Boost the taste, give it a kick, and, oh LOOK!, it's an easy, easy vegetable food recipe AND a bonus tofu food recipe

My one overriding theory with vegetarian food is this: For the almost vegetarian menu to work for us, everything I serve, everything, must be really, really tasty. Because even the healthiest foods won’t do us any good if we (and feel free to insert “the husband” here) won’t eat it.

And, side-by-side with tasty, we (insert “the husband” again, if you please) love spicy.

So I look for dishes that are flavorful. And dishes that are spicy. And, best of all, ingredients that deliver both. Which is how I found this line of Indian sauces.

Curry favor
Now, we love curry. We could probably eat it weekly and never get sick of it. In fact, when my husband’s birthday comes around, he always requests mulligatawny soup, which is a spicy, curry-based, Indian chicken soup. In fact, I think it is the only chicken dish left that I will cook. See what a person will do for love?

Here's the super helpful tip part
For me, powdered curry just does not give the flavor and kick that I want. I plan to explore this option more, but, for now anyway, I have a secret ingredient: A curry paste made by a company called Patak (Which, you should know, is owned by Hormel Foods. As in Spam. The food, not the email.)

Show me the money
We know it tastes good. But how good is it for you to eat? Let’s cut to the chase and have a look at that ingredient list:
canola oil, coriander, salt, cumin, water, concentrated tomato puree, turmeric, corn flour, chile pepper, tamarind, acetic acid, sugar, ground ginger, garlic powder, citric acid, spices, lactic acid

You know, there are really no problems here. Sure, it is oil-based (high in fat, which translates into high in calories; 160 for two tablespoons, the vast majority of which comes from the fat), but, according to the Mayo clinic, "Canola oil is very low in saturated fat and has a very high proportion of monounsaturated fat. So, it is a healthy choice when it comes to oils."

And that pinch of sugar is just too small to worry about.

But what are we not seeing, here? Tons of processed ingredients. High fructose corn syrup. An ingredient list that is long enough to pass for a novella and jam-packed with enough polysyllabic words to line many a corporate pocket.

Not bad. So let's cut to a recipe that uses their curry paste. (And, do note, that while they ask for the mild version of their curry paste ... we scoff, I tell you! ... we use the extra hot. Use the version you prefer.)
Food recipe: Spicy Potatoes
1 pound potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoons PATAK'S® Mild Curry Paste
salt to taste

Peel potatoes and chop into small pieces. Boil in salted water until tender. In large skillet, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to pop, add the onion and garlic; sauté until golden brown. Stir in the mild curry paste. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes. Cook an additional 5 minutes, adding additional water if potatoes begin to stick. Season to taste and serve.

Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. But what else could we do with that curry paste?
Food recipe #2: Curried tofu
Well, we could introduce it to tofu! Here's what I did.

First, I drained the liquid from the tofu (sat it in a colander for about an hour). Then I sliced it into thick slices (about 3/4"). I brushed the curry paste thinly on both sides of the slices, placed them on a plate covered with a bit of plastic wrap, and let the tofu marinate for an hour.

When the tofu was done marinating, I made some Jasmine rice (it's white rice, which is very naughty, but it smells like Jasmine, which is heavenly) and sliced some rinsed scallions, thinly and at an angle (both the white part and halfway up the green part).

I popped the marinated tofu slices into my pan, sautéed them for at least 5 minutes per side at medium high until they were brown and crisp on the outside.

I mounded the rice on plates, arranged the tofu on the rice, and sprinkled the scallions on top (for a bit of crunch and color).

And, for fun, I served it with lassi (a good way to get yogurt into your diet and a reasonable way to slip some fruit in, too, if you try the mango version).

Surprisingly fast, easy, and healthy.

And more!

Now Patak's has all sorts of other sauces to experiment with, ranging from Vindaloo (nice and hot) to Tikki Masala (if you've eaten anything with a yellow sauce in an Indian restaurant, it was probably this. The turmeric gives it it's distinctive yellow color.) Experiment to your heart's desire.

The goal here
Eventually, I will learn how to make my own curries and not have to rely on packaged sauces. But, for now, these aren't bad. Not bad at all.