Marinated Tofu Rice Bowls

Can I tell you a secret?

This may shock and horrify you, but…

Even though I’m a vegetarian, I’m not a huge fan of tofu.

I know, I know, blasphemy, right? So many people tout tofu as an amazing blank palette that has the ability to take on whatever flavor it’s cooked in, but usually all I can ever taste is bland tofu-iness.

Not that it stops me from eating it/cooking with it. I enjoy a good challenge, and believe me, making tofu tolerable can sometimes be a big challenge.

One of the best ways to make tofu scrum-didly-umptious? Marinate it… for a long, loooooooooong time…in something strong.

That’s why when I saw this recipe for Mexican Grilled Chicken Bowls, I knew if would be a prime candidate for acceptable tofu substitution. 6 tablespoons of spices mixed with adobo sauce soaking overnight with my tofu? Sounds like it packs a flavor punch to me!

But how can a wary foodie be sure? Well, find an unknowing taste tester, o’ course! My friend Matt from college is staying with us this week and he is a devout carnivore. Like, the kind that wouldn’t touch a vegetable willingly; the kind that thinks it’s an injustice to meat to accompany it with anything other than…meat. He’s never eaten tofu, so logically I stuffed this down his throat:

And guess what?!!

It won the carnivore stamp of approval! A solid two thumbs up from Meat-Lovin-Matt!

Aside from being an awesome way to impress your non-veggie friends, this dish is so summer. Czech it out:

Mexican Grilled Tofu Bowls With Cilantro Lime Rice (adapted from Heat Oven to 350)

  • Marinade
    • 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
    • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 T fresh lime juice
    • 2 T chile powder
    • 1 T minced garlic
    • 2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into small squares
  • Rice
    • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
    • 3 cups veggie broth
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    • 2 T lime juice
  • 2 medium Hass avocados, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup queso fresco
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients. Place the tofu in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, and refrigerate while you prepare the rice (or overnight, if you can).
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the rice, broth and salt to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Move off the burner and keep covered for 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Keep a lid on the rice until ready to use.
  3. Remove the tofu from the bag and discard the marinade. In a large pan, saute the tofu over medium heat until heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Divide the rice evenly among individual bowls. Top the rice with small mounds of tofu, avocado, tomato, green onion and beans. Sprinkle the queso fresco on top. Serve with lime wedges.

Orzo Salad With Corn, Tomatoes, Basil, and Feta

I chose to live in the northeast because I’m ill adapted at dealing with heat. I melt. Quickly.

So I may sound like a wimp when I say… it has been 100 degrees over the past three days and I am dying. We live on the top floor of an A/C-less apartment building. We have one air conditioner in our bedroom. I refuse to venture out of my room and into the kitchen, let alone stand near a heat-producing appliance for very long or put something remotely warm in my mouth.

Yep, it looks like we reached the part of the summer where my meals start switching over to cold salads and variations on guacamole.

Unfortunately, summer salads always seem to leave me feeling a little wilted. By mid-summer they all start to blend together and fail to WOW me. Particularly pasta salads — they always seem to look more promising then they taste.

This little recipe, however, looked a little TOO good to pass up…and boy am I glad I didn’t because its taste was the perfect antidote to this sweltering affliction all the residents of my apartment seem to currently have. The sweetness from the corn and the mild flavor of the avocado is what really makes this pasta salad stand out — it’s not completely oily or mayonaissey like most pasta salads I’ve had; it’s got plenty of fresh vegetables that each have their own sharp tastes, and a nice tangy vinaigrette to round it all out.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have trouble getting le boyfriend to get excited about eating anything remotely resembling rice, and orzo would certainly fall under the rice-look-alike category. Surprisingly, this pasta salad earned the “you are DEFINITELY making this again,” stamp of approval, which is a pretty rare feat when it comes to cold rice dishes that aren’t sushi with him. Both of us were pretty darn happy with how this quick little dish came out!

Orzo Salad With Corn, Tomatoes, Basil, and Feta (Adapted from Brooke over at Plum Pie via Cookling Light)

{Serves 4 to 6}

Dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan reggiano cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 1-2 ears of corn)
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and dice
  • 3/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil (I used cilantro instead and it came out great!)
  • 3 oz. feta, crumbled
  1. Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Bring vegetable broth and 3 cups of water to a boil. Season water/broth with salt. Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain orzo.
  3. Toss orzo with dressing, avocado, corn, red onion, tomatoes, and basil while orzo is still warm. Cool orzo until room temperature and mix in crumbled feta. Serve immediately or refrigerate covered until use.

Elotes!

So, I have a confession to make…

I’m a closet blogger.

As in, no one I know in “real life” is aware of the existence of Two Veggies. Well, except le boyfriend, and perhaps my roommate, who may have her suspicions considering all the photography that seems to go on in our kitchen.

I know, I know…poor food blogger form, but I have my reasons — or at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe it’s part insecurity or part fear, but I think it’s mostly because Two Veggies is my own project, a special piece of myself immortalized online, like a very public diary.

Oh, and I care a lot about what the people in my life think.

Unfortunately, I think I may have blown my cover, and consequently have a friend hot on my tail.

My place of work does a bi-yearly newsletter, which contains a section for new employees to list random interesting facts about themselves. I’m relatively new to the company, so I filled out the “About Me” questionnaire and sent it back a few months ago.

I haven’t given it much thought since then, but a few days ago the newsletter came out. Apparently, I casually mentioned that I blog about food in my free time.

No big deal, right? I figured most people would give it a shrug and forget about it… and that’s what most people did…

Except for one of my co-workers, who latched on and is now on a relentless manhunt to find Two Veggies. I thought perhaps his curiosity would die off after other distractions took over. Newp. It’s been about a month and he’s still pushin’ hard.

So what do I do fellow food bloggies? Should I give it to him or keep it my own? Should I use it as collateral for something big? Is there any merit to keeping something like a food blog all my own? Big questions that need honest answers!

Anyway, the same day that the newsletter came out and the first round of hounding began, aforementioned friend and I had a long, somewhat drunken conversation at a company happy hour about food. He confided in me a dislike for corn on the cob. I asked him if he ever had an elote, because there’s no way that someone who’s been introduced to elotes can ever claim to dislike corn on the cob ever again.

Elotes are a Mexican street food, usually served on a stick, consisting of an ear of corn, butter, mayo, spices and cheese. I was first introduced to them during a trip to San Francisco and I fell in luuuurrrrve.

Besides being amazing enough to eat as a meal on their own (as I did on this occasion), elotes are an easy and tasty alternative to traditional corn on the cob for upcoming spring/summer barbecues and picnics, and they’re oh-so-pretty too!

Elotes

  • 5 ears of corn, roasted, grilled or boiled
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 2/3 cup finely grated cojito cheese
  • The following spices, combined in a measuring cup and mixed together:
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, if you prefer)
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon chile powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
    • a dash of pepper
    • a dash of cayenne pepper, if you like (be careful! It’s hot!)
  1. Working one ear of corn at a time, use a pastry brush to coat the corn lightly with butter, followed by a thick enough layer of mayo to comfortably hold the spices and cheese.
  2. Using a butter knife, spoon, or clean hands, gently spread enough of the spice mixture across the corn to give it a redish tint. Top with plenty of grated cojito cheese (I like to add another sprinkle of spices after adding the cheese).
  3. Serve immediately.

Greco-Roman Caesar Salad

Healthy postin’ time!

Alas, the new year had begun and us two veggies are trying to eat healthy again… not because it’s some New Year’s resolution or anything, but mostly the post-holiday blues have got le boyfriend and I draggin’.

When I was home in New Jersey for Christmas, I took a brief day-long jaunt down to Delaware where I went to college. Le boyfriend and his family live down there, which was the main inspiration for the trip, but I’ll be pretty honest; as much as I love le boyfriend, my main priority was gettin’ some grub at my old college haunt (and arguably favorite restaurant…EVER), Home Grown Cafe.

I’m half proud, half ashamed (for my wallet) to say that in a four year span, I easily visited Home Grown 50 times. Nearly every weekend (and some week nights), my friends and I found ourselves galavanting over to Home Grown for some raspberry long islands and truffle french fries. The atmosphere is awesome and the food is muy deliciouso. If you don’t believe me, here’s a peek of a typical Friday night spread sur la table de Lauren senior year of college:

Needless to say, after four years of weekly trips, I’ve had pretty much everything on their menu, all of which can be served vegetarian with their house-made veggie chicken. I’ve loved everything I’ve had, but by far there has been one major stand out dish: Home Grown’s Greco-Roman Caesar Salad…

Romaine lettuce, garbanzo beans, cherry tomatoes, artichokes, pepperoncini, pita croutons, feta cheese and creamy Greek dressing. Perfection in bowl… and I don’t even really like salads that much.

I crave this salad regularly. I pine for it. I would travel over 200 miles (and have!) in a 24 hour period to obtain it. Which is why I’m going to do the unthinkable and post a recipe for…well, easy-peasy plain ol’ salad. But trust me, it is worth it.

Home Grown Cafe’s Greco-Roman Caesar Salad
(portioned for one) 

  • 2 cups Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup (or more… I always go with more) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • A small handful of cherry tomatoes, whole or cut in half, if you like
  • 1/4 cup of artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup of pepperoncini or banana peppers
  • 1/4 feta cheese, crumbled
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of dried basil
  • pinch of dried cilantro
  • salt, pepper, and roasted red pepper flakes to taste
  1. In a cup or small mixing bowl, combine the feta and spices (including the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) and mix well until feta crumbles are evenly coated.
  2. In a medium or large salad bowl, in the following order layer the lettuce, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and banana peppers.
  3. Top with feta cheese mixture and a hearty dollop of creamy greek dressing (recipe follows).
Creamy Greek Dressing (via Food.com)
(makes 1 cup)
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 or 2 garlic clives, minced fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. In a blender or food processor, whirl all the ingredients except the milk for one minute.
  2. With the blender running, slowly pour in the milk and blend until thick and creamy (turn off the blender as soon as the dressing thickens or it may curdle).
  3. Chill at least 1 hour so the flavours meld. If the dressing separates, just give it a whizz in the blender again.

Sweet Corn Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

Has this ever happened to you?

It’s lunchtime and you have a real hankerin’ for something mayonnaisey. So you head down to your local deli to scope out the options. Chicken salad? Not for you, veggie-roo! Egg salad? Uhhh, not with that hardened thick yellow crust on top! Tuna salad? Eh, sure, why not?

So you order yourself a tuna salad sandwich or maybe a tuna melt and wait patiently for it to arrive at the pick-up counter. You’re gearin’ up with excitement, your stomach is a-rumblin’, you can hardly contain yourself as you watch them wrap up your sandwich in thin parchment paper.

You get outside, skip your way back to the office, bunker down in your cubicle (and hope your co-workers aren’t offended by the fishy smell), unwrap your creation and take one big, hearty bite…

But then, it comes. Not the soft, flaky texture of bread. Not the smooth, creamy taste of tuna salad. Nope. Crunch crunch crunch…

It’s celery. How. dare. they.

Who’s brilliant idea was it to start adding celery to tuna salad and when did it become a standardized acceptable thing to do? Straight blasphemy if you ask me; there is nothing about celery, tuna, and mayo that would EVER go together.

I’m sick and tired of this bastardization of tuna salad. Sick, I tell you! I’m putting my foot down, foodies… it’s time to get serious.

When I studied abroad in London, there was a fair amount of culture shock. Sure, the Brits talked funny and drove on the opposite side of the road. And yeah, everyone had bad teeth and mispronounced our president’s name as “bare-ick o-BAM-a.” But there was one Britishism that just totally floored me…

They put sweet corn in their tuna salad.

Those clever Brits! I have never experienced such a perfect addition to tuna. The texture of the corn blends right in with the salad, but provides just enough sweet flavor to balance out the tang on the tuna and mayonnaise. It was heaven. Trust me, when I wasn’t eating my weight in baked potatoes (readily available at any local deli), I was scarfing down sandwich after sandwich of tuna salad with corn.

Luckily, such a creation is super simple to whip up at home, and perfect for nights like this one where I’m hot and sticky from the gym and don’t want to turn the oven on.

I’m not a huge homemade sandwich eater, so I like to find different vehicles for my tuna salad. Since these sorts of nights make me want to take big, desperate bites of cold vegetables much in the same way you’d eat an apple or an orange, I went for making tomato boats! Take a looksie:

Sweet Corn Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomatoes
(makes 4)

  • 2 cans tuna fish, drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 4 medium to large tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Hollow the tomatoes by cutting a 2 inch diameter circle at the top of the tomato (using the stem as the center of the circle). Cut deep enough to extract most of the core of the tomato, without puncturing the bottom or sides. Put the hollowed tomatoes upside down on a plate lined with paper towels to let the wet insides drain.
  2. If using frozen corn, place the kernels in a microwave safe dish and add a tablespoon of water. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, until kernels are no longer frozen (they don’t have to be hot). Drain any excess water.
  3. Using a fork, combine the corn, tuna, mayo and spices until well blended.
  4. Stuff a large spoonful of the mixture into each of the tomatoes, just enough so that the tuna is almost overflowing from the top.
  5. Serve on a bed of fresh lettuce, if you like. Makes a good lunch or warm weather dinner.