Monday, June 2, 2014

Tofu Parmesan

Hey everybody! First, I'd like to apologize for neglecting this blog lately. This spring has been so busy, but now that school is almost over, I will have more than enough time to dedicate myself to this blog! The team and I have some very exciting themes and projects coming up this summer that you won't want to miss.

The theme this month is... Vegetarian Meals! Since there are so many vegetarians out there, I figured I would dedicate a whole month to giving you guys some great recipes. Of course, you don't have to be a vegetarian in order to enjoy these; I highly recommend that meat eaters give these recipes a try. Start having a Meatless Monday and try these recipes out! 

Why go vegetarian? I'm sure you've all heard the arguments against being a vegetarian, mainly the concern that you won't be getting enough protein. However, you can find protein in lots of other food sources! Tofu, beans, and even some whole grains (like quinoa) contain the protein that your body needs. Make sure you are eating a variety of foods so that your body gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Lots of fruits, veggies, protein, nuts, and seeds will make your body very happy. A lot of people go vegetarian and end up with problems, like anemia, because they aren't getting the nutrients they need. It's really easy to cut out meat and just eat carbohydrates, but that is not the way to go! The more colors and variety you have, the better.

Have you wanted to go vegetarian for awhile but never had the time? Have you ever wanted to try it out just to see what it's like? Then you are the person to join the Teens Can Cook, Too team on a vegetarian two-week challenge! From June 15th to June 28th, a few members of the Teens Can Cook, Too team will be going vegetarian and blogging about their experiences. We invite you to join us for those 14 days and interact with us via social networking so we can provide tips and inspiration. We've set a few guidelines so that we all try being a vegetarian in the healthiest way possible, and they are as follows:
- No meat (including fish) in any form
- Eat at least 1.5 cups of vegetables and 1 cup of fruit each day 
- Have at least one source of protein per day
- Keep track of all your meals and write a few comments about each day 
We will be posting our thoughts, comments and meals every Sunday with each recipe so that you guys can see how we've been enjoying the new change. I strongly suggest that all my readers participate. From people who eat meat in every meal to pescatarians that want to try giving up fish for two weeks, this challenge will be accessible and valuable! Plus, it's during the summer, so you don't have to worry about juggling a change in diet with schoolwork. If you're already a vegetarian, don't worry - there will be a challenge just like this next month, only we'll be going vegan! 

Onto the recipe! So... tofu. Oh tofu. So many people hate tofu, and I honestly don't blame them. Most of the tofu I've had has been prepared terribly, but there are definitely ways to make it tasty! So far, my favorite methods of preparation are tofu in an Asian stir-fry and marinated tofu that has been grilled or pan-seared. I also love Chipotle's sofritas, which is a scrambled tofu option that they offer. It's my new favorite thing and I think it tastes exactly like ground turkey! Give these things a try as a starter. I've never had tofu outside of Asian or Mexican food, so I figured I would branch out with my recipe and go the Italian route. 

Okay, I know what you're thinking. "This is GROSS! Parmesan tofu? Yuck!" But I promise you that it is better than it looks! The basis for the method of preparation comes from my mom's way of making homemade chicken strips. Hey, there's something you're probably familiar with! The preparation is easy and you will satisfy a family of four easily with this. 

Mozzarella and basil not pictured - I didn't have any. Use these ingredients and I'm sure it will be tastier than mine! 
Tofu Parmesan
Serves 4 

1 (16 oz) package extra-firm tofu 
2 free-range eggs 
2 tbsp rBST-free milk 
About 1/2 cup of whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder 
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs 
4 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
1/4 cup rBST-free shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish 
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp lemon pepper 
2 small zucchini 
3 red bell peppers
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 cup rBST-free shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved vertically 
1/2 cup julienned basil 
Salt and pepper, to taste 

1. Remove the tofu from the package. Set a cutting board on a slanted surface and place the tofu brick onto the cutting board. Let the tofu drain for at least 15 minutes, catching the drippings in a sink or trash can. Slice the brick into 1/2-inch slices vertically. 

2. While the tofu is draining, prepare the veggies. Slice the top off of the pepper, and turn it so that the hunk of seeds in the middle is facing the ceiling. Carefully cut perpendicular to each piece of white membrane, creating four sections. Throw out the hunk of seeds. Then, slice each pepper segment in half vertically. Repeat this step with the other peppers. For the zucchini, slice the top and bottom off. Cut into 3-inch sections and slice into 1/8-inch slices vertically. Put the zucchini, red bell pepper, balsamic, 2 tbsp of the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon pepper, 1/4 tsp of the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well and let marinate while you complete steps 3 and 4. 

3. Put the breadcrumbs, cheese, half of the minced garlic, remaining Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the crumbs and cheese become a very fine, crumbly mixture. Pour into a shallow bowl and set aside. Mix the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in another shallow bowl, and beat the eggs and milk together in another shallow bowl.

4. Take a tofu slice and coat in the flour mixture. Coat generously in the egg mixture, and then completely cover in the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat this step with the remaining tofu slices.

5. Spray a griddle or large skillet with a bit of olive oil spray. Heat to medium-high heat (about 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a griddle). Add the tofu slices and marinated veggies. Try to fit as many of the veggies as you can, but if there are too many, prepare them in two batches. Cook the tofu and vegetables for about 3 minutes on each side. When you flip the tofu, sprinkle mozzarella over all the slices and let it melt as it finishes cooking.

6. While the tofu and veggies are cooking, put the cherry tomatoes, remaining garlic, remaining extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Heat to medium heat and saute for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and heated through. Remove from heat.

7. To serve, place a bed of veggies in the center of the plate. Top with a few slices of cheesy tofu. Garnish the tofu with a spoonful of the cherry tomatoes, 2 tbsp of basil and extra parmesan cheese. Enjoy! 

Enjoy this recipe! This was a fun experiment for me, and I'd love it if you gave it a try. Please share your recreations with me using #teenscancooktoo on Instagram! Follow Teens Can Cook, Too at all the social media sites below: 


Stay healthy!
- Madeline 

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