Monday, May 16, 2011

These days most are looking for ways to improve their overall health, whether it’s exercising more, eating less, or looking for healthier or more natural food choices.

In Iowa, we are surrounded by fields and fields of soybeans, yet some of us have not tried very many soyfoods such as soymilk, tofu, or other foods containing soy ingredients.

Scott Desing, vice president of sales and marketing of Devansoy, a supplier of soy ingredients, headquartered in Carroll, explains people may turn to soyfoods for various reasons. The reasons can be a “want” or a “need.” A “want” would be someone practicing veganism or looking to improve personal health. An example of a “need” would be lactose intolerance or an allergy to milk.

Eating foods made with soy ingredients can have numerous health benefits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, “Food containing soy protein may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Soyfoods contain less fat and calories than similar foods. Also, soy contains zero cholesterol and is a source of high-quality protein. These factors can make weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight much easier.

From an ethical standpoint, Scott states soy is a sustainable product. It’s a vegetable, not an animal and it uses much less water to maintain than livestock. Plus, the soybean plant is a legume it replenishes the nitrogen content of the soil in which it is grown. Scott explains soy is better for the environment in both long and short-term effects.

Soyfoods come in countless forms. Two of the most well-known are soymilk and tofu. Soymilk originated in China hundreds of years ago and is made by soaking dry soybeans and grinding them before being emulsified with oil and water.

Tofu is one of the most popular soyfoods. There are two varieties of tofu: silken and firm. Silken tofu or Japanese-style has a softer consistency and may fall apart when handled. Firm or extra firm tofu, also called Chinese-style or bean curd is more common. The coagulated protein from soy milk can be made into tofu, just as dairy milk is made into cheese. Other examples of soyfoods are meat substitutes such as veggie burgers, frozen desserts like soy ice cream, cereal, and bars.

The soy business continues to rise every year. As Scott would say, soy is “trending north” as soy usage and sales are tied together. People are baking more with soy flour and soymilk and baked products containing soy continue to increase. Americans are searching for a healthier lifestyle. They are reading more labels and nutritional information. Scott is pleased the soy trend is growing. Scott has worked in the healthy organic food business for about a dozen years and has found the future to be very bright.

Soyfoods are most popular on the coasts in highly populated metropolitan areas with large universities including New England, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Interestingly, there are also small pockets of larger soy consumption in Asheville, North Carolina, Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado.

If one had never tried a soyfood, Scott suggests starting out with soymilk poured over cereal at breakfast. Soymilk comes in a range of flavors including almond, chocolate, and vanilla. This is the way Scott tried soy for the first time. He estimates it was 15 years ago when he first tried soymilk. After soymilk and cereal, Scott suggests drinking a glass of soymilk. Scott grew up in Wisconsin and was brought up on plenty of milk and dairy products, yet has still come to appreciate the taste and advantages of soymilk.

Scott feels consumers may shy away from soyfoods because of lack of knowledge. He admits this was the case for him years ago, as well. He explains customers are comfortable with what they’re using and consuming and it isn’t until someone tries a soyfood or is introduced to the health benefits of soy that they change their mind.

Scott lives in Hoschton, Georgia, about 45 miles northeast of Atlanta. CEO and Founder of Devansoy, Elmer Schettler, resides in the Four Corners Region of Colorado. Devansoy headquarters has remained in Carroll. Scott describes the Devansoy team as a collaborative effort made possible through a “virtual office.” Scott describes Devansoy as a “global business” with its products exported to dozens of countries around the world.

To learn more about cooking with soy and soyfoods, Elmer suggests Eco-Cuisine, a vegetarian foodservice company was founded by Chef Ron Pickarski. Pickarski has won gold medals at the International Culinary Olympics and on The American Natural Foods Culinary Olympics Team using Devansoy products. Elmer also recommends as a website for more information regarding soyfoods. Devansoy has had a seat on the Board of Directors of Soyfoods Association of North American (SANA) for the past 15 years. This website also contains many ideas and recipes for cooking with soy.

Tofu Alfredo Sauce

Fettucine Alfredo is typically an indulgence for most. The traditional recipe is full of heavy cream and real butter and has a whopping 550 calories per serving for the rich cream sauce alone. This version replaces the original with tofu and soymilk and saves 350 calories per serving. This recipe comes from the National Soybean Research Laboratory in Urbana, Illinois.
1 package (12 oz) firm silken tofu

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp oil

1 -1/2 tsp dried basil

1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp Kosher salt (or less to taste)

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 cup plain soymilk

1 package frozen broccoli

1 pound pasta, cooked and drained

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Warm in the microwave 3-4 minutes on high or until hot. Cook pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add frozen broccoli to cooking water. Drain and toss with Alfredo sauce.

*Makes 4 servings. 155 Calories. 10 grams of fat. Traditional Alfredo Sauce - 550 Calories, 51 grams of fat.

General Tso’s Chicken

This dish is often featured as the “chef’s specialty” at Chinese restaurants because of its popularity. It has a sweet and spicy flavor and is traditionally made with dark meat chicken that has been fried. This is a much healthier version of a Chinese favorite made with tofu.

1 (16 oz) box firm tofu
1 egg
3/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil (for frying)
3 chopped green onions
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2/3 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp sugar
red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp sherry wine (optional)
1 Tbsp white vinegar
steamed broccoli
Drain, dry and cut tofu into one inch chunks. You can freeze the tofu the night before to get a more “chicken-like” texture, if desired. Mix egg with 3 tablespoons of water. Dip tofu in mixture. Sprinkle cornstarch over tofu to completely cover. Heat oil in pan and fry tofu pieces until golden brown and set aside. Drain oil. Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan on medium heat and add onions, ginger and garlic, and cook for about two minutes (be very careful not to burn garlic). Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes and vinegar. Mix 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and pour into mixture, stirring well. Add fried tofu and coat evenly. Serve immediately with steamed broccoli over your choice of rice.
*Makes 4 servings. 254 calories per serving. 6 grams of fat.

Creamy Potato Soup

Here is a recipe for a creamy potato soup that can be made in less than 30 minutes. The cream is replaced by soy milk and the flavor is kicked up a notch with the addition of dill, white pepper, and garlic.
2 ¼ cups plain soymilk

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

2 -3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 Tbsp dried dill

¼ tsp ground white pepper

2 tsp minced garlic

3 tsp vegetable oil

4 cups vegetable stock

1 cup instant mashed potatoes

Saute onions, carrots, and potatoes until onions are translucent. Add garlic, pepper, and dill and continue to saute for 2-3 minutes. Add stock, stir, and bring to a light simmer. Add soymilk, then add instant potatoes, stirring constantly to fully disperse. Bring to a light simmer and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes until potatoes are al dente. Taste and adjust seasonings; salt and pepper. Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top.
*Makes 4 servings.

Creamy Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing is widely used as a salad dressing and as a dip for veggies, fries, wings, etc. Although extremely popular among adults and kids, it is known for its high fat content. A two tablespoon serving contains 15 grams of fat and 145 calories. This is a “heart healthy” version that can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator.

1¼ cups soy milk
1 (12 oz) pkg silken tofu
1 (1 oz) pkg ranch salad dressing mix packet
Place the soymilk, silken tofu and dressing mix into the blender. Whirl until well blended, scraping down sides if necessary. Put dressing into a jar and store in the refrigerator.
*Makes 10 servings (2 ½ cups). 48 calories per serving. 1.5 g total fat (0 g sat fat) per serving.

Cherry Vanilla Chip Muffins

Instead of boring blueberry muffins, this dairy-free variety hosts a pleasing plethora of flavors including banana, vanilla, apple, and cherry.
1 banana, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup egg substitute
3/4 cup vanilla soymilk
2 Tbsp soy oil (vegetable oil)
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups white rice flour
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup vanilla baking chips
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl blend the banana, egg substitute, soymilk, oil and applesauce together. Stir in the rice flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix until just moistened then stir in the dried cherries and vanilla chips. Pour batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Strawberry Soy Smoothie Recipe

With warmer weather approaching, a strawberry smoothie is always a yummy treat and smoothies are a super simple and delicious way to eat more fruit.
1 cup vanilla soy milk
5 ounces silken tofu, firm, chilled and cubed
2 cups frozen or fresh strawberries
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine ingredients in blender.
*Makes 2 shakes.