The Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines now include soy products and soy beverages, but the recommendation can leave some home cooks quivering like a block of silken tofu at the thought of trying to incorporate soy in daily life.
But soy -- and what to do with it -- has come a long way in the past 20 years. And given the health benefits -- the plant protein is low in fat, high in calcium and rich in vitamins -- we might want to give it the old college try. No better time than the present, the Soyfoods Association of North America is lobbying.
Patricia Greenberg, a nutritionist and chef who serves as spokeswoman for the association, relayed some advice for soy virgins and aficionados alike.
Rule No. 1: Just try it.
Pick your favorite recipe and try swapping in tofu for half the protein, Greenberg said. Spaghetti and meatballs? Proceed as usual, but sub in "ground round" soy substitute for half the ground meat.
Rule No. 2: Think sweet, think soy.
If you're making a pudding, smoothie or milkshake and you want to eliminate some of the milk, yogurt or ice cream, puree some tofu in the blender first and then add the additional ingredients. But choose which style of tofu you use carefully.
"When you're doing sweet desserts, custards, desserts, use silken tofu," Greenberg said. "It whips up easily and you don't want to have that beany aftertaste."
Rule No. 3: When baking with soy, proceed carefully.
Baking is extremely difficult with soy, since soy flour doesn't rise as much as white or whole wheat flour, she said. Instead, use soymilk or soy sour cream in the milk portion of the recipe.
Rule No. 4: Tofu isn't the terrible, unappetizing block of soy some think it is.
Many people think tofu tastes bad and that its texture is unappealing, Greenberg said. But if you work with it -- taking care to season it -- you'll have much more success.
Rule No. 5: Kids won't eat soy.
They will if you use the aforementioned rules, with a little twist. Edamame are a great soy snack, but if you're kids are averse to eating anything green, try incorporating soy in sneakier ways. Macaroni and cheese can get a protein boost if you swap in soy cheese for half the amount of cheddar called for in the recipe. Substitute soy milk for regular milk in waffles or French toast. Use soy cheese mozzarella sticks stuffed in manicotti shells and covered in marinara for a quick weeknight dinner.
Want to try a little soy this week? Here's a favorite recipe among folks at the Soyfoods Association.
>Tofu and Vegetable Enchiladas with Red Chili Sauce
1/2 package (7 ounces) tofu (firm or extra firm), drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/2 cup white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped
8 corn tortillas
1 19-ounce can enchilada sauce
1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
Queso Fresco for garnish, crumbled
Wrap tofu in paper towels and press to remove excess water and crumble.
Cook mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet medium-high heat until browned. Add red onion and cook until translucent. Add tofu and cook until browned. Add spinach and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir until spinach wilts. Remove from heat. In a large skillet on medium heat, place tortillas and cook for 1 minute on each side.
Put 1/2 cup of mixture on tortilla and roll up to form the enchilada.
In a large skillet over medium heat, saute white onion until brown, using 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Add enchilada sauce and salt to taste. Bring it to a boil.
Dip the enchiladas into the hot sauce and place on a plate. Pour the remaining sauce over enchiladas and top with cheese. Serve hot.
Serves four.(Recipe courtesy of House Foods and the Soyfoods Association of North America.)