crispy blackened tofu

I know. That title may sound scary to some of you. Tofu is mushy, slimy, and gross. Or is it?

Meat and I are still on the rocks so I wanted to attempt a new tofu recipe. The first time I tried to cook it it turned out too soggy, the second time was pretty good, and this third time was freakin’ spectacular thanks to Emily over at the Daily Garnish.

To start out I took a block of extra firm tofu, covered it in paper towels, and then stacked a couple of books on top to press out the water. The longer you let it sit, the less mushy it’ll be. I started mine at about noon and cooked the dish at 5.

You can’t see the tofu in this photo but it’s under the cookie sheet! To prevent a soaked countertop, I placed the tofu on top of my cutting board that has a little moat around the edge so that it’d collect any excess water.

Next, I lost my mind for a bit and couldn’t understand how to cut the tofu block properly per Emily’s instructions. This is why I have multiple slabs instead of a couple thin ‘steaks’. Course I got the concept after I did my cutting. Classic.

Then I marinated the pieces in a little bit of soy sauce.

There are lots of spices to this dish but it’s a snap to put together!

Did I mention that Al, my husband, doesn’t enjoy change and/or funky textures in food? I’ve only forced him to eat tofu one other time (the second ‘pretty good’ time I made it) and he didn’t like it. Even with the cards stacked against me I still had hope. I thought, there’s no way he can’t like this! It’s too good! as I shoved another crispy piece in my mouth when I was done.

Whenever I have to make a rub or a coating for a recipe I always end up with extra stuff that I have to throw away. With this recipe, I had absolutely none! The perfect amount of spices for the tofu. A pleasant surprise.

The spices create a great outing coating of what’d I’d call Spicy Asian BBQ. So tasty. You could totally use this as a rub on chicken or beef if you’d like. Or shrimp! That’d be super good. But that’s not really the point, the point is that it’s amazing on tofu, a meat alternative!

Just look at that color.

__________

Crispy Blackened Tofu
(source)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (2 servings)

    For the Tofu

    • 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (drained and pressed)
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or other cooking oil)

    For the Spice Blend

    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon corn starch
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Instructions

    • Start by pressing a block of tofu to drain out the excess water.
    • While the tofu drains, go ahead and make your spice mix. Add all spices to a shallow bowl, and stir to thoroughly combine.
    • Once the tofu has drained, slice the block into four even rectangles – once through the width, and then cutting in half through the top (did that make sense?).
    • Place tofu in a shallow dish and add soy sauce or liquid aminos – it doesn’t need to be much. Just enough to let it soak into the bottom a bit. After a few minutes, flip each piece to coat the other side.
    • In a saute pan, heat sesame oil (or other oil of your choice) over medium high heat – you want your pan to really get hot! I prefer to use my non-stick pans for this, but you can try it in stainless as well.
    • Take each piece of tofu and press it into the spice blend, ensuring to coat the whole bottom in a thick crust of spice. Flip it over and repeat on the other side.
    • Then carefully place each piece into the hot pan – it should sizzle and pop, and you’ll see immediate color forming around the base of the tofu.
    • Add all four pieces to the pan and continue to cook over medium high heat. After only a minute or two, the bottom should be pretty dark in color – flip to the other side!
    • Cook for another minute or two on the other side, until both are crispy and blackened to perfection.
    • Slice and serve on a bed of rice with a side of roasted greens!

    __________

    I served it over brown rice, split peas, tomatoes, and a little soy sauce. Super random but we needed to use up the tomatoes from the garden and I wanted more veggies so I added the peas. It worked out really well!

    Al even admitted that the dish was ‘pretty good’. He said that he wouldn’t eat the tofu alone (he’s crazy) but he’d eat it like I served it. I’ll take what I can get! Thank you Emily for your recipe! I’m so glad it was successful.

    I don’t care if you think you hate tofu. You’ve got to make this dish!

    Do you eat tofu? How to do prepare it?

    patrick henry half marathon

    I ran 13.1 miles this past Saturday. No biggie. (!!!)

    Al and I are officially halfway through our marathon training. We both ran the Patrick Henry Half Marathon successfully without any emergency pit stops, injuries, or giant blisters. It was awesome.

    My morning started out at 2:20 am with major stomach issues. I’m not one to have physical problems when I’m nervous so it must’ve been the bag of Baked Lays I ate for dinner (mistake #1). I took a shot of Pepto and attempted to fall back asleep.

    When the alarm went of at 4:15 I was still in trouble. In between another shot of Pepto and some Imodium I told Al that I didn’t think I’d be able to race. I couldn’t stand let alone run at that point!

    An hour later I felt a bit better and focused on getting out the door. I went to put on my shoes and I realized my favorite running socks as well as one of my running sleeves were gone. I knew it was Olivia so I ran upstairs to the living room where she usually takes her victims and found only my running sleeve. She doesn’t play with toys but what she does do is relocate socks and bras to different parts of the house. It’s not a big deal and is usually pretty cute because she doesn’t destroy the items but at this point I was making us late! I ran to every room of the house and the backyard but couldn’t find the socks so I had to settle for a different pair.

    Superstition and lucky clothing is a big part of sports or at least it was to me growing up so losing my socks kinda stunk. Not too big of a deal but just another bump in the road.

    We finally made it to the race location and went to get our bibs.

    Our names weren’t on the list.

    The lady at check-in asked us if we had a receipt or our bank statement. Of course not lady! We weren’t registered and they only took cash or check so we walked back to our car which was thankfully parked somewhat close at a friend’s house. She told us where the banks were and we headed out to get cash.

    Back at the registration tent with our shirts and bibs, I dropped off our bag and we headed to the porta potties. I had to pee terribly, my stomach still wasn’t settled, and the line was a mile long but we had to at least attempt to relieve ourselves.

    Twenty minutes later we were at the starting line where I found my friends. We were off!

    The first 4 or 5 miles were tough. I was worried about emergency bathroom breaks and my legs felt soooo heavy. The Thursday before, I ran a 3 mile hills workout not knowing that I was supposed to run a regular 3 miles so my legs were tired (mistake #2).

    In the beginning I tried to not stop running at the water stops (mistake #3) but I seriously can’t drink and run at the same time. I usually choke or don’t get enough fluids in when I run so I decided to stop and walk quickly as I chugged. I think this also helped my tired legs loosen up.

    As my legs warmed up and the miles passed, the skies opened and dumped tons of ran. I was so grateful. I almost got too chilly at one point but that sure beats sweating to death in the southern sun!

    I’d been warned about mile 11 with the big hill. I told my running buddy, Tamra that I’d probably be speeding up at that mile to get up and over the hill and finish strong. She encouraged me and was so positive! She has run the race two times before and has already finished two marathons! A great inspiration.

    At the hill we ran into one of our coaches who started telling a dirty joke to help distract us on the incline. It was the perfect motivation to help me speed up and get away! A dirty joke when I’m tired and focused? No gracias.

    My knees had been aching since mile 3 but those last two miles were much worse. Cardio-wise I could have easily sped up to get a better time but my knees were killing me. I could feel that if I ran any faster I’d have a calf, knee, or hip injury on my hands so I stayed steady.

    As I ran down the home stretch I could see the finish line and hear the cheers. A couple girls that I had passed earlier whizzed by me. I thought to myself, I could totally speed up and pass them! But no, this is a training run. I’ve got plenty of time to run more half marathons after the Richmond Marathon is over in November.

    I crossed the finish line and kept walking. My bottom half ached horribly as I grabbed my metal and smiled at the volunteers.

    YES!!

    My official time was 02:18:04 which is about a 10:32 pace. I wanted a 10:30 average so I got pretty close. I was at the back of the pack overall which is okay by me. This was a very fast group of runners! But even with a pretty rocky start, I finished easily and could have gone a couple more miles. A perfect pace for a marathon training run.

    After this run, I’ve learned that you’ve got to prepare as best you can but things will most likely go wrong at some point. Just go with it and conquer.

    The more races I run, the more I learn. By November I’ll have it all down pat.

    Have you run any races recently?

    artwork in the bathroom

    Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote about the second update to our guest bathroom! We’ve done a couple things since then.

    Now that I had my lighting painted turquoise, my next step was artwork. I went to my stash and picked out anything with similar colors. The following photos are a couple options. I first thought these splatter paintings would go well because they somewhat matched the room colors but I realized it was too busy for the clean look I was going for.

    Then I debated on this piece because of the color again but no, not the right vibe.

    These last two pieces fit juuuust right. They only have a hint of turquoise but they’re simple and add to the new character of the space.

    After choosing my art, I went to Target and looked at shelving. While I was there I remembered I had this old piece that usually hangs horizontally. To fit the space I turned it vertically. It fit perfectly! Perfumes and soap for the guests now had a place to rest. It’s such a nice feeling to reuse stuff that’s just laying around the house. This piece was literally laying on the fireplace step for the last couple weeks with no home.

    Before I had time to hang these pieces up, I went up to NJ to visit family. While I was away, Al got down to business and cranked out a lot of painting. He painted the yucky brown vanity a light turquoise and spray painted the hardware to update it a bit.

    Here’s a little before shot if you’ve forgotten what the room used to look like!

    I thought the new color would work well with the crazy yellow tile and the dark turquoise.

    He also painted all the yellowed trim a crisp white.

    And then I hung up a new shower curtain, the paintings, and the shelving when I got home.

    The paintings were hung on the right side of the vanity so that the shelving and a new towel could fit on the left. It’s a brushed nickel finish from Target that now matches the shower curtain and vanity hardware. I do hope to update the vanity hardware to something more modern soon. I’d also like to spray paint the shelves white but I haven’t gotten to that yet!

    What do you think? It’s still pretty crazy coloring but I think I’ve successfully toned town the yellow tile!

    Thanks Al for all your hard work!

    the body shop

    A long, long while back I wrote a post about the Leaping Bunny program.

    Last Monday, I spent the afternoon in search of new hair care products and makeup. I used the Leaping Bunny App on my phone to help me. It was so useful!

    I set my sights on Ulta thinking they’d have a lot of products on the list but I didn’t find much so I headed on over to The Body Shop. I saw on the App that The Body Shop was listed under every category of product that I needed!

    On my way over I was optimistic that I was going to find my new one stop shop for beauty and skin care products.

    I totally did and then some.

    At The Body Shop I found not only a friendly sales person but a girl who was genuinely excited about the product and the core beliefs of the company. I may be way behind on the times but I had no idea that The Body Shop was so focused on helping others. Such a breath of fresh air!

    A quote from the founder:

    “The business of business should not just be about money, it should be able responsibility. It should be about public good, not private green.”
    -Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop (sourced from the ‘Our Company’ page)

    Not only is the company against animal testing which I’m all about but it has four other core values that are just as great: Support Community Trade, Defend Human Rights, Activate Self-Esteem, and Protect Our Planet.

    I love it.

    Like me, you’re probably very tired of politics so I’ll leave it at that and move on to the awesome product!

    I wanted to buy everything I laid my eyes on but Al would have killed me so I picked up only what I needed which was shampoo, conditioner, and eye shadow.

    With my degrees in graphic design, I’m all about the look of the product! If it looks nice, I want it. A good example of this is wine. Doesn’t everyone buy the bottle just because it’s pretty or is it just me? 🙂

    The packaging at The Body Shop is clean and pretty. It’s not too busy and focuses on explaining the product well.

    Technically I have a lot of hair but it’s also thin so I went with the volumizing shampoo and conditioner. So far my hair really does seem a lot thicker. It also isn’t weighed down and greasy which often happens with other products that I’ve tried.

    Both have nice, floral scents that I totally want as a perfume. Course they may have it! Next time.

    I’ve only used the eye shadows once but they were super smooth and therefore easy to apply. The shimmer looks a bit strong in the case but it’s subtle on the skin.

    After realizing that I loved the store and didn’t want to leave, I joined the rewards program. You get 10% off all your purchases, coupons when your points build up, free shipping online, and a couple of other perks too.

    I promise, The Body Shop has no idea that I’ve written this post! I just had to share my positive experience with you.

    Do you have a favorite store or beauty product?

    zucchini chocolate chip muffins

    This marathon training is making me eat carbs. It’s either making me because I’m craving them all the time or I’m just using the training as a super good excuse to scarf down anything with flour in it. Case in point: 12 mile run on Sunday = one stack of sweet potato pancakes. 🙂 Yum.

    I’ve even been told from my Sports Backers coaches that you really are supposed to eat pasta-like dishes before your long runs so really, it’s a requirement.

    Because of this, I went on a carb recipe hunt on Monday. I wanted a quick snack that I could take with me when I’m out and about. That way I won’t be tempted to buy unhealthy eats when I’m grocery shopping and whatnot.

    I searched my regular food blogs and found Mama’s Peas recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins. Muffins with chocolate and hidden veggies sounded awesome to me!

    To make you’re life easier, I thought I’d post the recipe here instead of just the link like I usually do. I’ll try and do this from now on.

    Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
    (source)

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
    • 1/2 t. salt
    • 1/2 t. baking powder
    • 1/2 t. baking soda
    • 1 1/2 t. cinnamon
    • 1/4 c. canola oil
    • 1/4 c. applesauce
    • 2/3 c. organic sugar (I used half Nu Naturals Stevia Baking Blend)
    • 1 t. vanilla extract
    • 1 c. grated zucchini
    • 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with muffin papers.
    • Combine zucchini, oil, applesauce and sugar in a medium bowl.
    • Combine remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl.
    • Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just mixed.
    • Spoon batter into muffin cups until they are about 2/3rds of the way full.
    • Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    I’m shocked to say that we still have some left!  It helps that I put them on top of the fridge where we don’t usually keep snacks.

    Also, it’s Thursday and they’re still super gooey and delicious! Mama Pea never steers me wrong.

    I’ve already eaten these babies for breakfast, lunch, and dessert. I plan on making two batches next time! I was also thinking of substituting some of the zucchini for carrots just to try something new. That sounds like a tolerable substitute, right Elisa?? 🙂

    What are you baking this week? A snack or maybe an awesome dessert?

    kitchen aid

    We moved here to Richmond in December and my sister, Lindsay moved in with us a couple weeks later.  I knew we weren’t going to ask her to pay rent but what I did ask for was some unpacking and organizing help.  It’s what she does best after all!

    Today, on her new blog she writes about a kitchen project we worked on together.  I don’t want to give too much away but if you have a lack of storage space in your kitchen and maybe a spare wall or two, this is a post you should definitely check out!  She’s got lots of different solutions.

    You can find the post over on her blog, Neat As You Please.

    Enjoy and have a great Monday!

    decor dash

    Before our family visited a couple weekends ago, there were couple of sad rooms that we had just shoved stuff in when we moved here last December.  The week before they got here, we finally got our act together.  Now we only have ONE, albeit giant, room of random storage crappola.

    This being our first house and the first one we’ve had to overhaul and decorate, every time we tackle a room I feel overwhelmed.  I often think that we don’t have the right pieces of furniture or decor items.  Well, when we finally got around to ‘finishing’ one of the two guest rooms, I only had a week left so I didn’t have time to fuss over the little things.  Let me correct myself, when I say week, I actually mean about one hour on Thursday night and a touch up on Friday afternoon.  Stresssss.

    I thought it might be interesting to go through how I attacked the space and my thought process.  I read decor blogs daily and sometimes I just think, How the heck did they come up with that?!  Today, you don’t have to wonder.

    The process was definitely a ‘dash’.  I probably looked like a crazy person, just ask Al.  When I decorate I stand there thinking, picturing things in my head, and then move at light speed.  If that idea doesn’t work or I have another idea, I’ll change course in a second.  This often leads to lots of furniture moving (Sorry Al!) but hey, it works!

    The room is about 10 x 10 in size.  I knew I needed to get the bed, the side table, and the dresser into the space so I started with that. My first attempt at the arrangement made the space too crowded – the bed was centered and the dress was on the opposite wall. To remedy the problem, I first shifted the bed to about a foot away from the adjacent wall.  This way it’s not too much of a pain to make the bed!  Then, I had Al help me move the dresser to the doorway wall.  It worked.  You could now easily walk into a nice, open room and get to the different elements.

    I initially had the 5×7 rug perpendicular to the bed but it didn’t cover enough of the space.  When getting into bed you would’ve been walking on the bare floor.  So we shifted the rug again, turning it parallel and off-center to cover the floor more.

    To complete the first layer of the room (all the big pieces), I moved in an amazing antique desk that I had just brought all the way back home from my grandparents house in New Jersey.  I needed a spot to place my fan -> one of only two purchases that I made for the room!  The sun beats down on that room so the fan was necessary.

    I put it in that corner because I already had a lamp on the dresser and if it were on the side table, the wind would have blown our guest out of their bed.  Ha.

    Oh and the second purchase was the tan bed skirt. A small purchase that we really needed since for years now we’ve had the box spring and metal bed frame showing.

    I decorated the dresser area with a couple of pieces.  The lamp is a thrift store find and so is the mirrored tray.  I figured our guests could wrangle any little items in there.

    To figure out where to hang our wedding photo (which I printed at home!), I stepped back to see how it would play off the lamp position.  I forgot to take a dead-on picture of the two to show you but I hung the frame higher than the lamp and off-center from the dresser.

    When approaching an arrangement, you want to go with variety.  I’ve got the tray which is super low, a slightly bigger vessel, a taller lamp, and then the frame which is the tallest.  I used to like stuff really aligned with things centered and the same size but I’ve found that moving away from that to more of an extreme (compared to the ‘safe’ centering) really adds character to a space.

    Next up I pulled a couple of art and design books from the hundreds in my office -> that’s another room that needs major help.  I stacked them up on the side table and topped them with one of Al’s photos from a high school trip to Germany and some sand (?) from New Zealand that his best friend gave him.  A little interest and more personalization.

    In the following photo (that you saw earlier), you can see the art above the bed.  They are just some prints from my graphic design thesis.  I combed through my inventory and found art that I thought would match best with the bedding.  The purple flowers in the prints somewhat match the purple quilt and flowers on the pillows.  I centered the frames above the bed – high enough so our guests wouldn’t hit them when they sleep but low enough so they could work as a mock headboard.

    My final touch was to bring in my little indoor plant and a mister.  It really doesn’t water the plant enough if I just mist it so I take the top off and dump the water in. I’ll sacrifice for pretty decor. 🙂

    I was shocked at how put together the room looked once I had finished and it only took me about a hour!!  If you ever feel overwhelmed like me just take it one layer at a time! Big items to small.

    Of course we’ve got a couple more projects left until I can say this room is complete:

    • update the dresser – paint it or new knobs?
    • update the side table – sand, paint, and stain?
    • paint the walls
    • iron the stinkin’ bed skirt 🙂
    • spruce up the lamp shade with fabric or paint

    But for now, I love it!

    Thanks for listening, I talked a ton today! Hopefully you learned a little something after reading all that. 🙂

    Do you have any questions about the process? I needed to stop myself somewhere!