Plant Power Yourself into the New Year

Happy New Year!

In the spirit of putting the best foot forward this year, I’m delighted to have Sharon Palmer, RD as a guest blogger. I’m even more excited to announce that Sharon and I are  co-hosting a Twitter Party #onionchat on January 17th at 4pm Eastern!

By Sharon Palmer, RD, from The Plant-Powered Diet

With the constant temptation of the holiday sweets and treats behind you, it’s now time to focus on eating habits that can propel you into ultimate health and wellness. As the author of The Plant-Powered Diet, I am a firm believer in the power of minimally processed, whole plant foods. And there are hundreds of research based studies supporting my conclusion that the healthiest diet on the planet is indeed a plant-based one. Researchers now the health advantages of a plant-based diet are plenty, including lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. This is because when you’re eating more whole plant foods, you’re gaining more health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, while naturally reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat.

And whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, there’s a place for you in the plant-powered diet. This year, you may be aiming to shift to an entirely plant-based diet consisting of only legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds; or, you may be aiming for a more gradual shift away from the traditional Western diet that is high in meat, fat, saturated fat and sodium, and low in fiber to simply include more plant foods into your diet. Regardless of where you are in the eating spectrum, incorporating more plant foods into your diet will not only improve your health, it will also open your senses to whole new world of flavors, colors, and textures. When it comes to plant-based choices, the options are endless.

Take onions, for example. This beautiful bulb vegetable comes in a variety of colors including white, yellow, and red – with its flavor ranging from sweet to pungent. Onions are one of my favorite ways to flavor my plant-powered recipes including salads, side dishes, casseroles, sauces, dips, or soups – such as this recipe below.

Classic French Onion Soup

My teenage son is connoisseur of French onion soup, the iconic French culinary masterpiece that features lots of onions cooked in a rich (usually beef) broth topped with melted cheese over bread. He orders it every chance he gets, offering his critique on how each soup measures up. In order to come up with the most authentic plant-based version possible, I scoured old French cookbooks to discover the classic elements of these soups. It’s all in the onions – pounds and pounds of them caramelized in the pot to create the rich flavor we have grown to cherish. My son gave this recipe two thumbs up!

Makes 10 servings (about 3 quarts)
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
8 cups water
2 cubes low-sodium vegetable bouillon
2 cups white wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10 small slices (1 ounce each) whole wheat French bread
3/4 cup shredded plant-based Swiss cheese

Instructions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 15 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
3. Stir in the flour and black pepper. Put the uncovered pot into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
4. While the onion mixture is baking, place the bread on a baking sheet and add to the oven. Bake until crisp (about 5 minutes), then set aside.
5. Turn off the oven and transfer the pot to the stovetop. Add the water, bouillon cubes, wine, bay leaf, and thyme and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the onions are tender, about 35 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
6. Heat the oven to 450 F. Arrange the toasted bread slices on top of the soup, either in the pot or distributed among individual oven-safe bowls. Sprinkle each slice of bread with 1 tablespoon of the shredded cheese.
7. Place the large pot or ovenproof bowls, uncovered into the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and the soup is bubbly. If serving out of the soup pot, scoop the soup into individualized bowls and top each with one slice of cheese covered bread.

Variation: If you’d like to omit the plant-based cheese, drizzle each slice of bread with ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil before baking the soup.

Per serving (about 1 ½ cups soup plus 1 slice of bread with plant-based cheese):
Calories: 224
Carbohydrates: 27g
Fiber: 4g
Protein: 9g
Total Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Sodium: 375mg
Star nutrients: Vitamin C (15% DV), folate (13% DV), selenium (14% DV)

Sharon Palmer, RD is a registered dietitian, nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 750 of Sharon’s articles have appeared in a variety of national publications. In addition, she is the editor of the award-winning newsletter, Environmental Nutrition, and author of the blog, The Plant-Powered Dietitian.

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