Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Veggie Stir Fry

The filling rice.  The crisp snow peas.  The crunch of water chestnuts.  The colorful display of red, orange, and yellow…

These are just a few reason why I love vegetable stir fry.  It also happens to be super healthy and super easy to make.  So grab a wok, turn on the stove, and get ready to cook up somethin' soy delicious… Ha Ha Ha.  Get it? Soy?

Shopping List:
1 sm. red pepper
1 sm. orange pepper
1 sm. yellow pepper
1 14 oz bag baby broccoli florets
1 cup brown rice
2 handfuls snow peas
2 8oz. cans sliced water chestnuts
4 lg. garlic cloves

From the Pantry:
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbl. chinese five spice* (optional)
black pepper
1 Tbl. olive oil

Wok or large frying pan
large pot

Preparation:  Begin by thinly dicing garlic.  Put garlic in wok on low heat.  Allow garlic to brown for several minutes while you prep other veggies;  after a few minutes garlic should appear brown and become very aromatic but heat should not be high enough to burn garlic pieces.  In large pot, prepare rice according to package instructions.  Depending on the type of rice you choose, the rice may take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes to cook up so, go ahead and get that started while you cut up the rest of the components of your stir fry.  Place 1 Tbl. olive oil in wok with browned garlic.  Remove broccoli florets from bag and empty contents into wok.  Increase heat to medium-low and add a Tbl. or two of water to wok if it seems like you need a little more moisture.  Slice peppers, rinse and destring snow peas (snap off ends of snow peas and pull; many will have a string that comes off), and rinse off water chestnuts.  Once broccoli has softened, place peppers and water chestnuts into wok.  Let cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once peppers have begun to soften, add the snow peas.  At this time, sprinkle vegetable medley with ginger, black pepper, and chinese five spice.  Let mixture cook for another 5 minutes then remove from the heat.  Once your rice is ready, you're ready to serve. Soy sauce is a classic addition to stir fry.  I personally enjoy mine straight up.  I find soy sauce to be over powering but… to each his own.

One of the things I love about stir fry is it's versatility.  As I mentioned above, you can enjoy it with soy sauce or without.  You may love mushrooms and choose to toss a few of those into this dish.  I enjoy a little extra heat so I've been known to include a few red pepper flakes or be a little bit more generous with the ginger.

I'm such a fan of stir fry because it's always such a beautiful, colorful completed dish.  It's filling and it's full of healthful ingredients that both my taste buds and my body can appreciate.

*Chinese five spice is a blend of cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper and licorice root. It adds a sweetness to the dish which you may or may not like.  I suggest you start by sprinkling a little on one completed dish to determine whether or not you want to incorporate CFS into your dish.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Time and Passion Sandwich

I had a conversation with my brother the other day in which he asked me a few health - slash - food - slash - shopping questions.  I rambled off a couple of things and started to stay that, "Some of the fun of grocery shopping is searching for items to make healthy, economical, and nutritious meals..."  My brother interrupted and said, "Yeah Rachel but, I have neither the time nor the passion to figure that kind of stuff out."  I just laughed.  "Yeah... okay... true, true."  So, this post is all about the sandwich I'm affectionately calling the, "Time and Passion Sandwich" which is dedicated to my busy brother.

Once you have the ingredients, this sandwich is super easy to assemble and can be thrown together in no time at all.  It is an incredibly refreshing and delicious sandwich and it's extremely economical when you realize how many sandwiches you get out of the ingredients.  Don't be fooled by the appearance of this meatless sandwich either.  It is uber satisfying and you really will be surprised at how tasty it is.  My husband absolutely LOVES this sandwich and has said that it is quite possibly his number one fave.  For a man with a love for sandwiches much like that of Joey Tribbiani, a statement like that is really saying something.  But, as always, don't take my word for it.  Try it yourself.  The payoff is pleasantly, deliciously, nutritiously surprising.

Shopping List:
1 lg. tomato
1 lg. cucumber *
2 slices whole wheat bread*
romaine lettuce
classic hummus spread
guacamole spread

From the Pantry:
blk pepper

cutting board
sharp knife
butter knife

Preparation:  Begin by rinsing off your tomato, cucumber, and romaine.  I tend to wash off the romaine lettuce that I need one leaf at a time as I'm preparing sandwiches throughout the week; it seems to keep longer that way which is always key when keeping fresh produce.  Once you've cleaned your veggies, slice tomato and cucumber into rounds making them as thin or thick as you like.  I personally love thick, crunchy cucumber slices and thinner tomato slices.  Lay out your bread.  Spread one piece of bread with classic hummus spread which can be found at most grocery stores.  It will be in the chilled section.  Sprinkle black pepper to taste on top of hummus spread.  Cover second slice with guacamole spread.  See my recipe for a super quick and easy guac that's great on sandwiches or as a dip. Now you're ready to assemble.  Just layer the cucumber, tomatoes, and romaine, place second slice on top, and enjoy!  Oh my gosh.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  The crunch of this sandwich is delish.  For a lower calorie version, skip the guac and go for like a mustard spread or just go sans second spread.  And please, share you're successes with me.  I love to hear when someone tries one of these.

*If possible, purchase organic cucumbers.  No matter what you buy, make sure you thoroughly rinse the cucumber and pay attention to see if it has a waxy film on top.  Many produce items such as cucumbers and apples have this to give them an appealing sheen.  You may want to just go ahead and make a habit of peeling the skin off your cucumber to ensure you're not ingesting any unwanted pesticide residue or waxy coating.
*Get in a habit of checking the ingredients of the bread you purchase.  You will be surprised at how many contain milk products and it's always good to just check and make sure you're getting true whole wheat ingredients and they're not just sprinkling a few whole grains into the mix but really presenting you with essentially a bleached, nutrient devoid, white bread.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why is Cereal so good?

Is it the crinkling of the bag as you prepare for the pour, or the crispity, crunchity of the fresh flakes? Could it be the cool splash of morning milk or just the nostalgia of a childhood breakfast?  I don't really know why cereal is so good but, I know how much I enjoy a bowl of cereal in the morning and I want to share how you too can still enjoy this breakfast staple while maintaining a whole foods, plant-based diet.

The solution is simple - milk alternatives.

There are a surprising number of lactose free or, non-dairy milk alternatives which is great for those of us who love a little milk in our morning coffee or in our breakfast cereal.  Such alternatives are great because you can still enjoy the benefits of "milk," as a drink or in cereal, and you can use them in baking.  Check out this list of whole foods, plant-based friendly baking substitutions.

Milk Alternatives:
Soy Milk
Almond Milk (my preferred milk substitute)
Coconut Milk
Rice Milk
Oat Milk

Most of these milks provide a variety of options such as:  unsweetened, original, vanilla, and chocolate flavors.  Check the calories and other nutrition information to see what vitamins they're fortified with, the suggested serving size, and to see what all ingredients go into the final product.

My brother once said to me, "I just can't live without my milk and cereal."  The great news is - YOU DON'T HAVE TO!  I hope you're encouraged to search out healthful food alternatives at your local grocery store, farmer's market, and nearby neighborhoods.  So often, I'm pleasantly surprised when I taste an alternative I've never tried before.

So, go ahead... be adventurous!  You just might discover something excitingly delicious.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Baking Substitutions

I love to bake so I had to find out how I could still create my faves, like pumpkin muffins and banana bread, while maintaining a whole foods, plant-based diet.  The following is a go-to list of baking substitutions.  You too may find that you enjoy the taste or texture produced by these options or maybe you'll just enjoy shaving off a few calories from sugar and fat:
  • Oil and/or Butter - 1 c. oil or butter = 1 c. applesauce
  • Butter - 1 c. butter = 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • Buttermilk - 1 c. buttermilk = 1 c. almond milk + 2 Tbl lemon juice; allow to sit 5 minutes
  • Milk - 1 c. soy or almond milk = 1 c. dairy milk
  • Eggs - 1/2 banana or, 1 Tbl ground flax seeds mixed with 1/4 c. warm water or, pumpkin puree replacing 1 egg with 1/3 c. puree
  • Sugar - both agave nectar and honey make good substitutions for other liquid sweeteners; the substitution ratio usually works at 1 to 1.

Check out a few sites with more detailed information, substitution breakdowns, and additional alternatives for making yummy cakes, cookies, and breads on a whole foods, plant-based diet:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nice Melons

One of the hardest parts of transitioning from the modern American diet to a whole foods, plant-based diet, is figuring out what to eat for breakfast.  Without your go-to:  eggs, bacon, biscuits, and sausage, what's a girl (or guy) to eat for the most important meal of the day?  Fresh fruit has become one of my favorite alternatives .  I'm going to share a few tips for slicing and dicing to make the preparation process as quick and painless as possible as well as a few facts about some of my favorite breakfast treats.

A few fruits that I always have on hand:  bananas, apples, grapefruits, and oranges.

My "FRUIT" drawer is ALWAYS stocked with these.  Bananas are a great source of potassium and Vitamin B6.*  Oranges and grapefruits are a great source of Vitamin C and apples are a great source of quercetin, an antioxidant that fights disorders such as asthma and cancer.

In addition to these staples, I usually have several other fruits prepared to munch on for breakfast or as snacks throughout the week.  My favorites include:  watermelon ( also a source of vitamin B6 and is crazy refreshing this time of year), cantaloupe, pineapple, blueberries, and... usually one or two other fruits that are in season such as cranberries, strawberries, or mangos.

Now, I know what you must be thinking, "Man alive, that's a LOT of fruit!"  Well, yeah.  It kind of is but, remember - you don't have to have all of these at the same time.  You do however want to make sure you have enough available and enough variety so that you feel full and satisfied after your meal.


Watermelon - Cut melon into manageable sized wedges.  With wedge in hand, slice vertically and  horizontally across fruit, creating pieces.  With a serrated knife, begin moving back and forth removing the flesh from the rind (the inedible, green skin of the watermelon) allowing the pieces to fall into whatever container you intend to store the fruit in.
Cantaloupe* - preparation is similar to watermelon with the exception of the removing of the seeds.  All you need to do before you start dicing the fruit is take a large spoon, scoop out, and discard the seeds.  I like to use a tool from my pumpkin carving kit.  It really  just works soooo well and I like to keep my scooping skills honed for pumpkin season. :)
Pineapple - probably the trickiest and most intimidating of the three.  With pineapple, start by cutting off both ends and then just pick a spot to start chiseling.  With pineapple, really, practice makes perfect.  You just have to keep cutting away, one strip at a time, until you get all the way around the fruit making sure that you get all the little, black, seed pods that are set in the skin.  It does take a bit of effort but the reward is so very sweet!

Once you've diced everything up, you'll have an ample supply of fresh fruits to choose from for your entire morning meal or as a refreshing side.

Okay.  I hope your taste buds are adequately tantalized from all the juicy photos.  Let me know what your favorite fruit is and how you like to incorporate it in your daily diet.  I mean really, when food looks this good, it just has to be good for you.

*Many women are deficient in this vitamin B6 so ladies take special note:  if you're a fan of the bah-nan, then eat up!  We need em'!  One medium banana also contains about  1/4th the daily recommended intake of potassium we need (about 2000mg).  Bananas are available all year round.  They're beautiful and painlessly easy to peel and eat so, there is really no reason you should not be able to incorporate them into a well balanced diet.  (One of my absolute, ALL-TIME-FAVORITE snacks is banana and peanut butter; just make sure you note the serving size on your peanut butter as it is typically relatively high in calories and fat)
*Cantaloupe is one of those amazingly nutritious foods that offers a variety of health benefits in every bite.  It's a great source of beta-carotene, which our bodies use to produce Vitamin A.  It's also a good source of Vitamin C and Potassium.  Up until recently, I really did not like the taste of cantaloupe.  I was always kind of annoyed when it took up a lot of space in a fruit salad.  But, surprisingly... now, I seriously cannot get enough of the stuff!  Apparently your taste buds change every 5 to 7 years... seriously... Google it.  So even if you had an aversion to certain foodS or fruits before, maybe it's time to try them again.  When it comes to the cantaloupe, the health benefits are so numerous and varied, it definitely worth a try.