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For Better Living

Sandra Cain


Soybeans….Healthy and Good for You

Soy protein bars, soy milk, soy cookies, soy burgers .…. the list of soy products goes on. Soybeans are best known as a source of high quality protein. They are also rich in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin E, several B-vitamins, and fiber.

The first written record of soybeans dates back to 2838 B.C. The Chinese have been growing them for thousands of years. In fact, they are so important to the Chinese, that they are considered one of the five sacred grains along with rice, wheat, barley and millet.

In 1999, soy took the United States by storm. The Food and Drug Administration approved health claims that soy protein may lower the risk of heart disease if at least 25 grams of soy protein are consumed daily. This benefit may be because soybeans are low saturated fat, have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, and are rich in isoflavones. Research continues to explore health benefits linked to the healthful soybean.

Fresh Green Soybeans
Edamame (fresh green soybeans) have a sweet, buttery flavor and a tender-firm
texture. Fresh soybeans still in the pod should be cooked and stored in the refrigerator. Handle frozen soybeans as you would any other frozen vegetable. The easiest way to cook washed, fresh soybeans in the pod is to simmer them in salted water for 5 minutes. Once the beans are drained and cooled, remove them from the pod. Eat as a snack or simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes to use as a side dish. Substitute soybeans for lima beans, mix the beans into soups or casseroles in place of cooked dried beans, or toss the beans with pasta or rice salads.

Dried Soybeans
Dried mature soybeans are cooked like other dried beans and can be used in soups, stews and casseroles. The yellow and black soybeans are the easiest to find. They are also available already cooked in cans. Salt or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, lemon juice, or vinegar should not be added to yellow soybeans until after cooking because the beans will not soften properly. Adding these acidic ingredients while cooking black soybeans, however, helps them retain their shape. The water used for cooking soybeans makes a flavorful base for soups, sauces, and gravies.

Soy Oil
Soy oil is the natural oil extracted from whole soybeans. It accounts for 75 percent of an American’s total vegetable oil intake. It contains 61 percent polyunsaturated fat, and 24 percent monounsaturated fat. It is also a good source of essential fatty acids. One teaspoon of soy oil contains 45 calories.

Soy Milk
Rich, creamy soy milk is the result of pressing the liquid from ground soybeans. Soy milk is available in regular and low-fat, a variety of flavors, and is lactose and casein-free. Some brands are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and/or vitamin B12. When substituting soy milk for dairy milk in your diet, choose soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Unopened, aseptic-packaged soy milk can be stored at room temperature for several months. Once opened, the milk should be refrigerated and used with in five days. Refrigerated cartons of soy milk must be kept refrigerated and used by the expiration date. Powdered soy milk must be mixed with water before using. The powder maintains freshness if stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Since brands of soy milk vary in creaminess, color, and taste, try several to see which you prefer. Use soy milk over breakfast cereal and in breads, cream sauces, soups, shakes, custards, and puddings. Soy milk itself is not an infant formula, but there are commercially prepared soy milk infant formulas available.

Tofu, or bean curd, is a white almost tasteless custard-like food made from curdling fresh soy milk. The curds are then pressed into cakes. Depending on how much liquid is expelled during the pressing, the resulting tofu may be labeled soft or firm. Silken tofu, which is smooth and creamy, is made using a heat process.

Tofu is easily digested, even by people who usually have trouble digesting legumes. It is rich in protein and contains B-vitamins, iron, and calcium. If a calcium salt, such as calcium sulfate, is used as the coagulant in making the tofu, it will be high in calcium. The amount of fat in tofu varies, too, with softer tofu generally having less fat than firmer varieties. Reduced fat tofu is also available.

Check the Nutrition Facts Panel and ingredients list for additional information.
Unless aseptically packaged, tofu should be refrigerated and used before the expiration date on the package. After opening, rinse the tofu and cover with fresh water. Store it refrigerated in a covered container and change water daily. Use within one week. To freeze tofu for up to five months, drain and wrap it well. When frozen, the tofu will turn yellow, but the original color will return when thawed. Frozen tofu is chewier than regular tofu and readily soaks up marinade sauces. Thaw the tofu in the refrigerator or microwave and squeeze out the excess liquid before using.

Tofu has little flavor of its own, so it absorbs the flavor of the food or seasonings it is mixed with. Extra firm and firm tofu are perfect for slicing and pan frying. Extra firm tofu holds together for broiling, baking, frying, and boiling. Softer varieties are good for pureeing, mashing, and crumbling when added to soups or salads. Since silken tofu has such a smooth texture, it is good in dips, sauces, puddings, and cheesecake or other desserts. Pureed silken tofu can be used as a substitute for cream in creamed soups and for sour cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise in dips, spreads, and salad dressings. Use mashed tofu for cooked beans in dips and sandwich spreads.

Soy Flour
Soy flour is made from roasted soybeans. Food processors use it in baked goods because the soy flour makes a moist, tender product. Natural or full-fat soy flour, which contains all the natural oil found in soybeans, should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve its freshness. Defatted soy flour has the oils removed during the processing and may be stored on the shelf.

Always stir soy flour before measuring, as it packs in the container. Baked products using soy flour tend to brown more quickly, so lower the oven temperature slightly or reduce the cooking time. To produce dense bread with a nutty flavor and a moist quality, place 2 tablespoons of soy flour into the measuring cup before filling it with wheat flour. Wheat flour provides gluten, which gives structure to yeast-raised bread, so it cannot be entirely replaced.

Sources: University of Kentucky Extension
Food and Drug Administration, Food Lover’s Companion

Crock Pot Soybeans

1 cup dried soybeans
4 cups water (or to cover)
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced into half moons
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil or 2 tablespoons black sesame oil

1. Rinse beans in colander under cold water; pick over for damaged beans and small stones. Transfer to large bowl or pot. Cover with cold water by 2 inches, soak overnight, and drain.
2. Put in crock pot and cover with the 4 cups water. Cover and cook on high until tender, about 4 hours. The beans need to be covered with liquid at all times to cook properly.
3. Drain the cooked beans and return to the crock pot. Add the onion, brown sugar, molasses, salt, mustard, and sesame oil; stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, until soybeans are flavorful but still moist and the onion is soft. Stir gently so as not to mash the beans and serve hot.


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