Episode 2: Cashew Chicken with a Twist

Sketch No. 4: Maverick Doctor, Skillet in Hand

The 11/5 quake left Beech Street with shards of road sticking up like a punk rocker’s over-gelled hair. I’m not sure if it’s because the street, home to Applewood’s business center, is impassable, or if the town’s residents are just suffering from some form of fatigue, but since the quake, our nightlife is little more than crickets. Used to be, come Saturday night, you could find folks out at arthouse screenings, antique shows, book readings. We had live music everywhere; people would go out dancing. Now all we have is karaoke night at the Sloshed Guzzler, which, as you can probably guess from the name, is the type of bar with sticky floors and that stale beer smell that stays with you for the rest of your life. Sort of like if I say, “high school biology lab where you had to dissect a frog,” you can still smell the formaldehyde.

A couple weeks ago, Mrs. Creaverton started bustling around the Café Confictura, brainstorming ideas about how to breathe a little life back into Saturday nights. Partly, I’m sure, she’s feeling amped since she’s at the start of this new diet makeover/lifestyle change, whatever you want to call it. Partly, she’s ever the businesswoman, and she knows that “Happy Fun Night sponsored by Café Confictura” is a nice bit of advertising for her. But mostly, I think, she wants to help folks.

Those whose minds were affected somehow by the quake have been automatons in their own lives. No joy, no ambition. They roll through one day after the last, numb and foggy, where once they shone. I miss how they brightened the café, the town. Most of us who haven’t been affected keep trying to reach them, calling their names in whatever dark forest has swallowed them, hoping to catch a glimpse of their light. And Mrs. C’s contribution right now is to turn quiet Saturday night on its ear.

She kicked her party-planning mode into high gear and got the county Historic and Tourism Commission to donate an evening in this barn that is Applewood’s contribution to the long list of New England’s places George Washington supposedly slept. “Dancin’ through the Decades” was Mrs. C’s idea, a town dance designed for everyone to stop sitting on their booties and start shaking them, from the Charleston to the Hustle to the Time Warp to the Bus Stop. Within a few days, the coffee wasn’t the only thing causing a buzz at the café.

My guess is that, with so many people excited about the idea, we would’ve had a decent turnout no matter what. But Mrs. C got it in her head to pester the entertainment reporter from the Applewood Timber for a story, for exposure. Mark Raynid is his name, and she finally got him to come into the café for an interview this past Friday, the day before the dance.

Mark sort of looks like a stick figure someone might doodle on a Sloshed Guzzler napkin. His limbs are flimsy; his hair is scant. He and Mrs. Creaverton were at one of the front tables next to where I happened to be sitting, finishing up the interview and lattes, when in walked Roscoe Belesprit followed by a man I’d never met.

Roscoe’s trying to grow his hair out. When he was younger–I’ve seen a picture–it was thick, strikingly beautifully black against his brown skin. It’s thinner now, and mostly gray, and I’m hoping he doesn’t cut it anytime soon. The man following him was closer to my age, late thirties maybe, Mediterranean white, slender but with a good build. He wore a red quilted baseball cap made of that shiny puffer jacket material.

Roscoe made a beeline for Mrs. C. If one day he were to walk into the café to find a time machine has landed with Hemingway waiting to ask Roscoe’s advice on dialogue, our retired English professor would still make a beeline for Mrs. C before even noticing anything else. “Phillipa,” he said, the Boston Brahmin wafting smooth as smoke from his lips, “lovely as always to see you.”

“How ya doing, hon?” she said. To Roscoe’s blanketed dismay, Mrs. C calls everyone hon. “Those kids of yours stop with the prank calls yet?”

“They are not kids. They are twenty-somethings who partake in my most serious writing salon.” He sighed. “They’re still phoning at two a.m. pretending to be Shakespeare, although I highly doubt the Bard ever used the term ‘dude.’ I’m hoping this week to put an end to their disagreement with me.” He gestured to the younger man. “In the meantime, may I present Dr. Teek.”

The doctor shook hands with me, and Mark. “Please, call me Graham,” he said. When he extended his hand to Mrs. C, she hesitated before taking it into a halfhearted shake.

“Roscoe,” she said, “is this one of your academic doctor friends? Or a doctor doctor?”

Roscoe said, “I’ve asked Dr. Teek to speak to you about your . . . concerns.”

“Concerns?” said Mrs. C. “What concerns?”

His hands in front of him, Roscoe started kneading his fingers, a nervous tell. “When we spoke yesterday about your new diet, I got the feeling you might need a little guidance.”

“From a doctor?”

“Medical guidance, yes.”

She smiled at the doc. “My apologies for your wasted time. I already have a doctor.”

The doc smiled wider. “No apology necessary. I’m glad you have someone who’s willing to work with you on this new treatment plan.”

“I wouldn’t call it a treatment,” she said. “I’m supposed to eat broccoli ten times a day and live at the gym. That’s not a treatment.”

I jumped in. “I thought you were all gung-ho about this. You’ve seemed, you know, energized, in better spirits.”

“She was,” said Roscoe. “Then she disclosed to me that she was thinking of sneaking out for some Buffalo wings.”

I gasped. “Mrs. C!”

“Look,” said Mrs. C, her eyes moving among the three of us, “I’m in the middle of an interview, so—”

Mark said, “Actually, we’re all done here. This’ll run in tomorrow’s evening edition, paper’s out by six p.m., gives folks plenty of time to get to the dance at seven-thirty.” He lifted his meager chin to the doc. “My advice? Bug her a little while longer and she’ll give you tickets to the monster truck rally in Hartford to get what she wants.”

Mrs. C sighed. “No, Mark. You’re the only one around here who’s motivated solely by bribery.”

“I am not motivated solely by bribery,” Mark said mockingly. “Blackmail works too.”

While Mark stayed at the table, scribbling as he clarified his notes, Mrs. C excused herself to the café’s kitchen. Roscoe, the doc, and I followed through the swing door. The room is a small but spotless burrow of stainless-steel appliances with a matching island. This time of day, mid-afternoon, no one was in here baking or warming or whipping pastry with their sugar-cream accoutrements, so we had some privacy.

“What are you people doing?” said Mrs. C, turning when she realized we were behind her. “Employees only.”

Roscoe and I ignored her. Mrs. C only pays attention to that rule when it suits her. I can’t tell you the number of times she’s needed some help or is in the middle of telling a story and doesn’t want to lose her place, so she just waves us on back there and lets us stand around as long as we don’t touch anything, steal bites of pastry, or sneeze.

Only the doc replied. “Mrs. Creaverton, have you ever heard the phrase ‘Let food be thy medicine’?”

“Lemme guess, fortune cookie?”

“Actually,” he said, “it’s the original Western medicine. Greek, to be exact. Hippocrates taught that, and that’s what I teach my patients nowadays. Since I started teaching it, it’s never steered me wrong.”

Mrs. C gave him a puckered smile. “That was a good story, dear. On your way now.”

“See,” he continued, “I guess I’ve always seen myself as kind of a rebel. Certainly an individual, not one willing to just go blindly along with the crowd. That said, I used to practice the way I was always taught. You gave patients your best advice—‘watch your diet, up your exercise’—sort of vague guidance but it’s all we really had, and then you give them their pill or their surgery date and that’s it. Schedule their follow-up. Next. That’s how it was, up until a couple years ago.”

“Mm. And what happened a couple years ago?” She said it with a roll of her eyes, like she knew she was expected to ask the question, like she was just filling in a blank. But when her gaze settled back on the doc, there was a glimmer of true curiosity in them.

“A rep from a pharmaceutical company came to me. He’d heard about me. I was doing well in the field, working for a fairly big hospital up in Hartford. He told me he was prepared to help me get to the next level: my own private practice, a few trips a year to Hawaii or Cancun, all expenses paid, to speak at week-long conferences. He called it a ‘beach-teach.’ Basically talk for a half hour and spend the rest of the time in the sun. Of course, he said, he couldn’t do any of it unless I was giving my patients access to the latest and best meds on the market . . . which he happened to sell.”

“Well,” said Mrs. C., “I know you didn’t take the bribe. Roscoe wouldn’t be friends with you if you did.”

An almost imperceptible smile twitched on Roscoe’s lips.

“It was a wake-up call for me,” said the doc. “How could I call myself a rebel—hell, even an independent thinker—if I was just going to go along with this guy and do exactly what he wanted, push his pills on my patients? That got me thinking about all the meds I prescribed, and how none of my patients really ever seem to get better. I mean, they’d survive, but barely, and they really had no quality of life.

“I read every legit medical article I could get my hands on that had studied less conventional medicine. Vitamins, functional medicine, acupuncture, physical therapy . . . but what seemed most effective overall was a diet that wasn’t just about everything in moderation, but actually cutting out meat, dairy, and processed foods. I did my own little trial, asking some of my patients if they’d be willing to try it.” He ducked his head and smiled. “None of them wanted to, until I reminded them they’d be bucking the system if they just gave it a try. Seems I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like blindly falling in line.”

Mrs. C shook her head tersely. “I’m not blindly falling in line because I want some wings.”

“Why do you want to backslide?” asked Roscoe.

She ignored him. To the doc, she said, “What happened to your test group?”

With a wide, triumphant grin, he said, “Every single one of them was cured.”

“Cured?” she spat out dubiously.

“Cured. Not a little better. Not merely surviving. One woman who hadn’t been off crutches for a year was eventually able to walk in a marathon. One man could run after his grandkids without getting winded. These were people who kind of hated vegetables and swore by pizza and steak. I think a few of them participated in my trial to shut me up, prove me wrong that even by cutting these things out, they wouldn’t be themselves again, the selves they remembered from years before.”

“And they ended up being the ones who were proved wrong,” Mrs. C mumbled to herself. Her hand went to her stud earring, an alabaster rose the same color as her short hair. She twirled it in the same agitated way as Roscoe had kneaded his fingers before.

Then her hand dropped. “I need protein,” she blurted out.

“I see,” the doc said slowly. “And that’s why the Buffalo wings?”

“I can’t fill up,” she said. “I can only eat so many chickpeas and kidney beans and quinoa. I need protein, and more than that, I need flavor, or so help me God, Doc, I’m going straight to Stoody Jones’s Wing Shack and setting to win the ‘Eat a Whole Frickin’ Chicken’ challenge.”

Before he could respond, she whirled around to one of the stainless-steel refrigerators and opened it. Her back to us, she said, “Far as I can see, I’ve got one more thing I can try, or else I have to go back to meat and my pills. I just can’t imagine how I’m gonna choke it down. Now, you gonna strike me down if I try this, hate it, and have no other choice but to go back to my pills?”

Graham laughed; it was an easy sound that just sort of tumbled out. “I’m willing to bet you’ve got more choices than those two. But no one’s striking anyone down. I’m just a doctor, Mrs. Creaverton. I’m supposed to be a guide, not a god.”

With a decisive nod, Mrs. C dug inside the fridge. She tossed a small plastic container on the counter. I gasped at the sight of it. Mrs. C closed her eyes and pressed her lips together, as though just speaking the name of this most evil stuff would conjure plagues of frogs and locusts.

Finally, she rasped, “Tofu. How the hell am I supposed to eat tofu?”

The doc smiled. “Got a couple skillets?”


Question: when you prepare meat, do you ever just cook it, with no spices, no seasonings or sauces?

That’s what Doc Graham asked us as he started in on his tofu recipe. Mrs. C asked why anyone in the world would want to do that. She said sometimes she’d tolerate the meat just so she could get the sauce, which was the good part anyway. And I have to admit, naked meat, especially poultry, has always smelled kind of skunky to me, like that smell when you open a can of chicken soup.

Tofu, said the doc, serves as the same vehicle for flavors as any other protein, except that you get a healthier version of the same dish, no veins or cartilage or gristle, and no salmonella lurking on your countertops. He made cashew chicken, only with the tofu instead: rich, spicy-sweet sauce, veggie fried rice on the side. Mrs. C took just about the tiniest bite possible at first. Then, with huge, disbelieving eyes, she said, “This is better than when Julia Child made me the Szechuan tasting meal she learned from a Chinese spy!”  She loved the recipe so much, and was so relieved and grateful to the doc, she put it on one of her To-Gos—her recipe fliers for customers to take home—which I included following this post.

All in all, the dish took Graham about an hour to make, and that’s why, when we emerged from the kitchen chattering, we all quieted suddenly, surprised that Mark Raynid was still sitting at his table. We were even more surprised when he flew out of the café upon seeing us.

As Mark ran out, the front bell giving a startled peal when he whipped open the door, he had roughly the same look on his face as Mrs. C and I did a little while ago, before our tofu phobia (tofobia?) was cured. It was a look of fear. None of us could figure what was wrong with him.

I wish we’d never found out.

Sketch No. 5: Raynid on the Parade

Applewood’s “Washington Slept Here” barn feels like the sort of place where a big, loving family would sit down at a long table and have a holiday meal together. Even when it’s practically empty, you know that, soon, it will be full of home. It crowns the hill that overlooks the elementary school. Teachers are always bringing their students out here in the good weather for that special break from the classroom. The wood floors and body have been refurbished a few times over. Empty stables are to one end, and a platform stage has been built into the other. It still smells faintly, pleasantly, of hay.

Mrs. C knew what she was doing when she decorated for the dance. The woman had practically no time to work with, but when Mrs. C sets her mind to a job, she finds a way to make it happen. The barn is warm, in temperature and demeanor, so she brought in amber lamps that played up the cozy factor. She hung shamrock streamers from the rafters in honor of the four-leaf clovers that grow outside the western wall in spring. (If you pick one of those and keep it until the following March 17, St. Patty’s Day, you have the strangest lucky streaks in money. But this is harder than it sounds, since most of these clovers have a specific lifespan, and dry up into dust every March 14).

The dance started at seven thirty, but Violet and I got there around eight, since Violet, of course, had to be fashionably late. We could hear the bass of the music before we reached the barn door. Inside, a DJ on the platform stage bobbed to the beat, making adjustments on a mixing board, clutching his headphones to one ear. Two portable lighting rigs—probably donated for the evening by Mrs. C’s costar from a stint off-Broadway, who now owns Black Box Theatre Supplies over in the neighboring town of Speroton—flashed multicolored spots over the floor. A selection of coffee, pastry, and punch were at the ready on a side table, next to which Doc Graham and Mrs. C stood talking.

And the rest of the place was completely empty.

I mean, there was no one. We’re talking deserted. “Deserted” deserted. Like, “one of those plotlines of an eighties sitcom where none of the kids show up for a preteen’s birthday party” deserted. All we needed to complete the scene was for the DJ to start playing “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” while a parent put an arm around Mrs. C and reminded her that true happiness comes from within.

The four of us stood together, trying to figure out what had kept everyone away:

“Maybe everyone’s just really late,” said the doc.

“Maybe they got the date wrong?” said Mrs. C.

“Maybe there was another quake somewhere in town like 11/5 and we just haven’t heard about it yet,” said I.

“Maybe they have all realized they have nothing chic to wear and they sit now at home in the dark in shame,” Violet pouted in her French accent.

We didn’t have to wait too much longer for the real reason. Roscoe came through the barn doors, the Applewood Timber weekend edition in his hand and a stern scowl on his face.

“A hack. A hack,” he said. “I’ve long thought that Mark Raynid was nothing more than a cozener, spinning glorified tabloid gossip, tossing around his press pass like beads at Mardi Gras.” He shoved the paper toward us. “I was right.”

Mrs. C took the paper and read part of it aloud: “‘Keep an eye on your orders from a certain café, folks, or soon you might find special Kool-Aid in your coffee cups and your brownies full of weed.’”

“Is that a promise?” I said.

She went on: “‘While there’s a dance tonight, information below, being hosted by Mrs. Phillipa Creaverton supposedly on the town’s behalf, one can’t help but wonder if this is, in fact, a ruse to slip her new California diet past our unsuspecting lips.’”

Violet and I shared what I believe was a warranted look of disgust at any mention of Mark Raynid’s lips.

Mrs. C skimmed, her cheeks and knuckles turning red. “It goes on to say that he overheard the whole talk we had in the kitchen. The way he talks about tofu in here you’d think we were candidates for the first witch trial New England’s had in a while.” She read further. “Dammit. He’s got a quote from Nessie.” This, Mrs. C read in a nasal, jeering whine: “‘Phil did worry me very much a couple weeks ago when she swore off sweets, meats, and dairy. I wondered how a vegan could run a café and bakery.’ Oh, sure,” she now yelled at the paper, “because that’s never been done before, you twit.”

Roscoe turned to Doc Graham. “I’m very sorry you’ve been dragged into this as well. He paints you in there as unfit to practice, swayed by the demons of alternative medicine.”

Graham just laughed. Mrs. C didn’t. “You know,” she said, “it was a different Graham who warned me years ago about yellow press when I first went into business for myself. Her name was Kate Graham, and that day I believe I met her right at the Post and we took lunch at Old Ebbitt’s . . . Yes, I remember, because that was in the thick of Woodward and Bernstein, you know, doing their thing, and Kate said, ‘Phillipa, now Bob and Carl, those are journalists. Fearless, those boys are, and only interested in reporting the truth.’”

“And they stuck to their guns,” the doc added. “And the paper backed them. And I’ll back you. I’m guessing everyone here will.”

Mrs. C’s face fell a bit. “Why is it people are badmouthing me just because I want to be healthier? Don’t they know this is hard enough?”

“They fear what they do not know,” said Violet. “Also, Nessie and Mark both buy off the rack, so really what can you expect.”

“Everyone buys off the rack,” I muttered to her. “You buy off the rack.”

She lowered her eyes at me. “We are not friends for fifteen minutes,” she declared, then glided off to the coffee carafe.

“Look,” said Graham to Mrs. C, “the people who are bothering to pass judgment on you are going to see one of two things. If they belittle you for trying to make a positive change, they’re actually not even seeing you; they’re looking inward and they don’t like what’s there. They put you down to make themselves feel better. But there are others who look at you, and they see a woman taking charge of her life, maybe even a role model. The parents whose child is heading for obesity, but they’re not exactly sure what constitutes ‘healthier diet,’ so they don’t know how to help him; the sixty-year-old who’s heard so often she’s too old to change that she’s starting to believe it. They’re looking for help. They’ll find it in you. Don’t forget those people are out there too.”

“And Violet and I are going to find at least a few of them right now,” I said. I grabbed Violet–pulled her, actually, because, you know, we weren’t friends for another fourteen minutes thirty seconds–and we set out, ready to go door to door if necessary and drag people to the dance.

As we left, Mrs. C called out to the DJ to play “The Twist,” one of her all-time favorites. I heard her tell Graham and Roscoe, “You know this song was originally a B-side to a ballad called ‘Teardrops on Your Letter’? ‘The Twist,’ a B-side. Probably one of the most famous songs ever, and it almost got buried thanks to the producers, the big boys upstairs. I guess enough folks flipped the record over and at least gave it a spin. Imagine, almost missed out on ‘The Twist’ ’cause the boys upstairs stuck us with ‘Teardrops on Your Letter.’” And with that, she started Twisting.

Sketch No. 6: Gold Woman Outside Sunday Brunch

Well, at the fourth house that Violet and I tried, we got a shoe thrown out a second-story window at us. No one bothered to answer at all at the first three houses, so I guess the shoe was an improvement, but we still gave up and trudged back to the barn. Saying you’re going to drag people from their homes and actually doing it really are two different things.

The dance was officially a bust.  I mean, we all danced. Who’s gonna waste a good DJ? Violet and the young doctor exchanged their fair share of glances, and Roscoe, Mrs. C, and I officially named them winners of the impromptu Watusi dance-off Mrs. C announced. We managed to have fun, but still Mrs. C left that night with clouds crossing her smile.


The good news is that Sunday brunch at Confictura is like taking repast inside a daffodil. No matter the weather or season outside, the hanging lamps turn out the midmorning sun of spring. You could be in a ghastly mood when you come in, but by the time you sit down with your fresh, full cup of coffee and your mini quiche, you feel better, and you’ll find yourself inviting time to stretch out at your table.

Brunch was, actually, quieter this morning than usual, with echoes of last night’s empty barn. A twitch or two of concern wrinkled Mrs. C’s brow as she worked with her baking assistants behind the counter. Violet rang the cash register a few times when there was no sale, just for the company of the sound. Still, though, there was a sense that if Mark’s article was going to cause lasting damage, if it needed to be combated, that was business to be dealt with tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Nessie brought it to our doorstep today, she and a dozen followers. She looked like a gilded figurine you might get in a gift shop, thanks to her goldenrod pantsuit.

Mrs. C put on her ever-chipper customer service face. “Nessie, so good of you to come in. We’re running low on your favorite quiche, but I’ll be so happy to whip something up just for you. Do you have any food allergies, by the way? It’d be real good to know that before I get started.”

Nessie shoved her teeth into their non-smile. “I wanted to bring my friends here so they could hear you for themselves. I’m sure you are ready to clear up this misunderstanding.”

“What misunderstanding?” said Mrs. C.

“That you are swapping toffee chips for tofu cubes.” Her eyes fell on Mrs. C’s To-Go’s. “I see you haven’t had a chance to throw these out yet. Allow me.”

Mrs. C stepped between Nessie and the To-Go’s holder. “You’re right. I’m not changing any of the café’s recipes.”

Nessie’s followers murmured to each other, looking relieved. Nessie looked satisfied.

“Not yet, anyway,” continued Mrs. C. “If, however, my customers start trying the things I’ve come to enjoy, and that I have no intention of giving up, and they ask me to make changes, well, the customer is always right.”

One of Nessie’s followers, a stout librarian in her forties named Amy, shuffled forward and whispered to Mrs. C. Mrs. C said, “Of course, honey,” and rubbed Amy’s arm in a friendly and encouraging way. Mrs. C grabbed one of the tofu To-Go sheets, and handed it to her.

Nessie said, “Amy?”

Amy breathed deep, and faced Nessie. The librarian is one of the townsfolk who’s been affected by the mental fog. She’s been palling around with Nessie for a while now. She said, “I never really liked chicken. I only eat it because it’s supposed to be healthy. Maybe I’ll like tofu better.” Her voice still had that same frothy quality it’s been stuck in for months, but her words–or, more to the point, her defiance, her individuality—suddenly beamed strong. She regarded the To-Go like directions starting her on a path homeward.

Mrs. C winked at her. “We’ll make your first batch together if you’d like.”

I’ll hand it to Nessie: she can keep a poker face if she needs to. Amy’s traitorous behavior didn’t seem to ruffle her. It was only after all the other people she’d brought in took To-Go’s that Nessie puffed out her cheeks and stormed out of the café.

While the baking assistants filled a fresh batch of quiche and coffee orders for this sudden new wave of customers, I beckoned Mrs. C and Violet over to the huge front window. “Check out where Nessie’s headed,” I said.

She stalked across the street and down the half block to the church on the corner. “Straight into Pastor Sweeney’s den,” said Mrs. C.

“And why does she go in there?” Violet asked, suspicious.

We all know the man is crooked. Hell, the court knew he was crooked. He’s so crooked he knew exactly how to hide from the jury just how crooked he is. Nessie, who loves to shout from the rooftops how humble and devoted a Christian she is, had no choice when all this blew up a while back but to distance herself from the money laundering and embezzlement charges. She made this huge deal about how she’d never set foot in his congregation again.

Yet, for the first time in over a year, to any of our knowledge, that’s exactly where she went this morning. She struggled to open the heavy frosted-glass door of the church, and squeezed through.

Just before she disappeared inside, she threw a glare over her shoulder, unmistakably shot like a curse at the door of Confictura.

Veggie Fried Rice & Cashew Tofu

by Phillipa Creaverton

For the fried rice:

2 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 cups rice

1 package extra-firm tofu, drained

2 cups carrot sticks

3/4 of a small bell pepper, diced

4 scallions, sliced thin

1 cup frozen peas

Seasonings (Play with measurements to see what tastes best to you. Like Julia Child taught me, it’s never wrong if it tastes right): garlic powder; black pepper; ginger; onion powder; low-sodium soy sauce

Get your rice going. While that’s cooking, break out a large skillet. In here, squish the tofu with your hands until it looks like little crumbles or scrambled eggs. Add black pepper. Cook this on med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown (about 15 minutes). 

To the browning tofu, add the bell pepper, carrots, and scallions, along with the other seasonings. Lower that heat to medium and cover for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add those peas. By now the rice should be done, so pepper it generously (I like to do it to within an inch of its life, but that’s just me), and then add that rice the tofu mixture. Stir this so it’s all mixed up good, and let it cook together another 2-3 minutes or until the peas are cooked through to that nice, warm, snappy texture.

For the cashew tofu:

1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into large cubes

2 cups no-sodium veggie broth, split

1/4 bell pepper, diced (use the rest of the pepper you started for the rice)

3 scallions, sliced thin (use the rest of the bunch you started for the rice)

1/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted cashews

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 1/2 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp lime juice

Seasonings: Red pepper flakes; garlic powder; black pepper; ginger; onion powder; low-sodium soy sauce

To a medium-sized skillet, add tofu cubes. Cook on med-high heat, flipping the cubes around occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. When the cubes are brown, smaller, and firm to the touch, you’re good to go. Add 1 cup of the broth to the tofu, along with the soy sauce, black pepper, bell pepper, scallions, cashews, pepper flakes, ginger, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cover, and simmer for about 7 minutes. If the broth hasn’t cooked out fully by this point, uncover and continuing simmering until it has.

Then there’s my favorite part: your sauce mixture. Combine the other cup of veggie broth with the vinegar, cornstarch, maple syrup, lime juice, and soy sauce, pepper flakes, and onion powder. Whisk thoroughly with a fork so any clumps of cornstarch are dissolved.

Turn the heat on the tofu to low and add the sauce mixture. Stir this around in the pan until the sauce coats everything in that yummy gooey sweet spice. The rice and tofu should make about 4-5 servings (fewer if I’m at the table!)

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