"Vegan" is more a sociological term, designating people who don't eat (or use) animal products, and that could be for environmental, ethical, animal welfare or health reasons. But, "no meat"is not nutrition. Potato chips and coke might be vegan, it is not nutritious. The Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, without added Sugar, Oil or Salt (SOS), is the nutritionally sound basis for a healthy vegan lifestyle. The focus is on #WFPB without SOS, based on the work of T. Colin Campbell in The China Study.
We had a small group and we kept it simple. As it is we spent about $12 per person but we still made way to much food, and people ended up taking it home.
We made a beet salad, with just some boiled beets, cut in strips on the mandolin and with some chopped onions and the juice of a lemon and a lime. Plus we added in some chia seeds.
It's one of those things that gets better if it sits in the fridge for a bit.
You can also simply add it into a regular salad.
Hokkaido Pumpkin Soup
1 average sized organic Hokkaido Pumpkin, or Kabocha Squash cut into chunks (deseed but don't peel) 3-5 onions chopped 3-10 cloves of garlic, chopped 1-2 inch piece of ginger sliced, or ginger powedr 2-3 pieces of turmeric sliced, or turmeric powder a pint of vegetable stock 1-2 jalapenos, seeded optional 2-3 small green chilies, sliced 1 tbsp panch puran 2 table spoons of whole wheat flour
caramelize the onions adding garlic, chilies and jalapeno, and
panchpuran and gradually add the whole wheat flour and liquify with some
gradually add all of the soup stock, and let it come to the boil
add the pumpkin and let it boil about 20 mins.
Allow the soup to cool down a little then pour into a blender and
blend at high speed till smooth and creamy, or use an immersion blender
to achieve the same result.
3 cups vegetable stock 1/3 cup soy sauce I use low sodium 1 tbsp maple syrup optional, for sweetness 3 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce * 2 tsp garlic powder 2 tsp onion powder 1 tsp parsley 3/4 tsp thyme 3/4 tsp sage 1 tsp smoked paprika 1/4 tsp pepper 5 tbsp cornstarch 1/2 cup water
1 whole cauliflower leaves and outer stalk trimmed off 4 large carrots chopped 4 medium potatoes peeled and cubed 1/2 cup vegetable stock
In a medium-sized pot, whisk together all of the gravy ingredients EXCEPT for the cornstarch & water.
Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer on medium-low heat for 5
minutes. (This will allow all the flavors to marry.) Remove from the
In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water to make a cornstarch slurry.
Once the pot is no longer simmering, slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry
into the gravy a little at a time. Going slow will ensure that no clumps
The gravy will begin to thicken as soon as the cornstarch is whisked in.
Put the pot back on the stove and return to a simmer for an additional 3
Pre-heat oven to 450F degrees.
Arrange the potatoes and carrots in a roasting dish with the cauliflower in the center. Be careful not to overcrowd the dish.
Place the cauliflower upside-down and pour 1/3 cup of the gravy into it. Give it a good shake to distribute the gravy.
Place cauliflower right-side up and brush more gravy on the top to cover it (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
Add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock to the bottom of the dish (this will help steam the veggies.)
Pour about a 1/3 cup of gravy over top of the potatoes and carrots.
Cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and bake for 40
minutes, brushing the cauliflower with more gravy halfway through.
Uncover the cauliflower roast and brush more gravy on. Bake for another
30 minutes (uncovered), brushing with more gravy halfway again.
Remove from the oven and serve while hot.
*Many brands of Worcestershire sauce contain anchovies. Vegan
Worcestershire sauce does exist (Annie's brand and Kroger brand are
vegan for sure), but if you can't find it, you can omit it and
substitute apple cider vinegar for a little zing.
If you dig onions, you can slice up an onion and add it right in with
the carrots and potatoes. Mushrooms would be great, too! Making sure
your pan is not too crowded will help everything cook through properly.
If you find the potatoes are drying out, add a little more veggie stock
to the pan.
Here is a smiling Dr. Diego Ponieman, CMO of SOMOS Community Care at the presentation following the completion of the very first Oasis Jumpstart program at a SOMOS clinic - and the first one in NYC.
The event was glorious. The food was out of this world, and the recipes were shared at the end, so we can all learn from each other.
The Jump start at the SOMOS clinic at 135th and Broadway in Manhattan was the first one of many they have planned. The next one will start later in November at a clinic in Washington Heights.
The longer I am involved in this process, the more evident it is becoming to me that the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet literally restores health to patients just as much as it restores professional dignity to doctors. This is the reason why so many doctors are beginning to acquire the necessary skills in lifestyle medicine.
Dr. Ponieman shared a few choice results from the group, boiling down to noticeable improvements in the labs between the before and after of this 10-day program. Average weight loss 5 lbs, and the experience of participants was that "this is not a diet, this is a way of eating," i.e. you can eat what you like and when you like as long as you stay within the #WFPB nutritional paradigm. Some of the drops in cholesterol, triglicerides and BP were very impressive, but most important was that there were improvements across the board.
Dr. Ponieman, a participant and some audience members
One of the nutritionists presenting
And here's... Lianna!
The most important thing is that people clearly are learning they have power over their health and that the results of this kind of a 10-day total immersion diet change are more powerful than from drugs. In other words, food and nutrition are the most powerful tool in the physicians and the patients toolkit. In several cases complains disappeared within the 10-day period. Medication was kept constant but in some cases needed adjustment promptly after this clinic. Drops in A1C were significant and some patients expected to lower or eliminate statin drugs.
The Real Healthcare Revolution is getting under way
It was incredibly exciting to be able to learn first hand of this ringing success. There were 36 patients and 12 staff who participated with them.
On November 1st, 2018 we had a "Party with a Purpose," from Plant Pure Communities at the HQ of Visiting Nurse Service of New York, in Manhattan.
All the usual suspects were there.
Jody Kass, Nelson Campbell, Eric Adams, T. Colin Campbell, and Jim Courage
All of the team leaders from NY and surroundings were there, the five boroughs, LI, Westchester plus people from all over the country and all over the world even. I met two people from my native Holland, which was kind of fun!
This coming weekend SOMOS Community Care has the kickoff of their first Jumpstart in East Harlem - and it is already over subscribed. They have others in the planning for northern Manhattan, for Brooklyn and the Bronx. They are an organization of 2,000 doctors, servicing 700,000 medicaid patients and they are poised to totally reform medicaid around the city into a system that pays for results, not treatment, meaning that Lifestyle Medicine and the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet is the name of the game from now on. It is happening right here, right now.
The model for the Jumpstart program was the movie Plant Pure Nation, and the sequel will be the Healing America movie, based on the Healing America Together tour, and here is one success story that will be part of that movie.
OK, today was a collaborative event with Community Board #9 and ShopRite, hosted by Ms. Angela Vita, retail dietitian at ShopRite at Bruckner Commons, and held in the upstairs community room at the ShopRite.
Obviously, the nutritional theory is important, but food shopping, food preparation and cooking is where the rubber meets the road, and it is truly a privilege to have this new ShopRite in our community with the services of a "retail dietitian." Already we have a budding, informal network which includes the plant-based doctors in the area.
The purpose today was just a food "demo," just to give people some idea of what can be done.
ShopRite offers a remarkably rich palette of foods and ingredients that are great for the plant-based cuisine and Angela has developed a shopping guide on a flyer that is available at the reception.
Angela Vita did the cooking
The Esselstyns call this 3/2/1 dressing, but I call it 1/2/3 dressing for practical reasons which I explain below.
For household use, you would commonly use a tablespoon as a measure, but depending on how many people you cook for, it could be 1/4 cup or whatever.
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
optional: make it thinner with lemon/lime juice
optional: you can add any spices you like, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, cilantro, chilis, micro-planed ginger or turmeric, on and on.
The bottom line is, starting from this basic mix, you can improvise a thousand different dressings, and it keeps fairly well to, for the vinegar is a good preservative, so you can make it for a few days in a row and keep it in your fridge.
Angela Vita at Work at ShopRite Bruckner
Sweet Potato Noodles
Personal note: Just this week I was given a package of sweet potato noodles, and was deliberating what I was going to make with them. Today's recipe is certainly one delicious possibility. Today we used fresh noodles from the store.
1 lb raw sweet potato noodles
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and cut-up
1/2 cup broccoly florets
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 tsp. date sugar
1/4 cup cut-up green onions in 1/8" slices
1 cup of water
1 tsp sesame seeds
Whisk the Liquid Aminos with the date sugar in a cup and set it aside. Heat the pan on medium and add the noodles, broccoli and one cup of water. Cover and let steam for 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and liquid amino mixture. Stir together for 3-5 minutes. Add green onions and sesame seeds before serving.
Well enjoy we did!
This was the whole room, we had about 15 people.
Some of the ingredients merit comments.
Braggs Liquid Aminos has a lot less salt than even low sodium soy sauce, so it is a great solution, if you are trying to use less salt, which is generally the principle of the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet.
Date sugar is a good sweetener, because it is purely pulverized whole dates, so the sugar is still complete with the fibers from the fruit. The same would not apply to date syrup or even to maple syrup. All in all date sugar, or even cut-up whole dates is a great solution for a sweetener, which is sometimes needed, such as in tomato sauces, to cut the acidity.
As mentioned above, the 1/2/3 dressing can be the basis of a thousand different dressings. I refer to it as 1/2/3 because the balsamic comes last that way and can be used to clean the last bit of mustard from your spoon. I personally extend it usually with the juice of a lemon and a lime, and I could use anything for spices, cut-up parsley, garlic, cut-up red onions, cut-up tomatoes and/or cut-up sundried tomatoes, etc. The sky is the limit.
It was that time again, and we managed to make a lovely dinner, complete with soup and salad and a simple main dish of paella. In all, we spent $11.97 per person.
1 head of green lettuce
1 bunch of water cress
1 purple onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 bunch of parsley
6 shopped-up sun-dried tomatos
1/2/3 dressing: 1 measure of maple syrup, 2 measures of Dijon Mustard, 3 measures of balsamic vinegar. We forgot to put in a few spoonfuls of chia seeds, and milled flax seeds, but ideally you'd want to do that.
Clearly, everyone enjoyed the salad.
The Soup: Locro de Lentejas
1 lb whole lentils, optional other beans or you can make it thicker with 2 lb of beans. 1
lb young potatoes (the kind with the thin skin, either yukon gold or
redskin), quartered or smaller, depending on the size and personal
preference 1 small/medium green or savoy cabbage, quartered, stem removed and sliced in thin strips 1 white onion cut up in small pieces, 2-3 large red onions, sliced thin 1-2 yellow onions cut up 4 green chilis, sliced thin, with seeds 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced thin (without seeds) 6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped fine. 2 packs of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 1 tsp panch puran 1 teaspoon of savory 1 teaspoon of tarragon 1 tsp rosemary 1 tsp thyme 5 bay leaves 2 pints of low sodium vegetable stock 3 pints of water 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped 2-3 heaping tablespoons of miso paste dissolved in cold water and add at the end and use less liquid aminos Braggs Liquid Aminos, to taste.
This was our second attempt at Locro de Lentejas, and it was clearly better than the first one, using a lot more spices. The discovery of panchpuran, thanks to our Bangladeshi neighbors is a welcome addition to the repertoire. You can get it either as a mixture of the five seeds (the meaning of the word Panch Puran is five spices), or as a powder. We used the powder today, but it tremendously enhances the flavor of the onions. The five spices are fenugreek seed, nigella seed, mustard seed, fennel seed, cumin seed.
Wonderful instruction, though you can buy it pre-mixed, and evidently, we do not use any oil, but in our case it is a great ingredient that you can best add when you have browned the onions and are starting to add some broth or water to it. That's also when we added the other spices, and then the bay leaves last when you are adding in the rest of the vegetable broth.
I've also made this same soup with a mixture of 1lb of lentils and 1lb of 16 bean soup mix. Another option is to add a half a cup of barley.
fry the onions with the panch puran, I do it in two steps, 5 mins at 425F without stirring, and then 5 mins at 425F stirring it a little bit, then add chilis and jalapenos, and other spices and the mushrooms and cook for another 5 mins at 425F, while adding a splash of veggie broth as needed, so it does not
stick to the pan.
Add garlic, the vegetable stock and the herbs, the lentils, let cook for 15 minutes.
potatoes. Let cook for another 10-15
Add the cabbage and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Add the chopped cilantro.
At the end, add some miso, dissolved in water.
Some people would peel the potatoes, but if you buy thin-skinned
potatoes, you can easily cook them in the skin, even cut-up: you lose
less nutrition that way.
Evidently, you can vary the herbs and spices to taste.
A word of caution: This turned out to be one of these recipes with some ingredients that showed up in the cooking instructions out of thin air - they were not listed in the ingredient list.
Somehow we made it all work, and we had a very nice meal with the whole crew. This is clearly a dish that lends itself to any number of variations. But the whole idea of one of these one-dish meals is always attractive.
The other day (10/9/18) we had a Dinner for Doctors at Neerob Restaurant with a mixed group of doctors, medical organizations, other medical professionals and general audience.
Neerob put on one spectacular plant-based dinner with a choice of four different salads, followed by a main dish of rice and two vegetable dishes and a sauce based on lentils, which is always delicious. In other words, it was a world-class plant-based dinner and a marvellous display of the flexibility and experience of Neerob Restaurant.
Chef (dark blue shirt) and Khokon, the owner (light blue shirt)
There was a lot of information distributed, on the American College of Lifestyle Physicians, which provides a way for doctors to get certified in this new specialty which revolves around prevention above all and lifestyle choices as the means, including diet, exercise, rest, relaxation, and so on.
I provided some information on Plant Pure Communities, the not for profit support group for the whole foods, plant-based diet of which I am the Group Leader for the Bronx. Our Facebook group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PPCDaBronxPod/
We also provided some brief information on the 2nd Annual Montefiore Preventive Cardiology Conference, which took place the Saturday before, 10/6. After that, we proceeded with the speakers, starting with the keynote speaker for the evening, Dr. Sharon Wasserstrom, who is the first ACLM certified doctor in the Bronx, and she practices at the Montefiore clinic at 2300 Westchester Avenue... but she is going to move to Florida at the end of the year.
Dr. Sharon Wasserstrom
Dr. Wasserstrom gave a very insightful short introduction about the whole foods plant-based diet and its role in medicine, starting from the point of view that medicine became the victime of its own success based on the tremendous progress in modern times in the treatment of infectious disease, but then tried to deal with chronic illness in the same vein. However, most of the chronic diseases we are struggling with, high bloodpressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, on and on are primarily the result of diet, and diet should be the first means of addressing them and this is where the whole foods, plant-based diet comes in as the optimal human nutrition.
Dr. Wasserstrom presented three case histories for a Bangladeshi, a black person and a white patient, including the ups and downs, depending on how well the patients followed the diet. The results are very quick, so with a little reinforcement, people are usually motivated to continue. In most cases, it works better than medication and it has no side effects, and in the short term a physician can always assist with medication, although the levels of prescriptions may have to be adjusted quickly.
Moh. Islam on the right
Then we had some testimonials, first from Moh. Islam, a Bangladeshi nurse from Elmhurst Hospital who had a bad heart problem (95% blockage of one coronary artery), at age 36 and had a stent put in, but after trying several cardiologists he ended up working with Dr. Robert Ostfeld at the Montefiore Cardiac Wellness Program. His words were from the heart, and he explained how the genetic makeup of Southeast Asians pre-disposes them to heart disease, because their arteries are typically narrower than Westerners, so they block up easier. Another Bangladeshi person in the room chimed in that he had a heart attack at age 36. Mr. Islam ended with a powerful appeal to his Bangladeshi brothers to take care of business, starting with a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet.
After Mr. Islam, Father David Powers of St. Helena's shared some of his experience with a fair dose of self-deprecating humor. In a different way his story is also impressive, having lost about 100 lbs since he started on the diet and feeling better.
Lastly, Angela Vita, the retail dietitian from the ShopRite at Bruckner Commons gave us a run down on shopping for a whole foods, plant-based diet at ShopRite, complete with a flyer that provides a directory to the store. Also, she announced an upcoming cooking demonstration at the store, in collaboration of CB#9 with Plant Pure Communities on 10/27 at noon.
As a general announcement, we also shared that on 10/20 we have a new Plant-Based cooking class at St. Helena's.
It was clear that sparks of inspiration were flying, and we are planning a new "dinner for doctors" to follow-up on this one in the spring, hopefully coinciding with Neerob obtaining a certification of (part of) their menu from Plant Pure Communities and from Plantricious as well.
It was a memorable event and I won't even attempt to produce a full account here by touching on some of the highlights.
I think this was a historical conference, all the greats from the world of the Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition were there, creating a very comprehensive view of the field in a single day, with very up to date information.
Robert Ostfeld, MD, MSc, FACC
Neal D. Barnard, MD
Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD
Kim A. Williams, MD, MACC, FAHA, MASNC, FESC
W. H. Wilson Tang, MD, FACC, FAHA, FHFSA
Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, FACS, FACC, FALM
T. Colin Campbell, PhD.
Michelle McMacken, MD
Joel Kahn, MD, FACC
Lauren Graf, MS, RD, CDE
Plus some new players, young doctors just starting and interns, from whom we are sure to hear more in the future. One of them is in the process of launching a new plant-based clinic at Yale. They presented some explosive reports.
T. Colin Campbell for Nobel Prize
What made this conference unique was the presence of T. Colin Campbell, for one way or another, and ex-post facto in some cases, the nutritional science behind the Whole Foods, Plant-Based (#WFPB) paradigm is the anchor for the only realistic healthcare reform in this country and in the world.
T. Colin Campbell
I can only say this: I feel so very grateful to have completed the Plant-based certificate at the institute for nutrition studies, and this was my first opportunity to meet Dr. Campbell in person. All I could do was thank him from the bottom of my heart, since I know that without the nutritional science to back it up, all of these plant-based doctors would just be fighting their lonely battles. Campbell's work is the connective tissue from that point of view. This is the reason that one doctor created a petition to nominate Dr. Campbell for a Nobel Prize. Please sign the petition.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: "Food is crack."
Here in the Bronx, we are blessed with a few politicians who have their own personal stories to tell about the significance of #WFPB nutrition, such as senator Luis Sepulveda and Council man Fernando Cabrera. However, even in the Bronx' #not62 campaign, #WFPB has not played much of a role yet. In Brooklyn it is different, for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is truly a man on a mission and being very effective at it.
Eric's own story is remarkable, having been predictably (as he now recognizes), but 'unexpectedly' (denial is NOT a rive in Egypt!) diagnosed with diabetes, and told he would have to be on insulin and several medications, instead, he googled "reversing diabetes," and made an appointment do see Dr. Esselstyn in Cleveland and on the plane he read Dr. Greger's book How not to die. Having been told he might lose his eyesight altogether, he instead completely recovered it in three weeks without medications, and in three months he was no longer a diabetic. Earlier this year, his 80-year old mother decided that she wanted some of what Eric had, and in a few months she was off of insulin and medications.
Eric is in the unique position to really do something about this new found wisdom and he has not skipped a beat. His events at Borough Hall are not to be missed.
In an impassioned speech, Eric Adams called our industrialized food out because of what it does, adulterated as it is to create the cravings that brings customers back again and again, he stated what is exactly the point: "Food is crack." This is even more painfully true in the African American community where "soul food," made a virtue out of necessity, and is the cause why "Southern food," with it's reliance on meat, grease and sugar and other refined carbs is an extremely unhealthy diet.
Finally, he acknowledged Dr. Michelle McMacken, who will be heading up the new plant-based program at Bellevue Hospital.
Dr. Kim Williams: Reducing risk of heart disease by 50% for blacks
Dr. Kim Williams in audience, Dr. Neal Barnard on stage
When Dr. Kim Williams spoke later in the day, he raised the same issue by pointing out that changing from a "Southern diet" (and as Dr. Williams pointed out this is code for a black diet), to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet reduces risk of heart disease by 50%. The romance with soul food, which is understandable, because it did make a virtue out of necessity and symbolized the resilience of black culture under atrocious conditions has become the new slavery. Thus the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet symbolizes a new freedom. The beauty is that this time around, we have a combination of clinical experience from all the doctors in this field, backed by the nutritional science of Dr. T. Colin Campbell. The growing recognition of this new lifestyle is decisively the most hopeful thing that is happening in the healthcare field, in America and world-wide. Here is an interview with Dr. Williams:
At the end, Dr. Williams was also on the panel, and an important question came up from a Bangladeshi man, who is a nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, but came to the Bronx to become a patient of Dr. Robert Ostfeld, because he could not find a plant-based cardiologist at the time when he had his first heart-attack at age 36. In Dr. Williams' answer we learned that the American College of Cardiology recently visited Bangladesh, where the average age of heart attack patients is 43, apparently in part because genetically blood vessels are narrower in that population than is typically the case with Westerners, so that blockages develop earlier. In short, the Bangladeshi population should be extremely interested in the opportunity to drastically improve their quality of life and life-expectancy by switching to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet. It is also well known that diabetes is explosive in the South East Asian population, with white rice, animal protein and cooking oil being a leading causes. In the Western world in particular, food is the leading cause of death, but some populations are just genetically more prone to this form of suffering. Fortunately, it is reversible and the Southeast Asian cuisine offers a very good starting point for brown rice, lentils and chick peas as well as many of the traditional vegetables and spices can create endless variations of healthy food with very little effort.
Dr. Valentin Fuster speaks of starting early
Some of the Bangladeshi doctors I've gotten to know, were familiar with Dr. Valentin Fuster from the cardiology textbook he wrote, which they apparently used in medical school in Bangladesh. Dr. Fuster presented a very information-laden speech on the need to start early, in particular by teaching children. He has been a medical adviser to Sesame Street to do exactly that.
Treating the disease at the end state is expensive, not to mention unaffordable, and more than "prevention," starting with adults with bad habits already formed, he argues for starting with children. It was very compelling.
Dr. Ostfeld, common sense in underserved communities
With his usual, delightful and very gentle sense of humor, Dr. Ostfeld presented some of his experiences and solutions in serving a very under-served community in the Bronx and making affordable solutions work, including his practice of funneling all of his patients with their significant others into a half-day workshop on Whole Foods, Plant-Based cooking.
He mentioned some of the many sources which are available for inspiration to live a plant-based lifestyle on a budget, including some links on Forks over Knives which discuss plant-based living on a budget:
(In general you can find more by searching for "budget" on Forks over Knives.)
Particularly important is his clinical experience of how he gets patients motivated to comply, but the all important first step is to simply demonstrate that the improvements to be had from the plant-based diet out perform any drugs, such as statins.
Dr. Ostfeld's support system
He builds it up from a 30-minute first visit, which is largely fact finding and an initial plan, to a second follow-up visit and an invitation to his plant-based workshop. He is truly a leader in this emerging field. The PBNSG.org website he mentioned is another important resource.
Through the looking glass with Dr. Wilson Tang
In a fascinating presentation, Dr. Wilson Tang took us into the latest finds in the rapidly advancing field of understanding the gut biota with the primary bad boy being TMAO. Specifically, the fact that TMAO is a flagrant demonstration of oxidative stress in the body and comes from animal nutrition is interesting, and should point people quickly to diet as a cause for heart disease. Planteaters simply do not have the problem of this major villain lurking in their gut. See here some info from the Cleveland Clinic.
This type of information has us looking at causation, and at the same time puts us on a track to fixing it, for maybe, just maybe, if we ate something different, the outcome could be different... what would that be? Oh wait... Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition of course.
To hell and back with Essy, or... Dr. Esselstyn for you
Actually the discussion with Dr. Wilson Tang showed us the road to hell, and Dr. Esselstyn first showed us what heart disease looks like up close and what healing looks like. He took us through his experiences, including all the supporting evidence for #WFPB in general, and with particular attention to how eating a hand full of green leafy vegetables with balsamic vinegar, paves the way back, because it creates the nitric oxide which heals the endothelium and keeps our arteries limber. The deeper point is, as always, that 'vegans´ only know what you don't eat, and #WFPB is about knowing what you should eat and why. Once you have a firm understanding of that, it should be a lot easier to comply. Dr. Esselstyn's discussion of how a fatty meal prevents the normal expansion of the arteries, which is supposed to occur with strenuous effort, for four to six hours after that meal... by which time we eat again, is priceless and should also be powerful motivation for beginners. Understanding why you should do ABC or D, is the most important thing to get people to do it.
Notes on Keto-diets
The ketogenic diet is sort of an urban myth that refuses to die. There's always a new huckster promoting it. Throughout the day it came up both directly and indirectly. The information on TMAO in the gut of meat eaters alone should make it clear why this type of a diet comes with increased risk and mortality in the long run. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have all been associated with meat consumption. In short, there is nothing scientific about it. Dr. Joel Kahn had a recent article on How to Evaluate Nutrition Science (And Why Cranky Old Men on Twitter are Not the Source) which is yet another refutation of this particular craze.
This conference took place at a time when more and more people realize that we cannot continue with a healthcare system that consumes 20% of our Gross National Product and two times what the next most expensive country pays, but produces health outcomes that are somewhere in the range of 25th to 50th in the world, depending on which analysis you follow. Since 37 of the top 40 leading causes of death, mostly the typical, chronic diseases of affluence that are thought to be incurable, respond well to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet and many are preventable or even reversible with such a diet, it is becoming increasingly imperative we make the change, even if it takes a generation. We cannot afford not to.
The question period at the end was exhaustive - every last question was answered. Again, I left out a lot of detail here, in order to present sort of a bird's eye view of this whole affair, which we are blessed to have in the Bronx, if we ever hope to get serious about #not62.
In these posts, I am re-creating our menu from my last cooking class. Normally, I prepare the menu first, before I teach it, but this time the teacher was the owner and chief cook of Neerob Restaurant, Khokon.
Khokon, Owner of Neerob Bazaar and Neerob Restaurant
Khokon's philosophy is that good cooking happens if you put your heart into it, which is true enough, but it helps to know what you are doing.
The Bengali cuisine, and Southeast Asian cooking in general are a great starting point, for they still know their herbs and spices, and between rice (let it be brown, please) and chick peas and lentils, it is very easy to cook great meals, and what's more important, to create a cooking cycle, so you can cook ahead, and be ready in a flash.
Today, I am going to prepare two other dishes from our class, one with eggplant, and another with mixed veggies, which lends itself to endless variation.
As per usual, caramelized onions are the start of everything, for it is a key technique to creating taste without adding a lot of salt, so here we go once again - these quantities are for 1 dish at a time:
cut up 4-5 small to medium onions finely, or as you prefer, you can also cut it up in rings.
1-2 tablespoons of veggie broth
cut up some chili's (to taste) and/or a jalapeno pepper. For this amount, I would slice up 4-5 chilis (one per each onion), and 1-2 jalapenos.
Heat your frying pan over high heat until water bounces, and does not run - add the onions - distribute evenly. Let the onions go without stirring for a minute or so until the begin to brown at the bottom, and now start to stir them. As a glaze forms in the pan, and before they stick to the pan, add a few table spoons (1, 2, or 3), to deglaze the pan, you now are ready to add the garlic, and turmeric:
crush and cut up some 4-5 cloves of garlic
peel and slice finely some turmeric
followed by the rest of the herbs and spices. Once the onions are caramelized, turn down the heat, or transfer the onions to a different pan, at low heat. Build up your stock with the following:
add some more water or veggie broth
a few bay leaves
Braggs Liquid Aminos and pepper to taste
panchpuran powder, or if you have the whole spices, you can grind them in a mortar and pestle, or with a Magic Bullet
a bunch of cilantro, cut up fine.
You can simply cut up your eggplant and cook it in this broth, until it's done.
Note on Panchpuran
The name means five spices in Bengali. It is a mixture of five seeds:
fenugreek seed (methi),
nigella seed (kalo jira),
mustard seed (rai or shorshe),
fennel seed (mouri) and
cumin seed (jeera).
You can buy the mix of the seeds, and crush them with a mortar and pestle or powder them with a Magic Bullet. It is used for cooking vegetables, and you could add the seeds whole when you sautée the onions for any of these vegetable dishes.
For our class we used a pumpkin and a yellow squash, and some carrots, but you could use other things as well. Edo (aka taro, aka coco) is excellent also. Essentially, you learn to pick a combination that is plentiful at that moment.
The selection of spices is the same as for the eggplant dish, and we start once again with the caramelized onions:
chilis/jalapeno's to taste
turmeric (fresh or powder)
Braggs Liquid Amino's instead of salt
All preparations as before, and if you make these dishes at the same time, you can obviously make a bigger batch of caramelized onions to begin with.
When you have cut up the squashes in chunks, and slice the root vegetables thin, like 1/8" (carrots, parsnips). You can sautée it with the onions for a little bit while slowly adding more veggie broth or water.
One favorite dressing remains the 3/2/1 dressing from the Esselstyns, although it may be dubious to some because of the maple syrup. I guess you could use molasses or date sugar instead. From a practical standpoint, of keeping your measuring spoon clean, the sequence should be 1/2/3:
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (molasses, date sugar)
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard,
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar,
juice of 2 lemons or limes, or 1 lemon and 1 lime.
And, you can add in whatever spices you want. Sometimes I will chop a tomato finely and add in some chopped onion and make a batch, so it can marinate in the fridge and I have ready made dressing for 2-3 days.
Hummus provides an easy route to a creamy plant-based dressing. Here is a recipe, but there are many ways to do it, and if you're in the habit of making your own hummus anyway, you can whip this up in a flash:
1/2 cup of hummus
juice of one lemon or one or two limes, or alternatively 2 tbsp of balsamic or wine vinegar
1 tbsp of water
some liquid aminos and pepper to taste
Depending on your mood, you can again add in chopped parsley or other herbs, or chopped tomato or finely chopped onion - I prefer red onions for salads.
I will be recreating the recipes we prepared at the last class, and give some more detailed instructions.
Meanwhile, if you want to get your information from the source, you can of course ask the Bangladeshi greengrocers on Starling Ave (aka Bangla Bazaar), or, there is a series on youtube, Village Food Life, which allows you to study some of the Bangladeshi cuisine in a fairly authentic village setting. I will use one of the videos below.
While you can vary these recipes endlessly, some of the basic patterns and spices are very helpful to understand and I will break them out here, for they are the building blocks.
With lentils, you can make a quick sauce or a soup. We will make one here, but there are many kinds of lentils, so you can vary this endlessly and fine tune it to your own taste.
Here is a recipe about Malabar Spinach, or Poi Leaf, which is available year-round. It is a bit like spinach, but it has a richer taste, and soon enough you will figure out when Poi is more suitable than spinach. As it says on the site I linked here, it's like there are hints of citrus and pepper in the flavor.
At our recent cooking class, we just made boiled poi leaf, but on this occasion, I am going to make more of a stew with it, using the stems as well.
Caramelized Onions are the start
I started my cooking with a frying pan to caramelize 4 to 5 medium-size onions finely cut-up, with some finely cut chilis, and a jalapeno, plus garlic, while adding slowly about 8 oz of veggie broth and about a tablespoon of Braggs Liquid Aminos. The key is to not stir the onions at first, until the bottom begins to brown, and then, before they would char, you start stirring them, and you will gradually see a glaze form in the pan. You can then use water, or veggie broth, or vinegar to deglaze the pan, so that instead of sticking to the pan, the onions are nice and moist.
Note, the article I linked here, suggests caramelizing in a hot frying pan, which is the best. It will take 5 minutes or less. Here is an article that describes a slow method, which also works, but is inefficient because it costs too much time. If you do it over high heat, you just need to watch it closely. If you go the medium temperature method, it will take 25-30 minutes.
For about 1.5 lbs of poi leaf, I used about half the onions and added a piece of turmeric, cut-up in thin slices. I cut up the stems in 1/4" pieces, and cooked them with the onions, adding a little more water. Once the stems were soft I threw the leaves on top and let them wilt over a low flame, about 15 minutes. Then I mixed the whole thing together. It was delicious.
I used a 3 lb Deshi squash (water squash) and 1 lb of split red lentils.
Starting with the caramelized onions, I added some turmeric, and a few bay leaves and a bunch of cilantro cut up fine and the squash cut-up to about 1/4" thick 1/8th wedges. Then I added about 1 lb of lentils and water to cover and about a table spoon of liquid aminos (in lieu of salt) and that cooked for about 30 mins. With a wooden spoon I could practically pulverized the squash, and make a smooth sauce out of the whole thing, while removing the bay leaf.
With that, I had enough sauce left over to freeze two quart bags for another day, and that still left me enough for about two more days, which I could keep in the fridge. You learn to cook in batches.
Because corn is in season, we started out with a corn appetizer:
Corn in the husk, soaked in water for a few minutes and then roasted in the oven on a baking sheet for 45 minutes at 450F. If you do this with good, fresh corn in the husk, you will taste corn so sweet, you will never have corn any other way again. No need for the traditional butter and salt, it is yummy as is.
A Bengali Style #WFPB Dinner
We had cooked the Brown Basmati rice ahead of time (SWAD brand, in 10lb bags at Neerob Bazaar), opposite Neerob Restaurant on Starling Avenue.
We prepared four dishes under the guidance of Khokon, and with a fair amount of improvization, because he had to run back to the restaurant once or twice.
We cut the cucumber in small strips with a mandolin. We cut up a red onion and some peppers, and just used some lime juice and spices for a dressing. Obviously, you can vary the spices, dill goes particularly well with cucumber. The Bengali style is to add those mean little green chilis in the salad, whole, but that is not my thing, so if I use them, I will slice them up. For the occasion we made two salads, one with chilis and one without.
Green Chilis - handle with care!
Made with split red lentils, onions, garlic, herbs and spices and some water squash.
Herbs and spices included cilantro, some bay leaves, chilis, turmeric, panch puran (mixture of mustard, cumin, fennel, kalonji (black fennel), cardamom and you can use some liquid aminos to taste. You can vary the taste endlessly, with other spices, such as curry.
We used a water squash, and made a broth with the lentils and cooked them till they are soft - they practically dissolve.
The proper way of setting it up is to stir-fry the onions first, on high heat, stirring frequently until they begin to caramelize and then add some tablespoons of water to liquify it and prevent burning, then turn down the heat and add the garlic, chilis, and stir-fry it a few minutes longer and then add the cut-up squash, and enough water to make a broth that will cook the lentils, and you can add the rest of the herbs and spices to taste.
Caramelizing onions without oil
Caramelized onions are the universal foundation for cooking vegetable dishes and soups. Here are some instructions on how to caramelize onions without oil. Here it is from famous vegan chef AJ... notice you don't need a lot of liquid, but you can use either water, or veggie broth, or water with a bit of Bragg's liquid aminos. I personally make my own veggie broth once a month or so, and freeze it into ice cubes, and then I use one or two cubes of veggie broth in your onions. You can also finish them off with balsamic.
By the way, if you're afraid of knives, you can use the Vidalia Chop Wizard, like Chef AJ demonstrates, but I don't have space in my kitchen for all these gadgets, and I like working with knives. So here is some advice on chopping onions.
OK, back to the cooking, the best way is to put the herbs and spices in by adding a little water or broth at the end of preparing the onions/garlic and chilis, so they are soft. Then, you add the cubes of water squash, and more water to cover it, with the lentils. The lentils will completely fall apart as they cook, so you will have a saucy substance that could also be a soup, or you can serve it over your rice.
We also made some sautéed squash again, starting out with sautéed onions and adding garlic, some peppers, turmeric, and other spices to build up a broth, and we used a pumpkin and some yellow squash.
Same idea, with eggplant.
Boiled Poi Leaf (Malabar Spinach)
We used just the leaves, not the stems, and you can either boil them or steam them. On this occasion, boiling is all we did. Poi leaf is an interesting variation on spinace, it is a very different taste, but it is evidently a green leafy vegetable, and very healthy for that reason. Chewing leafy greens allows the formation of nitric oxide which keeps your endothelium healthy, hence you want to eat some form of leafy greens at every meal, ideally 4-6 "fist-sized" portions per day.
Bengali herbs and spices
Turmeric, you can use either fresh or powder, we used powder, but here it is both fresh and in powder form:
Fresh Turmeric at Al Aqsa
Powdered Turmeric at Neerob Bazaar
Panchpuran, you can buy the spices whole in a bag, or you can get it in powder form.
Our neighborhood is an absolute Mecca for herbs and spices, both at the Bengali vendors on Bangla Bazaar (Starling Avenue), and at Chang-Li Supermarket. The invitation is to go ahead and experiment away.
This meal was one powerful demonstration of the options you have in using a variety of vegetables with herbs and spices, to make a meal fit for a king. Where in spanish cooking you would use mostly rice and beans, in the South East Asian cuisine you use more likely lentils or chick peas, and you can easily put together
Periodically, I make my own veggie broth and I freeze part of it in the form of three (covered) trays of icecubes.
Oxo No Spill Ice Cube Tray
Often times, especially when sautéing it is easiest to not have to splash around with actual broth, but use a few ice cubes of soup stock.
In between, I use some store-bought soup stock and yesterday it was time to see what our new ShopRite store had to offer, which was impressive, so I decided to try all of them:
Veggie Broth and McDougall's Soups at ShopRite Bruckner
In other words, take your pick, they have four different veggie broths, College inn, Swanson, Rachel Rae, and Emeril's Organic and all reasonably priced, so pick whichever one you like best. I decided to try all four of them and compare.
Home Made Veggie Broth
Here is what I might use for home made veggie broth:
The veggies for roasting: Onions 1lb, Celery 1lb Carrots 1lb Tomatoes 1-1/2 lb Green bell pepper 2-3 turnips 1/2 lb garlic - 3+ cloves
The spices for the stock:
3+ cloves or, if you want a different flavor, use Cardamom 3+ bay leaves black pepper tsp 1 bunch parsley (or cilantro) chunk of turmeric 1 gallon of water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Clean veggies as needed, including removing the leaves and the soft core of the celery.
Place vegetables in a roasting pan and place them in the 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) oven. Stir every 15 minutes.
Cook until the vegetables have browned and the onions start to caramelize, typically more than an hour.
Put the browned vegetables, along with the celery you set aside, garlic, cloves, bay leaf, pepper corns, parsley and water into a large stock pot. Bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered until liquid is reduced by half.
Use a colander to pour the broth into a large bowl or pot. This is your veggie broth. You can use it as is, store it for later use, or freeze it in an ice tray like I suggested above.
The veggies are delicious to eat hot or cold. You can freeze them in quart bags for later use. For instance, to make a "chunky style" pasta sauce.
Making your own broth has everything to do with cooking in cycles. Once you really get into the plant-based routine, you learn to always work ahead so that in a pinch you have a meal ready, you can use your fridge and freezer to help you out. I consider 5 days the outer limit in the fridge, but most things you can freeze, and I always have a collection of quart freezer bags, so I am never caught short.
I was delighted to also find Dr. McDougall's soups. Dr. McDougall is one of the pioneers of the plant-based nutrition movement and his soups are great for those times when you don't have time for anything, or simply don't have anything in the house. The are superior products. I always like to have a few in the house.
Corn on the Cob
There's only one way to make corn on the cob. Thankfully, ShopRite now sells corn with the husks on.
The way to cook them is to soak them in water and then roast them in an oven pan or on a baking sheet for 45 minutes at 450F, and you leave it in the husks, but you cut off the stems for serving. You only remove the leaves when you are ready to eat one, so that they remain piping hot. I don't put anything on them usually, but sometimes I love to offset the sweetness with some Tabasco Sauce. The recipe goes back to Nero Wolfe, the fictional detective created by Res Stout, who says in Trio for Blunt Instruments that American housewives should themselves be boiled in water if they prepare corn that way. He suggests eating it with butter and salt, though, but we skip that part for the sake of our #WFPB diet.
1 small wedge of onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (¼ cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (3/4 cup)
1 cup packed fresh basil
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. To make Polenta Crostini, slice the
polenta on the bias into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange the polenta slices
on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until light
brown around the edges.
3. In a bowl, mix together the tomato, onion, and basil; set aside.
4. To make Chickpea Pesto, combine the
chickpeas, basil, garlic, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste into the
bowl of a food processor and pulse into a smooth, spreadable texture.
5. To serve, spread pesto over each polenta slice, then top with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.
The Polenta comes in 1 lb. (16 Oz) rolls and in our neighborhood, you can find it at the new ShopRite at Bruckner Commons.
One lesson we learnt the hard way, baking the polenta slices on wax paper can cause problems. Better to use silicone liners for your baking sheets.
Thai Zucchini Noodle Salad with Curry Lime Dressing
We made this with minor changes and it was out of this world. Personally, I like it spicy and I would make it with a whole can of the Thai Curry Paste, but the recipe provides just a hint of spice. It was not too much for anybody.
The Cashew butter came from Shoprite, and so did the Maple Syrup. Chang Li always has several flavors of Thai curry paste in stock, to take your pick.
What You'll Need
unsalted raw cashews, roughly chopped
black sesame seeds
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
nut butter (I used cashew butter, but peanut or almond will work
3 Tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 Tbsp Maple syrup
fresh ginger, grated
garlic cloves, minced
Thai curry paste
How to Make It
Spiralize the zucchini and carrot, set aside.
Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing until creamy. Taste and adjust if necessary.
the dressing over the noodles, add all ingredients, and toss to combine
Serve immediately or chill for future use, 1-2 days in the
refrigerator for optimal freshness.
I can certainly testify that this salad was even better the next day.
Kale with Sweet Potato and Balsamic Vinegar
We boiled a bunch of kale (5 mins) and two Japanese Sweet Potatoes (circa 20 mins) and served it as a side dish to provide some leafy greens and some more starch.
I simplify it a little, and of course, I leave off the butter and salt altogether.
First, you soak the corn in water and pre-heat the oven at 450F.
Roast them in an oven dish for 45 mins at 450F, and then serve by cutting off the stems just high enough so all the leaves fall loose. This way, you can easily remove the husks, and serve them piping hot one by one.
You have never had corn so good.
It does not need anything, but I like it at times with hot sauce, like Tabasco, or some such.
Interestingly, at the farmers market at Virginia Park (on Westchester Ave by Parkchester Station), they have information sheets on corn on the cob, and there, they tell you also that if you have to store it, to keep the husks on and store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to seven days. It stays much fresher that way.
In other words, the folks you see ripping off the husks in the store don't know how to handle corn.