Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Simple Salad at Neerob/Packsun

This time our planned No-oil vegan supper did not work out, but we made use of the occasion to plan for the future.

Many people said they would come, few of them came.

The party was father David from St. Helena's Parish and myself Father David sampled some of the typical Packsun fare, including a somosa, while Khokon fixed us a simple salad that would pass muster as a no-oil vegan dish, and we planned the next proper No Oil Vegan Supper for July 25th, again the 4th Tuesday of the month - that day in June being the end of Ramadan. The rules are going to be different. The RSVP will be closed the previous day, and Walk-ins will be $12, while it will stay at $10 by RSVP.

As per our commitment to publish the recipes after each supper, here is the salad:

A Simple Salad with Cucumber and Tomato

  • Cucumber, grated/shredded
  • Tomato, diced
  • fresh lemon
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Ginger, grated fine.
And that's all. Obviously it was not a full meal, but the combination of Cilantro, Ginger with salt and peper in lemon juice was a perfect improvisation for a quick dressing.

Eating at home you could combine something like this with rice and beans and a vegetable of your choice, spinach, chard, broccoli or anything.

The more you start getting it, no-oil vegan cooking can be done on a budget, just don't be stingy with the vegetables, that's where your nutrients including protein come from. Meat is expensive! Essentially all vegetables have some protein, and the beans are a rich source of protein. The variations with beans are endless, it bears to experiment. The key is to realize that varied intake is the secret, and two or three vegetables at a meal is perfectly OK.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New Food Realities WFPB - Whole Foods Plant-Based

For most of my life, I thought I knew something about nutrition. As a child I loved to help out in the kitchen, and learn cooking. In our household cooking was a serious affair: my mother ran the place like a hotel, for my father was a psychiatrist and had his practice at home, and meals were a major social occasion, both lunch and dinner. Whether it was us kids bringing friends over, or my father's friends and professional contacts, including other doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists from all over Western Europe, authors, economists, ministers of state, and clergy. Lunch and dinner were often social events. Proper meals were being served and conversation was usually in three languages, mostly Dutch and German, but sometimes French or English. Ever since we went vegetarian when I was age two-and-a-half, my mother was always preoccupied with meal planning and nutrition. In those days, there seemed to be a lot of preoccupation with: but how do you get your protein? This being Holland, the answer was of course dairy, although there was some awareness of pulses, peas, beans and certain grains as sources of protein. But we definitely thought cheese was a health food, and eggs weren't bad either. Milk was still nature's perfect food. That was then, this is now.

As an adult, during a 20-year marriage, I was the cook. Cooking was my relaxation when I came home from work. In those years I had become omnivore, but still always had a vegetarian-leaning cooking style. I made pasta sauce completely vegetarian, using mushrooms, and my Italian (now ex-) wife within six months admitted my pasta sauce was better than her mother's. For which my mother-in-law never forgave me. During those years however, I also thought an organic filet mignon was health food, and if it wasn't organic I'd eat it too.

The last 20 years, I was slowly drifting back to a more vegetarian lifestyle, until I decided for health reasons that it was necessary to become a bit more rigorous, and after one false try maybe five years ago, I finally and completely shifted to the Esselstyn diet in May of 2015, and the results were dramatic. These days I am off of all medication and back at my fighting weight of age 22.

Vegan or Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB)

Vegan means strictly speaking that you're not eating animal protein: no meat, fish, fowl, dairy or eggs. Strictly speaking the term means little else.
Ever since Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's work gained popularity (which got a big push when Clinton credited him with overcoming his heart disease), a more strict regimen has become more popular, no-oil vegan. No processed oils, and moderation in oily fruit (avocado, coconut), nuts and oil seeds. The biggie for most people is no more cheese. No, cheese is not a healthfood, as Dr. Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains in his tell-all book about cheese, The Cheese Trap. Three months after stopping all dairy, I indulged in cheese at a reception, along with some red wine. The taste still seemed attractive at first, but the after taste was of having eaten window caulking and it felt heavy. Then I read the book and finally it all made sense. No wonder statistically cheese is totally correlated with the American obesity crisis... from 4 lbs per person per year, we are gobbling 33 lbs per person/per year today.

Most people fail to make the transition at first, as did I when I first tried the Esselstyn approach, because the preparation of food became a challenge, but this time around I prepared myself better, got some more vegan cookbooks, and accessed all the information I could find. Meals became fun explorations of new possibilities, and presently, a year and a half later, it feels like I am entering a consolidation phase based on a whole new cooking paradigm and a new ability to improvise with flavors and textures with the excitement of the discovery that everything tastes better and more flavorful if you stop cooking with oil. And your arteries will thank you!

The truth is not in what you don't eat but in what you can and should eat, and that is a very rich and varied plant-based diet, full of veggies, legumes, fruits etc., and it becomes an entirely new journey of discovery, as this blog tries to show. In short, the first time I tried the Esselstyn diet, I made two mistakes. One was to focus on what I could not have and trying to find alternatives, and the other was not to be sufficiently clear on the methods of preparation.

One practical example was about cooking without oil, in the Esselstyn book there is talk about stir-frying with water, but I don't believe it explains it clearly. I am finding that though some pans are more suitable to this than others, in general you can dry-fry onions, garlic and chilis, and then when it starts to brown you can add a half a cup of water, or vegetable broth, or even water from steaming vegetables, and with that base you can cook spinach, or malabar spinach or almost any other vegetable dish, lentils, etc. Once you are handy with this, it is a cinch, and the bottom line is, all vegetables taste endlessly better prepared this way. Oil or butter ruins the taste. Here I was making sautéed spinach all of my life, and I thought I was pretty good at it. I knew nothing until I tried the oil-free method. Spinach prepared this way is heavenly!

And there are tons of resources, such as Forks over Knives, the Engine2 diet, and the 21-day kickstart program from PCRM, and many other places where you can go for support. Here in the Bronx there is the wonderful resource of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Hospital, run by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, who offers a half-day course to learn the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, in the best of the Caldwell Esselstyn tradition, and on a budget. You can even bring your significant other, so that at least you get support at home. I am now registered to go to his next workshop on July 15th. The bottom line is with the growing support options, people who are looking to make the change have an extensive support system at their finger tips. A lot of it is free, and once in a while perhaps you'll buy a book or do a workshop. And the fear that you can't afford it is not well founded, for meat and dairy are expensive both in dollars, and in the toll you pay with your health.

Books

  • Always first: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure and 

  • T. Colin Caldwell, The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health 

  • Dr. Neal Barnard, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy

  • Not strictly no-oil vegan, but a helpful little guide: Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey, The Vegan Cheat Sheet: Your Take-Everywhere Guide to Plant-based Eating

 A new life-style

Most surprising for some is the experience that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want once you're on this track, as long as you stay within the bounds of no-oil veganism, and use only whole foods. But there is never a sense of dieting. Eat to your heart's content, and your body will adjust, and weight management is no longer an issue.

The potential for no-oil vegan for the restaurant business

This to me is the most exciting realization that has come to me, and I've begun to discuss it with restaurant owners: Not only does no-oil vegan cooking simply taste better, but it is the most universal choice for a restaurant menu. A vegan won't touch a merely vegetarian meal, but a vegetarian will eat no-oil vegan, a vegan will eat no-oil vegan and a no-oil vegan will obviously eat no-oil vegan. So, when a party of 6 enters your restaurant and one is vega-anything, you can always accommodate them with a no-oil vegan dish. You simply cannot go wrong. This new life is getting interesting.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Power Breakfast: Natto over tomatoed brown rice.

Our Chang-Li Supermarket now carries natto. A package of three is $1.99.

Natto at Chang-Li
While Natto is definitely an acquired taste, but, with a little experimenting, I developed a nifty breakfast. Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts, but sometimes I have a hankering for something heartier, more tangy and stimulating for breakfast, and with natto you can definitely do it and you can make it as spicy as you like.

First, here are the nutritional credentials of natto, from Nutritiondata. As you will see, it is low in cholesterol and sodium, but it is a good source of protein, Vitamin K, Magnesium and Copper, as well as Iron and Manganese.


It starts with a good brown rice with a tomato. I simply boil the brown rice in the rice cooker with a whole tomato in it and then I stir it up.
Then, at breakfast I chop up an onion, and crush one or two garlic cloves, and I shave some Daikon radish, and, if available, I add some beansprouts. I dry roast that all in a frying pan, adding a small amount of liquid when needed and a trace of Marmite or some Braggs Liquid Aminos.
I serve the tomato rice with the natto, and the supplied soy sauce and mustard over it, and cover it all with my vegetable mix. I top it with some roasted sesame seeds or some gomasio, and I sprinkle a crumpled sheet of nori on top. If you want, you can top it all off with some Kimchi. There's a breakfast that will put hair on your chest. If you wish, you could also include a chili pepper in your breakfast.

Ingredients:
  • Tomatoed brown rice
  • One package of natto
  • An onion, two garlic cloves
  • Some shaved Daikon radish, and some bean sprouts (if available),
  • optionally a chili pepper
  • some veggie bouillon, marmite or Liquid Aminos with water.
  • Roast Sesame seeds.
There's a power breakfast for you if you're into hearty tastes.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Senior Symposium at Sonia Sotomayor Community Center: Health and nutrition

On Friday April 28th, we had our second annual senior symposium from Community Board #9 at Sonia Sotomayor Community Center on Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx.

Amidst all the updates from various elected officials, I helped deliver a segment on natural health measures both from a nutritional and a treatment aspect, with the star of the show being Dr. Carina Lopez, a homeopath and acupuncturist. Dr. Lopez delivered an impassioned presentation on the natural remedies that surround us, using dandelions, violets and another herb that she found growing in the lawn at the Sonia Sotomayor Community Center.

Her presentation garnered strong response with some of her accounts of helping people with serious conditions to get off of medications with purely natural remedies. The underlying theme being to work with nature and our bodies, instead of fighting it, and taking responsibility for your health and well-being.



For introduction to Dr. Lopez, I spoke about nutrition as the first place to start healing and I used the information in my previous post to emphasize again what we can all do for ourselves with a healthy, plant-based diet. The bottom line is the evidence is all stacking up in favor of the whole foods plant-based diet, and increasingly, the establishment including the USDA, is losing the battle over the misinformation about nutrition that is at the basis of our national health crisis.The problem has always been that USDA serves their clients, the agri-businesses, and not US consumers. For decades now the evolving nutrition information, has pointed to plant-based nutrition as the healthier choice. With the incredibly solid research foundation of the China Study, we are really entering a new era, and the work of PCRM increasingly steers us in that same direction. Most importantly, they are winning in court. But, there's no reason for any of us to wait for that drama to play itself out - we can all begin to make those changes.

 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some stats, public and personal to tell the story of the whole foods plant-based diet

Here are some data points to put the nutrition revolution in perspective.

 Which one is the crisis?

 My facts.
  • in ca 1985 a doctor wanted to prescribe a medicine (for allergies) that I was supposed to take for the rest of my life, After finding out what it did, I refused to take it, and solved the problem instead with nutrition and supplements instead.
  • in ca 2010 another doctor did the same thing with blood pressure medication, and initially I took it, thinking I was going to improve my diet enough, but that did not work for me until I decided in May 2015 to go totally on whole foods plant-based nutrition, and get rid of ALL animal protein. Nine months later I had a physical, and my weight came down 25 lbs (to what I was at age 22), and my cholesterol came down 20 points (to 150). My BP was in normal range once again, so the doctor did not prescribe any further meds. I celebrated my 65th birthday being free of any medications, and/or their side-effects.
Meanwhile here is what happened in the big picture:
  • In 1996 Howard "Mad Cowboy" Lyman was on Oprah, and she swore off beef, and they prevailed in a lawsuit brought by the National Cattleman's Beef Association.
  • In 2005 the China Study was originally published delivering extensive scientific backup for whole foods plant-based nutrition. It proved that high protein diets turn cancer on, and low protein diets turn it off. More specifically, animal protein increased cholesterol, plant-based protein lowers cholesterol.
  • In 2007 Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn published the book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease," also recommending whole foods plant-based nutrition, with a special emphasis on oil-free plant-based food.
  • On February 28, 2017 Dr. Neal Barnard published "The Cheese Trap," which documents the role of cheese in the obesity crisis, and again recommends a no-oil, whole foods, plant-based diet.
  • As of February 22, the German government banned meat from all official functions.
  • Recently PCRM won a lawsuit against the dairy industry, which limits the deceptive claims they can make about how healthy milk is for you, specifically that they cannot claim it will help you lose weight. PCRM has established that milk is definitely not part of a healthy diet.
  • On April 12th PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) along with parents and teachers filed suit against LA County to take cured meats out of school lunches, because they are carcinogenic.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jackfruit again, seeds and all

The other day we got ourselves another Jackfruit at Premium Halal Meat & Fish, where we buy only fruits and vegetables despite the name...

Jackfruit, cut open.


Thanks to some recent inspiration about sharpening knives on YouTube channel Burrfection, my kitchen knives are now sharper than they have been in 20 years, and that's exactly what I needed to surgically dismantle this jackfruit, and cleanly take out the pods and get rid of the rest, except... save the seeds!

I have grown to absolutely love the taste of jackfruit, even if it is a bit of work to take it apart in an orderly fashion - it is worth the effort in spades. The nutritional value of the fruit is exceptional, see here.

There are some amazing things being done with jackfruit, such as jackfruit carnitas, and jackfruit barbcue, see here:
and there is more where that came from. Some companies are already producing packaged BBQ jackfruit and jackfruit carnitas, which is great for saldads, sandwiches and wraps.

Do not forget the seeds. I don't like slicing the jackfruit in half as is often done, exactly because the seeds will be halved as well. So, we like to buy a whole jackfruit and harvest the seeds whole. Once you understand the jackfruit, you can start with an incision at the ends, and surgically dissect it, harvesting all the pods whole and taking out the seeds whole as well. You need to take the hard white skin off the seeds, which again requires a sharp paring knife.

Stew with Jackfruit seeds

Last night I made a simple stew, first roasting some onions, garlic, and diced peppers (including some hot peppers) in a stainless steel pot, then I added 2 cups of vegetable bouillion, and cooked the jackfruit seeds in that for 15 minutes, then I added a purple sweet potato, peeled and sliced in half inch slices, and I let it go for another 15 minutes, after adding in some turmeric. Separately, I steamed some Brussels sprouts, and put some nutmeg on that, et voilà: a simple healthy meal. Finger-licking good actually. Continuing the tradition: everything tastes better if you stop cooking with oil, and your heart will thank you!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Dunya Harvest Steel-cut Oats at Chang-Li: Breakfast of champions

Dunya Harvest is a beautiful collection of organic staples that is avalaible at Chang-Li Supermarket. One of my favorites is their Steel-cut Organic Oats.

Dunya Harvest, Steel-cut Organic Oats
The best way to prepare them is always with your automatic rice cooker, in my case a Zojirushi NP-GBC05. There's nothing like just setting the timer at night for 6:30 and waking up to the smell of the oatmeal cooking.

Shredded Granny Smith, raisins, craisins, and some fresh ground Ceylon cinnamon


Once it's done, all I do is shred a Granny Smith apple with my trusty Börner V-Slicer mandolin, and add in some raisins, some craisins, and optionally other dried fruit (apricots work fine too), and some ground cinnamon. I add these dried fruits during the "keep warm" cycle and just wait a few minutes, and voilà you're ready to go. You can top the whole thing with some fresh fruit, and you have a breakfast you can't beat.

Adding the dried fruit in the "keep warm" cycle

As to the cinnamon, the usual "supermarket" variety, is actually chinese cinnamon (Cassia Cinnamon), which has a more full-bodied flavor. For the gourmets out there, the alternatives are Ceylon (Sri-Lanka) cinnamon, which is very aromatic and milder and Saigon cinnamon, which is a little spicier. Much has been made of the fact that Chinese cinnamon contains more coumarin, but it would appear that the amount is so small that the concern is not warranted, as this excellent article points out.

Topped off with persimmon