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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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Business of Salads

Salads get a whole different meaning when you're seriously going vegan. In my direct neighborhood, one of the best places for salad ingredients is the Pioneer supermarket at 1345 Castle Hill Avenue. This store carries good quality (in many cases organic) salad ingredients, typically, here is what I can find:

  • Organic salad mixes from Earthbound Farm
  • Organic salad mixes from Organic Girl
  • Vidalia onions (Pioneer seems to be the only store in my area that has Vidalia onions all of the time)
  • Organic carrots
I like using some red leaf or green leaf lettuce, and mix it with some of these salad mixes, sometimes arugula or baby spinach, or a spring mix.

Some peppers and tomatoes, and onions are basic, beyond that you can add olives, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts or whatever else tickles your fancy in that area. You can add broccoly cooked, or raw, cooked green beans, a handfull of cooked beans, mushrooms raw or cooked, etc. Good things to enrich it are chia seeds, wheat germ, sliced almonds, and many a time grated organic carrots are a great addition.
To make it creamy, you can make a dressing with silken tofu, here's a basic recipe from

1 package (12 to 16 oz.) water-packed soft or aseptic-packed silken tofu
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (including tops)
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot chili flakes

In place of the low-sodium soy sauce, you can also use Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Optionally, depending on the salad mixes, you may add some mustard to this type of a dressing.  

Good salads become a way of life. Don't leave home without having eaten one. Light, refreshing, and with lots of energy.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Herbal Toothpaste Post

Say that three times fast... the Herbal Toothpaste post, the Herbal Toothpaste post, the Herbal toothpaste post. In any case, living in what is supposed to be the most ethnically diverse district in the Bronx, with 180,000 residents and 72 ethnicities, many wonderful shopping options arise. Starling Avenue has become a little Bangladesh, intermingled with african, and many other influences.

Herbal Toothpaste on Starling Avenue

I recently discovered one of the benefits is great choices for herbal toothpaste. If you go to the main stream drug stores, there are hardly any fluoride-free choices, usually maybe one or two, but on Starling Avenue I found a long list of options, excellent herbal toothpastes at stores like Friends Grocery & Halal Meat at the corner of Starling and Olmstead, and Banglatown Supermarket at 2169 Starling Avenue.

Most of these toothpastes are based on either Peelu, or Neem, both of which are excellent, some are a bit more complex. You will find a few that have fluoride, so you have to read the labels.

The story with fluoride is becoming more gruesome by the minute, and if you want the latest, check up on the story at FluorideAlert, The Fluoride Action Network. The bottom line is fluoride in drinking water causes more problems than it solves, and should be avoided at all costs. Theoretically, fluoride might be beneficial to teeth by topical application, so putting it in toothpaste and mouthwash might be justified, but overall we are getting too much of it, and many smart people buy fluoride-free toothpaste for that reason. Here is some more good info about fluoride alternatives,

Here are some of the toothpastes I found recently, including two of my favorite toothpastes:

  1. From India: Neem/Miswak Complete Refreshing Dental Care, 100% Vegetable based, based on Black Seed, Baking Soda, Neem leaves, Mint leaves, and Cloves. It tastes great. You can get it online at Essential Palace. This is a great toothpaste, it leaves your mouth feeling fresh.
  2. From India: Vicco Ayurvedic Medicine for Gums and Teeth. This is another one of my faves. It is based on a whole raft of Ayurvedic herbal ingredients. I picked up my most recent tube at Banglatown. From Vicco Labs.
  3. From Pakistan: Miswak, Hamcard Peelu Toothpaste.
  4. And three more from India, from a company called Dabur International, another maker of Ayurvedic products:
    1. Dabur Herbal Toothpaste, Neem.
    2. Dabur Red
    3. Dabur Meswak Toothpaste.
In short, choices galore, try one or try them all, something to feel good about.

Here is a comment from Declan Waugh, the famous Irish fluoride researcher, posted on 1/26/16:
It appears to me that fluoridated toothpaste is a lot more dangerous than people realize and more hazardous than the toothpaste industry want anyone to know. Its quite alarming how much fluoride can be ingested/swallowed and absorbed through the oral cavity, particularly in infants and children. Considering the availability of fluoridated toothpaste and that it represents approx 98% of all toothpaste sales, it is absolutely INSANE that any government would further compromise public health by putting fluoridation chemicals in public water.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Seitan, Kao Fu, and more in the Parkchester area

There was a time when I had to go to Chinatown for my vegetables, but then Chang-Li Supermarket olpened up on Benedict Avenue (across the street from St. Helena's Parish), and we got a green market on Fridays all summer long at Virginia Park (next to the Parkchester subway station).

More and more choices are arriving close to home. One of my favorites is Kao Fu, or baked seitan - a form of wheat gluten. Kao Fu is really the chinese name for this form of seitan. The name seitan goes back to George Ohsawa, the promoter of macrobiotics. It is available intermittently at Chang-Li Supermarket, usually comes in on Friday. Like any seitan product, it is a great protein source - meat substitute if you will - and it has the great property that it is spongy so it works great in soups and sauces, because it absorbs the liquid and with it the flavor.

Kao Fu or Baked Seitan

You will find this product at Chang-Li next to an array of Tofu products, and there are also some other forms of seitan in that refrigerated section. It pays to experiment with all of them. One word of caution: Kao fu does not last long, you generally need to use it within a week, so stocking up makes no sense.

Here is an interesting Chinese recipe, intended as a cold appetizer, Hong Shao Kao Fu, which looks pretty interesting, and what's more, easy to make. 

All in all, this stuff is very versatile, and easy to adapt to many different recipes. Recommended.