How to sneak tofu into your diet

Jul 14, 2008 at 7:58 p.m. ET

These days, it seems everyone is talking tofu -- and for good reason. That little gelatinous white brick of soy curd not only packs a powerful protein punch, but soy also provides tons of other body benefits, as well.

Soy is a good-for-you food

According to the American Dietetic Association, soy protein may aid in the prevention of several major diseases.

"In heart disease, soy helps lower blood cholesterol and possibly increases the good cholesterol. It might even help prevent some forms of cancer, reduce the symptoms of menopause and provide calcium to prevent osteoporosis, " the ADA states.

Tofu is also low in fat, cholesterol and calories (three ounces of light, extra firm tofu contains a half a gram of fat, no cholesterol and only 35 calories) and is an excellent source of isoflavones, soy compounds that are similar to our bodies' estrogen which studies are indicating may be useful in helping to prevent breast cancer.

Seems tofu is the food of the gods. So why, then, aren't Americans eating more of it? Good question. In Southeast Asian countries, where soy foods like tofu are diet staples, "the incidence of breast, prostate and uterine cancer is substantially lower than in the USA," say Helen Kim and Stephen Barnes, professors of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

But we Western meat-and-potatoes diners often shun the unknown, even when (or maybe especially when) we know it's good for us. If you've ever sifted through your Chinese take-out to avoid those unidentifiable masses you know what I'm talking about.

In fact, many of the most common tofu recipes are Asian-inspired, so if you're not a fan of soy sauce and sesame oil or you're not a whiz with a wok, you may have been hesitant to give tofu a go.

Sneak it in

It goes without saying that a sure way to get the good stuff down you is to make it more appealing. Well, what's more appealing to an American palate than dessert? Sneaking tofu into an after-supper treat is a great way to garner the health benefits of soy while feeling a little indulgent. And these low-fat recipes will allow you to skip the guilt. It's kinda like having your cake and eating tofu, too.

Citrus Tofu Cheesecake

Serves 12

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 pound 8 ounces silken tofu
1 pound Neufchatel (1/3 fat cream cheese)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 egg whites
Lime, orange and lemon rind curls for garnish

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press mixture into bottom of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake eight minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or until golden brown. Cool.

In a large bowl, beat tofu at medium speed until smooth. Add cream cheese, sugar, flour, lemon, orange and lime rinds and vanilla; mix well. Beat in eggs and whites, one at a time until well combined. Pour mixture over crust.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit 50 to 60 minutes or until filling is set and edges of are slightly browned. Cool on wire rack to room temperature and then refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Remove from pan and garnish with citrus rind curls.

Note: To make rind curls, using a sharp vegetable peeler peel a thin horizontal "equator" around citrus fruit.

White Chocolate - Raspberry Tofu Mousse

Serves 8

12.3 ounces light extra-firm tofu
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon raspberry liqueur
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Fresh raspberries and mint sprigs for garnish

Melt white chocolate chips according to package directions. Place melted chips and tofu in a food processor and process until smooth. Add raspberry liqueur and pulse to incorporate.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, to the soft ball stage, 238 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour sugar over beaten egg whites in a thin stream, beating at high speed to combine. Gently fold egg white mixture into tofu mixture, just until combined. (The 238 degree temperature is important to ensure that the hot sugar syrup "cooks" the egg whites and makes them safe to eat.)

Spoon into eight ramekins. Cover and chill for four hours or overnight.

Garnish with fresh raspberries and mint sprigs before serving.

Note: Since this dessert isn't cooked, the liquor in the mousse won't "cook off" making this dessert unsuitable for anyone who shouldn't have alcohol. The dessert is equally good if the liqueur is eliminated. Non-alcoholic raspberry liqueur, vanilla extract or orange flavoring can also be substituted.