Cooks Corner

Chipotle flavor takes the blah out of tofu

Vegetarian delight: Bell peppers stuffed with quinoa and tofu make a light Meatless Monday meal.
Vegetarian delight: Bell peppers stuffed with quinoa and tofu make a light Meatless Monday meal. Nasoya

Nasoya has taken a lot of the puzzle out of making tofu both easy to use and palatable for newbies with its baked and marinated sesame-ginger and teriyaki flavors that need no pressing or draining. I have even served it cold to tofu haters who were amazed to learn it was tofu.

This week, the company upped the offerings to include a smoky, mildly spicy chipotle version that makes a great sandwich or taco filling and is a wonderful substitution for meat in a stir-fry or pad thai (32 grams of protein in an 8-ounce package).

You could try it for a Meatless Monday dish in the quinoa-stuffed pepper recipe included here. Find Nasoya in the refrigerated section at Publix and Walmart (or use the store locator at

Reader requests

Q. I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find your recipe for a doctored-up cake mix that you make with a can of cranberry sauce. It is my go-to recipe for bake sales and you’d think I’d have it memorized since I’ve made it at least a dozen times, but the details have evaporated.

Doreen, Myrtle Beach

A. When that happens to me, I blame a “brain cloud” — the affliction Tom Hanks suffered from in the 1990s flick Joe vs. The Volcano — which is about when this recipe first made it into my column. It is so easy and yet makes a great-tasting cake, you’ll swear the results are homemade from scratch.

Q. Here’s a project for you: Getting a recipe for Eggplant Meatballs. I recently visited a place in Moreland Hills, Ohio, and the eggplant meatballs were to die for. Hopefully you can get the recipe or a reasonable facsimile. Never heard of them before, but maybe you have.

Jenny R., Ohio

A. The restaurant would not part with the recipe, but I think you’ll find the one here irresistible.

My grandfather taught me how to make these long ago. You can add them to a marinara sauce if you’d like and serve over pasta, but my favorite way to serve them is as an appetizer, with a bit of spicy arrabiata sauce on the side for dipping.

Smaller, bite-size meatballs work best — the outside will be crispy with a creamy interior. My grandfather also added fennel seeds. I’m not a fan, but if you like the flavor, they add a little more zip.

Pan Flashes

Gold’s Gym and celebrity chef Robert Irvine just announced the 2015 Golden Plate awards for best dishes for dining out healthily at popular chain restaurants. The winners:

Applebee’s, Sizzling Asian Shrimp and Broccoli; Boston Market, Skinless Chicken with Steamed Vegetables; Chipotle, Steak or Chicken salad; Corner Bakery Café, 1/2 BBLT and Mixed Green Salad Combo; Denny’s, Fit Slam; P.F. Chang’s, Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps; Panera, Half-Sierra Turkey Sandwich on Focaccia Bread with a Bowl of Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup; Ruby Tuesday, Spaghetti Squash Marinara; Starbucks, Chicken and Hummus Bistro Box; Zoës Kitchen, Protein Power Plate.

Linda Cicero:, @TasteMemories. Write to Cook’s Corner at Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Quick Cranberry Orange Cake

1 box white or yellow cake mix

1 (16-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce, divided

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

2 eggs

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan. Place the cake mix in bowl of an electric mixer. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cranberry sauce for glaze, and add the rest to the cake mix along with the orange juice, zest and eggs. Beat at low speed until ingredients are incorporated, then on medium for two to three minutes more.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 45 to 55 minutes, until top is lightly browned and cake tests done. Let cool on wire rack for 30 minutes, then invert and remove pan.

If desired, make a glaze by whisking the reserved cranberry sauce with the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spoon over cake. Sprinkle with pecans. Makes 16 servings.

Per serving: 214 calories (19 percent from fat), 4.4 g fat (0.8 g saturated, 1.8 g monounsaturated), 27.1 mg cholesterol, 2.3 g protein, 41.3 g carbohydrates, 0.9 g fiber, 228.1 mg sodium.

Source: Cook’s Corner archives.

Polpette di Melanzane (Crisp Egglant Balls)

1 (1-pound) eggplant

1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs, divided

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

1 bunch minced fresh basil

3 smashed and minced garlic cloves

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Olive oil for sautéing

Chop the eggplant, skin on, into 1-inch cubes and place in a large pot of water salted to taste (I use about a tablespoon). Boil until the eggplant pierces easily, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently as the cubes will tend to rise to the surface. Drain in a fine-mesh colander. Push down on the eggplant with the back of a wooden spoon to remove as much liquid as possible.

By hand, or using the pulsing method with a food processor, chop the eggplant fine and mix in 1 cup of the bread crumbs, cheese, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Add salt as desired. Use your hands to blend in the egg. Roll into 1-inch balls; if mixture seems to moist, add more breadcrumbs.

Heat a sauté pan with about an inch of olive oil over medium heat. Place the remaining bread crumbs in a pie plate and roll the balls in a final coating. When oil is hot, add the eggplant balls but do not crowd. Cook, turning gently with a spoon, until nicely browned on all sides, about three to four minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and pat gently with paper towels before serving. Makes six servings of four balls each.

Per serving: 166 calories (20 percent from fat), 3.7 g fat (1.4 g saturated, 1 g monounsaturated), 35 mg cholesterol, 7.7 g protein, 25.8 g carbohydrates, 3.8 g fiber, 476 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted for Cook’s Corner by Linda Cicero from a family recipe.

Quinoa- and Tofu-Stuffed Pepper

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 package (8 ounces) chipotle, teriyaki or sesame-ginger baked tofu, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 cup cut-up broccolini or broccoli, steamed

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (optional)

4 large bell peppers

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir tofu, broccolini, green onions, soy sauce and sriracha (if using) into prepared quinoa.

Cut thin slice from stem end of each bell pepper to remove top of pepper. Reserve stems for garnish. Remove seeds and membranes; rinse peppers. If necessary, cut thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand upright. Stuff peppers with quinoa mixture. Place in ungreased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake uncovered 25-35 minutes or until stuffing is hot. Garnish with pepper tops. Makes four servings.

Per serving: 250 calories (25 percent from fat), 7 g fat (1.3 g saturated, 0.5 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 15.3 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 7.5 g fiber, 530 mg sodium.

Source: Nasoya.