Lifestyle

WFPB Cooking in an Oil-Free Kitchen

We’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts to leave out the oil that many recipes call for. That’s because we follow a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle (WFPB, for short), which means we do not consume any overly processed foods. The food we eat is as close to its natural state as possible.

There are many reasons not to consume oil. If you want to find out more, here are just a few links explaining why we don’t eat oil: one of Michael Greger’s many videos on oils, John McDougall’s articles on extracted oilsone of Engine2’s discussions on oil, and lastly an article from UC Davis Integrative Medicine.

Simmering Tempeh Triangles

Tempeh simmering on the stovetop in a mixture of soy sauce, veggie broth, and sriracha sauce. No oil needed!

When we first decided to switch to a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle, we weren’t quite sure how we were going to cook without oil. We worried about taste, texture, and everything sticking to the pan. After giving it a try, we realized how easy it was and even found that leaving it out actually improved the flavor of our meals! Suddenly sautéd vegetables tasted like vegetables rather than vegetable-flavored oil.

Now that we have been cooking without oil for a while, we have established a few methods that work really well. The next time you find yourself reaching for your bottle of extra virgin olive oil, consider tossing it out and trying one of these tips instead!

Oil-Free Cooking Tips

  • Bake instead of fry: We still love eating things like (plant-based) burgers and fries. Not to mention things like latkes, falafel, and crispy tofu. But we never fry these. Instead we bake them on parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. They are just as flavorful out of the oven as they are fried on the stovetop.
  • Try a dry sauté, water, or veggie broth: If you are cooking veggies on the stovetop, they emit so much water content that some don’t need any added liquid. Onions and mushrooms, for example, release so much water that you can deglaze without adding anything. If you need to, though, water or veggie broth are good to use.
  • There are lots of oil-free recipe resources! Forks Over Knives, The Engine 2 Diet, and T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies are just a few of the sites we visit for completely oil-free recipes. The China Study Cookbook and PlantPure Nation Cookbook are only a couple of the many oil-free cookbooks available.
  • You don’t need oil to make healthy, delicious salad dressings. We use things like mustard, tahini, or avocado as the base of our dressings and add vinegar and spices to finish it off. Do a Google search for oil-free dressings and you’ll see that the possibilities are endless!
  • There are always substitutions. This is especially important when it comes to following recipes for baked goods.  The oil is usually added as a binder or to keep the finished product moist. The same effect can be achieved by adding applesauce, ripened bananas, or a flax “egg” to the recipe. Follow this link for a definitive list of oil substitutions.

Until you’ve tasted food without oil, you just don’t know what you’re missing. There is so much flavor under the oil that you can’t appreciate until you leave it out. We tried it once and have been hooked ever since. Save the oil for your car!

Produce Picks, Recipes

I Dream of Zucchini: Recipe Round-up

Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash

Zucchini and yellow summer squash have an almost identical flavor and texture. They’re also in season right now!

Earlier this week, I declared my love for cucumber. Today, it’s time to show some love to an equally worthy veggie: the zucchini! I love how versatile zucchini is. There are so many ways to prepare zucchini that it’s really hard to get tired of eating it. Here are a few of our favorite ways to prepare zucchini:

So Many Ways to Prepare Zucchini!

  • Sauté it! With a little veggie broth, garlic, and spices (we like basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper for a Mediterranean flair)–this is a perfect side dish for almost any meal.
  • Roast it! With some cherry tomatoes and a few whole cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper. Place the roasted veg atop a bed of quinoa and arugula, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar for an easy and delicious salad.
  • Bake it! In some muffins or bread; zucchini makes a sweet treat, too!
  • Spiralize it! Make zucchini noodles or “zoodles” and eat them the same way you would ordinary pasta. How fun is it to say “zoodles”?! (Recipe found on One Green Planet.)
  • Steam it! With an assortment of other veggies, zucchini often makes it way into many of our Buddha Bowls.

But, wait– there’s even more ways to eat zucchini!

Zucchini Recipe Round-up:

(Some of the recipes below call for oil.  Since we eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, we avoid processed ingredients like oil and always omit it. It’s really easy to leave the oil out and not have any impact on the taste of the final product.)

We eat zucchini year-round, but peak time is right now. Zucchini is in season mid- to late summer and can be picked up at grocery stores and farmers market for a great price. I find that you can also substitute yellow summer squash for zucchini in any recipe that calls for it. When we go to our farmers market, we like to buy from the growers that have the half zucchini/half summer squash trays to get a variety of color onto our plates.

Do you have a surplus of zucchini to go through this summer? What are your favorite plant-based recipes that feature zucchini? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Recipes

Recipe Review: Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce

Last night we made this recipe from Forks Over Knives: Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce. It’s an excellent recipe on its own, but we made some modifications to make it a little better. This recipe will be included in the forthcoming book Forks Over Knives Family: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy Kids on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based DietThe book is set to be released in September 2016 and is available for pre-order at Amazon now.

Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce

We substituted cabbage for the bok choy. It tasted great, but the cabbage doesn’t stand out against the noodles as much as bright green bok choy does.

As I’ve said before, our introduction to plant-based living came from the frugal living community. Ever since then, we have consistently tried to make our meals as inexpensive as possible while maintaining maximum nutrition and taste. This is the same approach we took with this recipe. Here are our thoughts:

banh pho noodles

Banh pho noodles are available at most Asian markets. They tasted great in the Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce and can easily be cooked to a chewier consistency than other types of rice noodles.

Banh pho noodles

Banh pho noodles add a much different texture from the one you get with standard brown rice noodles. We find they have a much greater margin of palatable chewiness, which we reached by testing a noodle every minute or so. Once you have the texture you want, shock them with cold water.

To cook these banh pho noodles, we put the whole package in a covered pot. Separately, we boiled enough water to cover all the noodles. We poured the boiling water over the noodles, covered it, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then we drained the noodles, shocked them with cold water, and let them sit until reheating them in the main dish at the end.

Carrots

We used three medium heirloom carrots from the farmers market: one purple, one yellow and one white. The white carrot helped to offset the sweetness of the others, giving it a subtle earthy, turnip-like taste.

Cashews

Cashews are a nice touch, but they are expensive when you buy them oil-free and raw (unroasted), which is what we prefer. We save them for special occasions, like when we make a big lasagna or pizza. Next time we make the Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce we will use peanuts instead, which I think would be just as good in this dish, maybe better. The cashews add a certain flavor you may not get with peanuts, but buying oil-free cashews costs significantly more than peanuts.

Cilantro

Cilantro is especially flavorful at certain times of year, like summer, so you may not need to use too much for added flavor. We left ours whole out of habit. Because it is summer and cilantro is at peak flavor, it would have been more appropriate to give it a light chop to distribute the flavor more evenly, instead of getting big shots of flavor here and there. Chopped is the direction in the recipe, and we didn’t follow it. Next time, we will!

Cabbage instead of bok choy

We replaced the bok choy with cabbage, which is cheaper, and also because we had it in the refrigerator anyway. Cabbage is a fantastic, frugal substitute for bok choy. While bok choy is a good and worthy ingredient, for us it’s not always worth the added expense. This recipe calls for baby bok choy, which, depending on where you live, can be difficult to find and more expensive than normal bok choy. For us, the only real issue is one of appearance: bok choy is a much brighter green and stands out better against the noodles. Pound for pound, though, cabbage will nearly always be one of the cheapest vegetables you can buy, and you can reliably get it at most farmers markets.

The sauce

The sauce is good, and the proportion of thickener to liquids is perfect. Overall, though, the ginger and garlic flavors in this dish were somewhat weak. We even used three times the amount of ginger called for, and while it was still detectable, it was far too subtle. The problem is that it is added at the beginning of cooking, which guarantees that the flavor will diminish significantly by the end. When we cook with ginger and garlic (which we often do!) we try to add them as late as possible to preserve as much flavor as we can. Even though it’s only ten minutes total, that’s still long enough to neutralize flavors like garlic and ginger, especially since they’re not sitting in a stew or soup. Next time we will add the garlic and ginger instead to the sauce, let the flavors marry, and then add the sauce at the very end. For us the sauce thickened very quickly, so it probably doesn’t even need to cook for the full 5 minutes.

Final thoughts

We would recommend this recipe without hesitation, but don’t be afraid to make alterations or substitutions. In fact, that’s our advice for every recipe. When you do make changes, be sure to write them down. Keeping a food journal in the kitchen is the best way to keep track of it all.

How do you approach new recipes? Do you cook them as written or make changes the first time? Let us know in the comments!

Produce Picks, Recipes

Crazy ‘Bout Cucumbers: Recipe Round-up

 

Kirby cucumbers

Just a handful of our cucumber haul from the farmers market.

Cucumbers are in abundance right now. So much so that many vendors at our local farmers market have been selling them by the bucket!

This is great news for me. Cucumbers have always been my favorite vegetable ever since I was a little kid. I was a picky eater then, and not a huge fan of veggies in general, but I was always in the mood for some sweet, crunchy cucumber. I would often ask for an entire cuke to myself and try to eat it whole like an apple!

I still enjoy just snacking on a plain cucumber. I also add them to almost every salad I make, and it’s my primary vehicle to transport hummus to my mouth. Last night I took some thinly sliced cucumbers, tossed them with some rice vinegar, salt and pepper, for a super easy salad that took literally a minute to make.

Since it’s prime time for cucumbers, we decided to pick up 10 lbs. of them at the farmers market last Saturday. What are you going to do with 10 lbs. of cucumbers?! I’ve got plenty of ideas, but I wanted to try something new. Here’s a list of some great plant-based recipes I found featuring cucumbers as the star ingredient.

Cucumber Recipe Round-up:

Cucumbers are at their peak flavor right now. You’ll also find them cheaper in the summer than any other time of year, especially if you pick them up at your farmers market.  Last year, Josh and I joked that we ate our body weight in cucumbers over the summer.

What are your favorite ways to prepare cucumber? Let us know in the comments!

Books, Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Produce Picks

Farmers Markets Make Plant-Based Eating Cheaper

$21 worth of whole, plant-based food from the local farmers market.

Farmers markets make plant-based eating even more affordable. This is what $21 worth of food looks like from our farmers market.

A whole-food, plant-based diet is already the cheapest way to eat. During farmers market season, it’s even cheaper.

Our introduction to the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle came from an unlikely source. Some years ago we became more serious about saving money, so we started participating in online finance forums. We found that quite a few of the most frugal members ate a plant-based diet. At first they started with a plant-based lifestyle because it saved them so much money, but in the end they kept it up because it made them feel so good and energetic.

A quick look at the numbers

Of course this was old news for those who had been plant-based before us. John McDougall has been plant-based for 40 years and specifically addressed the money-saving benefits of the lifestyle in his classic best-seller, The Starch Solution. He also put together a striking comparison between the costs of conventional diets versus plant-based eating, where he explained that you can enjoy a plant-based diet on just $3 per day. Following up more recently on his comparison, Rosane Oliveira wrote an article entitled “Cheap or Expensive? The REAL Truth About Plant-Based Diets.” She showed that the cost of an omnivorous meal is roughly three times higher than that of a similar plant-based alternative. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, has also addressed the topic on numerous occasions, both in his book (briefly) and in videos posted on his website. In these three videos he specifically talks about how the cheapest foods can represent the best long-term investment.

$14 worth of plant-based food from Midtown Farmers Market.

This haul cost only $14. It’s amazing to think that you can eat so many delicious plant-based foods at such low prices.

Farmers markets make cheap food even cheaper

Simply having access to fresh, delicious fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods is fantastic on its own. Thanks to farmers markets, they are also at their lowest prices of the year right now. It’s the middle of summer, we are enjoying the life-giving bounty of the best the earth has to offer, and yet somehow we are spending the least amount of money on food that we will spend all year. Cucumbers are 50 cents per pound, bell peppers are 63 cents each or even less, potatoes can be cheaper than 25 cents per pound, collard greens cost six times less than grocery stores or coops (see below), beets with their greens average less than $1 per pound, and so on.

We are fortunate to live near what I believe is the most reasonably priced farmers market in all of Minneapolis. The Midtown Farmers Market is active throughout the season, but this is the time of year when prices start to drop the most, since yields and competition keep increasing from now until the end of October. Competition is best on the main market day, however, so if your market meets more than once per week, be sure to go on the primary market day. For us that’s Saturday. It also meets on Tuesday, but there tend to be far fewer vendors and customers. Because of this, they don’t always discount their food as much as when the market is full. There is little incentive to offer discounts when both merchants and buyers are scarce.

Purple cauliflower from the Midtown Farmers Market.

Be sure to look out for exotic produce at your local farmers market. Purple cauliflower is a lot like regular cauliflower but with an earthy taste.

Farmers markets let you buy more “exotic” foods

Although kohlrabi is not really exotic at all, it is prohibitively expensive in grocery stores near us. Buying it at the farmers market, however, makes it affordable, since it costs about five times less. Other farmers market foods like heirloom carrots, purple cauliflower and purple potatoes are generally priced about the same as their traditional counterparts, so rather than spending more for the exotic color of purple potatoes, for example, you simply pay the traditional potato price. In grocery stores this is rarely the case, so you’ll find yourself paying a premium for the added color.

While they are also not exotic per se, hearty greens are so inexpensive during farmers market season that we eat them nearly every day. Kale, Swiss chard and collard greens cost $1 per bunch at our farmers market, compared to up to $3.50 per bunch in a grocery store or co-op. Not only are the grocery store bunches more than three times as expensive, they are also usually about half the size. Collard greens are currently my favorite vegetable, and I love being able to eat them more often during farmers market season.

Try a different farmers market if yours is overpriced or low in quality

It’s true that some farmers markets in the Minneapolis metro area are significantly more expensive and also offer produce whose freshness and quality seem pretty dubious. If your farmers market doesn’t offer low enough prices or fresh enough produce, try a different one. The main farmers market in downtown Minneapolis is the biggest and is generally as cheap and as fresh as Midtown.

Also, don’t be afraid to touch and even pick up the produce to get an idea of its quality and freshness. I do this all the time, and while I occasionally get confused looks from sellers, they are never rude about it. If I am spending money on something, I am definitely going to guarantee its quality first. If there is a stack of kale on the table, there is no reason not to go through all of it to find a bunch with the fewest blemishes. I find it’s especially important to double check cucumbers and bell peppers as the season goes on, since they easily develop soft spots. I’m always bewildered by buyers who simply ask for produce by name and don’t personally inspect what is clearly laid out before them.

Seize the kale!

Saving money year-round is a nice bonus to the plant-based lifestyle in general, but the biggest opportunity is happening right now during farmers market season. Don’t miss out!

What are your favorite ways to save money on plant-based foods? Let us know in the comments!