Korean Briased Tofu with Green Onion

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Before I found out about my gluten intolerance, my husband and I used to go to our favorite little Korean restaurant once a week. I love that in addition to your main dish, you also get a variety of little side dishes called banchan. Unfortunately, it is hard to find gluten-free Korean food in a restaurant. Almost every dish involves soy sauce, fried elements, or gojuchang (a Korean chili paste that contains wheat!). So, as always, I have begun to try to replicate these dishes at home. I think that tofu is an under appreciated food here in the US, because it has been labeled as an option for vegans and vegetarians. Omnivores seem to avoid it here. However Asian countries have long since included in in their diets, in addition to meat. I greatly respect that, as it is a healthy and versatile source of protein. This particular dish is normally served as a banchan, but it is so good I could eat it by itself or maybe on top of some greens as a salad!

Ingredients

1 block tofu (14 oz)

2-3 stalks green onion – cut into 2 inch long peices

3/4 cup gluten free or tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp gluten free gojuchang or other chili paste (I used a chili garlic paste I found at the Asian Market)

1/2 tsp minced garlic (omit if using chili garlic sauce)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sesame seeds (for garnish)

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan.
  2. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, garlic, and sesame oil in a separate bowl.
  3. Drain and cut tofu into desired size. I chose larger rectangles, but smaller bite-size pieces work too. Pat dry with a paper towel (this is very important, since any excess water will cause the hot oil to spit while cooking).
  4. Pan fry tofu on both sides until lightly browned.
  5. Add in green onion and saute to wilt it slightly.
  6. Add in sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes until it is slightly reduced.
  7. Top with sesame seeds, serve, and enjoy!
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Blue Apron Box Review

A growing trend in both food and other products seems to be home delivery boxes. The draw of the weekly food boxes is that you get 3 pre-portioned meals delivered, without having to go to the store or worry what to do with leftover ingredients. This seems great to me, as I hate food waste. I am constantly trying to figure out what I can do with something that is about to go bad! You also don’t have to plan our own meals and you usually end up with more exotic choices than what you would have thought of on your own. The company gives you a bunch of choices (in BA’s case, six choices) and you pick out three. It is basically convenient.

Here are the Blue Apron specific pros and cons:

Pros

  • Everything comes well packaged in a cooler box with large ice packs. In this box they even wedged the meats in between the ice packs to assure they didn’t spoil.
  • All of their packaging is recyclable, so it is environmentally friendly!
  • They only send you the exact measurements of ingredients you need.
  • They include recipe cards with detailed instructions and pictures, so you can follow them easily.
  • The recipes often feature ingredients you don’t regularly use, so you find new things to try!
  • The flavors were actually very good, though I wish they used more seasonings. I felt like every step of every recipe included “season with salt and pepper.” I didn’t.
  • Each meal is portioned to make two or four servings, based on your box size. Side note – The portion sizes are large, so most of the recipes actually made three portions for me.
  • Most portion sizes are 600-800 calories each. This makes it easier for those on a diet. Especially, if you reduce the portion sizes like I did, to make 3 meals.
  • The Blue Apron website posts many of their past recipes, so you can browse them for new meal ideas!

Cons

  • It is costly. Normal price is $60 per box, which is $10 per serving. I can eat at quite a few restaurants for that much per meal. Also, most of my home cooked meals cost much less per serving, even including the food waste.
  • You still have to cook the meal yourself. You pay take-out prices for food you still have to prepare.
  • Most recipes take at least 45 minutes to make, even if you are a trained chef and quick prepper like me. These who cannot chop quickly will need more time for that.
  • Most recipes use A LOT of dishes. The recipes start out by having you cut up everything and place them in individual bowls, so they are at the ready when cooking. With my skills, I can avoid much of that, because I can judge from the recipe what I can do while something is cooking. However, I found it exasperating to wash so many dishes EVERY night, because I didn’t have leftovers and had to cook again.
  • Unreliable ingredients. The company replaced a couple of ingredients with similar ones, leaving a card stating the change was due to availability of the ingredient. This is understandable, but you don’t always get the intended taste when swapping out ingredients. Also, two of my ingredients were spoiled by the time they got to me (a piece of fresh ginger and an eggplant). When you are missing an ingredient, the box no longer becomes convenient. You either need to forget it and worry about the recipe being off, or replace it which means running to the store you were trying to avoid!  The eggplant was the most inconvenient, as it was a major ingredient. Luckily I keep fresh ginger in my freezer (yes you can freeze it!), so I was able to replace it with little trouble.
  • Mediocre customer service. I personally had some trouble contacting their customer service. They charged me for a second box the day after I received the first (Saturday). I immediately went into my account and skipped the next box, since I didn’t want to commit to it, when I hadn’t tried the first yet. I also filled out the contact us form, asking that they refund me, since I did not want it. On Monday, I tried calling them during the stated customer service hours to check on it and no one answered, so I left a message. Tuesday I called again, again no answer and no call back. Wednesday, I sent an email directly to customer service, no reply. Thursday, I got a notification that they had shipped me a box! I replied to that email explaining the situation and left another phone message, no reply. Then I took to social media and tweeted to them. Finally I got a response! In the end they cancelled my account and refunded me the money for the box I didn’t order, so I cannot be too upset. But still, by Thursday I was panicking!
  • Lack of options for people with allergies. I found it difficult to find 3 out of the 6 recipes that were adaptable to my allergies, mostly the wheat. Almost all of their recipes contain wheat ingredients. The ratatouille and salmon both came with baguettes. I used my own bread as replacement. The chicken came with ponzu sauce, that contains regular soy sauce. I had to make my own (tamari, brown sugar, rice vinegar, lime juice, and mirin). I was able to replace the ingredients fairly easily, but I also don’t like throwing out ingredients that I paid for.

Here a the meals I received in my box:

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Ratatouille with Polenta

Unfortunately, one of the eggplant’s for this one was rotten, so It didn’t have as much in it. I also would have liked it to have more seasoning. It only required salt and pepper, with fresh oregano as a garnish. I would have liked some garlic or Italian herbs in the dish as well. I ended up adding some balsalmic vinegar to my bowl for taste (even though it isn’t traditional). I did like the freshness though. The polenta was also good, even though I had to swap the Parmesan cheese out with nutritional yeast.

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Seared Salmon and Panzanella

This was actually a fairly simple recipe. It was not bad, but I doubt I would make it again. I had to replace the garlic bread with my own bread. Also rubbing garlic directly on the bread after it toasted made it very pungent. I would do that before toasting to mellow out the bite of raw garlic.

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Stir-Fried Ginger-Basil Chicken with Coconut rice

I actually really liked this recipe! I love the coconut rice, but I have never seen coconut milk powder in my life. Fortunately I have successfully made it before with coconut milk instead and would do that next time.

My overall opinion is that it is not right for me. I feel like it was too much money and too much work for me. It will not work for those of us with allergies, especially since they really don’t label allergens as well as other companies do. However, I think this would be great for people without dietary restrictions, that want to learn how to cook some interesting recipes. I also think it is great for people that don’t want to take the time to do meal planning. This is really more of a convenience or novelty product. Even if you don’t get the box, I encourage you to take a look at their recipe page. You may find some interesting recipes to try or adapt.

Easy GF Vegan/Vegetarian Chili Recipe

One of the things that surprised me when going gluten free is the amount of soups and stews that contain gluten, especially chili. Chili is one of my favorite meals to make because it is hearty, wholesome, and delicious! It goes great on hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries too. However, I have to be careful about ordering it when dining out. Many kinds of pre-packaged chili contain gluten. Premixed chili spice packets also can contain gluten. I even had a friend offer me some of her “famous” chili, but declined when she told me her secret is to dump a bottle of beer in it at the end! That is also why I ask what is in each thing I consider eating, even if it seems obvious.

This recipe is my favorite, because of it’s simplicity. Basically you dump a can of every vegetable you like into a pot and let it stew. You can do it quickly in a stock pot on the stove or let it stew all day in your crock pot. You can easily add or remove any ingredient, based on taste, without damaging the recipe overall. I added an onion and peppers for flavor, but they aren’t necessary. This time, I even replaced the chili spices with two of the new McCormick GF Chili spice packets, to make it even easier! It may not be haute cuisine, but it is great in a pinch. Probably the best aspect is its low cost. I purchase the canned goods when they are on sale, never paying more than $1 per can. I estimate it cost me $12.22 to make the whole pot. I usually get 8-10 servings per pot. Assuming the 8 servings, that is $1.52 per serving! It also freezes well too, so you don’t get tired of leftovers. I portion out the leftovers, so I can bring them to work or eat them later, when I don’t feel like making a meal from scratch.

Ingredients – Chili Base

1 small onion, white or yellow, rough chop

1 bell pepper, color of choice (I used green this time)

2 – McCormick Gluten Free Chili spice packets

1 – 15 oz can of black beans

1 – 15 oz can of kidney beans

1 – 15 oz can of corn

1 – 15 oz can of okra

1 – 15 oz can of sqaush

5 – 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes, flavor of choice (some brands offer chili seasoned ones!)

1 – 6 oz can of tomato paste

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  1. Saute onion and pepper, if desired. Add it to your stock pot or crock pot. If you are using a stock pot, you can saute in the same pot so you have less dishes.

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2. Add in spices or spice packet, cook for a few minutes until fragrant. This brings out the flavors more, so you can use less spice.

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3. Add in mixed veggies, making sure to drain the liquid from each can. Rinse the beans thoroughly too. I usually throw the contents of each can in a colander and rinse.

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4. Add in the tomatoes, also well drained. If you purchased spiced diced tomatoes, do not rinse them or you will loose the spices!

5. Cook on low crockpot setting for 6-8 hours or medium heat on the stove for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. As the vegetables cook down, the chili will look a little watery (see image above).

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6. Add in the tomato paste to thicken the chili. It is ready to eat!

  • I serve mine with vegan cheese and avocado or guacamole. Sometimes I also include tortilla chips or GF cornbread on the side too.
  • For a meaty version, add in 1 lb cooked ground beef or turkey in between steps 2 and 3.
  • For a fall twist add cooked pumpkin or another winter squash. Adding cinnamon to the squash version is great too!

For those of you who don’t want to use a spice packet:

Ingredients – Homemade Chili Spice

2 Tbl Chili powder

1.5 tsp red pepper flakes

1.5 Tbl Garlic Powder

1 Tsp Onion Powder

1.5 Tbl Cumin Powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sugar

Honey Sesame Chicken

One type of food that I miss being able to eat at restaurants is Chinese food. I have not once been comfortable ordering food at a Chinese restaurant, since I found out I was wheat-intolerant. It seems like most of the food is cooked in the same few woks, with little to no cleaning in between orders. So much cross-contamination! Also, they never have gluten free or tamari soy sauce available, like a few Japanese restaurants I have encountered do.

Because of this, the only time I get to eat Chinese food, is when I make it myself. The other day, i started craving the sweet honey sesame chicken I used to order as a kid, so I decided to try to make it myself. I did a lot of research and  managed to piece together an excellent and (as always) adaptable recipe.

I also love a good slow cooker recipe, because you can prep it ahead of time, do most of the clean up before the meal has finished cooking, and you don’t have to babysit the pan, which frees up your time to do other things.

Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

1.5 tablespoons of rice vinegar

1/4 cup of honey

½ teaspoon of Sriracha (or other hot sauce)

1.5 teaspoon of sesame oil

1/4 cup of tamari soy sauce (or coconut aminos, if allergic to soy)

1 teaspoon of minced clove garlic

1 medium onion, sliced

2 teaspoons of corn starch (or arrow root, if allergic to corn)

2 tablespoons of water

1.5 pounds of boneless and skinless chicken breast, cubed

For garnish: scallions, sesame seeds

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  1. In a bowl, add the rice vinegar, honey, Sriracha, sesame oil,  and tamari.
  2. Mince the garlic clove and slice the onions. Add these ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
  3. Mix some water and the starch together, whisking to get out any clumps, then add this to the sauce.
  4. Put the chicken breast in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over it making sure that the chicken is covered.

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5. Cook covered on high heat for 3 ½ half hours or 5-7 hours on low heat.

6. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish, and serve with white rice. Enjoy!

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Notes:

  • I don’t like things too spicy, so I only used a little Siracha to balance out the sweetness of the honey. If you do like it spicy, you can always use more hot sauce or add a chili or two to increase the heat.
  • You can sub out the white rice out for healthier options like brown rice or quinoa too!