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things and stuff

Recipe: chinese stir-fried tofu

In my last post, I talked a little about how we have windstorms on steroids in Nederland. We typically don’t worry until the National Weather Service starts predicting gusts over 70 mph. Two years ago, we experienced gusts as high as 100 mph. That storm ripped a lot of large trees out of the ground and topped several mature conifers – just SNAPPED them off like twigs. We watched the front of our house flex in the storm until the power went out and then went to bed, hoping for the best. The house survived and we gained some confidence in the 110 mph wind build requirement in our town. The sun was out Friday afternoon and I raised the blinds in our great room to let Kaweah bask in the sun (still a favorite activity of hers).

oh shit

Our house has a tall profile, faces southwest, and takes the full brunt of the prevailing winds. We knew something like this could happen, because the previous owners (now our friends) told us they had a window crack during a storm. We were expecting it for years, but let our guard down recently. And it would have been fine, except for wind forecasts of gusts up to 95 mph over the weekend. Images of a window blowing in and snow swirling in our house ran through my mind. I cancelled our dinner date and stress ate barbecue potato chips. Then our super awesome wonderful neighbor popped over and slapped a grid of duct tape over the window and said we should be fine, but to keep the blind down just in case. I uncancelled dinner with nary a minute to spare and we met our very understanding friends at Dae Gee.

chris is psyched for korean bbq, ellen sports a perplexed look between gushings over kimchi

she’s pointing at the kimchi

Dinner with good friends is a great way to forget about other things on your mind. Sure, the window loomed large, but the biggest thing on my mind of late is Kaweah. We came home from Crested Butte mainly to see her vet. He removed (yanked) her bad toenail off. You could tell she didn’t like it, but she was so good with the shot and the yanking and the blood. All she wanted was a treat and Doc Newton made sure to give her a lot of treat love. He told us her toe was a little swollen and that he hoped his prescription of antibiotics would bring that swelling down. But if it didn’t come down, it could be cancer. He raised his eyebrows while handing Kaweah another treat and said, “Normally we would amputate the toe, but she’s not a candidate for surgery at her age.” Understood.

To be honest, even if she has cancer, I wonder if other things won’t bring her down first. While the infected paw has healed and she is able to walk around on it without problems, her hind legs are another story. We watch her closely when she meanders about the house and her rear right leg doesn’t seem to know where it’s supposed to go, doesn’t even know where the floor is. The rear left leg has been swinging wide, catching on furniture, door jams, anything. She falls several times a day, but not the catastrophic spills of her youth. Kaweah doesn’t have the strength to struggle, so she softly slides into a reclining position without injury and looks confused until one of us helps her up or carries her to her bed. But Kaweah is always surprising us and I know she has a few more left in her. I just dread the day when she runs out of surprises. I’ve been crying a lot.

she likes having her schnoz scratched

My folks called this weekend and I had a nice, albeit brief, chat with them. Mom told me the most important thing is to make sure Kaweah is happy and comfortable. Of course. I know this, but somehow it made me feel better to hear it from her. I think when I’m really sad about something, there is no one else whose voice and words can bring me comfort like Mom. Same goes for her cooking. That evening, I set about preparing this terrific tofu dish that she makes for us when they are in town. Jeremy and I both love it.

fried tofu, bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, corn starch, pork, vegetable oil, shao xing cooking wine, napa cabbage, ginger, green onions

refrigerated winter bamboo shoots

This is really a stir-fried fried tofu with vegetables and pork. You can fry the tofu yourself or do as I did and purchase fresh fried tofu from the Asian grocery store. Make sure it is fresh and not slimy! Some Asian grocers are really bad about expired products, so check those dates or inspect the product closely if no dates are listed. And I happened upon refrigerated winter bamboo shoots, which have a better flavor and firmer texture compared to canned bamboo shoots. If you can get your hands on fresh bamboo shoots, that is EVEN BETTER. Don’t worry if you can’t find any of those, canned works too. I recommend trying to get whole ones, but sliced is also fine.

slice the fried tofu

slice the bamboo shoots

sliced shitakes

When I shot the recipe, I used fresh shitake mushrooms. Since then, I’ve made this dish three more times and used dried Chinese mushrooms instead. The dried mushrooms have a stronger flavor and meatier bite to them whereas the fresh mushrooms are delicate both in flavor and bite. It’s really a matter of preference, but I like the dried mushrooms better. To prep the Napa cabbage, I trim the leafy part from the rib of each leaf and julienne the ribs because I cook them separately (the ribs take longer to cook). You don’t have to do this. You can just as easily stack the leaves and slice them into 1/4-inch strips and cook it all at once, but I like how it is like eating two vegetables – one crunchy and one leafy.

julienned napa cabbage ribs and leaves

slice the pork

mix the pork with soy sauce, shao xing cooking wine, and cornstarch

ready to cook

A note on the pork. I cut the pork into slices the first time, but found that was just too much pork in one bite for my liking. Now, I cut the pork into strips. And you have a few options with the ginger. In this post, I julienne the ginger. That’s great for folks who like to have a sharp bite of ginger or those who want to avoid eating it (it’s easy to take out when eating). If you want the ginger flavor without the distinctive ginger bite, you can mince the ginger. And if you really don’t like to bite into ginger, but love the flavor – grate the ginger. Again, it’s whatever you prefer. When all of the ingredients are prepped (which is the bulk of the time invested), you are ready to get cooking. I use one pan for the whole thing.

adding bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and napa leaves to the stir-fried napa ribs

sauté the tofu with the ginger and green onions

stir-fry the pork

combine everything

First, sauté the napa cabbage ribs because they take longer to cook. Stir in the bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and napa leaves and stir-fry until the leaves wilt. Empty the vegetables into a medium bowl. That’s group 1. Next, add the ginger and green onions to some hot oil and stir until the oil is fragrant. It just smells so good. Put the tofu in with the aromatics and sauté for a few minutes. Empty the tofu (group 2) into the bowl with the cooked vegetables (group 1). The last step is to stir-fry the pork. If you are using a non-stick pan, you won’t need as much vegetable oil for each step of stir-frying. I used a stainless steel All-Clad pan and the pork sauce began sticking to the bottom of the pan. That’s okay. When the pork is cooked, add groups 1 and 2 back into the pan and stir everything together. I poured a half cup of water into the hot pan and worked my spatula on the crusted sauce. It cleaned from the bottom of the pan easily and mixed with the water to create a nice sauce. If the water dries up and the sauce still sticks, add more water.

This is such a lovely dish or meal any time of year. I just really really love it in winter for the funky earthy combination of the shao xing and the dried mushroom, the hearty pork and tofu, and warming ginger. Most of all, it just feels like being loved because it’s my mom’s recipe.

love and goodness

Chinese Stir-Fried Tofu
[print recipe]
from my mom

16 oz. fried tofu squares (if you fry it yourself, try this method)
1/2 lb. pork loin, sliced or julienned
4 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps Shao Xing cooking wine
1 tbsp corn starch
6-8 large leaves Napa cabbage
1 1/2 cups bamboo shoots, sliced
1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
3 tbsps vegetable oil
3 stalks green onions, julienned
1 tbsp fresh ginger, julienned, minced, or grated (depending on how you like your ginger)
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed

Slice the fried tofu into 1/2-inch thick strips or triangles. Place the pork, soy sauce, Shao Xing cooking wine, and cornstarch in a bowl and mix together. Set aside. Trim the leafy parts of the Napa cabbage leaves from the ribs. Tear or cut the leafy parts into large bite-sized pieces (they will shrink when cooked). Slice the Napa cabbage ribs into 1/4-inch strips and keep separate from the leafy parts. If using dried Chinese mushrooms, rehydrate by soaking covered in boiling hot water until soft. Rinse the mushrooms clean (dried mushrooms can have a lot of sand or dirt) and squeeze as much water out as possible. For both fresh or rehydrated mushrooms, remove the stems and slice the tops into 1/2-inch strips.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over high heat (if you use a non-stick pan, you will need less oil). When the oil is hot, add the Napa cabbage ribs (not the leaves), and stir-fry for a few minutes until soft. Add the Napa cabbage leaves, bamboo shoots, and the mushrooms to the ribs and sauté until the leaves are wilted and cooked. Remove the contents to a medium or large bowl and return the pan to the burner. Heat another tablespoon of oil (on high) in the same pan and add the green onions and ginger. Stir until fragrant, about a minute, and add the fried tofu to the pan. Sauté for a couple of minutes and remove the contents to the same bowl as the Napa cabbage. Place the same pan on high heat and add the last tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork with all of the sauce and stir-fry until the meat is cooked. This takes about 3-5 minutes. Pour the tofu and vegetables into the pan with the pork and stir-fry everything together. If not using a non-stick type of pan and the sauce sticks to the bottom, add 1/4-1/2 cup of water to the hot pan and stir everything around while scraping the bottom. This incorporates the sauce back into the stir-fry. Serves 4.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

hunan tofu sesame tofu ma pu tofu cold tofu salad

27 nibbles at “things and stuff”

  1. Mrs Ergül says:

    I have been following Kaweah’s updates on your FB. Hope the swelling for the toe goes down soon though there are other worries.

    xxoo to you guys in Butter HQ!

  2. Kristin says:

    Hope this is just what the toe needed, but sad to hear about the legs. It probably doesn’t help, but you’ve got a lot of us crying along with you. Lots of love & wishes for health, comfort & more comfort food for all of you.

  3. Kirsten | My Kitchen in the Rockies says:

    Hugs to you and Kaweah from me and my two older lab gentlemen.

  4. Brianne says:

    What comfort food this is! I hope someday I have a dog half as cool as yours. What a champ! She rules. Sending wishes for healing and happy times.

  5. Melissa says:

    Thinking of you, and Jeremy, and your sweet old girl, with lots of love.

  6. hungry dog says:

    This post really resonated with me…reminds me of our last dog (a choc lab) who lived to be 15 but really struggled toward the end (although with bursts of energy). It’s so hard to see a creature you would do anything for suffer and not be able to fix it. Hoping you can enjoy many more days with your sweet girl.

  7. jacquie says:

    dang it girl – you made me cry at work. my elder golden is working his way down the same slope as Kaweah and it is so hard. yes your mom is right and i’m glad you had her there to comfort you with her words. I wish mine could do the same but she is just not supportive. give Kaweah a hug and a biscuit for me. I will think of you all as i light my candle tonight that provides warmth in the dark.

  8. rebecca samson says:

    you both are amazing dog parents! You are doing a great job keeping her comfy and happy. My vet said this. If they eat, drink, poop, pee and sleep, you are still in good shape. Once some of these things stop happening, you look at your options, but not until then. I love your dog.

  9. guest says:

    Hi. I’m a frequent visitor to your blog and I’ve never left a comment but felt compelled to after reading about Kaweah.
    I had a similar experience with my own senior dog last October. He had a lump and we were given the option of either letting him go through a risky surgery or watch his health get worse. We gave ourselves a week to decide and let me tell you, that was one of the toughest/worst weeks of my life. I cried a lot too. I cuddled him nonstop that week, never left his side, and made sure to live in the moment and cherish my time with him. Reading what you’re going through brought all those emotions back for me. Stay strong. The only things dogs really want is the love of their owners, and I can tell Kaweah knows she’s loved so much. Please give her a big cuddle and squeeze for me. *sending virtual hugs* xx

  10. Dorothy says:

    Hearing about Kaweah reminds me of my first dog, a spaniel mix named Scoundrel (aka Scoundie, aka the Scoundinator, lol). She was fifteen when we had to put her down, almost two years ago, because of basically the same issues. Her arthritis was already bad and her kidneys were touch and go, and when she developed cancer in one of her paws, we knew it was time to let her go. I miss her every day, but thinking about her always makes me smile.

    Best of luck to you with Kaweah.

  11. Pey-Lih says:

    YUM!!!! Yeah, no kidding to the “Oh Shit!” We are in the midst of bathroom remodeling, and it feels like a moving circus coming through. Hopefully, your cracked window will be easier to take care of, at least until the weather gets warmer. And p.s.- I still grieve over Mr. Oscardog. When the work is done, I hope to adopt another furry kiddo. But not a puppy.

  12. Linda says:

    The recipe sounds so yummy! I love pork and I love tofu, but have never had it fried. I might have to give it a try.

    I think of Kaweah often, and if all of our love and prayers for her buoy her up for even a little while longer, it will be so worth it. Kiss, hug and scratch her schnoze for me. My grandpuppy Rowdy loves to have grandma scratch her back right where it meets her tail.

    Hugs to you and Jeremy, too.

    xo Linda

  13. samantha says:

    Love and kisses to Kaweah from me too

  14. marissa says:

    i am sure you know … but it would be amazing to see how many people think of Kaweah all the time… I often think of you all in the hours I lay in bed hoping all is well. It is amazing through food the attachments we make to others. Thinking of you . And yes, the food have to try the recipe.

  15. jill says:

    Sure glad that window didn’t implode! Glad Kaweah loves the vet so much. Sure makes unpleasant trips tolerable. WOW, what a yummy looking dish! There’s nothing like moms cooking, is there?

  16. JulieT says:

    Your pup will let you know. Your pup knows you care. Her past is so joyous, her present so loved, her future will be spent waiting with your loved ones for your arrival. Where once you prepared everything for her, she will do that for you. Love never ends.

  17. GwenO says:

    My heart aches for Kaweah, you and Jeremy because we have 15 year old dog too with leg and lower back weakness…right rear leg primarily and him also not knowing what to do with it or where the floor is. When he slumps his back end down, I call it melting down. We are doing same things for him that you have been doing for Kaweah…lots of love, cuddly sun baths, a few more treats than usual….until it is time to let him go.

  18. Lisa H says:

    Your pup is adorable! Enjoy and savor every minute. And I love Ellen’s expression in the poto! I know I have though of kimchee that way as well!!

  19. Deborah says:

    I got a little choked up reading about Kaweah’s ailments, then when I saw the photo of her sweet face, I got teary-eyed but when you said, “I think when I’m really sad about something, there is no one else whose voice and words can bring me comfort like Mom”, I almost started blubbering at my desk. My own dear mother passed on 15 years ago this month and today would have been her 87th birthday. What I wouldn’t give to hear her voice right now! Treasure your days with Kaweah and your mom too. Thank you so much for your always entertaining and heart-warming posts.

  20. Sarah says:

    I read your blog but don’t think I’ve ever commented before, but this post hit awfully close to home. We have a 14.5yo little dog with end stage kidney failure. Our remaining time together is very limited, and I cry a lot, too. This part is so very, very hard. Anyway, I’m thinking about you and Kaweah, and wishing you the best.

  21. Lynn says:

    We had a big old malamute who developed arthritis in his hind legs making it difficult for him to get up off the ground and walk around without falling after awhile. I got him a rear harness (see below link) and for 1 year I helped him off the ground and took him for 2-3 walks a day. The harness took a lot of weight off his hind legs and helped him be a dog again, sniffing at everything in the neighborhood, getting into the creek, etc., all things he couldn’t do on his own without falling. During that year I called myself the “dog-slave” as I helped him walk everywhere but I would do it all over again cause I loved that dog. He was ok except for his legs and he still had so much life in him that I did not consider putting him down. We finally lost him to kidney failure at age 15 – not bad for a 100lb dog. I have no financial ties to the harness – just wanted to let you know about it because it really helped my dog’s quality of life.

  22. swan says:

    hey again jen and jeremy:

    i did have to put my black lab (annie) down due to melanoma. she was only 9. i think i wrote this a couple years ago (my story), but i love you both for being such great parents. i’ve said it before and i’ll just say it again–kaweah is so fortunate to be in your life and vice versa.

    take care and keep us posted–

    much love from san ramon, ca

  23. Louise says:

    love & hugs to your baby

  24. Brynnie says:

    I fall on your every word about that sweet pup. She is in my prayers daily. Hugs to you and nuzzles to Kaweah, Jen.

  25. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    I’ve been down that path with animals many times and I know how hard it is. You’re being a good dog momma and she Kaweah is blessed by it.

    stay strong, I’m sending as much good mojo as I can your way…

  26. Melanie says:

    I’m a little late but wanted to send healing wishes/thoughts to Kaweah. I SO appreciate how careful and mindful you are of her. It’s so hard to be at this stage of your beloved pet’s life. Her eyes look bright and happy and as many others have said, she just wants to be with you guys. She’s a happy girl. Hugs to you all.

  27. jenyu says:

    Thank you all for the loving comments and support of our girl. She is still food obsessed, so we know all is well for now. I wish Kaweah knew how many people out there care about her! xo

    hungry dog – absolutely. Knowing when is what haunts us the most, but people tell us that she’ll let us know.

    jacquie – xo

    rebecca samson – thank you for that. It helps tremendously.

    guest – thank you for sharing and I’m so sorry about your pup. I think the final decision is always hard, but love and compassion must prevail. xo

    Dorothy – thanks. I appreciate your remembrance of your pup xo

    Linda – Kaweah loves to be scratched there too! :)

    jill – there really isn’t! :)

    JulieT – xo

    GwenO – Kaweah sends your pup lots of wags and kisses.

    Deborah – Lots of hugs to you, dear xo

    Sarah – I’m so sorry :( I hope you can enjoy the time you have with your sweet pup. Sending love.

    Lynn – thanks for the link. Many people have mentioned a similar solution in the past, but the bigger problem is when we aren’t with her. She can still walk, albeit not as far.

    Rocky Mountain Woman – xxoo

    Melanie – thank you, sweetie!

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