Pressed Salad with Toasted Sunflower Seeds

I love the beautiful colors in this pressed salad.  What a gorgeous way to eat a lot of fresh, flavorful vegetables!

I love the beautiful colors in this pressed salad. What a gorgeous way to eat a lot of fresh, flavorful vegetables!

This salad combines the unique flavor of raw fennel with the sweetness of apples and cucumber.  You can throw in any veggies that you happen to have such as finely sliced carrots, napa cabbage, or spring onions.  The recipe below is my favorite combination.  The preparation method interesting as well; have you ever massaged your veggies?  Massaging in salty plum vinegar (or actual grain salt) makes the vegetables wilt slightly.  They will still be crunchy when eaten though, and the texture is similar to a crunchy pickle.  In a way this is an instantly pickled salad!  I love this salad on the side of a starchy main course like hash-browned sweet potatoes and kale.

Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, protein, and fiber.  This toasted version is wonderful to sprinkle on anything!

Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, protein, and fiber. This toasted version is wonderful to sprinkle on anything!

Ingredients:

1 Container oil-free unsalted sunflower seeds

Nama shoyu (unpasteurized, aged soy sauce) or soy sauce to taste

Spread the sunflower seeds out in a thin layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of nama shoyu and stir with a spoon or spatula.  Bake at 350 for 2 minutes until gently browned.  If more time is needed watch the seeds carefully–they will burn quickly!

Pressed Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 Small radicchio

1 Medium cucumber

1 Medium fennel bulb, trimmed of stems

6 Radishes

1 Large apple, cored

1 Tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar (substitute 1 teaspoon sea salt)

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

Sweet, crunchy salad!

Sweet, crunchy salad!

Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice all of the vegetables and apple as thin as possible.  Mix them together in a large bowl.  Add the plum and rice vinegars.  Use your hands to massage the vinegar into the vegetables for several minutes.  Water should start to come out of the veggies as they begin to wilt slightly.  When there is a good amount of liquid in the mixing bowl, set a plate on the veggies in the bowl with a weight on top (such as a full tea kettle).  Press the salad like this for 30 minutes.  Drain away the excess liquid.  If the salad tastes salty (or if salt was used instead of plum vinegar), give it a gentle rinse.  Enjoy!

 

Whole Grain Kamut Salad with Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette

I imagine finding a salad like this at the Whole Foods fresh salad bar.  You can make it at home!

I imagine finding a salad like this at the Whole Foods fresh salad bar. You can make it at home!

Whole grain salads make me feel like a champion!  Sometimes I crave a big bowl of whole wheat pasta marinara, but sometimes I just want the whole wheat grain itself.  There’s something about it…the springy texture of whole grain Kamut, the sweetness of fresh fruit and carrots, and the lovely tang of a home made vinaigrette.  I hope this dish makes you feel as wonderful as I do!

3 Cups cooked whole grain Kamut (khorasan wheat)

2 Pears (Asian or other variety), cored and chopped

1 Cup shredded carrots

1/4 Cup fresh Turkish apricots, chopped

3 Spring onions, thinly sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon brown rice syrup

Place the cooked and cooled Kamut in a large bowl and add the pears, shredded carrot, apricots, and spring onions.  Prepare the dressing by mixing the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and brown rice syrup well in a small bowl.  Pour the dressing over the grain salad and mix with salad hands.  Serve chilled.

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“Everything in Moderation,” Plus Chocolate Chip and Raspberry Walnut Cookie Recipes!

These classic chocolate chip cookies are made without butter, dairy, or oil.  They are delicious when warm and so soft!

These classic chocolate chip cookies are made without butter, dairy, or oil. They are delicious when warm and so soft!

Did you ever meet someone who has a different way of eating than you, one that seems restrictive, and say to yourself, “that’s not for me, it seems extreme” or “they can’t enjoy eating like that, it’s so restrictive.  Everything in moderation.”  It’s a phrase used all the time in conversations about diet between people with different views.  After a presentation I gave on a whole foods plant based diet one woman looked at me, shocked at the idea of this way of eating and practically shouted “but…everything in moderation!”  The (amazing!) cookie recipes at the end of this post are not 100% whole food recipes.  They are desserts.  I make desserts like these every once in a while because sometimes you just need a dessert!  When you’re about to make these cookies it’s worth considering how your definition of “moderation” has changed as you begin to eat a more whole foods plant based diet.

Raspberry walnut cookies are a sweet treat!

Raspberry walnut cookies are a sweet treat!

Before I saw “Forks Over Knives” and changed my way of eating, I thought that I was following the “everything in moderation” guideline.  To me that meant pizza or ice cream (or other treat) on the weekend as a given.  Saturday night pizza was like my god-given dietary right.  There was no way I could gain weight or become less than healthy by eating that (or so I thought)!  Friday night gets looped in there too, as I was celebrating the coming weekend.  If I had something green during the day, no matter how much oily dressing I put on top of it, in my mind I could “afford” a dinner of cheese and wine that night.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and holiday indulgences were just part of my “moderate” diet.  A piece of office candy or cake during the week, and dessert at a family dinner on Sunday all counted towards “everything in moderation.”  This type of moderation wasn’t working for me as I found myself 20 pounds heavier than optimal and medically “overweight.”

A Note on Exercise

Exercise is essential to health!  I had some limited success in managing my weight with exercise.  My husband and I joined a 24 hour gym and worked out 6 days per week: strength training, cardio, some crossfit, Les Mills classes, and 3 weeks with a personal trainer.  We didn’t give up–we enjoyed it!  We also enjoyed going to the Whole Foods store below the gym afterwards, sipping our protein shakes, to pick up a variety of cheeses to eat for dinner and some organic, nitrate-free bacon to cook for breakfast.  And when we would take a few days off from exercising (as we all do in times of stress or around the holidays) the weight went right back on.  I have to tell you that I never felt as good then as I do now eating a whole food vegan diet with light exercise like walking, swimming, yoga, and playing with my toddler.  Have you ever heard a fit friend describe “falling off the wagon” for a few days?  When the food we eat makes us feel bloated, headachey, and sluggish maybe we should take it as a sign to redefine our sense of “moderation.”

My New Moderation

When I put an avocado on my salad I am aware that it is high in fat.  I try to keep nuts and nut butters down to about a half cup a week without actually measuring.  Cashew cheese is a real indulgence!  If I want to make veggie sushi with white rice instead of brown, that’s fine.  And a teaspoon of plant based sweetener on my morning oatmeal isn’t going to hurt me.  I completely eschew beef, chicken, fish, cheese, milk, and oil.  Your “moderation” may look a little bit different than mine even on a whole food vegan diet.  As my favorite doctor John McDougall says, “there’s a spectrum here from the well and living to the nearly dead.”  If you suffer from conditions such as high cholesterol,

"The Rice Diet" cured obesity in a clinical setting.  You can do as much with far less restriction by eating a whole foods plant based diet.

“The Rice Diet” cured obesity in a clinical setting. You can do as much with far less restriction by eating a whole foods plant based diet.

diabetes or other illnesses you may not do well with the fatty nuts and treats that I enjoy.  Walter Kempner at Duke University used an extremely restricted plant based diet to cure seriously ill patients.  He used a diet of rice, fruit, juice, and sugar very successfully.  People with psoriasis, kidney disease, chest pain, edema, obesity and hypertension have been cured in this program.  Most of us however don’t need serious medical treatment in the metabolic ward.  For most of us (healthy, active adults) who only want to maintain optimal health and weight this sense of “moderation” is fine.  But compare my weekly avocado to my weekly loaded cheese pizza and you will see how “moderation” is truly relative.

I have heard obese people say “everything in moderation.”  I have heard people with chronic conditions of a dietary cause say “everything in moderation.”  I have heard the phrase as a warning, an admonition, and in condescension.  I have heard it used as a weapon and as a shield.  The truth is that the phrase “everything in moderation” really means “nothing in restriction”; it keeps us buying more, eating more, and feeling poorly.

“You’ve had enough…you’ve had more rich food than 99.99% of the people who walk this Earth, and another steak ain’t worth dying for.  And once you say that you can have your health back.”
John McDougall
Let them cool as long as you can before eating them (it may not be long at all)!

Let them cool as long as you can before eating them (it may not be long at all)!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup applesauce
1/3 Cup almond butter
1/4 Cup dry sweetener (date sugar, etc)
1 Tablespoon ground flax
2 Teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 & 1/3 Cups oat flour (you can process oats in a food processor for this)
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Cup sorghum flour (gluten free, if that’s your thing), or whole wheat flour
1/2 Cup non-dairy chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Place the applesauce, almond butter, dry sweetener, and flax in a large bowl and mix well with a fork.  Stir in the vanilla.  Add the oat flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well.  Lastly add the sorghum flour and chips and mix well.  Use wet hands to place balls of batter onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Flatten them a bit (they will not spread).  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Enjoy while warm, or let cool a bit and transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
Raspberry Walnut Cookies

Satisfy your plant based sweet tooth and impress non-vegans too!

Satisfy your plant based sweet tooth and impress non-vegans too!

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup applesauce
1/4 Cup almond butter
1/4 Cup dry sweetener (date sugar, etc)
1 Tablespoon ground flax
2 Teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 & 3/4 Cups oat flour (you can process oats in a food processor for this)
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup whole rolled oats
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 Cup raspberry jam
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Add the applesauce, almond butter, sweetener, and flax together in a bowl and mix with a fork.  Add the vanilla and stir.  Add the oat flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well.  Fold in the oats and walnuts.  With wet hands roll about 2 tablespoons of batter into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat until you have 18 balls.  They won’t spread during baking, so don’t worry about them being too close together.  Use your thumb or index finger and make a deep indent in the center of each cookie.  Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of jam into each indentation.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown.  Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Where Will I Get My Protein?

These shelves at our local grocery store display supplements (in food and drink form) for protein.  When consumers are bombarded with the "eat more protein" message our thoughts turn from "do I need this supplement?" into "which of these supplements do I need?"

These shelves at our local grocery store display supplements (in food and drink form) for protein. When consumers are bombarded with the “eat more protein” message our thoughts turn from “do I need this supplement?” into “which of these supplements do I need?”

This was my first question when I started a whole food vegan diet (a la Forks Over Knives), and it continues to be one of the first questions I am asked by people who are curious about beginning this way of eating.  Why is this question so common?  For me the connection was as simple as “meat = protein, so if I don’t eat meat I won’t get protein.”  I was amazed to learn that all whole plant foods contain carbohydrate, fat, and protein.

Russet potatoes?  They have protein.

Corn?  Protein.

Strawberries?  Protein, check.

Broccoli?  43% Calories from protein!

Iceberg lettuce?  Yes, even this veggie has protein.

In fact with just a quick internet search I was able to credibly confirm that a diet based on a variety of whole plant foods satisfies protein needs.  And with a little more research I found that the protein in plants is not only sufficient, but “complete” (meaning that all plant foods contain all 8 essential amino acids.  These are called “essential” since our body can not synthesize them and we must get them from a food source).  There is no need to combine foods in a single meal, day, or even in the same week as popular media sources advise.

I won’t delve into the harmful effects of excess protein, since I believe health messages do better when they emphasize the positive; I would like to answer two questions that everyone should ask as they consider whether they are getting enough protein.  1. How much protein do I need? and 2. How much protein am I getting from my diet?

These values include a "safety" margin that allows them to be called sufficient for 98% people in each category; consider them a safe maximum, not a minimum figure.

These values include a “safety” margin that allows them to be called sufficient for 98% people in each category; consider them a safe maximum, not a minimum figure.

One thing that I love about eating the whole food vegan way is that although I feel safe in knowing “the numbers,” for my nutrient needs, I know that I can totally let go of these figures and follow my hunger.  Because fiber and nutrient rich clean fuel is being put into my body, it is able to regulate the amount that I eat without my even being aware of how much I need.  I eat when I’m hungry, and I get the right amount of protein.  How easy is that?  I don’t need the stress or extra task of tracking the amount of every nutrient that I need.  No healthy person needs to be that familiar with the nutrient composition of their food.

How much protein am I getting?  A whole foods plant based diet provides between 30 and 80 g/day of protein.  This is sufficient for growing children, pregnant women, and competetive athletes.  As long as you are getting enough calories it is virtually impossible to not get enough protein.  High protein diets such as the paleo or Atkins diet can provide well over 300% more protein than is recommended--or needed.

How much protein am I getting? A whole foods plant based diet provides between 30 and 80 g/day of protein. This is sufficient for growing children, pregnant women, and competitive athletes. As long as you are getting enough calories it is virtually impossible to not get enough protein. High protein diets such as the paleo or Atkins diet can provide well over 300% more protein than is recommended–or needed.

When we eat a typical western diet we can double the protein that is needed by our bodies for muscle and tissue repair, hormone synthesis and other tasks.  (Fun fact: we lose about 2-3 grams per day in skin and must use protein in replacing it.  A gram is about the weight of a paperclip).  The excess protein itself from this typical way of eating is harmful, but the source of the protein is more of a concern.  Most Americans aren’t getting all that protein from plants.  We are talking about foods rich in cholesterol and saturated fat like boneless, skinless chicken breast, processed lunch meat like sliced turkey, eggs, and other animal foods.  The total package of these foods are calorie dense, nutrient poor, and generally harmful.

Even if you ate a diet of 2,000 calories of one single plant food like corn, potatoes, or asparagus, you would exceed the minimum requirement for each essential amino acid.  Of course, we don't eat only wheat flour in a day--we eat a varied diet of whole plant foods, which is even better!

Even if you ate a diet of 2,000 calories of one single plant food like corn, potatoes, or asparagus, you would exceed the minimum requirement for each essential amino acid. Of course, we don’t eat only asparagus in a day–we eat a varied diet of whole plant foods, which is even better!

 

The American Heart Association has been one of the first major agencies to bring their recommendations in line with what credible science has shown for years:

American Heart Association

Why do these look like candy bars?  Because they are candy bars.  They are an excellent source of sugar, refined ingredients, isolated fiber components, and concentrated protein powder.

Why do these look like candy bars? Because they are candy bars. They are an excellent source of sugar, refined ingredients, isolated fiber components, and concentrated protein powder.

Another source of protein in a typical American diet is fortified foods.  These range from cereal to bread, bars, granola, shakes, and myriad other processed foods.  These foods often display front of package claims regarding their protein content: “13 grams of protein!” or “Get a boost of protein!”  The protein in this type of food is rarely from the “natural” ingredients.  Rather, isolated concentrated protein powder is added to the normal recipe to boost the nutritional profile.  Unfortunately isolated nutrients rarely (if ever) behave in the body in the same way as the nutrient in its whole food form.  Protein powder can be made from whey (dairy), soy beans, peas, or other sources.  Consumers may not realize this fact but similar to the way olive oil is 100% fat extracted from olives, and corn oil is the fat from corn, so soy protein 100% protein extracted from soy beans.  Pea protein comes from peas.  When we eat the peas in their whole form we enjoy all of the protein in them along with the fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, iron, and magnesium found in nature’s perfect little green package.   Why consume the isolated protein on its own?

How Easy is it to Meet Protein Minimums on a Whole Food Vegan Diet?

What follows is a days menu of whole plant based food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and a nutritional analysis of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.  Spoiler alert!  Even if just 2/3 of the amount of food on the menu were eaten protein needs would easily be satisfied for most people.

Even without heavy use of legumes (an excellent source of plant protein!) a menu of whole plant based food easily exceeds protein requirements. (Data source: Jeff Novick, RD. Click image for link).

Even without heavy use of legumes (an excellent source of plant protein!) a menu of whole plant based food easily exceeds protein requirements, as you can see in the nutrition breakdown below.  There is no supplementation required. (Data source: Jeff Novick, RD. Click image for link).

Nutrition Summary
Energy | 2160.5 calories
Protein | 94.8 g – 169%
Fiber | 92.3 g – 308%

Vitamins (100%)
Vitamin A | 55246.6 IU – 1842%
Folate | 1072.0 µg – 268%
B1 (Thiamine) | 3.1 mg – 258%
B2 (Riboflavin) | 2.5 mg – 196%
B3 (Niacin) | 30.9 mg – 193%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)| 8.1 mg – 162%
B6 (Pyridoxine) | 4.6 mg – 273%
Vitamin C | 456.3 mg – 507%
Vitamin E | 18.9 mg – 126%
Vitamin K | 431.6 µg – 360%

Minerals (100%)
Calcium | 1285.3 mg – 107%
Copper | 3.8 mg – 426%
Iron | 31.9 mg – 398%
Magnesium | 838.2 mg – 200%
Manganese | 14.5 mg – 632%
Phosphorus | 1978.4 mg – 283%
Potassium | 7651.4 mg – 163%
Selenium | 142.8 µg – 260%
Sodium | 655.1 mg
Zinc | 16.0 mg – 146%

Lipids (Fats)
Saturated | 2.9 g – (1.2% of calories)
Omega-3 | 3.0 g – 188%
Omega-6 | 5.5 g (Ratio 6/3 1.88)
Cholesterol | 0.0 mg 0%

Many people on the path to a healthful way of eating are concerned about the nutrient sufficiency of a plant based way of eating.  Everyone who hopes to eat healthfully should be well informed on what their food choices will provide (or damage they will do) to their body.  I hope that a better understanding of the protein in a whole food vegan diet will help readers feel confident in their food choices.  The fact is: without powders, shakes, bars, or potions a diet of whole plant foods will meet your protein needs at all stages of life!

 

Sources: “The Starch Solution” by Dr. John McDougall, “Vegan Nutrition” by Gill Langley, PhD, and “A Day in the Life” by Jeff Novick, RD (https://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=43281)

Baked Potatoes with Broccoli & “Cheese” Sauce

And now for some hot, hearty (not to mention heart-healthy) winter time food: baked potatoes!  Did you know that Russet potatoes derive 9% of their calories from protein?  And broccoli will supply you with 33% of its calories from protein.  Plant sources of protein do not come hand in hand with saturated fat and cholesterol.  Even “lean” sources of animal protein can not boast the same.  Enjoy this delightful dinner!

This stuffed baked potato is a surprisingly simple hot and hearty dinner.  It's delicious!

This stuffed baked potato is a surprisingly simple hot and hearty dinner. It’s delicious!

Baked Potatoes with Broccoli & “Cheese” Sauce

6 Baked potatoes (I use a pressure cooker; alternatively, place pierced potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 420F for 45-60 min.  Or you could microwave them for 10 minutes.)

2 Cups broccoli florets, chopped

2 Onions, chopped

2 Red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1/4 Cup toasted cashews (optional)

2 Tablespoons tahini

1 Cup nutritional yeast

Dash smoked paprika

Pinch salt (optional)

Place the onions, red bell peppers, cashews, tahini, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, and salt in a blender along with 1/4 cup of water.  Blend on high until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender a couple times.  Add a touch more water if needed.

Combine the broccoli florets and “cheese” sauce together in a large saucepan and cook over medium high heat until broccoli is tender and sauce is heated through, about 6-10 minutes.  Add a little more water to the broccoli & “cheese” sauce if needed to achieve your desired consistency.  Gently split the baked potatoes and serve with the sauce poured over top.

Decadent Fudgy Chocolate Cupcakes

Low-fat chocolate heaven!

Low-fat chocolate heaven!

Here’s a real treat: chocolate cupcakes!  This recipe is adapted from an actual Forks Over Knives approved recipe.  There is real sugar in it, and real chocolate, though I have reduced the amount called for in the original recipe.  The cupcakes are much lower in fat than traditional cupcakes, and they use whole wheat as opposed to refined flour.  There is no animal protein or cholesterol in them.  But make no mistake–this is no health food!  Rather it is a real, no-foolin’ cupcake.  And it is amazing.

Decadent Fudgy Chocolate Cupcakes

1 Cup boiling water

1/3 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 & 1/2 Cups dried pitted dates

Pinch salt

1/2 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 Ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 Cup unsweetened soy or other plant-based milk

1 Teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 Cup dry sweetener (sugar, date sugar, or other)

1/4 Cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 Cup whole wheat flour

1/3 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon baking powder

1/4 Teaspoon salt

For the frosting:  Put the boiling water and 1/3 cup cocoa powder in a blender.  Blend on high for about 30 seconds until smooth.  Add the dates, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and pinch of salt to the blender.  Blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula.  Transfer the frosting mixture to an airtight container and let chill at least 3 hours, until it becomes firm and spreadable.

For the cupcakes:  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Have ready 12 nonstick or silicone baking cups or muffin pan.  Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.  Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the soy milk and vinegar.  Let it sit for a few minutes, until curdled.  Stir in the dry sweetener, applesauce, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and melted chocolate.  In a separate bowl mix together the flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt using a fork.  Add the mixture to the wet ingredients, one half at a time, and beat until no large lumps remain. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup 3/4 full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the cupcakes cool for at least 20 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the edges of each cupcake to remove.  The cupcakes should be completely cool before frosting.  Use the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to frost the cupcakes and enjoy!

 

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Tacos with Salsa Verde

The marinade for the mushrooms is out of this world!  I'll definitely use the same recipe for things like grilled veggie shish kebabs in the future.

The marinade for the mushrooms is out of this world! I’ll definitely use the same recipe for things like grilled veggie shish kebabs in the future.

Since the weather turned cold here in Maryland we haven’t grilled outside much, and boy do I miss it!  I convinced my husband to grill up these marinated portobello mushrooms (since they only take about 4 minutes per side).  He agreed that it was well worth enduring the brief cold for that familiar grilled flavor!

This recipe has several components and is somewhat time consuming, especially if you are making it for the first time.  I typically save a meal like this for a weekend day when I can get the mushrooms marinating in the morning, prepare the salsa verde as I have time during the day, and bring it all together for the evening meal.   I find that cooking from a recipe is often very time consuming!  While it is totally worth the extra effort, I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about a whole foods plant based lifestyle.  It need not be complex; it will be most successful if kept quite simple.  Believe me, more nights than not we are eating simple one pot or “hands off” meals like soba noodle salad, slow cooker pea soup, chickpea curry, or whole wheat pasta marinara.  Keep these special meals for every once in a blue moon (when you find yourself with too much time on your hands!) and they will stay special–and delicious!

Portobello Mushroom Tacos and Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

12 or more corn tortillas (oil free from store, or else make them fresh by following package directions on Masa corn flour)

Diced red onion

Shredded iceberg lettuce

3 Tablespoons nama shoyu or soy sauce

3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

3 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger

Black pepper to taste

4 Portobello mushroom caps, stems removed

8 Medium tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped

2 Poblano peppers, roasted at 400F for 20 min, cooled in air tight container, peeled and seeded

6 Green onions, chopped

1 Serrano chile (substitute a jalapeno)

Zest of 2 limes

Pinch salt (optional)

For the portobellos:  Mix the shoyu or soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, and black pepper together in a small bowl.  Place the mushroom caps gill-side up in a dish and pour the soy marinade on top.  Move the mushrooms around a bit to coat.  Allow to marinade for at least 1 hour.  When ready to cook, reserve the liquid marinade and grill the mushrooms 4 minutes per side.  Brush periodically with the marinade.  Allow to rest for a few minutes, then slice the mushrooms thinly.

For the salsa verde:

For less heat, remove the seeds from the serrano or jalapeno chile.  But I like the heat!

For less heat, remove the seeds from the serrano or jalapeno chile. But I like the heat!

Combine the tomatillos, roasted poblanos, green onions, serrano chile, lime zest and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process on high until a blended salsa is achieved.

To make the tacos: Heat up the tortillas a bit, or grab them while fresh if making at home; fill with a few slices of portobello mushroom and iceberg lettuce.  Sprinkle with red onion and top with fresh salsa verde.  Enjoy your taco!

Your Peaceful New Year

Here I am running my half marathon in May, and chasing my toddler in November of this year.

Here I am running my half marathon in May, and chasing my toddler in November of this year.

This past May at the peak of my half marathon training I was running three times per week, up to 17 miles.  My weight: 156 pounds.  Now it’s the week after Christmas and for months the only exercise I got is from normal daily activities like walking and keeping up with our toddler.  My weight this week: 156 pounds.  How is this possible?

I’m doing it without trying, and by that I mean I don’t count calories, grams of protein, ounces of water, carbs, glycemic index scores, or steps per day.  I don’t take multivitamin supplements, shakes, pills, potions, or worry about where I’m getting my protein, calcium, or Omega-3s.  I eat when I’m hungry until I am full (no portion size caps or limits).  When I’m thirsty I drink water.

Today’s diets seem so difficult to me; people who follow

There's no need to spend money on programs like this when normal activity and a diet of essentially peasant food will achieve vibrant good health.  (Traditional diets of potatoes, beans, and corn are very inexpensive).

There’s no need to spend money on programs like this when normal activity and a diet of essentially peasant food will achieve vibrant good health. (Traditional diets of potatoes, beans, and corn are very inexpensive).

them are hanging on so tight.  All too often around this time of year we start to get excited about one program or another of intense exercise and dietary restriction.  We want the promised weight loss and we want to feel great.  We get excited because these programs present us with a “proven” system, a combination of strict scheduling, meal planning, and supplementation that won’t let us down.  We get excited to take control of our health in the new year at last.  And when we slowly but surely abandon the program in March we feel that we are the ones that failed.  We strayed from the program, so we are the only ones to blame.  We never doubt the strict, extremely detailed, hanging-on-by-your-fingernails paced program of unnatural eating habits.  It is “proven,” after all.

I have seen special diet foods like this pop up in my local grocery store this week.  Weight Watchers is a program of calorie restriction and portion control.  How much easier it is to achieve a healthy weight by eating without limit until you are full!

I have seen special diet foods like this pop up in my local grocery store this week. Weight Watchers is a program of calorie restriction and portion control. How much easier it is to achieve a healthy weight by eating without limit until you are full!

I don’t need that kind of guilt trap in my life, and neither do you.  Instead of making a resolution for your weight and health in the New Year, try this: when you are hungry eat whole plant foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, greens, grains, fruit and vegetables.  Eat as much of your favorite of these foods as you like.  When you’re thirsty drink water.  No special amount.  Avoid all animal foods and oil.  Invite abundance into your life and onto your plate by eating as much of these whole plant foods as you want.

When I was training for my half marathon I noticed that at dinner time I would eat as much as my husband; I could go plate for plate of whole grain pasta with him, bean burrito for bean burrito.  Now I serve myself half to two thirds as much food as he eats at dinner.  During my high energy training my body needed more food to maintain my natural healthy weight of 156 and I felt hungrier.  Now that I am done with my training my hunger is satisfied more quickly with less food.  I need less food to maintain my 156.  If we feed it the right food (whole plant based food) it’s amazing how the body will calibrate itself to health using natural signals like hunger, thirst, and satiety.

This New Year consider abandoning the New Year’s Resolution.  Instead take the simple steps that will reward you, naturally and sustainably with peace in your New Year:

  1. When you are hungry eat whole plant foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, greens, grains, fruit, and vegetables
  2. Eat as much of these as you like until you are comfortably full
  3. When you are thirsty drink water
  4. Avoid animal foods and all oil

For more information explore the recipes on this site, or check out the following recommended articles and resources:

Is it Really Cheaper to Eat a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet?

Building Salads that You Actually Want to Eat

How to Lose Weight on a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet

Is a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Safe for Children?

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The Best Vegan Mac and “Cheese” Ever

Crisp on the top, ooey-gooey in the middle.  Whole foods plant based all the way through!

Crisp on the top, ooey-gooey in the middle. Whole foods plant based all the way through!

Of course there is no dairy in this whole foods plant based mac and “cheese.”  Traditional mac and cheese recipes can call for 3, 4 or 5 types of dairy products: various cheese varieties, cream cheese, butter, shredded cheese on top.  When you think of the calorie breakdown of a dish like that, it would have to be 80-90% calories from fat.  Would you believe that my recipe is just as creamy, savory, delicious, and filling with 10-15% of the calories from fat?  Believe it!

Many people try to lose or maintain weight through “portion control,” which just means “eat less.”  Miraculous as it sounds, when you eat a whole foods plant based diet you really can eat more while losing or maintaining your weight.  Think about it: if 1 cup of traditional mac and cheese has 300 calories, you can eat that same 300 calories in this plant based version but heap your plate full of it.  You can go back for seconds and thirds of this yummy dish, eat until you are completely full and satisfied and still lose weight.  This way of eating is so pleasurable and has such a powerful impact on how I feel every day that it inspired this blog.

What’s the secret to this better-than-any “cheese” sauce?  Sweet potato.  Enjoy the recipe, and please share.

Best Ever Mac and “Cheese”

Ingredients:

2 Large sweet potatoes, baked

2 Cups unsweetened plain soy milk (or other plant-based milk)

1 Onion, roughly chopped

4 Cloves garlic, chopped

2/3 Cup nutritional yeast

1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 Teaspoon salt (optional)

Old Bay Seasoning as desired (optional)

1 Package 100% whole wheat macaroni pasta

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove and cook the macaroni pasta.  Cook for 1 minute longer than package directions.  Drain pasta.  Do not rinse.

Peel the baked sweet potatoes.  Add them to a blender with the soy milk, onion, garlic, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, and salt (if using).  Blend until very smooth and thick, adding a little more soy milk if necessary.

Place the pasta in a large bowl and add the “cheese” sauce.  Mix well.  Transfer to a large casserole dish and cover.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish, top with a few sprinkles of Old Bay (if desired) and continue baking, uncovered, for 10 minutes more.  The top of the mac and “cheese” should be slightly crisp when done.

 

2 Amazing Whole Foods Plant Based Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin

Use fresh pumpkin or canned in this simple recipe!

Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 Cup pureed pumpkin

1Cup oats

1 Cup water

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup (optional)

Add the ingredients to a blender and blend on high until smooth.  Cook in a non-stick pan (no oil needed) over medium heat about 3 minutes per side.  Serve with fresh apple butter, applesauce, fresh fruit, or a little bit of pure maple syrup.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Ingredients:

2 Cups oats

1 Cup whole sorghum flour

1/3 Cup almonds

2 Teaspoons ground flax seed

1 Banana

1 Cup unsweetened soy milk (or other plant-based milk)

3 Large Japanese sweet potatoes, baked and peeled

1 Cup pureed pumpkin

4 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 Cup pure maple syrup (for filling), and 2 tablespoons (for crust)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Begin the crust of the pumpkin pie bars by combining the oats, sorghum flour, almonds, and flax seed in the bowl of a food processor.  Process on high 3-4 minutes, until oats and almonds are pulverized.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add the banana, soy milk, and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to the food processor and process until smooth.  Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of oat and almond flour and mix with hands until a the consistency of play-dough is achieved.  Press the dough out flat in a 9×13 glass baking dish (no need to grease the dish).  Pre-bake the crust of the bars for 10 minutes.

Place the sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and remaining 1/2 cup maple syrup into the food processor.  Process until smooth and thick.  Use a rubber spatula to help break up the sweet potatoes if necessary.  When the crust has finished pre-baking, remove from the oven and carefully spread the pumpkin filling evenly on top of the crust.  Place the dish back in the oven and continue baking for 30 minutes more.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing (this will allow the bars to set).  Enjoy!

Rich pumpkin pie filling with a yummy crust!

Rich pumpkin pie filling with a yummy crust!

 

The Last Pumpkin Pie Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Pie

Whole food plant based pumpkin pie, with whole wheat crust and sweetened with a touch of maple syrup.

Sweetened only with a touch of pure maple syrup, it’s the healthiest too!  I have already made this pie several times this season for friends and family, and everyone–plant based and omnivore alike–loves it.  One family member with a culinary background and a particularly skeptical eye to our whole foods plant based lifestyle declared this pie to be “outstanding!”

You’ve probably heard of pumpkin pies that aren’t made 100% with pumpkin (in fact, most canned pumpkin isn’t pumpkin at all, but a less stringy, still delicious squash).  This pie is one of those.  It uses Japanese sweet potatoes.  This particular variety has purple skin and white flesh.  They are twice as sweet as common sweet potatoes, with

We go through a 40 pound case of these about once a month.  They are great for lunch or snacking when baked.

We go through a 40 pound case of these about once a month. They are great for lunch or snacking when baked.

a hint of natural vanilla flavor.  They are a bit more starchy than other sweet potatoes as well, which helps the pie filling stay thick and stand upright when sliced (other recipes use eggs, sugar and additional flour to achieve this).  Japanese sweet potatoes can be found year round at stores like Mom’s Organic Market, but they are starting to pop up at our local farm stands in Maryland as well.

I keep a couple cans of this on hand year round, but especially during the cooler weather months of fall and winter.  A pumpkin pie or quickbread can fill tummies and brighten spirits!

I keep a couple cans of this on hand year round, but especially during the cooler weather months of fall and winter. A pumpkin pie or quickbread can fill tummies and brighten spirits!

This recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice which can be purchased or made.  If you make your own, use this ratio: 4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part cloves.  I usually make a big batch of pumpkin pie spice and store it in empty spice bottles for use throughout fall and winter.  It’s great in pies, sprinkled on oatmeal, or in pancakes.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!

Wondering how you’ll make a pie crust without butter?  The key to a traditional flaky pie crust is using very cold butter when making the dough.  The butter keeps the flour layers separate and creates a flaky texture.  This recipe substitutes cold butter with a cold banana!  Chill a banana in the refrigerator for a couple hours before beginning to cook.

One final note before we delve into the recipe: if you can, choose Grade B maple syrup.  It’s less refined, darker, and more flavorful than Grade A!

Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

1 Banana (chilled)

2 Cups whole wheat flour

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

3 Medium Japanese sweet potatoes (baked at 420F for 90 minutes)

1 (15oz) Can pumpkin puree

1/2 Cup pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

For the Crust: Preheat the oven to 350F.  Add the peeled banana, whole wheat flour, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons maple syrup to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the dough has a play-dough consistency.  Add a teaspoon or two of water if necessary.  Turn the shaggy dough out onto a clean surface.  Use moist hands to shape the dough into a ball.  Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness.  Carefully transfer the dough to a pie tin (I used aluminum) and press it down into the tin.  Use scissors or a sharp knife to trim and shape the edges of the crust.

For the Filling: Carefully peel the sweet potatoes.  Add them to the rinsed bowl of a food processor, along with the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and pumpkin spice.  Process on high until very smooth.  Transfer the filling to the pie tin and use a rubber spatula to smooth it out to the top edges of the crust.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Allow to mostly cool before eating; this will allow the filling to set.  Enjoy!

The Forks Over Knives Plan in Maryland

Please join me for 4 yoga and plant based nutrition workshops.  "The Forks Over Knives Plan" is our textbook for this class (included).

Please join me for 4 yoga and plant based nutrition workshops. “The Forks Over Knives Plan” is our textbook for this class (included).

You’ve seen the movie and browsed the Forks Over Knives-friendly recipes here at Whole Food Vegan, and you’re ready to transition to a whole foods plant based diet.  Now you can do so in the company of other beginners on this dietary transformation (if you are in the southern Maryland area, that is)!  I’m very excited to partner with Jenn Brown of Yummy Yoga to offer this 4 week class.

The Forks Over Knives Plan

This 4 week class will pair a beginner friendly yoga class with an hour long nutrition workshop using “The Forks Over Knives Plan.” Each weekly class begins with 1 hour of yoga followed by a whole foods plant based snack and 1 hour plant based nutrition workshop. Participants receive a hardcover copy of the New York Times best selling book, “The Forks Over Knives Plan.”  Over the course of the month you will learn how to transition one meal at a time, week by week, until your entire diet consists entirely of whole plant based foods.

Keep in mind that food is powerful medicine and if you have a health condition or are taking medication at the time of the class you will need to see your doctor about adjusting–or eliminating–your medication during your transition.

This 4 week class will meet at Evolve Yoga and Wellness each Saturday in November from 2:30-4:30pm

Click here for more info and to register

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about this class:

Asian Slaw

Tangy, sweet, fresh, and zesty flavors abound in this colorful dish!

Tangy, sweet, fresh, and zesty flavors abound in this colorful dish!

There is a lot of peeling and chopping to be done for this dish, but the fresh flavors are so worth it. The recipe makes a big batch, perfect for taking to a potluck or sharing with family (or having lots of leftovers). Unlike the usual coleslaw recipe, this version has plenty of starchy corn and beans to fill you up.  It can definitely stand alone as dinner.  Here are my tips for easy prep:

-Use a food processor to shred the cabbage, followed by the carrots. The hard carrots will push through any leftover soft cabbage leaves.
-I have repurposed an old cheese grater for grating in a pinch, but I highly recommend investing in a microplaner for zesting limes (and other citrus fruit) and grating ginger. The fine blades of a microplaner will take your meals to the next level. For limes, the zest is feather light; ginger comes out much more finely grated and juicy. It’s under $20 and well worth it over a few meals time.
-Buy frozen corn and pre-shelled edamame. Leave them on the counter to thaw before use. Both are available organic if you desire.
-Nama shoyu is unpasteurized soy sauce. Purported to have nutritional benefits, for taste alone I’d choose nama shoyu over regular soy sauce. It is to regular soy sauce what soy sauce is to the reduced sodium variety.
-Almond butter: like most things, it’s better when fresh. If you have one of those fancy health food stores that let’s you grind almond butter fresh from the machine, give it a try!  It’s delicious, and you can save money by buying a smaller quantity of almond butter. In this recipe almond butter adds a little sweet and fatty flavor and body to the dressing. Since nuts are a calorie-dense food, be aware of how much you’re eating of nuts and nut butters if weight loss is a goal. Half a cup a week is about right for me.
Asian Slaw

This dish is a meal disguised as a side dish.  Even though coleslaw traditionally accompanies other food in a meal, since this version has starchy edamame (soy beans) and corn it will satisfy all on its own!

This dish is a meal disguised as a side dish. Even though coleslaw traditionally accompanies other food in a meal, since this version has starchy edamame (soy beans) and corn it will satisfy all on its own!

(Serves 5)

Ingredients:

1 Small red cabbage, shredded
5 Carrots, peeled and shredded
1 Red bell pepper, chopped
2 Cups shelled edamame
2 Cups corn
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1/2 Cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 Cup nama shoyu or soy sauce
1/2 Cup almond butter
1 Inch knob fresh ginger, grated
In a large bowl combine the cabbage, carrot, red bell pepper, edamame, corn, lime zest and lime juice. To prepare the dressing, combine the vinegar, nama shoyu, almond butter and ginger in a small bowl and mix until a smooth, somewhat creamy consistency is achieved. Pour the dressing onto the coleslaw and use a pair of large salad hands to combine.

Pumpkin Bread

Whole foods plant based pumpkin bread; no animal foods, no oil, all yummy!

Whole foods plant based pumpkin bread; no animal foods, no oil, all yummy!

‘Tis the season for pumpkin pie spice!  Well, almost. Even though the warm evenings of summer are still here, mornings on the east coast are becoming down right crisp. This puts me in the mood for all thins autumnal in our plant based diet: apples, hearty stews, baked squash, and this wonderful pumpkin bread. It is made with whole wheat flour, and is quite moist from pumpkin, banana, applesauce and flax. There is no need for oil. The bread comes out nicely sweetened by the agave syrup (only 1/4 cup for the whole loaf), but if you want to keep it 100% whole just substitute a little home made date syrup, or else throw in a handful of raisins. Now if only the weather would catch up to my “crunchy leaves, tea, and a book” mood!

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

1 Banana

1/2 Cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 Cup agave syrup

1/3 Cup water

1 Teaspoon pure vanilla

1/2 Can of pumpkin (about 1 cup)

1 Tablespoon ground flax

1 & 3/4 Cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (recipe: 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice)

2 Teaspoons baking powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Combine the wet ingredients and flax in the bowl of a food processor and process on high until smooth. Combine the remaining dry ingredients except walnuts in a bowl. Use a fork to rapidly mix the dry ingredients together. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir until evenly moist. Gently fold in the walnuts (reserve a tablespoon or so). Transfer the mixture to a loaf pan (silicone so no oil is needed). Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top of the loaf batter. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Allow to cool completely before slicing (if you can)!

A Conversation with Mother Nature

Lycopene in tomatoes can now be used in dyes for processed meat.

Lycopene in tomatoes can now be used in dyes for processed meat.

The FDA recently approved the use of lycopene from tomatoes as a more “natural” replacement for red dye in processed meat. Pepperoni on pizza, that quick weeknight dinner of hotdogs, and our daily turkey or ham sandwich all contain a  cocktail of substances like meat glue, nitrites, and dyes. They’ve got to be dyed, or else they will turn a “food-safe” but unappetizing grey color when exposed to light and air. In the age of information access let us not celebrate when we find out about these food industry “successes” and “improvements.”  Instead let’s rethink eating “food” that needs major structural, chemical, or nutritional improvement.

The way we ask our bodies to accept the food products we feed it (and remain healthy) reminds me of a preteen in an argument with Mother Nature. We discover that the human body needs certain nutrients to live, and that we can extract, synthesize or add those nutrients to any number of foods. And we go, “ketchup has the same nutritional content as a vegetable, so THERE!  I ate a bunch of ketchup, now I HAVE to be healthy!”

Nature’s all like, “Puh-lease.  You just discovered that the body needs these nutrients two seconds ago. Did it not occur to you that there might be other things you don’t know about how the body works?”

“No, no, no–I definitely need vitamins and minerals, so I’m taking these supplements to be healthy.”

Mother Nature goes, “SMH. I already put what you need in the food. In the right amounts. With countless other unnamed nutrients that you also need. Whoa whoa whoa!  How much are you taking of those vitamins and minerals?  Ever hear of too much of a good thing?  3,000-10,000% of your daily requirement (a range typical of those little bottles of pills) can definitely be detrimental and even toxic. The body can’t get rid of excesses of some of these nutrients, and here you are, taking way too much. It’s in the food.”

“But I need protein to be healthy. I eat lots of protein, so I should be healthy!”

“Oh, dear. May I remind you that huge, powerful mammals like the elephant are herbivorous and have much stronger muscles and bigger bones than you?  They’re getting all the nutrients they need in the right amounts. Have you even ever heard of a case of protein deficiency?  It’s called ‘quashiorkor.’ That’s what I thought. Now what about heart disease, diabetes, or cancer?  These are diseases of nutritional excess. Protein grows our muscles, sure, but it also causes many other things in the body to grow–including cancer. Thank god you’ve got two kidneys, because all of that excess protein you’re eating is taxing the hell out of them. Most people will decrease their kidney function by 30% due to this excess; which is not bad, unless you’re also diabetic in which case it can be deadly.”

We need to ask ourselves why we are fighting our bodies like this when it’s clear we all want the same thing: to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. These seem to me to be the right conditions for happiness.

It makes beautiful sense that the perfect food for our bodies comes from the world from which we sprang: not from

I prefer eating foods that are naturally red, like tomatoes: big and small!

I prefer eating foods that are naturally red, like tomatoes: big and small!

within factory walls.  So while industry celebrates the approval of lycopene as a replacement for red #40 and bug-derived carmine in jerky, deli meats, and sausages, let’s take this moment to say, “I’m not going to eat that, and I’m not going to feed it to my children.”  How else can we expect to be healthy?  Let all of our scientific discoveries about the body and nutrition serve to humble us to the complex majesty of creation or evolution. If we continue to wave every new found factoid in the face of Mother Nature–we might get grounded.

Whole Foods, Plant-Based Camping: Round 2

Guac made fresh at the camp site, with whole wheat pitas and watermelon.

Guac made fresh at the camp site, with whole wheat pitas and watermelon.

Last year we went camping in Delaware for 2 nights.  We liked it so much that we went back for 3 nights this summer.  It was wonderful!  Our plant-based menu was different this year, since we learned what does and does not work well when going vegan camping (vegamping?).  Last year’s menu was primarily stews, the ingredients for which I chopped and brought with us on the drive.

Last year we had hearty sweet potato and grain stews that took a long time to cook!

Last year we had hearty sweet potato and grain stews that took a long time to cook!

This year I packed a sharp knife and cutting board, and relied on ingredients purchased at local farm stands for our meals.  Everything needed to be eaten either raw, boiled, or steamed in a large pot with a steaming basket (this was a better option than boiling, since there is less water to be heated on our camping stove).  For fresh food, we had fruit like peaches, watermelon, honeydew, and blueberries.  I improvised guacamole with corn, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro on whole wheat pitas.  We had corn on the cob steamed with thyme.  We ate “true red” (red on the inside) potatoes steamed, with a little salt and pepper.  One hearty dinner was steamed herbed potatoes, cabbage, green beans and cremini mushrooms.  Add a little soy sauce and it’s a delight!  Our fireside snack was local roasted, unsalted peanuts.  These were fun to peel and toss the shell into the campfire flames.  Every day for breakfast we had oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, which is no departure from our usual easy breakfast.  I recommend the farm-stand route for your camping trip if you can.  The adventure of finding and preparing local plant-based food was one of my favorite camping activities!

Nacho “Cheese” Salad

Try this cheese dressing as a dip for a fresh veggie platter!

Try this cheese dressing as a dip for a fresh veggie platter!

Whose cheese is it?  Nacho cheese!  Get it?  ;)

This yummy black bean salad is topped with a cashew-based “cheese” sauce.  It is creamy.  It is decadent.  It is nut-based, and it is fatty!  Nuts are on the list of plant-based foods that are relatively high in total fat and saturated fat.  Even though nuts are plant foods and we eat them in their most whole and unprocessed state, they should be eaten sparingly on a whole foods plant based diet.  It might come as a surprise that not all plants are good for you, but think about it: there are many inedible plants that are down right poisonous to eat.  Allergens aside, some plant foods fall in a gray area between “good for you” and “avoid,” like mango (related to poison ivy, and can’t be eaten by some people).  Even tomatoes, eggplant and peppers technically belong to the nightshade family.  The natural defense of these plants against predators is to release a bitter compound (sometimes mustard oil).  If you make sure nuts are a “sometimes” food you will be able to enjoy their fatty smooth texture in plant-based sauces like this nacho “cheese” dressing.

Ingredients:

Use beans, greens, and grains to make every salad filling and delicious!

Use beans, greens, and grains to make every salad filling and delicious!

For the salad:

2 Cups of cooked black beans (or 1 15oz. can, drained and rinsed)

3 Cloves garlic, chopped

1 Large onion, sliced into thin strips

1 Green bell pepper, chopped

1 Spicy yellow pepper (or jalapeno), chopped

2 Cups cooked whole grain brown rice

3 Cups leafy green lettuce, chopped

1 Avocado, thinly sliced

1 Tomato, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

For the nacho “cheese” sauce:

1 Cup roasted unsalted cashews, soaked overnight (or boiled for 10 minutes)

2 Cups water

1/2 Cup nutritional yeast

1 Teaspoon onion powder

1/4 Teaspoon smoked paprika

Combine the nacho “cheese” ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth.  Pour the “cheese” into a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add a little water if necessary to get a “melted” consistency.

Cook the garlic, onion, bell pepper and spicy pepper in a large pot over medium high heat using the water saute method.  Add the black beans and cook until heated through.  Layer the lettuce, rice, and black bean mixture in serving bowls.  Top with the avocado and chopped tomato.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over the salad, then drizzle with warm nacho “cheese” sauce.  Enjoy!

This salad is a filling meal!

This salad is a filling meal!

Thanksgiving in July

This stuffing is delicious all on its own, but do pair it with baked sweet potatoes or roasted winter squash for even more wintry goodness--in summer!

This stuffing is delicious all on its own, but do pair it with baked sweet potatoes or roasted winter squash (if you can find it) for even more wintry goodness–in summer!

It’s summer in Maryland.  It’s hot.  It’s humid.  But by golly I’ve got to have some hearty plant-based Thanksgiving fare–and this stuffing is it!  Try this amazing recipe now and save it for the holidays.  You’ll impress family and friends at your holiday parties this year, since you will have practiced making this dish since the summer!  Did I mention that this dish has tawny port as an ingredient?  When fresh cranberries come in season around the holidays you can add a pound or so for a zesty, yet savory meal.

Ingredients:

5 Slices whole grain rye bread, cubed

5 Slices whole grain pumpernickel bread, cubed

5 Slices whole wheat bread, cubed

1 Onion, diced

6 Ribs celery, chopped

4 Carrots, peeled and slivered

2 Packages cremini mushrooms, sliced (32 oz.)

4-6 Cups home made vegetable broth (substitute water)

1 Granny Smith apple, diced

1 Red apple, diced

1/2 Cup slivered almonds

3 Tablespoons dried sage (or 6 tablespoons fresh, minced)

1 Tablespoon dried thyme (or 2 tablespoons fresh, minced)

1 Tablespoon oregano

1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 Teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 to 1 Cup tawny port

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Place the cubed bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes to dry it out, checking frequently to make sure it is not browning too much.  Set aside.

In a pan over medium high heat, saute the onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms in 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth (or water) until softened.  In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, cooked vegetables, apples, almonds, sage, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, and fresh cranberries (if using).  Add broth and port to bowl as needed.  Mix and toss until uniformly mixed and soggy.

Transfer the moist stuffing to a casserole dish with a cover.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Enjoy!

 

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

My non-vegan mom said, "it tastes just like chicken!"

My non-vegan mom said, “it tastes just like chicken!”

If you’ve been craving a cool chicken salad sandwich, try this outstanding chickpea salad as a healthy substitute!  Chicken on its own isn’t very flavorful–that (among other reasons not to eat chicken) is why we don’t eat it boiled plain or steamed.  This salad has all of the wonderful flavor and crunch of a deli chicken salad sandwich, without any chicken or mayo (no eggs, meat, cholesterol, or animal protein).  Paired with a crunchy home-fermented pickle and served on 100% whole wheat bread it’s an amazing and nourishing lunch!

Ingredients:

Throw this salad in a whole wheat lavash wrap for plant-based lunch on the go!

Throw this salad in a whole wheat lavash wrap for plant-based lunch on the go!

For the mayo:

1 (12oz) Package silken tofu

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tablespoon mustard

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar (sub apple cider vinegar if you like)

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend on high until very smooth.  Add a little water if necessary to achieve a nice consistency.

For the chickpea salad:

1 & 1/2 Cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 (15oz) can, drained and rinsed)

2 Stalks celery, chopped

3 Spring onions, chopped

1/4 Cup chopped dill pickle

1/4 Cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/2 Cup homemade vegan mayo

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon mustard

1 Tablespoon fresh dill, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

Sandwich bread and fixin’s like: tomato, lettuce, onion, avocado

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl.  Use a potato masher or fork to mash the chickpeas until flaky.  Add the celery, spring onion, pickles, bell pepper, mayo, and garlic and stir to combine.  Stir in the mustard and dill.  Season with lemon juice and black pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

The perfect backyard picnic lunch!  Our little family scarfed these chickpea salad sammies.

The perfect backyard picnic lunch! Our little family scarfed these chickpea salad sammies.

Add “Percent Calories from Fat” to Nutrition Facts Labels

How can consumers follow nutritional guidelines when front AND back of packaging are misleading?

How can consumers follow nutritional guidelines when front AND back of packaging are misleading?

USDA and FDA are hosting a public meeting tomorrow regarding proposed changes to the nutrition facts label (and serving size guidelines). I registered to give a 3 minute public comment. My suggestion is very simple: make the nutrition facts label match the guidelines (as it is they each use different units for measuring fat).   Here’s my 3 minute comment:

Good afternoon! My name is Chelsea, I’m a full time mom and the author of the blog wholefoodvegan.com. I’m here today to make a public comment regarding the proposed changes to the nutrition facts label, specifically about the removal of the “calories from fat” line.

Each of the three macronutrients that contribute calories to our food has been portrayed in its own special light by media and food manufacturers. Say the word “protein” and it brings to mind images of meat and muscles. The word “carbohydrate” translates in the mind of most consumers as “sugar” “diabetes” and “illness.” And “fat” will bring to mind the low-fat processed junk food that consumers have used to try to follow USDA recommendations to eat less fat. Of course we all know that Americans have gotten fatter and sicker, despite recommendations to eat less fat. The latest version of the USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” says as much:

“Despite longstanding recommendations on total fat, saturated fatty acids, and cholesterol, intakes of these fats have changed little from 1990 through 2005-2006…Total fat intake contributes an average of 34 percent of calories.” (pg.24)

I want to hi light the phrase “Percent of calories.”

The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” gives guidelines for total fat intake and specific fat intake (like saturated and trans fat) in terms of percent of calories consumed.

But the nutrition facts label doesn’t tell consumers what the percent calories from fat is in any food. It identifies the volume of fat in a given food item. The nutrition facts label for food should identify the amount of fat in a food in the same terms as the recommendation for Americans. To do otherwise can and does cause confusion among consumers. When I realized that “1% fat” milk is only 1% fat by volume and actually nearly 23% calories from fat, I was shocked and indeed felt misled.

Hotdogs are another product that my friends feed to their children, especially during the summer months of grilling out. Although front of packaging labels are not at issue today, my friends always choose the hotdogs that boldly claim “99% fat free” on the front of the package. Of course they, like me, look at the nutrition facts panel to get the real story. And they find that the hotdogs have 2.5g of total fat each, which is 4% of the daily value for fat. What they do not find on the nutrition facts panel is “% calories from fat.” In a particular brand of “99% fat free” hotdogs, fat represents 40% of the calories.

So here I am: a consumer, a mom trying to make the best choice about what food to feed my family. The nutritional guideline is in percent calories from fat; I look on the nutrition facts panel. As it stands today I am able to calculate the percent calories from fat by dividing the calories from fat by the total calories per serving. With the proposed change of removing the “calories from fat” line I will need to do the additional calculation of multiplying the grams from fat by 9 (which is the amount of calories per gram of fat) and then dividing.

This is not something moms (or anyone else) has time to do.

I support the removal of the “calories from fat line,” only if it is replaced by “percent calories from fat.” How else can consumers reasonably be expected to make food choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines for this nutrient?

Millet with Kale & Savory Mushroom Gravy

Hot, filling, whole and plant-based!

Hot, filling, whole and plant-based!

With all the fresh summer salads and cooled grain dishes I’ve been having lately, I have begun to miss the hearty, hot, savory dishes of winter.  So I made one!  Our garden kale is doing well enough this year for 4 harvests so far.  I chose cremini mushrooms for their flavor and smallish size.  Try this dish for a taste of winter (even if it’s hot outside)!

Ingredients:

2 Cups millet, cooked according to package directions

1 Large onion, chopped

5 Cloves garlic, sliced

4 Cups cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced

1 & 1/2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 Tablespoons shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce) or soy sauce

1 & 1/4 Cup water

1 Cup fresh kale, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and a little water to prevent sticking.  Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Add a little more water as necessary.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for about 12 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.  Then stir in the rosemary, nutritional yeast, water, and shoyu or soy sauce.  Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes.  Stir in kale and cook until kale is bright green, about 2 minutes.  Serve the kale and mushroom gravy over bowls of hot cooked millet and top with cracked black pepper.

Tip: when you cook the millet, toast the grain in the pot before adding water.  Stir the dry grain frequently for 3 or 4 minutes, until it begins to pop and toast slightly.  Then add water and continue to cook according to package directions.  This gives the dish an unforgettable depth of flavor!

Tip: when you cook the millet, toast the grain in the pot before adding water. Stir the dry grain frequently for 3 or 4 minutes, until it begins to pop and toast slightly. Then add water and continue to cook according to package directions. This gives the dish an unforgettable depth of flavor!

Perfect Plant-Based Pancakes

 

Whole food plant-based pancakes: There’s nothing not to love about ‘em!  These pancakes are free of oil and dairy, and they’re so fluffy and light they almost float off the pan.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 Cups 100% whole wheat flour

2 Teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

2 Cups unsweetened almond milk (or other oil-free plant-based milk such as soy or rice milk)

1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)

Use a fork to mix the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  Add the almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup (if using) and stir together until just mixed.  Don’t worry if batter has a few tiny lumps.  Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes while you warm up a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Use a ladle to pour 1/2-1 cup portions onto the pan.  Cook until bubbles appear in the middle of the batter, about 4 minutes.  Flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Serve with your favorite toppings!

 

Brown Rice Salad with Cherries & Apricots

I used cooked barley for this batch of grain salad, but my recipe calls for brown rice. In my opinion the brown rice is more suited to the crunch of fresh toasted almonds and celery. Substitute any other in-tact grain (like sorghum or spelt) and try something new!

I used cooked barley for this batch of grain salad, but my recipe calls for brown rice. In my opinion the brown rice is more suited to the crunch of fresh toasted almonds and celery. Substitute any other in-tact grain (like sorghum or spelt) and try something new!

I brought this recipe to a dinner with omnivore friends and it was a big hit!  I love the flavor combination of sweet cherries and apricots with the bite of celery and parsley.  This dish is is “picnic-perfect,” but do try it out for your weeknight dinner.  The starchy whole grains at its center will keep you and your family full.  It’s chock full of fiber and minerals like iron.  I’m particularly proud of this salad since some of the ingredients were purchased from local small businesses and farms like Azure b llc.

Brown Rice Salad with Cherries & Apricots

Ingredients:

4 Cups cooked whole grain brown rice

1 Cup dried Turkish apricots, chopped

1 Cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved

3 Ribs celery, thinly sliced

1/2 Cup slivered almonds

1 Bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1 Cup rice wine vinegar

Zest and juice of 2 limes

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes.  If more time is needed to get a nice light brown toast check every minute until done.

Combine the cooked rice, apricots, cherries, celery, almonds, and parsley in a large bowl.  Dress with the vinegar and lime zest and juice.  Mix well, and chill before serving if desired.

Tamales with Mole Sauce

Tamales are made from corn flour and whole foods plant-based "refried" beans, stuffed in a corn husk and steamed.  They are a real treat (and filling!) when served with mole sauce.

Tamales are made from corn flour and whole foods plant-based “refried” beans, stuffed in a corn husk and steamed. They are a real treat (and filling!) when served with mole sauce.

Up for a delicious challenge?  Tamales are incredibly yummy, and totally plant-based.  The corn flour and bean filling is complemented perfectly by a rich mole sauce with the character of roasted poblano pepper.  The reward is great for preparing this dish–which is no easy task.  The preparation begins the night before with hojas de tamal and dry pinto beans that need soaking.  The poblano pepper is freshly roasted for the spicy sauce.  The “refried” beans and corn flour filling are prepared in advance of the main cooking event: assembling the tamales.  That said, this labor-intensive meal is sure to hit the spot for family or special occasions.  Give it a try, and enjoy!

Ingredients for the Bean Filling:

1 Pound bag dry pinto beans, soaked and cooked according to package directions (or 300z canned, drained and rinsed)

30 oz Tomato sauce (or two 15oz cans, no salt)

1 Onion, chopped

5 Cloves garlic, chopped

1 Teaspoon Chili powder

2 Teaspoons cumin

Pinch of salt (optional)

Ingredients for the Mole Sauce:

1 Whole Poblano pepper

30 oz Tomato sauce (or two 15oz cans, no salt)

1/3 Cup 100% organic unsweetened cocoa powder

Ingredients for the Corn Flour Filling:

4 Cups Masa Harina (nixtamalized corn flour)

20 Hojas de Tamal (corn husks), soaked in water overnight

For the Bean Filling:

Put the onions and garlic in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add a little water to prevent sticking.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent.  Add a tablespoon more water if needed as the onions and garlic cook.  Add the chili powder, cumin, and pinch of salt (if using).  Stir for a few seconds, until fragrant.

Add the cooked pinto beans and tomato sauce to the pot of garlic and onions.  Heat for a few minutes until beans are warm, then remove from heat.  Use a potato masher to mash the beans in the pot until a creamy “refried beans” texture is reached.  Add a little water if needed.

For the Mole Sauce:

Place the whole poblano pepper in a cast iron or other oven safe skillet and broil for 4 minutes.  Use tongs to turn the pepper over and broil for another 4 minutes, until soft and partly blackened.  Set aside to cool.

When the pepper is cool enough to handle, carefully de-stem and remove the seeds.  Put the pepper in a blender with

For the Corn Flour Filling:

Mix 4 cups of masa harina (Maseca is a popular brand in most grocery stores) with 2 cups water.

To Assemble the Tamales:

Lay out one corn husk on a plate.  Scoop a little corn flour filling onto the husk and press it to a thickness of one inch or less over most of the husk, leaving some husk exposed on the sides.  Spoon a little bean filling on top of the corn flour in the center of the husk.  Gently roll the tamale closed around the filling.  If the husk does not close completely, use a little less filling or use an additional corn husk to seal up the tamale.  Repeat for the remaining corn husks, placing them in a steam basket in a large pot with two inches of water.  When the pot is full of tamales (they may be stacked), cover and steam on medium high for 12-15 minutes.  Serve the tamales with the sauce.  Unwrap each and spoon the mole sauce onto the cooked tamales, and enjoy!

Traditional Central American fare recreated by Whole Food Vegan.  This healthy way of eating is also delicious, and has benefited every successful population in history!

Traditional Central American fare recreated by Whole Food Vegan. This healthy way of eating is also delicious, and has benefited every successful population in history!

 

 

Hot Potato: Should WIC Guidelines be Changed?

Processing and the addition of oil and excessive salt make potatoes unhealthy--not the potatoes themselves. But should congress allow industry lobbying groups influence nutritional recommendations for the WIC program?

Processing and the addition of oil and excessive salt make potatoes unhealthy–not the potatoes themselves. But should congress allow industry lobbying groups to influence nutritional recommendations for the WIC program?

The Women Infants and Children (WIC) welfare program doesn’t allow white potatoes to be purchased with program funds. This policy decision is based on the observation that participants “already eat enough white potatoes.” In response to this the Maine Potato Lobby is urging congress to change the guideline and allow potatoes. It looks like they might have the votes to do it.

I just sent the following email to our senators (Mikukski, Cardin):

Dear Senator,

I closely follow political news pertaining to food and food systems. I recently read that the Maine Potato Lobby is objecting to standards set for the WIC program: they want white potatoes to be allowed in the program as food for women, infants, and children (white potatoes are currently not allowed).

This is a tough issue. I ask myself if I want a precedent to be set for a lobby group to command congressional intervention in nutritional recommendations. On the other hand, whole white potatoes are a healthy staple for any diet. It is the oil and excessive sodium that is usually eaten along with white potatoes that is concerning. All potatoes contain protein, a small amount of healthy fat, complex carbohydrate to fuel brain function, fiber, vitamin C, and more potassium than bananas. Science supports eating a diet based on whole plant foods (such as potatoes). There have been several creditable experiments that show a diet based solely on potatoes is nutritionally complete.

I’m not affiliated with the Maine Potato Lobby or any other interest in this matter. I just eat a lot of potatoes! I encourage you to learn more about a plant-based diet by visiting http://www.drmcdougall.com and http://www.forksoverknives.com.

My request to you, Senator, is to weigh the impact of allowing congress to act based on a for-profit industry recommendation against the merit of the recommendation itself. I wouldn’t want Coca Cola lining up next saying “we must allow WIC participants to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages because they contain vitamin C and other nutrients.” But, I do want WIC participants to eat potatoes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

Thank you,
Chelsea

So, what are YOUR thoughts?

 

What are Whole Foods?

The following is a 1 page poster I wrote up as a handout at a local “Green Expo.”  I thought it was worth sharing as a short primer on whole, plant-based food.  Here it is:

Whole foods are foods that look as close to the way they were grown as possible.  Think potatoes, not potato chips.  Apples, not apple juice.  Olives, not olive oil.

Some examples of whole foods:

No additives or preservatives, just 100% whole grain popcorn!

No additives or preservatives, just 100% whole grain popcorn!

Fruit

Vegetables

Beans

Greens

Grains

Lentils

Potatoes

Sweet potatoes

Brown rice

Carrots

Squash

Why eat whole foods?

Whole plant foods provide protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber along with countless beneficial phytochemicals, all in the perfect amounts and balance. They have none of the cholesterol, added sugars, chemicals or harmful fats found in processed foods.  Because the fiber in whole foods is unaltered, it allows the body to access the needed nutrients at the right pace: that is, not too fast.  Eating whole foods is gentle on the body.

Lentil burgers have all the "burger" AND all of the protein that you need, without added fats and cholesterol!

Lentil burgers have all the “burger” AND all of the protein that you need, without added fats and cholesterol!

What about protein?

You will get enough protein by eating whole plant foods without even trying.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that 5% of calories come from protein (a recommendation that is twice as high as the minimum amount of protein determined to safely meet the needs of children, adults of both sexes, pregnant and lactating women).

Percent of Calories Derived from Protein

Beans (navy) 25 Potato 9
Broccoli 42 Rice (brown) 9
Cauliflower 31 Strawberries 8
Corn 13 Zucchini 17
Orange 9    

 

How can I eat more whole foods?

Take small steps to incorporate more whole, plant-based foods into your diet!  Try one (or more) of these easy ideas:

  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast, sweetened with raisins and cinnamon or fresh fruit
  • Switch from white pasta and bread to 100% whole wheat
  • Center dinner around a plant-based dish, and use meat and dairy as a condiment (or not at all)
  • Switch from white rice to brown rice
  • Try “Meatless Monday”
  • Eat a plain baked sweet potato for a mid-morning snack daily

Ultimate Lentil Burgers

Ultimate lentil burgers.  Can you tell them apart from beef?

Ultimate lentil burgers. Can you tell them apart from beef?

It’s all in the name for these burgers-this is the “ultimate” lentil burger recipe!  The burgers met with vigorous approval from family, including a formerly carnivorous man.  Every once in a while my husband craves the texture and heartiness of a meat-like meal.  These burgers do the trick!  I recommend spreading avocado on your toasted whole wheat bread or buns to give the burgers a nice fatty flavor.  Like beef or other burgers, the lentils in this plant-based version are full of protein.  Unlike beef or other burgers, these are rich in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, and countless other phytochemicals without the grease and sluggishness after eating them.

This recipe takes a little time to make, so I recommend preparing the lentils and rice in advance of assembling the burgers.  We happened to have some seasoned lentils leftover from dinner last night (I used them to make a “beefy” lasagna”) and as a rule I usually have cooked rice in the fridge.  Our whole wheat bread is home made and you can get the recipe here.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to bake your own, Ezekiel brand makes excellent whole, plant-based bread and buns.  I should add that the beer pictured is my husband’s fantastic home brew.  It’s an ale using Hallertau hops, and it is not too hoppy, full-bodied with notes of toasted cloves and honey.

It’s not usual for people to choose the longer route to their destination these days.  Baking bread, brewing beer, and cooking all of our own food at home are all time-consuming activities.  I like to think that introducing these “inconveniences” back into our life has helped us live more patiently and mindfully.  Life is a journey, after all, not a destination.  So have a lentil burger and a brew and enjoy the Spring!

1 Pound lentils, cooked according to package directions

2 Cups whole grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions

1 Cup oats

2/3 Cup 100% whole wheat flour

2 Teaspoons onion powder

2 Teaspoons garlic powder

1 Tablespoon fennel seed

1/8 Cup corn meal (to prevent sticking)

100% Whole wheat bread or buns and burger fixin’s such as: lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, plant-based friendly ketchup, mustard

Preheat the oven to 420F and prepare two baking sheets by sprinkling a little corn meal to dust each.  Put the cooked lentils, rice, onion powder, garlic powder and fennel seed together in the bowl of a food processor.  Process on high for 3 or 4 minutes, until a thick paste is formed.  Add a little water if needed.

Transfer the lentils mixture to a large bowl.  Stir in the oats and whole wheat flour.  Form the mixture into patties and lay them out on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 30 minutes.  To finish, grill the patties on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes per side, until toasty.  Serve with the whole wheat buns and burger fixin’s, and enjoy!

Penne Pasta with Arugula Pesto and White Beans

Whole wheat penne is delicious and versatile.  I use it for cold and hot pasta dishes, sauced and plain.

Whole wheat penne is delicious and versatile. I use it for cold and hot pasta dishes, sauced and plain.

Traditional pesto is made with basil and parmesan cheese.  The cheese is not part of a plant-based diet (did you know that parmesan cheese is one of the most acidic foods?), and my garden basil plants are not up yet.  Fortunately for me and my family our local farm has arugula harvested in abundance this week!  Arugula pesto has a nice peppery flavor.  This recipe uses nuts instead of cheese to add fat and flavor, as well as hold the pesto together.  You can use whatever type of nuts you have on hand, and I have even made pesto with almonds.  Tip: if using a hard nut like almonds, skip the toasting and soak the nuts in boiling water for 10 minutes or so before blending.  This dish is simple to make and easy to love!

Penne Pasta with Arugula Pesto

Ingredients:

1 Package organic 100% whole wheat penne pasta

3 Cups arugula

3 Cloves of garlic

1/3 Cup toasted nuts (such as pine nuts, walnuts, or cashews)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Cup cooked cannelini or other white beans (or a 15oz can, rinsed)

Pink Himalayan salt to taste (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, toast the nuts on a baking sheet in the oven.  Turn the oven to 350F and put the nuts in the oven, checking them at 6 minutes and every minute or so after that.  The nuts should be fragrant and toasty by 10 minutes (be careful not to burn them).

Put the arugula, garlic, nuts and lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor.  Process on high for 4-6 minutes.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the ingredients down the sides of the processor bowl once during the 6 minutes.  Add a little water if necessary to achieve a nice consistency.

Return the cooked and drained pasta to the warm pot used to cook it.  Add the cannelini beans and pesto.  Mix well until warm.  Serve, and salt to taste.  Enjoy!

Beet Green Salad with Corn and Edamame

I had trouble deciding what to call this salad, since there are so many delicious veggies in it!  The corn and shredded beets add sweetness to the bitter beet greens.  When shopping for beets in the store or farmer’s market I always make sure to buy beets that are attached to great-looking greens.  If you choose your beets for the roots alone you’ll lose an opportunity for a great salad!  Just like any dark leafy green, you can also cook up chopped beet greens with chickpeas, garlic, onion and a little soy sauce and serve over rice for an easy weeknight dinner.

Whenever I have leftover ingredients from other recipes in the fridge, I like to throw them in a salad like this.  Veggies are very forgiving, and I find that it is very difficult to make a bad flavor combination when eating plants!  A chopped bell pepper, spring onions, cooked sweet potato, or even fruit like a handful of blueberries, a chopped apple, or dried apricots and figs can make a beautiful salad.  Try serving your salad creations in a red cabbage “bowl” like the one shown above.  As you eat the salad down to a manageable size you will be able to pick up the cabbage leaf and fold it into a yummy wrap!

Ingredients: Chopped beet greens, finely-shredded beets, sweet corn, edamame, sesame seed gomashio, zest and juice of a citrus fruit (orange, lemon, or lime), dash of rice wine vinegar.

 

Banana & Oat Cookies

Delicious whole foods plant based cookies.  I recommend you make a double batch--these cookies are perfect as a breakfast, snack, or dessert and they'll go quickly!

Delicious whole foods plant based cookies. I recommend you make a double batch–these cookies are perfect as a breakfast, snack, or dessert and they’ll go quickly!

This recipe comes from my friend Alexis.  I love these cookies because they taste buttery and sweet without any added butter or sugar.  Plus they are a snap to make for breakfast.  Alexis makes a gluten-free version by substituting 2/3 cup of almonds (finely chopped in a food processor) for the whole wheat flour.  I feel great letting my 1 year old daughter eat as many of these cookies as she wants since, as Alexis says, “there’s nothing bad in them!”  Try your own version by using any combination of whole food additions: up to 1/2 cup total of unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped dates, or a tablespoon of ground flax, hemp seed, or cocoa powder.

Ingredients:

2 Cups organic quick oats

2/3 Cup 100% whole wheat flour

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

3 Ripe bananas

1/2 Cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 Cup raisins

Pinch pink Himalayan salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.  Use a fork to mix the dry ingredients together quickly.

Place the bananas, applesauce, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and process on high until smooth and evenly blended.  Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well will a spatula.  Fold in the raisins.

Form 2-inch balls of the cookie dough on a baking sheet.  The cookies will not expand during baking, so you should be able to fit a whole batch on one pan.  Bake for 14 minutes (16 minutes if using almonds instead of flour).  Enjoy!

Our toddler loves these cookies!

Our toddler loves these cookies!

Peanut Butter Swirl Black Bean Brownies

I'm pretty sure you need to make these brownies!

I’m pretty sure you need to make these brownies!

It’s a snow day (one of many this winter on the east coast)!  To sustain and delight my family I whipped up these awesome black bean brownies.  Hubby said they are the best brownies he has ever had, period.  They are nutritionally dense: just one tablespoon of ground flax seed provides a full day’s dose of omega-3 fatty acids with no need for fish oil capsules.  Black beans make the brownies dense and moist and give a fudgey texture along with plant-based protein.  The brownies are rich in b vitamins from the 100% whole wheat flour.  Blackstrap molasses is the plant-based (but not “whole food”) sweetener.  Unlike other types of molasses, the blackstrap variety contains 20% of the recommended daily value for iron in just 2 tablespoons!  It is also a rich source of potassium.  So why don’t we eat black bean brownies every day?  Molasses is a source of sugar that is easily accessed by the body.  Added sugars like molasses, maple, and agave syrup should seldom be used on a whole foods plant-based diet.  It is far better to get sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates found in starchy foods, or by eating whole fruits that have fiber (not fruit juice).  Sugar in these forms is processed by the body more slowly and healthfully!

I feel great about feeding these brownies to my family for dessert.  They are free from oil, dairy, and refined sugar.  Who knew whole foods plant-based baking could taste so good?  This recipe uses a 9×13 glass baking dish, but you can also use a silicone muffin pan for individual brownies.  Just bake for 20 instead of 28 minutes.  The brownies will be so moist that there is no need to grease the baking pans, they will lift out easily.

Peanut Butter Swirl Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:

4 Pitted Medjool dates

2 Tablespoons ground flax seed

30 oz Cooked black beans, or (2) 15 oz cans, drained and rinsed

2 Teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 Cup blackstrap molasses, plus 2 tablespoons

1/2 Cup unsweetened applesauce

1 & 1/2 Cups 100% whole wheat pastry flour

1 Cup cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1 & 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder

1/4 Cup organic unsalted peanut butter (creamy or chunky)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Soak the dates in 2 cups of warm water for ten minutes.  In the bowl of a food processor combine the ground flax seed with 1/2 cup of water and pulse a few times.  Let the flax sit for a minute or two to soften in the water.  Add the black beans, vanilla, blackstrap molasses (reserving 2 tablespoons), applesauce, and the dates and date water.  Process on high about 3-4 minutes, until smooth.

In a large bowl combine the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda.  Use a fork to mix the dry ingredients quickly and thoroughly.  Add the black bean mixture to the dry ingredients and gently combine with a spatula, breaking up any lumps.  Add a little more water if needed.  The batter should be smooth and thick, not doughy or too runny.  It should look like cake batter.  Pour the batter into a 9×13 glass baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the peanut butter, 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses, and 1-2 tablespoons of water.  Mix with the back of a spoon until a creamy, uniform consistency is achieved.  Use a spoon to dollop the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter in several places.  Then use a toothpick or chopstick to swirl the peanut butter across the top of the batter.  Bake the brownies for 28 minutes (do not over bake).  Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.  Enjoy!

I took photos of these peanut butter black bean brownies out in the snow this morning!  :)

I took photos of these peanut butter black bean brownies out in the snow this morning! :)

 

 

Vibrant and Kind: Introduction to a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet

Are you thinking of eating more vegetarian meals?  Are you a vegetarian considering becoming vegan?  Perhaps you are just interested in eating less junk food and more whole food!  Refresh your commitment to healthy eating by learning about the benefits of a whole foods plant based diet.  Participants in this discussion-based workshop will:

  • Learn about a whole foods plant based diet
  • Explore their personal motivation for healthy eating
  • See how 1% milk is really 27% fat (how to read nutrition labels)
  • Learn how to exit the “guilt game” with food
  • Discover how eating whole plant foods affects body weight
  • Get tips for whole foods shopping and cooking
  • Address confusion about dietary recommendations: gluten-free, organic, paleo, soy, oil/no oil?

This workshop takes place 5 days before the first day of spring.  Prepare to feel your most vibrant in the new season.  Come try the food (a whole foods plant based snack will be provided!), bring your questions and see what aspects of this kind way of eating are right for you.  Adults and teens are encouraged to attend.

When:  Saturday, March 15, 2014

2:00-4:00 pm

Where:  Barefoot Holistic Studio

1010 Prince Frederick Boulevard

Prince Frederick, MD 20678

Cost:  $25, or $40 for 2 participants

To register visit Barefoot Holistic Studio online.

For more info please email Chelsea@wholefoodvegan.com

Steamed Baby Bok Choi with Gomashio

Steamed baby bok choi over brown rice with gomashio and umeboshi vinegar.

Steamed baby bok choi over brown rice with gomashio and umeboshi vinegar.

I needed a snack this afternoon, so of course I grabbed my camera and started cooking!  I decided on steamed baby bok choi sprinkled with gomashio, a Japanese condiment made from sesame seeds and salt.

Gomashio is delicious when made fresh at home (which you can do)!  You will need a suribachi, which is an inexpensive ceramic mortar with a wooden pestle that you can buy at your local Asian grocery store.  I paid $14 for ours.  The rough ceramic easily grinds the sesame seeds and salt together into a yummy topping.  Plus it looks great in the kitchen!

The recipe for gomashio is 1 part salt for 18 parts sesame seeds.

Toasted sesame seeds.

Toasted sesame seeds.

For ease of measurement you can use 1 cup white or black sesame seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (I used iodized sea salt).  Preheat the oven to 400 and toast the seeds on a baking sheet for 2 minutes, until just fragrant and lightly toasted.  Then add the salt and sesame seeds to your suribachi (or large mortar & pestle) and grind until the seeds look about 80% pulverized.  There should be some hulls still intact but mostly pulverized.  Gomashio will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Baby bok choi is so delicious!  I just recently started eating it in this simple way: just slice and steam.  Rinse 5 or 6 heads of baby bok choi, then slice them in half lengthwise.  Lay the sliced bok choi in a large pot with a steaming basket and 1 inch of water.  Cover tightly and steam over medium high heat for 6 or 7 minutes, until tender.  Remove the bok choi with tongs.  Serve on a plate or over cooked brown rice.

Top the bok choi with a sprinkle of your fresh gomashio and a few drops of umeboshi vinegar.  Umeboshi (literally “dried plums”) often come pickled in vinegar, but you can get the vinegar by itself from your natural food store.  The vinegar is VERY salty, so I use just 3 or 4 drops at a time.  The flavor is unique, and worth a try!

You can enjoy a snack of any steamed vegetable served in this way.  Try carrots, leeks, and cabbage.  Enjoy!  Our little one did.  :)

Vegan baby loves baby bok choi!

Vegan baby loves baby bok choi!

Soba Noodle Soup

Soba noodle soup

Soba noodle soup

Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese noodle with an interesting history.  The area of Edo (now modern Tokyo) during the Tokugawa period of 1603-1867 was inhabited by the wealthy class who preferred to eat white rice over less refined whole grain rice.  The result was an increase in the disease beri beri caused by a deficiency of thiamine in the diet.  It was discovered that eating noodles made from buckwheat (soba) could prevent the disease by providing thiamine from the whole buckwheat grain.

The relationship between good health and whole grains was spoken of in terms of specific nutrient content hundreds of years ago.  Yet in modern America we are challenged to get even half of our grains in their most whole, unprocessed form (“make half of your grains whole grains” is the current USDA nutritional guideline).

In addition to being a whole and healthy food, soba noodles have a wonderful flavor and texture.  They are thin and springy.  Fun

Soba noodle soup is a great dish for kids since it is full of exciting flavors and fun finger foods like cooked carrots and whole grain noodles!

Soba noodle soup is a great dish for kids since it is full of exciting flavors and fun finger foods like cooked carrots and whole grain noodles!

fact: “udon” noodles are pretty much the same as soba, just thicker!  I recommend visiting your local Asian grocery to get the soba noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms, miso, and kombu.  You will certainly pay a premium in a regular chain grocery store for these items!  You can save money and support your local Asian grocery if there is one nearby.  (Be sure to check labels for MSG, added sweeteners, etc).

Soba Noodle Soup

Note: It is important not to boil the miso to keep the cultures alive in the fermented bean paste.  Also, the kombu may be removed before serving and discarded or eaten.

Ingredients:

4 Small bunches dry soba noodles

3 Carrots, peeled and chopped

1 Large bunch spring onions, chopped (roots and all).  Set green parts aside from white parts & roots

3 Dried shiitake mushrooms

(1) 2×2 inch piece of dry dashi kombu seaweed (optional)

2 Teaspoons mellow white miso (fresh, not powdered)

1 Teaspoon nama shoyu (aged unpasteurized soy sauce) or soy sauce

1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper

Half of a sheet of toasted nori, torn into small pieces for sprinkling

The layers of flavor in this soup come from the subtle kombu base, mellow-sweet miso, and exciting nori topping!

The layers of flavor in this soup come from the subtle kombu base, mellow-sweet miso, and exciting nori topping!

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 10 minutes or so while you prep the other ingredients.  Then rinse the mushrooms, remove the stems, and slice thinly.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the soba noodles and return to a boil.  Cook 5 minutes, drain and return noodles to the warm pot.  Cover to keep noodles from drying out.

In another large pot on medium high heat cook the carrots and white parts & roots of spring onions in 1 cup of water.  Stir occasionally and cook for 5 minutes, until carrots are softened.  Add the kombu, shiitake mushrooms, and 5 cups of water.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes more.  Add a little of the broth to a small bowl with the fresh miso and mix until the miso paste is dissolved.

Remove the broth from heat and add the dissolved miso, green parts of spring onions, and the soba noodles (option: keep the noodles separate until served in a large bowl).  To serve, ladle some soba noodles, broth, and veggies into a bowl, add a few dashes of the nama shoyu and sprinkle with some crushed red pepper and nori.

Eat with chopsticks and slurp the broth!

Eat with chopsticks and slurp the broth!

Is it Cheaper to Eat a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet?

Photo credit: GQ Magazine of AMC's hit show Breaking Bad.  Love that show.

Photo credit: GQ Magazine feature of AMC’s hit show Breaking Bad. Love that show.

I have always heard that it is cheaper to eat plant-based, but I doubted that it was true.  People in developing countries where plant foods are more prevalent live off of less than $2 per day, but I know that’s nowhere near the case for my family.  Since we began eating a 100% whole foods plant-based diet more than 1 year ago we started exploring different (and expensive) types of food like flax, chia seed, Thai red curry paste, kombu, and the list goes on.  So I decided to settle the question by conducting an analysis of our family grocery store purchases this week.  Does a plant-based diet break the bank?  You might be surprised by the answer!

Our family shopped at two stores this week: Giant Foods and Food Lion.

Cost

$90.21 Giant

$33.75 Food Lion

$123.96 Total

 First I calculated the calories of all the foods we purchased using the nutrition facts labels.

Grocery List

Grocery List

43,070 Total Calories Purchased

Next I used an online calculator to estimate the daily calorie needs of myself, my husband, and our 1 year old daughter.  The results seemed a little low to me, so I added a “calorie cushion” of 100-200 to our estimated caloric needs.

Calorie Needs per Day

1,000 Baby

3,200 Ryan

2,700 Chelsea

6,900 Total

Based on these figures I found that our grocery trip will feed our family for 6.24 days (I think it’s fair to round up to a full week since, remember, I likely overestimated our daily calorie needs by a little bit).

It costs $2.90 per day to feed our baby girl.  Ryan eats $9.28 worth of food per day, and I eat $7.83 worth of plant-based food daily.  Our total daily food bill is $20 and a penny.  Not too bad!  We could do much worse feeding a family of 3 if we ate much outside of our home, and the food wouldn’t be as packed with nutrition as our whole foods plant-based dishes.

What about the cost per calorie?

I found that the cost of a plant-based calorie was so low that I needed to multiply by 100 to get a number that is easy to visualize.

Cost per Calorie (Whole Foods Plant-Based)

$0.0029 per 1 cal

$0.29 per 100 cal

$2.90 per 1000 cal

$5.80 per 2000 cal

Most people can understand 2000 calories, since it is the FDA’s average recommended number of calories to be consumed by Americans daily.  At less than $6.00 per day for 2000 calories, we are looking pretty good!

Sloppy and oh so yummy!  Lentils are very high in fiber and very low in calories.

Sloppy and oh so yummy! Lentils are very high in fiber and very low in calories.

What meals will we eat?

The above lists of foods might not seem like the ingredients for an exciting week of delicious whole, plant-based meals.  Our menu this week includes: home-made potato gnocchi, grain & bean salad, pasta marinara, lentil sloppy joes, coconut curried chickpeas, Thai noodle stir “fry” with pineapple, pita pockets with lettuce and hummus, home-made tortillas and “refried” beans, steamed napa cabbage & other veggies with rice wine vinegar, penne with butternut squash, slow cooker chili, split pea soup, curried yellow split peas, and baby lima bean soup.  Breakfast is creamy oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, and a splash of soy, and the fruit on our grocery list is for eating anytime.  Could you enjoy a week of eating these meals?  We sure can!

Other Analysis

The top 3 categories of purchased food contribute 72% of total food calories.  The top 5 categories account for about 90% of our calories.

Top 5 Categories of Food Contributing Calories

13,520 all beans

9,900 rice

7,800 oatmeal

4,000 pasta and noodles

3,300 potatoes

Our family gets less than 5% of our daily calories from fresh food (excluding potatoes).  How is this possible?  Fresh foods like leafy greens, carrots, spring onions, garlic, bell peppers, and other fruit and vegetables are very low in calorie density.  That’s why we eat them freely on a whole foods plant-based diet!

Leafy greens are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.

Leafy greens are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.

You may have noticed though that there are no leafy greens on our grocery list.  We get many of our low-calorie veggies from a local organic farm CSA.  A large ½ bushel box of produce costs only $17 per week.  This is why it might seem like plant-based foods are more expensive than other foods; a box full of greens might contribute only 200 calories per week to our diet, but at a cost of almost $0.09 per single calorie—three thousand percent more than non-fresh plant-based foods like beans, rice, and pasta!

This is the result of many factors, not least of which is government agricultural subsidies for non-fresh foods—a topic for another post!

Conclusion

A whole foods plant-based diet is very inexpensive, but like most lifestyle changes it requires an investment in capital that can make it seem costly.  Setting up your plant-based kitchen with yummy spices, seeds, flours, and condiments that are appropriate to eat will increase your grocery bill.  Once established though, the diet more than pays for itself with a low cost per calorie–not to mention the health and vitality experienced with plant-based living.

Coconut Curried Chickpeas with Choi Sum

This curry is sweet and delicious.  Shredded unsweetened coconut and tomato sauce combine for a wonderful creamy texture!

This curry is sweet and delicious. Shredded unsweetened coconut and tomato sauce combine for a wonderful creamy texture!

On the way home from the record store today I thought: what are we having for dinner?  My mental inventory of the kitchen was blank.  Since I have a one year old baby, I really, really did not want to stop at the store on the way home (she was asleep)!  So we bravely ventured home and I figured I would whip up something with what few ingredients we had on hand.

This is what I made.

It is awesome!

We had a bag of dry chickpeas, an onion and few cloves of garlic, a box of salt-free tomato sauce, and four tiny heads of choi sum fresh in the fridge.  Choi sum is a relative of (and basically identical to) baby bok choi.  My big find was the leftovers of a bag of shredded unsweetened coconut way in the back of the cabinet.  Now we have ingredients for something great!  I went to work.  First I

Dry or canned?  I keep a couple cans of cooked, no salt added chickpeas around for convenience, but I try to cook them myself when I am able.

Dry or canned? I keep a couple cans of cooked, no salt added chickpeas around for convenience, but I try to cook them myself when I am able.

brought the dry chickpeas to a boil in a large pot, turned off the heat and let soak for 1 hour.  Meanwhile I chopped and prepped the other ingredients.  Then I boiled the chickpeas for 45 minutes, cooked up some red quinoa, and started the recipe below.

You can use any “sweet curry” for this recipe (really any curry will do).  I make my own from: 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

I keep green garnish around in the fridge for a few days and throw it on top of leftovers.  It really makes a difference in how much I enjoy food the day after!

I keep green garnish around in the fridge for a few days and throw it on top of leftovers. It really makes a difference in how much I enjoy food the day after!

Coconut Curried Chickpeas with Choi Sum

4 Heads choi sum (or baby bok choi), rinsed and chopped.  Separate the chopped leafy part from the chopped stems.

3 Spring onions, chopped.  Separate the green from the chopped white parts of the stem.

1 Large yellow onion, chopped

1/4 Cup chopped cilantro

7 Cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with flat end of large knife

15 oz Tomato sauce

1 Cup soy or other plant-based milk

1/3 Cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 Pound bag of chickpeas, cooked according to package directions

Cooked red quinoa or other whole grains provide a yummy starchy base for plant-based curry.

Cooked red quinoa or other whole grains provide a yummy starchy base for plant-based curry.

1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 or 2 Tablespoons curry powder, or to taste

Heat a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the crushed garlic, chopped onion, white parts of the spring onion, chopped choi sum stems, and 1/2 cup water.  Use the water saute method to cook the veggies for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.  If the water evaporates, add a few more tablespoons as needed.

Curry simmering on the stove.  Smells heavenly!

Curry simmering on the stove. Smells heavenly!

Add the crushed red pepper and curry powder to the pot and stir for a few seconds until fragrant.  Add the shredded coconut, tomato sauce, and soy milk.  Stir in the chickpeas and choi sum greens, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.  Ladle curried chickpeas over cooked brown rice or red quinoa, top with the chopped cilantro and remaining spring onions, and serve.

Whole foods plant based cooking is so rewarding because it can seem like you make "something from nothing."  Take another look at your bare pantry.  You might just find ingredients for a masterpiece dish!

Whole foods plant based cooking is so rewarding because it can seem like you make “something from nothing.” Take another look at your bare pantry. You might just find ingredients for a masterpiece dish!

Salad Photo Gallery

How I Lost Weight by Eating 5,600 Calories per Day

According to the app "Calorie Count," I consumed 5,621 calories yesterday.

According to the app “Calorie Count,” I consumed 5,621 calories yesterday.

I don’t usually count calories, but I am reading a very interesting book called “Why Calories Count” by one of my favorite nutritionists Marion Nestle.  Yes, I have favorite nutritionists!  The book elucidates the source of dietary calories, their origin as a measurement of energy in food, and why we care to count them.  I have picked up tons of fun facts along the way.  For instance, did you know that 100 calories (the size of many “snack packs” of processed foods) is roughly equivalent to the energy that will bring 1 liter of room temperature water to a boil?  This example is readily accessible

1 Liter Nalgene bottle (roughly 1 Quart).  The average volume of blood in our bodies is about 6 quarts.  600 calories would cause our blood to boil if ingested instantly (this would never happen, since metabolism taps that energy slowly).

1 Liter Nalgene bottle (roughly 1 Quart). The average volume of blood in our bodies is about 6 quarts. 600 calories would cause our blood to boil if ingested instantly (this would never happen, since metabolism taps that energy slowly).

to me, since I carry around a 1 liter Nalgene bottle of water all day.  When we eat 100 calories of any food our bodies unlock that stored energy through metabolism.  Lucky for us, metabolism taps that energy slowly so our blood doesn’t boil every time we eat a large meal!

Just out of curiosity I downloaded the app “Calorie Counter,” input all of the food that I ate yesterday and reviewed the app’s analysis of my diet.  Here are the results, and some of my thoughts about the analysis:

1.  I ate 5,621 calories

I eat a whole foods plant-based diet, which consists of minimally-processed plant foods that look as close to how they were grown as possible.  Think: potatoes, not potato chips.  Oranges, not orange juice.  So here’s what I ate yesterday (quantity not noted here): Avocado, carrots, garbanzo beans, lime, dates, oranges, split peas, potatoes, brown rice, teff, tomatoes, watermelon, soy milk, ketchup.

This was a typical day’s food for me.  I have a net weight loss of 15 pounds this past year eating this way.  I say “net” weight loss because I am excluding my weight gained and lost due to pregnancy.  (Pre-pregnancy weight 170lbs, highest weight during pregnancy 216lbs, current weight 155lbs and normal BMI).

2. I burned 1,840 calories

This is the number supplied by the app for the calories I burned just powering brain function, heart beat, respiration, etc: it’s my basal metabolic rate.  It is an average number of calories needed to keep someone who is my weight, height, and age alive while being sedentary.  Even though I didn’t do any strenuous exercise like running, I still burned a few calories walking around and moving while cooking and caring for my 1 year old daughter.  I didn’t enter these “extra” calories into the app.  I am also a nursing mother, which means I use a (very generous) maximum of 600 calories per day to produce milk.  Even in consideration of this extra movement, the number of calories I burned doesn’t come close to the calories I ate.

3.  Calories in < Calories burned = Weight loss

This is the accepted formula for losing weight.  Since I appear to be eating huge amounts of calories more than I burn, I should be gaining (not losing) weight.  My explanation is that the database used by the app for calculating calories might be inaccurate.  Did I really eat 1000 calories each of home made pea soup (about 3 cups), teff porridge with dates (1 & 1/2 cups cooked), and almost a whole watermelon (15″ diameter)?

I think this app just freaked out and did not know how to handle a whole foods plant-based diet.  See my analysis page:

My day earned an "A," even though I consumed more than 3,000 more calories than recommended by the app?  Just one of many confusing aspects of Calorie Counter's analysis of a plant-based diet.

My day earned an “A,” even though I consumed more than 3,000 more calories than recommended by the app? Just one of many confusing aspects of Calorie Counter’s analysis of a plant-based diet.

My consumption of carbs was too high, exceeding recommendations by 1,000 grams.  Yet a diet high in complex carbohydrates is traditional in all healthy and thriving cultures around the globe!  I also exceeded the recommended amount of protein.  This was truly a surprise!  A diet with no animal products is widely acknowledged to supply adequate protein when calories are sufficient.  To exceed recommended amounts of protein however (by 100%!) would be difficult and unlikely.

My conclusion: the Calorie Count app is calibrated incorrectly in at least one respect (calorie figures per food), and probably in nutritional guidance for vitamin & mineral intake as well.

My conclusion: the Calorie Count app is calibrated incorrectly in at least one respect (calorie figures per food), and probably in nutritional guidance for vitamin & mineral intake as well.

My fiber and vitamin A intake registered as “too high,” on the app.  First off, you can’t get too much fiber from whole foods.  Maybe if you ate just wood pulp (cellulose), but that’s not considered food.  Second, upon closer inspection my vitamin A confusingly has a red warning bar, but says “good.”  Vitamin A is toxic in excess and truly can be harmful if taken in supplement form in too high quantity.  Even if I did eat 41,308 mg of vitamin A, since it was taken in whole plant form as food and not in pill form as a drug the body can process the excess nutrients with ease.

Iron also registers as “too high” with a dangerous-looking red warning bar.  The app does not distinguish between heme (animal source) iron and non-heme (plant source) iron.  Heme iron is found in blood and is more directly absorbed by the body, but excesses of this type of iron can not be excreted by the body.  Non-heme iron is found only in plants, and undergoes a slight conversion before being used in the body for tasks like building blood.  This type of iron is able to be excreted when it exceeds the needs of the body.  Buildup of excess metals such as iron can be harmful to people; excess heme iron consumption from meat and/or supplements has been correlated to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Women who take heme iron supplements should be aware that the body can not remove any excess of this mineral.

I can only conclude that the makers of Calorie Count have made at least some errors in the functionality of this app.  It’s possible

Relax and don't worry about calories!  Eat a variety of whole, plant-based foods to experience the benefits of a healthful diet.

Relax and don’t worry about calories! Eat a variety of whole, plant-based foods to experience the benefits of a healthful diet.

that the calorie figures per food are incorrect and that my total calorie intake was skewed.  But I think that’s unlikely, since the USDA nutrient database is publicly available and is considered very accurate.  I think it’s more likely that the continued success of this app relies on its users weight loss.  Participants in dietary studies notoriously under-report calorie consumption.  Maybe the app “pads the numbers” for the listed foods in order to make up the difference?

Even though this was a fun experiment, I prefer not to count calories.  One of the wonderful things about a whole foods plant-based diet is that it is very easy and worry-free.  I encourage people to make an informed decision to eat this healthful diet, and then forget about it!  Who wants to worry about calories, log foods, check apps, fuss about nutrients?  Not me!  Simply eat a varied diet of whole plant-based foods when you are hungry, eat until you’re comfortably full, and enjoy improved health, weight, and a vibrant spirit!

To learn more about how to lose weight for health on a vegan diet, read my article on vegan lifestyle blog the “Peaceful Dumpling.”

100% Whole Wheat Mixed Berry Muffins

The muffins are naturally sweet from the berries and banana.  Cinnamon and vanilla also work together to make the muffins taste sweet.

The muffins are naturally sweet from the berries and banana. Cinnamon and vanilla also work together to make the muffins taste sweet.

These muffins are wonderful for breakfast or a snack since they are made from 100% whole wheat flour and oats, they are naturally sweet from the fruit sugar in berries, and they don’t have any added fat from oil.  Flax seed, pumpkin and banana all help keep these muffins moist and delicious.  The recipe is very versatile—you can easily switch out cooked and mashed sweet potato for the pumpkin, or else use an additional 2 or 3 bananas.  Tip: try not to stir the batter more than is necessary.  Excessive stirring will prevent the baking soda from making bubbles and the result may be flat muffin tops.

Ingredients:

A sprinkle of oats on top of the batter is a nice visual touch.

A sprinkle of oats on top of the batter is a nice visual touch.

3 Cups 100% whole wheat pastry flour

2 Cups quick oats

2 & 1/8 Teaspoons baking soda

2 Tablespoons cinnamon

¼ Teaspoon ground cloves

¼ Teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ Cup ground flax seed

6 oz package fresh or frozen raspberries

6 oz package fresh or frozen blueberries

6 oz package fresh or frozen blackberries

15 oz Can organic pumpkin

1 Ripe banana

2 & ½ Cups plant-based milk (such as soy or almond milk)

½ Cup plant based sweetener (such as maple syrup, agave), if desired

1 Teaspoon pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Combine the pumpkin, banana, plant-based milk, vanilla, and sweetener (if using) in a blender or food processor and blend on high until smooth.  Combine all of the “dry” ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a fork.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until evenly moistened.  Gently fold in the raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  Tip: if using fresh berries, crush them a little with your fingers as you add them to release some of the juice into the muffin batter.

Spoon the mixture into a silicone muffin pan (if you are using another type of pan you will need to use paper muffin cups or oil to prevent sticking).  Sprinkle a pinch of quick oats on top of the batter before putting the muffins in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean when inserted.

Don't skip the flax in this recipe, as it is wonderful to eat and also serves as an egg replacer.

Don’t skip the flax in this recipe, as it is wonderful to eat and also serves as an egg replacer.

 

Mix & Match your Greens, Beans and Grains

This salad, oh man, I can’t even!  It’s so delicious and simple.  Combine equal parts chopped greens, cooked beans, and cooked whole grains.  This salad uses organic kale from our local farm CSA, South American red beans, and brown rice.  Add some cherry tomatoes and avocado, and dress with the zest and juice of 2 limes.  Add a pinch of salt, if desired.  Exchange any greens, beans, or grains from the list below and create your own delicious salad!

Beans:

Black beans

Pinto beans

Garbanzo beans (Chickpeas)

Adzuki beans

Mung beans

Greens:

Lacinato kale

Purple (Ragged Jack) kale

Arugula

Spinach

Grains:

Sorghum

Quinoa (red or white)

Khorasan wheat (kamut)

Barley

 

 

Black Eyed Peas & Spinach Salad

This recipe will make a large batch of salad big enough to feed two adults two meals.

This recipe will make a large batch of salad big enough to feed two adults two meals.

Beans, greens, and grain salads are my new favorite dish.  These ingredients make me feel great, energetic, full, and light.  Beans are well known to be rich in plant protein, spinach is a powerhouse of iron, calcium, and phytochemicals, and whole grain brown rice provides complex carbohydrates to fuel the body.  The vitamin C present in the orange juice and zest increases the absorption of iron in this powerhouse dish.

I love the springy texture of black eyed peas!  Steaming is definitely my preferred method of cooking.  Boiling makes the peas mushy and overcooked.

I love the springy texture of black eyed peas! Steaming is definitely my preferred method of cooking. Boiling makes the peas mushy and overcooked.

I usually find spinach to be bitter and I don’t enjoy eating it raw.  When shredded or chopped though, the spinach doesn’t need to be chewed for what (to me at least) seems like hours!  Instead it is a flavorful accompaniment to the springy texture of black eyed peas and rice.  The orange juice also adds a touch of sweetness to the salad.

This salad is alive with nutrition.  Whole, plant-based food is so beautiful.  Food that is so simple, beautiful and delicious is a delight to prepare, photograph, and EAT!

Ingredients:

1 Pound fresh spinach, chopped

2 Cups cooked whole grain brown rice

1 Pound bag dry black eyed peas, soaked in water overnight

Zest and juice from 1 orange

Pinch of pink Himalayan salt (optional)

Drain and rinse the black eyed peas and place in a steaming basket in a large pot.  Add 2 inches of water to the pot and cover.  Steam the black eyed peas over medium-high heat for 12-15 minutes until tender.  Rinse the cooked black beans in cold water until cooled.  Combine the rice, spinach, and black eyed peas in a large bowl.  Add the orange juice and zest and salt (if using).  Enjoy!

Beans, greens, and grains!

Beans, greens, and grains!

Black Bean, Arugula, and Brown Rice Salad

kdkls

Arugula is a flavorful and bitter green.  It pairs very well with the miso & avocado dressing!

I’m thinking of changing my name to either “Beans McGrain” or “Greens McBean,” since my favorite things are beans, greens, and grains!  This salad has all three.  Our farm CSA pickup this week included a huge bag of arugula.  I was thrilled since I now had all the ingredients to make this great grain salad.  The salad dressing is interesting because it uses a zucchini and an avocado as a base, plus a little bit of miso.  I usually make plant-based dressings with a white bean base.  (Cannellinis are great, and chick peas work in a pinch).  Miso is made from fermented soy beans.  I consider soy products like tofu and no-additives soy milk to be “traditional” and ok to consume.  I always avoid fake meat and things that contain “isolated soy protein.”  When food chemists isolate the protein from soy and make a powder from it, the product that results would be better called a “drug,” rather than “food.”  A tiny touch of a traditional soy product like miso used for flavoring makes this whole foods plant-based salad great!

Black Bean, Arugula, and Brown Rice Salad with Miso Dressing

For the salad: Combine equal parts cooked black beans, brown rice, and shredded or chopped arugula.

Miso Dressing ingredients:

1 Whole zucchini

1 Avocado

1 Cup of fresh cilantro

Juice from 1 lemon

1 Clove of garlic

1 Teaspoon organic white miso paste

Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth.  Toss the salad in the dressing if desired, or serve on the side.

Plant-Based Sloppy Joes

Sloppy and oh so yummy!  Lentils are very high in fiber and very low in calories.

Sloppy and oh so yummy! Lentils are very high in fiber and very low in calories.

This dish was an instant favorite.  Get all of the homey goodness of a classic comfort food with none of the saturated fat, oil, etc.  You may find that you want to double this recipe on the second go ’round so that there are enough leftovers for lunch the next day!

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup sodium-free vegetable broth

1 Onion, chopped

4 Cloves garlic, minced

1/4 Teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 Green bell pepper, chopped

1 Cup tomato sauce

2 Tablespoons ketchup

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Pound package dry lentils, cooked according to package directions

1/2 Teaspoon Cumin

2 Tablespoons hot sauce OR dash cayenne pepper

1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika

1 Tablespoon brown sugar (if desired, not a whole food)

Whole wheat rolls (such as Ezekiel brand whole grain rolls)

Cook the onion and garlic in the vegetable broth in a large saucepan over medium high heat 3-4 minutes, or until onion is translucent.  Sprinkle the crushed red pepper flakes in and stir briefly, until fragrant.  Add the green pepper and cook 3-4 minutes.  In a small bowl combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, tomato paste, soy sauce, cumin, hot sauce, paprika and brown sugar (if using).  Mix well with a fork.  Add the cooked lentils and sauce to the onions, garlic and green peppers in the saucepan.  Cook 1-2 minutes more, until heated through.  Toast the whole wheat rolls and serve the lentil mixture spooned on top of the open-faced rolls.

A new family favorite.  Daddy and toddler both LOVED sloppy joes!

A new family favorite. Daddy and toddler both LOVED sloppy joes!

2 Minute Hot Peach Cobbler

Try this dish with any frozen fruit: blueberries, raspberries, or a mix!

Try this dish with any frozen fruit: blueberries, raspberries, or a mix!

Here’s a quick and easy dessert that’s perfect for any night of the week, and it cooks in just 2 minutes.  We had it for the first time tonight as a celebration of the first snow-day of the year!  My husband is a teacher, so we definitely root for the snow.  Today we had the best of both worlds: there was no school in preparation for the snow, and then it didn’t actually snow so there were no traffic nightmares.  All we had to do today was snuggle up with our 1 year old and this hot peach cobbler.

This dessert is sweet because it contains peaches, but if you like you can add a touch of your favorite plant-based sweetener.  I’d do so if I was going to serve the cobbler to non-vegan guests or if I was just beginning to ease into a 100% plant-based diet.

Ingredients:

I usually grab a few bags of frozen fruit on a grocery trip for smoothies.  Frozen is just as good as fresh since the fruit was picked at peak ripeness and immediately frozen!

I usually grab a few bags of frozen fruit on a grocery trip for smoothies. Frozen is just as good as fresh since the fruit was picked at peak ripeness and immediately frozen!

10 oz Package organic frozen sliced peaches (such as Cascadian Farm Organic), thawed

1 & 1/2 Cups quick oats

1/4 Cup 100% whole wheat flour

1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 Cup plant-based milk (soy, almond, etc.)

1 Tablespoon plant-based sweetener such as brown sugar or maple syrup (optional)

Combine the quick oats, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon and mix with a fork.  Add the sweetener if using and slowly stir in the plant-based milk.  Add enough plant-based milk so that oat mixture is uniformly moist but not soggy.  Put the peaches at the bottom of a microwave safe container and spoon the oat mixture on top in dollops (no need to carefully layer or spread it).  Cover the container and microwave for 2 minutes or so until hot.  Spoon cobbler into a clear jar or mug for a lovely presentation, and enjoy!

Mmm, peachy!

Mmm, peachy!

Happy 1st Birthday Vegan Baby!

Our 1 year old enjoying her carrot cake.  Happy birthday!

Our 1 year old enjoying her carrot cake. Happy birthday!

Our whole foods plant-based baby just celebrated her first birthday!  We had a nice little birthday party with family and friends.  We served fruit salad, no-oil hummus & vegetables, chips and salsa, and carrot cake with maple-apple dressing.  

Our daughter is still breastfed, and for solid foods she eats whatever we eat.  I usually feed her right from my plate.  Some of her favorite foods are: avocado, sweet potato pieces, 100% whole wheat pasta, beans, peas, and steamed broccoli.  She has not been a very picky eater and she loves to feed herself (we try for more finger foods than purees).  At her 1 year pediatrician appointment we found that her growth rate is consistent.  For those who are interested, she is in the 90-100% percentiles for height and weight.  However, I really try to minimize these stats since it leads to unhelpful comparison syndrome in most moms (including me!).  

Our two big secrets came out at the pediatrician’s office at her 1 year appointment: that we co-sleep with her, and that we all eat a whole foods plant-based diet.  When the nurse was asking me about her eating habits she said, “is she eating meat and dairy?”

“No, we don’t eat meat,” I replied.

“Dairy?  Eggs?  Milk?”

“No,” I shook my head.  Then offered: “She has had a little soy milk on oatmeal.”

The nurse recorded my notes for the doctor and said that she likes the taste of soy milk.  I held back from suggesting WestSoy, the only oil-free brand of soy milk that is locally available.  When the doctor came in to see our daughter she didn’t mention our vegan diet.  And to me that’s the mark of a good pediatrician or doctor period.  It’s said “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Well that goes for health too I think.  Since our daughter has normal growth and development for her age there is no reason to question her diet, though it may be unique among a southern Maryland pediatrician’s patients.  

Our pediatrician asked about our daughter’s sleep habits.  “She sleeps separately from you?”

Me: *Infinite pause.*

No, we co-sleep.

Doctor: Uh-oh!  (CAUGHT YA!)  Do you have working smoke detectors?  Does anyone smoke?

Me: Yes.  And no, we don’t smoke.

Doctor: Ok great, see you in three months!

Yes my doctor found out our other secret–that we practice bed sharing, or safe co-sleeping.  For a great resource on this practice I recommend the La Leche League book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.”  When it came time to consider sleep training or co-sleeping, sharing sleep seemed a much more natural way for everyone to get more rest.  It works so well for our family because our daughter can continue to nurse throughout the night.  She gets most of her breast milk at night next to me while we both sleep.  If she was sleeping separately I doubt she would nurse even half as much.  Daddy helps her go to sleep at night too by nuzzling in, and we wouldn’t trade our night time or morning cuddles for the world.  Since we have no other risk factors for a dangerous co-sleeping situation (i.e. smoking), our pediatrician wasn’t worried about it.  

I’m so proud of my little girl, and I feel so happy that we have been able to feed her whole, plant-based food in addition to breast milk for a year.  Will feeding her plant-based food at an early age lead to healthy food choices later in life?  We’ll see!  Here is an interesting site where kids submit photos of their school lunches and vote whether they would “eat it” or “toss it.”  While none that I saw are whole foods & plant-based, I find it interesting to see what kids these days think looks good enough to eat!

I always love connecting with plant-based moms and families, so if you have a question, comment, or just want to say “hiya!” please feel free to email me using the form below!

Unbelievable Fat-Free Twice-Baked Potatoes

The "cheesy" golden color comes from nutritional yeast (a staple seasoning in plant-based cooking).

The “cheesy” golden color comes from nutritional yeast (a staple seasoning in plant-based cooking).

These twice-baked stuffed potatoes are as good as any you might remember from classic American fare restaurants, and they have none of the added butter, sour cream, or cheese.  I highly recommend these filling potato boats if you are just starting out on a whole foods plant based diet because they are so similar to their dairy-containing counterparts.  It’s the nutritional yeast that gives the potato filling it’s golden glow and “cheesy” color.

The ingredients for this dish include organic potatoes.  The

This recipe will serve two hungry adults.  For a larger family, I'd double it!

This recipe will serve two hungry adults. For a larger family, I’d double it!

Environmental Working Group releases an annual list of the produce most and least contaminated by pesticides, and these “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists help me decide which produce to buy organic vs. conventional.  Potatoes surprisingly rank on the dirty dozen for pesticide contamination, while sweet potatoes are in the clean fifteen.  I try to go all organic on my produce anyway, but if you’re looking to save money where you can on groceries you should refer to these lists.  If something on the clean fifteen list isn’t available to me locally in organic, I don’t sweat it and just go with conventional.

Ingredients:

5 lb Bag of organic russet potatoes, rinsed

3 Heads broccoli, roughly chopped

1 Onion, chopped

4 Cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 Cup nutritional yeast

1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 450F.  While the oven heats, add the chopped broccoli to the bowl of a food processor and process a few times until the florets are very small.  Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl and set aside.  Bake the potatoes on a baking sheet covered in foil for 90 minutes.

Potatoes are your friend this holiday season!

Potatoes are your friend this holiday season!

Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onions in a pan over medium high heat.  Use a tablespoon or two of water to prevent sticking.  As the water evaporates, add a little more (this is called the water saute method, and it keeps this dish fat-free and whole because no oil is needed).  Transfer the garlic and onions to the bowl with the broccoli.

When the potatoes are done, remove from oven and carefully slice in half.  Use a potholder to hold each potato half and scoop the inner flesh into the large bowl with a spoon.  Leave enough potato in the skin to retain the canoe shape.  When all potatoes are scooped, add the nutritional yeast, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, and 1/2 cup of water.  Use a potato masher to mash all of the ingredients together.

Use a large spoon to fill the potato boats with the broccoli & potato mixture.  You can mound the stuffed potatoes high as long as the filling lasts.  Bake the stuffed potatoes for 10 minutes until just browned.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Bars

Double the oats to get a stiffer, more brownie-like texture.

Double the oats to get a stiffer, more brownie-like texture.

This recipe is delicious and kid friendly since it does not contain a ton of sugar, but only ¼ cup of maple syrup distributed over 9 bars! I feel great about feeding these bars to my 1 year old daughter since the bulk of the bar is made of beans and pumpkin. The texture is creamy and
delicious, just like pumpkin pie or a soft cheesecake. The quick oats help the bars stand up when sliced. 100% plant-based and guilt-free!

Ingredients:
(1) 15 oz can of any white bean, rinsed (I use Cannellini beans)
(1) 15 oz can pure pumpkin
2 Whole bananas
3 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
¼ Cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
½ Cup quick oats
Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients except oats in a food processor and process on high until smooth and creamy.

This recipe is perfect for holiday desserts!

This recipe is perfect for holiday desserts!

Transfer to a large bowl and stir in oats until well combined, then spread the mixture into a square 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the center is firm to the touch. Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing or eating because they will firm up as they cool. The pumpkin flavor also intensifies the next day. Refrigerate overnight before slicing and serving if possible.

Saturday Night Pizza & Cake!

Saturday night pizza party!

Saturday night pizza party!

Pizza and cake???  Yes!  It’s getting close to our daughter’s first birthday.  We are having a small party of family and friends for her, and I wanted to test our her birthday cake recipe.  What a treat for a Saturday night.  Why not have a little family pizza party too?  The great thing about eating a whole foods plant-based diet is that our indulgent tasty treats are so much better for our bodies than the oil and dairy-laden counterparts.

We enjoyed pizza on whole wheat lavash crust (I love a thin crust!) and carrot

Thin crust is the only way to go, in my opinion.  Try lavash, or else make your own using my 100% whole wheat bread recipe, rolled flat.

Thin crust is the only way to go, in my opinion. Try lavash, or else make your own using my 100% whole wheat bread recipe, rolled flat.

cake with lemon-maple glaze.  The lavash is from Mom’s Organic Market and is made from 100% whole wheat flour, yeast, water and salt.  We topped it with home made pizza sauce and organic toppings like green peppers, black olives packed in water (not oil), onions, banana peppers, and sliced cremini mushrooms.  The pizza sauce starts with some sauteed garlic and onions, a box of Pomi sodium-free tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning.  Bake the pizzas at 420F for 10-15 minutes.  This recipe is great for kids!  Pizza can be delicious AND healthy without all the cheese and oil.  I like a little curry powder and maybe a touch of unsulfured molasses in my sauce instead of the Italian herbs for “Indian” pizza.

What’s “bad” about the pizza?  Watch out for the salt already present in the lavash.  As a rule, we add salt to our food ourselves and don’t eat food that already contains sodium.  That way we can keep visual track of how much of this mineral we put into our bodies.  Also be aware that if you add molasses as a plant-based sweetener you are introducing readily accessible sugars into your body without the good fiber that is found in whole plant foods.

My husband prefers a traditional Italian seasoning take on pizza, but I like to throw a little curry powder into the sauce.

My husband prefers a traditional Italian seasoning take on pizza, but I like to throw a little curry powder into the sauce.

The cake came out great.  It’s made with 100% whole wheat pastry flour, which is more finely-ground than regular whole wheat flour.  The finer grind lets baking powder and baking soda more easily form bubbles in the batter, so typically use the pastry flour for cakes and muffins.  But regular grind 100% whole wheat flour will do in a pinch.  The lemon-maple glaze is quite sweet!  Since I’m serving this cake to omnivore guests at our daughter’s first birthday party I am going to use the full amount of plant-based sweetener called for in the recipe.  However, if you have been a plant-based eater for at least 3 weeks then your palette is probably already highly tuned into the sweetness present in the raisins and carrots and you can get away with cutting the sweetener in half at least, or replace maple and agave syrups with home made date syrup.  Fine tune this one to your liking–then share!

I experimented by layering the two cakes.  I think it may be better suited to a single layer cake, with glaze on the side so guests can serve themselves.

I experimented by layering the two cakes. I think it may be better suited to a single layer cake, with glaze on the side so guests can serve themselves.

Carrot Cake with Lemon-Maple Glaze

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 35-45 minutes

Servings: makes (2) 9 inch cakes

Cake Ingredients:

1/2 Cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

3 & 1/2 Cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 Teaspoon sea salt

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon allspice

1 & 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder

2 Teaspoons baking soda

2 Cups apple juice or cider

3/4 Cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 Cup pure maple syrup

1/2 Cup agave nectar

3 Cups grated carrots

1 Banana, mashed

1/2 Cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325F.  Toast walnuts for 10 minutes until golden and fragrant, then chop.  Use a fork to stir all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Toss in nuts and set aside.  Mix applesauce, juice and syrups in a smaller bowl, add to the dry ingredients, whisk until smooth.  Fold in carrots, mashed banana and raisins.  Use two paper or non stick 9 inch cake pans.  Place batter in pans and bake at 325F 35-45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  Cool for 20 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

Lemon Maple Glaze

Ingredients:

2 Cups apple juice or cider

1 Cup water

1/4 Cup squeezed lemon juice

1/2 Cup pure maple syrup

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

1 Teaspoon vanilla

1/4 Teaspoon allspice

1/4 Teaspoon sea salt

5 Teaspoons cornstarch

Add a small amount of water or apple juice to the cornstarch in a separate bowl and stir until completely dissolved.  Set aside.  Bring everything except cornstarch to a gentle boil.  Slowly stir the cornstarch mixture into the liquid until thickened.  Drizzle over cakes before serving, or allow guests to drizzle as desired.