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This Spicy Tofu and Quinoa Bowl Just Might Turn You Into a Vegan

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Tofu is often misunderstood—yes, it's safe to eat soy foods—but this plant-based protein is so much more than a "vegetarian" filler. The beauty of the spongy food is that it quite literally soaks up whatever seasoning or ingredients you pair with it. (If you cook it correctly, that is.) And that makes the options essentially endless, which is probably why food manufacturer House Foods America took to Instagram to highlight bloggers' drool-worthy tofu recipes, one from each state, as part of their #50PlatesofTofu campaign. During National Soy Foods Month back in April, they asked followers to vote for their favorite recipe by—what else—double tapping. Last week they finally crowned a winner. This Spicy Southwest Tofu Quinoa Bowl developed by blogger Kathy Patalsky, of Healthy Happy Life, was the crowd favorite, and it's easy to see why.

This Arizona-inspired, spicy Southwest bowl contains flavorful cubes of extra-firm tofu and a sassy-sweet medjool date and lime dressing. Veggies like spinach and bell pepper accent the dish. Add creamy cubes of avocado on top and a dash or two of hot sauce for a kick. Check out the entire recipe below, and then discover more healthy ways to make tofu—there are even tofu desserts.

Spicy Southwest Tofu Quinoa Bowl with Medjool Date Lime Dressing

Serves: 2
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 package House Foods tofu, extra-firm
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch lime zest (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (for the pan)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoky paprika
  • 1 tiny pinch cayenne (optional)
  • 1 small red or orange bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 to 1 avocado, diced
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Dressing

  • 4 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Directions

1. Remove tofu from package and wrap in a paper towel or clean dish towel. Gently squeeze tofu to remove any excess liquid. Unwrap tofu and slice into small cubes. Place cubes in a shallow dish and pour tamari and maple syrup over top. Toss tofu around to coat all sides. Cover dish and place in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour; longer is better.

2. To prepare quinoa: Add 2 cups water to a large pot. Add dry quinoa and a pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover with a lid and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer on low for 20 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, turn off heat but do not remove lid. Allow quinoa to sit in steam for at least five minutes, then remove lid and fluff with a fork or spatula. Optional: Add a pinch of lime zest.

3. To prepare the dressing: Remove pits from dates and soak in warm water for about two minutes. Drain water and add dates to blender. Add lime juice, oil, salt, and cayenne. Blend the ingredients until mostly smooth. For a thinner dressing, or if your dates were still a bit dry, add a splash of water to thin it out.

4. Warm a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. When oil is hot, add pre-marinated tofu cubes and any marinade liquid that's left. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip tofu. You want the edges to start to caramelize and become light brown. When tofu is just about done, remove a cube, taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Finally, add smoky paprika and optional cayenne and toss gently. Using a spatula, remove tofu from skillet and set aside.

5. Turn stove to medium heat and in the same skillet, add bell pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes or until tender. Add cooked quinoa to the skillet. The bell pepper and quinoa will soak up excess oil from the tofu. Toss together, then add spinach to the pan, folding gently with a spatula. Turn off the heat and allow the spinach to very lightly wilt with the hot ingredients.

6. Add skillet ingredients and tofu to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dressing and mix well. Pour the mixture into serving bowls. Add fresh avocado on top and additional dressing, if desired. For extra spiciness, add a drizzle of hot sauce, too.

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