Tag Archives: tempeh

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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Sprouting Broccoli, Za’atar, Tempeh, + Harissa Yogurt

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Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and the question came up, What are you totally obsessed with right now? I love that question, and in lieu of sharing links and things, here are a couple of life updates/current obsessions:

 

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  • The microbiome and its potential role in virtually all aspects of health and disease. I listened in to most of the Microbiome Medicine Summit last month, and all the new information only cemented this interest.
  • Herbal remedies for stress, sleep, and anxiety: I’ve been taking an introductory class on Herbal Medicine this term and at the beginning of January, we picked one herb to study in depth. I’ve been studying American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and I picked it for its nervine (nerve-supporting), anti-anxiety and anti-spasmodic properties. It’s been fascinating to learn about not only skullcap, but the whole host of other herbs that support sleep, stress, and anxiety, particularly because this is an area I’ve been struggling with. I’ve been carting around a review article titled Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep and instead of reading feel good books, I’ve been re-reading it in my free time (see, obsession!). Also, I’ve been taking a series of herbal formulas which include valerian, lemon balm, chamomile, and passionflower, among others. Like skullcap, these are all sleep and stress-supporting herbs. I’ve been seeing positive results.
  • Positive self-talk and self-care: I’m almost done with my first term in nutrition grad school! It’s been an interesting few weeks, as I began with A LOT of class work, and then gradually dropped off the load and finished classes throughout the term. I have one week left of one class and then a couple weeks break. I’m already excited for next term and in particular, a foundation health and wellness class that focuses on self-care and behavior change. I consider myself somewhat good at self-care, but I’ve been obsessed lately with positive self-talk. As I work on it, I’ve noticed the negative self-talk is gradually improving. I’ve also noticed that I’m usually self-deprecating when I receive compliments, and though I’ve always thought it was just part of being humble, I’ve realized I do not have to make an excuse every time I receive a compliment. I can simply say, thank you, and leave it at that. There are huge things to be gained from building oneself (and others!) up, instead of tearing down.
  • Broccoli. I have eaten so much broccoli these last couple months in the form of broccoli raab, purple sprouting broccoli, romanesco, and just plain, straight-up broccoli. Every time I think I’m ready for a broccoli-break, it ends up in the fridge and I gobble it up. William likes broccoli too, (he’s the one that started this whole broccoli bandwagon), but tax season has him eating away from home so much that I’ve eaten the major share of our broccoli purchases. I’ve also been really into broccoli with tempeh. For forever, I avoided soy products, but something about the fermenty flavor and texture is just so delicious right now. I’ve been adding it in to meals every other week or so, and alongside roasted broccoli and harissa, it’s simply delicious. Also: if the amount of broccoli I’ve eaten parallels how many times I’ve written broccoli in this paragraph, it may be time for a mini-break!

 

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Sprouting Broccoli, Za’atar, Tempeh + Harissa Yogurt, serves 2

This is the kind of comforting bowl-food that I enjoy eating, always. Harissa, a north African hot sauce, is spicy and contributes a lot of the flavor. Add as much or as little as you prefer but keep in mind the yogurt balances the heat, as do the other ingredients. This is the sort of recipe that can easily be switched up depending. William is not so big a fan of tempeh, and I can imagine this would be just as good with any number of other protein types. Likewise, the harissa would be equally good mixed into a little thinned cashew cream for a different sort of sauce, sans yogurt. 

1-2 bunches sprouting broccoli, sliced into 2-inch pieces

coconut oil

6 oz. tempeh, cubed

1 Tbs. za’atar or more as needed

½ cup coconut yogurt

1-3 Tbs. harissa, to taste (I used Ottolenghi’s recipe, but you can also purchase)

steamed millet, to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and toss together broccoli pieces, tempeh, za’atar and a little coconut oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout.
  • While the broccoli is roasting, stir together the yogurt and harissa. Start with a small amount of harissa and adjust according to taste.
  • Once the broccoli is done, serve with steamed millet or another grain, and top with harissa yogurt.

 

Reference:

Head, K.A. and Kelly, G.S. (2009). Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep. Alternative Medicine Review, 14 (2), 114-133.

 


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