As a child, I was always a bit picky about the meat I consumed. Whether it was a chunk of cartilage I accidentally and regrettably bit into when eating a McRib sandwich at school or the piece of chicken that looked a bit dark where it rested against the bone, I always felt a sense of unease when consuming “this thing” that seemingly had such variable consistency in quality. As I became older and started preparing my own food, these feelings of discontent were heightened when I decided to prepare an evening meal of chicken teriyaki for my family. As I stood in the kitchen washing, trimming, and cutting the chicken breasts, I could not help but think how dirty this whole process was. As I rinsed the meat in the sink, bacteria were inevitably splashing all around the surfaces and beyond. Then came the handling of this slimy substance from which I now had to tediously trim chunks of fat. When the meal was over, I realized I had prepared a dish that was devoid of flavor and was reminded of all the work I had just done for very little payback.
A few years later, I watched a documentary titled “Earthlings” that would solidify every reservation I ever had about consuming meat. It made the transition to a vegan lifestyle seem intuitive. After making the switch, I effortlessly lost fifteen pounds. I became aware of tofu as a protein alternative and was delighted to find there was no cartilage or tough bits and pieces hidden in it. It came neatly sealed in a water-packed container and was easy to slice into a variety of different shapes and sizes. It became the basis for one of my favorite and most beloved and original dishes, the “tofu-wich.”
Wanting a replacement for my childhood favorite pan-fried egg sandwich, I discovered that using tofu with a little black salt (aka Kala Namak) would mimic that eggy flavor I was seeking. While frying the tofu in a pan just like an egg, I began playing around with adding seasonings such as smoked paprika, turmeric, and soy sauce. It even came to mind that some garlic and onion powder might ramp up the flavors even more. From this point, I had the base for my egg sandwich substitute. With a little vegan mayonnaise spread on a soft, fresh bun and a couple of slices of warm tofu, I was taken back to my childhood in no time. Eventually, I decided to take the tofu a step further and make it more of a deli sandwich experience by adding toppings such as lettuce, tomato, and onion. Then I learned about kimchi, a fermented cabbage and vegetable mix of Korean origin, which offers a salty and flavorful punch to almost any meal. Now the hunt was on to find the perfect bread to increase my behemoth fillings. I settled on New Pioneer’s sourdough bread, toasted until just lightly browned.
Today, any mention of making my famous “tofu-wiches” for lunch elicits an enthusiastic response from my parents. It’s a crowd-pleaser and can be varied to suit any palate, as the seasonings or toppings are easily exchanged for alternatives. The slices can be cut in half lengthwise and served warm or cold with the vegan Caesar dressing or other dipping sauce. The Tofu-wich — served with a fresh vegetable salad topped with this dressing and followed by peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert — makes an easy, delicious, and satisfying meal.
- 16 oz. extra firm tofu
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- ¼-½ tsp. black salt (Kala Namak)
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce (Recommended: Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
1. Press the block of tofu until most of the water is expelled.
2. Cut the tofu in half down the middle, then cut each half into ¼” thick slices. You will have 10-12 rectangular slices of tofu.
3. Add the oil to the pan and spread into a thin layer. Fry the tofu on medium-high heat until lightly browned on one side.
4. In a small bowl or shaker, combine the black salt, smoked paprika, turmeric, and black pepper; sprinkle over the tofu slices so it is evenly distributed. Flip the tofu slices over to cook the seasoned side until lightly browned.
5. Drizzle soy sauce over the tofu slices and turn off the heat.
6. Place the warm tofu slices on toasted bread of choice (recommended: New Pioneer’s sourdough bread). Add desired toppings (lettuce, tomato, red onion, kimchi, vegan mayonnaise, vegan cheese etc.).
Vegan Caesar Dressing
This salad dressing is incredibly easy to make and can be doubled or tripled for an entire week’s salads.
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 Tbsp. almonds, cashews, or tahini
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ C water
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1-1/2 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender (or use an immersion blender); process until smooth.
2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe from Food.com
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies were adapted from a recipe I found in the Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. The only alteration I made to the original recipe was to reduce the brown sugar by ¼ cup, as I believed 1 cup to be enough sweetness for these cookies. I also opted to make larger cookies as I prefer them with a softer center.
- 1-¾ C unbleached, all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1-½ tsp. Ener-G Egg replacer or similar product (equivalent to 1 egg)
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 C firmly packed light brown sugar
- ¾ C creamy peanut butter
- ½ C plant butter (recommended: Earth Balance)
- 3 Tbsp. plant milk
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- ½ C ground peanuts or walnuts (optional)
- ½ C vegan chocolate chips (optional but recommended)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or use nonstick baking sheets).
3. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
4. In a small bowl, whip the egg replacer and water together vigorously until thick and creamy.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, peanut butter, vegan butter, plant milk, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add the egg replacer mixture and combine; then the flour mixture. If the dough is
very stiff, add a small amount of plant milk to achieve the desired consistency. Add the ground nuts and mix just until blended; then fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Spoon 2-3 Tbsp. of dough onto the cookie sheets, spacing 2” apart. (A small cookie scoop works well.) Flatten the cookie dough slightly with a fork to create a crisscross pattern, if desired.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until baked through and just beginning to brown. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Gina Howe is a student at Kirkwood Community College in pursuit of a nursing degree. She is 28 years old and has been vegan since 2011.
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