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A&E >  Food

Adventist Joseph Nally says a vegan lifestyle leads to life of happiness

By Virginia De Leon Correspondent

There’s actually such a thing as a “bad vegetarian.” At least, that’s how Joseph Nally once identified himself.

In his desire to be healthy and to lessen his impact on the environment, Nally vowed 10 years ago to refrain from eating meat as well as eggs and dairy products. But he still felt bloated and sluggish, he recalled.

His diet – sans animal flesh and products – consisted mostly of refined carbohydrates and saturated fats.

“Sure, I cut out the meat, but I ate everything else,” said Nally, a trained chef who lives in Nine Mile Falls. “Eating well isn’t just about removing meat. It’s really more about eating whole grains, raw vegetables and other healthy foods.”

After spending nearly a decade working in restaurants in various parts of the country, Nally discovered a connection between his health and spiritual life. He came to the conclusion that he could no longer just live to eat; instead he had to eat well in order to live a more vibrant and sustainable life.

Now, Nally is sponsored by the Spokane Countryside Adventist Church as a “Bible worker,” that is, a preacher and instructor, whose duties include teaching others about the benefits of simple, plant-based foods. Every month, he organizes a free cooking and health class for people in the community who want to learn more about vegetarian and vegan alternatives.

From 30 to as many as 50 people gather at the North Side church on the second Sunday of each month. They spend about two hours listening to a lecture presented by a local naturopath followed by Nally’s cooking demonstrations and a vegan meal.

By early evening, everyone comes home with samples as well as recipes and menu plans for the entire month.

“You won’t find fake meat at our cooking school,” said Nally, referring to the “mock meat” and other processed foods that sometimes become a staple of many vegetarian diets.

Instead, his grocery list includes ingredients such as fresh fruit, steel cut oats, sprouted wheat berries, a variety of nuts, quinoa, and almond or coconut milk.

The menu plans feature dishes such as beet and potato latke, quinoa pilaf, caramel creamy lentils, avocado mousse, blueberry millet pudding, and macaroni and cashew cheese.

“We don’t have complicated recipes,” said Nally. “We don’t want people having to make special orders or driving everywhere for ingredients. We emphasize easy, simple, approachable food that makes sense.”

The recipes require only a few food items and can be prepared in half an hour or less. Many of these ingredients also are affordable and can be purchased in the bulk section of most grocery or health food stores, said Nally, who does most of his shopping at Fresh Abundance on North Division Street and Rosauers-Huckleberry’s in north Spokane.

“These classes have broadened the range of foods I can eat,” said Kim Love, a Suncrest resident who is gluten- and lactose-intolerant.

Although Love isn’t vegetarian, she regularly attends the class to get new ideas and to motivate her family to eat a healthier diet.

“I’m learning how to prepare food more efficiently,” she said. “I’m also investing more time in learning how to make delicious meals.”

While some of the participants have no church affiliation, many who come are Seventh-day Adventists. Although it’s not a religious requirement, many Seventh-day Adventists are encouraged to practice a vegetarian lifestyle because of their belief in healthful, holistic living.

Their faith life not only focuses on the spiritual, but also on their social, emotional and physical well-being, according to adherents.

Many Adventists try to exercise regularly, refrain from alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, eat modestly and consume only simple, plant-based foods, said Dr. Jay Sloop, a physician and health ministries director for the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists – the administrative headquarters for more than 25,000 members of 130 churches in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and northeastern Oregon.

According to the Seventh-day Adventist Dietetic Association, holistic health means eating “generous” amounts of whole grain breads, cereals and pastas, a “liberal” use of fresh vegetables and fruits and a “moderate” amount of legumes, nuts and seeds. Low-fat dairy products and eggs are acceptable but foods in high saturated fat and cholesterol are highly discouraged.

Several studies – including research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health – have found that Adventists live eight to 10 years longer than the average American, due in part to their diet.

Nally and his wife, Annie, joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church four years ago because of the Christian denomination’s emphasis on health and diet and how these factors contribute to spirituality and overall well-being. The couple, along with their 7- and 2-year-old daughters, eat only plant-based foods and cook everything from scratch.

“Before, food was entertainment for me,” said Nally, a graduate of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University in North Carolina. “Even though I still see food as art – it’s a creative avenue for me – I now realize that food should strengthen our bodies and minds so that we can live more fully.”

Nally’s interest in food began as a child. His mom, whom he adores, was a terrible cook and often served meals that consisted of rubbery meat and buttered noodles. Whenever they dined at a restaurant, he often found himself wanting to replicate other people’s meals.

So he started cooking as a teenager and often spent his allowance on ingredients that his mother never bought, as well as on wooden spoons, a wok and other kitchen items.

It was no surprise to his girlfriend, who would eventually become his wife, that Nally ended up in culinary school. After graduating in 2002, he worked at restaurants in Florida and California, where he learned how to grow his own food and cook with organic, local and fresh ingredients.

He became serious about vegetarianism while working at a bistro that featured some meat-free items on its menu. After eating mostly vegetarian food for several months and reading books that included Michio Kushi’s “The Macrobiotic Way,” “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell and “Raw” by Charlie Trotter, he discovered that he had higher energy levels and felt better all around.

The process of becoming a vegan took several years. His desire to eat and live well eventually drew him to Seventh-day Adventism, he said.

Last year, Nally and his family moved to Maine, where he became a Bible worker at a Seventh-day Adventist church. In addition to teaching classes and preaching, he worked with doctors from Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, Maine, to provide courses on healthy living and eating.

In January, he moved to Spokane, where his work is sponsored by the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as well as Spokane Countryside Adventist Church.

“The name ‘Simple Health’ says it all,” Nally said. “The goal and the point of the (cooking) class is that health is achievable and it can be done without great expense and even by those who are not all that comfortable in the kitchen.”

Here are some recipes from the Simple Health cooking class:

Watermelon Gazpacho

From Joseph Nally, Spokane

4 cups watermelon, divided use

1 cup tomato

1 cup cucumber

½ cup red bell pepper

½ small jalapeno

1 green onion

1 small handful cilantro

1 teaspoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons lime juice

¾ teaspoon salt

Puree 3 cups of watermelon in a food processor or blender and place in a big bowl. Dice the remaining 1 cup of watermelon into small pieces and place in a bowl.

Seed and dice tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper. Seed and mince jalapeno. Mince the green onion using all of the white part and about 1 inch of the green. Chop cilantro, puree ginger and add to bowl with lime juice and salt.

Stir everything together carefully. Ladle into chilled soup bowls or chill in fridge before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Massaged Kale

From Joseph Nally, Spokane

1 large head kale, shredded

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ lemon

¼ teaspoon salt

Debone kale and cut into shreds. Massage oil, juice from lemon and salt into well-shredded kale for about two minutes. If possible, let sit for 10 minutes.

Serve with a light and creamy dressing.

Yield: 6 cups

Mac and Cashew Cheese

From Joseph Nally, Spokane

3 cups whole-wheat macaroni

½ red bell pepper

1 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cups water

¼ cup corn starch

¼ cup yeast flakes

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 ½ teaspoons salt

½ cup raw cashew pieces

1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni according to directions on package.

Meanwhile, blend the rest of the ingredients except the bread crumbs until very smooth.

Drain macaroni and combine the pasta with the sauce in a casserole dish. Cover with bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour or until the sauce is thick all the way through.

Yield: 6 cups

Jicama Salad

From Joseph Nally, Spokane

4 cups jicama, cut into large peeled pieces

2 roma tomatoes

½ cup green onion

1 cup corn

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoons salt

Peel the whole jicama first then cut into roughly 1-inch cubes. Process in a food processor until they become small shredded pieces. Place into a bowl.

Dice tomato and the green onion and place in the bowl along with the corn. Dress the salad with the lemon juice and salt and fold together.

Yield: 4 cups

Creamy Dill Dressing

From Joseph Nally, Spokane

1 cup cashews

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Fresh dill, to taste

Blend everything except dill together in a blender until perfectly smooth. Fold in dill. Chill before serving.

Dressing can be refrigerated for up to a week. Great as a simple salad dressing, sauce for a pre-dressed salad, and as a spread on baked potatoes and some sandwiches.

Yield: 1 1/3 cups

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