As we approach Fat Tuesday, I thought you would like my Vegan variations on some NOLA classics. Over the 28 years of owning and cooking at Allyn’s I calculate we have made 250,000 entrees of Jambalaya. A quarter of a million is a big number for one item at the restaurant. When I went vegan six years ago, I worked on making the plant-based versions of some of our classics. Here are two Cajun Vegan specialties that you can whip up from my book, Later Gator. We serve the Vegan Jambalaya at Allyn’s and I will introduce the Red Beans, Rice and Vegan Sausage soon. I hope you enjoy them!
Olive oil, 2 tbsp
Minced garlic, 2 tbsp
Yellow onion, one diced
Pepper (green or red), one diced
Vegan chicken strips, 1 package (10 oz)
Mexican Chipotle (Field Blend) Sausages, four sliced
Crushed tomatoes, 25 oz can
Lundberg Wild Blend Rice, 2 cups
Water, 4 cups
Not Chick'n Bouillon cubes, 2
Marjoram, ½ tbsp
Cayenne pepper, ½ tsp (be careful not to add too much)
Joe’s Stuff, 1 tbsp (optional, available from the New Orleans School of cooking online)
Cook for an additional few minutes if needed. Remove the pot from the heat and serve. Cool any remaining jambalaya and save it for leftovers. It heats up very easily and tastes just as good the second time around.
In my quest to do more Cajun recipes, I also came up with a great red beans, rice and vegan sausage recipe. Normally all you do is replace the real meat with a vegan substitute, and they get easier to find all the time. This recipe like the real red beans and rice alternative requires it to simmer for several hours. So, I will usually start it in the late morning for a dinner delight.
Vegan Red Beans and Rice with Vegan Sausage
Olive oil, 2 tbsp
Minced garlic, 2 tbsp
Yellow onion, one diced
Peppers, two (green and red) diced
Mexican Chipotle (Field Blend) Sausages, four sliced
Red beans, 6 drained and rinsed cans (12 oz each)
Water, 4 cups
Not Chick'n Bouillon cubes, two
Marjoram, ½ tbsp
Cayenne pepper, ½ tsp (be careful not to add too much)
Sugar, 1 tbsp
Bay leaves, 1 or 2
Brown rice or Lundgrens Wild rice, 2 cups
Water, 3½ cups
I hope you enjoy my variations on New Orleans classics. You can make some really delicious Vegan variations on most of the classics and they are much lower in fat and cholesterol than the originals and have the same amount of protein. Let me know if you like these or if you had any trouble making them.
Here are some recipes from my Book, Later Gator. I think it’s appropriate to make something special for the one you love, and this will be a big hit on Valentines Day.
Vegan Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Chocolate Crust
Makes one cake
I originally bought this cheesecake from our vegan friend Jenny Houser. She has a big sweet tooth. Jenny is so active, I think she needs the sweets to keep her energy charged — kind of like a hummingbird needs to sip the nectar from flowers to keep its wings going a zillion miles an hour. She gave me the recipe so that I could start making it at home or in the restaurant. It's always a good sign when customers or friends want to know what's in it because it tastes like the real thing.
Tofutti Cream Cheese, 3 containers
Tofutti Sour Cream, 1 cup
Non-GMO silken or soft tofu, ½ cup
vegan graham crackers, 4 cups (after putting in food processor)
Earth Balance Organic Vegan Buttery Spread, 1/2 cup
Organic ground flaxseed meal, 2 tbsp
Pure vanilla extract, 1 tbsp
Organic cane sugar, ¾ cup
Lemon, one half juice only
Vegan non-GMO semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, ½ cup
Strawberries or blueberries for garnish
Put the graham crackers into a food processor and blend them until they are finely ground. Put the graham crumbs into a medium mixing bowl. In a microwave melt, but don't heat, ¾ of a cup of Earth Balance Buttery Blend (30 seconds.) Add the melted Earth Balance to the graham crackers and mix it together with a fork. Add the mini chocolate chips and continue to mix so that it has a consistent and even texture.
Grease a springform cake pan with additional Earth Balance Buttery Blend sparingly. (A springform pan has a clip that will allow you to take the side of the pan off when the cake has cooled.) Pour the contents of the crust mixture into the springform pan and make an even layer of graham cracker along the bottom and then a ridge along the interior pan about an inch high. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, add the Tofutti cream cheese, Tofutti sour cream, silken tofu, flaxseed meal, organic sugar, pure vanilla extract, and the juice of a half lemon. Blend this mixture for about four or five minutes. Pour the filling into the cake pan and even out the top out with a spatula. I will also tap the pan lightly on the kitchen counter to help even out the mixture. Next put the cake in the oven on top of a cookie sheet. This is important in case the buttery spread leaks out of the bottom of the springform pan (which could cause a fire).
Bake it for about 50 minutes and check. Once the top of the cake has baked evenly and has a slightly light brown hue, it's done. In my oven it is exactly one hour. Let the vegan cheesecake sit on top of a counter top for about 45 minutes and then place it in a refrigerator for it to completely cool. I generally wait a total of four hours before I slice into the cake. Serve the dessert on a large or small plate with a fruit garnish, like fresh strawberries or blueberries.
Allyn's Energy Balls
Makes twelve balls
I am not a big sweets person, which is probably good. It seems that if I start eating sweet things, I want more. My energy balls are sweet, but they are so filling that you only want one or two. These are great for the sweet cravings we all get at times.
Organic oatmeal, 1½ cup
Flaxseed meal, ½ cup
Organic pure maple syrup, ⅓ cup
Honey, 3 tbsp (honey is not vegan: remember, it comes from bees) you can skip this and add a little more maple syrup
Pure vanilla extract, 1 tsp
Vegan chocolate chips, 3 tbsp
Sun butter, ½ cup of (we don't like the organic as much, but you can use that also)
Coconut flakes, 2 tbsp
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and blend with a spatula until you have a consistent mixture. Refrigerate the mixture until it is cold. This makes it easier to form into balls. Make the mixture into golf ball size balls and keep them refrigerated. Eat as a dessert, snack, or quick pick me up.
Please let me know how you like my desserts and have a wonderful Valentines Day.
If you didn’t read my last blog this won’t make much sense, so I suggest you look back on it. I’m learning that health may be a state of mind. You have heard of the placebo effect, when patients are given medicine that they think will cure them but it’s only sugar water or salt water. Their bodies sometimes heal, or they get better and react as if it was medicine. The mind is powerful, and we still are only beginning to understand it. Visualization is a technique we can use to comprehend our well-being. I must admit that I am a beginner at this but through meditation it may be possible to learn more about the human spirit and perhaps even what ails us.
I listened to a lecture by Bernie Siegel MD called Master the art of living. One point, of many he made, was you can make the invisible visible through drawing. Many times, he would ask patients to draw a picture of themselves. Their inner consciousness brought things to their drawings that he often was able to interpret and diagnose from deep down in the body and soul. At least that’s what I understood from his statements. I wanted to make a quest to find out what was deep down in my mind and Taryn Toomey may have given me the blueprint.
In my last blog, I couldn’t wait to go running the day after my profound experience with Taryn Toomey’s ‘The Class.’ During ‘The Class’ in deep meditation, I had found this dark Spiky Ball in the middle of my mind’s eye that could be the culmination of years of negative thoughts, bad experiences and something holding me back from my potential. I needed that Fire that Toomey was talking about to get rid of it. I had an anxious excitement prior to my four-and-a-half-mile run.
I started the next day on a cool winter afternoon, in Mount Lookout, Cincinnati, and followed the protocol from Toomey, or at least my version of it. I cleared my mind and let my arms fall by my side, shook my hands out as I loosened up for the first half mile or so. I focused on my heart and breathing. Out of the blue I thought of a documentary called DMT: The Spirit Molecule, (Gravitas Ventures 2011, Director Mitch Schultz) According to the documentary ‘Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring psychoactive compound, which exists in humans and potentially every living organism.’
It’s also a powerful psychedelic narcotic. The documentary is scientific, yet a unique perspective of tripping on DMT and traveling out of body to our origin and creation. There is a place in the film with detailed interviews of the volunteers taking the DMT and their interpretations and visual renditions of their psychedelic trips. The documentary was so intriguing I watched it again later.
In one interview a person said when the drug was administered within moments a there was a noise that got louder and louder until it was unbearable, and a rod would extend up his spine pushing through his skull. Then this psychedelic journey took him back to the origins of the universe where we all came from. Hard to do it justice trying to explain it here, but it is an interesting if not amazing watch. What resonated in my mind as I was running was that rod that pushed up through the spine?
The Power of Visualization
I knew I needed to awaken my soul and find the spikey ball. I am not on drugs or for that matter DMT, I’m jogging, but for some reason that rod is on my mind. I listened to my constant breath and slowly pounding heart. My eyes are open but only to make sure I don’t run into a car or vice versa. I am relaxed and focusing within. I visualize my heart beating and heating up and then I inwardly direct an Obelisk (four-sided tapering monument with a pyramid type top) to push upward from my heart into the spikey ball that I now see.
The top of the obelisk is pressing along the bottom of the slowly rotating spikey ball and I visualize it being pushed through the top of my skull. I ask my heart to heat the obelisk, fire it up. My spine and head are straight, and I usually run with my head slumped forward. The obelisk is pushing this rotating ugly spikey thing out of my body, it’s spinning inches over the top of my head. I continue to ask my heart to super heat the obelisk and conjure the spikey ball to start spinning faster. I envision the ends of the spikes starting to spew this milky fluid out of the ball. I get very angry at the ball and am using profanities in my head to get the substance the ‘F’ out. Spin faster and push the F’in fluid out. Heat the interior of the ball resting on the obelisk so hot that the fluid turns to steam. I see the ball spinning at the speed of a washing machine in spin cycle. The fluid was gushing out and then the steam spewing all over the landscape. And the spikes begin to disappear, and the ball is still spinning but slower. The ball has the surface of a yellow orange and is turning gold and tan. I am halfway through my 4 ½ mile run and am feeling relieved as the ball begins to shine and become smooth and yellow.
As it spins, I conjure the ball to take in the eight positive emotions I spoke of in the last blog. Awe, love, trust, gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, joy, gratitude and hope is all around me. I am asking god to bring it in while this ball is still outside my body. It’s a grey day but I thank the cloud cover for its blanket over the earth, the baron trees for sleeping during the winter so our resources are replenished, the beauty of nature, the awe of technology, the wisdom of our human nature to fabricate this world we live in. I make many gratitude offerings to our humanity and humility. I realize that this internal ball thing, now in the external world needs to return to my body revitalized with good omens. I let my visualization taper, and the slowly spinning smooth gold object comes back into my mind. I start winding down my run, relaxing into the last half mile.
I am feeling very tranquil as I stop where I normally do, at the bottom of the hill before my house. What happened next, I almost can’t describe. I walked up my hill and saw this person walking their dog down the street. He is the only one in the neighborhood that allows his dog to defecate on my lawn and my neighbors. (caught him once but he didn’t see me) He smiles and says good morning and in his left hand is a bag with his dogs’ poop. Wooh, I contemplated. Then I walked into my house and my wife says something to me and I can immediately sense the slight stress in her tone. This stress was something I wouldn’t normally notice. I didn’t want to listen to the TV, music or anything as my state of mind was so pure and relaxed, I didn’t want to corrupt it. I was at a peace with myself such that I have never experienced. I wasn’t tired from the run but from the mind experience fatigued me. I have not tried that run since. Perhaps, it’s use is more as a cleanup or reboot for down the road. I am still meditating, and the obelisk seems to occupy my body, ready to push any future spikey balls the hell out of my head.
Just a few notes on this bizarre blog. Please don’t think I’m out of my mind. Pardon the pun. What I just described to you was true and a stunning revelation to me. I painstakingly went back through this experience so that it could make sense to you and the effort was as almost as fatiguing as the original. I study Integrated Nutrition and spirituality and exercise are part of the 12 elements of the circle of life which is Primary Food. I believe that we can all achieve a higher potential in health and wellness. Although visualization may seem out of the ordinary, it has a lot of common practices. Refer to my page on Integrated Nutrition on this website for more information about what I do.
Thank you and until next time all the best, Allyn
As an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach, I support one of IIN’s unique theory’s Primary Food and Secondary Food. Primary Food is your relationships, career, spirituality and exercise and is as important in your health and well-being, as Secondary Food, what’s on your plate.
In this blog I am going to talk about a recent experience with spirituality and exercise (Primary Food). I have had a very rewarding, but stressful life as a restauranteur for the past 28 years and prior to that working for a Hotel corporation for twelve years. AT IIN I have been paying special attention to ways of reducing stress. There are several exercises that I have incorporated into my lifestyle from my IIN educational experience.
Breathing exercises to reduce stress (4,7,8), breath in 4 seconds, hold 7 seconds, breath out 8 seconds as an example has worked great especially when getting stressed. Daily meditation has worked its way into my life as well. Morning Pages (Julia Cameron author of The Artist Way) free form journaling after first waking up with affirmations and thankfulness has given me new perspectives and alertness to my daily activities. I am becoming much more mindful. (observant of myself and my surroundings, thinking, inner thoughts, perspectives etc.)
Recently we had a speaker, Taryn Toomey, a mind-body expert and creator of ‘The Class’ that gave me perhaps one of the most mind-blowing experiences yet. Before we get into that experience with ‘The Class’ I would like to provide the reader with some thoughts on spirituality.
What is spirituality?
Here is a perspective on spirituality, notes I have from Joan Borysenko, PhD. This is an except by George Vaillant M.D. from Men’s Sana Monograph 2008, Positive emotions and healing.
“This paper proposes that eight positive emotions; awe, love, (attachment) trust (faith), compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy and hope constitute what we mean by spirituality.
Another thought by Jack Kruse (retrieved from jackkruse.com-energy-and-epigenetics-2-the-real-dha-story) ‘Within you lies the sun, the moon, the sky and all the wonders of the universe. At our cores we all come from stardust. When you tug on your own nature, the rest of nature moves in unison.’
Taryn Toomey was a yoga instructor for six years when she realized something was missing, she confessed. There was something inside her that needed to come out. She felt she needed Fire! This unimposing, petit, smiling ever so slightly teacher proclaimed to our class with a growl I need Fiiirrreee!!!
She developed a 75-minute class that I highly recommend (you can find her and a demonstration on YouTube). ‘The Class’ is a meditative, high energy forum designed to hear the inner voice you have. This voice helps you visualize the thing that might be holding you back, may be keeping you from being your true self, keeps you from realizing your true potential. And you need to get it out!!
As best as I can describe, I stood in my office with my eyes closed listening to her instructions as she told us to stand and ground our body with our feet. With music and a Aboriginal tribal beat in the background, our minds became sedated as she asked us to let our arms and hands hang, shake them out, loosen your bodies, bend the knees slightly, get into the music, get into the mind. She instructed us to breathe in and out deeply and after a while, eyes closed we started rubbing our hands together. We did that for several minutes and were told to open our hands and lift our hearts.
Then in a timeless moment, she asked us to visualize the thing in our mind that’s keeping us from what we can achieve? Visualize it, what does it look like? Meditating on this, I followed her lead. I pictured in the center of my mind, a big, dark spikey ball, rotating slowly and I knew that had to be it. With the music and beat in the distant background I envisioned this oddity. As we maneuvered through this meditative fog, Taryn questioned, what will it take to get rid of it? Unable to rid myself of this vision I was led back to where we started, our class lasted 20 minutes of the normal 75-minute program.
For me it was profound. I found a spiky ball in the center of my mind, what the hell was it. Taryn, in her diminutive, calming voice, with her slight smile, as if she knew something we did not, continued to say something that struck me. She mentioned something about running with that same loosening of the hands and body and finding that inner voice and vision. I’m a runner, so my running goal was to get that thing out of me that was saying I was tired, I couldn’t do it, my legs were heavy. All the negative energies needed to be released! And I believed I could do it. My senses were enlightened, I couldn’t wait to go run the next day.
Before my next blog look up Taryn Toomey and check out ‘The Class.’
This topic is to be continued...stay tuned!
The editor of my upcoming book, titled Later Gator, Wendy Beckman (author of 8 Wonders of Cincinnati, Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati and University of Cincinnati College of Nursing: 125 Years of Transforming Health Care) sent me this article by Holly Thomas, ‘Why do vegans attract such hatred?’ (Saturday January 5, 2019). And she just wrote..."Great article."
I read the article and a couple things came to mind. But first let’s examine what all the hubbub in the article is about. Gregg’s, a UK food chain announces the addition of a vegan sausage roll to the delight of some and dismay of others. The roll would quickly sell out by lunchtime, but there were others that deplore, why do we need to change the classic sausage roll?" (including a very vocal, famous T.V. personality and columnist).
1. You can’t preach from an Ivory Tower.
If you decide to become a vegan or move to a plant-based diet, there is a good chance you are going to be different than most of your friends and family. Learn that what may be healthy for you may not be healthy for everybody. If you find, as I did, someone has an interest in a plant-based diet engage them. I lost 30 pounds within a few months by getting off dairy and animal protein.
My skyrocketing cholesterol and high blood pressure went down to normal and my daily acid-reflux disappeared. People I ran into that hadn’t seen me for a while looked at me like, are you OK? You lost a lot of weight, or you are skinny, and I would reply I changed my diet and exercise significantly. This is where you need to be on alert. ‘I got on a plant-based diet’ would be my reply, and then the questions would start.
Q. You don’t eat meat? A. No. Q. How about dairy? A. No. Q. Cheese? A. No. Q. Fish? A. No. I always answer in a non-provocative way, not condescending at all. Then the conversation may go to the person saying, Oh I could never give up cheese, (or meat or fish or dairy) or whatever.
The conversation would end there with me saying it was a good choice for my own health but might not be for you. If you decide to become a vegan don’t be pretentious, do it for yourself and the planet. People will eventually come around and there are plenty of interested folks out there wanting to get healthier. Don’t waste your time with the naysayers.
2. Being a vegan and hanging out with carnivores is not hypocritical or vice versa.
I own a restaurant and we serve animal protein, dairy, cheese, and fish. Am I a hypocrite because I choose to be on a plant-based diet? No, I also added a dozen vegan recipes that tend to get the most positive reviews from my customers. Understand that I am an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach and have studied diets and nutrition thoroughly. One key theory is that one person’s food can be another person’s poison. Diet is based on bio-individuality.
At Allyn’s we buy local Wagyu beef and cage free chicken, steroid and hormone free. I find this to be a step in the right direction of sustainability. I am not running around the restaurant telling people what to eat and I don’t do that in my IN practice. Our growing vegan crowds come in with their carnivore friends and chow down at one table. Restaurant chains are adding Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burgers to their menus.
I haven’t heard it yet “Leave our White Castle burgers alone and keep that fake meat out of our fast food chains- we like our burgers the way they are! And maybe it’s because no big star has chosen to jump on that anti-plant protein bandwagon. The fact is all the people that are employed in the fast food industry are no different than you and me.
* It is wrong to put a label on them and their employment. They have families, bills, dreams, like us. What is interesting is the thought that these companies have the distribution channels to make big changes for the world in the future. The slight change of adding a plant-based burger on the menu has ginormous implications for our planet and food supply. (*Thoughts I got from a seminar by Joel Fuhrman M.D. at IIN)
3. Love the one you're with!
Don’t waste you time and energy hating anyone or anything. Learn to forgive people, even when they wrong you or don’t share the same opinion. Try to understand the underlying issues of someone with opposing viewpoints. Always be yourself and stand up for your values, but don’t preach them. Your overall health may benefit more from this than any diet. Controlling your stress levels is so important in health and wellbeing... (remember my breathing exercise suggestions).
In Integrated Nutrition it’s called Primary Food. It involves balancing your career, relationships, exercise and spirituality and may be more important than what’s on your plate. (Secondary Food) Think positive thoughts, be thankful, grateful, complimentary, be wise, creative, spiritual and don’t get caught up with ridiculous chatter about trivial issues like ‘leave our bloody sausage roll alone.’
Another approach this celebrity could have taken versus attacking the Gregg’s food chain for finding a vegan substitute sausage roll might have been a tweet or blog, “Is it time for a vegan sausage roll or should we leave the bloody thing alone?” To me that is a much better approach than attacking a population or company, but I’m sure it doesn’t stir up people as much, sell newspapers, magazines or newscasts.
What I heard from this T.V. personality in regards to a vegan sausage roll is, I’ve heard this PC sh!t before, I don’t believe it, there’s no proof it’s healthier, I want what I want regardless of those that say it is a better way, don’t placate me or my listeners, don’t mess with tradition, keep your sh!!t ass diet theories to yourself, revolt that’s who I am. But that’s just my opinion.
It’s that time of year for New Year’s resolutions. This has gone on for hundreds of years dating back at least to 1671. At that time on January 2nd, found in the diaries of Anne Halkett, a member of the Scottish Gentry was pledges of biblical verses such as I will not offend any more. (retrieved from merriam-webster.com/ when-were-New-Years-Resolution-Started)
I always have a hard time thinking of New Years Resolutions. I use the excuse that if I have a resolution, why wait till New Years Day? Is there any day that isn’t good to quit smoking, exercise more, eat healthier, treat your spouse better, spend more time with your children or grandchildren, refrain from excessive spending, stop swearing, take your dog for a walk, make your bed every day or wake up fifteen minutes earlier so that you don’t have to drive like a maniac to work and almost kill everyone in your path.
I generally don’t have a New Years Resolution. This year I do though, and I’m keeping it to myself because…funny thing is they are normally broken as quickly as they start. That’s why gyms are the busiest in January and by February are back to normal.
I didn’t realize this, but December is a month that many people let go of their inhabitations in recognition that come January 1st the proverbial sh!T hits the fan. I thought that only happened on Fat Tuesday, the famed New Orleans party tradition the night before Lent. That’s when we give up something we really like or try to be more giving towards the less fortunate for the Christian Lenten Season.
"Starting a resolution cold turkey is difficult."
Then I came up with a good and easy one for anybody and everybody. As an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach, there are some key theories and core concepts I would like to mention. One theory is that of crowding out. We work with clients to crowd out bad foods with good foods. All that you need to do is change your shopping habits a little bit over time.
Slowly but surely, make your shopping list to include some healthier items to replace unhealthier items. Replace refined sugar, (sugary drinks, pastries, cookies and donuts) with natural sugars with fiber. (Apples, kiwi, berries and oranges) Slowly, replace bad fats, (red meat, chicken, cheese) high in cholesterol and unsaturated fats with good fats (avocados, olive oil, cashews, almonds, wild-caught salmon, herring and mackerel).
If you must eat meat and poultry try to buy local, grass fed beef, and cage free chicken, humanely raised and steroid and antibiotic free. Crowding out is resolution #1. Fitting out is resolution #2. I am counting this as a two for one because we can cross off many of the things, we might be resolute for.
In Integrated Nutrition we want our clients to fit out. We all know what fitting in means, fitting out is what make you unique. You may fit out because of the cloths you wear, your personality, the hobbies you have, your mission, your diet, (sometimes vegetarians and vegans can be outcasts because they don’t fit in when eating out) and anything else that makes you uniquely you. Work on fitting out as a wonderful resolution to the New Year. And I will see you in 2019.
If you had the chance to wish for anything what would you wish for? It’s something we have all thought about. Perhaps the story of the Genie in the Lamp or Aladdin and the Magic Lamp comes to mind because the story recreated by Disney Studios has dated back almost 3,000 years. But we get only one wish in this case and you can’t wish for more wishes.
The story of the Genie in the lamp has many spins and greedy wishes normally lead to disaster and unexpected peril. Or we can think about the funny TV series I dream of Jeannie, that aired from 1965-1970, staring Larry Hagman, Barbara Eden, Bill Daily and Hayden Rorke. Mostly a show watched by the baby boomers it featured the hilarious adventures of Jeanie (Barbara Eden) and her master Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) in a modern-day scenario. All of that aside most of us would probably use the wish for fame, riches, or immortality, just saying.
In my first year at the University of Massachusetts, Business 101 instructor, George Odiorne, (1976) posed a question like the above to his hall of 350 students. I believe it was, if you could have anything what would it be. Then he listed wealth, fame, incredible intelligence, great health, immortality etc. This is my first recollection of the concept health and its overall importance to us. The point being why be wealthy, famous, or immortal if you don’t have your health to support it.
Health is important to me and it should be to you. Health and overall wellness are what I am blogging about, but not what I am wishing for in this piece. What about in the grander scheme of things? As members of humanity and the animal and plant kingdom, I believe that we all want to live in peace, be able to enjoy the beautiful planet we live on, be part of family and community, have no wants or fears, have a connection or transcendence with the universe, all that kind of stuff. That’s straight forward. I started thinking about wishes in church and prayer came to mind, go figure. Was that divine intervention? My thoughts focused on prayer, what’s the difference? I probably chose the wrong title for this piece and should have called it a Christmas prayer. Praying is hard, and I know I don’t do it enough. Wishes are easy, I want to win the lottery. Fair enough let’s go with this then.
My First Christmas Wish
I wish that we become more prayerful human beings. I know that I need help in that category maybe you do too. Perhaps that’s like asking for more wishes. You can pray as often as you want, walking, standing, kneeling in your car in your home, but best alone in a quiet space.
The Second Christmas Wish
My second Christmas prayer is for world peace and for mankind to unite to make our world a better, more sustainable place for ourselves, our families, and our children and their children and so on down the line. (Lord why are we such a violent people?) There are a lot of things that can change for the better if we pray hard about it. I am going to continue to pray for lots of things this season and beyond and that’s better than any wish. Peace to all.
Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday mayhem is on. We get warmed up to the mad rush of Christmas and holiday shopping well in advance. Starting in September with the big box store displays of Christmas trees, lights, lawn ornaments, and holiday gift packages there it is, in our face. Still in shorts mowing the lawn, driving around with the top down on our convertibles, there it tis, much to our chagrin.
Black Friday, Local Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, discounts, specials, spend, spend, spend. Crowded parking lots, people in a hurry, blustery weather, dark at 4 o’clock, but we need to get presents for everyone on our list.. doon’t weee? Ahh, let’s wait till the last minute.
Easy as 1, 2, 3 Holiday Tips
Just a couple things of fancy I thought my friends and foes out there can use to their advantage in the upcoming weeks.
This past summer, I decided to accommodate my wife’s wish to write a recipe book. She always wanted me to make the great recipes of Allyn's public. I thought it a daunting task and was never a great writer (although my mom was an English teacher and I probably have writing in my genes to a degree). I was training a new chef at the restaurant and putting in a lot of hours.
Somehow, I made the determination to write the book, thinking an hour here and there would add up. Slowly the chapters started coming together but it wasn’t geared toward the many traditional standard recipes Allyn’s had. It was about the vegan recipes I recently added. I became a vegan abruptly and my voice wanted to tell that story. I started with my childhood and went from there.
Briefly, I lead a normal middle-class life in the sixties and seventies in the beautiful Berkshires. I worked in restaurants in my teens and saw the first McDonalds in our area put Great Barrington, Ma. on the map. (our only chain was a Friendly Ice Cream and Dairy Queen) My life seemed like a typical Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell’s studio was fifteen minutes from my house. I would also like to send a shout out to another New England artist, Arlo Guthrie who wrote Alice’s Restaurant, a must listen to on Thanksgiving. Looking back, I was lucky to have such a wonderful childhood in a very pristine area.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration, I took a job with Omni Hotel and Resorts and several years later ended up in Cincinnati at the Netherland Plaza Hotel. I loved hilly tri-state area snuggled along the Ohio river. My life was to stay put in Ohio and Cincinnati and I opened Allyn’s Café in 1991. When I went to a plant-based diet at the beginning of 2013 I started making vegan recipes. I got several of them down quickly, like jambalaya, chili, red beans rice and sausage and others. I incorporated them into specials and eventually menu standards at the restaurant. We now have about a dozen plant-based recipes. Those are the recipes in the book along with dozens more.
Later Gator is finished, and my editor and I are seeking a publisher hoping to get it to market next year. The project has been fulfilling, and simultaneously I got involved in the Institute for Integrated Nutrition. There is information on this page about what IIN is. My involvement in Integrated Nutrition prompted me to create (with the collaboration of my wife) Allyn’s 21, sustainable, whole foods, traditionally made. Please check it out on our website.
Every day I wake up a joyful person because I feel healthy, my energy is like I was 20 years old again, and my mind stays stimulated. I am very thankful for my family and friends, my staff at Allyn’s and their families, the customers that come in and enjoy what we do at the restaurant, and what the future may bring. I truly wish everyone a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.
Fast Food and Big Food
I have spent the last 28 years trying to make Allyn’s a better restaurant day by day. I have analyzed the details of everything from food and décor to budget. My belief is that you need to change the ambience of the restaurant every five or six years and at the same time keep the place in tip top shape. I have seen restaurants of past keep the same theme and slowly loose market share to the newer more relevant concepts. I emphasis newer because any day in Cincinnati there is a new restaurant emerging. I was talking to a patron a few days ago and he asked me how business was. I told him very good. He made the same point, every time a new restaurant opens everyone tries it out and that must have an impact on other venues. It does have an impact. The pie is only so big, and restaurants are all vying for their piece.
Keeping your restaurant fresh and new keeps patrons interested and coming back. It’s also an ongoing investment. Aside from replacing expensive kitchen equipment, fixing HVAC, refrigeration, (I have over a dozen refrigeration units), faucets, sinks, toilets, grease traps, washers, dryers, doors, windows, tables, chairs, roofs, gutters, etc.…. you also must put aside renovation dollars to keep the image fresh. I analyze the budget as well to keep tabs on prime costs, food, beverage, and labor. We have a third-party inventory the bar every two weeks to maintain a good beverage cost percentage. We watch portioning in the kitchen for consistency and cost. But I never try to buy cheaper ingredients to lower my food cost, never!
Another patron and I were talking about food and health. He is a lean person and told me that he doesn’t drink soft drinks or sugary beverages and doesn’t eat at fast food restaurants. Since he is in the remodeling business I found that unique. He said he was amazed at how crowded the fast food joints were at lunch time. There is always a line in the drive through.
The unfortunate truth is our nation is addicted to inexpensive, non-nourishing food, that tastes great but makes us sick. And when the price of tomatoes goes up the first thing fast food does is remove the tomato from your processed burger. Processed meat on a refined white flour roll, with white fried potatoes and 192 grams of sugar or 48 teaspoons in a 64 oz beverage. Not a prescription for good health. It’s all about the tomato in my opinion. If it costs so much for a corporation to keep a tomato on a burger in times when tomatoes are costly, what the heck. Your customers are numbers to you not patrons. The same goes for larger full-service restaurants with several locations. If produce goes up in price and you must skimp on a cherry tomato, cucumber or for god’s sake a few pieces of avocado, screw you.
Why do our major food companies and fast food restaurants always try to make products cheaper? Shareholders, that’s why. They want a good return on their investment. Ingredients play the major role and the cheaper, the better. That’s good for the investors but not the customer. High fructose corn syrup is a good example and our processed food are loaded with it. It was very difficult for me to find a ketchup for the restaurant that didn’t have HFC in it, but I did. I would think that the big food companies would have our health as their main concern and try to improve what they sell to us in that regard. Wishful thinking at least for now. That brings me back to Allyn’s and being an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach. Perhaps some of the big food companies need a more healthful approach to their mission statements. Next time we will talk about
Allyn’s 21. That is our newest concept for the restaurant that I am trying to make better day by day.
The Later Gator Blog
At Allyn's Cafe, we're about so much more than cajun food! Dive into the stories and our journey to going vegan, providing local sourced ingredients, nutritional advice, a sustainable future, writing a book and more with Allyn Raifstanger.
Integrated Health Coach
After several years of studying health and diets, Allyn embarked on a yearlong coarse at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition out of New York State. This course is accredited by the New York State Board of Education.