October 23rd, 2012


VeganMofo 18: Starch staples: Potatoes


Potatoes! One of nature's most perfect foods, and one of the best of the starch staples. Potatoes are tasty, cheap, very nutritious, easy to store, and endlessly versatile.

It saddens me that good old Russet potatoes have gotten such a bad rap of late. People who think eating potatoes makes them fat usually don't take into account the way most Americans eat potatoes: Deep-fried or covered with fat-laden toppings like butter and sour cream. And those concerned about the glycemic index might be interested to know that chocolate cake has a lower GI than a baked potato.

So what healthier choices can be put on a baked potato? Possibilities abound. One of my favorites, as mentioned near the bottom of my entry on greens, is spinach with garlic powder and parmazano. Fat-free veggie chili is an even heartier choice. Salsa, fat-free salad dressing, balsamic vinegar, and even just salt and pepper all taste great too.

I bake my Russet potatoes in a toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. I always bake more than one and leave extras in the frig. I rarely make them in the microwave anymore because the taste really isn't the same; it's worth the wait.

Potato salad

Red potatoes go great in salads, as in my Iron Chef challenge entry. The McDougall newsletter has a recipe for tofu mayonnaise with no oil, which goes great with potato salad. I also love Dr. Weil's recipe for potatoes with kale, though as noted in my greens recipe I usually use chard, and sauté in veggie broth instead of oil.

Sweet Potato Dal (with kale)

Sweet potatoes are close enough to potatoes for the purpose of this entry. I really love the ones sold as yams (though they are not actually the same as true yams), with the dark skin and bright orange flesh. I can make a meal out of a single large baked sweet potato with absolutely nothing on it, and some spinach. They are that good.

Sweet potatoes and greens go great together in savory dishes. The above photo is of Sweet Potato Dal from Everyday Happy Herbivore, which is one of the best meals I've made in recent memory. (I made mine with kale instead of spinach since we nearly always have kale on hand lately, and I find working with fresh spinach to be somewhat of a pain.) The flavors are just perfect and it is packed with nutrition. Seriously, if you like sweet potatoes, greens, and lentils, you must try this recipe.

Mashed sweet potatoes work well as an oil replacement for baked goods like muffins. Like potatoes, I always bake extra (they take a bit longer, about an hour at 400 degrees depending on size) to keep on hand in the frig for such uses.

All hail the mighty potato! Bountiful goodness in a small portable package.

Eat like a hobbit, move like the wind?

I mentioned in a recent entry that I've been suffering from dizzy spells, and my doctor recommended drinking more water and eating five meals a day consistently. I've been doing both, and it seems to be helping. (Blood tests revealed no other problems.)

I don't always get to eat that many times a day, but do try to eat whenever I'm hungry, and only when I'm hungry. If I know I might need to go without food for a few hours, I might eat a bit extra. So at a friend's cookout on Saturday, late afternoon, I stuffed myself with two carrot dogs, a handful or two of chips, a couple pieces of veggie sushi, most of a can of soda, and a brownie, and was full and content till nearly bedtime. (That might not sound like a lot of food, but it more than satisfied my appetite, especially since I got no exercise that day other than a couple of minutes of hula-hooping.)

The next day, however, I managed not only five meals, but a perfect mirror image (however unintentional): oatmeal for breakfast, another carrot dog mid-morning, leftover potato salad mid-afternoon, a final carrot dog early evening, and another bowl of oatmeal mid-evening. (No greens that day, unfortunately, but I rectified that omission shortly thereafter.) I've been feeling faint most often during my shifts at the Free Farm Stand Sunday afternoon, so made sure to pack an actual meal to eat this time rather than just relying on snacks; this helped a lot.

The other issue, which I neglected to mention to my doctor, is that I have very little tolerance for cold. I've always had a pretty narrow temperature comfort range, but I seem even more susceptible to cold now that I'm near my lowest-ever adult weight. Staying physically active seems to help most. At the farm stand, as soon as I arrived I busied myself hauling supplies out from the garden to the lawn. But as soon as all the heavy lifting and set-up was done and I was standing in one place sorting produce, I was jumping up and down trying to stay warm. Similarly, yesterday morning I was out running in a steady rainfall with the temperature around 55 and felt just fine, but standing around or walking at a slow pace in such weather without a warm jacket makes me miserable.

So I need to keep eating, and moving, and hydrating. And sleeping! I really need to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, plus a short nap when possible. I'm fortunate to have a flexible schedule, so the only barrier to implementing these lifestyle improvements is my own laziness. There's nothing physically wrong with me that can't be corrected with a little work of my own, I'm quite convinced of that by now.