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Fried tofu nuggets that will knock your socks off

I’ve been working on a faux chicken nugget recipe for last couple of years.  One of Pinch’s is most popular blends is Finger Lickin’ Chicken.  It is great on chicken, but actually ends up being a great flavor for vegetarian cooking.  Though it doesn’t taste like chicken, it has a robust rich flavor that make everything taste great.  We always have a bag of morningstar nuggets in our freezer for those times when you just want to pop something in the oven and chill.  I’m one of those people that feels guilty for not making things homemade and these nuggets were really starting to bother me.  I’ve had great success frying tofu for Chinese american dishes like general tso’s using baking soda and corn starch, but not much luck with batter fried tofu.  Especially getting the texture right.  This recipe gets it right.  So what’s the deal?

What I wanted to do is make tofu nuggets using Finger Lickin’ Chicken as the base flavor like I do with fried chicken.  Recently I stumbled on to a video by Mary’s Test Kitchen that caught my eye.  Mary solves the biggest problem with tofu, excess moisture, by freezing the tofu not once but twice.  Here’s the thing, you can press tofu to get moisture out, but eventually the tofu will crumble and for nuggets we need it to stay intact.  When the tofu goes into the freezer the little pockets of ice form in the tofu then when thawed you can easily press the excess moisture out.  This gets all of the moisture out and leaves you with tofu the resembles a sponge that can be broken up into large pieces.  At this point they just need to be battered and fried.  Mary’s video is for making a vegan popcorn chicken, but this recipe will use eggs and milk for the batter. I recommend her video if you want to go vegan, or simply substitute for the egg and milk in this recipe.  Mary’s video is here

On to the recipe, which is still a working recipe by the way.  I’m still experimenting with the best time to add flavor to the tofu.  For today, we will add the flavor right at the start.  I will update this as I experiment a little further.

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Vegetarian Fried Chicken Nuggets with Tofu

Make amazing fried vegetarian nuggets that are as good, or even better than actual chicken nuggets.  

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Thomas "Shoebocks" McGee

Ingredients

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 3-4 tbsp Finger Lickin' Chicken
  • 1 cup veggie stock or broth
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs optional
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups buttermilk you can substitute regular milk

Cooking Instructions

  1. mix 2 tbsp. of finger lickin' chicken with the veggie stock

  2. drain the tofu and add the finger lickin' veggie stock

  3. let this marinate for 30 minutes

  4. press the tofu to remove as much liquid as possible

  5. place the tofu in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for 2 hours

  6. remove the tofu from the freezer and let it thaw

  7. press as much liquid out of the tofu as possible, i use my hands and paper towel

  8. return the tofu to the bag and freeze again for at least 2 hours

  9. now let the tofu thaw again and press out all the liquid.  The tofu should now resemble a sponge.  

  10. add oil to pan suitable for frying.  I use a dutch oven.  I cast iron pan works great as well.  Heat over medium high heat.  The oil should reach about 375 degrees before frying

  11. now break up the tofu into nugget size pieces.  I found smaller is better in this case.  

  12. let's make some batter.... whisk the eggs and buttermilk in a bowl

  13. mix the flour, the rest of the finger lickin' chicken and the panko together in a separate bowl

  14. now we get our hands messy.  Dip a piece of tofu an coat in the egg mixture, then dunk in the flour mixture to coat.  You can put this down on a plate and do 8-10 pieces at a time.  

  15. add the tofu to fryer and cook until golden brown, flipping once during cooking.  should be 3-5 minutes, but you really just want to look for color here.  

  16. remove from oil and drain.  I put the nuggets on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  

  17. serve with your favorite dipping sauce or make your own ranch dressing with our Pinch Valley Ranch.  

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Memphis BBQ Sloppy Joes

A fun and simple meal that everyone will love.  I often use veggie crumbles or tvp instead of ground beef with great results.

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Memphis Sloppy Joes

A weeknight sloppy joe recipe that uses Pinch Spice Market's Memphis Rib Rub as the base flavor.  

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Memphis Rib Rub
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato sauce or puree
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 pound ground beef or veggie crumbles
  • 3 cloves garlic fine chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt optional

Cooking Instructions

  1. heat oil over medium high heat and sautee peppers, garlic and onion until soft

  2. add ground beef or veggie crumbles and cook until browned

  3. add tomato paste and stir to combine

  4. add brown sugar, salt, and Memphis Rib Rub. stir to combine

  5. add can of tomato puree or sauce

  6. reduce heat to simmer 

  7. let simmer for about 30 minutes until thickened.  this can cook longer and will get better the longer it goes

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BBQ King Raichlen’s 2019 Predictions: More Meatless BBQ & Global Flavors!

BBQ chef extraordinaire and all around good guy, Steven Raichlen, just published his Barbecue trends for 2019 (Part I). His article is worth a full read, but in short he predicts we’ll see the following:

  1. Brisket Where You Least Expect It” He says brisket is expanding outside its regional roots and is becoming more widely available throughout the U.S. as an American BBQ staple.
  2. Grills Go Green” Raichlen says gone are the days of BBQ only involving meat, noting some great restaurants are paving the way for tasty vegetarian and vegan barbecue.
  3. Wood Grilling Comes Home” Raichlen says wood-fire cooking is trending up. My friend @livefirecook is all over this and I’ve been lucky to cook many dishes over open fire with him over the years.  
  4. “New Rubs From Around Planet BBQ” American BBQ chefs are straying further away from the traditional, go-to American rubs and experimenting more with international flavors.
  5. Brisket in a Hurry” Raichlen sees emerging methods of brisket cooking that take minutes instead of hours or days.

I’m digging all his thinking here, but I’m especially nodding my head at #2 and #4.

Good Meatless BBQ = the Right Spices & Technique

Raichlen’s #2 prediction, “Grills Go Green” speaks strongly to me because I’ve been trying to perfect meatless BBQ and breakdown non-meat BBQ stereotypes for a few years now. As more people move to a plant-based diet or just try to eat less meat in general, I agree this meatless BBQ trend is only going to rise.

My meatless BBQ path started five years ago when I met my girlfriend, who happens to be a vegetarian. I quickly became obsessed with sharing my favorite BBQ dishes with her by adapting them into vegetarian versions.

From smoked pulled oyster mushroom sandwiches to Thanksgiving’s smoked “turkey” pictured below, the results have been fantastic. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike have given my meatless versions two BBQ-stained thumbs up. (Side note: it’s fun surprising skeptical carnivores that meatless can be delicious!)

smoken vegan turkey thanksgiving

My meatless BBQ experiments have gone very wrong at times, and I’ve learned a lot.

The biggest lesson I have is great spices are the foundation of great BBQ, and in vegan or vegetarian BBQ this is even more important. You need to rely heavily on quality spices to emulate meaty flavors.

Some of the blends I recommend for meatless BBQ are Finger Lickin’ Chicken, Sweet and Sassy Pork and Sizzling Steak.  

Secondly, the techniques you use BBQing meat are similar techniques you’ll use with vegetarian dishes, but meatless recipes often require adding an additional step to ensure palatable texture.

For example, for my smoked turkey this year, I brined it overnight in salt water with organic aromatic spices (juniper, garlic, allspice, clove, mustard, and coriander) then rubbed it with a special (no-longer available) Thanksgiving version of our popular Finger Lickin’ Chicken blend. I then slow-smoked it with cherry and oak wood for 8 hours.

Pinch Spice Market Turkey Brine

For the turkey seitan, I used the same aromatic brining spices when I steamed it for an hour before sending it off to the smoker. This steaming is a necessary step to pre-cook the seitan, and gives it a moist “meaty” texture with a satisfying pull and chew. I learned this step was critical because I previously pre-cooked seitan ribs in an oven before smoking and they came out dry, stringy and leathery. With meatless BBQ, if the texture is off, it’s not going to taste good. Moisture is your friend.

After the steam and before the smoke, I rubbed the seitan loaf down with the same Thanksgiving blend I used on the turkey, then popped it into the smoker for 40 minutes (seitan really soaks up smoke and a longer smoke time leads to bitterness, so you can’t overdo it).

In the end, meat eaters and vegans had virtually the same experience of a delicious smoked meal, and all ended up with smiles on their faces.

Exploring Beyond Traditional American BBQ Flavors

Now, onto my favorite prediction of Raichlen’s, #4 “New Rubs From Around Planet BBQ”. I love that more people are experimenting with global flavors in their BBQ.

One of my best selling blends is Ras El Hanout, which is specifically mentioned Raichlen’s prediction of American BBQ going more global. I’ve personally had many customers order this spice with BBQ in mind, and it’s only been growing in popularity.

Ras El Hanout roughly translates to “The Head of the Shop”, with spice merchants each making their own version to highlight the quality of the spices they sell. I make my organic Ras El Hanout blend in the spirit of a Moroccan bizarre. Most blends have at least 20 ingredients, and I have 26, with each spice and herb working together to highlight the other, all while building a deep and colorful flavor profile. It’s nice to see more American BBQs getting familiar with this ancient mosaic spice blend.

Some other international BBQ spices I see getting popular in the USA include Piri Piri, a popular live fire dish that has origins in Portugal, Mozambique and South Africa. Nando’s put this firmly on the map in the USA, and I’ve seen a big uptick in the sales of my Piri Piri mix.

Additionally, Baharat is a newcomer to the American barbecue scene, but this Middle Eastern staple is a really simple bridge. It has the sweet and savory combination that we are accustomed to, although it uses cardamom and cinnamon to achieve the sweet flavors as opposed to sugar. I’ve been saying for a longtime, “anything you can kabob, you can baharat”, and this year I’ve noticed a lot more people purchasing this amazingly versatile spice blend.

I could go on and on about how excited I am to see home chefs and BBQ lovers experimenting more with international spice blends and spices. From grains of paradise, to cubebJamaican jerk, and Ethiopian berbere, there are so many flavors this planet gives us. It’s an exciting time for BBQ!

A final note, Steven Raichlen is one of my biggest culinary influences. I’ve owned and operated Pinch Spice Market for six years now, but I made my first real spice blend 15 years ago with inspiration from his renown book, The BBQ Bible. That book and his PBS show BBQ University have taught me to explore the full world of BBQ, which eventually led me to found Pinch Spice Market.

I am forever grateful for the knowledge he has and shares. If you don’t follow him already, I highly suggest you do.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

 

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Chicken Tikka Masala

A recipe for Tuesday night tikka masala which uses Pinch Spice Market's Tikka Masala mix to simplify the process and still taste authentic and delicious.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Thomas "Shoebocks" McGee

Ingredients

Marinated Chicken

Tikka Masala

Cooking Instructions

  1. mix the yogurt, chicken and tikka spice in a bowl and let sit.  You can do this overnight but give it at least 20 minutes to marinate.

  2. heat a pan on medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter or cooking oil to the pan.  sautee marinated chicken pieces until browned.  chicken should be almost cooked through.  5 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  

  3. set chicken aside and return the pan to medium heat

  4. melt butter in pan in the same pan and add the chopped onion.  

  5. cook onions until soft but not browned.  

  6. add tomato paste and stir into onions.  let this cook for a minute or two then add the tikka spice and sautee for an additional minute until the spices are fragrant. 

  7. add the crushed tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium-low.  

  8. add the chicken to the sauce and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes.  you may need to reduce the heat to achieve a slow simmer.  

  9. reduce heat to low and add the cream.  stirring to incorporate and simmer for an additional 5 minutes

  10. congratulations, you are awesome and have just made restaurant style tikka masala from scratch.   Serve with a garnish of chopped cilantro and enjoy.  

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Baked Cauliflower with Pumpkin Pie Spice and Curry Powder

A friend recently posted a baked cauliflower dish on their Facebook page, and I was tagged by another friend indicating they like to make this with a mix of Pumpkin Pie Spice and Curry Powder.  I was inspired and decided to cook it immediately.

This is a super easy and very healthy dish that sure pleases one and all.  From the time I left the Pinch workshop to plating was less than two hours, making this is a perfect weeknight dish.  You could easily change the spices you use, but I urge you to try this dish in all it’s fall flavored glory.  One note, the original post called for panko breadcrumbs, which I didn’t have, so I  used all purpose flour.  I believe panko would make it a little crispier and I will be using it next time.

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Baked Pumpkin Curry Cauliflower

This is a tasty, super simple, and healthy side dish.  A perfect compliment to any fall dinner.  

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Thomas "Shoebocks" McGee

Ingredients

  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1-2 tbsp yogurt optional
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 head cauliflower cut into pieces
  • 4 tbsp flour or panko
  • 1 tsp salt optional

Cooking Instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 425F

  2. Cut up the cauliflower into bite size pieces and set aside

  3. Beat the egg, add yogurt if you are using it and beat together with a whisk

  4. Add the pumpkin pies spice and curry powder to the egg mixture and mix to combine

  5. toss the cauliflower into the mixture and coat evenly

  6. sprinkle with flour or panko again making sure to coat evenly

  7. spread on a lightly greased cookie sheet

  8. bake for 30-35 minutes until crispy and browned 

  9. I made an optional curry yogurt sauce for serving.  4 tbsp of yogurt, 1 tsp honey, 1 12 tsp of curry powder.  This is optional but was quite good.  Served with tandoori chicken and spinach this plate was well under 500 calories.

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Doro Wat Recipe (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken)

Ethiopian is one of my favorite cuisines. Most of the core Ethiopian flavors come primarily from the berbere spice blend, so it’s easy to make at home when you have Pinch’s Ethiopian Berbere handy. This is one of our more popular blends and it really highlights the quality of the spices I source.

Doro Wat is especially great in the fall or winter. The slow-cooked chicken absorbs all of the flavor, as do the eggs.  The rich spicy sauce will warm your heart and stimulate your mind.  This recipe doesn’t require much prep or active cooking time, so it works well as a weeknight meal.  It’s also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.

ethiopian doro wat organic chicken

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Doro Wat

Easy, Spicy, Delicious doro wat that will warm up your tummy and your spirits.  

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Thomas "Shoebocks" McGee

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, leg quarters, bone in breasts
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomatoe paste
  • 6 soft boiled eggs
  • 2 tbsp Ethiopian Berbere add more if you like spicy
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth water can also be used

Cooking Instructions

  1. in a large pot heat oil over medium high heat

  2. add chicken and brown on all sides

  3. remove chicken and set aside.  you dont need to cook the chicken all the way through just want to brown it.

  4. heat butter in the same pot over medium heat

  5. add onions and sautee until browned.  stir to avoid burning, but you want the onions to carmelize

  6. stir in garlic and berbere and stir until fragrent about 30 seconds

  7. add tomato paste and allow to darken while stirring about 2 minutes.

  8. add water and stir to incorporate everything

  9. add the chicken and reduce the heat to low.

  10. cook for 40 minutes

  11. add the eggs and cook for an additional ten minutes

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Ranch Dressing

 

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Easy Ranch Dressing with Pinch Valley Ranch

Follow this easy recipe to make the best ranch dressing using our dry ranch dressing mix.  

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Pinch Valley Ranch
  • 1/3 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup milk

Cooking Instructions

  1. Mix the Pinch Valley Ranch , mayonnaise and milk together.  Let sit for five minutes and serve.  

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Easy Buffy (Garlic!) Remoulade Sauce for Fish, Sandwiches, Fries & More

Since we recently released our newest blend, Blackened (a must for fish lovers or anyone who likes blackened dishes), we decided to revisit one our other favorite fish topper recipes, Buffy’s Slayer Helper Remoulade.

“Buffy Slayer Helper” is one of our top-selling spice blends, full of extremely high quality garlic, chili flakes, parsley, sea salt and basil.

This super simple, but very flavorful sauce is great on blackened fish too, but also works fabulously on sandwiches, french fries or as treat with freshly chopped vegetables.

It’s the perfect party remoulade – we have seen people drool over this stuff!

Buffy’s Remoulade Quick Mix Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 tbls Buffy’s Slayer Helper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbls relish or chopped up sweet pickle (optional, you could also add chopped, drained giardiniera for some heat)
  • Mix ingredients together and let sit for 5 minutes, then enjoy!

Buffy's Slayer Helper Remoulade

 

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New Farmer’s Market in 2015: Treasure Island Lincoln Park, Chicago

Join us Wednesday this summer from 3-5pm at the new farmer’s market hosted by Treasure Island in the northside Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

Sample some of our best BBQ rubs, organic spice blends, and fresh fair trade spices, or just come by for a spice and cooking chat. We look forward to seeing you there!

Organic spices at farmer's market in Chicago

Check out the other vendors and get more details on Treasure Island’s website.

Can’t make it or live somewhere else? You can buy all of our spices online with free delivery on purchases over $45!