When I switched to a vegan-ist diet about seven weeks ago, I did so because of the purported health benefits.
As many recent books, documentaries and other bloggers have claimed, eliminating meat, dairy and processed food from your diet can reduce your chances of contracting chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It can improve your overall daily health. And it has even been known to reverse certain medical conditions, including arthritis, high blood pressure and anemia.
I can personally attest that I have had more energy since going vegan-ist. I feel stronger, have suffered fewer minor injuries while running, and generally have a more optimistic outlook and less anxiety and stress. Given what I had read and seen prior to making the switch, I sort of expected — or at least hoped — that these things would happen.
What I didn’t expect, however, was for my sense of taste and smell to improve so much. Even with my usual summer allergies, I can smell things better than ever before, such as subtle aromas around our home or the different types of cooking smells I encounter while running through my neighborhood.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that food tastes better when you start eating clean, and it’s true! For one, you have to pay more attention to the selection and preparation of your food, so I think you naturally focus more on tasting it when you eat. And because you eat mostly fresh produce, grains, nuts and so on, the flavors aren’t buried under mounds of preservatives, pesticides, steroids, genetic modification, growth hormones and other fallout from modern processed food.
But because my sense of smell is more enhanced, the flavors of food are more dynamic.
Now, I know this all may be wishful thinking on my part. In fact, my mom and Sandi were joking the other day that I would be off vegan and on to some other obsession in a couple of months, like I always do.
Maybe so. But for the time being, I’m going to enjoy the explosive flavors of these amazing foods. If only for a little while.
Here’s a quick and easy Pineapple Cashew Stir Fry I have been making lately. As I’ve noted in an earlier blog, stir fry can be just about anything. But the sweet tartness of the fresh pineapple (perfectly in season right now) combined with the crunchiness of the cashews really made this one taste exceptionally delicious.
Pineapple Cashew Stir Fry
1 to 2 TBS Coconut Oil
2-1/5 cups White Rice, cooked
1/2 Red Onion, slivered
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, ribs and seeds removed, julienned
2 White Mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 Zucchini, cut into medallions
3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
3/4 cup Fresh Pineapple, large dice
1/2 cup Baked Tofu (recipe below)
1/2 cup Cashews, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Soy Aminos (or Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce)
3/4 cup Water
1 TBS Corn Starch
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
1. Place a large non-stick sauté pan or wok over a high flame. Leave it there for about a minute or two so it gets very hot. Add coconut oil. It will start to smoke in about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and peppers and toss. Cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Then add tofu, zucchini and pineapple. Toss/cook for about a minute.
2. Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup, combine the soy aminos, water and corn starch and stir together. Set aside. Add garlic to the pan. When it becomes aromatic, about 10-20 seconds, add the liquid to the pan and stir. Within about a minute, it will turn into a glaze. At the last second, add the cashews and season with the freshly ground pepper. Given the sodium in the soy aminos or soy sauce, you won’t need to add any additional salt. Toss everything together, remove from heat and cover until ready to serve.
3. To plate, spoon about 3/4 cup of white rice onto on side of a pasta bowl, then spoon the stir fry onto the other side of the bowl. If you want to be really fancy, make it into a yin-yang pattern. Or press the rice into a small bowl and invert it into the top-center of the plate and arrange the stir fry around it. Garnish with additional cashews, sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds or whatever you like.
Tofu is made from soybeans and is a handy ingredient to have lying around. It comes in a variety of forms, including silken, firm and extra firm. Silken is quite soft, doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and will fall apart when handled.
Firm tofu has a slightly tougher texture, but will still crumble quite easily. I like to use it in place of scrambled eggs sometimes.
Extra firm tofu will hold its structure, so it can be sliced and diced into any size you want.
Both firm and extra firm tofu come packed in water. You will want to gently squeeze some of the water out before you use it.
This recipe is very versatile. It can be kept in the refrigerator and used to add texture and additional protein to salads, stir fry, casseroles, chili, stews or practically any dish. I seasoned this one with Garam Masala, a mixture of Indian spices, but you could just as easily use chili powder and cumin, Italian seasoning and granulated garlic, simple salt and pepper, or nothing at all.
2 tsp Garam Masala (or whatever spices you want)
14 oz package Extra Firm Tofu
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a baking sheet with pan spray.
2. Remove tofu from package and gently squeeze out excess water. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and place on baking sheet. Spray tofu with pan spray then sprinkle with half the spice mixture. Bake for 15 minutes.
3. Remove from oven. Use a spatula to gently turn each tofu slice, sprinkle with remaining spice mixture and return to oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
4. When cool, cut tofu slices into cubes. These will keep in your refrigerator up to a wek. You can also freeze them for up to two months.