Processing the Awesomeness that is Unprocessed…

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!
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24 Hours in Virginia Beach (and Norfolk!)…

This is how I felt while looking for vegan friendly restaurants to share with all of you!

So maybe I have been slacking slightly with posting, but it is all with good reason.  Seems like out of nowhere, my husband decided to use some more paid leave and along with it, we started going places again like before Raegan was born.  Since this was her first overnight trip out of the comforts of her crib, we were on edge on how she was going to react, hence why we decided to only spend one night at the beach.  Along with the stress of the baby, there was also a HUGE question as to where to go to find vegan friendly food.  For those of you who know me and my family, we L-O-V-E to eat our way through every town/city/destination/etc. but this time we were working on limited time and from what little I saw on the internet, limited resources 🙁  Overall, our end result was perfect and I like to think we used those 24 hours to our best advantage and I am happy to share with all of you my food voyage….
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The Engine 2 Diet Review part 2…The Lifestyle!!!

Grab life by the kale!!!
Before I start, it’s been an exciting week (if you are a foodie) in my household…We finally discovered Spaghetti Squash and had a chance to try the Beefless Burger from Gardein, currently my favorite mock meat people!   That will be in my next blog so make sure you stick around!!!  I am now on Twitter and also have a Fan Page on Facebook so there are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your favorite vegan housewife 🙂  Also, in even more exciting news, I finally sent off my finished article to T.O.F.U. Magazine and hopefully soon I can share with all of you what I wrote about once the new issue comes out.  Now without any further delay….Here’s my take on the Engine 2 Lifestyle.  And since this review was split in two parts, I am also enclosing a recipe that is definitely worth trying 🙂

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….

Carrot Cashew Spread
3 carrots, chopped (no need to peel just a good, gentle scrub)
1 cup of raw cashew pieces, divided (Kristen used 1/2 raw and 1/2 roasted…I only had raw at my house so I just added a pinch of salt to taste)
15 dried apricots, cut into quarters (approx 1/2 cup)
Blend and add carrot juice or water as needed until you reach desired consistency (think hummus!).  Serve with whole grain crackers or bread (especially any that qualify for Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here line)
I am not the best photographer but I swear it is worth trying!!!

Bon Appetit!!!