I once heard from a wise mama friend that "sleep begets sleep" in little ones (advice being: don't fear that a baby taking a long nap won't sleep well that night, on the contrary, they actually tend to sleep better when well-napped...go figure). With me, health begets health. If I've been on the couch, in a funk, and not moving, I'm prone to reach for the nearest bag of chocolate chips at the end of the day. But if I'm running, walking, spending time outside and doing plenty of yoga and moving, that energy carries itself to the kitchen, and I tend to do some of my healthiest cooking and eating to perpetuate that glow.
I've been on a real running tear lately (for me, there is just nothing like it for stress management), and that and the rising temperatures have me craving light, simple, nourishing meals. This week, I also have an additional inspiration to add to my meal plan: we're having an unusual work week that has us especially slammed, working some grueling long days and only home for dinner at the same time on a couple evenings. Today my day was relatively light and home-based, so I wanted to create a dinner that was not only healthy and satisfying, but also made from components that would become great leftovers for us to pack for long days of work, or grab for solo dinners at home as our week gets crazy. I'm looking forward to putting our feet up together for a pizza night on Friday, but until then we need fast, we need easy, and we need healthy.
Enter: Baked Tofu with Peanut Noodles, now officially a favorite summer go-to meal. The baked tofu is criminally easy to make and keeps well; it will be great for adding quick, light protein to salads or eating in sandwiches this week. Peanut noodles are one of the husband's faves and make a great cold lunch or nice side for a quickly grilled protein, or topper for a spinach salad. I have huge bins of cleaned baby greens and spinach in the fridge at the ready, and those will be key to our success as well. Because of the kind of week we're having, I took a page from everyone's favorite freakshow, Sandra Lee, and went semi-homemade on the noodles, utilizing a great Organic Soy Ginger sauce from Whole Foods' 365 line instead of making a sauce totally from scratch. Sometimes it is worth having these little shortcuts on hand when life gets really busy.
1 block of organic, extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce (we use the low sodium kind)
Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
1) Preheat oven to 400F. Drain your tofu. Side note: ALWAYS drain your tofu! It makes all of the difference in any recipe. You need 15 extra minutes, a plate, a bunch of paper towels or a clean tea towel, and something heavy like a stack of books or, my personal choice, a cast iron skillet with three cans of beans on top. Line the the plate with the towels, place the tofu on top, more towels, and your weight. In 15 minutes, the tofu will lose about 2 ounces of water. You won't believe how much easier the resulting block of tofu is to work with, and how much more delicious your final product will be!
2) Slice your drained block of tofu into eight thin slices. Whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar and soy sauce in a bowl and brush both sides of the tofu slices with the mixture, then sprinkle with spices.
3) Place tofu on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (we use veggie oil in a mister), and bake for 30 minutes, flipping half-way through.
Did I not say criminally easy?
1 lb pasta - I recommend spaghetti, soba or udon noodles, but we happened to have angel hair on hand tonight and it worked wonderfully in this recipe
1/2 bottle of Soy Ginger sauce
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
sesame seeds, salt and pepper to taste
1) Boil pasta according to package instructions. Reserve ~1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
2) Drain pasta and stir in the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste and add additional pasta cooking liquid if the mix gets too gummy.
I didn't have time to do a vegetable side this evening, so I finely chopped a bunch of lacinato kale and threw it in to cook with the pasta. We had a complete dish for this evening, and should have plenty of great lunch and dinner options in the days to come. And with that, friends, I'm hitting the sack to rest up for a long day tomorrow. Good night!