Summer has begun… with eggs and tofu! by Nikki

Herb Tofu, Eggs and Spinach

Herb Tofu, Eggs and Spinach

It is finally summer holiday… if you are a teacher, live with a teacher, are friends with or know a teacher you will understand why this is such a big deal! I saw this e-card last year that said, “Summer vacation- when teachers become human again!” I laughed because it is true. The last day of school is bittersweet. We say goodbye to families who are moving, wish a happy summer to the families who will return, and of course, there is the sweetness of knowing that for 7 weeks the only time I will need to set my alarm clock is if I absolutely have to!!! Summer vacation… it is truly the time when we teachers become human again.

Trying some new recipes is on my list of summer to do’s! I want to share with you a few new dips, a tasty summer salad, and a new dessert based on available summer fruits! And tofu… I have recently grown to love tofu and often use it in place of chicken in many recipes! No, I haven’t gone all vegetarian, but I have been replacing many meat based dishes with tofu or legumes… let’s say I am exploring with eating more naturally!

It is time for me to get back in to the market, explore in my kitchen and share these yummy foods with you… Šťastný letní. (Happy summer!)

herby smoked tofu

golden tofu

Herb-Breaded, Smoked Tofu

ingredients: 1 block of tofu (natural, marinated, or smoked), dried herbs: paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic salt and crushed pepper, 1 cup of organic flour, 2 tablespoons natural frying oil (I used sunflower oil)

directions:

1. slice tofu to preferred thickness

2. lightly pat dry with paper towel

3. in a small bowl combine flour and herbs

4. heat oil in a frying pan

5. place each tofu slice in the flour mixture and fully coat

6. fry each slice of tofu until golden brown on both sides (about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness)

7. serve tofu warm with preferred sides

8. enjoy

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Mommy and Me Miso Soup by L

Miso for my Munchkins and Me!

Miso for my Munchkins and Me!

When I was a little girl, my family attended church every Sunday. I never looked forward to going to church, but I sure did get excited about what came afterwards- lunch! Instead of big family dinners at Grandma’s house, we got to dine out. Who needs to be slaving over a stove and washing up a bunch of pots and dishes? It was Sunday. The Lord’s day. We all needed to rest and eat! When I say “WE,” I happen to mean my extended Filipino family of 9. When church was over, my granny, aunties, brothers, parents and I squeezed into our big blue van and headed to a restaurant.

Now that my brothers and I have grown up and moved out of the house, it’s great to see that this tradition still lives on. During our recent visit to NYC, we had plenty of Sunday lunches to catch up on and we made the best of every one of them. However, our whole family could no longer fit into my parents’ van. Over the years, a new generation of kids were born and spouses were added on. Our original party of 9 had expanded to a party of 15!

When the girls’ turned a year old, I was sad to see my babies become toddlers. Yet, one thing that is especially great about toddler hood is how the girls can eat practically anything I eat. So, when we went to dim sum, they feasted on congee, shu mai and shrimp rolls. When we had slices of New York pizza, they devoured the crusts and licked off the tasty tomato sauce! At our family’s favorite Japanese restaurant, they tried to eat sushi with chopsticks, but found that using their hands was a faster way to eat their cucumber rolls. They also delightfully slurped away at bowls of miso soup and I discovered their appreciation for this simple soup of fermented soy paste, sea veggies and tofu.

"I can do it all by myself, Mama!" T

“I can do it all by myself, Mama!” T

In fact, I wish I had thought of it sooner because it is one of the most simplest and tastiest soups to make. Oh, and of course, there are all the health benefits that come with it too!

This is miso soup from scratch, which is very simple to make. Truthfully, anything “instant” frightens me, but we all have to do what we have to do. If you keep reading on, you will find that making homemade miso soup is as simple as making oatmeal from scratch. (Reader- I hope you are making oatmeal from scratch 🙂 ) Miso soup and you might imagine: boiling water, ripping open a packet, pouring contents into a bowl, and with a swirl your soup is ready! Um… you are really missing out on something here. Yes, you still have to boil water, but with just a few simple additions, you can have a customized bowl of miso soup in your own home. Doesn’t everyone want something personalized and authentic these days?

"Seaweed is so much fun to play with, uh, I mean eat!" P

“Seaweed is so much fun to play with, uh, I mean eat!” P

I call this “Mommy and Me Miso Soup” because of the type of miso I used: white miso. This type is less salty than the others. Should I want to make a stronger pot miso for an adult palate, I tend to use a combination of brown and white miso and add a few more tablespoons.

Easiest broth you'll ever make!

Easiest broth you’ll ever make!

It all starts with the broth. You need some Dashi broth to get started and this is REALLY EASY! You just take strips of dried kombu and place it in a pot of cold water. Then leave it overnight. In the morning, your broth is ready to go. This really is a mama/papa friendly recipe! I sneaked in a few more vegetables such as shitake mushrooms and spinach to boost up the nutrients in our soup, but feel free to leave them out. It becomes an even simpler soup if you just stick to the wakame and tofu. Enjoy!

Miso Soup and More (adapted from Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang)

Konbu Dashi Broth:

1 package of about 2 oz. of Kombu.

2 quarts of cold water

With a damp paper towel, wipe the strips of Kombu.

Then place it in a big pot filled with cold water.

Let it sit for 12 hours or like I do,  overnight.

In the morning, the dried sea vegetable will have expanded and your broth is ready!

Remove the kelp (you can use slice it up and use it in a stir-fry with vegetables) and follow the miso recipe.

P2020058

Just a few simple ingredients found at my local organic bio shop.

Miso Soup:

8 cups of Konbu Dashi

1/4 cup of Wakame (this needs to be soaked prior to using it in the soup. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain)

1 block of tofu, cut into tiny cubes

3 tablespoons (more if just for mama and papa) white miso paste

2 scallions, sliced thinly,

6 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/2 cup of spinach leaves

Set aside 1 cup of broth.

Place the rest of the broth in a deep pot.

Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat.

Add the mushrooms, wakame and tofu.

Let it cook for 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the miso paste with the remaining bowl of dashi.

Add spinach and check if the mushrooms are tender.

When ready, stir the miso paste into the soup and let it cook for another 2 minutes.

Do not let the miso paste cook any longer than that or you will lose all of its healthy benefits!

Pour into bowls and garnish with scallions.

Enjoy with your favorite lil’ person!

Arroz Caldo Comfort by L

Last week, every family member’s immune system under our roof, was attacked by some terrible and nasty germs. Stomach virus, bronchitis and respiratory infection were the evil characters that crept into our systems and viciously brought us down. Fortunately, one member of our household was able to fight off all the naughty culprits and take extra special care of us. That was Lola (that’s Grandma in Filipino.)

Arroz Caldo (with Chicken on the left, with Tofu on the right) topped with fried pieces of garlic

One of the foods I crave when I’m sick is my mother’s Arroz Caldo. Yes, these are Spanish words that you are reading, but it’s also the name of a dish in the Philippines. A literal translation would be “rice broth.” For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food for all kinds of ailments and I begged my mom to cook it for us. It may look like an ordinary bowl of porridge, but it’s not. The heavy amounts of slivered ginger, finely minced garlic and homemade chicken broth will quickly nurse you back to your regular self. Ginger can soothe that sore throat, garlic helps boost your immune system and the chicken broth, well, we all know what a good bowl of chicken soup can do for the soul, right? (My dear vegetarian friends, don’t feel left out! There is also a veggie version of this, and a stock of fresh vegetable broth has all those healing properties and more!)

Lola choosing her bird

Lola D purchased a whole chicken from the Andel farmers market that takes place every Friday in the Prague 5 neighborhood. She also picked up some local garlic, but the sweet glutinous rice and ginger used in the recipe, were bought at specialty shops around town. My mom is a big believer in the magic of garlic, so she never holds back (remember that she didn’t fall ill, hmmm?) However, if you have no need to fend off vampires, feel free to decrease the amount.

Local Czech garlic

For my one year old daughters, Lola made a milder version (less gingery and peppery) to keep them nourished during their phase of discomfort. As the season continues to change with viruses and infections lurking through the air; searching to invade and disrupt our immune systems, I hope that you will be well protected. However, if you are in need of some extra armor or a remedy, a bowl of Arroz Caldo should do the trick!

“Gimme my porridge!”

Arroz Caldo  (feeds 6-8)

1 small chicken, cut into pieces

1/4 cup of thinly sliced ginger

1 head of garlic and then another 10 cloves, all minced

1 onion, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 tablespoon of fish sauce (patis in Tagalog) OPTIONAL

1 cup of sweet glutinous rice

1 cup of jasmine rice

8-10 cups of water

1-2 strands of saffron

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the head of garlic in minced pieces.

Heat oil in a small frying pan.

Fry until golden brown.

Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil and add the 10 cloves of minced garlic and ginger.

Cook until slightly golden.

Add onion. When it is translucent, add the chicken.

Turn heat to low and continue to saute for about 15-20 minutes.

The chicken should “sweat” and begin to add some juices to the mixture.

Afterwards, add both types of rice, patis if you are using and then 8-10 cups of water.

If you want a thick porridge, stick with the lower number. If you want a more soupy porridge, use 10 cups of water.

Add saffron.

Let it boil and then lower the heat.

Cook until rice is thoroughly done, about 40 minutes.

Season to taste.

Serve with sprinkles of roasted garlic, extra fish sauce, or lemon or soy sauce or vinegar or a combination of any of these condiments.

(Note for Vegetarians: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken and cups of water. Take a block of tofu and chop into pieces. Fry in 2-3 tablespoons of oil. When porridge is ready to serve, top with fried tofu, ginger and any of the above mentioned condiments.)