I never realized how much cooking was like an endurance sport until I took two weeks off from it to sit in a hospital and eat thoroughly mediocre eggplant parm sandwiches (the only vegetarian sandwich that my relatives could dream up)…and then had absolutely zero wrist strength when I came back.

Really.  You don’t realize how much muscle tone you build up in your forearm, wrist, and fingers from chopping at least three times a day until it’s gone and you’re left with half a cut up kabocha squash and palm cramps.


Admittedly, winter squash cutting was probably not the best way to dive back into the realm of meal preparation, but I’ve never been conservative when it comes to my athletic training.  For instance, when my running coach said I should get back into marathon training by running 4 miles every other day for this first week, I took that to mean I should run eight on Sunday.

And now my calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and muscles in my legs that I didn’t even know existed feel strikingly similar to my lower arm.  Go figure.


Thankfully, McCormick recently sent me one of their new Recipe Inspirations to sample, so even though I had to cut up the ingredients for it, I didn’t have to actually think about my meal.  Recipe Inspirations basically consist of a packet of pre-measured spices that come with a recipe card so that when you go to prepare dinner, all you need to do is grab your protein of choice, mix up the spices they’ve given you, and cook.  While I’m not normally into kits like this, what I liked about the Recipe Inspirations is that none of the ingredients are processed in any way…they are literally just McCormick spices, which I generally use anyway.  Also, they allow you to try out a flavor profile before really committing to it and buying full jars of all the spices.

The packet that I received was for Asian Sesame Salmon, which I adapted for tofu since I don’t eat meat.  This kit included sesame seeds, ginger, minced garlic, minced onion, and red pepper flakes, all of which I then mixed with some honey, soy sauce, and scallions to make a glaze.  The resulting dish was sweet, salty and spicy in the most delicious way!

GIVEAWAY – The folks at McCormick were so kind as to give me TWO boxes of Asian Sesame Salmon Recipe Inspirations so that one of you could try out this new product as well!  (Each box comes with six kits.)  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me what veggies you would pair the Asian sesame salmon and/or tofu with.  

Also, thank you guys so much for your unending support.  All of your sweet comments and emails really mean a lot to me and are helping me get through this tough time.  I appreciate it.


Asian Sesame Tofu with Braised Winter Squash and Green Beans
Serves 4, adapted from McCormick Recipe Inspirations


  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp honey, divided
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp minced dried garlic
  • 1 tsp minced dried onions
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced widthwise
  •  tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 kabocha squash, seeded and diced
  • 1 lb haricot verts


  1. Mix the honey, scallions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, garlic, onions, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl until well blended.  Place tofu on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Spoon honey mixture evenly over the tofu.  Reserve the extra honey mixture.
  2. Bake the tofu at 375 for 20 minutes.
  3. While the tofu is cooking, in a large pot or saucepan heat olive oil and ginger. Saute for 1 minute.  Add in the kabocha squash, haricot verts, 2 tbsp water and 3 tbsp soy sauce.  Simmer until squash is tender, 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Pour the extra honey mixture over the squash.  Add 1 tbsp honey.  Toss to combine.
  4. Serve the braised butternut squash and haricot verts with the baked tofu.

This post is part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program with McCormick.   Though I received the Recipe Inspirations sample for free, my thoughts and opinions on it are all my own.


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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89 Responses to Asian Sesame Tofu with Braised Winter Squash and Green Beans

  1. Simply Life says:

    looks like a great way to use those spices!

  2. Ranjani says:

    Ah, I like thinking of cooking as exercise. My workout regime suddenly seems so much more hardcore =)

  3. I love this! Such great flavors. I would try the McCormick Asian sesame spices with a combo of peppers, mushrooms, and onions maybe!

  4. Cutting winter squash is hard work… I feel like I’m never in that kind of shape until at least December.

    So happy to see you cooking again:-)

  5. This looks great. I’d pair it with peppers and green beans I think. I’m so amazed you’re already back to regular blogging. I hope you’re taking time for yourself too.

  6. bellini says:

    Glad to see you are back in the kitchen and creating comforting food to strengthen the soul.

  7. Good to see you back in the kitchen and sharing all of these wonderful dishes with us. I would definitely stick with tofu on this recipe….I am more of a butternut squash fan and maybe pair it up with some sugar snaps.

  8. So glad to see you back in the kitchen, Joanne 🙂 Your strength will come back, just don’t rush it. I love how you used tofu instead of salmon and paired it with yummy fall veggies.

    Ooh, I’d love to have these spices- Hmm, I think maybe I’d serve it up with some baby bok choy and chinese eggplant. Mmmm!

  9. Shannon says:

    That tofu looks great! I would pair it with sauteed broccoli, onions, and strips of whatever peppers I could still find at the market!

  10. Tofu looks perfect love the flavors. I’d serve eggplant and scallions on the side. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  11. Faith says:

    Oh, yum, this looks delicious! I think I’d serve it with a cabbage and bell pepper saute on the side! Thanks for hosting the giveaway, sweets!

  12. SallyBR says:

    Amazing how we can hear advice for taking it easy and adapt it to our intense desire to punish our muscles and feel miserable afterward.. 😉

    I do this type of stuff all the time, so I had a big smile reading your post.

    Count me in for the giveaway, and please know I’m very glad to see you back in the kitchen and in the virtual world, brightening it up…

  13. Amy says:

    Vacuuming is also a great way to build up arm strength…or so I’m told. Glad to see you’re back in the kitchen. Cooking is very therapeutic!

  14. I am always grateful for a wonderful blog.
    Favorite season is autumn now Japanese.
    I also called the autumn of appetite.
    Pumpkin is also a lot of production in Japan, many menu appears pumpkin dinner at home.
    Now, in a field of sweet potato I have a lot of bearing fruit.
    I’m sorry I was wrong spelling.
    From Japan.
    Ryoma Sakamto.

  15. Roz P. says:

    Hi Joanne, despite the giveaway, I like that you used it on tofu for another meatless recipe! What veggie would I select? I toss it with snap peas and throw in some water chestnuts and bamboo shoots . . . and maybe add some crushed peanuts for some extra crunch that I always love! Thanks for the opportunity!


  16. Marcia says:

    Totally green beans. Hands down. With asparagus as a back up.

  17. Great to have you back, lady! I have no doubt your culinary muscles with be as strong as ever in no time!

  18. Emily L says:

    I would pair it with japanese eggplant and sugar snap peas!

    Will be keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers 🙂

  19. Mo 'Betta says:

    You have such strength (physical and mental). Hang in there kiddo (I can say that since I’m your elder <3 )

    I would pair this with something really exotic, like potatoes and maybe a salad 😉 Del Monte green beans if my salad is all slimy. Living large over here.

  20. Alisa says:

    This recipe so hits my cravings right now and I LOVE Asian flavors all of the time.

    I would probably think to pair it first with bok choy. I like Emily’s suggestion of japanese eggplant, too!

    I hope you and your family are doing well.

  21. Jenna says:

    We’re all glad to have you back, Joanne. I hope the heartache is bearable, and I hope The.Boy is giving you the kind of emotional support you need during this time.
    As for the veggie pairing question, I pick bok choy!

  22. Molly says:

    Squash. Any kind. It’s a no brainer.

    [email protected]

  23. Beth says:

    I don’t think I qualify for the giveaway (I’m assuming it’s US only), but I think what you’ve done with it looks amazing.

    Eating food in a hospital – whether you’re a patient or a visitor – isn’t exactly inspiring. It’s always a blessing to be able to make your own meals, exactly the way you like them.

  24. Priscilla says:

    carrots and broccoli. snap peas too. the more the merrier!

    [email protected]

  25. Beth says:

    Joanne, I just caught up on your blog and I was SO unbelievably sorry to read about your Dad. Horrible. No words really, except I hope you’re finding love and support all around you – you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  26. Mary says:

    While you won’t find the tofu in my house, the spice combination sounds like it would be excellent on salmon! I’m glad you are back to enjoying yourself in the kitchen. You might need to work on some spiked cupcakes to really get back to full endurance strength. (Although, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t help with the whole marathon training bit.)

  27. Kim says:

    Joanne- You’re a fighter! I’m glad to hear that you are running and cooking and hanging in there. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    P.S. I think I’m warming up to the idea of tofu. I love beans so why wouldn’t I love tofu? Definitely going to give it a whirl during our time with Madhur Jaffrey at IHCC. Until then, I’d probably pair this seasoning blend with broccoli because I pretty much crave broccoli on a daily basis.

  28. You are totally right – cooking is a work out! I have been climbing lately and my forearms are taking a beating for it. Yesterday I thought chopping an onion was going to be the end of me. What a cool thing this recipe inspirations sounds like – I am just finishing a cleanse and food just sounds so good right now – especially a recipe like this one.

  29. Karis Ann says:

    Ever since I sliced through my hand, I try to avoid cutting winter squash. I hope you and your family are coping as best as possible.

  30. These recipe inspirations sound like a great way to whip up a meal when you don’t have as much time and/or energy. And this meal in particular sounds amazing. I haven’t had tofu in a while, so yeah, I’d be a total copycat and use some with pressed, baked tofu. Nom.

    Stay strong, chica.

  31. I saw those McCormick packages in the store, but wasn’t sure if they would be good or not. Your dish looks amazing as always!

  32. I love crispy tofu! I would pair it with eggplant and greens (kale, spinach, chard, whatever I had on hand).

  33. Christine says:

    I think the flavors would go well with porcini, shallots and asparagus or snow peas on a bed of spinach. If my large fry pan didn’t have the extra handle opposite the regular long one, I’d probably have spilled more stuff in my time, muscles indeed. Glad to see you’re up and running, have been thinking of you. xo

  34. teresa says:

    i never thought tofu could look as good as yours does. i wish i could dig in.

    been thinking of you!

  35. Lisa says:

    Sounds very delicious! I would definitely try to pair this blend with any sort of string beans.

    Also, I do hope you are doing well. I have been thinking of you and your family.

  36. Tanya says:

    yum! I’m excited to try this with the tofu. I would pair it with beans, zucchini (still have a mountain in my fridge), red peppers and part of my huge eggplant. My philosophy is generally the more veggies the better!

  37. Danielle says:

    looks great – I wish hubby would get excited about tofu. I would love to try this.

  38. Debbie says:

    With green beans! The tofu looks delicious…I’ve never made it but will have to try to sometime…I want it to look like yours though!!!

  39. ellen says:

    Wow this looks fantastic! So happy that squash is here.

    I’m thinking the spices would suit a lot of different vegetables. But I am on a baby bok choy kick lately, so I’d say that, and maybe some green beans.

  40. Saguna says:

    The kabocha and tofu look amazingly good together- I never would have thought of pairing the two. You definitely have superhuman strength what with your jumping back into pumpkin-battle, running and everything else in full-force…

  41. Hotly Spiced says:

    It’s amazing how quickly we fall out of condition. I’ve just had a two-week break from swim squads and I’m feeling nervous about heading back to the pool next week – it will be punishing. Great looking tofu and squash meal xx

  42. I feel that way about taking food photos – if I take a break, it’s like starting over again. Glad to see you posting again Joanne – I missed reading your stories and I imagine it is a bit catharic. Sending love to your family.

  43. Joanne, so glad to see you back! I find microwaving the squash first helps for cutting and peeling, but who am I to counsel the squash guru? 🙂 I love how you took a salmon marinade and put it on tofu. Yayaya! I bet it would be great with some steamed greens, too. 🙂

  44. Kalyn Denny says:

    This sounds like a wonderful recipe and I am happy to see you are cooking again. I keep thinking of you and hoping you are doing ok. It takes a while, so be good to yourself!

  45. Pam says:

    Glad you’re back in the kitchen and hope you are doing well! The spices sound great.

  46. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, What a colorful and delicious looking meal. Blessings dearest and my prayers are with you and your family. Catherine xoxo

  47. Joanne, I have been completely and utterly absent from the internet lately but I was compelled to come read your blog today. I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly sorry I am to hear about your father. I wish I could say something more meaningful but I just want you to know that I will be thinking of you. Your loss is great and one I can’t comprehend but I wish I could give you a hug and make you something comforting. All of my love to you and your family.

  48. You’ll definitely work up your strength soon if you start with pumpkin 😉 baby steps Jo

  49. That Girl says:

    And me and the giant deep gash on my finger would also like to remind everyone that cooking related injuries are no laughing matter..

  50. Tandy says:

    I have once purchased these premade spice mixes for when we travelled to Europe – and I brought them home with me unused. A good idea for the home cook who needs inspiration 🙂

  51. Barbara says:

    Squash cutting IS tough….and dangerous. There isn’t anyone among us who hasn’t had an accident cutting into a squash. I no do it with a large knife and a hammer…and keep my hands away. 🙂
    Love the tofu.

  52. I don’t love tofu except in teeny bits but given your preparation I’d try it in a second, looks delicious! Cutting squash is definitely a real work out.

  53. I know what you mean! I didn’t cook much when I lived in Switzerland (my land lady/second mother insisted she should do it and spoke French so I had no choice), and when I came back my arms were not ready for cooking…like, not at all. Glad to see you’re back at it though! 🙂

  54. I love the idea of using a salmon rub on tofu. And how ambitious of you to cook winter squash with so much going on!

  55. I love what you did here… Anything with the soy sauce and honey combination is my kind of thing. Cook your sadness away, friend, and thank you for making readers smile even with all you’ve been through!

  56. cindspectus says:

    Yum, that tofu looks great!

    (And to combine my comment on this post with the one for your previous one, that was such a beautiful tribute to your dad, and I’m so happy you were able to spend some great happy moments with him!)

  57. Jessie says:

    Ah, Joanne, what a beautiful dish! While you may hurt in your wrists, calves, etc. now, you will heal and build endurance. That’s what life is, isn’t it? Your Asian Sesame Tofu looks so delicious. I would probably pair it with bok choy and steamed ginger carrots for color 🙂

  58. Tofu – my most favorite thing of all. Second to a really well-made prime rib of course. But this dish – amazing! I would totally pair this with some roasted bacon asparagus (yeah, I’m so bad. This is why I can never be a 100% vegetarian!). As for the endurance build with cooking, I totally know what you mean! I think I can be a body builder soon 🙂

  59. cquek says:

    This looks fantastic! i just love sesame.

  60. Pam says:

    Only you could make tofu look good to me. Seriously! I am glad you are getting back into the kitchen – I think it’s very therapeutic (even if it makes your arm sore).

  61. marie says:

    I love kabocha & tofu. I’d make a stir fry with the sauce because that’s always my default, can’t go wrong recipe.

  62. That looks like some mouthwatering tofu! I simply adore the stuff and find it so underrated.

  63. daphne says:

    that tofu looks like it has absorb all the flavours in it!! Pass me that dish please.

  64. Blond Duck says:

    This looks so much better than the local Thai restaurant!

  65. Gwen says:

    What??? I absolutely NEED those packets of flavor in my kitchen. I had no idea McCormick had those available. I eat very little meat as you know but I looveeee seafood so I would def use this spice mix on salmon. As for the side, I just think that grilled baby bok choy tossed with red bell pepper pair perfectly along side the fish.

    P.S. I’ve been busy moving across the valley and have no idea what has been going on with you. Injury, sick? I’ll have to read some of your previous posts right now!!
    I sure hope you are feeling better Joanne!


  66. Gloria says:

    This dish with tofu look delicious Joanne!!

  67. Still sending lots of hugs your way, Joanne. You have friends in us…and vegetables 🙂

  68. I agree… hospital food is pretty bad 😉 Sending you love, darling!

    I’ve been on a bok choy kick, so that’s what I’m going for here. I think that’d pair beautifully.

  69. Hello, sweet Joanne! Saw your comment on Kelsey’s blog and wanted to jump over and see how you were. Sounds like it’s not good… but I hope it’s getting better! Hospitals are no fun at all!

  70. Laura says:

    I’ve been teaching a friend to cook, and have noticed she really whines (frankly 🙂 ) about how it feels to do so much prep work. So I know you are right. Looks delicious and (((more hugs))).

  71. Guru Uru says:

    I think this is the perfect dish to get those fingers chopping again my friend 😀
    Looks delicious!
    Sending my support as always!


  72. Honey, soy and ginger are some of my most favorite flavors. I have been doing tons of roasted tofu so I can’t wait to try this!

  73. Johanna GGG says:

    love marinated and baked tofu – seems like what you need after 2 weeks without your lovely cooking – hope you are being gentle with yourself (as well as your calf muscles)

  74. The baked tofu sounds amazing and I love the spice combinations you used with the Kabocha squash. And in all fairness. Peeling and chopping a squash is hard work and makes my hand cramp all the time.

  75. Kari says:

    Ooh…this tofu looks incredible. I am almost going to call it perfect, which is a big thing to say given I haven’t tasted it!

    (Glad you’re getting back to good food too xo)

  76. This is great treatment of tofu, I love it. Marinating it and the spices used really make it wonderful.
    I have great knives but utilize choppers and grinders and such, especially for large volume cutting. I know some people are purists and do all by hand. This is ok if you have the time (and music playing)but don’t let it become drudgery or physically pain inducing. Ok?
    Thanks for a great post here.

  77. Yum, I’ve got some tofu in the fridge so I know what I’m making tonight!

  78. Reeni Pisano says:

    Cutting up squash is one of my least favorite tasks! I love that spice mix and the end result! A great way to jazz up tofu.

  79. Shannon says:

    glad you’re relatives actually thought of your preferences! at least a little props for that… this is more like it though 😉 and you’re totally right about the workout! i’ve got one on my counter I need to tackle soon

  80. tigerfish says:

    Kabocha squash is my favorite squash as I like how it melts to creaminess when it cooks down. The sesame tofu is definitely a nice protein addition to this dish. To me, it is balanced and wholesome.

  81. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been looking for a great Tofu recipe to try, thanks!

  82. Ashley says:

    Cool…so by those standards, I actually DO work out 😉 Ha!

    Seriously though…I love new tofu recipes. Yum!

  83. Mila says:

    Yo, so I was thinking about you when my roomie today was all “I don’t believe vegetarians can actually have the strength to do anything, and also y’all have big bellies” and I decided to go prove her wrong. If you have thoughts, could you leave them here pretty please with tart cherry on top?

  84. Dana says:

    I think cooking is not only physically taxing but mentally too. When you are doing it everyday, you totally get in the groove of being in the kitchen, shopping, etc. But when you are away from it for a while, it feels like a Herculean effort to back in there. Good place to start though!

  85. Kristen says:

    Made this last night and it was delicious. My tofu didn’t char beautifully around the edges like yours did but the flavors were so good! Always love your recipes. From what I’ve read it seems like you’re doing better but my heart goes out to you and your family.

  86. […] One year ago…Asian Sesame Tofu with Braised Winter Squash and Green Beans […]

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