If you don’t like red bell peppers (what is wrong with you!?!), then you’re probably not a fan of me either right now. Today’s recipe is following along that vein with even more of that red gold (does that fit?). I was at the local Trader Joes, being reminded how much I love that store (and their prices), and picked up some tofu. The great thing about tofu is that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own, taking on whatever flavor of it’s fellow ingredients. The horrible thing about tofu is that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own, taking on whatever flavor of it’s fellow ingredients.

Red Pepper and Cabbage

So what do I do? I add cabbage; another ingredient that is not well known for it’s vibrant flavor. Red pepper takes the save, with help from its trusty side kick, the caraway seed. Not something one often cooks with, all I can think of is bread, but it worked out well.

Red Pepper and Onions

Oh, and use a big pan for this. This, I learned the hard way.

Tofu and Cabbage Stir Fry with Red Pepper

Tofu And Cabbage Stir Fry With Red Bell Pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion; chopped
16oz extra firm tofu; cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 lb cabbage; roughly chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine

In a large pan, sauté the onions in oil under medium heat until translucent; approximately 10 minutes. Raise to medium-high, add the red bell peppers and caraway seeds, cooking for another five minutes, then add tofu and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, toss to combine well, cover, and cook for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally.

Uncover, add the rice wine, soy sauce, half a cup of water and cook for another 10 minutes. Cabbage will be tender but still have a bit of bite to to it. Serve and enjoy.

Ghost Baker’s Kitchen is Temporarily Closed!

Well, it’s finals week here in my grad program… which means I’ll be disappearing for a few days.

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That’s right, the kitchen is closed! We’ll be living off of leftovers and take-out, the perfect thing to get ready for shorts/bathing suit-wearing weather.

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I leave you with some pictures taken earlier today of the devil dog himself, Biscuit. That’s right, in addition to taking off for a few days I’m also the kind of person who doesn’t mind putting their dog in clothes…

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Red Pepper And Broccoli Cous Cous Pilaf

Red Pepper and Broccoli Couscous Pilaf

I really love couscous. It’s so simple, almost flavorless, but I love the fluffy texture, the fact that it fills you up like grains without weighing you down, how well it seems to work with other ingredients, oh and how good it is for you. It’s gotta be the grain with the least amount of calories. ;) Even when you go whole grain, you gain extra nutrition and lose nothing in flavor. Kickin’

Steamy Broccoli Red Pepper and Onion

I love the colors of this dish the bright reds and greens of the vegetables pairing very well with the earthy tone of whole wheat couscous; creating a well balanced work of art that sustains tastefully and visually. While I wouldn’t call this a heavy dish, couscous is a grain and pushes this to the upper echelon of the “light” scale. Serve as a main course that won’t weigh down or as a side dish, paired with some protein. I can see some sort of chicken dish as an excellent accompaniment.

Aromatics and Herbs

Red Pepper And Broccoli Cous Cous Pilaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 yellow onion; chopped
2 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper (or an entire on depending on your heat limits)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
generous pinch of salt (optional)

6 oz broccoli; chopped into small florets (2-3 cuts depending on the size)
1/2 couscous

Steam your broccoli until only slightly tender, about five minutes and remove from your steaming water source. Set aside. Bring a bit more than half a cup of water to a boil i a small pot, add couscous, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for at least five minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Cook your onions (with the oil) in a large pan at medium heat for one minute. Add the red bell pepper and cook until the onions become partially translucent and the red pepper has become slightly soft; approximately 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Reduce to medium heat, add your garlic, jalapeño and herbs and cook until the garlic is fragrant; approximately 1 minute.

Reduce to medium-low heat and add your broccoli, couscous, tamari and salt. Mix well and cook until the broccoli is tender. Remove from heat, serve and enjoy.

Chai Tea, Tai Chi?

I’m not a tea drinker. For years I was a diet pepsi in the morning person, then I slowly warmed up to coffee. Now that we have a Keurig, coffee and I have turned into best friends.

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I tried a Chai Tea Latte for the first time about two weeks ago. I was with someone who ordered one and raved about it, so I thought it might be time to broaden my horizons. I would have licked the cup dry if I could have reached that far… Chai tea is usually a black tea with an amazing blend of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves with milk. In latte form, it’s chilled and iced.

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Unfortunately when I got home to look up a chai tea recipe I learned about the nutrition facts. Apparently, like most things I enjoy most in this world, chai tea lattes are delicious because they are also packed with whole milk and sugar.

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(Someone needs to tell Biscuit that a watched pot never boils…)

In making a homemade chai tea, I knew that skim milk wouldn’t cut it this time. The chai tea latte I had was full flavor and rich. I thought that Silk Light Vanilla Soy Milk might give me the boost I needed without adding lots of calories and fat.

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My first trial was adapted from Bobby Flay. It consisted of 8 chai tea bags, 4 cups of water, 1 cup of Silk Light Vanilla Soy Milk, ice and a pitcher. I hoped the vanilla flavoring in the soy milk would let me scoot by without having to add sweetener, but I was wrong! Bobby Flay recommends adding honey to the mixture as it cools in a pitcher, but I found that honey doesn’t disperse very well in a cold beverage. I used agave syrup with much better results.

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This turned out pretty well, but it’s not fooling anyone without whole milk. I need to find a way to bring in the richness and thickness of whole milk, without the fat and calories. Is this a fruitless mission? Have you guys ever made your own Chai Tea Latte? I’m thinking I might try fat free condensed milk? I would love to hear from you all.

To Those in Charlottesville Going to the Foxfield Races…

First off, I hope you have a good pair of boots to go with your sundress, because there is some yucky rain and mud going on!


But secondly, maybe you should consider staying cool with some Mint Julep Ice Cream from Simply Recipes while you’re there. Wikipedia says, “Traditionally, students and other attendees dress in a southern, aristocratic style often seen at other steeplechase and horse racing events. Seersucker, bowties, and pastel colors predominate the atmosphere, particularly at the spring race.”

This would definitely complete the look. :-P

Red bell peppers! I’m totally rockin’ the whatever’s-on-sale cooking mentality right now and, of course, with all the veggies coming in it is going quite well. It’s a bit wild how red bell peppers and green peppers are only different by how ripe they are. Mother nature, you are full of surprises.

Peeled Red Peppers Soup - Almost Ready

This recipe’s a little more involved with the roasting, but the process really extracts some great flavor and the richness of the cream works well. I personally think bisques (like many soups) are better the day after. Not that I waited that long, of course.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Bisque
4 red bell peppers
2-3 tablespoon oil
1 onion
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
pepper
1/2-1 cup cream

Roast your peppers, peel, and set aside. With the oil, sauté your onion and carrot until translucent; about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the bell pepper, enough stock to cover and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Let cool briefly and blend in 2-3 batches and strain back into the pot. Add the cream, gently reheat and add salt & pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.

The Sobering Truth: Healthy Foods That Can Make You Fat

Here’s an article to humble you this weekend.

Sushi, dried fruit, tofu, wraps and more… they’re all the enemy!

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

I remember when I worked in an office and cake or cupcakes were brought in for a birthday… in the crowd there were always a few frosting people.

Frosting people only go for the frosting, sometimes only eating the cake part that actually touches the frosting or no cake at all. In either case they’re easily identified by leaving a pile of untouched cake left on their plate. I’ve never understood these people and certainly have never been one.

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The frosting has almost always been my least favorite part of any cake.. homemade, store-bought, wherever. I’ve made buttercreams, whipped and meringue frostings myself, but none of them were really outstanding. Many times I make cake without frosting at all, just adding some powdered sugar or Cool Whip. Remember my Kitchen Tips post on Broken Buttercreams? Yeah.. I was no stranger to broken buttercreams either.

Then a few weeks ago my Sur La Table The Art and Soul of Baking cookbook hit another home run (seriously, guys.. please buy this book?). The winner this week is White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting. Yes.

I first made it to go with Devil’s Food Cupcakes for a friends birthday. I found myself going for the bowl of leftover frosting in the fridge in the middle of the night (please tell me I’m not alone here?). For weeks after that I tried to find a cake to make that would really compliment the frosting (the Devil’s Food Cupcakes were a little too dense). My plan was to make a Guinness Cake with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting mimicking the head on a Guinness beer. My cake failed.

Last week though I paired it with Cookie Madness’ Really Good Chocolate Bundt Cake. Like the title says, the cake is really good! I’ve made it twice before and it’s always perfectly moist with a light crumb. I love adding coffee to chocolate cake because it really helps the cake actually taste like chocolate instead of flour (I’m not typically a big fan of chocolate cake.. they’re just not chocolatey!). This bundt and a drizzle of white chocolate frosting are a beautiful match. Please try it, and save some frosting for me.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking
makes enough to drizzle over one 10 inch bundt

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used low-fat with fine results)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon real vanilla extract
4 ounces white chocolate (I use white chocolate chips, I can’t stand the taste of melting chocolate)

Consider rereading my Kitchen Tips post on Broken Buttercreams – using room temperature cream cheese and butter is pivotal to avoid broken frosting.

Blend cream cheese, butter and lemon extract on medium/low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer, but increase the blend time a little) for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat again for a few seconds. Sift in confectioners’ sugar and blend on low for a few seconds. Scrape down the bowl again and add vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Melt white chocolate (see our tips for melting chocolate), and cool for a few minutes. Stir white chocolate then add to the cream cheese mixture. Beat thoroughly.

Use immediately, or, frosting can be made up to 3 days in advance if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. To soften, allow it to sit out to room temperature for 30 minutes.

Experimentation – Orange Reduction Sauce

Broccoli Florets
Orange Juice Simmering Reduced

I had a hankering for something with a citrus taste to it, which is fitting given the plethora of oranges available lately. At first I tried something similar to what I’ve done with lemon: a little oil, a little tarragon, a couple tablespoons orange juice and some minced ginger. The results were lackluster, with very little of the individual flavors coming out and completely missing my citrus-like goal. Sadness.

Broccoli Tossed With Reduction

After mulling it over, thinking of some of the asian-inspired citrus dishes I’ve had (orange chicken), I decided to give it another go. Instead of a splash of orange juice I decided to make an orange reduction sauce. Reductions are great for intensifying flavor, which was really what I wanted, and allowed me to avoid adding too much liquid. I didn’t want it “wet” for fear of lousy roasting.

1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons corn starch
160 grams (~5 1/2 ounces) broccoli florets; cut small

I brought everything from juice to vinegar to a boil in a small pot and simmered until I reduced it by a little more than half; about 20 minutes. I was hoping for the powdered sugar to do a one-two combo, sweetening and thickening, and added additional corn starch after a while when I wasn’t getting the viscosity I wanted. Massive clumping action ensued, reminding me to always prep thickeners in a bit of liquid on the side. Alas.

Tossed And Ready To Roast

This wasn’t a lot of broccoli, which became quite apparent when I tossed it with my reduced sauce. I threw it all in a small 8×8 glass baking pan and roasted for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli was tender. Actually, I could have stopped earlier but there was a lot of liquid.

The result? Mostly positive. This go ’round the orange flavor was preserved and was a major component in the overall taste. The sweetening of the various ingredients was mostly positive, but perhaps a bit too sweet.  though I think it could have been scaled back a bit, maybe with only one tablespoon of honey. I’m not sure what role the ginger and rice vinegar played, whether they were subtle agents in the background or merely ineffectual add ons.

Broccoli in Orange Reduction Sauce

The broccoli was a wee bit chewy and I’m curious if this was a result of the lack of oil or just the wonders of mega mart food quality. I’ve never really sat down and thought hard about exactly what oil does. Something worth exploring.

Overall happy with the results and progress made, and I will be sure to revisit and tweak in future meals.

Special Delivery!

Oh, happy day. My kind of mail arrived via UPS this morning.

berries

You know, minus the berries. :-)

chocberries

Too bad it’s for Morgan…