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Monday, March 18, 2013

Interview with a "Newbie" and Variations on Chef A.J.'s Banana Muffins

It has been my extreme pleasure to work with a family that has recently gone to a predominately plant-based diet after watching Forks Over Knives.  These are just super cool people, and knowing how challenging it can be when starting this program, I thought it might be a good opportunity to get a fresh perspective from a 'newbie'.

Bethany and her husband, D.J. have an absolutely precious son, Deklin. Bethany is setting this family up for success by immersing herself in educational materials and research and by stocking their home with healthy food choices.  It's been my pleasure to 'pay it forward' a bit, and I've gone shopping with her, and generally tried to be a resource and pass on what has worked for me.  Bethany asks the good questions and has already turned the tables and proven to be a resource for me by finding vegan options here in Central Ohio and causing me to think deeper about certain aspects of our food program.

Here is a survey Bethany and D.J. recently completed for me.

I am so excited that you and your husband have gone plant strong! Congratulations on making such an important decision. I know there are other "newbies" out there that have various degrees of challenges as they transition to a vegan whole-foods diet, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions.

1. What was your biggest motivation for switching to a plant-based diet?

Watching Forks Over Knives* was a great motivation to switch to a plant based diet. We have seen family members struggle with heart disease, obesity, cancer, etc. If we have some control over the effects these diseases could have on us and our child then why not do our best to prevent them. Especially if it is something so trivial as eating better.

(*Forks Over Knives is a documentary film delineating the benefits and scientific basis for a plant-based diet.  Check it out at Amazon here:

2. Do you have any specific health benefits or goals that you hope to achieve by making this change?
My husband wanted to lower his cholesterol. It is not "high" but it was 166 and one month after following a plant based diet his cholesterol is 136. I am so proud of him!

I have hypothyroid and do not want to be on medication ever. I am hoping to see an improvement with my thyroid and cholesterol. I am scheduled for blood work in March.

3. What, if any, has been the biggest surprise in switching over?
A pleasant surprise, with help from Sue, & cookbooks such as The Happy Herbivore and The Engine 2 Diet and the internet it has been much easier than we expected.

I did not enjoy cooking before but I find myself in the the kitchen a lot more. I now relish the creative ways to make a plant based meal for my family. There is just something about cooking a healthy, nutritious meal that I love! This has become my passion and obsession :)

4. What are some of the challenges you have faced and how have you dealt with them?

Explaining that I follow a plant based lifestyle has been a challenge. I do not expect anyone to understand immediately. If someone is semi interested I encourage them to watch Forks Over Knives. It is hard for me to articulate all the reasons to enjoy a PBL (plant-based lifestyle). After watching Forks Over Knives, a few people have joined me in this adventure, including my parents.

5. Do you have a favorite recipe/food?

I am not sure I could list just one favorite recipe. I think my family would all agree, even my 16 month old son, that we love to start our day with a kale smoothie! A great way to start our plant based day. We usually use kale, carrots, spinach, frozen banana, berries and nut milk in my new favorite kitchen appliance, the Vitamix!

6. Any other tips or advice for other newbies?
My husband and I have joined The Wellness Forum. Dr. Pam Popper runs the Wellness Forum and is very accessible. They now have a physician on staff and Chef Del who wrote the Forks Over Knives cookbook teaches cooking classes and sells Forks Over Knives inspired food. They will even deliver dinner to you and it is very reasonably priced. We are so lucky to have this resource in Columbus. Wellness Forums are located in several states and you don't have to be located nearby to take advantage of all their great resources.
Thank you!
Bethany sent me this video of her adorable son's reaction to green smoothies.  Check it out here:
Thanks for sharing, Bethany, (and I hope that huge 'smoothie kiss' washed out of your blouse!)  Continued health to you and your beautiful family.
Banana/Pumpkin Muffins

I've mentioned Chef A.J. on my blog many times.  I am a huge fan of hers and love her book Unprocessed as well as her videos with Julieanna Hever.  When one of A.J.'s recipes shows up on the blogosphere, I just go get paper and pen as it will be tried in my kitchen.  Wendy from Healthy Girl's Kitchen is another one of my favorite people on this shared journey and she featured a banana muffin recipe from A.J. this week on her blog.  Read the post and find the recipe here:

I got a chance to give this recipe a try this weekend, but made a few modifications.  I didn't have applesauce, but did have an apple, so it is quick work to turn that into applesauce in the Vitamix.  I didn't have applejuice either, but I did have some oranges that were in need of a job, so I juiced them.

           Just the aroma of this orange freshness made this dreary-where-is-spring day brighter

I decided to make two versions of this recipe.  I wanted to try it with some pumpkin, so while I had everything out and already dirty, I whipped up another batch, omitting the apple and adding pumpkin.  I also added nutmeg.  Two other changes I made to both batches were to use half oatmeal flour and half whole wheat flour.  I added in two medjool dates to the Vitamix when blending the bananas.

The batter comes out quite liquid, but the recipe requires it to sit so it'll thicken and poof up, which it does quite nicely.

This muffin has just the right sweetness (I don't think it really needed the dates, but I did enjoy the taste of it) and will make a great snack for me when I have my mid-morning smoothie and really want something to go with it.  I can keep a stash of these in the freezer for a quick snack.

So far, the banana is my favorite, but I think the pumpkin would be very nice in the fall.  I could see adding in some dried cranberries and maybe raisins or rough chopped raw sunflower seeds.

Thank you, A.J. and thank you, Wendy!

Sue, eating my sunshine, in grey Ohio