Care Package

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If you are a fan of traditional, maybe even “old fashioned” home cook delicacies like lemon meringue pie, warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, bunt cakes, peanut butter cookies, and banana bread, then we definitely have some common ground.

This morning I was treated to a special piece of caring in the shape of a care package that had arrived the evening prior – a loaf of zucchini bread. And this is really some of the best because it was hand made from scratch by my youngest sister-in-law, Carolyn.

So, in the spirit of this page and the literal interpretation of my tag line, I am sharing a little bit of the awesomeness that found itself on my cutting board. As Emily says to me on occasion, food sometimes nourishes your soul. And, this certainly did.

Thanks Carolyn for caring and sharing your delicious bread.

p.s. the recipe is from the family so I’m keeping it to myself this time. Just remember, if you have to add butter or jam, you can get better zucchini bread.

Vegan and Good: Spinach Ginger Tofu

A couple of years ago a number of my friends began to betray me culinarily. That’s what it felt like to me, anyway.

My brother and his wife did this by moving their diet over to eating mainly vegetarian; a coworker was a crazy juicing raw diet vegan; a friend’s wife read a book and denounced all meat from then on; another friend changed her whole life for the better by eliminating gluten from her diet; and, my sister found that cutting out dairy helped her tremendously improve the quality of her life.

But HOLY COW it was like an identity crisis for me … how could I be the guy that provided (unsolicited) helpful recipe advice to family and friends when they ran into a cooking snag? Who was going to care about the recipes I was now able to pull off and brag about when all of them included beef or pork or other such wonderfulness?

It had me all twisted up and feeling vulnerable – like a superhero stripped of his super powers (or something very dramatic like that).

GET OVER IT, right!?! Of course, it just took a little doing but I think it was worth it.

I had to get over it because I still wanted to cook for these people. So, I went right to the source and asked my brother if there were any good vegetarian cook books in the world that I should/could get my hands on and start figuring this out. He said he liked the Moosewood Collection, and we began to talk it out. I have come to agree with him, this is a great set of books and recipes that everyone should have in their cooking library.

As it turns out, there is a lot of awesome and tasty food that can be made that satisfies all of the constraints above and more. The recipe I am sharing today is my version of a dish that was featured in Whole Living Magazine about two and a half years ago. At home we call it Spinach tofu and it is one of Emily’s favorites of all of my meals (not just vegetarian).

Here are the ingredients:
10 oz. spinach
1/2 block of extra firm tofu (pressed)
1/2 cup of forbidden rice
3 medium cloves of garlic (pressed/minced)
1 T of scallion (chopped fine)
3″ of ginger (minced)
2 whole limes (cut into wedges)
7 oz water
2 T veg oil (divided)
Siracha (to taste)

Directions:
1. Combine water and rice together in pot and simmer according to directions on rice container.
2. Mix scallions, ginger, and garlic together in bowl. Add desired amount of siracha and about a tablespoon of water.
3. Slice tofu into 2″ square pieced, about 1/4″ thick.
4. Place tofu into herb mixture and gently turn to coat.
5. Rinse spinach.
6. Add covered pan to the stove with 1 tablespoon of oil in it. Turn to medium-high heat and coat pan with oil.
7. Wilt spinach in pan for 2-3 minutes
8. Remove spinach from pan and allow to drain.
9. Add half of the remaining oil to the pan and coat it evenly.
10. Saute tofu in pan for 5-6 minutes per side
11. Remove tofu from pan, add final portion of oil to coat pan, and add cooked rice
12. Fry rice for 2-3 minutes

Plate rice in mounded row, layer over the spinach, and top with tofu squares. Squeeze generous amounts of lime juice over entire combination and eat while it’s hot.

Enjoy!

Craft Cocktail: Ginger Basil Screwdriver

So, most people grow basil in their gardens and on their balconies so they can spice up their salads, add it fresh to grilled pizzas, and save money when making copious amounts of bruschetta. And, these reasons all hold true for me as uses of my basil. But, truth be told, I began growing balcony basil so I could make this drink.

If I have the time and no repercussions, I could drink these all day and into the night. It is also important to note, that if you are feeling under the weather or don’t want to consume alcohol you can easily substitute soda water for the vodka (post shaking) and enjoy as a virgin delight. I have done that only once, so I knew I could post about it here. I like the real deal.

Here are the ingredients:

1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz ginger syrup
2 basil leaves
2 oz. orange juice
ice

Directions:
In a lowball glass, muddle one basil leaf with oj and syrup. Fill lowball with cubed ice. Add vodka (I suggest Svedka because it basically disappears as a mixer and it’s cheap). empty all contents into shaker. Cover and shake until fingers hurt, then three more times. Empty all contents back into the lowball glass. Smack second basil leaf and add as garnish. Just like the Freedom River, this herb adds its wonderful essential oils to the entire taste experience, so DO NOT SKIP the garnish!

Enjoy.