Week 9: Tofu – Vegetarian Pad Thai

I’ll admit, I was kinda excited for tofu! There are so many things you can do with it. I ended up making Tofu Pad Thai (or Vegetarian Pad Thai,) although this was not my original intention…

I was going to make my favorite tofu recipe, that I learned from my mom, Maple-Lime Glazed Tofu. But I’ve made it so many time, I figured, why not try something new! I LOVE pad thai, but I have a boyfriend who just isn’t crazy about asian flavors, so it’s not very often I get to go out for Thai (you know, since I’m all about compromise, and stuff.) So, I made this delicious dish, and surprised him with it! And guess what? HE LIKED IT! Now you have to try it too!

padthaiplate

 

First you want to get your tofu ready. You’re going to need to get as much liquid out of it as you can, so drain the water out of the package, and then slice the block of tofu into 3 smaller pieces, and lay them out, and press gently down on them with paper towels. When most of the liquid is removed, cut the tofu into small cubes.

tofu

 

In the men time, get your noodles ready. Place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let them sit to soften in the water for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and pliable.

Prepare  the veggies by cleaning and slicing them into sizes that you like. I chose to slice the onion diagonally and grate the carrots, so they wouldn’t stay to hard since you won’t cook the dish for too long after they are added.

onioncarrots

Now heat your oil in a wok until it is very hot, but not smoking, you don’t want to burn the oil. When it’s hot enough, add the tofu and cook for 3 minutes, or until the tofu is a well done as you like it. The add the beaten eggs, and stir around quickly while they cook, so that they break up into tiny pieces instead of having a giant omelet in your pad thai. Add noodles and stir around for another few minutes. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and pad thai sauce, stirring for 30-60 seconds in between each addition. Add sugar, veggies and bean sprouts, and stir for another 2-3 minutes.

padthai

 

Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz rice noodles
  • 1 large handful of bean sprouts
  • 1 block of firm tofu
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 green onions (green part only)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbs peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs pad thai sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Peanuts, crushed and toasted (optional)

 

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Week 8: Mother Sauce – Lasagna Bolognese with Béchamel Sauce

So for this weeks challenge, I got to whip out this baby!

saucesbook

Mother sauces. According to traditional french cuisine, there are 5 mother sauces, of which all other sauce (small sauces) are derived from.

Sauce Béchamel

Sauce Espagnole

Sauce Velouté

Sauce Hollandaise

Sauce Tomat0

bakedlasagne

For this lasagne, I used a Béchamel, and a Bolognese which is a small sauce derived from Tomato Sauce. This is a “plan ahead” recipe, as it will take you many hours to prepare the Bolognese. I’ll be honest, this is the best lasagna I’ve ever made. It was amazing how creamy it was without the addition of any mozzarella or ricotta, which is the way most Americans prepare this dish. It made it so much lighter, while still being very much comfort food.

Bolognese Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup butter1 large yellow onion, finely and evenly diced
4 small carrots finely diced
4 stalks celery heart finely diced
4 garlic cloves, very finely diced
4.5 oz diced pancetta (¼-inch cubes)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground veal
3/4 lb ground pork
1 cup red wine (you can use white if you prefer)
2 cups milk
1 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes, diced with liquid
1 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf

mirepoix

Heat butter and oil in large stock pot over medium heat, add celery, onions, carrots & garlic and big pinch of salt. After about 5 minutes when veggies begin to soften, add diced pancetta and sauté for another 10 minutes.

Increase heat to high and add meat in small portions, allowing to cook before adding the next. Stir and break into very small pieces after each meat addition. Keep cooking until no pink remains and some caramelization starts to happen in the bottom of the pot. When this starts to happen you can lower the heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes.

meatmixture

Now pour in your wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Get all those good brown bits mixed into everything. Cook for about 2 or 3 more minutes and then you can add the milk, broth, tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and pepper & bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 4 hours, with the pot half covered, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, if the sauce seems too thick, you can add some more broth or water, even a splash of wine. I ended up adding all three, but that is mainly because I left the lid off the entire cooking time. You can add more salt and/or pepper, tasting as you go along. Don’t forget to discard the bay leaf after the sauce is complete.

Béchamel sauce ingredients:

1/2 c butter
1/2 c flour
4 c milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
pepper & nutmeg to taste

bechamel

Begin by making a roux. Melt butter in a heavy bottom medium sauce pan, add flour and whisk together. Cook for about a minute, whisking continuously. Add milk VERY SLOWLY & STIRRING CONSTANTLY. If you add cold milk too quickly, the roux will seize and your sauce will not work. After the first 2 cups are added, you can start adding the next 2 cups a little faster, still stirring constantly. Add the garlic, salt, pepper & nutmeg. Bring to a low simmer, stirring very frequently, for about 8-10 minutes.

Now it’s time to assemble!

assemble

Remaining ingredients for lasagna:

5 sheets of fresh pasta
1 1/2 c shredded parmesan & pecorino cheeses

Preheat oven to 400°

In a 9×13 baking dish (glass or ceramic, not metal), spread 1/4 c of béchamel sauce in the bottom of the dish. Then place 1 sheet of pasta, topped with 1 c of bolognese sauce, drizzle 1/2 c béchamel sauce and sprinkle with one quarter of the cheese mixture. Repeat 3 more times, and top with the final, 5th sheet of pasta. Smooth béchamel sauce over the top layer, and sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly. Place in over and cook for 35-40 minutes, checking to make sure to isn’t overcooking.

Allow to cool slightly before cutting, so that lasagne will hold it’s shape.

lasagne2

 

Enjoy!

Bananas Foster French Toast

bananasfoster

I noticed this morning that I had a lot of bananas in the house. Probably more than I could eat before they went bad. So, what else could I do but sauté them in butter and brown sugar with a little rum!? Obviously this was my only choice. Or at least the only choice that made sense!

bananas

So let’s get started by melting 1 stick of butter with the brown sugar. Stir around until all the sugar is melted and the mixture is nice an bubbly. Set aside while you prepare the french toast.

Beat eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon together, and pour over sliced bread. Allow the bread to absorb as much of the mixture as possible, turning to help the process. Melt one tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat in a fry pan and add the slices of egg soaked bread. Cook for about 3-4 minutes before flipping. DON’T BURN IT!

 

After you flip the french toast, lets get back to the sauce while the bread finishes cooking. Return the butter sauce back to the heat.  Allow to simmer while you slice the bananas. Add bananas and a splash of rum. Stir around a bit and then plate your toast and top with banana sauce!

 

 

 

 

 

 

bananasfoster2

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, plus add’l 1 Tbs
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs rum
  • 2 bananas
  • 4 Slices of bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 c coconut milk (you can use regular milk or cream as well)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Dash of cinnamon

Week 7: Guilty Pleasures – Cheesesteak

Another week, where I had some difficulty arriving at my recipe decision! I love food, and there isn’t much I feel “guilty” about eating. Then, yesterday, Shawn and I were watching “Man v Food”, and it was the cheesesteak episode, where Adam tried to eat 5lbs of cheesesteak at my favorite place, Tony Luke’s! I immediately realized what I had to do! And so off I went to the butcher & the bakery! It was difficult to find the right bread, here on Long Island, so I did the best I could, selecting a long submarine sandwich roll. It was softer than I would have liked, but it absorbed the juices from the meat and onions very nicely. Overall I would say the sandwich was very successful, certainly exceeding my own expectations of a Long Island homemade cheesesteak. For all you purists out there, look away, for I did use *gasp* American Cheese.

cheesesteak2

 

First I chopped up one vidalia onion and sautéed it with butter in the skillet.  This will take quite some if you plan on caramelizing the onion like I did. I know in Philly, many places use just barely cooked onions, so that will be much faster, if that is how you like them. Caramelizing will take about 35-45 minutes, if done properly. If you keep the heat too high, the onions will just burn, there is no real way to “speed up” caramelization. The shot below, is probably a little more than halfway through the process

caramelizedonions

 

Then you can add your steak to the grill. You want to use either rib-eye or top round. I chose rib-eye. It’s pretty much impossible to cut it thin enough at home, unless you own a deli slicer. Your best bet is to call your local butcher and ask them to prepare the sliced steak for you. Calling ahead of time is necessary, since they will need to freeze the meat first, in order to slice it thin enough. Most good butchers will be happy to do this for you. Cook the meat through. I left the onions in the skillet while the meat cooked. One side runs hotter, so I moved the onions on the cooler side.

steakcooking

 

After the meat is cooked, you can add your cheese, allowing it to melt. Don’t worry about it melting completely while on the grill, since it will melt once the sandwich is closed, anyway.

meltingcheese

Then place the meat onto your already sliced bread. Top with onions if you’re using them, and enjoy!

cheesesteak

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 hero roll
  • 1.5lbs of very thin sliced rib-eye or top round
  • 1 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1/4lb or sliced cheese of your choice (Provolone, american, cheddar, or of course you can use cheese wiz!)

 

 

Week 6: Spicy – Cajun Chicken Sliders

Ok, I’ll admit it. Due to the Super Bowl festivities, I did not make the recipe that I probably would have, had I not been making tons of football friendly snacks. So I’m showcasing a recipe that fits the bill for spicy, and was also served at our party!

I give you, Cajun Chicken Sliders! They are adorable, tasty little snacks. I loved the way they looked, and they tasted even better! I would highly recommend these, based on the speed with which they disappeared on Sunday.

Very basic and easy to put together!

chickensliders

Take 3 chicken breasts, and slice them as if you were going to butterfly them, but cut all the way through. Then cut the thinner breasts in half, so you have 4 small chicken “patties.” Season all the chicken with salt, pepper and cajun spice. It’s ok to be very heavy handed with the cajun spice. Grill all the chicken and then top with bacon and cheddar. When cheddar is melted, place on buns and add toppings of your choice. Try some lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing!

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds of chicken breasts
  • 12 dinner rolls
  • cajun seasoning
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • bacon
  • cheddar (sliced)

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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