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My soy odyssey – Mar 14

Cock a doodle doo for tofu

Brit food celebrity Jamie Oliver is popping up everywhere in Canadian food culture. He’s familiar to us through Food Network TV, but more recently he’s been spokesperson for grocery retailer Sobey’s and early this year, became the Globe and Mail’s weekend food writer. He’s as comforting as the chicken and tofu noodle soup that he champions in the Saturday March 12 column.

His recipe is a far cry from canned chicken noodle soup. After poaching chicken thighs in several cups of water, he adds chopped shallots, garlic and ginger. Then he adds cubed tofu, green onions, spinach and rice noodles. Some soy sauce and fresh herbs finish the dish. Here’s a link to the recipe: http://ow.ly/ZoaoC

True to his mission of global food education, he touts the nutritional value of tofu: “Not only is tofu incredibly versatile, it is also high in protein, low in saturated fat and a great source of calcium and phosphorus, both of which make for strong and healthy bones.”

I take heart in Jamie Oliver’s leadership. Too often, tofu has been set apart as vegetarian fare, but he shows how to bridge animal and vegetable proteins.

My soy odyssey – Feb 29

Taking stock of soy in heart health

As we exit February, with an extra day for good measure in this leap year, let’s take stock of heart health tips. Health Canada has approved soy for a health claim that says as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, 25 grams soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

One of my favourite ways to reach that goal is to blitz a cup of soy milk with half a cup of soft, silken tofu. Add a banana from the freezer and a tablespoon of soy nut butter. That’s three soy ingredients in one easy recipe, thanks to the dietitians at EatRightOntario.

This is a breakfast smoothie or an afternoon snack.  Either way, the protein portion satisfies any cravings until the next meal.

Up next?  March is Nutrition Month.  Dietitians of Canada is launching a 100-Meal Journey campaign, encouraging consumers to make small changes to the 100 meals they’ll have in the next 30 days.

My soy odyssey – Feb 25

Colouring the blank canvas

World cuisines are melting together. Take the example of Asian lentil salad with a citrus soy dressing. While Toronto-based food blogger Mary Tang is of Filipino descent, she has concocted a recipe that includes elements foreign to her upbringing. Lentils are not common in Chinese cooking, however they offer the perfect canvas for the Chinese ingredients of soy sauce and edamame. She has fused them with spikes of acid: lime and orange juice and zest.

As she writes in her Mary’s Happy Belly blog, millennials are inspired by healthy ingredients with a fresh twist. Like lentils, soy products provide that blank canvas for many taste combinations.

Mary Tang’s recipe demonstrates how easy it is to incorporate soy into international cuisine. For her recipe, go to:

http://ow.ly/YKGAW

My soy odyssey – Jan 27

Writing for the global melting pot

After 15 years on the food beat, Toronto Star’s Jennifer Bain, a.k.a. The Saucy Lady, passed the wooden spoon in mid-January. The new food writer is Karon Liu, a young man of Chinese descent who already has several notches on his kitchen knives. He’s written for The Grid, Toronto Life and Maclean’s. How welcome to see his Instagram photo of peppered tofu this week!

Sounds to me like the two foodies are on the same cookbook page. That’s because Jennifer published a recipe last fall on crispy tofu cubes. She cubed a 350 gram package of extra-firm tofu, then marinated the cubes in apple cider vinegar, tamari and water. The next step was to encrust them in a cup of large flake nutritional food yeast, half of cup of corn starch and a tablespoon of garlic powder before frying in vegetable oil. The full recipe came from Fresh Restaurant owners Ruth Tal and Jennifer Houston. Here’s the link to the recipe: http://ow.ly/XzvxZ

I’m looking forward to how Karon Lui will write for the global melting pot that is Toronto and the rest of Canada.

My soy odyssey – Jan 5

The fine distinction between soybeans and pulses

Let’s say hurrah for 2016 and the U.N.-declared International Year of Pulses. When asked about pulses, I explain them as the edible seeds of a legume.

Edible beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas have been a cornerstone of global diets for centuries. Canada is a major producer and exporter of these seeds. However, agronomically speaking, soybeans don’t fit under this banner. The U.N’s Food and Agriculture Organization classifies soybeans as an oilseed.

Here’s why. Soybeans are a legume with their fruit encased in a pod but they are not a pulse because their seeds are not dried. That’s because soybeans contain a high amount of oil according to the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers.

Similar to pulses, soybeans and their end products, are considered heart-healthy foods to combat diabetes and obesity. To my way of thinking, combining soy and pulses are equivalent to a double-double.  Try recipes with tofu and lentils.

Chart source: www.pulsecanada.com

My soy odyssey – Dec 30

Plant proteins move to center plate

The trend gurus say that the root-to-leaf vegetable movement is taking over center plate for 2016. That’s good news for plant-based soy, as well. It’s the only complete plant protein that contains all nine essential amino acids.

Whether you’re grilling, smoking, roasting or charring vegetables, just add a healthy side of protein-rich tofu or tempeh. I’m particularly fond of smoked tofu, which adds instant depth of flavour to any warmed vegetable dish.

Chatelaine Magazine trumpets this plant-protein trend with a New Year’s recipe for Japanese tofu curry. (See recipe here: (http://ow.ly/WsVBX) As the food editor explains, Japanese curry is different because its base is a flour-butter paste. The resulting dish is creamier, sweeter and thicker – qualities that appeal to kids.

The recipe starts with the base of onion, ginger, curry powder and the Indian spice of garam masala sautéed in butter. Then the sauce is thickened with flour, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Once the sauce is simmering, add tofu, red-skinned potatoes and apple.  When these ingredients are cooked, add green beans and continue cooking until they are tender crisp. Stir in soy sauce and garnish with green onions.

There’s also a bonus point. Not only is this dish flavourful, it’s all done in one pan.

My soy odyssey – Dec 14

Healthy entertaining for the holidays

For some people, the holiday season is a crash-and-burn course, meeting the dietary needs of guests.

Vancouver-based food blogger Sondi Bruner offers common sense advice on how to entertain vegans and vegetarians. First rule: don’t serve a bowl of salad greens, chopped raw vegetables and expect guests to be satisfied.

A more mindful approach would be to offer cooked grains tossed with roasted vegetables and smoked tofu garnished with colourful nuts and seeds. The key is to add protein. And this is where soy excels. With such a unique, gently warmed side salad, you might be surprised at how everyone at the table will dig in.

Bruner has other great ideas for a brunch or a first-course to a meal. Prepare a vegetable-filled broth and then allow guests to add either salmon or tempeh with an array of garnishes. For snack fare, offer tacos with a choice of fillings: soy patties, beans, sour cream, avocado, salsa and shredded lettuce.

Your guests will thank you for your thoughtfulness.

My soy odyssey – Nov 30

‘Tis the season for tempeh tourtiere

Damon Dewsbury has lived through light years since his childhood on a beef farm. Trained as a molecular biologist, he and a business partner are making their name with tempeh. Their two-year-old, Toronto-based company Culture City (www.culturecity.ca) is at full speed manufacturing soy tempeh and other versions from chickpeas, black beans, navy beans and lentils.

Tempeh is often compared to tofu, says Dewsbury, but the only common denominator is that they are both made from protein-rich soybeans. The manufacturing technique differentiates the end product and taste. To make tempeh, whole, dehulled soybeans are steamed and inoculated with a fungal mycelium culture so that it binds together. That’s the scientific reason for the mushroomy taste of the resulting cake.

To keep the product stable, Culture City freezes the tempeh in 250 gram pouches for direct sale to consumers at farmers’ markets and to discerning restaurant chefs. In food demonstrations, Dewsbury has wowed audiences with tempeh tacos – a flavourful mix of tempeh and guacamole kept green with tomatillos. Just in time for the holiday season, the company is working on tempeh tourtiere made savoury with allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg.

The culinary sky is full of cooking luminaries at this time of year, but these are two who deserve our cheers.

My soy odyssey – Nov 11

Soy has a role in healthy aging

The baby boomers are now tipping over. Not physically, but figuratively!

Citizens aged 65 and over now comprise 16.1 per cent of the Canadian population. That’s more than the 16 per cent of children aged 14 and younger.

This symbolic milestone is challenging the health care system to prepare for issues ranging from diabetes to dementia. This week, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair hosted a health professionals day, that in part, addressed issues of nutrition for seniors. Alison Duncan, a professor of human health and nutritional sciences with the University of Guelph, previewed a first-of-its-kind recipe resource for healthy aging.

What’s intriguing is that she approached various Ontario agricultural commodity groups, including soy, for their best recipes for seniors. Her criteria was for recipes that had minimal ingredients, familiar comfort foods, ease of preparation and simple cooking methods. Older adults were recruited to test the recipes. If needed, revisions were made so that recipes could be heated in the microwave, for example, rather than being lifted out of an oven.

This resource is in its final stages of review, she says, and will be published online in the new year. This resource includes a recipe called Wholesome Soy Berry Pancakes.  It contains high-protein soymilk, whole-wheat flour, quick-cooking oatmeal, eggs and blueberries.  Fittingly, the recipe is already available in the recipe section of this website: www.soyforlife.ca.

My soy odyssey – Oct 29

Food blogging: Equal parts diary and photography

Almost 2,000 food bloggers practise their craft in Canada. Naturally, there’s an association for that group to share best practices. The third annual conference just finished in Montreal last weekend with headliners Ricardo Larrivée and Mairlyn Smith.

“Ricardo” is a foodie rock star who has his own show on Food Network TV and more recently launched his own Canadian food magazine under the eponymous name, Ricardo. Look up his website at Ricardocuisine.com for his recipe: Eggplant, Tofu and Chickpea Curry. “Mairlyn,” another star in the foodie sky, is a cookbook author and regular on TV shows. She offers practical tips such as shaking your soy beverage carton to make sure the calcium is well distributed.

To my surprise, Canadian Living Magazine printed an article a few years ago on top 10 food phobias of food bloggers. Tofu was one of them, right along with live lobster and tripe!

What’s easier than tofu?  That myth should be busted by now.

As far as I know, My Soy Odyssey, is the only Canadian blog that’s devoted solely to soy foods.

My soy odyssey – Oct 27

Soy – The seed of an idea

The 20th anniversary of Project Soy has a lot to celebrate.  Peter Hannam, a soybean farmer and the University of Guelph spawned the contest to encourage students to explore the multiple uses of soy.  Every year, the eight-month project mentors students in discovering a unique use of soy and bringing forward a business plan.

Over the years, the winners have included: Wax SOY, a protective edible wax that can be applied to fruits and vegetables as a method of preservation in post-harvest treatment; Espressoy, a coffee-like beverage made from soy; Flavone Ice, breath strips containing bone-healthy isoflavones, SoCoa Beans, a soy protein-based candy targeted to adults at risk for cardiovascular disease; The Fortune of Soy, a soy-based vegan fortune cookie made primarily with soy flour, soy oil, wheat flour and sugar.

One of the most celebrated stories is of brothers Erik and Francis Lo who turned their Project Soy idea into a company. Back in 1998, their soy-based dips and spreads were a hit. Today, the Cambridge, Ontario-based company boasts a range of products under the Yoso brand.

With their soybeans sourced from southwestern Ontario farms, the Lo’s have made a success of locally produced, made-in-Canada soy foods.

My soy odyssey – Sept 30

Thanks to edamame

Looking for a twist on the Thanksgiving meal? Tofuturkey may not be everyone’s centerpiece, but there’s still a way to incorporate soy foods into the harvest meal.

The young, vibrant green soybean adds texture and colour to any dish. Add to the end stage of soups for a surprise garnish. Or if you’re preparing a succotash, replace the lima beans with edamame. This fall dish makes the most of sweet corn, zucchini, tomatoes and sweet peppers. Adding the jolt of green edamame makes a surprise statement.

Refresh your side salad with half a cup of shelled edamame.  It replaces the crunch of nuts, while adding protein.

At this time of year, many cooks are savouring the end of the fresh tomato harvest with salsa.  Try pureeing edamame beans with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and add to your favourite salsa for texture and protein.

More ideas are listed at www.soyfoods.org.

My soy odyssey – Sept 28

Harvest moon, harvest time 

If you’re in the country in Ontario, Manitoba or Quebec, now’s the time to see soybeans being harvested. Those brown pods are plump with seeds that are the basis for so many protein-rich soy foods.

Soybean production continues to expand in Canada with strong demand from overseas. The quality of our soybeans is such that China is one of our best buyers.  Ironic, considering that soybeans were first domesticated in the eastern half of North China in the 11th century BC. Canadians are now shipping soybeans back to their birthplace.

Besides a healthy export market, lots of soybeans stay in Canada to be transformed into tofu, soy milk and other products. Manufacturing plants can be found from Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal.  Our homegrown soybeans and domestic manufacturing plants are a testament to a robust food industry.

Today, when so much importance is placed on local foods, it’s comforting to know that soybeans are part of that story.

My soy odyssey – Aug 25

Eating soy in season

Farmers’ markets are brimming with seasonal produce right now, so make the best of the bounty. Here are a few ideas on how to pair fruits and vegetables with protein-rich soy.

Tender fruits such as peaches and nectarines are at their juicy peak. Slice and enjoy in a parfait glass with a scoop of soy yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts.

My absolute new favourite is a carrot and ginger soup, topped with tofu croutons, just in time for cooler weather. The traditional base of carrots, onions and garlic is spiced with star anise and ginger, sautéed and cooked with carrot juice and water. Blend with an immersion mixer. To make the tofu croutons, dust one-inch cubes with cornstarch and curry powder before frying.  I like how these Asian flavours add global flair to carrots.  (See Food Network recipe here: http://ow.ly/RjN0E)

In keeping with the Asian theme, greens such as bok choy and collards can be braised in a broth consisting of soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, five-spice powder and a quarter cup of water. Bring the base to a boil then add a large bunch of greens. They will cook down into a vitamin-rich vegetable side that is worthy of the season.  (See Food Network recipe here:  http://ow.ly/RjPJf)

My soy odyssey – Aug 18

Joy of summer salads

One of my go-to summer recipes is a Mediterranean-influenced couscous salad. Just boil some water for the couscous, add the grains according to the package label and let rest for a few minutes.  Fluff with a fork, then stir in chopped herbs and vegetables.

Microwaved edamame, about two cups in the shell, along with two chopped green onions add herbaceous bite. Yes, it takes a few minutes to shell the edamame but it’s akin to prying open a treasure chest. Those green gems pop out with a colour that’s as rewarding as spring. Stir in some halved cherry tomatoes for contrast and some kitchen garden herbs such as parsley or dill. Add half a cup of crumbled feta cheese for salty tang. It will melt slowly into the warm couscous. For a vinaigrette, I whisk one-third cup of olive oil, one quarter cup of lemon juice and one-quarter cup of pesto.

Presto! That’s a protein-enriched salad ready in a few minutes.

My soy odyssey – July 27

Field of dreams, field of vision

If you’ve been to the country this summer, chances are you have passed fields of soybeans. This protein-rich crop is grown mainly in Ontario and Quebec, but more recently in Manitoba as well. It’s easy to imagine the soybean seeds being pressed with other ingredients into snack bars, but some of that crop is also transformed into beverages.

Soy beverages are now displayed side by side with nut, grain and seed beverages on grocery shelves. However, these plant-based competitors offer less nutritional value reports the Soyfoods Association of North America. Soymilk has about seven grams protein per eight-ounce serving whereas almond, coconut and rice beverages average about one gram of protein.

Here’s a few words of advice on using this nutrient-dense beverage in everyday cooking. When a cake or muffin recipe calls for milk, substitute unflavoured, unsweetened soy beverage. If making a creamy dish, avoid the “light” version for the creamiest texture. Using soymilk in a soup or stew? Be careful not to boil the liquid to prevent curdling. Add any acids at the end of cooking.

Soy beverage is always in my refrigerator now, within my clear field of vision.

My soy odyssey – July 8

Know thy soy brand

I suspect brands are going to become more important in the months and years ahead as two trends gain steam.

Walmart has just announced that 11 of its Ottawa-area stores are offering online ordering and grocery pickup this week. Don’t know your brand and flavour of soy milk? Then you might be disappointed in what appears in your box. Best-before dates?  Personal shoppers will have that covered, but as a consumer, you’d best know your nutrition label in advance.

For those that frequent the grocery aisles, don’t be surprised to bump into a dietitian.  Loblaw has 64 in-store dietitians working in 159 stores across Canada.  Sobeys has 20 “well-being” counselors, interacting with a range of customers, from seniors to young moms. Let’s hope they’re knowledgeable about the cholesterol-free, high-protein benefits of soy foods.

One food industry commentator says that “outsourcing” our food choices does not bode well for overall health. And I would agree.  Nothing replaces the tactile experience of a grocery store, discovering new products and reading the labels.  I would have totally missed smoked tofu if I hadn’t been browsing the shelves. It’s now a regular purchase.

Know thy soy brands.  Own your health.

 

My soy odyssey – June 21

Ladies who lunch savour smoked tofu

The summer solstice signals salad days. For an easy patio lunch with friends, a warmed lentil salad with smoked tofu fits the bill.

Protein-rich, smoked tofu lifts two cups of lentils to a new level. These earthy-tasting ingredients complement each other in a way that evokes bistro fare in France. In fact, this flexitarian recipe takes its cue from what was probably “lardons” of bacon.

First, sautée three diced carrots, one leek, one onion and three cloves of minced garlic in olive oil. Add two cups of cooked lentils. Season with spices such as cumin and thyme. Then stir in a French-style vinaigrette of whole grain mustard, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Complete by stirring in half a package of cubed smoked tofu, about 100 grams. Whether the smoked tofu is cubed or draped on top like Parmesan cheese, that’s your choice.

The advantage of smoked tofu is that it’s the firmest of all tofus, perfect for slicing, shredding, dicing or grating over a salad. My package included a guide to tofu firmness, showing that it’s super firm.  Its smoky taste goes a long way, so use according to your preferences. Smoked tofu is easy to find in the refrigerated section along with other soy products.

Who needs a BBQ?

My soy odyssey – June 15

Summer smoothies: two parts soy to one part sun

Smoothie recipes are a dime a dozen.  The ratio of liquid to fruit, however, is the key to the perfect smoothie.

Start with a liquid base in your blender such as 1.5 cups soy milk and then add more  protein with six ounces of silken tofu or a pre-packaged tofu dessert for a smooth, creamy texture.  One medium banana always lends a comforting undertone.

Summer fruits are becoming available locally now, so choose what’s in season.  Half a cup of fresh strawberries with a tablespoon of honey is a timely choice.  Raspberries, plums, peaches, apricots and blueberries will not be far behind. Experiment with spices such as allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg. Blend and savour.

Don’t forget to freeze some of those sunshine fruits for the future.  Instead of adding two or three ice cubes to your smoothie, opt for frozen cubes of fruit puree. More sunshine vitamins are just what the dietitian ordered.

 

My soy odyssey – May 29

Allergens in perspective

Because I work in the agriculture and food industry, I come across stories that don’t make the headlines. Here’s a case in point in Food Safety Magazine.

From January 1 to March 31, 2015, the magazine tracked food recalls in the U.S. and Canada. Of 197 individual recalls, 57 per cent were due to undeclared allergens such as peanuts, milk and eggs. These were the top three culprits. Soy was number four on the list, accounting for only eight (7%) of the recalls.

Interestingly, none of these recalls were linked to chemical contamination, that is allergenic proteins that are dangerous to food-allergic citizens. Microbiological contamination is more common with bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella or Staphylococcus.  Recalls are rare for physical contamination which includes unintended objects such as metal.

For those who have concerns about soy allergenicity or soy labelling, this article is an important reality check. For a link to the entire article, go to: http://ow.ly/Ns9Dz.

My soy odyssey – May 26

Salad days include soy protein

A California company has launched Plant-Powered Protein salad kits that, in my view, are just as easy to make yourself at home. What I like is that their combos include soy ingredients such as roasted soy nuts and edamame. For one recipe, I’ve replaced roasted chickpeas with grilled tofu.

Each of these recipes has at least 13 grams of protein per serving and 40 per cent or more of daily recommended fibre.

Feel free to experiment with your own ingredients, according to your family’s tastes.

BBQ Ranch:  julienned cauliflower, red and savoy cabbage, kale and carrots with chia seeds, roasted soy nuts, slivered almonds and barbecued corn topped with a ranch dressing.

Super Caesar:  collard greens, Italian kale, red chard, broccoli stalk and savoy cabbage with chia and sunflower seeds, dried roasted edamame, parmesan cheese and a Caesar dressing.

Yogurt Curry:  julienned cauliflower, kale and multi-coloured kale, carrots and green cabbage with chia seeds, grilled tofu, slivered almonds, golden raisins and a yogurt curry dressing.

My soy odyssey – March 31

How much is 25 grams?

The big news this month is Health Canada’s awarding of a health claim that says protein-rich soy foods can assist in lowering cholesterol levels. The recommendation is at least 25 grams a day. But as registered dietitian Lois Ferguson says, “How much does that mean in practical terms? This is a big new habit for people unless you’ve been eating soy foods all along.”

A chart from www.soyfoods.org (http://ow.ly/L60N4) helps to illustrate how much protein punch is packed in various soy products. Based on this chart, Lois has suggested how to create Good Soy Days for you and your family.

Good Soy Day  1   

 

Soy food

Protein

1 cup soy milk on cereal

7 grams

¼ cup soy nuts

11 grams

½ cup Silky Soy Hummus*

7 grams

 

25 grams

Good Soy Day 2

 
1 cup soy milk in smoothie

7 grams

½ cup edamame snack

11 grams

½ cup Rocky Road pudding*

7 grams

 

25 grams

*recipes to be found in next blog

Coincidentally, Lois is working on a new book called: Food, Sex and Living Young.  She’s pledged to include these guidelines along with her creative recipes for Silky Soy Hummus and Rocky Road Pudding. Stay tuned.

My soy odyssey – March 16

The land of maple syrup and soy

Ricardo Larrivée – chef, entrepreneur, Food Network TV star — is a proud son of Quebec.  While he’s a household name in la belle province, look for his star to rise in English Canada. On a recent trip to Quebec City, I admired his new line of cookware in a gift shop and his new English magazine, Ricardo.

Yes, his recipes are rich in meats but he’s savvy enough to have a tofu section on his website:  tofu curry, breaded tofu burgers, tofu caprese salad.  (http://www.ricardocuisine.com/recipes) His sweet and sour tofu with eggplant looks interesting, especially his directions on freezing and thawing tofu.

Try his technique. In a large sealable freezer bag, place the tofu in a single layer. Place in the freezer for at least two hours or until the tofu is completely frozen. Allow the tofu to thaw completely before using. Blot with paper towel. Place back in the freezer bag and add whatever marinade you are using. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

“ If you make the recipe with fresh tofu, you’ll need to marinate it for at least 12 hours for it to fully absorb the flavour of the juices, whereas with this frozen/thawed tofu, you will only need 30 minutes to absorb the marinade,” he says.

My own advice? A spoonful of maple syrup in the marinade never hurts.

My soy odyssey – Feb 27

Tofu is flexible

My recipe for Vegetable Cheesecake just got a makeover. It’s a crustless quiche brimming with three kinds of cheese. Thanks to a tofu substitution guide from Sunrise Soya, I’ve traded the three cups of cottage cheese for three cups of medium-firm tofu, well-drained and mashed.

I still use six whisked eggs as the base with half a cup of flour and a quarter cup of melted butter. Then I add a diced, sautéed red pepper, three green onions and one bunch of steamed and chopped broccoli. Add the mashed tofu, two cups of grated cheddar and quarter cup of parmesan cheese. Fold in a quarter cup of fresh dill. Season to taste.  Pour the batter into a 9” x 13” dish and bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes.

I’ve often said:  Don’t bring me chocolate, bring me cheese. But when you want more plant-based protein, this is flexitarian eating at its best.

Google Sunrise Soya tofu substitutions for a chart on replacing buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese.

My soy odyssey – Feb 18

Lucky soup for Chinese New Year

This week’s grocery flyers are advertising ingredients for the Chinese New Year, February 19.  Tofu takes its place beside bok choy, garlic and nappa lettuce.

The Canadian Living recipe archives have a Bok Choy, Mushroom and Tofu Soup that tempts my palate during these crispy crunch days of winter. What’s particularly interesting is the Chinese chicken stock that forms the base. Who needs canned chicken noodle soup when you can make your own earthy concoction?

Place two pounds of chicken backs or legs in a stock pot and add 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil then add several slices of ginger root, two sliced green onions, a couple tablespoons of rice wine, a sprinkle of peppercorns and salt. At this time of year, I always add chopped garlic for an extra boost of cold-fighting stimulant. When this is reduced after two hours, strain and reserve for the soup base.

To make the soup, heat the stock and add one package of cubed medium-firm tofu.  Once it’s simmering, add a cup of thinly sliced mushrooms, four cups of chopped bok choy or nappa cabbage and one sliced green onion. Add a dash of sesame oil for flavour. Simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables are wilted, then serve.  Once again, tofu offers that foundation of protein that will carry you through to the next meal.

If Chinese New Year is about making resolutions for a healthy lifestyle, then I vote for this steaming bowl of good luck.

My soy odyssey – Jan 30

Gotta make panna cotta

Panna cotta – cooked cream — is a traditional Italian dessert. When unmolded onto a plate and garnished with chocolate sauce or a fruit compote or a jam…well, panna cotta is the modern replacement for retro jello.

A lighter version is easy to make substituting plain soy milk and soy yogurt. I used the basics of a Canadian Living recipe, with two tablespoons of gelatin sprinkled on one cup of soy milk. Let it stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile heat two cups of soymilk, one-third cup of sugar and a splash of vanilla in a saucepan until the mixture starts to simmer. Turn off the heat. Cover the saucepan and let sit for 10 minutes. Put this cooled mixture into a large glass measuring cup. Whisk in the gelatin mixture along with one cup soy yogurt. Now it’s ready to pour into well-greased ramekins or custard cups.  Let stand for 30 minutes and then refrigerate four hours until set.

In my quick version, I didn’t unmold the panna cotta. Rather I poured the mixture into my grandmother’s antique, china tea cups for a whimsical presentation. And then dusted with nutmeg and grated a little lemon zest over top.

Panna cotta makes total sense at this time of year. With only five ingredients, it’s  protein-rich and company-worthy for Valentine’s Day.

My soy odyssey – Jan 30

Quest for clean labels

For consumers, clean labels are about ingredients that are familiar and can be pronounced. There are now companies which specialize in clean labels. In the U.S., one such company advertises the ability to create high-quality, baked goods using ingredients such as soy flour, soy lecithin, wheat flour, sugar, eggs, milk, whey and enzymes.

When purchasing the ingredients for a soy-based panna cotta, I looked at the ingredient list of the soy milk and soy yogurt. What struck me is how clean these labels are.

For the soy yogurt, the list started with Ontario-grown organic soybeans, dextrose, fructose, natural flavours, corn starch, chicory root, citric acid, tricalcium phosphate, flaxseed oil and carob bean gum.

For the soy milk, the list was very similar.  “No preservatives” was in bold print. On a soy milk carton, there’s lots of room for messaging. Here’s the one that clinched me:  buy Canadian first.

My soy odyssey – Dec 30

Culinary students transform soy into sweet and savoury snacks

What do a sprout salad, a cookie and snack fries have in common?  I doubt anyone would say soy. But that’s exactly how students transformed the high-protein ingredient in a recent culinary assignment at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College.

Dr. Amy Proulx is a professor and program coordinator there, who challenged her students to develop five recipes using such ingredients as soy milk, tofu, edamame, soy sprouts and soy isolates.

Coaching one of her students, Dr. Proulx cut extra-firm tofu in strips and then battered them in a cornstarch and water slurry. These were then deep-fried with salt, pepper and paprika. Could “soy fries” be scaled up for institutional use? This product might not work in home kitchens, but hospitals and schools would welcome the innovation for heart-healthy menus.

Dr. Proulx also experimented with soy butter, creating what looked like a leavened graham cracker cookie. Served in wedges, it dissolved in the mouth with all the textural qualities of peanut butter and crumbly characteristics of shortbread. Addictive!

One student made a bean sprout salad incorporating edamame, now available locally in season.  Another student made a Japanese-style cracker using soy flour.  As a guest in the classroom, it was heartening to hear students talk about placing soy in a central role in menus.

Their final assignment will be to compile close to 100 recipes complete with nutritional analysis. Thanks to Dr. Proulx and her students, look for some of these recipes to be posted to the soyforlife.ca site in early 2015.

My soy odyssey – Dec 29

Follow the soy star, a world away

Today’s culinary students not only think globally, but travel globally. At a recent visit to to the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, I met Kaitland Grassing who spent last summer in Hangzhou, China. Her experiences with soy are distinctly broader than most.

Stinky tofu as street food?  Kaitland describes this as an extra-firm tofu akin to blue cheese, that’s fermented in bean paste.  Fragrant as a dirty sock, stinky tofu is tossed in a starchy sauce along with cilantro. Then it’s served through storefront windows much like French fries in Canada.

Plain soymilk is very popular in China, but it’s served warm in a bowl to accompany what is known as a Chinese cruller (youtiao). Two long pieces of deep-fried dough, joined together, are ideal for tearing apart and sharing. Kaitland describes this dish as the equivalent of “milk and cookies.”  However, this isn’t an afternoon treat. Think of it as an equivalent to the French café au lait and Italian biscotti. Throughout China, it’s common as a quick and satisfying breakfast snack to be shared with another person.

Extra-firm tofu appears in several starring roles. One of Kaitland’s favourites is a type of extra-firm tofu that is compressed and shaped into sheets similar to a tortilla shell, then filled with bean sprouts, pickled vegetables and pork. It’s served wrap-style like a sandwich to be eaten out of hand.

With these memories as inspiration, Kaitland had no trouble concocting her own recipes for a recent culinary assignment to innovate new soy products.

My soy odyssey – Nov 26

Tofu triangles and vegetables make a square meal

Can you honestly say that you’ve never left a doctor’s waiting room/hairdresser’s salon without discovering a great recipe in a stack of magazines? All that food “candy” is there as the visual equivalent of mac and cheese — calming and comforting in what can be stressful situations.

That’s what happened today as I cruised through the November 2014 issue of Chatelaine, one of Canada’s most widely read lifestyle magazines.  The test kitchen’s recipe for sweet-chili tofu with broccoli slaw sounds winter-ready to me. I like the convenience of slicing a block of extra-firm tofu into eight triangles and quickly frying in vegetable oil until golden in a saucepan. Once removed, the tofu triangles are brushed with Thai sweet-chili sauce and set aside. Then the recipe suggests cutting the same number of eight wonton wrappers into thin strips and crisping them in the vegetable oil. Transfer to a towel to drain.

Then add your favourite combination of vegetables to the fry pan.  The recipe calls for packaged broccoli slaw and bean sprouts, but I would add minced garlic cloves and ginger. At this time of year, these are immunity-building ingredients that have a place in every meal.

Sauté the vegetables until tender crisp, then stir in oyster sauce, enough to moisten the dish. Divide the vegetables onto four plates. Top with the wonton crisps and tofu triangles. Sounds to me like the perfect balance of protein and vegetables.

My soy odyssey – Oct 30

Eat with your eyes first

Decorating magazine Canadian House and Home is a visual feast in more ways than one.  It also dishes up a few lessons in food, living up to the adage: you eat with your eyes first.

This week, food editor Eric Vellend proved the point with his Instagram posting of soba noodles, miso broth, silken tofu, dried shiitakes, wakame and scallions. Wakame, by the way, is edible seaweed. His choice of silken tofu, a Japanese-style tofu, was well considered in keeping with the other Japanese ingredients. I liked the fact that each ingredient was grouped in a painterly palette.

Don’t confuse silken tofu with regular or Chinese-style tofu. They perform different functions in your recipe repertoire. That’s because they are made differently.  Regular tofu –soft, medium and extra firm — reflects how much water has been pressed out of the soybean curd. Note that as the firmness increases, so do the fat and protein. The more firm the tofu, the more time it takes to bake or sauté.

Silken tofu, on the other hand, does not undergo a separation process. It’s undrained and unpressed, hence its softer texture. Look for the product in the refrigerated section of the grocery store along with regular tofu.

It’s all personal preference. For me, the creamy texture of silken tofu is a close cousin to the dairy custards of my youth.

My soy odyssey – Oct 11

A Canadian smorgasbord includes soy

The idea of Canadian cuisine is still very much in evolution, glacial and vast, like the country itself. So it was with interest that I read about Quebec chef Ricardo Larrivee launching his own English magazine. As the star of Food Network TV’s longest running show, Ricardo and Friends, he has designs on a food empire that goes far beyond Quebec’s borders.

How telling, then, that in his interview with the Globe and Mail, he and the journalist dined on spicy, black-pepper tofu. Their culinary choice says that flavour wins all contests. And that soy supplies the canvas for an endless array of palette winners.

Go to Google and it turns out there are several recipe variations on black-pepper tofu. Start by dusting one-inch cubes of firm tofu in corn starch, fry in vegetable oil and then drain on paper towels. The sauce is then made with a base of sautéed ginger, shallots, garlic, serrano chiles with the addition of light and dark soy sauce.  Garnish with sliced green onions. The dish is an obvious accompaniment to curries or stir fries.

Quite simply, it’s a mélange of sweet and spicy flavours.  Now that’s Canada.

My soy odyssey – Sept 24

How to eat for your age

Leslie Beck, registered dietitian and media commentator, has always been a voice of reason.  In her recent Globe and Mail video, How to Eat for your Age, she dispenses some solid advice for women from their twenties through to their fifties.

Women go through several decades of hormonal changes and are predisposed to some diseases. But these natural changes can be managed with proper nutrition.  During the ‘20s decade, women need calcium and iron.  That means two servings per day of milk or milk alternatives. Firm tofu can play a role in providing both calcium and iron.

In your ‘30s, when metabolism starts to slow down, trimming unnecessary calories is key to maintaining a steady weight  High-protein sources such as soy can play a role in calorie control.

The ‘40s present another challenge in that less estrogen is produced yet mineral requirements are the same.  Foods with unsaturated fat can help reduce perimenopausal symptoms.

And in your ‘50s, calcium requirements increase to maintain bone health.  To consume 1200 mg/day, look to non-dairy alternatives and certain soy products, Beck says.

Interesting that soy plays an important part in this nutrition balance!

www.theglobeandmail.com

 

My soy odyssey – Sept 11

Living the Canadian way

A recent Globe and Mail article piqued my interest:  Living the Mediterranean way. Its premise was that the Mediterranean diet is about more than consuming food from the region. It’s also about taking the time to savour the flavours.

I rather like the notion that a diet is not about restricting calories, but rather about a way of life that includes a rainbow of richly coloured fruits and vegetables as well as grains, nuts and seeds. This plant-based approach is easy to Canadianize, especially with so much locally-produced fare at this time of year.  Here is my idea on using high-protein, low-fat soy as part of a fusion diet.

Freeze firm tofu then thaw before cutting into thick slabs. This method helps the tofu to absorb more flavour. Create a marinade of a quarter cup of lime juice, one tablespoon of olive oil, five tablespoons of chopped cilantro and two chopped cloves of garlic. Add a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. The sugar content will help caramelize the tofu once it’s on the grill. Marinate the tofu for a couple hours in the refrigerator to meld the flavours before placing on a well-oiled hot grill. About six to seven minutes per side should suffice.

What a great addition to grilled sweet corn, tomatoes and eggplant! That’s living the Canadian way.

My soy odyssey – Aug 28

Tempeh and tomato go hand in hand

Baskets of tomatoes surrounded with bouquets of fresh basil are common at farmers’ markets these days. My own house version of tomato sauce starts with skinned tomatoes and chopped garlic, green pepper, onion and ginger. A splash of acidity — red wine or balsamic vinegar — doesn’t hurt as the sauce reduces in quantity. If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen garden, snip your own herbs and add them when the sauce has simmered to a syrupy consistency.

This is an ideal sauce for the earthy addition of tempeh. Made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans, tempeh is high-protein and calcium-rich. In fact, its protein content is almost double that of tofu at 22 grams per four-ounce serving. Tempeh is less processed than tofu because it’s made from whole soybeans and therefore has more texture and chewiness.  It’s found in your grocer’s refrigerated case.

Sauté tempeh in a frying pan, then dice or crumble into the heated tomato sauce. Tempeh is a quick way to make a one-bowl supper. Try it for a fresh start to the fall season.

My soy odyssey – Aug 8

Forewarned:  for flexitarians only 

As you say goodbye to summer with a dip in the lake, nothing beckons like a well-grilled steak on shore. For some, this may be antithesis to vegetarian fare. However, a soy-soaked steak allows some story-telling about the origins of soy sauce.

For centuries, Asian cuisines have incorporated this “umami” ingredient – fermented paste of boiled soybeans. The paste is pressed, resulting in a brownish liquid which we know as soy sauce.

To make the steak marinade, I recommend taking your favourite brand of soy sauce and adding two tablespoons along with a generous spoonful of brown sugar, a thumb-sized knob of minced gingerroot, a smashed garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. My signature move was to add a dollop of ginger mandarin salad dressing.  Whisk the sauce and then marinate your beef flank steak for at least an hour in the refrigerator– while you’re drying off from the lake. And then fire up the grill.

Let your best grillmaster decide when the meat is done.  Cover with aluminum foil to hold in the heat and to keep the steak from drying out.  Let rest for 10 minutes, while everyone salivates over the feast to come.

My soy odyssey – May 5

Spring into summer salads

The current issue of LCBO’s Food and Drink Magazine features a tangled vegetable salad with crunchy tofu cubes. At first glance, the Asian-inspired photograph looks like chicken is adorning the spiral-sliced carrots, golden beets, jicama and red cabbage. I’d love to try this plate with guests and test the reaction.

First the recipe. Eshun Mott, recipe developer, advises that the block of extra-firm tofu should be patted dry before cutting into cubes and then tossing with cornstarch. Then fry in vegetable oil for about five minutes for a toasty effect. What a creative way to replace bread croutons with a protein punch!

The salad dressing reinforces the Asian theme with low-sodium soy sauce, fresh lime juice, sesame oil and canola oil.  See page 58 for the exact proportions.

I bet few have thought about the ideal pairing of a vegetarian/tofu salad with wine.  In this case, the sommelier suggested a Chardonnay. Or a locally-produced pale ale would also serve well.

Sweep the deck.  Polish the wine glasses.

My soy odyssey – January 3

How firm tofu fared in debut of Chopped Canada

I’m a Food Network addict.  So it was with a patriotic palate that I watched the debut episode of Chopped Canada on January 2.  In my opinion, the show has the right ingredients – guest judges such as Michael Smith and Vikram Vij – and Canadian staples such as PEI potatoes and Montreal bagels.

Three chefs went knife to knife in the 30-minute entrée round.  Their challenge?  How to incorporate firm tofu, strawberry milk powder, microwave popcorn and chayote for a main dish. One contestant fried a cornmeal-crusted slice of tofu as if it were a steak, while another grilled tofu for an Asian stir fry. The third contestant deep fried her tofu as part of an Asian crab noodle dish. The protein was the ingredient most amenable to different flavours and cooking methods.

Most impressive is that no one blanched at the thought of transforming tofu. It was the easiest ingredient to master. That’s a chef’s lesson for all.

For the full episode, click Here

My soy odyssey – December 3

Hark! Holiday parties are upon us

Here are two ideas to put a twist on holiday food traditions. Both share the toasty warmth of South Asian cuisine.

Party mix – a 50-year-old standard – goes global with chai flavours. The base is still Rice Chex cereal and Cheerios, but use soy nuts and banana chips for the crunch. Create a spice mix of cardamom, ground ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves. Top with diced orange peel and a dash of vanilla.

Try serving soup in a shooter glass. Whether it’s a small tea cup or antique juice glass, the presentation will be festive. This year, I’d like to try Thai Sweet Potato Soup, using soy milk beverage and coconut milk for the liquid. The soup can easily be thinned with vegetable broth for sipping.

A quick Internet search will offer several variations on these recipes or you can tweak your own.

 

My soy odyssey – October 8

Giving thanks for small pleasures

A drive in the country right now might test your knowledge as to what’s growing in the fields. What was lush a few weeks ago has dried down to withered stands that hardly look fit for food or feed.

Those fields that look like a caramel-coloured shag rug?  They are soybeans. Even Saskatchewan can lay claim to soybeans, the first year for this crop in the wheat province. While combines are busy gobbling up the pods, another soybean pod is ready to eat out of hand.

On the back roads of Ontario, you might be lucky enough to see the last of the edamame harvest. Acreage is small as growers have just started to experiment. West of Waterloo, I visited vegetable farmer Trevor Herrle-Braun last week and tasted edamame right out of the pod in the field.

This green snacking seed won’t last long though. Farmers are expecting Jack Frost, always an unwelcome guest at the Thanksgiving table.

Soy pods at harvest

Edamame at the end of harvest

My soy odyssey – July 10

Summer Shortcuts

I confess.  I’m addicted to recipe clipping, then never make the recipe.

The pile on my kitchen counter is testament to good intentions. So rather than embark on a culinary cul-de-sac, it’s sometimes easier to alter a favourite summer salad. Take my Red Barn Corn and Bean Salad which dates back to the July 1994 edition of Canadian Living. I now realize how easy it is to switch one legume for another, exchanging chickpeas for edamame.

Edamame is now grown in small quantities in Ontario, and if you can’t find this immature edible soybean in your local farmers’ market, then your grocer’s freezer section has convenient packages. The pods are boiled or steamed. Then pop out the verdant green nuggets within and savour with salt.  Or as I do, add the seeds to your favourite bean salad.

Another summer change-up is to top a tofu dessert with stewed strawberries. At this time of year, some strawberries are getting smaller and past their prime. Growing up on the farm, we used to consider these as ideal for making jam.

Dump one quart of washed and hulled strawberries into a saucepan. Add one-quarter cup white sugar and an equal part water and gently stir on medium heat. Within minutes, the berries will soften and melt into a divine syrup. Spoon over the tofu dessert in a glass parfait dish and voilà – soy shortcake

My soy odyssey – June 28

Protein pep talk

It’s almost Canada Day and that’s the cue for BBQ. This week, the National Post health columnist Jennifer Sygo warns not to load up on protein in one meal. She says we all need more protein, but be careful where and when you get it.

Her bottom line is that we need protein at every meal. She suggests that older adults can actually build up protein levels as long as they consume about 30 grams of protein per meal. Breakfast is likely the occasion that needs the most protein boosting. For example, the protein content of one cup of soy beverage provides eight grams of protein.  Add two large eggs – any style – for another 12 grams of protein.  That’s getting closer to the target.

At this time of year, it’s easy to blend fresh berries with soy milk for a breakfast smoothie or to add some tender-crisp Asian greens to a tofu-inspired stir fry at dinner.  With summer living, it’s easy to add plant-based protein to the mix.

My soy odyssey – April 8

Spring sprouts tofu lovers

April is the cruelest month, wrote T.S. Eliot.  It’s a bridge between a Canadian winter and a skimpy spring. And that’s why the transition season requires some fresh tastes to waken our palate.

The food editors at Canadian Living Magazine understand that malaise, offering up a recipe for Thai Vegetable Curry Bowl in the April issue. (http://www.canadianliving.com/food/thai_vegetable_curry_bowl.php) For me, this gluten-free recipe is part soup, part stew. It offers a bridge to lighter fare with firm tofu as the protein.

What’s more, they devote a page to explaining “Why We Love Tofu.”  They cite three reasons:  it’s less expensive and more heart-healthy than meat; it contains bone-building calcium; it’s versatile.

They offer a useful tip when buying tofu. “Studies show that your body absorbs calcium from tofu just as well as it does from milk. Just make sure to choose a brand that lists calcium sulphate or calcium chloride as an ingredient.”

Spring forward to tofu.

My soy odyssey – January 5

Silken tofu touted as 2013 food trend

Eric Vellend is stirring the pot. He’s the food editor of Canadian House & Home and a new dad. I’ve never met him but I hear about his parenting pains through Twitter (@ericvellend).

Because he straddles these two full-time jobs, he’s got a very practical bent on 2013’s food trends. He revisits the familiar and makes more from scratch. For starters, he suggests making your own vegetable and chicken stock.

One of his top 10 food trends is eating with our hands. Try a breakfast burrito at a farmers’ market for example, or kimchee dumplings from a food truck. He’s also keen on cast-iron cookware for its durability and dependability. Most interesting of all is that he singles out silken tofu.

“Once the butt of carnivore’s jokes, silken tofu, with its smooth, crème-caramel texture, is landing on menus at the country’s hippest restaurants,” he writes in the January 2013 issue. “At home, it’s a quick, inexpensive source of protein, and the perfect vehicle for bold Asian flavours.”

His recipe for Ma-Po Tofu is a stew of silken tofu, ground pork and green onion spiced with the secret ingredient of chili bean sauce. Oh yes, and don’t forget a cup of chicken stock. Sounds like I have plenty of time for a trial run before February 10. That’s Chinese New Year!

My soy odyssey – November 30

‘Tis the seasoning for tofurkey

It’s that time of year when plans are underway for festive gatherings. And there’s a high likelihood that a vegetarian will be coming to your table. What to serve? A side of Brussels sprouts and a whole-grain bun doesn’t cut it anymore. A tofurkey is the answer.

I am surprised by how closely the Internet recipes mimick the poultry version. Extra firm or firm tofu are the perfect canvas for the rich seasonings of sage, rosemary and marjoram. And I really love the idea of adding soy butter to this stuffing. In fact, for the meat-eaters, using soy butter is a brilliant way to cut down on the fat of the holiday meal.

You can even baste your “turkey” with a tamari-oil mixture that contains orange zest and juice.  Tofurkey a l’orange? Just might be the start of a new tradition.

My soy odyssey – November 23

This just in…Los Angeles backs Meatless Mondays

City councils don’t usually attract much attention for routine declarations. Los Angeles, however, has captivated the headlines with its 14-0 decision in favour of Meatless Mondays. There’s no law.  There’s no cost. But the publicity is priceless.

The awareness campaign is to bypass meat for a day and replace with plant-based foods. Sure seems like a good segue to soy with its versatility, high-protein and low-fat profile.

Lots of trends have started in California, so look for this one to migrate northwards.


My soy odyssey – November 6

Taste Canada’s Food Writing Awards provide feast

Ever noticed how Food Network TV has made mega-stars out of chefs in the last decade?  In turn, those personalities have fuelled their fans with cookbooks, expanding the niche market with their own mystery yeast. The Canadian cookbook marketplace is worth a lot of dough — according to Alison Fryer, owner of Toronto’s The Cookbook Store.

So it’s no surprise that two popular personalities won their categories in the 15th Annual Taste Canada Food Writing Awards held Nov 5.  David Rocco won for “Made in Italy” and Michael Smith won for “Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen: 100 of my Favourite Easy Recipes.”

I also noodled over other winners and the shortlist to uncover some trends.

Flexitarian – Spill the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Every Day by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan (Winner in the Regional/Cultural category)

Local – The Ontario Table:  Featuring the Best Food from Around the Province by Lynn Ogryzlo

Health – Leslie Beck’s Longevity Diet:  The Power of Food to Slow Aging and Maintain Optimal Health and Energy by Leslie Beck, RD

That a registered dietitian is getting recognition for food writing is a sign of the times.  One of her 25 superfoods is soy which she says is nutrient-rich and an excellent source of isoflavones that may help to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.  I like the idea of an author subscribing to the Hippocrates philosophy:  Let food be thy medicine.

My soy odyssey – September 25

Not too late for soy lattes

Who knew that frothing soy milk for a soy latte would be so complicated?  I’ve been interested in perfecting this seemingly simple exercise with the gift of an espresso machine for home. From my internet research, it turns out that both science and art combine to make the perfect cup.

Although soy milk has about the same levels of protein as cows’ milk, it has a slightly higher fat content and therefore acts differently when heated. About 160 degrees is the target for cow’s milk, but when soy milk reaches that level, it tends to keep rising another 20 degrees. Without care, you’ll have a burned caramel taste that some connoisseurs compare to cookies. That may be your desired end point, but if it’s not, don’t froth so long before adding your espresso shot. The ratio should be one-third espresso and two-thirds soy milk.

“Be careful not to curdle the soy milk,” warns Nettie Cronish, co-author, Everyday Flexitarian. She also advises that some manufacturers of soy milk have specialty formulations just for adding to coffee.  Be sure to choose an ‘original’ flavour.  If you don’t want a latte, you can add a touch of soymilk for the richness of cream, without adding cream.

So I’m a late bloomer.  Can someone teach me how to put the heart shape on my soy latte from now on?

My soy odyssey – September 18

Coach’s corner for cooks

Ever feel like you need the equivalent of a personal trainer in the kitchen? Someone to sculpt your culinary repertoire?  Or correct your form on knife skills?

That’s the thinking behind Taste Canada’s Cook the Books competition at the upcoming Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  Famous cookbook authors will be coaching teams of culinary students on a favourite recipe.  Humber College students, for example, will be translating their version of Cannelini and Chocolate Chili with Chicken Satay from Everyday Flexitarian, a popular cookbook by Nettie Cronish and Pat Crocker. The recipe will challenge students on their knowledge of how to prepare a tofu-based chili.

I bet the audience’s preconceptions about tofu will be challenged by this white bean chili which contains frozen tofu, thawed, squeezed dry and crumbled into the bean and vegetable mix.

The event takes place on November 4 at the Direct Energy Centre, Toronto, Ontario.  Slide in at 3:30 pm to meet the cookbook authors and to see how the students flex their culinary muscles.

My soy odyssey – August 29

Meatless Mondays

Every day of the week represents a huge chunk of real estate for food slogans. You can start out with Meatless Mondays and slide into Turkey Tuesdays. I think Wine Wednesdays are next.

Humour aside, the marketers are on to something. ‘Carve’ out your territory and capture a share of stomach for menu planning.

It’s no surprise that a marketing professional Sid Lerner coined the concept. For  scientific credibility, the campaign was backed by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future. What started in the U.S. in 2003 is now an international phenomenon.  Mondays are the reset day for getting back on track to healthy routines.

In Canada, cookbook author and food columnist Bonnie Stern is an advocate of Meatless Mondays. She has predicted that “vegetables are the new meat and meatless Mondays will be our favourite day.”

It’s a trend that she’s espoused in January columns of the National Post with recipes for miso-glazed carrots and a rice bowl with grilled tofu, sweet potatoes and peanut sauce.

With the start of the new school year, I think these soy-based recipes sound equally apropos with fall produce.

My soy odyssey  – August 23

Back to school with snacks

The notion of three squares a day is sounding very SQUARE! The NPD group just released new U.S. data that says snacks account for 20 per cent of all meals. More than half of consumers are having mini-meals two or three times a day. And snacks just aren’t chips and pretzels anymore.  It’s a broad category that can include soy.

Edamame, boiled in the pod and sprinkled with salt, is an obvious choice. But there’s also tofu desserts that are ideal for mid-afternoons with a rainbow of berries. New soy-based, flavoured tubes are being launched for kids that are alternatives to dairy-based yogurt. Consider them brain food with the added omega-3 DHA. Just take them out of the freezer in the morning, toss in a lunchbox and they’ll be thawed for noon.

The take-home point is that it’s all protein – a smart way to snack and to feel satisfied.

Edamame – a soytastic snack

by Maxine Seider

I have a mild obsession with edamame. Whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant, my meal  just has to start with a bowl of it. At some point during my undergraduate degree I discovered that not only were these green little beans healthy because, well, they are green and beans, but they are also soybeans!

Of course, now that I am a nutritional scientist I have to discover why these beans are so good.

Soy aside, these little beans are packed with protein and fibre. The soy protein of this snack will satisfy your hunger cravings (Hira et al., 2011). Additionally, these little beans have a substantial amount of isoflavones (refer to the soymilk blog entry for a refresher on what these are).  The major isoflavones found in soybeans are genistein and daidzein. A recent in vitro or cell culture  study found that genistein directly and indirectly had anti-cancer effects on liver cancer cells (Lepri et al., 2012).

Now that we know that edamame keeps your appetite at bay and may protect against cancer, let’s add them to our diet!

I like to keep the frozen shelled beans in my freezer. They are less fun to eat but are less wasteful and super easy to throw into your favorite stir-fry, soup, etc. If you want a tasty snack, boil or microwave them (according to the package) and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Yum.

As you could probably tell from my soy pancake recipe I like simplicity. Picky directions just do not work for me. I have given measurements for a stir-fry but please feel free to add more or less to your taste and substitute whatever veggies you have in the fridge.

Soy-Filled Stir-fry

Serves 2

1 tbp sesame oil

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp minced ginger (fresh or pre bought)

½ package firm tofu, cubed

½ cup edamame

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp mirin (or brown sugar)

2 handfuls of baby spinach

1 handful bean sprouts

Grab a large frying pan or wok and turn up the heat on your stove. Once the pan is heated add in the oil, onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté for  2-3 minutes (or until the onion begins to soften). Add in the tofu, edamame, soy sauce, and mirin and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach —  it may seem like a lot but it shrinks considerably. Turn off the heat and add in the bean sprouts.

Serve this soy-packed dish over brown rice or rice or udon noodles.

This delicious dish is also great served cold or reheated the next day, so make it for dinner or take it for lunch and subdue your hunger cravings while keeping cancer at bay!

References

Hira TMori NNakamori TFuruta HAsano KChiba HHara H. Acute effect of soybean beta-conglycinin hydrolysate ingestion on appetite sensations in healthy humans. Appetite. 2011 Dec;57(3):765-8.

Lepri SRLuiz RCZanelatto LCda Silva PBSartori DRibeiro LRMantovani MS. Chemoprotective activity of the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein on mutagenicity induced by direct and indirect mutagens in cultured HTC cells. Cytotechnology. 2012 Jun 30. [Epub ahead of print]

About the author:

Maxine Seider is currently a M.Sc. student in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University Guelph where she is learning about nutritional sciences, functional foods and research in human nutrition clinical trials.  She is a graduate of the Bachelor of Arts and Science program at the University of Guelph with minors in Studio Art and Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences.  In her current M.Sc. program, Maxine has taken a particular interest in knowledge translation and just completed a graduate course designed to explore scientific communication from a journalistic perspective.

Soymilk, a healthy way to start my day

By Maxine Seider

I love soymilk. Frankly, I am of the lactose-free variety, so soymilk has been a saviour for me. It is delicious, a high protein snack, and I often use it when I cook. I think I have tested out almost every brand there is to offer! I will not tell you which one I prefer, because everyone has a different palate, but the healthiest ones are the unsweetened and the lower fat varieties. I usually have a low-fat one and a chocolate one in my fridge at all times.

Not only is soymilk delicious and nutritious, but also the benefits of drinking a glass a day are amazing for your health. Published studies have shown that for men it is associated with reduced prostate cancer risk (Jacobsen et al., 1998) and for women it is associated with reduced breast cancer risk (Caan et al., 2011).

While there are often misconceptions about soy because of the estrogen-like isoflavones (a class of phytoestrogens), there has been much research that demonstrates that they are weaker than the endogenous hormone and can compete for binding to estrogen receptors to actually reduce estrogenic potency (Ma et al., 2011).

If you are not partial to soymilk and still want to get your fix this pancake recipe is perfect for you. I have had people taste my soymilk pancakes and they do not have any complaints, ever. This is a great way to start the day with whole wheat, soymilk, and berries (if you fancy).

Soymilk Pancakes

– ½ cup whole-wheat flour

– ½ cup all purpose flour

– A pinch of salt

– 1 tsp baking powder

– 1 cup soymilk

– 1 egg

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 tbsp sugar (optional)

I dump all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until it is mixed up. Put a little margarine, butter, or spray (depending on how healthy you want to be) onto a non-stick frying pan and pour your desired size pancake on. Once you see bubbles forming, flip the pancake over, remove when cooked to your standards.

I love adding toppings to my pancakes. Berries and bananas are my favourites as they reduce the need for syrup and added sugar.

For a chocolate explosion try substituting the soymilk for chocolate soymilk and 1 tbsp of the flour for cocoa powder. Just a note – the chocolate soymilks are usually quite high in sugar so I suggest not adding an excessive amount.

Try adding a little soy to your morning, whether these pancakes, a glass of soymilk, or some soymilk in your cereal. Not only does it taste great, but the health benefits are amazing too!

References

Caan BJ, Natarajan L, Parker B, Gold EB, Thomson C, Newman V, Rock CL, Pu M, Al-Delaimy W, Pierce JP. Soy food consumption and breast cancer prognosis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011;5:854-8.

Jacobsen BKKnutsen SFFraser GE. Does high soy milk intake reduce prostate cancer incidence? The Adventist HealthStudy (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 1998;6:553-7.

Ma H, Sullivan-Halley J, Smith AW, Neuhouser ML, Alfano CM, Meeske K, George SM, McTiernan A, McKean-Cowdin R, et al. Estrogenic botanical supplements, health-related quality of life, fatigue, and hormone-related symptoms in breast cancer survivors: A HEAL study report. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Nov 8;11(1):109.

About the author:

Maxine Seider is currently a M.Sc. student in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University Guelph where she is learning about nutritional sciences, functional foods and research in human nutrition clinical trials.  She is a graduate of the Bachelor of Arts and Science program at the University of Guelph with minors in Studio Art and Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences.  In her current M.Sc. program, Maxine has taken a particular interest in knowledge translation and just completed a graduate course designed to explore scientific communication from a journalistic perspective.

My soy odyssey – June 28, 2012

Soy is a protein world unto itself

This is a big week in the farmers’ soy world.  Stats Canada came out with its survey of field plantings on June 27, giving the best estimate possible of acres planted to a variety of crops including wheat, corn, canola and of course soybeans. This year’s soy crop is a big one with almost 4.3 million acres planted in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Believe it or not, those statistics along with 70 million-plus acres in the U.S., will be integrated into a global report called Oil World. Based in Hamburg, Germany, this website forecasts the bulls and bears of the market, keeping close tabs on oilseeds such as soybeans in Brazil and sunflowers in Russia.

From a commodities perspective, soy is odd.  That’s because the legume native to eastern Asia is classified by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as an oilseed, although by botanical definitions it would be considered a pulse — the edible seed of a legume.

What’s more odd is that when soybeans are crushed, they yield twice as much protein as oil.  In fact, a soybean is about 40 per cent protein and only 20 per cent oil. Soybeans produce more protein per acre than most other uses of land.

Pumping oil?  Or pumping protein?  Both answers are right.

media@soyforlife.ca

Karen Davidson is an agricultural journalist who has covered many facets of the food system, from beef cattle, grains and oilseeds, to fruits and vegetables.

My soy odyssey – June 25, 2012

Health at every size

It’s good to walk in a different shoe size.  I did just that by attending the recent Dietitians of Canada conference in Toronto, feeling the pinch of middle age surrounded by svelte practitioners.

No wonder I found Ann McConkey, from Winnipeg’s Women’s Health Centre, so liberating on the topic of weight and health. “Dieting is connected with an increase in the risk of obesity,” she said. “Feeling fat may impact health more than being fat.”

The new thinking – supported by research – is to focus on health, not weight.  That approach concentrates on a healthier mind, body and spirit. Dietitians are now giving permission to relish snacks for more energy and to savour foods that feed the brain. Rather than measure weight, the outcomes are now measured in cholesterol readings and blood pressure. Rather than deny food, dietitians are asking what patients want to add.

Part of this learning is to discover the cues to hunger and satiety. If you’re starved, you may feel irritable, dizzy or tired.  If you’re stuffed, you may feel bloated or nauseated. The advice is to satisfy earlier signs of hunger. And to be mindful when you eat, that you’ve had enough.

Be aware of your thoughts and feelings when you eat. Does the aroma remind you of childhood memories?  Does the texture tickle your fancy?  Does the taste make you think of a favourite person or place?

Last but not least, connect the dots between eating and leisure.  Move more. Play more.

What a philosophy for all ages!  I like the thought of having a soy smoothie packed with summer fruit and knowing it tastes just like the milkshake of my youth.

If you crave more on health at every size, here’s a hashtag in the Twitterverse: #haes

My soy odyssey – June 4, 2012

Taste and temperature 

By Karen Davidson

When you’re exploring new foods, how important is temperature? Turns out, plenty.

Ontario researcher, Dr. Gary Pickering from Brock University, reveals that the same food can taste different depending on the temperature.  Bitterness, for example, is more intense when cold.  Guess that explains beer.  Astringency – a mouth-puckering sensation — is more intense when the solution is warm, and the flavour profile lasts longer.  Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in perceived sweetness between warm and cold.

As recently as 10 years ago, novices to soy said there was a “beany” taste.  For a bunch of reasons, that’s no longer the case.  Improved soybean varieties.  Better processing methods that reduce oxidation.  More flavours.

But I also wonder if the explosion in new soy products, many of them refrigerated, has something to do with consumer acceptance.  Personally, I’m finding that chilled soy yogurt, desserts or beverage are a perfect canvas for adding seasonal fruit like strawberries….okay, and sometimes maple syrup.

If you’re new to soy like me, summer’s a good time to take the taste test.

My soy odyssey – May 24, 2012

Soy on soy 

By Karen Davidson

As spring slips into summer, my taste buds crave a cooler.   Aha! Not necessarily the alcoholic kind, but something that will quench a midday thirst.

In this week’s grocery shopping, I naturally found myself in the dairy department. Along with the milk, it’s a mesmerizing display of kefir, lactose-free drinks, smoothies with probiotic cultures, and of course, soy beverages.  After reading many product labels, I chose an organic, fortified soy beverage with no flavouring.  When I got home, the big surprise was that the processor was Parmalat! Guess the Canadian dairy purveyor wants to own the whole case.

Never mind, I added my own twist.  There was already some vanilla soy yogurt in my refrigerator, so I decided to make my own drink with the yogurt as the base.  I topped it up with a cup of soy beverage then added half a frozen banana and a splash of vanilla.  My immersion blender whirled this concoction into a soy shake in 30 seconds.

If I froze it for a dessert, would it be called a soy frosty?

My soy odyssey – May 10, 2012

Tofu and tempeh: new staples for culinary students 

By Karen Davidson

It’s interesting how old friends are popping up with new insights on soy. A couple years ago, I met Amy Proulx through Cuisine Canada and had the good fortune of being a guest at one of her Persian-inspired meals. What a cook!

These days, she’s cooking up a storm of activity at Niagara College as professor and coordinator of the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program. They have started to teach how to make tofu, since in Amy’s words “freshly made tofu is so delicious and much more nuanced than store bought.”

They are also starting to experiment with tempeh and shoyu culturing in-house to expand soy teaching while also bringing a multicultural perspective to the protein and fermented foods classes. If you think this is all just laboratory teaching, think again. Just last week, the Niagara College staff catered a meeting of 500, complete with a fully vegetarian menu that highlighted soy as an option for healthful eating and environmental sustainability.

Can’t wait to take up Amy’s invitation to the tempeh class to take photos …and to sample.

My soy odyssey – May 3, 2012

It’s all about the protein

By Karen Davidson

“Protein is hot, hot, hot and there is no sign that this trend is going to go away for the next 10 years. It’s about body composition, sports, satiety and maintaining muscle mass as you get older.”

That’s a quote from Dr. Elizabeth Sloan, speaking last month at the International Food Information Council Wellness Conference in Chicago. I agree with her. Women are coming to terms with their weight, while realizing a new confidence in muscle tone.  A protein shake, right after a workout, goes a long way to starting muscle repair.

Even after a brisk walk, I’m making my own fruit and soy beverage smoothie.  My thinking is that soy’s a complete protein and a perfect way to boost nutritional value. Throw in some strawberries, and voilá, it’s a spring tonic.

My soy odyssey – April 30, 2012

Spring into edamame

By Karen Davidson

Spring is coming up soy. Friends recently served edamame beans, lightly steamed and buttered for our appetizer to a salmon, wild rice and stir fried bok choy dinner. It was the perfect salute to warmer weather.

Edamame beans can be found in the freezer section of most grocers or Asian food markets.  Available shelled or in the pod, simply blanch in boiling water until tender – up to five minutes.

What’s interesting is that a few farmers are growing edamame for local restaurateurs or in the case of Trevor Herrle-Braun, he’s just planted almost two acres for selling at Herrle’s Farm Market near Waterloo, Ontario.

Through his Twitter account,@HerrlesMarket, Trevor asked followers a year ago what new crops to plant and was surprised about the votes for edamame. So he sourced ‘Be Sweet’ seed, specifically bred for edamame, from Stokes. They should be ready for hand harvesting in early August. That is, if his kids haven’t already raided the patch. As he’s discovered, his kids sneek into the field for a snack – by the hatful.

My soy odyssey – April 18, 2012

Bring me soy

By Karen Davidson

For a farm girl raised on fresh milk and homegrown Hereford-Holstein beef, it’s a discovery to find all these soy products which are replacements.  Will they satisfy my cravings for creaminess?  For silky texture? For authentic taste? It’s a tall order for someone who often says:  Don’t bring me chocolate, bring me cheese.

This week, while shopping at Longo’s, I discovered soy desserts in a refrigerated section right beside the fruits and vegetables.  Odd? Not really. When I think about it, soy is right at home with all the other plant-based ingredients.

What I selected was an almond-flavoured tofu dessert.  And I ended up eating it as a late-afternoon snack.  The verdict? A custardy mouth-feel.  Subtle almond flavouring. All for 90 calories.

There were only five components to the ingredient list, one of which was filtered water. Soybeans were second on the list.  All of which made me feel like my snack was healthy.  No preservatives were added.  A Canadian company manufactured it.

Makes me think.  Were the soybeans for my dessert grown just a few miles from me?

My soy odyssey – April 2, 2012

By Karen Davidson

Odd, come to think of it, that after 20-plus years of reporting on Canadian agriculture, I have rarely eaten a soybean. What I’m referring to is the result of those 3 million acres of soybeans, one of our major cash crops in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. When you’re driving down the highway in the summer, you’ve likely seen those fields of knee-high bushes. And in the fall, those same fields look wizened, with seeds hanging on the branches that look like maple keys.

Well, that’s homegrown, locally grown soybeans.

The interesting part of the story is that those soybeans are also processed in Canada. Until recently, little did I know just how many soy foods and beverages are in our grocery stores. And like many other Canadians, I’m discovering an old food that’s packaged in new ways. Who knew you could buy a coconut-scented tofu dessert?

I’m excited to share my knowledge of how soybeans are grown. But just as importantly, I’m willing to share where I find soy foods in the grocery store and how I cook with soy foods in my kitchen. Want to share your soy story?

media@soyforlife.ca

Karen Davidson is an agricultural journalist who has covered many facets of the food system, from beef cattle, grains and oilseeds, to fruits and vegetables.