Last week I posted a Chocolate Pumpkin-Coconut Pudding recipe as part of a Recipe Redux Challenge brought on by the National Soyfoods Council in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Soyfoods Council is challenging Recipe Redux to inspire family, friends, and readers to add more soy foods to their diet by creating recipes using one of the most versatile soy foods available–tofu!

Since tofu tasted so good as a dairy substitute in the pudding I made, I decided to experiment with main dish meals that could also benefit from this stand-in without sacrificing taste or texture.

The experiment: alfredo sauce

Alfredo sauce. image source: http://www.buzzle.com

Background: The original alfredo recipe uses cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese cooked and served over noodles, sometimes with additional seasonings like parsley and garlic. My version uses tofu and almond or soy milk for the creamy base, and with the addition of a few seasonings, it tastes luxuriant and flavorful enough to rival the original, fat-filled version.

The verdict: I served the alfredo sauce on Ancient Grains Quinoa Spaghetti and Sea Tangle brand kelp noodles. My husband liked it (though adding some shredded Parmesan cheese on top made it closer to the real thing!) Adding lemon juice helped to sharpen up the flavor of the sauce, adding a much needed acidity to cut through the creaminess.

Creamy tofu alfredo with peas and kelp noodles–sample size!

Creamy Tofu Alfredo, serves 4
This versatile sauce–which comes out to less than 100 calories per serving–can be kept vegan or served with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, cooked chicken, or both! Pairing the sauce with 1 1/2 cups of zucchini noodles adds 45 calories, kelp noodles just 6! Got room for dessert?

Ingredients:

1 box Mori Nu Silken Lite Tofu, firm
1 cup soy milk or almond milk (plus extra if you want sauce less thick)
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
add-ins:
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup broccoli florets
4 mushrooms, sliced
juice from half a lemon

Noodles of your choice (raw zucchini noodles, kelp noodles, cooked pasta noodles, etc.)
fresh spinach

Directions:

In a blender on low speed, combine tofu and milk until smooth, stopping blender and scraping down sides with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add yeast flakes, salt, and red pepper flakes. Blend on low speed until combined, about 20 seconds. Set aside.

In a medium sized sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sautee until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, add garlic to tofu mixture and blend on low for 10-20 seconds or until combined. Pour tofu mixture into sauce pan, bring to simmer over medium heat. Add frozen peas, broccoli florets, and mushroom slices. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly, until it begins to simmer. Turn off heat, stir in lemon juice.

Serve over your choice of noodles and fresh spinach.

Creamy tofu alfredo with quinoa pasta.

Creamy tofu alfredo on kelp noodles.

Disclosure: by posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Soyfoods Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Be sure to check out the other tofu-riffic recipes at The Recipe Redux: http://teaspooncomm.com/teaspoonofspice/2012/10/grilled-tofu-blt-sandwich-giveaway/.



Happy Monday! Busy weekend again with more home improvements.  But before I start showing those pictures, I want to share a recipe featuring our Flavor of the Week: basil!

This is one of those herbs that’s supposed to be really easy to grow, but I’ve always had trouble growing them in pots. Either the soil was filled with bugs, slugs destroyed them, or it was just too hot for their roots. I used to always buy huge bunches for $2 in Chinatown and they had both Thai and sweet basil varieties. The Thai basil has darker, thicker leaves and a more “peppery” taste. I made pesto with both varieties, and couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Here is a quick n’ easy no-cook topping for your pasta that can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have enough basil, cut it with some baby spinach (they’re milder than the grown-up kind!) Add some cream and warm up before adding cooked pasta, or serve over chicken. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!


Add more or less basil, if you like (less here.) The lemony creaminess of the pine nuts can shine on its own.

Lemony Pine Nut Pesto
The lemon combines perfectly with pine nuts, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts or cashews. Inspired by Pine Nut Cream recipe from Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

3/4 cups raw soaked pine nuts or other raw soaked nuts
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn

Add nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse or blend on medium-low until pasty but coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Blend in basil and spinach, turning off machine and scraping down sides when necessary. Enjoy on pasta, as a veggie dip, or sandwich spread.

On to home renovations!

KITCHEN: I primed more of the kitchen, as well as the cat’s litter box:

Primed cabinets on the right and wall on the left. And there’s our new fridge!

The cabinet doors went from red to white on the cats’ litter box, Trixie was the first to try it out.

Put a new pattern on the display cabinet:

The original burlap looked dull against a white wall so I replaced it with some fun polka-dots!

Primed the formerly red plant stand and covered the glass top with the same fabric used in the cabinet.

YARD WORK:

The other morning Trixie and I noticed this beautiful purple hibiscus in the back yard:

Looks healthy, but I think it would like more sun.

I’ve seen tons of these plants in red, white, and yellow at Lowe’s but didn’t think anyone would buy one to plant outside…won’t the freezing temperatures kill it? Apparently not!

Purple hibiscus

There were some other trees crowding it out and blocking the sun so I asked my husband to clear the area around it. Now there’s plenty of sunlight to reach the hibiscus, and looking at the newly cleared space is giving me some outdoor ideas…

The whole area behind the hibiscus is now cleared. It would make a lovely sitting area.

I am not much of a flower-planting person but after seeing this hibiscus, I think I’d want to add more color to this part of the back yard…and maybe add an herb garden!

Mac n’ cheese fans will enjoy this hearty Three Cheese Spaetzle with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.

(*NOTE: there’s actually no German way of saying ‘two thumbs up’, people would say lecker or es ist gut. But having the approval of my husband, my in-laws, and a random German student who came by to buy our bookcase we listed on craigslist made me feel like I got the ‘two thumbs up’ rating (if not more!) Yes, I fed my spaetzle to a stranger who enjoyed it so much he was going to call his mother in Germany to say he had spaetzle in Hawaii!)

So, a new favorite comfort food of mine hails from my husband’s country of origin, Germany. Spaetzle is a noodle dish served alongside roasted meats, tossed with cheese or covered in rich gravy. With a toothsome texture and simple ingredient list, spaetzle (where Spatz means “sparrow”) can be tricky to make the first time around. Some recipes suggest using a spaetzle press or pressing the batter through a colander, but I found this messy and unsuccessful. The best method for me (which requires a bit of patience and practice) is to use a smooth wooden cutting board and the spine of a chef’s knife to cut off small pieces of noodle-shaped dough, scraping it off the board and into a pot of boiling water. The spaetzle will not be uniform (proving to everyone that it is, indeed, homemade) and closer to worm-shaped than sparrow-shapped, but the taste will still be delicious.

The basic spaetzle recipe is from one of my favorite publications, Cooks Illustrated. I’ve added my own blend of cheeses and topping to make this a nice, one-dish meal. As long as you got the basics dough recipe down, everything else should fall into place beautifully.

Three Cheese Spaetzle with Broccoli, Mushrooms and Bacon
serves 4

Noodles:
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk (I also used 2/3 cup lowfat milk and 1/3 cup cream)
2 large eggs

Cheese sauce:
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese*
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese*
*or  use 2/3 cup of any hard, salty cheese

Topping:
6 strips bacon, extra fat removed, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets

To make spaetzle:

Batter will be thick; let it rest while you bring water to a boil. (This batch in the picture is only half a recipe.)

Whisk the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. Slowly stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until combined, then whisk briefly until smooth. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for 15 to 30 minutes (do not let the batter rest any longer.)

While the batter rests, bring 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and stir in 1 tablespoon salt.

Process about 1/2 cup of the batter into the water by cutting the batter from the cutting board into the boiling water.

They look more like squiggly worms than Spatzen, but oh well!

Boil the spaetzle until it floats, about 1 minute.

Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the spaetzle to a large pan and cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To make topping:

In a separate frying pan, cook cut bacon over medium heat for 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. In same frying pan, cook mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add bacon and broccoli florets, cook for 3 minutes, turn off heat, cover.

Meanwhile, heat spaetzle on medium. Stir in cheeses until melted. Top with broccoli, bacon and mushrooms and serve.

Guten appetit!

Comfort food at its best!