Tag Archives: sesame

Easy Baked Tofu

30 Jul

Over the past few weeks, several people have come to me with concerns about eating soy. In light of this, I thought I would attempt to clear the air with a post on the great soy debate.

Soy products, including tofu, soy beans, tempeh, and edamame, naturally contain compounds called isoflavones that are similar to the female hormone estrogen. Those who worry about eating soy are usually concerned that consumption of these foods will lead to hormonal disruptions in the body.

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There is limited research on fertility. One study showed that men who ate soy had lower sperm concentrations than those who didn’t – however, in most cases the sperm levels were still normal. It was a small study of only 99 men.

Women with breast cancer and survivors of breast cancer tend to shy away from soy. This is because the estrogen-like compounds in soy are thought to promote the growth of hormone-sensitive tumours. Research in this area is inconclusive, so prudent recommendations exist: moderate amounts of soy (several servings a day) are probably okay if you’ve previously had breast cancer, but don’t consume large amounts if you have early-stage breast cancer.

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If these theoretical concerns exist, why even bother eating soy? The amount of meat our society consumes is putting serious stress on the environment. Plant-based proteins like soy can displace meat from the diet, leading to a happier, healthier earth.

Nutritionally, soy is a good source of high-quality protein. Like meat, it contains all of the essential amino acids that our body needs to function, build muscle, and repair itself. Soy is low in saturated fat, and has been shown to protect against heart disease by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol when 3 servings or more are consumed daily. If consumed regularly in childhood and adolescence, soy products may play a role in preventing some hormone-related cancers. Unlike meat, soy is a good source of calcium, which many people do not get enough of.

Have I convinced you to try adding a little soy into your diet? If so, an easy place to start is edamame (those little green beans served at Japanese restaurants). Almost as simple is this recipe for easy baked tofu. A basic marinade of soy sauce, ketchup, and sesame oil gives the tofu a salty-sweet taste, and roasting it until it’s firm and caramelized builds extra flavour. I’ve been making this dish for years and it’s become a regular protein in my weekday salads. Asian-inspired ingredients like mandarin orange segments, rice, and sesame dressing pair nicely with the tofu, but the marinade is neutral enough that it would work with almost any salad ingredients.

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Easy Baked Tofu
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health)

If you’ve never tried tofu before, you may need to give it a chance on several separate occasions – it’s an acquired taste! 

1 cake of extra-firm or firm tofu (16 ounces)
1 tablespoon sesame oil (the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp, but I find this a bit oily)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup

Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes and place in a baking dish large enough to hold a single layer. For easier clean up, line with foil. Stir together the sesame oil, soy sauce, and ketchup and drizzle over the tofu. With a rubber spatula, gently turn to coat thoroughly. In a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice. until tofu is browned, firm and chewy. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 104 kcal, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fibre, 9 g protein,  360 mg sodium

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The Salad that Keeps on Giving

22 Oct

Salad has never tasted so good.  After being away at a conference for five days, my body craved fibre and a plethora of colourful veggies when I arrived back home.  Conference food can be notorious for large quantities of nutrient-devoid food.  A typical day was as such: wake, eat breakfast, sit, snack, sit, eat lunch, sit, snack, sit, go out for dinner, bed.  The positive of having so much food provided is the considerable cost savings. The con?  Most snacks are carb-heavy, full of sugar, and hard to resist.  Cake at 10am? Sure! Danish for breakfast? Why not.

And now my saviour: the ultimate salad to “cure” me of a week of poor nutrition.  I first spotted this Asian Kale and Tofu Salad on Pinterest over a year ago.  Why it took me so long to finally make it remains a mystery but I sure won’t wait another year before making it again.  There are a few things you should know about this salad…

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  1. It yields more than one can possibly eat in a week.  And I can eat a lot of salad.  Share it with someone or halve the recipe if you’re solo.
  2. Kale salad can be an acquired taste.  It holds its shape even when dressed, but the crunch can be too much for some.  If you’re weary, use half the recommended amount of the kale and substitute the other half with spinach (add shortly before serving to prevent it from getting soggy).
  3. The ratio of kale to other vegetables was too high for my liking.  Feel free to add more bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, or all of the above.

Below is the original recipe from Clean Eating magazine.  Keep in mind that the recipe serves FAR more than 4 (even 8 servings would be an underestimate!) despite what is written.

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Asian Kale & Tofu Salad
(from Clean Eating magazine)

“Can’t find pressed tofu? Press it yourself with our easy three-step method! Simply wrap firm tofu in a clean dish towel and transfer to a plate. Place another plate over tofu and top with one or two heavy cans. Let sit for 1 to 8 hours.”

Olive oil cooking spray
14 oz firm pressed tofu, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup 100% orange juice
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
12-1/2 cups chopped kale (about 16 oz)
2 small field-grown cucumbers, diced
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup shelled edamame, cooked
4 tsp sesame seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 500ºF. Mist a ceramic 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add tofu and set aside.
  2. In a blender, blend garlic, vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce, honey, ginger and sesame oil until smooth, about 1 minute. Remove ¼ cup mixture and pour over top of tofu. Toss to combine and spread evenly in dish. Bake, turning 3 to 4 times, until golden and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to remaining mixture in blender, add flaxseed and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
  4. In a large bowl, add kale and pour vinegar-flaxseed mixture over top. With your hands, massage kale to coat thoroughly until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cucumbers, carrots, scallions, bell pepper, cabbage and edamame and toss to combine. Add tofu and toss to combine. To serve, top with sesame seeds.

Serves “4” as per original recipe.  Per ENORMOUS serving: 341 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated), 46 g carbohydrate, 11 g fibre, 22 g protein, 374 mg sodium

The Perfect Potluck Salad

23 Jan

Thanks to the culinary talents of my friend Steph, I was recently introduced to the perfect party salad.  And I mean perfect.

I like bringing a salad to potlucks.  It guarantees that there will be something leafy, green, and healthy amidst a spread of rich and indulgent (but oh-so-tasty) bites.  Unfortunately, I run into the same issue every time.  Add-ins like fruit, spiced nuts, and cheese need to be present in order for the salad to get ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’.  These additions can be healthy but tend to leave little room for other vegetables.

Thanks to Steph, I now have the salad of my dreams in my arsenal, ready for my next potluck.  The base consisted of mixed greens along with radicchio for texture.  Added to the salad were multi-coloured bell peppers (red and orange), cucumber, crunchy celery, cherry tomatoes, and green onion for bite.  The dressing, an Asian-style sesame vinaigrette, provided just the right amount of sweetness.  Finally, a generous sprinkling of sunflower seeds transformed an otherwise ordinary green salad into a masterpiece.  Delicious and nutritious.

Other elements of the meal included panko-crusted stuffed chicken breast (with asparagus, roasted red pepper, and brie) and mashed potatoes with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes—both courtesy of my Rose Reisman cookbook.  To top it off, we indulged in the ultimate dessert: homemade fresh strawberry ice cream and birthday cake.  If you need a reason to get yourself an ice cream maker, this is it.


Steph’s Asian Sesame Vinaigrette

This isn’t an exact recipe but rather rough estimates. Feel free to adjust the measurements to taste.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a jar, shake, taste, and add more of whatever seems to be missing!

Makes ½ cup. Per 1 tbsp serving: 70 kcal, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 2.5 g CHO, 40 mg sodium.

Jicama and Orange Spinach Salad with Ginger Dressing

17 Sep

Contain your excitement, please.  This week I bring you not one but TWO recipes that use a relatively uncommon vegetable.  Jicama, pronounced ‘heek-ah-mah’ (also known as yam bean), is a starchy sweet root vegetable native to Mexico.  With a crispy texture resembling a cross between a potato and a pear, jicama is commonly eaten raw in salads and slaws or dipped into salsas.

Jicama keeps a low profile. An addictively crunchy texture is revealed once its unassuming fibrous exterior is peeled away.

 

While living in London, I tried to get my hands on jicama for what felt like forever.  Coincidentally, every time it was on my grocery list jicama was nowhere to be found.  I did spot it the odd time (London is not that small) but never had the confidence to pick it up without a recipe in mind.

Now that I’m in Toronto, jicama is readily available at some of the larger grocery stores.  I’ve fallen in love with its crispiness and subtle sweet taste.  It’s the perfect snack straight up: no dips or dressing necessary.  For my first jicama attempt, I followed a recipe for an orange, jicama, and red pepper spinach salad with a soy-based vinaigrette.  The salad wasn’t particularly fancy but the flavours worked really well together.

My next jicama attempt?  Stay tuned…

Spinach salad with Jicama, Orange, Red Pepper, and Red Onion.

 

Jicama and Orange Salad with Ginger Dressing
(from Rose Reisman)

2 cups peeled jicama, sliced into strips 1/2 inch wide by 3 inches long
6 cups baby spinach
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 large orange, peeled, membranes removed and cut into thin strips

Dressing:
4 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
2-1/2 tsp sesame oil
2-1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
1-1/2 tsp water
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Garnish (Optional):
1-1/2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

  1. Place the jicama, spinach, red pepper, onion, and orange in a large serving bowl
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, olive oil, water, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.  Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro, if using.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 137 kcal, 3.9 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 24 g CHO, 5.3 g fibre, 2.9 g protein, ~100 mg sodium.