Go Vegetarian One Day a Week

The eighth Healthy Habits challenge: Go meatless one day a week for all three meals.

All About Soy

In its many guises, soy can star in dishes from appetizers to desserts.

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Tempeh
Although tempeh (tem-PAY) was first made in Java about 1,000 years ago, it's actually a relative newcomer to the soy category. The Dutch discovered it in Indonesia in the 1600s and introduced it to the West.

A fermented food, tempeh is made from partly cooked soybeans inoculated with spores of a friendly mold in a process resembling cheese-making. The mold creates threads that bind the beans into a flat cake. Tempeh is blanched or frozen to slow fermentation and preserve active enzymes. It has a yeasty flavor and firm texture.

Tempeh can be made with soybeans alone, but you often find it composed of soy and a grain, such as rice, barley, or quinoa. All-soy tempeh is highest in protein, has the most pronounced flavor, and is highest in fat. Good grilled, sautéed, pan-crisped, or braised, tempeh is sold at natural-foods stores and in some large supermarkets.

Soy Milk
Soy milk is squeezed from dried soybeans that have been soaked, ground, and cooked. Asian markets sell it just as it comes from the bean, thin and strong-tasting, perhaps sweetened. The soy milk sold in supermarkets and natural-foods stores tastes mild by comparison and is thickened to resemble dairy milk. Besides chocolate and vanilla, it comes in an increasing selection of flavors, such as chai and latte.

Like tofu, which is made from soy milk, it varies significantly by brand in taste, protein, and fat content. (To reduce fat, water is added.) Most soy milk is calcium-fortified to equal dairy milk. A replacement for dairy milk in recipes, unsweetened soy milk is best in desserts and some savory dishes.

Miso
This fermented soybean paste originated in ancient China and migrated throughout Asia, where it is still popular. Chefs love miso, especially for seasoning fish. Made from a blend of soy and grain or with soy alone, it instantly adds rich flavor to all kinds of dishes―we spiced up the spaghetti sauce in the recipe at right. It also adds creaminess to sauces and soups, and thickens them slightly.

Resembling peanut butter, miso ranges in color from light to dark and in taste from mildly sweet to very salty. It contains less sodium per serving than salt and regular soy sauce. Miso keeps indefinitely, refrigerated in a glass jar.

• Light [Sweet and Mellow White ( Shiro), Mellow Beige ( Tanshoku)]: Use with fish, poultry, dressings, creamy soups, and vegetables. Light miso contains the least salt.

• Dark [Red ( Aka), Barley ( Mugi), and all-soy ( Hatcho)]: All dark misos are good with grains and legumes, and in stews, tomato sauce, and gravy.

Soy Flour
Made of finely ground dried soybeans, this high-protein soy food can replace some flour in many recipes. Commercial bakeries often use soy flour in breads and pastries because it retains moisture and gives baked goods longer shelf life. Soy flour also creates a large, fluffy crumb. Adding even a small amount to your favorite bread recipes boosts protein. Using 20 to 30 percent soy flour along with all-purpose works best, as soy flour contains no gluten. Higher amounts can produce a heavy, grainy result. Full-fat soy flour works better than defatted in baking. Store soy flour in a glass jar in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 6 months.

Meat Alternatives
From crumbles that resemble ground beef to soy sausage and bacon, these refrigerated and frozen products can replace meat in most recipes. Made with soy protein, they are cholesterol-free and cook quickly.

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