Nutrition Over Lunch

I thoroughly enjoyed the brief nutrition component of the Foundations course today. How often can you say, “I go to medical school. And cooking is homework. Class time IS tummy filling time.”  I will admit, I love fine food and dining, cooking, and those wonderful restaurant excursions back in Manhattan. I sound like such a fatty, speaking I love Artichoke Pizza, Halal falafel over rice, ice cream sundaes, Subway footlongs, Insomnia cookies, Red Mango fro-yo, St. Mark’s Japanese cuisine, Momofuku desserts, and much much more. I cannot get enough of Food Network; here’s a snippet of my idols: Giada de Laurentiis, Martin Yan, Mario Batali, Morimoto, and Bobby Flay. I peruse recipes more than my Histology primers on a daily basis. Plus, I used to be vegetarian during college, so I am accustomed to eating a variety of vegetables and studying nutrition labels. I’ve also been told I have perfectly-aligned horse teeth; I swear, canines do not exist in my mouth. As I reminisce about food (and getting hungry again), I think about my traditional Asian family, where home-cooked meals have been the norm. Coming home to the sweet aroma of soy sauce, spices and MSG (kidding) has infused in me a passion to be a domestic chef AND doctor.

Today I prepared an Italian pasta dish off, Angel Hair Pasta with Tofu and Ricotta. I used the basic recipe as a foundation, then I made it my own. I incorporated whole wheat spaghetti pasta with fresh bell peppers and tofu. I used organic tomato soup as a base with the lowfat ricotta cheese, in addition to Italian seasoning and oregano. To top off the dish, I added a little Parmesan cheese for kicks and cashew nuts for some crunch and chew. It is a well-balanced, flavorful dish with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and low sodium. I liked how this dish utilized tofu, a traditionally Asian commodity. It’s vegetarian, packed with protein, and very versatile.

I learned today that tofu and beans contain phytoestrogen, which can dampen hormone effects and cancerous growths, and particularly help post-menopausal women. Even though soy is good for the body, I should limit processed soy. If only I knew this earlier, I would not have went on a Trader Joe’s spree for 3 years in college.  During my stint at NYU, I thought it was healthier to have meat substitutes that were lower in calories and fat content. I bought all these DELICIOUS Veggie Masala burgers, Soy Nuggets, Meatless Meatballs, and soy cheese from Trader Joe’s, which were all very heavenly. It is okay to eat natural soy though, like soy and edamame, but not the processed soy and meat substitutes. Surprisingly, I’m a terrible Asian, because I am blessed to have a soy allergy, to a slight degree. For instance, I have a reaction against soy milk, so I cannot consume more than half a cup. If I do, I feel my throat closing up and red bumps start popping out around my mouth. When I nibble on too many edamame beans in the fuzzy pods, same thing happens, but not as drastic. Even when my mom makes this amazing silken tofu and vegetables, I have a capping point before I blow up like a pufferfish. Now, I learned to limit these ‘soy substitutes,’ which is not too hard because I’m not vegetarian anymore. I missed the real deal, and my Asian roots were calling back to me to eat meat. If I do go back to vegetarianism, I’ll have to incorporate more beans, chickpeas and tofu instead. Right now, I’m stuck somewhere in the middle: should I stick to meats or should I go back to being an herbivore?

If only I didn't have such a major inflammatory response...

... I wouldn't look like this

I liked the family style gathering we had. I had a taste of other people’s specialities: cous-cous salad, falafel balls in salad, edamame hummus, vegetable stew, Indian basmati rice dish, peanut pad thai, and cucumber-tomato-chickpea-feta salad.  Now, I would like to play around with new ingredients, such as cous-cous, Suzie’s rice cakes with vegetable mixes, and homemade edamame hummus. Cooking is like a science experiment. Have fun with it and try new things. Just don’t bust the kitchen in the process, like bursting the organic lab into flames after cooking ethanol on the hot plate. It’s happened. Time to branch out of the Chinese noodles-Korean gimbap-Japanese sushi roll-Italian cheese & pasta-addiction and try new and successful things.

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