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.

A Big Week for Bikes. . . and Tofu

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Pixie cuts pair well with speed workouts

Last week was a little strange weather-wise, with a smattering of hot, sunny days interrupted by a few non-consecutive days of torrential rain. When the skies were grey, I worked late. When the sun was out, I tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather and I spent a lot of time outside. I received my crash replacement helmet from Bell, and last week I finally got back in the saddle.

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That’s right, first time back on the bike in six months! I was not technically cleared to ride yet (I see the doctor this week), but I felt ready and the weather was perfect, so I carefully took a lap around the neighborhood just to see how it felt. . . it was magnificent! I have so missed riding a bike. I had no wrist pain during or after the ride, and no crazy crash flashbacks when I zipped downhill (braking. . . all. . . the. . . way), so I call it a success!

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Later that week, I was scheduled to run with a friend, and the high temperature that day was over ninety degrees. Due to the heat, we decided to run trails instead of road, to take advantage of the shade and any breeze we could pick up by running in the woods alongside the James River. I’m not technically cleared for trail running yet either, but I was riding high from the cycling success, and I only tripped on rocks once – no falling!

My arm was super sore and swollen after the short run. That night, the pain in my wrist woke me up several times and I tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable. After a long and stressful day of typing at work in pain, I headed to my regular Friday afternoon appointment with the occupational therapist and got bad news. My therapist wasn’t very happy with the pain and swelling, so I got this weird iontophoresis patch that made my arm look like a battery.

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The patch uses electric current to slowly inject an anti-inflammatory medication into my wrist over a few hours. It worked well so I’m glad that my therapist prescribed it, but after the titanium plates, the screws, the Storm Trooper splint, and now this, I do kind of wonder if OrthoVirginia is trying to turn me into a bionic woman. Am I slowly becoming a machine?

After overdoing it on physical activity in the great outdoors last week, I took it easy over the weekend and practiced being a spectator at the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation’s Cap2Cap ride. Spectating is awesome because it allows you to a) wear whatever you want (hey there Boho tank!), b) eat and drink whatever you want (Capital Trail Pale Ale, anyone?), c) support the participants you love (Kyle! Dad! Adrienne! Lindsay!), and d) take non-sweaty selfies during downtime (see my Instagram account).

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I had the privilege of cheering on my dad, Nick, and my husband, Kyle, as they completed the 50-miler together. I’ve watched them both ride bikes for years, but because they live in different states, they have only ridden together just a handful of times. I had a great time with my Mom, riding from one water stop to the next, to cheer on the boys and catch up on life this Mother’s Day weekend. They played it cool, but I know they both really enjoyed the together-time too.

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Although cheering from the sidelines was fun, I am so ready to get back into an exercise routine. Please send positive thoughts my way this week and maybe the doctor will clear me for more activity! I think that as long as I promise to ice my wrist after exercise and not fall, not even come close, I’ll be able to get back to hiking, biking, and running very soon.

One great piece of news is that I have gotten enough mobility back in my wrist that I am no longer cooking one-handed, and I was even able to cook Mother’s Day brunch for some of my family on Sunday morning, which felt great! My Mom has cooked for me so much over the last six months, so it was great to repay her for at least one meal by making Billy Bread strawberry French toast and cilantro scrambled eggs all by myself!

I also whipped up an awesome salad last week with cranberry balsamic vinegar that I got from my occupational therapist, who totally supports cooking. . . way more than she does trail running. The salad was composed of mixed baby greens, roasted Chioggia beets, goat cheese, roasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and cranberry balsamic vinegar. I topped it with the best baked tofu I have ever made. I cannot take credit for this wonderful recipe, but I can link to it so you can try it too. I highly recommend Perfect Baked Tofu from Healthy Tipping Point. You will not be disappointed!

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Have a delectable week!

Pecan Crusted Tofu with Raspberry Mustard Sauce

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Lately I’ve been working hard, eating breakfast and lunch on the go, and craving comfort food for dinner. A plate full of vegetables with a side of crunchy pecan crusted tofu was exactly what I needed one night last week. I used a handful of fresh raspberries to make a sweet and tangy mustard sauce that complemented the pecan crusted tofu pretty well. The color of the fresh raspberry sauce was so bright that it definitely got me into the spring spirit!

Raspberry season is right around the corner, and I expect to start dipping everything in this bright red sauce very soon. I have breaded and pan-fried tofu before, but haven’t found a great breading that holds up in the oven. This pecan crust sticks to the tofu and hangs on through baking, and it stays crunchy in the oven without getting dry. Sure, it would probably be fantastic pan-fried in oil, but it works great for baking too.

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Pecan Crusted Tofu

Ingredients:

  • 1 block of tofu (12-16 oz.), drained and pressed
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or sub pecan milk or soy milk)
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pour almond milk into a shallow bowl.
  3. In another bowl or deep plate, add all other ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Cut pressed tofu into 1/2-inch thick slices. Dip tofu slices in milk, then cover in pecan/panko breading on all sides.
  5. Place breaded tofu in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Raspberry Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raspberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup

Preparation:

  1. Puree raspberries in a food processor.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine raspberries, honey mustard, and maple syrup. Heat, while stirring, until sauce is bubbling, then remove from heat.
  3. Strain sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds and pulp from sauce.
  4. Serve sauce hot, drizzled over pecan crusted tofu.

Have a wonderful week!

Grills Gone Vegan

Things have been heating up around here.

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With temperatures soaring, cicadas (aliens!) humming, and my lawn o’ weeds growing to epic heights, the great outdoors are not exactly calling my name. However, with a big patio begging to host a party, the aroma of the neighbors’ grilled food wafting over to greet me when I climb out of my car at the end of a long day, and a few strands of twinkly lights romantically draped around our backyard, it is tempting to step outside and enjoy early summer. So when the publishers of Grills Gone Vegan by Tamisin Noyes asked me to review their vegan grilling cookbook, I decided to give it a shot. After all, we own two grills and rarely use them since we do not eat meat. Veggie burgers taste great on the grill, but firing it up just for a couple of No Bull burger patties seems silly. When Grills Gone Vegan arrived in the mail, I was excited to see a book full of recipes for foods we could actually eat, all prepared on a grill. I wanted to try everything! The options were so overwhelming that I had to invite a few friends over to help me taste test.

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Fast forward to last weekend, when I stood with a counter full of farmers’ market produce and local goodies from Ellwood Thompson’s, a cookbook with several bookmarked pages, and a rickety old laptop blasting dance music into my kitchen. When afternoon turned to evening, I was joined by Shannon of Thirsty Richmond and her husband Evan, and Adrienne of hippie itch and her husband Al. They all had more experience with vegan cooking and eating than I did, so I figured they would make great judges for the variety of dishes we prepared. They are also just super fun up-for-anything people, who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and skewer some seitan for the cause.

The book is full of creative recipes with manageable ingredient lists, and it includes a lot of fancy-looking dishes that, with my limited grilling experience, I never would have dreamed of preparing on a grill. Most recipes include sets of instructions for indoor non-grill preparation, indoor grill preparation, and an outdoor grill preparation, so you have a lot of options. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure approach to getting a delicious dish to the table. I was also really pleased to find dishes that incorporated grilling in the ingredients, like Charred Leek Spread, in which you take grilled leeks and process them with raw ingredients to make a creamy vegan spread for sliced baguettes.

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We chowed down on this dip while assembling skewers for the next dish and it was definitely a hit. The dill flavor is very light and springy, and leftover spread was a great dip for baby carrots and celery. It also added a unique flavor t0 veggie sandwiches the next day.

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I substituted some of my weekly farmers’ market finds for the vegetables called for in the Tunisian Seitan Skewers with Lemon Kissed Couscous. I used chicken-style seitan for this recipe, which incorporated a lemon and spice flavored marinade for a bright and citrusy grilled dish. The kohlrabi, which I substituted for mushrooms in the skewers, was pretty difficult to spear and it took longer to cook than the other vegetables. I will definitely try grilling kohlrabi again, but maybe in slices placed directly on the grill rather than on kebabs. Otherwise the vegetables and seitan were delicious, and the lemon kissed pearl couscous was tasty with this dish as well as the next entrée.

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The second entrée we prepared was Savory Grilled Tofu with Mushroom Sauce. The tofu is marinated first, and the marinade is really tasty so that the leftover tofu is great even without the mushroom sauce. Then the tofu is grilled and topped with a delicious herb-packed mushroom sauce. The couscous was supposed to go with the Tunisian skewers but it worked well for sopping up mushroom sauce in this dish. I really liked the idea of preparing a sauce on the stovetop while grilling the tofu outside. The result is an impressive dish that appears to be and elaborate showstopper, but is actually very easy to prepare.

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Finally, we grilled some nectarines that had been lightly brushed with agave nectar, and served the warm, caramelized fruit with Almond Dream vegan ice cream and fresh mint. I know some of you will disagree with me on this, but after trying it firsthand, I do believe that the almond ice cream was a better accompaniment for this dish than dairy ice cream would have been.

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If you are a vegetarian or vegan who wants to transform your grill from a piece of lawn furniture to a functional cooking element, or if you are an avid griller looking for some new recipes to add to your meat-laden collection, I highly recommend this book. It is easy to read, the instructions are simple to follow, and the recipes are very adaptable for any kind of cooking setup you may have. There are enough creative ideas in Grills Gone Vegan to keep you busy trying new things all summer. The book is available on Amazon or by mail order from the publisher.

I did receive a free copy of Grills Gone Vegan for testing the recipes. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review and all opinions are my own.

Veganville Run Is Done!

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Last week I surpassed the $2500 mark for my fundraising for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon with Team in Training. Because we met the goal before April 12th, I had to make good on my promise to run the Monument Avenue 10K dressed as a block of tofu. Thanks to everyone who donated and spread the word, I heard cheers of “go tofu!” and “run tofu, run!” all along the 6.2 mile course on Saturday morning. Here are the photos!

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It was a beautiful day for a race, and definitely the warmest weather I have run in while training for the half marathon. I had the pleasure of hosting (and doing completely unnecessary carbo-loading with) my friend Sarah from The Smart Kitchen over the weekend, as she completed her very first race!

I stuck with my friend Jess for the whole race, which was also her first. One of the most exciting moments of the day was watching the winner of the race come into the final stretch, as we were making our way to the start. That’s right, several people completed the race before we even began. We were in a jogger wave that started one hour after the first wave, and as we were making our way over the the start line area, we just happened to be on Franklin Street, in the last few blocks of the course, at the precise moment that the number one and two runners came flying through. I have never seen someone winning a race in person, so it was pretty exciting! I can’t imagine what it feels like to come in first place in a road race (and will likely never know).

The race course itself was pretty entertaining, with live bands, enthusiastic cheering groups, and a lot of costumed runners. It was a terrible training run because of the erratic pacing due to overcrowding on the course, so I just seized the opportunity to work the costume and have fun with it. I felt more like I was just hanging out with friends than I was exercising. We even stopped twice to socialize with friends and family in the median on Monument Ave, adding at least 10-15 minutes to our official time, because we really were not going for speed (as usual). The goal was to have fun and I think we accomplished that.

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Unfortunately I have been having some swelling and pain around my right Achilles tendon over the last two weeks, and it flared up near the end of the race. I think this stems from a series of hard workouts during which I pushed myself harder than I probably should have, and the sudden addition of hills to my routine a few weeks ago. I dialed my running activity way down over the last week in an effort to heal what is acting quite a bit like a tendon injury. Of course this caused me to spend more hours in the office, and consequently have a major meltdown while making dinner one night this week, due to the absence of a good outlet for my overwhelming work stress. Not my finest moment. Oh, my poor husband.

After ice, anti-inflammatories, and rest for several days, I felt great at the start line of the 10K. However, around mile 4, I felt the now familiar tendon soreness that indicated I was still not fully recovered. Based on the swelling and pain I have experienced in the 24 hours since the race, I think it is safe to say that I am off it for at least another week. I want to heal as much as possible before the big race in two weeks, so I can have an enjoyable experience for my first half marathon. If that means my “taper” is more like a hard stop, then so be it. I want to be rested, recovered, and ready to run with TNT on April 28th!

There is still time to donate to LLS, so if you missed the opportunity to give before last weekend, please visit my Team in Training page to make a donation in any amount. If you are in Richmond area, please join me at Legend Brewing Company this Thursday for happy hour. Legend will donate $1 for every beer purchased between 4:30 and 7:00 PM on April 18th. Hope to see you there!

Bring it on Down to Veganville

Have you seen the Veganville sketch yet? If you don’t know what I’m referring to, please open another browser window and Google “Veganville Saturday Night Live,” or just follow this link.

Okay, are we all on the same page now? Great!

The reason that the Veganville sketch is important (besides the fact that if the Suit and Tie performance wasn’t enough, this sketch on the March 9th episode of SNL reminded us all why we fell in love with Justin Timberlake in the first place), is that I will be studying JT’s smooth moves and profound lyrics for the next four weeks. In an effort to boost my Team in Training fundraising, I have pledged to run the Monument Avenue 10K dressed as a block of tofu, a la Justin Timberlake in the Veganville sketch, IF I meet my goal of $2,500 by April 12th.

If you want to see photos of me dressed up as a block of tofu at a race with over 40,000 participants, go donate a few dollars now.

If you want to see video of me performing one of the Veganville songs at the finish line, please go donate a few more.

Check out my full pledge at VeganvilleRun.com.

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If I raise. . .

$2,500 – I will wear the block of tofu costume on April 13th at the Monument Avenue 10K

$3,500 – I will perform one of JT’s songs from the SNL sketch at the finish line of the Monument Avenue 10K

$5,000 – I will officially “bring it on down to Veganville” and go vegan for 28 days

The deadline for donations is April 12, 2013. Donate today!

Protein Power! Recipe Roundup

Thank you to everyone who came out to my Protein Power cooking demonstration at Ellwood Thompson’s tonight. I hope everyone learned at least one new thing about cooking vegetarian proteins. I had a ton of fun and learned a lot from the great discussion we had while I cooked four of my favorite protein-packed dishes. Here are links to the four featured recipes, and a full recap will follow soon!

Greek Spinach Salad with Herbed Tempeh

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Engagement Tofu

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Quinoa with Olives and Parmesan (or nutritional yeast!)

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Chili Maple Glazed Tempeh

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