Akronist editor Chris Miller told me he can’t stand onions. He can’t do them at all. Like, he’ll barf in my face if I push onions on him any more than I already have.
And he has invited me, Working Class Vegan Man, to his house, to go through his kitchen cabinets, to take him to the grocery store, and to cook up a healthy and tasty dinner.
“Whoa, no onions,” I think to myself. The challenge is ON for Working Class Vegan Man.
Many dishes I prepare start with caramelizing some onions. They just help add some complexity to the flavor of the dish. Think beautifully sweet, crisp onions mixed with rice, lentils and hummus. I mean, geez, what’s better?
Well, if you’re Chris Miller, there’s a lot better. Like beer.
So we crack one open.
With Jim Donovan and Doug Dieken straining to keep upbeat in the background, Chris and I set forth on turning the stuff we just bought during our grocery visit into something delicious and healthy.
Earlier in the day, before the Browns had even taken the field, Chris and I looked through his cupboards and refrigerator, talking about what to keep and what to toss.
I wasn’t rudely rummaging through his kitchen like a surprise visit from a mother-in-law. Chris had invited me over with the intention of learning about healthier eating options.
We talked about his strong breakfast of oatmeal and blueberries (totally top-notch). He loves a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch (and I can’t blame him). Local honey, by the way is a great alternative to sugar. Though we worked a bit with the sugary peanut butter, these were some good choices that worked for Chris.
And then there’s the sugar.
Chris and I talked about his love of sweets and the stress of working here, and there, and nearly everywhere in Akron. (Stress has that crap tendency of making us eat sugary, fatty, empty calories.)
We talk a little about how some sweeteners are better than others and how sugar (or some incarnation of sugar) gets sneaked into lots of packaged products. We consume, both knowingly and unknowingly, loads of sugar. We eat sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup and dextrose and maltose and so gross.
An easy way of avoiding all that sugar is to prepare dishes at home. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat sweets, it just means you get to control the amount and the sweetener. You have the power, like He-Man. So, if you’re making an apple crumble, you can use maple syrup instead of bleached sugar—a much better gamble against diabetes.
There are also those natural sugars in fruits that the body appreciates. For example, freeze some ripe bananas, so that you can later mix ‘em in the blender with some peanut butter. Scoop that yum into a bowl and sprinkle with some dark chocolate bits.
So, what about a main dish?
In the spring, Chris welcomed me onto his podcast Spoils of Akron. During that conversation, he mentioned how he felt inspired during one of our earlier conversations to try lentils. And he liked ‘em.
Health-centric lentils.Tummy-filling, energy-powering lentils.* Pretty earthy stuff, but if you’re like me, you dig that taste, but if you’re not like me, they’ll need a little umph—I’ll save that story for another time.
We decided to shop for and cook a dish with a lentils and rice base.
After looking through Chris’ kitchen, we ventured off to Chris’ preferred grocery.
For those of you who don’t know, Aldi offers some great organic and fair trade options, but you can never be too sure what organic and fair trade options will be available.
Will they have organic chickpeas? Will they have organic eggs? Will they have organic pimento loaf (no)?
So, we winged it. Would mushrooms go well with our lentils and rice? Probably. Toss ‘em in the cart. Cauliflower? Toss it in the cart. Zucchini? Yes. Acorn squash? Yes. Onion? No.
We talked a little bit about some of our options, spending a lot of time with the bread for his PB sandwiches, looking over the ingredients, making sure that there were few ingredients and that the list of ingredients started with whole wheat flour and that those ingredients were pronounceable.
I took the time to explain how quinoa is a complete protein, like roast beef, but without the fatty calories. And we also found the most cost-effective and healthiest chips option for the hummus we would later make.
Back in Chris’ kitchen, we got the rice and lentils rolling before turning to the hummus—we needed a snack with our beer.
While cooking, we talked. “What about time,” I asked, my mouth full of hummus.
Chris, like many of us, constantly finds himself on the move. He’s running around, rushing to a meeting, and racing to catch a new awesome Akron story.
That leaves little time for health-conscious decisions.
Damn that time. It seems destined to kill us.
But, time is manipulative.Take control of your time, rather than the other way around. When you have a moment for the kitchen, cook large portions that can be proportioned out during the week or for lunch. (It doesn’t take any longer to make a double-batch of chili.)
When we sat down to eat, serenaded by Jim and Doug on the radio, we enjoyed a table of baked acorn squash and our lentil mixture. We ate and drank and talked about how we might change this or that about our food.
The great thing about trying new dishes is to think about what you might change or what would be great with it.
Chris decided that Not Yo’ Daddy’s Mexican Hot Sauce would be a nice addition, and he was right. We also found that mixing the hummus into the rice and lentils made for a fuller flavor.
In a later post on my website, I’ll provide some quick and easy ways to jazz up your dishes without killing yourself.
The whole point of the day was to learn, learn about healthier options. The point was not to change Chris’ behavior. Each person has different tastes and different lifestyles, and it’s my job to work with you where you’re at. If you like sweets, I can work with that. If you like slabs of beef, I can work with that. If you like beer, well . . .
There are some pretty simple adjustments you can make to your meals that will greatly help your energy. It just takes a little commitment.
So, when you’re ready, give me a call. I don’t judge, I only inform and suggest. If it’s just you who wants to hang, that’s fine. If it’s a group of you and your buds, that’s fine. If it’s an entire office, that’s fine. I’m here to spread the health.
For info on having a VIP experience, visit www.workingclassveganman.com.
*By the way, lentils, like quinoa, will sprout tails. In this sprouted state, their protein power is power-wower special. So, they might look like wormy disgustingness, but the sprouted lentil stands a better chance of helping you to beat up that dude who took your girl.