Friday, December 4, 2009

December 5 Vegan Bake Sale in SF!

(I'm sorry I haven't been blogging lately! The last SF Vegan Bakesale was SUCH a success! I hope if you live locally, you'll see this in your feeds and decide to stop buy and eat some treats for good causes! I'm still trying to decide what to make myself...)

This is from Vegansaurus's email that went out today:

Just a reminder that the SF Vegan Bakesale is happening this Saturday from 11-4 in front of Ike's (at 16th and Sanchez)! The last bakesale sold out by 3, so come early to ensure that you get your fill of treats.

Over 50 bakers will be bringing delicious sweet and savory baked goods- think cupcakes, cookies, foccacia, brownies, muffins, pecan pie, croissants, and SO much more! We'll even have gluten-free and raw treats there too! PLUS there will be bunnies up for adoption at the event!! Seriously, it doesn't get any better than this.

All proceeds will benefit 2 amazing local nonprofits: the Food Empowerment Project ( and Save A Bunny ( So please tell everyone you know to come on out, eat delicious food, and raise money for the animals!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Don't forget, Bay area vegans, tomorrow's the SF Vegan Bake Sale!! Today I'm making cupcakes (but not 100% sure what kind yet! I gotta get moving!), and I'm looking forward to it. I want to bring our own box and just stock up on goodies and freeze them for later. I don't know if I have the guts to do it and look like some kind of desperate sugar fiend or not.

I haven't been feeling so hot this week so I haven't been MoFo'ing. That makes me sad. It's been great, though, that I've been able to read new and awesome vegan blogs... I'm going to update my links at some point so everyone can find each other (I've been adding you to my blogroll, but I'm not so good at it). I'm also entertaining the idea of moving to WordPress because I really like their features and interface... but do you really care my thoughts on blog sites? I didn't think so. On to the food!

At the farmer's market this past weekend, we got these amazing Barhi dates. They're the sweetest and softest of all dates (the ripest ones were nearly liquefied!)... in hindsight, I should have taken pictures for you, since they were still on the branches, and it was awesome. I'm a terrible blogger! But we got a LOT of them (the guy wanted to get rid of his inventory, so we got over a pound for $4!), and just snacking on them was tough because they're just so amazingly sweet.

I've loved those raw date candies with coconut and nuts sold at the natural foods stores for a long time, but never thought to make my own! So I whipped up a dozen of these Barhi date candies with my food processor:

I winged the recipe, but it's pretty straightforward: In a food processor, pulse a cup of walnuts (I used a mix of walnuts and roasted almonds) until breadcrumb-like. Pull the pits out of a cup of Barhi dates and add them to the food processor, mixing well. At this point, I refrigerated the mixture in a bowl overnight, but I am sure an hour or so would have been fine. The dates were so soft, that I needed to firm up the mix a bit, and I was too tired to finish them that night. (Gimp cooking FTW.)

The next day, I rolled walnut-sized balls in unsweetened coconut (I love coconut so i tried to pack as much coconut into them as possible!), and put them in my favorite atomic leftover container to keep in the fridge for a week or so.

Also, my new food discovery is walnut butter! I've been trying to eat more walnuts for the omega fatty acids and the iron content, and we discovered this Artisana raw organic walnut butter. According to the label, it's made locally in Berkeley! I've never gotten into nut butters very much, except for the occasional treat of cashew butter on apples, or almond butter at my parents' house when we visited over the summer. I think they're great, I just don't know how to eat them without ingesting tons and tons of bread and crackers.

I put it on a bagel, but I think it'd be good on apples, carrots, soy crisps, and celery. I think it'd also be good to use in place of peanut butter in recipes, but at $8 for a tiny jar, I don't want to use anything where it's awesomeness will be masked by other ingredients. Still, though, I recommend it. It tastes similar to peanut butter, with a hint of bitterness (much like walnuts themselves, I suppose!).

These great dried apple slices were found at our local farmer's market, too, and they're fantastic. Just a few slices are great, because they're so chewy my jaw gets tired and I don't need to demolish the whole bag, unlike bags of crispy apple slices I've bought in the past, which go down like nothing.

They have lots of seeds, though, so I have to pull them out. Even though it's not technically a serious hazard, apple seeds do contain cyanide.

We broke out the popcorn popper ($5 at Walgreens!) a few nights ago. I've been on a bit of a nutritional yeast kick lately, so I covered a small bowl of it with nutritional yeast, sea salt, black pepper, and paprika. A friend also suggests allspice! Which I'm certainly going to try next time. Parma is delicious on popcorn (and everything else you can imagine), by the way, but I was low on it so I didn't want to smother my popcorn with it. Also, Kuntrageous has an awesome-looking parma recipe I'm going to make very soon!

What are your favorite snacks?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

San Francisco Vegan Bake Sale!

Originally uploaded by jennifermf
This Saturday, October 17th, there's going to be a vegan bake sale near the Castro. And if you're in the area, you should come check it out!

The money goes to the Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue. I love kitties so much, and I'm excited to help them with cupcakes! (I have some cupcakes planned! And I'm excited to use my cupcake carrier, which doesn't get nearly enough use.)

You can follow the SF Vegan Bake Sale on twitter for more updates (it sounds like there's going to be a TON of goodies!), and check out Vegansaurus for info, too (and this handy steal-able image, and a black and white version, for plastering all over the place).

Rumor has it there will be vegan cannoli, too. And zomg, if I don't get a vegan cannoli, I will CRY. I will simply cry.

So, come to the bake sale. But save me a cannoli. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lunch musings

There aren't a lot of openly fat vegans out there. Or a lot of openly vegan fatties. Whichever.

I've been fat all my life (since I was a toddler-- all my baby pictures are chubby). Of course, I got shit for it, because everyone hates on the fatties. [I opted to remove the stories about my disordered eating when I was younger, because I'm sick of trying to convince people that it's possible to be fat while still eating next to nothing.] Everyone also assumes that fat people are fat just because they eat too much and exercise too little. While that certainly CAN be true, it's not always true. In fact, some of the caterers for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) conferences were interviewed, and half said that NAAFA attendees ate the same as any other conference they catered, and the other half said NAAFA attendees ate LESS. It's also important to realise that there are thin people who don't eat healthy or exercise, but are naturally thin. It sure seems unfair to me that fat people are treated like second-class citizens because their biology is "inferior" to that of a thin person who eats similarly and has similar activity levels.

This picture is today's lunch. Honestly, I don't often eat lunch (I usually just have a light but late breakfast), but since I have an iron infusion today, and they tire me out, I thought maybe some fresh veggies and hummus would keep me perky. If you didn't know anything about the person who ate this for lunch, what would you imagine their pants looked like?

I actually don't mind being fat. Yes, it'd be nicer if I didn't get looks of disgust for enjoying a meal in public, but that's really not MY problem, that's THEIR problem. My body has served me well all these years, and I've treated it well in return, without excessive drinking or other toxic chemicals, I avoid fast food and too much processed crap. I move around to the best of my abilities (and in the past I was very active). I try to get enough sleep, wear sunscreen, wear my seatbelt. When I actively tried to lose weight, it just didn't happen. There seems to be some assumptions that imply fat people are constantly skyrocketing up in weight, getting fatter and fatter and ZOMG OBESITY EPIDEMIC OOGA BOOGA BOOGA! until they either have their own gravitational force about them, or they explode and shower the world with their offensive fatness. But, actually, the fat people I know and love (including myself) all have very stable weights. We're not ballooning out of control like Violet from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Just like thin people whose weight stays the same over the years, many fat people are the same way. My weight's been the same for *many* years, despite healthy vegan eating and moving as much as my body allows.

That said, I'm not trying to argue about the pros and cons of being fat. Nor am I going to use this blog as a means of arguing about what science *really* says about the "obesity epidemic." But since vegans do actually tend to be much thinner (statistically) than omnivores, I'm definitely in the minority as a fat vegan. And I've experienced a LOT of fat prejudice from vegans.

I'd really like to see the majority of vegans refrain from hating on fat people. It's frustrating (and hurtful) to hear things like "i don't want to look fat!" or "if i eat this mini fat-free vegan donut, i'll get fat!" I once even heard a vegan talking about the large salad she ate for lunch and how fat it was going to make her.

[The rest of this post is addressed to "you" as in "the people who make these assumptions. I'm not making personal attacks, or assuming the awesome folks who have taken the time to read this believe or do these things. It was just easier to write this way.]

There are two things wrong with these statements and this mindset. The first is that it's not true. For one thing, I assure you, no amount of vertical stripes and dark colors are going to make me look "thin." Just like no iceberg lettuce salad with lemon juice dressing is going to make people think I don't go home and gorge myself on Twinkies and Big Macs and wallow in vats of lard. I'm fat. I look fat. You're thin. You look thin. Stop caring about what size you look.

The second problem with these statements is that it's implying being fat is bad. More specifically, it's implying that being *like me* is bad. I'm pretty sure your feelings would be hurt if you heard me say "Ugh, you wouldn't believe what I ate today. I'm going to turn into a bony, ugly vegan! GROSS!" It's up there with calling something bad or stupid "gay." It's ignorant. There's a big difference between saying "I ate so much today, I'm stuffed!" and "I ate so much today, I'm gonna get fat!" The first one gets your point across without hurting feelings, and the second one makes you look hurtful.

I can't help but wonder if the vegan community stopped hating on the fatties, more fatties would be less turned off by vegans and veganism.

Friday, October 2, 2009

oven-baked french toast

Originally uploaded by jennifermf
Perhaps this isn't the most attractive food photo ever, but I assure you, this was sicky sweet and all the sugar you could dream of in a breakfast food. Honestly, it was delicious. However, it was REALLY sweet. What's in the picture was breakfast for two days. I made this with some stale multigrain bread we bought at a farmer's market in the area. We'd gotten a free loaf (ProTip: Hit the farmer's market closer to closing time to get better deals and free stuff) in addition to the one we bought, and this one went stale. And TA-DA! oven-baked french toast was born.

Note: this recipe is great because you can make it the night before, let it sit in the fridge and then throw it in the oven the next morning. However, you don't have to let it sit overnight, and can bake it right away. Letting it sit overnight soaks the bread with the apple yummies, though.


2 apples, cored and cubed
3 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup apple juice or water
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4-6 thick slices of day-old rustic bread


In a medium saucepan, cook apples in Earth Balance on medium heat until apples start to soften. Add cinnamon, sugar, and maple syrup and cook until apples are soft. Pour half the ingredients to the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking pan. In a bowl, whisk together apple juice (or water), soy milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Dip each slice of bread into mixture until fully covered, and arrange on top of the apple mixture in the baking dish. Pour remaining batter over the bread, as well as the remaining apple mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To cook, heat oven to 350 degrees, bake for 35-40 min. If desired, serve with maple syrup, but it probably won't need any!

Your favorite vanilla ice cream (I love So Delicious!) might also be a great addition, although if you want to be healthier, some veggie sausage patties would balance this out nicely and add a little protein to this carb coma.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy VeganMoFo!

My poor, neglected cooking blog!

Actually, I haven't neglected you. I've had a rather rough month, despite my birthday (I turned 32, which really isn't exciting but birthdays are always good!). I was going to spare you the gory details, but I think I might subject you to a few in honor of this not-about-cooking post.

This month is, apparently, the third annual VeganMoFo (Vegan Month o' Food). I remember hearing about the first two, but I've never really felt like part of any vegan communities, even online. I love to cook, and i love to eat, and i love to share cooking and eating with loved ones (and anyone who'll listen!), but I've never been very good at fitting in. So I did my own thing. This time around, I'm using it as encouragement to really pick up the pace with blogging, for a few reasons.

First, though, in case you'd like some more mofo info, you should check out this nice VegNews interview with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, as well as this *very* comprehensive list of other vegan bloggers who are participating in VeganMoFo.

So let me tell you a little about me: I have fibromyalgia and chronic back pain (due to spina bifida occulta, spondylolisthesis, two bulging discs, and osteoarthrits), all of which interfere with my life to varying degrees, even changing from day to day. It makes me annoyingly unpredictable when it comes to making plans, including simple tasks like making dinner. (Hint: you may be seeing more Rachel Ray style "30 minute meals" here in the future.) Luckily, moving to California has been really great for me, in that I've found an amazing doctor who is sending me to specialists to answer questions that have been unanswered for many years. While there are no cures for the low back pain or fibromyalgia, they can be managed, and other previously ignored issues can be addressed.

At the beginning of the month, I had to go through the unfortunate hell of a bone marrow biopsy to try and determine the cause of my elevated platelets and white blood cells. The biopsy pain triggered a fibromyalgia flareup, so I spent a good deal of time in bed. Then I got the flu (which may or may not have been H1N1). Then I got bronchitis. Then I got the results of the bone marrow biopsy: I have low iron stores in my marrow, and will need at least 6 weekly IV infusions of ferrous gluconate (iron), and then we'll re-assess the situation. As of today, I've had two iron infusions, and developed phlebitis at the IV site. Luckily, it's improving, or I wouldn't be typing so damn much right now!

Note: One of the biggest myths about veganism is that a vegan diet is low in iron and that anemia is very common among vegans. Just to be clear, my serum iron levels are normal (which is an indicator that I actually get adequate iron in my diet), and it's the iron stores in my bone marrow that are low. This is likely a genetic problem. I've had problems with anemia since I was a child, just like my mother. A genetic problem will not be cured by eating the flesh or organs from cows or other animals. This problem has been going on for so long (at least 5 years) that in order to compensate, my bone marrow started producing whatever it could to take the place of the missing iron in there, which resulted in elevated white blood cells and platelets. Good nutrition is extremely important for everyone (no exceptions!), but it's no cure for bad genes. Once these infusions get my iron stores back up, eating a healthy vegan diet with plenty of iron-rich foods and taking a vegan iron supplement should keep me away from those evil large-bore-needle-wielding hematologists.

I've decided that September 2009 was just a craptastic month all around, and now that it's October, things MUST improve!

So I'm going to improve things by writing more here. I originally set out for this to be strictly a cooking and recipe blog, but VeganMoFo (and my determination to forgive this past month) are inspiring me to write a little bit more than usual and about more than just what goes on in my kitchen. I hope you keep checking in. I promise I have some recipes in store for this month, too!

Bay area locals, you might want to check out the World Veg Festival Weekend in San Francisco!

And here's more info about today, World Vegetarian Day, kicking off World Vegetarian Month.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vegetable Schnitzel with Creamed Spinach

Originally uploaded by jennifermf
I'm almost embarrassed to post this recipe, because it's so freaking easy! But it's one of my favorite dinners, so I wanted to share it with you.

Over mashed potatoes, this is vegetable schnitzel with creamed spinach, inspired by a (presumably not vegan) dish at a German restaurant near us in our new home in East Bay, California.

First, prepare the schnitzel. Preheat your oven to 350f. For two people (plus a generous lunch the next day), I washed, peeled, and sliced two beets, one very long yam, four asparagus spears, and half a head of cauliflower. Slices were 1/2-1" thick (thicker slices take longer to cook), and i kept them piled in a bowl while i prepared the dip and batter.

1 cup non-dairy milk of your choice
1 tbsp garlic aioli (or vegan mayo)

Mix well until the milk (i used soy milk) thickens. The aioli adds a nice garlic touch, but really it's not necessary. you could also use plain soy milk, but thicker liquids allow for more breading to stick. And I love breading.

You'll need about 1.5 cups of bread crumbs (I used plain whole wheat crumbs) for all these veggies. If you like, you can add salt and pepper, but I was feeling bland.

To assemble:

Dip each veggie slice in the soy milk mixture and then coat generously with bread crumbs. (ProTip: Dip the beets last, or you'll turn your mixture bright red. Which then turns cauliflower pink. Trust me.) Place on a large baking sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn the slices with tongs or a fork, and bake for another 25 minutes. The veggies will be soft enough to pierce with a fork, but won't fall apart on their own.

While the veggies begin to schtnizel, wash, peel, and chop about 2.5 lbs of potatoes, and boil in a pot of lightly salted water for about 20-25 minutes.

Depending on how fast you peel and chop, the veggies should be ready to be turned and to cook for their second 25 minutes. Once they're back in the oven, you can start the creamed spinach.

Creamed Spinach Ingredients:

one bunch fresh spinach (about 6 cups of chopped leaves?), stems removed
2 tbsp Earth Balance non-dairy butter
1 tbsp flour (or cornstarch)
small pinch of nutmeg
1 cup soy milk (or your favorite milk)
1 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable concentrate (or one vegetable stock cube)

Wash the spinach and let it drain while getting the cream sauce ready. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and nutmeg and dissolve in the melted butter (about one minute). Slowly add the milk (and Better than Bouillon) and mix well. Once the mixture's thickened a little bit (2-4 minutes or so), turn the heat down to low, add all the spinach (it'll be a tight fit), cover the pot, and let the spinach wilt down for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to coat the spinach with the cream sauce. I don't like my spinach completely decimated when I eat it, so I stopped at this point and took it off the heat. However, if you like yours cooked more, feel free to continue wilting until you're content.

While the spinach is wilting, I mash the potatoes with a potato masher (if you're high tech, feel free to use a mixer). I mash potatoes based on my mood: last night I only added about a quarter tub of Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, because I've been on this crazy sour cream kick, although sometimes I'll just add Earth Balance, or just a little soy milk to moisten them up. And sometimes I add a little of everything just to fatten those suckers up. ;)

To serve, put mashed potatoes on a plate, lean several slices of veggies against the mashed potatoes, and put creamed spinach over the potatoes and veggies.

Overall, this is a low fat comfort food type dinner. For more protein, you could schnitzel some tofu or tempeh (or your favorite meat analogue). I meant to, just to try it, but it slipped my mind, and I went a little crazy with all the veggies anyway. The creamed spinach could be made without the margarine, if you'd like to eliminate the fat (just dissolve cornstarch in cold soy milk and heat to thicken). For allergies, Earth Balance has a new Soy-Free blend that's even more delicious than the original. One of these days I'm going to experiment with gluten-free bread crumbs, just to see how that works out, but for now I'm enjoying Whole Foods' brand Whole Wheat crumbs. To low-carb it, you could eliminate the crumbs entirely (or coat in soy or quinoa flour), and have naked schnitzel. I believe schnitzel is traditionally fried in oil, but frying is so messy, and so bad for my tummy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

tofu scramble and a cooking tip

Last month, my husband and I took a quick trip into Chicago and we ate at the Chicago Diner and Veggie Bite. Both were delicious and amazing! I highly recommend both places if you're ever in Chicago. The diner was fantastic and we ate there for dinner and breakfast. Veggie Bite was a lunch stop when we first got into the city. I had my fill of vegan junk food (hot dog and chili cheese fries), but the diner was filling delicious satisfying much healthier food. :)

For quite some time now, I've been a tofu scramble snob, basically only using minor variations of my own recipe. For breakfast at the Chicago Diner, I had the tofu scramble, and it was different than what I was used to, but it was pretty tasty. I thought I could make a similar one at home if I tried, and then I remembered Vegan Dad.

Vegan Dad has a scramble recipe that's gotten rave reviews online, and this morning I had a scramble and sausage craving. OH MY GOODNESS, this is better than anything! I don't think I'll ever make another tofu scramble! Seriously, you must try this: clicky clicky clicky!

I don't have any adequate photographs, so you'll just have to check out his blog and his post. Honestly, it was a little creepy how much this resembled semi-runny eggs. I got over that pretty fast, though. :)

In case you're curious, for sausage, I made the tempeh and white bean sausage patties from "Vegan With a Vengeance" with minimal modifications. (I mash mine up really well before turning into patties, though, and use matzoh meal for bread crumbs.)

Stainless Steel Cooking Tip!

I have one non-stick pan left (mentioned in another post). I have every intention of not buying another teflon/non-stick pan once this one wears out (the coating flakes off), because of the reports about the questionable safety of these coatings. Cast iron can be a great nonstick substitute, but I don't feel comfortable using it on my cooktop. I've read this magic trick with stainless steel (which we use regularly) and I finally tried it today, and I've GOT to share it with you!

Basically, you shake some salt onto the stainless pan, and put your oil on top of the salt, and heat as normal. Somehow this makes the stainless function almost like a non-stick pan. (I'm sure a high-fat food wouldn't stick, but tofu still has to be gently worked off. But it's MUCH neater than the tofu messes I've made in that stainless pan before.)

My scientific hypothesis regarding how this works is that the water-soluble salt gets coated with the oil, and then "rolls" around the pan (since salt won't dissolve in oil), like little ball bearings if you will (nerdiest cooking analogy ever? perhaps), and the food kind of skates around the pan on these oil-salt beads. even once everything was stirred together, nothing stuck to the pan.

My hypothesis requires further testing, however.

One word of caution: because you're heating oil that seems to be more "mobile" than ordinary oil, and adding wet tofu, this oil splashes a LOT more than any other time i've put tofu in oil. So just be careful. :)

Maybe I'm the last person on earth to discover this, but here it is, documented for all eternity. Make fun of me if you must. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Seitan Nuggets with Maple Mustard

Originally uploaded by jennifermf
Recently, my husband and I made a spur of the moment trip to Chicago. I was really excited to check out the Chicago Diner and we ended up having both dinner and breakfast there. It was fantastic! We had these great seitan nuggets (we had great food period, but I'd never had seitan nuggets before) and they were inspiring. I tried to make my own version here. They went over so well that my husband asked me to make them again a couple days later!


1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
a few dashes of black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sage
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
a dash worcestershire sauce


In a bowl, mix the flours and spices. In a small bowl, mix all liquid ingredients and pour at once into the flour and spice mix. stir until combined and knead for about 5 minutes.

While the gluten rests, preheat oven to 350f. fill a 9x13 glass dish with water and about a tbsp sea salt. Dissolve what you can but the rest will dissolve eventually.

Break off tablespoon-sized pieces of the gluten and flatten them as much as possible. They'll expand when they cook, so don't make them too huge if you don't want giant nuggets.

Once you've made a pile of flat nuggets, drop them into the salt water (it's okay if they touch, but try and spread them out evenly), and cook for about 40-45 minutes. When they're done, you can drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water so they're cool enough to handle (or just use tongs, which is what I did).

Dip them in bread crumbs (i seasoned mine with thyme, salt, and pepper), spray lightly with cooking oil, and bake at 400 for 15 minutes on each side, or until they're as crispy as you like them. I ran out of bread crumbs halfway through the second batch pictured here, so I used matzo meal, which made them lighter in color, but just as tasty.

For the sauce, I mixed dijon mustard with maple syrup about half and half, until I liked the taste. The other ramekin is ketchup. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All About Tofu

Tofu gets a bad rep. People fear it. People judge it. People make fun of it. After talking to a friend of mine about her sad experience attempting tofu taco "meat" I decided to talk about tofu here, because I have lots to say about it.

I used to joke about tofu, too. It's sort of a boring block of flavorless... jello. It's mysterious. And I haven't had much luck in finding tips and tricks all in one place, so I hope I can fill in the gap a bit.

Tofu's a great food. It's made from soybeans, and as far as prepared foods go, it's one of the least processed foods of all processed foods. You can even make your own, if you're so inclined. It's low in fat, free of trans fat, cholesterol free, low carb, high protein, and is a decent source of iron and calcium. (nutritional info)

There are rumors that tofu will cause men to grow breasts, women to ovulate constantly, (hormone imbalances), thyroid problems, and a host of other scary things. These are scare tactics, and I highly suggest people do their own research before listening to anyone who says a food will cause men to grow breasts. Check out The Safety of Soy. Go on, I'll wait.

So now that you know tofu is nothing more than a bean (a soybean, to be specific), and is nothing to be feared, let's talk a little about how to make it not suck. Tofu is great! Tofu is healthy! Tofu is fun! Tofu is flexible, versatile, and awesome.

Types of tofu. I'm going to abbreviate this, because I'm a simple girl. There are two distinct types of tofu: fresh, and not fresh. Fresh tofu is packaged in water and is sold in the produce/refigerated section of the market. There are lots of brands, like China Rose, Nasoya, and House. Not fresh tofu is packaged in an aseptic container (much like a juice box), and is shelf-stable. The only brand I've ever seen is Mori-Nu. Mori-Nu tofu resembles custard, doesn't have air holes (no spongy texture), and is really only good for pureeing in sauces, puddings, cakes, and so on. Fresh tofu is the type of tofu that's best for marinading and eating in chunks, slices, and crumbles.

Both types come in different densities, from soft to extra firm. In general, soft tofu is best for pureeing, or when you don't care if it keeps its shape. Firm or extra firm tofu is best for slicing, dicing, and serving whole. I always buy the firmest tofu I can find. Keep in mind that extra firm tofu in one brand might not be as firm as another brand, so there's some experimentation and experience that happens, too.

For ease, when I talk about tofu, I'm talking about fresh tofu, unless I specifically state Mori-Nu, or tofu an an aseptic package.

Texture of tofu. There's nothing wrong with busting open a package of tofu, and using it the way you bought it. Tofu is great as-is, and it has nothing to be ashamed of. However, something magical happens when the whole package gets thrown in the freezer, it's allowed to freeze solid, thaw, and be used in recipes. Freezing tofu changes the texture so it's more chewy, and it increases the size of the little holes in the tofu, which helps it absorb more of that awesome marinade you're using.

When I get home from the store, I throw most of the tofu right into the freezer, which keeps it longer, and when I want tofu, I take it out in the morning and leave it on the counter/in the sink (a LOT of condensation happens), and it's ready for dinner. I prefer un-frozen tofu for tofu scramble, but for almost anything else, I like my tofu frozen. If you lack forethought, like I often do, you can defrost the tofu in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Just be careful that it doesn't get too hot to handle. And don't try to cut frozen tofu: your knife and the ice crystals will just tear it up and break the tofu.

Getting ready to cook tofu. Tofu needs to be pressed. This means the water needs to be expelled from the little holes in the tofu (think of tofu like a big sponge), to make room for marinades and sauces. There are lots of instructions out there about how to properly press tofu, but I'm impatient, so I'll tell you how I do it.

I get out two small plates, sandwich the tofu brick between the flat sides (the sides you eat from), and gently press evenly over the sink. Lots of water will come out, and eventually it'll slow down. Don't squash your tofu (frozen tofu can handle squashing a lot better than unfrozen, just FYI), and take care not to break the block up, but just gently press evenly with your hands until the bulk of the water is removed (you won't get it all). Some people rig up elaborate tofu-pressing devices, with stacks of plates and cans and heavy objects, with a tofu block wrapped in towels, and leave it for an hour... but I'm much too impatient for that. I find this works just fine. Now the tofu is ready to be marinaded or otherwise cooked.

Cooking tofu. When marinading tofu, longer is better, but even just a half hour to an hour is enough to soak up flavor. Then it can either be baked or pan fried. When I bake tofu, I've discovered that my Sil-pat baking mat is fantastic: tofu never sticks! It's amazing. But if you don't have a Sil-pat or don't want to use one, any baking dish lightly sprayed with oil works fine. spray the tofu before you flip them, so the other sides don't stick! I bake tofu at 350f for about 10-15 minutes per side, depending on how crispy I want them.

For pan frying, I admit I have some trouble with this. We use stainless steel cookware, and tofu always sticks to it. I've destroyed so much tofu on these pans, that I tend to avoid using tofu in them at all, which limits my tofu flexibility. I have a background in chemistry, and after reading many articles talking about the potential toxicity of non-stick cookware (example here), I'm really really leery about non-stick cookware, as convenient as it is for tofu. So, I admit (somewhat shamefully) that I have one lone non-stick frying pan that I'm going to use until the coating starts to peel off, and then I will throw it out and never use non-stick again. In the meantime, I do use it for tofu (and not much else), because it gets a nice crispy outside and keeps the inside chewy. (Baking tofu makes the tofu crispy throughout.)

If you have cast iron cookware, I'm jealous, because cast iron makes tofu awesome. It browns the outside nicely, and well-seasoned cast iron can be just as non-stick as Teflon or other non-stick surfaces, without the cancer. I have a great new cast iron pan, but I bought it about a month before we bought a nice new cooktop stove, and I'm paranoid about destroying the cooktop, so I have not use my cast iron since the stove arrived. But I highly recommend cast iron for tofu!

Enjoying tofu. Well, that's about all I can think of for now! If you have any tofu tips, tricks, or suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. Tofu is a great food, and it should be celebrated, not feared!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I've been somewhat MIA because I haven't been feeling well and it's kept me out of the kitchen. I have a back problem that causes me lots of pain (especially when standing), and I also found out I have fibromyalgia. Now I have better drugs, and I'm able to stand for longer, and hopefully that will lend itself to more kitchen experiments.

Also, in terms of new news, my husband and I have decided to move out of state, so we're busy freecycling, selling, and packing things. We normally keep a well-stocked pantry, so at this point we're not grocery shopping and we're having whatever's in the pantry. It should make for some interesting recipes. I hope.

So today I found a box of manicotti noodles, and one lone box of Mori-Nu tofu. So I tried to make it not suck:

manicotti noodles (1 lb)
1 box Mori-Nu tofu
1 cup (roughly) cooked kale or spinach
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce


Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the noodles on to boil and ready the food processor. In the food processor, put the tofu, kale, nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice, and puree until no tofu chunks remain (you may want to puree the tofu first and then add everything else).

Put a small amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9"x13" glass baking dish.

When the noodles are done, rinse them with cool water so they can be handled. Using a fork, stuff some filling into each noodle. When all the noodles have been stuffed, cover the noodles with the remainder of the sauce. (Rinse the jar with a little water and add that to the pan too.)

Cover with foil. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before devouring!