My reliable travel companion: A mini rice cooker!

One thing that I learned from Chef AJ is that you won’t find healthy food everywhere (or in the case of a WFPB SOS-free diet: anywhere). That means that we have to plan ahead in order to enjoy healthy food during our much-deserved holidays. Now I know that some people bring their Instant Pot with them, but for me, that’s just not an option. I only travel with a carry-on and never (ever!) check in a bag, no matter where I go (traumatic event when a European airline lost a bag of ours). So I needed something smaller that still allowed me to make rice, steam vegetables, cook applesauce etc. I immediately thought about a rice cooker, but they’re usually made from glass and metal, which obviously doesn’t make them an ideal travel companion. But then I found the perfect solution: a mini rice cooker!

I bought this one on the Korean e-commerce site “GMarket“, which is remarkably similar to eBay (and is, in fact, owned by eBay). Keep in mind that this one is 220V, so it will not work in countries that have 110V (like the US). There is, however, an orange version of this rice cooker that is suitable for 110V operations.

Mini Rice Cooker

So this is my mini rice cooker, made by the Korean brand 키친아트 (if you read Korean you will agree just how funny this name is). And since it is Korean, the manual and all the stickers are in Korean, as well:
Korean labels on the rice cookerTo compare the size: this is the rice cooker next to a standard IKEA glass jar, a small Vitamix container and inside a standard-sized carry-on bag:

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As you can see, it is small. The downside of that is, of course, that it can only make about 1.5 to 2 cups worth of rice at a time. That’s not an issue, however, if you are like me and eat multiple times a day, anyways.

So what can you use a rice cooker for when traveling?

Make rice

Obviously. I do like rice made in the rice cooker better than rice made in the Instant Pot, but that might just be my personal preference. I still use my Instant Pot when making huge batches of rice which I freeze.

Make other grains

You can make any other grain in the rice cooker, you just have to be careful with grains that contain a high amount of saponins and will thus produce a huge amount of foam that could make the rice cooker overcook (Quinoa is the best example). These can still be made in the rice cooker if you leave the lid off.

Steam vegetables

Zucchini, broccoli, carrots, onions: you name it! Just fill the rice cooker to the brim, add a few tablespoons of tap water and off you go!

Make small servings of soup

After having steamed your vegetables, you can easily add some water and condiments to make your own soup.

Make applesauce and other fruit purees 

This is what I like to do in the evenings. I chop some apples, add a few dashes of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of water and 15 minutes later I have the most delicious dessert.

Make warm oatmeal

When travelling, I always bring my own breakfast: oatmeal portioned in separate zip lock bags, one for each day (yes, for a 7-day holiday that means I’ll be taking seven bags). I usually eat it cold by just adding tap water (or one of those small soy milk cartons if I’m that adventurous), but on some days, I just want something warm. In that case, I place the oatmeal and water in the rice cooker and cook it (without the lid), stirring a couple of times.

 

This 50€ investment has made travelling and eating healthy so much easier for me. I do not have to worry what I will eat, as I can easily make my own food without having to schlep my somewhat clunky Instant Pot around.

Do you have any accessories and appliances that you take everywhere?

What is the KonMari Method and Why Do I Love It?

In my last post on minimalism, I described an organisational system that I really enjoy and that helps me to keep my home clutter-free and that’s the KonMari Method. The KonMari Method was developed by Japanese tidying consultant Marie Kondo, so the word KonMari is actually a portmanteau of her last and first name. Pretty clever, huh?

According to Kondo (or KonMari-san, as fellow countrymen call her), the main reason why our homes are cluttered (yes, I’m pointing at your bedroom drawer right now!) is that we do not know how many items of one category we own because they are everywhere – our belongings do not have a home, a fixed place where we put them all the time.
So her solution is that we tidy once and forever as a “special occasion” [I actually pretended that I was on a week-long tidying festivity, and yes, I did have cake to commemorate the occasion!]. We should go through our home and tidy in categories rather than locations and go about in a fixed order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and mementos. We are to pile the contents of each and every category on the floor to get a grasp of just how much stuff we actually possess. After that, we hold each item in our hands and ask ourselves a ridiculously simple question:

“Does it spark joy?”.

If it does spark joy – we keep it, if it doesn’t – we toss it. It’s so simple. When starting this process, it might be a bit hard to understand and feel what this actually means, but trust me – you will get better at it. Joy is indeed a feeling and, therefore, it is really vital to make physical contact with the respective item – looking at it is simply not enough.

After we have removed all those items that do not spark joy from our lives, the fun begins and that is her unique storage method. Her storage method does not require you to buy expensive and fancy storage solutions, all you really need are some old (shoe) boxed that you probably have already. The idea is to store items compact, upright and in a defined space (hence the shoe box). Clothes are folded so that they are able to stand upright on their own. Believe me, once you will have brought a very flimsy T-shirt to stand on its own, it will be like you’ve taken heroin!
The reason for storing items this was is that you can see the content of a box with a single glance – no more piles of shirts that you have forgotten even exist.

In the kitchen, this looks approximately like this:

Spice drawer

So this is just my spice drawer. See how everything (except for those two jars with the green lids) is in boxes? The large white box that you see on the left is actually from my MacBook Pro, the brownish box on the right is the bottom of the box of my rice cooker, the other white box is from my iPad – pretty clever, right? Also, notice how there is still some space in the drawer, even though there is actually a lot in it!

Glasses and Teas drawerThese are all of my teas and glasses, all of which are in separate shoe boxes.

Below the stoveBelow my stove are some baking supplies: baking sheets, aluminum foil, cling foil, my Potato Express…

*That* drawer under the sink that everybody hates

This is the space that I dreaded cleaning the most: the drawer under the sink where all of the cables and tubes go. I have transformed this space to contain *all* of our cleaning supplies: everything from detergents and dish soaps to bags and cloths is here.

CupboardOn the other side of the kitchen, I keep our Tupperware and baking dishes…

Electronic Appliances… and right underneath we keep appliances and tools (see the hammer in the back?).

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The rest of the kitchen is just devoted to storing food in various ways.

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So what is the benefit of having a kitchen like this? If you follow a WFPB diet, you absolutely HAVE TO COOK. As soon as we accept the fact that it is not realistically possible to eat out all the time (at least for most of us), we have to make most of our meals from scratch if we want to eat health-promoting food. But that is only possible when you associate cooking with fun and it does not become a nuisance because your kitchen is cluttered, you keep forgetting where you put things etc. The KonMari method has helped me to permanently achieve the following overall look of my kitchen:

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Now isn’t that a fun environment to cook in? Notice that the only items that I keep on the kitchen surface is my Instant Pot, Dehydrator, Kettle, some basic cooking utensils, plants and vegetables. In short, stuff that I cannot put away because it’s too bulky or stuff that doesn’t want to be put away.

You’re probably asking yourself how much time it takes me to return to this state. I think it’s vitally important to “reset” our home in the evening back to its original state. This involves putting away the stuff that we used, cleaning plates or putting them in the dishwasher etc. The reason why this is so important is that we want to begin our days light-hearted (= not having to think about the junkyard that we call home) and end them with a feeling that everything is tidy and in order and that we don’t have to tidy first thing in the morning.
How long does it take me to accomplish that? 10-15 minutes for the kitchen, 3 minutes for the bathroom, 5 minutes for the living room, 7 minutes for the bedroom and 1 minute for the hall, if all rooms are messy, which most of the times isn’t the case. But even in this worst-case scenario, it takes me 31 minutes to tidy the entire apartment. Pretty cool, huh? The added benefit is, of course, that I have more time to do things that I actually like. And tidying doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore.

In the end, only the KonMari Method was able to help me maintain a living environment that I thoroughly enjoy and that I can truly call my home.

Check out Marie Kondos books and lectures to get started. It’s so worth it!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
——> Audiobook on YouTube for free!

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Marie Kondo talk in NYC

KonMarie Home Tour

 

 

 

Why I avoid ALL oils

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People always ask me the same question over and over again:

“Why do you think of oils as dangerous junk?”.

It always amazed me how people can come to the realization that oils (especially olive oil) have some health-promoting properties when in the reality the exact opposite is the case. But I understand that people can only make decisions based on the knowledge that they possess at any given time. And unfortunately, most of our “knowledge” in terms of nutrition is outdated at best and simply wrong at worst. I’m not being judgmental here, as I thought just the same nonsense not even two years ago!

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the reasons why one should ditch the oil for good, but is rather a starting point for one’s journey into the whole-foods world.
So here are my Top Five reasons why one should avoid any kind of oil.

Calories

Oils are the most calorically dense foods on this planet– each gram of oil contains 9kcal. Carbohydrates and Protein contain just 4. When you add two tablespoons to your salad (about 20-30g), that’s 180-270 extra calories that go directly onto your hips. That’s also the same amount of calories as in 1/2 cup premium ice cream, so calorically speaking, you’re putting ice cream on your salad, as Dr. Jeff Novick so famously said.

Oils have virtually no nutrients. It’s got no fibre, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, antioxidants and so forth. It’s essentially a highly processed junk food that’s essentially completely devoid of any nutrients.

Even if oils really have some magic properties, they would be present in the whole food form as well- and you would be getting those fibres, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, antioxidants etc.

Satiety Index and excess fat

Oils and all other highly processed junk foods are very, very low on the satiety index. That means that consuming oils does not lead to a feeling of satiety. It is not filling.
Therefore, it’s tremendously easy to overeat on oils. And remember: THE FAT YOU EAT IS THE FAT YOU WEAR. Lose the fat, lose the weight. It’s that easy.

The “Mediterranean Diet”

The consumption of oils (especially olive oil) is often justified with a swift reference to the “Mediterranean Study” which supposedly shows that olive oil lowers cholesterol and that we should therefore consume a “Mediterranean Diet”.

Let me be clear here: I study geography and we geographers always like to exactly say  what space we’re talking about. So here’s a map of the Mediterranean Sea, taken from OpenStreetMap.org.

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The following countries border the Mediterranean Sea (starting with France, Adriatic countries included): France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain and Malta.

In total, 21 countries border the Mediterranean Sea. This makes a term like the “Mediterranean Diet” utterly ridiculous. The diet of Israelis is different from that of Frenchmen.  The “Mediterranean Diet” is thus a vague, unscientific term.

All studies which compare a “Mediterranean Diet” (whatever that is) to a “low-fat diet” (whatever that is) suffer from some key flaws:
a) They compare a diet which is high in fat to one which is high in fat. In one study, for instance, total fat consumption in the “low-fat” group chanced from 39% to 37%. That is NOT what most people would look upon as a low-fat diet! It is, indeed, very high in fat. A truly low fat diet consists of 10% fat at most.
b) Some studies assume that because replacing animal fats (butter, lard etc.) with olive oil results in a lower HDL-level, olive oil must have some magic cholesterol-lowering properties. That is just not the case. Of course the HDL-level decreases when you stop consuming dietary cholesterol, but there is no reason to believe that olive oil had anything to do with that.

Endothelial Health

Now let’s get into the science. The science says that even one drop of oil injures your endothelium. The endothelium is the inner lining of your arteries, which is vital for proper blood flow.  Endothelial cells produce a gas know as nitric oxide, which causes our blood vessels to properly widen and inhibits the building of plaques and inflammation. When that one cell layer is destroyed, plaques can form freely and you’ll eventually have a heart attack. As Dr. Esselstyn says: 

“The truth be known coronary artery disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never exist and if it does exist it need never progress.”

If you stop to injure your endothelium by stopping the consumption of all oils and all animal products, your endothelium starts to heal. All oil injures endothelial cells.

 

Oils and high-fat foods lead to diabetes
This experiment sums up pretty well why oils primarily cause diabetes – not carbohydrates!


Do I need to say more?