The questions are endless:  should I eat less fat?  More fat?  Less carbs?  Red meat?  Should I stop eating gluten?  What is gluten??  What’s the deal with eggs?

If you are confused about nutrition, you are not alone.  In fact, if the flip-flopping nutrition industry is any indication, a lot of people are confused.  This article does a pretty thorough job of addressing a lot of these questions, citing actual scientific sources, and hopefully eliminating some of that overwhelmed feeling.

Want some short answers?  Healthy fats are healthy.  Unhealthy fats are not.  Eat carbs in the form of fruits and veggies.  Grass-fed red meat is the way to go.  Don’t go gluten-free if you aren’t allergic to it.  Gluten=wheat.  Eggs are the perfect nutrition package.

 

Mongolian Tofu

IMG_6797

I’ve decided to go 3 for 3 on the quick and easy meals route and finish this week off with a wonderfully delicious tofu dish. On the hit or miss scale of things, tofu has generally always been on my ‘miss’ list.  The only kind I’ve consistently liked is the soft kind that goes in mapo tofu, a Szechuan dish that my friend L introduced me to.  So, not only was this my first time cooking tofu, but it was also the first time I’ve decided I liked it.  Why did I decide to cook something that I thought I didn’t like, you ask?  For science!  Just kidding.  Really, it’s because, every once in a while, I take stock of how my tastes have changed, and I decided it was time to give it another try (and that, my friends, is How I Met Brussel Sprouts).

If I’m being honest, though, I have to admit that the real star of this dish is the sauce. The tofu is great and all, particularly since it’s so quick-cooking and gives you 2/3 the protein of a similar amount of chicken for almost half the caloric intake, but the sauce. Oh, the sauce.

I’m not 100% sure that there’s actually any Mongolian component to it, but what I do know is that it’s tangy, salty, sweet, and the kind of thing that goes great on everything. In fact, Mr. Little Fish dumped it on his pork kabob and proclaimed that he didn’t know how he felt about tofu but he would be down for this sauce on anything.

I like to think that the modifications I made on the recipe helped contribute to the sauce’s stardom.  I swapped out the sesame oil for coconut oil for the sauteing, because certain oils are not meant to withstand the high heat of stir frying, and both sesame and olive oil are better used for garnish than for cooking since they tend to degrade and break down in the face of high temperatures.  I also added sriracha to the sauce, because, well, I don’t think I have to explain that one.  I lowered the sugar content, because I find I never need as much sugar as most recipes call for.  And lastly, I decided I wanted the flavor of the sesame oil after all, so I added back some of it at the end.  Next time I make this I would also like to saute some onions before putting in the tofu.

Mongolian Tofu
Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 block extra firm tofu  (see Step 1 for directions on preparing this ingredient)
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chili sauce, like sriracha
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced (PROTIP #1:  I keep my fresh ginger in the freezer so that it doesn’t go bad.  The upside to this is that when I grate it on my microplane, it’s not all wet and hard to work with!)
1 clove garlic, minced (PROTIP #2:  Ever notice how your knife gets really sticky when you’re mincing garlic?  Just run your knife under some water before you start mincing, and it will all slide right off!)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 green onions, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime

Directions:

1.  At least 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking, put your blocks of tofu on a plate, cover with a stack of paper towels, and then place a heavy pan or other object on top.  This will squeeze out the water from the tofu, allowing you to make it crispier when you fry it.  Once you are ready to start cooking, cube the tofu into 1-inch-ish squares and put in a bowl.  Add the cornstarch to the tofu and toss to combine.
2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, sriracha, and 1/2 cup water.  Set aside.
3.  Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet or wok.  Add the tofu to the skillet and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until all sides are browned.
4.  Add the sauce to the tofu after it browns, stir, and then bring everything to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce reduces.
5.  Remove from heat, and add the sesame oil and lime juice.  Stir together.
6.  Serve with veggies, rice, or as a lettuce-wrap type meal.  Garnish with the green onions, and enjoy!

Tofu lettuce wrap with carrots!

Tofu lettuce wrap with carrots!

What’s your favorite go-to weeknight meal?

Mongolian Tofu
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 block extra firm tofu (see Step 1 for directions on preparing this ingredient)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili sauce, like sriracha
  • ½ tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lime
Directions
  1. At least 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking, put your blocks of tofu on a plate, cover with a stack of paper towels, and then place a heavy pan or other object on top. This will squeeze out the water from the tofu, allowing you to make it crispier when you fry it. Once you are ready to start cooking, cube the tofu into 1-inch-ish squares and put in a bowl. Add the cornstarch to the tofu and toss to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, sriracha, and ½ cup water. Set aside.
  3. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet or wok. Add the tofu to the skillet and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until all sides are browned.
  4. Add the sauce to the tofu after it browns, stir, and then bring everything to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce reduces.
  5. Remove from heat, and add the sesame oil and lime juice. Stir together.
  6. Serve with veggies, rice, or as a lettuce-wrap type meal. Garnish with the green onions, and enjoy!

Chia Breakfast Pudding

I am all about quick and easy meals this week (like this one), and breakfast is something that I know everyone is always trying to make as painless as possible.  Most of us have zombie-level brainpower in the mornings that leaves us incapable of handling kitchen utensils with any dexterity.  When I feel a week like this coming on, I try to come up with no-fuss breakfasts that I can either portion out on Sundays or throw together any which way I want on a weekday morning.  I’ve already given you a smoothie recipe, which is about as easy as it gets, but I’ve also been known to make a huge batch of slow-cooker oatmeal, and lately I tried the latest craze to hit the interwebs:  chia pudding.

That’s chia, not chai (although I  bet a chai chia pudding would be amazing!).  Chia seeds are the one and the same that came in those chia pets we all grew up seeing on TV (if not owning).  But instead of sprouting the seeds as you would in the pet, you just eat them.  Chia seeds are a “superfood” that you can find in your health-food section, and they have loads and loads of health benefits, including being high in calcium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.  I trust that you guys are all good at The Google, so I won’t bore you with the details.

But full disclosure:  if you have a thing about texture, this may not be for you.  Soaking the seeds whole overnight vs blending them as I do below will give you different results.  But, essentially, if you are OK with a cross between tapioca, pudding, and Cream of Wheat, it really is an easy and healthy way to have a grain-free and dairy free morning!  I make mine a basic vanilla that I can use as a base for many combinations during the week (including adding cocoa powder to it one day!).

Vanilla Chia Pudding
Adapted from Detoxinista
Makes 4 servings

20140120_093123

 

Ingredients:

1 can full-fat coconut milk (almond milk would work just as well!)
6 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
Any of the toppings you would use on oatmeal!

Directions:

1.  Combine everything into a blender, and blend for about 3-4 minutes until well-blended.
2.  Pour into an air-tight container, and let chill overnight, so that the chia seeds thicken the mixture up a little.  You could also portion the mixture into small jars/glass containers if you intend on grabbing-and-going on your way out.
3.  In the morning, I prefer mine a little warm so put my portion into the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Top with whatever tickles your fancy!  One day I used leftover berry compote , and then the next I used banana, dried blueberries, and walnuts!  Both were delicious!

20140121_073756

 

What’s your favorite no-fuss breakfast?

Chia Breakfast Pudding
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (or almond milk)
  • 6 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • Any of the toppings you would use on oatmeal!
Directions
  1. Combine everything into a blender, and blend for about 3-4 minutes until well-blended.
  2. Pour into an air-tight container, and let chill overnight, so that the chia seeds thicken the mixture up a little.  You could also portion the mixture into small jars/glass containers if you intend on grabbing-and-going on your way out.
  3. In the morning, I prefer mine a little warm so put my portion into the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Top with whatever tickles your fancy!

 

My NatureBox!

20140125_133404

I’m really liking this whole concept of having monthly boxes of Something Fun arrive at your house.  Especially when that Something Fun is a selection of things chosen by someone other than you.  It’s the surprise and adventure factor.  I’ve signed up for a clothing service that does this (because I am woefully inept at caring about fashion), and I recently bought a groupon that gave me 3 months of NatureBox for about half the price!

I’ve had my eye on NatureBox for a while, but, truth be told, I’m not really enough of a snacker to justify the cost overall.  Most diet advice suggests that you eat 5 meals a day–3 normal ones and 2 “snacks”–but I found that once I started eating more proper meals, I didn’t need snacks.  I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but I am suggesting that you pay attention to your own body and do what works best for you.

But for those of you that do need snacks, NatureBox’s schtick is that they provide you 5 full-sized nutritionist-approved snacks per month.  This means snacks that are free of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, trans fat, and artificial flavorings.  I got my first NatureBox on the weekend, and I have to say that I am very pleased with the results!   Here’s what I got, in order of what I most enjoyed to what I least enjoyed:

1.   French Toast Granola

IMG_6785

I eat it with banana slices, peanut butter, and homemade almond milk!

2.  Dried Granny Smith Apples

Better than the Trader Joe's ones!

Better than the Trader Joe’s ones!

3.  Honeycomb Sunflower Kernels

Lightly sweet and a little salty is a perfect combination on these!

Lightly sweet and a little salty is a perfect combination on these!

4.  Pistachio Power Clusters

I would like these a little less sweet, but the flavor of the roasted nuts is really great!

I would like these a little less sweet, but the flavor of the roasted nuts is really great!

5.  Baked Sweet Potato Fries

These are not actually fries, but crackers.  I would have preferred fries, but I added a little bit of cayenne pepper to them and they were much better!

These are not actually fries, but crackers. I would have preferred fries, but I added a little bit of cayenne pepper to them and they were much better!

If you are interested in trying out NatureBox for yourself, use this link to get 50% off your first box!  I should mention here that I am in no way affiliated with NatureBox; I just thought I would share my newest food discovery with you all!

 

Huffington Post has a great article on the mistakes cooks make that might be making your time in the kitchen harder!  I figured this was a nice “what not to do” complement to the TheKitchn article I posted last week!

I, for one, will be trying to onion technique!

UPDATE:  Confirming that I tried the onion technique, and I’m happy to report that there were ZERO tears involved, and it really was much faster and easier!  This Ramsey fellow must really know what he’s talking about.  😉