Monday, September 26, 2011

No Meat Monday "Ch-ch-ch-changes"

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for an entry into the Ramblin' Rose Women's Half Marathon!

Today we are talking about Change.  It seems to be a theme.  Last week we talked about how difficult change is when giving your life to Christ and converting to a Christian.  Change can be equally difficult when giving up your unhealthy eating habits and leaning into a new diet or regiment.  Just as "Conversion" can be seen as an ugly 4-letter word, so can "Vegan." 

But change doesn't have to be impossible.  And it doesn't have to be all at once.  Thus the introduction of No Meat Monday!  Reducing your meat consumption by just one meal or one day a week can reduce your risk for sickness and disease and can also reduce your impact on the environment.  Just one meal a day! 

Day to day what we do is pretty routine.  Even at the grocery store, our choices are routine.  What we eat, what we cook, how we cook, etc.  It is all habit.  I admit, I don't love trying new foods.  Especially if I have to pay for them.  What if I don't like it?  Then I have just wasted my money!

Well today I am going to ask you to try a new food.  It's another "4-letter" word and you might just turn the page as soon as I type it.


There.  I said it.  It wasn't pretty.  But I urge you to give it a shot.  At least tofu is relatively inexpensive, so trying it won't take an investment!  I really believe you will love this tofu.
Remember, the other 6 days of the week, choose whatever you like, but today...choose tofu.  And please, let me know what you think!

Chinese Tofu and Veggies
serves 6-8

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 35 minutes

Tofu comes to life with a quick deep fry.  The outside is wonderfully crusty with a smooth texture on the inside.  A homemade Chinese sauce uses ingredients you likely have on hand in the pantry so the tofu will be your only new-to-you ingredient this week.  Use mushrooms and snap peas as we did, or substitute with your favorite veggies.  This meal is great to serve to guests, and is wonderful as leftovers.  (As an option, you can use quinoa or another fast-cooking grain to substitute for the brown rice if you don't have the time to prepare.)  

  • 2 (14 oz) packages extra firm tofu (see buying instructions below)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five-Spice (optional)
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup organic ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce or hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups white mushrooms sliced
  • 2 cups snap peas
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
Prepare your tofu by draining the water from the package.  Cut each block of tofu in half and lay all 4 slabs on a clean kitchen towel close together.  Wrap the kitchen towel over the top and place a cutting board on top.  Then stack cook books or other heavy objects on top of the cutting board to press the excess water out of the tofu.

While the tofu is pressing, start your brown rice (this will take close to 40-45 minutes). 

In a small pot, combine ketchup, chili sauce, honey, soy sauce and water.  Heat to boiling over medium to high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until sauce thickens, stirring frequently.  (Sauce will thicken upon cooling when you mix with the veggies and tofu.

In a large frying pan, begin heating canola oil over medium-high heat.  Remove tofu from its cutting board-induced fortress and cut each slab into equal size squares, about 1 x 1 inch.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, salt and Chinese Five-Spice.  Toss the tofu squares in the flour mixture until well coated.

When your frying pan is heated, drop tofu squares into hot oil, about 1/3 of them at a time.  Careful not to allow the oil to burn you as you drop each square.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side until crispy and brown.  With a slotted spoon remove the tofu squares and place on a plate lined with paper towels or napkins to absorb excess oil.

Continue the quick-fry method until all tofu is cooked through.  Set tofu aside and discard remaining oil in the pan.  You may use the same pan for the next step.

Over medium heat, toss mushrooms and snap peas with a tablespoon of water and cook for 7-10 minutes until just soft, adding more water as needed.  When cooked through, add tofu back to pan to reheat.

When sauce is thickened, stir into veggies and tofu.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over brown rice or other grain.
On the side we served my favorite Asian-restaurant style salad- just iceberg and romaine lettuce topped with ginger dressing (store-bought).

And of course we enjoyed this meal with friends!
For dessert: Cake Donuts and Cake Balls!

Tofu Buying Guide

Buying tofu can be as scary as eating tofu for "newbies."  I remember avoiding tofu at all costs because I was frightened of the different kinds, different packaging methods, and most of all the texture!  I want you to approach the grocery store prepared and unafraid, so here are some tips:
  • Tofu can be packaged as Firm, Extra Firm, Cubed, Lite Firm, Soft, Silken, Lite Silken, Extra Firm Silken, and even Sprouted.
  • For cooking in a savory dish such as this one, I always use Extra Firm.  The kind that comes water-packed.
  • Occasionally we will buy the kind that is already cubed, but you can't press it is as easily and pressing tofu aids with the texture.  
  • Occasionally we will also buy Sprouted, but it has the same flavor and texture as Extra Firm and can be used interchangeably.
  • And we also buy Silken tofu but only for special projects like cheesecake, smoothies, or other desserts.  
  • I've never seen tofu that isn't organic, but you do want to make sure you are buying organic so your tofu isn't made from genetically modified soy beans. 
  • Tofu is usually found in the produce section of your grocery store in the cooler and can be located at all grocery stores.  If your store has an organic or health-foods section it may be found there in the cooler.  In my experience, the tofu found on the shelves in cardboard packaging is always silken, so don't use unless you know that is what you need for a recipe.
If you loved the tofu, here are some other wonderful recipes for you to try!

Tofu Peach Kabobs
Coconut Battered Tofu
Egg-less Salad
Perfect Tofu
Quick and Easy Tofu Stir Fry

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