Plant-Based Plan: Week 3- 5-Bean Chili (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

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Baby, it’s COLD outside! It’s shaping up to be a winter for the record books, and everyone and their mother is thinking of how they would trade ANYTHING to be on a beach right now working on their suntan (with plenty of SPF of course!). While that sounds like a pretty tempting aspiration, it’s days like today that make me happy to live in the midwest. It may be -12 degrees out, and my car battery may have froze, leaving me stranded for the time being, but I’m in my bed under 4 or 5 blankets, cuddling with my kitten and savoring a big bowl of steel-cut oats and blueberries while I write to you all. Hello SNOW DAY! If I lived in Hawaii or Mexico or LA, the ever-elusive-but-joyfully-decadent-when-it-happens snow day would be non-existent. I don’t think I could give days like this up! How have you been spending your snow days? (assuming of course that you’re not essential emergency staff and assuming you live in the CLE like I do!)

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I planned my food out again this week. Three weeks in a row; I think this is becoming a habit and I’m not upset about it! Actually, I’m really proud of myself. I’ve been sticking to my budget (5$ over this week on groceries but that’s not bad!) and I’ve been prepping all my meals from scratch! It’s good to praise yourself and give yourself credit when it’s due, and I am really happy with how well I have been following through with this plan.
Last semester, I lived of Clif Bars and pita bread from the BRB cafe (@ CWRU). Three weeks into this semester, I haven’t had to buy a thing from the cafe! Unless coffee counts. You all know I’m very anti-caffeine, but between 40+ hours at work and 30+ hours spent on campus, Starbucks and I have been getting pretty chummy.

Okay, let’s get to the FOOD! I’ve been trying to come up with new and creative “pre-packaged” meals that aren’t REALLY pre-packaged. Sorry, no juice this week. It just wasn’t in my budget, and though the old Kate would have just gone over her budget and rationalized it, Present Kate is trying to be better than that! Next week there will be some yummy juice recipes though, I promise!

Sunday after work, I ran up to Giant Eagle (I wish Earth Fare had FuelPerks) and did my grocery shop for the week. When I got out of my car though, a bitter gust of wind ripped my list from my hands! I had to do the whole shop from memory, so that may have contributed to being a few dollars over budget. I did all my food prep Sunday night and thought of my friend @allisoninwellnessland since she always has her “Sunday Food Prep” posts! Two big recipes: I made a big bowl of salsa chickpea salad to make lettuce wraps with, and at the same time I had a huge pot of chili simmering (hot chili and a little nutritional yeast is sounding really delicious right now!). The chili fit perfectly into 5 small mason jars and perfectly encompassed my “pre-packaged” food goal! Still trying to figure out how to pack the lettuce wraps, but since today’s a snow day, I get to enjoy them from home and their logistics have become a non-issue today.

Okay. You want this chili recipe? You ready to warm your bones? I know I am! use whatever beans you have on hand. This is a loose recipe, so add in or omit as you see fit! Go where the flow takes you!

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Obviously Bran-approved! Cats love nutritional yeast!

5-Bean Chili (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 small carrots, grated
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 3 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • ½ tbsp chili powder
  • 1 cup water
  • cayenne pepper to taste (if you like your chili to have a little kick!)

If you’ve got a slow cooker/crock pot, then 1) just throw everything in there on low for 4 hours and 2) when can I borrow it? For everyone else out there using their stove, start by sauteing the vegetables and spices. Add in everything else after about 7 or 8 minutes and cook on low-medium for about an hour. Stir occasionally.
I know some people like corn, but I am not one of those people. Feel free to add in anywhere from ½ to 1 cup of corn if that’s something you’re thinking needs to be a part of your chili-devouring experience. Also, if you are a non-dairy consumer like I am, feel free to throw some Daiya cheddar shreds on top, or be like me and dump a pound of nutritional yeast into the bowl! I love nutritional yeast. So much. I could talk about it all day every day! some chives would be good in there too. When pulling out my individual jar to reheat, I filled the empty mason jar about a third of the way full with water and added it to the chili since it was a little thick. This also helped me get all the stuff stuck to the sides of the jar into the bowl!

Until next time, be healthy, be happy, and happy juicing!

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Day 4- Clean Eating Cleanse: Roasted Cabbage and Fresh Salad

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I have to say, one thing I love about a fridge stocked with whole foods is the versatility I have with meals.  Combinations, portion sizes, and prep time are all totally in my control.  Sometimes, I get home and I’m ready to take on that intimidating new ethnic recipe I’ve wanted to try.  Other times, I want to branch out on my own and do a little experimentation.  And other other times like tonight, I just want something fast, light, and satisfying. Cooking from scratch means the fridge is always full, and the possibilities are truly endless.  While I did plan on tackling a particularly interesting recipe tonight, I came home from work mentally exhausted, and was able to throw together a dinner that was much more suited to my mood. 

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Roasted cabbage is something literally ANYONE can cook.  All I did was pre-heat the oven to 375 and toss a couple hunks of cabbage in.  I lightly drizzled some olive oil, and completed the dish with some garlic and onion powder, pepper, and basil.  Pop those suckers in the oven for a half hour and you’re in business!

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I also threw together a salad with produce from my trip to the farmer’s market last Sunday.  Chopped romaine, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, & pepitas with a little balsamic drizzled on.  That’s the stuff.

All in all, dinner took about a 20 minutes to prep (the cabbage obviously took a little longer than that to cook, but prep time was super short!).  Yes, my salad WAS prepared in a pot.  I just threw all my dishes in the dishwasher and had to improvise!  Still tasted amazing though! 

I know foods I post sometimes have lengthy prep times, or seem complicated to reproduce, but hopefully today’s post proves to you that eating a clean, unprocessed diet can be both healthy AND simple! Food is either as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and tonight I ate a clean, vegan, totally unprocessed meal that I was able to enjoy less than 40 minutes after walking in the door after a long, crazy day of work. 

What healthy meals do you prepare when you’re short on time?

Day 3- Clean Eating Cleanse: Homemade Almond Milk & Juicing with Leftovers

ImageTuesdays are to me what Saturdays are to the rest of the world with normal jobs.  I love my day off, and while it’s usually spent lounging around or moseying around town lazily with friends, I decided that today had to be a productive Tuesday.  I woke up with a mission, and I could almost hear my kitchen’s sharp, anticipatory inhalation as I entered, like it knew it was going to get quite the work out!

To go into detail about every little treat my kitchen spouted out today would take far too much time than I have to document, but in a nutshell, I made almond milk, almond meal crackers, zucchini hummus, vegetable stock, raw avocado soup, and, of course, a big jar of green juice!  Yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said my kitchen got a workout.  I’m sure my Ninja doesn’t want to hear from me for the next week, and my oven is very thankful to finally get a little rest.

If you don’t already know how, you can read how to make vegetable stock here.  It’s one of those foods that is a totally evolving organism, looking different every time.  I know the recipe I originally posted shows pictures of a deeper colored, reddish concoction, but due to a variation of vegetables (I used pulp from a GREEN juice), this batch came out looking mean and green!  I also threw some more herbs from my garden into it, making my kitchen smell absolutely heavenly.

Now, the soup and the crackers were tasty, but that’s not what I want to focus on.  What I want to do here today is tell you about this discovery I happened upon in my research that I can’t get enough of!  Have you ever made your own almond milk? It’s super easy.  ANYONE can do it, I promise!  It tastes way better than the store-bought stuff, too!

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Almond milk is becoming more and more popular as our population continues to pursue alternatives to dairy milk.  It has entered almost every grocery store you can think of, and is absolutely delicious!  The problem?  Store-bought products like almond milk have additives like refined sugars, preservatives, and other icky stuff that I just can’t deal with while on my Clean Eating Cleanse.  I LOVE almond milk, though, and need it for many of my recipes.  What’s a girl to do?  Make her own, that’s what!  Only 2 ingredients and you’ll be good to go.  Not bad, huh?

Start with a cup of almonds.  Soak them overnight so they get nice and soft and fleshy.

Add the almonds to your Ninja (or VitaMix or whatever!) and pour 4 cups of water in.

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Blend that sucker for about a minute.  In the end, it should look like this:

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Yum.  Frothy goodness.  Side bar: I know my photos show 2 sizes of blenders, but that’s just because I thought the little one would be big enough; it’s SO not! Use the bigger container if possible, so you don’t have an almond explosion on your hands.  That’s one mess you don’t want to clean up! (well, are there any messes you really want to clean up? Probably not.)

Now comes the tricky part.  If you have cheesecloth, it’s not so tricky.  If you’re a broke mother trucker like myself, you’ll have to find a (CLEAN!) cotton t-shirt you’re willing to part with in order to strain out the almond pulp.  I used an old cotton dress:

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Line a bowl with your cheesecloth (or t-shirt, or dress!) and pour the mixture in!  squeeze the fabric to get all the water into the bowl.  Voila! Houston, we have almond milk!  Some people choose to add a bit of honey to their milk, but I’m a “less is more” kind of lady, so I keep it as is.  Make sure to store in an airtight container and use within the week!  Save the almond pulp.  There are so many awesome recipes that call for it, and it’s really expensive in stores!

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Now, in true “juice junky” fashion, let’s talk about my morning juice!  Today I juiced cucumber, celery, grapefruit, ginger, kale, and leftovers.  What are leftovers, you ask?  Well, I had vegetable soup last night, and I saved the ends of the carrots I chopped, the base of the celery stalk, even the top of the onions and green peppers I chopped.  I don’t believe in waste, so I threw it all into a Tupperware container until this morning, when it all went into my tasty breakfast! It turned out pretty great!

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Have you been cooking from scratch lately?  What other kitchen staples would you like to learn to make at home?  I’d love to do some more experimenting!

Day 2- Clean Eating Cleanse: Banana Shake + Green Juice

Let’s hear it for Day 2 of the Clean Eating Cleanse!  Things are going great!  I started the day off right with a mug of hot lemon water and a solid half hour of yoga.  I swear, that combo is better than coffee.  It never fails to leave me energized, invigorated, and ready to get the day started! Breakfast was out of this world.  I made a banana-oat smoothie, one of my go-to recipes.  Only 3 ingredients!

bananaoatshake

  • 3 bananas, sliced & frozen
  • ¾ cup water (or almond milk if you prefer)
  • ½ cup oats

Blend and enjoy!

What I love about this breakfast recipe is that it is so simple, and yet so satisfying!  It’s become a favorite of mine, and has become very popular with friends and other followers I have recommended it to.  Packed with protein and carbohydrates, this ice cream-like concoction seems more like dessert than a satisfying breakfast.  Seeing as I work in a job which requires a decent amount of physical labor, you can believe me when I tell you that it filled me up and carried me through my morning’s work demands.

Sticking with my goal to substitute one meal per day with a fresh juice, I brought a tasty green juice to work with me as my lunch.  I love not having to pack a lunch in the mornings, and instead just throw a jar of juice into my bag and know I’m good to go!  I like to eat lunch in a lounge with free-roaming cats meandering around, and little Emma found her way over to me and my juice.  I guess even cats love my juicing!

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Fresh vegetable juice is so full of micronutrients, I can almost feel the rush of nutrition as my body absorbs it!  Kale is, well, a superfood, and I can say I really do feel amazing after eating it or juicing it!

Dinner was a water-based vegetable soup full of carrots, onions, turnips, garlic, celery, and lentils.  SO deliciously filling, and with fresh rosemary and thyme from my herb garden, my apartment smelled AMAZING.  Yeah, you’re welcome neighbors!

Once I let this dinner digest a bit, it’ll be back to the kitchen to prep veggies for tomorrow’s meals.  I can’t wait to share more great juicing and recipe finds with you all! Tomorrow may be a bit more of a struggle since I won’t have work to occupy me; I’ll probably be eyeing the Earth Balance and Vegenaise like no other in my fridge.  I can do this, though!  Honestly, I’m really excited for another banana breakfast shake tomorrow morning!

 

Stay clean, stay healthy!  Happy juicing!

 

 

When life gives you Apples… You Better Get Your Juicer Out!

Ahhhhh…. Happy Lazy Sunday everyone!  Well, as lazy as it can be, anyways.  My idea of lazy still entails a run, some yoga, and, of course, blogging!  A quick 2-mile jog this morning was over before I knew it, and I had a successful trip to the Sunday Farmer’s Market. Yay! Now I’m home and I’ve got a pretty sweet set up on my couch: a huge salad on my left, my laptop to my right, and a House of Cards marathon on Netflix.  I’d say this is a pretty great day! 

A few days ago, a large donation of apples was dropped off at the animal shelter where I work.  I’m talking like a moving crate, full of apples and pears.  There was no way we would be able to use them all before they went bad, so guess who brought home enough apples to feed an entire elementary school? This girl!  

After washing and cutting everything up, my kitchen was beginning to look like an applesauce factory!  There were apples everywhere!  On my counter top, on the stove, in the sink, I was practically swimming in them! I have to say, it was probably the best apple juice I’ve ever had! At the end of the day, my fridge was full, and my apartment smelled like HEAVEN!  Here’s about half the apples in juice form, hanging out in my fridge!

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I’ve been getting a lot of comments and emails from people letting me know that my recipes look delicious, and they love the idea of juicing, but they just aren’t that savvy in the kitchen.  You wanna talk about kitchen savvy?  This girl, this girl right here, didn’t know how to cook pasta until she could legally drink.  I was 22 when my ex-boyfriend taught me how to cook rice.    And baking?  My mother still doesn’t trust me to use the oven without supervision when I come to visit.  How’s that for kitchen savvy?  Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can make health-conscious, proactive choices about what they put in their bodies!  Even the (sort-of) grown-ups who need parental supervision in their own kitchens!  I’ve learned a TON in the past year about food and how to prepare it, so don’t be discouraged!  I’m STILL learning the ropes, and I still mess up recipes on a daily basis!  It’s all about the journey though, and I would much rather be putting whole, natural foods into my body than a processed, refined frozen dinner. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m by no means an expert chef, and by no means should anyone feel intimidated, especially by me of all people.  In the beginning, it was so easy to get frustrated with even the simplest recipes and run down to Cosmic Dave’s for a sandwich instead.  Now, I would much rather stick it out in the kitchen and eat something made from scratch, where I know every ingredient I’m eating, rather than eat some questionable, pre-packaged whatchamacallit full of refined sugars and hydrogenated oils.  Cooking doesn’t have to be some stressful terror at the end of a long day.  It can become a de-stressor, something to look forward to at the end of a crazy day, if you let it.  Cooking can be calming, relaxing, an escape.  That’s what it has become for me, and I get more comfortable in the kitchen each day! Plus, fresh food just looks so gorgeous! Have a great Lazy Sunday, and remember that it’s never too late to make a change!

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Stay healthy everyone!