Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meatless Dinners: Smoky, Spicy Portobello Tacos

I'm LOVING trying all these new recipes right now.  It's really encouraging.  I'm learning that meals can be quite tasty under my new, plant only parameters.  Provided I keep portions in control, meeting salt requirements is doable.  

These spicy portobello tacos are awesome, awesome, awesome!!! I found them here. I modified the recipe to be reduced sodium and low fat (I took out the olive oil and replaced it with some water.)  I also used the baby portobellos I had on hand because they were on sale.  I think next time (because there is so much sodium in the peppers packed in adobe sauce) that I will exclude the tamari all together or use only 1/2 of it.

It's important to note that these tacos are spicy, so they aren't necessarily appropriate for kids. I suggest making a bean and veggie taco for them instead. I made only 1/2 the recipe for Nick and I. These came together in a hurry and are Nick approved.  I was shocked he didn't even want sour cream or cheese with them.   He topped his with lettuce and salsa.   I about fell on the floor with excitement over that!


Portobello Mushrooms, 16 oz. minced (i.e. (2) 8 oz. packages of babies or 4 to 5 large portobello)
Water 2-3 TB
100% Whole Wheat Soft Taco Tortillas, 8
Reduced Sodium Tamari Sauce, 2 TB (I'm going to reduce this to half next time)
Maple Syrup 1 1/2 TB
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
Colgin Liquid Smoke, 1/2 tsp (or more if desired)
2 Chipotle Peppers packed in Adobe Sauce, minced
Top with salsa (I made homemade pico for myself) and/or lettuce!


In a small bowl put the tamari sauce (or soy sauce but this will increase sodium), maple syrup, liquid smoke, chipotle peppers and mix together.  Mince (2) 8 oz. packages of baby portabella mushrooms. Add water to a non-stick frying pan and put it to medium heat. Add minced portabello mushrooms and cook until water is released from the shrooms. When done, add the spice mixture from the bowl. Cook only long enough to blend the flavors, about a minute or so. Top as you'd like!  You'll need lettuce and tomatoes for volume, the shrooms pack in the flavor.

Serving Size: makes 8 tacos

Nutritional Info:

Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 152.7
Total Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 397.2 mg (it will be 300 if you reduce the reduced sodium tamari to 1 TB)
Total Carbs: 29.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Protein: 6.1 g

Cost Breakdown:

(1) 8 oz. packages of baby portabellos $2 (they were on sale at HT this week for $1.47!)
fat free refried beans (for the kids) $1
whole wheat tortillas $3
chipotle peppers in adobe sauce $1
incidentals $1
old lettuce in the fridge, lol $.50
tomatoes $1
pre-made salsa (nick's must) $2
=$11.50/4 or $2.80 a serving


Monday, January 30, 2012

Meatless Dinners: Portabello "Steaks"

Wow, the meals are getting better!

Today's experiment ended up quite delicious.  I made juicy, meaty portabello steaks with potatoes (seasoned with a no salt seasoning) and some garlicky greenbeans (again no salt).  The result was YUM!  Thanks again to Happy Herbivore for the portabello steak recipe!  There were a few things I changed to the recipe.  I used reduced sodium tamari sauce in lieu of soy sauce and I didn't use any sherry/mirin nor any additional salt to sprinkle at the end.  The meal was tasty enough without!

I will be adding these to the rotation for sure.  The entire "steak" is a whopping 55 calories.  I was thinking, being the frugal person I am, I should include in each blog post a cost analysis of each meal per serving.  I'll go back and edit the old posts too.

4 portabello steaks - $6
some regular potatoes - $1
1 small onion - $.50
3 garlic cloves - $.25
green beans (premium frozen packaged) - $2.20
=about $10 for the meal or $2.50 per serving (not including incidentals)

Portabello Mushroom "Steaks" with roasted potatoes and green beans.

Today I'm at 1,700 mg of salt for the entire day.  That is AWESOME in my book!  What's better is that even if I wasn't on a plant based, low sodium diet, I'd make this meal!  This get's the Nick stamp of approval.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meatless Dinners: "Meat"ball Subs

Today was a bit of a "cheat" day for me.  We like to go out once a week to a restaurant of some kind and to be honest, I like that part of the week!  We love Qdoba because the kids eat free on Sunday and we get out of there cheap and the food is fresh.   We actually tried Chipotle in town first but the line wrapped around so long and there were no tables available.  So on to Qdoba we went.

The old me would order the You Pick Two Combo with tortilla soup and 2 chicken tacos without cheese but maybe a dash of sour cream for flavor.  The new vegan me went for the veggie burrito with black beans and no sour cream nor cheese (and I ate only half of the tortilla and picked out some rice at that.)  In hindsight I should have maybe stuck to the salad as there was way too much refined, white flour and rice in the meal even taking off half the tortilla.  I went to the Qdoba website and calculated my salt intake, calories, etc. and the meal had a little over 1,000g of sodium and 580 calories.  Yikes on the salt!

When we got home after a day out and about, including church, lunch, a few grocery stores, and a nice afternoon walk, I was exhausted.  So I made this easy meal thanks to Happy Herbivore:

"Meat"balls in marinara sauce on a whole wheat hot dog bug with a heaping side of broccoli

The ingredients were pretty simple.  Leave me a comment with your email addy if you would like the recipe.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly as I didn't put the soy sauce in it to reduce the sodium content.  To make the marinara quickly I started with my favorite pasta sauce (fire roasted Classico) then added 1 large can of tomato puree.  As it is pretty much a 1:1 pasta sauce/tomato puree ratio, you essentially cut the salt in half.  I won't lie, it's not going to taste like the same old salty marinara.

That said, I thought it was really tasty, low cal, low fat, and EASIER TO MAKE than the meat version.

Cost Breakdown:

Gimme Lean Sausage Roll $3.50
Hot dog buns $1.50
marinara sauce $1.50
2 slices whole wheat bread for breadcrumbs $.25
1/2 c. non dairy milk $.25
Side of broccoli $2
2 TB nutritional yeast $.10
mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, seasonings (incidentals)
=  $9.10/4 (plus a little fudge for incidentals) = $2.50 ish per serving


Meatless Dinners: Bean and Veggie Fajitas

Before this lifestyle change I would often go meatless on fajita night, so that is nothing new. I even went with the whole wheat tortilla.  The only thing I'm not doing differently is not adding sour cream and cheese and salty seasonings.  I'm also now adding mashed seasoned (little to no salt) beans to the fajita to help add dimension and flavor.

I made some fresh homemade pico de gallo in a flash using Bragg's Amino Acids in lieu of salt.

I used two roma tomatoes
1/4 of a sweet onion minced fine
a pinch of onion powder
a pinch of garlic powder
a pinch of ground cumin
a squeeze of lime
Bragg's amino Acid in lieu of salt

It was a virtual cornucopia of veggies last night between the pico, the New Mexico green chile peppers (Anaheims), and fajita veggies.

And ever so tasty.

Cost Break Down:

Whole Wheat Tortillas $3
1 can beans $1
8 oz. mushrooms $2
onion $1
peppers $2

Homemade Salsa
2 roma tomatoes $1
cilantro $.60
onion $.50
lime $.25

=$11.35 for the meal for 4 or $2.80 a serving

You save a lot not using sour cream and cheese.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Four Days Plant Strong

I already eat a low fat diet with a decent amount of veggies.  I was half veggie when I met my husband.  But Nick could never go for meat free anything and over the years we have incorporated meat into just about every meal except weekday breakfasts.  That said, the guy is way more open to food then when I met him.  He didn't used to like tomato sauce, pasta, chili, squash, etc.  He's come a long way.

I'm was surprised at how open he's been to this new lifestyle upon seeing the data.  I was turned onto this by a friend named Jill in ABQ who has been doing the lifestyle too after she attended a seminar by a cardiologist at Whole Foods.  Jill is in crazy good shape already but her husband has issues with heart disease in his family too.

To give this lifestyle a real shot at curing my high blood pressure, I decided to go feet first (though I'm not enforcing it with the kids or Nick except at the dinner table).  The book suggested a more subtle approach, but I'm not that kinda gal.  I went cold tofurky onto the plant based diet on Wednesday.  It was really rough the first day because I didn't know what in the world I could eat.  I mean, low fat only, low salt, no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no fish?  What can you eat?

Well, you can eat a lot of things.  You just need some planning.  With every meal you must first begin with a grain and/or beans.  Then you build with a heaping pile of veggies from there.  An example meal might be 2 small corn tortillas (grain), fat-free-no-salt pinto beans mashed, and then add a heaping pile of sauteed onions and peppers. This is a great combo because it's very, very filling and actually quite tasty.  That has been one of my favorite meals so far because it's super quick for a weekday lunch.

Not all my attempts at vegan meals have been great, however.  My first attempt at vegan, low-sodium chili came out kinda awful.  I have made plenty of Veggie Chili in the past and never even told me husband what he was eating to great success.  But without much salt, chili is boring... at least until your taste-buds wake back up and become sensitive again.  I read that it takes 3 to 4 weeks.  I'll have to check back with you on that one!  Needless to say, it didn't go over well.  I hoped the next meal would be a little more lively.

Thankfully, the next dinner was!  I made a cheese-less pizza with the whole wheat pizza dough I always make.  I just thawed the pizza dough I made a while back out of the freezer, made it without the cheese and meat and it was delicious.  I only use whole wheat flour for my dough so it fit the Engine 2 bill.  I sprinkled some nutritional yeast on top the pizza and it was awesome.  Yes, nutritional yeast is AWESOME in my book!  It sounds weird, but don't knock it until you've tried it!  I have always served pizza with a huge heaping side of steamed broccoli because I tried to avoid eating too much pizza and broccoli fills me up. No difference there!

I ordered two cookbooks from the Happy Herbivore from Amazon in hopes of getting some help in creating some other dinners that fit the Engine 2 lifestyle.  (I hate the word diet.)  The way my chili turned out was just SO pitiful, I wanted to avoid a repeat.  I was beyond delighted to receive the book just two days after ordering them because I had went with standard 5-8 day complimentary shipping.  It was a nice surprise to get them so soon and they really helped take the pressure off when it came to making dinner for the family.  The Happy Herbivore books are great because they fill in where the Engine 2 book is lacking, i.e. in the recipe department!

The first dinner I made with Happy Herbivore were these mushroom burgers (see photo below).  I made them exactly as she suggested.  They were difficult to flip, but otherwise they were easy to make.  They tasted pretty good for being low salt.  I had another for lunch today and they were even better the second day!  I'm loving leftovers with this lifestyle change because who wants to cook at every single meal?  Even I, who loves to cook, needs a break from the kitchen and the dishes!

Mushroom Burger (topped with a bunch of veggies) by Happy Herbivore

The Cost Breakdown

Mushroom Burgers
8 oz. Mushrooms- $2
1 can beans $1
100% whole wheat buns, pack of 8 $1.50
some seasonings and sauces (somewhat negligible considering amounts) but let's go with $1
=$5.50 for 7 burgers or  $.78 ea.
(a box of 4 frozen vegan burger are $5 for 4 and that's not including the buns!)

To round out the meal:
Sweet Potatoes made into oven 'fries', seasonings, pam $2
Broccoli or other seasonal veg $2

=$9.50/4 =$2.40 per serving (keep in mind we had a TON extra for lunches)

This may or may not be something I do for the rest of my life.  For now, I'm seeing where this takes me and the family.  I think it's more likely something I can do 80/20 or 90/10 in the future as realistically  I may need a cheat day here or there.  And I think that's OK.  Who knows, I may like the way I'm feeling (maybe my blood pressure will lower) and I'll keep at it? I'd love that!

If you are interested in learning more, here is a link the books I've been using on Amazon:


Going Plant Strong

When I was pregnant, towards the end my body didn't like the strain of the extra 36-42 lbs I put on and I had pre-eclampsia every time.  It's not shocking... my mom and sister both had the same ordeal, though mine did seem to be less severe (which I attribute to a lot of exercise, like jogging).  By 4 weeks post partum my blood pressure would go back to normal except this last time it didn't!!!

So, doc said I needed to be put on BP meds for the time being, at least until I lost the 20 lbs of extra baby weight I was carrying.  Thankfully, through breastfeeding and running I lost that weight plus an extra 4.  Yay! So I went off the medication and my BP skyrocketed right back up.  I was having complications (a dry cough) with the last medication, so I was switched to a new one.  The small doses didn't seem to have an affect so now I'm on a full dose of Cozaar.  Not cool!!

So, I'm conducting an experiment and I am putting the Engine 2 Diet/Forks Over Knives lifestyle to the test and see if I can't get off the full dose of Cozaar.  It's very scary to me to be on so much medication when I'm only 35.  My mom had similar issues though she weighed twice as much me and her BP's would often be in the 200's with medication.  Craziness.

For those of you who have never heard of Engine 2 or Forks Over Knives, I encourage you to click on the link.  Basically, I'll be following a plant based only, no dairy, no eggs, low to no fat, low salt diet.  Y'all are welcome to join me for the ride for the next month as I try to stick to what may seem to others, very strict!  Let's see how it goes.