When I shifted to a low-carbohydrate regimen, I was at a loss at what to eat for breakfast. How was I to replace baked oatmeal bars, mini-wheats, and ahhh! pancakes?!? I tried a number of things. I like tofu scramble, but it’s time consuming to make. I made coconut flour pancakes and, well, hated those. I tried a few breakfast cake recipes but wasn’t crazy about them either. I kept coming back to nuts as my go-to breakfast.
I never had Shepherd’s Pie until I found it in a vegetarian cookbook I got in college, but I instantly fell in love with it. When I got The Peaceful Palate at the only vegetarian conference I’ve ever attended, it was a spiral-bound book, printed up in 1992. I was happy to see that, though it’s now out of print, it did get published in 1996 and some copies are still floating around .
The rule of thumb for making any recipe is to follow the instructions the first time then tweak it the next time. As I’ve mentioned in other recipe posts, I often start with one recipe and end up with something entirely different. Jennifer Raymond’s recipes are the stark exception. Everything I’ve made from her cookbook was really good, just as it was, maybe needing a hot boost, at most. So I was really bummed when I moved to a low-carbohydrate regimen and abandoned potatoes. I’ve made a few other changes to this recipe to help adapt, but it’s still a great combination.
Every once in a while I have That Kind of Day, one of those days where I want to eat everything in sight, spend a lot of time distracted by food, and find myself thinking about recipes I haven’t made in a while, wanting to drop everything I’m doing to immediately make them. Monday was one of those days for me. I was disappointed when I looked at the week’s menu only to find there was no way I could fit in three more entrées I really wanted to have.
Even though I baked a dinner dessert (Berry Crumble; recipe forthcoming someday) and a lunch dessert (Almond Joy Bars; ditto), and made a batch of Peanut Butter Cup Bars the previous day I wanted to make cookies. I also wanted to make pimento cheese spread. And goulash. And ratatouille. And Thai curry soup. Everything sounded so good. What got into me?!?
I love fresh artichokes, but they’re kind of labor-intensive and hit-or-miss off the produce shelf. I hate canned and jarred artichokes. I hate the citric acid additive that gives them a sort chemical-lemony flavor. The compromise: Frozen artichoke hearts. I discovered these a few years ago and swear by them. They are convenient and easy to prepare; so much so that I eat them once or twice a week.
A few years ago, I also discovered a dairy-free Parmesan cheese that didn’t taste like chalk powder. I found it online at a place I sometimes get hard-to-find veggie stuff, but they no longer carry it. I liked it so much that I decided to replicate it by following the ingredient list on the package. It didn’t take long to get the ratios right and I’ve been making it for the last few years. Even though it means lugging out the food processor, it worked out well because it costs a whole lot less to make it myself than to buy the 4 oz. containers. Since I mentioned this veg parm in some other recipes I posted (like Spinach Fettuccine Pasta and Baked Ziti), I didn’t think it would be fair, yet again, to list it but not include the recipe.
By now, it’s evident that I love chocolate and that I’m also a big fan of peanut butter. Naturally, one of my favorite treats is peanut butter cups. When I went trick-or-treating as a kid, the first thing I looked for in my Halloween bag was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. That was the main score, for me, especially if they were full-size cups.
As I mentioned in the post that gave my blog its name, until my lifestyle change, I could not be trusted to be around a bag of peanut butter cups. No matter how much I wanted to eat responsibly, I just couldn’t quit at a reasonable serving. Along with potato chips, I just couldn’t keep them in the house. When I caved, I made certain to buy single serving packages, otherwise they would have been my undoing.
Last week finally started to feel a bit like autumn and I was delighted to find pie pumpkins in stock and on sale at 4 for $5 at the store. What a steal! Pie pumpkins are different than those big ones that end up on carved people’s porches because they’re sweeter and less fibrous. I always feel like fresh pumpkin this special treat because I can only get it in season, unlike in parts of the world where it’s a staple food. And rightly so: It’s an excellent source of beta carotene and other nutrients, it’s low-calorie, high-fiber, and it’s even got protein.
Unlike sweet potatoes or butternut squash, pumpkin has far fewer carbohydrates (25 less than sweet potatoes; 8 less than butternut squash) and sugars (11 less and 4 less, respectively) for the same serving sizes. Calorie for calorie, it’s a much better nutritional deal. And it’s sad, because pumpkin is excellent for so much more than just baked goods or pumpkin spice latte (which–though I don’t know firsthand–I’m pretty sure is all about the spices and not about pumpkin flavor).
Before embarking on my lifestyle change, I had been conditioned that desserts were reserved as an occasional treat, maybe when we went out to eat (which was far less common when I was growing up), to end a holiday meal, or for a special celebration. As I got older, I doubly felt that desserts were mostly off-limits since I needed to lose weight. It was very unusual for me that the food program I chose included yogurt with lunch and dinner and an evening dessert choice. Along with eating breakfast and beginning dinner with a salad, incorporating sweet treats each day was probably one of the biggest reasons I was able to stick to my lifestyle change.
When I opted to follow a vegan regimen, I lost the low-fat yogurt option (though maybe that’s available now?). As I transitioned away from sugar and processed foods, I had to get more creative with that sweet ending I came to enjoy. One of my favorite lunch desserts is the peanut butter cups I make (okay, bars, because they take far less time to make). Sometimes I make haystacks (pecans, coconut, and chocolate with a dash of rum extract) or almond joy bars (all of which I’ll someday post- or let me know if someday is too far off).
It’s cliché, but it’s true. It’s a rare occasion when I find veggies or fruit rotting in the depths of the produce drawer. But when I do…the forgotten zucchini, the lonely lemon, the too bitter to salvage kale, the ravaged romaine…I feel like I’ve failed: the sad veggies, the planet, my pocketbook. My only redemption is that we compost, so the animals that graze in the heap get lucky(ish).
There are a few reasons why I’m good about using what I buy before it goes off. I hate grocery shopping, but I feel like I’ve entered the Garden of Eden when I walk into the produce section. Have I mentioned how much I love, love, love veggies?!?
I have wanted to post this recipe kale sauté that I make for some time. As I finally got around to it, it got me thinking about the origin of the term “superfood”, since kale is billed as such, so I did a bit of digging. What I found was that the term started to gain popularity in the 2000s, but from where? Wikipedia doesn’t pinpoint the origin of the word or how it came into popular use to describe the fad that elevates some foods to superstar status for their amazing properties. And there’s no academic research to be found on superfoods prior to the start of the 21st century, though since that time, there have been almost 2,500 publications about superfoods. Maybe it was turn of the century that made people think more about how to boost their health that started this revolution? At any rate, the term took us by force and is here to stay, along with a lot of misinformation about the foods bestowed with the title.
What are Superfoods?
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods. They are typically associated with being rich in flavonoids like beta carotene and lycopene (which are phytonutrients containing antioxidants that fight cell deterioration), particular vitamins or minerals (like vitamin K, magnesium), and higher concentrations of healthy fats (like omega-3 fatty acids). The great thing about foods accorded with superfood status is that they are real foods, and almost all of them, including flax seed, pomegranates, avocados, quinoa, and kale, are plants.
One morning last spring I was in Whole Foods and happened to see a clam shell with shredded salad. What intrigued me most was that one of the ingredients was Brussels sprouts. If you’ve come across one of the very first recipes I posted, The Amazing Brussels Sprout, you know of my passion for these tiny cabbages. What piqued my interest was that it never occurred to me to eat raw Brussels before I discovered this ‘Detox Salad’, as the label read. What makes it a detoxifier? Beats me, but I bought it.
The time was running a bit late and I knew my spouse, Michael, was having leftovers for lunch, so I thought about what I could quickly throw into this salad mix to round it out as a lunch for me. I ended up liking it so much, and it was so different than the salads I usually eat, that I started making the Detox Salad mix at home. This makes the dogs very happy because they LOVE cabbage hearts, the ends and leaves, that fall off of the Brussels, and carrot ends and peels. (They don’t share my passion for raw beets, but they love them roasted!)