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Thai Chili Tofu with Kale & Quinoa

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A clean, healthy, and nutritious dinner seasoned with a Thai-inspired sauce. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and guilt free!

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To be honest, I don’t know a lot about cooking with tofu. I only have a handful of tofu recipes, most of which my sister has sent me and (no offense, sis) have been difficult to successfully make gluten free. Back in January, when I did a Daniel Fast, I started playing around with tofu a bit more, and found this delicious recipe from VeganYumYum. It was so good, I’ve made it over and over again since then, even after the Daniel Fast was done.

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As I made this recipe over and over, I was never actually truly following the recipe. The original recipe calls for collard greens, but I had kale on hand, so I just used that. Rather than season the kale with lime juice I just sauteed it with a little garlic and crushed red pepper (my go-to kale seasoning). As for the quinoa, well, I just skipped the seasonings all together. I’m sure they would be delicious, but cardamom is just too expensive for me! I made a couple of minor changes to the tofu part of the recipe, also. I’m sure the original version is delicious (even though I’ve never actually tried it)! This version is, too!

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The invaluable lesson I learned from making Tofu dish over and over is the technique of dry-frying tofu. I was used to this soft, squishy, falling-apart tofu, and honestly, that isn’t incredibly appetizing. Now, dry-fried tofu, that is something totally different. Tofu prepared in this way has a texture very close to chicken. Because of it’s nature, it still basically functions like a little sponge that absorbs up flavor. The best of both worlds: great texture and great flavor! As I’m typing this I’m wondering “why do I not use dry fried tofu in more recipes”.

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Another benefit of tofu? It’s cheap. At least here, a pound of tofu is nearly half the price as a pound of chicken or beef.

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What makes this meal is not so much the tofu though, but the sauce. It’s so simple – just 5 ingredients you probably have in your pantry/fridge. When the sauce is mixed, and poured over the cooked tofu it soaks in a bit a forms a sort of glaze. The tofu + glaze is wonderful on it’s own, but to get the best result mix it with the kale and quinoa. It all blends perfectly, and is one of the best vegan meals I’ve ever had!

And for what it’s worth, my meat-loving spouse enjoys this dinner just as much as I do. It’s that good!

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Thai Chili Tofu with Kale & Quinoa

Serves 2 – 3 adults.
 
Ingredients
  • 2/3 c quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 1/3 c water
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu
  • 4 c kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Sweet Leaf Stevia blend (or use 1 Tbs sugar)
  • 1 1/4 tsp garlic powder (divided)
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
  • 3 T soy sauce (I use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
  • 2 T lime juice (approx. juice from 1 lime)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil
Directions
  1. Add the quinoa and water to saucepan. Heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer. (The quinoa will likely finish before the tofu and kale is done. Feel free to start the quinoa closer to the serving time if you’d like. If your quinoa finishes early, no worries. Just turn the burner off, but leave it covered, in the pan and it will stay nice and warm.)
  2. In a small prep bowl mix the stevia, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and lime juice.
  3. Cut the tofu into bite sized pieces, and lay it in a single layer in a non-stick skillet.
  4. Turn the burner to medium high. As the tofu cooks, press it gently with a spatula, periodically. This releases some of the water in the tofu. Check the bottom side of the tofu, and when it is browned a bit flip all of the pieces. Repeat the same gentle pressing on this side, cooking until the bottoms have also browned. This whole procedure takes about 15 minutes give or take a few minutes.
  5. When both sides of the tofu have cooked, add the sauce into the pan and stir to coat the tofu with the sauce. Keep cooking, stirring, until the sauce has thicken and formed a glaze on the tofu, about 5 minutes.Remove the tofu from the pan.
  6. Add the oil to the same skillet, followed by the kale. Toss the kale with the oil, and cook, stirring constantly until the kale has softened and wilted some. Cook shorter for crisper kale and long for softer kale (I taste test mine to gauge when it is done). Stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder.
  7. To serve, spread quinoa on each plate, and top with some of the kale and tofu.

Sweet & Tangy Thai Chicken with Rice and Edamame

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As a gardener, one of my dreams is to have huge, bushy basil plants. I LOVE to use fresh herbs in cooking. It’s so exciting to go outside, snip a few leaves off for tonight’s dinner, and be able to do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day . . . 

This year I have three types of basil in my garden: Genovese, Lemon, and Thai. Each of my plants if huge! A gardener/cook’s dream come true! I’m taking every opportunity to use my fresh herbs. 

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My Thai basil plant that is providing me with tons of fresh basil!

So, Thai food is tasty. Wether it’s sweet or spicy that you desire, there is something in Thai cuisine for you. There’s a Thai restaurant nearby that we go to from time to time. They offer four levels of spiciness: mild, medium, American hot, and Thai hot. My husband will get something mild with a sweet sauce. I get my food American hot with garlic and soak up as much of the spicy sauce as possible with tofu. We obviously have different flavor preferences! 

As I’m exploring different ways to use my Thai basil I set out to create something we would both enjoy. This was definitely a hit. The rice and edamame is coated in a sweet Thai chili and peanut sauce. The chicken is marinated in spicy asian sauces. The combination was amazing. 

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The grilled chicken. I recommend using a flat, metal skewer, like this one.

I topped mine with . . . you guessed it . . . Thai basil! If you don’t have access to fresh Thai basil you can also get it in a jar some grocery stores. You can also sub in a more common basil.

ImageMy husband mixed his food all together and added some extra sweet chili sauce.

ImageNow, this recipe might seem daunting with all the different flavors and sauces. Think of it this way: You’ll mix up the chicken marinate the night before. It’ll be quick. When you are ready to make the rest of the meal, you will already have some of the work already done. The rice and edamame cook in the same pot, so you’ll just mix the sweet chili sauce and grill the chicken while it’s simmering. I promise; the flavors are worth the effort!

ImageSweet & Tangy Thai Chicken with Rice and Edamame

Ingredients
Marinade:
  • 1 tsp chili garlic paste (or more, to taste)
  • 2 Tbs lime juice
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 2 shakes cayenne pepper

Sweet Chili Sauce

  • 1/2 tsp sugar substitute or 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbs lime juice
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • 1/2 Tbs distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs sweet chili sauce

 

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1c brown rice
  • 2c water
  • 1c edamame (I used frozen)
  • 1/4c cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4c thai basil, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, top half, chopped
Cooking Directions:
  1. Mix marinade ingredients. Add chicken chunks to marinade and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Mix the sweet chili sauce, and chop the cilantro, Thai basil, and green onions if you haven’t already done so.
  3. Bring the rice and water to a boil in a large saucepan. When it boils, reduce heat to low and cover.
  4. While rice is cooking, skewer the chicken (I use flat metal skewers) and grill. I use a gas grill, between 350°F and 400°F. It takes a few minutes on each side to cook through).
  5. When rice has nearly absorbed all of the water, stir the edamame into the pot.
  6. When rice is fully cooked, stir in cilantro, Thai basil, green onions, and the sweet chili sauce you mixed.
  7. Serve with the grilled chicken. Top with additional herbs or sweet chili sauce, if desired.

 

 

 

Thai Basil Chicken (GF)

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I’m eating some of the leftovers as I type this. Delicious.

My love of this dish started two years ago when my sister bought me a packet of Thai basil seeds. I planted them in a small purple pot and a couple of months later I had a Thai basil plant. Sister and I decided it was time to cook with the Thai basil and, since this was in the dark ages before Pinterest, we googled “Thai basil recipes”. One of the first results that popped up was for Thai Basil Chicken. Sounded good. We only had some of the ingredients on hand and weren’t interested in even eating some of the other ingredients listed, so we made due with what we had. And that was how two Italian girls created a “Thai” recipe!

If you haven’t had Thai basil before, it’s a different taste that the Genovese Basil you can buy in bunches or dried at grocery stores. In fact, you may have trouble buying it at a traditional grocery store. I grow mine from seeds, and when it isn’t in season I use a pre-chopped variety in a bottle that I’ve found at Harris Teeter and Wegmans. I suppose you could potentially find it fresh at an Asian market. Since my Thai basil plant currently has only six full size leaves on it, I went for the bottled variety in this recipe. The taste is stronger than a traditional basil, and, as the bottle describes “anise-like”.

One component of this recipe is chili garlic sauce. I love spicy food, so this stuff is right up my alley and I add a full tablespoon to the recipe. I’d suggest toning the spice level down when you first make this dish and start with just a teaspoon, or even less if you know you have a low spice tolerance. Or, serve with lots of rice to counter the spiciness.

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Thai Basil Chicken

Ingredients (makes 4-5 servings)
  • 1 lb. ground chicken breast
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 oz shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs chili garlic sauce
  • 3 Tbs Thai Basil, chopped
Cooking Directions
  1.  Mince the shallots, garlic, and Thai basil.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a large frying pan with shallots and garlic.
  3. When you hear the shallots and garlic sizzling, and the ground chicken.
  4. “Brown” the chicken on medium high heat, breaking up into small chunks. The end result will actually look white, not brown (see picture below).
  5. Add the amino acids/soy sauce and fish sauce to the chicken mixture. Take a few minutes to thoroughly combine this with the chicken. You will notice the chicken absorbs the liquid and turns a slightly darker color.
  6. Add the chili garlic sauce and mix.
  7. Finally, mix in the Thai basil.
Serve with rice and/or a vegetable. As you can see from the pictures, I enjoy eating this with green beans.
 
Photo Directions:
"Browned" chicken, shallots, and garlic.

“Browned” chicken, shallots, and garlic.

 
 
Chicken mixture with 2 tbs fish sauce and 2 tbs soy sauce added.

Chicken mixture with 2 tbs fish sauce and 2 tbs soy sauce added.

 
Completed dish, with 1tbs chili garlic sauce and 3 tbs chopped Thai basil.

Completed dish, with 1tbs chili garlic sauce and 3 tbs chopped Thai basil.

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