Monday, June 4, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

This is one of our favorite vegetarian recipes.  Not vegan with the melted cheese, but I figure that if a little bit of cheese helps my kids love eggplant, I'm okay with it.  In fact, tonight Rachel went back for seconds (a first!).  Plus, an eggplant is a lot cheaper than a package of chicken breasts for a recipe of chicken parmesan.  Better for your health and for your budget!

Eggplant Parmesan Rounds

Flour for dredging
1 egg, beaten lightly and mixed with 1/4 c. water
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1 medium eggplant peeled and sliced into ½" rounds
Veg oil for frying
Marinara sauce
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat broiler.  Place flour, eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls.  Dredge eggplant in flour, coat with egg mixture, dredge in bread crumbs.  In large skillet, heat ¼" oil over medium heat and fry eggplant in batches for 3 minutes on each side.  Drain on paper towels.

Arrange rounds on baking sheet topping with sauce and mozzarella.  Broil about 2" from heat until cheese is melted (about 3 minutes).

Serve w/ noodles.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fruity summer pasta salad

This recipe was inspired by a pinterest pin.  Bowtie pasta (whole wheat), chopped strawberries, oranges and fresh spinach.  I blended a homemade vinaigrette using red wine vinegar, canola oil, a tiny bit of sugar and poppy seeds.  It would be good with chopped nuts on it for some added crunch.


I heard someone once say she liked to bake a bunch of sweet potatoes at one time, then keep them in the refrigerator as snacks throughout the week.  So I tried it and had several on hand.  Mathis eats a peanut butter sandwich every day - sometimes with jelly, sometimes with honey, sometimes with banana - so I had the idea of mashing a cold sweet potato on the peanut butter, then drizzled it with some agave syrup and served it to him.  He loved it.  Still sweet, but this way he gets added fiber and beta carotene.  Simple and plant strong. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Update May 1

It has been a while since I posted anything.  It is not because we fell off the wagon, but rather I just felt like it was taking a lot of time to document what I was eating all the time, photograph and write about it and time is precious to me these days.  I also felt like there are so many other wonderful vegetarian/food blogs with really amazing food photographs and mine looks so sad and amateur by comparison.  However, I have had a few people ask me in recent weeks how it is going and if I have abandoned the blog, so I wanted to post an update for those who are still watching and listening. 

Since our initial 28-day challenge in January, we have maintained probably about 90 percent plant-based/vegan diet.  I have thought so much about it all and have been researching and listening to experts on all sides of this issue.  There are so many good reasons to follow a vegetarian diet.  HEALTH: zero dietary cholesterol, low in calories, high in fiber - which can prevent, cure and reverse diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and cancers. MONEY: beans, rice and nondairy milks cost a fraction of meat and dairy, not to mention the healthcare savings in the longrun.  ENVIRONMENT/HUMANITY:  It is said that if the world went vegetarian we would almost eliminate world hunger.  One acre of land can produce either 20,000 pounds of potatoes or 165 pounds of meat. ANIMALS:  Increased awareness of the cruelty and horrific treatment of animals in the food industry, factory farms, battery cage chickens -it is appalling and makes me want to avoid it at all costs.

On the other hand, there are plenty who will say that eating meat/dairy is fine, especially in moderation.  "Clean eating," versions of vegetarianism, grass-fed beef, cage-free poultry, etc.  There are those who emphasize whole foods and avoidance of processed foods, but when it comes to choosing real grass fed butter (2 ingredients: cream, salt) versus vegan spreads like Earth Balance or Smart Balance (8+ ingredients, mostly extracted oils) I lean towards the least processed, even though it is an animal product.  It seems purer and more traditional.

Then there's the enormous controversy over soy.  Vegetarians typically consume a lot of soy (soy milk, soy yogurt, textured vegetable protein, tofu, tempeh, Gardenburgers, soy cheese), but due to the controversy and my growing children I am reluctant to make it a large part of our diet.  I always return to the "whole food" stance and try to incorporate as many simple grains, beans, fruits and vegetables as I can. 

So where are we with all of it?  We drink almond milk (rice milk for Rachel).  We use So Delicious coconut milk creamer in our coffee.  I buy cheese occasionally but use it sparingly and try to only buy imported cheese (the ingredients are fewer and the EU has stricter standards about factory farming practices).  When we eat out, I look for a vegetarian option, but there isn't always a good one so I eat whatever is convenient and try to just be sensible.  Once in a while we splurge, but I feel that as long as it is a splurge and not a regular way of life it is okay.  It is easy to let healthy living/eating become an idol, but that is another post for another day...

I heard something just today on the radio.  A neuroscientist was discussing the brain and how it makes changes.  She said that if you begin something and take baby, incremental steps, your brain is more likely to accept the change, whereas if you make a drastic change your brain is going to rebel and you will not have the willpower to stick with it.  It reminded me of eliminating sugar in my diet several years ago.  It wasn't even a conscious goal of mine, I just started lessening the amount of sugar I put in my coffee every morning and eventually went to no sugar at all.  I also switched to unsweet tea around the same time and have never looked back.  (I do have other addictions - caffeine!, salt) - but sugar is not one of them).  So my encouragement to anyone trying to make a change in any area of your life is to start small.  If you want to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet - start with something realistic and take baby steps.  Meatless Mondays are a popular to try one vegetarian meal a week and work up to whatever you feel is reasonable.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Black beans and rice

This has been a long-time staple meal in my menus.  We love Mexican food (who doesn't?) and this is one of our favorite high-fiber, nutrient-packed meals.  Brown rice, black beans and whatever you like.  Here I have corn, an orange bell pepper, chopped grape tomatoes and homemade guacamole.  Use whatever you like, but the more color the better.  We also like to crumble up corn chips and sprinkle over the top for some extra crunch and texture. 

To make the black beans you can either used canned.  Drain and rinse then heat in a pan with a little bit of water, just to keep them from burning in the pan.  For each can, add a tablespoon each of chili powder and cumin, plus the juice from one lime, salt and pepper to taste.  It is cheaper to use dried black beans and I usually buy the 2 pound bag, rinse them well and then put them in a crock pot.  Cover with water (2 to 3 inches above the top of the dried beans) and cook all day.  It makes a lot so I freeze them and use as needed. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Vegan BLT

I think my new favorite food is tempeh.  I am still not a huge fan of tofu, but I LOVE tempeh. From Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger. Many commercially prepared brands add other grains, such as barley, and also add spices and extra flavors. Although tempeh is made from soy, it has a unique taste and is mildly flavorful on it's own, unlike tofu. If you aren't fond of tofu, tempeh is also very high in protein and calcium, as well as beneficial isoflavones, but tastes nothing like tofu. Tempeh has a textured and nutty flavor. Here is a great site with more detail, especially concerning the nutrional benefits of tempeh.

One of my favorite sandwiches has always been a BLT.  I love the juxtaposition of the crispy, salty bacon with the crisp cold lettuce and juicy tomato, together on toasted bread slathered with Miracle Whip.  Now, bacon is just about one of the worst foods you can eat - super high in sodium, fat and nitrates (cancer causers), but I love the salt and crispiness.  So when I heard about tempeh bacon, I couldn't wait to try it.  It has a different texture than bacon, obviously, but with the right seasoning it tastes smoky and salty just like bacon and I am thrilled to have a way to enjoy my favorite sandwich.  In fact, I made it for Rachel the a week or two ago (because she loves bacon) and she has asked for it every day since. 
You can buy it already seasoned or make your own.  I find it a little expensive to buy ready-made so I marinate and cook it myself. 
Tempeh bacon:

1 pkg (8 oz) tempeh
1/4 c. tamari soy sauce
2 tsp liquid smoke
3 Tbsp real maple syrup
1/4 c. water
Oil for frying

Place block of tempeh in a steamer basket over boiling water and steam for 10 minutes.  Let cool, then slice into thin strips.  Meanwhile, in a bowl combine tamari, liquid smoke, maple syrup and water.  Mix well.  Marinate for 30 minutes or overnight.  The longer you marinate, the stronger the flavor will be. 

After tempeh has marinated, add strips to a lightly greased skillet and heat until crisp.  After about 5 minutes on each side, the tempeh will turn brown, carmelize and get crispier and chewier. 

To make the BLT, I toast whole-wheat bread, then spread with hummus. 

Layer on the tempeh, lettuce and tomato.  Delicious!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lentil loaf

Lentil loaf, roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli
This is kind of a combination of a few different recipes. 

16 oz package dried brown lentils, rinsed
4 c. water

1 onion, chopped (more or less to taste)
3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 c. ketchup
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried)
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 to 2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 to 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Cover lentils with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until water is absorbed, 50 to 60 min.  Check lentils after 30 minutes, adding more water as necessary.  When lentils are done, remove from heat and let stand for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in enough water to keep them from sticking.  Cook about 5 minutes until onions are soft.  Preheat oven to 350.  Mix into the lentils along with remaining ingredients.  Thoroughly combine all ingredients, adjusting seasoning as necessary.   Press mixture firmly into a lightly greased loaf pan and drizzle ketchup over the top.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Veggie Burgers

Veggie Burgers, Carrot fries and berries.  Super easy!
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (I didn't have black beans so I used pintos).
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 c. instant oats

Preheat oven to 400.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, mash beans together with condiments and spices until well combined.  Then mix in oats.  Divide into 4 equal parts and shape into thin patties.  Bake for 10 minutes, carefully flip over and bake another 5 minutes or until crusty on the outside.  Serve on a whole wheat bun with extra condiments and enjoy!

Tons of fiber and protein.  Zero fat.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mushroom stroganoff

Today we went to lunch at Lupi's pizza. We ordered a pizza on whole wheat crust with extra sauce, no cheese. David's half had broccoli, roasted corn and roasted peppers. My half had spinach, mushrooms and black olives. It was really good.  I didn't have a camera to photograph it, but we were happy to have managed to eat out and still stick to the plan. 

 For dinner, I made mushroom stroganoff from the Engine 2 cookbook.  Basically, start by sauteeing chopped onion in water (no oil!), then add some garlic and chopped mushrooms (I used baby portabellas but you could mix it up if you wanted).  Let them cook down for a bit, then add in some whole wheat pastry flour, balsamic vinegar and some non-dairy milk (I used rice milk).  Serve over whole wheat linguine.  For sides I made fresh green beans lightly sauteed in water and some garlic, then drizzled with natural maple syrup.  Also, some cooked apples.  This was delicious.  Definitely one to add into our rotation. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Last night and tonight

I know these aren't the best foodie pictures, but please bear with me as I figure out how to photograph food well... 

Tempeh bbq on whole wheat bun. (Steam tempeh, then chop and marinate in bbq sauce.  Heat in a skillet until warm, then serve.)  Purple cabbage coleslaw (shredded purple cabbage, carrots, broccoli, shredded apple.)  Then I mixed together some apple cider vinegar and apple juice and mixed into it.  I let it sit for half an hour or so to let the flavors mingle.  Sprinkle with sunflower seeds just before serving.  This was really delicious.  Mathis even said he LOVED the salad!

From the Engine 2 book, "Bluberry Dumpster Fire Cobbler"  (whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, vanilla, rice milk (could use almond or soy), agave and frozen berries).  Topped with a dollop of soy vanilla yogurt.  Super easy.

And tonight's dinner, polenta topped with marinara.  I made the polenta (boiling water and cornmeal with some herbs and nutritional yeast mixed in) then just took a jar of store-bought marinara sauce and added in chopped zucchini and chopped baby portabella mushrooms.  Served with a side of broccoli, some lightly steamed kale and a bowl of canteloupe. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A few meals we've eaten lately.

Cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, green onions, shredded carrots and cilantro tossed with a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

Whole wheat spaghetti noodles, shredded carrots, zucchini, red peppers and green onions tossed with warmed peanut butter mixed with tamari sauce (whole soy sauce).

And today for the kids' lunch I made "banana dogs."  Whole wheat hot dog bun, natural peanut butter on one side, jam on the other side and a banana in the middle.  Served with fresh strawberries and pretzels.

"Rip's Big Bowl"

David's breakfast most mornings:  From the Engine 2 book, a mixture of old fashioned oats, Grape Nuts, bite-size shredded wheat, Uncle Sam Cereal, ground flaxseed, raisins, walnuts, 1 banana, 1 strawberry, and almond milk.  Delicious, and full of fiber.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Our story

Our story began about 5 years ago when David found out he had high cholesterol.  It wasn't a huge shock because his entire family has high cholesterol.  The doctor wrote him a prescription for Vytorin, a statin medication, and said that because his was obviously genetic that he needed to take the medicine.  David asked him if he could at least try changing his diet for 3 months before going on the medication and the doctor said, "Well, you can try, but it's probably not going to work so here's your prescription."  So we quit eating meat and ate a lot more salads, vegetable soups, oatmeal for breakfast with honey and walnuts and he began exercising.  I researched like crazy and tried modifying some of our normal meals to vegetarian (substituting beans for meat in chili, making vegetable enchiladas instead of beef, etc.)  After 3 months David went back and had his blood work done again and the results confirmed what we thought.  His cholesterol levels had dropped substantially.  I cannot remember the exact numbers, though that would possibly make a more interesting post, but suffice it to say that we proved to ourselves that eliminating meat from our diet really did lower cholesterol.  His doctor mailed the lab results with a handwritten note at the bottom that said, "The diet is working.  Keep up the great work!" 

Shortly after that, however, our life got a little chaotic.  We moved overseas for two years and worked as dorm parents where one of our primary jobs was to feed and care for teenagers and other guests in our home.  Life was good, but it was hard to maintain strict vegetarianism so we went back to mainly omnivorous eating with a few vegetarian meals thrown in here and there. 

A couple of years ago I began doing medical transcription.  One of the doctors I type for is a gastrointestinal surgeon.  As I began typing reports on patient after patient who suffered from GI issues along with many who are obese and looking into gastric bypass surgery I just kept thinking, "If only they would eat more whole grains and vegetables they wouldn't have these problems!"  It also reaffirmed to me that our health is a direct result of our diet.  I began reading a lot more and researching the benefits of vegetarianism.  I stumbled onto a series of podcasts by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  She was so informative and I attribute much of what I know about plant based nutrition to her cookbooks and teaching.  We also watched the movie Food, Inc., and read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  He is not a vegetarian, but the movie was very powerful in portraying the atrocities of the meat and dairy industry. 

A few weeks ago I stumbled on the movie Forks Over Knives and was again reminded/convinced that a whole-foods plant based diet is the best there is for optimal health and for prevention of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many cancers, to name a few.  I decided that enough is enough and that there was really no excuse for us to be eating any meat or dairy from now on.  Subsequent to Forks Over Knives, I came across the Engine 2 Diet.  I wish it didn't have the word "diet" in the title because it is misleading and I fear will cause it to be dismissed as another fad diet or a weight loss plan, which it is not.  It is simply the facts of how and why a plant based diet is the best thing for you and shows you how and why you should avoid animal products.  There are recipes and helpful hints on eating out, traveling, etc. 

So our story continues.  I started this blog in an attempt to show what we are eating and to hopefully pique the curiosity of others who want to pursue health and wellness this way.  We are still a work in progress and are working to make it realistic for our family.  It is a significant change for us, but one that has been a long time in coming.  Thank you for reading our story.