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
  • Print

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

Brunch with my tribe

Spending a few hours and a meal with a room full of plant based eaters doesn’t happen very often for me. Yes, I did spend a three day weekend in August at Plant Stock and that was amazing! But, here, in my everyday life in beautiful Florida, I am seldom surrounded by my plant based tribe.

Today, my husband and I attended a Vegan and Oil-Free Buffet with friends who happen to be vegan also. (Disclaimer, my husband is a flexitarian who also enjoys many plant based meals).  The event was hosted by The Food Pharmacy. I didn’t know much about the Food Pharmacy until very recently when a friend had mentioned it to me. In a nutshell, the Food Pharmacy is just that. Their mission is show people that eating and preparing plant based foods is a better option than medications to treat disease. I was lucky enough to speak to one of the Food Pharmacy’s owners, Evelisse Capo. She and her partner, Elisa Burgos, addressed the group at the restaurant today and explained the importance of a plant based lifestyle.

By a show of hands, perhaps more than half of the attendees were fully plant based or vegan, some new to this way of eating, and some partially vegan. Evelisse explained “why” oil free is so important. Vegetable oils are stripped of all nutrients. It is a processed food that has no place in a whole food, plant based diet. For years, we’ve always been told that olive oil is a healthy fat. It simply is not true. Look at the following picture below that shows the calorie density of 500 calories.

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Brunch today was held at The Curry Station restaurant in Sarasota. The chef/owner, Chef Narendra, prepared an entire Indian Buffet cooked without any oil. Everything was plant based, whole food and the most delicious Indian food I have every had. The buffet had chickpea curry, whole wheat roti, several rice options, and an eggplant dish, just to name a few.  He explained to us that he always has oil free options on his menu and emphasized that this was not just a special meal for our group today. I was so thrilled to hear that and I know that we will definitely frequent his restaurant.

This was a very well attended event. It was so exciting to be in a restaurant full of people who eat like you do and to hear why many of them eat this way. Evelisse told us that she is a Doctor of Pharmacy, but she left the practice of pharmacy to start the Food Pharmacy and that her entire family is plant based. I also heard a few other people comment that they eat this way because they want to prevent or reverse a chronic disease, like heart disease or diabetes. I also got into a discussion with two people at the buffet about how the meat industry is destroying our environment.  We all spent a few minutes sharing our thoughts on our favorite documentaries: Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Eating you Alive. (I loved all of them-I couldn’t say which was my favorite) Whatever the reason, this event brought so many like minded people together, but it’s just a start.

We need more restaurants to get on board and offer something more than a salad for its customers who do not eat animal products. Chef Narendra showed us all how delicious and healthy this way of eating is. I am ready to spread the word in my community. How about you?

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Wouldn’t you love to save some time?

If you spend a few hours in the kitchen today, I promise it will be worth it  later in the week. It’s batch cooking time! (Insert very energetic emoji here)  I have referred to my “batch cooking Sundays” in previous posts and I felt like it was time to finally get around to showing you, dear readers, how I accomplish all this work. It really is fairly easy and worth a couple hours of effort. Follow my easy steps and you will be thanking me on Wednesday when you are tired and can’t think of anything to prepare for lunch or dinner.

The first thing I do is roughly decide what types of things I’ll want to eat in the coming week. Breakfast is the simplest do-ahead meal. I eat steel cut oats pretty much each weekday morning. If you make them from scratch in the morning, they take over 30 minutes. No one has time for that, but you can make a pot of oats on Sunday and refrigerate them. Every morning, just scoop out what you’d like and pop them in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Some mornings, I mash in a banana and blueberries. If you like savory oats, you can add some chopped tomato, chopped mushrooms or any other veggies you have on hand. Presto–sweet or savory breakfast oats.

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A breakfast staple

For lunches and dinners, I like to have a grain prepared ahead of time. Some weeks, I’ll cook short grain brown rice or maybe some brown basmati rice. Other weeks, I’ll bake 6 potatoes. These grains become the “base” of a meal. Once you have a grain, you can build on it with steamed vegetables, or a stir fry or beans for a Mexican-style meal. This week I decided to make farro. If you haven’t tried farro, you need to. It is a very hearty grain, similar to barley. The one I use is from Trader Joe’s and it cooks in only 10 minutes.

Next on the menu is butternut squash. For dinner tonight, we are having a new salad recipe that I found in the latest issue of the Forks over Knives magazine. It calls for butternut squash, so I decided to keep the extra cubed squash for meals later this week. Once you cube the squash, place on parchment paper and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. You don’t need to add any oil. If the squash seems a little dry, just brush with some water. I seasoned mine with smoked paprika, but you can try cinnamon or curry. The squash will be delicious later this week mixed with the farro and drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.

To round out my afternoon of cooking, I steamed a big pot of broccoli and I made a batch of dragon dressing. The dragon dressing is a staple in my kitchen. I make a batch almost every week. You can find this peanut-ty, absolutely delicious dressing in the Engine 2 Cookbook. 

Once you have all of your prep work done, just put everything in containers for easy access all week in your fridge. If you like asian flavors, make a bowl with farro, broccoli and dragon dressing. You can add in some water chestnuts and snap peas. If you’re in the mood for tex-mex, try heating up some black beans and salsa to mix with the farro and throw in some chopped spinach and some avocado and corn.

I hope that you give batch cooking a try. If you feel overwhelmed, just start with one thing. Cook your oats today and see how that works for your morning routine. Next week, try some grains or potatoes. This method of food prep really helps me stay on track during the week. Leave me a comment and let me know how your meal prepped worked out.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

An Homage to Apple Cookie Cake

Next Sunday night marks the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. In my family, aside from worrying about what everyone will be wearing to Temple, it is all about the food. Growing up in my house, no Jewish New Year was complete without my mom’s Apple Cookie Cake. I’m not certain it was her original recipe, but she gave me a handwritten copy of it many years ago and I have used it so often that it has food stains from dripping batter and eggs. My favorite part of the recipe is “You can make a streusel topping as it looks nice” Honestly, I don’t even know how to do that!

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My mom’s handwritten recipe complete with food stains!

This year, as I continue with my plant based lifestyle, I am challenged to re-create the famous apple cake and hope that it becomes a new tradition in my home.  Instead of the cup of oil and 4 eggs, I used egg replacer and unsweetened applesauce. My mom is a fabulous cook, and she taught me many of my skills. I still cannot compete with her Thanksgiving stuffing or master the famous cranberry Jello mold!

Here’s my recipe:

Apple Cookie Cake

  • Servings: Makes one 9-inch square cake
  • Print

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/2 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2  t. cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 C. unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 3 T. unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • equivalent of 1 egg  (I used Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer: 1T mixed with 2T water)

Other: 3 C. chopped, peeled apples (I used honey crisp)

I first mixed the egg replacer and set it aside to thicken. I then used an electric hand mixer to blend the applesauce and sugar. The applesauce replaces the oil in the original recipe. I then added all the other wet ingredients and mixed well. Next, add in all the dry ingredients and combine. Lastly, stir in the chopped apples. Pour into a 9 inch square baking pan.

Your oven should be preheated to 350. I used the convection bake setting on my oven and it was done (golden brown) in 30 minutes.

 

 

 

The verdict? My husband and I patiently waited for the cake to cool enough to taste and we both agreed that it is just as delicious as the original. Apple Cookie Cake Redux for the plant based holiday table!

Give it a try and let me know what you think. See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Spreading the Plant Based Wisdom sure isn’t easy…but I’m trying!

After an inspiring weekend spent immersed in the Plant Based culture at Plant Stock 2018 (see previous post here), I thought I was prepped and ready to face the outside world of SAD (Standard American Diet) eaters. At practically every corner, there are doubters and skeptics that think this isn’t a feasible way to eat and live or its just too much trouble to change. True, as one of our speakers said last weekend, “you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable”.

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Homemade granola breakfast bowl

I am back in my hometown of suburban Cleveland, Ohio this week taking care of family issues. I am pretty much alone when it comes to my eating habits, although my family is used to my special requests and they are supportive and understanding when I decline the meals they have prepared. For me it is just second nature to prep my own food and decipher a restaurant menu to find just the right thing I will eat.

I guess my wish and hope is that more restaurants can come on board with the whole plant based idea. I had lunch on Saturday with my cousins at a “make your own salad” kind of place, called Hello Bistro. This was pretty close to being a perfect option for anyone following this way of eating. (Outside of a strictly vegan only restaurant) They have some ready to order salads and sandwiches, but they also have a huge assembly line salad bar where they fill your bowl with whatever you want, add in a dressing and toppings and then chop it to your liking. It was really delicious.

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Sarasota Farmer’s Market-perfect plant food choices every Saturday!

I’ll be returning home to Florida tomorrow. Back to my own kitchen and all my ingredients and familiarities. And my next steps in my whole food world? I am going to enroll in an online wellness/nutrition course and learn as much as I can about the healing power and health benefits of plants. I’m so excited to begin a program so that I am better equipped to answer questions and hopefully guide others if they are curious and ready to “join the tribe”

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ll will definitely keep you all posted on my progress, and there will be more recipes and tips follow in the near future.

See you soon in my kitchen,

Heidi

Easiest mango corn salsa recipe ever!

How often do you waste time on the phone listening to “thank you for your patience, a customer service representative will be with you shortly”?

Yesterday, as I was on hold for what seemed like hours (but was actually less than 8 minutes), I was able to put together this easy, 5 ingredient mango corn salsa.  If you count the salt and pepper-it’s technically 7 ingredients. And if you follow these simple directions, you’ll be saying (in your best  Ina Garten voice)  “How bad can that be?”

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Easiest Mango Corn Salsa

  • Servings: 6-8 side dish servings
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • A bag of Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn (I used 1/2 the bag, cooked)
  • One red onion ( I used about 1/2 cup, chopped)
  • One ripe mango, cubed
  • 1/4 Cup of chopped cilantro
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime, you may need 2 if they’re small
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grab a medium size bowl, and add all of the ingredients and stir together. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. It can be chilled in the fridge for a while and it is delicious on its own, or with chips or any Mexican style dish you are making. Last night we had black beans and rice and this salsa was the perfect topping.

Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

 

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See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Plant Stock 2018: Three Days of Peace, Plants and Love

IMG_1435I just returned from Plant Stock 2018 recharged, inspired and motivated to continue my whole food, plant based lifestyle. Plant Stock was a three-day event held at the Blue Ridge Assembly in the Black Mountain area outside of Asheville, North Carolina. It was hosted and presented by the incredible team from the Engine 2 program, and most notably, Rip Esselstyn. Rip is the founder of the Engine 2 program as well as a member of the Esselstyn family, who are all plant based crusaders.

My dear friend Lisa Gianvito and I made our reservations for this event way back in January of this year. We both are members of several Facebook groups that are under the wing of Engine 2. There is a 7 Day Rescue Challenge group, which is an online support group that follows Rip’s Engine 2 7 Day Rescue Program. We joined this group in its infancy in 2017. At the time, there were just a couple hundred members. The group now numbers in the tens of thousands. The other (less stringent) group is the Engine 2 Plant Based Community group. We had both heard of previous Plant Stock events and we agreed to book for this event, which very quickly sold out.

We arrived Friday afternoon at the YMCA camp property. When we turned off the main road, we were greeted by various signs in the road: “Honk if you pooped (twice) today” and “Kale yeah, you made it.” As we drove up to the registration, we were greeted by staff in bright tie-dye shirts and a giant sign that said “Welcome to your Tribe.” We were home.

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I was a little uncertain about what to expect and what I’d come away with from the weekend. I had been following a plant-based way of eating since the beginning of 2017. I was excited that all the food we would be eating all weekend was Engine 2 plant strong and that there was no need to worry about asking for any modifications like I do at practically every restaurant on the planet!

After checking into our modest accommodations, we had free time before the welcome assembly. We had choices of yoga, hiking, swimming and gym workouts. After a fabulous yoga session with Martha of Black Mountain Yoga studios, we headed to the welcome program. It’s hard to describe the spirit of the room when over 700 people who eat “just like you” are gathered together! It was simply overwhelming. The next stop was the dining hall for the first of a weekend full of plant strong meals.

After a fabulous first dinner, we joined together once again to watch the premier of a new film, “The Game Changers,” which has not yet been released. Imagine a movie about elite athletes that follow a Plant Based Diet! This is a must-see movie, especially for all the people out there who constantly ask: “Where do you get your protein?” It dispels all the myths that animal protein is essential for strength and endurance. It was truly eye-opening for the entire audience.

Day 2 was filled with inspiring speakers and panels. We listened to Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, (patriarch of the Esselstyn family),who detailed the benefits of a plant based diet and the reversal of heart disease. Every medical professional that spoke this weekend gave their insights and experiences and proof that this way of eating and lifestyle can reverse obesity, reverse diabetes, slow down the progression (or eliminate the risk) of dementia and improve health like no pill can do. Each speaker emphasized that the way out of the health crisis that this country is in is as easy as what you put in your mouth. All you need are whole foods — specifically minimally processed, plant based food. We were entertained by Rip’s sister, Jane Esselstyn, as well as their mother, Ann. Jane and Ann are YouTube sensations!

This brings me back to my why. I am fortunate to not be suffering from any of the common chronic diseases that plague our society. I just want to avoid them. I enjoy this way of eating. It’s not hard. The food is delicious. I have a community of people who think like I do, and I really hope that I can convince more people to join our tribe.

If you’re curious about the Engine 2 program, check out their plan. You can sign up for the 7 Day Resuce challenge here. It is completely free! The support from the Facebook group is absolutely amazing.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to make a mango and corn salsa that is so easy that I made the entire recipe while I was on hold with John Hancock insurance, waiting to be connected to a “live” person.

Until the next time,

Heidi

Eating my way through Israel…and enjoying the spectacular country at the same time

We just returned from a 10 day trip to Israel with some good friends and a bus load of people who became our new friends. There were many challenges when you travel with a diverse group of people, but we all seemed to enjoy one thing for sure, and that was the plentiful Israeli food along the way.

We celebrated our first night in Tel Aviv at a Yemenite restaurant called Maganda. When we arrived at the restaurant, the tables we already set up with platters of salads, hummus, pita, grilled veggies and more. All of us were so tired and hungry after our long flights. We pretty much devoured everything in sight. Most of us thought that was dinner- but no, there was more to come. Next came shish kebab. Skewers with both beef and chicken were brought out to each person with great flourish. And then the waiter came to me….I said, no thanks. He said, in his accented English, “vegetarian”.so, I said, yes. A few minutes later he brings me a huge plate with stuffed peppers, green beans, stuffed grape leaves and sautéed mushrooms. I didn’t starve!

The next day brought us to the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. We strolled through the open air market where one could buy anything from olives to spices to candy. It was also the place to find souvenirs to take home. We had so much fun going up and down the crowded alleys to look at all the amazing foods. The spices were just amazing.

Each day took us to a new place to tour and the country is just beautiful, and of course, we were treated to more delicious foods. During our day visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, we stopped in the Arab section of the city and feasted on chicken shwarma, falafel and pizza. The lively shop owner gave everyone a choice of meals and no one left hungry.

The hospitality we received was wonderful and I can’t possibly describe every meal we had but I hope this gives you a taste and maybe you too will make the trip yourself too.

Until the next meal,

Heidi