Carrots and veggies, no meat? Oh My

21 09 2013

Today I have a guest post from my friend Bryan Blum, with whom I worked this summer. He describes himself as a non-vegan who appreciates the lifestyle, and wanted to talk about his experience with food and how he came to eat vegetables.

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Realistically, I am the last person who should be writing for this blog. If possible I would probably get a side of steak with my steak and politely ask the waiter for a glass of bacon bits instead of a beverage, so I could dribble some over my main and side steak.

However, after spending practically an entire summer surrounded by vegetables and vegans on an organic farm, my view of the vegan culture has changed dramatically. I used to laugh at the salad eater at McDonald’s while I pounded down my second Big Mac, but now, I can’t even go into a fast food restaurant without questioning the process the meat was obtained. Or if what I’m eating is actually meat.

The change, in all honesty, came from necessity on my half. Living on a farm without transportation, I had three options when it came to eating. 1) Ask one of the nice car-owning farm employees to drive me to the market to buy what I need. 2) Use the vegetables that were literally twenty feet from my cabin door to cook. 3) Starve.

After my social anxiety prevented me from asking someone to go out of their way to drive me some place, I contemplated just not eating since I didn’t have meat, but then realized I would have a hard time explaining to my mother how I died of starvation on a farm.

So, I grabbed some vegetables from the field,  googled vegetarian/vegan recipes, stole spices and oil from the community and commercial kitchen (and by steal I totally mean borrowed; I’m definitely restocking everything from my college dorm), and made myself dinner.

After a week of this, I noticed something very peculiar; I didn’t die. I spent a whole week without eating meat or cheese, and I was still a functioning human being. I didn’t know what to think of that.

Later in the summer, I was joined by vegetarian and vegan teenagers on the farm, and for convenience shared meals together. Since my cooking talents are one level below prison chef, the others cooked, and I was again deprived of meat and dairy. The same results occurred: no death.

Not only was I not dead, I actually found myself having more energy than I usually did. Waking up, although still painful, became easier (slightly). I didn’t always need to take a nap immediately after work. I didn’t change anything but my diet, but I noticed the difference.

And with a little push from a friendly vegetarian, I stopped eating cold cut and other unhealthy processed food. My meat dairy intake has dropped exponentially, and I feel healthier because if it.

Does this mean I will convert to my newly respected vegan lifestyle? No. Blame it on the bacon. I believe the only reason people can be vegans is because they haven’t tried that crunchy, fried pig meat. However, I now have a better understanding of how to eat better after living in a vegan environment, and this comes at the perfect time too, as I am about to head off to college where yesterday’s meatloaf is today’s chicken parm.

So I thank you vegetarians and vegans for helping me put down the Baconater from Wendy’s and add some lettuce and tomatoes. I may not be one of you, but you have certainty gained my respect.

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Vegan Teriyaki Stir-Fry

25 08 2013

Now that broccoli and red peppers are in on the farm, I decided I needed to make a stir-fry. Following this recipe I found at the Plant Powered Kitchen, I whipped up a truly tasty meal. For the soy sauce, use coconut aminos — it tastes great. Honestly, next time I will make twice as much because we ate it all in one sitting and were wishing we had more for lunch the next day! I didn’t have cashews at the time, so instead I used Roasted Chickpea Nuts and I think they tasted even better. Lacking a good substitute for tofu I just left that part out, and it cut down on the cooking time which is always a plus (-:

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Roasted Chickpea Nuts

21 08 2013

This is one of my favorite quick snacks because it is easy to make and kid friendly. You can throw it on the top of most meals or munch on it alone when you need a quick pick-me-up. I found this recipe in The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld and I love it! In fact I never have enough of these, so I usually double or triple the recipe. Just make sure to set the oven timer so you don’t forget and burn them all (I’ve done that too many times).

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Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups of cooked chickpeas

2 Tbsp Vegetable oil (coconut, canola, olive, etc)

1 Tbsp Lemon juice

1 Tbsp minced ginger

Sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Sprinkle of salt

 

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Mix the ingredients in a bowl and pour onto a baking pan (with parchment paper if you want an easier clean-up). Cook for about 45 minutes until the chickpeas are golden brown, small, and crunchy. Stir occasionally in the process to prevent burning. Serve hot or pack away for later.





Cauliflower and Zucchini Pakoras

7 07 2013

I asked my housemate Fred to write up the recipe for his pakoras since they were such a big hit at our Indian themed community dinner. Lucky for us he agreed to, so what follows is the recipe he used to make them. If you are having any sort of party (or just want to celebrate life) I highly recommend these little snacks!

What on earth is a pakora?

A pakora is generally a  vegetable dipped in a seasoned garbanzo flour or graham flour based batter, and deep fried.

Pakoras are relatively easy and fun to make, and are certain to be a crowd pleaser even among children who aren’t too fond of vegetables or even those who don’t have much of a taste for Indian food.

You may eat them with your fingers as a snack, or as an accompaniment to a sumptuous banquet, or anything else along the spectrum of the meal scale. This recipe has been adapted from Lord Krishna’s Cuisine; The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.

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The first step in pakora making is to gather an ingredients pile.  Here’s what you’ll need to make 25-35 pieces:

1+1/3 cups of chickpea flour (sifted, if you are into sifting.  I’m personally not a sifter)

1+1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of your favorite oil.

2 tablespoons of ground coriander

2 teaspoons of ginger powder (if you have it)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp of baking powder

Oil for deep frying.  I used XVOO (extra virgin olive oil).

1 head of cauliflower

a zucchini

STEP 1:

Mix the flour with the salt and the 2 tsps of oil and coriander powder and ginger powder and baking powder.  Add a few tablespoons of water and mix thoroughly.  Continue to add water until the consistency is like that of heavy cream.  (consistency is important for proper cooking!) let sit for 10-15 mins and stir again to check consistency is still right.

STEP 2:

Heat 2.5-3 inches of oil in a deep frying vessel of your choice until ready for frying. (355 degrees or so)

STEP 3:

Dip 5 or 6 quartered cauliflower flowerets or zucchini half moons into the batter, letting the excess drip off, and then one at a time carefully place into the hot oil.  Fry until golden brown.  Take out and put in a colander or on a plate with a paper towel or cloth towel to absorb the excess oil.

STEP 4: Serve immediately!  (after letting cool enough to safely consume) or keep warm for a little while until ready to serve.

Note: If you want to increase the experience, you can make some sort of a ‘yogurt-ish’ dipping sauce including shredded cucumbers, cilantro, salt, tomatoes, or something along these lines.  Or vegenaise.  They will be very enjoyable without a dipping sauce as well.





Garlicky Cilantro Slaw

3 07 2013

As we saw from the last post, cabbage is both very high in antioxidants and in season right now. Thus, I asked Madeleine to share with us today this phenomenal cabbage salad that she brought to our last community dinner. I highly recommend you stock up on some farm fresh cabbage and serve this at your fourth of july feasts! As long as you like cilantro, you won’t be disappointed.

IMG_0381Hi, my name is Madeleine and I am a former Riverbank farm intern. I have lived on a couple different organic farms and have learned a lot about eating seasonally. I currently work as a nurse but my husband works on the farm so while I may not get to eat the veg right out of the field,  I do get to eat my fair share of delicious fresh vegetables and farm market trade treats (like cheese! and cookies!).

This recipe uses many ingredients that are abundant and delicious right now.  The recipe is inspired by a chutney recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook Flavors of India. It uses Caraflex cabbage. My husband brought his love of this type of cabbage from Germany and we started growing it at Riverbank farm. It makes the cutest little pointed heads, like little gnome hats and is especially sweet and tender (regular white cabbage would work as well). The other seasonal stars are garlic scapes (the flower stalk of the growing garlic plant), cilantro and purplette onions (a small early variety of onion, guess what color they are…). This slaw was a big hit at our Indian themed pot luck last week where we had lots of breads and curries but not much in the way of fresh salads.

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Ingredients:

3-4 cups thinly sliced cabbageIMG_0404

2 purplette onions sliced

¼ cup roasted salted, shelled peanuts or almonds

3 garlic scapes

2 more purplette onions (or 1 small red onion or a bunch of scallions)

3 cups fresh cilantro finely chopped

2 fresh green chilies or a few shakes of cayenne pepper to taste

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 t salt

1 T maple syrup

5 T lime juice

¼ cup olive oil

1. Combine the cabbage and sliced onions in a bowl and set aside.

2. Put the nuts into an electric blender and chop until finely ground.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and pulse until smooth with slight texture.

4. Dress the cabbage and onions with the dressing and let sit for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors combine.

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Thinking Holistically About Cancer

29 06 2013

If you read my blog a lot you might have noticed quite a few of my recipes come from my good friend Meredith Hickson. Well today she has written a guest post that asks us all to think critically about current cancer treatment methods and the importance of healthy living:

Every year a website called Cancer Monthly (http://www.cancermonthly.com/) hosts a scholarship program designed to promote “out of the box” thinking around cancer treatment. They invite students to read about the life of a special cancer victim named James “Rhio” O’Connor and then discuss how his story has inspired them to think differently about treating and preventing cancer.

Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the protective sacks that surround internal organs. Mesothelioma is associated with exposure to asbestos (you can learn more about mesothelioma here: (http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com). Classic approaches like chemotherapy or radiation haven’t proven effective in its treatment. Rhio’s case was deemed untreatable, but he didn’t interpret his diagnosis as a death sentence. He worked with his doctors to develop his own, holistic treatment plan. He outlived his prognosis for many years by studying his body and his illness, and choosing natural pathways to healing.

As a medical student who believes deeply in holistic (or “whole person”) healthcare, Rhio O’Connor’s story resonates with me. His approach to battling cancer is an affirmation of my core belief about wellness: good health is a product of healthy living and emotional stability over time.

Rhio’s story is an excellent example of something we hear about frequently: people surviving a terminal illness by utilizing treatments beyond what Western medicine has to offer. The success of those patients may lie in the difference between Western medicine and the healing practices of other cultures. Non-Western medical traditions often view each person as a system and attempt to balance that system as gently as possible. Western medicine goes after the illness exclusively without worrying too much about what caused the illness or how toxic the cure may be.

When I hear that someone has been diagnosed with cancer, I imagine the hours of painful therapy, the stress placed on the patient’s family, the pile of medical bills—all of it undertaken without any real certainty of survival. If the day comes when I find myself walking out of an oncologist’s office with a bad prognosis, I wouldn’t immediately resort to the standard course of treatment. As a scientist, my first step would be to collect the data: what is the likelihood of my survival on this drug? If I do survive, what will be the long-term impact to my health? I would also want to speak with people currently undergoing that treatment and ask how the drug has altered their quality of life. Many common cancer therapies are extremely hard on both body and mind.

Whether or not I opted for a chemical or surgical treatment, I would make changes to my lifestyle to fortify my body. I would educate myself on how its normal functioning is weakened by my cancer and tailor my diet to counter its effects. The root cause of cancer is often poisoning (from radiation, toxin-laced foods, or dangerous substances like asbestos in our environment). With that in mind, I would attempt to manage my cancer by relocating to an environment low in pollutants.

Rhio O’Connor’s story is evidence that spiritual balance is vital. Many cancer patients struggle with depression. I wouldn’t wait for a depression diagnosis to start various forms of therapy: support groups, but also stress-relieving meditation, yoga, and massage. Although Western medicine continues to seek chemical “silver bullets”, the simple pathway from stress to illness is well documented.[i]

While many people have used diet, mind-body techniques, and natural medicines to beat cancer, these treatment options remain too expensive for many. This is because insurance providers look to Western doctors to determine what’s “effective,” and Western doctors rely on money from pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of potential treatments. Pharmaceutical companies won’t fund testing of something they can’t make money from. Drugs and surgical instruments bring in huge profits for “Big Pharma”. Helping a cancer patient choose her diet more carefully does not. Neither do meditation or yoga classes.

Despite this vicious cycle, there actually has been a fair amount of research on the effectiveness of holistic cancer treatments. A good diet (leading to increased energy, a strong immune system, and a healthy weight) has been identified as a powerful tool for cancer patients.[ii] Studies from all over the world have concluded that cancer victims who do look to other medical traditions for help feel stronger and may survive longer.[iii],[iv],[v]

For me, however, the best medicine is always preventative medicine. What we really owe to the memory of both cancer survivors like Rhio O’Connor, and the victims who even the most state-of-the-art treatments could not save, is the promise of a cancer-free society. Holistic medicine, which outlines healthy lifestyles for disease prevention, is the key.

Holistic practitioners will tell you that where you live is part of how you live. There is a growing body of research indicating that environmental toxins contribute to the incidence of many cancers, including those that afflict children.[vi],[vii] One of the best ways to protect you and your family from cancer is to be aware of your environment: how clean is the air, the water? What manufacturers are active in your area and how do they dispose of their wastes?

If you do live in a relatively toxin-free environment, the next step is to take a hard look at your diet. There are established links between diet-related conditions like obesity and diabetes and an increased risk of developing certain cancers.[viii],[ix] So good, balanced nutrition is crucial. Choosing foods high in cancer-fighting antioxidants may also help. Antioxidants have become a fad with health-conscious people, but they are nonetheless very powerful. These substances, found naturally in many plant foods, break down toxins that might otherwise poison your cells and lead to cancer. To help you include as many sustainable antioxidants in your diet as possible, there’s a little chart at the end of this post that shows which high-antioxidant foods are available in which seasons.

Diet alone can’t prevent conditions like obesity that place you at higher risk for cancer. Choose forms of exercise that not only help you maintain a health weight but also reduce stress. Your body and immune system are in their best fighting shape when you are strong and relaxed.

A final thought: cancer may not be catching, but it is a social illness. It attacks individuals but everyone feels its repercussions. As diseases like HIV have taught us, the best way to defeat a social illness is by banding together as society. We should be inspired by figures like Rhio O’Connor to fight back: explore any treatment options open to us, refuse to let big industries drive choices about our health, and work together towards a higher quality of life that will reduce the risk to future generations. More than any drug, those are the components of a lasting cure for cancer.

Seasonal Antioxidants


[i] Uchino, B. N., Smith, T. W., Holt-Lunstad, J., Campo, R. & Reblin, M. (2007). Stress and illness. In Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G. and Bernston, G. G. (Eds), Handbook of Psychophysiology, 3rd ed. (608-632). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[ii] Brown, J. K., Byers, T., Doyle, C., Courneya, K. S., Demark‐Wahnefried, W., Kushi, L. H., … & Sawyer, K. A. (2003). Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians53(5), 268-291.

[iii] Downer, S. M., Cody, M. M., McCulskey, P., Wilson, P. D., Arnott, S. J., … & Slevin, M. L. (1994). Pursuit and practice of complementary therapies by cancer patiens receiving conventional treatment. BMJ, 309(6947), 86-89.

[iv] Boon, H., Stewart, M., Kennard, M. A., Gray, R., Sawka, C., Brown, J. B., … & Haines-Kamka, T. (2000). Use of complementary/alternative medicine by breast cancer survivors in Ontario: prevalence and perceptions. Journal of Clinical Oncology18(13), 2515-2521.

[v] Molassiotis, A., Fernadez-Ortega, P., Pud, D., Ozden, G., Scott, J. A., Panteli, V., … & Patiraki, E. (2005). Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Annals of Oncology16(4), 655-663.

[vi] Toppari, J., Larsen, J. C., Christiansen, P., Giwercman, A., Grandjean, P., Guillette Jr, L. J., … & Skakkebæk, N. E. (1996). Male reproductive health and environmental xenoestrogens. Environmental Health Perspectives, 104(Suppl 4), 741.

[vii] Landrigan, P. J., Schechter, C. B., Lipton, J. M., Fahs, M. C., & Schwartz, J. (2002). Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives110(7), 721.

[viii] Calle, E. E., & Thun, M. J. (2004). Obesity and cancer. Oncogene23(38), 6365-6378.

[ix] Giovannucci, E., Harlan, D. M., Archer, M. C., Bergenstal, R. M., Gapstur, S. M., Habel, L. A., … & Yee, D. (2010). Diabetes and cancer: a consensus report. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians60(4), 207-221.

[1] Uchino, B. N., Smith, T. W., Holt-Lunstad, J., Campo, R. & Reblin, M. (2007). Stress and illness. In Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G. and Bernston, G. G. (Eds), Handbook of Psychophysiology, 3rd ed. (608-632). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[1] Brown, J. K., Byers, T., Doyle, C., Courneya, K. S., Demark‐Wahnefried, W., Kushi, L. H., … & Sawyer, K. A. (2003). Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians53(5), 268-291.

[1] Downer, S. M., Cody, M. M., McCulskey, P., Wilson, P. D., Arnott, S. J., … & Slevin, M. L. (1994). Pursuit and practice of complementary therapies by cancer patiens receiving conventional treatment. BMJ, 309(6947), 86-89.

[1] Boon, H., Stewart, M., Kennard, M. A., Gray, R., Sawka, C., Brown, J. B., … & Haines-Kamka, T. (2000). Use of complementary/alternative medicine by breast cancer survivors in Ontario: prevalence and perceptions. Journal of Clinical Oncology18(13), 2515-2521.

[1] Molassiotis, A., Fernadez-Ortega, P., Pud, D., Ozden, G., Scott, J. A., Panteli, V., … & Patiraki, E. (2005). Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Annals of Oncology16(4), 655-663.

[1] Toppari, J., Larsen, J. C., Christiansen, P., Giwercman, A., Grandjean, P., Guillette Jr, L. J., … & Skakkebæk, N. E. (1996). Male reproductive health and environmental xenoestrogens. Environmental Health Perspectives, 104(Suppl 4), 741.

[1] Landrigan, P. J., Schechter, C. B., Lipton, J. M., Fahs, M. C., & Schwartz, J. (2002). Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives110(7), 721.

[1] Calle, E. E., & Thun, M. J. (2004). Obesity and cancer. Oncogene23(38), 6365-6378.

[1] Giovannucci, E., Harlan, D. M., Archer, M. C., Bergenstal, R. M., Gapstur, S. M., Habel, L. A., … & Yee, D. (2010). Diabetes and cancer: a consensus report. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians60(4), 207-221.





Local Garlic All Summer Long

20 06 2013

The scapes are in season and Laura gave me a tip on how to process them so that I can have local organic garlic in my food all summer long. This is pretty exciting for me since this time of year it is harder to find any local garlic bulbs for sale, and although scapes are in season now they won’t be here for long (we finished harvesting all of ours at Riverbank today). The best part? Not only is this Scape puree easy to make, it makes cooking with garlic a breeze! Plus, you can feel good about knowing you’ve added one more local (hopefully organic) ingredient to your dinner tonight.

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Fills one medium mason jar

Ingredients:

Scapes (about two handfuls), coarsely chopped

Olive oil (1/4 cup or less)

Blend in a food processor until fully pureed. Store this in a jar in the fridge and use a tablespoon as a replacement for 3 cloves of minced garlic in any stir fry, salad dressing, soup, stew, etc. If you have the ingredients, make some extra and store it in the freezer to use when you run out of your first batch. Laura says she keeps hers in the fridge and it lasts her all summer until the garlic bulb harvest comes in.

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Briefly about scapes if you don’t know what they are: A scape is a long flowering stem that grows out of a garlic plant. Before it flowers however, we pick it off which makes the plant put energy into creating a bigger garlic bulb. These scapes (pictured above) taste just like garlic and make a perfect addition to any meal. I also hear a rumor they can be pickled, but I haven’t explored this yet.

 








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