Kitchen Focus

Soy is a hot topic these days. Whether you are trying to include it for its health benefits or you like it for its versatility, soy is one of those things that you should have in your kitchen. Whether it's in the form of soy milk, tofu, edamamé or even soy nuts, including two servings of soy in your daily diet has become a frequent recommendation of doctors everywhere. And there is good reason for that recommendation:
  • In the study of 120 Asian women, those who consumed the highest amount of soy had the most protection from breast cancer -- up to a 50% reduced risk -- compared to those women who consumed the least amount of soy.
  • The American Heart Association recently concluded that 25-50 grams of soy a day can help lower levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol by as much as 8%. Isoflavones are believed to prevent LDL levels from harming the walls of the blood vessels. While man-made estrogens can raise levels of blood fats called triglycerides, soy doesn't have this negative effect.
  • A study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, found that postmenopausal women with high concentrations of soy in their diet had stronger bones.
  • A recent issue of the Mayo Health Clinic Health Letter noted that studies on soy have shown promising results in the prevention of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and hot flashes during menopause, as well as benefits for osteoporosis.
  • One study involving more than 12,000 men indicated that drinking soy milk at least once a day was associated with a 70% reduction in the risk of prostate cancer. Research on soy and the prevention of colon cancer has also produced encouraging results.

But even with this kind of encouraging news, many people are unsure how to incorporate soy products into their kitchen routine. But with many products and variations available today, there are many ways to enjoy soy without feeling like you've lost touch with your favorite foods. It can be as simple as adding some roasted soy nuts to your favorite trail mix or making a simple rice pudding with soy milk instead of dairy. Even creamy dressings can take advantage of silken tofu that's been tossed around in the food processor!

Of course, that's certainly not the end of soy's place at our culinary table. In fact, to give you a taste of where soy foods can be found, here's a sampling of recipes. Some hide it in ways that would surprise you and others make it the star of the show. Try a few out and see how you can enjoy soy for its health benefits, versatility and taste.

Creamy Hummus

Serve this delightfully textured dip with pita wedges and fresh vegetables.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 1 can chickpeas -- drained, liquid reserved
  • 2 T. sesame paste
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika, olive oil and fresh parsley for garnish -- optional

Place the garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the tofu, chickpeas and sesame paste and process until smooth. Gradually add the parsley, olive oil and seasonings and process again. Sprinkle paprika and parsley over the hummus and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

  • Yields: 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Three Bean Garden Salad

Edamamé can be found frozen -- in shells or without -- in many grocery stores year round.
  • 1 c. cut green beans -- steamed
  • 1 can kidney beans -- rinsed and drained
  • 1 c. shelled edamamé (green soybeans)
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 c. diced tomato
  • 1 c. sliced carrots
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic -- minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine the first 6 ingredients (green beans through carrots) in a large bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients and add to the vegetables; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 5-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Grilled Cajun Tofu

Make sure you get firm tofu -- its texture is necessary for this recipe.
  • 1 block firm tofu -- drained and sliced into 4 thick pieces
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic -- crushed
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. ground hot red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika

Place the tofu slices on paper towels. Place more paper towels over the slices and put a cutting board over them. Place enough weight on the cutting board to squeeze the excess moisture out of the tofu. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously to combine. Place the tofu slices in a shallow pan and pour the marinade over them, making sure both sides are covered. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a grill pan to medium heat and lightly spray with cooking spray. Remove the tofu slices from the marinade -- reserving the marinade -- and place on the grill pan. Cook the slices for about 5 minutes on each side or until they are nicely textured.

Meanwhile, transfer the remaining marinade to a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Use as a sauce over the grilled tofu.

  • Yields: 4 main course servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Lemon-Blueberry Smoothies

This is a fantastic summer beverage and will be especially appreciated by those that are lactose intolerant.
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 c. frozen blueberries

In a blender, combine the tofu, honey, juice of the lemon and blueberries. Process the mixture until it is combined and very smooth. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
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