SEATTLE — Reducing the amount of meat in your diet can be part of a healthy lifestyle change, and it’s cropping up on many New Year lists for Northwesterners. The question is how to incorporate the changes in a way that lasts longer than the newly fallen snow around Washington State this week.

Helping us explore this healthier way of eating is James Beard Award-winning Chef Jason Wilson, Culinary Director for Fire and Vine Hospitality, which includes the iconic El Gaucho steakhouse. Introducing exciting new recipes and plant-based meat alternatives from Sweet Earth Foods, he discusses incorporating this new way of cooking into your own family meals.

That’s saying a lot from the man who’s famous for showcasing mouth-watering dry-aged prime beef dishes at his renowned Miller’s Guild and The Lakehouse restaurants in Seattle and Bellevue. But it’s not a contradiction, according to Jason. It’s more about balance and improving ourselves one step at a time, which he’s doing in his own personal and professional life.

“In our house,” he says, “my son and I will often take a couple days a week and do dinner that’s all plants … making sure it’s simultaneously delicious and nutritious.” 

After partnering with Sweet Earth Foods, Jason has developed these two recipes using the company’s plant-based “Mindful Chick'n” and “Awesome Grounds” ingredients. By adding simple vegetables, fruits and herbs from a quick trip to the supermarket, anyone can enjoy these flavorful dishes on their dinner table with little time and trouble.

The Mindful Chick’n coconut curry recipe shared with viewers adds things such as Northwest apples, avocados, mint, cilantro, basil and a five-minute yellow curry sauce to the plant-based chicken alternative. Jason points out how the Mindful Chick’n pieces absorb flavor in much the same way as traditional chicken breast and chicken thighs.

“A lot of the flavor we find in food comes from plants anyway,” he notes. “Think about spices, herbs, a great pesto sauce – those are all plants.”

The second recipe tackles the dilemma of replacing ground beef in many recipes routinely gracing American tables. Chef Jason lays it out with his typical casual approach, showing us step-by-step how to make his “Awesome Grounds Sesame Ginger Shiitake Lettuce Wraps.” This one is all about getting the texture just right, which is easy with the company’s ground plant mixture. This recipe adds flavorful ingredients such as toasted Chautauqua mushrooms, garlic, ginger, scallions and cilantro, along with soy sauce and sesame oil (which eliminates the need for extra oil when cooking).

When it comes to stretching pre-conceived cooking boundaries and embracing new things in a new year, it really comes down to keeping an open mind, according to Jason and the folks at Sweet Earth Foods.

“If people want to get into an eating plant-based and having a delicious diet, they don't have to dive all in the pool at one time,” Jason stresses. “They can just take their time, try it out for a day, see how it feels, and then balance it in their weekly diet.” 

For more recipes, product information or locations where you can find Sweet Earth Foods, just visit SweetEarthFoods.com. If you don’t feel like cooking, they also sell pre-made pizzas, breakfast foods and snack items.

Recipe: Mindful Chik’n Yellow Coconut Curry with Green Apple & Avocado

From Chef Jason Wilson, Serves 4

  • 12 ounces Mindful Chik’n
  • 8 ounce coconut milk
  • 1.5 Tbsp Yellow Curry Paste
  • 2 Avocados, pits removed, large wedges 
  • 4 Scallions, chopped in large pieces
  • 1 tbsp finely minded ginger
  • 1 tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, large diced, seeded
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup large diced green apple
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro 10 basil leaves, 15 mint leaves...rough chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • (Optional sliced red chiles for more heat)

Simmer the cauliflower, ginger, garlic and bell pepper in sesame oil and olive oil until fragrant. Add the curry paste and stir everything well. Add the orange juice and apples and stir well, simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Mindful Chik’n and coconut milk, simmer for 7-10 minutes to achieve desired consistency. Remove pan from heat, stir on the avocado wedges and scallions. Before serving, stir in the chopped herbs. Portion the curry evenly and serve with either cooked brown rice or quinoa (or some rice noodles). Garnish with a lime wedge (optional sliced red chiles for more heat).

Recipe: Awesome Grounds Sesame Ginger Shiitake Lettuce Wraps

From Chef Jason Wilson, Serves 4

Pickle the onions first: 

  • ½ cup sliced thin red onions
  • ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar

Simmer the sugar & rice vinegar for 1 minute, remove from heat for 5 minutes and add the red onions, allow 20 minutes for onions to soften and “pickle”. Remove from solution, discard, use as part of the wraps.

Then work on the filling: 

  • 1 Package Awesome Grounds
  • 1 Head of Bibb (Butter Lettuce) remove the leaves individually to get nice wraps/cups
  • 2/3 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • ½ bunch cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup thinly julienned cucumber
  • ½ cup thinly julienned carrot
  • 2 tbsp minced green onions
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped well
  • ¼ cup marcona almonds, chopped well
  • 1 fresno chile, sliced thin, seeds removed

On medium heat, simmer the shiitake mushrooms in sesame oil until golden brown, add the ginger and garlic and continue simmering until mushrooms are crispy, yet do not burn garlic or ginger. Mix by hand, the Awesome Grounds, with the shiitake mixture, the lime juice, soy sauce and scallions. Form the seasoned grounds into balls or tubular “sausages”. Saute the balls in a non- stick or cast iron pan until brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

Build wraps using lettuce as the cup, then awesome balls, then the julienned cucumber and carrot, cilantro, pickled onions, chopped almonds, and cilantro leaves. (optional chiles)

A little hoisin or sriracha can garnish the wrap.

ABOUT CHEF JASON WILSON: Chef Jason Wilson is well known in the Pacific Northwest food scene. He's got 25 years in the restaurant business and won numerous awards including a James Beard Award Best Chef Northwest, and Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef."  As culinary director, Jason drives creative development and spearheads future projects with Fire & Vine Hospitality, which includes iconic restaurants like El Gaucho and Aqua, while continuing his position as chef-owner of Miller’s Guild, The Lakehouse and Civility & Unrest.

Sponsored by Sweet Earth Foods. Segment Producer Heidi Eng. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.comContact New Day