Friday, February 02, 2007

Tempeh-ting your tastebuds.

Just in case any of you carnivores are curious about what a veggie eats for dinner...

For dinner last night, I adapted this marinated tempeh stir-fry recipe.

For the marinade, I threw in an extra clove or two of garlic (of which I can never get enough), and substituted about a half a teaspoon of dried, ground ginger for the fresh ginger, which I didn't have on-hand.

I found that the tempeh I used really soaked up the marinade, so I had to whip up some more in order to make the sauce. This time around, though, I left out the garlic; I figured that all the minced garlic in with the tempeh would suffice--I didn't want garlic to be the only flavour I tasted! Also, because I wanted the sauce to be a little sweeter, I added an extra teaspoon of honey. (In hindsight, a third would have made the sauce even better.)

For the stir-fry itself, I used a wider variety of vegetables: bok-choi (which I will substitute for fennel, which is both tastier and healthier, the next time I make this), carrots, zucchini, broccoli, and kale. And I served the whole thing over couscous.

The result? So good that I was too busy eating to take a picture of the finished product! Truly, it was both tasty and satisfying. (No, Dad, it was fine without meat!) Come to think of it, it was satisfying in both a physical sense--it left me feeling full (but not stuffed)--and a psychological sense: I had just eaten a meal that I knew was high in vitamins A, C, and K, and was a good source of both protein and iron--two things that, as a vegetarian, I need to be extra diligent about consuming. I knew that I had done something very good for my health.

While I've had tempeh while eating out at vegetarian restaurants, at home I make my meals using a lot of lentils, beans, and tofu. But after having this stir-fry, I plan on incorporating tempeh into more of my meals. Checking out what the World's Healthiest Foods site had to say about the meat-substitute only made me more certain of my decision:

Soybeans are regarded as equal in protein quality to animal foods. Just 4 ounces of tempeh provides 41.3% of the Daily Value (DV) for protein for less than 225 calories and only 3.7 grams of saturated fat. Plus, the soy protein in tempeh tends to lower cholesterol levels, while consuming protein from animal sources tends to raise them, since they also include saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition to healthy protein, some of tempeh's nutritional high points include:

Riboflavin: 4 ounces of tempeh provides 23.5% of the DV for this B-vitamin. A nutrient essential for the transfer reactions that occur to produce energy in the mitochondria, riboflavin is also a cofactor in the regeneration of one of the liver's most important detoxification enzymes, glutathione.

Magnesium: Tempeh also provides 21.9% of the DV for Nature's blood vessel relaxant, magnesium, in just 4 ounces. In addition to its beneficial role in the cardiovascular system, magnesium plays an essential role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including those that control protein synthesis and energy production.

Manganese and Copper: That same 4 ounces of tempeh will give you 72.5% of the DV for manganese and 30.5% of the DV for copper. These two trace minerals serve numerous physiological functions including being cofactors for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

You know, the longer I go without meat, the easier to be a vegetarian it becomes. And that's not just because I keep finding tasty new ways to get my protein.

Up until a month or two ago, I would get really strong cravings for red meat. I asked my younger sister, who has been a vegetarian for seven or eight years and a vegan for at least the last five, about this. I assumed that--even though I made the switch a gradual one, so as to ensure that I/my body wouldn't feel deprived (it took me a year to wean myself off of seafood)--this was just part of my body's response to adjusting to the new diet. My sister, whose dietary change wasn't gradual (although I don't know that that has anything to do with it), didn't experience any cravings for the proteins she left behind. Maybe it's because, as she maintains, she never really liked the taste of meat anyway?

At any rate, my cravings for meat are fewer, further between, and weaker than ever. I find myself getting cravings for meat-substitutes--peanut butter and brown lentils (cooked curry-style!) especially. I find my commitment to my new lifestyle--because, when it comes down to it, vegetarianism is more than just a diet--becoming more firm, and my decisions about what goes into my body easier and healthier.

And now I'm off to eat some fruit (blueberries and oranges!) and yogurt, and to do some more reading.

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