Ireland Changed My Diet in 2017 + Vegan Stuffed Pepper Recipe
I will remember 2017 as a pivotal year in regards to my diet. It is the year my American diet was disrupted by an Irish diet/lifestyle.
To reflect, my American diet was not horrible, heck I was employed by a health and wellness company and participated in triathlons during the summer months. I was however consumed by the conveniences many Americans are accustom to. Conveniences, or habits, I have had to kick in Ireland.
For me the toughest habit to overcome was dining out, or the transition of dining out multiple times a week in Minnesota to minimal dining out in Ireland. In Minnesota, I was a fast-casual restaurant junky: Chipotle 2x a week, Jimmy Johns or Subway 2x a week, pizza on Friday night, a neighborhood restaurant Saturday night.
Then I moved to Ireland and my favorite restaurants are not open for dinner during the week! Everything closes around 6pm, to allow shop and restaurant owners time at home (Keep in mind I do not live in a big city, where extended hours do exist. Nor do I want to eat fried fish & chips for every meal, as chippers are open for dinner). I have been forced to cook, and I love to cook. But I had become numb to the convenience of always being able to get prepared food at any time of the day from any restaurant whenever I wanted. Cooking at home has allowed more, and easier control of my diet. Especially in regards to items I try to limit, like preservatives, sugars, and portion sizes. Today, dining out has become an experience, and the three-course menu at every Irish restaurant and prices reflect that.
Fun story about portion sizes from our trip home in early December, for lunch one day Mathew and I split a Jimmy John’s sandwich, one bag of chips, and a cookie. We were both completely satisfied and full afterwards. I used to eat that entire order solo, multiple times a week…
The quality of the food I consume has shifted as well. The habit of running to Cub or Costco for the cheapest produce has been substituted with local produce that is still moderately priced. This transition was not difficult, compared to my excessive dining out, since local produce and proteins are sold in every Irish grocery store, shopping locally is easy.
Yes, the agricultural make up and population of Ireland is so different than America. Ireland is the size of the state of Maine. Is the food still considered local if it comes from the other side of the country? I say yes, since it was only transported 3-4 hours. So, while I am mindful that comparing the two countries is somewhat comical, I have grown to enjoy eating local and seasonal produce, grass-fed and free-range animal proteins, seafood caught in local quays, even hen eggs laid miles from my home.
This lifestyle has caused me to look ahead. When I return to Minnesota I plan to execute my new food priorities and alter them to be applicable in Minnesota. Like purchasing locally through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), I have already started researching local farmers here. Since Minnesota is snow covered 5 months out of the year when I can’t eat locally I plan to buy organically. And since eating 100% organic can be expensive I will be selective when deciding what produce to purchase organic. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done all the hard work for me and comprised a list of produce that contains the most pesticides (updated annually). That list has been nicknamed ‘The Dirty Dozen’, and I have included it below.
The Dirty Dozen:
- Bell Peppers
I look forward to transitioning my European lifestyle to Minnesota. I hope it interests you too, as I plan to keep you updated. Fun content for mid to late 2018.
Plant Based Protein
Today I consume less animal protein. Ireland cannot have all the credit for my dietary changes in 2017. But the reality is my protein sources have shifted this year, hence the quinoa inspired recipe below. If you recall, in July I began a yearlong training to become a Holistic Health Coach.
I have loved every minute, and as I am sure you can guess, before we begin sharing our services we are encouraged to be our own ‘first client’. A dietary lifestyle we were encouraged to try was more plant based protein. If it worked for us, wonderful, if it did not, that is okay too. Either way at least we’d have the tools to coach someone on different lifestyle choices, because we have experienced it ourselves. So, as it stands today, yes, I still eat meat, I enjoy animal proteins, but I have made a conscious decision that meat does not always have to be the focal point on every meal. My plant based meals leave me feeling, full, satisfied, as well as light and bloat free.
Lastly, exercise has always been a part of my lifestyle. The type of movement does vary from Minnesota to Wexford, at home I was swimming and attending cycle classes. Now I move my body daily out of pure necessity. I’m carless, I have to walk everywhere. While all forms of exercise have their pros and cons, bottom line, exercise has always been a key element for me in feeling my best, no matter the form or country.
I am proud of the adjustments I made this year. But I am even more proud that I did not make these adjustments alone. Mathew made each one of them with me! It is fun having a supportive partner along for the ride and a taste tester for all my new and healthy recipes.
**Join me every week this January for fun, healthy food recipes! As we know, January is the month to reset and start fresh. I hope my recipes can help you do that. See you in the new year! Below is a sample of the type of recipes you can expect from me.**
Quinoa and Vegetable Stuffed Peppers (Vegan)
- 4 Bell Peppers, varying colors
- 2 cups cooked Quinoa
- 2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- 2-3 stalks Celery, finely chopped
- 2 cups Broccoli, finely chopped
- 1 cup Mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cups Spinach
- 2 Tablespoons Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
- Soy Sauce to taste, about 4 teaspoons
Preheat oven to 350F/190C
Prepare the peppers: slice peppers in half, vertically, remove the stem, seeds, and white membrane, place skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes.
While peppers are baking prepare quinoa according to package directions.
I prepare about 1 cup of uncooked quinoa with 2 cups of water. This will yield the 2 cups needed for this recipe plus extra for a salad or another meal.
Over medium heat, drizzle EVOO in a sauté pan. Add celery, sauté 5-7 minutes. Add broccoli, sauté another 5 minutes. Lastly add mushrooms, spinach, and parsley to sauté pan, cook until spinach is wilted.
Off the heat, add the quinoa to combine with cooked veggies.
Place prepared peppers, skin side down, on same parchment lined baking sheet used to roast peppers. Firmly pack peppers with quinoa veggie mixture. Drizzle each pepper with soy sauce to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon per pepper.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are lightly toasted. Serve immediately alongside a sweet potato and greens. I serve two halves, so each serving is a full pepper. Store extras in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
- Animal protein lover? Add cooked ground beef, ground turkey, or shredded chicken to quinoa veggie mixture, then stuff peppers
- Not a quinoa fan? Substitute brown rice
- Dairy lover? Sprinkle your favorite cheese on top of peppers the final 10 minutes of baking
- Missing vegetables used in this recipe? Substitute with whatever you have on hand: asparagus, peas, cauliflower, etc.