Well, I’m a bit behind. Let’s ignore that and just get down to re-capping, shall we? 🙂
The topic for last month was “soy”, and my friend Andrea did a great job presenting. I announced the meeting a bit last-minute and the turnout was predictably small because many women were out-of-town. Nevertheless, we had a fabulous time, ate some great food, and learned a lot!
We tasted vanilla soymilk and unsweetened soymilk. I think most people were shocked by how much added sugar was in the vanilla, but preferred the flavor of it when comparing them side-by-side. For Scott and I, the sweetness is a big turn-off. Note that “plain” soymilk is also sweetened quite a bit. Unsweetened soymilk says unsweetened right on the carton and you won’t find “evaporated cane juice” in the ingredient list. It’s just whole, unfiltered organic soybeans and water, typically, though some brands do add thickeners and vitamins.
We also tasted my favorite indulgence: dark chocolate-covered soynuts. Yum yum!
Andrea brought several yummy dishes to taste, including Apricot Tofu (think apricot chicken, but with tofu). This was surprisingly delicious and a good example of how easy cooking with tofu can be. Unlike with raw meat, you don’t have to worry about cooking to a certain temperature, washing your hands and the cutting board a zillion times, etc. Plus, you can just cook it until it absorbs the flavor of the dish. Easy!
She also brought meatless sausage and burgers to taste, which she just heated up in a skillet. They were a big hit taste-wise, and we talked about the reasons you might want to go meatless. Many of these things are pretty highly processed and have crazy ingredient lists, so “healthy” might not be a good reason to choose them. However, they can be lower in fat and cholesterol (depending on the brand), and if you are into animal rights or trying to stay away from animal protein, it’s good to know these are out there!
Finally, we had soybeans in the pod, or edamame. You can buy ’em fully cooked and lightly salted in the freezer section and just thaw, shell and enjoy! Toddlers love them, because they get to squirt them out of the pod and they have a mild, buttery flavor.
Andrea did a great job of touching on some of the debates going on regarding soy in the media and scientific literature. The quality of soy protein was discussed (it’s high – one of the only plant-based “complete” protein sources out there), as well as the controversial “estrogen-like” properties of the isoflavones that naturally occur in soybeans. She also discussed the big part soybeans play in Ohio’s agriculture (right up there with corn), and the many ways soy has found its way into our foods. Soy can be found in many common foods. It’s not surprising to know that it’s in soy sauce and soybean oil, but you may not have known that it’s even found in breakfast cereal (many now have added soy protein).
The general consensus I came away with was that there are always conflicting studies, but that as long as soy doesn’t monopolize your diet and you tend to eat the “whole” soy products (not soy isolates), then you’re fine. I don’t think soy is a magic cancer-curing bullet, but I also think it’s a plant… and edible plants, eaten as-is tend to be a good part of a diet.
A tip: One woman calls tofu “magic squares” and her toddler loves them.
Another tip, because I forgot to mention it earlier: Tofu is very economical. When purchased at Trader Joe’s, it’s 99 cents/lb.
And yet again: There are several types of tofu, ranging from extra firm to silken. Silken is usually for soups and smoothies, and firm or extra firm are good for most other dishes, such as the Apricot Tofu.
Speaking of Apricot Tofu, here’s the recipe, with Andrea’s notes:
8 oz Russian (or French) salad dressing
1 cup Apricot jam (I use sugar free Apricot preserves)
1 package dry onion soup mix.
2 containers of firm or extra firm tofu (I think each container is 12 oz.)
Combine over medium heat . . . or in a crock pot. Best when simmered for 20 + minutes. Serve over rice.
This Month’s Meeting
I’m very excited about this next one. My fabulous friend will be discussing “organic” foods. We’ll do some fun tasting and talk about what “organic” means, and if it’s worth spending the extra $$ on. Yay!