Healthy holiday eating weeknight Mediterranean (vegan)

Let’s be honest: This time of year is so hard to eat healthy. The average American gains just over a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which doesn’t sound like a lot.

But as I get older (sigh–closer to 50 than 40 this year), it gets harder and harder to maintain let alone lose weight. But more than anything, when I gain weight I really feel it. Even in the magical elastic jeans that stretch. I hate that feeling physically.

Going Vegan has made that so much easier. I recently learned through my work project that’s in the Type 2 Diabetes space something about new science–calories in, calories out is old thinking. Huh, good to know!

The new research shows that it’s both easier and more complicated than that…the quality, timing and frequency matter. (Especially for diabetics).

Every person metabolizes calories differently. Therefore different foods and even eating foods in a specific sequence can make a difference. For anyone watching blood sugars exercise also matters, with something as simple as taking a walk after a meal to help stabilize blood sugar. (**This is when I say that I am not a doctor and not giving medical advice!**)

So basically I am learning to stop tracking my food–which is a habit built over the last 5 years–and learning to fast (16 hours off and 8 on). I am also watching my reaction to exercise as it relates to meal timing. I feel best when I exercise midstream during my “on” timeframe.

This fasting process tricks your body into burning fat. It’s working for me slowly and without a ton of effort. It’s not really that difficult since I generally dislike breakfast and black coffee doesn’t count (really).

During the 8 hours on, I feel good about eating whatever fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, limited healthy whole grains, non-meat protein I want. And it’s also easier to not have to track things in detail but know that I have good meal quality generally by being vegan.

As always when it comes to food that fuels my body, I try to let go of the good/bad labels that come with “dieting” and in fact don’t see it as a diet but just the way I like to eat because it feels good.

I also enjoy the creative process of putting a meal together, which can be a challenge in a time starved world. This easy Mediterranean dinner is a good break from heavy holiday foods, and it’s simple to prep ahead for dinner on the table in 5 minutes.

Wishing you health and balance this holiday season!

Mediterranean salad

  • 1 English cucumber, skinned and sliced into half rounds
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Hummus
  • Package tabbouleh
  • 1/2cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can garbanzo beans drained
  • Naan

Prepare tabbouleh according to package. Add most of parsley and juice of 1/2 lemon. Refrigerate for an hour or more. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. Seed and dice tomatoes, peel and chop cucumbers, adding remaining juice of 1/2 lemon. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate preferably overnight. Assemble salad by putting hummus in center, surrounding with tabbouleh, beans, and cucumber/tomato salad. Sprinkle remaining parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with naan.

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Soup’s on!

I am particularly proud of these 2 recipes because they are what my grandmother would call ‘resourceful’. Meaning, they made use of some random stuff in the fridge, almost all of it from our CSA share. It’s my favorite kind of cooking–nothing wasted!

Summer corn chowder

3 tbsp butter

3 ears corn, kernels cut off

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, roasted and chopped

1 onion

4 small red potatoes, diced

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 c half and half

Salt and pepper

Roast the jalapeno, then sweat it in a paper or plastic bag, remove blackened skin, seeds and membrane, dice. Saute the onion, carrots and celery in butter until soft, about 5 min. Add jalapeno, garlic and saute another minute. Add diced potatoes and corn. Add broth and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add half and half (or cream or milk to adjust fat levels). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Puree with a hand blender some, but not all, of the soup, if a smoother texture is desired.

Cold cucumber soup

3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

3 green onions rough chopped

1 clove garlic

6oz plain greek yogurt

1/2 c light sour cream

1/4c or a rough handful each of parsley and mint

juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt

Puree all of it in a blender or food processor. Chill 2 hours.

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The best thing about summer: Tomatoes!

Finally! My tomato plants are producing lovely bite-size red ones, and slightly larger yellow sungellas. Mostly, I just throw them straight into salads, but I also like to do this marinade, which gives them kind of a sauce. It can be eaten as is or thrown over lettuce, pasta or other grains, like farro or quinoa. It captures the best of summer!

Marinated tomatoes

  • 2c mixed small or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3c olive oil (I used the VOM FASS orange!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup mixed chopped herbs (Basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, tarragon, dill all work)
  • Zest of one lemon & a generous squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into half rounds
  • 1c fresh mozzarella balls (Or feta or skip it)

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And one bonus recipe for those of you looking to use a common CSA vegetable: fennel. Chipotle-marinated pork tenderloin with fennel salad. Served it with dill baby red potatoes and corn on the cob with cayenne/lime juice/feta and of course, butter. The pork was flavorful, but not too spicy, for those of you with Minnesota palates 🙂

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Trio of dill salads

First off, a confession. I committed murder for this week’s recipes. Beet murder.

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My least favorite thing about beets is that they are messy to prep. But fun, if one takes the right attitude! 😉

Quick and easy this week while we were at the lake — and attempting to use up the misc share vegs and some lovely dill. I ended up doing a simple lettuce salad with beets, goat cheese and dill, just some of that fab EVOO and balsamic to dress, carrots (threw into a tinfoil packet on the grill while brats cooked and more dill+butter to finish) and cucumber sour cream salad. This one was the highlight–super easy, fresh and healthy.

Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad

1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
Salt and black pepper
3 medium cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Halve each cucumber lengthwise, peel and scoop out seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Whisk the sour cream, vinegar, sugar, dill and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add the cucumbers; toss to coat. Serve chilled. Note: cucumbers have a ton of water in them. Meaning if you don’t like watery salads, you’ll want to sweat the cucumbers first by tossing in salt and letting them sit for an hour or so. Rinse, then toss with sauce. I didn’t find this step necessary since we were eating right away. This salad also called for shaved red onion. No thanks, said the boys.

PS I don’t know about you, but I am itching as my tomatoes start to ripen now….this is the best month of the year!

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