Make it a Revolution, not a Resolution

The New Year is right around the corner and who hasn’t already thought about those dreaded “resolutions”?  You know, “I’m going to lose 50 pounds” “I’m never eating fried foods” “I’m going to the gym every day” and on and on they go.

Two years ago, what started as a resolution for me became a revolution. A close friend suggested that we sign up for Veganuary.  According to their website, “Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.” I signed up and at the same time, I also joined a new group on Facebook called the Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue, which is a plant based lifestyle program. So, between the two groups, I was committing myself to some pretty significant changes.

I had thought I was a pretty healthy eater until I began following these programs. At first, I felt that I was giving up so many of the foods that I enjoyed-and I did struggle initially. They say your tastebuds will change when you give up all the processed foods, and it’s true. Simple, unprocessed foods really do taste better. Fruits and vegetables and whole grains are delicious when they are prepared without oil and extra salt. I’ve learned to cook in a completely new way. I have found friends online and in real life who eat and cook this way and it is exciting to have people to share this with.

So, I’m going to throw a little challenge your way. How about starting with some small changes. And here’s the twist-start now! Don’t wait for January 1-you CAN do this now. When you’re done reading this, go for a walk. If you’re up north where the weather is frigid, walk in place while you’re watching tv. Start with 10 minutes, if you’re not used to exercising. The goal is to just get moving.

Next, I want you to stop using oil. Yes, even olive oil, which is not the health food that it claims to be. The olive itself is healthy, but the oil is stripped of all the nutrients and is a processed food. Did you know that you can sauté pretty much anything with just water or vegetable broth? I am not kidding-give it a try and you will be as surprised as I was the first time. Vegetables like onions just need a tablespoon, and mushrooms give off their own juice, so water isn’t even necessary. Use balsamic vinegar glaze as a salad dressing or just a few squeezes of fresh lemon on your greens. Thin out some hummus with a little water-it makes a great salad dressing too.

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Roasted Brussels sprouts and Sweet Potatoes-NO OIL

Start your week with “Meatless Monday.” Take a look at Pinterest or scroll through my blog to get some ideas. My son is a total carnivore, but I showed him how to make an easy rice and beans dish and now he cooks that on a regular basis. Once you repeat these small changes, they’ll become a habit and you’ll be on your way to better health.

Find foods and flavors that you love and look for recipes that are easy. If it’s simple, you’ll go back to it over and over. I love basil and I found a fabulous oil free basil pesto recipe from Oh She Glows. I make it at least once a week and use it as a vegetable dip, a spread on pita or even thinned out a little to serve over pasta.

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Oil Free Basil Pesto

The Engine 2 group that I mentioned earlier started on Facebook as a support for the Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue book. When I joined the closed facebook group two years ago, I think there were a few hundred members. Today, there are over 31,000 members! Clearly, people are joining this revolution!

If you’re interested in individual help and guidance, I am available for one-on-one consultations. I want this to be YOUR year of revolution, not just a resolution.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Air Fryer Vegan Arancini

Yes! I took the plunge and jumped on the air fryer bandwagon. I had been seeing so many posts and photos showing fabulous culinary creations using this device so I just couldn’t pass up a great Black Friday deal last week.

Krups XL air fryer

I got this Krups XL air fryer . I had to try it out the minute it was delivered, so I quickly cut up some potatoes to make French fries and they were absolutely delicious. If you haven’t seen or heard about the air fryer-it’s a magical machine that “fries” food without the use of any oil. For those of us in the plant based world who avoid adding any oil to foods-this is simply wonderful!

Today in the kitchen I am making arancini-which are Italian rice balls. The first time I had ever had Arancini was at Giada DeLaurentis’ restaurant in Las Vegas years ago (before I was vegan-and I ate cheese!!) I can still remember the delicious appetizer we all shared at our table-creamy risotto-like rice and cheese and Italian seasonings all breaded and lightly fried. I decided, hmmm..I can duplicate that, right?

I used my old standby-Aquafaba- to mimic the egg that you would normally use to coat the balls in the breadcrumbs. I also used a coating mixture of cornmeal and ground flaxseed meal which is a super easy way to get those Omega 3s into your plant based diet.

Here is my plant based version of Italian Arancini:

  • 2 C. cooked short grain brown rice-can be made ahead and room temperature
  • 1/2 C. frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 C. finely chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 C. finely chopped raw kale or spinach (I used kale)
  • 2 T. walnut parmesan (recipe below)
  • 2-3 T. marinara sauce–plus additional marinara for dipping
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. dried oregano

For the coating:

  • The aquafaba from one can of chickpeas
  • 1/3 C. ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/3 c. finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 T. walnut parmesan
  • 1 t. kosher salt

For the Walnut parmesan–you take 1/2 cup of raw walnuts, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pulse in a high speed blender or food processor so that it resembles parmesan cheese.

First, I added all the ingredients (rice through oregano) in a large mixing bowl and stirred to combine everything. I used my hands to mix it really well and then formed balls and placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  In a small bowl combine the flaxseed, cornmeal, parmesan and salt. In a separate bowl, pour in the aquafaba.  Next, take one ball at a time and dip in the aquafaba and then roll in the breading and place back on the parchment until all the balls are coated.  Set your air fryer to 350 degrees and place the balls on the rack in the basket and set the timer for 18 minutes. I turned the balls over at 9 minutes so that they would brown evenly. I ended up with 12 balls and cooked them in two batches of 6 so that the basket wasn’t overcrowded.

Vegan Arancin

These are absolutely delicious served with some marinara on the side. You can certainly tweak the seasonings to your taste. I think the next time, I’ll add some red pepper flakes and maybe a touch more salt, but aside from that, I thought they were a very close replication of the cheesy and fried version I remembered.

Air fryer Arancini
Delicious with a side of Marinara!

 

And now I have these chickpeas leftover from the can I opened to use the aquafaba. Next up in the air fryer…fried chickpeas! Stay tuned for the next post and I’ll show you how I made a crispy, crunchy snack with those leftover chickpeas.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve got an air fryer and what fabulous foods you’ve made with yours. See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

 

 

“Everything But The Bagel” Breadsticks

I found the most amazing new product last week while I was scrolling through one of my Plant Based LinkedIn groups. There was a post from Feel Good Dough and a beautiful food photo that caught my eye. I contacted the company to ask if this product was available in Florida, and the owner, Terry Thomsen, replied that it was not, but she would send me a dry mix dough to try out. I was super excited to receive my Feel Good Dough Oil Free, Whole Grain dough mix in the mail today.

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I had never heard of Feel Good Dough. A trip to their website shows all of the products that they offer and also has many recipes using their varieties of dough. In the dry mix, you can choose from three all organic mixes: Classic Original, Oil free-100% Whole Grain, and Chocolate. There is also a Grain Free Garbanzo mix. All of these are available to order on their website. The frozen doughs are sold in Ohio area stores, which they list on their website. The six frozen doughs are : Classic, Italian Herb, Roasted Garlic, Oil Free 100% Whole Grain and Chocolate–all “Clean” as well as a Cauliflower dough.

As a plant based eater who avoids using oil in my cooking and food, I was so intrigued by this product. And all of you lucky readers will now know about this fabulous product and you’ll have a new recipe too!

The dry mix recipe is really simple to make. It’s really my kind of cooking-one bowl is all you need. The instructions are very straight forward. There’s a small packet of yeast when you open the bag, and all you need to do is mix the entire bag (less one tablespoon that you’ll need for dusting your work surface) with the yeast, add 1 cup of lukewarm water and mix until you can form into a ball. Then you can knead the dough until its in a smooth ball and divide the dough in half. You’ll then need to roll out the dough.  ** Sentimental note regarding my rolling pin. **The giant wooden rolling pin that I use was given to me by my mother, who says it was her Grandmother Hannah’s, which she brought with her to America from Hungary. I was named after my great grandmother, so that rolling pin is kind of special!

Today, I decided to use half the recipe to make breadsticks, and I will likely use the other half to make a pizza tonight for dinner. The instructions on the dry mix state that any dough not used right away can be store in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen.

Everything but the Bagel Seasoning is an exclusive Trader Joe’s product and we use it in our house almost everything. It’s delicious on avocado toast or on top of (non dairy) cream cheese or sprinkled on cucumber slices-there are no wrong answers here. So when I thought about a recipe today, I immediately reached for my go-to spice. It was a great choice.

After I rolled out the dough to about a 12 inch form, that (as you can see from my picture), was not quite a circle. I used a pizza cutter to make strips. I transferred the strips to a round pizza stone and brushed each strip with aquafaba (the liquid in a can of chickpeas) and then liberally sprinkled with the seasoning.  I used the aquafaba as an egg wash replacement. If you aren’t plant based, then you can use an egg mixed with some water to brush on top of the dough to give it some color. It also gives the seasoning something to “stick” to.  I baked them for 12 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven until they looked golden and toasted. You can see how crispy and delicious they look, right??!

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They are really crunchy and tasted great on their own, but we also thought they’d taste even better dipped in some marinara sauce or some oil free basil pesto that we had in the fridge. Both are great options that won’t add a lot of calories and are great oil free options.

I hope that you give Feel Good Dough a try. I know I’ll be ordering some very soon. Hmmm, just thinking about what I can make with that Chocolate dough….Mmmmm!

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Living in a (non)plant based world

Ahhh…imagine walking into any restaurant and seeing so many choices that you couldn’t possibly make up your mind. The appetizer section has whole wheat crostini topped with a dairy free pesto and brown rice paper spring rolls filled with just veggies. For the entrees there’s bbq tempeh and seitan piccata, or your choice of stir fry with tofu. The dessert list has sorbet and fresh fruit and not a single buttercream topped cupcake or death by chocolate brownie sundae. Have you seen this place? Yeah, neither have I. This is the restaurant in my dreams! But, the tide is turning.

Last week, I was a guest at the Empty Bowls at Lakewood Ranch- a fundraising event to benefit Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee County. It was billed as the “longest lunch table” It’s mission is to unite one table to envision hunger relief together in Manatee County.  When attendees arrived  at the event (for a $30 ticket), they were given an envelope with several tickets and 3 small tasting cups. The first ticket was to pick out their bowl. Beneath a massive tent were hundreds of hand painted ceramic bowls that volunteers and board members created for the event. After choosing the bowl, you then moved on to a long table filled with soup pots from more than a dozen local restaurants. You were able to sample 3 soups with your mini cup and when you decided on your “bowl”, you turned in your ticket for your soup. In addition, there were bread slices and water to compliment the soup as well as some dessert options. Once you had your soup, it was time to join a large community table and enjoy!

This was my first time attending an event like this and I was very impressed. Initially, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any soup for me. ( I could hear the soup Nazi in my head saying “No Soup for YOU”). But, I was pleasantly surprised that I had 3 really great options in that pool of restaurants. I spoke to the man from Spacco Italian Grill who was serving Pasta Faglioli-which he promised me had no meat and no dairy and was cooked in vegetable broth. It was delicious and he also assured me that when I come to his restaurant, there are vegan options on his menu. There were two other vendors who provided plant based soup choice. There was a roasted garlic bisque from Ortygia and a healing vegetable soup from Jubilee Organics. The Pasta Faglioli was definitely my favorite!

And all of this gives me a positive feeling that restaurants are starting to take notice and offering healthier options for their guests. There is definitely a need for more fully plant based restaurants.  Let’s hope that this trend continues. If you’ve had a positive experience at a restaurant, let them know they are doing a great job. When I have a great meal and the staff is accommodating to my needs, I tell them. Let’s keep this going and hopefully someday we will see plant based foods as mainstream menu items.

See you in the kitchen (or restaurant) soon,

Heidi

Intermittent Fasting

Have you heard of this? I was waiting for Barre class to start this morning, and I overheard two women discussing intermittent fasting and one of the women explained that’s why she looked like she had lost some weight. I apologized to them for eavesdropping, but I was curious and wanted to know more. Just last week, I had a been asked by a friend if I knew anything about intermittent fasting.

I recently completed my training and certification in Nutrition and Wellness Counseling, and I learned the nutrition basics and all about how our digestion system works and the mechanics of our body’s processing of carbohydrates into energy. My textbooks did not address intermittent fasting, so I turned to the world wide web to learn more.

Apparently, Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a new-ish thing that is becoming more popular and has, of course, spawned diet plans and books with detailed instructions. The basic premise is that by putting your body in a state of “fasting”, you allow your fat cells to release their stored sugar to use for energy. The way IF works is that it allows the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.

The evidence is varied regarding how many hours you need to fast. Most experts agree that anything less that 13 hours is ineffective. Some fasting plans say you need a ratio of 16:8–meaning you must fast for 16 hours and can only eat during an 8 hour window. That seems quite restrictive, and it should be noted that during that 8 hours, you have to make sure you are fueling your body with whole foods–fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains (brown rice, whole wheat breads) and that you are not exceeding a reasonable caloric limit. In other words, if you consume 4,000 calories in 8 hours, you most likely won’t lose weight (unless you’re a high performance athlete).

Several other questions come to mind with such a plan. Can you have anything to drink during the fasting hours? One study that I read stated that as long as the beverage is under 50 calories, then it’s ok. So, if you add a splash of milk to your morning coffee, it shouldn’t “break” the fasting state. I then came across this YouTube video that discusses acceptable beverages that you can drink during your fast, and according to this video, milk is NOT allowed. And if you are a morning exerciser-it’s recommended to do your workout just before you are scheduled to eat.

And now back to the woman at Barre class today. The “faster” that I spoke with said she has been working up to a longer fast-16 hours and that she can’t say that she has lost any weight, but she (and her friends) have commented that she looks more toned and fit. She did admit to me that she actually “cheats” her fast by drinking an airborne drink, which she says gives her some energy. After hearing that, I can’t say I’m exactly sold on the whole IF phenomenon.

After reading a few studies on IF, I’m not sure if it is the right choice for me. My goal is to not eat after dinner, which enables me to have (most days) a12 hour fast.  I agree that there can be some benefits of keeping your insulin levels low throughout the day by not snacking between meals. Of course, none of this should be done without first consulting your doctor; especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications.

The truth is that striving to eat a balanced diet-full of fruits, vegetables and whole unprocessed foods should be the standard for all of us. In the long run, it’s important to find what works for you but keep in mind that you should eat in a way that is sustainable in the long run. There’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to your health and well being.

See you in the produce aisle!

Heidi

Easy roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes

Time to clean out the fridge! I found some less than desirable looking brussels sprouts lurking in the veg drawer, so it was time to bring them to life. I decided to pair them with a couple of not so pretty sweet potatoes that were also nearly past their prime. Today I am going to show you how to easily roast vegetables without using any oil. This technique works with ANY vegetable. I use this method with broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, squash-you name it!

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Veggies all cut up and ready for seasoning

I sliced the brussels in half and chopped the sweet potato into small chunks in order to cook evenly. I then spread all the veggies on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzled them with some vegetable broth and covered them with Zatar seasoning. You can use any seasoning that you like. The Zatar spice blend is a middle-eastern blend that contains sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. Next, I placed the pan in a preheated 400 degree oven. After 20 minutes, I stirred everything and continued cooking for about 15 more minutes. When they were finished, I removed the pan to cool and before serving, I drizzled them with some balsamic glaze.

When you cook without oil, your vegetables still get that crispy texture and you avoid all the added and unnecessary calories from the oil. You can see from the picture that “no oil roasting” in the oven still produces a crispy vegetable. Many of us were led to believe that oil was needed and was a”healthy” fat. It’s just not true. Oil is a processed food that provides no nutrients, only calories, which consist of 100% fat. In other words, eat the olive-not the olive oil!

I hope you give this technique a try. Brussels are a terrific green to add to your diet. They are considered a dark leafy green and they are rich in Vitamin C. Just one serving of brussels sprouts provides you with half of the daily recommended allowance for Vitamin C. And lets not forget the healthy benefits of sweet potatoes.  That beautiful orange vegetable is full of Vitamin A (beta carotene), and just delicious, too!

Leave me a comment and let me know what vegetable you decided to roast!

I have a new Facebook page. Please visit and “like” my page for more tips and cooking hints.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

 

Keeping it Simple

Maybe that’s easier said than done, but today I’d like to talk about a few simple ways to add more whole foods into your daily food rotation.

Obviously, I am going to start with breakfast. I like to eat in the morning. There, I said it…I like to eat. And I do eat.  A lot. I stay away from processed, refined foods and stick with whole grains, like oats and lots of colorful fruits and veggies. The message hasn’t changed-breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is your fuel. Have a banana. Have a piece of whole grain toast with some nut butter. Just eat! If you are used to starting your day with just coffee, just try some fruit or some oatmeal and see how that makes you feel. Jump on the avocado toast bandwagon-you will thank me later!

Let’s move on to lunch. Are you having a salad? Does the salad have some nice leafy greens or is it just iceberg or romaine lettuce? Try adding some dark, leafy greens to your salad. Chop up some kale very finely or throw in a few handfuls of broccoli slaw to amp up the nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) will fill you up and provide much needed fiber in your diet.

Maybe you’ve decided to have a sandwich or a wrap for lunch. Try swapping the white bread or wrap for a 100% whole wheat bread, pita or wrap. There are so many great breads in the stores. I love Dave’s Killer Bread (the green wrapper is my favorite). Trader Joe’s also sells a delicious 100% whole wheat pita. Again, that whole grain will fill you up and provide some fiber too.

And don’t be afraid of potatoes. Potatoes get such a bad reputation as being too carby or unhealthy. Believe me, potatoes are magic food. It’s not the potato, it’s the unhealthy toppings that most people put on top that make them a poor choice. I absolutely love Yukon Gold potatoes. They have a super creamy taste. Try topping them with your favorite salsa-you will love them!

What’s for dinner tonight? Whether you are eating in or dining out, it is possible to make some easy swaps for healthier options. If you’re cooking pasta at home, try whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. If you’re making a stir fry, use brown rice instead of white. Cauliflower rice is also a great option to replace traditional rice. It’s becoming much easier to find in the grocery store. Swapping cauliflower rice is a great option and is a great way to amp up your daily vegetable intake. Spiralizing your veggies is also a great option as a pasta replacer. You can buy spiralized veggies in the grocery store or make them yourself. A quick saute of zucchini spirals with some pasta sauce is a healthy and filling dinner.

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Spiralized zucchini with sauce, beans and mushrooms

When you’re dining out, “just say no” to the bread basket. It’s usually highly processed white bread.  I would only break this rule if the restaurant is known for its homemade, scrumptious bread. If it looks like dinner rolls from the freezer, skip it!  Scan through the menu and look for key words like “steamed” or “braised”. Try to avoid “pan-fried” or “crispy” anything. Ask a lot of questions if you want to know how foods are prepared. Oftentimes, substitutions can be made, it’s just a matter of asking for what you need.

You may have read this and thought to yourself, oh, Heidi, this is all common sense, I’ve heard all of this before. You’re right, it is. But I’m asking you to try one thing at a time. Maybe tomorrow you will just make a change to your breakfast. Try that for a week. Next week, add some new veggies to your lunch and do that all week. And finally, start incorporating some whole grains to dinner. Before you know it, you will start to crave and need those whole foods. Believe me, your body is going to thank you. Feed your body what it needs. It’s as simple as that.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve done to add whole foods into your diet. What would like to see next on my blog?

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

I scream, you scream,

we all scream for “NICE CREAM”! I am back in the kitchen today with, yet again, another banana recipe. This time, I am featuring the frozen bananas that keep accumulating in my freezer. I keep a supply ready to make smoothies, but I haven’t been making them very often. In trying to clean out my freezer a little, I discovered a great frozen dessert option involving said frozen bananas.If you are trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss, this is a great way to enjoy a frozen dessert and have it truly be a guilt free treat.

A few weeks ago, I watched one of my favorite You tube videos featuring Ann and Jane Esselstyn. They did a segment on the Yonana machine and demonstrated how easy it was to make “nice cream” with frozen bananas and other frozen fruits. It looked fabulous and I quickly went to the Yonanas website to look at the machine. It’s BIG! And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely have no room whatsoever for another kitchen gadget. Especially one that has pretty much only one function. In the past, I have watched other  videos showing nice cream recipes. Most of those involved using a standard food processor. I  did try using my food processor, but I was never really happy with the results. So, I tested out a few batches with my Nutri Ninja. My Nutri Ninja is really the workhorse of my kitchen. I use mine almost daily for blending dressing and sauces and now it is my go-to for making delicious, creamy, amazing nice cream.

Nice cream

  • Servings: 1
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Ingredients:

  • One banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/3 C. unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 T. pure maple syrup
  • 1-2 T. fresh ground peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1 t. vanilla, almond or mint extract

Here’s how I made this decadent looking banana, chocolate and peanut butter nice cream. I placed one frozen banana in the ninja cup. (Make sure you slice the bananas before you freeze them). Next, I added 1/3 cup of unsweetened plain almond milk, 1 tablespoon each of unsweetened cocoa powder, maple syrup and fresh ground peanut butter. (I may have snuck in an extra tablespoon of peanut butter).  A personal note about peanut butter. I honestly feel that the fresh ground peanut butter you can get at the grocery store tastes the best. It is the only kind I buy now. Set the ninja up and hit start and you will have a creamy, rich, chocolatey dessert in about a minute. If you don’t want to enjoy your dessert right away, you can place the nice cream in a container in the freezer and have it anytime.

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Creamy, chocolatey deliciousness

You can use other fruits along with the banana to make other flavors. Try adding some frozen strawberries for a more fruity treat or mango for a tropical dessert. You can find a lot of recipes for nice cream on Pinerest or other recipe sites. You’re only limited by your imagination (and frozen fruit supply!)

Leave me a comment and let me know how your nice cream turned out. See you in the kitchen again soon,

Heidi