Teriyaki Tofu and Stir-Fry Vegetables
I grew up on a farm in central Kansas. My mom is a great cook. A great cook. Just ask any of my friends who ever came over for dinner, anybody who's ever worked for my dad, or anybody in the family. Every day growing up, she cooked at least two meals, and usually three.
Yes, my mom is amazing.
Every meal she made was always balanced in the traditional country way: hearty protein, tasty starch, and veggies from the garden. And, boy, my mom knows how to make a delicious roast. Or filet of fish, or hamburger, or chicken breast... I could go on, but you get the idea.
The protein on the table was always meat (although, to her credit, that's beginning to change). And while I'm a big fan of a tasty steak once in a while, I've consciously tried to decrease my meat intake compared to what I grew up with. Why forgo meat, you ask? Here are my top five reasons:
- Budget. You know, life is expensive. Rent, bills, starting a new business... and I still have a budget line to save for travel. As it turns out, vegetarian proteins are cheaper than meat protein -- think beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, and tofu.
- Health. I could go on and on about the amazing health benefits of beans and lentils, but I'll save that for another time. Cutting out meat saves a lot of saturated fat. And all that hype about "you need more protein!" just isn't true. Most people need between four to eight ounces of protein per day. Anything more than that is extra -- our bodies don't store protein, so drinking more protein shakes isn't going to build any muscles.
- Environment. The more I learn about the environmental expense of producing animal protein, the more I try to find alternatives in our diet. From methane production to water consumption, meat should probably cost many more dollars than it does, because the environmental footprint isn't necessarily cheap.
- Sustainability. I feel strongly that the type of diet I eat should be a diet that is possible for the entire world to eat. This means eating lower on the food chain -- it just takes too much energy, space, and resources for 7 billion (and counting) people to eat a pound of meat every day. The average American eats 277 pounds of meat per year -- that's 57 pounds more meat than in the 1950s (see page 15 for more information). Is it feasible for the entire world to eat this much meat? If not, is it right for me to eat this much meat?
- Tastiness. I love to eat healthfully, but I really love to eat delicious food. As I've switched meat for other types of proteins, I've learned a lot about how to season and flavor vegetarian proteins. In my endeavors to eat more vegetarian meals, I am not willing to sacrifice flavor, and neither should you!
So today's dish features a rare ingredient on the american table: tofu. This incredible versitile vegetarian protein is really underrated in our culture. It's a popular ingredient in Asian cooking -- Chinese, Japanese, Thai. If you've never tried tofu before, I recommend ordering it the next time you're in a Thai restaurant. (Hint: try it fried, not steamed -- it has much more flavor.)
But what is tofu, you ask? It's sort of like soy cheese. It's made by taking soy milk, separating the curds, and pressing out the extra liquid (same process as making cheese from milk, if you've ever tried that). How much liquid is removed determines whether you have soft, medium, firm, or extra-firm tofu. As you can see in the picture above, I used extra firm tofu for this recipe.
Tofu itself doesn't have any flavor, which is what makes it so versitile. Tofu absorbs the flavor of whatever you tell it to! So, if you're feeling adventurous, try this de-li-cious stir-fry with tofu. It's simple, yummy, and a great recipe for Meatless Monday tomorrow!
First, drain the extra liquid from the tofu. I found the easiest way is to cut a slit in the top of the package and drain it directly.
Cut each tofu block into five slices. Heat a skillet with two tablespoons of canola oil; when hot, arrange tofu slices evenly. Pour half of a 20-ounce bottle of your favorite teriyaki sauce over the tofu, cover, and simmer while you prepare your veggies. After about 10 minutes, flip tofu so it thoroughly absorbs sauce.
Heat another two tablespoons of canola oil in a separate, large skillet. I love using my sauté pan so that my vegetables don't overflow. Slice two large leeks and add to heated skillet.
While your leeks begin to sauté, cut two yellow squash into 1-inch cubes. Wash and remove stems and ends from one pound of fresh green beans. Add both to sauté pan, stir in and continue to cook. Next, remove the stem and seeds from a red bell pepper and cut into slices. Add to the vegetables, stir, and sauté.
Next, stem, seed, cut in half, and slice two banana peppers. Add to cooking vegetables and continue to sauté.
While vegetables cook, heat six cups of water in medium sauce pan until boiling. Cook two packages of Ramen noodles (discard seasoning packets).
Cook noodles until al dente (that's "to the tooth" in Italian, meaning just until soft. Don't overcook!), then add noodles to vegetables. Add an additional two tablespoons of canola oil to vegetables, as well as 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sauté until vegetables are tender-crisp -- you should be able to easily insert a fork into the squash, but it shouldn't be mushy.
Once your veggies are done, your dish is ready to serve! Serve hot and spoon some of the teriyaki sauce over the vegetables. Enjoy!
Teriyaki Tofu and Stir-Fry Vegetables
- 24 oz. Firm tofu
- 1/2 (20 oz.) bottle low-sodium Teriyaki sauce
- 6 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
- 2 leeks
- 2 medium yellow squash
- 1 lb. fresh green beans
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 banana peppers
- 6 c. water
- 2 packages Ramen noodles, season packet discarded
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- First, drain the extra liquid from the tofu. I found the easiest way is to cut a slit in the top of the package and drain it directly.
- Cut each tofu block into five slices. Heat a skillet with two tablespoons of canola oil; when hot, arrange tofu slices evenly. Pour two cups of your favorite teriyaki sauce over the tofu, cover, and simmer while you prepare your veggies. After about 10 minutes, flip tofu so it thoroughly absorbs sauce.
- Heat another two tablespoons of canola oil in a separate, large skillet. I love using my sauté pan so that my vegetables don't overflow. Slice two large leeks and add to heated skillet.
- While leeks begin to sauté, cut yellow squash into 1-inch cubes. Wash and remove stems and ends from fresh green beans. Add both to sauté pan, stir in and continue to cook.
- Remove the stem and seeds from red bell pepper and slice evently. Add to the vegetables, stir, and sauté.
- Stem, seed, cut in half, and slice banana peppers. Add to cooking vegetables and continue to sauté.
- While vegetables cook, heat six cups of water in medium sauce pan until boiling. Cook Ramen noodles until al dente, then add noodles to vegetables. Add additional two tablespoons of canola oil to vegetables and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to sauté until vegetables are tender-crisp.
Serves 5 - Serving Size: 2 pieces tofu, 2 Tablespoons teriyaki sauce, and 2 cups vegetables - Nutrients per serving: 479 calories -- 28g total fat -- 5g saturated fat -- 0 mg cholesterol -- 1084 mg sodium -- 41g total carbohydrates -- 7g fiber -- 21g protein