Asian Broccoli Slaw, Marinated Tofu, and Salad Dressing….and bats!

Last night’s dinner was rather generically Asian-themed. I had a random bag of broccoli slaw I needed to use up and the best-sounding recipe I found when googling was something very similar to what I present below, so from there I decided to take the whole meal in an Asian direction. I prepped everything in advance, and when mixing up the slaw dressing, tofu marinade, and green salad dressing, since they were all so similar, I didn’t even bother washing the mixing bowl between each of them, keeping prep quick and easy. Here are all three things I made:

Asian Broccoli Slaw

1 12 oz package broccoli slaw (or grate your own broccoli; cabbage would be good too)
3 Tbsp sesame oil (not toasted)
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 tsp minced or pressed garlic
2 tsp brown sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together everything but the slaw. In a larger bowl, toss the dressing with the slaw and refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to blend.

Asian Marinated Tofu

1 lb extra firm tofu
1 cup vegan broth
1/4 low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp minced or pressed garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Whisk together everything but the tofu and set aside. Slice the tofu into 1/2″ slabs and arrange in a 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ baking pan. Pour the marinade over the tofu and let marinate for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready to bake the tofu, pour off some of the marinade so that the tofu is about half-submerged. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden.

I served this over some mung bean noodles, which I soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes (don’t keep it on the heat, just boil and set aside), then tossed with leftover tofu marinade. I also lightly stir-fried some julienned orange bell pepper in some sesame + toasted sesame oil, then tossed with toasted sesame seeds and served both the peppers and the tofu over the noodles.

Asian-flavored Salad Dressing

4 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced or pressed garlic
1 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp brown sugar

Whisk or shake together all ingredients. Serve over a green salad.

Not that you can really see the dressing, but here’s the salad:

And here are all three components together:

In wildlife news, I have to take at least six hours of continuing education hours to renew my rehabbers permit every year. Last year I was so busy and there were so few classes held nearby at times I could go that I was cramming in readings at the last minute. This year I’ve scored all six hours within nine days of the permit year beginning. This I did by attending an all-day bat workshop yesterday. I was very excited about this because I’ve always had a particular love for bats and I intend to accept bats one day when I’m rehabbing out of my own home. It was a great, very informative class, although also kind of depressing because some of the species in our area (the Mid-Atlantic) are federally endangered, and many more are state-listed as threatened or endangered. Even the most optimistic bat enthusiasts are very worried that the species suffering from White Nose Syndrome will be extinct in just a few years. This is very bad. Although so far the fungus affects only those bats that hibernate, migratory bats are being killed by wind turbines, so there’s unprecedented death rates for all kinds of bats. Bats eat their weight in insects every night. You don’t want to live in a world without bats. I can even relate the wildlife portion of this post to food for once, because one of the consequences of extinct bats is going to be crop failures, greatly increased food prices, and/or higher instances of pesticide use.

I was able to take some pictures of the live bats. (Because I’m rabies vaccinated, I was also able to handle the live (and dead) bats, which even more exciting!) Unfortunately I think I’m going to have to retire the crappy “all-purpose” lens I tend to leave on my camera as a default because the pictures S.U.C.K. and I’m super disappointed by them. True, the lighting in the room was dim and terrible (though probably a lot more bat-friendly than camera-friendly), but I still think I could have gotten decent pictures with a better lens, including some I left at home. Live and learn, I guess. So I apologize for the horrible, horrible, horrible pictures, which don’t do any justice to these awesome little creatures, but bats are too cool for me not to share and I feel compelled to raise awareness of White Nose Syndrome. As of right now, it’s confined to the eastern and more northern parts of Northern America, but it WILL soon migrate to the south and west, and it’s devastating.

This is a Tricolor Bat, squawking because she’s dropped her mealworm. To reward them for good behavior while they were out being handled by those of us with rabies shots and admired by everyone else, these education bats were fed treats of mealworms. You can see this bat’s mealworm in front of her. (Education animals are non-releasable animals that rehabbers and wildlife organizations have received special permission to keep (as opposed to euthanizing) as teaching tools.)

This is a Big Brown Bat. Big Browns are a migratory species not affected by White Nose, unlike the similar-looking but smaller cave-dwelling Little Brown Bat. One kind of good thing is new Big Brown colonies have been found in areas where Little Brown colonies have been wiped out by White Nose, so nature is replacing one species for another. Note that despite the name – and he is in fact bigger than a Little Brown Bat – like all North American bats, he’s really quite small. I was actually surprised by how tiny all of our bats are. They’re not at all like the beautiful, wonderful flying foxes I saw in Australia.

Side view of a Big Brown:

Silver-haired Bat. I think he looks like a teeny-tiny, legless bull.

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Korean-style Tofu in a Spicy Fermented Paste, with Banchan

I see that the last time I posted was on December 5th, and it is now January 5th. Wow. That was an unintentional break that I didn’t even really realize I was taking. It wasn’t from lack of time (though I have none) or lack of cooking, but I guess I’ve just been getting back to basics lately and haven’t made anything I felt compelled to share because I’ve already done a post on it or it’s boring. Or things have been too experimental and I haven’t replicated them for quality assurance. Anyway, I’m back today, so yay!

I’ve been treadmilling lately. I’ve noticed a trend amongst my friends and peers – and even husband – in running. Friends who always claimed to hate running are now training for marathons. I think everyone I know is training for a marathon. Not me, man, I’m sticking to the hatred of running I’ve nurtured since grade school. When I was in 10th grade, our JV field hockey team was in danger of being disbanded due to lack of interest. A friend of mine was on the team and devastated by this and somehow cajoled me into auditioning. (I think perhaps “audition” is not the right verb for applying to participate in a sport, but I’m not up on such sporty lingo.) Despite their desperation for players, the coach wasn’t allowed to waive the base requirements for making the team, one of which was the ability to run a mile in 8 minutes. So basically I had to run a mile in 8 minutes or the team wouldn’t exist and my friend would cry and it’d be all my fault. I think my prior best time for mile “running” was in the 13-minute range. But I bucked up and ran that mile, clocking in at 7:58. The team was saved! Yes, I actually played an entire season of junior varsity field hockey, and because we had the bare minimum of players for a team, I played full-time in every game of the season. We even won a game, too! I must confess that I have absolutely no idea what the rules of field hockey are or what my “position” may have been. A couple of years ago, however, I realized it was very likely the powers that be strategically paused that stopwatch for a minute or five….

That was the pinnacle of my athletic career and quite possibly the last time I ever ran a distance further than a block. I just detest it. Walking I’m cool with – I can walk all day, but running makes me completely miserable. Unfortunately, I think the effects of my indifference to exercise are starting to show, especially since I stopped going to the gym to swim because the gym pissed me off. Plus Mark had been complaining that the company he works for now doesn’t provide a free, onsite gym like his previous employer. So last September I cashed in the ton of rewards points I’d collected on my credit card and bought a really nice treadmill with the cash. Since then I’ve been trying to fit treadmilling into my daily routine. I’ve been using treadmill as a verb because although I don’t run, I DO walk at a jogging pace and I also set the incline up as high as it will go, so I feel like I’m doing something more than just walking, in fact, I’m almost climbing half the time.

Anyway, I’ve been fitting a lot of my dinner preparations around my treadmilling. I’ll often pop home from work and begin prepping dinner, sometimes putting something in the oven to bake or roast, or rice in the cooker to steam, or tofu in a pan to marinate, or whatever, then I’ll go treadmill, then return to the kitchen to finish cooking. Last night’s meal fit this paradigm perfectly because it came together super quickly after my workout, which is good because by then I’m starving.

Banchan are the small side dishes that are served with Korean meals. Kimchi takes a few days to make, but many of the pickles and salads that make up banchan require little to no resting or fermenting time. They are therefore perfect for tossing together an hour or so before you plan to eat. Last night I made a bean sprout salad and a spicy cucumber salad, in addition to miso soup.

For the miso soup, to make the dashi, or stock, I’ll bring some water to a boil in my electric kettle, then pour it into a small, heavy pot over a piece of kombu, then I’ll put the lid on the pot and let it sit for a while. You can use the dashi after as little as 10 minutes, but it works perfectly if you plan some other task, like working out, before eating the soup.

Miso Soup
3 cups water, boiling for a faster dashi or room temperature if you have an hour or more
1 piece (about 4″) kombu
splashes of rice vinegar, mirin, and/or sake (optional)
3-4 Tbsp miso (your favorite kind; I usually use brown/yellow)
extras: my favorites are traditional – wakame, tofu cubes, sliced scallion

Put the water and kombu in a small pot and let sit for as long as you have (an hour in cold water is sufficient; 10 minutes or so is fine in boiling water). Remove the kombu. Bring the resulting dashi to a near-simmer, adding the optional splashes of rice vinegar, mirin, and/or sake. I just use these for additional flavor since I don’t use bonito, which is fish, in my dashi. Remove a few tablespoons of dashi from the pot and put it in a small bowl. Add the miso to it and stir until smooth, then add to the pot. (It’s easier to blend the miso in this way than trying to stir into a larger quantity of liquid.) Once the miso is in the pot, don’t let the soup come to a boil. Add any extra proteins or veggies you want and let them heat gently. Miso soup is a great starter to just about any meal and also a good, light breakfast.

Korean Bean Sprout Salad
3 cups bean sprouts
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar or 1 drop stevia
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1/8 tsp Korean red pepper powder
1 scallion, sliced thinly

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and lightly salt it. Add the bean sprouts. Cook for two minutes then drain and run under cold water until sprouts are completely cool. Whisk together the remaining ingredients, adjusting them to your tastes (the quantities above are approximate). Toss the sprouts with the liquid. Let flavors meld in the refrigerator for at least half an hour before serving.

Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad
1 cucumber, thinly sliced (mandolin preferable)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia
1/2 tsp salt
Korean red pepper powder to taste (I used maybe 1/4 or 1/2 tsp…it’s not quite as hot as “regular” red pepper flakes and not nearly as hot as cayenne)
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Mix together everything but the cucumbers, then toss with the sliced cucumbers. Refrigerate for at least half an hour to allow flavors to meld and cucumbers to relax.

Korean-Style Tofu in a Spicy Fermented Paste

1 lb tofu, cut into cubes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets and steamed lightly
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/3 cup spicy “mixed” fermented soybean paste (see photo below) OR 3 Tbsp doenjang (fermented soybean paste) + 3 Tbsp gochujang (fermented chili and soybean paste)
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia
rice, for serving (I used sushi rice)

Not a great picture – I’m experience photo editing software issues over here and couldn’t clean it up – but this is the paste I bought at Super H; it’s essentially a combination of doenjang and gochujang, which are standard fermented pastes used in Korean foods. I bought it without really knowing what it was at the time just because it seemed like something that would lend itself to quick meals, although I already had both doenjang and gochujang at home.

Prepare the tofu by chopping it and the broccoli by cutting into florets and steaming for 2 minutes or so. Put the minced or pressed garlic in a small bowl and add the rice vinegar. Let it sit for a minute or two to mellow, then mix in the paste or pastes and sugar or stevia. If necessary, thin with some water (or broccoli steaming water). Heat a wok and add some oil, then stir fry the onions, then add the tofu. Cook until lightly browned.

Add the paste mixture.

Add the broccoli. Let it all cook for a minute or two, until the broccoli is heated and the paste has cooked slightly to take the raw edge off the garlic. Top with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallion.

To prep this ahead, I got the rice going in the rice cooker, steamed the broccoli, chopped the tofu, and mixed the paste. It took 5 minutes, tops, to have it ready once I was finished exercising.

Here it is served with the banchan.

Between prepping dinner and exercising, I did a load of laundry. When I took it to the drying rack to hang it up, I got some help. I don’t think this looks very comfortable, but here is Gomez “assisting”.

So my work with the mangy fox in my yard has not gone well, I’m sorry to report, though I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money and time on him. As you may recall, I got some medicine for him and started putting chicken out for him, trying to establish a feeding pattern so I could dose some of the chicken with reasonable expectations that he would be the one to consume it. This has proved much more difficult than I’d hoped. This fox is VERY unpredictable, showing up sporadically at all times of day and night. He did eat the chicken once or twice, then his behavior became even more sporadic. Raccoons ate the chicken most nights, and crows ate it every day. Then I didn’t see him for three whole weeks and finally gave up hope. I assumed he’d died or moved on and I was trying to come to terms with my failure when the VERY FIRST day I didn’t put chicken out for him, he reappeared that afternoon. Then at 5 a.m. Then not at all. UGH! I’m still going to see what I can do for him, but realistically I’m going to have to adjust my hopes of saving him. It’s SO frustrating to see him right outside my window when I have not one but TWO different ways of curing him (in addition to the ivermectin we use in the States, the awesome people at the National Fox Welfare Society in the UK sent me some homeopathic medicine), in the house for him if only he’d COOPERATE. I was relieved to see he’s not looking much worse but he’s not looking better and it’s getting really cold now, which is bad when you are missing a lot of your fur.

That depressing update aside, I do have some entertaining videos from the outdoor cam that I set up to track the fox. I switched to video mode because I couldn’t always tell what was going on in the still photos.

This is just the other night, when the sick fox made his reappearance. He looks strange to me, in addition to the mange, but it’s hard to diagnose that strangeness because of the infrared flash and resulting b&w video.

Compare him to one of my healthy foxes:

I have dozens to hundreds of videos to comb through every day, 75% of which are raccoons and the rest foxes and smaller animals, so that I’m shocked every time I find an animal taking up the entire frame (even though the camera I’m using is actually intended for hunters to track their prey, which I assume is mostly deer)! I at least have a small victory in this doe. In this video you can see her holding her rear hoof up. In other videos, she refused to walk on it. But in a video I captured two nights ago, she’s putting her full weight on it! I had nothing to do with it other than providing her a source of easy food while she recovered, but I’m glad SOMEONE has healed during this trying time for me.

I have a bunch of other videos but I think I’ll save them for future posts, so I’ll close with raccoon party:

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Asian Mustard Greens with Tofu

Every year in October (although once I think it was November), vegans around the world unite and participate in a blogging event called Vegan Mofo, in which they strive to blog nearly every day of the month, and every year I think yeah, I should do that, but then every year I think HAHAHAHA HOW COULD I EVER DO THAT? I’m busy all the time, but it seems like October is THE busiest time of the year for me, even with the wildlife stuff winding down a bit. I also tend to travel a lot in October. Of course, I’m just a big whiner because lots of bloggers are just as busy as I am and a lot of them travel more than I do and yet they still manage to post every day for Mofo. I just feel as if I would get stressed out about it so I’ve never made the commitment, much as I admire everyone else who does it and enjoy reading all the blogs.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying I’m not doing Mofo because I’m a big whiner. Ironically I’m suddenly brimming with blog post ideas over here and I have a bunch of meals planned this week and next that are new and possibly blog-worthy, so maybe I could have pulled it off after all. I honestly think I could have done a Month of Vinegar theme, I have so many post ideas involving vinegar alone. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? I’m kind of regretting not signing up and at least doing a food diary. Y’all care what we eat daily chez Renae, right? Fortunately, as wildlife duties have been slowing down, our daily meals have been getting more interesting. I don’t know how interesting tonight’s really is, but it features mixed Asian mustard greens that I got at the farmers market and I get really excited about things like bundles of mixed Asian mustard greens so here I am, sharing my glee with you. I’m pretty sure I’m going to cry myself to sleep when the farmers market ends at the end of this month.

Asian Mustard Greens with Tofu

1 bundle mixed Asian mustard greens, stems removed if necessary, and chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 lb extra firm tofu, chopped
3 cups soybean sprouts
1-4 chili peppers, sliced (depending on the type and how much heat you like)
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts separated
1 small hunk of ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup vegan broth
1/4 cup fermented black bean paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 drops stevia (or 1 tsp sugar)
2 Tbsp cornstarch whisked into 3 Tbsp cold water

First stir together the broth, black bean paste, soy sauce, wine, and stevia in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside. Also set aside the cornstarch and water mixture.

Put some oil in a wok and add the white parts of the green onion, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers. I do this cold – although in general you heat the pan and then the oil before adding anything else – to prevent the garlic and ginger from scorching. Turn the heat to medium high and start stirring when it begins sizzling.

Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

Add the tofu and cook, stirring for another couple of minutes.

Add the greens. Look how pretty they are! Stir and let them cook down a bit.

When the greens have wilted, add the sprouts and stir until they wilt as well.

Pour in the broth mixture and bring it to a boil.

Then stir in the cornstarch mixture, allowing it to thicken the broth and coat the tofu and vegetables. It will become shiny.

Serve with rice and garnish with the green parts of the green onions. Mine wasn’t very spicy so I heaped some chili garlic paste on the side as well.

As you’ve probably noticed, I tend to add a personal photograph or twelve to the ends of my posts. However, I don’t have much to share with you this week. I didn’t even take any pictures of raccoons this week (too busy trying to convince them I could clean their cages much faster without two of them on my head). So I could search for some earlier photo you haven’t seen – I only have a gazillion of them – but no, I’m too lazy to do that. Last night I was testing the remote control for my camera to see from what angles and distances I could get it to work and thus the following photos got imported from the camera along with tonight’s pictures of greens and tofu, so THAT’s what you get to look at. Pictures I took to test stuff and intended to trash. Wow, I’m really hurting for content.

I don’t think when I tripped the shutter on this one that I realized I was taking a picture of Mezzaluna, but you may recall several posts back when I mentioned that we play a game with him in which we place pipe cleaners in hard-to-reach areas that he has to hunt down and retrieve. If you can see it (it’s on the shade right above his head), this one looks easy but it’s tied on securely and is the more challenging than it looks. He kind of needs opposable thumbs for that one, but I’ve seen him get even harder ones by being clever, so he’ll get it.

DERRR does the remote work when I’m directly in front of and 6″ away from the camera? AM I A HUGE DORK?

Hm, okay, next time I’ll find some real pictures, or just give you a break from my mediocre-to-bad photography.

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