Tempeh Chorizo Tacos + a Green Crema

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We have a taco restaurant in town that has the most amazing tempeh chorizo tacos. We don’t go often but when we do, I always always get them. When it comes to tacos, we make them frequently at home and I tend to be quite non-traditional in my approach. But after a few experiences with Tacovore’s tempeh chorizo, I knew I had to start experimenting with a version for home.

Admittedly, it took a few tries because I wanted to reach that complexity of flavor that those restaurant tacos have. My version is slightly different, but also so good. I’ve been sitting on this recipe for well over a year now, so lots of tacos have happened since then. That means this recipe is well tested for you all. :)

 

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Tempeh, if you’ve never had it, is traditionally made from fermenting soy beans. It comes in a big block and unlike tofu, you can see the individual beans pressed together. Consuming soy is often a contentious issue in the health community, with some people avoiding it entirely, and others eating it in everything (namely, the ‘processed-food’ vegan crowd and those that buy lots of mainstream packaged foods). Soy gets its polarity because many people have been told to avoid it for breast cancer prevention and some other estrogen disorders. While I’m not suggesting anyone defy their oncologist’s advice, traditionally prepared whole soy in foods such as tofu and especially tempeh actually has a lot of data that suggests positive health outcomes related to breast and other hormonal-linked cancers, and even more so if it’s been consumed in traditional foods since an early age. This is because soy and other legumes contain what are called phytoestrogens or plant-estrogens and they selectively bind to estrogen receptors in the body, thus potentially blocking the action of endogenous estrogen in adverse health circumstances.

The reason I particularly like tempeh, beyond its taste, is that compared to other plant-based protein sources, it is richer in protein and its fermentation process means it helps with digestive system health. For athletes that tend to avoid meat, adding tempeh to meal rotations is an excellent way to help with muscle repair, endocrine and immune health, and to keep the body functionally optimally, since protein is used throughout the body in enzymes to make metabolic reactions occur.

If one is avoiding soy for any reason, there are now non-soy tempehs available using other legumes and sometimes grains. I’ve just discovered a company locally that sells these products and I’m also aware of a great one based out of Portland, Oregon which has expanded its distribution to at least the Seattle/western Washington area. If you’re curious about tempeh but avoid soy, I encourage you to keep your eyes open to new non-soy versions in your area.

Lastly, when consuming soy in whole-food products such as tempeh, tofu, or edamame, look for non-GMO, organically grown products since there are many negative health outcomes linked to GMO soy.

 

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For this recipe, I made the tempeh chorizo, dry-roasted a little broccoli (my favorite way to delicious broccoli), and then topped them both with cabbage, cilantro, and a green cashew crema. All together–delicious! Beyond the tacos, the chorizo is also great in a big taco salad with whatever fixings you prefer, and minus the chili powder and red pepper flakes in the seasoning, it will also make a great weekend savory breakfast protein.

 

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Tempeh Chorizo, makes enough for approximately 12 small tacos
12 oz. tempeh
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
¾ tsp. fennel seeds
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground coriander
¾ tsp. ground cumin
dash or two of ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. white miso
1 Tbs. reduced sodium tamari
¼-1/2 cup water

  1. Steam tempeh for 5-10 minutes, cool slightly, and then chop into really fine pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in a small amount of coconut oil. Then add spices and cook an additional minute.
  3. Add tempeh and cook until beginning to brown.
  4. In a small cup, mash the miso in the tamari and then add ¼ cup water. Cook until nice and sizzling and the right consistency, adding more water if necessary.

 

Green Cashew Crema, makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 4-8 hours or overnight
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1-2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
½ clove garlic
a big handful of spinach
a pinch of ground turmeric and dash pepper
ground cayenne, to taste
½ cup water or more

  1. Drain and rinse the cashews.
  2. Put all ingredients, except the water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend, adding water a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

 

A Note:
If you’re interested in learning more about phytoestrogens and breast cancer, I encourage you to read the summary of research available on the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners website, and possibly discuss with your physician.

 

The material on this website is not to be used by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your personal physician or reach out to me for specific, individualized nutritional advice.

 

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Pistachio Rhubarb + Candied Ginger Loaf

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If you search google for pistachio and rhubarb, just about a gazillion delicious recipes pop up. The two ingredients are a classic pairing. But so are strawberries and rhubarb, orange and rhubarb, honey and rhubarb, rhubarb and rose, and of course, ginger and rhubarb. Personally I love them all as well as rhubarb just on its own.

When we moved into our house in early 2016, the first plant to go in the ground was rhubarb. And as a two-person household with four healthy plants, we get to enjoy a lot of it. And by we I mean one of us absolutely loves it in ever-y-thing, and one of us thinks he doesn’t.

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The Recipe Redux asked us to make a healthy-ish recipe to celebrate spring celebrations–something like baby or bridal showers, graduations, and the like. As I’m writing this, it is commencement day for my master of science degree in clinical nutrition, and since I decided not to make the trip back across the country to actually partake in it, celebrating at home with my longest run since Boston and this rhubarb loaf will do quite nicely.

Before we get there, let me tell you a little interesting nutritional tidbit about rhubarb and its oxalic acid content.

Many people know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and can cause harm if ingested. It’s why they’re never sold with the leaves on. What most don’t know is that they are toxic because they contain a lot of oxalic acid which the stalks also contain, though not as much. Spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard are also high in oxalic acid, which is why for some they can have that puckery-weird mouthfeel that also presents in unsweetened rhubarb. Interestingly, rhubarb is high in calcium, which spinach and Sweet chard has a bit of as well but the oxalate content interferes with absorption, so much so that when I worked for the Linus Pauling Institute, the researchers there said not to expect to get any calcium from a meal with lots of rhubarb, spinach, or Swiss chard. Other sources are a little more lenient on this topic (1, 2). Though there is nutritional debate on the idea, oxalic acid may also interfere with absorption of the iron content from spinach–which for this or other reasons is not at all a ‘good source’ of iron because of its absorption rate despite myths that it is in the plant-based community and beyond.

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Now, out of the nutritional weeds and into reality. So what is wrong with eating lots and lots of high oxalate-containing foods? Other than needing to get your calcium elsewhere, certain people can develop kidney stones if they consume too much. Otherwise, those leafy greens and rhubarb are packed with lots of other nutrients we need. And this is a good time to remind us all that eating a diverse variety of whole as-close-to-nature-made foods is best for health.

With all that new knowledge circulating in our brains, let’s have a slice of tea cake / loaf and celebrate. Because I’m no longer a grad student, it’s rhubarb season, is May the best month, and the sun rises early and sets late these days making more time for play.

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Whatever your cause for celebration, this is a nice little loaf for an occasion. It’s not overly sweet, not too rich, but has just enough punches of sweetness from the candied ginger and roundness of flavor to make it all come together well. Combined with the pinks and greens in the loaf from the pistachios and rhubarb (more so if you have pinker rhubarb stalks than mine), it’s delicious and in my opinion, a good way to celebrate this classic pairing of rhubarb, pistachios, ginger, and because I couldn’t resist, a bit of orange!

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Pistachio Rhubarb + Candied Ginger Loaf, makes one large loaf of about 10 slices

1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
1/2 cup (110 g) coconut oil
1 cup (110 g) non-dairy yogurt
2 Tbs. ground flax + 6 Tbs. water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs. orange juice and zest from 1 orange
2 cups (230 g) chopped rhubarb
1 cup (120 g) chickpea flour
2/3 cup (70 g) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (30 g) arrowroot starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (50 g) pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup (30 g) candied ginger pieces, diced small

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • In a small dish combine the flax seeds and water to form a slurry. Allow to sit and thicken up for about 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, flax slurry, yogurt, vanilla, orange juice and zest, and rhubarb. In another bowl, combine the flours, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in the chopped pistachios and ginger pieces.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean once its done.
  • Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Cool completely before serving, and as usual with this type of loaf recipe, the flavors generally combine and improve on the day after baking.

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  1. Weil, A. (2008). Avoid Vegetables with Oxalic Acid?
  2. WH Foods. (n.d.). Can you tell me about oxalates, including the foods that contain them and how are they related to nutrition and health?

Lemon + Sunflower Spring Quinoa

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A few weeks ago when we were in Boston for the marathon and our post-grad school (me) / post-tax season (William) vacation, we stayed in a cozy third-story Airbnb  apartment atop one of those ancient New England houses with narrow stairs and doors that close in every room. It was lovely and reminded me of my parents’ farmhouse before they tore out walls and opened up the space, but kept the narrow stairs.

The apartment had a tiny kitchen filled with old antique cabinets and a cozy eating nook luckily with skylight to let in more of the morning sun. What I loved about it — and every time we stay in a ‘cozy’ Airbnb actually, is that it reminds me of my time living in Ireland, cooking with whatever slim equipment is on hand, and creating simple meals with minimal ingredients. I’m often asked to share just these types of recipes. Admittedly, at home I prefer to plan meals a little more like a chef with a list of five or so meal ideas at the beginning of the week, and then I make one or two ‘parts’ of more complicated meals each day, often rolling over one component such as a sauce into another day and different meal. This isn’t the usual process for most people, I understand, but being in the kitchen is a major therapeutic relief and creativity space for me.

 

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When traveling, I usually switch up my routine to make the simplest of meals, only planning one meal ahead the night before a major race, and leaving it up to whatever we feel like in the following days. Because of my food and digestion sensitivities, I’m a stickler about making my own meal before races, but then am often a bit more lenient afterwards. When we were in Boston, we ate out about half or a third of the time thanks to ending up in a really great section of the city for delicious and allergen-friendly food. The rest of the time, I improvised with a few of the ingredients I’d stuffed in my suitcase, my tiny Ireland-era traveling spice and seasoning case, and a stop at the grocery for some fresh produce. On our last night there, I ended up with a version of this spring quinoa combination and I immediately knew I had to recapture and finesse it for all y’all that prefer some simple weeknight inspirations!

 

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At home, I added a couple fresh additions I didn’t have on the road like fresh mint and miso paste. I’ve kept them in the finished recipe because if you don’t already keep miso on hand to add umami flavor and depth to sauces, you definitely should try it. And fresh mint, though not always available without a garden, is a flavorful and helpful-for-digestion addition that can be added or not.

 

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Lemon + Sunflower Spring Quinoa, makes main-dish servings for 4 to 5
1 cup dry quinoa, cooked ahead
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans or 1 can
1 small bunch broccoli, chopped semi-small
a couple large handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch radishes with greens, washed well and sliced thin
1 cup peas
salt and pepper as needed
fresh mint, minced

Lemon + Sunflower Dressing
1/4 cup sunflower butter
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1  tsp. honey or maple syrup (optional)
1 Tbs. light miso (I use chickpea miso)

  • Cook the quinoa and chickpeas ahead. Or use one can of drained chickpeas.
  • After all the vegetables are sliced, combine them in a large skillet with a little water to steam-fry. I like to add the broccoli first, cover for a few minutes, and then add the rest in stages with the mushrooms, radishes, and lastly the peas. Once they’re cooked through but not soggy-soft, add in the quinoa and beans, stir and heat just until it’s all warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste at this point.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, combine the dressing ingredients in a small dish and whisk with a fork or spoon until they come together well. Add a splash or two of water if needed to thin it up. The consistency should be spoon-able but not runny.
  • Pour the dressing over the quinoa and vegetables, mix it all together, and then sprinkle the mint leaves atop and serve.