Nutritional Yeast

January 27th, 2015 5 Comments

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The International Paralympic Committee’s Nordic Skiing World Championships, right here at Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin near our winter home-base.  The paralympic equivalent to the World Cup, this is the championships for athletes from around the world competing in biathlon and cross country skiing.  It’s incredible to be this close to world-class skiers, watching their smooth techniques and stamina, and all of this combined with the phenomenal spirit of individuals overcoming the challenges of missing limbs or being visually impaired.  My jaw has dropped more than once.

 

We’ve been attending the events this week at Telemark as spectators, and also skiing at the nearby North End/Birkebeiner trails.  A few trails have been groomed to connect the Telemark trails to the North End system, so occasionally some of the athletes ski over on a warm-up or cool-down loop.  It’s kind of like the world of Avalon opening up for a few moments to the rest of us mere mortals, these incredible young athletes from around the globe coming over to share the snow and a smile as they glide by with quiet grace.  It’s both humbling and heartening.

 

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Canada and Russia hanging out, I wish the photo turned out better so you could see the Russian jacket.  A lot of languages are floating around when teams from 20 countries (including Mongolia) converge to compete.

Ukraine had the coolest jackets by far, I couldn’t get a shot of the heavier coats but here is a lightweight one.  We’re going back tomorrow so I’ll try again for their great graphics.

 

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Onto the Edibles.

Every once in a while I actually get around to writing about one of the Helpers, the unseen superheroes of the kitchen that can save a dish when you know something is lacking.  I often turn to nutritional yeast, especially if I’m venturing into the special-diet realm of no dairy.  Nutritional yeast has a super power of cheesy-umami flavors, and is even somewhat cheesy in texture when in a dish.  The extra bonus is that it contains B vitamins and protein that are often missing in a vegan diet.

 

Umami.

Ah umami.  This Japanese-borrowed word translates as “pleasant savory taste”.

We can detect five distinct parts of flavor on our tongues: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, and Umami.  We taste umami because of our many receptors for ribonucleotides (say that ten times fast) and the amino acid ‘glutamate’ which are found in foods, especially those that are rich in protein.  That meaty, brothy, depth of flavor that is difficult to describe but makes everything else taste better and more full, it’s the element we work to impart in our cooking of meals.  In his book “Cooked” Michael Pollan writes that it’s likely our brains register “PROTIEN—GOOD!” when we taste umami, and we consider it tasty and beneficial thus worth exerting precious energy to seek out.

 

Just a bit more about this.  There are two foods that are nearly perfect in their amounts of umami-rich amino acid and inosinic acid.  The first is the smoked-dried-fermented Bonito fish (katsuobushi) which is combined with the sea-vegetable Kombu to make Dashi, an umami-seasoning used in many Japanese dishes.

The second is…. Bacon.  This is no surprise.  We knew it.

 

But enough about bacon and fish.

Nutritional yeast is a dehydrated inactive yeast, similar to bread yeast but with no leavening qualities.  Most commercial varieties were grown on sugar beets or molasses and are available in either medium or tiny flakes.

 

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With what would you use nutritional yeast?  Almost anything with a savory flavor.

It’s often used as a cheesy substitute in cream sauces, in lasagna, or creamy soups.

 

Try nutritional yeast in or on:

  • Creamy soups
  • Casseroles and Gratins
  • Bean dips
  • Pesto
  • Pasta dishes (in lasagna, macaroni and cheese, manicotti, on top of spaghetti, etc.)
  • Pasta salads
  • Gravy (instead of meat broth)
  • Rice and other grains
  • Beans
  • Popcorn
  • Buttered Toast
  • Potatoes—great in gratin
  • Quiche or Frittata
  • Dairy-free ‘cheese’ sauce
  • Cooked vegetables—great on kale, broccoli, turnips, cauliflower, anything

 

 

This is a remedy we’ve been using during this flu and cold season:

Feel-better Soup

Heat:

–Chicken Stock

–Nutritional Yeast

–Real Salt

–a dash of Cayenne Powder

Sip while cuddled up by a fire or with a blanket wrapped around you.

Dress warm and be healthy!

 

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5 Comments

  1. amy wilkinson says:

    i forgot about this product… thanks for all the tips ruth. by the way you are the best!

  2. Alice says:

    A very useful and interesting post, Ruthie. Thanks!

  3. Betsy says:

    I love that stuff! But I’m writing because I just made your Sweet Potato Falafal (sp?) recipe and it was great! Will make it again.

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