Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

6 ways to get started on a plant-based diet

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When I decided to follow a whole-food plant-based diet, I just switched overnight. It was somewhat confusing at first — not having any repertoire of meals made me flounder a bit, not to mention not knowing where to start planning the meal. I

It strikes me now as allied to the disorientation one gets when, long accustomed to watching movies or plays with a clearly defined leading role or roles accompanied by supporting roles, one watches an ensemble piece: the experience of unconsciously searching for the lead character is at first confusing — “Who are all these characters? Who’s the lead?” Compare “The Return of the Secaucus Seven ” or “The Anniversary Party” the “star” to “Hamlet” or “High Noon” — the latter two are involve a central character and various supporting roles; the former two have equal billing for various roles.

The same with a plant-based meal: it’s an ensemble piece, not one with a lead (the role meat plays in most meals). But, like any good ensemble movie or play, a plant-based meal can, in my experience, be more interesting than the traditional structure of having the whole thing centered on one character (or food). The interplay and relationships among the characters/ingredients enrich the whole with an equality of diversity.

Still, if you are accustomed to preparing meals on the lead-character model, the ensemble meal is at first somewhat bewildering: “Who’s the lead?” becomes “Where do I start?” That’s what I discuss in this previous post.

I personally like jumping in with both feet because I enjoy the sensation of gradually emerging from confusion into understanding — a sensation available only if you first plunge yourself into confusion. Many people really don’t like the sensation of confusion: it triggers a kind of panic, as though you’re trapped — it can feel as though you’re suffocating, but for lack of clarity and understanding rather than air. But in fact it won’t kill you and you will not be a permanent resident in that state of confusion. If you relax and view the experience as a tourist, taking note of interesting aspects and continuing to walk through it until things start to come together and make sense, the entire experience becomes pleasurable and interesting. It’s a (remote) cousin of the experience of solving a crossword puzzles: challenges along the way but great satisfaction as everything snaps into place — cf. also jigsaw puzzles. What interests me is a puzzle experience that one naturally encounters in a life situation.

But YM, as they say, MV. So the website created for The Game Changers documentary includes this step-by-step way of easing into a plant-based diet:

When it comes to making food choices, everyone has their own goals and their own rate of change. Some people cut out animal products entirely, while others start by including more plant foods, and going from there. The bottom line is that every time you choose “more plants” you are making a positive choice. And contrary to what most diet plans will tell you, every positive step counts. Here are a few of our tips for getting started:


For some people, this could mean choosing one meal a day to eat plant-based (like breakfast.) For others, this could mean dedicating one or two days per week to eating fully plant-based. In both cases, deciding ahead of time and planning accordingly is usually key.


You might be surprised to discover just how many of the foods you already enjoy are plant-based, including stir-fries, soups, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and grain-based breakfasts like granola and oatmeal, not to mention the huge variety of naturally plant-based meals from international cuisines including Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African.


If you like cereal for breakfast, experiment with a plant-based milk. If you typically grab a fast-food burger once a week, opt for a plant-based one. Same goes with protein powders. If you like chilli for lunch, use your usual recipe but just stick with beans or swap in a ground beef substitute. If you like enchiladas, curries, stews, sliders, pasta bolognese, etc., our Recipes offer plant-based versions that have the same look, comfort and taste. Focus on options that feel familiar, before jumping into unfamiliar ingredients and dishes.


In addition to having a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and spices on hand, also make sure you stock your fridge, freezer and cupboards with plant-based milks, burgers, burritos, pizza, nut butters, dark chocolate, and so on. The foods you get started on should taste good and fill you up, even if they aren’t perfectly healthy. It’s much more important to enjoy your new way of eating than drudge through bland meals and snacks that leave you unsatisfied.


Deprivation diets never last long, but eating patterns that taste good, feel good, and yield tangible results (improved energy, fitness, appearance, health, etc.) create a positive feedback loop that gets stronger and stronger over time. You will likely also be surprised by just how varied plant-based eating actually can be, with literally thousands of new flavors, textures and combinations to try.

6. . . .

Continue reading.

Although they don’t specifically say it, it’s clear that they are talking about a whole-food plant based diet, not one that relies on refined foods or products foods manufactured using industrial processes from refined ingredients and sold packaged under a brand name.



Written by LeisureGuy

14 December 2019 at 9:09 am

A brief history of the Nanaimo bar

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The Nanaimo bar is surprisingly good, and it originated just up-island from where I live now. Sara Bonisteel reported in the NY Times earlier this year:

The Canadian city of Nanaimo, in British Columbia, has been a scrappy outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a coal mining center and a timber town. But its place in history may be forever entwined with its culinary namesake, one of the world’s sweetest treats.

The Nanaimo bar (pronounced nuh-NYE-mo) is a three-layer no-bake square that for the last seven decades or so has been a steadfast source of comfort to Canadians at weddings and funerals, birthdays and bar mitzvahs. Across the country, you’ll find the sugary bars for sale at small-town gas stations and supermarkets, where they compete with Nanaimo bar baking kits. In 2017, the Tim Hortons restaurant chain created a filled doughnut with the flavors of the Nanaimo bar for the nation’s sesquicentennial, a nod to its status.

Even its name is proudly Canadian.

“I like to call it the Kardashian of Canadian desserts because really, if it had been named anything else, I don’t think it would have lasted,” said Lenore Newman, the author of “Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey.” “But it’s the Nanaimo bar, so of course people make it.”

The square looks something like a geological cross section. Its base is sedimentary: coconut and chopped walnuts bound together by a buttery silt of cocoa and crushed graham crackers. A middle layer of yellow buttercream teeters on the brink of liquefaction. And its top crust of chocolate, hard and brittle, thaws like the Arctic tundra the longer it lingers at room temperature.

“It’s that balance of sweetness and texture that makes it just so appealing, and it looks pretty,” said Anna Olson, a pastry chef and the host of the Food Network Canada show “Bake With Anna Olson.” “For the home cook, it’s an attractive dessert: It doesn’t look sloppy, it doesn’t look crafty.”

The Nanaimo bar’s story begins with the so-called dainty recipes of the mid-20th century, treats engineered to be whipped up for unexpected company from pantry staples.

“The base layer was one of these 1950s recipes that circulated among housewives in mill towns all around the British Empire,” said Dr. Newman, a geography professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, in British Columbia, who also noted that a New Zealand dessert, the caramel slice, has a similar base.

Dr. Newman believes that the women of Nanaimo added the middle and top layers. The first mention that she and a student, Shea Wind, could find was in a 1953 recipe in The Vancouver Sun for London smog bars, which stated that they were also called Nanaimo bars.

The use of custard powder — an instant custard mix, which was a pantry staple of the empire, devised for those with egg allergies — gave their new dainty its distinctive yellow belt.

Around the same time, bakers in Canada’s prairie provinces were serving up a similar creation, also called the smog bar, which Jean Paré, 91, learned how to make from her mother, Ruby Elford, in Irma, Alberta, a town of 250 about 110 miles southeast of Edmonton.

“I forget how many do’s I went to before I finally found that they were called Nanaimo bars by other people,” she said in a phone interview, using an old-fashioned term for a gathering.

Mrs. Paré (pronounced Perry) is a well-known Canadian cookbook author whose “Company’s Coming” books have sold by the millions. She included Nanaimo bars in her first book in the series, “150 Delicious Squares,” in 1981.

Before she wrote cookbooks, Mrs. Paré catered events. Nanaimo bars were almost always on the dessert-square tray, which would make an appearance anytime a sweet snack was required, often at the “midnight lunch” served after the dinner and dancing at Albertan wedding receptions. “I didn’t have to bake them, and they froze so well,” she said.

Only once, she said, did she decide to sub out the Nanaimo bar, and people asked for them by name: “So that was the last time I ever tried that.”

Susan Mendelson was a university student in Vancouver in the 1970s when she started making the bars and selling them at a local theater, using a recipe from a classmate. They were a hit, and she opened a catering company, the Lazy Gourmet, with a friend.

She published the basic recipe in her first cookbook, “Mama Never Cooked Like This,” and variations in subsequent ones, including the official cookbook of the 1986 world’s fair in Vancouver, which Dr. Newman credits with helping to spread the bar’s fame. Ms. Mendelson’s version of the bar was so good that the novelist Margaret Atwood included it in her “Canlit Foodbook,” which compiled writing and recipes from Canadian authors.

And the city of Nanaimo finally took notice of its well-traveled square. A mascot, Nanaimo Barney, turned up at public functions, and a contest was held in the 1980s to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Article as a PDF.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 December 2019 at 8:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Slow your beating heart: Beans v. Exercise

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You may have noticed yesterday that my pulse rate on the pharmacy blood-pressure meter was 64 bpm. That’s because I was out and about and had been walking the supermarket aisles, lifting boxes of frozen mixed berries (on sale!) into the cart, and so on. I just now took my resting heart rate, sitting in my chair at home, and it is 53 bpm. I did ask the doctor about this bradycardia and he said it was good. I looked back and I see that in March it ran in the mid to high 70’s and once even 80 bpm. And mid-March is when I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet. That may be why my pulse rate has slowed — I do generally eat 3 servings of pulse (beans or lentils) a day. (Interesting that “pulse” has two meanings.)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 December 2019 at 8:42 am

Six months after starting whole-food plant-based diet

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And 3.5 months after quitting my medication for high blood pressure:

That’s from the supermarket pharmacy’s machine this afternoon. When a doctor took my blood pressure earlier this week, it was 115 over 71. Whichever it is, it’s pretty good considering not that long ago I was on meds for high blood pressure.

I think this whole-food plant-based diet is turning out to be a good idea.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2019 at 7:03 pm

Trying a breakfast smoothie

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I was reading that fresh raw turmeric works better against inflammation and fresh cooked turmeric (or ground turmeric) better against DNA damage. So I got to thinking about how to use raw turmeric and thought a smoothie would work — and Lord! are there a ton of whole-food plant-based smoothie recipes! I looked at a few and decided to make up a recipe using what I have on hand. This will, I think, require the Big Blender, not the immersion blender.

I decided to use:

1 apple (all except stem — i.e., don’t discard peel or core)
1 mandarin orange (peeled)
1 lemon (peeled) — or sweet lime or plain lime
4 pitted dates
1 cup frozen mixed berries or cranberries
1/3 package frozen spinach (or handful of baby kale or arugula or 1 bunch parsley or cilantro)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried mint)
1.5″ raw turmeric root, sliced
1″ raw ginger root (pretty thick root), sliced
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper (for turmeric)
1 tablespoon freshly ground flax seed
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon amla powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) pepitas or walnuts
1 brazil nut (for selenium)
enough almond milk to make it drinkable but still thick.

That takes care of a good part of the Daily Dozen checklist: berries, other fruit, greens, flax seed, and nuts/seeds.

For lunch and dinner, I sautéed a yellow onion with about 1/3 cup finely chopped garlic and a 1″ piece of fresh turmeric minced, then added a cup of steamed broccoli, a cup of chopped crimini mushrooms, a cup of diced homemade soybean tempeh, and 3/4 cup cooked hulled barley, along with about 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper. That took care of beans, cruciferous vegetables, other vegetables, and whole grains, completing the checklist (save for exercise — but it’s raining…).

The smoothie recipe above makes a big batch — and it’s very tasty. I drank it all. If I had had an avocado, I definitely would have added half an avocado. To try in future smoothies:

1/2 avocado
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (for flavor)
1 good sized jalapeño, cap cut off (for spicy)
1/2 cup diced raw beet
1/2 cup diced raw carrot

Update: just tried it with all of the above except the avocado — excellent! I might even go with two jalapeños. The spiciness is muted but present enough to add warmth.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2019 at 9:14 am

Benefits of flaxseed for inflammation — and for high blood pressure

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Maybe my getting my blood pressure back to normal without medication is not totally due to cutting salt and drinking hibiscus tea.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2019 at 1:18 pm

Bamboo shoot redux

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Here’s another bamboo shoot, peeled and with the bottom cut off and halved. The bottom is already growing the internal hollow structure of mature bamboo, but the top portion lacks the cavities. I will chop and sauté this, including leaves (why not?), along with some other veggies, mushrooms, tempeh, and cooked barley.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2019 at 9:33 am

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