The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 16, 2013

Amanda Stone: Tofu great as meat stand-in

By Amanda Stone
Globe Columnist

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.

Tofu alfredo

1 package soft or silken tofu

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup milk

11/2 teaspoons basil

1 tablespoon parsley

1 teaspoon onion powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy. Transfer sauce to a pan and heat until warm. I like to serve the Alfredo over spaghetti squash. We get an extra veggie serving, and I can serve bread without overdoing the carbohydrates.

Lasagna rolls

12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm, water-packed tofu, drained, rinsed and crumbled

3 cups chopped spinach

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (25-ounce) jar marinara sauce, preferably low-sodium, divided

1/2 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse and return to the pot, and cover with cold water until ready to use.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add tofu, spinach and cook, stirring often, until the spinach wilts and the mixture is heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; stir in Parmesan, olives, crushed red pepper, salt and 2/3 cup marinara sauce.

Wipe out the pan and spread 1 cup of the remaining marinara sauce on the bottom. To make lasagna rolls, place a noodle on a work surface and spread 1/4 cup of the tofu filling along it. Roll up and place the roll, seam-side down, in the pan. Repeat with the remaining noodles and filling. (The tofu rolls will be tightly packed in the pan.) Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the rolls.

Place the pan over high heat, cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; let simmer for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the rolls with mozzarella, cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the rolls are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot.


Sesame tofu dressing

1 package (12- to 16-ounce) water-packed soft or aseptic-packed silken tofu

1 cup seasoned rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (including tops)

3 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon hot chili flakes

Drain tofu in a colander for about 5 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels. In a food processor or blender, combine tofu, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, green onions, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce and chili flakes. Whirl until very smooth.


Have questions? Email them to or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.