Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Vegan Mapo Tofu with Rice

This is one of those dishes that Cory remembers eating a lot of while living in Japan.  He says that in Japan this dish is similar to popularity as Macaroni and Cheese is here in the US.  We don't eat Macaroni and Cheese from a box and so we most definitely would never eat this out of a box either.  You can buy it pre made in many Asian stores but I prefer to make things from scratch.  I know exactly what I put into the sauce this way.  I can also make minor changes.

Mopa Tofu is usually spicy.  Which is fine for my family but when friends are over I make sure to have a portion of this not as spicy.  The rice helps keep the temperature under control too.  The sauce is thick and you can really taste the garlic, sesame oil, ginger and chili.  If this combination of flavors sounds like something you would like then this recipe is for you.

If you follow me on Instagram then you know that we have gone to a vegan/plant based diet.  We have toyed with this lifestyle off and on this past year.  Our move from Oregon put a small ripple in our menu decisions.  We lived with my sister for 6 weeks and our diets reverted back to one filled with eating out, fast food and a lot of processed food.  I won't lie--it was so nice to eat what ever I wanted.  I enjoyed every single item I ate.  I had no regrets.

We are now settled into our home and I am able to get back into the kitchen and cook.  I love it!  Being with my own stuff feels great.  I am inspired to dig back into my blog and find time to post more frequently.  I've been cooking all types of new recipes and searching for fun things to share on the blog.

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Cory that I wanted to go back to eating a plant based diet.  I needed support this time though.  In the past it has been just me and I cook something different for the kids and Cory.  This is hard to prepare meals this way.  I can't serve something and not taste it.  I would often find myself having to taste things with eggs, cheese and meat.  Even one bite would make me feel like I was cheating on my food choices.

As we drove into Gymnastics last week I asked him if he would go on a plant based diet with me for one month.  This would allow me time and give me support to readjust myself and feel successful.  He agreed.  He is kind of awesome that way.

Well, it turns out that Cory needs to lose 40 pounds.  The very next day he went into visit with a sleep doctor.  His snoring is OUT OF CONTROL.  To the point that we are close to sleeping in separate rooms.  This news is not something he has not been told before but this time he is taking it more seriously.  Maybe sleeping by himself doesn't sound so good to him after all. The benefits would change. Cory mentioned to the Dr. about my suggestion of going on a plant based diet.  The doctor was thrilled and said he would support it 100 percent.  He recently had to lose 50 pounds himself and this is how he did it as well.

My heart skipped a bit.  We have been officially a plant based family for almost 10 days and I am so happy.  The kids are adjusting fine.  Our older two kids are old enough to eat and buy what they want.  Rye says its the best of both worlds.  I am transitioning the little girls slowly.  They never ate much meat and they don't like milk or most dairy goods.  The processed food is the hardest for them: pretzels, chips, ice cream, etc...  I am spending a small amount of time at each meal educating them on choices and eating healthy.  Nothing too intense just small reminders to eat more fruit and vegetables.  We all need to hear that pep talk once in a while.

I won't be removing any recipes from the blog.  My food journey has taken a few twist and turns over the last 4 years as I learned and discovered what works best for myself and my family.  You will find everything from gluten recipes to gluten free, meat to meat free, super healthy to moments of bliss with desserts. Changing our way of eating takes time and for us it has taken a few years.  If you are considering a plant based diet or even adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, here are a few suggestions that have helped our family:

1.  Start slow.  Replace meals one at a time.  Snacks too.

2.  Find blogs and people that can support your choice and change.  Forks over Knives has been a huge help for our family.  A few of my favorite blogs are:

Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon
Cookie + Kate --this is a vegetarian blog, but she has some great recipes
Fork and Beans by Cara

3.  Keep your ingredients simple.  Vegan/plant based foods are so delicious but some of them take time and preparation.  This can be overwhelming when you first start.

4.  Buy organic when you can.  There are some great list of things that you should try to buy organic and things that are okay to skip--this helps if you are on a budget. This site has a great pictorial of things they suggest to buy or skip. We visit our local Farmer's Market every week but I know that not everyone has this option.  I like to know who is growing our food.

5.  Eat more often and more.  You will be hungry the first few weeks.  I eat about every two hours.  I try to have lots of fruit, nuts plant based foods readily available for when I need something in my belly.  I would also suggest to eat bigger portions.  I struggled with being hungry. I went in search of a few blogs to follow to see how they eat.  I discovered that I wasn't eating enough at each sitting.  One piece of fruit is usually not enough.  I know eat 3-4 pieces. An example might be: one apple, a banana, a handful of grapes and some nuts.

This recipe is one that I have been making for years.  I usually add ground hamburger to it but this version is completely plant based.  If you are used to a more traditional recipe then this may seem a little bit unusual to you.  My husband says it taste the same; I will take his word that the minor changes did not affect the final flavor profile.

Again, this dish is meant to be spicy.  Adjust the spice by pulling back on the amount of Garlic Chili paste you add.  You can use chicken stock for the liquid if you don't need it to be meat/animal free.

Makes enough for 2-3 people.  I usually triple this recipe for our family. We like left overs.  Like most dishes, this taste great the next day.

1 teaspoon Garlic Chili Sauce
2 teaspoons of Black Bean Sauce
1 tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 cup of liquid: chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon potato or arrowroot starch
sesame oil to sauté vegetables
1 package extra firm tofu
4-6 medium mushrooms
1/2 onion, diced medium

1.  Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

2.  Cube the tofu into 1/2 in by 1/2 in squares.

3.  In a large frying pan add sesame oil and sauté onion and mushrooms until soft.  Add the liquids and tofu.  Cook over medium high heat until sauce is thick.

4.  Remove from heat. Serve with rice or noodles.

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