Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tofu so tasty you'll eat it with a spoon

Consider this - I turned on my oven during last week's brutal heat wave in order to make this tofu. It's THAT good. It might not look or sound that appetizing, but this Thai-peanut tofu sandwich spread is without a doubt the tastiest tofu I've ever had. The origins of this recipe go back to a couple of years ago when I bought some Thai tofu spread at a farmer's market. I devoured it in no time, and inspired by the ingredient list printed on the container, decided to try making a batch of my own.

The version I make now is a fair bit different from the original product, but I love it even more. It's ridiculously easy to make for something so delicious, and is versatile - it's particularly good in a toasted sandwich, but is also good thrown into a salad, paired with crackers, or just eaten with a spoon. I should note that calling this a sandwich spread is a bit misleading - sandwich filling would be more accurate. It's crumbly and doesn't really bind together, so it can make for a messy sandwich. Trust me - you won't care. Just be sure to eat it over a plate or container so the yummy tofu pieces don't escape you.

Thai Tofu Sandwich Filling (makes about 4 servings)

1/2 package firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 6 slices
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp sesame oil
Green onions, thinly sliced (as many as you like)
1-2 tsp. lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Pat the pieces of tofu with paper towel to remove excess moisture, and arrange pieces in a greased casserole dish. Combine peanut butter with water until smooth (adding a little extra water if necessary - you want the mixture to be pourable, but not watery). Stir in tamari and sesame oil. Pour sauce over tofu, turning pieces to coat with the sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (do this after preparing the tofu so the tofu can marinate while the oven heats up). Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the pieces every 10 minutes. The peanut sauce will dry up a fair bit, but that's ok!

Transfer the cooked tofu pieces to a bowl and mash the tofu with a fork. You want the tofu to be in small crumbles, not mashed into a paste. At this point I usually add a little extra pb, tamari, and sesame oil and mash them into the tofu - about a teaspoon of each. This helps intensify the peanut sauce flavour that has been baked into the tofu as well as keep the tofu moist. Add green onions, lime juice and cilantro and mix. You can eat this right away while still warm, but in my opinion it's even better cold the next day. It keeps well in the fridge for at least a few days - it probably won't last very long.

I've done my best to write down measurements for this recipe but in all honesty this is one of those recipes where I eyeball everything, so use your best judgment. If the peanut sauce doesn't adequately cover all your tofu, make a little extra. Add ingredients at the end to taste - if you like your Thai food with lots of lime, add more lime! If you love tamari, add a little extra. Enjoy!

Monday, July 5, 2010

More Jillian workouts with The Biggest Loser Power Sculpt

Despite my love of the 30 Day Shred, a few months ago I was on the lookout for a workout video that was a little less intense so I could still work out on days when I just wasn't up for the Shred. After some research I purchased The Biggest Loser Power Sculpt. Though I've never watched The Biggest Loser, I knew I was a Jillian fan, and one of my biggest fitness goals lately has been increasing strength. I figured this workout would be a good way to transition from 2 pound weights to 5 pound weights.

The video has 3 levels, but unlike 30 Day Shred, you are not supposed to do the levels separately. The DVD recommends doing Level 1 for 2 weeks, then Level 1 and Level 2, then finally all 3 levels. I started out with Level 1 and my 2 pound weights, but found it pretty easy, so added on Level 2. What a difference! Level 2 is only an extra 10 minutes, but it is intense, and doing it after already doing Level 1 for 20 minutes really wipes me out. I have yet to move up to Level 3 - I will do so sometime when it's not 30+ degrees in Ottawa.

I have since switched to 5 pound weights to do this workout as I had hoped - for me, this makes the workout quite a bit harder, but it's nice to know I'm actually working those muscles! For a few of the exercises in Level 1 Jillian recommends holding both hand weights in one hand. Apparently I have tiny hands because my hands are too small for this! Instead I use a 5 pound weight and a 2 pound weight together and that works well.

I would recommend this workout for exercise beginners as that is who it is designed for, with simple moves and less intensity than the 30 Day Shred. That said, this is no walk in the park! This workout gets me sweating and my heart pumping, like a good workout should. I probably do this more than 30 Day Shred now (again, I claim the heat as my excuse), but ideally I would be alternating them in order to do each workout at least twice a week. That's my goal to work towards!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Larabars - or should I say Laurabars?

I love Larabars, but hate the price. The best price I have seen them go for in Ottawa is 3 for $5 at Loblaws, and that doesn't happen very often. The normal price is $2 each, and I've seen them at the Natural Food Pantry for $2.50 (the Natural Food Pantry, Ottawa's price-gouging health food store). I've thought about making my own bars several times, and on my last trip to Loblaws, where it seems Larabars have now disappeared from the shelves, I decided it was finally time.

I followed this recipe from Enlightened Cooking to make Cherry Pie Larabars. The result, while not exactly the same as a Larabar, is still an amazing substitute. I found the texture seemed to have a bit more date/cherry than it should - but that could be because I ended up adding a few more dates and dried cherries than the recipe called for when it seemed that I had too much chopped nuts. Regardless, the flavour was bang-on, and overall these bars are delicious. Easy to make too - the whole process probably only took me about 15 minutes. It took a little while for my food processor to thoroughly chop up the dates and cherries, but in the end it did the job (and I just have a plain old Hamilton Beech processor, nothing fancy). I will have to get the mathematically inclined BF to help me do a cost-analysis of these the next time I make them. Dates, dried cherries, and pecans are not the cheapest ingredients in the world, but I still think bar for bar I have to be saving money.

Other homemade Larabars on the web:

Southern, Eh? - Pecan Pie Larabars
Oh She Glows - Banana Bread, Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Coconut Cream Larabars