Sharon Palmer is on a mission to help you fall in love with plants. In her new book Plant-Powered for Life she conjures up images of farmers markets full of fresh, crisp vegetables, produce bins overflowing with juicy ripe fruit, and fields of fresh leafy greens. Even the most die-hard carnivore wouldn’t be able to surrender to plant-based temptation. Alongside those images of fresh produce are visions of aromatic spices, pots of freshly cooked beans, and bowls full of warm whole grains. I had just finished a rather large lunch when I settled in on the sofa with Plant-Powered for Life, which had just arrived in my mailbox from The Experiment the day before, and I wanted to jump back up, head to the kitchen, and start cooking.
Plant-Powered for Life is a health and recipe book in one, but it’s not your typical health or recipe book. Most books on vegan health are full of scientific facts and (some might say) rather boring data, with recipes tucked in at the back of the book. And there are those vegan cookbooks with that have nutritional tips sprinkled through their pages, but the facts are usually overshadowed by the food. In Plant-Powered for Life, nutrition and food find balance. In the first chapter, Ms. Palmer, who is a registered dietician, suggests you set a plant-powered goal at the beginning of the book. It can be something as simple as adding more vegetables into your diet or something more life changing, such as going vegan. In each of the book’s 52 chapters, a tip to help achieve that goal is given, with little nuggets of nutritional or culinary wisdom thrown in. This isn’t heavy reading – each suggestion is just a page or two long – and the passages are written with a love of fresh food that will inspire you to head out to the farmers market and then into the kitchen.
Each chapter in Plant-Powered for Life has two or three recipes that pertain to the subject at hand. For example, the chapter that suggests adding more legumes to your diet has recipes for Caribbean Calypso Beans and French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes. The chapter dedicated to eating well on the go has recipes for Curried Tofu Papaya Wraps and Bombay Carrot, Beet and Bulgur Salad – both of which hold up well to travel and make for excellent workday lunch options. As the book title implies, the recipes are all for whole, unprocessed foods, with a little bit of tofu and seitan thrown in.
Plant-Powered for Life also has an ingredients glossary for those who may be new to plant-based cooking, recipes for vegan basics such as dairy-free sour cream and egg-free mayo, and a guide to seasonal produce, so you know always know what’s in season.
If you’re hoping to change your diet, you can do so with Plant-Powered for Life, simply by following a new tip each week and giving the corresponding recipes a try. If you’re looking for mouthwatering plant-based recipes, you’ll find that here too. Whatever your reason for picking up Plant-Powered for Life, be prepared to fall in love with plants.
A traditional Mexican dish, tortilla soup is a spicy blend of tomatoes, vegetables, and crisp tortilla strips. This easy plant-powered version—you can whip it up in no time—throws protein-rich black beans into the mix. Best of all, this dish relies on preserved goods, such as canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and canned beans, so you can make it year-round from your pantry. And it’s a great complement for a simple sandwich, burrito, or vegetable salad for lunch or dinner.
Makes 10 servings (generous 1 cup each)
- Three 6-inch (15 cm) corn tortillas
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced 1 small jalapeño pepper, finely diced 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 cup (164 g) frozen corn
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 4 cups (948 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon reduced sodium vegetable broth base
- Two 14.5-ounce (411 g) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
- One 15-ounce (425 g) can black beans, with liquid (or 1-3/4 cups cooked, with 1/2 cup water)
- 2/3 cup (37 g) plant-based cheese, optional
- 2/3 cup (60 g) chopped green onions, white and green parts
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
- Slice the tortillas into thin strips. Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then sprinkle the chili powder on top. Bake for about 5 to 8 minutes, until brown and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn off the oven.
- Meanwhile, prepare the soup by heating the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, zucchini, corn, crushed red pepper, and cumin and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
- Add the water, broth base, tomatoes, and black beans. Stir well and cover. Simmer over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Ladle about 1 cup of soup into soup bowls, and garnish with a few tortilla strips, 1 tablespoon of plant-based cheese, and 1 tablespoon green onions. Serve immediately.
- Store leftover soup (without garnishes) in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the soup and garnish with the tortilla strips, cheese, and green onions.
Substitute cooked or canned white beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, or kidney beans for black beans, or use a combination.
Recipe from Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes, copyright © Sharon Palmer, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.
Photo credit: © Heather Poire