In a recent entry on cooking for groups, I highlighted that today more than ever, this means understanding food intolerances and preferences in order to create dishes that are delicious, but also in keeping with specific dietary considerations. Enter my sister-in-law, who is an expert at making delicious dishes that are vegan, gluten-free, and nutrient-dense. By the way, vegan, gluten-free cooking and healthy eating are NOT always synonymous, because the last time I checked, french fries (high fat), rice crackers (high sodium), and gluten-free beer (high sugar, and high alcohol if you have several on St. Patrick’s Day) can be considered gluten-free or vegan food choices, although they offer little nutritional value.
The vegan and gluten-free approaches have both been popularized in celebrity weight loss diets, and the food industry is rolling with it, offering highly processed, refined, and synthetic options to fuel this weight loss myth. In fact, there is no research evidence that shows gluten-free diets lead to sustainable, long-term weight loss.
But what about vegan diets? Surely those who feast on plants rather than marbled Kobe beef are leaner, right? This is also not the case: in fact, the bottom line for weight management success is entirely dependent on WHAT, WHEN, HOW, and HOW MUCH one eats, irrespective of whether the diet is classified as gluten-free, vegan, or omnivore.
What I respect about my sister-in-law’s approach to vegan, gluten-free cooking is her loyalty to whole foods by using ingredients that are fresh and simple (by that I mean not processed). She has been cooking this way for years and will continue to do so for a long time to come because she believes in the food experience for the right reason, which is optimal health. To boot, she is a great Auntie, who finds time to read her nephew ‘The Paper Bag Princess’ at least twice, while preparing a great group meal for her family. If you don’t know this story by Robert Munsch, permit me to draw the parallel: the Paper Bag Princess denounces the Prince for his superficiality, even though he has good hair and nice looks. As should we when it comes to industry fads and processed nutrient-poor products to instead focus on what really counts: simple, good food. How apropos.
1 1/4 cup brown rice (this time I used volcano rice)
1 1/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (or hemp hearts)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almond slivers)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried currants (or dried blueberries, etc)
2-3 chopped apples
1 can of coconut milk
shredded orange peel (optional)
cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger to taste (optional)
a few tablespoons of brown sugar or maple syrup (optional)
7.5 cups of water
This makes a lot – you can freeze portions. In the morning, you can re-heat in the microwave, and add (dairy-free) milk &/or berries.