Vegetarian Whole30: Week One Menu

The idea of cutting dairy, sugar, grains, beans, alcohol, and processed goods from your diet can feel a bit… suffocating.  Granted, this a big change from how most of us regularly eat, but I’m often surprised to find how freeing the Whole30 process feels.  Anyone who has struggled to come up with a weekly meal plan or who has stressed over what the heck to cook for dinner tonight will likely appreciate these feelings of relief.  When you drastically limit the number of options, it makes the decision process simpler.  It’s like trying to select an outfit from a closet packed to the brim with hundreds of pieces versus picking an outfit from one of those cool, minimalist capsule wardrobes.  When you keep a closet stocked with only versatile pieces you love and that actually fit, picking an outfit is a cinch.

I spent the NYE weekend eating my weight in bagels and cheese and talking to friends about Whole30, and I realized one of the biggest Whole30 concerns was WHAT to cook.  To return to my wardrobe analogy, it’s as if everyone really wants a capsule wardrobe (I do, I do!), but they’re just not sure what pieces (recipes) make the the cut.

Good news.  This January I’ll be sharing some ideas for weekly menus, in an effort to get those Whole30 juices flowing.  Rather than a restrictive, all-inclusive 7-day meal plan, these menu ideas are meant to serve as a jumping off point.

Frittata with Simple Arugula Salad {ferventfoodie.com]

My Whole30.  

In my last post, I laid out some of the differences between regular Whole30 and Vegetarian Whole30, including all the good stuff Vegetarians get to swap in place of meat.  No matter what type of Whole30 you do, planning is crucial, and batch cooking over the weekends will make life much easier.  Things get a little more complicated when you have a variety of eaters in one house.  Say, for example, you’ve got a meat-eater and a vegetarian.  Vegetables and fats can be shared by all, but some things that are OK for Veg Whole30 (beans, tofu, tempeh, etc.) are not allowed for regular Whole30.

In my house, we have a meat-eater who likes to regularly eat meat-free and a part-time pescetarian who prefers a veg-based diet with occasional seafood (1-3 meals per week).  So, our version of Whole30 is  a blended one:  Veg Whole30 plus occasional seafood (meat for the carnivore).


Continue Reading

How to do a Vegetarian Whole30

Nearly every year, somewhere in the weird limbo land between Christmas and New Years, I get these strong put-my-life-back-together pangs. I think about January, the new year, and how I’m going to finally fix everything I’ve been doing wrong. Eat less, exercise more. Stress less, sleep more. Waste less, wash my sheets more. My internal monologue is filled with lots of LESS-of-this and MORE-of-that, and visions of me emerging from January skinnier, shinier, and noticeably more muscular than I entered it.

You feel me?
how-to-do-a-vegetarian-whole-30-v3

The last few Januarys I’ve succumbed to this self-imposed pressure by voluntarily committing to a January Whole30.  For those who aren’t familiar, Whole30 is a nutritional reset program. Thirty days of super clean eating to help you cleanse your body (and your mind) and get your eating habits back on track. The simplest, shortest way to explain Whole30 goes a little something like this: a lot of vegetables, meat, and healthy fats and… nothing else. That means no grains, no beans, no sugar, no dairy, no processed what have you’s, no Paleo baked goods (or other technically-Whole30-approved “junk food”), and NO BOOZE for thirty days.

That’s right, just vegetables, meat, and healthy fats. There’s just one problem. Over a year ago, I quit meat. It wasn’t planned, and it may not last forever, but for the foreseeable future, I won’t be putting any land animals in my mouth. So, what happens when you take meat out of the Whole30 equation, and all you’re left with is vegetables and fat?

According to the official Whole 30 book It Starts With Food, you can’t really do a vegetarian Whole30.  Pescetarian?  No prob.  Vegetarian though…  First, the authors do their best to convince vegetarians to just “give up” their meat-free ways for 30 days, like it’s as simple as deciding you’re not going to eat ketchup anymore.  If you aren’t up for such a sacrifice, a vegetarian diet will require some Whole30 modifications to ensure your food intake is balanced and wholesome.  It’s called Veg Whole30.

bell-peppers

Here’s what you get to swap in for all the meat when you do a Veg Whole30:

  • Limited dairy from pastured, organic, fermented sources (like yogurt and kefir)
  • Minimally processed, fermented soy products like tempeh or natto
  • Organic edamame
  • Nonfermeted soy (extra-firm tofu)
  • Legumes (soaked for 12-24 hours, rinsed, then boiled for at least 15 minutes to reduce anti-nutrient and inflammatory compounds)
  • Whey protein powder from grass-fed organic sources
  • Hemp or pea protein powders

The authors caution to avoid all grains and grain products, including seitan and quinoa, while doing the Veg Whole30.  Likewise, they suggest eating beans and tofu in rotation (i.e., not eating them every day).

When you quit meat, people often wonder how the heck you get your protein in.  It’s a good question, though, I think most people are eating way more protein than they need each day.  I recently read a series of posts on No Meat Athlete, which argue that only 10-15% of our daily calorie intake needs to come from protein.  Say you eat about 1800 calories a day.  That means at least 180 should come from protein, which is the equivalent of at least 45 grams of protein a day.

#vegwhole30 {ferventfoodie.com}

Here’s an example of how to easily hit 45g of protein by lunch time under Veg Whole30:

Breakfast:  2 eggs* + 1 cup sauteed kale + 1/2 cup lentils  = 23g protein

Lunch:  3 oz tempeh + 1 cup broccoli + 1 med banana + 1 tbsp almond butter = 24g protein

*Note that if you don’t eat eggs, you could easily double the kale/lentil combo and exceed the 45g protein goal.

At risk of sounding crass, Veg Whole30 isn’t really that hard.  Sure, it takes dedication, planning, and more time spent cooking than most folks are used to, but I actually enjoy all that stuff.  I like the excuse to get into the kitchen, and I think it’s fun to make every darn thing from scratch.  Whole30 isn’t meant to be a long-term “diet” — it is a 30-day reset.  Which, in January, feels especially welcome after weeks of holiday overeating under our bulging belts.  Speaking from the other side, Whole30 will change the way you eat (and drink) long term, far past the end of January.

      

Some links that may be useful:

Continue Reading

Lentil Dal with Spinach and Carrots {healthy recipe}

dal 1

When I was kid, my parents didn’t sneak vegetables into my meals, per se.  (Though, my step mom did occasionally “hide” Brussels sprouts under a blanket of Velveeta cheese.)  Rather, it seemed like they picked the vegetables they knew the kids would eat.  BROCCOLI.  POTATOES.  POTATOES.  POTATOES.  This worked out well for me, because as a kid I hated most cooked vegetables, including green peppers, tomatoes, and CARROTS.  Oh, how I loathed the mushy cooked carrot.

dal 2

This dal recipe has three cups of minced carrots and ten ounces (two regular-sized bags) of spinach (or more, if you like).  While the spinach is discernible, the carrots blend right in with the lentils and you forget they’re even there.  Hallelujah.  This lentil dal is a very healthy dish, yet hearty and satisfying.  I’ve made if many times over the last several months, and finally made the effort to write down the ingredients on the last batch.  This recipe is forgiving — add as little or as much of the seasonings as you like.  Extra veggies always welcome.

Continue Reading

Cauliflower rice will rock your world.

cauliflower-rice-close-up_thumb.jpg

I do my best to avoid making wide-sweeping statements like “this cauliflower rice will rock your world” or “this cauliflower rice will blow your mind” but dangit, cauliflower rice DOES ALL OF THESE THINGS.  Since doing my first Whole30 in January, cauliflower rice has found a regular spot in my weekly meal rotation.  I cook a big batch once, if not twice, each week.  Did you know an entire average-sized head of cauliflower is only 150 calories?  Numbers don’t lie, guys.

cauliflower rice close up

Since no two cauliflowers are the same size, this is one of those non-recipe recipes.  I’m encouraging you to stand at the stove, and taste as you go; find the mix of seasonings and flavors that make you do a happy dance right there in the kitchen.

Continue Reading

Kale Caesar Salad with Pan-Seared Shrimp

kale-Caesar-salad-with-shrimp-3.jpg

Back in 2010, I made a personal vow to focus on healthy eating (read all about it here). This was a challenge for me, the girl who considers bread, brie, and wine a square meal, so I started with small things, like packing a homemade lunch each day, instead of relying on Lean Cuisines and fast food. Slowly, I established a routine of making healthy choices whenever I was the one in control of the preparation (well, MOST of the time, anyway), which lets me enjoy eating at restaurants without worrying quite so much about all the salt and the butter and delightful carbohydrates I’m consuming.

One of my healthy eating goals for 2014 is to incorporate more kale into my diet, as part of the Kale Up campaign.  Kale is a green I’ve shied away from in the past, other than occasionally tossing a few handfuls into a nice bean soup. Kale is a very hearty green — you don’t have to worry about it going limp or getting soggy. I often find kale salads are even better when the kale has a bit of time to “marinate” in the dressing.

kale Caesar salad with shrimp

Continue Reading

Pants-friendly Paella {recipe}

pants-friendly paella

I vividly remember my mom sitting cross-legged in the pantry, furiously flipping through cookbooks and earmarked magazines, her disheveled auburn curls in disarray around her face as she searched for that one recipe she’d seen months ago and mentally filed away.  As far back as I remember, my mom was adventurous in the kitchen.  I helped her bake bread in recycled tin cans, wrinkled my nose as she savored caviar loaded crackers, and hesitantly obliged to mandarin oranges in our dinner salad (which was UNHEARD of at the time).  I remember raising my eyebrow and dramatically cocking my head to the side as she scraped this mysterious spaghetti squash onto her plate.  I gagged at the anchovies on her pizza, and I cried, yes cried, when she urged me to try her sushi.

Mom was always cooking something big, and when she made her Spanish paella she’d use this absurdly large dish–big enough to feed a family of four twice and a half over.  It took her hours to prep and cook the meal–well, at least it seemed that way to her teenage “mom, I swear to god I’m dying of starvation” daughter.

Pants Friendy Paella via Fervent Foodie

I hated peas and hated shrimp, but man did I love her paella.  How could I not with those huge hunks of sausage and pieces of chicken poking through the steaming bed of orange rice?

Pants Friendy Paella via Fervent Foodie

This is not my mom’s paella recipe because, according to her, she “doesn’t have one.”  Uh huh.  Surrrrrre mom.   This is my lightened-up version of paella, which uses chicken sausage rather than Spanish chorizo, simply because I wasn’t able to find any at the grocery store.  Traditional?  No.  Pants friendly?  Absolutely.

Pants-friendly Paella Recipe

Recipe inspired by my mom and Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Paella

Serves 8

  • 1.5lb chicken breast (cut into 1/2 inch chunks)
  • 3 Links hot chicken or turkey sausage (casings removed) (for more authentic flavor, use Spanish chorizo)
  • 2 cups yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 cup red bell pepper (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped, plus extra for garnish)
  • 14oz can whole tomatoes (drained)
  • 2 cups short-grain brown minute rice
  • 2.5 cups fat-free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white cooking wine
  • 1 large pinch Spanish saffron
  • 4oz shrimp (peeled, deveined)
  • 1 cup sweet peas (defrosted)
  • S&P (to taste)

Chicken rub

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Note:  This pants-friendly paella uses chicken sausage. For a more authentic flavor, sub in a link or two of Spanish chorizo.  Spanish saffron can be quite expensive.  I’ve seen bottles for as little as $6 at Trader Joe’s, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls.

Step 1:  Combine chicken rub ingredients in a medium size bowl or large zip top bag. Add chicken breast, and toss or shake to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for one hour.

Step 2:  Heat a large pot coated with cooking spray over medium high heat. Once hot, add the sausage. Break apart sausage with your spatula, and cook until no longer pink. Remove sausage from pot and set aside. Add additional cooking spray to pot, if needed, then add chicken pieces. Sear chicken on all sides then remove from pot and set aside.

Step 3:  Add onions, red pepper, garlic, and parsley to the pot, season with S&P, to taste, reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, using your spatula to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and crush with your spatula. Season with S&P. Add uncooked rice to the pot and stir to combine. Once the liquid is absorbed, add chicken broth and cooking wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 4:  Add the sausage, chicken, and saffron to the pot and stir to combine. Add the shrimp, pushing them down into the rice. Simmer for 15 minutes then add the peas. Garnish with remaining parsley.

Per serving: 274 calories, 27g carbs, 4g fat, 31g protein, 3g fiber

 

/

Continue Reading

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Pesto, and Tomatoes

Although it may seem like I eat meatballs at every meal, I occasionally opt for different meats of the non-ball variety.  (Like when I’ve run out of meatballs and don’t have the necessary ingredients to make more.)  Tonight was one of those nights.  With a grumbling belly and nary a meatball in sight, I decided to remix my usual spaghetti squash with some ingredients I had on hand.

Enter Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Pesto, and Tomatoes:

Spaghetti Squash (8 of 14)

Continue Reading

Brown Dump Chili

I love to cook, but sometimes all I want is to dump a bunch of ingredients in a pot and come back an hour later to a piping hot bowl of flavorful comfort.  I need my unproductive internet perusing and phantom shopping time, which means I can’t spend every ounce of my free time in the kitchen.  That’s what I love about this chili.  You simply brown the turkey then dump everything in the pot.

Dump Turkey Black Bean Chili (4 of 9)

Perhaps, at first glance, the name Brown Dump Chili is unappealing to some.  Given the two-step process behind the chili, I’m sure you wholeheartedly agree the name is appropriate (or, at the very least, foretelling).

Continue Reading

Amaze(meat)balls.

I shamelessly consider myself a meatball connoisseur.  If meatballs are on the menu, you can bet your last breadstick I’m gonna order one.  Just one solitary meatball is all I need for my analysis.  Texture, taste, accouterments.  More often than not, I’m disappointed.  I’m not a fan of mushy ones and I need them to be thoroughly seasoned, preferably bobbing along in a vat of marina sauce (though I’m flexible on that stipulation).  Every once in a while, about 1 in 5 tries, I will sink my teeth into an amazing meatball and for that brief moment this crazy messed up world is right again.

Healthy Meatballs (1 of 6)

I have been trying to create a delicious healthified meatball recipe for YEARS, and have been wholeheartedly devoted to the cause.  I’ve tried dozens of impromptu turkey meatball concoctions, but they always left something to be desired.  Too dry, too poultry-ee, not meatbally enough, etc.  I kept crawling back to my favorite, albeit it no-so-healthy, meatball recipe:  Meatball Nirvana on Allrecipes.com.  I LOVE this recipe because it results in meatballs that are juicy, flavorful, and that have the coveted sink-your-teeth-in meaty texture.

Continue Reading

I say frittata, you say… ?

If I ever volunteer to come to your house and make you breakfast, you should consider yourself very lucky.  You should also consider yourself forewarned:

DSCF6929

For no dish, no matter how simple, will the kitchen be left unscathed.  What can I say?  I like to become one with my food Winking smile

And yes, that IS a bottle of wine next to the eggs.

I’ve always wanted to make a frittata, and this Sunday morning I was in the mood to get my cook on so I decided to give it a shot.  Once I started googling frittata recipes, I realized I was lacking a major piece of equipment:  a skillet that could go from stove top to oven without causing a fire.  Dangit.  That’s going on the T.J. Maxx list.

Since I had my heart set on eggy bliss, I decided to just use a standard glass pie pan.  Does that mean it’s not a frittata anymore?  Hmmmm what would its proper classification be?  I say frittata, you say….. frrrrreggcasserole?

Something to ponder as the man pours your mimosa.

This frittata consisted of:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Hot Chicken sausages (casings removed, cooked and crumbled)
  • 1 large handful chiffonade spinach
  • S&P, to taste
  • Frank’s Red Hot, to taste (plus more for garnish Winking smile )
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

While I cooked up the sausage, and sautéed the onion, mushroom, and garlic, I got to egg crackalacking.  Once the sausage was cooked and the veggies were soft, I stirred all the goodies into the eggs then poured into a pie pan that I’d coated with cooking spray.

Into the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, and you’ll end up with this beauty:

DSCF6937

The frittata set up PERFECTLY.  Perfect temperature, perfect cook time:

DSCF6938

I started off with just a slice:

DSCF6947

But ended up eating precisely half of the frittata…

DSCF6945

Good news is the stats on half the frittata: 318 calories, 11g carbs, 11g fat, 41g protein, 3g fiber

Molto bene Red lips

/

Continue Reading