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Sarah Lawrence

Gluten Free Coconut Crusted Tofu with Apricot Salsa

Coconut crusted tofu with apricot salsaReminiscent of coconut crusted shrimp, these tofu pieces are warm and creamy on the inside while nicely crusted on the outside.  Paired with the sweet-hot bite of the apricot salsa, this one is a nicely balanced forkful of colorful, healthy yum.  Coconut crusted tofu with Apricot Salsa ¾ block firm tofu, drained and sliced into 4 pieces 1/3 cup arrowroot powder 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes ¼ cup rice flour ¼ cup almond meal (optional, but adds nice nutty flavor and enhances color) salt and pepper ¼ block firm tofu, drained ½ cup almond milk 4 Tbsp lime juice Salsa 1 apricot, diced 1 red pepper, diced 1 small sweet onion, diced 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tsp Thai red chili paste 1 tsp lime juice
  1. Prep the salsa so the flavors have time to combine.  Toss everything with the chili paste and lime juice until well combined.  Taste.  If you need to adjust the seasoning, do it.  Add a bit of honey, maple syrup or agave if you need a bit of sweet to cut the heat.
  2. For the tofu, drain the block and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel.  Set a heavy pan on top of the wrapped tofu for 10-15 minutes to encourage the moisture to drain.
  3. In the meantime, combine the coconut flakes, rice flour and salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Set aside.
  4. Pull out your Vitamix or blender and whiz the ¼ block of tofu, almond milk and lime juice until smooth.  Pour into a bowl.
  5. Heat a skillet and a few tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil.
  6. Slice the pressed tofu into 6-8 pieces.  Dust each piece in arrowroot, then dip into the blended tofu/almond milk/lime mix until coated.  Finally dredge in the coconut/rice flour mixture before placing in the skillet.  Repeat with remaining pieces.  Cook on each side for about 4 minutes or until golden.
  7. Serve a slice or two of tofu topped with apricot salsa and a beautiful mix of greens for a tasty lunch or light dinner.
  Note:  I am not a huge fan of tofu.  My preference is to use soy in a occasional way and mostly as edamame (because it is the whole, fresh bean) or miso (because it is fermented and easier on the digestive system).  On occasion, a bit of tofu will make it to our plates.  It is definitely not the staple in my kitchen that it was when I was transitioning off of chicken. The long and short of the soy story is that it is both good and bad...  On the plus side, soy foods contain isoflavones that have antioxidant activity and are protective against cancer.  Sticking to whole soy foods like edamame, minimally processed soy food like tofu and fermented soy foods like tempeh, miso and tamari is the way to go. Once we look at commercially popular fractionated foods like processed soymilk, isolated soy protein powders and imitation meats made with soy isolate we start to see big problems.  The solvents used to make these products are nasty and simply not something you want to be injesting.  Aside from the processed aspect, soy can be very difficult to digest, so the closer to the whole bean the better... and the more fermented, the easier on the digestive system.  Soy beans are also one of the most highly genetically modified crops in the US.  When eating a soy product, choose ORGANIC to avoid the horror of the GMO.  For those of you using infant formula that is soy based, please, please, choose organic for this reason.

Sarah Lawrence

Quick Veggie Pad Thai (gluten free vegan goodness)

After the ridiculous story that broke yesterday about pizza being qualified as a vegetable by the USDA for US School Lunches, I just have to write!  When the pizza industry rules the world, it’s a SAD day!   According to an ABC news article the details boil down to cost and big business influence where dairy, wheat and mystery meat are the standard.  Well, this momma doesn’t play that way... and I'm not alone!  I think it’s time that we stand up and say, “There’s a new sheriff in town!” and actually mean it!  UGH!  Stand with me and make a change in your family.  Start where you are able.  If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I adore Dr. Fuhrman.  His “Nutritarian” approach to eating literally changed my health in the span of a few months and has given me back a balanced, nearly pain free body despite my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis.  I make  nutrient dense foods the main players in my meals (I almost wrote that I “try” to make them the main players, but, as my inner Yoda reminds me: “Do or Do Not.  There is no Try.” LOL!)   Now, if any of you follow Dr. Joel Fuhrman, you may have heard this acronym that he uses “GOMBBS” --- it’s an easy way to remember a list of potent antioxidant rich foods that Fuhrman cites not only as being superfoods, but also as being part of a cancer preventative way to eat.  So, GOMBBS foods are Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries/Beans, and Seeds/Nuts.  There is a plethora of science backing the goodness of these guys.  You can read more about that here.  My vegetable rich, GOMBBS filled Pad Thai is an example of how I pack our family meals with all the goodness I can while still making something that tastes great, is high in fiber, gluten free and dairy free (to meet our requirements from allergy and intolerances). I used to make this dish with white rice noodles but have found brown rice noodles that offer more fiber than their counterpart while adding a pleasant nuttiness.  If you can find them, give them a try.  If not, use traditional white rice maifun.  Either way, know that you are making a meal that is colorful, flavorful and healthful!  This makes a generous 6-8 portions and it reheats beautifully for lunch or a meal another day. Enjoy! [caption id="attachment_500" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Quick Veggie Pad Thai"]Quick Veggie Pad Thai[/caption] Quick Vegan Pad Thai with Veg, Greens and Goji (serves 6, 15 minutes start to finish) 2 packages dry brown rice noodles (maifun) 1 package firm, cubed tofu (I use Nasoya organic), drained 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 lb cabbage or bok choy, shredded ½ lb carrot, sliced thinly on the diagonal or into matchsticks ½ lb celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal or into matchsticks ½ lb onion, sliced thinly ½ lb kale, shredded ½ lb mushrooms, sliced ½ lb zucchini, sliced thinly on the diagonal or into matchsticks (optional) ½ cup peanuts, unsalted 1/3 cup gluten free tamari 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar 1 Tbsp tamarind paste 1/4 cup goji berries dash of sriracha or fresh red thai chili 2 dates green onions, for topping 1-2 Tbsp oil for the pan Put rice noodles into a large bowl and pour hot water over them.  You want the noodles covered with hot water so they soften. In the now, heat a wok or large cast iron skillet and add a bit of oil.  Toss in your garlic and tofu.  We want them to get golden, but not brown.  Stir often with a metal spatula and remove everything to a big serving bowl after about 5 minutes or when yours are golden and fragrant. In the same hot skillet that you just took the garlic and tofu out of, throw in all the veggies except the mushroom and get them going.  These guys are going to work for about 4 minutes. While the veggies are sweating, mix the tamari, vinegar, tamarind, sriracha, goji and dates in your Vitamix or food processor until you have a smooth sauce.  Taste it and adjust the seasoning to suite your taste if necessary. Check the veggies and give them a few good stirs.  Add the mushrooms into the mix.  We are looking for the veggies to get soft, but not mushy and the mushrooms end up keeping a nice toothsome bite since we're arriving to the party fashionably late.  Give the veggies another 3-4 minutes then transfer them to the serving bowl right on top of the garlic and tofu. Add a tiny bit of oil to your pan.  While it’s heating, drain the noodles that were soaking.  Add the noodles to the hot pan and immediately stir them around.  Pour the sauce over the top and use tongs or a big spoon to combine everything.  You want to keep the noodles moving so they don’t stick.  Once they’re hot and the sauce is fragrant tip the veggies, tofu and garlic back into the pan.  Add the peanuts.  Use tongs to combine everything.  Transfer the lot to the serving bowl or straight onto dishes if you prefer.  Top with the sliced green onion and extra peanuts if you like.  YUM!


Beets, Berries and BBQ

There's been a lot of crimson goodness in my kitchen today and every bit of it's been amazing.  Started the day with a gorgeous beet berry smoothie.  If you've never used raw beets in a smoothie before, don't be afraid... they are sweet and pair really well with berries and citrus.  Try 1/2 of a beet per serving if you're okay with beets in general.  If you're not a beet fan, start with 1/4 of a beet and work your way up!  It's hard not to love a vegetable that is so richly colored. Dinner was a tasty BBQ tofu served over fresh garden greens with yellow and red roasted beets, red pepper and tomato.  My favorite bites included morsels of peppery baby arugula and the sweet and tangy BBQ tofu.  Nice. [caption id="attachment_400" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Beet Blueberry Kale Smoothie"]Beet Blueberry Kale Smoothie[/caption] Beet Blueberry Kale Smoothie (serves 1) ½ red beet, raw 1 cup water ¼ lb dinosaur kale, about 6 leaves 1 cup frozen blueberries Blend everything in the Vitamix until smooth.  Serve.     Barbeque Sauce Recipe ~1 minute prep, 30 minutes simmering~ (Makes about 3 cups) 1 onion 4 cloves garlic 1 bottle Annies organic ketchup 1 ½ cups water 1/2 cup maple syrup 2 Tbsp smoked paprika 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley 2 Tbsp Braggs Amino Acid or Gluten Free Tamari 2 Tbsp lemon juice 1 teaspoon liquid smoke 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses 1 pint fresh raspberries Put all ingredients in Vitamix and blend on low for 30 seconds, then blitz for 1 minute.  Pour into saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. [caption id="attachment_399" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="BBQ Tofu"]BBQ Tofu[/caption]   BBQ Tofu ~about 30 minutes~ (yields 6 pieces which is usually 3 servings) 1 block of extra firm organic tofu, water packed 1 cup BBQ sauce of your choice   Drain the tofu.  If you have time, wrap the tofu in a clean linen towel and set it on a drying rack that you’ve got in a sheet pan.  Put a heavy saucepan on top of the wrapped tofu and let it press the block for 30 minutes.  This setup lets the liquid drip through the drying rack while the sheet pan catches the liquid so there’s no mess.  The longer you press and drain the tofu, the more firm and chewy the final texture will be. Take your drained tofu and set it on it’s side lengthwise.  Slice the block into 3 slabs then cut the slabs in half so you have 6 nice palm sized pieces. Get your grill pan or grill nice and hot.  Oil it lightly.  Brush one side of the tofu pieces with BBQ sauce and put that side down on the grill.  While it’s down, brush the side that’s up.  Leave the tofu to grill for 5-6 minutes on the first side, then flip it and grill it 5-6 minutes on the other side.  Baste the up side and flip the tofu, turning it ¼ turn so you get a checkerboard grill mark.  Grill for another 5-6 minutes, again basting the up side.  Flip for the last time, ¼ turning again and grill for 5-6 minutes.  Baste the top one last time before serving.  


Crunchy Carrot Salad

Lunch today was something wonderful. Sweet, sour, crunchy, chewy, spicy, mild, creamy and crispy ALL on one plate! How, you ask, is it possible to have such variety? As with most things I make, this was quick and easy… start to finish, we're talking about 10 minutes. I think that a raw food focus makes quick, healthy eating very accessible. Cooked foods are great too! As with everything in life, there's a need for balance. For me, that means balancing raw foods with cooked foods. That's how I can make a healthy 10 minute lunch with such great texture and flavor. These were the components of my lunch: Carrot = Sweet and mild Rice Vinegar and ginger = sour and spicy Fried tofu = chewy, creamy and crispy Chia and Millet = crunchy Tomato Coconut Sauce = mild, creamy and spicy Let's talk about balance. When we're eating something as rich as crispy fried tofu we definitely need something fresh and light to balance things out. In comes the humble carrot. Who doesn't love a carrot?! I often shred or grate carrots and make quick slaws for snack for my kids. My lunch salad took on a new twist and it's worth sharing! Raw chia is a favorite salad topper of mine, but the raw millet is something new. I've used millet as a component of date bars before. I've cooked millet and made killer pilaf before. The revelation today is that a bit of raw millet is a fantastic crunchy addition to salad and slaws and likely many other things! Crunchy Carrot Salad (serves 1) 1 large organic carrot, grated 1 tsp grated ginger – from about ½ inch piece of fresh ginger 1 tsp raw chia seed 2 tsp millet, uncooked Splash of rice vinegar Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly to combine. Raw foods make up 80-90% of what I eat. Focusing on living foods means that things stay simple and fresh. (There is a summary of the basics of what I eat on my About Me page if you're curious.) Eating with a raw, nutrient dense focus gives me a bit of freedom when it comes to the occasional naughty fried food. Crispy fried tofu ends up on my plate maybe once every few months. It's a guilty pleasure, but a tasty one! Tofu isn't something I use much anymore because I don't like eating soy products. There was a time, as a young vegetarian, when I was eating tofu, drinking soymilk, steaming edamame and crunching on soy crisps daily. It was just too much. I wasn't terribly conscious of my soy dependence until I had a few allergic reactions to it. Giving it all up was hard to do, but it made sense and certainly made me feel better! I've been able to phase some soy back into my diet, but it is pretty rare now. When I buy a block of tofu I will use it a few ways during the week that it's in my fridge. Firm tofu freezes well and actually improves texturally for things like baking after it's been frozen. So I find that if I don't use up a block I freeze it and pull it out when I'm in the mood for baked tofu. The block I bought this week has been used in several dishes: I used small cubes of fried tofu on a kale salad, then diced uncooked tofu as part of my egg roll filling, and today the remainder of the block ended up as fried tofu. [caption id="attachment_126" align="alignright" width="300" caption="crispy outside, creamy inside"][/caption] (serves 1) 3 slices of tofu, about ½ inch thick ¼ inch olive oil in a small saucepan Slice and dry the tofu. Heat your oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Fry one slice of tofu at a time, turning after a few minutes so that both sides become crisp and golden. Remove the fried tofu and drain on a towel or rack. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Serve hot. Tomato Coconut Sauce (leftover) --- flavor is amazing because it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days. The sauce is thick, creamy and fragrant. I reheated it to serve as a dipping sauce for the crispy tofu. YUM!


Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce, Act 2

We're all busy, right?!  I know I am.  So anytime I can make something work for me in different ways I do!  I especially like working with leftovers and consider them somewhat of a personal challenge. That said, let me fill you in on my kitchen adventures today.  The Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce that I made yesterday was a truly fabulous dressing for my raw kale salad.  Exactly what I was looking for yesterday.  Today I wanted to change it up and it was easy to do considering the recipe makes 5 abundant cups of raw goodness.  When I packed things up yesterday I split the leftovers into 2 containers, each holding just shy of 2.5 cups of raw sauce.  I knabbed one of those bad boys around lunch time today and used it to make a warm sauce for my take on Palak Paneer.  Traditioanlly made with pureed spinach and firm mild cottage style dairy cheese cubes, Palak Paneer is fragrant, spicy, creamy and delicious.  Making it vegan isn't much of a challenge so I encourage you to give this a try.  Don't let the tofu deter you even if you don't normally like it.  In this recipe the tofu is fried and crispy and it is enveloped by the luscious coconut milk enhanced tomato sauce.
Sarah's Vegan Tofu Palak Paneer
(makes 1 serving of tofu, enough sauce 5 servings)

raw spinach topped with warm coconut tomato sauce and crispy tofu
1/4 block firm tofu* 1/4 cup olive oil for frying the tofu 2.5 cups Raw Spicy Tomato Sauce                2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp chili powder 2 tsp tamarind paste 1 cup coconut milk (canned, fresh or made from coconut creme concentrate)
Let's start by pouring the coconut milk and tamarind paste into a saucepan.  Begin warming the mixture over low heat.  As you do so, take a wooden spoon and mash the tamarind paste into the coconut milk until it is incorporated.  Most tamarind paste has pulpy bits, and that's okay.  Just do your best to blend the paste into the coconut milk so we avoid a bit of pungent paste.
Once the paste is incorporated go ahead and add the raw tomato sauce, ground cumin and chili powder.  If you are not a big fan of spicy heat this is the time to make your own adjustments and cut down or cut out the chili powder.  The raw tomato sauce is a bit spicy, but the cooking process mellows it considerably so I like punching up the heat with chili powder.  You might not... know that you won't hurt my feelings at all if you don't... I think making recipes your own is exactly what you should do.  You have permission to experiment. Whisk the sauce over medium heat and enjoy the delightful aroma in the air around you.  This is not a pot that you need to watch or whisk constantly, so after that first few minutes go ahead and turn the heat down and leave things to simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes.  You're going to taste the sauce at that point and decide if the onion and garlic are cooked and mellow or if they still have their bite.  If you like where you are, shut off the heat and move on to the tofu.  If you don't... well, keep simmering until you get it there! Onto the tofu:  I heat up my oil in a very small saucepan since I am using so little oil and frying so few pieces of tofu.  Get your oil heating up over medium heat while you prep the tofu.  1/4 of a block of tofu works out to about 2 slices off the block that are 1/2 inch thick and maybe 3 inches long.  I slice each of the slices in half and then into 8 cubes so I end up with 16 cute little cubes of tofu.  It is very important to dry the tofu before you fry it.  Mark my words, DRY BEFORE YOU FRY or you'll regret it!  Splatter city baby... no lie.  Ouch!  My recommendation is to place the cubes on a clean kitchen towel and press them a bit to push out some of the water from the packaging. When your oil is hot and your tofu is cubed and dry go ahead and drop one cube into the oil.  Hear sizzling and see bubbles around the cube?  If you do you are good to go!  If not, bump up the heat a little and wait a minute.  Once you're at a hot temp go ahead and drop in your cubes 4 at a time.  Any more than 4 and you are going to cool the oil and create soggy tofu.  So, take your time and fry these guys 4 at a time, turning them with a slotted metal spoon so they brown a little and get crisp on all 4 sides before you pull them out.  Rescue your tofu and transfer it to a cooling rack to drain or set the little cuties onto paper towel or a clean brown paper bag while you continue the process until all of your tofu is fried.
Time for the spinach.  Palak Paneer is traditionally made with a pureed, almost creamed spinach.  I prefer raw elements in my meals so keeping the spinach raw is a no-b rainer!  Grab a few handfuls of raw baby spinach and give it a quick wash and spin in the salad spinner.  Run your knife through the leaves to chop them up a bit and them pile them in your serving bowl.  Top with about 1/2 cup of sauce and the warm, crispy tofu cubes.  Grab your fork and dig in! 

this is how I get into it... no shame in mixing it up!
  *Note about TOFU: I buy non-GMO organic tofu.  Because soybeans are such a heavily modified crop, the non-GMO designation is really important.  Genetically modified food creeps me out, frankly.  I'd rather not eat something that's been messed with at a cellular level.  Now, in the case of tofu, I choose organic as well when I can because it is also a processed food... it definitely doesn't look like a soybean anymore!  Since I wasn't able to judge the quality of the beans that went into the product, I at least want to know that they were pesticide free and as natural as possible.