You will never look at tofu the same again!
How to prepare tofu….. 1. Throw it in the trash…2. Grill some meat. Yup this was recently posted on my Facebook by a friend. It is just one of the many jokes and negative comments about tofu that I hear or see on a regular basis. So I decided not to make any sort of tofu jokes simply because it is “tasteless”, Ha ha ha, just had to. Tofu has always gotten a bad rap as being a bland ugly block of soggy mush. Every time someone comes up to me when I am eating tofu and asks, Oh what is that? And as soon as I reply, “oh its tofu”, right away I get that look like, aww that is disgusting, much like this picture. People have told me that going vegan is not possible because tofu is gross, has no flavor, is boring and has a smooshy weird texture. As if this is the only thing we vegans eat anyway, bland tofu and ice burg lettuce. There are hundreds of reports out there that say it is not healthy and it is healthy. I read one report that said Tofu causes cancer, brain damage, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive disorders, even developing man boobs that often scare people away from it. According to one website, it states that you are better off eating grass fed beef, dairy and eggs…. Are you kidding? As I read this while enjoying my very flavorful tasty breaded baked tofu with broccoli, mushrooms, green onion and black bean pasta with a chive cream sauce, I decided to do a little research into this controversial and stereotyped food and then you can decide for yourself.
First of all, a few things to keep in mind when reading any type of study or reports. Consider the source of information and ask yourself, who is doing the study, who is funding the study perhaps the meat and dairy industry? Who or what were the subjects and how many? What about other variables involved that may cause the results to be biased? Now let’s look at tofu and what it is. The Chinese and Japanese who call it bean curd are some of the healthiest people in the world who have been consuming tofu for the past 2000 years. A mural found on a stone slab dating back to period A.D. 25-220 showing a kitchen scene with tofu being made. Also there is a reference in the form of a poem “Ode to Tofu” by Su Ping from China dating back to A.D. 1500. In Japan during the Nara era (710-794) Kento Priests brought back tofu while studying Buddhism, this was their primary protein source. Tofu became more popular among ordinary people in 1603-1867. The first tofu cookbook was published in 1782 and sold very well. A San Francisco company started making it in 1895 and it was introduced on a commercial scale by T.A. Van Grundy with his La Sierra industries in 1929 (Soya.com). So if tofu is so bad for you then why have the Chinese and Japanese been consuming it for generations? What exactly is it anyway?
Tofu is made out of soy beans and is processed much like cheese. Soy beans are actually native to Asia and were their primary protein source early on however, they can grow in different climates. They are part of the legume family and have only been introduced to the western world in the 20th century. They grow in bushes and the beans grow inside pods that are covered in hairs and range about 1-4 inches long with 2-4 beans in each pod that grow in clusters of about 3-5. As they mature in the pod they turn into hard dry beans. There are different varieties and sizes of beans but the most popular are yellow. The land where soy beans are planted can produce a much higher protein yield than other crops or livestock. Yet with such a high yield, it is being used in many processed foods rather than as a main source of food today.
So how do these beans become the block of tofu? The process is quite simple. The beans are first crushed and ground in water. Then they are heated separating the solids known as Okara. Once this is done, nigari (salt from seawater) is added to this soy milk to separate and form curds that are hand stirred. Once the curds start forming, it is added to a forming box with a cloth and the liquid is pressed out allowing the curds to bind. This process forms the tofu block that you see in stores. The amount of nigari that is added determines the firmness of the tofu. It can be purchased as Silken, soft, firm and extra firm. Also, make sure you buy tofu organic sense 90% of the soy beans in this country are GMO make sure you look for the non GMO label on the package. Now let’s look at what some of the health benefits are despite what some reports say.
Tofu is considered a complete source of protein a half cup contains 10 grams with all of the amino acids present therefore, a favorite among vegetarians and vegans. There are 20 or some say 21 amino acids our bodies need in order to make proteins to grow and survive. Some of them the body can make on its own and 9 are essential meaning they have to come from eating foods. A half cup of tofu has 94 calories, 2g carbs, 5g fat, and 10g of complete protein. Other health benefits are:
· It contains 44% of total daily calcium needs which helps to prevent osteoporosis. The soy isoflavones increases the bone mineral density therefore minimizing bone loss.
· Lowers LDL cholesterol. In countries that consume high soy there is less heart disease.
· Tofu lowers cancer risk due to the genistein part of the isoflavone which contains antioxidant properties that stop the growth of cancer cells.
· Less incidence of age related disorders and illnesses
· Some data and studies show that Asian women suffer less post-menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
· High in polyunsaturated fats especially omega 3 and alpha linolenic acid
· Tofu also contains small amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vit B-6, folate, choline, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium
After learning this you now decide to purchase your very own block of tofu to give it a try. However, what in the world do you do with it? Well, I have to admit that tofu by itself is pretty bland yet; it absorbs a ton of flavor that can be used to make many delicious dishes and treats. I have made chocolate frosting for cupcakes, puddings, salad dressings and dips out of silken tofu. Stir fry’s, omelets, quiche, soups, baked, fried, or battered with firm and extra firm tofu.
Tofu is simple to prepare here are basic methods for firm and extra firm to put in soups, baked or fried:
1. First take tofu out of package, be careful and do this over the sink. I first cut a slit on the edge and let all the water drain out of it. Then take block out of package.
2. Rinse it off then wrap it up in a clean towel or some paper towels.
3. Set a heavy book (I use my cast iron pan) on top to press all the liquid out of it in between 10 minutes to an hour.
4. Once this is down your tofu will be a little more firm with the less liquid
I have seen on-line that some people actually take the tofu out of the package and freeze it for a couple of hours then thaw it out. This is supposed to give it more firmness but, you can try it either way. Below is a recipe for a delicious nut and pretzel breaded baked tofu. We had this on top of soba noodles with sautéed broccoli, diced cherry tomatoes, and a tofu garlic cream sauce. It would also be good with vegan mushroom gravy or as a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and fresh coleslaw. Whichever way you decide to eat it, you will never look at tofu the same again. Enjoy it, embrace this block of deliciousness! As you can see in the last photo, my husband even tried to steal a piece while I was trying to take pictures!
Pretzel, nut breaded tofu delight
· 1 – 16oz extra (or super if you can find it) firm tofu
· 2 cups pretzel sticks
· ¾ cups roasted nuts (I used mixed nuts)
· 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
· 1 cup chick pea flour (or other good quality flour)
· 1 tbsp. almond butter
· ¼ cup nutritional yeast
· 2 -3 tsp each onion, garlic, chili powder
· 2 tsp salt
· 2 tsp smoked paprika
· 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional for added spice)
· 1 tsp turmeric
· 1 tbsp trader joes 21 seasoning blend
· Dash of black pepper
· Press tofu for at least a half hour ahead of time. If you can get the super firm tofu this would great for this recipe.
· Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicon sheet
· Combine pretzels, nuts in a food processor and pulse until chopped until coarsely ground and put I a small bowl. Add some salt (if prezels are unsalted) and pepper
· Add all the other dry ingredients together in a bowl
· Put the almond mild and almond butter in a separate bowl and mix well.
· Slice your tofu about an ½ inch thick and coat each slice with flour
· Dip in the almond milk
· Coat with the pretzel mixture pressing gently to get the mixture to stick to tofu
· Place on baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
· Then serve!