In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been almost three weeks since my last post. Although I hate taking a break from blogging, this brief respite was due to a series of recent events including my first two weeks of studying at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. As I start my third week this week, I am over the moon to say that I already know this was the perfect move for me. In fact, I feel a bit spoiled that I am allowing myself 6 months of having a total blast every single day, simply learning more about what I am most passionate about. I can think of few things that I would enjoy more than spending my days learning to cook using health supportive, sustainable, and whole food focused methods.
It didn’t take long for my anxiety surrounding this new path to fall away, but it was tricky for me to finally find a groove that would allow for blogging, exercise and a social life. If school was the only thing changing up my life, I probably would’ve still needed a short break from everything else, in order to fall into a new routine. Unfortunately, starting school was not the only origin of chaos in my life over the past couple weeks. My first day of school was quite miserable due to a lingering sickness I caught while traveling in Costa Rica a week prior. While the excitement of the first day was enough to push me through, I headed straight to Urgent Care after class because it was quite clear that this bug wasn’t going away on its own. To my relief, with the antacid meds, anti-nausea pill, and an antibiotic that the doc gave me, I was feeling much better by my second day of class, except for the moderate stomach discomfort I was experiencing.
So I wasn’t feeling my best on Monday and Tuesday of my first week of culinary school. Cry me a river, right? Well Tuesday night brought another issue to the surface. This issue? An allergic reaction to one of the four meds I had consumed over the last three days. This allergic reaction included red, itchy hives from head to toe just before my upper lip swelled up to the point of my face being unrecognizable.
Although the hives disappeared by the next morning, the lip swelling had not dissipated. Well, I was not going to miss my third day at NGI, no way. So I basically had no choice, I went to my third day of school with what looked like a horribly botched plastic surgery situation. FML. There’s not much else I need to say on the matter except that two things were reaffirmed here. First, is that I’m better off steering clear of any medication that is not essential to my survival. And second is that when things are rough, repeat after me, “this too shall pass.”
The rest of the week passed without incident, but I was still feeling weak and putting every ounce of energy into school. So here I am, a few weeks later, my mind, body and spirit feeling better than ever, and more than ready to get back into the swing of things. Due to the timing of my blogging vacation, I didn’t have the opportunity to post one last summer recipe to really get it out of my system. I know, the cool, crisp weather of fall is already here to stay (hopefully). But because I missed out on the last couple weeks, I’m going to give summer a little love today with a recipe for BBQ Baked Tofu Rice Bowls.
Honestly there’s nothing specifically “summer” about these bowls, except for the use of BBQ sauce, which is typically a summer condiment. These delicious and healthy bowls don’t require an outdoor grill and will definitely hold their own in the season of hearty and comforting foods. So let’s just call this a seasonless recipe with an extra dash of summer.
Baked tofu is one of my favorite methods of cooking tofu because it eliminates the softness and squishy quality of the tofu, and creates instead a heartier and chewier texture. Before baking I marinated the sliced tofu triangles by simmering them in an artisanal BBQ sauce we bought at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Chili Festival. The baked tofu was then combined with fresh romaine lettuce, a scoop of brown rice, organic canned black beans and sweet corn, freshly roasted garlicky tomatoes, zippy scallions and a creamy BBQ yogurt sauce. Welcome to Flavor Town, USA.
Matt and I both really loved these bowls. Of course I would love them, they’re a vegetarian-health-nut’s dream come true. But because Matt loved them too, you know they must be pretty tasty. BBQ sauce (which in this case was a South Carolina style sauce, but any sauce will do) and the roasted cherry tomatoes are the flavor stars here. Roasted Garlicky Tomatoes are actually a secret weapon of mine. They add so much flavor and richness, and they really kick any recipe up a couple notches. I literally add them to everything. Then, the black beans add fiber, protein and substance to the dish. The corn adds a little sweetness and texture. And it all comes together to create a BBQ masterpiece, fit for meat eaters or meat-freers. But if you or someone else just can’t stomach eating tofu over meat, the concept works just as well with grilled BBQ chicken or pulled pork. As always, I strongly encourage customizing my recipes to fit your needs.
So let’s recap. I am so excited to be back in a routine and back to blogging after a hectic few weeks of starting a new life. I hope everyone had a great summer, and if you’re not quite ready to let go, these BBQ Tofu Bowls are the perfect recipe for you. On the other hand, if you’re running full speed ahead into Fall, I’m right there with you (but still encourage giving this dish a try). No matter what, if you remember only one thing from this post, just remember that whatever it is that you’re dealing with, it too shall pass.
BBQ Baked Tofu & Brown Rice Bowls
Serves: 6 Start to Finish: 1 hour
1 cup dry Brown Rice
2 pints Cherry Tomatoes
4 cloves Garlic
1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 15-ounce block organic extra firm Tofu
1 bottle all-natural BBQ Sauce (I used Torchbearer Carolina Sauce)
2 Hearts of Romaine, chopped and washed
2 cans organic Black Beans
2 cans organic Sweet Corn
2 large Scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 cup plain Yogurt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Make 6 servings of brown rice according to package instructions. Be sure to salt it, and at the end let it steam undisturbed. This usually takes me 50 minutes total.
While rice cooks, wash cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Toss with 1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil, 3 cloves roughly chopped garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread into a single layer onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, toss, and bake for 15-20 more minutes.
Meanwhile, slice tofu into thin slices, 1/4-1/2″, then triangles. Add to a pot with the BBQ sauce, until the tofu is covered completely. Or as much as possible. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When tomatoes are finished, remove from oven and allow to cool. Keep brown rice covered after finished cooking. When tofu is finished simmering, shake off excess liquid and place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10-15.
Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans and corn. Wash and chop the lettuce and scallions. Mix yogurt with 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce (cooled). Divide lettuce, tomatoes beans and corn over serving plates.
When rice is finished, add rice to each portion. When tofu is finished baking, toss gently in remaining BBQ sauce and divide over portions. Top with chopped scallions and yogurt sauce.