I never realized how much cooking was like an endurance sport until I took two weeks off from it to sit in a hospital and eat thoroughly mediocre eggplant parm sandwiches (the only vegetarian sandwich that my relatives could dream up)...and then had absolutely zero wrist strength when I came back.
Really. You don't realize how much muscle tone you build up in your forearm, wrist, and fingers from chopping at least three times a day until it's gone and you're left with half a cut up kabocha squash and palm cramps.
Admittedly, winter squash cutting was probably not the best way to dive back into the realm of meal preparation, but I've never been conservative when it comes to my athletic training. For instance, when my running coach said I should get back into marathon training by running 4 miles every other day for this first week, I took that to mean I should run eight on Sunday.
And now my calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and muscles in my legs that I didn't even know existed feel strikingly similar to my lower arm. Go figure.
Thankfully, McCormick recently sent me one of their new Recipe Inspirations to sample, so even though I had to cut up the ingredients for it, I didn't have to actually think about my meal. Recipe Inspirations basically consist of a packet of pre-measured spices that come with a recipe card so that when you go to prepare dinner, all you need to do is grab your protein of choice, mix up the spices they've given you, and cook. While I'm not normally into kits like this, what I liked about the Recipe Inspirations is that none of the ingredients are processed in any way...they are literally just McCormick spices, which I generally use anyway. Also, they allow you to try out a flavor profile before really committing to it and buying full jars of all the spices.
The packet that I received was for Asian Sesame Salmon, which I adapted for tofu since I don't eat meat. This kit included sesame seeds, ginger, minced garlic, minced onion, and red pepper flakes, all of which I then mixed with some honey, soy sauce, and scallions to make a glaze. The resulting dish was sweet, salty and spicy in the most delicious way!
GIVEAWAY - The folks at McCormick were so kind as to give me TWO boxes of Asian Sesame Salmon Recipe Inspirations so that one of you could try out this new product as well! (Each box comes with six kits.) All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me what veggies you would pair the Asian sesame salmon and/or tofu with.
Also, thank you guys so much for your unending support. All of your sweet comments and emails really mean a lot to me and are helping me get through this tough time. I appreciate it.
Asian Sesame Tofu with Braised Winter Squash and Green Beans
Serves 4, adapted from McCormick Recipe Inspirations
- 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp honey, divided
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 5 tbsp soy sauce, divided
- 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp minced dried garlic
- 1 tsp minced dried onions
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced widthwise
- tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 kabocha squash, seeded and diced
- 1 lb haricot verts
- Mix the honey, scallions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, garlic, onions, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl until well blended. Place tofu on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Spoon honey mixture evenly over the tofu. Reserve the extra honey mixture.
- Bake the tofu at 375 for 20 minutes.
- While the tofu is cooking, in a large pot or saucepan heat olive oil and ginger. Saute for 1 minute. Add in the kabocha squash, haricot verts, 2 tbsp water and 3 tbsp soy sauce. Simmer until squash is tender, 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the extra honey mixture over the squash. Add 1 tbsp honey. Toss to combine.
- Serve the braised butternut squash and haricot verts with the baked tofu.