Don't be distracted by the words "bean curd." If you're not already a tofu fan, do yourself -- and your holiday guests -- a favor and give it a try for the first (or the 14th) time.
Tofu is a low fat food made from soybeans, and is a good source of calcium, iron, protein and omega-3 fats. Eating it regularly may help reduce your risk of developing certain chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. And as it can be steamed, fried, baked, broiled, sautéed or puréed, there really isn't a wrong way to add tofu to your diet (okay, maybe go light on the deep-fried tofu).
When you use tofu in main dish meals, it takes on the flavor of the dish it's in. And if you work with the right type of tofu, it can substitute for a range of ingredients. On one hand it can be a meat substitute, while on the other it can be thickener in a sweet dessert custard.
The spongy texture of extra-firm tofu that's sold water-packed in a plastic tub is often the go-to tofu for making tofu scrambles and main meals, but silken tofu has a smoother, lighter and creamier texture which works well in blended or puréed dishes. Both types of tofu, regular and silken, come in different levels of firmness, ranging from soft to firm to extra-firm.
Silken tofu is used as a healthy substitute for ingredients we may not necessarily have on our diet-friendly list: sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt and cream cheese -- ingredients we often use as the base for our favorite dips.
Try these tips when substituting tofu into your favorite dips: For a sour cream-style substitute, blend soft silken tofu with lemon juice or vinegar and salt and a blender. Use soft silken tofu blended with olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, salt and sugar for a cream cheese-type replacement or for tofu-based mayonnaise. (Plan accordingly for your recipes: One Tetra Pak of silken tofu will turn into 1.5 cups of puréed tofu [source: Magee].) Flavor with berries for a fresh, sweet dip, or go a more classic route with a spinach-artichoke, hot crab or classic onion dip.
Serve as you would your traditional dips, with vegetables, fruits, crackers, pita chips and breads.