Welcome to day one of our #PlantPoweredProtein series!
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you'll know that the question I get asked the most whenever I tell someone that I'm vegan or plant-based is: "So you don't eat meat? Where do you get your protein from?" The repetition of this question inspired me to shed some light on protein sources outside of meat. While I'm sure that a few of the items mentioned in this series won't be a surprise to most of you, my hope is that you'll learn more about the sources that you're already familiar with and be introduced to others that might not initially come to mind.
With that being said, let's dive into day one: tofu!
I chose to start this series with tofu because I think it's a food that most people have heard of, yet may be intimidated by or unfamiliar with. Tofu is merely just condensed soybean liquid that has been curdled, and that curd is then pressed to form a solid. On it's own, tofu has little to no flavor, which makes it great for cooking because it easily absorbs the flavors of whatever it's added to.
Tofu is obviously part of this series because it's a great source of protein (an average serving of tofu contains between 8-10g of protein, which is around 15-20% of the recommended daily amount a person should be consuming), however it's also considered to be a "complete food." This means that tofu contains all of the essential amino acids that humans need to live. Tofu is also a rich source of calcium, iron and is a cholesterol-free food.
Tofu comes in a variety of consistencies depending on how much water is pressed out when it's being processed:
- Silken: With the highest water content of the bunch, this type of tofu has a really silky or creamy texture. Its smooth consistency makes it easy to add to smoothies, desserts and can even be used as an egg substitute if you're dairy-free.
- Soft: A little firmer than silken, soft tofu is great to use in soups.
- Firm: Firm tofu is a completely different texture than silken or soft and is the best of the group for absorbing the flavors of whatever it's being cooked with. The most favorable ways to cook with this tofu are in stir fries or pan frying dishes.
- Extra / super firm: Extra and super firm tofu varieties have the highest protein content / least amount of water. Due to their lower water content, this type of tofu is great for baking, grilling and frying because they're less likely lose their shape or texture. Extra or super firm tofu can be a little more challenging when it comes to infusing flavor, but they have the most solid texture in terms of consistency.
From a personal standpoint, I prefer extra or super firm tofu. If you've tried tofu in the past and the consistency has freaked you out (IE soft / squishy / really chewy), try extra or super firm and see if that doesn't change your mind. :)
What to understand when buying tofu:
- Tofu may get a bad rap because some varieties out there can be genetically-modified. No bueno. So, when you're at your local grocery store and you're considering picking up some tofu, your best bet is to look for tofu that is organic and that "Non-GMO Project Verified" is clearly stated on the package.
- I've talked briefly in other blog posts about what tofu I buy, but to reiterate that again here: I always try to find organic sprouted super firm tofu (like this from Nasoya). Regular tofu is made from whole soybeans, but sprouted tofu is made with sprouted soybeans. Why does this matter? When beans or seeds are sprouted, they’re more nutrient-dense and are a lot easier to digest than the regular beans or seeds, which is great if you’re just introducing tofu into your diet.
- Definitely note that while extra and super firm varieties of tofu have the lowest water content, there will still be water in the container. If I can't find tofu that's already pressed (I tend to buy Nasoya brand a lot and they have a line of pre-pressed tofu that comes in a vacuum-sealed package), I'll just take the tofu block out of the package, wrap it in a kitchen towel, place a cutting board on top of it with a heavy object (IE a free weight or a large cookbook) and press the remaining water out of the tofu for about 15 minutes.
Okay, now on to the recipe! I'm sharing a super easy veggie stir fry. What I love about stir frying is that the meal comes together really quickly and can be a great Meatless Monday option that you can easily prep on Sunday.
What You'll Need:
- One package of Nasoya's organic sprouted super firm tofu
- One medium head of broccoli (great source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, reduces inflammation in the body and promotes heart health)
- One orange bell pepper (boosts immunity in the body, reduces inflammation, great for the health of our hair, skin and eyes)
- One celery heart (awesome source of Vitamin K, alkalizes the body, supports hydration, aids in digestion)
- One cup of carrots (excellent source of vitamin A and is great for eye health, helps our bodies with digestion, reduces inflammation and boosts immunity)
- And a marinade of:
- 2 TBS sesame oil
- 6 TBS of tamari lite
- 1 TBS freshly grated ginger (you can use ground ginger if needed -- ginger is a good source of antioxidants and is known to treat nausea, help with digestion and promote cell growth)
- 2 tsp of chili pepper flakes (feel free to omit if you don't like spice!)
Let's Make It:
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
- While your oven heats up, grab your tofu block and cut up your tofu into cubes. Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet and arrange your tofu onto the baking sheet. Once your oven is up to temp, pop your tofu in and set your timer for 15 minutes. When your 15 minutes is up, flip your tofu and put them back in the oven for another 15 minutes until they're golden and crispy on the outside. When your tofu is done, set aside and let cool for 20 minutes.
- Next, chop up all of your veggies (you can use whatever veggies sound good to you) and throw them into a bowl or container big enough for you to stir / mix them together (eventually adding your tofu). Whisk together the ingredients for your marinade and drizzle over your vegetables, stirring to make sure everything is coated.
- If you're meal prepping, this is a great place to stop. Add your cooled tofu to your bowl of veggies, give everything a good stir, cover and store in the fridge until you're ready to cook. This allows all of the flavors of the marinade to mix and hang out with the rest of your ingredients.
- If you're not meal prepping, pour all of your ingredients into a large skillet or wok over medium heat. As everything starts to sizzle, stir occasionally to ensure that all ingredients are getting cooked.
- Once your veggies are warm and tender, remove from heat and serve immediately!
As always, if you make this recipe, let me know how it turns out for you! AND, definitely let me know what you think if you try tofu! : )