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Dining out vegan – tips for the newbie

15 years ago or so I tried to go vegan for two weeks. I redefined the word bitch and nearly killed a few people with my impatience and sarcasm. Not very compassionate at all. I didn’t know then one tenth of what I know today. There also were very few options available and most people with whom I ran circles with were all about partying and indulging. Hey me too! I was and still am, but differently now and with much more compassion. So back then I remember going to my favorite restaurants with my friends and just torturing myself as they sat there and ordered all my favorite dishes. I couldn’t even get a decent order in; the place really had nothing vegan. [Vegan side note: I know! The animals are the ones who are literally tortured, not us with our meaningless cravings and gluttony behavior. I’m talking from my pre-vegan years when I was straight up ignorant and uneducated with regards to the food industry.]

Usually, when I am focused on healthier eating, white pasta, white flours and white rices come out first. Hence.. the bitchiness! Who attempts to eat vegan on top of eliminating refined junk food while simultaneously knowing nothing about juicing or even eating vegetables for that matter. Seriously, how is one door suppose to open until the other is closed. How does one go from junk to health. Oh, for the record, this was an attempt at going vegan for health and diet; not necessarily at this point knowing anything about the animals. There is a difference and in the long run, it does matter.

So I’m trying to order something exciting in a seafood place. All they had to offer me was lettuce and tomato. Just a heads up.. this is when I get really nasty. lol. Where did all that anger come from anyway? I’m guessing people experience moods or feelings of deprivation and lash out. It’s not like I was starving by any means. I was a brat and an indulgent one at that. Why go to a seafood place if you are vegan anyway? I can just hear the waiter thinking it.

I bet the same thome_teaughts go through most minds as if, especially in todays age, there isn’t already enough to worry about with concern for allergies. Oh these vegans, why do they eat here? First of all, there were no vegan restaurants 15 – 20 years ago. Ok.. I exaggerate. I think Souen and Angelica’s Kitchen were around (NYC), both of which weren’t exclusively vegan back then. I could be wrong. Second, if I’m going out socially, my friends are all non-vegan and don’t want to go. Again, I’m talking years ago. Now it’s different. There are options and I have new friends. Hahaha j/k. My friends do love me and will definitely eat vegan to hang out and catch up. If I have no choice though, I will go out non-vegan so here is my survival guide. Keep in mind that I’m vegan and healthatarian – no white crap refined junk. Any place that can create something better than a dish of lettuce, tomato and cucumber is going to be ok. With that in mind, it will be alright and if not, just have a drink and or a cup of tea and be hospitable!

Here is my advice.

(1) Go ethnic.

Japanese is fantastic. I will tell you this though; I have walked out of many a Japanese restaurant for not having brown rice. Don’t get me excited about a maki roll only to tell me you can’t make the rice stick. We all know you add stuff to that sticky rice anyway lol and probably sugar too! Hey.. that’s the hazard of dining out; and this is the good option. They also sneak sugar into the hijiki seaweed salad. At least they have seaweed, and pickled foods, all kinds of tofu, papaya or avocado salads, veggie rolls, miso soup and more. I usually ask if the miso soup has fish. For the record, you can’t say is it vegetarian. Sometimes, people think fish is vegetarian. I get sweet potato rolls if I’m lucky or some cool roll with mango and avocado. The default here is always cucumber avocado.

Korean  restaurants will also usually have a nice tofu dish. They do those sizzling hot bibimbop bowls. Delicious!

Chinese is a good choice but please, if you go out to dinner with me- REMIND ME- sauce on the side! Otherwise that dish of brown rice and veggies is now swimming in a heart attack of high sodium.

Mexican is a favorite of mine. I hate to compromise my values but GMO VS. VEGAN, vegan will win. At least until they genetically modify a burger from some chemical concoction. I think the closest is called in-vitro aka lab meat. Then I will be for it (to cut down the mass production of factory farming); although I won’t eat it. That is a whole nother blog.  So when dining Mexican, I refuse the flour tortilla and go with the GMO corn. Oops.. did I say GMO VS. VEGAN; I meant GMO VS. HEALTHATARIAN. I will not eat white flour. Corn tortilla it will be. I do wish for organic ones but that’s not going to happen mainstream while the entire corn industry is subsidized. Guacamole is a lock but easy on the deep fried chips. Beans and mushrooms are usually an option at Mexican restaurants. Make sure the beans have no animal ingredients. If you are eating at a food truck, be careful; a guy once told me the beans were vegetarian with a little bit of pork fat. You see what I’m saying! Interestingly, I will never buy anything with GMO corn or soy, but if I’m stuck dining out somewhere with not great options, I do cave in. It’s almost always a corn tortilla or a piece of soy chicken. I’m trying! Vegan restaurants are super guilty of this too.  

Indian yes, of course!. They will always have a vegetarian menu. Remember: milk, cheese and eggs are NOT VEGAN! Lentils and peas are my best friends.

Middle Eastern is another good one. Falafel is vegan. Say no more! Well, just one more thing; I love my hummus and vegan sides with whole wheat pita.

Moving along, NO my Italian  brothers and sisters – you are far from making the cut. Why? Perhaps because the only green vegetable you know is broccoli rabe. Annoying. Your spinach is super sautéed with butter and sometimes grated cheese. I can ask for olive oil and then secretly, the next thing I want to know is if it’s a blend. Don’t you dare sneak those GMO oils in my food. All of sudden, I forget I am a vegan and the anti-Monsanto anger comes out. Perhaps I am angry. But today it’s for a reason and it’s targeted! It’s to the factory farming production and it’s supporters and to big bio-tech firms destroying our food, water, air and earth under the good name of saving the world. Honestly, who wouldn’t be mad. Or perhaps too, it’s just because I suspended pasta from my diet. That probably adds to it lol. Once, in an Italian restaurant, the professional waiter said the polenta was vegan no meat. There were no physical signs of meat, as he puts it, and he swears no dairy but personally, it was probably chicken stock, milk, cheese and GMO corn. Sarcasm aside, you could have pasta just fine if you want. Ask questions, learn and move on. For me, Italian is out.

Steak house in. Crazy as it sounds and only if I am forced, I will go and get better vegetables there then most restaurants. One can survive quite nicely on sides. Scared to out yourself as vegan?Just tell them you are allergic to milk and cheese. Don’t assume they know how to define the word vegan. For the record, only my Mom on Mother’s Day or a best friend’s wedding will get me at a steakhouse, otherwise, hell no!

(2) Live on the sideline.

It won’t kill you to amp up your vegetables. Order just sides. Try it. You will be surprised how many things all of a sudden have milk and cheese in it. Otherwise, they are fried, which is a healthatarian no no. It’s getting better in this department. If it’s a good restaurant, they will make your sides look pretty and everyone will be staring at your dish.

2014-11-16 17.17.50 copy(3) Build your own salad.

If in doubt, go green. This used to scare me because of the experience 15 years ago but it’s better now, although I’m not sure by how much. They have to have something, right? Scan the salads and the menu. Choose what you want and tell them. I will generally ask for a combination of salads and then kindly tell them I am a good tipper. I want spinach or kale to be exact. I want something other than tomato and cucumber – say maybe endive, sun dried tomato, carrots, peppers, avocado. Then go for the kill- ask for your protein. Do you have walnuts, almond slices, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or chick peas? Top that beautiful salad off with some sliced apple or pear and dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds. Now we are talking. They have a grain? – well then, fabulous! For the record, if a restaurant has an avocado, my day is complete. Best salad to date was in the tiny town of Pine Hill, upstate New York, in the middle of nowhere. The picture is right here: mixed greens, quinoa, chick peas, tomato, cucumber, squash and guacamole without me even asking a thing!

(4) Power grains and legumes.

Don’t listen to paleo heads. Do you really want to take advice from someone that compares themselves to a caveman. I won’t get started here because that blog is already in the works.  All grains are not created equal. Yeah, avoid processed ones. Reduce your addiction to bread if you have one. If you are lucky, they will have a dish that is a good grain and vegetable combo. You don’t have to have high protein all day long nor do you have to have a protein and a big carbohydrate together in every meal. Your digestion system would actually prefer that you don’t. You can combine either though with greens and vegetables. With these and other choices, your body can still gather all the amino acids necessary to build complete proteins.

Suggestions: Simple.

  • Brown rice with bok choy and acorn squash
  • Wild rice with brussels sprouts
  • Quinoa with asparagus
  • Amaranth with kale and broccoli
  • Lentils with spinach
  • Chick peas with artichoke hearts
  • Black beans and corn
  • Cannellini beans with swiss chard and string beans
  • Barley with mushrooms (not gluten-free)

Speaking of mushrooms, that’s a meal and a half. If you see large portabella mushroom caps –jackpot! It’s a vegan steak. Take it and run.

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If you are super lucky, you will see a nice tofu dish..  seared or grilled; something fancy! I’m not just talking Asian cuisine; some places will go all out. Now if you are really in the right place at the right time look out. I have had quinoa risotto with plantains in a Spanish restaurant done really well. I have had seitan cutlets in a few places. The best yet though, was the cauliflower steak. It was three vegans, three non vegans and six cauliflower steaks. Those copy cats! It could happen.

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(5) You could always call ahead!

They are much more accommodating on the phone prior to a reservation being made. Hosts and managers sometimes have more insight, professionalism and patience than a rushed waiter. They can tell you right away what is vegan and what is not. You can check the online menu too. To be competitive now, restaurants really have to offer something for everyone- vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, nut-free, kosher, vegan and so on. Being vegan today isn’t as hard as years ago.

If you are a newbie, remember to come out of the vegan closet! Represent.. ask questions, make suggestions, be vocal about what you want; spread the love and awareness and heighten the desire for vegan food. With increased demand, comes supply. Support the vegan restaurants and places that go out of their way to veganize. A great example that I have seen lately, is the Yard House with a special GARDEIN section. Some restaurants will have a separate vegan menu altogether. Even Chipotle introduced a vegan item: Sofritas. It has to be something cool – not just an improvised salad or side. Give us some substance that isn’t pasta, GMO corn or cheap nutritionally deficient white bread or white rice. They need to get creative and step up their game. Never know when Beyoncé might pop in.

 

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

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Is Trader Joe’s heart healthy?

Could shopping count as cardio? I just left Trader Joe’s five minutes ago and my heart is still racing. Mind you, I just walked a fast two miles at the gym a half hour earlier and my heart wasn’t beating like it is now. Was there a snow storm coming? It certainly felt like it as I tried to make my way through the aisles here at Trader Joes in Brooklyn. Really? Why can’t there be more than one? Isn’t it about supply and demand. Apparently, the demand is here in full force. Now that I’m sitting, relaxing down the street, I do realize it’s an Oscar night. Could that have been the rush? In any case my heart was beating so fast just to move without hitting anyone or holding anyone up that I couldn’t remember what I was there to buy. Oh I know! I wanted to check out the dark chocolate for the raw cacao workshops I give. I also wanted to try their vegan yogurt that someone told me about. Feeling anxious, I just quickly grabbed and tossed whatever I figured I needed and was a good deal.IMG_3892

What’s good? I do like the produce aisle there. I bought lots of greens and then the bulk bags of clementines, organic apples and sweet potatoes. Where were the avocados? I guess everyone is having guacamole at their Oscar parties. I’m on an avocado hunt! I live off them and am far from thrilled about the high prices. As far as nut milks or frozen veggies – I hold out for Costco. I have to read labels here. Just because it’s Trader Joe’s doesn’t mean it’s vegan for sure and doesn’t mean it’s organic or non-GMO. I skipped over some areas like alternative meats etc. Who has time to read labels in there? I will say though that I am nuts over the nut aisle – and dried fruits. Surprisingly enough, I snacked on some dried fruits while on line and didn’t even have time to really dig in because although the line wrapped the entire store perimeter, it moved rapidly.  I was out in no time with two full bags of groceries, all for under $60. I did my Grandpa proud.gramps2

My Gramps shopped at Trader Joe’s way before it was cool. He went up there because the prices on the vegetables, berries and nuts were the best in town. My Gramps knew his prices and all the best bargains around. He really should have been a candidate on The Price is Right. It’s too bad he is no longer here since I’m sure we would have bonded with these great prices for healthy food. On second thought, going to Trader Joe’s is like going to the gym on adderall. Never mind, he wouldn’t like that.

So does Trader Joe’s count towards cardio? Not really! Anxiety doesn’t count for real weight loss and health. Costco shopping on the other hand counts! There are much longer distances to walk and bigger carts to push. The stores are larger, it’s more relaxed and the parking is further. Seriously, you can hit your daily step goal shopping there! Enjoy!

Vegan day 365: Final post for 2012

What daily blogger skips the whole month of December? lol
Me .. I guess! However, I will not let that get in the way of a tremendous year of BEING VEGAN EVERY DAY!!!!!!!!!!! I am new to blog writing and even my approximate 300 posts exceeded my wildest expectation for the year! I do of course feel bad that I couldn’t write about a few really interesting and delicious holiday recipes but I will in January. January will be a catch up month on some past recipes that I didn’t have time to post. 

LOGO_ri
2013 will be about LESS IS MORE… and straight up HEALTH. I wasn’t sure if I could live as a vegan but now I know I can and I am so excited to continue doing so and sharing recipes. I will also be video blogging. I am staying away from the word DAILY.. that just brings about stress. Let’s talk about stress for a minute since it’s natural to get a bit stressed during the month of December. Stress is a barrier to health and can cause the body’s adrenal system to burn out quickly. I will be putting together newsletters and workshops on topics for optimum health like living with less stress. A few other ideas are surviving cold/ flu season and reversing diabetes. I will also include meal plans,  herbal recipes, inspirations and more so that people can get ideas on how to build a healthy living plan. Soon in 2013, I will be available for one on one or group health coaching, cooking sessions, and public seminars. Health for me is about choosing healthy whole foods, cooking at home, exercising daily, getting plenty of rest and having a balanced life- this includes work, relations, love and spirituality. 

Join me in 2013 as I bring up these topics and open dialogue… all along with healthy eating… personally, that will be better plant based options, juicing, and making superfood smoothies with my first VITAMIX that I actually got as a Christmas present. I will let go of the fast vegan food, junk and sugar— and over eating! Those are my goals!

Thank you everyone for reading my blog, being interested in healthier eating and thinking about the animals and decisions which could lead to a more peaceful planet in general. You all mean the world to me!

Vegan day 328: TOP 10 ways to lose weight in between the holidays

Wanna pre-pay your calories? Now is the time!
We just enjoyed Thanksgiving and now the rest of the holidays are around the corner: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Years!

For many, now is too premature to go into a full lifestyle change (although there is no better time than the present). Most people will ride out the rollercoaster of life’s weight especially now during the holiday season. If that’s your choice, at least make the best of it. Pre-pay your calories NOW in between the two major “eating and drinking” HOLIDAYS!
 
Pre-pay your calories now.. save them to enjoy later!
Get motivated and get started today!
 
If you are going to do the rollercoaster, you might as well be a pro. If you are interested in a lifestyle change for the new year- look out for my upcoming teleconference!
 
Let’s get started! 
The reason this came to the forefront of my mind is because I gained SIX POUNDS. You don’t wan’t to gain weight BEFORE the holidays begin lol. My birthday is part culprit and DAILY FOOD PREP AND BLOGGING is the other. Both I take full accountability for. That should be the first step. My BIRTHDAY MONTH was September and I decided to indulge a bit too much- too many dinners out which are like 4 meals in 1.. and too many desserts and sweets. 
Done.. let’s forget it and move on. 
Let’s get started now! I am going to do this with you. I have had a week head start and it’s already working. 
  • (1) Write it down.. ONLINE.. it’s the best way! I cannot stress this enough! You think you don’t have time for this? Well perhaps that’s the problem- you can’t seem to take 10 minutes a day to dedicate to yourself. Cooking or preparing food, exercising and taking a deeper look at both could be life saving. Spirit, energy and vibrance are what move people forward. Take care of yourself and you will further benefit those close to you in the process. Giving yourself 10 minutes a day (or an hour even better) could be the BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR HEALTH and the health of those dear to you! I promise you, this commitment will pay off! Take the time to ENTER YOUR FOOD IN AN ONLINE JOURNAL. This is the best way to reduce your food intake, become aware of the food choices you are making and learn about the break down of carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are best for your body. Online, you can easily calculate the calories you are eating and make goals to reach your desired weight. I believe mine is public through my Facebook page if you would like to see how it works. Here are two good sites and there are many others. You can even download apps to your phone and enter your food while you are waiting on line for some Starbucks coffee: http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/  and http://www.fitday.com
  • (2) Eat small and FREQUENT meals– mini meals! Make a FIST right now! That’s what I am talking about or just a tinge bigger- but not four fists at every meal lol. Eating 4-6 times a day or more could be a metabolism booster for you. I am speaking from experience here and if I can do it- ANYONE CAN! Trust me!
  • (4) PRE PACK snacks– Carrots, celery, sliced bell peppers, raw broccoli, hummus, nuts of all kinds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, crackers, peanut butter, apples, dried fruit, cut fresh fruit, carobs, dark chocolate, granola, energy bars etc. Pre PACK once or twice a week so you have them handy to throw in your bag for work, school or simply on the go!. Have fun with this- make your own nut mixes. Measure it out though and record the calories. These are good calories for the most part!
  • (5) Don’t eat late as in a few hours before YOUR bedtime. The body needs sleep for many reasons and one for sure is to regenerate. Don’t take away from that by forcing your cells into digestion mode. If you are a late night eater like myself, just be aware, write it down and make better choices like something light or a small amount of a protein snack for example.  
  • (6) LET GO OF YOUR FEAR OF CARBS! Please! Make carbs your friend! I am not talking about refined nutrition-less junk food carbs. Please get this right- I’m talking about complex carbs. Don’t stress your kidneys and liver with too much protein. Save your liver for alcohol lol just kidding! High protein diets are short term and even though I know that many of you are looking for short-term, JUST KNOW YOU CAN DO IT with carbs in your life and it can have a lasting effect! Fats… save for healthy fats like avocado, oils, nuts/ seeds etc. Personally my breakdown is 60% carbohydrates which includes my fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains etc./ 12% protein/ 28% healthy fats! Find the balance that is best for you. DO NOT FEAR GOOD CARBS ANYMORE! 
  • (7) CHEW 35 times and eat mindfully! Please sit down and think about what you are eating. Enjoy the flavor and where it came from or who prepared it. Respect yourself— do not eat standing, in a car, or on the run; most likely your mind and body won’t register it and you will still be searching for satisfaction!
  • (8) Drink TEA (or water) instead of having a junk food snack- green tea is a great start since it gives you energy and curbs your appetite! Turn your normal eating habits into something else- make a phone call to someone whose day you can brighten, take a quick walk, go to the gym, reach out to someone… change a habit! 
  • (9) Just say NO! To something unhealthy! There are so many things you can avoid right now while you are saving your calories for the holidays. Say NO to soda, or white carbs or meat or cheese or alcohol or coffee. I will say NO to desserts– for now– just for now ok lol!
  • (10) Just say YES! Just say yes to one positive and improved habit! Health involves many aspects of your life: food, exercise, relationships, work, sleep and spirituality. Do something different today. Set your intentions in the morning, think about your goals, visualize, be grateful, show your gratitude, meditate, or try to meditate, take up yoga or another form of exercise that you have been thinking about, or go out and dance, sing, share your love and your spirit. Be open minded and smile! 
Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

[Friday, November 23rd 2012 blog]

Vegan day 319: TOFU: fresh & homemade

“The Art and Technique of Homemade Tofu”
This class at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health has been up high up on my list of cooking classes that I wanted to try out. Peter Berley is the Chef and Instructor here. I have taken a class with Peter on fermentation when I learned how to make sauerkraut, kimchee and sourdough bread– AMAZING! 

I am personally a fan of tofu and fermented soy products. I have to admit though that my opinion went back and forth a few times as I wrote and edited this blog. There really is an abundance of research on soy and in the end, it will come down to bio-individuality! Read through the issues here and then do your own research if you feel you are in an affected category. Otherwise, like my Mom always says… enjoy… in moderation!

TOFU:

  • Tofu adapts nicely to any meal. It’s been called the “FOOD OF 10,000 flavors”!
  • Tofu is low in overall fat and specifically saturated fat
  • Tofu is low in cholesterol, sodium and calories
  • It has zero sugar
  • Tofu is HIGH IN PROTEIN 
  • Tofu is a good source for calcium, iron, maganese, magnesium, phosphorus and omega 3
  • There are cardiovascular benefits from soy overall: “Research on soy protein in recent years has shown that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35-40%, lower triglyceride levels, reduce the tendency of platelets to form blood clots, and possibly even raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol).” The World’s Healthiest Foods
  • Soybean production in general is a better solution (than the animal based farming industries) for world issues such as starvation, hunger, addressing nutritional deficiencies, reducing animal cruelty; saving the land, eco-systems, our earth and bio-diversity. “Raising soybeans can provide 20 times the protein per acre that raising beef can.” (Haas 2006)

The soy debate may possibly go on forever so it’s best to see what works for your own individuality. I like to eat soy products but I try to keep it close to healthy fermented choices and not overly processed and packaged foods. That brings us to the PROCESSING question in general. THE SOYBEAN: you can’t just eat them hard. I remembering experimenting with sprouting and I ate soybean sprouts that I had soaked and left out myself. This is how I learn- trial and error. Be careful to fully read up on sprouting if that’s your thing. There is the possibility of toxicity depending on what you venture into. I personally, didn’t feel well after eating some soybean sprouts I had prepared. I may have used the wrong type of soybean. SOYBEANS and products derived from them should ALWAYS BE ORGANIC to avoid genetically modified beans. The soy market is over 95% GMO.

Some of the negatives or controversies associated with soy have to do with phytic acid, phytoestrogens and activities involving the thyroid.

PHYTIC ACID

“Phytic acid, in large amounts, can block the uptake of essential minerals, like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract. Soy also inhibits the uptake of one of the most important minerals needed for growth and metabolism, iodine, which is used by the thyroid gland in the production of thyroid hormones.” (Skae 2008)

Phytates and phytic acid are found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. One helpful way to lessen these effects is to soak them, and then throw away the soak water instead of cooking with it. 

Other suggestions include baking, sprouting, dehydrating and fermenting as per this wonderful article: “How to Reduce Phytic Acid in Food”
 
Soybeans may be the exception to the phytic acid rule so that’s where and why FERMENTATION may be a better option. Phytic acid itself is controversial as is the whole soy issue. Some people believe phytates to be good for certain ailments and diseases such as cancer, mostly due to how they behave as antioxidants in the body. (Another good link). Again, it comes down to bio-individuality.
 
*I found this great article with specifics on soybean phytic acids: Phytic acid: Simple kitchen techniques to reduce it in food (videos included here too- very informative!)



PHYTOESTROGENS include herbs or foods that act like estrogen attaching themselves to estrogen receptor sites. This may be good for some people such as those approaching or in menopause and then not good for others due to the activities of endocrine disruptors.

“Phytoestrogens are plant derived compounds found in a wide variety of foods, most notably soy. A litany of health benefits including a lowered risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer, and menopausal symptoms, are frequently attributed to phytoestrogens but many are also considered endocrine disruptors, indicating that they have the potential to cause adverse health effects as well.” (Patisaul/ Jefferson 2012)

THYROID CONCERNS
“Soy falls into a category of foods known as goitrogens — vegetables, grains and foods that promote formation of goiter — an enlarged thyroid. Some goitrogens also have a definite antithyroid effect, and appear to be able to slow thyroid function, and in some cases, trigger thyroid disease.” (Shomon 2012) 

It may not be just the goitrogen food itself; it may be possible that there has to be an iodine deficiency as well, issues with hormone synthesis or the presence of other goitrogens. (This was mentioned in the Shomon article). It could also be true that Americans in particular are simply consuming TOO MUCH soy since it’s not just in vegan meats and tofu- it’s in processed soy foods and then goes un-suspectedly in MANY NORMAL PROCESSED AND PACKAGED FOODS. Many people believe they don’t even eat soy but they do because as mentioned it’s in packaged products and then also in animal feed. The fact that it’s GMO- just puts everything over the top and adds variations to an already confusing debate. 

It’s possible that the soy benefits would be worth the decision. For me, this is the case. Personally, I will eat tofu as one of my protein choices but not too much and certainly not everyday. Tofu seems to be in between on the scale of the overly processed soy products (not healthy in abundance- like soy milk, soy cheese, soy fake meats etc.) and the more healthy fermented products mentioned below. I’m not even mentioning the everyday refined, processed and packaged junk foods which sneak soy into it’s ingredient lists.


FERMENTED soy products 
are more digestible and nutritious. 
These include:

  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Pickled tofu
  • Shoyu
(After much research today, I’m sad to say that I may have classified tofu as a fermented product a few times prior but it really isn’t. Anyway, when you make this from scratch as I did, you will feel so proud that you too will believe in it’s health benefits over it’s contraindications. It’s good though to stay educated on the hot topic – it’s pros and cons.)

So how does one make tofu? 

step 4

How do you get from a very hard and undigestible soybean to a soft and nutritious bean curd? Tofu is also a good source of calcium and iron. (Approximately 20% and 10 % respectively of RDA levels.)

I will take you through it step by step: 

(1) SOAK 2 cups of ORGANIC YELLOW SOYBEANS in cold water for 10 hours
(2) Drain and rinse
(3) Mix soybeans and 4 cups of cold water in a vitamix or blender. Do half at a time if it’s doesn’t fit. 

step 5


(4) Take puree into a large pot with 7 1/2 cups of water on a medium stove top flame. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. You will know when it’s ready as it will bulge up. 

(5) Pour mixture into another large pot with a colander on top lined with cheesecloth or possibly a nut milk type bag. 

(6) Extract soy milk

(7) Take the pot of extracted soy milk back to the stove, cover and heat again to increase digestive quality of the soy milk. Bring to a boil, then uncover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. 

step 6

(8) Remove the pot from the heat

(9) Dissolve 2 teaspoons of NIGARI or epsom salt INTO 1 CUP OF WATER. (1/2 cup lemon juice or 1/2 cup of vinegar can also be used.) Use 1/3 of this solidifier mixture at a time.

(10) Use 1/3 of the solidifier and add it to the hot soy milk. Cover and allow to stand for 3 minutes- stir it in for a moment and then do not stir.
(11) Use the next 1/3 gently stir it in using a figure 8 motion; replace cover and wait 3 more minutes.  

Step 12

(12) Use the final 1/3 – same way. The soy milk should begin to turn into curds. 

(13) Using a steel mesh ladle that allows water to flow through it- ladle the bean curd into a wooden steamer basket lined with cheesecloth. Leave as is for softer tofu or press down for 20 minutes for firm tofu. 

Ingredients

step 13

2 cups of organic yellow soybeans
12 1/2 cups of water
2 teaspoons of Nigari or Epsom salt; you can also use 1/2 cup lemon juice or 1/2 cup of vinegar 

Equipment
Colander
Cheesecloth or nut milk bag
Small rectangular bamboo basket (about the size of a tofu package or slightly higher)
Stainless steel bowls and pots
Wooden spoon




References:
Berley, P. (2012) Homemade Tofu. The Art and Technique of Homemade Tofu. Natural Gourmet Institute for Food & Health.

Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Celestial Arts: Berkeley, CA. 

Patisaul, H., Jefferson, W. 2012. The Pros and Cons of Phytoestrogens. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/

Reichert, R. How to Reduce Phytic Acid in Food. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/how_5163244_reduce-phytic-acid-food.html

Shomon, M. 2012. Soy and the Thyroid. The Controversy Over Soy and Thyroid Health. Retrieved from http://thyroid.about.com/cs/soyinfo/a/soy.htm

Skae. T. (2008) The Truth about Soy and It’s Harmful Effects. Retrieved from Natural News

**Skipped vegan days 310-318
Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

[Wednesday, November 14th 2012 blog]

Vegan day 306: 10 of my favorite CONDIMENTS

CONDIMENTS to me used to be quite simple- ketchup, mustard, mayo, commercial salad dressing and HOT SAUCE. I don’t even own these now although I should grab a bottle of organic mustard. I must admit that each time I post a refrigerator picture for one of my health classes, the first things my friends point out is the Sriracha. 

I don’t even know why it’s still there. I’m so lying right now lol. It’s there because I moved it forward after I threw out my Frank’s hot sauce. Don’t pay any attention to me for that…  I like to release addicting foods. I was making one too many vegan tosadas and it was as if I was only enjoying it because of the hot sauce. That’s when you know.. it’s gotta go. My friends tell me everyday that I have tremendous will power.. they don’t get it. lol 

10 of my favorite CONDIMENTS:
Actually 14! (In no particular order)

WIKI: “A condiment is an edible substance, (such as a simple sauce) which is used to be added to some foods to impart a particular flavor, enhance its flavor or in some cultures, to complement the dish.”

(1) Vegetable broth 

Sure you can make your own veggie broth any day with some onions, garlic, veggies and spices but sometimes it’s quick and easy to have it ready to go. I always make sure I have a carton on hand. Soon though, I may make my own and freeze what I need to save for another time. Just another thought- if you feel like slicing up potatoes, potato skin broth in particularly high in alkalizing minerals! Vegetable broth in general is great for soups, stews, cooking grains or preparing sautés. 

(2) Tamari 

What did I do before tamari came into my life? I can’t say it was all about soy sauce because for sure that made me sick due to the MSG. Tamari is something I use at least every other day. It’s like a top shelf soy sauce if you will. Tamari can be found gluten free and non-GMO. This is important since it is made mostly from soybeans. It can be used for an Asian flare or even as a substitute for salt. Another good one very close in concept is SHOYU! Shoyu is a fermented soy. I use shoyu with my raw vegan meals, uncooked vegetables and in salad dressings. I believe it’s considered raw vegan but you can use it over cooked foods as well. I just stay away from cooking it. 


(3) Mirin 

I always get carried away with this one. It’s a sweet Japanese cooking wine. Go sparingly! My favorite dish so far with mirin is sauteed shitake mushrooms. 


(4) Brown rice vinegar  

I use this in salad dressings and sautés. It’s suppose to be essential for sushi rice. Perhaps, I am going to use it for my macro brown rice and lentil dish that I have been trying to perfect.


(5) ACV

A whole blog could be written on Apple Cider Vinegar alone and it’s many health benefits.  Oh wait.. I did write a blog on it: http://eatingfromscratch.blogspot.com/2012/06/vegan-day-160-apple-cider-vinegar.html



(6) Maple syrup


I bought my first grade B maple syrup at least 10 years ago when I was making an attempt at the Master Cleanse. I didn’t last but if you can, it’s a wonderful detox cleanse: Basically, it’s warm water, fresh squeezed lemon, maple syrup and a dash of cayenne. For more information on the Master Cleanse, VISIT: http://themastercleanse.org

I don’t just use maple syrup as an occasional sweetener, but I use it in some of my marinades and dressings.  

..”consider using maple syrup which contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey.” from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=115 

(7) EVOO

I love extra-virgin olive oil! I use it drizzled over my dishes or as a partial ingredient in a dressing. I don’t really cook with it. EVOO is a mono-unsaturated fat with many benefits due to it’s polyphenols, antioxidants and healthy fatty acids. I often cook with regular olive oil, however, I personally prefer EVCO: extra-virgin coconut oil

**(8) EVCO**

I would have to say this has become my favorite cooking oil. EXTRA-VIRGIN COCONUT OIL. 

I love to prepare quick sautés using EVCO. Many say that it doesn’t carry a coconut flavor but I believe there is a hint of it in the brands I use. I feel it’s a positive addition to the dishes. It’s cooks nicely, fresh and flavorful. 



(9) Tahini

This is still new for me. There are many sauces and marinades that can be made with this. One time, I was making a recipe in the mountains that called for it and I couldn’t find it anywhere – that’s when good ol’ almond butter or peanut butter can come in handy! Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. I have yet to make it on my own but I will. Here is a link for 8 ways to use tahini!

(10) Chili sauce

It’s probably best to make my own chili or hot sauce instead of the quick and easy convenience of a bottled sauce which is most likely high in sodium and possible additives. One could cook using jalapeños, chili paste or even dried chilis. 

(11) Lemon juice

It’s good to always have lemons on hand. Lemons are rich in vitamin C, great for colds and flu and a lovely addition to any tea! I have found that many recipes that I have tried this year have often asked for lemon. It’s great for dressings and marinades! Limes too are handy to have around- not only are they good for my friends’ beers lol but a necessity for my ceviche and spicy guacamole!

(12) Balsamic vinegar

Before I learned about any of the above, it was always about olive oil and balsamic for salad dressing. I make killer salads and yet the dressing.. always the same. Not that there is anything wrong with it but it’s nice to venture out of my tiny salad dressing box every now and then. As I have learned to mix and match some of the above ingredients, I have been able to create different flavorful sauces, marinades and dressings. 

ok I’m sorry! I said 10 and I keep going. I would just like to add in MISO and HOT sesame oil. Both are great for marinades, dressings and sautés. Just remember not to cook miso for more than 2 minutes if you choose to cook it at all.  

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

[Thursday, November 1st 2012 blog]
 

Vegan day 305: 5 quick ways to VEGANIZE your kitchen

VEGANIZE!
5 simple items you can switch up easily to veganize your kitchen! 
November is WORLD VEGAN MONTH!
Here is a way to get involved for one month. Try it, you might like it -it’s very easy to start by replacing a few items. You will get used to the taste very quickly and it can become part of routine. These little things can help change supply and demand.. and affect the animals and the world.

(1) Earth balance buttery spreadinstead of butter. I like the soy-free one. 

(2) Vegenaise instead of mayonnaise. My favorite is grapeseed.

(3) Nut milk instead of milk. There are many varieties of nut milks which also come in unsweetened and vanilla: almond milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk, hemp milk etc. There is rice milk but I personally avoid white rice and there is soy milk but save your soy for less processed foods. There are too many great nut milks to settle for soy. Some brands offer 8oz sizes in addition to the 32oz carton.


(4) Flax seed. This is inexpensive- you can even buy it in bulk, golden or dark variety. Flax is used in many recipes. I memorized what is called a flax egg. Instead of using one egg in a recipe, you can mix 1 tablespoon of flax seed ground with 3 tablespoons of water– let it thicken for a minute and then add it to the recipe. Use a coffee grinder to ground the seeds if you need to. Magic bullet works too!

(5) Daiya cheese. Once you melt this into any recipe and think of an animal spared, you will never need to look back to regular cheese again.  

Check out all the links and start to ask for these items in your regular supermarkets. They are becoming more and more popular everyday!
Save the world.. one product at a time! The farm animal production system we use today for food is the #3 cause of global warming! VOTE with your FORK this election day too. 

VOTE YES on CALIFORNIA PROP 37 to get GMOs out of your food. If you don’t live in California- call someone who does!

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

[Wednesday, October 31st 2012 blog]