Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sesame Ginger Maple Tofu

I would like to welcome back pictures taken with natural light and eating out on our porch. Even though we had another cold snap this past weekend, I know that spring really is here.

Unfortunately, here in middle Tennessee, we’ve been warned that we can expect millions of cicadas to emerge from the ground in May. Last May, we were flooded. This May, we get a swarm of cicadas that are threatening to ruin events like picnics and weddings. Or, you know. GRADUATIONS. That’s okay. Cicadas are God’s creatures too. We’ll just enjoy sitting out on our porch in April before we start getting hit in the head by flying bugs.

This was such a nice, light spring meal, perfect for enjoying on the patio while you watch the sun go down. Depending on how much of each vegetable you use, you might need to increase the sauce proportionally. And you’ll want a lot of the sauce.


Sesame Ginger Maple Tofu
source: Bakin' and Eggs
Yields 4 servings


1 block extra-firm tofu, rinsed, pressed dry, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, sliced
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
3 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
2-3 carrots, cut into one inch slices
2 cups brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Sriracha, to taste
Soba noodles, rice noodles or brown rice, for serving


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with foil (for easy cleanup) and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Place tofu and vegetables on a baking sheet and toss with oils, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time. Whisk together tahini, soy sauce, maple syrup, vinegar, and ginger until smooth. Drizzle the sauce over the tofu and vegetables and continue roasting for another five minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve over soba noodles, rice noodles or brown rice with Sriracha to taste.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars


I realized while I was mentally writing the blog entry for these bars that I had forgotten to tell you all a couple of exciting news items (no, I am not pregnant).

The first exciting-to-me thing is that I defended my senior seminar project (like a thesis) and received Honors on it. Sometimes, as a student, papers can be good or they can be finished, but I was very proud of the effort I put into it and am glad other people were impressed by it as well.

The second thing is that I’m going to be the camp chaplain at an Episcopal camp here in Tennessee this summer! I never was much of a camp person growing up, but I’m really looking forward to it. It will be great experience for me, and everyone I know who is affiliated with this camp cannot say enough good things about it. After the whirlwind of finishing up Divinity School, it will be a welcome change to be caught up in the whirlwind of kids and camp and nature and living on the mountain. And it would be a lie if I didn’t think about how awesome the running and hiking is going to be!

And it’s relevant to these bars, you see, because I made them for my first face-to-face meeting with the camp co-directors. I offered to bring a dessert to our meeting but quickly realized I had no idea what I wanted to make – something low-key and not fussy but not boring either. In retrospect, I should have made my favorite camp-type treat: No-Bakes! These came together faster than cookies and are a more health conscious option than many desserts since they contain whole wheat pastry flour and a mix of butter and oil. Initially, the dough was crumbly, but once I pressed it into the pan, it behaved just fine. The flakes of kosher salt add a lot of delicious salty flavor, balancing the chocolate and nuts. I was tempted to take Food & Wine’s suggestion of adding dried cranberries to the mix but decided that might be overkill. Maybe next time!


Chocolate Chip-Pecan Bars
source: Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 24-32 bars


1 cup pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. Chop the pecans and let cool.
  2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the mixer at low speed. Add the chocolate chips and pecans; beat just until incorporated.
  3. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned and nearly set in the center. Let cool completely, then run a knife around the edges and invert the rectangle. Peel off the paper and invert onto a cutting board. Cut and serve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vegetarian Peanut Butter Chili

Two weeks ago, Joe and I went to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break. Spring Break as an adult bears little resemblance to my Spring Breaks in college, though we did see plenty of college co-eds cutting loose. On our Spring Break, we got up early to run along the beach, relaxed with our leisure reading, and I even mastered throwing a Frisbee. Not that there wasn’t imbibing, particularly of the beachy, fruity drink sort. We also went on an Everglades tour and held a baby alligator.


After asking a few locals, we zeroed in on a fish market in order to find some stone crab. While it certainly wasn’t cheap, it was incredibly delicious and fresh. The fish market even cracked the claws for us. In addition to the claws, we picked up a loaf of French bread and some of their house-made mustard sauce. With a bottle of white wine on the back porch of our rental house, it rivaled the meals we had in restaurants. Stone crabs are a very sustainable seafood choice because they can re-grow a single claw up to four or five times as long as the other one remains. I had no idea about that until I looked it up!


Fortunately, to make the transition back to the real world, the weather here has been pretty nice. Not at all the kind of weather one would associate with making chili, but I did anyway. Without any meat, this chili is an appropriate spring chili. The peanut butter not only adds a nutty flavor but also a creaminess. Making this did not go entirely smoothly. I accidentally quadrupled the cayenne pepper and had a smoked paprika explosion trying to get the cap off of the jar. I was worried about the heat, but a day later, the cayenne flavor had mellowed quite a bit, so if I were to make it again, I would triple the measurement, which I have reflected in the recipe below.

When you travel, do you partake of the local specialties?


Vegetarian Peanut Butter Chili
source: Branny Boils Over
Yields 6 servings


1 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (preferably unsweetened)
Two (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can whole sweet corn, rinsed and drained


In large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes.  Let simmer for 5 minutes and then add vegetable stock and peanut butter. Stir until well incorporated. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add all beans and corn. Let simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Feasting and Fasting

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, otherwise known as the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is traditionally a time of penitence and fasting in order to prepare ourselves for the Easter feast. We receive ashes (usually from the burnt palms from last year’s Palm Sunday) on our forehead to remind ourselves of our mortality. I won’t go into the history of Lent because you can Wikipedia that yourself, but I want to talk about what Lent means to me.


For the last several years, I have fasted from meat during Lent. This subsequently led to me reducing meat in my diet and finally going pescetarian. However, that decision made thinking about what I will do to mark Lent this year more challenging. I strongly dislike when people treat Lent as a New Year’s Resolution Take 2. They say that they are going to give up sweets or chocolate or exercise more when that is not at all what Lent is really about. You don’t even have to give UP something for Lent. More and more, there is a move towards taking things on, like joining a Bible Study or committing to saying Morning Prayer every day.


I toyed with the idea of abstaining from alcohol, though my friends pointed out that going through the last semester of divinity school while doing that might prove to be inordinately difficult. Maybe another year.


Then, last week, in my God, Economy, and Poverty class, I figured it out. I am going to fast from all non-necessary shopping. No wine, no Groupons, no clothes, no books, no music. I have books I haven’t even started reading, not to mention access to great libraries. I don’t really need new music for my long runs. I can make playlists. I have plenty of clothes and makeup and STUFF.

As a part of this, I’m going to unsubscribe from most of the e-mails I get. Every week, I get e-mails from World Market,, ideeli, Groupon and Groupon-type companies, and they all encourage me to spend more money on things that I don’t need. Not only will this be good for our budget, but it’s also more sustainable for the earth. As I’ve voluntarily reduced meat consumption, I would also like to voluntarily reduce my consumption of other goods as well.

While I don’t want to spend 40 days calculating the money I would have spent, I want part of my Lenten discipline to donate some of the money that I would have spent on clothes or entertainment that I don’t need. So I plan on giving some of it away to a local charity like Room in the Inn. Even if you don’t observe Lent, I invite you to join me in fasting from consumption of unnecessary items!

How do you plan on marking Lent this year? Could you not buy anything unnecessary for 40 days?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This past Saturday, I ran a 5K. And then I ran a 10K. It seemed like a good idea at the time when I signed up for it. I would do that in place of my long run! Except that I run long runs slowly. I don’t race them. On hills. The day after the Divinity School Gala (imagine prom with an open bar).

Race Judicata

I was going to use the 5K as a warm-up, but then I got a little carried away and missed a PR by one second. So that wiped me out. And the hills. I walked more than I would’ve liked to in the 10K. Did I mention the hills? But I placed 2nd in my age group for the 5K, won this nifty travel mug, and got a long-sleeve tech shirt AND a hat for doubling. I also got the satisfaction of feeling totally hardcore. Also, I really need to stop racing the days after I drink more than usual or stay up late.


On Sunday night, I was itching for something to do that was productive but not schoolwork, so I went ahead and whipped up this soup. That meant that Joe and I could go to BodyPump together Monday night and not have to worry about making dinner later. Joe has been a rock star lately. He totally rocked BodyPump even though it was his first class and then he didn’t even bat an eye when I told him the soup had nutritional yeast in it.

This soup is definitely more broccoli than cheese, which I like. It doesn’t taste like cheese sauce with a few perfunctory florets of broccoli stuck in there. The nutritional yeast gives it a creamy texture without a lot of cheese. I did double the amount of cheese to make the texture slightly thicker and added some black pepper.


Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Yields ~8 1-cup servings
source: The Daily Garnish


  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 lbs frozen broccoli
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste 
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • Greek yogurt (optional, for garnish)


  • In a large Dutch oven, start by sautéing the garlic and onions in a little bit of olive oil, until they start to brown.
  • Once browning, add the frozen broccoli and allow it to defrost and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add 4 cups vegetable broth and bring up to a simmer.
  • Add 1/3 cup nutritional yeast.
  • Season with salt and let it simmer (covered) for about ten minutes.
  • Blend the soup with an immersion blender, pulsing until you have a thick soup with just a few chunks.
  • Stir in 2/3 cup cheddar cheese and allow to melt.
  • Ladle soup into bowls, top with a dollop of Greek yogurt (if you like) and a few extra sprinkles of cheese to serve.