How to Cook Tofu

Today is unique.
February 29th won't come again for four whole years, 
so I thought I should post something unique today...
like how to cook tofu!

Tofu Vegetable Stir-Fry

Tofu used to give me the heebie-jeebies (kinda like shrimp).  Just hearing the word raised my eyebrows.
I think the first time I tried tofu was at PF Chang's...in their coconut curry vegetable dish (amazing!),
and I knew I had been missing out.

Made from soybeans, tofu is low-fat, high protein, vegetarian, versatile (soft or firm; can be used in sweet & savory dishes), and has a subtle flavor (will pretty much take on whatever flavor you want it to).

So here's how I cook tofu--specifically for stir-fry--
and it's super easy and only takes 15 minutes!

1 package 14-oz extra firm tofu
heat-safe oil for sauteing
garlic powder for flavor
sauce for stir-fry

We really like Nasoya's organic extra firm tofu for this (I find it at Costco).

(I did use this before the expiration date, by the way...)

Open the package and drain the liquid.  Wrap the tofu block in paper towels or a dish towel, place on a cutting board, and gently pat/squeeze out the water (you want the tofu dry in order to absorb flavor/sauce).

Cut into bite-sized cubes.

(After cutting you may want to dab up some more water.)

Drizzle heat-safe oil (I like grapeseed) into a medium-sized pan over medium heat and add tofu pieces.  
Stir the tofu around with a spatula to coat with oil.
At this point, I like to add a good sprinkle of garlic powder for some flavor.

(About halfway done)
 After a few minutes, turn pieces over, using a spatula, to cook the other sides.
Continue sauteing and stirring/turning until all (or most of) the sides are lightly browned.

After about 15 minutes, the tofu should be browned like this.

When the tofu is done cooking, pour in just enough stir-fry sauce to coat the pieces, let them absorb the sauce for a minute or so, and then add tofu to the cooked vegetables for the stir-fry.

Serve warm over brown rice.  Super easy, right?
How do you cook tofu?
If you've never cooked it, try it and let me know what you think!

Goodbye, February 29th...see you in four years!


Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

This sweet and tangy,
protein and antioxidant-packed
side dish 
is the perfect pick-me-up in the middle of winter!

I made a batch for the sole purpose of having "grab-ready" in the fridge for a quick, healthy snack.

I even eat it right out of the bowl...(please tell me you do this too!).

And my one-year-old loved it too!

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad
From my mother-in-law
Makes about 6 servings

1 1/2 cups quinoa, cooked
1 can black beans, drained/rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (or raisins--white raisins are yummy too!)
1 diced red bell pepper

1/3 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander*
1/4 tsp salt

Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together.  Pour dressing over salad and stir well.  Chill for a few hours before eating.  Enjoy!

*If you don't have ground coriander, don't stress.  It'll taste great without it too!


No-Shortening Buttercream Frosting

Here's the buttercream frosting recipe I used on my Soft & Fluffy Sugar Cookies.

I don't usually like frosting, but this is my new favorite, 
and I LOVE that it doesn't use shortening--it's practically healthy...(ha).

Shortening-Free Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt (literally--just taste & add more if needed)
6 Tbsp heavy cream*
Food coloring & sprinkles, optional

Cream together butter and vanilla.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar and salt.  When becomes smooth & creamy, add in heavy cream, 1 Tbsp at a time.  Finally, beat at medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes; until light and fluffy.  Add food coloring if desired.

*You can use 1/2 and 1/2 or milk if you don't have any, although cream tastes wonderful!

Soft & Fluffy Sugar Cookies

I usually opt for chewy, fudgy, & rich-chocolatey
soft, light, fluffy, and sweet.

Until Valentine's Day comes...there's something about it that makes me abandon everything I stand for the rest of the year when it comes to sweets.
So I indulge in sweet & fluffy things,
like sugar cookies.

I have a sugar cookie recipe I use at Christmas, which yields a thinner, crispier cookie.  It's delicious and tastes like my childhood.
But I tried this soft one this year for Valentine's,
what can I say?

I'm in love.

Try 'em and let me know what you think.  :)
Happy Valentine's Day!

Update:  Click here for the shortening-free frosting I used for these cookies!

Soft & Fluffy Sugar Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
2 cups white sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream

In large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, powder, and salt; set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar at medium speed for a couple minutes, until light & fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add in vanilla and sour cream at low speed until incorporated.

Add in dry ingredients and beat in a low speed until just combined (dough will be sticky).  Divide dough in two and flatten into rectangles (about 1 1/2 inches thick) and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight, or at least a couple of hours.

Preheat oven to 425 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a floured countertop and with a floured rolling pin, roll dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut out cookies with desired cookie cutters, place on baking sheets, and bake for about 7 minutes--take the cookies out when they are barely golden around edges.  Transfer cookies to a cooling rack immediately and let cool before frosting.  May store in an air-tight container.  Enjoy!

**Click here for the shortening-free buttercream frosting I used!


Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I tend to talk about the weather a lot on here.

But it seems to me that weather and food go hand-in-hand...don't you think?
Fresh lemonade = summer, 
warm applesauce = fall, 
hearty soup = winter, 
carrot cake = spring,
homemade bread = cold, rainy days,
and fresh, raw vegetables = hot, dry days.

Anyway, the weather's been a lot milder since my last post,
when I complained about informed you of the icy cold temperatures over here.

Although the temps have been milder, there's been a whole lot of grey outside.
So if you're experiencing some drab days too, you should make these.

Nothing like a fresh, warm muffin with soft bits of apple to cheer you up!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 12 large muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark), packed + more for sprinkling
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I like big chunks!)

Preheat oven to 450.  Grease 12 muffin cups, or fill with cupcake liners.

Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and add sugars; beat until fluffy.  Mix in egg and yogurt.  Stir in dry ingredients until just combined and gently fold in apple chunks.

Divide batter evenly between muffin cups and sprinkle brown sugar on top (about 1/4 cup or less).  Bake for 10 minutes, turn oven down to 400, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes; until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.  Cool in muffin pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.
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