The Daily Beet

27 Jan Adventures with Ami: The Joy of Plant-Based Eating

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Each time I stroll through the produce department, a new meal idea is somewhere there, just waiting to be discovered.  Could it be the fresh fennel waiting to grace a salad with it’s unique flavor?  Paired with some farro maybe? Or is it the whole pineapple that is on sale waiting to be grilled with some sweet peppers and tossed with some buttery tasting kamut?  I have found so much joy in the new foods I prepare, the seemingly endless options for trying new meals and flavors, make each trip to the store an adventure.

So many flavors are out there waiting to be discovered.  Pungent spices sit on the shelf waiting for their opportunity to dance in your plant-strong dishes.  How many spices do you see that you’ve never tried before?  Nervous? Look them up online, read about the flavors that they impart.  Often you will find suggestions for parings with foods listed among the details.

Even if you don’t have a very adventurous set of kitchen skills, you can still create incredible dishes that are really flavor packed.  Find recipes that look interesting to you.  There are so many fantastic resources out there, lack of recipes shouldn’t ever be an issue.  From Happy Herbivore to Cathy Fisher, Jeff Novick, Dreena Burton and Susan Voisin, there is something out there for everyone.

Some effort is required to make delicious plant-strong meals happen.  A little planning and a bit of time to make it happen paired with the mindset that you are creating fuel for your body that can be as interesting as you make it – is all you need.  We all made time to eat before going plant-based.  Whether it was making time for a 4 course meal or putting a frozen pizza in the oven.  Quick meals can be made in a little time, all you have to do is seek out the recipes to make them happen.  If you cooked dinner on a regular basis, all you need is a little inspiration.

If you find things taste bland, try adding a little more spice.  I often find that some cold salads are better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to marinate.  There are all kinds of flavors out there to be explored.  Getting bored with what you are currently eating?  Just swapping out one spice for another can make an interesting twist on an old favorite.  Maybe try using an exotic blend of Moroccan spices instead of the typical Mexcian blend.  Or toss in a new vegetable, like some finely diced mustard greens make a really nice addition to a potato salad.

The beauty of vegetables for me is in their ability to be forgiving.  Most vegetables pair together relatively well.  Potatoes are super versatile also, as is most rice varieties and other whole grains.  The possibilities are really endless as to what dishes you can create.  Don’t be afraid to try new things.  Make new combinations or toss together veggie bowls with a vegetable, a grain/starch and a spice – Jeff Novick Style.  There are no rules when it comes to pairings.  Tonight we had a great combo of brown rice, kidney beans, butternut squash, corn, kale, cilantro and salsa – I added some cumin and Mrs. Dash’s Extra Spicy seasoning.  It was colorful and flavorful and took 7 minutes to make.

If what you are eating isn’t exciting you, try another avenue.  With so many options out there, you should never be stuck with a boring meal. Enjoy what you are eating.  Each meal is an opportunity to find a new favorite.  Find a few that work for you and add them in to the mix of favorites you are already making.

What is your new favorite plant-strong meal?

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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.

  • widgetoc
    Posted at 06:46h, 28 January

    I took a Martha Stewart stuffed poblano pepper vegetarian dish and easily converted it to an oil-free plant-strong dish–it was amazing! Vegetarian dish recipes are widely available, and many only need small tweaks (IE, “remove the cheese and oil”) and you’re good to go!

  • Tara Fraser Kemp
    Posted at 10:25h, 28 January

    Awesome post!! 🙂 I love how you mentioned that most vegetables taste good together, because I totally agree 🙂 During the week, I never follow recipes. I stick to the “Jeff Novick style” one-pot meals, just throwing together whatever veggies, grains, and beans I happen to have. And I have yet to make something I don’t like!

    • Ami Mackey
      Posted at 12:19h, 28 January

      That’s what we do too 🙂 – it always works!

  • Tonya Kubo
    Posted at 11:24h, 28 January

    Slow-roasted root veggies (rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, sweet potatoes, fennel, garlic, etc) drizzled with balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper. I’ve been known to eat bowls of them.

    • Lynnette
      Posted at 12:01h, 28 January

      Oooh, that sounds SO good. I bet they’d be great to snack on cold @ work too.

  • Elaine Kean
    Posted at 11:57h, 28 January

    couldnt agree more Ami! ours lately is portabello mushrooms sauteed in water with different spices and usually red , yellow and orange bell pepper , then put on a bed of steamed kale and quinoa.. the spices are always a bit different .. good cold the next day too!!

  • Terri Jones Cole
    Posted at 14:26h, 28 January

    I am making a different soup or stew 2-3 times a week. My husband and I will have it 2 nights in a row, then the rest goes in the freezer. This gives us variety, plus plenty of days when no cooking is needed. Veg chili, lentil soup and a farro, mushroom & spinach stew are some of our favorites.

  • Cheryl Church Peebles
    Posted at 12:10h, 07 February

    One of my GO TO meals at the end of a busy day – or a lazy day – is a veg stir fry on brown rice – change it up with the spices added & we go from chinese to curry – to mediterranean. I think the main trick for me was having a couple of easy go to dishes – then one by one addiing to that collection til there is a repertoire.

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