Peanut Ginger Pasta

I know I’ve said this before – but this Thai-inspired noodle dish truly is one of our favorite recipes! It is super easy to make and tastes so fresh and full of flavor. It only takes about 30 minutes (or less) to make and serves 4 people. You may already have the ingredients in your fridge! I found this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine. They state that the nutritional value per serving is: 365 calories, 13 grams fat (2 sat.), 567 mg sodium, 57 grams carb., 10 grams fiber and 14 grams of protein.

Peanut Ginger Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tsp grated lime peel (finely grated)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. water
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root (available in paste form in the produce section)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 8 oz. uncooked whole wheat linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 cups small fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the veggies as listed.
  2. Place the first 10 ingredients in a blender or food processor; cover and process until blended.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding broccoli during the last 5 minutes. Drain.
  4. Transfer pasta and broccoli to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Add peanut butter mixture and toss to combine.
  5. Optional: serve with chopped peanuts as a topping.
Peanut Ginger Pasta
Give this colorful and delicious dish a try for Meatless Mondays - 
I think your family will enjoy it!

Dining out for vegans

One of the biggest challenges we had when we first became vegans was dining out. Many restaurants just don’t offer many vegan options. The good news is – plant-based eating is becoming more and more popular.

We recently returned from a week-long trip to Berea, Kentucky and had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful trails, shopping for interesting handmade craft items, and eating some amazing plant-based food. We were fortunate this time – to find several good vegan entrees from local restaurants.

Below is a kale salad I had at the Trustee’s Table at Shaker Village of Pleasant Valley, KY. It was one of the best tasting salads I’ve ever tasted – for real! The ingredients included kale greens, Granny Smith Apples, Dried Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds, Grated Parmesan (not vegan), Lemon Parmesan Dressing. I’m not a huge fan of kale – but this kale was finely chopped and mixed well with all other ingredients. The flavor combination was amazing! I also had their delicious black bean soup and my husband had a bowl of their tomato celery soup along with a simple salad. This restaurant prides itself in being “seed to table” and they“celebrate Shaker Village’s roots by featuring dishes made of seasonal ingredients from our garden and local farmers.” No wonder the food was so fresh-tasing and good!

Kale Salad from the Trustee’s Table

Another great place for vegan fare was Noodle Nirvana. This local hole-in-the-wall place served up a great variety of Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese-inspired bowls where you choose your noodles: ramen, pho (rice noodles), glass noodles, or “zoodles” (zucchini spirals). I chose the later along with sesame grilled tofu and a sweet and tangy pad Thai sauce. My husband chose rice noodles and the peanut sauce. Both dishes were delicious and we were impressed to find out that the restaurant gives 25% of it’s proceeds from the first Tuesday of every month to a non-profit that helps people in their community. Last year they raised over $44,000 for God’s Outreach Madison County Food Bank! Also, the Berea Urban Farm provides fresh, locally grown vegetables for the noodle bowls. Now that is truly a community centered eatery that we like to support.

Noodle Nirvana gives back

Another great place for breakfast or lunch was the Native Bagel Company. I had the most amazing avocado spread on a whole wheat bagel. Their menu includes vegan options and their website tells that their bagels are made fresh every morning and feature ingredients from over 20 local producers. I also liked their dining area which features an entire wall of plants (see below). How cool is that?

Native Bagel Company, Berea, KY

My husband happens to be half Italian so we usually like to find authentic Italian food when dining out. We found just the place – Papa Leno’s on the city square. We usually opt for a “build your own” pizza using our favorite ingredients: mushrooms, peppers, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. These guys know how to make a crust! It was bubbly, yeasty and very delicious (although we cheated and topped it with cheese). What is pizza without cheese, people?

Veggie Pizza at Papa Leno’s
Berea College Farm Store

One more food stop on our visit to Berea was the Berea College Farm Store. Even though the name sounds more like a produce store, they offer lunch daily, Tuesday through Saturday, made with ingredients produced by their student farming enterprises. The day we were there they had homemade soups, wraps, sandwiches and salads. We split a delicious veggie wrap made with hummus, spinach and lots of veggies. We also had some delicious home-made potato curry soup. Their fresh sourdough bread put out for diners to share was so good – we ended up purchasing a loaf to take home!

Dining Out Tips for Vegan:

  • Look up restaurants on travel sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp and search for the word “vegan” under categories or reviews.
  • Use a vegan app like Happy Cow to find vegan friendly restaurants – based on customer feedback.
  • Look up the online menu of a few well-rated restaurants and see what they offer for plant-eaters. Most restaurants will let you look at their menu before being seated.
  • Choose an Asian restaurant – they almost always offer a veggie stir-fry entree. Most of them will switch out tofu for just about any meat on their menu if you ask.
  • If you can’t find any vegan or vegetarian main entrees – look for an appetizer that is veggie-based (i.e. veggies & humus, or spring rolls, soups, fries, etc.).
  • Ask your server if they offer any vegan or vegetarian entrees. I did this when it was late and I had no where to go but to a Burger King drive through. They mentioned that they had a veggie burger even though it was not on the menu – and it was actually pretty good! Many burger places will offer a bean or veggie burger – even if it is not listed on the menu.
  • Order a salad! Most salads can be made large enough for an entree. If you add soup and/or bread – you will have a meal! Wendy’s, McDonalds, and even Chick-Fil-A offer a variety of salads. Just ask for them without the meat.

How do you get your protein?

The first question most people ask when they discover that we eat a plant based diet is “why”? I covered our reasons on my home page: “You don’t Eat No Meat?!” The second question they ask is – “How do you get your protein without eating meat or dairy?” I remember asking my vegan friends the very same question.

The simple answer is – plants supply all the protein I need for a balanced diet. We get protein from the same place other herbivores do – plants! Those eating a vegan diet can get plenty of protein from grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, leafy greens and small amounts of healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado. Here is a video posted by Dr. Michael Greger (NutritionFacts.org) that talks about plant-based proteins being better for long-term health than meat & dairy (Published on Oct 26, 2011).

According to Medical News Today.com, these are the top 15 sources of plant-based protein:

Tofu in curry sauce
  1. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
    1. Firm tofu (soybean curds) contains about 10 g of protein per ½ cup.
    2. Edamame beans (immature soybeans) contain 8.5 g of protein per ½ cup.
    3. Tempeh contains about 15 g of protein per ½ cup.
  2. Lentils  
    1. Red or green lentils contain plenty of protein, fiber, and key. nutrients, including iron and potassium. Cooked lentils contain 8.84 g of protein per ½ cup.
  3. Chickpeas
    1. Cooked chickpeas are high in protein, containing around 7.25 g per ½ cup.
  4. Peanut Butter
    1. Peanuts are protein-rich, full of healthful fats, and may improve heart health. They contain around 20.5 g of protein per ½ cup.
    2. Peanut butter is also rich in protein, with 8 g per tablespoon, making peanut butter sandwiches a healthful complete protein snack.
  5. Almonds
    1. Almonds offer 16.5 g of protein per ½ cup. They also provide a good amount of vitamin E, which is great for the skin and eyes.
  6. Spirulina:
    1. Spirulina is blue or green algae that contain around 8 g of protein per 2 tablespoons. It is also rich in nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins (although not vitamin B-12) and manganese.
  7. Quinoa
    1. Quinoa is a grain with a high-protein content, and is a complete protein. Cooked quinoa contains 8 g of protein per cup.
  8. Mycoprotein
    1. Mycoprotein is a fungus-based protein. Mycoprotein products contain around 13 g of protein per ½ cup serving.
  9. Chia seeds
    1. Chia and hemp seeds are complete sources of protein that can be used to make smoothies, yogurts, and puddings.
    2. Seeds are low-calorie foods that are rich in fiber and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein that contain 2 g of protein per tablespoon.
  10. Hemp seeds
    1. Similarly to chia seeds, hemp seeds are a complete protein. Hemp seeds offer 5 g of protein per tablespoon. 
  11. Beans with rice
    1. Separately, rice and beans are incomplete protein sources. Eaten together, this classic meal can provide 7 g of protein per cup.
  12. Potatoes
    1. A large baked potato offers 8 g of protein per serving. Potatoes are also high in other nutrients, such as potassium and vitamin C.
  13. Protein-rich vegetables
    1. Many dark-colored, leafy greens and vegetables contain protein.
    2. A single, medium stalk of broccoli contains about 4 g of protein
    3. Kale offers 2 g of protein per cup.
    4. 5 medium mushrooms offer 3 g of protein
  14. Seitan
    1. Seitan is a complete protein made from mixing wheat gluten with various spices. The high-wheat content means that it should be avoided by people with celiac or gluten intolerance. For others, it can be a protein-rich healthful meat substitute.
    2. When cooked in soy sauce, which is rich in the amino acid lysine, seitan becomes a complete protein source offering 21 g per 1/3 cup.
  15. Ezekiel bread
    1. Ezekiel bread is a nutrient-dense alternative to traditional bread. It is made from barley, wheat, lentils, millet, and spelt.
    2. Ezekiel bread offers 4 g of protein per slice. Get even more protein by toasting Ezekiel bread and spreading it with peanut or almond butter.

I also found a more extensive list that can be printed out at a website called OrdinaryVegan.com.

Do I have to eat all this stuff??

To be honest, I have not tried every food item on the list above. In fact some I have never even heard of (Spirulina). I just wanted to share this list so you can see that you don’t have to eat tofu every day just to get the daily recommended amount of protein. There are many options and most of them are actually cheaper to purchase than meat or cheese. I would say that most of our daily protein comes from beans, nuts, dark green vegetables and quinoa. We add tofu or tempeh to an occasional recipe but usually only once every 2 or 3 weeks.

Do you get the ‘Meat Shakes’??

Roasted boar in Tuscany, Italy

A friend of mine once asked me if I experienced any meat withdrawal symptoms when I stopped eating meat (he called it the “meat shakes”). Although I occasionally crave Chick-Fil-A or some good BBQ pulled pork – I am actually fine not eating meat and dairy. My taste buds have changed to actually want to eat more veggies and fruit. To be honest, I actually feel relieved to not have to deal with slimy chicken breasts and bloody red meat. It used to make me hate cooking – for real! I will say that I still have a weakness for ice-cream or anything chocolate (which is not good for my sugars – see blood tests below). We found a really good coconut based ice-cream called “So Delicious” which is true to it’s name.

I also wanted to share my most recent blood work (below) which was taken just a couple weeks ago. You will see that the protein in my blood has not gone down much at all since I began eating vegan in June of 2017. The good news is that my cholesterol still remains low – compared to 2015 and 2016 (when it was inching up to 200).

The only nutrients that are not found in a vegan diet are B12 and Omega 3 fatty acids. We take a multi-vitamin that provides the B12 and other B vitamins and I also use nutritional yeast a few times a week (has the same nutrients). I’ve recently found a plant based source for Omega 3 called Ahiflower Oil (it can be found on Amazon at a reasonable price). Flaxseed oil is another possible source.

I hope this information helps you understand how easy it is to get protein on a healthy plant-based diet. If anyone asks you about protein, just tell them that broccoli has more protein, per calorie than steak! If you would like to learn more about eating a healthier plant-based diet make sure to sign up for or follow my blog.

You don’t eat no meat?

Featured

How many of you remember that hilarious line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? And then her immediate reply – “That’s OK – I’ll make lamb.”  My husband and I have had that same question posed to us – maybe not as dramatically. In fact, I have asked many other vegetarian and vegan friends. Why would you want to cut meat out of your diet – and dairy too? That is just too extreme!

My reply may surprise most people. We just don’t want to die . . . prematurely that is. In June of 2017 my Physical Therapist husband said he wanted to share a video with me – that was sent as a link by his Physical Therapy Association. It was the introductory video by Dr. Greger on “How Not to Die” – showing studies of how diet can affect and even prevent certain diseases.

“How Not to Die” – written by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, FACLM 

A Wake Up Call

This was a wake-up call for both of us, because both sets of our parents had passed or where in the processes of dying from one of 4 major killers: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and Alzheimers disease. I had just had my DNA tested and it showed that I was at higher risk for two of these diseases! We were in our mid to late 50’s and ready to take action to slow down or maybe even prevent some of these diseases.

Where do we start?

The next question most people ask us is “Isn’t it hard to find and cook food that has no meat or dairy in it?” At first I would have said, yes! It took us a few months to get used to the new plant-based diet. In fact the first night we were “all in” we went out to celebrate our 25th anniversary with a dinner out. The waiter was nice enough to describe the special for the day: Prime Rib!! After such wonderful, mouth watering description we had to confess that we were vegan (which was not easy). Neither was finding vegan entrees as we traveled for a weekend get-away to a quaint little town in southern Indiana.

That same night we decided to check out Whole Foods and pick up a list of foods I had never heard of – taken from a newly purchased vegan cookbook for beginners (“But I Could Never Go Vegan!”). They nearly jumped up and down when we told them we were going vegan – and were more than happy to show us where to find the tofu, plant-based milk, miso, tahini and coconut oil (half of the stuff I rarely if ever used). I tried my best to prepare several of the entrees from the cookbook – but it was very difficult. Some of the stuff I had never heard of – and some of it was downright unappetizing.

I was determined not to give up, however. That Christmas I was given several vegan cookbooks and settled into using one more than any other, “The One Dish Vegan” by Robin Robertson. The ingredients were easy to find, they were not expensive and most dishes took only 30 – 40 minutes to cook. Every time we tried a new recipe we would rate it with 1 – 5 stars and then take a photo of it to reference later (her book did not have photos in it). This process made cooking so much easier and satisfying. In fact, my husband volunteered to do the cutting up of the veggies and I did the actual cooking – which made dinner prep so much more fun. We actually started to enjoy cooking together – which is a big deal for someone who used to hate cooking with a passion (me!).

One Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson

Changes for the Better

Within weeks were feeling more energy than we had felt in years, were more regular then we had ever been and had several other unexpected side affects including less gas and constipation, less tarter on our teeth, improved eye-site (my prescription changed), far fewer hot-flashes for me, and we spent less on our food budget!  The most encouraging news, however, was that my bad cholesterol (LDL) numbers went down 28 points (from 106 to 78), and my total cholesterol dropped by 38 points (198 to 160)! I also lost about 5 pounds – but I am still working on increasing my physical activity (exercising 3 – 5 times a week). My husband actually lost 7 – 10 pounds too (is at the same weight he was in high school)!

That is why I decided to write this blog. I want to encourage others out there who are committed to improving their health and preventing disease through a healthier lifestyle including eating a plant-based diet. If your partner or family is not on board yet – I encourage you to start with just one vegan meal a week and don’t make a big deal about the meatless thing. Your family may be surprised by how delicious and satisfying these meals are.

I called this blog the “Practical Vegan” because I am very practical and I want meals that don’t take hours to cook, cost a lot, or include hard-to-find ingredients. I also may include a non-vegan ingredient occasionally like feta or greek yogurt – but those can be easily be substituted. I will only post recipes that I have actually made and will include photos. If you have questions or want me to try out a new recipe – please let me know. I would love to hear from you!

Let food be thy Medicine and medicine by thy food. – Hippocrates, 460 B.C.

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