Monday, November 25, 2019

Nixtamalized Tortillas

Many traditional cuisines have great ideas. Anyone who has been following my blogs and coming to our cooking classes has seen how I get inspiration from the Bangladeshi community in our area, both in terms of the kinds of vegetables we use and the selection of spices. But, we also have a great Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood in Taqueria Tlaxcalli on Starling Avenue, and the wife of the owner, Jesse Caballero has been interested in plant-based food for a while and from time to time they have made some food for the plant-based health fair at St. Helena's. On the menu there is not a lot of choice yet, but the cactus salad remains a favorite of mine, as long as they leave out the queso and the oil. If you are making it yourself, you can use firm tofu instead of queso.

Recently, we got talking about Nixtamalized Tortillas after there was a big article in the NY Times about Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens, which used to be a restaurant, but these days is only a Tortilla bakery, where you can go and buy fresh tortillas, and they deliver to stores and restaurants. A one pound package is $2.00.

I went there recently with a friend who lives in that area. The process of nixtamalization starts with cooking the cornflour in a briney solution and it makes the cornflour much more easily digestible and nutritious. It is an old, traditional Aztec way of preparing the corn and it creates a delicious and healthy tortilla. Worth a try. There is a lot of information on-line about the process:
Have a ball, and please let me know if you find Nixtamal Tortillas in our neighborhood.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

Here were our festive dishes... with some Thanksgiving-styled ideas.

Pumpkin- ginger 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 powder
  • 2-3 pieces of turmeric sliced, or turmeric powder
  • pint of vegetable stock
  • 1-2 jalapenos, seeded
  • 2-3 small green chilies, sliced
  • 1 tbsp panch puran
  • 2 table spoons of whole wheat flour


  1. caramelize the onions adding garlic, chili and jalapeno, and panchpuran and gradually add the whole wheat flour and liquify with some veggie stock
  2. gradually add all of the soup stock, and let it come to the boil
  3. add the pumpkin and let it boil about 20 mins.
  4. 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. 
Evidently, you can make this as spicy as you like, by varying the amounts of turmeric, ginger, chilis and peppers. You can use a small amount of Bragg's Liquid Aminos or Yondo to finish to taste, but if you are using the Panch Puran, you should not need much at all. The whole point is that by choosing aromatic spices, you can pretty much eliminate the need for added salt. With turmeric and ginger if you can use fresh, that makes all the difference in the world. If you want to give it some extra zing, you could slice some scallions on top for garnish.

Baked Cauliflower with Fennel 


  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 3 cups)
  • 1 bulb fennel, halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded (about ¾ cup)
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp pink Himalayan salt, or to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Place cauliflower florets in a large container with a lid. Drizzle with lemon juice, turmeric, mustard powder, cinnamon, and salt. Cover the container with the lid and shake it up until the cauliflower is completely coated. 
  3. Spread the cauliflower evenly on the baking sheet.
  4. Place the fennel slices on baking sheet with the cauliflower.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and add the pecans. Bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Mashed Potatoes recipe from Whole Foods Market


  • 2 pounds potato, such as Russet or Yukon Gold cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened oatmilk, soymilk, almondmilk or ricemilk
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Place potatoes in a saucepot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. 
  3. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Stir over low heat until potatoes are falling apart and slightly dry, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and mash potatoes or purée with a ricer until smooth.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned and beginning to stick to the pan, about 5 minutes. 
  6. Stir in broth and garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender and golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
  7. Add onion mixture, oatmilk, nutritional yeast, granulated onion and pepper to pot with potatoes and stir until combined. Serve immediately.

Mushroom Sauce


  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Tbs white wine (or sub veg broth)
  • 8 oz mushrooms sliced
  • 2 Tbls Soy Sauce low sodium variety, Braggs Liquid Aminos, or Yondu
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable broth low sodium variety
  • 1/2 tsp kitchen bouquet browning sauce
  • Drop or two of liquid smoke (optional)


  1. Saute onion and garlic in wine until softened
  2. Add mushrooms and soy sauce and cook until reduced
  3. In a separate pan, lightly toast flour, nutritional yeast, and herbs
  4. Add flour mixture to mushrooms and stir well
  5. Slowly add vegetable broth and stir well to combine
  6. Add browning sauce and liquid smoke and heat to desired consistency

Red Leaf & Spinach Salad

  • 1 Head Red Leaf Lettuce
  • 1 bunch fresh young spinach
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 box cherry tomatoes
  • optional: some scoops of chia seeds, or milled flaxseed.

1/2/3 dressing with lemon and lime juice


Plant-based is pretty affordable... we had 7 people or about $105 to work with, and we spent $75, meaning we contributed $30 to St. Helena's. Or, we spent about $10.50 per person, and some people took food home, plus we left an ample portion for Fr. David.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Third Annual Montefiore-Einstein Preventive Cardiology Conference.

You can easily get your own report on the conference by searching #MEPCC19 on Twitter.

  There was once again a stellar group of presenters there, starting with Dr. Ostfeld himself, who opened the conference, followed by

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. on his favorite topic: why Heart disease is a paper tiger that need not exist, and if it does can be reversed with diet. I never get tired of hearing him and I had a chance to speak with him briefly.
  • Dr. Philip Gordts, on a fascinating (relatively) new evolutionary theory on why red meat is such a trigger for heart disease in humans. Understanding the "why" is always helpful. See also this newspaper article Red meat triggers toxic immune reaction which causes cancer, scientists find. Bottom line: we always knew from the research of Dr. Colin Campbell that animal proteins tend to stimulate tumor growth and now this mechanism that Dr. Gordts discussed may be the evolutionary reason why our bodies reject meat - it contains a sugar which occurs in many mammals, but not humans, called Neu5Gc and the body rejects it and treats it as a foreign invader.
  • Dr. Walter Willett, on achieving an optimal diet.
  • Dr. Wilson Tang, on Diet, Intestinal Biota and Cardio-renal Disease Risk. This area is ever so important. The first shocker always is that it takes only three days on a #WFPB diet for your gut to stop making TMAO, which is a leading cause of CVD.
  • Dr. Andrew Freeman on why 2019 is the year of the Plant-based diets.
  • Dr. Michelle McMacken, who runs the Lifestyle Medicine program at Bellevue gave the Daniel and Michael Ostfeld Memorial Lecture
  • Dr. Ostfeld himself presenting on the practical issues in implementing the diet in your clinical practice (Answer: leverage outsourced support mechanisms as much as possible).
  • Then a series of presentations by interns who are active in the Lifestyle Medicine field, which was brilliant. Speakers were Drs. Danielle Belardo, on a Cardiac case, Sasha deJesus, again on Cardiac issues, Clark Yarber, on an outlier case of Cardiac Syndrome X, and Timothy A. Zaki on Type 2 Diabetes.
All followed by a panel discussion of questions from the public.

There's too much information that comes out of an event like this, but here are a few highlights that stood out for me:

  • Esselstyn: Focusing on the green leafies for the nitrates that convert to nitric oxide in the body, which keeps your arteries limber, combined with the high ORAC value of various fruits, particularly berries, for that is what repairs cell damage. Those are just two simple concepts that makes the whole logic of the whole foods, plant-based diet understandable.
    Complete reversals, even without statins, are typically possible in three to four weeks, but certainly within 3 months. Angina usually is much reduced within 1-2 weeks. His conclusion was that he "... felt more excited about medicine today, 20 years after retiring as a surgeon," because of the increasing uptake of these new ideas in the medical field. A comment from Dr. Joel Kahn emphasized again that stents or bypass surgery only correct for the effects of heart disease, but do not heal the disease itself - only diet will.
  • Dr. Walter Willett commented on the general fact that 5-10 years life extension is a reasonable expectation from changing to a whole foods, plant-based diet. He focused on the big picture of planetary health and the EAT/Lancet study. He cautioned against becoming overly simplistic about lowering medical costs, as people will live longer. So they might spend less on medical services per year, but live more years. Time will tell.
  • Dr. Wilson Tang took us through the whole TMAO issue and how choline is converted to TMA by the enzymes in the intestinal tract and subsequently oxidized in the liver to result in TMAO. It is a big cause of inflammation and implicated in heart disease (CVD/CAD), type 2 diabetes (T2D), and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Evidently, the point is that a plant-based diet will stop this immediately.
  • Dr. Walter Willett's take away points were that even the Economist labeled 2019 the year of the vegan and the fact that Medicare and most major insurers now cover either the Dean Ornish program or the Pritikin protocol for reversing heart disease. Equally obvious, it is still cheaper to change to a #WFPB diet now, rather than wait until you have heart disease.
  • Dr. Michelle McMacken injected a dose of reality with a beautiful case history of a 42-year-old with undiagnosed T2D and an A1C at 12.7%, who was no longer a diabetic after 4 months (A1C below 6) after throwing out his metformin at 2 months in. She also cautioned that "unhealthy vegan" is as bad or worse as the SAD.
Here is a summary on YouTube by Dr. Joel Kahn.

The whole thing was brilliant as always and an enormous asset of our community in the Bronx. Meanwhile, once again no one from the Bronx officialdom was present, but Eric Adams' office was represented, even if he could not make it. Otherwise, people came from all over. At lunch, I talked with a lovely doctor from Montgomery, Al.