Sunday, June 8, 2014

Quick Baked Beans with Mango

Summer is finally here, and we like to spend most weekends outdoors as much as possible, so that means my usual Sunday afternoon cooking time is cut short. This is fine by me - there's so much great produce now that it's easy to throw together a great meal without much cooking.

Tonight we're having veggie hot dogs, fresh corn on the cob, and baked beans. To save time here I've used canned vegetarian baked beans, which of course have more sugar and salt than I'd use if making them from scratch. So to cut that, I add a can of low sodium black beans. This adds some color contrast, stretches both cans to feed more people, and spreads out the sugar and salt a bit. Sometimes I leave it at this, but tonight I had a fresh mango, so I chopped that up and added it to the mix, along with some liquid smoke. Voila! Everyday, canned baked beans because a fun dish with minimal effort.

The idea to add mango came from Isa Moskowitz's Mango BBQ Beans in Appetite for Reduction. I've made these too, and they are quite delicious - a great vegan side dish to bring to a barbecue or Easter gathering. Those take a little longer, though, so tonight I've taken some help from prepared baked beans:

Quick Baked Beans with Mango 

1 large can vegetarian, low fat baked beans
1 1/2 cup or 1 can low sodium black beans
1 ripe mango, diced small
Liquid smoke, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan, over low heat, until heated through.

Serves 4-6

About Plant Based Kitchen

This blog chronicles my adventures creating and eating a plant-based diet with no added oil. 

My husband and I began this journey after reading Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. who advocates for a strictly low fat, plant based diet. It works out to vegan eating with no added oil. Within just a few months of embracing this lifestyle, I learned that it's absolutely delicious and liberating. I love to cook - and to eat - and this has posed new challenges and exciting discoveries. I've been plant-strong for over two years now, and have never felt better. 

Dr. Esselsyn's recommendations are based on his 20-year study and collaboration with other doctors that showed that a plant-based diet of unprocessed foods can reverse and prevent heart disease and numerous other ailments (cancer, type 2 diabetes, etc.). The statistics about heart disease in the United States and other western countries are staggering. I'll save all of that for a future post, but it really was a wake up call for my husband - who has high cholesterol - and for me as well. 

It sums it up to say I was stuck in a rut. Even after my second daughter was almost two, I was still WAY over my pre-pregnancy weight, and on a never-ending roller coaster of losing and gaining but never really getting anywhere. I'd do great by eating "healthy" foods in moderation, counting calories, and exercising, but if I had just one slip up, I'd fall off the wagon completely. I felt tired and lousy a lot of the time, due in part to the fact that I felt out of control in regard to food, as well as to the fact that I was not eating the right foods for my body. 

I needed a change. 

My husband felt the same way: he wanted to be healthy - and to ensure that he'd stay that way - and also to drop a few pounds. 

We took the plunge and never looked back. Disclaimer: I am not eating 100% vegan all the time. I'm not sure who gets credit for this quote, but I like it quite a bit (if you know who said it originally, please let me know!): "I am 100% vegan, 95% of the time." I do have cream in my coffee occasionally went a plant-based milk is not available. I do cheat and have one or two butter cookies on special occasions. But for the majority of my days, I am eating plants and whole grains and loving every bite. The old cravings are gone. I feel in control. I've stopped counting calories. The pounds are dropping off, albeit slowly, but I trust that I'll reach my goal. But more importantly, I feel great. My energy is high, and I am rarely sick. 

If you're interested in learning more about the science behind Esselstyn's recommendations, I highly recommend reading his book. It's a quick read - half of the pages are devoted to easy-to-prepare, low fat vegan recipes. I also recommend watching Forks Over Knives, an incredibly informative and inspiring documentary that examines the science used in Esselystyn's research and that of his colleagues. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Kitchen Sink Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

This past Friday night, after a particularly hectic week, I found myself with nothing planned for dinner. I decided to use up some ingredients I had in the pantry, including my old standby, the sweet potato. What started out as a quickly thrown together meal ended up being really delicious, and something I'll definitely make again.

Sweet potatoes really are the perfect food: easy to make, versatile, hearty, and healthy, with the ideal balance of sweet and savory flavors. Their sticky-sweet nature holds up really well to Tex-Mex ingredients like salsa and cumin, and that's where I went with this dish.

Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (optional)
1 to 3 tsp. cumin (more or less to taste - I like tons of cumin)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can)
1 can Rotell tomatoes and chilis, or  1 to 1 1/2 cups of mild salsa, or 1 cup of diced tomatoes
1 avocado, diced
Hot sauce (to taste)

  1. Bake sweet potatoes, either in the oven or in the microwave. 
  2. While potatoes are cooking, rinse quinoa and prepare according to package directions. Use vegetable broth instead of water for added flavor. 
  3. Once quinoa is cooked, add cumin and stir for a minute. Add beans and Rotell (or salsa or diced tomatoes), and stir to combine. Stir over low heat until heated through.
  4. Cut cooked sweet potatoes length-wise, without cutting bottom skin. Squeeze open and stuff with quinoa-rice mixture. 
  5. Top each stuffed potato with 1/4 of the diced avocado and hot sauce to taste. 
  6. Enjoy! 
This dish was a surprise hit with the fam and was even better heated up the following day for lunch.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vegan Sweet Potato Chili

What's not to love about chili? It's great to make a double batch on Sunday and have it for lunch all week long - I never get tired of it. I also love sweet potatoes, so when I found this recipe on Shabbot's Habits, I was pretty excited. 

I followed the recipe above fairly closely, though I omitted the oil and opted to water saute the onions, peppers, and garlic instead. Since I doubled this I subbed one can of black beans with kidney beans and did it all on the stove top (Shabbot's recipe has a convenient slow cooker method). Oh, and I added some green bell pepper.  

Rather than serving with cheese and sour cream, I just topped each steaming bowl with some  chopped cilantro and crunchy scallions, and later in the week, when the scallions were gone, with some sweet white onion. I even mixed it with salad greens one day for a super-hearty "dressing" - you just can't go wrong with this dish. It would also be delicious over brown rice or on tortillas... OK, I'm getting carried away.

My husband and younger daughter love this - and you can spice it up with hot sauce (or add more cayenne during cooking) if you're so inclined. It's definitely my new favorite chili recipe. And, by replacing some of the beans in a typical vegan chili with sweet potato, you save a lot of calories. 

My doubled, eat-it-all-week version is below.

(Recipe adapted from Shabbot's Habits and Taste of Home)

6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 large onions, chopped

1 or 2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder
3 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (more or less to taste)
3 15 oz cans black beans (or 4 1/2 cups cooked beans)
1 15 oz can kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans)
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup brewed coffee
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 Tsp salt (or more to taste)
In a large pot, water-saute onions and peppers until soft. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add chili powder, cumin, and cayenne; mix well. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 2 hours. 

Serve with chopped cilantro, scallions, and/or sweet white onions. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oh Chipotle!

When I started my plant strong, no added oil adventure I knew eating out was going to be a challenge. This was especially clear when, two days into vegan eating, my daughter requested Friendly's for her "special treat" vacation lunch...and the only thing on the menu appropriate for me was a side salad with no dressing. Most restaurants have more options, of course, and I tend to make my own food most of the time - but every now and then I find myself on the road and in need of a quick, healthy meal. Enter, Chipotle

They have a few vegan options if you simply skip the meat and dairy, but my favorite is the vegetarian burrito bowl with grilled veggies, brown rice, black beans, corn salsa, and fresh salsa. Yes, there's definitely some oil in this bad boy, but as far as "fast" food goes, it's pretty healthy - and delicious - option.

Harvest Bowl

My first harvest bowl was a slice of heaven from the Organic Garden Cafe in Beverly, MA. It's a wonderful combination of quinoa, roasted butternut squash, rosemary walnuts, spinach, sprouts, and a muchi curry sauce.

Since that first delicious visit, I've returned for several fantastic vegan lunches and dinners - but I'll never forget my first harvest bowl. I wanted to recreate the flavors at home but changed a few things up by adding the curry directly to the squash, adding chick peas, and omitting oil and nuts. It's not as good as the original, but i think it's a close second. 

Serves 4

Butternut Squash Harvest Bowl

Preheat oven to 375ยบ F

For roasted squash and beans:
1 large (or 2 small) butternut squash, peeled and cubed in 1-inch pieces
1 15 oz. can (1 1/2 cups) of drained, rinsed chick peas 
1-2 Tbsp of curry powder (more or less to taste)
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup (optional)
Dash of cayenne (more or less to taste)
Salt & pepper (to taste)

For the bowl: 
Cooked quinoa (plan on 1/2-1 cup per person)
Baby spinach
Carrots, shredded
Dried cranberries (optional) 
Scallions, sliced

In a large bowl, toss the squash cubes with chick peas, curry powder, maple syrup, cayenne, salt, and pepper. 

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and spread the squash/chick pea mixture on it.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until squash is soft when pierced with a fork. 

As the squash mixture roasts, cook quinoa. 

When it’s all ready, build your (big!) bowls - one for each person. Add in this order:

Curried squash mixture
Baby spinach
Shredded carrots
Dried cranberries
Sliced scallions

Mix the bowl up before eating - enjoy!