Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches with Veggie Slaw

Barbecue Tofu Sandwich

At the children’s museum where I work, there’s an exhibit called Marketplace, which is essentially a mini grocery store engineered just for play. When I give tours to field trip groups, this exhibit is where I educate kids about the various food groups as outlined on MyPlate. I explain to them that MyPlate not only shows the five food groups, but also what portions of them we should fill our plates with (as in, 50% fruits and vegetables).

Part of my spiel in this exhibit is asking kids to tell me examples of their favorite foods in each group. They usually do pretty well on fruits, vegetables, and dairy (except for the occasional kid who tells me that pigs give us dairy products or that oranges are their favorite vegetable), but they are often stumped when I ask them to name foods that contain protein. I can’t tell you how many times kids’ ideas of protein-rich foods are protein bars or protein shakes, rather than natural food sources. Granted, these kids are often second graders, so I have to give them a pass, but as a nutritionist, it’s surprising to me that the school curriculum covers so little about food and nutrition.

Once we get through the idea that protein is found in animal products and some non-animal products, I ask the students again: which protein-containing foods are your favorites?

Steak. Steak is the answer about 80% of the time.

I then ask kids about plant-based protein sources. Have they ever, for example, tried tofu?

“Ewwwwwwww, no!”

Come on! I want to say. You’re eight years old and your parents have already ruined you for tofu? But it’s true–ever since Americans first started experimenting with tofu in the ’70s and ’80s, it’s been saddled with a reputation as the flavorless poster child of the Health Food Movement.

It doesn’t have to be that way. As a meatless protein source, I find tofu easy to prepare, cheap to purchase, and a flavor chameleon that can adapt to anything you throw at it. Case in point: these delicious barbecue tofu sandwiches with veggie slaw. I’ve had tofu in many forms over the years, but the idea of slicing it and putting it in a sandwich was new to me when I first saw this recipe. Now that I’ve been making it for awhile, I can see how the shape and texture of pan-fried tofu sliced off the block is perfect sandwich material! Slathered with barbecue sauce and topped with a cool slaw, these barbecue tofu sandwiches are a super tasty (and totally think-outside-the-box) weeknight dinner.

So if someone asks MY favorite protein-containing food? Well, I won’t say they beat a juicy steak, but I will say these barbecue tofu sandwiches rank pretty high.

Barbecue Tofu Sandwich

Print Recipe
Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches with Veggie Slaw
A tasty vegetarian sandwich of pan-fried barbecue tofu and a cool, creamy slaw.
Instructions
  1. Drain tofu and squeeze as much liquid out of it as possible. If time allows, remove even more moisture by pressing tofu. (Place on a paper towel-lined plate and weigh it down with something heavy, like cans or books.) Slice tofu lengthwise into 4 equal slabs.
  2. Prepare the slaw: in a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and pepper. Add shredded broccoli/carrot mix and stir to coat. Set aside.
  3. Heat canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add tofu slabs and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Reduce heat to low, add barbecue sauce, and cook for another 3 minutes or so, carefully turning tofu to coat both sides.
  4. Assemble sandwiches with toasted sandwich thins, barbecue tofu, slaw and pickles (if you like).
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Eating Well.

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Cajun Lemon Tilapia with Dill Sauce

Cajun lemon tilapia

As a practicing Catholic, my observance of Lent began yesterday on Ash Wednesday. Like most Catholics, I have a love-hate relationship with Lent. No one likes sacrifice, which is exactly what this pre-Easter season is all about, but despite our sometimes begrudging feelings about it, we all can benefit from setting aside some of our own desires for awhile. As I like to remind myself, the hard things are usually the things worth doing.

For my Lenten sacrifice this year, I decided not to go with anything to do with my eating or drinking habits. (After last year’s “giving up” wine turned into a total failure.) This time I’m limiting my screen time, including not watching any TV or movies and not using my phone for any purpose while driving. It may sound like a small “sacrifice”–and really, it is–but even a day and a half in, I’m pleased with this choice because it has to do with my use of time, an area in which I’m constantly striving for balance. My former priest used to say “fast so you can pray,” meaning “give something up that will move you to pray.” And certainly giving up TV and movies and cutting back on my attachment to my phone will give me extra time in my day–time I can spend on other, more important priorities like prayer, studying for my upcoming nutrition licensure exam, or reading.

However, is it just me, or is the first week of Lent the absolute hardest? I can’t tell you how many times in just the last 36 hours my brain has tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Hey, you know what’s a great movie? Hey, you know what show I really want to watch?”

GET OUT OF MY HEAD, BRAIN!

Fridays, as all Catholics know, are the same way when it comes to the whole don’t-eat-meat issue. Saturday through Thursday you could be like those “women laughing alone with salad.” (Have you heard of this? It’s a whole thing on the Internet about how often you see pictures of women laughing alone with salad in marketing photos.) But come Friday it’s like…

betty white hot dog

Yes, I did make this Betty White Eating a Hot Dog meme myself. You’re welcome. 

But I have good news! Fridays during Lent (if you do Lent) don’t have to be meatless misery. This Cajun Lemon Tilapia with Dill Sauce is an easy, healthy, super flavorful fish entree to help curb those Friday cravings. And if you don’t do Lent, it’s still an easy, healthy, super flavorful fish entree for any day of the week! Cajun-seasoned tilapia topped with zesty lemon slices and paired with a creamy dill sauce make for an irresistible combination. I especially love to serve it over couscous with a side of steamed broccoli.

So…do you observe Lent? Or if you don’t, have you ever had and experience where self-sacrifice provided personal growth? I’d love to hear your encouragement, because I really want to watch some Netflix right now.

Cajun lemon tilapia

Print Recipe
Cajun Lemon Tilapia with Dill Sauce
Spicy Cajun-seasoned tilapia combines with a cool and creamy dill sauce in this easy fish recipe.
Course Main Dish, seafood
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish, seafood
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of tilapia fillets with Cajun seasoning and salt and pepper. Place in prepared baking dish and top with lemon slices. Bake 12-16 minutes, depending on size and thickness of fillets, until tilapia flakes easily with a fork.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve alongside the fish.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: it’s a weeknight and you’ve planned to make dinner. All best intentions–you grocery shopped, you got ingredients, you know more or less what you’re planning to make and how. But somehow you got home late from errands or got stuck on a phone call with the teacher or had to discipline whoever hit whom with a badminton racquet, and it’s suddenly 5:45 and you haven’t started a darn thing. The kids are starting to get hungry and so are you, and you think, Oh, forget it. There’s no way I can get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s go out to eat.

You pile everyone in the car. You drive to some fast-casual restaurant you think won’t take too long and won’t break the bank….and 40 bucks and 90 minutes later you’re finally home, and NOW it’s almost bedtime and no one has started their homework. You heave a sigh and roll your eyes because, really, when all is said and done, there’s a nagging voice in your head going, “Wouldn’t it have just been faster and cheaper to eat at home?”

I’ve been there many, many nights. And finally, after years, I’m starting to actually learn from the experience. So when I meal plan, if I can build in at least one dinner that’s guaranteed to come together easily and fast, I can breathe easy knowing that the nights we dip into our restaurant budget (and our limited time) will get fewer and further between. These Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo are one of my secret weapons.

I love this recipe because it doesn’t require anything to thaw or marinade or any do other activity that eats up chunks of time and requires pre-planning. Plus, most of its ingredients are things you just might have on hand at any given time. Two cans of beans? Check. Bread crumbs and spices? Check. As for the chipotle pepper in the spicy mayo, in a real dinner emergency, you could even do without it and use chili powder instead. (And if you do use the real pepper, you can always adjust the spice by cutting back to half a pepper instead of a whole.) And did I mention these burgers are a heckuva lot healthier than that In-N-Out calorie bomb you’re likely to pick up eating out? Just sayin’.

So from one busy weeknight meal maker to another, I pass the baton of these secret weapon bean burgers. Use it wisely for the triumvirate victory of time, cost, and health!

Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Print Recipe
Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mash the cannellini and black beans until smooth with some chunks. Add garlic, cilantro, paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, combine egg, egg white, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and panko bread crumbs. Stir into bean mixture until well combined.
  3. With your hands, form mixture into six patties.
  4. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until browned.
  5. Meanwhile, make the chipotle mayo: using an immersion blender, combine all ingredients.
  6. Assemble burgers topped with lettuce/spring mix and chipotle mayo.
Recipe Notes

Bean Burgers adapted from How Sweet Eats; Chipotle Mayo A Love Letter to Food Original.

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