Baked Goods / Entrees / Salads / Vegetarian

Tofu x’s Three

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I like a good challenge in the kitchen.  What better way to flex your culinary muscle than to be faced with just a few ingredients and a mission.  My task for this post was to create three distinct meals using five basic ingredients.  Sound easy?  Think again.  In my world, I see food as something that not only excites my palate but also my imagination.  How does that happen?  I think part of it comes from exposing yourself to different cuisines, traveling, breaking bread with friends who want to share their culture, their customs, their comfort foods.  When I first started cooking for myself I was barely a teenager.  I mostly cooked food I remembered seeing my mother prepare and kept things simple.  If I didn’t burn it, over season it and it managed to satisfy me, I considered it a success.  Everyone has to travel that road to get to the point where food transforms from sustenance to brilliance.  Experience, patience and a lot of repetition helps.

Not everyone is fortunate to have the luxury or the choice of what they will be able to eat from one day to the next.  For many living on the margins, with little-to-no food budgets, eating well and getting both satisfaction and nutrition from a meal often does not go hand-in-hand.  I have always been of the belief that no matter your background, your experience, or your budget a good meal should always be attainable.  This post has three simple, delicious and budget-friendly recipes to get you inspired.

This one is for my friends at the Pike Place Market Food Access Project who work tirelessly every day to make sure everyone has access to healthy and nutritious food.  Thanks for allowing me to help be part of that good fight.

A few noteworthy items on how I approached this challenge.  It was quickly apparent to me that my challenge would be how to season the food and make each meal distinct.  Given this, here’s how I ended up working things out:

  • I decided to rely on my pantry of condiments and spices.  So while I used the same five basic ingredients in all three recipes, I demonstrate how to use different spices and condiments to alter the flavor profiles in each recipe.  Besides, half of the joy of cooking is being able to bend the rules a little.
  • I wanted to make smaller recipe yields so these recipes make enough for one person to have a few meals plus leftovers or enough servings for 2-3 people.  A common thing I hear is that people fear wasting food if they’re purchasing things like fresh vegetables and only have themselves or one other person to cook for.  These recipes are perfect for smaller portions and use up every ingredient.
  • There should be leftover tofu and rice from the first two meals to use in the third.
  • The spices I used can be substituted. The ones featured in these recipes just happened to be what I had in my pantry.  Ras al hanout, a North African spice blend, often includes cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, paprika, fenugreek, and turmeric.  Chinese five spice contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon and ground fennel seeds.  Both of these spices were available in my local grocery store in the bulk spice section so I only had to purchase a small amount.

Here is a quick shopping list to make all three recipes including the list of pantry items I used.

Five Ingredients

2- 14 oz packs extra firm tofu
2- 14.5 oz cans “Mexican Style” stewed tomatoes in juice
1# bag brown rice
1 # fresh green beans
1# bag of coleslaw

Pantry items
sesame oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar, unsalted butter, ras al hanout spice, Chinese five spice, chili powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, brown sugar, raisins, chopped peanuts, black pepper, kosher salt

 Meal # 1:  Spicy Baked Tofu with Sesame Slaw and Steamed Ricespicy tofu-bfw-1


6 slices (about 12 oz) extra firm tofu (reserve remaining for third recipe)
1 teaspoon ras al hanout seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
1- 14.5 oz can “Mexican style” stewed tomatoes in juice
2 1/2  cups water
1 cup brown rice
4 cups  (about 1/2 #) coleslaw mix
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
Pinch salt and black pepper

Serves 2-3


Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove tofu from container and place on a large plate.  Set a smaller plate with something heavy on top (a bag of rice works well) and allow the weight to help press and drain the tofu for about 5 minutes or while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Slice tofu lengthwise into 1/2-inch “steaks.”  Set aside.

Prepare brown rice either according to package or in a rice cooker.  I like to rinse my rice and cook it in a rice cooker (1 cup rice to 2 cups water, with a little bit of oil or butter).

In an oven safe dish, combine stewed tomatoes with ras al hanout, salt, green beans and remaining 1/2 cup of water.  Nestle the tofu in this mixture, using a little of the liquid to cover the tofu.  Top with foil and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until green beans are al dente but still green.

While the tofu is baking, place sesame oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add coleslaw and saute for about 1-2 minutes or just until the coleslaw wilts.  Add a pinch of black pepper and salt to taste.  Remove from heat.  Slaw will continue to cook and turn translucent.

Place rice in a bowl and top with sesame slaw and serve tofu separately or make a rice bowl with layers of everything.  I added a little extra sesame oil to my rice and it was delicious.

Meal # 2: Broiled Chinese Five Spice Tofu & Tangy Vinegar Vegetables

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6 slices (about 12 oz) extra firm tofu (reserve remaining for third recipe)
1- 14.5 oz can “Mexican style” stewed tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound coleslaw
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water

Serves 2-3


Press and drain tofu and cut into “steaks.”  Place in a re-usable plastic food container.

Next, add tomatoes, brown sugar, five spice and chili powder into a blender and make a puree. Pour this mixture over tofu and marinate overnight or at least an hour.

Boil a pot of water and prepare a bowl of cold ice water.  Submerge green beans for about 1-2 minutes or until they turn bright green but are still crisp.  Remove and plunge into cold ice water. Drain.  In a large bowl, mix green beans with coleslaw and rice wine vinegar.  Chill until ready to serve.

Cook brown rice according to package directions or in a rice cooker.  Generally, 2:1, rinse rice and add a small bit of oil or butter.

Turn on broiler.  Remove tofu from marinade and place on a broiling pan.  Broil for 15 minutes.   While tofu is broiling, reduce remaining marinade in small saucepan.  Once tofu is done, remove from oven, brush with marinade and let sit for a minute to help prevent it from tearing away from the pan.

Serve broiled tofu over rice with a side of vinegar vegetables.

Meal # 3:  Cinnamon Raisin Tofu Breakfast Bake

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1 cup cubed tofu, (using uncooked tofu reserved from first two recipes)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Serves 2-3


In a medium bowl, create a slurry of brown sugar, water, cinnamon and vanilla.

Add in cooked rice, tofu, raisins and butter.  Toss to coat everything.

Pour mixture into small oven-proof bowls or ramekins and bake for 15 minutes.  Top with chopped nuts.

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