Even if you're only trying one plant-based meal a day or one a week, you will do your health and your planet a world of good! So for those who are curious and exploring, I thought I would give you the benefit of our 3 full weeks of insights and a couple of meal ideas!
Our first week…
We were overwhelmed. Like everyone else, we weren't sure exactly what we would be eating once we removed meat, (including poultry and fish,) and dairy (including additives like Cassein) and eggs. True plant-based adherents also minimize or eliminate added oils, sugars, bleached flour, and processed foods. But let's take this a step at a time.
Because we didn't know what we were doing that first week, we ate fruits and vegetables, cooked and raw, with a daily dose of Bob's Red Mill 10-Grain Hot Cereal as a bonus. But by week two we were really exploring and expanding and experimenting. I love that cooking together has added a new layer to our relationship, too!
The recipe in the first photo was the best one we've made so far. I would add more tomotoes for a saucier mixture, but the corn bread (which does call for 1 tbsp of sugar) was sheer perfection. I felt the corn bread batter came out a little thin, so I added a bit more corn meal to thicken it up. First, you make the bean and veggies, bake them well, then add the corn bread batter on top, like dumplings. Bake a little more and voila! The detailed recipe is over at the Forks Over Knives site, and also on their recipe app.
Things we never knew we always needed…
We found there were things we never knew we were going to need, even some basic kitchen equipment. I've never been a very ambitious cook. That, however, has changed entirely. So we needed a new garlic press, an herb grinder, a food processor, a crock pot, and I'm even craving a stand mixer now. Also, we are going to need lots more leftover containers, and a couple of casserole dishes.
I was very surprised by my own changes. I really thought I would follow the scientific course of limiting animal proteins to 5% of daily caloric intake. So at first I thought, that's fine. A slice of cheese, an egg, an ounce of meat. I can do that. But after only a few days plant based, the notion of eating an egg or a piece of meat no longer appealed at all. My body felt so good, so clean, so fresh, so new, I just didn't want to dirty it up again.
I dropped 7 lbs in about 3 weeks. I have more energy than ever. My mind is clear and sharp. I'm ambitious. I can barely force myself to sit for hours on end like I used to. I find I have to get up and do some things around the house every 90 minutes or so, or else I'm all twitchy. I've lost my sugar cravings, my carb cravings, even my coffee cravings. I'm not yet off coffee. It is plant-based, after all. I'm drinking it black now, but finding tea has a better taste to it, once all the creamers and sugars are no longer masking the flavor.
We cleaned out the fridge, freezers (yes, both of them) and all the cupboards. We refilled them with our new staples, and we think it will help you if you start out with your cupboards and fridge stocked with the stuff from our list.
- Breads, bagels, pizza crust, etc. by brands like Rudy's, Ezekiel, or Udi's. All animal-product-free.
- Canned black beans, white beans, chili beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, BEANS!
- Cans and cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes
- Canned fruits – excellent grab & go treats, as long as they are in their own juice with no added sugars
- Unsweetened applesauce.
- Piles and piles of fresh, raw vegetables. Lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, beets.
- Piles and piles of fresh, raw fruits. Apples, oranges, peaches, pears, bananas, grapes, star fruit, passion fruit, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, just everything!
- Whole grain pastas
- Brown rice
- Oat flour, rice flour, almond flour
- Agave syrup, Maple syrup, stevia
- Almond or oat milk, unsweetened
- Agar powder
- Nutritional Yeast Flakes (sprinkle on top of foods or use in recipes for a cheese flavor.)
- Spices and herbs, both dried and fresh. Sea salt. Peppercorns. Smoked Paprika.
- Dried beans, split peas, lentils
- Whole grain hot cereals, and granola if you have red the label with care.
- Nuts and seeds
If you have these to start off with, you'll have a great start. We did a whole week with nothing but the raw fruits and veggies and of course, good old Bob's Red Mill.
It's a tough thing if you don't have access to a grocery store with a produce section, or even better, a farm store, like the ones where I live, where they bring in produce year round. They aren't fancy, rich-people shops, they're where the locals shop. They're where the farmers sell us their stuff. It's nice. I wish everyone had such a place within driving distance.
Here's an easy plant-based meal we tried on Superbowl Sunday, homemade pizzas and chili cheese fries. We also had an entirely plant based birthday cake. (My birthday was the day before.) As a result, we overate on Superbowl Sunday, proving that it can still be done. 😬
Homemade Plant-Based Pizzas
We made individual pizzas using Udi's brand pizza crust. We topped them with tomato sauce we'd made ourselves and seasoned to perfection, and then we each chose our own veggies. Peppers, onions, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms. We used Full Circle brand meatless sausage and topped it all with a handful of Full Circle brand dairy-free mozzarella. Easy peasy.
Chili cheese fries: Full Recipe at Forks Over Knives
We had leftover chili from the day before, which made these chili cheese fries even easier. Just peel and cut the potatoes and cook them in a steamer until they are tender but still nice and firm. Drain, cool, pat dry, and layer them in a baking dish, setting a cup or so aside. Bake the potatoes at 400 for 25 minutes or longer until they start to get a little bit crispy on the outsides. Then top them with chili and the cheese sauce, which is made from the extra potatoes, mashed up with almond milk, lemon juice, garlic, and some nutritional yeast. Can you believe it? As I said, full recipe with proportions and all at the FOK site, but this one can be done without measuring.
Start slow and easy.
We didn't eliminate oils or sugars entirely right off the bat, but we cut way back and we're experimenting with ways of cooking without oil. So far, what I'm getting out of that is very sticky, hard-to-clean pots and pans. But you know, you live and learn. I might yet be convinced. For now, I'm still using just a little bit of oil here and there. So I'm using extra virgin olive oil which I think might be the healthiest kind. Or better said, the least harmful king. (Gosh, that makes me want to not use it at all.)
These are just a few ides to help get you started. You don't have to immediately go out and buy tofu and avocados, I swear. My very favorite “recipe” is the one I'm making today depicted above with instructions. You just throw every veggie in sight into the crock pot with some seasonings and crank it up. I used curry and cajun for this batch. The veggies included potatoes, carrots, onions, spinach, celery, black beans, fresh garlic, lentils, split green peas, split yellow peas, pearled barley, brown rice, and tiny bits of pasta. I poured in a carton of vegetable broth and it's been simmering in the crock pot all day. We'll be enjoying that for days!
Make it fun!
I hope you have some fun experimenting with some of these ideas. Stop by the comments section and let me know how you are taking charge of your healthy in this remarkable new year