High Protein Vegan Rice and Peas

I love rice and peas. It is such as simple dish, and is perfect for when you aren’t feeling too great (perhaps due to a few too many glasses of vino the night before – as was the case for me when I cooked this for dinner earlier this week!). Since I have transitioned to a vegan/plant-based diet I have been thinking of ways to make this into a high protein vegan meal. The other day I stumbled upon frozen edamame beans as I was picking up my peas in the supermarket, and I decided to give them a try (after having seen them pop up many times on my Instagram feed). They pack a whopping 12 g of protein per 100 g (which is about 3 times more than peas). Here are some other benefits of this meal:

  • As it is uses frozen vegetables, it is great for those days when you are running low on fresh vegetables.
  • Edamame beans (which are green soybeans) are a ‘complete protein’ (i.e. they include all nine essential amino acids). However, in addition to being just like an animal-based protein, they are also packed with dietary fibre.
  • There is very minimal chopping to do (just the onion) and you just chuck everything in a pan and leave it for 25 mins. This also means hardly any washing up!

Ingredients (Serves 1)

75 g of brown rice

Half a red onion, chopped

100g frozen edamame beans

100g frozen peas

Large handful of spinach

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

Sauté the chopped onion in a pan with a glug of olive oil for a few minutes.

In the meantime boil the kettle.

Add the rice and heat for about 1 minute.

Next add the peas and the edamame beans and heat for a further minute.

Add boiling water (which should be twice the volume of the rice – I find the rice fills about half a glass, and so I add a full glass of boiling water).

Season with salt and pepper.

Leave on a low heat with the lid on for about 25 minutes.

Add the spinach, put the lid back on and leave it to wilt. Stir in the spinach, e voilà!

 

 

 

 

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup

Carrot, sweet potato and chickpea soup

Carrot, sweet potato and chickpea soup

Carrot, sweet potato and chickpea soup

Carrot, sweet potato and chickpea soup

It has been snowing, it is cold, the snow is turning to slush, my feet are cold and wet from inadequate footwear (as the frequency with which it snows does not justify investing in a pair of moon boots), and that excited feeling I got when I saw those first snow drops has quickly evaporated. So to warm (and cheer) myself up today I decided to make my favourite carrot, sweet potato and chickpea soup.

Carrot soup was the first soup I ever made, and I was surprised that I could make something so tasty with such little effort. It is quite difficult to get anything wrong with this recipe, perhaps the only issue can be working out how much water you need, but I think it is best to use a bit less and add more at the end if it turns out to be too thick.

By the way, I am really enjoying the fact I have expanded my blog to include recipes from my new plant-based diet as I just love  taking photos of food, even if my partner does tell me I look ridiculous cooking with a camera around my neck, and he laughs at me as I take the food to the bathroom to take a photo for Instagram (it has the best white background and lighting, ok?!).

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g carrots

1 medium sweet potato (mine weighed 250 g)

Half an onion

1 400g tin of chickpeas

1 vegetable stock cube

125 ml of boiling water

Chilli flakes

Pepper

Method

Peel and chop up the carrots, sweet potato and onion and add to a pan.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas (this is important to remove all the added salt and preservatives that are added to the water they are stored in) and add to the pan. You can keep half of the chickpeas aside if you would like to add them whole to the final soup.

Put the lid on the pan and allow the vegetables to ‘sweat’ for a few minutes over a low heat. Then add the boiling water, the vegetable stock cube, chilli flakes and pepper (to taste).

Bring the water to boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the carrots and sweet potato are soft). Remove from the heat and blitz with a hand blender. If you kept the chickpeas aside, add these to the blended soup and put the pan back on a low heat for a couple of minutes.

Add some chilli flakes on top if, like some, you like it hot!

What I Eat in A Day: Plant-Based Diet

I recently transitioned to a plant-based diet and probably the best thing about it so far has been the enjoyment I am taking from experimenting with so many new ingredients and recipes.

Here is a typical ‘what I eat in a day’ with a couple of options for each meal and snacks. I try to eat a variety of legumes for protein, but I certainly eat less protein than I used to, but I am not so worried about it. The options below include protein powder, but I don’t actually have it every day. My percentage of carbohydrates has certainly gone up, but they are such good carbs – full of healthy fibre. I keep reading that it is very difficult to be deficient in protein, but a large majority of us really are deficient in fibre. Rather than focusing on what I am removing from my diet, I am instead thinking about the vegetables/legumes/tofu I have never bought before, how I can cook them, what spices I can add to make them taste great etc.

So read on for my ‘what I eat in a day’ and buon appetito!

What I Eat in a Day

Breakfast

Porridge or overnight oats made with almond/soya/coconut milk with a number of different added ingredients (not necessarily all at the same time!): vegan or hemp protein powder, peanut/almond butter, flak seeds, chia seeds, cranberries, pine nuts, raisins, walnuts…
or
Smoothie made with frozen banana, vegan protein power, a handful of spinach (you really can’t taste it!), peanut butter, flak seeds

Lunch

Mashed white beans with garlic, green olives and sun dried tomatoes on toast (made with a nice seedy bread) with chilli flakes on top
or
Vegan piadina pizza – see recipe here!

Snacks

Raw brownies (Deliciously Ella’s recipe) made with medjool dates, almonds/pecans, raw cacao powder and maple syrup
or
Pita bread and hummus (I still haven’t got round to making hummus myself, but that is next on my ‘to do’ list)

Dinner

A hearty soup with lentils, beans, chickpeas, vegetables (e.g. cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, leeks, courgette) and some crusty bread to dunk.
or
Portuguese Pasta (well, this is the name my Portuguese partner has given it, as Italians would never cook pasta this way!): onions, peppers, courgettes, peas and tomatoes are cooked in salted boiling water and then the pasta* is added and cooked together with the vegetables to create a yummy pasta soup.

(* I have also experimented with chickpea, lentil, and black bean pasta which are all high protein and very tasty)

Bean mash on toast

Lentil soup

Raw brownie

 

Vegan Piadina Pizza Recipe

Piadina pizza recipe

Ah, my first ever recipe post! If you knew me (and my lack of culinary skills), you would appreciate how hilarious this is. Anyway, since I have transitioned to a plant-based diet, I have had to expand my repertoire of everyday dishes, especially at lunchtime, as I had got into the habit of having two-scrambled eggs on toast almost every day.

I first got the idea for making a simple vegan piadina pizza from a fitness blogger called Carly Rowena (see her version here), but as I live in Italy I have replaced the two tortillas in her recipe with a ‘piadina’, naturalmente! It is quick and easy to make, so I thought I would share it with you (and just so you know, until you tell me to stop I’ll keep sharing my latest recipes with you!)

Ingredients

1 wholemeal piadina (or tortilla or whatever flatbread you have or can find in your local shops)
Spicy olive pesto (or tomato puree)
Vegetables (whatever you have in the fridge, but I find the following work particularly well): broccoli, peppers, cherry tomatoes, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, olives (ok, maybe some of these are officially fruit, but you know what I mean)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (it doesn’t really matter, just let it get hot – I have noticed that this seems to be a pretty standard lower-bound temperature in most recipes…)

Spread the pesto on top of the piadina, placed your chopped veggies on top so that they look aesthetically pleasing (well, you may want to take a photo later for Instagram) and pop it in the oven for about 8-10 mins.

Remove from the oven and devour!

 

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Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

I’ve written on the blog about my varying diet over the past couple of years, from using MyFitnessPal to ‘cleaning up’ my diet during Dry January, and I have been fairly happy with the balance I have achieved this year. Despite following many bloggers and vloggers on Instagram and YouTube that promote vegetarian and vegan/plant-based diets and enjoying many of their recipes, I felt no need to make any drastic changes to my diet. I felt healthy, I enjoyed my food, I cooked most of my meals, and I just didn’t think there was anything wrong with what I ate.

A couple of months ago I read the book ‘Sapiens: A brief history of humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari, and some parts of it really got me thinking about humans and our interaction with (and impact on) the environment and other animals on the planet. I read other books (e.g. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer), began listening more to those aforementioned bloggers/vloggers (my favourite being Zanna Van Dijk who has taught me so much – I still can’t believe she is only 24!), listened to podcasts, watched documentaries on Netflix, and whilst I didn’t always trust everything I read/heard, it got me thinking about where my food was coming from. I started thinking more about the sustainability of our current approach to feeding the planet, about some of the practices used in industrial/factory farming to keep the prices of animal-based products down, potentially to the detriment of our health (and most certainly to the detriment of animal welfare).

Now, I really don’t want to preach to you here about these issues, as I am certainly not the right person to inform you about these things – I am still only learning myself – but also because I don’t want to feel like I am promoting a religion or a cult. Nevertheless, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read around the subject and form your own opinion. The important thing is to have an informed opinion, and this is something I did not have before. There were so many things I didn’t know about where my food was coming from, and that I hadn’t even bothered to ask.

So, that brings me to the past couple of weeks, where I have been slowly removing animal-based products from my diet. It has been a really interesting experience and I am learning so much about nutrition, about what my body needs, what it can’t get from a plant-based diet (e.g. vitamin B12), and I’m experimenting so much in the kitchen with more vegetables, legumes and spices. I am less obsessed with macro-nutrients (e.g. eating lots of protein) and more interested in micro-nurtrients, and making sure I am eating a wide range of colourful whole foods. There have been some unexpected side-effects such as headaches, waking up in the night and more trips to the bathroom, which I imagine is due to my body detoxing from animal-based products and my increased fibre intake. I have also noticed that I am snacking less and my cravings for sugar and alcohol have decreased.  I am really excited to see where this journey takes me. Will I have more energy when playing tennis? Well, I’ll be sure to let you know, as I plan to share my journey with you here, with the occasional post related to what I am learning, the recipes I am making, and how I am feeling. I am also interested to see how I am going to cope in social situations, at restaurants or with my family for Christmas – stay tuned to find out!