Perhaps It’s the Why

As you are making or enforcing your new year’s resolutions, consider the why.  Why are you resolving to lose weight, exercise more, or eat healthier?  If the why isn’t strong enough, you’ll struggle with the resolve needed to make the right decisions multiple times each day, day after day to meet your goal.  So dig deeper.  If last year’s goal to lose 10 lbs or cut out fried foods didn’t work, reconsider why this goal is so important to you.  If the why is there, if it is truly important to you, then you can do it- you can do hard things.  And the benefits will be greater than you think.  Making a lifestyle change provides energy to make other changes, to change other habits, to spend less time couch sitting and more time having fun.

Once you’ve figured out the why, plan out exactly how you’re going to keep your resolution.  Leo Babauta has great advice on sticking to a habit .  Perhaps you need to always have fresh fruits and veggies with you (at home AND at work) to snack on when cravings erupt or only order salads when you eat out.  Perhaps you need to find a workout buddy or pay your kid to exercise with you, which has a bonus of getting extra one on one time with your offspring.  Read this post  for tips on meal planning and prep for the week. 

Start now- while you’re thinking about it and energized to make a change- list out a few whole food plant based meals for the next week.  Plan to make at least 3 meals you are familiar with (spaghetti with marinara sauce, salad and baked potatoes, refried bean quesadillas, vegetable soup, etc) so you have no more than 3 new recipes to try and one night of leftovers.  Then gather the recipes and make a grocery list of the ingredients you don’t already have. 

After grocery shopping, immediately wash all of your produce.  Lastly, set aside 2 hours to prep the week’s meals, some in entirety but definitely any sauces or steps that take more than 30 minutes.

As an example, this is what we’re eating over the next week and how I’ll prep the meals:

Black Eyed Pea Salad over shredded lettuce with a side of brown rice

  • In advance
    • Cook the black eyed peas or use canned/frozen
    • Make the black eyed pea salad and brown rice in advance for a 5 minute meal
  • Evening of
    • Make the black eyed pea salad and brown rice if you haven’t already
    • Reheat the brown rice if you made it in advance

Stuffed Squash with green beans

  • In advance
    • Cook the acorn squash (tips here) and the wild rice
  • Evening of
    • Stuff the squash and reheat in the oven or microwave
    • Steam or microwave green beans

Chicken-like Seitan Cutlets and Lentil Gravy with mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed greens

  • In advance
    • Make the Chicken-like Seitan
    • Cook the sweet potatoes and peel once they have cooled
    • Make the lentils and caramelize the onions for the gravy
  • Evening of
    • Slice seitan into cutlets and grill or sauté; try Chicken Baked Fake Steak if you have more time
    • Make the gravy and mash the sweet potatoes
    • Sauté the greens with minced garlic (add small amounts of water and cover to steam, adding a splash of lemon juice at the end) or like this with raisins and pine nuts

Irish Stew (Slow Cooker)

  • In advance
    • Chop the veggies either the night before or in the morning as you’re starting the slow cooker
  • Evening of
    • Add leftover veggies at end of cooking, such as green beans or acorn squash

Baked Ziti

  • In advance
  • Evening of
    • After making the penne, pour the cashew cheese and tomatoes into the pot over medium low heat until warmed through (feel free to cover and bake if time is not an issue)

Baked Bean Chili (Slow Cooker)

  • Morning of
    • Add ingredients to slow cooker, stir, and turn on low

 

Black Eyed Pea Salad

32 oz drained and rinsed or 3 c cooked black eyed peas

1 red bell pepper, diced

¼ c red onion, diced

2 T pepper or jalapeno jelly

1 T red wine vinegar

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground pepper

2 avocados, diced

Mix the black eyed peas, red bell pepper, and onion in a medium lidded container.  In a small bowl, mix the jelly, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Add the jelly mixture to the black eyed pea mixture and stir to incorporate.  Cover and refrigerate.  Just before serving, add diced avocados and stir.

 

Baked Ziti

1 batch of Cashew Ricotta

16 oz whole grain penne pasta (wheat, rice, quinoa etc)

28 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes

Tomato sauce or additional tomatoes, optional

Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.  Return the pasta to the pot over low heat and add the cashew ricotta and tomatoes.  Stir well and cover until warmed through.

 

Lentil Gravy (adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch of salt

½ T dried thyme

½ t ground sage

½ t freshly ground pepper

1 ½ c cooked brown lentils

2 T white miso

1 ½ c vegetable broth

1 ½ T tapioca flour or arrowroot, optional

Saute the onion til lightly browned, using small amounts of water to prevent sticking.  Add the minced garlic and salt and continue cooking until onions are caramelized.  Stir in the thyme, sage, and freshly ground pepper.  Add lentils, miso, and vegetable broth and stir well.  Transfer to a blender and puree for ~2 minutes until gravy is smooth.  Return gravy to pot over low heat.  If gravy is too thick, add broth or water.  If gravy is too thin, make a slurry of tapioca flour or arrowroot with broth or water, then stir into gravy. 

 

Chicken Baked Fake Steak

1 c non-dairy milk

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 batch of Chicken-like Seitan

½ c bread crumbs

1 t poultry seasoning

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Make buttermilk by adding the vinegar to the non-dairy milk and letting it sit for 5 minutes to curdle.  Mix the poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper into the breadcrumbs.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray.  Slice the Chicken-like Seitan and dip into buttermilk then coat with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350˚ for 15 to 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are crispy.  Serve with Lentil Gravy.

Schweeeeeet Potatoes!

It’s pollen season here, but until the local farmers market is in full swing, we can rely on root vegetables to get us to the best that spring has to offer.  Sweet potatoes abound here, so it’s not hard to find wonderful local varieties almost year round.

Sweet potatoes may get a bad rap for their carbohydrate content, but they are complex carbohydrates, which means they are broken down in a controlled manner during digestion.  The healthiest foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) primarily consist of carbohydrates and are packed with significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and accessible energy, not to mention the substantial health benefits associated with dietary SweetPotatoesfiber.

The processed, highly refined “simple” carbohydrates have been stripped of all the health benefits of complex carbohydrates and are responsible for the public’s negative perception of carbohydrates.  Highly refined carbohydrates are easily broken down during digestion to the simplest form of carbohydrate, which is absorbed into the body as glucose.  Refined carbohydrates should have a bad reputation, however, this hasn’t translated into action in the right direction.  A 1996 survey showed that the average adult American eats 4 times as many refined carbohydrates on a given day than dark green vegetables.Information Plus  Additionally, only 3 vegetables made up half of the total vegetables served: potatoes (mostly consumed as fries and chips); iceburg lettuce (the least nutrient dense of all the greens); and canned tomatoes (probably a reflection on pizza and pasta consumption).

The benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet are gained from eating the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Regular consumption of refined carbohydrates (even if the original substrate was a complex carbohydrate) could result in achieving a low-fat diet, but doing so is at the expense of your health, both in the short-term and long-term.  So choose to pay now‑ by building your willpower to chose the healthier option and by investing time in your health- to avoid paying much more later in life.

Start now by trying out one of the sweet potato recipes below and know that, in addition to the benefits of complex carbohydrates mentioned above, sweet potatoes have beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamins C and E.  Only ½ cup of cooked sweet potato counts as 1 serving of vegetables, and you need 4 or more servings of vegetables per day.Barnard 2008  Two cups of cooked veggies per day is very doable!!

 

Baked Sweet Potatoes

1 sweet potato per person, of uniform size for even cooking

Toppings, optional (see below)

Preheat oven to 400’.

Bake sweet potatoes on a baking sheet for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size.  Line the baking sheet with Aluminum foil for easy clean up as the sweet potatoes will ooze liquid that will caramelize on the baking sheet.  When fully cooked, the inside of the sweet potato will be soft and the outside will have darkened.

Topping ideas:

Cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar

Pineapple, baked apples, raisins, or dried cranberries

Marshmallows (for the sweet potato-averse crowd)

Steamed Broccoli

Sautéed or steamed spinach or mushrooms

Sautéed or roasted onions

Black beans, salsa, or bothhttp://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/

 

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

1 sweet potato per person

Spray EVOO

Salt

Seasonings, optional

 

Preheat oven to 450’.

Peel sweet potatoes if desired or if they are not organic.

Cut each sweet potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.

Arrange wedges on a lightly sprayed baking sheet, then lightly spray the wedges themselves.

Sprinkle with salt and any desired seasonings.

Bake potatoes for 15 minutes, then flip and bake another 10-15 minutes.

 

Individual Sweet Potato Pies

Dough for one pie crust to make 4 hand pies (I highly recommend Vegan Pie in the Sky by Moskowitz and Romero if you’re interested in making your own pie crust.  Otherwise it is not difficult to find pre-made pie crust dough that does not contain dairy or egg.)

Filling ingredients:

2 c mashed sweet potato (from 2 baked sweet potatoes)

1 ½ T organic cornstarch

¾ t ground cinnamon

¼ c sucanat or turbinado sugar

1-2 t grated ginger

Pinch of salt

 

Mix well or blend the filling ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is twice as long as it is wide.   Cut the rectangle in half to form two squares.  Then cut each square in half to form four rectangles.

Place just less than ¼ c sweet potato filling on half of each rectangle.  Fold the pastry over to enclose the pie and moisten the edges to seal the crust.  Use fork tines to crimp the edges.  Then cut 3 small slits in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape while baking.  Transfer the pies to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Sprinkling a few grains of salt on each pie adds a really nice touch.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 min or until the edges are lightly browned, rotating the baking sheet if necessary to allow for even cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 min before transferring to a cooling rack.  These pies may be eaten warm or at room temperature if you have that much patience.

 

Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

3 large granny smith (or other cooking) apples, peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

½ c water

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground nutmeg

¼ c agave nectar

Optional: chopped pecans

 

Peel and slice the sweet potatoes and apples in similar thickness (approximately 1/8” thick).  In a casserole dish lightly sprayed with EVOO, arrange the slices in a visually appealing manner or just toss them in.

Add ½ c water, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg.  Top with agave nectar.  Sprinkle pecans if using.

Cover and bake at 350’ for about 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes and apples are tender.

Serves 6.

 

References

Information Plus.  Nutrition: a key to good health. Wylie, TX: Information Plus, 1999.

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

Sweet Potato Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iita-media-library/5120663128/sizes/l/

http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/