Friend or Faux: What You Need to Know About Fake Meats

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Vegan Chili Dog       Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The Plant-based Diet is receiving a lot of press these days, due in part to recent documentaries like “What The Health” currently streaming to billions of homes through services like Netflix. It’s being heavily promoted in best-selling books like Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The idea is catching on. At least in theory.

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Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

It is easy to understand why so many would-be vegetarians declare “I can’t afford to go plant-based!” and just keep on doing what they’re doing. No, you can’t afford to go plant-based if you are simply switching out your meats and cheeses for plant-based/vegan meats and cheeses. Because they cost three to four times more than real meats and cheeses. And the real goal is to get off the meats and cheeses and eat more plants, for real. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts.

A food product can be labeled vegan, the ingredients all free of animal-derived components and yet be about the unhealthiest thing you could eat. Oreo cookies are a good example of vegan junk food. Oreos are plant-based!

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Plant-Based Baked Goods                   Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The common argument for faux meats is that they are a “transitional” food for those new to meat-free eating. After conducting my own personal studies over the course of the past five years, I have come to the conclusion that they do nothing to ease the transition to a healthy, whole foods diet.

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What they actually do is become an obstacle to healthier whole-food protein choices such as beans, legumes and potatoes.  Because they taste so damned good! And as technology moves on, they just keep tasting better and better. These products are highly processed, high in fat and salt in most cases–manipulating our taste buds with artificially engineered flavors. Consequently, simple natural foods taste dull in comparison.

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If you want to improve your health, reclaim your naturally balanced weight, increase energy and focus…all of this is possible with a whole food plant-based diet. Whole food being the important factor. This means buying and consuming foods that have five ingredients or less. Yes, you read right. Check your cupboard, your fridge, your desk drawer at work. How do your plant-based food choices stack up?

There are really no shortcuts to better health. There are no super foods. Sustainable health is attained by a lifestyle balance between the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies and minds every day.

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Should we never eat faux meats? Do I sometimes eat them? Absolutely. Most dieticians and nutritionists agree that a ratio of 80% natural, whole foods to 20% “discretionary” foods is a good balance for sustainable health. That’s what I’m shooting for. One day at a time. One meal at a time.

 

 

Working Lunch

The summer months are a time to rest and re-energize my mind as well as my body. A time to reflect, renew, refill my well of ideas.

I have always found inspiration through others. Even after running my chef business for almost seven years now, I always stay open to change and to inspiration. Not just in my work life, but also personally.

Working with food is personal. It’s hard to think of an area more personal than something we do every day, several times per day. We eat. For nourishment and for pleasure. This is a balance I find a constant challenge and interest. Even more so over time.

This brings me to the inspiration for today’s lunch.

Caitlin Shoemaker

I can’t say enough good things about Caitlin Shoemaker, fellow recipe developer, photographer, and chef in her own right. Her earthy, straightforward approach to vegan food and lifestyle along with maintaining a perfect balance between good food and good-for-you food is a constant source of inspiration. In short, she’s nailing it.

Have you ever just eaten a sweet potato? Just straight up bake it for an hour then cut it open and scoop it out? Sometimes this is my lunch. And sometimes I eat the peel too.

Here I have reheated a sweet potato from yesterday, drizzled it with Caitlin’s

4 Ingredient Sesame Miso Dressing  

and ground fresh pepper on top. Filling, satisfying and tasty.

 

 

 

Notes From The Vegan Underground

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I’m still here, dear readers. Just focusing on work and other personal projects besides food.

Here are a few of my latest personal inspirations:

Caitlin Shoemaker, Food and Healthy Lifestyle Blogger

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This young lady has single-handedly re-inspired my cooking. That’s a big deal. She’s super-sweet and utterly obsessed with healthy lifestyle and healthful, tasty, whole food, low oil/no oil cooking.

In particular she has inspired my latest breakfast craze, the best granola recipe I’ve found so far and I’ve been eating and making granola for thirty years! There are so many more of her recipes in my queue just waiting to happen! Check her out on YouTube and her website, frommybowl.com  is pretty awesome as well!

Oat Milk

My latest discovery and I am so happy for it. I heard Michelle and Matt talking about oat milk on a recent Thug Kitchen podcast, Forked Up and I thought I would give it a try. Even the best store brand had added sugar so I decided to make my own.

A gamechanger! I first tried it with cheesecloth and then graduated to a nut milk bag which is phenomenal!

HOW TO MAKE OAT MILK from simpleveganblog.com.

Super-simple to make, just oats and water. The flavor is so pure and just works perfectly in recipes, too.

Till next time, friends!

Eat well and be well 🙂

Melanie

 

 

The Best Plant-Based Cookbook is Waiting For You, And It’s Free!

 

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“Do you cook a lot?” asks the librarian behind the counter.

It’s after work, I’m in my chef jacket, stuffing a reusable shopping bag full of plant-based cookbooks I placed on hold a week or so ago.  A regular ritual for me.

“Um, yeah…I sure do. I’m a personal chef and I do a lot of recipe research here at the library!” I smile broadly as he helps me place yet one more gorgeously photographed hardback on my pile.

At home with my stack, I sit down in a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea and flip through one book at a time.

But I am not just looking at pretty pictures. I am on a mission. Seeking inspiration and also solid, no-nonsense recipes that I can modify or add to my regular repertoire.

What makes a good recipe, in my opinion?

  1. Reasonable number of ingredients. Reading a long list of stuff I need to buy/prep makes me exhausted before I even get started, so less is definitely better.
  2. Accessibility of ingredients. Can I find the items at my local grocery on a regular basis or are they seasonal or hard-to-find?
  3. Ease of preparation. Are there so many complicated recipe components that one dish takes two hours to cook? Unless it’s Christmas or I have committed my day to bread-baking or ravioli-making, that’s a deal-breaker for me.
  4. Recognition. Yes, familiarity. I have found for my clients, and for my family, we like to return to dishes and flavors again and again that are familiar to our experience. What says comfort to you?
  5. Cost. Some ingredients are just ridiculously expensive. Here is where you have to use your instinctual higher judgement. Some cookbook authors assume that money is no object on the quest for the perfect plant-based meal. Next.

Here are a couple highlights from this week’s haul:

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The Book of Veganish by Kathy Freston (2016)

Why? This cookbook offers simple, economical no-nonsense recipes and lots of great everyday advice on making the transition to a vegan, plant-based lifestyle. I especially appreciate the relaxed language and easy-to-read page layouts with colorful images and text boxes throughout. A great starter book.

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Natural Feasts by Ella Mills (2017)

Why? First, a disclaimer. When you open it up you know you are stepping into a world. It’s easy to lose your way amidst the lush, natural light, the soft-focus images of radiantly healthy women and men beaming lovingly at one another over rustically styled food and furnishings and hand-picked botanicals. You get the sense that everyone loves Ella. And by the end, you realize you want to be Ella.

But behind all the window-dressing, Ella puts out quality recipes. I enjoyed her previous and more basic “Simply Ella” cookbook because she really focuses on creative combinations of whole foods in her recipes. Most of her dishes are low in sugar and oil and include simple, easy to find and afford ingredients, like butterbeans. Yes, butterbeans!

I highly recommend exploring your local library’s inventory of cookbooks to discover the right one(s) for you. Key words really matter when researching the database. Try vegan, plant-based, whole food, vegetarian, healthy, meatless, for example. And don’t give up entirely on conventional cookbooks and magazines for recipe inspiration. There are many recipes that are incidentally plant-based (like salad dressings, barbecue and other condiments).

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The book business being what it is, publishers are looking to appeal to the widest audience, so don’t get hung up on labels. I have found many excellent vegan recipes hiding between the pages of lacto-ovo vegetarian cookbooks.

I have read that folks are cooking less nowadays, opting instead for grab n’ go meals, food delivery services, personal chefs (yay), restaurant dining and takeout  more often than not.

Nevertheless, for those of us who read them (and need them) as well as those of us who just like the pretty pictures, the plant-based cookbooks keep flying off the presses. And thank goodness for that!