all churros go to heaven...

May 5, 2011
Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Churros are certainly a must-have for every May 5th!
These are so simple, there's no excuse not to make them!  They're also delicious.  As an 8 year-old friend summarized, "Churros are made in heaven!  These are even better than the ones I get at Costco!"
Oven-Baked Churros
Adapted from Southern Living, May 2011
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1/4 sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter

  1. Preheat your oven to 450.   Unfold and cut strips puff pastry sheets crosswise into 1 inch strips. 
  2. Place strips on a lightly greased parchment paper-line baking sheet.  Brush with melted butter then bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Remove pastry strips from the oven and brush with butter again.  Roll buttered strips in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Let stand on a wire rack until dry. 
Then please do yourself a favor and dip them into some warmed Nutella.  

baked tofu with peanut sauce

It all started one sunny afternoon in Austin...
My mom and I had planned a leisurely day and hoped to begin with a lunch at a gluten-free friendly place in Austin.  Seeing as how there are so many to choose from, we decided on a place recommended by my sis-in-law (who by the way, is a gluten-eater).  I've been hearing her rave about this cafe for quite a while and she visits so often, she's on a first-name basis with the owners.
The Steeping Room
As the names suggest, it is a tea lounge and restaurant set in The Domain where their focus is on natural and organic teas and food.  Friendly staff don "Keep Austin Sconed" shirts and they have great outdoor seating for which my mother and I patiently waited.  Besides their extensive list of tea choices, their menu boasts some of the best food on the planet.   I tried their Buddha Bowl with a peanut sauce and honestly consider it one of the best lunches I've ever had.  The highlight was their baked tofu.  Tofu has never been something I've enjoyed because of it's light and sponge-like consistency, but theirs was unlike any tofu I've ever eaten.  After demanding the waitress to tell me what had been done to make it so tasty, she kindly provided the insider deets.

Their not-so-secret?  


Press and dry the tofu.
Cut the tofu.
Marinate the tofu. 
Freeze the tofu.
Bake the tofu.

Who woulda' thought to freeze it?  Weird, but I gave it a go.
Peanut Sauce Baked Tofu (vegan, gluten free)
Inspired by The Steeping Room  
1 package tofu, pressed (use firm or extra firm)
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp peanut butter
3 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp agave (or honey/maple syrup or combo)
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne (more to taste, if desired)
Pinch of chili powder (more to taste, if desired)
Optional: 1 Tbsp EVOO or use more sesame oil

Directions:
  1. Press your tofu (use a tofu press if your fancy or (if you're cool) you can it press between plates and pat dry with paper towels 
  2. Slice pressed tofu into 1/4 inch strips. 
  3. Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a bowl and allow tofu to marinate for at least 20 minutes but a few hours or overnight is ideal. The longer the better. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the marinade that’s likely at the bottom of the bowl. 
  4. Place marinated tofu in container and freeze. 
  5. Line a cookie sheet with foil to save on cleanup time and spray with cooking spray. 
  6. Bake the frozen marinated tofu for 9-10 minutes on the first side in a 450 degree oven. 
  7. Flip, and bake for another 8-9 minutes on the second side. Apply what’s remaining of the reserved marinade to the top side of the flipped tofu. Broil for an additional 2-3 minutes. 
  8. I urge you, do not leave your kitchen while you are broiling. This stuff can be charred in at the blink of an eye. 
  9. Serve with brown rice and enjoy! 
(Leftovers can be refrigerated leftovers for a few days.

UPDATED!

I received a lovely note from the co-founder/chef, Amy March, at The Steeping Room who very kindly shed light on their tofu process.  This is different than the way I tried, so I'll try it this way next.  Thanks again, Amy!

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Just a note on how we make the tofu. We freeze it first. At home, I just freeze the whole block in what ever container it came in. At the restaurant, it comes in big buckets so we slice each block into 4 or 5 slices, wrap it in plastic as a block and freeze them for a minimum of 24 hours. The water molecules in the tofu expand in the tofu creating a firmer and sponge like texture. When you are ready to use it, you can defrost it either over 12 -24 hours in the refrigerator or unwrapped in the microwave for a few minutes. We then squeeze the excess water out of it between two bowl scrapers but one can just gently squeeze between your flat palms. We then dip the tofu pieces quickly in and out of the marinade. Because it is so sponge like, it only needs a quick dip. Also, any marinade that you usually make for regular tofu or other less absorbent proteins should be about 50% water as when you bake or saute it, it really concentrates. I started doing this with tofu over twenty years ago as a fluke when I saved some tofu in the freezer, and it has turned into one of my best tricks!  Enjoy and again thank you for your kind words.

Best,

Amy March
co-founder/chef