Patti Bess: More nutritional bang for your buck
And now, along with the other challenges of 2021, we can add “sticker shock.” A trip to town for groceries and gasoline can easily add up to $200 or more.
Best way I know of to stretch that food budget is to avoid processed/pre-made products. Supermarkets and even the health food stores have aisles and aisles of convenient foods that are nutritionally deficient and loaded with additives. Walking through a market to buy the basics for simple meals can save you money as well as improve the health of your family. They might consist of the grain or potato, meats or plant based proteins, generous amounts of vegetables, some dairy or dairy alternative and fruits.
One food that has always provided a good “nutritional bang for the buck” is tofu. Tofu contains the highest quality protein of all plant based proteins. It is high in minerals and contains a balance of essential fatty acids. Studies led by international researchers have conclusive evidence that soy reduces a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Soy foods also reduce the risk for other cancers including colon, lung, endometrial, ovarian and prostate. Soy is helpful for bone health, heart health and menopausal symptoms. However, the benefits of soy appear to come from foods made from whole soy; the less processed soy foods such as tofu, edamame, soy milk and miso.
Tofu in general is seen as pretty blah tasting, but its real value in cooking lies in its ability to absorb flavors around it and its relatively low price.
In the last decade tofu and soy foods in general have gotten unfairly maligned. The myths often surrounding the safety of soy are not always backed by quality scientific research. More recent studies address some of these myths surrounding soy’s safety in an article published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
If misinformation on the internet runs like a river in the field of politics, it is a tsunami when it comes to nutrition. The Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter is one resource for validated, researched information as well as Tufts University School of Health and Nutrition.
Another culprit of misinformation is the highly lucrative business of selling books on diet and weight loss. On the other hand, when it comes to soy there are over 2000 research papers presented every year so it is somewhat understandable that misunderstanding and false assumptions abound.
In the United States soybeans are grown by huge corporate farming enterprises and more often these days are genetically modified. A recent research project by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has shown conclusively that glyphosate tolerant genetically modified soybeans contain higher residues of glyphosate (Round Up) and other toxins. The study also found that soybeans from different agricultural practices offered a better nutritional quality. Always choose organic tofu and other soy products.
Tofu Stuffed Peppers
Your family will probably not realize that you have replaced hamburger with tofu in this recipe. Frozen and thawed tofu, when crumbled, has a texture even more like hamburger. But you don’t necessarily need to do that. This recipe is fairly easy, especially on a day when you have leftover rice on hand. It makes a hearty one dish meal for two to three people. Remember that tofu contains large amounts of water so squeeze it as firmly as possible to remove the water so as not to dilute the flavor.
This dish is so satisfying that it could become a meatless entrée for the Thanksgiving feast, and it’s easy to double for more persons.
Two large green peppers
Two tablespoons olive oil
One small zucchini, grated
One smaller pepper, chopped
One small onion, chopped
Two to three cloves garlic, chopped
About three quarters cup cooked rice
One half pound crumbled tofu
About two and a quarter cups stewed tomatoes, about 20 ounces (not sauce)
One teaspoon dried marjoram, basil or both
One teaspoon salt
One quarter cup water (if needed)
Dollop of sour cream or yogurt to garnish (optional)
Cut a circle in the top of the two large peppers and remove the stem cleaning out as much of the inner ribs as you can. Set aside.
Grate the zucchini and chop the small pepper and set aside. Add the chopped onion to a large frypan and sauté in olive oil. Add the garlic. When onion is translucent, add the grated zucchini and chopper pepper; sauté a few minutes more. Then add the rice and crumbled tofu. Be sure to squeeze tofu as much as you can to release its water. Then add the salt, pepper, marjoram, and half of the stewed tomatoes. Stir to combine and continue to sauté for a few minutes.
Spoon this mixture into the two peppers pressing down to fill as much as possible. Stand the stuffed peppers in a large saucepan surrounding them with the remaining tomato juices and stuffing mixture. You may need a little water to add enough moisture or more tomato juices.
Cover and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes or until peppers are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve each pepper in a large bowl surrounded by more sauce and stuffing mixture. If desired, garnish with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. Generous amount for 2 to 3 persons.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley
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