Friday, October 28, 2011

Buffalo Tofu Sandwich

Back in the day, I was quite the young happy hour aficionado. I could tell you who had the longest 2-for-1 deals, where you should go for $3 martinis, and most importantly, who had the best discounted happy hour food.

I was shameless in my love of bar food, and I was significantly overweight as a result (shocking, I know). Now if I go to a bar and eat all that crap, I pay for it with a stomachache for two days afterwards. Clearly, my habits have changed. But, my love of bar food remains, just in a different way.

This is bar food done right. Tofu (or chicken) broiled with Frank's Red Hot Sauce until it's chewy on the outside and still creamy in the middle. Tossed with more hot sauce. Layered on some great bakery bread with crisp lettuce and a homemade bleu cheese and yogurt dressing. Served with extra hot sauce.

Regarding the Frank's: I know I preach about not using packaged foods and this seems to contradict that. I'm sure you could make your own hot sauce - by all means, knock yourself out and make your own if you feel the need to do so. I didn't because the ingredient list was pretty short - cayenne peppers and vinegar mostly. And I didn't think a homemade version would quite capture the Franky buffalo-ness I wanted here.

So, here's to a happier happy hour with healthy food that won't make you feel like a grease bomb for the next 12 hours. It's also brilliant orange, which makes it a festive thing to eat in celebration of a certain spooky holiday that's lurking around the corner this weekend.

Buffalo Tofu Sandwich

1 package super firm tofu, drained/pressed if needed
Frank's Red Hot, as much as you need
1 tsp butter
1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 cup plain yogurt (greek or regular)
bread, lettuce, or other sandwich fixin's

Preheat the broiler on your oven. Slice the tofu into planks about 1/4 inch thick. If you make it too thin, it turns into tofu jerky.

Coat the tofu in hot sauce. Broil 6 minutes, flip and broil 6 minutes on the other side.

Melt butter and mix with more hot sauce (about 2 Tbsp). Pour over hot tofu and toss to coat.

Make your dressing: mix yogurt and bleu cheese and add a pinch of salt.

Serve your buffalo tofu and bleu cheese dressing on a sandwich, in a wrap, or on a salad.

ONE YEAR AGO: Welsh Rarebit
TWO YEARS AGO: Winter Hippie Chow

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vegetable Pie with Quinoa Crust

I had a lot of time to think about how I was going to create this dish today. Five hours, in fact. Five very long, backbreaking hours of raking and bagging about 4.3 trillion leaves. Needless to say, my hands are so blistered and sore that it's a challenge even typing these words. Thank goodness this dinner tasted even better than I had hoped, because I was starving.

The inspiration for this pie began when a co-worker mentioned baked spaghetti earlier this week. She described it as cooked noodles mixed with parmesan cheese and an egg, pressed into a baking dish, then topped with marinara and cheese and baked. Sounds good, except I don't really like pasta and I want more vegetables in my dinner.

So I decided to make the same crust, subbing in cooked quinoa (I mixed together some white and black quinoa) spiked with some basil pesto for the spaghetti noodles. You could easily use any other grain you have on hand (rice, farro, wheatberries, etc). I topped my par-baked crust with some balsamic roasted vegetables - tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, and onion.

I also had a small hunk of leftover cream cheese I wanted to use up. It worked very well in this pie, however you could easily sub ricotta, goat cheese, mascarpone, sour cream, or cottage cheese. Because I only had about 2 ounces of cream cheese (1/4 of a package), I added some plain yogurt. The yogurt not only helped with the consistency (thinning the sauce), but it also provided a nice tang to offset the richness of the cream cheese. Finally, I added a great 1-year aged cheddar that I brought home from Door County, WI last weekend. This cheese sauce was DELICIOUS.

You could easily throw this together on a weeknight if you do some simple planning ahead (have your quinoa cooked and roast your vegetables in advance). It tastes so good - nutty, herby, vegetabley, and cheesy. You will want seconds.

Vegetable Pie with Quinoa Crust
Serves 3-4

For the crust:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp pesto (alternatively, you could just use chopped herbs or omit)
1 egg, beaten

For the vegetables:
3 cups or so of your favorite vegetables (I used broccoli, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms)
olive oil, salt, pepper
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the sauce:
1/4 cup softened cream cheese (or ricotta, chevre, cottage cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, or anything that sounds good to you)
1/4 cup yogurt (or more of the above substitutions)
1/2 cup milk, cream, or half & half
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
1.5 cups or more shredded cheese (I used cheddar but anything will do)

First, roast your veggies. Clean and cut veggies, place on sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Roast at 400 degrees until charred, about 20 minutes.

While your veggies are roasting, prepare your quinoa. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring quinoa and water or stock to a boil. When it boils, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add pesto or herbs, if using.

Mix 1.5 cups of your cooked (and cooled slightly) quinoa with a beaten egg. Press into a greased baking dish (I used a glass pie dish). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce, folding in the shredded cheddar last.

Assemble your pie. Put your roasted veggies in the par-baked crust. Pour over your cheese sauce and shake pan to get sauce to trickle down and coat the veggies. Top with a thin layer of grated parmesan cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees or until hot and golden brown on top. Let cool 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Squash and Apple Soup with Wild Rice

My t-t-teeth are ch-ch-chattering today because it's f-f-freezing outside! Time for the first soup of the season, I think.

The squash has been out of this world delicious this year. I think I've roasted and eaten 7 of them already this season. Two versions of squash soup currently exist on the blog, one that's plain but with added homemade ravioli, and another that adds spicy chipotle peppers. Both are good, but this one is the best.

I spent some time in Door County, Wisconsin last week enjoying all things cherry-related. Cherry cookies, cherry vodka, cherry wine, cherry cheddar cheese, cherry muffins, cherry salsa, etc. I was envious of the cherrysplosion and complained that we in Minnesota aren't known for any great food items, other than hotdish. Silly me, I forgot about wild rice! Wild rice is amazingly good for you - high in protein and fiber. And after reading about harvesting wild rice by hand, I understand why this rice cost me $19 per pound at the co-op!

I despise pureed soups. I need some texture in my meal or I don't feel satisfied. So, instead of blending, I used a potato masher to make this soup nice and chunky. Then I added the cooked chewy wild rice and got an amazingly flavored fall soup that's deliciously satisfying.

Squash and Apple Soup with Wild Rice
serves 4 as a starter or side

1 medium to large yellow onion, diced fine
2 small apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I used Haralsons from my Grandpa's backyard)
2 dried bay leaves
1 vegetarian bouillon cube (I use Rapunzel brand)
4 cups water
1 buttercup squash, roasted
1.5 cups cooked wild rice
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese

In a medium pot, heat some olive oil and/or butter, about 3 Tbsp total. Saute your onion with some salt, pepper, and bay leaves for 5 minutes or so over medium-high heat. Add apples and cook until everything is soft.

Add bouillon, water, and squash and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Mash it all together with a potato masher. Remove bay leaves and add rice.

Serve hot with grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

3-Course Holiday Dinner for 4 People Under $20

I'm still awaiting word on if I won anything significant from my Cub Foods Plenty for Twenty entry. I won't know until Friday, Oct 14 so I'm trying to be patient!

Cub Foods sure must have liked it, becase they called and asked for another video but this time with a holiday twist. So, I wanted to share with you what I came up with. Thanks again to Colin for the amazing editing skillz.

Here is the video:

And, of course, the bloopers:

Recipes in this episode:
Apple Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

Butternut Squash Risotto

Pumpkin Mousse
Serves at least 4

1/2 butternut squash, roasted and pureed
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

Mix first 6 ingredients together, then gently fold in your whipped cream. Serve chilled.