Monday, November 14, 2016

Preparing Tofu for Guests with Special Dietary Needs

Scrambled Tofu with mushrooms
A few years back, when I was still inn keeping in Kentucky, I had a week-end filled with guests who all had special dietary needs. It wasn’t easy to deal with, but I got through it, with the grace of God.
They stayed at my bed and breakfast for four days, along with several diabetics who were here for the Civil Air Patrol Conference. They were not all in the same room, of course. In fact they didn't know each other until they started eating breakfast together.

Anyhow, my problem was how to find a way to accommodate the varying dietary needs in an efficient manner. One obvious solution was to feed them at different times...which, as it turned out, worked for the first couple of days. The diabetics wanted an early (7:00 am) continental breakfast 'cause they had early morning meetings at a conference. The Vegans wanted to eat at 9:00 am ‘cause they were here for a little R&R.

Cooking for the diabetics was easy...just avoid real sugary things, they said. I could do that. Not the Vegans though, that's another story. These guests were not Vegetarians, which aren't too hard to cook for, they were Vegans and there is a big difference. Besides not eating meat or fish or fowl, they do not eat eggs, milk products (butter, cheese, and yogurt) or honey. But they do eat a lot of tofu. And vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains.

So, I hopped on the internet to review the Vegan diet and a few of their recipes. Then I decided to just make up my own. First thing to do was to run to the store and get a couple of essential Vegan items: a brick of firm Tofu, Almond milk (Rice milk would also have worked), soy, yogurt, and vegan butter spread made from I don't know what. It's on the package down in the kitchen. I don't think I even read the list of ingredients, but I trusted that it would be okay as it was a brand that my Vegan guests used themselves.

When I got home, I drained the brick of Tofu by pressing it in between two very heavy cutting boards for 20 minutes. Then, I cut the brick in half. I would use half the first day and half the third day. Vegan pancakes would be served on the second day and Vegan French Toast on the fourth day.

For their first breakfast, I sautéed sliced mushrooms in olive oil with fresh garlic the way Julia Childs suggests: "...very hot oil...flame high...spread mushrooms out flat in pan and sauté both side until brown. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper while cooking." Done! Next, I added chopped onion, green pepper, and ribbons of fresh Basil from my herb garden and continued to sauté...loving every minute of it I might add. You have to love cooking to own a B&B. Or have a partner or employee who does.

The final step was to add the Tofu. I crumbled it into the pan and continued cooking. if you add Turmeric to the pan (a yellow spice) the Tofu looks just like scrambled eggs. I didn't have any and wasn't about to go out and buy some. It's expensive and I probably would have another Vegan guest for a year, so I used Curry instead.

For their first breakfast, I scrambled the Tofu, but for the one on the third day I cubed it and added Spinach, Tomatoes, and Curry. I served it with rounds of sweet potato baked in brown sugar, Vegan butter, and cinnamon. For fruit, I sliced fresh peaches into footed dessert dishes and tossed in some dried cranberries. Then poured a warm clear simple syrup over the top to mingle the flavors. It was delicious and they loved it.

1. Have you ever had to cook for guests with special dietary needs?
2. If so, what did you serve and why?


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