The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 16, 2013

Amanda Stone: Tofu great as meat stand-in

JOPLIN, Mo. — If the word "tofu" normally turns you off immediately, I want you to keep reading. I can empathize.

I move on when I see the words "pork shoulder." I'm sure I love eating it, but I don't know a thing about preparing it. You don't know you love tofu, but you do. I promise.

Let's get the ugly truth out of the way: Tofu is basically soybean curd. Doesn't "tofu" sound less intimidating than "soybean curd"? It's a staple in Asian countries, and let's face it, we Americans could use a little Asian influence in our diets.

The beauty of tofu lies in its chameleon-like ability to absorb the texture and flavor of its surroundings. No one has to know you've used tofu. If you cook for a picky eater, or you worry about a kid not getting enough protein, smash some tofu into the foods they do like.

Tofu is a great protein source for vegetarians. However, it's also an easy way to cut the fat and cost in meat dishes. Try substituting crumbled firm tofu for half of your ground meat in tacos, chili, sloppy Joes or anything else. After you become confident in your tofu skills, you can substitute it for meat entirely in a meal. You get all the protein but none of the saturated fat. And it's easier on your budget. Try it on a Meatless Monday, then make it a goal to use it once a week in place of or in addition to meat.

There are three main types of tofu: firm, soft and silken. Firm is best for the more experienced tofu user. It can be crumbled and used to add heft while cutting fat in scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes and ground meat. It can be sliced or cubed for grilling or stir-fried for the tofu-fearless, or tofearless. It's fun to make fun or yourself, especially if you eat tofu.

Soft and silken tofu is so versatile Ñ once you use them, you'll wonder where tofu has been all your life. Either can be pureed to mimic cream. Do you realize what this means? You can add cream to soups, sauces, dressings and desserts with virtually no fat. Tofu really proves its worth in its softest form, in my opinion.

Alfredo sauce is a simple, delicious way to begin loving tofu. The garlic and Parmesan give you all the flavor of traditional Alfredo sauce, while the tofu lends its creaminess and cuts the calories in half. Use whole-grain noodles, throw some broccoli into the boiling water when the noodles are almost done, and you will have an amazing, healthy meal.

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