This is the April 2006 issue of the Low Budget Vegetarian newsletter.
This issue includes:
- changing recommended nutrition standards
- slow-cooker easy bean cooking
- getting spices at ethnic groceries
About changing nutrition standards
One of the nice things about being in my mid-fifties, is that I have
watched recommended nutrition standards change several times. The one
consistent rule seems to be, that whatever the previous generation
thought was good for you, isn't.
I thought of that while I was reading an article in the local coop
newsletter. The title was, *The Truth about Saturated Fats*. (This
week's truth, anyway.)
Recommended cooking oils used to be those with unsaturated fats, and
saturated fats were to be avoided. So, oils like canola and safflower
were recommended, and saturated fats like coconut oil were to be
minimized or avoided.
Nope. Saturated fats are now in, unsaturated fats are out. The new
recommended cooking oil is the old villain, coconut oil.
In another part of the newsletter, a cook that used to do classes on
vegetarian macrobiotic cooking, avoiding red meat, is now doing classes
on using 'grass-fed protein'. I think that means meat from grass-fed
cattle - last I checked, protein didn't eat much.
The biggest flip-flops I have seen in my life are in relation to
*CARBS* . For a long time they were to be avoided since carbs=calories,
and calories are Evil. Then for awhile, good quality carbs from whole
grains were in, and fat was out. Recently the fad was to have low carb
or no carb diets that were high in fat and protein, although that
appears to be passing.
Granted I am being mildly sarcastic here. My point is, Gentle Reader,
consider taking changing diet standards with a few grains of salt
(depending on whether sodium is in this week), and learn to pay
attention to how your body reacts to food.
From my own personal experience, my body really likes a balance of
whole grains and vegetables as the center of my diet, with judicious
amounts of other food added in. The crucial thing seems to be balance,
and whole living food, that has been processed as little as possible. I
can tell that food is working for me, by a sense of peace, clarity and
balance, and a lack of cravings. If I get too far away from grains plus
vegetables, I feel off-balance and not as clear-headed.
Over the years I have watched my own ideas on diet change. The single
most important difference, is that I am a lot more relaxed and
open-minded now than I was in my earlier years. I am a lot less likely
to jump on fad bandwagons, and I no longer view any food as my enemy. I
am MUCH more aware of how important my attitude and state of mind is,
towards myself and others. I would much rather cook with processed
food, than prepare a meal while angry. The most nutritious food of all,
is prepared and served with love and awareness. They are my two
So, trust your own body's intuitive wisdom. Pay attention to how you
feel when you eat, and a few hours afterwards. What your body likes
best may evolve over time, but I doubt you'll have the kind of
scientific flip-flops you see in the news.
Slow-Cooker Easy Bean Cooking
I have been experimenting this month with cooking beans in a crock pot
the ultimate lazy way - put them in the pot, add water, and let them
sit until done. No soaking, no pre-prep other than cleaning.
It works beautifully.
The traditional way to cook beans in many cultures, is to put them in
water in a pot at the back of the fire, and just let them cook slowly,
for a long time. That is exactly what a slow cooker does.
I have been putting the beans in the pot on low, in the evening after
dinner, and then checking late afternoon the next day, when I'm ready
to add vegetables and spices for dinner. I have tried this with pintos,
kidney beans, garbanzos and soybeans, and all are done to extreme
tenderness in that time frame. (Garbanzos and soybeans are both known
for having long cooking times.) I have found them to be very digestible
cooked this way.
I haven't yet tried split peas, which I normally cook stovetop.
When you cook beans this way, you need to remember that dried beans
swell a lot, to something like 3 or 4 times their bulk. I have a 4
quart crock pot, and use 1 or 1-1/2 cups of beans, and cover with water
to within about an inch of the top. I do not add any spices, salt or
seaweed at all until after the beans are thoroughly cooked. You can
check them after around 12-15 hours - cooking times may vary depending
upon the pot you have, and how old the beans are. If they sit longer
than necessary, that's fine. In my experience, any bean should be
completely soft after 18-20 hours, and I think it's pretty much
impossible to overcook beans.
For digestibility, the single most crucial thing is to cook them until
they are very soft, with no crunchiness left at all. Do that, and be
judicious in proportion of beans in a meal, and there's a good chance
you'll be fine digesting them.
Getting spices at ethnic groceries
If you like vivid spices, and inexpensive spices, as much as I do, it
is worth checking out your local ethnic grocers, to see what spices
they have. You can often get spices a lot less expensively, and often
of better quality or more vivid taste.
Here are a couple of my personal favorites.
Mexican oregano - the oregano you will find in Mexican groceries is
stronger than the usual American market variety. This is especially
good if you are fond of chili. You can often find it in economical
bags. The brands I have found are 'Oregano Entero' or whole oregano, so
I pick through it to take out some stems before I crush it into the
Thai basil - this is a dark green and purple in color, and tastes a lot
stronger than usual basil. The fresh Thai basil I see in oriental
markets is often a lot less expensive than the gourmet fresh basil in
American stores - I have found it at something like $5.00 a pound,
instead of $15 or $20 a pound at a supermarket or coop.
Dried red chili peppers - if you like these, consider buying them in
bulk bags at Mexican, Indian or Asian groceries. Those cuisines all use
large amounts of dried chilis, so they are a diet staple instead of an
This has been a busy month for me, so I have just one new recipe for
Avocado Dulse Dip (http://www.lbveg.com/Recipes/avocadodulse.php) - I
make a couple of different dips with avocados, all of them dairy free.
Avocados are already high fat, so they don't need sour cream. They go
very well with sharply sour, salty and hot spices, and they soak up
massive amounts of garlic. They also go well with scallions and raw red
onion. This dip uses dulse flakes - dulse is a salty seaweed that
is high in iron and other minerals.
And that is all for this month.
Happy and healthy eating to you, and best wishes for the New Year.
Low Budget Vegetarian Survival