Everyone always assumes that vegetarians eat Boca, Tofurkey, or other highly processed soy products. People usually think that being a vegetarian means living a life of eternal blandness, yet, when I reduced my meat intake ( now its only limited to what I have to taste/sample in the classroom) I found that there is life beyond steak! In fact, I learned so much about myself and my creative capabilities with food. Many years ago, when food did not take up most of my thoughts, i did not know about many ingredients or flavors. I was so used to eating the same things over and over that change was not very welcome in my family’s home. I absolutely love the Mexican flavors that I grew up with, the spicy pico de gallo and the tangy pipian sauces represent comfort food to me, however, I have always been an adventurous person, so I stepped out of my culinary comfort zone in search for something tasty and creatively unusual.
My culinary adventure eventually led me to the path that many food lovers take, the environmentally conscious eater. I feel that this path has allowed me to forget the ways that I ate in the past ( fast food many times a week, mass produced meat products, highly processed foods) and concentrate on what I eat now to secure a sustainable future for myself and future generations.
This is when I had my “aha” moment with food. I discovered that vegetables provided so many important nutrients and at the same time so many complex flavors that where not limited to their juices and fats only. I discovered that highly processed “bacon” wanna-be, or veggie bacon, or Facon, call it what you will, goes completely against everything that I vegetarian is, which is why I eliminated all veggie products from the frozen food aisle and I started to play with Tempeh.
Many people don’t know this but tempeh is soy. Although many studies suggest that consuming soy products can be harmful to the health, that is only limited to soy products that have not been fermented. As a matter of fact, people in Japan have been consuming fermented soy in forms of miso for many generations and they live a longer life and have lower cancer cases among their population. Fermented soy (Tempeh, Miso, Natto) has an exceptionally high amount of beneficial vitamin K2 which can reduce the risk of many cancers, dementia, and heart disease. Also, because of its long fermentation process, this type of soy has nutrients that can be digested by human beings. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, because of this very same fermentation process, the so called “anti-nutrients’ of soy, which many opponents of soy cite for promoting health risks, are reduced in miso, tempeh, and other fermented soy products. Unfortunately soy in the United States is subject to genetic modification and pesticide exposure, so it is advised that an organic soy tempeh be used. The website Mercola.com has a wonderful article on the different soy products in the market, along with their health risks an benefits.
Tempeh is my favorite soy product to work with because it resembles ground beef so much that I can use it to make spaghetti, chilli, and even the Mexican picadillo that I ate growing up. Of Course, the trick is to allow it to marinate, but that is the case with most protein products.
Yesterday I made delicious tempeh “meatballs”. This is what I used…..
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tempeh block ( crumble the tempeh into pea size chunks as shown in the picture)
- 2 garlic cloves ( minced)
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs Italian herb mix
- 1 tbs flax seed mixed with 3 tbs water (this binds the whole thing together)
Blend everything together and it will resemble something similar to meatloaf. Add a pinch of salt or however much salt you like (I know some people are super tasters so they need more salt than others)
Here comes the fun part, after everything has been seasoned and mixed together, form small 1-1 1/2 inch balls. Place the tempeh balls on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 °F or until they form a brown color on the outside.
Once they are out of the oven you can toss them in BBQ sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and even marinara sauce like I did.