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The recipes in Desiree Nielsen's new cookbook Eat More Plants are 'designed to inspire people to make better choices so they can improve the quality of their life.'

Janis Nicolay.

Vancouver dietitian Desiree Nielsen says her newest cookbook was born out of a desire to teach people about the types of foods that will help them heal.

In her private practice on the West Coast, Nielsen works with clients on how to adapt to eating more whole, fresh, plant-based foods to not only improve their health, but to give them more energy.

“Unfortunately, I can’t go home with them, buy their food and cook for them,” says the 40-year-old mom of two. “So these recipes, which are colourful, flavourful and easy to make, are designed to inspire people to make better choices so they can improve the quality of their life. Making half your plate fruit or vegetables is a huge shift for people but they’re always surprised by how good it makes them feel.”

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The book is called Eat More Plants: Over 100 anti-inflammatory, plant-based recipes for vibrant living. Nielsen says chronic inflammation is a little-understood and insidious condition linked to diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and possibly even depression. “Chronic inflammation affects so many and it’s basically your immune system losing the balance between action and tolerance,” she explains. “Anti-inflammatory eating is about two basic things: reducing all the things in your diet – like hyperprocessed foods – that cause inflammatory damage, and then giving your body and your immune systems the nutritional tools they need to do their jobs properly.”

A couple tips for this dish: If you are looking for a heartier meal, instead of zucchini use one package (12 ounces/340 g) of gluten-free spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, and a couple of handfuls of baby arugula for extra greens. And if you don’t have a spiralizer, use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini lengthwise into ribbons.

Zucchini zoodles with Sungold cherry tomato sauce

Handout

  • 2 pints ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes or other cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped drained capers or pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated on a microplane
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 to 6 firm, small zucchini, spiralized (about 2 pounds/900 grams)
  • 1 cup almond ricotta cheese or 1 can (14 ounces/398 mL) white cannellini beans

In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, basil, olive oil, capers and garlic and crush together with your fingers to release the juices and blend ingredients into a sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper and with lemon juice for acidity, if required. If tomatoes are not in season or naturally sweet, add ½ teaspoon of sugar to boost the flavour. Let sit while you spiralize the zucchini, so the flavours can blend.

Toss the spiralized zucchini noodles with the tomato sauce. Divide among four bowls and top each with ¼ cup almond ricotta cheese.

Excerpted from Eat More Plants by Desiree Nielsen. Copyright © 2019 by Desiree Nielsen. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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