Spicy Tofu Crumbles with Quick Pickled Cabbage

For the first 5 weeks leading up to the holiday season, we celebrate at least one family member's birthday a week. This includes dinners and brunches and and cake filled celebrations all of which roll on into more festive gatherings and heavy eating for the Holidays.  So, to counter all of this delectable debauchery and to stay friends with my non-elastic waisted pants,  I try my best to eat breakfasts and lunches are light and nourishing, which for me is mostly plants.    


In order to actually make this happen, I have get organized, otherwise I'll just grab whatever is easy (i.e. cheese and bread).  So I make up batches of green smoothies and homemade vanilla almond milk to soak my oats in for breakfast.  For lunch, I make hearty veggie stews and soups that I can eat for a week or chuck in the freezer in individual servings,  or I gather up the ingredients for a big satisfying Grain Bowl a.k.a. Dragon Bowl a.k.a. Buddha Bowl. Whatever I end up eating, it has to be sufficient and satisfying, or I will inevitably end up raiding the stash of kid snacks before dinner, which post-Halloween is particularly dangerous.  

Sometime last year, during a similar healthy lunch kick this Bon Appetit feature came up in one of my feeds about How to Make a Week's worth of Healthy Meals in Two Hours. (I think the internet might be reading my mind!)  Included in the mix, was a recipe for Spicy Tofu Crumbles made with mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste I buy at PAT, a well known Korean grocery store here in Toronto. (BA says you can also sub Sriracha).   At the time, as is often my way with cabbage, I had purposeless, leftover cabbage kicking around, because one cabbage can provide a little too much cabbage eating for my family.   So, inspired by a few recipes I’d recently seen in whole foods blogs and books, I whipped up a batch of quick pickled red cabbage to go with the tofu crumbles, both of which could last in my fridge for up to 5 days - a perfect match.  I steamed up some quinoa and broccoli for added flavour and texture, et voila I had my very own week’s worth of healthy meals. 

This combination was so intensely flavourful, fresh and satisfying that I’ve repeated it many times since, with some variation depending on the season and what’s in my fridge.  It’s a perfect balance of tangy, spicy and crunchy and I swear these tofu crumbles could convert even the biggest tofu-hater.  You can stack it in a mason jar and take it to work, or pile it up in a big bowl at home.  I usually garnish it with some seeds and a few slices of avocado for added richness. 

As a bonus, both the tofu crumbles and the cabbage work in many other ways, together or separate - in tacos, on salads, in stir-fry or even in guacamole. So if you’re also looking to cram in a week of wholesome meals in before the Holidays while also committing to an entire beautiful purple cabbage while it’s in season, this is a great way to go.   

1 lb extra-firm tofu, sliced ¾ inch thick
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. mirin
2 Tbsp. Sriracha or gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. neutral flavoured oil

Press slices of tofu with a paper towel to dry.  Heat oil in a medium pan and then fry the tofu slices on both sides until golden brown, around 5 to 7 minutes total.  Whisk together remaining ingredients.  Once tofu slices are cool enough to handle, crumble into the spice mixture and toss to combine.  Store in a jar or glass container for up to 5 days in the fridge.  Makes 1.5 cups or around 4 servings.  

1/2 of a red cabbage, or around 4 cups, shredded or sliced thin
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
Massage vinegar and salt into the cabbage until soft, around 2 minutes.  Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.  Makes 4 cups.  

Rinse 1 cup of quinoa and then add it to a pot with 1.75 cups of broth (I like better than bouillon) or water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it "pops".   

Steam 1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets for 3 minutes, until bright green and still crisp.

To assemble take 1 cup of cooked quinoa and top with generous handfuls of spicy tofu, pickled cabbage and broccoli.  Garnish with preferred seeds and avocado slices.

The quantities here will give you 3 to 4 hearty bowls depending on appetite size and other add ins.  Everything should last up to 5 days in the fridge.  


Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Well, folks it's been a very emotional week, to say the least.  My heart and shoulders are aching from the weight of  it all, and I know I'm not alone, nor have I felt it the most.  It seems sort of trivial to be blogging about food at a time like this, but then again we still need to eat, and more importantly we must continue to nourish and feed ourselves and each other.  So in honour of that, here's a recipe for some true comfort food to help keep us strong and warm as winter approaches.    

There is something so hearty and satisfying about the classic combination of cauliflower and cheese.  It's like mac and cheese, but with out the heaviness of an indulgent pasta feast, and the delicately nuttiness of cauliflower pairs perfectly with the nippy tang of a crumbly old cheddar.  

When I was a kid the only way we ever ate cauliflower was boiled until squishy and bathed in a thick orange cheese sauce, usually to accompany some sort of roast.  We never thought to cook it in the oven until crispy and caramelized or to toss it with potatoes and fragrant curry spices.  And while I love all of these other delicious cauliflower preparations,  I always enjoy revisiting the comforting cheesy flavours of my British-Canadian childhood, as do my kids, who request this soup on a weekly basis.  

This recipe comes from Jamie's Food Revolution, one of my favourite Jamie Oliver cookbooks.  It first came out in 2008 and it's full of simple, delicious and relatively affordable recipes that have become a part of our family's regular meal rotation.  This is such a simple soup to prepare, and it's hearty enough to stand on it's own as a meal, especially with a hunk of good bread.  Jamie recommends topping it with a bit of crumbled bacon which you will not regret doing, if you swing towards the carnivorous side. Surprisingly, despite the dairy component, this soup freezes beautifully so I often keep some on hand as a quick kid dinner or a thermos lunch. 

2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
8 cups of cauliflower
olive oil
7 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)
8 oz of Cheddar cheese (Irish, smoked or the end bits of various cheeses are all tasty here) 
1 tsp mustard (Dijon or English)
optional: pinch of nutmeg

1.  Peel and roughly chop the carrots, onion and celery and slice the garlic.  Chop the cauliflower into florets.  Don't worry too much about size/ shape because everything will be blended at the end.  

2.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and toss all of the veggies in.  Turn the heat to medium and leave for about 10 minutes, until everything is starting to soften.   

3.  Add broth to the vegetables, bring to a boil and then simmer for another 10 minutes with the lid on.  Stir occasionally.  While this is simmering, grate your cheddar.

4.  When everything is soft, turn off the heat and add your cheese and mustard.  Blend until silky smooth using an immersion hand blender or whatever liquidizer you have.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate in a pinch of nutmeg, if you like.  

Serves 6 to 8