Low-Carb, Fat Free, Delicious Blended Soups

I’m a huge fan of blended soups, year round. In the spring and summer, I like it raw i.e. gazpacho–but starting in the fall and in winter I prefer it piping hot. I wasn’t always this way, since I was about 90-95 percent raw between 2005 and 2007, but I’ve learned that hot steamed vegetables and vegetable soups ward off cravings for things like refined carbohydrates and sugar. Also, raw fruit i.e. bananas or avocados transported here from a tropical climate in the middle of winter never did me any favors in terms of staying fit or feeling energized enough to exercise. So over the years of revising my diet (I initally stopped eating raw after an argument with my significant other at the time who had cooked a vegan dinner for me and I dismissed it for not meeting the standards of the way I preferred to eat) I actually ended up losing weight after that fateful evening, since I made the compromise to cut out avocados and nuts if I were to integrate cooked vegetables and beans–and it turns out I “thrive”, so to speak, on a lower fat, reduced carb diet as opposed to a high fat, 95% raw, fruit-laden one. Granted, I always eat at least one raw meal or “snack” per day, even if it’s a handful of carrot sticks, sliced cucumber, or celery. It’s difficult, when you have a full-time job or are a student with a full schedule, to stay hydrated and maintain energy levels–and things like chopped veg or packaged “baby carrots” or cauliflower florettes have been lifesavers for me. When I worked part-time as a full-time student in college, I think most days I started with a quad-shot espresso, a double shot after school and/or before work, snacked on raw vegetables or an apple on the drive between Ashland and Medford (from my work to my night classes), brought a cup of coffee to the night class, and maybe ate some leftover cooked vegetables upon returning home if I had a paper to write for a different class, or some math homework, or something (there was almost always something). On days that I didn’t have night class I rode my bike instead of using my car, and thus burned more calories so I usually relied on something like a soy latte or a bit of trail mix to stay alert whenever there was a lull in the day.

Although I’d abstained from grains for 4 years prior to 2010, I’ve made compromises. For example, in January 2010 when I volunteered in Ecuador I ate quinoa because vegetables were expensive and raw vegetables not always safe to eat (though I did eat a lot of raw cucumbers and cabbage, and other things that come with a “wrapper”), and because quinoa is cheap and budgets for volunteer accomodation in Ecuador are very, very minimal. Ironically, quinoa is considerably cheaper than white rice in markets there, an explanation for which can be summarized as: white rice is a symbol of affluence, associated with developed nations, and quinoa is a symbol of poverty. I also ate oatmeal with chopped mango and papaya for breakfast, because the walk to the school I worked at involved a few miles (much of which was an uphill climb). I didn’t consider myself any less healthy for eating some grain, or any less vegan for eating the vegetables out of a soup made with chicken broth and subtly handing the broth to my ex-boyfriend to make it look as if I ate it all (to avoid offending the person who prepared the soup and so generously offered it to me). Living/volunteering abroad is material for its own article, so moving on…there was also the time when I had to taste-test every item on the menu at the restaurant I worked at in college (as was required of all employees). Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, since at most restaurants the majority of dishes are not vegan. At this one on the other hand, every single wrap, panini, salad, and beverage could be adapted to accomodate vegan customers. For example, cheese could almost always be replaced with hummus, aoili with veganaise (actually, come to think of it, there was a vegan aoili), milk with soymilk, cream with coconut milk…and all of the breads/wraps were vegan by default. Looking back on that time, I recall my then-significant other coming in handy in this situation also (I would order the wrap or panini to-go, take a bite to say I’d tried it, and he was happy for the free lunch–and I’d eat an apple or have another coffee or something). Thanks, ____, for bailing me out of eating wheat (and chicken broth).

Anyway, I thought this post required a detailed backstory in order to express my deep, profound love for blended vegetable soups. The recpies I’ve created or adapted are very low calorie (to put that in context, I think they’d measure in at 0 Weight Watchers points, or would be considered “negative calories” by some diet philosophies). Sadly, most blended soups offered at restaurants contain unneccessary ingredients like heavy cream, and the vegan ones often have a coconut milk base (which is totally unnecessary, and tastes revolting once you start making your own without it). I cannot stress this enough: a “creamy” texture and body can be achieved very easily through the utilization of cooked carrots and kale or collard greens. Even Indian dahl–which is normally lentil-based, is defined by the spices (FYI–cooked carrots and/or cauliflower or green beans provide the same texture as lentils, + more vitamins, minus the carbs. Get the spice ratio right, and the difference is undecipherable).

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t mean to imply I’m a hater of coconut milk. To the contrary–I wish the rest of the world would jump on the dairy-free alt-cream bandwagon. Even Thai restaurants, bubble-tea shops, and Asian bakeries in Chinatowns in cities across the United States, have abandoned coconut milk in favor of dairy cream (a fact saturated with irony–considering that in the traditional cuisine of most Asian cultures, dairy is nill). Example: my friend took me to a creek-side Thai restaurant in the heart of Ashland, Oregon (where roughly 60% of the population doesn’t eat dairy) for my birthday last year, and we ordered Stoli-infused thai iced teas with coconut milk substituted for heavy cream (my idea, since the presence of coconut milk in the kitchen was a no-brainer) and for each $9 cocktail $3 was added to the bill ($24 for weak cocktails was–even though I wasn’t responsible for the tab–kind of a buzzkill…on principle). After that night, I decided to stop relying on cashews or tahini for a “creamy” texture in the soups and salad dressings I make. Now that I’ve stopped, both seem much too rich…a flavor/texture that leaves me unsatisfied because the “creaminess” dulls the natural richness of the vegetables and the kick provided by the meticulously calculated spice-salt-stevia ratio. To prove this theory, I utilized my NutriBullet (BTW any food processor or blender will work, just maybe not as quickly) to re-create all of the blended soups I’ve tried over the years and loved at restaurants around the world. Each example includes a description of where and when I discovered the soup, and how to eliminate the empty calories (sugar and fat) while achieving the same (if not more satisfying) flavor profile.

Curried Carrot Soup

Paleo Carrot Soup I am a secret admirer of Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam. I was featured in an article entitled The 7 Best Paleo Blogs Out There in which she was #5 (I was #7), but my discovery of her blog predates that. I love her anime-embellished food photography, her food photography in general, and her recipes (some of which are vegan or can be adapted). Blog link: Nom Nom Paleo. Since I am currently on a quest to find soup recipes to adapt, I thought I’d surf the paleo blogosphere to see what’s trending now. Sure enough, one of my favorites–Curried Carrot–turned up in the search results on a site called A Veggie Venture written by Alanna Kellogg. For a review of the recipe by Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo click here. The article is a worthwhile read due to Kellogg’s analysis/critique of the paleo diet regarding it’s claim to fame as the key to eating “whole foods” and sourcing locally. In that same vein, I would have gone further to say that coconut milk cannot be local or even a “whole” food–since the coconut milk we have available to us in cans is the manufactured result of coconut “meat” blended with coconut water (and preservatives)–so why should it be present in a “paleo” recipe? The simple answer? It shouldn’t. And the additional calories provided are empty and provide no beneficial nutrients for anyone who isn’t starving.

Original Recipe by Nom Nom Paleo – Paleo Carrot Soup

6 servings
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 large leeks, white and light green ends only, cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced
Kosher salt
1½ pounds large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch coins
¼ cup diced Braeburn, Empire, McIntosh, or Cortland apple
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
4 cups chicken stock or Bone Broth vegetable broth
½ cup full-fat coconut milk
Freshly ground black pepper

Explanation for the Eliminations

Oil is never necessary in a soup, especially a blended soup. I have tried to wrap my head around this one, to no avail. In Latin America (Ecuador and Peru especially), oil is almost always added when animal fat is unavailable–and the result is an unappetizing mess of oil molecules floating to the top of an otherwise palatable broth. Nix the coconut oil in this recipe along with the coconut milk, and your tastebuds, waistline, and skin condition will thank you.

Method, adapted from Nom Nom Paleo

1.) Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, along with a generous pinch of salt, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Sauté the leeks in a small amount of water, without salt, until translucent.
2.) Toss in the carrot, apple, ginger, and cardamom, and stir until fragrant. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil over high heat.
3.) Turn down the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the carrots are easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Mix in the coconut milk.
4.) Transfer the soup in batches to a blender and process until smooth. Alternatively, purée the soup directly in the pot with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lentil Dahl

Vitamix-Dal-Soup I recently discovered Blenderbabes.com, and must admit to being impressed by the writing, design, and food photography (it’s not every day I find a blog that’s a triple threat in that regard). I love that the concept is based on the use of high-powered blenders such as the NutriBullet or Vitamix, *yet we all know (if not, I’m telling you now) that any food processor or blender will work as a means toward creating blended soups/smoothies, etc., so don’t feel excluded or skip on blended recipes en lieu of a fancy blender. This recipe by Blender Babes is fantastic for its balance of flavors, but it can be improved in terms of nutrition and reduced in caloric value via the use of parsnips and kale in place of lentils. It may seem far-fetched, but hear me out: the combination of cooked parsnips and dino kale–when blended–results in a creamy texture reminiscent of traditional lentil dahl.

Original Recipe by Blender Babes – Blender Dahl

Yields 7 cups

1 cup lentils, dried 2 ½ cups parsnips, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
3 cups water or chicken stock or Bone Broth vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves, ground
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup tomato paste
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh
2 baking potatoes, baked, unpeeled, quartered 3 cups cauliflower florettes
1 ½ tablespoons cilantro, fresh

Explanation for the Eliminations

Both instances of broth/water in the ingredient list imply that water can be substituted for broth to acheive the same result. This might work for the original recipe–but I’ve determined that when root vegetables are swapped for legumes, veg broth should always be used. It’s quite easy to make, even if you don’t have every ingredient on hand for the vegetable broth recipe I swear by. Oh, and cauliflower for potatoes is a no-brainer. Skeptical? Look no further than my first paleo-vegan post, re: Thanksgiving: http://paleoveganista.com/2012/11/28/savory-mushroom-gravy/.

Method, adapted from Blender Babes

1.) Wash the lentils and cook parsnips with one clove of garlic in 3 cups of water or vegetable broth until liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
2.) In a two quart pot, saute onion and remaining garlic clove in olive oil until soft. Add spices and tomato paste. Mix well.
3.) Add remaining 4 cups of water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
4.) Place soup, lentils, parsnips potatoes cauliflower, and cilantro into the blender in the order listed and secure lid.
Blendtec: Press the WHOLE JUICE button.
Vitamix: VARIABLE, speed #1. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to VARIABLE, speed #10, then to HIGH. Blend for 30 seconds.
*Food processor or run-of-the-mill blender: blend until smooth.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Blender Soup

creamy roasted red pepper soup I became privy to Sarcasticcooking.com while searching for a roasted red-pepper blended soup to adapt. From my pre-vegan days (prior to my 15th birthday in November 2005) I loved roasted red pepper soup. I never made it myself; rather, I bought it by the carton at Trader Joe’s. After eliminating dairy I failed at finding a roasted red pepper soup until starting college–where I found it in the prepared soup section of the local co-op (though it was cashew-based, and probably 1,000 calories a cup). So having adopted said sketicism regarding that soup, I started seeking out recipes that emulated it’s flavor/texture but did not utilize cashews or coconut milk. My acheivement of this did not take place until today, when I Nutri-bulleted a soup using this recipe by Stefanie of Sarcastic Cooking (not vegan but a resource in terms of recipes with veganizable potential)–give or take a few ingredients.

Original Recipe by Sarcastic Cooking – Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes
Yield: About 7 Cups
Serving Size: Serves 4-6

2 x 12 Ounce Jars of Roasted Red Peppers, drained
1, 28 Ounce Can Unsalted Whole Peeled Tomatoes
½ Cup vegetable broth
1 Cup Heavy Cream vegetable broth + 2 cups cooked kale leaves or collard greens
1 Tablespoon Salt
½ Tablespoon Black Pepper
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Clove Garlic, grated
1 Shallot, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Basil

Explanation for the Eliminations

For those who don’t like greens but want to reap the benefits–try this recipe. First off, you won’t taste the greens. Secondly, the greens create a creamy texture when blended/processed with the peppers and tomatoes. Thirdly, cream is not a health food and really shouldn’t be considered obligatory in any recipe.

Method, adapted from Sarcastic Cooking

Add all the ingredients to the blender. Puree until smooth/liquefied, about two minutes.
Either freeze or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Soup will last in the refrigerator for four days and up to a month in the freezer.
When ready to serve, heat soup in a saucepan over medium/low heat for 10 minutes until heated through.

Conclusion

This article has been particularly expository and lengthy, but as a blogger I’m aware of the need to credit others and explain the reasons why their recipes attracted my attention and inspired me to revise them. I would like to thank Nom Nom Paleo, A Veggie Venture, Blender Babes, and Sarcastic Cooking–for their recipes that inspired said renovations. Salud.

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Modern Application(s) of Aquaponics

aquaponics1

The other day I came across a website for a startup founded by two recent UC Berkeley grads called Back to the Roots, and then remembered I’d seen their original product (a DIY mushroom-growing kit) at a natural foods store about a year ago. I thought about buying a kit, but even at $20, which is reasonable when you consider the cost per pound of store-bought exotic mushrooms, and despite endorsement of the product by Martha Stewart–it was not a practical option for me at the time.

A year later, when I came across their newest product the AquaFarm–I was intrigued. Growing up I had a 3-gallon fish tank that I remember being really annoying to clean (having to take the fish out of the tank, change the water, and use a suction-pump thing to clean the interior). The AquaFarm caught my attention because not only is it a mere 3 gallons–it also requires no cleaning. That’s the whole point, really–the relationship between the plants you grow for food and the fish you keep as pets is symbiotic and cancels out the need for fertilization or watering the plants. This system also eliminates the need for a filter–for which in traditional fish tanks/aquariums you need to change out regularly–adding to the cost of providing a healthy environment for aquatic pets.

In a nutshell, the AquaFarm is genius. However, it is as such because it encompasses the technology of an ancient system (and different modern manifestations of it) and brings it to the mainstream in a way that is affordable and easy to set up and maintain.

At face value, I gathered that the AquaFarm is a very sustainable way to keep aquatic pets while growing your own micro greens and herbs–in a way that requires little cost past the original purchase of $59 (for the entire system) and the cost of the fish. An added bonus is the coupon for a male betta fish (like Mallard ducks, the male is ornate and the female is not) from your local Petco that comes with each AquaFarm purchase.

This post is in no way intending to promote the AquaFarm or Back to the Roots since I have not used the product(s) and as you will see, other types of aquaponic systems on the market and DIY alternatives follow–one of which is a legitimate competitor in terms of cost, visual aesthetic, and user-friendliness. That said, here is an video in which the founders of Back to the Roots describe the functionality of the AquaFarm:

Upon my discovery of AquaFarm I was skeptical as to the ingenuity of its creators, since I had a general understanding of aquaponics after researching it for a writing gig. If I were to ever keep fish as pets again, I would adapt the tank into an aquaponics ecosystem without hesitation. I think the AquaFarm would be a good place to start for those who haven’t created environments for pet fish before or those without knowledge of or time to create a DIY aquaculture environment.

I have no idea which came first, the AquaFarm or the Goldfish Garden, or which is more effective or how they are different apart from aesthetics. The AquaFarm reassembles the geometric shape of many 3 gallon fish tanks on the market, while in contrast the Goldfish Garden is a barrel-shaped circular 2-gallon “fish bowl”. Both the AquaFarm and the Goldfish Garden are designed to enable the cultivation of micro greens i.e. arugula and herbs such as basil and oregano, so in that regard they are comparable. One potential issue (in terms of the “hardiness” of the fish) is the size of the tank. For both types of aquaponics system, a betta fish is considered the most compatible with small/indoor/tabletop aquaculture systems–and the general consensus regarding minimum size of environment for a betta fish to thrive in is 3 gallons. For this reason, perhaps the GroPonix mini-aquarium is too small. It would be beneficial to hear of others’ experiences with either system, or with aquaponics in general.

The Goldfish Garden:

The Goldfish Garden costs $74.99, and is compatible with hex light systems. The basic; the standard, which includes everything needed to get started; and the standard plus (includes light). If you already have a fish tank/aquarium in a compatible size, GroPonix sells the aquaponics system a la carte (without the fish bowl/tank) so you can simply attach the apparatus and start growing food.

If you have the time and effort/passion/attention span to create your own apartment aquaponics system by hand–there are a number of resources as follows. Also, in case you are able/willing to spend $700 on the Yves Saint Laurent of aquaponics, check out The Aqualibrium Garden (http://shop.aqualibrium.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-aqualibrium-garden). At a pricetag of $629, I’d rather spend the time apprenticing under an aquaponics professional in some sort of unpaid internship than to spend that kind of $$$ on a fish tank/garden, but I give them props for a very well-designed website and enticing copy.

The Aqualibrium Garden:

If you’re hardcore and fiercely into DIY projects, this is for you:

Please comment with any inquiries or insights…as always, I love to read objective opintions re: the things I write about. Anyone with experience in aquaponics or wish to wish to help evolve this post into a coversation–please please speak up. I look forward to hearing your opinions.

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Vintage Vegan Memes

I’ve noticed a lot of “vegan memes” on the internet, some of which are funny, clever, or thought-provoking. It’s really hit-or-miss though, as of late. When you google the term most results are of Ryan Gosling and feature text such as “Hey girl, I heard you ate a vegan cupcake”. Not sure why Mr. Gosling is the latest face of veganism–but it’s definitely not bad for the vegan front.

As a result of my appreciation for and fascination with photography of the 1930s, I thought I’d try my hand at meme-creation using vintage photos and fonts. A new take on the up-and-coming pop-cuture phenomenon of the current and previous decades. It’s a gamble conceptually, so please lend me your feedback. Vintage vegan meme 1939 image milk dairy

the cow and the bull lithograph vegan meme

elephants-vegan-meme

vegan baking

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Tofu Rancheros with Quinoa Tortillas

All photos were taken with my phone, since I was eager to post this recipe and I misplaced the cord that uploads images from my Nikon DSLR to this blog. I would apologize, but my current philosophy is from a sentence I read recently: Never apologize, never explain.

tofu rancheros with quinoa tortillas

Quinoa Tortillas – Step 1

To make the quinoa tortillas you have two options: With a tortilla press, or without. I will describe each method to give you an idea of what you have or plan to buy before we start rolling (the dough).

Option A

Use a tortilla press. I’m not talking some sort of “as seen on TV” appliance i.e. “The Perfect Pancake” (someone in my family purchased one when I was a child, and now I associate all informercial purchases with smoke alarms and messes). I’m referring to the “traditional” tortilla press, made of cast-iron or cast-aluminum. I was lucky enough to find another one at Goodwill (after my college roommate took the first one, which was also from Goodwill), so chances are you might find one if you’re willing to sort through bins of kitchen appliances at your local thrift store. If you live near one of the so-called Goodwill “Bins” (where everything is dirt-cheap), you have a roughly 75% chance of finding one–if you are eager for a treasure hunt and have 5 hours to spare. On the other hand, if you are not eager or willing to search for a needle in a haystack, you can buy one on Amazon for under $10 (at the lower end, usually cast-alluminum and could be flimsy but works well) or if you have the cash I recommend the cast-iron version which is around $30 and works like a charm. Tip: Don’t buy a fancy CucinaPro 1443 Flatbread and Tortilla Maker. At $70 I think it’s overpriced and it is “Not recommended for use with non-gluten flours”. This makes no sense, since corn (masa) flour is gluten-free.

Option B

When developing recipes I brainstorm all the possible ways a dish could be prepared in absence of a certain utensil or appliance, because not everyone has a food processor on hand (or in this case, a tortilla press). These methods can take longer, but I like to think that most of my recipes can be done with just a knife, fork, spoon, bowl, an oven or stove and a little creativity. So yes, you can make quinoa tortillas without a tortilla press.

Quinoa Tortillas: Step 2

To make the dough you will need:

Ingredients

2 cups toasted quinoa flour
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (because it’s rich in B vitamins and otherwise good for vegans, and it gives the tortillas the appearance of yellow corn)
3/4 cup water + a bit more if the dough is too dry
1 teaspoon coconut oil or your cooking oil of choice (I used coconut because it’s paleo and the flavor complements the quinoa)
Salt to taste. Optional

Method

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, adding water to form the dough. Divide into 12 equal parts and roll each one in your hand to form a ball.

Place each ball between two pieces of parchment paper. Place into a tortilla press if you have one or roll out with a rolling pin, using a small bowl with a circumference similar to that of a standard corn tortilla.

Once each ball of dough is formed into a tortilla, remove one side of the parchment paper and place that side on a skillet over medium heat. Immediately remove the parchment paper from the top side and cook until the edges turn brown and small bubbles begin to form (approximately 2 minutes). Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Repeat until you have a plate of warm and delicious quinoa tortillas. Set aside.

tortilla press

Image courtesy of Chefscatalog.com, featuring the tortilla-making process in a cast-iron press. I am in no way affiliated with them, but you can purchase this item and other types of tortilla press directly from their website or on Amazon.com

Now for the filling.

Tofu Rancheros – Filling for the Quinoa Tortillas

Ingredients

1 package extra firm tofu, drained
1 cup onion, minced
1 can fire roasted tomatoes. You will find these in tiendas (‘Mexican markets’) in the states, or in the ‘Hispanic foods’ section of corporate grocery stores i.e. Safeway, Lucky, Fred Meyer, H.E.B but if you can’t find them use ‘Mexican-style’ stewed tomatoes instead
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or 1 can black beans
1 cup fresh corn (or frozen. You can use a can, but it tends not to work well with recipes like this).
1 4oz can fired roasted green chiles – FYI the Hatch brand and the Trader Joe’s brand (which is probably Hatch anyway, since TJ’s tends to rebrand things according to the relationships it forms with independent brands) sell these diced/chopped. If you can’t find them diced or chopped in a can, buy them whole and chop/dice post-purchase. Or, if you have the skills to do so, fire-roast raw green chiles on your own and then slice/dice them like a pro.
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
chopped cilantro, according to taste or number of people you are serving
fresh sliced lime
1 Tbsp agave nectar
(omit the agave nectar if using Mexican-style stewed tomatoes instead of fire roasted tomatoes, as stewed tomatoes contain sugar so with the agave the result would be too sweet and overseasoned)

Method

1. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano. Sauté 5 minutes. Stir in smoked tomatoes, tofu, and corn; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the black beans and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Plate the tortillas (warm them if you made them in advance). Top with tofu rancheros filling and fresh tomatoes, and garnish with cilantro and fresh lime.

¡Buen provecho!
tofu rancheros and quinoa tortillas

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Used Shoes or: How I Learned to Stop Wearing Them and Feel Sane Again

danskos_vegan_shoes_newSecond hand stores. Oh how I love them. It all started when I was 9, after my parents split, and I went back-to-school shopping in Paradise, CA during a visit to my grandparents’ house. While some kids would have been disappointed by the new form of shopping, I was really into Fiona Apple at the time and much to my awe and delight— found myself swimming (figuratively, of course) in a sea of opportunity that would allow me to emulate her style (minus the crop tops, which my mother never would have let me buy let alone wear to school). The store was filled with more well-made 90s threads than Wasteland in San Francisco (where I hadn’t been yet, and wouldn’t encounter until a decade later). So, back to footwear. I never wore used shoes until high school, since I am and always have been an odd size to fit (9.5, or EU size 40). As a freshman in high school I tried to “shrink” my feet into a Converse size 7 (9 in women’s) until learning about foot binding in World History class, after which I bought a pair in the proper size and never shopped for too-small shoes again.

I wore Converse until I transferred to a new high school my junior year—after realizing that at least 40% of my classmates dressed like they’d stepped out of a Free People catalog or a spread in W Magazine. It was eclectic, and everyone seemed to be one-upping each other with their style choices. While some people copied others, and only a few dressed in head-to-toe Abercrombie, it struck me that original style was appreciated and celebrated. I admit I might have focused more on my wardrobe than my studies that year. Enter: vintage clothing stores, and shopping at Goodwill with utter unabashed abandon.

This is where the problems started. See, my feet are an odd size to fit in the women’s department. However, at Goodwill and Salvation Army, or at your average vintage store, possibilities of finding great shoes in the men’s section are endless. I found fantastic cowboy boots and Dr. Martins, and although they didn’t feel like walking on clouds I knew they looked great. So I wore them. Every day. Paired with slips dyed in vibrant colors and layers upon layers of second-hand jewelry. And I felt like a million dollars, appearance-wise. Saving so much $ by shopping second-hand allowed for haircuts most people might consider frivolous. This was until I endured a minor fracture in my heel upon jumping off a rock into a lake, after which I could no longer comfortably walk in cowboy boots or heels.

Flash forward to my freshman year at college, my introduction to Dansko clogs. I was hooked after I started hanging out with someone who swore by them and looked great in them too. I bought my first pair new, after saving the $125 and felt like I’d been reborn into the same body (only with better posture, more energy, better focus, and an overall sense of heightened awareness). I thought I was dreaming. Those Dansko clogs made me want to walk the 5 miles to school instead of riding my bike or driving. I was excited to get up in the morning, more than anyone should be when their 8am class is their least favorite subject. To say I felt fantastic would be an understatement.

I wore this pair of jet-black Dansko clogs for 5 years, until one day I stopped feeling on top of the world. I ignored it as long as I could, until I rolled my ankle and realized one sole was much more worn down than the other. I bought a pair of Dr Scholl’s insoles, which helped but didn’t solve the problem. I didn’t want to “give in” so I got them repaired instead of shelling out for a new pair. Years later, they were stolen outside my room at a hostel in Guatemala. Up until this point, for a year at least, I had alternated wearing these with a (new) pair of combat boots from Palladium I got at Urban Outfitters for $5 (on super-super clearance or whatever the alternative of that would be called in retail) that were originally in the 3-digit range, and started wearing them while doing research in Guatemala because along with my fitted Dickies pants and shirts, and natural tan (from spending so much time outdoors) I felt like the female version of my childhood idol, Indiana Jones. I still have the movies on VHS, and despite the preliminary lecture I was privy to while seated in my first archeology class at college, wherein the first slide of the presentation showed a photo of the aforementioned Hollywood anthropologist and followed with a lecture along the lines of “if this is your conceptualization of archeology, you’re wrong”, I can’t change the past, nor can I change the reasons behind the spark that lit my anthropological fire, if you will.

Moving on.

So as the moral of this story nears, I want to insert a few sentences to stifle the blow of the (to speak for myself) life-altering conclusion. Shoes, or ahem, footwear to use the proper term, have always been a significant part of my life (from the day my feet started to grow embarrassingly larger than those of my female classmates). I was 6 years old. It was traumatic, and I spent several of my days doing the whole “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” act—only in this case it was “I must, I must, I must increase decrease my bust shoe size”. Anyway, when the Danskos were stolen in Guatemala I didn’t care much aside from the fact they were the only footwear I’d brought apart from flip-flops. I went to the used shoe store which catered to locals (not gringos, as ironically there were some used-clothing stores catering exclusively to ex-pats and transients) and spent 10 minutes sorting through reused oil cans filled with random footwear. Then I found them: a pair of black Danskos, in my size and in better condition than the pair I had lost. I pinched myself to make sure I hadn’t stepped on a used needle along the way and in a very altered state or coma of sorts. The shoes cost the equivalent of 50 cents US $, and I bought them in a sort of blundered euphoria, with total disregard or amnesia regarding the reservations I’d had about buying used shoes after walking uncomfortably in used boots in high school.

Days later, I started to feel insane. I would wake up, get out of bed; pick up my toothbrush, look in the mirror, unable to recognize my face. I had always spent my days in some form of routine, and in general it was meticulous aside from a few deviations from the mean. I always had things to do, things to write, annoying routine tasks like checking for junk mail in my email inbox my spam filter neglected to find, etc. etc. etc. and otherwise focusing most of my attention on my work. Then my body began to feel off, without warning or any significant change in life circumstances. I’d been with the same person for nearly 6 years, but upon returning from Guatemala after a brief visit to follow up on my research and work there, I didn’t recognize him either. It was like a hurricane occurred in my brain and threw apart my synapses—rewiring them to something so different I couldn’t begin to put back the pieces. I had no patience for it, as I’ve always been bored by puzzles (the tabletop kind) and prefer games like scrabble…it seemed best to ignore whatever symptoms came and went within my psyche, or consciousness, and just pretend that some day things would repair themselves and go back to normal. This thinking did not come from a place of sanity, and despite recent improvements I was not completely “healed” or back to a place of “normalcy”.

The inspiration behind this post is a new pair of Dansko clogs (made of vegan “leather”) I recently bid on and won on Ebay for a fraction of the retail price. Within an hour’s time after the UPS truck arrived, I felt sane. For the first time in awhile. Not only did my feet feel great; my body felt aligned. As if I’d experienced the most significant chiropractic adjustment of my life…only cheaper. In lieu of all the chiropractic work I’ve paid for recently and the boxes of “natural” mood-enhancing remedies and things I’ve tried this past year, many of which have helped to some extent, for the first time in over a year I feel reconnected to a sense of self I’d considered lost.

Moral of the story: Do not buy used shoes, especially clogs, combat boots, or other structured footwear. The extra $100 spent may improve your life and save you $$$$ in therapy down the line.

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

On a Cleanse; Can’t Post About Food. So Here’s My List of Top-10 Songs From the 90s

fiona_appleI rarely post about anything that doesn’t involve a vegan-paleo recipe of some sort. But since I’m taking a break from food, distraction is priceless.

These are all songs from cassette tapes or CDs I acquired at garage sales, flea markets, and lost-and-found bins as a child in the 90s, most of which I never saw the music videos for because I didn’t grow up with cable television.  But now we have YouTube!  I hope this nostalgic post (for which the main purpose is to distract me from food during my fast) is enjoyable, humorous, or at least entertaining.

1. Fiona Apple Criminal

My Fiona Apple Criminal cassette stayed in my walkman from the day I turned 7 until I was 10.  No joke.  I played it on repeat, despite the fact that I may have misunderstood some of the lyrics.  Regardless, the flute accompaniment to the piano in Criminal is what first inspired me to consider joining band (to play the flute) in elementary school.  Surprisingly, the song Criminal is more relevant to my life now than I could’ve ever imagined.  Subliminal messages, much?

2. Alanis Morissette You Oughta Know

Alanis was another one of my garage sale finds, when I tagged along for a garage sale sweep with my Nana and my Aunt Kathy on vacation in Lake Tahoe.  I was bummed that we had to get up so early to get the “good stuff” before anyone else did, but I found a CD with the “parental advisory” label and a cool looking girl on the cover.  *Note: it was the 1995 album Jagged Little Pill.  I was happy to hand over 50 cents and begged my cousin to let me borrow his discman.  The result was my writing the lyrics to You Oughta Know and Isn’t It Ironic all over my Converse, the same pair I wore through most of high school until they fell apart.  Another cool factoid I learned after binge-watching Weeds– Ms. Morissette’s acting cred isn’t limited to her portrayal of God in Dogma. The OBGYN at the Women’s Health Clinic in the fictional town of Ren Mar, CA who wins Uncle Andy’s affections (and almost gets him to stay)? That was Alanis.

3. The Cranberries Zombie

Believe it or not, Zombie was yet another garage sale score.  I don’t know…I guess I’m blessed with family members that are pro at it.  Anyway, my first intro to The Cranberries was a cassette tape at a garage sale with my Nana and it was in the free pile. Who throws away cassette tapes?  People with a stereo system or CD player in their car, I guess.  I was 9 when I found the No Need to Argue album featuring Zombie, and it was the second most played cassette in my walkman (after Fiona, of course). The music video is a little intense for a 9 year old I’ll admit, but I didn’t have cable anyway so I never saw it.

4. Nine Inch Nails Hurt

My babysitter as a child listened to Nine Inch Nails.  There were also the cool sixth graders at my elementary school (this was 1995, and I was in Kindergarten) that would reference Nine Inch Nails lyrics and sometimes wore concert T-shirts (though now I know it’s less than likely that they actually attended said concerts).  I listened to Nine Inch Nails in Kindergarten because I thought it was cool, and I knew I would get into trouble if anyone were to find out.  One of the sixth graders left his Nine Inch Nails cassette tape in the daycare, and it ended up in the lost and found.  So I nabbed it.  And that was that, even though I didn’t understand the lyrics (I was 5).  In 2003 Johnny Cash did a cover of Hurt from their 1995 album The Downward Spiral.  It is thought to be the last song Cash recorded before his death in 2003.  I didn’t see the original video for Hurt until recently, and I also didn’t know there was a Johnny Cash cover.  I think the latter is much more compelling:

5. Sneaker Pimps 6 Underground

Somehow, at the Sebastopol flea market in 1999 (when I was 9) I found this hidden gem.  It was a Sneaker Pimps cassette tape of the album Becoming X, and the cover art was so rad that I had to throw caution to the wind and buy it (it was 25 cents, but when you’re 9 years old a quarter is valuable).  I loved that cassette so much that it was usually the tape I listened to when I got tired of Fiona or The Cranberries, which was a rare occasion.

6. Faith No More Everything’s Ruined

I got really into Faith No More when I found it in someone’s CD collection.  This was in 2008, I believe.  Years later, as I was sorting through boxes of my childhood belongings when my dad moved out of the house I grew up in, I found a Faith No More Angel Dust cassette without a proper case.  I vaguely remember listening to it as a child.  Hopefully I was older than 5.  I no longer have the cassette, but I now often set Pandora to “Faith No More radio” on drives lasting more than 5 minutes.  *Note: There is a lot of imagery in this video that suggests a vegan agenda. I wonder if Mike Patton is vegan.  That would be awesome.  Also, the underage brunette in the glittery 80s zip-up track jacket looks a lot like Ellen Page.

7. No Doubt Just A Girl

Yet another garage sale find.  I found the 1995 album Tragic Kingdom in a pile of CDs in Leggett, CA on vacation.  I think I was 8.  I hadn’t seen Clueless yet, but ironically I had read several of the books in the series by H.B. Gilmour.

8. Tracy Chapman Fast Car

Fast Car was actually released in 1988, but I found the cassette at a thrift store in Paradise, CA while “back to school” shopping in 1999 on a visit to my grandparents’ house.  The cassette was in a blank case with a handwritten sticker that read “Fast Car. Tracy Chapman” and nothing else.  I thought Ms. Chapman was a man.  Later, when I found out this wasn’t the case, I was a little embarrassed about the times in which I argued that Fast Car was sung by a man (based on my assertion that “Tracy” can also be a man’s name).

9. Ani DiFranco Not A Pretty Girl

I found this at age 8, at the same garage sale I found No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom CD.  Not a Pretty Girl sort of changed my life.  I was shocked by the lyrics, not because they are explicit (they’re not) but it proved to me that other people might truly understand me.  I related to it, the same way I’m sure many others have.  I saw her perform in 2009, and got a little smashed due to all the wine that other Ani-loving ladies offered me from their hidden flasks and Nalgene bottles.

10. Erykah Badu Otherside Of The Game

I bought the 1997 Erykah Badu album Baduizm at a thrift store in Markleeville, CA when I was camping at Grover Hot Springs (near South Shore Lake Tahoe) with my Dad and brother in 1999.  While they were out fishing I was exploring the local shops and documenting cool things with my disposable camera. At the thrift store I came across the CD and bought it because it was $3 and the album cover was intriguing.  The tracks were unlike anything I’d heard before, and I became a fan.  I later saw Erykah perform at the Harmony Festival in 2007, the summer before I left for college.

Afterthought: Having listened to these in my early years I sort of understand why I wasn’t into the Backstreet Boys, N*Sync (there was a star or an asterisk somewhere in the title, right?), Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, or Jewel. Actually–if I recall correctly I met Jewel when I worked local crew at a music festival.  I think.  Anyway, Jewel, I did like your music and was stoked when one of your songs played on the radio.  I just never came across a cassette or CD of yours at a garage sale or flea market.

Bonus Video: Top 10 Ridiculous 1990s Music Videos

*Disclaimer: I actually kind of liked Deee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart.  And who doesn’t like MC Hammer?

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Fish-Free Sushi Nori Rolls with Carrot “Rice”

fish free paleo sushi

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg toasted sushi nori sheets
1/2 pkg firm tofu (the kind packed in water)
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 red bell pepper
1 large carrot
unhulled toasted sesame seeds, aka Gomashi

Equipment

food processor or high-powered blender i.e. Vitamix or NutriBullet
sushi mat
rubber spatula

CONDIMENTS

Tamari or soy sauce
Wasabi
Pickled ginger

IMG_0068

METHOD

Chop the carrot and pulse in a food processor. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, and pulse again until evenly processed (it should resemble sticky rice or couscous). If you don’t have a food processor you can grate the carrot instead. Set aside.

Slice the tofu, avocado, and bell pepper in thin uniform strips. Set aside.

place 1 sheet of nori on the sushi mat. Spread the carrot “rice” over 2/3 of the nori, starting from the bottom (leaving 1/3 room at the top). Sprinkle 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds over the carrot “rice”.

Now evenly place the strips of red pepper, avocado, and tofu.

Ever so slightly, wet the top 1/3 of the nori with a little water. Using the sushi mat, roll it up from the bottom to the top.

Cut the roll into uniform pieces. I cut each roll into thirds, so I got three mini rolls for each sheet of nori.

IMG_0008
IMG_0028

Since I don’t have pictures to accompany each of the steps, I thought I’d share this video tutorial from raw food and macrobiotic chef/instructor Ryoya of Peaceful Cuisine. The video shows how to prepare the carrot rice and spread it on the nori, how to place the other ingredients, and most importantly, how to roll it.  The sushi in the video is made with tempeh and other ingredients you might want to try or get inspired to create your own combinations.

Other ideas for faux-rice: parsnips (pulsed in a food processor, similar to carrots but the white color gives the sushi a more authentic look.  Also, parsnips are drier and denser than carrots, and when processed the result is more similar to rice.  The flavor of a raw parsnip is much stronger (almost spicy) compared to a carrot.  For a milder/less distinct flavor, try using cauliflower or jicima (see tutorials below).

Another idea I got from the nori alternative tutorial (#5, below) is heart of palm “rice”.  I love heart of palm, but it tends to be expensive and you’d need at least 1 can to make the rice.  On second thought, in the video they’re probably using raw (not canned) heart of palm.  I’ve eaten it raw on an organic farm in Belize, but I’m not sure where it would be sold in the states.

More Vegan Sushi Tutorials

1.) Post Punk Kitchen “Sushi & Cupcakes” episode featuring Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romano.  The recipe isn’t paleo (they use real rice) but it’s a great tutorial, especially if you want to be as DIY as possible with your sushi-making technique (you’ll learn how to toast your own nori).  Plus, PPK episodes are not only educational but really fun to watch.  As a pescatarian in 2004 I was fully motivated to stop eating fish right after viewing it. Fun fact for my fantasy Trivial Pursuit: Vegan Edition : This is the PPK premiere episode, aired in 2003.

2.) Raw Vegan Sushi by Laura Miller of Sidesaddle Kitchen.  This recipe utilizes jicima as faux rice.

3.) Raw Vegan Papaya Sushi by Megan Elizabeth.  Not 100% raw because the cauliflower is cooked (it’s easier to achieve a rice-like consistency when cooked), but the recipe is paleo and also fat free (unlike most other raw sushi recipes, it doesn’t call for avocado or nuts).  The papaya resembles raw fish and has a similar texture.

4.) Tutorial for a Nori Alternative (for those concerned about radiation in the ocean and/or consider nori to be a questionable vegan product) by Chris of The Raw Advantage

So I guess that’s all, folks! I hope this post was educational or at least entertaining. #vegansushiforever

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Vegan In-Flight Dining Guide

Inflight DiningMany airlines offer special meals to accommodate passengers of varying lifestyles and dietary preferences. American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Continental Airlines, to name a few, provide a number of alternative meal types on long-distance flights including Western vegetarian/vegan, vegetarian Jain (pure vegetarian/vegan meal adhering to the principles of the Jain belief system), and raw vegetable and/or fruit plates. These alternative meals must be confirmed in advance at the time of ticket purchase or at least 72 hours prior to check-in. These options might vary according to seasonal availability and changes in budget.

Choosing a Vegan In-Flight Meal

When booking your flight, keep an eye out for a “special dietary preferences” checkbox or button. This will take you to a new page or menu where the following options should be listed:

Vegan Vegetarian (VGML) – Also called Vegetarian Non-Dairy/Egg (Vegan) Meal or Pure Vegetarian and often cross-listed as “Western Vegetarian”, this meal is vegan (does not contain meat/poultry/fish, eggs, dairy, honey, or animal by-products of any kind). This meal is often a grain-based (rice or pasta) cooked with vegetables, and comes with a side of fresh fruit.

Vegetarian Jain (VJML) – Designed to suit the needs of Jain Vegetarians, this meal is vegan (does not contain meat/poultry/fish, eggs, dairy, or animal by-products of any kind). Served with Indian condiments and a side of fresh fruit, this dish will be vegetable-based but will not include ginger, garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes or other root vegetables. *Note: On American Airlines, Jain meals are only offered on flights to and from Mumbai, India.

Vegetarian Oriental (VOML) – Vegetarian Meal (VGML) Asian-style dish that does not contain dairy or eggs. Not to be confused with “Asian Vegetarian Meal” (AVML) which does not contain eggs but can contain milk products on flights other than UNITED (On United Airlines, AVML meals are vegan).

Raw Vegetable Plate (RVML) – Chopped raw vegetables and/or salad

Fruit Platter (FPML) – Fruit salad or a few pieces of fresh fruit i.e. banana, apple, orange

Meals that Might NOT Be Vegan:

Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal (VLML) – Does not contain any type of meat/fish/poultry. However, one or more ingredients could be dairy or egg based.

Asian Vegetarian (AVML) on any airline besides UNITED – Vegetable-based Indian or Chinese style dish. Does not contain meat/poultry/fish or eggs, but some ingredients might be milk products. *On United Airlines, AVML indicates a vegan meal (same as above but does NOT contain milk or honey)

Hindu / Indian (HNML) – Sometimes grouped together with vegetarian meal options because it does not contain beef, this dish is often lamb, poultry or fish based. It is typically spicy and may contain eggs or dairy ingredients. If the dish is listed as “Hindu Vegetarian” as it is on American Airlines for example, it does NOT contain any meat/poultry/fish but may contain eggs, milk, yogurt or other dairy products.

Kosher Vegetarian (KSMLV) – Prepared according to kosher specifications, this is a sealed, pre-packed meal that excludes the use of any meat, seafood and dairy products but may contain eggs.

Kosher (KSML) – Like above but not vegetarian (May contain meat or other animal products).

Muslim (MOML) – Does not contain pork or game meat, but may include other animal ingredients.

Low Cholesterol, Low Fat (LFML) – May contain egg whites, nonfat milk products, or other low-cholesterol animal by-products.

Low Calorie (LCML) – Usually vegetable-based but may contain nonfat milk products, egg whites, or animal by-products.

Low Lactose (LLML) – This meal is lactose free (excludes cheese, dairy products and their derivatives) but may contain meat/fish/poultry and/or egg products.

Diabetic (DBML) – Zero-sugar or low sugar, lower in calories and fat. However, this meal may contain eggs, nonfat milk or milk by-products.

Vegan Meal Availability According to Airline

While the 4-letter abbreviations are streamlined, meal types may be phrased or defined differently according to airline. It is best to read the descriptions (if applicable) on the airline’s website or contact customer service before choosing your in-flight meal.

AEROMEXICO

Vegan Vegetarian (VGML)
Fruit Plate (FPML)
Source: AeroMexico – In Flight Dining

ADRIA AIRLINES (SLOVENIA)

AVML (Asian Vegetarian)
FPML (Fruit Plate)
RVML (Raw Vegetarian)
VGML (Vegetarian Non-Dairy/Egg – Vegan)
Source: Adria Airlines – Food and Drinks

AIR CHINA

RVML (Raw Vegetarian)
VGML (Vegetarian Vegan)
VJML (Jain Vegetarain)
FPML (Fruit Platter)
*Note: Their VOML (Vegetarian Oriental Meal) may contain eggs.
Source: Air China – Special Meals

AIR FRANCE

VGML (Vegan)
Source: Air France: Special Meals

AMERICAN AIRLINES

VGML (Vegan Vegetarian)
Source: American Airlines – Sample Menus

BRITISH AIRWAYS

VGML (Vegan Vegetarian)
VJML (Jain Vegetarian) *Not available on flights from Athens or from the Caribbean (except Bermuda and Providenciales), or on flights operated by OpenSkies
FPML (Fresh Fruit Platter)
Source: British Airways – Special Meals

DELTA

VGML (Pure Vegetarian / Vegan aka Western Vegetarian)
Source: Delta – Special Meals

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Must call to reserve Vegan/Vegetarian meals
Source: Hawaiian Airlines In-Flight Meal Service

JAL (JAPAN)

VGML (Vegan Vegetarian)
RVML (Raw Food Vegetarian Meal)
JAL International Flights – Special Meals

KLM

VGML (Vegetarian Vegan)
Source: KLM Special Meals on Board

Gallery Source: AirlineMeals.net

KOREAN AIR

VGML (Vegetarian Vegan)
VJML (Jain Vegetarian)
VOML (Vegetarian Oriental) *Vegan
FPML (Fruit Platter)
Source: Korean Air – Special Meals

LUFTHANSA

VGML (Western Vegetarian)
FPML (Fruit Plate)
VOML (Vegetarian Oriental)
Source: Lufthansa – Special Meals

SINGAPORE AIR

VOML (Oriental Vegetarian) *Vegan
KSMLV (Kosher Vegetarian) *Might contain eggs. Call for more information.
RVML (Raw Vegetarian)
VGML (Western Vegetarian/Vegan)
VJML (Vegetarian Jain)
Source: Singapore Air – Special Meals

Gallery: Source: SQ Talk (Singapore Air) Forum:

THAI AIRWAYS

VGML (Strict European Vegetarian)
RVML (Raw Vegetarian)
VJML (Jain Vegetarian / Strict Indian Vegetarian)
VOML (Vegetarian Oriental)
*On Thai Airways flights, the “Western Vegetarian” meal is NOT vegan (it is listed as VLML, not VGML as it is on most other airlines).
Source: Thai Airways: Special Meals on Board

UNITED AIRLINES

VGML (Vegan / Strict Vegetarian)
AVML (Asian Vegetarian) *On other airlines AVML meals are not always vegan
VJML (Jain Vegetarian) *Only available on flights to and from Mumbai, India
Source: United Airlines – Special Meals

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

If You’re Gonna Eat Grain, Here’s How to Do it Right.

Grain

Within the paleo community, grains are often deemed unhealthy processed foods that no human touched before the advent of industry. I believe we should stay away from rice, pasta, and bread as much as the next (paleo) person, but hear me out: not all grains are all that bad. In fact, according to archeological record and early ethnographic data collection, the cultivation of grain occurred far earlier than the industrial revolution as well as the agricultural revolution. Surprised? So was I. But here they are, in convenient list form for your reading pleasure, in no specific order:

Sorghum

Sorghum is a gluten free grain, often used today in gluten free baking as a replacement for pastry flour. It is not considered paleo in orthodox terms but has become a topic of discussion on message boards, forums, and blogs about the paleo diet; evidently, some paleo dieters use it in moderation or consider it “paleo friendly”.

In Please Pass The Sorghum: Big News For Paleo-Dieters by Barbara Miller, professor of cultural anthropology and international affairs at the George Washington University, an article featured on her blog anthropologyworks.com, Barbara explains how a recent archaeological finding in sub-Saharan Africa could have a profound effect on what it means to be “paleo” today: evidence that stone age hunter-gatherers at one site in Mozambique were harvesting, processing and eating wild sorghum by 100,000 years ago”.

Quinoa

Quinoa (/ˈkiːnwɑː/ or /kɨˈnoʊ.ə/, Spanish: quinua, from Quechua: kinwa) is gluten free and the highest in protein of all the grains. According to historians and anthropologists, quinoa was first domesticated by Andean peoples in the areas now known as Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It is noted that the Incas considered it sacred, calling it chisaya mama or “mother of all grains”. During the Spanish conquest of South America, the conquistadors banned the cultivation of quinoa due to its association with the “Indio” (term used to describe an indigenous person during and after the conquest). So the Incas began to cultivate wheat.

Perhaps because of the stigma implemented by the conquistadors, grains like quinoa do not have much of a presence in modern culture.

So, why should you eat quinoa? Because it’s the mother of all grains, that’s why. It is also an anti fungal and according to recent scientific research it can help balance the body to an alkaline (vs acidic) state [1].  Yet quinoa might not even be a grain [2]. It is actually a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) and according to Wikipedia it is:

grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds.

Teff

Eragrostis tef, teff, Williams lovegrass, annual bunch grass, taf (Amharic: ጤፍ? ṭēff; Tigrinya: ጣፍ? ṭaff), or xaafii (Oromo). Teff is a type of lovegrass indigenous to the highlands of northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. Teff is known to cook faster than other grains, making it ideal for those with limited access to wood or fuel. According to folk etymology, the name teff derives from the Ethio-Semitic root “ṭff” which means “lost” (to describe the grain’s small size).

Teff is protein-rich and is gluten free. Its nutritional profile also boasts high levels of calcium, iron, and fiber.

Millet

The exact origin of millet is debated; however, it is thought to have been domesticated in Asia and Africa during the Neolithic Period aka New Stone Age. Until recently, I had no idea how many varieties of millet exist. Like many things in the USA and other industrialized societies, the market shows us just one or two varieties of a particular crop. For example, if we want to cook potatoes we can purchase white, red, fingerling, yukon, or russet. Occasionally now in some stores (or farmers markets, or direct from a farm) purple potatoes are also sold. But the joke is on us, and our penchant for crop subsidizing. Fact: There are 3,800 varieties of potato in Peru alone, many of which are significantly higher in vital nutrients [3].

Ok, back to millet. There are several types: pearl millet (originated in Africa, now grown in the southern United States), foxtail millet and proso millet (originated in east Asia, it is now grown in Colorado, Nebraska, and the Dakotas), finger millet (we call it that because its structure reminds us of a human hand, but it was originally called rasi in India, where it is widely grown).

All varieties of millet are gluten-free and high in iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Millet is also rich in B Vitamins– especially B3 (Niacin), B6 (Pyridoxine), and B9 (Folic Acid).

Maize

Maize, also known as corn in the English-speaking world, has many different names.  These names sometimes pertain to the way it is prepared, and can also refer to the stories or origin myths for which it is a central component.  Scientists call it Zea mays.  The Danish call it majs and the Dutch call it maïs.  In Finland it’s maissi, in French it’s Maïs commun, in German it’s Echter Mais.  In the States we call it corn, and during the colonization of the United States it was often called turkey wheat.

Corn is perhaps the most controversial among “acceptable” grains to eat when attempting to follow a paleo diet.  My perspective on the issue is that a) corn is technically a large grain plant domesticated in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times, b) many varieties of corn exist apart from the varieties commercially produced today, and c) it was and continues to be a staple food that indigenous people in Latin America rely upon to survive.  While it is not as protein-rich as other grains mentioned in this article, I want to dispel the myth that eating corn/maize isn’t healthy or shouldn’t be a part of a paleo diet in moderation.

The stigma surrounding corn most likely stems from the way it is grown in the United States, or the fact that corn we buy in stores is often grown from genetically modified seeds.  The thing is, indigenous people and peasants in the Andean regions of South America and in the highlands of Guatemala have cultivated heirloom varieties of maize since pre-Columbian times [4].  The corn we have access to in supermarkets is a totally different animal.  Enter: purple corn.  I discovered not so long ago that purple corn aka maíz morado is available in many food co-ops and natural grocery stores in the states.  Purple corn, a current trend within the raw foods community, is thought to be indigenous to the Andean regions of South America, and is most commonly used for chicha morada (a drink prepared with with pineapple, cinnamon, sugar, and cloves– a typical drink in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia) or mazamorra, a pudding made with panela (unprocessed dried sugarcane).

*Note: Many Mexican markets in the US also carry purple corn though it’s not typically labeled as organic.  In my experience it’s only available as corn on the cob (dried) similar to “Indian corn” that is more readily available in other markets.  Ask for maíz morado.

Purple corn is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants including the anthocyaninin (type of flavonoid) which has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes cellular health in the human body.  Studies in the past decade have determined its efficacy in preventing obesity [5], and its antioxidant profile puts blueberries to shame.

So there you have it! The short list of grains that cavemen did eat, and not because they were unhealthy couch potatoes. There was a lot of work involved in growing/obtaining these. The machines came much later. So even if I get flack for sounding un-paleo, I’m already un-paleo by the standards of the majority– hence the term, vegan-paleo. But because I’m so inspired and eager to promote the moderate consumption of certain grains, I compiled a list of recipes I recently discovered within the vegan blogosphere that I hope you try and find just as enticing as I do.

1.) Pomegranate, Winter Squash and Sorghum Salad by Colleen’s Kitchen
*Note: I don’t normally share anything on this site from blogs that aren’t 100% vegan or at least vegetarian, but I think Colleen’s story is very inspiring and many of her recipes are vegan– like this one here, which looks fantastic:

Pomegranate Winter Squash Sorghum Salad

2.) Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing by Angela of Vegangela

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

3.) Ethiopian Inerja made with teff, by Richa of Vegan Richa

teff flour injera flatbread

4.) Creamy Millet Corn Chowder With Greens by Laura of The First Mess

creamy millet corn chowder

So long story short– Have your grains and eat them too, sans regret or skepticism, with the knowledge that you’re not un-paleo in doing so.

References

[1] Macarena Stuardo and Ricardo San Martín.  Antifungal properties of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) alkali treated saponins against Botrytis cinerea.  Industrial Crops and Products. 2008 vol. 27 no. 3, Pp 296–302

[2] Yao Y, Yang X, Shi Z, Ren G. Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Saponins from Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) Seeds in Lipopolysaccharide-Stimulated RAW 264.7 Macrophages Cells. J Food Sci. 2014 May;79(5):H1018-23. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12425. Epub 2014 Apr 8.

[3] Stephen B. Brush, Heath J. Carney, Zósimo Humán.  Dynamics of Andean potato agriculture.  Economic Botany.  January–March 1981, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 70-88

[4] Warman, Arturo.  Corn & Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance.  Univ of North Carolina Press, 2003.

[5] T Tsuda, F Horio, K Uchida, H Aoki,  and Toshihiko Osawa.  Dietary cyanidin 3-O-β-D-glucoside-rich purple corn color prevents obesity and ameliorates hyperglycemia in mice.   J. Nutr. July 1, 2003 vol. 133 no. 7, Pp 2125-2130

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

The Top 10 Vegan-Friendly Eateries in The World.

In my life, throughout my travels and time periods lived in foreign countries and in the USA, I have found hidden gems as well as better-known and/or popular vegan restaurants, food carts, etc.  I would like to share these establishments with fellow and prospective vegans, as well as anyone who might be interested in broadening their culinary/dietary/foodie horizons.  One stand-out restaurant is mentioned per category.

Latin

Gracias Madre – San Francisco, CA

gracias-madre-instagram

Photo credit: Yelp

100% vegan, local and organic. Committed to their love for food, the earth and the divine feminine, as well as consciousness-raising on the planet. The brainchild of Cafe Gratitude.

Continue reading

PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail