Crispy Eggplant Tofu (vegan)

Crispy Eggplant Tofu (vegan)

One of my guilty pleasures and favorite places to get a quick meal is Panda Express. I know it’s not authentic Chinese food, but man is it good. My two favorite entrees at Panda would have to be the orange chicken and the eggplant tofu. However I will admit their eggplant tofu is extremely oily so I aspired to make a somewhat healthier version and add my own touch to it.

This version of the dish gives you nice crispy eggplant and tofu pieces (not deep fried!) covered in a yummy garlic and ginger soy sauce glaze. Enjoy 🙂

Ingredients: (makes about 2-3 servings)

  • 2 small or 1 large Chinese long eggplant (regular eggplant will work too, but not as well)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 block firm tofu
  • Avocado oil (or any neutral vegetable oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger, minced
  • green onions, chopped (optional, for topping)
  • Sauce:
    1. *1 tbsp light soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
    2. *1/2 tsp dark soy sauce (regular soy sauce fine if you don’t have this)
    3. 1 tbsp water
    4. 2 tsp sugar (I use monk fruit sweetener or coconut sugar as a healthier alternative)
    5. 1 tsp cornstarch*substitute tamari for gluten free

Instructions:

  1. cut eggplant into bite size pieces and then **place into a bowl of water (enough water to cover eggplant) then add sea salt to water and mix. Cover with something heavy (I use a smaller bowl of water) so that eggplant pieces are completely submerged in water. Leave for 15 minutes.
    1. **This step is very important to get rid of the bitterness of the eggplant! You could also add sea salt to the eggplant pieces and let them sit out for about 45-60 minutes, but i like the submerged water method because its faster haha.
  2. While waiting for eggplant, press your tofu. Grab your half block of tofu and place in between a dish towel or 2 paper towels. Place something with some weight (not heavy enough to break the tofu, I usually use a small plate) on the top towel layer. Leave for 10-15 min to let most of the moisture out of the tofu. After 10-15 minutes, cut tofu into 1/2” thick pieces and set aside.
  3. Combine ingredients for sauce in a bowl and mix well.
  4. After 15 min for eggplant is up, empty water and pat pieces dry with a dish towel or paper towel.
  5. Sprinkle eggplant pieces with about 1 tbsp cornstarch and mix by hand, until each piece of eggplant is evenly coated with with a thin layer of cornstarch.
  6. In a non-stick pan on medium-high heat add about 2 tbsp of avocado oil and add the eggplant pieces without them touching. Cook pieces one side at a time until all sides are lightly golden brown and eggplant is soft (about 3-5 minutes per side.) Transfer eggplant from pan to a plate and set aside.
  7. In same pan or another non-stick pan at medium heat, fry your tofu (I usually do this step at the same time eggplant is cooking in another pan.) You can also coat your tofu with cornstarch to make it extra crispy if you would like, but i find it’s not necessary. Spray or lightly drizzle avocado oil into pan and place tofu pieces with largest sides down, not overlapping. Flip when nice and dark golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer from pan to a plate and set aside.
  8. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of avocado oil, minced ginger, and garlic into the same pan on medium high heat. Once fragrant, add the eggplant and tofu back into the skillet. Mix the sauce again until cornstarch is fully dissolved and then pour it over the eggplant and tofu. Immediately stir a few times, until the eggplant and tofu pieces are all evenly coated and the sauce thickens.
  9. Transfer everything to a plate, top with green onions, and enjoy! 🙂

**This dish is best served fresh! I’ve tried to save leftovers and eat it the next day, but it is not nearly as god since it loses its crispiness.

One Bowl Chai Chewy Cookies

One Bowl Chai Chewy Cookies

The kitchen is already a daunting environment to be in, especially when you throw scratch baking into the situation. Like many hobbies, baking is not suited for everyone, especially because there’s much less room for error as opposed to cooking.

For example, if you add a pinch more of baking soda than a recipe called for, everything you had dreamed of your dessert becoming may be thrown out the windows. Goodbye, dreams of finally becoming a professional patisserie today!

We’ve been there too and, honestly, we’re fed up with the smoking ovens, wasted flour and excessive hours now up in flames similar to the last attempt I made baking something I saw on Tik Tok. We’ve got some good news to share with you amateur bakers like ourselves out there! Here’s a quick, easy, fool-proof cookie recipe that I promise you and your friends begging for more of.

This recipe is:
Oil-free! The binding agent is the nut butter and the flax egg
Perfectly sweetened and flavored with a conglomeration of spices
Similar to cake, it has a dense, chewy texture that’s addictive!
The perfect comforting fall dessert during these uncertain times
Vegan and full of natural ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup GF oat flour (blended GF oats, I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg (or use a flax egg – mix 1 tbsp flax with 3 tbsp water, let it rest for 5 minutes before adding)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • White chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Place oats in a blender and process until it has a flour-like texture
  3. In a large bowl, combine everything together until it’s a wet dough texture. Add in the chocolate chips last.
  4. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Enjoy!
Wonton Happiness Salad (inspired by Souplantation)

Wonton Happiness Salad (inspired by Souplantation)

Souplantation has always been one of my favorite places to eat. Even though they basically just serve soup, salad, and lots of carbs, something about it was just so good and I have so many fond memories there. Since they didn’t have Souplantation in Hawaii, my family and I would always make a trip there whenever we would visit the states. Once I moved to Los Angeles, of course I became a club veg member so I could receive all the coupons and special offers. I ate there at least once a month, always looking forward to their new menu items and of course always sneaking an extra blueberry muffin in my purse on my way out 😉

When I found out Souplantation was permanently closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was devastated. The thought of never having the tuna tarragon pasta or those fat noodles in the chicken noodle soup ever again broke my heart. My friends and I were all equally distraught so we decided to recreate some of the dishes at home for a (social distancing) potluck. I was in charge of creating the famous Asian Wonton Happiness salad which I put my own healthy twists on, of course, and surprisingly it turned out so good! Dare I say possibly better than the original? I wouldn’t go that far but I have been craving it for lunch every day since which definitely says something.

This salad is basically a Chinese chicken salad (I added chicken but Souplantation’s version doesn’t have chicken) but what makes it so good is the sesame ginger dressing and the air fried wonton chips. All the yumminess of fried wonton strips without all the oil / deep frying for less guilt! I hope you guys give this recipe a try and pay homage to the great salad and soup buffet that we all love and will miss greatly. Enjoy 🙂

Recipe: (makes about 6 servings)

  1. Ingredients:
    • 4 cups romaine lettuce, cut into bite size pieces
    • 3 cups cabbage, shredded
    • 1 cup carrots, shredded
    • 4-5 store-bought wonton wrappers (for air fryer version) OR can buy pre-made wonton strips
    • 1/4 cup cilantro, stems removed
    • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
    • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
    • 2 chicken breasts (optional)
    • optional toppings / ingredients:
      • sliced almonds
      • avocado
    • Dressing:
      • 2 tbsp avocado oil
      • 1/4 cup Rice vinegar
      • 1 tbsp Sesame oil
      • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari / coconut aminos for gluten free)
      • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
      • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce OR see below for healthier alternative
        1. Healthier hoisin sauce (makes 1/4 cup)
          • 1/8 cup light soy sauce (or tamari / coconut aminos for gluten free)
          • 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (read ingredients, should just be made of peanuts)
          • 1 tbsp honey
          • 1 tsp rice vinegar
          • 1 tsp sesame oil
          • 1/2 tsp miso paste
          • 1 clove garlic, grated
  2. Instructions:
    1. For chicken:
      1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
      2. Once boiling, add chicken breasts in and cook on medium high heat for 20-25 minutes.
      3. Once time is up, place chicken in cold water immediately to stop cooking and let sit for about 5 minutes, until cooled.
      4. Pat chicken dry and place in large bowl. Use two forks to shred the chicken into small bite size pieces.
    2. For dressing:
      1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined.
    3. For air fryer wonton strips:
      1. Take about 6-8 wonton wrappers from package, keeping them stacked together. Cut entire square into 16 pieces so each strip is about 1 1/2” x 1/2”
      2. Separate all strips from each other and place into a bowl (it’s okay if some are still stuck together, they will separate in the air fryer.)
      3. spray a little avocado oil (option to omit oil, it will still work.) Mix well until all strips are evenly coated.
      4. Place strips in air fryer basket and set air fryer to 350 degrees F for about 8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
      5. Once done, let cool
    4. For salad:
      1. Place all salad ingredients except avocado, if using.
      2. Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss well to combine (start with a little dressing and add more as needed by preference)
      3. Top with avocado (if using) and serve immediately!
Dalgona Matcha Latte (vegan, refined sugar free)

Dalgona Matcha Latte (vegan, refined sugar free)

If there’s one thing that has been going crazy viral during this quarantine it’s the dalgona coffee trend. Everyone and their mother is making it and as someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I was getting a little jealous. After doing some research I found out that there is a way to create the same whipped effect in a matcha latte! And best part of all, it’s vegan 😉

What Is Dalgona Coffee?

Dalgona coffee is a whipped coffee made using instant coffee powder. When you whisk the instant coffee and water together it creates a whipped and thick consistency. You might be thinking, well how can you make a dalgona drink without the instant coffee? Well, that’s what we’re here to share our little secret on.

The secret to a Dalgona drink without instant coffee:

Drumroll please… the secret ingredient, believe it or not, is chickpeas! Well, the liquid from a can of chickpeas anyways aka aquafaba. This liquid gold is typically used as an egg white substitute as it can whisk to form stiff peaks, similar to egg whites. And since I know you’re all probably all wondering the same thing that I did, no it does not taste like chickpeas and isn’t salty! So next time you open a can of chickpeas, make sure to save that liquid to make yourself a creamy and delicious drink.

RECIPE: DALGONA MATCHA (vegan, refined sugar free)

Ingredients:

  • aquafaba (liquid from chickpea can)
  • *1 tsp matcha powder (culinary or ceremonial grade) *add more or less depending on how strong your matcha powder is / how strong you like your matcha
  • refined sugar free sweetener of choice:
    • liquid stevia: 1 full droplet
    • stevia: 1 serving size (1 packet of stevia)
    • maple syrup: 1 teaspoon **(or more or less depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 3/4 cup plant based milk of choice (oat milk tastes best in my opinion)
  • ice (optional)
  • a nice, clear glass that will display your beautiful creation. Mason jars work great!

Instructions:

  1. Pour the *amount of aquafaba you are going to use out into a large bowl (big enough so you can mix vigorously and not splash)*I find that one chickpea can produces enough aquafaba to make 2 drinks, so pour out about 1/2 of what you got a from the chickpea can
  2. Either using an electric hand mixer or portable frother (what I use) whisk the aquafaba until it becomes a fluffy whipped texture (not quite stiff peaks.) You can also use a regular handheld whisk but it will take much longer.
    The time for this depends on what tool you are using but will at least take about 3-5 minutes. Keep mixing until it reaches a nice foamy whipped consistency
  3. Once aquafaba is the consistency you’re looking for, add in matcha powder and liquid sweetener of choice
  4. Using either a electric hand mixer or hand whisk (portable frother not strong enough for this step) mix in the matcha powder and sweetener until completely mixed in
  5. Taste mixture to make sure it is to your liking. If it needs more matcha or sweetener, add it now
  6. Put ice into your glass (if using) and then add plant based milk
  7. Carefully spoon whipped mixture into your glass (if not all of it fits, don’t worry. You can add more later after you drink some)
  8. Take a picture of your beautiful creation (because half the point of making this is to post on Instagram obviously) and then mix and enjoy! 🙂

Hope you enjoy this recipe! I seriously make it at least 3x a week now and find myself looking for any excuse to use chickpeas to get the liquid haha. Don’t think I’ll be spending money on expensive matcha lattes anymore even after this quarantine is over. Being your own barista is fun 😉

Refined Sugar-free Trix Bars

Refined Sugar-free Trix Bars

These trix bars I made follow this booming trend of desserts that don’t skip out on creativity, nutrition, or color minus the sugar crash and integrating more fruits. When I’m heading out of the door or craving a sweet at the end of the night, these small bites are absolutely perfect satisfaction. They’re frozen like ice cream bars, quick to eat, and visually appeal to anyone who lays their eyes on them. Unlike sweets chalk full of fat and processed white sugar, fruits are basically nature’s candy and have been proven to lower the risk of diabetes, according to consistent research highlighted in TIME magazine.

Make these delectable bites for your kids, friends, or for your own personal sweet stash (like I tend to always have fully stocked). There’s more where this came from. Similar to other recipes I post on this blog, these trix bars can be tailored to whatever you please. Switch it up with blueberry and raspberry, kiwi and watermelon, or even mango and melon. Anything can be yours if you make it so.

TRIX BARS

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup of frozen or fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup pepitas

DIRECTIONS

  1. Process all ingredients except the fruits in a food processor until it forms a dough-like consistency
  2. Take the dough out of the food processor and flatten it into a square dish (I used a loaf pan because that’s all I have but a square pan would work better here)
  3. Put the bottom layer into the fridge. This will be your crust
  4. Blend the frozen bananas in a high-powered blender until it appears like ice cream
  5. Blend the strawberries until they are softened
  6. Pour the banana ice cream first onto the date crust then the strawberry mixture after
  7. With a chopstick or knife, swirl it to mimic the look of trix yogurt.
  8. Place into the freezer and enjoy tomorrow!

Ancient Grains Bowl (Inspired by True Food Kitchen)

Ancient Grains Bowl (Inspired by True Food Kitchen)

One of my favorite places to eat in LA is @TrueFoodKitchen who is famous for their Ancient Grains Bowl. This bowl is essentially a plant based buddha bowl that is comprised of grains, sweet potatoes, veggies, and topped with a delicious vegan pesto sauce, avocado, and hemp seeds. You can also add on a protein (tofu, salmon, or chicken) if you would like.

I could eat this bowl every single day but unfortunately my wallet doesn’t feel the same way. Just one of these bowls which isn’t too large of a portion will cost you $15.50 and another $5 if you want to add a protein. So in order to keep my bank account and my stomach happy, I decided to recreate this recipe at home and I’m so glad I did! It’s one of my favorite recipes and I find myself making it at least every other week. It’s definitely required a good amount of prep work, but definitely worth it. My advice is to make a large quantity of everything and eat it as your meal prep throughout the week! You can also take bits and parts of this recipe to use for other meals (i.e. the pesto!)

Ancient Grains Bowl (makes 2-4 servings)

  1. Turmeric quinoa & farro blend
    • 1/2 cup quinoa
    • 1/2 cup farro
    • 1 1/4 cups of water
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • Instructions:
      1. rice cooker: place all ingredients in rice cooker and cook as normal! (My favorite way to cook any grain because it is so easy!)
      2. Pot:
        1. Add all ingredients to pot. Stir until combined and cover. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
        2. Reduce heat, allow to simmer 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
  2. Charred mushrooms and onions
    • 1 cup sliced portobello mushroom (or whatever mushrooms you have)
    • 1 small white onion, sliced
    • olive oil
    • pinch of sea salt
    • Instructions:
      1. preheat oven to 375 degrees F
      2. place sliced onions and mushrooms into a bowl, add a little olive oil and salt and mix evenly
      3. place mixture onto sheet pan
      4. place in over for 30 minutes or until onions slightly charred, stirring halfway through
      5. lazy option: saute all ingredients on a pan on the stove! You won’t get the charred flavor but it will still taste good and be done in 1/4 of the time
  3. Any green veggie of your choice
    • recipe calls for snow peas, but I usually use steamed kale. Other green veggies that would go well with this recipe would be broccoli, string beans, or bok choy
    • Instructions:
      1. cook your veggie(s) however you like it best! I usually prefer to boil or steam my vegetables to use less oil
  4. Miso glazed sweet potatoes (the star of this recipe!)
    • 1 large sweet potato
    • avocado oil or coconut oil to coat sweet potatoes (spray works best but not necessary)
    • Miso marinade:
      • 2 tbsp of white miso paste
      • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp maple syrup
      • 1/2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
      • 2 tsp lemon juice or rice vinegar
      • 1 tsp water
      • 2 tsp white sesame seeds
    • Instructions:
      1. peel and dice sweet potatoes into 1/2” cubes
      2. oven:
        1. preheat oven to 450 degrees F
        2. toss diced sweet potatoes in a bowl w/ a little coconut oil spray or avocado oil spray
        3. place sweet potatoes on a sheet pan, spread out evenly
        4. bake for 30 min or until sweet potatoes are tender, tossing halfway
      3. air fryer (my favorite method):
        1. toss diced sweet potatoes in a bowl w/ a little coconut oil spray or avocado oil spray
        2. place into air fryer 375 degrees for 15 minutes, tossing halfway through
      4. while potatoes are cooking make the sauce.
      5. Sauce:
        1. Mix all ingredients except sesame seeds together in a bowl and mix until well combined
        2. add sesame seeds at end and mix again
      6. Once sweet potatoes are done, move to a bowl big enough to mix and add sauce
      7. Mix well until evenly coated
  5. Vegan basil pesto* (recipe by Minimalist Baker) *this recipe will make a large portion. Great to use for other recipes throughout the week!
    • 2 cups packed fresh basil
    • 3 Tbsp pine nuts
    • 3 large cloves of garlic
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 tbsp water
    • Instructions:
      1. Mix all ingredients together in a blender or food processor
  6. Optional protein
    • I used air fried tofu, but you could add any protein you want! It actually doesn’t need any extra protein though, tastes so good without it. Between the quinoa, farro, veggies, and hemp seeds you already have a very high protein packed meal!
  7. Avocado slices
  8. hemp seeds

Once all your parts are assembled, put however much of each item you want into a bowl, top with avocado slices and hemp seeds and enjoy! 🙂