Cook Your Fridge: Stir Fry-day

A few months ago, I wrote about a fridge-clearing recipe for frittatas, and I’m adding stir fries, with a silly pun intentional, to this category. You may have a lot of different veggies in the fridge or canned ones (such as water chestnuts) that seemingly don’t go together or aren’t enough on their own to constitute a side dish that makes any kind of sense—or a main dish, for that matter. Relax. With a little planning and strategizing, you can make this work. Enter: Stir Fry-day.

Bound together by a simple sauce and tossed with either rice or noodles (your choice), stir fries are endlessly versatile. While it’s really tempting to throw any vegetable together that you have on hand, I caution against this: I had fennel, but I don’t think it has any place in this mix.

I had a small handful of carrots that were babies; they came out of the earth that way. I had a small broccoli crown left over from the mini veggie frittata I made on New Year’s Day. There was a bag of organic, pre-washed and trimmed green beans that needed to be eaten; I bought it as a way to simplify during the holidays and it got lost. And there were three or four mini sweet peppers languishing. All told, I probably had about 4-5 cups of veggies, and many of them were local. The trick is to make sure they’re all basically the same size so they cook evenly. And you don’t want to throw them all in the pan at the same time. The harder veggies need to be cooked first, usually with a little water to create some steaming action, and the aromatics (scallions, ginger, garlic) ideally are added last or they run the risk of overcooking/turning bitter.

Fridge-Clearing Stir Fry-day

serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 12-ounce package of Nasoya super firm cubed organic tofu, drained
  • 1-2 T.  coconut or other neutral, high-heat oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 white or rice vinegar
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 12-ounce bag of green beans, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup carrots, halved and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 1 cup (a small crown) broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup chopped sweet peppers
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 T. ginger, run through a microplane grater or chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped finely, tough dark green ends discarded

Instructions

1. Drain water from package of tofu and transfer tofu carefully onto a clean dishcloth. Take said dishcloth and place it on top of a wooden cutting board (this is important; it will absorb liquid better than a plastic one), and gently press the liquid out. You can do this with regular tofu, but you have to cube it up first and it will release way more water than the pre-cubed stuff.

2. Heat a wok or other wide-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the pan is good and hot, add the tofu and cook for 3-4 minutes until it’s lightly browned. Remove from pan, keep warm and set aside.

3. In a small bowl or a glass measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and cornstarch until no clumps remain. Set aside.

4. Add veggies and about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover, creating steam, for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid when the veggies have brightened in color and are slightly tender. Add the ginger, garlic and scallions, cooking until they are aromatic, for about a minute or so. Add the tofu back in, stir gently, and finally add the sauce. Stir to combine and until it starts to thicken and reduce a bit. This will happen pretty fast. Serve with rice or noodles, or as is.

09

01 2015

New Year’s Re:solve

The New Year is all about the prefix re: renew, reboot, reflect, revitalize, reclaim, reorganize, rethink, rewind, reevaluate. It’s a beautiful and natural shift that motivates us to clear out, clean up, change out, and generally move our focus within. Even the word resolution bears this prefix.

Many of us are depleted from the flurry of externally-focused, socially-driven activities of the holidays such as shopping, cooking, visiting, exchanging gifts. The New Year presents a simultaneous tug between looking backward and forward, but many crave a reset button, some quiet and introspection, even if it’s just for a little while. A resolution? Maybe. For the past few years, I’ve set intentions. For 2015, I want to think about, get reacquainted with and fire up my resolve, my purpose, my desire—my dharma.

I was on the way to my chiropractor this morning when I had a little epiphany. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s worth nothing.

Many people use January to do a detox or start a diet or introduce healthy habits into their lives. I’m all for anything that’s going to improve one’s health. I realized, however, that I have the inverse relationship to January.

I don’t have a perfect diet by any means, and I could stand to shed a little. However, I am so habituated toward a local, organic and detoxifying diet in general that January means going back to normal. And my normal, at least in the past year, means limiting three specific triggers: sugar, flour and dairy. I am not about to eliminate these items altogether; it’s far too severe a measure that’s also impractical and unnecessary. I want to consume them mindfully. See, after several rounds of bloodwork in early 2014 and paying extensive attention to all of the messages my body had been sending me, I did a classic elimination diet (I don’t even like the word diet, ugh) and determined what bothers me. The rest of 2014 adhered to those discoveries, mostly, about 80 percent of the time. I suspect there are many of us who eat in this mostly green zone, with awareness and thoughtfulness.

Spending 10 days indulging in things I normally eschew (cookies, bread, most alcohol, cheese, oh! the cheese) was incredibly revealing. I didn’t go off the deep end. I think I had alcohol three separate times. The first time it sent me off into a crying jag on Christmas Eve when someone asked me a delicate, emotionally-loaded question. The second time, I’m happy to report I had no issues the next day, but I had been drinking a lot of water and drinking small amounts over the course of many hours. (Or maybe it’s just that mead doesn’t bother me. You’re in luck, Colony.) The third time? I woke up with a headache after drinking a mere half a glass of red wine, despite all the water I drank and the food I consumed with it. Or maybe that was part of the problem, too….

Mindfully indulging in these items confirmed that yes, they make me cranky, bloated, tired, foggy, somewhat depressed and often saddle me with headaches. It wreaks other things on me, too, but that’s the general gist of it. I have been struggling with this on numerous levels; because of my work, I am more food-focused than most. As a yoga devotee, I’m more aware than the average bear of things that disagree with me, and less tolerant of them: regular, sustained practice clears you and makes you more sensitive. And once you get going and feel great most of the time, there’s no turning back. The alternative? Ignoring the body’s conversations means feeling all those negative things I mentioned, all over again. This journey, these nuances, the struggle: it’s truly another story for another day.

In the meantime, I raise up a glass of antioxidant-packed smoothie, fresh-pressed green juice or cup of red tea, or a large glass of room-temperature lemon water sprinkled with the digestive igniter of your choice (cayenne, ginger, whatever). I offer you a hearty “cheers” to 2015. Hope it brings you to an improved, enlightened version of yourself and your normal. What will it look like to you?

05

01 2015