Tofu pot pi

In honor of today being Pi Day, I thought I should make dinner a little more interesting than usual: tonight we will feast on Tofu Pot Pi.

“Pi” instead of “pie.” Get it? Yeah, you get it.

Paul and I have been on a healthy kick lately, and I’m proud to say it’s paying off: after two weeks of just watching my calories and observing simple portion control, I’ve lost 4 pounds! While going down the road to healthy eating, we’ve both found that we don’t particularly care for the taste of meat any more. We’ll still eat the occasional chicken dish, and we still eat probably way too much salmon, but we’ve found tofu to be a fine protein substitute. Hence the tofu as the main ingredient in this dish.

The Pot Pi recipe is simple: use whatever veggies you happen to have lying around, throw them in a crust, and nom it up. It makes about 6 servings, with a cup of filling in each Pi, and about 580 calories per serving (most of them coming from the crust). I regret using up the last of the mushrooms and potatoes in a dish the other night, because they would have been heavenly in this mixture. In any case, here’s what I used this time:

Filling:
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 green onions (white parts only), chopped
4 shallots, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
2/3 cup frozen petite peas
2/3 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can pinto beans
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
salt and pepper
1 block extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Saute the onions and garlic in grape seed oil until they are soft and fragrant. Add all the vegetables and beans, and seasonings. Saute just until the carrots are sort of soft. Remove from pan, reserving any oil left behind. In the same pan, saute the tofu and cumin until the tofu is slightly browned.

In a prepared dish (I made my own whole wheat crust, but you can use whatever you like – puff pastry, frozen pie crust…), add 1 cup of the vegetable-tofu mixture. Top with more crust, cutting slits for steam to vent. (You can even cut the slits into fancy shapes or symbols.  Ooooooh.) Brush the top crust with an egg wash for a golden sheen.

Bake those puppies in a 375°F oven for about 40 minutes, rotating them in the oven halfway through.

Once they’ve cooled enough so as not to burn your tongue, scarf it down. It should leave you feeling full and satisfied, yet not weighed down. Om nom nom!

The tale of the best ever chocolate cream pie

Gentle readers, today I would like to tell you a story about the most delectable pie I have ever made.

A friend of mine from high school now lives in the far, far away land of Michigan with his wife and beyond-adorable two kids. Although we’ve stayed in touch through Facebook, I’ve now found a new way to spy on my old friend’s goings on: a blog he’s started, wherein he chronicles his year-long endeavor to make many, many delicious pies. Go visit The Rationality of Pie; it will be well worth your while.

I’m more of a fruit pie girl, myself. Give me a blueberry pie and you’ll be out of luck if you want a slice. I’m sure that Zeb has a ton of fruity pie recipes lined up when the weather finally warms up. However, since it’s wintertime and fresh fruits aren’t in season, most of the pies he’s posted about have been of the sweet variety: coconut cream, vanilla cream, Indiana buttermilk, etc. Honestly, I prefer reading about sweet pies, rather than eating them. Of course, that all changed when I saw the recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie.

If there’s one thing I can’t pass up, it’s chocolate, especially when it’s something chocolaty made in one’s own kitchen. Homemade chocolate pudding is just tops, and that’s what goes in the crust of this amazing culinary masterpiece. I’m not kidding, folks, this pie filling is some of the best chocolate pudding I have ever tasted. Zeb sums it up perfectly: “Forget the crust – just give me a pan of filling, a spoon, and ten minutes to myself.”

Having never made a pie filling that required precooking, I was more than a little nervous that I would royally screw it up. I shouldn’t have worried in the slightest: the milk didn’t burn, the cornstarch didn’t clump, the egg yolks didn’t scramble and the chocolate (a combination of semi-sweet and milk) melted into the creamiest, most heavenly concoction ever to grace my stovetop.

While I have been going on about the incredible chocolate filling, I must mention the meringue, which takes this pie to a whole new level of awesomeness. The meringue seems straightforward enough (egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar), but one addition makes it almost unearthly: cinnamon. Cinnamon meringue! It’s such a simple addition to a basic recipe that I never would have thought that it would completely change the taste of the finished dish. All I know is that if I ever have to make a meringue again, I am checking to see if cinnamon would compliment the dish, because the smell of cinnamon wafting through my kitchen is almost too much for me to handle. That’s a good thing, people.

Because this is Zeb’s creation (or rather, the creation of the guy who wrote the book that has become Zeb’s second bible), instead of posting the recipe here, I’ll point you over to the original post itself.

I made this pie for a dinner party about a week ago, and to say that it was a hit is the understatement of the year. Inappropriate, near-orgasmic sounds came from everyone at the table as they took tiny, savoring bites, and one of my friends demanded requested that I make it for his upcoming birthday. As long as I’m invited to the party, I think I’ll be happy to oblige.

Whole wheat almond milk honey-sweetened pancakes with sauteed apple topping

Did you ever wake up and think, “Man alive, I could really go for some pancakes!”?  I did this morning and let me tell you, gentle readers, the craving took hold like nothing I’ve felt in months.

(Haha…morning.  I should clarify.  I woke up at the bright and early hour of about 11:30AM, which is still technically morning.  However, by the time I got myself coherent enough to turn on the stove, it was well past noon.  So, I suppose this meal was technically lunch.)

I don’t do Bisquick anymore.  It’s loaded with salt and makes everything taste the same.  I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve been making pancakes from scratch for the past five years or so.  It’s super easy to do; certainly it isn’t any more difficult than mixing Bisquick.  And pancakes made from scratch are generally made with fresher ingredients, and therefore are probably better for you.

The healthfulness of these pancakes, however, is completely obliterated and nullified by the sauteed apples, which are loaded with brown sugar and butter. The way I figure, though, I came out even.

Whole wheat almond milk honey-sweetened pancakes with sauteed apple topping

Pancakes:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola, safflower…whatever strikes your fancy or whatever you have lying around)
  • 1 large egg

Preheat oven to 250°F.  Have an oven-safe plate and some foil ready – these will keep your pancakes warm while the rest finish cooking.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In a larger bowl, whisk together honey, milk, oil and egg.  Add dry ingredients to wet mixture.  Stir just until combined.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Melt a small amount of butter – just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Pour batter in by tablespoonfuls (I like using my large cookie scoop).  Cook until the surface of the pancakes begins to bubble and the sides just begin to brown.  Turn with a thin spatula.  Cook until browned on both sides.

Keep pancakes warm in the oven until ready to eat.

Sauteed apple topping:

  • 2 apples (any kind will do – this morning I used Crispins), sliced or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon (This number is arbitrary – I usually just shake in as much as I feel like.  I encourage others to do the same.)

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add apples and saute until tender, about 6 minutes.

Combine water and corn starch.  Add this mixture, brown sugar and cinnamon to apples, stirring to combine.  Simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened.

Duxelles pizza

Although I don’t eat it nearly as often as I did once upon my youth, I still love myself a good slice of pizza.  Unlike the younger version of me, I’m not as attracted by giant slices of greasy cheese Pizza Hut monstrosities.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the taste, but I know my intestines will pay for it for the next forty-eight hours.  (Isn’t adulthood great?)  What I do love these days is a good slice of the kind of pizza at which I used to turn up my nose: vegetable pizza.

That’s right, gentle readers.  I want my veggies, and lots of ’em.  I like my pizza piled high not with cheese and pepperoni, but slices of gently roasted tomatoes, broccoli florets and the like.  My younger self would scoff at the abomination of my current pizza preferences.  “Ha!” she would exclaim haughtily.  “You can’t trick me into eating vegetables!  You think you’re so smart, but I’m on to you.”

Fast forward about twenty years to a pizzeria just minutes from my parents’ house. My mother ordered for us, as she had had this particular pie before and knew I would love it.  Instead of a traditional tomato-based sauce, it was a mushroom sauce, also known as duxelles (French for “om nom nom”). Atop it was arranged slices of plum tomatoes and roasted garlic, chopped artichoke hearts and crumbled goat cheese.  Certainly not the traditional pizza in any sense, but I was game.

Oh my.  I had never had anything like this before.  It was so delicious that I just had to try and recreate it at home.  It only took about six months before I tried it. Why? Two reasons:

  1. The idea of the duxelles sauce, which made the pizza so nomable, was a little intimidating.  It could easily turn out a little wonky, so I wanted to be sure that I got it just right before I tried using it as a pizza sauce.
  2. Honestly, I kind of forgot about it.

When I discovered that it was so ridiculously easy, I facepalmed at the realization that I could have been eating this delectable slice of heaven months earlier.

(I am probably bastardizing the original French recipe here, but I’m not too worried about it.  The results taste heavenly and to me that’s all that matters.)

Duxelles is made by chopping mushrooms (button, cremini, portobello, whatever) extremely finely.  I used about 12 ounces (a box and a half, if you buy them prepackaged at the grocery store).  With that same fine touch, chop a small shallot. Into the frying pan goes the mushrooms and shallots, along with some fresh thyme leaves and a heaping glop of butter, because what good would French food be without butter?  What happens next is really quite phenomenal.  The mushrooms will absorb all the butter, and then release it all back into the pan along with their own juices and a generous sploosh (read: about 1/3 cup) of sherry.  After some simmering, the liquid will evaporate, leaving you with some mighty delicious, mighty soft and pasty mushrooms.  (I usually give it a little whir with my immersion blender, too, just to make sure it’s extra creamy.)  What you get out of this adventure is a perfect sauce to spread upon your pizza dough.

I usually make my own pizza dough and lay it thinly over my wonderful pizza pan (the circular type with holes in the bottom for even cooking).  Spread on the duxelles and top with rinsed (if canned), chopped artichoke hearts and sliced plum tomatoes (which I forgot when I made the pizza featured in the above photo), and sprinkle on some goat cheese.  Brush the crust with a bit of olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes at 450°F, until the cheese starts to brown.  It won’t melt like mozzarella, but it complements the mushrooms so well!

I’d be curious to know what other veggie combinations others think of to use on a duxelles pizza…

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