Month: May 2014

Tofu Caesar Salad with garlic pita croutons

caesar saladI have been looking for good salad options for so long, and although this is not the healthiest salad you’ll ever see, it is delicious! I really like eating Caesar salad in a pita pocket, but it is amazing in bowl form too.

Caesar dressing is one of those weird things that vegetarians look at with zero qualms and then read the label and go, “whyyyyy?!” I mean, are the anchovies really necessary? Do they seriously add that much flavor? Just put in more salt instead, it can’t be that different! Unfortunately, after scouring the Whole Foods aisle and even accosting an employee or two, I discovered that nobody appears to have a vegetarian Caesar dressing on the market. Now, one day I am going to come up with an amazing recipe for homemade, vegetarian Caesar dressing. However, with finals coming up next week, yesterday was just not that day.

I used Ken’s Caesar dressing. So for all you vegetarians out there: I know this recipe looks veggie friendly because of the tofu, but the dressing does have fish in it. Also, if you happen to find a vegetarian Caesar dressing, please let me know!!

Tofu Caesar Salad
Serves 2 entrée salads and 4 starters

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pita pockets (for the croutons)
1/2 pack extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons salted butter
kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup capers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup Ken’s Caesar dressing

caesar saladPlace the lettuce, chopped and washed, in a large bowl.

To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Chop the pita bread into little squares.

caesar saladPlace them in a pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter and half of the garlic, and bake for about ten minutes or until they come out really crispy!

caesar saladCook the tofu in a skillet with the rest of the butter, the kosher salt, and the pepper. After a few minutes over medium-high heat, flip the tofu (it should be browned on one side).

caesar saladA few minutes later it should be done, and ready to cool.

caesar saladWhile the tofu is cooling, fry up the capers in a skillet with the olive oil and the other half of the garlic (you can use the tofu skillet if you don’t want to make a mess). Cook the capers over low heat and stir them until the garlic is browned and the capers are a little shriveled and crispy.

caesar saladTake the pita croutons out and throw them in the bowl with the lettuce. Add in the cheese, the tofu, and capers. Pour the dressing on top and mix it all together.

caesar saladEnjoy!

caesar salad


Dill and Garlic Egg White Scramble

scrambleI was inspired to post this recipe because I absolutely hate wasting egg whites, and there is just no way around the fact that the best lava cake recipe calls for 3 egg yolks. I’m never gonna stop making that recipe, so my solution: find a delicious way to use those egg whites!

Luckily, breakfast food is my favorite category of foods. I love biscuits and bagels and croissants. Soy breakfast meats are delicious, as are breakfast potatoes (oh, the many kinds of breakfast potatoes-YUM). I even like pancakes and waffles every now and then. As a result, it was natural for me to want to use those egg whites for a yummy, weekend brunch!

For starters, I actually had to use the egg whites from 6 eggs to make a 2 serving scramble. For those of you who are planning to make this after lava cakes, just plan for only a 1 serving scramble the morning after! For those of you who are not making this recipe after having made lava cakes and would like to include the yolks, I really think you should add a little bit of milk in with the scramble before you cook it. Egg whites by themselves are amazing because they are so so fluffy even without the addition of milk (plus they’re way healthier). If you make it with the full egg, the added milk will help give them that fluffiness that is so pretty and delicious in scrambled eggs!

Dill and Garlic Egg White Scramble
Makes one serving

3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 small clove)
1/2 tablespoon chopped, fresh dill
1/2 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley (I use Italian parsley)
1/8 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/4 of an onion)
4 tablespoons minced, tri-colored bell peppers
1/2 campari tomato, chopped
1/2 cup of cheese (Italian blend or Mexican mix are my favorites)
several dashes of cayenne and paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

ew scrambleWhisk together the egg whites, garlic, dill, parsley, onion, bell peppers, and tomatoes. The mixture will be a little foamy but fairly thick, this is good! Then, mix in the cheese, cayenne, and paprika.

ew scrambleIn a skillet, let the olive oil get warm over medium heat and then pour in the egg mixture. You want it to be fairly warm, so that the eggs sizzle a bit when you pour them in.

ew scrambleThe sizzling will produce a nice crispy bottom and the eggs will really fluff up and cook quickly.

After a minute or two, check underneath the eggs to make sure they’re browning. Once they’ve become a little browned, flip them. Let the other side cook, and take them off before they are fully done because eggs tend to cook a little more on their own on the plate. Add kosher salt and pepper as you like!

I made this scramble with toasted everything bagels, soy sausage, and home-fried fennel potatoes, but it is so good and filling on its own that you don’t really need to have all that extra stuff.

ew scramble


Miniature Chocolate Lava Cakes

lava cakesThis amazing recipe is adapted from the Junior League cookbook from my hometown, Birmingham, AL. It’s called Tables of Content and it is full of great local recipes. Birmingham has a foodie culture that started thriving a few years back when local chefs like Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings began gaining national recognition. Anyways, this recipe is the bomb!

A quick note on chocolate types: this recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate. After several trips to the grocery store, I confirmed that I was extremely confused when it comes to different types of chocolate and cocoa percentages. According to most of what I have read, the term “bittersweet” seems to refer to a massive range of cocoa percentages (from about 30-90%). What most of us have in our pantries is milk chocolate for snacking or unsweetened chocolate for baking.

Both of those are big no-nos for this recipe! If milk or white chocolate is used (cocoa percentages below 30) the fat and high sugar content in the chocolate will not melt properly and not only will the resulting cakes be way too sweet, but they may not even have that delicious, liquid lava center! The ubiquitous semi-sweet chips, while confusingly named, are within the range of good cocoa percentages.

To sum up: Do use chocolate labelled bittersweet, semi-sweet, or dark, and anything with a cocoa percentage above 35. Don’t use unsweetened chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate.

lava cakes

Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes
Serves about 8, in mini ramekins

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks salted butter
3 eggs
3 egg yolks (save the whites, they’ll make a super healthy omelette!)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons AP flour
extra butter and cocoa powder for greasing ramekins



Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir it with a rubber spatula to keep the chocolate from burning.

lava cakesIt helps to let the butter melt a bit first before putting the chocolate in, that way the chocolate does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring it over low heat until all is melted and you basically have a giant amazing pot of liquid chocolate. Then, set this pot aside to cool.

lava cakesIn a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar thoroughly with a whisk or fork. This will take a while (it took me a little under 5 minutes to do it manually), but keep stirring until they get whiter in color and foamy on top. Add in the vanilla and salt and stir it up again.

lava cakesAdd in the flour and then the chocolate mixture, as long as it is cool enough not to cook the eggs. Fold it all slowly together with the rubber spatula until it gets thick and glossy.

Coat six small ramekins with butter and cocoa powder. If you don’t have ramekins, you can definitely use any other oven-proof dish. I like the small ramekins because they are perfect for individually sized servings and I use them all the time for serving fruit and for sauces (hint hint if you don’t have them you want them).

lava cakesPlace the ramekins on a baking sheet, and fill them with the batter about 3/4 of the way full.

lava cakesBake them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You want to take them out while the centers are still jiggly but the edges are cooked and seem to have detached from the side of the ramekins. It will seem like they are not all the way cooked, but if you leave them in longer, they won’t have any ‘lava’ inside!

Garnish them with whipped cream, raspberries, or mint and enjoy!

What happens if you let it cook too much! (still delicious)

What happens if you let it cook too much! (still delicious)

P.S. I know it is super annoying to let 3 egg whites go to waste, so put them in an air-tight container and save them for a delicious egg white omelette or scramble! If you’re in the mood for a good, 1-serving scramble, try this!


Black Eyed Peas and Butter Beans

bepbbOkay, so I’m a weirdo who likes to mix my black eyed peas and butter beans together and eat them as one side dish. But I know that nobody else is probably on board with this, so I am adding them as two recipes, and if you want to try them mixed together you can!

First: black eyed peas! Black eyed peas are a traditional New Year’s dish in the south. We eat them for good luck, but throughout the rest of the year they are a great source of yummy protein! Similar to the collards, I don’t use any salted pork or meat-derived broths in this recipe, so it has virtually no cholesterol and is very very low in fat.

Second: butter beans! So, for everyone who hasn’t ever heard of butter beans, here’s a surprise- they’re lima beans! The term ‘butter beans’ is used to refer to lima beans in the southern United States and also in the UK. A little warning: my favorite way to prepare them requires a lot of attention and time, but the end result is super creamy and delicious (almost a little sweet tasting)!

Black Eyed Peas and Butter Beans
Makes 8-10 servings


For the butter beans:
1/2 lb (about 1 cup) dried lima beans
32 oz (maybe a little less) vegetable broth

For the black eyed peas:
1/2 lb (about 1 cup) dried black eyed peas
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
32 oz vegetable broth
kosher salt and pepper to taste


First, thoroughly wash the lima beans. Place them in a medium-sized pot over medium heat and cover them in an inch or two of vegetable broth. Let the broth simmer but don’t heat it to a boil, and let them cook for 10-20 minutes.


Like I said, butter beans need attention, so make sure that every ten to twenty minutes you check on them and stir them to make sure they’re not getting too dried out. As you check on them, stir them up a bit and add additional vegetable broth to keep them from drying out.

If they are dried out too much, they will look like this:bepbbJust add in more vegetable broth, never covering it all the way. Over the course of about 2 hours, repeat this process and continue to let the beans soak up the broth.

bepbbSoon, they will begin to get very creamy and start to break apart. When this begins to happen, just stir them more carefully to keep them from turning into total mush!



While the butter beans are cooking, wash the black eyed peas. In another medium-sized pot, combine the peas, the vegetable broth, and the onion. Cover the peas partially with a lid and let them simmer over medium heat.

bepbbLet them continue cooking, stirring them occasionally, for about an hour. When the peas are done, they will be tender and soft and the onion will be cooked through. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.


Like I said, I like to mix these two side dishes together, but they are also really delicious on their own!


Grilled Okra

grilled okraThis will be a very short post because this is a very simple recipe that I actually got from my boyfriend’s family, a bunch of northerners! *Gasp!* It is an alternative way of cooking okra to fried okra that is SO much better for you and actually allows you to taste so much of the okra flavor and amazing texture that gets lost when it’s battered and fried.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love fried okra as much as the next southern girl, but this is a great alternative that is healthier and much lighter if you’re looking for a side dish to go with that heavy steak! Ever since I learned this new way of cooking okra, I add it to the grill when my family is cooking their meat. It is easy to do in a sautée as well, or a grill pan (which is what I use here). Honestly, I make this way more often than fried okra because it is so much easier to make and still tastes delicious!

Grilled Okra
Makes about 4 servings

1lb fresh okra
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

After washing the okra, place them in a large bowl and coat them with the olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Here I do think that kosher salt is much better because not only does it add that salty flavor but it also provides a little crisp and crunch on the outside of the okra once it’s cooked!

Line the okra up on a grill, pan, or grill pan and cook over medium heat. On the stove, cook them for about five minutes on the first side, turn them over, and cook them for another five minutes. If you’re using a grill, it is totally up to you how long you leave them on there. Longer = crispier, so definitely feel free to adapt this to your personal preferences! Once the okra is ready to come off, it should be tender; crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside.

grilled okra



Chicken Fried Tofu

chicken fried tofuThe inspiration for this dish comes from a traditional Southern specialty known as chicken fried steak. A thin filet of steak is breaded and fried in oil that has been used to cook chicken. Another version of this dish, known as country fried steak, is used with fresh oil. So, perhaps it would be more appropriate to call this country fried tofu because we definitely do not use chicken oil!

To make this even healthier, I usually fry it in olive oil. Though olive oil has a fairly low smoke point, I have always preferred it over peanut and vegetable oils. However, feel free to use your favorite oil for frying as long as it doesn’t have too low a smoke point (like sesame oil).

Because tofu lacks some of the natural flavors and texture of steak, I like to add in many different spices with the panko crust in order to make this protein-rich food delicious! The result involves spices from Cajun and Indian cuisines, so it is fairly spicy. Feel free to tone down the cayenne or hot pepper in favor of oregano or fennel if you aren’t a fan of spicy foods.

Finally, for this dish I use SBP (standard breading procedure), which was taught to me by my lovely mother who also happened to go to culinary school! SBP involves three steps: 1) a flour coat, 2) an egg wash, and 3) the crust. The result is a crispy and flavor-packed crust that won’t just fall off when you start frying it!

Chicken Fried Tofu
Makes 4-5 servings

14 oz of firm or extra-firm tofu block, not cubed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs (plain)
1 tsp ground Indian hot red pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tbs fennel
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
2 tsp kosher salt plus extra to taste
6 tbs olive oil (or low smoking oil of your choice)

chicken fried tofuFirst, prepare the tofu for breading. Slice the block into rectangles (about 4 x 2 x 1 inches). Using a clean towel or preferably tons of paper towels (I know, I know super bad for the environment) lay the slices of tofu out and press down carefully to squeeze out all the excess water. You want the slices to be fairly dry, but don’t fret if they stay a little damp because you just need the flour to stick.

drying the tofu

drying the tofu

Next, station a counter for SBP. On one plate, spread out the flour. In a bowl, scramble the egg. On a second plate or in a large bowl, stir together the panko, hot red pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, fennel, paprika, and kosher salt.

standard breading procedure

standard breading procedure

Put 3 tbs of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Slice by slice, cover the dry tofu with the flour (beating the extra off), then soak it in the egg, then cover it with the panko crumbs.

breaded before frying

breaded before frying

As each slice is breaded, transfer them to a plate or immediately to the skillet if you wish. After a batch or two, you may wish to de-crumb the pan and freshen it with 3 more tbs of olive oil.

chicken fried tofuEnjoy!

Foods of the Deep South: Collards

collardsCollard greens are a nutrient-rich, dark green, similar to kale or turnip greens. Traditionally, they are cooked with some kind of cured or salted meat. However, because I am a vegetarian I do not cook mine with meat. Honestly, these cooked greens are unbelievable even without the meat and it makes them much, much healthier!

The pot likker (the juices that are left over after the greens are cooked) makes a delicious sauce for cornbread or yeast rolls, so you don’t have to waste any of the good nutrients! Collards are eaten all year round but are a requirement for the New Year’s Day meal that is supposed to give you luck in the coming year: collards, cornbread, and black eyed peas!

As a vegetarian, I actually try to make collards a couple times a month because of how healthy they are. I don’t love salads, and this is a great way to get A, K, and those all too easy to miss B vitamins.

Collard greens are in the same genetic family as kale, but when it comes to kale, I am not a fan. To me, kale tastes bitter and is a hard sell despite its wealth of nutritional value. Collards are an excellent substitute, and have actually been proven to be better for you than kale in some ways.

As a final argument for why you’ve got to give collards a chance (if you even need any further convincing!): this recipe only requires FOUR ingredients! Okay, so maybe it does have to sit on the stove for 2-3 hours. Yes, that is fairly time consuming, but it’s just simmering so there’s no need to actually watch it for those three hours!

This is a traditional dish from the South that is actually healthy; likewise, it’s a dark leafy green that doesn’t taste like rabbit food, so I think a little extra cooking time is okay!


Vegetarian Collards
Makes 6-7 servings

2 bunches of collard greens, thoroughly washed (roughly 15 stalks)
1 medium yellow onion
38 oz vegetable broth
kosher salt to taste

Roll up the collards and cut them like you’re chiffonading basil.

collardsThe result should be long, thin strips of collards:

collardsChop up the onion, and place the onion and collards into a pot with all of the vegetable broth. Place the pot over medium-high heat and watch the mixture, stirring it every now and then until it begins to simmer.


Turn down the heat to maintain the simmer, and  place a lid, tilted, over part of the pot. The collards need to be covered partially but really need some air venting out so that they don’t get too hot and dry up. Let them simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with kosher salt to taste.




Homemade Egg Salad

egg salad

Egg salad sandwiches are my go-to picnic food. They are especially delicious with a nice, cold limeade!

I honestly do not know how truly Southern egg salad is, but it seems to me that you can’t really get great egg salad outside of the South! This recipe is adapted from the one that is used by my cousin’s shop, Gilchrist’s Drug Co, an old school soda fountain in Mountain Brook, Alabama. You can read about them from here, and I am pretty sure that you will be convinced to take a trip!

But when it comes to egg salad, I do have a few strong preferences.
1) I always make mine with Duke’s mayonnaise. Mayonnaise it a very large component of egg salad and it really does affect the flavor. Ever since I moved out to California, I actually purchase Duke’s from because I have never been able to find anything that even comes close to its deliciousness!
2) Kosher salt. Normally I don’t harp on this, but I really feel like the larger flakes of salt bring out a general saltiness that works in perfect harmony with sweet pickle relish, and I love the balance of salty and sweet.
3) Finally, the eggs do not need to be puréed! I know everybody has texture preferences, but when egg salad is total mush it never seems as filling to me. If you let it stay a little chunkier it is not only less work for you, but it also seems to make a much better meal on a sandwich or with crackers!

You might be saying to yourself: This is mush, I’ve never had it before, how would you even eat it? Egg salad is amazing when it is homemade, tailored to your own personal preferences. It can be eaten like dip with saltine crackers (SO good) or on a sandwich (to which I personally love adding tomatoes, lettuce, and fake bacon!).

egg salad

Homemade Egg Salad
Makes enough for 2 sandwiches

5 eggs (older ones will be easier to peel)
3 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp mustard (Grey Poupon Dijon is what I like to use)
1 tsp sweet pickle relish
2 heaping tbs mayo
pepper and kosher salt to taste

egg saladFirst, boil the eggs. Place the eggs in a medium-sized pot, completely covered with the water and the vinegar, over high heat. When the water picks up a rolling boil, turn the heat off completely and cover the pot with a lid. Let the eggs ‘cook’ in the hot water for 10-12 minutes. (10 minutes will give you a soft boiled egg, with a bright golden yolk, while 12 minutes will give you a hard boiled egg with that familiar pale yellow yolk.)

egg salad

While the eggs are resting in the pot, prepare a bowl of ice water to cool them down. After they are done cooking, place them in the ice water for around 3 minutes or until they are no long hot to the touch.

egg salad

Peel the eggs, and place them in the bowl you used for the ice water, or a tupperware container (easy for storing in the refrigerator and less dishes to clean when you’re done). With a spoon, dole out the mustard, sweet pickle relish, and mayo. Carefully, chop the eggs while stirring everything together. Once everything is mixed up, all of the yolks have been blended in, and you have achieved the desired level of “chunkiness,” add the kosher salt and pepper to taste.

egg salad

As I said, you can serve this with saltines, or  on a sandwich! I sometimes even just eat it by itself with a spoon!!

egg salad


Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes

Red wine cupcakeFor all of you who have known in your life the joy of red velvet cake, these cupcakes are like individually portioned alcoholic red velvet cakes! They are incredibly moist and delicious (even two weeks later).  Be warned though, the wine does not cook out. These cupcakes really do have the flavor of red wine, and it is wonderful!

If you enjoy wine, but can never manage to finish a bottle, this the perfect way to avoid letting the rest of it go to waste. I love using a sweet red wine (like a merlot) but I have used pinots as well and the end result is still delicious!

The wine that has resulted in my favorite cupcakes is the J. Lohr Paso Robles Merlot from 2011. It is relatively inexpensive, but if you don’t like merlots you are by no means stuck with this! Any red wine is worth a shot, and although it results in some awkward measurements, I usually cut this recipe in half and make only 5 or 6 cupcakes at a time. If you do this, just use 1 large egg, and google to calculate all of the other ridiculously tiny measurements. If you just want to make a small batch to try, or this is just for a small group, the halved recipe won’t even make a dent in your pantry stock and you get delicious desserts out of it!

Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten.

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons salted butter, melted in a large (at least 2 cups) measuring cup
3/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

Red wine cupcakePreheat the oven to 325°F. Insert cupcake liners into a regular sized cupcake pan. This recipe will make twelve cupcakes, so you might have to bake them in two batches.

In a large bowl, mix the sugars, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

Red wine cupcakeTo the container of melted butter add the red wine and vanilla. Mix them thoroughly and make sure the mixture isn’t too warm before you add the eggs (you definitely don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk or stir in the eggs.

Red wine cupcakeMake a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir well with a spoon or a rubber spatula.

Red wine cupcakeFill the cupcake pan with the batter (I used around 1/3 a cup of batter for each cupcake, but just make sure that the pan is 3/4 full).

Red wine cupcakeBake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. These cupcakes are shiny even when they’re ready to come out of the oven so watch it closely!!


Red wine cupcake


The Simplest Cocktail: Vodka & Lime

vodka limeIt is almost Friday! As the weekend approaches and a long week comes to a close, a nice, refreshing cocktail certainly sounds amazing. AND as a continuation of the Cinco de Mayo theme, I felt this the perfect opportunity to introduce the most refreshing and simplest of all cocktails: the Vodka & Lime.

This recipe is a little bit different from a typical V&L in that I like to add a little sugar. Think: Lemon Drop Martini but with vodka instead of gin and lime instead of lemon.

A warning though, this cocktail doesn’t really hide the vodka flavor, so if you don’t have good vodka or don’t like vodka at all, this might not be the drink for you!

Though limes do not cover up alcohol flavors as much as lemons do, this is still very refreshing and it always makes me think of the amazing limeades I used to get over the summer down south!

Vodka & Lime
Makes one 2-shot drink

2 shots vodka (we like Svedka or Grey Goose here, anything is good as long as it’s got a flavor that you can actually stand because it’s not going to get hidden by the lime)
2 large limes (because of the California drought, we have tiny mutant drought limes this season and have to use 4 per drink!)
2 ice cubes
1 pinch + 1 plate sugar (for rimming the glass)

vodka limeFirst, prepare the glass. Pour a light layer of sugar onto a plate and dampen the rim of the glass (I usually do this by soaking a paper towel in water and pressing the glass, rim-side down, into the paper towel). Then twist the rim of the glass into the sugar to get that nice, fancy-looking trim.

vodka limeCut the limes into halves and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Throw a pinch of sugar into the glass (more than that if you’re me); then, using a strainer, pour the juice into the glass. Add the vodka and ice cubes. If you’re really feeling fancy, you can decorate the trimmed glass with a wedge of lime!

Drink up!

vodka lime