Oil-free Plant Milks in New Zealand

Last updated: 18 April 2017


This list includes plants milk that:

  • contain no oil
  • Additionally: contain no coconut products (because typically from extracted high-fat cream) and no lecithin (which is a pure extracted fat).
  • are suitable for vegans (no ingredients of animal origin)
    Note: I’ve only formally checked the suitability for vegans for Vitasoy so far, only (too) quickly the other brands. Double-check in doubt.

It is relevant for people following a low-fat (incl. oil-free) whole-food plant-based diet.


Table of contents
PART 1 – Oil-free vegan plant milks (soy, oat, almond, rice, macademia)
PART 2 – List of Confirmed Non-Suitable Plant Milks
TODO


PART 1 – Oil-free vegan plant milks

OIL-FREE SOY MILKS

OIL-FREE OAT MILKS

OIL-FREE ALMOND MILKS

OIL-FREE RICE MILK

None at the moment.

OIL-FREE MACADEMIA MILK

PART 2 – List of Confirmed Non-Suitable Plant Milks

Vitasoy Soy Milk Original: contains oil
Vitasoy Almond Milk Original: contains lecithin
Vitasoy Almond Milk Unsweetened: contains lecithin.
Vitasoy Rice Milk Long Life: Contains oil.
Vitasoy Rice Milk High Protein Long Life: Contains oil.

Macro Organic Soy Milk: contains oil
Macro Organic Rice Milk: contains oil

Signature Range Rice Milk Organic: contains oil
Signature Range Organic Soy Milk: contains oil

 

Pure Harvest Soy Unsweetened Malt-Free: contains oil
Pure Harvest Soy No Added Cane Sugar Original : contains oil
Pure Harvest Soy Unsweetened: contains oil
Pure Harvest Oat Unsweetened: contains oil
Pure Harvest Rice Unsweetened: contains oil

Sanitarium So Good Soymilk Unsweetened: contains oil
Sanitarium So Good Soymilk Regular: contains oil
Sanitarium So Good Soymilk Lite: contains oil + mono and di-glycerides (471)
Sanitarium So Good Essential Enriched Soy Milk: contains oil + mono and di-glycerides (471)
Sanitarium So Good Soy Milk Vanilla Bliss: contains oil
Sanitarium So Good Almond Milk Unsweetened: Contains lecithin.
Sanitarium So Good Almond Milk Original: contains lecithin
Sanitarium So Good Almond Milk Vanilla: contains lecithin

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Original: contains lecithin
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Chocolate: contains lecithin
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Barista: contains oil and lecithin
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze (Unsweetened) : contains lecithin
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Cashew: contains lecithin
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla: contains lecithin

Pam’s Regular Soy Milk: contains oil
Pam’s Regular Soy Milk Lite: contains oil
Pam’s Almond Milk Original: contains lecithin (322)
Pam’s Almond Milk Unsweetened: contains lecithin (322)

Australia’s Own Organic Soy Milk: contains oil
Australia’s Own Organic Rice Milk: contains oil
Australia’s Own Organic Almond Milk: contains oil

Imagine Rice Dream Rice Milk Original Enriched: contains oil

Freedom Foods Original Whole Bean Soy Milk: contains oil.
Freedom Foods Extra Milky Soy Milk: contains oil.
Freedom Foods Rice Milk: contains oil.

TODO (plant milks to be checked)

  • Vitasoy Café for Barista Almonds (waiting for reply from Vitasoy)

What milks have I forgotten? => Please share in comments.

Vegan Buttermilk Couscous (Moroccan Saykouk)

Saykook is a very simple and satisfying Moroccan dish. Traditionally it is made with fermented milk (leben) which is basically a plain liquid yogurt. Here I propose a plant-based version of this dish I’ve always loved. I like it even more now 🙂

Note: I do care to post only WFPB recipes. The yogurt here is not a whole food. So I’m posting this exceptional deviation from a conservative WFPB line-up of recipes. I will be looking forward to making a whole-food yogurt and update this recipe 🙂

Vegan Saykouk (Moroccan Yogurt Couscous)
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Saykouk is a popular summer dish served in Moroccan cuisine. Here is at last and at least, a vegan version while I work to upgrade this to a low-fat whole-food plant-based version.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, sos-free
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 2 large meals
Ingredients
  • 6 cups of steamed wholemeal couscous (For now, check online how to properly steam couscous, I may post a recipe at some point)
  • 500 mL unsweetened plain soy yogurt (I’m yet to try tempeh yogurt for a more whole-food version)
  • 200 mL water
  • Sourness to taste: 2 Tbsp to 8 tsp lemon juice juice or blended whole lemon equivalent (I like sour so for me it’s 8).
Instructions
  1. Blend the soy yogurt with water and lemon, this is to make the yogurt smooth because it tends to clot.
  2. In a container, pour the steamed couscous. If it is still very hot let it cool first.
  3. Add the soy yogurt/water blend, the lime juice, and mix thoroughly until uniform.
  4. Cover and save in the fridge.
  5. Serve cold. Ideal lunch soon a hot day.
Notes
Because the couscous will absorb a lot of the soy yogurt, feel free to pour more soy yogurt just before serving if you like your dishes to be more saucy.
If you don't want to lemon taste in it, trying leaving the covered dish at room temperature for a while, the lactic fermentation should make the dish more sour, as it is supposed to be.

 

A post shared by Youcef Banouni (@youcefbanouni) on

Burgers Buns and Dinner Rolls – Vegan – Unprocessed

Multi purpose 100% wholemeal breads

Summary

The problem with commercial breads
The solution and what you need to know about the recipe
The recipe
A perfect vegan glaze for your buns

The problem with commercial breads

  • Did you know that the terms “wholemeal” and “whole grain” are not defined by law in most countries?
  • Did you know that a lot of commercial breads that claim to be “wholemeal” have only about 10~25% of wholemeal flour? (the rest being refined white flour)
  • Did you know that it’s common among processed bread makers to use coloring to make bread look browner so they can sell it as wholemeal bread?
  • Did you notice that most “wholemeal” recipes rarely go above 50% of wholemeal flour? (the rest being refined white flour).
  • Did you know what makes the flour white is that only a small part of the wheat grain is extracted, instead of the *whole* grain which far more nutrient dense?
  • Did you know most commercial bread have about 400mg of sodium per 100g (1g salt)? Eating what most people consider “a small amount of bread” means that with bread alone, people would  50% or more of the official warning for the daily upper limits of sodium intake.
  • Did you know that wholemeal flours used commercially are sometimes recomposed wholemeal flours created by combining processed white flour, with extracted pure bran?
  • Have you noticed how commercial breads have more and more unhealthy ingredients in them like dairy, sugar, oil, salt and additives?

Well. Screw aaaaaall of that 🙂 Check my buns:

20160408_184703

Whole foods including whole-grain/wholemeal breads, help prevent, stop, and reverse cardiovascular disease and diabetes and generally have a positive health effect on the 98~99% of people whom are not physically sensitive, or allergic to gluten and grains. Unfortunately, the illusion that food is whole, the illusion that the bread is a wholemeal bread or that it is health-promoting do not improve health, they damage it. There is no placebo effect with bread, unfortunately, otherwise many people would be healthier than they are with all the fake and processed wholemeal bread they eat everywhere.

Looking for best brand to buy? Been looking everywhere? Spare yourself, it’s the bread you make at home, from true wholemeal flour or whole grains which you will grind yourself.

Back to Summary

One solution I propose

This bread has 100% wholemeal flour, yeast and water, and that already works. For extra flavour, texture, and presentation, it calls for 6 whole other plants in it (a few more if you care to count the topping grains and seeds or the glaze).

This recipe (below) used the same base as for the Scrumptious Hot Cross Buns, except it skips all the spices and dried fruit and keeps everything else that makes a bread extra good.

Rising here relies purely on yeast (remember, baking powders are additives, not unlike an unnecessary supplement in powder form), and a 100% pure wholemeal flour is used. This may work with wholemeal spelt flour too.

I am very happy with these buns, they do rise, they’re nice and bouncy. Heads-up to whose new to whole foods: They’re high-density in every way, nutrients and also by weight.

If you are used to breads made of pure refined white flours that are made fluffy and light using mineral chemicals like baking powders and what not, you will definitely find this relatively “heavier” in every way.

It is absolutely normal for true wholemeal breads to be denser.

You might want to make slightly smaller burgers buns than people usually have because they’re quite filling.

I came across so many people, books and blogs (from top bakers sometimes!) saying “bread *needs* salt” (otherwise black hole), “yeast breads *must* have some salt”, “you *can’t* make a bread with pure wholemeal flour”

Nonsense. Look at this. These breads exist, so it must be possible, and I’m certainly not the first person to prove the dogmas wrong.
Just plants, water, yeast. Drops the mic and leaves! (to eat some bread).

Back to Summary

Recipe for Burger Buns & Dinner Rolls

Burgers Buns and Dinner Rolls – Vegan – Unprocessed
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Against popular (and expert) belief, it is possible to make bread with 100% of wholemeal flour. Even better, it bread can be done without salt too and taste good. All it takes a different process which I've managed to figure out with a fair deal or trial and error. It's all about rising time and flavour. Wheat flour has a strong wheaty taste so it helps to mask it with the help of fruit and maybe a hint of fennel. Fruit in bread? Oh yes, try and see for yourself!
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, plant-based, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: International
Serves: ~1kg of bread
Ingredients
Flours and yeast
  • 625 g wholemeal wheat flour (spelt should work too)
  • 5 tsp active dried yeast
Liquids
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) warm water for the yeast
  • 180ml (3/4 cup) warm soy milk (or other non-dairy) milk (might work with water or other truly unprocessed food)
Fruits
  • 125 g of sugar-free applesauce
  • Oil replacement to hold moisture: 3 Tbsp of {date or prune} paste . To make that paste: 1 cup of {dates or prunes} + ½ cup of water and blend
  • 2 blended oranges* (remove seeds first)
  • Binding: 3 egg replacers (3 Tbsp of flaxseed, mixed with 6 Tbsp of water. Mix and let sit for 2 minutes to absorb)
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast with the 60 ml of lukewarm water and let stand for 15 minutes to allow yeast to activate. It will will form small bubbles and begin to rise.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine this wet mixture: warm milk, apple purée, {date or prune} paste.
  3. In separate bowl, pour the flour, and if you want, some fennel seeds for flavour.
  4. Pour the yeast in the flour, mix, add the liquids and mix a few minutes until no flour is dry.
  5. Add egg replacer.
  6. Knead mixture (hand or dough hook) for 10 minutes or until springy to touch, whichever comes first.
  7. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave to rise for about 1 hour.
  8. After rising, pour on a bench and roll like a baguette to cut even-sized buns. Divide into 12-16 pieces for small bread rolls, or in ~9 to make burger buns. Roll to form each piece into a smooth ball. Place on lined baking tray.
  9. Cover with damp cloth and leave in warm place (like a warming drawer) for a further 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F) for 15 minutes before baking.
  10. Bake for 25~30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on wire rack.
  11. If you would like a shiny effect on your breads to eventually stick some grains and seeds on top, check out the Veglaze (amaranth-based vegan perfect substitute for egg-wash).
Notes
Note 1: Instead of a bowl, I like to spread a layer of prune/date paste on a baking sheet, line a large pot with it, and put in my dough to rise, prevents sticking.

Note 2: I find that some extra lemon or lime juice really help with flavour in salt-free breads. It whips the tongue with a sour tang that reminds of sourdough and makes the tongue alive and happy enough to not need salt.

Back to Summary

A perfect vegan “egg wash” for perfect burger buns and breads

In a previous article, I explain my fruitful quest to find a perfect vegan replacement for egg-wash. You can now make burger buns that look exactly like we imagine them: shiny and golden with seeds on top!

Here’s what it does on breads:

veglaze before after

Back to Summary

Scrumptious Hot Cross Buns – Vegan – Unprocessed

 

DSCF9015-copy_CROP12596151_10153642445302950_1784675785_n(1)hbc_610

I had committed to make Hot Cross Buns last Easter with a friend, but really struggled to find a clean recipe Every recipe out there used: refined white flour, sugar, oil, eggs, dairy and other nutrient-depleted and health-damaging ingredients.

Thankfully, I was lucky to find Sonia Drake’s recipe as a good base using only wholemeal flour and mostly yeast (Thank you Sonia!). That was a good place to start. All I had to do was to wholefoodise it even further, and experiment batch after batch gradually to improve on the recipe.

I’m very happy with the result, so are virtually every single person of 20~30 people I gave them to. Tested and approved!

Here are some highlights of the improvements I’ve made on the original recipe, the recipe below includes them:

  • Nutmeg/mace is not used because of its toxicity, hence no mixed spice.
  • Spice mix made from single ingredients easy to source anywhere.
  • The spices are not the standard blend, so when giving it away, people will enjoy something that won’t taste like the other 500 Hot Cross Buns they had around Easter which all tasted exactly the same.
  • Rising agent is yeast only. Baking powder and salt is not used because unnecessary,processed and/or sodium content.
  • There are a few different barks sold as “cinnamon”. Ceylon cinnamon is used here because more gentle on the stomach than the regular cinnamon (which is Cassia cinnamon).
  • Whole vanilla bean was preferred to liquid vanilla extract. At 1$ extra for 12~16 buns, it was totally worth it!

Hot Cross Buns – Vegan – Unprocessed
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
1 hour total of preparation and active work. 1 hour 30 of rising in total. 35~40 minutes of baking. Beginning to end: 3 to 4 hours to be on the safe side.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, vegan, plant nutrition, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Anglo-Saxon / Christian
Serves: 12~16 buns
Ingredients
The items preceded by ** mean: Prepare ahead of time, for instance the day before baking to keep the baking part fun.
Flours and yeast
  • 625 g wholemeal wheat flour
  • ** 50 g ground whole-grain rolled oats or whole oat flour (for the crosses)
  • 5 tsp active dried yeast (or 4 tsp instant yeast)
Liquids
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) warm water for the yeast
  • 180ml (3/4 cup) warm soy milk (or other non-dairy) milk
Fruits
  • ** 125 g apple puree or sauce (unsweetened)
  • ** Oil replacement to hold moisture: 3 tbsp of {date or prune} paste .
  • To make that paste: 1 cup of {dates or prunes} + ½ cup of water and blend
  • 150 g raisins, roughly chopped
  • 75 g currants (or other favourite of dried fruit)
  • **Grated zest of 1 {spray-free or organic} {orange or lemon}
  • **2 blended oranges (remove seeds first)
Spices (depending on how strong you want the flavour)
  • 1 inch of scraped vanilla bean (eq. of 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 tsp or 2 tbsp ground Ceylon cinnamon (or 1~2 tsp Cassia/regular cinnamon)
  • 2 tsp or 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root (eq. of ~1 tsp ginger powder)
  • ¼ or ½ tsp ground clove
  • ¼ or ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ** Soak raisins, currants and {orange or lemon} zest in orange juice at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • ¼ or ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ or ½ tsp ground coriander seeds
  • Binding
  • ** 3 egg replacers (3 tbsp of ground flaxseed, mixed with 6 tbsp of water. Mix and sit for 2 minutes to absorb)
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast with the 60 ml of warm water and let stand for 15 minutes to allow yeast to activate. This yeast mixture will form small bubbles and begin to rise.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the following wet mixture: warm milk, wet spices (vanilla, grated ginger if used), apple puree, {date or prune} paste.
  3. In separate bowl, combine the following dry mixture: flour and dry spices.
  4. Stir yeast mixture + dry mixture into the wet mixture above. Combine for a couple of minutes until the dry ingredients are wet.
  5. Add egg replacer and lastly mix the soaked fruit.
  6. Knead mixture (hand or dough hook) for 10 minutes or until springy to touch, whichever comes first.
  7. Transfer to a very large bowl or large cooking pot: First lay a film of baking paper with a very thin {date or prune} paste layer spread on it with your hand so the dough later comes off easily. Cover with cling wrap or lid and leave to rise for about 1 hour, it should double in size.
  8. After this rising, roll gently the dough into a uniform cylinder (baguette shape). Divide mixture into 12-16 pieces (depending on how big you want the buns) and, roll to form each piece into a smooth ball. Place on lined baking tray, touching each other.
  9. Cover with damp cloth and leave in warm place (like a warming drawer) for a further 30 minutes to rise again. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F) for 15 minutes before baking.
  10. Mix oat flour with enough water to a thick pancake batter consistency. Put in a piping bag or ziplock with a small cut hole in the corner. Use to draw the crosses just before putting the buns in the oven.
  11. Bake Hot Cross Buns for 25~30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on wire rack.
Notes
Serve warm. If not had right out of the oven, always warm up well on the grill before serving.
Lovely and Happy Easter to you!

 

Note 1: To get a shiny glaze on top. I used veglaze (amaranth cooking liquid).

Note 2: For sensitive stomachs, reduce or substitute clove by, for instance, any combination of ground aniseed, ground fennel seed, paprika (non-smoked), ground caraway; all of which regularly appear on various commercial preparations of mixed spices and allspice.

[Recipe] Pacific Spread – Moroccan-style Jackfruit Tuna with Spicy Tomato Sauce – WFPB

final-tuna_610

What you’ll end up with

jackfruit-cooked-610

How it looked before making it taste interesting

When I visited Morocco on family holidays as a child, I spent a fair deal of my pocket money on that no-frills snack: khobz b’sardine. It is Moroccan for a sandwich made of a flat thick whole-meal bread, filled with sardine/mackarel and harissa. Back in the 1990s, it was commonly made on the spot in these charming Arab-style convenience shops called hanout. Is it still? I do not know. What I know is while most canned fish tasted rather gross on its own, that canned fish came in a tomato sauce, and the shop owners (mul hanout) would often add harissa to give it some fire. As a kid, I loved the taste of that stuff.
It was the blissful ignorance of a child that doesn’t know any better just yet.

After a couple of (mostly non-vegan) decades of not having any fish sandwich, I recently got to rediscover the taste and experience of this delicious spread from the oceans, but with a major blissful upgrade. I can now enjoy this as much as I want, without the acidosis, osteoporosis, kidney stones, parasites, salmonella, industrial pollutant poisoning, heavy metal poisoning, obesity, higher cancer and cardiovascular disease risk, without trapping, asphyxiating and killing any fish nor damaging seabeds and biodiversity, nor depleting oceans…in short…this bliss comes without worrying about what eating fish does on human health, and without worrying about what fishing does in general.

It is always only the taste and food experience that people want and crave. Nobody truly wants the immense harm it took to make their favourite food experience possible.

So to bring a bit of positive in a world that could use more, this is the taste and experience, but without the harm. This recipe is indeed low-fat, oil-free, whole-foods and plant-based. For me it’s just a delicious spread, but I designed it to also be fully compatible with a successful process of recovery from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other life-threatening conditions. For tips to make this even lower in sodium, see note at the bottom of the page.

You can enjoy this Pacific Spread as you want: in a salad, in a sandwich (Tuna Sammies), on crackers, of even as a face mask if that makes you happy 🙂 Enjoy!

Ok, more seriously now, if you want to make a version of this “tuna” that uses mayonnaise (as is commonly done in Western cultures: sammies, etc.) but without compromising on health, check out my low-fat whole-food mayo.

I would like you to play with this recipe, and tell me (most honestly, in the comments below) what you thought, the personal twist you gave it, or what you came up with, etc. I hope you will enjoy making (and eating) it as much as I did!

[Recipe] Pacific Spread – Vegan Tuna with Spicy Tomato Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An visually realistic, home-made, healthy whole-food version of "Vegan Toona" with a delicious tomato sauce, a zest of lemoney Morocco and with a bit of fire to it.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, vegan
Cuisine: International, Moroccan
Serves: ~1 to 1.5 kgs
Ingredients
  • Ahead of time: Soak the sundried tomatoes as described
  • 1 can (~2 cups) of unripe (also called "green") jackfruit, or the equivalent in frozen unripe jackfruit
  • 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (~1 to 2 cans)
  • 1 cup of low-sodium sun-dried tomatoes
  • 10g of nori sheets (about 5 sheets sushi sheets roughly). I insist, nori. DO NOT USE KELP POWDER BECAUSE IT IS DANGEROUSLY HIGH IN IODINE, LIKE MOST RANDOM SEAWEED PRODUCTS.
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice (or lemon juice, we much prefer lime)
  • 2 lemons (for zest only, preferably organic)
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like hotter than mild spicy)
  • freshly ground mixed pepper
Instructions
  1. Ahead of time: Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water for at least about 30 min to 1 hour. Overnight in cold water also works.
  2. Chop onions and garlic finely. Put in a pot with a bit of water, cover, and cook until soft on medium (~5 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile zest the lemons, and juice your lime
  4. When the onions and garlic are soft, add vinegar, chilli and cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Meanwhile chop the (now softened) sun-dried tomatoes and the large chunks of jackfruit then add them in the pot and put just enough water for it to not be too dry and burn, cover, let cook 30 minutes with regular stirring and water additions if needed. Taste and adjust flavours if needed.
  6. Meanwhile, wet the seaweed with cold water until soft, blend it with ½ cup of water.
  7. When the pot is done cooking, set aside let cool.
  8. In a processor with a soft blade (the plastic blade often) the mixture in the pot, the chickpeas, the blended seaweed, the zested lemon, fresh lime juice, and a few turns of ground mixed pepper (to taste). Add water as needed for it to blend.
Notes
To keep the natural stringy texture of jackfruit, do not overblend.
Optimization: You can cut the preparation time down to ~30 minutes by dumping everything in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes, letting cool, then mixing.

 

Want a very low-sodium version?

  1. Substitute the canned unripe jackfruit with frozen unripe (or “green”) jackfruit (generally found in Asian stores). The last we bought actually looked golden yellow while being the unripe form. A less optimal option (higher in salt than frozen) is to soak the raw unripe canned jackfruit in hot water multiple times.
  2. Substituting the generic sun-dried tomatoes by organic, salt-free sun-dried tomatoes or any sun-dried tomatoes you can make at home using sun/dehydrator.
  3. Seaweed can also be desalted greatly by soaking it with multiple cold water changes. This works even better and faster when the seaweed is soaked in fresh water (not salty) right after foraging it yourself.

Caramelising Onions Without any Oil or Fat – Method #2

If you are looking for a quick short but detailed recipe on a gold platter, wrong house, sorry. You can stay, please do by all means, but I warn: I try more and more to empower people’s sense of self-determination: thinking, finding, deciding things for themselves. You might think “Yeah I love that!”, sure. What that also means is no more detailed “straight-to-the-point” recipes for you, because that falls under spoon-feeding. Okay…maybe I will still write recipes, but that’s not what I want to do here.

This article will display one instance of the process of problem solving. Although you will find cues to make it yourself if you search or try, my point here is to write an article about food innovation, problem solving and advocacy.

A recipe is always the final result of some exploration. It’s the exploration I want to share, and want you to experience for yourself, more than just telling what I found. In other words, life is sculpting, not the sculpture. The relationship I’m comfortable having with you is one where you allow me to respect your potential, intellect, curiosity and sense of self-determination.

There are two ways of solving problems creatively: incrementally, and with a leap.

Incrementally, to solve the problem of caramelising onions without oil, you’d replace oil by added water. One increment further, you would try with no water at all and count on the water in the onions or whatever veggie you are “stir-frying”.

It works, but an avid user of onions, this method gave me some challenges after doing a lot of it: it took too much active time for my liking, involved a lot of stirring and adding water. The result is amazing caramelised onions, but I wondered “Can we do better?”.

Also, I had been chatting with restaurant owners that simply explained to me that oil is used primarily for convenience more than taste. After all, oil is capable of heating up to about 200°C, and because it’s liquid, that “liquid pan” can get anywhere on and in the food and help cook it faster. Recipes talking about caramelising onions typically take about 5 to 10 minutes. So OK, cooks want to get meals ready fast for their hungry customers I totally get that. Now “Can I find something that gives them that convenience and taste, AND at the same time, does not use oil and therefore results in the low-fat foods that prevent the much unnecessary heart disease?

Thinking a bit less incrementally lead to method #2. Now we’re getting the same thing, not doing the same thing.

My strategy was the following, really just using common sense, and more importantly, acting on it. One action leads to a question, that question leads to another action, and so on until you find a way. It pays off almost every single time, not in one try, but overall.

This is how I posed the problem of solving bulk onion caramelizing.

Hypothesises:

  1. People like onions caramelised, We must give them onions caramelised.
  2. The method must not include added fat of any kind
  3. The process must be simple, convenient, easy.

Some question were inescapable:

“Why do caramelised onions taste like caramelised onions?”
Answer: Because they are caramelised?

“What exactly does “caramelising” mean anyway?”
When sugars (not just the extracted/processed ones, even those in whole foods) are exposed to certain temperatures, for certain amounts of time, eventually caramelisation takes place. It changes the way the sugars naturally present in food taste.

“Oh ok…so what are these temperatures then?”
Well since it’s oil we’re trying to replace, how hot does the oil get when it touches the food we caramelise? I ask you, I know the answer. Do search it you will need it to solve a puzzle later.

Now that you have this number in mind, be ready for an epiphany:  solving this puzzle. should give you a wonderful idea.

The result of that idea is this :

_20160724_160711_-CARAMELIZED-ONIONS_-610

CARAMELIZED-ONION_610
“Uh…baked onions already exist, aren’t you re-inventing the wheel?”
True. Baked onions exist. I found out only after, and actually I’m glad I didn’t know about them, it could have held me back, it’s easy *not* to transcend the things we know exist.
Blank sheet of paper, let’s go!
I worked towards something that already exists, putting onions in an oven, whole. Sure…

The novelty here, if any, is not to use this process not to make an oil-free version of baked onions, but as a means to mass produce oil-free caramelized onion. That’s relevant.

In fact, I am happy baked onions already exist! Because if the concept is known to people, I can use that to introduce “baked onions”, only oil-free + as an *ingredient* for anything that needs caramelised onions!

I’d care little even if someone “invented” that use before me (wouldn’t be surprised + don’t care). What I do care about is that things like this *be used* to make people’s lives better. It does not matter who invents what solution. There are more solutions already available than people willing to search and implement them. In order to do some good justice to these solutions, we can’t tell people “just do this, trust me, it will solve your problem”. if a solution was found by thinking for ourselves, that’s the spirit that needs to be spread, not just the solution itself. A lot of the problems we seek to help others solve exist primarily because people are used to spoon-feeding in the first place. Spoon-feeding is what allowed for instance the meat and dairy industry to shove their hazardous products in people’s mouths along with the beliefs that it’s good for us.
The same way you don’t solve violence with violence, you don’t solve the ill-intended spoon-feeding with well-meaning spoon-feeding. Spoon-feeding in itself, is the root problem.
Also, it’s not enough to generate solutions and be critical enough to be able to discriminate the good from the bad ones, we need to individually research solutions, create solutions and most importantly share solutions.

As you can see I intentionally take time to lay down in great detail one “textbook case” of the process that led me to this way of mass-producing caramelized onions and therefore solving an important problem I was facing.

I did not give you the two-line recipe, because I care more about the readers learning to use fully their same brain as mine, in ways that find solutions to their problems. If I can do it, surely anyone can.

“Isn’t oven-caramelising onions a big waste of electric energy?
Well, relatively? Short answer is “No, far from it!”
A regular oven first comfortably one to two trays, at ~15 medium onions per tray. That’s roughly one to two hours (likely, cooking time increases with quantity) for 15 to 30 caramelised onions.
Prior to that I had spent 20 minutes, on medium heat. Slaving over that pot as well, so that was 20 minutes of *my time* too.
Do the maths. My guesstimation right now favours, a lower financial cost than with oil (medical costs included) and all oil-free methods compared: definitely less active human time, and quite possibly less processing energy (electricity, gas, etc). Any objections? Anyone got better? If you have either, please do share. I will be the first trying, using it, and telling people about it!

“I am not much of a reader, and I just realised I had to go through all of this article when you could have just said – Whole onions in oven caramelize – 5 words, boom!”
Again, wrong address, sorry. If it takes a slow reader 15 minutes to read this, I had to go through many, many hours of caramelizing small amounts of onions with sub-optimal, slave-over-the-pot, non-scalable methods, until I got to this. The best possible solutions to complex problems are virtually always of a humiliatingly simple nature. In hindsight it’s always trivial. But this is the truth: complicated incremental solutions can already be difficult to find and require some creativity. Finding simple solutions is actually far more difficult, you will see when you try if you haven’t tried already. And what’s even more difficult than this, is teaching that kind of problem solving, instead of teaching the solutions.

Low-fat Mayo, Aioli and Dips – Oil-free, Whole foods, Vegan

Traditionally mayos and aiolis rely heavily on loads of fat and animal protein.
A double punishment right from the start, only made worse by the fact that these dips serve to lubricate typically deep-fried “foods” like fries and wedges, a guaranteed stroke served on a golden platter.

Well…Good News! The experience of hot delicious, potato wedges dipped much generously in a delicious creamy aioli can be enjoyed not just in its vegan version, but also with hardly any fat at all – whether from oil, or from nuts!

GREEN BANANA AIOLI_610
So what’s the secret? Blend cooked starches! and I’ve been on a quest for good candidates in unexpected places!

Green bananas (as in unripe regular banana) are amazing bases for so many things. I used them for Ghanaian dishes as a plantain substitute for Kelewele and in Red-Red.
They’re quite bland, mildly sweet. Be reassured right away, they do not taste like banana at all. That’s precisely why they’re amazing. Both taste and texture are amazingly versatile.

This time around, I blended them, with a bit of roasted garlic flakes, some apple cider vinegar and a small amount of (optional) cashew nuts. Amazing low-fat aioli!

Make a good round of delicious, oil-free, nicely seasoned, potato wedges and enjoy!

Low-Fat Aioli – Oil-free, Whole Foods, Vegan
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
LOW-FAT AIOLI, makes 1 half-cup ++, enough for two people to dip a large round of parboiled+oven-baked, oil-free, potato wedges!
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food plant nutrition, vegan, oil-free, sugar-free, salt-free
Cuisine: Western
Serves: 1 half-cup, enough for 2 people on potato wedges.
Ingredients
  • 1 green banana (not yellow!), cooked "Samoan-style" that is boiled whole (in its skin) for 30 minutes, drained, cooled, and peeled. Batch boil in a big pot to use for other things.
  • 1~2 tbsp dehydrated garlic flakes (not the fried ones), dry-roasted in a pan on low until golden/brown.
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lime/lemon juice ( or better with its flesh, not peel, lime peel is super bitter!)
  • Just enough water to blend.
  • Optional: 1 tbsp cashew nuts (7g), soaked. Must be skipped if you're recovering from any cardiovascular disease.
Instructions
  1. Blend
  2. Indulge
Notes
Play around with other flavours to make other exciting dips, mayos, bechamel sauces, etc: onion flakes, mustard seeds, chilli, lemon peel, etc...whatever health-promoting food makes your taste buds happy 🙂 Let loose the wild creative animal that you are!

[Recipe] Tomato sauce for Pizza – Low-fat – Unprocessed

pizza_sauce_610
As a kitchen-unskilled 20-year-old student on junk foods, I used to rely heavily on processed pasta sauces. I didn’t know any better.

The years passed, I slowly taught my way out of kitchen illiteracy. But one thing I kept wondering though is: “How on Earth do these  processed sauces get that wonderful Italian aroma of herbs?”. So I spied on the ingredients of tomato pastes I liked and always saw rosemary, oregano, thyme in the ingredients, among other things. But every time I used these, I ended up with a tomato paste so very bitter it was borderline inedible. The mystery was on: How to get authentic strong and appetising flavours and smell of aromatic in herbs in sauces. I soon found out by accident…

“How on Earth do these darn processed sauces get that wonderful Italian aroma of herbs?”

Why was it bitter instead of tasting/smelling of wonderful herbs?

Because oil! I figured that out only after ditching oil as part of going whole-food plant-based. It was the oil that completely ruined the Mediterranean taste of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Use those generously, and cook them in a water base,  and I promise that you will finally capture the essence of those delicious Italian smells and tastes.
These herbs are also a lot more forgiving in terms of taste when you put too much provided it’s in a water base.

[Recipe] Tomato sauce for Pizza – Low-fat – Unprocessed
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A sauce that has everything you want in a pizza base: it's thick, sweet, garlicky and tomatoey
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, plant nutrition, vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 pizzas
Ingredients
  • 1 jar 500g of single-ingredient minimally-processed tomato paste (For NZ/OZ: Homebrand @Countdown/Woolworth contains salt at only 21mg sodium /100g), or the equivalent in home-reduced whole tomatoes (1.5 to 2kgs tomatoes gives 500 grams of reduced tomato paste)
  • 2 onions diced
  • 3~4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • 1 tsp rosemary (dried)
  • 1 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp thyme (dried, rubbed)
  • Hot chilli: to taste.
  • Optional to adjust sweetness: Dates. If instead of sweet ripe tomatoes you get excuses for tomatoes, the hard unripe and sour stuff, you will need to balance out the sweetness. Maybe use up to ~50g dates blended until smooth with as little water as possible. To taste.
  • Optional to adjust sourness: Tamarind, lemon, or apple cider vinegar. If you get a very sweet batch of tomatoes, or like sourness, maybe use up to 1 tbsp single-ingredient tamarind paste (sweet and sour). To taste.
Instructions
  1. Cook all ingredients (except tomato paste and dates) on low-fire with as little water as possible.
  2. You want to keep this as thick as possible so this is the trick that I use: When the ingredients above are soft, use the cooking water (cooled) to blend dates.
  3. Pour the blended dates back in the pot, throw in the tomato paste and keep on the lowest setting with no cover for it to lose moisture and become thick.
Notes
Optional: If you have time, you can caramelise the onions + garlic first, by water-frying them (no oil) on slightly less than medium heat.

[Recipe] Khadija’s Moroccan Lentils – Oil-free – Unprocessed – Vegan

preserved-lemon-alternativepreserved lemon alternative copy

Khadija's Moroccan Lentils – Oil-free – Unprocessed – Vegan
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 440g dry lentils, preferably Puy lentils / French lentils soaked overnight.
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 20 g coriander (a few sprigs), chopped
  • 20 g parsley (a few sprigs), chopped
  • zest of half a lemon, sliced off with a knife (only the yellow part, not the white inside) and cut in small bits. Do not grate!
Spices
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
Instructions
  1. Water-fry the onions until caramelised/browned. If you want to save time, skip caramelisation, just put the onions in the pot.
  2. Immediately add tomatoes, enough water for the spices to be in generous amounts of water (about 1 cup or ~ 230mL should do)
  3. Add all the spices and lemon, stir well, cover, set on medium heat and let boil for 5~10 min.
  4. Add the lentils, stir well, and fill the pot with enough water to cover a few centimetres over the top of the lentil surface.
  5. Cover only until it starts to boil, then let cook on medium heat for until the lentils are soft.
  6. Check now and then if more water is needed. You want to end with creamy lentils like in the picture, not watery nor dry either.
  7. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  8. Add the chopped greens (coriander + parsley) and stir.
Notes
Feel free to play around with adding the following (to taste):
Some salt-free concentrated tomato paste that uses only tomatoes, or more tomatoes well reduced.
Carrots
Celery
Baked shiitake mushrooms (chopped) for a bit of a chew, or other mild-tasting mushrooms. If using shiitake mushrooms, make sure to bake them first, otherwise their taste would be overpowering and throw the flavours off-balance.

“Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

If you are still wondering why on Earth it matters that foods should be whole foods, look into Whole foods FAQ. That article addresses the “Why?” part of the question. Why whole-foods? Why not processed foods? Why low-fat? Why no oil? Why no salt? Why no sugar? Basically explaining why there is a problem.

What about the solution?
Well, the present article is the “What?” part of question. What is a whole food? What is not? What to buy instead? What to do instead?


~ WHOLE-FOOD MENU ~

whole or not

INTRODUCTION
OILS/ADDED FATS
ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS
SWEETNESS AND SUGAR
ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD
SALT
ALTERNATIVES TO SALT
RICE
LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS
PASTA
BREADS
DRESSINGS
LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS
PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS
HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?
Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?
Restaurants, take-aways, cafés, and other food venues
COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?


INTRODUCTION

There are two ways I know to explain which foods are whole food, which are not, which are acceptable health-wise and which are not. Different people learn in different ways. Some prefer to learn by concepts, some prefer by examples.

If you learn with concepts, what to chose is easy, neat and concise:

“Eat nothing else but low-fat whole plant foods.
If it’s not entirely made of plants, don’t have it.
If it doesn’t look like a plant, make sure the low-fat whole plant food was used and nothing was discarded, nutritionally damaged, extracted nor added that is not a low-fat whole food plant itself.”

That’s it, done. I always prefer positive wording. Simple powerful concepts like this work really well for me. The whole-food concept is a like an alphabet. Once you get the new concept right, the pantry and fridge look more like it, and you then build upwards from that and can’t possibly go wrong. That approach can’t possibly be mistaken for something restrictive. There’s no right way to eat the wrong foods when it comes to health, so drop meals and products that contain processed foods altogether, don’t try to fix processed foods. That strange planet of delicious disease is already obsolete. Just focus on building a *whole* new edifice, that of delicious health, with solid whole-foods foundations.

Now, if you learn best through examples, it’s a bit different. There’s no other way for this than go through a “good/not good” list which may look like a long prohibitive list. But what is really prohibitive? Could it be the insane extent of our reliance on processed foods that is prohibitive to our health? Reading this, chances are that you leave animals alone and off the plate. So imagine making a list of all animal foods people should replace or stop having? It will inevitably be a long list, and will inevitably seem restrictive to some. But you would know better, you would know the reality of it from experience. You would know, that there is no restriction/prohibition when you actually eat far more nutrients, add more years to your life and more life to your years. You would know, it’s not about cutting/eliminating foods (or rather non-foods), it’s fundamentally about having the right foods and nothing else.

Particularly nowadays, and particularly in certain foods cultures, listing all the processed foods we should be weaning from or replacing to eat the right foods can be quite a mouthful!
But I braced myself today to put it all down so it can go to help whoever wants to go whole-food; starting from where many people are (processed foods from supermarkets, restaurants, cafés, take-aways) and moving to food compatible with health that you prepare yourself from whole plants.

Finally, I must insist on two points:

  • Of all processed foods or non-foods below, oil, salt, and sugar will be of particular concern due the particular health concern with these. Please do not use them and consider instead the easy alternatives offered below.
  • Every transition in life can take time to be operated painlessly and sustainably. This list should not scare you. It took us about a year from quitting sugar to being almost 100% whole-foods with no oil, salt, or sugar. With the advice below we could have done that much faster! If you can operate all these changes cold-tofu, do it, you have all the tools now! If you need time, do them one step at a time, just keep challenging yourself until you reach the destination. Pain should not be part of this journey. Do observe priorities: Start first with eliminating oil and high-fat foods. Meanwhile, reduce down to zero your use of sugar and salt gradually enough so it’s not a pain. Meanwhile also, replace the non-whole foods by whole foods. Start with those you eat most, what is it for you? pasta? bread? and rice? Then expand to other things. Expanding your whole-food repertoire can also be done adding whole foods you never had before. We’re learning for example how to prepare whole grain groats as a staple, or legumes. It’s not a very Anglo-saxon thing to do but if other cultures figured it out, and it’s whole foods, that’s more options for you!

OILS/ADDED FATS

In short: no oil *at all*, nothing that is high-fat. What does that mean? For an adult who is 100% oil-free low-fat whole-food nutrition (already a big pre-requisite) : no more than 1~2 tablespoons daily total of any combination of nuts/seeds/avocado. Coconut best avoided. Absolutely zero of all of these of recovering from cardiovascular disease.

Oils and fats are found naturally in all low-fat whole plant foods in sufficient amounts. By energy: kale: 12% (of calories are from fat); brown rice: 6%; potatoes : 1%, etc. Given enough diversity in a low-fat whole-food plant diet, *all* our fat nutritional needs are met, including omega-3. Yes, from just plants only. The addition of fat whether extracted from whole foods (i.e. oil) or even high-fat from whole foods (i.e. nuts and avocado) in large amounts  is not just unnecessary, but majorly harmful. It contributes greatly to cardiovascular and metabolic disease; ending in heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, higher incidence of cancer, and of a number of degenerative diseases. In short, the unforgiving price to pay for our by-default under-informed, over-optimistic illusion of “moderation”.


Not whole foods, because all oils are extracts, or TO NOT EAT:

Everything that is called “oil” when you buying it from a supermarket, an online store,  “health” store, organic shop, or even if you press it yourself from your uncle’s fair-trade organic locally-grown olives. It doesn’t matter. Do not have any oil, whether it’s:

  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Extra virgin oils
  • Extra virgin cold-pressed oils
  • Organic oils
  • High-end oils
  • High-quality oils
  • Vegetable oils
  • Coconut oils
  • Olive oil
  • <plant> oil
  • Minimally-processed oil
  • coconut cream
  • coconut milk
  • grated coconut
  • all chocolate (=> cocoa powder although not technically a whole food, is a high-fiber less-high-fat food, a far more acceptable alternative to chocolate if you’re going to use chocolate)

If you are recovering from any cardiovascular disease (from impotence all the way to  surviving a stroke or heart attack) the above was the #1 (plant) things you must start having  an absolute zero amount of, besides of course ditching absolutely everything of animal origin.


Whole foods, but use at most in very low amounts*:

* Very low amounts = ~1 teaspoon per person per meal, maximum. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • nuts and seeds
  • cocoa beans
  • avocado

Whole foods, but best avoided or kept for occasional use*

* Occasional use = 1 tablespoon per person once a month at most maybe. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • coconut flesh from fresh coconut (even then still among the worst possible whole-food fat there is, almost entirely saturated fat). At home we cut one yearly and freeze it for the whole year. That’s becoming how much coconut we have yearly for two people. Amazing taste, but not worth it as a staple.

ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS

Just skip the oil. Below is how to do that for common instances where most people use oil. I know it’s hard at first to think it’s even possible to prepare food without oil. But, trust me, let go of being anxious around this, everything below is based on 6 months of kitchen experience of home-cooking without any oil at all.

How to replace oil to heat up spices
If you need to develop the aroma of certain seeds like is done in Indian cooking, just dry roast on less-than-medium heat for a few minutes while stirring, then add wet foods (like chopped onions/garlic) first, then ground spices.

How to replace oils for stir-fries and caramelizing onions/garlic:

There are a few alternative options to oil-frying:

  • Water-frying on high heat with just enough water so it won’t stick nor burn. Add ground spices if needed only after the onions/garlic have softened and become transparent.
  • OR: Chop onions and garlic very finely and stir on less-than-medium heat in a pan on its own (no added water). Because it is chopped finely it will cook at similar temperatures as with oil, without burning because finely-cut onions/garlic give off their own water.
  • OR: If stir-frying or frying is important to give a certain taste to food: consider baking instead. It works for French fries, potato wedges, garlic, bell-pepper etc. If you ever find that it makes the foods too dry, then bake a combination of dry/hard foods along with moist/wet foods. You will end up with nice glossy foods that look and feel exactly as if they were stir-fried.

These may not always give exactly the same result as with oil of course, but close enough that  people will not even notice you changed something.

How to replace oil/added fat in baking:

Don’t be anxious, just skip the oil, it works in many cases for cakes, breads, etc.

In cakes and breads, oil serves the purpose of holding moisture, that can be done with prune paste. The amount of prune paste* is amount of oil needed divided by 3, there will not be a prune taste. Don’t worry your final food will not taste of prunes. Try for yourself, we did, as recommended in the China Study Cookbook.

*For Wellington, large bags of prunes can be found at reasonably low cost, in bulk, at Moore Wilsons. Store them in the freezer, and you’re good to go for ages.

Other ingredients help hold moisture as well: certain flours more than others, aquafaba, ground flaxseed, applesauce, and other whole-food vegan egg replacements. Also wet foods like applesauce, zucchini, beetroot, bananas, give great moisture-holding.

For dressings and dips:

See Section below “Dressings”.

To prevent sticking:

Use baking paper, non-stick pans, cast iron pans if you don’t like non-stick coatings, or even any regular stainless steel pot with lower heat.

SWEETNESS AND SUGAR

Most sugars even the “brown” ones are generally extracted saps from trees or flowers, roots or corn, etc. Them being brown or having some nutrients does not make thin either health promoting not whole-foods. They are of similar concern as white sugar.

The sugars naturally found and consumed in whole foods do not pose health problems.

Commercial sweeteners are absolutely not whole foods, they are not even foods. Do not use them.

Besides, some do pose health concerns (like stevia or aspartame) others are experimental (erythritol) and may well be the next aspartame or MSG scandal, a risk we don’t run with corn or dates natural sweetness. The only safe whole-food sweetener I know that is a powerful natural sweeteener called Luo Han Guo (more below)

Sweetening sources that are not whole foods – DO NOT USE

Anything that doesn’t look like a whole plant food, and with the word sugar, syrup, or molasses in it, to list only a few:

  • raw cane sugar (or Sucanat)
  • raw sugar
  • brown sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • palm sugar
  • blackstrap molasses
  • maple syrup
  • rice syrup
  • malt syrup

ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD

The most powerful alternative to sugar is to let your taste buds have less sweet foods so that they can learn to become more sensitive to the natural sweet taste of food and beverages. That should allow you to enjoy beverages with no added sweetness of any kind, and to enjoy food at a lower sweetness level. This being said, there is nothing wrong with enjoying sweetness or sweet foods, as long as that comes from whole foods and not extracted sugars.
There are some very common whole-food sources of sweet flavour that you can use:

  • Apple sauce
  • Date paste
  • Date sugar, homemade only, when it’s made from dried pulverized dates = “date flour”, not the commercial “date sugar” which is often date-extracted sugar and therefore just as mertabolically hazardous as any other sugar.
  • Prune paste
  • Banana
  • Raisins, currants, sultanas and other dried fruits but read the ingredients: some come loaded with oil, sugar, preservatives which you can tell form the ingredients or the sodium content for preservatives.
  • Sweet potatoes like baked orange kumara
  • Jackfruit*
  • Sweet corn
  • Whole-food sweetener: Luo Han Guo*, found in the near tea in many Chinese Shops. Boiled in water it is a very potent natural sweetener with, a long history of usage and not a single known health concern to my best current knowledge after researching it. It might be pulverizable into a powder for use in cooking, baking etc.

* For NZ-Wellington: This can be found at Yan’s Supermarket off Webb Street, or in NZ Lower Hutt’s Davis Trading for Lo Han Guo, see tea section.

SALT

The issue with salt has little to do with whole-food or not. Salt is simply not a food, so the wholeness (process salt vs unprocessed sea salt) is secondary and does not matter at all. Added salt is used as a flavour enhancer, for people who have grown a habit for it and not yet weaned off.

Unfortunately it is the source of unnecessary stress/damage on cardiovascular health because it creates a state of hypertension to push the sodium out of the body.

Hypertension leads to serious health concerns, and is considered a cardiovascular disease, yet it is virtually entirely caused by eating a lot of salt or preserved/processed foods. The sodium naturally occuring in plants is more than we need.

There is no right way to eat the wrong foods so all the salts below are salts and should never be part of food:

DO NOT USE:

  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Sea salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Celtic salt
  • Guerande salt
  • black salt (also known as “kala namak”)
  • blue salt
  • soy sauce
  • or anything with the word “salt” in it or with outrageously high amounts/concentrations of salt or sodium in it.

If you buy partially processed products (like the jarred salt-free tomato paste we use off-season*) always read the ingredients and nutritional content. Sodium per 100g in  whole foods is rarely ever above a few dozens: 5 mg, 10mg, 20mg are numbers that shouldn’t worry you. Just make sure it’s mg (milligrams) not grams like I see sometimes. If you start seeing hundreds, something’s wrong, except for a tiny handful or expections that are naturally high-sodium inside them.

Be aware that salt and sodium also are virtually everywhere in processed foods, from canned foods to cookies, to even dried fruit! In restaurants you may order salt-free food but if they relied on processed foods like pasta, or sauces, etc, those also come generously loaded with sodium. As I said in introduction, do not waste your time trying to fix a broken system, build your own, without any of the otherwise inescapable nonsense.

ALTERNATIVES TO SALT

Quitting all salt, and processed foods, is the single best alternative to salt and sodium.
It can be done painlessly over 3 weeks to 3 months. After only 3 weeks most people start developing a dislike for salted foods and a preference for unsalted foods. Yes, your taste buds are magical, and you need to harness this power you already have.

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home :)

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home 🙂

What to do about flavour? Preparing food for people that are used to salt?

Simply use more of natural flavours!

We put more of the flavourful foods in our cooking: slightly more spices, more carrots, more celery, more onion, garlic, more whole-food sweetness to lift up the taste without salt, more sourness (from lemon or tamarind) or more whole-food sweetness from dates or other naturally sweet foods. If you hit the tongue right it won’t need a bang from salt, even the highly-demanding tongues and palates of people who have not yet weaned off salt.

People on low-sodium dietary lifestyles have used all sorts of spices instead of salt. They like to go by “salt alternatives” and “salt replacements”. I don’t like those phrasings because when you don’t need salt, you don’t need to replace salt.

I offer to transcend the idea of even replacing salt, and simply understanding that our tongue (and nose) is full of sensors for all sorts of things (for the tongue: sweetness, sourness, bitterness…) and your tongue likes a good whip to be happy. So whip up your tongue (wut-tish!) with everything you have that is an actual food, it will thank you for it.
When we quit salt, my first natural urge was to add sourness (lemon/lime) to everything, but that’s just me.
My tongue loves sour,  bitter, sweet but not too chilli-hot, I like pungent but not too garliquey. For my partner it’s completely different. My partner likes NOT sour, NOT bitter, NOT as sweet as I do. She likes VERY spicy, NOT pungent, but VERY garliquey. If food isn’t chili-hot, for her, it’s not food! For me it’s the same but with sour.
So each person’s tongue likes to be whiped its own way. Find your taste spot and give it what it needs!

How to do about salt-containing products? like canned chickpeas, dried fruits with high sodium, spice mixes, etc? Simple: dont’ use them. Find salt-free options if it’s trivial to find, or just save time and make your own.

If you have concerns about health:

  1. The sodium in whole plant foods is far more than sufficient to meet our body’s needs in sodium. Look around, how many land mammals and animals do you see walking around with salt shaker? Salt does not contribute to health.
  2. For iodine which is important, you don’t have to have get it from chronic hypertension (i.e. salt, iodized), just introduce unprocessed seaweeds *gradually* (for safety) and check their iodine content before using them. While you sort that out an iodine supplement is very encouraged. I wrote a guide to common New Zealand seaweeds you can forage, how to desalt them, and their iodine content.

RICE

Not whole-foods:

  • Any white rice, because it is “milled” = removing the nutrient-rich outer layer (rice bran), then polished after milling to make it look good again.

Whole-food alternatives to milled/polished white rice:

  • Brown rice
  • Red rice
  • Black rice
  • Brown Basmati rice
  • Brown Jasmine rice
  • Brown Thai rice

Note: There are different “whole” grades of the rices below. Some rices that look whole (with a bran on top) are actually partially milled (to remove bran partially) or partially polished. Producers undoubtedly derive extra profits from bran as a by-product, sold as animal feed, for rice bran oil, etc. Ideally you want a rice that is unmilled and unpolished. Visual examination might be enough, I’ll start paying attention and see if I notice differences.

LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS

Not whole foods:

  • Split peas
  • Split beans
  • Red lentils (they are what’s left when you remove the highly-nutritious brans)

Whole-food alternatives to split legumes:

  • The unsplit whole grains, i.e. your typical chickpeas or lentils or beans with their skin.

PASTA

Not whole-food:

  • Standard pasta. This is why:

Whole-food alternative to white pasta:

  • Wholemeal or whole grain pasta
  • Any pasta made at home from whole grains or whole grain semolina.

Note: Commercial use of the term “whole” can be abused in “wholemeal” pasta due to expectable partial amounts of whole semolina or recombined whole semolina made from refined semolina some extracted bran or fiber to give a whole “feel”.

BREADS

Not whole-food:

Most breads marketed as “whole meal” or “whole grain” use most often only a small amount of whole-meal flour 10% to 25% only typically. The rest is baker’s white flour, a highly- refined product. Besides whole-food aspects, baker’s flours or bread flours and the wheats they come from are generally under a lot of pressure to be high-protein, high-gluten, and have extremely specific characteristics all highly focused on one thing: to make their final processing standardized and idiot-proof. That requires both high selection of the wheat, and high processing, both of which make the job easy for bakers but has led to wheats that can nutritionally poor since nutrition never was the concern, unnecessarily high-protein, unnecessarily high-gluten, and which generally seem to cause more health issues than more traditional wheats, not specifically selected or refined for bread or bakers. Few people that are not bakers or cereal producers know this.

Commercial breads also come with high amounts of salt/sodium. About a gram of salt per 100g, and I know from personal experience it’s outstandingly easy to eat not just 100g of bread a day, but many hundred grams, which is utterly unnecessary hypertension on our blood vessels and the organs they supply.

Whole-food alternative to store-bought non whole-food breads:

I already wasted ample time looking for truly 100% whole and salt-free bread, let me save you some time. Like many quests to find healthy foods processed by industry, looking for a truly whole and salt-free bread in shops and bakeries was a quest for the Yeti, the Bigfoot, and the Unicorn combined. I would have made enough bread healthy bread for the year by actually not looking for one.

Solution? Make your own bread at home, with baker’s yeast or a sourdough culture, no salt, and if you want to flavour it maybe throw some fennel seeding in the dough. That’s what we’ve been doing.

If you are a breadoholic, invest 50~100$ into a kneading machine and visit op-shops for secondhand baking trays, rolling pins, whatever you may need.

We don’t often make bread anymore, maybe once or twice a month, about 2 kg, and it never lasts as long as we wish it did! At that pace, I actually love and very much enjoy the (minimal) kneading that is required. No machine or fancy equipment here. Home bread-making can be made very easy and very  time-efficient.

There are many recipes online to make bread from 100% whole flour from any grain or seeds that’s suitable to you.

DRESSINGS

Not wholefoods:

  • Pretty much all commercial dressings, primarily due to oil, sugar, salt and other refined ingredients.

Whole-food alternatives to dressings:

  • Find recipes for oil-free dressings, and remove salt, replace sugars by whole sweet foods, and high-fat foods by low-fat foods.
  • Create your own: Play with sweet whole foods (e.g. apples, raisins and dates), sour whole foods (like lemon or lime) and instead of fatty base like oil or cashews use a starchy base like blended and cooked pea, beans, or grains with enough water will make a nice and runny cream.

LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS

Not whole-foods:

  • Baking powder (+ extra concern with sodium content as it is sodium bicarbonate)
  • Baking soda (+ extra concern with sodium content as it often contains sodium bicarbonate or other sodium salts)
  • Citric acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Various essences, either natural or artificial flavours

Whole-food alternatives to baking needs:

  • Baking yeast
  • Sourdough cultures
  • Aromas: spices, spice-seeds (fennel, caraway, etc), herbs, real vanilla, grated lemon, dried fruit, orange peels, bananas, etc.

This will not rise instantly, the rising processes takes longer, but good news: you don’t have to sit and stare at breads and cakes leaven! Yeasts are shy and prefer making babies when no one is starring at them and desperately waiting for them to be done 😛 Set an alarm and go on about your life while it’s rising 🙂

PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS

These are of particular concern to health not because of the whole-foods being pickled, but because of the ridiculous amounts of salt, oil, sugar and preservatives used to keep those.

I created a project group on Facebook especially for the purpose of pickling and fermenting foods without resorting to any salt, sugar or oil: sauerkraut, pickled lemon, etc.
Whole-food plant-based fermentation, no oil, no sugar, no salt

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?

It’s a very good question!
We all like to go out, have lunch and dinners with friends.
How do we do?

At this point of time, my partner and I eat about 90% of our meals from home-made food. It’s all low-fat, whole-food vegan, with no oil, no salt, no sugar.

We eat from restaurants and cafés about twice a week, that the 10%. The food we eat out is not always perfect, but we try, and it’s been worth trying so far, even if sometimes it’s a bit of a sport. Restaurants like all businesses care first and foremost about one thing, that is making profit. The health officer in that trade is you and you alone, so you get what you encourage and ask for. Restaurants follow what the people holding the money want, and these people need to express their needs.

Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?

Everything you didn’t make yourself from scratch using whole plant foods is eating out. If you got your act sorted out, that eating out remains the only possible source of unhealthy eating.
Before zooming on restaurants and take-ways, let’s talk about “eating out”.
First of all there are a number of reasons why people eat out. Convenience, hanging out with people, getting food inspiration, etc…A number of these needs can be met without having to go to a restaurant. Since it can be a bit of challenge getting truly healthy whole foods from restaurants, with the help of like-minded friends we have been federating a culture of healthy eating among our friends and communities. So we’re having more potlucks, more dinners and meals at each others house, etc. To some extent, so many restaurants could exist only on a base of lack of community bonds, lack of time spent in the kitchen, and lack of direct sharing in people’s life. This is easy to remedy: Share and make foods for yourself *and* your friends!

Picture-163_bis

That’s our growing whole-food gang, meeting for a lovely autumn picnic. We’re heading towards doing this at least twice a month.

There is also nothing wrong with bringing your own food to work, going to the company/school canteen with your boxes, and sitting at your friends table with your own food. The spotlight won’t be on you too long if you know why you’re doing it and how to articulate it. In fact you may get them to join you…who doesn’t want to spare themselves a heart attack? diabetes? hypertension and all the plagues of animal-based eating?

Restaurants, take-aways, cafés and other food venues

When eating out we skip everything that is deep-fried, or fried, expect stir-fries, more below on this. What’s left is either vegan or not, and to keep choices large, I include non-vegan options so I can explore if it can be veganized (in passing that encourages vegan options). If something is a stir-fry, I ask to water-fry as I ask for “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar”.

“No oil” is currently the most frightening new challenge for most restaurants. Oil is still very central to restaurant/café kitchens and it often seems unconceivable for them to not use oil, either for cooking convenience, time-saving, or for taste. It’s not rare that the person taking our order would go and check with the kitchen to see if they can do that.

Good news though: most often restaurants can remove oil, sugar or salt to some relevant amount, if not entirely. There is of course the odd one out where the waiter “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar” and the food comes either stir-fried with oil, or drizzed with it, or far too salty or sweet, it happened…but quite rarely. There is also the odd one out where a restaurant would insist “The chef doesnt’ want to do a stir-fry with no oil, he/she/it needs oil”. Other times, they would honestly say they wish but they can’t because the food is batch-prepared with oil, sugar, or salt. But most of the time they can remove something, if not all.

Where my face is not familiar yet, waiters taking my food order the first time often (unwittingly) patronizingly tell me that the food will not be very good. But that’s their worried untrained palate speaking, so it’s worth insisting that they shouldn’t worry about taste and that I eat like that everyday and like it a lot. They can get surprisingly insisting that your palate will not find it tasty basically, afraid perhaps to serve a customer a very unpalatable experience that may convert into bad business. But be “kindly firm” in those cases. And when you’re done with your meal and thank them before leaving, tell them what you thought about the food (it’s usually good!). It’s usually only the first time, it gets smooth and easy when you go regularly to the same food places. Once you develop relationships with them, if they’re open to it, they eventually get interested into your motivations to order in this unusual way for them.

A friend, Caitlin, also gave me the tip of ordering a few hours in advance, ahead of peak hours. Not sure why that works, but it works for her and for other people apparently.

We have had some really lovely restaurant experiences, some waiters, chefs or restaurants owners that would have dealt with disease themselves or through a close person. They’d know about why eating the way we do is vitally important, and they were accommodating. Such a breeze when that happens!

20160424_202942_BLOG_610

Rangoli Restaurant, Kapiti, NZ. Highly recommended!

Such an accommodating place served us this, everything is no oil, no salt, no sugar. 3 out of 4 plates here are low-fat whole foods: Kachumber (Indian salad), wholemeal bread (Indian roti), and the best chana masala (Indian chickpea curry) I’ve had in my life. Only the rice on the top left is not a whole food, but white rice. Not bad at all overall relatively. The restaurant is Rangoli, in Kapiti, NZ. Great friendly/kind service, rather cosy, amazing food, some vegan wines too.

So far, I talked oil, salt, sugar, but that doesn’t make a tofu burger whole-food, does it?
No it doesn’t. At this point of time, most breads in restaurants are white breads (less so in Indian restaurants), pasta is still always refined white pasta, rice is not yet routinely brown rice or another whole rice, etc…We make do our best with what we have at hand. More and more, I do ask though about the wholeness of the pasta, rice, breads. I would know the answer in advance most of the time, so why do I keep asking? Because customers’ questions always act as subtle requests and they are! It can start very constructive educational conversations for the staff and restaurant, as well as for us in terms of the challenges that they encounter, which we may able to help with.

A restaurant we often go to even started to put on the menu that whole-food options are available with no oil, sugar or salt. The owner, it turns out, already had a preference for oil-free food and whole foods and just needed someone to request it to feel motivated to pursue that route.

Adulis Restaurant, Wellington, NZ. Highly recommended!

This restaurant is in Wellington NZ:  Adulis African restaurant, proposing currently essentially Ethiopian/Sudanese foods. Currently in the process of going using more whole foods and pro-actively encouraging options with no oil, salt, sugar. Wonderful! This is at long last the future that many of us have been waiting for, it’s amazing! And again, restaurant owner also very cheerful and friendly person, and so is staff generally. That’s becoming more and more one of regular healthy go-tos.

COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?

Was this helpful to you?
What did you learn from this?
Do you feel I forget something important in this list?
Is there something you want to suggest adding?
Do you have short videos (< 5 min) that show clearly the products we’re used to being processed from a whole food to an extracted, refined, nutritionally damaged product?
What struggles are you facing with going WFPN (whole-food plant nutrition)?
or with quitting salt, sugar, and oil?

Post you comments below!