December 5, 2021

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

Vegan holiday recipes

This year, though, she’s become more of an influencer and blogger, while continuing to teach online via Zoom, with corporate “lunch and learn” and high school classes.

McCarthy is also an Ambassador in Action for the Produce for Better Health Foundation, charged with “promoting fruit and vegetable consumption for everyone.”

”I’m more plant-based, now, but I’m open to all things, just making them in a healthier way,” McCarthy said. “In one way, COVID has been great, because everybody’s been home cooking, and they’ve had to learn how to cook.”

ExplorePlant the seeds of a lifestyle change with these vegan recipes
Megan McCarthy is the founder of Healthy Eating 101 and the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Edible Garden chef. Courtesy of Megan McCarthy

Megan McCarthy is the founder of Healthy Eating 101 and the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Edible Garden chef. Courtesy of Megan McCarthy

Credit: Courtesy of Megan McCarthy

Credit: Courtesy of Megan McCarthy

At the beginning of 2020, McCarthy vowed to take an even more DIY approach to cooking at home, challenging herself with a list of 10 to-dos.

”Whatever I do for me, I can then turn around and teach that,” she said. ”I’m making my own yogurt, now. I’m obsessed with making shawarma with chicken thighs. And I’m making my own ricotta.”

As far as her philosophy of healthy eating, whether it’s every day or a holiday, McCarthy said it’s always the same.

“I approach it like my finances,” she said. “I’ve always called it the Megan School of Money Management. That is, if you spend money the same way, whether you have a lot or a little, you’ll be fine. So with food, even if it’s a holiday, that doesn’t mean you need to go off the deep end and overconsume.”

When she writes recipes, McCarthy likes to focus on one ingredient to build a dish around. And right now, farro is one of her favorites.

”At the Botanical Garden, I usually feature something that’s growing that season,” she said. “But farro has been one of these really fun heirloom grains that has a bit more texture and flavor to it. I often use farro in place of pasta. It’s so toothsome and nutty.

“But I think of my recipes as a template, where you can interchange and substitute different ingredients. And just having simple ingredients like olive oil and balsamic vinegar for flavor, and then sea salt and pepper, you can build almost anything in a healthier food and lifestyle direction.”

RECIPES

These plant-based recipes from Healthy Eating 101 chef Megan McCarthy offer a creative and delicious respite from heavy eating over the holidays.

Farro With Toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries

As with most of McCarthy’s recipes, feel free to substitute ingredients to suit your own tastes. For instance, use kale instead of spinach, cranberries instead of cherries, or almonds instead of pecans.

Farro With Toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries

  • 1 cup farro, rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cherries, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Bring farro and water to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer for 20-40 minutes until it is chewy and tender. Cook approximately 15 to 20 minutes for pearled farro, 25 to 30 minutes for semi-pearled farro, or 35 to 40 minutes for whole farro. Drain any excess water that has not been absorbed.
  • In a dry saute pan, toast pecans over medium high heat until fragrant.
  • Transfer cooked farro to a large bowl and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar and mix. Add chopped baby spinach, dried cherries, toasted pecans, sea salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss until combined. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 366 calories (percent of calories from fat, 40), 8 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 17 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 155 milligrams sodium.

Plant-Based Buddha Bowl. (Courtesy of Megan McCarthy)

Plant-Based Buddha Bowl. (Courtesy of Megan McCarthy)

Credit: Megan McCarthy

Credit: Megan McCarthy

Plant-Based Buddha Bowl

Though the Buddha Bowl is a colorful, nutrient-rich vegetarian meal, McCarthy encourages adding chicken or salmon if you want to make it even hardier. Just don’t take away the sweet potatoes!

Plant-Based Buddha Bowl

  • 2 sweet potatoes, medium diced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup farro, rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1-2 cups fresh baby greens
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate arils
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, toss diced sweet potato with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet in one layer. Bake for 30 minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring farro and water to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer for 20-40 minutes until it is chewy and tender. Cook approximately 15 to 20 minutes for pearled farro, 25 to 30 minutes for semi-pearled farro, or 35 to 40 minutes for whole farro. Drain any excess water that has not been absorbed.
  • Place shredded cabbage on another parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and bake for 15 minutes.
  • In a dry saute pan on medium high heat, toast the pepitas for 4-5 minutes or until they start to pop. Remove from pan.
  • In the same saute pan, add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the baby greens for 3 minutes until wilted. Season with a pinch of sea salt.
  • Divide the farro among 2 serving bowls. Add the roasted sweet potatoes, roasted cabbage, wilted greens, toasted pepitas, and pomegranate arils and season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to serve. Serves 2 as a main course.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 849 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 25 grams protein, 101 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams fiber, 42 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 386 milligrams sodium.

Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna. (Courtesy of Megan McCarthy)

Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna. (Courtesy of Megan McCarthy)

Credit: Megan McCarthy

Credit: Megan McCarthy

Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna

Worthy as a weeknight meal or Italian Christmas Eve treat, this plant-based lasagna can be made with vegan cheese. But McCarthy has a recipe for whole milk ricotta that’s surprisingly quick and easy, plus really fresh and smooth.

Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna

  • 1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants, sliced lengthwise in 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups favorite marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (or vegan ricotta)
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or torn (or vegan mozzarella)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade cut
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • On a sheet pan, generously salt each side of eggplant slices to “sweat” the eggplant for about 15-20 minutes. Rinse the salt off each slice and pat them dry with a towel.
  • Arrange sliced zucchini and eggplant on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush zucchini and eggplant with olive oil and season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool until safe to handle.
  • Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch oiled baking dish (using some of the olive oil). Layer with slices of eggplant, followed by marinara sauce. Spoon on teaspoon-sized dollops of ricotta cheese and pieces of mozzarella interspersed before adding a layer of zucchini slices and top with additional marinara sauce and fresh basil. Repeat with remaining layers of eggplant, sauce, cheeses, basil and zucchini.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until cheese slightly melts. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil to serve.
    Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 259 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 9 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 18 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 748 milligrams sodium.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • 2 cups organic whole milk*
  • 1 cup organic cream*
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • Juice from 1 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • In a medium saucepan, bring milk, cream and salt to a boil. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar and stir until mixture starts to curdle. Let stand for 5 minutes. Pour mixture into a mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth set in a large bowl. Chill for about 20-30 minutes or longer. Squeeze cheese from cheesecloth into glass jar, cover, and store in the refrigerator.
  • *Can be made vegan with high-protein plant-based milk alternatives. Makes about 1 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 66 calories (percent of calories from fat, 78), 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 6 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 78 milligrams sodium.

ExploreVegan and vegetarian restaurants to try in metro Atlanta

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