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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Using Your Bean

With this issue Vegetarians in Paradise continues the bean explorations of VOW, a diabetic who has discovered the importance of beans in her diet. In subsequent VIP issues VOW will enlighten our readers with the further Adventures of the Bean.

Adventures of the Bean #30
Pay Close Attention to Your Feetsies!

By VOW, of course

My granddaughter, The Center of the Universe, just turned a year old. Hubster and I have really enjoyed our first adventure into grandparenthood, and we have found her to be such a gorgeous specimen. Grandparenting is so DIFFERENT from when we raised our own kids. Back then, along with being absolutely amazed by the blessing of a new life, we were also rather distracted with the actual running of a household: laundry, cooking, paying bills, and of course, earning a living. Now as grandparents, we get to simply enjoy the miracle of watching a baby grow and discover the world around her.

One of my favorite parts of baby anatomy is the little feetsies. They are so tiny and perfect, all the way down to those itsy-bitsy toes! Not only can I kiss and chew on those little, delightful piggies, but I get to hear the magical, musical baby laughter that my efforts provoke! And to think, one day, those very same toes will be running, dancing, pushing bicycle pedals, filling sneakers, and skates, and even high heels, and eventually pressing the accelerator in a car, definitely driving her parents crazy!

Grown up, diabetic feetsies don't quite merit the same glee that baby feetsies get. However, they do require almost as much attention. Because diabetes can cause nerve damage, the feet can either be plagued by too much sensation, or even worse, lose all sensation entirely. Whether we care to admit it or not, pain is actually our friend in that it draws attention to a problem. Without the signal of pain, a diabetic can be completely unaware of something gone wrong. VOW

I personally know of two individuals who have lost part of a foot to diabetes. Their original injury could have been something as minor as a blister or an irritation from a wrinkle in a sock or a tiny rock inside a shoe. The problem escalated to an open wound not noticeable, and progressed to an infected mess that became a life-threatening situation requiring hospitalization, surgery, and a very long, drawn-out recuperation and rehabilitation.

From now on, you as a diabetic, must pay close attention to foot health. You must keep those feetsies clean and dry, and inspect tops and bottoms and between the toes for any spots, blisters, cuts, scrapes, pinched areas, irritations, or split skin. You are particularly vulnerable to athlete's foot, or other fungal infections, especially of the toenail variety. Your doctor can show you how to test yourself for sensation, and if that sense diminishes or disappears, you must be even more vigilant in your observations.

Perhaps you could ask a friend or family member to check your feetsies regularly, to catch anything you may have missed. And if you see anything out of the ordinary, you must see your doctor immediately! Only by being hyper-aware can you insure that you keep all your toes so you can always play "This Little Piggy" successfully forever more!

VOW Does Her "Stuff"

And now to the best part of the column: FOOD!

From my newlywed days a hundred years ago, I must have collected a zillion recipes that all start out with "one pound of hamburger, browned and drained." Those recipes were cheap enough to stretch my food dollars, yet successfully feed and satisfy my family. Once I made the decision to "Go Veg," though, most of those recipes kind of fell by the wayside. I did attempt to try them out using crumbled tofu, and I found that some of them were not too bad.

I missed a lot of family favorites, though. One of my money-saving tricks as a carnivore was to buy bulk hamburger, and stuff it in the crockpot with minced onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and any other veggie I had on hand that was plentiful. Zucchini was always nice. Sometimes I'd even add wheat bran as a wholesome filler. I'd let the pot cook all day on low, and then stir in a couple of cups of water. I'd take a plate that was smaller than the opening of the crockpot and push it down on top of the mixture so it was completely submerged beneath all the liquid; then I'd place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, I could remove the plate and all the solidified grease on top of it, leaving the cooked stuff completely defatted. I'd package the mixture into quart-sized zipper plastic bags and flatten them, then freeze. Voilà! For a working mom, those bags in my freezer were a healthy timesaver shortcut. Every recipe in my collection that started out, "Take one pound of hamburger, brown and drain…" I could use one of those bags straight from the freezer!

Boy, I sure missed having my little helper on hand!

What to do, what to do? Why, get busy and find a suitable veggie counterpart, of course!

I think I succeeded! We'll call my creation:


1 cup of uncooked rice, brown or white
I prefer a mix of brown and white Basmati rice, but whatever you have in your pantry will work!

1 cup dry lentils
Lots to choose from, but I suggest brown lentils, simply from an aesthetic viewpoint. Unless your final recipe has a deeply colored sauce, the color of green lentils might not be so appealing.

4 cups water
Broth is fine, but the vegetable juice isn't such a good idea this time, because sometimes lentils won't soften properly in tomato juice.

Stir together in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Place lid on pan, turn down the heat to a very low simmer and cook 40 minutes or so, until both lentils and rice are super tender. The actual cooking time depends on the type of rice you use. The cooking can be simplified if you have a rice cooker. I'd really recommend buying one; you can cook any grain or lentil with a rice cooker!

The mixture contains a total of 1380 calories, 208 grams net carbohydrates. But I'm not recommending you sit yourself down and eat the whole bowlful! No, heavens no! This mixture is your vegetarian answer to "one pound of hamburger, browned and drained." You use it in all your thrifty recipes from yesteryear, to make the family favorites! As such a substitute, you have produced six to eight servings.

Let's consider six servings, using white, medium-grain rice and brown lentils. One-sixth of the cooked mixture yields:
230 calories
45 grams carbohydrates
10 grams fiber
(so that's 35 grams net carbohydrates) less than one gram of fat almost 11 grams of protein

Now, if you want to be ambitious as well as thrifty, get out a big pot, put in an equal ratio of rice and lentils, an appropriate amount of water, plus finely minced onion, garlic, celery, and carrot, maybe zucchini, and cook until everything is super tender. Cool, and divide into quart size zipper plastic bags, each containing the equivalent of "one pound of hamburger, drained and browned" as described above. Flatten the bags and freeze.

Then, when mealtime rolls around, you can use one bag to make: Sloppy Joes, using those seasoning packets and tomato paste Taco filling, using those seasoning packets Add to a quart of spaghetti sauce, and serve over spaghetti or noodles or rice Add to vegetarian brown gravy, serve over mashed potatoes Mix with your favorite meatloaf seasonings, and stuff the gigantic zucchini the neighbors gave you, bake until zucchini is tender Or, if you've had "one of those days" and can barely crawl in the front door after work, use with one of those notorious boxes of Hamburger Helper

Now you see why I call it "Stuff!" You can use it so many ways, and once again visit those recipes from way back when that always seemed to start out, "Take one pound of hamburger, brown and drain."

Click here for more Adventures of the Bean

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