Meatless Monday: The Joy of Tofu

I’m hooking up with Tina and Deborah for this holiday week edition of Meatless Monday!

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The Joy of Tofu

Tofu gets a bad rap. From complaints about its taste (or lack thereof) and texture, to the possibility of it being generically modified, to just the fact that it is made from soybeans, many people won’t even give tofu a chance. I hope to clear away some of the misconceptions about the lowly tofu, and maybe encourage you to try it out (I’ll link to a couple of my favorite tofu recipes) on this Meatless Monday.

Joy of Tofu

Yes, it is true that tofu doesn’t have much taste all on its own. That is also what makes it so perfect to use for almost any purpose. Tofu will absorb the flavor of any sauce or seasoning that you choose to use. The key is to drain and press the tofu first to extract as much water as possible, then marinate it in the sauce of your choice. Well-drained tofu will absorb all the moisture and flavors of that sauce.

Preparing Tofu

There are a couple ways to press tofu. The easiest, no-equipment-needed way is to simply drain the tofu, wrap it in a couple paper towels, and press it under a couple plates, books, or whatever you have handy. Pressing for at least a half hour will produce the best results. Another option of a tofu press. You can place your tofu in the press, screw it down, and it will remove even a greater amount of water. It can even be left in the refrigerator overnight for a firmer, meatier texture.

If you like your tofu with a heavier texture (especially for some recipes) try freezing it before cooking. This can be done either after pressing, or in its original packaging. Freezing might alter the color of the tofu, and will make it more absorbent and dense.

Tofu can be marinated in almost any type of sauce, from bottled marinades to your own favorite recipes. Here is a simple marinade that I frequently use when I’m going to make a tofu “steak” to serve with a salad or potato.

Simple Tofu Marinade

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid heat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
pepper to taste
vegetable broth

In an eight ounce measuring cup, combine all the ingredients, adding the broth last and filling up the cup. Pour over the pressed tofu and marinate for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally. You can cook them like this, or dredge in flour, bread crumbs or corn meal. Cook over medium heat until browned on each side. Add the remaining marinade and cook until it is hot and slightly thickened.

GMO Concerns

It is true that soy is one of the most genetically modified plants produced. Much of this soy is used in feed for farm animals, and in processed (human) food. Tofu is much less processed and if you check the packaging for the Non-GMO label and purchase organic tofu, you will not have to worry that your tofu has been genetically engineered.

All Nasoya tofu is certified organic and non-GMO project verified. The company sent me some samples of their tofu products to try out. In addition to their regular organic tofu, Nasoya also has TofuPlus, which is fortified with vitamins, and the new TofuBaked, which has already been marinated and baked, so can be used hot or cold, and is perfect for salads, sandwiches, and stir-fry.

tofu-baked-sesame

Health Benefits of Soy

Soy is low in fat, cholesterol free, and has bone-healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Twenty five milligrams of soy protein per day is recognized as beneficial to heart health. The soybean has been described as a Super Food because of its nutrient rich properties, which have been found to be beneficial in fighting many diseases.

In spite of fears that soy isn’t safe for women concerned about breast cancer, study after study has indicated that soy most likely reduces the risk. As for men, soy is recognized as a prostate-friendly food.

Other health benefits of soy, as well as references to the studies mentioned above, can be found here and here.

Tofu Recipes

I love cooking with tofu. It is inexpensive, healthy, and if you cook it correctly, it tastes delicious. Over the years I have created many tofu recipes. Here are a few of my favorites:

Quiche4

Quiche Who needs eggs? I just made this the other night, substituting mushrooms for the vegan bacon. Delicious!
Pot Pie To me, pot pie is the ultimate comfort food.
Tofu Scramble I can eat a tofu scramble for breakfast, lunch, and or dinner.
Tofu Burrito I have many burrito recipes (they are one of my favorite food groups dishes), and this is one of the best.
Vegan Bruschetta Caprese I’ve also made this like a simple caprese salad, substituting the slices of tofu for the buffalo mozzarella.
Triple Protein Packed Salad I make a lot of salads, especially in the summer. Big Salads.
Easy Tofu Bake When you just don’t know what to make for dinner.
Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Like the example with my marinade recipe, this is an easy way to eat tofu on its own.
Vegan Buffalo “Wings” The playoffs are coming! I love “football food” as much as the next girl.
(Tofu) Steak and Potatoes The title of the post is “Sometimes a girl just needs a (tofu) steak and potatoes.”
Pumpkin Pie. Your guests (or you) won’t know it’s vegan!

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Well, there were even more than I expected! That should keep you busy for a while! Not on my recipe list, but soft or silken tofu is a perfect addition for smoothies, makes great, creamy sauces, and can be used as a thickener for many dessert recipes.

Do you cook with tofu? Why or why not? Do you have a favorite recipe?

I have five coupons for a free package of Nasoya TofuBaked to give away! If you’d like one, just tell me in the comments and I’ll pick randomly on December 29.

Just a Few Things…

Just a few things that are on my mind this week before Christmas.

First off, have you entered to win the $100 giveaway yet?  Learn about all the Bakken Invitation honorees and how they survived life threatening conditions and now use their second lives to give back. You can win a $100 Visa gift card so that you can help out your community too. Read the post for details.

Bakken

On Saturday it will be 11 years since my little sister died from cancer at the age of 43. The pain has dulled, but I always like to take some time to remember Susan on December 20. If I could, I’d tell her that her daughter is doing well now. I’ll be seeing Brynne in a few days, and I know that she’s happy, involved with a nice man, and finally working at a job that she really likes. Take a few moments today to give your sister a call, especially if you haven’t spoken for a while. I’m going to call my baby sister Lisa.

Christensen Girls

I got some new shoes the other day! Amazon had such a good deal that I couldn’t resist buying a second pair of my favorite running shoes, Mizuno Wave Rider 18. Here’s my review if you missed it. Now I’m pretty well fixed for my SLO Marathon training.

Wave Rider 18

Speaking of shoes, I trade out my shoes, using different models for different kinds of workouts. The Wave Riders will be perfect for my medium and longer distance runs, while my slightly older but still usable Wave Rider 17 will be perfect for any off-road running that I do (I don’t like to get my new shoes dirty for at least a few weeks!). The trails I run on are hard-packed and pretty even for the most part, so I don’t really need special trail shoes. For faster runs, like my tempo or interval workouts, I have a pair of Asics Gel Electro 33 (review here), that I can’t wait to use. I haven’t been doing any speed work, so I haven’t been wearing them.

Electro33

I have all my Christmas shopping done! That is really rare for me. I do have a couple gift cards to pick up, but other than that I’m done, done, done! I got my sister and brother-in-law’s gifts sent off on Tuesday, plus I have most of my wrapping done (just need to decorate the presents). I’m usually a lazy package decorator, but sitting at work today I watched one of my co-workers creating a bow, and she made it look so easy and look so good that I was inspired to buy some wide ribbon to try it myself. I also bought a bag of bows, though, just in case.

Bows

I did a lot of shopping online this year. I always threaten to do so, but I usually procrastinate so long that there isn’t any shipping time left. As much as I hate getting marketing emails, some of them really inspired me to get going early. In addition to the Amazon deal (30% off!), Asics had some amazing 12 days of Christmas specials. I also did a lot of my at-home shopping at Kohls. The day I went, everything was 25% off! And this was on a quiet Monday evening, so I avoided any crazy Black Friday kind of experience.

Stay tuned on Monday for a special Tofu post! Seriously. To go along with Meatless Monday I want to talk about tofu, and how it doesn’t have to be bland or boring, and how easy it is to prepare delicously. I received some coupons for Nasoya tofu, so I’ve been working on a few things to share with you.

Tofu

I received the nicest package from Prana! Remember I wrote about how I felt inspired by their clothing to return to yoga? Well, I guess they liked it and sent me this package which included two beautiful scarves, a purse, a couple caps, a top, a belt, Coola sunscreen and post-sun lotion, and two headbands. I. Love. It! Thanks Prana!

Prana1Have a wonderful weekend! Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? Do you alternate running shoes?  What’s your favorite tofu recipe? Now, go call your sister (or brother, parent, or any loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while).

Spicy Hot! Vegan Buffalo “Wings”

Well, football season ended with a whimper on Sunday. It’s probably not a good thing when the halftime show is the most exciting part of the game. Alan and I stayed home and watched the game (and the commercials), and ate our own vegan version of “football food.” We had pizza and these spicy hot “wings,” which satisfied our craving for junk food, while still being relatively healthy.

I’m sorry this is too late for your Super Bowl party, but these spicy vegan “wings” are so good that you’ll want to save the recipe for next year. Not only that, because they are very low in fat and calories, you can enjoy them any time. They are great on a salad, a sandwich, or all by themselves.

Nasoya recently sent me a couple coupons to try out Nasoya Tofu Plus. What’s different about Tofu Plus? It is specifically designed for people who follow a low or no-meat diet. While I hesitate to use the term “beefed up” in this context, it does describe Tofu Plus very well. It is fortified with Vitamins B2, B6, B12, and D, and Calcium. Each 3 ounce serving has 15 grams of protein, no cholesterol or saturated fat and has only 80 calories. All of Nasoya products are Gluten free, Non GMO Project verified and USDA Organic.

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I love cooking with tofu. It is so easy to use it as a meat replacement in a variety of recipes. It has very little flavor on it’s own, so it absorbs the flavors of the seasoning or sauces that you use to prepare it.

One of the keys to preparing tofu is to make sure that you press as much water out of it as possible. A tofu press works best, but wrapping the tofu in paper towels and placing something heavy on top works too. The more water that you press out of the tofu, the more flavor it will soak in from the sauce or marinade that you use.

For this recipe, I wanted to press as much water as possible out of my tofu, so I wrapped it in paper towels, then wrapped a clean dish towel around it, and weighted it down with several bowls. I changed the paper towels a couple times, then I left it overnight in the refrigerator. If you don’t have the time, at least leave it to press for an hour or so.

I also wanted to give the tofu lots of time to soak up all the spicy goodness of the sauce, so I soaked it in the marinade for about five hours. Again, if you don’t have the time, try to give it at least an hour. It’s worth the extra time, though.

Tofu Wings

It’s also important to preheat your oven for at least 10 minutes before baking the tofu. You want that baby hot! Speaking of hot, if you like your “wings” really spicy, you can baste them a couple extra times while they’re baking.

Tofu Wings 2

Spicy Hot Vegan Buffalo “Wings”

5.0 from 2 reviews
Spicy Hot! Vegan Buffalo "Wings"
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 Package Nasoya Tofu Plus Extra Firm, drained and pressed.
  • 1 cup hot sauce, either Frank's or Sriracha works best.
  • ⅛ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. In a flat covered container, mix the hot sauce, lemon juice, garlic powder and agave.
  2. Cut the tofu into small slices, about 2" x 2" by ¼"
  3. Add the tofu to the marinade, making sure to cover every piece.
  4. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate for 1-4 hours, shaking occasionally to make sure the tofu stays coated.
  5. Preheat oven to 500 for at least 10 minutes
  6. Spray a cookie sheet with the cooking spray
  7. As you pick up each piece of tofu, shake it gently to remove excess marinade. Lay it in a single layer on the cookie sheet.
  8. Use a pastry brush to spread a little marinade on each slice.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, until starting to brown slightly.
  10. For spicier "wings," spread on a little extra marinade after 10 minutes. For spicier still, add a little more after about 5 more minutes.
  11. Cool slightly and serve with celery and vegan ranch dressing.

Tofu Wings 3

So, do you watch the Superbowl for the a) Game b) Commercials c) Halftime show 4) Food 5) What Superbowl? Did any of the commercials wow you? I liked the Budweiser commercial with the puppy the best (surprising, I know).

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu. Black Bean and Quinoa Salad. 2 Vegan Recipes

As always on Tuesday Food Day, before I share my recipe, I like to forget about food for a moment and share pictures of my dogs to begin my post. They seem to get neglected (run-wise) during cross country season, so on Sunday I took them out for a run. All of them (just not at the same time). I started with Penny and ran two miles with her. Then two miles with Buddy, a little over one with the little girls, Lily, Olivia, and Coco. Then I finished up with a short walk with my two challenged athletes, Goldie and Sydney. So about five miles for me.

Vegan Recipes - Dog Run

Clockwise from top left: Nothing to do with running, but I love when Olivia uses Lily for a pillow! #doggysisters; Buddy; Penny with a view; Penny & me; Buddy posing.

Vegan Recipes - Dog Run

I posted this first on Instagram saying that it’s easy to run with my little girls, but a lot harder to get them to pose for their photo op. As a side note, check out Lily’s expression in the bottom middle picture. Doggy ecstasy!

Weekends are pretty crazy this time of year. The dogs’ runs are not the only ones that get neglected during cross country season! To make some of that up, I tend to run around the course on our meet days. On Saturday, for example, I managed to log three miles just running from point A to B to C during each of the races. And yes, I wore my Garmin.

Cross Country bus ride

One of the most challenging things about cross country is also one of the most fun. Riding on a yellow school bus, something most of us haven’t done since our school years, is par for the course when traveling to meets. It really is fun. We bring pillows for the ride, since our days start early (3:00 am last Saturday!). The kids generally sleep on the way out too. It is the ride home that is enjoyable. The team is celebrating their accomplishments, and they are relaxed and fun to be with. The challenging part is the heat. No air conditioning on a school bus, not even here in the desert. On Saturday it was 110 when we were returning to the desert. Enough said about that!

Okay, back to the food. Here are two vegan recipes for you. I originally made these separately but I thought they would taste great together, so when it came time to have the leftover salad I made the cornmeal crusted tofu to go with it. Perfect match. There is a little cumin in both dishes, just enough to make them complement each other. The salad is really fast and easy to put together. I’d suggest making it first and allowing it to refrigerate while you prepare the tofu.

Easy Breezy Black Bean, Corn, & Quinoa Salad with Avocado

Easy Breezy Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Salad with Avocado

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 mini red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cooked quinoa

Combine the ingredients and toss together.

 

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • One package firm or extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 4 triangles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup corn meal
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Better than Bullion
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax seed
  • pepper to taste
  • water
Instructions
  1. Combine olive oil and soy sauce in a measuring cup. Add enough vegetable broth to make ½ cup
  2. After pressing and slicing the tofu, place on a plate and spoon ½ the soy sauce mixture on top. Turn and spoon the rest of the sauce over the other side.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, cumin, red pepper and salt
  4. Take each slice of tofu and coat with the cornmeal mixture. Use your fingers to press extra cornmeal to make sure the coating is thick. Set aside for 10-15 minutes
  5. Pour the remainder of the soy sauce mixture back into the measuring cup. Add the Better than Bullion, mustard, flax seed and pepper. Add water to bring to one cup.
  6. Heat oil in a fry pan over medium heat.
  7. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown and slightly crispy on both sides
  8. Remove the tofu and set aside. Add the sauce to the pan (don't worry about any remaining cornmeal, that will add to the flavor and the thickness of the sauce).
  9. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced and the sauce thickens
  10. Pour a little sauce over each slice of tofu and serve

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

 When was the last time you were on a school bus?

Tofu Scramble: It’s What’s For Dinner (and Breakfast)

I love me a good tofu scramble.

The problem is, when I want it, like after a long run or bike ride, or a tough yoga class, I want it. I do not want to cook it. I want it NOW!

Since I live in an area that does not have a vegan/vegetarian restaurant and no other restaurants that are progressive enough to think that offering a vegan option for breakfast would be a great idea, I have no one to cook it for me.

So what’s a girl to do?

My solution: Make up a big batch of tofu scramble for dinner. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers, then enjoy later for my favorite meal of the week: Post Workout Breakfast!

I can’t believe I never thought of this before. I am the original pizza for breakfast girl (yes, I am). I always keep leftovers in mind when I’m preparing dinner, usually to take to work for lunch.

So anyway, the lightbulb finally when off in my head this week after my hankering for a tofu scramble breakfast went unrequited once again, and I decided to make it for dinner instead. I thought, what if I double it up?

Tofu Scramble Dinner/Breakfast – (makes enough for dinner for two and either one big or two small breakfasts)
16 ounce package of firm or extra firm tofu, drained and pressed.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Pepper to taste
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 small red potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 Serrano chili, minced
3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Olive oil (for cooking)

Instructions
Blend your spices, including the nutritional yeast, together. In a small bowl, break up your tofu into small pieces. Sprinkle in the spice blend. You may add a tablespoon of water to help with the blending.

Preheat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple minutes. Add the potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown. Add the chile and cook one minute more. Add the mushrooms and a little water to the pan, the reduce the heat to medium, cover and let cook until the potatoes are almost tender, about 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

Remove the lid and add the tomatoes and the tofu. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for five minutes. Tofu might brown a little, but don’t let it stick to the pan.

Serve with toast or tortillas

Other Optional Additions:
1/2 package Soyrizo
Red, yellow, orange, or green peppers – I am not a big fan, so I don’t use them too much, but if you like them, go for it.
Really, any vegetable that you like, spinach, broccoli, etc.
vegan cheese

I happened to have a can of cajun style beans that I had bought by accident (don’t ask me how because I’m such a label reader. I must have looked at the picture, which looked like red beans). I heated those up, adding about a half of a serrano pepper (yes, I love them), and served the beans on the side, with tortillas.

Then, two days later, I enjoyed my work-free, post-workout, tofu scramble breakfast. Better than going out to eat!

What is your favorite post workout and/or weekend meal?

Do you like dinner for breakfast or breakfast for dinner?

Note: I am definitely getting old. After writing this post, I did a search on my own blog to link to a post I wrote a few months ago when we were in Encinitas and I had a tofu scramble. I found this, which is very similar in content to this post. The recipe is different, though, so I’m going to publish this anyway. I apologize for my memory loss (but at least you get two tofu scramble recipes out of it!).

Easiest Tofu Bake Ever! Vegan Recipe

I love to cook. Even though I work full time, run a few days a week, take a yoga class once or twice, and try to keep up with my writing (plus cross country starts next week, meaning coaching practice 4-5 days per week), I try to prepare a homemade dinner most nights of the week. I enjoy the time in the kitchen, finding it relaxing to be creative with food (the glass of wine in nice, too!).

While I like following recipes from my favorite cookbooks (current faves include Viva Vegan!, by Terry Hope Romero, Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the Indian Vegan Kitchen, by Madhu Gadia, and my all time, the Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook, by Tanya Petrovna), I really love making up recipes myself. I have a talent for being able to throw ingredients together, and somehow they taste good. I’m definitely not a trained chef, and my recipes are simple and basic, which is one of the reasons they are very doable for someone with a busy schedule.

With all that being said, I’m like anybody else who works hard. Sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking. Restaurants are an occasional option, but Alan and I really like eating at home. So it was last night when I walked into the kitchen to prepare dinner, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to make.

My first thought was to use up the potato salad from the 4th and grill up some bbq tofu. But when I started to think up a marinade for the tofu, I saw some salsa in the fridge and my mind turned in a different direction. The tofu was already pressed, so I put two slices in a dish and poured the salsa on top.

Now, though, the potato salad didn’t seem to fit. It looked like I was going in a Mexican-like direction, so I pulled out a can of pinto beans, and suddenly had a plan.

Easiest Tofu Bake Ever

Ingredients
8 ounces tofu, pressed and cut into slices or wedges
1 cup salsa
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese
2 tablespoons vegan shredded cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 400

Place the tofu slices in a small baking dish. Pour the salsa over the top, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Lift the tofu to allow some salsa underneath, making sure to spoon it back over the top of the tofu. Pour the beans around the tofu.  Spoon the cream cheese on top, then spoon on the rest of the salsa. Cover and bake for a half hour or until the beans and salsa are hot and bubbly. Sprinkle on the cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Makes two servings

That’s all there is to it. Excluding pressing and baking time, only about 5 minutes of hands on prep work. The tofu absorbs the spicy salsa flavor, the cream cheese makes the sauce, well, creamy, and the beans add a fiber packed punch.

This morning I was well fueled for a four mile run. Last week, my schedule was a little wacky because of the holiday, and I only had time for one short mid-week run. It felt good to get out, even though the temperatures were in the mid eighties by 6:00 this morning. Planning for a little longer run tomorrow, I’m afraid we’re going to have start getting out even earlier in the morning. I’m thinking not only of myself, but my running partner Penny, my Dalmatian. She’s stuck wearing a coat, after all.

I’d planned for yoga class today, but felt tired and unmotivated. Instead, I took a little nap and woke up feeling much better.   I’ll definitely make it tomorrow.

As I was writing this post, my cable internet suddenly went out (television and telephone, too), and I lost the last few paragraphs that I was writing, plus I’ll have to go back and reinsert the last few photos. I try to save my work frequently, but I got caught this time. It never seems the same when you have to go back and rewrite from memory. It loses something. I even have Live Writer, which protects you from this sort of thing, but was I using it? No, I was not.

Hopefully I’ll be up and running before too long (before I have to go back and change the ‘todays’ to ‘yesterdays’ ).

Note: The internet came back on and, wonder of wonders, I was able to get my work back! Hurray! Still, I should use Live Writer.

Note #2: The Internet went down again before I could post, but at least everything was saved. Now I am proofing and finishing up on my phone, so please pardon any typos.

Questions:
If you blog, do you do it online or use an offline program? Which one?
Did you (run, bike, walk, yoga, lift, swim) today? How’d it go?
Do you like to cook? If so, what’s your favorite dish? If not, what’s your favorite restaurant?

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate, and if you click on any of the cookbook links and purchase, I receive a small, and I mean very small, percentage.