Toast Style Oatmeal

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c old fashion oats
  • 1 c water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 medium banana mashed
  • 1/4 c milk of choice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Toppings of choice: toasted almonds, cocoa nibs, dried cherries or cranberries, or whatever is your favorite.
  • Honey

Directions

  1. In a small pot on the stove, heat the water until boiling. Add the oats and stir until combined and oats are mostly cooked.
  2. Next, stir in your mashed banana to whip into oats followed by a touch of milk (2 T to 1/4 c).
  3. Once oats are back up to heat and bubbling, add in the egg and whip fiercely with a whisk or wooden spoon to fully incorporate the egg without getting large chunks of cooked egg (which is not what we’re going for here).
  4. Lastly stir in the vanilla and remove from heat.
  5. Spoon the creamy oats into a bowl, drizzle with desired amount of honey, and top with favorite toppings. I had toasted almonds, cocoa nibs, and cranberries on hand, but really lots of different toppings will work just fine.

If you have time on a work morning I would savor the morning with this treat, but it is also the most delicious breakfast after a walk with the dog on a Saturday morning. Oh, and I suppose you could multiply the recipe as well if you want to share. 😉

Enjoy!

What is your favorite breakfast grain?

How do you cope with a case of the Mondays?


Berry Fruit and Green Salad

Want to know a secret for getting non-veggie lovers to eat more greens? Fruit! Ok, so I guess that’s not really a secret but it does work. I brought this salad to a potluck recently and even with all the sweets around, I took an empty bowl home, it was a hit! Strawberries are a common addition to spinach salad, but I love how blueberries and oranges add that extra pop!

But since I’m already 2 days late in getting this recipe posted (oops), I’m going to hurry along to why this salad is so nutritious and give you the recipe.

1 – spinach, obviously vitamin A, some iron, fiber, niacin, zinc, and the list goes on – bottom line, it’s really good for you.

2 – strawberries and oranges – lots of vitamin C

3 – blueberries for antioxidants

4 – goat cheese and almonds for calcium and health fats

It’s a pretty nutrient packed meal. You can serve it as a main and even add chicken for extra protein or as your side salad.

Berry Fruit and Green Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 6-8 c baby spinach
  • 1 c sliced strawberries
  • 3/4 c blueberries
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained/in its own juice
  • 4 oz goat cheese (chevre is best)
  • 3 T toasted sliced almonds

Honey Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 T finely diced shallot
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 5 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Close tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Because of the addition of the mustard, the dressing will hold its emulsification for much longer and can be stored easily in the refrigerator for a week.
  2. Place spinach in a large bowl and fluff.
  3. Layer greens with strawberries, oranges, and blueberries.
  4. Sprinkle with goat cheese and almonds.
  5. Dressing can be kept near the salad for serving of tossed in leaves if preparing right before serving. Toss to lightly coat.

This is probably the easiest summer green salad and I am in love with the colors and all of the flavor!

Who said healthy food was bland and tasteless? You can easily scale this recipe by adding as much or as little fruit as you’d like depending on amount of greens, but I wouldn’t hold this salad for more that a few hours or half a day combines or the leaves will squish and become potentially slimy. The worst this your greens can get!

Enjoy!

What are your favorite ingredients to put on salads? Are you a fruit person or strictly veggies all the way?