Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We run on plants...

For several weeks now, my husband and I have been eating a more plant-based diet. We're not 100% vegan, more like 98%. My kids are still eating meat and dairy at times, and we occasionally have fish when eating out, but for the most part, my husband and I are avoiding all animal products as best we can.

We haven't made a big deal out of it because it's really no one's business. We didn't decide to do this because it's the trendy thing to do now, though it is quite trendy. We decided to do it strictly for health reasons. My husband comes from a long line of cardiovascularly impaired men and because he started to exhibit some risk factors, we don't want to take any chances with his health. My family too has cardiovascular issues and thankfully I haven't had too much to worry about with my own health, but because of my family's history and my predisposition for diabetes (Type 2 diabetes also runs in my family, in addition to CVD, and I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my twin girls), it can't hurt to adopt a more plant-based lifestyle. And the ethics don't hurt either.

So why I am writing about it now? I've been getting a lot of requests from friends and clients for info on how WE eat since we're the "experts." (I use that term loosely). Because of my nutrition and education background, I've been able to make this dietary switch with little fanfare and complaints from the short people in the house because I've been able to make most of our regular meals meatless with a few modifications and substitutions that don't cause the resulting meal to taste hideous. But you don't have to be an expert to make the switch. There are so many resources available now that anyone can take the plunge without having to enroll in a master's degree program to do so.

Even though I've come across some really amazing recipes, there are a few that have really been outstanding. A lot of times I'll come up with concoctions on my own, but where I get inspiration will definitely be cited. I will always give credit where credit is due. With that said, I will try to post a recipe here every now and then just to give you a little culinary help and inspiration. Therefore, without further ado, here are three recipes we've loved:

Banana Muffins

For some reason, banana muffins or banana bread is just so comforting. I wanted to try a vegan version and found this recipe from Vegweb.com. I made my own adjustments and this is the recipe I came up with: 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
3 tablespoons water
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used 100% canola)
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground hemp hearts

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix ground flax and water in a small bowl, set aside. Nutrition note: Flax meal in water is a good substitute for eggs.
2. Add oil to mashed banana, and mash a bit more until well mixed. It doesn't have to be smooth.
3. Mix in the agave, flax mixture, vanilla and cinnamon. Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the mixture and mix in. Mix in flour and hemp hearts. Nutrition note: Hemp hearts are a great source of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, iron, certain B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and protein. To grind them, I just placed 1/4 cup of whole hemp hearts in the mini food processor and finely ground them.
4. Pour mixture into greased muffin tins. I made mini-muffins so my girls could eat them more easily. Bake for 20-45 minutes, depending on the type of muffin tin you use (regular sized muffins take longer than mini muffins). Test doneness by inserting clean toothpicks into the muffins in the center of your tin. They should come out clean.


Super Easy and Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

My son and I made these for Valentine's Day. They were gone almost instantly. He keeps asking me if we can make them again. I guess he liked them :)

I modified the original recipe which is from Vegweb.com. This is a really awesome resource for recipes and it's mostly user-driven, so you can get real advice and tips from real people.

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4-1/3 cup water
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used the entire bag of Enjoy Life mini chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Mix everything together in a large bowl. I added the water a little at a time until the mixture was just moistened.  
3. Using a spoon, place on lightly greased cookie sheets.
4. Bake 10-12 minutes. The chocolate chips get very melty and delicious, so prepare to get chocolate all over your hands as you eat them. This isn't a bad thing, just wanted to prepare you :)


Broccoli and Carrot Risotto

This was a really kick-ass meal (there really is no other way to describe it). I modified the original recipe from Dietician on the Run, Heather Calcote. The almond milk and coconut milk do not add any real flavor to the meal (for those of you not interested in those particular flavors). They are just an alternative to the normal cream and butter used in common risotto recipes.

Ingredients:
1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/4 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened, non-flavored)
1/2 cup coconut milk (I use So Delicious coconut milk)
1 1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup carrot chopped
2 tbsp onion, chopped
Salt/Pepper, to taste
Generous sprinkles of a sage and rosemary blend I use from Penzeys Spices. I used the Poultry Seasoning blend for this recipe (don't worry, it's poultry-free!). I rarely measure my spices, so be sure to taste as you add your spices!
1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk milks and water with herbs.
2. In a deep sautee pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrot, broccoli and onion, cooking for 4-5 minutes until softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add rice and toss for one minute. 
3. Add one cup of liquid mixture to rice and vegetables, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue mixing liquid in 1/2 cup at a time as it absorbs; stir frequently. The risotto is done once all liquid is added and absorbed (about 20-25 minutes). Though, it's personal preference just how "liquidy" you like your risotto. I prefer mine to be somewhat creamy, so I didn't let all the liquid absorb before eating. 

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