All of our birthday celebrating (our big 3-0!) that brings up memories of the good ole days. Like eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the roof of the original store in Austin so we could see the fireworks on July 4th! Or that hilarious Halloween when we changed the name of our best selling Gouda cheese to "Nasty Rat Milk Gouda from Hell" and sold more than ever before! Our customers loved it and continued to ask for it for many months. But mostly, I remember being introduced to unique and creative ways to use a plethora of natural, delicious foods. One such favorite was, and still is, tofu. Growing up in Honolulu I had eaten plenty of delicious Asian food, but I had never seen tofu sold in a bulk bin like we did at Whole Foods Market. Back then we ate it in stir fries,
sandwiches, spreads and Macrobiotic-style dishes. Now that it has become a staple for many vegetarians and people with dairy allergies, tofu can turn up in just about anything from soup to pastry to cheesecake.Nutritionally speaking, tofu is an excellent source of quality plant protein. Because of its mild flavor, tofu is really versatile - ideal for absorbing the flavors of your favorite marinade or other ingredients in your dish. You can mash it up and transform it into a cheese-like substitute, perfect for lasagna, manicotti, ravioli and other favorites. One quick trip to the tofu aisle at your local Whole Foods Market will turn up several non-dairy, soy-based versions of many traditional favorites such as cream cheese, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream.
You'll also notice several varieties of tofu including Soft, Firm, Extra Firm, Silken and Pre-Baked Ready-to-Use. The textures of these variations depend on the type of coagulant used while making the tofu. Magnesium chloride creates firm dense tofu while calcium sulfate yields a soft, smooth consistency. GDL (Glucono-delta-lactone), an acidifying agent, is used to make the silken variety.Here are some fun ways to use all the different varieties:Firm and Extra Firm Tofu:
- Perfect cubed for stir fries or sliced, marinated, baked or roasted for sandwiches. Here's a basic recipe for Easy Baked Tofu, one for Roasted Tofu with Sautéed Apples, and a Tofu Reuben with Russian Dressing.
- Mash and sauté with onions, mushrooms, a pinch of turmeric and seasonings for scrambled (no-egg) tofu. Here's a Simple Tofu Scramble.
- Crumble and use like ground meat in chili or spaghetti sauce.
- Add to soups and stews. Here's a delicious Fast Udon Soup with Tofu and Spinach.
- Turn it into a quiche like in this Vegan Quiche.
- Make tofu "ricotta" cheese for lasagna or other Italian dish by mashing firm tofu with garlic granules, sea salt, basil, oregano and a little nutritional yeast.
Soft and Silken Tofu:
- Add to salad dressings for a creamy texture. Here's an idea for Low Fat Creamy "Caesar" Dressing.
- Make dips and spreads. This Tofu Curry Dip with Chives is delicious and so is this Onion Dip.
- Perfect for creamy puddings and pies like this Quick Vegan Pudding and this Chocolate Mocha Pie.
- Use in place of cheese for pasta dishes. Here's an idea for a Pasta Bake with Tofu Cheese.
- Add to smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit.
Pre-Baked Ready-to-Use Tofu:
- Add to stir-fries, rice, noodle and grain dishes. Here's a dish of Cashew Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu.
- Slice and eat on a sandwich.
- Cube and add to salads. I love this Tofu and Sesame Noodle Salad.
- Skewer chunks with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, pineapple chunks and purple onion. Grill and serve over rice.
- Chop up finely and add some diced onion, celery and a little mayonnaise for a delicious tofu salad. Great stuffed into a ripe sweet tomato!
Once you open a package of fresh tofu (not the pre-baked variety), be sure to store it in water in the fridge and use it within a few days. If desired, you can freeze it and change the consistency to a "meaty-like" texture, ideal for soaking up delicious marinades, dressings and sauces.Got a terrific tofu recipe or some favorite ways you like to gobble it up? Let me know!