When I need to bulk cook but am feeling lazy, I break out my Instant pot. And 90% of the time, it’s to make this recipe–it’s my favorite of all my stew/chili recipes!
Not only is it ridiculously comforting and delicious, but it’s a great way to pack in tons of veggies. It’s worked well with whatever veggies I’ve had on hand, so it’s a flexible recipe for using things up too!
Also, if you don’t have an instant pot, it works just fine on the stove too. (You just can’t be quite as lazy 😛 )
3 cups dry red lentils, rinsed
4 cups veggie broth
2 cups water
15oz can diced tomatoes
6oz can tomato paste
Large onion, diced (white or red works)
5 cloves garlic, minced
Heaping tsp cumin
3-4 heaping tsp chili powder*
2-3 tsp smoked paprika
Heaping tsp cayenne
2-3 tsp normal paprika
1/4c brown sugar
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste (after cooking)
Veggies I added (optional/add whatever you like!):
8oz frozen peppers
8oz bag chopped kale (or use 4oz frozen)
15oz can corn
*For spices where the amount ranges, if using an instant pot, I suggest using the high end of the range; for normal pot, use the lower end. Of course this also varies by how spicy you like things, and how many veggies you add!
Add everything but the corn into an instant pot, put on high pressure for 17 mins, and allow to release naturally.
(Or, if making on the stove: add all the ingredients except corn to a large pot over low heat. Cover and let simmer until the lentils are soft and the veggies are tender, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn)
Stir in corn, and salt to taste. If you add as many veggies as I do, you may want to add garlic powder and more chili powder.
Top with avocado, chili garlic salt, or if you’re feeling fancy, vegan sour cream.
In this study, the researchers looked at how much weight was gained over the holidays by dieters versus normal controls (nondieters). And, more importantly, what kinds of dieting habits these groups had.
The dieters were people who had successfully lost weight in the past and kept it off for years–so they really knew how to diet. Before the holiday, many of them reported having “extremely strict” holiday diet and exercise plans in place: they had solid plans to control their portions, cut out treats, and exercise like crazy. Many of them also lost weight before the holidays to have a safety net in the event of holiday weight gain.
Sounds like a lot of people around November, right?
Not a single one of the 100 nondieters, on the other hand, reported having strict diet or exercise plans. None of them reported losing any weight to prepare for the holidays, either.
So the dieters were completely focused on weight loss, had strict plans in place to do that, and even preemptively lost weight to have a holiday safety net. And the nondieters didn’t care about weight or dieting much at all.
Guess who gained more weight?
During the holiday, the dieters reported exercising much more, and successfully sticking to their strict diet plans. They followed self-imposed rules, like only eating at home and not allowing snacking after dinner. They intentionally stopped eating before they were full, focused on their portions, and weighed themselves more often.
And yet, they gained weight: almost half of them gained more than 2lbs. Only 15% of the nondieters, on the other hand, gained weight.
The kicker is that even a month later, in February, three times as many dieters were still holding onto that holiday weight than nondieters.
But why did this happen?
The researchers found that paying less attention to their weight and dieting over the holidays predicted more weight gain in the dieters. And yet, the dieters were still paying more attention to their weight and diet overall than the nondieters, so that can’t explain why they gained more.
This seemingly paradoxical result really shows how dieting affects you: if you’re used to dieting, then the second you take a break from completely obsessing over your weight and diet plans, you start to gain weight.
So, what does this mean for you?
The only way dieting really works in the long term is if you maintain complete control 100% of the time, with no binges or overeating or slip ups. And that isn’t realistic. It’s usually more like a cycle of doing well for a little while, then overeating, then trying to make up for it by dieting more strictly, which leads to binging… rinse and repeat.
Dieting just doesn’t work in the long term.
So what can you do?
Be like the nondieters: try intuitive eating (here’s my post on how to do that). Don’t focus on your weight. Don’t make strict diet plans. Don’t impose eating or exercise rules on yourself. Instead, just learn to tune into your body’s signals so you can eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full–that’s it!
It takes some time to escape from a diet mentality and the cycle of strict dieting and slip-ups, but it is so worth it.
And if you want to lose weight, just focus on eating whole, plant-based foods. (No need to cut out treats though!) There’s a ton of research that shows that eating this way, without any dieting, leads to effortless weight loss.
The holidays should be a time that you can spend focusing on loved ones, relaxation, and self-care. Not a time that you have to spend all your mental energy on keeping up your diet.
The holiday season is a mostly wonderful time… but between the fun of getting together with loved ones, having more free time, and being surrounded by holiday decor, there lurks the fear of seemingly inevitable weight gain.
I spent years and years being so afraid of weight gain, and so desperately planning my post-holiday diet, that it was hard to enjoy the holidays at all. Especially Thanksgiving, because the whole day is so focused on food. But now that I’ve learned how to escape that cycle, I want to share some tips to help you stop worrying about your weight this holiday season too, so you can focus on what’s important instead 🙂
1. Eat more (of some things).
Sounds counterintuitive, I know.
But the science is clear: some foods are more satiating than others. Studies have found that if you eat 250 calories of potatoes, for example, you’ll feel more than twiceas full as you would from eating 250 calories of cheese1. And as a result, you also eat much less after eating potatoes than after eating cheese.
And you can take advantage of this fact to help you pace yourself during your holiday meals.
If you’re mindful about having a good helping of those satiating foods (think starches & veggies), it’ll balance out the high calorie density, low satiety foods (think meat, cheese, & desserts), and help prevent you from overeating.
So what exactly does that look like? Try having a dish as close as possible to a plant based whole food–maybe mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a veggie side, or even stuffing–that you eat first or that you serve yourself extra of, to give you that baseline of satiation before going for seconds (or thirds) on everything else.
Another strategy is to have some snacks or appetizers before the big meal. This can help by making sure you don’t go into dinner feeling ravenous and overstuffing yourself before your brain can catch up.
2. Don’t plan to diet beforehand or afterwards.
This is a big one. Almost everyone who has ever dieted plans to diet before and/or after the holidays. But it’s exactly that mindset that leads to overeating and weight gain in the first place.
In fact, studies show that people who are most successful at losing weight in general are the ones who gain the most weight during the holidays2.
Sounds crazy, right?
A few years ago I would have thought so too, but now it makes perfect sense.
First, we know that dieting leads to yo-yo weight gain and loss in the long term. So dieting before the holidays is the perfect way to set yourself up to go into binge mode during the holidays and gain all that weight back… and then some3.
Second, when you go into the holiday season expecting to gain weight, that’s exactly what happens. It’s a very easy self-fulfilling prophecy, because the expectations are all in your mind, and it’s your mind that causes you to overeat. (Your body never asks for that!) When you start eating, you probably have negative emotions about how much weight you’re going to gain. And we know that for people who diet, negative emotions lead to more overeating.
It’s a vicious cycle that leaves you miserable during the holidays, and heavier (and still miserable) afterwards.
So what should you do instead? Ditch the diets, and start eating intuitively instead. (Check out my guide for how to get started.) Your mind and waistline (and probably your loved ones too) will thank you.
3. Plan to make yourself more holiday foods afterwards.
Part of what makes us overeat at holiday meals is that the food is scarce. Maybe it’s even “forbidden” the rest of the year.
If you don’t eat that pecan pie today, you might not get to eat it again until next year.
But the reality is that the only reason holiday food is scarce or forbidden is if YOU decide that you aren’t allowed to have it at other times. And that makes it so much more alluring. After all, there’s a reason they say that the forbidden fruit is sweetest.
And, science shows that people who avoid eating certain foods for dieting purposes end up overeating them later3.
If you don’t allow yourself to have certain foods most of the year, you end up overeating them even more during the holiday season because you know you’ll be deprived of those foods again soon.
This is not your last chance for pecan pie, so you don’t need to eat it like it’s your last time having pecan pie.
So this tip is an easy one: just allow yourself to have your favorite foods. (This is a good anti-weight-gain tip in general, not just for the holidays!) Either make some of your holiday favorites before the season starts to test out some recipes, or schedule a day after the holidays to make or buy those holiday foods you always crave. (And, of course, save leftovers from the holiday meal itself!)
Or best of all, go all out with intuitive eating and just eat what you want when you want it. No scheduling necessary. That’s how I’ve lost weight and maintained it–it just works.
With this tip, you’ll go into your holiday meals knowing that the pecan pie really isn’t that rare–and if you know there’s more where that came from, you’ll feel much less of an urge to overeat it.
(Can you guess that I really love pecan pie? 😉 )
4. Treat it like any other meal.
Try changing your expectations going into your holiday meals. If you don’t treat them like a big daunting event where you’re expected to overeat, you’ll be less likely to overeat.
Like the last tip, this is also about reducing the scarcity of the food: the goal is to get rid of that feeling that the Thanksgiving food (or other holiday food) is a limited resource. Don’t treat the food like it’s the special part of the day. That’s not what makes a holiday a holiday.
It’s the loved ones, the focus on what you’re thankful for, or even just a day off from work that makes it a holiday.
If you want to create something special and rewarding in your day, in place of focusing on the meal, you could also try treating yourself to some self care: is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, a videogame you’ve been dying to play, or some bubble bath you’ve been wanting to try? Treat yourself or set aside some time for yourself during the day to make it feel special.
5. Shift your focus.
Changing your mindset is so powerful. Mindset makes us overeat in the first place, and mindset can be the reason we stop.
This holiday season, try shifting your focus. Instead of thinking about how food will affect you and your body, focus on who you’re sharing that food with. Focus on why you’re there eating a holiday meal in the first place.
And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, try replacing guilt, shame, and fear with gratitude. Gratitude that you have food to eat, loved ones to eat it with, and a body that allows you to enjoy the holidays. Maybe your body doesn’t look exactly how you want it to (yet), but try to appreciate it for what it allows you to do.
After all, practicing gratitude has been shown again and again to make people happier4, and even to improve their body image5.
And with that, I wish you all a very happy holiday season. I hope that these tips can help you enjoy it even more. ❤
A few weeks ago, I was on vacation in San Diego: aka a vegan foodie’s paradise. It was a great opportunity to be challenged and grow in my intuitive eating, and more importantly, to learn some insights to share with you!
For years and years, going on vacation meant a constant cycle of binge eating at restaurants, feeling guilty about it, trying to eat less at the next meal, failing, packing in as much cardio as possible… rinse and repeat.
Followed, of course, by the post-vacation constant, failed dieting attempts.
My last few vacations since getting the hang of intuitive eating, however, have been a world of difference.
This last vacation was an especially tricky case, because I was set on making a guide & video to the best vegan restaurants in San Diego… all over the course of a week! And I wanted to try as many dishes as humanly possible for it. (Luckily I collaborated with some of the restaurants, like Kindred in these photos, so I didn’t spend alllll the money.)
In the past, this would have spelled disaster: trying so many things would have meant cleaning my plate for every. single. dish.
But this time, I went with my gut, quite literally. And it went wonderfully. No binge eating, no guilt, no restriction… and all my clothes fit the same when I got home.
So here are 5 tips I’ve picked up along the way: how to make sure you’re eating just as much as you need (no more, no less!) while eating out at restaurants, being on vacation, or having any other big change in your usual diet!
1. Eat slower.
Your body has learned the approximate mapping between the volume of food you put in your stomach, and the amount of energy that volume usually results in. If you’re used to eating less calorie-dense food, like vegetables and grains, this is an especially important one. With salad or bread, for example, you might need to eat ~5 cups of it to get 500 calories. With the types of food you tend to get at restaurants or while on vacation, though, you could easily get 1000 or 1500 calories with 5 cups of food.
Now, I am DEFINITELY not advocating you count your calories. (Repeat: do not count your calories!) Rather, try some strategies to be more mindful of your hunger and satiety signals. Try eating slower to give your body a chance to catch up, start digesting a little bit, and realize that you gave it more calories per volume than it expected. For me, this is as simple as having appetizers first, then letting myself digest for the ~15 minutes it takes for the food to come.
Don’t think this would help? There are studies showing that eating slower actually reduces the amount of food and calories that you eat!1
2. Get appetizers.
To piggyback on the last tip, if you’re really hungry when you get to the restaurant, ordering appetizers (to share, especially!) can be surprisingly helpful for preventing overeating. Paradoxically, getting appetizers ends up making me eat LESS because I’m not ravenously hungry when it’s time to start on my entree. And not feeling as hungry to start with will help you pace yourself and be more mindful of when you’re satiated.
3. Plan to take home leftovers.
Unless you’re sure you’ll need to eat all the food to be satiated (which is totally reasonable, I usually finish a whole entree), go in with the mindset that you’ll take some food home.
This is NOT the same idea as the tip I’ve seen circulating in the dieting world, saying “put half your entree in a leftovers box when you get it to stop yourself from eating it all.” This is simply aimed at preventing you from going in with a “clean your plate” mentality… if you end up wanting to eat it all because you’re not full yet, you should absolutely go for it!
4. Don’t force yourself to eat your next meal.
This is the most important tip so far, because it’s an example of how intuitive eating works beyond the level of an individual meal: your body’s ability to regulate your intake (so you eat what you need) operates over days, weeks, even months (thanks, hunger hormones!). It may sound weird, but hear me out.
Not forcing myself to eat at prescribed times has been huge for me. In the past I subscribed too heavily to society’s “3 meals a day” norm, and it got in the way of me listening to my body.
When I eat at a restaurant, I usually eat way more calories in a meal than I would at home, simply because my body is so used to eating a large volume of food. AND THAT’S OKAY! (Tip #1 can help, but probably won’t completely prevent it.)
Once you’re used to eating intuitively, you can trust your body to know what to do with those extra calories.
This tip helped me the most. My first day in San Diego, I ate a ton of incredible food at this brunch. I was still full around 5pm, 5 hours later. But my family wanted to make dinner together.
So naturally, I joined in. I was still mostly full, but I ate quite a bit anyway–because I had pretty much shut off communication with my hunger signals by choosing to eat when I wasn’t hungry in the first place. After feeling sick and overstuffed (on veggies, beans and rice, no less), I realized that eating dinner was not staying true to my body’s signals: it was telling me “I’m good, thanks”, but I ate dinner because I felt like I should.
No one can tell us when we should or shouldn’t eat. Only our bodies know that!
I redoubled my dedication to listening to my hunger, and it worked beautifully over the rest of the trip. How it usually worked was one day I’d do a big breakfast and dinner, with no lunch. (I’m like a snake when it comes to restaurant meals: I stock up, then feel full and satiated for like 8 hours. 😛 )
Then the next day, I wouldn’t feel hunger signals all morning because of the leftover energy from that big dinner. Then I’d get hungry around lunch, eat a big lunch, and feel full the rest of the day. Then repeated that two day pattern.
It was the usual 3 meal routine, just with double the meal size, spread over 2 days. And I felt great. No ravenous hunger, no feeling overstuffed, just eating when hungry & stopping when satisfied. I didn’t have to think about food at all in terms of what or when to eat, I just focused on enjoying myself. The bonus was I could spend less time finding food & more time at the beach!
Another way to think of it is naturally occurring intermittent fasting. Without the whole forcing-yourself-to-eat-in-a-prescribed-time-window part.
I don’t recommend forcing yourself to eat like this, at all. Some people do better eating more frequent meals, whereas I tend to prefer the snake-type eating style.
The main lesson from this tip is you may have to throw your usual eating routines out the window, and fly without the autopilot of habit: rely more on your hunger and fullness signals instead!
5. Go easy on yourself.
If you do overeat til you’re sick, just dust yourself off, move on, and try again. Vacationing and eating at restaurants is about relaxing and enjoying your life (and your loved ones), not feeling bad about yourself! You may be tired of hearing it, but self compassion is an absolutely KEY part of intuitive eating.
Maybe you’re working on getting the hang of intuitive eating, maybe it’s your first time trying to do it while on vacation. Maybe you’re an old pro and it was just difficult this time. (Newsflash, no one’s perfect!)
That’s okay. If you gain weight, it’s not the end of the world. Feeling guilty can only make the situation worse, but self compassion can prevent and reverse it. Work on loving yourself where you are and the rest will follow!
* * * * *
I hope these tips can help you the next time you find yourself thrown out of your eating routine with the fun of restaurants and vacation. And most of all, I hope you enjoy yourself!
Update 2021: if you want to know what my diet and progress have been like since this post, see my current Instagram! Also, check out my Youtube playlist for in depth videos on my different diets, weight loss, and before & after photos.
It’s time for a post that has been in my drafts for months: the final results and thoughts about my higher carb starch solution experiment! (If you don’t know about the starch solution, check out the book)
The fact that it’s taken months for me to post this means I can also talk about the long term effects (and if the weight stays off) and what I’ve been doing since then.
Results and thoughts about the 4 week experiment: (see original post)
I lost 3 pounds–from 121.5 to 118.5lbs, which is a big loss for me as I’ve been hovering at 120-122 for years–most of which happened in the first week. I think I ate too little in the first week, which made me crave a lot of fat in the following weeks–I have a lifetime habit of craving fat and pastries whenever I’m in too steep a calorie deficit!
Counting calories (which I did for the purpose of sharing my intake with you guys, not for restricting them) stressed me out and got in the way of intuitive eating. For future food diaries, I think I would leave out the calories/macros. For example, when I had a smaller breakfast because I wasn’t hungry, I would compensate by eating more for lunch simply because I thought I “needed” more calories–but then I would overeat til uncomfortably full just to meet some arbitrary calorie requirement!
I think that my happy zone–aka eating whatever I want without thinking about macros–is around 77% carbs, 12% protein, and 11% fat. Before this challenge it was more like 75/10/15, so I guess it has moved my tastes towards a slightly lower fat diet! (These may seem like tiny changes, but 4% is a big change when the total is only 11%!)
Overall, it seems that this challenge showed me how it’s almost too easy to lose weight while eating to satiation on high carb, and if you have rebound binge eating like I do, you have to make sure to hit a sweet spot with your calorie deficit if you want to be able to stick to it! It’s also helped reinforce my intuitive eating by reminding me that calorie counting is not only not particularly useful, but actually gets in the way of eating what my body needs.
Since then & Goals:
Since May, I’ve lost 2.5lbs more and am down to 116lbs, just doing intuitive eating (still high carb), and running, and occasional lifting! I got a dog right after the end of the experiment, and I think all the walking helped some too 🙂 Progress photo below is at 117 a few weeks ago, featuring little miss Maia! (she’s always improving my photos)
My current main goal is to replace my pooch with some semblance of abs by September. The weight isn’t particularly important, but is easier to measure progress with than the mirror.
I came up with this recipe years ago, and I’ve never gotten tired of it: I still find myself making it on the weekends. It’s a healthy start to your day, and is easy to dress up as you please–I usually opt for chocolate chips, with banana slices and maple syrup on top!
It’s also easy to make your own pancake mix for this: what I like to do is mix up a tupperware-full of the dry ingredients, and use that throughout the weekend. That way I can just roll out of bed, add the wet ingredients, and start cooking the pancakes right away!
Makes 4 medium sized pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy milk
Add-ins: Chocolate chips, nuts, berries, cinnamon, etc.
1. In a small to medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. Pour vanilla, soymilk, and water into a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Whisk until lumps are gone, and stir in addins if desired.
Note: I often find myself adding more liquid at this step as I like a thinner batter sometimes, but the thickness is really a matter of preference: they turn out great regardless!
3. Coat skillet with cooking spray, and set to medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, pour the batter until your desired pancake size is reached (generally around 1/3 cup; I, however, made a giant pancake). Drop your add-ins like chocolate chips evenly into the batter.
4. Cook until bubbles have appeared and popped on surface, then flip to other side. Cook until browned.
Calling all soup lovers! If you like broccoli and cheese soup but don’t want the dairy or processed fake cheeses, this recipe is for you. (Especially my fellow high carb, low fat vegans!)
Although we don’t get to experience much of a real winter where I am in California, I still can’t help but love soup season. I’ve been experimenting with spicy lentil, roasted tomato, and sweet potato soups over the last few weeks, but I keep coming back to this broccoli one. Yukon gold potato lends the soup its creaminess, and the cheesy flavor comes from nutritional yeast, along with onions, garlic, and a few cashews. It’s also flexible and fun to customize: you can add whatever veggies you have on hand, and vary amounts as you please and it’ll still turn out great.
It’s packed with nutrients (and even quite high in protein!), it’s quick and easy to make, and it’s especially delicious when paired with toasted sourdough!
1 medium yukon gold potato (about 200g)
2-3 cups broccoli pieces
2 cloves garlic
1/2 yellow or white onion
4 stalks of celery
4-5 large mushrooms
2-3 handfuls of kale or spinach
1 tsp vegetable broth powder (or a vegetable bouillon cube, or veggie broth)
2 tbsp cashews (omit for lower fat)
3-4 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or other non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Toasted bread (especially sourdough) for serving
Boil or microwave potato until soft.
Roughly chop the garlic, onion, celery, and mushrooms. They’ll all be blended later, so just chop them enough so they have some surface area for cooking.
Dry-sauté garlic and onion over medium heat until the garlic toasts slightly, then add the water, broccoli, celery, mushrooms, potato, and kale or spinach. Simmer until soft.
Remove from heat, and add to blender along with cashews, nutritional yeast, and almond milk. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add more water and/or almond milk as necessary to get soup to the consistency you prefer.
2019 Update: See myInstagram for daily posts on my weight loss & body progress, food & recipes, and diet updates. See my Youtube channel for more detailed starch solution/diet updates and before & after photos!
Center my meals on starch: potatoes, rice, beans, lentils, squash, bulgur, oats, corn, etc.
Keep macros around 65-70% carbs, 15-20% protein, and 10-15% fat. (this generally requires protein powder and/or bars for me)
Focus on whole foods: avoid flours; no oils
Eat more vegetables (currently having small salads with lunch 3-4 days a week and a serving at dinner, but I’d like to get more)
No limit on fresh fruits (starch solution guidelines say 4 or fewer servings, but I’m not a fan of that!)
Starting today, 9/15, I’m planning on posting my food diaries of the next 23 days!
Back when I started this blog I would post them everyday, but because I don’t have nearly as much time as I used to, I thought I could instead give you guys snapshots of what I eat every once in awhile. I’ll either do food diary posts that have a day or two each, or do a weekly post with what I ate each day that week.
I’ve been an ethical vegan for a long time now: vegetarian for the last 9 years, 95% vegan for 3 years, and 100% vegan for the last year. Since February, I’ve been dabbling in HCLF (high carb, low fat) veganism on and off, and have been doing pretty well with it since I got back to school three weeks ago. However, I have been eating a bit too much processed food, especially homemade chocolate chip cookies because of too many bakesales and potlucks! Thanks to that and the heaps of stress I’ve been under–applying to grad school while working in 2 labs, doing an honors thesis, and taking a full courseload–my skin hasn’t been too thrilled with me, and my gym performance seems to be suffering.
I’ll be visiting my boyfriend in three weeks, so until then, I’m going to try following Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution principles more closely than I have been. Not only do I already love starches, but his premises make sense to me–and I’m a very cynical/scientific person, so it takes a persuasive argument to get me on board with something like that. I won’t be super strict as I’ll still be including protein bars, Beyond Meat chick’n strips, avocados, and flax seed here and there, but I’m interested to see if I feel and look better eating his way… and I wouldn’t mind losing a pound or two either!
I’m also hoping I can simplify my diet and meal planning, because I’m currently a bit addicted to variety. However, on the weekends I’ll probably bend the guidelines and have some flours in pancakes and whatnot, and experiment with new recipes.
Also, I won’t be counting calories during the day–I’m going to be eating intuitively–but I will write down what I eat so I can put it in Myfitnesspal at the end of the day and maybe post it here! I love data, but I hate planning my day around calories, so this compromise has been working for me.
Ever since I went to college three years ago, the biggest obstacle to being 100% vegan was an Indian restaurant called Biryani house. My college town is teeming with vegan options, but this place had the absolute best food I’d ever tasted in my life. And that’s a big deal for me, because I’ve had the good fortune of eating at a lot of great restaurants.
I used to go there with friends a couple of times a month to gorge myself on their freshly baked aloo naan, perfectly spiced vegetable biryani, and most importantly, their decadent paneer tikka masala. Unfortunately, my vegan aspirations were dashed due to the fact that their tikka masala not only sported paneer (cubes of Indian cottage cheese), but was also likely drowned in heavy cream.
(Fun fact: my weight seemed to fluctuate along with how often I went there.)
When I finally got more serious about being 100% vegan last year, I had to stop going there. And as if to enforce my self-discipline, it actually closed a few weeks after my decision, for unknown reasons. A bittersweet moment.
Anyways, getting to the point: I’ve been trying to recreate that tikka masala for quite awhile now. After a few tries–all of which were delicious, but not decadent like theirs–I finally came up with a recipe that tasted almost the same. It’s creamy, spicy, much healthier than its restaurant counterpart, and most importantly, vegan. And I’m pretty darn excited about it.
Now to work on aloo naan recipes!
400-500g super firm tofu (the kind that is vacuum sealed instead of water packed, and has the density of a block of cheese–I use Tofu Yu. If you can’t find that, try freezing an extra firm block then thawing it out and using it as you would super firm.)
80g cashews (a little less than 3/4 cup), soaked overnight or for a few hours
15oz can of plain tomato sauce
1/2 white onion
1-2 large cloves garlic
1/2 + cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk (as needed)
1 + 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne (more as desired)
1/4 tsp paprika (more as desired)
2 pinches of amchur powder
1. Cut up the onion and garlic, and combine them with the tomato sauce in a large pan over medium heat. Add in the cumin, cardamom, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, paprika, and amchur powder, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
2. While the sauce is simmering, cut your tofu into cubes, and fry until golden (I used a teaspoon of coconut oil, but you could also do it dry). Remove from heat once golden.
3. After 15 minutes, remove the sauce from heat. Allow to cool (if necessary; I didn’t have to for my vitamix) and blend with the drained cashews until smooth and creamy. Add unsweetened almond or cashew milk as needed to get it to your desired consistency.
4. Combine tofu with sauce in a serving bowl, and serve it with jasmine rice, naan, your preferred grain, or enjoy it solo!
I’m starting to fall in love with bulk cooking. Not only am I free from prepping food and dish-washing each and every night, but it leaves me more time and energy for the gym. Talk about a win-win!
For my second bulk dish, I went with a burrito bowl since I’d had burrito cravings for days. The reason I’m calling this particular recipe a piñata bowl is because it’s a bit of an explosion of color–with lots of green, red, and yellow–and is rather pretty to look at. And more importantly, it tasted AMAZING. It lasted me five nights, and I found myself looking forward to it every night. I was sure I’d get bored of eating the same thing even three nights in a row, let alone 5, but this bowl has proven me wrong!
Not only is it delicious, but it’s got plenty of protein and fiber and can be made nearly fat free if you omit the avocado. Perfect for those on a high carb lifestyle, and for those looking to eat a giant burrito equivalent for way fewer calories!
It’s also versatile, since you can substitute veggies as you’d like, as well as brown rice for the quinoa, or other types of bean/protein for the black beans.
3/4 cup dry (uncooked) quinoa
1 cup dry black beans (or a can of black beans)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of one medium lime
3 small summer squashes
2 small zucchinis
2/3 white onion
1 clove garlic
5 big kale leaves
6 fire roasted red peppers (I used piquillo)
1 – 15oz can corn
Cumin, salt and pepper
Chili powder/cayenne/paprika/chipotle powder (only need one)
Avocado, tomato, shredded romaine, and hot sauce/salsa for topping
1. Prepare the lime-cilantro quinoa: cook the quinoa according to instructions on the package. It should take less than 15 minutes. Also, rinsing before cooking is recommended to wash off the saponin, which can cause reactions in sensitive people. As it cooks, chop up the cilantro. Once the quinoa is done, combine it with the cilantro and half of the lime juice and salt to taste. Set aside.
2. Prepare the black beans according to instructions on the package. For dried beans, this generally calls for soaking them overnight, draining them an hour before dinnertime, covering them with an inch of water and bringing them to a boil, and gently simmering for one hour. You can also try quick-soaking or just cooking without soaking, but it will take longer. Season with salt.
3. Prepare the veggies: chop up the squash, zucchinis, onion, kale, and peppers. Mince the garlic, and sautee it in a medium-large pot with onion until it begins to turn translucent, over medium heat. Then add the squash, zucchini, and kale. Sautee until tender. Add the peppers and corn, and remove from heat. Add the juice from the other half of the lime, along with 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2-1 tsp of either chili powder, cayenne, paprika, or chipotle powder. (Or mix and match as you like!) Season with salt and pepper.
4. Prepare toppings: slice up 1/2 avocado and 1 small roma tomato per serving; if serving all at once, use 2.5 avocados and 5 roma tomatoes. Chopped/shredded romaine is also a nice addition, about 1/4-1/3 cup per bowl. Add hot sauce or salsa as desired.
5. Combine the the quinoa, black beans, veggies, and add the toppings. Eat them separately or mix them all up–it tastes great either way!
Calories per 1/5 of recipe: 350 calories (450 with 1/2 avocado)