It’s been a few months since I updated you on our progress with our new plant-based lifestyle! Overall we are still going strong and are still very committed to plant-based living. My husband and I have both lost some additional weight, continue to strengthen our health and overall wellness, still experience high energy levels even with the shorter daylight, and we are still walking almost every day of the week for 3-9 miles (depending on the day and weather!).
One of the biggest challenges to this new lifestyle is how to alter familiar recipes and create a plant-based version! Here are a few of the tips that I have been using along the way. Remember, our plant-based regimen also eliminates oil for heart-healthy reasons.
You may not realize it, but many of the prepared, jarred, and canned foods that we consume have some type of oil in them. This forces us to cook even more and finding alternate ways of preparing items that we enjoy eating.
So what is wrong with oil anyway? It’s from plants – right?
According to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn: “NO OIL! Not even olive oil, which goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. Both the monounsaturated and saturated fat contained in oils is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind. Avoid ALL oil.”
Given that we started this journey because of my husband’s elevated blood pressure, trying to eliminate oil or at least minimize it was a priority on our plant-based journey. Eliminating oil is probably the toughest part of being on our plant-based, no oil regimen. To my surprise, everything contains oil! And now that I have removed oil from my daily regimen, I can taste it right away when it is in something I eat. And this forced me to quickly figure out how to prepare certain meals without using oils.
Here are some tips that I learned along the way when having to eliminate oil or create other plant-based alternatives to meals we used to enjoy:
Typically we used to sauté vegetables in oil for any recipe. The type of oil varied. We usually used high-heat oils. So what replaces oil for sautéeing? Vegetable broth! Some people said to just use water. However, we make a great vegetable broth for our plant-based soups so I decided to start using that whenever I have to sauté something. You may think that it won’t taste as good when not sautéeing in oil, but that is not the case. It actually tastes significantly cleaner and lighter when oil is not used. Try it!
So most dressings use oil. And many dressings are now using alternative oils such as avocado oil. When I don’t have dressings prepared and don’t have the time to prepare them, I have my backup vegan dressings in the refrigerator. Many contain avocado oil. I will just use a very small amount of dressing when I need something fast. And when you mix it around extremely well in the container, a small amount of dressing with oil can go a very very long way.
But, as mentioned, the taste of the oil is not as appealing to my husband and I as it used to be. So now it’s important that I prepare simple oil-free dressings. One of the most basic dressings that I make includes water, apple cider vinegar, and a combination of herbs. Another dressing is made with freshly squeezed orange juice, dijon mustard, white vinegar, and salt and pepper. There are so many simple dressing recipes that eliminate oil! It just takes a little bit of research and testing!
Cheese Filling & Breading
One of my favorite meals is eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini. There are two major challenges with making these dishes plant-based: breading the eggplant and the cheese filling! Let’s tackle each of these separately.
Normally when you bread something you use eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs. Well, we cannot use eggs, flour, or traditional breadcrumbs anymore. There is always the option of not breading the eggplant which I have done in the past. But I find that breading is still the ideal way to prepare eggplant parm or rollatini.
Instead of those traditional ingredients, we now use almond milk and panko chips with an herb mixture. We dip the eggplant into the almond milk and then dip it into the breading mixture. Other plant-based milk alternatives can also be used. Then we place it on parchment paper on a pan. It is baked at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until the eggplant is very tender. It is delicious and we tend to eat it right out of the oven.
Normally the cheese filling includes ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and some herbs. Obviously, this combination doesn’t support a plant-based meal. There are several plant-based ‘cheese’ filling recipes that we can use. One of our favorites that my whole family loves uses cashews! Cashews are a great option for creating plant-based dressings and fillings.
Soak the cashews for an hour or 2 in water before you use them. This softens them up for use. Strain the cashews and place them in a food processor or blender. Add a little bit of water as well. Add onion powder, garlic powder, a little sea salt, and nutritional yeast seasoning. The final ingredient is organic tofu. I usually use firm tofu. Mix all ingredients and this is your new ‘cheese filling.’ My 19-year old son actually likes to use this filling as a dip for his tortilla chips – so you know that it must be good!
Most tomato sauce has oil. We have a tomato soup recipe that we use for our plant-based tomato sauce. The recipe includes tomatoes, onion, garlic, fresh basil, sea salt, and black pepper. It has no oil. The onion is sautéed initially with vegetable broth and not oil. This soup doubles for a great oil-free, healthy tomato sauce!
Hummus & Spreads
Many spreads are made with oil including hummus. Cedar’s has one of the only oil-free hummus’ on the market. We started purchasing it and really enjoy the taste. We accidentally purchased regular hummus a few weeks ago. The second we ate it, we knew right away that something was different. The oil taste is so pronounced now that we have minimized, and in most cases eliminated, oil from our daily meals.
So these are a few tricks of the plant-based living trade that we have used and are working very well for us over the last several months. Would love to hear more about your plant-based living tricks!