Tag Archives: Main Dish

Cookbook Challenge #2 – Quinoa Pilaf

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I brought Isa Chandra’s Appetite for Reduction cookbook to work with me and read through it as I had my morning cup of coffee. I ended up looking at her recipe for cranberry-cashew biryani and knew I needed to make it.

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However, as much as I love her recipes and love that in this cookbook everything is 400 calories or less per serving, I wanted to change the recipe to fit my taste buds better.

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My sister and I were emailing each other all day talking about recipes, our mom’s recipes, cooking and planning my visit to Chicago in March (hooray!). I told her about this recipe and how I wanted to change it to fit my dietary needs. She reminded me that “biryani” is actually all spice. It does not usually have dried fruit in it, and I wanted to use some kind of dried fruit. So we both realized what I wanted to make, was really a pulao or pilaf.

The biggest changes I made were the cooking process in general, using quinoa over Basmati rice to help keep it low-carb for me, and using dried apricots instead of cranberries.

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garam masala made fresh

If you didn’t know, apricots and cumin are two of the most yummy flavors when combined. Next time you make a curry dish with cumin, add a little dried apricot in there – your world will change completely.

This dish turned out amazing. How do I know that? When REB got home from class and had it for dinner, he said, and I quote, “Whole Foods should have this in their hot bar.”

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This is how I know this recipe is a keeper. And how I know he’s a keeper too ;)

Quinoa Pilaf
 
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A low-carb twist on classic Vegetable Pulao that uses Indian spices, mixed vegetables and dried fruit. Adapted from Isa Chandra (and my mom)!
Author:
Recipe type: vegan, vegetarian, main dish
Cuisine: Indian, vegetarian, vegan
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1½ cups frozen mixed vegetable blend (my blend has carrots, peas, green beans and corn kernels)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (I make mine fresh, but you can use store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup unsalted whole cashews, toasted
  • Cilantro (optional garnish)
Instructions
  1. In a rice cooker or medium pot, cook quinoa according to packaging instructions. I used ¾ cup quinoa, with 1½ cups water in my rice cooker.
  2. Add the chopped dried apricots directly to the quinoa so they cook together — the quinoa took about 20-25 minutes to cook in the cooker. May take longer on stovetop.
  3. When the quinoa is cooked, pour into a bowl and set aside
  4. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.
  5. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover the pot with a lid and let the seeds start to pop.
  6. Next add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for one minute.
  7. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, garam masala, turmeric, salt, red pepper flakes and stir well for one minute.
  8. Add the tomato paste and water and stir.
  9. Cover the dish and let it come to a boil and reduce so the curry is slightly thickened and most of the water is gone- about 3-5 minutes.
  10. While the curry is boiling away, toast the cashews in a small, dry pan until golden
  11. When the curry has reduced, add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir well to combine all the flavors. Give it a taste and adjust your spices if needed.
  12. Toss in the toasted cashews.
  13. Serve immediately with pickle, chutney or additional curry dish.
  14. Optional garnish: chopped cilantro

 

After doing the math, I found that this recipe was only 229 calories per serving, almost 5g of fiber and almost 8g of protein. I think next time I might add some garbanzo beans or mushrooms to up the ante on the protein.

What are some of your favorite cookbook recipes?

Resolutioner No More

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I didn’t make any resolutions for 2013. I have that list of things I want to do before I’m 30 (9 months and counting. I need to step up my game and get crack-a-lacking!) and while some health related items are on there, I think that list is sufficient and as close to resolutions as I’ll get.

I used to be one of those “resolutioners” are the gym. You know, the one who signs up for a membership at big, corporate gym on January 1 and says to themselves, “I’m going to work out every single day, not eat and I’ll lose weight. Hooray!”

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Not so much hooray. It would only last about a month. I have a gym membership now at a much smaller, locally-owned place, sure, but I haven’t been there since the holidays. I’ve been working out at home in our basement gym, attending Russa yoga classes downtown near my work, and trying to change things up to keep the workouts interesting. I am definitely one of those people who gets bored very easily. If I change it up, it actually makes working out tolerable and fun ;)

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I know it’s not easy to get your butt to the gym. One of my friends once told me, “The hardest part is lacing up your shoes.” and once you do that, you’re set. How I feel about working out, especially at a gym now, is a complete 180 from before.

I hated going to the gym back then, and quickly realized that I had signed up for something I wasn’t 100% committed to doing. I wanted to lose the weight, but wasn’t prepared to do anything that comes with wanting that to happen. I wasn’t prepared to up the intensity of my workouts, do both cardio and strength training to get a full body workout, eat healthier, cut out junk, etc. So like a lot of people, I stopped going and then bitched and moaned that they were ripping me off.

A lot of you have read my journey to wanting to be healthy. It wasn’t easy but I’m finally in a place I can appreciate. Do I have bad days? Yes. Do I have great days? Yes. Do I sometimes get too obsessed about caloric intake, lack of protein, fat and carbs consumed and calories burned? Absolutely. BUT! I don’t stop. I work out. I cut out the junk. And I definitely eat better and as a result, feel better. I also know results won’t happen overnight. It took me a LONG time to figure that one out ;)

One way of keeping healthy is one of my favorite things to do: making new recipes that are healthier forms or vegetarian/vegan forms of a classic recipe.

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So now onto the food and real purpose of this post. Stuffed peppers are a classic recipe in my opinion. We have made them before, but we kind of made them blindly and didn’t really measure out ingredients, or think about what kinds of healthy ingredients we could put into them.

I lightened up this newer recipe and it ended up being completely vegan. And delicious.

Stuffed Peppers with Curry-Spiced Quinoa
 
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A healthy twist on a classic recipe using quinoa, meatless crumbles and spices! This can easily be made into a meat dish or just vegetarian with the addition of cheese.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish, Entree
Cuisine: vegetarian, vegan, main dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 whole medium-sized red bell peppers, halved lengthwise
  • Non-stick spray
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups vegan meatless crumbles (I used Boca brand)
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup frozen corn kernels, warmed or thawed
  • ¾ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons vegan worchestershire sauce (I use Wizards brand found at Whole Foods)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 dashes Franks red hot sauce (or Tobasco if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Parlsey (optional garnish)
Instructions
  1. Cook the quinoa according to instructions on package (I cooked mine the night before) and set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 350°
  3. Fill a large pot with water and let it come to a boil
  4. Stand the bell peppers up and cut down the middle, lengthwise so they are halved. Take out the seeds and membranes. Arrange all 8 halves in a 9 x 13 baking dish
  5. Once the water is boiling add the bell pepper halves (4 at a time) into the water and blanch for 3-5 minutes. Remove, drain the water out and arrange back in the dish. Set aside.
  6. In a large skillet, spray the non-stick spray and let it heat over medium heat.
  7. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly tender.
  8. Next add the meatless crumbles and let them warm through in the pan.
  9. Add the water and stir. Let the whole thing cook away for 3-4 minutes.
  10. Add the tomatoes and corn, followed by the garlic, Worcestershire sauce and all the spices.
  11. Lastly, add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine.
  12. If the mixture gets too dried out, you can add a little more water.
  13. When everything is well mixed, give it a taste and adjust your spices and add salt and pepper accordingly (if needed).
  14. Remove from heat and distribute evenly among the halved bell pepper boats
  15. Bake the dish at 350°F for 20 minutes then heat under the broiler for 2 minutes or until the tops are slightly browned and crisped.

The best thing about this dish is that it’s under 300 calories per bell pepper. You really can’t beat that! So if you are a resolutioner, start the year off right with this healthy, low calorie recipes that is incredibly filling!

And while I’m not quite the “resolutioner” now as I was way back when, I do still set goals for myself. I just know I can’t expect them to be achieved, or see the results overnight. What I do know is that I plan to make 2013 rock as much as 2012 did!


Do/Did you set any resolutions or goals for yourself for 2013?

Cookbook Challenge #1 – Isa’s Quinoa Salad

Remember that list of 31 things I want to do before I turn 30? The 31 Before 30 list? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it, too. I always do this to myself. I make an awesome list, set of goals, or even resolutions and usually only get 75% done.

So I happened to take a peek at the list, scrolled through it, and came to number #25 and literally said, “Oh shit.”

Read it and weep, Aparna:

Prepare and cook at least two recipes from each cookbook I own.

Now for any normal person, this is not a big deal. This is actually something very easy to accomplish for most. But for someone like me, who constantly forgets she owns cookbooks because she either alters recipes she finds online, puts a twist on her mom’s recipes, or creates new recipes all together, this is a problem.

I don’t even own a lot of cookbooks. I own, like….[counting] 11 cookbooks. So this should be easy. That’s 22 recipes I need to get done in a year. Well, at least 22 recipes (damn technicalities).

The only one I’m kind of pissed and/or worried about is cooking from The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook aka ALL MEAT, BUTTER, FAT AND CARBS RAWR. Quite frankly, I’m not as big a fan of hers as I used to be, and I don’t even know why I have this cookbook or ever wanted it. Her demeanor, her show and her overall premise is not very appealing to me nor do I relate to it in any way. [Pause for gasps and people leaving blog]

But I digress…

So as I was perusing through this cookbook, and on the phone with REB as he was driving home from work, we were playing the “what should we make for dinner?” game. It’s a game we hate and one we play almost every night. I mentioned I was reading Isa Chandra’s cookbook to him and maybe an idea for dinner would come from it. He seemed intrigued. Actually, he didn’t, but he did say, ” Yeah, that sounds good.” I’ll take that as intrigue and interest.

I love Isa Chandra. I love that I relate to her food aesthetic and I love her recipes. I looked through her cookbook and post-it’ed the hell out of it with recipes I want to try. And while on the phone with REB, came across this recipe, which we happened to have almost all the ingredients for in the kitchen.

Isa’s Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds was perfect. Everything in the Appetite for Reduction cookbook is 400 calories or less per serving, uses fresh ingredients and is full of proteinalicious recipes! REB and I are newbs to quinoa, and we can’t get enough of it. It’s easily becoming our favorite substitute for pasta or rice. Plus, anything with cumin seeds? Duh. Has my name all over it.

So one recipe down, 21 (excuse me, at least 21) to go!

Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds
 
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Our twist on a low-cal, full-of-protein, fresh-ingredient salad! Adapted from Isa Chandra
Author:
Recipe type: main dish, vegetarian, quinoa
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 4 on-the-vine tomatoes (it’s all we had. I would prefer Roma), finely diced (remove some excess liquid if you can)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in dry pan
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup scallion, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (more if you need it – we didn’t)
  • Juice of two limes
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions on package. Once cooked, put into a mixing bowl, and let it cool.
  2. In a dry pan, toast cumin seeds until aromatic. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, add chopped tomatoes, lime juice, honey, olive oil and cumin seeds and mix.
  4. Stir in the cooled quinoa, add the salt, scallion and black beans.
  5. Enjoy at room temperature or cold!
  6. Optional garnish: chopped scallion or cilantro
  7. Vegan option: use agave nectar instead of honey

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Veggies and Tempeh


I don’t know about any of you, but I’m one of those gals who likes the pearled, or Israeli, couscous and not the superfine kind. I think the latter is a little too gritty but maybe I’ve never had it made correctly.  This recipe had roasted veggies, spices, chickpeas and tempeh. Proteinalicious!

Before this recipe, I had never made couscous before. I always see it made on the cooking shows I watch, but I’ve never actually been “brave” enough to make it on my own. Maybe the idea of fluffing it with my fork just scared me, who knows. Luckily I have a husband who likes having culinary adventures and let’s me tag along for the ride.

The great thing about this recipe is that it had a lot of Indian spices in it! And by a lot, I mean two. Ha. It had garam masala and turmeric. I always keep a batch of garam masala in my kitchen, but sometimes I act like my mom and make it fresh during the cooking process.

Here’s my recipe for it if you’ve never made it and want to sometime! Turmeric is another great spice. I don’t think it actually tastes like anything, but it does make your dishes turn a beautiful yellow color and stains your nails and fingertips!


I guess these two spices just remind me of home and my mom’s kitchen, so I was really excited to find a non-Indian recipe that also used them! I have to say, this dish turned out fantastic. It was a little time consuming but it turned out pretty great. REB was responsible for cooking the tempeh so I just got the instructions/process from him but didn’t take any pics :(

The original recipe was just the Israeli couscous with the grilled veggies, but we don’t have a grill and didn’t feel like pulling out the stove-top grill. So we roasted our veggies and since there really wasn’t a ton of protein in the dish, we decided to make tempeh to top it off. REB made the tempeh with an orange glaze, which I know sounds weird with the spiced couscous, but it actually went together so nicely. The sweetness paired well with the spice. They were pretty happy together. And I was too ;)

Israeli Couscous recipe adapted from Three Many Cooks
Orange glazed tempeh adapted from 101 Cookbooks

For the tempeh:
•4 oz. Soy Tempeh (we used half a block of this Light Life Tempeh brand), cut into thin triangles or 1/2-inch strips
1 tablespoon olive oil (for cooking)
•1/2 cup fresh mandarin juice or orange juice (about 4-5 mandarins)
•1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)
•1 teaspoon lite soy sauce
•3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
•1 teaspoon honey (use maple syrup instead to make this dish vegan!)
•1 teaspoon ground coriander

For the couscous:
•2 cups Israeli (pearled) couscous
•1 small zucchini cut julienne then cut in thirds to make small strips
•1 red bell pepper cut julienne then cut in half to make small strips
•1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
•1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
•1/2 cup chopped onion
•1 teaspoon minced garlic
•3 teaspoons garam masala (I know that sounds like a lot, but this will make it good and spicy)
•1 teaspoon turmeric
•3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
•1 cup water
•S&P to taste
•1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus some extra for garnish
•2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for roasting vegetables

Start by preheating your oven to 400°F. Add the bell pepper and zucchini in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes checking on them halfway and tossing again.

Meanwhile in a large pot, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil and let it get hot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Next add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two.  Then add the couscous and spices and stir to lightly toast the couscous, about 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and cup of water. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone. It will be very thick!

While all that is happening, heat a separate skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the tempeh and cook 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Then add the liquid mixture and let it simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. It will turn into a glaze.

When the couscous is finished, add in the chickpeas, roasted vegetables, halved tomatoes and cilantro. Top with tempeh, garnish with cilantro and serve!

This made so much! I think we easily could have served 6-8 people. You could definitely feed more if you were serving it as a side dish. This can also be made vegan. Actually I think without the tempeh, it already is vegan. Either way, this is one dish I don’t mind having a lot leftovers!

Have any of you made couscous before?
Do you prefer the traditional fine couscous, or this pearled kind?

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Truffle Mac and Cheese

It was fancy dinner night in our household. REB found a recipe for truffle mac and cheese and so we tried it out. Now, I’m not a huge mushroom person. I’m warming up to the taste of them, but it’s a slow process. However since we’re vegetarians, we need to find protein in other forms, which mushrooms fulfill.

The recipe he found was out of Maxim magazine in a segment about “foods guys can cook”, or whatever. The chef is Graham Elliot Bowles from Chicago, IL, and this dish actually tasted great. We changed it up a bit, but for the most part, it’s great as is.

What you’ll need:
•2 cups pasta (we used Cavatappi, my favorite kind of pasta!)
•1 can cream of mushroom soup (I bought the low fat, low sodium variety)
•1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (more like 1/2 cup for us :-X oops)
•1/4 cup Provolone cheese, grated (more like 1/2 cup of us :-X oops)
•1 tablespoon white truffle oil
•12 Cremini mushrooms, whole
•1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

If you noticed, the star ingredient in this dish is white truffle oil. So what the heck is it?


Truffle oil is basically a cop-out move to add truffle flavor with olive oil, rather than spending a whole lot of money to buy real truffles. And believe me, you can buy real truffles. I saw them in a locked up box in Wegmans store in upstate New York. Crazy stuff. Anyway, I bought this bottle which will last me forever because I have no idea what else I’ll use it for, but oh well. Another pretty something to add to my pantry. It’s a smooth flavor though and believe it or not, we could taste it in our dish.

So start by boiling the water for your pasta. While that’s going, heat up the cream of mushroom soup in another saucepan. No need to add water, let the soup just kind of warm away on low heat. Once it’s heated through and it starts to kind of bubble, whisk in the cheese and the add the truffle oil. You want to whisk and/or stir until the whole thing is smooth in texture. Then take it off the heat and set it aside.

While all this is happening, heat oil in a large saute pan. Add some regular olive oil to the pan and wait until it’s screaming hot (almost smoking), then add in the mushrooms. Now, this recipe calls for 12 whole Cremini mushrooms (baby Portabellas). However if you remember, I said I’m still getting adjusted to the taste of mushrooms, so I sliced a few up. The end result was having some texture to the dish, which is always a plus!

Cook the mushrooms for about 7-10 minutes, then add the sherry vinegar and let it cook an additional 2-3 minutes. The smell. I can’t even begin to describe the smell in our kitchen. It smelled so, so amazing.

Once the pasta is cooked, we scooped out about a cup of pasta water in case we needed it (we ended up not needing it), drained it then tossed the pasta into the mushroom sauce and then added the whole thing to the saute pan to mix with the mushrooms.

For a girl who isn’t 100% sold on mushrooms, I absolutely loved this dish. It was the perfect serving, full of protein and flavor and made me appreciate mushrooms just a little more. Of course, I didn’t eat any of the whole ones, but I did love eating the ones I sliced up!


Add some Parmesan shavings and cracked pepper on top and enjoy!

RLB’s Warm Pasta Salad

REB’s brother makes the most amazing warm pasta salad. We’ve made it a few times and I’ve posted pictures of it on Flickr, but I decided it was time to post the recipe since I actually asked REB to tell me how much of what he put in.

This pasta salad evolved when REB and his family were in Vermont, where they vacationed every year when they were growing up (right through college, actually). They own a share out there and trek out there for a week. Apparently one time while out getting groceries, they wanted to get this pasta salad that looked uber delicious, but cost quite a bit (common in Vermont: the land of organic, delicious food). REB’s brother, who we’ll call RLB (/wink), said he could probably make it, so they bought some ingredients, went back to their share, and he made it. It was a success.

The first time I had this dish I was in heaven. it’s so simple and reminds me of summer and also reminds me of REB’s family. We try to make it a few times a year, but it makes a TON so be prepared to have leftovers for 3-4 days. This easily serves about 8-10. I’m sure it should be served as a side dish, but it always is a main dish for us.

Here’s what you’ll need:

•1 1/2 pounds Penne (that’s 1 1/2 boxes ;))
•1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
•1 red bell pepper, chopped
•1 orange bell pepper, chopped
•1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
•1/4 cup (basically cut a smaller half) red onion, chopped
•1 8 oz. block fat free mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
•1 can medium whole black olives (or whatever olive you prefer…we think black works better than green in this dish though) NOTE: save about half the liquid from the can
•1/2 cup olive oil (I know that sounds like a lot, but you’re making it in a big vat, so it’s not THAT bad
•1/2 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce (more if you want a real kick)
•1/2 cup red wine vinegar
•1/2 the liquid from the can of olives
•Couple splashes of balsamic vinegar (you don’t want this dish to be sweet though, so 1-2 splashes will be fine)
•S&P to taste

A disclaimer:


In addition to the block of mozzarella cheese, we also buy fresh mozzarella. We don’t use the whole thing, but this is what we top the whole dish with (just a few pieces) so it kind of melts into ooey-gooey-cheesy-heaven as you eat it. This is totally optional and you’ll have leftovers of this cheese to make an antipasti platter or Caprese salad or whatever.

On to the cooking!

Boil water and cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and set aside. Add the dressing/liquid, half the cubed cheese and stir. Then you add the vegetables and the rest of the cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Top with the fresh mozzarella if you want, or it’s ready to go! We eat it warm, but it really tastes best if you let it sit a day and then reheat it. I don’t know why, but it does. Or you can have it cold as a side dish.


It’s the perfect summer dish and yes, it has a lot of dressing, but it’s well distributed so it’s actually quite light. I love it! And the best part is eating it for the next three days. Enjoy!

Tofu Lo Mein


Had some tofu in the house and I didn’t want to make stir fry since we eat so much rice in this household! Substitute spaghetti and you got some lo mein!

Here’s what you need:

•1 pound spaghetti – although we probably should have used 3/4 of the box. And whole wheat.
•1 package of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 strips
•1 package frozen stir fry veggies
•1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips
•1/2 large red onion, cut into thin strips
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•Grated ginger, I don’t know how much I used. We love ginger so we used a lot I’m sure.
•1 tablespoon Siracha
•4-5 tablespoons stir fry sauce
•3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
•Couple splashes Teriyaki or Soy Sauce (either or both, whatever)
•2 pinches red pepper flakes

Prepare the spaghetti according to the package. Under cook it a bit since you’ll finish cooking it in the pan.

In a large, deep skillet pan-fry the tofu with a little olive oil until they get crispy on all sides. Transfer to a plate and let them sit until ready to toss in with the veggies.

In the same pan, saute all the veggies with olive oil. Add the garlic and grate the ginger directly over the skillet (it’ll melt right in – yum!). Then add in the sauces. You can basically eye ball that since it’s up to your liking how spicy, sweet, salty, etc. you want the sauce to be. Add the tofu back in and stir carefully so the tofu doesn’t fall apart. Toss the pasta right into the skillet, mix, cook a bit and serve! You might need to reserve some pasta water to help keep the noodles moist. Serve and enjoy!