Memorie's Nutrition Nuggets
Food for Thought

Food is incredibly powerful.  Food can prevent or cause disease, which affects quality of life and all aspects of the healthcare system and insurance industry.  It can link us to a specific culture or be part of our identity.  It brings people together.  It represents joyful times but can also console us during sad times.  It is plays a major role in social interactions and gatherings.  Food can transcend language and cultural barriers.  Food can be an indulgence or a necessity.  It can be our voice for our political views, morals, and beliefs.  Food can affect our mood and motivate our actions.  Food is part of our daily decision-making processes.  It can be highly profitable.  Food is a common ground upon which all people, races, classes, cultures, and ethnicities can relate.  It can be environmentally sustainable or detrimental.  It can be a sign of affection and an outlet for creative expression.  Food influences who is running our country, which therefore influences policies, laws, the economy, and international relations.  Food affects all people and all species.  Food is intertwined in all we do and in all aspects of our general livelihoods.

What would our healthcare system, insurance industry, country, and world look like if we were all a little more conscious about our food choices?  What if we all ate a little healthier?  What if we all acknowledged that our food comes from some place other than the grocery store; that it starts with live being?  What if we all used our food choices to represent our political views and morals?  What if farming were revered as the most prestigious profession?  What if all farmers placed more value on the animals and plants they tend, the health of their consumers, and the integrity of their product rather than a dollar value?  What if we all took a stand against food corporations that only care about the bottom line?  What if we all just simply stopped for a moment to think about these things?

My point is this…yes, this all sounds very lofty and unrealistic, but we do have a voice and a very strong collective voice.  So, let’s use it.

On second thought, maybe let’s not shake it like a salt shaker…

image

I just began reading “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler, and so far I am really enjoying it.  I could go into detail describing what the book is about, but I’ll save that for another time.  Alls you needs to know right now is that it’s about cooking and food. 

Even though I’m digging the book so far, I stumbled upon a couple of sentences with which I’m not sure I 100% agree.  In one of the opening chapters on how to boil water, Adler states:  “All ingredients need salt.  The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need.”

I get what she’s saying to some extent…seasoning can be a good thing.  Buuuuut, two major objections come to my mind:

1) Many foods are rightfully narcissistic in believing they can stand on their own without any help from salt.

2) Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to see what food, and I mean real food, actually tastes like before we start covering it in salt.

In regards to my first objection, I don’t think that all foods need help from salt for taste—MANY foods taste amazing just as they are.  Let’s first look at the tomato.  It was only after I became vegan that I actually began to REALLY know what certain foods tasted like…I had to try them…I had to come up with new combinations, new meals, and new snacks.  I used to claim that I didn’t like tomatoes, and I guess in a sense I didn’t—or at least I didn’t like what I had always thought was a “tomato”…those pale red things on the salad bar that I just covered in ranch dressing.  However, my first real experience with a tomato was after I became vegan at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, where one of the farmers was cutting slices of an heirloom tomato for customers to try.  So I tried it.  This was a tomato????  It certainly didn’t taste like any tomato I had ever had, so I bought one, and I have been buying them and enjoying them ever since.  Now, Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomatoes hold a special place in my heart.  Black cherry tomatoes from the Burundi women’s farm I helped with this past summer are seriously like little pieces of candy that just explode with flavor as they burst in your mouth with one bite.  As a side note, tomatoes will always taste best when they are in season (think summer) and are grown locally and organically. 

And then there’s the sweet potato (if you don’t already know, I am OBSESSED with sweet potatoes).  They are magical as a unicorn and need absolutely no help from seasoning (even though I do mix them with many many things and create many many meals from sweet potatoes).  But toss one if the microwave or oven, then when it’s finished cooking, just cut it open and eat it straight up plain.  For reals, try it.  It is absolutely amazing on its own—there is extreme beauty in how something so seemingly simple can be so flavorful.   Yes, some foods will taste better on their own than others, but many foods do hold their own—it just takes us actually trying them that way, which brings me to my second objection…

SALT.  Salt can be good sometimes and in moderation as it can add some flavor/seasoning.  However, salt is everywhere, on everything, and in everything these days.  Remember the saying “it tastes like chicken?”  Wrong.  It tastes like salt.  Everything tastes like salt.  Salt was used back in the day in order to preserve food before refrigeration and other food preserving methods were around. But, now, we are addicted to it, and we think something is bland if it doesn’t have salt in or on it.  This isn’t totally our fault.  The food industry knows we are addicted to salt, so they load everything with it.  That’s what keeps us coming back for more, which means more money for them.   And to be fair, most of these foods have to be heavily laden with salt to prevent us from realizing that what we’re eating is really crap, covered in salt. 

So what am I saying?  I don’t think Adler is completely wrong…seasoning can be good and can help us enjoy our food.  I guess what I am saying is let’s go a little easy on the salt.  Let’s start actually tasting the food itself.  Let’s find out what an unadulterated sweet potato tastes like.  Let’s see what an unsalted almond tastes like.  Let’s really taste a tomato.  Then and only then can we start to really appreciate all the complexities these simple foods have to offer, and then we can start thinking about what combinations would work well together and what seasonings would be best for what foods.  This is when the food romance begins, and eating becomes more of an experience or an elaborate dance rather than just a mindless act done several times a day.    

So here’s some recipes for the day:

—1 sweet potato.  Poke holes in it with a fork, place in microwave and cook for ~10 minutes, turning every 2 minutes or so or until potato is soft.  Cut it open with a knife and eat it.

—Unsalted almonds.  Place a few in your hand and then enjoy one by one, taking time to chew and really taste the almond. 

—I would say find an organic, locally grown organic tomato, slice it, and eat, but this would be better done in the summer.

Fueling the Vegan Flame
 
Embracing the vegan lifestyle for the past 2 and almost a half years has been such a great journey—I have tried TONS of new foods and new recipes and forced my friends and family to try these along with me!!  One of my vegan idols is Lindsay S. Nixon aka Happy Herbivore (I have provided some extra info on Lindsay further down the page).  She has provided me with so many recipes and new vegan ideas, and I recently had the opportunity of asking her a few questions that I thought might be of interest to some of you… 
 
1)  What are some tips for those that would like to eat healthier or eat a more plant-based diet, but they feel like they just don’t have the time to cook?
We all have to eat so we all have time to cook. There are so many easy, healthy recipes that take less time than getting take out or drive-thru or making something from a box. Tofu scramble with veggies takes 5-6 minutes, my 6-ingredient black bean burgers take 10 and thats just baking time… pepper fajitas take minute and bean and rice or veggie burritos are near-instant. You can also cook once a week. Cook all your meals (it only takes an hour or two at most) then reheat during the week. 2)  What are the top 5-10 ingredients and food items you would recommend to always have in the kitchen in order to cook up a quick healthy meal last minute?
 
canned beans, frozen vegetables, well stocked spice rack, 1-minute brown rice, salsa, whole grain wraps or tortillas (you can store these in the freezer), whole grain pasta and pasta sauce, teriyaki sauce and other condiments. You really don’t need much to eat well.
3)  I think a lot of guys steer clear of “vegan” or “vegetarian” because they think they need more food or need meat to keep up their active lifestyle or keep their “man card”…what are your thoughts on this?
My husband is 6ft, 200lbs and runs marathons, skiis double black diamonds, mountain bikes, etc and he is a vegan. There are so many awesome male vegan athletes. I’ll never forget seeing Rip climb UP the firehouse pole in Forks Over Knives saying “REAL MEN EAT PLANTS.” I can’t think of his name — but there is an ultimate fighter who is vegan and I don’t think anyone can doubt his manliness…
4)  What types of meals/food items would you recommend for guys out there that maybe don’t LOVE to cook and are concerned that a vegetarian or vegan diet is going to be too light for them?
Focus on dishes that celebrate filling foods like whole grains and legumes. My husband LOVES bean burritos, for example. He can’t get enough of them. 
 
Thanks so much Lindsay!  Here is little more info about Lindsay:
Lindsay S. Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. Lindsay’s recipes have been featured in Vegetarian Times, Women’s Health Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Lindsay is also a consulting chef at La Samanna, a luxury resort and four-star restaurant in the French West Indies. You can learn more about Lindsay and sample some of her recipes at happyherbivore.com

After vegan chef Lindsay S. Nixon wrapped up her popular cookbook The Happy Herbivore Cookbook last year, she went back to her kitchen in her new home of St. Maarten.  Island living encouraged Nixon to come up with simpler fare, which led to a follow-up cookbook focusing on recipes that bring tasty back to quick-and-easy.Now, in Nixon’s much-anticipated follow-up cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore, readers will see, once again, that just because plant-based eating is optimal for health, it doesn’t have to also be expensive or time-consuming.Everyday Happy Herbivore includes more than 175 doable recipes—recipes that are so quick and easy, you could cook three healthy meals from scratch every day like Nixon does.Each of Nixon’s recipes are made with wholesome, easy-to-find, fresh ingredients and include no added fats. With additional notes indicating recipes that are ideal for preparing ahead of time and those you can whip up with just a few dollars, Everyday Happy Herbivore will be the must-have cookbook for anyone desiring a healthier, happier menu! 
 


Lindsay’s Profiles:
 http://www.facebook.com/HappyHerbivoreBlog
http://twitter.com/#!/happyherbivore
http://www.happyherbivore.com/
http://www.youtube.com/user/happyherbivoreblog
 


Here is a recipe that Lindsay shared as well—-I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned my love/borderline obsession with sweet potatoes…
Sweet Potato Dal (serves 2)This soup is Dal-icious! It’s so flavorful you’ll want seconds. and thirds!1 small sweet potato, skinned1 small onion, finely chopped3 garlic cloves, mincedred pepper flakes1/4 tsp turmeric1/4 tsp garam masala, plus extra1 cup vegetable broth, plus extra1/2 cup red lentils4 cups spinach, or moresaltDice sweet potato into small ½-inch cubes, and set aside. Line a medium pot with a thin layer of water and saute onions and garlic for a minute. Add a pinch or two red pepper flakes and continue to cook until all the water has cooked off. Add turmeric, ¼ tsp garam masala and stir to coat. Add 1 cup broth, uncooked lentils, and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce to low, cover, and simmer for a few minutes, about 5. Add sweet potatoes, bring to a boil again and reduce to low and simmer, until lentils are fully cooked (they expand and the sauce thickens), about 5 minutes more. Check periodically to see if you need additional broth (I tend to add an extra ½ cup but it can vary). Once lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are fork tender, taste, adding more garam masala as desired (I like to add another ¼ tsp but some blends are stronger than others). Add spinach, continuing to stir until spinach cooks down and softens. Add salt to taste and serve.Per Serving: 232 Calories, 0.9g Fat, 42.2g Carbohydrates, 17.7g Fiber, 4.7g Sugar, 15.4g 
Happy Eating!!!

You can purchase a copy of her new cookbook here:  Buy on Amazon. 

Fueling the Vegan Flame

 

Embracing the vegan lifestyle for the past 2 and almost a half years has been such a great journey—I have tried TONS of new foods and new recipes and forced my friends and family to try these along with me!!  One of my vegan idols is Lindsay S. Nixon aka Happy Herbivore (I have provided some extra info on Lindsay further down the page).  She has provided me with so many recipes and new vegan ideas, and I recently had the opportunity of asking her a few questions that I thought might be of interest to some of you… 

 

1)  What are some tips for those that would like to eat healthier or eat a more plant-based diet, but they feel like they just don’t have the time to cook?

We all have to eat so we all have time to cook. There are so many easy, healthy recipes that take less time than getting take out or drive-thru or making something from a box. Tofu scramble with veggies takes 5-6 minutes, my 6-ingredient black bean burgers take 10 and thats just baking time… pepper fajitas take minute and bean and rice or veggie burritos are near-instant. You can also cook once a week. Cook all your meals (it only takes an hour or two at most) then reheat during the week.
 
2)  What are the top 5-10 ingredients and food items you would recommend to always have in the kitchen in order to cook up a quick healthy meal last minute?

 

canned beans, frozen vegetables, well stocked spice rack, 1-minute brown rice, salsa, whole grain wraps or tortillas (you can store these in the freezer), whole grain pasta and pasta sauce, teriyaki sauce and other condiments. You really don’t need much to eat well.

3)  I think a lot of guys steer clear of “vegan” or “vegetarian” because they think they need more food or need meat to keep up their active lifestyle or keep their “man card”…what are your thoughts on this?

My husband is 6ft, 200lbs and runs marathons, skiis double black diamonds, mountain bikes, etc and he is a vegan. There are so many awesome male vegan athletes. I’ll never forget seeing Rip climb UP the firehouse pole in Forks Over Knives saying “REAL MEN EAT PLANTS.” I can’t think of his name — but there is an ultimate fighter who is vegan and I don’t think anyone can doubt his manliness…

4)  What types of meals/food items would you recommend for guys out there that maybe don’t LOVE to cook and are concerned that a vegetarian or vegan diet is going to be too light for them?

Focus on dishes that celebrate filling foods like whole grains and legumes. My husband LOVES bean burritos, for example. He can’t get enough of them. 

 

Thanks so much Lindsay!  Here is little more info about Lindsay:

Lindsay S. Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. Lindsay’s recipes have been featured in Vegetarian Times, Women’s Health Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Lindsay is also a consulting chef at La Samanna, a luxury resort and four-star restaurant in the French West Indies. You can learn more about Lindsay and sample some of her recipes at happyherbivore.com

After vegan chef Lindsay S. Nixon wrapped up her popular cookbook The Happy Herbivore Cookbook last year, she went back to her kitchen in her new home of St. Maarten.  Island living encouraged Nixon to come up with simpler fare, which led to a follow-up cookbook focusing on recipes that bring tasty back to quick-and-easy.

Now, in Nixon’s much-anticipated follow-up cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore, readers will see, once again, that just because plant-based eating is optimal for health, it doesn’t have to also be expensive or time-consuming.

Everyday Happy Herbivore includes more than 175 doable recipes—recipes that are so quick and easy, you could cook three healthy meals from scratch every day like Nixon does.

Each of Nixon’s recipes are made with wholesome, easy-to-find, fresh ingredients and include no added fats. With additional notes indicating recipes that are ideal for preparing ahead of time and those you can whip up with just a few dollars, Everyday Happy Herbivore will be the must-have cookbook for anyone desiring a healthier, happier menu! 

 

Lindsay’s Profiles:

 http://www.facebook.com/HappyHerbivoreBlog

http://twitter.com/#!/happyherbivore

http://www.happyherbivore.com/

http://www.youtube.com/user/happyherbivoreblog

 

Here is a recipe that Lindsay shared as well—-I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned my love/borderline obsession with sweet potatoes…

Sweet Potato Dal (serves 2)

This soup is Dal-icious! It’s so flavorful you’ll want seconds. and thirds!

1 small sweet potato, skinned
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garam masala, plus extra
1 cup vegetable broth, plus extra
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups spinach, or more
salt

Dice sweet potato into small ½-inch cubes, and set aside. Line a medium pot with a thin layer of water and saute onions and garlic for a minute. Add a pinch or two red pepper flakes and continue to cook until all the water has cooked off. Add turmeric, ¼ tsp garam masala and stir to coat. Add 1 cup broth, uncooked lentils, and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce to low, cover, and simmer for a few minutes, about 5. Add sweet potatoes, bring to a boil again and reduce to low and simmer, until lentils are fully cooked (they expand and the sauce thickens), about 5 minutes more. Check periodically to see if you need additional broth (I tend to add an extra ½ cup but it can vary). Once lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are fork tender, taste, adding more garam masala as desired (I like to add another ¼ tsp but some blends are stronger than others). Add spinach, continuing to stir until spinach cooks down and softens. Add salt to taste and serve.

Per Serving: 232 Calories, 0.9g Fat, 42.2g Carbohydrates, 17.7g Fiber, 4.7g Sugar, 15.4g

Happy Eating!!!

You can purchase a copy of her new cookbook here:  Buy on Amazon

                                                       C is for … 
Cookie.  Ok not really.  Today C is for Casein.
Casein is a name for a family of proteins found in mammalian milk.  Protein found in cow’s milk is made up of about 80-87% casein while the protein in human milk is made up of about 60-65% casein.  Other proteins in milk are called whey proteins.   So what’s the big deal with casein?  Well, some different research has found a few, what I like to call, “innerstin” things regarding casein:
1)       C is for Calming and Codeine.  During its digestion, casein breaks apart to release a group of opiates (codeine is an opiate) called casomorphins—apparently these casomorphins produce a calming effect on infants drinking their mother’s milk, and may even play a role in the mother-infant bonding process.   Studies have shown that these opiate-like casein fragments are able to pass from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, and they reach their peak in the bloodstream about 40 minutes after eating dairy products.  So forget the drugs and alcohol … anyone down for a few shots of milk?
2)      C is for Cheese.  Casein is also concentrated in the production of cheese.  In addition to casein, cheese contains other drug-like substances, such as an amphetamine-like chemical and another chemical called phenylethylamine.  Scratch my previous question … forget the drugs and alcohol, anyone down for a gram of cheese?
3)      C is for Colic.  Some research has shown that a mother that consumes dairy products can actually pass proteins from cow’s milk to her breast milk in large enough amounts to irritate her child’s stomach and cause colic.  (Remember, the concentration of casein in cow’s milk is higher than the concentration found in human breast milk)
4)      C is for Constipation.  Due to its opiate-like effects, casein may have a bit of an anti-diarrheal effect.  
5)      C is for Cancer and T. Colin Campbell (a huge researcher in nutrition).  Dr. Campbell found that casein promotes liver cancer in rats, and other researchers found that casein promotes breast cancer in rats.  Further Dr. Campbell found that casein affects the way cells interact with carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) and the way cancer cells grow.  This means that given the same amount of carcinogens, rats fed with higher percentages of casein experienced more liver tumors.  But, even when given the same high levels of wheat protein (gluten) plus the same levels of carcinogens, there was no promotion of cancer growth in the rats.  So to put it simply, the higher levels of casein given with a constant amount of carcinogens, the more liver tumors were seen; however, even with the same amount of carcinogens plus the higher percentages of plant protein, rats did not experience a growth of liver tumors … casein led to tumors while plant protein did not.  
All in all casein has been shown to be an addictive opiate-like substance, can possibly cause colic and constipation, and can potentiate cancer growth.  So if you’re trying to eat vegan, watch out for casein—it’s actually found in some “vegan” products, especially “vegan” cheeses.  So read the ingredients, and if the product contains casein, it’s not really vegan (unless maybe they are using casein from human breast milk, which I highly doubt is the case!).  
Ok, now C is for cookie … a chocolate casein-free cookie to be exact!  (Vegan Newman-O’s are a good option for a cookie craving!)
References:  
Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard, MD
http://www.nealbarnard.org/books.cfm
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
http://www.thechinastudy.com/

                                                       C is for …

Cookie.  Ok not really.  Today C is for Casein.

Casein is a name for a family of proteins found in mammalian milk.  Protein found in cow’s milk is made up of about 80-87% casein while the protein in human milk is made up of about 60-65% casein.  Other proteins in milk are called whey proteins.   So what’s the big deal with casein?  Well, some different research has found a few, what I like to call, “innerstin” things regarding casein:

1)       C is for Calming and Codeine.  During its digestion, casein breaks apart to release a group of opiates (codeine is an opiate) called casomorphins—apparently these casomorphins produce a calming effect on infants drinking their mother’s milk, and may even play a role in the mother-infant bonding process.   Studies have shown that these opiate-like casein fragments are able to pass from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, and they reach their peak in the bloodstream about 40 minutes after eating dairy products.  So forget the drugs and alcohol … anyone down for a few shots of milk?

2)      C is for Cheese.  Casein is also concentrated in the production of cheese.  In addition to casein, cheese contains other drug-like substances, such as an amphetamine-like chemical and another chemical called phenylethylamine.  Scratch my previous question … forget the drugs and alcohol, anyone down for a gram of cheese?

3)      C is for Colic.  Some research has shown that a mother that consumes dairy products can actually pass proteins from cow’s milk to her breast milk in large enough amounts to irritate her child’s stomach and cause colic.  (Remember, the concentration of casein in cow’s milk is higher than the concentration found in human breast milk)

4)      C is for Constipation.  Due to its opiate-like effects, casein may have a bit of an anti-diarrheal effect. 

5)      C is for Cancer and T. Colin Campbell (a huge researcher in nutrition).  Dr. Campbell found that casein promotes liver cancer in rats, and other researchers found that casein promotes breast cancer in rats.  Further Dr. Campbell found that casein affects the way cells interact with carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) and the way cancer cells grow.  This means that given the same amount of carcinogens, rats fed with higher percentages of casein experienced more liver tumors.  But, even when given the same high levels of wheat protein (gluten) plus the same levels of carcinogens, there was no promotion of cancer growth in the rats.  So to put it simply, the higher levels of casein given with a constant amount of carcinogens, the more liver tumors were seen; however, even with the same amount of carcinogens plus the higher percentages of plant protein, rats did not experience a growth of liver tumors … casein led to tumors while plant protein did not. 

All in all casein has been shown to be an addictive opiate-like substance, can possibly cause colic and constipation, and can potentiate cancer growth.  So if you’re trying to eat vegan, watch out for casein—it’s actually found in some “vegan” products, especially “vegan” cheeses.  So read the ingredients, and if the product contains casein, it’s not really vegan (unless maybe they are using casein from human breast milk, which I highly doubt is the case!). 

Ok, now C is for cookie … a chocolate casein-free cookie to be exact!  (Vegan Newman-O’s are a good option for a cookie craving!)

References: 

Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard, MD

http://www.nealbarnard.org/books.cfm

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD

http://www.thechinastudy.com/

                                        Two Loves Meet

I heart NYC.  I moved out of the city three years ago after living there for four amazing years!  I miss the city like one would miss an ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend), and I always have mixed feelings about going back to visit.  I know that if I visit, it will be as if I never left, as if the year and a half that has actually passed has only been a fleeting moment, and as if nothing about our relationship is different although both of us have changed a little.  I know when I get there, we’ll fall back into the same old comfortable routine we knew before, and I know that leaving will be like breaking up all over again.  However, when I was recently given the opportunity to crash my friend’s hotel room and spend the week in New York City, I couldn’t turn in down.  I decided to just enjoy my time with the city while I had it.

Enter my next love … vegan food.  The city has so many amazing restaurants, including some awesome vegan spots!  And, since I have some awesome awesome friends that still live in the city who know my dietary preferences, they were happy to branch out and try some vegan food with me!  So I ate a LOT while I was in the city. 

My first stop was Babycakes vegan bakery in the lower east side (cupcakes pictured above).  They were super delicious…carrot, red velvet, chocolate, and vanilla cupcakes…yep, tried them all!  The next day, I checked out Red Bamboo, which is a vegan soul food restaurant in the west village and had the codfish cakes with mango salsa, salad, and a collard green roll (pictured above)—to quote a friend, it was “amazeballs.”  Later was dinner with friends at Café Blossom on the upper west side, which also only serves vegan cuisine.  There I had some delicious barbecue tempeh with fingerling potatoes and a horseradish “cream” sauce, and I think even my non-vegan friends enjoyed their food a little too!  The next day was super hot (I was there during the heat wave), so I decided a raw, vegan lunch at Bonobo’s next to Madison Square Park would be perfect for the sweltering day.  I had the curry nut meat salad (pictured above)—I still don’t really know what all was in it, but it was so freakin good!  After lunch, I decided to take a steamy stroll down to Union Square where the Union Square Farmers Market was taking place.  It was so wonderful to see all of these local producers giving up their day and sweating it out to provide nutritious, local food to New Yorkers!  There were so many vendors, and the nectarines I bought from a farm located in southern Jersey were so juicy and sweet—they were the perfect afternoon snack while I watched a movie at the Paris theater!  That night I met up with some other friends at Candle Café (another vegan restaurant) on the upper east side where we shared the sesame crusted tofu and the paradise casserole (layers of sweet potato, black beans, and millet over steamed greens with country gravy)… and it actually was paradise! 

Now, the beauty of New York City is that you can pretty much find any kind of food you want at any time.  My last full day in the city I was in the mood for rice, beans, and plantains—possibly due to my recent trip to Costa Rica.  So I decided to head over to Hell’s Kitchen area to see what I could find.  And, of course, I found exactly what I was looking for at a tiny little place called Out that serves Latin cuisine, and they even had their own house-made hot sauce!  New York is the best.  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my meals that week. 

I was so so sad to leave the city (as I knew I would be) after a week filled with great food, visiting all of my favorite spots around the city, and catching up with such wonderful friends.  So if you have the chance to visit NYC, definitely do!  And, maybe even check out some of the restaurants I mentioned here or the Union Square Farmers Market, and if you do go, please give the city a giant hug from me!

http://www.babycakesnyc.com/

http://redbamboo-nyc.com/site/

http://blossomnyc.com/cafeblossom.php

http://www.bonobosrestaurant.com/

http://www.grownyc.org/unionsquaregreenmarket

http://www.candlecafe.com/

http://www.yelp.com/biz/out-latin-food-manhattan

I am no farmer.

I am no farmer.  But, this summer I am helping out on Umurima wi Burundi (the farm of Burundi women), a sustainable farm led by Burundi women that were forced to leave their country due to war, genocide, or persecution and resettle as refugees in the metro-Atlanta area.   It’s work—hard, sweaty work.  And because it’s an organic farm, pest control is done manually.  For example, squash bug eggs have to be manually picked off of the squash leaves and crushed, and there are a LOT of eggs! 

However, working on the farm has given me so many things this summer:

  • It’s awesome exercise … think shoveling compost, weeding, carrying yards and yards of hose-pipe … etc.
  • I get absolutely delicious food with maximal nutritional value.  It is actually hard for me to not eat all the food as I’m harvesting it (especially the pole beans and tomatoes).
  • I am learning more about growing vegetables.
  • I have a gained a much deeper appreciation for the food I eat and for the people that work so hard to produce my food. 
  • But most importantly, I have been able to experience the beauty this farm and the Burundi women have to offer.  It is truly amazing to see these women, who have come from situations I cannot even begin to fathom, all working together with no one telling them what to do and no delegation of tasks, and yet they still manage to accomplish all the farm tasks and harvesting that needs to be done all the while laughing together with their children either strapped to their backs or sitting in the garden bed nearby.  One of my most favorite experiences I have had on the farm recently was a couple of weeks ago.  I, along with a few of the women, was harvesting rattlesnake pole beans.  The sun was in full force, I was sweating profusely, and I was beginning to get tired from the morning’s previous tasks.   Then I heard one of the women begin to sing in her native language of Swahili a beautiful, beautiful song while I watched the gentle pendulum-like swaying of the pole beans as we shook the trellising, and all I could do was smile.  Seeing the joy that these women still posses despite everything they have been through, along with being so intertwined with nature has gives me such a deep satisfaction.

So I encourage you to support your local farmers—these people actually care about the integrity of their produce, the satisfaction of their consumers, and the integrity of our land and environment.  Go to your local farmers markets, find local foods at your grocery stores (or ask for it), and if you have never helped out on a farm or garden, try volunteering at one.  Even if you’re not a farmer (like me), I promise you will gain at least a deeper appreciation for the food that you eat.  And next time you are buying your summer squash, buy organic and think about the people that have personally fought against the squash bugs in order to protect that squash you just bought!  You can also find out more about the Burundi women’s farm at www.globalgrowers.net

And, here’s any easy recipe for those pole beans:

Cashew Garlic Green Beans

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 pound pole beans (green beans)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup salted cashews

1/4 cup water or vegetable broth

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil beans for 4 minutes.  In a small skillet over medium heat, sauté garlic and cashews in water or broth for about 3 minutes.  Transfer the boiled beans to the skillet and sauté for 5-6 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Move over Danielle Steel!

So I have a romance story that will make your loins burn!  Ok, no loins are going to be burning or cooking in any way, but I feel that no romance story can be complete without the use of a phrase involving the words loins and burning.  However, my story isn’t about romance between two people—it’s a romance with food!!!  (I think it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with food now).

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything—mainly due to being buried in books and articles during the first semester of my PhD.  But, my rekindled love of food (and few supportive friends) have brought me back! 

Over my Christmas and New Years break (btw Happy New Year!), I spent a lot of time at home and was surrounded by the foods I grew up eating—bacon, chicken pie, biscuits, coke, fast food, Applebees, The Breezeway chicken, etc., and I started thinking about how much I used to like those foods.  I’m sure they are still tasty, but I refrained from eating them while I was home.  Also over my break, I had dinner at C’Sons Restaurant in downtown LaGrange, GA with a couple of friends where the chef concocted a vegan meal just for me!  I remember my excitement upon seeing my meal of delectable vegetables and then having a feeling of pure joy as I began dismantle my teepee of white asparagus, green asparagus, carrots, and peppers to discover a thick, juicy portobello mushroom hiding underneath.

This led me to think about how I feel towards the foods I eat now—I don’t just like them, I love them!  I guess growing up, I never knew what I was missing, but now it’s a whole different relationship—a romance, if you will with my food.  Now, the foods that I eat have such varying colors, textures, tastes, and fragrances, and I love the way they all meld together.  I also know that the foods I eat are good for me and really nourish me, and I feel more of a connection with the earth and my surrounding environment.  I take such joy in chopping my vegetables, steaming my greens, sauteing my onions, and producing a finished product that I delight in eating. 

So, this New Year, my wish is for you to experience this romance and to experiment with beans or veggies that really nourish you and will help you live a happy and healthy 2011.

Vegans and Protein!

I often get asked how I get enough protein since I’m not eating meat, dairy, or eggs.  Well, there are actually a lot of sources of good veggie protein! 

Let’s first look at the recommeded amounts of protein … The recommended amount of protein for adults is about 0.36g of protein per pound of wieght per day (or 0.8g per kilogram of weight).  So, if you weigh 130 pounds, you should be getting roughly 46.8g of protein per day. 

Now, let’s further look at what proteins are made of … Proteins are made of amino acids.  Our body can produce some of these amino acids but cannot produce 9 specific amino acids, thus these 9 amino acids are called the essential amino acids because it’s essential that we get them from our diet!  A complete protein is a protein that contains all 9 of these essential amino acids in the right amounts.  Soy products and quinoa are actually veggie sources of complete proteins but most veggie sources of proteins are not considered complete because they do contain the right proportions of all the essential amino acids.  For example, beans are low in the amino acid methionine while grains are typically low in the amino acid lysine. 

Because many plant sources of protein are not considered complete, the old school of thought was that the veggies needed to be combined in certain ways to make a complete protein (think beans and grains together at a meal).  However, now we know that as long as a varied diet is attained, the liver can actually store the different amino acids so you don’t have to get a complete protein at each meal. 

So what are some good sources of veggie protein?  Well, legumes and nuts are your best bets, but here is a little break down of some foods and their protein content (in grams):

  • 3 oz tempeh (15.5g)
  • 1/2 cup soybeans (14.3g)
  • 1 cup cooked black beans (15g)
  • 1 cup cooked kidney beans (13g)
  • 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas (11g)
  • 1 cup cooked lima beans (10g)
  • 1 cup soymilk (8.9g)
  • 1/2 cup lentils (8.9g)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (8.1g)
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter (8g)
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (7.5g)
  • 1/2 cup tofu (8-11g)
  • 1/2 cup vegetarian refried beans (6.9g)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (6.2g)
  • 1 cup cooked bulgur (6g)
  • 1 cup instant oatmeal (5.9g)
  • 1 cup brown rice (5g)
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (5g)
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli (4.6g)
  • 1 med baked potato (4.5g)
  • 1/2 oz walnuts (4.3g)
  • 1/2 oz almonds (3g)
  • 1 cup chopped kale (2.5g)

As an aside, yes a good source of protein is soy; however, there’s this whole soy controversy out there as to whether or not soy is good or bad for your overall health (hormones, cancer, etc).  Some sources say that soy products such as non-genetically modified soy beans, tempeh, tofu, and miso are ok—others are not so convincing.  Personally, I try to eat soy products in moderation (probably no more than once a week).  But I do LOVE tempeh!

So if you feel that you may not be getting enough protein, try having a serving of black beans with your next meal, throw some sunflower seeds or walnuts on your next salad, and if you’ve never tried lentils, go for it!  They’re so good (esp when cooked in some low sodium vegetable broth and spices such as cumin are added), and they cook relatively fast (different cooking times though for the different colors of lentils).  Ok, go get your protein on!

And if you wanna check out my resources, here they are:

The Vegetarian Resource Group and Vegan Health.org

Food Spotlight: Dates

image

Dates are so yummy!  (That’s a Medjool Date pictured above—taken from Wikepedia.org)

Dates are thought to have originated around the Persian Gulf, and they are a staple food in the Middle East.  A date is a fruit that comes from the Date Palm tree.  Three main groups of dates exist:  soft (Medjool dates are in this category—these are the kind I eat!), semi-dry, and dry.  Here’s the nutrition info (nutritiondata.com):

1 Medjool Date, pitted:  Calories 66, Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 0mg, Total Carbohydrates 18g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 16g, Protein 0g, Vitamin A 1%, Calcium 2%, Iron1%, Folate 1%, Magnesium 3%, Potassium 5%, Copper 4%, Manganese 4%

So, dates are a bit high in calories and sugar—but, they make a great dessert!  I eat them plain (oh, also remember there’s a pit in there, so cut it open first to remove the pit—or just bite in carefully!), and sometimes I even fancy them up … remove the pit, stuff in some peanut or almond butter or almonds!  I also like to cut dates up and throw them in to cook with my steel cut oats—they really sweeten up the oats!  If you haven’t ever tried a date, you’re in for a sweet surprise!!!

Earthlings

When I became vegan, I did it more for health reasons—yes, at the time I also cared about animals and the environment, but it was mainly for health purposes.  However, over the past year (I’ve been vegan for about a year now!), things have changed a little as I’ve learned more—I’m not sure I could tell you which is more important to me now:  health vs. animal welfare vs. helping our environment.  They are all equally important to me now, and my vegan lifestyle helps to support all three. 

I recently watched the documentary Earthlings, written, produced, and directed by Shaun Monson.  It is horrific to watch.  However, it is the truth—the truth that is hidden by so many industries. 

The film takes a look into the treatment of animals in the pet industry, food industry, clothing industry, entertainment industry, and in scientific experimentation.

1) Pets.  I have a dog (a Shiba Inu named Spock), and I love him!  I got him from a rescue here in Atlanta when he was 5 years old.  I always knew adopting a pet was better than buying from a pet-store or breeder, but this film really opened my eyes to the vast amount of cruelty that occurs because of pets.  There are puppy mills where pets often times live in horrible conditions, and puppy mills also contribute to the over-population of pets.  These animals then end up as strays or at pounds.  Because pounds cannot afford to sustain all of the misplaced animals, most of the animals are euthanized, if they’re lucky.  The actual medicine that is used for euthanasia can be expensive, so many pounds turn to other, cheaper options for killing their animals, such as gas chambers and poisoning, which lead to much slower and painful deaths.  **Please please spay and neuter your pets and try to adopt pets from shelters instead of buying from a puppy mill or breeder.

2)  Animals for food.  Most of us imagine farms being like the one in Charlotte’s Web—where the pigs are dancing and singing outside in their large fenced-in areas, chickens and ducks are trotting by, sheep are frolicking, and cows spend their sunny, relaxing days grazing on huge fields of lush green grass!  This image couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to most large farms.  (I am aware that there are some smaller farms where cattle and chickens do roam around, but they are not the majority.)  Earthlings gives an inside look at what really happens on the large farms (here are just a few of the depictions): 

  • Cows: Cows are dehorned aka horns cut off (with no anesthesia) and are chained to their stalls to never freely move around.  Veal calves are taken from their mothers at two days old to be placed in a small crate where they cannot move (so as not to build any muscle), are made anemic, and never see the light of day for four months at which time they are slaughtered. 
  • Pigs:  Because of their strenous conditions (dirty and extremely crowded), pigs often turn to cannibalism—therefore, baby pigs have their tails cut off, ears trimmed, teeth “clipped,” and are castrated ALL WITHOUT anesthesia.
  • Chickens:  Chickens can be caged or just stuffed into way overcrowded houses.  Because of the crowding and strenuous conditions, chickens will peck each other.  To prevent this, baby chicks are “debeaked,” which is an innocent-sounding name for placing the chick’s beak into a device that is sharp and extremely hot so that it cuts off and burns the end of the beak.  Again, without any kind of anesthesia.

This is just a glimpse of what Earthlings shows.  We haven’t talked about the fish, whales, and dolphins that are hunted, and we haven’t even gotten to the unimaginable treatment the animals undergo right before and during slaughter, but I’ll leave that for the video.

3) Clothing.  Do you own any leather or fur clothes or products?  Unfortunately I do, but that’s because I owned them before going vegan, and I’m trying my best to stay away from any clothing or items that contain animal products.  Do you know where your leather or fur coat came from?  I had no idea! 

  • Leather:  Most of the leather that is sold in our department stores comes from India.  According to the documentary, in some areas of India it’s illegal to kill a cow, so most of the time cows are walked for up to 7 days with little to no food or water.  When the animal is too exhausted and dehydrated to walk, chili pepper is rubbed into their eyeballs to make them stand up and get moving.  Then the animals are finally inhumanely killed with dull blades. 
  • Fur:  The wild animals that provide us with their fur are usually hunted or trapped and then caged, which leads to injuries, slow death, and cage madness.  According to the documentary, there are no laws regulating the killing of animals for fur, so practices, such as death by anal electrocution are often employed.  Then, the skinned carcasses are ground up and fed to the other wild animals that are still caged. 

So maybe the next time you’re thinking of buying a leather jacket, leather shoes, leather belt, leather purse, or fur coat, just try and think about where that leather or fur actually came from and what that animal had to endure.

4) Animals for our Entertainment:  Have you ever been to a circus or a rodeo?  I remember going to many rodeos as a little girl and innocently thinking how wonderful it was to see all the “happy” animals.  I always liked to think that these animals were treated with kindness behind the scenes, but again, that’s not so.  Take for example, the bucking bull … this animal isn’t bucking because it’s happy.  It’s bucking because it’s in pain!  Many animals are also injured during rodeos.  Then take a look at circuses.  How are the elephants trained to do all their tricks?  It’s not because of all the peanut rewards they received!  It’s because they are tortured (ex: elephants being hit with large bat-like objects or having sharp objects jabbed into their legs) if they do not do what the trainer asks.  Then there’s bullfighting, which is basically just watching a bull die a slow and tortuous death.  The pain that these animals endure for our fleeting sense of entertainment is NOT worth it! 

5) Animal Experimentation aka Vivisection.  Lastly, Earthlings takes a look into scientific animal experimentation.  One example is head trauma research where baboons are strapped down and a large, heavy, extremely forceful object slams into their heads, causing head trauma/ brain damage.  All types of chemicals are also tested on animals, and lots of military research is performed on animals.  There are many alternatives to animal experimentation and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is just one group that is trying to stop animal experimentation.  Check them out!

Overall, the movie is heartbreaking, deeply disturbing, profoundly moving, and even though it’s really hard to watch, I highly recommend that you do.  There is just no way you could watch this movie without being moved.  Maybe you won’t act on what you feel by seeing the movie, but at least you know the truth after seeing it—and we deserve to know the truth about what’s happening to these animals.  I applaud Shaun Monson for giving a voice to those that do not have one.  You can buy the movie at www.earthlings.com or Amazon.com.