You know, I saw this whole thing going differently in my mind. I had visions of puttering around my kitchen every weekend, spatula in hand, hair wrapped and apron around my waist, whipping up savory vegan dishes the way I have many a Sunday roast chicken dinner or Thanksgiving feast, and turning out plates and bowls that all looked as perfect as this...
Summer, it seems, had other plans. All the plans, as it turned out.
As a result, my personal foray into 22 Days Nutrition has relied surprisingly little on my culinary skills and more on my resourcefulness; I’m quickly becoming well-versed in some of the very best processed foods the plant-based world has to offer—but that wasn’t really the point of this three-week exercise, was it?
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In fact, the 22 Days program is specifically structured to responsibly guide the user into healthy, whole food and plant-based eating by providing hundreds of compliant recipes with relatively easy-to-find ingredients—you can even set the program to your time constraints (for instance, mine truthfully say I have five minutes each for breakfast and lunch). “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” as the adage goes, but unfortunately for me, what you cannot do is set 22 Days to accommodate not being near your kitchen for days at a time, posing a not-so-fortuitous twist when it came to the meal prepping necessary to carry out this challenge.
So, when I found myself physically unable to make yet another alcohol-fueled event on Wednesday night (no, really; the event was literally about alcohol), I figured I’d make the best of my newfound downtime. Frankly, I should’ve done this weeks ago, before I even started this thing: whip up some of the primary components of a majority of 22 Days’ recipes—beans, squash and kale (yeah, I know; my gut just gurgled, too). Specifically, I whipped up a batch of black beans, which show up in no less than 96 results in 22 Days’ ingredient search, kale (100 results), and chickpeas (117); along with roasting sweet potato and butternut, spaghetti and summer squash as potential bases.
Additionally, I started experimenting with my own version of a Trader Joe’s favorite; a kale and cashew pesto, which I spooned over whole wheat roasted vegetable ravioli (yes, pasta is on the 22 Days plan) with sundried tomatoes and served alongside steamed broccoli drizzled in lemon-basil olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground garlic salt.
The pesto’s not quite there yet, but I’m close. Bottom line: I can cook. (I still hate the texture of whole wheat pasta, though.)
Another impromptu dish I threw together this week? My own 15 minutes-or-less riff on cashew vegetable stir fry, using LaChoy Stir Fry vegetables, frozen green beans, fresh onions, bell peppers, cabbage, and basil. I seasoned the lot with both coconut milk and aminos (for a nice touch of sweetness), chili sauce, and, of course, topped with cashews (which I should’ve let cook in the broth, but added a nice textural element over brown rice). Hey, I’m trying to stay on plan, here—and it was pretty delicious.
Why am I telling you all this now that we’re in the last week of the 22 Days challenge? Because if you plan to attempt this, you can’t live on Impossible Burgers alone (though you’ll wish you could). No, my friend; your “busy-ness” won’t save you; you actually have to cook to get the desired results from this—and while there are overall benefits to going vegan, if you’re trying to see any of them show up on your body, cooking is your only means of control. (Case in point: I’ve lost exactly one pound in the past two weeks—but my skin looks great!)
And if I’m honest, there’s some comfort in knowing that the next time I’m looking for a quick and compliant meal during this challenge (or after, if I can get in the habit), I’ve got at least a dozen BPA-free containers’ worth of options to choose from, rather than the vegan equivalent of fast food.
And hey, maybe that perfect-looking vegan bowl isn’t so farfetched, after all...but tonight, I’ve got a date with my 6-year-old nephew and another Impossible Burger. *shrug*