Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Best Fried Rice

I am so obsessed with the blog Minimalist Baker, I cannot even tell you! I check it every week for inspiration and fabulous recipes. This gal has given me many many tips that have definitely enhanced my cooking skills!! For instance, the way she has me cooking brown rice has changed everything for me!!! Her tips are below - the rice turns out amazing every time!!! And oh boy, has she taught me how to make the most delicious crispy tofu!! Again, her tips are below!! Please check out her blog - she's coming out with a cookbook in early 2016 and I can't wait!!!

I made my fried rice with crispy tofu and made my husband's with chopped rotisserie chicken. Everyone wins!! Enjoy!

This recipe is verbatim from Minimalist Baker:

  • 1 cup (~250 g | 8 ounces) extra firm tofu**
  • 1 cup (185 g) long or short grain brown rice*, rinsed thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer
  • 4 cloves (12 g) garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (100 g) chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup (72 g) peas
  • 1/2 cup (64 g) carrots, finely diced
**<I made my husband's fried rice with chopped rotisserie chicken instead of tofu- he loved it!>

  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) tamari or soy sauce, plus more for veggies + to taste
  • 1 Tbsp (16 g) peanut butter <I used almond butter>
  • 2 -3 Tbsp (27-41 g) organic brown sugar, muscovado sugar, or maple syrup
  • 1 clove (3 g) garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce (more or less depending on preferred spice)
  • optional: 1 tsp toasted sesame oil (or sub peanut or grape seed oil)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or lightly grease with non-stick spray).
  • In the meantime wrap tofu in a clean, absorbent towel and set something heavy on top (such as a cast iron skillet) to press out the liquid.
  • Once the oven is preheated, dice tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 26-30 minutes. You’re looking for golden brown edges and a texture that’s firm to the touch. The longer it bakes, the firmer and crispier it will become, so if you’re looking for softer tofu remove from the oven around the 26-28 minute mark. I prefer crispy tofu, so I bake mine the full 30 minutes. Set aside.
  • While the tofu bakes prepare your rice by bringing 12 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add rinsed rice and stir. Boil on high uncovered for 30 minutes, then strain for 10 seconds and return to pot removed from the heat. Cover with a lid and let steam for 10 minutes*. <This is my own tip, if you have time, put the rice in the refrigerator to let it get cold. Fried rice is best when using cooked, cold rice - it keeps the rice from getting gummy and sticking together. If you don't have time for this step, that's fine, but if you do, you will notice a difference in texture>
  • While rice and tofu are cooking, prepare sauce by adding all ingredients to a medium-size mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more tamari or soy for saltiness, peanut butter for creaminess, brown sugar for sweetness, or chili garlic sauce for heat.
  • Once the tofu is done baking, add directly to the sauce and marinate for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Heat a large metal or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, use a slotted spoon to scoop the tofu <or chicken> into the pan leaving most of the sauce behind in the bowl. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown on all sides (see photo). Lower heat if browning too quickly. Remove from pan and set aside.
  <Here's a picture of my husband's chicken and my crispy tofu chillin'  side by side in the pan>
  • To the still hot pan add garlic, green onion, peas and carrots. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, and season with 1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari or soy sauce.
  • Add cooked rice, tofu, and remaining sauce and stir. Cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Serve immediately with extra chili garlic sauce or sriracha for heat (optional). Crushed salted, roasted peanuts or cashews make a lovely additional garnish. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, though best when fresh. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat, or in the microwave.
*If you don't like tofu, you can sub 1 cup fresh or frozen edamame - add in with vegetables.
*Rice cooking method from Saveur! Literally, the perfect brown rice.
                                <This is a photo of the fried rice with chicken and cashews>

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Today we carved our Halloween pumpkins!! To my kids carving pumpkins means roasting pumpkin seeds. We all just love them. My mom made me and my brothers roasted pumpkin seeds every Halloween and I have continued the tradition with my own kids.  It's about time I share this easy-peasy "recipe" on my blog.  I have recipe in quotes because it isn't much of a recipe, more of a roasting technique.  The following is more of a guideline, so don't stress over exact measurements, just wing it. They'll turn out great!

About 2 cups of fresh pumpkin seeds
Extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 325F

Remove all the pumpkin goo from the seeds - I do a preliminary removal before putting the semi-clean seeds into a large strainer.  Run cool water over the seeds in the strainer to help loosen the remaining goo from the seeds (this can take some time).

Once the seeds are mostly dry (use a kitchen towel or paper towels to blot) place them on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil (about a teaspoon). Massage the oil into the seeds with your hands. Sprinkle liberally with salt and toss with your hands to coat evenly. Sprinkle the seeds with a little bit of paprika.

Bake on 325F for 12 minutes. Open the oven and stir the seeds. Bake for another 12-15 minutes or until the seeds are roasted to your liking. Just pop a few into your mouth to see if they are crispy and crunchy enough. Bake longer if you need to.....this is just a rough idea of time. Each time I roast these I bake them for a little bit different length of time. So, use this as a guideline not an exact measurement.  Once finished, remove from oven and let cool. These probably won't last for more than a day in your house - they are irresistible! Enjoy!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Hand Goodie Bags

I totally stole this idea off Pinterest.  It is just so cute - I HAD to make them!! I made these spooky goodie bags for my son's Halloween class party (27 kids! SHEW!).  I won't lie, they take some time to put together, but the end result is just so kids' smiles made all the shopping and assembling worth it.  I sure hope my son's classmates like them as much as my own children do.

These hand bags would be great to give out to those few special trick-or-treaters (close friends' children, nieces/nephews, grandchildren, godchildren, cousins, etc) or even to children you know who have food allergies. You can fill them with allergy safe candies or opt for just filling them with little trinkets and toys instead of candy.

Here are the items you definitely need:

Vinyl gloves with no powder - I bought a pack of 100 for $3.50 on Amazon (I'm sure CVS or Walgreens has these, as well, if you can't wait for them to ship)
Smarties for the fingers
Tootsie rolls for the thumbs
Plastic spider ring
Ribbon to tie them at the top

What you put inside the gloves is up to you! Here are some ideas:

Any type of candy - Ring Pops are always a big hit, so are Pop Rocks
Plastic spiders, plastic snakes, plastic creepy crawlies
Stretch skeletons
Vampire teeth
Fake mustaches
Plastic severed fingers (I think the kids will love these the most!!)
Plastic rats
Halloween jokes or riddles written on a card
Bouncy balls

I bought just about everything from the dollar store. Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, the grocery store and Amazon are also great places to find little Halloween novelty gifts.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Apple Ginger Spice Smoothie

Oh my gosh, YUM!!! Seriously YUM!!!! This smoothie was such a tasty treat after my workout this morning. It encompasses all the flavors of fall - apples, cinnamon and ginger - it tastes like pie! Only it's full of nutrients, vitamins and!!!

Raw ginger can be very potent, so do not overdue it. I used a 1/4 inch chunk (just cut off the brown hard skin).  Start with this small amount and if you feel like you want more, then add a little more to your taste. Some people really enjoy that distinctive ginger spicy-ness. I prefer a subtler hint.

This makes one giant smoothie or two nice sized smoothies, if you want to share!

  • 2 medium sweet apples, cored and chopped (do not peel off the skin)
  • 1/4 inch chunk of raw ginger root, cut off the outer skin
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened lite coconut milk in a can
  • 1 to 2 handfuls of raw spinach
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Place all ingredients into a high power blender and secure lid. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lasagna Zucchini Boats

Oh yum! These were delicious and easy to throw together. The original recipe calls for ground beef. Since I'm a vegetarian, I used sauteed mushrooms instead. Perfect substitute!

I found the recipe on the blog Cooking Classy. Here is the recipe with my substitutes in bold italics:

  • 4 medium zucchini (2 1/2 lbs), sliced into halves through the length*
  • 1 cup (8.6 oz) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) finely shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz 93% lean ground beef or lean ground turkey**
  • 4 tsp olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 3/4 cup roasted garlic marinara sauce, divided
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  •  **8 oz baby bello mushrooms, if you would like to substitute mushrooms for the beef to make this meal vegetarian
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a spoon <I use a grapefruit spoon because it has little ridges on it that help scoop>, scoop centers from zucchini while leaving a 1/4-inch rim to create boats. Set aside. <If you are making this meal vegetarian like I did, save aside 1/2 cup of the scooped out zucchini. Chop the zucchini>

In a mixing bowl stir together ricotta cheese, egg and 1 1/2 Tbsp of the parsley. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese and the parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Heat 2 tsp of the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble beef into pan, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up beef when stirring, until browned (there shouldn't be any excess fat but if you happened to use a fattier beef then just drain excess rendered fat). Stir in 1/4 cup marinara sauce and 1 Tbsp of the basil, remove from heat.

***<To make this vegetarian, chop the baby bello mushrooms. Melt 1 Tbl butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms to the skillet and saute for 8 minutes until golden brown. Add the 1/2 cup chopped zucchini to the skillet and saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup marinara sauce and 1 Tbl of the basil. Set this mixture aside.>

To assemble boats, brush both sides of of zucchini lightly with remaining 2 tsp olive oil and place in two baking pans (I used a 13 by 9 and a 9 by 9). Divide cheese mixture among zucchini spooning about 2 1/2 Tbsp into each, then spread cheese mixture into and even layer.

Divide beef mixture <or mushroom mixture> among zucchini. Top with evenly with remaining marinara sauce.

Cover baking dishes with foil and place in oven side by side and bake in preheated oven 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle tops with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella, return to oven and bake until cheese has melted and zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle tops with with fresh basil and parsley and serve warm.

*Look for zucchini that is wider and more uniform in width. The skinnier zucchini won't fit much filling.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sesame Almond Cookies

These cookies from The Healthy Apple are probably on my list of Top 5 cookies of all time!!! They are just amazingly delicious and amazingly easy to throw together. I make them at least once a week (with my eyes practically closed because I've made them so many times). My husband likes them better than any other cookie I make, including refined sugar, full-fat, regular ol' cookies. He requests them again and again. They have this crumbly texture that is so satisfying and they aren't overly sweet. Please try them for yourself and you will be hooked!!!!

They are vegan - no eggs, no butter and they are also gluten-free and refined sugar-free. You might be wondering how on earth they can taste so good....but, they just do! The gal over at The Healthy Apple seriously nailed it when she created this recipe! And here it is straight from her blog:
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 3½ Tbsp. ground flaxseeds
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • dash of vanilla extract (I used about 1½ tsp.)
  • large pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two large, rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, ground flaxseeds, baking soda and sea salt until well combined. Add maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract; mix well until combined and mixture forms a dough.
  3. Transfer tablespoon sized scoops of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and not doughy. <I have made these so many times and I only bake them for around 12 minutes.....just keep an eye on them>
  5. Remove from oven; set aside to cool before serving.
***The only thing I do differently when I make these is I stir the sesame seeds into the cookies instead of sprinkling them on top - it's just easier and I'm lazy!