In the dredges of winter when the Earth is gray, the skies are cold steel and everything sleeps, sometimes I need a soul soother. Something that helps me get to the next day and think about tomorrow a little more brightly. Maybe it is the sound of birds calling to one another portending spring. Maybe it is the sun sizzling away the winter ice with rivulets of water running across the ground. Maybe it is the steaming bowl of ramen with warming spices that I can inhale deeply, and then, sigh out a little of my worries against the waves of heat coming from the broth.
This is my ultimate comfort food. It's rich, it's complex, and it's the recipe I reach for when I need some love in a bowl. I keep it simple in one pot and let the noodles absorb the broth so that they become rich and creamy and delicious. Sort of like my college "hack" for ramen in the microwave. I used to use half the liquid for the package and exchange water for milk in the creamy chicken flavor (took me a while to know the comfort flavor was curry!). This bowl is similar to that but without the dairy or flavor packet. Crisping the tofu is wonderful the first day, but when you mix it in the broth and let the whole thing sit overnight, the leftovers are 100% better on this dish than the original day. Perfect for a lazy menu week!
Sustainability Spotlight: February is my "hard" month; I admit it. This is the month when I am SAD; I will succumb in many ways to Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens every.single.year. No matter what I do, it affects me hardest in the month of February. Some years are more mild than others and it took me a very long time to know what my moodiness, sense of despair, and overall withdraw was really about over the winter.
SAD is a type of depression (which can range from mild to severe) that is related to the changes of the season according to the Mayo Clinic. It usually starts in the fall and works its way through winter till spring. What's interesting about SAD is that you can also have the opposite onset and end (spring through fall - so you are SAD over the summer). As a type of depression, SAD is included in the statistics according to the World Health Organization (WHO) for suicide which is responsible for over 700,000 deaths each year and is the fourth leading cause of deaths for ages 15-29 year olds.
What does this have to do with sustainability? I'm glad you asked. Most people are under the impression or firm belief that climate change is an overall warming of the planet and that temperatures will increase all over the world. To some extent that is potentially true. However, climate change is actually about weather pattern shifts which means harder summers and longer winters or colder temperatures closer to the equator and warmer temperatures at the poles. Climate change is a systemic shift in what we know about temperature, wind, extreme weather events, and how we live on this planet.
So, people like me who have lived in an environment of four seasons and in an environment with "hard" or long winters have found methods of coping (fairly well) with SAD. It's getting in the sunshine when it comes out, ensuring you feed your body good food (like this vegan recipe), it's enjoying the activities that winter brings; being outside, or being inside with family and friends but socializing. It's taking my dogs for a walk in the biting air; even if just for 15 minutes. BUT, what about the people that are in areas most susceptible to climate shift that have not had any experience with SAD? What if (like me) they didn't even know what it was or how to recognize it and combat it? Will the WHO statistics be increasing and humanity be flummoxed as to why? Maybe.
This is the thing about sustainability, it's spherical and has many outlets for affectation to people across the globe. There will be manifestations in society that we cannot predict or see coming. Educating ourselves on the potential affects of climate change, making modifications on how we live to combat the acceleration of climate change, and working within ourselves to feed our souls what they need to make a future (hopefully a better one) for the generations to come.
(1) 12-oz package ramen noodles (Japanese Style)
1 tbsp avocado oil
(1) 8-oz package mushrooms coarsely chopped (any kind - I use baby bella usually)
3 bunches of baby bok choy (sliced in quarters lengthwise, then sliced on the bias)
5 garlic cloves (minced)
(1) 1 x 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
1 tsp Hot Madras curry powder
1/4 tsp salt (divided)
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 cups vegetable stock (not interchangeable with broth in this recipe, you want stock)
1.5 tbsp unrefined coconut oil; melted (the one that tastes like coconut) - don't skip this, you need the little bit of "fat" from the oil and the richness of the flavor to make this dish complex.
1 large handful cilantro (chopped)
2-3 green onions (chopped)
Hoisin-Glazed Tofu Nuggets
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 package extra firm tofu (pressed & drained)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
In a 4-qt Dutch Oven, heat 1 tbsp avocado oil over medium-high heat. Once it shimmers, add the mushrooms and 1/8 tsp salt, and cook for ~4 minutes until the mushrooms start to "juice." Now, toss in the bok choy and saute for another 3-4 minutes until softened.
Stir in garlic, ginger, curry powder, black pepper and the other 1/8 tsp salt until vegetables are coated in the spices and it's fragrant (~1 minute).
Pour in broth and bring to a boil; add ramen noodles to the Dutch Oven and boil for ~5-7 minutes or until noodles are cooked.
Stir in melted coconut oil, cilantro and green onion; turn down heat and simmer - until tofu is done (next step).
In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp avocado oil; once it shimmers, add your tofu nuggets. Saute (stirring infrequently) for 6-8 minutes or until tofu is starting to brown and crisp.
Now, pour all hoisin sauce over tofu and stir to coat all pieces. Cook another 3-4 minutes till the glaze starts to "harden" on the tofu and it becomes crisp. Remove from heat.
Serve ramen in bowls with the hoisin-glazed tofu nuggets. Note, leftovers are particularly delicious as the noodles will continue to absorb the liquid and become more creamy overnight.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie