Love your knife, love your (kitchen) life

Since being married, I've been learning to cook out of necessity. Neither I nor Woody are naturally drawn to kitchen life, but we gotta eat, so we cook. I'm starting to enjoy it, but I still have a lot to learn.

I know I'm not the only gal who has done more cooking in her newlywed years than all the rest combined, so I asked my talented friend and food blogger, Callie of Luv Cooks, to be a guest on the tlk blog! She will be joining us for a series of four posts featuring great recipes for newlyweds (or longtime-weds!) and essential tools for every kitchen. In between posts make sure to check out all the other fabulous goodness on Callie's blog. Her recipes are sure to delight, and you'll be encouraged by her sincere heart for treating people with Southern hospitality and grace in and out of the kitchen!  I will also be guest blogging on Luv Cooks and you can read my opening post here!

Callie Aldridge of  Luv Cooks

Callie Aldridge of Luv Cooks

the lovingkind luv cooks tofu stir fry

First up, in the kitchen we have:

Cooking Tool: Chef's Knife

Recipe: Tofu Stir Fry

Without further ado, here's Callie!

I once read that every great chef needs a great knife. Outside of being a solid kitchen motto, a great chef's knife is a home cook’s best weapon, literally and figuratively*. It makes cooking easier, dicing safer, and generally qualifies you as all-around impressive to your husband, friends, and family. Or, as we say in the South, you will have earned official "cookin' braggin’ rites" in one fell swoop-or should I say slice?

I am honored to pair with Mattye and the lovingkind in these next few months to share what I believe are tools every great kitchen needs. Regardless of budget or space, you can build a solid cooking foundation that suits your style and taste. So, on request of the brilliant and always-forward thinking Mattye, I offer to you some basic chef's knife tips:

the lovingkind and luv cooks chef's knife
  1. A great chef's knife is not hard to find. I am not a knives expert, but with some research, I know that you can find your ideal match. This article from Serious Eats has great how-to’s on finding the best chef's knife for you. 
  2. A great knife is sharp. No matter what, sharpen your knife! A dull knife causes more injuries than a sharp one. I like these style sharpeners, but you can also use a steel.
  3. A great knife makes kitchen prep easy. To slice most efficiently, use a back and forth motion with your knife. With the knife point’s pressure on your cutting board, rock the knife back towards you and the item you are cutting. Use the same continuous motion to slice/chop/dice as needed.
  4. A great knife is safe. Going back to point number one, your ideal knife will feel comfortable and steady in your hand. Also, guard your fingers! Using a sharp knife is great, but you want to be careful you don’t slice those precious cooking fingers. As you slice, guard the fingers on your opposite hand by curling your upper fingers under your knuckles or by keeping them at a 90-degree angle.
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the lovingkind luv cooks chef's knife
the lovingkind luv cooks chef's knife
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This stir-fry tofu recipe is a great one to showcase a knife for many reasons. First- it’s simple and veggie-friendly. Tofu is easy to cook, full of protein and, let’s be honest, inexpensive. Red and yellow bell peppers add a floral, fruity sweetness to the green beans in this dish, and chopping up those suckers with a fabulous kitchen tool just makes the experience all the more fun. 

Second, you can now show off all of your knife prowess in one dish. “Who so elegantly diagonally cut these carrots?” your beloved may ask. “Why, that was me, my love!" "You use a knife with such skill and ease!” they reply. How romantic! Ok, maybe because I am a food blogger this appeals to me, but you get the picture! :) 

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the lovingkind luv cooks tofu stir fry
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Third, the sauce is delicious and I almost 100% promise that if you have tried tofu before and weren’t a fan, this will convert you. The way the tofu is prepped ensures it's crispy and chewy, giving it a meatier texture, and the results are spicy, sweet, and full of Asian flavors. 

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A great chef's knife is a strong starting point for any kitchen. But honestly, the best thing you can ever have in your kitchen is love. Love for the people you are cooking for, love for the food you are making, and love for life. It makes everything more delicious. :)

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*Also, it should be noted that chopping is an excellent way to relieve stress and aggression. Bad day? In a disagreement? Bust out your knife, a carrot, and a cutting board and get to choppin'. 

*Also, it should be noted that chopping is an excellent way to relieve stress and aggression. Bad day? In a disagreement? Bust out your knife, a carrot, and a cutting board and get to choppin'. 

Spicy Sweet Tofu Stir Fry 

Recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker, a fantastic husband-and-wife food blog.

What You Will Need

For the Stir Fry

  • 1 14-ounce package firm or extra firm tofu
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups roughly chopped green beans
  • 1 cup diagonally sliced carrots 
  • 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced orange bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil for sautéing (you can also use peanut or coconut)    

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (I like tamari because it's gluten-free)
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha 
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch

Optional: white rice; chopped peanuts or additional Sriracha for topping


What You Will Do

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and begin drying your tofu. Remove it from the package, drain, and place it between two thick towels folded into the shape of the tofu. Then place it on a paper-towel lined plate or bowl and top it with something heavy like an iron skillet.
  2. Let it dry for about 15 minutes, changing your towels if they get too wet. Once dry, chop the tofu (with your awesome knife) into roughly 1-inch cubes or rectangles, whichever your heart desires.
  3. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and arrange chopped tofu on the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, flip over your tofu cubes to ensure even color, then bake for 15 more minutes. This will dry out the tofu and give it a more meat-like texture.
  4. Once the tofu is golden brown and a bit tough and firm, remove it from the oven and set it out to dry a bit more while you prep your vegetables. Ideally, it would set out another 45 minutes or maybe longer. I don't recommend refrigerating it overnight; I tried this with Mattye and let's just say it was cheeewwyyy.
  5. If serving over rice, start the rice at this point. I love Uncle Ben's instant rice
  6. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients, then set them aside.
  7. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil and swirl to coat the bottom of your pan. Then add (your beautifully chopped) veggies and toss to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. When the vegetables have some color and have softened a bit (just feel them with your spoon or spatula; they should have some give to them), add the sauce, and stir. It should bubble and thicken. Then add the tofu and stir to coat.
  8. Cook the mixture for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Try your best to not overcook this; taste it every minute or so to make sure your veggies stay on the crisp side. When veggies are cooked to your preferred doneness, remove from heat. 
  9. Serve your stir fry as is or over rice for a more filling meal. Enjoy and revel in your delicious, knife-wielding success. Bravo!