Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Cold Tofu Noodle Salad May 23, 2011

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 8:19 AM
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As a vegetarian cook, I regularly work with tofu to create Asian food at home. A lot of non-vegetarians get freaked out by tofu, but I truly believe more people would like it if they had properly prepared tofu. Over the past year I’ve discovered that baking tofu with a little sesame oil and soy sauce marinade is a fool-proof way to season tofu and create the right texture. From there you can toss the tofu in with any stir-fry or noodle dish and complete your meal.

The other week, as the Texas heat started to kick into high gear, I wanted to create a cold Asian dish with tons of flavor and just a little spice for dinner. I started with this recipe for curried udon noodles and added a jalapeno and chili sauce instead of a red chile. For the noodles, it’s always worth a special trip to an Asian market if you can make it happen. The texture and thickness of the noodles is so much better than what you often find in the Asian section of your grocery store. I saved back some of the sauce in step 4 to add when combining the noodles with the baked tofu. I chilled the tofu and noodles for about an hour and let it come almost to room temperature before serving.

A simple, flavorful dish that was great that night and even better later in the week for a lunch leftover meal.

 

Updated Tuna Noodle Casserole May 13, 2011

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 1:58 PM
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As someone who loves a ‘one-pot-wonder’ meal, as well as cheese paired with any sort of carb, it’s surprising that I’ve not made many casseroles. That all changed this week. Even though I work from home and have my kitchen close by all day, I understand that having a Rolodex of make ahead meals can be an asset for any cook.

As a tribute to classic Americana dinners, I thought make ahead meal #1 should be the hated/loved tuna noodle casserole. I searched and found this recipe from The Cooking Channel sounded like a great foundation for an updated take on this standard. Now, this isn’t a Top Chef-style complete revamp of a recipe, but just some tips on making the dish more flavorful and fresh.

Here are the swaps:

  • Butter, onion, sherry,soy sauce, egg noodles — just leave as is
  • Just say no to white button mushrooms. They have minimal flavor and add little to the dish. I used portabellos instead
  • Vegetable stock instead of Chicken
  • Cream instead of whole milk (because that’s what I had in the fridge)
  • More frozen peas than suggested. No reason why you shouldn’t have a full serving of veggies in the casserole
  • Canned tuna has never looked good to me, but I’ve always been a fan of the tuna packets. I chose a Yellowfin tuna in olive oil – not drained
  • Aged white cheddar, not yellow
  • Top with the recommended Panko breadcrumbs

The casserole was full of flavor but not terrible rich or saucy. The Panko added a great crunch and using soy sauce to flavor the mushrooms helped keep everything from getting too salty. I forgot to snap a photo when it came out of the oven, but I decided to capture the leftovers after having it again for lunch today. You can tell there isn’t too much left. Yum!

Oh, and if you have any other casserole or make ahead meal ideas, send them my way!

 

Desserts from the heart, not a box May 3, 2011

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 11:22 AM
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My love for baking as a kid is really what got me interested in cooking as an adult. The satisfaction of creating a meal is only topped by smiles from friends and family after their first bite of your dessert. After a long, yet fruitful (and fruit-filled to fight sweets cravings) Lent, I was ready for some non-stop dessert making. I tried four new recipes in the span of 10 days and learned a good bit about what makes a dessert really good and a baker really crazy. I forgot to take a photo of my fourth dessert, brownies, but I promise they looked as good as they tasted.

Dessert 1: Lemon Angel Pie (for Passover/Seder) – Vanilla meringue crust, lemon curd filling, whipped cream top

Lessons learned:

  • There are a lot of good ideas for dessert that can easily accommodate diet restrictions without tasting like a dessert of affliction.
  • Fresh, homemade whipped cream always tastes better and is worth the effort.
  • People forget how much they love lemon.
  • It never hurts to try to make a boring-looking dessert more attractive

Dessert 2: Flourless Chocolate Torte (Passover/Seder and Chocolate Lovers) – dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, magic

Lessons Learned:

  • Always buy the best ingredients (read chocolate) you can find. Just do it. It’s worth the money.
  • Know your audience. Not everyone appreciates dark chocolate, so be sure to add some sweet whipped cream on the side.
  • I wish I had two ovens.
  • If you have to transport it, keep it in the spring-form pan.

Dessert 3: Blueberry Pie (My Jeffrey’s Birthday) – fresh blueberries, old-fashioned crust, more corn starch than you think

Lessons Learned:

  • Pay attention to the rack position in the oven, even if the recipe doesn’t make a suggestion.
  • Try the fruit first before deciding how much sugar to use. That way the filling isn’t too sweet.
  • Don’t multi-task when rolling out your dough for the crust. You will just create more work.
  • Let go of perfectionist tendencies and realize that a crisper crust authenticates a homemade pie.

Dessert 4: Fudge Brownies – unsweetened chocolate, coffee, chocolate chips

Lessons Learned:

  • Everybody likes brownies, so go ahead and bake them.
  • Use big chocolate chips or chocolate chunks in the brownie batter. A crunch of chocolate in a fudgey brownie is sublime.
  • Don’t have coffee ice cream? Shame on you.
  • No need to feel like you must eat all the brownies at once, stick them in the freezer and pull one out as you need them.