Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry + Easy Almond Butter Sauce

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I promise to get to the stir fry in a second, but first a little bit of self-reflection never hurt anyone 😉

Let’s talk friends, i.e. the family that you choose for yourself, the tribe you willingly associate yourself with, the group of people who serendipitously come into your life (and sometimes back into your life), a network of people that grows roots and supports you through thick and thin. I’ve been compelled to reflect on my friendships these past few weeks – for a variety of reasons, some incredibly good and some quite unsettling. Luckily for me the unsettling bits did not originate from within my circle, but nevertheless I have been one of the affected bystanders hit with a storm of betrayal and lies. All I can say is that I am one fortunate woman to have the friends that I have. More than fortunate. Blessed, in fact, if I may use this clichéd and worn-out, hashtagged to death remark. But it hasn’t always been like this.

About five years ago I ended a very long term, depleted relationship; and even though its conclusion was far overdue and inevitable, it still left me reeling and feeling lost. At that time I had a couple of genuine friendships and a handful of tenuous ones. As I recovered and adjusted to the aftermath, I engaged in new hobbies, rediscovered forgotten ones and started making connections  with people from all walks of life. In the midst of this flurry of new faces, I found those that have now solidified into friendships that I deeply treasure. I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy for me at first. Over a decade since high school graduation (where I was a shy and reserved creature) I wasn’t sure HOW to make friends. Sounds ridiculous, right? But I wager that many adults just aren’t sure how to navigate the friend-making landscape. It gets a bit more complicated once you’re past the point of playing in the school yard, where a short recess spent kicking a ball around or playing hopscotch leads into the best-friends-forever realm. In any case, I guess somehow I figured it out. Five years later I am surrounded by people that make me a better person. And that’s the ultimate jackpot right there. The friendships that I have made over the last few years, as well as those that have endured the growing up years, have shown me how to be a more caring, empathetic, authentic, giving, loving, generous person. I am still learning and VERY much a work in progress. But as I reflect on the me pre-big-life-changing-breakup to the current me, it still astonishes me how much I have changed. And entirely (mostly) for the better. And all because of my tribe. I mean these people who willingly spend time with me are selflessly taking care of sick family members, raising smart and kind children, organizing care packages for those in need of a pick-me-up or some extra TLC, volunteering in their communities, reaching out to those who are isolated, and tirelessly setting an example of what a good human being should look like. It is impossible for some of that not to rub off on me. Like glitter off a princess Barbie, that stuff really sticks! And so I am grateful, and thankful, and blessed, and indebted to the universe for my friends. How did  I ever get so lucky.

And now for a clever segue to this stir fry. Well, I guess just like my friendships, this dish is uncomplicated, nourishing, deeply satisfying and rich in flavour. Kind of proud of what I just did there. Okay, please don’t leave. I promise I’m done now.

This recipe is a more formalized version of something that I have  been cooking for years – except that in the past I would just throw a bunch of dashes of this and that straight into the pan and somehow it would turn out. But people want numbers and proportions and so I nailed it down for you!

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It really is a pretty simple and versatile recipe. Sub in whatever veggies you like  – mushrooms, peppers and baby corn would work beautifully. But I am partial to the sponge-like quality of broccoli which tends to hoard the tasty sauce within its abundant tendrils. Whatever veggies you choose, add the ones that cook longer first, a few minutes ahead of the others. You can easily make the almond butter sauce nut-free by subbing in tahini. If you like garlic, add some of that in along with the ginger – I’m  not a garlic-hater, but I choose to do the least amount of chopping per any recipe I make. I am chopping averse. Or maybe I just like quick recipes. 

Please let me know if you make this!! You could even just make the sauce and slather it onto whatever food you please. Like friendships, this sauce makes life better…okay, here’s the recipe finally. Who lets me write anyway?

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Simple Veggie and Tofu Stir Fry + Almond Butter Sauce

Serves 3-4

Prep Time 15-20 minutes

Cook Time  20 minutes

Ingredients for Stir Fry:

1 block of extra firm tofu, cubed

1 Tablespoon coconut oil, or other neutral tasting oil

1-2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger, to taste

2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons tamari

1 bunch of broccoli or cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into desired shape

2 zucchini, sliced into desired shape

Ingredients for Almond Butter Sauce:

4 Tablespoons roasted almond butter (may be substitutes with natural peanut butter, or tahini for a nut-free version)

4 Tablespoons freshly boiled water

2 Tablespoons tamari sauce

3 Tablespoons natural rice vinegar

1 teaspoon maple or agave syrup

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

 Directions:

1. In a large non-stick sauté pan or wok, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add cubed tofu and cook, stirring often, until golden brown on most sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan onto a plate.

2. Reduce heat to medium and to the same pan add minced ginger, 2 Tablespoons tamari sauce, 2 Tablespoons water and broccoli or cauliflower. Stir well and cook 3-5 minutes. Add carrots and zucchini and cook 5 more minutes.

3. While vegetables are cooking, in a medium bowl whisk almond butter and freshly boiled water with a fork until smooth, add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until combined. Adjust to taste.

4. Add almond butter sauce to the vegetables and stir to combine. Add tofu back to the pan, stir and cook 1-2 more minutes until flavours meld together. Enjoy!

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Veggie and Rice Nori Bowl with Tempeh + Green Tahini Sauce

Summer weather is upon us, in my part of the world anyway. Somehow, despite the sunshine, I am coaxed back into the kitchen to create something fresh and vibrant to nourish my body. Most (sane) people avoid the kitchen when the thermometer shoots up. But, alas, sanity is not my strong suit. Fresh from an hour of weight training, I conjured up this bowl while driving home. Truthfully, minimum oven/stove time was on my mind. As a side note, I really need to start keeping a notebook close by for when inspiration hits – I often think up food ideas and then promptly forget to make them. And then forget all about them. Not this time! I got home, set the rice to cook, and got busy chopping veggies. I did my food prep outside to squeeze in every ounce of this warmth and long daytime hours  (it’s 9pm as I type and still light out!)

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I must have had sushi on my mind (which, now that I think of it, makes sense – we’re planning a sushi night with friends) because the result definitely echoes deconstructed sushi (read: too lazy or inept to roll sushi so just gonna pile it all into a bowl.)

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In any case, it turned out awesome! Filling, vibrant, verdant, nourishing. And fast.
I must note that the quantities of veggies seem big, but I LOVE my veggies, and leftover veggies aren’t really a bad thing, right? You might also have leftover sauce – just use on roasted veggies or cooked grains. Would be great on roasted potatoes.

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Veggie and Rice Nori Bowl with Tempeh + Green Tahini Sauce
Makes 4-6 servings

Prep time 20 minutes, cook time 25 minutes (if rice starts cooking as you prep veggies)

Veggie and Rice Nori Bowl
1 cup short grain brown rice, dry
1 head of broccoli, chopped into bite size florets
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite size florets
1-2 zucchini, sliced
2-3 inch fresh ginger, julienned
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tablespoon sesame or coconut oil
3-4 Tablespoons tamari sauce
3-4 Tablespoons water
Raw nori sheets for serving

1. Cook rice according to directions.
2. Heat oil in very large wok or skillet over medium-high heat, add ginger and garlic and stir fry for a minute.
3. Add cauliflower, broccoli, tamari and water. Stir fry for 6-8 minutes (until slightly cooked but still crisp). Add zucchini and stir fry another 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

Tempeh
1 block tempeh, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 Tablespoon tamari

1. Heat oil in non-stick frying pan over medium-high. Lay tempeh slices in one layer on frying pan, cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden.
2. Take off heat and sprinkle tamari over tempeh. Set aside.

Green Tahini Sauce
1 small bunch parsley, trimmed (can leave stalks)
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon light miso
Fresh ground pepper to taste.

1. Place everything in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Assemble bowl: place nori sheet in bowl, add rice, a generous amount of veggies, a few slices of tempeh and drizzle with sauce. Enjoy!

Variations: instead of rice you can use quinoa or millet; instead of tempeh you can use tofu, chickpeas or beans.

Grain and veggie bowls are about the easiest meal you can make and the combinations are endless! Enjoy 🙂

Xo

ilona