Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tofu Parmesan Florentine

I knew I wasn't going to use an entire block of tofu on the Peanut Tofu recipe, so I figured I'd want another great tofu recipe to try with the remainder before it went bad. I looked no further than Mary Ellen's blog. Mary Ellen has some great tofu recipes because she really experiments with it when her husband is out of town (since he doesn't like it). I know that I make some of my favorite experimental recipes when my husband is out of town, as it really gets the juices flowing to know that if you fail, you can always eat cereal or ramen for dinner and not disappoint the husband! Anyway, Mary Ellen's Tofu Parmesan recipe looked fantastic. I made a couple of changes (I added some Parmigiano cheese and removed the dreaded mushrooms), but I loved this recipe. The husband declared it a "definitely make again" which is really saying something for a new tofu recipe. The key was that since Mary Ellen didn't list specific amounts on the spices for the breading, I went a little heavy on the cayenne (which I used instead of pepper flakes). Wow, the flavor of that spice, combined with all the other intense flavors, made me forget that I was eating "boring" tofu. The tofu turns an amazing golden color with the light pan fry because the square shape has more consistent contact with the pan than most other proteins would. After I pressed the tofu dry, I cooked the spinach first and used it as a bed for the tofu, sauce & cheese, which I then placed in the oven just until the cheese melted. This is not exactly healthy fare, but it is a healthier way of enjoying the flavors of chicken parmesan that I love so much without the deep fried chicken.

Tofu Parmesan Florentine (adapted slightly and halved from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations)
1/2 block extra firm tofu
1/4 c bread crumbs and 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano mixed with the following spices:
Spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, cayenne
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c marinara
1 bag baby spinach
1/2 c shredded cheese; I used mozzarella
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 375. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Press between two cutting boards with paper towels to remove most of the liquid. Heat olive oil over medium heat in non-stick pan. Saute spinach until just starting to wilt. Place in 11x7 baking pan, set aside. Dip tofu in egg, then in bread crumbs and add to hot pan. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Place on top of spinach in baking pan. Top each slice with marinara sauce and cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly. Serve over hot whole wheat pasta. Serves two.

Peanut Tofu

I have a lot of friends who celebrate Lent, and although I am not technically Catholic, I did go to a Catholic elementary school, and my mom was raised Catholic. I have given something up for Lent for the last several years, but I have yet to give up meat on Fridays. I realized at the end of Lent this year that it might be because my vegetarian repotoire is lacking a bit. I decided to try a couple new vegetarian recipes so that I can attempt meatless Fridays sometime soon. I started with Peanut Tofu because I realized while eating Peanut Chicken recently that the flavorful sauce would be great for tofu, which doesn't have much flavor on it's own. This was the best tofu recipe I have had, and I would highly recommend this for someone interested in experimenting with tofu, but is afraid of bland or weird textured food. I followed my standard tofu practices for this recipe - sliced into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch slices, then press between cutting boards with lots of paper towels to dry. Then, sautee in a completely dry non-stick pan until very light golden and dry. Allow to cool before dicing into squares.

Peanut Tofu
1/2 package extra firm tofu, dried and diced into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper, diced into 3/4 inch pieces
4 Tbs Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 cup Picante Sauce (I use Pace Medium, and I double the sauce)
2 Tbs creamy peanut butter (I use reduced fat)
2 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Marinade tofu in soy, garlic & ginger 20-30 minutes. Heat oils in stir fry pan over medium high heat. Add bell pepper and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove, reserving as much oil as possible. Add tofu and stir fry until most of the marinating liquid has cooked off and become carmelized. Remove. In separate bowl (important!), combine picante and peanut butter and stir until mostly combined. Cold sauce will have a stringy consistency, sauce will blend as it cooks. Add sauce to hot stir fry pan. Cook & stir until thick and bubbly. Return peppers and tofu to the sauce. Stir well and cook until heated through. Serve over hot rice. Makes 3 servings when sauce is doubled.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Porcupine Meatballs

There are some recipes that I make quite often, only to find that I've never blogged about them. This is one of them. Perhaps because I know that not everyone has a pressure cooker, perhaps just because I've been eating these my entire life (although my family used a different recipe when I was younger), I don't know why I haven't blogged about these. They are such a cute recipe, and they are very tasty, too. I loved these as a kid simply because of the cuteness factor. They are called porcupine meatballs because all the rice sticks out of the meatball like porcupine quills. They come together easily in the pressure cooker and always come out tender and delicious.

Porcupine Meatballs (adapted from my Presto pressure cooker manual)
3/4 lb lean ground beef (I used 90% lean)
1/2 cup white rice, uncooked (I use short grain)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 Tbs dried minced onion
1 cup tomato juice (I use spicy V-8)
1/2 cup water
8 oz can tomato sauce
Combine meat, salt, pepper, onion & rice. Shape into about 12 small meatballs. Heat tomato juice & water in pressure cooker. Drop meatballs into boiling mixture, top with tomato sauce. Close lid and cook for 10 minutes with pressure regulator rocking gently. Allow pressure to drop of its own accord. Serve over hot rice, spooning juices on top. Makes 3 servings of 4 meatballs.

Island Spiced Pork Tenderloin

I've seen this recipe pop up on a couple of blogs recently, but it wasn't until I saw it on Annie's Eats that I realized that these island spices aren't what I originally thought they were. I hear "Island Spiced" and I think more along the lines of Hawaii - perhaps a macademia, pineapple or coconut concoction. These spices are more Caribbean in nature, and the recipe is a combination of items that you are likely to have on hand most of the time. This is a delicious combination of smoky, spicy and sweet, which are all flavors I love with pork. A few things to note: The "glaze" starts out quite dry, not like a traditional glaze at all, more like the texture of moist sand. Annie halved her glaze amount, but I left it at her measurements for only one tenderloin, so I guess it was back to the original amount. Also, I cooked the pork to an internal temp of 170 degrees, as that is our doneness preference for pork (no pink, but still very moist all the way through). This came together quickly and was a nice variation from our usual pork tenderloin recipe. I'll definitely be making this again.

Island Spiced Pork Tenderloin (from Annie's Eats, originally from Gourmet)
For the spice rub (I halved these amounts for one tenderloin):
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne (I added this)

1 pork tenderloin (about 2-2½ lbs. total)
1 tbsp. olive oil

For the glaze:
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. (2-3 cloves) finely minced garlic
1½ tsp. Tabasco sauce
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir together to blend. Pat the mixture over the pork tenderloins. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tenderloins in the skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total. Remove from the heat, leaving the pork in the skillet.

Stir together the brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl until blended. Spread the mixture evenly over the tops of the tenderloins. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 20 minutes, until an instant-read themometer inserted in the center of each tenderloin registers 140-170˚ F. Loosely tent the skillet with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Tacos

This recipe is a variation on a family favorite that we got to try this Christmas when we visited the midwest. I've been telling the husband for years that we should try his family's famous pork tacos with chicken, but I make the recipe so rarely that he was afraid of trying something new and ruining his once a year taco experience. I'm so happy that he enjoyed this version when we were visiting the rest of the family during the holidays, because these are so much healthier than the pork version that I'm much more likely to make them more than once a year for him. Thanks to the two K's (my sisters-in-law) for forcing my husband to try Chicken tacos! I surprised him by making these during the week this week and he was so excited he almost couldn't believe it. It's the little things in life, I guess!

Pressure Cooker Pork Tacos
Step 1 Ingredients:
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
Place above ingredients in pressure cooker. Once pressure regulator is gently rocking, cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to release of its own accord. Remove pressure cooker lid and shred chicken.
Step 2 Ingredients:
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 - 3/4 tsp of ground red pepper (cayenne)
Add Step 2 ingredients and mix well. Stir well and allow to simmer on medium low for about an hour or until nearly all the liquid is absorbed into the meat. Serve with soft flour tortillas and usual taco toppings (traditional for my inlaws include shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, but extended friends & family like cheese and sour cream, too). Makes about 6 servings of 2 tacos (but good luck stopping at 2!).

Scallops Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

I had a bag of Bay Scallops from Trader Joes, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. I just knew that I wanted to do a pasta dish. After searching a little online, I found this recipe and blended it a little with what I pictured in my head. This was delicious. I would order this at a restaurant, it was perfect for my tastes. Bay scallops are a little bit sweeter than Sea Scallops, and they are smaller, so they cook faster (and are even easier to overcook, so be careful!). I'm really excited that I've been able to try cooking scallops at home. They are a nice alternative to the usual protein choices that I make. For those of you who don't like seafood, I would imagine this recipe would taste pretty good with chicken as well.

Scallops Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
1 small bag Bay Scallops, thawed and drained
1 Tbs Butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 large shallot, diced (about 2 Tbs)
1 clove garlic
1 cup heavy cream (I used nonfat 1/2 & 1/2)
1 small can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil (I used 2 Trader Joes basil cubes)
1/2 lb whole wheat linguine pasta
Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse and pat the scallops dry. Heat the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the scallops and saute for one minute. Add garlic, shallots and wine. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until scallops are done. Remove scallops from pan with slotted spoon, reserving liquids. Add tomato, cream and pepper flakes and reduce by half. Add basil and scallops and toss with hot pasta. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Keyesville Classic 2010

Not really food related, but I had to post a picture to show why we love the Keyesville Classic mountain bike race in Lake Isabella, CA. Even though I get funny looks when I say we are travelling to "an hour east of Bakersfield," which truly sounds like the middle of nowhere. I think that is the best part - it IS the middle of nowhere, and it is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of why we love the sport of mountain biking so much!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I think there is something with males and the mint/chocolate combination. So many guys I know say this is their favorite ice cream & candy combination. My husband is one of them. He loves mint chocolate chip ice cream. We were watching the Food Network the weekend before St. Patrick's Day this year and the Neely's were making some mint chocolate chip ice cream. The husband immediately declared that the ice cream should be my special St. Paddy's recipe, since it is green. Not necessarily Irish, but I thought the husband was being awfully cute, so I obliged. The recipe is straight out of my Cuisinart Ice Cream maker manual (a variation on their basic vanilla ice cream, which is not cooked). This recipe, like most homemade ice cream recipes, is very rich, but since I was making my husband's favorite flavor and not my own, I didn't care how fattening it was (I had a couple very small bowls, but it wasn't calling my name each night!). I was particularly pleased with the dark chocolate mini chunks from Whole Foods. They were a perfect mix-in for ice cream - deep chocolate flavor, but small enough to not hurt your teeth while eating. I'm going to try and use my ice cream maker more this Spring & Summer, so stay tuned!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (from Cuisinart)
1 cup whole milk, well chilled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
6-8 drops green food coloring (or to your liking)
3/4 to 1 cup mini chocolate chips or mini dark chocolate chunks
In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or a whisk to combine the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 – 2 minutes on low speed. Stir in the heavy cream, food coloring, and peppermint extract to taste. Turn machine on, pour mixture into freezer bowl through ingredient spout and let mix until thickened, about 25 – 30 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips during last 5 minutes of mixing. Freeze in airtight container at least 2 hours before serving.