Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cooking Tofu the Right Way

how to cook tofu
In less than one month, it will be five years since I quit eating meat. For a while, I slipped into a too often habit of cheating on veganism with diary product - specifically cheese. I have paid the toll and learned the lesson and have once again gone cold turkey on that.

One thing I really did not get into until recently was tofu. When I first went veg, I didn't want to be pegged as a 'hippie granola lover'. I wanted to do it all by simple eating fruits and vegetables. Tofu was something stuffy, boring poop analyzing nerds took a liking to. Not me.

Sure, it was a great part of so many Thai and Vietnamese meals that I had. Those folks from the Far East sure can make Tofu taste and look like just about anything. But, I did not dare cook the stuff at home.

Then, my personal economic meltdown arose and suddenly, the benefits of Tofu started to shine through. I started by adding it to slow cooked curried pasta dishes. Yet, even with all the ingredients like curry powder, garlic, coconut, tomato - a bitter taste would be prevalent.

I was doing it all wrong!

Tofu, when packaged in those nice one pound cubes, is packaged in a watery brine. It seems the Tofu soaks this stuff up and you have to remove it before eating the stuff can be enjoyable. Tofu cannot soak up and take on the flavours you're cooking with if it's already saturated with 'enbalming fluid'.

It turns out, the process of draining the brine is quite simple. It can take a little bit of time but nothing too serious. Here's how it goes (Don't worry, there's a video below):

  1. Unleash the tofu from its plastic prison (the packaging). It's best to use firm tofu.
  2. Drain as much of the fluid into the sink before pulling the tofu out of the packaging.
  3. Grab two plates and some paper towel. Oh, and a heavy item - I use one of my wife's nursing text books.
  4. Place one plate flat. Take about three feet (3 sheets) of paper towel, fold it and place it on the plate. You need to be careful during this process to tuck in any paper towel that might hang over the plate. Why? As the paper towel soaks up the fluid, if it is hanging over the edge of the plate, a drip will begin and a puddle will form...
  5. Place the tofu in the centre of the paper towel on the plate.
  6. Take another two or so sheets of paper towel and, placing on top of the tofu chunk, tuck around the sides and underneath. It does not matter if all the tofu is covered. You're really just trying to cover the top.
  7. Place the second plate upside down on top of the tofu.
  8. Put your heavy weight (text book) on top of the plate.
This process is dubbed a 'Tofu Press' and should be sustained for at least thirty minutes. When you pull off the weight and top plate, your paper towel should be soaked - more so, depending on the brand. I find the stuff out of Quebec that we buy at Costco is really well vacuum sealed and doesn't contain much brine.

At this point, it is time for your creative juices to emerge. You need to carve the tofu up into the pieces you want to eventually cook with. Many make triangles because they claim they are easier to work with. I have done triangles, big cubes, tiny cubes, thin slices, big slabs - it doesn't matter.

Once your tofu is carved up, the next step may begin. This is called the 'Dry Fry'. Place a non-stick pan on the stovetop at medium heat. It is important that it is a non-stick pan because you cannot use oil or margarine at this stage.

Place your pieces onto the pan. What your goal is essentially at this stage is to eliminate the rest of the fluid. You want a dried up, wrinkly piece of tofu, in the end, that is ready to soak up all that you have to offer during the final cooking stage.

What is really helpful in this process is a solid and stiff spatula. You want to press down on the tofu pieces fairly hard while they're cooking to force out the liquid so it will burn and evaporate. You also want to keep flipping the pieces fairly often so they don't burn. Your goal is tofu pieces, golden brown on all sides. You want to press down with your spatula hard enough to hear sizzling (when the tufu whistles, you're really doing it right) but not so hard to split or break up the pieces.

And, you're done. You've got golden brown. You hear no more, or very little, sizzling when you press on your pieces. Now, remove from stove and let cool. This is where your own personal creativity needs to flourish. What I often do is put the pieces in a sealable container with some sort of marinating concoction (don't ask - it changes every time), seal it up, shake it like crazy (tofu won't bruise) and let sit for a few hours or even overnight. When ready, you can re-fry these babies back up and do with them as you please.

The following video shows the press and dry fry process is fairly comprehensive detail.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beans: They Really are the Magical Fruit

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot

The more you toot, the better you feel

So let's eat beans with every meal!


Beans are meat for the vegan or vegetarian. Now, with Tim Ferriss coming on the scene with his 4 Hour Body and 4 Hour Chef books, beans are becoming a much more important part of a lot of meat eater’s diet, as well. The big attraction is the amount of protein you can get from these legumes. However, beans are packed with many essential nutrients.

(note: the below links to Amazon are affiliate links. By clicking on those links, I stand to profit - thanks in advance if you do! I have all of Tim's books and they simply provide an awesome new look on life in the 21st century.)

The most economic and health conscious way to consume beans is by buying dried beans in bulk and going through the lengthy preparation process. In the real world, canned beans are available on the shelves of every grocery store. The only downfall to this is the amount of sodium that comes along with the preservation process.

All numbers used in this article are provided by Unico, a food packaging company based in the Greater Toronto Area. I have no affiliation with the company. Unico simply is one of the most popular and readily available brands of canned beans in Canada and their website provides a wealth of information. All serving sizes are 125 grams. A typically can of beans is 540 grams. Therefore, there are close to 4.5 servings in a can.

The beans we looked at were Black, Broad, Garbonzo (Chick Peas), Faba, Lentils, Lima, Lupini, Red Kidney, Romano and White Kidney. Lupini, or Yellow Lupin, is not that readily available and is in world of its own. Anyone with food allergy issues may want to avoid Lupini all together.

The great thing is that none of these beans contain and cholesterol. With the exception of Lupini, which contains 6g of fat per serving, all had no more than 2g of fat per serving. Broad beans contained no fat while Lentils and Lima beans contained just 0.5 grams per serving. All are also very low in sugar. However, Garbonzo beans are high in carbohydrates at 29g per serving, compared to Lima beans at the low end of the scale at just 13g.

With Tim Ferriss and vegans worldwide, the big number is the grams of protein. Lupini contains a staggering 22g of protein per serving. The next highest is Faba beans at 11g and the lowest is Lima beans at just 3g per serving. All others range from 7 to 10g. This is significant in maintaining a healthy body.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is stated at 56 grams for the average male adult and 46 grams for the average female adult. The ‘average’ is 154 lbs. for a male and 110 lbs. for a female. It is suggested by some that these numbers are way low and reflect a sedentary lifestyle. For active adults, the number might need to be almost doubled.

As you can see, eating just one can of beans can nearly meet the RDA for protein. As a vegan, I often suffered from headaches. Since moving to a bean based diet in December of 2012, the headaches have all but disappeared. Also, I simply feel better and have more energy late into the day.

Of course, the other question that is asked of all that don’t consume meat or dairy: “How do you possibly get enough calcium?” We all know that calcium shows its face in some amount in nearly all vegetables. However, beans are an especially great source. If you can stomach Lupini, you’ll get 15% of your RDA in just one serving. All other beans mentioned here will provide 2-6% of your RDA per serving.

Besides the major benefits, all the beans are high in fibre and low in sugar. All are a great source of iron. Lima beans are the only ones with a significant amount of Vitamin C at 6% of the RDA per serving. Garbonzos are the only ones that will provide Vitamin A at 2% of the RDA.

How do you down 1-2 cans of beans per day?! Surprisingly, after several months, I’m still good with a can of beans (drained and rinsed) cooked in a pot along with a can of diced tomatoes, a bit of EVO, some oregano, paprika and cayenne. Sometimes, I’ll split into two meals. Sometimes, it goes down in one shot. I mix the type of beans up but prefer Romano or Kidney (white or red, doesn't matter).

Just a quick summary of the benefits I’ve found:

·         Headaches gone

·         Weight stabalized

·         Injury free – the muscles seem to better take abuse (something very handy when playing hockey and snowshoeing in the wilderness)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Videos from Florida and the Ruby Princess

Our first vacation outside the country with Edward is in the books. We spent nearly two weeks mixed between South Florida and an Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Ruby Princess. Edward spent nearly half of his eighth month outside of Canada.

On the vegan end of things, it went pretty smooth. One night on the cruise ship, I actually had a personally prepared meal by the chef at the Crown Grill restaurant. Normally, the Crown Grill is a restaurant not included in the meal plan and requires an additional $25 a head. However, as part of a wedding party, our dinner for one night was at this fine restaurant.

My only issue came before the cruise at a Taco Bell near our hotel in Hollywood, Florida. The Comfort Inn had enough issues which will be discussed at a later date. The Taco Bell next door had the issue of a counter person unfamiliar with the product he was selling. I wouldn't normally eat at Taco Bell anyway, but when travelling in a group... Anyhow, it turns out the potato burrito that I ate in fact contained ground beef. I have the comfort in knowing that there probably was minimal actual meat included in the burrito.

Anyhow - this article wasn't meant to be a bitch session about Taco Bell and the Comfort Inn. I just wanted to share the videos that I've edited and posted to YouTube so far.

The title is a bit dramatic on this one. True, the alligator did seemingly cross a decent sized pond in the Florida Everglades just to maybe find a meal in Edward. In the background, you can hear Eddie babbling. There are many other people along the boardwalk but this gator came right to where Eddie was sitting in the stroller. Of course, the gator wouldn't be able to get at Eddie as the boardwalk was raised above the water. However, it was pretty spooky.

And - if it was Yahoo, the headline would read something like 'Hungry Gator Hunts Down Defenseless Child'.

Princess Cays was our first stop on the cruise, after leaving Port Everglades, Florida. Contrary to what Princess Cruise Lines says, this is not a private island. Princess Cays is a private beach owned by Princess Cruise Lines located at the southern tip of Eleuthera Island. Eleuthera is part of the Bahamas and is a long (180km) and thin (2-4km) island with very few permanent inhabitants.

Somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean, I took this video from the back end of the Ruby Princess. It's just a short video showing the sides of the ship and the back end. The video is taken from the Star Deck (Deck 19). This floor of the boat is little more than a running track, basketball court and mini-putt. The wind, as it was on this day, can be quite hurricane-like from this position.

The first 'real' port of call was Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. This quick video is from the Sun Deck aboard the Ruby Princess with views of the other docked cruise ships and the beach across Great Bay.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Toronto Ontario Downtown

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012 Metro Photo Challenge

I have four entries in the Metro Photo Challenge - a freebie photo contest run by the producers of the Metro newspapers.

I'd would be incredibly appreciative if you would stop by my profile on their site and maybe even give me a vote or a share.

To vote, click on one of the links in this article to be taken to the Metro Photo Challenge site and to my profile. Click on one, or all, of the four photos and then click on the green button that says ‘Vote for this photo’.

Go to my Profile

Your support is greatly appreciated! I believe the contest ends sometime around November 11, 2012 so please vote and vote often! Please feel free to download and use any of these photos, or any other images through ‘It’s About Travelling’. To get the full size image, simply click on the photos.