A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

You Won't Be Blue with Tofu

Are you averse to using tofu?  Have you actually tried it or just don't like the image that comes to mind when you hear the word?  Despite what flavor you think tofu imparts, it is actually pretty neutral and will take on the taste of whatever you pair it with.

I'm not a vegetarian by any means, but I try to make most of my diet plant based incorporating high quality, farmer-raised meat as a complement.  Tofu is a great source of high quality plant-based protein and can be found in the refrigerated (fresh) and grocery sections (aseptic package).  You can buy it anywhere from extra firm, to use in stir-fry recipes, to silken, to use in blending smoothies or as a healthy alternative to mayo, cream cheese, oil, and other creamy products.

Why use tofu?  As I mentioned already, you get high quality protein with little fat, and it is rich in B-vitamins and iron.  Tofu is also a low sodium food for anyone watching their sodium intake.  Tofu is one of the foods with the highest content of Tryptophan, which is an essential (our body can't produce it) amino-acid enabling the body to release serotonin and meltonin.  This, in turn, help us relax and feel more at ease.....this is a benefit very welcome to me.

What do you do with it?  Here is a quick list of great ideas to get you started:

  • Add chunks of firm tofu to soups and stews.

  • Mix crumbled tofu into a meatloaf for a pleasant light dish.

  • Mash tofu with cottage cheese and seasoning to make a sandwich spread.

  • Create your own tofu burgers with mashed tofu, rolled oats, chopped onion and your favorite seasonings.

  • Marinate extra firm tofu in barbecue sauce, char it on the grill and serve on crusty Italian bread.

  • Add a package of taco seasoning to pan-fried, crumbled tofu, or a mixture of tofu and ground beef to tofu tacos.

  • Blend dried onion soup mix into soft or silken tofu for a cholesterol-free onion dip.

  • Stir silken tofu into sour cream for a reduced-fat baked potato topper.

  • Blend tofu with melted chocolate chips and a little sweetener to make a chocolate cream pie.

  • Replace all or part of the cream in creamed soups with silken tofu.

  • Make missing egg salad with tofu chunks, diced celery, mayonnaise and a dab of prepared mustard.

  • Scramble soft tofu together with your favorite vegetables and the spice turmeric to give it a yellow "egg-like" coloring. This delicious dish can be served as is or can be used as the basis for "tofu rancheros" by being wrapped in a tortilla and served with black beans and salsa.

  • Substitute pureed silken tofu for part of the mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese or ricotta cheese in a recipe. Use it in dips and creamy salad dressings.

  • My favorite is using lite silken tofu to blend with frozen fruit and squash for a nutritious and flavorful smoothie you can eat with a spoon! 

    For a quick pudding fix, follow this healthy recipe:
    Is This Healthy Chocolate Mousse
    (serves one)
    • 4oz (1/3 of 12oz package) silken firm tofu (I use Mori-Nu)
    • 1/8 tsp vanilla stevia
    • 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
    • dash of salt
    • up to 2 tsp liquid (such as water or non-dairy milk)
    • optional: almond or mint extract, instant coffee or espresso, peanut butter, flakes of coconut, or another fun flavoring– be creative!  I love using pumpkin puree with the tofu and adding pumpkin pie spice for a an excellent pumpkin pudding.
    Add all ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth and creamy...or puddingy...y?

    Something I've recently been using in my blender creations are steamed carrots.  For vegetables, they do offer a nice sugar content for a healthy sweet treat, and when cooked, they taste even better.  Here's what I do, you must try at least once...

    Carrot Cake Milkshake
    • 1 extremely-ripe, large banana (frozen)
    • 1/4 cup dair or non-dairy milk (use more or less, depending on desired thickness.)
    • 4oz lite silken tofu
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 6 drops of regular or vanilla stevia
    • heaping 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 small carrot (50g or so), peeled and steamed
    • a very small dash (about 1/16) tsp salt to bring out sweetness
    Blend all of the ingredients together in your blender, food processor, or even a Magic Bullet.

    Using any vegetables mild in taste are great for adding healthy volume to frozen treats. Obviously, I like to use the tofu in sweet treat creations, but here are a few links to savory applications:

    Healthy Spinach Dip

    Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry

    More great recipes found here

    Really, any favorite dip of yours can be recreated using tofu as an alternative to a fatty, cream-based dip.  Try a few of your own creations using some favorite spices and veggies to see what you can make.

    Something to note - with the abundance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are grown and sold in stores, I always buy organic soy products or make sure they state "Non-GMO" on the package.  It's not proven there are any side-effects to GMO products, but I prefer to keep it safe with the food I put in my body.

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