Monday, February 2, 2015

The Engine 2 Challenge Week 3: Making Lasting Lifestyle Changes

Let's just start this post off with a huge thanks to Rip Esselstyn himself.  He is touring the country and making lots of stops.  I was lucky enough to catch his appearance at the Whole Foods Market in Huntington Beach on Tuesday, earlier this week.

I have to admit, the crowd that was there, was pretty difficult.  I mean, like hecklers at a comedy show, there were people arguing every point he made.  "But what about raw milk?" "What's wrong with lean meat?" "What about the specific vitamins you can get from bison and not anywhere else?"  I mean, seriously?  Why would anyone come to a lecture and appearance by a VEGAN, PLANT STRONG, lifestyle promoter and ruin it for the rest of us trying to get and stay inspired on what is a very difficult journey for many. 

But, Rip took it like a champ, and at one instance, with a finger point that could have shot plant-powered lasers straight through her heart, he responded to one question with such poise, facts,  inspiration and passion that my eyes welled. "No, raw milk is not okay, goat's milk is not okay. Chimp milk is for baby chimps, goat's milk for baby goats...And furthermore, it is not sustainable to raise animals for food...billions of animals are killed every year..."  He hit every talking point right on the head.

And...he's a really nice guy.  Afterwards he hung around to sign books and take pictures, and even passed out Engine 2 bracelets.  How can you not be inspired by this guy?

Week three wasn't as difficult, as I am settling in to this way of eating and my tastebuds have certainly adjusted.  It was a very busy week, filled with meetings, appointments, and of course my daily full-time job, so I admit to have fallen off the wagon on the exercise front (shy of one short walk) and did absolutely no workouts this week. (Insert head bowed in shame here.)

I made a couple of new recipes this week, tackled a restaurant dinner, fell in love with Sumo tangerines, most likely offended my well-intentioned, sweet and loving mother in law when I refused to eat the food she bought for me, and tackled Superbowl Sunday with some yummy potatoes and a storebought fat-free vegan queso.

The recipes. I started the week off with Mac and Peas.  Inspired by the mac and peas my friend and talented chef Rachel Safran made, I was inspired to make an Engine 2 approved cheesy sauce.  And I did.  The secret ingredient?  Carrots!

Smoky Mac and Peas
Soy free, no added oil, no added sugar, no added salt, and can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free pasta. Make a batch of this to have easy meals throughout the week, as a base for additions like spinach, red peppers, kale, beans, broccoli...pretty much anything your heart desires.

1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 cups frozen green peas (of course you can also use fresh or canned, I just prefer frozen)

For the sauce:
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce, optional, more or less to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
black pepper, to taste

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, strain and return to pot.  Stir frozen peas into warm pasta to defrost them.
In a separate pot, add vegetable broth, cashews and carrots.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer , cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add in remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.
Using a stick blender (or very carefully transferring to a tabletop blender) puree until smooth.
Stir sauce into macaroni and peas to thoroughly coat. Add black pepper to taste.

Yield: 8 Servings

Salad rolls.  The salad rolls on the left are store bought.  I bought them at Whole Foods Market, from the sushi section.  Inside the rice paper wrappers is romaine lettuce, carrots, cabbage, cucumber and tofu.  They came with a no-oil added peanut sauce (although it did have a little agave added for sweetness.)

Inspired to make my own salad rolls by the amazing Kittee Berns (author of Teff Love, the mastermind behind the Papa Tofu zines, and the blogger behind Cake Maker to the Stars) I decided to make my own.  I was stoked to find BROWN RICE PAPER!!! at Whole Foods Market.  You guys, salad rolls are so easy to make.  Basically, if you like salad, just make a salad and roll it up in rice paper.  Then dip it in a delicious dressing or sauce and boom.  It's how to make salad portable!

My salad rolls are filled with spinach, avocado, cucumber, red onions, green onions, cilantro,  finely chopped broccoli, carrots, asparagus, and smoked tofu.  (I made a peanut sauce from scratch, too, but I made it too liquidy, so that recipe will need a bit more tweaking before I share it.)

This weekend proved to be a little challenging.  My husband and I wanted to try out a Lebanese restaurant we have driven and walked by a gagillion times, so we finally went in.  Perusing the menu, the descriptions of the clearly marked dishes were pretty elaborate, so we made the best choices we could, choosing options that didn't list olive oil in the description.  We decided opting for an assortment of appetizers to share was the best option.  On our table was tabouli (I abstained as it was floating in oil), almond basmati rice, rice and veggie stuffed dolmas and a white bean soup.  Verdict?  Everything was ridiculously salty.  Im not sure if it's because my tastebuds have now adjusted to lower salt items, or if the food really was that salty.  Dan agreed, way too salty.

Saturday evening, we planned on stopping by Dan's mom's house to visit for a bit, but when we arrived, she had made a huge spread of food, so we figured we would stay for the evening.  Unfortunately, she bought hummus, pita chips, and Tofurky.  All very delicious, and very thoughtful of her, but not foods that are allowed on Engine 2. So I excused myself to step out for a minute and grab a salad of the salad bar of the market down the street.

Which brings us to Sunday. Superbowl Sunday. A day full of food and booze and good times. Naturally, I volunteered to work so that I wouldn't be tempted with all of the chips and dips and Toffalo Wings and whatever other deep fried deliciousness that was bound to be lurking around. Instead, I made myself a batch of potatoes, that should last me a few days.  They are red potatoes, boiled, then drained, and to them I added, chopped spinach, green onions, dill, garlic, stone ground mustard, a splash of unsweetened almond milk and a splash of veggie broth.  Super yum, hot or cold.

While at work, since the game was on, and everyone was in the spirit, I treated myself to some Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso, which, although a little high on the sodium scale, is completely fat free and only 15 calories per serving.  That means, even if I ate the whole jar, it would only be 120 calories! I paired it with the Ryvita Crunch Pumpkin Seed Crackers, which in my opinion are the best tasting low sodium, whole grain, oil free crispy cracker available.  The two paired quite well together.

Overall, I would say this week was a success.  My pants are feeling looser. I feel good. I feel energetic. And I think I might just finish this challenge!


  1. Joni, you totally inspired me. I could write a long comment but suffice to say I needed to make some changes. I'd seen some Engine 2 info, it looked good and then someone I knew (if only via the amazing internet) wrote about it and it became a viable option. I am far from perfect but really feel better. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. I'm glad you are feeling better, Doe! I am too! I am also far from perfect, but I am sure doing a lot better than before. Making healthier choices everyday. Today, I even went on a nice long walk with my husband and the girls. Eating healthier makes such a difference...but that's not to say there isn't a place in my world for deep fried avocado tacos drizzled in creamy sesame sriracha sauce, lol! When I went to see Rip speak last week, he mentioned that people that struggle with weight problems or other health problems related to diet don't have the luxury of moderation...yet we always say, "Moderation is key" but he also said his lifestyle is plant-strong, not plant-perfect, and I also heard him say that a treat every now and then, especially on special occasions is ok.

    2. i always love a good treat- Saturday night I am the dessert lady for a dinner with friends. Truly, respecting moderation makes treats oh so much nicer. love love love strong, not perfect

  2. You are so strong! I wouldn't have been able to resist that Tofurky and hummus! I have a tendency to view situations like that — where someone else buys something and I just show — as the Universe telling me I must need those things. It's how I justify so many things that I shouldn't. Haha! Also, how cool that you got to meet Rip!!!! But sucks about all those paleo assholes (don't know if they were actually paleo, but judging by their questions, I'm gonna assume).

  3. Man, I wish your posts had been around when I started Engine 2 a few years ago :) This is the best looking Engine 2 friendly food I have seen. Your cookbooks are great, Joni, so I guess it should be no surprise that you would figure out so easily how to make tasty food despite the restrictions!

    And great tip on the brown rice paper wrappers! I have been wanting to try Kittee's salad rolls as well. Will check my Whole Foods for them.

    -- Jan

  4. It's really tempting me so much! Please try to watch this! warwick associate

  5. You make me feel happy this day because of this Smoky Mac and Peas whom I am looking for and I also feel excited to have found your site – the recipes especially!Your recipes looks so delicious and I am craving for this. I cannot wait to try this healthy foods for healthy eating. This is what my mother looking for. Thank you so much for this beautiful recipe you offer for us as FREE. Great!


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All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni