Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Miso Vegetable Soup with Okara & Intentional Leftovers

We are definitely back to the work week. *ugh* I much prefer weekends to weekdays but I am sure everyone does. ;-)

This morning I made Dan his usual green smoothie, packed his lunch (lentil soup, salad and fruit) and started my day. I had so many things to do today that I didn’t get on the computer until mid-afternoon. However, it was a busy but productive day for me.

I started a pound of black beans cooking early in the morning to make chili to be used during the week. Chili is one of my favorite intentional leftovers. It can be used as chili, taco salad or over baked sweet potatoes. I love leftovers that do double or should I say triple duty. If you make a super big batch you can freeze small portions to defrost when you need something quick.

After I finished exercising (nothing that would hurt my knee) I finally had breakfast mid morning. Since it felt like I was closer to lunch then breakfast I decided to grab myself a bowl of lentil soup.

Once the black beans were cooked I made the chili which was similar to this recipe only I added cocoa. I used a scoop of hot chili to make myself a taco salad for lunch. This salad contained shredded romaine, cucumber, artichokes, and orange bell pepper which I topped with chili. It was very tasty and makes a quick lunch.

I didn’t have the chili in the refrigerator until about 6pm which is when I started to think about dinner. For some reason nothing was appealing to me other than miso soup. I hadn’t made that in ages and decided to make it like my Japanese friend said her mother used to with okara in it. Here is what I did:

Miso Vegetable soup with Okara
Serves 6


12 cups of water
½ onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline (used a mandoline so the soup would cook faster)
8 garlic cloves thinly sliced
½ tablespoon minced ginger
2 cups fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 large carrots, thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 cups cauliflower, thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 cups okara (the pulp that is leftover when you make soy milk)
3 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in an equal amount of liquid to thicken the soup
3 or 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast to add a butter background and reduce the need for sodium (in the form of white miso)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
white miso, to taste
2 cup fresh spinach, thinly sliced
white and black sesame seeds with dried ginger, for garnish


Combine the water, onion, garlic, ginger, mushroom, carrot, cauliflower and okara and simmer until the veggies are tender and the harshness has cooked out of the aromatics. Now add the thickener, nutritional yeas and black pepper and cook to thicken the soup. Add white miso to taste being mindful that it is high in sodium. Now stir in the spinach to wilt.

To serve, top a bowl of the soup with sesame seeds.

Nutritional information:

Since I don’t have a reliable outside source for nutritional statistics on okara I opted to not estimate the nutrition on this soup. However, like all of my food it will be low calorie and healthy.


In my mind this soup needed to be thickened. The little bits of okara were too distinct before I added the arrowroot to the soup which had the effect of minimizing the texture of the okara in the mouth. The flavor was good, the soup was light and we both enjoyed it. This makes a nice light meal when you are having a late dinner and don’t need/want anything heavy.

Nutritional Research:

In one of the emails that I received yesterday the writer spoke of nutritional research being a wonderful motivator and I agree with that completely. I believe that the only reason we eat a healthy diet is due to all my research. Nutrition has been a subject that has interested me for the last 30 years. When I was a freshman in college I worked in a health food store and was introduced to the idea of green tea and cancer prevention which is more widely studied and accepted now. That early time in a health food store had the impact of opening my eyes to the connection between food and health early in life. If only I had paid a bit more attention. ;-)

In the past I did a little research now and again but I relied mostly on the mass market information from the American Dietetic Association, the American Cancer Society and other mainstream organizations. In retrospect that was the worst thing I could have done but I didn’t know better at the time. I am mentioning this because the information that is most widely available is also not particularly useful and is in my opinion frequently harmful.

I want to share one example of widely held information being harmful. Most people, including RDs, will tell you that low fat and non fat dairy is healthful and that non-fat yogurt is an excellent choice for good health. I used to believe this completely and Dan and I made Greek yogurt at home for over a decade and ate it most mornings for breakfast with fruit, nuts and high fiber cereal. Of course now I know that strained yogurt is a terrible idea. When you strain yogurt you are removing the whey (which is beneficial for slowing cancer growth) and you are concentrating the casein (which promotes tumor growth). During the decade when we were eating this every week I truly believed I was doing something very healthy for us. *shakes head* Thankfully I know better now.

I wanted to highlight this one issue to point out the problems with mainstream information. I could have just as easily discussed the idea of everything in moderation being healthy. That notion makes me laugh. Would people say heroin in moderation is healthy? The point I am trying to make is that you have to be careful what you believe and put into practice because there is a lot of bad information out there and much of it from apparently reputable sources.

Now I rely on studies I read at PubMed where I can see the details behind the studies and read the science for myself. If something I read doesn’t have hard science behind it I discount the information until I see the science. One idea that I come back to time after time is that I never see any studies that indicate that whole plant based foods are harmful to health. I can’t say the same thing about most other foods. I believe that as long as the majority of what we eat is whole plant based foods that will be beneficial to our health. In my perfect world all of the food we eat would be whole plant based food but that would make going out to eat impossible so we allow occasional items that contain flour and oil when we are out.

I wanted to mention all of this so that you think about what you read on other blogs or websites about nutrition. Every single day I read something about nutrition that is simply inaccurate. If I hadn’t done as much research as I have I would probably believe some of it. I hope that everyone will learn to be skeptical about what they read. There is a huge amount of misinformation about nutrition that many people believe to be true because they have read/heard it so many times.

Additionally another reason why I think nutritional research is so important is that well meaning friends and family always seemed to feel the need to challenge you on our dietary changes. When you go against the flow people feel like it is okay to call you out on it. This perplexes me because I wouldn't challenge their unhealthy diets, though maybe I should. ;-) The problem is that these people have read all the bad information and believe it like I used to.

In the past I tried to explain my choices to people but it is typically met with either a blank stare or people will challenge me with something ridiculous like you need milk for calcium. *ugh* They have so far to come it isn't worth it to attempt to bring them up to speed. Not to mention it would take me months to teach them everything I have learned over the last few years. In the end all that really matters to me is that we (Dan and I) are making the most healthy choices possible. I would think that only thing that matters to most people is that they “get it right” as well. My new attitude is that if other people want to join us that is great while keeping in mind it is their decision to make.

What you eat can impact your offspring:

I came across this article that suggests that in animal studies it matters what the parents eat. I would have expected this happen with what the mothers ate but not the fathers. This article was rather eye opening for me. For me it shows how important what we eat really is not only on ourselves but our offspring.

Happy thoughts:

Tuesday was a good one for me, busy but good. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• I was talking to a friend this morning who has a cold and it realized that neither Dan nor I have had a cold in at least two years. While this might not be a big deal for many of you it is huge for me. I used to be one of those people that seemed to pick things up every time something was going around. Since we been focusing on eating a healthy diet colds have been a thing of the past. I am very thankful that we have more robust immune systems since we cleaned up our diet.

• When I reflect on all the changes we made in 2010 I am very proud of both Dan and myself. Each time I think of the dietary changes we made this year I could not be more thrilled with our progress.

• I made some new friends this year through the blog and these ladies have become wonderful sources of support and information. It is very nice to have people that are as interested in health and nutrition as I am to discuss things with so I don’t feel so alone in our healthy journey. I appreciate you all more than you know.

Signing out:

Somehow time got away from me today. I am not sure how that happened but this entire week so far has been a blur for me. On the bright side I am pleased with what I have managed to accomplish this week and I am looking forward to New Years Eve and the coming year. I am very determined to make 2011 even happier and healthier than 2010.

I hope you are having a great week and have fun plans for New Years Eve. We are going out with some friends for dinner and may stop downtown for the fireworks at midnight depending on the weather. What are you doing for New Years Eve anything special or different?

Talk to you again tomorrow. I hope the remainder of your Wednesday is good.


  1. that must be extremely annoying reading through info that you know not to be true. it is even for me nd i dont know nearly as much as you. thats was pretty interesting about the strained yogurt, ill be telling my mom about it. what type is better? other than none obviously. ive never liked yogurt, even writing the word skeeves me

    "They have so far to come it isn't worth it to attempt to bring them up to speed"
    harsh, i cant stand talking to anybody about health. so i just dont.

    have fun tonight with your friends! cant believe its already the new year:)

  2. Michelle,

    That is a tough question about which yogurt is better. I don't know that any of it is but not the strained Greek style that is for sure. If you can get her to eat soy yogurt I would say that is the best.

    I knew that comment was harsh but I couldn't think of any other way to phrase it. I have actually tried to teach people that I know but in the end it has been a waste of time since they either didn't believe me or just didn't want to change. It is easier on everyone if we don't talk about nutrition. ;-)

    We are going out with friends tomorrow and Friday not tonight. I will fill you on in on all the festivities. I hope you have something fun planned for NYE.

    talk to you later,

  3. I need to keep rereading your comment "I have actually tried to teach people what I know but in the end it has been a waste of time since they either didn't believe me or just didn't want to change." My husband said that I can be annoying/bossy when talking to others about food. So I've been thinking that I should memorize some of the science/research so that my suggestions would be taken more seriously. But perhaps that would only make me more annoying!

    The point I'd most like to get across to people (and firmly imbed in my brain) is that what we eat impacts our health much more than is commonly accepted. Of course that leads to the discussion of what's healthy and not, which leads back to your quote!

    I meant to congratulate you on meeting such fantastic diet goals over the year, way to go! I look forward to reading more about ANY aspect of health you wish to discuss.

  4. Laura,

    I feel your pain on people not listening to you about nutrition. ;-) It doesn't seem to help if you can quote the studies. Food is scared to a lot of people and flavor and familiarity seems to trump science and health for most people. It is very sad to me. However I have come to the conclusion that most people won't change their dietary habits facts or not.

    Each time I eat I can tell how much better I feel afterward. When I have heavy food I can tell the difference immediately in how I feel. Also I remember when omni food for lunch caused me to want to take an afternoon nap. My food never does that now. What I am saying is that I agree with you that food has a big impact and you feel it immediately and it is sad that the vast majority of people don't understand that.

    Thanks for the congratulations on our progress this year. I am very proud of it. Everytime I learn something new I think there can't be many more changes to come and I find another one. It should be interesting to see what 2011 brings. :-)

    enjoy the rest of your evening,

  5. It's so funny that you mentioned "where do you get calcium?" boss just asked me this on Monday! I considered talking about fortified foods--then considered saying "I get it from where the cows get it: green plants!"--and finally decided to just laugh and move on with my life.

    Thank you for the information about strained/Greek yogurt. My husband isn't vegan and eats this. I'll have to start buying him the coconut milk yogurt (so expensive, but sooo tasty!).

  6. Jackie,

    Every time I get the calcium question I just sigh. People have been so brainwashed by the dairy council and I am including doctors in that category. It boggles my mind that people will argue with me that dairy is required when the calcium in green plants (except spinach) is more absorbable than the calcium in milk.

    I hate to tell you how much non-fat Greek yogurt I have eaten in my day. When I realized that for over a decade I was throwing away the one healthy part I was not happy. That is what happens when you listen to the main stream press. *argh*

    I haven't tried coconut yogurt because I worry about the sat fat in coconut too. Dan keeps saying soon we will be eating nothing but sticks and twigs *LOL* and he may be right. Maybe I need to moderate just a tiny bit. ;-)

    enjoy the rest of your Wednesday,

  7. I have never cared much for yogurt so I rarely if ever have it in the house. I am planning on making some black beans later this week if I am feeling up to it. I want to try that black bean chili recipe over sweet potatoes.
    I totally agree with the studies about what you eat your children will eat. While I always made sure my children had loads of vegetables they also plenty of dairy and meat because it was considered a healthy diet. Now I struggle with my oldest daughter and dairy. My youngest daughter loved being a vegan, but would cheat and eat chicken when we went out to eat. If I knew then what I know now...Everything would be mich easier.
    You know the struggles I have with my extended family and most of my friends. I honestly have no idea how to talk to anyone around here about my diet. Remember the
    Wal-mart incident...I rarely talk to people about my diet outside of the safety of the blog world.
    Hoping you are enjoying your evening.
    Hugs, B~

  8. Brandi,

    Food is a difficult subject for most people which I think is very sad. The misinformation that we see everyday makes it so hard for others to understand why anyone would eat the way we do. *sigh* On the bright side at least we know better now and the present and future are all we can change.

    talk to you later,

  9. Yesterday on CNN they were doing a short segment and the headline was "length of middle finger linked to likelihood of cancer" or some such. I'm not saying that isn't a possibility, but I think about what Dr. Cousins wrote in his book (There is a Cure of Diabetes) "genetics load the gun, but diet pulls the trigger."

    All this genetic stuff we can't control is a drop in the bucket compared to what we put into our mouths every day!

  10. Hi, I have commented once before, and am trying to be vegan, but goodness this is hard, especially when going to friends/families homes.

    Anyway, today I made your no-fat flavorful hummus, which was delightful (grittier than traditional, but super tasty). I put it on salad and then sprinkled balsamic vinegar over the top. Do you have an opinion on that vinegar, I don't know that I have seen you use it before.

    I am trying to get all the right ingredients (spices etc) to be able to make a variety of dishes, like you do. I have not been able to find nutritional yeast, where do I purchase that??

    Again, I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you take to put both recipes and nutritional info on your blog.

    A struggling new vegan,


  11. Neca,

    I agree with you that what we put in our mouths has a impact on health. I would also add daily physical activity to those things that change our health at the cellular level. But I have also heard the finger length comment. In the end since we can't change that it didn't much matter to me either. ;-) Focusing in what we can do something about makes much more sense to me too. :-)

    I hope you are having a good Thursday,

  12. Susan,

    It is hard to be vegan this time of year but it does get much easier the longer you do it.

    Glad you liked the hummus, it is amazing how much the fat changes the texture. If you have a Vitamix that will get it a lot creamier. ;-)

    I am part Italian so I love balsamic vinegar actually. You need to be careful which ones you buy since many of them have added sugar or corn syrup. The traditionally made ones don't have any added sugar. Napa Valley Naturals makes an 18 year old vinegar aged in cherry that we love so much we buy it by the case and have it shipped. We initially found that at either Home Goods or Marshalls years ago. It has a very rich flavor with an undertone of cherry.

    I have bought nutritional yeast at: Wegman's, Whole Foods, our local health food store and from Amazon. If your store carries Bob's Red Mill flours and grains ask them to order you some nutritional yeast from him. I hope that helped. :-)

    If you ever have any other questions please feel free to ask. I vividly remember how difficult it was when we were new vegans. My cooking world seemed like it was turned upside down for about 6 months. But now that I have it "figured out" I don't give food much thought. I never thought I would say that. ;-)

    Enjoy the rest of your Thursday,

  13. I don't drink or use soy milk at all, but I swear I want a soy milk maker just for the okara, lol! Your soup sounds great :-)


  14. Courtney,

    LOL I understand completely. We don't drink soy milk either but I do use it in cooking every once in a while. However the okara is my favorite part of making soy milk. I need to make more okara miso pate, that stuff is really good. Too good if you know what I mean. ;-)

    talk to you later,


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