Tatjana left for England on Sunday, and I started to sink into my usual depths of despair when she leaves. I traditionally throw a big pity party (feeling sorry for myself for 24 hours) but I handled it differently this time. Okay, so I spent an hour sitting in her room crying and hugging a pillow that still had her scent on it, but then I decided it was time to stop behaving pathetically, and follow a little of my own advice. I’m never going to be thrilled that my daughter and I live on different continents, but writing a grateful list did indeed pull me out of my funk.

The budding art appreciation stage

The budding art appreciation stage

The truth of the matter is I am SO lucky to have a daughter to miss so much in the first place! Then I started thinking about how proud I am of the woman she’s become, and why….

I know we challenge each other to do and be our very best. Tatjana is not afraid to be brutally honest with me, and I know any criticism comes from a loving place. Even though I may not always agree, I do respect her opinions, and I believe she feels the same about mine. 

Letting go starts when they go off to school

Letting go starts when they go off to school

I have a very heavy workload at the moment, and feared she might be upset with me for not being able to give her 100% of my attention. Do working mothers ever get over that guilt entirely (no matter how old the child happens to be)? The adult Tatjana took it all in her stride, and willingly pitched in – which in turn freed up some of my time to have more fun together. 

Teenage Tatjana

The NSYNC teenage years

In the past year I’ve watched my daughter take her own career very seriously – which gives us yet another bonding commonality. Our conversations often involve bouncing creative ideas off one and other, and I love that we can rely on each other for advice and support when tough decisions have to be made.

Plus, we have so much damn fun together! We share so many interests – wether it’s a marathon Spite & Malice grudge match, finding the perfect pair of sandals, critiquing a movie we just saw over dinner, or cruising through an art gallery at the same pace. We’re just in synch, and there is honestly not another person on the planet I enjoy spending time with more! How lucky am I to be able to say that about my own child…

Loving the adult Tatjana

Loving the adult Tatjana

… And there is no better feeling in the world than knowing you are loved so unconditionally, but there comes a time when part of doing so, is letting go. So it’s okay to shed a tear and to miss her, but it is also absolutely right that she returns to her life in London, while I get on with my own here. The pity parties are over, and I’m choosing to let gratitude rule instead. I’m munching on a Tatjana favorite in her honor….

Crispy Ginger Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Crispy Ginger Tofu Lettuce Wraps

When Tatjana and her friend Leah gobbled these lettuce wraps up before I could cool the recipe long enough to store it, I knew I was onto a winner. This scrumptious, low-carb, vegan dish can also be adapted for you meat lovers out there – just substitute ground pork, turkey, or chicken for the tofu, but be sure to cook the meat until it is no longer pink.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
1 package firm tofu, drained well, and crumbled (see note below)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
2 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 can water chestnuts, (8-ounce) drained and chopped
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup hoisin sauce, plus more for serving
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 head lettuce, separated into leaves

Directions:

1). Heat 1 teaspoon of peanut oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the crumbled tofu and brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the tofu onto a plate and set aside.

2). Add the remaining peanut oil to the same pan, and heat for 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, Cook until fragrant, stirring well, about 1 minute. Add the shredded carrots, mushrooms, and green onions, stir well and cover for 2-3 minutes to soften. Stir in the water chestnuts.

3). Add the peanut butter, and stir until melted and mixed in, about 1-2 minutes. Add thehoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, stirring frequently. Add the tofu, and stir gently until sauce is incorporated and all the ingredients are coated nicely, another 1-2 minutes.

4). Take a lettuce leaf and drizzle with hoisin sauce (optional), then top with a spoonful of crispy ginger tofu.

Serving Suggestions: Lemon Basil Jasmine Rice or Five Spice Sweet Potato Fries.

Variations: Try with ground pork, turkey or chicken instead of tofu. In addition to browning – make sure the meat is cooked through, until it is no longer pink.

Note: The trick to getting a ground meat like texture from the firm tofu is to freeze it, and defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Small crystals will form during the freezing process that create little caverns in the tofu when defrosted and drained. Be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid before cooking.

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