Don't Be Afraid of Tofu

It's time soy meets world.

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Tofu and I are having a bit of a standoff, like in those old Western movies where the tumbleweed rolls through the frame and that music makes the moment even more ridiculous than it already is. We’re looking each other dead in the eyes, unable to figure one another out, but prepared for anything. And, of course, we’re both wearing cowboy hats.

You see, as a newly converted vegetarian, I’m trying to navigate and subsequently conquer the enigma that is tofu. It doesn’t quite feel like a plant, definitely isn’t a meat, has the texture of Play-Doh and quite frankly doesn’t taste very good. It’s odd and polarizing, but instead of conceding and heading out for a burger, I keep coming back for more. Perhaps I’m addicted to the tofu; perhaps I’m addicted to the thrill of figuring the thing out.

A great plant-based source of protein, tofu has so much potential, but, let’s face it, has a terrible reputation, especially when it comes to flavor. The meat alternative is called names like “bland,” “tasteless” and “icky.” But, at the end of the day, it’s simply misunderstood and mistreated.

Tofu is a blank slate. Prepared similarly to cheese, the soy-based protein is available in silken, soft, firm and extra-firm varieties, which are all used for different purposes. Silken tofu can be made into smoothies; soft tofu can be used to replace ingredients like eggs that have a similar texture; firm and extra-firm tofu can be used pretty interchangeably, and are great meat substitutes in dishes like Udon with Tofu and Asian Greens or Veggie Kabobs with Herb and Garlic Marinade.

If you’re looking to develop strong exterior texture, frying tofu is the best way to achieve this. Sautéing it with aromatics in sauce is another great way to impart additional flavor.

FNK_BakedTofuTenders_H

FNK_BakedTofuTenders_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Baked Tofu Tenders from Kids Can Make for KIDS CAN BAKE/KIDS CAN MAKE/EASTER, as seen on Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

I also love to bake tofu, especially these Baked Tofu Tenders. They develop a nice crunch on the exterior, while still maintaining a super creamy interior. They’re also easy to make and so much fun, so try making them with your kids! One of the things I am most thankful for in my life is learning to cook with my mom and Mimi at a very young age. I’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen playing with ingredients, testing out different recipes and developing some of the best memories of my childhood. The recipe is simple yet engaging and will show kids all different cooking techniques from preheating an oven to elementary knife skills.

For additional ways to jazz up the unconventional ingredient, while also engaging your family in the kitchen, check out this array of recipes on How to Make Tofu Taste Good, from sweet to savory, silken to extra firm, to figure out the best ways to make the most of your meals and make tofu taste delicious.

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