Monday, February 9, 2015

The Engine 2 Challenge Week 4: It's Over and I am a Little Afraid

Last night marked the end of the 28 day Engine 2 Challenge. I was the only participant still standing after the first week, but I powered on, with the support and encouragement of people who were following along with me here on the blog, on Instagram, and on Facebook.  So now what?  Do I start another 28 day challenge?  Do I go back to the way things were before I took the challenge?  I'm not quite sure yet.

I become obsessed when it comes to stuff like this.  If I decided I wanted to eat this way for the rest of my life, I could.  But do I?  Not really.  The thought of never having deep fried Toffalo Wings drenched in melted buttery buffalo sauce dipped in creamy ranch really freaks me out.  Much in the same way an alcoholic must feel when they decide to give up alcohol, I have an obsessive and unhealthy relationship with food.  (Which makes my career choice as a food blogger and cookbook author a pretty difficult one.)

But an obsession with a "diet" I fear is even more destructive than an obsession with food in general. Too restrictive. Eliminating entire food sources (Hello coconut, I really miss you!) seems overdramatic.  But when I went to see Rip speak, he mentioned that people who struggle with overweight or other diet related health problems do not have the luxury of moderation. Then in the next sentence he said, however this is a plant strong diet, not plant perfect.

So I think that is my plan for the future.  I will strive to be plant strong, not plant perfect.  If that means a slice of pizza (not 4) at a party with friends, so be it.  If that means a drizzle of Vegenaise or olive oil makes it onto my burger or pasta when I am dining out, I won't have a freak out over it.  Yeah, I will be plant strong, not plant perfect.

It was a really busy week for me at work with lots of meetings, lots of projects, and a bit of disappointment.  But I kept myself strong by doing a couple of night hikes on Signal Hill.  Once with my sister, and once with my man and the girls.  It's a helluva hike, but so worth it when you get to the top and have a 360 degree view of what appears to be the entire world.  The twinkling lights and cars snaking through the freeways so tiny they look like toys.  It really reminds one of how many people there are in this world and how important it is to do everything we can to protect it.

So let's get to what I did eat this week.  I had an absolute sweet tooth on Tuesday, which is rare for me. So I turned to an old favorite, a date roll.  2 ingredients make these little guys the best thing since sliced vegan cheese.  Dates and walnuts.  They are like nature's toffee.  Chewy and syrupy sweet, one or two of these rich little guys is plenty. While at work I depended heavily on the salad bar for my lunches.  I bought enough salad on one day to last me for three meals, and letting it sit mixed up in the fridge really got the flavors to meld together and make the veggies tender.  And while the weather has been seasonably warm here in Southern California, it is like a freaking ice box at work, so I like to heat up the whole bowl in the microwave so I feel more like I am eating a bowl than a salad.  The one above was brown rice, tofu, corn, carrots, spinach, rainbow chard, green onions, raisins, sunflower seeds, nooch, black pepper, and the Health Starts Here Sesame Ginger dressing.

Buckwheat Soba with Tahini Sauce
This dish uses whole buckwheat soba noodles as a base tossed with veggies and a rich tahini sauce. It tastes great hot or cold making it a perfect make ahead meal for easy lunches throughout the week.

1 (8 ounce) package of buckwheat soba noodles

For the Tahini Sauce:
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried (If you have fresh ginger, even better!)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
red chili flakes to taste

For the Veggies, you can add any veggies you like, in this one I used:
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
1 (14 ounce) can no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
dill and black pepper to taste

To make the sauce, stir together all ingredients until smooth, or add all ingredients to a shaker and shake to mix.  If using a blender, reserve the chili flakes to stir in afterwards.

To make the veggies, add the broth to a pan and heat over medium high heat until it begins to bubble, this will be fairly quick since it is such a small amount of liquid.  Add in the vegies and cook until heated through, spinach is wilted and broccoli is a vibrant green.

Add cooked veggies to the noodles and toss with desired amount of sauce.  You can use any leftover sauce as a salad dressing, dip for veggies, or even as a topping for tacos (See below!)

Yield: 4 servings

Tacos!  I had a bunch of leftovers in my fridge on Saturday, so I made kitchen sink tacos (left).  I mixed together leftover brown Jasmine rice with chopped spinach, broccoli, cucumber, carrot, red onion, cilantro and chickpeas.  I dressed it with the remaining Walnutt-y Spinach Pesto from week 2 and the Tahini sauce from above.  I grilled up some corn tortillas, toasted some pine nuts (I think sunflower or pumpkin seeds would have been great here too!) and piled it in.  then I sprinkled the top with some nooch and gave it a good squirt of sriracha.  Yum.  Leftovers made lunch and dinner for Saturday.

I also watched the movie Chef.  And while it has some gratuitous scenes filled with gruesome shots of dead animal flesh and secretions, that movie did light a fire under my ass to get in the kitchen more and really start creating the dishes that define my culinary point of view, regardless of whether or not I use added oil or salt!  So on Sunday morning before work, I made up a batch of Smokey Hominey and Pinto Bean tacos.  I had a few before I left for work, and then packed it up in a kit before leaving so I could assemble them at work, which is where I took the picture above.

Smokey Hominy and Pinto Bean Tacos
PLEASE make sure to cook your tortillas!  Most often, they are not fully cooked when they are packaged, and are brittle and taste pretty bad.  If you heat them up on a griddle or in a dry frying pan, they soften, become more pliable, and the nuttiness of the corn shines through when toasted.  Serving raw tortillas is as bad a sin as I can think of. Pfft.  >End of rant<

For the sauce:
1 box soft silken tofu
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon sriracha, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the filling:
1 (24 ounce) can no salt added hominy, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added pinto beans
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional

For the tacos:
Street size corn tortillas
2 cups chopped raw spinach
cilantro, as garnish if desired
green onions, as garnish if desired
additional nutritional yeast, as desired

To make the sauce, add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Set aside until ready to use.

To make the filling, in a mixing bowl, toss together filling ingredients, except veg broth and liquid smoke.
Add veg broth to a large pan and heat until it begins to bubble, this will happen quickly as it is such a small amount of liquid.
Add in the hominy mixture and cook until heated through, and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat and stir in liquid smoke if using.

To assemble the tacos, layer together two toasted tortillas and add a generous pile of chopped spinach.  Then spoon in about 1/4 cup of the filling, then top with cilantro, green onions and a sprinkling of nooch if desired.  Finish it all off with a drizzle of the sauce and enjoy.

Yield: This filling is enough for 24 street sized tacos.


Amey said...

Oh Joni, this is such a great post and it makes me want to jump through the internet and hug you! A couple years ago I started calorie counting. I"m not obsessive about it (which apparently is just really lucky for me), but it's a way to just keep an eye on how much I eat. As a result, I eat a lot more healthy foods than I used to, but I'm definitely not "plant perfect." Unlike you, I have a relentless sweet tooth, so that's my usual weak spot. I also have a major carb-tooth, though I generally find that easier to resist. I look forward to seeing more posts and pics from you and your culinary mastermind! Your evening hikes sound so beautiful. I like the idea of night hikes, but I never do them. I think I am too scared. Also, I gotta say, if I worked with a ginormous salad bar, it would be a lot easier for me to stick to my healthy eating goals. Lunchtime is when I'm the hungriest, and I've been learning to keep a major supply of veggies and roasted veggies and tasty leftovers on hand so that I don't just start powerbaring-and-chocolatechipping my way through the afternoon. xo

Joni Marie Newman said...

Amey, I just love you! Thanks so much for sharing and thanks for the hug...Dan gave me a hug for you when he read your comment :) Can't wait to see you again and return that hug in person! said...

I've been following along with your challenge on Instagram and I have to say you've been making healthy eating look so delicious! You've totally kicked the challenges ass!

Bianca said...

Yay! You made it!!! Congrats. Yea, I'm always a little lost after a cleanse/diet ends too. I tend to go crazy for a couple days — pizza, cake, ALL THE BOOZE — and then I realize I've gone crazy and try to scale it back. Sadly for me this year, one of my best friends, who happens to also be my neighbor, launched a vegan cupcake business just as my cleanse was ending. And I've been eating non-stop cupcakes ever since. Sigh ...

Joni Marie Newman said...

Thanks! See you in May?

Joni Marie Newman said...

But, Bianca…cupcakes! What an awesome best friend to have. So far, no major meltdowns :P

Angie said...

I love the honesty in this post and can definitely relate! I like the idea of striving to be plant strong! said...

Hell yeah you will!

Ufuk said...

the blog is very good. I just opened my blog. Turkish kebab recipes here. Will you support me?

Unknown said...

Vegan Food in Portland PdxVegan is a choice, a vision, a lifestyle. We are changing how we eat out from the earth, in a responsible and sustainable way that benefits our health. This section is all about healthy lifestyle tips and advice from a dietary point of view. Healthy eating and an active lifestyle are proven methods to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

2012 Copyright/Permissions/Disclaimers

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, and 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