Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Roasted Asparagus

I've kind of been craving this pasta all week but had to wait for my own, self-imposed, allowable window of time to pass before I could make it again.

We did a quick, 24-hour turnaround visit to Seattle last weekend where I whipped this dish up in our daughter's darling new apartment. Only it was a bit late when everything finally came together...getting a late start from home due to a heavy drizzle and loss of power (will our alarm go off when the lights go back on? Yes. Though we did finally ask our kind neighbor to handle this matter so we could get on the road), getting through the massive UW/USC game day traffic (Go Huskies!), getting groceries, getting our furry "child" settled in for this dinner stop en route to our hotel (cute room for mom, dad AND dog!). So, I had a nice little helping of this favorite pasta and happily left the leftovers (which might just be better on Day Two) for our daughter to enjoy.

The original recipe that inspired this dish was snipped from the pages of a Los Angeles Times Magazine well over 12 years ago; a great little pasta with strips of breaded chicken, fried to a golden brown and partnered with fresh steamed broccoli and sauteed radicchio. I made that version for years before ending up with this combination. I must have lacked some ingredient at one point (probably the broccoli...and, surely, the radicchio), setting the evolution of substitution in progress until I wound up with this particular recipe.

I still make that first variety from time to time but this one just comes together so much quicker since you simply throw the sausage into a pan until it's golden and delicious. (The other recipe calls for you to slice up the chicken into strips, coat the pieces with breadcrumbs, and fry them up in batches in order to not over-crowd your pan. It takes a bit more time than this throw-sausage-in-pan option.) I also happen to love asparagus and think it pairs really well with the sausage.

This version is also just a bit heartier...the sausage is just so flavorful. I've used a few different varieties but absolutely love using chicken/spinach/feta sausage (or whatever I can find that is remotely similar). I've made this dish many, many you can probably imagine given that it's hung around in the recipe file for this long! However, I veered from the original recipe long ago, like so many of us do after we've made something several times. Eventually you just wing it. Given that I now kind of just throw everything together, I've done my best (below) to detail the quantities.

Apart from tasting great, this dish is a perfect family meal (everything you need in one dish), a great option for company (since it comes together so quickly and can be popped in the fridge and easily reheated), and, best of all, keeps really well. It only takes about 30 to 45 minutes from start to finish, allowing you to clean up all your pans (since it can be plated right to your serving dish) and, thus, have very little after-dinner clean up.

While you set your pasta water to boil, you can prep up your asparagus. Lay the spears on a cookie sheet, drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper, and pop them in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about five to six minutes. Don't forget them...they're best just slightly roasted (not overly cooked!).

When your water is at a full boil, add a generous handful of salt to the pot and then add your penne. It should take about 10 minutes for it to boil up to a perfect al dente firmness. While all that's going on, pop your sausage into a large skillet and brown it up on all sides (I kind of roll mine to the edges of the pan to help keep them set in place to brown evenly as they want to curl a bit and roll to their own beat). When your sausage is beautifully browned and cooked through, remove it to your cutting board and let it rest. Don't wash up your skillet! You'll use this same pan to prep your sauce, using all the great sausage drippings to give it even more flavor. (That funky little blob in the sauce photo below is a few dabs of unsalted butter...essential, in my opinion, to making the sauce perfectly yummy.)

When all your colorful fixings are cooked up, just slice your asparagus and sausage on the diagonal (it just looks prettier that way) and toss them with your penne. Pour your sauce over the top, and give it one last toss. It's yummy and beautifully colorful...juicy, golden brown sausage, ripe red tomatoes, and brilliant green roasted asparagus, mixed with perfect al dente penne rigate. Buon Appetito!

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Roasted Asparagus
serves 6

4 - 6 large chicken/spinach/feta sausages (I've found these at Whole Foods and New Seasons...4 were plenty)
1 bunch of fresh asparagus, trimmed (about 20 or so spears)
1 pound bag of penne rigate pasta (I used an organic 100% durum semolina penne rigate)
2 1/2 to 3 cups water, for sauce
1 to 2 cubes chicken bouillon (1 cube/2 cup water size bouillon)...start with one and add more after your sauce comes together a bit for a taste test.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over asparagus
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen's Organic Diced Tomatoes with Italian Herbs)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste (I added a bit less than 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper BUT taste your sauce first as the bouillon adds saltiness)

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees and place asparagus on a cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil over top and toss a bit. Season generously with salt and black pepper and pop into oven to roast for about 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Set large pot of water to boil. Once at a rolling boil, add a generous handful of salt to season, and toss in penne. Cook uncovered for approximately 10 minutes, until al dente.

3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, place your sausage to cook. Turn to ensure a golden brown color on all sides. When cooked through, remove from pan and set aside to rest. Don't wash up this skillet!

4. In the same skillet you cooked your sausage, add 2-3 cups of water (depending on how brothy you like your pasta...I like to have the extra broth). Break up bouillon cubes and add to water, stirring to dissolve. Add can of tomatoes, olive oil, butter and italian seasoning. Stir to combine and let simmer on low heat for approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, as needed.

5. Cut asparagus and sausages into bite-size pieces (on the diagonal looks nice). Toss cooked pasta, asparagus and sausage together and pour sauce over top. Give it one last toss. Serve with a good parmesan cheese and enjoy. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I thought these muffins would be a fun way to mark the beginning of Autumn, my favorite season of the year! There...I said it. Though at least I waited until summer was "officially" over before doing do.

It's not that I don't LOVE summer. I do. It would be "anti-something" to say that I didn't. Everyone (I think?) loves summer, especially in the Pacific Northwest where we ALL wait so patiently for its warmth (and sunshine!) to arrive. Not unlike Midwesterners or East Coast folks...only we get ours without the sticky air. And, unlike some of our neighbors to the south, our hills (for the most part) remain green and lush. Summer here IS beautiful (and much appreciated) but it truly doesn't arrive in all its glory until at least we are very patient. Oh yeah, we get a few great days in Spring...just enough to throw us off our mark, sending "us" racing to the garden stores to get all those gorgeous flowers. I fall for it every year, planting borders and filling pots well before Mother's Day, much to the chagrin of my more experienced gardening friends. I just can't help myself! But it's not until at least July that we can confidently string a good number of days together; our excitement for the season buoyed by the arrival of long-awaited forecasts for bright sunny days with no chance of showers.

Our summers are so nice that they cast a spell on the lot of us...happily, blissfully enjoying our long, sun-drenched days without any memory of the seemingly endless cloudy and rainy days that have passed before. It's a nice I think we secretly enjoy and look forward to...a happy ignorance.

So what is it about the Fall? For one, I love what happens to our landscape and skies. Clouds seem puffier, more billowy and unusually white. Our days are still filled with sunshine but there's a wonderful crispness in the air. And the sky seems to take on a bluer blue. 

Best of all, as the season continues, the leaves begin to change...turning from their brilliant greens to crimson, gold, pink, and chartreuse. The variety of color never ceases to amaze me. I've taken picture upon picture of the beautiful leaves, not really knowing what to do with them but determined to capture the moment...if only to delete them months later. It's really only a few weeks of unbelievable color that we experience before the leaves begin to weep from the trees and are quickly swept away by the wind, leaving bare-branched limbs to meet the graying skies alone. Before long, we have piles along our roads and on our lawns, many displaying a glorious spectrum of hues before they eventually lose all their luster. I have been known to stop and assess these fallen heaps, plucking the prettiest leaves to take home...carefully placing them on my printer/copier to transfer their colors and shapes to beautiful linen card stock to use as note cards, content in my meager efforts to extend their beauty just a bit longer. I think I welcome each season for its unique beauty but the colors and crispness of Autumn will always be my favorite.

So...this little muffin seems like a fitting welcome to my favorite season. It's super easy to make and it's truly just plain yummy...moist, sweet (but mildly so), chocolaty (always good in my opinion), with a hint of that cinnamon-pumpkin flavor that evokes the season and perfumes your kitchen and home with warmth. It's so easy you don't even take out a blender...just a couple of bowls, a good whisk, and a spatula will get your batter perfectly prepped for baking.

I admit I was a bit hesitant when first offered this treat by my good friend. It's HER recipe and she's a great cook and baker so I knew it had to be yummy BUT I do admit thinking: pumpkin AND chocolate, hmm? They're so tasty on their own, why mess with a good thing? I'm also not a big fan of peanut butter and chocolate combinations (preferring them each on their own), so I kind of figured this muffin might elicit the same opinion. I was wrong. My only warning: prepare to have them devoured. They're kind of like potato chips in that you can't stop at just one (sorry...that's my best analogy as a "potato-cheese-bread girl"). Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 12 medium muffins

1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin (canned variety)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brown almonds in oven or on stove, being carefully not to burn them. Set aside to cool.

2. Grease muffin pan or use paper liners. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix flour, sugar, spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a smaller bowl, break eggs and add pumpkin and butter. Whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and toasted almonds. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with a rubber spatula until well blended into a moist batter.

4. Scoop batter into muffin pan/liners, filling generously without spilling over. Bake 20-25 minutes, until puffed and springy. Check muffins with a tester to ensure that batter is baked through. Place muffins on a rack to cool.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grilled Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Salad with Avocado, Mango and Jicama

This salad, like many of the recipes that are bulging from my recipe file, is a re-creation of something we had while dining out. This tendency of mine to continually add to my already well-stocked clipping file, cookbook library and hoards of food magazines, while fun, is what I've realized is impeding my progress on getting my little family cookbook together. While I KNOW some of the recipes that are "musts" to include, I seem to always be finding new ones that I think might also be nice...and the dilemma continues. This little cookbook project shouldn't be so difficult. Afterall, it's not a major publishing venture...being a run of only TWO books!! Initially I thought I'd whip through this endeavor in time to have the project completed and tucked under the tree for Christmas. Well...that's not happening.

Rather than give up, I've decided that this "book" will be what I make it. There's always additions that can come later. The intent is what is important: to give our girls a little legacy of our savory nest. It could be as simple as "xeroxing" the recipes I have and pasting them into a book, or as elaborate as designing a book and having it professionally printed. I've decided that my "nature" requires something in the upper range of this spectrum. And after quite a few emails I've received from friends, sharing their own attempts to organize their many recipes and/or pass along favorites to their own offspring, I thought I'd share a little find that I think I may use for my own cookbook. 

There are many options in the Land of Web that offer bookmaking services. (I've made several photo books using Mac Books and they've turned out great.) After researching a few, I came across, a site which offers a few ways to accomplish the publishing effort. If you are proficient in InDesign, you can simply download their InDesign-compatible templates (to ensure page specifications) and create your own design; get page specifications and create your book using your own design software (uploading final PDFs to them for printing); or, download their bookmaking software and create your book using their pre-designed templates. The great thing is they have special cookbook design options which makes it nice and easy if you choose this last route. I have decided that I'll either design my own book using InDesign...or download their software (which I know will be quicker). Either way, I think finding this site (and recognizing the need to just move recipe finds and all) will help me meet my goal. Though not for this holiday...maybe with the Easter Bunny?

I particularly like this little salad. Grilled shrimp is always tasty...and, as I think I've relayed already...I love cilantro-lime dressings and marinades. Adding to the've got mango (yum), jicama (yum and crunchy...always a nice add), and avocado (double yum...or, perhaps, triple yum to be exact). I have to admit that I have friends who stay away from foods like avocados...thinking it's a "fat" food. They pluck it out of salads or ask that it be served on the side...even knowing it's high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Well, I just saw avocados mentioned in an article (MORE magazine, September 2009) on how to fight belly fat...I know, fun stuff! Apparently research is showing that a diet high in MUFAs can help "prevent the deposition of fat around your middle." So pile that avocado on!!

Grilled Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Salad with Avocado, Mango and Jicama
serves 4

Shrimp & Marinade:
1 pound (20-25 count) raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined (I left the tails on)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 5-ounce container fresh mixed baby greens
1 large mango, peeled and diced into 1" cubes
1 large red pepper, cut into julienne slices/sticks
1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into julienne slices/sticks
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, cut into slices (or more!)

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine shrimp, olive oil, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, lime zest, and salt. Set aside in fridge to marinate for at least an hour.

2. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients (olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, orange juice, honey, salt and pepper). Set aside. 

3. Toss salad fixings in a large bowl (greens through cilantro...keeping avocado separate to garnish plates...I just like the presentation and think it holds its shape better for this salad). Set aside.

5. Place marinated shrimp on grill at medium-high heat. Grill 2-3 minutes per side, depending on size of shrimp, just until opaque and cooked through.

6. Toss salad fixings with dressing and plate. Place grilled shrimp on top of greens. Add sliced avocado to side of plate. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stay-cation Salmon & Grilled Peaches

Now on the "Stay-cation" side of our Vacation-Staycation, we decided that we would BBQ and enjoy the last bits of summer for each of the remaining four days of our untethered bliss. And, as weather permits, our dining would be al fresco. Before going into the all-important food aspect of this plan...our inspiration is derived from the first part of our adventure.

We traveled more than 1800 miles on the first half of our two-week hiatus -- a road-trip that would take us to Banff National Park and back through Seattle to home -- hiking pristine, spectacular landscapes and sustaining ourselves on exquisite cuisine..what more could you want?

If you've never traveled to this part of the world...add it to your list!

This is a shot of Lake Moraine, just outside of Lake Louise and about 35 minutes from Banff. While beautiful, it's just one of the many hikes that are possible in and around this area. Amazing!!

So...back to food. Given our desire to extend our experience, we decided that we'd continue our attempt to eat "in-the-manner-of-a-vacation" by BBQ-ing and eating outdoors for the duration of this week...knowing full well that this time will pass quickly. After visiting our local Whole Foods this afternoon, we zeroed in on Wild King Salmon at nearly half the price of its summer peak. We paired this with Garlic Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes and Sauteed Bok Choy. And for dessert...grilled white peaches!

I suppose the only real "recipe" here is my Bok Choy...surprisingly. (We all have our method of grilling or cooking salmon...and mashing I'll just give the general basics on these two.) This Bok Choy, however...though just a simple little truly one of our new favorites. I'd never cooked Bok Choy until about two years ago...after my regular Internist at the time recommended adding it to our diet. (While she was very current on medicine and nutrition, she was also one of those "over-bookers." After several waits stretching well beyond an hour, I arrived to one appointment to find she had installed a 60-inch flat screen TV in her waiting room and realized that the "wait" was going to be a factor I couldn't tolerate any longer. I am, however, grateful for her recommendation of Bok Choy.)

There are a lot of leafy greens that resemble Bok Choy but I think I really prefer this particular green due to its composition. It has great leafy green leaves, but it also has wonderful crisp stalks that cook up nicely but retain their crunchy nature. There's no fat or cholesterol in Bok Choy (the point my Internist was making at the time) and it is a great source of vitamin C and A. I particularly like pairing it with sliced cremini mushrooms and onions...along with some soy sauce and sesame oil for seasoning. It's truly so good you could eat it on its own, or pair it with salmon, chicken or beef, which we often do...well, not the beef part but I'm sure it would be tasty as well.

For our salmon, I simply seasoned it with some soy sauce, a sprinkle of sesame oil, kosher salt, and a dash of pepper. I started it out in a saute pan on the stove to sear both sides to a nice golden brown, then popped it into the oven at 400 degrees to finish it off. Depending on the thickness of the cut and whether you like it well-done or slightly rare, the oven time will take from five to ten minutes...more or less. (Oh yeah, I forget to mention that our BBQ-ing portion of this eve was quickly relegated to our on-stove grill and skillets due to a lack of fuel! We will rectify this blip in our plan to ensure our Stay-cation success for the remainder of our week). 

For the potatoes, I used Yukon gold potatoes and kept the skins on...wanting to get all the nutrients these little tubers offer. I just cut them up and popped them into a pot of water to boil up. After draining them, I then added some unsalted butter, a bit of milk, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and some kosher salt and pepper...then smashed them. Finish it off by a quick taste, and season to your liking.

In prepping the Bok Choy, I like to slice it and divide the "whites" and "greens" on my cutting board. This way, when proceeding with the saute process, you can add the "whites" first (as they are firmer and require a bit more cooking than the "greens"). 

Sauteed Bok Choy with Onions and Cremini Mushrooms
serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Bok Choy, sliced and divided into stalks and leaves
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced (and slices cut into halves)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (more if desired)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (more if desired)
kosher salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until slightly translucent. 

2. Add cremini mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are just slightly browned. Add "white" portion of Bok Choy. Saute until just cooked through but still crisp, about 1 minute.

3. Add "green" portion of Bok Choy and cook through until wilted (about another minute or so). Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir until incorporated and add salt and pepper to taste.

I made the following dessert for two but found it surprisingly filling so I think you can serve a half peach or a whole peach, depending on your own preference (particularly if you serve it alongside this greek yogurt and amaretto-infused sauce). I also think it would be great to sprinkle the whole thing with some crumbled amaretti cookies...not in the pantry this time around, but maybe next time.

Grilled White Peaches with Amaretto Infused Greek Yogurt 
serves 2 to 4

2 large white peaches (halved with pits removed)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 ounces greek-style peach yogurt
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, if desired

1. Heat butter, brown sugar, Amaretto liqueur, and cinnamon in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir and cook until just melted and heated through. Remove from heat.

2. Heat grill (on stove or outdoors) and baste peaches with a bit of butter. Place cut-side down on grill and cook over medium heat until heated through and grill-marked. Turn peaches and cook another minute. Baste with a bit of the brown sugar mixture if desired. Remove from heat.

3. Stir yogurt with a tablespoon or two of amaretto/brown sugar mixture. Place a dollop of yogurt mixture on each serving plate, top with peach half(ves) and drizzle additional brown sugar/amaretto mixture over top. Garnish with fresh blueberries, if desired.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two For The Price of One...

Flying solo for a few days this week, I thought it would be a great time to get a couple of "easy breezy" recipes knocked out. Not really "two for the price of one" as there is no money in this...however, it meets my immediate objective to get my own dinner on the table AND it gets our oldest a few more quickies to go to when it's seven at night and you want to eat but you don't want to spend a ton of time. One recipe is a pasta I've made many times when there was little time (or interest) in getting dinner on the table; the other is a new "punt" based on a great lunch I had with a friend. The common denominators: 15 to 30 minutes, start to finish, and spaghetti pasta!

I made a double batch of the pasta and simply added it to the creamy spaghetti I made on the second night, until it was warmed through.

Recipe one is Creamy Spaghetti with Peas and Bacon. I used a brown rice spaghetti but you can use any spaghetti you like. And I used turkey bacon; however, any bacon would taste great! The peas? The frozen variety. So, as you can see, all the ingredients are ones you keep in your fridge, pantry, or freezer so it's an easy go-to dinner...and, truly, I think it may take maybe 20 minutes tops.

While I made this for one, I've bumped it up to four servings for the recipe below...multiply or divide as needed. It's so simple and the ingredients so easy to pull from your kitchen that this dish is a breeze to make for one person or several...

Creamy Spaghetti with Peas and Bacon
serves 4

1 16-oz package spaghetti pasta (I used brown rice spaghetti) may have some left over
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (less or more as needed for type of bacon used)
1 12-oz package turkey bacon, cut into cubes (less or more depending on how much "meat" you want)
3/4-1 pint half and half (I've used 2% milk or heavy whipping cream...whatever I had)
1 16-oz bag of frozen petite green peas
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese to garnish

1. Bring a pot of water to boil, add salt and drop your pasta in to cook. (Depending on the type of pasta you use, this should take 5-9 minutes...until al dente.) I'll often add pasta direct from the pot; however, the brown rice pasta creates a very starchy water so I drain the pasta before adding it to my bacon/pea mixture.

2. While your pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey bacon and cook until browned (about 2-3 minutes). Reduce heat to low and add half and half after a minute or so (just so your cream doesn't bubble too much right off the bat). Add the half and half gradually, using the entire pint if you want it super creamy and saucy. Add peas and increase heat again to medium-high. Cook until warmed through and taste to see how much salt and pepper are needed. The bacon adds saltiness so it's good to give it a taste before adding your seasoning. Cook just until your peas have cooked through. Turn off heat and wait until your pasta is ready.

3. When pasta is done, drain/rinse it or add direct (whatever you prefer) to the pea/bacon mixture. Turn heat on to low and warm through to meld flavors...just a minute or so. Plate and add a shaving of parmigiano reggiano! 

Number two in this double header is Spicy Stir-fried Veggies and Crispy Tofu over Noodles. Okay...before we go any further, you HAVE to give this tofu "deal-eo" a try (assuming you aren't already a fan). I was never a real fan...then I tasted a few dishes where the tofu was well-seasoned and fried to crispy nuggets and I thought...I kinda like-a. I also love it in miso soup, though it's not crispy. However, the soup is so flavorful that the tofu is nicely of it's great qualities --assuming the flavors of what it's paired with. If you just can't go the tofu whatever...chicken, pork, beef.

Again, this dish uses ingredients you can stock fairly easy. If you don't use all your cabbage greens, just chop them up with some spinach or romaine and top them with chicken, sliced almonds, peppers and sesame dressing and...voila!...another dinner.

Making it even easier, I bought my greens from Trader Joe's...their Stir Fry Vegetable pak with napa cabbage, broccoli and snow peas. And, I got my tofu there too...the savory flavored organic baked tofu. Too easy!! Again...I made this for one this time out (sounds so pitiful...right?) but have noted the recipe here for four.

Spicy Stir-Fried Veggies with Crispy Tofu over Noodles
serves 4

1 16 oz. package spaghetti pasta (I used brown rice spaghetti) may have some left over.
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 20 oz. package of stir fry veggies, with napa cabbage (I used Trader Joe's)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (more or less, depending on your preference)
4 tablespoons roasted red chili paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (more or less, depending on how soupy you want yours)
7 oz. tofu, cubed (I used Trader Joe's Organic Baked Tofu...savory flavor)
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce (you can also add a few splashes of fish oil, if you have it)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to boil, add 1/4 cup salt to water and drop in pasta. Cook pasta until al dente...5-9 minutes depending on type and amount.

2. While pasta cooks, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute' until translucent and slightly browned. Add veggies and toss with onions. Cook until veggies are slightly limp and add garlic powder to season. Add chicken/vegetable stock and chili paste. Cook until paste is absorbed and blended in. Add additional chili if you want it spicier; additional broth if you want it soupier. (While you can season this mixture with salt and pepper may want to wait until after you add your tofu as it's browned in soy sauce which will add saltiness to the dish.)

3. Transfer veggie mixture to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Add 1 tablespoon oil and soy sauce to same skillet over medium-high heat (you may need a bit more oil, depending on how much tofu you cook). Add cubed tofu in one layer. Cook until browned on one side, then turn to brown on other side. Once browned, add veggie mixture back to skillet and toss with tofu to warm through. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper, as needed. Remove from heat.

3. Plate pasta and top with spicy veggie and tofu mix.