Old Fashioned Apps

Old fashioned apps, you know, appetizers instead of applications.  I love appetizers and getting to eat a little bit of a variety of things instead of a lot of one thing.  I do love the efficiency and simplicity of one pot meals, so we do eat quite a bit of those, but grazing on appetizers over a couple of hours is quite the treat for me.appetizerappetizer

Our Christmas tradition is to have a nice big dinner on Christmas Eve and then snack our way through Christmas day with brunch foods in the morning and appetizers all afternoon and evening.  How I’d love to live with that laissez faire attitude more often, though in reality the actual food and prep was all planned out, just not the timing.

With all of the Super Bowl and Olympics viewing in the next few weeks, below are ideas of apps to enjoy  while watching (or day dreaming about other stuff in the general direction of the tv).  While still plant based, many of these apps are not low fat and should be consumed only occasionally.

To further support your low fat plant based lifestyle, remember the golden rules of party-going:

1. Eat and hydrate well before you go

2. Take food that you can enjoy guilt free


Black Bean Dip, Guacamole, and Baked Tortilla Chips

Spinach Dip

Carmelized Onion Dip

Roasted Chickpeas

Kale Chips

Raw Veggie Tray (snow peas, sugar snap peas, green beans in addition to carrots, celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower) and Hummus

Fruit Tray or Fruit Skewers (seasonal fruit)

Fruit Dipped in Dark Chocolate or Pomegranate Bark

Organic Edamame (all soy should be organic or non-GMO project verified)

Homemade Sushi (avocado and cucumber, roasted sweet potato and portabellos, etc)

Faux hot dogs or sausages wrapped in phyllo or dairy-free crescent rolls (spread dijon or spicy brown mustard down the center before rolling up) and sliced into bite-sized pieces before serving

Boiled Peanuts (MYO or buy a large container and reheat in your crockpot for a more authentic presentation)

Raw or Dry Roasted Nuts


For the big game, we enjoyed organic edamame, potato skins, boiled peanuts, watermelon, roasted okra, roasted chickpeas, guacamole with celery and baked tortilla chips, and ‘chicken’ and waffles.





Photo Credit: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appetizer


A Complete Failure

What worked well last week in your meal planning?  Be sure to make time to incorporate that again this week and don’t beat yourself up if the plan wasn’t implemented as well as you would have liked.  Significant dietary modifications are like an ultra marathon – forward progress is still progress, even if it only feels like baby steps.

I was traveling again this week, so meal prep (not just planning) was essential.  I cut myself some slack and built in one night for the family to eat out while I was gone.  Although this did not save time or money, the kids enjoyed the treat, and the hubby appreciated one less night of solo kitchen duty.  I also had one recipe near-failure and another new recipe that I’m excited about that’s not quite ready for prime time (and keep in mind, I’m not holding myself to high standards for prime time).  So it will get another tweak or two before sharing.  A near-failure is when the recipe is not quite right, but the family eats it anyway.  Whether it tastes okay or they’re just scared to complain, it’s hard to know.

I think we’ve only had 3 complete failures in recent years, with a complete failure being a meal that cannot be salvaged in any way.  Only 1 of the 3 is remembered by the family, and they remind me of it regularly.  In the early smoothie days when we were still working out the basic smoothie recipes, I was experimenting with different ways to add protein to the smoothie without using whey (a milk derivative), non-dairy yogurt (pricey), or vegan protein powders (downright expensive).  One of the proteins I tried was chickpeas.  This is where theory and reality diverge as pea powder is a common ingredient in vegan protein powders.  However, some brands of canned chickpeas have a definite tuna-like smell when you first open the can.  I should have known with the first waft that no amount of fruit and greens would cover up that smell, but I forged on, determined to inexpensively bulk up our smoothies.

It was gross.  I tried to finish my glass just to prove that it wasn’t THAT bad, but I couldn’t.  The smell was just too bitter_potionmuch.  And once you start thinking about tuna smoothies, it’s really hard to stop thinking about tuna smoothies.

So whenever my family chides me about the chickpea smoothie, I think of the hundreds of plant based recipes that we’ve tried over the last 6 years, and I remember that there have been way more successes than failures.  The biggest success has been the evolution my family has taken to entirely plant based, and that’s what I’m most proud of.  It hasn’t been easy, but almost nothing worthwhile is.

The next time you make a complete failure recipe, remind yourself of all the successes along the way.  Til then, maybe some of the meals we enjoyed this week will inspire you–

Three Bean Salad

~ 6 cups or 3-4 cans of beans, rinsed and drained (I used black beans, white beans, and chickpeas this time)

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1-2 avocados, peeled and diced

1/4 c cilantro, leaves torn into bits

1/4 c apple cider vinegar

2 T sugar

1.5 t salt

1 t freshly ground pepper

Whisk the apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl with a lid.  If you have an over ripe avocado, stir it into the vinegar mixture to make the dressing creamy.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and stir to mix.  Serve immediately or allow flavors to develop while refrigerated.

Sloppy Lennys adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen

Serves 6

1 c uncooked lentils

4 c water

1 yellow onion, diced small

3/4 c frozen stoplight peppers (or fresh equivalent), diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T chili powder

2 t oregano

1 t salt

8 oz tomato sauce

6 oz tomato paste

3 T maple syrup

1 T yellow mustard

In a saucepan, bring the lentils in the water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Drain the lentils.

While the lentils are cooking, saute the onion and peppers in a little water in a cast iron pan until softened.  Add the garlic and more water as needed to prevent sticking.  Once the garlic has lightly browned, add the chili powder, oregano, salt, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and the cooked lentils.  Stir well and cook over low heat for ~10 min.  Add the maple syrup and yellow mustard (Isa’s ingenious additions) and stir to incorporate.  Remove from heat and if time permits, allow dish to sit, covered, to allow flavors to fruther develop.

Serve over brown rice or in whole grain buns.

Pineapple “Fried” Rice

Serves 6

3 c cooked brown rice

4 c vegetables, chopped (I used stoplight peppers, onions, broccoli, and mixed peas and carrots)

3/4 c diced fresh pineapple

3 T tamari or low sodium soy sauce

1 heaping T minced garlic

1 T minced ginger

1/2 t red pepper flakes, optional

This recipe comes together very quickly, especially if the rice is fresh from the rice cooker.  In a wok or pan, sautee the ginger and garlic in water or pineapple juice, add the chopped vegetables and sautee until veggies are desired texture.  Add the rice, soy sauce, and pineapple.  Continue to cook and stir until heated through.

If the cooked rice is cold from refrigeration, cover the wok or pan and add a few tablespoons of water if needed to soften the rice by steaming.

Fickin Noodle Soup

Serves 4

3/4 c diced chicken substitute (affectionately referred to as “fickin” in my house, as in fake chicken) or white beans (or both)

2 quarts Imagine No Chicken Broth

8 oz whole grain spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces and cooked

1 c diced veggies (I used peas, carrots, celery, and onions)

Add all the ingredients to a soup pot, cover, and heat through.  It is also easy to do Make Your Own soup night where each person puts their ingredients in a bowl or mug and adds hot broth to each serving.  Easy dinner in less than 15 minutes!



Picture Credit:

A Bitter Potion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Adriaen_Brouwer_004.jpg

Budget Reduction

Neal Barnard, MD, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has provided Five Ways to Save Billions – and Boost the Nation’s Health.  The article is specific to the gargantuan debt problem of the US government and includes recommendations such as cutting junk food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) and prioritizing health in commodity purchases.

  • Food manufacturers are benefitting from SNAP while SNAP recipients get sicker and sicker.  If SNAP benefits were limited to truly healthful foods, we could address hunger, malnutrition, AND healthcare at the same time, while saving billions.
  • Instead of the USDA buying millions of pounds of cheese or beef for school meal programs and other food assistance programs, the USDA could support farmers in providing fresh, local vegetables to schools and ensure each school-aged child has the opportunity to eat from a fresh salad bar at least once a day.

Although we may have no or little impact today on how the US government spends tax payer money, we can create our own budget reduction by:

1. Stop buying junk food. 

You don’t need it.  And if you have it at home or stashed at work, then you’ll eventually eat it.  Once you cut out all junk food and replace those calories with plant-based calories, you will stop craving the junk because your body is getting what it needs.

2. Increase your range of healthy snacks.

Not only do you need to expand your horizon of healthy snacks, you need to have them available at all times.  Rely mostly on whole fruits, raw veggies, and whole grain snacks and enjoy the higher fat snacks like nuts, nut butters, and hummus only occasionally if you’re trying to lose weight.


 3. Reduce the amount of processed food you buy.

Once you evaluate the amount of processed food you buy, you will probably be surprised at what percentage of your grocery bill it represents.  Use the snack list above to think of ways to eliminate processed snacks, like using sliced cucumbers instead of crackers or roasted chickpeas instead of chips.  When you buy processed food for convenience, make sure the ingredients support your health goals- no corn syrup, low or no sugar, low or no oil, and plant based.

4. Buy ‘smart’ prepared foods.

When you do buy processed foods, make them count.  For example, a single packet of prepared chana masala can be the base of a quick dinner for four if you add a can of chickpeas and leftover or frozen veggies and serve it over brown rice.  The same thing is true for a single serving package of lentil soup- add a bag of frozen mixed veggies and serve over a whole grain for a complete meal for 2.  Add more lentils or quinoa to serve 4.  THAT is healthy fast food!!

 5. Think long term.

By changing your diet, you are saving thousands of dollars long term on healthcare.  By changing your diet, you are dramatically reducing your chance of having a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes or cancer.  Every craving you resist and every healthy choice you make gets you one step closer to where you want to be- healthy and disease free for the rest of your life.



Roasted Chickpeas

Use canned chickpeas or make your own using the Basic Beans (Slow Cooker) recipe.

For each 15 oz can or 1.5 cups of chickpeas, lightly spray with oil or toss in 1 t oil, then season.  Plain ol’ sea salt works fine here, but prepared seasoning mixes are great too- BBQ, Cajun, salt substitutes- whatever you have tucked away in your cabinet.  Use a different baking sheet for each seasoning.

Roast the seasoned chickpeas on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350˚ for about 30 minutes, shaking once or twice while cooking.  Keep an eye on the chickpeas during the last 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.  The chickpeas should be crunchy when they’re done but will also continue to harden as they cool.


Baked Tortilla Chips

Cut whole wheat tortillas into triangular pieces and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets.  Lightly spray with oil and season with salt.  Bake at 375˚ for 8 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets once if the chips are cooking unevenly.


Soft Serve Ice “Cream”

Serves 3

Peel, slice, and freeze 4 to 5 bananas in a gallon freezer storage bag.  Using a high speed blender, such as VitaMix, puree frozen banana slices with a small splash of non-dairy milk (<1/4 c) as quickly as possible.  Stop the blender to stir as necessary.  Use chocolate non-dairy milk for chocolate ice cream.  Add other frozen fruit with the bananas to flavor the ice cream.  Serve immediately or freeze for 20-30 minutes to harden.



Hopefully you’re already convinced of the importance of breakfast.  If it’s the implementation of the healthy breakfast that’s Pancakesgot you hung up, read on.  Consider making a Big Batch of Pancake Mix or French Toast and Fruit Compote on the weekend, and then reheat during the week.  These pancakes reheat fabulously in the toaster.  Or while cleaning up after dinner one night, make Yogurt Parfaits or Overnight Oatmeal for the next morning.  On a rushed morning, throw together a Banana Nut Butter Wrap in less than 2 minutes and eat in transit.  If you’d rather drink your breakfast, there’s always the Fruit Smoothie with more variations than I could ever describe.


Big Batch of Pancake Mix

8 c whole grain flour

½ c sugar

2.5 T baking powder

4 t baking soda

4 t salt

Mix these ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For the whole grain flour, I’ve been using 5 to 6 c whole wheat flour and 2 to 3 c oat flour.  Experiment with your favorite flours, using as much whole grains as possible.

To make pancakes, mix 1 c pancake mix with 1 c liquid and 1 flax egg.  Carbonated water makes fluffier pancakes, but non dairy milk and water work as well.  For the flax egg, mix 1 T ground flax seeds with 3 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to gel.  Using ¼ c batter for each pancake, one cup of pancake mix makes about 9 pancakes.  It’s hardly worth the effort to just make one batch, so make at least 2 or 3 batches and freeze the leftovers with wax paper in between each layer.

On school days, my kids can either eat pancakes fresh out of the toaster like a cookie, or if we have compote, I’ll cut the pancakes up for them and serve topped with compote to help speed up consumption.


Fruit Compote

In a small pot, add approximately ½ c fruit per serving (diced if necessary), ½ t sugar per serving if the fruit is not sweet enough on its own, and 1T water per serving.  Cover and bring to a slow boil, then stir and reduce heat.  Continue cooking until fruit is desired tenderness, probably 10-15 more minutes.  If compote isn’t thickening, then remove lid to allow for evaporation.  Compote will further thicken upon refrigeration.

This recipe works great with any type berry, mixed berries, peaches, apples, etc.  Always make more than you think you’ll need as the fruit reduces by half when cooked, and it always goes faster than you’d expect!


Yogurt Parfaits

½ c non dairy yogurt per serving

½ c grains per serving

½ c fruit per serving

Alternate layers of non dairy yogurt, grains, and fruit.  Refrigerate overnight to soften grains.

Suggested grains include homemade or prepared granola, oats or oat groats, or prepared cereal such as GrapeNuts.  Most fruits work well here but remember to include berries as antioxidant powerhouses!


Overnight Oatmeal

½ c dry oats per serving

¾-1 c non dairy milk (or water) per serving

Pour dry oats into a mason jar or other container and add non dairy milk.  The non dairy milk should more than cover the oats- if not, add more.  While in the refrigerator overnight, the oats will soak up the milk and soften.  If the oats are not as soft as you’d like, heat the oatmeal or include more non dairy milk the next time.  Add fruit and enjoy!

Using a small mason jar makes this an easy breakfast on the go, even if you want to heat the oatmeal a bit when you get to work.  One container and no mess!

I also keep single serving size jars of dry oats in my office, which makes it really easy to add hot water and let sit for a few minutes before eating.


Banana Nut Butter Wrap

1 tortilla or piece of bread

2 T nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower seed, etc)

1 banana

Spread nut butter on tortilla.  Peel banana and place in center of tortilla.  Wrap up and enjoy!

This is a great post workout breakfast on the go.


Fruit Smoothie

Here’s my philosophy on smoothies- you can’t really screw it up.  Even if it doesn’t taste great, it’s probably still healthy and you can just chug it.  As long as you can figure out why that variation didn’t work, you can be sure not to repeat it.  In all the years I’ve been making daily smoothies, I’ve really only screwed it up once.  And my family won’t ever let me forget it.  So don’t try to add chickpeas to a smoothie, and you’ll be fine.

The purpose of the smoothie is to get everything you need in one tasty drink.  So we include the following basics in most smoothies (listed below per serving):

1/8 c oats

1 T chia, ground flax, or hemp seeds

1 frozen banana, sliced

¼ – ½ c frozen fruit

¼ c frozen greens

1 c water, OJ, or milk

Add ingredients in the order shown and process according to your blender’s instructions.  If your blender can’t handle this amount of frozen fruit, then use fresh bananas.  Blend until desired consistency has been reached and enjoy!

A few tips:

  • Freeze fruit in slices.
  • Keeps lots of different fruits in your freezer for variety in your smoothie.  Stock up when fruit is on sale and process it immediately for the freezer.
  • While spinach goes undetected in most smoothies, kale and collards aren’t bad either
  • If you’re using a bag of frozen spinach, then use less than recommended.  Consider buying fresh spinach in bulk and immediately freezing it (it compacts greatly once frozen) or freeze it once you realize it’s not fresh enough to serve to guests.
  • Fruits such as strawberries, pineapple, and cherries are great thickeners
  • Store any leftover smoothie in a mason jar or immediately freeze in ice cube trays.  Once frozen, pop out and store in an airtight container.  Smoothie cubes are a great way to start the next day’s smoothie.  Frozen cubes can also be packed in a mason jar to defrost by lunchtime.
  • Gradually increase the ratio of greens to fruit in your smoothies.  Also experiment with adding other vegetables and notice how great you feel on the ‘truly’ green smoothie days.

For a chocolate smoothie, use non dairy chocolate milk or 1T cocoa powder per serving.  Chocolate hides the taste of greens quiet well, so throw in extra greens!

Berry Deliciousness

QUICK!!  While you can, stock up on all the fresh berries you can- these antioxidant powerhouses are the healthiest of all blackberriesfruits.www.nutritionfacts.org  If you’re stuck in the produce aisle or only have a couple of hours at your local pick-your-own farm, check out the graph created by Michael Greger based on work by Carlsen et al (2010) illustrating the antioxidant power of berries and common fruits.  In descending order of antioxidants, here are common fruits:  blackberries > cranberries > raspberries > blueberries > strawberries > mangoes > apples > bananas.  Whenever possible, choose higher antioxidants.

If you’re not aware of the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you may want to check out the Dirty Dozen Plus: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale/collard greens, and summer squash.  While originally referred to as the Dirty Dozen, the Plus highlights two crops- domestically grown summer squash and leafy greens (specifically kale and collards) that did not meet the traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides especially toxic to the nervous system.

The EWG strongly advocates that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables far outweighs the risks of pesticide exposure.  This is one way I implement my Good-Better-Best approach.  It’s really good to eat fresh fruits and vegetables (lots of them!!).  For those on the Dirty Dozen list, buying frozen and organic is even better, and the best option would be to buy fresh, organic, and local – but unfortunately that’s not realistic for most of us most of the time.  So we do the best we can.  So if you’re trying to decide whether to buy a fruit or not, buy it, and if it’s on the Dirty Dozen list AND it’s not significantly more to buy organic, then do so.  Keep an eye on sales of the Dirty Dozen organic produce and stock up whenever possible.

The EWG also maintains a Clean Fifteen list of the fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide residue once the item has been washed: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas (frozen), and sweet potatoes.

blueberriesIf you’re able to stock up on berries, you may eventually get bored with eating them raw, with grain cereals such as oatmeal, or in non-dairy parfaits.  In that case, check out the recipes below for Berry Delicious Smoothie, Strawberry Milk Smoothie, Berry Cobbler, and Berry Pops.


Berry Delicious Smoothie

Makes 2 two cup servings

¼ c oats

2 T flax meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds or a combination

2 bananas, sliced and frozen

1 c frozen berries

2 c orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  This recipe is extremely versatile, so don’t worry about the exact measurements or all of the ingredients.  This is a great starter smoothie for berry lovers and can be made as a milkshake with more bananas and less orange juice.  Leftover smoothie makes delicious popsicles.


Strawberry Milk Smoothie

Makes 4 two cup servings

1/3 c oats

3 T flax meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds or a combination

3 bananas, sliced and frozen

¾ c strawberries, frozen

2 to 3 c cold non-dairy milk, ideally unsweetened

1 to 2 c cold water

Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth.  The amount of liquid needed depends on the desired thickness of the smoothie.  This recipe is extremely versatile, so don’t worry about the exact measurements or all of the ingredients.  This is a great starter smoothie for novices and can be made as a milkshake with more bananas, less non-dairy milk, and no water.  Of course the more strawberries, the better, but seeing as how they are the most expensive ingredient, we use them judiciously.  Leftover smoothie makes delicious popsicles.


Rip’s Blueberry Cobbler [http://engine2diet.com/]

Serves 4

2/3 c whole wheat pastry flour

1.5 t baking powder

1 T vanilla extract

2/3 c non-dairy milk

3 T agave nectar or maple syrup

2 c blueberries

Rip says to mix the dry and the wet ingredients separately, then combine.  I say mix it all together until smooth.  (The batter will be runny.)  If using frozen blueberries, use just under 2/3 c non-dairy milk.  Pour the batter into a non-stick 8” square pan and sprinkle the blueberries over the batter.  Bake for about 45 min at 350˚.

This is such an easy recipe to pull together as it’s quick and uses basic ingredients you’re likely to have on hand.  It works well with cherries, strawberries, peaches, apples- any fruit you’d make cobbler with.


Berry Pops

To entice my niece to eat blueberries one day, I went the gimmicky route, stuck them on pretzel sticks, and called them “Blueberry Pops”.  The first plate of Blueberry Pops disappeared so quickly that I turned the ingredients over to my girls to make the second and third batches.  Since then we have also enjoyed Blackberry Pops and Raspberry Pops- antioxidants with a salty crunch!




Carlsen MH et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide.  Nutrition Journal 2010 9:3.


Everyone’s Favorite Fruity Veggie

When the question of whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables comes up at your next cocktail party, refer to the US Supreme Court case of Nix v. Hedden (1893).  In this case, the Court unanimously decided that rather than the botanical classification of tomato as a fruit (because it is seed-bearing and grows from the flowering part of a plant), the tomato should be classified under customs regulations as a vegetable, based on the ways tomato_http-::bit.ly:1b0LBcs in which it was used.  At the time, imported vegetables were taxed, but not fruits.

Regardless of the botanical or legal classification, tomatoes and tomato products (in addition to watermelon, guavas, papaya, and pink grapefruit) contain lycopene.  Lycopene is a carotenoid and is a much more powerful antioxidant than its chemical relative, beta-carotene.  It’s not just raw tomatoes that contain the powerful antioxidant- cooking tomatoes releases the lycopene from the plant’s cells, which increases our ability to absorb the lycopene.

To confirm previous findings that frequent tomato or lycopene intake was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, Giovannucci at al (2002) evaluated data from 47,365 participants in the prospective Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.  Consumption of tomato sauce, which contains a whopping 20 mg of lycopene per ½ cup, Barnard and Reilly 2008 was associated with an even greater reduction in prostate cancer risk.  Two servings of tomato sauce per week provided a 23% reduction in prostate cancer risk compared with those who rarely eat tomato products.  Men who consumed 10 or more servings of tomato products each week had a 35% reduction in prostate cancer risk.

If consuming 10 or more servings of tomatoes each week to significantly reduce your prostate cancer risk seems daunting, consider this:

  • Even pizza sauce and ketchup (in addition to spaghetti sauce) count as lycopene-rich tomoto products.

When planning meals this week, try out the Tomato Pie, Pasta Fagioli, and Panzanella recipes below, check out Shortcut Gazpacho with 23 mg lycopene per 1 cup tomato juice, and enjoy a snack of watermelon for 14 mg lycopene per 280 gram slice.

Please note, though, that tomatoes can be a common trigger for migraines, arthritis, and digestive problems.  To learn more about an elimination diet to determine what food may be triggering your poor circulation, inflammatory pain, hormone-related conditions, or metabolic and immune problems, check out Dr. Barnard’s book Foods That Fight Pain.  He recommends an elimination diet based on simple foods that are free of all common pain triggers.  Once your symptoms are gone or at least diminished, you slowly and systematically add other foods back into your diet.  Dr. Barnard provides tips on how to identify trigger foods and plenty of recipes with only foods included in the safe list.


Tomato Pie

2 to 2 ¼ lbs heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced

½ to 1 t salt

1 sweet onion, diced and sautéed

1 c Cashew Ricotta pureed with ¾ c (½ can) white beans

¼ to ½ c fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil)

Freshly ground pepper

1 pie crust (prepared vegan pie crust such as Pillsbury or refer to Vegan Pie in the Sky for delicious pie crust recipes)

½ c whole wheat bread crumbs (use 1 c bread crumbs if not finely ground)

Spread the thinly sliced tomatoes on paper towels or a dish towel and sprinkle with salt.  After 10 minutes, use more paper towels or another dish towel to blot the salt and excess moisture from the tomato slices.

In the unbaked pie crust, layer the tomatoes, onions, herbs, and cashew ricotta bean mixture.  Sprinkle each layer with freshly ground pepper and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes, shielding the pie crust if needed.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


Pasta Fagioli

My mother-in-law, through her Italian heritage, handed this recipe down to us, though I think we may have abbreviated it over time.  The key that made this dish such a hit with my kids is that everything is pureed except the ditalini.  I did not grow up with real Italian food, so it reminds me of a fancy spaghetti-oes, which you likely loved unless you had authentic Italian food growing up like my husband.

1 large sweet onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced


2 28oz cans of Italian style stewed tomatoes

½ c fresh Italian parsley

2t dried basil

½ t freshly ground pepper

6c vegetable broth (low sodium preferred)

30 oz white beans

16 oz ditalini pasta (or another type of small pasta)

In a soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic in EVOO at least until tender, longer if you have time.  Add the tomatoes and herbs, reducing heat to medium low.  Stir frequently until fragrant, then add the broth and white beans.  Cover and cook at least 20 minutes but ideally for an hour or two to allow the flavors to fully develop.  Puree the soup in batches, using a dish towel to cover the blender, allowing steam to safely escape.  In a separate pot, boil the pasta, and only add the pasta to what is being served.

My family loves the leftovers of pasta fagioli too, because we combine the soup and the pasta.  When you do this, the pasta absorbs the liquid in the soup, and the pasta swells up significantly.  It’s like getting two for one because the meals look so different.

Once you’ve made the recipe, you can comment below about how to pronounce ‘fagioli’.  It is most often pronounced ‘fa-zool’ in the US (maybe because of “That’s Amore” but depending on the region in Italy, can be pronounced ‘fa-joe-lee’, ‘fah-djoh-lee’, or ‘fa-sool’.



16 oz whole wheat French or Italian bread or whole wheat bagels, cut into small cubes

1 seedless cucumber or 2 cucumbers seeds removed, peeled and diced

2 lbs heirloom or organic tomatoes, coarsely chopped

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 to ½ c fresh basil, torn

3 cloves garlic, minced

2T to ½ c Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette, homemade or bottled (or you can substitute high quality balsamic vinegar)

Optional ingredients to consider

¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and cut into quarters

1 avocado, pitted and diced

1 c fresh organic corn, removed from the cob

Mix the vegetables, herbs, and dressing in advance and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  The bread cubes may be toasted in a 300˚F oven for 15 minutes to dry them out (this may not be needed if you are using day or two old bread).   After the bread cubes have cooled, toss them with vegetable mixture and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  Let sit 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Most panzanella recipes contain ½ to 1 cup of olive oil, which in my mind totally opposes the point of eating fresh, raw summer veggies.  The volume of dressing needed will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are.  With really ripe tomatoes, I use very little dressing.  In the latest batch I made, I used about 2 T of high quality balsamic vinegar instead of dressing, and it was fabulous- tasted like bruschetta with a fork.  If you aren’t eating the panzanella all at one sitting, reserve some of the bread cubes to add the next time.


Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette (adapted from The Starch Solution)

Makes 1 cup

Use a ½ c measuring cup and add approximately equal amounts of balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and unseasoned rice wine vinegar.  The higher quality vinegars you use, the better the flavor of the end result.  Adjust the proportions and vinegars to suit your liking.

2 cloves garlic

1/8 c ketchup

½ T Dijon mustard

½ to 1 T agave nectar

½ c water

¼ t powdered agar (Telephone brand powdered agar is available in small packets at Asian markets) or arrowroot

Add all ingredients except the agar/arrowroot to the blender, and blend until smooth.  While the blender is running, add the agar/arrowroot.  Continue to blend until the powder has been incorporated and dressing has thickened a bit (it will thicken more with refrigeration).  Taste and add more agave if needed.



Barnard, Neal. Foods That Fight Pain. 1998

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Liu Y, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002 Mar 6;94(5):391-8.

McDougall, John and McDougall, Mary. The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good. 2012


Photo Credit: Tomatoes http://bit.ly/1b0LBcs

The Return to Reality

The return to reality after a week of vacation is no fun, but healthy meals will help everyone feel better through the transition back to the reality of  jobs and school.  Especially when our lives are busy, it’s critical to have meal planning habits to rely on to help us avoid the temptations and the OIBexpenses (both financial and health-related) of eating processed foods.  If you do not have a meal planning habit, now is the best time to start.

A day or two before I do my big grocery store run, I start planning the next week’s meals.  Never go to the store without a specific list of the meals planned for the week.  I also like to include a few lunches in the plan, though leftovers are usually the default for adult lunches.  Start the meal planning by checking your fridge, freezer, and pantry for ingredients that you already have on hand.  If you’re unsure how to use an ingredient or would like to try something new, set a timer so you don’t get carried away and search online for recipes using that ingredient.

TrafficDuring the meal planning stage, I also consult the family calendars to see which nights I’ll have less time to prep dinner.  I plan exactly which dinner will be on each night, to ensure the freshest ingredients get used up early in the week and to prevent waste.  I usually leave Fridays for leftovers (to clean out the fridge) or MYO (make your own) night where the kids will have sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, or Fork Free Fridays – something a little out of the ordinary.

Once you know the meals for the week, create the grocery list based on the ingredients that you don’t already have.  I like to create my grocery listswith the layout of the store in mind so I don’t have to read through my entire list on each aisle.  The NutritionMD recipe site will create a grocery list based on the recipes you chose- for free!

As soon as I return from the grocery store, we wash and start prepping produce.  Because I already know the recipes for the week, I know how each item needs to be prepared.  This is a hugely important point and will prevent lots of fabulous produce from passing its peak while hidden in your produce drawer.

On an ideal weekend, I’ll take the meal prep a step further and actually make a few of the meals (or meal components) for the week.  This is critical for meals with significant prep or cooking time or for weeks where I’ll be out of town or in the office later than usual.  Conversely, if I know that I won’t have time for significant meal prep on the weekend, I take that into account and plan simpler meals for the week ahead.  This coming week is such a week where we’ll eat simple meals that are easily made in less than 30 minutes.

I also make a mid to end of the week grocery run to pick up fresh greens, bananas, bread-  whatever else we need to finish out the week, making sure I’ve accounted for the weekend meals that will take place before the next week’s meal planning.

The most recent addition to my meal planning habit was to make a standard shopping list for each of the stores that I routinely visit.  By looking at the standard list before I visit that store, it jogs my memory about items that we may have run out of in the past two weeks that I didn’t note on the shopping list.

Use this week to start or improve your meal prep habit.  You’ll notice a difference in time and cost savings, which may allow you the freedom to be more creative in the kitchen- trying a new recipe each week or freeing up time to do something else for your health.


Shortcut Gazpacho

Tomato-based vegetable juice blend

Freshly prepared salsa (store bought or homemade), drained of any liquid

Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced

Garlic, minced


Salt and pepper to taste

Italian herbs, dried

Fresh lemon juice, optional

Diced avocado, optional (use as a garnish)

Mix all ingredients tasting often until desire flavor combination is achieved.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Gazpacho is a light and refreshing meal, perfect for a hot summer day.  If serving it for dinner, you may want to serve it alongside something hearty, like baked potatoes or brown rice.  To encourage children to eat gazpacho, consider making Oven Baked Tortilla Chips so they can scoop the soup as if it were salsa, or cut the tortillas into thin strips before baking and serve atop the soup.


Mac and Trees

Box of whole wheat macaroni pasta

Cashew ricotta (you won’t need the full batch)

Broccoli florets, frozen or steamed

Begin cooking the pasta as directed and add the broccoli florets to the pasta water half-way through the cooking time.  A couple of minutes of additional cooking time will be needed as the broccoli will reduce the temperature of the boiling water.  Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to the pot.  Pour the cashew ricotta over the pasta and broccoli, stirring to mix.  Serve warm.

To increase the heartiness of this one-pot meal, add a can of drained and rinsed white beans.  Another option is to puree the white beans into the cashew ricotta, adding water as needed to thin the sauce.


Easy Pasta Salad

Box of whole wheat fusilli pasta or orzo, cooked and drained

2 to 3 cups of assorted diced and shredded vegetables [This is a great way to use up little bits of leftover raw veggies]

Your favorite oil-free dressing [Or whisk a tablespoon of hummus with juice from 2-3 lemons and minced garlic]

To make this easy pasta salad a one-pot meal, add a can of rinsed and drained beans to complement the other flavors in your salad.



Photo Credit (traffic): http://bit.ly/189sZXY

Feeding a Crowd

We are beach bound soon and lucky enough to be spending vacation with extended family, so I’ve been thinking of what meals to feed a large group.  veggie_prepSince we won’t have a Vegetable Preparing Room as on the WWII USS North Carolina or industrial sized vats to cook in, all we need is some advanced planning.

Similar to our strategy with the Three Bean Salad, plan your meals with different continents in mind.  One theme we will likely have is Mediterranean night with rice and lentils, falafel (from a box mix and baked instead of fried), za’atar bread using prepared za’atar spice mix and olive oil on prepared whole wheat pizza dough, tzatziki sauce (non-dairy yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, minced garlic, and salt) and cucumber tomato salad (red wine or cider vinegar with a little sugar, salt, and pepper).

I’m also going to try a Shortcut Gazpacho by doctoring up freshly prepared salsa and tomato juice.  For lunches, we’ll have Black Bean Mango Salsa, whole wheat pasta salad with lots of finely diced raw veggies, and “healthy” grilled Elvis sandwiches with peanut butter, bananas, and honey or agave nectar, in addition to the typical PB&Js and tomato sandwiches.  For me, vatvacation is all about having fun and eating well without spending a ton of time in the kitchen.

These are some of the tried-and-true recipes that we now can count on to feed the whole crowd in a healthy way.


Rice Bowls

In Asia, rice has been the basis of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for over 10,000 years.McDougall   Provide lots of warm brown rice and some of the suggested toppings below for a make it yourself dinner sure to please a range of picky tastes.  If it’s in your budget, buying freshly prepared salsa will save a lot of chopping time.

Cooked brown rice, about 1 cup per child and 2 cups per adult

Black beans, rinsed and served warm or mixed with salsa (not blended as in Easy Black Bean Dip)

Salsa, salsa verde, or Black Bean Mango Salsa

Avocado, diced, or Easy Guacamole

Organic corn or pico de gallo

Set out your family’s favorite toppings and let everyone build their own rice bowl.  To use up leftovers, use whole wheat tortillas to make burritos or make the Oven Baked Tortilla Chips for loaded nachos.


Easy Guacamole

½ avocado per person

¼ c frozen green peas per person

Add to taste:

Salsa or diced tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno (seeded and minced)

Fresh lime juice


In a blender or food processor, puree the avocados and peas.  Add the remaining ingredients and puree if a creamy texture is desired.  Taste and adjust the ingredients as needed.

No one will be able to taste the peas and the added benefit (other than not being able to taste the peas) is that it reduces the cost of the guacamole by requiring less of the most expensive ingredient.


Basic Lasagna

While spaghetti is by far the easiest and cheapest way to feed a large crowd, it doesn’t take a whole lot more work to make lasagna.  The secret to delicious vegan lasagna is the creamy Cashew Ricotta below developed by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero of the Veganomican.

Lasagna noodles (1 box per lasagna) or 1 medium sized eggplant, peeled and very thinly sliced

Marinara sauce (2 jars per lasagna)

Cashew Ricotta (2 cups per lasagna)

Optional veggies:  fresh spinach, sliced mushrooms, shredded squash or zucchini, etc.

Optional seasonings: minced garlic, fresh basil, oregano, etc.

Spray the casserole dish with EVOO and spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom.  Start with the noodles or eggplant slices, then alternate layers of sauce and cashew ricotta, working in the optional ingredients.

Cover and bake at 375° for about 45 minutes.

Without adding a significant amount of work, two lasagnas can be assembled at the same time- one with lots of delicious veggies and a basic one for the not-so-adventurous eaters.  A longer cooking time will be needed.


Cashew Ricotta

½ c cashew pieces, soaked in cold water to soften then drained

12 oz shelf stable organic tofu (like Mori Nu)

¼ c fresh lemon juice


2-4 cloves garlic

1.5 t dried basil

1.5 t salt

If you forget to soak the cashew pieces in cold water before making the ricotta, microwave them in water for 30 seconds and then drain.  Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree.  One batch makes about 2 cups, which is enough for one large lasagna.


Apple Pie Oatmeal

½ c dry oatmeal per child and 1 c dry oatmeal per adult

½ apple per person, peeled and diced

Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Water (2 c water for each 1 c dry oatmeal)

Combine all ingredients in a covered pot and cook over medium heat until boiling, then reduce to low.  Add more water as necessary and continue cooking until apples are tender.  Serve with a dollop of non-dairy vanilla yogurt or a splash of non-dairy vanilla milk just before serving to help cool.  An alternative is to cook the apples separately in advance and reheat when ready to serve.

This concept also works wonderfully with peaches, blueberries, and strawberries.



McDougall, John and McDougall, Mary. The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good. 2012


Not So Eggstraordinary

The Harvard Physician Health Study I (1982-1995) was designed to test the benefits and risks of aspirin and beta carotene, respectively, in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Twenty-two thousand male physicians between the ages of 40 and 84 bad_eggyears old residing in the US participated in the study.  The results demonstrated that low dose aspirin decreased the risk of a first myocardial infarction by 44%, which led to widespread recommendations for adults at risk of myocardial infarction to take a low dose aspirin daily.  Beta carotene was found to have no effect in the prevention of cancer.  However, in one of the many secondary findings, this study also linked egg consumption (≥ 1 egg/day) to Type 2 diabetes [Djousse Diabetes Care], heart failure [Djousse Circ], and premature death (mortality) [Djousse AJCN].

One 50-63 g egg (corresponding to large to jumbo size) contains approximately 200 mg of cholesterol.  The American Heart Association’s Nutritional Committee recommends less than 300 mg cholesterol per day, or if your LDL cholesterol level is ≥ 100 mg/dL, then less than 200 mg cholesterol/day.

However the most recent Dietary Reference Intakes published by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, and Food and Nutrition Board Dietary Reference Intake report indicates that “the body can synthesize its needs for saturated fatty acids and cholesterol from other sources” and “There is an incremental increase in plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations with increased intake of saturated or trans fatty acids or with cholesterol at even very low levels in the diet.  Therefore, the intakes of each should be minimized while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.”  It took numerous links to find this recommendation, though, because the egg industry has been promoting the benefits of eggs for decades.  I agree with T. Colin Campbell that it’s no wonder the public is confused about dietary recommendations.

Based on the Harvard Physician Study I association of egg consumption to diabetes [Djousse Diabetes Care], heart failure [Djousse Circ], and mortality [Djousse AJCN], and findings from a pooled analysis of prospective studies in women suggesting a possible modest increase in breast cancer risk with egg consumption [Missmer et al], it is worthwhile to consider reducing or eliminating your consumption of eggs.  Success with one or two egg substitutes will provide enough confidence to experiment with the huge range of inexpensive (and healthier) egg substitutes available.

One egg is between 3 and 4 T in volume, which is the same as 45 to 60 mL, or just under 1/4 cup.  Therefore egg substitutes range in volume from 3 T to 1/4 cup.  The choice of egg substitute depends on the function of the egg in the recipe.  When the egg is serving as a binder or thickener, appropriate substitutes may be mashed potatoes, cooked rice, oatmeal, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nut butter, silken tofu, or tomato paste.  When the egg is primarily providing moisture, use fruit, fruit puree, or non-dairy yogurt, and increase the cooking time to account for the increased density.  When egg is acting as an emulsifier (helping things bind that wouldn’t normally bind), use silken tofu.  When the egg is functioning as a leavener, also add 1/4 t baking powder to whatever substitute you have chosen.  And finally, when egg is providing color, include a pinch of turmeric.



Replacing more than two eggs in a recipe (like quiche) will change the integrity of the recipe, so pureed silken tofu is recommended.  When making a cake with more than two eggs, try using 1 T white vinegar, 1 T water, and 1 teaspoon baking powder for each egg.  To replace one egg white, dissolve 1 T plain agar powder into 1 T water and beat to mix.  Chill for 15 minutes, then beat again.

These egg substitutes aren’t fool proof and it does take some experimentation to figure it out.  The binding function can be particularly tricky- for example, it’s hard to make a veggie burger that holds up on an outdoor grill.  But it’s worth the effort to find the right egg substitute for each recipe- you are worth it, and your health will definitely benefit from eliminating eggs from your diet.

Here are a few simple recipes to give you experience with an egg substitute in something you’ve probably made before.  The brownies and muffins are great for when you don’t have time to make them  from scratch.  The French toast recipe requires no additional work than regular French toast.  Homemade mayonnaise is much easier than I ever expected and much cheaper than the store bought versions- it makes the Kale Potato Salad recipe a breeze for picnics and summer potlucks.


Brownies (from a box)

Certain name brand brownie mixes do not contain milk, such as Ghirardelli Double Chocolate.  Substitute the egg with 1 T ground flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with 3 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’d like low fat brownies, replace the oil with the same volume of pureed fruit, such as applesauce.  Once the egg substitute has thickened, add to the brownie mix and bake as directed, increasing the baking time if needed.

For the hard core, sugar free vegans out there, black bean brownie recipes are quite the craze recently.  I’ve tried a couple of recipes but haven’t been impressed.  These are next on my list to try though as I’ve enjoyed some of Chocolate Covered Katie’s other recipes.


Muffins (from a box)

Certain name brand muffin mixes do not contain milk, such as Duncan Hines Simple Mornings Blueberry.  Substitute the 2 eggs with 2 T ground flax seeds mixed with 6 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’d like low fat muffins, replace the oil with the same volume of pureed fruit, such as applesauce, banana, or pumpkin.  Once the egg substitute has thickened, add to the muffin mix and bake as directed, increasing the baking time if needed.


French Toast (adapted from Rebar)

1 loaf multi grain or whole wheat bread

1 banana

2 c non dairy milk (vanilla, if available)

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t cinnamon

1.5 t arrowroot powder or organic cornstarch

1/4 t salt

Blend all ingredients (except bread) until smooth and pour into a large shallow bowl.  Pre-heat the pan or skillet very well and spray or brush with oil.  Dip the slices of bread into the batter, drain, and place on the hot skillet.  Cook until golden brown, flip, and cook on the reverse side.  Serve immediately or transfer to a cooling rack (to prevent the slices from becoming soggy) until ready to serve.  Leftovers freeze well with wax paper in between slices.  To reheat, toast each slice, flip it over, and toast again.


Mayo (adapted from The Candle Cafe)

1 c soy milk, unflavored and unsweetened

2.5 c safflower oil (if you substitute, use a very neutral flavored oil)

1.5 T cider vinegar

1/4 t dry mustard

1 T agave nectar

1 T sea salt

dash of freshly ground pepper

Place the soy milk in a blender and with the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil.  Continue adding the oil until it is all absorbed.  Stop the blender and add the remaining ingredients.  Blend quickly to incorporate.  Makes about 3 cups.

This is a fool proof recipe and a great base for variations, like adding chipotle, cajun, or wasabi seasonings.  Unfortunately the fat content is extremely high, so use sparingly (or when convincing others that a whole food, plant based diet is tasty).  Another mayo recipe that takes a bit more work (not as foolproof) but is very low fat and quite versatile was developed by Bryanna Clark Grogan, a powerhouse in the vegan cookbook arena


Kale Potato Salad (adapted from Snarky Vegan)

6-8 medium sized gold potatoes, chopped

2 c kale, stems removed [link to video] and chopped or torn into small pieces

1 onion, diced

3 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 – 3/4 c vegan mayo

1 T yellow mustard

1/4 c sweet pickle relish

salt or garlic salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes, chop the kale, and mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Make sure the flavor of the mayo mixture is just right before you add it to the potatoes, as it’s easier to adjust now.  Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the chopped kale to the potatoes and stir.  Fold in the mayo mixture.  Serve immediately or chill.



Djoussé L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption and risk of heart failure in the Physicians’ Health Study. [abstract]  Circulation 2008; 117:512-6.

Djoussé L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. [abstract]  Am J Clin Nutr 2008; 87:964-9.

Djoussé L, Gaziano JM, Buring JE, Lee IM. Egg consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women. [abstract]  Diabetes Care 2009 Feb; 32(2):295-300.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.

Missmer SA, Smith-WArner SA, Speigelman D, et al. “Meat and dairy consumption and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies.” Int J Epidemiol 31 (2002):78-85.

2012. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fordsbasement/7057824683/

Practice Vegetarian

Recently my daughter’s friend asked about how to become a vegetarian.  She was concerned about lack of support from her family and that she would essentially end up only eating the sides that accompany dinner.  I recommended that she become a “practice” vegetarian as a Practicesegue from her current diet to one relying on plants.  As a practice vegetarian, she would slowly increase her consumption of vegetables, by eating more servings of the vegetables she already likes and committing to eat a few bites of all disliked vegetables.  This strategy serves her well immediately and would make the transition to vegetarianism fairly seamless down the road.

Although this tween may not routinely be involved in meal planning, she could suggest the family gradually shifts to whole grains instead of refined grains.  The easiest way to do so is to start with rice, by incorporating 25% brown rice into white rice, then increase to 50%, etc until eating only brown rice.  When cooking from dry rice, cook the brown rice for 5 minutes before adding the white rice to the same pot.  Boil in bag or microwave packages of instant rice are even easier- just combine after cooking.  The same concept works for shifting to whole grain pasta.

Perhaps the trickier adaptation for the practice vegetarian is increasing the consumption of beans and legumes.  This is where canned beans come in really handy.  Even non-cooks can whip up the bean salads below, which are perfect to have around when you are famished and about to reach for something less desirable.  Bean salads are also very portable and ideal for taking to picnics and potlucks- particularly when you aren’t sure how much other healthy food will be available.

Other great ways to increase legume consumption are to use beans and lentils as salad toppings, add to pasta and rice dishes, or puree and incorporate into sauces, like marinara for spaghetti.

Having that comfortably full feeling is key for a successful dietary transition, and beans are the secret ingredient for feeling satiated.

NY Times food writer Mark Bittman coined the concept of ‘vegan before dinnertime’ a few years ago, and more recently, VB6, the title of his book on the topic.  Due to health issues, a doctor suggested Bittman adopt a vegan diet, but at the time he felt becoming a full-time vegan was unrealistic for him.  After a few months of eating vegan until dinner, Bittman had lost 35 pounds and his medical issues had resolved.

Both the practice vegetarian and VB6 concepts may work quite well for ‘moderators’, people Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project describes as those who do better when they avoid absolutes and strict rules.  According to Rubin, the ‘abstainers’ find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately.

According to Rubin:

You’re a moderator if you… – find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and   strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you… – have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits


Starting a whole foods, plant-based diet cold turkey (ha ha) may work better for someone who identifies as an abstainer.  I have trouble indulging in moderation and am less tempted by things that I’ve decided are off-limits, so I’m an abstainer.  Discovering this and then years later reading The Willpower Instinct have been instrumental for me in adhering to a whole food, plant-based diet.

Regardless of your strategy, each step you take in improving your diet will pay off.  It’s up to you which path you chose and how quickly you get there.


Three Bean Salad

3 cans of different beans (ex, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, black beans), rinsed well and drained

2 stalks of celery, diced

½ red onion, diced

½ c fresh parsley

1T fresh rosemary

1/3 c apple cider vinegar

1/6 c – 1/3 c sugar

¼ c EVOO (or ½ avocado pureed with a splash of orange juice)

1 – 1.5 t salt

¼ t pepper

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and olive oil or avocado in a small bowl and pour over rest of ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir and refrigerate to let flavors develop.  Stir again before serving chilled or at room temperature.

This bean salad is extremely versatile.  Use black and kidney beans with tomatoes, avocados, and organic corn for a South of the Border twist.  Use white beans and garbanzos with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and roasted red peppers with lemon juice instead of vinegar for a Mediterranean twist.  Be creative!!


Black-Eyed Pea Salad

2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed well and drained

1.5 c diced red/orange/yellow bell pepper

½ c diced red onion

¼ c red pepper jelly

¼ c red wine vinegar


¼ c cilantro

¾ t salt

¼ t pepper

Just before serving, add:

2 avocados (diced) or 2 large fresh peaches (diced)

Optional: 1 jalepeno, seeded and minced (or substitute jalepeno jelly for the red pepper jelly)


Mix the jelly, vinegar and EVOO in a small bowl and pour over rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir and refrigerate to let flavors develop.  Stir again before serving and add avocado or peaches.  Serve chilled or at room temperature, on its own or over fresh greens.


Other no-cook bean salads you may want to check out include:

Taco Salad

Black Bean Mango Salsa

Massaged Kale Salad



McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct : How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. 2012

Photo Credit: http-www.flickr.comphotoszen44663180sizeso.jpg