For a while now there has been a running joke with my friends that I may be a closeted vegetarian because of just how many vegan and vegetarian recipes I make on a regular basis. And I admit it… YES I LIKE MY VEGETABLES…most of the time. Ha! But, this has been a gradual process not some overnight freak occurrence.
When I first started becoming a more health conscious eater… of course vegetables had to be on that list. I began with what I called “Wednesday Mend” day. It was easier for me to alter my whole diet mid week than the “meatless Monday” thing everyone else was doing at the time. Before I knew it I started to add in an occasional Sunday or Friday to the bunch. After a while I had a litany of vegetable centered dishes to choose from. Fast forward a few years and Voila now I don’t even think about whether the dish has meat or not.
This evolution in my cooking is now a great resource to draw from when I get FB messages asking for help like the one that sparked this episode. A few weeks ago my friend Shari in Ohio said she was going to do a month long dietary switch-aroo. She was going to try the Engine 2 diet for 30 days. From the information she provided I realized it was a simple Vegan meal plan. However, I quickly learned this diet is even more strict than the regular vegan eating plan because it also severely limits oils and fats… but more on that later.
For those who don’t know, people who subscribe to a Vegan diet don’t consume any animal products. So if it came from an animal it’s out. No butter. No eggs. No Honey. No meat, fowl, or fish, etc. Roots, vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, carbs, and legumes are all fair game. It’s pretty simple that way. But there are a million and one permutations between being a meat eater and Vegan. In my life I try to be a flexitarian. I go back and forth between meat centered and veggie centered meals with ease. It makes my life the simplest. But, I have learned a few things along the way that herbivore and carnivores alike can love.
Two of my favorite multitasking recipes are Carrot Miso Sauce and Carrot Tahini Sauce… or you could be bold and smush them together. Basically it’s the same simple recipe except one calls for Miso paste and the other for Tahini (sesame seed paste). I *ahem* appropriated *ahem* these recipes from two of my favorite restaurants in NYC. One is an asian fusion restaurant and the other is a Kooky dinner with a mosh pit of foods. Either way the ingredients are easy to find and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Carrots, Onions, Shallot, Garlic, Vinegar (rice wine and/or apple cider), Mirin (optional), splash of lemon, soy sauce, Miso paste (carrot miso) or Tahini (carrot tahini..yeah I know) or you can put BOTH of these in for a whole new fun creation, but I do add a little sesame oil to the carrot miso so I sort of cheat anyway.
The best part of this recipe is that it is done in less than ten minutes…even faster if you have your mise en place ready to go. Basically this recipe simply calls for a blender and fine cheese grater (low tech) or a food processor with grater attachment. You could also use a hand mixer or immersion blender. But, that’s basically it for appliances. Please note if you are allergic to tofu then the tahini version is your best bet of the two OR you can simply add a light tasting oil like grape seed to this recipe.
As for the Engine 2 diet. I don’t know a terrible large amount about it…not more then I found via google. It sounds like a great way to jump start a major overhaul of a your health. It appears the main focus is on cardiovascular health and getting blood pressure under control. It seems to advocate a lot of carbs however, which gives me some pause. (but again I don’t know the ins and outs of it). I think the biggest trap I have seen people fall into when moving into vegetarian and vegan diets is the abuse of carbohydrates. Slow digesting carbs and things full of fiber will help maintain healthy blood sugar, keep the digestive track happy, and promotes heart health. However, the low fiber carbs can send your body into havoc the same if you’re a vegetarian, vegan or not. So finding carbs low on the glycemic index is a good idea or subbing for seeds and grains that mimic them. I personally just stick to things like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat pastas, etc. Another trap for vegetarians and Vegans is not getting enough protein and vit Bs in your diet. Many vegetables contain protein, as do seeds, legumes, nuts, and tofu. Mushrooms are great for adding Bs to your life especially Crimini mushrooms.
All in all if you are going to make major changes to your diet you should consult your doctor. There are certain minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that are not as readily available in non-meat products. You should just be aware of your own medical needs and be prepared with a list of suitable substitutes to replace say Iron, Bs, protein, etc.
So if you’re like Shari and going full on vegan or just wanting to eat more greens try these two simple recipes to zest up your veggies. It can be thinned out with water to make a lite salad dressing…or keep it thick to put over veggies or even as a sauce over some Quinoa. Tonight I am making a quinoa and broccoli side dish with a heaping of this sauce and enjoying a big steak. Yep I am. So meat or no meat…this a great little sauce to perk up your taste buds. I hope you enjoy.
2 Small, peeled carrots
4 TBS Mirin (optional)
4 TBS Regular Japanese rice vinegar or Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Sesame oil or 2 table spoon sesame seeds
2 TBS Soy sauce
2 TBS Fresh, grated ginger OR 3 TBS ginger powder
6 oz Silken tofu (this is the VERY soft kind)
1/4 C Tahini
1 Small red onion
2 TBS Lemon juice
1/4 tsp Sugar (add last only if too acidic)
6-10 Clove of garlic
Puree all ingredients in a Food processor until smooth. Serve over rice, tofu and your favorite vegetables.
Ginger: Potassium, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, B6. Ginger is mostly known for it’s ability to calm gastrointestinal distress, but it is also possesses antioxidants, immune system booster, and anti-inflammatory effects. Many studies have found that phytonutrients within ginger offers some anticancer benefits especially for ovarian and colorectal cancers.
Carrots: Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Dietary Fiber, Potassium, Vitamin B6, B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), Manganese, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Magnesium, and Folate. Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds, and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots’ antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision. Carotenoids are linked with lowering certain cancers including breast, lung and colon cancer, useful in regulating blood sugar, and reducing the risk of heart disease. If you or someone you love is a smoker, or if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, then making vitamin A-rich foods, such as carrots, part of your healthy way of eating may save your life, suggests research conducted at Kansas State University. Molybdenum is a trace mineral. It is a component of several important interactions that lead to detoxification of the liver. Molybdenum is involved in breaking down certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and the production of waste products for excretion in the urine. It is involved in the chemical reactions that form bone, cartilage and blood.
Sesame Seeds: Copper, Manganese, Amino Acid (Tryptophan), Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc, Vitamin B1, and Dietary Fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage. Copper is known for its use in reducing pain and swelling, which is particularly helpful for Rheumatoid Arthritis, as it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Magnesium has been shown to beneficial in preventing airway spasms in asthma, Lowering Blood Pressure, helpful for people with migraines headaches, and menopausal insomnia.
Onions: Chromium, Vitamin C, Dietary Fiber, Manganese, Molybdenum, Vitamin B6, folate, Potassium, Phosphorus, quercitin and Copper. This multifaceted food is found in so many recipes for it’s distinct flavor but is often overlooked for its many healthy properties. Onions are very rich in chromium, a trace mineral that helps cells respond to insulin and lowering blood sugar. Chromium levels are depleted by the consumption refined sugars and white flour products as well as the lack of exercise. One cup of raw onion contains over 20% of the Daily Value for this important trace mineral. B6, Chromium and sulfur in onions also helps to lower high blood pressure and high Cholesterol. Onions like garlic has been shown to support gastrointestinal health, and contain anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.
Garlic: Manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Selenium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Vitamin B1,Copper, and Protein. Garlic has many great properties, but is known for its Anti-Inflammatory, Antibacterial and Antiviral Activity, Cardiovascular health, and potential reduction in certain forms of cancer.
Tofu: Tryptophan, Iron, Manganese, Protein, Omega 3,Selenium, Copper, Phosphorus, Calcium, Magnesium. Soy products are great for promoting heart health with it’s Omega 3 fatty Acids. Selenium is needed for the proper function of the antioxidant system, which works to reduce the levels of damaging free radicals in the body. Selenium is a necessary cofactor of one of the body’s most important internally produced antioxidants, glutathione peroxidase, and also works with vitamin E in numerous vital antioxidant systems throughout the body.
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