February 10, 2012

Tofu Scramble Two Ways

Okay, I really don't know why it took me so long to make a tofu scramble at home. I love eating them out at restaurants (Blue Willow in Tucson makes my fave), but for some reason I was really hesitant to make my own. I guess I thought it would be difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth!

I had some extra firm tofu, spinach and mushrooms in the fridge one night and I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I decided to go for it and tackle the tofu scramble once and for all. After consulting a few recipes on the netz, I headed into the kitchen determined to defeat my opponent. And I succeeded! So much so that I made another one just a few days later. These are definitely going into the rotation.

Not only do these scrambles come together quickly, they are really versatile. Like I said, the first time I used mushroom and spinach - a classic combo - and kept the seasonings to what would compliment those flavors. The second time, I planned to add it to a breakfast burrito, so wanted to punch it up a bit. I added lots of diced red pepper, onions, more cumin than the first time. They both came out great! In the future, I think I'll try adding some Mediterranean flavors (kalmata olives, roasted red peppers) and serve alongside hummus, pita, and Greek salad. OR you could mix in Soyrizo, potatoes, and diced tomatoes and serve it with flour tortillas and avocado. If it's good enough for scrambled eggs, it's good enough for scrambled tofu. And don't be fooled into thinking tofu scrambles are only for breakfast. They're full of protein, but they're not too heavy, so it's the perfect fit for dinner. Besides, breakfast for dinner has always been one of my favorite things.

One tip: the drier your tofu, the more it will brown in the skillet. Once you remove the tofu from the package and drain it, be sure to press it for at least 20 minutes to get the water out. I do this by wrapping the block of tofu in a few paper towels and setting it on a plate. Then I place another plate on top and add some heavy objects - canned goods, a jar of pasta sauce - on top of that plate.

Johnny ate both of these right up! I had to coax him into eating the breakfast burrito - he doesn't like tater tots if you can believe it. But even he couldn't deny that the crispy potatoes, tofu scramble, and cool, creamy guacamole inside a warm tortilla was a little piece of heaven...

The makings of a damn fine breakfast burrito. YUM.

Mexican Style Tofu Scramble
(Makes 8 breakfast burritos)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Heat your olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Cut the tofu into large chunks and add to the skillet. Break it up with a spatula so that it resembles scrambled eggs. Add your spices and toss to ensure they are evenly distributed. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, allowing the tofu to get browned a bit. (A metal spatula works best for keeping the browned parts intact.) If you aren't seeing any browning, increase the heat a bit and continue cooking for a few minutes.

Serve with warm tortillas, tater tots, and guacamole!

Crappy cell phone pic! This is what happens when you are too hungry to take a proper picture.
Spinach and Mushroom Tofu Scramble
Serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
½ pint of mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups fresh spinach

Heat your olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Cut the tofu into large chunks and add to the skillet. Break it up with a spatula so that it resembles scrambled eggs. Add your spices and toss to ensure they are evenly distributed. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, allowing the tofu to get browned a bit. (A metal spatula works best for keeping the browned parts intact.) If you aren't seeing any browning, increase the heat a bit and continue cooking for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and add in the spinach. Stir in and allow to wilt for a few minutes.

I served mine with roasted sweet potatoes and a toasted Food for Life Brown Rice English muffin spread with Earth Balance. Those muffins are really good, BTW!

February 8, 2012

Field Trip - Jim Henson's Fantastic World at the Museum of the Moving Image

Today I'm going to kick off a new series of posts called "Field Trip"! Those two words bring such good memories to mind... permission slips, 18 passenger vans, and a whole day away from the classroom. Since we don't get to take field trips as adults, I love spending at least one day of the weekend running around New York City with Johnny and acting like we're in 3rd grade again. I'd like to share some of those adventures with you!

A few weekends ago, we made the trek to Astoria, Queens (really only an easy subway ride away from Manhattan. Well, easy except for the fact that someone had peed in the corner of our subway car. A delight for the nostrils!). Our destination was the Museum of the Moving Image and I didn't really know what to expect other than lots of Muppet-y goodness. They have an exhibit running through March 4th called "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" and being the Henson-philes that we are, we knew we couldn't miss this.

I have to say, this museum is FRICKIN' AWESOME! After paying admission and checking our coats, we booked it to the top floor to see what we came for. At the top of the stairs an old friend greeted us... 

Kermit the Frog here! Live and in person. We almost fainted! This guy is bigger than any celebrity in our eyes. He's so wise and kind and tiny and green and just a few notes of "The Rainbow Connection" brings both of us to tears. According to one of the video exhibits, Kermit was Henson's first puppet. He used a sock and some wire and spent hours practicing to get just the right facial expressions for Kermit using only his hand. So awesome that his very first character is still going strong! 
Aside from the videos, I had fun browsing the sketches of Henson's early ideas and seeing how they developed over time.  

The next room graced us with Rowlf! One of my very favorite Muppets. He is just the epitome of cool, right? Never flummoxed, always content to play his piano. A video in this room showed that Rowlf originated in a commercial that Henson did for Purina Dog Chow. Henson created puppets for a number of commercials throughout his career and some of them were hysterical! 

If commercials were still that cool, maybe I could give the "fast forward" function on my DVR a break.  

"Mahna Mahna - Doo doo doo doo doo! Mahna Mahna - Doo doo doo doo!" Talk about an earworm. That song will be in your head for daaaays now and you'll like it! Did you see the new Muppets movie with Jason Segal yet? If not, I highly recommend it. Like seriously, just go see it now and then come back. I'll wait...

Are you back? Wasn't it awesome?!?! One of my favorite parts is when everyone sings "Mahna Mahna" at the end. Maybe I'll post a petition on change.org to make it our new National Anthem. 

I somehow forgot that Henson did so much more than just The Muppet Show. In fact, Fraggle Rock was my very favorite show as a tot. Do you remember the old HBO promo that came on before every episode? I would get so excited as the TV screen swirled around the inside of the HBO logo because I knew that Fraggles were near! "Dance you cares away (clap clap), worry's for another day! Let the music play (clap clap) down in Fraggle Rock!" Sheer genius! It was pretty neat to see Gobo and Cantus in real life, though Red was always my bestie.

I loved seeing so many little kids at the exhibit discovering some of Jim Henson's creations for the first time. And there were many 30 somethings reliving their youths, just like us. I was very inspired to see how Henson started with just a simple idea, but he had the determination to bring all his visions to fruition. What a badass.

Creepy old make-up. Now with extra formaldehyde! 
We then explored the rest of the museum and we were completely taken aback by how cool it is! There is a permanent exhibit called "Behind the Screen" that is devoted to the technical side of movies: a collection of vintage movie cameras, sound recording equipment, make-up, wigs and costumes. 

Rwaaaaarrr! Rarrwaaaarrr!
There was also a booth where you could go and dub your voice over a scene from a movie (we found out that Johnny is terrible at voice acting!). My favorite installation was "Tut's Fever", a "working movie theater that pays homage to the ornate, exotic picture palaces of the 1920s." There is a ticket booth, concession stand, screening room, and secret passageways.

That, sir, is a Cosby sweater! A COOOOSBY SWEATER! (And Annie Hall's costume)
In summation, I know the "Sh*t New Yorkers Say" video proclaims that "No one goes to Queens", but if you live in the area you must make an exception and get over to this museum a.s.a.p. I promise you'll have a sensational inspirational celebrational Muppetational good time! (Honk)

February 6, 2012

Our "Superbowl Sunday" Eats

I put "Superbowl Sunday" in quotes because our household isn't really sports oriented. I  used to be a die-hard hockey and basketball fan, but over the years the appeal of sports has dwindled for me. I guess I just don't really get it... a bunch of dudes earn millions of dollars for running up and down a field with a ball. Fans get all excited when the team who happens to practice and play in the city/ state where they live wins. But really none of it matters because next year a new season will start and every team will have a chance to win the big trophy again. I'm being a little flippant and nihilistic I suppose, but it seems like there are so many people more deserving of money and accolades than athletes. Teachers for example. Where are their six figure contracts and merchandising deals?  

Needless to say, the only parts of the Superbowl we watched were the halftime show (my curiosity always gets the best of me) and a few commercials here and there. Otherwise, we devoted our time to Puppy Bowl VIII on Animal Planet and I whined and moaned about how we don't have a canine companion in our lives. Those dogs are just so freaking cute! I kept hoping one would come through the screen and bound into my arms. (sigh) Someday we will adopt a dog, I promise you this!

I did end up spending most of the day in the kitchen, but I didn't exactly cook Superbowl fare. I made some completely mind-blowing breakfast burritos in the morning (more on that recipe in the next few days) that made my tummy very happy. For dinner, our appetizer was already planned. Johnny's mom sent us a gigantic assortment from Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil and Balsamics in Tucson and we had been patiently waiting to crack into it until Sunday night. 

I broke up a fresh baguette and we got to work mixing and matching flavors to our hearts' content. My absolute favorite thing in the whole world right now is the Peach White Balsamic Vinegar. DUUUUUDE. I mixed it with a bit of their Manzanillo Extra Virgin Olive Oil and almost had a stroke it was so good. I am absolutely going to be ordering a full bottle of that stuff once the sampler runs out. I'm dreaming up vinaigrette recipes already. It will be perfection on summer salads! Our other favorites include the Espresso Balsamic Vinegar, the sweet and thick Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (I really want to try this on ice cream!), and the Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil. But honestly, all of it was delicious. Thanks, Mama Mo! Such an awesome gift!

While we could have easily made dinner out of nothing but bread, vinegar and oil, I thought we should try to get something a bit healthier into our panzas, too. I'd heard wonderful things about the Mango BBQ Beans recipe from Appetite for Reduction, one of my favorite cookbooks. I felt a little guilty buying a mango in the middle of winter, but whatever. Sometimes you just need some out-of-season, far-from-local fruit! I served it over some quinoa and I sauteed a big bunch of kale and drizzled that with some of the Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil.  

I loved this dinner! It felt like a very modern, elevated take on rice and beans. The flavors in the bean dish run the gamut from sweet to spicy and hit on everything in between. The quinoa came out really fluffy and delicious - it's quickly replacing brown rice as my favorite accompaniment to most meals.

Johnny had his usual reaction to a plate that contained cooked greens: he screwed up his face and stuck out his tongue in disgust. It's a knee-jerk thing and I have to talk him into eating that first bite every time! He ended up liking the kale, but not being a huge fan of the beans. I'm not sure why, I thought he'd really like the bold flavors, but he just thought something didn't taste right. He's not a lover of mango, so I knew it was a risk going in. Oh well, more for me to take for lunch this week!

February 5, 2012

You Look Like a Monkey... And You Smell Like One, Too!

Guess what? The Odd Couple Eats is officially one year old!

::**~Confetti, Applause, Streamers, Vegan Cupcakes For ALL!~**:: 

Does the title of this post make sense now or was I the only one who added that verse to the end of the Happy Birthday song as a kid? Man alive, a whole year... It's been fun, it's been tasty! I've been taking a look back and wanted to share some of my thoughts on what has transpired and what my hopes for the future of this blog are. Settle in, friends...

If blogs got birthday wishes, this one would be hanging out in St. John right now... 
When I started this blog last January, I was new to veganism and was navigating my way through a crazy array of information regarding health and nutrition. I was constantly reading  books, web sites, and food labels. Honestly, it was overwhelming. I had just never thought that much about what I ate before. It feels weird to say that now, but it's true. Food was about taste and little else, so suddenly being confronted with a "limited" diet and restrictions was tough. I had to answer my own questions about veganism (Where do you get protein? How much is enough? What are the names of hidden by-products to avoid?) and simultaneously build my knowledge of health and nutrition from the ground up. And yes, I was dragging Johnny with me through it all. He is quite the trooper, isn't he?

Life is much easier these days. I navigate the grocery store like a pro, trial and error led me to discover which "healthy" foods I enjoy the most (and which Johnny will and will not abide), and I've finally found certain recipes that I can cook again and again and never tire of... You know how you think of certain recipes as "Family Recipes" because your parents made them so often when you were growing up? The fact that I'm starting to make my own collection feels really cool!

I always had second thoughts about creating my own blog. I had no idea how to build a web site or write a recipe or even dream up enough content to keep things interesting. Not to mention there were already so many awesome sites out there dedicated to vegan cooking... was it really necessary for me to add my two cents to the change jar? (It's a rhetorical question, don't answer that!) But I knew that if I was learning so much about nutrition for the first time that many others were in that boat with me. I think it takes a lot of people writing about the same topic to have an impact and a real reach. So I went ahead with The Odd Couple Eats and somehow it all just sort of fell into place.

This blog has been a way for me to share all this with you, but it's also been a touchstone for me, a constant reminder that putting the time and effort into cooking is so worth it. For the first time in my life, I feel like the decisions I make about food are well-informed and, dare I say, even political. I've found issues about which I'm passionate (animal rights, supporting local and sustainable companies, educating children about nutrition, etc.) and I'm not sure that would have happened without veganism and this blog. Cheesy as it may sound, it's empowering.

The absolute best part for me has been the tremendous support I've received. At the outset, I figured my friends and family would read my posts and giggle at my writing or be inspired to try tempeh for the first time. But people from all over the world have read this blog and that boggles my mind! A highlight was definitely when Alicia Silverstone at The Kind Life featured me last summer - her book was the whole reason I went vegan in the first place! And all the encouragement you've given me about my writing led me to the realization that writing is my passion in life. Why have I denied that for so long? It's given me the push I needed to return to school in the Fall to study Creative Writing and I don't think I've ever been so excited!  

So THANK YOU to everyone who reads this blog, who post comments or recommends one of my recipes to a friend. It's had a major impact on my life and it means the world to me.

That said, I'd like to take this blog in a bit of a new direction. In looking back over some of my old posts, I found that the most entertaining don't just focus on cooking, they give you a glimpse into my life. And likewise, the blogs I enjoy reading the most allow the readers to really connect with the authors. So going forward, I'm going to try and balance informative cooking posts with some that are just about my life: what I'm eating (even if I didn't make it), wearing, and doing for fun. I'm hoping to post more frequently (be prepared for crappy cell phone pics) and to try out many new things. There's lots in store, so stay tuned...