Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don’t feel like cooking – make some convenient homemade food

Lo Mein Noodles with pan fried tofu and vegetables

The quality of the ingredients does make a difference

It was an “I don’t feel like cooking night.”  A long week (still not done) combined with some other things led me to not really wanting to cook. I don’t have the option to carry out because of Jordan’s food allergies, but even without food allergies we all know the carry out food is processed food with bad ingredients and we should refrain as much as we can from breaking down and giving into it.

Initially, I was going to try to make a really fast dinner but had no idea what to cook (because nothing made from scratch is that fast).  Half the battle was walking into the kitchen.  Once in the kitchen I thought maybe some sort of Chinese style noodle for Jordan would work (I’m not even that hungry and there were leftovers).   So I created this fairly quick, on the fly, dinner.  I wasn’t in the mood for meat (plus nothing was thawed out). 

Get the bland out

I don’t like mushy and bland tofu.  There are two ways to eliminate the bland mushiness.  First, after squeezing the liquid out (there are many techniques for this-I put a plate with some weight over it), marinate the tofu.  Second, pan-fry the tofu on high heat.  During the last 5 minutes of the pan-frying, drizzle cornstarch on the different sides and this will give a little brown crust.

Another ingredient that is useful for this style of cooking is 365 Organic Expeller Pressed Canola Oil.  This oil has a much higher frying temperature than extra virgin olive oil and it doesn’t have a strong domineering taste either.  Instead, this oil will let the flavors of the ingredients dominate.  Expeller pressed oils retain most of their nutrients including valuable Omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) and 6 (linoleic acid) essential fatty acids. Canola oil is a rich source of vitamin E, an important dietary antioxidant. Canola oil also contains the lowest amount of total saturated fat of commonly consumed vegetable oils.  You can do more research on this, but regular vegetable oil is highly processed.  The Kadoya sesame oil is not a cooking oil and is used for flavoring the dish.


Tofu Mushroom Lo Mein Noodles

 Grab about  2" around Lo mein noodles (this is approximate)
1.5 cups thinly sliced  shitake mushrooms
1 large can of straw mushroom (optional)
5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
small can of sliced water chestnuts
¼ cup. organic soy sauce (I used 365 brand – I don’t use genetically modified soy)
2-3 tspb. cornstarch
3+ tbs.  vegan oyster sauce (vegetarian stir fry sauce)
     (if not allergic to shellfish or not vegan you can use oyster sauce-oyster sauce is very salty)
about 1 cup of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 tsp. unprocessed cane sugar
extra firm Nasoya tofu with water pressed out
1/3 cup (approximate) 365 Expeller pressed canola oil
drizzle of Kadoaya Sesame Oil

Dice tofu and marinate in about ¼ cup of soy sauce in a zip lock bag for about ½ hour.

make a small slurry of 1.5 tbs. corn starch and water

boil lo mein noodles in salted water for about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

chop all vegetables

Pan fry tofu in oil on high heat; be careful not to break the tofu.  As the tofu browns (after about 5 minutes) sprinkle cornstarch on it and turn over so that the corn starch roasts.  Drizzle more cornstarch on the tofu and turn.  This will make the outside of the tofu a little crispy.   Take tofu out and put on a plate.

Stir fry vegetables (can add other vegetables like water chestnuts or baby corn etc.) for about 5 minutes over medium high heat.
Add chopped garlic and fry for one minute
Add stir soy sauce and stir, add stir fry sauce and add chicken stock until it gets to the right flavor (about 1 cup-without stock it will be too salty).
Pour cornstarch slurry into the liquid part (in a wok you can move the vegetables to the side) as the liquid burns.  The corn starch will thicken the boiling liquid.    Once thickened, add the noodles and toss thoroughly.    Mix thoroughly on high heat and noodles will steam. 
Add tofu back
add sesame oil (this is at the end for flavor and heat on high heat).
Drizzle chopped green onion on top


(note:  This can also be made with chicken or other meat also.  I prefer to marinate the meat Asian style)

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  1. looks good, but I would have to skip the canola oil. It is actually not a natural oil. There are many articles about it. The name itself is derived from Canada and oil. Here is just one interesting site. there are many more.

  2. I know Canola oil somewhat debated. The health benefits of Olive Oil are mostly from Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Nut oils are out for us because my son has nut/peanut allergies. So, for now, I've decided to go with Canola as the main oil for cooking. I don't reuse oil, or refry. The common vegetable oils are often cross contaminated with nuts and are also highly processed. When I make pastas where the high frying temperature is not as important, I use only quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

  3. But I do use it in moderation and I ONLY use the organic expeller pressed variety even then. I would never buy a commercial brand canola oil (chemicals and pesticides).

  4. I like the cornstarch idea for the tofu!

  5. I hear you about the allergy concerns. My grandma always used the plain old olive oil that comes in big cans. I only use olive oil that is 100% Italian. Nothing against other countries, I just favor Italy ( don't let my Irish name fool anyone)I just can't wrap my brain around the canola stuff. OR fast foods! how hard or long does it take to start a pot of water for pasta and open a bag of frozen veggies. Fast food for sure. I also like the cornstarch tip.

  6. Yes, there is a lot of fake olive oils out there (with olive oil you really do get what you pay for). Many of these fake olive oils are contaminated with nut oils and are highly processed oils. Home cooking is always the you said a last minute home cooked meal is real food........yet you still see the lines at McDonald's. These days people say one big mac is only x calories...yes, but what about the horrible ingredients that aren't even food.
    Baking tofu is another method to get a nice texture, but it takes more time (planning). I often come home from work and have no idea....what to make until I step into that kitchen.