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September Challenge – Meatless Mondays

September Challenge – Meatless Mondays

Hi Friends,

I’m late to post about the September challenge (halfway through the month but who’s counting?). You might ask why I have a picture of cows grazing for my “Meatless Mondays” post, well keep reading. I decided to start a new tradition at my house, Meatless Mondays, after my husband Greg decided to go vegetarian unless he knew the farmer and felt 100% about the quality. At first, this totally threw me for a loop. I do not have anything against the vegetarian lifestyle, but I prefer a more paleo diet and Greg has always been good with whatever I prepared for myself. Also, how was I to ensure the meat we were eating at our house was treated ethically? This got me thinking and I decided to accommodate us all by going vegetarian on Mondays, and when not vegetarian, trying my best to only eat quality farmed raised meat. We really should all demand better quality meats and ethical treatment of all animals, and the only way to do this is by supporting farms that support these practices. I recently signed up for a meat CSA from local Southern Ridge Farm who promises to:

  • never use hormones or antibiotics
  • never feed GMO grain
  • always graze your animals on lush, Tennessee pasture
  • always allow the animals to be themselves (cows graze, pigs root, and chickens peck)

I feel really good knowing my meat is coming from Southern Ridge Farm and knowing my family is getting the best. I’m a huge animal lover, so even though I eat meat I believe it matters how they are treated energetically, nutritionally, and environmentally.

Back to “Meatless Mondays” I still wanted to learn more about how to reach my daily protein requirements without eating meat, and wanted to provide my loving husband with more food choices. I did not come up with this savvy phrase. It’s been around since 2003 with Paul McCartney being one of its biggest supporters. Since I can’t reach out to Sir Paul himself, my second best option is my friend Robin Runner. Robin is the vegan food blogger, recipe creator, private chef, former ultra marathon runner & passionate weightlifter behind the blog Knead to Cook.  I knew Robin was the right person to reach out to because she takes her fitness serious while sticking to a vegan gluten free lifestyle; two things I know take a lot of will power and determination. I also wanted to share Robin with all of you because she’s kind, generous, and authentic…my type of girl.

Robin, tell us a little about your blog?

My blog was initially created to simply share recipes with friends and family but ultimately has documented my journey from eating a carnivore diet to a plant-based one over the past 8 years.  Like many of you, I’m the mom to 2 teenaged girls.  I’m the wife to my best friend for 21 years, along with the daughter to my father who lives with us as well. My blog and social media have been rooted in honesty, simplicity, and a passion for healthy living.

As the traditional landscape of families has evolved, so does everyone’s diet preferences or requirements.  My oldest daughter, in a pursuit to remedy her cystic acne 4 years ago, removed dairy and gluten from her diet.  She eats a paleo diet successfully in college now with clear skin.  My husband and I are both vegan.  I’m also gluten free due to autoimmune issues.  My youngest daughter is vegetarian and my father has no dietary restrictions. Over the past several years, I’ve learned to master creating versatile meals in a timely manner while serving options to satisfy everyone’s dietary preferences.

Can you tell us why you decided to go vegan? Was it environmental?

My journey to a vegetarian diet and ultimate fully plant-based was quite unusual.  I simply sat down for dinner one summer night and went to take a bite of my grilled pork tenderloin (I remember it vividly) and it was like a switch went off.  I couldn’t eat it.  I ate my veggies and moved on.  I then had the typical concerns about protein.  How would I get enough to fuel my body and my running?  I jumped headfirst into a vegetarian lifestyle.  I immediately noticed my body was waging war on me.  The increase in dairy was not agreeing with my stomach, at all.  Every evening I was suffering severe pain, bloating and sadly gas (sorry for the real talk).  My husband flippantly suggested removing dairy.  But wait, could I go plant based and survive?  Well, I was willing to give it a try.  Four years later and I’m still alive and kicking.
Was it environmental? After my initial transition into this diet, I became more educated about animals and the environmental impact.  I’ve continually transitioned my life over to completely plant-based, including products I use, clothing and shoes I wear… everything.  It’s a process that takes time.  We’ve seen a trend in the past few years of people becoming more conscious about our food sources and choices.  Consumers are educating themselves on deforestation, acceleration of climate change, biodiversity loss and ultimately the depletion of limited natural resources on our planet.  Adopting a plant based diet is one of the most powerful choices a person can make to mitigate degradation of our environment.

What are the foods you eat most often to hit your protein requirements as an athlete?

Daily I love my Vega Sport protein powder but aside from that tempeh and tofu are my biggest protein sources.  Tofu is around 18-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces with very low calories.  Broccoli, edamame, quinoa, beans, and nuts are also incredible sources of my daily protein.

Lastly, do you ever cheat? 🙂

No, it’s my lifestyle and not a diet.  I would never cheat however, I have “accidentally” had dairy mixed in (think butter) on something at a restaurant that has rendered me horribly sick.

Thank you Robin for sharing with us! I’m already feeling more motivated to adopt more vegan choices into my lifestyle, baby steps over here. Over the next few weeks, Robin will be sharing recipe ideas on her blog Knead to Cook for dinner, quick breakfasts, meal prep and healthy desserts that even the kids will love. Also, follow her on Instagram @knead_to_cook
This past Monday I felt great without meat for a day and was still able to easily hit my protein goals using Robin’s recipes. And of course, a Happy Hubby is always a plus! For meal prep, I made Robin’s Black and white bean burger and vegan lasagna. This coming week, I can’t wait to try the veggie mac n cheese and the pumpkin applesauce oatmeal muffins for Lilah. I hope you guys will join me on Monday! I’m leaving you below with Robin’s Lentil Tomato Sauce.. yum!
Lots of Love,
Virginia

Robin’s Lentil Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Olive oil
1 large zucchini for spiralizing pasta noodles or use your favorite pasta
1 -28 ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried parsley
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil and parsley for finishing.
1 can of BPA free lentils – drained and rinsed

Directions:

Make your zoodles with your spiralizer sold here.  If not, make your favorite pasta.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Then add your onions, garlic and peppers.  Cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes.  Then add your spices and tomatoes.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend down the sauce until you reach a puree.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least 30-60 minutes.  Right before serving, I add the lentils and give a good stir.  Serve the sauce over your pasta or veggie noodles.

You can eat the zucchini raw or as I’ve found – I add them to a pot of salted boiling water for about 4 minutes and drain then serve.

Top with fresh parsley and basil.  Enjoy! – Robin

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