What You May Not Know About Tofu That’s Consumed In Japan

Jannine Myers

Tofu is a staple food here in Japan, and while there is much debate about whether or not tofu is good for you – or more specifically, soy – I still continue to eat and enjoy tofu. What I will say about tofu however, is that only a small percentage of what is sold in Japan is actually produced from domestically-grown soybeans. Ironically, Japanese tofu manufacturers rely largely on American soybeans.

Initially, the provision of American soybeans during the post-war era greatly assisted in supplementing the diet in most Japanese homes, but since the United States approved the production of genetically modified soybeans in the 1990s, tofu (and other soy products) is no longer what it used to be. I’m not about to discuss the arguments for and against genetically modified crops (there’s enough information out there for you to do your own research ), but the purpose of this post is to simply bring awareness to the fact that soy products in Japan are heavily dependent on the import of American soybeans.

If the issue of genetically-modified crops concerns you, and you would prefer to buy locally-produced tofu that has been made from organically-grown soybeans (from Mie Prefecture), Green Leaf usually has fresh packages stored in their refrigerator section. I’m sure there are other stores in Okinawa that sell “GM-free” tofu, but Green Leaf (in Chatan) is the only place I currently know of.

For those of you who enjoy tofu as much as I do, here’s one of my favorite tofu salad recipes:

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Tofu made from organically-grown soybeans (in Mie Prefecture)

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Ingredients

  • 1 (14-ounce) container firm tofu
  • 1 can drained white beans
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • handful of cranberries
  • handful of pecan pieces
  • a few stalks of green onions, sliced
  • a bunch of string beans, lightly steamed
  • any type of green leaves (I used Italian parsley in the above dish)

Directions

Wrap tofu in paper towels and let it sit for 20 minutes to remove excess liquid.
Place tofu on a cutting board and cut into cubes. Place 1/3 cup of the tofu in a blender and add 1/2 cup of the beans, mustard, vinegar, agave and salt. Blend until very smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and carefully mix in the remaining tofu and beans. Layer a salad bowl with the greens, tofu mixture, beans, spring onions, cranberries, and pecans. I like to let the salad sit in the refrigerator for several hours before eating, to allow the sauce flavors to penetrate the salad.

References: 

USSEC (U.S. Soybean Export Council) (2012 October). Japanese Trading Companies and the Asia-Bound Grain Trade. Retrieved from http:ussec.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/ASA-IM-Special-Report.pdf

Shimamura, Natsu (2007 Setember). Soybeans. Retrieved from http://tokyofoundation.org/en/topics/japanese-traditional-foods/volume/.-3-soybeans

Mason Jars – Convenient Meal Vessels For Busy Athletes

Jannine Myers

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A few weekends ago, on Mother’s Day, my daughters gave me two mason jars, which I really love! I personally like using them as drinking glasses, but mason jars can also be useful for people who want to take easy-to-make, healthy meals to work. Breakfast and lunch can both be made the night before, stored in mason jars, and easily carried to work the next day. Here’s three recipe examples that show how versatile mason jars are:

1. Green Smoothie

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Any smoothie recipe will do, but for the one above, I simply threw all of the following into a blender:

  • A small handful of Japanese salad greens
  • 1 kiwifruit
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 single serve packet of Green Smoothie powder (Japanese product)

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2. Cherry Chia Breakfast Oatmeal

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This was more like two and a half, or three, servings for me, but the nice thing about this recipe is that the chia seeds bind everything together so as long as you keep the jar in the refrigerator (with a sealed lid), you can eat it over a couple of days. Here’s how I made this fresh cherry oatmeal:

  1. Mix together 3/4 cup of oats, 1 cup almond milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and a dash of cinnamon to an airtight container. Gently whisk and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.
  2. Add about 1 1/2 cups fresh cherries and 1 tbsp maple syrup to a high-powered blender. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes or until completely smooth. Pour into an airtight container and stir in 2 tbsps chia seeds. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  3. In 3 small mason jars, layer the oats and cherry chia mixture. Garnish with chopped cherries (or other berries) and almonds, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

 

3. Chickpea, Brown Rice, and Green Salad

P1070028The thing you want to remember with mason jar salads, is that the dressing should be at the bottom of the jar, then beans and hearty vegetables should be added next, followed by grains and pastas, then protein, and finally greens, nuts, and seeds. You can either eat your salad right out of the jar (after giving it a good shake), or you can transfer it to a salad bowl. Here’s how I made this chickpea, brown rice, and green salad:

  1. In a rice cooker, I added about 1/2 cup of brown rice, and a single packet of mixed beans (you can find various types of mixed bean combinations – for use in the rice cooker – at any Japanese store). Once the brown rice and bean mixture is cooked, let it cool slightly and give it some flavor by adding a little olive oil, salt, and a couple of pressed garlic cloves. Mix together and put aside.
  2. Make a quick dressing by mixing together a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a tsp stone ground mustard, salt and pepper, a sprinkle of Italian herbs (optional), and a tsp of honey.
  3. Drain and rinse 1 can of chickpeas, and mix together with some sliced green onions. Add enough of the dressing to give it a good coating.
  4. Now you can start layering your salad; start with the chickpeas (stir a little more dressing in if needed), then layer with the rice and bean mixture, followed by a handful of freshly diced tomato, your favorite greens, and a sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese.

[What’s your favorite Mason Jar recipe?]

If You Like Salmon And Sweet Potato, You’ll Love This!

Jannine Myers

This meal is probably one of my current favorites; it doesn’t take long to make, it requires relatively few ingredients, and the flavors seem to blend together really well. It’s a salmon and sweet potato pattie, and I added bulgur as a binder and for taste. Bulgur, by the way, is one of the lesser-known whole grains, but it’s full of fiber and B vitamins so it makes for a good addition to any meal. But getting back to the recipe, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients

300g (or 2 small) skinless salmon fillets

1 Japanese sweet potato (Satsuma-imo) – the yellow kind, not purple

[Tip: I buy the sweet potato from San A in the cooked food section; it saves time when preparing the meal]

4 spring onions, chopped

Small piece of freshly chopped ginger (about 4cm)

1 lime

1/2 cup cooked bulgur

 

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First, to cook the bulgur, bring about 1/4 cup uncooked bulgur to a boil with 1/2 cup water. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Next, sear the salmon fillets in a little olive oil – a couple of minutes on each side will do (I season the fillets with salt and pepper before adding to the frying pan).

Remove the fillets and lay aside to slightly cool. Add the chopped spring onions and ginger to the pan and saute for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the pan.

Transfer the salmon to a mixing bowl, and shred the salmon. Add both the juice and grated zest of the lime and mix well with the salmon. Add the sweet potato (I add the skin too), and mash and mix with the salmon. Finally, add the bulgur, spring onions and ginger, and use your hands to mix all the ingredients throughly. The mixture should be enough to form 4 patties.

Heat your grill, and cook the patties until lightly browned on both sides. Serve on top of your favorite greens.

[Note: I make a quick orange dressing to drizzle over the patties. For 4 patties, I use 2 tbsps olive oil, 4 tbsps orange juice, a few red pepper flakes, and a little paprika]

LSA Chicken Tenderloins With Fresh Strawberry Dressing

Jannine Myers

I decided not to delay any longer in posting the recipe for this meal because we won’t be seeing fresh strawberries in the local supermarkets too much longer, and this recipe calls for fresh strawberries. It’s a fast, fresh, and easy meal consisting of chicken tenderloins coated in an LSA mix (I’ll explain the LSA in a minute), served over fresh greens, and drizzled with an amazing strawberry dressing.

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Getting back to LSA (Linseed, Sunflower, and Almond Meal), it’s a blend that was initially created by Dr. Sandra Cabot, for the purpose of detoxifying and cleansing the liver. The reason it packs a punch when it comes to superior nutritional quality, is because it contains all of these nutrients:

  • Omega-3, Omega 6 and 9 essential fatty acids, fiber, amino acids,, Vitamin A, E, D, B1, B2, B5, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper and zinc.

I used a store-bought blend of LSA, but you can certainly make your own.

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Ingredients

6 chicken tenderloins

1 egg

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsps parmesan cheese

LSA, enough to generously coat the chicken

Salad greens

Asparagus, 4 to 6

Green beans, a handful

 

For the strawberry dressing:

1 cup of strawberries

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsps of Olive/Grapeseed oil (or canola oil)

1/2 tsp sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Directions

Soak the chicken tenderloins in egg and garlic for at least one hour (this is the only “lengthy” part of preparing the meal, but if you plan in advance the rest is easy).

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Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove chicken from the egg mixture and coat with parmesan/LSA mixture. Place crumbed tenderloins on baking tray, and bake for about 10 minutes, turning over after 5 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, blanch the beans for 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and blanch for a further minute or so. Let the chicken, asparagus, and beans cool a little, then dress them all over a bed of green salad leaves.

To make the dressing, simply blend all the ingredients together in a blender, then drizzle over the tenderloins.

[Strawberry Dressing recipe from webmd.com]

Seared Scallops And Quinoa Kabocha Salad

Jannine Myers

This week’s fast, fresh, and easy dinner is one of those all-in-one throw-together type meals. I had some quinoa in the pantry that needed to be used, and some frozen Japanese kabocha (a winter squash that is sweeter than pumpkin) on hand, so I decided to pick up a few complimentary ingredients and make a warm quinoa and kabocha salad, topped with seared scallops.

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Ingredients

Bag of frozen Japanese kabocha (from San A)

3/4 cup quinoa, uncooked

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup water

Mixture of green leaves – whatever you like

1/2 red onion, diced (optional)

Approximately 2 tbsps lemon juice / 2 tbsps olive oil

Cilantro, chopped

Spices: about an 1/8 tsp of each – nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cayenne / about 1/2 tsp cinnamon / about 1 tsp of cumin and 1 tsp ground coriander

Fresh scallops (I bought mine from San A – 2 small packets)

Additional tbsp of olive oil for the scallops

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

Directions

Rinse and drain the quinoa, then bring to boil in the broth and water. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, and set aside to cool. Cook the kabocha according to the packet directions (I semi-thawed the kabocha, then microwaved for just a few minutes); set aside to cool. In a salad bowl, add the salad leaves (and red onion if you’re using it). Add the quinoa to the salad bowl. In a small cup, mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, and spices until well combined, then pour over the quinoa and stir it through. Add the kabocha and cilantro leaves, and gently stir the salad mixture so that all the ingredients soak up the flavors of the dressing.

Next, rinse the scallops and season with salt and pepper. In a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil, then add the scallops for a quick sear (a couple of minutes each side). Top the salad with the scallops once they have cooled a little. Finally, garnish with a few lemon wedges.

Salmon Avocado Herb Salad

Jannine Myers

This week I have decided to share the following salmon and avocado salad; I made this the other night and my oldest daughter loved it. What I love about this recipe, besides the fact that it’s a nice light meal, is that it really is fast, fresh, and easy.

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Ingredients

1 lb (approx.) of wild salmon, cooked and cooled

1 avocado, sliced

Green salad leaves (any kind)

Fresh herbs (any kind, but I used basil and dill)

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 tbsps capers

2 tbsps lemon juice

2 tbsps olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

I purchased two small skinless salmon fillets, and baked them in the oven for no more than 10 mins at 450 degrees F. Prior to baking, I coated the fillets in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, then placed on a lightly greased baking tray. Let the fillets cool down before plating on top of the salad.

In a small bowl, add the red onion, capers, and herbs. In a separate bowl or cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the onion, capers, and herbs, and mix together to let the flavors blend (cover and allow to sit in the refrigerator while the salmon is cooking/cooling).

When the salmon has cooled down (and has been cut into bite-size pieces), place some salad greens on each dinner plate. Top with salmon, avocado, and basil leaves, then add the red onion mix, making sure to drizzle a little of the dressing over the rest of the ingredients.

Serve with crusty slices of French bread loaf, or crispy crackers. Enjoy.

Balsamic Blueberry Pork Chops

Jannine Myers

This week’s fast, fresh, and easy dinner is from Shonna Calisi. Some of you met Shonna out on the trails before she and her family left Okinawa last year; she and her husband are both active duty service members, with a very busy under-two year old to take care of when they’re at home. Finding time to cook fast, healthy meals isn’t always easy, but they make it happen.

This blueberry balsamic pork chop meal was one that they found online, after searching for ideas on how to use some fresh, organic blueberries that they had just purchased. As you will see, apart from the time it takes to marinate the chops, the rest is fast and easy – and delicious!

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Shonna mentioned that this was her husband’s plate – hence the double portion of pork chops – just one pork chop for us ladies 🙂

INGREDIENTS
  • 3-4 pork chops
for the marinade
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon ground basil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
for the blueberry sauce
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. To prepare marinade, combine balsamic vinegar, water, garlic, and next four ingredients in a bowl and whisk til smooth. Pour marinade in to a large ziplock bag and add pork chops. Seal bag and chill 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Set oven to broil. Line a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
  3. Remove marinated pork chops from bag and discard marinade. Lay pork chops on baking sheet so that they are not touching. Cook 8 minutes on each side. Cut into the center of one pork chop to check doneness. If desired, cook longer for more well-done meat.
  4. While meat is cooking, add blueberry sauce ingredients to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook until ¾ of liquid is gone, be sure to stir periodically. Top cooked pork chops with blueberry sauce.

[Recipe from:http://lecremedelacrumb.com/2013/11/blueberry-balsamic-pork-chops.html]

Creamy Chickpea And Sweet Potato Curry

Jannine Myers

This week’s dinner meal really is fast, fresh, easy, and amazingly good. It’s a chickpea and sweet potato curry, with spices that blend well with added coconut milk and chicken broth. The recipe comes from Nutritional Therapist, Amelia Freer, and was sent to me by a good friend who follows Freer’s blog and highly recommends her new book Eat Nourish Grow.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of chopped pumpkin (or any squash)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 leeks, diced into half moons
1 white onion, peeled and finely diced
1 400ml can of coconut milk
2cm cube of fresh ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric (or a nice 2cm chunk of fresh turmeric)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
400ml filtered water or broth (I used organic chicken broth)
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh coriander to sprinkle on top

Method: 

Sauté the onion, garlic and leeks in a little coconut oil to soften. Do not brown.
Add the pumpkin, sweet potato and ginger and mix well.
Add the chickpeas and spices then pour over the coconut milk and water/both. Stir well.
Cover and simmer for 30 mins.
Before serving, sprinkle with fresh coriander and season to taste.

This also works really well in a slow cooker using dried chickpeas.

[Visit Freer’s blog for original recipe version – scroll down home page]

Seared Tuna With Watercress Salad

Jannine Myers

This week’s fast, fresh, and easy dinner is from Laura King. 

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Seared Tuna

Laura gets her tuna from her local San A supermarket; she buys a large, whole piece and slices it up. The tuna is quickly seared on the grill; you don’t want to sear it for too long or it will taste dry.

Watercress Salad

For the salad: use equal parts spinach and watercress, half an orange, 100g feta, 1 avocado, 1/4 cup walnuts. Add your favorite light dressing; Laura uses Yuzu Pon for a light dressing, with a little bit of reduced balsamic vinegar drizzled over. You can buy Yuzu Pon from any Japanese supermarket.

yuzu ponzu

Tips:

  • Since watercress is grown in water, you can soak it in water, store in the fridge for a couple of days, and then rinse well before eating (to remove any pollutants)
  • Laura also served garlic bread with the tuna and salad; she rubbed olive oil and garlic into pita bread and toasted it under the grill.

Chicken and Brown Rice Burger With Artichoke Sauce

Jannine Myers

As runners who are conscious about what we eat, and what we feed ourselves and families, I want to try and make meal times a little easier by providing regular posts of some of the meals I make at home that are fresh, fast, and easy.

Tonight’s meal comprises of a ground chicken and brown rice burger, topped with an artichoke sauce, and served with roasted carrots and zucchini, and a small salad.

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Ground Chicken and Brown Rice Burgers with Artichoke Sauce

  • 2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts (reserve 4 tbsps of marinade and drain the rest)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. To make the artichoke sauce, place artichoke hearts in a food processor, plus the reserved 4 tbsps marinade, and pulse until chopped. Add capers, garlic, chile flakes, 1/2 cup of the parsley and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and pulse until finely chopped. Set the sauce aside.
  2. Place ground chicken in a large bowl and add 1/2 cup of the cooked rice, black pepper and onion. Finely chop remaining 1/4 cup parsley and add it to the bowl along with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using moist hands to prevent sticking, form mixture into 4 or 5 patties, each about 3/4 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter. Place remaining 1/2 cup rice on a small plate. Coat each patty with rice; the rice should stick nicely to the patties.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add patties and lower heat to medium-high. Cook, turning once, until they are browned and crisp on the outside and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Serve patties topped with artichoke sauce.

Roasted Carrots and Zucchini

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Clean and slice the carrots and zucchini (thick slices are good). Add to a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Pour a little olive oil over the vegetables and make sure they are all coated. Bake for approximately 25 mins (or longer, depending on how well done you like your vegetables).

Side Salad

To save time, I buy pre-packaged bags of salads from our local San A supermarket; you can find a variety of leaves and cut vegetables. I’ve added some feta cheese and sliced red onion for flavor and topped with a light salad dressing.