Saturday, September 29, 2012

Barbecued Tofu

I had barbecued tofu in Austin at Mother’s Café.  It was too hot spicy for me, but I liked the idea of it.  I tried my hand at barbecued tofu, using a mild, but flavorful BBQ sauce.  I think the secrets to success are pressing the tofu, and choosing a barbecue sauce you really like.  Great for a vegan friendly meal with the barbecued tofu as the centerpiece. 


1 lb block of firm or extra firm tofu or 1 ½ to 2 boxes (12-oz) tofu

1 ½ to 2 cups of barbecue sauce


Use a barbecue sauce you really like. I used Kentucky Blues BBQ Sauce from vegan which sounded good.  It has a little bourbon.  Their Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce also sounded good. 

If you don’t want to make barbecue sauce, there are hundreds of bottled sauces to choose from.


Marinate Tofu in Barbecue Sauce

1- Press tofu.  It’s easier than it sounds.  You can check out my post on How to Press Tofu. 

2- Pour ½ to ¾ cup of barbecue sauce in shallow plastic container with cover, or baking dish or pan. 

3- Place tofu slices over barbecue sauce. 

4- Spread ¾ to 1 cup barbecue sauce over top of tofu. 

5- Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 to 2 hours, but you can marinate overnight. 

Bake Then Broil Tofu
1- If you marinated the tofu in a plastic container, transfer the slices and sauce to an oven dish or pan. 
2- Heat for 20 to 30 minutes at 350º. 
3- Move close to broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until bubbly and starting to brown. 
Ruben Studdard and Soul Food
I have dabbled in vegetarian and vegan cooking in the last several months.  I got interested when researching vegan friendly versions of Southern Comfort food when I wrote an article on Ruben Studdard.  He was the “Velvet Teddy Bear” and season two American Idol winner.  He lost 40 lbs at a Duke University residential program, and continued to lose another 60 lbs afterwards.  He became a vegetarian shortly after discharging from the program, and subsequently decided to embrace veganism. 
Ruben stated on the Wendy Williams show that despite being a vegan, he still enjoys Soul Food and Southern comfort food.  He has favorite vegan restaurants, and has learned vegan cooking, so that he doesn’t feel deprived of his favorite foods.  This got me curious to search out recipes of vegan versions of fried chicken, barbecue, and other Southern classics. 
Doctors and nutritionists are increasingly recommending a 75% vegetarian diet to increase vegetables in the diet and reduce saturated fat.  Not ready to go 75%?  Consider replacing meat in your meals several times a week, with an alternative like barbecued tofu. 

How to Press Tofu

Why Press Tofu? 

I’m pretty funny about food texture, so I was hesitant to try tofu.  So far I have made barbecued tofu and fried tofu, and haven’t minded the texture at all.  Firm or extra firm tofu is used for most meat substitute uses of tofu.  I think the pressing also helps with having a firmer, more meat-like texture. 

Pressing Your Tofu

Most recipes for frying, baking or “barbecuing” tofu specify to press the tofu first.  It’s really easy but can be intimidating when you first read it.  Hopefully it’s pretty clear here, especially with the photos. 

1- Place a dish towel or hand towel on your clean counter.  In pressing the tofu, liquid will gradually ooze out, so you’ll want to have a towel down. 

2- Cover a cutting board with plastic wrap, waxed paper, or butcher paper.  Put the cutting board on top of your towel. 


3- Open tofu package.  Drain and discard the liquid.  Move tofu to cutting board.  If you are using a one pound block of tofu, you will want to cut the tofu block in half.  Then slice each half into three horizontal pieces.  If you have 12 ounce blocks of tofu, you will not need to cut it in half first. 


4- Spread the six tofu slices on the cutting board.  Cover the tofu with another sheet of plastic wrap or paper. 

5- Place a cookie sheet or baking pan on top of the tofu. 

6- Put heavy items on top of the cookie sheet or baking pan, making sure that pressure is applied evenly to the tofu slices.  I used small oven dishes for weight. 


7- You may need to add another layer of weight to the tofu.  Use another cookie sheet or baking pan, and additional weight.  I used plastic containers with water for my second layer. 

8- Leave the tofu with pressure applied for 45 to 60 minutes. 



Ways to Cook Pressed Tofu

Here are a few ways to cook your pressed tofu. 

1.  Southern Fried Tofu:  Coat in rice flour, dip in milk, then coat in mixture of nutritional yeast and spices.  Fry in olive oil in a hot skillet. 

2.  Barbecued Tofu:  Marinate tofu in a favorite BBQ sauce.  Place tofu on a baking pan, top with a little BBQ sauce, and cook under broiler until sauce is bubbly. 

3.  Wrap tofu slices in nori sheets.  Dip in tempura batter.  Fry, drain, and serve with tarter sauce on a bun, like a fish sandwich. 

4.  Sear one-inch tofu pieces in oil in a hot skillet.  Toss with sautéed vegetables and serve over rice, like Chinese food. 


Friday, September 28, 2012

My Absolute Favorite Homemade Vegetable Soup

This vegetable soup is basically the same soup my mom made each summer with fresh vegetables, then stored in the freezer to eat throughout the winter. Mom always made it with tomatoes, cabbage, corn, potatoes, okra, and butter beans. I add English peas, spinach, broccoli, green beans, and pureed carrots.

It recently occurred to me that the vegetable soup that I have always loved, is vegetarian and vegan friendly! Although at times I have seasoned it with bacon drippings, or added ground beef, most often I make it meatless, and season it with olive oil or coconut oil. It was very exciting to me that my ‘old faithful’ soup fits in with my new-found interest in vegetarian and vegan cooking.

Although I have discovered many new foods that are vegetarian and vegan friendly that I enjoy, it is likely there will never be a meatless meal I enjoy more than my long-time friend, homemade vegetable soup. So here’s my recipe. To try it is to love it!

Bowl of my homemade Vegetable Soup


2 large cans tomato juice, about 1 qt each

1 qt vegetable broth

1 bag raw shredded cabbage, or about ½ head shredded

1 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach

1 box (10 oz) frozen chopped broccoli

1 can carrots, pureed with juice

1 large can (38 oz) cut green beans, or 1 bag of frozen

1 bag frozen cut okra

2 bags frozen Fordhook lima beans

2 cans Green Giant Niblets corn, or 2-3 cups frozen corn

2 cans Green Giant Llessur English peas, or 2-3 cups frozen peas

6 potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes, or if you are going to freeze some of the soup, 3 potatoes cubed

Seasoning is very subjective. This is an approximation of what I use:

2 Tbsp oil oil

1 Tbsp Lawry’s seasoned salt

1 Tbsp Lawry’s garlic powder with parsley flakes

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 tsp cardamom

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp black pepper

Sometimes I use Italian spices. Skip the cumin, cardamom and coriander. Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, and 6 bay leaves.


1. Empty the tomato juice into a 15 to 20 quart stock pot. Add chicken broth.

2. Add cabbage, carrot puree, and spices. Stir to combine. Cover stock pot. Heat to a low boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. Add frozen chopped spinach and broccoli, and green beans. It will take a little time to return to slow boil. Once simmering again, cook for 30 minutes. As vegetables thaw, stir occasionally.

4. Taste the broth to see if you need to add more seasoning.

5. Add okra and vegetable oil to the soup and continue cooking at a low boil for 30 more minutes.

6. Cook lima beans in separate pot until they are tender. Salt the beans as needed. I put a peeled whole onion in my limas. When the beans are tender, remove the onion, but do not drain. Transfer cooked lima beans and juice to the soup mixture.

7. Again taste the soup broth. Add additional salt or spices if needed.

8. Boil the potatoes in water until tender. I use the same pot as I cooked the lima beans in.

9. Just before potatoes are ready, add corn and English peas, with juice from both, to the soup mixture.

10. I usually freeze some of the soup, and separate the soup into two portions at this time. I put potatoes in the portion I am going to eat in the next few days. Frozen and thawed potatoes change texture, and I don’t personally like the texture. When I thaw soup later, I add cooked potatoes.

11. Pour potatoes with the cooking water into soup mixture. Again test for seasonings.

12. Continue cooking, covered, at a low simmer until all ingredients are hot and flavors have blended.

Great Memories

My dad always eats saltine crackers with his soup. All I need for my soup is a spoon! When I was growing up, my mom would make vegetable soup in the summertime, with garden-fresh vegetables. She’d make it in this huge stockpot, and package it in quart and half gallon containers for the freezer. I never ate breakfast when I was young, except “vegetable soup season”, when I ate soup for breakfast.

I love this vegetable soup so much! When I make it, I usually freeze some, but I keep out enough to eat everyday for lunch for a week. It is definitely a family favorite. I hope that my vegan friendly vegetable soup soon becomes one of your family’s favorites.

Benefits of Vegetarian Meals

I have read several articles in which medical experts have sighted the health benefits of adopting a 75% vegetarian diet. There are many reasons for this. For those with high cholesterol and triglycerides, some would argue there may be dramatic decreases in these crucial lab values from a diet sparse in animal protein.

Other benefits to a diet of limited animal proteins may include decreased exposure to hormones and antibiotics given to livestock. Benefits to the environment and the economy from money saved in not processing and transporting meat are cited by some. Many believe scores more humans would be fed by eating grains, rather than feeding that same grain to cows.