1/25/20: 4 Easy-Chew Recipes

The goal was four vegan dishes that are easy to chew and swallow. All are sweet, but they’re low-fat, high-fiber, and sugar-free. For each recipe, just chop the ingredients and mush them up completely in the Cuisinart. Recipes 2-4 are a dip for raw vegetables such as jicama and celery, or a spread for lettuce leaves.

1. Raw Green Salad
1 pound box of baby mixed greens
2 organic apples
1 orange
1/4 small sweet onion
1 large garlic clove
2 heaping tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds, mixed with…
1-2 tablespoons fresh raw ginger juice
1-2 tablespoons Bragg’s cider vinegar

2. Beet Fruit Salad
3 raw beets
1 orange
1/2 cup blueberries

3. Kale Spread
Kale cooked and squeezed, large double handful
1 Sweet potato, steamed soft
Roasted almonds ground up to cornmeal texture, 2 tablespoons

4. Pudding
3 very ripe bananas
1/2 package steamed silken tofu
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon sunflower butter

Beet Blueberry

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1.15.2020: Coconut Halvah

Coconut butter was news to me, until it appeared in one of the highly resourceful and beautifully photographed I Quit Sugar cookbooks by the talented Sarah Wilson (now at sarahwilson.com). It forms the base for a vegan gluten-free candy that stores well, lends itself to all kinds of flavors and shapes, and has plenty of fiber and healthy fat.

A snowy-day craft for patient people

Note: This is not coconut oil (also called coconut fat), the clear or white smooth oil in a glass jar that forms a solid in a cool room, and which also makes a good rub for dry skin. It’s not coconut cream, a white smooth solid in a can with a sliceable texture like fudge or Crisco vegetable shortening.

Instead, coconut butter is the end product of taking dried grated coconut, and then pulverizing it down for a long time, until it forms an oily dough which in the fridge has the hard crunch of a whole-wheat breadstick, or in the freezer turns hard as a rock.

For one batch of halvah, go to the following fuss and bother.

5-6 cups dried grated unsweetened coconut (this will render down to a smaller volume)
1 or 2 Medjool date(s) with the pit cut out, chopped fine
1 tablespoon 72% cacao dark chocolate chips (optional)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon or your choice of sweet spices

I use a VitaMix blender to puree one cup of coconut at a time, very carefully.
(Caution: Using the regular wet-blend jar for this is not really appropriate, so one has to be very gentle so as not to burn out the motor. I need to buy a dry-grind blender jar from the company, suitable for tasks such as grinding grain into flour.)

Spin the coconut in the blender for all of two seconds. Shake blender jar hard, and spin for another two seconds.
The coconut will quickly form a packed wall that rises up the sides. When that happens, make sure the blades don’t start spinning; that isn’t good for the blender.
Pick up blender jar off the base, scrape any hard-packed coconut residue out from under the blades with a spoon, and stir the contents.
Over and over.

When the coconut feels moist and you can start to squeeze and pack it a bit in your fingertips, pour it into a separate bowl. Start on the next cupful of coconut. Again, be super careful to not spin the blades. That will put a strain on the blender.

Once the 5-6 cups are done, and this takes quite a bit of tedious effort, I place it all in my Cuisinart food processor with the chopped pitted date and the chocolate chips.

Spin in the Cuisinart until the machine rumbles.
Stop, and scrape the coconut down the sides. If it is starting to stick together, break up the lumps.
Over and over.

(Why not just use the Cuisinart all along? Because it will take forever.)

When the coconut butter forms a dough ball that lumps right up as soon as it spins in the Cuisinart, it’s ready.

On a cutting board, spread out waxed paper.
Place 1/2 cup or so of dough on the waxed paper.
Form into a thin round patty, tamping it down and pressing in on the sides to make a burger shape, firm and compact.
Wrap the patty in waxed paper.

Repeat, forming the rest of the dough into thin patties.

Stack up the wrapped patties. Wrap the stack thoroughly, and place in fridge to harden. After the patties are just firm enough to slice, cut them into thin sticks or small bite-sized pieces. These freeze well, but don’t eat them directly out of the freezer; they are too hard and could hurt your teeth.
They keep well in the fridge though; then they develop a good crunchy texture.

These are so rich that they don’t need much added sweetness at all.
However, the coconut has a very faint naturally salty quality to it, so next time I’ll try adding the juice of one fresh-squeezed orange as well.

The appearance and texture are pleasantly similar to a very rustic solid whole-grain peasant bread. Quite a nice filling treat.

I look forward to setting up with the correct equipment for rendering the coconut, and making this often.

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The A1C Project

A recent blood test showed that my hemoglobin A1C level had crept upward from 5.4 to 5.9. What a wakeup call! Time to get to work. Here are the changes over the past 6 weeks.

1. Re-read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s The End of Diabetes.

2. Cut out every bit of processed flour — ramen noodles (the comfort go-to), breads, chips, bagels and all the other tempting fanfare available at the office.

3. Started my first food journal ever, noting not portion sizes but the quality of the food.

4. Started writing down the time that I stop eating for the day, aiming for 5:00 pm; writing it down helps to stay on track and get away from night snacks. The eventual goal is earlier dinner, and 15 hours between dinner one day and breakfast the next. Exception: after an evening workout at the gym, I need a little protein and healthy fat. Tonight it was two handfuls of almonds in coconut cream.

5. Started writing down exercises done every day. That added motivation to go on stair-running breaks every hour or two at work.

6. Switched from Trader Joe’s dark-&-milk chocolate almonds, to their all-dark chocolate almonds, then to Trader Joe’s bittersweet chocolate with almonds. That comes in a brick slightly over one pound. I bought one a week ago and shared it with my co-workers; we chipped off little pieces, which is the whole idea — it takes considerably longer to eat a brick of chocolate than the equivalent amount of chocolate almonds. I had about four squares of that a day all week with high-fiber raw vegetable meals, and was careful to not bring it home at night. Today I ate the last two squares, didn’t buy more, and at snack time substituted two dates instead. We’ll see how that goes.

7. Set a goal to have a new A1C test in 3 to 6 months. I’ll give the results and the food journal to my new primary care provider.

8. Started a new pep squad silent cheer. This week at the office generous folks shared frosted donuts, pastry, peppermint Jo-Jo cookies, pfeffernusse cookies, a huge cream cake, chocolates, and more frosted donuts. Every time, I consoled myself with my new cheer: “A1C! A1C! Every bite counts in my A1C!” That’s let me steer around all the treats so far.

8. Set a goal to be very very careful about social interactions and events (and their refreshments) that leave me feeling lonelier than ever. That is the most vulnerable time of all for bingeing out. Christmas will definitely be a no-party no-potluck zone for this year at least.

9. Worked up some new recipes. This one is a high-fiber dessert.

One jumbo carrot, finely grated
Beet, small leftover piece, finely grated
Two apples
Handful raw cranberries
Handful blueberries
Two tbsp fine silky celery pulp (strained from making celery juice)
Two tbsp old-fashioned rolled oats
Tbsp chia seeds
Ceylon cinnamon
Ginger juice
Dash of rice milk

Blend it all in a food processor. Stir, so chia seeds & oats soften up overnight. Add carrots on top for fiber and prettiness.

Next time instead of the oats I’ll add coconut and/or almond meal, and more celery pulp. Probably easier to digest that way…

Tonight at the gym my weight was 176, down from 179. Onward!

Fruit Granola

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The Dental Diet, by Dr. Steven Lin

The Dental Diet is like a little glass-bottom boat ride through the sensitive living connections between food, oral health, and the industrious teeming microbiome that lines our digestive tract.

The author’s own story was interesting to read: Super-motivated young dentist repairing decayed teeth feels drawn to researching why so many people suffer with decayed teeth to begin with; despite meticulous self-care, he develops tooth hypersensitivity, joint pain, and signs of systemic inflammation; and takes a European hiking sabbatical to ponder it all. At a hostel in Sultanahmet, Turkey, he finds a copy of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by dentist Weston Price. Price’s research on dental health and diet (including fat-soluble vitamins from healthy animals, plus traditionally sprouted and fermented foods) changes the author’s perspective on his own mission as a dentist. After experimenting with diet, he develops a Dental Diet prevention program for his patients.

The book is full of practical whole-lifestyle tips and exercises for overall health, and for diversifying the digestive microbiome so that fast-acting refined-carb-eating bacteria stay in balance instead of overrunning the many other beneficial bacteria types. There are plenty of recipes in keeping with the Nourishing Tradition philosophy of Sally Fallon Morell: fats and proteins from diverse grass-fed, full-fat animal sources, and instructions for fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir.

The gluten-free Nut Bread recipe calls for a variety of ground nuts and seeds, eggs, olive salt, and salt, baked in a pan and sliced.
I tossed together a small test batch today.

eggs, well beaten
Ceylon cinnamon
shredded coconut
almond meal stirred in, enough to make a pourable but thick batter
coconut oil, enough to grease a small skillet

This cooked with the lid on at low heat until it puffed up and smelled wonderful. It sliced up nicely, with a fluffy but substantial texture.
This could be good rations when you need a portable slice of something light but very filling, perhaps after a workout at the gym.

My batch needed some sparking up. Next time I’ll throw in one or more of the following:

Lemon oil
juice of an orange
crushed berries
ground up sweet corn
finely shredded carrots
extra cinnamon and/or a few grains of ground cloves
ginger juice

I’ll make it again for the office this week, and will work out the measurements then. Here’s the photo.

nut bread 9.1.2018

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12/30/17 Eggplant

The local Dad & Son vegetable store closed for the holidays, giving away produce including 2 eggplant. The Joel Fuhrman cooking method would be to bake the eggplant and peel it. But my baking attempts result in a dried hunk of eggplant with an abrasive taste. So this time I went along with the other internet recipes: peeled and sliced thinly, then pressed with salt. I used two earthenware bowls placed on the kitchen floor with a cast iron frying pan weighing them down overnight. Then rinsed out the salt, and pressed them again — this time turning the two bowls upside down on a plate to press out the water, and setting the cast-iron pan on top. Then I heated up the cast-iron pan, added a touch of coconut oil, and cooked the eggplant.

This dish is the eggplant slices with lentils. The topping is mustard greens, chopped up and simmered with water. Then I pressed out the water to drink with a dash of lime juice, and mixed the greens with turmeric spice paste.

Eggplant Lentils

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8/12: Emmer Farro

To prepare farro I soak it for 24 hours in the fridge, then rinse and simmer with lots of water until soft. The first time, I served it with almond milk, slivered almonds, and raisins. I thought it tasted fine, and brought it to Russian church supper as a soft-cooked super-chewy vegan no-sugar porridge meant to resemble kutiyá, a porridge made with wheat berries. But wheat kutiyá is simmered down in lots of milk, and served with generous portions of butter and honey, so at church my version didn’t really ring the right chimes of familiarity.

Here’s another try, this time preparing the farro as a savory dish. While the farro cooked, I sauteed lots of sliced mushrooms with a slice of Walla Walla sweet onion, and also steamed slices of white potato. Then I mixed a sauce of Bragg’s aminos, melted coconut oil, and pinches of powdered ginger and sage, and mixed all ingredients while the farro was steaming hot. We’ll see how this version goes over tomorrow.

Nowadays I cook a different type of whole grain every day, and eat a big serving for main meal with beans and green vegetables. Farro is a new option for variety, mild enough to go with all kinds of flavorings. It’s certainly substantial and hearty.

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8/5 Garden Gathering

Out in the cool of the morning, planted a late batch of arugula, cilantro, scallions, and lettuce. Then watered everything, and cut back the flowers and tops on the bolting vegetables, herbs, and weeds: Russian kale, Tuscan kale, kale flowers, Swiss chard, purslane, dandelion, new tender shoots of lambs’ quarters, two kinds of mint, arugula, celery flowers, basil, scallions, curly parsley, and oregano. Those big kale leaves needed a little steaming. Then they all went in the food processor. What an aroma and flavor! It tasted like straight mid-summer vitality, all those tough resilient little plants that have stood up so well to a record-breaking hot dry spell. Chock full of fiber, too. To round out that intense texture and taste I ground the salad up with apple slices, tomato paste, homemade turmeric paste, sesame seeds, and a handful of raisins. This made for an eye-opening intensely flavored breakfast, served with a side dish of my home-fermented mild sweet kimchi and a side dish of emmer farro porridge.

Breakfast 8.5.17

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