Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tofu: It's What's For Dinner (Really. And You'll Like It. Really. I Promise)

Many of you have asked over the years how I get my kids to eat healthy foods, and I know a lot of you have also made New Year's resolutions to change your diets for the better, so I thought I'd start sharing some of our favorite recipes here.

Keep in mind that I am Egyptian, which means I was born without the exact measurement gene. I grew up surrounded with incredibly delicious food and incredibly vague instructions. If I ever dared to ask how long to bake a certain dish, I'd hear "Just cook it until it's done." Duh. So what did you use to flavor that dish? "Enough salt so that it tastes good, but not so much to make it salty." Perhaps it was all an elaborate ploy to ensure that the recipes were not replicable and the chef was the only one capable of producing the desired results. Well played, Egyptian ladies.

Somewhere between there and Martha Stewart-esque precision is my happy place, which we'll call The Land of Non-Recipes.

I'm a firm believer in meal planning and spend most of Sunday afternoon prepping meals for the week ahead, but tonight's non-recipe, Tofu Veggie Unfried Rice can be easily and quickly thrown together after work.

Start with some tofu. That's right, I said "some." We're very technical around here. However much comes in a package. Drain the water then cut it up in cubes, or better yet- buy the stuff that's already cubed. Some people go through an elaborate ritual of pressing the tofu between plates and freezing it for better texture. Some people are also professional lion tamers.

And that's right, I also said "tofu." I know you've heard it before, but I'll say it again- it's good for you, it takes on the flavors of whatever you put on it, and it really CAN be delicious.

I brown the tofu in a wok with a tiny bit of canola oil. Resist the urge to push it all around the pan with your fancy Top Chef moves, and instead open a bottle of wine. Let it get nice and brown on one side, then stir a bit, then drink more wine.

Take the tofu out and add some aromatics. That's a fancy term for stuff that smells good like garlic, ginger, and onions. I use "some" of each. A handful of chopped green onions, a clove or two of minced garlic, a little grated fresh ginger. Add some veggies, whatever you have on hand. Crunchy stuff like carrots need longer to cook. Try to chop everything the same size, or else the food police will come and arrest you. Or your food won't cook evenly. I'm not sure which, so I don't take chances. Also try not to chop your fingers off.

Meanwhile, make some brown rice and set it aside. (You'll note that "some" is a fairly standard unit of measurement in my non-recipes.) I usually make a big batch of it on the weekends and use it in recipes throughout the week.

Then comes the sauce. Mix a few tablespoons of soy sauce (I like the low sodium stuff), a few more of rice wine vinegar, and a heaping spoonful of hoisin sauce. If you haven't tried hoisin, I highly recommend it. It's thick and molasses-y and oh so flavorful, and best of all you get to sound like a bona fide foodie when you say it. Like this: "Honey, I need to run out to get more hoisin sauce." Now you're cooking!

Add the rice and the tofu back into the wok with the veggies, then add the sauce. I like to thrown in some frozen peas at this point because they add color, and because my 18-month-old needs more projectiles to throw at us during meals. Let it all cook for a few minutes and then you're done. It took much longer to write this than it did to prepare it.


  1. looks delicious, and i think it must be a foreign country thing, we partial filipinas 'measure' the same way!

  2. I love your non-recipe!!! Especially because you condone semi-winging it with wine, duh! Looking forward to more :) I wish I was better with that Sunday afternoon food-prep you mentioned.

    1. Wine makes everything better, especially when you are somewhat surrounded by whine. :-)

  3. Miriam Ishak-HowardJanuary 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    I made this last night and it Turned out great....loved it and it was very simple to do! Keep posting!

    1. Yay- I'm so glad to hear it was a success! Thank you for the support!