Superb owl (hat tip to Stephen Colbert, MFA)

This meal was a loosely structured attempt to make a vegetarian version of a traditional Super Bowl feast.  The centerpiece was supposed to be the beet chips from this issue of Everyday Food.  As it turned out, those were the weakest part of the meal.  I’ll get the usual formalities out of the way, so we can move on to talking about much tastier things.  If you stick with me, there’s an awesome recipe for slow-cooker BBQ tofu at the end of this post.  We just have to talk about these loser chips from the magazine real quick…

Beet chips

"Barbeque chips"

“Barbeque chips”

This turned out to be a ton of work for very little return.  I need to find another recipe.  I have faith that beet chips can be made at home.  I used to love the beet chips at a bar in Urbana, IL, Crane Alley.  They served them with a goat cheese dip that was just unreal.  I’ll be honest, though.  I think those were fried.  That might really be the secret here.  Don’t send the oven to do a deep fryer’s job.  I busted on the mandoline for this one.  I followed the instructions where you stack cookie sheets on top of each other in the oven!  I tried to follow the instructions about taking them out when they “changed color” and believed them when they said they would be crispier as they cooled.  They didn’t.  These were, for the most part, soggy little discs of beet that took forever and created a ton of dishes.  Sad trombone…  But I’m keeping the faith because those handful of chips that actually were crisp were really tasty.  I sprinkled them with smoked sea salt to approximate the taste of barbeque chips.

Buffalo-wing style cauliflower

"wings"

“wings”

Ok, let’s move on to the real stars!  I made a recipe that I’ve been dying to make since I first got on Pinterest.  The buffalo cauliflower.  Yes, Pinterest fans!  That one!  What a cool recipe.  You basically batter some cauliflower florets with a buttermilk batter, bake them in the oven (while wishing they were deep fried…), then toss them with buffalo sauce and serve them with blue cheese dressing.  Is it good?  My word, yes.  Does it taste like buffalo wings?  Don’t be silly.  Of course not.  It tastes roughly like roasted cauliflower with a tangy buttermilk pancake wrapped around it, all doused in buffalo sauce.  If that sounds good to you, you’ll like this.  If not, just make wings and move on with your life.

Slow cooker BBQ Tofu

"barbeque sandwiches"

“barbeque sandwiches”

Here’s the real winner, and I feel very awkward saying this because I’m not really one for self-promotion.  This is my recipe for slow-cooker BBQ tofu.  It is a modification, adjustment, and reimagining of two recipes.  One is a BBQ tofu recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites.  I made that recipe straight-up one time and found it lacking.  I thought the tofu itself was really good.  The slow-cooking gave it a kind of roasty edge.  The sauce tasted too ketchuppy, and it tasted like it wasn’t done yet.  At the same time, the tofu definitely couldn’t have been cooked any longer without ruining it.  The other recipe is the smokey onion tofu marinade from Bean by Bean by the impossibly-named and impossibly wonderful Crescent Dragonwagon.  By marinating the tofu pieces overnight in her marinade, slow-cooking the sauce for some extra time on its own before adding the tofu chunks, then finishing them all together, this winds up being, quite honestly, my favorite BBQ sandwich.  I crave this stuff.

I feel I have to say a little more about my changes to the sauce recipe.  As I said before, when I made it the first time, it was ketchuppy.  What it was really missing was smoke.  Well, that’s a difficult one for a tofu slow-cooker recipe, right?  I added in smoke wherever I thought I could find it.  The Dragonwagon marinade uses liquid smoke.  I added liquid smoke to the BBQ sauce.  I also added a couple chopped chipotles in adobo, aka smoked jalapenos.  Those adjustments finally brought the smokey flavor.

It is with much trepidation that I release my baby out into the wild, but here it is.  The recipe that I’ve given the most work and the one of which I am the most proud.  Serve it at a Super Bowl party and make the veggies/non-veggies fall in love with you.  Or keep it all to yourself.

Slow-cooker barbeque tofu (adapted and adjusted from Not your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites by Beth Hensperger (Harvard Common Press: 2009))

The first step is to marinate the tofu pieces.

Smokey onion marinade (adapted from Bean by Bean: A Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing: 2012))

  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • cloves from one head of garlic
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 2 drops liquid smoke
  • 3 16-oz blocks of extra firm tofu (no need to drain), cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Combine all ingredients except for the tofu in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Pulse to break it up then process until it’s ground as fine as you can get it.  This is a sloppy, liquid marinade with little bits of onion in it.  It’s going to leak out of the food processor on to the counter.  Just a heads up.  If you have a very intense blender (I don’t) like maybe a vitamix, you could maybe do this in the blender and prevent that mess, but a normal blender will not break up an onion.  You don’t lose enough marinade to make this a big deal.
  2. Place the tofu in a nonreactive dish or large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it.  Cover and refrigerate, trying to remember to turn the chunks every once in a while, overnight.  Crescent says you can let this marinate for up to 6 days(!)

Now that you have the tofu marinated, I’ll give you the rest of the recipe

  • 2 c ketchup
  • 1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobe, chopped fine
  • 2 T cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 T spiciest brown mustard you can find
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t citrus herb seasoning salt from the December 2011 Everyday Food, see this post (actually recipe calls for lemon pepper seasoning, which I’m sure is fine)
  • 1/4 t Angostura bitters
  • 1 t liquid smoke
  1. While the tofu is still marinating, get a jump start on the sauce.  In a medium bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, chipotles, vinegar, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, citrus seasoning salt, bitters, and liquid smoke.  Stir to combine.
  2. Coat the inside of the crock with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour sauce into crock.  Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.  Stir the sauce well.
  3. Brush excess marinade off of the tofu and add it to the crock.  Just the excess.  Some bits will cling to the tofu pieces and that’s absolutely fine.  Cover and cook on low for another 4-6 hours, until very hot and fragrant.
  4. Serve on rolls.  I like this with raw onions and pickles.  I think it needs a little sharpness and snap.

Well, now I’m starving.

 

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Super healthy chicken and grape salad…with bacon and blue cheese

Chicken and grape salad

Yup.  That wins.  That's the worst picture in the entire blog.

Yup. That wins. That’s the worst picture in the entire blog.

We’ve got some power couples in this recipe:  Sweet and savory.  Bacon and blue cheese.  Leftovers and laziness.

The flavors on this one are amazing.  The grapes are sweet.  The blue cheese and the yogurt are tangy.  I used full fat yogurt because that’s what we have in the house as decadent people/parents of a toddler.  The chicken was savory and lovely because it was the chicken from the “panic carrots” recipe the day before and it had that nice garlicky, oniony flavor shining through.  The recipe calls for you to use half of a rotisserie chicken.  Everyday Food doesn’t normally miss an opportunity to tell you how to use the leftovers from one of the other recipes in the issue.  The bacon was bacon.

The fact that the salad recipe from this issue has blue cheese and bacon on it demonstrates very nicely how decadent this issue is.  I like the idea of cooking seasonally and everything but the Thanksgiving November issue and the Holiday December issue back to back is a little rough on the ol’ waistline.

I should try to excuse that picture, shouldn’t I?  I can’t.  I forgot to take a picture at dinner, so this picture was taken in the dark break room at work the next day.  If anyone noticed the Baby Bullet container in the background, that held salad dressing.  J graduated from purees a while ago, so those have just become small leftover containers.  When you have a baby and a small kitchen, certain lines get blurred.

 

canned beets to the rescue!

Pasta with beets and blue cheese

Sweet, salty, pasta.  hitting all the high notes here

Sweet, salty, pasta. hitting all the high notes here

This is a delicious recipe.  If you like blue cheese and you’re even on the fence about beets, then this is a good one.  I’d also like to add that this is one of the first foods we fed J after we switched over from feeding him “baby” food to just giving him whatever we eat in smaller pieces with less seasoning.  He liked it!  Best. Baby. Ever.

One quick note about the beets: This recipe has you roasting your own.  That takes forever.  Unless you have a garden or there was an amazing sale on beets, just do yourself a favor and buy canned ones.  Here’s how forgiving this recipe is, it says you can use canned whole beets.  I used canned sliced beets from Aldi (I need a keyboard shortcut for how often I type “Aldi”), and it was 100% fine.  No, canned beets do not have the freshness or depth of flavor that roasted ones do.  But if it’s between no beets and canned beets…advantage canned.  

Pear Snacks!

Ok, I warned you there were a lot of pear recipes in this issue.  Here is a rundown of the “snack” recipes.  They are all so quick and simple they don’t really have recipes and therefore I have nothing to link to, but I’ll give you a good description.  If you have October 2003, issue 6, you can find the details on page 30.

These pears are getting playful with some honey and toasted almonds.

These pears are getting playful with some honey and toasted almonds.

I have a bit of a thing for honey.  I use it daily in my tea and like to include it in recipes whenever possible.  I also want to keep bees someday (as soon as I have a yard really).  Anyway, this recipe basically consists of slicing up some pear and drizzling it with some honey and toasted almonds.  To toast the almonds just toss them in a dry pan over a medium to low heat and toss them around for a few minutes until you really start to smell the oils warming up.  You can also do this in the oven but I like to be able to see/smell nuts as they are toasting to make sure they don’t burn.  This was very simple and very tasty.

Pears and blue cheese should be besties...

Pears and blue cheese should be besties…

Here’s another super tasty and super easy “snack”.  Slice up some pears, pile them on top of some mixed greens along with some blue cheese and some more almonds for good measure.  We ate it with a nice light red wine vinaigrette.  Super yummy and refreshing!

I had this snack waiting for the Bear when he got home from work one day.

I had this snack waiting for the Bear when he got home from work one day.

This “recipe” is even easier.  Just wrap some prosciutto around pear quarters.  It is really tasty although I was a bit disappointed by the deli prosciutto.  It wasn’t sliced thinly enough for one.  It also had some sort of curing salt/sugar mix still on the outside of it.  (Wegman’s would never stand for this!)

There was one other pear snack that I failed to photograph.  You take some store bought caramel sauce and drizzle or dip your pear slices into that.  It’s an interesting alternative to the autumnal treat of apples in caramel sauce.

And there you have it.  Try one, try all.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.