Mexican Cauliflower Rice and Beans and other post-industrial adaptations

Plant-food-oriented nutritional expert Dr. Joel Fuhrman recently posted a “Mexican cauliflower rice and beans” recipe to the Dr. Fuhrman website. The cauliflower in the dish is used as a substitute for the grain, in a way that is reminiscent of pasta made from squash and other vegetables in season this year.

As this site mentioned in this previous post, problems have been reported with arsenic in some rice and rice products, a byproduct of an industrialized world.  Dr. Fuhrman’s page for the recipe emphasizes the higher nutrient density afforded by the use of cauliflower instead of a grain, which is always an advantage of such substitutions. (The recipes on Fuhrman’s site are behind a pay wall; this page of consumer advice mentioned last time is not paywalled.)

I have been trying some vegan alternatives to rice-containing Mexican dishes at local restaurants. Various taco dishes that appear from  time to time on the specials board at Outdated: An Antique Cafe include crispy and delicious homemade Mexican corn tortillas rather than rice, while people wanting to try avoiding rice at the moment can order the vegan soup or various á la carte items–among other vegan non-rice-containing offerings–at the nonvegetarian Bubby’s Kitchen in Red Hook. (Some other Spanish-speaking countries also have a famous dish called a tortilla.)

Adaptations continue to an evolving situation.

An accidental Thanksgiving at home?

How does a single person have a vegan Thanksgiving on short notice? I found out yesterday without really intending to, as I realized I had not made reservations for the Hudson Valley Vegans potluck dinner, a great holiday event that I have attended the last few years.  Only 80 tickets could be sold and I was shut out for the first time in years!

Below I describe what I made on somewhat short notice as my day’s food. It was easy to maintain good nutrient density, given the ingredients I buy for my own kitchen! (Disclaimer in advance: I also supplement with a vegan source of DHA/EPA, which some get by eating fish, along with a more-standard multi-vitamin multi-mineral supplement and extra vitamin B12–one of the few nutrients available only from foods the animal kingdom or supplements.)

(I update fellow nutritarians occasionally with my cooking efforts on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s network, at his associates’ website. I have told the story in earlier posts of my use of his framework in the book Eat to Live as a way I found to stick to a healthy vegan diet.)

I started by steaming some broccoli raab (rabé). Steaming is the way to go, rather than, say boiling, which leaves nutrients in the cooking water. (Baking is just too hot!)

The steamed vegetable looks like this;

I served it with a fruit salad (a simple, small version of my intended potluck contribution) for a first course.

I then prepared and at a second course of  100 percent green lentil pasta (avoiding the lower-nutrient-density whole wheat pasta that I used to eat and love). Legumes are required to the tune of a cup a day in the 6-week plan that got me started, while whole grains are permitted in limited amounts. Of course, unlimited means there is no counting; I eat until I am “full.” I mixed canned, diced, no-salt organic tomatoes with frozen spinach and some pumpkin seeds for the sauce shown in the pot at right. I served directly from the pot onto my plate after simmering.

For my first evening dish, I made a more-elaborate version of the fruit salad with halved grapes and no frozen blueberries, as seen in the “brunch” version pictured next to my broccoli raab. My evening salad is shown in the image at the top! To the extent I used dressing it was fruit from the cutting board or 100 percent juice. Fruit juice is not allowed if one is on the 6-week plan, but I do use it to finish or dress salads at times, as an established post-6-Week-Plan nutritarian. Not pictured is a berry-banana-almond butter-tahini-almond milk smoothie, my last dish of the evening. The nut and seed butters need to be raw and the milks of the type labeled “unsweetened.”

Along with my concerns to stay thin and be vegan, I try to eat local foods; in this case, I think the Bosc pears in  the salad shown at the top (large image) were the only local produce–delicious and from a local mid-Hudson valley farm stand.

Group offers recommendations on unfortunate rice-arsenic link

Many people eating a vegan or vegetarian diet will be concerned about possible problems with a toxins sometimes found in rice and products containing rice.

The Environmental Working Group (“Know your environment. Protect your health.”) which offers guides to the healthiness of foods and other consumer products, is currently touting a page it has constructed outlining the basis for emerging concerns with arsenic, a heavy metal, as a contaminant in rice and products containing rice.

Summarizing recent widely reported problems, the group notes that

Federal government scientists and regulators and food industry officials are scrambling to respond to emerging evidence that arsenic, a known human carcinogen, contaminates many otherwise healthy foods that contain rice.

The page summarizes its recommendations in the following “bottom line”:

The bottom line: EWG recommends that you limit consumption of rice and rice-based food when possible and instead eat a varied diet of [including?] healthy lower-arsenic grains and sweeteners.

The EWG goes on to make some consumer recommendations such as substituting other grains or rinsing rice before use.  They note the difficulty posed for vegetarians and others who in many cases eat a great deal of rice. (Also mentioned are some policy ideas that could be used by regulators and growers.)

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose advice and website I cite often here, recommends a limited amount of whole grain as a reasonable part of a healthy “nutritarian” diet. He advises in his book Eat to Live and elsewhere that white rice–along with foods made with white flour and other refined (non-whole-grain) grains–is a low nutrient-density food and should be avoided by those seeking a healthy diet. The strict “six-week plan” in that book includes at most one serving of starchy vegetables or whole grain foods per day.  Moreover, refined flours are in the lowest nutrient-density (nutrients per calorie) category for anyone following Fuhrman’s nutritarian advice–approximately as low as beef or sugary sweets, for example. (Fuhrman’s books can be found on the web at booksellers like Alibris (link to the book’s page) or at the drfuhrman.com website mentioned earlier, as well as your local bookstore.) Oatmeal without sweeteners or milk or quinoa as a base under vegetable curry fit the definition of unprocessed whole grains in the 6 -week plan in the same way that brown rice does.

Personal digression: I mention Fuhrman’s “6 week plan” because it seems to have worked for me as an individual to lower LDL cholesterol, lose extra weight and keep it off, increase HDL cholesterol, and lower blood sugar. For me, the plan turned out to be a good framework for building a well-rounded vegan diet on my own after being a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian for 12 years. The plan encourages simple habits, e.g., a routine fruit meal in the morning or steamed vegetables and salad at night. I am one who finds that vegans are often people who are already have skills and knowledge related to whole-foods nutrition and cooking, whether or not they are on a diet plan. Others will perhaps be using other diet plans that reflect the same principles of plant-based nutrition, including the options outlined at the Fuhrman website. In any case, many people who never developed the metabolic syndrome common to people on standard diets may not find they need to be on such a strict regimen.  Of course, medical advice can only come from qualified nutrition professionals, such as Dr. Fuhrman and others working in his practice. End digression.

The vast nutritional benefits—and interesting flavor–of whole as opposed to refined grains are another nutritional issue to remember, as people decide what to do about possible rice contamination. I have enjoyed quinoa bowls, Mexican dishes with corn tortillas, and other alternatives at local restaurants since being pointed to the rice story by a vegan friend in another city. There is now also an excuse to eat even more locally grown superfoods like the kale and other produce I bought at a frigid but enjoyable farmers’ market in the mid-Hudson Valley over the weekend, some of which are pictured at the top and below in a salad I made over the weekend.

Note to readers: We can now be found using the simpler and more easily remembered URLs, healthyveganhudsonvalley.com or www.healthyveganhudsonvalley. We have also recently added SSL technology for more security on the worldwide web.

Nectarines, in New York?

Upstater, an interesting Hudson Valley publication whose motto is “live like a local,” mentions local peaches in the front matter of its recently released Fall issue, referring the reader to this online article. I remember being surprised that they are grown in this area. (I moved here 15 years ago or so.)

Here I offer a picture of some nectarine slices from fruit I bought not that long ago at the Kingston farmers’ market in Uptown. Of course, they are a smooth-skinned relative of the peach, perhaps equally growable in this region. Local nectarines sometimes have a distinctive appearance that I do not recall seeing on other peaches, with a yellow and red pattern that I have not run across this year–an interesting and tasty variety, perhaps a bit on the tart side.

I am not sure peaches or nectarines will be on sale locally tomorrow morning, when the market again opens. On the other hand, vegans may enjoy a chance to buy a vegan bar at the Grok stall. Grok–a bit like “gorp”–a name for some trail mixes. An example of the wares at this booth is pictured below with a GoRaw brand name sprouted seed bar that I run across at Rhinebeck’s health food store. No added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or sugar equivalents are among the listed ingredients in either case, and great ingredients abound. And then there are the nectarines and peaches.

Treenut cheese question answered; vegan school lunches!

Treeline Herb Garlic Soft Cheese - Diary Free Cashew Cheese

In yesterday’s post, I featured a picture of a salad containing dollops of vegan cheese. I had ordered the salad at the cafe Outdated: An Antique Cafe in Kingston, New York.  I speculated that the cafe had an artisanal approach that usually means less processing and fewer, more simple ingredients. I pointed out that the nutritional implications were probably favorable. I had forgotten that the café uses cheeses from Treeline in its vegan dishes and in fact that information about the product involved is online. Here is a link to the company’s ingredient page, which confirms that the soft cheeses shown in the picture are made with a handful of ingredients. The image above depicts one of a number of varieties of soft cheese offered by the firm, which also makes a firmer, aged cheese on sale around the country at thousands of stores.

Many will know that Treeline manufactures its cheese here in the Hudson Valley. It boasts an artisanal (crafted) approach.  It’s cheeses tend to be served as appetizers at the Thanksgiving event held each year by the Hudson Valley Vegans and fast approaching. One can join the organization online at meetup.com. Alternative means are available; see the organization’s website.

Last year, an article in the food issue of the magazine The New Yorker noted that artisan food was one of a number of “small food” trends that are ongoing following the Obama administration’s–and Michelle Obama’s–mixed success with various food policy initiatives. The article’s author, Michael Pollan, reports that the artisanal sector is small but rapidly growing.

Also, less than 100 miles away, the New York City school system will now offer a vegan lunch entrée option at all of its schools, according to a VegNews article. Most schools will apparently serve hummus to students choosing this option. Here is Moozine’s link to the article, which reports signs of a positive early reception.

Moozine is an e-newsletter from the Happy Cow review website.