Summer Solstice + Roasted Tofu and Peanut Noodle Salad

Oh yum oh yum.  This easy and cheap meal comes from one of my favorite magazines out there – Eating Well.  My mom requested that I make it for our summer solstice friend and family gathering on the 21st of June this year.  I served it cold, which was nice, since I made it ahead of time I had time to do other things in the few hours leading up to the informal gathering.

Extra-firm, cubed, roasted tofu is the only way to go, if you ask me.  I keep returning to this tried and true method.

I always line with aluminum foil – this makes transferring the cooked tofu that much easier.  Simply pinch the open ends together and pick up the entire packet and dump into recipe.

Prep on this recipe is minimal.  Cook your pasta and drain.  Chop veggies and toss in marinade.  Combine together, mix well, and top with tofu and optional chopped peanuts.  Refrigerate until chilled. Serve cold. 
The bowl of noodles is still half full due to the copious amounts of watermelon, chips, salsa, nacho layered chips, and garlic green beans.  We were so full we forgot the deviled eggs and cooked shrimp that were still in the fridge.  

After large amounts of food and drink, we all headed outside to admire my mom’s raised beds and fenced in gardens.  So far, so good in terms of avoiding pests this year.  However, now I feel the need to knock on wood for her sake.  Her lettuce is gorgeous and even spells Greta!

Roasted Tofu & Peanut Noodle SaladEating Well, August 2013
Serves 5, 2 cups each.
Total time: 40 minutes.

1. Position oven rack on lower third of oven; preheat to 450 degrees.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Put large pot of water on stove to boil for spaghetti.

2. Combine ¼ cup lime juice, ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large bowl.  Stir in 1 16-oz package of extra-firm tofu cut into ½-¾ inch chunks.  Allow to marinate at least 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Transfer tofu to foil-lined pan using a slotted spoon.  Reserve the marinade.  Roast the tofu, stirring once halfway through, until golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cook 1 box of whole wheat spaghetti according to package.  Drain and set aside.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent sticking.

5.  Thinly slice 2 medium orange bell peppers.  Thinly slice 6 cups of napa cabbage.  Thinly slice 1 cup trimmed snow peas, or chop 1 cup peas in pod.

6. Whisk ½ cup creamy all-natural peanut butter, 3 tablespoons water, 3 cloves of minced garlic1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, and reserved marinade in a very large bowl.  Add the drained spaghetti.  Add cabbage, bell peppers, and snow peas.  Toss to coat.  Top with roasted tofu and optional chopped peanuts.  Refrigerate until chilled and serve cold.

Per serving:
423 calories; 21 g fat (2 g saturated, 5 g mono); 0 g cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 21 g protein; 8 g fiber; 546 g sodium; 321 mg potassium.  Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (133% daily value), Vitamin A (46% daily value), Calcium & Magnesium (26% daily value), Iron (21% daily value).

Dreaming of Key West + Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots

Key West, Florida is a family favorite locale.  My parents and sister have been there more frequently than Eric and I – we have only been twice now.  I know, the shame!  Poor Greta has yet to experience Key West.  I have been daydreaming of spring break trips this year, as we are not likely to have one with the process of packing, selling a house, and moving on our radar this spring.  So, on this nice and sunny, 60 degree day in Greensboro, I dream of Key West.  Read on to find some highlights of our last trip to Key West in April of 2010 plus an easy side, a Key West inspired recipe – Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots.

My family always stays in the same place – the Eden House.  This place is heaven.  This is the elaborate system of walkways with privacy fences between the pool and one of the houses that has been converted to suites.  We stayed on the second floor of one such suite.  There are a variety of rooms, suites, and even condo-like setups.

The front porch of the Eden House – I could spend an entire day sitting here watching Key West amble by.

This is our post wake-up and pre-breakfast meet-up.  This particular trip included myself, Eric, Brady (brother-in-law), Caroline (sister), my dad and my mom.  

Our suite had a porch off the back with chairs and a swing.  We spent most of our evenings out here watching the tour buses and people go by.

Eric and I love to take our Diana camera along on vacations – it takes lovely dreamy photos.  Analog film is still better than Instagram, if you ask me.  I was working on a watercolor painting of Eric sitting in the swing.

The Southernmost Point is a fun place to visit.  Be prepared to wait in line for your turn to take a photo, though.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a great place to ride your bike to.  They always have interesting sculptures set up along the walkways.  This year was no exception – this one made from twigs framed the water beautifully.  
Bring water along – the ride is warmer and sunnier than you think, but there are concessions to purchase at the park.  
You can also swim, rent chairs,
wade in the water, and enjoy a walk on their paths.  

We ride our rental bikes everywhere on the island.  The island is flat and the roads easy enough to ride on – cars are well-versed in tourists on bicycles.  We enjoy riding around the entire edge of the island at least once.  This trip always takes us out to the pier. Everyone smiles in Key West – how could you not with this backdrop?

Usually we see pelicans on the pier.

The wide path behind Eric is what we ride on for a good length along the beaches.  I can almost feel the ocean breeze now.  Sigh. 

We always make time for the Ernest Hemingway home.  This beautiful home was built in 1851 and became the famous author’s home in 1931.  I love the two-story porches and green shutters. 

 The furniture inside the home was used by Hemingway and his family.

The different shades of green are fitting for a Key West home.  I love the painted floors!

 The home and gardens are filled with cats.  There are about 40-50 poly dactyl cats around the house and grounds – all descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s 6-toed cat named Snowball.  This particular marmalade enjoys its place on the bed.

There are signs of the cats everywhere – footprints in the concrete around the house and pool.

 The cats are sleeping on furniture, in the gardens, and in the house.

 There is even a little cat graveyard in the garden, complete with a cat house for the living.

This last trip, we headed over to the Martello Tower, which is now the Key West Garden Club.  This is a free destination in Key West and was once a fort during the Civil war, but now home to a lush garden full of interesting plants.

These white angel trumpet flowers formed a shady canopy overhead.  

The colors were just a riot.

 The lizards are everywhere.

This spiny tree was my favorite.  
Eric even found a coconut.  

The inside of the Key West Garden Club still looks very much like a military fort, except for the motorized wooden chair mounted on the wall.  This was another one of the artworks that can be found all over the island.  
Blue Heaven is our favorite breakfast place in Key West.  This pretty calico was sunning herself on the porch at the entrance of this interesting place.  
The walkway into the restaurant’s courtyard is paved in brick and lined in lush foliage.  

Once inside the courtyard, you are in, well Blue Heaven.  The stage hosts live music, the bar is stocked for breakfast or drinks, and the ground is sand and usually teeming with chickens.

We watched this hen and rooster scratch around while enjoying some of the best banana bread on earth.

Another fun place to eat is Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery.  This is in the former headquarters of Pan American Airlines and boasts themselves as the southern most brewery.  It has a wonderful second floor deck/patio we like to sit at while we enjoy its very own beer.  I enjoyed the coconut shrimp and Havana Red Ale.

A great place to eat with a killer view is Turtle Kraals.  We found ourselves at here after a day of wandering around the island, before heading to Mallory Square for the evening entertainment.  

The rooftop views of the boats and the marina can’t be beat.  This is a lovely place to enjoy drinks while the sun sets.

I ordered an amazing meal of mango crab cakes with coconut rice and a creamy, tropical coleslaw.  Heaven on a plate!
Just down the street from the Eden House, is the Help Yourself Cafe & Market.  The menu here is everything healthy – smoothies, salads, wraps, noodle dishes, raw food dishes, and amazing breakfasts. I highly recommend you check this place out, if you get the chance.  If only it were down the street from me now…
But I will have to make do with Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots in the meantime.  

This recipe is so easy – it takes only the above ingredients, and after slicing my carrots, I prepared the rest with only one arm, due to a Greta Monster.  These are a delicious side to any meal, are fast, easy, and cheap!

Lemon Garlic Roasted Carrots
1. Slice 4 to 6 carrots in half, lengthwise and again in half, vertically.  Arrange carrots on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil.  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, dried garlic flakes, and lemon juice.  
2.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and sauce is bubbly.  

Roasted Red Cabbage

I have been seeing roast cabbage everywhere, it seems.  I think I have a Pinterest buddy who wants to make roast cabbage and it has rubbed off on me now.  I threw this together for dinner the other night, using items in the pantry.  This is an example of how I cook – with little to no measurements.  In order to blog, I have to keep a pad of paper and a pencil next to the stove to jot down my quantities and items.  Otherwise, I would never be able to duplicate recipes.

 Start with 1 small head of red cabbage and sliced it into sections no more than 1-1/2 inches thick.  Spread the cabbage out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil.

These are the only ingredients I used, plus the cabbage.

Using a spoon or brush, add balsamic vinegar to each cabbage slice.  Flip cabbage to ensure even coverage of oil and vinegar.  

Sprinkle each cabbage slice with dried minced garlic.  Add fresh ground pepper.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  
Goodness, they are so gorgeously purple and wrinkled – I just want to get out my paints and document them through artists’ eyes.  

 Our weekend flew by – we made a trip to Ikea to get a few things.  I found this amazing couch which will someday be mine.  I know there are plenty of orange haters out there, but it is my color.  I am attracted to all things orange like a moth to a porch light.

 Greta got to the self serve aisles and just wanted to run.

 Back at home, Greta was very helpful in putting together a new coffee table.  She even knew how to put screws in and that the screwdriver was the tool to use.

Sunday was the fun day – we took Greta to a UNCG basketball game.  She loved the spirit teams and the music.  We are off to a late start already this week due to freezing rain, I guess.  Hope your Monday is off to a great start!
Roasted Red Cabbage
1.  Slice 1 small head of red cabbage and sliced it into sections no more than 1-1/2 inches thick.  Spread the cabbage out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil.  Using a spoon or brush, add balsamic vinegar to each cabbage slice.  Flip cabbage to ensure even coverage of oil and vinegar.  
2.  Sprinkle each cabbage slice with dried minced garlic.  Add fresh ground pepper.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  
This bowl would be perfect with this dish.  My great grandmother had a bowl with a lid that was in the form of a cabbage.  She kept candies in it for us and it was the first thing we checked on after hellos at her house as a child.  

Roasted Pumpkin Pizza

Holy pumpkin pizza!  I made this roasted pumpkin pizza/flat bread creation earlier this week and am wishing I still had the leftovers.  
Start with 1 pumpkin pie pumpkin.  
Slice off the top, cut in half, and remove seeds.  Cut into 2-inch chunks.  

Spread onto 1-2 rimmed baking sheet(s).  Season with olive oil, sage, and rosemary.  I am ashamed that I have no fresh sage to work with. 

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.  Stir/rotate pumpkin halfway through baking time.  
After baking the pumpkin will be soft and caramelized – perfect for topping on a pizza. 

Make best pizza dough ever from previous post.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove crust from oven. Spritz or brush with olive oil.  

Add balsamic vinegar and brush to create an even coating.

Add pumpkin topping.  
Add a sprinkling of cheese.  I used the rice cheese in Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Romano flavor. 

Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 more minutes or until cheese is melted to your perfection.  The balsamic vinegar and oil base is such a lovely complement to the roasted and caramelized pumpkin – this is the best thing since Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin lovers! 
Roasted Pumpkin Pie Pizza
1. Slice off the top, cut in half, and remove seeds of 1 pie pumpkin.  Cut into 2-inch chunks.  
2. Spread onto 1-2 rimmed baking sheet(s).  Season with olive oil, sage, and rosemary.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.  Stir/rotate pumpkin halfway through baking time.  
3. Bake pizza dough (see below) at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove crust from oven. Spritz or brush with olive oil.  Add balsamic vinegar and brush to create an even coating.  Add pumpkin topping.  Add a sprinkling of cheese.  Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 more minutes or until cheese is melted to your perfection.  
1 cup tepid water (105 degree water)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons agave syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (optional)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 packet active dry yeast
1. Mix flour and yeast in a bowl.
2. Mix warm water, olive oil, agave syrup, and salt in a bowl.  
3.  Make a well in the dry ingredients.  Add liquid ingredients and mix well.  
4.  Knead for about 5 minutes, use extra flour if the dough is really sticky.  
5.  Place in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm spot for 45 minutes.  

6.  Punch down dough and let rest for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare pizza  pan(s).  

7.  Stretch (or hand toss, if you are really talented) into desired size.  

8.  If you are making a thick crust pizza, bake the dough at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes before adding and toppings.  This will ensure you do not get the doughy, uncooked center.  

9.  While your crust is baking, prepare toppings.
10. Bake pizza in 425 degree oven for about 12 more minutes or til done, on the lowest oven rack.  

Creamy Spaetzle & Chili Squash

What on Earth, right?  Read on to find out who or what had a Spaetzle fight in my dining room.
What is the sure-fire signal that autumn is upon us?  Squash cooking, roasting, baking, stewing, grilling, or showing up in any form in our household cooking.   

I diced up my squash, added tabs of margarine, and sprinkled with chili powder.  

Bake them in a 9 x 13 inch dish for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.  

Meanwhile, I boiled a large pot of salted water for my Spaetzle.  

I love this German egg pasta!  It starts off curly and after cooking becomes this meaty, soft, filling pasta.  It’s hard to have one serving of this pasta.  

Cook for 15 to 17 minutes til soft. 
For the sauce, sauté butter and onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. 
Add 1/2 cup almond milk and salt and pepper to taste.
Add two handfuls of shredded cheese.  I used rice cheese tonight instead of the sharp cheddar that we sometimes use.  
Next, microwave these bad boys.  
By now the squash should be perfectly cooked and making your entire house smell peppery. 

Everything in this autumnal meal came together perfectly. 
All it needed was a solid autumnal beer. 

I would have loved to plan ahead and Skyped my German sources, alas it was far too late for all of you!  
Any suggestions?
Other than wearing your Spaetzle shirt while cooking makes you stronger and that

leaving a bag of unsupervised Spaetzle out all day attracts nasty little cats. There are only 8 lives left on this cat.  I bet his little tummy hurts tonight!
Baked Chili Squash
1. Slice acorn squash, scoop out seeds, and place in 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Fill holes with dabs of butter or margarine, sprinkle with chili powder.  
2. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until soft. 

Spaetzle with Cream Sauce
1. Boil large pot of salted water.  Add pasta and cook for 15 to 17 minutes til soft.  
2. Drain pasta.  
3. For sauce, saute 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 a yellow onion.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add 1/2 cup milk and 2 handfuls of shredded cheese.  Cook on low until thick and bubbly.  
4. Serve sauce on top of cooked Spaetzle with a side of sausage of your choice