Stephanie Quilao

Serpentine Cucumbers, Heirloom Tomatoes and Dill Salad

 

Who knew that a cucumber and tomato salad could look this beautiful or sound this divine? You never know what you can find at the farmers market. This salad allows for so many different variations based on what variety of cucumber or tomato you use. There is a plethora of options.

This salad is great to take to potlucks or BBQs, and is so easy to make. Most of the work is in chopping the veggies.

For this creation, I used Serpentine cucumbers aka striped Armenian cucumbers which are so cool looking because they really do look like serpentine creatures.

I love the shape and texture of the ridges on the skin of these cucumbers. They have less seeds and thinner skin than cucumbers you normally find at the grocery store.

 

 

I used organic heirloom tomatoes in yellow orange and magenta colors. Below the tomatoes are flowering artichokes. The flower of the artichoke is so beautiful and makes for a really cool centerpiece decoration.

 

 

You can use any red onion. I found these cool organic Red Spring onions.

 

 

For the ingredients, there is no rhyme or reason to how much cucumber, tomato, or onion you use. Base what you need on how many people you want to serve.




Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 long Serpentine cucumber chopped
  • 3 Heirloom tomatoes chopped
  • 1/4 Red Onion chopped or 1 Red Spring Onion chopped
  • 5 sprigs of chopped fresh Dill
  • Brianna’s Blush wine vinaigrette – You can use any vinaigrette you want. The best to use is a sweet vinaigrette. I use pre-made vinaigrette because I am too lazy to make from scratch. Plus, this Brianna’s vinaigrette is one of my favorites because it has a cool sweetness that compliments all the veggies in the salad.

To make this salad, basically all you do is put all your chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onion in a mixing bowl with the dill and massage in the vinaigrette. That’s it.

For the photo finish, I sprinkled on top some hemp seeds and chili pepper flakes.

Boom! Done. Easy.

 

Vegan Szechuan Beef Strips With Padrons, Zephyr Zoodles And Fried Brown Jasmine Rice

 

This meal is something you can easily make for dinner because it doesn’t involve much prep. Thankfully, there are plenty of plant-based alternative meats available to choose from. My favorite Asian beef alternative is Gardein’s Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips . The texture of these beefless strips reminds me of a crispy sweet and sour pork like you get at Chinese takeout places.

I cooked the strips per the instructions and sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. The sauce Gardein uses to flavor the beefless strips is amazing! I wish they would bottle that stuff up because I would buy a whole bottle of it. It tastes like a sweet, soy stir-fry sauce.

 

 

Recently, I bought a Veggetti Spiralizer for like $10, and I’ll be honest because of this gadget I have become addicted to spiralizing vegetables, mostly zucchini. The Vegetti makes some real fun thick and thin veggie noodles.




To make the Zoodles, I used organic Zephyr squash which is one of my favorite summer squashes because of its fun yellow and green stripes.  No need to cook the zoodles because they actually taste better raw.

 

 

I love Padron peppers! Definitely try them if you haven’t. Padrons are a Spanish pepper and only about 3″ long. They have an earthy, sweet, nutty flavor and are mild 99% of the time. Occassionaly though, a couple in the bunch will be hot. It’s like playing roulette. In all the years I’ve eaten this pepper, only twice have I gotten a hot one.

If Padron peppers are not in season or available in your area, try other sweet peppers like Shishito or Jimmy Nardello.

Quickly pan sear a handful of chopped Padron peppers with olive oil, a pinch of garlic powder and pinch of sea salt.

Mix the cooked padrons in with the raw Zoodles and some chopped red onion.

The fried rice is simply pan-fried brown Jasmine rice with organic carrots, corn, edamame, and a little soy sauce for flavor.

 

Product Review: Hodo Soy Sesame Yuba Noodles

Hodo Soy became famous when Chipotle chose them to make their special recipe Sofritas option. Hodo Soy has an incredible line of ready-to-eat products they sell in retail.

One of my favorites is the Hodo Sesame Yuba Noodles which is organic and gluten-free.

 

 

What exactly is Yuba you ask?


From Hodo Soy’s website, here is more details on how Hodo makes Yuba, and here in a nutshell is what Yuba is.

“Yuba is a delicacy.   Fresh Yuba, or in Japanese, Nama Yuba, is a category of fresh “tofu skin” harvested from rich and creamy soymilk.  Hodo is the only maker of fresh, organic, non-GMO, fresh yuba in the US marketplace.

A delicacy made from only soybeans and water, yuba is the thin veil that forms on the surface of soymilk as the cream and protein rise to the surface.”

You can see in the photo of my Ginger Sesame dish above the strips of Yuba among the brown rice noodles. I like the texture of the Yuba noodles which feel like flattened firm tofu with a little spring to it. The Yuba takes on the flavor you add to it.

The Yuba strips are basically a new way to experience eating tofu and it’s fun!

The recipe for the meal pictured here is in our app.

Plant-based Version of Classic IKEA Cafeteria Meatballs, Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes

One of the most popular dishes in the cafeteria at IKEA here in the U.S, is the meatballs, gravy, and mashed potatoes. When I ate meat, and visited IKEA, I would often get this dish because it’s my favorite and really embodies the IKEA experience for me.

When IKEA debuted their 100% plant-based Vegetable Balls which I reviewed here, my local IKEA offered the Vegetable Balls in the cafeteria for a limited time as a special. So GOOD!

You can buy the frozen Vegetable Balls and make the famous dish at home. This is how I usually make my plant-based version of this IKEA favorite.

Vegetable Balls:

I pan fry the balls in some avocado oil until they are a nice looking brown.

Asparagus:

For the asparagus, I did a simple roast. Massage the asparagus spears with some olive oil, and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 7 minutes so they are cooked but still a little crunchy. To add some zest, squeeze some lemon juice on the asparagus after you take them out of the oven.

Mashed Potatoes:

I make my mashed potatoes using 1 large organic russet potato chopped and boiled for about 15 minutes, Earth Balance Soy-free Buttery Spread, sea salt, and a plant-based milk. The milks I use often are either Milkadamia Original Macadamia Milk, or Living Harvest Tempt Original Coconut Hempmilk. Both have a neutral flavor that doesn’t give the potatoes a milk taste to it like soy or almond milk can.

Put the boiled potato, 1 tbsp of the Buttery Spread, 2 tbsp of the plant-based milk, and a couple shakes of sea salt in a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes until they are nice and creamy. Add more salt to taste if you need or a little more milk for smoother mashed potatoes.

Gravy:

The gravy is from a packet of Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy. I sautéed some chopped cremini mushrooms and chopped shallots in a little bit of the Earth Balance Soy-free Buttery Spread until softened and then added them to the brown gravy. I like chunky gravy.

Enjoy!

Easy Farmers Market Vegetable Packed Flatbreads

 

Here’s a fun way to eat your veggies – flatbread! What you top your flatbread with is also another opportunity to go to the farmer’s market and get creative with what is in season. During summer, cherry heirloom tomatoes are a MUST I tell you because these beauties are packed with flavor and fun colors like these here.

 

Organic-heirloom-cherry-tomatoes

 

Here are some other summer vegetable ideas for toppings:

Shishito or Padron peppers

 

Shishito-Peppers

 

Organic summer squash. There are so many varieties. Have fun picking one.

 

Organic-squash-table

 

Squash blossoms. So pretty!

 

Squash Blossoms

Figs and sweet yellow peppers

 

Figs-Peppers-Tomatoes

 

See. The possibilities are endless for your pizza toppings. In fact, make it a party, invite friends over and make several flatbreads with different toppings.

This flatbread is so simple and fast to make. Here are the ingredients:

  • One piece of Naan or Pita bread (Naan looks more like traditional flatbread versus Pita, but most Pita is dairy and egg free. You can buy pre-made Naan too. Most in-store Naan is vegetarian containing ghee or here’s a recipe for vegan Naan from Vegan Richa)
  • 2 tbsps of pesto sauce (pre-made or I included  my easy pesto recipe below)
  • A choice of your favorite vegetable fixings. Get creative! In the flatbread I made above, it contains artichokes, black olives, mushrooms, chopped cherry tomatoes and red onions plus fresh herbs!
  • Your favorite fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil or oregano
  • Olive oil

 

Basket of Fresh Herbs

 

 

Veggie Flatbread Slices

 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 or get your grill going if you want to do the BBQ thing.
  • Layer the pesto sauce onto a piece of Naan.
  • Put your vegetable toppings into a small bowl and massage them with a little olive oil. The oil coating will help the veggies soften nicely while baking.
  • Spread the vegetable toppings onto your Naan. Toss some of the fresh herb on top.
  • Bake flatbread in the oven on a baking sheet, pizza stone or toss on the grill for 6-8 minutes depending on how crunchy you want your crust. Broil the top of your flatbread for 90 seconds just for a nice little top browning.

 

Fresh-basil-squash

 

Here is my recipe for creamy pesto sauce.

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or macademia nuts
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients together and blend until you have a nice creamy pesto sauce.

You can add some shaved parmesan or manchego to your pesto sauce but it really does not need cheese so you can keep the flatbread vegan.

Product Review: Cherryvale Farms Blueberry Muffin Mix

 

Rejoice! A boxed blueberry muffin mix that is 100% plant-based and makes incredible moist and sweet muffins. No dry, bland flavor here at all.

I’m no baker and do not have the patience to make muffins from scratch so boxed stuff is fine with me as long as it meets my food requirements. This Cherryvale Farms Blueberry muffin mix is truly awesome. This mix is Non-GMO Project verified and 100% plant-based.

For my muffins here, I got some big juicy organic blueberries at Costco. What is unique about this muffin mix is that it just makes the batter for the muffins and comes with no fruit so there aren’t any dehydrated blueberry bits in it which is why the front of the box says, “Everything but the blueberries.”

So, that means you can make any fruit flavored muffins like strawberry, cherry, or peach. How fun!

 

 

The mix calls for butter. I used Earth Balance​ soy-free buttery spread in my muffins to make my muffins plant-based, and they were GOOD! I love using big blueberries versus the smaller ones because the bigger berries kinda explode during baking and make the muffin even moister.

My meat-loving parents enjoyed the muffins so much that there were only 2 left by the end of the day. They had no idea these muffins were vegan.

It’s just GOOD muffins. 🙂

What Does Plant-Forward Mean?

Plant-forward is the perspective of putting plants in the center of the plate. It’s a  “more plants, less meat” approach which puts plants at the center of the plate and does not exclude meat, dairy, and eggs, but does prioritize low carbon proteins.

When entrees include meat, the plants – vegetables and fruits (produce), legumes, whole grains, starches, tofu, herbs, and nuts and seeds – are the stars like this example of Corned Beef and Cabbage where I made the star roasted carrots and the Corned Beef comes in sausage form and cooked as crumbles mixed in with the cabbage.

A plant-forward diet also means eating primarily whole foods and plant-based, vegetable-centric.

I promote the plant-forward flexitarian approach of eating mostly plants with meat on occasion because it is a more doable thing for more people. The ability to have flexibility is far more appealing than going cold turkey (pun intended) on the meat, dairy and eggs. Going flexitarian is a great way to transition to becoming a vegan or vegetarian.

Along with Flexitarian, plant-forward styles of eating include the Mediterranean diet, VB6 – vegan til 6, eating vegan or vegetarian Monday through Friday, or going Pescatarian – a vegetarian who eats seafood.

In the U.S, our custom with food is to make meat, dairy, and eggs the stars prioritizing them over the plant-based foods. For example, typically on menus the meat is stated first like braised pork with potato hash, sizzling beef with snow peas, or BBQ chicken with baked beans. When was the last time you saw something on a menu like Quinoa salad and black beans with carnitas, or a regular restaurant where the vegan and vegetarian dishes dominated the menu?

The Plant-Forward perspective swaps the American habit of putting animal-based foods first and puts plant-based foods first instead. The driving motivation for eating a plant-forward diet is for health and sustainability reasons with more people wanting to actively do their part to help stop climate change and further environmental destruction.

Plant-based proteins like beans, tempeh, and lentils have fiber, no cholesterol or saturated fats, and contain no antibiotics or growth hormones. These foods also have a small carbon footprint helping to stop climate change and create less environmental damage and environmental injustice.

Eating more plant-based also helps to boost your fiber and nutrient intake. A common nutrition issue with Americans is eating too much protein and not enough fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables. There is no such thing as protein deficiency in the U.S.

In this table from the USDA that charts out what the average American citizen actually eats versus the U.S. Dietary  Recommendations, vegetable and fruit consumption are about half the recommendations, and meat, eggs, and nuts is nearly 40% over with grains being a little over by 10%.

One thing I find interesting about this USDA chart is that it does not include beans or legumes at all which is a primary source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. Since rice was eliminated from the Grains data, that leaves wheat, corn, barley and oats.

Like many, the idea of going vegan or vegetarian seemed like too much change for me, and knowing how my Inner Resistance Monster works if I tried to go cold turkey with the meat, the monster would rebel because he doesn’t like big changes leaping out of my comfort zone. I really liked the idea of going flexitarian because reducing my meat intake is more doable for me, and I like the “flexible” part. My Inner Resistance Monster is also cool with gradual change versus radical change.

My initial goal was to work up to an 80/20 split of plants/animals.

So, 7 years ago I started the process of gradually reducing my meat consumption when I stopped eating chicken after seeing the documentary Food Inc. I then spent a few years taking on Mark Bittman’s approach of eating vegan before 6, or just eating meat in only one meal of the day, and then I added on doing Meatless Monday. Soon I was eating meat only 4 days a week, then 2 days, and then only when I felt a craving.

Last year, I decided to do a #100daysmeatfree challenge which I ended up doing for a full 365 days completing my first year meat-free. I gave myself 5 free days to eat meat if I wanted to but the challenge proved to be much easier than I was expecting. The only animal-based food I eat now is patis which is Filipino fish sauce, and that is only when I am eating my mom’s food like her Pinakbet in the photo collage above or when I am at a family event. The Filipino in me isn’t ready to give up the patis yet and there is no good vegan alternative (yet.)

Because I made my transition gradual, the process was less painful. I never felt deprived. I was able to socially adapt along with the people around me. I inspired my mom, an avid meat-eater to cut out the pork and shrimp in some of our favorite Filipino dishes which was HUGE. I didn’t even ask her. She just noticed I was eating less meat and more veggies.

Now, I’ve arrived at the point where I don’t even miss meat and love the abundance of vegetables, legumes, and grains more. I also feel good that I am no longer contributing to the destruction of the planet and humans ability to live on the planet as well as saving the lives of countless animals.

I hope that I can help inspire you to have a similar experience because it really does feel good physically, emotionally, and mentally to eat more plant-based. Let’s move forward together!

 

 

What Are Clean Proteins?

The macronutrient that has the most impact on climate change and the environment is protein. Because factory farming is impacting climate change more than the entire transportation sector, we have to reframe the protein story.

Clean Proteins are akin to Clean Energy. They are proteins that are produced with low carbon and low eco footprints like vegetables, legumes, soy, nuts, protein alternatives, and a new segment called Clean Meat which is creating meat or seafood using animal DNA. The burger in the header photo is the new Impossible Burger, the plant-based burger that bleeds.

In the world of healthy living, clean proteins are typically viewed as proteins free of antibiotics, pesticides, GMOs, and heavy metals as well as being a whole food versus a highly processed food like an organic pork chop versus SPAM from Hormel. But now because of industrial animal agriculture’s significant impact on climate change and the environment, the context of Clean Proteins has to expand to include sustainability and environmental impact much like Clean Energy sources.

Besides antibiotics, pesticides, GMOs, and heavy metals, Clean Proteins factor in carbon and eco footprint including greenhouse gas emissions, waste, deforestation, ocean depletion, wildlife extinction, and resource usage: water, land, and feed.

It’s an exciting time for food and product innovation in the Clean Proteins space.

Clean Proteins are delicious

Ideally, it’s best to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, but transitioning away from the meat experience can be a process so the meat alternatives are a great transition food. In my collage, here are examples of some cool and delicious plant-based meat Clean Proteins.

  • On the top is a Fusilli tomato sauce pasta using the Field Roast Italian Sausage. Besides great in pasta, this sausage is awesome grilled and smothered with grilled onions and peppers in a bun.
  • Going clockwise is a sweet and sour pork made from seitan from one of my favorite Asian vegan restaurants called Loving Hut. I was blown away how close this seitan tasted to real pork.
  • On the bottom left are kabobs I made using Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger meat. I let the patties thaw until soft and then I added my kabob ingredients and shaped them into kabobs for cooking. The possibilities are endless with plant-based beef.
  • And lastly, I’ve been having fun experimenting making Filipino food. Here is a Filipino adobo I made using Gardein’s Teriyaki Chick’n Strips. The teriyaki sauce comes in a separate packet so you can use the plain chick’n in anything. FUN!

As you can see with these quick examples that you will not be deprived of the pleasures of meat.

In fact, you get to keep the taste and texture of meat knowing that no animal had to die, you’ve shrunk your carbon footprint, no rainforests were destroyed, no GMOs were used to make your meat, and you didn’t eat any cholesterol and got some fiber with your plant-based meat. WIN!

*****

For optimal health, and sticking to the lowest carbon footprints of Clean Proteins, keep your diet primarily focused on whole foods like this meal featuring Rojo Domingo beans, Jimmy Nardello peppers, and ginger, turmeric brown rice, and this delicious Tofu triangles with peanut sauce recipe from Mayo Clinic with a side of brown Jasmine rice and braised mustard greens.

Tofu is a healthy food that is perfectly fine if you stick to organic soy and eat it occasionally like you would have done with steak during the week. Better yet, the fermented soy foods like tempeh and natto have additional nutritional benefits.

If you’re concerned about soy, 99% of broiler chickens are raised in factory farms and their diet is almost entirely GMO soy and corn. U.S. chicken are literally made of GMO feed. To avoid that, be sure to buy organic chicken.

High to Low carbon proteins

I created this handy chart to give you a visual of how big the carbon footprint is for top protein sources, and then I grouped them from Low to High carbon footprint to make it easier for you to make more impactful choices.

One of the tricks that helped me reduce my beef consumption was to treat beef like cheesecake. I only ate it on a rare occassion. In the Plant-based Meat line is the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, two new plant-based beef products that are now available countrywide in grocery stores (Beyond Burger only) and restaurants.

 

The good news about Clean Proteins is that they have important health benefits that meat does not. I added some nutritional information to the chart to point out some of those benefits like plant-based proteins have little to no cholesterol, and little to no saturated fat compared to animal sources. The Clean proteins also have fiber which meat has none.

One of the benefits of creating protein alternatives is that the good stuff can be designed in and the bad stuff can be taken out like the example of the Beyond Burger compared to 80/20 ground beef. With the Beyond Burger you get the taste and texture of ground beef with no cholesterol, 3g of fiber, and half the saturated fat plus all the environmental and climate action benefits.

When you prioritize Clean Proteins in your diet, you boost your health and do your part to make the world a better place to live for people, animal, and planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: IKEA Vegetable Balls

Here in the U.S, one of the most popular dishes in the IKEA cafeteria is their meatballs with gravy and mashed potatoes. So, it was exciting when IKEA started selling frozen Vegetable Balls that are not only vegan, but also soy-free and gluten-free.

These vegballs are GOOD! They are pretty meaty and I was impressed how the ball stays together without using any eggs.  You will recognize all the ingredients used to make these vegballs. There is nothing artificial in them.

I made my own plant-based meal version of the cafe meatballs, gravy and mashed potatoes with some asparagus at home using the Vegetable Balls, and it was fantastic.

 

 

I made the gravy using a packet of Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy which is 100% plant-based, and added some chopped cremini mushrooms to my gravy. Pacific Foods also makes an Organic Vegan Mushroom Gravy.

The IKEA Vegetable Balls are also great with spaghetti and as an appetizer. The IKEA website also has some beautiful examples of dishes to make with the vegballs. I’ve never seen vegetable balls looks so gourmet.

 

Protein Snack: No Bake Oatmeal Hemp Cookie Bites

 

These cookie bites are one of my favorite snacks because they are easy to make and are loaded with plant-based protein. In fact, there is about 43g of protein in this whole recipe. Besides protein, the hemp seeds add a punch of Omega 3 and 6. These power cookie bites are great for post workout snacking.




Ingredients (makes about 2 dozen 1″ balls):

  • 1-1/4 cup organic dry oats
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of organic nut butter (use your favorite: peanut, almond, walnut, cashew)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp hemp seed
  • 5 tbsp organic honey
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients together. Chill the mixture in the fridge for 20 minutes. Take the bowl out of the fridge and create 1″ balls.

Store the balls in an airtight container until all the balls have been eaten.

Yum!

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