Here’s your inexpensive, seasonal and TASTY Meatless Monday dish:

Spicy Simple Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash,  poked several times with a fork

1 tsp sea salt

2 C marinara sauce

Hot sauce to taste (optional)

½ C fresh basil

 

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a shallow baking dish filled with 1” water, roast the squash for one hour.  Once the squash is soft, Cut it in half, de-seed and scrape out the insides with a fork to create “spaghetti noodles”.  Top with salt, marinara, hot sauce and basil. 

 

Serve immediately.

Now that I have been home for about 2 weeks, I am (barely) caught up enough to chit chat about my incredible time in Washington, DC.  I was accepted into the Food For Life Program developed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.PCRM.org).  PCRM’s president, Dr. Neal Barnard is someone you might have seen on Oprah, Dr. Oz, CNN, etc…  he’s pretty much the face for PCRM. 

Since 1985, PCRM has been an advocate for preventive medicine, especially good nutrition, conducted clinical research, and advocated for higher ethical standards in research.   I personally like the good nutrition used as preventative medicine part.  Which is why I was thrilled to learn all about their Food For Life instructor program.  There are a few divisions of PCRM and one is The Cancer Project.  In 2001, PCRM created The Cancer Project to teach people how to use food to ward off cancer by adhering to a high-fiber, low-fat plant-based diet.  There are studies that prove how these foods can not only prevent cancer, but also shrink tumor size.  By creating the Cancer Project, PCRM is able to train people how to go into their communities and teach others how to do this, too.  These instructors are called Food For Life Instructors. 

In 2009 PCRM introduced diabetes prevention and reversal into the program.  Similar to the cancer curriculum, the diabetes program teaches people how to (1) prevent diabetes and (2) how to possibly reverse it (type 2) through the use of nutrition.  In 2010, they rolled out the Children’s Wellness program, geared towards teaching kiddos ages 9-13 what healthy really is and how to easily adhere to it by making quick and easy recipes.  Coming in 2012 PCRM will add one more program to its already robust curriculum: Healthy Weight Management for adults.

It was not easy getting into the program.  The Man graciously produced a video of me making a recipe from one of the PCRM’s cookbooks, there was a lengthy application and a two-hour phone interview.  They also asked for professional references.  All of those references were contacted and I’m one lucky duck that all those folks think enough of me to sit down for hours on end and thoughtfully answer all the questions PCRM fired at them about my character.  I am humbled. 

In addition to the application process, it should go without saying that in order to even be considered, one must be on a plant-based diet…not just be a vegan.  This is a program to teach you how to prevent chronic illness such as cancer and diabetes through the use of nutrition.  And, as I mentioned before, science has proven that a whole-foods, plant-based diet can do that. 

Now that my Washington training has wrapped up, and I am a certified Food For Life Instructor,  I’m still in the early stages of setting up my classes.  I am in the thick of reading all the materials, organizing the venue and of course soon to spread the word via Facebook and Twitter.  There are 100 Food For Life instructors across the country.  I am the only one here in St. Louis.  There is much to do. 

Hunger Challenge - Vegan Style

Several months ago, my friend Colleen approached my husband and I and asked if we’d like to be members of a new board she was putting together for Food Outreach. The Board, called, Friends of Food Outreach (AKA: FOFO) was to be made up of just a handful of people who believe in the mission of FO and have a desire to get out there and spread the word by creating events, or a buzz about the organization. Colleen knows about my background and has a firm understanding of how I feel about food as it relates to health, so of course this was an easy and very enthusiastic “YES!” for us both to hop on board.

This year the FOFOs have started to really create a name for ourselves and it has been a lot of fun to meet and interact (read: party) with our fellow board members. However, it was not until recently that we really got a taste of the struggle that lies within the clients of Food Outreach. September is Hunger Action Month and during this month Food Outreach has challenged all those who are willing to participate to spend only $29 per person for all of the food you will eat in a seven day period. The days do not have to be in a row (mine have not been), but you do have to stick to only the foods you purchase with in that allotted dollar figure. Why only $29? Because on average, a Food Outreach client is eligible for a $29/week “food stamp” allotment, certainly not enough to purchase the nutritious foods that can improve their treatment outcomes- which by the way absolutely sucks.

I teach vegan cooking classes and I started down this plant-based way of eating after the big C made two appearance in my family IN ONE YEAR just three years ago. Food Outreach provides nutritional meals to help support for those individuals who have been hit by said ‘C’ and HIV/AIDS. I am all for prevention, but these folks who have compromised immune systems and really are in need of nutritionally dense fare may not be getting what they need because “healthy food” is too expensive. At least that’s what the consensus is.

Being on a plant-based (vegan) diet, I thought this would be an interesting challenge.

September has been a bit of a maddening time, as we have been in and out of town, I am prepping for cooking classes, etc…ya know, just life stuff, but you’ve got to eat- so I took a half hour last week and just ran to the store to spend our $58 (2 people).

This is our food for seven random days throughout the next couple of weeks. We have completed two days and I am now kicking myself for not putting together a menu and planning a bit more carefully. On the other hand, FO never really knows what will be donated and in what quantity, so perhaps making sense out of my mish mash of food is what they have to deal with on a regular basis, ours is just on a significantly smaller scale. I only have to figure out meals for two people, not 200.

I of course did not purchase any animal products and those can be costly, but I did pick up some veggie burgers, crumbles, organic tofu and that nice roll of basil and garlic polenta. Splurges. It killed me to not grab more fresh produce, but knowing that our challenge days would not be consistent, I didn’t want to run the risk of buying and having something go bad. Normally, that would just really irritate me, now the stakes are higher. So, instead I bought a lot of frozen vegs and really saved $$$ with the beans. I have soaked (and sprouted) and cooked them all. I’m happy to have my staple of hummus (sans the tahini) in the fridge, though I am eating it by the spoonful since I could not afford pita and didn’t even think about grabbing a cuke.

Here is a picture of one of our first meals and as look at everything I bought I see a theme: red/green/tan. I have a feeling that a lot of my pictures will look similar as I bought a ton of canned tomatoes, an extra large bag of frozen broccoli ($2.99 - holla!) and enough beans to last us through the year - or so I say that now.


I didn’t feel like being too creative for the first meal, so I just grabbed what I had the most of and got to work. Sauteed an onion, added a few cloves of minced garlic, threw in the broccoli, and added a can of chopped chili-style tomatoes. Later on I popped a handful of garbanzo beans to round out the protein element, but all in all, not a bad start. Most definitely NOT gourmet and not the most well thought out meal, but it was quick and somewhat nutritious. I say somewhat because fresh and local tomatoes would have been a better choice- but let’s not split hairs.