Sunday, January 26, 2014

Soy Joy: Easy Ways to Prepare Tofu & Tempeh

Since I don't eat much meat, soy products play a big role in my diet.  Soy is great because it is one of the only plant-based sources of complete protein and is full of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and isoflavones.

Soy sometimes gets a bad rap because of it's concentrated amount of isoflavones, which basically act as plant estrogens.  People worry about consuming these estrogens, when, in reality, isoflavones are 1000 times weaker than human estrogens and actually have many positive non-hormonal effects on the body.  Strong research has shown that isoflavones regulate cell growth and can help prevent many types of cancers.  People in Asia eat tons of soy, and they are some of the healthiest people with the lowest cancer rates in the world!

Here is a good video by Dr. Oz on the truth about soy.

As with all foods, it is better to eat soy in whole forms, such as edamame, tofu, and tempeh, rather than ultra-processed products (think soy hot dogs).  Each week, I usually pick up one block of organic tofu and one package of organic tempeh at the store.  I drink almond milk and don't buy too many fake meats or cheeses (aside from Daiya on occasion), so the tofu and tempeh account for most of my soy intake (around four servings per week).

Tofu is wonderful because it easily absorbs the flavor of spices and marinades (and it's cheap!).  The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor will be, so it is good to plan a little ahead.  I like to cook with extra-firm tofu, and I usually press it first for 30 minutes or so (although I am not entirely sure how necessary this step is??).  To press, just wrap the tofu up in a paper towel and place between two plates.  Put something heavy on top (like a giant book) and let it sit.

My favorite thing to do lately is to marinate tofu and then roll it around in some nutritional yeast before cooking.
I made a delicious pan-fried tofu the other night with only three ingredients.  First, I cut the tofu up into 1/2 inch thick strips, drizzled liquid aminos on both sides, and let it sit for 20(ish) minutes.  Then, I sprinkled nutritional yeast all over the strips and fried them in a cast-iron skillet with some olive oil over medium heat. If you let it get good and brown on each side, the nutritional yeast will turn into a crispy, cheesy crust.
Served here with some quinoa and roasted brussels sprouts.  Yum!
I loved it so much that I used the same method on Thursday night, except this time I used a mixture of liquid aminos and dijon mustard to marinate.  I then coated the strips with nutritional yeast and baked them in the oven at 425 for around 40 minutes, turning once halfway through.

I sauteed some kale and roasted up a butternut squash for the sides.  It was equally amazing!
You can eat these tofu strips on their own or add them into stir-fries, salads, "big bowls," etc.  I love to use roasted tofu in the pad thai recipe I shared a while back.

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and is much denser and nuttier tasting than tofu.  I save my tempeh for nights when I don't have as much time to cook, since it doesn't have to be pressed in advance.  My favorite way to prepare tempeh is in "bacon" form, but there are lots of other tasty ways to enjoy it.
This BBQ tempeh with brown rice and roasted veggies was a big hit at our house.  To make the tempeh, I used the following:
  • 1 8-ounce package of tempeh
  • water for simmering
  • 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
To prepare, start by simmering the tempeh in a bit of water for 8-10 minutes.  (I read somewhere to do this, but, again, not sure if it's really necessary.)

Once drained and cooled, slice tempeh in half width-wise (like a bagel), then into fourths.

Blend the olive oil and soy sauce, pour it over the tempeh, and let it marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Line a baking pan with foil and transfer marinated tempeh to pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven.

Brush tempeh with barbecue sauce on both sides, then return tempeh to the oven for another 10-20 minutes, or until sauce has baked on.

Tempeh also crumbles well, so it can be used in place of ground beef in tons of recipes, from tacos to spaghetti.  A while back, I used crumbled up tempeh to make these super easy sloppy joes.
I just sauteed some peppers, onions, garlic, and crumbled tempeh in olive oil.  Let it all simmer in BBQ or sloppy joe sauce for a while so that the tempeh absorbs the flavor, and serve on a bun or bread of your choice.

I hope you liked these easy ideas for preparing tofu and tempeh!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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