Stop by the Farmer’s Market this weekend and you’ll see bushels of red on every farm stand. A sight for sore winter eyes, the pop of color and shapes perks up any waterlogged Cascadia resident.

radishes

Radishes are waiting to be discovered beyond translucent thin slices garnishing your salad. Props if you are already enjoying radishes sliced in half and smeared with a bit of european butter and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. Here are a few more ideas for putting radishes to good use, so pick up a few bunches for the week and try these recipes for radishes from around the web.

Pickled Radishes, perfect for a pickle plate, your taco or snacking straight up from Chef David Lebovitz
Radish Couscous could become your new go to spring comfort dish from Food52.
Roasted Radishes from Portland blogger Lindsay of Rosemarried. Didn’t know you could roast radishes? You can! A great side dish for fish.
And from Portland’s Gregory Gourdet, Executive Chef at Departure: Screenshot 2014-04-17 07.04.04   Feeling inspired?

I’m seeing green this April and itching to move away from the roasted root vegetables that got me through winter and on to greener and lighter side dishes, like this hemp seed tabbouleh. Inspired by a recipe from Rawvolution, and abiding by the E2 diet’s plant sourced fats rule, hemp seeds replace bulgur in my version of tabbouleh.

tabbouleh1

One of the philosophies of the E2 diet, is that all my fats should come from a whole food source. That means no oil: no olive oil, no canola oil, not a drop of sesame or walnut oil for flavor. Nope, all fat should come from nuts, seeds, olives and avocados. But the thinking is that instead of a refined oil, you get the whole package, the fiber and all the other micronutrients.

Hemp seeds are a fantastic source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, contain 10 amino acids and, like quinoa, are considered a complete protein. Who knew? These little seeds have a texture akin to raw sesame seeds and a pleasant pine nut flavor. Look for them in your grocer’s refrigerated section or with the supplements. You can sprinkle them on salads, toss in your smoothie, mix into home made granola bars or dukkah- I promise they won’t sit unused in your refrigerator.

hempseeds

Hemp Seed and Parsley Salad
Serves 6 as a side

I like to use curly parsley for tabbouleh. It isn’t as strong in flavor as the Italian flat leaf variety and has a minty under tone. It is super important that you pick all the leaves, wash then dry them before chopping them. This can easily be done by filling a bowl with cold water and allowing the parsley to take a quick bath before squeezing out as much water as possible. Lay out the leaves on a clean dish towel and roll the towel around itself to extract as much water as possible. I don’t recommend using your food processor to chop the leaves, otherwise you’ll end up with a pesto-like glob of parsley and water. Better to practice those knife skills and chop, chop, chop!

1 bunch curly parsley, washed, dried and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 large tomato (about a pound), seeded and finely chopped
1 2.3oz package hemp seeds, about 1/2 cup
3 green onions, halved lengthwise, and chopped (in spring, use spring onions!)
1/3 cup mint leaves, about 15 sprigs, washed, dried and chopped
5 TBSP lemon juice, about 2 large lemons
zest of one lemon
1 Tablespoon tahini mixed with 1 Tablespoon warm water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt, if you don’t have kosher salt, use 1/2 tsp table or sea salt.

In a large bowl toss together the parsley, cucumber, tomato, hemp seeds, green onions and mint leaves. Add the lemon juice, zest, tahini mixture, garlic and salt. Toss throughly to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. You might find that you like more garlic or lemon juice

Make it yours: This is a great base for jumping off. I often think to add a can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, or to dice up some sashimi tuna and add to the mix. A cup of pitted kalamata olives would be lovely, as would toasted and chopped almonds or crumbled feta cheese.

Cooking a couple of soups over the weekend is a small task that sets me up for success in the coming weeknights ahead. I’m able to get meals on the table quickly- just heat and add a side salad and bread, or pack lunches in the blink of an eye. Shoot, I’ve even had a bowl or two of dal for breakfast.

With Portland’s rainy season showing no relief, here are a few of my favorite soups for when the temperature won’t cross that 56 degree threshold, and despite your Cascadia citizenship, you really do need an umbrella to go outside.

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Whole Foods Market’s Lentil Chili:
With brown lentils standing in for ground meat, this hearty chili is a blank canvas for all your favorite add ons: green onions, sour cream, cheese, fried onions, franks hot sauce and or pickled jalapeños. One batch lasts in the fridge for a good week- getting you one weekend lunch, one weeknight dinner (served over a baked potato), and two to three small (1 cup) servings for week lunches. I’ve made a few tweaks to this recipe, using only one cup of lentils and adding a a beer with the liquid and a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans at the ed of cooking. I also like to throw in a 16oz bag of frozen corn for texture.

Coconut Dal

Food 52: Coconut Dal.
Rich coconut milk and earthy cumin transform red lentils in this satisfying dal. As I mentioned above, I sometimes have cozied up to a bowl for breakfast when oatmeal just won’t cut it. A couple tips here. Make sure your diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) are well drained. Don’t skip the toasted cumin and mustard seeds. Finally, seek out fresh curry leaves, they add a complex aroma and flavor to this simple soup. You can find them at Uwajimaya in their produce section. ProTip: you can freeze the remaining leaves!

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Black Bean Soup:
Is there a better pantry soup than black bean? It practically needs nothing from the ice box. I like to build off this Epicurious recipe adding a bottle of beer or some orange juice to develop flavor. I’ll also throw in a tablespoon or so of fish sauce for umamai. I choose to puree only half the soup, mixing it back into the pot retaining something to sink my teeth into. Served with a simple quesadilla, pico and a side of homemade cumin lime sour cream (I like to use a cashew cream) it makes for a great football/hockey/soccer/basketball watching meal.

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Winter French Soup- this comes from the Sally Schnider book A New Way of Cooking (and is posted on line here!). If ever there were a recipe based off stone soup, this is it. Into the pot pretty much goes any and everything available at the farmer’s market: leeks, turnips, parsnips, celery root, carrot, onion and garlic. The broth gets a boost from a dollop of pesto stirred in right before hitting the table. Served in a large bowl with a giant slice of bread, it will get you through the darkest of nights.

Well, here it is. The post I have been dragging my feet to write. The one where I have to admit to not achieving my goals, failing, in my opinion, a medial test, and owning that given my schedule and lifestyle I’m never going to be a plant strong princess.

Major bummer.

I’ve completed the E2 Challenge a few times, each feeling a little lighter, spreading the gospel of a vegan, plant based diet. This go, however, I can’t say the same. With the goal of maintaining my increased discount dangling above my head, and knowing I’d need to document it all here, I went into panic mode worrying over consequences if I didn’t maintain a perfect diet. That, is a lot of pressure, self imposed pressure. Coupled with the day to day working mom stuff with and a stressful on the go job (and a serious eating hobby)? Fuggadabout it.

Tom Shoot

I did a lot of cheating on my diet. Mostly when it came to added fats and refined sugar. Hey, emotional eating. Giving in to coconut oil and girl scout cookies pushed my total cholesterol just 4 points over the 150 limit to maintain my platinum status. When my results came in I was gutted. More than gutted, I criticized myself for all those, “oh this bite won’t matter”.  Apparently my will isn’t always stronger than the holy trinity of sugar, fat & salt.

I’m not any skinnier after this diet, my skin isn’t necessarily any clearer, my life hasn’t changed for the better and I’m not glowing from the inside out, but would I recommend this diet? Absolutely.

As I mentioned before, I’ve completed this diet a couple times with success- mostly internal results, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol keeping my weight the same place it has been for the last 5 years (sans pregnancy) and a killer breakfast routine of steamed kale and veggies.

Where did it fall apart for me this time around?

Trying to limit my diet beyond E2’s recommendation, shunning wheat and soy. Over restricting an eating plan is a pitfall any dieter knows. The result ends up in a hangry binge. Giving it a go in the dead of winter didn’t help either- summer is the best time for this diet, not just for the obvious abundance of produce, but multiple courses of salads sound better when the weather is warm. Finally, when I count, I was on the road 10 of the 28 days in this challenge, 4 dinners at Moda Center and 2 dinners out for work.

fastfood breakfast

For my dad, (who specifically asked me to share what went well) here’s what I am proud of. Almost 28 straight days of writing- the subgoal in this whole deal. The diet gave me an excuse to write daily, though frequent travel and an ever changing daily routine proved tough. It wasn’t the highest quality writing, but the goal was consistently, not Pulitzer content. High five for remaining dairy free with the exception of two meals, two of 84 meals. Well done me.

I’ll be going E2 again here pretty soon, spring has sprung and the farmer’s market is abundant with spring veggies, shaking up my kale dependency. I won’t be tracking it day to day here. Now that I’m back at blogging, there are plenty of better things to write about.

Done. Fin. Over.

At last. 28 days of keeping eating dairy, meat, oil, and processed food free as the ultimate  diet goal are over.

Today isn’t the day I’ll be wrapping up all my thoughts on my experience. I’m still processing it all. Having successfully finished this diet in the past, I’m not ending on the high note I wanted to.

My dad asked me to post my success earlier today and I replied that I didn’t feel all that successful this time around. He kindly reminded me that the success is subjective. And he is right. So check back in a few days, I promise a positive reflection of life on the Engine 2 Diet.

FOOD DIARY DAY 27

Breakfast: Kale salad with tofu scramble, vegan, but contained oil. Health Starts Here salad of curried sweet potato and coconut with cashews. Pretty tasty.
Snack: 1/2 a Sumo orange, 1/2 a Kind bar, split with Ella on the ride to Seattle. 2 cups of coffee

Lunch: Coffee, too many samples of nutritional bars lying around the office. A bite of chocolate. White bean and kale soup. Banana

Dinner: Dinner at my mother’s- E2 Chili, slice of Jiffy cornbread.
Snack 4 girl scout cookies

Drinks: None

FOOD DIARY DAY 28
Breakfast: Kale and a sweet potato with balsamic vinegar

breakfast
Lunch: Kale and tahini salad, fresh fruit, tortilla chips and some fresh made guacamole, too many handfuls of trail mix. Nothing too terrible in it, some dried pineapple, dried papaya and peanuts.

Snack: two endive spears with red lentil pate and a pecan, some other totally unidentifiable stuffed potato snack- definitely had cheese, probably sour cream too. It wasn’t delicious. One QBel peanut butter chocolate cookie, kale chips.

Dinner: Catered dinner at a company event: Roll with butter. Salad with frizzled leeks, vegan apple turnip soup. Vegan “cassolette” a tragic mess of vegetables, beans, maybe a mashed cauliflower topping? I’m not sure exactly. It wasn’t very good.

Drinks: 2 glasses of wine, 1 bourbon

I wonder, if when running a marathon, something I’ve never done, what those last few miles are like. Do you sprint to the end and finish strong? Or, does your run slow to a crawl as you fantasize about crossing the finish line so you can collapse?

I’m certainly feeling the latter right now. Blatantly forgoing adherence to the diet to simply sate myself, saying, “See, I don’t need to do this, I’m fine!”

But am I?

This morning I took my bio-metric screening.  First, a nurse checks your height, 5.8’, and weight ,146 (disappointed a little, but, I’m sure that is an improvement from the holidays. Next you are invited to take a seat and roll up your sleeve: blood pressure.

My first reading: 133 over 72.

You know that moment when something bad happens and you swear up and down to your maker you will do what ever to make it right- a speeding ticket, a failed grade on a test, the news you need a root canal? Or when you replay all the missteps it took you to get to this point and curse yourself out for being so foolish? That was me, sitting in that chair. “That can’t be right.” I said. “Will you test it again?” She did, and again, 132/72. Unbelievable. Prehypertension. I knew it couldn’t be right, so I continued on to the next station, having my blood drawn, returning to have my blood pressure checked one more time. 112/85. Those numbers looked familiar. My sprint up the stairs to make the appoint on time was to blame, the nurse assured me.

But in those first few moments when I saw my enhanced discount, and, more importantly, my health go down the drain, I didn’t feel the need to make promises I couldn’t keep to someone who I’m not sure totally exists. Instead, I felt a wave of disappointment and defeat. Aside form the girl scout cookies and 1/4 of a grilled cheese sandwich, this really was the best I could do. And it didn’t look to be enough.

FOOD DIARY: DAY 26
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Maple syrup
Snack: Soy vanilla latte, bite of Ella’s donut & 3 bites of Ella’s grilled cheese at PDX play date
Lunch: reheated beans from the day before
Snack: a couple chunks of focaccia bread from Pasta Works, 2 girl scout cookies, then two more.
Dinner: Sweet Potato
Drinks: One Suja juice, a glass of wine.

You guys. I know I’m not failing at this, but it feels like I am a bit, in the way that if I can’t do this perfectly, then eff it. I’m throwing in the towel, indulging in my emotions and consuming copious food and drink that have been off limits for weeks now like no one is watching.

I know that isn’t the right thing to do. I just reeeeely want to.

YEARS ago, a boy broke my heart (we’re talking Y.E.E.E.E.E.E.E.A.R.S ago, like, a lifetime ago). A co-worker caught me crying at my desk. After telling her my sad sad story, she looked into my blood shoot, teary eyes and said, “Mary, you have 24 hours to feel sorry for yourself, then I don’t want to hear another word about it, or catch you crying again. Ok?” She gave me a solid hug, I stood there limp, I was too stunned to really hug her back. She bounced out of my office and I wondered, what just happened.

Karla gave me permission to indulge in my emotions, then move on instead of drowning in them. After thinking about if for a bit I decided, screw 24 hours, 1 hour. I’m giving myself one hour to really be self indulgent, then I’m moving on. And I did. Still hate that dude, but I only wallowed in self pity for a bit, instead of weeks.

At the end of this long story, I’m giving myself permission to move on as well. I don’t need to feel guilty about having had 4 girl scout cookies today (Day 26)- trust me, my body is punishing me AS WE SPEAK. And that momentary lapse into the pleasure trap is just a moment, not a reason to give up all the good work I’ve done leading today. Yes, I am not thrilled that I ate a bit of a vegan chocolate tart for breakfast once I realized I was running late for a hair appointment, but it is done, and best to try again for a 10 at the next meal.

FOOD DIARY DAY 25

Breakfast: 1/6 Hail Merry chocolate tart, coffee
Lunch: Steamed kale and a sweet potato with balsamic drizzle
Snacks: handful of tortilla chips, iced coffee, a few bites of dark chocolate
Kitchen Munchies: While making Matthew and Ella’s dinner I sneaked several bites of their food- taco night fixings mixed with veggies and gluten free pasta elbows, bakes with Daiya cheese.
Dinner: Steamed kale with canned black beans mixed with salsa- it was so surprisingly delicious.
Snack: Small bowl popcorn with braggs and brewer’s yeast
Drinks: only water and coffee

Tofu was my gateway food into becoming a vegetarian. In my teens I’d tofu-loaded meals, not quite knowing how to transform the flavorless white slab into a show stopper. Perfecting my technique, in college I flew through almost a container of tofu a day, preferring it cubed and fried, simmered in soy and ginger sauces over rice.  Now, tofu is a cruel mistress, requiring a digestive aid to be consumed without issue. Why happened tofu? Where’d we go wrong?

Yesterday I managed to find tofu in just about every meal. A rarity these days, however, I have to say, my team members work some crazy, irresistible magic with tofu- the chicken fried tofu is simply too tasty to pass up a cube (or 5). The last day of a busy week, I certainly choose convenience- with a vegan filter, over sticking to the E2 guns. As 4-weeks of this diet winds down, I’m finding it easier and easier to sneak in bites of this and that, truth day comes Monday morning at 7:55AM!

FOOD DIARY DAY 24

Breakfast: Tofu and vegetable stir-fry- lots of purple cabbage, and a side of kale salad with garlic tahini dressing. A banana. Coffee
Snack: Coffee and raw peanut butter chia seed truffle.
Lunch: 2 small vegan spring rolls, brown rice, stir fried veggies and tofu.
Dinner: More tofu! Brown rice, broccoli. 1/2 a Sumo Orange.
Drinks THREE glasses white wine. Eek!
Snack: Several handfuls of stadium pop-corn.

Ok- so I didn’t make it up as early as I wanted to,7 instead of 5,  but I did get up early enough to pump out a first draft, writing, before everything I did yesterday escaped me and I only have my iPhone photos to remember. Tiny victory!

When you eat primarily vegetables, you must eat a lot of them. I have not, a grave mistake I’ve been making as I leave the house with a small container of steamed kale and roasted veggies. While delicious and nutritious, they aren’t exactly calorie dense (unless we’re talking Avocados, which, technically, are a fruit), and your body burns through them quite quickly.

Caloric density was a new term to me a couple years ago, but it makes sense. Generally, we restrict ourselves to eating small quantities of foods that are high in calories, high in fat, as to not over eat, which sometimes leaves us hungry. Instead, it would be ideal to eat generous amounts of foods that are high in nutritional value, but low in calories. A mistake I’ve been making all 23 days of this challenge, small portions that give me a burst of energy and make me feel great, but have me starting just a few minutes later. Note to self, more food, more often.

FOOD DIARY DAY 23
Breakfast: Can you guess? Steamed kale with roasted vegetables! You’re right!! Also a few mushrooms simmered in teriyaki sauce. 2 cups of coffee.
Snack: Banana with a package of Justin’s Honey Almond Butter, which, to my dismay contains added palm oil.
Lunch: Vegetarian buffet from Portland’s best Indian restaurant, Channa Masala, in Hillsboro. Indian food isn’t vegan by any stretch of the imagination, ghee and cream play a huge role in these delectable dishes. I choose wisely, and throughly enjoyed my lunch. Regrets and guilt be gone.
Snack: Mary’s Gone Crackers onion flavored crackers, too many, as I got a stomachache
Dinner: One slice of toast with peanut butter.

It is not my intention to go two days without posting, in fact, I was sure the first time it happened, it wouldn’t happen again. Except that it did, and now it has happened once more. After a long day at work followed by a Blazer game, I was in no mood to sit-down and get my thoughts down in type. So my alarm is set for early tomorrow. I’ll wake at 5:30, brew a cup of coffee and sit down to tell you about today.

Yesterday, I had a frank conversation at work with one of my Healthy Cooking Coaches, lamenting to her my disappointment at not finding the motivation to completely cut out the oil. “It’s hard,” she reassured me, “when you live this lifestyle 90% of the time, it doesn’t seem that important to hit every pillar (no meat, no dairy, no oil, no refined grains/sugars) 100%.” She summed up my thoughts exactly, but it didn’t take the guilt away. “Why couldn’t I just suck it up and go at it 100%.” The obsessiveness and shame is getting a little tired, I certainly don’t need any neurotic restrictions or guilt around food and eating. No one does.

It has been a busy busy few weeks, and this week in particular I’ve noticed some eating clearly related to stress: more wine, chocolate almonds, pop corn, snacking, caving into desire when dinning out with friends and not sitting down to meals (looking at you lunch). I’m thankful for roasting off a few batches of veggies and preparing a soup in advance so there are shortcuts to take when I’m running late. Real talk: Grumpy, frustrated, disappointed.

FOOD DIARY DAY 21

Breakfast: Miso roasted root vegetables, steamed kale and roasted beets, coffee
Lunch: Cup of squash soup, coffee
Snacks: dried mango, chocolate covered almonds. Bag of microwave popcorn split with Ella, topped with bragg’s amino acids and brewer’s yeast.

squash and corn soup Dinner: Leftover curried squash and apple soup with fire roasted corn and roasted cauliflower and a dab of garlic sauce (oil). 1/2 slice of rosemary sourdough (refined grains) topped with earth balance soy margarine (oil!!!).
Drinks: 1 glass white wine
FOOD DIARY DAY 22

Breakfast: Miso roasted root vegetables and Kale, coffee
Lunch: Coconut Curry Noodles and okonomiyaki tots from boxer ramen

curry ramen
Dinner: more steamed Kale and the last of the miso roasted root veggies, slice of vegan pizza (totally off limits) at the game, 1/2 a sliced cucumber and 2 tablespoons hummus.
Drinks: Two glasses white wine