BEANS and TOFU-Done Right, They're DELICIOUS!

I get lots of comments and requests for more vegan information and recipes. It seems more and more people are turning to eating less meat and processed foods.

There is a plethora of scientific evidence to back this decision up, but rather than go into that (I've been on this bandwagon so often), how about some good tips on how to use some tasty substitutes for meat? Specifically dried beans and tofu (don't choke…done right, tofu is delicious).

Dried beans first: THE most important thing to remember with dried beans is to pre-soak them. Most instructions say "overnight." But I've found 24 hours is even better; the longer the soak, the more tender the bean and the less gas factor there is. That said, follow these 6 steps:

1: Measure dry beans per recipe instructions.

2: Look for rocks and dried, withered, discolored, beans. Discard.

3: Measure triple the amount of water as beans, or more if desired.

4: Place beans in a container and pour water over the top.

5: Let sit overnight; up to 24 hours will result in far easier digestion!

6: Drain and rinse. (And plants love the bean soaking water.)

Once you have your beans soaked, try them in this delicious entrée that I found on the amazing vegan website,


1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
3-4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard
1-2 tablespoons tomato sauce
Dash red chili powder
2 tablespoons NUTRITIONAL yeast (Red Star makes a great one)
Salt, to taste

Heat a large pan and add the veggie broth. Let simmer for a few minutes before adding the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add your pre-cooked beans and pre-cooked rice, adding a little of the bean cooking liquid (or just use water or veggie broth) if needed to add moisture. Add the Tamari. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed. Turn heat down to medium-low, top with Swiss chard and cover until chard wilts. (The liquids you've previously added will help to steam the greens and prevent the grains from sticking.) Stir in remaining ingredients and heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed throughout. Serve.

Tip: Some greens tend to be bitter. To offset this, add a sweetener such as pure organic maple syrup.

OK, tofu next. (I thank Patty Knutsen, vegan coach and author of, for this really helpful information.) It's made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It has few calories, large amounts of iron, and little fat. It magically takes on the flavors that it's paired with. It can also be high in calcium (which will be stated on the packaging).

Tofu is not fermented, so it is a little more difficult for the body to digest. However, "sprouted tofu" is becoming more available. Sprouting the bean makes the nutrients more available for your body to use and takes less energy to digest.

So if you're going to cook with tofu, it's ideal to use the sprouted variety. But if you can't find it, just be sure ANY tofu (or soy products) you purchase are organic to avoid that which is genetically modified. There are 2 types of tofu, silken and regular:

Silken tofu comes in aseptic packaging and will be found on the shelves (although some stores unknowingly put it in the refrigerated section). Some brands, though, aren't packaged in aseptic containers and do require refrigeration. Both come as soft, firm, extra-firm, etc. Silken tofu is very squishy and soft; it's perfect for sauces, dressings, pudding, etc.

Regular tofu (also known as FIRM tofu) is found in the refrigerated section. Here's where the firmness really makes a difference. And different companies have variations in the softness and water content.

For instance, one brand's EXTRA-FIRM is definitely firm but still easy to break up with a fork, where another brand's EXTRA-FIRM is so firm and so solid and nearly water-free that you'll need to use your hands to crumble it and even then it's difficult.

Regular tofu that comes in a plastic container packed with water is usually softer than the BLOCK of regular tofu that is simply shrink-wrapped without water.

Whether to use silken or regular tofu depends on what you are using it for and the finished dish you're creating; your recipe will state which to use. But if you do need to use the regular form, consider pressing it. While optional, the squeezing out the excess water makes tofu able to readily soak up marinade, etc.

And another tip on using regular tofu: Regular tofu which has been frozen and then defrosted provides more "bite." So if bite appeals to you, place the entire unopened package of regular tofu into the freezer. Then defrost for 2 days or so in the fridge. When ready to use, squeeze out the excess water and proceed with your recipe. An easy way to more completely remove the water: in your sink put tofu between two plates and place a heavy can on top.

I'll conclude with Vegan Coach's recipe for a pudding using silken tofu. This is delicious and a great place to start practicing with tofu!


1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (semi-sweet)

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (soy, for instance)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ boxes silken tofu

Melt chocolate, maple syrup, soy milk, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Stir until smooth. Pour into a blender or food processor and add the silken tofu. Blend until creamy (about two minutes). Scoop into pudding bowls and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (at least two hours).

Variations: Carob, vanilla, butterscotch or peanut butter chips substitute for chocolate chips.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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