Hot and sometimes bitter Hudson Valley vegan food in late fall

Just days ago, T, The New York Times Style Magazine, noted a recent fashion for bitter foods—a seemingly odd preference for bad-tasting food. I have always enjoyed many bitter flavors, such as dark-roasted coffees that are relatively bitter, rather than smooth-drinking, and in fact my mother has a remarkable (to some) liking for marinated foods, including tomatoes dressed with vinegar. I do also, though to a lesser degree. Of course, perhaps this accounts for the fact that I have never been to Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary and neglected them in a regrettably half-baked discussion of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in this area in this post. It offers sweets and tea, along with light food all day, according to an entry in the site.

An example of popular bitterness cited in the article is the popularity of molé sauces in Mexican food eaten in the U.S. Dr. Joel Furhman’s ultra-healthy website store offers a sauce for bean dishes it calls an Olé sauce. The directions advise the home chef to water-sauté vegetables, then add sauce and beans and simmer. Hudson’s omnivorous Mexican Radio has long offered a molé sauce along with two other vegan sauces for its enchiladas. The magazine article offers an interesting appreciation.

I have also not mentioned Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, which is fund raising to pay for hay during the winter with its Hay Every Day drive.  Donors who help feed the animals every day can watch their hay being eaten in videos provided by the shelter.  I should mention their snack bar as another place regrettably omitted , though the Sanctuary is closed for the season and does not reopen until spring.

Aba’s Falafel draws raves from friends who enjoy their offerings at the Rhinebeck outdoor farmers’ market during the warmer months. Its new storefront operation is located at 54 E. Market in the same village.

Outdated: An Antique Café in Kingston (vegetarian but not vegan and with many interesting foods) has recently been open Friday and Saturday nights until 9 pm, rather than its usual 4 pm. It has retro chic and is housed in a place with interesting nooks and crannies. I might mention it features some Lagusta’s Luscious candy in the case at the front counter. It will be open Christmas Eve until 4 pm, according to a sign on the door.

Then there is, another worldwide web presence, a project of Woodstock Animal Rights Movement (WARM), an organization with headquarters in the Catskill Mountains village of Woodstock. The operation once boasted a bricks-and-mortar store in the village.  The website’s store sells pro-vegan merchandise bearing the slogan “meat free zone” which was developed as part of a campaign to create meat-free zones much like nonsmoking areas in buildings.

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 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, 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 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.


Some more awareness and Hudson Valley micro-nutrition

In a piece timed for breast cancer awareness month, Dr. Joel Fuhrman highlights the role of flax and chia seeds in the prevention of breast cancer. Of course, they and other seeds have other great health benefits. He notes that flax seeds, as whole seeds, have benefits not offered by oils refined from flax because the seeds contain lignans and other micronutrients not present in a clear oil. For those people who are into scientifically based explanation of why foods are healthy the piece is very helpful–typical of Fuhrman’s writings.

Raw salad and fruit also plays a big role in reducing the risk of cancer, according to much research. (See Dr. Fuhrman’s site and books (such as the bestseller Eat to  Live) for more details. (Link is to book’s page at indie bookseller Alibris)  I here are a picture of two salads I ate at Kingston’s vegetarian Outdated (first row) and one I made and ate for dinner with ingredients from a great local grocery store.  You get the idea. The first salad features some (nut-based) vegan cheese; the restaurant makes its own. Raw nuts, like raw seeds, are a nutritional contributor. Also, less processed versions of foods containing strong ingredients tend to be most nutrient dense–another key Fuhrman principle. On the processing dimension of nutrient density, I would expect a product made by the artisanal Outdated to outperform many supermarket vegan products made with long ingredient lists, but probably not my natural foods store-bought ground seeds.

I have not pictured another great salad (ordered with no dressing) that I ate at Garden Cafe Woodstock. , one of four vegan restaurants in the area. The other three are Karma Road in New Paltz, Healthy Gourmet-To-Go in Saugerties, and Morgan’s Cat Cafe in Red Hook. The raw-foods manufacturer Johanna’s Raw Foods in Pine Plains, Eastern Dutchess County, which we mentioned in a recent post, doubles as a retail outlet with some tables.

I note that vegetarian entry Rosendale Cafe, also close by, has been featuring this more vegetable-rich-looking vegan curry as a menu-board special when it is not offering their more usual vegan garbanzo bean curry over rice. A webcam image of the restaurant’s menu board is frequently updated on the restaurant’s homepage.

I hope people will try a lot of these places without worrying about what I or someone else features on the web. The examples are meant as general inspiration–and of course I cannot offer medical advice!

Finally, ending where I began, the salad at the top is another example of nutrient density. It combines fresh fruit, dried apricot, raw radicchio and broccoli–all chopoped–some ground flax seed sprinkled from a container I keep in my refrigerator, and a simple dressing of 100-percent pomegranate juice.

The story of a meal

This blog is somewhat local-food oriented. In this post I illustrate ways to eat that avoid animal products and help to achieve health goals in a very scientifically supported way–with the twist that I illustrate my connection to sources of food that are in some relevant way local–a concern of many in this era of big conglomerates and their industrial ways.

I had found myself completely without of vegetables yesterday. Finding my local farmers market in the village of Rhinebeck virtually unreachable with all nearby parking taken, I went to the wayside stand that is part of Montgomery Place, a historic estate in the area (website link). I bought the vegetables pictured below (along with apples which are also in season currently, including some very interesting varieties–including antique varieties) grown here in the Hudson Valley):

(I could have bought good mushrooms that were locally grown, but had bought the shitakes in the picture at the two-store natural foods chain Sunflower Natural Foods Market.)

(I had noticed stirrings at another farm stand on E. Market St. on the outskirts of Rhinebeck but would not get back before their likely closing time. They are also a local entry to watch and marvel at, if only on occasional days. More things are open on Sundays in the village because it’s a market day.)

If I eat all of the things in the picture or maybe even what’s in that picture times 100, I am on the Fuhrman 6-week plan (more or less)–careening for my ideal weight if I were not there already by sticking to unlimited amounts of certain kinds of foods–all of them plant-derived, except for mushrooms, which are fungi, of course. In a moment, I bring in some foods that are also allowed, but only in limited quantities.

Now I add water; I use filtered.

I begin water-sauteing. If I were to use oil instead, I would be off the 6-week plan. (Fats in my diet are from whole-seed and whole-nut sources (or avocados), which are all allowed (and required) but only in limited amounts.)

I finish off with pasta made from lentils only. Lentils are in the legumes group, which are among the types of food that are required in minimum amounts. Legumes are also not limited. Pasta made with whole grain would be acceptable but in the strictly limited category.  (By the time I finish, I have supplemented quickly with some frozen spinach leaves from a huge supermarket package. I have also added no-salt, organic, canned tomatoes, as the base for the sauce–a concession to convenience and seasonal limitations.) Here is a picture of the dish on the plate.

The 6-week diet plan is explained in the book Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. A second edition of this book came out not too many years ago. There are of course other plans that use similar dietary principles, emphasizing plant-based foods in what would be insanely large amounts in plans that fancy themselves more balanced.

Finally, just for fun and to add to the nutrition, I finished off with nutritional (edible) yeast, which to me tastes a lot like tangy cheese–making it a perfect pasta topping! This product is available in natural foods stores; I use a mail-order version from Fuhrman’s website, which comes in a package that reminds one of supermarket grated Parmesan cheese. There is no reason any nutritional yeast is necessary.

Fuhrman’s brand is not fortified with vitamin B12, but many are. As many will know, B12 is one of the handful of nutrients not found in any plant in significant amounts, so as a vegan I must use a supplement or foods that essentially contain a supplement. Dr. Fuhrman’s plans can be done without being a vegan, but I had wanted to be a vegan for a long time when I started his plan about 10 years ago. For nonvegans, most Fuhrman plans would be doable with a tiny amount of chicken or fish added to a dish like the one above.

So that is a day that illustrates my approach, which leans toward locally (Hudson Valley) grown produce; is vegan; and remains close to Dr. Fuhrman’s “nutritarian” 6-week plan, which really does almost seem to melt weight off in the initial weeks and keep things stable thereafter. I hope you take a look at his book for the details. Some may find a more compatible approach in one of his other books.

O+ for veg enthusiasts continues at cafe, elsewhere

Along with other events of interest to readers doubtless taking place in the mid-Hudson Valley this evening, Uptown Kingston, New York’s vegetarian Outdated Cafe hosts an official O+ event tonight. I mentioned this annual 3-day event, providing some links, in my previous post.  Tonight, the Wall St. restaurant is offering vegetarian and vegan baked goods as well as cafe beverages, made with house made nut milks on request–great for vegans! (The kitchen is otherwise closed for the day.) They remain open after their usual 4 pm closing hour through the special event (a Literary Salon) which starts at 7:30 pm.

Covering the event with a cover story is Almanac Weekly. On the worldwide web, they can be found at HudsonValleyOne.

Johanna Sophia tries her hand at summit; festival approaches

Johanna Sophia of Johanna’s Raw Foods in Pine Plains, New York hosts a raw foods summit online! Here is a link sent by Johanna to her mailing list. Watch out, as Johanna’s spiel begins without warning when you reach the front page. The summit requires a quick sign-up procedure, where you provide your name and email address. I recall a wonderful alternative French food adventure at her restaurant a few years ago in the setting of rural Pine Plains.  I was one of a group of intrepid Hudson Valley Vegans. I have not listened to much yet, so I cannot offer an opinion about the quality of the interviews, but any Summit from Johanna promises to be of interest–and people will want to decide for themselves! Of course, feel free to offer your thoughts below; just press “add a comment.” Johanna’s products are all vegan and hers is the only raw food restaurant that I know of in the mid-Hudson Valley.

By the way, I apologize for a bad link in my previous post to Ocean Robbins’s Food Revolution Network.

In nearby Ulster County, O+ (pronounced “oh positive” like the blood type), a big festival featuring musical acts and other events to benefit health care for local artists, takes place Friday through Saturday around Kingston. This event is not specifically vegan, but there is for example an event at the Guatamalan-American fusion Peace Nation Cafe (site under construction), which has is rated “veg-options” by the demanding reviewers of Happy Cow. 

The O+ event is not specifically about veganism, but its theme overlaps our own, in its connection to health. This new blog will occasionally feature links of this type, while remaining at the intersection of the trio of healthy eating, veganism and  vegetarianism, and the mid-Hudson Valley.