Spicy and Tangy Tofu Stir Fry

Hello friends!

I failed yet again at my promise to self to keep up with the blog. Too many roadblocks along the way, but I will at least try to post a new recipe whenever I can.

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So, couple of weeks ago, I tried this truly delicious bean curd stir fry with plenty of veggies coated in a delectable sweet-spicy-tangy sauce. That dish used fried bean curds that were kind of squishy and strangely airy. While I enjoyed every bite, I did feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of sliced onions in it. As I was silently chewing every bite, I tried to make a mental note, no, no, more like a package of memory filled with the taste, smell and texture of each bite. Why you ask? Well, I do that quite often, at least as often as I try a bite of a new dish somewhere that I would like to recreate with my own little twist.

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Today would have been the perfect day to succumb to the comfort of eating that dish for lunch. Alas, we were hit with the biggest snowstorm of the season and the family was home-bound. Even though I had already prepared meals ready to be warmed for lunch, something in me kept nudging me to open the refrigerator and take out the ingredients to whip up some spicy and tangy tofu stir fry.

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Little bit of this, little bit of that and before I knew it, a super satisfying, flavor-rich tofu dish was born!

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Spicy and Tangy Tofu Stir Fry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 min
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Ingredients
1 Pkg extra-firm tofu
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic, divided
3 green onions, green part finely sliced and divided
¼ cup oil
4 oz sliced white or baby bella mushrooms
3 cups broccoli florets
½ cup sliced red onion
Few dried red chillis
Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preparation:
1. Cut tofu into bite size pieces. Toss with cornstarch.
2. Mix the curry paste, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and garlic. Coat tofu cubes in the sauce and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. While tofu is marinating, prepare the vegetables.
4. Mix the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
5. Heat a large wok or frying pan over medium high heat and add oil.
6. Fry the tofu cubes till golden brown and let drain on paper towel.
7. When all the tofu is fried, drain excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.
8. Saute the reserved garlic, red chilli and onion.
9. Add the mushrooms and broccoli and flash cook for another 3 minutes or so.
10. Toss in the fried tofu pieces and top with the reserved sauce.
11. Stir and continue to cook till the sauce thickens and coats the vegetables and tofu.
Serve the stir fry with steamed rice or over cooked rice noodles.

Easy Weeknight Beef Fajita

 

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No matter how well you think you planned for the week ahead, don’t you have those days when all that so-called planning amounts to nothing? Yesterday was one of those days for me! 6:40pm and no idea what to serve for dinner! Hmph, not a good feeling.

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As usual, I first do a mental inventory of what ingredients I had on hand that could be quickly transformed into a meal that the family will enjoy. Yes, I had chicken in the freezer, but I didn’t have the patience to deal with the defrosting process! Ahhh…..then I reached for the shaved beef. Really, I don’t think they are not all that bad for you! Their fat content is significantly lower than a typical burger and they are so versatile.

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You could transform this super thinly sliced meat into a cheesy Philly steak sandwich, spicy fajitas or a stir fry with Asian veggies. But this time around, I gravitated towards a spicy fajita with the typical toppings – a simple avocado/tomato relish, shredded lettuce and purple cabbage (yes, yes, purple cabbage is one of my obsessions now a days, so I throw them fresh into whatever I can!), salsa, sour cream and …..no cheese (ran out of cheese! :-O).

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With minimal preparation and immense amount of flavor and well-balanced nutrition, this weeknight dinner ended up being a big success. So, what not to love about it! C’on, give it a try – I promise you will appreciate the ease of it all!

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Easy Weeknight Beef Fajita

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 min
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Ingredients
1 lb package shaved beef
1 packet low-sodium fajita seasoning (or make your own)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 small red pepper, sliced into long, thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 avocado
1 plum tomato
1 green onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced romaine
1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
8 small flour or corn tortillas, warmed
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced, optional
Bottle salsa, optional
Sour cream, optional

Preparation
1. Begin by preparing the avocado-tomato salad. Peel and dice the avocado. Combine with diced tomato and thinly sliced green onion. Toss with the lemon juice and set aside.
2. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over high heat and cook the beef till cooked through. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the meat and continue cooking for additional two minutes. Remove the beef onto a serving platter and keep warm.
3. Wipe down the pan and add the remaining oil. Reduce heat to medium-high and stir fry the red peppers till lightly browned. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and transfer onto the beef.
4. Warm the tortillas in the microwave (30 seconds) or in a warm skillet. Serve immediately with the meat and all desired toppings.

 

Harissa Sauce

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Harissa is a fiery hot sauce used in North African cuisine. As you might have guessed, primary ingredient is PLENTY of dried hot peppers. I used dried cayenne peppers this time around. Next time though, I would love to incorporate some fiery harbanero or other super spicy pepper for added heat.

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This sauce can be used as a condiment or as a seasoning for meats and seafood. I even used some of it to spice up pasta sauce and it was amazing. I also tried it spread on a cracker. Delicious! Who knows, if you like spicy things, this might become your new favorite dip for chips or veggies.

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Harissa Sauce

Ingredients
20-25 Dried hot peppers (I used cayenne)
1 dried Pasilla pepper
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons oil
2-4 tablespoon water
Sea salt to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Preparation
1. Soak dried peppers in hot water for 10 minutes.
2. Dry roast coriander, cumin and caraway seeds for 3-5 minutes under low heat.
3. Grind them to powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
4. Drain the peppers and transfer to a blender or food processor along with all other ingredients except water.
5. Grind to a paste adding just enough water.
6. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.

Harissa can easily be stored in the refrigerator for few weeks – if it lasts you that long.

“Instant” Chicken Curry

Instant Chicken Curry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy/moderate
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finished chicken curry

Everyone that I know loves a good chicken curry – whether it is Sri Lankan chicken curry with coconut milk, a Thai curry, Indian butter chicken, Jamaican curry or myriad of other types! Regardless of their origin, most of these curries call for exotic spices that are likely to be found in an adventurous cook’s kitchen or requires a special visit to a well-stocked local grocery store or an ethnic grocer.

But, what if it is one of those days when you don’t want to make a sandwich, east some leftovers, or make another pot of soup? What if you want to decompress in the kitchen by creating something satisfying and different? What if you end up wondering, if only you could relish mouthfuls of some delicious curry with a piece of flat bread, steamed rice, or even a piece of bread? Only if!

You always thought your kitchen was pretty well stocked although you didn’t always have an assortment of Asian spices like cardamom, curry/garam masala powder, or special blend of chili powders! Can you still make great chicken curry with what might usually be in your pantry? YES, YOU CAN!

Today, I am going to share with you just one of those “instant” chicken curry recipes – “instant” not because you open up a frozen package of chicken curry and nuke it in the microwave, but because you can whip this baby up with mostly basic pantry items. I made it two nights ago and I have to say it was a big hit with my whole family!

Before we begin, let’s do a quick check to see if you have the following on hand – you can potentially skip couple of these ingredients without compromising on the flavor, taste and look of the dish! You will need about 1 ½ lbs of chicken (any type, although I used drumsticks in mine), onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, turmeric (can be skipped if you don’t have any), fine sea salt (or regular), cayenne powder, lime or lemon juice, fresh tomato, cilantro (can be skipped , but it does add a wonderful aroma), coconut milk or heavy cream and oil. So, assuming you have these on hand, let’s start!

First, we need to prepare the meat and veggies. Remove the skin of the chicken and make couple of slits on the drumsticks if you are using them. Otherwise, just cut the chicken into desired size. You can use thighs cut into 2-3 pieces, breasts cut into about fourths or bite sized pieces. You can even use boneless chicken breast, although in my humble opinion, a good chicken curry needs at least some red meat and/or pieces with bones. To me, curry made from boneless, skinless breast just doesn’t cut it! So, back to prep work. After you clean the chicken, rinse and drain all the water. You can even blot it dry, but I rarely do. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of fine sea salt, a tablespoon of lime juice and a heaping teaspoon (or per your taste) of cayenne on the chicken and mix well, making sure to get them into the slits. Let sit while you prepare rest of the ingredients.

All marinated and waiting for action

All marinated and waiting for action

Chop onions, tomato and cilantro. Mince ginger and garlic. Set them aside.

chicken curry veggies

Heat a wok or a heavy pot/pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. To this, add ginger, garlic, onion and a piece of cinnamon stick broken up. Saute till onion turns translucent and starts to turn golden. Add ¼ tsp of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon cayenne powder and stir for few seconds. Cayenne can be adjusted according to taste. I used a little more than a teaspoon because we love super spicy stuff in our house. You might want to turn your exhaust fan off to ward off any ill effects of cayenne in the air! Now, add tomato and ¼ tsp of salt.

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When the mixture starts to turn pulpy and fragrant, add chicken pieces along with any juices left behind. Stir well in the spice mixture. Add about ¼ cup of water and cook covered under medium low flame for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is fairly thickened. Keep an eye on the curry while it is cooking as you might need to add little bit more water if the gravy looks too dry. To finish, add about 3 tablespoon of unsweetened coconut milk or heavy cream, stir and garnish with chopped cilantro.

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Serve with cooked rice (in the picture above, I served with brown rice and “raita”)or bread and a side salad or another vegetable dish.

When it comes to being creative in the kitchen, if you put your mind to it, you can make incredible dishes with what you have on hand!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs chicken pieces, skin removed
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne (more or less, per your taste)
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2″ piece of cinnamon broken up
1 cup chopped tomato
additional salt, if needed
3 tablespoons unsweetened milk or cream
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro