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Tofu: How to cook different types

Tofu is a favorite food among vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. One of tofu's best feature is its’ ability to take on the flavors of whatever it is being cooked with. Some tasty foods made with tofu are lasagna, tofu scrambler, stir-fry, cheesecake, pumpkin pie and smoothies.

Tofu is also called bean curd. It is made from soybeans. Tofu is produced by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant, usually calcium sulfate, which changes the liquid into a solid or semisolid state. Tofu is formed into blocks and usually sold in small tubs filled with water or in a compressed box.  Tofu, once opened, can be stored for later use by keeping it covered in water. The water must be changed daily. Tofu will keep for at least one week. Before using tofu it must be pressed to release any excess liquid.

The nutrient values of tofu vary and are based on the texture and coagulating agent. An average nutrient value based on approximately 1/4 lb. or 1/2 cup consists of: 86 calories, nine grams of protein, five grams of fat, three grams of carbohydrates, 154 mg. of calcium and two mg. of iron.

Tofu is a great source of protein without the cholesterol and saturated fat.  It is easy to digest, making it a great food for older people with digestive disorders.

Tofu has virtually no smell and comes in different textures and flavors. The available textures are silken, soft, firm and extra firm. Silken tofu is creamier with a custard-like consistency. Silken tofu is best for pureed and blended dishes. It can also be steamed and used in stews. Silken tofu can be substituted for eggs and is used for puddings, chocolate pies and brownies. Soft tofu is also good for blending and for use in soup, stews and cakes. Firm and extra firm tofu are best for slicing and cubing. These work great in stir-fries.

Tofu can be frozen after draining. Wrap in foil or plastic. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature or in microwave. This results in a spongy texture which is ideal for soaking up marinades and sauces.

Selecting a brand of tofu can take a little experimentation. Different brands of tofu have slightly different flavors.  Fresh Tofu Inc. has excellent tofu. It can be sliced and fried as is in a non-stick skillet. It can actually be made into a grilled cheese sandwich due to its’ distinctive flavor.

There are also many pre-flavored tofus on the market. Nature’s Soy makes a hot & spicy tofu as well as a curry tofu, in addition to several others. Trader Joe’s sells a teriyaki flavored tofu. Other available tofu products are spicy thai and savory portabello.

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