Post 71 – Peanut Butter Tofu Stir Fry

Now I know what you’re thinking – Peanut butter and tofu? Yuck! So maybe you’re not into tofu, but really why not? If it’s a texture issue then I totally understand. If it’s a flavor issue, that is a whole other story – tofu can be any flavor you want! If you can’t get over the idea of eating tofu and peanut butter together than fine. Just think of this dish as a Thai peanut sauce served over your favorite meat and veggies.

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The first time I remember making the original version of this dish I was headed to a concert in Yellow Springs with my sister, Chelsea. I don’t remember what concert or how long ago it was, but I do remember the warm feeling of summertime happiness and the delicious peanut butter noodles with veggies that would be our picnic dinner.

Now thanks to Sam’s love for peanut butter and my wonderful influence exposing him to so many new foods, (Tofu! Who would have thought?) this recipe has morphed into one of our go-to dinners. We cook up a pot of brown rice and serve it up with this peanut buttery comfort food. The best part – this recipe is totally adaptable. Use whatever veggies you want, sub out cooked chicken for the tofu, and even switch out honey for the brown sugar if you so choose. Whatever you may change, maybe you’ll find this dish makes it into your menu rotation.

Peanut Butter Tofu Stir Fry

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

1 14-oz package extra firm tofu

your choice of veggies (asparagus, onions, bell pepper, mushroom, carrots, snow peas, broccoli)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or crunchy if you’re into that)

1/4 – 1/3 cup soy sauce (to taste, depending on saltiness of PB)

1/3 – 1/2 cup warm water (again, to taste and depending on consistency of PB)

2 T. rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)

2 T. brown sugar

1 inch fresh ginger (or more) minced or grated

juice of 1/2 a lime

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

To start, prep your veggies by chopping them into even sizes. We used asparagus, carrots, and mushrooms though we used to always use onions and red bell peppers. Keep in mind the texture of the vegetables when choosing what size to cut. For example carrots are crunchier than mushrooms so they will take longer to cook. If you are using both carrots and mushrooms, consider cutting the carrots smaller, add them to the pan to saute first, or enjoy the extra crunch!

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Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a splash of canola oil. When hot, add veggies and cook, stirring every now and then until almost to your desired tenderness. They will cook longer when the tofu and sauce is added so unless you like soggy veggies, don’t cook them too long. You can add them one at a time if you need one to cook longer or add them all at once.

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While the veggies are cooking, drain, lightly squeeze and cube your tofu.

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Prepare the sauce by mixing peanut butter, soy sauce, water (start with the minimum and add more later if needed), vinegar, brown sugar, fresh ginger, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes. When the veggies are cooked to your liking, add cubed tofu and cook for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until the tofu is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

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Peanut butter sauce with fresh ginger! Yum!

Turn down the heat to a simmer and stir in your peanut butter sauce. Cook for just a few minutes, just long enough that the sauce starts to bubble. If it is too thick add additional water, carefully stirring it in so as not to splash. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

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Post 70 – Reverse Hot Chocolate

I can picture the hills that we rode down on our sleds, my sisters and I. There was the one across the street in the neighbor’s yard that was short and sweet and easy to climb back up over and over, and the hill in Miamisburg whose descent landed you near a frozen pond and patch of trees.

photo 1(18)On snow days Mom would get the call around 5:00 am that school was closed and she’d call her chain of other teachers to share the news. We three girls were thrilled at the idea of a snow day not only for the sake of missing school, but for the joy of playing in the snow. We built snow couches and igloos and rolled around outside, our cold cheeks turning the color of blush as we rolled in the soft white powder.photo 2(15)

As part of any good snow day, we would come inside to warm up with a good cup of hot chocolate. Mom stirred the milk, sugar, and cocoa on the stove and ladled it into our cherry and raspberry-painted mugs. My mom doesn’t like marshmallows – I guess it’s the texture – so we rarely had them in our hot chocolate. I told myself I didn’t miss them. They always melted anyway.

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Aside from hot chocolate, my mom would often fix us another comforting, warm drink when we were little: vanilla milk. We would drink it at night to help us sleep, slurping from our green and blue plastic cups that once had sippy lids. For this simple treat, she warmed milk with a drizzle of honey, a dash of cinnamon, and splash of vanilla extract. Simple, sweet, and pure.

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I have been dying to make this recipe for Chocolate Marshmallows ever since I read The Sweet Life in Paris because who has ever had a chocolate marshmallow (?!). Since today was a snow day it seemed the perfect occasion to tackle this recipe. Inspired by my mom’s warm vanilla milk and these already chocolate-flavored marshmallows, I made a Reverse Hot Chocolate to comfort me on this snowy day. As the marshmallow melts into your warm vanilla milk, it becomes its own form of hot chocolate and the cinnamon gives it a wonderful upgrade. So I give you the Reverse Hot Chocolate. Now go earn it first by taking a long walk in the snowy wonderland. You’ll feel all the better for it!

photo(59)Cinnamon-dusted Vanilla Milk

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Chocolate Marshmallows

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris

3 egg whites

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup + 6 T. cool water, divided

2 packets unflavored gelatin – 15 grams each (such as Knox)

6 T. cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. vanilla

powdered sugar, cornstarch or 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Now’s the time to put your mise en place to work. Measure out all of the ingredients. In a small bowl, measure out 6 tablespoons of water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let sit. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan melt corn syrup, sugar, and 1/3 cup of water over low to moderate heat. If you have a candy thermometer, attach that to your pan. If not, get a digital thermometer on hand.

In an electric mixer put your egg whites and a pinch of salt. Begin to beat the egg whites on low as you let you sugar mixture come up to temperature. You want the syrup to reach 250 degrees before removing it from the heat while the egg whites beat enough to begin to hold their shape. Once the syrup has reached 250 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the gelatin and water mixture until completely dissolved. Carefully whisk in the cocoa powder.

With your electric mixer on high, carefully pour your chocolate syrup mixture into the egg whites as it beats. Make sure to pour it closer to the side to avoid hitting the beater and whipping the mixture around. Continue to beat on high as your prepare your pan.

Dust an 8-inch square pan with a mixture of half cornstarch, half powdered sugar OR unsweetened shredded coconut (David Lebovitz’s recipe). Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl, adding your vanilla. Continue to beat until the mixture thickens slightly and the outside of the bowl no longer feels warm. (Do it longer than you think, because if you don’t your marshmallows will be wet on the bottom, like mine!) Carefully pour your chocolate mixture into your pan and dust with another layer of powdered sugar or coconut. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

When dried, remove from the pan on to a cutting board and cut with a knife or scissors into squares, dusting with more powdered sugar or coconut as you go to dry out the sticky edges. Serve in your favorite form of vanilla or dark hot chocolate! Store in an airtight container.

For theĀ Vanilla Milk, heat a mug of milk in the microwave or on low on the stove with vanilla, and honey. For about 1 cup of milk I would start with a teaspoon of honey and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add more honey if you like it sweeter. Top with a dash of cinnamon and a few chocolate marshmallows.

Happy Snowing!

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Post 69 – Chocolate Cloud Cake

Going gluten free can be tough. Making and eating this flour-less chocolate cake is not.

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In fact, going gluten free has become so much easier due to the increasing awareness of and education about gluten intolerance and Celiac’s disease. Now pretty much any grocery store you go to sells gluten free cakes, cookies, breads, and flours.

Though for some people eating gluten free is not a choice, going “gluten free” has become somewhat of a trend for others, as people assume it is automatically healthier. While it certainly can be if you cut out processed and refined flours and excess sweets, there are still plenty of unhealthy gluten free foods out there, including the aforementioned cakes, cookies, etc. Moral of the story: If you plan on going strictly gluten free, make sure you do your research. You will find gluten lurking in many unusual and surprising places (meatloaf! soy sauce! chicken soup!) and if you want to be strict about it you have to ask lots of questions.

Why am I talking about gluten free diets? Well because I am entering week four of eating gluten free as a test to see if it improves my chronic acid reflux (so far it’s just okay). I have found through online research that for some people it relieves their reflux symptoms and so I figured it was worth a try.

Anyway… back to this cake.

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Whether you eat gluten or not, you likely love a good flour-less chocolate cake. I mean c’mon. It’s rich, fudgey, chocolatey, and if you fall for the trap that gluten free automatically means healthy, than this cake is totally healthy! I mean dark chocolate alone – hello! Nevermind the butter, sugar, and whole eggs…

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To start, melt your chocolate nice and slowly. I prefer the double boiler method.

photo 4(7)Throw in some butter to melt in the warm chocolate bath.

photo 3(12)Beat a few whole eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until lighter in color.

photo 1(15)Beat egg whites (by hand since your mixer died in the middle of the procedure) until they hold their shape.

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Beautiful.

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And then carefully combine all ingredients – tempering the warm chocolate into the cooler egg yolks…

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And gradually folding in your whipped egg whites – folding being the key word to keep you from deflating them. I give my dad credit for teaching me awesome egg white folding skills (and clothing folding too).

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And then you throw that beauty into the oven and let it quietly bake. Make sure not to over bake it to keep it moist. Cool it, top it with whipped cream, and dive right in.

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And don’t forget to do the dishes.

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Chocolate Cloud Cake

from Nigella Bites

9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, 70% cacao recommended, chopped*

1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes

6 eggs – 2 whole, 4 separated

1/2 + 1 T. granulated sugar, divided

1 T. cognac, vanilla, or other flavoring of choice (optional)

1-2 cups whipped cream (store bought or hand whipped)

cocoa powder (garnish)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring constantly and removing from the heat when the chocolate is melted. Add the cubes of butter and allow to melt into the chocolate.

In a large bowl beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar until paler yellow and lighter.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until frothy. Continue to beat while gradually adding the remaining sugar until the egg whites hold their shape, but are not too stiff.

Temper the chocolate by gradually pouring a little into the egg yolks while mixing, to keep from scrambling the eggs. Add the rest of the chocolate mixture once the eggs have incorporated some. Finally carefully fold in the egg whites, one third of the whites at a time. Pour the mixture into a buttered 9-inch springform pan and bake at 350 until the center is no longer wobbly (Nigella says 35-40 minutes but when I made my 2/3 batch pie pan version it was done in less than 20).

The cake should sink slightly as it cools. When ready to serve fill the indent with whipped cream and sprinkle with cocoa powder for garnish.

 

* I used chocolate chips, but feel free to use a bar of good chocolate and just chop it finely and evenly so it melts well.