In the early days of my plant-based transformation, long before I wrote this blog, I would often spend time reading recipes and gathering ideas for what I wanted to cook. It was also a way of feeling alliance and camaraderie and support from a community I didn’t have in the flesh. Still, to this day, I comb the internet for ideas, asking questions I have about something I’d like to try or make, and see what comes up.

As I mentioned in my last post, as I renewed a full commitment to only whole foods (no flour for a while, even gluten-free) I discovered Live with Chef AJ and began watching all her many interviews and cooking demonstrations, which is where I came upon Andrew Taylor at Spudfit and his year of eating potatoes.

While I was very moved by his story, my curiosity veered to the peripheral, as is so often the case. How was he eating his potatoes every day, 3 times a day? While I didn’t want or need to eat only potatoes (preferring to stick to what he calls “Mega Foods”), I sure wanted to discover any interesting tips about how to prepare them in ways I might have not thought of, and that would be pretty easy no nonsense and maybe even a little fun.

In the early days of his year challenge, before air fryers and pressure cookers, he was doing a lot of boiling and making what the Australians call “mash.” But sometimes he’d also take whole boiled potatoes, put them on a lined baking sheet and actually smash them with the bottom of a jar–and then baked them in the oven for a bit. I just thought that was too fun not to try.

I was going to steam my potatoes, but at the last minute, that little rebel voice in me said “why not microwave them instead?” And that’s what I did, until tender. Then I arranged them on the baking sheet and with a pint sized wide mouth mason jar, I smashed them. I can’t describe the delight of this experience adequately or why it gives me such pleasure, but it does. Then I put them in a 410 degree oven and baked them for between 15 and 20 minutes.

At first I thought I should try and flip them but then that didn’t seem necessary. My particular aim was not to get them as crispy as possible, but to make them a little more golden. And to my additional delight, I discovered that for the most part they stayed whole and I could just pick them up and eat them with my hands. So, along with some steam fried veggies, this has been one of my favorite dinners for the past week.

A few tips: for the penultimate “smashing” experience  and texture when eating, I suggest thinner skinned potatoes like yellow ones or golden sweet potatoes, rather than the darker, thicker skinned varieties. I found those skins got more leathery than I wanted.  But I have been sure to eat those orange ones at breakfast, added to my oatmeal, because I read there is a compound discovered in that orange pigment that slows down or stops demyelination. I thank World’s Healthiest Food’s, for that update. Visiting my old internet haunts as distraction and comfort yielded some exciting new research findings.

If you have an air fryer, I suppose you could put them in there and they might get more crispy. But I find I like this combination of a little chewy/solid/golden on the outside and tender moist on the inside a whole lot.

Here’s to a meal that’s truly a smash. Literally and figuratively–my favorite combination.

 

Maria (moonwatcher)

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As you all know, during pandemic times I turned to gluten-free low fat baking as a source of creativity and comfort. A couple of months ago I noticed that even without overeating what I baked, constantly ingesting even the healthiest of baked goods on a regular basis, along with fair amounts of gluten-free pasta and a few other plant-based higher calorie density foods were starting to make clothes that always fit not fit so great anymore. Though I don’t own a scale, whether the clothes I like to wear fit or not is a predictable measure of whether or not I am on track.

Besides the vanity of liking my clothes to fit, there is the real concern that carrying more weight makes it harder for me to walk, stretch, and move around in general. My adventure in the quicksand on the beach a few years ago is remembered by my knees still, and they tell me about it the more I inch toward a heavier weight.

On top of all that, I am sad to say my foster grandchild is likely to be reunited with his birth mom soon. It isn’t what we would choose for him given all the circumstances but the law is the law, and so my son and daughter-in-law are doing their best to help with the transition, out of love and care for this little person who has just turned one.

So on the one hand, I wanted to get lighter and stronger to be able to keep picking dear little person (who is now walking!) up, but I also knew this day was now coming, and that I needed to be as strong as I could get myself on all levels to be able to get through it in the best way I could to show my support and love for my family–of which he will always be a part.

So I went back to the whole food basics–vegetables, grains, beans and fruit. I cut out the baking, the pasta, the peanut and tahini sauces, and I fell back in love with the basics. To spur me on, as I did in the beginning back in 2008, I returned to the internet for plant-based talks and tips and recipes to keep me going. I discovered that Chef AJ had basically started a talk show on her Youtube channel during the pandemic that airs as often as twice a day, on which she features plant-based doctors and chefs and researchers. I got reacquainted with those and met some very inspiring new-to-me ones–like Dr. Saray Stancic who made the film Code Blue (which you can watch on Amazon and which I highly recommend). That was an emotional one for me, because, like others with MS Chef AJ interviewed, we had all had similar trajectories coming to this, and they all said nearly identical things to what I say: that rather than a cure, this keeps the symptoms at bay and to keep it that way we need to keep on it. It was very affirming and even a shot in the arm for my crawl through completing the first draft of my memoir. I see that it isn’t identical with the focus of their stories, but that it “goes” beautifully and will have its own place.

Two of the talks I listened to thanks to Chef AJ were about intermittent fasting. One was by, of course, renowned Dr. Goldhammer from True North. The other was one of the authors of the book Body on Fire, Dr. Jyothi Rao. Dr. Goldhammer made me chuckle when he mentioned that it was somewhat annoying to him that due to the pandemic the doctors at True North had been compelled to replace residencies with distance consultations and as a result were prescribing intermittent fasting plans, that while taking longer, were yielding the same excellent results.

After I got done chuckling at his wry humor, I realized that since I took to walking the dogs early before eating breakfast a few years ago, I was already well on my way to the 16 hour mark in the 24 hour cycle he recommends. If I could push out my breakfast just a couple more hours I’d be there. And then I heard Dr.Rao say that as long as you can go–12, 13, 14, up to 16 hours–you are giving your body a chance to reset. And she maintains a less stringent view of it than Dr. Goldhammer–that as long as you don’t break 500 calories, you’re still in “fast” mode.

Armed with and fascinated by this information, along with Chef AJ’s recommendation to eat veggies first, I added this practice to my return to the basics. It’s worked wonderfully. My clothes are fitting great once again. My knees don’t hurt at all. Other MS related flares and lingering vaccine reactions and even budding arthritis pains are resolved or do not stop me in my tracks. My range of motion has improved and so has my stretching ability in my yoga stretches. A long endured very bumpy corn that formed on the ball of my left foot years ago just came right off one afternoon as I sunned my bare feet while looking out at the ocean. I am really grateful for all this renewed ability to “bounce back.”

I am correlating the intermittent fasting with a renewed sense of taste–I can even taste the subtle saltiness in plain kale or spinach. I still have my oatmeal and fruit, but now I add a little sweet potato and it comes after I’ve had some greens.

It’s been slow in coming for me over the years, but I am also renewing my love of potatoes of all kinds. For this I have Chef AJ’s interview with AndrewTaylor, the Spudfit guy– to thank–his story is so wonderful and endearing and down to earth.

So what does this all have to do with a lima bean surprise? The other day I was getting low on fresh produce and even frozen produce, and resolved to put something together with what I had. I thought I had a half package of frozen black eyed peas in the freezer which I was looking forward to combining with a package of frozen butternut squash, some frozen corn kernels, frozen peas, a little leftover black rice and seasonings. But when I went to pull what I thought were the rest of the black eyed-peas out, they weren’t black-eyed peas at all–they were lima beans.

My sails drooped. Why did I still have these? Why had I even bought them? I’ve never much liked lima beans. It must have been in order to try and add them to a long ago split pea soup recipe. And here they were, caked with ice. Had I even used them at one point to ice a bruise or a bump? But they were all I had.

So I read the instructions to microwave them, cut the cooking times in half for half the package,sprinkled them with garlic powder and gave them a go. Then I nuked the package of butternut squash cubes. And I added them to the skillet along with healthy sprinklings of frozen corn and peas and the rest of the leftover black rice. I spilled a bunch of poultry seasoning onto them, but that ended up being a good thing. And then some coriander, some cumin, some fennel and lots of garlic granules, along with two or three smashed cloves of garlic, dribbling in water as needed. A slight sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a healthy dose of lemon juice when they were all done.

I absolutely love this dish. I loved the lima beans, even right out of the bowl they were microwaved in. What has happened to me?

It brings to mind sensations I experienced years ago when I would prepare plain sweet potato and brown rice for Romeo’s sensitive stomach, and find I wanted to steal some of it first, plain as it was. I don’t know why but in my cook and baker’s brain passed down through many generations, it felt inadequate to simply eat something plain at a meal. It almost made me feel guilty for liking it.

But now, I don’t feel guilty. I’m happy I’m tasting things so profoundly again. Neither do I begrudge myself the extra seasonings or dashes of vinegars or coconut aminos or other condiments if I want them. Or the lovely lemon poppy seed salad dressing I watched Chef AJ make. Or how I appreciate what Andrew Taylor did during his year long Spudfit challenge to season his own potatoes.

Other older learning that still stands comes back to me as well as reinforcement. Dr. Esselstyn wrote long ago in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease that while breads and pasta are okay, they are more refined and if you find your weight creeping up on you, just return to the whole foods.

That’s what I’ve done and I’m ever grateful. It’s helping me through what is certainly one of the most difficult transitions of my life and my son and daughter-in-law’s, too. It’s helping me be there for them. And it’s helped me write this post anyway, even when I wanted to upload the photo I took of my lima bean surprise and my air drop suddenly wouldn’t do it.  It also helped me call Apple customer service and get the right directions to putting it back on again. And voila!

I’ve always said the time to stick to this way of eating is when things are stressful and difficult, and this experience renews my belief in that approach many fold.  When my life gives me lemons, I guess I’ll just squeeze them on my whole plant food. So grateful for this way of eating and all those out there who show us the ropes, and, amazingly, in the bargain made a lover of lima beans out of me!

 

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

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Aries New Moon in April

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