Archive for January, 2010

Sample Menus

One of the first questions I get from people when they hear that I don’t eat animal products is, “What do you eat?”  I thought I’d offer examples of a typical work-week in this blog.  I have become a huge fan of the Vegan Yum-Yum cookbook (there’s a link on the right to her website), so a number of my meal suggestions come from that.  It’s a great book–interesting, unique, fun recipes with great flavor!  These are all pretty straightforward and will offer a good start for the seemingly intimidating animal-free diet.

Monday

Breakfast – Steel-cut oats with two Tbsp. ground flaxseed, blueberries (from the freezer, heated in a pot while the oats cook), a pinch of brown sugar, cinnamon, and almond milk; Coffee with unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I use almond milk, but lots of people use soy or rice… it’s all good.)

(great tip on steel-cut oats:  they take about 30 minutes to cook in the morning, so instead, the night before, boil the water, stir in the oats, put a lid on it, turn off the heat and go to bed.  In the morning, they’ll need 8-10 minutes of cooking on medium heat to finish.)

Snack – Clementines; handful of almonds or walnuts

Lunch – Whole grain toast with all natural peanut butter; banana; chocoloate soy milk

Dinner – Golden Chickpea and Artichoke Salad (Vegan Yum-Yum); Grilled vegetable sandwich (roasted peppers, spinach, roasted zucchini, vegan mayo); water or wine

Tuesday

Breakfast – Whole wheat cinnamon berry pancakes (***see recipe below); coffee with almond milk

Snack – Nature Valley granola bar; banana

Lunch – Stonyfield vanilla soy yogurt mixed with Grape Nuts and topped with frozen wild blueberries; orange juice

Dinner – Sweet Potato Enchiladas (***see recipe below); giant salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Wednesday

Breakfast – Whole grain bagel with Tofutti Cream cheese (natural food section) and strawberry jam (or with apple butter, Earth Balance margarine, or natural peanut butter); coffee with almond milk

Snack Smoothie with ground flaxseeds

Lunch – Leftover chickpea and artichoke salad and whole grain bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil; water

Dinner – Roasted cauliflower and wilted spinach pasta (Vegan Yum-Yum); Whole wheat garlic toast; clementines; water or red wine

Thursday

Breakfast – French Toast (Vegan Yum-Yum basic recipe) topped with cinnamon apples (***see recipe below); coffee….

Snack – Stonyfield soy yogurt mixed with Grape Nuts

Lunch – Whole grain bread topped with spinach, sliced tomatoes, cracked pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar; chocolate soy milk

Dinner – Spicy Tomato Chickpea Soup; Carmelized Leek and Spaghetti Squash Polenta (both Vegan Yum-Yum) on wilted spinach; water or wine

Friday

Breakfast – Old-fashioned oatmeal with 2  Tbsp. ground flaxseed, strawberries, a pinch of brown sugar, cinnamon, almond milk

Snack – Apple slices with peanut butter; handful of almonds or walnuts

Lunch – Leftover roasted cauliflower pasta; water

Dinner – Whole Wheat Pizza (see recipe https://healthyisnormal.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/beginning/) and a giant salad

***Whole Wheat Cinnamon Berry Pancakes

2 tbsp ground flaxseed

1/4 cup water

Whisk these together well;  they’ll serve as the binding.

To that, whisk in:

1 1/3 cup of non dairy milk (I like soy or vanilla almond)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt (I use kosher for all my cooking)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon (or more…)

2 tbsp agave (found in natural foods section) or real maple syrup

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (King Arthur flours are excellent)

Fold in:

1/2 – 3/4 cup berries – I pull my frozen wild blueberries right out of the freezer and throw them in.

Heat your pan or griddle, spray lightly with canola cooking spray.  And cook them the way you’d cook any pancakes! Serve with real maple syrup.

No saturated fat, NO CHOLESTEROL and totally awesome.

***Cinnamon Apples

Peel and thinly slice about 6 large apples (honeycrisp, golden delicious, gala, granny smith).  Heat them in a large frying pan with 1/2 cup water until they begin to soften and the water being to evaporate.  Add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and stir to coat and cook until apples are as soft as you’d like them to be. Great on french toast, pancakes, oatmeal….

***Sweet Potato Enchiladas (adapted from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson)

Olive oil

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups of frozen corn

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 small jalapeno, minced

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans

4 cups baby spinach

1 tbsp chili powder

salt, pepper

10 whole wheat tortillas

2 cups salsa

1/2 cup onion, diced

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes and corn with 2 tbsp olive oil, and spread in shallow roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes – until potatoes are soft.

Reduce heat to 375.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in large skillet. Lightly saute garlic and jalapeno. Add tomatoes, beans, and chili powder and heat through. Add spinach and mix until just softened. Mix in potatoes and corn.

Fill tortillas with potato and bean filling, Spoon several tablespoons of salsa on each. Roll and place in two 9 x 13 pans that have been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Top with any extra filling, the rest of the salsa, and onions. Cover and bake for 30 minutes or until very hot and bubbly.

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Beginning

Starting is not hard.  The challenge comes with the stigma that’s attached to an animal-free diet.  Our culture has so much cheap meat–much more than ever in our history (see Michael Pollan’s writings on government subsidies and factory farming)–that it was made our NORMAL.  Our industries and government led us to believe that to eat meat was to live the good life.

So first, embark on this by rejecting what you’ve been told is normal.  When I was a kid, meat was always the centerpiece.  When I would say, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”  She’d reply, “Pork chops” or “hamburgers” or “chicken.”  The vegetables were the decorative sides–sometimes the vehicle that made the dry, chewy meat more palatable (sorry, Mom).

So, let’s get started by going shopping.  Some of the stuff vegans eat can be really intimidating.  I’m still learning, so I’ll just share my path.  I waded in with “unscary” stuff first.  Here’s the beginner list:

Pantry

Whole wheat pasta, Brown rice, Whole wheat flour (for the record, I never have luck with generic/store-brand flours), White unbleached flour, Beans (to get started, just get the canned kind – black, cannellini, garbanzo/chickpeas), Canned diced tomatoes, Canned artichoke hearts, Canned beets, Vegetable broth (try for good, organic stuff), Pizza sauce, Olive oil, Canola oil, Roasted red peppers, Canned pumpkin, Raisins, Dried cranberries, Real maple syrup, Agave sweetener(natural foods), Brown sugar, White sugar, Steel cut oats (I like McCann’s), Old-fashioned oats, Almond Milk (kept in pantry until opened), Balsamic vinegar, Lots of spices, Parchment paper (baking section or foil/plastic wrap section), cornmeal

Refrigerator stuff

Baking yeast, ground flaxseed (natural foods), Earth Balance margarine (either natural foods or near butter/margarines), soy yogurt, soy milk (regular and fun-to-drink chocolate!), leafy greens (kale, swiss chard, definitely spinach), red or yellow or orange peppers, savoy cabbage, whole wheat tortillas, basically, and basically any vegetable in season, sweet onions, garlic, apples, oranges, any other fruit you love, salad greens, avocado, shitake mushrooms

Freezer Stuff

Frozen fruit (blueberries- I love the wild blueberries best, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, whatever!), frozen corn, peas

Other stuff

Sweet potatoes, Yukon golds

Wanna cook?  Here’s a great one to get started…

Whole wheat pizza (adapted from a great bread book:  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/ )

3 cups very warm water

1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast

3 Tbsp. honey or agave

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup olive oil

6 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds

If you have a mixer with a dough hook, get it out.  Mix water and yeast, with mixer running add each ingredient one at a time.  When you get to the flour, add one cup at a time.  Only mix it until it’s well mixed.  You can certainly mix by hand with a very sturdy wooden spoon. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours.  Prepare three no-rim baking sheets: line each with parchment, sprinkle with cornmeal.  Divide dough into three pieces.  It will be very sticky, so use a knife to cut, wet your hands and pull out each piece. With your hands or a small roller, spread the dough to the desired thickness.  Allow to rest and rise a bit for another 45 minutes.  Heat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone in the oven.  If you don’t have a stone, you can bake your pizza right on the baking sheets.  I like the stone because of the way it makes the crust crispy on the bottom.

The fun part is to top these.  I love roasting sliced onions, sauteeing spinach with garlic and olive oil, and joining them with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and shitake mushrooms.  I don’t miss the cheese AT ALL!  My daughter just loves sliced, fresh red peppers, and my vegetarian daughter likes sauce and cheese.  My husband still enjoys his turkey pepperoni, but I don’t often have it in the house.  He loves feta, black olives, spinach, and mushrooms. I drizzle a little olive oil on the top of all of them.

If using a stone, slide the parchment and pizza onto it; otherwise, put the whole baking sheet in.

Bake for 12 minutes and then keep your eye on it.  We all like our pizza with different “doneness.”

Makes 3 big, yummy pizzas.

The Food Basics

Following my heart attack, three doctors told me that I needed a cholesterol reducing medication (i.e. Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, etc.) and would need to be on it for the rest of my life.

I was not happy.  Reading Esselstyn’s book (see previous post), I was convinced that I could do it without the meds.  I was already on Plavix and aspirin and thyroid medication.  I did not want to add another if I could find success with food and exercise.

I learned some things right quick:

1. If you have a cholesterol problem, don’t injest it on purpose!!!

Animal products contain cholesterol, so I decided to cut it out of my diet.  That means eating a vegan diet.

2. There’s good fat and bad fat.  The bad fat lends to your own cholesterol production.  The good fat is good for your cholesterol!

Esselstyn’s book promotes a no fat diet –no oils, nuts, etc.– for people who have serious heart disease.  I started out that way, but slowly worked olive oil, nuts, and Earth Balance margarine back in and it’s been great for me.  For serious cholesterol problems, I would suggest jumping right into the Esselstyn plan and getting tested 2-3 months in to see how you’re doing.  You’ll find some needed positive reinforcement.

3.  Omega 3s are easy

Seriously, 2 Tbsp of ground flaxseed in your oatmeal or smoothie will take care of your daily nutritional needs. (My next blog will help you get your pantry and fridge ready.)

4. Nothing wrong with a little drinky-poo.

Even the strictest of the strict, Esselstyn, encourages that you enjoy a drink.  It’s been well documented that red wine is a great choice.  Some even recommend that you have a drink a day.  This is where moderation matters.

5. Choose brown foods.

If you’re going to eat, make it matter.  It is only on the rarest of occasions that I eat white flour or rice.  Brown, brown, brown–pizza crust (recipe to come), rice, breads….

6. Cook your own food.  Pre-packaged foods are loaded with stuff you don’t need or want.

There are quick, easy meals that you can make with a decently stocked pantry.  Recipes to come!  The ONLY exception that I’ll make to this is a Kashi pizza.  As a matter of fact, none of us were even on our way home until 6:30 last night, so one of those in the oven (the vegan version) and a pot of whole grain pasta tossed with broccoli rabe and garlic made an awesome dinner.

7. Be sure that you’re not lacking any nutrients.

Have a comprehensive blood panel and iron test to make sure you’re well -balanced.  Women, especially, can struggle with iron, so being aware of your nutritional needs and being sure to add foods (or sometimes supplements) that lend to a good balance is important.

8.  Dairy alternatives are great.

I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk in my coffee, I cook with  soy or almond milk, drink chocolate soy milk like crazy.  I miss nothing these have no cholesterol.

In Summary, if this seems like a lot to think about, I understand.  As the days go by, though, your new buying and eating habits will become just as NORMAL as your previous ones.

My next post will help you shop to make the transition as easy as possible.  We’ll do it in steps…  Beginner, Getting the Hang of It, and All In.

The Unexpected Starting Line

I made a major life change in April of 2009 following a heart attack the month before.  I had thought I was doing a pretty good job taking care of myself, but clearly, it wasn’t enough. And so, I talked to good smart people, read good smart books (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD http://www.heartattackproof.com/) and made a decision.  My life was going to change.  My working out was going to intensify and I would go vegan.

People thought I was crazy, that I was going too far, but my cholesterol numbers (HDL51 and LDL 95 at the time of the heart attack***) improved in just over a month (HDL still 51 and LDL 74).

Then I got a little conflicted.  I read that soy negatively affected thyroid medication.  So, I stopped the soy and went back to skim milk.  And I got a little cocky and maybe once a week would cheat with a brownie or cookie….

Retest in October:  HDL:  56, LDL: 98

That was it.  I recommitted and made the decision that this would be my life.  I would live according to my needs.

Fast forward:  January 26th the new results are in:  HDL: 63, LDL 70.  Total: 143

Throughout this time, I’ve had conflicting responses from people who know me.  Some people make jokes about it.  My dad jokes that I eat birdseed and gravel.  Some friends think I’m being extreme but offer me acceptance saying, “Well if it makes you feel better.”  Some people get stressed out about it and worry about what to feed me if I come over for dinner.  Some people are completely perplexed and flustered,  “What in the world do you eat?”  Overall, I’ve been surprised by how confused and opinionated people are about how I’ve chosen to live my life.  Maybe they think that I’m judging them?

I’m not.

This last year or so has confirmed what I’ve generally believed about life:

The way you live on a daily basis is the the fruition of a series of choices. From what you eat, to how or if you exercise, to purchases and relationships, what you decide is “normal” can be your life. We are constantly told by our mass media in all of its manifestations what should be normal.  Feel good commercials sell us fast food, commercials that seem to understand our busy lives sell us processed, packaged convenience, and there are many others that sell us lots of other things that complicate and infect our lives.

I reject it.  I’m deciding what’s normal and sharing how I get there and live well.  This is about finding new ways that are better for our health, our environment, and each other. It’s about being satisfied with our choices.

I’ll share info I find including recipes, books, smart things I hear, things that work and things that don’t.  Stay tuned.

***These numbers are really great for most people, but they don’t work for me.  See your doctor to determine appropriate cholesterol goals for your health.