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Tofu Madness! (or my brief flirtation with the dark side of healthy eating)

Tofu.  Just mention the word and sparks will fly.  Everyone has an opinion, even if they’ve never eaten it.  Some folks love it.  Some hate it.  Some, like me, associated it with everything wrong about eating healthy.  And yes, I have never even eaten the darn thing.

So I bought some.  I filled my bag with groceries.  It was overflowing with brightly colored bell peppers and tomatoes and bananas and oranges.  Crisp green romaine leaves and freshly baked brown bread stuck out of the top.  It was like an image from a child’s drawing done only in vibrant crayola colors.  And then, at the bottom, sat tofu: white, flavorless, sponge-like.  It sat in stark contrast to the joys of healthy eating.  Without sorrow, there can be no joy.  Without dark, there can be no light.  Without tofu, well, you get the picture.

For the well being of humanity I declared this past weekend tofu weekend.  I must admit I was worried.  Toying with the dark side of healthy food is dangerous business.  Much like kale, tofu has a hypnotic power.  Some who eat Kale regularly begin to think it actually tastes good.  Those who cook with tofu too long soon find themselves professing their love for it’s squishy nothingness.  Some get so brainwashed they actively try to convert others to their ways.  The worst of them, it’s sad to say, go after the easily manipulated among us–the children.

(Warning: The following recipes were prepared under strict supervision.  Eating tofu is not recommended for the weak-minded.)

BAD: I’ve heard that tofu is often used a “fake meat.”  The thing I miss most in this world is my daily buffalo chicken salad.  Maybe I can make the tofu into some sort of imitation chicken, I thought.  I tried to keep it healthy.  I cut it into cubes.  I coated the tofu with flour.  I baked it in the oven with a slight spray of olive oil.  I chopped lettuce.  I sprinkled pico de gallo and fresh onions on it.  I bought some vegan ranch dressing.  I tossed the hot tofu in some delicious buffalo sauce.  I set my place at the table.  It didn’t look that bad!  I took one bite, then threw the rest into the trash.

BETTER: So I checked into how how to cook tofu properly.  This time I pressed it first to get all the excess water out.  I shook the cubes in corn starch and spices then fried them in oil (not so healthy, but I was determined to make it taste good).  I made  a stir fry and found some store-bought General Tso’s Sauce.  I let the tofu get hot and crunchy on all sides before I throwing it in with the veggies.  Then I lathered it all in half a bottle of the sauce.  It smelled so good.  And it actually tasted decent.  I had a lot of tofu in the mix though, and I kept thinking the veggies were the best part.  So what was the point of the fried tofu really?  The tofu actually tasted okay, but the next time I make this dish I’ll probably just use all veggies.

vegan general tso's chicken with tofu

Vegan General Tso’s Chicken with tofu

BEST: Then I got a recommendation on this post to try a tofu cheesecake.  I was skeptical, but figured I’d give it a try.  I modified the recipe slightly and used a mix of organic sugar, maple syrup, and agave nectar to sweeten it.  I let it sit overnight so the tofu could soak up all the sweetness.  Then I covered it with some strawberry filling.  Now that was pretty decent!  The maple syrup flavor was a bit overpowering though.  Next time I may cut out the maple syrup completely and try some Truvia instead.

Vegan Cheesecake

Vegan Cheesecake with tofu

All in all, I discovered that tofu isn’t that bad.  I’m not sure of it’s purpose in creating fake meat, as it seems adding extra veggies is a tastier option anyway.  But I bet there’s some pretty good recipes out there considering I’d never cooked with it before, and I pulled off two decent creations.  In fact, maybe those of you out there still on the fence should give it a try.

Wait!  See, I told you this was dangerous business.  Next thing you know I’ll be brainwashed into doing something even dumber, like Kale Smoothie Week.

Now that would be just ridiculous.

13 Comments

  1. Are there actually kids who like tofu? That would blow my mind! I’ve eaten a lot of tofu over the years, and have tried a lot of different recipes, but my experience remains that tofu is one of those things, that for some reason, just tastes better when someone else makes it! Maybe because restaurants and store-delis have deep friers, or use way more salt and spices than I’d ever dare…or just marinate the hell out of the stuff? I don’t know. Preparing tofu that i don’t want to stop eating, continues to evade my skills. However, I thought this blogger’s recipe came close:
    http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2009/06/memphis-bbq-tofu.html?m=1

    • Looks pretty simple too. Maybe next time I pick up some tofu I’ll give it a try. I do love some good barbecue sauce.

    • What the hell mate???? Ive eaten tofu all my life and never complained ’bout it. Its simply freaking soy beans.

      • You may have grown up eating it, but where I live I don’t know a single person who has EVER eaten tofu. So it has a bit of a stigma here as a nasty, tasteless health food. I think it takes a bit to figure out how to make it taste okay, at least it did for me.

  2. I loved this. I was skeptical about both tofu and kale, too, but they are both staples in my diet now.
    Your General Tso’s Tofu will work better if you cut the size of the tofu squares in half and then only use about 1/2 cup of them in the total recipe. Less is better.
    And I love kale in the soups I make. I also chop up kale and chard to add to wraps (hummus, a few olives, maybe a little couscous…).

  3. Have to say I always have a block of tofu in the fridge, it’s so versatile and easy to use when I’m lacking inspiration. Because it absorbs flavours, I tend to use it in casseroles, I just swap the chicken/meat in the recipe for tofu. Tends to work better with chicken recipes. Sometimes better to saute it first, depending on the recipe.

    Another good one is to slice, saute, and put on top of pasta and add a white sauce. Works well for a veg kebab, I marinate it in tamari first and serve with a hot sauce. For frying, I coat with ordinary flour rather than cornflour, but either works. You could try using an egg substitute as well, but that just makes more mess. I serve that with a tartare sauce style substitute, mustard, olive oil, capers, herbs, lemon juice. You can add extra lemon juice or vinegar. Oh, and a bit like your recipe, it works well in a stir-fry, or with Thai green sauce. etc etc

    I wouldn’t call it fake meat though, just as I wouldn’t call tempeh or seitan fake meat (Quorn I probably would). TVP? borderline. I think our conditioning to eating meat makes us look at the ‘substitute’ we put in our meals consider it as fake, when it is just a different type of protein.

    Kale’s OK. Seems to be a bit trendy at the moment, great source of iron and vitamins etc (like spinach). I did try one of those crispy oven recipes and it did taste quite good, although I probably prefer it lightly boiled/steamed.

    • Thanks for the tips. The more I think about it the more good ideas I can come up with for tofu. I’ll have to give it another round next time I go shopping.

  4. I find tempeh works better as a meat sub (general tso’s tempeh is the best, literally just cut that bad boy into cubes, cook it in some oil, and let it simmer in the general tso’s sauce and you’re good to go), but tofu makes a pretty mean “scrambled eggs” replacement in burritos/breakfast dishes. 🙂

    • I’ve thought about giving tempeh a try eventually. Maybe I’ll try it in the general tso’s sauce to compare. Now you’ve got me thinking of trying some sort of tofu breakfast casserole. I bet that would be delicious!

  5. Very interesting and well done post. I love tofu myself, which I eat as often as I can at a Chinese restaurant in my town, Rincón de la Viotoria, in southern Spain, 14 km east of Malaga, the capital. Have a good weekend, and keep up your good work. Cheers!

  6. I agree with you; when I tell people I’m vegetarian, sometimes they say, “I could never do that, I don’t like tofu.” Like you, I rarely if ever eat tofu! However my favorite use for tofu is in veggie lasagne. I mash up soft tofu with garlic, salt, pepper, fresh basil, and whatever other fresh herbs or favorite spices I have on hand. Then I sautee my favorite vegetables (usually mushrooms, broccoli, and onions) in olive oil. Then, I layer my favorite tomato sauce, lasagne noodles, the mashed tofu, and the veggies in a casserole pan, and bake at 350 for about an hour. YUM!!! It is so good, and even my meat-eating friends like it.

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