Kitchen Adventures: Tahini Orange Squash and Tofu

Tahini and I have a thing going.  Once I open a jar, all I can think about is how I can mix it into whatever dish I’m preparing.  Eggs, pasta, spinach – you name it, I’ve tried to incorporate tahini into it.  I even have more than one muffin recipe that calls for it (weekend project!).

Cooking in progress!

Last night, I took that obsession to a new level when I ripped this 101 Cookbooks recipe for Miso Sesame Winter Squash apart so I could incorporate my favorite ingredient of the moment and keep from spending more than an hour in the kitchen.  The result was delicious (but I bet the original would be too, if I had any desire to buy molasses and if Boston was able to get more than four kinds of squash in February).

Tahini Orange Squash and Tofu

  • 2 pounds butternut squash (about 1 – I bought two halves already peeled and sliced at the grocery store!) halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • 8 oz firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil – used it all in the sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tahini
  • juice from one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • juice from half a lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 5 tablespoons water

Tofu and sauce

  1. Cut the tofu into large slices (4 pieces or so total) and press between cutting boards lined with paper towels (I usually throw a heavy pot on top for some pressure).  Let sit while you continue prepping.
  2. Slice the squash into small pieces and set it to steam above a pot of water – mine took about 20-30 minutes (our timer is broken, sorry!) until you can easily cut it with a fork.
  3. While that’s cooking, whisk together the sauce in a medium sized bowl.  Cut up the tofu into smaller chunks and add to the bowl as well, letting marinade for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Saute an onion in a large frying pan/wok with a little sesame oil.  (This was not part of the original recipe, but it worked really well to soak up the sauce, so I’m sticking with it!)
  5. When the onion is a bit translucent, add the tofu to the pan and cook on high, letting the sauce start to boil down. *If you want to put some quick rice, couscous, or quinoa on to cook, this is the time to do it!*
  6. After about 5 minutes, add the squash to the pan as well and cook together for another 5 minutes or so.  The tofu won’t have a crust or anything like that, but when it’s warm and you can’t stand the amazing smells anymore, it’s ready to eat!
Phew!  By the time I took this recipe and turned the entire thing on its head (sauce concept, type of squash, cooking technique), it was an hour later, but it was still super delicious and totally worth it.  The orange really came through in a surprising and tasty way.  This made enough that I had two servings last night, put two away for lunch, and packed another one away in the freezer for some later date.
What’s your latest cooking adventure, real or hoped for?

Dinner is served!

Rethinking Risotto (part 2)

Since I made this risotto a few weeks ago, I’ve been planning to try another batch to see if its deliciousness was a fluke or if making risotto really can be that easy and amazing.  The answer: YES IT CAN!

I made this tasty risotto the other night using Archer Farms four cheese risotto mix.  While the risotto was cooking, I cooked up some chopped onions and thawed frozen cauliflower with some garlic, oregano, and rosemary.  When the risotto had about 8 minutes left, I tossed in the veggie mixture, and finished with 1 tsp butter and 2 tbsp grated parmesan.  The result was perfecto (and I didn’t even burn my mouth on it!!)!  I have a few packets left (yes, I stocked up the last time I went to Target), and I’m already thinking about what I can throw into the pot next.

What’s your favorite risotto?  Have you tried any like mine here and here?

Rethinking risotto

Holy cookbook, Batman – I just had some of the best (and easiest to make) risotto of my life and it came from Target.

I picked up a pack of Archer Farms Wild Mushroom risotto at our local Target solely because it was $1.79.  I was skeptical of the instructions on the back, which skipped the steps one usually sees in risotto (warming up the risotto, adding water gradually and letting it absorb, etc.) and instead involved just boiling water, adding the risotto and seasoning packet, and stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Impossibly simple, right?  I started sautéing the risotto while I considered the recipe on the box.  About 2 minutes in, I decided that it was worth seeing if this crazy recipe worked – AND IT DID.  Here’s what I ended up with:

  1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add risotto and seasoning packet to the boiling water and cook for 17-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Sauté 3 cloves of chopped garlic.  When lightly cooked, dd to the pot.
  4. Sauté 1 onion, chopped into small pieces.  When tender, add to the pot.
  5. Risotto done yet?  Cool!  Mine needed another 1/2 a cup of water  and enough time for it to be almost entirely absorbed.
  6. Add 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp butter to the finished product – stir well.

That’s it!  Katie agrees – utterly delicious.  Just try not to burn your mouth on the first bite like I just did and you’ll probably enjoy it even more!

I have no idea what was in that seasoning packet so I’m not sure exactly how I would replicate this without the mix, but this approach definitely takes less time and resulted in one amazing dish.

Are you a fan of risotto too?  Check out my other recipe – goat cheese risotto with squash!

Victory over adulthood

I did it!

With the help of Katie and Nate and encouragement from Mom, I cooked my first chicken!

It was easy to make, in theory – take out the bag inside, rub with olive oil and spices (that you should prepare beforehand so you don’t have to touch anything after you start dealing with the chicken), cook at 375 degrees for 15- 20 minutes per pound until the inside is 190 degrees (a conservative estimate, since some websites say 165).  But in reality, the mess and the hassle of chopping up a full chicken – as well as the actual uncertainty about when it would be done – made it not entirely worthwhile. I’ll probably go back to tofu and salmon for my dinner staples.

Still, I’m glad I got to have this hilarious cooking adventure with my awesome friends, I got to cross this off my life list, and I am one step closer to eventually being able to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family someday!

Plus, it went great with this holiday favorite, which I’ll tell you all about later this week:


Keen on quinoa and tahini salmon

Since our last party (and my attempt at hummus), I’ve been working my way through a jar of tahini.  I make it into sauces to put on asparagus, spinach, tofu, and more.  Tonight, I took it one step further and combined it with my new favorite winter grain – quinoa – for a perfect sweet and exotic autumn dish.  It’s light, colorful, and super tasty.  Try it and tell me what you think!

Tahini Sauce (marinade and dressing):

  • 2 tbsp tahini, stirred well
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (optional, I just like my sauces a little sweet!)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped (I use it from the jar and include it in everything)
  • dash salt and pepper

Blend (or stir) all the items in the sauce together in a small mixer until ingredients are well combined.

Tahini Salmon on Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Craisins


  • tahini dressing (above)
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used something called “sprouted quinoa trio” which included red and black quinoa)
  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (I buy it frozen and reheated it for 3 minutes in the microwave)
  • 1 small onion, chopped into smallish pieces
  • 2 tbsp craisins or cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1/4 lb salmon filet per person, skin removed


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the salmon in a foil-lined pan and spread the top and sides with the tahini mixture, taking care not to touch your fishy utensil back into the rest of the sauce.  Bake the salmon for 15-20 minutes.


  1. Boil 1 1/2 cups of water (for the quinoa).  When the water is boiling, add the quinoa and cook covered for 12 minutes, stirring often.  When the water is almost entirely absorbed, throw in the cranberries.
  2. In a skillet, saute the onion, butternut squash, and garlic together until lightly browned.
  3. When the quinoa is done cooking, remove from heat and stir in the cooked vegetables.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Serve a portion of quinoa topped with a spoonful of tahini dressing and a piece of salmon.  Eat warm, serves about 4.

Happy fall!

Best party food ever?

Watch your back, baked brie – this mega cupcake is going to give you a run for your money!

This was the most moist and delicious cupcake I’ve ever eaten – and it didn’t hurt that it was about the size of my head.  If I can figure out what made it amazing (the silicone pan?  putting it in the freezer after it cooled for 15 minutes?  the cake mix?) I will be sure to report back!  In the meantime: nice work Chef Katie!

Five Ingredient Fudge

In the aftermath of the announcement that Borders is closing, I scurried over and browsed their cookbook section for what could be one last time.  I ended up with a book called Cookwise, (by Shirley Corriher) which includes helpful tips and comments on the science of cooking along with each recipe.  They tell you what role each ingredient plays, and how you can make easy substitutions.

I worked off of their “Sinfully Easy Fudge” recipe but made it even easier for tonight’s cooking adventure.  Even so, they deserve the credit – I’m just passing on the excellence.

Five Ingredient Fudge (aka Sinfully Easy Fudge)


  • 7 oz milk chocolate chips, chopped up
  • 11 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14 oz) low-fat sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp butter (in the original recipe, the butter is added to roasted nuts, but I just threw it in with the chocolate)
  1. Line an 8×8 pan with foil and grease well (cooking spray works fine).
  2. Chop up the milk chocolate chips – I used my mini food processor for this one.  The semisweet ones don’t really chop, so don’t bother trying.
  3. Add both types of chocolate chips, the sweetened condensed milk, and butter to a saucepan – preferably something with a thick bottom so the chocolate doesn’t burn.  Heat over low heat, stirring often.
  4. Once the chocolate chips melt, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Transfer all that chocolate goodness to the pan, and spread it evenly.  Pop it in the fridge and let it sit until solid (about 2-3 hours), at which point you can cut it into squares.  Done!  This makes about 30+ small pieces.

As the recipe mentions, this stuff is a little soft because it’s so low on butter, so you will have to keep it refrigerated until soon before you eat it.  But it’s totally worth it.  I feel like this could also be good warmed up and melted onto a brownie sundae…  I’ll let you know if any pieces last long enough for me to find out!

Kitchen Adventure: OWN this pasta

[Note: reposted to get rid of the ads – pardon the duplication!]

I am going to let this picture speak for itself, and say that I never thought that tortellini could get any better.

But I am so glad to be proven wrong, and to eat the proof.

Tortellini with Spinach, Basil, and Pine Nuts


  • 1 package of fresh cheese tortellini (9 oz)
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 package of fresh baby spinach (6 oz)
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 10 large leaves of basil, chopped
  • 1/3 lb salmon (optional)

Hungry yet?  Yeah, me too.  (I mean, I did start cooking around 8…)

  1. Cook pasta as directed on the package.  Set aside.
  2. If making salmon, brush the fish with a dab of olive oil and two large basil leaves and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Cook salmon at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, until it flakes with a fork.
  3. Heat pine nuts in a medium non-stick skillet.  Be careful not to let them burn – it happens quickly!  Just watch until oil starts to seep out and pull them off the skillet, adding them to the bowl with pasta.
  4. Heat oil, and add garlic to the pan.  Cook about two minutes, stirring often.  Add spinach to the pan (personal opinion: you can never have enough spinach.  Unless you know you’ll use it in an omelet or salad later, throw it all in there!).  Cook spinach until it wilts.
  5. Add basil to the spinach/garlic mixture, and throw the pasta and pine nuts into the pan as well.  Cook for a few minutes, then add in the cheese and give it a good stir.  (By mixing in the pan, you’re more likely to soak in all these delicious flavors, rather than leaving them in the pan at the end of the day.)
  6. If adding salmon, divide into three or four pieces and add as a garnish, flaking it with a fork.

And there you go!  This made a healthy, hearty dinner and amazing, fragrant leftovers.  I am already planning to make it again, and the dishes aren’t even dry yet.  Now THAT’s what I call success.

Muffins with a kick

After  a morning run, I love to spend my weekend whipping up some muffins.  I try to pick recipes that are a little different but don’t involve buying lots of extra ingredients, with an emphasis on things that are good to freeze and warm up over the following weeks.

Today’s muffins were inspired by my favorite fruit, granny smith apples.  I know people usually use softer apples for baking, but granny smiths work just fine and are a healthy snack if you don’t get around to baking.  The ginger in this recipe gives you a final product that’s tasty but not traditional.

Apple-Cinnamon- Ginger Muffins


  • 1 1/4 cups quick oats (or rolled oats, just run them through a blender quickly to chop them down to size)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar*
  • 1 tsp vanilla*
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ginger, fresh, peeled, and grated (buy a jar and save yourself a ton of time – and it lasts forever!)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large apple, peeled and cut into small cubes Continue reading

Cooking Adventures: Classic Quiche

Quiche qualifies as my favorite meal for three important reasons:

  1. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  2. It’s a full meal in itself, no need for a side of veggies, etc.
  3. It’s easy to mix up the ingredients to suit your current mood or pantry.

Classic Quiche


  • premade pie crust, thawed
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Italian mix works well, but a mix of cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan is also tasty)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

The fillings below can be swapped out for whatever else you have on hand, though onions and garlic are a good base.

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, three slices set aside, the rest chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 lb ham cut into small cubes
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Press the pie crust into a pie plate, crimping the edges with a fork, and let sit while you make the rest.
  2. Chop up those veggies.  Warm up some oil in a frying pan and brown the garlic and onion with half of each of the spices.
  3. When the onion and garlic is almost browned, throw the spinach in just for a few seconds until slightly wilted.   Remove the mixture from heat and add in the ham and tomatoes, keeping a few slices of tomato out.
  4. Mix together the eggs, milk, 1 cup of cheese, and the remaining spices. Don’t over-mix the eggs, just mix lightly until all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Spoon the veggie mixture into the pie crust.  Pour the egg/cheese mix on top, stirring together slightly to blend the layers.
  6. Arrange the remaining slices of tomato on top, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
  7. Cook for 35 minutes, or until the egg/cheese mixture has firmed up.
  8. Let rest for five minutes (or you will burn yourself – trust me on this one).

Now slice up that pie, share it with your roommate, and enjoy! C’est delish!

Really any mixture of fillings can work here, but I recommend trying these ones:

  • Onion, garlic, and broccoli – add some Dijon mustard to the egg mixture for an extra kick
  • Red pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomato with a dash of curry powder
  • Prosciutto and asparagus
  • Egg whites and extra veggies for a healthier mix

Do you have any special combinations you use when making a quiche?