Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lauren's Favorite Tofu

Let me introduce you to the great Lauren! I met her almost 10 years ago and we just clicked. She is the kind of woman everyone should have in their lives. She is sweet, strong, compassionate, and little quirky. In my book, she's good people.

Lauren is the kind of friend who calls and says- Beep Beep! I'm in your driveway. Get in, Fool. We're going adventuring. You had a nightmare and you just can't sleep? No worries, she will answer the phone. Lost your cat at 3am? Call Lauren, she's already on her way to work and she's got your back (Breathe woman! Your cats know how to survive outside, they are cats!)

With a friend like that, it's easy to return those same favors. When you get a call and your buddy is sad- you automatically ask, do you want to come here or you want me to come to yours? When she just wants to keep your company, you scoot over on the couch and ask if she wants to stay for supper. You trust her with your worries and know they won't leave the room. She's just the best friend anyone could have.
Lauren and me on the beach for an adventure!

One of Lauren's favorite meals I make is stir fried tofu. It's a fairly simple dish that I don't actually have a recipe for. I do it all by eye. But, as it is her favorite, I promised her I would at least write it down.

I love this dish because it is so versatile.The veggies can be changed up depending on the season. The sauce can be made as spicy or mild as you like. Serve it over rice or cauliflower rice. The options are limitless. I have made this as simple as just the tofu and mushrooms. It's a beautiful flavor. The secret's in the sauce...

You won't see any exact amounts, only approximations on this one. It will give you a general idea of how to prepare the dish. Don't worry, there's really no wrong way to make this!

Lauren's Favorite Tofu
Serves 2-4

1 Block of firm or extra firm tofu
1 Box (8oz) fresh mushrooms- portabella or white
Garlic- 2-3 cloves
1/4- 1/2 Small onion
1 Small zucchini, sliced and quartered
1 Small carrot, shredded
Broccoli florets

Sauce ingredients
Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Garlic chili sauce for heat
Nutritional Yeast
Sesame oil- optional and to be used VERY sparingly.

Hot rice to serve

To prepare the tofu, drain the water. Using a tea towel or similar lightweight towel gently squeeze extra liquid out of the block. Do not squeeze too hard or you will break the block.

Slice the tofu into planks and lay out on the tea towel. Cover completely and press down to remove any additional liquid hiding inside.

Cut planks into cubes approximately 1x1.

In a large saute pan, swirl the pan with a light coat of olive oil.  Let heat over medium heat. Add tofu.

Allow tofu to cook, turning to brown all sides. I like to cook mine until it is fairly firm and a dark golden brown. This takes about 20 minutes on my stove top.

Add mushrooms and veggies. Saute until soft.

When veggies are done, sprinkle all with nutritional yeast. Stir well.

Time for sauce! Start with the soy sauce, I generally use about a 1/3 cup or so. Add in the oyster sauce approximately 3 TBS. Add fresh cracked pepper. Add in the garlic chili sauce- if you like it spicy, go heavy, if not use about a tsp. (Lauren likes hers red with spice, so I leave the chili sauce on the counter for her to add extra to hers) If desired, add in 1-2 DROPS (A little goes a LONG way) of the sesame oil. Stir well until all veggies and tofu are covered and the sauce has thickened slightly.

Sprinkle additional nutritional yeast over the mix.

Serve over hot rice.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Super Soup

First things first! Today is my Grandma Spranger's 81st Birthday. So let me take a moment to wish her a fantastic day! I am so glad I have had the opportunity know my Gram. She raised 8 wonderful children, was a faithful and loving wife to my grandfather, a devout Catholic,  and man, can she cook!

When I smell root vegetables, I am automatically transported to her root cellar. It's a welcome smell- a dark, damp, musky onion skin smell. Of course there were also potatoes, carrots, and radishes as well. There always oodles of melons as well- musk and honey dew. It's a happy place for me. There were always jars of my grandpa's fruit lining the shelves waiting for their use over the winter. It was truly a place filled with love and care. You could see how much time and effort went into each and every thing in that room.

One thing I have always associated with her is sour dough bread. For as far back as I can remember, Gram always had sour dough starter on her counter. There was always a fresh loaf of bread or buns ready to go into the oven. She once told me that her original starter came from one of her family members in Indiana. I don't know if you've ever had to take care of sour dough starter, but that's like a child unto itself.... And this remarkable woman kept this starter fed, loved, and watered. Kudos to her!!!

Isn't she just the cutest thing ever?!

Next up is my sister by choice, Nena (Beans) who still lives back in MN. Nena has been part of my family since the 3rd grade. I am so happy to have her in my life. Her kids are my nieces and nephews
and I adore them. 
Being silly last winter during one of my visits 

This time of year is made for a hearty warm bowl of love to fight the cold temperatures. I adore her soup collection. She's got chicken and dumplings, broccoli and cheddar, wild rice and chicken, and so many more. Today I am going to share of my favorites of hers. 

If you like a Reuben sandwich, you will love this soup! Its hearty and filling, the perfect thing for a cold day. 

So get out your stock pots, kids. It's time to make some soup!

Bean's Reuben Soup

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
2 TBS butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 TBS corn starch
2 TBS water
3/4 cup sauerkraut
2 cups sour cream
2 cups corned beef
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Drain the sauerkraut. Chop the cooked corned beef. 

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and celery in butter until tender.

Add the chicken and beef broth. Stir in the baking soda.

Combine starch and water. Stir into the broth mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 minutes, stir occasionally. 

Reduce the heat. Add kraut, sour cream, and corned beef. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Do NOT let boil, the sour cream will split if you have the heat too high. 

Add cheese. Stir until melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a thick slice of french bread or sour dough. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Spaghetti Fantastic-O

Growing up my mom made supper pretty much every night. She worked all day, came home, and cooked for the family. (Don't be mislead- Dad cooked too, and still does!)

This was always one of my favorite things about growing up. Not just a good home cooked meal, but the ritual. See, we helped our mom make supper. 

Let me backtrack for just a moment. I enjoy routine. Structure makes me happy because I like to know what to expect. So from kindergarten through my senior year of high school I was not sad that I knew what was going to happen from 7am-5:30pm M-F. I was woken up by alarm - either my radio clicking on or my dad singing to me. Showered, ate breakfast, waited for the bus and went to school. At 3:10 I rode the bus home for almost an hour. Go in the house, get a snack (You can have a Little Debbie or a bagel with cheese, or if Dad made cookies, you can have 2 cookies.) then do homework. By the time homework was done, it was time to make supper. 

Mom would tell us what we were making and we would get the ingredients out, measure, chop, stir etc. Then, here's the best part. Mom asked us about our day. Everyday. So we got to talk and tell her what was great, what we felt needed improvement, and of course tell her the latest drama. 

Then, we'd set the table and plate up supper. We sat together as a family. We prayed for God's blessing on our food and our lives. And we talked. This, to me, is still the best way to grow together and support one another. 

What we made for supper changed over the years, but the central theme never did: Good food, fellowship, and family. 

I have an entire cookbook of favorite recipes from my childhood. Things Mom made, things Dad made, my friend's parent's recipes for dishes I loved. My mom hooked me up when I moved out!

Now, I have 2-3 more cookbooks I've filled in with new favorites from family suppers. One of my mom's favorites is Spaghetti Fantastic. I call it Fantastic-o because it's fun to say LOL. Mom said she could eat this everyday. I believe her! It's very easy, quick, and versatile. You can easily swap out any of the veggies for what you have on hand or what's in season. 

Whatever you cook, do it with love. And share it with someone you care about. <3 div="">

Spaghetti Fanastic-O
Serves 2

4oz chicken breast
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4oz spaghetti (NOT angel hair), DRY
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes 
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1 large sprig fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms
1 large tomato, chopped OR 7oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup zucchini or green beans, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS Parmesan Cheese

Dice chicken breast. Brown in a large skillet. 

Add all ingredients except zucchini and Parmesan cheese into the pot. (If using green beans instead of zucchini, add them in now with all other ingredients) COVER and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 10 minutes. 

Uncover and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add zucchini last five minutes of cook time. 

Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese. Serve. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Return

So, here we are again.

I've had far too many lessons learned, recipe successes and failures, moves, new business opportunities, and adventures to discuss in one blog.

Rather than try to fill in the blanks, I'm just going to pick up right where I left off.

This month has been full of unpleasant surprises and challenges, but such is life right? Rather than let life get me down, I've stood up, dusted myself off, and remembered where my strength comes from. I find myself in near constant prayer. Answering phone calls from the elite few who have my number. And going back to basics in the kitchen. This is who I am. For the first time in my adult life, I'm comfortable with exactly who I am.

I have a friend who often asks how I live so frugally. A lifetime of practice? Yes, it's a question in my mind. I was raised in a small Midwest town and we have always lived this way. Why spend money you don't have to? Don't use more toilet paper than you need (I have a 3-4 square rule in my house LOL). Use real dishes (You will NOT find any paper or plastic dishes in my kitchen). Cook from scratch. Don't eat out. If you live somewhere you can fish, crab, or hunt- take advantage of it. Grow a garden, even if it's just a patio garden in pots. And more importantly? Don't spend more than you make.

That being said, I'm also a firm believer in using what you have on hand. I have had this sad banana sitting on my counter for over a week. The cats have poked at it, nibbled the stem, played hockey with it on the island. I couldn't let this poor banana go out this way. So I got to hunting down a recipe. I made one banana blondies. They were a cute little snack. Soft and less dense than banana bread. But what blew the flip flops off my feet was the brown butter icing that went over the top of the blondies. I would put that icing on pretty much any cake, bars, rice crispy bars, a spoon.... I could go on.

Instead of drooling all over my keyboard, I will just share the recipe. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Icing
Makes enough for a 9x9 cake

1/4 cup butter
6 TBS light brown sugar
2 TBS milk or cream (I used unsweetened original almond milk)
dash of salt
2 tsp good quality vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and cook until a nice amber color. Stir constantly to keep butter from burning!

When butter is desired color, add brown sugar, milk, and salt. Stir. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cool caramel mix for 15 minutes.

Whisk in vanilla and powdered sugar.

Spread over dessert of choice, let icing set before slicing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Pasta

The weather has been cool and rainy here in southern Georgia. As the weather changes, I start craving those fall favorites. My brother shared a recipe with me last year for butternut squash ravioli. I have made gluten free ravioli wrappers, but they are very tedious. A quick and easy fix? Take the filling and toss it with gluten free pasta.

When he made it, Adam made his own fresh ricotta cheese. It was warm and creamy, the consistency was less grainy than store bought ricotta. I fell in love with it. If you have the time, I recommend making your own.

This recipe is very basic, but has all the flavors of fall that I love. Roasted root vegetables, salty cheese, dried cranberries, and earthy sage. The leaves may not change here, but my palette certainly knows it's time for fall!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures my friends. Cheers!

Butternut Squash Pasta

1 small butternut squash
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
2-3 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/8- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Gluten free pasta, cooked according to package directions

Preheat oven to 400.

Peel and dice butternut squash. Quarter onion. Toss squash, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Turn onto a prepared sheet pan. Roast 35-45 minutes until golden brown and softened.

Puree vegetables in a food processor or blender.

Combine 1 cup puree*, ricotta cheese, and egg. Warm over low heat until slightly thickened. Stir in nutmeg. Set aside, keep warm.

Cut sage leaves into thin strips. In a small skillet, brown butter. Add sage and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes.

Toss squash and sage butter with pasta. Sprinkle with cranberries, Parmesan cheese, and pepitas. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 * You will have more than one cup of puree from the vegetables. It's great as a thickener in soup or frozen for another batch of this pasta.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quick Banana Bread

I am a fan of banana bread. It screams comfort to me. Jon hasn't been feeling well, so I made a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup and a loaf of banana bread.

I wanted to be able to eat the banana bread, so I opted to try a new gluten free recipe. The one I used came from of my Betty Crocker gluten free cook books. I had to make a few substitutions on the fly because I didn't have quite enough gluten free Bisquick. But, lucky for me, I am a fairly savvy cook.

The results were wonderful! It was moist and tender. I would like a little stronger banana flavor, but Jon said it was perfect.

This would be a great holiday bread for brunch or for a sweet treat. It's perfect for those gluten eaters in your life because it uses gf flours that don't have strong flavors. My husband who is a big fan of gluten filled treats asked why I was eating the bread- he didn't know it was gluten free until he was told. That is a huge success in my book!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures!

Quick Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 1/2 cups gluten free Bisquick**
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray the bottom of a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add banana,eggs and buttermilk. Mix well.

In a separate bowl combine Bisquick, rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, spices and salt.

Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture. Stir to combine. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the loaf. Remove the bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

* If you don't have buttermilk- take 1/2 cup milk add 1/2 TBS lemon juice or vinegar. Stir. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir again and use as directed.

** You can use 2 1/2 cups of gluten free Bisquick. If you do, omit the rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Roasted Potato Salad

 I love German potato salad. Jon hasn't ever been a huge fan, he says it's too sharp for him. I on the other hand, love the vinegary bite.

I found this recipe a few weeks ago- it's a gentler version of the traditional dish. Jon fell in love with it. At the end of the meal he stated, "Let's do this one again, soon!"

I had some of the leftovers the next afternoon for lunch. It was delicious. It rewarmed wonderfully.

We served it with grilled chicken breasts and fresh veg.

There you have it, quick and easy. And yea. Bacon. Who doesn't love bacon?

Here's to you and your culinary adventures friends! Cheers!

Roasted Potato Salad

2 lbs baby red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
2 TBS olive oil, divided
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 TBS sugar
6 strips apple smoked bacon, uncured, chopped into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

4 TBS red wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used French's dijon with chardonnay)
¼ tsp Italian seasoning
3 TBS reserved, warm bacon drippings
1 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, add the halved (or quartered)  potatoes along with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well to combine.

Spray a foil lined baking sheet with cooking spray, and turn the baby potatoes out onto the baking sheet. Roast for 35-40, or until golden-brown and tender; while potatoes roast, crisp the bacon and onion.

In a medium-large non-stick pan set over medium heat, add a tsp or two of olive oil; when hot, add the onion and 1/2 TBS sugar. Cook/caramelize the onions over medium for about 10 minutes, or until a golden, caramel color, and softened. Remove from heat. Set aside and keep warm.

To the same pan set over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until brown and crispy, then remove them with a slotted spoon and onto a paper towel to drain; reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Set aside to use in the vinaigrette; keep the drippings warm.

Prepare the dressing in a mason jar or container with a tight fitting lid. Combine all the dressing ingredients. Shake well to combine.

Add the warm, roasted baby potatoes to a large bowl, and then add the onion, bacon,  and vinaigrette. Toss well to completely combine, making sure that all of the potatoes are well dressed. Serve warm.