Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tofu in Coconut-Basil-Lemon Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I was having Thai for lunch with a couple of friends, and one of them told me that they like to coat their tofu pieces with sugar to help them to brown up more deeply. I thought it was a great idea. It would make the tofu more like how our local Thai restaurant served theirs. I've combined that idea with an easy Thai-inspired dish. Because lemongrass is one of my favorite components in Thai food, I made a coconut sauce that has a light lemon flavor. Basil is commonly used in Thai cuisine, so I added lots of shredded basil, along with my favorite vegetables, green beans and bell peppers. Altogether, this made a sort of curry paste-less Thai curry with plenty of bright flavors---which is perfect for springtime.

Tofu in Coconut-Basil-Lemon Sauce

1 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp unbleached organic sugar
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 bell peppers (any color) thinly sliced
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized lengths
1 onion, thinly sliced into half-circles
fresh or dried red chili peppers, sliced or crushed, to taste (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp lemon zest
2 clove garlic, minced
2 cups lite coconut milk
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp unbleached organic sugar
2/3 cup finely shredded fresh basil leaves
4 tbsp chopped peanuts
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and allow the oil to heat.
2. Blend 2 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp of sugar in a bowl. Blot the tofu dry of any moisture, then gently toss the tofu with the soy sauce-sugar mixture. Place the tofu in the hot oil, being careful not to splatter yourself with the oil. Cook the tofu until it is deeply caramelized, about 15 minutes; set aside on paper towel to drain.
3. Add the bell peppers, green beans, onion, red chili, ginger, lemon zest, and garlic to the remaining oil in the pan. Increase the temperature to medium-high; season with salt and pepper and stir-fry until the onion is translucent and the rest of the vegetables are tender-crisp.
4. Blend the lite coconut milk, 4 tbsp soy sauce, lemon juice, corn starch, and 2 tsp sugar in the bowl that had the tofu seasonings. Once the vegetables are ready, pour this sauce over top, tossing to combine; allow it to gently boil and thicken. Add the tofu back in and gently toss the whole thing together. Sprinkle over the basil leaves and allow them to wilt. Serve immediately with rice; garnish each serving with peanuts.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 263
Fat: 16.3 g
Saturated fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 935 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.4 g

Fiber: 4.2 g
Sugar: 8.6 g
Protein: 12.9 g

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rotini Salad

I'm going to a party this afternoon in celebration of my friend who just got a master's. It's BYO-something-to-eat-or-drink, so I made a pasta salad. It's the same salad my mom has been making for me since I was a kid, and I still love it now as much as I did then. She customized it to have my favorite vegetables in it, not that I disliked any vegetables...I was one of those kids who would gross other kids out because of my love of all things green and vegetable-y. Anyway, you can customize this however you like...just swap out the frozen broccoli and cauliflower for whatever vegetable mixture you might like. And no, that's not a typo, there really is 1 1/2 cups sugar in the vinaigrette. This recipe originated in Indiana, the land of putting as much sugar as you can into every course. It's a lot of sugar for a lot of yumminess...Keep a bowl of this in the fridge all summer long and you won't be sorry.

Rotini Salad

2 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat rotini pasta
1 16-oz package frozen broccoli and cauliflower florets
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups organic unbleached sugar
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta; salt the water. Cook the pasta according to package directions, except in the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the frozen broccoli and cauliflower. Cook until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are thawed.
2. In the meantime, blend the vinegar, sugar, oil, mustard, basil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the bell pepper, onion, and celery to the vinaigrette.
3. Once the pasta, broccoli, and cauliflower are done, drain them and rinse them with cold water. If there are any large broccoli or cauliflower pieces, cut them into bite-sized pieces, then add them to the vegetable/vinaigrette mixture. Toss all the ingredients. Marinade overnight and toss before serving.

Servings per recipe: 10
Per serving:
Calories: 251
Fat: 6.5 g
Saturated fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 12 mg
Sodium: 46 mg
Carbohydrates: 45.2 g
Fiber: 4.3 g
Sugar: 32.3 g
Protein: 3.3 g

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spaghetti dal Giardino

So last night I tried to be Monet and make a beautiful eggplant dish, but I ended up playing the role of Jackson Pollock. Needless to say, it was a flop, but not completely. I made a really simple tomato sauce seasoned with fresh and dried herbs as well as balsamic vinegar and a little sugar for an agrodolce (sweet and sour) flavor. I should have just stuck with the simplest part of the meal! Tonight I recreated the sauce and added fresh sliced vegetables and folded it with some whole wheat spaghetti to make a truly satisfying paint splattering required ;)

The best part about this is that it comes together quickly. While you are working on the sauce, bring the water to boil for the pasta and cook the pasta. The pasta will be finished the same time the sauce is!

Spaghetti dal Giardino
(Spaghetti from the Garden)

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 of an onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed with your fingers
1/2 tsp dried sage, crushed with your fingers,
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 medium zucchini, cut into half circles
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp pine nuts
7 oz whole wheat spaghetti, or other long, thin pasta

1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and put the pasta water on to boil. Add the oil to the skillet, allow it to heat, then add the onions and cook them until they are partially translucent. Add the zucchini, peppers, and garlic; season them with salt and pepper. Saute the vegetables until they are tender and lightly caramelized.
2. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, sage, thyme, vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to the vegetables. Drop the heat to medium and allow the sauce to simmer as the pasta cooks. If the sauce begins to look dry and stick, add a little bit of the pasta cooking water.
3. While the pasta and sauce are cooking, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and allow them to toast. Keep and eye on them at all times because they burn quickly. Remove them from the pan when they are golden-brown.
4. Once the pasta is done, extract the bay leaf from the sauce then toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve the pasta topped with a sprinkle of pine nuts.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 240
Fat: 6.3 g
Saturated fat: 0.7 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Sodium: 126 mg
Carbohydrates: 39.3 g
Fiber: 7.1 g
Sugar: 7.6 g
Protein: 11.3 g

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Creole Kidney Beans and Tofu

I've spent all day working on a presentation for my GIS (geographic information systems) class, so I was glad to take a break from work to make dinner tonight. I was inspired to make a creole dish from a recipe that was on the back of the brand of kidney beans that I buy (Westbrae Organic). This is my take on their recipe for Creole kidney beans and rice, however I have included marinaded tofu to add protein.

Creole Kidney Beans and Tofu

For the marinade:

2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4" cubes

1. Combine all the ingredients and marinate at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator (tip: freeze the leftover marinade to reuse for another purpose).

For the rest of the dish:

non-stick cooking spray
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
hot sauce, to taste (optional)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf, torn in half
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Blot the tofu dry with paper towel. Spray and saucepan with non-stick spray and add the tofu; cook until golden brown and set aside.
2. Reheat the pan over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic and cool until tender and translucent.
4. Add the broth to the vegetable mixture and raise the heat to high to bring it to a boil. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the tofu, and cook for about 20 minutes (or according to package directions), or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 367
Fat: 6.7 g
Saturated fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 320 mg
Carbohydrates: 56.8 g
Fiber: 9 g
Sugar: 3.9 g
Protein: 22.6 g

Friday, April 17, 2009

Join me on Twitter!

Yes, I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. I officially have a Twitter profile. I had to use and odd spelling for my name, but there are indeed 2 underscores between the "Chow" and the "Bella." You can follow to see what I am up to, and I can post my status to let you know when I've posted a new recipe!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cashew Tofu and Vegetables

I am happy to say I officially have a new camera. Woo-hoo! It's the cutest little pink camera ever. Tonight is the first posting with my new camera, and I hope you can see an improved quality in the pictures.

The I made cashew tofu and vegetables tonight...and attempted to crack the code on the sauce that is made at my favorite restaurant back home. I really think the secret ingredient is ketchup. It has that distinct sweet and sour taste of ketchup, plus a little extras to make it unique from other restaurants.

Honestly, this is the clean-out-the-pantry-and-fridge recipe. You can use any vegetables you want and can even substitute peanuts for the cashews---add some sriracha hot sauce to the sauce to make hunan tofu and vegetables.

Cashew Tofu and Vegetables

1/2 cup cashew pieces
1/8 cup ketchup
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup sugar
1 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch thin triangles
salt and pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cups broccoli florets
4 cups frozen sugar snap pea pods
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
16 oz canned sliced water chestnuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

1. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the cashews and toast, about 5 minutes, or until they are fragrant and lightly browned; set aside.
2. Meanwhile, combine the next 6 ingredients (ketchup through sugar) to make the sauce, stir to combine and set aside.
3. Wipe the pan clean of any residual cashews and reheat over medium-high heat. Add half of the oil to the pan and allow it to heat. Pat the tofu triangles dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add them to the oil. Allow them to cook until they are golden brown on the largest sides; set aside.
4. Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the next 6 ingredients (broccoli through scallions) to the pan. Saute them, stirring occasionally, until the peas are thawed and the broccoli is tender-crisp.
5. Return the tofu to the pan. Pour the sauce over and gently stir so as not to break up the tofu. Allow the sauce to thicken. Serve immediately, with your favorite rice, sprinkling the cashews over each serving.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 399
Fat: 15.1
Saturate fat: 2.5
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 972 mg
Carbohydrates: 54.1 g
Fiber: 4.1 g
Sugar: 14.5 g
Protein: 15.5 g

Monday, April 6, 2009

Southwestern Red Quinoa and Tofu

My room mate let me borrow her camera so that I could hammer out a recipe for this blog, and I am so thankful! I'm really back to be in the game posting here. I did order a camera yesterday. It's a light pink Canon SD1100 IS. I researched it a lot and found very positive reviews for the product, so I hope there will be some lovely photos and more recipes posted here soon!

I have not started the exercises for P90X because I don't have it yet, but I wanted to start eating a high protein diet. Because quinoa is a high protein pseudo cereal, I chose to prepare that with 2 other high-protein ingredients: beans and tofu. The tofu was lightly seared and combined with the beans, quinoa, vegetables, and spiced to give it a southwestern flavor. This was a very filling and satisfying dish---one that I'll have to remember for a healthier alternative to high calorie Tex-Mex food.

Southwestern Red Quinoa and Tofu
1/2 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup diced roma tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced scallion
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup red quinoa (or any other color quinoa)
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 2.25 oz can sliced black olives
non-stick cooking spray
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the tofu; brown on all sides, then remove from skillet and set aside.
2. After the tofu is removed, wipe the pan clean with paper towel and re-spray with cooking spray. Add the tomato and scallion and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, to allow the moisture to evaporate from the tomatoes.
3. Add the cumin, chili powder, and coriander to the tomato mixture. Stir 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add the broth and increase the heat to high to allow the mixture to boil. Once it comes to a boil, add the tofu, beans, and quinoa; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet and drop the heat to medium high. Cook for 15 minutes or until the quinoa is al dente. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and stir in the olives.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 302
Fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 1.3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 545 mg
Carbohydrates: 42.3 g
Fiber: 7.4 g
Sugar: 1.9 g
Protein: 17.3 g

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I haven't forgotten...

Yes, I am still here. I've been very busy. In the last 3 weeks, I have been at home for only 6 days. Also, my camera is still broken. Whenever I turn it on it makes a sound similar to Popeye laughing. I'm in the market for a new one, but because there is no Best Buy or the like in my town, I have to wait until I can get to Savannah, GA again...which has also been impossible because I need to get my serpentine belt and oil changed in my car before making a long trip. Everything is falling apart around me!

I did attempt to take pictures with my webcam, using myself as a guinea pig, but they're so grainy even after editing on Picassa, that it's not worth it. I hope to have a camera within a week, so I'll be back to posting recipes soon! I've been writing them in my head as I've been working at my field site.

Another thing is, I've decided to start the P90X exercise and diet plan. It's a 90-day intense workout routine that I'll be following along with a "fat shredder" diet. The good thing about the diet with the program is that they actually give you vegetarian options! Nevertheless, several of the recipes will need to be adapted, and I plan to post those recipes here. They're going to feature a lot of vegetables and whole grains along with vegetable-based protein...which actually sounds a lot like what I do anyway...hmmm. I do plan on posting smoothie recipes, too, because protein smoothies are very important on this diet. I'll continue doing product reviews as I try new things as well.
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