At the end of 2018, I attended a pot-luck dinner party with some friends. The majority of us brought holiday favorites such as casseroles, cheese platters, sugar cookies, etc. One of the guests at the party brought what I assumed to be a delicious platter of buffalo chicken bites. After asking her how she made them, she stunned me with a special ingredient: cauliflower. I was shook.
A common trend that occurs at the beginning of each year, during the ‘New Year New Me’ phase, is the endeavor to live a healthier lifestyle. This may include joining a gym, establishing a restful sleep routine, or indulging in an alternative nutrition plan. After having more of the aforementioned cauliflower “chicken” bites, the idea of an alternate diet became appealing. For the first time in my adult life, I chose to participate in this trial and error journey by consciously engaging in a healthier, cleaner diet—no meat, no bread, no sweets.
Now, I am normally good with my meal choices, but the sweet-toothed carnivore in me has had a hard time giving up certain foods in the past. My cousin helped bring to life this cleaner, plant-based approach. After careful consideration, and a little competitive motivation, I said yes. Challenge accepted.
With some initial hesitation and aggressive second thoughts, I searched the library catalog for books on how to eat clean, what foods to eat, and ways to keep my sanity from chocolate and donut deprivation. One of the biggest surprises I discovered during my research was the variety of alternatives out there for meat. There are countless of materials to help guide anyone who is even remotely interested in healthier eating or trying a cleaner, plant-based approach. Vegan cookbooks were my initial low-hanging fruit (if you’ll forgive the pun) into learning more about whole foods. Quick favorites of mine when starting this clean eating challenge, became the Black Bean Burger (as found in Susan O’Brien’s Guilt-free Vegan Comfort Foods) and cauliflower crust pizza (an alternative to traditional pizza crust—which has changed the game forever in my not so humble opinion). To my surprise,after trying a hefty handful of these recipes, my mind (and tastebuds) are now forever changed.
Reading these books, I came to realize that there are countless of options for many types of nutrition approaches. You can prepare your favorite homemade cookies by switching an ingredient or two; just as you can indulge in a delicious, made-from-scratch Italian dish—composed entirely from plant-based foods. Imagine eating a hearty stir-fry chicken bowl or a savory Mexican burrito without the sour gut or the guilt of extra calories.
In the books below, you will find alternative recipes for some of your favorite dishes, tips on how to get the pickiest of eaters to finish their plates, and how food can inspire you to be the best you you never knew existed. Take it from Questlove, Food is one of our most basic needs. Changing around your diet and ways of thinking can potentially shift your life in a healthier, happier way. Check it out for yourself.
Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World by Victoria Moran
Victoria Moran is a well-known vegan. With more than 30 years of living a vegan lifestyle, she knows a thing or two about having a clean diet. In Main Street Vegan, Victoria shares some simple ‘baby steps’ one can take into the vegan lifestyle, without having to abruptly dive head first into eating plant-based. She not only shares some of her favorite recipes, but also the spiritual and physical benefits eating clean can do.
But I Could Never Go Vegan – 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner by Kristy Turner
If I told you that you could make your very own vegan friendly, zesty ranch sauce, would you believe me? Lo and behold, blogger-author Kristy Turner has found the secret, as well as some of our favorite sauces—vegan style. Your tastebuds (and stomach) will fall in love with the cauliflower pizza.
Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore: Dinner for Everyone at the Table by Anna Thomas
Sometimes it’s tough to satisfy everyone’s cravings, especially picky eaters, who perhaps only eat chicken nuggets. This book has recipes for vegans and vegetarians with options for preparing dishes for meat-eaters, too. Learn how to prepare dishes for all occasions and holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas that will satisfy all of your guests. A note: my personal favorite was the Ratatouille from Charcoal Grill on page 263.
For someone who indulges in his sweet tooth craving all too often, I was thrilled to find that there are alternatives to eating calorie and chemical-crammed desserts. This book is filled with delicious recipes and includes one of my favorite flavors: chocolate!
Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food: 125 Simple and Satisfying Recipes, from Mac N’ Cheese to Chocolate Cupcakes by Susan O’ Brien
Nothing is more comforting that comfort food (see what I did there). If you have ever felt that dieting means giving up your favorite foods, then this book is meant to teach you otherwise. Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food shares recipes that are delicious and easy-to-make, such as the popular Black Bean Burger and Banana & Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Two things I love in this world: food and art. Questlove has put together a collection of stories and photography from his travels all around the world, interviewing both well-known chefs and the people behind the forks and knives. This book helps change the way we see food and even hopes to inspire you to create your own meals, a la art.