Economic Thinking Paired with an Asian-Inspired Vegan Buffet: Lunch-n-Learn
by Tim Frick
This week I served up some Asian-inspired vegan dishes while Peter discussed the principles of economic thinking.
Every two weeks the Andersonville Farmers Market debits our bank account in exchange for tokens we use to cook lunch for the posse at Mightybytes with food from the market. While one person toils over a hot stove another prepares some sort of learning presentation to discuss with the team. We lunch. We learn. It’s good.
Peter took four of the Ten Principles of Economics and used them to spark a discussion about how they apply not only to business but also to all decisions we make in every day life.
Economic Principles: How People Make Personal and Financial Decisions
“You’re only as good as your last project” is a phrase often heard in our industry. No one wants their last project to be a crappy one. But trade-offs are always inevitable. The four principles listed below can help any team prioritize product or service offerings and assess which trade-offs are acceptable to the organization as a whole and which are not.
Here are the first four principles of economics that Peter used to frame his presentation:
- People Face Tradeoffs. To get one thing, you have to give up something else. Making decisions requires trading off one goal against another.
- The Cost of Something is What You Give Up to Get It. Decision-makers have to consider both the obvious and implicit costs of their actions.
- Rational People Think at the Margin. A rational decision-maker takes action if and only if the marginal benefit of the action exceeds the marginal cost.
- People Respond to Incentives. Behavior changes when costs or benefits change.
Like any business, Mightybytes is faced with challenges based on the above notions every day. Will the project be profitable? What do we have to give up to make it so? What cost—personal, financial, or otherwise—comes with a project that is misaligned with our company culture and values? And so on. It’s critical that everyone in the company understand the above concepts to some degree. Their value becomes particularly evident when considering long term goals like product development, innovation, better employee benefits, and our commitment to work that matters for cause-driven clients, who are often resource-constrained.
Our Office Manager Kris and I trekked to the Andersonville Farmers Market and procured a wealth of vegetables, including green beans, peppers, chiles, garlic, and other bounty typical of a late midwestern summer. We also got two different kinds of tofu from our neighbors at Phoenix Bean.
Here were the four things I made:
Crunchy Szechuan Green Beans
Based on Guy Fieri’s recipe, but I switched it up by using vegetarian hoisin sauce
2 cups canola oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 ounce hot chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 pound green beans, cleaned
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu
Phoenix Tofu makes a version of this recipe that is available not only at the Farmers Market, but also in several stores around our neighborhood. Several of us in the office search it out regularly to quell ongoing cravings. Their version uses all fried tofu, which stands up well to the admittedly somewhat oily sauce. I used less oil and one package of their fried tofu and one of their yellow tofu for my recipe.
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups tofu, drained
2-3 scallions, sliced
1 tsp black bean garlic sauce
1 tsp (or to taste) chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
sesame seed and sesame oil, for garnish
After draining, chop the tofu into small squares. Add the oil to a hot wok then add the tofu squares, cooking until browned. Add the scallions, black bean-garlic sauce and chili-garlic sauce to combine thoroughly. Add the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and honey, stir to combine, then transfer to a bowl. Add the cilantro and toasted sesame seeds, then serve.
Cabbage and Seaweed Slaw
This simple slaw is tasty and packed with the vitamins and essential nutrients that come from sea vegetables. Seaweed is obviously neither local nor a farmers market ingredient, but all others for this recipe were picked up at the market. This slaw can be served raw (and is best after a day in the refrigerator) but I gave some ingredients a quick toss in the wok to soften them up.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated.
1 cup seaweed, reconstituted in warm water and chopped, if necessary (I used wakame, but you could also use arame or hijiki, if necessary)
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Add vegetable oil to a heated wok, then add white part of scallions with ginger and garlic, cooking so they wilt but don’t brown. Add cabbage and toss until slightly softened. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.
Quinoa Noodles with Stir-Fried Vegetables and Chili Almond Sauce
The sauce for this recipe comes from author and vegan athlete Brendan Brazier’s awesome book Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health, which is filled with great recipes, tips for optimum health, and ways to decrease your carbon footprint through food consumption. Well worth the investment.
Chili Almond Sauce
1/2 cup raw almond butter
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tsp salt
1 pinch chipotle powder
1 1/2 tbsp chili flakes (I substituted 2 tsp chili garlic sauce for the above two ingredients)
Mix all ingredients except the water in a blender or food processor until well combined. Add water as necessary to reach desired consistency.
1 pkg quinoa noodles (I used Ancient Harvest Gluten-Free Organic Pasta from the Quinoa Corporation.)
3 tbsp coconut oil
2 c cooked edamame/soybeans
3 scallions, sliced on the bias
2 c cabbage, thinly sliced (preferably Napa, but you could use others as well)
1 red pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 green or orange pepper, cut into matchsticks
2 carrots, julienned
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped peanuts or cashews, toasted
Bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the quinoa noodles and stir, being careful not to overcook, as they will dissolve.
Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a wok and toss soybeans and scallions. Add the cabbage and cook until it is slightly wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Add peppers and toss briefly. Make sure the peppers maintain their crunch.
When just slightly underdone, drain the quinoa noodles and add in small batches to the vegetable mixture, tossing to ensure integration of the vegetables with the noodles. Add the sauce, a few tablespoons at a time until the noodle/vegetable mixture is covered. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with remaining sauce, julienned carrots, cilantro and chopped nuts.