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so…. what do you EAT?!

August 3rd, 2011 | 18 Comments »
This post contains snarky commentary, a hefty dose of sarcasm and extreme frustration. You have been warned. And I will warn too, that it’s for means of discussion and to provoke thoughts on ways to improve our overall health. It is NOT for personal attacks, finger pointing and shame. So be nice.

So…. what DO you EAT?!

Good golly, I’ve encountered this question a lot since sharing with people that I’ve given up eating meat. And upon hearing this, I want to shake my head. Or maybe, shake the person asking me. Really? What do I eat? As if meat is the Be-All to End-All of every single thing we put in our mouths? Someone even asked Mike ‘So, how’s it going on the “Eat Nothing” diet?’

The ignorance, I’m sorry, really really annoys me. I mean…..REALLY annoys me. We, as a nation and people, are much smarter than this.

I could get in to discussing the health benefits of a eating plant based meals; I could go on and on about the sheer prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, sky-high cholesterol and the problems associated with that. I could talk about the national epidemic of obesity in our country, how we’ve become the fattest, most unhealthy nation on Earth, how our food policy is screwed up, how Big Ag has taken control of our food system and plunged our country in to this crisis as a neatly controlled and highly selective means to push their own agenda and pad their pockets. I could discuss the effects of meat consumption, and really, I could get into the whole tired meat debate about factory farming (yawn) and blah blah blah……

But that’s just a dragged out and relentless argument. We KNOW the facts. We KNOW that the huge portions, high fat, processed foods, food additives and preservatives, junk food, fast food, soda, and a million other bits of garbage that crush the aisles of our grocery stores are bad, bad BAD for our bodies. But for being a country of intelligent, highly educated people with the highest standard of living on Earth, we sure know how to turn a gold mine of knowledge into a cesspool of ignorance.

And really, I’m just tired of hearing the public consensus of ‘Gosh, I know this is bad for me!’ as they shove garbage in their gullet. I’m tired of hearing people whine about the crap their kids eat (that THEY BUY for them…. GAH!) and I’m just sick to death of the hand-wringing sense that ‘Oh dear! What can we DO about it!!’ because everyone has within them the means to change everything about their situation. Everything. Every bite they eat, every sip they take, every item of food tossed carelessly into a grocery cart and right down to where and how they shop for groceries. We each have the capability to change any situation in the palm of our hand if only we have the willingness to put down the bad stuff we consume and pick up something better.

Because I did just that. I changed everything about my food, my life and my health. And if you want to see the Readers Digest Condensed Version, please go to my friend Nicole’s blog, and read all about it. But be warned; it took me a long time to get to where I am; the timeline in my story covers twelve years. Twelve! Years!!  I did not make these changes overnight. And they won’t happen overnight if YOU take on the challenge to change what you don’t like about your health and well-being. But they also won’t happen if YOU do nothing about it, and then the whining gets kind of annoying to those around you. My deepest apologies for sounding harsh. Deepest, deepest apologies. Because I do get the inertia that comes when faced with making such powerful changes. It’s hard. I know. Been there.

But there is nothing about eating plant-based foods that smacks of deprivation, so I thought I would make note of some my meals lately, and let everyone know what you really can consume on a meat-free eating plan. Because, you may think I’m really just wasting away, gnawing on a block of bland boring tofu and a plateful of plain ordinary brown rice, hungrily dreaming about a juicy steak.

Heh. Not.

I’ve been enjoying braised kale and poached eggs for breakfast quite often, and tried it with chard too. Loved it. The energy and ability to focus after having this as a start to my day simply amazes me. Eggs cross my plate a lot. I love those little orbs.

Mike and I shared a delicious ciabatta loaf  for dinner one night, stuffed with grilled asparagus, portabella mushrooms and eggplant, then topped with fresh spring greens and sliced tomato. We both had our hands full of this amazing sandwich, and even before I’d joyfully swallowed the final bite I was already dreaming of the next time we’d eat this. It was divine.

I made a pretty good veggie burger, with black beans, mushrooms and bulgur. Even Griffin ate it and declared it to be OK. I plan to experiment more with veggie burger options as I do like the ones I’ve tried so far.

Quinoa makes for a terrific base for just about anything. Add in grilled red peppers, mushrooms, baby bok choy (yes, grilled) zucchini, beets (yes, grilled), more asparagus and chopped radish and you’ve got an incredibly satisfying meal. Griffin will happily eat this without one raised eyebrow. That makes me ecstatic.

I’ve made two amazing tarts with puff pastry as the base. One had asparagus, the other had caramelized onion and roasted radishes on it. Fancy pants stuff, those tarts.

Griffin made pizza for us one night. Ours had grilled zucchini, red and orange peppers. Plus a ton of fresh chopped tomato. It was like a slice of summer in my hand.

More grilled vegetables, plus some canned black beans made for terrific grilled veggie quesadillas. I did these at home for a friend who came to hang out with us, and I made them for a meal at our lake home. They were enthusiastically received both times. My friend was halfway through his second quesadilla before realizing there wasn’t any meat in them. He ate a third, and took home a few too.

Salads. Folks, we’ve had some sticky hot days here in MN. On a scorching and humid day, there is nothing like a big bowl of salad greens and a wide array of crunchy cool vegetables and fruit like carrots, radish, cucumber, apple, nuts, grapes….. you name it. Toss it all in a bowl with a drizzle of good olive oil and it’s a meal worthy of some serious mastication.

These Lemony Garlic White Beans are on a continual rotation in my kitchen. And some version of these Better Black Beans from wayyyyyy back in 2008 get dished up just about weekly, served over rice or eaten as Nachos.

There was a giant container of Peanut Sesame Noodles that lasted for days. I used a commercial peanut satay sauce that I found on sale, added shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, bean sprouts and fresh mint. It was heavenly. And perfect for hot summer days.

I’ve become utterly besotted with balsamic glazed grilled mushrooms and look for just about any excuse to make them. Serving them over Fresh Herb and Corn Polenta is stunning both for the eye and the tongue.

And of course, every recipe I’ve posted since the beginning of May, such as……

Chard and White Beans with Fresh Herbs. Nothing delicious and healthy about that, is there?

Fettucine with Braised Kale. Rich but light and flavorful. Pasta, people! Pasta!

Kale with Quinoa and Toasted Pecans. Crunchy, earthy, cheap and easy.

Toasted Farro with Greens and Tahini What a unique flavor, and so filling in such a good way.

The best snack ever: Roasted Chickpeas. Like popcorn. Killer addiction. If you dry roast them there is zero fat calories.

Here’s that Roasted Radish Tart, if you’re interested

Oh, and a Charred Cherry Tomato Pizza with Balsamic Mushrooms. Yeah, one means of eating those amazing mushrooms. Hoo boy…. wildly good, and some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

And this Ratatouille Gratin? Desperately lacking…… nothing. Nada. Zip.

So there it is. We eat better now than we did before, what with all the glorious color, variety and options available. I’m always satisfied at meal time, and the best part is that I can eat a lot and be full without that painfully stuffed feeling I used to get when I ate meat. My belly is healthier and my menopausal symptoms have dwindled to almost non-existent. If I can achieve that simply by modifying my diet, then I know I’m on the right track.

There is absolutely nothing lacking in plant-based eating. Nothing at all.

And this plan works for us, but it may not be your thing and that’s OK. We all need to find our own means to the ends we seek, and we need to dialogue and discuss instead of point, question and ridicule. Most of all, we need to support, encourage and praise every victory, every step in the right direction.

So what steps do you take to improve your health? Have you seen any decrease in problematic symptoms with dietary changes? I’d LOVE to hear what’s worked for you and your means to achieve optimum health.