Hanging out with the Blissful Chef

John and I were inspired by the movie Forks over Knives, to follow a strict plant-based foods diet over the summer. The idea is to see for ourselves if we can experience the same transformations as those in the movie. But for a couple who rely on E-meals and eating out to get through a week, we decided we needed a bit of professional help to figure out how to plan meals based on whole foods.

Enter Christy Morgan--The Blissful Chef--who just happens to do home consultations. 

The thing I wanted to get most out of the day was to learn how to think about cooking.  How do you meal plan if you are only eating whole grains and vegetables?  How do you feed groups?

Christy started the morning at my kitchen table with a lesson in clean eating, then took us to Whole Foods where we walked through the aisles getting a variety of veggies (focused on what was on sale) with the majority being leafy greens like spinach, kale (did you know there are at least 4 kinds?) and collards.  We then shopped the bulk bins for a wide variety of rices and beans.  (Christy recommended buying a pressure cooker to speed up the process of cooking them.) We grabbed almond milk for smoothies, then picked up several varieties of tempeh.

Thinking about eating whole foods is a lot like planning a bento box.  Mentally divide the plate into 4 parts, then go 2 parts veggie, 1 part whole grain, and 1 part plant-based protein like tempeh, tofu, beans or seitan.  Sauces and spices are used to create the flavor interest. Christy recommended cooking a lot of whole grains and/or beans whenver you make them, then use them in different recipes throughout the week so you don't lose a whole evening after work in the kitchen.

In terms of planning a meal, you simply pick a flavor (Southwestern, Mediterranean, Citrus, etc.) then pick a grain, protein and veggie using spices, sauces, etc. that taste like the flavor you want to achieve. 

For lunch, we were thinking in terms of "lunchy" kind of foods.  Think tuna or chicken salad.  Christy had Bethany mash garbanzo beans (I had canned, which we rinsed) with ingredients like vegan mayo, Dijon  mustard, grated carrot and diced onions to create the salad. She then showed me how to make quinoa which we ate plain  (the leftovers will become part of a taco salad later mixed with lime juice, avocado, cilantro, diced onion and tomato).  Then she showed me how to blanch veggies as the quinoa cooked.  We did kale with a few radishes and a carrot, for which she mixed up a peanut sauce dressing made up on the spot.

Christy coached us to think about dressings in terms of 5 flavors...pungent, sweet, salty, citrusy, spicy with an oil or nut butter as the base.  So we started with peanut butter (the dolphin-safe kind), added lime, tamari, a bit of curry powder and some red pepper flakes. It was fantastic poured over the kale.

The whole morning was really fun, and Christy left me with a book that outlines the techniques we discussed for cooking grains, shopping--even slicing vegetables.

As for the vegan adventure, I will keep you posted. 
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall