Jazz up cafeteria salads with heavier items from home
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
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Salad is a great idea, and with an abundant salad bar like the one at Douglas College, it’s a realistic option for students who are stuck on campus during meal times. Unfortunately, once you add dressing, protein, and even tomatoes to an otherwise light salad, your $3 plate of veggies could skyrocket to $8, thanks to a salad bar system that charges you based on your meal’s weight.
Which is where a bit of home preparation comes in. There are many benefits to bringing your own separate Tupperware container full of salad fixings. For one, you don’t have to bring a giant container of lettuce, which can take up a lot of room in your already bursting school bag. Items like cheese, boiled eggs, or tofu chunks take up very little space compared to the nutritional punch they pack. These items, along with dressing and heavier vegetables, usually make up more than half of the weight of your purchased salad—even though they aren’t necessarily that expensive. Salad additions from home can go a long way when it comes to improving both your diet and your budget.
There are two tricks to making good tofu squares, and sadly they both take time. First, you should press the tofu by placing it on a plate over some paper towel and putting another, weighted plate on top of it (sounds like a good use for those heavy anthologies). Fifteen to 30 minutes of this will squeeze the moisture out of the tofu—which has been sitting in water at the store—making your squares bake and puff up a lot better. The second trick involves marinating the tofu. Almost anything will work, but you need to marinate the tofu for at least 30 minutes, cutting it into your desired shape and size of chunk afterwards.
For my marinade, I used my old standby: a free-poured mixture of sesame oil, rice vinegar, soya sauce, and honey. After I pressed the tofu (I used one whole package of Dayspring organic extra firm tofu, but you can use any brand of extra firm), cut it up, and marinated it for however long it takes to watch an episode of The Newsroom, I spread the chunks out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, not touching each other, and popped them into a 350-degree oven.
Your baking time will vary depending on the size and shape of your tofu snack. I went with large, irregular chunks (okay, maybe that’s just how they turned out), which I think will be good for salads for half the week. They took about 25 minutes to look done (firm, and a bit puffed out), with the occasional trip to the oven to flip them. You could also do flat slabs for wraps or sandwiches, thinner slabs that will crumble easily into a sauce or omelette, or smaller chunks that will complement a stir-fry or soup. Tofu is incredibly versatile—soaking up whatever marinades you put it in—as well as being inexpensive and nutritious.