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WOW!  Never thought I’d be writing those words in a post title that’s for sure!  Recently in our Lean Eating Program we were presented a challenge to try eating only plant-based foods for an entire day.  Just another experiment to try it and see how we feel!

The Lean Eating program does not promote a vegan lifestyle; rather this is something to try and play around with.  We might feel worlds better or might not feel any different – it’s just data to make note of, that’s all!  I knew I’d need more than just a day to experiment – one day of change isn’t going to make a huge difference for me. So, I challenged myself to try this for an entire week!

I have a couple of vegan cookbooks and admittedly I needed to blow the dust off.  I’m getting more confident with my cooking abilities, especially when it comes to preparing meals for the week ahead (which I usually do on Sundays) and adding more lean protein and vegetables to my meals.  Notice I said “ADD.”  The Lean Eating program is NOT a diet.  We don’t take anything away – rather, we ADD.  Things like lean protein. Veggies.  Eat slowly, pay attention to your food and stop when you’re 80% full.  Now, that’s going to show up differently day to day and even meal to meal.  That’s OK.

What does plant-based eating mean?  It means lots of fruits and veggies.  No animal products – meat, fowl, seafood, dairy, cheese are not part of it.  Protein comes from sources like quinoa or tempeh.  And so much more!

One of my favorite vegan cookbooks is The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, by Donna Klein.  I absolutely adore foods from the Mediterranean region already.  The recipes in this cookbook are vegan by design.  Meaning, they’ve always been that way.  There are no artificial meats or cheeses incorporated into the recipes.  Nothing wrong with them, however I just don’t like their textures and tastes personally from what I’ve tried.

Donna Klein explains how in many parts of the Mediterranean things like meat, seafood and butter are scarce and expensive.  Rare delicacies.  So, simply use what bounty there already is!  Actually, she explains it far better than the way I just wrote it.  But you get the idea.

The beauty of vegan cooking is that you can use many of the entrees as side dishes too.

Here are a couple of my favorites – first, Wild Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce.  This is great as an appetizer, side dish or small first course for 4-6 people:

  • 1 pound medium fresh wild or cremini mushrooms, washed and stemmed
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic; 3 finely chopped, 1 whole
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 T)
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry the mushrooms with paper towels.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot but not sizzling.  Add the whole garlic clove and cook, stirring for one minute.  Add the mushrooms and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until lightly browned and barely soft, 4-5 minutes.  Do not allow mushrooms to release their own juices.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper; toss well to combine.  Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and serve warm or at room temperature.

See how simple these ingredients are?  And it’s a simply delicious recipe!  So quick and easy!

And here’s one more…Persian Cucumber and Tomato Salad (serves 4):

  • 1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to combine.  Let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to blend.  Toss again.

Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill at least 1 hour and serve chilled.

This recipe is also great with some black olive and chickpeas, stuffed in pita bread for a fantastic sandwich.

Anyway, I’m having a blast with this experiment…I think Paleo/Primal is up next for us in a few days, so I’ll see if re-introducing meats makes me feel any different.

When I first tried plant-based eating I was worried I’d miss eggs.  Eggs have become a staple for me, mostly as a light dinner when I get home from the gym. I scramble them in a little olive oil and toss in some diced red bell pepper, minced garlic and some fresh spinach.  Now I sauté up the veggies and serve with a small side of red or brown quinoa.

I also enjoy a little quinoa during the day with some chopped veggies I bring with me to work for lunch in a Tupperware.  I used to have some low-fat cottage cheese or plain nonfat Greek yogurt, but now it’s quinoa and/or a little hummus.  I’ve also tried rice but I find it gives me almost a type of sugar blast and crash, so I tend to avoid it.

What else is in my fridge these days?

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Scallions (green onions)
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Mushrooms
  • Hummus
  • Carrots
  • …and in the pantry I’ve stocked up on olives.

So far, so good! I feel great and full of energy!  Buon appetito!