For me the plant-based diet has been a journey- a never-ending one to be sure. The way I eat now is invariably different from how I ate in the beginning. Giving up animal protein left me with incredible energy; I was lighter on my toes and in my spirit. However, I stopped losing weight within a few months after eliminating dairy, the main reason I started this diet in the first place. I was met with an incredible amount of frustration at one point a couple years ago, thinking I had already given up so much and I still was not where I wanted to be.
Was it my age? Was it my genes? Was it just my body type? Was it fate???
I knew there was more work to be done before I'd give in to believing I was just getting older and getting heavier is just what happens as a result. I took a good look at the amount of oils/overt fats I was still consuming and cut them out. I began releasing unwanted body fat again (and still am, albeit slowly but surely) and my cholesterol numbers came down significantly.
Much of my resistance during that time I attribute to my mindset and perspective of "giving up" so many foods already and not seeing all that I'd be gaining by taking my diet to the next level. I know this much:
In order to have a different outcome, we need to do things differently.
It's uncomfortable. Change. Especially when we see it as deprivation. The uncomfortable-ness is how we know we are growing and changing. As Lindsay Nixon has recently said in her Shortcut to Slim podcast, Seek discomfort. Then you know you're changing; if you're feeling comfortable, then you're probably not.
Here's an updated blog post from the archive on why I gave up oils and how I make it work. There's also a little caveat on being vegan vs. plant-based. It's cathartic for me to go back to where I once was, remembering that what I have done to release unwanted body fat is what I will have to continue to do to keep it off. I hope you'll find some inspiration here, too.
Why No Oil?
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 and often after I’ve been outed as eating a plant-centered or "vegan" diet: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no oil. The confusion comes primarily because many of the more trendy oils out there 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 dairy. I had read about the elimination of oils in many plant-based books, scientific studies and resources. That is to say, the plant-based “diet” is stipulated by medical researchers and leading experts in the field to not include oils due to, largely, their direct correlation to heart disease and obesity epidemics.
Vegan vs. Plant-Based
By and large, this 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. Veganism is a philosophy deeply rooted in animal rights and activism.
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 or processed 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. Surprisingly, there is an endless list of "accidental" vegan foods, meaning foods that are not created to be or marketed as such: 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.
(Yeah, you read that right bacon bits are vegan).
Wow. I totally got distracted by that. It seems like such good news, doesn’t it? We know this list of familiar foods is vegan, but we also know they are NOT plant-based...or healthy.
Ok. I think I beat that drum long enough.
The Problem With Oil
Here's the problem I, personally, have with oil. Oil is 100% fat, has very few nutrients and contains NO FIBER. Oil is also a huge calorie bomb. In 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, or any other vegetable oil there is roughly 120 calories and 14g fat. And we haven't really had any food yet!
Pushing Through Weight Loss Plateau
It took me 2 years to get my head around giving up the oils. The fact is that oil is in just about every item that lives on the shelves of the grocery 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 my weight loss and cholesterol levels were going, my progress had really slowed and even stopped a short time after giving up meat and dairy. Even then my cholesterol was still over 200, just being vegan. I had lost weight early on because plant foods naturally have fewer calories and fat than the animal-derived foods of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
I had made obvious changes, but the hidden oils/fats prohibited me from continuing to create that caloric deficit needed to lose more body fat. (The only simple thing about weight loss: If there is no caloric deficit, there is no weight loss.) This is the reason that it's harder to lose those last few pounds; the closer we get to our goal weight, the harder it is to create the deficit, leaving very little room for error.
Progress Over Perfection
Full disclosure here: it’s hard to eliminate oil completely. In fact, I have found it nearly impossible to 100% eliminate 100% of the time. It's a mindset thing. Those little allowances (lies) or rewards (justifications) I give myself when I'm unprepared at a restaurant or those times when "life happens".
I fall down. I get back up.
Making it Work
The truth of the matter is that it gets tricky when you haven’t made the food yourself. 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, more recently I've have found oil-free brands pretty easily in our local grocery stores.
Salad dressings have been the hardest to transition from. I was once 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.
As you evolve, so will your food choices.
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, truffle 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. The dates give the dressing a nice and familiar body and the quantity can be adjusted for a sweeter variation. This makes about 1 3/4 cups of salad dressing. Click the picture below for the recipe!
Retail therapy. That's what this is.
Trader Joe's IS the total package. A triple threat, you might say. I guess it's the well orchestrated combination of enthusiastic, helpful employees, the Tiki culture theme and Polynesian style of the space, a manageable, intimate atmosphere reminiscent of the neighborhood markets of my youth and the seduction of beautifully packaged, affordable specialty foods (without Whole Foods prices) that lures me. Just thinking about it now makes me go all heart eyes, eager with anticipation for my next trip.
But, can I just tell you something?
Just a little something to think about.
Just because something comes from Trader Joe's, we can't assume it's healthy. We still need to be reading labels and checking ingredients. There is a thrill that can be found when hunting healthy food. Don't be afraid to go in there, like the super sleuth that you are, find your inner Food Babe and hunt that shit down.
Here are my top picks for Trader Joe's grocery items that are healthy AND delicious. (and oil-free!) I would love to know of your TJ's finds as well, so definitely leave them in the comments below. It takes a village, my friend.
Oh! And don't miss the super simple seasonal recipe for Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie! (down below)
1. Whole Grain Crispbread: These are more cracker-like than bread-like. And, let's face it. Oil-free plant-based crackers can be hard to come by. These are delicious with any hummus or nut butter. They are very nutty/seedy, but the flavor is neutral so will compliment a variety of dips, tapenade and spreads.
2. Organic Peppermint Cinnamon Herbal Tea: A soothing blend of organic peppermint leaves and cinnamon, this tea goes easy on the tummy when feeling under the weather. Plus with a hint of cinnamon, it feels a little festive this time of year and warms you up from the inside out in a very light and subtle way.
3. Organic Split Pea Soup: Though I like to mostly cook my own food, it's nice to have a few things in the pantry I can have in a pinch when I'm short on time. Like the other day when I got called into work and had nothing prepared. This soup was delicious over brown rice and a drizzle of hot sauce.
4. Sriracha Sauce: Speaking of hot sauce, Trader Joe's has their own brand of Sriracha sauce. I use Sriracha more than any other condiment, to be sure, except it might be a close second to Frank's Red Hot. Pizza, pastas, Asian dishes and noodle bowls, sushi, anything with avocado....pretty much anytime a dish needs a little somethin' somethin', Sriracha is the answer.
5. Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms: Unless you make your own, it's challenging to find a spaghetti sauce that is oil-free. So when I find one (and this one is organic!) I buy as much as I can. It's a nice sauce that can be doctored up if you're feeling frisky. And for all of you who are turned off by mushrooms, there aren't any mushrooms to be found! This is a smooth sauce...no chunks.
6. Savory Thin Mini Rice Crackers Multi Seed with Tamari Soy Sauce: Phew. That was a mouthful. This was the first time I tried these crackers and I have to say they were pretty good with hummus. My husband wasn't a big fan and if you're allergic to soy than these would be out. They have a nice crunch and would lend themselves to more savory dips and spreads.
7. Nutritional Yeast: Admittedly, when I first started my plant-based journey, I wasn't so sure about "nooch". But I kept using it and now, looking back, I can't imagine ever letting myself run out of the stuff. Buyer beware, not all nutritional yeast is the same! But, TJ's has a tasty one, and finding this new addition in their product line is a sign of the times. Plus the bag is so cute, isn't it?
8. Apocryphal Pita 100% Whole Wheat: I have been buying these for years. It's so difficult, like so many pre-packaged foods, to find oil-free whole grain pita bread. I don't indulge in bread items on a regular basis, but these large pitas make for super quick pizzas of any kind. You can also slice them into triangles and toast them up in the oven to serve with dips, hummus, guac, etc. I stock up on these and keep them in the freezer and fridge as they are not shelf stable.
9. Black Bean Rotini: Ok, I love this pasta for two reasons. First of all, it has 1 ingredient: organic black bean flour. And second, it's got the body of regular pasta, kind of. Some of the gluten-free and rice pastas out there just can't hang for a second round, tending to fall apart when reheated. Like it's cousin, red lentil pasta, the black bean rotini is delicious and works well with a variety of sauces. Though, my favorite way of preparing it is to simply mix it in with a can of seasoned diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. Oh and some "nooch". Always.
10. California Style Sprouted Wheat Bread: In my opinion this would be TJ's answer to Food For Life's Ezekiel Bread. It can be difficult to not only find oil-free pre-packaged bread, but it's equally hard to find one that doesn't have a zillion ingredients. TJ's has a good handful of oil-free breads with clean ingredients to choose from and I mix them up from time to time. I love this bread toasted for paninis or grilled sandwiches.
11. Organic Refried Pinto Beans Salsa Style: I am super happy to find this little gem! Refried beans without lard...and they're saving me the hassle of adding my own salsa, a tip I learned from my mom in making semi-homemade refried beans. These beans make a great filler for wraps and burritos and also, it makes a great base for my 7 Layer Dip.
12. Sweet Potato Ribbons: Truth? Everyone is always making such a fuss over zucchini pasta or spaghetti squash...and I like them alright, but I love sweet potato pasta best with a good marinara. And I'll take it one step further by adding chopped Kalamata olives, capers and red pepper flakes to the mix. Oh and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
13. Steamed Lentils: I know I can make my own...I know. But I don't want to. I've burned lentils and turned them to mush too many times because babysitting the stove just isn't my thing. You can find these pre- cooked lentils in the produce section. Who knew!? I take them home, divide them into 1/2 or 1 cup portions and freeze for later use for soups, burgers, wraps, bowls or salads.
14. Organic Cold Brew Coffee: They had me at nitro, tbh. And let me just say, I've been on the hunt for this for MONTHS. So maybe cold coffee isn't sounding so hot now that we are nearing the end of October? Check this out.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie: 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled, 1/2 cup nondairy milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp allspice), 2-3 small pitted dates, optional and 1-2 ice cubes or frozen coffee cubes, optional. Whiz in high speed blender until smooth and creamy.
Two weeks ago I began a two-part series on navigating the food table and other situations at social gatherings. I find this to be perfect timing as I'll wrap this up with a few more tips to consider as we march our way straight into the holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and celebrating the New Year.
I lOVE the holidays. I really do. The anticipation of the American holiday season has a way of sustaining good spirits, extending our happy moods from summer another 3 months...and it's a good thing because as the last leaf falls, things can get a bit dreary.
I don't think there's another part of the year where you'll see your family, friends and coworkers, socially speaking, more than you will in the coming months. And social gatherings set the perfect stage for diet disaster if you don't have your head in the game and a few tools and tricks up your sleeve.
Failing to plan means planning to fail.
But NO WORRIES! Cristy and I are committed to seeing you through it all. Stick with us and this will be your healthiest holiday season yet!
Tips for Staying the Course at Social Gatherings
5. Don’t Talk About Being Plant-Based Unless You’re Asked:
Often, people tend to feel your healthy food choices automatically make them inferior. They may assume you are judging them and you might be met with a good measure of snarkiness, and even hostility. A good way to get out of the “hot seat” is to say you are experimenting. People generally accept this and you all can move on. Some people may find it very interesting that you’ve made some changes and will be inspired to ask questions. You’ll find sharing your experience with these people easy breezy...be sure to observe them while you're talking and know when to shut’er down when their eyes start to glaze over.
6. Call a Restaurant or Venue Ahead of Time:
When it comes to dining at a catered event or restaurant, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by calling ahead and/or checking the online menu. Explain that you have a limited diet and see what they can do for you. I have never had this conversation and been told…”Sorry, we don’t have anything for you to eat.” Chef’s are usually enthusiastic about offering a vegan dish or creating an entrée to meet your needs. And in a time when there are countless people suffering from food allergies, it’s just not that uncommon.
Bottom line...Ask for what you want ahead of time. It will save you in the long run and leave you to enjoy yourself and not cave into ordering “the usual” in order to avoid feeling like you're being difficult. You can find more tips on dining at restaurants and eating on the road in a blog post from the archive, Traveling Plant-Based.
7. Assess the Situation:
Ok, you’ve got this thing coming up. If all else fails you can always eat beforehand. This will make it less likely to have a slip if you’re not actually starving when you arrive. Alternatively, you could pack food to leave in your car, excusing yourself periodically to chow down your veggie lo mein in the back seat along the floor boards. Look. It’s all doable, you just have to keep your eye on the ball. Revisit your goal and do what’s necessary to stay in alignment with that.
8. Remember Why You’re Going to Whatever it is You’re Going To:
Celebration is usually what our social gatherings boil down to. The coming together to enjoy ourselves alongside others at weddings, birthdays, bowl games, office morale boosters, holidays, friendships, anniversaries, love...even funerals. Remembering this will shift your focus (obsession) away from the food.
There’s no such thing as “Everything in Moderation” or “Cheat Days”:
These are cleverly worded excuses for going off-the-wagon and can easily lead to getting back on the yo-yo diet hamster wheel. Look. We all slip. So if you screw it up, just call it what it is and move on with your life. Or better yet, make the decision that you’re going to eat off-plan and do it consciously, “I know this cheese is bad for me, but I’m going to eat it anyway.” That way, you’ve made a conscious choice that you can live with and not a mindless one that you berate yourself over the next few days. Simply start again with the next meal.
Listen. Come closer.
Not next Monday, not next month, or at the New Year. Start again with the next meal...this is one of the secrets. This is, in part, how it becomes a lifestyle and not just another diet.
Today I'm arming you with a delicious, seasonal, homemade favorite Salted Caramel Dip to enjoy at your next gathering or celebration.
New? Begin Your Plant-Based Journey HERE!
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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!
Try Vegan Meal Plan FREE!
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.
Ugh food rut! Have you ever been stuck in one? It’s frustrating and depressing. Kinda makes you feel like, “What’s the point?!” and “Just grab whatever and eat it”! You keep eating the same things over and over and eventually they don’t taste as good as they used to. It’s especially hard when life gets busy and you can’t find time to eat let alone cook! I could easily get by on a routine of pastas and salads, but these pesky boys of mine like to make my life difficult and require a little more sustenance.
I have been trying to flow with some creative energy lately; especially, with new recipes as we are developing this new website. I was feeling pretty tapped out for a while, but as with everything else in life it “ebbs and flows”. Side note: I love that: “ebbs and flows”. It came from one of those conversations with girlfriends about life and everyone just pauses and nods their heads…I love it! Anyway, back to food…I’m feeling out of the rut. In fact, I feel like I’m on top of the mountain!! I’ve come up with some pretty kick ass recipes lately! *pats self on back* Lucky for you, I like to share. If you follow us on Facebook you’ve probably seen some of my recipes, which have gotten some good feedback!
The recipe I want to share with you today was a home run in my house! I freaking love these things! I was craving something cheesy and my mind kept gravitating toward quesadillas. I wanted a dang, cheesy quesadilla (I’m saying this in my Napoleon Dynamite voice right now!). So I created one! I’m cool like that!
Cashew cream spread/sauce is one of those foods that blew my mind when I first started eating plant-based. I was like “Huh?!”, “WTF?!”, “How can nuts taste like cheese?!”. My mind was blown. But they do and I love them for it! So, this is where my quesadilla began…I knew I wanted to use the cashew cream spread, but what to put inside…*grabs megaphone* Cue the zucchini!! Yup, it’s that time of year! Zucchini time! Of course, between my garden and my mother-in-law’s we’ve got vegetables coming out the wazoo; especially, zucchini! (Ok, technically a fruit, but I don't want to go there!) So I sliced some of those up with some onions and peppers…are you getting excited for this recipe or what?!?!
These are so good! You have to make these. Psst they are easy, too!!
The first thing you’re going to want to do is sauté some veggies. Thinly slice zucchini, bell peppers, and onions. Toss the veggies with the spices and maple syrup and sauté until they are soft. While those cook, whip up your cashew cream spread by putting those ingredients in your blender and blend until creamy (you may have to add small amounts of water to reach your desired consistency).
Turn off the heat. Add in the black beans and stir it all up. Set that off to the side while you get the tortillas ready. Spread cashew cream spread onto one tortilla. Place it in a hot pan (cream side up); then, top with the veggies. Add another tortilla to the top and press it down so that it sticks to the bottom layer (don’t burn yourself!). Cook each side about 4 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted.
Serve with pico de gallo, your favorite salsa, guacamole, hot sauce, or whatever your heart desires! I know you are going to thank me for this so YOU’RE WELCOME!! Recipe Below!
Peace, Love , Plants,
Cheesy Veggie Quesadilla serves 2-3
A slightly edited re-post for your plant-based travel pleasure :)
I’ve been going back and forth to Connecticut recently and also have some upcoming travel plans this spring (Halleluja! praying hands emoji!). I LOVE to travel and explore new places. But for me, adventuring can create lapses in judgement resulting in poor decision making in eating unhealthy foods, overeating out of boredom and overspending at restaurants. Staying plant-based and budget conscious while traveling can be tricky, but hardly impossible. And once you know a few tricks of the trade and have a rough game plan, you will even have some fun with it! Here are some recommendations for staying the course, allowing you to fully enjoy yourself on your next trip while keeping the damage to a minimum.
Pack your own food. If you have a stash of healthy options with you it will make stopping at the next convenience store or restaurant less likely. Here are some ideas on what to pack based on my experience: fruit, whole-grain pretzels, water (if I’m road tripping I like to keep a case of water in the car), Belvita snacks, Lara bars, That’s It fruit bars, applesauce, quick wrap ingredients of tortillas, hummus and mixed greens, overnight oats and loads of cooked potatoes with my horseradish mustard (omg so good). I also pack foods that create a meal just by adding hot water, say, at a hotel or convenience store, such as oatmeal packets and Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods. It’s also useful to pack cans of low-sodium beans (don’t forget the can opener) and shelf stable pre-cooked rice and quinoa that you can eat at room temp or heat easily in the microwave when you reach your destination. Oh! And I ALWAYS carry a container of condiments that I can add to any of the above. I have an ongoing “collection” from hotel stays (peanut butter, jelly- simply stir into a packet of plain oatmeal and hot water for some quick pb & j oats) or truck stops... an amazing opportunity for creating your first condiment cache- ketchup, mustard, soy sauces, hot sauces, honey mustard, etc).
Restaurants: Even though I don’t want to and probably can’t afford to eat out EVERY meal while on the road, I really do enjoy eating in a restaurant once in awhile or even once a day while traveling. You will find that Asian, Mexican, Italian and, believe it or not, Steak houses are great choices to ensure getting a plant-based meal.
Asian restaurants offer rice, steamed veggies with soy sauce or teriyaki, vegetable sushi, tofu curries and fresh spring rolls with dipping sauce. Mexican is great for having rice and beans with salsa, guacamole and I always ask for an order of their corn tortillas. You can also order fajitas and ask if they will “dry” fry, steam or saute the vegetables in water for oil free option. Order a salad and you could have any of the above as a salad, burrito, tacos or a bowl. When I go to an Italian place I usually order pasta with marinara sauce, salad with balsamic vinegar or lemon wedges and fresh bread or veggie pizza without cheese topped with crushed red pepper. (I’m getting hungry). Steak houses are wonderful in that you can always get a plain baked or sweet potato, steamed vegetables, and a fresh salad. Personally I like to put this all together with some BBQ sauce as a dressing (many are made without oil). Breakfast spots and coffee shops/cafes almost always offer bagels with jelly or peanut butter, sometimes hummus with fresh vegetables, oatmeal made with water or nondairy milk, fresh fruit, and nuts... if I notice that they serve avocado on the menu, I will order it with whole grain toast, slice of tomato and red pepper flakes or hot sauce to re-create a fabulous avocado toast I first had in NYC. Mmmmmm…. @thebutchersdaughter_official
Photo Credit The Butcher's Daughter
Gas stations and grocery stores: Don’t forget these little gems. The grocery store produce sections are filled with pre-washed/cut fruits and vegetables...the meal doesn’t get any quicker than that! Look for low-sodium canned beans (be sure to pack your can opener or pick up a cheap one at the dollar store), shelf stable rice and quinoa, and often there are vegetarian canned soups such as Annie’s Organics Soups (check the ingredients list for dairy) available to heat when you get to your destination. Also the freezer section has quite the bounty with microwaveable pre-cooked frozen rice, mixed vegetables, herbs, riced cauliflower and frozen fruit (frozen cherries are currently my favorite snack). You can also pick up a bag of potatoes to microwave in your hotel room and many grocery stores now have fresh salads and olive bars. For a quick breakfast you can pick up cereal and nondairy milk, nondairy yogurt or plain bagels (no need to buy condiments if you’ve brought along your own or pick up when you get to the hotel). Check out the videos in the resources guide for the field trip the girls and I took to our local Walmart Superstore for some other ideas!
Gas stations are getting better and better offering fresh fruit, hummus packs, That’s It fruit bars, Clif Bars (check ingredients list), whole grain pretzels and unsalted nuts. Many convenience stores offering made-to-order meals have rice and beans for wrap options...just add salsa and load up with veggies and guac.
Get creative. Look at the menu and notice all the components in each offering and check out the listed sides. Often the sides will offer baked plain or sweet potatoes, steamed veggies, applesauce, and fresh fruit. These combined with a house salad can make a meal. Once, I noticed portobello mushrooms from one entree and avocado from another...and I put it atop my baked potato and steamed veggies to create a potato bowl.
It doesn’t hurt to ask for what you want. You are a patron of the restaurant and are entitled to ask for and get something you can eat. You are deserving and you should not feel as though you’re being ‘difficult’. That said, most often I am met with chefs and servers who are eager to come up with something I can eat. With all the many dietary restrictions and food sensitivities these days, it’s not that unusual to have a special request. I’ve even had chefs (many times, actually) come out to see how I liked the meal they created for me (Disney World has THE most accommodating eateries on the planet!). These people are talented in their own right and are usually pleased to create something different from what’s on the daily menu. Be gracious and thank them personally, if you can, and tip them generously for their efforts.
It doesn’t always go the way you hoped it would. The most common mistake I make is forgetting to ask for “no cheese”. Especially remember to request “no cheese” when ordering a house salad or a plate of pasta. It almost always comes with cheese even if it doesn’t say so in the menu description. No-Oil salad dressings can also present a problem. Most often restaurants will have balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon wedges, fat free dressings, salsa or hummus...but sometimes they don’t. For master troubleshooting I have been known to smuggle in an avocado and lemon wedges (makes an awesome hearty dressing- smash with fork, squeeze lemon with a pinch of salt- you can put it together discreetly right in the salad) or one of my homemade favorites , tahini or fat-free balsamic dressings. If possible, check the online menu before arriving. It helps to have a rough game plan to avoid feeling put on the spot and caving in to one of your traditional dairy or oil-laden go-tos. You are in the driver’s seat here...stick to the plan!!
Apps and Websites: I enjoy a website called happycow.net which allows you to search a specific geographical area for veg friendly restaurants. They also have a free downloadable app to use while on the road. While it is super fun to check out the local vegan and vegetarian scene, their menu items are often loaded with fat and highly processed ingredients. I usually stick to and do the best at “regular” restaurants and can honestly say I’ve never been to a place that has not been able to come up with something to eat--even if it’s an unexciting mustard, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. I tell myself it’s just one meal...and I actually love MLT’s!! (Add banana peppers, red onion and avocado WHENEVER possible..delish.)
Just remember to do your best! For me, food has always been such a fun part of travel, but I have to remind myself of the many other fun aspects of the journey: meaningful conversation with my travel partner, listening to educational podcasts, stopping at a picturesque vista, listening to an audiobook, self-guided walking tours, meaningful visits with friends or family, a random hike to a waterfall or unexpected stop at a cool little town, people watching, stopping for a good cup of local coffee or taking in a tea-tasting (going to do this on my next trip to CT)...not to mention most of these are free or cost very little, yet add so much value and meaning to my adventuring.
I would love to hear about YOUR next get-a-way and what you might do differently this time to create the best experience with memories that will last a lifetime….without the guilt.
Food can be so fun, am I right? I love discovering new plant-based foods...it feels like Christmas when I find a new one that I love. Then, add in a food that makes creating new recipes exciting *happy dance*
A friend told that I had to try the new craze...soy curls! I'm picky...I needed some more information before I just went all willy nilly buying these things. I went to the source www.butlerfoods.com.
“Butler Foods LLC is an independent, family owned business. We were privileged to live in Africa for years and assist in small scale sustainable organic gardening, reforestation, and community health. In seeking to alleviate starvation and famine, we came to the conclusion that a natural, whole foods, plant based diet is the answer for health, peace and for feeding the world. Our products are plant based and animal free. Butler Soy Curls™ can fill an important place in your favorite dishes as you follow an eco-friendly, plant based diet. Remember, our products are made with special care and love.”
Their soy is NON GMO!! AND is NOT sprayed with any chemical pesticides! You can not ask for a better product! So what are these “soy curls”? Soybeans! That's it! No added fillers or chemicals, just dehydrated soybeans. I was so happy to find these amazing products! Yes, products; plural...you HAVE TO try the soy jerky! So delicious/addictive!
Now that you know what soy curls are, let me give you a crowd pleasing recipe that even a meat-eater will love!
The first step is to soak your soy curls (they are dehydrated soy beans). For this recipe we will use half of a bag or about 2 cups. Put them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
While the soy curls are soaking...slice up 1 green pepper and 1 yellow onion. Saute them with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce until they soften, about 8-10 minutes.
Drain the soy curls and squeeze out some of the excess water. Then add in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce, and 2-3 drops of liquid smoke. Stir it all up and let it sit for a few minutes while you tend to the veggies.
Now, add the soy curls to the vegetables and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add more vegan Worcestershire to taste.
Add your favorite vegan cheese and stir. Scoop your mixture onto your favorite bread. Looks like meat, right?!
I used Daiya cheese this time because I got lazy and didn't want to make the nacho cheez sauce. My family was upset...they love my nacho cheez sauce and aren't big fans of Daiya cheese. So my recommendation is to make the nacho cheez sauce and the recipe is here.
This is seriously, super easy and my family loves it. Go order your soy curls and get busy making Philly Cheez Soy Curls!
Peace, Love, Plants,
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!
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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