Meatless Monday – Tofu Scramble

Tween and I had a nearly perfect week while the Big Guys were away.

With a good balance of (age-appropriate) work and activities and play, alone-time and friend-time, and a huge stream of quiet flowing throughout, we thoroughly enjoyed each day and, at week’s end, we both felt productive and well-rested.

One thing on which we did not spend a lot of time: cooking. I made a couple quick-and-easy family meals (ramen, roasted veggie spaghetti) that provided leftovers. We ate one dinner out with a friend and again came home with leftovers.

For my own enjoyment, I made a tofu scramble that, along with some leftover roasted potatoes, made for several scrumptiously satisfying meals.

When we moved to the Bay Area more than a decade ago, I asked around for breakfast place suggestions. Repeatedly I heard about Rick & Ann’s, which–despite the 20-minute drive and at least 20-minute wait time–has become one of our family’s favorite special occasion spots.

Each of us has a favorite order, the thing we get every time, and mine is tofu scramble. Over the years I have kept my eyes peeled for a copycat recipe; I tried one that looked okay, but wasn’t.

I recently discovered Kathy Patalsky’s recipe in Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen. With just a couple of tweaks (add fresh garlic and ginger and curry powder, skip maple syrup), this is as close as I’ll come to the real deal.

Even better? It’s so easy! Start to finish, I think it took less than fifteen minutes.Tofu Scramble
Serves 4

12 oz firm or extra-firm tofu
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c other veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ thumb fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 c spinach, rough chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 c nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
salt/pepper to taste
Green onion and/or cilantro to top (optional)

Drain tofu, then wrap it in paper towels between two plates, weighted to press out extra liquid. Set aside while you gather ingredients and chop veggies.

In a large pan, saute onion for 3 minutes; if necessary, add 1/2 tsp water to keep onion from sticking. Add other veggies, garlic and ginger and saute for additional 2 minutes.

Add tofu. Either break the block apart with your hands as you add to the pan or (easier if you have it) use a potato masher to break the tofu into bits. Add spinach and remaining spices and stir occasionally until spinach wilts and scramble warms through. Taste and adjust spices as desired.

Top with green onion and/or cilantro, and serve with roasted potatoes or potato-veggie hash and whole wheat toast.

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Meatless Monday – Tofu Chilaquiles

I first heard about chilaquiles when Teen took a middle school Foods class. His motivation to eat good food drives him into the kitchen to make it himself, which is where I found him one afternoon, frying chips and scrambling eggs. He topped oily-soggy chips with eggs and dumped green salsa over the whole thing – tasty if wet, and needed improvement.

My sister and Tween have a breakfast date now and again, and one time she brought home some leftover chilaquiles. Tween refuses eggs unless he’s with Sister and even then he won’t eat much. These tasted much better, and included enchilada sauce along with green salsa.

Enchilada sauce makes food yummy, but I’m not eating eggs these days so I decided to try a different take: tofu chilaquiles. You could use prepared enchilada sauce, but this sauce is easy and delish. It used to drive me nuts that I always had sauce leftover but not enough to make more enchiladas – now I have a perfect use for leftover sauce. You could use prepared tortilla chips, but if you have tortillas in the fridge, it takes very little effort to bake your own (true confession: I ate prepared chips with the leftovers). And I love to make salsa, but I have not mastered the art of making green salsa. Besides, Trader Joe’s green salsa makes me happy!

Enchilada Sauce

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp flour
2 heaping Tbsp chili powder
2 c veggie stock
10 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomato sauce, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

chipsTortilla Chips

Stack 6-8 tortillas (I prefer corn but use what you’ve got) and cut in half; stack halves and cut in half again. Arrange on a baking tray and sprinkle with lime juice and salt or no-salt herb mix (optional, and I skip if chips are going in a recipe). Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and crispy.

Tofu Chilaquiles
Serves 4-6
[the inspiration for the tofu portion of this recipe came from Happy Herbivore]

1 pound extra-firm tofu
1 white or yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
12 oz salsa verde
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c fresh or frozen corn, cooked
To serve: enchilada sauce and chips

Press tofu: drain package water, wrap tofu block in several layers of paper towels, place on a plate with another weighted plate on top. Let drain while you dice onion and drain beans.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add onion, garlic and spices and cook until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tofu and salsa verde and break the tofu into pieces (I used a potato masher). Continue to cook, stirring every so often, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add beans and corn, reduce to medium heat, and simmer until warmed through.

To serve, put corn chips in individual bowls and top with warm enchilada sauce. Spoon chilaquiles on top of chips. Serve with extra chips and hot sauce on the table.chilaquiles cookingchips-saucechilaquiles

Meatless Monday – Lettuce Wraps

I remember my first bite of tofu, round-about late 1970’s. The gelatinous cube looked like a small brick of ice cream suspended in water; it sat for days on the top shelf of the fridge, confusing me each time I came looking for a snack. Finally my dad, world traveler and epicurean, decided it was time to give me a taste test.

Why did no one tell him that tofu needs at least a little something? My dad could BBQ a mean burger, but tofu was clearly beyond him. He stabbed off a corner and made me try it just like that, still dripping water from its container.


Suffice it to say I felt no eagerness to try tofu again even after becoming a vegetarian. And, to be honest, when we first went veggie we had no idea how to eat healthy; we thought vegetarian simply meant no meat so we ate salads with our pasta. Eventually we tried a few processed soy products, veggie burgers and what not. And only many years later, once I realized that being a healthy vegetarian means actually eating veggies and got serious about diversifying our diet, did I once again try tofu.

In my experience, tofu freaks people out. Maybe they simply don’t know what to do with it, or they’ve heard about estrogen concerns, or they use estrogen concerns as an excuse because they don’t know what to do with it, or they simply don’t want anything to do with it. Or, like me, they had a bad experience with it, likely caused by someone who (see above) didn’t know what to do with it.

I don’t eat a lot of tofu. I get protein through veggies, beans, and nuts, and occasionally tofu. So I don’t worry about the estrogen thing because tofu isn’t a diet staple. Besides, it is processed and I try to eat/serve mostly clean foods.

But, believe me, tofu can be delicious. The following recipe(s) belongs in that category – a few steps but not difficult and so, so tasty. And when you put this meal on the table, eating becomes family-friendly fun!

Note: if the tofu scares you off, try the dressing on salads or veggies and then come back for the tofu when you feel a little braver. I promise, it’s good. For the kids, maybe just don’t tell them it’s tofu until they’ve tried it. My kids adore eating salad with their hands.

1 medium onion, diced (1 1/2 c)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed and chopped*
1 8-oz can water chestnuts, drained and diced
4 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
4 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1-2 tsp chile sauce, such as sriracha
1 head of iceberg lettuce, cored and sliced in half to form cups

*Tofu: Drain liquid from container. Wrap tofu block in a clean kitchen towel, or several layers of paper towel, and put on a plate; cover with another plate and put a small weight on top, something like 3 cans of beans. Let sit for at least 10 minutes while you chop garnish ingredients. While the onion cooks, chop the tofu before adding to the pan.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often. After 3-4 minutes, add ginger and garlic. As you begin to see brown bits sticking to the pan, add hot water by the teaspoonful and stir – you don’t want to boil the veggies but you do want to catch the released sugars from the onion; cook another 3-4 minutes, adding teaspoons of water as needed. Add tofu and water chestnuts, breaking tofu into small crumbles with a wooden spoon or potato masher; cook 4 minutes. Stir in soy, hoisin, and chile sauces. Transfer to serving bowl.

Garnishes (all suggestions):
shredded carrot
chopped green onions
chopped bell peppers
toasted shredded coconut
chopped fresh mint
chopped fresh cilantro
chopped fresh ginger
chopped peanuts
bean sprouts
sliced lime

In a bowl, whisk together the following:
1/4 c store-bought plum sauce
2 Tbsp hoisin
1 tsp sesame oil
pinch crushed red peper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp orange juice
1 green onion, sliced

Place lettuce leaves on platter and set out garnishes and sauce in small serving bowls. Invite guests to wrap tofu in lettuce leaves and top with their choice of garnishes and a drizzle of dressing.

lettuce wraps 1

While the cooking is fun, this is where the real fun begins. You’ve set a beautiful table, because what’s not to like about the fresh diversity of color and flavor on this table? And as Tween says, from here everyone “styles” their own!

lettuce wraps 2You betcha, there is some tofu under those toppings…

Personally, I can forgo the lettuce cup as I chop a whole buncha lettuce into my bowl and top freely from there. My guys seriously dig the lettuce cups – as they should.

Leftover toppings make for easy salad toppings the next day; you could also stir them into a soup or stir fry. Since I always seem to wish there were more, next time I might just dice and chop and shred more of everything in advance. Enjoy!