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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tofu Peanut Noodle Stir Fry

I have been wanting to make a version of peanut noodles for the longest time.  I've seen so many recipes and every time I see one, I am reminded of how much I want to try making peanut noodles.  They must be delicious.  You can serve them cold, warm, or hot.  You can also use any protein or vegetables you want.  And most importantly, the ingredient list below may look long, but it isn't really.  This is quick and easy to throw together.  I'm mostly proud of myself for coming up with what I think (and my husband agrees - and he can be a tough customer) is a really delicious peanut sauce.  You can omit the chili pepper if you don't like the heat or add more soy sauce or tamari if you want it saltier.  Taste, and alter to your preferences, but the recipe I churned out is at least a great starting point.  Writing this post makes me want more right now...

For the marinated tofu:
14 oz extra firm tofu, pressed, diced into 1-inch cubes, frozen and thawed
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup mirin
1 Tbsp reduced sodium tamari
2 Tbsp peanut oil for frying or (bake the tofu...equally yummy)

For the peanut sauce:
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Thai chili pepper, stem removed, roughly chopped (optional)
1/4 cup natural smooth peanut butter (no added oils or sugars)
zest of 1 lime and the juice of 1/2
about 2 Tbsp water to thin out the sauce (or more if necessary)

For the stir fry:
1 12-oz package of soba noodles
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
2 or 3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed

Place your tofu cubes in a freezer bag or shallow dish.  Combine all the ingredients for your marinade and pour it over the tofu at least an hour before ready to cook the tofu or overnight (I went with about 6 hours.)

When ready to get dinner on the table, first get a pot of water boiling.  Boil your soba noodles for about 4 minutes, drain, and rinse with cold water so they stop cooking.  You want your noodles cooked, but firm.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine all the ingredients for your peanut sauce.  Puree until completely smooth, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if necessary.

Now heat the peanut oil in a wok and a cast iron pan (if you're pan frying your tofu) over medium-high heat.  Spread the tofu in a single layer in the cast iron pan and let brown for 5 minutes without touching, then flip and allow to brown for another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, saute the garlic and ginger in the wok for 30 to 60 seconds until fragrant.  Add the diced peppers and saute for another 30 to 60 seconds.  Add the soy sauce and scallions and combine.  Remove from the heat and add the cooked soba noodles to the wok along with the peanut sauce and mix everything together.  Lastly, top with the chopped cilantro, crushed peanuts, and cooked tofu.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies

So I know I should be providing some healthier recipes, but lately all the healthy ones I have cooked have been disappointing either flavorfully or visually (some foods really do not photograph very well.)   And believe it or not, I had intended to make a healthier, no sugar added, hazlenut date truffle for the holiday, but I couldn't find hazelnuts at any of the nearby stores and I didn't feel like hauling my bum all the way to Trader Joe's at that moment.  So I was really forced into making these....forced I tell ya.  Well it's Easter and why not splurge?

These are the perfect decadent long as you like your decadent treats super-chocolately, soft, fudgy and rich.  These should only be consumed for special occasions or when you're in some sort of trouble and need a favor or forgiveness.  If you are looking for healthy brownies, then you have ended up on the wrong page...keep on looking.  Perhaps I will find a wonderfully healthy and delicious black bean brownie recipe in the near future and will be able to redirect you to that soon-to-be post then.  (Insert healthy brownie recipe here.)

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies
adapted from Half Baked Harvest

For the brownies:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces milk chocolate chips

Truffle Topping:
3 ounces dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 ounces milk chocolate chips

To make the brownies. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking dish with parchment paper or foil, letting the edges over hang from the pan so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Add the butter and the first 2 ounces of milk chocolate chips to a medium size mixing bowl that is microwave safe. Microwave the butter and chocolate on 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. To the melted chocolate mixture add the sugar and instant coffee, whisking until completely combined. Add the vanilla and egg and whisk until smooth. Stir in the cocoa powder, flour and salt until smooth and just combined careful to not overmix the batter. It will be thick. Stir in the remaining 4 ounces milk chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the brownies are set on top.

While the brownies bake, make the truffle topping. Add the 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and the cream to microwave safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate and cream on 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth.

Remove the brownies from the oven and let the brownies cool 5 minutes and then lift them out of the pan. Pour the chocolate truffle topping right over the brownies and smooth it out until it reaches the edge. Melt the remain 4 ounces of milk chocolate and then drizzle it over the brownies. Allow the brownies to set at least one hour in the fridge or two hours at room temperature before cutting.

Get a glass of milk ready for these...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Peas

If you love light, fluffy, cheesy, little pillows of deliciousness, then you must, must, must try making these gnocchi.  They were lovely.  I look forward to many future Sunday dinners with these on our table.  They were super easy to make and there's no rolling of the dough whatsoever.  Instead, you just pack it all into a large freezer bag, snip off the corner, and squeeze them one by one into a pot of boiling water.  Other than the occasional break to rest your squeezing hand, it's extremely quick and easy.  You could easily make these with a simple tomato sauce, but I was craving something that would take a backseat to the gnocchi, but still be rich and flavorful.  Just some butter and shallots with mushrooms and peas was a perfect compliment to the lightness of these.

I'd like to send a special shout out "thank you" to my wonderful husband, Jim, who got me my first subscription to Bon Appetit...I have always read it on-line, but I am in love with flipping through its actual pages and dog-earring recipes that I can't wait to try.  I decided that this was to be the first executed.  I did try to lighten the recipe up a little by using part-skim ricotta as opposed to whole and three tablespoons of butter instead of four...every little bit helps, people.  These gnocchi did not disappoint...far from it.  Happy spring, everyone!

Ricotta Gnocci with Mushrooms and Peas
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 6

For the gnocchi:
32 oz. part skim ricotta cheese (recipe called for the full-fat goods, but I went with part skim to lighten it up and it didn't hurt the recipe at all.)
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz. cremini button mushrooms, sliced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, defrosted
3 or 4 Tbsp unsalted butter (I went with 3 to lessen the fat.)
salt and pepper to taste

Line a baking dish with three layers of paper towels and spoon the ricotta over them.  Allow to sit for 20 minutes so that the towels absorb some of the moisture.  If the dough is too wet, it won't hold together.  In a food processor, combine the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, salt, and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Add the flour and pulse until just combined. The dough should be smooth and fairly wet.  Transfer this mixture to a freezer bag (or pastry bag) and cut a 1/2 inch hole off the corner.  (You can make this up to 1 day ahead.)

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.  Pipe the dough into the pot, cutting off 1 inch pieces with a knife as you go and letting them drop into the water.  Try to do this in 3 batches.  Cook each batch until they double in size, about 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushroom and cook, stirring occassionally, for 5 minutes.  Then add shallots and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.  Then add butter, reserved cooking liquid, peas, and gnocchi, and toss gently.  Serve immediately and enjoy thoroughly.