Caramelized tofu and lots of veggies

This April 29, 2017 photo shows a Thai peanut veggie and tofu bowl in Coronado, Calif. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP)

This April 29, 2017 photo shows a Thai peanut veggie and tofu bowl in Coronado, Calif. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP)

If you aren’t a tofu fan, listen up. This just might be the recipe that turns it all around for you, like it did for my husband and daughter.

I toss extra firm tofu cubes in a lightly spicy (or not; your call) peanut sauce and then roast it until the edges are golden and lightly caramelized. These slightly sweet, peanut-ty cubes sit atop a bowl filled with enough veggies to load up on an array of vitamins, including some makeshift zucchini and carrot noodle-like ribbons.

To make this a satisfying meal, I add brown rice, which is more filling than the more traditional rice noodles, and more filling than just sticking with the “veggie noodles.”

I love the combo of cold veggies paired with warm rice and just-cooked tofu, but this dish works perfectly as a brown-bag option, served cold or at room temperature. Plus, it’s pretty, with the array of vegetable colors, so it will brighten up your lunch, even if you are working through it, eating at your desk.

If you haven’t considered including tofu even occasionally into your meal rotation, this ingredient is worth a second look. A 3-ounce-serving has about 10 grams of protein, and offers one-quarter of the day’s calcium, plus a nice smattering of other minerals — all for about 90 calories.

Plus, tofu is incredibly wallet-friendly. Even organic, non-GMO tofu can be had for a couple of dollars a block. Tofu can be a divisive ingredient, I realize, so feel free swap it for chicken or shrimp, a handful of cooked white beans, or even leave it off entirely — the bowl is filling on its own. No matter how you prepare it, you’ll want to include this Thai Peanut Veggie Bowl in your repertoire.

THAI PEANUT VEGGIE BOWLS

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 20 minutes

2 tablespoons peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons lime juice, plus 1 additional tablespoons

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

pinch dried red pepper flakes (optional)

1-4 tablespoons water, depending on texture

1 12-ounce block of organic extra firm tofu, blotted dry, cut into large cubes

4 cups baby spinach

1 cup shredded red cabbage

2 medium zucchini

2 medium carrots, peeled

1/2 red pepper, cut into small sticks

1 1/3 cups cooked brown rice, warm

1 green onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: cilantro, mint, basil (or mixed)

Salt and pepper, if needed

Preheat the oven to 400 F. and line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, place the peanut butter and honey and microwave long enough to soften, about 10 seconds. Whisk until smooth.

Add in the lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil and red pepper flakes (if using) and whisk until smooth. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until thick, but pourable sauce is created. Remove half of the sauce to a small bowl and set aside. Toss the tofu cubes in the remaining peanut sauce in the medium bowl until coated. Place on the parchment paper and bake until edges begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes, turning halfway through bake time.

Meanwhile make the zucchini and carrot ribbons by using a vegetable peeler to make as many long, wide strips as you can from each vegetable. Layer in four individual bowls (or to-go containers if making brown bag lunches): spinach leaves, cabbage, red pepper, warm rice, carrot and zucchini ribbons, green onion and fresh herbs.

Top with hot peanut-roasted tofu. Add the final tablespoon of lime juice to the reserved peanut sauce and drizzle over the bowls and serve, adding salt and pepper if desired.

Chef’s Note: Chicken tenders or shrimp could be used instead of tofu; adjust the cook time accordingly. Or skip the roasting, and just top the bowl with pre-cooked chicken, shrimp or white beans.

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Nutrition information per serving: 316 calories; 116 calories from fat; 13 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 508 mg sodium; 36 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 17 g protein.

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Online: http://www.melissadarabian.net