“I’ve always been a big guy, but just imagine me 200 pounds bigger than I am now,” says Del Sroufe with an affable grin on his face and Popeye arms resting on what was once a beer barrel belly.
When his weight topped out at 475 pounds, Sroufe adopted a whole foods, low-fat, plant-based philosophy in order to regain his health. He has never looked back. Since those days, his New York Times bestselling cookbook Forks over Knives has become synonymous with healthy, plant-based eating.
The Forks Over Knives approach, which Sroufe assesses as “better than vegan,” calls for no oil, salt, or processed foods. It is designed to avoid the pitfalls of The Standard American Diet, that have been replicated in many vegan and vegetarian diets.
“Chefs these days are spokespeople for a lot of very important causes, and I think there is a responsibility to use that to promote wellness,” Sroufe says. He is tall, with close-cropped hair and a hearty laugh. He is seated in front of the Clintonville Community Co-op, a small local purveyor of all things healthy and organic.
Sroufe’s latest cause is teaching people how to stay healthy in the kitchen when they have a busy schedule.
“When I was a kid, my mother, a divorced working parent, always managed get dinner on the table,” says Sroufe. “Working a full time job meant that she was out of the house by 7 a.m. and did not get back home until almost 6 p.m. every night. To put dinner on the table at a decent hour, she had to have a plan.”
It was his mother’s plan that sparked the idea for The China Study Quick and Easy Cookbook, released May 19. The recipes, which consist of whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables with no oil or salt and no processed food, are designed to let busy people take charge of their health by giving them a strategy to cook once and eat well all week.
“The concept is simple,” he explains. “It just takes a little organization. Organization means having a stocked pantry, a menu, plan and a shopping list. The recipes in the book need less than 30 minutes of prep time, no more than eight ingredients, and only one or two steps. Almost everything I make gets used in at least two different dishes.”
Like any decent chef, Sroufe has certain essentials in his kitchen at all times to help keep his diet from taking a nosedive into fast food territory when he’s in a rush. His top three include pre-made rice, salad, and beans. These are the starting points for everything from soups to Buddha Bowls to burritos, he says.
Sroufe is just as passionate about keeping people healthy as he is about food. He is quick to point out that in countries where a typical Western diet is consumed, healthcare is more costly than anywhere else on the planet.
“It’s a growing economic and social crisis,” he says. “However, this is a crisis that need not grow anymore. Once we wake up to the problem, we can regain control of our health, starting at our own dinner table.”
He explains that by eating a plant-based diet, not only can we cut down on medical bills and insurance costs but grocery bills too. Healthy ingredients like beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables tend to be less expensive than the highly processed foods that are making people sick.
“Being sick not only comes with expenses—it negatively impacts the things that matter most in life, like spending time with family and friends, achieving your personal goals, making a difference in your community, or just living. The costs of disease are not just high for you, they are high for everyone around you too.”
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
4 portobello mushroom caps
4 whole grain burger
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large tomato, sliced
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
4 lettuce leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 cup red pepper mayo
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
Place the mushrooms stem-side up on a non-stick baking sheet. Combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce or tamari, garlic, basil, oregano, and black pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Drizzle the marinade over the mushroom caps and let sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the mushrooms for 10 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 10 minutes. Place each mushroom on the bottom half of a toasted bun and top with tomato, lettuce, onion slices, and red pepper mayo.
Red Pepper Mayo
1 1/2 cups pureed cauliflower
2 roasted red bell peppers
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Add cauliflower puree to a blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Chef Del’s book The China Study Quick and Easy Cookbook is available
for purchase online, in bookstores, and at chef’s website, chefdelsroufe.com. He also teaches cooking classes at the Wellness Forum. Visit them at wellnessforum.com.