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Friday, March 18, 2011

Plant Strong Foods at the Homeless Shelter

If you've ever visited a homeless shelter, it would be fair to say that you have seen many casseroles and gooey desserts ready to serve. Twice a month, my co-workers and I head to two different shelters where we feed the homeless. And cheesy casseroles are far from our minds when we prepare our meals for the homeless.

When we decided to cook healthy meals for the homeless, I felt very strongly that it was important to give them the best and healthiest food possible. Since the plant-strong mantra is such a vital part of what drives my own life, we planned to serve "Plant-Strong Dinners" to the residents of two shelters.

Our menu is very simple. We make recipes from the Engine 2 Diet, or ones that are inspired from this wonderful book by former Austin (TX) firefighter, Rip Esselstyn. If the ingredients for the dinner are from the ground, you have the basics for a great dinner. No oil. No salt. No dairy. Nothing from an animal. There are endless possibilities for creating the most delicious meals.

We cull all of the vegetables. And we get really creative with our dishes. Everyone really loves what we make. Only two people have asked, "Where's the meat?"

Here's what we served last night--it was so good, that I also make it for my family.

What you'll need:

4 cups of assorted vegetables (leek, zucchini, peppers, carrots are great)
Seasonings to your taste (garlic powder, parsley, fresh basil, bay leaves)
2 boxes of Pomi(r) tomatoes

One pound of whole wheat pasta
Nutritional Yeast

Here's what to do:

-Clean all veggies (I leave the skins on)
-Dice/cut into bite-sized pieces
-Arrange on a baking sheet (use parchment paper)
-Place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes

When the veggies are "al dente" remove them, and place them in a pan with the Pomi(r) tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the nutritional yeast for extra flavor.

Cook pasta to package instructions. Add pasta to the vegetable sauce mixture. Toss. Add nutritional yeast for added flavor Garnish with freshly minced parsley.

Serve with a tossed salad and a slice or two of your favorite whole wheat baguette.

The picture above was taken of me and my co-workers when we were serving exactly this dish to the homeless at a shelter in Norristown, PA.

Enjoy the meal. Stay plant-strong!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reflections on an Immersion

I've been home for a week since attending the Engine 2 Immersion at the Crossings (now called Travessa) in the Austin Hill Country. It was my third time there--I am like a participant-observer. Somewhere around day three, I get to be part of a panel where experiences regarding weight loss in the plant-strong arena are shared. This journey is the best thing I have ever been able to do.

I have to pinch myself a lot during this retreat. Some heavy hitters are there. And, they say things to me like, "Hey, Char, how goes it?" It is a week of incredible learning about the benefits of following a plant strong way of living. It's not a diet, it is a belief.

One of my favorite parts of the week is the cooking lessons that are taught by Jane Esselstyn, RN. She is the sister of Engine 2 Diet author, Rip Esselstyn. As you know, Rip is the energy behind the entire E2 Immersions, and to know him is not only an honor, but a real life enrichment. Rip is the best. He is smart and crisp, and I always learn so much from him.

Back to sister Jane...she is one of the funniest people I have ever met...she is a bad ass in the best of ways. Jane has an interesting way of cooking plant strong and she brings her humor to the table. I appreciate her commitment to the wellness movement and the many wonderful things she does.

But the girl can cook. Here's her recipe for the "Napoleon." These are a great side dish, or add a salad, and you are golden. Thank you Jane for being the Plant-Strong Goddess that you are. Everyone else, enjoy this recipe. Post some pictures if you make this great dish!

You'll Need:

1 Large Red Garnet Sweet Potato cut raw into 1/2 inch slices
1 tube of plain (original) Polenta

Walnut Dressing (1/2 cup walnuts, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 cup water, Tamari to taste) Put everything in the blender--should be nice and thick

1 Heirloom tomato, sliced into 1/2" slices

Minced cilantro

Balsamic reduction

What to Do:

Place sliced potatoes and polenta on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven. You'll know when they are done, by touch. Let cool.

To make:

Sweet Potato Round, walnut dressing, polenta round, walnut dressing, tomato, cilantro.

Now drizzle with Balsamic reduction.

These are so good.