Going Vegan, in Bob Harper’s Words

17 Oct

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I watch NBC’s Biggest Loser. I started watching it a few years ago because some guys Jason worked with decided to have a Biggest Loser competition at work. Jason and I went in on the deal to see who could lose the highest percentage of body weight over 10 weeks (guess who won…me!). Anyway, I had never seen the show before that, so we started watching it. Ever since then, I’ve watched it pretty regularly. I see these contestants change their diets, exercise, and lose weight — and then come off their medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and more. It reassures me that I’m doing the right thing by trying to get healthy without drugs.

This past week’s episode featured trainer Bob Harper inviting some of the contestants to his house for dinner. After showing them the contents of his fridge, he informed them he was a vegan, so he doesn’t eat any animal products. The contestants then dined on roasted wild mushrooms, plus a beautiful-looking salad with heirloom tomatoes, roasted corn and fresh basil and a few other vegan dishes prepared by Bob’s friend, Brooke Larson. As he opened the foil-covered pans, I got a little hungry — it all looked so good!

I’m really excited that veganism was discussed on a show as popular as Biggest Loser. Many people think a vegan diet is weird or scary, and it’s not. It’s simply a matter of choosing foods from the earth instead of from animals. Not only do I feel better physically, I feel better knowing that animals were not mistreated in order for me to have a meal.

While looking for recipes from the show, I stumbled across this video. Though he’s being interviewed because he recently became the spokesperson for the Farm Sanctuary’s “Walk for Farm Animals,” I was amazed to see how much his comments expressed how I feel about veganism. One of the things he said was “I read too much,” which is a lot of the reason why I gave up meat. I’ve read so much on the subject that there’s no turning back now. If everyone knew what really goes on in the meat industry, they’d all be vegetarians. The information is out there — don’t deny yourself that knowledge. Here’s the interview:

I tracked down a few of the recipes Bob served to the Biggest Loser contestants the other night. These were provided by Brooke Larson for sharing with viewers, so I’m assuming it’s okay to share them with you. I haven’t made any of these yet, but as soon as I do, I’ll report the results here. If you try any of them, please let me know how you liked them.

Roasted Cauliflower
Serves up to 4 as a side dish

2 heads of organic cauliflower, cored and cut into uniform pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves pulled from stems
2 garlic cloves, smashed and skinned
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange cut cauliflower onto large baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, thyme, smashed garlic, and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Gently toss and place into oven. Roast cauliflower until golden brown and soft, approximately 30 minutes. The cauliflower will taste nutty and the acidity from the red wine vinegar adds a beautiful tart, yet sweet, flavor! Enjoy!

Roasted Wild Mushrooms with Shaved Fennel Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

Roasted Wild Mushrooms:
4 large handfuls of a variety of wild mushrooms (shiitake, morel, etc)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 smashed garlic cloves, skinned and smashed
1 leek, washed, cut lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2 moon shapes
1 large shallot, minced
5 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves pulled from stems
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Gently wipe mushrooms with a paper towel/kitchen towel so they are free of dirt. Cut them into uniform size pieces and place on a large baking sheet.
Add the remaining ingredients to the baking sheet and gently toss with your fingers. Roast in oven until mushrooms are golden brown and slightly crispy, about 35 minutes.

Shaved Fennel Salad:
1 large bulb of fennel, cut in half, plus a few fronds for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
dash of fennel pollen (available at Whole Foods)

Using a mandolin, shave the fennel bulb into very thin slices. Place into a mixing bowl and add oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, fennel pollen, and fronds. Gently toss with your fingers.
Season to your liking and let sit for 10 minutes.

To assemble: Place roasted wild mushrooms into a serving plate or bowl. Put the shaved fennel salad on top of the roasted mushrooms and drizzle the extra liquid/vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with a little more fennel pollen and fronds. Serve at room temperature.

Chopped Broccoli with Pine Nuts
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like spicy)
2 garlic cloves, smashed and skinned
1 large shallot, sliced
salt and pepper
1 large stalk of organic broccoli, cut into uniform pieces
3 tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest

Heat a large pot with olive oil. Add the pepper flakes, garlic, shallot, and season with salt and pepper. Once the garlic and shallot are “soft,” add the broccoli. Stir until evenly coated.
Add 1/2 a cup of water and put a lid on the pot. Cook the broccoli until the water evaporates, about 6-8 minutes. Once water is evaporated, add the toasted pine nuts and lemon zest.
With an old-school potato masher, lightly “mash” the broccoli. You can also use a Cuisinart with the blade attachment. It will only take a few pulses or you can use a food mill.
Don’t put into a blender! Enjoy!

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