Today’s Health Morsel: Tempeh

 

 

breakfast_text

I like my fruity breakfasts, especially as the weather starts to get warmer. For me, a nice light breakfast is the best way to start the day.

  • 1/2 c strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 charentais melon

I sprinkle the flaxseed on top of the banana because, for me, the texture isn’t right with the melon or strawberries, but works well with the banana.

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruits, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

Dinner will be satisfying but somewhat heavy, so I want to have a lighter lunch and get in plenty of greens!

  • 1/4 c broccoli
  • 1/4 c cauliflower
  • 2 c chopped lettuce
  • 1/4 c red bell pepper
  • 1/8 c corn kernels
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 1 c cooked black beans

I had my salad today with My Basic Dressing.

Checklist items: 2 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, .5 other vegetables, 1 nuts, .25 whole grains (6.75 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

20170417_132916.jpg

Normally, if you have the option of buying a processed, packaged food or its unprocessed original form (e.g., strawberries vs strawberry jam), the healthier option is the unprocessed whole food. Not the case with tempeh! Edamame/soybeans are actually somewhat less nutritious than tempeh.

Why? Well, if you look at tempeh, you can actually see the soybeans in it – it is a whole food, but a fermented one. The fermentation process adds nutritional value to the beans by making their proteins, vitamins, minerals, & phytonutrients more digestible, soluble, and bioavailable, as well as creating smaller proteins called peptides, some of which are unique to soy itself and carry their own health benefits.

Another quality fermentation adds to soy is antimutagenicity, meaning it helps to prevent gene mutation. This is important in fighting off damage to our DNA, and it’s not small potatoes since there are approximately 800 incidents per hour of DNA damage in our bodies, on average. If that damage goes unchecked, it can lead to cancer.

Those little peptides mentioned above are important, too, as they are part of what makes tempeh an antioxidant powerhouse and anti-inflammatory, in addition to being classified as ACE-inhibitors. The peptides also aid in blood pressure and blood sugar level regulation, and boost immune function. There is also research suggesting that some of these same unique soy peptides (again, only present in fermented soy products) may help to manage & prevent obesity. They’ve been shown to decrease the formation of some fatty acids and even to inhibit the body from depositing the fatty acids into fat cells. It will be interesting to see how this research progresses.

For more information about the amazing soybean, check out this podcast.

Another benefit of tempeh is that it contains zero cholesterol, and even helps to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Today, I’m making tempeh meatballs. 113 grams (4 oz.) of 95% lean ground beef contains 24 g of protein and >70 mg cholesterol. The same amount of tempeh contains >20 g of protein without that nasty stuff. As a package deal, I’ll take the tempeh!

20170502_183329.jpg

I got lucky in that I stumbled on this tempeh meatball concoction after trying only 2 or 3 so-so meatball recipes. I love it so much that I don’t want to take the risk of trying others and then being sad that they aren’t as good. As usual, I’ve made some changes from the original. This makes enough for 3 meals/people.

  • 100 g tempeh
  • 1 c vegetable stock or water
  • 1 T miso paste (also a product of fermented soybeans)
  • 1 T tamari (a byproduct of miso, thus, also fermented soy)
  • 1 lg onion
  • 1 lg clove garlic
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 tsps Italian seasoning (I use a mix of oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, rosemary, & sage)
  • 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley
  • 2/3 c whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 c cooked white beans
  • 380 ml (1 2/3 c) marinara sauce
  • 57 g (6 oz) dry pasta (or 3 c cooked)
  1. Break tempeh into chunks and cook in a small saucepan with veggie stock or water and tamari until liquid is absorbed, using a spoon occasionally to break into ever-smaller pieces.
  2. In the meantime, sauté onion & garlic.
  3. Mix miso & tomato paste together.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the beans, pasta & marinara and mix well.
  5. Form into balls (mine are a/b 50 g each)
  6. Either bake them for 30 minutes at 180° C (350° F) or heat them in a non-stick pan until browned. No liquid necessary.
  7. In the meantime, boil whole wheat pasta and warm up marinara sauce & white beans.

Or, you can substitute the pasta for whole grain bread and make meatball subs! Also extremely yummy! The checklist items are for 1 serving, not for the entire recipe.

Checklist items: 1 beans, 1.5 other vegetables, 2 spices, 2.75 whole grains (7.25 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

19 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus an extra serving of spices.

Today’s Health Morsel: Lentils

Not a fan of lentils? That’s okay! Today’s lentil recipe is even a hit with non-lentil-lovers. The humble lentil is so inexpensive, yet filling and highly nutritious. I’ll get into that later, but first …

breakfast_text

I made a big fruit salad yesterday, containing 1 pineapple, 2 passion fruit, 3 plums, 1 particularly large mango, & 2 kiwi. I’ll have some of that for breakfast!

  • 2 c. fruit salad sprinkled with 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c. dates
  • 1/2 c. blueberries

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruit, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

I’ll be getting all my bean & grain servings at dinner, but not much in the way of veg, so I’m having a very vegetable-heavy lunch (a.k.a., a salad).

  • 2 c. lettuce and arugula, chopped
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c. red onion
  • 1/4 c. cucumber
  • 1/4 c. corn kernels
  • 1/4 c. walnuts

I had my salad with My Basic Dressing.

Checklist items: 2 greens, 2 other vegetables, nuts (5 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

wp-image-575592051jpg.jpeg

 

Ah. The lowly lentil. A quick read into the history of lentils leaves one with the impression that mankind may not have evolved like we did if not for the lentil. This was one of the first plants ever to be cultivated, and lentils have been eaten by our kind since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found 8000 year-old lentil seeds at dig sites in the Middle East, and evidence suggests we may have been eating them as much as 13,000 years ago. And that just goes to show that, even though our species can be pretty stupid at times, we do have some brains. Lentils are among the best foods that you could possibly put into your body. And here’s why…

Among legumes, only black beans top lentils in terms of antioxidant power. For protein, iron, zinc, & folate, red lentils come in first, followed closely by puy & green lentils. This data, however, does not include information on beluga lentils which, like black beans, have a black skin jam-packed with anthocyanin. I would be interested to see whether they might even beat out black beans for antioxidant power. The reason I think they might is based on simple geometry: all else being roughly equal, the smaller object should have a larger surface-area-to-volume ratio. Thus, the lentil should have more skin as a percentage of its total than the black bean. Since the antioxidants are in the skin, the beluga lentil may actually have higher antioxidant power. I’m sure we’ll find out someday.

Lentils have a higher fiber content than almost anything else. For a fiber chart and all the information you (n)ever wanted to know about fiber, visit this page. Here’s a couple of highlights: first, all that soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol by trapping cholesterol-containing bile & “ushering” it out of your system. Second, fiber also helps to regulate & stabilize blood sugar levels.

Another good reason to eat lentils is their iron content. Richer in iron than anything but soybeans, lentils can help maintain healthy metabolism, produce energy, & maintain hemoglobin. Foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., broccoli, bell peppers, & brussels sprouts) help to increase plant-based iron absorption if eaten at the same meal (learn more about different types of iron here). But avoid coffee & tea, as they impair iron absorption. According to the Iron Disorders Institute, this is due, at least in part, to polyphenols & tannins rather than caffeine. For more info about iron & a list of foods highest in iron, visit this page.

If you have high homocysteine levels in your blood from a history of consuming animal products, the folate in lentils (along with vitamin B6, of which lentils are also a good source, and vitamin B12) will help to lower those levels, reducing both damage to your arteries, and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, a daily dose of lentils (or peas or beans) is important for prostate health.

All that research has made me hungry: now, for dinner!

This will serve 2 – 3 people, depending on appetite. For the checklist items at the end, I assume you bring your appetite. What am I making? Misr Wat. It’s an Ethiopian dish of lentils with Berbere spice blend, to which I add kale. It is traditionally served with injera – similar to a crêpe – but I’m serving it over black rice. If you can get your hands on some  real injera made with teff, a whole grain, that would also be a good option. This dish is great for rainy or cold days, as it is hearty and satisfying. 

  • 3 c. cooked black rice (a/b 1 c. dry)
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • 1 c. finely chopped kale
  • 3 c. (900 ml) vegetable bouillon or water
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 1 1/2 T Berbere spice mix
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  1. Sauté the onions, garlic, & ginger in water or bouillon, like this.
  2. Stir in tomato paste & Berbere spice mix, and continue cooking for about 1 minute as you combine everything.
  3. Slowly add bouillon, whisking until the mixture is smooth, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add lentils & kale, and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  5. Turn off the burner, and stir in lime juice.
  6. Serve over black rice and sprinkle with cilantro.

Checklist items: 3 beans, cruciferous, .5 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (8.5 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18.5 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus half an extra serving of other vegetables.

Recipe Review: Root vegetable tagine

I found the original recipe for Root Vegetable Tagine on Epicurious. It’s by a woman named Molly Stevens and, looking at her profile, I can see that it’s definitely one of those accidentally-vegan recipes. I’ve made it a few times now, and have perfected it to my  own taste. The original recipe totally didn’t work for me, but I saw the potential and I did find that with just a few small changes, the recipe got not only seriously yummy, but also healthier, cheaper and quicker to make than the original! Wins all around! Here it is as I made it (and many thanks to Molly Stevens for the inspiration):

20170111_140619.jpg

The Recipe
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 large carrots (I chopped the carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and celery rather small in order to cook them quickly)
  • 3 small turnips
  • 1 large celery stalk or a chunk of celeriac, roughly apple-sized (I used the latter)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, well-washed, skin-ON
  • 1 c. garbanzo beans
  • 1 c. bulgur (dry)
  • 4 c. vegetable broth (preferably homemade) or increase to 6 c. if you wish to cook the bulgur in broth rather than water
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh mint, chopped

The original recipe called for 3 T olive oil, 3/4 c. olives, 1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper, only 1/4 tsp turmeric, and a whopping 4 1/2 tsps of salt, all of which I omitted. The salt was supposed to go into making preserved lemons, which I also left out simply to save some time. The lemon juice, which was meant for the preserved lemons, I repurposed by adding it to the tagine directly.

I did use 1/4 tsp of salt. I only left out the red pepper flakes because the last two dinners I’ve made have been seriously spicy, and I just wasn’t in the mood for a third.

The first time that I made the recipe, I included the olives and the sun-dried tomatoes. I absolutely hated the olives in this dish, though I’m an olive lover in general. For me, they just didn’t fit. The second time I made it, I decided that I didn’t really enjoy the sun-dried tomatoes, either, even though I’m generally a HUGE fan of them. Losing both of these items significantly reduces the cost of making this dish, while also reducing the salt  & oil contents, making it healthier.

I used vegetable broth in place of the water called for in the original to add another level of nutrients.

I also used far more herbs than the original recipe, which only called for 2 T cilantro and 1 tsp dried mint. In my opinion, if you’ve got more salt than mint in your recipe, something is off! I wanted to make my bulgur a little more bright and tabbouleh-ish to balance out the richness of the root veg.

I used regular old garbanzos rather than the spice-roasted ones called for, simply to reduce the amount of time it would take to pull this recipe together.

Last but not least, I used bulgur, a whole grain, rather than couscous, which is essentially a  type of pasta made with semolina flour.

Cooking Instructions

I did several things differently, so rather than refer you to the original recipe for instructions, I’ll tell you exactly what I did.

  1. Toast the spice seeds in a pan on medium heat until they become quite fragrant, just 2 or 3 minutes, then grind them and mix in the turmeric and salt.
  2. In a large pan, sauté the onions in a little of the broth until translucent, then add the garlic, and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spices, tomato paste, and 4 c. broth; stir until the tomato paste is fully incorporated into the broth.
  4. Add the vegetables and the garbanzo beans.
  5. Cook, covered and on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes, depending on the size of the cut.
  6. In the meantime, prepare the bulgur as instructed on the box, using broth rather than water, if desired. Once it’s ready, stir and allow to cool a little.
  7. Add the fresh herbs to the bulgur and stir them in.
  8. Serve the vegetables on top of the bulgur.
Nutrition Information

This recipe will feed 3 people with a hearty appetite. The nutrition information below is for 1/3 of the recipe as made here, with one exception – I didn’t include the use of my homemade vegetable broth in place of water. Also, I assumed canned garbanzo beans. Using cooked-from-dry will lower sodium content.

Root veg tagine nutrition info
generated using cronometer.com

 

Checklist items: just under 1 beans, just under 1 cruciferous, .5 greens, 3 other vegetables, spices, 2 whole grains (about 8 out of 18 servings)

For easy reference, here’s what you’ll need to round out the day:

  • 2 beans
  • berries
  • 3 other fruits
  • 1.5 greens
  • flaxseeds
  • nuts
  •  1 whole grains

And now I’m really wishing I were having this for dinner tonight! I’ll definitely be making it again very soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Health Morsel: Beets!

Today’s daily dozen meal plan starts out hot & sweet, ends with ice cream, and incorporates the beautiful beet. Plus, i’ll explain why nitrates are beneficial in beets but bad news in bacon.


 

breakfast_text

cornmeal_20160627_135454As the weather gets colder I have less desire for fruit in the morning. I’m a lot more interested in putting something warm in my belly. So, this morning I went for cornmeal mush.

  • 1/2 c. hot cornmeal mush w/
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. dried figs
  • 1 nectarine

Checklist items: 2 other fruits, 1 whole grains (3 out of 18 servings)


 

lunch_text

Even though it’s late September now, I still have loads of fresh lettuce in the garden, so I’m having a nice big salad of beans & greens, all from the garden, with Chef AJ’s House Dressing for lunch.

  • 1 1/2 c. borlotti beans
  • 1/2 c. arugula
  • 2 c. kamikaze lettuce
  • 1 T ground flaxseed to sprinkle on top
  • a little fresh basil, coriander & mint

Checklist items: 3 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, flaxseeds, spices (8 out of 18 servings)


 

dinner_text

beetroot-687251_640

Surprisingly, there’s a lot to say on the topic of beets. Let’s start with nitrates. Beets are high in nitrates. Nitrates can form nitrites, which are fine in themselves, but they can go on to form either nitric oxide or nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic – cancer-causing – so we definitely want to be sure that our beets are not giving us cancer. No worries! Nitrosamines form from nitrites in processed meats, in the absence of plants. This occurs in the meat itself before it ever makes it onto a dinner plate, so, even though a measly 20 mg of vitamin C blocks nitrosamine production, adding a salad to your sausage dinner isn’t going to help.

Nitric oxide, on the other hand, is what we get when we eat beets or other nitrate-rich whole vegetables. Our bodies love nitric oxide! It makes energy production more efficient by requiring less oxygen. This increases athletic performance, as well as endurance of any physical activity in people with emphysema, high blood pressure, and peripheral artery disease. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, increasing blood-flow especially to at-risk areas of the ageing brain. A side-effect of the body being able to produce energy more efficiently is metabolism reduction. That might sound scary, like beets will make you gain weight, but slower metabolism is actually associated with longevity. Nitric oxide is also effective at removing carcinogenic bile acids from our bodies. Of several vegetables tested, beets were #1 for this particular task (even beet-ing out kale).

There’s just one down-side. Though the best way to prevent most kidney stones it cutting meat out of the diet, people who are predisposed to absorbing oxalates may want to limit their consumption of beets, as they are a high-oxalate food. And, just in case you want to be extra sure that nitrite doesn’t turn into nitrosamine – you can always eat nitrate-rich foods with a single slice of bell pepper, or eat 2 strawberries before dinner. That’s all the vitamin C you’ll need (see sources).

The recipe I’m making comes from the Kitchn: Vegan Beet Pesto Pasta. I eyed it skeptically for a while before deciding to try it. It was amazing!! I absolutely loved it. And, as you might imagine, the color of your pesto makes this a fun meal to try with kids or guests. Plus, it’s super-fast to make – you basically throw the ingredients in a blender and it’s ready, making it the perfect dinner after a busy day. I made just 1 change from the original recipe, which was wp-1474350881956.jpgto replace the olive oil with the same amount of aquafaba. The amounts below reflect 1/4 of the original recipe, which was my serving size.

  • 1 1/2 c. cooked & drained whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 2 T crushed almonds
  • 1/2 large purple beet, cooked & peeled (a/b 1 c.)
  • 5 T aquafaba
  • 1 1/2 tsps red wine vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • chives, minced (optional)

Put everything except for the pasta into a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth (or see the Kitchn’s instructions, which are a bit more…complete. Don’t worry it’s only one more step). Toss with hot pasta and garnish with chives, if desired. Also, see the original recipe for much more beautiful pictures of this dish.

Checklist items: 2 other vegetables, 1/2 nuts, spices, 3 whole grains (6 1/2 out of 18 servings)


 

dessert_text

Banana-raspberry ice dream for dessert will finish off our fruit & nut requirements for the day. Life’s hard, eh?

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T crushed hazelnuts

Put everything into a high-speed blender. Pulse until the bananas are broken into small chunks and then blend until it’s the consistency of ice cream. Serving with crushed nuts on top.

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruit, 1/2 nuts, spices (3 1/2 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

21 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus 2 extra servings of spices & one of whole grains.