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My Nutritarian Diary: Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Part 2

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I have a feeling that writing out these tips on how to eat more fruits and vegetables in our diets have benefited me more than you, since I followed my own advice this week! There were a couple meals that I purposely added frozen green beans to (after they were microwaved, of course) to pump up my veggie intake. I also ate several large salads this week, as well as increased the amount of veggies I used in a pasta salad of mine.

So as much as for me as for you, listed below are 10 more tiny inspirations to help you eat more fruits and vegetables every day. These are in addition to the 10 I wrote up in last week’s blog.

1. When needing a quick meal, cook up a rice noodle soup bowl, and load it with at least a cup or two of any variety of frozen veggies.

2. If you eat a lot of healthy frozen meals for lunch, add another cup (or two) of frozen vegetables to microwave with the meal.

3. Add about ¼ cup of Grapenuts or similar cereal (with five or fewer ingredients) to your cut up cantaloupe for an excellent sweet and crunchy snack (or dessert).

4. Replace chips or crackers with raw carrots and/or apple slices for a side to your sandwich, veggie burger, etc.

5. Find a low-fat, bean dip recipe you love and make it once a week to use as a dip for raw vegetables. (This Tuscan White Bean Dip is a great recipe to try.)

6. Use applesauce or spotted bananas instead of oil in your baking. (See Banana-Chocolate Chip Scones.)

7. Eat fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. This maximizes the nutritional benefits you receive from eating healthy.

8. Shop for fruits and veggies every 3-5 days or so, to keep your produce fresh and to help make sure what you are buying doesn’t spoil.

9. Clean and cut up your fresh vegetables when you come home from the store to ensure you will add them to your meals. (I do this for, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, for example, and this makes cooking with them or adding them to salads quick and accessible.) The same for fruit. Rinse fruit like cherries and grapes right away and place them in a container in the fridge so that you have quick access to eating them.

10. Cook around two vegetable-heavy meals a week (this could be a vegetable chili or soup, a spaghetti squash pasta dish, etc.) that have a lot of leftovers, so you don’t burn out in the kitchen. Soon you will build a repertoire of several recipes to keep your family healthy and satisfied. There are lots of books available in our local libraries that can help you discover meals that are easy for you to make and that taste great. And of course, peruse “My Nutritarian Diary” recipes to see if one of these dishes could be one of the ones you want to try.

See also: My Nutritarian Diary: Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Part 1

My Nutritarian Diary: Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Part 1

Nutritarian HeaderAs a returned Peace Corps volunteer and an occasional world traveler (emphasis on occasional), I am very much aware of the blessings I have in America in the abundance of food choices I have every day. When I examine just the amount of produce I can choose from in any grocery store, I am in awe of my blessings here and just how easy it is to have access to foods that nourish my body in all seasons. I am tremendously thankful for the bounty of food I experience in America, and I think eating healthy can be one way I show my gratitude.

Another way I can show my gratitude is to pass along to you some tips on how to increase your own intake of fruits and vegetables.

Most of us have no trouble eating grains, protein sources, healthy fat, and so on. But what most of us don’t eat enough of are our fruits and vegetables, and what we are probably lacking most in our diets are vegetables.

We are learning more and more in the media that these foods are so very good for us, and not only do they have the ability to keep us healthy, they also have the ability to make us healthier. Also, the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the less room we’ll have for the junk food that is hurting us.

So, listed below are 10 tips I’ve learned on my plant-based eating journey about how to eat more fruits and vegetables. Next week, I’ll provide you with 10 more! If you have any suggestions, let me know them in the comments below, and you may be mentioned in next week’s post.

Photo by Liz West, Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Liz West, Wikimedia Commons

  1. Try to eat one pound of raw veggies and one pound of cooked veggies a day (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). This will ensure you receive the diversity of nutrients that come only when the vegetable is eaten raw and only when it is eaten cooked. Just for guidance four to five raw carrots weighs a pound and often store-bought, frozen vegetables are sold in pound-sized packages.
  1. Try to eat one large salad a day topped with a healthy low-fat or non-fat dressing (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). And by large, I mean at least four to six ounces of greens. That amount would probably fit the size of a medium bag of popcorn you get at a theater. Top your chosen salad greens with more veggies, about a cup of a legume or combination of legumes of your choice (flavored tofu, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, or other beans), and a tablespoon or two of raw nuts.
  1. Experiment with cooked veggies (and yes, they can be cold!) as a topping for your salad.
  1. Try to eat three pieces of fruit a day. And one of those fruits should be a banana. They are amazingly good for you and help your mood.
    1. Don’t discount smoothies that are full of veggies and fruit as part of your plan to eat more fruits and veggies. But don’t rest totally on smoothies to try and take in more fruits and veggies either. (See my Super Easy Blended Salad.)
Photo by Ionutzmovie, Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Ionutzmovie, Wikimedia Commons

  1. Don’t get weighed down by buying the “perfect” food item. There are some rules that may be non-negotiable for your family, but try and keep them simple and try not to have too many. Buying organic can be expensive, especially when the produce you are buying isn’t in season locally. So, if your family likes cherries, and the organic ones are just too cost prohibitive at this time, buy the non-organic and enjoy them—after a diligent rinsing, of course.
  1. Don’t use any sweeteners to sweeten your oatmeal/morning cereal. Instead, use raisins or other dried fruit, frozen berries (I prefer blueberries!), sweet apples, cut in cubes, or any other sweet fruit. That way you’re not only sweetening your breakfast, but you’re adding more fiber and nutrition to your meal, as well as working toward your fruit requirement.
  1. Have a dessert salad for your after-dinner sweet tooth. My favorite is lettuce topped with granny smith apple slices, drizzled lightly with a sweet, no-fat dressing.
  1. When making a pasta salad, halve the amount of pasta the recipe calls for and double the veggies. (And raw zucchini is an amazing added vegetable to almost any pasta salad.) (This tip could be applied to my Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad recipe.)
  1. Don’t be afraid of corn or peas. I know they get a bad rap as “starchy” vegetables, but they are better to eat than no vegetables at all. Besides, these sweeter veggies may be easier for kids to enjoy as you transition them to eating more vegetables.

My Nutritarian Diary: Vegan Eggplant Meatballs

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In my opinion, great plant-based recipes taste great, are nutritious, and feature vegetables prominently. Well, this Vegan Eggplant Meatballs recipe does that and more. One of the things I like most about these little guys is that they can be eaten in a variety of ways.

These “meatballs” are great served hot out of the oven on noodles (zucchini, wheat, or gluten free) and topped with a homemade veggie marinara sauce. They would make an excellent warmed appetizer dipped in your favorite store-bought, plant-based spaghetti sauce. And as leftovers, they taste excellent cold served on top of a large salad.

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So whatever your eating style or mood, these eggplant delights are an excellent treat!

And if you decide to eat the leftovers on a plate of lettuce, why not whip up some of Dreena Burton’s “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette to go with it.

Or if you are in the mood for another delicious eggplant-centric meal, I recommend giving my Baked Eggplant Spaghetti recipe a try!

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Vegan Eggplant Meatballs
(Slighty adapted from skinnytaste.com, which slightly adapted it from Mark Bittman’s VB6 Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:
• ¼ cup (or more) of low sodium vegetable broth, for sautéing
• 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubed pieces
• 1 teaspoon (or to taste) sea salt, mixed
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic (or more depending on taste)
• 1 cup cooked white beans (or drained and rinsed canned beans)
• ¼ cup fresh parsley (or a ¼ cup mix of fresh parsley, fresh oregano, etc.)
• 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs or panko
• ¼ cup of nutritional yeast, optional
• pinch of red chili flakes, optional

DIRECTIONS:
“Heat the oven to 375°. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray [or line sheet with parchment paper].

Place [vegetable broth] in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant …. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. [Add more vegetable broth if necessary to keep from sticking.] Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

Add [more vegetable broth] to the skillet with the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add to the food processor along with the drained beans and parsley [or other fresh seasoning blend] and pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed.

Combine the mixture with the breadcrumbs, [nutritional yeast if using] and red chili flakes if using. Taste for salt then roll into 12 meatballs, about 2-inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and browned, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the marinara sauce and serve with the meatballs over pasta, zucchini noodles or on a whole wheat roll” (skinnytaste.com).

My Nutritarian Diary: Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad

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Sometimes simple is best. Sometimes ingredients that don’t call for a lot of work, are just what the weary cook needs. And sometimes a great, wholesome meal can include foods that are somewhat processed. I am still a huge advocate of not buying processed food, and if I do, I want to make sure it has the fewest ingredients possible. But from time to time, I need the added assistance of something already made.

That is definitely the case with this salad. I had a couple of Trader Joe’s items I thought would mix well with fresh veggies and pasta, and in about the time it took to cook the pasta, I had a wonderful pasta salad with flavors that delighted my palate.

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The two ingredients I totally recommend not changing for this salad are the Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar and the Savory-Flavored Organic Baked Tofu (pictured above).

However, use the rest of the recipe below as a guide and adjust where your inner chef takes you.

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Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS:
• 10-12 ounces whole wheat spiral pasta
• 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 medium zucchini, chopped (about 2 cups)
• 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
• 4 green onions, diced (about ⅓ to ½ cup)
• 7 ounces Trader Joe’s organic, savory-seasoned and baked tofu, cut into small cubes
• ¼ cup fresh basil, finely diced
• 1-2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely diced
• 1-2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely diced
• ⅓ cup to ½ cup Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar, or another Italian dressing of your choice
• Salt and pepper, to taste, optional*
• Salad greens to plate, optional

*The savory-flavored tofu along with the dressing was sufficient seasoning for me, so I did not add salt or pepper to mine.

DIRECTIONS:
Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, combine the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, green bell pepper, green onions, baked tofu, basil, parsley, and oregano in a large bowl. Toss together. Add cooked pasta and dressing and toss to combine. Taste and adjust amount of dressing and add salt and/or pepper if needed. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow seasonings to get more defined. Serve on a plate of greens, if using.

My Nutritarian Diary: Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo”

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This Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo” is a wonderful recipe for a few reasons. First, it’s absolutely delicious. The sun-dried tomato flavoring gives this sauce one of the best flavors I’ve tasted since going mostly plant-based in my eating.

Second, it’s so easy to make! I mean the only thing you have to “cook” is the pasta. Really, that’s it. Isn’t that great?

Third, this “alfredo” is better for you than its fat-laden (and yes, I’ll add delicious!) cousins. Using lite silken tofu and cashews helps provide the creamy texture that wonderfully coats the pasta. Cashews are a great alternative to using heavy dairy creams in recipes, and the tofu makes the sauce go further.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and you have a dish that packs a nutritional punch of fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and more! And the artichoke hearts are worth a mention, too. They are full of health benefits including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol, and possessing a high amount of the antioxidant vitamin C.

So, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think!

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Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo”
(Adapted from Tosca Reno’s “Penne with No-Cook Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Cream, Artichoke Hearts and Basil” recipe in The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook.)

INGREDIENTS:
• 12-16 ounces of pasta of your choice (I used 12-ounces of tri-colored penne pasta)
• 1 (12.3 ounce) package firm lite silken tofu, drained, at room temperature
• ½ cup raw unsalted cashews
• ½ cup hot water
• 1 cup rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil), drained
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 2 tablespoons chopped basil
• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (or more, to taste)
• 1 (12 ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
• ¼ teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
“Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and cook the pasta according to package directions until ‘al dente’. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Do not rinse the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

In a blender (or food processor), blend the tofu, cashews and hot water until very smooth. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, [nutritional yeast], salt and pepper, and blend until combined, but you can still see little chunks of tomatoes. Pour over the pasta, add the artichoke hearts, and toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta cooking liquid a bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency” (Tosca Reno).

MY NOTES:
The original recipe called for one tablespoon of chopped marjoram, which I didn’t have on hand. Also, I added nutritional yeast to my version for more of a “cheesy” flavor. And Tosca’s name for this recipe was just entirely too long for my blog post title, so that is why I’ve renamed it.

My Nutritarian Diary: “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette

Magical No-oil vin HeaderThis week marked the first week of #wellnesswednesday on our station’s Facebook page, and I talked a little about why I have chosen to go oil-free or nearly oil-free in my eating, which is contrary to a lot of what we read about oils in the media. While various oils may have some health benefits, they are high in calories and are actually a processed food, with no fiber, which means the “bang” for the nutritional “buck” is not there for many of us (some individuals and some illnesses are better served by high-fat diets, so I don’t mean to discount oils’ benefits for them).

I remember reading the no-oil theory for the first time in Pamela Popper’s book, Food Over Medicine: A Conversation That Could Save Your Life, and I thought, no … that can’t be. Everywhere I read, authorities say oil is good for you. Really, I shouldn’t eat oil? I have my doubts here, but okay, I’ll gave that theory a whirl. And what do you know, there was a great benefit to me, not only in shedding some extra weight (about 10 pounds!), but also in the knowledge that I’m taking another step away from my dependence on processed and fatty foods.

So, over the last several months, I have chosen to go oil free in my dressings, my sautéing, and in most of my baking. That’s not to say I don’t eat fat. I do! But the fats I eat are from whole food plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, and avocadoes. And I do so in small amounts every day.

What better way to sum up that theme than to provide you with a magnificent no-oil vinaigrette I found on the web this week, Dreena Burton’s “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette.

And if you haven’t liked our Facebook page, yet, you should! Every Wednesday, we celebrate #wellnesswednesday, where many of our posts are focused on better health, and where every Friday, I post a link to a new My Nutritarian Diary blog post.

SaladwithMagicalDressing“Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette
(From Dreena Burton’s “Plant-Powered Kitchen” Blog)

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon mild miso (ex: brown rice miso)*
  • ¾ – 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ tablespoon pure maple syrup (or more to sweeten to taste if desired)
  • ¼ teaspoon (rounded) sea salt (or more to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

*I used a light soy miso that I purchased at a local Asian grocery store.

DIRECTIONS
“Using an immersion blender and deep cup (if using a blender, you may need to double the batch for enough blending volume), combine all ingredients, whizzing through until very smooth. Taste, and if you’d like a little sweeter add another teaspoon or so of maple syrup. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as well. If you’d like a thinner dressing, simply add a couple of teaspoons of water and blend through again” (Dreena Burton).

My Nutritarian Diary: Lebenese Spinach Triangles

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These Lebanese Spinach Triangles are the next best thing to pizza in my book, and boy, do I need an alternative to pizza for when that craving hits my family. Every week or two, I’ll commit to spending several minutes mining one of my cookbooks for recipes I want to make in the coming days, and this was one of those recipes. It lifted itself off the page and said to me, “Make me.” Last night, I obeyed that command, and it did not disappoint.

Many studies show that dark, leafy greens are one of the most (if not the most) nutrient dense foods we can eat. Joel Fuhrman, who I quote often on this blog, says in his Eat to Live Cookbook that “Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, win the nutrient density prize. The concentration of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants per calorie in vegetables is the highest, by far, of any food.” Spinach also has a high amount of calcium, but because of it also having a substance called oxalate in it, spinach’s calcium is less available for absorption in our bodies. However, cooking spinach removes this substance and increases the amount of calcium and other minerals available to our bodies.

Prior to making this, I had recently watched a cooking show on PBS and witnessed the awesome technique of squeezing cooked, frozen spinach dry by putting it a thin kitchen towel and using that towel to squeeze it dry. That technique worked well for these lovelies as they were dry and not dripping with spinach juices when finished cooking.

This combination of ethnic flavoring, pizza dough covering, and green, leafy vegetable nutrient providing makes these little guys one of my favorite discoveries on my nutritarian journey so far.

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Lebanese Spinach Triangles
(Slightly adapted from The Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook by Tosca Reno.)

INGREDIENTS:
• ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
• 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained with all the water squeezed out*
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
• 1 teaspoon dried parsley
• 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• ½ teaspoon sea salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pound store-bought whole wheat raw pizza dough, cut into 10 equal portions

*To make sure the spinach is as dray as possible, you can squeeze it in some cheesecloth (or a thin kitchen drying towel) or press it in a colander.

DIRECTIONS:
Place rack in lower third of oven, and preheat to 425 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet and set aside.

Heat a little water in a skillet on medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent but not brown, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Add drained spinach, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, parsley, lemon pepper, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

Roll out each portion of the dough into a ball, and then using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a 5-inch circle. Place about 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling in the middle of the dough. Bring 3 edges up and pinch them together at the top, and then continue pinching the edges together, making a triangle, until the pie is sealed. Place the spinach triangle on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the rest of the dough balls and spinach filling. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from oven and serve.

MY NOTES:
The lemon pepper and smoked paprika seasoning was Tosca Reno’s method of making the Middle Eastern spice sumac. Of course, if you have sumac on hand, you would just use 2 teaspoons of that spice and omit both the lemon pepper and smoked paprika from the above ingredients.

My Nutritarian Diary: Tuscan White Bean Dip

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We all know we are supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. Even the United States Department of Agriculture recommends a significant portion of both on its now three-year-old MyPlate nutritional info graphic.

However, most of us, including me prior to going mostly plant-based in my own eating, actually eat a very small portion of fruits and vegetables as part of our daily diet. Our consumption probably looks something like this: a small cup of juice during breakfast, maybe an apple as part of lunch, and a side salad with our dinner. Instead, we get calories from less than desirable sources and we suffer as a result. We not only deplete our bodies of its nutrients, we don’t even replenish them.

In the plant-based community, there are many suggestions as to how to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption. There are also many ideas about what a plant-based diet should look like.1 But all agree. We should eat more fruits and vegetables and we should all start now.

The best advice I’ve read so far, for myself, has been Joel Fuhrman’s suggestion to try and eat at least one pound of raw vegetables and one pound of cooked vegetables daily, as well as try to eat three fresh fruits a day.

That is not as easy as it may seem, which is why I wanted to give you a recipe this week that will help assist you in eating vegetables—the incredibly healthy and nutrient dense Tuscan White Bean Dip, from Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Cookbook.

1For an excellent comparison of different plant-based diet philosophy’s, I recommend Dr. John McDougall’s August 2012 McDougall Newsletter article, “The Diet Wars: The Time for Unification is Now.” The comparison chart is on the second page of this link. (Accessed online: 6-6-14)

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Tuscan White Bean Dip
(Adapted from Eat to Live Cookbook by Joel Fuhrman / with low-sodium references removed)

INGREDIENTS:
• 1½ cups cooked great northern beans or 1 (15-ounce) can of great northern beans, drained
• ¼ cup pine nuts (I used cashews)
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• seasonings, to taste (could be a no-salt seasoning blend or other seasoning blend of your choice)
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon fresh, minced rosemary
• ¼ cup rehydrated dried tomatoes, minced

Makes 2½ cups.

DIRECTIONS:
“Place all ingredients, except the dried tomatoes, in a high-powered blender or food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings to taste. Stir in the dried tomatoes. Chill for 1 hour before serving” (Fuhrman).

MY NOTES:
Fuhrman says to soak the dried tomatoes in lukewarm water until soft (about 1 to 2 hours). I rehydrated mine with boiling water for 10-15 minutes. His way probably leaves more nutrients in the tomatoes, but I didn’t have that time. I also added some of the tomato soaking water in my dip to help achieve my desired consistency.

My Nutritarian Diary: Fruity Quinoa Salad

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For today’s post, I decided to throw out into the world-wide web my very own recipe: Fruity Quinoa Salad. I haven’t done that yet on my blog, mainly because I still feel like a novice when it comes to making plant-based food. I love reading recipes and gleaning new ideas. I love making them and eating them, too, sometimes even adapting them to my own tastes. But to create a recipe from scratch? How do I know when it’s ready for the public? Does it taste good? Will people like it? Am I missing a key ingredient? And the worrisome questions go on and on.

But today, I stopped the questions and began a different dialogue. This Fruity Quinoa Salad may not be perfect. But it is beautiful-looking and very delicious. I, personally, love the way the Kalamata olives compliment the overall fruity taste of the salad (my husband does not and is why I made them optional), and I think you can add the raisins or not, depending on how sweet you want the salad to taste. And if you’re not entirely plant-based in your eating, I think a ¼ cup of feta cheese mixed in would taste absolutely delicious.

What I did do on purpose for me was keep this recipe oil free. But even that is flexible and up to you.

In the end, what this recipe lacks in absolutes, it certainly does not lack in flavor, flexibility, and health.

So, if you are feeling adventurous, why not give it a try!

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Fruity Quinoa Salad

SALAD INGREDIENTS:
• 1½ cups cooked tri-colored quinoa
• 1 cup Granny Smith apples, chopped in ½-inch cubes*
• ½ cup dried apricots, finely diced
• ⅓ cup toasted almond slivers
• ¼ cup raisins, optional
• ⅓ cup Greek Kalamata olives, chopped, optional
• salad greens for plating

*Lightly coat cubes with fresh squeezed lemon juice (or other preferred method) to prevent browning.

DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
• 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon grade B maple syrup*
• Up to 1 tablespoon of water (in case dressing needs to be diluted to your taste)

*Grade B maple syrup has more healthful minerals than its Grade A variety and is why I use it.

DIRECTIONS:
Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine the treated Granny Smith apple cubes, apricots, almonds, raisins (if using), and Greek Kalamata olives (if using). Add the quinoa and mix all the ingredients together.

In another small bowl, whisk together the Balsamic vinegar, mustard, ground ginger, and maple syrup. Taste, and dilute with a little water if necessary.

Poor dressing over the quinoa mix and coat evenly. Adjust seasonings to your desired taste.

Put salad greens on plates and top with the Fruity Quinoa Salad. And enjoy!

My Nutritarian Diary: Spaghetti Squash Primavera

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Something happened this week along my way to writing this blog post that I have to share with you. I had my annual physical and received some wonderful results in my blood work. As of this week, my total cholesterol was 162 (six years ago, it was 199 with a lot of dietary effort—but still eating chicken, eggs, cheese, and dairy) and my LDL was 107 (down from 146 six years ago).

As a little background, I went to an excellent nutritionist around the time of these higher cholesterol numbers. He helped me lose weight and get my cholesterol numbers in check (but still in a highish range). I learned a lot from him and was inspired to keep learning about nutrition. But over the last several years, my total cholesterol numbers have remained around 200, with and without dietary effort.

Six months ago, I was convinced that going mostly plant-based in my eating habits was the right path for me. And this week’s blood work results prove to me that I was correct. While my health is the main focus of this dietary change, an added bonus was that I have also lost about 10 pounds.

Don’t get me wrong, I still eat an occasional pizza or another indulgent meal or dessert, but those are treats now and not my way of life. I also know I need to add more exercise into my life, as well as lose about 10 or so more pounds. Perfection is not the goal for me, though. Improvement is. And this week’s encouragement did not come from the scale but from the results of my blood work.

We all have different aha moments when it comes to changes we should make in our lives. My hope for you is that with this little insight into my story, you may be inspired to make changes that will make you not only healthier, but feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This wonderful recipe below is a great start toward that goal!

As shown in this image above, Spaghetti Squash Primavera can be served in a variety of ways.

As shown in this image above, Spaghetti Squash Primavera can be served in a variety of ways.

Spaghetti Squash Primavera
(From Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Cookbook. Alterations I made are in italics below. I also removed the low-salt references that were in the original.)

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 medium spaghetti squash
• 1 ½ carrots, diagonally sliced
• ½ cup diagonally sliced celery
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (I added 1 more)
• 1 ½ cups shredded cabbage
• 1 small zucchini, chopped into small pieces
• 1 ½ cups cooked pinto beans or 1 (15-ounce) can of pinto beans (I used chickpeas)
• 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes (I used a can of organic diced tomatoes)
• ⅓ cup vegetable broth
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used a little over 1 teaspoon of dried parsley)
• 1 cup pasta sauce
Salt, to taste
• Nutritarian “Parmesan”

DIRECTIONS:
“Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place both halves upside down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, cook carrots and celery in 2 tablespoons of water (or vegetable broth) in a covered pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little more water (or vegetable broth) if needed. Add garlic, cabbage, and zucchini and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients, except for pasta sauce and ‘Parmesan’. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

When squash is done, remove from oven and using a fork, scrape spaghetti-like strands from squash into a bowl. Add pasta sauce and combine by mixing thoroughly.

Mix the vegetables, beans and herbs with the squash/pasta sauce mixture and serve on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce, if desired, or place back in the hollowed out squash bowls.

Sprinkle with nutritarian ‘Parmesan’ (recipe below)” (Joel Fuhrman).

Fuhrman’s nutritarian “Parmesan” is ½ cup nuts (pine, almonds, or cashews) and ½ cup nutritional yeast ground in a food processor. It stores in an airtight container in refrigerator indefinitely.

MY NOTES:
This meal is so versatile. You can eat it warmed in a bowl by itself. You can lightly heat it and serve it over a bed of lettuce with a ¼ cup of your favorite vegan sausage. Or you can eat it cold. Because the recipe uses squash “noodles” instead of pasta, they never bloat, which means it keeps well in the refrigerator.