Masala Chai Spiced Tofu and Coconut Kale

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I used to work in an office with one of my best friends. We didn’t actually work together much, but we worked in the same office. We started a daily ritual of having tea every afternoon around 2:30, taking a quick five minute break to steep some tea and check in to see how things were going. I really enjoyed the ritual of taking a break to patiently wait four minutes for the tea to steep before bringing it back to my desk. It calmed and refocused me to have a productive afternoon. In the culture of instant gratification in which we live, there is something special about the daily ritual of forcing yourself to wait for the tea leaves to work their magic in your mug.

So lately I have been thinking a lot about patience and slowing down. And, naturally, as my thoughts often drift to food, I have been thinking about tea and crockpots and marinades and slow roasting. I had this idea to marinate tofu in very strong tea to infuse my cooking with the same flavors that I usually reserve for my mid-afternoon tea breaks. It took two attempts to get the method right, and the end result is a masala chai spiced tofu that is bursting with flavor.

Either I am more attuned to the tea popping up all around me, or there is a similar trend going on in the craft beer world, because the same weekend I made my first attempt at chai spiced tofu, I tasted this delicious brew:

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Local Richmond brewery Ardent Craft Ales released its Earl Grey Brown Ale to a packed tap room last month, and it instantly became one of my new favorite beers. I’m happy to see so many craft breweries playing with this style, because while I love a good IPA, how many IPA’s do you need on your menu? I’ve seen some great creative brown ales in the last couple of years, including this tea-inspired one.

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Ardent Craft Ales Tap Room

Then a couple of weeks ago, Kyle and I picked up Japanese Green Tea IPA, a collaboration beer from Baird, Ishii, and Stone Brewing Company. It tastes exactly as you would expect it to. An India Pale Ale infused with the taste of matcha green tea powder. Citrusy, bitter, floral, herbal. . . it’s a lot a flavor in a glass. If you like green tea, please try it.

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So, enough about what we’ve been drinking. Back to what we’ve been eating. I found some purple kale at the farmers’ market, and I made a coconut curry kale recipe to go along with my chai spiced tofu. It turned out beautiful and tasty, so I jotted down the recipe and included it below. So let’s get cooking!

Masala Chai Spiced Tofu

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Ingredients:

  • 6 masala chai tea bags
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 14 oz. block of firm tofu
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Preparation:

  1. Drain and press tofu. Cut block into six slices.
  2. Heat water almost to boiling in a teapot. Combine tea bags and 2 cups of hot water in a jar or bowl. Steep for 4 minutes, then remove tea bags.
  3. Arrange tofu slices in a glass dish. Pour concentrated tea over tofu. Marinate tofu for one hour at room temperature, turning tofu once halfway through marinating.
  4. Drain tea from tofu, and reserve 1/2 cup of tea marinade.
  5. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of tea marinade, soy sauce, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and honey. Stir to mix the sauce thoroughly.
  6. Heat 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  7. Add tofu slices to hot pan and cook until browned, about 5-6 minutes per side.
  8. Add sauce to pan and cook until reduced by at least one half. Suggestion: serve tofu while hot, over basmati rice and cooked greens like Coconut Curry Kale.

Coconut Curry Kale

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 bunch of curly kale
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons madras curry powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Remove stems from kale. Chop stems in bite-sized pieces and tear leaves into a separate bowl.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. When coconut oil is melted, add chopped kale stems and garlic to pot. Saute for five minutes.
  4. Add kale leaves, ginger, and curry to the pot. Saute until kale is bright green and slightly wilted.
  5. While kale is cooking, in a small pan, heat shredded/flake coconut over low-medium heat until toasted. Remove pan from heat.
  6. Add lime juice, toasted coconut, and salt and pepper to the kale. Toss and serve immediately.
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Feeling Crunchy? Make Granola!

This weekend, Virginia gave us a taste of summer. When temperatures started climbing, I got my butt out the door to enjoy the ever-increasing hours of daylight. The general warmup has inspired me to go to the river several times already this year. The appearance of local spring vegetables and the blooming of flowers all around me remind me of what’s to come.

Summer will be here before we know it, and if today’s weather (at highs in the upper eighties) is any indication, it’s coming early this year. The warm temperatures always make me want to come out of hibernation and do spring and summery things, so I have been having a wonderful time in the great outdoors. Last week, I went to the river in the late afternoon to read a good book and catch some rays before sunset.

Today, I rode my new bike for the first time! My old bike was a great starter bicycle, and I got good use out of it over the last year or so, but I recently decided I was ready for an upgrade. I bought a Torker Graduate a few weeks ago from Carytown Bicycle Co. and I finally went on a short ride today to test it out. I met up with Adrienne and Liz to ride from Ellwood Thompson’s to Byrd Park. I had a great time and so far I love my new bike. I can’t wait to log some more miles though and really get a feel for it. I want to ride so much that I get to know my bike so well that it feels like an extension of my body. That would be really badass, right? I hope to someday be that legit.

Maybe it’s all the time in the great outdoors that made me want to make granola this week. Hiking, biking, gardening, hanging out at the river. . . it turns you crunchy if you weren’t already there. Lately I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and it makes me want to cook and bake everything from scratch. The nice warm weather has me yearning for summery flavors, like mango and coconut.

If you are ready for your fix of summer, or if you just want a great snack for hitting the trails, this homemade granola is very easy and inexpensive to make. This mango coconut variation on my basic granola recipe feels tropical and tastes sweet and delicious. It stands up well to milk to make a cold cereal, and it works wonderfully in a parfait. I layered my mango coconut granola with vanilla yogurt and sliced bananas for an afternoon snack, and I almost felt like I had been transported to an island.

If mango coconut isn’t your thing, try out my basic granola recipe and substitute your own mix-ins. I think my next batch will feature dried cherries and chocolate chips. Yum!

Mango Coconut Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp golden flax seeds, fresh ground
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried mangos (unsweetened, diced, and dehydrated- I used the Bare Fruit variety)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, sunflower seeds, and ground flax seeds in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  3. Combine oil, honey, and brown sugar over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and whisk to combine.
  4. Carefully pour the oil-honey-sugar mixture over the granola and stir to combine. Add vanilla and coconut extracts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and toss all ingredients together.
  5. Pour the granola mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a wooden spoon to spread it into an even layer.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, then stir to turn over and return to oven for 8-10 additional minutes at 325 degrees F. Granola should be golden brown when finished; remember to take it out before it gets too crispy or it will taste burnt! For a color guide, see my original granola post.

Mango Coconut Granola Parfait

For a tasty and refreshing parfait, simply layer your favorite yogurt with mango coconut granola and fresh sliced banana, mango, or the fruit of your choice. This works great for a nutritious breakfast or snack that will stick with you throughout your day.

Here’s to more sunny days to come!

Blueberry Breakfast Cookies

I have discussed before that I have a hard time getting ready in the morning. I’m not exactly a morning person, and it is a constant struggle for me to get dressed, fed, caffeinated, and out the door on time. A few mornings a week, Kyle sleeps later than me and I have to get ready in the dark, which compounds the problem. I brainstormed solutions about a month ago, and oatmeal breakfast cookies were born. If you have trouble fitting a healthy breakfast into your morning routine, and if you’re like me and you typically put yourself together while stumbling around in the dark, this handheld serving of oatmeal might be for you too.

Candlelight is superior to lamplight when you are stealthily eating cookies in the wee hours of the morning while your partner sleeps, peaceful and cookieless.

I’ve created another version of these cookies, and they are even more delicious than Breakfast Cookie 1.0, originally posted here. They are the perfect on-the-go breakfast for those mornings that you find yourself feeling around the furniture to make your way to the shower in total darkness, banging your knees on dressers and ironing boards, stepping on your pet’s tail, tumbling over as the cat spitefully trips you by running in between your unsteady feet, and struggling to match the colors of your work outfit through squinty eyes.

When you finally make it out the door alive, this cookie is a blissful reward for your morning commute that helps you get energy and prepare for your day. It centers and calms you so much that you might not have a nervous breakdown when you notice that your knees aren’t the only combo of black and blue that you’re sporting today, as you realize that you have matched navy blue tights to your jet black pencil skirt. Full of all the things that make you happy and healthy, and determined to help you start your day out right, here it is:

The Black and Blueberry Breakfast Cookie


Ingredients:

  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and pureed in a food processor (add some of the milk early if you need some liquid to get it going)
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut + 1/8 cup sliced almonds (or 1/4 cup of any combination of nuts)
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons honey

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let this mixture stand for ten minutes to let the oats soften. One time I let it stand for about 30 mins in the refrigerator and it was even better.
  3. Divide mixture into six large mounds and place the dough mounds onto a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart from one another.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool.
  5. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to a week.

This cookie goes well with a homemade iced coffee and a positive attitude. Now go forth and kick some ass!