Category Archives: restaurants

Tofu-riffic Tacos!

Pickled red onions on a taco?!  Oh bay-bee!  The favor combination of the vinegar-y onions, creamy guacamole and the spicy, smoky sauce on the tofu is other-worldly good.  Like something I’ve never tasted or even imagined.  You may think you don’t like tofu, but after trying these tacos, you’ll be running to the store for more!  We came across this combo in a Denver restaurant called Fuel Cafe–a tricky place to find in an industrial part of the RINO district–click through the images on their page to get a feel for the place.   Well worth the journey for tacos like these.

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To get started, you’ll need to pickle a red onion.  It’ll need time to chill and be ready for your tacos.  You can make the pickled onion ahead of time.

ingredients for pickled onions

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced.

Slice the onions as thin as you can.

slice thin

Blanch the onions in boiling water for about 10-20 seconds.  You don’t want to blanch the color out–if you see it starting to fade it’s time to drain them!

blanch

Drain completely in a colander and return to the now empty but still warm blanching pot.

drain

Add the vinegar, sugar and salt along with enough water to just cover the onions.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute.

add vinegar sugar salt water

Place onions and vinegar into a jar and chill.  The onions will turn a beautiful fresh hot-pink color!  So pretty!

in a jar

Now that your onions are chilling, prepare the sauce–it’s essentially the same as for sofritas.  The sauce can be made ahead of time.  You’ll need:

ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 2 poblanos, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili blend–like a fajita mix or a chili powder of your choice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a splash of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup broth–I use No Chicken broth
  • 1-2 TBSP tomato paste
  • NOTE-ignore the tofu, I recycled the pic from the sofritas post!  🙂

Roast your poblanos, either in a 400F oven or on your grill.  I chose my outdoor grill–it was a beautiful day!  Roast, turning until blistered on all sides.

roast poblanos

Place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal to steam.  This will help the skins slip right off.

steam poblanos

When the peppers have cooled enough for you to handle them, peel by rubbing them gently with your fingers.

peel poblanos

Then remove the seeds and stem.

seed poblanos

Place the cleaned poblanos in your blender.poblanos in blender

Then add the chipotles, cumin, chili blend, salt, garlic powder, oregano, lime juice and broth.

everything else in blender

Blend until smooth, transfer to a bowl and stir in the tomato paste.  Set aside.

add tomato paste

Now for the tacos!  You’ll need:

ingredients tacos

  • pickled red onions (see recipe above)
  • prepared sauce (see recipe above)
  • 1 (14 0z) package extra firm tofu–always choose organic tofu to avoid GMOs
  • prepared guacamole–buy it or make it yourself.  Mine is simple–avocado, garlic powder, salt, lime juice, and cilantro.
  • corn tortillas
  • chopped lettuce
  • chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges

Drain and then press the tofu by placing it on a clean kitchen towel.

drain tofu and place on towel

Wrap the towel around the tofu and place something on top to help press out most of the remaining liquid.

add weight to press water out

Let the tofu sit for at least 15 minutes (up to 30 minutes) and then cut into cubes, by cutting through the side and then cutting long sticks.  Finally cut the sticks into cubes.  The cubes will be about 1/2 inch on a side.

cube tofu

Spray a fry pan with oil and place over medium high heat.  Add tofu cubes and fry, stirring occasionally to brown on all sides–or as many as you can get.  Don’t worry about getting every cube perfectly browned.  🙂

fry tofu

Reduce heat to low and add enough sauce to coat the tofu–about half of the sauce.

add sauce

Stir to coat.  Now it’s time to put the tacos together!

stir to coat

 

Warm the tortillas inside a kitchen towel in a microwave or however you like to warm them.  Place a bit of lettuce, then tofu cubes, then a bit of guacamole, then pickled onions and finally a sprinkle of cilantro.  Look at them!  Like art!

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Squeeze a lime over the top, pick one up and have your first wondrous bite.  Oh my.

Both the sauce and the onions can be made ahead to speed up the tacos when you’re ready to make them.  Is this my new favorite way to eat tofu?  Yessssssss!  Mmmmmmmmmm-yummy!

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Filed under dinner, lunch, recipe, restaurants, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian

Chipotle-Style Sofritas

Generally, eating out–especially fast food, and being vegan in Western Colorado is not an easy thing.  And THEN(!) Chipotle introduced its fabulous Sofritas (Crumbled tofu marinated and braised in chipotles, poblanos and other spices….slurp!).  So yummy!  Any time we’re in the Chipotle neighborhood, we’re there for a Sofritas Burrito.  Michael suggested we could figure out how to make this spicy tofu nirvana ourselves; we are “accomplished” vegans, after all, now that we’ve been cooking with tofu for over a year.  🙂

By chance, another blogger liked one of my posts, and I clicked his link “to see what he’s been up to” from the WordPress notification that always shows up with a like.  In the sidebar of his blog, there it was.  Chipotle Sofritas Recipe!  I always have tofu, but needed the poblanos.  Unfortunately, none to be found, so I used a combo of serranos and cubanelles.  The resulting sofritas were spicy (thanks serranos!) and close enough to the Chipotle flavor that I wanted to make them again.

I found poblanos, adjusted the seasoning just a bit and voila!  Homemade sofritas!

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Plan ahead–the sofritas are best after marinating for at least two hours.

ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 2 poblanos, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 1 14-0z package extra-firm organic tofu (Get organic to avoid GMOs)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili blend–like a fajita mix or a chili powder of your choice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a splash of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup broth–I use No Chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf

Roast your poblanos, either in a 400F oven or on your grill.  I chose my outdoor grill–it was a beautiful day!  Roast, turning until blistered on all sides.

roast poblanos

Place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal to steam.  This will help the skins slip right off.

steam poblanos

Drain tofu and place on a clean kitchen towel.

drain tofu and place on towel

Wrap the towel around the tofu and place something on top to help press out most of the remaining liquid.

add weight to press water out

When the peppers have cooled enough for you to handle them, peel by rubbing them gently with your fingers.

peel poblanos

Then remove the seeds and stem.

seed poblanos

Place the cleaned poblanos in your blender.

poblanos in blender

Then add the chipotles, cumin, chili blend, salt, garlic powder, oregano, lime juice and broth.

everything else in blender

Blend until smooth.  Oh my does this smell amazing.  I think it would be a great sauce for all sorts of things!

blended sauce

Crumble the tofu into mostly uniform pieces.  I like mine to be about the same texture as cooked and crumbled ground beef.

crumble tofu

all crumbled

Add the sauce and stir to mix.  Toss the bay leaf in–it will add to the flavor as you cook the sofritas later, and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or over night.

add sauce and bay leaf

Place the marinated sofritas in a pan and heat, stirring until heated through–about 10 minutes.  I added a bit more broth to help keep the mixture moist.

sofritas in pan

Then serve it up however you like!  Use it however you might use seasoned taco meat.  We decided to make burritos with brown cilantro rice, pinto beans, avocado and lettuce.

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How do you like YOUR burrito?  Last time we made sofritas, we combined the leftover sofrita, beans and rice and made it into enchiladas the next night.  Yum-yum-yummy!

You’ll have leftover chipotles, and they won’t keep long in the refrigerator.  I like to place individual peppers with a bit of adobo sauce into snack size bags, seal them and then seal them into a freezer bag.

freeze leftover chipotles

Then I can thaw out however many chipotles I need for a particular recipe later.  🙂

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A Sandwich Named Lexi

My college-student son shared his favorite coffee shop, Margie’s Blue Mug, with us on one of our visits.  Besides coffee, Margie’s offers a variety of breakfast and lunch items.  One of those is my new favorite sandwich; the only sandwich I want to eat right now: The Lexi.

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I get it vegetarian/vegan, without the cream cheese and sliced turkey it usually comes with.  My son says it’s spectacular with those things, so if you’re not vegan, I’m sure he’d recommend you add those in to the somewhat quirky ingredients:

the stuff

For one sandwich

  • 1 whole wheat bagel (or bagel of your choice)
  • 1-2 TBSP prepared basil pesto (get or make pesto without Parmesan to be vegan)
  • 1-2 TBSP apricot jam (I used peach today)
  • sliced tomatoes (I used 4 slices from a roma tomato)
  • sliced red onion (I used one thin slice, separated into rings)
  • lettuce (Margie’s uses a greens mix, I had romaine)

Spread pesto on one side of the bagel, and jam on the other.  YES!  This is the quirky part, but what a combo!  These two condiments MAKE the sandwich.  They’re what make me want to make a Lexi for every meal.  Even breakfast.

spread jam and pesto

Put the lettuce, onion and tomato on the bottom half, top it with the lid of the bagel and there you are!  The Lexi!

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WARNING– this sandwich disappears in a hurry.  One second you have a whole bagel sandwich, the next second you have a plate with a crumb or two on it.  Yup.  It’s THAT yummy.

 

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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, Garden produce, lunch, recipe, restaurants, Vegetarian

Celine’s Favorite: Squash Blossom Soup

Aka: Sopa De Flor De Calabaza.  When Mom and Dad moved to New Mexico years ago, Mom immersed herself in all things Southwest, especially the flavors.  She and Dad had a favorite restaurant in Palomas, Mexico called The Pink Store, where she ALWAYS ordered their Squash Blossom Soup.  Last summer, as my plants produced more squash than I could keep up with, I decided a bit of flower pruning was in order and thought about Mom’ favorite soup.  A squash plant makes tons more male flowers than female (the ones with a baby squash at the base of the blossom), so you can gather the male flowers for this soup.  Or, if you need a break from squash, gather some female flowers as well.  Without the recipe from The Pink Store, I was on my own with my friend, The Google.  I selected a recipe that was attributed to Frida Kahlo–I think Mom would have liked the recipe with a history.  And, like Mom would have, adjusted it it to ingredients I had on hand that stayed within the intent of the original recipe.  So here you go, Mom:

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I made this prior to becoming vegan, but it will be super easy to veganize the recipe this summer.  I’ll place vegan substitutes in parenthesis.

ingredients

  • 1 white or yellow onion, peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter  (use veggie or “No Chicken” broth for sauteing)
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off, or one package frozen corn
  • chile peppers of your choice–I used 1 poblano and 1 jalepeno–finely chopped, seeded if you want less heat
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 cups chopped summer squash–I used 1 zucchini and 2 patty pans
  • 2 or 3 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1-2 cups squash blossoms, cleaned and rough-chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth (No Chicken broth)

For toppings:

  • tortilla chips
  • plain yogurt (soy yogurt or skip altogether)
  • cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • avocado

In a large pot, melt butter (heat about 1/4 cup of broth) and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent.  3-5 minutes.

saute onions

Add chile peppers, corn and cumin.  Cook for an addition 2-3 minutes.

add peppers and corn

Add squash and tomatillos, cook 2-3 more minutes.

add squash

Separate the stems and sepals from the flowers.

clean blossoms

Chop and add squash blossoms and continue to cook, 5 more minutes.

chop and add blossoms

Add broth (No chicken broth) and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to your taste.

add broth

Ladle into bowls, garnish with toppings and enjoy!

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Squash blossoms taste like squash, only more delicate.  They add a luxurious texture and flavor layer to this soup; and for me, a lovely memory of my Mom.

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Whole Lotta Love Very Veggie Lasagna

Lasagna is popular around my house.  It’s one of those meals with a whole lotta love baked right in.  Where does that love live?  In the tomato-y sauce?  The savory fillings?  The cheese?  I worried a bit that the love came from the cheese, when I decided to make a vegan pasta.  Once assembled, baked and tasted…..no more worries!  All the love was still there.

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I gathered up a rainbow of veggies from my fridge, noodles, sauce and nutritional yeast and tofu for the spectacular roasted cauliflower “ricotta.”

ingredients

For the ricotta: (From a recipe in Appetite For Reduction)

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used my current fav ingredient–truffle salt!)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • cooking spray

For the rest of the lasagna:

  • Your choice of veggies that YOU like.  For example, I used:
  • 1/2 each 4 different colored bell peppers, rough chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped into quarter-moons
  • 1 small yellow squash, chopped into quarter moons
  • 2-3 cups assorted sliced mushrooms (I have button, cremini, and shitake)
  • 9-12 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package  (These rice noodles were more narrow than the noodles I usually use, so I needed 12 rather than the usual 9 to cover the width of my 9×13 pan for the three layers)
  • 1 quart prepared pasta sauce  (I used my zesty pasta sauce)
  • 1 package vegan alfredo sauce, prepared according to the package (optional)
  • veggie broth for sauteing veggies

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon sheet or spray with cooking spray.

Prepare the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions, drain and set aside.

Prepare the vegan cheese sauce, if using, and set aside.

Chop the cauliflower into 1/2-ish pieces.

chop cauliflower

Place on prepared baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.  Toss with your hands to distribute the salt evenly.  Spray with cooking spray one more time and spread in an even layer and bake for 10 minutes.

season and roast

Flip it with a spatula, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes–until lightly browned, tender and yummy.

perfecty roasted

While the cauliflower roasts, drain the tofu, squeezing out as much of the moisture as you can.  Wrap in in a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out some more.  I’m learning that the key to tofu is getting it as dry as possible.

press moisture from tofu

Use your hands to crumble the tofu so it resembles ricotta.  Add another 1/4 tsp salt, the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and pepper. Mix and set aside.

season crumbled tofu

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the tofu crumble and mash it into the tofu with a fork or a potato masher.  (Steal a little taste here, this is yummy enough to eat by itself!)  Set aside.

mash cauliflower into tofu

Heat about 1/4 cup veggie broth in a large skillet.  Chop the veggies and add to the skillet.  Saute until they’re cooked to your liking.  I like them just getting soft, but with a little crispness left.  Aren’t all the colors pretty?  It’s super healthy to eat lots of different veggie colors.  Season with salt and pepper.

saute veggies

Add the mushrooms and cook til almost soft.  Add additional veggie broth as needed.

add mushrooms

Lightly coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  Spread 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta sauce over the bottom of the pan.

spread sauce in pan

Stir the rest of the sauce into the veggies.

add sauce

Form a layer of noodles (3 or 4 depending on the size of the noodles) and top with 1/2 of the veggie-sauce mixture.

layer noodles and half veggie sauce

Form another layer of noodles and spread about 3/4 of the ricotta evenly over the top.

layer noodles and most of ricotta

Add one more layer of noodles and top with the other half of the veggie mixture and the remaining ricotta.

top with remaining ricotta

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove foil and spread the vegan cheese sauce on top, if using and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

baked

Cut into the size pieces you want and enjoy!

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This lasagna is vegan, low-fat and gluten-free, due to the rice noodles.  No meat.  No dairy.  No gluten.  Very little fat.    Absolutely no loss of yum.  This is some seriously healthy, seriously yummy, whole lotta love lasagna.

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Even better the next day.  What veggies will be in YOUR lasagna?

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Bay Area Yumminess

Recently, we drove to meet Denver friends in San Francisco for a few days of eating, wine-drinking and a bit of San Francisco sight-seeing, and then met up with our San Jose buddies to finish out the week.  Today’s blog post will take you along for a Virtual Bay Vacay!

While in San Franciso, we relied on recommendations from locals and Yelp for restaurant selection–a great combo.  I failed to take pictures of the food I ate– horrible food blogger foul–but I have found websites for each of the restaurants to share with you, should you ever be in the Bay Area looking for a great place to eat.  I’m hoping you’ll enjoy some pictures of the sights instead of food pics.  Here we go!

The first place we ate in San Francisco was Sotto Mare, famous for it’s crab cioppino.  Reservations are highly recommended.  We called from a bar around 5–a time when walk-ins get seated–had a drink and showed up about an hour later and ended up with a one and a half hour wait.  Which was ok–we had fun making friends with other wait-ers.  The place is small, the decor  a collection of old photos and seafaring stuff.  We ordered the cioppino (enough for two, comes with bibs) and sand dabs (small flounder-like fish only found in the San Francisco area).  So. Worth. The. Wait.  We were tempted to come back for every meal, but San Francisco has SO many restaurants! 

The next day, we took a hybrid (solar/wind/diesel-powered) ferry to Alcatraz.  Very, very cool! 

The ferry leaves from Pier 33, so when we returned, it was just a short walk to Pier 23–a restaurant Michael and I heard about on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  (Beware–racy cafe logo!)  Pier 23’s food certainly lives up to the D,D&D hype.  We had fish tacos and a swordfish skewer.  It was a cloudy-misty day, so the waterside outdoor seating area was enclosed.  Still a fun, relaxed and casual atmosphere with great food!

Later that day, we rode a cable car to the cable car museum–the most amazing museum EVER!  Definately a must-see if you’re in San Fransisco.

Later, we ventured to a bar recommended by our companions’ daughter–The Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel.  Formerly the hotel’s pool, a place where famous people swam, The Tonga Room is tiki-decor on steroids, complete with thunderstorms that rain into the pool and an area that is part of a real ship.  Srong drinks (pina coladas and mai tais) and people watching rounded out our enjoyment of The Tonga Room.

That night we ended up at Bouche, a cozy French restaurant specializing in seasonally-inspired offerings referred to as “small plates.”  We found the portion sizes to be perfect–just the right amount with no need for a doggie bag.  We started with a cheese plate and then had herb-crusted halibut and stuffed chicken with tarragon potatoes.  The halibut was wonderful, but the table fav ended up being the chicken.  It was the tarragon sauce–really butteryherbalwine-ish.  Mmmmmm….gotta try to recreate that one!  We shared the tart of the day (chocolate-almond) for dessert.

Our final day in San Francisco, we took the ferry to Sausalito.  We walked around admiring the amazing art and beautiful houses clinging to the hillsides and then caught the ferry back in time to visit the SFMOMA

They currently have an amazing installment made of a 3-D block of suspended LED lights that look like twinkling stars when you walk under, and a movie when viewed straight across from a balcony.  Anchor and Hope was within walking distance.  They start you off with house-made chips and a crazy-good aioli.  The lobster roll was killer-yummy!

We spent the next day in Berkeley, visiting our San Jose friends’ son and his girlfriend.  They recommended one of their favs, the Saturn Cafe, a seriously fun and funky vegetarian restaurant.  The California Burger was HUGE, super-satisfying (didn’t miss the meat), and can be ordered with sweet potato fries!  Awesome!

After an invigorating hike the following day, we found ourselves in New Orleans….well, not actually, but with the authentic food and live Zydeco band, the Poor House Bistro in San Jose sure seems like it!  I had a shrimp po’boy and Michael had a half muffaletta, which was really enough for two to share!  We had chicory coffee (smooth!) and shared beignets for dessert. 

We don’t eat out much when we’re home, so experiencing all of these great restaurants made the vacation even more vacation-y, and eating out with friends makes the food even yummier!

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slideshow

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