Tofu has a bad reputation for being mushy, bland, and challenging to prep and cook. Knowing just a few tricks can make all of the difference in the preparation and finished meal. For example, if you freeze and then thaw a block of firm or extra-firm tofu, it becomes almost porous and sponge-like. After thawing the tofu, the water presses out easily leaving large pockets in the tofu to soak up the flavor, and it creates a chewy, dense texture when cooked. Place a water-packed package of extra firm tofu (the entire container) into the freezer for a few days to freeze through. Then allow the container to thaw in the refrigerator for a day (or until thawed completely). Once thawed, open the package and drain the excess standing water. Next, press the water out of the tofu using a tofu press, or wrap the block of tofu in a clean kitchen towel and press between two heavy plates. It will only take about 10 minutes to press out the excess water since it was frozen first. Cube the pressed tofu and sprinkle a little bit of soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and let it sit for about 20 minutes to marinate. If it were me, I would do a shake-and-bake style by mixing it with nutritional yeast and then baking it for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees. But you do not have to add the nutritional yeast. You can bake it or pan fry it, as is, until it reaches the desired texture. I normally bake cubed tofu for 20-30 minutes in a 375-400 degree oven. I also pan fry it with a little bit of coconut oil. Play around with marinades and seasonings or use one of your favorite marinades you already have in the pantry.
12. What is Seitan?
Seitan is a wheat-based meat that can be made by using vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten is the protein found in wheat and comes in a powdered form. It is available at most grocery stores either in bulk or packages. Pick up a bag and experiment with different recipes and techniques. Many recipes will have you boil the wheat meat once it is formed, but I find baking it instead creates a dense and meaty texture. It is perfect to make vegan BBQ brisket slices or adding it other recipes to firm up the texture. You can also buy pre-made seitan, usually found near the tofu and vegan meat, that you can quickly add to any meal you are making.
13. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated yeast that has a cheesy, nutty flavor. It can be used to flavor sauces (check out this vegan mac and cheese), to create more depth of flavor in a dish, make vegan cheeses, and it can be sprinkled on anything. Case in point, movie theater popcorn. Most mainstream movie theaters use an oil or coconut oil based butter flavoring liquid for their popcorn, which makes it vegan! I sometimes keep a small shaker bottle full of nutritional yeast, you know like the one that holds red pepper flakes or parm cheese at your local pizzeria, in my bag so I can be prepared to shake it on anything when the time comes.
14. The Cost of Eating Vegan
One final note, eating a vegan diet does not have to break the bank. Just like non-vegan foods, eating processed foods will be more costly. Vegan meats and cheeses can be expensive, but they are not a necessity. You can be creative with vegetables, tofu, tempeh, fruits, beans, greens, and grains and still keep a reasonable budget. Most of my grocery trips are relatively inexpensive, but I do spend extra on some items to buy organic. I use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists when buying produce, but I also look for Fair Trade items. For me, being vegan isn’t just about not eating animals. It is also about ensuring the individuals who grow and pick my food are treated fairly and paid a livable wage and that the environment is not being destroyed in the farming process.