Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mediterranean Diet in a Bowl: SuperStew 4.0

Mediterranean Diet in a Bowl: SuperStew 4.0

This is a super filling, super low glycemic index, evidence-based food. It has several ingredients which are proven to be good for diabetics or preventing diabetes. As with all my SuperStews, it’s designed to be a “desert island food,” that is, you wouldn't die if it’s all you ever ate.

3 onions
½ bunch of celery
2 bell peppers
½ lb Jalapenos
2 large cans of diced tomatoes
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
½ lb navy beans
½ lb soybeans
1/8 lb wild rice
1.5 lbs chicken thighs
Montreal steak seasoning
2 cups olive oil
½ lb peanut butter (crunchy, natural)
½ lb almonds (sliced)
½ lb sunflower seeds (shelled)
¼ lb ground flaxseed
2 cups Greek Yogurt
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup molasses

Spices (part 1)
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) black pepper
2 tbsp cayenne
2 tbsp coriander

Spices (part 2)
2 tbsp mustard seed
2 tbsp cumin
½ cup Italian spice

Makes 25 servings.

1. Rinse the beans (navy and soy). Put them in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour.
2. Roughly chop all the veggies except the greens (don’t worry about deseeding the jalapenos… unless you’re a wimp). Put ½ cup of olive oil in the stock pot. Fry on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add coriander, cayenne and black pepper. Fry for another 5-10 minutes (the onions should start to look a little see-through).
3. Add the tomatoes, broth (and/or cubes), remaining oil, and remaining spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Drain the beans. Add to the main pot and mix in.
5. Heat the grill to the high “grill” range. Cover the chicken with copious steak seasoning (yeah, I know, it says “steak” on it; trust me on this one). 5 minutes per side should work if the meat’s not too thick (i.e. you didn’t buy genetically engineered “I can’t walk because I’m so fat, but it doesn't even matter because my cage is too small to stand up in anyways” chickens). Cut into ~1 inch pieces and add to pot. [note: if you don’t have a grill, prepare the chicken however you like, or just add it to the pot at step 3]
5. Add in wild rice and stir. Add water as is necessary to keep it liquid. Simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Add in everything else. Stir.
7. Done! (you can use step 7 as an occasion to put it into Tupperware and/or do the dishes)


The stew has several unique features which I will reference when I have more time (I actually pulled the papers this time). First of all, I want to talk briefly about the fats. It has 40g of fat (eek!) by design (???). In one of the few well-designed randomized trials done on diet, Atkins actually came out on top (beating the Ornish “eat mostly plants” diet and other “intuitive” diets). Surprising I know. Even in terms of cholesterol readings. Even more surprising. This is probably because we all have metabolic syndrome and have way too much sugar/carbs floating around to be good for us. Previous iterations of this stew went partway, incorporating more low glycemic index grains. But this time, I went further. More fats. They fill you up, and improve your cholesterol and health. In a randomized (nonscience people read that “totally believable”) study, adding nuts or olive oil to a diet reduced cardiovascular events by around 30%. You don’t really need the oil for frying purposes, but I’ve told you to add it so that you have more healthy fats: monounsaturated fats in olive oil increase your good cholesterol and decrease you bad. There is also a decent literature on dairy (especially cultured dairy) preventing development of diabetes, so I added yogurt (and Greek yogurt had more protein and less sugar than normal). Flaxseed is good for your heart (Omega 3 fats). Coconut oil is also supposed to be good for you (that’s where a lot of the “saturated fat” is coming from… don’t worry, it’s not bad!). In looking how to cheaply get coconut oil into my stew, I discovered that the oil was hella expensive. But shredded coconut is cheap, and as it turns out, has coconut oil inside (I snuck out of Whole Foods without them knowing I had gotten coconut oil out of the building without losing my shirt). There is a ton of work about how inflammation is bad, and how anti-inflammatory stuff is good, and hence the large amounts of spice (for cheap, high quality spice, try or visit the planet Dune). One bowl of this has 7x what is good for a full day. Stuff that is “anti-inflammatory” tends also to have anti-cancer anti-oxidants. But, alas, inflammation and anti-oxidation is hard to actually measure by science as it’s so variable, so there’s not spectacular evidence to support so heavy a use of spice (at least not in the nutrition section… but the taste is another story). I had done vegetarian versions before, but the grilled chicken wasn’t that expensive, tasted great, and was actually pretty good health-wise. Vinegar has been shown to increase satiety and improve insulin response. The fiber is good (41% of daily value), but has been reduced from prior versions because it generally comes with carbohydrates. Fiber independently is good for your heart, reduces cholesterol and (some research suggests) helps transport the antioxidants down to the colon where they can work to help prevent colon cancer. And, of course, there’s a ton of veggies which are, as your mother said, good for you. I haven’t recalculated for this version, but the original (which had a similar amount of veggies) contained >5 vegetable servings in 2 bowls.

It’s got a good amount of calories, macronutrients, minerals, and all the vitamins except for D and B12. So go outside, see the sun, and eat a steak every once in a while and you’ll be fine.


For a 574 Calorie bowl of stew, the cost is $1.56. Not too shabby. The Dollars Per 1000 Calories (a unit I explain in more detail here) is 2.71. Food Stamps cutoff, that is, the cost where one could actually live on nothing but the food provided by food stamps, is 2.44. Black beans alone come in at 0.9 and a Big Mac is 7.6. My 2.71 number was arrived at by buying most of this at Whole Foods (except the veggies, which I went to my local Mexican supermarket). In other words, I bought things like Run-Around Chickens (i.e. pasture-centric; Whole Foods Grade 4). If you bought the stuff at Costco or a normal grocery store, you’d considerably increase the value (as well as the guilt on your soul :P).


It took about 1 hour to shop and 2 hours to cook (and I doubled the recipe, so ~50 meals) and about 30 minutes cleaning and storing. Not counting the 3 hour literature review (yeah… that’s how I roll. And cook. I both cook and roll via reviews of the primary scientific literature), it took me ~4.2 minutes per meal of cook time. From fridge to microwaved takes another 3 minutes per meal. So for about 7.2 minutes of my time, I can have this super healthy stew that tastes great (for reference, it takes  7.5 minutes to prepare a Hungry Man TV dinner; and yes, I did have to Google that).


Best yet. It’s amazing! I think I am white enough to prefer the Jambalaya-style spices over the Indian-style spices I had been using before. Probably because it’s so fatty, it is, dare I say it, scrumtrulescent. It is spicy (caliente) enough to keep me interested, and the yogurt and maybe vinegar move the taste into the sour axis just slightly, just enough to get interesting. And the grilled chicken was a very, very good decision. As this is what I will literally eat just about every day for a month or more, I am always happy when it turns out J. Enjoy!

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