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My Nutritarian Diary: Sunny Bean Burgers and Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread

Bean Burger Header2This last weekend, I did not want to cook. At all. I was so desperate for something quick and something that tasted “junk-food” yummy, but I wasn’t desperate enough to cave into the full monty by going to a fast food restaurant.

I practiced some restraint and settled for store-bought, low-fat, vegan Boca Burgers and some Alexia 98% Fat Free Roasted Straight Cut Fries with Sea Salt. I found some small 100% whole wheat buns in the discounted baked goods section, and all told, I spent less than $10. Not bad for a weekend craving.

It’s one of those compromises that I often make because it’s 7 p.m., I still don’t have dinner made, and I am going to the store anyway. Thus, packaged “healthy” junk food.

But, what I had really wanted was to make a homemade bean burger that was nutritious and delicious. All was not lost. I did make that the next evening this time serving it with carrot sticks instead of fries. My husband even had a pickle.

Two things that made this weekend junk food so yummy and healthy was I used a Tosca Reno Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread (on the Boca Burger, too!). And I found a very nutritious Joel Fuhrman bean burger recipe that was quick to make and tasty.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are those recipes.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread
(Slightly adapted from “The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook” by Tosca Reno)

INGREDIENTS:
½ cup vegan mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil, rehydrated in hot water and drained
1 handful fresh basil leaves (a must!)
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

DIRECTIONS:
“Place all Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread ingredients in a food processor and whirl until thoroughly blended. Spread will be a little chunky. Scrape in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use” (Tosca Reno).

Sunny Bean Burgers
(Slightly adapted from “Eat to Live Cookbook” by Joel Fuhrman)

INGREDIENTS:
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1 (15.5 ounce can) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon old fashioned rolled oats
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt, optional

DIRECTIONS:
Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

“Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Chop the sunflower seeds in a food processor or with a hand chopper. Mash the beans in the food processor or with a potato masher and mix with the sunflower seeds. Mix in the remaining ingredients and form into six patties.

Place the patties on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, until you can pick up each patty and compress it firmly in your hands to re-form the burger. Return the patties to the baking sheet, bottom side up, and bake for another 10 minutes” (Joel Fuhrman).

MY NOTES:
You can eat these patties served on a whole-wheat bun with Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread (see recipe above) or wrapped in lettuce leaves. Excellent sides are carrot sticks or Alexia 98% Fat Free Roasted Straight Cut Fries with Sea Salt.

My Nutritarian Diary: BBQ Soy Curl Salad in a Jar

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The web for all its glory and grandeur can be a very confusing place especially in the arena of diet advice. Today, to help lessen some of that Internet confusion, I want to talk fat with you as well as share my new favorite salad recipe.

Let’s start with general consensus out there that the percentage of calories we need in our daily intake from fat is 20-35% (some doctors and nutritionists who advocate a low-fat, plant-based diet even take that figure down to 10-15%). In addition, the general consensus out there is that we shouldn’t consume more than 10% of our calories a day from saturated fat, to help prevent cardiovascular disease and perhaps Type 2 diabetes.

To start breaking this down for you, I am going to examine the fat make-up of several foods and base my nutrition percentages on a 2,000-calorie diet, since that’s what our labels use. You would lesson or increase that figure depending on whether you wanted to lose weight or if you were more active.

First, let’s look at the fat make-up of several plant-based foods in no particular order. (I used caloriecount.about.com and the nutrition labels of the items I had on hand for these numbers.)

Food Total Fat Saturated Fat
24 Almonds (1 oz.) 22% 5%
1 TBSP Safflower Oil 22% 5%
½ Medium Avocado 20% 12%
12 Large Pitted Olives 12% 0%
1 TBSP Ground Flaxseed 3.5% 1.5%
1 TBSP Peanut Butter, Natural 12.5% 8%
Trader Joe’s High Protein Super Firm Organic Tofu (84g/1 Serving) 11% 5%
Butler Soy Curls (3/4 cup/1 Serving) 7% 0%

It’s easy to see that the saturated fats in this category of foods is significantly less than the total fat. Also, nuts, oil, and avocados are higher in fat, and probably should be eaten in smaller portions than I’ve listed above in order to prevent weight gain. And as much as many of us love peanut butter, it’s probably best to eat in teaspoon portions rather than tablespoon ones.

Next, let’s look up the fat make-up of several animal-based foods that are low in fat. (I used caloriecount.about.com for these numbers.)

Food Total Fat Saturated Fat
Egg (Cooked, Hard-Boiled) 7% 8%
Chicken Leg (Meat Only, No Skin) 4% 3%
½ Chicken Breast (Meat Only, No Skin) 5% 0%
4 oz. Lean Ground Turkey (93% Lean) 12% 12%
3 oz. Lean Hamburger (85% Lean) 20% 25%
1 oz. 2% Milk Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese 8% 15%
½ Fillet Salmon Atlantic, Wild 19% 10%
3 oz. Beef, Top Sirloin (Trimmed to ¼” Fat) 8% 10%

In general, this category of food has a higher saturated fat ratio than the plant-based category (white chicken breast and salmon the exceptions in this list), and that’s even when eating these foods in very small portions. While this family of foods may not be high in total fat, their saturated fat make-up along with the realization that in general portion sizes of these foods are rarely as small as listed above, you can see why limiting this source of food may be beneficial to your health.

To sum it up, at least for me, I have cut out of my diet most animal-based foods due to their saturated fat and cholesterol content. This choice has significantly lowered my cholesterol for the good.

In addition, I follow a lower-fat diet, only because I think I generally eat too much fat if I don’t watch it. With that said, I also believe I should eat good fats from plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, avocados and so on. I think limiting vegetable oil intake is a must for me, as well, since I can reach the low end of my daily caloric intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet in one tablespoon of oil.

So, while it may not be 100% accurate to say we need to eat a strictly low-fat diet, it’s probably best if we eat a lower-fat diet than most of us currently do, since fat calories add up quickly.

If that speaks to you and you want to start eating less fat, here’s a great recipe I’ve incorporated into my diet recently that helps with that goal.

(Please understand I’m not a nutritionist and do realize everybody has different nutritional needs. Also, higher fat diets are good for those who are very active, so I would definitely encourage you to do your own research based on your own genetics and lifestyle.)

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BBQ Soy Curl Salad in a Jar

INGREDIENTS:
1½ cup of Butler Soy Curls*, reconstituted in warm water per package directions
¼ cup of BBQ Sauce
1 cup of sweet corn, defrosted if frozen
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
3 cups of salad greens
1 32-oz. mason jar
*You can buy these online at www.butlerfoods.com

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium pan, pour BBQ sauce over the soy curls, mix together and cook them over medium heat until lightly browned and pan-fried. Set aside to cool.

Soy Curls Collage

Layer the corn, cherry tomatoes, BBQ soy curls, and salad greens compactly (but not too compactly) in a 32-ounce mason jar, and place in refrigerator until ready to eat. (Probably should eat in a day or two.)

When ready to eat, pour salad fixings in a large bowl, dig in, and enjoy!

I find this salad tastes fine without a dressing, but feel free to add a dressing of your choice to it (keeping in mind the recommended fat calorie intake if you don’t use a fat-free dressing). If you are packing a mason jar, place the dressing at the very bottom.

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My Nutritarian Diary: Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

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It’s hot out. Really hot out. And it isn’t going to let up for at least another week here in Spokane, WA, as far as I know. So, today I chose a recipe that is hot-weather worthy: Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It’s a variant of the Chocolate Banana Ice Cream recipe I posted on my blog about four and a half months ago. I made this delightful version this week and was so amazed at how yummy it was, I had to share it.

First, in the spirit of blogger full disclosure, I need to be honest with you all. I have not been as diligent eating nutrient-dense foods (especially desserts) over the last month, and I believe I paid for this in gaining five pounds. Now, if those five pounds were the result of working out, I would not even bring it up. But they are not. And that’s the other item I need to share with you. I have not been very diligent in working out, either, which is as good for me as eating well. There are three main reasons why. One, it’s hot out. Two, I am so busy, and I just can’t seem to fit it into my schedule. And three, it just hasn’t been as much of a priority to me as eating cleaner, whole foods.

This week, though, I took small steps to improve my after-dinner sweets, this recipe being one of them, as well as to incorporate more exercise into my week.

In his Eat to Live Cookbook, Joel Fuhrman recommends eating dessert. He writes, “One trick to prevent overeating is to have a delicious dessert at the conclusion of dinner—before you’ve overeaten. Let dessert mark the end of your day’s eating experience and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning.” What great advice! And so, I don’t deny myself sweets, I just make ones that are nutrient dense (ones that are fruit-centric and made with no sugar, except the sugar found in fruits).

And as far as exercising, I get bored very easily. Because of that, I believe doing a variety of activities during the week is what will work best for me. This week, I did some yoga, took walks, and did some cellulite-busting exercises that I linked to on myfoxspokane.com’s facebook page this #wellnesswednesday. My husband and I also purchased a bike trailer for our daughter, which will allow me to add bicycle riding into the week. And when it’s this hot out, the wind on your face as you’re biking is a great relief.

It is in the small steps that we make significant changes. I try to be kind to myself when I veer off the path now and then. I just make a course correction, and get back on track. So, without further ado, here’s one of those course corrections.

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Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Recipe slightly adapted from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon. (I halved her recipe for one serving.)

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 frozen banana
• 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond milk, depending on desired consistency
• 3 teaspoons of natural peanut butter
• 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS:
“Place all ingredients together in a food processor and allow the motor to run until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stop and break up large clumps with a spatula as needed.” (Lindsay S. Nixon)

Taste and adjust ingredient amounts as preferred.

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.

Ingredients Collage
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!