General Tso’s tofu is one of my favorite dishes served in North American Chinese restaurants. Often I see it made with deep-fried tofu chunks, broccoli and a sugary sweet sauce. Because I have a complicated relationship with sugar, I make my own sauce. My new version below is oil-free and low in salt. I made a few replacements, and the result is festive! It’s still sweet, but the sugar substitutes are much easier on the body’s blood sugar levels. It’s my new take on General Tso’s tofu.
I call it Holiday Tsofu.
Comfort food and General Tso’s tofu
It’s Nov. 5, Friday morning of Election 2020 week. As I sit here, looking down at my late breakfast – or early lunch, depending on your view – I note that I’ve slipped into a bit of anxious thinking about the election 2020 that only a big bowl of comfort food can soothe. I’m about to dig into my comfort leftovers, my new holiday dish. I coined it, “Holiday Tsofu.”
How Holiday Tsofu emerged from General Tso’s Tofu
I’ve been cooking and baking this week to ward off the waves of nervous fidgeting that fluctuate with bursts of dance. One moment in the news I’m seeing the promising and growing lead of a voice of reason, the next I see zany claims of a desperado. It was my AVF partner Susanne that suggested some comfort food with a tasty sauce.
When my friend Susanne told me that her elderly mother in Denmark was following the US election closely, it gave me new pause – pause to realize either we are that important globally, or this has been the Best. Soap Opera. Ever.
As comedian Jimmy Kimmel asks, can’t we catch a break and have just one boring day?
To be honest, I did not think I would invest this much time and thought into the election. And I’ll be the first to admit that spending this much time trolling the news feed is not so healthy. Yet no one will deny, in years and decades to come, that this was a most remarkable time in US history.
So caring about good nutrition is part of, not just my therapy, my maintenance.
I love it when something creative blossoms out of stressful weeks. Let me tell you about how the Holiday Tsofu came about.
While chatting with Susanne, gossiping about the election (yes, confessions help, too) I started wondering what to cook for dinner. She sent me a link to her favorite General Tso’s tofu recipe. I took it into the kitchen.
In his recipe post, Andrew Olson of the One Ingredient Chef points out the dubious history of how the name of the dish came about. Personally, I’m solely interested in its comfort value. I was not daunted, either, by the fact that this recipe is a far cry from one ingredient.
Ingredients are easy to interchange. I’ll tell you what I did. I opened the fridge and started pulling candidates out.
The pre-cut cauliflower florets and block of tofu in the refrigerator would go well together. A half of a large red bell pepper would offer a dash of color. The scallion on the counter would work nicely in place of green onions.
Diabetic considerations for General Tso’s tofu
In the beginning of my post above I mention blood sugar levels. I want to address how important it is for all of us to be aware of how much sugar and salt we ingest, no matter what our age. Unless you are a strict plant-based whole foods eater, chances are you consume a lot of sugar and sodium unwittingly.
Because so many prepared foods are loaded with salt and sugar, we can avoid some of these pitfalls simply by creating our recipes from scratch and making substitutions.
I always at least halve the salt called for in a recipe, or leave it out altogether.
Many people, for example, think it’s a lot easier to buy bottled General Tso dressing. Bottled dressings often have high fructose syrup or some other refined sugar (and not necessarily vegan) as well as high quantities of salt. You have better control of all that, quickly and conveniently with staples in your own cupboard.
Here is my recipe for:
Holiday Tsofu (General Tso's tofu with cauliflower)
Holiday Tsofu is my variation on General Tso's tofu, using cauliflower and red peppers, It's a tasty and festive dish for the holidays that you can serve as an appetizer or main dish with your favorite rice.
- 16 oz firm Tofu (450g)
- ⅓ cup cornmeal (50g)
- 2 Tbsp rice flour or other gluten-free flour
- ⅛ tbsp black pepper or pepper mix
- ¼ tbsp chili powder or cayenne (optional)
- 2 cups cauliflower florets (200g)
- 1 small red bell pepper or ½ large
- 1 small or ½ large shallot (or your choice of onion)
- ¼ cup low-salt soy sauce (60ml)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (in case your seasoned vinegar has sugar in it, cut back on your sweetener to balance it out) (60ml)
- 2 Tbsp maple or date syrup
- Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (I like to grind them)
- Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). I’m going out this weekend to buy an air fryer, which would be great with this recipe.
Drain and press out excess water from the tofu. Then break it up into bite-sized pieces.
Mix up the dry coating ingredients in a shallow bowl, Roll the tofu chunks in the coating and place in a baking pan lined with parchment paper.* Bake for a half hour, or until the chunks are golden brown.
When the tofu is done, prepare the vegetables. Sauté the cauliflower in a pan with a little bit of water. Add the chopped onion and chopped red pepper. Add the sauce and mix it all up, and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Then mix in the tofu chunks until everything is well blended.
Top with toasted sesame seeds and serve with your favorite rice - I prefer white jasmine or basmati, as my body does not digest brown rice well.
Susanne told me this General Tso's tofu works great in her air fryer, and I’m excited to try it out for myself. But baking is fine. I’ve tried an oil spray or drizzling a tiny bit, but I’ll tell you, I feel so much better when I skip the oil completely.
When we do one-day hikes, we often get hungry in the late afternoons. We like to have a meal that not only reminds us of real dinner but also gives us energy. At the same time, it has to be easy to carry and eat.
This dish is a perfect match. Serve in pita bread and you can have a healthy dinner ready in minutes.
Bulgur wheat is an excellent source of protein, low-fat and low in calories, perfect for an active person.
This recipe is a basic Tabbouleh, add your won favorites, we like
- Leafy greens
- Lemon juice
You can substitute the bulgur wheat with quinoa, wild rice or even chickpeas.
Photo Credit: Alpha
We have just had a week with loads of rain showers and today the sun was shining & it means that the forest is full of mushroom and berries. So we packed the backpack with coffee and smorgas! – we are from Scandinavia – after all 🙂 Put on our hiking gear and off we went as merry dwarfs to the forest.
On our way to the forest we did see wild strawberries and blueberries, tasted just a few, we wanted to go further away from the road before starting to have a feast in wild berries.
In the forest we were not disappointed; wild strawberries in abundance and loads of blueberries – we had to walk another hour's time before we saw the first mushrooms “chanterelles” and picked two big handful each, enough for two generous servings of Chanterelles Stew.
We always use the same recipe, the season is fairly short, so we just make our favorite. The original recipe calls for butter and full fat cream but it is easy to replace with vegan ingredients as we have done for years by now. We serve with rye bread again we are from Scandinavia, so a natural choice. You can use the bread of your preference, only thing is don't use a sour bread with a too sourish taste, it ruins the mild taste of the musrooms.
Photo credit: the top photo “Chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo within recipe by Susanne Flø
I love Italian vegan sausages, and they are great to take on picnics. I pack and take them along with other lunch goodies on hikes in the forests where I like to roam with my hubby. But I cannot buy vegan sausages in Finland where I live at the moment. So, I did a search and found a great website: http://www.theppk.com
I will make them from the recipe below, and post an update on how they panned out.
1/2 cup cooked white beans (great northern or navy), rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil *or* 1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato paste is a great fat replacement)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon granulated garlic *or* 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed *or* 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Several dashes fresh black pepper
Before mixing your ingredients, get the steaming apparatus ready, bringing water to a full boil. The rest of the recipe comes together very quickly.
Have ready 4 square sheets of tin foil. In a large bowl, mash the beans until no whole ones are left. Throw all the other ingredients together in the order listed and mix with a fork. Divide dough into 4 even parts (an easy way to do this: split the dough in half and then into quarters). Place one part of dough into tin foil and mold into about a 5 inch log. Wrap dough in tin foil, like a tootsie roll. Don’t worry too much about shaping it, it will snap into shape while it’s steaming because this recipe is awesome.
Place wrapped sausages in steamer and steam for 40 minutes. That’s it! You can unwrap and enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.
The recipe and tips on how to: http://www.theppk.com/2012/01/vegan_sausage/
UPDATE: they are now a part of my favorite Italian recipes. They were easy to form, the sausages looked nice and the taste yummy.
Photo credit: Ari Moore
Being vegans we can crave a burger, not a beef burger that is. Yes you can choose tofu, tempeh or seitan but you can also use veggies. The trick is to know which veggie to use, so the burger won't fall apart and still tastes great. Yes you can choose tofu, tempeh or seitan.
My favourite is chickpeas and black-eyed peas.
Chickpeas and Black-Eyed Peas
Chickpeas are so amazing and versatile. You can eat them in salads, roast them until they are crunchy, or you can turn them into fabulous burgers. Think of falafels, but bigger. I make the most incredible chickpea burgers and serve them with Tzatziki sauce on top.
Chickpeas are the main ingredient of the World’s Healthiest Veggie Burger Patty as well as in actress Mayim Bialik’s Big Bang Vegan Chickpea Burger Patty.
On the other side of the color spectrum from chickpeas are black-eyed peas. These legumes, also known as pigeon peas, are perfect for burgers because they have a taste and texture that’s not too beany or grainy. I use them in my Black-Eyed Pea Burgers with Mississippi Comeback Sauce.
Both chickpeas and black-eyed peas are very mild in flavor, so don’t be shy with the seasonings.
Read about the other veggies at http://www.onegreenplanet.org/
Photo credit: Ewan Munro