Thursday, June 24, 2010

Condiment Obsession

Recipe: Wasabi Tofu "Mayo"

Alright, so last week I left off the 3 Ps discussion with portion.  I've been thinking about what I want to say about the next P ever since.  Proportion. If portion is all about what size your plate is, I think of proportion as deciding what goes on the plate.  A small bowl of chocolate ice cream has a heck of a lot more calories than a bowl of roasted broccoli, and the broccoli has all those wonderful vitamins and minerals, not to mention an awesome little thing called fiber.  Rather than associating fiber with poop, as some may tend to do, try thinking of it as a nutrient in food that makes you feel full and for longer.  And as my mom always said, "it escorts the fat out of your body".

Yes, I mentioned poop on a food blog that's intended to get you to salivate over my delicious recipes. Yes, I can't help myself.  Yes, I'm seeing someone about this problem...or rather, I would be if I could afford a shrink.  I can't even afford a haircut people.  I'm starting to look like cousin it, but frizzy.  Yes, I made chocolate ice cream and roasted broccoli last week, so I have both on the brain.  Yes, they were both delicious.  And yes no, I did not eat them together.

What I'm trying to get at here is that it's all about balance.  We're not supposed to eat all of the same food, right?  Sure, Husband wishes he could eat steak 3 meals a day, but that's just not reasonable.  There are things called food groups, and we're supposed to eat a certain amount of food from each food group each day to get the nutrients we need to be healthy.  You might remember seeing a chart at some point in your life with a picture of a pyramid and random foods all stacked on top of each other and topped with the delicious sweets at the top. You might remember more recently seeing one that is eerily similar but at points different.  I personally don't subscribe to any ancient Egyptian depictions of food proportions.  What do they know?

Now I'm not a nutritionist.  I'm not an expert.  I'm just telling you how I ate to lose weight and get healthy.  Everybody is different.  Everybody has different needs.  You'll have to identify your own needs based on how much you exercise and just how your body chemistry is made up.  I try to eat pretty low in complex carbs (as in grains, breads, pastas, all that tastiness), not because carbs are evil, but because my body just doesn't seem to like a lot of 'em.  I get all icky-digesty and feel sluggish when I eat a heavy-carb based meal.  Not to mention my body seems to burn through carbs like a shopaholic on Black Friday.  I could eat an endless bowl of pasta...forever.  I know this about myself, so I treat carbs as a side component in a meal, rather than the star.  Also, since I exercise an above average amount, I eat a fair amount of protein.  Not just meat, but dairy, nuts, beans, lentils, etc.  How do you know what your body needs?  Listen to it!  When you eat a bowl of pasta, how does it make you feel?  Are you hungry again 5 minutes later?  I wasn't a big meat eater until very recently, and I ate protein in general pretty sparingly.  Then I started exercising, and high protein foods not only started tasting better to me, but I was actually craving them!  I wanted meat!  That was my body telling me it needed more of the nutrient to build my big strong muscles I was working so hard for.

But of course, those pesky macro-nutrients overlap (protein, carbohydrates, and fat).  Protein does not = meat.  Carb does not = bread.  Fat does not = butter.  Let's not be so cut and dry and try being reasonable. And you need each one of those macro-nutrients, so don't cut anything out!  It's not about low fat or low carb.  It's all about balance.  In other words, proportion!

There's one main guideline I like to follow: eat as many vegetables as you want.  Vegetables are so stinking healthy and low in calories (compared to volume), that I'll bet I would be physically sick before I could eat enough to get fat.  And I'm not talking about corn soaked in butter, people.  Be reasonable.  You know why?  Fiber!  Vegetables are chalked full of it!  Not to mention vitamins, minerals, sometimes a bit of protein, and sometimes a bit of sugar to make 'em yummy.  That means vegetables make you feel full.  And when you're full, you tend to stop eating.  That's always my problem. The stopping of the eating.

So here's what I do when building my plate (and that would be the appropriately sized small plate we discussed).  I fill half of it with vegetables.  That's right.  Half.  That's half your stomach room going to something that's rich in nutrients and that's going to stick with you for a solid few hours.  Now hear me out!  Sure, half a plate of green beans doesn't appeal as much as filling half that plate with garlic bread or pork chops.  Or rather, they don't right now.  You want to know something funny?  My taste buds completely changed with my eating habits, not to mention my attitude.  I started off this whole thing tolerating the vegetables.  They were something to get through.  Then as I ate them more, I started finding better ways to cook them.  Sure, steamed broccoli is ok, but if you roast it in the oven it's 20 million times tastier!  Cabbage braised with a horseradish sauce?  Delicious!  I say my taste buds changed, but I think really my approach to cooking vegetables is what improved.  The veggies don't have to be plain.  It's ok to spice them up with sauces, spices, and additions like nuts.  Make a complete dish that you want to eat.  When I started putting some real effort into preparation, everything starting tasting better.  Before I knew it, I was craving vegetables!  I'm not even exaggerating!  Last time I visited my parents my mom kept laughing at how insistent I was that our meals at home consist of enough vegetables to handle me.  "That salad is enough for me, but what about the rest of you?"  Give vegetables a chance.  And not just lettuce!  Don't just go home and eat a salad for dinner.  Spice it up!  I rarely eat lettuce.  Sure, it's healthy, but it's mostly water and doesn't stick with me like heartier vegetables do.  Not to mention it's rather boring!

So our plate is half full with vegetables, now what?  I usually split what's left in half and fill one remaining quarter with protein, and the other with whole grains.  Now from this description you're probably envisioning a plate split into three sections, one with some boring plain vegetable, one with a piece of meat, and one with some brown rice.  That's not really how you have to eat.  That's just what the proportions should look like.  Use that idea to make a complete combined dish, by all means!  For instance, I made a thai curry last week.  I used a ton of vegetables.  I spooned an appropriate amount of the vegetable curry mixture over some quinoa.  Not a bowlful, mind you.  Quinoa is a super healthy ancient grain that's very high in protein.  I had some cooked chicken left over from another dish, so I put an ounce or two on top.  At the end of the meal, I think my proportions were about right.  It's not a hard and fast rule, it's a guideline to keep in mind when you're building your meals.  And being mindful of proportion is definitely one of the main factors that led to my weight loss.

Now I know I've left some stuff out, like fruit and dairy.  I actually eat quite a bit of fruit, but I eat it with breakfast and as a snack later in the day, not generally as part of a main meal.  Same with dairy.  If they make it into other meals, great.  In my book you can't have too much fruit either.  Just don't eat it in place of vegetables.  

There's so much to say on this subject!  But I'll have to cut it short in the interest of theoretical finite interweb space.

To say it much, much more succinctly, don't just think about total calories.  Think about eating the right calories that are going to make you feel the best.  Just remember, portion is all about how much food you eat, and proportion is all about the type of food you eat.

Time to change gears and get to a recipe already!  I was watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network a few weeks ago and they were talking to this guy that does grilled cheese sandwiches.  He made this one sandwich with seared ahi and what he called wasabi mayonnaise.  But it wasn't mayonnaise at all!  It was tofu he combined in a food processor with wasabi powder and a bunch of other Asian-inspired ingredients.  Genius!  I decided to give it a go with a few additions of my own, and the results were pretty much spectacular.

It sounds odd, I know, but trust me.  This stuff is addictive!  I have been eating it on anything and everything ever since.  As a salad dressing on baby spinach, on brown rice sprinkled with seaweed and sesame seeds (that was such a wonderful combo), and drizzled over chicken tacos.  Yum!  For demonstration purposes (i.e. the picture at the top of this post) I poured some over some leftover quinoa I was snacking on.  That was delicious too.

The great thing about this stuff is it's super healthy!  If not for the tiny bit of sesame oil, it would basically be fat free, and since tofu is the base, you get a good punch of protein.  You're probably wondering how the tofu flavor comes through, and the answer is it doesn't at all.  The tofu gives a creamy, mayonnaise-like texture, but the flavor comes completely from the other ingredients.  The green onions and cilantro really brighten the mayo, and the wasabi powder gives it a nice kick and complex flavor.  The mirin and sweet soy sauce give it a bit of needed sweetness, which could easily be substituted with sugar and some added soy sauce if you don't have them in your pantry.  Ginger and garlic are a must in my book, but I didn't have any fresh, so I used powdered, and it worked just fine.  It's a recipe you can play around with.  I just kept throwing in ingredients until it tasted good to me.

This is definitely something you can throw together with whatever you have in your pantry and refrigerator.  As long as your combination of flavors is good, your mayo will be delicious.  You could even go in a completely different direction, and nix the Asian flavors all together.  You could try sun-dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, and some red pepper flakes for an Italian sub.  Maybe some good chili powder, cilantro, green onions, and jalapeños for a chicken quesadilla?  The possibilities are endless!

I bought a bunch of 8oz squeeze bottles at Smart & Final a few months ago.  Best purchase ever.  They were just a couple of bucks, and are great for storing various homemade condiments like strawberry puree I like to keep on hand for topping desserts, bbq sauce from scratch, and this wasabi mayo!

This recipe is also very budget friendly.  I bought the tofu on sale for $.99, the cilantro and green onion bunches were $.25 each, and everything else was just little bits from my pantry.  You can't buy a jar of mayonnaise for that!

Sure, it sounds weird, but it's also delicious, so give it a try!

Wasabi Tofu "Mayo"
inspired by the sandwich dude on Triple D

Makes about 12oz

1 package silken tofu, drained
3 stalks green onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 heaping TB wasabi powder
1 TB fresh ginger, minced, or 1 tsp ground ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced, or 2 tsp garlic powder
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB rice wine vinegar
2 TB sesame oil
2 TB mirin (sweet rice wine)
juice of 1 lime
1 TB sweet soy sauce (or use extra soy sauce and a little sugar)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and processes until everything is well incorporated.  Taste mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  2. Pour the mayo into a squeeze bottle or tupperware for storage.   


  1. Ooh, I gotta try this..I actually bought tofu today but it's medium-firm, bah!

  2. Please bring me wasabi "mayo" when you come to visit. And bao. And booze cake. Bring many suitcases. And maybe a refrigerator.

  3. ooo I love wasabi anything, so this sounds great :)

    And I love the proportions tips. It's fun when you think of your meals that way. I always try to get some sort of fruit/veggie, grain and protein into every meal.

  4. AJ, that would probably still work fine. It just means it'll be a thicker consistency. You could always add more soy sauce/vinegar/sesame oil to thin it out.

    D, if you wanted to hire me as a personal chef, I could persuaded to move out there permanently. LOL!

  5. When you mentioned this I had to come check it out - I think my next tofu creation will have to be a sauce like this one!