The Banana Essay

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Note:  I wrote, last time, that this site would be down for an overhaul. Alas, it appears as though I have lied.  Haha…
This post comes from the vegan husband and while I have been working on both a new look for this site and a community project, he has been busy keeping his commitment to writing an article once a month.  Enjoy!

POSTED BY THE VEGAN HUSBAND

I’m looking at a banana on my desk and thinking: Is there a less forgiving fruit than bananas?

I’ll grant you that bananas are not as tricky as oranges or peaches, which can look and feel great from the outside, but can be dry or off tasting on the inside. Watermelon is pretty consistent, but I once bought a whole one where the insides disintegrated when I cut into it. It turned to red juice and a pile of seeds. How does that happen?

No, with a banana, you know what you’re getting.  Occasionally there is an unexpected bruise upon peeling, but this is one book that you can judge by its cover.  If a banana were a book, it better be a novella, because the shelf life is maddeningly short.

Back in the pre-vegan days, we purchased six bananas on our weekly shopping trip so that we could each eat one a day for three days.  And then we would go four banana-free days. We didn’t do that because we got sick of bananas after three days, or because we only had a budget for six bananas.  We did it because, after three days, we couldn’t stand to look at the bananas let alone eat them.

For the occasional banana that snuck past the three-day limit, I invented the “banana surprise” to eat for breakfast.  I’m somewhat embarrassed to say this consisted of a banana smothered in peanut butter and topped off with m&m’s, whipped cream, and a drizzle of maple syrup.  You could smell an old banana from one or two rooms away, and say, “That’s going to have to be a banana surprise.”

Growing up, I never ran into these kind of problems.  My parents bought bananas for the sole purpose of putting on cereal.  You would slice up half a banana for a bowl of cereal, and then stick the other half into a glass for the next day.  I thought that’s how everyone ate bananas. Only monkeys peeled and ate the entire thing all at once.

Now that we are veganish, we can’t handle a four-day banana drought.   Our bodies would rebel or simply shut down. So, on the second day, or maybe the third, we purchase bananas again.  Depending on ripeness, we may buy another six or maybe only four. We may even make a third trip to the store. No matter how you slice it (sorry), we’re eating bananas every day.

And this can be a struggle.

Where three bananas a week was too few, maybe seven is too many. Although I do occasionally slice up a banana for my cereal, I usually bring mine to work. I can eat it as soon as I get to work (to recover from my morning workout) or at my mid-morning coffee break.  I can even eat it as part of my lunch with some other fruits.

If I was going to eat some kind of fruit every day, I don’t know that it would be a banana.  I’d like something with a little more staying power. Blueberries can last two weeks or more and require even less preparation than bananas.  If it’s fall in New England, you could have apples last for a month. And, where a banana is a banana is a banana, you could have a different kind of apple every day for a week.  But apples lose some of their luster in the off-season.

Cantaloupe, especially cut up into cubes, can last a while, but they are often hit or miss with regard to quality.  The vegan spouse gets super excited by pineapples, but she said only about 10% are awesome.

So it appears I’m stuck with a daily banana.  It’s not the worst thing in the world. I just wish we didn’t have to buy them so green that they taste like styrofoam on the first day, perfection on the second, and ready for banana bread on day three. The one on my desk is turning browner by the minute.

Anyone for banana surprise?

What is your go to fruit?  Please leave a message…

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Call Me Flexitarian

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POSTED BY THE VEGAN HUSBAND

Note:   2010 called and it wants its website back.  I will be working on a new look, so this site will be down in the coming weeks.  I leave you with a great post from the hubby that I think may resonate with many. See you soon and thank you for following!

In the almost six years that I’ve been writing about the forks-over-knives lifestyle, I feel that I have been an above-average advocate for veganish eating.  I have chosen kale over kebabs, soy over sirloin. I have turned my nose up at a pulled pork sandwich.

But not always.

That’s because I am known in dieting parlance as a flexitarian.  I was labelled as such in this space earlier this month.  And I’m totally fine with it now that I know what a flexitarian is.

Several sources on the internet cited Dawn Jackson Blatner’s book, The Flexitarian Diet, for a definition.  Essentially, it’s a plant-based diet with occasional meat and fish.  Some sources mentioned the conscious addition of more fruits, grains, and vegetables, while others talked about limiting processed foods.  No matter what source you trust, it’s got me pegged.

And that’s bothersome.

I feel like I should be able to adopt the vegan way of eating 100%.  But I can’t. If I don’t bring my lunch to work, there may not be a vegan option in the cafeteria, or, if there is, I may not like it.  I don’t think of myself as a picky eater, yet there are definitely some foods that I just won’t eat. If I skip lunch, things will go off the rails in the afternoon.  And, by “off the rails” I mean “toward the vending machine.”

So, for fun, let’s assume there is always a vegan option available to me.  Would I then be able to make the leap to veganism? In theory, yes. In reality, maybe not. Below is a list of foods that, for now, keep me a flexitarian.

CHEESE

Although it doesn’t have quite the hold over me that it once did, cheese would be hard to walk away from.  Growing up, we only had American cheese, provolone, and Crackerbarrel cheddar in the house. The Crackerbarrel was for putting on crackers when company came over.  The American was for grilled cheese sandwiches. The provolone was for making a sandwich that had meat in it. I could give up American cheese today, but a cheese that has great flavor is like a completely different food.

When I think about not eating cheese, the first thing that comes to mind is pizza. Pizza is something that I couldn’t give up. We eat cheeseless pizza, but I would prefer a pie whose crust can barely support the cheese on top.

FISH

I could try listing all the types of fish that I like, but it would be easier to list the ones that I don’t like.  And, I’m just telling you, it’s a pretty short list.

In a restaurant, fish is usually my go-to.  Aside from the mercury worry, fish does not get much bad publicity.  You don’t hear about people getting obese or high cholesterol from eating too much fish.  If restaurants had five solid vegan meals (not including salad), I could probably avoid fish.  Until then, give me some salmon, scallops, or shrimp.

EGGS

I’m not someone to order a couple of fried or scrambled eggs at the diner, but eggs are in a lot of things that I like.  Pancakes and waffles are high on my list, but they could both be made with egg replacers. Let’s just say there are lot of dessert items that are made with eggs that would make my sweet tooth cry if it didn’t get any.

CHICKEN/TURKEY

I lump these birds together as they are another restaurant go-to.  Especially at lunchtime. We don’t buy chicken or turkey at home, but if we’re travelling, and it could be a long time until the next meal, a chicken or turkey sandwich is often my option.  Still, the chicken and turkey we end up eating don’t get treated well and that weighs on me.

ICE CREAM

There are some households that have ice cream in the freezer all the time. They might even have more than one kind. I might only have ice cream ten times a year. But to stand up and say, “That’s it, no more ice cream for me….” Whoa. I think a shiver just went up my spine.

MAYONNAISE

Think of all your classic salads: tuna, potato, egg, pasta, lobster, chicken. What’s the common denominator? Mayonnaise is not the best thing to put in your body, but they are starting to make healthier mayo options, so maybe there is hope.

BACON/SAUSAGE

I’m kind of a bacon snob.  At home, right off the frying pan, with the aroma to go with it, you’ve got me.  Under different circumstances, for me, bacon starts to lose its appeal pretty quickly.  Sausage is kind of the same thing. There are times when I prefer sausage to bacon, and other times when it just turns up in something, and I say, “Oh, what’s this doing here?”  Bacon and sausage could be the first ones to drop off this list.

Is a flexitarian diet right for you?    Please leave a message…

Oh Hominy, How I Love Thee. A Soup/Stew Recipe

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Hominy as” kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution (as of lye) and then washed to remove the hulls”.

A caustic solution?  When I read that, visions of the bathtub scene in Breaking Bad came to mind.

But this soaking isn’t as breaking bad as it sounds.  Hominy is field corn that is soaked in an alkali solution through a process called nixtamalization. The corn, which is dried before being harvested, is soaked in lye or lime. This loosens the hull, softens the kernels and doubles their size. Hominy is a whole grain that is rich in calcium, carbohydrates and fiber.

And.  It.  Is.  Delicious.

 

Hominy

You will often see hominy listed as a component in posole recipes. It is also ground to make masa flour and is a common ingredient found in such things as grits, tortillas, and atole. It can be used in soups, stews, casseroles, chili and in whatever else your imagination allows. Hominy can be purchased canned or dried. The dried version is difficult to find in my area.  Be sure to soak the kernels (in water!) if you purchase them in their dried form. If you are like me, you may enjoy learning about the science behind hominy and nixtamalization.  It’s fascinating and you can check it out here.

This dish can be served as either a soup or stew (by reducing the liquid).  It is satisfying as a main meal or a side dish.  The black lentils are optional but recommended.  The last time this dish was made the lentils were thrown in at the last minute. They were left over from a different recipe and I didn’t want them to spoil.  Think of them as a bonus as they are scrumptious and give the dish a nutrient boost.

Hominy Stew

Serves 8-10

INGREDIENTS:
1-1/2 c small red beans & its liquid, soaked overnight
1/2 c black beans & its liquid, soaked overnight
4 poblano peppers, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
28 oz fire roasted tomatoes
2 zucchini, chopped
3 cans hominy, drained and rinsed
1/2 tbsp liquid smoke
8 c vegetable broth
salt, to taste
1 c quinoa, dry
bunch of kale
1 c cooked black lentils (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Cook beans, separately, on high until they boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook until tender. About 1 hour.
NOTE: ADD BEAN BROTH, TO KEEP THE INGREDIENTS FROM BURNING,  AT ANY POINT DURING THE COOKING PROCESS DESCRIBED BELOW.
Heat a large soup pot on high. Add hot peppers and onions.
Reduce heat to medium low and cook until tender. About 5 minutes.
Add carrots. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
Add garlic and other spices and mix well.
Add tomatoes.
Add zucchini, hominy, liquid smoke, beans, vegetable broth, remaining bean broth and salt.
Rinse quinoa and add to pot.
Add kale.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes for soup.
Continue to cook, reducing liquid, if stew is desired.
Add cooked black lentils about ten minutes before serving.

 

 

Do you have a favorite hominy recipe?  Please leave a comment…

Tough (Plant) Love

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In January, I mentioned that I would be writing about some changes that I made in regard to my diet. If you are a follower of this blog, you may recall that I recently began to dabble in the elimination of nightshades.  I had some trepidation about leaning into this but was willing to give it a try.

Here’s a portion of what I wrote regarding nightshades in October 2017:
I have lived with chronic pain for several years; the source of which I am unsure. Perhaps it is a result of my Raynaud’s (an autoimmune condition) or from the arthritis that set in after my discectomy.  Regardless, I have learned to live with this adversity. I rarely discuss it, acknowledge it or try to change it.

When I first read about the effects of nightshades on the body I have to admit I was skeptical. There is little scientific evidence that these foods actually improve, reduce or eliminate these conditions.

And:
During the winter months I will continue my research and spend copious amounts of time experimenting with nightshade free recipes in order to have a playbook ready for the next go round, I mean season. Stay tuned!

My time with nightshades never materialized   It was not an engagement in hibernation, but a divine intervention that altered my path. As it turned out, the hubby and I tuned into a Forks Over Knives webinar. That forum refreshed our plant-based knowledge and rerouted our path.  The message was simple. To thrive on a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB) you need to eat fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes.

Note: The vegan husband follows a flexitarian diet with about a 95% plant-based foundation.

It was time to face the music.
It occurred to us that we didn’t get it exactly right from the start. We were close but we were missing key information about the nutrients our bodies needed to thrive.  On a WFPB diet starch based foods and fruit are the stars of the show.  Foods like sweet potatoes, corn, peas, brown rice, quinoa, various beans and whole fruit form the basis of this diet. Starch based foods played second fiddle to our mostly vegetable laden lifestyle.

Further complicating matters, a little bit of processed food had, over the years, made its way back into our lives.  Store bought humus, once a special guest, began to occupy more real estate in our fridge. My recipes for oil-free, homemade humus began to fade from memory.  A veggie sandwich wrapped in a leafy green or a brown rice wrap was replaced with a highly processed wrap.  Veggie burgers had a Morning Star label. The huge daily salad morphed, more often than not, into twice to three times a week occurrences. Whole grains and legumes became less frequent patrons on the plate.  Hemp?   Its tattooed standing on the monthly grocery list had been lasered.

The consequences of our small, but impactful, dietary choices resulted in slow and subtle changes in my health.
As noted, I had Raynaud’s disease, an autoimmune condition.  No diet can guarantee perfect health, but it has been reported that a WFPB diet has shown to reverse autoimmune diseases.  Alas, since embarking on this diet, I had “developed” one.

In addition, my energy levels began to change.  It was a sloth-like, almost imperceptible change that spanned over about two years.   Over time I could sense a transformation, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was.

Immediately following the webinar, we instituted the WFPB playbook.

What were the results?

In less than two weeks, my Raynaud’s disappeared.   No longer did I suffer from the painful circulatory assault on my fingers and toes.  The ulcers that existed on two of my fingers and one toe faded away.

I have endured cold-weather induced asthma for twenty-five years.  Recently, I went for a run in 32° weather and didn’t experience any breathing issues – no shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.  I have yet to experience the blast of Albuterol being peppered down my esophagus and into my lungs this winter. My asthma medication has taken a leave of absence for the season.   For safety’s sake, I’m guessing my asthma should be tested over time but now all I can think of is …TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF ASTHMA…GONE?

And, the chronic pain that plagued my joints?   “Hwyl fawr”  (“Goodbye” in Welsh, for the kipper)!

From here on out you can expect to see recipes that are similar to the ones already posted but that better reflect the changes we have made.  We still consume vegetable heavy dishes but starches and fruit are their equal partner.

In conclusion, we are wiser, stronger, healthier and more annoying than ever!

Please leave a comment…