Thursday, April 5, 2012

Eating Omily: Tofu, or not Tofu...

I've been flipping through a favourite cookbook of mine, Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai for weeks now, mezmerized by glamour shots of ultra nutritious and indulgent food...a stickybun recipe with no eggs and just a couple tablespoons of butter, a chocolate silk pie that gets it's silkiness from...tofu?

Tofu. I've never cooked with tofu. When I started cooking for myself and crafting my own healthy adult lifestyle at 18, tofu wasn't on my radar, and frankly by the time it might have been, I felt better eating a slab of humanely and locally raised Farmer's Market steak than I would tucking into genetically modified and flown across the country bean curd.

Still. I get some cheese and yogurt at the Farmer's Market, but thus far, milk and those basic bulk cheeses like shredded mozzarella get tossed into the cart at Trader Joe's. If those could be replaced with organic tofu, I'd be replacing potential animal suffering (the cows that give us certified organic milk can still lawfully be kept indoors in small stalls for their entire lactating life) with pesticide-free, albeit jetlagged, plant protein.

It seemed like it was time to give tofu a try. I bought a package of extra firm, and a package of soft, avoided my husband's strange look, and tucked them into the fridge. In her breakfast chapter, Candice suggests a simple and tasty scramble using crumbled extra firm tofu instead of eggs. I get my eggs from the Farmer's Market, and don't mind eating them, but this seemed like a good dish to start with: pretty impossible to screw up, and the tofu was taking center stage. I crumbled the tofu and tossed it with herbs and spices, cooked up onion in oil, then added chopped sundried tomatoes and the spiced tofu to the pan. It really did resemble scrambled eggs, especially as it picked up a subtle golden tinge from the onions and oil in the pan. It needed a liberal dash of salt, but I'm kind of a salt fiend anyway. I dished it out into two bowels and set one down in front of the husband, who picked up his fork and dug in. I nervously nibbled my first bite...hmm...good. The tofu was mild, even bland, but it carried the flavors of onions, herbs, and sundried tomatoes well, and it had a pleasant texture, just a little firmer than scrambled eggs, and it hadn't stuck even the slightest bit to my stainless steel pan. Can't say that for eggs, Farmer's Market or not.
"It is like eggs." was my husband's comment, moments later when he had shoveled down his whole serving.

I keep eyeing the herbed tofu marinara with whole wheat spaghetti recipe, though I'm pretty sure my own marinara recipe with my secret ingredient could give Candice's a run for it's money, it seems like the thing to try next. Of course, I didn't buy the soft tofu just for looking at. Chocolate silk pie is definitely high on the docket.

I've been looking into the whole, acidic versus alkaline foods issue lately, and am pleasantly surprised by the sensible information I've been able to find on it. Things like, "acid-forming foods aren't bad, but the typical western diet is very high in them." and "Since the blood is kept slightly basic at all times, it's best to eat more basic foods than acidic foods, to make maintaining that pH easy, so your body doesn't rob your bones of alkalizing calcium."

And lo and behold, what's basic and what's acidic? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. Fruits and veggies are for the most part very base-forming, and grains, meat, and dairy, along with alcohol, coffee, drugs, and proccessed foods, are for the most part very acid-forming. A healthy diet is a healthy diet is a healthy diet.

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." -Michael Pollan

It's just not that hard, but we keep looking for some other, easier answer. Vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar free, low-carb, pescitarian...we really seem to want to be able to split food into camps based on moral value-based judgements, and that makes no sense. And in doing it, it doesn't seem like we're eating delicious things, either. Ok, here's my favourite breakfast ever (aside from possibly a heaping plate of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and a cinnamon roll...)
This is a multigrain waffle topped with berries I bought at the Farmer's Market last summer and froze myself, a couple tablespoons of Farmer's Market plain yogurt, and a generous drizzle of Farmer's Market pure maple syrup. Yum. Actually I like it even better with a spread of Farmer's Market fresh chevre goat cheese in place of the yogurt, with the berries on top of the cheese so it creates a moisture barrier, keeping my waffle crisp...oh, those luscious bites of tangy cheese, tart berries, and sweet syrup all atop a light, crisp waffle...this is FOOD, people, real food, and it's good for the environment, good for the local economy, and good for ME, both in terms of nutritious and in terms of being freaking delicious.

Stop buying diet cereal and high sugar shakes and make yourself some real food!! Which, come to think of it, is the whole basis of Pretty wonder I like this book so much! It might be a promising one for you to invest in, if you'd like to do more healthy cooking and want a basic roster to start pulling from. It'll take some pantry stocking, and some of her recipes I flip right past because it's not the right season for it, but avocados are something I've never been able to resist cheating on locavorism with...
You can try out recipes from her website, or get inspired and riff on them, like I often do! That super-tasty Italian-style breakfast burrito I was going on about last week was inspired by one of her recipes, in fact.

So there you have it. Adventures in tofu, nutrition science, and common sense body-fueling. Thanks, Candice!


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