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It’s been a while . . .

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It’s been several months since my last posting. Life has been hectic. But just because I’ve been too busy to post, doesn’t mean that I’ve been too busy to cook. My wife and I are still preparing whole food plant-based meals everyday for every meal! Sadly though, with all of the hustle and bustle of daily life, we seem to have gotten ourselves into a culinary rut, reaching for the same handful of familiar easy to make meals. So, I’ve hit the book shelves this spring looking for some new ideas, inspiration, and flavors to welcome the warmer weather. I recently purchased six cookbooks in my search for some tasty new dishes:

  1. Superfood Kitchen: Julie Morris
  2. Candle Cafe Cookbook
  3. The Heart of the Plate (Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation): Mollie Katzen
  4. The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Angela Liddon
  5. Thrive Foods: Brandan Brazier
  6. The Power of Food: Adam Hart

All of the cookbooks except for Heart of the Plate and Power of Food are whole food plant-based and vegan – although vegan options exist for most of the meals. Thrive Foods, Power of Food, and Superfood Kitchen focus on consuming a WFPD (whole food plant-based diet) that incorporates lots of super foods. Super foods are foods that contain an abundance of micronutrients such as leafy green vegetables, quinoa, berries, certain seeds, etc. Some of the super foods can be expensive or hard to find. I’ve incorporated more seeds into my diet as a result of reading those books; notably hemp, chia, and flax seeds sprinkled on salads, oatmeal, soups, etc. The Candle Cafe cookbook features very accessible ingredients and easy to follow recipes – we enjoyed a spring vegetable minestrone earlier this week. Adam Hart’s book Power of Food is a great inspirational read and his recipes are for the most part very easy to follow – the mango pistachio salad was out of this world good. Mollie Katzen’s book contains both vegetarian and vegan recipes and requires some modifications to fit into a WFPD. Pictured below I have a meal with recipes from the Heart of the Plate Cookbook and Superfood Kitchen: Soft cuban black beans and orange rice from HOTP and Tomatillo Chia Salsa from SFK.

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Vegetable Soup/Stew with Carrots, Parsnips, and Potatoes

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Vegetable stew is a warming and comforting meal during the cold winter months. Vary the vegetables and/or spices for an endless variety of tastes. This particular stew/soup was made the day before I was to go food shopping, so I used the vegetables and beans that didn’t make the cut during the week.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 onions diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 5 carrots sliced into thick rounds
  • 5 celery stalks diced
  • 4 parsnips sliced into thick rounds
  • 4 small yukon gold potatoes diced
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups of cooked beans (or two cans drained and rinsed)
  • white wine for sautéing

In a large pot or dutch oven, place the onions along with a splash of white wine and a pinch or two of salt. Cover and sauté the onions over medium heat. While the onions are cooking, slice the carrots and place them into the pot; mix well, and then cover. Do the same for the celery, parsnips, and potatoes. Add the garlic along with the potatoes. Sauté all of the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mix well, and cook for another 10 minutes. Pour 8 cups of water into the pot along with the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over med-high heat and then simmer on medium-low heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat or gluten free pasta. Top each dish with some steamed greens like kale, collards, or broccoli. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving and Holiday Advice

There’s no better time than Thanksgiving to talk about food and making better dietary choices.  The holiday season is often the time of year where people gain extra pounds that accumulate over the years to make a significant negative impact on their health. Typical holiday meals are rich in animal based and processed foods that are high in calories, cholesterol, fat, sugar, and salt. Your body is not like your checkbook. Eating poorly for a few weeks cannot be “balanced” by eating well for the following few weeks. The harm or benefit to your body is done with each forkful of food that you place into your mouth.

Make a commitment to choose a different path this holiday season. Choose to cook or make meals that are whole food, plant based, and low in fat. I discussed Thanksgiving dinner with my family a couple of weeks ago. We’re planning to serve mashed sweet potatoes (no dairy, butter, etc.), oven roasted butternut squash, spinach, white beans with tomatoes and sage, and brown rice. Turkey and fish will be served as well for those who want it. This is the 3rd Thanksgiving dinner in a row in my family that features more veggies, whole grains, and beans than anything else!

Start to make the transition to a better diet this holiday season instead of waiting to start in the new year. Living a healthy life is a 365 day commitment. Offer to bring some side dishes that feature fresh vegetables like roasted butternut squash or whole whole grains like wild rice (omit the oil and yogurt/buttermilk for the dressing). Snack on fresh vegetables and eat some fruit for desert. Take a small first step and avoid dairy products, red meat, pork, and processed meats. Remember that the nutritious options are there if you look for them (or make them yourself!). Good luck making the healthy choice.

Thanks VSSJ

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I wanted to thank the wonderful people at the Vegetarian Society of South Jersey for allowing me the opportunity to speak in front their members about the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet!

Wilted Spinach with Brown Rice and Chickpeas

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This is a fast and easy meal to make. Perfect for lunch or on a hurried weeknight for dinner.

What you’ll need:
3 minced garlic gloves
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
White wine for cooking
2 bags of baby spinach
Around 3 to 4 cups of cooked brown rice
1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 lemon
Toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Red wine vinegar

In a large pot, place the spinach, garlic, and red pepper flakes along with a splash of white wine. Turn the heat to medium and wilt the spinach, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the rice and chickpeas. Heat through – about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve topped with salt and pepper to taste, a sprinkle of seeds, a squirt of lemon, and a splash of red wine vinegar.

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Syrup and Dijon Marinade

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Jackie went bonkers for this autumnal feast! Butternut squash is the perfect food for fall with its sweet taste, hearty texture, and beautiful color. Pair the squash with some quinoa, kale, and beans for a complete meal.

Ingredients (feeds 2 – 4 people depending on how hungry you are):

1 medium butternut squash diced into small pieces

1 – 2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 – 2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1.5 cups dry quinoa

2 heads of kale chopped into bite sized pieces (remove the ribs if desired, I tend to keep them)

Beans canned or fresh

Salt and pepper

2 garlic gloves minced or finely sliced

4 scallions minced

Red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon oil (optional)

White wine for cooking

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the butternut squash into a large bowl. Mix well with the maple syrup and dijon mustard along with some salt and pepper to taste. Spread the squash onto a cookie sheet and bake until tender – about 40 minutes. Flip the squash pieces with a spatula after 20 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, cook the quinoa. Add 1.5 cups of quinoa to 2.75 cup of water in a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Mix in the scallions. Set aside.

In another large pot, add the teaspoon of oil (optional), a small splash of white wine, the garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. On medium heat, gently sauté the garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale, along with another more generous splash of white wine. Give a good stir and then cover. Stir frequently until the kale has wilted and is bright green – about 3 to 4 minutes. Add more white wine if necessary. Be sure not to burn the garlic!

I also put on a pot of beans to cook earlier in the evening to have with this meal. For more info on how to cook beans check this link out. You could also grab a can of beans like kidney or pinto or cannellini to have with this meal. I would drain and rinse the beans and place into a bowl along with some boiling water for just a minute or two to liven them up, drain, and add to your plate!

This meal incorporates all of the components of a healthy diet: whole grains (quinoa), lots of nutrient dense vegetables (squash and kale), and legumes/beans.

Green Split Pea Soup

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Super easy and super tasty, this soup is great for a weekday meal in the cooler weather.

Ingredients:
3 cups of green split peas
1 garlic clove left whole
2 leeks finely diced
4 carrots diced into large chunks
4 celery stalks diced
3 small to medium white or gold potatoes diced
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, add all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper along with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer covered until the split peas are tender – about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over brown jasmine or basmati rice.

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