I love this time of year. I guess I’m more of a -between seasons- kind of gal. I love the cool air of the mornings that gives way to those bright blue skies and sunny September days. We are gathering fresh apples, pears and the rest of what our gardens have to offer. September seems to bring a sense of nurture and comfort. Canning fruits and vegetables, simmering stovetop soups, warming by the fire, breathing in that sweet crisp air as we prepare for the dormancy of winter.
I think that’s why I love this time of year. It’s the anticipation, or the getting ready, for a long winter’s nap.
I love a good nap.
Last year at this time, I came home to find two ugly pumpkins on my porch. Not really ugly, but something was definitely wrong with them. They were the darkest green, almost black and a little rough in texture. I immediately called my friend, who is famous for anonymously leaving little treasures at my door without explanation. She hadn’t left them, nor did she recognize what they were by the picture I’d sent. Not having the wear-with-all to investigate further, I ended up using them for decoration.
Now I could kick myself. Kabocha squash. They seem to be all the rage and I’m seeing them everywhere I go. Kabocha is a Japanese variety of winter squash. If butternut squash and sweet potato had a baby, it would be Kabocha. And in my humble and ignorant opinion, I believe this is the superior winter squash, with their rich flavor and sweetness and moist, fluffy (not watery like acorn squash) texture.
I hope my anonymous donor will be so generous again this year.
So, in my latest Kabocha obsession, I've set out to eat them every which way. I love a good squash or pumpkin soup. Then again, I tend to love the idea of it, but the dairy-free squash soups I prepare never seem to quite measure up to what I had in mind. Until now.
Here is a heart healthy oil-free version of a recipe from Dolly and Oatmeal and is perfect for substituting any winter squash as long as you’re compensating for size and adjusting the ingredients from there. Also, for practical purposes, you can substitute 1 sweet onion for leeks, fennel seeds or celery for the fennel and ground ginger for fresh.
Shopping and Storing Tips: The Kabocha rind should be firm and have a dull sheen with no soft spots. The light-colored bumps on the dark green rind are normal. Kabocha squash is usually available late summer to early fall and can be stored like other winter squashed in a cool, dry place for up to a month.
1 kabocha squash (substitute butternut or acorn)
1 large leek, sliced or 1 sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced or 1/2 tsp fennel seeds or 3 stalks celery, diced
¾ inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped or 1/8-1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp oregano, dry or 2 tsp fresh
1 bay leaf
5 cups vegetable broth, low sodium or water
½ tsp salt
Black pepper, ground
1 cup Spicy Coconut Cream recipe (see recipe below)
1 ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
Agave nectar or maple syrup, to taste, optional
Spicy Coconut Cream Recipe:
1 can light coconut milk
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
To make Spicy Coconut Cream: Whisk coconut milk, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
New? Begin your plant-based journey HERE!
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Living among my omnivorous family can get tricky, especially when it comes to dinner time. And truthfully, it can be super frustrating either cooking separate plant-based meals for myself or adding meat and cheese to them for the rest of the fam. Sometimes we are in a good rhythm of getting dinner on the table and other times it can be downright draining. I've never been out to convert anyone. But when it comes to cooking for my family, I feel I'm wrestling this moral dilemma. That despite the personal choices I make for myself, I am still part of that machine.
It's said we vote on our food selection with our dollar and even though I’m not consuming meat, dairy or eggs, personally, I’m still voting in favor of them because occasionally I’m purchasing for my household.
I don't think I've made it a secret that my reasons for going plant-based were rooted in vanity. I wanted to be slim and look my best. But, I think there are countless reasons I have stayed plant-based for a number of years now: disease prevention, faster workout recovery time, water conservation, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, land conservation, the slowing of deforestation and species extinction, reducing marine life destruction and waste pollution, helping to alleviate world hunger, and disengaging in animal cruelty. I recently heard Rich Roll say on a podcast that he just can't think of another diet where you can check all those boxes.
That said, I’m really trying to work out a solution here, but I fear I’ll have to just wait until they all move out! When I first began transitioning to a plant-based diet I removed all animal products from our home and declared it “Plant Strong and Cruelty Free”, a home where only healthy food is served and nobody gets hurt. My kids just ended up mad at me...a hangry mob. #firstworldprobs
So I'm leaving this decision up to them. There is something to be said about putting on your own oxygen mask first.
On a positive note, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve...some recipes that work for all of us, and lucky for me this one, especially, is versatile, delicious and leaves me feeling as though I haven’t just poisoned them all. A girl’s gotta sleep at night.
This recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo is adapted from Chloe Coscarelli's first cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen. Not only does it make a rich, delicious Alfredo sauce but also a wonderful white cream sauce to toss with your vegetables or top your baked potato. I’ve tweaked it to be more healthful.. sans the oil and added vegg. I hope it brings your family to the table in a healthful and decadent way, herbies and omnivores alike!
Fettuccine Alfredo, serves 4 to 6
1 pound fettuccine
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup raw cashews or blanched almonds
1 ½ cups water
2 teaspoons white miso paste, optional
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish
Red pepper flakes, optional
Bonus points- 12-16 oz frozen broccoli or vegetable medley, optional
Note: If you are not using a high speed blender, such as Vitamix or Blendtec, soak cashews or almonds overnight or boil 10 minutes and drain. This will soften them and ensure a silky smooth cream.
I hate the word “diet”. Like….I really, really do. I’ve been on a diet almost my entire life, so, for me, the word evokes a major feeling of restriction and deprivation. It also suggests, by the name alone, that we are either “on it” or “off it”. When we go off it, and we always do, we’re most likely to end up right where we started before we went on it in the first place. That’s why when talking about the plant-based diet, I’d rather use the word "lifestyle".
Last week I was talking about when I first started eating plant-based, I felt deprived of eating sandwiches. I remember missing my favorite ham, cheese & mustard combo on squishy white bread. I realized I had actually been grieving that sandwich. It was nothing fancy...not even the mustard was fancy, but my mom would stop whatever she was doing to happily prepare that sandwich for me, slicing it diagonally and serving it on one of her treasured, beautifully decorated dishes as if I were the Queen of England.
It’s important to note here that ALL change is grief. Even good, positive, healthful change. Change signals the end of something and the beginning of something else. And where that happens, there is grief, my friends; especially when we find ourselves emotionally attached to our food at a very deep level. This isn’t to be confused with emotional eating, although they often go hand-in-hand, as they can in my case.
Like, when you're crying and eating out of a bag of chips at the same time.
It’s having that unwillingness to let go of certain foods because it’s what we know or the recipes have sentimental value, having been passed down through generations, or it’s holiday tradition, it’s the way our friends are eating...it’s how my momma use to make it.
And when you boil all that down, folks, eating certain foods gives us that feeling of safety and comfort, reassuring us that all is right with the world.
And if it’s not, well then you at least have your favorite sandwich.
I was the girl who used to say, “I could never give up cheese.” I was also the girl who thought…”Well if I can’t have the sandwich I like, then I’m having none at all.” So, I didn’t eat them for a long time. But over the years, as my taste buds have changed and healed, I’ve learned to like new foods and unique combinations that would never have appealed to me before.
Last week I shared some cold sandwich variations from my repertoire and this week I’ve promised to deliver some warm sammie creations perfect for the summer meal rotation. I hope they ease the pain of breaking up with the sandwiches of yesterday...and seduce you to fall in love all over again.
1. VBLT- I LOVE BLTs...especially in the summer time. Veggie Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and light vegan Mayo. You can buy pre-packaged vegan bacon (check the ingredients list to be sure it doesn't contain dairy or egg) or simply sauté some sliced Portobello mushrooms in a little vegan Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup and a few drops of liquid smoke. Sautéing mushrooms in soy sauce, tamari (gluten free) or coconut aminos (soy free) also does the trick for me.
2. Loaded BBQ- Sauté shredded sweet potato or carrot in your favorite barbeque sauce until warmed. Trust me. Top with shredded cabbage, guacamole and/or jarred pineapple salsa to give it that Caribbean flare. Alternatively, top with your favorite coleslaw using eggless mayo, such as Just Mayo. Make a quick, fresh pineapple salsa with diced pineapple, red onion and squeeze a lime wedge mixed in.
3. Grilled Cheeze- There is something about a grilled cheese sandwich. Whether you’re dipping it in creamy tomato soup or taking it up a notch with a thinly sliced tomato and spread of Dijon mustard, it may surprise you to know the sky can be the limit. Any good vegan cheese recipe always starts with potatoes, carrots and onion...I don’t care who you are. Oh and cashews just take it to a whole 'nother level as it does in this recipe. I like to skip the vegan butter part and just slather it on two pieces of whole grain toasted bread.
If you really want to go down the rabbit-hole for some swoon-worthy grilled cheese combinations, check out Peta's top picks for #nationalgrilledcheese day.
4. Quick Portobello Panini- Cooked mushrooms do make a repeat appearance in many of my sandwiches. The surprising part is I use to loathe mushrooms only a few years ago. If I can learn to like new foods after hating them most of my life, anyone can. Sauté sliced portobello mushroom in soy sauce, tamari (gluten free) or coconut aminos (soy free) and serve on toasted bread slathered with hummus, your favorite mustard and fresh spinach leaves.
5. Breakfast McSandwich- This Happy Herbivore, Meal Mentor inspired breakfast creation is savory and satiating for the soul. And it’s a perfect way to start your Saturday morning when you have a little more time to indulge in distant memories of Egg McMuffins past...with a south of the border twist.
Years ago, when I was transitioning to a plant-based diet, I remember feeling deprived of eating sandwiches. I was really stuck in the mindset of the deli meat and cheese-filled sandwiches of my youth and quickly grew bored with the comforts of peanut butter and jelly.
Over the years I’ve gotten creative in layering up a good ‘sammie’ and put together a solid list of go-to hot and cold creations to give me that fix.
Here are the makings for a healthy delicious sandwich. Conventional store bought breads often have small amounts of dairy and egg products, so always check the label to be sure!
Here are 6 COOL summer sandwich ideas to curb your cravings.
1. Chik’n Salad- Pulse soy curls or chickpeas in a food processor or mash chickpeas in a bowl with a fork until no whole beans are left. With vegan mayo ,such as Just Mayo, you can make up a chik’n salad just as you always have. I like to add chopped celery, red onion, dill relish and poultry seasoning or celery salt. My picky daughter prefers only the mayo, and salt & pepper to taste.
2. ALTO- Meet the better looking younger sister of the BLT: sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato & red onion. Toast up some bread, slather hummus, vegan mayo and/or your favorite mustard and layer it up for a delicious summer sandwich.
3. 7 Layer- 2 slices of whole grain bread, spinach leaves or lettuce, sliced red onion, tomato or roasted red pepper, cucumber, avocado or guacamole, hummus and add a drizzle of your favorite mustard!
4. Mediterranean- I like to top a bagel or toasted pita bread with a slather of hummus, spinach or lettuce leaves, sliced or diced tomato, sliced kalamata or green olives, capers, cucumber and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or glaze. Alternatively, you can roll it up in a wrap.
5. Tea Room- Vegan cream cheese and sliced dates make for a nice alternative to pb&j. I like to do this combo on a bagel or toasted whole grain sprouted bread. This is also a great one for your next afternoon soirée, serving on smaller cocktail store-bought breads for ease. Alternatively, you can do vegan cream cheese and cucumber, sprinkled with white pepper.
6. Italian- This is a fun combo to have on a baguette or sub roll. Slather vegan pesto on both sides of bread and layer chopped artichoke hearts, seeded and diced tomato or roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, red onion sliced into thin rings, vegan cheese (optional) and top with shredded romaine lettuce, sprinkle of dried oregano and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
BONUS RECIPE! Check out Cristy’s Mock Tuna Salad! It's simple, delicious and you probably already have all of the ingredients.
Check back next week for some HOT melt-in-your-mouth variations you can whip up in a snap!
Over the past several years I have taken a few courses in online business marketing and was introduced to the relatively new organizational strategy for time management, batching. The idea is to perform similar tasks using similar resources all at once during a designated block of concentrated time, increasing and optimizing productivity and decreasing distraction, fatigue, stress and procrastination.
So what does that have to do with anything?
Well, I’ve found this to be a viable tool when it comes to getting dinner on the table. The truth is, I’ve never been particularly good at doing the family dinner thing. I mean, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, so I don’t have any real excuses. It’s just that, in our family, like many of yours, we often find ourselves eating on the fly, going to this game or that lesson, or one kid doesn’t like what we’re having while the other isn’t eating carbs this week. Sometimes there are only 2 of us home at dinner time and other times we have a full house. The struggle is real.
But I am determined to eat well. No matter who’s coming for dinner.
In order to eat well every day I had to develop a method to this meal madness. Contain the chaos. Come up with shortcuts to getting dinner on the table rather than succumb to pre-packaged meals to reheat in the microwave, ordering out or eating out of a bag.
So I implemented batch cooking. I didn’t invent it or anything. I actually learned it from my meal mentor Lindsay Nixon, The Happy Herbivore. One strategy is to batch cook all your staples to freeze or refrigerate in single portions for later use. And it works beautifully, saving time, money and more importantly food waste. I hate throwing food away. Batch cooking staples ensures that I always have something I can throw together to create a meal that is plant-based and oil free. It's just a matter of reheating.
beans + rice + salsa + corn pasta + marinara + frozen veg quinoa + beans + frozen veg + soy sauce
Batch cooking also gives me back time out of the kitchen, because let’s face it, summer’s coming and I don’t want to have to be in the kitchen all day. I want to be by the pool with the rest of the fam.
Sipping margaritas. Listening to my jams.
What is more telling is what happens when I don’t batch cook my staples.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. No matter what diet it is you're following.
I have a few other batching shortcuts in my repertoire you can read about next week.. In the meantime, here are some staples I batch cook mindlessly while listening to the latest podcast or while streaming one of my favorite shows. I hear the new season of Orange is the New Black debuting June 9 (praise hands emoji):
Beans: Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and brown or green lentils are what I use most for soups, salads, hummus, dips, bowls, wraps, tacos. I use the pressure cooker which eliminates having to soak legumes before cooking or having to stand watch over the stove. You can certainly cook your beans in a large pot. I like to make the whole bag and freeze in single serving portions.
Marinara Sauce: I prefer an oil-free marinara sauce, reducing my fat intake and keeping ingredients simple where I can. I use a Crockpot to batch a triple recipe and freeze in 1 cup portions. You can use a family favorite recipe for traditional spaghetti sauce and eliminate using oil quite easily by sautéing any vegetables in ¼ cup water rather than oil, adding more water to prevent sticking as needed.
Whole Grains: Cook entire bags of whole grains such as rice or quinoa to use for bowls, side dishes, soups or salads and freeze in 1 cup portions.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: I cook a bunch of these for the week and store in the fridge. Potatoes can be easily reheated for soups, loaded potatoes, dry-fried potatoes or snacks with your favorite condiment. Don’t forget the many reasons why you should be eating plenty o’ potatoes!
Vegetable Broth: Check out our video on getting a second life out of your veggies by turning your scraps into vegetable broth. This makes a great base for soups and can also be used for sautéing.
Pasta: Pasta can be cooked al dente at the beginning of the week, stored in ziplock bags and reheated in 30 seconds in boiling water on the stove. Sometimes even boiling pasta can seem like too much after you’ve worked all day. This method works great for weekday meals.
Salad Dressings: I also like to prepare a big batch of salad dressing at the beginning of the week as I don’t really like pre-packaged bottled dressings. My friend, Trisha, introduced me to this delicious salad dressing created by Dara Dubinet for the fastest salad in the west. You could also check out this Sweet & Tangy Salad Dressing from My Plant-Based Family!
BBQ Sauce: While there are plenty of tasty barbeque sauces out there, I enjoy making my own oil-free version. It’s just so simple and gives me a little more quality control over the amount of fat and sugar I’m consuming. It all adds up, and sauces and condiments are sneaky culprits for causing us to consume more than we think.
So maybe you’re thinking of giving this plant-based thing a go? Summer parties and gatherings have already begun and sometimes before we know it, the scale starts creeping back to where it was on January 1st when we pledged we would lose those last 10-15 pounds for The. Last. Time. Here in the northeast we go all-in, celebrating the warmer weather with Happy Hour all day, every day. But, Summer is actually THE perfect time to go plant-based; to eat more seasonal veggies and fruits and crowd out all that stuff that’s threatening to sneak back into your diet and cause the slippery slope of sabotage….again.
Stay tuned for more practical and doable solutions for getting your next health-giving plant-based meal on the table quicker and with ease. Let's do this!
Meet my friend, Elsy, or LC, as I like to call her. Elsy is my sister from another mister. And from another mother. She’s from another country altogether. We have known each other from adolescence through adulthood, having that sisterly relationship complete with shoving matches, stand-offs and silent treatments, but also unconditional love, adoration and a heck of a lot of fun.
I first met Elsy during the summer of 1987 after my freshman year in high school, having just survived a sweltering 8-hour solo bus trip from Mexico City to Veracruz, complete with live chickens and low key juvenile harassment from young kids selling chiclets.
Elsy and her mother greeted me warmly when I ascended the stairs of the coach, my bulging suitcase in hand. This is a time before most suitcases had wheels or spinners, you know. You just had to take breaks when walking long distances, setting it down and switching hands every 10-15 steps.
Elsy was a girl of 15; she came in a small package, a tiny little thing, which was my first clue we wouldn’t be sharing clothes. She was fun-loving, always down for a good time, had a hot temper and a short fuse...kind of like a firecracker.
Elsy’s family was not new to hosting exchange students in their home and Elsy herself had recently returned from a year long study abroad in Michigan where she learned English. I spent the majority of that summer living large, getting to know Elsy’s friends and family, hanging out at the club, drinking soda out of plastic bags with straws. I immediately fell in love with the food- I was a good eater and was frequently greeted with smiling terms of endearment such as ‘gorda’ or ‘gordita’ which, frankly, didn’t translate very well. This is meant to be a light hearted compliment in Mexico, but calling any American teenaged female “chubby girl” feels like a back-handed one at best.
It’s all good….
Other than that, I spent time immersing myself in the culture...practicing all the Spanish curse words like a boss, driving without a license, learning to smoke on Marlboro reds and doing lit tequila shots. I was rocking the scene at all the discos and finding myself in the social pages of the local newspaper, celebrity style. There were few rules or laws to be broken...and if they were, it could easily be overlooked with a ten spot.
I’m expecting a call from my mother any second now.
Elsy and I have remained close friends for nearly 31 years. I have made many trips to visit her and her family since that first summer in 1987. She, in turn, has visited me a number of times, as has her brother Jorge. We have both grown up, had families of our own, been there for each other through life's trials and tribulations and recently Elsy became a grandmother to a beautiful baby boy, Jorge, a name he shares with his great-uncle and great-grandfather.
A few summers ago, Elsy and her daughter Elsy came to visit me, traveling with a friend from Michigan. (Side note: Elsy’s mother is also named Elsy, so I’m not quite sure, even after all these years, how the three of them keep this straight).
One day, presumably because she was bored, Elsy started cooking. I didn’t even know she knew how to cook. Her family always had Chavela to cook the meals in the family home (another reason I kept going back). Elsy cooked all day. She cooked and chopped and blended, fried and sautéed, showing me how to make authentic Mexican black beans, empenadas, homemade corn tortillas and salsa, the real deal. (I’m saying all this in my best Elsy impersonation).
My family spent the majority of the day and night at the kitchen table, forks in hand, ready and waiting for the next creation to be placed in front of us. We couldn't leave the table for fear of losing our seat to one of the neighbors. #FOMO
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ok, maybe it doesn’t outrank the days my kids were born but it’s definitely up there.
Here, I have created a healthier version of LC's recipe (there was no recipe, just lots of quick movement and I knew to keep my fingers out of the way) for authentic Mexican black beans, sans the bacon grease. I love everything about this versatile Latin American side dish. I love that black beans are served at almost every meal on the daily at the typical Mexican dining table. That would be breakfast, lunch AND dinner. They're dependable and reliable and they go with everything, really. Sometimes they're puréed, sometimes left whole in their juices and sometimes it's a combination of both. You can even substitute with pinto beans here for traditional Tex-Mex refried beans. You can put them on a tostada, use them as a taco filling or in a burrito. I hope you love them too...and what you now know of my dear friend, Elsy...as much as I do!
I never used to like tofu. To me, it seemed gross, spongy and weird. I first tried tofu 9 years ago after giving up meat. It didn’t go well, but for whatever reason I just kept at it. Eventually, I learned to like it, but ONLY if it was pressed. It was a texture thing. In the years since, I’ve done almost everything one can do with tofu from using it in stir fry dishes to pumpkin pie and now I find myself picking at it right out of the package. This is a real life testament that we can learn to like new foods at any age. You may just have to keep trying.
What is tofu exactly?
Tofu is a soybean curd that’s made by coagulating soybean milk from either whole or sprouted soy beans and pressing together the extracted curds into soft white blocks.
See? Sounds gross. The word curd is off-putting right from the start.
Tofu making is very similar to cheese making in that you are separating the curds from the whey. Because of this process, moisture content is the defining difference between silken, soft, firm and extra firm tofu varieties you’ll find at the store. Firm and extra firm tofu will be more dense, have less moisture and more protein per serving and can stand up to the rough housing of grilling and stir-frying. Soft or silken tofu products have more moisture and resemble more of a yogurt consistency making it great as a thickening agent and is a good substitute for cream, cheese and eggs when baking or creating sauces and dressings.
Tofu-making has actually been around for about 2,000 years and was first recorded in China, then Korea and Japan, later arriving in Vietnam and other parts of Southern Asia, presumably with the spread of East Asian Buddhism as it’s the main source of protein in their vegetarian diet.
Tofu is low in calories and is a rich source of protein, iron and also calcium and magnesium, depending on the coagulants used in the processing (e.g. calcium chloride, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate). Tofu also contains all 8 essential amino acids, is naturally gluten-free and has no cholesterol.
Tofu is a super flexible food, having a somewhat neutral taste it takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings or marinade is used. It works beautifully in cold or hot dishes and can be prepared to grill, bake, fry, to eat fresh or in single skillet dishes.
Tofu is usually found in the produce section of the grocery store with other meat and dairy substitutions. It looks like a white brick packaged in water. Mori-nu tofu is a shelf stable brand and is my preference for making my own vegan mayonnaise or vegetable dip. I usually order Mori-nu from Amazon as it can be a bit harder to find.
While soft and silken tofu are most easily used fresh and drained out of the package there are several options when prepping firm and extra firm tofu:
Freezing: Personally, I really enjoy tofu if the block has been frozen first. I simply throw the entire package in the freezer until the day before I’m ready to use it in a recipe where I want the tofu to be really dense and chewy. Alternatively, you can slice and freeze portions in freezer bags or paper. The process of freezing causes almost all the water to be pulled out and contracts the whey into a spongy consistency that will absorb sauces and marinades more easily. Frozen tofu can be easily thawed in the fridge, microwave or hot water bath.
Draining/Blotting: Whether you have skipped the freezing step or not, slit the package of tofu and drain off the water. Let the block sit on a paper towel or clean dish cloth for 5 minutes or so.
Pressing: This is a very common step but not always necessary. There are fancy tofu presses you can buy, but in my opinion, it’s easy enough to use what you have at home. You can press any additional water out of the block of tofu by wrapping it in a clean dish towel, placing it between two flat, hard surfaces, such as cookie sheets or cutting boards and applying weight on top. In my case, I've got it down to using a baking stone, hamburger press and a couple of dumbbells or soup cans.
Salt soak/Draining: If you feel like you want to skip all the pressing business you can bypass that with a 15 minute salt water soak. Though I have never used this method, it is said to preseason the tofu and create a crisper texture. After the soak, let drain and dry on paper towel or clean dish cloth for 5 minutes or so.
Marinating: Marinating tofu is one of the most popular methods of flavoring. Simply cover it in your favorite spices, sauce or marinade. Freezing and pressing enhances the flavor absorption here but is not necessary. The longer you let the tofu marinate the better, but 30 minutes is a good place to start.
Well, if I’ve convinced you to give tofu a first or second chance...I’m all about second chances ;) Here are a few helpful tips for using this wonder food and soon you'll be asking yourself why you didn't cross this bridge, or block, a long time ago:
Red, white, yellow gold, fingerlings, russet, blue/purple...makes no difference to me. I love all potatoes. I loved baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, steamed potatoes, fried potatoes, roasted, twice-baked, hash browned, French fried. And I love potato soup. And potato ice cream. Just kidding, I’ve never had that.
But everyone always seems to be hatin’ on the potato. The potato first started to acquire a bad wrap during the low-carb craze of the early 2000’s, lumped in with all the white foods that are making us fat. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not the potato that packs on the pounds. It’s the company it keeps on our plate. Butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon...and it’s also how we are preparing them. In other words, it’s not the potato in the french fries that is rounding out our waistline; it’s the oil we are frying them in.
So, I stand here in defense of this humble tuber, begging the world to stop villainizing. Here are my 12 reasons to eat MORE potatoes.
1. The potato is a nutritional powerhouse: White potatoes are among the most nutritious vegetable in the world. And research shows potatoes contain phytochemicals, with antioxidant activity, such as flavonoids and carotenoids. Here's a breakdown of the nutritional value for a medium white potato, with skin:
2. Low in fat and calories: The potato in the picture above has just 120 calories and 0g fat.
3. Spuds are satiating: Potatoes are ranked high on the satiety index, meaning they make you feel full and satisfied longer. Our brains act like the fuel gauge in our cars, directing you to fill up when we are on empty. Foods high in resistant starch, like potatoes, flip on every fullness switch in the brain and release fullness hormones in the intestine and make your cells more resistant to insulin.
4. Potatoes Support Weight Loss: New research shows that potatoes help people lose weight, and not just sweet potatoes, but white potatoes too. In a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, three groups were assigned diets ranging in 5-7 servings of potatoes per week. One group was eating potatoes every day. Subjects were closely monitored for dietary compliance. All three groups lost weight, further disproving that potatoes cause weight gain.
5. Potassium: Potassium is the key to healthy blood pressure. Potatoes pack 620mg of potassium, 18% of the recommended daily dose of this hard-to-get mineral. They actually rankest highest for potassium content of the 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits and vegetables, including the more well known source for potassium, the banana.
6. Vitamin C: Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing us with 45% of the daily recommendation...which is more than their famous cousin, the sweet potato!
7. Fiber: Potatoes are considered to be a fiber rich food, having an average 2g fiber per tuber. A potato with its skin is considered a high fiber food.
8. You can live on them: From Ireland to China, evidence shows that humans, historically, have survived on potatoes and little else, thanks to their nutritional content. This same evidence shows that these populations getting 70-80% of their calories from potatoes were also very lean.
Take a look at Australian, Andrew Taylor, who found recent fame by vowing to eat nothing but potatoes in 2016 in an effort to cure his binge eating. Not only has the man from Melbourne reportedly lost over 100 lbs, but says he’s sleeping better and has cured his depression and joint pain, lowered his cholesterol, sugar levels and blood pressure.
And the plant-based community took it as a personal victory when Mark Watney, the space botanist character played by Matt Damon in 2015’s, The Martian, survived being stranded on Mars on a diet of cleverly harvested potatoes.
9. Potatoes are cost effective: If you want the most bang for your buck, potatoes offer the greatest ROI. In fact, a recent study showed potatoes deliver an excellent nutritional value per penny, second only to beans. Potatoes provide an affordable source for essential nutrients like magnesium, fiber, and Vitamins C, E, and K. And they're the most cost-effective source of potassium out of all food groups.
10. Eating Potatoes Helps the Economy: The potato is the fourth most widely consumed vegetable in the world. And, it’s a big money maker for American farmers. Potatoes are the leading crop grown in the U.S. In 2010, the U.S. exported $3.8 billion worth of potatoes. Japan, China and Mexico are leading buyers of stateside spuds. Potatoes are grown in 30 U.S. states, with Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin rounding out the top three.
11. They Fight Cancer: Sweet potatoes and other colorful potatoes are rich in antioxidants such as carotenes, the precursor to Vitamin K.
12. A word on Sweet Potatoes: Only distantly related to the potato and not part of the same nightshade family, sweet potatoes tend to get lumped in with the regular potatoes because they are prepared the same way.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin K. Carotenoids, the powerful form of antioxidants, can fight cancer and heart disease. These tuberous root vegetables contain 438% of your daily value of Vitamin A, which is essential for building a strong immune system. Vitamin A is essential for areas in the body that go haywire when we catch a cold. It keeps the mucous linings in the nose and throat, our bodies first line of defense, healthy and functioning properly. Sweet potatoes deliver 37% of vitamin C plus Vitamin B6, potassium, iron and calcium all in just 105 calories! They also contain 4g of dietary fiber, 16% of your daily value and zero grams of fat.
Though I often enjoy eating potatoes plain, either as a breakfast or as a satisfying, low-calorie snack, here are some fun and flavorful tips to prepare them without all the added fat:
Tips for Storing Potatoes:
The Martian, starring Matt Damon
I get this question A LOT. It comes right after my refusal of the french fries or the dismissal of the house salad dressing when eating out with others and often after I’ve outed myself as eating a plant-based diet: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no oil. The confusion comes primarily because oils are typically not derived from animals.
So what’s the problem?
Let me back up a sec. 7 years ago I began my plant-based journey first giving up meat, then eggs, then the dairy. I had read about the elimination of oils in many plant-based books, resources and documentaries. That is to say, the plant-based “diet” is stipulated by all the medical researchers and leading experts in the field to not include oils due to their direct correlation to the heart disease and obesity epidemics.
This, in part, is what separates the plant-based movement from the vegan community. By definition, being vegan is to not eat or use animal products. Period. It states nothing about health.
A plant-based diet is, by definition, a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleach, flour, refined sugar and oil.
So it can be said that someone who is following a plant-based diet is a vegan, but it doesn’t go the other way around. And, while we are at it, I could give you an endless list of "accidental" vegan foods, meaning foods that are not created to be or marketed as such, but are vegan such as Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Frosting, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Jello Instant Pudding Mix, Betty Crocker’s Baco’s Bacon Flavor Bits and McCormick's Bacon Bits (cue vinyl scratch sound. Yeah, you read that right bacon bits are vegan)
mmhmm...and these "foods" are too
Wow. I totally got distracted by that. It seems like such good news, doesn’t it? But because we know this list of familiar foods is vegan, we also know they are NOT plant-based.
Ok. I think I beat that drum long enough.
It took me 2 years to get myself ready to give up the oils. The fact is that oil is in just about every grocery item that lives on the shelves in the interior of the store. Giving up oil meant I would have to eliminate even store-bought condiments like barbecue and teriyaki sauces, salad dressings, chips and crackers. But as far as weight loss and cholesterol levels go, my progress had slowed and even stopped a while after giving up meat and dairy. Even then my cholesterol was still over 200, just being vegan.
Full disclosure here: it’s hard to eliminate it completely. In fact, I have found it nearly impossible, even though I NEVER cook or bake with oil- not even for my family who primarily eats the Standard American Diet (SAD). It’s just not necessary and easy to cut out when cooking at home. You can sauté vegetables beautifully with water or vegetable broth. And applesauce, pureed pumpkin or mashed bananas make excellent substitutes for oil when baking. I have DIY recipes for the barbeque and teriyaki sauces, but have also found oil-free brands pretty easily in our local grocery stores. Salad dressings have been the hardest to transition from. I was married to bleu cheese dressing. But it’s not impossible and I’ve come to love new favorites using dates, tahini, lemon and lime juices, miso, Dijon mustard, vinegars, salsa, hummus, nut butters, avocado, Sriracha, vegan mayos and spices.
The truth of the matter is that it gets tricky when you’re eating out at restaurants or basically when you haven’t made the food yourself. I think it’s safe to say that I maintain an oil-free diet about 90% of the time, leaving a good 10% margin for error. Life. Stuff happens.
I know what you’re thinking. First I made you get rid of all your stuff, then had you cancel the cable, quit your job, revoked your Sam’s Club membership and now I’m asking you to ditch the oil: the olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, walnut oil.
Maybe this will help! Here’s a recipe that’s adapted from the Whole Foods No-Oil Balsamic Dressing and happens to be my husband’s favorite. I start small with the Dijon mustard, working my way up because it’s strong for me. Here, the dates give the dressing a nice body and the quantity can be adjusted for a sweeter variation. This makes about 1 3/4 cups of salad dressing.
4 Medjool dates, chopped and pitted (soaked in 2 cups boiling water for 15 minutes)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari (gluten free) or coconut aminos (soy free)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
Blend ¼ cup soaking water and all other ingredients until smooth.
A friend recommended a restaurant to me, “They have vegan options!” We didn't get a chance to check it out for a few months. We don't go out to dinner very often. Mostly, during the hockey season as we travel around for my son's games. I get really tired of black bean burgers and veggie wraps, but my friend promised this place had different options. Do you get a little nervous eating at new restaurants? I do! But isn't it amazing when you find a diamond in the rough?! If you live anywhere near Olean, NY you have to try this place out: Four Mile Brewing!! Not only is their food spectacular, the beer is delicious! I had a mango wheat Belgian white and it was so good. BUT not as good as the vegan philly cheese steak!! Oh my gosh, this wrap was spot on! They make their seitan (re: fake meat) in house and it is the BEST I have ever tasted! It came with a side of broccoli slaw that was equally as delicious! So GO, try this wrap and get a beer while you are there!
Of course, I wanted to try to recreate that amazing sandwich...my version didn't taste the same, but it was just as delicious and I wanted to share the recipe with you! It is a little time consuming; however, it is easy and so worth it! I've made it super easy to follow along with pictures so you can see exactly what each step should look like!
While the veggies are sauteing, work up the "cheese sauce". The Cheese Sauce is super easy and delicious:
1 Medium Sweet Potato (peel, dice-1/2 cubes, and saute in water for 15 minutes until softened)
-when the sweet potatoes are cool add to a blender with:
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk
3 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon of Oil
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
1/2 Tablespoon of Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
-Blend until Smooth
I choose broccoli slaw as my side. This is one of my favorite sides; especially during the summer! Here is the dressing recipe:
You could choose any veggies you like, but I like this one with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Shredded Carrots. I chopped the broccoli and cauliflower very small.
Stir it up! I served the Philly Cheese Steak on whole wheat tortillas, but you could choose any roll or wrap you like!
Seriously, make this!! It is so freaking delicious!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Recipe Adapted from The Edgy Veg
Vegan Philly Cheese Steak
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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