Wednesday, April 30, 2008

veggie and tofu pita with cucumber yogurt sauce

long time, no blog! i've been cooking a lot but didn't have the opportunity to take pictures. if / when i make bakerella's cake balls (i used chocolate cake and icing dipped in MOAR CHOCOLATE) and mini mac n cheese from food and wine magazine again i'll be sure to blog about it. because i brought both to a potluck and dang, people inhaled them!

anyway, while flipping through a month-old issue of vegetarian times i saw an ad for joyva tahini which featured a recipe for "brain power pita pockets". it looks like the recipe is adapted from a veg times from 10 years ago. the picture looked good to me so i decided to make pita sandwiches this week.

the original recipe called for plain uncooked tofu which kind of grosses me out so my version involves flavoring it with some greek seasoning i picked up on a whim at the grocery store and frying it. the seasoning pretty good, but it tastes quite salty and contains msg. there is a msg-free version on amazon, so i will probably purchase that next time. for a healthier version, feel free to bake the tofu instead.

i wanted to eat my sandwich with some fries but i didn't remember until after i had eaten. this would also go well with some fresh fruit, but unfortunately i'm a carb addict and junk food junkie.

veggie and tofu pita pockets with cucumber yogurt sauce
inspired by the vegetarian times recipe which appeared in the may 1998 issue
makes 6 sandwiches

3 pita breads
1 brick firm tofu, drained and pressed well, sliced into 12 slices
1 large cucumber, sliced thinly
3 plum tomatoes, sliced
a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1-2 avocados, sliced into thin wedges
olive oil
a few generous tablespoons of cavender's greek seasoning
cucumber yogurt sauce, recipe below

mix a few tablespoons or more of olive oil with a tablespoon or two of the greek seasoning. try to remove as much moisture fromthe tofu as possible by pressing the slices in between paper towels. place tofu slices on the bottom of a baking dish and and pour seasoning mixture over it. allow it to marinade for at least 15 minutes. you may freeze and defrost the tofu first if you desire a meatier texture. i got impatient and didn't.

while tofu is marinading, prepare the cucumber yogurt sauce and vegetables.

fry tofu in pan using the oil and seasoning mixture. rub the seasoning onto the tofu slices before placing in pan. tofu will be ready when light golden brown and slightly crispy. drain on paper towel.

warm pita using either a toaster or microwave on high for about 30 seconds. cut each pita in half. place two slices of tofu in each pita pocket and add veggies. serve with a dollop of cucumber yogurt sauce.

cucumber yogurt sauce
(i believe i found this on the near east website.)

8 oz plain yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 tablespoon dill
1 small clove garlic, minced (this gave a very strong garlic flavor, so use less if you are sensitive to the taste)
salt and pepper, to taste

make sure cucumber is dry by wringing out in paper towel or clean dish towel. combine all ingredients in a bowl. store in refrigerator.

i am a horrible insomniac, and after sleeping only 3 hours this morning i found myself wide awake and starving. i made myself another sandwich without reheating the tofu and it was still really good, so don't worry about eating it cold later on.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

vanilla-vanilla cupcakes

i have no idea who amy sedaris is, but people are praising her vanilla cupcake recipe all over the 'net. i'm usually weary of random people recommending recipes instead of bloggers i'm familiar with, but it seems a handful of people on the bakebakebake community on livejournal have made the recipe with success. still, i wasn't expecting anything amazing since i believe everything tastes better with chocolate!

as far as the frosting goes, i've had my eye on cupcake project's vanilla bean butter cream recipe, since she is the one who introduced me to the wonders of vanilla bean paste. once again, i wasn't expecting greatness simply because i'm not a huge fan of butter cream. oh but i was wrong. oh so wrong. stef was not lying when she said it tastes like vanilla ice cream. and seeing the flecks of vanilla bean send it over the top! i stood over the beaters for about five minutes just taking samples for "quality inspection" purposes.

i've only made butter cream a few times but i'm always fascinated with the process. one minute you have some butter and sugar, then it gets crumbly, and all of a sudden everything comes together into a creamy delicious mess.

here is the recipe for amy sedaris's cupcakes, as it appears on her website:

Amy Sedaris' Cupcakes

1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups of sugar

Beat well, then add:

Add 2 large eggs

2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla
½ teaspoon of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ cups of milk

Beat well, fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. You should get 24. I get 18, 'cause I'm doing something wrong.

here are some of my hints: bring the eggs and butter to room temperature. after you have already mixed in the eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking powder, alternate adding flour and milk. if you want to be extra fancy, sift all of the dry ingredients together. i used part milk and part half and half since i only had skim in the refrigerator. i came out with 24 cupcakes and could probably have gotten one or two more. i can't imagine what 18 would look like. massive!

and as far as the deeeelicious frosting, it's pretty straight forward as well:

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting Recipe

from the cupcake project

  • 1 1/2 C confectioners' sugar (add more until it reaches your preferred consistency)
  • 1/2 C butter (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (add more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Mix together sugar and butter until they are blended and creamy. Add vanilla bean paste and milk and continue to beat for another minute. If desired, add more vanilla bean paste to taste, or more confectioners' sugar to make it stiffer.

yummmmy!!! this doesn't make very much frosting. if you want to really pile it on with an icing tip and pastry bag you would need to double it for even 12 cupcakes. since it's pretty rich, i opted to spread it on lightly with a spatula instead and it was enough for 2 dozen cupcakes.

the cupcake itself isn't too light or too heavy. very moist. the frosting is amazing, like i said before, it tastes like vanilla ice cream! however i love chocolate too much so i found these a bit plain. i would make either the cupcakes or the frosting again but not both together. i'm thinking the cupcake recipe would go well with a chocolate frosting, and the vanilla bean frosting would be fantastic with the chai cake recipe i have.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

rotini with salsa di limone

i saw giada make this on her show a few months ago and it looked so good. i eat way too much pasta, but i knew i'd be trying it eventually. i wasn't sure if i'd actually like it though because i have never had ricotta salata and i'm not too keen on lemon juice in foods usually. i gave it a shot today though and thought it was pretty tasty. it was pretty simple and fast too. the only part that got tedious was seeding and chopping up the tomatoes. i learned that the best method was to cut each tomato in half and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and innards. then just dice what's left.

Rotini with Salsa di Limone
Recipe by Giada de Laurentiis

1 pound rotini pasta
1 1/4 pound Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese or feta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the hot pasta in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, ricotta salata cheese, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss to combine, adding the remaining pasta water, if desired. Serve.

whoaaa, extreme pasta closeup!

anyway, i made this pasta so i could give some to my brother (like i mentioned before, he doesn't cook often) but he hasn't come by to try it yet. hopefully he will approve. i used feta cheese instead of ricotta salata and i don't remember if he likes it. we usually like to make a pasta salad with penne, mozzarella, tomatoes, and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. this is similar with the tomatoes and cheese, but tastes a bit lighter due to the lemon. i haven't decided which i like better because they taste different.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

chickpea tacos

tacos are my second favorite food (the list goes like this: pizza, tacos, potato chips, in case you were wondering). i think chickpeas are good too, although surprisingly i am not a huge hummus person. perhaps i just haven't had any good hummus. *shrug* anyway a few weeks ago i saw this recipe in the march issue of vegetarian times and knew i'd have to make it soon.

this is a very quick and easy recipe. i think it probably took me 15 minutes to prepare. i wash my herbs when i get home from the store so they're always ready, but if you don't do this it will take you a bit longer.

the magazine article suggests using the chickpea-avocado mixture as a sandwich spread as well, but i can't imagine it any other way than inside of a taco shell with your favorite fixings.

chickpea tacos
vegetarian times, march 2008, page 34
serves 4

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
4 tbsp fresh lime juice (i juiced an entire lime and got about that amount)
1 clove garlic, minced
8 corn taco shells
2 cups baby salad greens 1 cup prepared salad greens (medium or hot)
1/2 cup nondairy sour cream

1. place avocado in small bowl, and mash with fork. stir in chickpeas, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic; season with salt and pepper.

2. set taco shells in napkin-lined basket. place salad greens, salsa and sour cream in separate bowls, and set out alongside chickpea-avocado mash.

3. to serve, let each person build their own taco by filling each shell with 1/4 cup chickpea-avocado mash, some greens, salsa, and sour cream.

i used baby spinach leaves because i'm still trying to use it up. very tasty. a word of advice: don't overfill the shell with sour cream! it will squish out when you take a bite.

Friday, April 11, 2008

garlic spinach pasta

i have half a bag of spinach sitting in my refrigerator and need to use it up before it goes bad.

i also had some cream cheese, pasta, and garlic (always garlic!).

this is what i came up with. it's very garlicky so if you're not down with garlic as much as i am, put in half a clove or even less.

garlic spinach pasta
serves one

1 cup rotini
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 handful baby spinach, stems cut off leaves
3-4 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon half and half
pinch of salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

cook the pasta in a pot of salted water. drain and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.

take half of the spinach and chop finely. place in bowl with garlic, cream cheese, salt and pepper. and half and half. beat with electric mixer until well combined. (if you have a food processor you could use that instead.) add pasta water and stir well.

put the remaining spinach on the bottom of serving dish or bowl, top with pasta, and pour sauce on top. toss to coat. whole spinach leaves should wilt slightly.

sprinkle with parmesan cheese, season with more salt and pepper to taste.

i didn't have any parmesan cheese. :( i think it would also be good to add a few tablespoonfuls to the spinach-cheese mixture for more flavor. when i made it, the garlic was overpowering but i didn't have a big problem with that since i love garlic. if i make this again i would definitely need something else. maybe part of a vegetable bullion cube.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the quesadilla is a food from the gods

yesterday i mentioned eating a ton of quesadillas, and today i decided it was once again time to make one.

the great thing about quesadillas is that you can put almost anything inside of them. lately i've been using spinach, portobello mushrooms, black beans, and cheese. even though the filling is good, i think my favorite part is dipping the wedges into sauce. mmm, sauce.

anyone who has seen me cook knows i rarely use measuring cups or spoons and prefer to eyeball things and taste as i go, so this recipe may need to be tweaked if you decide to try it.

mushroom, cheese, and bean quesadillas

4 oz portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 package chopped spinach
1 can black beans
1 cup shredded cheese (i like to use either monterey jack or a mix of mj and cheddar)
cumin, oregano
8" flour tortillas

cook spinach according to package instructions. drain or press well (usually i wring it in a clean dish towel or paper towel) and set aside.

in a saucepan saute half of the onion in half of the oil over medium heat for a few minutes. add garlic and cook for an additional minute. open the can of beans and drain about half of the liquid out. add beans to pan, along with a few large pinches of cumin and a bit of oregano. reduce heat to low. cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has cooked off or thickened. remove from heat and set aside.

meanwhile, add the rest of onion and oil (you may use a dab of butter instead if you wish) to a pan and cook over medium heat. add garlic and mushrooms. cook until mushrooms have released their liquid. add spinach and stir to combine.

heat skilled over medium heat. (melt a bit of butter in the pan if you want.) place one tortilla in the pan and then add cheese, beans, spinach mixture, and more cheese to one half of the tortilla. be careful not to over-fill. if you put too much inside, it will ooze out while cooking or when cut up. use a spatula to fold and press down. once the bottom starts to brown, flip it over. heat until tortilla is brown and cheese is melted. slice and serve while still hot.

you can make at least 4 quesadillas with the beans but may run out of the spinach-mushroom mixture before that. it depends on how much you put in each one.

as far as dipping sauces go, i like to mix sour cream with cumin and use that or mash up some avocados for guacamole.

if you're a ranch fiend, try a dollop of ranch dressing with a drizzle of hot sauce.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

fresh veggie overload!

these past few days i've been subsisting off of quesadillas. all of the dairy's been making me feel kind of gross so i thought today i should have something more healthy.

i've had my eye on the pioneer woman's favorite salad for a while so i was pretty psyched to make it today. lots of chopping. i realized when i was making the dressing that i didn't have sesame oil. disappointment! so i harassed my brother over text messages to try to get him to bring me the sesame oil in his apartment. after bribing him with freshly baked cookies (i started to make chocolate chip cookies when i was waiting), he called me and told me he was on his way.

now my brother is a meat-and-potatoes type of person. he rarely eats vegatables but admits to popping a frozen pizza in the oven a few days a week. when he came over with the coveted sesame oil i offered him some salad and he really liked it. sweet success! little brother does like some vegetables!

Asian Noodle Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver by the Pioneer Woman


1 package linguine noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled

1/2 to 1 head sliced Napa cabbage

1/2 to 1 head sliced purple cabbage
1/2 to 1 bag baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small bag bean sprouts
3 sliced scallions
3 peeled, sliced cucumbers
LOTS of chopped cilantro—up to one bunch


Juice of 1 lime
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 hot peppers or jalapenos, chopped
More chopped cilantro—LOTS

Mix together salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve on platter.
*Dressing keeps up to three days before serving, WITHOUT cilantro.

this made a LOT of salad. pretty yummy though! i'll be eating off of this for the rest of the week. i think it would be tasty with some fried tofu (my brother suggested chicken, haha).

also ugh, i hate the way the lighting in my kitchen is yellow and how i fail at fixing pictures on the computer. oh well. hopefully i'll get better at that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

ice cream sandwiches

i don't really like ice cream but ended up buying a pint of ben and jerry's peanut butter cup a few days ago when i just had to have a peanut butter cup milkshake. there's no way i'd eat the rest of the ice cream any time this year so i decided to use cookies from yesterday to make some ice cream sandwiches.

my first attempt was a scoop of semi-melted ice cream plopped onto a cookie with another one squished on top. that didn't really work because the peanut butter cups prevented me from being able to squish everything together evenly.

after some thought i spread some ice cream on a plate and used a round metal measuring cup to cut out a round of ice cream. (i would've used a circular cookie or biscuit cutter if i had one.) then i simply put it on a cookie and then set another one on top.

my only problem with this is the size. you almost have to be snake-like and dislocated your jaw in order to take a bite! i toyed with the idea of making an open faced sandwich but ultimately decided bigger is better.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

chocolate chip cookies, take two

my mother gave me a gift card to williams sonoma for my birthday. yesterday i finally went there to spend it.

i ended up getting vanilla bean paste ($11)and a medium-sized stainless steel cog-and-ratchet scoop ($21)anyway, today i just had to bake cookies to try out the scoop and vanilla. this time around, the cookies were actually the right size instead of huge.

all ready to go into the oven! look at those vanilla flecks. look at that beautiful shape. yum!

after fourteen minutes of oven time, they were all ready.

i sampled one and that is a good cookie! i don't really remember what it tasted like the previous time i made them, but this is a damn good recipe. i believe last time it was a bit too doughy for my liking (well that's what happens when you make them twice the usual size), but this was amazing. crispy outside, soft and chewy inside. very rich.

here's the recipe, in case you missed it. i used half and half instead of milk and a generous amount of vanilla bean paste instead of extract. the recipe yielded exactly 12.5 dozen for me when i used a scoop, which i think is too cool.