Saturday, October 5, 2013

Smoky Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Roasted Corn soup

Made this last week and I loved it so much I had to make it again! Great for the chilly fall weather. 

Smoky Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Roasted Corn soup
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of baked, peeled, chopped sweet potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups frozen roasted corn
  • 2 cups black beans (rinse first if using canned beans)
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. thyme (dried)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. chili powder (I used Chile Molida)
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp. ground Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • Lacinato kale (chiffonade style, add at end or just into bowl before serving)
  • Cilantro (chopped), added as garnish (as little or as much as you want!)
  • Cashew sour cream (recipe below)
  • Avocado (optional)
  1. Add onion to a large soup pot and cook over medium heat until it begins to become translucent (about 3-5 minutes). Add minced garlic and cook another 3 minutes until softened.
  2. Stir in frozen roasted corn and let cook another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the black beans (make sure they are rinsed well if using canned beans)
  4. Add the chopped cooked sweet potatoes. 
  5.  Add vegetable stock and add the following spices: cumin, thyme, smoked paprika, chili powder, chipotle powder) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat let simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove 2-3 cups of the soup and puree in a blender (I used my Vitamix). Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the puree.
  7. Return to the pot and stir.
  8.  Add kale to pot and stir. Alternatively, you can just put some of the kale into each bowl, add the soup on top and then stir. This helps to soften the kale but not overcook it so it retains all its good nutrition! But if you aren’t keen on chewy kale, feel free to add it in towards the end and cook it a bit to soften it.
  9.  Add a dollop of cashew sour cream to the top, along with some chopped cilantro and chopped avocado and serve. Yum! 
    Cashew sour cream:
  • Soak 1 cup of cashews in water for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.
  • Discard soak water and put cashews in a blender (used my VitaMix)
  • Add juice from 1 lemon
  • Add 1/4 -1/2  cup water (start with 1/4 and add more as needed)
  • Add ground Himalayan sea salt to taste (usually about 1/4 tsp.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Yum, just yum...

Just had an amazing dinner (if I do say so myself!) 

Baked Cheezy Spicy Cauliflower 
Quinoa Falafel with Tahini Avocado Dressing (I didn't have Vegg so I used ground flax/water for the egg substitute - need to experiment with the right amount as they were a bit crumbly. I baked mine and left out any oils. The dressing was good, but I added more lime to mine.)
Green salad with cucumbers, tomato, red bell pepper, Caesar dressing

The cauliflower was seriously to die for. I almost at the entire thing! 

Baked Cheezy Spicy Cauliflower: 
Heat oven to 375
1 large head of cauliflower (wash and cut into bite size pieces)

In a ziploc bag add the following spices: 

5 TBS Nutritional Yeast
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp South African Smoke Seasoning Blend (Trader Joes' comes in a grinder) 
 - ingredients of smoke blend: paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic, basil
1 TBS sesame seeds
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

Shake up the seasonings in the ziploc bag, add the freshly washed cauliflower and shake away. 

Put coated cauliflower on a cookie sheet and bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Delicious! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Another day...lots of yummy plant based foods!

Continuing my theme from yesterday of "what do I eat in a day" I thought I'd repeat that trend for what I ate on Monday. Started my day off with my typical "go to" breakfast. 

Breakfast - Big bowl of rolled oats. When I say big, I mean big! It fills me up and I am not hungry again until lunch...not to mention that oats are SO good for you. 

1 cup cooked rolled oats
3/4 cups blueberries
1/3 cup raspberries
1/2 banana
1 TBS raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 TBS chia seeds
1/2 TBS ground flax seed
1/2 white nectarine 

I was busy doing yard work so I kind of snacked for lunch
I had an apple and a white nectarine
Had some oil free tortilla chips and fresh salsa

Late afternoon snack - I made a chocolate mug cake from Happy Herbivore. I wanted a little treat after all my yard work. I make it like the recipe, but put half in the mug, drop in 1 TBS peanut butter and then the rest of it on top, then cook as noted in the recipe. It's just a little single serving cake. 

Sweet potato/black bean taco- easy peasy - just mix up black beans, sweet potato, cumin, chili powder, nutritional yeast, onion powder, cilantro and salsa and then put it into a warmed corn tortilla. I always bake a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven and then put them in the refrigerator for use during the week. During the warmer summer months I do it in the morning so it doesn't heat up my kitchen when it gets warm later in the day. The other great thing about doing this is that after they have cooled in the fridge, the skin just slides right off! 

1 head of lightly steamed broccoli - drizzled a little of my oil free Caesar dressing on it.

1 large mixed greens salad with cucumber, red bell pepper, tomatoes and my oil free Caesar dressing.

Yummy dinner. As a will not go hungry on a plant based diet! It fills you up and you don't feel stuffed and uncomfortable. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

What do I typically eat in a day?

Someone once asked my what a typical day of eating looks like from me. It was someone who was not plant based and having a hard time figuring out what I would eat. So I figured that during the month of September I would post what I eat several times during this month. 

Sunday, Sept. 1: 

I did a long run this morning so I wanted a little bit more than just my big bowl of oatmeal after I got back from my run. Before my run I had half a large banana...gotta fuel! 

Breakfast - Tofu scramble with black beans, red potatoes, kale, red onions, salsa (ended up with leftovers remaining)

Snack - Apple with a TBS of natural organic peanut butter (just peanuts, no added oils or preservatives)

Lunch - Big mixed green salad with cucumber, tomatoes, carrots and my vegan oil-free Caesar dressing. Toasted a whole wheat lavash wrap from Trader Joe's and sopped up the left over dressing with it! I LOVE this dressing. The whole wheat lavash wraps from TJs are vegan and also oil-free. 

Afternoon snack - Almond milk latte (home made) and a TBS of vegan chocolate chips (I needed a little chocolate fix).

Dinner - Leftover tofu scramble - I decided to have my leftovers from this morning, but I wanted to mix it up a bit so I made brown gravy, whole wheat drop biscuits and a cucumber salad from my home-grown green and lemon cucumbers. I never liked gravy when I was younger. Heck, I would probably only put two drops on mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving dinner. But the brown gravy from Happy Herbivore ROCKS! It's in Happy Herbivore CookbookI drizzled the gravy over my tofu scramble and then used it for my biscuits also. 

Dessert - Had my leftover half banana which I had cut up and frozen and drizzled one tablespoon of melted chocolate chips over it. 

A good day of yummy plant based goodness. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Live Healthy - Live Plant Based - Prevent, Reverse Heart Disease

Obviously, everyone has their own right to have their own beliefs and to live their life as they want to live it as long as others are not hurt in the process. 

I had a discussion the other day with a colleague who said to me, "if you could just eat anything you wanted and die 10 years earlier, would you go back to eating meat, dairy, eggs, etc? Would you die at 75 instead of 85 to have the pleasure of eating animals again?" My answer, of course, was absolutely NOT! His was that he would rather continue eating tons of meat, etc. and die at 75 than to have to eat healthy and die at 85. I'm pretty sure that with the way he eats he'll never make it to 75, but that is his choice. Sad for his son, but hey it's his choice. I was a bit taken aback by his answer. But then I realized that his idea of what eating a plant based diet consists of would be horrible tasteless food. While that may have been the norm 10 or more years ago, that simply is not the case now. I wasn't even sure how to deal with this answer and his belief. I had to think about it for a long time to figure out why someone would want to cut 10 years off their life for the 15 or 20 minutes of "pleasure" that they get from eating meat. His deal was meat, not cheese, not eggs, not milk, but meat. He'll eat any type of meat, and I mean ANY TYPE from any part of the animal. Glands, organs, sweet breads, head cheese, brains, hot dogs, etc. 

I finally figured out that his assumption is that I get no pleasure from the food I eat. I even described this amazing butternut squash veggie lasagna that I had made and he just said "yeah, right I bet that was tasty" (sarcasm, of course). The truth is that the food I eat is EXTREMELY satisfying, tasty, delicious and pleasurable - not at all tasteless. There are SO many plant based choices out there that are not only delicious but also healthy. Options abound. 

I then thought back to the fact that he didn't care if he cut 10 years off his life. Immediately, I thought of James Gandolfini who just recently died of a heart attack at 51. 51 is WAY too young to die. He had not been diagnosed with heart disease. Yes, he was overweight and we don't know what other medical ailments he may have had. It was reported that he had eaten a very meat laden, fat filled meal right before, including foie gras. He was an amazing actor, an advocate for pit bulls, a father to a teenage boy and a 1 year old daughter and died way too young. 

What you eat DOES make a difference in your health. Many people who have heart attacks aren't diagnosed with heart disease until they have a heart attack. And unfortunately, for many of them their first diagnosis of heart disease is the fatal attack and no treatment will help them. It's very sad because heart disease does not need to exist and can be prevented and reversed by eating a plant based diet. Tons of proof out there and I wish more people would believe it. 

I've been asked by several people "what, are you trying to live forever?" No, of course I'm not. But for as long as I live, I want to live healthy, pain free, medication free, and functional. I don't want to suffer from chronic illness and declining health. I want to live a vibrant, functional life. I want to be able to run into my 70s or further, to travel after I retire (that's a long way off), to be sharp of mind and wit, and to not depend on others to take care of me in my old age. I am willing to eat a healthy whole foods plant based diet in order to make sure I live this way because I truly believe in the science that shows how much better it is for us to eat this way. Do I think I am making a sacrifice? Absolutely not, the food I eat is delicious, healthy and nourishes my body. 

It made me think to talk to him about this and realize that as much as I want everyone I know to live a healthy, long life some just don't care if they do as long as they have that meal that gives them 15 or more minutes of pleasure. Sad, but true!

Plant based pointers

So I think I have now sent this or a variation of this to a handful of people so I figured I should probably put it on my blog. 

Obviously...I don't think going plant based is hard. I figure if I can do it, anyone can since I travel for work and never know exactly where I am going to be able to eat. 

Breakfast: It's my hardest meal when I am on the road, that’s why I carry my magic bullet blender with me. On the road, if I am not in a hotel with a little kitchenette or at least a fridge and microwave, I make my vega one shake. So I buy VegaOne (it’s pricey, but I feel it’s worth it and I typically only use it when I travel) add almond milk and a banana. Keeps me full until lunch. At home, I typically do oatmeal, usually whole rolled oats or steel cut oats, you can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for days. I add defrosted blueberries, raspberries, chia seeds and ground flax seed and any other fruit I feel like. I never was an oatmeal lover, but with the fruit, I really like it and it’s very filling. There is a good recipe in My Beef With Meat for Rips Big Bowl, his healthy cereal, it’s pretty good too. Another option, instead of eggs, you can use tofu and do a tofu scramble. Sometimes I’ll do that on the weekend. I am not a tofu lover, but there are some good tofu scramble recipes out there and adding things like salsa, black beans, potatoes, etc helps. Adding a little bit of kala namak salt (black himalayan salt) gives it an eggy taste since it has a slight sulfur flavor (which is what gives eggs their taste)

Making things ahead of time really helps: I do beans from scratch and freeze them in bags to use during the week. Soak dry beans overnight, rinse well in the morning and cook in a slow cooker all day. Adding a piece of kombu, a type of seaweed, helps to degas them. I am trying to cook on Sundays and either put stuff in the fridge for during the week or freeze stuff so I always have stuff to eat, that way it just makes it easier to eat healthy. When I am pushed for time, I typically do something like a black bean and sweet potato burrito with a side of veggies and a salad. Mexican is easy to do so fast that I tend to gravitate to that, and it’s always been my fav type of food. Easy to do tacos that way too.

The only supplement that I take is vitamin B12. I am not deficient, but it’s harder to get on a plant based diet. Actually a lot of meat eaters and omnivores are deficient in it. The brand I use is Deva, it’s vegan and it just dissolves in your mouth. I get it from Amazon.

My plant based gurus are: 

T. Colin Campbell, PhD (
Caldwell Esselstyn, MD (
Rip Esselstyn (
John McDougall, MD (
Neil Barnard, MD (

I heard Dr. Esselstyn speak at Portland Veg Fest last September and it was awesome. Started following a low fat, little to no oil route last year. I use a lot of Happy Herbivore recipes ( and those from Engine 2 Diet, Forks Over Knives cookbook, Dr. McDougal.

If you want some good books to read on the benefits of a plant based diet, here are my suggestions: 

The China Study (T. Colin Campbell, PhD) - the China Study is what really pushed me over the edge and made me go vegan
Whole (T. Colin Campbell, PhD) - his new book Whole came out in May
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Caldwell Esselstyn, MD)
Engine 2 Diet (Rip Esselstyn)  
My beef with meat (Rip Esselstyn)

There are also some good books on plant based/vegan eating in the dummy series and idiots guide series. 

One really easy way to try to go plant based and not have to really think about what you are going to eat is via The Happy Herbivore's weekly meal plan website Every week, Lindsay puts out a new meal plan that covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and has all the recipes for the items in that weeks menu. She also includes a shopping list and it's very easy, not hard to find stuff. It's $5.00 for each meal plan and the new one's come out on Wednesday. It's a great way to not have to think about what you are going to make or eat. She has two plans, individual and a family plan. It really takes the work out of thinking about it! She also has 3 cookbooks (a 4th one is coming out later this year) that you can get on or other sites. Her recipes are easy and taste good too! I often add a bit more spice that she does. 

Happy Herbivore weekly meal plans

Happy Herbivore website:

The Happy Herbivore Cookbook: Over 175 Delicious Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes

Everyday Happy Herbivore: Over 175 Quick-and-Easy Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes

Happy Herbivore Abroad: A Travelogue and Over 135 Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes from Around the World 
Other cookbooks that I use frequently: 

Superfood Kitchen: Cooking with Nature's Most Amazing Foods (this is the updated version)

Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It!

Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution

The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds

Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year

I have tons more (a bookshelf full) but figured this was a good start!

Books about becoming vegan, staying vegan, benefits of a plant based diet, etc. 

The Ultimate Vegan Guide

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health

Vegan For Life Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet 

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure

Good websites, some informational some are recipe blogs: (cuz sometimes I post some good recipes!)

and tons more, lots of good vegan blogs with recipes, etc. out there too! 

I’m assuming you knew this would be very long winded!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Healthy Kitchen Makeover

Time to make over your kitchen...Uh-Oh, here come's the plant based food police! 

Is it really hard to make your food plant strong and junk free? Nope! It really isn't and it also isn't hard to go plant based. I know that people think it would be SO hard, but in today's era, there are TONS of great whole food plant based recipes that you really won't miss the animal products, fat and sugar. 

So why do I think everyone should be eating a low fat, plant based diet? 

A low-fat whole foods plant based diet can help prevent and reverse many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disease, etc. It keeps your body healthy and you feel better. You'll lose weight. Your taste buds will change, I guarantee it. But you do have to make a commitment to do it. Don't you owe it to yourself and those who love you to be the healthiest you can be? I sure think so. 

Why is fat an issue? Specifically the bad kinds of fat which are animal based fats? 

Taken from Physician's Committe for Responsible Medicine

Consider that immediately after eating fatty foods…
  • Your triglyceride levels rise
  • Your cholesterol levels rise, contributing to plaque formation
  • Clotting factors in your blood are activated
Two hours later….
  • Your triglycerides have increased by 60 percent
  • Your blood flow has decreased by half
Three hours later…
  • The lining of your arteries has lost elasticity impeding blood flow
  • Blood vessel function has become abnormal
Four and five hours later…
  • Your blood has gotten thicker, flowing even slower than it was two hours ago
  • Your triglyceride levels have now increased by 150 percent
What is the biggest source of fat? Animal products (meat, eggs, cheese, milk, etc.)

So I'm going to list things that I am pretty sure you have in your possession and then will suggest a healthy plant based alternative, if there is one or suggestion for something that works better and is much healthier. 

Let's start with the refrigerator. 

  • Got margarine? 
    • Get rid of it. It's 100% pure fat, even if it's vegan, it's not good for you. It's not good for the environment either since most of it uses palm oil, but I'll leave that story for another post! For example, one little TBS of Earth Balance margarine (which is one of the few vegan margarine brands) is pure fat, yep 80 calories and those 80 calories come entirely from fat. So why would you want to use it? Well, if you think about it you really shouldn't! 
    • Alternative to margarine? Depends on what you want to use it for, is it for toast or a bagel? Try a good nut butter, just make sure that the ingredients are nuts and nothing else. Don't buy the oil laden, sugar riddled types. 
    • Is it for baking? Go low fat and use unsweetened applesauce, pureed ripe banana, pureed pumpkin, plain non-dairy yogurt, silken soft tofu. 
  • Got butter? 
    • Yeah, throw out that 100% fat, you don't need it! 
    • For baking see above. 
    • For bread? Make different types of hummus. 
  • Got yogurt? 
    • Have you taken a look at the fat content and the sugar content? Most flavored yogurts are full of added sugar, added sugar that you really don't need. Even vegan yogurts made from soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk are full of sugar if they are flavored. 
    • Plain plant based yogurt (soy or almond) are a good replacement. Add your own fruit instead of buying the flavored one's which add not only fruit but added sugar. 
  • Got milk? 
    • Seriously, it's time to get off milk. Milk is for calves, not humans. I know your mom made you drink it because you'd grow strong bones, but that's really not the case.  It's not good for you, but marketing and dairy subsidies have led all of the US (and other countries) to think that milk does a body good. Sorry, but it doesn't. Even 2% milk is full of saturated fat. Non-fat milk really isn't any better. Yeah, it's almost fat free, but it still has a bunch of inflammatory animal protein in it, not to mention all the gross stuff that it contains. I won't go into major details here, but if you really want to know, watch the "got the facts on milk?" documentary. What can dairy consumption cause? Ear infections, heartburn, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, eczema, acne, hives, asthma gall bladder issues, body aches, colic, “seasonal allergies,” rhinitis, chronic sinus infections and more.
    • There are so many plant based choices now, you can try a new one every day for 2 weeks and decide which you like best. Choices abound in plant milks: almond, soy, hemp, hazelnut, coconut, flaxseed, rice, hazelnut and lots of blends of these exist. Always choose the unsweetened kind since you don't need all that extra sugar. It's also easy to make your own. Check out my past post about making homemade almond milk
  • Got meat? 
    • Time to ditch meat. I know, I know, you only eat chicken and turkey and fish. Well, I hate to tell you but no matter what meat you eat, they all contain about the same amount of cholesterol no matter what meat it is. And some fish is more fatty than red meat. But it's good fat, right? Yeah, not really! I'm not going to get into the cruelty issues or the fact that factory farming is worse on then environment than anything else, or that our oceans will be depleted of many species of fish in a very short time frame; this post isn't about that and I'll address that later. 
    • Oh my god, where will you get your protein? PLANTS, Beans, legumes, seitan, tofu, tempeh, etc. etc. etc. No one has a protein deficiency in the US unless they are starving to death. It simply doesn't happen to people eating plant based diets so just get that out of your head as a reason to keep meat on your plate. Seriously, there are ultra marathoners, triathletes and professional athletes who are plant based...nuf said! You are NOT going to become protein deficient, in fact you are probably getting way too much protein than you need if you are eating meat and ingesting dairy products. 
  • Got sliced deli meats/hot dogs/sausages/bacon? 
    • Honestly, even worse than meat. All the crap they add to this stuff makes it even worse than regular meat. Multiple studies have shown that people who eat processed meats have a much higher risk of heart disease, cancer, etc. Why eat something that can make you sick? Time to ditch the processed junk! 
    • There are alternatives and while they are plant based, some of them aren't the greatest. You can make your own seitan based sausages and hot dogs, sliced seitan roasts and seitan or coconut bacon. Yep, it's not that hard and they are really good! 
  • Got soda and diet soda? 
    • Regular soda is empty calories, a can of coke has 39gm of sugar in it. That's almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. Do you really want all that sugar? I think not. Is diet soda the answer then? We used to think so, but it's not. Fake sweeteners made from chemicals are horrible for you. And don't even get me started on how acidic soda is. You know it is when you can use coke or pepsi to get oil off your driveway. Seriously, pour some on, use a stiff wire brush and watch the oil stain go away! Think about what that is doing to your body when you drink it. Yikes. 
    • Water - yep way better for you than soda. You find it boring, well try putting a pitcher of filtered water in the fridge and let a few lemon wedges, cucumber slices or berries float in it to flavor it. It's very refreshing and so hydrating. Fresh vegetable juice, if you have a juicer or blender (and can strain it). Just don't add tons of fruit since juicing removes the fiber and without it that fruit sugar rush will put your body into a sugar frenzy. 
  • Got eggs? 
    • During my lifetime, eggs have been bad for you, then good for you and goes on and on. Are they good for you? Nope. Sorry, I know you want to believe the marketing and the claims that they are the perfect protein, but they aren't. As soon as you eat one egg, you expose your body to several hours worth of oxidative stress, inflammation of the arteries, endothelium impairment, and increased susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidize - none of this is good for your body! Want some more information on eggs, here you go.
    • For breakfast you can do a tofu scramble. I'm not a huge tofu lover, but tofu scrambles with sauteed onions, black beans, salsa really rock. You can also add a tiny bit of kala namak (black himalayan salt), it's a sulfur containing salt and adding just a tiny amount can give that tofu an "eggy" taste since eggs have that sulfur taste to them. Amazing how it really does give it an egg like taste. 
    • For a baking substitute, they are all over the web. Ground flax seed and water, chia seeds and water, etc. 
  • Got Cheese? 
    • I'm going to say that almost 100% of you do. The greatest source of saturated fat in the American diet is from cheese, not meat, but cheese. It's slathered on pizza, sandwiches, pasta, vegetables, etc. It's like crack! And it's always the one thing that everyone says they can never give up. It might be the morphine baby! Fat, fat and more fat. Cheese is SO fatty. And yep, that's why you like it, well that and the morphine! Even vegan cheese is not good because usually the second or third ingredient is oil and a bunch of stuff you probably can't pronounce!
    • Nutritional yeast is the secret to cheesy taste for a plant based life sytle. You'll find it in the bulk item aisle in the grocery store. Or you can find it in a shaker bottle. Red Star is one brand. It's a good source of B12 and helps add that cheesy flavor to food. I buy it in bulk and shake it on lots of things. It's great on air popped popcorn, sprinkled on salads or used for a nacho cheezy sauce. It is NOT brewer's yeast so don't get that by mistake. And NO it won't give you a yeast infection! 
    • Stay away from most of the processed plant based cheeses in the store. Most are full of oil and fat. Also many of them still contain casein or whey which are milk proteins. Some of the newer cheese are nut based and while they are higher in fat, if you have a real need for them, it's much better to use one of those on occasion versus a fatty oil filled version. 
  • Got Sour Cream/cream cheese? Or vegan sour cream/cream cheese? 
    • Fat, oil and yuck! Both are full of fat, either from milk/cream or oils. And really, most vegan sour cream uses partially hydrogenated oils. We all know trans fats are bad so why would you use them? Don't! 
    • You can make a really tasty plant based sour cream from soaked raw cashews. For cream cheese, I tend to use a nut butter if I'm having a whole grain bagel or hummus if using it as a spread. 
  • Got Mayo or Miracle Whip? 
    • I'm not even really sure what miracle whip is, I mean is it mayo or? Hmm...anyway, ditch it and ditch the egg filled mayo. It's fatty and full of chemicals. There are commercial vegan versions, but they too are full of oil and other junk your body doesn't need. 
    • Hummus to the rescue. On a sandwich, hummus works overtime to replace mayo and makes it so much tastier! 
    • Looking for a different type of mayo substitute? Try making a homemade tofu based or cashew based homemade mayo. Recipes abound on the internet. 
Let's check out the it's cold in here! 

  • Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. 
    • I mean really, who doesn't love ice cream? Dairy or vegan, we all love our ice cream. It's a decadent treat. It's so creamy and it melts in our mouth. Yum. However, it's loaded with fat and sugar. If it's dairy based ice cream it's frozen milk with added fat and sugar. So you know where I stand on that one. Vegan ice cream, so many delicious types, almond milk based, coconut milk based, hemp milk based, soy based, etc. Yep, yummy...but full of sugar and some are really fatty. I understand you want a treat now and again, but honestly, can you contain yourself to just one little serving? A serving that is actually what they put on the packaging? I mean a little pint is 4 servings! Yep, and when was that last time anyone got 4 servings out of that little pint? More like 2-3 if you ask me. So up goes the calories, fat and sugar content in the amount you eat. A treat is nice, but only if you have the willpower to withstand it calling your name from the freezer. My general rule is...just don't buy it! 
    • So what do I do for a cool tasty treat? Banana ice cream. Freeze chunks of banana for a few hours, and then blend them up in the blender with a little vanilla extract or add some unsweetened raw cacao. You don't need to add extra sugar because the bananas are sweet! Yummy and good! And no worries about a bunch of fat and added sugar. 
  • Got frozen dinners or a big ole tin of Stouffer's meat lasagna? 
    • Ditch it! Have you read the label? Usually full of sodium and fat and a whole bunch of ingredients you have never heard of.
    • Instead of buying a lasagna that's been frozen for who knows how long since it was made, why don't you make a plant based lasagna and freeze part of it. So much better for you and I can guarantee it is much tastier! You can do the same with plant based enchiladas, soups, etc. And it's gonna save you money in the long run. 

Time to check out the pantry! Let's get started. 
  • Got oil and canned oil sprays? 
    • Really, you don't need it. Oil is 100% pure fat. Ounce for ounce it is 100% fat. And it's very inflammatory to your arteries. Even if you don't have heart disease, it's time to give oil the boot. It may seem hard, it may seem weird, but it's actually not that hard to do. I cook without oil. 
    • Have you ever looked at the side of PAM or any other canned oil that you use to spray your pans with. Did you know that any manufacturer of ANY food product can call their product fat free if it has less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving? Now go look at the serving size on that can. Does it say something like 0 calories, 0 fat, 0 everything? How can that be? Well, take a look at the serving size, it's probably says "about 1/3rd of a second" and how many servings are in that can? I'm guessing it's over 350 servings. Do you EVER just do 1/3rd of a second spray? I know I never did. I did a long spray to coat the pan and I know I never got a couple hundred uses out of the can. Tricky, aren't they? It's crap if you ask me! Stay away from them, they aren't good. 
    • I can saute onions, garlic, etc. with out using oil. If I need a little liquid I use veg broth or water, but a lot of times even that isn't necessary because many veggies release water as you saute them. Everyone thinks you'll never have a good salad again if you don't use oil...alas that is simply not true. There are many amazingly tasty salad dressings that you can whip up with just a few ingredients and NO oil. 
    • As a thickener for salad dressing? You have lots of choices: you can use ground flax seeds added to water and let it become gelatinous or the same thing with chia seeds. You can use avocado to give you that rich thickness or you can use ground nuts, mustard, etc. There are lots of alternatives. 
  • Got cereal and instant oatmeal? 
    • Well, there are some that are okay, but most breakfast cereals and instant flavored oatmeal are loaded with sugar and most cereals are made from processed grains. Remember if it has 20 grams of sugar per serving, that's about 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving. And serving sizes are NOT generous so you are probably getting more than that! Grains are good for you, but they need to be WHOLE grains. If it doesn't say "whole" you shouldn't eat it. It's so overly processed, you won't get anything good out of it. 
    • Make your own cereal, I personally love Rip's Big Bowl from Engine 2. Love adding blueberries, raspberries, bananas to it. Other great options are oatmeal (better if you are doing it from rolled oats or steel cut oats, but instant in a pinch is fine as long as it isn't the flavored one's full of sugar. Throw in ground flaxseed or chia seeds and thawed or fresh berries. Yummy! 
  • Got Potato Chips, Tortilla Chips? 
    • Yeah, doesn't everyone. Now c'mon you don't really need me to tell you they aren't good for you right? Do I need to, don't make me. Fried and full of fat, salt and nasty preservatives. 
    • It's hard to find oil free tortilla chips, but they do exist. But a healthier way is to just make your own. You can find recipes online, just google it. It also lets you get creative because you can add your own spices, etc and make your own flavors. 
    • Kale chips! Yummy. If you haven't had them you have no idea what you are missing. Ideally, it's best to make them in a dehydrator so they retain the nutrition, but most people don't have dehydrators so use a low temp in the oven. Much cheaper to make your own versus buying them. 
  • Got Bread? 
    • What kind, and please don't say wonder bread. If you are still eating wonder bread, we need to have a serious talk! Bread is a tough one. Everyone loves bread. But what kind of bread you eat makes a big difference. If it doesn't say WHOLE grains then ditch it. If it says wheat bread, but the ingredients don't say WHOLE wheat, ditch it because it isn't doing you any favors. 
    • Bread should be WHOLE grain, animal product free and preferably oil free. That doesn't mean taste free. There are some very good breads that fit this bill, you just have to read labels. Sprouted whole grain bread without added oils and animal products is the best. 
All right, now let's go grocery shopping. Can I get a Woo Hoo? 

  • Always go with a list and don't shop on an empty stomach! Don't free range shop when you are new to this.  You need to have a list and a plan. I always try to figure out what I'm going to be eating that week to know what I need so I don't end up buying things that go to waste. 
  • READ labels. You need to read labels at first to determine which products are healthy and which you should avoid. Labels are tricky, so always look at calories, calories from fat, serving size and ingredients. If you can't pronounce something in the ingredient list or have no idea what it is,  you probably shouldn't eat it! 
  • The majority of your time should be spent in the vegetable/fruit aisles. Branch out and try veggies you aren't used to such as other types of lettuce (stay away from the nutrient deficient iceberg), kale (lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale is the mildest and needs less "working" if eating it raw), swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens, arugula, watercress, cabbages, bok choy, the list goes on and on. 
  • Stay out of the dairy milk, egg, cheese area. 
  • Learn to buy from the bulk bins. 
    • Beans, lentils, grains, etc. are SO much cheaper when you buy them this way. A tip on beans - We don't always have time to soak beans overnight and cook them the next day so having a few cans of beans on hand is good. But you will save money and get a much better bean if you prepare them in big batches and then freeze them. So soak dry beans overnight, rinse off the soaking water and then throw them in a slow cooker to cook all day. To help with the "gas issue" throw a strip of kombu seaweed in with the beans, it helps de-gas them. Scoop off the foam and then rinse the beans well and put them on a cookie sheet in one layer and freeze them for a bit, then once frozen, put them in smaller bags in amounts you'd normally use for a dish (1 - 2 cups). Then when you need beans you can just pull them out of the freezer. It's SO much cheaper and you unless you are buying an organic brand in a can with no BPA, you don't have to worry about that nasty can lining BPA chemical. You can do the same with lentils (no need to soak, obviously). 
    • Branch out from rice. Ditch the white rice and if you really have to have rice make it brown rice. 
    • Try quinoa (make sure you rinse it before you cook it because it has a saponin layer on it that make it bitter, which is why many people don't like it because it wasn't rinsed before cooking. You can buy Bob's Red Mill brand, it's already rinsed). 
    • Try other grains such as millet, amaranth, bulgur, barley, buckwheat, kasha, teff, wild rice, wheat berries, etc. There are tons of grains to choose from. Go wild! 
  • Fresh veggies, fresh fruit - load UP! 
  • Frozen veggies and frozen fruit are great to have on hand. Most veggies that are frozen are picked and flash frozen so you aren't sacrificing a huge amount of nutrient content. Frozen is WAY better than canned.
  • Canned veggies just aren't very nutritious and usually are loaded with sodium, so try to avoid them. 
  • Stay away from the processed foods. Processed foods, vegan or not are full of stuff you really don't need to ingest. 
  • Hummus. If you can find an oil free version that's best. But it's really easy to make your own. Recipes are all over the web and in plant based cookbooks. Don't limit yourself to just chickpeas for your base, you can use white beans, black beans, edamame, etc. Just don't add in extra oil, it's not necessary. 
  • Plant based milks are both in the refrigerator aisle and also come in tetrapaks which are room temperature and then once opened they have to be refrigerated. I refrigerate them when I buy them if I use them. 
So are you ready for a little makeover? I think you are! 

Eat your veggies, 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jackfruit Chipotle Tacos

I know many of you will say "jackfruit" what the "bleep" is jackfruit? Here's what jackfruit looks like growing on a tree and the fruit itself. They are HUGE!

Really want to know what jackfruit is, check this out: What is Jackfruit?

The first time I saw jackfruit was in Thailand. There were trees at a wildlife sanctuary we visited and the guide pulled one off the tree and gave it to one of the Sun Bears! It was also the first place I tried jackfruit (not the one the bear got!). 

A lot of vegans, vegetarians, etc. use unripened jackfruit as a meat substitute. In its unripened state it shreds and is great for many different types of dishes, but lends itself especially well as a substitute for chicken and pork in Mexican dishes. I love Mexican food, maybe because I grew up in SoCal. Any cuisine that uses cilantro, cumin, salsa, avocado, and chili peppers is okay in my book! 

So I hadn't gone to the store recently, but I did stop at the huge Asian market the other day to specifically find canned unripened (green) jackfruit. I finally found it in brine. If using jackfruit as a non-desert dish,  you need the unripened kind in either water or brine. Don't use the jackfruit in syrup as that is ripe jackfruit and should be used in deserts. 

Because it was in brine, I soaked it in water and rinsed it well to remove as much of the brine as possible. 

So I decided on Jackfruit Chipotle Tacos with a few modifications, since I was lacking a few things (only had whole grain tortillas, not corn; only had canned mild hatch chilies not chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; my avocado was! 

Jackfruit Chipotle Tacos (can do these as burritos too!). 

In a bowl put: 
1  20oz can of drained, rinsed jackfruit in brine
Shred the jackfruit, you can do some by hand and other using a knife, put it in a bowl and set aside. 

In a small bowl put: 
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. onion powder
dash of Himalayan sea salt
Mix the above seasonings (from chili powder to sea salt) together and then add it to the shredded jack fruit and mix well to coat jackfruit. 

In a large saucepan add: 
3/4 cup veg broth
1/2 cup water
1 TBS. tomato paste
1 canned chipotle chili in Adobo, chopped [substitution: 1 4 oz. can Hatch mild green chilies (drain and rinse well)]
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBS. Bragg's Aminos (or use 1 TBS. low-sodium soy sauce, nama shoyu, or tamari (gluten-free)
2 TBS. fresh lime juice
1 TBS. maple syrup
Mix all the above items together and then add the shredded, seasoned jackfruit to the large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, partially cover the saucepan and cook for about 45 minutes. 

At this point, you still have liquid in the saucepan and you don't want your tacos to be soggy, so take the jackfruit and sauce and cook over medium-high heat in a skillet, sauteing it until most of the liquid is gone and the edges of the jackfruit start to brown a bit. I don't saute in oil and did this step in my cast iron skillet, no extra liquid or oil needed. Worked out great. 

For the Tacos: 
5-6 corn tortillas (I used whole grain since I was out of corn, but I'd normally stick with corn!)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, sliced (or you could use freshly made guacamole)
Fresh salsa - for this recipe, to cool the chipotle spice I used Trader Joe's papaya mango salsa. You could also make and use a pineapple mango salsa or regular salsa. 
Cashew Sour Cream - recipe below, I don't like the commercial vegan sour creme products because they are full of oils and other icky stuff! 
You can also add other taco toppings that you might like on your tacos. 

Assemble the tacos putting the jackfruit in the middle of the tortilla and adding your toppings. I usually do the cashew sour cream next, then the salsa, cilantro and avocado. 

Cashew Sour Creme: 

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk (I use this just for cooking and use the Westsoy brand, organic unsweetened)
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
pinch of sea salt

Soak 1 cup of raw cashews for a minimum of 1 hour, preferably you'd do this overnight or at least for 4 hours, but if you are in a hurry you can do an hour. Dump off the soaking water and rinse the cashews well. 
Put the cashews in a blender (I either use my VitaMix or my little magic bullet blender). 
Add the soymilk, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and salt. Blend until very smooth. Refrigerate (this will help make it thicker). If it ever gets too thick, just add a little more soymilk. 

This was ABSOLUTELY delicious and I can see using this as a great filler for not only tacos, but also burritos, enchiladas, tamales, etc...


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mango Pineapple Chia Fresca

Pineapple Mango Chia Fresca
Oh Yum...Delish...not sure what made me come up with this one, maybe it is because the weather here in Portland today is picture perfect. Or maybe because tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Whatever the reason, I'm glad it popped into my head today. 

Chia seeds are so good for you...yes, chia seeds as in ch ch ch chia (pets!). Those little terracotta pets from the 1970s...they still exist today, although I rarely see the commercial anymore! Just make sure you get your own bag of chia seeds, don't use the ones that come with the chia pet! 

My favorite brand is Navitas Naturals

Why is chia so good for you? You know I'm going to list the reasons, right? 

  • Chia seeds are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, even more so than flax and they have 8X more Omega 3 than salmon! 
  • Chia seeds don't have to be ground like flax seed, so they can be stored much longer without going rancid. Remember, flax has to be ground otherwise it, um, passes right through you! 
  • Chia seeds are hydrophilic, they absorb about 10X their weight in water so they are can help with hydration
  • Chia seeds have protein, fiber, manganese, zinc and calcium
  • They may get stuck in your try not to chew it, just drink it!

Mango Pineapple Chia Fresca: 

Put 2 TBS of chia seeds in 1 cup of cold filtered water in a mason jar and put the lid on it. This allows you to shake the mixture to help the chia seeds from clumping together. Let sit for 10 minutes so that chia seeds become gelatinous

In a blender put: 
2 peeled and chopped fresh ripe mangoes
1 cup of pineapple (fresh preferred, but you could use frozen) 
1 cup of cold water
Blend until smooth 

Add blended fruit mix to mason jar and mix by inversion/shaking. Pour into a glass, or just enjoy it out of the mason jar. 

Modifications: Instead of water use cold fresh coconut water, add lime juice or lemon juice, try watermelon or strawberry or your other favorite fruit. 

If you have access to Harmless Harvest brand of raw organic coconut water, try it, it's awesome and comes the closest to fresh young Thai coconut water that you get in Thailand right on the street at every market. Having tried fresh young Thai coconuts last year in Thailand I can tell you this is the closest I have ever had here in the US. The other brands don't come close and I don't really care for the other ones. 

If you aren't adding fruit, you can use a sweetener such as maple syrup (1/2TBS) or raw agave syrup, etc. 

Traditional Chia Fresca is cold water, chia seeds, lime or lemon juice and some type of sweetener. 

Drink, enjoy, yum!