Tag Archives: plant-based diet

Glorious Food Waste

For decades, I have been gently chided, and occasionally mocked, for my kitchen frugality. A drawer filled with wilting produce sets off a visceral reaction leading to aggressive cooking. I don’t think it’s cheapness, as much as it’s a deep-seated concern about waste. Over the years, cooking teachers have denigrated the big, re-purposed Ziplock in my freezer chock full of plant scraps and leavings; apparently only pristine produce is good enough to make vegetable stock or fruit sauces. But still I persisted because, frankly, that just didn’t make any sense to me. And, besides, I just can’t empty that seemingly still good food into the trash or compost heap.

A short while ago, I stumbled on a wonderful “cookbook” Scraps, Wilt + Weeds written by Mads Refslund and Tama Matsuoka Wong. Refslund was a co-founder of world-famous Danish restaurant, Noma, and, shockingly, shares my visceral reaction to wilting, near-rotting produce! But he goes many steps beyond just making vegetable stock, dry-roasting just-past-prime produce, stewing less than perfect fruit into sauces and, of course, freezing very ripe bananas for breads and smoothies. Mads Refslund has elevated waste to haute cuisine.

        

The concepts are invigorating and inspirational – with stunning photographs that make near garbage extraordinarily beautiful.  I use the word concept advisedly – to me the recipes are more conceptual than standard “multi-user-tested” ones. This is relatively new turf and the reader needs more guidance as to when, for instance, a tomato is near rot or just plain rotten. Even though I am a fairly accomplished home cook and long-time rescuer of wilted produce, I often had questions. For instance, a couple years ago I made carrot-top pesto from gorgeous, young CSA carrots and it was so bitter, it was inedible – why wasn’t his?

On the other hand, he encourages flexibility – use what you have (less, more or sub something else) rather than create more waste by buying to meet the specific recipe requirements. Other chapters focus on buying “ugly” produce, foraging for “weeds” and even using discarded fish parts. All told, it is a glorious paean to the minimization of waste and as I reluctantly released my non-renewable library copy, I concurrently added it to my Amazon list.

Mads Refslund has vindicated my kitchen frugality while he introduced others on whose shoulders he stands; those who have been long proselytizing waste reduction but who did not have his bully pulpit**. He has made reducing food waste sexy and chic. What a stunning, unbelievable accomplishment!! This is a book to own – a reference to stiffen our spines and alter our perceptions when we are about to sweep the leavings into the Waste King or the compost pot.

Why is this book so important? Every year, roughly 30% of all the food raised on the planet for human ingestion is literally wasted. If you just look at first world countries that number is even higher with the U.S. leading the pack at over 40%. According to the World Economic Forum, our global population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 – raising the leading question: how do we feed everybody? The United Nation’s FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization) posits that we already grow enough food, we just have to figure out how to save that 30-40% that we are currently wasting – which represents about 28% of the earth’s agricultural land. A whopping 25 percent of that waste is imperfect produce left in the fields to rot and 15% comes from tossed out, perfectly edible, food. (An additional, crucial, benefit would be to save the carbon footprint of all that wasted food –according to the EPA, landfills account for 34% of all U.S. methane emissions.)

** I am reading some of the author’s references and will share reviews and content in future posts.

My Take on “Veganism”

Up until a dozen years ago, we’d been innocently and happily eating a whole-foods, sugar-free, “healthy diet” for about three decades; it included low-fat dairy, white meat chicken and fish. But then, my husband “pushed through” on a New York Marathon feeder race, collapsed and was unceremoniously hauled off to a local hospital. That was when we learned that he had plaque on his arteries! I took this as a personal affront to my hard-won nutritional knowledge and culinary expertise.

After listening to my angst-ridden breast-beating, a friend handed me the “Eating” DVD (3rd Revision) – it was a revelation. The interviewees weren’t McDonald addicts or slab-of-beef on the plate types; these were people who’d been eating just like us. And their health profiles were just like ours. Once they embraced a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle – aka veganism – their health improved: plaque disappeared from arteries, insulin requirements nose-dived, weight slid off…… We were smitten and embraced this new life-style with vigor and enthusiasm.

Today we’re still eating a primarily plant-based diet. We know that we’re healthier with it, that animals suffer less because of it and that the planet is better off (we could trade our Prius for a Humvee and our carbon footprint would still be impressive). But we’ve lost the religiosity. We prefer the term WFPB over Vegan because it is not so loaded. We still use the terms vegan or strict vegetarian in restaurants because plant-based does not compute with servers. But to the rest of the world, we call it a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Over time, we’ve gotten easier with it. When we travel or dine out – especially at friends’ homes – we expand our options to include wild-caught salmon, mussels, oysters, brook trout and a couple other low-mercury, high omega-three, sustainable species (kudos to the Environmental Working Groups for simplifying this). Blue crab and lobster also make the few-times-a-year list because there are Crab Feast and Lobster Bake traditions on both sides of our families. On occasion, we also eat free-range “humanely raised” eggs. It makes life easier for everyone and, frankly, we welcome these occasional additional options. That said, when we are home, we eat a pretty strict WFPB diet – we like it; it’s easy and it allows us to “regroup” especially after long bouts of travel. When we entertain, it’s almost always a WFPB meal as well; we work hard at delivering luxuriously delicious meals that usually end with a dark chocolate dessert – and, hopefully, make the lack of animal products unnoticeable and irrelevant.

We don’t proselytize and only discuss our food choices when asked; we hope that this low-key approach might make the plant-based concept less off-putting and more appealing. It seems to us that the fewer animal products one eats and the more organic produce one consumes, the better off everyone is (for organic, we shop with the EWG’s Dirty Dozen [actually 20] and Clean Fifteen lists). As Columbia Professor Emeritus Joan Dye Gussow would say to the “Earth Friends” fourth graders: “it’s better for both worlds you inhabit – your body and your planet.”

We are fans of Meatless Mondays, Mark Bittman’s “VB6” (Vegan Before 6 pm), and any other variation that encourages people to dip a toe into this lifestyle. This is not a religion; it is a choice that is a win-win-win for you, for the animals, for the planet. Our philosophy is: just do what works for you; no one is taking notes.

Whole Protein Vegetarian – Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Essential Amino Acids for Heath & Well-Being

Whole Protein

By Rebecca Miller Ffrench. The Countryman Press 2016 $27.95 (Amazon $18.50/ Kindle $14)

Ms. Ffrench approaches recipes and daily menus from the very particular perspective of amino acids – in other words protein. There is a mantra in the plant-based world that it’s impossible not to get enough protein. That we actually consume too much protein and the invariable question from the canivores “how do you get your protein?” is mock-worthy.

But the author demonstrates that that might not be as true as we had assumed I was surprised when taking a hard look at the protein counts of some of the pulses and vegetables that we normally consume. If adequate protein is a concern, then this might be a useful reference.

It’s a handsome, hard covered book with bleed and full-page photos of about half the recipes. The recipes themselves are not particularly adventuresome or noteworthy – assuming you are steeped in current plant-based culinary arts. If you are not, then this is an excellent primer. I prepared a couple and they were fine family-dinner fare – but not guest material.

Our Seven-Day Juice Cleanse

juice cleanse   Primal Essence ginger primal essence Chai

We just finished a 7-day cleanse! Our guide throughout was “The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet” by Lori Kenyon Farley and Mara St. Clair. It was a successful experience for both of us – we lost our vacation weight and a bit more. Hopefully the trend will continue. But more important, we hope that it’s given our bodies a rest and perhaps allowed them to start healing some long-time issues. Time will tell, but we both feel pretty good with some increased energy. And it was a real education.

For a week, we ate and juiced only organic produce (except for the Clean 15) so just finding it all at some kind of reasonable price was a bit of a project. Whole Foods, CostCo, Trader Joes and Stop & Shop were our go-to resources. We bought and juiced through most of: six pounds of apples, eight pounds of carrots, four pounds of pears, two pounds of kale, three pounds of mixed baby greens, a pound of baby spinach, two pounds of strawberries, a pound and a half of blueberries, two pounds of sweet peppers, eight cucumbers, ten kiwis, seven mangoes, seven large beets, six heads of romaine, four bunches of celery, a pineapple, a bunch of lemons and limes – and bananas for the smoothies (should have taken a photo of the kitchen counter covered in gorgeous food). I haven’t added up the cost yet, but it was pricey – albeit clearly less than buying these from a juice bar or delivery service, and a lot less than a spa :).

Part of the plan is to drink 16 oz. of water seven times a day and 16 oz. of juice about six times. So if you really don’t like plain water – and I don’t – that was a problem. Coincidentally, as if on cue, UPS delivered a gift – three small pumps of Primal Essence’s super teas (primalessence.com). Each a different flavor. The instructions said just pump a couple of squirts into a glass of water; instant flavor from organic whole plant-extracts! Tasty and healthful. During our cleanse, I switched around among Ginger Zing, Classic Chai, Peppermint Splash and a squeeze of lemon. It really made drinking that much water a lot easier, more pleasant (and even more healthful). When we were going out, I just dropped one in purse for instant interesting water. Each little bottle contains 225 pumps. These are a real find for people who find water just too boring to drink – I want to try the other flavors: Tumeric Tulsi, Vanilla Chai and Lemon Ginger (especially the latter).

We also learned more than we wanted to know about our venerable Omega 1000 juicer that has been sitting on the shelf for, perhaps, a decade. Toward the end of this severe workout, it started showing its age. Trying to control it as it wobbled all over the counter at 3600 rpm was just a little scary. Yet, even out of warranty Omega was there for its customers: we just sent in the broken arm for a free replacement and a tech walked us through the process of re-balancing and explained some of the finer points of cajoling this particular unit. When it’s time for a new one, it’ll definitely be an Omega. Our Vita-Mix performed admirably as usual for the smoothies and also for some of the greens that we had trouble juicing.

Bottom line: a very satisfactory week. We weren’t really hungry. We looked at this as a project and “went with the flow.” But it was a lot of work and we ducked outside engagements as much as possible although we both went to the gym for our usual class and workout. But we definitely both agreed that we will do it again – probably twice a year (or maybe even more). One word of advice for a half a couple trying to do this alone: try to engage your partner. I can’t imagine cleansing while living with someone eating regular food. It just wouldn’t be much fun either.

 

 

VEGANIZE IT! Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen

BY Robin Robertson – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt March 7, 2017. $25. Amazon $14.92/ Kindle $12.99

veganize-it

Another really good book from one of the top vegan cookbook authors. Robin Robertson’s books are classics and I have most of them. So I had high expectations for this one. It’s a beautifully designed book with a stiff fold-in cover for marking your place and lots of full-page photos and chapter intros that sometimes bleed across a double-page spread.

The chapters are similar to those of an omnivore cook book – with a twist. Plant-Based Meats, Vegan Charcuterie, Instead of Seafood, Dairy-Free and Egg-Free, Too…. all very enticing.
Since 2010, I’ve been turning to Steen & Newman’s “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into A Delicious New Vegan Favorite.” And collecting recipes from chef-written cookbooks, blogs and the www. There have been so many advances in plant-based cooking in the past six years that I thought Roberstson might, essentially, be providing an updated, cutting edge version of “The Complete Guide…”. And in some ways she has. But I was hoping for some break-through ideas instead of riffs on existing chef or blogger-developed veggie cuisine. Or at least a compilation of those best of the best ideas. But I misunderstood the intention – which might have had something to do with the similarity of the titles…..

Instead, the book provides “clean” vegan recipes for lots of basics like sour cream cream cheese, cheesy sauces, ricotta, hollandaise, feta, butter!, gravy plus many, many more. Beyond basics are burgers, pulled pork, fish ‘n chips, sausages, meatballs, sea scallops, five bacon recipes, and more. Many of these products are available in the supermarket freezer or refrigerator case but made with a laundry list of additives and other unpronounceable ingredients. So this is why I add the word “clean.” Ms. Robertson first chapter includes home-made versions of pantry items (many of which are not vegan in their store-bought versions). Each chapter also includes more involved recipes that use a few of the basics made from the included recipes or, if time is short, from store-bought versions.

I started my review by preparing a couple of the recipes. First was Creamy Ranch Dressing that starts with 1 cup of mayo – it had good flavor but the mayonnaise was too prominent so I cut it with a little almond milk that also made it more pourable. The second one was Cheddary Sauce which is pictured below (these are my photos, not from the book). This was a tasty cream sauce and it worked well over a steamed veggie and quinoa bowl, but it didn’t taste anything like cheese, especially cheddar, which the name implied. I made it in a Vita Mix so just letting it blend a little longer heated it up –  once the cashews had been soaked, it was quick and easy despite a lengthy list of ingredients. I will make it again – perhaps amping up the seasonings and playing with the liquor choices. Next up are the five bacon recipes and the pulled pork.

IMG_1474 IMG_1478 IMG_1481

A couple nitpiks: Recipes labeled with cheesy names have to taste cheesy – nooch just doesn’t taste cheesy to me. And there isn’t any nutritional info – I’d like to know the calorie count and the percentage from fat – is it a 30-cal tablespoon or a 125 cal one? Also while the cashew craze has been well addressed, alternatives would be appreciated (since cashews are high-FODMAP)  and a little more on aquafaba would also be helpful and suggestions for those among us who choose oil-free.

Bottom line – this book is a keeper. There are enough interesting concepts in here to encourage experimentation. It is not haute cuisine, but it is reliable, tasty, clean vegan. And that’s worth a lot.

The End of Heart Disease

by Joel Fuhrman, MD,  Harper One, 2016

End of Heart Disease

According to Dr. Furhman, his Nutritarian Diet will make it impossible to have a heart attack, while it reverses obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) and radically lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces your weight, restores normal bowel function, improves your immune function and maintains youthful vigor in the face of aging. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet can be totally plant-based or it can be flexitarian which includes some animal products albeit in very small quantities (three small servings a week). But in either case, it is predominantly vegetables, beans seeds and nuts. The goal is a diet that is nutrient dense, hormonally favorable (avoiding, especially, excess insulin and insulin growth factor [IGF-1]), nutritionally adequate (including all essential nutrients), and avoids toxins. The basis for the diet’s choices are ANDI scores (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) that ranks foods based on the nutrients delivered for each calorie consumed.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

by Dan Barber (Executive Chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns  located within the nonprofit farm and education center, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture). Penguin Press, May 2014

Third Plate Soft Cover    Third Plate Hard Cover

One of the first farm-to-table chefs, Dan Barber is interested in where our food comes from, how it is grown or raised and how or if those processes will be sustainable into the future.  He is not new to the conversation; he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2009. He also does not specifically promote a plant-based diet. But his “plate” is vegetable forward accompanied by humanely, sustainably raised fish and animals.

Dividing his exploration among the topics Soil, Land, Sea, and Seed, Chef Barber, who grew up summers on Blue Hill Farm in Massachusetts, explores the current state of food through the lens of his  kitchen and the burgeoning gardens on the surrounding Stone Barns land. Each encounter with a resource raised his consciousness – from Klass Martens’ upstate New York farm to the savannah-like landscape of the Spanish dehesas to Veta la Palma’s unique approach to aquaculture to the history of dwarf wheat. Barber also highlights the educational role that chefs can play by making environmentally responsible choices. A good read that is not so much a polemic as it is­­ a tour of specific, lesser-known points of ecological lights that may positively impact the future of our food.

Plant-Based in Maui – don’t trust the web lists

Seeking out plant-based, vegan options in Maui started out as a positive and fun adventure.  With only a few days notice, I searched the web and arrived with notes from Happy Cow, Vegan in Maui, and from various tweets and blog posts.  “Vegan in Maui” recommended Margaritas (lots of plant-based Tex Mex options) in Kihei, a fifteen-minute drive. It sounded like a good jet-lagged choice, so we called for a reservation. The line was busy for more than an hour. So we put the address in our GPS and started off – we couldn’t find it, asked several locals – everyone looked blank. Finally someone told us it has closed, maybe, three years ago.  So much for that list.

Tired and hungry, we landed at Maui Thai – a strip mall restaurant that proved more than adequate if not exactly what we had in mind. The staff was very accommodating (and knowledgeable steering us away from some of our choices – “that is made with beef broth”). We had a delicious modified Green Papaya Salad, a lovely veg curry and a heap of brown rice. Maybe best of all, it’s BYO and there’s a beer & wine shop in the same mall.

Stay tuned for some surprising finds….

Maui Thai – Green Papaya Salad, Vegetable Curry and Brown Rice

 

Maui Thai Vegetable Curry

Maui Thai Dining Room

VGML on American Airlines?

Tried to book a strict vegetarian (plant-based) meal on American’s long haul nonstop Dallas Fort Worth to Maui (DFW to OGG) – not available, not even in business class.  The lack of accommodation was sad enough but to add insult to injury they had only loaded SIX fruit desserts when there were 36 very full  “first class” seats. I managed with two small containers of humus, pretzel crisps, a salad, multiple snack packs and the raviolis emptied of their cheese.  But there were lots of linens and drinks – and ice cream.  The flight form LGA to DFW offered nothing edible even in first.

Zitoune Moroccan Cuisine, Mamaroneck, NY – A host of Vegan Choices plus a Belly Dancer

          

Along a busy stretch of Boston Post Road – 1127 W. Boston Post Rd., Mamaroneck, NY 10543 (914-835-8350) –  this charming, inviting small eatery belies its surroundings.  The extensive menu of classic Moroccan dishes nets a very good selection of plant-based/vegan dishes.

On the App menu, we particularly enjoyed the Vegetable Cigars – Rolled, crisp Filo surrounds marinated Vegetables (Carrot, Zucchini, Red and Green Pepper) $6,  a Lentil Tagine –
Lentils cooked in a traditional Tagine Pot with Onions and Tomatoes $7.50

Three soups – Chourba $6, Lentil, $7 and Harira $7.50 are all vegan. As were three of the salads – Zitoune $6, Mediterranean $7 (with no feta) and Mediterranean Orzo $7.  Always ask about cheese – they sometime leave it off the menu description.

Among the Dinner entrees we found several enticing choices –

Berber Couscous $15.50 – Traditional Moroccan Couscous as it’s enjoyed in Marrakech, served with Seven Vegetables and an Aromatic Broth
Vegetable Tagine $9  – Saffron Vegetable broth, with Carrot, Potato, Pepper and String Beans served in a traditional Moroccan Tagine
Moroccan Stewed White Beans  $9.50 – with Tomato, Olive Oil, and Moroccan Seasoning, garnished with Butternut Squash
Couscous el Fassi $16.50- Fez style with Caramelized Onions, Raisins and Chick Peas

There’s also a can’t be beat Early Bird Special 5-7pm for $15.95.  An appetizer, entree with a glass of wine and coffee or tea. it’s likely that one of the choices will be plant-based – but no guarantee.

Lunch is served Monday to Saturday and brunch on Sunday.  The all-vegan soups are only $4, the salad choices are more extensive ($5-8) and the entrees range from a Veggie Lovers Sandwich ($6) to a Vegetable Melange ($8), the Lentil Tangine ($7.50), and the Vegetable Berber Couscous ($9).

There’s also a Prix Fixe special at lunch (11:30-1:30) $11.  A soup or salad plus an entree and coffee or tea.