Fast Food
September 15, 2010

Great responses to my autumn soup, guys! Now you have been itching to get back into the kitchen and try my hand at more varieties. Stay tuned.

A few days ago, I got the following reader question via email from reader Amy:

Gena, one of the things I like the most about your blog is that you constantly remind us that you’re a working person without too much time to prepare food. As a mother of three, I can relate! But the meals you show us seem so perfect, and I often wonder how you have time to make them when you’re working late. Do you only post your weekend dinners? What do you do during the week? I want to make healthy meals for myself, but I have to admit that, once I’m done feeding my kids, it’s hard not to just pull something out of a box. What’s your secret?

Great question! I’m passionate about showing my readers that eating wholesome food is not a luxury of time. But you’re right to point out, Amy, that I can’t and don’t show you all of my weeknight meals. If I did, you’d be staring at a lot of salad photos, and it would get boring pretty quickly! I make up recipes on weekends and weeknights when I get home before 8 pm–it keeps me motivated to use free time to my culinary advantage, and it helps me to celebrate an end to the work day with good food.

There are plenty of nights, however, when I get home later than that, and/or I have editing to do until I fall asleep. On those nights, I make the quickest, least stressful meal I can. Most of the time, it’s a nutrient-dense salad with whatever toppings I have. Sometimes it’s a raw flatbread with hummus or nut pate. Sometimes it’s a blended salad, which I’ll always serve with fresh vegetables and some other side dish–maybe rice, maybe beans, maybe a hunk of sprouted bread. Sometimes I have leftovers at the ready, which makes life easy. It really depends on what’s in my fridge and what I’m craving.

On Tuesday night, I got home at 8:43 pm. Not the wee hours, exactly, but too late for me to bother much with a recipe. A quick survey of my fridge revealed a couple of things:

  • hummus, leftover from Friday’s dinner
  • tomatoes that are about to expire
  • lots of salad greens
  • cashew alfredo, which has kept beautifully since last week’s zucchini pasta dinner
  • broccoli

I also have a boatload of raw breads and crackers, thanks to my recent dehydration kick, but I actually wasn’t craving them that night; instead, I wanted good, old fashioned whole grains. So whole grains is what I had, in the form of a sprouted Ezekiel tortilla. Rather than having a regular wrap, I decided to do a cheater’s “pizza,” and warm it up in my oven. This was the lovely result:

I topped half of that tortilla with hummus, tomatoes, and nutritional yeast, and the other half with tomatoes, broccoli, and my cashew cheese. Into a hot oven (400 degrees) it went for about fifteen minutes–or however long it took for me to wash, spin, and massage my raw kale:

As soon as it came out of the oven, I topped the hummus half of my pizza with fresh arugula (Anne, I’m obsessed, too!):

I must confess that the rawbie in me was horrified to see slightly burnt cashew cheese…

…but it tasted terrific.

This meal didn’t win any points for innovation, but it was fast, convenient, a good use of leftovers, semi raw, all vegan, and totally delicious:

Never be deceived into thinking that a healthy meal must involve hours of dehydrating, sprouting, boiling, or baking. It simply doesn’t work that way. With even the slightest bit of culinary creativity, you can assemble something quickly that’s as satisfying as it is healthful. You’ll avoid eating frozen food for dinner, or the NYC-dweller’s trap of spending upwards of $15.00 on takeout! This is my kind of fast food.

Before I bid you adieu, check out my latest blog post for Whole Living Daily, on plant based diets and osteoporosis prevention.

I’m often asked about calcium on a vegan diet: how do I get it, what’s a good source, and how much do we need? On the whole, I recommend that women get at least 1,000 mg of calcium+vitamin D3 daily, and men about 1,200 mg daily. Given how hard it is for most of us–vegans  and omnis both–to meet these needs, this is one time when I do suggest a supplement (I like this one right now).

Naturally, taking a supplement doesn’t mean ignoring food sources–supplements go by the name they do for a reason! Food should always be your first source of nourishment, and the best vegan sources for calcium include:

  • chia seeds
  • tofu and tempeh
  • blackstrap molasses
  • sesame seeds and tahini
  • kale, collards, turnip greens, bok choy, broccoli
  • fortified rice or soymilk
  • almonds and almond butter

Still, in our mission to get more calcium, most of us tend to forget that our nationwide osteoperosis rates are not only due to what our diets lack, but also what they have in excess. Excessive protein consumption and processed food consumption has been linked definitively to bone loss. In the article, I explain why, and I say a few words about how you might prevent this. Enjoy it!

Have a great night.

xo

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    29 Comments
  1. What a great post. I’ve been feeling the same way with my weeknight meals as my work days gets busier and longer. It helps to plan out the recipes for the week ahead of time, according to what ingredients you have on hand. Loving the pizza idea, I think I’ll need to try that one.

  2. Your “fast food” suggestion is almost exactly what I live on for dinner during busy weeks. I just load up the ezekial tortilla w/veggies and herbs and I’m in heaven. Always feels decadent but totally healthy!!

  3. Hey Gena!
    What a pretty recipe! I’m a college student as well, and I really appreciate how you show us to eat simple and wholesome. I have been wondering about my calcium levels as I am on my second week of being all-raw. I’m eating SO much dark leafy greens. However, I don’t think that I what I eat daily can reach your daily recommended levels.
    How do I know that the raw vegan supplement you recommended will be enough and actually work? Sometimes I worry that I do all this and might end up with osteoporosis anyways. I do exercise regularly and keep calm. Any advice, please?

  4. I am learning so much from your blog and I think it’s awesome! The fact that you touch on making meals with little or no time really hits home for me. Being an extremely busy college student on a budget I can really relate to the necessity of a quick and easy meal. The other vital part of you posts that I love to read are the health tips. Something like flat bread and hummus is one of my favorite dishes and I think more people need to know how great it tastes while still being health friendly. I can’t wait to try some more of your recipes and indulge in a self made dinner that is nothing less than a real treat!

  5. Hey, I wanted to also add that Vitamin D is super important for being able to absorb calcium. The RDAs for vitamin D are actually being rethought right now– some researchers think that we’ve all got rickets!

    Vitamin D is important not only for osteoporosis, but also for many autoimmune disorders as well. Many immunologists are hypothesizing that people who live in higher latitudes and don’t get as much sunlight have a higher chance of developing immunological imbalances such as MS. Calcium is great, but make sure you get enough sunshine, too 🙂

  6. Thanks, Gena. I really wouldn’t mind seeing some boring posts because I like seeing what you eat that’s fast and easy, even if it isn’t fancy. Even things that seem really easy may be different to others For example, I never would have thought of making a mini pizza. But one of my go-to fast foods is instant colcannon (recipe: http://healthandhappinessinla.blogspot.com/2010/07/instant-colcannon.html) and I know others wouldn’t think of that.

    Anyways, I feel like most people I know who are my age and single live off of restaurant food and frozen/boxed meals. Now a 30 minute meal isn’t fast anymore, unfortunately.

  7. I had one of those “fast food” days myself. It may not have been 100% “blogworthy,” but we did it and it was tasty. And way better than a burger and fries! You can deliver my pizza any time (for peas sake, that sounds dirty).

  8. Love the fast food idea! There are days when we do not have time, nor feel like, making something special so to speak. Arugula with avocado is my one of my favorite ways to eat arugula!!

  9. You often seem to blog about exactly what i need – and today it was an idea for dinner – while i was researching calcium supplements. THANKS for both! Thanks for always being so helpful, creative and inspiring!

  10. I feel like whenever I get home late from work or feel too tired to make something for dinner, I remind myself that you are much much busier than me, and still are able to make fresh, healthy meals. Even today as I was driving home from work I was thinking that I really didn’t feel like cooking & then cleaning the kitchen as was trying to remember if I had some sort of vegan frozen dinner to throw in the microwave (I know…trying to get away from those completely). Then I remembered I had all the stuff for your sweet potato chickpea burgers and the minute I got home I threw them together in no time. It was quick, easy, delicious, and so much more satisfying that if I had eaten a frozen dinner. A lot of times, making something for dinner takes way less time and energy than you think. Plus, now I have a leftover burger that I can take for lunch tomorrow or if I’m nice, let my husband eat when he gets home from work late tonight. 😉

  11. Okay, just a week ago, I heard a podcast about how too much protein does NOT lead to bone loss, and that such research is outdated. I am now officially CONFUSED. But I’m not too bothered, since I don’t OD on protein ever.

    My idea of a vegan fast food would be just chomping on fruits and nuts…or Oreos (eating one right now!). Tee hee. What? I heard it’s vegan!
    ……aw, stop looking at me with that disappointed glare of disapproval, Gena…>___<

  12. Really informative and well written calcium article. The acid/buffer system makes a lot of sense and also explains why traditional Asian cultures with little to no dairy and a high plant based diet have low rates of osteoporosis. Interesting stuff.

  13. I’m all for broccoli-topped pizza!
    Regarding the osteoporosis issue, I am actually writing a literature review on low bone density (specifically within the anorexic population), but I’ll be sure to keep me eye out for research on the effects of protein consumption too.

  14. The tortilla pizza is one of my favorites things ever (and yes, I use the feckless brown rice tortillas to do make them :P) – lately I do a combination of tomato paste and veggies on top, and sprinkle some of your hempesan when I take it out of the oven. I love how you show meals that fit into a busy person’s schedule. 🙂

  15. I appreciate the quick meal ideas. I tend to cook on the weekends and reheat during the week specifically to avoid too much week-day cooking. I made a “cheater’s pizza” on the grill this summer. Thanks for the reminder I make it in the oven, too 😉

  16. I was just thinking about calcium today and whether I’m getting enough in my diet to prevent future bone loss, so thanks for the article! I will be sure to read it right now. And I love your quick dinner, I did something like that for lunch yesterday!

  17. Gena this is what most of my meals look like (except a lot more stuff on the tortilla)! Simple salads, wraps, “quesadillas” and burritos, shakes, or quick stir frys. I appreciate posts like this the most, where you show how you throw odds and ends together into a nourishing meal! One pot, or one blender, or one pan, or one bowl- that’s definitely my kind of meal. Many of your readers love prepping food- me included, when I have time- but a lot of us are looking for ways to eat healthfully and tastefully and “stay on track” with our nutrition as fast as possible- forget about how interesting the recipe or novel the idea. Recently I’ve been making a lot of asian tossed salads and also using them as fillings for wraps, spring rolls, and egg rolls. I also made some innovative energy bars loosely based on the recipes on your blog and others… now that I have a functional cell with a better camera, I’ll be posting them!
    In response to the reader’s comment, by far the biggest factor for me in staying on track is what I have in my fridge. If I have tasty freezer eats I can be tempted to make them. But if all my food at home is healthy whole ingredients- and that’s pretty much the case right now- then I HAVE to prep something, and it’s likely to come out healthy, given that what I have is almost entirely veggies, nuts, grains, beans, frozen berries and fruit, and sweeteners and spices. I also feel no shame in quickly toasting wholesome veggie burgers (praegers, TJ’s masala patties, or sunshine burgers) on “those nights.”

  18. This says it all: “This meal didn’t win any points for innovation, but it was fast, convenient, a good use of leftovers, semi raw, all vegan, and totally delicious”–

    However I do think it was innovative and it’s beautiful and colorful. I eat with my eyes, I think we all do, and if foods are sporting some rainbow colors, I cant really get into them. Maybe that’s why no one likes canned peas or green beans, the color is just so meh. Anyway, great job on that and I love that you said you avoid the $15 takeout trap. And multiply that x3 or x5 for most families if you were to just “get lazy”. Everyone needs to eat and the bill gets crazy, in a hurry!

    And your whole discussion on calcium. I did a big post on calcium about 6 mos or so ago. I mentioned that drinking milk is actually bad for you from a calcium perspective. It’s so high in phosphorus which actually causes calcium to be leached from bones in order to metabolize it; which is the opposite effect most people are trying to achieve when drinking it. Paradoxical but true.

    And all of our acidic choices from dairy to coffee to alcohol to processed foods…they all leach calcium, not help us. So true when you said that “not only due to what our diets lack, but also what they have in excess.”–Amen!

    Great post, Gena!

    🙂

  19. Great post! I am looking for some easy meals now with the baby on her way! 🙂 This looks perfect and my hubby is obsessed with arugula too!

  20. Thanks for sharing your gourmet secrets for after work! Sometimes after a long day, I can’t even imagine getting myself in the kitchen and preparing something healthy and/or raw. I guess the key is to have raw food on-hand so you can just throw it together! Thanks Gena!