It’s Breakfast Time!


Good Morning!

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A big part of The Healthy Cooking Game is that in order to play like the pros, you need to start finding out what foods do for you.  

Huh?  What foods do? Don’t they get somewhat chewed up and digested and, voila! You don’t need any more for a little while?

Yes. Yes, that’s right in the most basic sense. But there’s so much more to know! Take breakfast for instance. If you eat eggs, do you know what they do for you?

The Incredible Edible Egg website says an egg has about 6.2 grams of protein, 4.8 grams of fat (1.6 of that is saturated), 186 grams of cholesterol and a few vitamins and minerals. But the nutritional data is not the only thing I’m talking about.

Eggs are a very concentrated food. After all, a fertilized egg is the beginning of an entire chicken. Technically speaking, you could consider an egg to be a whole food for that reason. When a food is so concentrated with fat and protein, it takes much longer to digest and in order for your body to really break it down to become useful, you’ve got to be able to balance that egg with things that help with that breakdown and assimilation. (Cruelly, bacon, hash browns and pancakes with butter and syrup just don’t do the trick.)

I would think that in order to create BALANCE with an egg, you would eat at least 3-4 times the volume of dark leafy greens and other vegetables. You might want to know what veggies are really great for helping to break down that fat, too. Like shiitake mushrooms and daikon radish. Or that throwing in some ginger, onions and garlic could be helpful.

But are you sure you would want to eat that egg? Lately I’ve been very concientious about not eating foods that are genetically modified (GMO). You probably know that corn and corn products are big GMO foods unless they’re organic or officially labeled “non-GMO.”

Try going to the natural food store and finding eggs that you can be 100% certain have not come from chickens who were fed any GMO corn or other feed. You’ll see all kinds of “free-range,” “naturally fed,” and “from down on the farm.”  In order to be truly GMO-free, your egg has got to be organic and so does the chicken it came from and so does the food the chicken ate. They are there on the shelves too, for a price. You’ve really got to read that carton to be sure what you’re getting!

Why not skip all that worry and have your scramble and your balance?

Scrambled Tofu

Serves Two

  • 8 oz of firm organic tofu (I prefer sprouted tofu—very digestible)
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of diced yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
  • tumeric
  • red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Put about a tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy skillet and let it start heating up while adding the shallots. Add a pinch of sea salt here to bring out the flavor of the shallots. When the shallots are translucent and pretty soft (they will have a very sweet taste cooked this way) add your diced yellow squash and another pinch of salt and stir fry that for a minute or two.

Add the tumeric – about a half teaspoon. The tumeric will release a bright yellow color and you want that because when you add your tofu, it will become yellow too—just like scrambled eggs!

Take your tofu and squish it up with your hands so it looks like scrambled eggs and drop it into the pan. I love adding the chili pepper flakes at this point. Season the tofu with some sea salt. Stir the tofu around until it has become a lovely, “eggy” color.

Throw in the parsley at the end and turn off the heat. The parsley will cook a tiny bit with the heat already in the pan/food but will stay bright green. So pretty!

And what, hopefully you are asking, will scrambled tofu DO for me?

Four oz of tofu—such as one serving of this delicious recipe—contains about 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and zero cholesterol! (Sorry egg people, you’re just not all that incredible.)  Tofu has many phytonutrients and known minerals and vitamins naturally occurring. Tofu is also highly digestible and won’t take hours like the egg will. (Note though, that soy beans are another crop that is pretty much across-the-board GMO unless it is certified organic.)

And the rest? Veggies including green parsley for additional vitamins and minerals and blood-cleansing chlorophyl. Plus fiber! Sea salt cooked in the food and not added on top of food at the table helps break down the food and make it taste sweeter and more delicious. Turmeric is well-known as a super hero in fighting inflammation. Plus it contributes a lovely yellow color! Chili pepper flakes are one of my favorite ways to get a little hot taste and help get the ol’ circulation going.

Talk about Breakfast of Champions!

Rejuvenation and Dashi

Springtime rejuvenates me. I love the budding trees, the very young, very light shade of green that new leaves have. I look forward to the sweet, sultry smell of the Russian olive trees. And I love putting away the coats and gloves and hats. Here in Central New Mexico, we get to closet them for a good eight or nine months.

Spring is a miraculous season.

Spring is a miraculous season. This photo is dedicated to my blogging friend, Kathy, who lives in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan where she is still experiencing the need for the coats, hats and gloves.

Seems like all living things are awakened in the spring—even my Christmas cactus has decided to bless us with a single bright blossom! This hasn’t happened in three years since I first got the plant as a Christmas present. It was covered in bright red blooms then, but little by little they finished their time and dried up and dropped off. Never to be seen again. Try as I did to encourage another bloom, the Christmas cactus remained a beautiful green with new growth and a lovely vibrancy, but alas, no flowers. Until now!

A Springtime Christmas gift!

A Springtime Christmas gift!

I celebrated with a little springtime rejuvenation of my own.

Shiitake Scallion Soup – Makes 6

  • 1 1/2 quarts of spring water
  • 6 inch piece of kombu
  • naturally brewed soy sauce to taste (I recommend Nama Shoyu)
  • 1/2 cup bonita dried fish flakes (optional)
  • 1 package of extra-firm organic tofu
  • 1 bunch of fresh organic scallions
  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms

1. Make the soup stock, also known as dashi-a Japanese-style broth. Put the kombu and spring water in a pot and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. The kombu has many minerals and creates a wonderful flavor for this basic soup stock.

2. Remove the kombu* and (optional) add the bonita flakes. Turn off the heat and steep the bonita flakes for a few minutes. They will sink to the bottom. Strain the stock. I used a strainer with an unbleached coffee filter inside to get all solids from the bonita flakes out.

3. Soak the shiitake mushrooms until they are soft. Remove any stem pieces. The stems are not generally used because they remain tough. Slice the mushrooms very thinly and add them to the strained stock and bring to a simmer again. Let it simmer while you prepare the tofu.

4. To prepare the tofu, you can cut it into bite-size squares. Use whatever amount you wish but for me, I’m making this a light, light soup and I don’t want a lot of tofu. I decided to make a single large piece of tofu for each bowl by cutting the tofu into six big chunks and then making partial cuts in each chunk creating a sea anomone effect. Use chopticks or wooden spoon handles to prevent the knife from cutting all the way through. Place the tofu pieces into the broth.

Use the chopsticks to keep the knife from slicing all the way through.

Use the chopsticks to keep the knife from slicing all the way through.

5. Season the (still simmering) soup with soy sauce–just enough to give a light flavor but not enough to be salty or overwhelm the flavor of the broth. The best way to judge this is to taste your broth each step of the way so you know what the flavors are and won’t overdo the shoyu.

6. Wash the scallions and remove the roots.** Make a small verticle slice in the little white bulb of the scallion, then cut on an angle to create 1-inch pieces. I like to use the white part and the lighter green part but not the dark green ends. You aren’t really cooking this; just put it in the hot soup, turn off the heat and it will become a beautiful bright green just like the new spring leaves outside!

Dashi makes a light and flavorful base for your springtime soup bowl.

Dashi makes a light and flavorful base for your springtime soup bowl.

*Save the kombu you used for the broth and add it to another soup or vegetable dish.

** If the scallion roots are nice and fresh, as they often are in the spring and early summer, you can store them in a glass of water in your refrigerator and use them to flavor soups. Just chop them up very fine and add them in!

Use Your Flavorination!

When a writer is staring at a blank computer screen and can’t seem to get any words down, we call that “writer’s block.”

When an artist faces a blank canvas and is uninspired to lay down the first brush strokes, we say he has “lost his muse.”

English: Chocolate mousse with strawberries pr...

Chocolate mousse with strawberries prepared using silken tofu and soy milk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do we call it when the uncertain vegetarian is staring at a block of tofu and has no idea how to take this bland, white piece of supposed-to-be-good-protein and turn it into dinner? I say that is a budding chef who simply needs some “FLAVORINATION!”  You know . . . to imagine some rich and piquant flavors that would please the palette and make that blank block of tofu into a taste sensation.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying all tofu is completely flavorless.  Three friends and I once spent an evening making our own tofu starting from scratch with soy beans.  We toiled and waited and cleaned up messes and drank some sake and followed the directions and strained and curdled and after several hours we had produced two pounds of the freshest tofu any of us had ever had.  It looked sooo good and that was the beginning of the end.  Once we started to taste it, it was so incredibly wonderful and flavorful–just by itself with a splash of shoyu–that two pounds of tofu was gone in about fifteen minutes.

Memorable experience, but I never again invested that much time and effort to make tofu–only to have it scarfed up immediately.  Besides, I no longer drink sake.

So.  You’re at your food store and you’re staring at packages of soft, firm and extra firm tofu.  You also notice there is tofu in little aseptic boxes.  Which one should you buy?  Knowing that soybeans are near the top of the list of genetically modified foods, you definitely should consider buying organic tofu.  Organic foods are not supposed to contain GMOs.  All tofu is stored in water and it should be spring water, so check the package for that.

Firm or extra firm tofu is great for stir-frying, broiling, coating and deep-frying or baking or for soups.  Soft tofu is, well, softer and not as dense.  It too can be used for soups and it is also good for dips and dressings that you will be blending in a blender.  Silken tofu is also great for blending and is often the tofu of choice for smooth luscious tofu desserts such as a mousse or pudding.

Now . . . the way I was brought up on tofu, we wouldn’t usually mix tofu with sweets and certainly not with sugar.  That is not a balanced preparation and not terribly digestible.  I know.  I know. The modern Japanese use tofu with sugar and all kinds of things with sugar.  That is not traditional.  They pay for their adoption of western ways with an incidence of cancer they never had in the good ol’ days.

So just because you’re vegetarian doesn’t make it okay to consume any combination of non-animal-based food you can dream up.  If you want a sugary tofu dessert, I invite you to Google it for yourself.  [If you’re thinking, “Then why did she put that photo up there of chocolate tofu mousse?”  I’m not mean, really!  That was an attractive photo and it got you to read this far, yes?]

My point here is that whatever you marinate, cook, blend, sauce or coat the tofu with is going to make the flavor of the tofu.  And just because I am in a friendly mood and don’t want to be too preachy about how you should take your tofu, I’m going to give you a suggestion for a barbecue-style tofu marinade.  This is not a recipe per se, just a concept to get you started.  You use your FLAVORINATION to put it all together.

I would combine red miso, garlic, olive oil, perhaps some tomato paste, and a bit of barley malt (a complex carbohydrate made from whole barley–sweet, but not like sugar).  I’d probably add some red pepper flakes or chile powder and a dash from a little bottle of red stuff called “Texas Champagne.”  It’s a hot sauce.  Then I’d taste this concoction and see what else it is asking for. You’ll probably add a little water and vinegar to give it that “saucy” consistency.

While preparing this sauce, slice extra firm tofu in 3/4 inch slices and lay them out on paper towels to drain off some of the water.  You can even put paper towels on top of the slices and put a cutting board or weighted flat pan on top to press out the water even more.

Then marinate the tofu in the BBQ sauce for a minimum of an hour so you really get the flavor into the tofu.  Broil it or pan-fry it or even grill it.  Garnish with something green–chopped parsely, fresh chopped basil–whatever your FLAVORINATION dreams up!

Okay, okay!  You talked me into it.  Take a quick walk over to Christina Cook’s website and look at this very easy to make dark chocolate mousse recipe.  And no sugar in it.  It’s sweetened with dates and I’m going to try it too!