Our department has a lunch meeting every Wednesday where first year students sit and eat while a faculty member tells us about their research how they got where they are, and sometimes their life story, etc. it’s a nice time / I’m all about free food.
Delivery options are limited around the Columbia University Medical Center campus. Hence why every single week lunch ends up being one of 3 options: pizza that smells like burnt Chuck E Cheese kitchen grease and is paired with a salad cloaked in sad cold deli meat (and one plain salad, but that goes fast), Dominican food, or on a good day, sandwiches on really strangely delicious fluffy crusty white hoagie bread.
Dominican food days are frequent, and I don’t hate it. The buffet has enough veggie options (salad with avocado, rice, beans) that I can finagle a decent meal out of it.
The star of every Dominican week is, of course, the fried plantains. Sticky sweet gooey goodness, the fried plantains have become a cherished and familiar treat.
It dawned upon me this week that I’ve never actually made plantains at home which considering bananas and potatoes are my favorite foods and plantains are essentially the potato of bananas (as in not sweet and rather starchy), is quite odd. So over the weekend I decided to change this. I picked up some plantains, 3/$1, at my local grocery store.
A kind woman was also picking out plantains when I was sorting through them. I asked her if she had any advice for a new plantain cook, and she told me to wait until the plantains were “soft like sponges.” Noted.
Now onto cooking. I don’t love frying things and my stomach doesn’t love eating large quantities of fried food. Hence why I after doing some googling to confirm it was possible, I opted to bake mine.
I did mine skin-on because the method sounded intriguing to me. You can totally peel them and cube them, coat them in oil and seasonings, and bake them that way (just for a shorter duration, 20-25 minutes until tender rather than 40-45).
If you are curious about the skin-on method as I was, I am happy to report that it totally works. Just take it out of the oven when the foil-wrapped plantain gives to a squeeze.
Next comes topping. I played around with topping these babies. One I coined and ate with melted vegan butter and brown sugar.
Another I drizzled with almond butter, cinnamon, and a dash of sugar. The last I ate with leftover black bean soup and cilantro. I decided they would also taste great with guacamole. All were solid options, and it was a very plantain-filled day.
Speaking of filled, I found plantains quite filling. I plan to keep this in mind since they are a cheap starchy piece of produce aka something I desperately need to befriend.
I hope you give these a try. If you do, please let me know, and let me know how you topped or are them.
It’s not a secret that I have been a vegetarian for over 13 years now. Or maybe it is. I don’t know how well you know me.
As my choice to not eat meat is judged as hashly by some as my love for the Kardashians and Teen Mom, let me delight you with the story of my vegetarianism:
It went like this: I stopped eating meat around age 10 because I straight up didn’t like it. That was pretty much it. I got tired of explaining to friends’ parents why I didn’t want to eat the cheeseburgers they served for dinner or to the paraprofessionals why I had zero desire to touch those “chicken” nuggets on my tray.
So one day, I just started saying “Can I have something else please? I’m a vegetarian.” And then before I knew it, I actually kind of was a vegetarian. We didn’t eat too much meat in my household anyways (mostly poultry and fish, and in smaller amounts than most) and my parents didn’t see it as a problem, so vegetarianism has since turned into a pretty regular part of my lifestyle for so long that I can honestly never realistically see myself eating meat again. I genuinely just don’t even think about it.
Sure, I’ve cooked chicken and seared lamb chops and gutted shrimp in my food science class, but I didn’t want it. If I ever did crave a piece of chicken or a beef burger, I’d eat it. But in the past 13 years, it hasn’t happened. And through diet analysis projects I’ve done for nutrition classes, I have learned that I do eat a varied, balanced diet, and am not missing out on any vital nutrients whatsoever (yes, I eat plenty of protein, through the diet analysis I learned I almost eat double what I actually need and actually started cutting back my overly-consciencious efforts to “get enough”). So do I have any desire to eat meat? Nah. But if you do, that’s your thing. Go for it. I’m not going to stop you.
I’ve always wanted to try out the vegan thing, even if just for a little while. A lot of people may ask themselves (or directly to me, some quiet rudely and judgmentally I might add), why I would try this.
Well, shit. I don’t know..a lot of reasons. For one just to see if I could do it. Secondly, to see if I felt any different. Third, it’s not a secret that this country tends to consume quite a large amount of animal protein compared to others, and that trying other things might not be the worst idea. Lastly, as a way to be forced expand my culinary creativity and as an excuse to try new recipes. I tend to be a creature of habit and get into eating a lot of the same.
So for the first time since the birth of the Greek Yogurt mega-fad, I broke my 2-Fage-a-day habit and ate a primarily plant based diet for 5 days.
Notice how I didn’t straight up say “vegan,” because my intent wasn’t to be 100% pure vegan. Primarily Plant Based means the following (at least to me):
I did not purposely consume any diary or meat products (obviously meat, but also no direct cheese, eggs, milk, ice cream, etc, etc)
I did not freak out at small traces of things in products, ie, if there were “traces of egg whites” in my toaster waffles. You better believe that those babies still entered my body. This made it much more realistic to stick to, and far less restrictive.
So, last Monday through Friday, I gave this a whirl. And here’s what I experienced:
I ate a boat load of creative oatmeal bowls. The key, I tell you is canned pumpkin. #sogood
I made lots of vegan tacos, with black beans, squash, avocado, black rice, salsa, and all sorts of other goodies.
I enjoyed a delicious vegan meal at Beans & Barley with some friends. [PSA..their marinated tofu is on another f**king level and everyone on earth needs to try it]. I also need to recreate it. ASAP.
I tried some other new things, like making my own cheese from cashews, and creating other nut butter sauces for pastas. Lots of new recipes from this experiment will be popping up on the blog in the coming weeks. hashtag creativity
How I Felt:
I didn’t feel deprived or hungry at all. I ate a lot, and a wide variety of foods. I even purchased some really delicious vegan cake slices from whole foods and found some diary-free cookies at Target and snacked on these chocolate muffins I made. Instead of my usual basically-ice-cream-flavored froyo, I forced myself to try some of the non-dairy berry sorbets and found out they were delicious. I also got some really good sorbet gelato one evening. I realized I have been neglecting fruity frozen things because I like classic ice cream so much. No longer. I will now be mixing it up more. I thought the whole desserts thing would be a huge road block, but it wasn’t that hard at all. I honestly thought the whole thing would be a lot harder.
I craved greek yogurt on the second day, and was going to quit my experiment and eat it because I don’t believe in denying your body it’s cravings, but because a crazy rain/hail storm prevented me from getting to the store I couldn’t get my paws on any, so I ate something else, and the craving passed, and I didn’t crave greek yogurt (or any dairy, actually) for the rest of the experiment.
I felt quite energized throughout the whole thing. Actually, moreso than usual, but I’m not going to make any miracle claims because this could have been placebo or a combination of many factors.
I genuinely, truly, did not miss dairy or eggs as much as I thought I would. And I’m a Wisconsin gal.
I realized that a lot of things I like are already vegan without trying to be. Like a lot of dark chocolates. Oreos are also vegan (which goes to show just how real that cream filling is….).Also Trader Joe’s soy cheese is actually delicious, but contains casein, and is therefore not vegan. #awkward
I felt like my dogs still looked just as cute this entire week as they usually do. Okay yes that was necessary to include.
What Was Not So Great:
I feel like a completely vegan may get tricky hard to follow in a lot social situations. When cake is served, you better believe I’m finna want to eat it. I also felt that for me personally, it could also be tricky when to be a guest at parties or family functions. Which is why I don’t plan to stick to this long term (like I said, it was an experiment).
I was a bit less regular than normal (#tmi). Perhaps it’s all the time I’ve spent around pre-med people and/or working in hospitals, but I’m not shy about the fact that I have a long history of chronic IBS. And strangely, even though I was eating probably even more fiber than usual, I wasn’t quiet as good at my business as usual. I think my body is used to all the probiotics from all the yogurt I usually eat. Yes, I know probiotic pills exist. I also know that your body better processes all things directly from foods in place of from vitamins or supplements.
Nope, I’m not vegan-ish this week. I stopped on Saturday because I was at a bachelorette party and wasn’t about to pass on cookie cake or mac’n’cheese being served. I’m not about that #denial life. I am eating less Greek Yogurt [as in, not a giant tub per day as pre-experiment] and am really into some of the new things I whipped up last week. Recipes soon, I tell ya, recipes soon. I also haven’t craved eggs at all since, but next time I do I will eat them. I’m also now also on a vegetarian taco kick, as well as a pasta and undying black rice kick. These are not bad things.
Overall, it was an interesting experiment. I know my choice to do this experiment was greeted by delight by some and some pretty rude comments by others, but I my reasons for the experiment were purely for personal growth and curiosity and I have zero regrets doing it.
At the end of the day, what people choose to put or not put in their mouths is actually a really strange topic, but it’s everyone’s personal choice, for better or for worse (I personally hope you make good choices and please #dontdoatkins if ily). It’s also important to point out that vegan is not synonymous with healthy. Like I mentioned above, Oreo’s are vegan. lol enough said.
So I end this far-too-long post with a glass of almond milk hot-chocolate and a puppy snuggled into my side, and ask you to be mindful of the following things: what you eat, what you read, what you believe, and to remember that you must moderate all things, including moderation. Cheers to all people who stopped reading 6 paragraphs or earlier ago; have a great week!