Thai Tofu Ramen

So, last month I had a Rachael Ray Magazine recipe on my weekly menu plan. I was all excited to make Tofu Ramen Soup with Spinach, but then I saw that Hannah had made that very soup recently… and thought it was basically a flop. A good idea as a nod towards a healthified college classic, but a flop nonetheless. Good thing I found this out before I made it. Thanks to Hannah, I can present you with this amazing Thai-inspired Tofu Ramen.

Thai Tofu Ramen | The Pajama Chef

Each noodle-y slurp of this spicy, garlicky, gingery broth took me back to my sophomore year of college when, sick of dorm food, I enjoyed a steady rotation of ramen, easy mac, and oatmeal for lazy dinners or weekend meals. Prepared in the microwave, of course. Fortunately, this ramen has grown up and gotten much healthier, but still delivers in terms of ease, taste, and comfort.  Instead of just a salty bowl of meat-flavored noodles with a few dehydrated vegetables thrown in, this ramen has tons of personality–chunks of carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Spinach! Cilantro! Tofu! A little coconut milk to add a bit of creamy sweetness and balance out the spice… and ta da! You have an easy, flavorful soup that is darn near perfect comfort food.

Thai Tofu Ramen | The Pajama Chef

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, including the scary fish sauce. This soup certainly comes together quickly and the fish sauce? Well, all I can say is a little goes a long way. Just stir it in quickly and ignore the smell, because you’ll love the taste! All the flavors go so well together, and definitely improve over time, so leftovers will be really coveted. At least they were here! Enjoy!

Thai Tofu Ramen [adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine]
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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 ounce freshly grated ginger
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 7 cups low-sodium chicken broth [or vegetable broth]
  • 3/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced and cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 pound tofu, drained, pressed, and cubed
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, minced
  • 3 packages ramen noodles [uncooked, broken, noodles only]
  • 3/4 cup lite coconut milk

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium pot set over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper and saute for 1 minute until fragrant. Add chicken broth, carrots, celery, mushrooms, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.

Next, stir in tofu, spinach, cilantro, scallions, and ramen. Cover again and simmer 3-5 minutes until noodles are tender. Reduce heat to low and gently stir in coconut milk. Simmer for another minute or so until hot, then season with additional crushed red pepper or coconut milk as desired.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

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Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing

Last week was my spring break, and Ben and I took a quick four-day/three-night trip down to Cumberland Gap, TN.

Cumberland Gap Trip | The Pajama Chef

It’s just a short five hour drive from Bloomington, and if you’re not familiar with this area, three states come together in the park–Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. We had never been before but had a blast. Even though winter is still lingering, hiking up in the woods and trails was just beautiful. The toughest hike was a 7 mile round trip hike up to White Rocks, a site that was a landmark to pioneers making the westward trek demonstrating that the Cumberland Gap pass was just a day’s walk ahead. Up top in the White Rocks area it was frosty, snowy, and terribly cold. I was so glad I chose to wear my vest instead of leaving it in the car!!

Cumberland Gap Trip | The Pajama Chef

Aside from hiking, we had fun just hanging out together… reading, relaxing, and exploring a few of the nearby towns. We stayed at the Olde Mille Inn Bed & Breakfast, which I highly recommend if you’re ever in the area. It is so cute, and even though it was built in the 1800s, everything was very modern and comfortable inside. I never wanted to leave our room! It was so nice, and the breakfast everyday was amazing. Upside down pancakes, sausage gravy & biscuits, french toast, and the best steel cut oats I have ever had! We were the youngest guests by a longshot [at least 30 years] but breakfasts were served together, and it was really fun to chat with the other guests. Can I just say that I love southern accents? :)

Cumberland Gap Trip | The Pajama Chef

We ate lunch everyday at this adorable cottage turned coffeshop–Gap Creek Coffee. My favorite drink was their Peanut Butter Cup. PB in coffee sounds a lil weird, but you can bet I’ll be looking for that on coffeshop menus in the future. Our dinners were nothing compared to the other meals of the day, but we did enjoy some good Tennessee BBQ! This area of the country definitely wasn’t gourmet restaurant central, but the area’s natural beauty sure made up for it!! Be sure to visit Cumberland Gap if you can! We’d love to go back someday.

Cumberland Gap Trip | The Pajama Chef

Before we left, I made this wonderful salad as an excuse to use up as much of my produce as I could before going out of town. But seriously, you shouldn’t wait til you need to use things up… adding hot roasted, crisp veggies and chickpeas on cold salad greens is my new favorite thing!

Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing | The Pajama Chef

The contrasting temperatures are just perfect! I didn’t really measure the seasonings used to roast the chickpeas, carrots, and radishes but just used a little cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, ginger, and allspice to make a spicy-sweet spice mixture to rub on with EVOO.

Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing | The Pajama Chef

The dressing is a very basic lemon-olive oil-dijon mustard mixture, which paired so well with the light greens and crispy toppings. I thought about adding some vinegar to make more of a vinaigrette, but decided against it. You certainly could if you wanted, though–I just liked the tartness of the lemony dressing with the vinegary tang.

Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing | The Pajama Chef

This is just a great salad! I meant to add some cheese, nuts, or avocado as my inspiration recipe suggested… but I forgot about the cheese and nuts after the roasted veggies came out of the oven, and my avocado was nasty inside. Sad day. But the good news is that none of those things are needed for this awesome salad. It’s a crunchy, hearty, flavorful salad that I am sure you will just adore!! Enjoy! :)

Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing | The Pajama Chef

Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing [adapted from Baker by Nature]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 3 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 8 radishes, scrubbed and sliced into thirds
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ginger
  • allspice
  • baby spring mix

for Lemon-Dijon Dressing

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • crushed red pepper

for topping, optional

  • avocado
  • feta or parmesan cheese
  • nuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, combine chickpeas, carrots, and radishes. Pour olive oil over top, then season with cumin, garlic, black pepper, ginger, and allspice. I didn’t measure these, but was heavy on the cumin, garlic, and black pepper, and a little lighter on ginger and allspice. Use your hands to mix oil and seasoning on chickpeas, carrots, and radishes. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk lemon juice, oil, mustard, and garlic powder together in a bowl or shake together in a jar. Season to taste with crushed red pepper.

After everything is roasted, combine baby spring mix with roasted chickpeas, carrots, and radishes as desired. Drizzle with Lemon-Dijon Dressing, and top with feta or parmesan cheese, nuts, and avocado if desired. Serve immediately.

Time: 40 minutes [10 minutes active].

Yield: 2 large salads or 4 side salads.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

Crock Pot Pot Roast

I’m not typically a beef lover. Ben loves nothing more than a good steak [or lemony kale pasta, go figure], so we’re not always good food matches. This is why we never share meals at restaurants  much to my chagrin… unless he’s being really nice to me, I suppose! :) But sometimes I really do crave beef. A few weeks ago this was the case, so I decided to make a nice pot roast for Saturday night dinner while my parents were visiting. But as is typical when my parents are in town, my mom and I had been planning on doing a little shopping during the afternoon, so I decided to let the crock pot do the work for me.

Crock Pot  Pot Roast | The Pajama Chef

Though I had never made pot roast in the crock pot, I decided to give a popular yet simple Martha Stewart recipe a try. Though pretty basic, this pot roast is incredible! I let a three pound roast  simmer on low all day long with carrots, onions, pepper, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine, and the result was a rich, tender, flavorful roast. I’m no expert in pot roasts, but I think the key to this one was the vinegary, salty, and sweet Worcestershire sauce. As a side note, did you know that Worcestershire sauce is used in cocktails? How bizarre! Anyway, if you’re looking for a no frills, classic, and simple pot roast, look no further! I served mine with some oven roast potatoes, and their crisp skin was the perfect pairing with the tender, soft, fall apart in your mouth beef and carrots. So, so good! Enjoy! :)

Crock Pot Pot Roast [adapted from Martha Stewart]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 medium carrots, cut into thirds
  • 2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 beef chuck roast [3 pounds], trimmed of excess fat [or can use a variety of beef roasts--I used a bottom round roast]
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

In a large crock pot, whisk together cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water  until smooth. Add carrots and onions, and season with salt and pepper. Place roast on top of vegetables, then season with additional pepper and salt if desired. Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on top, then pour wine and water around the roast [on top of vegetables if possible].

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until fully cooked [or on high for 6 hours].

Remove roast to cutting board, then shred roast or thinly slice against the grain. Serve roast with vegetables and pan juices.

Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes [15 minutes active].

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Notes: The original recipe called for cooking on low for 10 hours or on high for 6. I cooked the roast on low for 8 hours and it was done, so just pay attention to your roast and if you do have cook it over [i.e. work schedule], it’s probably best to do so on low and to add a bit of extra water/wine. You can also strain the pan juices before serving, but I didn’t do this.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream

I am SO ready for spring. It’s been cold all week, and then last night we got several inches of snow. Not as much as some parts of the country, but still… I am over winter. Entirely. My sister thinks winter is the greatest, and even planned her wedding for December hoping for snow [and there was... see!]. In that case, snow was cute and pretty and fun. In this case, in March, snow is not fun. In my opinion, the only good part about this sort of weather is that it is perfectly aceptable to wear cozy warm sweaters, ridiculously old and soft sweatpants, and boots everyday. Not necessarily altogether now, but you get my drift. And for dinner, it is perfectly acceptable to have soup almost every night. At least, until your husband tires of it. Thankfully, he didn’t tire of soup before we enjoyed this fabulous Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream created by Joanne. I already have one black bean soup recipe that I adore… now I have two! One vegetarian, one meatatarian.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream | The Pajama ChefMy go-to black bean soup is thick and chunky with black beans, onion, and spinach, and gets most of its flavors from a variety of spices and chicken broth. This recipe is much simpler, and, as the name implies, heavy on the chipotle flavor. Heavy on the awesomeness, more likely. The actual soup recipe only has six ingredients: chorizo, carrots, onions, chipotle peppers, vegetable broth, and black beans, so the chipotle flavor really does dominate. Chorizo and chipotle peppers are a fabulous combo, but I wasn’t initially sure how the carrots would work in the mix, but it turns out that carrots with a bit of spice are pretty phenomenal.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream | The Pajama Chef

What really makes this soup pop though is the avocado cream. It’s like a creamy guacamole… but is all in all pretty healthy since the cream comes from avocado and Greek yogurt. It’s jazzed up with lime juice and cilantro, and I added a dash of crushed red pepper. Umm, yum. The whole soup, avocado cream and all, is pretty spicy but nothing I couldn’t handle. I thought it got even better, and almost a little sweeter as it sat in the fridge for a couple days. Like many dishes, the flavors improved over time. I wish I could have had a big bowl for dinner last night in the snow, but alas… I had to settle for Panera instead [tomato soup + fuji apple chicken salad!]. Panera’s good, but homemade’s better. Enjoy!

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream [adapted from Eats Well With Others]
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Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces chorizo
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 2 large onions, diced [I used 1 red and 1 white]
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups cooked black beans

for the avocado cream

  • 1 small ripe avocado, cut in half and pit removed
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • crushed red pepper

Directions:

Heat a large [4+ quart] saucepan over medium heat, then add chorizo to the pot. Break it up with a wooden spoon, then cook through. If the pan looks really greasy, wipe out some of the grease with a paper towel, then add carrots and onions, and cook until soft. Stir occasionally. Stir in the peppers, then cook for a minute until fragrant.

Add the vegetable broth and black beans to the pot, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then simmer for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare avocado cream by combining the avocado, Greek yogurt, cilantro, and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Season with crushed red pepper as desired.

Puree about 1/3 of the soup with an immersion blender if desired [I forgot to do this], then serve soup topped with avocado cream.

Time: 45 minutes.

Yield: 5-6 servings.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

Cumin-Scented Cabbage Salad

Even though I rarely post any recipes for vegetables on this blog, I hope you don’t believe that I never eat them! That’s certainly not the case. I think this dip is just one indication of how much I love my veggies! But sadly, most of the ways I eat veggies are pretty plain. At dinner, we usually eat big green salads with our main course. Lettuce, carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes… all good, but sometimes a bit boring. So I’ll mix it up with roasted broccoli, steamed green beans, or a fancy dilled carrot dish every once in awhile, but that’s about it. When a friend asked me to bring some salad over for dinner one night, I jumped at the chance to be creative. Instead of making my go-to green salad, I switched it up and made a fancy cole slaw. Now, don’t get turned off. It’s not creamy or drowning in dressing. It’s light and fresh and flavorful… simply delicious!

Cumin-Scented Cabbage Salad | The Pajama Chef

This cabbage salad [I much prefer that name to cole slaw, thankyouverymuch] has a few winter veggie staples: cabbage [duh], carrots, and radishes, plus some flavorful additions like green onions and cilantro. If you click over to Jessica’s original post you’ll see that she used watermelon radishes–which look delightful, but aren’t available in Indiana… so check them out if you have a chance. :) But the best part of this salad isn’t the traditional veggies, rather it is the spicy and tangy vinaigrette dressing! This dressing is just awesome. I think it would make an excellent taco salad dressing, actually–it’s just your basic oil and vinegar dressing spiced up [literally] with cumin, paprika, pepper, and garlic. That’s it. Yumalicious! The spice in the dressing compliments the cilantro so well.

Cumin-Scented Cabbage Salad | The Pajama Chef

The flavors of this salad are awesome on day 1, but they also improve as the salad hangs out in the fridge for a few days. I love it when salad’s shelf life is longer than a day…makes me so happy! Be sure to try this salad when you have a chance–I think it would be great with burgers, tacos, soup, and whatever else you can imagine. Enjoy!

Cumin-Scented Cabbage Salad [from Good Cheap Eats]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 head green cabbage, chopped [I used my food processor]
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 5 green onions, green & white parts, diced
  • 6 small radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro,  chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, carrots, green onions, radishes, and cilantro. In a small bowl or glass jar, combine olive oil and vinegar, then garlic, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Shake or stir together, then toss with vegetables.

Serve immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Time: 10 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings.