BUT, if we give change a chance, if we can get out of our comfort zone just a little bit and give ourselves time to readjust, what was once unfamiliar will eventually become familiar. This applies to all aspects of life, not just food, so keep it in mind next time you find yourself making comparisons between the known and the unknown or feeling hesitant about trying something new.
Anyway, since it has been quite a while since I’ve had my mom’s taco salad and I knew I wouldn’t have the attachment to its familiarity that I would have had years ago, I decided to give a vegan version of this recipe a go. Instead of ground chicken, I used ground tempeh, and I added corn in lieu of the shredded cheddar cheese she would sometimes add. Everything else was the exact same.
Well, I was totally impressed with how it turned out! I’ll just be blunt: it was spectacular. The ground tempeh was absolutely delicious. Which makes sense because, after all, I applied the exact same seasonings as she would with ground chicken. And as I always say, humans don’t crave the taste of plain flesh; we crave the seasonings, and those seasonings are plant-based! I really liked the corn, too. I had added it mostly for color but it provided pops of delicious sweetness that went really well with all the lime juice and the salsa. I probably make this once a week because now it is so tasty. And just like before, my stomach seems to hold serving after serving after serving. Thank goodness!
“Things just don’t happen by accident.”
This is a common saying in our house. It refers to my love of planning. Everyone in my life makes fun of me for this, but you know what? They all benefit from my planning. Planning is how things get done. Planning is how you make sure you have the best experience possible. Planning is how you make sure you get what you want. Like I said, things just don’t happen by accident. You need to plan them out!
Now, I know you’re thinking, “jeez, Kate. Just relax. Just go with the flow. Just let life happen, man.” Well, all I can say to that is “no, thank you.” Because you know what? A lot of life IS going to happen. There is going to be a whole lot that will fall out of my control. And to that I completely surrender. I’m not out there trying to schedule the weather. But just because there are things that we can’t control doesn’t mean we are powerless. I plan because I want to ENJOY life. I don’t want to waste my time doing things like getting lost or overpaying, which are exactly the kinds of things that usually happen when we don’t plan.
The same goes for food. Everyone complains that eating healthfully is so time-consuming. Nuh-uh! Eating healthfully when you *don’t plan* is time-consuming. But when you do plan, it’s really not. Sure, cooking at home may not always be as quick getting fast food (though you’ll see that this recipe can be), but it’s very doable and it’s way less time-consuming than getting a chronic disease and spending all your time at the doctor’s. If there’s one thing that’s time-consuming, it’s sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.
So, if you don’t want your time to be consumed either by going to the grocery every night and then making a healthful dinner or by sitting in the doctor’s waiting room reading a bunch of People magazines, then there is one solution and one solution only, and that is to plan. Learn to love it, folks. Learn to love it. (Actually, it can be a lot of fun if you get into it. Seriously!)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1-15 oz can of pinto beans (1 1/2 cups)
1-15 oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1-15 oz can of corn
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
dash of cayenne
6 burrito-size tortillas (whole wheat, brown rice, or sprouted grain)
1 can pureed sweet potatoes
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Add the onions, garlic, and pepper into a medium skillet with a little bit of water and saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Stir in the pinto beans. Then add the fire-roasted tomatoes and corn, and cook until heated through.
4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chili powder, cumin, mustard, tamari and cayenne.
5. Place the tortillas into the oven for 2-3 minutes to soften (or stick them in the microwave).
6. Lay the tortillas out on a flat surface. Divide the sweet potato puree evenly among the tortillas, placing them in the half closest to you. Then place the bean mixture on top of the sweet potatoes, and roll.
7. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve as is or with salsa.
We all know that beans make a great dip or a great chili, but did you know they also make a great snack?
You really could us apply this recipe to any type of bean but I think soybeans are just the perfect size and, frankly, this recipe really hits the spot so I’m not too inclined to mess with it.
Many roasted bean recipes will say olive oil is necessary to get the spices to stick onto the beans, but I find they spices stick just fine if the beans are wet, so I just add the spices right after I rinse the beans. This recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon salt, which, if you are snacking with others, is pretty moderate but you are certainly free to use less or omit it entirely if you are on a low-sodium diet.
Soybeans are incredibly nutritious. In fact, according to a recent research analysis, if Americans replaced their meat and dairy intake with soy, they would increase they intake of calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, folate and fiber. But despite the plethora of scientific evidence about the health benefits of soy, there is still a lot of misinformation that continues to get passed around. I have heard some pretty extreme claims, everything from “I avoid soy because it causes dementia” to “Soy causes breast cancer” to “I don’t let my son have soy because it will turn him into a girl.” We’ve all heard claims like this, or perhaps we’ve even been the one doing the speaking. When we absorb or pass on these claims we are buying into and perpetuating a multimillion dollar anti-soy campaign sponsored by the meat and dairy industry.
So here are some important myths about soy I wanted to debunk right off the bat to put your mind at ease.
Myth: “Soy causes dementia.”
Reality: Soy does not cause dementia; in fact, it improves cognition. This myth seemed to originate from a study in which researchers found that tofu had harmful cognitive effects on people in Indonesia. However, the same was not true for tempeh, which is a more concentrated source of soy, so clearly soy itself was not the problem but something that was being added to the tofu. Well, guess what they use a preservative for tofu in Indonesia? Formaldedye! Yep, the same flammable human carcinogen that’s used to make home industrial products. So next time someone tells you soy causes dementia, set the record straight and say that formaldedye might but soy certainly does not.
Myth: “Soy causes breast cancer.”
Reality: This myth stems from the belief that soy has estrogen, and higher levels of estrogen have been linked to breast cancer. But soy doesn’t even have estrogen! It has something called phytoestrogen, but this is not estrogen. Estrogen is a sex hormone that is found in all animals (including humans). Soy, in fact, is actually protective against breast cancer. It has been shown to reduce both the recurrence of and the risk of death from breast cancer.
Myth: “Soy gives men “man boobs.”
Reality: Again, this probably stems from the confusion between estrogen and phytoestrogen. Soy has been shown to have no effect on a man’s testosterone levels or circulating estrogen levels whatsoever. Also, if you are concerned about getting too much estrogen from soy but are still drinking breast milk from a 1,500 lb cow, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Cows, like humans, only produce breast milk after giving birth. The demand for dairy means that a cow is essentially always pregnant so that she will always be producing milk. So those who consume dairy are consuming the milk from pregnant cows, which have a whole lot of estrogen. In fact, people who consume meat and dairy have significantly higher levels of estrogen in their blood. Definitely check out this study which examined what happens to men’s hormone levels within in just one hour of consuming dairy (hint: their estrogen levels went up and their testosterone levels went down!).
Myth: “All soy is GMO so it’s poison.” (I’ve actually heard this one verbatim.)
Reality: First of all, the largest consumer of GMO soy is farmed animals. In her article, “A Vegan Doctor Addresses Soy Myths and Misinformation”, Holly Wilson, M.D. explains that this GMO soy “does not just magically evaporate in the slaughterhouse or milk processing plant. It ends up on your plate.” Secondly, numerous brands of non-GMO tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and soy beans can be found in your grocery store labeled clearly on the package. These include Silk, Morinaga, and many others (see a comprehensive list here).
For more information debunking the misinformation about soy, read “Being Vegan and Eating Soy: Myths, Truths, and Everything In Between” by Christa Novelli M.P.H.
So please, let yourself relax about soy and enjoy this delicious and healthful snack without a worry in the world. These crunchy and crispy little beans are so much fun to pop into your mouth. Be warned: they are quite addictive!
2 cans of soybeans, drained and rinsed.
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the spices with the soybeans until evenly coated.
2. Spread the soybeans in one layer onto a tinfoil-lined baking sheet.
3. Roast the soybeans for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes so they cook evenly.
I am so excited to share my third video series with everyone! I chose to focus the series entirely on beans. Why? Because I believe beans address a number of concerns and misconceptions people have about adopting a plant-based diet.
Misconception: “I won’t get enough protein.”
Reality: Beans are a fantastic source of protein. Just one cup of cooked soybeans has 29 grams of protein, one cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams, and 1 cup of cooked black beans has 15 grams. Adult men need about 56 grams of protein per day and adult women need about 46 grams per day. If you make beans a regular part of your diet it would be difficult not to meet these requirements. After all, if you are consuming enough calories, it is almost impossible to be protein deficient. (Note: Not only do most people consume much more protein than they need, they actually consume more protein than is safe. See here.)
Reality: What could possibly be heartier and more filling than beans? Beans are rich in fiber which means they will satisfy hunger and keep you feeling full for hours. (The soluble fiber in beans also helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.)
Reality: Do you know how many things you can make with beans? This series barely skims the surface of the options. You can make everything from casseroles to salads to burritos to curries to jambalayas and more. You can even make brownies and blondies from beans! Beans are featured in distinct ways in cuisines all across the globe. Plus, there are many different kinds of beans, from lentils to chickpeas to kidney beans and beyond, each with their own distinct flavors and textures.
Misconception: “It’s too expensive.”
Reality: Nothing is cheaper than beans. If you can afford anything, you can afford beans.
Misconception: “I don’t have time to cook.”
Reality: If you have time to get out your can opener, then you have enough time. All you need to do is open the cans, dump the beans into a bowl, and season. That’s it. If you are feeling extra fancy, you can even heat the beans. Voila! Dinner is served. It would probably take you longer to order and pay for a meal at a drive-thru. (See my recipe for “Incredibly Easy Pumpkin Chili”)
Misconception: “I don’t know how to cook.”
Reality: If you are able to use a can opener, you have what it takes. See above.
Misconception: “I don’t have access to ‘specialty vegan food’ where I live.”
Reality: One of the great things about beans is that they are accessible in all parts of the country, rural and urban alike. They are sold at every grocery store, quickie mart, and even at many gas stations.
Misconception: “I won’t get enough calcium.”
Reality: Beans are loaded with calcium! Although the dairy industry would like people to believe that cow’s milk is the only source of calcium, this simply isn’t true. (And, in fact, the higher a country’s consumption of cow’s milk, the higher their rate of osteoporosis.) Beans also contain magnesium, which the body uses along with calcium to build bones. Physicians Comittee for Responsible Medicine has a useful chart of the calcium and magnesium content in many beans here. In a recent study, researchers found that those who consumed more high-phytate foods (i.e. beans) had stronger bones. The researchers conclude that dietary phytate had protective effects against osteoporosis and that low phytate consumption should be considered an osteoporosis risk factor. (For more information on this study, see here.)
Misconception: “I’m gluten-free/allergic to soy so a plant-based diet would be too restrictive.”
Reality: Beans are gluten-free and there are many other types of beans besides soybeans. Also, see “There’s not enough variety.”
Misconception: “There are too many carbs in a plant-based diet.”
Reality: There is a lot of misinformation out surrounding carbohydrates. Be smarter than the urban myths and don’t get sucked in! Recently, researchers at Harvard looked at the diets of 100,000 people and found that low-carb diets were associated with higher all-cause mortality, higher cardiovascular disease mortality, and higher cancer mortality. True, muffins and donuts and cookies are carbohydrates and if you load up on those it’s quite possible you will gain weight, your blood sugar will spike, etc. However, there is a world of difference between refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates, and beans are complex carbohydrates. To avoid complex carbohydrates because they technically fall under the same food group as refined carbohydrates is just silly. It would be like refusing to travel on an airplane because you are against war and in wars they use jet planes.
Beans are truly one of the healthiest foods on the planet and anyone who cares about their health ought to make them a regular part of their diet. A recent international study found that there is an 8% reduction in risk of death for every two tablespoons of daily legume intake. An 8% reduction from just two tablespoons! So, to paraphrase Dr. Michael Gregor of NutritionFacts.org, if you want to increase your lifespan, eat beans. If, however, you’re suicidal and want to decrease your lifespan, enjoy a bean-free diet.
So, in conclusion, when the little voice of doubt creeps into your head, just remember: BEANS. They are health-promoting, filling, protein-rich, fiber-rich, calcium-rich, versatile, simple, cheap, accessible and delicious… what’s not to love?
All the recipes in this series will be gluten-free, oil-free, and as always, 100% plant-based.
For those concerned about gas, know that a) studies have shown that this concern is largely overblown (ahem, excuse the pun) and that b) if you eat beans on a regular basis, your body adjusts and gas stops being an issue. I highly recommend reading this entertaining and informative article by Dr. Michael Gregor of NutritionFacts.org. Also see my past post on how to soak dried beans as soaking beans can ease digestion.
Check out these short but informative videos on the health-promoting benefits of beans:
Increased Lifespan from Beans
Beans, Beans Good for Your Heart
Beans and the Second Meal Effect
Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis
* If you have ever heard that plant proteins need to be combined in specific ways order to be “complete,” rest assured that is an outdated nutritional theory from the 1950’s that is nothing more than a myth.
People often complain that they don’t have time to make dinner every night. Well, guess what? I don’t make dinner every night! That’s right. And yet we never get take out, rarely dine out, and my husband always has a packed lunch to take to work.
How is this possible? Ladies and gentlemen, let me give you a life-saving tip: Make dishes in large enough portions that they will cover the next few days’ meals and/or can be frozen and eaten at another time. That, my friends, is how you can eat healthfully every night without having to spend all your time slaving away in the kitchen. It’s that simple!
This quiche is a perfect example of a dish that will last for multiple meals. Plus, it’s one of those special dishes that can be enjoyed at any time of day. I love preparing it for dinner and then enjoying it again the next day for breakfast and packing it up for my husband for lunch for the next few days. Because both the crust and the filling contain herbs, each bite is wonderfully aromatic and richly flavorful. Enjoy!
2 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 packages firm silken tofu
1/4 cup coconut milk (or any other nondairy milk)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 teaspoons of your favorite herbs (i.e. basil, thyme, sage, oregano, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, and rosemary. Add the water and stir until fully combined.
2. Gently press the dough evenly against the bottom and sides of a pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until the crust looks dry and just toasted.
1. Slice the tofu and wrap in a few layers of paper towels to drain out the excess moisture. Set aside.
2. Saute the onions and mushrooms in balsamic vinegar until the onions are caramelized, about 10 minutes.
3. In a food processor or blender, mix the tofu, nutritional yeast, nondairy milk, and herbs till smooth.
4. Combine the tofu mixture with the sauteed mushrooms and onions and stir till fully mixed.
5. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove and let cool.
Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes? They are the candy of the vegetable kingdom. And that means they are a wonderful ingredient to put in smoothies!
Athletes and body builders ought to take note. Sweet potatoes are an incredibly rich source of carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that aid with muscle cell recovery and help promote muscle growth. This sweet potato puree smoothie makes an ideal post-workout recovery drink. I also think it’s great for breakfast, and even dessert! Watch and enjoy 🙂
Sweet Potato Puree Smoothie — powered by ehow
I recently finished filming an online video series, “Delicious Veggie Dishes,” for eHow. There are 11 videos total, and in each one I cook up a delicious, healthful and easy recipe. I am so excited to share them! The entire series is now up on eHow, but I will be posting each video here one-by-one with some additional nutrition information.
In the video below, I demonstrate how to saute spinach without adding the unnecessary calories and fat of butter or oil. Lest anyone think I am fat averse, notice that I top the spinach with pine nuts. This is because pine nuts are a whole food. In their whole state, high-fat plant foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives provide us with numerous health benefits. However, when we consume only the oils of these foods, most of these benefits are lost, leaving us with just pure artery-clogging fat and calories. Fortunately, swapping out butter or oil is quite easy, as you’ll see.
I hope you’ll find watching these videos helpful and inspiring. Please feel free to leave feedback, ask questions, and share with others!
Tell someone you’re vegan and without fail, the first question is, “Where do you get your protein?” Our culture is SO obsessed with getting enough protein, but this is the last thing Americans should be worried about. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007-2008, the average American man consumes 101.9 grams of protein per day and the average American woman consumes 70.1 grams of protein per day. This is almost double the recommended daily allowance!
The technical term for protein deficiency is Kwashiorkor. There is a reason Kwashiorkor is not a household name. It is because protein deficiency is virtually NON-EXISTENT in America. It exists in countries where people experience extreme poverty and famine. What does exist in America, however, are diseases of excess. The following diseases and conditions are caused by TOO MUCH protein intake and, unfortunately, they are household names that we all know well:
In 2007, the National Cancer Institute revealed that meats, particularly red meats and processed meats such as deli cold cuts, increased the risk of many types of cancers. Lung, liver, esophageal, prostate, bone, bladder and colorectal cancers all increased for people with diets high in protein. According to the 12-year study by the National Cancer Institute, consuming large amounts of protein significantly increases your risk of getting cancer.
Bone loss, also called osteoporosis, happens when calcium is taken from the bones to help carry out bodily functions. Calcium is needed to process proteins, and if there is not enough calcium present in the body, it is taken from the bones. When calcium is removed from the bones, bones lose density; excess protein intake can lead to a 1% decrease in bone mass per year, which can quickly lead to severe osteoporosis. Side effects of osteoporosis include brittle bones that break easily and loss of teeth.
Kidney Damage Normal kidneys work to remove excess wastes from the body. Proteins create byproducts, such as uric acid, that needs to be eliminated from the body. When excessive amounts of protein are consumed, more byproducts need to be excreted from the body through the kidneys. Overworked kidneys can lead to irreversible, permanent kidney damage.
Severe Constipation Bowels utilize fiber to carry out excretion. Diets extremely high in protein generally have little-to-no room for carbohydrates and fibrous foods, such as grains, nuts and seeds. Cutting these foods out completely or eating very small amounts can be very dangerous and could lead to severe constipation and blockages in the bowels. While not immediately dangerous, severe blockages can cause anal fissures, hemorrhoids, impaction, obesity and suppressed immune system.
Weight Gain Your body is simply not capable of storing extra protein that comes from your diet. If you consume an excess of calories and protein, you will convert the unused protein into fat stores.
A personal side-note: I recently completed a course on nutrition and disease-prevention in which I had to keep a food diary and calculate my daily protein consumption. Much to my surprise, I learned I was consuming a lot more protein than I need, over 80 grams per day! This is without any protein supplements whatsoever, just pure whole foods– vegetables, beans, fruit, grains, and seeds. I’m tall for a woman and do cardio and lift weights 5 days per week, so I have a higher than average caloric intake, but 80 grams was still way more than I was expecting to be taking in. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. There’s protein in practically everything I eat, even in foods that I don’t think of as “protein rich.” Sure, I knew there was protein in my hummus because of the chickpeas, but I didn’t really give much thought to the protein in the carrots that I dip in my hummus. Or the dressing I put on my salad. Or the greens I put in my smoothie. Over the course of a day, this really adds up.
So instead of being obsessed with protein-deficiency, let’s worry about something that is actually plaguing our nation, like heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, or our deficiency in vegetable consumption.
Further reading & listening: