How to: Make your Own – General Tso’s Tofu

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Yo. Meat lovers.

If ever there were ever a reason to start eating tofu, here it is.

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A perfect storm of intense flavour, perfect texture and…damn it, it’s just glorious. Trust me.

The inspiration behind this one is Dana over at The Minimalist Baker. Both Dara and I have been infatuated with this recipe since discovering it.  We’ve even inspired a few friends to try it, with resounding success!

My version is super close to the original, with a few less steps. Delicious: simplified *fist bump*

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When using extra firm tofu, to get the ‘meatiest’ texture possible, you want to remove as much moisture as possible. This is what wrapping in towels and weighting it will do.  However, if you need dinner on the table 10 minutes sooner, you can skip this step. Just pat the tofu dry before marinating.

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Ginger is one of my fave flaves. I’ve probably mentioned this a zillion times, but it’s totally worth mentioning again.  Freeze your ginger and grate it with a microplane. I don’t even peel it (👈🏻badass).  It’s such a quick and efficient way to use fresh ginger and there’s no waste, because you can just baggie-it and pop it back in the freezer for next time.

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I quickly realized this recipe requires a double batch at our house (pictured above). I’m guessing you’re gonna want to go that route once you try it, too. Maybe even triple-sies.

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Let’s talk about the cornstarch step.  I’ve tried the recipe with and without this.  Again, not totally necessary from a flavour perspective, but you’ll get some some nice crispy bits if you follow this step.

I found using a non-stick frying pan or a wok worked best to stir-fry the tofu.  When I tried using a non-non-stick (does that make sense?), it was kind of a sticky burny mess, even with lots of oil.

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I’ve left stir-frying the garlic and ginger right until the end.  When cooking at a high heat, these delicate flavours will burn quick and taste like hell when they do.  So no burning stuff, k?

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Once you add the marinade, it will begin to get thick and a little sticky and it will smell completely irresistible. Add the tofu, sprinkle on some seeds and eat the heck out of it. FAST. Before anyone else can.

Erin

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General Tso Tofu

Serves 3-4
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Website Adapated from The Minimalist Baker's General Tso's Tofu

Ingredients

  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch (divided)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
  • 1 bunch green onions (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Marinade & Sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup liquid honey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce (or more to taste)

Directions

1. Wrap tofu in a few layers of paper towel or a clean, dry dishcloth. Place wrapped tofu under a heavy pot or under a plate weighted with some canned goods. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Cut tofu into approximately 1" cubes.
2. To a large shallow dish, add ingredients for marinade and whisk to combine. Add cubed tofu and toss until all sides are coated. Marinate for at least 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Transfer tofu, piece by piece to a large freezer bag. Reserve marinade and whisk in 1 Tbsp corn starch.
3. Add remaining 2 Tbsp of cornstarch to freezer bag, seal bag and toss to combine. Tofu should have a gummy coating.
4. In a large non-stick sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat, heat 2 Tbsp of the canola oil. Carefully add tofu and stir-fry for about 4 minutes, stirring and flipping tofu pieces to evenly brown on all sides. Remove tofu and set aside.
5. Add remaining canola oil and heat over medium-high. Add green onions, stir-fry for one minute. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
6. Add reserved marinade, reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add tofu pieces and stir to combine and evenly coat tofu. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serve immediately to enjoy the crispy tofu bits.

How to: Make a Chicken Soup for Cold Season

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Anyone else feeling like this cold and flu season has been particularly brutal?

Granted, my daughter is spending her first year daycare, too. Also known as the world’s biggest germ factory.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised it’s been cold central around here.

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When my nose is raw and my throat lumpy, all I want is a magical cure for my dulled taste buds.

This soup is some seriously heartwarming shit.

Like it will satisfy your soul, people.

Ginger and lemon give it a bright, zingy flavour and turmeric, a spice that can be found on many a 2017 food trends lists, is your anti-inflammatory and antioxidant friend.  It also gives it a pretty colour.

Of note, I tried to find credible, scientific evidence supporting turmeric’s ‘super food’ status with little success. There are only a small number of human studies that exist, with an even smaller number of double-blind placebo controlled studies (the gold standard in scientific research) to support the many many MANY claims being made about its power to cure everything from acne to cancer to Alzheimer’s.

Big picture, guys: Eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods & focus on vibrant colours (ahem…turmeric) and you’ll get plenty of anti-imflammatory goodness.  Dieititian hand to heart.

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Now, back to this fan-bloody-tastic soup that takes 30 minutes start to finish.

30 minutes for soul satisfaction? Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

And it might even cure your cold.

Erin

Chicken Soup for Cold Season

Serves 4-6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Website Adapted from Soup Addict

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 Small onion (diced)
  • 2 celery stalks (sliced)
  • 2 Medium carrots (sliced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked cubed or shredded chicken (rotisserie chicken is an easy option)
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Note

I found Israeli couscous at my local bulk store, but feel free to use your favourite pasta shape in this soup.

Directions

1. In a large pot, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes until softened.
2. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric and cook, stirring for another minute.
3. Add broth, chicken and couscous and simmer for 10-12 minutes until couscous is cooked through. Add lemon juice along with salt and pepper to taste. Serve!

How to: Healthy Sides – Ginger Sesame Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sometimes I get stuck in side-dish ruts.

Quinoa’s been the old standby lately. It’s just so darn fast and tasty and healthy.

The holy trinity of great sides, really.

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But as we come into a new season, one that evokes cravings for warm, satisfying comfort dishes, it’s high time to switch things up a bit.

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It’s time for root veggies. It’s time for sweet potatoes.

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Dara and I rely on sweet potatoes in our cooking quite a bit.  We’ve shown you how to use them for a quickie meal with curried chickpeas, as part of an african inspired stew and as a main ingredient in a homemade veggie burger.

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In this recipe they stand alone as a side that works perfectly alongside a plethora of options. They’re also a great source of fibre (even better if you eat the skins) and vitamin A which is important for eye health.

In fact, I had my vision retested today after a 2 year hiatus and it has actually improved! I told my optometrist it’s all of the sweet potato recipes I’ve been developing.  :p

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Steamed or boiled and mashed sweet potatoes are a fantastic side without a thing added, but here garlic, ginger and sesame oil give them a punch of asian flair – my very favourite kind of food flair.

Here I have them pictured with some roasted lemony broccoli and some crispy Ontario pickerel.

What will you try them with?

Erin

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Ginger sesame mashed sweet potatoes

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 Medium sweet potatoes (peeled)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (grated)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Note

Fresh ginger is very easy to grate with a small side of a grater or a microplane when it's frozen. Peel it first by scraping the skin away with the edge of a spoon.  I always keep a nub of ginger in the freezer sealed in a small ziplock bag.

Directions

1. Chop sweet potatoes into roughly 1.5" pieces and transfer to a medium saucepan along with chopped garlic. Add enough water to cover the sweet potatoes about half way.
2. Bring to a boil over heat high, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for about 12-15 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced through with a sharp knife. Strain potatoes and garlic.
3. Add ginger, sesame oil and stock or water and use an immersion blender to 'mash' the sweet potatoes until smooth. If you prefer it a little chunky that's okay too of course. You may need a little more stock/water if you're looking for an extra smooth 'mash'.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you will need less if using stock) and serve.

How to: Quickie Meal – Carrot Ginger Soup

This past week has been a doozy.  It was insanely packed with social events, a wonderful conference put on by Ontario home economists and a trip out of town to Atikokan, Ontario for a family funeral.

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Atikokan is north. We’re talking 250km outside of Thunder Bay north.  It’s a very small community (and the canoeing capital of Canada!) where the loss of one of their own brings friends and family together for a lunch at the local Royal Canadian Legion.

There was no shortage of ‘funeral sandwiches‘ and church lady made desserts, or as they call them ‘dainties’.  There definitely was a shortage of fruits and vegetables in my diet though.   It can be so hard to eat healthy when travelling.

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When I arrived home exhausted and craving a good dose of antioxidants, I turned to this super quick, super healthy and uber delicious soup that didn’t even require a trip to the grocery store to make.

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As a guest at the upcoming inaugural Food Bloggers of Canada conference next month, we’ve been lucky enough to get some incredible swag in advance.  The people at Nordic Ware sent us a package with some great ‘cast aluminum’ cookware that is meant to mimic cast iron in a lightweight package.  I’ve made some delicious braised greens in my braiser and in the 3 qt dutch oven, I’ve made slow cooked baked beans and this recipe for carrot ginger soup, both with great success.  The absolute best part is the easy and lightweight clean up!

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Blending the soup right in the pot with an immersion blender is a perfect way to save on time and clean up.  No need to wait for the soup to cool, to blend in batches or to create extra dirty dishes.DSC_5514

Serve this soup alongside a great chickpea and avocado, grilled cheese or egg salad sandwich to round out your meal.

Erin

Carrot Ginger Soup

Serves 3 - 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 Medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated or minced. About a 1" piece)
  • 3 cups carrots (chopped into 3/4" pieces)
  • 3.5 to 4 cups vegetable stock
  • juice from one large lemon wedge
  • salt and pepper to taste

Note

Top the soup with sour cream or plain yogurt and chives. Serve alongside a sandwich or salad for a complete meal.

Directions

1. Over medium heat, heat oil and add onions. Sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté another minute.
2. Add carrots and 3 - 3.5 cups of stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes, until carrots are cooked through.
3. With an immersion blender, puree soup, adding additional stock until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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How to: Recipe Makeover – Thai Turkey Meatballs

Meatballs are a universal food. Us North American folk are most familiar with the classic Italian-American versions served atop spaghetti or nestled in a crusty bun with marinara sauce. And thanks to Ikea, the Swedish favourite served alongside deliciously rich gravy, potatoes and lingonberry jam.

These meatballs are different. These meatballs are asian infused.

Give anything an asian flavour twist, and I’m on board.

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This recipe has been a long time favourite at our house.  I’ve tweaked it to our liking over the years, but the original comes from one of Janet and Greta Podleski’s famous trio of cookbooks – Eat, Shrink & Be Merry.  These two hilarious (and Canadian!) sisters were a huge inspiration to me while I was studying to become a dietitian and in the early stages of my love for cooking.  DSC_4942

Fast forward almost 10 years (gulp.) and the unfamiliar ingredients I was buying and using for the first time (hoisin sauce, sesame oil, coconut milk) are now staples in my kitchen.

DSC_4943These little suckers are flavour bombs.  My favourite way to serve them is over some sort of whole grain and steamed green vegetable to sop up the swoon worthy coconut ‘gravy’.
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Once the garlic has been minced and ginger grated, they come together quickly and without fuss.
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In the past I’ve tried using ground beef, pork and chicken in this recipe, but I prefer turkey by far, which marries perfectly with the creamy coconut and peanut butter and zingy ginger and lime.DSC_4962

Baby bok choy is a frequent flyer alongside these meatballs.  Chop off the root end, separate the stalks and wash thoroughly.  Steam in a double boiler for 5-7 minutes.
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If you’re looking for an alternative to spaghetti and meatballs, brown rice noodles are an excellent substitute for pasta.  My favourite is this whole grain rice blend from Bulk Barn.
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Thai Turkey Meatballs

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
From book Adapted from the recipe Glad Thai Dings from the cookbook Eat, Shrink & be Merry

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons chives or green onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons garlic (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated or finely minced)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Sauce

  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated or finely minced)
  • zest of one lime

Sauce (Optional)

  • pinch of red pepper flakes or 1/2 tsp asian hot chili sauce

Note

If you're a first time hoisin sauce user, try using it as a quick glaze for oven baked salmon or trout.  Sprinkle with a few slices of green onion and some toasted sesame seed for extra flair.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. To make meatballs, add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix (preferably with your hands!) until just combined. Form mixture in to 18-20 - 1.5" meatballs and transfer to cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned.
4. While meatballs are cooking, combine sauce ingredients in a deep skillet, large heavy bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until it boils. Reduce to a simmer.
5. When meatballs are done, add them to sauce and mix well.
6. Serve over whole grain rice, quinoa or noodles and alongside steamed greens of any kind.
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Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the sauce!

Erin