“Hmmm…What to eat?” Like it or not, it’s a question that gets asked every day because – of course – every day we have to eat. Food is also what brings us all together at the Co-op and so choices about how we prepare food is the inspiration for this new column for the Co-op Voice. We share aisles and aisles of foods of all kinds at Honest Weight. Now let’s share how we turn our choices in the store into one of our daily rituals.
I love to cook elaborate meals, but it seems like anytime someone asks me for a recipe they complain if I give them anything that takes considerable time and effort. From my Greek kitchen, people love eating moussakas, tyropitakia (cheese pies) and horiatiki (Greek ‘village’ salad), but rarely do they want to take the time to make it themselves. It truly does take hours to prepare! It is a labor of love, but not one I do everyday.
As a mom I have come to appreciate quick food, but I still try to keep meals as from-scratch as possible. Sometimes this means making a batch of seitan for use throughout the week, and then throwing it into a stir-fry or, in the winter months, a savory baked dish. Or, I might throw together a one-pot meal (boy has my pressure cooker become a close friend for making these)! But probably my most common go-to family meal in a pinch is this: baked tofu, mashed potatoes, and a veggie.
Baked tofu can be made with any flavorings you like. You can marinate the tofu for a deep flavor. Or you can do a BBQ tofu like the one listed below, to save yourself the marinating time.
- Extra firm tofu, rinsed under water
- BBQ sauce
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Butter/Vegan substitute
Lightly butter the bottom of a baking dish (or, if your family loves baked tofu as much as mine, a couple of baking dishes…we always go back for seconds and keep leftovers from this one!). Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Slice tofu to the size of your choosing. I find making tofu squares about 1½” wide that are about ¼” thick works well. Line these pieces up in a single layer in your baking dish. I pack the whole dish so the tofu fits pretty snugly inside the dish. (KID TIP: If you’re feeling brave and have a kiddo on hand, tofu is an easy food to have them slice. Depending on the child’s age, the shape/size consistency will be lost, but it’s worth the fun!)
Sprinkle tofu with garlic powder, onion powder and paprika, to taste. (KID TIP: This is another step kids have fun helping with. I advise measuring out the amount of seasoning for them to sprinkle!)
Drizzle BBQ sauce over tofu, to taste. Be careful not to add too much sauce as excess sauce in the baking dish just chars to the dish. Use the back of a spoon to spread the sauce so it’s spread roughly evenly across all pieces. (KID TIP: Spreading sauce with the back of the spoon is fun for kids.) After the BBQ sauce is spread, flip the tofu pieces over inside the baking dish so that the side of each piece that doesn’t have sauce on it lands on top of the not-yet-turned, saucy pieces, so that sauce is ultimately spread on both sides of the tofu. Then, once all pieces have your preferred amount of sauce on both sides, lay them back out in a single layer in the baking dish.
Place the tofu in the oven. How long? It depends on how soft or how crunchy you want your tofu. We like ours firm but not crunchy. When I see the tofu start to shrink slightly (indicating it’s firming up), I remove it from the oven and flip each piece. If the pieces are beginning to stick to the baking dish, I add a bit of water to the pan to loosen everything. Then re-insert the (now flipped tofu) into the oven and bake a bit longer, but not as long as the first side baked since the pan is now hot enough that cooking will accelerate. Again, watch and bake to your preferred consistency and serve.
My favorite way to make mashed potatoes is in the pressure cooker. It’s so fast! But, to keep this recipe accessible to all with a stove top, here is a stove top approach.
- Potatoes cleaned and cut into evenly sized chunks. The smaller the chunks, the quicker they will cook. Peeling is optional. I don’t peel, but I do cut out small divots that collect soil when potatoes are grown.
- Butter/Vegan substitute
- Milk of choice
Put potatoes in a pan with enough water to cover potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to keep on a low/soft boil until the potatoes are soft enough for a fork to be inserted easily. Drain potatoes, reserving a small amount of the boiling liquid for use later.
Place the drained potatoes in a bowl with butter, salt, and pepper (note that if your butter is salted, you may not need to add additional salt). How much of these accompaniments you use depends on the flavor you seek. If we use about a half dozen potatoes – enough so we can feed the family and have leftovers – we add about 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. Use a hand masher and mash to make as chunky or smooth as you like. If the potatoes have been cooked well, just a handful of mashes should break them down pretty well. (KID TIP: Kids are great at starting the hand mashing, leaving you to add the final touches.) Add a small amount of the reserved cooking liquid (but not too much – that starchy water mashed into potatoes can make them gummy, quick) and about a Tablespoon or two of milk for added richness to the flavor. You could also add some shredded cheese for additional savoriness, and some freshly chopped garlic, dill or parsley, which I do as time permits.
The veggie I serve with this meal depends on what I have on hand and how much time I want to put into it. A favorite and most simple winter go-to is to heat up frozen peas in some boiling water for a couple of minutes. If we planned ahead in summer, sometimes we have frozen corn on the cob in the freezer that is also simple to pop into boiling water for just a few minutes. If you’re seasonally blessed with fresh greens, washing chard, kale, or other cooking greens, then cutting and sautéing them with a little oil, garlic, and cumin is also quick and delicious. Because the tofu and mashed potato prep can be time intensive, I often keep the veggie step very simple.
Do you have a recipe or meal plan you want to share? If so, submit your proposal to: editors AT coopvoice.com. In future issues, we will feature write-ups from Co-op Voice readers about what they like to eat and how to prepare it.