By Barbi Lazarus, Donor and Volunteer Resources Coordinator

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Asian tacos and sandwich, and sweet potato balls from Gainesville’s Lunchbox

I recently returned from a week of indulgence in Tampa and Gainesville, Florida. We had some really delicious food in Tampa, but I must say Gainesville is such a surprising mecca for vegan food it is a city worth taking a vacation to for that reason alone.

My week consisted of custom cupcakes from Sakara Sweets (pick your cake, frosting, filling and topping), vegan soft serve from a corner convenience store, a full-out feast of Jamaican goodness from Reggae Shack, tempeh burritos from El Indio (a drive-in Mexican place), raspberry-basil-lemon soda and Asian tacos from the outdoor walk-up Lunchbox, fried brussel sprouts and sweet corn balls from a food truck, and yes, an ice cream sundae for breakfast topped with vegan whipped cream, hot fudge sauce and Fudgeeo cookies from Karma Cream.

It was all rather delicious but needless to say when I returned home, I needed a serious cleanse (and maybe a few new pairs of pants). To quote a friend as we waited for our flights to depart home, “I have such a craving for steamed broccoli!” would be fairly accurate to how I felt.

Despite recently watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (a documentary that follows a few people who go on long juice cleanses) I put together my own rules for my personal version of a post-vacation cleanse: smaller lunches that actually allow me to be hungry by the time dinner rolls around, no baked goods, and trying to pretty much eat only vegetables for dinner.

Thanks to some brilliant cookbook authors, it hasn’t been difficult or dissatisfying at all. All of my cravings for sweetness and my desire for fullness have been satisfied and then some.

Here are some of the super delicious meals I enjoyed this week as I re-focused my meals around fruits, veggies and legumes:

  • Take-Out Thai Food from Bahn Thai: I realize this may not sound like part of a cleanse, but take-out is a ritual at our place on the night we arrive home from any vacation, so we can spend more time unpacking and doing laundry. But instead of our usual pad thai, we focused on vegetable and tofu dishes. Green curry, sweet n’ sour tofu, and one order of Bahn Thai’s specialty: peanut curry! All three dishes have a similar mixture of brocolli, carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, cabbage, and plenty of tofu. The staff at Bahn Thai are familiar with the term vegan so a simple request ensures no fish sauce or egg in your dish.
  • curry garlic fries and brussel sprouts

    Curry garlic fries from Isa Does It

    Maple pecan brussel sprouts from Colour me Vegan and maple mashed sweet potatoes from Get it Ripe: These two dishes went perfectly together, and gave us a meal that was almost purely nutrient-dense vegetables while satisfying any craving we might have had for a sweet dessert. These are two of my all-time favourite recipes. The brussel sprouts also include some green apple as well as pecans, adding nice texture and some extra protein to the dish.

  • Brocolli with “cheesey sauce” from Whole Foods to Thrive and a side of Sunflower Kitchen’s Lentil Soup: In this recipe, Brendan suggests serving the ooey-gooey cheesey sauce over raw brocolli, but we opted to steam ours instead (it’s getting cold out there!). The sauce is a blend of tahini, nutritional yeast and other spices. We had less brocolli than the recipe called for but made the entire recipe for the sauce anyways, so the brocolli was nicely coated and extra creamy. With the combination of brocolli and tahini in there, talk about a calcium boost! To round out the meal and fill us up, we also picked up a jar of Sunflower Kitchen’s lentil soup.
  • Brussel spouts and garlic curry fries from Isa Does It: Yes, I like brussel sprouts, can you tell? This time we simply fried them up with some soy sauce, onions and pine nuts, and that was enough to make them super delicious (it doesn’t take much, they are yummy!). On the side was Isa Chandra Moskowtiz’s garlic curry fries from her brand new book, Isa Does It! If this recipe is a preview of what else is to come from her book, I’d recommend coming and grabbing a copy from our Resource Centre before they sell out!
  • Snacks: As much as I enjoyed our veggie-dense dinners, I was still wanting a little something later in the evening. Fortunately, tasty, yet healthy snacks were never hard to find. Whole Foods to Thrive (also available in the TVA resource centre) features a handful of kale chip recipes. This week we tried out the “sour cream and onion” kale chips, which were made from a blended cashew sauce, and made another favourite from Colour me Vegan. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s kale chips from this book are drizzled with a bit of olive oil, chili powder, nutritional yeast and garlic powder. They are crispy and super flavourful, with just the right amount of spice. No need to worry about having a dehydrator for either recipe, we just pop our kale chips in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. For a snack more on the sweet side, I love to throw together a little bowl of raw nuts like almonds or walnuts with dark chocolate chips and nibble away.

So there you have it.  Refocusing meals around whole, plant-based foods straight from someone’s farm or garden that are jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants can be every bit as delicious, satisfying and satiating as dining out. Sometimes all you need is a great cookbook to keep you company.