Tag Archives: nutrition

tempeh tikka masala

 

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Do you remember when I talked about my shame/pride of buying my tofu in bulk or that I was actually in the anti-tofu and soy foods camp for a whole lot of years? Well…let me tell you about the first time I bought tempeh, the fermented soy product that I now love and enjoy often.

At some point in mid-college I purchased a package of this wonky, brown and slightly moldy-looking fermented tempeh at my co-op since it was different and not meat. I was still eating meat regularly then but was also very veg/health foods curious. I took the tempeh home, cut it up and used it in something…and I thought it was gross. I didn’t try it again for a good number of years until after Deborah Madison in The New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone convinced me it was actually quite good for me and not a “fake meat.” And following her cooking suggestions, I tried again and found I enjoyed it a whole lot!

One of the reasons tempeh is good for us is because it is fermented and it helps to inoculate our gut with good microbes. If you haven’t heard me gushing about the microbiome in past posts, well…you probably haven’t also spent an hour or two in my presence because I’m pretty sure the topic makes its way into everyday conversation on the regular. The two big reasons I’m pretty darn fascinated with the topic is that much of our immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract, thanks to the plethora of microbes that make their homes there AND about 90 percent of serotonin, one of the feel-good neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood, relaxation, sleep, and even appetite, is also made and housed in the gut. I’ve struggled with immune dysfunction for a number of years, thanks largely to food sensitivities and compromised gut health, and also with anxiety in various forms for much of my life.

This month, The Recipe Redux challenged us to share a recipe that promotes gut health, and good timing too, because cold and flu season is upon us, as are the dark, damp, and cold days of late fall and winter when moods tend to take a nosedive.

 

Before I do, I want to share three important things you can do to enhance your internal microbial community, and thus immune health (and likely mood too!)

The first is eating more fiber. The good bacteria that promote health need fiber, which they digest into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate and propionate. SCFAs are not otherwise available in the diet, and they’re responsible for a whole host of disease preventative effects, one of which is combatting inflammation. The more fiber we consume, the more diverse our microbial life (a good thing), the more short chain fatty acids that are produced, and the more health tends to improve. Fiber in foods comes in the form of fruits and vegetables, whole, unprocessed grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. If you have trouble digesting fiber-rich foods, it likely means you just need a little time to increase them in your diet gradually, as the good bacteria that digest them will grow prolifically if only given their preferred foods, and this can happen in a matter of just a few days!

The second thing to promote gut health, as I hinted above, is to eat more fermented foods like tempeh, miso, sourdough bread, raw sauerkraut and kimchi, and fermented unsweetened yogurt. When we eat fermented foods, we’re introducing the beneficial bacteria instead of feeding the ones already there. Aim for a large variety of fermented foods as this further promotes diversity of bacteria populations and optimal health.

The tempeh that I’m now so fond of is made from organic soybeans that are inoculated with a spore and then fermented. The fermentation process breaks down phytates, which are anti-nutrients and bind minerals and vitamins, so we can digest them. Tempeh is also rich in protein, B vitamins, fiber, phytonutrients, and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, and copper. What’s more, tempeh doesn’t actually have to be cooked so it makes for a quick addition to meals. What Deborah Madison taught me is that steaming it for about 10 minutes before adding into a dish does make it tastier, as it can sometimes be a little bitter without this extra step. I tend to steam when I have the time and just dice and toss into recipes when I’m ready for food on the quick!

Lastly for optimal gut health, reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates, as they promote the proliferation of bad bacteria. Like a kid on too much Halloween candy, more sugar makes the disease-promoting bacteria really happy and they grow in number and increase inflammation and a whole host of less than ideal health outcomes.

 

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Now, for the recipe! Tikka Masala is actually a British dish that came about when a tomato sauce was combined with Indian-spiced vegetables and meat. It is super popular in Britain and Ireland as simply “Chicken Curry,” and this recipe began a number of years ago as a quick dairy-free chicken curry that William and I loved. Over the years, I dropped the chicken, added tempeh, and made several gentle tweaks, and we now have a gut and immune-friendly tempeh tikka masala that can be adapted depending on the season, and comes together quickly without all the marinating and spice rubs of a traditional tikka. Any type of canned coconut milk can be used here, but the whole fat kind will obviously make for a richer, more-rounded dish, and it’s the type I favor these days.

 

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Tempeh Tikka Masala, serves four
16-oz. tempeh, cut into about 48 pieces
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob of fresh ginger
2-3 cups chopped seasonal vegetables (yellow/orange/red bell peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, peas, etc.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium garden-ripe tomatoes or 14 oz. canned unsalted whole tomatoes
1 cup coconut milk
juice from one lime
cooked brown rice to serve

  • In a small saucepan with steamer basket and 1-2 inches of water in bottom, steam the diced tempeh for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the coconut oil, and then add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Once the onions have begun to caramelize and turn golden, add the remaining vegetables and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes. Then add the spices and mix in.
  • Give the mixture a minute or two and then add the tomatoes and stir. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, and then add the coconut milk, tempeh, and lime juice.
  • Stir everything together, let the flavors meld for an additional 10 minutes or so, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, and enjoy over steamed rice.

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References:

BMJ. (2015). High dietary fiber intake linked to health promoting short chain fatty acids: Beneficial effects not limited to vegetarian or vegan diets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150929070122.htm.

Cresci, G.A. and Bawden, E. (2015). The gut microbiome: What we do and don’t know. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 30(6), 734-746. doi: 10.1177/0994533615609899.

Rich, P. (2017). Gut science is radically changing what we know of the human body. University Affairs. Retrieved from: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/gut-research/.

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Asian Tofu Tacos with Miso-Lime Sliced Greens

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I dropped into my co-op the other evening to pick up a few items for the week, one of which was the tofu for these tacos. But the store had experienced two power outages in the hours before, and being small and without a generator, they had to pull most of the chilled items from the shelves, one of which was the tofu.

Back in the bulk section stocking up on other items, I realized they did still have tofu in bulk, however, and as I pulled a big wedge out of its liquid and slid it into a container, I thought oh you’re a real hippy now, even buying your tofu in bulk. There was an equal mixture of horror and pride in projecting what all the folks back home in conservative cattle country would think of me now, mixed all in with my saving the planet one eco-friendly practice at a time tendencies.

 

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And then, just as soon as all those conflicting thoughts went through my head, a line from a recent book (and I even forget which one) streamed through:

Drop your story. Drop whatever story you’re telling about or to yourself, and don’t pick another one up. 

And that’s where I stopped. And focused on re-filling my spice jars and getting more sesame oil. I think it’s all around better we all just drop our internal narratives and big talk/thinking about who we are and generally try to focus on the task at hand. Wouldn’t you say?

That’s my intention today anyway. What is yours?

 

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Asian Tofu Tacos with Miso-Lime Sliced Greens, serves 4
Originally inspired by Sara Forte in her first cookbook, and before-then inspired by her experience at an LA taco truck, the flavors in these tacos will truly welcome in this transitioning season. Crunchy Asian pears, tofu with ALL THE FLAVOR, and a slightly sweet, miso, lime + ginger dressing infused through the sliced greens, this is definitely a special occasion taco recipe. Make it to impress your friends. Or drastically upgrade your regular taco night.
For the greens, use collards, kale, a nice crunchy cabbage, or whatever you have on hand. Collards are a great choice if you don’t often use them, however, as they are sturdy, hold up to the heat and cold of the seasons, making them available nearly year round, and they are one of the plant kingdom’s best sources of bio-available calcium, meaning you’ll both ingest and absorb it–an advantage that’s not true of all the calcium-rich greens. 

 

1 lb. firm tofu, use organic/gmo-free/local if you can
for the tofu marinade:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. apple cider or brown rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs. tamari
1 tsp. hot sauce ( I used a homemade green tabasco style)

for the sliced greens dressing:
1 Tbs. yellow miso
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp. maple syrup
2 Tbs. untoasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. hot sauce

4 cups thinly sliced collard greens, kale, or cabbage
1-2 watermelon or regular radishes, optional
corn tortillas
1 Asian pear, sliced thin
lime wedges, to serve

  • Slice the block of tofu in half or thirds length-wise, wrap in paper towels, and then stack between a couple cutting boards and press out the liquid for at least 15 minutes.
  • Whisk together the tofu marinade in a leak-proof container with a lid. When the tofu is pressed, cut it into cubes, and combine it with the marinade. Put the lid on and give it all a few shakes and then chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to a day. More time will allow for more flavor.
  • Once the tofu has marinated, turn it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, flipping it over halfway through.
  • While the tofu is cooking, combine the dressing ingredients and with your hands, massage about half of it through the sliced greens. Add more dressing as necessary or save the extra for another use. You can also add the thinly sliced radishes to the greens, but if they’re extra spicy, toss them onto the baking dish with the tofu in its last few minutes of cooking. It will tame the heat a bit and allow for the sweetness in the radishes to come out.
  • To finish, heat the tortillas and slice the pear and lime.
  • Top the tortillas with all the toppings in any order you prefer, and serve immediately.

Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

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After sharing about my experience with eating at the relay, I got a request to share the kitchari that I made and ate during the race. As I’ve told more than a few people, it is a variation on dozens of “beans and rice” meals that I regularly make and consume. One thing that is different, however, is that I’ve been paying a little more attention to the energetics of food these past few months, how certain things make me feel, physically and emotionally, and really asking myself, What do I need today? to feel my best. Part of this is perhaps just where I’m at in life, with my relationship to food and my body, and the other part is that I find when it comes to healing complex health concerns, which I’ve struggled with for a number of years, I believe we each individually have the internal knowledge of what is best for us, if only we tune in and acknowledge it.

I’ll share a little more about what I have adapted, and suggestions for how you can do the same in the recipe notes below, but first a few good articles, a video, and a podcast episode that I particularly enjoyed these past few weeks.

 

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Nutrition + Food:
Superfood or Super-Hype?: ‘My advice is to think twice before you succumb to the next cure-du-jour and run out to buy this week’s superfood. It might cure what ails you (though probably not). Better to take a thorough look at your lifestyle, habits, and diet. Choose from the widely available healthy foods and go for a long walk!’

The Antioxidant Effects of Acai versus Apples

A Vegan Dietitian Reviews “What the Health”: There has been A LOT of discussion and controversy over this new documentary, but I think Virginia Messina does the best job detailing the problematic nature with how the information was presented.

Microbiome: Increase Your Diversity: ‘However good your diet and gut health, it is not nearly as good as our ancestors’. Everyone should make the effort to improve their gut health by re-wilding their diet and lifestyle. Being more adventurous in your normal cuisine plus reconnecting with nature and its associated microbial life, may be what we all need.’

This Is Your Brain on Cheese: When I first learned I was reacting negatively to gluten and dairy and eliminated them from my diet, I found dairy was much more difficult to remove, and I went through weeks of anger and frustration at the sudden lack. After that ‘detox’ period was over, I have never craved cheese or other dairy again. Some of the evidence in this article explains why.

Are Endurance Athletes More Susceptible to Getting Diabetes? ‘If you’re eating like a Tour de France rider, just make sure you’re training like one too.’

A Cook’s Remedy: I absolutely loved Aran’s video showcasing her Spanish Roots and relationship to food and body, and her journey over the years. It is episode Three, parts one and two.

And Lastly, a podcast episode to really get you thinking about your relationship to food and buying in to diet culture–I know it certainly has been the start of a paradigm shift for me: Isabel Foxen Duke on Sanity around Food, Surrender, Diet Culture, Fat Phobia as a Social Justice Concept + So Much More

 

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Self-Care + Mindfulness:
The Mindfulness of Pure Experience

Turning Softly Towards Your Pain Rather Than Avoiding It: ‘I began to alter my relationship to negative selective memories and go towards them and soften them rather than avoid them. I would notice how they made me feel, where I felt them, breathing deeply, anchoring myself around the thought or memory in order to reduce the impact it had on me.’

The Tomorrow List: ‘Instead of listing what I was grateful for that day, which despite my inability to articulate was still aplenty, I made a list of what I would be grateful to have realised tomorrow. If all went according to my desire’s and the sake of my safety, how I would feel at the end of my day.’

I’ll shoot you straight: ‘If you are resentful and do nothing to change either your exterior or interior, you have not met yourself. If you go back to the same coping mechanisms over and over again with the same results over and over again, you have not met yourself. If you keep opening the same doors over and over and OVER again, there’s a whole untouched hallway ahead of you – and you have not met yourself.’ 

‘I sit here knowing my body will go through so many incarnations and I’m going to treat it like it’s royalty no matter what. I smile because I have not only a yoga practice on the mat but off the mat as well (life, yo) that strives to be authentic, layer-peeling, free of addiction and crutches and sameness, and I feel as if I am gliding down the hallway, door by door. And I realize I am free, I am whole, I am love. And I am not afraid.’

And to end on a slightly lighter note, I love Sophie’s suggestions on 12 Ways to Make Your Kitchen a Hippie Haven, combining both food, nutrition, and mindfulness topics.

 

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Cooling Kitchari
, serves 4
Adapted from What to Eat for How You Feel

Kitchari is a creamy porridge-like blend of beans and rice that has been a staple of Ayurvedic cuisine for many centuries. It is often consumed during times of healing or for detox, as simple frugal fare, and as a comfort meal. There are countless variations on it, and I adapted my own, choosing to cook the beans and rice separate for a less porridge-like texture in lieu of a more soupy curry served over brown rice. I’ve made it with both split yellow mung dal and red lentils. Both are lovely but the red lentils will break down more into that porridge consistency, and the split mung beans will retain a little more texture. The spices used here are more in favor of consuming this during the summer heatwave we are once again experiencing, with cooling and digestion-friendly fennel, and smaller amounts of the heating and pungent ginger and turmeric spices. Additionally, use whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. I chose to use more grounding vegetables from my garden like golden beets, yellow summer squash, carrots, and white ‘salad’ turnips and their greens. My garden is bursting with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant too, and though I really do enjoy those foods, I’m noticing that they’re not leaving me feeling my best so I left them out. If you choose to make this, I invite you to adapt it as needed, adding in one or two minced chili peppers if you’re feeling a little stuck or sluggish, or taking out the black pepper if you’ve been overheated.

1 cup yellow split mung dal or red lentils
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2 cups diced seasonal vegetables
1-2 cups dark leafy greens
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a spice/coffee grinder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, if desired
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup long grain or basmati brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, basil, or parsley
lime wedges, to serve

  • Soak the mung dal or red lentils for at least 30 minutes, then drain, wash well, and and drain again. Do the same in a separate dish with the brown rice.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil, cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes or until all the liquid is completely absorbed and the rice is plump.
  • Combine the mung dal or red lentils and broth or water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir occassionally and skim off the froth that comes to the surface.
  • Add the vegetables and fennel, bay leaves, ginger and turmeric, leaving out the greens for now, and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the beans are soft and fully cooked. Stir occasionally as needed so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  • Then stir in the greens, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just a little longer until the greens soften.
  • To serve, spoon the kitchari over a bowl of rice and top with minced cilantro or other cooling fresh herbs and a few squeezes of lime juice.

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