This is what I made for lunch today for myself–and there was a small portion left over from this meal made of leftovers, and my 15-year-old ate that and liked it! I’ll explain how I made this particular meal, but the larger point is that it’s often possible to make something delicious out of the ingredients you happen to have, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or take a long time! (See also Hummus Flatbread Sandwich and How to Use Old Tofu.)
UPDATE: I had posted this saying it was vegan, and later I realized I’d used oyster sauce! If you don’t eat oysters, hoisin sauce would be a great substitute.
If your kitchen doesn’t have ingredients like this sitting around at any given time, here’s where you can pick up ideas for what to put away and how to store it so that your future self can have a nice lunch!
Preparing this meal took 14 minutes, from the time I started musing about how to use the tofu and mushrooms to the time I sat down to eat, including cleanup and food photography. Pretty quick!
My lunches are usually leftovers from meals that I purposely cooked in larger quantity than we needed at the first serving, to avoid spending time and energy cooking another meal. But some days I don’t have anything that’s ready for a simple reheating, and I do have some ingredients that could be combined.
Today, I had about 1/4 pound of tofu, stored in water in a reused Chinese take-out container. I had just a handful of mushrooms, in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Both of these had been around for a few days and needed to be used while they were fresh.
Looking for things to go with them, I found half an onion and some cooked rice stored in glass jars in the refrigerator, and some shredded kale in a reused cereal bag held closed with a rubber band in the freezer. I used about half of each ingredient in this meal and put the rest back into storage.
I also used seasonings that we always have on hand: soy sauce, oyster sauce [vegans, try hoisin sauce], garlic, and ginger. I cooked it in avocado oil, plus a dash of toasted sesame oil for flavor.
This Stir-Fry, Step by Step
- Put your finger on top of the tofu and pour off the water. Set tofu aside on a plate. (You could wrap it in a towel and squeeze out more water, but I didn’t do that this time, and it was fine!)
- In the tofu container, mix soy sauce, oyster/hoisin sauce, garlic, and ginger. I don’t know how much; I just estimated, tasted it, and added more oyster sauce.
- Cut tofu into small chunks. Put it into the sauce, fasten the lid tightly, and shake. Set aside.
- Dice onion. Heat oil in a skillet, add onion, and cook over medium heat while you
- Wash and slice mushrooms. By the time they’re ready, onion will be starting to brown. Stir mushrooms into the pan.
- After about 2 minutes, stir in the kale. It doesn’t matter if it’s frozen–being shredded, it will thaw very quickly.
- Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 or 4 minutes, until kale is looking crisp. Meanwhile, clean up your cutting board, knife, and countertop.
- Pour in the tofu and sauce, starting at the far side of the pan so you can move your hand out of the steam that will rise as the sauce hits the hot pan! Make sure to get all the garlic out of the bottom of the tofu container.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is bubbling. Turn off heat. Put rice on your plate and warm it in the microwave. (Alternatively, you could just throw the rice into the pan and stir it in.)
- Serve stir-fry over rice.
There, doesn’t that look like a nice meal? Nutritious, too! Learn more about the health benefits of mushrooms and give yourself a pat on the back for making a real lunch!
And if this sauce doesn’t sound good to you, try cooking the same ingredients with a convenient curry sauce from a jar–we found some good ones!