What is Plant-Based Paleo?
With so many diets out there, it’s near impossible for any of us to decide how to eat. When you consider that proponents of every eating style claim their way is the best, the key to vitality and a lean physique, it’s easy for us to try our hand at several of them, only to discover that they don’t work for us. This often leaves us frustrated rather than empowered and confident in our own ability to make the best choices for ourselves.
I became vegan almost overnight on June 1, 2009. While I felt almost immediately better for it, it wasn’t always upwards from there. There are infinite ways a vegan diet can look, and every time I read someone else’s opinion on how to do it ‘right’, I tried it their way. I tried a macrobiotic diet and ate more grains and beans, I attempted a high-protein diet with the help of faux meats and soy cheeses, I believed the claims that you could eat whatever you wanted as long as it was vegan and still feel fantastic. None of these left me feeling my best.
At the same time, I was studying to become a nutritionist and reading a lot about the Paleo diet, which proposes eating only foods the cavemen ate for ultimate health. It recommends devising a dietary regime that includes whole, unprocessed foods, lean meats and low-carb foods that are high in fiber, potassium and healthy fats; and excludes grains, legumes, potatoes, dairy products, refined sugars and oils, and salt.
The healthy-eating world seems to split into those who promote a plant-based diet and those who swear by Paleo. But what I’ve come to learn is that where these two diets overlap (with fresh fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds) is where the real magic is. I truly feel that no matter what else you choose to eat, making these foods the basis of your diet is what leads to great health. They’re fresh from the earth and bring with them the minerals they use to grow straight to our plates.
Lettuce Rolls with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Sometimes you need to be able to eat appetizers or lunch with one hand. But that doesn’t mean it has to be all carrot sticks and houmus all the time. These lettuce rolls are a good way to switch it up in a pinch.
2 heads little gem/bibb lettuce
3 tomatoes, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow (bell) pepper, thinly sliced
3/4 cup pea shoots
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (soaked for 4 hrs)
3 tbsps chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 sticks celery, chopped
3 spring onions/scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or nama shoyu or liquid aminos)
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon smooth French mustard
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Using a fork, mix all the honey mustard dipping sauce ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
Remove the outer leaves of the lettuce and set aside (you will need about 12 leaves). Shred the rest of the lettuce along with the carrots, and combine with the tomatoes, yellow (bell) pepper and pea shoots in a large mixing bowl.
Rinse the sunflower seeds and put them in a food processor with the parsley, celery and spring onions/scallions. Add the soy sauce and the lemon juice and pulse until smooth.
To build the rolls, layer about two tablespoons of the sunflower seed mixture in the bottom of each leaf and top with a generous amount of the shredded vegetables. Serve alongside the dipping sauce – you should be able to easily pick up and roll the edges of the leaves around the filling to dip in the sauce.
Nutty Nougat Cups
I used to love store-bought candy — and you probably grew up with your favorites, too. Now, I harness the nostalgia as inspiration to help me create new treats. This is a reimagination of a chocolate bar I used to adore, this time in cupcake form.
1 cup chopped dark/bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dates
1 tablespoon coconut oil
disposable piping/pastry bag (optional)
6 hole muffin pan, lined with foil cupcake cases
To make the nougat, put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Fill the muffin cases about one-third full and put in the freezer to set for 20 minutes.
To make the caramel, soak the dates in 1 1/2 cups of water for at least two hours, or ideally overnight. Drain the dates in a colander, then put in a food processor with the coconut oil. Blend until smooth and pour into a piping/pastry bag or a sandwich bag.
Cut the bottom corner off the piping/pastry or sandwich bag and squeeze a circle of caramel into each cup.
Melt the dark/bittersweet chocolate by putting it in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan or pot of simmering water. Take care not to let any water splash into the melting chocolate as it will seize up. Alternatively, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and heat it in the microwave in bursts of 30 seconds, stirring between each burst of heat. Chocolate burns very easily so make sure you clean the sides of the bowl down as you go.
Pour the melted chocolate over the caramel and top with crushed nuts.
Freeze again for at least 15 minutes, until set.
Jenna Zoe is a chef and nutritionist who is the author of Plant Based Paleo. Recipes and photos are from Plant Based Paleo, published by Ryland Peters & Small and used with permission.