From my Kitchen

Spicy noodles tofu beef

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This week was a bit of a dud for me. I felt like I could never really get into my rhythm with cooking or developing new recipes. Most of what I made tasted fine–and even good– but nothing felt worthy of being uploaded to the website.

I did start my goal of developing a new vegan recipe per week for Exploring Vegan, my vegan recipe blog. I made a really delicious vegan pasta with broccolini and chickpeas.

For today’s blog post, I thought I’d jump in and show you what I made since none of these photos will see the light of day otherwise.

A Take on Mapo Tofu

I was craving mapo tofu, but also noodles, and I saw this recipe on Nomadette, so I thought I’d try something similar.

Mapo tofu is a famous dish from the Sichuan region of China. It’s a gorgeous red, fiery, mouth-numbing sauce with lots of tofu and minced meat, usually beef or pork.

Since I was at Hmart, I thought I’d see if they had any readymade sauces I could snag. I saw a block of sauce, but it was called Mabo Tofu by a brand called WangKorea. I read that mabo tofu or mabo dofu is the Japanese version of mapo tofu. It is typically milder and has sweeter undertones. There is also a Korean version of mapo tofu called mapadubu which uses gochujang and doenjang.

What I bought was “extra hot,” and while it was spicy, I didn’t find it to be obliteratingly hot. It also didn’t have the mouth-numbing spiciness of Sichuan peppercorns, so I would assume it was closer to the Japanese or Korean version of the dish.

That said, I did enjoy it a lot, except for when my hand slipped, and I squeezed a big splat of sauce all over my cream-colored sweatshirt. Guess that sweatshirt belongs to the kitchen now.

I also added a few healthy drizzles of Lan’s Sauce chili oil, which is probably my top favorite chili oil for noodles. I also strongly recommend their sauce. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to have it shipped to the US, so I usually have to message them on Instagram to get hooked up. If you’re in Canada, though, order it to your heart’s content!

It’s really hard to describe the flavor profile. It’s not something I add for heat because it’s not very spicy at all; it just has a really uniquely herbal flavor that I can’t get enough of.

How I made it

I’ll call this dish mapo tofu adjacent; it was delicious and something I’ll definitely make again. But I wish I had gotten more of that fiery, numbing sensation from Sichuan peppercorns. Regardless, here’s how I made it:

  • Step 1: Fry up 1 pound of beef in a big pot, breaking it up as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Step 2: Add in a roughly chopped red bell pepper, a diced onion, 5 minced scallion whites, and about half a head of chopped cabbage. Cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Step 3: Add the prepared sauce and toss to coat. Add a few drizzles of additional chili oil of choice. Since I served it over noodles, I added just under 2 cups of water.
  • Step 4: Bring everything to a boil and add the cubed soft tofu. Taste and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Step 5: Boil up some noodles and divide them between bowls.
  • Step 6: Serve it up! Ladle the saucy beef and tofu over the cooked noodles and serve with more chili oil and minced scallion greens.

Quinoa chicken stew

Chicken Quinoa Something or Other

This one was definitely a little weird, honestly. It was a kitchen sink recipe, but I think my general inspiration was, like, Greek-inspired Quinoa Chili..? Hear me out.

I actually did post the basic gist for this recipe on my Instagram if you want to see how I made it. It started with a base of onion, garlic, scallion whites, and freshly minced oregano. I added shredded chicken, quinoa, and butternut squash for some reason. I guess because I had some in the fridge. I think the squash was a mistake, and I should have skipped it. That was basically the entire soup. I just let it simmer until the quinoa was tender.


I quartered a few whole wheat tortillas and baked them until they were crispy (read: almost burnt). I did really like these (the ones that weren’t burnt) because I tossed them with a bit of minced oregano right before serving. I will definitely make these again.

To serve it, I spooned tzatziki on top of the chicken and quinoa (think sour cream on top of beef chili), and I served it with the crispy tortillas. Anyway, my husband absolutely loved it. I thought it was good, but I think it needs some work.

Vegetarian Riso al Forno

I have made this several times, and I just can’t get it right. I have a fantastic meat-based version of riso al forno recipe on my site that is always a hit and it’s so delicious. For some reason, I just can’t get the vegetarian version right.

It’s simple to make. I follow the same premise of par-boiling the rice and then layering the casserole dish with sauce, cheese, rice, and spinach. I feel like, in theory, it should work perfectly, but the rice keeps turning out grainy, so I definitely need to finesse this until I get it right.

Shichimi Togarashi Pork Chops

This one was ACTUALLY delicious, like probably one of my favorite meals I’ve made in a while, and it was so ridiculously easy to make. My photo stinks, though, so it’s back to the kitchen to make it again (and again and again because it was that good). I also need to finesse the technique because I struggled to get the potatoes done without overcooking the pork chops.

Anyway, the basic gist: I fried up potatoes and then added chopped bell peppers and cabbage. I made four wells in the middle of the vegetables and added some boneless pork chops. I browned them on both sides and then added Shaoxing wine, mirin, and shichimi togarashi.

I just popped it in the oven and let it go until the pork chops finished. My issue is that my chops finished before the potatoes were tender, so I had to remove them from the skillet early. I had to continue cooking the potatoes on the stovetop, so that was annoying, and it irritated me.

Flavor-wise, this was a massive winner. I also really liked how it looked plated up, and I’m annoyed I couldn’t really capture it well in the photo. Fortunately, I have no issue making this over and over again until I get it just right. I thought it was just delicious.

While I didn’t get a ton of clear winners for the site last week, we still ate pretty well, so I really can’t complain too much. I’m also happy because I have some good inspiration for this week to try and perfect some of my recipes that have good bones and just need a little TLC.

That’s all for this week! What are you cooking this week? Hopefully one of my Tried & True recipes! 😉

Byeeeeeee for now!


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