Though we have recently had random spells of wanna-be-hail and 5-minute-snow, this winter has been an unusually dry and sunny one. Even with our week of floods in the valley, I’m not complainin’ and neither are the seeds and starts.
All the greens, pinks, yellows, and lavenders popping up everywhere makes this girl (who just finished her last frozen strawberries and cherries *gasp*) very happy and excited for a new season of eating, preserving, and learning.
For my last section of “spring cleaning,” I am taking all my inspiration from fresh sprouts, budding blossoms, and the desire to empty my freezer and cupboards, to do a sort of “self” cleansing. If you know me at all, you could assume that I am not found of and find humor in things like the Master Cleanse, the cabbage soup diet, the all juice diet, the blah blah blah. But after some thought and evaluation of my current diet, and not to mention watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, Shane and I are going to eat vegan/vegetarian for a week or so to kind of “hinder” my current diet cravings and hopefully feel a little lighter. A break from cheese and meat is much needed and monetarily will be much appreciated.
Forks Over Knives is a documentary that basically states that all/most degenerative diseases can be avoided by eating a vegan only diet. The studies seem very well done and the idea that diets can save lives is something I truly believe. In a society of immense obesity, the rising accounts of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in general only seems to be related in my mind. They also brought up a valid point that consuming the same amount of calories in different “categories” will make the body feel different levels of full (for example 500 calories in oil compared to 500 calories in vegetables can have a significant difference in fullness levels). The receptors in the stomach do not really recognize “calories” so much as they recognize the size and fullness of the organ. Wow, duh, makes sense.
Now, by no means, do I plan on becoming a vegan, a vegetarian, or whatever. This task simply means that I am trying to learn to respect and embrace the protein that vegetables, grains, and legumes have to offer and to utilize them more. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
This cleansing is also offering me a chance to improve my cooking skills and develop a few more recipes. Because, I mean, how hard is it to make a steak taste good? or bacon and eggs? But now making lentils taste that good, that’s a challenge I am willing to accept!
One important thing to remember though, when replacing animal proteins, is to make sure and create “complete” proteins (those including all nine essential amino acids) in your diet. Making complete proteins with plants usually just involves combining two together. Some good protein combos are:
- Legumes+Grains= peanut butter on toast, rice and beans, chili and a roll, tofu stir fry over rice
- Seeds/Nuts+Legumes= Hummus (if it has tahini), trail mix, lentil loaf
- Seeds/Nuts+Grains= seeded bread, granola with nuts, nut butter (almond/hazelnut) on whole grain bread
- There is also Legumes+Dairy and Grains+Dairy
There are a couple plant foods known to have complete proteins: soy and quinoa. As a locavore, these foods are both somewhat “off limits” to me. There are some farmers who grow edamame locally, but most comes from Kansas and most quinoa from South America.
Two books that I have taken a lot of inspiration from are Clean Start by Terry Walters and The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson. Clean Start is an awesome book that breaks down recipes into seasons and really tries to get away from conventional vegetarian recipes (like all tofu and tempeh!) Some of the recipes I have marked currently are: Golden Beet Soup, Daikon Carrot Salad with Cilantro and Peanuts, and Buttercup Squash with Quinoa, Apricot, and Sage Stuffing. The recipes are all very approachable, the photos are great, and her opinions are right in line with what I believe in. Her opening page has a list of tips for a “clean start”
- eat the colors of the rainbow
- eat dark leafy greens every day
- eat all five tastes
- eat foods that are grown, not manufactured,
- skip the package
- buy clean food and leave the rest behind
- buy and try one new clean food each time you shop
- know the source of your food
- buy local and organic when you can
- be nourished by your food and make peace with your choices
Not too confusing or outlandish right? Now The Vegetarian Option is a more straightforward cookbook with lots of amazing photographs and some pretty ritzy recipes. These recipes are definitely not for the faint of heart, and add a little pizazz to the vegetarian world. Recipes like beet jelly with dill and horseradish cream or spinach mousse with Parmesan cream are among some of the more “foodie” recipes, but there are definitely some tasty ones to try at home: ricotta and spinach crepes or asparagus frittata and soft cheese with chives.
To start off the week and the veggie recipes to follow, I will leave you with this…
Lentil Loaf (adapted from Sue’s recipe at Camas Country Mill, makes two loaves)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 T oil
- 4 c cooked, drained lentils
- 1 c whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1 c nuts or seeds (I used chopped walnuts)
- 1 tsp sage, thyme, and oregano
- 1/4 c whole wheat flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 c broth or water
- 1 T vinegar
- 1 T soy sauce or 1-2tsp salt
- 2 T toasted seeds (I used pumpkin)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Saute onions in oil until browned. Mix all ingredients together except toasted seeds. Shape with fingers and place in a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle top with seeds. Bake 30 to 40 minutes. So easy and so tasty, even Shane the carnivore likes it.
Got any great, protein rich veggie main dishes?