I decided to start this post with an amazing photo and also a memory to go along with it…All because it would be a crime if I didn’t tell you why I decided to post this recipe for The Easy Vegan Blog Tour! Continue reading
|I absolutely LOVE this photo!|
As most of you guys know, bloggers in general don’t get paid in money to do what they do best. Instead, they get paid in freebies- or in my case cookbooks! Basically, most of my days consist of cooking my way through a cookbook or a couple cookbooks simultaneously. My husband doesn’t seem to mind as every day he gets to experience something new on his plate and as always, he loves to give me his input. This past month or so was no different except for this time, Chuck knew that if the recipe came from Chef AJ’s book, Unprocessed, he knew it was a guaranteed winner!
|Grab life by the kale!!!|
The best way to start is to go back to a couple years ago when my old vegan neighbor Meredith sought help and advice from a nutritionist. It was cool enough that she was vegan but then she told Chuck and I that her vegan friendly nutritionist told her to cut out the oils in her foods and she mentioned about sauteing food in water or stock…I was blown away!!! My first thought was “How dare you get rid of fat!” and “Fat is good for you as long as it’s a healthy fat, right?” Of course, back then I thought all vegans were healthy and for the most part, thin. Whenever I saw a fat vegan, I just figured they had bad genes or had a medical condition. What I now know is that Meredith was way ahead of me and probably most vegans who embrace this lifestyle. Veganism in general will without a doubt help you lose weight, but that alone is not the whole picture. Like with any eating lifestyle, you have to consider portions, calories, fats, etc. to really make this work in your best interest. One doctor on TV said it best that eating an orange is good for you, it’s just when you eat 500 oranges in one sitting is when you run into dietary trouble. The Engine 2 Diet book addresses this issue very well and Rip Esselstyn did a great job making this as easy as possible. Just look at the photo I posted above with Rip embracing those fruits and vegetables….Trust me, you will be hugging your produce good and tight well before your 28 Day Challenge is over 😉
I just want to break for a moment and mention that you do not have to be vegan in order to embark on the Engine 2 lifestyle. Those who took the 28 Day Challenge with me for the most part were not vegan. Some were all about the meat, oil and cheeses but wanted to see if this route was any better than the diet they were used to eating. It amazed me how every week when I attended the support meetings that their views on veganism became more and more positive. They no longer saw this as deprivation but saw this as an eye opener. Non-vegans aside….Even the current vegans got a wake up call as well in their own way. To further explain…I swear to everyone that vegans are the biggest foodies out there. Not even touching the subject of restaurants, whenever a new vegan product comes out, we will try it and if it’s really good (in most cases it is!), we will buy so much of it that we need an extra storage unit in our house to hold it all (my pantry alone is proof of this theory!). We will also tell our vegan friends who in turn, will do the same. Not all vegan food is created equal and most importantly, not all vegan food is necessarily healthy. There are the same obstacles we face that come in the form of white flour, sugar, added oils. Also, vegans have a way of showing extreme financial support to any company (or restaurant) that has made an honest effort in making our lives easier. Sounds all too familiar, huh??? During these weekly support meetings, it became apparent to everyone that the struggles were all the same, regardless of what you ate like before. We all had to lean on Kristen, our Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods, to make it through the 28 Days…Just luckily, Kristen always had healthy treats waiting for us every Wednesday evening and additional recipes to help us through the week 😉
To continue on to the Engine 2 Diet book, none of the claims Rip Esselstyn makes can really be disputed. Everything he mentions in the book has a very solid medical backing, courtesy of his whole family background of doctors, especially his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who has written a similar book a while back that is still being promoted by cardiologists to this date. Also I should add that Dr. Esselstyn was one of the driving forces that inspired former President Bill Clinton into a vegan lifestyle. Best of all, Rip is not pushing supplements or telling you to count points. In fact, his website gives you a good gist of his program along with posting a handful of recipes from the book. It’s pretty clear that he wasn’t out to get rich writing this book, he was trying to save lives. If there is one thing I would advise while reading his book is to be prepared to know a lot about Rip as a person as this at times came off as a personal book. At times while reading it, I could hear Rip’s voice narrating as my eyes were moving with each word. Now after taking this 28 Day Challenge, I am more mindful of what I add to my food…especially the oil. Right now as I am typing, I have a Vegan Moussaka in the oven that was an old favorite recipe of mine (I will post a recipe if it turns out well!) but I gave it a total overhaul. In my old recipe, I would put a generous one cup of olive oil total from start to finish…That’s of 1,920 calories and 224 grams of fat!!! So the dish is about roughly 6 servings so you are looking at an additional 320 calories and a little over 2 grams of fat per serving in oil alone….This may sound mild to some of you but just remember that there are other ingredients to consider that will make those numbers creep up in no time. Hopefully as you are reading this, those numbers concern you as much as it concerned me…And the healthy modifications are so simple and best of all, you are not going to miss the added oils- I promise you that!
So even though the 28 Day Challenge has came and gone, a lot of what Rip has taught me has stuck. He lives “Plant Strong” 100% of the time and I admire him for that. If you look at my household currently, I would say it’s safe to say that we are currently eating Engine 2 friendly meals about 85% of the time. Although everything we eat is vegan but I will admit, Chuck and I have indulged in a piece of non healthy sweets here and there. But at least now we are more aware and for whatever unhealthy recipe I have saved in my MacGourmet, I can come up with a couple good healthy modifications to make it better for your waistline 😉
So with all of this being said, I am happy I took the 28 Day Challenge and I definitely have Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville to thank, and most importantly, Kristen Rabourdin, their official Healthy Eating Specialist for making all of this happen (did I forget to mention those awesome treats she made for us during our meetings?). Now since you have been so patient about my review of Engine 2, I am pleased to post a VERY delicious recipe, courtesy of the lovely Kristen Rabourdin…This spread was a HUGE hit at one of our meetings and it would be a crime not to share it with you!!! This healthy dip reminds me of carrot cake and has a perfect sweet/salty ratio. My equipment of choice is to use a really, really, really good blender, like my trusty Vitamix (worth every penny!) or a decent food processor. If your pureeing equipment is subpar, you can always lightly steam the carrots beforehand….
|I am not the best photographer but I swear it is worth trying!!!|
|This delicious vegan Flag Cake also had vegan vanilla pudding and extra berries as filling!|
Last week while Chuck was off work, I feeling pretty distracted (especially on July 4th-hence this beautiful creation you see here!). Although we decided to stay home and not travel too far, it seemed like every day there was something to do. Luckily, I managed to get a few things out of the way and there’s only one thing I am still working on and that’s my article for T.O.F.U Magazine! C-ville Vegan had its first blog post on July 8th (and another on Monday!) and although I will admit in my recent post I might have come off as harsh but I felt it was rightfully so…I was lured to a restaurant with the intention of trying a popular vegan menu item that is still advertised on their website and upon my arrival, I was told otherwise and was given a substitution I could have gotten virtually anywhere in Charlottesville. All venting aside, yesterday was the last day of the 28 Day Challenge of the Engine 2 Diet. During these 28 days, there was a lot of information, recipes, meetings and feedback and I felt in order to give this review the justice it deserves, it was best done in two parts and what a better way than to start off than by talking about the food!!!
|French Toast using Ezekiel bread|
I want to first start off by admitting that breakfast was definitely a treat when the Engine 2 Diet was involved. The lesson I learned about breakfast while on the 28 Day Challenge was that very few cereal brands out there really do live up to their claims. Although I consider myself an expert at reading the label for vegan ingredients, I was blown away when I was reading the nutrition labels. I seriously have been in the dark when it came to the sugar content in most cereals! As a result, I have now leaned a bit to brand loyalty…Kashi, Nature’s Path, Ezekiel, Barbara’s Bakery, and Uncle Sam always seem to be the safest bets (just check for all vegan ingredients!). Cold cereals aside, the French Toast and Breakfast Tacos were really good (and easy!). I also baked a batch of Mighty Muffins but I do believe that the portions were a bit off as I wound up making 18 muffins versus the 6 that was mentioned as the serving amount (another E2 participant mentioned the same issue)…consider yourself warned 😉 Not everyone (including me!) can cook a hot breakfast but the one thing I was inspired to do during these 28 days was to freeze my Mighty Muffins and Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes in advance so during the week if I was not in the mood for cereal then I had something in the freezer that I could give a zap in the microwave and have a hot breakfast in a snap.
Now as far as lunch/dinner recipes go in the book, some were hit or miss…The best recipes in this category were the Black Beans and Rice, which reminded Chuck and I of a Burrito Bowl at Chipotle (but better!) and the Sloppy Joes, where the recipe was a dead ringer for a Manwich! The Mexican Lime Soup was fantastic as well and definitely deserves honorable mention. Most people I spoke to loved the Lynn’s Meatloaf recipe but it couldn’t hold a flame to the recipe I use. However I converted Lynn’s Meatloaf into stuffed peppers and it was even better…So much better that my meat and potato eating (but open to vegan food) inlaws loved it 🙂 Also, the Sweet Potato and Vegetable Lasagna was definitely worth the hype but it’s definitely not a meal that will be on your table in 30 minutes or less. There was a lot of prepwork in that recipe but the end result was worth it.
As far as the not-so-great recipes go, the Red Beans and Kale over Quinoa was just too weird tasting (and you had to mash the beans quite a bit to thicken the sauce) and the Mac and Not Cheese was not a meal I could pass off as a vegan “Macaroni and Cheese” (now if you want a great Mac n’ Cheese recipe that works well with the omnis, just click here). The Shepherd’s Pie recipe was decent but yet again, I have a recipe (that I will blog in the VERY near future) that I normally make as care packages for my friends who fall ill or the new moms in my church who need a good meal that requires no fuss and tastes great. Rip’s version of Shepherd’s Pie was passable but my version is easier and can be made “E2 approved” with only a couple minor modifications that no one would ever notice. Then there’s the Red Curry Vegetables over Brown Rice that was just plain gross 🙁 That’s saying a lot since I rarely turn down anything with curry…
Then there were snacks and desserts…The Healthy Hummus was pretty good. It wasn’t as creamy as conventional hummus but it was definitely worthy of spreading it on a sandwich or dipping your pita pieces into. If there was one recipe worth trying but it would make anyone cringe at the name, that prize would go to Kale Butter. It looked like green slop but it was the best green slop I have ever had!!! I was spreading this on crackers and if I was making a sandwich, I could definitely see myself using this as a condiment. When I posted on Facebook that I was making Kale Butter…you wouldn’t believe the comments I got as a result!!! But most of my friends know that although I am vegan, I am all about good food and food that I can pass off to my non-vegan friends so I have a feeling that one of them gave the recipe a shot all because of my endorsement 😉 Moving onto sweets…I really LOVED the brownies!!! I was a bit taken by how much applesauce it called for but you would have never known once you had a taste of this chocolatey confection! It also went great with the (super easy and better for you) Banana Ice Cream that was not mentioned in his book…needless to say, Chuck and I loved our E2 brownie sundaes 🙂 In the cookies category of the Engine 2 Diet book, hands down- the Oatmeal Cookie was far better than the Chocolate Chip. The Chocolate Chip cookie reminded me too much of a mini cake or a scone than an actual cookie but the Oatmeal Cookie was perfection. Also I made the Blueberry Dumpster Fire Cobbler which I mentioned in a past post that was great once I modified the recipe.
Now I know I am throwing a lot of recipes out there and a lot of reviews but during my 28 Day Challenge I was cooking a lot from the Engine 2 Diet book and it would have been nearly impossible to post each recipe individually on this blog. Even in blogs like Julie/Julia, Julie could only blog one meal at a time and here I am making roughly on average of three Engine 2 Diet meals a day…I must say I am quite the overachiever 😉 The next book I am cooking my way through, Sweetness Without Sugar, it should be easier to post individually (with more photos!) as I am only focusing on sweets in comparison to “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks”. The next part of this review will be my overall take of the Engine 2 Diet book and living the Engine 2 lifestyle. But if you would like to try some of the recipes yourself, the Engine 2 Diet website has posted a few for you to try so you can see for yourself. That should keep you busy until my next post…