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Ask Happy Herbivore: Your questions answered!
This week I'm talking about flax seeds, frozen tofu, steamers, "cheating" in your diet goals and adding flavor to mellow and bland grains!
1. Do you have to grind flax seeds or can I eat them whole?
According to my flax seeds packaging, "we recommend grinding the seeds for the majority of the flaxseed you consume in order to receive the maximum benefit. The seeds are very small and it is hard to thoroughly chew them all. Your body utilizes the mucilage from the outer coating of the unbroken seeds, which does have health benefits, but will not take advantage of the Omega's within the seeds."
You can buy flax seeds already ground up (often called flax meal) or grind them yourself with a cheap coffee grinder. Just remember to store them in the freezer as they are very perishable!
2. How do I make frozen tofu? Do you drain it first? Press it? Help!
Frozen tofu is awesome -- it has a really meaty and chewy texture.
If you're not a fan of the texture of regular ol' tofu, chances are you'll like frozen tofu. When I make frozen tofu, I drain off the water, press it, put it in a ziplock bag, freeze it, then let it thaw completely before cooking. Andrea, however, just shoves the package straight into the freezer, then lets it thaw in the package. Both ways work and yield slightly different tofu textures.
3. Does the occasional “slip” or "cheat" undo the good? Is a slice of cheesy pizza or a taste of haggen daz once a month pile up the plaque immediately?
I’m not a doctor so I can’t totally answer this, but I read this analogy in a book somewhere and it’s always stayed with me:
Eating one burger or one ice cream cone is probably not going to kill you -- but we don’t just eat one in our lifetime.
Imagine an empty glass bottle: Every time you eat an animal product a marble goes in. 5 marbles, 10 marbles, that doesn’t seem so bad...but it all adds up and it adds a lot up faster than we think it does.
I can’t 100% guarantee that if someone eats a plant-based (vegan) diet they absolutely, positively, won’t get any kind of sickness (cancer, heart disease, etc) but what I can tell them is that with every bite of animal product, they make the propensity to get sick much more likely. So knowing that, is a cheat or slip even worth it?
Another problem with the occasional “cheat” is the mental effect it has. Unhealthy foods are very addictive and as long as we keep eating them, we keep being addicted. It’s hard to break the chain and build new habits when you’re cheating. Plus one slip might lead to another and then another. Go all in, you can do it!
For more information about animal products and heart disease, see Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esseltyn Jr.
4. What does a steamer look like? and can I substitute anything? I want to make HH's sausages!
I use this electric steamer (bought on sale for $20). You can also use a metal steamer basket ($8), which are cheap and don't take up any extra kitchen real estate since you can store it in your pot. Or you can just line a really big pot with a tiny bit of water, bring it to a boil. Add the sausages (fold side up so no water gets in), but then keep an eye out the entire time because you'll need to add more water periodically and you'll burn the sausages (and your pot!) if the water runs out.
5. I like quinoa, cous cous and brown rice but my husband says it lacks flavor. Any suggestions on how to prepare it with more flavor?
I found when we started eating healthier (plant-based, less fat, less salt, less sugar) that foods that were previously not very flavorful or seemed bland, suddenly started having flavors. I’ve read that your taste buds can change or “heal” and that seems to be true for me. Especially in the case of less salt -- I find I’m really tasting food now.
However, brown rice, quinoa and cous cous are still pretty mellow. I like to cook all of them in vegetable broth instead of water. It adds more flavor and a smige of extra nutrition (of course, make sure your broths are low sodium!). I also like to smother my grains with sauces. For example, I love mushroom gravy with my cous cous.
Anytime we eat quinoa, I put all of my dinner (like, say, a stir-fry) on top of it. Scott really likes barbecue sauce with his rice, but I think that’s a little odd :-) You can also add seasonings--spices and herbs---to your cooking water (or broth) which helps give grains a flavor boost.