Tag Archive | healthy cooking

General Tso’s Tofu

There is a little hole in the wall in town that makes the absolute best General Tso’s tofu.  They serve it with broccoli and it’s been a very long time since I’ve even made it to that side of town to get some!  It has been on my mind for weeks, nagging at me until the craving has gotten so big that I just could not ignore it any longer!  So I started searching for a recipe to make General Tso’s Tofu.

After looking at countless recipes online and remembering how the dish looked from my local restaurant, I finally found one that I could use!  I had most of the ingredients and figured tweaking it a little based on what I have on hand would be fine.  After all, if it tastes good, that’s all that matters, right?

First step: open the package of Organic, non-GMO extra firm tofu and drain.  Wrap it in a towel and place a plate on top and bottom to press out more water/liquid and let sit for a little while until it isn’t so wet.

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I cut mine into square, little cubes and put them in the pan to brown the edges a little.  While the tofu browns, dice up half of a red onion.

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Remove the browned tofu cubes from your pan and sauté the diced red onion.  I used about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for the tofu and the onions.  I also put 3 cloves of garlic through the press and chopped some onion greens to the sauté.

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To change things up a bit, throw in some snow peas with the sautéed onions and add the browned tofu.

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Now for the sweet, tangy sauce that makes this dish so delicious.  Gather together the organic soy sauce, something a little sweet and the corn starch for thickening.  My sweet was some homemade syrup that I had leftover from a Sunday morning brunch recently.

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Add 3 tbsp sweet and 3 tbsp organic soy sauce to the pan.  In a small measuring cup, add 3 tablespoons of corn starch and 6-8 tablespoons water and mix together until smooth without lumps.  Add to the pan and quickly toss the tofu mixture so that it is evenly coated.

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As the liquid heats up, it will thicken.  Remove from the heat once it is thick and the tofu mixture is coated well.

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Below is the actual recipe courtesy of Food.com.  Someday, when all the ingredients are in my pantry, I may try this again!

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General Tso’s Sauce

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp rice wine

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp chili paste

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Mix all ingredients in a sauté pan.  Cook at medium temperature until thickened, stirring occasionally.

While I left out some of the ingredients in this particular recipe, it turned out really nice and if you don’t like spicy, leaving out the chili paste won’t matter!  Snow peas and all, this was probably one of my better lunches…ever.  And I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Until next time… Bon Appetit!

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice

Fall brings on cooler weather and with that comes a craving for warmer foods.  Warmer foods meaning soups, stews, casseroles and all those wonderful fall squashes, greens and of course, the year-round staple, legumes.

Lentils are one of my favorite foods.  Growing up, we ate it made into a thick stewp: too thick for soup, but not quite a stew.  We ate it on rice, we ate it as a meat substitute in a casserole.  It is a very versatile legume and one that I consider to be quite tasty!

Packed full of folate, fiber, iron, vitamin B1, potassium and protein, these are just some of the benefits we receive from eating lentils.  Being a cancer survivor, I like to add additional spices and seasonings to boost their value even more.

This week I went with the Mediterranean style that I love so much.  I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!  Remember, I do not measure so all measurements are approximate.  You will have to add/detract to adjust for your taste!  Enjoy!!!

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Vegetable Rice

Into the rice cooker went about 2 cups of white jasmine and brown jasmine long grain rice with enough water to cover the rice plus two fingers over.  I find that mixing the rice together helps my picky eaters enjoy the healthier brown rice more. 

Gather together the veggies for your rice.  I grabbed whatever was in the refrigerator:

1/4 red sweet bell pepper, diced

1/4 green sweet bell pepper, diced

2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin, separate the rings

1 medium red onion, diced small

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or put through garlic press

1 small carrot, peeled, sliced and cut into small squares

1 stalk celery, diced small (optional)

Pinch Sea salt or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 handful parsley chopped fine or big pinch dried, rubbed through your fingers

Sauté in extra virgin olive oil until the carrots and celery soften a little.  Add rice and toss until well coated with veggies and olive oil.  Add seasonings: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.  Warm thoroughly and add parsley.

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Mediterranean Lentils

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup lentils

Sauté shallots, garlic and spices together until shallots are soft and clear.  Add rinsed and drained lentils and enough water to cover the lentils plus about an inch above.

Let cook until the lentils are soft, add water if too thick.  You may need to adjust the seasonings if you add a lot of water.

Once done, serve up and enjoy! 

Red Quinoa Breakfast

There’s been a lot of talk about it and I’ve seen it used in so many recipes but I had never tried it.  Many of my friends eat it for breakfast, some use it to make side dishes, veggie burgers and such.  Always on the lookout for good, healthy foods, I finally broke down and bought me a bag.

 

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Since my really good friend, Sandra, told me that she eats this for breakfast every day, I decided I would try it for breakfast first.  What better way to start using a grain than to have it to start my day? As you can see from the photo above, the little red grains are super tiny!  And the red quinoa is supposed to have a sweeter flavor to it than regular quinoa.  I wasn’t sure if I should have soaked them or not, but I decided to just follow the directions on the package and cook them.

When I make oatmeal, I like to add raisins or dried cranberries to them while cooking, thus eliminating the need for other sweeteners.  The benefits of these little seeds includes that they are quick cooking and high in fiber, very easy to assimilate and packed full of B vitamins, rich in folate and magnesium and is supposed to have the best amino acid profile of all grains.

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Cyn’s Organic Red Quinoa Breakfast

1-1/4 cups water, brought to a boil

1 cup Eden’s Organic Red Quinoa

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-2 pitted dates chopped small

1 tbsp Grandma’s unsulfured molasses (optional)

1 tsp Celtic Gray Sea Salt

Wash the quinoa several times in cold water and add to the salted boiling water.  Add vanilla, chopped dates and/or molasses. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Set for 5 minutes.

Stir and serve!

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I left mine a little “juicy” and ate it as it.  What a wonderful, nutty flavor that filled me up and with my piece for fruit and a slice of whole grain toast, stayed full for another 5 hours.  I think that I will try it in a burger or a salad next!

Bon appétit!

Healthier Red Velvet Cupcakes

One of my favorite shows to watch is “Not My Mama’s Meals” where Bobby Deen takes his Mama’s dishes and revamps them to lower calorie, healthier versions.  Since that is something I like to do as well, I feel in an odd sort of way that he and I have something in common!

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Since we keep getting teased for Spring by Mother Nature with some warm days here and there and my daffodils and crocus popping up, then a day or three of snow and ice….I wanted to make something that would just exude Spring.  What about cheery red velvet cupcakes with that fresh taste of spring?

So, here goes!  Yes, I altered this even more….couldn’t help myself.  Next time I think I will reduce the amount of almond extract.  It was a bit much in my opinion, but still very good. And those eggs are farm fresh eggs, which as you can see, I whittled down to just 2 from 4 in the recipe.  Isn’t the blue one beautiful?

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Bobby’s Red  Velvet Cupcakes

6- small roasted beets

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cut low-fat buttermilk

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2-1/2 cups cake flour

1-1/2 cups raw granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Frosting:

1- 8oz pkg Neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese

1-1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar

1/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream

zest of 1 orange, reserve some for garnish

1/4 c. chopped pecans

1/4 c. toasted coconut

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Directions:

For the cupcakes – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line cupcake pan with liners or spray with nonstick baking spray.

Add the roasted beets and oil into a blender or food processor.  Puree until the mixture is a thick liquid.  Add the buttermilk, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract and eggs, pulsing until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together until well incorporated.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir/pulse until there are no lumps.  Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completed in the pan on a cooling rack.

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For the frosting – Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium then high speed until very smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  On low speed, add the confectioner’s sugar, sour cream, a big pinch of the orange zest (reserve enough to garnish tops later) and blend together about 1-2 minutes.

Frost each cupcake and garnish with pecans, coconut and/or orange zest.

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In the frosting, the sour cream was also omitted as I didn’t have any and I don’t usually add it to my frosting.  And I didn’t have any coconut or pecans on hand.  I also substituted some of the flour for whole wheat pastry flour. These were really good.  And my husband’s co-workers got to enjoy these since I sent most of them with him to work the next day!

Enjoy!

Easy Leftover Lentil Cheddar Patties

Digging through my fridge, I came across some bits and pieces of items that needed to be used up and decided it was time for some homemade veggie burgers!  Since we had lentils a couple days before, it just made sense to use up the little bit that was left.

If you keep your refrigerator stocked and your pantry stocked with certain staples all the time, you can create something “new” for dinner!  So, as you may already know, I don’t measure when I cook, so these measurements are approximates and you may need to adjust for your taste.

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Ingredients:

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, sliced on the diagonal, julienned and chopped into small pieces

1/4 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup leftover lentil stoup (very thick soup)

3/4 of 1 package Town House crackers crumbled OR 2-3 slices whole wheat bread torn into fine pieces

1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese or whatever cheese you have

1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 2-cloves fresh garlic finely chopped

1/2 tsp. onion powder

large pinch parsley leaves, dried – if you have fresh, finely chop about 1/4 cup

(since the stoup and crackers are already seasoned, you won’t need to add any further salt)

2 farm fresh eggs

In a large bowl (see photo above) mix together all the ingredients until well blended.

Taking a quart size canning lid, spray with non-stick spray.

Spoon patty mixture into the canning lid. Press into the lid to shape the patty.

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Turn into a heated cast iron past that has been lightly oiled with pure extra-virgin olive oil.

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Cook on each side until lightly browned. 

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This recipe made me six patties that fit perfectly on a medium sized hamburger bun or as we did, eat it as your protein side-dish that can be served alongside a salad and dinner as pictured below.  This dinner plate has garlic shells and corn paired with the lentil patty.

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Enjoy!

Cottage Cheese Pecan “Meat” Balls

My parents didn’t start out as vegetarians, but by the time my brother and I were toddlers, they had switched to a very strict, healthy diet of plant-based foods.  Truth be told, Mom said I never would eat any meat products, even as a baby.  Anytime she would try to feed me beef, chicken, hot dogs…whatever….I would spit them out.  So I guess I was “born” a vegetarian!

This dish is good several different ways when you’re looking to add a protein to your Meat-Free Monday meals.  If you are vegan, you can try substituting the cheese for tofu.  I personally have not tried to “vegan-ise” this recipe, so it would definitely be an experiment!  These meatballs are great in spaghetti sauce, bake them in a marinara or cream of mushroom soup sauce and serve as a side dish.  Or you can make “meatball” subs with them!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Large mixing bowl, large wooden spoon, raw wheat germ, 16 oz. container of fat-free cottage cheese, pecan meal, onion, eggs, seasoned bread crumbs and a square baking dish with a lid.

Cottage Cheese Pecan Meatballs

1 cup fat-free cottage cheese (8 oz.)

1/2 cup raw wheat germ

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (Panko is great too)

1 cup pecan meal

3 eggs (I use 2-farm fresh eggs)

1 large onion, minced

 

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Combine all ingredients well and using a cereal tablespoon, scoop out into your hands and roll into balls.  The mixture will be thick, but very moist.

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Spray your baking dish with non-stick spray.

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I actually doubled this batch and made bigger “meat”balls even though they’re not exactly the same size! And because onions and my hubby are not friends, I substituted 1 tsp onion powder for the chopped onions to keep the flavor.

Cover and bake for an hour or until golden brown.

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Serve and enjoy!

Lime Cilantro Rice with Ginger

Always on the outlook for something new, full of flavor and light, this recipe was adapted from the one Pioneer Woman used in a recent episode. I just Asian-ized it by adding the ginger!

First, sauté half a large, finely chopped onion

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Add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger root and 1 garlic clove that has been crushed

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Add about 2 cups uncooked rice.  Brown it a little in the onion, garlic and ginger mixture to release the flavors of the rice.

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Add 2 – 2 1/2 cups broth, zest of 2 limes, juice of 1 whole lime. 

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Let simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.  Finely chop about 1-2 tbsp of fresh cilantro (or parsley if you don’t have it) and toss through the rice.

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Keeping the citrus theme, this dish would be great served with Honey Orange Chicken and Spring Rolls (recipe to come!).  Add a fresh side dish of tossed raw veggies with a lime dressing. Enjoy!