Happy Herbivore Blog

Teaching Tuesday: Tofu (Everything You Want To Know!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Cooking101

It's the Teaching Tuesday you've been waiting for: tofu! (Try saying "Teaching Tuesday Tofu" three times fast!)

I think tofu is pretty hit or miss. Some people LOVE it, while others can't get past the texture.

Whatever side you may be on, the good news is tofu's a blank canvas (or in this case, a block canvas), which means it's quite versatile and can easily be transformed!

What is it?

Tofu is bean curds made from coagulating soy milk into curds. These curds are then put into forms and pressed to create a large block of tofu. The large block is then cut into smaller blocks and packaged in filtered water.

Tofu, in general, is very high in protein and low in calories. It's also pretty tasteless, so it lends well to many flavors.

Types

Silken: Silken tofu is just how it sounds, silky. It is great for making sauces and creams because of it's smooth and pudding-like texture. You can find silken tofu in the refrigerated section of the store or in a Tetra Pack on shelf in an aisle (Mori-Nu is the most common shelf-stable brand).

Firm/Extra Firm: Extra-firm is much firmer than Firm. Firm and Extra-Firm tofu work best for when the tofu needs to hold together such as in stir-fries, or when you're making Baked Tofu (HHC, pg. 138), or crumbled as in HH's Tofu Scramble. Note that if the recipe calls for cubing the tofu into small pieces, the firmer the better.

I once used firm tofu once in place of silken tofu when making HH's Sour Cream (EHH, p. 274). I ran the firm tofu through the blender a few times by itself with a little nondairy milk before making the recipe so it was somewhat silken in texture. It wasn't quite as creamy as usual, but it still worked in a pinch.

On the flip side, you generally can't substitute the silken for firm or extra-firm.

Sprouted: Sprouted tofu is the same as regular tofu, except it is made from sprouted soy beans. While there is no difference in how you would cook with sprouted tofu (it is still labelled as firm, extra-firm, etc) there is a difference nutritionally. Sprouted tofu generally has more calories and fat than regular tofu, but also more protein.

How to press tofu

Occasionally a recipe may call for "pressed tofu". You're probably wondering "what's the point of pressed tofu"? When you press tofu, you're pressing out excess water, which allows more flavor to be absorbed while cooking.

I once had a fancy tofu press, but since I never used it, I gave it away. Now whenever I need to press tofu, I use regular objects anyone can find around the house. Here's how to press in 5 easy steps:

  • Remove tofu from package, drain away excess water
  • Wrap tofu in a clean dish towel.
  • Place wrapped tofu on a cutting board or plate.
  • Place another cutting board or baking sheet on top of tofu and add heavy objects (i.e. books, cans of beans) to press out water.
  • Leave heavy objects on tofu for about 30 minutes, but stay close in case your objects shift.

Freezing tofu

Many people don't like the texture of tofu. If that's the case, try freezing it! It's a great way to change the texture (it makes it a little more chewier) without much effort. The color also changes when frozen, but will go back to it's off-white shade once thawed. See this post for details: How to Freeze Tofu

Allergic to soy, or maybe tofu isn't your cup of tea?

No problem! See my post on How to Replace Tofu. I also recently shared on Facebook about a new brand of soy-free hemp tofu hitting the market. I haven't personally used it, but it's nice to see that alternatives are slowly but surely becoming available!

Do you like tofu? If so, how do you enjoy it?

Minimalist Monday: Downsizing To 100 Items (Guest Post by Tammy!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: MinimalistGuest

Just before I released my first minimalist book Minimalist Monday: Declutter Your Way to a Zen Home (Order it in all electronic forms here!), I received the following email from Tammy:

"Almost 3 years ago, we decided to become traveling nurses. We put our house up for sale and sold most of our possessions (or gave them to our college aged kids :). We now only own what can fit in our 2 cars. We try to limit our possessions to about 100 items each, however the dog also fills up much of our limited space. I am amazed how easy life is without a lot of clutter. Everytime we see something that we may want to buy we really think about if we really need it or just think its cute. We are also to the point that we know if we choose to buy something, we must get rid of something. As a traveling nurse, our housing is provided so we don't have to worry about that."

When I read that she and her husband limit themselves to 100 items each, I was crazy impressed. And as a minimalist whose journey began with downsizing and decluttering (you can read about my own personal story in the book), I just had to ask Tammy to share her experience.

Hopefully you'll find her story just as inspiring as I did!

I hear it a lot. "We could never do what you and Jim do". Yet so many people are talking about becoming minimalist these days that apparently a lot of you would like to.

Fifteen years ago I married the love of my life. It was a second marriage for both of us so we not only were combining families, we were combining stuff. I remember moving into our brand new home and even with all our possessions we had empty cupboards. I didn't know what to do with all that space.

Fast forward 12 years. Our youngest son was getting ready to graduate from high school and head off to college. Jim and I were getting ready to start the adventure of a lifetime. We are both nurses and decided that we did not want to retire in Michigan with its cold winters. We had heard about traveling nurses and decided it would be a great way to see the country and figure out where we eventually would settle down and retire. Making that decision meant that we would either have to put everything we own in storage or get rid of almost everything except what we could fit in our two cars. Our travel company does provide us with furnished housing so we didn't have to worry about that.

As I started going through our possessions, I remember opening boxes that I had placed in the attic when we first moved into the house. I had not been in those boxes in 12 years. That is when it started to hit me that we had collected “stuff” that we did not not need or use. Going through the house, which by the way no longer had any empty cupboards, was not a quick task. If you are like me you have boxes of old photographs and albums that hold so many memories. How can you part with that?

We decided to scan our photos and now have them organized on our computers. I gave each of the kids their own baby books and offered them any of the possessions of our home that they wanted. I found it sad that they did not want all my Christmas decorations that I had collected over the years. It is interesting the collections that are important to us do not have the same meaning or value to our kids. This year my christmas decoration consisted of my homemade quilted Christmas tree that we can hang on our wall. It's not the same as a big tree but it still gives us the feeling of Christmas where ever we are at.

In limiting ourselves to around 100 items each, it made it much easier to say we really didn't need 6 sets of bath towels or 8 pair of jeans each. We had a big garage sale and were amazed at the fact that we sold most of our possessions for a fraction of what we had paid for them. It is a standing joke with us now when we are looking at buying something to ask, "How much will that go for at the garage sale?". I think it is important to think about how much you value an item. My husband loves to cook, however he decided that he didn't really need his Kitchen Aid mixer. 3 weeks into our first assignment we were out buying a new one.

After almost 3 years of traveling, we still go through our items each time we are getting ready to move. Each time we get rid of a little more stuff. The idea is, if we haven't used it during the past 3 months is it because it is a seasonal item, (like the winter boots I had to purchase because of our assignment in Northern New Mexico) or do we really not need it. For me, not having a lot of possessions is not hard. I do not mind wearing the same jeans and sweatshirt everyday. I don't have any holiday decorations in my home but am able to enjoy the decorations of whatever location we are at. We were able to live and work in the Virgin Islands for 6 months and there, the only thing we were able to take with us was 1 suitcase each. That limited us to truly only our work clothes and a couple pairs of shorts, tops and swimsuits. It was such an amazing experience and we did not miss anything.

Jim and I are so blessed to be able to travel the country, make so many new friends, help so many different people in our jobs that having things has become even less important to us. People, relationships, family, that is what is important, not things.

How To Make Gluten-Free Seitan

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

I always get questions about how to make gluten-free seitan. When Herbies ask how to replace the vital wheat gluten, my go-to recommendation is OrgraN’s Gluten-Substitute. I can't tell you how many emails I've received saying this product has changed their life!

Recently, Josh posted his own gluten-free seitan recipe in one of the comment sections, so I asked if I could share it on the blog.

Not only does his recipe include how to make a chicken style seitan loaf, but also sweet potato dumplings and dumpling stew for a complete meal!

Since I've been traveling so much I haven't had a chance to make this, but hopefully you'll find it helpful -- and delicious :)

Chicken Style Gluten-Free Seitan Loaf

  • 1/3 cup teff flour
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup moth bean flour (or mung bean or lentil flours)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cube vegan vegetable bullion (no salt added)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground rosemary
  • 3/4 cup cooked kidney beans (puree in food processor before adding to the flour mixture)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut aminos (or Braggs)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 325F. Puree wet ingredients in food processor. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, then slowly add to wet mixture in food processor. Continue to mix until all ingredients have combined and a dough ball forms. Place seitan mixture on 15 inch long piece of foil (Note: Josh says he greases the top side of his aluminum foil with cooking spray, but I don't think that's necessary for seitan) and form a 12 inch long, 1/2 inch high, and 3 inch wide log. Leave about 1 1/2 inches on either end of dough to edge of foil. Wrap the foil around seitan and twist ends tightly. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes flipping over once halfway.

For the sweet potato dumplings:

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 1/2 cups chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
  • 2 ener-g egg replacements
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large pot filled with cold water about two thirds filled on stovetop to boil. Boil or roast sweet potatoes until tender and mash cooked sweet potatoes. Make vegan egg by mixing egg replacer with warm water according to package instructions. Stir mashed sweet potatoes, egg replacer, flours, salt and pepper together, then knead with hands. Grabbing golf ball size pieces, roll and drop carefully into boiling water, and cook until dumplings rise to surface.

For the chicken and dumpling stew:

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch long pieces
  • 6 large red kale leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups non dairy milk (I use flax milk)
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch or other starch like arrowroot or sweet rice flour mixed with equal parts water.
  • 1/4 chopped dill
  • Poultry seasoning spices like sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, onion powder, and garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Line a large pot with a thin layer of vegetable broth and saute onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Add green beans and cook until tender. Add kale and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then add milk of choice and thickener slurry. Cook until thickened. Add chopped dill and serve with sweet potato dumplings and chopped seitan.