Why I started drinking Green Smoothies

I know, I know. I was against drinking smoothies, even green ones, for a long time. However, I have recently changed my stance and here’s why:

I can’t eat more food but I have to/want to 

Seriously, this IS a problem for me. Most of you will have the opposite problem: you want to lose weight, I want to gain some. Not much, just… some. And since I eat an oil-free, low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt, whole foods plant-based diet, my options to eat more food than I burn are somewhat limited. Additionally, I have recently bought a road bike and all that exercise doesn’t make things any easier, either.
I can no longer eat dried fruit like dates on their own in any meaningful amount because they have become just too sweet for me (I kid you not!). However, once I blend up almond milk, about 200g of fruit, 5 dates and copious amounts of my leafy green vegetable of choice, I can actually get in some extra calories by drinking. And if the smoothie is delicious enough, I can drink the entire 8 cups in a matter of few minutes.

I want to eat more vegetables, but they take away too much room in my stomach for something more calorically dense (starches!)
This is a slight variation of the theme above, but I do feel this one deserves its own point.
Starches are the most important component of your plate and you should never, ever, consume a meal without it: it’s filling, gives you the calories that you needs, is low in fat and just delicious. However, vegetables (especially leafy green ones) are extremely important, as well.
Ever since I started stuffing my face with greens, my skin has become so. much. better. However, they do take away valuable space in my stomach (see above). Consuming at least some of my greens in liquid form circumvents that problems and allows me to consume even more kale (yay, kale!).

I am not convinced by the anti-smoothie arguments anymore
Who doesn’t know that “argument” that chopping up your food thousands of times with a steel blade doesn’t improve its quality? This might actually be untrue. Blending food does break up the cell walls and releases their content (if you use a high-speed blender, that is). Does that automatically lead to better absorption? I don’t know. It’s just valuable to note that this is another point that the plant-based community fundamentally disagrees on: Esselstyn is against smoothies, McDougall thinks they’re OK for people who want to gain weight, Fuhrman thinks they’re fine in general.
I go with what seems most appropriate in my situation. This might not work for you, but it does for me:

  • I’m at a healthy weight and don’t have any weight to lose.
  • I follow an oil-free, low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt whole foods plant-based diet.
  • I eat tons of fibre. More than 70 g on some days!
  • I don’t have hypertension or any other disease.

So, being a healthy adult, I do not see any reason why shouldn’t be drinking green smoothies.

So, in order for this post to be not a complete waste, here is how I build my smoothies. I usually place all of the ingredients in my Vitamix before going to bed so that I can blend them up first thing in the morning.
I keep it simple: I always add:

  • a box of frozen fruit (200g) which I buy at Albert Heijn here in the Netherlands
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • enough water, about 4-6 cups
  • 5 pitted medjool dates

Then, I fill my Vitamix container to the top with some sort of leafy green, mostly spinach or kale.

My favourite versions:

  1. blueberries and spinach
  2. strawberries and kale
  3. mango and kale/spinach (50:50)
  4. pineapple and spinach

How to cook beans in under 60 minutes

Cooking beans can be quite an ordeal. How often have you been wanting to enjoy some freshly cooked beans when you realized “damn it, I didn’t soak them”.

Truth be told, I have never soaked beans. Ever. That’s because I’m a horrible planner when if comes to food. I would either forget to soak them, or find beans that have been soaking for a whole week (whoops!). When I cooked them from scratch using a conventional pot, I would either forget that they were still cooking (smoke was filling the kitchen) or they would boil over so that I had bean liquid all over the kitchen.

Everything changed when I got a pressure cooker. You don’t have to have an electric one (like my beloved Instant Pot), the first one I had was actually a stove-top model that I adored. The following instructions are, however, written for an electric pressure cooker. That’s not just because I don’t have the stove-top model anymore, but also because using an electric pressure cooker makes the task of cooking beans from scratch even less daunting.

What do you need?

• an (electric) pressure cooker
• beans
• water
(• an electric kettle)

What do you do?

1. Figure out how many beans you want to cook. Keep in mind that you mustn’t fill your pressure cooker more than half (water AND beans!)

2. Add two cups of water for every cup of dried beans that you want to cook. If you have an electric kettle, bring the water to a boil and add it to your pressure cooker.

3. Add your beans.

4. Close the lid.

5. Put in the time (see this timing chart, I use it to great success).

6. Wait.

7. When your pressure cooker beeps wait 10 more minutes and then either wait for the pressure to come to on its own (“natural pressure release”) or carefully release the pressure manually. I usually opt for the latter as I’m impatient, but the beans sometimes break apart if you do it this way. To avoid steam in your kitchen, carefully place a towel over the exhaust valve.

8. Enjoy your beans!

 

Why do I pre-boil the cooking water in an electric kettle?

One of the big downsides of the Instant Pot in particular is that it’s not very good at bringing water to a boil, this can take terribly long sometimes. That’s exactly why I use my electric kettle to pre-boil the water. It is very energy and time efficient: it takes just about 30 seconds to boil two cups of water. Starting with already hot water saves up to 10 to 15 minutes of total cooking time in some cases!

“But isn’t it toxic not to soak your beans?”

No, it’s not. Several beans (like kidney beans) do have toxic substances in them (but not toxic in the sense that you would die!) that are neutralized when the beans are cooked properly. Undercooked kidney beans are actually worse than raw ones, by the way! The high temperature and 30+ minutes cooking time in the pressure cooker guarantees that your beans will come out great – and not toxic 🙂

Acne and Diet: My Story

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received several e-mails of people who asked about why I transitioned from being a [junk-food] vegan to eating a whole foods plant-based diet and what benefits I got out of that transition. So here’s my story.

For roughly the past five to six years, I’ve been suffering from acne and tried just about everything: pills, potions, peelings. I even did something called “Green Peel”, where a mix of herbs and acids is scrubbed onto your skin which then begins to peel after a few days. I can’t even begin to tell you how terrible I felt physically and emotionally. I felt ugly, not good enough and I eventually ended up having very low self-esteem, as I was literally “ashamed” of how I looked.

Nothing really changed much when I went vegan in October 2011, initially for ethical reasons only. I still remember the first time that I heard about an oil-free vegan diet. A vegan teacher at my school and I were chit-chatting when he told me about delicious “Chocolate Zucchini Muffins” by the “Happy Herbivore”. I was intrigued (and not only because chocolate and zucchini sounded so… weird) and spent some hours researching this whole WFPB-thing online.

I cannot tell you how much sense it all made, especially the aspect about avoiding free oils. But initially I found it very hard to do that- I had always cooked with oil, all the processed vegan junk food I consumed contained oil, so what was I going to eat? But as time went on, I began incorporating more and more unprocessed food into my diet and I felt terrific. And now for about seven months, I’ve been 99% oil-free (the 1% being times when eating out etc.).

And here’s what the diet did to my acne:
acne change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s still not gone completely, but every single time I eat high fat foods, I’ve got at least five new pimples the next day. And when I switch back to a low fat diet, they’re gone within less than a week. I cannot say that my acne has gone completely, but it’s so much better that it’s a victory for me already!

Smoky Lentil Soup

Smoky Lentil Soup

This is another soup for a cold and rainy (or snowy) winter day- and it once again comes together in just 20 minutes!

 

6 cups boiling water
2 cups brown lentils
2 tsp of liquid smoke
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried dill
1 tsp pepper
1 carrot, diced

1. Place all ingredients in an electric pressure cooker (such as the Instant Pot) and cook for 15 minutes (Manual mode in the IP).

Mexican Lasagna

This lasagna is not only extremely healthy, it is also prepared in a breeze (even more so when you use canned beans, just cut the liquids in half in that case) and makes a perfect comfort food.

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1 cup dry pinto beans
1 cup dry kidney beans
2 cups rice milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2 large onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed

5 tomatoes, chopped
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1tbsp each: thyme, parsley, dill, majoram
Chili powder and pepper to taste
2 stalks parsley, finely chopped

12 lasagna sheets (whole wheat or rice)

1. Pressure-cook beans, plant milk, onions, garlic and vegetable broth for 35 minutes. Release the pressure, mash everything with a potato masher and add the other ingredients (except for the lasagna sheets).

2. Layer lasagna: 1/4 of the bean mix, the lasagna sheets, then bean mix… until everything is used up.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350°F. It the surface becomes too dry, just pour a cup of vegetable broth over it or cover with aluminum foil.

Kale Burgers

We all need to eat more leafy green vegetables- and this recipe makes that task very easy. Enjoy these delicious patties in a whole wheat bun, accentuated with some lettuce, sliced onions and sugar-free ketchup.

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One pound steamed kale
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 tomatoes
1 large onion
2 large carrots
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp each: dill, thyme, parsley
1/2 cup cornstarch

1. Puree kale, rice and spices until smooth.
2. Meanwhile, finely chop the veggies.
3. Using a large spatula, fold the chopped veggies into the kale mix. Once they are incorporated, add the cornstarch and mix until combined.
4. Form patties and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.
5. Bake for 25-35 minutes at 350°F.

Real Veggie Burgers

I call these Veggie Burgers “REAL Veggie Burgers” because unlike most commercial ones, mine actually contain a significant amount of vegetables!

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Ingredients:

1 cup dry pinto beans
1 cup dry kidney beans
1 large onion
2 large red bell peppers
1 zucchini
2 large cloves of garlic
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup salt-free tomato paste
2 tsp each: thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, dill
1 tbsp each: smoked paprika, chili powder

1. Pressure-cook beans with four cups of water until tender (about 35 minutes). Drain the water but leave the beans in the pot. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, use one can of beans each and discard the liquid.

2. Finely dice onion, bell peppers and zucchini and add to the beans. Mince the garlic and add, as well.

3. Add the other ingredients and mash with a potato masher until you have a sticky dough. Let it cool in the fridge for about an hour.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take 1/2 cup of batter and form a patty (this works especially well when you press it into a stainless steal ring!). Repeat until the batter is used.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350°F (180°C).

Umami Sauce

I always wondered if there’s a salt-free alternative to soy sauce. Even though coconut aminos and low-sodium soy sauce contain much less salt than their regular counterparts, they still are pretty high in sodium.

This sauce does not taste exactly like soy sauce (you can’t replicate the taste of fermentation, that’s just impossible), it is yummy and a good alternative.

3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 large clove garlic

Blend and enjoy.

Last Minute Halloween Recipes

This year, we decided to celebrate Halloween with a buffet that is could be looked upon as rather large for two people. And the bread that we’ll eat isn’t even pictured! IMG_0835But hey, when you’re on a low-fat, whole-foods plant-based diet, you can eat vast amounts of food after all 🙂

Here’s what we’re having. The recipes are of course not exclusively for Halloween, you could perfectly integrate them into your weekly rotation. Oh, I just forgot that we had Pumpkin Pie as well!

Spooky Bell PeppersIMG_0836

7 bell peppers

10 oz whole wheat spiral noodles
8 oz salt-free tomato paste
1 large onion
3 bell peppers
1 large zucchini
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp each: oregano, basil, parsley
1 tsp chili powder

Filling:

1. Combine tomato paste, water, vinegar and spices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Cook noodles al dente and add to a very large bowl.

3. Cut the onion, the bell peppers and the zucchini into very small pieces and add to the noodles. Add the sauce as soon as it’s ready, stir to combine and set aside.

Assembly
4. Cut the top off the 7 bell peppers. Remove seeds and carve them like a pumpkin.

5. Add filling, put the top back on and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350°F (180°C).

 

Beetroot RelishIMG_0832
My parents used to make Beetroot Relish quite often, but they used lots of sugar and oil. Not here! It tastes just as amazing and is super healthy!

1 pound cooked beetroot
1/2 cup date paste
3 tbsp lemon juice

1. Using a cheese grater or a food processor, finely grate the beetroot.

2. Add date paste and lemon juice and stir vigorously to combine.

3. Refrigerate until you use it.

The following two recipes were provided by my beloved boyfriend (Thanks, honey :*)

Avocado DipIMG_0838

2 small / 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and seed removed
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
pepper
1/2 cup water

1. Blend everything until very smooth.

Tofu Cream Cheese Dip IMG_0837

400g (14 oz) herbed firm tofu
3 tbsp freeze-dried herbs of choice
3 green onions
1/2 medium onion
3 oz frozen mixed herbs
1 tbsp xanthan gum

1. Put everything in a food processor and process until very smooth.