Slow cooker tempeh bolognese

tempeh_bologSo here's a quick and easy, versatile little dish that can handle a whole lot of veggies (like whatever's in the house), and is loaded with nutrition our bodies seem to love, boasting nutrients like calcium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B12. It packs in complete protein and is fiber-rich. It's also defiantly controversial, despite it's ostensibly bland persona. I'm not sure what to think, and I'm hesitant to post. I'm treading water in a sea of tofusion. Soy has plummeted in stature over the years, from once being perceived as the kind of  "health food" worth choking down, even if one wasn't a fan of the taste.  As someone who has always enjoyed tofu however, it's been disheartening to see it increasingly swamped in a mire of controversy and huddling in Monsanto's monstrous shadow. As of 2012, a whopping 94% of US soybeans are genetically-modified, according to the Department  of Agriculture. Besides that, soy products are so heavily processed in general, it's no wonder there are question marks, including suspected links to allergies, thyroid issues, and breast cancer.

Given all of the above, you'd think banning soy would be an automatic no-brainer. Yet, edamame still hangs onto a foothold as a healthy snack. And carefully sourced tempeh (organic, non-GMO) is associated with some pretty terrific health benefits, too...including, ironically, cancer prevention. Plus, fermented foods in general seem to be finding themselves increasingly in the spotlight, for their digestibility and the increased availability of nutrients.

What to think?

We've been doing a lot of research into nutrition lately...lately meaning what feels like forever. The combined health benefits and ethical aspects of a (mostly) plant-based diet have been especially compelling. Yet there are studies out there to support all kinds of dietary agendas, even the most outlandish, and with a marvelous, speedily growing baby boy, I feel so wary of embracing or eschewing anything absolutely.

Why is it the benefits of a truly moderate, real food diet get so relatively little press? I used to presume balance is too boring for publication, but now sometimes I wonder if, when it comes to nutrition today, maybe balance doesn't really exist. Today it seems we live in a  world with more and more substances of which a little is already too much.

Nutrition is fascinating, and food is essential. I guess it only makes sense that research abounds, conflict, concurs, and changes like crazy. As our world, food, and bodies change, so does the data. We can only do our best. Gathering info, sifting through, listening to our bodies, sourcing our food. Even if the concept of a balanced diet has become bogus, I'm still putting faith in moderation, as long as what's moderated is real food. For now, that includes a little tempeh.

This dish is robust and filling, satisfying in a meaty sort of way. And it's so, so easy and accommodating. If soy is out for you, I hear, but have never seen, that soy-free tempeh can be made from other beans, like garbanzo or black. Something worth contempehlating...another day.

Tempeh mushroom bolognese

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms (button/crimini/assorted)
  • liberal shake of Italian seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg's amino acids
  • 1 14-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • ½ cup red wine
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

 Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add tempeh and brown approximately 2 minutes on each side. Place in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.