Wed, July 17

Diet can be a matter of life and death

In July 2010, a week after moving in our home in the VOC, Mark had a heart attack. It came as a surprise, because he seemed to be physically fit. He returned home with a stent and set about researching what he could do to control the inherited probability of continued plaque deposits in his arteries.

Two books changed his life: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn.

The premise of these books is that one can reverse severe coronary heart disease by making comprehensive changes in diet and lifestyle.

The diet is plant-based and oil-free, adhering to the principle “if it has a mother or a face”, it is not to be eaten. In addition, he does not eat any dairy and adds no salt. Since August 2010, Mark has been very disciplined, adapting his diet slightly, at the suggestion of his physician, by eating fish once weekly and nuts occasionally to boost his protein intake.

Mark is a true Vegan, eating all vegetables, all legumes, all whole grains (no white flour or grain products with added oils) and all fruits.

As the chef in the family, I was tofu happy the first month. Big mistake. Many tofu processed foods are very high in fat and contain oil and casein. Many vegan-processed cakes and cheeses taste awful.

We really missed the sauces and sides of French cooking that defined good cooking. Since then I have spent years reading recipes and changing the ingredients.

By trial and error, we have created all dishes taste great and mimic the food we loved before we were eating well. Cooking like this is truly an act of love. I am thrilled that more of the population has moved to the Vegan diet and more products are available to cut production time.

My favorite sites for vegan recipes and food science are the New York Times, , , , and

Here is a sample of Mark’s daily menu:

• Breakfast: Homemade spelt raisin bread with Tofutti cream cheese

• Lunch: Spicy Red Lentil Hummus Wrap with Lemon Water

• Dinner: Vegetable Lasagna using Vegan Ricotta (homemade), soy Mozzarella and homemade Whole Wheat and Garbanzo Flour Lasagna noodles, Strawberry Mousse (Vegan)- Mark enjoys a dessert every evening albeit it is Vegan.

In many of our recipes, I use egg replacer such as whipped chickpea juice called “aquafaba”, Ener-G-Egg Replacer, finely ground flax seed, Silken Tofu, baking soda mixed with vinegar and banana. Uses and amounts for each vary.

For oil replacers, again depending on use, applesauce, thinned prune puree, mashed beans, tofu and cornstarch mixed with water work.

Quinoa Sweet Potato Red Lentil Burger (Yield: 10 burgers) 1/3 cup quinoa (blond or black), rinsed (black quinoa looks striking against orange sweet potatoes)

1/3 cup red lentils, rinsed

1 2/3 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, baked (baking days ahead saves time!)

3 cups, tightly packed, chopped fresh spinach

¾ cup olive paste (tastes close to feta cheese)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup minced chives

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chickpea flour for coating

  1. Combine quinoa, red lentils, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until both are tender (blond quinoa displays a thread). Drain thoroughly, return to pot and let sit for 15 minutes.

  2. Skin sweet potatoes, fork mash in large bowl, then mash with spinach. Add quinoa and lentils, olive paste, mint, chives, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well. Mixture will be moist.

3.Form 1/3 cup of the mixture into a ball (wet your hands to reduce sticking). Roll ball in chickpea flour, then gently flatten into a patty. Set on a plate and continue with the rest of the mixture. Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour or longer (the longer the better).

  1. Using a nonstick or lightly oiled pan, sauté a few patties at a time, 4 minutes per side. Serve with ketchup, mustard, relish or a Mediterranean condiment which includes garlic and mint.