Saturday, November 26, 2011

some vegan thoughts on food: eating and repurposing

Thanksgiving Day in USA generates much food, recipes, and media on how to prepare, store, and transform leftovers into additional meals especially turkeys and meat-based dishes. As a vegan or plant-based person, I have posted many vegan recipes to friends and on Facebook in not so subtle hints on foods to prepare for gatherings where vegans and vegetarians might be present.

Friends at one gathering got the hints, made vegan dressing and mashed potatoes, among other dishes. I brought this sweet potato dish and a big green salad. My friends served a generous plate of the holiday foods that I mixed with two bowls of salad.

Now I faced a dilemma of what to do with the take home foods from the gathering and especially two issues of my ongoing diet and food waste. I have adopted a vegan diet to deal with blood-sugar and metabolic syndrome issues, which meant more consumption of whole foods and complex carbohydrates. I still ate occasional vegan desserts. Recently I have adjusted my vegan diet to eat more nutrient dense salads, vegetables and fruits, including beans, tofu and fewer starches according the ideas of the Eat to Live system. I have been losing weight and my blood sugar has come down/stabilized except during a recent faculty strike when I made mini-mocha muffins for those on the picket line (quality control...must taste).

Now what to do with the take home foods that mostly resided outside of this nutrient dense system? Blood sugar registered higher than usual this a.m. and I felt rather sluggish after dinner. Today, I worked in getting my gardens ready for winter and did some yoga. Tonight, I put some of the sweet potatoes in a pot of chili with beans-greens. I perused my slow-cooker cookbooks for other ideas for how to handle my leftovers from the gathering. Mix with leafy green and other veggies? Make a nutrient-intense shepherd's pie? Or combine sweet potatoes and dressing with vegan sausage? Share the leftovers with hungry graduate students?

According to the Nourishing the Planet, food waste in production (40%) and consumption (30%) hinder efforts to curb food inequities and hunger around the world! Think Progress's "10 Tips to Reduce Food Waste During the Holidays" has some valuable ideas on reducing waste in cooking, planning, storing, composting, and even recovering-recycling foods-gifts. Some salient tips especially for leftovers: first, plan to cook-consume less and self-serve on smaller plates. I am looking for recipes that incorporate/save my leftovers with my diet. Second, I can share my bounty with others on this occasion as well as when I make a big pot of soup-slow cooker. Third, compost! I can easily compost all my vegan gleanings/scraps and foods and the resulting compost nourishes my raised beds-gardens. Ideally, I can plan ahead for buying, cooking, and consuming. For those of us who buy shares in C.S.A.s (consumer supported agriculture) and/or have gardens, we often have more veggies than we can use. These can be preserved/shared/donated to local shelters, food pantries, and friends-graduate students. I've even shared some veggies with my classes.

Alas we may have overly ambitious plans for produce bought in local farmers' market and some of the same hints apply. Today is the last day for the local Carbondale IL Farmers' Market (until 1 April) and I need to stock up on assorted squashes and sweet potatoes for winter dishes. I have bought a winter share in Hollow Pumpkin CSA and can place online orders for greens and other winter veggies from Green Ridge farm. Hence, the ongoing cycle of buying, using, re-purposing, and composting continues, while we peruse the seed catalogues and plan for the spring gardening in the Cobden Community Garden and another share from Clear Creek CSA....

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