Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu

This dish is easy enough for a weeknight dinner (if you have about an hour), and it's also a great way to use up any vegetables you might have languishing in your refrigerator. In the dish pictured here, I used brussel sprouts, savoy cabbage, celery, and green onions, because those were the veggies we had that needed to be eaten.

The tofu is optional, I suppose, but I like how it provides some contrasting texture and flavor. The recipe would be even easier and faster if you either omit the tofu or happen to have baked tofu already in the refrigerator, and it would be quicker yet if you use any leftover bits of pre-cooked vegetables.

It's a hit with the whole family, and the less I have to cajole my kids into eating their vegetables, the better!

Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu

1 lb firm tofu, drained and pressed (see directions below)
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp (or less) sesame oil
8 oz. dry noodles (or about 4 cups cooked)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (dried ground ginger will work in a pinch - use about 1/2 tsp, and mix in with the sauce ingredients instead)
Assorted vegetables, about 4-5 cups total: maybe shredded carrot, sliced green onions, shredded cabbage, broccoli florets, sliced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, etc.)
3-4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp sesame oil

To press the tofu: Slice tofu lengthwise into six pieces. Lay the slices on 2-3 layers of paper towel, and the place 2-3 more layers of paper towel on top. Place a cutting board on top, and then weigh down with a heavy skillet. I like to put something even a little heavier inside the skillet, like a couple of cans from the pantry, or my small water kettle filled with water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, while the paper towels soak up the moisture that will be pressed out of the tofu.

Preheat the oven to about 425F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. When the tofu has been pressed, place the slices on the baking sheet. Dribble about 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp sesame oil over the tofu, and rub in with your fingers. Flip the tofu over, and repeat with another 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp sesame oil. If the tofu still has a few bare spots, dribble a little more soy sauce where needed.

Place the tofu in the hot oven, and bake until firm and nicely browned, flipping every 15 minutes or so. This might take 45 minutes to an hour, but this gives you plenty of time to leisurely prep the veggies and sauce.

When the tofu is finished and cool enough to handle, slice each piece crosswise into strips. Set aside.

Start cooking the noodles according to package directions, and then set aside when done.

Meanwhile, prep the vegetables you are using. Also mix together the 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce, the rice vinegar, the ketchup, and the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil for the sauce.

When the tofu and noodles are ready, it is time to start cooking the vegetables. Using your largest skillet, heat over medium-high heat and spray lightly with cooking oil. Add the garlic and ginger and cook and stir for about one minute, then add the vegetables to the skillet and cook until crisp tender.

(If you have vegetables that require different cooking times, add them accordingly. For example, if you are using broccoli, shredded carrots, and cabbage, you will want to cook the broccoli for a few minutes before adding the faster cooking carrots and cabbage. If your carrots are sliced rather than shredded, you'll probably want to add them with the broccoli, before the cabbage.)

Now it's time to add the noodles. If they are sticky, give them a quick rinse to loosen, then add to the vegetables. Pour the sauce over the noodles and veggies, and then gently toss together. I like to use my tongs for tossing and turning the veggies and noodles together. Transfer the noodle and veggie mixture to a large serving bowl or platter, and then sprinkle the prepared tofu over the top.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hello? Let me re-introduce ourselves...

Dear Readers,

Is anyone still out there? Curious where we've been lately? It has been a long time!

Well, life happens... I know Beth has been insanely busy with graduate school, and I was preoccupied caring for my mother-in-law through the ups and downs of the lengthy process of her cancer treatments... you know, life happens.

The other issue that has kept me, at least, from feeling free to write about food and recipes here is that my family has been transitioning to a vegan diet. The reasons are many and varied, and the path has been interesting, but I finally feel like I'm settled into this new lifestyle and ready to talk food here.

Beth has also recently decided to move to a plant-based way of eating (yay!), so we plan to take this blog in a slightly different direction, and feature healthy, plant-strong foods and recipes.

I hope you'll stay with us, even if you are someone who currently enjoys your omnivorous diet. I'm eager to share the vast potential and deliciousness of food that does not contain animal-based ingredients. Most people unfamiliar with vegan foods get hung up on what you *can't* eat, but the possibilities are endlessly exciting when you actually think about what you *can* eat! There are so many fantastic foods to explore once you release yourself from the animal-based-foods box. Stick around and see for yourself!

So, with all that being said... new posts to come soon! See you then.

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