Healthy(ish) Home Fries

I love potatoes – mashed, baked and especially fried.  Fried potatoes (chips, French fries, hashbrowns) are my weakness.  I love them all!! They are also vegan and gluten-free (I know that saying this amounts to saying that the tomato sauce on my pizza counts as a serving of vegetables…  Cut me some slack…)

But alas, they are not the healthiest of side dishes.  High on the glycemic index, loaded with sodium and double-fried in beef tallow or peanut oil, regular consumption of these delights may bring us one step closer to our graves.  And, what with the many experiments that have been done on restaurant fries, apparently some fries don’t even rot.  But how do you say no to something that tastes so good?

The answer: you don’t.  You just make fries that work for you.

Thus began my quest to make my favourite food healthier.  I wanted something that I could cook now and freeze for later.  I wanted something that actually tasted like potatoes and, most importantly, tasted good.  I thought that if I switched the oil for a healthier alternative and baked instead of doing a second-fry, I would still get fries that are crispy, without the extra salt.

This recipe uses coconut oil.  Coconut oil has been shown to be used by the body as an energy source and not a fat source.  It is ketogenic, good for your thyroid, raises your metabolism and has a host of other health benefits.  It also has a high heat or smoke point, which makes it great for frying.  However, it is still a saturated fat and it is still oil, so it should still be used sparingly.  Luckily for us, most of the oil will remain, even after frying.  In other words, the fries will not “soak up” all of the oil.

Restaurant fries are typically fried twice.  The first fry is to cook the potato, and the second fry is to make them crispy.  In this recipe, I have fried the potatoes but eliminated the second fry.  Instead, the fries are finished off in the oven, or can be frozen after the first fry and then baked at a later date.

Since I don’t have a deep-fryer (I don’t have space for any more small appliances!) I used a large saucepan/pot instead.

I humbly believe that I have perfected the art of making healthy French fries.  If you know your French fries like I do, you know that there is a difference between restaurant fries and homemade fries, the latter tasting much better and being much better for you.  It can be safely guaranteed that once you make this batch, you will be less inclined to settle for their fattier cousins peddled by fast-food joints.

Ingredients

4 russet potatoes

1 ½ cups coconut oil

Candy thermometer

Strainer scoop or long handled spoon

Paper towel to soak up excess oil

Ketchup, salt and/or black pepper and/or dried herbs mixture (majoram, terragon, basil) to taste (optional)

  1. Wash and slice the potatoes according to desired thickness.  I don’t peel my potatoes.  I just wash them well.  The skin has all of the nutrients, but you can peel your potatoes if you want to.  Put the sliced potatoes in a large bowl and cover with cold water.  Place the bowl in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.  This process removes excess starch from the potatoes.
  2. The next day, drain the water out of the bowl.  Fill a large saucepan or pot with the coconut oil (there should be at least an inch of oil).  Turn the stove on high, and wait until the oil reaches a temperature of 350 degrees F.
  3. Dry the potatoes with paper towel or a cloth towel (this is important.  If the potatoes go into the oil wet, the hot oil will splatter, creating a hazard)
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  5. Once the oil has reached 350 degrees F, slowly pour the dried sliced potatoes into the hot oil.  The temperature will drop, but that is okay.  As the fries begin to cook, the temperature will rise.  Let the fries cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.
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  7. Line a bowl with paper towel to drain the excess oil once the fries have been cooked.
  8. When the 8 minutes have elapsed, scoop out the fries and place them in the lined bowl.  The fries should have a golden brown look to them (i.e. they should look cooked/they should look like fries).   Let the fries cool.
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  10. Let the remainder of the oil in the pot cool before you dispose of it.  You can google ways to dispose of your oil.  You can even reuse it (for additional cooking, for another batch of fries, etc.).  It is not a good idea to pour oil down the drain.
  11. Once the fries have cooled, put individual portions in large freezer bags (trying to have them lie flat in the bag) and freeze for usage at a later date.  If you are hungry and can’t wait and decide to eat them now, you don’t have to wait for the fries to cool, but rather grease a baking sheet or fibre glass grilling sheet and spread the fries out flat.  Bake for 10 mins at 350 degrees F.
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  13. Serve with ketchup, season with salt or pepper (to taste), or toss with dried herbs.
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There you have it – restaurant style fries in the comfort of your own home. 🙂


Reflecting on Vegan Privilege

On my bookshelf, I have a book that I’ve been meaning to read called Kisses From Katie.  It’s about a 18 year old who left her comfortable upbringing in the United States and went to Uganda, adopting thirteen children and establishing a ministry that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them about Jesus.  Her story (although I haven’t yet read it) seems similar to that of Maggie Doyne, a 23 year old mother of 30 formerly orphaned children in Nepal.  Although watching the video evoked many thoughts and much introspection, I couldn’t help but think about how I would survive if I were living in Nepal.  When I saw the little boy holding the goat, the first thought that came to my mind was, “What would I eat if I were there?”  I suppose my life would consist of eating all of the edible plants that I could get my hands on, and seasoning them with… salt I guess?  Not a very appetizing prospect.  And what would I do about my protein source?  Where would I find nuts and beans?  Then it hit me.  It’s a privilege to think this way.  It’s a privilege to eat the way that I do.  It’s a privilege to be vegan.

We often hear about white privilege and male privilege and heterosexual privilege and American privilege, but we don’t talk about vegan privilege.  Because that’s what it is – a privilege – a privilege denied to most and afforded and affordable to but a few.

It’s a privilege to be able to shop for pricier food at Whole Foods or your local natural health food store.  It’s a privilege to have the choice not to eat meat since, in many parts of the world, meat is a necessary and accessible staple in one’s diet.  It’s a privilege to have a “seasoning cabinet” like I do, to choose between Herbamare or kosher sea salt or Himalayan sea salt or iodized table salt.

It’s a privilege to have such a wide variety of food to choose from when I go into a grocery or health food store.  It’s a privilege to live somewhere where I can easily have a special diet.  One of my good friends is a vegetarian, and when she went to Nigeria for a wedding, she had to live off of rice, plantain and cassava.  That’s all that they could offer to a vegetarian.  Being vegan or vegetarian is simply not an option in many places.

It’s a privilege to live in a large city with health food stores within walking distance.

It’s a privilege to have the choice not to buy animal based clothing or use honey.

It’s a privilege to be able to afford my lifestyle.

Eating healthily (gluten-free, organic, locally sourced and/or in season) is, for the most part, expensive.   Ever notice the placement of these health food stores?  They are usually located in the downtown area, near to educated, financially well-off professionals and educated (and sometimes or somewhat radical) university students on campuses with their own food co-ops and vegan-friendly restaurants.  That’s their clientele.  The only Whole Foods in Toronto is in the Bloor-Yorkville area on Avenue Rd – the most expensive residential area in the entire city and one of Canada’s most exclusive shopping districts, close to the financial heart of Canada (update June 2015 — they now have one at Yonge and Sheppard in another affluent area of North York).  On the contrary, there are very few health food stores in Scarborough (where I’m from) – a Torontonian borough filled with low-income and middle-income immigrant populations and humble townhouses in the suburbs.

Maybe it’s just me, but health food stores do not have sales very often.  Or maybe it’s not me.  A Big Mac costs less than one of my favorite burgers at a vegan restaurant.  Lays chips are cheaper than Kettle chips.  A Swanson meal is more “time efficient” than making a brown rice, vegetables and tempeh stir-fry.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) is sad and it is killing us but it sadly becomes a viable option if we are hard-pressed financially.  If we compare apples to apples here, we soon realize that although one of the apples may not be the best for us, it is more readily accessible.  I remember what my mom told me one time: “I would go vegan, but it’s too expensive.”  Maybe it was my fallible witness – I don’t know.  But I do know that to eat the way I do is just not feasible for low-income families in Canada or in Nepal or in many other places in the world.  Some people don’t have the opportunity to think about whether or not food is organic.  Rather, they wonder whether buying bread means that they cannot buy milk this week.  Some of us ask, “Is it gluten-free?” while many others have to ask, “Is it free?”

These are just my thoughts.

We should think more about this before we go zealously foisting our eating habits on others (something that many vegans need to stop doing), turning veganism into a cult, acting as if there are tenets to which one should vehemently adhere, and shunning (or, at least looking contemptuously onto) those who do not comply.

I am truly happy with the way that I eat and what I eat, but I must never take my prerogative for granted.


What Did I Do For My Body Today? Make a Satisfying Stir-Fry!

Hello peeps!

It seems like feeding myself is an after-thought nowadays.  When I’m hungry, I’m hungry, so I grab whatever is closest and seems healthy-ish and eat it, almost as if to say, “Here you go stomach.  Now, shut up.”   That’s not the kind of relationship I should be having with my body.

A reaction to a work situation (in which I started crying spontaneously) has really reminded me that I need to listen to my body and what it is telling me.  If I’m so upset that I have a physical reaction to a situation, I need to stop and assess what is going on instead of ignoring my body and ploughing through.  Our bodies are excellent indicators of our physical and emotional well being.

I want to be well, but lately I feel like I’ve been neglecting some aspect(s) in my mind, body, spirit trifecta.

I’ve thus come up with questions that I have decided to ask myself and answer each day in my journal.  Maybe they will help guide some of you all on your journeys to wellness:

  • What did I do for my mind today?
  • What did I do for my spirit today?
  • What did I do for my body today?
  • What am I worried about? (Whatever it is, let go!)
  • What am I thankful for?
  • I’m realizing that these questions are somewhat self-centered.  I would also add: “Who did I bless today?”
  • “Did I do something today that will bring me closer to my dreams/goals?”

So, seven questions.  I like the number seven.  Seven is the number of completion and perfection. 🙂

I admit — I didn’t do much for my mind today.  I had my morning devotional so I did do something for my spirit.  And as for my body?  Although I didn’t make it to the gym today (but I will go to Zumba tomorrow), this is what I did for my body:

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It’s a recipe I found on Vega’s My Thrive Kitchen.  You all should check it out!

Keep well! ❤