Thursday, May 10, 2018

Perfect Spinach Everytime

From the plant-based kitchen dept.

One part of making life easier with the plant-based lifestyle is to avail yourself of appropriate kitchen technology. For me, induction heat is one of the must-haves.
First came my Induction Heat Rice Cooker, and then came an induction heat cook top from CopperChef, which works fine, different from their pans, which do not hold up very well in daily use.

So, as I reported in that last post about CopperChef, I have since moved on to both a Demeyere Silvinox stainless steel Dutch oven, and a frying pan as well as a 4-Qt Sauce pan from ScanPan, which do everything I need. The CopperChef pans are relegated to steaming, as they are not very useful for cooking without oil, even though they claim to be. Their non-stick becomes increasingly sticky after the first half dozen uses.

ScanPan 4Qt Sauce Pan in Action

Perfect Spinach (for one)

Ingredients:

  • One medium onion chopped fine
  • One jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • Two green chilis
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • One bunch of spinach, washed

Preparation

  • Chop up the onion fine, along with the chilis and the jalapeno
  • Dry-fry it on medium heat (275F) for 5 minutes
  • Chop up the garlic cloves
  • Add 2 ice cubes of veggie broth, and the chopped garlic and heat for another 5 minutes at 275F
  • Add the washed spinach. Cook for 7 minutes at 275F.
  • Drain the remaining cooking liquid, and freeze it in your ice-cube tray.
Besides anything else, here is where the advantages of IH cooking show. If I just set my onions for 5 minutes, it no longer matters if I get a phonecall, the plate just turns itself off after 5 minutes. When you put it all together, the above gives you perfectly cooked spinach in 20 minutes (assuming 3 mins for chopping the onion and the chilis and jalapeno).
Also, you are now cooking your spinach with spices, not with salt, which is an essential piece of the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet. NO ADDED, Sugar, Oil, or Salt.

The ScanPan cookware holds up very well, in exactly 5 minutes the onions just begin to turn brown, and, in the ScanPan, there is no sign of sticking. For ScanPan, non-stick means what it says.

Making a meal as opposed to a recipe

With the above, I can cook a meal in no time. Usually, I cook various sauces for 6-8 servings and freeze the left overs. You can easily boil pasta, or a potato, or rice (which I usually also cook in batches for 2-3 days). So, while I am making the spinach, I can re-heat the sauce in a double boiler (I do not have a microwave). This type of a meal can be ready in a half hour.

It all becomes a system, and by using your freezer effectively, you can make your kitchen very effective, by leveraging frozen foods you prepared in batches, and fresh foods you make that day. And making a salad is always easy - and I usually throw in a half a cup or a cup of quinoa and/or some beans, such as black beans or one-eyed peas, or whatever is around.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Breakthroughts on Nutrition and Healthcare

This post has moved to my main blog, HippocratesSays.com, here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

CopperChef Reviewed

In a recent post, I shared some experiences and opinions about cookware for your plant-based kitchen. One comment pertained to CopperChef cookware, which has been heavily promoted in recent years, but I came to the conclusion that you're better off saving your money for something better.

CopperChef's Sticky "Non-Stick" Coating

In the interest of fairness, by buying a set of CopperChef pans, I did end up with an induction cooktop, which was major progress. Besides the cooktop, their set included both the 9.5" and 11" "Deep Square Pan," with lids and steamer baskets and some pretty useless utensils.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I will offer you some pictures:

CopperChefXL 9.5" Deep Square Pan, Looking good
The ceramic coating comes off on the bottom, just from the cook top
Non-stick coating showing wear and tear in the middle
So for me this stuff was a learning tool to get going with induction cooking. I love the induction cooking experience, but these pans are not worth whatever I paid for them. Here is what it says on their website:


Copper Chef is the world’s first non-stick all-round square pan with Cerami-Tech coating, a new generation of healthy ceramic non-stick technology. That means nothing will stick to your pan. Copper Chef, with extra deep sides replaces a roasting pan, a rice cooker, a steamer, a stock pot, a wok and a baking dish. Even cook mac and cheese from dry right in its own sauce. Delicious! No more boiling and straining ever again!
What’s the secret? Copper Chef’s induction plate channels heat quickly and evenly with no hot spots, so you can sear meat in a flash!
And because you’re cooking with ceramic non-stick, you don’t have to add all that extra fat and butter. Air pop popcorn without any oil or butter. And no added calories.
 The truth is different, in my experience, so,  even though the website for the product claims expressly that you can cook in it without oil or grease, it did not work out that way in practice. For me cooking vegetables like spinach, poi leaf (Malabar spinach), or callaloo, begins with searing some onions and chilis at medium heat, dry for a few minutes until  the onions begin to caramelize. Then I add some 2 ice cubes of frozen vegetable broth and add some chopped garlic, and cook that for another five minutes, before I add the vegetable. Sometimes I may first add some beans and/or some split lentils or chick peas (and more water) to make a sauce. It all depends.

In the CopperChef pan, in the center area, where the induction heat transfer occurs, the onions started baking on to the "non stick surface" right away, even the first time, and it got progressively worse. The picture above is after about 6 months of regular use. Cleaning up is becoming progressively worse. Effectively, I cannot brown the onions in this pan, I have to stop just before they caramelize, which happens to be 4 minutes on 275F and even then they start to stick. It has become a major annoyance.

Meanwhile I have to say, the 11" Deep Square Pan is very useful to me for steaming my daily bunch of kale, because the steaming tray is huge. Of course for steaming the problem with anything sticking on the non-stick coating is a non-issue. The wear and tear on the corners of the square bottom are the same - it really does seem the cooktop is that abrasive. In short, the CopperChef pans are great for boiling water, but would not count on them for challenging tasks like seriously cooking without oil... never mind what they claim.

Besides these usability problems, we had endless problems with this company just to get the shipment right. The first order had pieces missing and it took something like 10 follow-up orders to correct the first one, during which time they kept sending us the wrong replacements. It took about six months before our first shipment was complete, and by that time the 9.5" Deep Square Pan was essentially worn out.

Enter Scanpan

Scanpan 4Qt Sauce Pan
On the recommendation of some of my plant-based friends, I then tried a Scanpan sauce pan, and it is brilliant. It has now taken the place of the 9.5" Deep Square Pan from CopperChef. Now, in fairness, the Scanpan sauce pan cost as much as the cooktop plus the two pans from CopperChef, and the cooktop definitely does work just fine. Using the timer for cooking is so much easier! Plus the 11" pan is proving very useful to me.

Scanpan has proven itself to me as being the non-stick ceramic cookware that truly performs. It says non-stick and it is non-stick. It feels very solid and the thick, multi-layer bottom does a masterful job at very even heat distribution, making this pan truly a joy to cook in.

OK, that's the latest on my adventures in plant-based cooking. Remember, the tools do make a difference in your daily routine, so while you may not necessarily need anything special to go plant-based, still, having great tools does pay dividends and make cooking more rewarding.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Whole Foods, Plant-Based Feast

On Tuesday April 24th, we had our monthly #WFPB supper at Packsun Restaurant. In effect it became a pre-planning session for the upcoming health fair at St. Helena's Church on May 26th.

Meanwhile, I am ashamed to admit that I neglected taking a picture of our meal which was brilliant indeed. The staff at Packsun did an outstanding job.

Here is some of what we had. This time the spices were mild, but very well balanced and interesting throughout. I am not even attempting to list them:
  • a cucumber salad
  • a yellow gravy of split black chick peas (kala chana), with turmeric and other spices
  • a cauliflower dish
  • a chinese eggplant dish
  • spinach dish
  • over GABA brown Basmati Rice
Neerob Market on Starling Avenue sells the Brown Basmati Rice at $12 for 10 lbs. 

Next time, I will try to take a picture again, but we all agreed that this dinner was superb. It definitely helped the planning of our very exciting upcoming healthfair.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Steel cut Oats at Chang Li Supermarket

Finally, Chang-Li Supermarket has started to carry Steel Cut Oats:

Quaker Steel Cut Oats
Note that they also have 3-minute Steel Cut Oats, but as long has you have a good rice cooker, you should not have any problem.

From a standpoint of nutritional value, note that the following sequence would apply:

  1. Steel Cut Oats
  2. 3-minute "Quick" Steel Cut Oats
  3. Old-Fashioned Oats
  4. Quick Old-Fashioned Oats

For diabetics what is important to know is that the pure Steel Cut Oats would also have the lowest Glycemic Index.

Oatmeal with berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries), is super health, and I like it with a shredded green apple and lots of cinnamon and topped with a tablespoon (or two) of balsamic vinegar.


Steamed Kale, Sweet potato, with balsamic vinegar

After that, I have a "desert" of steamed kale with boiled sweet potato and again dressed with some balsamic vinegar.

P.S. In general, everyone who is on any medicine should discuss their diet with their doctor, for once you go on a whole foods, plant-based diet, your doses can often be reduced. This is especially true for diabetics. Recommended literature is:
  • for heart patients: Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
  • for diabetics: Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Preventing and Reversing Diabetes.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Lovely Green and Yellow Recipe

Since leafy green vegetables are a staple of the WFPB diet, it is good to be handy with different possibilities of preparing them.

The following is a sauce based on the Southeast asian cooking tradition which has become a source of inspiration for me through the Bangladeshi community in my neighborhood.

Ingredients:

  • a few onions, chopped
  • a few garlic cloves, chopped
  • optionally some chilis, chopped
  • some turmeric, peeled and sliced fine, or turmeric powder
  • a quart of vegetable broth.
  • a cup of split chick peas (chana dal)
  • your favorite green leafy vegetable: spinach, malabar spinach (poi leaves), callaloo, chard, you name it.

Preparation:

  •  Start to stir fry the onions, with the cut-up chilis dry, until they start to caramelize (about 4 mins), and then add some tablespoons of veggie broth.
  • add in the garlic and the turmeric, let it simmer for about 5 mins
  • add the remaining vegetable broth, bring to a slow boil
  • add the dal and let it simmer for 45 minutes
  • blend this mixture with an immersion blender
  • add in your green leafies and let it simmer until the vegetables are soft. Note: alternatively, you can cook the green leafies on the side and add them cooked. This may be necessary with things like callaloo where you have to cook the stems longer than the leaves.
The result is a yellowish sauce with green accents, and it is absolutely finger licking good. Serve over GABA brown basmati rice. You can serve along with almost any other vegetable dishes.

Overall, the whole secret of cooking without added Sugar, Oil or Salt is to use the natural flavors, including various herbs and spices, and soon you will find that everything tastes better and more natural.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

More Good Uses of Plants: Improving Indoor Air Quality

In 1997, a book appeared with the title How to grow fresh air: 50 house plants that purify your home or office, by B. C. Wolverton. It was based on research from NASA about how plants can clean up indoor air, and there is a lot of great advice in the book that will help you pick the plants that will improve your indoor air quality.

We are currently working with a neighborhood florist, Miguel's Flower Shop at 1878 Cross Bronx Expressway to help create more awareness of this issue.

Miguel regularly carries most of the plants in the book, and he has a copy of the book available.

Sansevieria
Here is a wall hanger with two different types of Sansevieria from Miguel's by my  bedroom window.

Sansevieria and also Aloe Vera produce oxygen at night, so they are ideal plants for the bedroom, whereas you want to avoid "normal" plants for the bedroom, since they will consume oxygen at night.
Aura gets her first Sansevieria
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And here is Aura Meija buying a Sansevieria for her bedroom also. Aura has helped producing the Spanish version of a flyer for plants that clean the air for Miguel.






Miguel has a copy of the book in the store, and he can usually supply most of the plants that are mentioned in there, so be sure to talk to him, if you would like to make your indoor air healthier.