Vegan diets may contribute to longer lives

As reported here, according to a study conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital, which tracked the health and diet records of 131,342 people over three decades, replacing processed red meat with vegetables, nuts and cereals saw the biggest drop in death rates, of 32 per cent.

The authors are quoted as saying:

Previous long-term studies on major animal and plant foods are broadly consistent with these findings, and there are several mechanisms which could explain the findings.

‘Overall, the study adds to the view healthy diets should emphasise plant foods, including plant sources of protein, and intakes of animal source foods – especially processed meat – should be low.

The study concludes: High animal protein intake was positively associated with mortality and high plant protein intake was inversely associated with mortality, especially among individuals with at least 1 lifestyle risk factor. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source. **

**Mingyang S., Fung, T. T., Hu, F., Willett, W. C., Longo, V. D. , Chan, A.T., & Giovannucci, E.L. (2016). Association of animal and plant protein intake with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine, August. (full online text available to me via my employer).

 

Roasted cherry tomato and vegan cream cheese pasta

I had intended to make a simply pasta sauce with roasted cherry tomatoes but, as usually happens with me, I added some other ingredients at the last minute based on what I had in the fridge. Serendipitous cooking is always so much fun, and I’ve been doing it long enough to know that it rarely fails. The ingredients below were for a single serving, so modify as necessary. As always, measurements are approximate.

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Ingredients

  • Pasta of your choice. I used spaghetti this time, but most types would work.
  • Cherry tomatoes. You could  use regular tomatoes, but I like the sweetness of cherry tomatoes. I used about 2 cups, cut in half
  • Olive oil
  • Olives.  I used large pitted green olives this time, but use whatever types you like.
  • Green onions, diced
  • Fresh peas (frozen if fresh are out of season). I used up what I had in the fridge, which came out to about 1 cup.
  • Cream cheese. I had a container of Daiya chives and onion vegan cream cheese. I used two tablespoons.
  • Soy milk, as necessary, to thin the sauce.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Procedure

  1. Cut the tomatoes in half. Toss in olive oil and salt, and roast at 400F until they are soft and lightly charred.
  2. As the pasta cooks, saute the green onions, sliced olives, and fresh peas in olive oil. I don’t steam the fresh peas in advance, as I prefer to retain their natural sweetness and bite.
  3. Add the roasted tomatoes to the onion mix. Add the cream cheese, and mix well. I needed to add a touch of soy milk to thin the sauce. Do NOT use almond or coconut milk, as their flavour simply will not work in the sauce.
  4. Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce and mix well.

 

Tofu pot pie

I didn’t take a photograph of the finished dish, for some reason, but I have in-process pictures that I’ll use instead. I used frozen peas, corn, and carrots for this recipe, as I wanted it to be quick and easy, but by all means use fresh if you like. I don’t tend to use fresh peas for baked recipes, as it seems a waste of the tender taste of the fresh version, especially since they will be covered in gravy.

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Ingredients

  • 2 vegetable pastry shells.  You can make your own, but I bought them prepared.
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups corn (I thawed from frozen)
  • 2 cups peas and carrot mix (I thawed from frozen)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Gravy

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • soy sauce to taste
  • gravy browning
  • onion powder to taste
  • garlic powder totaste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preparation

  • Saute the onions in olive oil until softened.  Add the remaining vegetables and season to taste.
  • In a blender, add the gravy ingredients and mix well.  Use enough gravy browning to ensure a nice deep colour.
  • Cook the gravy over medium heat until it thickens.
  • Mix enough gravy into the vegetable mix to coat thoroughly.
  • Place the vegetable mixture in the bottom pie shell, and cover with the second. Cut some air vents into the top.
  • Bake at 400 until browned

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Lentil, mushroom, and spinach shepherd’s pie

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Ingredients

  • I cup dried lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh spinach
  • Soy or tamari sauce
  • Vegetable broth
  • Tomato paste
  • Cornstarch
  • Potatoes
  • Soy milk
  • Vegan margarine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Thyme and oregano

Procedure

I made this a while ago, so I can’t remember the amounts of the ingredients used, so you will need to use your own judgement.

  • Cook the lentils.  You can use tinned, but I always prefer to cook from dry
  • Saute the mushrooms in olive oil
  • Add the lentils and spinach and saute until the latter is wilted
  • Add 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • Add enough broth to just cover the vegetables.  You don’t want the mixture to be runny.  Add soy or tamari to taste.
  • Add enough cornstarch to thicken the mixture. I always start with 1 tablespoon dissolved in a little water, which I add gradually to the mixture.  Adjust as necessary
  • Season to taste with herbs and spices
  • Peel and dice the potatoes and boil until tender.  The potatoes will form the top, so use enough to allow a thick layer.  Mash with soy milk and margarine and season to taste
  • Place vegetable mixture in a casserole and cover with the mashed potatoes
  • Back at 350 until the potatoes are browned.

Red beans and rice

I first had red beans and rice in New Orleans. I love legumes, and this is an easy and nutritious meal to prepare. My version is not spicy, as I don’t have a high tolerance for spicy foods, but you can always add as much heat as you like, e.g., cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and so forth.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups cooked red kidney beans. I cook mine from dry, but tinned are fine.
  • 28 oz. tin of tomatoes. I used only half the tin. I  use peeled San Marzano tomatoes, as they are far tastier than the standard tinned variety.
  • I sweet pepper, finely chopped. I used a red one for the colour
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Saute the onions and peppers. Add the garlic when the vegetables have softenened.
  2. In a blender or food processor (I used my Vitamix), chop half the beans and the tinned tomatoes (remember use only half a tin).
  3. Add the blended beans, the remaining whole beans, and the herbs and salt to the cooked vegetables.
  4. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes.  Stir often, as the mixture will thicken and might stick to the pot.

20160526_145949Serve over warm cooked rice.  I used brown.

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Chickpea avocado sandwich spread

I had a larger lunch yesterday, so I decided to have a sandwich for dinner. I made the following sandwich spread, which would work as well on toasted bread for breakfast, or eaten with some salad greens as a salad. I added a little Vegenaise, too, as I can’t make a sandwich on dry bread. It’s an English thing: I have to butter bread even with peanut butter. As you can see, I added some romaine lettuce in the sandwich. Spinach would work better, but I didn’t have any on hand.

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (I cook mine in the pressure cooker)
  • 1 avocado
  • Diced green onions (I used about five)
  • 1 lime
  • Salt to taste

Preparation

  • I don’t like raw onions, so I sauteed the green onions; I find that sauteeing releases the flavour.
  • I used a potato masher to mash the chickpeas. I didn’t mash too finely, as I like having some whole chickpeas in the spread.
  • Scoop out the avocado, and add to the mashed chickpeas.
  • Add the green onions and the juice of the lime.
  • Season to taste. If you want it spicy, I think cayenne pepper would go well here.

 

 

Are vegans right?

Journalist David Macfarlane writes this beautiful reflection on veganism, after a promise he made to his daughter to try a plant-based diet for six months. Macfarlane does an excellent job of explaining the impact of veganism on the environment, our health and, perhaps most importantly, on the lives and well-being of animals. Macfarlane comes to an understanding of why his vegan daughter prefers not to discuss her lifestyle at the dinner table, a sentiment with which I can sympathize:

Vegans know how unpleasant a topic of dinner conversation the generally accepted practices of animal agriculture can be. That’s usually why they’re vegans in the first place. Things can be graphic and disturbing even before they start talking about intentionally broken legs, and injections of antibiotics and hormones, and animals forced to live a life that consists largely of squatting in their own feces. People can get quite churlish about this kind of thing — especially while they are eating capon or calf’s liver.

Macfarlane makes reference to a friend of his: I’m no philosopher. But Adam is. He teaches philosophy at Brooklyn College in New York City. In a letter to his students that was published in The Walrus in October 2014, Adam put his own position clearly and simply: “I believe that I have a moral obligation to reduce as much suffering in the world as I can before I die.” This is not the philosophy to which Ayn Rand subscribed. And that’s one of the reasons it’s good enough for me. Macfarlane clearly feels the same about Ayn Rand as I do; perhaps I should use the “veganism as anti-Ayn Randism” as the explanation for my vegan lifestyle.

Macfarlane has an excellent riposte to the meat-eating impact on the environment: “Because we all liked cheeseburgers so much” is going to sound pretty stupid when humankind is hauled into the principal’s office and asked to explain how the planet got destroyed.”

I wish Mr. Macfarlane all the best in his vegan journey; we need more people with his eloquence and commitment.