Monday, February 24, 2014

Vegging out with veggies

This is the last week for the Engine 2 Diet 28 Day Challenge. My cough is better, but we have both been under the weather - in the sense that we have started a huge outdoor project of fixing up the pool house that leaks, adding more space so the bathroom part of it can be used, killing more grass and putting in a dance floor/basketball court in the back plus a small orchard of ten fruit trees. Our poor neighbors.

Getting over the cruddy cough, a very busy and short month and now four days of proctoring the bar exam this week has put a dent in everything. But I have stuck to the plan and never once resorted to chips, hummus and chocolate for dinner. Yeah me! Exercise on the other hand has been a big bust. This week will be filled with lots of walking at the bar exam. Very. Slow. Walking. Not exactly aerobic. But I am happy that despite the crud, I've thrown in lots of veggies this month. Here are some of the winners.

Open bag. Toss with balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Roast.
(I forgot the Dijon mustard this time.)

Yum. Brussels sprouts look like little brains, so they make me feel smarter.

Chop bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms.
Add some salt and pepper, roast on parchment paper. Eat with rice. Smile.

Chop broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Add half a jar Trader Joe's Green Chili Thai sauce and one can light coconut milk.
Add two cartons vegetable stock and a few shakes of soy sauce. Smile big because there will be plenty!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No Meat No Brains Chili

An onomatopoeia is a word that phonetically imitates or suggests the source of the sound it describes. Good examples in English are the words hiccup, zoom, bang, beep, moo and splash. Croak is another good one, as in the frog croaks. The onomatopoeia for the week around these parts is phlegm, by far the best/worst sound-alike word in the English language.

It didn't start off so bad, just a semi-uncomfortable cold that I seemed to shake off with a few days of rest. Then I got back in the saddle, but probably way too soon. The lingering cough has just about made me croak, and not in the frog way. You know your throat is full of yuck when you seriously consider the pros and cons of sticking the vacuum attachment near your tonsils for a moment or two. You know you have a gross cough when you start rating them like an Olympic event and give them scores for artistic impression. It was getting better and then got worse and is now thinking of signing a lease. I want it evicted, but it's not leaving without a fight. 

Needless to say, cooking up new and exciting recipes for the Engine 2 Diet 28-Day Challenge has been just that, a challenge. It was time to revert back to the tried and true recipes - the ones I know backwards and forwards and can make with my eyes closed and one can opener tied behind my back. For us, that is Vegan Crock Pot Chili. 

Start with Fire Roasted Peppers and Onions from Trader Joes.
Dump them in frozen, no need to even chop.
Do remember, it is the Crock Pot you're putting them in.
Add any canned beans you want. I didn't have black or garbanzos, but life went on.
Also, dump in a can of tomatoes, or tomato sauce or if you're desperate a few big squirts of ketchup.
A little can of roasted green chilies is great too.

Add some spices! Cumin, paprika, chili powder, hot sauce.
Whatever will scare away the phlegm frog in your throat.
Don't go crazy, you can add more later.

Turn the Crock Pot on low and go take a nap.
Make sure you plugged in the right machine. :O)
No Brains Chili - it might take half a brain after all.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Engine 2 presentation at Whole Foods ran out of steam

Well hello there, Mr. Bee
Never having attended any kind of support group, I was just going by what I've seen on TV. I assumed the person leading the Engine 2 Diet 28-Day Challenge at Sacramento Whole Foods Market would be on board with the plant-strong, whole-foods, you are what you eat, if it had a mother pet it don't eat it way of thinking. I do have to give him credit for his honesty, he didn't sugar coat what he had eaten on the first week of the 28 Day Challenge. Chicken fried steak and Eggs Benedict, and this week is his birthday so who knows what else? But, he stressed that the chicken fried steak and the Eggs Benedict were made with real foods, nothing artificial. No one got up on their chair and said Captain, my Captain.

Moving past that uninspiring hour of my life, Week 2 is going great, except that I got a sore throat and cold. Couldn't get it last week when it was raining buckets, no I got it this week with the daffodils and the tulip tree blooming. Fortunately, I had some healthy dishes made up in the fridge, so stumbling into the kitchen to find something to eat has been easy. I had made another batch of Wacky Waldorf Salad (yummeroo!) and some Thai inspired veggie soup. Somehow between now and tomorrow at 6 am, I have to find my brain and haul myself into work. What's the rule these days - do casual Fridays allow for slippers and pajamas?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Russian Olympic Veggie Burgers

Engine 2 Veggie Burgers from Whole Foods
Taste was good, but they didn't microwave too well
We are big fans of veggie burgers and we have tried many of them. Some of the worst have ingredients I wouldn't feed my dog, like soy isolate protein. Others have ingredients I happily feed my dog, like oats and rice and carrots and other healthy ingredients. We got some recently from Costco that had wheat in them, so I stayed away. Our dog did not. She ate one off the counter while they were defrosting. A few days later she grabbed another one off the counter, bun and all. She is quiet, she is sneaky and she never breaks the plates. She deserved a medal, but all she got was the burger.

This is Week 2 of the Engine 2 Diet 28-Day Challenge. I'm doing great, even managing to stay away from chocolate, a minor miracle. My energy level is high, and my jeans are fitting better. I've been trying to put a little pizzazz into our menu and attempting some new dishes. One of those new recipes was to finally make some homemade veggie burgers. I don't know why I never tried before, they were so easy. The Engine 2 Veggie Burger is more of a process than a recipe. The full instructions are at the bottom of this post. It is extremely adaptable and can go in so many different directions.

My version went in a Russian direction. At first I just was going simple with:

cooked brown rice
smashed garbanzo beans
sauteed carrots, celery and onions
Braggs aminos
chopped dill
flax seed

Then at the last bit I decided to go for the gold and add some pickled red cabbage. They did smell a bit strong while they were baking, but they turned out great. They almost tasted like potato pancakes, without the potatoes if that's possible. I can't wait to try these with all kinds of variations: Tex-Mex, Italian, Greek, All-American. And with all this healthy eating, I just may be able to land that Triple Toe Loop.

The pickled red cabbage was a last minute addition to the mix.

Putin the oven. Get it? Putin, Russian Olympic Burgers?

Be artistic with the mustard, it shows your love.

This judge preferred the Costco brand.

Official Engine 2 Veggie Burger Recipe Process
1 Pick your bean/lentil/peas (you will need 2 cups COOKED)
Black Beans
White beans
Kidney beans
Lentils (any color)
Split Peas
(we’re sure any kind of bean you can dream up would work just fine)
2. Pick your starch (1 cup)
Dry Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs or whole grain gluten free bread crumbs
Uncooked Quick Oatmeal
Cooked Quinoa

Cooked Millet

Cooked Amaranth

Cooked Buckwheat
Cooked brown rice. (you can also use a wild rice if you like)
3. Pick a vegetable (or a few vegetables) : dice them! If you pick more than one vegetable, you will want to decrease the amount you use, probably by at least half. So if you use carrots and celery – use 1 rib of celery and 1 carrot stick.
Celery (about 2 ribs)
Carrot (about 2 sticks)
Onion (about 1 small onion)
Mushrooms (about 1 cup)
Jalapeno (1 or 2 depending on how spicy you like things)
4. SPICE! Go to town with spices. Our general rule is just to evenly coat whatever we are making with the spice, or if using fresh herbs/spices start with 1/4 of a teaspoon and go from there. Because we’re not using any ingredients that can kill you like raw eggs or meat, go ahead and taste as you go!
Nutritional Yeast (which will give it a more cheese like flavor)
Black pepper
Curry powder (works well with chickpea burgers)
Turmeric (use a very small amount – a few dashes will do) works great with chickpea burgers.
We know that we did not list every spice (our apologies to the fans of certain spices left out) but really any spice you like will do just fine – get creative! Italian burgers? Mexican burgers? Jamaican-jerk burgers? Whatever you can dream up!
5. Liquid: 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup start with a 1/4 and add as needed.
Low Sodium Vegetable broth
Liquid from cooked beans.
Non dairy unsweetened milk
For a different taste you can try 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree, mashed sweet potato or butternut squash puree. If you opt to add a puree you may need to use less liquid overall.
6. Flax
Ground flax seed – combine 2 tbs of ground flax seed with 3tbs of warm water. Set aside and let it gel a little.
Now to make your burgers.
Pre-heat oven to 350
Have a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper ready to go.
1. Put cooked beans in a big mixing bowl. Mash them up – however you get the job done is the right way, personally we just use our hands.
2. Add your starch. You will want to mix the starch and the bean really well – we also use our hands for this.
3. Add your vegetables (you can cook them first if you like, dice them first and then put them in a pan with a little water or low sodium vegetable broth and cook them till the are done, no need to add any oil)
4. Add spices
5. Add liquid
6. Add flax. (be sure to follow instructions).
7. Mix every thing – you can use a spoon, but we just use our hands, because it’s just easier that way.
8. Form patties (see you were going to have to use your hands anyway).
9. Put patties on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
10. Stick in oven for 15-20  minutes or until they are looking slightly crispy on the top. We generally like flipping them half way through.
11. Do a happy dance around your house while you are waiting for plant-strong burgers to cook. This step is absolutely necessary.
12. Take out, bask in your greatness for a minute.
13. Serve on a nice whole grain bun with all of your favorite burger accessories, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, tomato,hummus, ketchup, mustard, really just go wild. You can also serve it on a nice bed of leafy greens. Also, serve with baked sweet potato fries, it will make for an even happier experience.
This should make 4-5 decent sized burgers or 8-10 smaller burgers. You can freeze them as well.
*Tips: Too crumbly? Add more liquid. Too watery? Add more starch.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Raindrops on noses and whiskers on puppies

Friday nights don't get much better than this. First, it is raining! Yes, that wet stuff that falls from the sky that makes you get your umbrella out. For this precipitation lover, it has been one horribly dry winter in California. I'm such a rain freak, when they predict rain and it doesn't happen, I become extremely annoyed. And not that I want anyone's house to flood, but a small creek advisory gets me all a twitter. And a sea of green on Doppler? The perfect weather event, and keep it coming please.

What else makes this a great night?

  • A fire is lit and warming the house.
  • We're having a plant-based dinner of veggie burgers and hummus potato salad, yum!!
  • The Molly pup got a visit from her little buddy Elliot today.
  • My errands are done for the week.
  • I'm caught up on my writing projects.
  • I had a conversation in Romanian today and the listener didn't wince in linguistic pain.
  • My jeans are fitting better due to the Engine 2 Diet 28 Day Challenge.
  • It's supposed to rain for the next few days and not just be a fake-out sprinkle thing.
Spot, the Puppy Hat with Pizzazz

The best part of this week had to be dropping off Spot, the Puppy Hat for a friend's granddaughter. Ernst had mentioned to the baby's mother that I made hats, but I had no idea which color to go with and if a hat with a spotted dog theme would go over well. Along with my love of precipitation, I'm great at raining down self-doubt and second guessing my decisions. But I had no choice, I made the hat, it ended up small enough for a baby/toddler and so I just drove over there to deliver it. I was tickled to see what the little squirt was wearing on her feet! This really was a terrific week.

Spots all around!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weird and Wacky Waldorf Salad

Bananas? Really?
Often while clearing out papers and junk, I find cryptic notes that appear as if they were once a recipe of some sort. Usually jotted down in really bad handwriting on what is definitely not a recipe card, I often just say "oh well" and toss them away. Now that I screen shot everything on my ipad, these notes will become relics of the past.

While cleaning out a box of scribbled nothings, I came across this recipe. I know I copied it at work, because the paper is familiar. The thing that made me not say "oh well" and toss it was the fact that it called for bananas and carrots and celery and apples. The combination intrigued me, so I made it today. The combination is really tasty. The dressing is super yummy, it would be great on a normal fruit salad as well.

Creamy yet crunchy with a punch of lime
So for my first official day of the Engine 2 Diet Challenge, I present:

Weird and Wacky (and Wonderful) Waldorf Salad
(my changes included because I'm not crazy about too much dressing)

2 sliced bananas tossed with juice of one lime
1/2 sliced carrot (I put in two)
2 sliced apples (I used Opal apples from Trader Joes, a new variety)
1 stalk sliced celery (I used 3 small)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts

Combine and toss with dressing.

Mix in blender - 5-6 dates, juice from 1/2 a lemon and 2 Tablespoons water

It was/is delicious and just what I was looking for to up my veggie intake - a fresh and easy salad that welcomes the lengthening days. And I get it all to myself because Ernst hates bananas. It all comes from the perfect storm of childhood circumstances involving a hot day at the racetrack with his Dad, warm root beer and too many bananas. Since they are so un-a"peel"ing to him, that leaves more for me!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Revving up my motor for the Engine 2 28-Day Challenge

When someone asks about why we don't eat animal products, I give them the short version - first Ernst had a stroke which was followed by a heart attack. I don't bring my soap box out of the house and that's often the end of the discussion, but usually not after the "But where do you get your protein?" concerns. We're all doing the best we can with our life decisions, and conversations about diet at a party sort of fall like a ton of tofu. But if and when someone asks more about our diet, I often head them to the Engine 2 Diet website.

First, it's easy to remember. Second, it's a really great resource for following a plant-based diet. Third, it is run by this guy:

Rip Esselstyn seems to get enough protein.

With springtime here in Northern California coming early and the drought blues hitting me hard, I thought it would be a great time to take up the Engine 2 Diet 28-Day Challenge. It officially starts tomorrow, February 3rd. Why not on February 1st? That might be just too much to ask with all the Super Bowl parties happening today. So tomorrow it is. Whole Foods Market is participating in this month-long plant-based food-athon.

My goals for the month are to not view chips and hummus and dark chocolate as dinner. I need to take the time to think a few meals ahead and have some veggies ready to go so I have some good choices beyond soup waiting for me in the fridge. My friend Sara had a great idea last summer for me, when I lamented to her that while I love eating salads when I'm out, I dread making them at home. She gave me the idea for my Sara Salads - pre-chopped veggies that don't wilt quickly, all ready to go with just the lettuce and dressing to be added. Carrots, celery, jicama, fennel, bell peppers, green onions etc. in a big bowl or zip lock just sitting there in the fridge minding their own business. A few chops of Romaine, a few dumps of Sara Salad and there I have an instant meal. The chips can then fall where they may, or not at all.

I'll be blogging this month with recipes, cooking ideas, my trials at getting my exercise routine revamped and pictures of some of my salad and meal creations. Rev, rev, here I go!