My birthday arrived this morning at the same time as my son’s stomach bug. A bummer, to say the least. It got me thinking about the obligations of parenthood, and as they tend to do, my thoughts have turned to food.
Of the many obligations I have as a mom, getting weeknight dinners on the table (and by “dinner” I mean a balanced meal that is nutritious, mostly homemade, affordable, and has at least a 50/50 chance of being consumed by my two kids) is one of my most challenging.
Years ago, I leisurely created elaborate meals for myself (and my husband if he made it home from the office in time) during the week, wine glass in hand, good music on the stereo… Nowadays, the scene is a tad different. Sometimes I cook something the night before, bleary-eyed from a long day and racing through a simple (and usually boring) recipe. Sometimes, I cook dinner at 6:30am before leaving for work. And then there are the days when I leave pre-prepped meal components (marinating raw chicken, a cooked vegetable, and raw potatoes, for example) labeled and in the fridge for my nanny to throw together around 5pm before I arrive home from work at 6.
I could ramble on for hours – days, probably – about how I manage to feed my kids well, most nights of the week. In fact, many future blog posts will be devoted to this very topic.
For today, I just want to share with you my “go-to” meal – the dinner I plan for those weeks when cooking time is painfully limited and creative ideas are few and far between. It’s nothing magical. It’s not gourmet. It’s… tofu with vegetables over brown rice.
Step 1: Find a vegetable(s) in your fridge or freezer. (My favorites for this dish include broccoli, baby bok choy, mushrooms, red bell peppers, spinach, cauliflower… really any vegetable works.) Cook it the fastest easiest way you know how. Steam, saute, microwave… whatever you can manage.
Step 2: Drain a block of firm or extra firm tofu. Cut into chunks or strips. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes (on a lined baking sheet), or quickly saute in canola oil in a pan until lightly brown, or… hold on to your hats… don’t cook it at all and move to step 3.
Step 3: Toss cooked vegetable(s), tofu, and an Asian sauce together. Truth: I usually use a bottled product – Soy Vay Hoisin Garlic Glaze. Yes, it’s fairly high in sodium. Yes, it’s fairly simple to make a homemade Asian sauce. Yes, I plan to stick to my Soy Vay.
Step 4: Put it all over steamed brown rice and serve. I use a rice steamer so making the rice is super easy and hands-off. You can also serve over rice noodles, which take less than 5 minutes to cook in boiling water.
It’s cheap. It’s fairly easy. It’s very fast. It’s rather tasty. It’s ridiculously healthy. Though I must admit the real reason it’s my go-to dinner: A certain gorgeous blue-eyed 5 year-old boy told me that it’s his favorite.