Kathy Freston wants you to have a happy—and vegan—Valentine’s Day. To accomplish this, the renowned author suggests protein-based meals as the best way to send a compassionate message to that special someone in your life. And, as we all know, Valentine’s Day is as much about the right meals as it is about romance, which is why we’re re-reading Clean Protein: The Revolution That Will Reshape Your Body, Boost Your Energy—and Save Our Planet, a book written by Freston and Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute. Aside from an array of tips for ensuring we eat the proper amount of protein (their research indicates that Americans are typically consuming 50-percent more protein than they need in a day), the 288-page tome also includes plant-based recipes from Jason Wyrick and Chloe Coscarelli. With Valentine’s Day approaching, we asked Freston to help us whip up a home-cooked vegan meal that’s as hearty as it is sexy.
The best way to eat on Valentine’s Day (or any other day), the authors say, is to fill ourselves with clean protein, which refers to proteins free from pathogens and antibiotics, and to its limited negative impact on our air, land, and water. To make sure we’re eating the cleanest protein possible, Freston and Friedrich suggest a diet comprised of beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, tempeh, and chickpeas. These foods are directly related to a great Valentine’s Day meal because many “protein enthusiasts” attribute their stronger muscles, healthy hair, and glowing skin to clean protein. Even better? These foods also decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, which means you’ll have years of Valentine’s Day celebrations to look forward to.
What to make
In order to woo your Valentine, Freston suggests beginning your meal with bodybuilder/nutritionist Will Tucker’s First Kiss Smoothie (a dragonfruit, mango, and coconut blend that’s not too sweet) before moving onto Wyrick’s Pizza Marinara with Porcini Mushrooms and Truffle Cheese. If you and your Valentine can keep your hands off each other long enough to enjoy dessert, Freston says Wyrick’s Avocado Chocolate Mousse Crunch—which blends avocado, cocoa powder, agave syrup, almond extract, and salt—is “for anyone who likes a little naughty with their nice.” Regardless of what recipes you choose, Freston says a vegan meal is the only option for Valentine’s Day. “Food that comes by way of kindness, that powers the body and delights the senses and also makes you deepen … that’s full-bodied love,” Freston says. “You deserve that. We all do. So, let’s dish out some love—either to a sweetheart or just yourself!”
How to enjoy It
As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, so make your Valentine’s Day even more special by sharing the cooking duties. If one person isn’t comfortable in the kitchen, have him or her wash the dishes and set a romantic table for two, complete with candlesticks. “Then,” Freston says, enjoy your evening “with a luscious glass of wine, followed by declarations of happiness.”
Freston’s sweetheart is Dan Buettner, a fellow best-selling author who wrote The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. He once told The New York Times that he seduced Freston with a dish he named “Ikarian stew,” which is a simmering pot of black-eyed peas, fennel, onions, garlic, carrots, and tomato that’s finished with a drizzle of olive oil. In the book, Freston writes, “I often tell Dan I’d be with him just for this stew—it’s that good.” However, food isn’t the only way to win over a vegan loved one on Valentine’s Day, Freston says. “To me,” Freston says, “the perfect Valentine is kindhearted, makes me feel alive and happy, and expands my worldview so that I feel more connected with the bigger picture. And a perfect Valentine’s meal is about enjoying delicious and healthy foods together. It’s about nourishing our bodies and our relationships.”
Stacy Suaya is a vegan writer based in Los Angeles, CA.