Sunday, April 30, 2017

Senior Symposium at Sonia Sotomayor Community Center: Health and nutrition

On Friday April 28th, we had our second annual senior symposium from Community Board #9 at Sonia Sotomayor Community Center on Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx.

Amidst all the updates from various elected officials, I helped deliver a segment on natural health measures both from a nutritional and a treatment aspect, with the star of the show being Dr. Carina Lopez, a homeopath and acupuncturist. Dr. Lopez delivered an impassioned presentation on the natural remedies that surround us, using dandelions, violets and another herb that she found growing in the lawn at the Sonia Sotomayor Community Center.

Her presentation garnered strong response with some of her accounts of helping people with serious conditions to get off of medications with purely natural remedies. The underlying theme being to work with nature and our bodies, instead of fighting it, and taking responsibility for your health and well-being.

For introduction to Dr. Lopez, I spoke about nutrition as the first place to start healing and I used the information in my previous post to emphasize again what we can all do for ourselves with a healthy, plant-based diet. The bottom line is the evidence is all stacking up in favor of the whole foods plant-based diet, and increasingly, the establishment including the USDA, is losing the battle over the misinformation about nutrition that is at the basis of our national health crisis.The problem has always been that USDA serves their clients, the agri-businesses, and not US consumers. For decades now the evolving nutrition information, has pointed to plant-based nutrition as the healthier choice. With the incredibly solid research foundation of the China Study, we are really entering a new era, and the work of PCRM increasingly steers us in that same direction. Most importantly, they are winning in court. But, there's no reason for any of us to wait for that drama to play itself out - we can all begin to make those changes.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some stats, public and personal to tell the story of the whole foods plant-based diet

Here are some data points to put the nutrition revolution in perspective.

 Which one is the crisis?

 My facts.
  • in ca 1985 a doctor wanted to prescribe a medicine (for allergies) that I was supposed to take for the rest of my life, After finding out what it did, I refused to take it, and solved the problem instead with nutrition and supplements instead.
  • in ca 2010 another doctor did the same thing with blood pressure medication, and initially I took it, thinking I was going to improve my diet enough, but that did not work for me until I decided in May 2015 to go totally on whole foods plant-based nutrition, and get rid of ALL animal protein. Nine months later I had a physical, and my weight came down 25 lbs (to what I was at age 22), and my cholesterol came down 20 points (to 150). My BP was in normal range once again, so the doctor did not prescribe any further meds. I celebrated my 65th birthday being free of any medications, and/or their side-effects.
Meanwhile here is what happened in the big picture:
  • In 1996 Howard "Mad Cowboy" Lyman was on Oprah, and she swore off beef, and they prevailed in a lawsuit brought by the National Cattleman's Beef Association.
  • In 2005 the China Study was originally published delivering extensive scientific backup for whole foods plant-based nutrition. It proved that high protein diets turn cancer on, and low protein diets turn it off. More specifically, animal protein increased cholesterol, plant-based protein lowers cholesterol.
  • In 2007 Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn published the book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease," also recommending whole foods plant-based nutrition, with a special emphasis on oil-free plant-based food.
  • On February 28, 2017 Dr. Neal Barnard published "The Cheese Trap," which documents the role of cheese in the obesity crisis, and again recommends a no-oil, whole foods, plant-based diet.
  • As of February 22, the German government banned meat from all official functions.
  • Recently PCRM won a lawsuit against the dairy industry, which limits the deceptive claims they can make about how healthy milk is for you, specifically that they cannot claim it will help you lose weight. PCRM has established that milk is definitely not part of a healthy diet.
  • On April 12th PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) along with parents and teachers filed suit against LA County to take cured meats out of school lunches, because they are carcinogenic.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jackfruit again, seeds and all

The other day we got ourselves another Jackfruit at Premium Halal Meat & Fish, where we buy only fruits and vegetables despite the name...

Jackfruit, cut open.

Thanks to some recent inspiration about sharpening knives on YouTube channel Burrfection, my kitchen knives are now sharper than they have been in 20 years, and that's exactly what I needed to surgically dismantle this jackfruit, and cleanly take out the pods and get rid of the rest, except... save the seeds!

I have grown to absolutely love the taste of jackfruit, even if it is a bit of work to take it apart in an orderly fashion - it is worth the effort in spades. The nutritional value of the fruit is exceptional, see here.

There are some amazing things being done with jackfruit, such as jackfruit carnitas, and jackfruit barbcue, see here:
and there is more where that came from. Some companies are already producing packaged BBQ jackfruit and jackfruit carnitas, which is great for saldads, sandwiches and wraps.

Do not forget the seeds. I don't like slicing the jackfruit in half as is often done, exactly because the seeds will be halved as well. So, we like to buy a whole jackfruit and harvest the seeds whole. Once you understand the jackfruit, you can start with an incision at the ends, and surgically dissect it, harvesting all the pods whole and taking out the seeds whole as well. You need to take the hard white skin off the seeds, which again requires a sharp paring knife.

Stew with Jackfruit seeds

Last night I made a simple stew, first roasting some onions, garlic, and diced peppers (including some hot peppers) in a stainless steel pot, then I added 2 cups of vegetable bouillion, and cooked the jackfruit seeds in that for 15 minutes, then I added a purple sweet potato, peeled and sliced in half inch slices, and I let it go for another 15 minutes, after adding in some turmeric. Separately, I steamed some Brussels sprouts, and put some nutmeg on that, et voilà: a simple healthy meal. Finger-licking good actually. Continuing the tradition: everything tastes better if you stop cooking with oil, and your heart will thank you!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dunya Harvest Steel-cut Oats at Chang-Li: Breakfast of champions

Dunya Harvest is a beautiful collection of organic staples that is avalaible at Chang-Li Supermarket. One of my favorites is their Steel-cut Organic Oats.

Dunya Harvest, Steel-cut Organic Oats
The best way to prepare them is always with your automatic rice cooker, in my case a Zojirushi NP-GBC05. There's nothing like just setting the timer at night for 6:30 and waking up to the smell of the oatmeal cooking.

Shredded Granny Smith, raisins, craisins, and some fresh ground Ceylon cinnamon

Once it's done, all I do is shred a Granny Smith apple with my trusty Börner V-Slicer mandolin, and add in some raisins, some craisins, and optionally other dried fruit (apricots work fine too), and some ground cinnamon. I add these dried fruits during the "keep warm" cycle and just wait a few minutes, and voilà you're ready to go. You can top the whole thing with some fresh fruit, and you have a breakfast you can't beat.

Adding the dried fruit in the "keep warm" cycle

As to the cinnamon, the usual "supermarket" variety, is actually chinese cinnamon (Cassia Cinnamon), which has a more full-bodied flavor. For the gourmets out there, the alternatives are Ceylon (Sri-Lanka) cinnamon, which is very aromatic and milder and Saigon cinnamon, which is a little spicier. Much has been made of the fact that Chinese cinnamon contains more coumarin, but it would appear that the amount is so small that the concern is not warranted, as this excellent article points out.

Topped off with persimmon

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Yet Another No-Oil Vegan Dinner at Packsun

My hunch that Bangladeshi cuisine is particularly suitable to be adapted to the no-oil vegan lifestyle, is proving to be amply true. And of course, I was lucky enough to get to know Khokon, the owner of Packsun Halal Chicken, where we had our second no-oil vegan dinner yesterday, Tuesday April 4th, 2017. Conveniently, he also owns Neerob Bazaar on Starling Avenue, and he always cooks for the restaurant with ingredients from his store. And it's all home style food, people come from far and wide, and slowly but surely his clientele is expanding beyond the Bangladeshi people.

Our Dinner Last Night

Last night, we had a beautiful salad of chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, with purple onion, cilantro, salt and lemon juice. There was also a dish of daikon radish cooked with some water, turmeric, garlic and cilantro. There was another excellent dish of yellow lentils, and a dish of greens (poi greens) as well. Rice and bread were the foundation.

Khokon is taking ownership of this initiative to such a degree that he is not letting his regular chef come close to the food - he prepares it himself, and he is all excited about the fact that without oil everything tastes better. Everyone at the table was complimentary of the food, and only one person of eight even wondered why there was no meat in it, and when he got the explanation he promptly became very interested in the whole idea. One of the diners will probably go to the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore.

On to Forks Over Knives on April 25th

On April 25th, NYPL Parkchester will be showing Forks Over Knives from 5-7, and at 8 PM there will be a free oil-free vegan dinner sampling menu at Packsun. You do need to make a reservation.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Neerob Tradition at Packsun Restaurant, some recipes

Neerob is Mohammed "Khokon" Rahman's favorite symbol, both for his store on Starling Avenue, and for his restaurant, called Packsun on Westchester avenue, where the Neerob label is also prominently displayed.

Last week Packsun was extensively written up in the New York Times. Clearly, Khokon and his team produce quality food for a moderate price in our neighborhood.

I am deeply honored to be working with Khokon on the no-oil vegan project. For now, the plan is to launch with a taste testers dinner on Tuesday 4/4 at 9PM. After that on 4/25, there will be a dinner following the showing of Forks over Knives at NY Public Library at Parkchester, from 5 - 7 PM.

Here are some of the recipes we prepared last week for the first time, which I now made at home over the weekend, and with great success. Here is the list, followed by comments on the preparation.

  1. Sautéed spinach with onions, garlic and green chili peppers.
  2. Yellow lentils, tomato, onion, garlic, green chili peppers, and some turmeric, liquid aminos and pepper
  3. Water squash (this is a light green squash that is popular with the Bangladeshi community), eddo (a delicious tuber, Jamaicans call this white coco), tomato, onion, serrano peppers, garlic, turmeric, a bay leaf and liquid aminos.
Because of timing, the rice should come first. I used Lundbergh Organic Brown Basmati Rice, cooked in my Zojirushi rice cooker on the GABA (germinated) Brown Rice cycle. That takes two and a half hours, but obviously, you can make it ahead of time. I put it on at lunch with a timer for dinner time.

The next dish should be the lentils:
  • Start with softening the onions without oil or water, but just before they start to brown too fast, add in the crushed and chopped garlic, a half dozen of small green chilis. Finally add a tomato, diced.
  • Now, add a half a cup of vegetable bouillon (or can be water from steaming vegetables), then add the lentils and more boullion till the lentils are adequately covered, and add turmeric, liquid aminos and pepper to taste.
  • This needs about 35-45 mins until the lentils are done.
 Then comes the squash dish
  •  Peel the water squash and eddo, peel and slice or chop the onion.
  •  Start with the onion, again, dry without oil or water, and when the onions start getting soft, add the crushed/chopped garlic, and the sliced peppers, and now add first the eddo in 1/2" slices, and next chunks of water squash (I quartered it lengthwise and then cut it in 1/4" slices). Add the diced tomato, and again, add some vegetable bouillon before anything starts getting burned, in small amounts.
  • Add enough bouillon to allow this to simmer and cook nearly dry while you prepare the spinach.
The spinach comes last, because it cooks the quickest:
  • Stir-fry the onions first, adding the garlic and serrano peppers (halved length-wise), allow to simmer long enough so it starts getting soft.
  • When the stir-fry gets soft, add the spinach, after a thorough washing and chopped to manageable size. 
In this dish there should be no need for any water, as the spinach contains a lot of water and creates a delicious flavor.

The above should take you no more than 45 mins to one hour to prepare. It is a festive dinner, with delicious aroma. Obviously, you can vary the level of "heat," depending on the number of pepper, and salt & pepper can be used to taste.

The plan is to continue replicating these recipes at home every time, before writing them up here. All ingredients are available at Neerob Bazaar, 2085 Starling Avenue.

Happy and healthy cooking to all.