Monday, December 5, 2016

More Kitchen Tools for Happy Vegans

Along with eating more vegetables, including many of them raw in salad, one of your key allies in the kitchen is  a good mandolin.

For my money the absolute winner in the category, as well as easily one of the safest designs is the Börner V-slicer, reviewed here on Cook's Illustrated.

And here is even a video review on America's Test Kitchen:

I consider this a pretty good review. I have owned two V-slicers over the last 40 years, and I have used other people's mandolins, but for me the V-slicer has always been the winner. Some of these mandolins actually make me scared from a safety standpoint, but the V-slicer is very safe to operate, although you must always be careful with sharp knives, not only to protect yourself, but also to keep them sharp longer. So grant yourself a Swissmar Börner V-slicer, and enjoy. It will make you an instant champ with vegetables, and able to make any number of fancy salads with some ingredients that might seem unwieldy otherwise.

Secret Weapons for Vegans: Rice Cookers

For one thing, in going vegan, you'll have a lot more fun cooking than ever before in your life, there's lots to discover, and as per usual, the key to it all is to make your kitchen efficient.

The pattern that has evolved for me is preparing some cold dishes ahead, so they're always ready to grab. That might include Tabouleh, or French Lentil salad, Black Bean Salsa, and usually I make some hummus so I can quickly make crackers with hummus and cucumber (and I like some sprinkles of Tajin or Siracha, or Sambal). Also I always have some quinoa, which I like to add to salads (minimum one a day, and meal size), and brown rice, or other whole grains.

Some of the tools you will find yourself looking for are a salad spinner, a mandolin, and generally sharp knives, plus I like to have a mortar and pestle around for crushing garlic and grinding spices. All these and more add convenience to your life. However, the one instrument that is absolutely indispensable and the key secret weapon for the vegan lifestyle is the rice cooker. And with rice cooker I mean a serious, top of the line automatic rice cooker, which must have a GABA brown rice (GBR) cycle and a timer function. The reason for having GBR is nutrition: GABA brown rice is simply more nutritious because the germination cycle allows Gamma-aminobutyric_acid (GABA) and other nutrients to develop, making it much more nutritious in the same way that various sprouts (beans, broccoli) are so exceptionally healthy. The timer thingy is phenomenal because it makes your life easier than having your own cook (rice cookers are endlessly patient), and you can put on your breakfast at night, to be ready when you wake up, and put on brown rice for dinner after you finish breakfast, so it's ready when your day is done. The extra money for the fancy models is easily worth it.
Here are two of my favorite designs (I am considering primarily the smallest models, for a one person household):

  • The ideal might be a rice cooker with Induction Heat and a pressure cooker, but Zojirushi doesn't make one in the smallest size, so my favorite is their NP-GBC05 which has a 3-cup capacity that is great for one person households and small families. I have had this one for years, and I can honestly say that without it, my transition to a fully vegan lifestyle would have been almost unthinkable.
  • Another phenomenal option would seem to be the Cuckoo CRP-EHS0309F, which is the same small size (3 cups), and offers generally the same conveniences as the Zojirushi, but it adds the pressure cooker feature, which does save time when you're in a hurry. Admittedly the timer should allow you to always cook ahead, but sometimes you forget, or you have a change of plans, and then saving time does count.
So, there you have it. The one thing to know is that brown rice has a shorter shelf-life than white rice, because it is more "alive." So you do not want to over-buy brown rice, lest you end up eating stale rice all the time. There are plenty of choices at most good supermarkets, and in our neighborhood Chang-Li is my favorite destination for rice, although, when I have a chance, I like to get some mixes like Organic 10 Mixed Grains at MayWah, or any one of the Lundberg varieties. Lundberg is the leader of the pack in terms of quality organic rice varieties and various products. The closest place you can get it in our neighborhood is at Good 'n Natural on White Plains Road by Pelham Parkway, which is one amazing health food store. Other places where you'll find Lundberg rice include Fairway, Whole Foods, and most any healthfood store in town.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Rogier's Black Bean Salsa

This recipe is based on Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.'s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, where on page 161 is his recipe for Best Black Bean Salsa. I wrote about some of my variations on the recipe before, but here it is in full:

Using ingredients from the neighborhood:

  1. 1 lb. Wild Harvest organic black beans (from Pioneer at 1345 Castle Hill Avenue)
  2. Optional: one 15 Oz can of Corn (Goya, other).
  3. 1 17.6 Oz. Jar of Green Salsa (Pioneer, Key Foods and Chang-li all have it _ Goya or other brands).
  4. 1 7 Oz. or 12 Oz. can of Chipotle peppers in adobo saus (La Morena, La Costeña, at Chang-Li, Pioneer or Key Food)
  5. 1 can of sliced Jalapeño Peppers
  6. 2-3 limes
  7. One bunch of fresh Cilantro
  8. Chunk of Kombu seaweed, sheets, or knots (from Chang-Li), alternatively use Savory (either summer or winter variety of Savory is good). Note: either kombu seaweed or savory is very helpful for the digestion of beans, and either adds depth to the flavor.


  • Sort and rinse the beans and the seaweed.
  • Cook the beans with the Kombu, or Savory about 45 minutes on a slow simmer after you bring it to the boil.
  • While it cooks, squeeze the 2-3 limes (depending on size), chop the Cilantro leaves, and chop the Chipotle peppers. Drain the corn.
  • Drain, remove Kombu, if you used it.
  • Add in the chopped Cilantro leaves, the lime juice, chipotle peppers and the adobo sauce. 
  • Mix, put away in the fridge. Best served next day.

Serving Suggestion:

Serve on puffed rice crackers, or you could use corn chips, but I don't like them because they are made with oil, and often it is canola oil, which I believe is unfit for human consumption and should be reserved for axle-grease, even aside from the no-oil directives of Dr. Esselstyn.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Madras Lentils - an oil-free variant

I always love Madras lentils, but the point here is an oil-free variant, since I have adopted Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's oil-free vegan lifestyle. Actually, this is a very easy recipe.
It is amazing how cooking with oil now tastes dull to me...

Pulses are plentiful on Starling Avenue, so any lentils and such are easy to find.


3-4 cups of water (or you can also use some cooking water from green leafies, like spinach, etc.)
2 cups of red split lentils (Masoor Dal)
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed [1 russet or a few yukon gold]
1 Qt pack of tomato sauce/puree
1 15 Oz Can of Diced Tomatoes
1 15 Oz can of unsweetened coconut milk
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt, Real Salt, or Sea Salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste

Watch it with the red pepper - the above may be too hot for some palates, so you may want to start with 1 tablespoon of red pepper the first time you try if you have a sensitive palate.


  • bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the chopped onion, garlic, 
  • add lentils and potato and simmer for about 45 mins,
  • add in ground cumin, dried oregano, salt
  • add in 1Qt of tomato puree, 1 15 Oz can of diced tomatoes
  • add in 2 Tablespoons (to taste) of Indian Red Chili Powder, or Dried Crushed Red Peppers, or Cayenne pepper
  • mix in a can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • keep stirring with a wooden spoon all the time
  • let it simmer until if feels "done."
  • You can puree it, if you want it smooth.
This is excellent to freeze portions so you have this ready in a flash during the week. Over rice, with some fresh veggies, and you're done. A very healthy meal.

About the Stores

All the stores in my Starling Avenue food triangle are now posted on Nextdoor. You can get everything you need for the above recipe in one quick shopping excursion up and down Starling Avenue. SWAD lentils are everywhere. The Pioneer at 1345 has my favorite, Pomi Tomato Sauce. And the Key Food on Unionport usually has Muir Glen canned organic tomatoes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


It helps to realize how much the food and agricultural industry has dictated nutritional information in this country and around the world. I know, for I grew up in that dairy country, Holland, and while I was raised vegetarian, my parents were deeply convinced that dairy, including milk, eggs, cheese and yoghurt was actually healthy for you. Not until a few years ago did I discover that the complete vegan diet is simply the way to go, healthy, delicious and nutritious.

What also helps is to remember how skewed our information stream has really become, for the recent obsession with deaths from opioid addiction and heroin overdoses puts this in perspective:

  • 78 deaths a day from heroin overdoses is a national health crisis, and we send in the marines,
  • 1671 deaths a day from cardiovascular illness is business as usual, and the USDA blithely continues to recommend animal proteins and dairy, even in its latest version of "MyPlate." 
An objective reader might conclude that cardiovascular disease should be the bigger priority, and the government should stop promoting more of it, i.e. animal protein, fats and dairy. Sugar, white flour and whipped cream are a more dangerous addiction than opioids. Time to tune in to Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and others who are focused on the right priorities.

Meanwhile, John Oliver recently put the whole mess with opioid addictions in perspective beautifully: 

Meaning again that iatrogenic disease, disease caused by doctors and the side effects of medicine continue to be a serious issue. A recent piece on Nutrition Facts makes the same point all over again: Medical Care: The Third Leading Cause of Death.

Taking responsibility for your own health and nutrition is really up to you, and it pays to do your own research and to scrutinize the validity of the government's assertions. The USDA is in the business of supporting the food industry, and the health and well-being of consumers is an after thought. What PCRM is doing is of critical importance, and we all need to pay attention and come to our own conclusions.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Starling Avenue Food Shopping Triangle

There are areas in the Bronx where the selection of fruits and vegetables leaves something to be desired, but Starling Avenue is the exception that perhaps proves the rule. Indeed in our own district there is a dearth of good grocery shopping in many areas, especially also since the Key Foods at the Bruckner Plaza shut its doors last August, and we understand it won't be till next August before there's a new store coming in, I believe a Shoprite. Be that as it may, in the interim it may be worthwhile from people in nearby areas to shop on Starling avenue, we have such a selection of stores, it is almost unbelievable. It is a real shoppers paradise, especially if fresh produce is your thing.

The anchor stores of the Starling Avenue Food Shopping Triangle are:

  1. Chang-Li Supermarket on 2079 Benedict Avenue, corner Unionport Road.
  2. Key Foods on 1535 Unionport Road
  3. Pioneer Supermarket at 1345 Castle Hill Avenue

Chang-Li Supermarket
Key Foods on Unionport

Pioneer at 1345 Castle Hill

Two outliers are:

  • World of Spice, for West-Indian specialties, on Westchester Avenue, right by the Castle Hill Elevated subway station.
  • Lady Afrique International Market on Castle Hill, across from Pioneer, for West African (principally Ghanaian) staples and specialties.
World of Spice

Lady Afrique International Market

The main event, the Bangladeshi markets on Starling Avenue

Some are purely Bangladeshi, some have West-Indian as well as West-African specialties and a few have some more Indian and Pakistani ingredients as well, so if ethnic cuisine is your thing, here is where the action is.
  1. Bangla Town Supermarket, at 2161 Starling Avenue
  2. Halal Meat & Grocery at 2148 Starling Avenue
  3. Poshora at 2142-2144 Starling Avenue
  4. Al Aqsa Halal Meat & Supermarket at 2109 Starling Avenue
  5. Premium Halal Meat & Fish at 1500 Olmstead Avenue, corner Starling Avenue - 24 hours
  6. Friends Grocery & Halal Meat - 24 Hours
  7. Neerob Bazaar at 2085 Starling Avenue, developing an interesting selection...

Bangla Town

Halal Meat & Grocery

Poshora Market


Premium Halal Meat & Fish
Friends Grocery

Neerob Bazaar
So, there you have it, be my guest. You will find most all the ingredients I ever use in this neighborhood, and I seldom have to go far, and sometimes I turn the stove off in the middle of cooking if I find out I forgot something or ran out of something... it's just too easy to do!

Happy shopping!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Starling Avenue Stew with Swiss Chard and Jackfruit Seeds

Jackfruit has been plentiful on Starling Avenue this summer, and my girlfriend brought some home several times, as it was selling for 99 cents per pound, at Premium Halal Meat & Fish and other stores. The seeds are edible, and first we roasted some... that was not bad. But then I had a hunch, which led to this new dish, a Starling Avenue original. You could make it with seeds of the Jackfruit, or, if those are not available to you, you could make it with chestnuts. Key foods on Unionport sells organic chestnuts in a bag, or Chang-Li Supermarket on Benedict Avenue also sells chestnuts in bags, under the brand name of Homei.

This recipe meets all the criteria for Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's no-oil vegan lifestyle.

Jackfruit Arils & Seeds (Wikipedia)

The jackfruit itself has become a favorite desert, and that is saying a lot, for I don't normally eat desert. In the process of taking the pods out of the fruit, you must take the seeds out, and when they dry the outershell which is whitish, dries up very quickly, and you can peel it off. The seeds themselves can very well be roasted, especially when they are fresh, but if you dry them you could try this stew. Notably some stores also offered the Jackfruit seeds for sale at $4.99/lb. Here goes for the recipe this is for 2 people. The overall flavor of this dish is "nutty," and the tastes harmonize well, but you can make variations.

Ingredients & Variations

  • Farro for a grain - you cook it like rice, but it has a very rich, nutty flavor. Around here you can find it at Good 'n Natural on White Plains Road, its from Bob's Red Mill. Alternatively you could use a brown Basmati rice.
  • Swiss chard. Chang-Li Supermarket regularly carries this vegetable. You could uses spinach instead, but again the Swiss Chard has that rich, nutty flavor, that sets it apart.
  • A chopped onion.


  • In a pan, cook the chopped onion in two cups of water for about 10-15 minutes, with the peeled jackfruit seeds. Turn down to a slow simmer.
  • Meanwhile you washed the chard and chopped up the stems into inch-long pieces.
  • First add the stems of the chard to the simmering pan, and let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Chop the leaves of the chard into about inch-wide strips, and add them to the pan - let it simmer until the leaves are wilted and soft to eat.
Serve the stew over the farro. The whole thing has a rich, earthy, nutty flavor, and it should not need anything else. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Year of the Pulses 2016 - United Nations

The United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses. As luck would have it, I live in little Bangladesh, on Starling Avenue in the Bronx, and there are some ten stores on my street alone that sell any number of pulses: endless varieties of lentils (red lentils, whole lentils, Urad Dal, Masoor Matki-crimson lentils), green peas, yellow split peas, chick peas, and on and on and on.

In supermarkets around there are many more varieties from Spanish Cuisine, the entire Goya Foods line, either dried, or in cans, and there are even some interesting organic entries here and there, some you can find at Chang-Li supermarket (they stock Braggs Apple Cider and Liquid Amino's) on Benedict avenue, and Pioneer Supermarket on Castle Hill has a small, but growing section of organic produce and some organic dry goods, including excellent organic black beans from a brand called Wild Harvest.

In short, I am in Pulse heaven, and gradually I am learning more and more recipes, and ever since I decided to go 100% vegan a year and half ago, I am having more fun with food than I ever did in my life before.

One recent favorite recipe came from the Whole Foods website,
for Yellow Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup:

Yellow Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cups dried yellow split peas
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • vegetable bouillon, tamari, or liquid aminos to taste 
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until translucent, adding little water if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir in ginger and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add 8 1/2 cups water, peas and sweet potato and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Uncover and continue to simmer 15 minutes. Carefully purée soup with a hand held immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth and creamy. Garnish with pumpkin seeds.

My personal variation is that I spray the pumpkin seeds (available at Chang Li), with Bragg's Liquid Aminos after toasting them on an oven tray. That just gives them a little extra flavor. You can just snack on them, or use them as suggested here, to spice up certain dishes.

The recipe is simplicity itself, and my routine has become to cook large pans of soup, and freeze two or three portions, so that I always have soup in stock in case I have limited time for cooking. A quick soup and a salad will tide you over.

Veganism is spreading

Lately it seems that veganism is spreading with amazing speed, both the no-oil vegan cuisine promoted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, also known as the Plant Perfect Diet, and the low fat Engine2 Diet promote by his son, Rip Esselstyn, aka the Plant Strong Diet, and then there is always the hybrid program,  Forks Over Knives, based on the movie.
The number of stories is growing, and in many cases people are successfully eliminating a whole list of medications from their lives, and instead of spending the rest of their lives worrying about the side effects of their medications, not to mention drug interactions, eating healthy is becoming more wide spread.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Starling Ave Wrap-up & Starling Avenue Vegan Wrap

Increasingly, Starling Avenue is becoming a Mecca for shopping for Fruits and Vegetables, including the fact that a lot of organic stuff can be found, if you know where to look. Here is an outline:
  • Start with Chang Li Supermarket at 2079 Benedict Avenue, that is your widest selection of anything in the area.
  • Then, there is Key Food on Unionport Avenue (in Parkchester), which has some interesting organic stuff, if you know where to look. One of my faves is Organic Chestnuts, which I like to combine with Brussels Sprouts.
  • Then, you can go up and down Starling Avenue, which is a virtual Little Bangladesh in the Bronx, and there are fruit and vegetable vendors up and down the street, and you can find amazing stuff.
  • On your way out, if there's anything you have not found yet, there's always the Pioneer Supermarket at 1345 Castle Hill Avenue. I like them for their organic salads and organic banana's and organic cherry tomatoes. Lots of other good stuff as well.

Here is your itinerary: Starting from Pioneer, through Starling Avenue, to Chang-Li and ending at Key Foods. If it's fresh food and you haven't found it yet, there's something missing.

The Starling Avenue Vegan Wrap

Crispy 100% Whole Wheat Roti
Start with a Crispy Whole Wheat Roti, which you can get at any of the Bangla stores on Starling Avenue, and here goes:
  • Heat your roti(s) as per instructions
  • A good schmear of (home made) hummus on about 1/8th of it. 
  • Some brown rice or quinoa, or any other grain you like.
  • Some steamed veggies, like string beans, or okra, or kale, or carrots, whatever suits you,
  • Some Teriyaki sauce. Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or Tamari or Shoyu on your steamed veggies
  • Alternatively use fresh salad or watercress, etc.
  • Maybe some roasted or fresh mushrooms
  • Add a fork full of Sauerkraut or Kimchi
Roll this up. Finger lickin' good. The ideal solution to take with you if you're trying to avoid road food (I make two of them and roll them up in a strip of paper towel, with Saranwrap around it, and put it in a sandwich bag to take with me if I'm likely to get stuck in a place where there's little choice.

It's little things like these that make me feel that I've never eaten so well in my life as since I went all Vegan, about a year ago today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vegan Tempeh Stew based on Banana Peel Thoran

Here were the recipes I started with:

This a cooking style from Kerala, so my friend Francis who works at a store on my street helped me to source some of the ingredients, the Hing, and the Urad Dal, as it turns out smack across the street from me at Poshora:

Poshora Market, 2142-44 Starling Avenue
And here's what I made of it:
I used the first recipe above, but I added sliced tempeh, marinated for 24 hours in water with coriander, and instead of one onion, I used 3 decent sized onions, to really make a nice stew. By the time you do all this the whole thing becomes a protein rich stew. Combine with brown rice and some green vegetable, and you're in business. Of course the Banana peels were from organic banana's I got from Pioneer on 1345 Castle Hill. For Tempeh your best address in the area is Good 'n Natural, at 2173 White Plains Road.

Sixty-five - Vegan Style

This is just for the record, so I won't forget
  • December 2014 Physical:
    • Weight 190 lbs
    • Cholesterol 170
    • BP - borderline hypertension and on medication
  • May 2015 went Vegan, mostly follwing Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.'s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-based cure.
  • March 2016 Physical: 
    • Weight 165 lbs (that was my weight in '79)
    • Cholesterol 151
    • Off BP meds, and off all medication, started taking some B12
And, perhaps more important than anything, I am having more fun with food since going vegan than ever before, and learning new recipes is so much fun. Or even improvising. Today lunch was Okra with Kimchi on Quinoa - we recently learned how to make our own kimchi, here. Probiotics like sauerkraut, Kimchi, tempeh, etc. etc. are favorite foods of mine any way, so it is nice to realize more and more how healthy they are. A newly improvised tempeh recipe will be coming up shortly.

Besides the Esselstyn book, my main source for recipes has been Amy Cramer's The Vegan Cheat Sheet: Your Take-everywhere Guide to Plant-based eating. The rest is online research, often prompted by any new fruit or vegetable I see in the stores, and start wondering how I can prepare it.

The bigger point is, I am no exception. There are people out there who are dropping a whole regimen of multiple medications. One friend has diabetes and reduced her insulin needs by 2/3rds since going vegan. On and on.

And this is becoming main stream, as you can see from this article in Business Week about a doctor who went on the nutritional path.

And a marvellous recent article by Susan Levin, in US News and World Report seriously talks about reducing healthcare costs by trillions by getting our nutrition right.

I hear it more and more from people in the neighborhood, including the fact that I am getting some good feedback from this blog, and the stores are increasingly starting to pay attention.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pioneering Organic Bananas, Peels and All

Just now my local Pioneer supermarket had organic bananas, and I brought some home. As luck would have it, on the same day an email popped into my inbox touting the benefits of eating banana peels, something you obviously cannot do with any bananas that were sprayed with loads of chemicals.

Dole Organic Bananas from Pioneer Supermarket, 1345 Castle Hill Avenue
Now, let's count the benefits, and the ways I found to use this knowledge.

Benefits of banana peels

  • Here's OMTimes on the health benefits of Banana Peels
    • Full of serotonin... great against depression.
    • Full of tryptophan... a natural sleep medicine
    • Full of soluble and insoluble fiber... good for lowering cholesterol
    • Fiber also helps with weightloss and obesity
    • Natural source for probiotics and detoxification, again because of the fibers. Obviously also helps against constipation (as is most of the vegan diet...).
    • Important cytoprotective and antimutagenic agents that protect against cancer, and carotenoids and polyphenols that shore up your immune system.
    • They protect red blood cells.
    • Rich in anti-oxidants and other nutrients: lots of potassium, B-vitamins, magnesium.
    • Contains lutein which hlpes night vision and prevents macular degeneration. full of anti-fungal and anti-biotic compounds.
    • It is a natural anti-inflammatory agent and helps your skin look great. 
  • You can make tea of the banana peels alone, or you can use it in soups, sauces and gravy.
    • With cinnamon, you can use the tea as a natural sleeping aid... drink an hour before you hit the hay.
    • You can make smoothies with bananas including the peel.
    • You can make gravy and curry with banana peel.
  • Even Business Insider reported on it, because in many parts of the world people do eat the banana peels.
  • And Yahoo! too says, Don't forget to eat the peel.
  • Sleep medicine - and tea from banana peels with cinnamon, and again
  • More on Shattering the Matrix
  • And on Doctor's Health Press.
  • And finally Banana Peel Recipes from Kerala.
Obviously, you can google it yourself and find many more recipes. My first attempts were just to slice the banana with the peel and eat it that way, and then I also added it to my oatmeal in the morning, which I heat up with some banana with the peel for about 1:45 minutes. See here:
Sliced banana with peel and oatmeal (with apples and raisins and cinnamon)
Note one detail, Dole also wraps some plastic around the top of the bunch, which slows down the ripening process... very thoughtful. You can do this for yourself with saran wrap if your bananas don't come that way.

Monday, April 25, 2016

From Zero to Miso Soba in Under Ten Minutes

Whether it is for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Miso Soba has a way of hitting the spot, and all the ingredients are available right in our neighborhood, mostly at Chang-Li Market. Here is a quick way to prepare a 4-cup bowl of miso soba, in under ten minutes. That's a full meal. Make some salad for an appetizer, and you're living like a king...

Here is more or less all you need, in terms of traditional ingredients, clock-wise, starting in the upper left, dried Shiitake mushrooms, Soba Noodles, Hijiki, Organic Red Miso, Bonito shavings, and dried sardines.
Traditional ingredients for Miso Soba
For today, we will assume that the Dashi, the soupstock is already made, and another time I will write about how to make it both the traditional way and the vegan way. I often make Dashi for the week.
For vegetables a good choice is daikon radish, and some scallions (2-3).

Quick preparation - makes a meal-sized bowl

Use a 2-cup and a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup.
  1. Boil a bundle of soba noodles in boiling water, ca. 7 minutes.
  2. Soak a tablespoon of hijiki in some fresh water.
  3. Grate about a cup of daikon, and cut up 2-3 scallions in thin slices.
  4. Drain the hijiki when it starts to get soft.
  5. Cut up a ca 4 Oz block of firm tofu in small cubes.
  6. Put the drained hijiki, grated daikon, sliced scallions in the 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and fill up with filtered water. Microwave, covered, on high for 3 minutes.
  7. Drain the hot vegetable water in the 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and dissolve a heaping tablespoon of miso (to taste) in it.
  8. Pour the Dashi into the 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, with the drained ingredients and microwave for 2 minutes (the dashi should not be brought to the boil, but it should be hot).
  9. When the noodles are done, drain them with a colander into the large soup bowl, so that the water heats up the bowl.
  10. Dump out the cooking water out of the hot bowl, put the soba noodles in it and add the contents of the 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and then add the well-dissolved miso from the 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

Voilà, you now have a 4-cup meal-size miso soba. You can tweak the taste with some tamari or some Bragg's Liquid Aminos (Chang Li carries it, and it has less sodium than low sodium soy sauce, plus it is healthy as all get out).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

More about Hydrogen Rich Water (HRW)

My search for the perfect, healthy drinking water may be over... Living in New York City this is a challenge, since we have fantastic drinking water that is poisoned with hexafluorosilic acid for water fluoridation - the result of one of the biggest scientific frauds of the 20th and now the 21st century.

The current epicenter of the battle against mandatory water fluoridation is now in Ireland, in the work of environmental scientist Declan Waugh, who has just published a major paper on fluoride in tea, and who the accumulation of fluoride in tea, combined with fluoridated water results in a tremendously toxic brew... Meanwhile, the country of India is spending hundreds of millions on getting naturally occurring fluoride out of the water, because millions in that country are suffering from fluorosis. In short, any informed person would avoid fluoridated water. Most of Europe has long since abandoned it after it was understood in the seventies that this particular American fad was a complete scientific hoax, and caused more health problems than it solved. Even the CDC published a report that fluoride is toxic, and protects teeth only by topical application, not by systemic application (ingestion). Incidentally, as far as tea is concerned, the other major contaminant is aluminum, especially in green tea, and that is no joke either.

In 1999, when I worked for a company called Better Health Labs, I introduced fluoride filters in our product line, and that was a solid success. The problem was that filtering out the fluoride was tough to do, and the only good fluoride filters required permanent or semi-permanent installation. None of the ever popular filter pitchers take out fluoride, even if they are otherwise OK - and many of them are relatively ineffective.

The picture has changed. For a few years now, I used the ZeroWater filter, and added Concentrace Mineral Drops, because the body needs the healthy minerals (electrolytes). For my freshwater aquarium water I still use the ZeroWater filter, and add the necessary minerals. However, more recently I have found a better solution, the Clearly Filtered pitchers, they are marketed both as the Perfectwater Purifier, and on Amazon as the Aquagear water filter pitcher, and possibly under other private labels. You can find a full analysis of the performance of this filter on the Clearly Filtered site, and it is impressive indeed. This pitcher claims to reduce fluoride by 90% and the test report from the Environmental Toxicology Bureau of the LA County Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures confirms it.

The Scoop on the Clearly Filtered pitcher

The test results are without a doubt the best I have ever seen for a domestic water filter, and certainly a pitcher. This filter really takes out the bad and leaves in the good. Since it is marketed under private labels. I got the filter from Perfectwater Purifier, but if I had to do it over, I would probably buy it from Amazon under the Aquagear label, or direct from Clearly Filtered. Here's how the deals compare:

  • Aquagear sells this filter for $69.95 on Amazon, and extra filters are $49.95. The company suggests the filters last for 150 gallons, or 6 months, whichever comes first.
  • On the Perfectwater Purifier site, they pitch a deal of $9.95 to try out the filter, and after 30 days you get a shipment of 3 filters for $149.95, but then you're signed up for continued shipments of three filters every six months, which is more than I need, so I'll have to cancel that. This company rates the filters at 200 gallons or 6 months, whichever comes first.
  • Or, you can buy it direct from the company, Clearly Filtered. It seems they provide the most straightforward options. They offer the filter at $69.95, or $59.46 with automatic replacement filters available on different schedules, from every two months to every six months, at $49.95 each.

Regardless of which one you buy, let's look at the water quality. I did some of my own testing, based on my experience in this area:

The Relative Hydrogen Score

The test report on this filter documents that it is extraordinarily effective in taking out the bad, and leaving in the good. I measured the mineral content with my trusty TDS meter, and indeed, I got scores in the 150-175 range, a tad below my tap water. I have also been measuring the ORP (Oxydation Reduction Potential), and generally it seems to be in the 40 range, which is very low, much better than the tap water, which tends to have an ORP of 200, and this measurement alone confirms that this filter is indeed remarkably efficient at "taking out the bad," as well as "leaving in the good."

I have also measured the pH, and it is above 8 - my pH test kit covers only the 6-8 range, so I don't have more precision but "above 8." Nevertheless, this is sufficient to compute the Relative Hydrogen Score (rH) of the water, which is a better indicator, because it makes the difference between anti-oxidant healing water, or just plain tap water, which increases oxidative stress. The rH scale says that water with an rH below 28 has dissolved atomic Hydrogen, and therefore is effective as an anti-oxidant. My measurements of the water from the Clearly Filtered pitcher have been in the rH of 25 (or less) range. 

In addition to using the filtered water from the Clearly Filtered water, I now use alkaline mineral sticks (see my previous post) in my drinking bottle, and that lowers the ORP further to between -40 to -80, and thereby the rH improves further to about the 20-25 range. In short, these alkaline mineral sticks do seem to work to improve the presence of dissolved Hydrogen content of the water. Over time I intend to try various different sticks.

More about Dissolved Hydrogen, HIMs and Ionizers

Newer research is pointing in the direction that dissolved molecular hydrogen is really the key issue. A researcher by the name of Tyler LeBaron runs the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation, and you can find the core science on molecular hydrogen here, and here is a YouTube video of his presentation to a medical conference in Las Vegas at the end of 2015.

I was involved in the past with Water Ionizers, also known as Reduced Water Machines, or Electrolyzed Water Machines, and many other names. For a long time they reigned supreme in producing healthy drinking water, but we've gone past that now. These machines always had the problem of fouling of the electrodes, and eventual failures, even if some were better than others in self-cleaing of the electrodes. Since the research has pointed to the fact that it is really free molecular Hydrogen that matters in creating the anti-oxidant effect in water, there are now new machines coming to market that produce water with very elevated dissolved Hydrogen. They are called Hydrogen Induction Machines, or HIMs.

Here are some more sources of information:

Also there are hydrogen rich water products coming on the market, such as H2Bev, and finally, there is now a simple test to verify the amount of dissolved hydrogen in water, H2Blue.

It seems to me that this technology is poised to overcome all of the problems with water ionizers. Having said that, it may be somewhat superfluous if a simple water filter, like the Clearly Filtered pitcher, and possibly aided further with the alkaline mineral hydrogenation sticks, can produce such powerful results, so you can be drinking anti-oxidant water on an ongoing basis. The times they are a changin' !!!

For more information, it is worth checking the articles about Hydrogen Rich Water on Google Scholar.

Friday, March 25, 2016

There's more to it than just "drink more water."

In all likelihood, the single most important thing about the water you drink, beside removing any harmful chemicals or heavy metals, such as chloride, fluoride (fluorosilicic acid), and lead, while keeping the healthy minerals, because our body does need the electrolytes (don't drink Distilled-, or Reverse Osmosis-, or even ZeroWater Water without adding the needed minerals such as Concentrace Trace Minerals or Trace Minerals 40,000 Volts), is the presence of H- which makes the water into the most powerful anti-oxidant you could ever find.

Research on this issue has been profoundly confused, and apparently back when someone in Japan filed for a license to manufacture and sell electrolyzed water machines, a.k.a. ionizers, in ca 1962 no one had an explanation for the apparent health benefits, but the most readily observable feature of ERW (Electrolyzed Reduced Water), was its elevated pH, and hence the alkalinity of the water was mistaken for the explanation for its apparent health benefits. Except... that explanation made no sense. For more information see the website of the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation, and their page on Water Ionizers.

Looking a bit deeper, the Alkaline water from electrolysis also seemed to have anti-oxidant properties, and for a while the industry became obsessed with the ORP as a presumed indicator of the anti-oxidant properties of the water, but that was not the answer either. It would not be till 1997, when research published by Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata of Kyoto University finally put the world on the right track. The key to it all was the presence of H- ions (Hydride) in ERW, some thing that had previously been considered impossible, as it was thought H- could not persist but for a few nano seconds.

The ERW vs Alkalinity confusion

Apparently, the first "approvals" of  water electrolysis machines in Japan, where the technology originated, goes back to 1954 or thereabouts, and at the time the alkalinity of the water was thought to be its distinguishing feature, and the explanation for the reported health benefits. The "approval" however apparently was not more meaningful than is a UL-listing here: it attests that the machine is safe to use, and not that the claims associated with it are true. But the descriptor of alkaline water stuck, and became the basis of an industry mythology of dubious claims that persists to this day. At various other times there also was a claim that the electrolysis caused "micro clusters" of water molecules, and made hydration easier, again without convincing scientific basis, although it does seem that the presence of Hydride in the water comes in clusters. Gradually however, it became clear that the issue was that by electrolysis water with low ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) was produced on the cathodic side of the electrolysis process, and that seemed to relate to the effectiveness of the water in respect of health.

In the end it turns out that neither the high pH, nor the low ORP are the issue, merely corollaries to what is going on, which is the formation of H- ions, a.k.a. active hydrogen, the negative hydrogen ion, more usually called Hydride. Ionizers may produce alkaline water, but that has nothing to do with the price of beans. What they are is water electrolysis machines, that is at least an accurate description of what they do. Electrolyzed water machine is a workable nomenclature, since otherwise it is such a mouthful. They produce two outputs from ordinary tap water, one alkaline and the other acidic, one good for drinking and the other for cleaning/disinfection. However, the only satisfactory explanation for the health benefits were documented in the above referenced article in BBRC (Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications), in 1997. The principal author was Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata, of  Kyushu University. To all intents and purposes this is the seminal article on the health benefits of drinking ERW.

The machines are still widely marketed as 'ionizers' or 'alkaline water' machines, Electrolyzed Water Machines, and many other names. As noted, alkalinity of the water is a mere side effect. If the alkalinity were of the essence, you could add minerals to your water for pennies per gallon, and you would not need another pricey piece of household equipment. 

The Seminal Research of Prof. Shirahata
Back in 1997, when Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata published his paper demonstrating the effectiveness of ERW (Electrolyzed Reduced Water) as an anti-oxidant, it was somewhat controversial that he ascribed that effect to the persistence of H-, the negative hydrogen ion, or hydride in water, presumably for as much as 30 days.
Here is the reference to the article:
“Electrolyzed-Reduced Water Scavenges Active Oxygen Species and Protects DNA from Oxidative Damage”
Sanetaka Shirahata, Shirgeru Kabayama, Mariko Nakano, Takumi Miura, Kenichi Kusumoto, Miho Gotoh, Hidemitsu Hayashi, Kazumichi Otsubo, Shinkatsu Morisawa, and Yoshinori Katakura
Published in: Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol. 234, No.1, May 8, 1997
I was in Japan in 1999 and met with Nihon-Trim, the manufacturer of ERW machines, who was also one of the sponsors of Prof. Shirahata's work. I also met with Dr. Hidemitso Hayashi, a cardiologist who was a participant in that study, and a big actor in the ERW industry. In 1996 he had published a book in Japanese: "Active Hydrogen Liberates Mankind from Disease," (Japanese, ISBN 4-8454-1133-4). Dr. Hayashi parted ways with the manufacturers of "water ionizers" because he claimed to have found a cheaper, better way to produce H- in water, with a mineral-based stick to stir the water. The ERW people thought he was crazy, because theoretically it should take energy to produce the H- ion. Hayashi persisted, and you can find his information a.o. here: and his Amazon page, here (mostly Japanese only).

Hydride Rich Water

It may now be time for a new acronym: HRW, Hydrogen Rich Water. Note that the Japanese, with Dr. Hayashi leading the parade, have a habit of speaking of Hydrogen Rich water, but the proper word in English of the H- ionic form is Hydride, as was pointed out to me by an old friend, Prof. Edward Dratz, of the Biochemistry Dept. of Montana State University. However, a valid reason to stick to the term Hydrogen Rich Water may be the fact that the rH (relative Hydrogen score), actually measures all simple forms of H, inclucing H2, H-, as Vinny Pinto points out in his article on the issue. Stick to the abbreviation HRW, which is the same in either case.

On the same site you can also find extensive documentation of both the theory and the research of Hydrogen rich water.

And there are more and more reports about this issue. An interesting collection of material can be found on a website by one Vinny Pinto, where extensive documentation is shown of the fact that Hydride can and does persist in water, and how this fact is getting increasing recognition in water treatment, beer brewing, and advanced aquarium keeping:
All in all, the first test is simple, you can actually taste the difference. Hydrogen rich water has a smoother sensation than regular water, and many people who don't like to drink water find themselves suddenly able to drink water. It will be very interesting to see what kind of research we are going to see about the health effects of hydrogen rich water. Here is one article:
The conclusion of this study seems pretty significant to me, and they used a Hydrogen stick that is on the market as DHW, Docter's Hydrogen Water in the test:
In conclusion, consumption of hydrogen rich water generated via a magnesium stick demonstrated improvement in the levels of oxidative stress markers associated with metabolic syndrome and boosted the body’s antioxidant activity. Hydrogen rich water represents a potentially novel therapeutic and preventive strategy for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. This method of delivery was advantageous as magnesium sticks are portable and proved to be an easy and safe administration of hydrogen rich water for daily consumption.
You can find the same Hydrogen stick that was apparently used in this study online, on Ebay, as Docter's Hydrogen Water here.

Meanwhile I also notice that there are now a growing number of products available that claim to achieve the same results , under names like Alkaline Water Stick, Power Ionic Health Ion Water Purifier Stick (I did not make that up), Portable Water Ionizer Alkaline Water Stick, Second Stage Hydro Pen and Third Stage Hydro Pen, and a Santevia Alkaline Water Stick. I have no idea how good they all are.

In short, there is a whole array of new solutions emerging, and it may be worthwhile to try them out for yourself. The sensory experience of Hydrogen rich water is different, and in many cases people who don't like drinking water do like this type of water, and, needless to say, it is very good for them. The hard part is not to get confused by the pseudo-scientific gobbledygook and stick to the worthwhile research, but clearly there is now a growing body of such research. Enough to warrant taking this seriously and finding out for yourself, for a potent anti-oxidant drinking water is nothing to be sneezed at! Not to mention it should help large numbers of people get rid of any allergy problems which are after all simply a function of a weakened immune system, and possibly many more serious health issues.

The Relative Hydrogen Score, rH

Some of the claims are bound to be bogus, especially if they focus on alkalinity. You can always use an ORP meter, and you should be seeing a negative value, probably in the -150 to -200 range. But ORP alone is not an absolute indicator of anti-oxidant value. You need to compute the rH, relative Hydrogen score, which is a truer indication of the anti-oxidant properties of the water, to find out. The formula is discussed here:

  • Simply put, rH = ((ORP + 205) / 29.58 + (2 x pH))
  • The scale runs from zero to 42, and below 28 the water is reducing, and above 28 it is oxidizing. 
Just drinking water may not be enough, but drinking HRW may make a significant difference...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Of Cauliflower and Curry Sauce, Black Rice and Roasted Mushrooms

Cauliflower is plentiful just now, and with the many Bangladeshi markets in my area, good curry is not hard to find... not to mention one nearby building is nicknamed (among Bangladeshis) the curry palace, because it has such an overwhelmingly Bangladeshi community. Steamed cauliflower with curry sauce is an old favorite, that I had not made for many years, but with the new vegan regime, I suddenly got interested again.

Black Rice is great stuff, it tastes terrific, and it has high nutritional value. It also makes for an interesting contrast with the white of the cauliflower, and I like this particular combination better than cauliflower with brown rice (white rice of course is a no, no). I cook it in my trusty old Zojirushi rice cooker like brown rice, on the GABA Brown Rice cycle. Black Rice is easy to find in my area. The Chang-Li supermarket usually stocks at least two varieties, a Chinese one, and my favorite from a company named Heartland:

Heartland Products at Chang-Li in the Indian section

From the same company comes also a lovely black quinoa, which I love also. 

According to the Wikipedia article cited above, black rice contains iron, vitamin E, and more antioxidants than Blueberries. What more do you want? But the Wikipedia article continues: Black rice contains essential amino acid like lysine, Tryptophan; vitamins such as vitamin B1, vitamin B2, folic acid; and is a good source of minerals including iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus. And, like I mentioned above it creates an interesting picture on your plate with the cauliflower.

The Recipe

If you don't have a steamer, Chang-Li has classic bamboo steamers. So, steaming the cauliflower is easy. Rice I usually make ahead for a few days, then comes the critical piece, the curry sauce, based on a recipe from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-based Cure (page 163). Esselstyn's book is the Bible of the "plant perfect," a.k.a. "no-oil vegan,"  diet. My principal difference with the Esselstyn recipe is that I don't want to be too stingy on the curry, so for his 1-2 teaspoons, I substituted 1-2 tablespoons, and I use heaping tablespoons to boot, but the amount will vary with the type of curry you are using.


  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-2 heaping tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of arrowroot, dissolved in water. (Added last)


  1. Blend the rice and water together in a blender, food processor, Nutribullet, Vitamix, etc. to liquify the rice.
  2. Add the nutritional yeast, white miso, garlic powder and curry powder, blend together.
  3. Bring to a boil over low flame, stirring continuously.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the dissolved arrowroot to thicken.
This is the best curry sauce recipe I have ever found, and it makes a nice, thick sauce if you get the arrowroot right.
It could not be easier: pour a liberal helping of this curry sauce on your cauliflower on the plates. Serve with roasted mushrooms (with rosemary), or a Seitan or Kao-Fu stew, or some bean dish to complement the proteins in the rice.
For the record, Arrowroot can always be found at Chang-Li too in the West Indian section, and they also have some excellent organic miso, both white and red.
Around here the nutritional yeast can be found at Good n Natural, at 2173 White Plains Road.

The more I get into this, the more fun I have with all the new recipes.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vegan Supplements?

The business of supplements is in ill repute, and justifiably so. It is too easy to claim miracles and lose track of the well being of the customers if there's money in exaggerating claims. Then, there are pharmacological interactions of supplements together, and supplements with any drugs you may be taking. The good news is that many vegans find they can reduce their reliance on drugs, many degenerative health problems tend to go away with a vegan diet. I write about this with some hesitation, since I am neither a doctor, nor a nutritionist, let alone a pharmacologist, so this is just a bit of personal experience, for what it is worth.

There may a few issues that vegans should be conscious of and one of them is this little piece of advice from a friend who is a biochemistry researcher, who specializes in everything to do with the immune system. I am not using his name, but I've known him for some seventeen years, ever since I once recruited him as the science adviser for a company I was helping to improve their business in the nutritional area. There may legitimately be some nutrition that is harder to get on a plant-based diet than otherwise, so here goes with the advice from my friend:
You can get vegetarian DHA and now EPA supplements that are produced from algae and these are probably the most important nutrients.  If we did not get so much omega 6 in our diets (high in all seeds, most all grains and thus corn and soy fed meats and eggs) we could make our own EPA and  DHA in our bodies, but the high omega 6 in most diets blocks our ability to make EPA and DHA. 
 Here are some options:

By the way, in any of this it pays to do your own research, but it is interesting to note that while the Harvard nutrition program is a heck of a lot better today than it ever was, and it even allows that a vegan lifestyle might be healthy, in general it still marches to the tune of the industrial agriculture which dominates the nutritional advice in this country, and has more to do with their wallets than your health. Having said that, there was this interesting blog by one faculty member, John McDonough on the website: Dept. of Eating: Why Vegan?

The very interesting back story, of which I became aware also thanks to my friend whose advice I cited above, is that Frederick Stare, who founded the nutrition program at Harvard was one of the chief public advocates for SAD, the Standard American Diet. Here was one of the, or perhaps the leader in nutrition in America whose point of departure always was that everything was healthy until proven otherwise, and he defended the food industry in the extreme, including becoming a protagonist for sugar, and coke and food additives in general. He became a leading promoter of that worst scientific fraud of them all, the fluoridation of drinking water, because it protected the sugar industry, and cereal makers such as Kelloggs, not your health. On the positive side, he did promote the drinking of more water, which is essential. And... last not least, it has taken till now, but the world is shifting away from water fluoridation, which has long since been exposed as one of the worst scientific hoaxes of the twentieth century. It merely served to solve a toxic waste problem for the fertilizer industry, by turning hexaflorosilicic acid magically from an expensive toxic waste problem into a profitable water additive opportunity. Interestingly, some of the most damning studies about the ill effects of water fluoridation have come from Harvard lately, including the connection between fluoridation and reduced IQ in children.

So maybe, just maybe Harvard could wake up one day and begin to seriously address the sordid nexus between agribusiness, the healthcare system and the sickening American Diet. If Harvard's own John McDonough can discuss it in the media, perhaps the time will come that this can be discussed, although it may actually belong in the area of Economics and the Environment.

Besides drinking water, the only other supplements that I think are really essential are NAC-Sustain and Glycine, to boost the immune system if you're over 40, since your body's natural production of glutathione (GSH) declines precipitously. Again, this is just my personal observation, built up from experience.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead - more inspiration for the vegan lifestyle...

I am devouring these diet and lifestyle documentaries - Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead was the latest one. The more I delve into this, the clearer it becomes that this too is simply another addiction... "comfort food," OMG!
It is amazing to see how many of these testimonials there are, and the success stories are profound, with people who were on ten different medications getting off of all of them. It's one long litany of self-inflicted wounds and the medical profession as the enablers. Let's make a provisional list:

  1. Water, water, water, and almost all antacids are superfluous, remember Dr. Batmanghelidj, and his book Your Body's Many Cries for Water.
  2. Clearly the implications of Forks Over Knives, and Forks Over Knives Presents: The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue, are showing the way to many and clearly increasing my resolve.
  3. The Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead movies are unbelievably powerful, and again there is a whole list of support sites, such as and
  4. The upshot is:
    1. The ED epidemic is merely the first warning sign of circulatory illness, but what do we do? We develop Viagra, instead of fixing the underlying health problem.
    2. The allergy epidemic is the another hoax: drinking more water is the answer, and possibly some supplements to support the immune system as you get older, for it is simply true that the production of GSH (Glutathione) goes down above age forty.
    3. Hypertension, high cholesterol and their attendant medications are all for 90% or more simply enabling people continuing an unhealthy lifestyle.
    4. Type 2 diabetes is another self-inflicted wound, but we continue to let the USDA be in charge of nutritional advice, in service of Food, Inc - Oh, and by the way, that was a great documentary also.
In short, as more people are waking up to these possibilities and feeling empowered to take responsibility for their own health, the real change to the medical- industrial complex is only just beginning. Obama care is not the answer. Of course better medical coverage is desirable, but it is absurd to promote unhealthy food in school, and subsidize bad food, and not to be able to afford our medical system. Time to wake up and smell the coffee... or the vegetable juice!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Forks over Knives, with black bean salsa

Finally the time came to watch Forks over Knives, the brilliant documentary about the vegan life style, which for me ties it all together. I already have the FOK recipe app on my phone, which is a tremendous inspiration for recipes. Then there is also the Engine2Diet site and book - and there are the excellent books by Dr. Esselstyn, In short, sources of inspiration to learn vegan cooking abound.

What an inspiration to see people who dump a whole regimen of medications, and instead simply commit to eating a healthy, vegan diet. I have now had that same experience myself twice, the first time, almost thirty years ago, I asked my doctor exactly what a certain allergy medication did (it was Claritin), and when he explained it, I said don't even bother writing the prescription - all it does is suppress the symptoms. I was determined to find the cause instead, and, besides drinking more water, after trying numerous supplements that promise to boost glutathione (GSH), which is the core of your immune system, I ended up on the advice of a biochemist friend using Jarrow's NAC Sustain, which is a sustained release N-Acetyl Cysteine, combined with a 500 mg Glycine, at a combined cost of less than $10 per month. Not only did my allergies go away, I have barely had a cold to speak of ever since then, and that was 25 years ago. The poor doctor would have had me on Claritin from then on out. The same thing happened again at my physical in 2014, when the doctor found me 'slightly overweight' at 190 lbs, and marginally hypertensive, I took the BP meds for a while, but by May 2015, I went vegan instead, and without effort I'm down to 166 lbs, and feeling noticeably better and I am sure at my next physical I will pass with flying colors.

Clearly, the economics are that we cannot afford to continue the SAD, Standard American Diet, which by the way was similar to the SDD, the Standard Dutch Diet that I was raised on. Despite being raised a vegetarian, there was a deep conviction that animal proteins in the form of milk were essential. Now it is clear, animal proteins promote cancer growth, plant-based proteins do not, and the over-consumption of fats and sugars feed into diabetes and heart disease. The whole ED-epidemic is just an early warning signal of compromised circulatory systems, and the canary in the coalmine for heart disease. In short, the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries thrive on sick-care, preserving illness and tending to more and more sick people, who follow the USDA dietary guidelines, which serve the agricultural industry, instead of worthwhile nutrition and healthy eating habits. I've looked more deeply into the environmental economics recently, in a parallel post on my green energy blog, here.     

I definitely use all of the resources listed above, and more, for inspiration, and recently I also visited a vegan supper club in the Bronx, on Meetup that is hosted at a private home in the Throggs Neck section (still walking distance for me). What an inspiration that was! And the experience of many people is that once they make the change, they make it quickly and lose the urge to go back, because they feel so much better. My own private little vegan joke is that the butcher on my street has a daughter who's vegan, and admits that meat is heavy to digest, but like so many who never seriously tried, he feels like he didn't eat if he did not have meat. He is a very nice man, whose store has been there for 50 years, and even now I stop in for a chat periodically, even if I don't eat meat any more. He's going to retire sooner than later, and who knows, maybe he'll switch to vegan too, that would be hoot.

As part of the further exploration for vegan shopping in the area, I made my regular expedition to Good 'n Natural on Weschester Avenue by Pelham Parkway the other day. It is always a delight to shop there. Their organic  produce selection is always great, but yesterday I was hunting for rice cakes, and fortuitously found a whole selection and some were even on sale. Some supermarket rice cakes are made with white rice, but the health food store variety are made with whole grain rice, and nowadays they have many flavors, including with wild rice, etc.

I use the rice cakes to serve one of my favorite snacks of the moment, which is Black Bean Salsa. Here is the basic version from Ann Crile Esselstyn that is posted on Meetup in the No Oil Vegan, Dr. Esselstyn's & Rip's E2 Diet NE Ohio:

You can make endless variations on this simple salsa, with adding non-GMO corn to the black beans (one can of each), or different kinds of salsa, and adding more peppers, depending on how hot you like it. Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, or Jalapeno's (or both, or, eh well, if you're totally no-oil, skip the adobo sauce...). As a light snack on a puffed whole grain rice cake, or with corn chips, you can eat this any time of the day, I love it... I am continuing to have more fun with interesting dishes than ever before, and the weekends become the time to cook some staples of rice, and beans, ahead for the week so I have an easy time putting meals together.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What to do with a Jicama?

In my neighborhood this one involves a serious run to Chang Li Supermarket... and in fact this is often how the process starts: when I see a vegetable or a fruit there that I do not already know, I start looking up what you can do with it.

The first time I bought a Jicama, I just used it in another salad, and that was not convincing, but it got my curiosity started. The nutritional qualities of Jicama seem to be impeccable, so more experimentation was called for.

I ended up making a creamy salad dressing with silken tofu, and mustard, and chia seeds. The end result was finger licking good.

Like with any salad, you can throw anything plus the kitchen sink in there once you figure out the tastes... I could see adding adding raisins or craisins, and you can keep on experimenting.

Here is the basic recipe I ended up with:

This one started from a recipe on epicurious, hereMy problem with that one was that it uses dairy, so instead, I made my own creamy dressing with silken tofu instead of cheese. 

  • Peel the Jicama (note, the skin reportedly is actually poisenous, so do a good job of it!) 
  • Grate the Jicama with a mandoline to matchstick size. 
  • Peel ca 5-8 Clementines, and cut the slices in half 
  • Grate a small red onion to match stick size. 
Mix the ingredients.

Tofu/Mustard Dressing: 

  1. 16 Oz package silken tofu, drained 
  2. 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar 
  3. 2 garlic cloves, peeled 
  4. 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro 
  5. 1/4 cup scallion thinly sliced 
  6. 3 table spoons honey 
  7. 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil 
  8. 2 teaspoons low sodium tamari, or Braggs Liquid Aminos (1/3rd the sodium level of even low sodium tamari) 
  9. 1/2 teaspoon hot chili flakes (to taste... I could use 2-3 teaspoons) 
Blend with any good blender, food processor, or Nutribullet, and create a rich, creamy dressing. 
For this Jicama salad, I like to add in about 1-3 table spoons of mustard. 
You can add raw green pumpkin seeds, or chia seeds, or wheat germ to the eventual salad.

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