Baked pumpkin and tofu with kale

Baked pumpkin and tofu with kale

I’ve made this recipe half a dozen times since we’ve been home. Which is a lot considering we’ve only been around these parts for a little less than two weeks. It feels good to be back – strange, but good to be settling into our loft and simplifying our space (i.e. unpacking hella boxes and getting rid of a bunch of unnecessary shit we’ve accumulated over the years). But I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the heaviness of my pack or the way I slept like a baby after a long day of wearing it from our apartment to the train station and from the next station to our new apartment. I miss the adventure showers and the way I used to strategically plan how I was going to wash my body without turning the bathroom floor into the apartment equivalent of Lake Superior. Mostly, I miss getting completely lost and turned around during my morning runs. I’d leave to explore a new city without my mobile device or the address to our apartment because I find it thrilling to be lost in a place and not know how to get back. I was forced to use my instincts. To follow my gut. Sometimes that meant a quick 40 minute run and other times it meant I spent two hours running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Those were my favorite runs. They were equal parts exhilarating and terrifying; they made me feel alive.

But I’ll tell you one thing I don’t miss: My body being in limbo for four straight months. Everything from my scalp down through my bowels and into my toes is over the moon to be back. Traveling does some seriously strange shit to your body, you guys. And although I’m still getting used to the slow rhythm around these parts, I am truly happy to be home; to be in familiar territory and to be engaged to my favorite human and to be sleeping (finally!) in The Most Comfortable Bed in the World.

So this recipe. I’m fond of it for many reasons, but the two most important being that a) it’s wildly delicious and b) it first was prepared for us by one of Thom’s close friends who knew of his existence well before I did. They met when he was semi-fresh out of the Army (dude’s an Iraq vet) (but you’d never know it if you met him) and filled with angst and rage and heavily involved in anti-war protests, activism, and all of that other stuff he did to distract his mind from thinking about the complete and utter horror he witnessed during his time overseas. I long to know this Thom; the one who spent a lot of time collecting and sorting through his thoughts in that park where he asked me to be his wife.

A fine ass sugar punkin'Denver tofu is BACKWe be slicin'SpicesMarinade

Her name’s Ivona – Thom’s friend – and she has two tiny children named Boris and Nadia, who turned out to be two of the most charming and hilarious kids we’ve ever known. Most of the hilarity stemmed from the fact that they didn’t speak a lick of English and we couldn’t understand a single thing they were shouting at us in Czech, but somehow we understood each other. Somehow our bodies filled in where our voices couldn’t, and everything just sort of worked out. So there we were, sitting in the kitchen while Boris and Nadia were running about, creating calamity so loud we were practically yelling at one another, and out of nowhere Ivona carries a pumpkin out of her pantry and my first thought was What the fuck is she going to do with that? Next thing I know she’s taking a knife to that baby – and cutting up some tofu and onion and garlic, on the side – and then she went and threw everything into a baking dish that was comparable in size to the upper half of my body. She added some spices and a bottle of dark mystery sauce, and what came out of the oven an hour later was one of the most satisfying and delicious vegetable based meals I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. We sat around the table, filing our bellies with plate after plate of pumpkin-tofu goodness, while we talked about their former lives as activists and future travel plans and if Thom and I were ever going to make little Boris and Nadias of our own.

Truth is, at that particular moment I hadn’t given it much thought. For a long time I was vehemently opposed to having children for reasons I don’t think are suitable to share on the internet (yeah, I like to keep some things private around here) – I’ve just never really felt like motherhood was my jam. And then after lunch we ran some errands with Ivona and her tiny people, and Thom scooped Boris up off the ground and placed him on his shoulders. Boris wasn’t having it; he was straight up terrified. Rightly so because Thom is 6’3″ and I’d be scared as shit, too. But Ivona assured Bori he would be ok and moments later, Thom took off down the sidewalk – running and hopping and skipping and jumping. And that was the moment. The moment my uterus swelled nine sizes and my ovary (do not mistake the singularity for a typo, my left side is empty) (TMI TUESDAY) started aching and I thought, One day I will be the mother of his children. One day I will make tall, skinny, big headed babies with this man.

And to be honest, I think that’s the real reason this recipe has been on such heavy rotation, lately. Because happy memories resurface each time my hands are holding a knife that’s slicing through a pumpkin and dicing up tofu and bringing everything together in our dutch oven that’s substantially smaller than Ivona’s. I am reminded of that moment when it hit me like a ton of feathers and I realized that maybe motherhood will suit me, after all.

Somewhere, my dad is reading this and celebrating Tom Cruise Couch Scene-style, cheering at the very thought that, one day (in the distant future, pa), we’re gonna make an Opa out of him.

Pumpkin prepGet in the ovenSlow cooked pumpkin and tofu with kaleLeftovers

Notes: I know frozen vegetables aren’t nearly as good as fresh, but the moisture from the frozen kale is imperative in this recipe. If you want to use fresh kale, steam it until the leaves are soft. If you’d rather use spinach, knock yourself out. Most worcestershire sauces aren’t vegan so make sure you check the labels (Annie’s is vegan and it’s the one I use). Feel free to add any herbs or spices you desire, but one of the things I love about this recipe is it’s simplicity. So, since Thanksgiving is right around the corner I figured a dish like this might be much appreciated. Also, the ripeness of your pumpkin will determine baking time; the fresher the pumpkin, the less time it’ll have to cook. After 45 minutes, cook in 10 minute increments then check for doneness.


1 block extra firm tofu
1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
, divided
3-4 cloves garlic
, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 small sugar pumpkin
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups frozen chopped kale
1 small yellow onion
, diced
1/2 tsp fine sea salt, plus more

Lightly oil a large baking dish, such as a cast iron dutch oven or a soufflé dish. Drain water from the tofu and rinse. Wrap in paper towel and press to remove a bit of the excess water. Cut into small 1/2 cubes and put in a bowl. Top with 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce, garlic, turmeric, and cinnamon; mix to combine then let marinate in fridge for 30 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds (save for later) (roasting, holllaaaa). Cut pumpkin in 1/2-1″ slices and then into small chunks. Put in prepared baking dish. Toss pumpkin with the remaining 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce, oil, kale, onion, and sea salt. Remove tofu from fridge and toss with pumpkin mixture – make sure you scrape out as much of the marinade as you can. Cover pan with lid or tin foil and bake at 375˚F until pumpkin is soft, about 45 minutes (could be up to an hour if your pumpkin is dry). Can be served with your favorite grain or enjoyed as is. Salt to your desire. Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to two days.

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • Reply Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health 26 November 2013 at 8:07 AM

    nothing beats your comfortable bed – home is where we all belong at the end of the day right? your kids are going to be gorgeous, no doubt :) I will be trying this with butternut squash soon.

    • Reply Ashlae 26 November 2013 at 8:11 AM

      Yes! I was just telling Thom last night we need to try it with butternut squash ASAP.

  • Reply Nichole 26 November 2013 at 8:15 AM

    You you you. You have this funny ability to make me feel like I am right there, experiencing the moment with you. It’s beautiful. So is this recipe.

  • Reply molly yeh 26 November 2013 at 8:15 AM

    wow you totally just got away with using the word bowels. (!!) i love this post. and i love that i have a reason to use pumpkin now that’s not in a pie or something else sugary. and kale. yeah kale.

  • Reply Jessica Smith 26 November 2013 at 9:37 AM

    KALE + PUMPKIN = HECK YA! And the story…thanks so much for sharing this! I recently got engaged myself so have been having some similar sentiments and you had me bawling like a baby. Welcome back and thanks for the yummy recipe.

  • Reply Jenny Stockton 26 November 2013 at 10:32 AM

    Oh, this is such a sweet story! What a treat it will be for your kids to get to read it one day.

  • Reply Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate 26 November 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Travel is amazing and you get to experience incredible opportunities around the globe but there is something about the comfort of home, especially a home cooked meal. I could go for something like this anytime, after travel or otherwise!

  • Reply Marisa @ Uproot from Oregon 26 November 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Please share where you found Denver Tofu- I emailed them and received an error message in return. I would love to buy tofu locally- I live near Cheesman Park. Thanks as always for your beautiful recipes!

    • Reply Ashlae 26 November 2013 at 1:38 PM

      Hi Marisa –

      I get it at Natural Grocer’s on Platte and 15th. I believe the Whole Foods in Capitol Hill carries it as well. Hope that helps!

  • Reply Harriet 26 November 2013 at 12:22 PM

    Dude I had such a similar experience – I was never much bothered by the thought of having children, I’d been dating my husband for 3 years, and suddenly it was like – imma gonna have your babies one day. Coming from someone who has a similarly shit left ovary, it IS a definite feeling of expansion that is equal parts thrilling and really crazy.

    And thanks for this recipe! It looks absolutely frickin’ divine.

  • Reply Corina Nika 26 November 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Looks like such a wonderful recipe, thank you for sharing

  • Reply Kathryn 26 November 2013 at 2:13 PM

    I’ve had moments like that. It’s terrifying in the way that it’s actually not terrifying at all. You and Thom are going to create such a happy home for those babies.

  • Reply Katie @ Produce on Parade 26 November 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Oooo la la this looks wonderful. A perfect combo of flavors!

  • Reply janae @ bring joy 26 November 2013 at 3:29 PM

    I’m actually a HUGE fan of frozen vegetables (well, not frozen lettuce…) because there’s no washing, chopping, & it doesn’t go bad!

    Lovely recipe, & I agree with everyone else–your future offspring will be lucky kids :)

  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 26 November 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Holy awesome! I love dinners like this – super unique and full of deliciousness!

  • Reply tunie 26 November 2013 at 5:49 PM

    This looks like an improvement on the pumkin kale tofu casserole I know and love but for one thing: the topping. Ours is topped with a cream of blended tofu, sweet white miso and tahini (spiced with a bit of fresh ginger) then baked. It really adds to the deliciousness – try it!

  • Reply sara forte 26 November 2013 at 6:34 PM

    You’d make a wonderful mother. I know it’s a tough nut to swallow for some – the task is not a short or small one. Welcome home. Fun to see a savory food ’round here! The dish looks so tasty and so sweet that it brings you to a different place and time. Those are the best meals. It’s the reason we eat tomato soup and grilled cheese fairly frequently in the winter – always reminds me of first dating hugh, when the extent of our cooking came from soup in a box ;) Happy Thanksgiving, lady!

  • Reply Lan | morestomach 27 November 2013 at 7:46 AM

    for some reason this post has made me all weepy. thank you for sharing it.

    i’m not a huge pumpkin fan, but i do have an acorn squash and butternut squash sitting on my kitchen counter that is begging to be devoured.

  • Reply Heidi - Apples Under My Bed 27 November 2013 at 9:20 PM

    There is so much to love in this post, such beautiful words. It’s put me in the most wonderful mood, for some reason. Thank you :)
    Heidi xo

  • Reply The Vegan Cookie Fairy 28 November 2013 at 8:58 AM

    I love how you always tell a story related to the recipe. It’s a lovely, lovely style. And I’m happy you had a your ”uterus’ moment; I still remember mine vividly, though it was totally different.

  • Reply Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} 1 December 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Lovely story, I especially enjoy the description of Thom with little Boris on his shoulders. I am a fan of this recipe, so many wonderful flavors.

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    […] Lady Cakes Baked Pumpkin w Tofu & Kale- I love this lady (cakes) and if your eyes does not well up or your heart swell when reading this […]

  • Reply Kathryne 24 March 2014 at 7:00 PM

    Random/TMI- been meaning to tell you that we have matching missing oves. Lost my left one at age 13. I was the worst at playing house in kindergarten, but for some reason, I’ve always wanted to have kids… we’ll see about that.

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  • Reply Billie 15 May 2014 at 9:40 AM

    I made this, but with butternut squash and spinach 2 weeks ago. I mixed in some cooked quinoa and brown rice after it finished cooking and it was delicious! The leftovers after 2 days were even better. As a non-lover of meat, it is a great way for me to get protein and iron in my diet. Thanks for the recipe!

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