Discovering Tofu: What is it, how to cook it, and recipes to get you started!

(PCM) Curious about tofu but not quite sure where to begin? You’re not alone! Jumping into the world of tofu can be a frightening experience – is it firm like chicken or soft like pudding? Its chameleon-like characteristics can be confusing at first, but it’s oh, so rewarding once you master it! There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Tofu is a staple in most vegetarian and vegan diets – it’s one of the most versatile protein rich foods. Firm tofu can be marinated, fried or baked, and used in place of chicken and other meats in many dishes. It can be soft and crumbly for tofu scrambles and lasagna. It’s even a great binding and thickening agent for baking desserts, in tofu burgers, or a tofu quiche. You can use it in place of eggs to make brownies, cheesecake, and pudding…the possibilities are endless!

What exactly is tofu?

Tofu is made from soybeans, water, and a curdling agent. It doesn’t sound too appetizing, and you probably wouldn’t want to eat tofu straight from the package because it’s very bland by itself. But what’s so great about tofu is that it acts like a sponge, soaking up any flavor that is added to it. It also blends very easily with just about any other food. This, along with its high protein and calcium content, makes it a great substitute for animal protein, and just an all around fun food to cook with!

There are three main types of tofu: firm, soft, and silk.

Firm tofu is dense and solid, and holds up well in stir fry dishes and soups, on the grill, fried, etc. It can be frozen and then crumbled to take on the form of ground meat. Extra firm tofu is usually used as a chicken substitute, and works well when grilled or fried.

Soft tofu is a good choice for recipes that call for blended tofu, and can be used in dressings, sauces, dessert and tofu scrambles.

Silken tofu is equivalent to a thin custard or heavy cream. Silken tofu works well in pureed or blended dishes, like dips and spreads, soups, and baked desserts. You can make many recipes much healthier by substituting pureed silken tofu for mayonnaise, cream, sour cream, etc.

Firmer tofus are usually the highest in fat, and the soft tofus are the lowest.

Look for tofu in the produce or dairy section at your local grocery store. Once you open the package, leftover tofu should be rinsed and covered with fresh water for storage. Change the water daily to keep it fresh, and use the tofu within one week! Tofu can also be frozen up to 5 months.

Health benefits:

Tofu is not only rich in protein and calcium. It is also high in B-vitamins and isoflavones, and is easy to digest.

Research on soy protein in recent years has shown that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35-40%, lower triglyceride levels, reduce the tendency of platelets to form blood clots, and possibly even raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Soy, like that found in tofu, has also been shown to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms associated with menopause. Tofu is a very good source of iron, providing 33.8% of the DV for this important mineral in 4 ounces, as well as omega 3 fatty acids! [WHFoods.com]

Okay…ready to tackle tofu!? Here are some delicious recipes to get you started…

 

Mexican Chocolate Pudding (A Cozy Kitchen)

1 pound silken tofu
1 cup high-quality semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon chili powder

1. In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate chips for 30 seconds. Stir with a spatula and then microwave again for another 30 seconds. Repeat this process until the chips are completely melted through.

2. Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until the mixture is completely smooth and free of lumps. Portion out into 4 pudding cups and allow to chill for about and hour before serving.

Banana Cream Tofu Cheesecake (Natalie’s Killer Cuisine)

1 graham cracker crust recipe
1 lb Soft Tofu, drained
1 lb Reduced Fat Cream Cheese, softened
1 banana, sliced, 3/4 cup Sugar
2 TBS brown sugar
1/4 cup AP Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3 eggs + 3 egg whites
Fresh Whipped Cream, topping
Banana Slices, garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the tofu and cheesecake in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream until smooth and combined, about one minute. Add the slices of banana and both sugars and continue to beat another 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

2. Add the flour, vanilla extract and 3 eggs plus 3 additional egg whites. Mix until combined.

3. Pour on top of a par baked graham cracker crust. Either in a tart pan, springform pan, mini cheesecake pan,
etc. Depending on the size of the pan it will take between 20 � 30 minutes to make. Bake until set and not jiggly, the cheesecake will also slightly pull away from the sides.

Tofu Parmigiana (Allrecipes)

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
salt to taste, ground black pepper to taste
1 (12 ounce) package firm tofu
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt, and black pepper. Slice tofu into 1/4 inch thick slices, and place in bowl of cold water. One at a time, press tofu slices into crumb mixture, turning to coat all sides.

2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook tofu slices until crisp on one side. Drizzle with a bit more
olive oil, turn, and brown on the other side.

3. Combine tomato sauce, basil, garlic, and remaining oregano. Place a thin layer of sauce in an 8 inch
square baking pan. Arrange tofu slices in the pan. Spoon remaining sauce over tofu. Top with shredded mozzarella and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 20 minutes.

Thai Curry Tofu (Allrecipes)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (12 ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 tablespoon seasoned salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 ounce) can coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes, season with seasoned salt and fry until golden on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove to paper towels, and set aside.

Melt butter or margarine in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Stir in coconut milk, curry powder, salt, pepper and cilantro. Return the tofu to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Low Fat Caesar Dressing (Natalie’s Killer Cuisine)

4 oz Firm Tofu
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 TBS Lemon Juice
1 TBS Honey
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Worcestshire
1 garlic clove
1 handful of Parmesan
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until creamy and smooth.
2. For a silkier texture, strain the dressing. Yields one cup.

 






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