Tofu has been popular in Asia for at least 2000 years, and with good reason: it’s high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, and contains no cholesterol. Completely vegetarian, it’s safe to eat raw but delicious cooked. Sealed packages of tofu can safely be stored in the refrigerator for much longer than meat, making it a handy staple to keep on hand. And it’s inexpensive – a package serving two adults costs around $2. So if tofu is new to you, here are some tips on introducing it to your family.
Unlike many healthy foods, tofu is usually an instant hit with kids. It’s bland to the point of tastelessness, so it absorbs the flavor of the spices or sauce it’s cooked with. There are no strong smells to turn off picky eaters, it’s not creamy or oily, and it’s easy to chew. You can choose the texture you’d like, from the soft, silky tofu you’d put in soups to the extra-firm tofu you’d slice and grill. Tofu is adaptable to almost any cuisine, but it’s a staple in the Chinese kitchen, so we’ll start there.
Tofu Stir Fry
- 2+ Tbs sesame oil
- 1 large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 blocks firm tofu, drained
- 1 large head broccoli, rinsed and sliced into spears (or substitute any combination of sliced red peppers, string beans, or asparagus trimmed and cut into 1 inch sections)
- 3 Tbs soy sauce, or to taste
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1-2 inch section of fresh ginger root, peeled
Coat the bottom and sides of a large frying pan or wok with sesame oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onion to pan and sauté until wilted and translucent, stirring regularly. Add garlic and stir fry one more minute.
Meanwhile, pat tofu dry with paper towels and dice into bite size cubes. Add to onion mixture and stir to combine. Drain any liquid, if necessary. Add broccoli or other vegetables, sprinkle with sugar, and stir fry to coat with oil. Drizzle with soy sauce, cover pan, and steam until vegetables are cooked through, testing after 5 minutes.
Grate ginger directly into pan and stir to combine, adjusting amount of ginger and seasonings to taste. Serve over hot rice.
- Mix soft tofu into sour cream dips and spreads to lower the fat content
- Add diced tofu to broth for a filling soup
- Crumble tofu into meatballs, meatloaf and chili to stretch the meat and reduce the cholesterol.
- Marinate thick slices of firm tofu in bottled teriyaki sauce or your favorite marinade and grill or broil until hot.
- Sprinkle crumbled tofu in lasagna and over salads to boost the protein content.
Before long, your family will be eating healthier – and loving it!