Tofu Starter Guide

Before I learned about a plant-based diet I had never tried tofu. I thought it was a manufactured, non-food but I was wrong! Tofu is a great addition to both plant-based and non plant-based diets. This Tofu Starter Guide will give you the basics so you can try it now!

Tofu is basically beans, soy beans, soy bean curd to be more specific.

Tofu Starter Guide

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Tofu can often be intimidating if you grew up without it. It’s not a bad kid, just misunderstood. Yes, I joke but really, don’t be afraid of tofu. Give it a try, then maybe once more, then make your decision. 

If you can’t have soy, then you’ll want to skip it. Although some people make tofu from chickpeas. I’ll take the inexpensive, prepared tofu, thanks.

Tofu is extremely versatile! You can do so much with it. I usually just cube it and bake or saute it. Sometimes I’ll even use my air fryer but I keep it simple.

Types of Tofu

Types of Tofu

Tofu is classified by firmness, the firmness will determine the best way to use it. Tofu ranges from extra-firm, firm, sprouted, soft, and silken. You’ll find other types out there too. The more firm the tofu, the more easily it holds its shape, the less moisture it has. I’m only going to share about a few types of tofu, these are the ones I see in the store and have tried. 

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu contains the highest moisture content and lends itself to recipes such as soups, sauces, spreads, and dips. A lot of dessert recipes use silken tofu for faux cheese cakes and puddings. I don’t typically use Silken Tofu, its just not my preference.

Soft Tofu

Soft tofu undergoes the same process as the more firm varieties of tofu, but has a higher water content. It does come in a solid block packed in water but does not have the same smooth texture as its silken counterpart. It is the one least used in recipes and can be substituted for silken if blended well enough. I never use soft tofu.

Firm and Extra Firm Tofu

Firm and extra firm tofu is what you will usually see in savory recipes. They have a low moisture content and hold their shape well. I always choose Extra Firm Tofu if there is an option, I would use Firm in a pinch. 

I use Extra Firm Tofu to make Tofu Scrambles, crispy baked tofu, and all kinds of Asian-inspired recipes.

Tofu press

What’s a Tofu Press

Even though Extra Firm Tofu has less moisture it’s still usually too much. To fix this I use an EZ Tofu Press. It’s a little contraption that is used to squeeze water out of tofu. I’ve also used towels and heavy books and/or cans but I found the EZ Tofu Press to be much easier! I’ve been using it since 2017 and it works just as good today as it did two years ago. There are a lot of different kinds of tofu presses out there, they will all work, just read the reviews before purchasing.

These easy Tofu Kabobs are a great way to introduce your family to tofu!

Maximizing Tofu Flavor

One of the great things about cooking tofu is the lack of flavor profile. It doesn’t really taste like anything. Trust me, this is a good thing. Tofu adapts the the flavor of marinade and seasonings used or other items it is cooked with. This works for both the softer and firm varieties.   

I usually drain my tofu, press it for 15 minutes or so, then season or marinate tofu while I’m getting other ingredients ready. If I’m baking tofu, I’ll try to marinate it early because it can take longer to bake it than it does to saute it.

Buying Tofu

Tofu can be found in many local big box grocery stores in the health or specialty food section. You can also find it in small Asian markets or online. I usually buy it at Fry’s which is a Kroger store or Sprouts Farmers Market. 

I prefer to buy organic tofu in the refrigerated sections, usually in the healthy food area or near dairy or vegan products. It’s usually in a plastic tub with water inside. I usually pay between $2-$3 for a container, sometimes less, when it’s on sale. You can find shelf stable versions but I prefer the refrigerated versions.

These easy Tofu Kabobs are a great way to introduce your family to tofu!

Is Tofu Healthy

There are countless studies claiming both the health benefits and dangers of tofu and soy. I’ve read opinions on both sides and decided that tofu is a good choice for our family. I only use organic tofu!


We don’t have tofu as often as I’d like. It’s pretty easy and inexpensive, especially compared to our meat eating days. Our adult daughter lives half way across the country, she recently discovered her love of tofu. Even though she is not plant-based, she has incorporated tofu into their weekly meals. Last week she told me, “I never have to touch raw chicken again.”

I don’t have many tofu recipes but I plan to add more soon!

Do you love tofu? Which kind do you prefer and how do you prepare it?

 

Keep Produce Fresh

Do you ever buy a lot of produce and have it go bad before you can eat it? This used to happen all the time to me! Through research, trial and error, I found some tips to keep produce fresh longer!

Keep Produce Fresh

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We’ve adopted a new habit of washing our produce as soon as we get home from the store. It’s a little bit of work upfront but I save that time later when I’m cooking and every time my kids want an apple.

We used to be a little more lax about washing produce. I would usually do it but the rest of our family wasn’t as consistent. Then our son was diagnosed with cancer and it became a real concern. It should have been already.

Every year we hear about produce that is contaminated with e.coli, listeria, and other nasty things. It’s important to wash your produce every time!

Interesting fact, people with compromised immune systems (pregnant women, people with cancer, etc.) are discouraged from eating processed fruits, veggies, salads, etc. because there is such a high risk of contamination in those products.

There are other things on produce we want to clean off as well like pesticides and waxes.

Now, we wash all our produce before use, most of it is washed as soon as we get in the door.

Does your produce go bad before you can eat it? These tips will help keep your produce fresh.

Washing Fresh Produce

For most of our produce like apples, peaches, plums, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus, melons,  etc. I give them a sink bath.

I thoroughly clean my sink, fill one side with cold water and sprinkle baking soda in the water and mix it with my hand. I don’t measure but I probably use 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda. When I use more water, I use more baking soda, less water…less baking soda.

Then I add my produce, all mixed together, into the sink bath. I set a timer, because I always forget, and let them soak for 15 minutes. Then I rinse them off with cold water and stick them in my dish drainer.

If something is especially dirty, I use my veggie brush to give them a good scrub.

Washing Berries

Berries require a different method of cleaning. My son could eat his weight in berries! When we have them, he will easily eat pounds of them every day! When possible we buy in bulk. If you buy in bulk, or even just small amounts that may sit in the fridge for a few days, I recommend you inspect them closely. One moldy berry will ruin the whole bunch quickly.

Washing berries is one way to inspect all our berries. The moisture can make them spoil faster so if you will not be eating them quickly, you may want to wait until just before eating to wash.

Rinsing berries under cold water will clean them. My friend Sarah at Never Free Farm gave me a great tip for berries. She fills a small basin with cold and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Then soaks up to two pounds of berries for 5 to 10 minutes. If you don’t know Sarah, follow her, you’ll be impressed!

Washing Mushrooms

There are different schools of thought on washing mushrooms. Some people just wipe them with a damp cloth. Others use a special mushroom brush. I usually rinse them just before using and carefully dry them off.

Produce Storage Containers

While foods that are stored whole like melons and apples don’t need special containers. I’ve found a few inexpensive containers that have done wonders for keeping cut food fresh longer.

Containers like these Rubbermaid Freshworks keep produce from spoiling for much longer. I have the older model but the old ones don’t have as many size options. Read the reviews and you’ll see why I love them! Containers like this make it easier to keep cut veggies ready for quick meals like this Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl.

I use these for cut cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and sometimes fruit, like freshly cut pineapple. Many of the reviews mention people putting whole fruits in them, including berries. Berries never last long enough at my house. Most get eaten while they are drying on the counter.

I don’t have a special container that is big enough for my lettuce. When washing my romaine, I give them a sink bath, pull all the leaves off and dry them individually. Then I store the whole leaves in a large container with paper towels on the bottom, a few layers of romaine leaves, another layer of paper towels, and so on. I’ve had romaine last for 2 weeks this way! 2 WEEKS!

A salad spinner works well too. If you want to avoid the waste of paper towels, you can store your washed lettuce in a salad spinner.

Where you live plays a big part in how you store produce too. Since I live in Arizona, it is hot most of the year. Some foods that are typically stored on the counter top have to be stored in the fridge when the temperatures get high. If you live somewhere colder, you may be able to keep most of your whole produce on your counters for a long time. Check out this seasonal produce chart specifically for Arizona!

What are your tips to keeping produce fresh? Do you have a special tool that you love?

Healthy Eating at Home

This post is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

One of the big benefits of living in a warm place like Arizona is that the weather is beautiful! Even though the temperatures are slowly dropping, our winter weather is lovely and allows us to spend most of the fall and winter outside, usually without a coat.

Eating Healthy at Home starts with great ingredients.

Another benefit of this glorious weather is the longer growing season. Local farmers and gardeners don’t follow the same planting season as other areas of the country. Here, many crops are still going strong.

On a recent visit to a local farmers market I got to see this first hand. If you are struggling to eat healthy, a farmers market is just the inspiration you need.

Uptown Farmers Market Phoenix AZ

Family Trip to the Farmers Market

Farmers markets are a great place to bring your family. I think kids will have a new appreciation for fresh produce when they see it at a farmers market. Some vendors even have fruit for sampling. Who can resist that? They can also answer your questions about how the food was grown and new ways to prepare it.

The Uptown Market in Phoenix is a family-friendly place with an abundance of fresh veggies and fruit. You could easily do your weekly meal planning based on local finds.

Farmers Market Veggies

I filled my bag with potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, beans and much more. I bought the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had! If I had planned better, I would have brought a hand cart so I could buy more!

We had family visiting us from out of state and I wanted to show them how great healthy food could taste. They were impressed with the vivid colors and flavors!

Fresh Heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market

Eating at Home

Instead of eating out several nights a week, start a new tradition of fixing healthy meals together using fresh ingredients. If you have a local farmers market, make that part of the tradition too!

In most cases, food you make at home will be healthier than food you purchase at a restaurant. Spend a little time shopping for fresh ingredients that you will enjoy all week. My farmers market veggies seemed to last longer than veggies I buy at the store. I’m sure there was less transport and storage time.

Fresh veggies from the farmers market

Even though it seems easier to go out to eat some nights, I feel like it actually takes longer. Between driving to a restaurant, waiting for our dinner and then eating, I could have cooked a meal, enjoyed it and cleaned up in the same amount of time.

Cultivating a Love of Healthy Eating

On days I let my kids help; it does take longer to prepare dinner. I’m not really a patient mom when it comes to cooking with my kids, but I know it’s important. The time I spend teaching my kids to prep, cook and enjoy healthy foods is an investment in their future. Cultivating this love is easier to do when your kids are small.

My eight year old takes pride in helping make dinner. A couple of times a month we have a baked potato night. He will wash the potatoes and put them in our electric pressure cooker. He is so proud that he can cook dinner for the family.

Fresh veggies from the farmers market

The next time I visit a farmers market, I plan to give each of my kids their own bag and a few dollars to make their own purchases. Everything I bought was surprisingly affordable, sometimes much cheaper than my grocery store.

When kids have a say in what they buy, they will be more likely to actually eat it. Go ahead and encourage your kids to choose their favorite veggies, have them pick one more new thing to try. Maybe they’ll discover they love zucchini or heirloom tomatoes.

Learn to eat healthier my choosing fresh veggies.

Sugar Swap

Make sure to take in all the farmers market has to offer. The Uptown Market recently had a really fun event sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona’s Nourishing Arizona initiative. People could bring in candy (it was right after Halloween) or other sugary treats and exchange them for five Homegrown Healthy Bucks at a Sugar Swap! The candy wrappers were used to create art and the Homegrown Healthy Bucks could be used to purchase fresh produce.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona at the Uptown Market in Phoenix.

Does your family visit farmers markets? How do you encourage eating healthy at home?

The Best Plant-Based Diet Books

I get a lot of questions about switching to a plant-based diet. It’s understandable, for most of us, plant-based living is a completely foreign concept.

I do my best to help by answering emails and comments. Depending on the situation I’ll sometimes suggest a book. Blogs are a great place to look but you can get lost in the internet and spend hours reading.

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Best Plant-Based Diet Book [Read more…]

7 Reasons You Should Buy Local

If you are eating a plant-based diet you are probably eating a lot of plants. Sticking to seasonal produce from your grocery store or farmers market will be less expensive and healthier for you.

I’ll admit, depending on where you live, some places are easier than others to buy local seasonal produce. Right now is a great time to live in Arizona. Gardens are producing and local farmers have plenty to offer.

7 reasons you should buy local

You can find out what’s in season in your location using this handy tool: Sustainable Table Seasonal Food Guide.

If you need to be convinced that eating seasonally is better for you and for the environment check out these seven reasons you should buy local when possible. [Read more…]