Monday, January 26, 2015

Week 2 of Engine 2: I think I'm getting the hang of this

Time to get real. I honestly thought I would have given up on this challenge by now.  I mean, seriously, it just about goes against everything I ever talk about, and the new followers I have on instagram are all of the "healthy" variety.  Ha!  It's definitely not like I am anti-healthy or anything.  I mean not really.


Maybe it's that I never was able to put that much focus on healthy eating because I was always focused on "yummy" vegan eats.  Vegan eats are my main form of activism.  I feed people delicious vegan food. And people see that vegan food is "normal" food with flavors they are familiar with. And then people say things like, "Oh my god, you can still eat this? Maybe I will go vegan!"  (Well that's how I hope they respond, anyway.)  So, cooking for health, and eating my medicine were never very high on my priority list. 

And let's not even start on the fat-shaming SOS folks out there that almost seem to be in a weird purist-I'm-better-than-you-because-I-only-eat-the-cleanest-of-plant-based-foods cult that are constantly trolling my Amazon pages leaving one star reviews because my books contain soy, or wheat, or (God forbid) a little TVP!



But I digress…I shouldn't let the bad apples spoil the bunch, right?  Right.  And these past two weeks have been pretty eye opening for me. I am definitely seeing a difference already in my weight.  I believe I mentioned this before, but I have gotten rid of the scale in my house as I refuse to be a slave to it any longer, but I definitely see a change in my face (I am losing some of those extra chins!) and my pants are a bit looser.

I also notice that I simply don't feel as hungry anymore.  Because my meals are so nutrient dense, a bowl of "salad" has been enough to fill me up.  My old pasttime was snacking on chips and dips all week at my desk while working.  I don't really need to do that anymore.  When I felt that need arise (mostly out of habit and not hunger) I bought a pack of Engine 2 Crispbreads and a tub of Engine 2 hummus to snack on.  Admittedly, I ate 2 crackers, and I was over it.   Not because it was bad, but because I was sated.

I am focusing on eating for my health, and believe it or not, I'm kind of starting to enjoy it, despite the fact that all of you instagrammers, facebook posters and pinterest folks are posting some of the most amazing food porn that is tempting my tastebuds on a regular basis!

I think I might stick to this way of eating (most of the time) even after the challenge is over.  But don't worry, I won't forget the comfort foods I am known for.  I will just eat them on special occasions.  Not every friggin' day!

Green Salad (recipe below)

Green Salad
This "Green Salad" was my go to meal for the week.  I made a giant batch so I could munch on it at work and at home.  I think I actually got 5 seperate meals out of this.  It has a gagillion components, but it was really easy to throw together.  It tasted great cold or hot and filled me up with lots of micronutrients.  Without total and exact measurements, here is the recipe.

For the Walnutty Spinach Basil Pesto:
(from Going Vegan, page 141, the oil free option, without added salt))
1 cup (30 g) tightly packed baby spinach
20 large basil leaves
1/2 cup (60 g) walnut pieces
2 tablespoons (15 g) nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 cup (120 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard (or more to taste)
black pepper, to taste
and for this batch, I added 1 box of soft silken tofu as a thickener and to give it a creamier texture.

For the salad:
spinach leaves, chiffonade
kale, chopped
raw broccoli, chopped small
green peas
smoked tofu, diced
brown jasmine rice
Herb Roasted Potatoes, optional (from Going Vegan, page 117, without the added oil or salt)
raisins
sliced avocado
black pepper to taste

To make the pesto: Add all ingredients to a blender and preuu ntil smooth.  Transfer dressing to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, should last about a week.

To make the salad: Add all ingredients except avocado to a large salad bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing.  I like to add a small amount of dressing to the whole batch as it soaks into the greens, relaxing and softening them a bit.  Then I add more dressing to taste when I eat it.

Yield: 5 to 6 entree sized meals, depending on how much you make

On the spot dinner made on the salad bar at Whole Foods Market.

But this is a challenge, and a few things have tripped me up a little bit:

  • Monday night I worked a special event at the Anaeim Hilton at the Convention Center.  I had to eat dinner in a food court, as there was no where to keep a premade lunch, other than in my car that was a 20 minute walk from the venue, so I made the best decisions I could given I was in a food court.  I got a 6-inch veggie sub on whole wheat with no added sauces, oil, or dressing, with added avocado paired with a berry smoothie blended with OJ. 
  • Then,  I had some major dental work done on Friday, leaving my mouth pretty useless for chewing anything harder than a smoothie, so I had to ditch the no juices rule for the day and enjoy some pineapple spinach juice and a giant pineapple smoothie bought for me by my bestie, Jen.  Bless her heart! 
  • And on Saturday night, we went out with my sister and her husband to the Rainbow on the Sunset Strip.  I knew going into it, there was going to be little to nothing on the menu for me to eat, so I was half expecting to get a giant bowl of iceberg lettuce with a sliced avocado and a handful of chickpeas thrown in for good measure.  And that's exactly what I got. Ha.
  • Finally, on Sunday I overslept and didn't have time to pack dinner to bring to work.  So I made a big salad on the salad bat at Whole Foods Market, and bought a small bottle of the Health Starts Here Sesame Ginger Dressing that is low sodium and has no added oil.  I split the meal into two portions and will have the rest for lunch today.

This coming week will be full of new recipes and foods, as I prepare some new batches of stuff for the weeek.  See you then, and until then, stay Plant-Strong!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Surviving (and Thriving!) on the Engine 2 Challenge


Yes, you read that title right. Me, Joni Marie Newman, am on the Engine 2 Diet...for 28 days, at least. You see, when you are a cookbook author, you cook a lot of food.  Way more food than should ever be cooked in a household of two. Especially when one of those two has the dietary habits of a six year old and won't touch anything with onions or mushrooms in it, and God forbid if it's spicy.  So yeah, I cook way too much food, and therefore eat way too much food.  And while I like to think I cook somewhat healthfully, the truth is, I cook to make it taste good first and foremost.  

I feed a lot of non-vegans, and whatever I put into their mouths better be spectacular. So, although my dishes contain no artery clogging dairy, eggs, or meat, they do tend to sit a little high on the caloric end of the scale because I use a lot of rich creamy sauces, and lots of added fat in the way of olive and coconut oil (amongst other things).  Am I opposed to delicious, over the top vegan foods?  Of course I'm not.  But even I know that these types of foods should be the exception and not the rule.  But as I stated before, I cook a lot of food...and needless to say, I have put on more than a few pounds over the last few years. I figured it was high time for me to do a little self-check and clean up my diet.




So, I decided to participate in this year's Engine 2 Challenge. I was already ahead of the curve.  I'm already vegan.  So for those who aren't, the have to give up all animal products AND give up extracted oils, added salt, processed foods, simple carbohydrates and added sugars.  Wow.  That would be a challenge.  So I feel like I kind of have an unfair advantage over some of the noobs.

And...I know a thing or two about a thing or two in the kitchen, and if anyone can make a no oil recipe taste good, it's me!  In fact, when I wrote Going Vegan with Gerrie Lynn Adams, the majority of the recipes in that book are oil free, or have a low oil option.  Besides, Rip himself gave an endorsement of that book, so I must be doing something right, right?


To kick off the challenge all participants received a goodie bag filled with Engine 2 products, recipes, and a copy of the 28 Day Challenge Guide. I thought this was great! Especially for the noobs. Some basics to make sure we had something to eat with minimal effort to get things started. But whole wheat pasta and sauce does not make an exciting meal for Joni Marie.  So I got to work on some homemade meals that would satisfy not only my hunger, but my need to be in the kitchen creating, and ultimately my tastebuds.


On my first day of the challenge, I did try to eat wahat was convenient and already available at Whole Foods Market. I had a cup of White Bean and Kale soup, some whole wheat pita and some of the Engine 2 Red Pepper Hummus.  It did the trick, and I was satiated, but I was yearning for more depth of flavor. When I got home on day 1, I was pooped from a long day of work, so I made a bowl of Cereal (Rip's Big Bowl) and called it a day. First thing that second morning, I got up earlt and started on a pot of soup that I could eat all week.  A homemade pho broth (The Faux Pho Broth from Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen made with low sodium Tamari) and packed it full of brown Jasmine rice, spinach, cilantro, garbanzo beans, garlic, carrots, green and red onions, and my favorite ingredient right now...smoked tofu. This is a good soup.  Hearty and filling and nutrient dense. I shared some with other challengers at work, and had enough to eat for a couple of lunches and a couple of dinners.


The rest of the work week was full of whole grain toast with nut butter for breakfast, the above soup, a few bowls of cereal, and sandwiches, namely this sandwich that ended up being one of my favorite meals so far.  The sandwich is on cracked wheat sourdough and is filled with sliced smoked tofu, avocado, spinach, arugula, and a sauce I made a big batch of that was made by blending together silken tofu, tahini, roasted red peppers, garlic, dill, and a little black pepper.  That sauce has been serving me well as a sandwich spread, salad dressing and dip for veggies.

Friday approached and a new challenge was put before me.  Going out to eat! I have become somewhat of an expert at ordering vegan in non-veg restaurants, but ordering E2 approved in an all veg restaurant proved a little more daunting.  So I made the best decisions I could.  I had a date with Jackie of Vegan Yack Attack to try out a new all vegan sushi place in Long Beach on Friday.  I couldn't cancel, I was dying to try that place out. So I made the best decisions I could. I ordered steamed Veggie Gyoza and a Deep Ocean Roll. The roll was made with brown rice and had carrot, cucumber, avocado and seaweed. The sauce on top may have been off-limits, but it was a drizzle on top, and not too much, so I thinkI did pretty well overall...Especially considering that I had a date night at the movies with my husband and instead of getting candy, soda and popcorn, I go a large bottle of water and smuggled in my own oil-free popcorn dusted with nooch, garlic powder, onion powder and dill.



The following day I had a date with my besty Jen to spend the entire day in downtown LA at the Photo LA and LA Art Show.  In between shows we stopped for lunch at Farm LA. Once again, I feel like I made the best decision I could.  I ordered the Quinoa Black bean burger, with no sauce, just dijon mustard, with avocado and sprouts.  Instead of fries, I opted for baby greens and a bowl of berries.  Once again, I feel like I did pretty good...Especially considering that evening when we were hanging out, everyone decided to make homemade pizzas, and this girl opted for a green salad with balsamic vinegar.  Success and willpower.

Sunday came, and I had to go back to work.  I put together a lunch kit. I packed up a bag full of arugula, spinach, diced smoked tofu, shredded carrots, cilantro, and sprinkled in some nooch and black pepper. Then I also packed up some of my homemade tahini red pepper sauce. At work I added reheated brown Jasmine rice and the sauce to the bag and gave it a good shake!  This has now become my new favorite meal, and it made enough for me to have some today as well.


So, there you have it.  My first 7 of 28 days of this challenge.  I have to say, it's not so bad.  I am discovering new recipes and flavor combinations, while not beating myself up if I accidentally have a little salt or oil when I am out.  Oh, and I even started the workout plan in the challenge guide.  I do it in my kitchen. Lol. I will check back in again next week with a week 2 challenge update, so until then, live long and be Plant-Strong!

Full disclosure: Rip Esselstyn has partnered with Whole Foods Market for this year's challenge, and in my other life, I work at Whole Foods Market.  And while it is free for anyone to join the challenge, I am also leading the challenge at my location, which is currently in Laguna Beach.  I thought it would be an awesome way to help spread the word about a healthy, plant-based, whole foods diet to others, especially some of my coworkers, while simultaneously and selfishly taking the opportunity to take the challenge myself.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

I remember my first year of college.  Going into the bookstore to buy my textbooks, and bringing them home thinking, "Oh my god. These books are huge. There is so much information here. There is no way I am ever going to get through it all."  But I did.  I still have all of my college textbooks.  And every now and again, I find myself returning to those texts as a reference.

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page is the textbook I'd imagine would be passed out on the first day of class in a plant based cooking school.  I mean it's huge! 554 pages of hardcovered glory, complete with a ribbon page marker.  This book is definitely a reference text.



When it arrived in the mail from the publishers for review, I was flipping through the pages, thinking, "Whoa. She ain't messing atound!" And she isn't.  Karen Page has an entry for everything in this encyclopedic style text.  It's quite an undertaking.  Almost unbelievable how much work must have went into creating such a tome.

Admittedly, it's not a vegan book.  It does have information about vegetarian ingredients like eggs and dairy.  But, it's also not a cookbook, so it's still (and definitely!) a very useful kitchen companion for the vegan cook. It's not the type of book you read like a romance novel.  That's for sure.  But I know this book will get plenty of use in my kitchen.

So far, from what I've written, you still have no idea how this book reads, so let me be a little bit more descriptive about the contents.  The book begins with a lengthy introduction that talks about a transition to a plant based diet, and includes some recommendations by Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn.  It is in the intro that the author also tells us that she is lactose intolerant.  And although she does include eggs and dairy as food sources in this intro, she also points out that both doctors recommend avoiding both.

Following the introduction, is Chapter 1, For the Love of Plants: Vegetarianism Through the Ages. A literal timeline of vegetarianism dating back to 3000 BC!  FIlled with facts, stories, interviews, and quotes, it is a fascinating read.



Next up is Chapter 2, Maximizing Flavor: Creating a New, Compassionate Cuisine.  This chapter approaches flavor in an almost scientific way.  Speaking about how different testures, aromas, and even mouthfeel affect the overall flavor of foods.  Combining history, science, and skill from chefs all over the world.  How do these different skill sets, techniques and methods affect vegetarian cuisine?



And finally, Chapter 3, Vegetarian Flavor Matchmaking: The Lists.  This is whhere you will find an alphabetical list of every ingredient and cuisine you can imagine.  And with each entry comes a flavor profile, nutritional breakdown, techniques for preparation, possible substitutes or botanical relatives, and flavor affinities (other ingredients and flavors that pair well with said ingredient).



In otherwords,  when you get that CSA box and you don't know what to do with those turnip greens,  just look up "Greens, Turnip" which happens tobe on page 277, and learn how to prepare them and what other foods taste good alongside them.  In this case? Simple blanch then saute them with garlic, lemon, olive oil and onions.  See how helpful that was?

And there are entries for just about everything you could imagine. Szechuan peppers? Check. Buckwheat Sprouts? Yep. Wakame? Of course, silly!

What I particularly like, is that in addition to ingredients, this massive resource also includes flavor profiles (look up sourness or umami) and cuisines (such as Southwesy or Ethiopian) for tips and ingredients that work well with each.

Overall, I definitely recommend that every cook, vegetarian, vegan or omnivore, pick up a copy of this book.  It will prove invaluable in my kitchen, especially as I am preparing and testing new recipes and trying out new ingredients.

The publishers were kind enough to offer a giveaway to one lucky reader (limited to residents within the US only this time) so follow the instructions in the widget below to enter for a chance to win.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
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2012 Copyright/Permissions/Disclaimers

All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni