The Daily Beet

08 Oct Adventures with Ami: Hold the Oil

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I never really thought of myself as an innovator in the kitchen.  I grew up on cookbooks filled with photos, like the kind found at the checkout counter by the big brand names.  I’d flip through them for hours, looking at all the pretty pictures of food. The internet is full of delicious looking plant-based recipes, a search on the web or on Pinterest can keep you busy for hours!

When searching through the internet for good plant-based recipes, the overwhelming use of oil – most often without any real need to the success of the recipe -becomes tedious and therein breeds innovation.  Though I have several favorite go-to bloggers and cookbooks for oil free plant-based recipes in a pinch, I have found absolute joy in the role of recipe scientist.

Deconstructing recipes or setting out on an exploratory experiment with a bunch of ingredients in untested territory has proven not only therapeutic but also educational.  Learning about how ingredients are assembled, commingled and cohabit together within a recipe gives you a greater understanding of how rich and sweet our lives had become before starting a plant-based lifestyle.  When removing excess sugar and fat  from your recipes and still finding natural ways to bring out the true flavor of a food with its own inherent sweetness or richness without added fat, it really becomes clear.  Overindulgence is a drug.  We have become so accustomed to the super inflated fat/sugar/salt profiles of processed foods that we truly have no concept of the depth of the problem until we take it all away and start anew with naked taste buds waiting to learn the truth.

A great example would be salad dressings.  I never really gave it much thought before starting The Engine 2 Diet.  Salad dressings that I had known and loved over the years were at their essence fat and sugar delivery methods.  Training your taste buds to enjoy salad that is not drowning in ranch or blue cheese can take some time, but can be done.  Sometimes a simple squeeze of lemon and a smashed avocado does the trick or a sweet balsamic vinegar.

Another issue of mine is recipes for cold salads that call for oil. I’ve never made a quinoa salad that contains oil. It is not necessary to keep it from sticking together in clumps.  All oil does is add calories.  The use of a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, even orange to the recipe helps spread the flavors of the ingredients over the palate. The pungent oregano or herb that you are using will come through just fine without the much touted olive oil. It’s just not necessary.  So the next time you see a recipe that calls for oil, replace it with veggie broth, lime juice or water, apple sauce or a mashed banana, depending on the type of recipe/flavor/purpose of the oil.

I haven’t had a single recipe flop yet because I left out the oil.  Be a recipe scientist. Deconstruct your old favorite recipes and rebuild them the whole foods plant-based way so you can enjoy them once again!  Be vigilant in applying label reading rules to every single thing that you purchase.  Oil is tucked into so many items, some you would never think to look! Read EVERY label, apply the rules for calories from fat, sodium and ingredients list.  Need help figuring out a product?  Ask us!

Check out the Pinterest page from the Engine 2 Diet – the most requested deconstructed and rebuilt recipes plant-based with no added fats style! (Though some still need the modification of removing the oil) Note: A lot of these recipes though plant-based are very rich and should only be consumed on occasion if you are trying to lose weight.

The Engine 2 Diet – Requested Recipes Pinterest Board

Ami’s Pineapple Cilantro Quinoa Salad 

Just a bowl of cooked quinoa with fresh pineapple, a squeeze of a lime and a handful of chopped cilantro.

Sprinkle with as much or as little cayenne pepper as you like.

Toss and cool in the fridge.


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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • DHass22
    Posted at 10:38h, 08 October

    Great read!, Appreciated; will try the approach with lemon more often.

  • Sue
    Posted at 10:39h, 08 October

    Thanks for this nudge of reassurance!
    Going to the Pinterest page now 🙂

  • Mnorton
    Posted at 10:48h, 08 October

    What do you suggest as a substitute when sauteeing onions?

    • Aubrey Tate
      Posted at 11:22h, 08 October

      Nothing. 🙂 Onions produce their own water. I don’t add anything. If you still feel like you should add anything then water works just fine. 🙂

  • Toni Kulma
    Posted at 11:17h, 08 October

    Mnorton, believe it or not onions sautee very well in water. Splash in a touch of water and keep the heat on medium and keep a cup of water nearby to Splash more water in the pan as it cooks away. I like to use a cast iron pan to caramelize onions for the added iron and color, but any stainless or non stick works well.

  • Aubrey Tate
    Posted at 11:20h, 08 October

    Really well written article! Thank you and shared!

    @Mnorton for sauteeing onions you generally don’t need to add anything. Onions produce their own water as they are heated. However, if you would like to add something a bit of water will work just fine. I don’t add anything, just let the onions produce their own liquids.

  • Betty
    Posted at 19:23h, 08 October

    I always sautee onions and garlic in white wine instead of oil. Works beautifully!

  • Beth Lynn Cunningham Lindstrom
    Posted at 21:18h, 19 October

    Are all oils bad? What about peanut oil or sesame oil?

  • Jerry
    Posted at 10:02h, 31 October

    Uhg Im so discouraged as Ive just started this and EVERYTHING has oil. Ive looked at ingredients on every loaf of bread in walmart and I cant eat ANYTHING. Is there any resource that has a list of foods you CAN eat that are at NORMAL stores where I dont have to go to 15 different locations for each item or pay $15 for a loaf of bread off amazon? ( yes I said that right $15 for a loaf of bread )

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