This is kind of a weird post because it’s actually directed at Noah (and my “voice” in the post is directed at him), but I thought maybe someone new to tofu, or just interested in trying tofu, might find it useful.
I remember a very specific moment that made me feel so GOOD about being a mother. I think parents probably question themselves all the time about whether they’re doing a good job and I think sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves. I’m extremely critical of myself (something I’m always trying to work on). But there was one moment I remember so well. it made me feel better as a mom than I ever have!
It was the night before my mom and I were going to take Noah and Eli to Belle Isle in Detroit to run a 5K. The kids were excited and I told them to pick out the clothes they wanted to run in the next morning. Ellie, out of nowhere, said, “I want to make a shirt that says ‘Runs for Cookies is my mom.’ I have no idea where it came from, I swear.
It was too late to make a shirt, but my heart just melted. Was he proud of *me*?! Was he *so* proud that I was his mom?! I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I decided to get out of bed, get out whatever craft supplies I had, and make Ellie a shirt. It turned out pretty good, all things considered! In any other circumstance, I’d be pretty embarrassed by a shirt that basically says I’m a big deal. but I would have worn whatever Elid asked of me until that day. He really liked the shirt and was proud to wear it. (And yes, I still have it.)
I recently had another moment where I thought in pleasant surprise, “Really? Me?!” as a mother. I asked Noah to write a Christmas wish list and most of the things on there were tools he would need to work on cars. At the bottom, though, he had written that he wanted me to make him a cookbook with his favorite recipes that I had made over the years. And then he specifically asked for instructions on how to make tofu.
I never knew Noah thought anything special about the dinners I cook. I certainly never expected her to ask for a recipe book! One of the things I wish I had done most is teach the kids to cook. I had them help me cook many times, but they never explained things the way I would have liked – like what kinds of spices to use for different cuisines, for example.
So, I wanted to make him this little cookbook. Not necessarily for Christmas, but because she wants to have the foods she loved when she lived here. (He knows he can always come home to eat–in fact, I just made him waffles this morning when he stopped by–but I love that he wanted to learn to cook for himself.)
I’m not going to post the whole thing here, but since tofu can be scary if you’ve never made it, I thought this would be a good place to post. Obviously I’m no expert at making tofu–I’ve only been making it for a year and a half–but I make it A LOT because I love it. I’ve experimented with many different ways to make tofu, but these are the ones I’ve found work best.
So, here’s what I wrote about Noah (regarding tofu). I haven’t posted actual recipes here. just the ways to make tofu. Maybe I’ll do a post with some favorite recipes another day. (You can download the tofu preparation PDF here–It’s the exact same instructions as below.)
How to make tofu (various ways)
BEFORE MEAL PREPARATION:
I like to buy the super firm tofu, which you can find in the refrigerated “healthy” section of the store. First, either put it in the freezer (freezing it and then thawing it gives it a more “meaty” texture) or just open the package. It will have a lot of liquid in it, so drain the liquid and then put it in the tofu press I bought you.
Press the tofu (as I showed you) for a few hours to release most of the liquid. Then cut it into the shape you want (I like to slice or dice, or you could even tear it with your fingers into “nuggets”.)
You’ll almost always want to marinate your tofu before using it, but it’s not completely necessary.
When marinating, always try to do it the night before you plan to cook it (or at least in the morning). You want it to marinate long enough to absorb the flavors of the marinade.
In a large reusable zip-top bag, combine all the marinade ingredients. Close the ziplock bag and shake well. Then add the tofu and gently turn the bag over a few times to let all the tofu soak up some of the marinade. Put it in the fridge overnight (if you want to put it every now and then).
After marinating, proceed to the cooking methods…
FOR TOFOU “IN THE CHICKEN” BAKED IN THE OVEN:
Make sure the marinade you make has oil in it (oil makes the tofu firmer and crispier; without oil, it’s hard to get a crispy outside). Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread the marinated tofu all over the paper. Bake at 350 F for 30-50 minutes. This is a huge amount of time, I know, but it depends a lot on how the tofu is cut (size and shape). Check it after 30 minutes and it will probably still be soft. Then check it every 5-10 minutes until it’s as firm as you want it. It will CONTINUE to firm up a bit as it cools, so take it out before it gets too hard.
FOR OVEN BAKED TOFU:
Prepare the tofu as above, but before putting it in the oven, prepare the breading. Take out 3 bowls and mix in them:
Bowl 1: Flour (about ¼ cup)
Bowl 2: Milk (I like soy milk, about ½ cup) + ½ tsp. vinegar (which will thicken the milk, don’t let that worry you)
Bowl 3: Panko Breadcrumbs (about ¾ cup) + seasonings you like (remember the marinade was probably salty, so be sure to keep that in mind when adding salt to the seasonings).
Dip each piece of tofu in the flour to lightly coat the sides. Then dip it in the milk. Then roll it in the panko + seasoning mixture. (If you want it super crispy, do a second dip in the milk and a second roll in the panko.) Spray with cooking spray (optional, just makes the breading crispier).
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Spread the tofu in a single layer, then bake at 375F for about 30-50 minutes (depending on the size of your pieces. Just lightly press a spoon or spatula into a piece of tofu to feel how firm it is, then remove it when the fit is slightly looser than you’d like (because it tightens up a bit as it cools).
TOFOU Fried bread:
Prepare the tofu just like oven tofu, but do not prepare a baking sheet. Instead, heat a good layer of oil in the bottom of a pan. Heat the pan over medium heat, then place the tofu in a single layer and fry for a few minutes. Flip the tofu and cook the other side as well (or if there are cubes, just keep turning them over, gently). Add more oil if it dries out. Cook until the tofu is crispy on all sides and firm to your liking. You should probably turn the heat down when the outsides are crispy – don’t let them burn.
TO USE TOFU IN PLACE OF MINCER:
Depending on what you’re making, you don’t need to press this tofu too hard. If you are going to leave it as is (meaning no prepping/seasoning beforehand) then just squeeze the excess water out over the sink. Next, crumble the tofu piece into a bowl so it breaks up like mince. Then just add it to your plate. This method is good for things like spaghetti, chili, etc.
If you want it drier (but seasoned), you can mix together in a bowl:
2 tbsp tamari (the “good” soy sauce)
1 tsp. kitchen bouquet (optional, for color)
1 tablespoon of oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (if you don’t have it, it’s okay to leave it out, it’s different from regular paprika)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 piece very firm tofu (14-16 oz) (pressed gently)
Crumble the tofu into the bowl with all the seasonings. Then bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes, until it resembles mince. This is a good method when you are not using sauce or when you want to use it for tacos or something.
FOR ADDING TO SOUP, RICE, CURRY ETC.
You don’t even really have to prepare it. Simply squeeze, then dice and add directly to your desired sauce. Then let it simmer (it will soak up the liquid, which will give it flavor). This way will result in much softer tofu. I like it like this in a curry sauce!
TO USE ON OMELE EGGS ITEMS:
To use it in place of eggs for fried rice, squeeze it well (to remove any tofu flavor) and put it in clean water to rehydrate (soak the water to make it soft). Crumble it into the fried rice. You can season the tofu to look and taste like eggs with a spice mix I make — I’ll give you some if you want). You can also use soft tofu or silken tofu (the boxed kind in our pantry). I like silken tofu for a tofu scramble (potatoes, green peppers, onions and scrambled eggs). With ketchup! 😉 This is the kind I have made for you before.
Here’s how I prepare tofu when I know you *will* eat it (usually in an Asian sauce, like orange sauce, with rice). Thaw a piece of tofu from the freezer (I leave it on the counter for several hours, it takes a few days to thaw when in the fridge). Squeeze the block really hard to get the liquid out. Combine this marinade in a bag: ¼ cup olive oil, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. water, 1 tbsp. of my vegan bouillon seasoning, and about ¼ tsp. black pepper. Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces and gently toss in the marinade. The marinade will absorb quickly, but let it sit for several hours if you can. Then spread it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, bake at 375 F for about 35-45 minutes (until almost as firm as the chicken). Then eat it as is or mix it into any sauce you like. (You really like the orange sauce I gave you the recipe for! And serve with rice.)