General Tso’s Tofu

One of the few things I REALLY miss about living in Jersey is the Chinese take out. Everywhere I lived in that state, even in the middle of no where growing up, there was decent to good Chinese take out. Florida? Not so much. We’ve tried a few places over the years, but for whatever reason, either the food isn’t good, the restaurant closes, or both, we just don’t have good Chinese take out here.  So whenever I want vegetarian comfort food, I go for Indian, but it’s not the same. There is nothing like a good General Tso’s.

I found a recipe on-line that looked interesting. Tofu instead of chicken? Check. Ingredients that I can actually get? Check. Reasonable cooking time and method? Check and check. So .. why not try it. And the best part – when making this at home, I can actually get rid of the broccoli and substitute snow peas! /squee!


OK – how did this do? I bought the tofu already cubed, thinking this is one less step for me. I used about half the contained (16 oz. container, so 8 oz. tofu) but didn’t change the sauce portion. I like the sauce – its the best part!


I marinated the tofu, which isn’t something I normally do. Tofu gets its flavor from the sauces, not from any marinade – or so I thought. This one may have proven me wrong. The tofu was just a touch spicy; not hot or burning, but enough that you knew there was some flavor there. The marinade also helped when I added the cornstarch to make the paste like coating. Full disclosure – at this stage, I honestly thought we would be ordering pizza for dinner. It looked gloopy and sticky and just awful, but it did match the description in the recipe, so I kept going. I am so glad I did.

That horrible sludge on the tofu in the marinade bag makes a perfectly crispy coating when fried. I mean beautiful. It crisps, turns golden in color and the tofu inside stays moist and silky. I was surprised. Really surprised.


I stirred together the Thai Chili’s (thank you to the Asian market on the way home!!)  and the snow peas and scallions also thinking this isn’t going to work, but it did. I had fresh chili’s, and we didn’t eat them, but they did impart a nice heat (not too much) to the dish. Bob did get one bite on a snow pea, so I know they transferred the flavor and heat as expected. I added back in the tofu and tossed in the sauce. The sauce gelled really fast. It was still kind of a sauce, but it clung (which it should do) to everything. The problem for me was that there wasn’t any sauce not clinging to vegetables and tofu to pour on the rice.

But the flavors were pretty perfect. Both Bob and I were actually impressed with this dish. It tasted like *good* Chinese takeout and had a perfect consistency for the tofu. Best part – it was super simple to make and I now have everything on hand. (I still have leftover Thai chili’s, so I’m planning to dry them for future use.) Start to finish this was about 25 minutes. Perfect for a weeknight dinner or even a lazy day lunch. The only thing I’m changing is the cornstarch in the sauce – I’m definitely cutting that in half. While I think it was meant to cling to everything, I really wanted sauce on my rice.


I used the recipe from Minimalist Baker pretty much straight through. I reduced the tofu to about 8 ounces, and changed out broccoli for snow peas. For soy sauce, I used the regular soy sauce I have in the fridge – it might be tamari, but I’m not sure. When the recipe calls for something or maple syrup, I went with the maple since I have that on hand and don’t have the other sugars. I used toasted sesame oil and regular canola oil. I was out of ginger, so I used a tiny bit of dried ginger and it worked fine – maybe an eighth of a teaspoon. The next time I make this, and there will be a next time, I am cutting the cornstarch in the sauce to one teaspoon, but otherwise, doing it the same way.


New York City

Bob is one of the hardest people to buy for. He has pretty much everything he really wants, what he doesn’t have he will buy for himself, and if I do actually figure out a concept of what to get him, I don’t know enough about that thing to actually get him something. So years ago I decided to just focus on trips for his birthday. May is a beautiful month for travel, and if I can swing a day off work, great – long weekend away. He loves NYC, so this is a popular destination for us. Add in good friends to meet, great restaurants and easy travel from Sarasota, and you have the makings of a good, dependable, never boring birthday present.

Normally I plan everything. Shocking, I know. I research restaurants, find hotels and plan the itinerary. This year, I did figure out the flights and hotel, but I did not plan any activities or meals. Big stretch for me and it was done part of of necessity and part as an experiment to see if I could let go and “go with the flow.” Turns out, I can, but I really, really prefer to plan something.


We were meeting Ed and Erin in the city Saturday and Bob had decided he wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial, so we headed in that direction. With Ed and Erin missing (by seconds!) their initial train, we had some time to use up. Neither of us had ever seen the actual Brooklyn Bridge, nor been to Brooklyn, so we decided to walk it. Yep – we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge (with about a thousand other people that day) and into Brooklyn. We were a little worried that Bob’s pants would shrink and he would sprout a skull cap, but we were not in Brooklyn long enough for that to happen. But I did get some great views from the bridge.


After some misses, we did finally meet up with Ed and Erin, and wandered the memorial for a bit. It was well done – peaceful, open, and poignant. The original plan included the museum, but we decided to head up into One World Trade and view the city from the observation level. It was really worth doing. The views are fantastic and it gives you a great perspective on the city. (I will admit to various tracks from Hamilton running through my head the whole time I was there, but in all honesty, I pretty much have Hamilton tracks running through my head every day.)

Erin picked the dinner location and she hit it out of the park. Scarpetta was perfect. The atmosphere was formal without being fussy, fancy but not stuffy and inviting enough that we didn’t care we were all in jeans from walking around the city all day. And the food. … oh the food. Ed and Bob got to share meat filled pasta and Erin and I dined on perfect polenta before our main courses.

I’m not sure if I will be able to pull off a non planning trip again, but it was a good experiment and it ended up being a lot of fun.

It’s what month?

I looked at the calendar today and realized that it is the last week of my second class and the next class starts right after. I can’t believe April is over (Happy Birthday, Vanessa, I am sure I forgot to send a card, but I’m thinking about you – promise) and May is here.


At the very beginning of April (I may have mentioned in the last post that I’m behind on posts and writing???) Bob and I went to the Wine Walk to Ca’ d’ Zan. This is charity event for the Ringling Museum and one of the (in our opinion) better events they hold. This was the first Friday of April and featured a bunch of wines that can be found at Total Wine, which is helpful as I hate finding a wine I love then not being able to get it again. Best part, once we went to Total Wine, I found that all the wines I liked were under $20 – which is one of my criteria for wine.

As we walked from the museum to the Ca’ d’ Zan, we stopped and had a little to eat and a little to drink and just had a nice, relaxing evening. One of the best parts was watching the sun set over the bay from the terrace of the mansion. It was a prefect way to end my spring break. (even if I am only getting to writing about it weeks later.  Sigh.) IMG_1382

We also did a great cheese class at our favorite cheese shop a week or so later. This one was Cheesemonger favorites, so we knew it would be good. Louise and the girls really know their stuff, so when they say something is good, it usually is. (Blue cheese being the exception for me – still don’t like blue cheese no matter how many times I try it.)
IMG_1378I’ taking today to get caught up on all those little things that fall aside when I get busy – like laundry and cooking and writing posts. If I get my discussion post for the next class written, I may even (gasp) try reading a fluffy romance novel.

The Ca’ D’ Zane has a nice terrace … not as nice as our own backyard, but it isn’t bad.