The Not-So-Glam Vegan

The New York Times recently published a story about a vegan family set in their beautifully breezy home in California. Over a plate of artfully arranged beet ravioli complete with aged cashew cheese, the author asserts that a plant-based diet has become less stigmatized as a proclivity of the hippie dippie type, and become more “glam,” like an ephemeral fashion trend. Say what?

The truth is though, that neither of these representations could be further from the truth.

Veganism isn’t just a personal hobby–it is a lifestyle dedicated to safeguarding the Earth’s, animals, and our own health. The underlying basics of plant-based eating are decidedly not glamorous. Legumes, vegetables, and grains comprise the poor (wo)man’s diet.

If I eat these carrot sticks in a really cool way, will I be glam?

Maybe this really yellow lighting will make me and my carrot stick look glam?

Who is the real face of a vegan diet? It is you! The overtired student-athlete, the superhero stay at home dad of three children, the hardworking young professional, and the retiree, enjoying hard earned freedom. What are the dishes you enjoy each day? I bet they’re something like:

  • black beans and wild rice
  • toast and sliced avocado
  • quinoa and sweet potato
  • seared tofu and sautéed spinach
  • pasta and fresh marinara with basil

Sure it’s nice to enjoy a gourmet dish of nut cheese nachos, but the staples of our diets are wholesome and delicious in themselves. Veganism is accessible, tasty, simple and enjoyed by the most diverse arch of global citizens.

Why Beef is the New SUV

John Sutter is an award-winning journalist and my favorite environmentalist on CNN.

Yesterday, he wrote a compelling story on the inconvenient truth of beef consumption. You can read it here.

holy cow!

holy cow!

His quick and dirty findings: Eating a little more than a half pound of beef is equivalent to driving 70 miles!

Holy cow is right!

You don’t need to be a 100% committed veg-awarian to fight global climate change. By simply swapping meat from one meal a day, you can reduce emissions by the equivalent of 70 miles. That’s a pretty big deal.

Free for My Readers

As we enter into our last week of Fruits and Vegetables month, I’m offering my EGuide free to my treasured readers through the end of September. At just 13 pages long, it’s designed to help you answer the fundamental challenges of plant-based eating: simple and adaptable preparation methods, selecting between fresh and frozen, tips for snacking on produce and a few more topics.

Email me at: mitali (dot) shah (dot) 17 (at) gmail (dot) (com) and I’ll send you the PDF.  I’m excited for your feedback after you have a chance to check it out.

Email me at the address above for your PDF copy

The Radical Radish

During Fruits and Vegetables month, and all year long, produce like avocados, strawberries, and kale always find a place in the spotlight. There’s no doubt about it: their acclaim is well-deserved given the powerful punch of nutrients they deliver. Today, though, I’d like to shine the limelight on an equally healthy yet decidedly an underdog in the produce department: the radish! Read on for 3 reasons the radish is totally radical:

It’s a root vegetable. This means that you’ll be able to find it year-round if you live in a temperate climate. In the right conditions, root vegetables grow at any season, which means you’ll have an easier time finding it in your local grocery store.

It’s packed with nutrients. In a one cup serving of radishes, you’ll get more than 25% of your daily Vitamin C needs.  The leaves of this root are also packed with anti-oxidants, so be sure to add those into your salad. Eating radish ensures you’ll have nothing to throw away because you can benefit from both the stem and root.

You're talking about us?

You’re talking about us?

It comes in many varieties. You’ll find white, purple, and red radishes, each with its own taste. I love radishes for their strong flavors. Dice a couple up and sprinkle throughout your favorite salad combination. There’s no need for much dressing when you’ve got radishes to spice up your salad.

The next time you’re looking for a flavorful side dish with no prep, slice up some radish! Though they may be the underdog, radishes are totally rad, dude!

Fruits and Vegetables around the Web

Continuing along in our month-long celebration of Fruits and Vegetables, here are three stories I found interesting from around the Internet:

David Festa, Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund, blogs about how eating fruits and vegetables saves the Earth.

Nicholas Bakalar of the NYT’s Well blog reports that children throw the away fruits and vegetables they are given at lunch. How can we make them more appealing to kids?

Larry Schwartz writes on Salon about the 24 fruits and vegetables that will help you live longer.

In Pictures: Savor Summer Fruit Every Season

While I may not be able to wear my white dresses anymore, the end of summer doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy fresh berries all year long. Maybe you just picked up a few pints of blueberries on sale at the supermarket or enjoyed one last trip to the farm and picked your own; the thought of surviving cooler months without juicy berries too much to bear.

Well, you’re in luck because in a few easy steps you’ll be able to enjoy your fresh summer pickings all year long!

This is my favorite way to freeze fruit like berries and pineapple. Sure, it does require an extra step or two beyond simply throwing them in the freezer, but I really think the end result is worth it. This method of freezing your fruit allows you to remove as much or as little as you need without getting stuck with a solid block you need to thaw to separate. It’s perfect for mixing fruit into smoothies, oatmeal, muffins, and just plain snacking!

I’ve used strawberries in this example but the method is pretty much similar for other fruit you’d like to freeze. Here are the four easy steps:

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1. Chop the stems off your strawberries. I prefer to chop the tops off first before washing them because then the dirt/pesticides from the top doesn’t mix in with the rest of the berry.

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2. Wash and dry your berries. The important part here is that you thoroughly dry your berries after washing them. I dab them gently with a paper towel to absorb any remaining water. The better you can dry them off, the fewer ice crystals they’ll form when you freeze them.

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3. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place strawberries on the pan and take care to leave space between each one.

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4. Freeze berries on pan for 3-4 hours. Be sure to keep the baking pan flat when you lay it in the freezer. Once berries are frozen, remove them from the pan and store them in a freezer-safe bag. Store bag in the freezer.

After each piece has room to freeze separately, you can put them all in the same bag without fear that it’ll turn into one huge blob. You can freeze blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries with the same method–just no stems to chop off first. With fruit like pineapple, chop it up into bite-size pieces and place each piece on the pan to freeze.

In a few easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying summer fruit every season!

Select the Best Fall Produce: Insider Tips from Sunnyside Farm

To continue our celebration of Fruits and Vegetables Month, I had a chance to catch up with Valerie Fowler of Sunnyside Farm in St Mary’s County, Maryland. Eastern Market is DC’s oldest, continuously operating farmer’s market and Valerie and her family have had a stall here since its opening, in 1873!

As we welcome Fall and the colorful fruits and vegetables the season brings with it, Valerie shares her advice with us on selecting the best squash from your local farmer’s market.

Here’s what Valerie says about shopping for fall vegetables:

Acorn Squash
Acorn Squash decorates the local farm stands in the fall. This vegetable has a hard, thin outer skin. It has the shape of an acorn with ribs. It is typically about 8 inches long and 5 inches in diameter. The orange/yellow interior flesh is firm and sweet with a nutty flavor. These squash come in many colors (dark green, white, orange, and colorful variegated varieties) To select acorn squash – pick one that feels heavy for its size, usually from 1 to 3 pounds. The skin should be smooth and free of any soft spots. There should be a partial orange color where the squash laid on the ground, which tells us that it was mature when picked.

The farmer typically picks the squash when the vines begin to dry up. However, The shopper does not see this part of the process. An overripe squash has the signs of being too orange in color (unless the squash is naturally an orange color), lighter in weight and the interior may start to have a dry, stringy inside. Due to the thick skin, the winter squash keeps longer than the thin skinned summer squash. Winter squash easily stores for 1 to 3 months at about 50 degrees. Since most households do not have this optimum temperature for storage, it is best to use the winter squash within a couple of weeks after purchase. Try to store in a cool dry area. You can cut up and store raw or cooked squash in a container in the refrigerator for a several days. Cooked acorn squash (chunks or mashed) can also be frozen for several months.”

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Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a winter squash that is found on many farmer’s markets in the fall. The ripe exterior color is beige. The texture will be smooth and feel heavy for its size when you pick it up. There should be no green color on the outside if the butternut it is ripe. The skin should be a dull beige, firm to the touch with no soft spots. The interior flesh is a deep orange color.

It should be stored in a cool, dry area. Just like the acorn squash, a ripe butternut squash will last one to three months. Best to eat within a few weeks of purchase to guarentee you catch the flavor at its prime. It can be stored in fridge either raw or cooked –just like the acorn squash. Or, place cooked squash in freezer bags or air tight container in the freezer for up to several months.”

If you have a chance to visit Eastern Market in DC, be sure to visit Valerie and sample some of her fresh and delicious produce. For more information about Sunnyside Farm and Eastern Market in Washington, DC, visit this page here.

Thank you so much Valerie, for taking the time to share with us!