Tofu

Generally I'm a planner. I'm currently on an extended vacation from work with my family, and in order to prepare for that, I actually created a 6-weeks-prior checklist that broke down everything I needed to get done beforehand--both by which week and level of priority. Then I added to it nearly every day and revised it twice. Yeah. I'm that person.

But for some reason, when it comes to cooking and meal-planning, I tend to find myself kind of flying by the seat of my pants. I'm constantly asking my husband and kids what they want to eat, because I just go blank when it comes to getting ready to cook.

I think some of this planning-block stems from the sheer volume of options out there--I mean--they're literally endless (other than being limited by time & budget I guess)...and the growth of sites like allrecipes.com and pinterest hasn't limited the choices at all.

Cooking vegetarian, however, does require a degree of forethought. Take tofu, for example. I learned by personal experience that generally speaking, tofu straight out of a package does not a good meal make. You have to prepare tofu--drain it, freeze it, bake it, etc--quite awhile in advance of adding it as an ingredient to your latest culinary delight. Otherwise it just kind of tastes like tasteless mush.

My personal favorite way to prep tofu (so far at least) has been to bake it. As long as I have the wherewithal to think about it more than 30 minutes ahead of dinner time, baking is really simple, low-maintenance, and it yields great results.

Here's how I bake tofu, and then add it to basically whatever recipe I'm using (that either calls for tofu in the first place, or as a way to add or substitue protein):

I use firm tofu, because that's what our local grocery store carries, and I'm too busy (lazy?) to shop at multiple locations at this point in my life.

Step One: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Open tofu package, drain out water, and place tofu brick on about 3 paper towels that have been folded several times.

Step Two: wrap paper towels around tofu and press gently to squeeze out water. Flip it over and continue pressing out water. Don't press too hard, or you'll crack the brick. It's okay if it's not totally dried out--that's what the oven is for!

Step Three: slice into rectangles with a width of your preference--thinner will yield almost crunchy strips; thicker will yield more chewy strips--and place in a well-greased baking pan. The pieces can touch each other (they'll shrink anyway during the baking).

Step Four: slather with soy sauce (or to your preference). I like to shake the bottle onto each piece at least once and see it seep in a little, but every inch doesn't need to be covered. Alternately you can salt the tofu slightly.

(I'm baking this pan of tofu as we speak...or...I guess...as I type.)

Step Five: bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool, cut into whatever size is needed, and use!

In other news, we've been away from home on vacation and thus required to eat out a lot. I LOVE eating out (is it possible to consider it a love language?)--and so I'm totally not complaining about the break in cooking, but even I started to feel a little sluggish after eating out so much last week. Maybe this week we'll find more places that offer healthier options!

Other than that, we've been having a great time:











I can smell the tofu in the kitchen, so it must be getting close to the 45-minute mark. On the menu for tonight? Weeeeell...I haven't totally decided yet. Either some kind of stir-fry or maybe a bean soup...both with the recently-baked tofu.

Or...maybe peanut butter and jelly. We'll see.

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