Tofu and Tempeh and Beans, Oh My!

For 2014, many of us have taken heed the advice of physicians, celebs and athletes from all over the world to shift our plates to plants. There are many benefits to a plant-based diet. Eating less meat and more veggies is not only a prescription for good health, loading your plate with kale and lentils can help you recover faster between work-outs and put you in smaller-sized jeans. As a chef and certified Food for Life Cooking and Nutrition Instructor, I teach people how to make this change. The first questions from many of my students are: Where's the Beef? Where will we get our protein? What do I put on the plate in place of chicken or fish?? Well the obvious (to me) choices for animal protein replacements are much lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than their meaty contenders, but fill the gap quite nicely, although they seem to be mysterious and difficult to understand to the average newcomer. SO, in an attempt to demystify and make sense of these versatile and nutritious foods...Here we go; plant-based protein 101!
Lets Talk Tofu: (Toe-Foo) Tofu originated in China about 2,000 years ago and has been a staple of Asian cuisine for centuries. There are two types of tofu; Soft/Silken and Regular/Firm. Each type comes in a variety of textures and can be made from raw, sprouted or organic (which also means non-GMO) soybeans. Long story short, the beans are mashed with water, strained into a milky liquid and mixed with a coagulant to form curds, then shaped, usually into a block form. In the Midcoast we are fortunate to have a delicious, locally made tofu. Heiwa Tofu is made from 100 percent Organic (and MOFGA) soybeans and the resulting curds are Miss Muffet worthy!
Tofu gets an undeserved bad rap. Why you ask? Well, it could be the way it looks, sort of bland and pasty, but those qualities are actually the real beauty of tofu. It's the chameleon of the vegetarian world and is as easily at-home in a smooth and creamy chocolate mousse of a dessert as it is on the barbecue or in stuffed shells in place of ricotta. Tofu co-exists comfortably in many variations and takes on the flavors of its surroundings. Tofu can easily be Italian in lasagna, from the south when grilled with barbecue sauce and served alongside black-eyed peas and collard greens, or yummie as an eggless salad or breakfast scramble.
Why Eat It? Nutritionally speaking, tofu is low in fat, cholesterol free and protein rich. It contains isoflavones and other phytochemicals that studies have proven to be beneficial. It is inexpensive and available pretty much anywhere. One half-cup serving contains about 10 grams of protein.
CAUTION: watch out for tofu made from genetically modified soybeans. Tofu is not to be confused with Soy Protein Isolate, the ingredient found in many fake meats. Tofu made from sprouted, organic or at least non-GMO beans would be the best choice. If you are taking certain medications, or you have had an estrogen-receptive breast cancer, you might be best to keep your consumption of soy products to no more than two servings per day. Soybeans and their products contain phyto-estrogens, which mimic estrogen and research is still underway on this effect. Thus far, these plant chemicals have been shown to be both protective and not.
IMPORTANT TIP: Be sure to press and drain all of the liquid from the tofu block before using (unless for some reason the recipe calls for otherwise). You can do this with kitchen towels and a cast iron pan or a fancy gadget known as a tofu press. Keep in mind, some of the healthiest populations on the planet consume soybeans in the form of tofu, soy milk, tempeh, natto and just the beans. In fact, some of the healthiest populations on the planet consume beans and legumes of many types, not just soybeans.
Want to read the rest of this post? Go to Pen Bay Pilot article HERE!

Power Plate Weighs Heavy in Best Diets for 2014!

The U.S. News and World Report announces for the healthiest diets for 2014 and guess what they all have in common? Source most of your calories from these four food groups:

The DASH Diet, designed for lowering Blood Pressure without medication came in at #1 overall. This low fat diet plan asks followers to feed mostly on whole grains, fruits, & vegetables, adding only small amounts of low or non-fat dairy and lean meats.

The #2 ranking plan, TLC Diet for lowering cholesterol, same, with emphasis on lower and healthier fats!

Weight Watchers is #3 and was considered the best commercial diet plan available for weight-loss. I have been calculating the WW Points for the Leafy Cafe Meals to Go-go service and note even Weight Watchers touts eating mostly from the whole foods groups in the form of grains, legumes, fruits and veggies!

The Vegan diet scored high in  many individual categories such as Diabetes, Heart Healthy and Weight-loss but ranks only # 18 overall, along with 4 other #18 diets including South Beach. Why so low if it is the core structure of many/most of the best and highest ranking diets? The panel of experts decided it was too restrictive. I only find the vegan diet to be restrictive when dining out because restaurateurs couldn't be bothered to offer meat and dairy-free options in most cases. Its certainly not more expensive. The experts rated the diet  "moderately pricey. Fruits, vegetables, and soy products—which should be filling your cart if you’re doing it right—are generally more expensive than heavily processed foods like white bread, sugary cereals, and sweets." But they do not mention this aspect in the other diets which also shun these types of foods and encourage fresh produce, and rightly so! Hmmm. 

My favorite diet is the Flexitarian Diet which ranks #6 overall. There doesn't seem to be a #4 or #5??? What's up with these numbers? Maybe I haven't thoroughly read the ranking system?? With the Flexitarian Diet, you eat WHOLE PLANT FOODS, mostly vegan/vegetarian but allow yourself those times, like when you are in an airport or at a fancy restaurant with no other options to consume something you might normally avoid without guilt. This is sort of like the 80/20 or VB6 diet. The danger with this diet is once you go off your mostly veg diet, you  might never go back! High fat, salt and sugar laden foods lure you in and its a slippery slope down to last-placed Paleo-ville from there!

All in all, keep in mind, the BEST diets include foods mostly or totally from the four food groups of the Power Plate with an emphasis on low fat, sugar salt, and limited or no refined or processed foods.
Another great consideration for the BEST diet is one that works for you! Keeps your weight and health in the place you would like it to be. For many of us, the low-fat, whole foods, plant-based VEGAN diet works best.

New Year's Resolutions

Here's to a Happy, Healthy 2014!

Ever make New Year's Resolutions? In the past I have made a point to avoid them. This year is different. I have decided to commit to some changes in my life and business in 2014 and this newsletter is a start to what will be the first of a few Resolutions this greens-eater has made in forever.
What is a resolution? There are many uses for the term and you can read them all right here and here but no where in either of these locations, Wikipedia or Merriam-Webster, does the definition for a New Year's Resolution appear. When searching a bit further, searching for the entire term 'New Year's Resolution', Wiki comes up with some really great information dating this type of promise back to ancient time and linking it with religious tradition as far back as the Babylonians.
These days, most New Years' Resolutions are related to self improvement, health, kindness to others and respect/awareness of the environment. Eating a plant-based diet is a great start to addressing these concepts and for many, a shift to do just this is their 2014 goal. Here at the Leafy, we already eat a clean, green diet so what changes will we make? Here are my 2014 New Year's Resolutions:
1. Blog more regularly. Jog more regularly!
2. Create a Newsletter with recipes in support of FFL and Leafy Cafe Cooking School participants or those who just wish to stay in the loop.
3. Start a take-out meal service for anyone wishing to explore a plant-based diet and looking for convenient, healthy, delicious options. 4.Consume less sugar! :-) this will be the toughest!
4. COOKBOOK!!! Perhaps a recipe book would be a better description. This book will be for folks who know how to cook but just do not know WHAT to cook.
This list is long and growing! If you are reading this email, I have already started on Rez number 2! Are you in? I promise to keep the email newsletters brief, no more then monthly, and always include a recipe. Please opt-in and share with your friends! Our Just Eat Plants community is growing and you are a part of it!
Our first newsletter recipes are for Black-eyed 'Hoppin' John Pilaf and Yammy Stolen Collards -new versions of old favorites. It is absolute to eat Black-eyed Peas and Greens on New Year's Day. This tradition also dates back to Babylonian times! This originally Jewish "good luck" tradition was probably brought to the New World in the 1700's when the Sephardi Jews settled in the Southern United States! I hope you enjoy this healthy version.
Thank you for all of your support in the past years! Have a blessed and peaceful HEALTHY, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 
Remember, this is the first one :-) !

New Year's Day Hoppin' John

makes 4 servings
3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice 
2 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed 
1 cup chopped red onions 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1 cup chopped celery 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1 dash hot sauce 
1 vegetable oil spray 
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine rice, peas, onion, garlic, celery, parsley, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce in a casserole dish coated with vegetable oil spray. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. 
Based on a recipe from

My-Yammy Collards

My-Yammy (Stolen) Collards

I named this dish as such because I stole the collards from my sister’s garden while she was away visiting our baby sister (who is a Yoga/Pilates instructor in Bali) and I like the way yam and yo mammy sound so I had to work that into the title.
½ diced onion 
2 -3 cloves minced fresh garlic 
1 T. minced fresh ginger 
½ - 1 c. water or veggie broth 
½ T. Rooster Sauce* or Red Pepper Flakes 
Some ( Stripped) Collards (with the stem removed and cut into ribbons) 
1 Lg. Sweet Tater cut into ½” dice 
½ t. smoked paprika 
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon 
½ T. toasted sesame seeds
*This is the Hard Part – I stole these Collards from my sister Donna’s Garden, I do not know how much I took, I snipped and snipped. Donna is an RN who inspired me to move my body and eat healthy. She is a cardiology specialist nurse, has her Masters in Exercise Physiology, and she is a Dean Ornish/Jane Brody-fan-from-way-on-back kind of a gal. I’ve been stealing stuff from D since I was born. I always thought: “she has so much, she won’t miss this stuffed toy, D won’t miss this dress or later when I was a teen: her driver’s license”!!! Well, I hope she does not miss these collards, they would have been yeller by the time she got home anyway! Rooster sauce is that chili sauce with the rooster on the jar, also known as Sriracha. To strip the collards, just hold the leaf by the stem, folded in half – length wise and pull the leafy bit off of the stem.
Oh do we really need to know to preheat the skillet? It all works anyway, preheat or not. So, here is how I do it: 
1. Steam sauté the garlic, onion, and ginger in a non-stick skillet or in a cast iron skillet with a small amount of veggie broth or water (1/4 c) ON LOW HEAT. Don’t let it burn! Until onions are translucent. 
2. Add the Sweet ‘Taters Rooster Sauce (or red pepper flakes), smoked paprika & lemon juice, cook on LOW, COVERED for about 10 min. 
3. Add the Collards, and steam/sauté for another 10 minutes until the collards are cooked down and sweet taters are cooked. 
4. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and lemon zest and serve immediately – YUMBO
NOTE: I've lived most of my adult life in Southeast Georgia. I am very intimate with Collards, Turnips, Mustards, and many other greens which are southern favorites. I am also all too familiar with the heart attach and stroke rate in that area of the country. I have many friends who’s fathers never made it to 55 years old. I learned to cook Southern food with a healthy flair. This also was my first official job out of Culinary School. I was hired to be the consulting chef at The Lodge on Little St. Simon's Island for just this reason – making traditional Low Country Cuisine with a health, delicious slant. 
Traditionally, greens are cooked with pork fat and then once on the table they are doused with vinegar flavored with hot peppers. I have taken the fat out but kept the flavor & spice!
On New Years’ Day, serve these greens with Black-eyed Peas and Brown Rice (hoppin’ John) for a great, healthy start!
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