Welcome to our second installment of Ask Jack, featuring the prodigious culinary talents of professional holistic chef Jack McNulty answering food-related questions generated by you, our community. Check out the show notes below that dig deeper into the topics covered on this episode. Set your dials to this station when Ask Jack #3 premieres on July 21, 2021, just in time to get great cooking tips for summer fun (at least for our listeners in the Northern Hemisphere)! Don’t forget to submit your questions for Jack by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, on to this episode’s topics and questions:
What shall I eat?
First, a question from Annemieke in the Netherlands about peanuts, though what she’s asking about is no small matter for many of you:
- In Dutch cooking, peanut butter sauce is quite common. To make the sauce you peanut butter. In stores, 100% peanut butter from raw peanuts is available and is unprocessed. BUT, on the OMS website it says: peanuts are defined as a ground nut and not recommended due to their higher saturated fat content. Some people replace the peanut butter with sunflower butter, tahini (sesame seed butter), cashew butter or almond butter or a mix of those four. But I’m confused about the sat fat and Omega 3/6 content of these different nuts and seeds versus peanuts. Jack, is it really a problem to have some peanut butter (from 100% raw peanuts) since we can eat also tahini, sunflower seeds and cashew nuts?
From Kiril in Bulgaria, let’s get to the slippery topic of oils:
- Can we use grapeseed oil? And is it OK for baking too?
From Nick in Lincoln, Rhode Island, an important question about a really trending topic – plant-based meat alternatives:
- Jack, are impossible burgers OK for people with MS who want to follow an anti-inflammatory diet?
Now on to canned foods, with a question from Duarte in Poland:
- What's your view on canned legumes and fruits? Are there some to avoid? If so, which ones?
Helpful Tips and Cooking Techniques
From Marie in the United Kingdom, a question about coconut milk replacements:
- She uses coconut essence and oat milk, but these don’t quite hit the mark. Any recommendations, Jack?
Still on the coconut theme, here’s a question from Ann, from the OMS Circle in Hertfordshire, UK:
- What are some suitable substitutes for coconut oil in vegan recipes? Unlike coconut oil, olive oil doesn’t always work due to being liquid at room temperature. Jack, what do you think?
This other question from Marie in the UK may activate some pleasure centers in our listener’s food brains:
- On the subject of chips, or French Fries for our American friends, she never used to eat them but her family, who also follow the OMS diet, often request them and she hasn’t succeeded to get them to really crisp up. Jack, any helpful tips?
Fun Recipe Ideas
Here’s a question from a listener in the UK on sour cream:
- How can you make it at home in a whole food, plant-based way? Jack, any thoughts?
Now on to something we find very tasty here in the UK, but which isn’t always OMS-friendly: Yorkshire Pudding. Ann, from the OMS Circle in Hertfordshire, wanted to know:
- Any recipe suggestions for OMS-compliant Yorkshire Puddings which replicate as near as possible the original in which the batter contains eggs and fat. A particular member of her Circle in Hertfordshire always complains that everything she tries leads to Yorkshire Puddings as “flat as pancakes!” Jack, any tips?
Since we are on a sweets kick, Ann had another question that might be relevant to many of our listeners who love to bake:
- How do you make cakes taste light and moist when many of the ingredients needed to do so aren’t OMS-friendly?
And let’s end this episode on a crunchy note:
- Jack, do you have any recipe ideas for gluten-free crackers and snacks, or anything savory that packs a crunch?
Bonus content from Jack:
The bottom line on peanut butter
Even though you shouldn’t use peanut butter as a dominant food source in your diet, it is probably fine to eat some in small amounts every now and then. Minor consumption of peanut butter is unlikely to have any major negative effects as long as you are also avoiding harmful foods like sugary sodas, trans fats and other highly processed junk foods.
Grape seeds are waste products from pressing grapes for wine or juice. There is very little nutritional benefit in the oil and lots of downside. It is an oil that is considered to promote inflammation. Consider alternatives such as unprocessed rapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil or no oil at all!
Impossible burgers are made from a large list of unhealthy ingredients. It is probably best to avoid these burgers completely. Look for 100% plant-based alternatives, or better yet, consider making your own.
Canned legumes and fruit
BPA is the biggest concern when it comes to canned food products. BPA is a chemical used in making plastics which may accelerate formation of fat cells. 90% of BPA in humans comes from canned foods and processed foods. Choose foods that are packed in Tetra Paks, Jars or BPA-free cans… or make your food fresh!
Coconut essence and oat milk
Coconut essence can be added to non-dairy milk to help replicate the flavor and consistency of coconut milk (or cream). It is helpful to add a thickening ingredient to the mix to create the right texture. I recommend blending soy milk, chickpea flour, nut butter and some coconut water or essence. Read my complete thoughts here.
Substitutes for coconut oil in baking
Coconut oil is used extensively in the vegan world. Quite a number of vegan baking recipes rely heavily on the use of coconut oil. In most cases, substituting a healthier oil like unprocessed rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil works fine. To create a richer texture for pastries, consider adding a tablespoon of nut butter.
Getting crispy textures on vegetables
Crispy textures on vegetables are created by caramelizing natural sugars/starches on the surface. Caramelization begins when sugars/starches reach a temperature of 120°C (250°F). This is also the point when all oils begin breaking down, although harmful elements are not produced until temperatures rise substantially more to 190°C (375°F) and held at this point for 10-20 minutes.
Coating vegetables with a light amount of oil is considered OMS-safe because the surface moisture evaporating from the vegetables will prevent the oils from rising above 120°C (250°F). The oil coating will also speed the cooking/caramelization process and prevent too much moisture loss from the vegetable.
Crispy textures can be accomplished without oil, although the vegetable will taste dry, a factor that can be overcome by coating the vegetable with a dip or vinaigrette after cooking. Adding a starch to the vegetable surface prior to cooking (corn starch, rice starch, tapioca starch) can help create a crispier surface without adding oils.
Sour cream recipe
Here is how Jack makes a vegan soy sour cream:
250 grams (1/2-pound) semi-firm tofu (or firm silken tofu)
3 tablespoons soy yogurt
25 ml. (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil (optional)
juice of one half lemon
2 tablespoons apple vinegar
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a high-speed blender. Process until creamy smooth. Taste the soy sour cream and make any adjustments to the seasoning or acidic content, then blend again. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
This classic recipe relies heavily on eggs and fat in the traditional preparation. The biggest problem in making a light and crispy version is the technique in the classic version, which is essentially a deep-fried preparation in a small tin like a muffin tin.
The key steps in making vegan (or OMS-friendly) cakes moist and light are to follow these guidelines:
- Make sure all of your ingredients are prepared and your oven is preheated.
- Measure all of your ingredients – preferably with a scale.
- Sift all your dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix your wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Use baking powder and/or baking soda as a leavening agent to replace eggs. Always include some acidic ingredient if using baking soda. Don’t use too much of either ingredient or your cake will taste soapy.
- Fats create a cake-like structure and aid in making the cake moist. Consider a nut butter as an alternative to oil. If using oil, replace butter in recipes by using 80% or less of the butter total.
- Always add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just long enough to incorporate the batter evenly. Overmixing will create a heavy final product.
- Make sure the cake is completely baked. Underbaking will make the cake taste heavy. Insert a knife or skewer into the center of the cake. It should be free of any cake batter when removed.
Making gluten-free crackers and snacks
The key to making a crisp cracker is to get the dough rolled out very thinly. Sandwich the dough in between two pieces of baking paper and use a rolling pin to get the dough very thin. Place on a baking tray and carefully remove the top sheet. Baking is usually at 200°C (400°F) for about 10-12 minutes.
Coming up on our next episode:
Join us starting May 19 for the next episode of Living Well with MS for a very special and insightful interview with Dr. Sandra Neate, the Head of the Neuroepidemiology Unit (NEU) within the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia. The NEU is at the forefront of research into lifestyle related risk factors in MS and health outcomes, and the experiences of people who adopt lifestyle modification. Have a listen to hear what’s on the NEU’s research horizon and how it may impact you!
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