Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Food and Politics

Last night after binging on cookies, bread, pasta, and wine while watching the race to the White House; the realization that I have to get back on track is ever so real. I can feel it again and I sure don’t want to weigh myself right now.

Does eating plant-based foods keep us thin? Not really. One thing does hold true though – all I have to think about is to just continue eating. The good news is that I’m no longer thinking of what I can or cannot eat and what I should avoid anymore. I just need to go back to the foods that I enjoy.

The election has brought on enough stress to keep me planted on the couch with wine, ice cream and gluten free cookies. However, now that the stress has gone and the reality sets in, I’m finding my way back on track.

I’m so glad this isn’t a chore. It’s not anything painful. The only part that would be painful is the temptation brought on by stress that induces the need for sugar and oily foods. 

However, once I get a handle on my stress, I can breathe a sigh of relief and figure out how to serve potatoes tonight.

What am I chopping up tonight?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Welcome to Healthy, Plant-Based Cooking!

The reason I'm creating this blog is to not necessarily have recipes, (sorry to disappoint), but to help you find recipes of ordinary dishes you're already making and transforming them into healthy dishes with little to no oil, no meat, and no cheese. Save all that for a Sunday.

By subscribing to his blog, you’ll never be stumped again with what’s for dinner. Your cravings, your giving in to temptation and this entire yo-yo effect of going from losing weight to gaining more will be over.  What you need is not out there.  It’s not in a diet program, a recipe book or food delivered to your door.  It’s what is in your head that I’m going to help you transform the more you read and watch what I’m doing on a daily basis. 


I've learned that ANYONE can create great dishes that don't look or sound weird and will help you feed your family, your spouse or roommates.  If you were to recreate a dish and it was more delicious than what you’ve been cooking all along, who's to argue? 

Every day I'm cooking.  I promised everyone recipes on Twitter and boy did I get people liking that tweet but honestly, I'd almost rather be cooking than writing which is weird because I love to write.  However, I've been gathering photos, (driving my husband crazy while doing it) and logging all the dishes I've learned to recreate.  They have little to no oil, very little cheese amounts, and no meat.  

This Sunday my husband wanted meat and almost pleaded for a roasted chicken but if we were going to have meat and I was going to give in, I suggested lamb. We love lamb and being it was Sunday, lamb it was! 

We shared 1 pound of ground lamb grilled with pesto and crumbled feta on top, over a bed of lettuce. No other side dishes and no bread and we were as contempt as can be.  (More on that here.)

This blog is not to get you to go plant-based overnight and have you defending yourself in every conversation when you don't eat meat.  I’m going to share with you some simple tips to help you transform not only your diet but the way you think about food. When you can train your mind, you WILL win this war.  

Don't be surprised if you find that you love plants more someday over meat.  There are a TON of people who prefer skipping the meat and who say cheese is "overrated."  

Yesterday my husband moaned about wanting meat and I asked him if he didn’t like the dishes I was preparing.  He said he loved my plant-based dishes.  I asked him what it was and he said he didn’t know.  Think about that.  

Share with me what you think below. Add stuff I don't know. There's a lot that we don't know but we can at least share what helps and what doesn't.  Stuff like that.  Let’s begin.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pesto Lamb over Salad

One of my favorite dishes is lamb with pesto.  I would normally add eggs and bread crumbs to the ground beef but I've substituted those items.  I'm just not used to adding egg and bread crumbs anymore to my dishes. However, we're still cheating on our normal daily diet with ground beef and my husband couldn't be more thrilled.

For example, before being on a plant-based diet, I would take the ground lamb and add egg and bread crumbs before mixing it and forming it into a burger.

Now, I do the following.

1 pound ground lamb
1 avocado
egg replacer
salt and pepper
Moroccan Seasoning
Pesto sauce in a jar (fresh of course, is always better)

Mix all the ingredients together with a masher.  Form burger patties and grill. The avocado replaces the egg as a binder to a lot of foods. You'll get the hang of it.

Turn over and spoon a little pesto on top.

Mix a spring salad with a light dressing of your choice and put the salad mix onto a plate. Put patties on top and instead of eating this for lunch, it has now become your Sunday dinner.  Wine option: Pair with a nice light wine like zinfandel or pinot noir.

Sprinkle Feta, Cotija cheese on top if desired

Another option:
Add olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrot slices if you're really hungry for a Mediterranean dish. Wine option: Pair with a full-bodied wine if you added the egg, the bread crumbs, and Mediterranean dish additions. You'll have more going on in tastes so a fuller wine would round it out.

Does anyone else have any other ideas to this favorite Mediterranean dish? Are there any other substitutions?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Give Your Favorite Dish a Vegetarian Makover


One of my mother's favorites.  She's from Texas and any chile you can grill, toast, cook or freeze is right up her alley.  I had a hard time figuring out what to use instead of the egg, flour, meat and cheese I normally use until I just left it out.

Here are things you can do if you're stumped in putting one of your favorite dishes together that includes meat and cheese.

1. Just forget it altogether
You've tried it all; egg replacer, avocado and even Xanthan Gum and nothing compares to the fluffiness of the egg.  How about just forgetting it?

2. Use it sparingly
Instead of mixing three or four eggs, maybe just use one and add water.

3. Substitute
Since eggs are a binder, what else can be used as a binder, mixed with flour and then sauteed?

I have learned that sometimes omitting it all together isn't so bad.  Why? Because the flavors typically make up for it.

We get into these habits sometimes and don't realize that it's just that.  They're habits and if you're like me who's constantly tweaking my habits, then you'll know that's what it's really all about.

4 Poblano Chiles
1 cup Barley
1/4 bag of Frozen peas, carrots, and corn
1/4 cup of a fresh pot of cooked red beans
1 bag of Red Beans
1 Garlic (all cloves) crushed and diced
Sea Salt to taste

1/4 cup of Molasses
2 tablespoons of Worstechire
1 tablespoon Tamari
1/2 tablespoon of Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon of Horseradish
1 tablespoon Grey Poupon Mustard

Cook the beans in a pot with tomato stock (or some sort of vegetable stock) for about 3-4 hours.

Cook the chiles over a comal or dry pan and roast them on all sides leaving the stem in tact. Set aside and let them cool.

Make the barley - 1 cup barley to 3 cups water and cook like rice but after it boils, put a lid and let it steam for about 45 minutes in homemade vegetable broth

Mix the sauce ingredients and keep tasting it to make sure it's the right flavor for you

Add the frozen vegetables

When the barley is done, add about 1/2 cup in the sauce and vegetables.

When the beans are done, mix about the same amount of cooked beans together with the veggies and barley mix and set aside.

Put on some disposable gloves and peel the skin off the chiles and remove all the seeds. Cut a slit from the top of the stem to the bottom and remove everything inside. (The gloves are to protect you from the chile getting on your hands that can be very uncomfortable afterwards.)

Stuff the chiles with the mixture and add Cotija cheese if desired. Put in oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.  They should be hot and steamy when taken out of the oven.

Here's what is important.  If you can add the right amount of flavoring to fresh cooked foods like beans, barley and chile poblanos, that is part of the secret.  Get out of using the canned products. The more fresh these ingredients are made, the better they will taste but you knew that. Who will argue with the frozen peas and carrots?

We served this with a Ceasar's salad with avocados and croutons.  It was really delicious!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Having these 14 Kitchen Tools Helps Me Eat Healthy

Do you have the right tools to cook healthy? I like when recipes come with a list of tools at the very beginning. Having the right tools help. These are basic tools I use every day to cook plant-based meals.

The Wok – The most effective pan for cooking vegetables is the wok. Once you use this and use it often, you will be amazed at how much you use it because what you throw in it. From tofu to eggplant, to broccoli, rice, and noodles, it cooks everything quickly and thoroughly. Say hello to the wok. Just don’t forget to get the wooden flat spoon if you don’t have one.

Rice cooker -- This makes any grain as they say, “perfect every time.”  Add your white rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, sticky rice, barley, assorted variations of quinoa and even veggies and walk away. When time is of the essence and you’re focusing on creating your dish, your rice cooker helps.

Boil basket -- Are you tired of eating rice and quinoa all the time? Welcome, the boil basket. One way to make your quinoa, barley and rice taste uniquely flavorful is with the broth. Whether it's tomato, vegetable, garlic and onion, a good tool to have is this basket. There are so many variations of broth to use to cook your grains. This drops in a pot with the hook hanging out to pull out. Fresh herbs are great to add too.

Spaghetti Spoon – Is not just for spaghetti anymore.  I typically use this for rice, stir-fry, vegetables and anything I need to scoop out of a pan or a bowl. Spoons don’t work as well. We’ve used this so much that the spoon has broken off from the handle. Yep, get the spaghetti spoon.

Slicer – there are two variations I have for this including a mandoline slicer. I like cooking tools, I admit, but I bought one for a friend of mine and she said she really loves it.  Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t have time to carefully slice our onions very thin and if we did, not even chefs do that. They almost always have a slicer.

Rubber spoons – When using non-stick or even sauté pans, I reach for the rubber spoon. These spoons are heat resistant and gentle to plant foods. When you create sauces, these work perfectly from stirring gently to scoop curry sauce out of the pan. Wooden spoons don’t work the same. Thank you, rubber spoon.

Sharp knives – If you have dull knives you should just delay your healthy diet plans.  A sharpener is good to have too.

Pairing knives – These are great to slice small stuff but also with precision. I have been able to slice strawberries, mushrooms, peppers large and small, herbs, tomatoes for bruschetta and speaking of bruschetta, olives too. You minimize cutting yourself if you have a nice set of pairing knives. And yes, get a set of them if you can. You will cry if lose the only one you have.

Electric Teakettle – Wow what a game changer this was. Once I started drinking teas often, the electric teakettle helped my daily routine. I would have pulled my hairs out if I had to wait on my teapot.

Bowl / Basket – A lot of veggies are better left out like tomatoes, avocados, garlic, lemons, limes, bananas, apples, pears, etc. You have to have something to put them in to leave them out.

Grill – This gives roasted veggies a lot of flavors. You don’t have to have a BBQ - just a grill big enough to make one plate full.  Even if you’re trying to grill the chicken instead of frying it, a grill brings a new flavor to your foods. With a light avocado or coconut spray, you will have healthy and great tasting roasted food.

Blender – Great for smoothies but it can do a lot more. I’ve made salad dressings, soups, and sauces in a snap.

Glass Storage Containers – When my sister was throwing them out, I gladly took them. I store beans, barley, teas and polenta that I buy sometimes by the pound. My goal is to have a beautiful pantry with nothing but glass jars filled with dry foods.

Plenty of chopping boards– I use at least 3-4 every single day. I have wooden ones and plastic ones and even had the very thin ones although those didn’t last long.  You will need a chopping board when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Have plenty. One is usually in the sink, in the dishwasher or sitting by the sink all at the same time.

When I listen to people say how challenging it is to eat healthy, my first question I have is if they have the right tools. Whatever those tools are for you, those are the right ones.  Sometimes I find these at thrift stores and flea markets. I found a nice skillet at a flea market for $10 bucks that I use. I also peruse the kitchen stores and even Barnes and Noble to see if they have a solution to any recipes I'm working on. 

Please comment on what tool or appliance you use that helps you make incredibly delicious healthy recipes. I’d love to know!    

Monday, April 4, 2016

Top 7 Beliefs That Lead To Consistent Weight Gain

Are you dieting every few weeks when you live without all your favorite foods and work out like mad just long enough to lose those extra pounds?

Wouldn’t it be nice that no matter how much you eat, you never gained that much weight?  Isn’t that how Weight Watchers works?  You can eat all you want including bread and dessert and you can still manage to lose the weight.  How simple is that?

Here’s the problem.  

You can lose all the weight from any diet program; any discipline and feel great but are you really healthy?  Have you heard the naysayers who say that we have been eating the same foods we are today for thousands of years and why should we have to change what we eat?  Everything you eat is good for you.  Right?  

Then why are you on this viscous cycle of always gaining lots of weight by eating all the foods that are good for you? Why are you always on a “diet” again and again?

Here’s why.  

It’s not really what we are eating as much as it is our beliefs about it.  Our beliefs deceive us.  Our convictions are what put us into a cycle of food weight gain.  

Let me explain.  When we eat "healthy" to then go back to gaining the weight all over again, isn't it because we put ourselves in a position of having to make those hard choices like trying to decide salad over a sandwich? After that, don't we then suffer in the gym all over again?  Does it really have to be this hard?  How do we end up in this cycle to begin with?

If you believe that meat and dairy are absolutely necessary for your diet, you’ve already lost the battle before you started.  

I am recently being coached on a project about the decisions we make early on to guarantee our success in the long run.  Our success is determined from the very beginning of any project.  Once the decisions are made, success progresses because the right choices have been made.  It’s just pure execution from that point. 

The same goes true for the way we eat.  Your beliefs have to change in what you eat or you will fail over and over again.  Your beliefs have to change if you want to keep the weight off.

Here are my top 7 beliefs that lead to consistent weight gain:

1)  Meat is the only protein.  
We don’t even call it what it is.  Somehow, meat is now  called protein.

2)  Dairy is good for strong bones and teeth.  
Are you sure that’s the only food that has calcium?  Is drinking dairy the only way to strong bones and teeth?

3)  Your body has to have meat or you will starve.  

If we’re talking about malnutrition, are you comparing yourself to those who live in third world countries that are truly suffering from malnutrition?

4)  Meat (protein) fills you up for a long time.  
I lived off this presumption too.  As long as I was satisfied for a long period of time, I'd curve the cravings and not have the impulses to snack, (and I would presume bad snacks). However, isn't it really helpful to not be hungry for hours or should you be eating four to five times a day?

5)  Without meat or dairy, there is nothing else to eat.  
Could this be because you don’t know how to cook without meat or dairy products?

6)  We’ve eaten meat for thousands of years.  
How much meat have humans consumed in one seating for thousands of years?  Why was the purest of animals with presumably the best meat sacrificed to the Gods?  

7)  People who don’t eat meat lose the color in their faces.  
I agree.  I’ve lost a lot of color in my face from not eating so much meat but I’m glad the rosacea has gone away. 

I hear these myths all the time but I’m not sure if people realize what they are saying or better yet, know their beliefs are what making them fat.  

If we can only abstain (or at least try to abstain) for 26 days without meat and dairy, how would we feel?  Will our taste buds change?  Will our moods change?  Will we be forced to learn how to cook more vegetarian dishes?  Will we get used to eating a lot more of it? Will we have to stretch ourselves to find what is really healthier to eat or will we be convinced it’s too hard? 

I like Tai Lopez’s TedTalk about how everyone wants the good life but not everyone gets the good life because not everyone is willing to do what it takes here

It’s painful but is it better to suffer for 26 days and be done with it? Or is it better to hold onto our beliefs and eating habits for good and suffer every 26 days?

What steps do you need to take to change your beliefs?  Are you willing to change your beliefs in 26 days?

Let me know your beliefs below.

Find me on Twitter @cncastrosIdea and thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

5 Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating in the Home

Eating healthy is hard when we live with others who may not be on the same page as us who may not care to necessarily eat healthier or adopt our diets.  Either it's our spouse, our children or even our parents that make food or bring food home that is not exactly what you decided to keep eating.  What do you do? 

Here are 5 things you can do to encourage healthier eating in the home.  If you are working on being gluten free, vegetarian, vegan or just want to make better choices when eating, try some of these ways that can help boost the health morale in the home.

  1. Giving

When you find that perfect vegan spread at the farmers market or the juiciest orange you've ever had, don't keep it from them.  Buy enough for two and tell them you bought an extra one just in case they wanted to try it.  If you make something that your spouse likes and he's looking for seconds, give him your share and make another one for yourself. If you find the best chocolate gluten free muffin and they eat the entire batch, buy more to give them. Be giving; it will go a long way in promoting better health.

  1. Don't buy foods you want to avoid.

When you're picking up something to go on a picnic or to a party take something that you would want to eat and avoid all the bad foods even though you know others would eat it. If you're taking foods that you know will be expected like mac n cheese, potato chips and salami, chances are, if no one eats it, you don't want to bring those foods back in your house so why buy them anyway?  Keep all processed, boxed and fatty foods away from the home as much as possible unless you're buying something sweet for an after dinner treat to cheat. When taking food for others to enjoy, keep the same idea as your own.  Just don't buy anything that requires an acquired taste like baked kale.

  1. Learn to cook great recipes

If you're experimenting, don't expect anyone to eat it if you don't like it. Try to make only delicious foods you've had before or cook foods that you like.  There's no sense in experimenting with something that the both of you or your entire family won't like. You want to avoid as many bad experiences as possible and experimenting with foods you've never had or sometimes recipes that you've never conquered will make your sale of healthier eating that much harder.

  1. Stay positive: don't be discouraging

If you're trying to eat healthier as a team and your team player gives in and goes for those chips, don't be so hard on them. However, if they tell you they had something different for lunch which wouldn't necessarily be what you would have ordered, tell that how great it is that they are making different choices. Don't haggle them for not making a perfect choice but encourage them for trying. This behavior of eating something different is going in the right direction. They just need to keep going and you're there to tell them just that.  

  1. Be supportive

One way to stay supportive is understanding that transitioning to a healthier diet is hard. Eating healthier is done in baby steps, not overnight. Most of us need us to be cheerleaders to support their efforts, especially if they are doing it because you are the one promoting it. Hunger is a terrible evil and if we aren't careful, our food choices can slide back very quickly if we don't get enough support to see the transition through. Don't only be supportive by understanding but stay supportive for however long it takes.

These are ways you can encourage your household to stay healthy. Foods that are naturally better for us make us feel better and have more energy. Don't underestimate the power of not only good food but foods that can heal too. With a little encouragement, you may have your whole family or roommates wanting more. 

What are ways you encourage healthy eating at home? Let me know below or send me a hello on Twitter @Cncastrosidea.