There is a common misconception that plant based food is boring and that you are limited in your cooking. However, I find the opposite to be true. It was after I removed animal products from my cooking that I truly began to blossom creatively as a chef. How easy it is, when making a dish to just smother it in cheese and call it a day. Growing up in the Midwest, that is exactly how many dishes are made. In my opinion, that is taking the easy way out. Sure it adds flavor, but it also adds saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention, it masks the true flavor of the other ingredients. Taking animal products out of your repertoire encourages you to explore other herbs, spices and ways of flavoring your food. Not to mention, your palette changes and you are able to better taste the different ingredients and subtle tastes in each dish.
My favorite ingredient has come to be something that, years ago, I would have never tried…tofu! Tofu gets such a bad rap as a flavorless blob. Whenever I hear people say something to this effect, I am suddenly motivated to change their mind and show them how delicious tofu can be. Some of you might be thinking; “what the heck is tofu anyways?” Well, good question! Tofu (or bean curd) is made out of soybeans by coagulating soymilk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks, similar to the process of making cheese. Tofu can be found in varying levels of firmness, depending on how much moisture is present. This is great because each type has a different and unique use. It can be used to make everything from lasagna to pie.
Tofu itself does not have a flavor, which is why I think many people have a negative impression of it. Flavor certainly needs to be added, but the great thing is that it works like a sponge and takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it. If you think of it more of as an ingredient to work with, you will be able to find so many uses for it. Here are a few ways which I’ve prepared tofu.
- Breakfast – Tofu scramble
This is hands down my favorite way to eat tofu. When I am craving a hearty breakfast, tofu scrambles have become my go to. You can add any vegetables you have on hand and season it any way you’d like. The possibilities are endless! My favorite is to add some kale, drizzle in tahini and then sprinkle in nutritional yeast and turmeric to get a cheesy flavor and the color of scrambled eggs. I made this for my brother once and he said he actually forgot that it wasn’t eggs he was eating!
Recipe: Sweet Potato Avocado Zen Bowl
- Lunch – Soup or Salad w/ tofu feta
Getting tofu to mimic crumbly feta cheese is surprisingly simple. To do this, I use the extra firm tofu, crumble it in a bowl and season. For feta, I use sea salt, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and oregano. You can make a batch ahead of time and then have it throughout the week to sprinkle on salads, soups or pastas.
- Dinner – Lasagna
The consistency of tofu lends itself well to several different kinds of cheeses. Not only does it make a great crumbly feta, but you can also blend it into a creamy ricotta, which makes a great filling for lasagna or stuffed shells.
Recipe: Zucchini Eggplant Lasagna Rolls
- Dessert – Pie (yes, a pie!)
By using silken tofu blended with peanut butter, cocoa powder and maple syrup, you are left with a sweet, creamy mousse. You can either eat this as is or pour it into a piecrust.
Recipe: Coming soon!!