Plant Strong Convenience Foods Do Exist

I’ve learned a lot on my plant strong journey. One concept that is repeated over and over again by all the major plant strong experts is how important it is to eat a whole food, minimally processed plant based diet. I fell in love with this concept from day one as it just made sense to me. As the great Jeff Novick states in his label reading classes, “Never believe what’s on the front of the package”. You need to turn the package around and read what’s in the ingredient list. Have you ever done this with something you’ve put in your grocery cart? It’s scary how much crap is in processed food; and most of it you can barely pronounce! This is one of the things that convinced me that a whole foods minimally processed lifestyle was best for me. Who really knows if those things we can’t pronounce won’t harm us at some point? I’m not convinced the scientists even know, since every year some report comes out that some additive in our food can cause cancer or other illness.

As you may know by now, I love to cook; but sometimes it’s nice to be able to pick up something at the store for a quick meal. But that’s a LOT of label reading which can be overwhelming not mention exhausting. Well…thanks to Rip Esselstyn and the crew at Engine 2, there are some great plant based convenience foods available now. Whole Foods carries a whole line of plant based convenience products that are actually good for you, with simple ingredients and no added oils or sugars.

Tonight I had the Tuscan Kale White Bean burger with potatoes (I cooked the potatoes myself). I actually made up a good recipe that mimics these burgers, but I’m currently out of them, so it’s nice to have these on hand for quick meals. There are also several whole grain blends that you can add to any dish to make an instant meal. I’ve never tried them, but am looking forward to incorporating them into my meals next week. There is also unsweetened (with no added sugar) almond milk. If you check the label of most unsweetened non dairy milks, many have some sort of cane syrup (or evaporated cane juice/syrup) in them…and that’s another name for sugar! The Engine 2 Almond Milk is great on cereal and it also has many uses in plant based cooking. Rip’s Big Bowl Cereals come in several varieties and are very tastey and filling. I personally love the E2 hummus… the Plain, Roasted Red Pepper and Jalapeno Cilantro are my favorites. I love the E2 Whole Grain wraps for making veggie wraps. The Brown Rice tortillas are a great gluten free tortilla that has multiple uses from quesadillas to tortilla chips.
I’m grateful for Engine 2 as it’s a lifestyle that has changed my life forever. I’m especially appreciative of all that Rip Esselstyn has done to help save lives with a plant based diet, and I’m very happy to have all these wonderful good-for-you foods from Engine 2.

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Apple Sauce and Pickles-Strange but Good Plant Strong Partners

No…I am NOT pregnant, but stay with me here! I’ve seen several posts in different social media sites mentioning the Nottingham Spread from My Beef With Meat by Rip Esselstyn. I hadn’t tried it yet, but a quick review of my pantry and fridge let me know I had all the ingredients to make this spread/dip. It’s base is the ever versatile chickpea and yes, you guessed it, this recipe has applesauce and pickles, along with some other crunchy veggies (onions and celery). I usually mash my beans with my pastry cutter-a rather good use for an otherwise obsolete kitchen gadget. I learned this from some other brilliant plant strong advocate somewhere (I’d like to give credit, but I can’t remember where I saw it). It works quite well, but you do need to use a bit of muscle to really mash up the chickpeas for this recipe.

The recipe talks about the name of this spread-Nottingham-if you say it slowly 3 times it sounds kind of like ‘not-eating-ham’. It tastes kind of like that canned ham spread we’ve all tried at some point in our life. After the flavors blended a bit, I made a sandwich on a toasted whole grain pita and served it with the Wild Rice and Vegetable Soup from Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I’m telling you, those Esselstyn’s really know how to make some fantastic plant based recipes! It was an awesome meal. I’ll definitely make it again.

I highly recommend you try this recipe…even if apple sauce and pickles don’t seem like they belong together. Blended with the other ingredients in this recipe they are the perfect addition. Why not try something new for lunch this week, you’ll be glad you did.

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Plant Strong and Eating Out

This is where it gets tricky. Eating out can be a bit of a challenge to the plant strong newbie, but with a little practice and planning, it becomes quite easy.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned when eating out it’s to ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT! If you don’t want cheese on a dish, you have to ask for it to be made without cheese (don’t assume salads don’t come with cheese even if it’s not listed on the menu). If you don’t want a dish to be made with oil, you have to ask if the chef will prepare it without oil. If you’re not sure if there is oil or dairy in a dish, ASK…it’s quite easy to tell a restaurant you have an allergy…they will handle it with kid gloves usually. I work in a restaurant business, we take our allergens seriously.
Where are some of the places I’ve eaten a plant strong meal that you might not think possible? California Pizza Kitchen-it seems they get a lot of requests for pizzas without cheese. I even get it without sauce, and add tomatoes. Chili’s-has a great Caribbean Salad with romaine, pineapple, craisins, mandarin oranges. Get it with added avocado and lime and you don’t need the dressing. A lot of Asian places have rice and steamed veggies and other oil free options. Most Tex Mex places have things you can get. Rice, beans, veggies (you have to be careful of added oil..so ASK). Chipotle even has a few things I’ll eat…on occasion. I get their salad, just lettuce, mild salsa, corn salsa and guacamole. Their beans and rice have too much oil for me. The best part about getting a salad without dressing is that they will not charge you for guac!!! The bad thing about Chipotle is that there salsas have a LOT of sodium…so it’s a rare treat for me. I also bet you never thought you could eat a whole food plant based meal at Portillo’s! A place known for it’s burgers, beef, hot dogs and cheesy chopped salads actually has some good options for us plant eaters. They have a great garden salad with romaine, red peppers, red onions, carrots, mushrooms and cucumbers. I just ditched the cheese and dressing and add balsamic vinegar. They also have baked potatoes…my favorite go to meal when eating out. So here’s to plant strong eating out!

Here’s a picture of my salad and potato-I forgot to pick out the cheese before I took the picture…I did NOT eat it!

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The National Engine 2 Diet 28 Day Challenge

This life changing challenge started on Monday (1/12/15). I’ve been posting things on Facebook and Twitter about it and realized I hadn’t posted much here. This challenge is a great time to reset your eating if you’ve overindulged during the holiday (guilty here!). OR…it’s a great way to introduce yourself to eating a whole foods plant based diet.
The guidelines are that you eat a whole food plant based diet, and over the course of 4 weeks, cut out dairy (including cheese), refined sugars, processed foods, meat and eventually oils. “Cheese??? OMG..I could never stop eating cheese? ” I can still hear myself saying this when I started several years ago…but you know what…I did (I figured I had nothing to lose and that I could always go back to eating it!). I was eating cheese just to eat it, not really ‘enjoying’ it. A funny thing happened when I stopped eating cheese…I lost weight…5 pounds to be exact…I was amazed. My face also cleared up resulting in less breakouts and blemishes.
I stopped eating animal products (meat, pork, chicken, fish…”anything with a mother or father” as Dr. Terry Mason puts it. Weight continued to come off, rather easily. Then, one night as I was getting out of the car at the health club, I noticed I didn’t feel so tired after my 45 minute drive from work. Hmmm…this interesting sensation continued and I felt that I even had more energy as I continued to eat this way…I didn’t feel tired when I got up in the morning. I wasn’t dragging in the middle of the afternoon.
I then stopped processed and refined sugars-which meant breaking up with the stuff in the vending machine at work. A VERY interesting thing happened when eliminated white sugar from my diet…my hot flashes pretty much disappeared…SERIOUSLY…they stopped. When I find that I’ve been eating too much sugar, the hot flashes come back as I experienced this holiday season!
Then I stopped oil…this has been the hardest for my husband. Oil (even olive oil) is pure fat…it’s 120 calories per tablespoon…of FAT. There are no nutrients in oil…just fat. So if you’re going to eat something with fat, why not make it an olive or avocado…where you’ll at least get nutrients AND fiber! The other bad part about oils is that they damage the cells that line our blood vessels (endothelial cells)…this delicate layer of cells can actually protect you from the bad blood clots that kill people. Do you know that for many people the first indication of heart disease is a fatal heart attack? I found that shocking.
So what exactly DO you eat is a question I get asked a lot. Here’s my response: I eat plants. Kale, chard, spinach, romaine, carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, brussels sprout, broccoli, cauliflower (which makes a great cheese sauce by the way), zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, delecato squash, butternut squash, avocado, corn, green beans, black beans, red beans, garbanzo beans (great for hummus), white beans, adzuki beans (look it up), lentils (red, green black), peas, whole grains like quinoa (pronounced keenwa), Kamut, wheat berries, Farro, oats (not processed oatmeal…old fashioned oats), millet, brown rice, whole wheat pastas and breads, almond milk, soy milk, oat milk (provided the non dairy milks have no oil added…some do for reasons I can’t understand), bananas, apples, oranges, clementines, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mangoes, starfruit, pears, peaches, nectarines, grapes and tofu, tempeh and I know I’m forgetting a lot…but that’s a good example of what I eat.
The wonderful thing about eating a whole foods plant based diet is I eat yummy meals just like you. I make pancakes from buckwheat flour, bananas, and non dairy milk and blueberries-how’s that for a Saturday morning treat. I make wonderful soups and stews and casseroles. Don’t forget my veggie lasagna! I love the creativity you have with plants..you can make so many wonderful meals. There are many wonderful chefs and bloggers out there that have done the work and created yummy recipes. I have a lot of fun trying new things.
I guess that’s the one bad thing about eating this way…you have to be open to try new things. And sometimes you have to try something several different ways to see if you really don’t like it. Tofu is one of those items. By itself…it really doesn’t have much taste, and the texture of plain tofu can turn many people off. But cut it into cubes, marinate it and bake it in an oven for a while and you’ve got a crunchy/chewy tidbit of flavor that you can add to salads and stirfrys. Take some silken tofu, add some melted vegan chocolate chips and you’ve got a yummy frosting that can be eating as pudding! YES…PUDDING!
A whole food plant based diet has been proven to prevent AND reduce a wide variety of diseases including heart disease, diabetes (type II), cancer and many other illnesses.
So if you’re interested in feeling better, losing some stubborn weight, and even better…improving your blood work numbers….why not give it a try. Even if you can’t give up your ‘meat’, why not make veggies the main dish served with a little bit of meat…you’ve got nothing to lose!
Let me know if I can help you on your plant strong journey…it’s much better (and more fun) to have support along the way!
Here’s the link to the Engine 2 Diet website if you’d like more information:
http://engine2diet.com/28-day-challenge-2015

2015-A Year of Change

This is my motto for the year.  It’s going to be a year of change.  I tend to be a creature of habit, always doing the same thing just because I’ve always done it that way.  You know what happens when you do that?  You always get the same results you’ve gotten before.  I guess there’s safety in that philosophy, but it’s not really serving me very well anymore.

So as I do things around the house, at work and in my life-I’m stopping to ask myself, “Why are you doing this?  Do you need to still be doing it?  Is there a better way or different way you could be doing this?”  I like this change in attitude, it’s refreshing.   It’s the kick in the pants I need to get things going in my life.

Stayed tuned for future changes!