You know that feeling when you sink your teeth into a nice hunk of cheese? That instant urge to slap some more on another cracker, and then suddenly you’ve downed more than you can count? Well my world was rocked on Monday night. I attended a class at Whole Foods Coral Gables that is part of their Engine 2 Diet Challenge for the month of February. As Whole Foods puts it:
“The Engine 2 Diet is a plan of action for following—and sticking to—a heart-healthy, mind healthy, body-healthy and taste bud tempting Plant-Strong™ lifestyle, created by Rip Esselstyn. Individuals following Engine 2 adopt a whole food, nutrient-dense, Plant-Strong way of eating and experience a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.”
In other words, it’s a vegan lifestyle.
Anyway, this class was incredible. I learned that dairy contains casomorphin, a casein protein fragment that actually mimics the high from morphine. That feeling about cheese that I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Yup, blame it on the casomorphin. The challenge in week one of the diet plan involves turning down the artery-clogging seduction of dairy by removing all forms of it, so milk, cheese, creams, yogurt, butter, ice cream, and sour cream are forbidden. Sounds pretty tough!
To help those committed to the diet plan, Jordan Wolfe of Whole Foods South Beach provided four dairy-free recipes that were honestly SO delicious and super easy to recreate at home–I’m not kidding. What I didn’t know is how great cashews are as a dairy replacement. They are high in protein, have healthy fat, and provide essential minerals. The minerals may seem unimportant, but I learned that due to the rapid overfarming in our agricultural system, the soil that is constantly reused has been stripped of minerals over time. Cashews help get those vital minerals back into our systems.
See two of the four recipes below (the dessert recipes were so yummy that I am saving them for their very own post later!):
Raw Honey Mustard Dressing
When refrigerated, this dressing lasts for up to one week. Jordan paired this dressing with a red cabbage slaw, but any leafy green works just as well.
- 1.5 cups of cashews (no salt!)
- 1.5 cups of Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple or water (the Martinelli’s gives it a tangy kick)
- 4 Tbsp raw yellow mustard
- 3 Tbsp raw honey
- 1 lemon with the rind removed
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (can also try cayenne or black pepper)
- Sea salt to taste
Blend all ingredients in a Vitamix blender/food processor/blender. Toss with whatever salad you desire.
Engine 2 Macaroni and Not Cheese
This is a cult-favorite recipe. The nutritional yeast is vital to the recipe as it adds the zesty flavor that sharp cheese has. If using a food processor or regular blender, it is suggested to allow the cashews to soak in water for a few hours before blending.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup of cashews
- 1/3 cup of lemon juice or half of a peeled lemon
- 1 1/3 cup of water
- 10 no-oil sundried tomatoes (in Whole Foods, this is located in the pasta aisle)
- 4 oz of roasted red peppers, drained
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (great source of B vitamins. Be careful not to add too much yeast as it has an overpowering taste)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 16 oz whole grain pasta
Steam-sauté the onion for 5 minutes until translucent. In a Vitamix/food processor/blender combine all ingredients but the pasta. Blend until consistent. Toss with pasta or raw kale.
For additional information on the benefits of the Engine 2 Diet, check out the documentary Forks Over Knives. It happens to be on Netflix streaming right now, so that’s on my queue for the near future!
I will be attending three other Engine 2 Diet classes throughout the month, so expect a ton of healthy recipes headed your way. While I am not vegan or even vegetarian, I always try to incorporate healthy options into my diet and these recipes are no exception. If we all incorporate small nutritious changes to what we know and think about food, we could all reap enormous health benefits. I will now step down from my soapbox.