How Ethiopian Food Became Weeknight-Friendly & My Love Affair with Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsIt is no secret that I love Ethiopian food.  (Although wouldn’t that be a weird thing to try to keep secret?  Psst…  Don’t tell this to anybody!  I love Ethiopian food!)  The spicy stews with layers of complex flavor, the spongy sour injera bread for scooping, the tactile pleasure of eating hand to mouth, the communal experience of sharing a platter with friends, and the combination of textures makes it my favorite cuisine.

However, in the past Ethiopian fare has been mostly limited to restaurant outings.  That was fine when I lived in a place where I could reach my favorite Ethiopian restaurant via a 40-minute car trip, but now the closest Ethiopian restaurant is 3 ½ to 4 hours away.  That moves a dinner of wots & basket of injera very much to the special occasion category.

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsI’ve made Ethiopian meals at home many times, but it requires a lot of steps.  The first step requires making niter kibbeh (infused vegan butter or oil) that is the base for the stews (called wots).  Then, while a person can eat the wots on their own or with rice, it’s simply not the same experience without the injera for scooping.  I’ve never tried to go all out with one of the traditional recipes that require letting the batter sit for days until sour.  Instead I’ve used recipes calling for a yeast packet, and then waited for an hour for the batter to be ready (while hoping that the packet of yeast was good and I wouldn’t have to start all over again).  I’d stand over the stove, as if I was making pancakes, making each injera one by one.

Next, I’d have to make a couple of different spice blends, and then after that was all done, it was time to start cooking…  For a real meal, you need at least two stews, and all of that took time.  I’d typically have about one or two days a year when I felt like going to all of that work, and then I was pretty much spent.

Injera freezes well for an Ethiopian feast on a weeknightThen two things happened.  First, I realized that when I was traveling to places with Ethiopian restaurants, it wasn’t difficult to find grocery stores that also had injera for sale.  (I’m sure I could have bought it from those restaurants as well.)  I could take the injera back home with me, separate it into batches of three, and then freeze them.  If I wanted Ethiopian for dinner, I’d just have to pull a grouping of three out of the freezer and put it on the counter for a few hours, or in a pinch, I could take it straight from freezer to warm oven for thawing.

Three injera was enough for dinner that night for two and for one person to finish off leftovers the next day.  The injera wouldn’t be quite as moist as it was freshly made, but when you go the thawing-on-the-counter route, it thaws remarkably well.  And it’s certainly better than standing over the stove making hot injera when you’re hungry and ready to eat.

I’ve picked up injera in Chicago at Kukulu Market, in Minneapolis at Midtown Global Market, and yes, I even had two big packages of injera in my carry-on on my return trip from Los Angeles.  In L.A. I purchased it in one of the little markets in Little Ethiopia across the street from Rahel.

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsThe second thing that happened was that I finally cracked open my copy of Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian by Kittee Berns that I bought long ago.

Kittee and I became blog buddies during some Vegan MoFo in years past, and then we met in real life at Vida Vegan Con last year.  One of the best and most unforeseen benefits of blogging has been creating friendships with readers and other bloggers.  Kittee is a good example of that.  In addition to loving her colorful and unique blog, Cake Maker to the Stars, that feels like such an extension of her own playful spirit, I’ve gotten to know Kittee over the years.

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsSometime last fall I asked her where she found her big Ethiopian platters that decorate the walls in her kitchen, and on which she also serves Ethiopian food for large groups or uses for bake sales.  She said that they could be found in Ethiopian markets, and offered to keep an eye out for me since none of those exist in Iowa.

After many texts and pictures, she sent a platter my way along with berbere, one of the spice mixtures essential for Ethiopian cooking.  She told me that it was “the good stuff.”  I’d planned on paying Kittee back, but she surprised me by offering these as gifts.  (I can only imagine how hard it must have been to box up that huge platter!  It’s not exactly a size people just have laying around!)  It was such a wonderful surprise and so generous.

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsPapa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsThen I pulled out my copy of (the now sold-out) Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine, and I started by making a big batch of niter kibbeh.  Using the recipe in the zine, this infused butter or oil can be made with vegan butter or canola oil.  In Kittee’s upcoming cookbook (more info on that to follow at the end of this post!), the niter kibbeh recipe will be made with a coconut oil blend, which sounds so good.  She advises making a big batch, so that way you always have it on hand for making wots.  This very cold winter, I’ve already worked my way through one batch of niter kibbeh and made a second batch last week!

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsHaving easy access to this very flavorful base of Ethiopian cooking has been life-changing.  Now instead of Ethiopian being pushed to a rare treat, it’s seriously one of the simplest things to make during the week.  Most of the time it takes 30 minutes or less.  I just sauté onions and garlic in her niter kibbeh, add whatever other ingredients the recipe calls for, and plate it up with some thawed and heated injera.

It also makes for a tremendously inexpensive dinner, because the ingredients are really cost-effective things like red lentils, brown lentils, split peas, potatoes, carrots, collard greens, and the like.  Sometimes I’ll make one or two wots one night and then finish off the leftovers with a new wot the following night.

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsAll of the Ethiopian platters in this post were made using various recipes from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian.  Recipes I’ve made include azifa (brown lentil salad), ye’abesha gomen (mild collard greens), ingudai t’ibs (sautéed mushrooms), ye’takelt allecha (gingery mixed vegetables), ye’kik allecha (mild split pea puree), ye’miser allecha (mild red lentil puree), ye’kik w’et (split peas in a spicy gravy), and ye’miser w’et (red lentils in a spicy gravy).

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian cook zine by Kittee BernsI’ve also started adding the niter kibbeh anywhere I can in my own recipes.  I love having Great Northern beans sautéed with garlic and onions in the infused oil since the flavor of the beans is very mild.  It just lets all of the spices shine through.

Polenta made with Ethiopian infused butter, niter kibbehMy most recent favorite way to use it is by making my easy breakfast polenta, but then sautéing the garlic in niter kibbeh instead of extra virgin olive oil before following the rest of the recipe as is.  Sometimes I’ll have that for breakfast, or I’ll make it a hearty lunch by adding greens and chickpeas.  (The chickpeas are dark here, because I added Indian gooseberries to this batch when I was making them from scratch.)

Seriously, every recipe I’ve tried in Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian has been fantastic.   I don’t know how Kittee is going to improve on them for her Ethiopian cookbook that’s coming out late this year or around New Year 2015, but somehow that’s happening along with a lot more recipes than were in her zine.  (All of the recipes will be gluten-free and vegan just like she is.)

In the meantime, the zine is not available for purchase any longer, but I highly recommend picking up a copy of the cookbook when it comes out.  I know I’ll be preordering when the opportunity presents itself!  I’ll keep you posted when the time comes!

Review & Giveaway: The Oh She Glows Cookbook

Oh She Glows CookbookWhen VegNews recently listed The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon as one of their 15 Most Anticipated Cookbooks of 2014, I was far from surprised.  Angela’s blog by the same name is incredibly beloved with consistent recipes, beautiful photography, and a warmth that matches her real life persona.  In fact, I had a chance to meet Angela briefly at Vida Vegan Con last year.  Her sweet, gentle spirit is palpable, and it comes through loud and clear in The Oh She Glows Cookbook.

I recently received a copy of the book from her publisher and was taken right away with the large, gorgeous color photographs spread throughout the book.  It’s a book that one could set out on the coffee table, except I don’t know who could stand to have it anywhere other than in the kitchen getting loads of use.  (FYI: The Canadian printing has a different but equally lovely cover with a parfait on the front.)

Oatmeal and lentilsIn the opening of the book, Angela writes about her own journey with food, along with how and why she started her blog.  In this section, I loved what she had to say about her adoption of a vegan diet:

“A vegan diet is the way I aligned what’s in my heart with the food on my plate.  My compassion for others – and, most surprising, for myself – grew in many ways.”

There’s a section for stocking your natural foods pantry and a list of her favorite kitchen tools.  I knew she was a woman after my own heart and had to laugh when she said, “Just like shoes, you can never have too many glass jars…”  I actually have a much easier time fighting the urge to buy shoes.  Glass jars are irresistible!

Savory OatmealThen it’s time for the recipes.  There are over 100 of them and each one gets a large color picture, which makes all of them that much more enticing.

From the breakfast section, I made the Loaded Savory Oatmeal & Lentil Bowl.  Even though I’d heard of savory oatmeal, I had never tried it myself.  Instead of the toppings one would typically think of for oatmeal like blueberries, bananas, or cinnamon, savory oatmeal is cooked with vegetable broth, shallots, and garlic.  In the OSG version, red lentils are added for extra protein and staying power.

Savory OatmealThen you can cover it with your choice of toppings like hummus or avocado.  I made a quick salsa and added it to the top along with cilantro and a dollop of baba ganoush (eggplant dip).  This is one I’m sure I’ll be making again and playing with different toppings for variety.

Cauliflower Lentil SoupAs I’m still feeling the effects of the snow boot and shoveling season, I was especially drawn to the soup section.  I made the hearty Indian Lentil Cauliflower Soup.

Tomato SoupI also made Cream of Tomato Soup with Roasted Italian Chickpea Croutons.  Roasted chickpeas have been one of my favorite snacks for years now, and cream of tomato soup was in my regular rotation for many years before I went vegan.  In fact, I used to turn to cream of tomato soup multiple times a week for something cozy, comforting, and fast.  However, after I went vegan, I curiously forgot about tomato soup and stopped eating it altogether.

That has changed now.  Angela’s soup took me back.  This cream of tomato soup was so much better than the one I ate again and again many moons ago.  Blended raw cashews give it creaminess, and it has a huge smack of tomato flavor from canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste.

Cream of Tomato Soup with Chickpea CroutonsIt’s then topped with chickpea croutons that have a taste reminiscent of sour cream and onion potato chips.  They balance the soup nicely – giving extra crunch and flavor.  (I noticed that Matt posted this recipe on No Meat Athlete on his review of the book.  If your copy hasn’t arrived yet, check it out there!)

YolosThere are all kinds of gorgeous desserts in OSG, and I couldn’t stop myself from making a batch of Homemade Yolo’s (like vegan Rolo’s).  Rolo’s used to be one of my favorite candies, and so I think it’s awesome that Angela has made such a natural and mouthwatering version that’s quick and easy to make at home.  Plus, you’ve got to love the play on the phrase You Only Live Once.  The caramel is made with Medjool dates and nut butter, which is then coated in chocolate.

Homemade YolosIt’s noted that the Yolo’s taste best straight from the freezer, and I completely agree.  When served that way, the chocolate has a snap that reminded me of the Magic Shell I used to eat on ice cream cones growing up.  The crack of chocolate then gives way to the chewy caramel inside.

They didn’t take long to make, and it was fun having them in the freezer so I could just pull out one or two for a little something sweet.  My husband also loved them and was sad that there were oddly only a couple left by the time he got to them…  So strange.  I have no idea how that happened.

In addition to all of the aforementioned, there are also sections for smoothies, juices, and teas, salads, snacks, staples, and appetizers.  Speaking of appetizers, once summer fruit season hits, I’m eager to make the Summertime Cherry-Basil Bruschetta and a generous batch of Glowing Strawberry Mango Guacamole.  I think I could eat it alone with a spoon!

Empowered Noodle Bowl with Thai Peanut SauceOne of the things I like best about The Oh She Glows Cookbook is the way that it uses accessible, plant-based ingredients that would be familiar and unintimidating to any eaters – vegan or non-vegan.  I could see serving any of these recipes to people in my life who might be suspicious of dishes heavy in seitan or tofu.  Plus, they’re the kind of whole foods based recipes that just make you feel good, especially at this tail end of winter.

Avery Publishing has allowed me to share a recipe with you today from the book.  I’m sharing this entrée, the Empowered Noodle Bowl.  There are recipes to make it two ways – either in a Thai Peanut sauce or an Orange-Maple Miso sauce.  I made the peanut version, but both look terrific.

Empowered Noodle Bowl

Empowered Noodle Bowl, Two Ways: Thai Peanut & Orange-Maple Miso

Yield: Serves 4

Angela writes, "Choosing between my Thai Peanut and Miso Ginger sauces felt like choosing a favorite child, so of course I had to include both of them in the book. It’s always fun to have options, don’t you think? The miso dressing is a great option if you’re looking for a nut-free noodle dressing, and the Thai peanut dressing is perfect if you are a big fan of creamy peanut or almond butter."


  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) natural smooth peanut butter or almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) grated fresh ginger (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) fresh lime juice, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (37 mL) low-sodium tamari
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons (5 to 10 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) light miso
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) tahini
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
  • 4 ounces (115 g) gluten-free soba (buckwheat) noodles
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the noodles
  • 1 (16-ounce/454-g) bag frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 seedless (English) cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 4 green onions, chopped, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Sesame seeds, for serving


    Either make the Thai Peanut Sauce:
  1. In a mini or regular food processor, combine the garlic, sesame oil, peanut butter, ginger (if using), lime juice, tamari, sugar (if using), and 2 to 3 tablespoons (30–45 mL) water. Process until combined.
  2. Or make the Orange-Maple Miso Dressing:
  3. In a mini or regular food processor, combine the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, tahini, orange juice, water, and maple syrup and process until well combined.
  4. Make the Salad:
  5. Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions on the package. Be sure not to overcook them—they should only take 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the brand.
  6. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water.
  7. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and toss them with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil (this prevents the noodles from sticking together).
  8. Add the edamame, bell pepper, cucumber, carrot, green onions, and cilantro to the bowl with the noodles and toss until well combined.
  9. Pour your desired amount of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. (Any leftover dressing will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
  10. Portion the salad into 4 bowls and garnish each serving with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and some green onions. Serve any leftover dressing on the side.


For a soy-free Thai Peanut Sauce, replace the tamari with coconut aminos. To make this dish completely soy-free, omit the edamame as well. If you need a soy-free and gluten-free miso, look for chickpea miso. My go-to brand is South River Miso and it’s absolutely lovely in this sauce. For a raw version, serve this noodle bowl with spiralized or julienned zucchini, instead of the soba noodles.

Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.

Empowered Noodle BowlThe publisher has also generously offered one copy of the book to a reader of Cadry’s Kitchen for a giveaway!  (Sorry, United States residents only.)  Please use the form below to enter.  Best of luck!

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Disclaimer: I was given this book to review but the thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.