The Daily Beet

22 Oct Adventures with Ami: Basics

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Picked from the plant, pulled from the ground, just out of the bag, rinsed in the sink, resting on the cutting board, pure naked unadulterated food.  Have you ever eaten a tomato like an apple?  What about a potato with nothing on it?  Brown rice in a bowl by itself?  What about steamed carrots – no seasoning, nothing but carrots?

Today, the foods our nation consumes, are so far from their original naked state, that most are unrecognizable.  We are so indoctrinated into the culture of processed foods, that most of us would answer no to the questions asked above.  We often think of these foods as being bland and uninteresting.

Starting from scratch, in an unprocessed lifestyle can be daunting.  In my food coaching practice, many of my clients have never cooked fresh meals.  So used to ordering pizza, grabbing drive thru meals, microwaveable dinners, ramen and other processed convenience meals.    We start from scratch, learning the basics of cooking the items that make up the building blocks of the plant-strong lifestyle.

The key to plant-based living starts with the basics.  Start learning how to prepare simple ingredients.  Cooking brown rice, baking potatoes, making oatmeal, steaming vegetables, cooking lentils.  From Google to YouTube, there are so many tutorials out there to learn more about cooking basic ingredients.  It may seem daunting or complicated, but it’s really not.  Tackle one ingredient at a time.  Whether you start with potatoes or rice veggies or beans, you can learn how to cook each item with ease.

Whether you own a hot plate, microwave, rice cooker or a gourmet kitchen – how you cook your rice is up to you.  There are so many options and which you use is your choice.  The same goes for potatoes.  Boiled, baked, microwaved, broiled or steamed, take a few minutes to look up instructions for each method.  Soaking beans overnight or opening a can of no salt added beans into a pan, just a few added spices and some added heat is all you need for beans.  Raw, steamed or roasted, veggies can be just as easy. Cooking raw ingredients can be just as simple as microwaving popcorn.

This week start with a russet potato.

Simple baked potato: OVEN METHOD: wash potato, pokes holes in the potato with a fork, set oven at 350 degrees F – bake for about an hour.  MICROWAVE: wash potato, poke holes in the potato with a fork, use ‘potato’ button on the microwave or cook on high for 4-5 minutes.

Want to make a sweet potato?

simple bake sweet potato: OVEN METHOD:Wash, cut off the ends and bake at 400 degrees F  for 40 to 60 minutes on a baking tray.  MICROWAVE: wash potato, and poke holes with a  fork. Place on a plate. Cook on full power in the microwave for 5 minutes. Turn over, and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.

Turn these items into a meal by adding: seasonings, salsa, beans, veggies – or eat them plain.  Each type of potato has it’s own amazing flavor.  From Yukon Gold to Japanese Sweet Potatoes.  Try a new variety now and then and enjoy the adventure of a naked potato, super chili stuffed potato, or roasted steak fries.  Try different spices or spice blends to change up the flavor.

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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.

  • LumberJohn
    Posted at 13:33h, 22 October

    Nice article. It really does help you appreciate the individual flavors in meals when you start to really taste whole foods.

  • Martha
    Posted at 14:19h, 22 October

    I totally love a good baked potato (maybe 2?) with nothing! And sweet potatoes, too! Just-cooked brown rice is awesome!

  • LA
    Posted at 14:43h, 22 October

    I like to buy organic yams, bake several of them at a time to save energy, then bring them to work for lunch. I eat them whole out of a ziploc bag.

  • M
    Posted at 17:23h, 22 October

    I have a bag of sweet potatoes. If I do them all up at once in the oven, can I freeze the ones I don”t need til later?

    • Hilit
      Posted at 18:16h, 22 October

      i wouldn’t do that, unless you puree the inside and freeze the puree.

  • Kirsten
    Posted at 05:52h, 23 October

    Great blog as usual! I am learning to enjoy all sorts of veggies in their ‘naturalness’. I have really started to enjoy a plain cooked Yukon potato (microwaved)…so creamy and sweet…YUMMY.
    Thanks for reminding us to start with the basics!

    • Pamela Keogh
      Posted at 18:36h, 04 November

      Oh my god… yukon gold — absolute favorite! Actually, for a rare treat, yukon gold w a dallop of caviar on top. (I used to have it w some sour cream, which I know is verboten… but I have seen some good vegetarian “sour cream” recipes I guess you could try.) But yukon gold w just some fresh pepper on top is amazing.

      Can’t you tell I am Irish? 🙂

  • BEV
    Posted at 10:03h, 23 October

    I am trying hard, but find it difficult to eat the food bland. I never have used many herb and struggle with how much and how to get the flavor I would like. Salt is what I have always used.

  • Peggy Glidden
    Posted at 16:38h, 02 November

    My favorite simple meal is a red bean burger crumbled over steamed sweet potatoes with just a little organic ketchup.

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