Cooking Without the Cow

I have a dairy allergy. I digest it well enough but it gives me a headache, which is not fun. I do use a little butter, especially in baking, because margarine scares me. Cheese is such a prevalent ingredient in even vegetarian offerings that I have had to experiment with different dishes to come up with some staples that will work for my family. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fear not the tofu! (Creamy Pasta Sauce)

Tofu is a very interesting food. It won't hurt you. It's high in protein and healthy fats. It takes on the flavor of any sauce, spice or marinade you mix into it. Regular tofu can be frozen, thawed, chopped and stir-fried to substitute for meat, or drained and chopped and substituted for scrambled egg. Silken tofu can be mashed and blended smooth to a custardy texture and then combined with fruit and sugar for a pudding-like dessert, or with more savory ingredients for a main dish. You can even add a spoonful of lemon juice or vinegar for a passable non-dairy sour cream or yogurt substitute. Stick blenders are fun to use for this purpose and they make weird outboard-motor sounds when you use them with silken tofu.

With my dairy difficulties, I've all but given up certain things I used to enjoy such as cheese, pudding and creamy soups and sauces. Tofu can give back some of these dishes if one is willing to give it a try, such as in this simple recipe which can be used as a soup, a dip or a pasta sauce, depending on the proportions of the bouillon. It has a lovely, creamy texture similar to alfredo sauce and clings beautifully to warm pasta, as illustrated by my endearingly amateurish photo.

Nutritional yeast is found in the health food store. It is deactivated brewer's yeast and is an odd by-product of making alcohol, or it can also be grown somehow on molasses. It's very high in protein and B vitamins and has a taste something like Swiss cheese when in flake form and adds creaminess when mixed into sauces.

Don't be afraid to try new things. You never know what you may like.

Don't-tell-'em-it's-tofu Sauce

1 package silken tofu (MUST be silken)
2-3 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
½ t garlic powder
½ t crushed red pepper
2 T of nutritional yeast
1 10oz package frozen spinach or broccoli, thawed but not drained
pasta of your choice

Mash tofu with a fork (it's fun!). Add all other ingredients except the broccoli and pasta and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Be sure to put the blender away before you add in the green veggies or it will turn ugly.  Trust me.

Stir in the liquid from the spinach or broccoli. Add the spinach or broccoli and stir well. Heat gently and serve as is for soup, over pasta, or chill, mix in a tablespoon of water to lighten the texture (it becomes thicker when cool) and use as a dip.

NOTE: Bouillon powder can be very salty, so use a lighter hand if you're planning for soup or dip.

You can also substitute 2 tablespoons tomato paste or ½ cup of V8 juice for the green veggies for a tomato alfredo. More water may be needed to loosen it up if you use tomato paste. Either way, it's very good!


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