Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tofausage Scramble

Reducing animal-based fats and protein sources can help lower your total LDL cholesterol (so-called "bad" cholesterol). Moving from a meat-heavy diet to a vegetarian or vegan one does not have to mean facing a lifetime of boring meals, though. Once you figure out which fruit, vegetable and grain combinations result in complete proteins, creating tasty meals is a snap.

Extra-firm tofu is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the nine essential amino acids. Its texture -- chunky and crumbly -- makes it a great substitute for eggs and sausage. Firm tofu, on the other hand, is missing methionine and cysteine, so mix it with complementary fruits and vegetables for optimum effect on your overall health.

Tofu's bland flavor can be a big turnoff for the carnivores in your family. Marinating tofu without turning it into a pile of goo takes practice, but it results in a tastier dish.

Start with a package of extra-firm tofu. I used International brand, distributed by Fuji Natural Foods of Ontario, California. Their tofu comes in 19-ounce packages, divided into four single-serving bricks. Each brick is 135 grams, which is just a little over 1/2 cup of tofu. According to the package, each brick has 120 calories, 60 from fat. Since that fat is from soybean oil, it will help you raise your level of HDL (so-called "good") cholesterol.

We poured off the liquid and placed the tofu bricks in a large, square-sided mixing container that had just enough bottom surface area for all four blocks to sit side by side without touching each other. We poured just enough double-black soy sauce over the tofu to cover it. Double-black soy sauce contains molasses, which is a good source of iron. It has a rich, caramelized flavor and clings to the tofu better than regular soy sauce.

I used Koon Chun Sauce Factory brand, which I bought at Mekong Market, a local Vietnamese grocery store. Each single-tablespoon serving has just 15 calories, and provides 20 percent of your daily iron needs, 8 percent of your daily vitamin C and 6 percent of your daily iron needs, according to the nutrient data on the label.

We wanted the tofu to taste like sausage, so we added ground sage, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to the sauce. I also chopped one whole yellow onion into quarter-inch bits and added that to the marinade. We gently rocked the container back and forth to blend the sauce and spices together, then marinated the tofu overnight.

The next afternoon, we poured the marinade into a pan, brought it to a rolling boil, then let it cool back to room temperature. Once cool, I poured it into a small container and put it in the freezer for the next batch of tofu.

We broke the tofu into ragged, one-inch to half-inch chunks so it would resemble bulk sausage in texture, but you can cut the tofu into long, small blocks or strips if you prefer. Breaking it makes it feel more like scrambled eggs while cutting it thin makes it feel more like bacon or pork patties.

I added four cups of a mixture of chopped onion, minced garlic, diced green and yellow bell peppers, chopped celery and chopped Roma tomatoes before stir-frying the mixture in a little extra-virgin olive oil, which is another source of HDL (so-called "good") cholesterol.

The results? A breakfast or brunch dish that is high in HDL cholesterol, low in LDL cholesterol, contains all nine essential amino acids and provides calcium, iron, protein and vitamin C in abundance. Enjoy!

19 ounces firm tofu
1 C double-black soy sauce
1 T ground sage
1 T black pepper
1 T garlic powder
1 T Onion powder
4 C chopped, mixed salad vegetables (onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and Roma tomatoes)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Large, flat-bottomed plastic container with tight-fitting lid
Skillet or wok
Wok tool set

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