Thursday, February 3, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life

I know many of you might be turning up your nose to tofu, but then again many of you may have tried it and liked it or not entirely enjoyed it or you could be one of the few that actually eats it quite regularly. We kind of go in spurts in our household as there are a handful of recipes that I have found that we enjoy. My son actually loves it (he is only 21 months)! I was trying to incorporate it into our meal plan on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, but lately it has been much less. Partly because my freezer is well stocked with venison and that has now become a meal priority! We do, however, have at least one meat-free meal each week.

There are many benefits to tofu - it is usually cheap, stores for quite a while and is extremely versatile (in addition to all the other things you've probably heard/read about soy). Recently, however, I have discovered that there are some issues with unfermented soy products as well as Genetically Modified soy (or anything GM for that matter). I guess my motto is - Variety is the Spice of Life! So now we have it about once a month and I try to combine fermented soy with unfermented soy (much of the tofu we find in stores). Okay, now that I've totally scared you, if you don't want to try the tofu in this recipe, it can be replaced with just about any other meat product - chicken, shrimp, beef or pork would be great substitutes. Just don't marinade them as long as I do the tofu!

Some people avoid tofu because of the texture. That is what I love about this recipe, the wheat berries in here add that chewiness that we (omnivores) typically enjoy when eating meat. Some avoid it because of the lack of flavor - which is unfortunate because it can have so much flavor, if prepared well. So, what the hey, give it a try and see what you think! Be sure to look for a non-GM tofu option. Oh and give yourself some time for this one - it takes a bit of advanced prep, you need to start the night before you plan on making this. But in my opinion it is worth it.

The idea for this recipe came from Tosca Reno's book "The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids." After reading her tofu and wheat berry salad recipe I thought hmm, that looks and sounds similar to fried rice - why not add a few more things and make it a meal instead of a salad. So that is what I did and now it has become a family favorite.

Tofu Fried Rice

6 Tbsp light soy sauce or low-sodium tamari
2 tsp fresh ginger root , peeled and minced*
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp oil*
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp agave nectar*
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil

Other Ingredients:
1 - 12-16 oz pkg firm (or extra firm) tofu
3-4 cups water or low-sodium stock/broth
1/2 cup brown rice (or rice mix/blend)*
1/2 cup wheat berries*
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions/chives (optional)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 eggs (or half cup egg whites/egg substitute)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Sesame seeds (optional)

Place wheat berries in a glass bowl. Cover with about 4 cups water. Put a plate over the bowl and let stand overnight (on counter). Remove tofu from package and drain water. Place on plate lined with several layers of paper towel (or use a skoy cloth or similar absorptive re-usable cloth). Cover tofu with more paper towels or another absorptive re-usable cloth. Top with a plate and heavy items to weight down (and drain) tofu overnight in refrigerator.

In the morning, make marinade by mixing ingredients above. Cut tofu in half so that you have two large thin slabs and place (or other meat) in flat glass dish. Cover with marinade and flip slabs half-way through the day - keep refrigerated. If you plan to use meat, only marinade for about an hour and reserve some of the marinade (about 2 Tblsp) for later use.

Prepare rice and wheat berries. The recipe calls for doing these separately and in the oven, but I do them on the stove and I believe the last time I did them together. If you have a rice cooker you could also use that. The wheat berries will need to be drained before cooking. If you have package directions for your rice - follow that, otherwise I typically double the amount of water/stock per rice (so for here it would be half cup rice to one cup water/stock). For the wheat berries use about 1 1/2 cups water/stock to the 1/2 cup wheat berries. Or if you combine them, use 2 1/2 cups water/stock for both. This will likely take about 45 minutes for the rice and wheat berries to become tender.

Meanwhile, remove tofu from marinade and cut into small bite-sized cubes, reserve marinade (do not do this if using meat/seafood). Sauté onion in a touch of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add tofu and cook until starting to brown. Add carrots, zucchini and peas. When carrots are
starting to soften make a "hole" in the center of the pan by pushing the tofu and veggies to the sides. Place your eggs or egg whites or egg substitute in the center of the pan and fry/scramble. When eggs are cooked add rice and wheat berries. Season with salt and pepper and 2 Tbsp of reserved marinade. Plate fried rice and sprinkle with sliced chives/scallions and sesame seeds if you desire.

*My notes: For mincing the ginger, I like to use a microplane grater that I hold over the bowl or measuring cup that I want the ginger in. I rarely measure the ginger (I guesstimate), but if you want to, then I suggest doing it over a separate bowl before adding it to the marinade. The recipe calls for olive oil, but since it is eventually going to be cooked I prefer to use a different oil. I've been trying out new oils - recently sunflower and safflower have been in my cupboards. I suggest you find a "cooking" oil that you like. Why don't I use olive oil for cooking? It's kind of a waste - all the benefits of olive oil are completely lost when you heat it up. What is agave nectar? It is a sugar alternative that is fairly new to the market and of course not without it's own controversies. In essence - sugar is sugar, no matter what form it comes in and sugar is not good for you - period! However, most people want to enjoy life, so we eat a bit (or a lot) of sugar. You could try honey or maple syrup in it's place if you do not want to try agave nectar or don't have it on hand. Agave nectar is more concentrated than these other sweeteners, so you may want to double it, but that is not necessary - I don't even remember using it, but I probably did. Not sure if you like brown rice, we didn't use to. Then I started trying other varieties and mixing them together - then one day it was like, wow this is brown rice? Of course it still doesn't taste like white rice, but it has more flavor than the original stuff that I was getting. So, there are a few options for making brown rice better. What I like to do is go to the co-op and pick from their bulk bins a variety of brown (or colored) rice. My mix usually contains a short sweet brown rice, a longer brown rice, a little bit of wild rice, some red rice and sometimes black japanica rice. You could also add a bit of quinoa, barley, and/or millet. Another option is if you have a Costco membership I hear they have a good mix for a good price. And yet another option is check your local grocery store - they often sell containers of mixed rice. In fact, Mambo Sprouts currently has a coupon for RiceTec, which I've seen at Roundys and Kroger stores. Don't know where to find wheat berries? Unfortunately I don't have a ton of ideas for this. I would check any store that has a bulk section. I have found them at my co-op and other health food stores. Or, if you happen to live in Bangladesh - you should be able to find them in your local market quite easily! :) Hope you enjoy these additional pics from Bangladesh markets (a trip we made before kids, although I'd love to travel with them someday).

This is getting posted earlier than I originally anticipated to make room for some Valentine's Day items next week. I'll be sharing my Red Velvet Surprise cupcake recipe as well as my favorite whole grain cut-out cookie recipe.

1 comment:

  1. I would love a copy of your benchmarks. My email is: brenners @ the herd . us