Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1 for 2 - Tofu

My experiences with the foodstuff tofu can be summarized like this:

Okay, that is only mostly true. Tofu has been around a long, long time, and for the duration my life, tofu has been the "weird hippie food" that everyone thinks a lot about, but nobody really actually eats.

But, you know, I'm all about expanding horizons, so when we went to HuHot last month, I tried some with my stir-fry. It looked like this:

In addition to the off-putting taste that I can't even describe here, the texture was unusual...and not unusual in that weird-but-I-can-get-past-it way. Unusual in that Oh-God-I-may-die-this-is-so-gross-way.

But then, I rediscovered a long-lost gem of a cookbook on my shelves (12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi), and therein was a recipe for Pepper-Ranch dressing. It occurs to me that the time is very ripe for me to try my hand at homemade Ranch dressing...and a simple recipe sits right in front of me.

The key ingredient? Tofu. My culinary nemesis. Well, sort of. Can you really refer to it as a nemesis if you've had one icky passing experience with it in a Mongolian grill restaurant? I dunno, either.

Anyway, I buy the tofu (Lite, silken). Come home and do the following:

Chop one green onion.

Process onion, two teaspoons garlic, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar in food processor. (Yes, I did just have rice vinegar sitting around in my pantry...doesn't everybody?)

Scrape down sides and add 9 ounces of the tofu, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon of garlic-infused oil (in lieu of canola). Salt to taste.

Pulse until super-smooth.

The result is something that does not heinously offend. The dressing is good, it is peppery, it is not tofu! This is excellent news!

I have just noticed on the next page of the cookbook a recipe for blue cheese dressing - I suppose that will be my next tofu honor of my husband.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pretzel Time!

My new bread machine has a dough setting, and naturally, we had to try out the soft pretzel recipe.

Easy breezy peazy, really. In fact, making the dough was simple - Mr. Oster did it. The time-consuming part was actually rolling the dough out and twisting it. However, the final products were consumed most heartily by all family members, and even Elliot claimed,

"Mom, these taste exactly like the ones we get at the swimming pool!"

There are no higher accolades than that. Of course, what little Elliot doesn't know is that Mom's pretzels contain nothing but water, flour, a little salt and sugar, and yeast.

Enjoy the before and after pictures. Notice that we have not honed our pretzel-bending skills. Very rough, we are, indeed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Honoring Hestia/Vesta

For some time now, my culinary interests have leaned towards the following: homemade and healthy. I am only slightly ashamed of the recent investments I have made to promote those ideals.

Late in the fall, I purchased a food processor, which I've always scoffed at as a useless device...until I realized I could use it to produce my own hummus, sweet potato/pumpkin puree, applesauce and mashed potatoes...and, because of its slicing/shredding capabilities, perfectly sliced mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.

I suspect I have only touched the tip of the iceberg potential with this appliance.

Mid-December brought the purchase of a rice cooker...again, another appliance I once surveyed with sarcastic disdain, perhaps more than the processor. However, after all the readings I've been doing about the Asian diet, I realized I was ignorant about rice...then I realized that rice could actually fit rather well into the health groove our family was trying to carve out.

I have since purchased and made risotto and arborio rice, and jasmine and basmati rice is on the bill of fare later in the month. With the steaming element, I have also been able to steam potatoes/green beans/fish/chicken in addition. In short, the rice is nice.

And, finally, two days ago, I finally boarded the bread making machine train. We owned one many moons ago when they were quite en vogue; however, being an issue of bad timing, we found we did not use it as much as we thought.

Knowing that the Mediterraneans and Asians honor grains, especially in the form of bread, revamped my thoughts about the great loaf. But, bread prices run the gamut at the supermarket. The store-brand will run nigh to $1.50...and there are about that many ingredients in it as well. Up the bread chain, prices go up, but ingredient lists do not go down. I was disappointed in the lack of bread choices that did NOT contain HCFS or similar...and the ones I did find without, I recoiled at the price.

Solution? Make my own. While the notion of hand-kneading and baking my own loaves was seductive, the practicals of it left me a bit wanting. So, the Oster bread machine was lovingly brought home like an orphaned child. We’ve tried a Light Rye and White bread recipe, both of which have been immensely enjoyed by all members. Yes, the breads get drier faster that store-bought but that’s because of the lack of preservatives…kind of refreshing, really.

My kitchen counter is becoming happily cluttered – thus, commence with Kitchen Goddess Training!