7/17/09

Everything you wanted to know about Tofu....


...and more!
What is it?
Tofu is made from the curds of soybean milk (and water and a curdling agent) and is associated with Asian cooking/cuisine. To a vegetarian, tofu is likely a staple in the diet. However, this no-taste, mushy food, that you have no idea what to do with, is likely to be the last thing on your mind when you are looking for a high protein and high calcium food. Tofu is also a good source of iron, copper, selenium and omega 3-fatty acids.
There are several different types of tofu, all with around 60-90 calories per serving. Depending on the purpose for using the tofu, you can choose from Firm, Extra firm, silken or soft. I usually use Firm or Extra Firm (depending on which one is on sale) for cooking.
Here's the nutritional breakdown of Firm Tofu:
Serving size 2.8 oz (14 ounces in a package)
Calories per serving: 60
Fat per serving - 3.5g
Sat fat - .5g
Polyunsaturated fat (healthy fat) - 2g
Monounsaturated fat (healthy fat) - 1g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 0mg
Total carbs - 1g
Dietary fiber <1g
Sugars - 0g
Protein - 7g

Compared to a glass of organic milk (I compared to Stonyfield Farm Organic fat free milk) which is:
1 cup serving
Calories 80
Total fat - 0g
Cholesterol - less than 5mg
Sodium - 125mg
Carbs - 13g
Fiber - 0g
Sugars - 12g
Protein - 8g

Now there is nothing wrong with milk (skim, soy or organic) I just wanted to show a similarity of two types of protein sources in the diet.

Types of Tofu
Silken tofu (soft) - softer consistency than regular and will fall apart easily. Silken may be found in aseptic boxes that do not require refrigeration, whereas regular tofu requires refrigeration and is packed in water.Silken tofu has a shelf life for up to a year, whereas regular tofu (in water) should be used in less than a week. Silken tofu is similar to regular (same ingredients) but processed differently and can't be interchanged in recipes.
Most recipes with silken tofu will be used for dressings, sauces, deserts or smoothies.

Regular tofu - comes in a plastic container. Once you open the tofu package, you should empty out the water, cut out your portion and fill the package up with 1/2-3/4ths clean water. Cover and refrigerate for no more than a week. Continue this every time you use it for the next few days (empty water, fill with clean water). You can also put the tofu in a Tupperware container and follow the same instructions.
Regular tofu (firm, extra firm) is great in stir fries, tofu dishes and anything that requires tofu holding its shape. Firm and extra firm tofu can be used in dishes when the meal calls for crumbled or mashed tofu.
Tofu can be frozen for up to 5 months in its original package.

How to use it?
-Add spices and bake or cook it until golden brown will a little olive oil.
-Marinate it with low sodium sauces or hot sauce.
-Add tofu chunks to soups and stir fries.
-Crumble tofu into egg mixtures or deserts.
-Add tofu to smoothies.
-Add tofu to salads or pasta.
-Crumble or chop tofu on pizza.
-Blend tofu with salsa and garlic for a creamy dip with pita chips or on a wrap/sandwich.

Why should you eat it?
-Soy has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides which are major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
-Protein will aid in tissue repair and rejuvenation.
-Because of the bland taste (without spices or dressings) you can add it to any recipe and not even know you are eating it.
-Tofu is quick and easy to prepare. You may not acquire a taste for it right away but if you experiment with different recipes, you will learn to appreciate its wonderful nutritional value.
-Tofu's protein quality is similar to milk, eggs or meat. Tofu is low in fat, has no cholesterol and sodium and is high in healthy fats (poly and monounsaturated) and high in protein.
-Good source of calcium, iron, b vitamins, copper and zinc.
-You can reduce your intake of fatty meats, without missing out on protein, by substituting tofu for meat dishes such as lasagna, sloppy joes or stir fries.
-Tofu has only 1g of carbs. For people looking to reduce calories without sacrificing flavor and taste, have you favorite piece of bread with a thick slice of marinated tofu.
*I'll be honest, I would take scrambled eggs over tofu anyday. However, the more I eat tofu and find different ways to prepare it, the more I really enjoy having it in my daily diet. I usually add it to my egg+veggie mixtures in cubes or I top homemade pizza with thin tofu slices. I absolutely LOVE putting it in the oven on 400-degrees with garlic, a little olive oil and a little balsamic until it is golden. Then I chop it into pieces and add it to my salad.

Recipe
Tofu burger
*I've never made this recipe but found it on http://www.savvyvegetarian.com
Check out the site for many more vegetarian recipes.

Ingredients:

* 1 lb extra firm tofu
* 1/4 c each whole wheat flour, corn flour, & rolled oats
* 1/2 c parsley tops or fresh basil leaves, washed & dried
* 1 tsp each paprika, coriander, cumin
* 1/2 tsp dried basil or thyme
* 1/4 tsp ginger
* pinch cayenne
* 1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce

Instructions:

1. Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium with 1 tbsp. olive oil, or your favorite cooking oil. *You can add garlic to the oil for extra flavor.
2. Cut tofu into 1 inch chunks, and add to food processor. If you don't have one, mash by hand or with a potato masher, and finely chop the parsley or basil first.
3. Throw in everything else and mix well by hand, or on low in the food processor just until it all clumps up.
4. Form into thin patties, and fry in small amount of oil, on medium heat, 5-7 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

If you need more ideas...
http://www.fatfree.com/recipes/tofu/

7/15/09

Chicken Fajita

As much as we all love a hot plate of cooked veggies, we all look forward to a piece of bread with a meal. What fun would PB&Jelly be if we served it on a spoon?
Many people believe that weight loss involves reducing carbs. Well, I think this was the old thinking and now many people (athletes primarily) are under the impression that bread, pasta, pizza, rice and potatoes, in high quantities, must be consumed on a daily basis in order to fuel and recover from workouts. While there is nothing wrong with carbs (prioritizing the 100% whole grain/high fiber ones) it is important that we consume healthy carbs, filled with nutrients which will improve the immune system, fuel workouts and keep us satisfied.
If I told you to just eat veggies or a salad for a meal, that would be quite boring. I would never say that because I don't do that and if I don't do it...I don't preach it. However, if I told you to add some protein to your veggies, now we are talking about a more balanced meal.
Veggies are often overlooked as quality carb-providing foods. It's easy to get a loaf of bread and feel carbo-loaded but if you eat a plate of cooked veggies for dinner, it just doesn't feel like a complete meal.
Before I give you the steps for your next carb-filled, healthy meal, I want to give some recommendations on picking out your wraps, bread and tortillas in the grocery.
1) Look for the lowest calorie option possible. Put those items in your cart.
2) Check the fiber content. If your product has at least 3 grams fiber, keep it. Put all other options away.
3) Check the first ingredient. If the product is enriched, put it away. If the first ingredient is along the lines of 100% whole wheat, keep it.
4) Look at prices. There is no point spending an extra dollar for something claimed to be "healthier". If you are choosing a package of spinach wraps for $4 because it has 4 grams of fiber, instead of the non-named brand package whole wheat wrap for $2 with 3grams of fiber, go with the cheaper item. If you stuff your wrap with fiber, you will never know you missed out on that 1gram of fiber.
5) Re-evaluate your choice. Think about your meal that you will serve with your wrap. Is it worth buying a large wrap with 180 calories if you are only putting in chicken and lettuce inside? that's a lot of wrap without a lot of fillers. If you choose a small wrap, is that going to be too small for your fillings and you find yourself eating more wrap than veggies and protein? In most cases, you are better off buying a higher calorie, large wrap, stuffing the wrap and then eating 1/3rd of it, rather than buying lower calorie, small wraps and eating 3-4 wraps because you want more and more fillings (ex. meat, veggies, rice, etc.)
These suggestions are just a guideline. It is up to you to make the healthy option. As I have mentioned in previous posts, never eliminate a food without finding a healthy solution. If you find yourself eating way too many 150 calorie cinnamon raisin english muffins, choose a 90 calorie cinnamon raisin loaf of bread. Maybe the products aren't whole grain but at least you are starting off your weight loss journey in the right direction by reducing 40 calories from 1 item, in your daily diet. Now think if you could do that with 10 items in your diet....400 calories lost in one day!

Chicken Fajitas
Tortilla/wrap/fajita of your choice (I found mine at Wal-mart. Surprisingly, the fat-free wraps had more fiber than the whole grain wraps..who knew??)
1/2 can bean mixture (in the picture below, this is one of my favorites. I always give it a rinse before I use it)
Veggies - mushrooms, onions, garlic, corn, green peppers, tomatoes
1/2 tube of Firm tofu (cut into small blocks)
1/2 box rice pilaf (opt for low sodium)
Chicken or veggie burger
1 tsbp. olive oil
Salsa
Shredded cheese

1. Start cooking rice according to the package.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium heat. Pour 1 tbsp olive oil on pan.
3. Place chop veggies on skillet. If using frozen veggies (ex. corn, peppers, mushrooms) put those on the skillet first, then place the rest of the veggies.
4. Stir veggie mixture and place tofu in mixture. Stir and cover (covering the pan will help the veggies cook faster).
5. While veggies are cooking, prepare your piece of chicken (or microwave/cook veggie burger) to your liking. I prepared Karel's chicken with bread crumbs and lemon pepper w/ 1/2 tbsp olive oil on a separate non stick pan.
6. When veggies are finishing cooking (golden brown) turn off heat. Add salsa, stir and leave covered until chicken is finished cooking.
7. You may microwave your fajita or lightly toast it in a 400 degree oven for 1-2 minutes.
8. Start platting your fajita.
-Start with 1 fajita and sprinkle cheese
-Add your "meat" of choice (cut into pieces)
-Add a large spoonful of rice.
-Add veggie mixture.
-Attempt to close the fajita like a pro or just fold it in half and enjoy a messy, yet healthy meal :)
-Rather than going back for another fajita, serve a salad or the extra veggie mixture as a side to your first wrap.










7/13/09

Another update

Sorry for the lack of blogs. School...you know, my most common excuse.
My hip was feeling better last week and managed to get in a longer run on wed and a short run on thurs. I was looking forward to a workout on sat but wasn't sure how it would go.
I decided to drive 1 mile down to the road to the Trek store because I wasn't sure exactly how I would feel for the workout. My plan was to bike and then do a long-er run. I would just run and stop if I hurt. The reason why I drove to the trek store was because I planned to run past my place and if I hurt, I could just go home, rather than having to walk my way back home for many miles.
I first biked 15 miles and felt great on the bike. Thank goodness my biking is still coming along. My run was ok when I started but by mile 2 my rt. leg went almost completely weak. Once again, no pain, just sudden weakness. The weird thing is that when I walk for a few minutes I can start running again pain free. Any thoughts on this one? I would think if I had a tear somewhere in my butt/hip, I would have pain. And with anything serious, why am I ok to run, stop and then run again. It is just the most annoying thing ever. I guess it could be from overuse so I made a decision to go back to my car. Running and walking for 5 miles. Rather than cutting my workout short, I decided to get on my bike. I ended up riding 25 more miles and the time just passed by. Probably because I was thinking about the possibility that I would not be able to compete at IMKY. I know it sounds silly but I will always re-live my first IM experience and my Kona experience. Now, I'm ready to race. I would never think or advise a newbie triathlete to race an IM, but I feel like my training has gotten me to a point with my fitness that I can compete in a long distance event. I don't want to have a limiter, such as a weak leg, to ruin my day. I just want to get out there and let my body and mind be in control and let the uncontrollables (not an injury) be my only weakness.
After the bike I wanted to run with Campy. Poor thing hasn't had a run in a week and we all know how Karel feels about running..."Why would you run if you have a bike?" or my favorite "Why are you running, is something wrong with your bike?" Gotta love him :)
I did a few running drills in the Trek store parking lot (as advised by my PT and friend Libby) and I was feeling really good. I ended up running easily back home and then another mile with Campy. Once again, I am just perplexed at this frustrating "injury". Campy was super happy to run and it just made me so happy to forget about my training and see him smile.
As for the rest of the day, I did my hip exercises and iced. Felt ok the rest of the day and no worse discomfort.
On sun, Karel and I did the group ride and with lots of strong riders there, I was impressed with my skills and speed. It was really tough and we averaged around 24-26 for the 60 mile ride. Well, my ride was cut short because I got dropped with about 10 miles to go. Bummer. The whole ride I was drafting behind Karel which was probably not the best idea. He had his TT bike so he was pushing really hard and it was hard to stay on his wheel. With 20+ people behind me I would give it my all to stay on his wheel but then I just couldn't hang on any more. I decided to pull out of the line when Karel was pulling but I knew I wouldn't be able to get back on. When the group is going 25+ mph, I have no luck trying to move to the back and then jump back on. Just too hard for me at that pace. Karel finished his pull and we both rode back to the car together. What a great hubby. I was a bit frustrated, had my share of tears but then all was ok. I was just frustrated cause I felt so good.
After the ride I had absolutely no discomfort in my leg. I didn't want to run and decided I would swim on Mon morning (did a 3000 + weights) and not run this week. I will keep my normal training volume (no need overdoing it to make-up for missed running time) and just omit the running this week. Hopefully this will help but I'm happy that I can still bike and swim.
I'm open to suggestions if anyone has similar experiences with no pain, no numbness, leg weakness only when running but after walking, I can run again.

Here are a few pics of the best sleeper in our house...