What Happened When I Let Tom Brady Pick Out My Meals

Photo: Taylor Hill/WireImage.
Tom Brady's eating habits are notoriously strict. The quarterback, multi-multi-Super Bowl champ, and Mr. Giselle reportedly eats an 80% plant-based diet that excludes all nightshades and processed sugars. His regimented meal plans are even a part of his lifestyle brand and fitness company, TB12. Starting last year, the TB12 cookbook went on sale for a cool $200. And, back in March, we learned eating like Tom Brady was about to get (a little) more affordable.
Vegan meal delivery service Purple Carrot partnered with TB12 to create TB12 Performance Meals, a subscription box that includes three new plant-based recipes every week. At $78 a week, it's $10 more than Purple Carrot's regular subscription, but, then again, those meals don't come with the guarantee that "meals like these" are what help Brady stay at the top of his game.
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According to Purple Carrot's website, the TB12 performance meals are great for anyone looking to "maximize [their] performance on the playing field," as well as those wanting to "eat more cleanly," or just want to be like Tom Brady. As a non-vegan, non-athlete, non-sports fan, I am decidedly none of those things. But I was curious: could a plant-based meal made with one of the most decorated professional athletes in history stand up to the scrutiny of someone whose perfect meal is delivery pizza with a side of garlic knots?
In other words: could the least ideal audience for this subscription plan possibly review it favorably? As it turns out, it might not be as difficult as getting five championship rings.
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Photo: Courtesy of Purple Carrot.
Ramen With Gingered Greens & Broccolini
In the first recipe I tested, a coconut-y miso broth is mixed with brown rice noodles and fresh and roasted greens. With an estimated 30 minute prep time, it was the quickest dish to make, and relatively stress-free. To start, I simmered a quick miso-coconut broth, roasted the veggies, and prepped the toppings. After just over 30 minutes (32:12 seconds, to be exact), I was ready to plate everything.
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My Version
While it won't compare to a professionally-shot bowl of ramen on a gorgeous marble countertop, I was, at the very least, satisfied by how everything looked. In addition to roasted veggies and gorgeous watermelon radishes, the ramen was topped off with a tahini drizzle and dollop of spicy chili-garlic sauce.

While the tahini and coconut broth might not be typical ramen ingredients, together, it just tasted like a delicious soup. I didn't even miss the just-barely-hard-boiled egg that's a signature addition to fresh ramen. And while I love a good bowl of ramen, I do have to admit soups and stews are not my favorite genre of food. After a while, it can just feel like every bite tastes the same. Which is why the addition of the tahini and chili-garlic topping was so genius: it not only spiced things up literally, it allowed the flavor to change a few times as I slurped down the bowl. It may have been one of the best homemade soups me, a sort-of-soup-hater, had ever had.
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Photo: Courtesy of Purple Carrot.
White Lentil Risotto With Roasted Vegetables
Could lightning strike the same place twice? For the second dish, I once again roasted vegetables. This time, it was beets and broccoli, topped with fresh micro-greens and a cashew gremolata. All of this was meant to be served atop lentil "risotto," simmered with a vegetable broth and topped off with vegan Parmesan and butter.

With a 40 minute estimated prep time, I was able to get everything done in just over 45 minutes thanks to the help of a hand-held food processor to chop up the cashews, which might be cheating a bit. The lentils also took a bit longer than stated to cook off the extra water, but I was also cooking it in a heavy-bottomed pan, which certainly slowed things down. I finally decided enough was enough and made myself a plate.
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My Version
This is where I promise you that I am not now and never have been a fan of Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, or vegan cheese. Because what I am going to tell you is true: I hate beets, and I licked my plate clean. At first, I found the "risotto" to be a little disturbing because it was so clearly not Arborio rice I was eating but instead lentils.

Then I realized that I actually really like lentils, and the browned bits of turnip and beets gave the dish a pleasant richness. And, once again, I was saved from my fear of textural dullness by the inclusion of raw veggies and a quick gremolata.
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Crispy Turnip Cakes With Tabbouleh
Finally, it was time to try out turnip cakes. While I straight-up don't like (or thought I didn't like beets — who am I becoming?!), I truly don't have many feelings about turnips. I mostly think of them as the vegetable Molly McIntire refuses to eat in her first American Girl doll book. Other than that, I couldn't conjure a strong opinion about them either way.

This was also the longest prep time, at 45 minutes. That was mostly due to the time required to cook and cool the quinoa, as well as to drain, mix, and fry the turnips into cakes. While it was touch-and-go and a few of the turnip cakes nearly fell apart in the frying pan, at just under 50 minutes, everything was plated and ready to go.
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My Version
If you like latkes, let me venture to guess that you, too, will like turnip cakes. You may even like turnip cakes topped with a vegan yogurt-za'atar dip, because I did, and the world is apparently turned upside down now because that is, apparently, a thing I like to eat. The quinoa tabbouleh was also a great cooling accompaniment to the hot main dish.

While Tom Brady and I have next-to-nothing in common (well, that's not entirely true, I once lived in Boston for eight months), I can say that, if I could only eat his meals, crafted by professional chefs, I could probably eat plant-based 80% of the time. At $13 a meal, I won't be eating like TB12 on the regular any time soon, but I will say all the dishes I had were a lot better than what the same amount would buy me at an average restaurant. I will never judge Tom Brady's food choices ever again, at least until the day I, too, can make a 40 yard dash in 5.28 seconds. Except, I still don't get the strawberry thing.