After watching the documentary, Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure,” (patients with improved cardiac catheterizations after changing their diets!) I couldn’t help but refrain from eating meat. Along with not eating meat, I adhered to the complete “Forks over Knives” diet – whole grains, no dairy or eggs, no refined sugars, flours or oils – and instagrammed my creations along the way along with the hashtag, #FOK. This lasted about 3 months and then I broke. And then I broke again. And again. This diet takes dedication. Eating out requires great measures of creativity (your waiter will want to kill you, a la Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally), eating at work mandates that you cook the night before and pack your own meals, and you realize who your real friends are (the ones who still want to go out to dinner with you!).
I will say that after 3 months, every marker of my health improved: I lost weight, my blood pressure decreased, and my cholesterol was perfect. As a nod to recognizing that damn this diet does work but damn I just can’t adhere to it 100%, I still integrate many of the recipes and lifestyle ideas to my everyday. And here are some of the absolutely simple (yet pretty darn good) recipes I still cook/bake, well over a year after I got FOK’d.
Quickest Black Bean Salad (from Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD)
2 15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 large tomato, chopped
1 16 oz. package of frozen corn (I like white corn)
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
1 6 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
½ lime and zest
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
*Things I love to add: 1 chopped red bell pepper, ½ to 1 chopped jalapeno pepper, and lots of extra cilantro)
*Alternate salad dressing: Bragg’s liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari mixed with rice vinegar (gives a soy sauce flavor which is great when salad is served over brown rice
Mix all ingredients except for cilantro, lime and vinegar. Then add the cilantro, lime and vinegar. Serve alone or with meal additions.
Chana Saag (from the Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year by Del Sroufe)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
2 pounds fresh spinach, chopped (about 12 cups)
2 cups cooked chickpeas, or one 15 oz. can, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste
*I found most of the spices at a South Asian market.
Place onion in large saucepan and sauté over medium-heat for 8-10 minutes, or until it is browned. Add water 1-2 tablespoons at a time to keep the onions from sticking to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the jalapeno pepper, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes, adding water only as needed. Add the tomato and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the almond milk, spinach, and chickpeas. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon vanilla
¾ cup natural chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups old fashioned oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
½ cup non-dairy chocolate chips or raisins
*to make gluten free eliminate whole wheat flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Mix bananas, vanilla, peanut butter and maple syrup into a creamy consistency in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until they are well combined – the batter should be slightly sticky. Fold in the chocolate chips or raisins. Place rounded, heaping tablespoon-sized balls of the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes.