Green with Envy

31 05 2012

My recent love of broccoli for protein comes only after my love for its beautiful green and sweet, buttery flavor.

Flavor first.

There you are, dear broccoli, hiding amidst your comrades on the produce shelf.  Beside you, crisp romaine reaches tall with its vibrant stalks.  Golden onions shine for your appreciation.  Even drab white cauliflower embodies untouched purity in its individually-wrapped package.  Yet broccoli rests with little enthusiasm.   Store employees bunch you to attain some form of cohesion, but your woody stalks and tufted florets scream more “alien” than “appetite”.

Broccoli, old pal, you just need a friend.

I gladly pick you up and invite you over for dinner.  I happily cut your stalks long, making tiny trees from your bulky frame.  Water is boiled and salted — heavily.  “To taste like the sea” echoes the voice of a past chef.  In the rolling, bubbling jacuzzi, down go your drab greenness.  In minutes, there is magic.

Your faded color makes way for glowing emerald.  Your woody trunks soften.  The salty cloud of water brings out the earthy, sweet flavors that hide in your stems.

A few minutes later, a knife easily slips out of your thickest stalk, and you are ready.  A quick shock into a bath of ice water locks in your crisp green.

Tossed with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper, you are beautiful.  You put romaine to shame.  Somehow you have transformed into this delight that plays between my teeth while also melts on my tongue.  Broccoli, my friend, you are ALIVE.

Take that, cauliflower.

The other veggies are green with envy.



Enough Protein

30 05 2012

“How do you get enough protein?”

That’s one of the most frequent questions I hear when discussing plant-centered eating.  I hear it at the gym, where I work, from medical professionals, fitness experts, fellow cooks, and knowledgeable friends.

My favorite answer “I love broccoli.   Broccoli is loaded with protein.”

But not everyone likes broccoli.  Or they don’t believe me when I say I get protein from broccoli.  You mean in the whole history of humankind, vegetarians were dieing from lack of protein?  Now we know!  Really, though, my question for them is “How much protein do you need?” and then “How much are you getting?”

The tricky part here comes with the math.  Now, I love math and numbers.  Some people don’t.  The simple math:

Let’s take a healthy female.  She’s 140 (64 kg) lbs, moderately active.

She  needs about 1600 calories a day.

RDA is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight.  For our healthy female, that’s  about 51 g of protein.  1 gram of protein is 4 calories, so that means 204 of her calories should come from protein (about 8 percent of her total calories for the day).

If you love more math, check out my friend Jeff Novick’s post on Protein Requirements.  He’s a Registered Dietician and takes a calculator to the grocery.  He loves math.

So, back to broccoli.

98 calories of broccoli has 28 calories (more than 28%) protein.  When doing the math, remember 1 gram of protein = 4 calories.  I won’t even get into the fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron that also comes with broccoli.  You probably already know all of that.  If our healthy female ate only broccoli (1600 calories worth!) all day, she’d get 114 g of protein by the end of the day.

100 calories of oats has about 20% protein.  Oats!  A day of only oats would be 69g of protein

Tomatoes.  32 calories of tomatoes (that’s a whole cup of tomato slices!) has 25% protein.  (2 grams of protein = 8 calories.  8/32 = 25%)  A day of 1600 calorie tomatoes? 100g of protein.

I haven’t made a single mention of beans, lentils, nuts, or tofu.  I also haven’t mentioned fake-meat products or processed products.  When we eat food that is stripped of its bran and fiber (aka refined flours, sugars, and oils), we strip it of its protein.  Then we usually pay for it in a bright shiny label that advertises “now with extra protein”.  Pass on the labels.  Eat your broccoli.

Ratatouille with Lentils

29 05 2012

Ratatouille is the epitome of summer freshness.  Summer’s ripest vegetables come to the party of colors and flavors.  Serve atop green lentils for a satisfying meal.  Also works as a cold lentil salad.

1 eggplant, diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 zucchini, quartered and sliced

1 summer squash, quartered and sliced

4 medium fresh tomatoes, diced (or 28-ounce can)

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons fresh parsley or chives, for garnish

For lentils:

1 cup green lentils

1 bay leaf


To cook your lentils: place lentils and bay leaf in a small pot.  Cover with two inches of water.  Simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.  This will be about the same time your ratatouille is done.

To make your ratatouille: Heat a large non-stick or cast iron saute pan over high heat.  Add your eggplant and pepper.  Saute until the eggplant start to turn brown, about 5 minutes.  If the vegetables begin to burn, pour a couple tablespoons of water into the pan.  Add the zucchini and summer squash.  Saute until zucchini and summer squash start to turn brown, another 5 minutes or so.  Once your vegetables have started to darken, add the tomatoes, garlic, marjoram, and thyme.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer until the water from the tomatoes cooks off and the mixture thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes.   By now your lentils should be done.  Toss ratatouille mixture with fresh parsley or chives just before serving.