A Soy-licious Dinner

Last month, Solae hosted a dinner created by Chef Peter Berley, former executive chef at Angelica Kitchen NYC and author of The Flexitarian Table. Held at The Kitchen NYC, the event provided for a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, learn more about soy protein isolate, and try  Chef Berley’s soy-licious dishes!

Prior to the dinner, we learned about a few soy-based products that work with Solae. Now if you aren’t familiar with Solae, it is a company that produces soy protein isolate, which can be found in some foods like energy bars, soy milk, and protein shakes. In the first hour, Chef Berley prepared hors d’hourves made with Morningstar Farms. The chicken-less nuggets and soy-based bacon wrapped in lettuce were both crunchy and unexpectedly flavorful! As a vegetarian and fan of meat-less products and chicken-less nuggets included, I was amazed at how Chef Berley had transformed these foods into an elegant bite.

When it came time for dinner, we were intimately seated around Chef Berley, who demonstrated how each dish was prepared. With volunteers, the demonstration quickly turned into an interactive and lively dinner, where we learned how soy was incorporated into the dishes in very different ways. The 4-course meal consisted of:

Lemon Tofu Ricotta with Parmesan and Mint – The “ricotta” was actually Morinaga Silken Tofu (Firm) that was mashed with a regular potato masher, and sautéed with garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and mint. Served over a thin-crusted bread, don’t let the simple ingredients fool you–this tofu ricotta was packed with bold flavor and the just the right texture to recreate a “ricotta-like” mouthfeel.

Romaine Hearts with Creamy Soy Miso Vinaigrette — With the consistency of Caesar salad dressing, these romaine hearts were dressed in a vinaigrette contained no eggs or mayo, but tofu!

Miso Vinaigrette

Three Bean and Bell Pepper Chili with Chipotle Soy Sour Cream — As his cookbook suggests, Chef Berley chose to incorporate a bit of meat into this dish using 1/2 organic beef and 1/2 tofu. With the tofu thrown into the blender, it became a smooth consistency and acted somewhat like a thickener that helped the chili come together.

Three-Bean Chili

Maple Sweet Potato Tart with Ginger Soy Ice Cream — As you may have noticed, Chef Berley is quite the fan of substituting half of the main ingredient with half soy. But which component of the dessert was made with soy? If you guessed the less obvious—potato tart—then you are soy-ly right!

Sweet Potato Tart and Ginger Ice Cream

From start to end, the dinner was excellent. At the end of the event, we received a copy of the Chef’s book along with a backpack full of Solae goodies. Now after learning about several innovative ways to incorporate tofu in just about any food, perhaps it may inspire you to try new ingredients or use an old favorite in a new way. In fact, you can even get inspired by recipes from your very own copy of The Flexitarian Table–which we will be giving away to one lucky reader! Check out the entry details here.

Energy Bars: The On-the-Go Nosh

In today’s society, we are constantly on the run. If we’re not students rushing to class, parents rushing to pick up their kids or dropping them off, then we’re probably rushing to meet our friends or medical appointments. Sometimes, we are so busy and exhausted that many of us just do not have the time to sit down for a bite. So what happens to those of us who finally sit down but are crunched for time? Whether consumed as a snack or meal replacement, many of us opt for an energy bar. With so many options, which bars give a healthier boost? Here are 5 of our favorite energy bars for an on-the-go nosh:

1. Zing

This gluten and soy-free bar is so tasty, we almost forget it’s an energy bar. With about 20 grams of carbohydrates per bar, Zing may be ideal for those who have diabetes, have celiac disease or food intolerances.

2. LaraBar

These bars generally contain less than 8 ingredients and are made of fruits, nuts and spices. Flavorful, but some varieties can contain up to 14-17 grams of sugar so beware. However, we do love the sweet and saltiness of the Roasted Nut Roll, which at 7 grams of sugar per bar, contains half the amount of sugar than the others. The raw nuts make this bar a tasty choice for those following a raw food lifestyle.

3. Kind Bars

These bars are generally made with about 10 rather simple ingredients, many which include nuts, honey, puffed rice and dried fruits. The use of whole, not ground nuts, contribute to the texture and “homemade” feel.

5. Health Warrior Chia Bars

Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids! When we discovered that these vegan bars were made with chia, we were glad to see them successfully added to more foods! Every bar is 100 calories and contains 4 grams of sugar. With 15 grams of carbohydrates, these chia bars may be ideal for someone who has diabetes.

In spite of a hectic schedule, the busy individual should never feel like they need to rely on energy bars to meet calorie or nutritional needs. Although energy bars can be incorporated as a healthy part of a meal structure, there’s nothing quite like fresh or wholesome foods.  Moreover, many of these bars appear nutritious but can have hidden levels of high sugar, additives, carbohydrates and calories. Keep in mind that many of these energy bars were created for athletes, and not for those who do minimal to no exercise.  If given the option between an energy bar or meal when crunched for time, it is best to grab a quick meal. However, if there’s absolutely no way around to grabbing a quick meal (let’s face it, sometimes that’s just not practical) follow this bar code when searching for an on-the-go chew:

  1. Keep it simple – Don’t be tricked by the word “energy bar.” When it comes to figuring out the nutritional value of an energy bar, a consumer’s best bet may be to first scan the back for a list of ingredients, then look at the nutrition label. If there is a long, running list of unfamiliar ingredients that you are unable to pronounce, another bar may be a better option.
  2. Consider your energy and activity needs – Think about your activity for the day. If you will be going on a long run, you may chose a bar with a different nutritional content than an individual who will be doing minimal activity.
  3. Create your own, healthy & homemade energy bars – If you have time, consider making a large batch of bars ahead of time. Not only are they easy to make, but you will also know exactly what ingredients went into them. You can even make them ahead of time and store them for an easy, on-the-go chew! For an even easier and quicker recipe, try packing a homemade trail mix.
  4. Think outside of the box – If you’re looking for energy bars to be your meal replacer, consider grabbing a Greek yogurt and enjoy it with a banana or top it with fresh berries.

 

Veggie Burgers: How They Stack Up

Are veggie burgers really meatless? Yes, it is exactly as the name suggests—no meat. Yet in the eyes of many meat lovers, comparing the taste and texture of veggie burgers just does not stack up to its meat counterpart. While some are made to mimic the taste, texture color and feel of meat burgers, veggie burgers aren’t just a meat substitute. Veggie burgers are available for those who may not like the taste of meat (but still want something hearty and healthy), have dietary restrictions, share different beliefs or simply just prefer the flavor and ingredients that make veggie burgers stand on its own.

Veggie Burgers

Gone are the days when veggie burgers were the lonesome, meatless option at a backyard barbecue. With the rise in vegetarianism and veganism in recent years, came an increase in consumer demand for more veggie burgers. In turn, the market for veggie burgers has also become widespread. They have successfully made their way on to fast-food menus like Burger King and McDonald’s and are even served by upscale restaurants.

For many vegetarians/vegans, people who are watching their intake of saturated fats or simply prefer the taste of it over a beef or turkey burger, veggie burgers can be a great option! However, if you have ever tried a veggie burger and are still eating veggie burgers today, odds are that you’ve probably tried many. There are dozens of varieties and flavors. Some are too dry or beany, too salty or contain fillers and tastes like cardboard. Then there are some that contain a long list of ingredients that you’ve never heard of before and probably can’t pronounce. On the other hand, there are those that contain less than 5 ingredients, contain wholesome ingredients like vegetables and grains like quinoa, which make it flavorful and savory. Let’s see how these meatless burgers stack up!

How These Veggie Burgers Stack Up

Veggie burgers can be quite delicious, and make for quick go-to lunches. But with so many options in the grocery aisles many are left to wonder, “Which brands are the best?” Not all patties are vegan or soy free. As some of the more familiar ones on the market are Amy’s Garden Burger, Boca, Morning Star, we thought we’d point out some of the ones that are lesser known and reason why we like them (in no particular order).

De Cantos

Vegan: Yes
Dairy, gluten and soy free
Fairly new to the market, these burgers deserve some spotlight.
Each burger contains 5 raw veggies and no fillers like wheat, gluten,
soy, dairy or added sugar. It is “meaty” in the sense that it is fulfilling,
but does not have a “meaty taste.” While the company delivers
locally in New Jersey, if you’re having trouble finding this product,
try looking at Whole Foods!

Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Certified Kosher
Ingredients: Carrots, Onions, String Beans, Oat Bran, Soybeans,
Zucchini, Peas, Broccoli, Corn, Soy Flakes, Spinach, Expeller Pressed
Canola Oil, Red Peppers, Arrowroot, Corn Starch, Garlic, Corn Meal,
Salt, Parsley, Black PepperSome people prefer the taste and texture of “just vegetables” in their
veggie burgers. If that’s the case, then Dr. Praeger’s is just that. Only
downside is that it may be flimsy and may not hold up as well if you’re
throwing it in the microwave. To make sure the patty holds its shape,
it’s best prepared on a grill or flat pan.

Hilary’s Eat Well

Vegan: Yes
Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, corn free, yeast free, egg free,
and nut free.
Plus side: They’re packaged in biodegradable plastic pouches!
Ingredients: Water Millet Quinoa Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
Spinach Onion Garlic Psyllium Husk Powder Arrowroot Sweet
Potato Real Salt Apple Cider Vinegar Sunflower Seed OilThis burger is packed with great spices and tastes close to a fresh
veggie burger. For those who are big on texture and don’t like to
be left wondering “Is this a veggie burger??” Well this one holds
its shape and has a balanced texture, not too chewy or soft.

 

Sunshine’s Organic Quarter Pound Original Veggie Burger

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Gluten free
Ingredients: Organic cooked brown rice, organic ground raw
sunflower seeds, organic carrots, organic spices, sea saltThis burger is rich, savory and packs a slightly nutty flavor. If you
are a fan of sunflower seeds, this is the burger for you.

Are Veggie Burgers Better for You?

When dining out, be mindful that the nutrition content of a veggie burger may vary depending on its cooking process. While the veggie patty itself may be a healthy option, as with ordering any burger at a restaurant, any fixin’s like cheese, condiments, or a side of fries alongside the bun can sometimes stack up in terms of calories and fats.

Our Favorite Veggie Burger

What’s our favorite veggie burger? Ideally, it is the one we can make ourselves!  While making veggie burgers from scratch can call for a bit of time and preparation, if you make them in big batches, you can simply freeze them and voila! You’ve got veggie burgers on the ready, made with your favorite vegetables and grains… ingredients that you yourself know and can pronounce! With a little research, you can find tons of recipes on the Internet. Or, if you want to start with an easy but homemade classic, try Portobello mushrooms. With light marinade, they can be hearty and mouthwatering.

If you haven’t found your “perfect veggie burger” and making one from scratch doesn’t sound very appetizing, don’t give up just yet! With a little patience and perhaps a lot of tastings, it’s possible to find a veggie burger that is more flavorful and delectable (if not more) as its counterpart!

Hemp Hearts for A Heart Healthy Diet

Written by Laura Iu, Nutrition Student and Assistant to Laura Cipullo

Flax seed and chia seed may have found its competitor. It seems like everywhere you look, there is a new seed-based product hitting the market shelves. So what’s the latest seed craze? Hemp seeds. (No, it’s not what you’re probably thinking!) Although hemp seed belongs to the same family as it illegal cousin, Marijuana, hemp seed is the “food” part of the plant and not the “drug” part that contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There is a big difference in the level of THC found in marijuana (3-15%) and in hemp seed (0-0.3%).  Hemp producers are certified to have less than 0.3% THC levels and many guarantee there is 0%. As a food very similar to flax seed, hemp seed is one of the most healthful and nutritious foods one can eat. Yet despite hemp seed gaining popularity and making its way in bars, cereals, milks and even ice creams, many skeptics still raise an eyebrow to this superfood. Read on to find out what these seeds are, their nutritional value and how they can contribute to a heart healthy meal structure!

Hulled Hemp Seeds Vs. Whole Hemp Seeds

Hulled hemp seed, hemp seed, hemp hearts, and hemp nuts—one can surely go nuts keeping track of this food’s many nicknames!  Although sometimes called a “hemp nut,” hemp seed is not actually a nut.  To better explain the anatomy of a hemp seed, it is very similar to that of a sunflower seed. “Hulled hemp seed” refers to the whole seed removed from its hard outer shell, while “hemp seed” simply refers to the seed and its shell. Although the hard exterior is edible and contains a lot of fiber but can be difficult to eat, when you purchase “hemp seeds” typically the seed is already removed from the outer husk.

What are the nutritional benefits?

For thousands of years, hemp fibers have been used to create clothing, paper, rope and canvas. But aside from manufacturing textiles, there are far more uses for these hemp seeds than just growing more hemp plants! They also provide a wide range of heart healthy benefits.

There are very few complete protein sources that are plant-based. Like chia seeds though, hemp seed is one of the very few plant based complete dietary proteins.  It contains all of the essential fatty acids in the form of Linoleic and Alpha-Linoleic Acid, and a complete source of essential amino acids. A few weeks ago, we discussed how important it is to maintain a healthy, balanced ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Recall, maintaining a balanced ratio of fatty acids can have a positive effect on the body. While our bodies need more Omega-6’s than Omega-3’s, a good balance means keeping an overall 1:3, Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio. Hemp seed, having a favorable ratio, can provide cardiovascular health benefits, help control inflammation and lower blood pressure. For those whose ratios are a bit off, hemp seed isn’t the immediate answer to flipping your ratio around, but it is a good start to balancing it out again.

For those who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, this seed is an ideal source of protein. High in fiber and a gluten-free protein, this seed is easily digestible.

How to Eat Them?

Just like any other seed, hemp seeds can be eaten raw, added to baked goods, strewn in tea, grounded or made into hemp milk.  Toss them on salads, sprinkle them on yogurts and smoothies or enjoy them straight from the bag.

Perhaps the most popular hemp-based product on the market is hemp milk. But for those whose palates just don’t align with its nutty flavor and still want to reap the health benefits of hemp seed, these sources are worth trying:

  • Flour
  • Cereals
  • Tofu
  • Nut butters
  • Protein powder
  • Ice creams 
  • Oil

 

Substitutes for the Cheeselover

Pizzas, sandwiches, quesadillas, what do all of these foods have in common? That’s right—cheese! Let’s face it, who doesn’t love the rich, creamy mouthfeel and gooey texture of melted cheese?  As a popular accompaniment to many entrées and snacks, one might just consider cheese to be a staple food. Yet whether due to food allergies or other dietary reasons, some individuals may not eat cheese and would prefer a dairy-free alternative.

Who Would Want “Fake” Cheese?

Cheese substitutes are enjoyed by individuals who do not tolerate dairy products very well or who are following a dairy-free diet such as a vegan, vegetarian, or paleo diet. Fortunately, for those who just cannot fathom saying ‘good-bye’ to grilled cheese sandwiches and ‘hello’ to cheese-free pizzas, there are an abundance of dairy-free cheese substitutes on the market. Since cheese made from cow or goat milk are usually higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, cheese substitutes can be a healthier alternative.

Always Read The Label

With a rise in allergies to milk and soy products, the market for cheese substitutes has grown as well, providing us with dozens of options to choose from. Common cheese substitutes are made from soy, rice, tofu and almond based. There are a lot of cheese substitutes out there but to check if it is really dairy-free, check the ingredient list. Many soy cheeses contain casein, a protein derived from milk. Casein is what helps hold cheese together and gives it its texture. People who are lactose intolerant can usually tolerate casein. But for those with severe milk allergies or are strict vegans, I recommend finding a vegan cheese product that is almond-based or rice-based. However, when picking out a cheese substitute, one should avoid what they are allergic to, ie. those who are allergic to soy should avoid tofu-based cheeses and soy cheeses.

Not All Cheese Substitutes Are Created Equal

From color to flavor, people want and expect a cheese substitute to be almost identical to the melt, spread and cream of regular cheese. While cheese substitutes can be bland, some products are close to the real thing. But how to pick a cheese and what to look for?

  • Low sodium
  • Close-to-cheese taste
  • Ability to melt
  • Non-rubbery or plastic texture
  • Casein protein (depending on your preference)

If you need a little direction, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve narrowed it down to my top favorites:

Vegan Pick: Daiya 

As one of the most popular vegan cheese, Daiya is known for its ability to melt like real cheese. I have found it served in delicious restaurants dishes I have ordered too. It’s shredded style makes it perfect for making pizzas and sprinking over salads and pastas. It also comes in cheddar, mozzerella, and pepperjack.

Vegan Pick: Vegan Gourmet by Follow Your Heart

Winner of VegNews’ award for best vegan cheese in 2005, in my opinion it is one of the best vegan cheeses on the market. It may not melt as well as Daiya but the cheddar has a sharpness to it that makes it almost irresistible to eat by the slice.

Nutritional Yeast

The name may throw you off but this easy to sprinkle substitute is another rather popular option in the vegan community.  When sprinkled over pasta dishes, the nutty and cheesy flavor makes a quick Parmesan substitute. When added to liquids it can help thicken sauces for a creamier texture.

Soy-Based Pick: Veggie Slices Cheddar Flavor by Galaxy National Foods

Orange colored and individually wrapped, this soy-based cheese resembles Kraft singles. With a good melt and taste, this is a good substitute for making grilled cheese.

Cut The Cheese

Deservedly or not, non-dairy cheeses often get a bad rap for lacking taste, flavor and texture. But next time you try a cheese substitute, go in with an open-mind! Without comparing it to regular cheese, try to give it an un-biased taste test. Each brand has a different texture and flavor. Which holds better for sandwiches or which melts better on pizzas? You may end up trying many before you find the one you like!

Ultimately, cheese substitutes are just substitutes. There is never going to be a product that can replicate the authentic taste, texture, or melt of cheese, except cheese. Due to the health and dietary restrictions people have these days–and some unavoidable like food allergies–when one’s body simply won’t cooperate with dairy products cheese substitutes can make life a bit tastier, a little healthier, and a whole lot happier. After all, who doesn’t love cheese?