The Engine 2 Diet Review part 2…The Lifestyle!!!

Grab life by the kale!!!
Before I start, it’s been an exciting week (if you are a foodie) in my household…We finally discovered Spaghetti Squash and had a chance to try the Beefless Burger from Gardein, currently my favorite mock meat people!   That will be in my next blog so make sure you stick around!!!  I am now on Twitter and also have a Fan Page on Facebook so there are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your favorite vegan housewife 🙂  Also, in even more exciting news, I finally sent off my finished article to T.O.F.U. Magazine and hopefully soon I can share with all of you what I wrote about once the new issue comes out.  Now without any further delay….Here’s my take on the Engine 2 Lifestyle.  And since this review was split in two parts, I am also enclosing a recipe that is definitely worth trying 🙂

The best way to start is to go back to a couple years ago when my old vegan neighbor Meredith sought help and advice from a nutritionist.  It was cool enough that she was vegan but then she told Chuck and I that her vegan friendly nutritionist told her to cut out the oils in her foods and she mentioned about sauteing food in water or stock…I was blown away!!!  My first thought was “How dare you get rid of fat!” and “Fat is good for you as long as it’s a healthy fat, right?”  Of course, back then I thought all vegans were healthy and for the most part, thin.  Whenever I saw a fat vegan, I just figured they had bad genes or had a medical condition.  What I now know is that Meredith was way ahead of me and probably most vegans who embrace this lifestyle.  Veganism in general will without a doubt help you lose weight, but that alone is not the whole picture.  Like with any eating lifestyle, you have to consider portions, calories, fats, etc. to really make this work in your best interest.  One doctor on TV said it best that eating an orange is good for you, it’s just when you eat 500 oranges in one sitting is when you run into dietary trouble.  The Engine 2 Diet book addresses this issue very well and Rip Esselstyn did a great job making this as easy as possible.  Just look at the photo I posted above with Rip embracing those fruits and vegetables….Trust me, you will be hugging your produce good and tight well before your 28 Day Challenge is over 😉

I just want to break for a moment and mention that you do not have to be vegan in order to embark on the Engine 2 lifestyle.  Those who took the 28 Day Challenge with me for the most part were not vegan.  Some were all about the meat, oil and cheeses but wanted to see if this route was any better than the diet they were used to eating.  It amazed me how every week when I attended the support meetings that their views on veganism became more and more positive.  They no longer saw this as deprivation but saw this as an eye opener.  Non-vegans aside….Even the current vegans got a wake up call as well in their own way.  To further explain…I swear to everyone that vegans are the biggest foodies out there.  Not even touching the subject of restaurants, whenever a new vegan product comes out, we will try it and if it’s really good (in most cases it is!), we will buy so much of it that we need an extra storage unit in our house to hold it all (my pantry alone is proof of this theory!).  We will also tell our vegan friends who in turn, will do the same.  Not all vegan food is created equal and most importantly, not all vegan food is necessarily healthy.  There are the same obstacles we face that come in the form of white flour, sugar, added oils.  Also, vegans have a way of showing extreme financial support to any company (or restaurant) that has made an honest effort in making our lives easier.  Sounds all too familiar, huh???    During these weekly support meetings, it became apparent to everyone that the struggles were all the same, regardless of what you ate like before.  We all had to lean on Kristen, our Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods, to make it through the 28 Days…Just luckily, Kristen always had healthy treats waiting for us every Wednesday evening and additional recipes to help us through the week 😉

To continue on to the Engine 2 Diet book, none of the claims Rip Esselstyn makes can really be disputed.  Everything he mentions in the book has a very solid medical backing, courtesy of his whole family background of doctors, especially his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who has written a similar book a while back that is still being promoted by cardiologists to this date.  Also I should add that Dr. Esselstyn was one of the driving forces that inspired former President Bill Clinton into a vegan lifestyle.  Best of all, Rip is not pushing supplements or telling you to count points.  In fact, his website gives you a good gist of his program along with posting a handful of recipes from the book.  It’s pretty clear that he wasn’t out to get rich writing this book, he was trying to save lives.  If there is one thing I would advise while reading his book is to be prepared to know a lot about Rip as a person as this at times came off as a personal book.  At times while reading it, I could hear Rip’s voice narrating as my eyes were moving with each word.  Now after taking this 28 Day Challenge, I am more mindful of what I add to my food…especially the oil.  Right now as I am typing, I have a Vegan Moussaka in the oven that was an old favorite recipe of mine (I will post a recipe if it turns out well!) but I gave it a total overhaul.  In my old recipe, I would put a generous one cup of olive oil total from start to finish…That’s of 1,920 calories and 224 grams of fat!!!  So the dish is about roughly 6 servings so you are looking at an additional 320 calories and a little over 2 grams of fat per serving in oil alone….This may sound mild to some of you but just remember that there are other ingredients to consider that will make those numbers creep up in no time.  Hopefully as you are reading this, those numbers concern you as much as it concerned me…And the healthy modifications are so simple and best of all, you are not going to miss the added oils- I promise you that! 

So even though the 28 Day Challenge has came and gone, a lot of what Rip has taught me has stuck.  He lives “Plant Strong” 100% of the time and I admire him for that.  If you look at my household currently, I would say it’s safe to say that we are currently eating Engine 2 friendly meals about 85% of the time.  Although everything we eat is vegan but I will admit, Chuck and I have indulged in a piece of non healthy sweets here and there.  But at least now we are more aware and for whatever unhealthy recipe I have saved in my MacGourmet, I can come up with a couple good healthy modifications to make it better for your waistline 😉 

So with all of this being said, I am happy I took the 28 Day Challenge and I definitely have Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville to thank, and most importantly, Kristen Rabourdin, their official Healthy Eating Specialist for making all of this happen (did I forget to mention those awesome treats she made for us during our meetings?).  Now since you have been so patient about my review of Engine 2, I am pleased to post a VERY delicious recipe, courtesy of the lovely Kristen Rabourdin…This spread was a HUGE hit at one of our meetings and it would be a crime not to share it with you!!!  This healthy dip reminds me of carrot cake and has a perfect sweet/salty ratio.  My equipment of choice is to use a really, really, really good blender, like my trusty Vitamix (worth every penny!) or a decent food processor.  If your pureeing equipment is subpar, you can always lightly steam the carrots beforehand….

Carrot Cashew Spread
3 carrots, chopped (no need to peel just a good, gentle scrub)
1 cup of raw cashew pieces, divided (Kristen used 1/2 raw and 1/2 roasted…I only had raw at my house so I just added a pinch of salt to taste)
15 dried apricots, cut into quarters (approx 1/2 cup)
Blend and add carrot juice or water as needed until you reach desired consistency (think hummus!).  Serve with whole grain crackers or bread (especially any that qualify for Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here line)
I am not the best photographer but I swear it is worth trying!!!

Bon Appetit!!! 

Engine 2 Diet Review Part 1…The Food!!!

This delicious vegan Flag Cake also had vegan vanilla pudding and extra berries as filling!

Last week while Chuck was off work, I feeling pretty distracted (especially on July 4th-hence this beautiful creation you see here!).  Although we decided to stay home and not travel too far, it seemed like every day there was something to do.  Luckily, I managed to get a few things out of the way and there’s only one thing I am still working on and that’s my article for T.O.F.U Magazine!  C-ville Vegan had its first blog post on July 8th (and another on Monday!) and although I will admit in my recent post I might have come off as harsh but I felt it was rightfully so…I was lured to a restaurant with the intention of trying a popular vegan menu item that is still advertised on their website and upon my arrival, I was told otherwise and was given a substitution I could have gotten virtually anywhere in Charlottesville.  All venting aside, yesterday was the last day of the 28 Day Challenge of the Engine 2 Diet.  During these 28 days, there was a lot of information, recipes, meetings and feedback and I felt in order to give this review the justice it deserves, it was best done in two parts and what a better way than to start off than by talking about the food!!!

French Toast using Ezekiel bread

I want to first start off by admitting that breakfast was definitely a treat when the Engine 2 Diet was involved.  The lesson I learned about breakfast while on the 28 Day Challenge was that very few cereal brands out there really do live up to their claims.  Although I consider myself an expert at reading the label for vegan ingredients, I was blown away when I was reading the nutrition labels.  I seriously have been in the dark when it came to the sugar content in most cereals!  As a result, I have now leaned a bit to brand loyalty…Kashi, Nature’s Path, Ezekiel, Barbara’s Bakery, and Uncle Sam always seem to be the safest bets (just check for all vegan ingredients!).  Cold cereals aside, the French Toast and Breakfast Tacos were really good (and easy!).  I also baked a batch of Mighty Muffins but I do believe that the portions were a bit off as I wound up making 18 muffins versus the 6 that was mentioned as the serving amount (another E2 participant mentioned the same issue)…consider yourself warned 😉  Not everyone (including me!) can cook a hot breakfast but the one thing I was inspired to do during these 28 days was to freeze my Mighty Muffins and Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes in advance so during the week if I was not in the mood for cereal then I had something in the freezer that I could give a zap in the microwave and have a hot breakfast in a snap.

Now as far as lunch/dinner recipes go in the book, some were hit or miss…The best recipes in this category were the Black Beans and Rice, which reminded Chuck and I of a Burrito Bowl at Chipotle (but better!) and the Sloppy Joes, where the recipe was a dead ringer for a Manwich!  The Mexican Lime Soup was fantastic as well and definitely deserves honorable mention.  Most people I spoke to loved the Lynn’s Meatloaf  recipe but it couldn’t hold a flame to the recipe I use.  However I converted Lynn’s Meatloaf into stuffed peppers and it was even better…So much better that my meat and potato eating (but open to vegan food) inlaws loved it 🙂  Also, the Sweet Potato and Vegetable Lasagna was definitely worth the hype but it’s definitely not a meal that will be on your table in 30 minutes or less.  There was a lot of prepwork in that recipe but the end result was worth it. 

As far as the not-so-great recipes go, the Red Beans and Kale over Quinoa was just too weird tasting (and you had to mash the beans quite a bit to thicken the sauce) and the Mac and Not Cheese was not a meal I could pass off as a vegan “Macaroni and Cheese” (now if you want a great Mac n’ Cheese recipe that works well with the omnis, just click here).  The Shepherd’s Pie recipe was decent but yet again, I have a recipe (that I will blog in the VERY near future) that I normally make as care packages for my friends who fall ill or the new moms in my church who need a good meal that requires no fuss and tastes great.  Rip’s version of Shepherd’s Pie was passable but my version is easier and can be made “E2 approved” with only a couple minor modifications that no one would ever notice.  Then there’s the Red Curry Vegetables over Brown Rice that was just plain gross 🙁  That’s saying a lot since I rarely turn down anything with curry…

Then there were snacks and desserts…The Healthy Hummus was pretty good.  It wasn’t as creamy as conventional hummus but it was definitely worthy of spreading it on a sandwich or dipping your pita pieces into.  If there was one recipe worth trying but it would make anyone cringe at the name, that prize would go to Kale Butter.  It looked like green slop but it was the best green slop I have ever had!!!  I was spreading this on crackers and if I was making a sandwich, I could definitely see myself using this as a condiment.  When I posted on Facebook that I was making Kale Butter…you wouldn’t believe the comments I got as a result!!!  But most of my friends know that although I am vegan, I am all about good food and food that I can pass off to my non-vegan friends so I have a feeling that one of them gave the recipe a shot all because of my endorsement 😉  Moving onto sweets…I really LOVED the brownies!!!  I was a bit taken by how much applesauce it called for but you would have never known once you had a taste of this chocolatey confection!  It also went great with the (super easy and better for you) Banana Ice Cream that was not mentioned in his book…needless to say, Chuck and I loved our E2 brownie sundaes 🙂  In the cookies category of the Engine 2 Diet book, hands down- the Oatmeal Cookie was far better than the Chocolate Chip.  The Chocolate Chip cookie reminded me too much of a mini cake or a scone than an actual cookie but the Oatmeal Cookie was perfection.  Also I made the Blueberry Dumpster Fire Cobbler which I mentioned in a past post that was great once I modified the recipe.

Now I know I am throwing a lot of recipes out there and a lot of reviews but during my 28 Day Challenge I was cooking a lot from the Engine 2 Diet book and it would have been nearly impossible to post each recipe individually on this blog.  Even in blogs like Julie/Julia, Julie could only blog one meal at a time and here I am making roughly on average of three Engine 2 Diet meals a day…I must say I am quite the overachiever 😉  The next book I am cooking my way through, Sweetness Without Sugar, it should be easier to post individually (with more photos!) as I am only focusing on sweets in comparison to “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks”. The next part of this review will be my overall take of the Engine 2 Diet book and living the Engine 2 lifestyle.  But if you would like to try some of the recipes yourself, the Engine 2 Diet website has posted a few for you to try so you can see for yourself.  That should keep you busy until my next post…

A Working Vacation…

Thank goodness for vacations!!!  Chuck was fortunate enough to have some “use or lose” time on his hands and I couldn’t have asked for it at a better time.  We are not planning on going anywhere big during the time he has off (which is a first) but it’s nice to have him around to take care of Raegan while I am trying to blog and get a few other projects out of the way.  Which brings me to a few great updates….

The first project I need to get out of the way this week is my article for T.O.F.U. Magazine.  They are based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and they offer a great vegan magazine composed of many contributing writers from around the world and it seems that they are always looking for people to write about things going on in the vegan community-no matter how big or small that they seem.  Their magazine issues are on a “pay as you want” basis with a minimum purchase of $0 (therefore you can get it for free but I am encouraging all of those interested to donate a little something to help out a great cause!).  I think this would be a great opportunity to not only promote my blog, but to also show readers a side of veganism that often gets looked over.  Also, I can inform people that there is a vegan movement growing outside of the “college hipster” scene and into what most people consider the typical, traditional “All American Family” or those who are considered established in their careers.  I want to thank Ryan Patey, the editor of T.O.F.U. for giving me the inspiration to write about it 🙂

The next big project is to revive a website my husband and I founded nearly two years ago called C-ville Veg*n.  It kind of fell by the wayside mainly due to the fact that back then we both had hectic jobs and were just too tired to even post once a week.  And then with Raegan’s arrival, it just gave us more of an excuse to be even more lazy about it 🙁  My chief complaint was that it lacked real direction and I feel that this “revival” is going to fix that.  In my honest opinion, I feel that every successful website or blog out there needs to have a vision.  You don’t have to aim high, it can just be a small, simple purpose that means something to you and comes from the heart.  To me, C-Ville Veg*n needed to be kept in C-ville, hence the title.  Chuck and I made a deal that we would make more of an effort to try places off the beaten path in Charlottesville that would appeal to vegans.  Afterall, there’s only so many times you can hear about the same 5 veg-friendly places in Charlottesville until you feel like you are trapped.  I think for any vegan entering our town, this website could serve to be a great resource 🙂

On another topic, I have been cooking my way through the Engine 2 Diet book and I am confident to say that I probably tried more recipes than most of my friends who are taking the 28 Day Challenge with me right now.  I promise all of you that I will provide a run down of the recipes I have tried and give you my honest opinion on each of them once I am finished with the 28 days.  My “graduation” is on July 13th so that’s merely around the corner! 

While on the topic of Engine 2, I have decided to share with you a recipe inspired by the book.  It all started when I was talking to Kristen, who is the Healthy Eating Specialist at our local Whole Foods Market, about the Blueberry Dumpster Cobbler recipe.  We both agreed that it was NOT pretty looking (OK-I referred to it as “puke” but please bear with me!) when you combine the ingredients together and the final result was a blueberry creation with a crust that seemed like there was something significant missing to truly call it a “cobbler“.  Overall it was a tasty dessert but something was definitely missing.  That conversation led to me to looking at the local peaches I had in my kitchen and the ideas I threw around with Kristen.  Needless to say, I truly believe that I invented a healthier Peach Cobbler!!!  I’m not sure if you ever watched the movie, Duece Bigalow: Male Gigolo, but in one scene Deuce is with one of his “clients” and they are playing a game of Trivial Pursuit that was based around “Cakes and Pies…Cakes and Pies!” and if there was one thing I learned from that scene is that Peach Cobbler is a pie that contains the most sugar out of all the varieties out there!  In this version I am about to share, there is only 3 Tablespoons of raw agave nectar which to me is saying a lot since is did turn out to be a pretty good cobbler 🙂  I wish I could have a picture to go along with this recipe but it was so good it didn’t last long enough for a photo session!!! 

Robin’s E2 Approved Peach Cobbler
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 milk substitute (almond, soy, hemp…you choose!)
3 Tablespoons of raw agave nectar

2 cups of chopped peaches (I left the fuzzy skins on to keep the peaches intact but I’m sure you can peel them if you wish and get the same effect…same goes with frozen!)


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine all the ingredients except the peaches in a medium sized bowl.  The batter will be very runny!  Pour the runny batter in a 9X9 non stick pan or a pan that has been lightly sprayed with oil and top with peaches.  Bake for 45 minutes or until browned.  A great option is to serve this with Rip’s Magic Banana Ice Cream which is NOT found in his book 🙂

Still keeping on the subject of cooking and cookbooks, last week I got an exciting email from Wendy Vigdor-Hess, RD.  She is from the Charlottesville area and has been a nutritionist, educator, speaker and consultant for nearly 18 years.  She just recently came out with her first book titled, Sweetness Without Sugar and I was offered by Wendy to cook my way through her book the same way I cooked my way through the Engine 2 Diet.  Sweetness Without Sugar is a cookbook/cooking resource that is not only sugar free but also free of other common allergens such as dairy, egg, wheat and soy (obviously all vegan!).  Now before anyone reads the term “sugar free”, I am in no way talking about using Splenda or any of those commercial artificial sweeteners…Wendy’s book replaces refined sugars with natural sweeteners and gives great alternatives to recreating your favorite desserts.  I have met Wendy at a few Vegan Meetup events for nearly two years and I can tell you, she is very passionate about total wellness.  Being offered this opportunity is so exciting that I have also decided to delegate Chuck into providing photography (it’s his new hobby and he has a serious camera to prove it!) for the sweet creations I plan to recreate from Wendy’s book.  You should expect this shortly after my Engine 2 Diet graduation.

Wrapping things up, I am pretty excited about the things I will be taking part in this summer and I haven’t even mentioned all of them!  Although this week is technically a vacation in our household, there is still so much work to be done and so many opportunities to share on my blog so…

Our Dinner with Rip…

Talk about a fascinating evening!!!

I wish I could tell you guys that after I published my first blog post I had this HUGE party with a ton of vegan celebrities on the guest list like Woody Harrelson, Tal Ronnen, and Alicia Silverstone, but my life isn’t that glamorous to say the least.  However, shortly after my first blog post, I was given an opportunity (along with everyone else in the Charlottesville area!) to have dinner with Rip Esselstyn, the creator of the Engine 2 Diet.  The event was hosted by our local Whole Foods Market, which very recently went through a transition of their own.  They FINALLY (after 6 years of talk!) opened a new store and in comparison to the older store they had, this is definitely my version of heaven 😉 

Anyways, back to the subject at hand…

The dinner was held Wednesday evening at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville and for those who wanted to sign up for the 28 Day Challenge, Whole Foods would donate $28 to the UVA Burn Unit for each person who wanted to participate in this win-win situation.  Also, to sweeten the deal, admission to the event was $5 but a $5 gift voucher to Whole Foods was given in return for just attending the event!  I noticed a few firefighters and EMTs at this event as well which really made for such an overall great event 🙂  The food was catered by Whole Foods but it stuck with the Engine 2 Diet recipes which was filling but I have to side with a couple of friends of mine who went and say it was a tad bland but Rip did explain that not all the food provided was done exactly to his specifications when it came to flavor and certain garnishes (like the ground cashews for a nutty cheesy effect) for his Sweet Potato Lasagna.  I guess I will give Mr. Esselstyn a pass since he did give me a great autograph to add to my (very small) collection 😉

You may ask yourself why I took this long to post if I went to this fantastic event.  Well…my explanation is very simple, I actually took the time to read the whole book cover to cover!  Although it is an easy read but it’s a challenge to sit down and read anything when you are dealing with an infant…

She can see through your soul and still demand more attention!

I took the book with me to my hair appointment (I probably came across as rude but I had my goal in sight and no salon gossip was going to keep me away from it!) and any time I had free and this weekend, I gladly gave Chuck “baby duty”.  While reading this book, I did have an “ah-ha” moment regarding the meals I prepare at our house.  Although my meals are always 100% vegan and fresh and/or frozen produce take center stage, I really realized how much oil I put into my food and just how easily I will use my organic unbleached white flour and vegan fair trade sugar without a second thought.  I do have standards like any other wife/mother, for instance I will always use whole grain pastas/rice and I make a lot of things from scratch because it’s healthier and cost effective.  After reading this book, it made me take a second look at what I was really feeding my family.  There was never one moment that I felt like a bad provider, but like all people who try to live well and eat well sometimes along the way you feel like you made too many “exceptions” and now those “exceptions” are coming back to haunt you.  I agree with a lot of what Rip is trying to say and if you ask around, not many people (and zero medical experts!) arguing against him. 

What I am hoping to get from this book is simple….To look better and to feel better.  When it comes to looks, clinically speaking, my weight is considered “average” but if I were to gain 5lbs right now, without a doubt I would be creeping into the “overweight” category.  Unlike most of the friends I know, I never, ever, ever, ever had the dreaded weight talk with my doctor.  Also, most people might feel that I should be given some slack since I had a baby 6 months ago…to me it’s just an excuse and it’s one I never used and never will use (some people are amazed how much I have already lost since child birth!).  Weightwise, I hope this program will get me at an overall better weight. 

Now on the health side of things, I suffer from 2 irritating ailments that effect most people.  The major one right now is Acid Reflux, also known as GERD.  I have dealt with this issue for well over 2 years now and have been subjected to many tests that lead to no real answer.  Instead, I have to take medication twice a day in order to feel remotely comfortable.  I go to one of the best GI doctors in the nation and I still suffer 🙁  The other ailment I have is PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS.  This ailment is what forced me to seek fertility treatment 2 years ago and to finally have Raegan.  Sadly, PCOS can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, along with infertility, unwanted hair on the face (sometimes chest in extreme cases), excess weigh around the middle (my trouble spot for MANY years), and adult acne.  Some celebrities who have PCOS include Victoria Beckham, Kate Gosselin, and Jillian Michaels to name a VERY small few.  Chuck and I would love to add another child to our family but what we would really love is to get pregnant without all the doctors and drugs…But I also made peace knowing that getting pregnant again might require going back to the specialists and I’m confident to say that we are both prepared for that regardless. 

So to sum it all up (minus the sob story!), I would like to fix what’s ailing me and it appears that Rip’s approach might help with some of that and I am always willing to give things “the old college try!”

Now before I end this post, I want to also inform my audience that this blog will NOT be in any way 100% focused on the Engine 2 Diet…My life is more than that and I promised all of you (including myself) that this blog will have some variety unlike most blogs out there.  This just kind of fell into my lap while I was creating this blog and it’s definitely worth talking about.  I signed up for the 28 Day Challenge in hopes that this might open even more doors to this blog and more importantly, my own life.  This Wednesday, (June 15th) is the first day of the 28 Day Challenge.  Whole Foods has provided support group sessions along with providing experts in Behavioral Management to help along the way.  I think the thing I am excited about is doing something and actually finishing until the end.  It’s been a long time that I have done something like that and I remember that awesome feeling of accomplishment! 

Moving forward, I will be attending the Richmond Vegetarian Festival this weekend (just as a patron…not a speaker!  OK not yet anyways…) and also I have been contacted to contribute an article for a small vegan magazine located on the west coast.  I have absolutely no idea on what I want to write about (I am open to ideas!) and I feel guilty for not really having any awesome ideas but whatever I come up with, you bet, I will be sharing it here 🙂  As I am typing this, somewhere in my mind I am just thinking about my little vegan dreams coming alive.  When I became vegan back in late 2008 (literally months after Chuck and I were married) we originally did it for health/animal welfare reasons and soon enough, the ripple effect happened and I couldn’t be happier 🙂  If one day I become a famous blogger or vegan writer, I certainly hope I get a chance to thank all of you personally who followed me all the way back to this humble post.  If there is one thing for sure, this Real Vegan Housewife is going to have one awesome year ahead…