It’s the first installment of recipe posts regarding the 6 Plant Sources of Protein previously discussed! Today’s topic will be soybeans. Aside from the actual beans, there are also a big variety of soy products, including but not limited to soymilk, edamame snacks, tempeh, miso, tofu, Morningstar Farms and similar products, texturized vegetable protein, and the list goes on and on. Since most people find soy to be a bit alien, I suppose it behooves me to give it a proper introduction.
Soybeans grow all over the globe (okay, not on the blue parts, but still). North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia all grow a lot of soy. The US of A produces a whopping 35% of the world’s total soy crops. This naturally brought a question into my mind, since I never seem to see a lot of other people shopping in the soybean section. Who is eating it?
Turns out, 85% of the U.S.. soy crop ends up as either vegetable oil or soy meal byproduct. Byproduct is then used in pre-packaged processed foods, catfish feed, and el cheapo dog food. Whoa, you might be thinking, this stuff is in my Lean Cuisine? No, you’re safe. As far as human consumption goes, they only put it in the super low grade food fillers we feed to our prisoners and public school students. The previous sentence is not a joke. If you are uncomfortable with our kids eating the same junk we feed our catfish, prisoners, and dogs, you can visit Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution website to learn more about improving the quality of school lunches in general, and sign a petition to that effect. http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/home.
Okay, little rant aside, where else do our amber waves of soy end up? Soy oil is used in about a dozen different ways in industry and as biodiesel fuel. That explains why we grow so much of it and still see so few people chowing down the tofu.
Well, we’ve covered byproducts and industrial uses, which I’m not sure was the best way to open this blog post, considering prevailing mindsets about soy foods. What’s the good stuff? Let’s get straight to the part you’re actually going to want to eat. I’ll give you recipes and finish with a little nugget of nutrition information.
Silken Tofu Summer Smoothie
Blend together all items, and drink!
1 package silken tofu*
Handful ice cubes
1/2 fresh mango
100% orange juice or your favorite fruit juice (amount depends on how thick or thin you like it)
*A note on silken tofu: It comes in a square package, refrigerated, probably in the freaky-deaky health food section next to a miniscule array of disgusting fake cheeses. It’s not the same thing as soft tofu. (There is soft, silken tofu, but not all soft tofu is silken). Any tofu will work, but the texture of silken is just perfect for smoothies. Tofu does add a mild but distinctive flavor to the smoothie, and probably not want you want to be noticing a lot. So use it with your own favorite fruit combinations, but make sure to put in at least one flavor-packed ingredient, like peaches or berries. That will ensure it won’t taste beany at all.
This is one protein-packed smoothie, which means it’s great for breakfast fueling up. High on protein, low on fat and carbs, for those who are concerned about that kind of thing. Personally, I think carbs are getting a bad rap right now. Whole grain carbs are so good for you! Well, fat was the villain in the 90’s, now it’s carbs. I guess next decade fat and carbohydrates will be good and we’ll all be anti-protein. Better eat these smoothies while we still can!
Okay, here’s another recipe.
Chik’n Veggie Wraps
You may or may not be able to tell that my kitchen island is an ironing board
Wheat tortilla shells (large size)
Your selection of veggies (I like lettuce, tomato, sprouts, baby spinach, and cucumbers, but really I just use whatever I’ve got handy)
A slice of cheese per wrap
Salad dressing of choice (Ranch or Asian sesame or French work well)
Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips, 2-3 per wrap, (freezer section, in a bag, pictured, you just nuke ‘em following instructions on the package)
The trick when assembling these suckers is they’re about exactly as healthful as you make them. If you load ‘em up with cheese and salad dressing, they’re going to be fatty. If you consider cheese and dressing as condiments rather than ingredients, and pile on the veggies, these wraps will be pretty darn good for you. Carbs from the tortilla notwithstanding.
I really like these Morningstar Farms chik’n strips (and, son, I have hacked the heads off a lot of fake chickens in my day!) as well as the griller crumblers in the same section, which can be used in place of hamburger meat in any recipe except for actual hamburgers. They don’t taste like any sort of reasonable equivalent to the animals they are named after, which is good to know up front the first time you try them. If you’re thinking, “this is a plant-based protein” rather than “this is like chicken,” you will probably survive the ordeal. Ha ha.
If you’re new to soy-based meat substitutes, Morningstar Farms is a good brand (just stay away from the fake bacon strips, really). It’s available everywhere, not too pricey, and easy to prepare in the microwave, stovetop, or oven. They have tons more recipes on their website here http://www.morningstarfarms.com/products_meal-starters-chikn-strips.aspx.
I also like a lot of the Quorn and Gardein brand products, but sample a few different ones before you decide on a brand loyalty (or generalized hatred of all things vege-).
Okay, I’m going to leave you with a reason (because, if you ever do taste these, you might feel that you need one) to substitute soy, especially in the form of tofu, for some of your meat. And here it is, from the reliable folk over there at About.com.
Tofu is low in calories for the protein it packs in. Here’s how it compares to a few other foods. For each 100 calorie serving, tofu contains 11 grams of protein. By comparison, 100 calories of ground beef provides 8.9 grams of protein, and a 100 calorie serving of cheese contains 6.2 grams.
One half-cup serving of raw firm tofu contains 5 grams of fat. Low fat tofu is also commercially available, and contains 1.5 grams of fat per serving. 4 oz of beef packs a whopping 15 grams of fat, and one egg contains 5.5 grams of fat. Tofu is a cholesterol-free food , as are all plant-based foods. By comparison, a half-cup of 2% milk contains 9 mg of cholesterol, 4 oz of fish contains 75-100 mg of cholesterol and 4 oz ground beef contains about 113 mg cholesterol.