Tofu Virgin No Longer

I have been a vegetarian for 4 years? Three and a half? Something like that. It took a long time for me to learn how to cook all over again. In the beginning, I relied a lot on meat substitutes that provided a familiar style of food and convenience. I still eat fake meat things, but I would like to cut them out and save them for special occasions only. To do this, I knew there was a frontier I needed to conquer - tofu. I enjoy tofu. I order it when I am out dining places, but I have never attempted to prepare tofu in a dish at home.

So last night I tried it. One of the tofu dishes I love the most is at P.F. Chang's. They have a tofu version of their lettuce wrap that is mind blowing awesome. A great mix of salty, crunchy and savory. Just so good. It's normally what I order for my "meal" there. I decided to look up a recipe that would replicate that type of taste. I don't think the recipe I used work perfectly, but it did turn out mighty tasty. Here's what I used:

1 18oz block of extra firm organic tofu
soy sauce
red pepper flakes
3-4 cloves fresh garlic
handful of sliced baby bella mushrooms
half a can of sliced water chestnuts
canola oil

First, I attempted to dry the tofu. I should have done this longer, but it still worked out okay. I cut the block into about 9 slices and put it on folded paper towels on a cookie sheet. I put another layer of paper towels on top of the tofu and then put a kitchen towel on top of that. I gently pressed the tofu to get the water out. Overall, I gave about 5-10 minutes to dry out the tofu. Once that was done, I put some nonstick spray onto a cookie sheet. I cut up the tofu into half inch by half inch cubes and spread them on the cookie sheet. I drizzled soy sauce over all the tofu and then sprinkled on some red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper. I popped that into the oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

While that was baking, I used my handy food processor to cut up the garlic, water chestnuts and mushrooms. I think I ground them up a bit too fine - try to keep the water chestnuts somewhat chunky as they can add a great crunch to the dish (I lost a bit of that crunch since I ground them up too small). Once the tofu comes out of the oven, put a tablespoon of canola oil into a frying pan on med-high heat. Once warm, add in your mushroom/garlic/water chestnut mixture and lightly saute. Then, add in your tofu. I added about 3/4 of what I baked since i wanted to save the rest of the baked tofu for the panang curry we are making later this week. Mix in the tofu and let everything heat together. Splash on a a bit more soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

I served the tofu mixture over a thai rice mix we bought at Harris Teeter a few weeks ago. The tofu came out really well, and it was almost better today at lunch.

I am glad I finally mustered up the nerve to make tofu - it wasn't tough, and it was actually really tasty!!!!!

Running log: Saturday's run went really well. We lost about .5 miles because of a race taking place on the Tobacco Trail, but overall we did about 8.5 miles. Took us around an hour and forty minutes. This week we have a 5 mile run on Tuesday and Thursday, and Saturday will be a 10 mile run. After that, we almost go on a break for a week - just a 4 mile and a 2 mile run next week and RACE DAY IS NEXT SATURDAY!!!!!!!

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