i married ron swanson

somewhere between being a vegetarian and craving meatloaf is where the badger and i swing quite frequently. when i met him, he was in the best shape of his life, and a 98% vegan. at the time of our courtship, i had dabbled in being a vegetarian with vegan tendencies, so i enjoyed our early days together as we learned to cook and eat vegetarian and vegan together. but in the years since we've met, i've gone back to some of my 'roots', per say, when it comes to cooking. nothing can worm your way into a man's heart like a bacon-wrapped meatloaf, especially when that man is a wisconsin boy raised on meat and potatoes.

so i thought i married a vegetarian, but what i really married was a repressed ron swanson. since getting married and settling down a bit, i've realized that john's perfect meal is actually a large slab of cow, a baked potato loaded with sour cream and a scotch, neat... and/or anything wrapped in bacon.

but i have to say... one bite into one of those crunchy hard things in a hamburger or that weird stringy thing in a chicken breast has sent me, vomit in mouth, running to my bookshelf for my well-worn copy of skinny bitch. i think john has recently decided to clean up his eating as well, since his grocery lists of late say things like "spinach. kidney beans. bananas. almond milk."

and so. we are in one of our phases where we have committed to eating a plant-based diet monday through friday. all hell breaks loose on the weekends, to the tune of bacon-wrapped-anything-you-can-find and penne a la vodka with frizzled proscuitto. but for now, we're doing this monday through friday thing.

tonight, i came up with a way to sneak some vegetarian protein into my kids' tummies while they're still having a hard time liking things like beans. and trust me, we've tried with the black beans. zeke gestures to his plate with all the drama of a broadway star and says "but i don't LIKE this!!!" while nash gags and spews the half-chewed-wad of black beans back onto her bunny plate. it's not pretty.

but tonight's meal was a success. say what you will about tofu, but lately, if my choices are industrialized meat or organic tofu, i'm gonna choose the latter.

recipe: tofu creamy red sauce

you will need:
olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
tomato paste, about a tablespoon or so
28 oz. of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (yeah, the ghetto stuff in a can that costs about 60 cents. just trust me. have this sh*t on hand. it's amazing.)
balsamic vinegar
6 garlic cloves peeled and left whole
1 block of either soft or firm tofu
salt and pepper to taste
basil & oregano to taste
whatever pasta you like (i did farfalle)

first things first - start making your red sauce. warm some olive oil (about one swirl around the pan) in your favorite saute pan and gently cook the minced garlic cloves. do not burn them, or the show's over. 

once the garlic has softened, plop in your tomato paste and stir it all around. let it cook for a few minutes. then toss in your diced tomatoes, the of ghetto tomato sauce, about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (or more to taste), about 1 teaspoon of dried basil and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and bring 'er up to a light simmer. you can use fresh herbs if you've got 'em, but this is winter in minnesota. i'm lucky to find an apple that doesn't suck these days, so i'm not paying $6 for one package of fresh herbs.

now here's the fun part! most red sauces call for some sort of sugar or sweetener to cut down the acidity of the tomatoes and bring out some of that fruity flavor of the tomatoes. but balsamic vinegar is just sweet enough to do the trick without adding freaky white sugar to your red sauce. so. swirl in about a Tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar and let it gently simmer. continue to taste it as it cooks - it may need more salt and pepper if you're into that kind of thing.

now, while it simmers, let's move to the creamy tofu part of the show.

get out your food processor. dump in your 6 whole peeled garlic cloves and let 'er rip to chop them up. then throw in either your soft or extra firm tofu. don't worry too much about squeezing all the moisture out of the tofu. just pour the water out of the package, maybe squeeze it a little over the sink,, and then just dump it into the food processor. a little extra moisture won't hurt this thing at all. toss in a little salt & pepper, oregano & basil, and let 'er rip! whomp it up until it's the texture of ricotta cheese. stop the processor and taste it. don't be shy, get in there and taste it. tofu really needs a lot of flavor, and even though you're going to put this in a flavorful red sauce, you still want it to taste reasonably okay on its own. so keep seasoning as needed until you like it.

take your food processor bucket (container? base? what do you call that thing anyway?) over to your red sauce. lower the temp on the sauce and start stirring in the tofu mixture. you don't want to drop the cold tofu mixture into simmering sauce, or it will curdle. so simmah' down now. stir in the tofu and cook over low to melt the creamy tofu into the red sauce, which should now have a nice pink 'rosa' color to it.

cook whatever noodles you want to eat with this, toss the cooked noodles with the sauce and you're done.

i fed this to my father a few months ago and he loved it. he thought it was some sort of rosa sauce with butter and heavy cream. when i told him it was tofu, he tried to make a face like he didn't like it, but he couldn't hide the fact that he did, in fact, like it. so if you have tofu-skiddish folk in your house, maybe don't tell them it's tofu. it won't be the first secret you keep about what really goes on in your kitchen...


  1. Haha - this made me laugh so hard. I still don't want to try your shitty hippie tofu, but I laughed a lot. You should have a big blog and share your humor with the masses.

  2. And for the love of all that is holy, please take your word verification off. I had to type that shit in four times and I'm exhausted.

    And I just realized now I'm going to have to type it again to post this comment. Damn it.

    1. if i take word verification off, the mayans win.

  3. So, I made this. And it was awesome!!! I did make 2 mistakes. 1) I drained the tomatoes. I realize now that you need that extra liquid when you add the tofu. 2) I added the tofu too fast. Even though I thought I had the temp down enough and was adding it slow enough, it still didn't melt the way I wanted it to. Solution - put the sauce in the blender. That worked wonders!

    Also, if Ruth hadn't said anything, Bill wouldn't have known. He was extremely skeptical when I came home from the store with tofu. But, I couldn't fill his plate fast enough.

    Thanks for the recipe!!

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