Comment

WHAT IS KITCHEN FITNESS??

kitchen fitness text.jpg

Wait a second…. First, let’s talk about Fitness.

The first question should be: what is fitness? Fitness is the ability to perform. In general, being fit is thought of as being healthy, strong, and active. Having these characteristics would make you very fit to live and perform in your daily lives.

Unless stated otherwise, the word fitness is in context to living life.

The more fitness you have, the more you’re able to live life fully each day. This may mean being more efficient or feeling more joy, or any other measure indicating improved quality of life.

Kitchen-Fitness-with-Katie-Mae.jpg

Introducing Kitchen Fitness

As a chef and nutritionist, I’m very interested in our ability to choose the foods that our best, and specifically our ability to “perform" in the kitchen.

I describe this ability as kitchen fitness.

1) consciously choose what we put in our mouths,

2) experience ease and efficiency when cooking, and

3) and be at peace with our diet.

Here’s my formal definition of kitchen fitness…


Kitchen Fitness (noun): the ability to efficiently and joyfully prepare delicious meals using fresh, whole foods.


By building our kitchen fitness, adopting and sustaining a whole food, plant-based diet becomes easier and more enjoyable.

Without kitchen fitness, eating healthy home-cooked meal is inconvenient, expensive, overly time-consuming, and the flavor is suboptimal. This is why cooking at home is generally not something Americans look forward to it—it’s often avoided, and sometimes even dreaded.

Without kitchen fitness, the only possible way to sustain a healthy diet over the long term is if you have someone else cooking for you, or you’re lucky enough to be able to eat out at high-quality restaurants with clean, plant-based options.

At Plantz St, our mission is to inspire and build kitchen fitness through cooking demos, hands-on classes, online trainings, and more.

The 5 Ingredients of Kitchen Fitness

When we talk about kitchen fitness we are not referring only to culinary skills. There are 5 elements of kitchen fitness, which are all essential in mastering the kitchen.

1. The KNOWLEDGE of whole foods and the culinary arts. It all begins with a solid foundational understanding.

2. The STRENGTH needed to perform optimally in the kitchen. It’s often overlooked but good posture, heavy lifting, and several individual techniques require substantial strength.

3. The SKILLS necessary to make delicious meals from whole foods. Knowledge comes from learning, but skill comes from experience and practice.

4. The FLEXIBILITY to successfully adjust recipes and prepare delicious meals from the food available—these may be the greatest indicators of a savvy chef.

5. The STAMINA to prevent fatigue after cooking from scratch, which gives you the opportunity to more fully enjoy your creation and guests.

By focusing on all 5 elements, Plantz St. can provide you with a comprehensive approach to building your kitchen fitness. We make the kitchen our powerhouse, with food fueling our journey to true health.

Now that you know WHAT kitchen fitness is, how would you describe YOUR kitchen fitness??

By Katie Mae, Owner of Plantz St. Culinary Gym (https://plantzst.com)

Comment

The Top 15 Kitchen Essentials

Comment

The Top 15 Kitchen Essentials

Some think that preparing healthy food is expensive, but that’s just not true. You do not need expensive equipment and fancy gadgets to make whole food, plant-based meals. Below is my list of 15 basics. Every plant-based chef should have these essentials in their kitchen.

You’ll notice that valuable appliances, like a Vitamix or Instant Pot are not listed here. Although I use them daily, they are not essential. I hope this list saves you time in sorting through the many products and brands, and prevents culinary purchases that don’t meet your expectations.

1. SHARP KNIVES

In my opinion, the chef’s knife is the most valuable player in the kitchen. I recommend a 7- or 8-inch chef’s knife that has a rounded blade and fits in your hand comfortably. The knife with the most value for its price is the Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife. I think it’s also important to have a paring knife and a small serrated knife. My favorite knife is the Shun 8-Inch Ken Onion Chef's Knife. This is a high-end choice, but its extra round blade and ergonomic handle makes chopping remarkably easier, and thus safer and faster. Handled right, it will last for decades. All chef knives should be sharpened regularly for effectiveness and safety.

2. CUTTING BOARDS

Cutting boards can often be overlooked, but they are the knife’s right-hand man. A good cutting board can really add to the comfort level in prepping food. I like a large cutting board so that I have space for large amounts

and/or various items on the board at one time, which allows for smoother, faster prepping.

I find that large wood or bamboo cutting boards are the sturdiest and don’t move around. They are easier to clean and more eco-friendly than plastic. Solid wood boards benefit from being seasoned once per month with a food-grade mineral oil, walnut, almond or coconut oil. You’ll want to hand-dry them to avoid drying out and cracking. I try to avoid plastic cutting boards because tiny pieces can break off and end up in the prepared dish. For a light, inexpensive option, I recommend Epicurean’s Prep Series Cutting Boards. My recommendation for a large, stable board is the John Boos Chop-N-Slice 20-by-15-Inch Maple Cutting Board. This is a gorgeous board used in professional restaurants around the world and is a pleasure to work on.

3. POTS & PANS

The most important factor to consider when buying pots and pans is the material. It seems each material has its pros and cons. It’s best to avoid aluminum and copper pans all together. Cast iron pans can be a significant source of iron in the diet because it leaches from the pan into the food. However, in large quantities iron causes stress and oxidation in the body that can lead to disease.

It is important that all cookware is regularly replaced when worn or dented. Any chipping is a red flag to throw it out.

The healthiest and safest option would be stainless steel because it doesn’t leach minerals or other elements into your food. The downfall is that stainless steel transfers and distributes heat poorly. This problem has been solved by adding an inner core of copper and aluminum to stainless steel cookware. This is called multi-clad or multi-ply construction. The All-Clad brand is the top of the line. A 10-piece set is $500 or more. The set I use, the Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel 10-piece Cookware Set, is half the price.

There’s no need to buy a whole set at once - you can add single pieces as it’s appropriate for your specific needs in the kitchen. The five pieces that will be used most often are 1) a large stock pot (10-12 quarts) for soups and vegetable broth, 2) a medium size pot (even better if it has a steamer to fit it), 3) a smaller sauce pot (1½ to 3 quarts), 4) a small sauté pan (6-8 inches) and 5) a larger sauté pan or skillet (10-12 inches). I also love having a non-stick pan to use with occasional dishes like hash browns and pancakes.

4. STEAMER

Steaming vegetables is one of the healthiest and quickest cooking methods. You can find a stainless steel steamer basket for less than $15. This collapsible basket is great because it will fit into any size pot. An alternative is a pot that comes with a fitted steamer basket. A pasta pot can also be used as a vegetable steamer.

5. SALAD SPINNER

If preparing salads and leafy greens is new to you, this may be an unfamiliar item. However, it’s pretty much a requirement in a plant-based kitchen, because wet greens do not hold dressings well. You’ll get double the use out of the salad spinner if it has a removable strainer that can be used separately, such as the OXO Good Grips Green Salad Spinner.

 

6. CASSEROLE DISH

A rectangular glass dish is great for making savory baked dishes, such as lasagna, shepherd’s pie, or enchilada casserole. It can also be used for sweets, like cobblers and brownies. The 2-piece glass dish set from Pyrex is a great deal.

 

7. SPOONS

This may sound obvious, but we definitely don’t want to leave out the most important item for stirring and serving. I love having a set of bamboo utensils for stirring soups, stews and stir-fries. I also use a slotted spoon, serving spoon, and a soup ladle regularly.

 

8. SILICONE SPATULA

Spatulas are perfect for transferring food from one container to another. Silicone spatulas are heat-resistant so they can also be used to stir food on the stovetop and lift items on a baking sheet. A mini spatula can be lifesaver when it comes to trying to get into tight quarters, such as a blender or small jelly jars.

 

9. BAKING TRAYS

When it comes to baking this is the most important piece. It’s used for everything from baking oil-free fries to roasting veggies to baking cookies. A full baking sheet spans the full width of the oven. In most home kitchens, a half-sheet (13x18 inches) is the perfect size. I recommend having two of Nordic Ware’s Natural Aluminum Half Sheets. The aluminum is not an issue because we lay parchment paper between the sheet and food. If you prefer stainless steel, it’s a little more expensive, but also an option.

10. PARCHMENT PAPER

To avoid using oil (and reduce calories), parchment paper is the perfect solution. Do not get this confused with wax paper. The best choice is unbleached parchment paper, preferably recycled.

 

 

 

11. MIXING BOWLS

Whether you’re fixing up a salad or making veggie burgers, mixing bowls certainly come in handy. Stainless steel bowls with lids are great because they store food easily and make it simple to bring food to gatherings outside the home. Get a set of three or five so you have different sizes for different jobs.

 

12. MEASURNG CUPS

Measuring cups are the sidekick to measuring spoons. Both are essential for following recipes, which is common in the kitchen. When choosing cups, look for a set that has the measures displayed in a way that they won’t be washed off from lots of use. I would avoid cups on a ring and make sure they’re durable. My favorite set are Sur La Table’s Prep Bowls, named as such because they measure quantities, but they’re also very convenient in prepping a recipe, or setting up your mise en place. I also like them because each bowl has a specific measurement line at the top of the bowl and half way up. There’s even a bowl that measures ¾ cup and 1½ cup, which I find extremely convenient.

13. MEASURING SPOONS

I never really thought twice about measuring spoons until a few years ago when I purchased Progressive’s Magnetic Measuring Spoons. It doesn’t make much sense, but I actually like holding them, even if I’m not measuring something. They are colorful and stylish, but there’s a couple qualities that make these stand out above the rest.

First, they are magnetic so they can easily be stored together, but separated

when you want to use one. I can’t stand having my spoons on a ring which forces me to hold all five spoons when I only want to use one. Second, they are double-sided. This allows you to use the spoon with two different ingredients before having to rinse it. The third perk is that one of the sides has an oval shaped spoon so that it fits into smaller spaces where the standard circular spoon doesn’t fit.

14. VEGETABLE PEELER

Peeling can be a pain, especially if you don’t have a good peeler. The Kuhn Rikon Orginal Swiss Peeler makes it a breeze. It’s super easy to clean and cheap! Three peelers are just $11. Don’t need three? Gift the extras and encourage others to get in the kitchen.

 

 

15. CAN OPENER

I don’t recommend many packaged foods, but it’s extremely helpful to keep some canned beans and tomatoes on hand. When choosing a can opener, make certain it cuts around the side of the can, leaving no sharp edges and making it the safest way to open a can. I like the Good Cook Classic Safe Cut Can Opener. If you have extra food remaining in the can, a “safe” can opener allows you to pop the lid back on the can and save what’s left for later. (Note: unless the food will be used within 24 hours, it’s best to transfer it from the can to another container.)

Of course, this is not a full list of the gadgets and tools in my kitchen, but it is a fabulous starting place for anyone interested in making food at home. The next phase of upgrades and add-ons depends on the cook’s preferences. If you take the minimalist approach, you may be able to get along with just a few of these basics.

Regardless, I hope you have a few takeaways from this guide to save you time and money in the kitchen. In a future post, I’ll share more about my most cherished and most used culinary tools.

-Katie Mae

Comment

Transition Step 1: Ditch the Dairy

Comment

Transition Step 1: Ditch the Dairy

What’s the best source for calcium? Until recently, every school age child across America would tell you milk and other dairy products. It was engrained in us from a very young age to think that dairy consumption was essential to growing big and strong. As adults, we’ve become fearful that we will develop osteoporosis if we don’t get enough dairy. However, the tides are turning. Although calcium is an important mineral for our bones, people are starting to realize dairy is not essential and may even be detrimental.


As talked about extensively in The China Study, by Colin Campbell, the science clearly demonstrates that dairy is not the super food group for bone health. A 2014 study on two large Swedish cohort studies reported that high milk intake was associated with higher mortality in one cohort of women and in another cohort of men, and with higher fracture incidence in women. Similarly, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.


The story goes much deeper than our bones. Increased milk consumption is also positively associated with acne, cancer, and type 1 diabetes. Rather than overwhelm you with details, I want to empower you with a call to action. The bottom line is that when transitioning to a healthy diet, the first thing to let go of is all dairy products –regardless of whether it’s from a cow, sheep or goat.


That may seem like a big change…and it may be, but it’s actually one of the easiest.


YES! THE SWITCH IS SIMPLE!


All of options below can be used to substitute milk in a 1:1 ratio for skim or low-fat milk, whether it’s being used raw, when cooking, or in baking. There’s just a couple exceptions…dishes like instant pudding won’t set-up nicely with most milk alternatives. However, it should be smooth sailing as you make the transition as we have plant-based options that are constantly being improved and expanded upon.


Depending, on what you’re using the milk for, some types may be a better match than others. To help you make your choice, here’s what you can expect from the most common non-dairy milks.

ALMOND MILK
Almond milk can best be described as a lightly sweet non-dairy beverage with a delicate almond flavor. The nutty flavor in almond milk can be a plus in various desserts. The base of almond milk is typically made from ground almonds, filtered water, and a small amount of sweetener, though you can find unsweetened varieties. Due to the sweetness and nuttiness, almond milk is best left to sweet dishes. Of course, if you are looking for a nutty flavor in a savory dish than this may be a great choice there as well.

COCONUT MILK
The coconut milk beverage is sold in cartons like other milk alternatives. It is relatively light compared to the canned coconut milk used in cooking, but next to the other milk alternatives it is the richest and creamiest, with almost 8 grams of fat in 1 cup. Light Coconut Milk has roughly double the amount of fat as whole milk. This can be a plus in some recipes, but if you prefer something a little lighter then use 1 part water and 1 part light coconut milk in place of whole cow’s milk.


The coconut milk beverage does have a hint of coconut flavor, but still works well in sweet recipes, on cereal, or in savory dishes where the flavor blends well, such as Asian entrees or salad dressings with sharp flavors. Canned coconut milk has more of a coconut flare than coconut milk beverage, and will impart a coconut vibe on your recipe.

 
You’ll usually find the canned coconut milk in the Asian or ethnic section of the grocery store. The coconut milk beverage, which is sold by the quart or half-gallon in aseptic packages, can be found with all of the other milk alternatives.

OAT MILK
Oat milk has a nice earthy taste that isn’t too bitter or too sweet. It is great in smoothies, with cereal or granola, and works well in baked goods. I also think it is a good option for most savory and sweet recipes, but it may be a little too earthy for say, a light white sauce or creme brulee. Oat milk is more popular in Europe than in the US, but once we realize how tasty and versatile it is, it will be come a favorite here too.

product_712.jpg

RICE MILK
As soy allergies emerged as a common concern, rice milk became more of interest as another alternative to cow’s milk. Many moms say that their kids favor the rice milk. Like soy milk, it can be used in almost any recipe. Where rice milk falls short is in its thickness. It is very light and sometimes a touch watery, so it won’t add much richness to sauces or ice creams. However, unlike soy milk, it works quite well in more delicate dessert recipes that don’t require a lot of fat.

SOY MILK
This is the classic, original milk alternative. It does have a distinct, but mild “beany” taste - most people love this about it, but some are put off by the flavor. Nonetheless, soy milk is still considered one of the most versatile milk alternatives. It is slightly heftier in protein and fat than most milk alternatives, making it a good option to substitute milk in savory sauces and in baked goods. It can pretty much be a stand-in for milk in most recipes. However, keep that “beany” profile in mind - soy milk could overpower a delicately-flavored recipe.


YOU WILL SUCCEED


With a little effort, you will succeed in making the switch. Many people like the first plant-based milk they try, but for others it may take a little experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try something new. This is key when making the switch to being dairy-free. Remember that what you may love in your cereal may be different than what you want to use in a savory cream sauce.


If you don’t like the taste of certain milk or it didn’t have the consistency you were hoping for, just try again. It may just be that you didn’t like the brand, or maybe you didn’t like it because it was unsweetened, or maybe you’re just not a fan of rice milks.


Like most things in life, chances are that there will be some varieties you love and some you can’t stand. It’s your job to figure out which are which.

Comment

A Beginner’s Guide to the Oil-Free Sauté

Comment

A Beginner’s Guide to the Oil-Free Sauté

 

Sautéing maintains the vegetables’ natural flavors and it lends itself really well to seasoning the vegetables. A little bit of herbs and spices or a tasty sauce can really make your vegetables go from good to outstanding.
The basic sauté method is cook the food in an uncovered pan over medium or high heat, and stirring them often. The higher heat and thinner pieces of vegetables helps them cook quickly, which minimizes nutrient loss. With a high heat setting this method can also be called stir-frying.

In traditional sautéing, oil or animal fat is used to prevent the food from sticking and add flavor. Up until recently most people thought a fat of some kind was a requirement for sautéing vegetables.

However, now we know this is not true. In fact, whether in a sauté or a dressing, oil actually coats our taste buds so that it’s harder to recognize flavor! Oil also brings 120 calories with every tablespoon used, making it the densest food on the planet!
Thus, we have very good reason to leave the oil out of our cooking. Now the question is: how do we do this? Well, we have several techniques to choose from depending on individual preference and what is best for the dish at hand.

SAUTÉING

The technique closest to the traditional sauté is a water-sauté. This method replaces the oil with water or another liquid, such as broth, juice or wine, and the rest of the process is the same.

A slightly different method, known as a dry-sauté, does not use the oil nor a replacement liquid. Here the only difference with the technique is that you ‘ll need to stir the vegetables often. Without any liquid added the pan is dryer, making it easier for the vegetables to stick and burn. A little browning, or caramelization on the bottom of the pan is ok - sometimes even desirable as it can add more flavor. If there is browning on the bottom of the pan, you can add a touch of water to deglaze the pan and stir in the flavor. This is a fast cooking method, maintaining the integrity and crispness of the vegetables.

SWEATING

Sweating is another form of sautéing with no liquid. However, sweating differs from the dry-sauté because heat is kept to medium, but more importantly the pan is covered. Using a lid keeps the juices released from the vegetables inside the pan, adding lots of moisture to the bottom of the pan. Thus by keeping the pan covered and stirring occasionally, you can cook easily cook oil-free vegetables without any sticking to the bottom of the pan. Most vegetables have a very high water content creating more moisture, or juice, than you might expect.
The goal is to soften the vegetables without browning them and let their flavors start mingling. Look for the vegetables to start glistening and softening around the edges, then move on to the next step in the recipe.

STEAM-FRYING

Steam Frying is a mix of sweating and dry-sautéing. The vegetables are cooked in a covered pan without an liquid added, just like in a sweat. The difference is the heat is set to medium-high or high, which causes the vegetables to brown much quicker. Don’t be surprised if you hear the vegetables start to sizzle.
This higher heat requires that the vegetables be stirred more frequently than they would be in sweating. Replacing the lid in between stirring helps maintain a level of moisture and heat in the pan, which is like partially steaming the vegetables in addition to the sauté. This technique delivers tender vegetables with intentional browning for added flavor.

SAYONARA OIL!

When helping people transition to a whole food, plant-based diet, one of the first moves I recommend is letting go of oil. I believe that between these various techniques, you’re sure to find one that fits your cooking style and taste preferences. You may find you that with certain vegetables you like some techniques more than others. Do some testing and have fun with it!

Comment

Plant-based vs Vegan: What's the Difference?

2 Comments

Plant-based vs Vegan: What's the Difference?

Katie Mae, Plant-based Transition coach

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

Is it the same as vegan or vegetarian diet?

What’s the difference?

Does this sound familiar? Don’t worry, many others are asking the same questions. There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between plant-based and vegan.

There’s a couple key distinctions. Let’s start with the food…

A plant-based diet is one that is based on whole plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. As the name implies, it is a diet with plant foods as the focus rather than a processed food or animal-based diet. Processed and animal-based more accurately describe the diet of westernized societies (however, this is shifting).

There are many doctors and other health professionals promoting a plant-based diet, with some adding unique specifics or emphasis. Most often a plant-based diet is referring to one that is 100% plants. However, technically one could eat a diet largely based on plants and still consume small amounts of animal products. As of yet, there is no legal regulation on what the term plant-based means.

A vegan diet, on the other hand, is one that eliminates the consumption of any other sentient being or their by-products. This means no animal flesh (beef, poultry or fish), no dairy products, no eggs and no honey. I love how Terry Mason, a urologist and Commissioner of Health for the city of Chicago, puts it: “If it walks, hops, swims, crawls, slithers, has eyes, a mom and a dad – don’t eat it.”

Depending who you ask, honey may or may not be an acceptable ingredient for vegans. A vegetarian diet comes with much more variety. Vegetarians generally don’t eat animal flesh, but are ok with dairy products and/or eggs. Ultimately, they limit their animal consumption based on what they are comfortable with. For instance some people call themselves pesco-vegetarians, meaning they eat include fish in their vegetarian diet.

A key piece to note is that even though a vegan may not eat any animal products, this does not mean they are eating whole, plant foods. French fries, Oreos and Coke can all be vegan. The food industry has caught on to the growing acceptance of a vegan diet, and thus vegan junk food has become easily accessible and increasingly palatable. These animal-free foods are still loaded with sugar, oil and salt so they are not just appealing, but can often be addictive. You can see that a vegan diet does not necessarily equate with a healthy diet.

In all honesty, I would say a whole food, plant-based diet that includes very small amounts of animal is healthier than a vegan diet consisting of highly processed foods.

 If we go beyond food, the second difference between plant-based and vegan is that veganism is a lifestyle choice involving ethics and politics. Vegans abstain from eating and using animals products, including clothes and cosmetics; and reject anything treating animals as commodities, such as hunting and animal testing.

Both choices – to be plant-based or vegan – can stem from the desire for better health, animals rights, or to protect the environment. The intention depends on the individual.

That being said there are many people that consider themselves vegan and plant-based, which I think is fabulous! This would mean living a vegan lifestyle that includes a diet solely based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This way of living leads to vibrant energy and health, reduced suffering for thousands of animals; and protection for the environment all at the same time. It’s no wonder why every day more and more people are making the transition. I give a big, BIG kudos to any plant-based vegan.

Have you thought about it, why not live in both worlds?

Here’s a fun Vegan Starter Kit if you’d like to know more about a vegan lifestyle. If you’d like more info about eating a vegan or plant-based diet, here’s a tasty resource from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Please share this message with any of your friends and family that are confused by the terms plant-based, vegan and vegetarian. Knowledge is power. The more we can bring clarity to these terms the more accurately they will be used in restaurants, on food packages, and in general conversations, ultimately helping to progress both the plant-based and vegan movements.

2 Comments