Tofu, made fresh from soybeans, is an excellent protein source that's good for you and your pocketbook. With one serving of tofu, you can get as much as one-fifth of your daily protein needs met, and a whole pound of it will cost you less than $3, even if you choose organic.
Much maligned as being bland and tasteless, this thick bean substance gets high marks from some cooks because of its versatility. With the addition of a variety of fresh herbs and spices, it can be prepared hundreds of ways, including the oven-baked nuggets here.
Of course, many parents turning toward vegetarianism worry about whether their kids are getting enough protein. Not to worry with these treats. And, maybe not to worry at all. I doubt if any of you has ever known an American with a protein deficiency. There is protein in almost every food, even lettuce. Protein needs are easily met on a diet consisting of a variety of grains and beans, as well as vegetables.
Kay Stepkin is a vegetarian cooking instructor and former owner of a vegetarian restaurant/bakery. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you're cooking brown rice, why not make a little extra for other meals? Just double or triple the recipe.
An easy way to chop fresh herbs is with a pair of kitchen scissors.
Tofu veggie nuggets
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
1 cup water
1/2 cup raw brown rice
1 pound firm refrigerated tofu
Toasted sesame oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 serrano chili, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 cup each, chopped: celery, red pepper, carrots
1/4 cup each, loosely packed: fresh cilantro, fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each: grated ginger root, ground cumin
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
3 tablespoons each: cornmeal, brown rice flour
1. Heat the water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Rinse the rice several times until water is clear. Drain well. Add rice to boiling water. Cover; reduce heat to simmer. Cook until all water is absorbed, 35-40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place the tofu in a colander in the sink with a heavy plate on top to press out the excess liquid. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a skillet with a little sesame oil; heat over medium-high. Add onions; cook until translucent, 2 minutes. Add the serrano chili, celery, red pepper and carrots; cook 3 minutes. Add the cilantro and basil. Stir; remove from heat.
3. Crumble the tofu into tiny pieces into a large bowl. Mix the garlic, ginger and cumin together. Add the spice mixture to the tofu; stir in rice and soy sauce. Stir in cooked vegetables, cornmeal and brown rice flour until well mixed.
4. Make tightly packed balls of the tofu mixture using a 1-inch scoop. Place the balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
Nutrition information: Per nugget: 33 calories, 43% of calories from fat, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 99 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
The veggie table
Tofu a protein bargain for body, pocketbook
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