5/11/2011: Black Foods, Beans, Cooking Grains & Urban Gardens

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Today on It’s All About Food I commented on a recent news program about black foods including black beans. Well I don’t discriminate and love all beans of all colors! I spoke about all the delicious things that can be done with beans. I also talked about the development of Urban Gardens.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food.

You can make comments or send me questions by email at info@realmeals.org

Or if you like and you’re listening to this show live, you can call in at 1-888-874-4888. 1-888-874-1 – oops, I blew it. there’s too many 8s and I just get all confused. 1-888-874-4888.

There we go, so let’s start in with the conversation and talk about my favorite food. No, my favorite, which is food. I love food, as long as it’s natural like we were just talking about with my guest Christine Waltimeyer, and from plants, healthy plant foods. I occasionally turn on the television, it’s not very often, and I catch the 11:00 news and a couple of nights ago, you’ll notice many of the news stations do this now. It’s all entertainment, it’s not really a bulk of news, but they have these little trailers to keep you going through the program. Wait till you hear about this and about this new secret that, and some great food that’s going to do this for you and they go “stay tuned,” and then you finally watch it and it’s basically the trailer they’ve been showing you the whole time plus maybe 30 seconds more of information and it’s usually disappointing.

A couple of nights ago there was a program on Black foods – did anyone catch it? It was crazy. I give the network credit, I think it was CBS, gosh, I don’t even remember, but I give them credit for talking about healthy foods because ultimately they were promoting the black foods, like blackberries and black beans, and they showed some picture of eggplant, which In my book are kind of purple and brown, not really black, and they certainly aren’t black on the inside. But I just thought it was something kind of weird but I guess they run out of topics to be creative about, so they wanted to talk about black food, kind of implying that people don’t naturally like to eat foods that are black and I don’t know. I don’t know anyone that’s every told me, ew, I don’t want to eat it because it’s black. I can think of numerous candies, for example, that are black, like licorice. And licorice, some of the plain licorice are actually more sensible as a candy because they’re not too sweet and are made from natural ingredients.

But there are plenty of black foods. And I have never heard anyone say , when they’re served a blackberry, ew, I don’t want to eat it, it’s black, so I thought it was a really bizarre take. But I want to give them credit for promoting beans, like black beans, because beans, no matter what color they are, are a super food, in my book. But let’s not discriminate. There are white beans, and pink beans, and pink beans, sometimes called kidney beans and the white beans are actually sometimes called navy beans. Certainly there are black beans and there are different kinds of black beans. There are black soy beans, there are white soy beans, there are little black turtle beans. There are a whole host of lentils. Lentils can be brown, they can be green, they can be pink, yellow, orange. Let’s go on and on. There are split peas that are green and yellow. The wonderful thing about beans is not only all the colors but they are really, really inexpensive. They are easy to prepare and super, super nutritious. I’ve heard some discussions from time to time about food combining and how we have to – I talked about this on my “Ask a Vegan” show recently about not eating protein with starch. Like meat with potato. And I certainly agree that not eating meat with potato is a good thing because meat is not really a good thing. But in a bean, or in a lot of plant foods, you’ve got the macro nutrients, protein, carbohydrate, fat all together. So I’m kind of confused when people say you really shouldn’t be combining these foods. Does that mean you’re not supposed to eat plant foods? Because all plant foods have protein, carbohydrate and fat in them and guess what? The body knows how to digest them. Magic! And of course, if there are foods that you don’t feel well eating, then don’t eat them. But I’m not someone that really follows the content of food combining. I like to eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it and I usually feel pretty good about it because they’re all plant foods.

So let’s get back to beans. There are so many things we can do with beans, and the easiest thing is to buy them in a can. Have them available. They’re ready anytime, and you can make so many things with all the different kinds of beans. Now something that’s certainly been getting a lot of play is hummus, which is made from garbanzo beans. You can make it yourself by just blending up garbanzo beans in a blender adding lemon juice, a little sesame tahini, and then you could add olive oil, you don’t have to, you could add salt, you don’t’ have to. The great thing about it is I always try to stay away from oil and salt so I can make my own and I don’t have to put the salt and the oil in it. It’s much better that way. I find that hummus you get in the store, most of them have preservatives in them, like sodium benzoate, for example and I don’t need that in my food, do you? Sure, it’s convenient, but do we need those things in our food? If it’s not in there, and there are some brands that don’t contain sodium benzoate or other preservatives. There are a handful of them. What happens? Well, they don’t’ stay in your refrigerator for very long – they go bad. So what do you need to do? You need to eat the food that you buy when you buy it. This idea of having food last for a week or two week so a year, or whatever, there’s a price. So I encourage avoiding preservatives in food and certainly avoiding salt. The best way to do that unfortunately is to make things yourself and I prefer actually to go one step further and to buy my beans in bulk. They’re a lot less expensive that way, they stay forever, you can store them in pretty little jars if you don’t have room in the cupboards. You can have them out on a shelf or on the counter and they’re just there waiting for any time. And those are the kinds of foods that will last forever, until you’re ready to prepare them. and it just requires a little planning, not a lot of time, just planning. So you plan the night before or the morning before. You can soak them for about 8 hours in a pot covered with water. You don’t have to do anything just let it sit there and then when you’re ready, you pour off the water, you rinse them, you add new water, and you cook them. And again, you’re not doing anything. They’re just sitting in a pot. When they’re all done, that’s when you can get creative. You can just eat them simple, plain, sprinkle them on salad, you can mash them and add seasonings, you can make a pate or a spread for sandwiches. There are so many different things, and then, when you start making iterations by the different kinds of beans that you can use because I mentioned you can make hummus with garbanzo beans and sesame tahini and a little lemon juice. Well, you can do the same thing with another bean and then you’ve got theme and variation here. You can do it with a white bean and let’s say you don’t have tahini, well you can use almond butter, you can use peanut butter, you can use any nut butter. Gives it a little extra flavor with the fat that’s in the nut butter. And then instead of lemon juice, well, why not lime juice? Everything makes it just a little bit more interesting. You can certainly make these similar kinds of pates with pink beans or red beans. They all worked. They’re all good. There are lots of recipes for them and you can find them in books, you can find them on the internet, you can email me at info@realmeals.org.

I’ll get you going. There are just so many wonderful things you can do with beans. And I’m always pushing salads, green, green, green. A lot of people say they’re not satisfied with salad and I have two responses to this. One is, if it’s not satisfying, eat more. The great thing about a salad that’s just mostly green, leafy vegetables is there are hardly any calories and it’s packed with immune boosting nutrients. Eat more. But if the green leaves aren’t going to do it for you, that’s where the beans come in. You can sprinkle a third of a cup, a half a cup of any kind of bean, or make it a mix. And that makes the salad more substantial, more satisfying, and beans give you that feeling, that satiated feeling. They’re really super.

And lately, I go back and forth in terms of what I feel like eating when I’m having breakfast. Sometimes I get up and I don’t want to eat anything and you know what? If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. But if you’re going off to work and you know you’re going to have hunger at around 10:00 or something and you don’t have access to food, you to have to plan and have something nutritious for when you know you’re going to get hungry. But sometimes I go for the traditional cereal type food like oatmeal with fresh fruit but a lot of times I want something savory. I get away from the need for sweet foods. And so if I’ve made a big pot of soup that’s loaded with lots of different beans or vegetables sometimes I’ll have soup for breakfast. Why not? It’s really, really satisfying. Can’t say enough about beans.

So what can you make? You can make bean soup with lots of different vegetables. You can make bean burgers. Yes you can. All it takes is a bean, like a black bean, could be a red bean, could be a pink bean. It’s up to you to add the vegetables and spices. You might need a little flour or a little grain in there to hold it together, but there’s a whole variety of different patties of burgers you can make. It all depends on the herbs and spices you use. There’s a world of variety out there. It’s not boring.

Of course, I talked about the pates. And then you can even use beans for some desserts. Have you been to some of these Asian bakeries where they have these, what are they called? They’re like a pastry with a sweet-bean filling. So beans are the all-purpose, beautiful food, easy, inexpensive. No matter where you go in the world, you’re always going to find beans and I’ve been discovering beans I’ve never known or seen before when you go into different ethnic stores. There are different varieties that don’t seem to make it into the mainstream supermarkets. It depends on the culture. And that can make it all that more interesting.

I got a question here about good recipes for rice. The listener wants to make a healthy Spanish, yellow rice. That sounds pretty good. There are again, the whole grains just like the beans, there are so many of them. Variety is tremendous. So starting with rice, we go with all those colors again. there’s white rice, three’s brown rice, there’s short grain brown rice, there’s medium grain brown rice, there’s long grain brown rice, there’s Basmati rice and Jasmine rice, there’s black rice, there’s red rice. Do you get my drift? There are so many different kinds. And that’s just rice. Let’s talk about barley or rye or millet or quinoa. And there’s black quinoa and red quinoa and white quinoa. There’s certainly a different grain for every day of the week and you probably don’t have to repeat for a very long time.

But let’s say you want to jazz it up. Traditionally when people made rice in American, the United States. I guess in the 50s and 60s a lot of times a chicken broth bouillon, this kind of powdery chicken bouillon was used in the water to flavor the rice and it was usually loaded with a lot of salt. Probably some artificial flavoring, some preservatives and it gave the rice a nice yellow flavor, a nice yellow complexion, and certainly had a lot of salt in it. I don’t recommend that. But it could be nice to flavor the water that you’re cooking your grain in and you can do that many, many ways. You can certainly use a vegetable bouillon and I prefer the kind that are salt free or have minimal salt. Because if you haven’t gotten my message yet. I am anti salt. There’s plenty of sodium in our plant foods that we eat, we don’t need to add it in a shaker.

So the grain, in the water that you’re cooking the grain in, you can season it with a bouillon or you can add some fresh garlic. You can add onion to the water. Celery is great. A stalk of celery or cut up. I like to put celery in my potatoes, too. Celery has a lot of minerals in it and it has a salty, naturally salty flavor. And that can help bring out the flavor of the rice, or the grain. It’s these aromatic kinds of vegetables, onions, carrots, celery, that are great to add to cooking water when you’re preparing something like a soup or a grain. Then there is my favorite herb, spice. It’s not an herb, it’s a spice. Turmeric. Is there a correct way to pronounce it? I say Turmeric. Some people say Turmeric.

It’s a root. I’ve seen it grow in Costa Rica. It’s really ugly and gnarly. But when you go to a market, they’ve ground it up and it’s a beautiful orange powder. It has so many great properties. It’s really a healthy spice. It’s used a lot externally on the skin for a variety of remedies and it’s also very healthy to ingest. It has great immune system properties and anti-cancer fighting properties. The great thing about it is the color. You can certainly add a teaspoon or more of the turmeric to the cooking water and that will make your rice a nice yellow and it gives a nice flavor. I also like to use turmeric when I’m making a tofu dish, like a scramble tofu and I want it to look like eggs. Mashing up the tofu while it’s in the frying pan and being sautéed with other vegetables, I’ll sprinkle in the in the turmeric and it turns everything a nice yellow. The advantage is you get a great color but this spice is really, really good for you. It’s good to add on everything but you have to be careful because it can get bitter. So you don’t want too much, you want to add a little at a time. Test the color, test the flavor and see how it feels to you. Because it can get, like I said, a little bitter.

And then once the rice is prepared and I don’t know, some people are challenged with rice and I’m not sure why. It’s very simple. I take a cup of grain, rice, or other grain. I put it in a sauce pan. I add two cups of cold water, mix it up, cover it, turn the heat on to medium. I wait for it to boil, when I see it’s boiling, I turn the heat down low. Let it simmer, make sure it’s covered and I don’t look at it for a while. I might check on it occasionally but I don’t touch and then the rice will absorb all the water and it’s done. No big deal. It’s really, really easy. And it works with all grains. Although the ratio might be a little more water or less water to the grain depending on the grain. It’s pretty much like that.

Then when it’s done you can have your vegetables sautéed, onions are great, finely chopped onions, sautéed. I always use water. You might to use a little oil, but again, I like to stay away from the oils. You can dry sauté it, too. Once the vegetable heats up it will let go of some of its moisture so there is something for it to cook in in the pan. And then when the rice is cooked you can simply toss it with the other vegetables.

There are a lot of different recipes for Spanish rice and it depends on exactly what you’re interested in. you can make it spicy if you’d like. You can add a can of chopped tomatoes or fresh tomatoes can go in it. Some hot Chile if you like that. There are so many varieties. So many different ways to do it. Use your imagination.

I love food. It’s always a pleasure. Every day to open the cabinet and it’s almost like the cutting board is a blank canvas and every day I get to create some new artwork.

Back to things I hear in the news. Last night there was a special little program about binging and people apparently a lot of people, have the problem with binging where they may eat healthy for a few days and then somehow they can seem to resists an entire bag of potato chips or consuming an entire gallon or whatever it is of ice cream. This can have all kinds of problematic effects certainly on your weight and on your health. I’m always trying to help people move to the bright side of the happy world of plant-based foods. It does take time. It takes a bit of training. But once you’ve educated yourself and made a decision about the foods you are going to eat and the foods you aren’t going to eat, all of a sudden, all those foods that aren’t healthy for you, they don’t exist anymore. It does take a certain amount of discipline, a certain amount of focus. For me clearly I didn’t want to eat a lot of different foods because they were animal based. Once I made the connection between the exploitation of animals and food, I didn’t want to support that and I didn’t’ want to eat them. Plain and simple. So when there were animal foods, either meat-based foods or dairy-based foods, cheese foods that had always been appealing to me at one point in my life and I didn’t want to eat them anymore, I needed to make that conversion in the connecting I had with that food. At one point when it was a comfort food, it was a food that was connected with happy times and family and holidays and traditions and just good flavors. I had to convert those thoughts to no, no, no, that food is related to pain. That food is related to suffering. That food is related to exploitation. That food is related to poor health. That food is related to poor cancer and disease. That food is related to harming the environment. It can happen very quickly. It can take a focus amount of effort, but it does work. To the point where those things that you don’t want to eat are no longer appealing. You don’t want to eat them.

I have been doing it so long that actually the smells of some of these foods have become very offensive. I was at an event recently and was sitting next to someone that had eggs and bacon. I find the smell of any kind of pork really, really terrible. Whereas when I was very young I used to eat that food, and I thought it was good. But now I associate it with pain and suffering. Pain and suffering doesn’t smell good to me. Any change that we want to make in our lives becomes work. Some sort of work. But no pain, no gain. I think there’s a lot of benefit to doing things that you believe in, doing things that are going to promote your own health and wellness.

Another thing in the news that I wanted to talk about, and I think this is going to get lots of press, there’s going to be a lot more discussion of this over time, and that’s urban gardens. We talk about the possibility of some traumatic event, could be a terrorist attack, could be a horrific weather event like an earthquake or tornado or a flood or a drought. Could be some sort of political event, could be an economic crash. And then here we are, all of us in the city and we can’t get food. People are starting to think about it, but I don’t like to think about it just because of some big event or something negative that’s going to happen. The reality is we all need to get back to producing food and not depend on, at least some of it, from these big businesses, these giant businesses that are making poor quality foods, destroying our crop lands, using a lot of toxic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides. We need to get back to growing some of our foods and I love what’s going on in some of the urban environments where people are finding little nooks and crannies: parks, old lots. There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle talking about urban farming going on in Oakland. Oakland’s a pretty interesting place. There is a wide range of populations there. There are some poor communities, some entrepreneurial stuff going on there. But there are more people that are doing urban farming and now the government has to get involved because they have to figure out how to regulate this. The rules generally say that you can grow your own food for your own purpose, but if you want to sell it to others or make other products from the food that you’re growing that’s going to need regulation. It’s going to be curious to see what comes out of it because the need is going to make itself very apparently whereas number one we should be growing a lot of our food, but number two, especially in this economy where people are finding themselves out of work or looking for work, growing their own food certainly could reduce their basic need cost for providing their families with food. It could also be a way to bring in a little income. The laws are going to have to change; it’s really going to be interesting.

So if you have access to a garden or a small plot, I really would like to see the movement where we gather together as communities and grow food together in a neighborhood. Even in an urban environment where we all tend to ignore each other this could be a great opportunity. Get to know your neighbor, get to know your community, and literally break bread together where we share in the growing of food and in the harvest. I think that’s something to look forward to. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I’m just growing my own sprouts here at home and growing whatever herbs I can on my terrace. And there you have it.

You’ve been listening to “It’s all about Food.” I’m Caryn Hartglass. Please join me next week. I’ll be speaking at length with Ronnie Cummins from the Organic Consumer Association and we will be talking about lots of food related topics, especially with organic food. Thanks for listening.

Transcribed by Heather Simmons, 2/12/2014

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