Plant-Powered for Life by Sharon Palmer was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter who works for the company that published the book – so this can’t be considered an unbiased review – but, still, if you’re looking to ease yourself into a more natural, plant-based diet, this is a great book to start with.
The subtitle of Plant-Powered for Life is “Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes;” Plant-Powered for Life is a follow-up to The Plant-Powered Diet, published in 2012. The three major differences between Plant-Powered for Life and my other vegetarian cookbooks?
- The author is a registered dietician.
- Gluten-free alternatives are provided for every recipe
- No dairy or eggs are used in the recipes…
Yup, the recipes are all vegan! Does the word “vegan” scare you off? I admit I had to look up what “plant-based cheese was” (an ingredient in some of the recipes), and it turned out to be vegan cheese. (“Plant-based” does seem like a gentler, less polemical term than “vegan”, don’t you think?)
Sharon Palmer is a gentle guide into the world of recipes using chia seeds instead of eggs; cashew cheese instead of “regular” cheese, and no butter, (cow) milk, or meat (“animal-based protein”). Many of her plant-based recipes are similar to ones you could find in any vegetarian cookbook (e.g. Kiwi Herb Salad with Pistachios and Orange Dressing; Black Bean and Corn Chili; Red Lentil Soup with Root Vegetables and Sage, and Watermelon-Basil Ice).
Also, you don’t need to become a vegan to make healthful changes to your regular diet. Chapter One is titled “Create Your Own Plant-Powered Goal”.
“No two people eat precisely alike. Some of us dine out twice a day; some of us rarely visit restaurants. Some of us eat meat every day; some of us never do. But we can all achieve sustainable health and well-being by focusing more on whole plant foods, and less on animal foods.
The first step is to create a personal goal on the plant-powered spectrum. You won’t be ‘going on a diet,’ but committing to make concrete, lasting changes that work for you. If your goal changes over time, that’s fine.”
Personal goals range from Plant-Powered Vegan –”Excludes all animal foods, including dairy and eggs – to Plant-Powered Omnivore Semi-Vegetarian – “Eats a small amount of animal flesh”. (“Animal flesh” doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? It’s not included in the recipes, but omnivorous eaters are encouraged to flip the habit of thinking of the meat as the main course and the vegetables as the side, and eat just a small amount of animal protein alongside a main plant-based entree.)
The book is organized into short chapters by theme instead of the usual appetizers, salads, desserts, etc. method. These themes allow readers to tackle dietary changes in small, manageable ways, a little at a time. Some examples:
Shop Thoughtfully and Purposefully
Spice It Up!
Eat the Whole Plant
Love Your Legumes for Protein and Beyond
Foster Friendly Bacteria
Eat Well on the Run
Each recipe includes nutritional information and a list of “star nutrients”, in case you’re trying to increase intake of a particular vitamin or mineral. There are color photos of many of the dishes, and an index, as well as a seasonal recipe guide.
We had a plant-powered meal that looked like this last weekend:
I used the gluten-free alternative of buckwheat groats in the recipe for Tomato Barley Soup, and also the slow cooker alternative method of throwing all the ingredients into the Crock Pot and cooking it on high for four hours. It worked well, but seemed a little more starchy than it might have been if I had cooked and drained the buckwheat separately and added it at the end. I also needed to add salt, because I used homemade vegetable stock from the freezer in place of the reduced-sodium vegetable broth the recipe called for. I also used five cups of stock and two cups of water, instead of the other way around, because I only had a can of tomato puree on hand, not tomato sauce, and didn’t have any low-sodium herbal seasoning blend, either. I added fresh, minced parsley at the end. Another substitution I didn’t realize until I had made until later was using toasted buckwheat (kasha) in the soup instead of uncooked buckwheat.
Cooking from Plant-Powered for Life will definitely get me trying new ingredients and using ones I only use infrequently, but many of the recipes do use only whole foods that the average home cook is likely to buy or already have on hand. The recipe I’m going to try next is Spaghetti Squash with Pomodoro Sauce and Pine Nuts. Also, I believe we may have used the author’s recipe for Savory Grain and Nut Loaf with Mushroom Sauce for the vegetarian alternative to turkey last Thanksgiving, and will do so again this year!
The recipes for the author’s Tomato Barley Soup and French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes aren’t available online, but you can get an idea of how the author’s recipes sound from her Web site, Sharon Palmer, RDN and a look at how the recipes and beautiful photos are laid out here.
Happy Weekend Cooking!