Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frugal Food: Portable Protein Snack

I started making these for a couple reasons. Firstly, tofu is not my favorite food, at least not "straight up". I like it in smoothies, dressings, lasagna, etc. but I almost never make it as a primary component of a meal. As with many people it is a texture issue, it is just too mushy for me and I've not had a great deal of luck overcoming that pitfall. However, it is an easy source of protein, so I don't want to write it off.

Secondly, I've tried a variety of the vegetarian jerky products available and while I mostly like the texture I usually can't stand the flavor, plus they are damn expensive.

I wanted something that was portable, tasty, chewy, and a decent source of protein that didn't put a huge hole in my budget. These are what I came up with. They do take some time, but most of it is hands off. I like recipes that give me pockets of time when I can get other things done!

Make Your Own Tofu Sticks
First get a block of firm tofu and cut it in half width wise. I use the House brand from Costco, you get 3 packs each containing 4 pieces (each pack is just under 20 ounces) for around $4 which is a great price in my area. What I don't understand is why each pack has 4 pieces of tofu but they list the number of servings as 5. Ridiculous. If you use a regular block of tofu you may need to cut it into thirds.

Next, line a baking sheet with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel (aside: my next mission is to drastically reduce my paper towel use). Place the sliced tofu on the sheet so that none are touching. This method is the easiest way I have found to press several pieces of tofu at once.

Cover with another clean towel or more paper towels. Place a second baking sheet on top of all of this and weigh it down as evenly as possible. I just use some of my filled jars from my pantry. Allow to press for at least 30 minutes. Use that time to make your marinade(s) - see below for ideas.

Once pressed, remove tofu to a cutting board.

Cut each piece into evenly sized sticks.

You don't need to use a ruler (although, go for it if you wish!) I just wanted you to have a size reference. Each of mine is about 1/2 inch.

Time to marinate. You can use whatever flavors you like, although I have found that thicker coatings produce a nicer crust. I prefer to let them marinate at least 30 minutes up to overnight, but if you use a thicker coating that is not strictly necessary. The flavor options are limitless, but here are some I've tried:

Agave-Mustard Vinaigrette



Teriyaki Sauce

I've also used my Thai Peanut sauce. So far my favorites have been the curry and the peanut sauce, which also happen to be the two thickest sauces. It is also really easy to make multiple flavors at once and bake them all together. You can mix up the sauce right in a zip top baggie or whatever container you want to leave them in (you can also use storebought - the BBQ sauce and teriyaki were bottled) which cuts down on dishes.

When you are ready to cook, or if you are only marinating for a short while, preheat your oven to 400*. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (easy clean up and protects your pans) and spray with non-stick spray. Place the tofu sticks on the baking sheet, making sure none are touching. Spoon a little extra sauce over the top of each stick. Give them a spritz with the non-stick spray and put them in the oven. Bake 45 minutes - 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes, until they are evenly well browned and have shrunk a bit. Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheet. Eat immediately or portion out and stash in 'fridge for easy snacking later. They will loose their slight crispness when stored for later, but the chewiness stays.

This is what the inside will look like afterward. As with good bread the holes indicate chewiness.


ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

I'm bookmarking this post!

aTxVegn said...

Nicely done!

the little one said...

Wow! These are fantastic ideas. My local co-op does different versions of tofu kind of like this but they are more like bite size. I like the stick idea!

Tuco said...

My wife thinks I'm a weirdo, but I buy extra-firm tofu and eat raw with soy sauce.

Sometimes it's handy barely having any tastebuds!!!

Jen Treehugger said...

WOAH! This is a FANTASTIC idea Lily! I'm trying this out for sure - they look YUMMY!