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Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is not produced by plants. Sources of B12 include fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Therefore, for vegans, it is necessary to supplement their diet with B12.

What Does Vitamin B12 Do?

Vitamin B12 is important in the function of the brain and nervous system, as well as in the formation of red blood cells. It also plays a role in producing DNA and RNA, and in the health of nerve cells. Intrinsic factor, produced by the parietal cells in the stomach, is needed to absorb B12 (cobalamin) on location in the small intestine. If there is an issue with intrinsic factor, such as in the case of pernicious anemia, then B12 cannot be absorbed and megaloblastic anemia occurs, resulting in red blood cells that are deficient because they are unable to divide, and an insufficient number of circulating red blood cells.

Required for metabolism in each of the cells in the body, Vitamin B12 is stored mainly in the liver, with some stored in the muscles. However, if you never replenish your B12 stores, you will run out of B12 and run into health problems. B12 deficiency symptoms include weakness, fatigue, paranoia and hallucinations, jaundice, numbness or tingling of the extremities, balance issues, problems with cognition and memory loss. There are blood detection tests to determine whether someone is deficient in B12 levels.

What Can a Vegan Do?

The daily recommended dietary allowance of B12 for an adult is 2.4 micrograms, according to the National Institutes of Health. You can get B12 as a dietary supplement in the form of  cyanocobalamin, which the body changes to methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin, the active forms of vitamin B12. You can also get the already active form, methylcobalamin, as a supplement. If you don’t have a health problem with intrinsic factor, then you should be able to absorb approximately 10 micrograms of a 500 microgram oral supplement of B12. As you can see, very little of your B12 supplement is actually absorbed, even if you are healthy. In addition to oral supplements, sublingual B12 supplements are also available. I have taken the sublingual B12, and they are fun in that they melt under your tongue.

Some nutritional yeast products contain B12, and some foods like breakfast cereals are fortified with B12, so these are extra ways in which you can boost your daily dose of B12.

Synthetic Vitamin B12 Requires One Less Step for Absorption

The vitamin B12 that is naturally available in foods such as fish and meat are bound to the protein, and can be released only upon exposure to hydrochloric acid in the stomach and in the presence of the enzyme, gastric protease. The synthetic vitamin B12 available in dietary supplements and fortified foods does not need to be cleaved and released as such, and can already be used in the body. Once B12 is free, it joins with intrinsic factor, and then together, the complex is absorbed in the distal ileum of the small intestine.

Bottom Line: For Vegans, Vitamin B12 Must Be Supplemented in the Diet

 

 

 

Tofu

tofu

Tofu is delicious and a great source of protein.

Tofu is one of my favourite foods. Documentation of tofu production first appeared during the Chinese Han dynasty, about 2000 years ago. Eventually, tofu spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia. Buddhists favour tofu because it is plant-based protein, and tofu likely was disseminated by vegetarian Buddhists throughout Southeast Asia. A very versatile food, tofu has the ability to absorb the flavours of whatever it is cooked with. It can be cooked many ways, such as steamed, fried, baked, barbecued, and stir-fried. I really love smoked tofu and can eat that right out of the package.

How Tofu is Made

To produce tofu, soy beans are soaked and pressed. The resulting soy milk is isolated, and then coagulated with a coagulant such as magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, or calcium sulfate. Once the tofu curdles, it is pressed into blocks. Tofu is pasteurized, as it extends shelf life.

So Many Different Types of Tofu!

When you stroll into the aisle carrying the tofu, you will usually find many kinds. There is tofu that is silken, soft, medium-firm, firm, and extra-firm. In addition, you may find smoked tofu (which is usually very firm), pressed tofu, and fried-tofu. If you like a pre-flavoured tofu, there are some that are pre-marinaded, smoked, herbed, or pre-spiced. Which tofu should you pick? It depends on your cooking needs. The firmer the tofu, the less water is present in it, which means more protein! However, a firmer tofu will need more time for it to absorb flavours.

Silken Tofu Has a Custard Texture

Silken tofu has the most water content, and it can itself come in soft, firm, and extra firm . Use silken tofu for puddings, dips, sauces, and smoothies. It can simulate eggs in some recipes. I wouldn’t get the silken tofu in the small tetra-pak boxes, which don’t need to be refrigerated. Those can keep a while, but they won’t taste as good as the fresher silken tofu. Do the taste test yourself to see. You can take boxed silken tofu with you when you go camping though because it doesn’t require refrigeration and they are portable.

Soft Tofu 

This tofu also has a high water content. Though is less smooth than silken tofu, it can be used as such. In the summer, I love cold soft tofu sweetened with dates. For a blast of protein, you can blend soft tofu right into smoothies.

Medium-Firm Tofu

You can pan-fry medium firm tofu, but a lot of water will still come out of it. Medium-firm is best for soups (such as miso soup).

Firm Tofu

This can be pan or stir-fried, or crumbled as a tofu scramble. It will take to seasoning and flavours well. However, don’t go too crazy with it or it will fall apart.

Extra-Firm Tofu

Now this one you can use for pan-frying, stir-frying, or even deep-frying. You can bake it or grill it. Keep in mind though, that because there is less water content, it wouldn’t be as easy for it to absorb flavours. Pressed tofu is usually either firm tofu or extra-firm tofu that has been pre-pressed so that it contains even less moisture. If you want to press tofu yourself, you can-simply wrap your slab of tofu with a few paper towels, and then wrap that with a cloth towel. Place this onto a plate. Now get something that weighs about 2 pounds to put on top, such as a large skillet, or two or three cans. Wait for an hour or more for a more concentrated tofu (less water). Now you have an even firmer tofu to work with.

Green Cuisine Tofu 

tofu

Have you tried this?

Made from Canadian organic, non-GMO soybeans, this tofu is made by stone-grinding soybeans, and then cooking them in open kettles. Green Cuisine tofu comes in medium and extra-firm, and taste delicate and creamy.

What if you Don’t Use All the Tofu Right Away?

You can store the tofu in water. Just place your remaining tofu in fresh, cold water, cover, and place in the refrigerator. Change the water daily. Keep for 3-5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the remainders for up to 3 months in a freezer container/bag. Please note that tofu that has been frozen will become spongier.

Mochi

mochi

This is known as kagami mochi.

Rice cake, anyone?

What is Mochi? 

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from short-grain glutinous rice. It’s origins, however, may have derived from China, and the Chinese have a multitude of different kinds of rice cakes, in either sweet or savoury flavours. In both Japan and China, sweet rice cakes are ubiquitous in New Year’s celebrations, as they are seen as tokens of fortune.

Historically, Japanese mochi was produced with red rice and was restricted to be eaten only by the Japanese Emperor and nobles. Later on, mochi was used in religious offerings to Shinto Gods by nobles. Commoners were eventually able to partake in mochi consumption during New Year’s festivities. Unmilled (brown) short-grain glutinous rice became the starting material for mochi.

The Japanese mochi was traditionally made in a labour-intensive process that started with soaking the brown glutinous rice overnight, and then steaming the rice, followed by crushing and pounding the rice with wooden mallets in a traditional mortar. Two people usually worked together- one who would rotate and hydrate the rice, and the other who would pound the rice. The sticky mass is then kneaded by hand, and the resulting mochi may then be shaped into a ball or a cube. Samurai warriors would carry mochi with them to tie them over long journeys, and farmers who worked long hours outside would eat mochi for the concentrated amount of energy the food provides.

Rice Flour is Used to Make Modern Mochi

The rice-pounding days have understandably went out of style due to the labour involved. Nowadays, mochi is usually made with the refined flour of sweet rice, called mochiko, unless traditional ceremony calls for the no short-cut version. This white sweet rice flour is mixed with water, cooked and stirred on the stovetop until it forms a slightly transparent cake.

In Japan, mochi is popular not only during the New Year’s celebrations, but also on Children’s Day, Girl’s Day, and during the Spring season, when a special kind of mochi, the sakura-mochi, is made to slightly resemble a cherry blossom (the Japanese symbol).

For some interesting things to do with mochiko, go here. To make your own mochi with mochiko, try this.

Green Cuisine Makes Mochi from Scratch-Not From Rice Flour IMG_20160426_1300438

Another interesting product on their shelves is mochi, made from organic sticky brown rice which is steamed, pounded with a special machine, and kneaded into a dough. This mochi preserves some of the original goodness of traditional mochi, such as higher nutrition due to quality ingredients, and greater ease of digestion. Once the dough is cooled, it is packaged into blocks for sale. Three flavours of mochi are available: brown rice mochi, sesame mochi, and raison-cinnamon mochi.

If you are an endurance athlete, or work on a farm, you can eat mochi often for your complex carbs. Expectant mothers can benefit from this nutritious food.

The Taste Test

I took on the task of trying the Green Cuisine cinnamon-raison mochi, since I love how cinnamon and raison tastes together. I followed the instructions on the package and cut the solid slab into pieces. Maybe I had a dull knife, but I had to really press into the cake to cut it. I heated the oven, put the mochi pieces onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, and then stuck the mochi into the oven. I wasn’t expecting much. When I checked on the mochi I saw that they had puffed up. How cool!  I decided they were ready and took them out of the oven for a taste test. They were hot, so I waited for a few minutes. When I took a bite of mochi, I was pleasantly surprised. It was warm, soft and chewy, with just a hint of sweetness. I don’t think it would have tasted the same if the mochi was made with processed rice flour.

 

Seitan

seitan

This is seitan. This is not meat at all.

Seitan is pronounced “say-tahn”.

Seitan has a long history in China, with documents mentioning the food since the 6th century. Served as a meat substitute, Buddhist monks in China used seitan in their recipes for a high protein, meat-free dish.

Seitan is Not for Those Who Cannot Tolerate Gluten

In order to accommodate people who are eating gluten-free, Green Cuisine makes as many items gluten-free as possible. However when it comes to seitan, it is off limits for anyone on a gluten-free diet because it is, essentially, gluten.

What is Seitan?

Seitan is wheat gluten, which is the protein part of wheat flour that gives dough its elasticity. You can find wheat gluten in many commercial imitation meat products available nowadays. To make seitan, a dough is formed from mixing water and wheat flour, which is then kneaded under running water to discard the starch and keep the gluten. The gluten/seitan can then be prepared and cooked in soy sauce, spices, or other flavours.

A Meaty Texture and Tasty Flavour, Without the Meat

The texture of seitan can actually imitate meat. It is a primary ingredient in the Tofurky roast, in Field Roast sausages and Gardein beefless strips. Another property of seitan is that it can absorb the flavours of whatever you cook it in, making it a wonderful ingredient to cook with. I love it when dumplings are filled with ground, seasoned seitan. You can season seitan as you would season a steak, for instance, or chicken wings. Yet it is low in fat, and has no cholesterol. Though it is very high in protein, comparative to the amount of protein in lean meat, seitan is not a complete protein. That is fine though, because you can eat some legumes such as lentils, peanuts, or beans, and these would complement the missing amino acids in seitan, which is essentially a grain. Or you can throw in some tofu or tempeh, because soy is a complete protein. Curious about how to make seitan? You can go here to learn how, as well as for some seitan recipes.

Wheat Cutlets

Slice these up and you can use them in your favourite recipes.

Try Seitan for Yourself  

Green Cuisine makes their own seitan. It has a meaty texture, and is very flavourful. At the restaurant, they serve many dishes featuring their delicious seitan, such as seitan bourguignon, teriyaki seitan wheat cutlets, and ginger wheat cutlets, as well as seitan strips in various dishes and sauces.  I would use seitan for shepherd’s pie, as filler for dumplings, or for seitan and mushroom pie.  Here is a simple recipe you can experiment with:

Cutlets in Onion Gravy 

1/4 cup sunflower oil

1/2 whole onion (sliced)

1 package of wheat cutlets (sliced)

1/2 cup marinade from the package

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon tapioca or cornstarch

Saute onion in oil for 3 minutes. Add the wheat cutlets and saute for 3 more minutes. Add the water and marinade and simmer for 5 minutes. Dissolve the tapioca or cornstarch in a little cold water and stir in to thicken the gravy. Serve over rice or potatoes.

Happy cooking and have fun cooking seitan in so many different ways!

 

Amazake

Until I tried the Green Cuisine amazake, I had never drank amazake before. I was quickly tantalized by the creamy texture and sweet taste. Amazake is very interesting, I learned, not only because it has quite a history of cultivation, but like tempeh, it is another fermented food.

What is Amazake?

amazakecupAmazake has a long history in Japan. It has been around there for more than a thousand years. It was used as an offering to the gods of the temples. The word amazake literally translates to “sweet sake”. However, there are two types of amazake. The first type is the kind available at Green Cuisine, and is made by combining steamed rice and water with a starter of rice that has been exposed to koji, a culture of the Aspergillus oryzae variety. You may be interested to know that Aspergillus oryzae is also used for making miso, natto, soy sauce, and sake. Anyway, for this amazake, the culture and rice mixture is left to ferment until the starches in the rice convert to simple sugars. Hence the sweetness.

The second type of amazake (not available at Green Cuisine) is made by mixing left over sake lees with steamed rice and water. This version does contain low amounts of alcohol. Sugar is added to this version to make it sweet.

The nonalcoholic variety of amazake is featured in Japanese traditional celebrations such as the Doll Festival/Girl’s Day, and during New Year’s when it is served at temples and shrines. Because it is sweet and nonalcoholic, it can be given to children. Vending machines and grocery stores in Japan will also stock amazake.

Amazake is Considered a Healthful Drink

The Japanese cherish their amazake for its nutritional properties. In Japan, it is used to relieve hangovers, and to sooth an upset stomach. Nutritionally, brown rice amazake is high in selenium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and a good source of thiamine, niacin, B2, B6, folic acid, dietary fibre, oligosaccharide, cysteine, arginine and glutamine. As it is a fermented food, live (unpasteurized) amazake also contains probiotics that is good for the digestive system. Green Cuisine makes their amazake by mixing brown rice and rice koji, and waiting to allow for fermentation to take place. Then the fermentation process is stopped once the rice starches have converted to simple sugars so no alcohol is produced. Unlike most commercial rice drinks and desserts available, Green Cuisine’s amazake is made by the traditional culturing process, no short cuts or commercial enzymes. They believe that their process yields a richer, more nutritious drink. There are a variety of delicious flavours you can choose from.20161115_193753

How to Serve Amazake

You can drink it straight out of the container, serve it as a pudding, use it as a topping for cereal, or mix it in the blender with your smoothies. You can drink it hot or cold. If you don’t use sugar in your recipes, you may even be able to substitute amazake as a sweetener. Try making hot chocolate with it, custards, or muffins.  You can combine amazake with chai and ice cream. Or pick up your own rice koji starter and make your own amazake!  

Do you have a recipe that features amazake? Hit us up on facebook and comment!

 

Introducing Green Cuisine’s Blogger, Sierra

P1040701Hi, I’m Sierra. I’m into delicious, wholesome food, good music, fitness, and the outdoors. I am excited to be working with Andy and the Green Cuisine team, spreading the word about the tasty new dishes they are whipping up in the kitchen. Feel free to offer suggestions and requests for seasonal fare you would like to see at Green Cuisine, as we love to hear from you!

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Me hanging out at Green Cuisine

As the autumn weather settles in, one of the best things on a cold, damp night in Victoria is to have Green Cuisine soup. Personally, I find it difficult to just stop at the soup as there are always so many tantalizing menu items in the buffet.

Ok, so after my meal, I have my soup (there are usually two to choose from each day), and it is so comforting and delicious. Even though it is cold and dark outside, I feel warm and taken care of inside of me.

Taking care of myself is important all year round, but during cold season, having excellent nutrition along with limiting stress levels will keep the immune system going strong to help ward off the cold and flu viruses that are making their rounds.

 

A Tasty Buffet of Nutritious Options

There is plenty of selection of vitamin and mineral laden vegetables, both fresh and cooked, available at the Green Cuisine buffet. Wonderful protein-rich items may include a recipe with tempeh, seitan, or tofu. A delicious bean or lentil dish, for instance, combined with rice or buckwheat noodles, will also fill out the amino acid profile for protein. You can choose your carbohydrates, which may include brown rice, scalloped potatoes, a lasagna recipe. With menu items like chipotle lime tempeh and cashew cream of tomato soup, I know my tastebuds are always in for a treat when I come in. Even more interesting is that the menu changes every day. I always enjoy the surprise. For those who want to know what the staff picks of the day are, check the daily updates online at our website.

Vegan Gelato is Now Available, Made Here at Green Cuisine

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Vegan gelatos

Speaking of treating tastebuds, recently, Green Cuisine has started making their own vegan gelato. Isn’t that great?! Gelato without any dairy. People who are intolerant to dairy, and those who are vegan, can now enjoy gelato made locally here in Victoria. These artisanal gelatos are made with almond and cashew milk and sweetened with organic agave syrup. They are creamy, yet light. Flavours include vanilla, chocolate, almond caramel, coconut, mint chocolate chip, chai, strawbana sorbet, and mango. There are six flavours to choose from on a given day. This is in addition to the many vegan desserts already available such as brownies, cakes, and cookies. It looks like dessert at Green Cuisine just got even more intriguing.

Stay tuned!

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Vegan Praline Brownies