Our very own Cam F. Awesome is up for Vegan Athlete of the Year!
Go show him some plant-strong love!
— GreatVeganAthletes (@GreatVegan) December 3, 2013
If you had to name as many varieties of vegetables as you could, how many do you think you could name? Seven, fifteen, thirty-three? What about Four hundred? 400?! I have a poster in my sun room that is an illustrated guide to over 400 varieties of vegetables. I wish I had it printed on a business sized card so I could hand it to people who say this way of eating is boring. With so many colors, flavors and items to choose from in the vegetable world, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Vegetables are low in calorie density, loaded with nutrients and add interest, flavor and texture to your dishes. What is your favorite vegetable? When was the last time you tried a new-to-you vegetable? Have you ever grown your own vegetables? I often have people say, “I don’t like kale, so I can’t be plant-strong.” Ok, so don’t eat kale. There are hundreds of other vegetables to choose from. Eat what you like, believe it or not, everybody has a favorite, some folks love turnips, others go crazy for green peas. All vegetables are great!
Fruit is easier. Everybody has a favorite fruit. Added on top of oatmeal, as a mid-morning snack or tossed in with a salad, fruit is great for everybody! I love trying new fruit that I might see in the produce section. I buy just one piece or sometimes two, so my husband can try a piece as well. You never know…it could be your new favorite! Fruits and vegetables add the fun to the whole grains, starchy veggies and legumes that we love so much. It is with fruits and vegetables that we make our dishes have personality. We answer so many questions about fruit, organic vs. non-organic, GMO’s etc. The fruit that you choose is personal. Fresh or frozen, organic or not, the choice is yours.
The same holds true for vegetables, only you can decide what is important to you. Some folks will ONLY eat fresh broccoli, others don’t have a preference. Frozen produce also means less time chopping and less waste. Frozen fruit and vegetables are often flash frozen at the farm, making them even fresher than the fresh stuff that travels by truck to your grocer. It also means you can enjoy a wide variety of fruit all year. I love using frozen fruit to cool down my piping hot oatmeal every morning. I also love tossing some frozen mango chunks into a bowl for a tasty frozen snack. Canned veggies can be great too, we do recommend looking for reduced sodium or no salt added varieties though. The sodium in canned goods can be really high. Having things like diced tomatoes on hand all the time is a great way to cut down on the amount of time spent in the kitchen.
Fruits and vegetables make up a big part of plant-based living. Your refrigerator space may be suffering for it. We often hear that people have a hard time fitting all that produce in the fridge. This is when cooking in bulk can come in handy. Cook it up and freeze it for another day. Also, chopping up fruit and vegetables as soon as you get them home from the market can help you save space as well. The added bonus of doing this means you always have a ready made snack for moments when you need something right now.
Add color and variety to your favorite meals by utilizing these amazing plants every single day.
Next week…whole grains!
What’s for dinner?
This question is tough enough some days without changing up the way you’ve been making dinner for years and tackling a new style of eating. There are many ways of tackling this question. Some prefer cooking from recipes, having structure and a firm plan. Others look for bulk cooking plans, utilizing large recipes divided up over the course of the week for meals. Some prefer the simplest route possible. We will discuss all three.
The Recipe Chef
Arm yourself with all the plant-strong cookbooks and blogs that you can gather and sit down with your computer or a notepad to start planning out your meals. You can follow the Engine 2 -28 day challenge plans, Happy Herbivore meal plans or create a plan yourself. Both the Engine2 plans and the Happy Herbivore plans have grocery lists or pantry guides to help guide you. Figuring out what your grocery list will look like and how these recipes may fit together into a menu for your week can require some leg work on your part. How many people are you cooking for? Will you double any of the recipes? If you like spending time planning and cooking, this way might work best for you. This style of planning/cooking can take the most amount of time, especially in the beginning while you learn what works best for you.
The Bulk Chef
Spend one day cooking and reheat glorious plant-strong meals the rest of the week. Many cooks out there are pressed for time. We are all busy with the demands of life and some find this method of meal planning very handy. Whether you plan on cooking just the basic ingredients like rice, lentils, beans, potatoes and other whole grains or you plan a combo of recipes and bulk ingredients, doing it all in one day can be helpful. Prepare your plan by deciding what you love to eat, then make those things in bulk. A bulk batch of steel cut oats to have for breakfast all week long, the ingredients for black bean extravaganza for lunch at the office during the week and great dishes that keep well for dinner like shepherds pie or enchilada bake can make life a lot easier. Baking up a tray of potatoes can equal snacks, fries, diced potatoes in soups, salads or stuffed baked potatoes for lunch. A big pot of rice can mean having a base for your burrito bowls, stir fries, curries, a savory breakfast bowl, a thickener in soups and more. Having lentils at the ready means easy plant-strong burgers in minutes, an addition to salads, soups or sloppy joes. Most plant-strong ingredients freeze really well, so do recipes like soups and stews, casseroles and burgers and loaves – like lentil loaf. Dicing up your fruit and veggies for the week, while you have an oven full of food cooking in bulk, means always having snacks at the ready and raw veggies for recipes.
The Simple Chef
Looking for the least amount of time in the kitchen? The simple way to go can mean planning your meals with pre-fab healthy items. More and more options are available for the plant-strong chef in a hurry. From frozen grain blends like the Engine 2 product line offers to steam in bag potatoes, shelf stable rice, cans of beans and frozen fruit and veggies can mean very little prep time. Build bowls, Jeff Novick 5 ingredient meals, keep things really simple, change up your spices, use salsa as a topper and dressing. Combine this with some bulk cooking of things like bean burgers and you can be set, well fed, satisfied and on plan in minutes. Fresh foods like apples, bananas, salad greens and pre-sliced veggies in the produce section round out a well planned week for the simple chef.
Most folks will take bits and pieces from each method of approaching plant-strong meal planning. They are all fine routes to take, the one that works best for you is the one that allows you to be a successful plant-strong person!
Next Week in this series: fruits and vegetables
We got our first microwave in 1980. It had a dial instead of buttons. I remember cooking in it as a kid – poorly I might add. It changed the way things were done in our house. We didn’t have to ‘cook’ any more, we could just heat stuff up. If you are 45 or younger, you may have grown up eating TV dinners, frozen pizza, mac n’ cheese in a box, bologna sandwiches and other pre-fab food. The hot pocket generation! My Mom worked a lot and my sister and I often cooked dinner for ourselves. We’d make it fun by pretending to be on a cooking tv show. The results were often disastrous! When I had home economics in the 8th grade, I barely passed the class. I was supposed to cut up a whole chicken and I de-boned it instead. I still remember my teacher shaking her head hopelessly at me. I have never been one for following instructions.
I was marveling the other day at how big the frozen food aisle was at the grocery. You can get everything pre-fabricated these days. From pizza rolls to pancakes – no one needs to know how to cook any more. Steam in bag vegetables, potatoes, and shelf stable rice have changed the way we approach cooking as a nation. Home Economics classes have all but disappeared. I get tons of emails each week regarding How-to’s in the kitchen and the number one thing my clients want to learn is how to cook plant-strong. Some have never baked a potato or ever made rice from scratch. There is no shame in this, it’s just how we grew up in the age of pre-fab food.
Going plant-strong doesn’t have to be stressful. It doesn’t have to consume your life. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef. Sure there are things you need to learn, but not all in one day. You don’t have to make recipes with giant lists of ingredients. You can make things as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. This series is all about the simple. This blog in particular is going to focus on basic tools and preparing your kitchen/family to be plant-strong.
All you need: a good non-stick frying pan, a cookie sheet, a good non-stick pot with a lid for rice ( I recommend one that you can put a steamer insert inside), a colander, a can opener, a cutting board, a good knife.
You do not need an arsenal of fancy equipment. You don’t need specialty small appliances like a blender. You don’t need to worry about non-stick coatings, other things like oils will do far more damage to your health. Non-stick pans have come a long way since their introduction decades ago. A good non-stick pan will make your life a lot easier, making oil-free dishes much more successful. A good knife will make all the difference in your life as well. I was always a cheapskate when it came to knives. I’d buy the cheap set, so I’d have every variety. None of them working very well. Now I operate my kitchen with one knife a majority of the time. Pick a good brand that feels good in your hand, my favorite knife is a Santoku, Hollow Edge 5 inch knife. I use it for almost everything.
Next… Get a garbage can or a box.
Start going through your cabinets and refrigerator. Get rid of anything with meat, dairy, oil of any kind, high fructose corn syrup, anything with sugar in the first three ingredients, and anything that is not 100% whole grain. Donate unopened packages to a food pantry, give food to a neighbor or toss it. If you are in a household with others, this can be tricky. I recommend a family meeting. Discuss what being plant-strong means to you, your health, your future as a family and the kind of support you need. For some, this means having a separate cabinet where non-plant-strong foods live, for others it means asking a family to give it a try for awhile. Simple statements like: Having peanut butter in the house is really tough for me, so we are not going to have it in the house for one month, I hope you can support me in this endeavor. Or… I know this sounds tough, but let’s think of it as a learning adventure that we can have fun with together! The point is to share this with your family so they know you are going to try it for a little while, not necessarily forever. Going through cookbooks together an help as well. If family members get to help pick the menu or dishes to try, they may be more excited to eat them. Check out the ebook The College Greens wrote specifically for families and kids! http://engine2diet.com/the-daily-beet/new-kids-family-e-book/ If in the end, you find yourself in a household, going it alone, we are here to support you in that effort.
Next week we will discuss meal planning.
While out getting groceries last week, I took a wrong turn into the candy aisle. Not an aisle I frequent these days. It was a long cart ride to get to the end of it. Somewhere in the middle of the jumbo sized bags I noticed it. The unmistakable scent of sugar. Like a bag of Halloween loot dumped on the kitchen table to be sorted and exchanged with your sister after a night of trick or treating, the chocolate intermingled with the licorice and bubble gum. I could smell it. Through the individual wrappers, boxes and bags, there it was. I wondered if I could always smell it and just never noticed, or if this was a newly acquired superpower that I was gifted since giving up sugar? Other than a dab of maple syrup now and then, I have given up added sugar in general, and frankly I don’t really miss it. Nor do I think about it much.
A little disturbed at this intrusion, I rolled on toward healthier fare in the rice aisle. Making the turn, there on the end cap was limited edition candy corn cream filled cookies. I rolled my eyes at this, do we really need that combo? The same brand of cookies were the subject of a recent study showing that they are as addictive as cocaine. There were more than a dozen candy corn flavored items strategically located throughout the store all the way to the check out line. Isn’t it enough that 20 MILLION pounds of candy corn is sold each year? On my drive home from the grocery store I thought about the multitude of junk available now. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of junk was available when I was a kid too. Back then, we just had plain old candy corn and most of the kids I knew, didn’t really like the stuff. It was always the stale candy corn getting dumped in the trash around Thanksgiving at our house. So who is consuming all of these randomly flavored treats? When researching the origin of candy corn I discovered that it dates back to the 1880′s in Pennsylvania – which just figures, it’s my home state. Also home to marshmallow peeps – which I might add, were only available at Easter when I was a kid – not all holidays. Peeps ghosts and pumpkins? You betcha! I even came across limited edition candy corn flavored milk from a dairy in the Midwest. How did we get here? America’s lust for sugar has reached an astounding level.
I pondered how difficult it is to make healthy choices in a world wading in artificially flavored, super amplified sweetened, fat laden processed junk. Extricating yourself and your family from the clutches of marketing gurus targeting you at every turn with this stuff can be overwhelming. I am grateful that I found Engine 2. I have learned so much since reading about plant-strong living, I am blessed for knowing there is another way of doing things that not only is better for my family, but also pretty untainted by the marketing machine that turns out limited edition flavored anything. I am glad I don’t have to worry about stumbling across candy corn flavored sweet potatoes or limited edition candy corn colored grapes. It’s not the GMO’s I am worried about. Candy Corn may be the bigger enemy
If you find yourself mired down with all the pumpkin and candy corn flavored goods this year, check out our upcoming Engine 2 Extra Holiday Challenge!
Roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and Sweet Dumpling squash tossed with garlic and jalapenos with Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy Seasoning – served with forbidden black rice tossed with a few tablespoons of smokey BBQ sauce – garnished with a few baked Vidalia onion rings and steamed kale. Simple and delicious!
If you are anything like me, the dressing used to be your favorite part of the salad That doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying salads now. There are so many options for dressing up a salad once you start thinking outside the bottle! I like to use the little quilted jelly jar sized canning jars for making small batches of salad dressing.
Salad dressing ideas:
Any kind of bean, seasoned in the pan with the liquid, add the spices of your choice and toss with your salad.
Another great salad dressing is mustard! You can doctor mustard up in a bunch of ways to make honey mustard, sweet/hot mustard, herbed mustard dressings etc.
In addition to mustard – another dressing to try: BBQ Sauce! Look for one without high fructose corn syrup and low in sodium. Thin it down with some water.
- Add it to a salad loaded with greens and beans and you have a BBQ salad
One of my favorite dressings is maple clove vinaigrette – maple syrup, water, apple cider vinegar, ground cloves.
- Shaken in a jar – you decide the ratios – if you want it sweeter or more tangy.
Baby food can make a great base for a salad dressing!
- Mango especially works well if you want a spicy sweet dressing! I add lime juice and cayenne pepper to make a sweet hot favorite of my husbands.
- I also made an apricot sweet potato maple dressing, adding in a touch of vanilla extract, cinnamon and maple syrup – thin with water – delicious!
- Another time I made apple peach cardamom dressing, apple/peach baby food base, added in cardamom, lemon juice and black pepper and a little water.
- You can make your own fruit purees of course, but the containers of baby food as a base is perfect for one or two salads.
Another idea is to mix fruit in with your salads. Add sweetness by adding berries, mandarin oranges or apple slices.
White beans pureed make a great base for all kinds of things! You can make a base for a creamy salad dressing from white beans, add herbs, maybe garlic and balsamic for a thicker herbed dressing.
Hummus makes a great base for a dressing as well!
Another great way to give your homemade dressings some heft… add chia seeds! The chia seeds will start to swell up and help distribute the dressing on the mixed greens.
- Do this only for recipes you plan on eating within the hour…before the chia seeds grow too much into a pudding
Other ideas for salad dressing: citrus fruits fresh squeezed over the green and diced herbs, like basil, dill, oregano.
Sometimes you just don’t need a lot of dressing if you mix up what’s in the bowl.
Other great ideas for what to put in your salads…
- Roasted potato cubes: think croutons! So dice up some potatoes, crouton sized and bake with herbs and spices.
- Sweet potatoes work great for this too!
Another idea for tossing in your salad bowl – is lentils! Little green lentils are perfect for sticking to the leaves and making a heartier dish.
If your salad isn’t filling you up, look to the size of the salad for guidance, and make it bigger!
If you have been following my blogs at all, you see how big my box salads are. No need for a bowl, just build them in the box of greens!
- Save yourself a dish that needs washing
If you salads aren’t filling you up, try some of the ideas here for adding heft to your salad: beans, lentils, tofu, potatoes. You can also toss grains in with your salad! Farro makes a great chewy addition. Brown rice also makes a good base to build upon – add greens and beans to make a taco salad.
So keep the creativity in your big mixing bowl salad – they sky is the limit – there is no wrong answer as to what you can put in the bowl – as long as it is plant strong!
So you are all going to try some new dressings right?
Think outside the bottle!
‘ve been making a lentil loaf for a while now. It’s always a favorite at our house. I thought I might try a different take on our old favorite by making a Mexican Lentil Loaf. It was a huge hit! The trick to lentil loaf in general is not to have too much liquid in the loaf. You want it to form well so it holds together when you slice it. When I make lentil loaf – I actually measure my ingredients (I don’t normally measure anything)! So here it is, hope you like it! This recipe makes 3 loaves or 1 loaf and 12 burgers. Since the burgers and the loaves freeze really well, I make this batch in bulk. Feel free to cut the recipe in half if you don’t like leftovers and having some for a busy day when you don’t feel like cooking.
You will need the following ingredients:
1 cup French green lentils
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup prepared farro
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 can diced no-salt added tomatoes drained
1 can no salt added black beans drained
5 cups water
1 medium onion diced
1 sweet pepper diced
1 hot pepper diced
2 tablespoons chili powder (more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons cumin (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper – if you like spicy – skip it if you don’t
You could also add cilantro if you’d like – some love it, some don’t.
Add the lentils and the water to a deep pan over medium heat until the water boils, then cover and reduce heat for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are tender.
They should look like this when done:
Next, add your onion and peppers and your spices. You can always add more spice if needed later. Taste as you go!
Stir together and let simmer for another ten minutes on medium heat.
Then combine add your beans, tomatoes, faro and lentil mixture.
Stir to combine and then it’s time for oats!
In a large bowl mix the oats into the lentil mixture. The oats soak up any remaining liquid. One mixed together, I leave this settle in the bowl for 15-30 minutes.
Your mixture should look like this:
I baked these together. Loaf on the top rack and burgers below. The burgers do not take as long due to their size. I baked the burgers on each side for 15 minutes. Then I removed the burgers from the oven, lowered the temperature to 350 and baked the loaf for another 20 minutes. Serve with salsa on the side if you’d like!
Store any extras in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freezer for up to 4 weeks.
John: This stuff is great! Here’s some for you!
Tom: No thanks.
John: Really? I got extra because I knew you’d want some.
Tom: I’m good, but thanks for thinking of me.
John: Come on, just try some! A little won’t hurt.
Tom: What difference does it make?
John: You only live once, relax and live it up!
No, this isn’t an 8th grade lecture dealing with peer pressure about drugs or alcohol, although it could be.
It was a conversation overheard between a plant-strong person and a S.A.D. person (Standard American Diet).
It always fascinates me that people care about what I eat, or more precisely, what I don’t eat. People never cared what was on my plate when I was eating the S.A.D. No one ever said: wow Ami, are you really going to eat that burger? No one got in the way of me buying boxes of cookies from the little girls in green by the case – because they only come once a year. The freeze well right?! No one said a word about me eating myself sick. I just got heavier and sicker. The only person that ever said a word to me about eating differently was my sister. She has been vegan for years. I used to poke fun at the dishes that she made and brought to holiday dinners at our Mom’s. Why would I want to eat that stuff? – for what it’s worth now many years later… I’m sorry Keri.
The minute people find out that I am plant-strong, the questions flow. Sometimes friendly, sometimes as friendly as an election year debate. “No meat? Sure, I have heard of people doing this before, but you still eat chicken right? Oh. No dairy? Not even cheese? No ice cream? Seriously? I could never do that. No oil? Now just wait a minute! How can you do that? Oil is good for you, I’ve read studies!” – this is where the conversation usually takes a turn for the worse. But why?
People are passionate about their food. From memories and emotions surrounding food to the heady mix of fat, sugar and salt that make up so many so many of Americans favorite dishes. Talking about food can be as controversial as talking about religion or politics. The ritual of eating, especially the ritual of eating TOGETHER can bring your new plant-strong habits to the spotlight. Sometimes this brings out the curiosity in others, sometimes the hostility :) Any time someone deviates from the usual, it can make people uncomfortable. Most of the time, people just want to understand what you are doing and why. Sometimes the information can cause inner turmoil for the person trying to understand your new habits. Some people take what you are or are not eating personally. Some take it as a challenge to their status.
So what do you do?
I think my best advice is to understand why people freak out about this sometimes. I cannot recommend enough the knowledge I have gained from reading The Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle, PhD. Read this book, so you can know how to pick and choose when to impart more information and when to deflect or minimize what your doing. Every time someone asks doesn’t mean an argument has to ensue. Sometimes, you can choose to just shrug it off without explanation. There will be those days when you find yourself in a conversation much like that between John and Tom. How will you handle it? What’s in your plant-strong tool box for dealing with the peer pressure of others? Here are some of my tips:
Say no thanks and change the subject.
Say something like: I’d love to explain my eating habits to you sometime, but tonight I’d rather hear about what’s up with you/your new job/ the new grandchild/that basketball game etc.
Bring a dish that you can eat that others would like too: pasta salads are great!
Plan ahead, read menus, call ahead to the restaurant and ask to speak to someone about your needs.
Eat before you go and have a small salad at dinner.
Have confidence in your choices and take care of your needs.
Once upon a time Bill and I were junk food vegans. We sought out the best in vegan junk food throughout the country when we would travel. One of the things we encountered along the way was a breakfast called The Nebulous Potato Thing. We think it is probably one of the coolest names ever for a breakfast. It was delightfully filled with potatoes, peppers, beans, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese and – it was fried with lots of oil on the grill. Now it sounds pretty gross to me, but at the time…I remember eating until I felt gross.
Those days are gone now and I can eat until I am comfortably full without feeling gross. Today I set out to recreate a healthy version of the Nebulous breakfast, which I am dubbing:
The Urban Cowboy
You will need:
a bag of frozen Ore Ida hashbrowns (or 6 large russet potatoes diced)
4 sweet peppers
1 hot pepper (or sub another sweet pepper if you don’t like heat)
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1-2 packages of extra firm tofu diced (you can sub any bean if you like)
Cayenne Pepper, Smoked Paprika & Fiesta Lime Seasoning – to taste
1 jar/package Frontera Guacamole mix
1/2 cup or so of shredded purple cabbage
6 green onions diced
a handful of diced cilantro
salsa for topping if you’d like
Makes 4 large servings
Add hash browns to a hot non-stick pan along with the peppers that you have sliced into rings and the corn. Add NO water or broth to the pan…just be patient, heating the potatoes on medium, leave them sit long enough to start to brown – in other words…leave them alone for a bit, you can check them with a spatula, but you don’t need to constantly stir them. The potatoes will begin to brown. As seen here…
In another pan… coat the bottom of the pan with a mix of these spices, use as little or as much heat ast you’d like with the cayenne. Skip it entirely if you don’t like spicy.
It should look like this…
Meanwhile back at the ranch…
keep tossing the potatoes every 3 minutes or so as they continue to brown. When they are browned to your liking…Then add in your jar of Guacamole mix. I use this because it is relatively low in sodium per serving compared to most salsas and I like the flavor.
toss it all together and lower the heat to low.
In your other pan of tofu(or beans)… you want to heat them thoroughly or brown your tofu.
now, toss in your diced cabbage to the potato mixture and then turn off the heat, let sit for 5 minutes. You want it to be al dente, not soggy. So it only takes a few minutes.
It should you look like this:
now assemble your plate:
potato mixture first, then add on your tofu or beans, top with cilantro and green onions, salsa if you’d like and serve with half a plate of greens. Garnish with lime slices – squeeze over the whole plate
perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Wrapped in a collard wrap, or a Engine 2 tortilla.
Spend 5 minutes with me in my kitchen and you’ll learn that I am not a fan of recipes. I am an improvisor. I don’t measure anything. I am a fan of keeping it simple, but enjoy a good twist on an old favorite. I love to eat! My whole foods plant-based lifestyle affords me the opportunity to eat a lot, try new things, like mustard greens and enjoy my food more than ever before. I look everywhere for inspiration when it comes to plant-strong meals. From Facebook and Pinterest to cookbooks and magazines. I love being a recipe scientist and flipping recipes on their head to make them plant-strong.
I had the opportunity recently to read and review The China Study Cookbook by Leanne Campbell, PhD. I use cookbooks for inspiration and ideas on what to make in my kitchen. This one is full of ideas! Campbell spends the first 33 pages of the book giving a brief summary of what following a whole foods plant-based diet entails. With sections about nutrients, feeding children, transitioning from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to name a few, readers get a glimpse of why they should pick up The China Study if they haven’t read the book that started it all. The book stands alone just fine to the casual observer and those who are looking for a healthier version of the currently popular vegan diets that are heavy on oils and vegan substitutes. For those practicing a whole foods plant-based diet already, this book has a lot to offer.
There are many plans out there in the plant-based arena. The recipes that Campbell offers in The China Study Cookbook should please most practitioners. For those following a plan that doesn’t include nuts, there are less recipes to choose from, but most of the recipes can be modified. Some of the recipes include coconut and or light coconut milk as well. As a follower of Dr. Esselstyn’s plan, I generally avoid nuts, coconut and other high-fat plant foods. For coconut milk, I replace the amount of liquid with unsweetened almond milk with a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut extract.
For most, this cookbook offers a full array of recipes to please every palate. The Mexican Jicama Salad is one of my favorites. It’s simple and works as a side dish or a great topping on burgers or tacos. The Spicy Pumpkin Soup will be gracing my table throughout autumn. The Leafy Lentils recipe is a new favorite as well! I think it was even better the next day for lunch. Some of the other notable recipes for fall include: Pumpkin Gnocchi With Italian Vegetable Sauce – super easy! – and the Apple Gingerbread Upside Down Cake will be the perfect way to celebrate my husband’s birthday.
Consider adding this cookbook to your plant-based book shelf. Creative recipes with fresh flavors, great photos of plant-based foods, it offers something for everyone.
Raspberry Radish Salad
One box of your favorite salad greens
One box of red raspberries
One cup of thinly sliced radishes
The juice from 1/2 a meyer lemon
fresh or dried dill
I cannot being to tell you how amazing this simple salad is!
This week brought cooler weather to Saint Louis. We turned off the A/C and slept with the windows open. A pure simple gift of summer. Gentle cross breeze blowing through the house and a sunrise worth noting at dawn. Pure joy for me! Things have been pretty hectic in my life since March when all of the big boxing events of the year started. All of our travels and adventures since then have really kept us on our toes. So when I can close my eyes, listen to the birds chirping, feel the cool breeze and enjoy the moment, it’s a luxurious thing.
This week also produced my first harvest from the three tomato plants I have in pots in the backyard. A modest harvest compared to gardens past, but it made my day nonetheless. Over the winter, I shall plot and plan the new garden. I look forward to a longer growing season than the great north offered us. I also look forward to checking out the local organic farms and greenhouses for inspiration and seedlings next spring. Do you have a local source for organic seeds or heirloom seedlings?
On the homefront, I can now cook in our renovated kitchen! My gas stove is in place and connected. This means I can steam a pot of potatoes or kale at my leisure. I am still waiting for countertops. It will be a week until they are ready. So I am keeping prep simple and not making complicated dishes just yet. I made some amazing things in the crockpot during construction though. Including a dish that I really look forward to having again. It was really simple, hearty and flavorful.
5 large russet potatoes
1 large or 2 medium zuchinni – sliced in half moon shaped pieces
1 box of sliced mushrooms
3 cloves of fresh garlic or a teaspoon of garlic powder
5 stems of fresh basil diced
2 cups veggie broth or water
cook 4 hours on high in the crockpot.
*feel free to improvise – add onions, tomatoes, peppers etc. if you’d like.
While sitting on the porch enjoying a salad for lunch, I discovered that we have hummingbirds in our yard. They are so pretty! I just love our neighborhood and look forward to getting to know the folks who inhabit our block over the coming years. We have a quiet street, lots of elementary aged kids who play together. Neighbors who say hello or wave from the rocking chairs on their porches. We chat over the fence in the back yard or as we round the block while walking the dog. It’s a very simple comfort being here.
This summer has brought some great new cookbooks and the local produce offerings. I have been craving simplicity though, single ingredient dishes maybe with a dash of spice. Corn on the cob dusted with cayenne, a bowl full of melon or my favorite standby snack – a box of baby kale. I love snacking on the little leaves. Tender and flavorful without the bitterness that mature kale can have. I have also been enjoying the fresh nectarines the season brings – probably my favorite fruit.
Growing up in the 70′s meant a slew of public service announcements intermixed with Saturday morning cartoons. One in particular was Don’t Drown Your Food http://youtu.be/R81T7u9hgnE Often, with so many amazing plant-strong recipes out there, we forget this simple principle. I know I’ve touched on the subject before, but with harvest season in full swing, now is the time to enjoy the pure simple in season flavors that the garden has to offer. Do you have a favorite single ingredient dish?
It was a momentous week for us. We bought a bed, started sleeping at the house we have been renovating, had appliances delivered and got hot running water – which means we can take bubble baths! It’s been a long road filled with hard work, sacrifices, stress and learning. At the beginning of the project, I was hopeful and excited. In the middle, I was in tears and thinking it would never work out. Nearing the end, I found a pace to keeping things on schedule and saw the light at the end of the project.
This is much like the process of meeting new members on Engine 2 Extra (E2X). Our online community is a thriving village of folks who have incorporated Engine 2 into their daily lives. We have over 2,000 members who are at various stages of excited, confused, finding success, working through stumbling blocks, finding support and thriving for the long haul. At Engine 2 Extra, we are there to guide members on their journey to better health. Helping some one figure out a recipe, overcome a hurdle like – the love of cheese, understand the detriments of oils and sodium, or just being there to listen.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many of our members online, having had the opportunity to spend a weekend with some of them at the Farms To Forks – Chicago event as well. It has been a joyful experience to watch them learn and grow as plant-strong beings. Finding success when it comes to improving your health is a big deal. Working through issues such as high cholesterol or high blood sugar can be life changing. Being able to be part of the process, for me has been the most rewarding.
I love meeting a new E2X member! Learning about what brought them to E2X, how they heard about our program, what issues they may be having and how to best help them reach their goals. Over the course of time, learning more about each person, what drives them, what talents they have and what might be their biggest hurdles. Watching our network grow and all the plant-strong events and meet-ups we have going on, so these online connections can become real-life friends as well is one of the many perks of membership. Just this weekend, several E2X members were treated to a grocery store tour all about Engine 2′s way of shopping by one of our E2X coaches. There are also potlucks and other opportunities to be part of the growing community across the nation of like-minded folks.
I was so excited to find a thriving community of plant-strong people in Saint Louis. I look forward to getting to know everyone here and hope to create some events soon. Online, watching our E2X members reach their goals, become more active, learn new skills in the kitchen, gain new understanding of their relationship with food and incorporate this lifestyle into their families lives has just been an incredible experience. So many healthy, vibrant, joyful experiences ahead of them.
Whether you are the sole plant-strong person you know, or your whole family is in on it, join us at Engine 2 Extra, you have a whole community of support and information waiting for you! Share recipes, find a local friend, gain support, knowledge and camaraderie with others like you.
I can’t believe we are half way through July already!
We spent the weekend installing tile in the kitchen of our bungalow. It’s a decent sized kitchen and we used really small tile, so it was quite the undertaking! I had a bunch of time to think about things while cleaning grout lines and such. I thought a lot about summers over the years of my life. From summers spent at the community pool growing up, a summer in a motorhome with my cousin and her family at Disney World and other points across the country, a summer working at the mall in high school and so on.
The thing that all of these memories have in common is the food that I can recall being part of each one of these memories. From a particular strawberry jell-o pie I had frequently one summer to the junk I used to buy at the pool snack bar, I don’t know why I can recall it all. Maybe I have a good memory, or maybe it was the comfort of food that I always wrapped myself in? I should ask Doug Lisle when I see him next month at Plant-Stock! One summer my mom had decided to can some peaches, pickles and tomato sauce. I still remember the peaches today, almost 30 years ago.
Building new comfort food memories that are more plant-strong than my summer food memories of old is something I thought about yesterday while tiling the kitchen. Finding go-to items or recipes that can be great for you and hit that comfort spot can be a challenge. I think that the longer you are plant-strong, the easier it gets though, so hang int here and keep trying new things if you are new to this way of eating. Work on re-creating recipes that you love in a plant-strong version if you can as well.
Some of my new favorites include my most favorite – quinoa, black beans, shredded kale and hot sauce. Jicama sliced into sticks and used for dipping is another new favorite! This recipe for Peach Basil Salad is a take off on the peaches my mom used to can and the peach vanilla jam I used to make. This is the essence of the stuff I used to love without all the sugar. This salad is perfect for a picnic, a potluck, a meal or a snack. You can even serve it over oatmeal for a phenomenal sweet/savory breakfast!
Peach Basil Salad
This salad is so easy and delicious – try it today while the peaches are fresh!
4 peaches sliced or diced – your choice
3 stems of fresh basil (approximately 12 leaves) chopped
3 slices of red onion diced
1/4 cup balsamic dressing
cracked black pepper to taste
serve over spinach or chilled quinoa
makes 4 servings
On Engine 2 Extra, our online support community, we have all kinds of groups. There are groups for all kinds of topics, from plant-strong travel to a recipes group and all kinds of groups in between. One of our groups is a support group for the season. We’ve actually been together as a group since last year. Each month and each season we work on different things. This season, it is the adventure of a personal bucket list. Working on an attainable goal by summers end plus adding an item or two to a bucket list that we will cross off by Labor Day.
It is always good to have some goals, small or large, it gives you the extra motivation to keep doing, learning, trying new things. Our bucket lists had goals of the fitness variety, following the plant-strong plan, trying new foods, personal growth goals, and goals getting over fears and issues. Mine involved some goals with my running/fitness and starting a plant-strong potluck here in Saint Louis. I hope to get that organized and planned before the end of summer. I have heard from so many plant-strong folks in Saint Louis already, so I am pretty excited about that! I sadly haven’t been running much – with the exception of running to the hardware store to pick up more supplies for our renovation project/new house. We have survived the last three weeks of dust, dirt and a lot of hard work, but not much in the way of fitness, unless you count unloading lumber or drywall from the truck.
I have a great park two blocks from the house. Running paths and a YMCA. All within 5 minutes walk. So I have no excuses. I just haven’t made the time. Or I should say, I haven’t taken the time I need to take care of myself in the way I need to on a regular basis. I let other things get in the way and I make excuses about why I ‘can’t’. The funny thing about it is that I always feel better and have more energy when I do get out my running shoes. I KNOW this. So I am working on that. Getting into a routine is huge for me. Once I am in it, I do GREAT! it is being able to get BACK on track that I have trouble with. What are your best tips for getting back on track with fitness? I love working out in the early morning. So I am going to work on not making any early morning obligations so I can be sure to get it in at the start of my day.
What are you working on this summer? Do you have any short term summer goals? Have you a bucket list of your own? Let us know what you are working on! If not, build a bucket list for the summer, there is lots of time left to get in a little adventure! We have a new 28 day challenge starting on Engine 2 Extra this week – maybe joining us on E2X will be one of your bucket list items. Come learn and thrive with us at Engine 2 Extra! http://engine2extra.com
I am writing to you from the basement of our new house in St Louis. It’s a 1927 brick bungalow and we are remodeling. It’s the only dust free zone in the house at the moment. If you have ever been in the midst of a renovation project, you know how long the process can be, how tiring and stressful it is, how much dust and dirt gets knocked around and how much you just can’t wait to be done with the whole thing. This would be me this week.
I haven’t been keeping regular hours and I have been cooking as little as possible while I am without a kitchen all day. Having a lot of room temperature food, easy to eat produce and very simple lettuce and tomato sandwiches have been my savior. Having salads without dressing from take out places have been easy dinners for us the past two weeks as I have been keeping hours from 7am-10pm or so at the renovation project that our house has become.
I find myself craving this week. Not craving junk as I might have once before finding Engine 2, but craving kale, hot soup, steaming baked potatoes heaped with chili and fresh cilantro. I am craving some of my lentil sloppy joes and other things that I haven’t had during our kitchenless period the past 14 days. Until now, it hasn’t even been a place you’d want to plug in a crock-pot. We had all new plumbing put in, so I finally have water! Yay! Though you can take showers at our YMCA – I think they would frown upon us bringing our dishes over to scrub
I find the process of developing a taste or craving for healthy food fascinating. Once I used to crave so much fat laden food, sugar frosted items and just plain junk. If you are struggling with staying on plan, food cravings for things that are not plant-strong, hang in there! Stay strong. Find the closest plant-strong food you can to satisfy your craving. Is it salty or sweet? Hot or cold? What could you substitute? Would frozen fruit do the trick? Would something spicy scratch the itch? Take a moment to breathe and think about what you really want and how it will make you feel if you have it. Will you feel satisfied? Will you be able to stop there, just having one thing?
For me it’s a slippery slope with foods I know I have issues controlling. I find it’s easiest for me if I just abstain. I won’t tell you that it’s easy. It is a process and it does take a while. But it won’t be long before you think….wow, I sure could go for a bowl of quinoa, kale and black beans right now!
That sounds really good to me.
The crock-pot will be in full force this week at our bungalow, my make shift kitchen set up in the basement while we wait for cabinets to be delivered and tile floors to be done. The most simple fare possible can be amazing when you are plant-strong. Keeping things simple is the key to success! beans, lentils, potatoes, rice and veggies, with some spices is all I need or want this week. How about you?
What have you been craving lately?
Plant-strong foods or otherwise, tell us how you handle food cravings!
When having a choice of mild, medium or hot, I always pick hot. From Thai food to salsa, I like heat. I grow hot peppers in my garden too. The gardeners out there understand when I say, I am always looking for new and interesting ways to use my harvest. Kind of like zucchini, how many ways can I use this up before it goes bad? I know…zucchini pancakes! Peppers are no different. Though I like to do some canning, there is only so much salsa one can eat. This summer I’d like to encourage you to try some new things. Pick a new-to-you vegetable or fruit at the farmers market. Try some new recipes, like the recipes in My Beef With Meat. My favorite remains the Nottingham Spread. It’s great for a summer picnic! Another thing you should try is putting a bit of heat in a recipe that you might not think of as having the potential to be hot.
A few years ago, on a motorcycle ride to Wisconsin, I found a jar of jam in a little country store. It was blueberry habanero jam. This sweet hot combo really was amazing! On toast, it really gave depth to the flavors. It was just sweet enough, a little tart from the berries and had an ‘after heat’ of habanero that was just incredible. I savored that jam, down to the last little bit I could scrape out of the jar. I haven’t been back to Wisconsin, though I am sure you can find it elsewhere. I make jam myself from time to time. I prefer the no sugar pectin variety. I usually make a peach vanilla jam that is pretty spectacular. So you could always whip up a batch of blueberry habanero if it sounds as good to you as it did to me. You can also add some zing to the recipes you enjoy already. Here is one of my favorite twists on an old standby: Oatmeal with Blueberries.
Cayenne Berry Breakfast
1 cup frozen blueberries (blackberries also work great with this)
1 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less to taste)
Toss together and microwave for 1 minute.
Serve over oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, farro or polenta.
Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or nuts and enjoy!
Summer is a great time for making banana ice cream. Maybe you just got a Yonana Maker? Trying some of the following combinations might be great! I use a food processor to make my banana ice cream. One of my favorite flavors is the same combination as in the recipe above. I use frozen bananas that are not quite ripe yet, a little green still, frozen blueberries, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and cayenne to taste. I didn’t come up with this brilliant idea. I borrowed the concept from a dish I had several years ago before I was plant-strong. The dish was apple empanadas with jalapeno ice cream. An empanda is a pastry filled with a sweet or savory filling and baked or deep fried. This particular version with filled with apples and served with this ice cream that was cool and sweet like vanilla and then at the very end…the heat of the jalapeno was evident. It was a strange and delightful experience! So next time you make some banana ice cream, consider the ways you might put a little heat to it! Why not try the same idea using bananas, mangoes and a bit of habanero? If you like it hot, give it a try this summer and let me know what you think! Pineapple, banana, jalapeno works fantastically as well. So many possibilities to explore. Enjoy the adventure!