Tag Archives: cassandra benefield

My Nutritarian Diary: Quinoa and Green Bean Salad

QuinoaGreenBeanHeader
If you’re not sick of salads yet, this Quinoa and Green Bean Salad is for you. It can be eaten on its own as a meal, or it makes an excellent side.

The original recipe calls for a lot more olive oil than I’m comfortable using, so my recipe significantly reduces that ingredient. The original also called for a cup of flat leaf parsley leaves, and while I like parsley, I thought that flavor was too strong for this salad when I made this the first time. Instead, I used a half a cup of fresh, hand-torn basil leaves. (I don’t recommend cutting basil with a knife, as the leaves will turn brown too quickly!)

I love how quick this recipe is to make and how nutritious it is. Not only that, as the picture shows, it is beautiful! One of my nutritarian travelers mentioned that this salad would look holiday festive if diced red bell peppers were added. I thought that was a great suggestion, so I passed that along to you, too. You’re welcome.

Really skies the limit as to seasonings and options for this gem of a salad. If you discover a particular combo that really tickles your palate, please share!

IMG_4534 (1024x683)
Quinoa and Green Bean Salad
(Slightly adapted from Meatless, a Martha Stewart Living cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • low sodium vegetable broth for sautéing
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup tri-color quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • ½ cup fresh basil, hand torn in small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (red-wine, white-wine, brown rice, apple cider, or a combination)
  • ⅓ cup almond slivers
  • DIRECTIONS:
    Place onions and garlic 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable broth in a saucepan. Lightly salt and pepper onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent. Stir in quinoa and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. According to the original recipe directions, “Remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes; fluff with fork. Let cool completely.”

    While the quinoa mixture is cooling or as you cook the quinoa, blanch green beans in a pot of boiling salted water for about four minutes. You don’t want to cook the beans much longer than that, as they lose their crispness quickly. Drain and rinse the beans in cold water to stop the cooking.

    In a large bowl, combine the quinoa mixture, green beans, olive oil, if using, vinegar and almond slivers. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Cool salad completely in refrigerator. Then, enjoy!

    My Nutritarian Diary: Loaded Veggie Wheat Berry Salad

    Veggie Wheat Berry Salad Header
    This Loaded Veggie Wheat Berry Salad (or as my husband likes to call it, “A vegan salad so good even your hunter husband will like it”) is as nutritious as it is delicious. It is very similar to another wheat berry salad I’ve featured on my blog but with more veggies and an easier dressing option.

    Most of the veggies in this salad can be found at your local farmer’s market, too, but not for much longer now that fall is around the corner. Take a look at some of the health benefits this salad is packed with:

    • Carrots-Improves Vision, Promotes Healthy Skin, and Fights Cancer
    • Zucchini-Lowers Cholesterol, Maintains Low Blood Sugar, and is an Anti-Inflammatory
    • Tomatoes-Builds Strong Bones, Makes Hair Strong and Shiny, and Prevents Kidney Stones
    • Artichoke Hearts-Promotes Heart Health, Aids Digestion, and Supports Muscle Health
    • Basil-Protects Cells from Damage, Fights Bacteria, and Improves Blood Flow

    And that’s just a handful of the ingredients!

    I hope I have convinced you to give it a try. Remember, even my hunter husband said it was a hit.

    IMG_4456
    Loaded Veggie Wheat Berry Salad

    SALAD INGREDIENTS:
    • 5 cups of water
    • 1 cup of wheat berries
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 ½ cups carrots, finely chopped
    • 1 ½ cups raw zucchini, chopped
    • 1 ½ cups cucumber, seeded and chopped
    • 1 ½ cups green pepper, chopped
    • 1 ½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
    • 1 (14-ounce) can of artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered
    • 4 ounces of baby spinach
    • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn in small pieces
    • 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano
    • ¼ to ½ cup onions of choice, finely chopped, optional
    • ½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
    • 1 ½ cups of cooked black beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
    • ¼ to ½ cup of favorite low-fat Italian dressing*
    • 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, if desired for taste
    • Salt and pepper, if needed
    • Lettuce leaves, to plate salad, optional

    *I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place the water, wheat berries, and ½ teaspoon of salt into a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer. Cooking time varies depending on the desired texture and the brand you are cooking. Generally, I prefer to cook mine for 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.

    In a large bowl, while wheat berries are cooking, place the carrots, zucchini, cucumber, green pepper, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, basil, oregano, onion (if using), olives, and black beans, and mix well.

    Add the wheat berries and the dressing to the veggies and combine. Adjust taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, if desired.

    Place desired amount on a plate of lettuce leaves, and serve.

    (You could easily replace wheat berries with quinoa. Just cook 1 cup of quinoa according to its directions and use it instead.)

    My Nutritarian Diary: Sunny Bean Burgers and Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread

    Bean Burger Header2This last weekend, I did not want to cook. At all. I was so desperate for something quick and something that tasted “junk-food” yummy, but I wasn’t desperate enough to cave into the full monty by going to a fast food restaurant.

    I practiced some restraint and settled for store-bought, low-fat, vegan Boca Burgers and some Alexia 98% Fat Free Roasted Straight Cut Fries with Sea Salt. I found some small 100% whole wheat buns in the discounted baked goods section, and all told, I spent less than $10. Not bad for a weekend craving.

    It’s one of those compromises that I often make because it’s 7 p.m., I still don’t have dinner made, and I am going to the store anyway. Thus, packaged “healthy” junk food.

    But, what I had really wanted was to make a homemade bean burger that was nutritious and delicious. All was not lost. I did make that the next evening this time serving it with carrot sticks instead of fries. My husband even had a pickle.

    Two things that made this weekend junk food so yummy and healthy was I used a Tosca Reno Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread (on the Boca Burger, too!). And I found a very nutritious Joel Fuhrman bean burger recipe that was quick to make and tasty.

    If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are those recipes.

     IMG_4439 (1024x683)

    Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread
    (Slightly adapted from “The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook” by Tosca Reno)

    INGREDIENTS:
    ½ cup vegan mayo
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil, rehydrated in hot water and drained
    1 handful fresh basil leaves (a must!)
    1 clove garlic
    ¼ teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Place all Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread ingredients in a food processor and whirl until thoroughly blended. Spread will be a little chunky. Scrape in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use” (Tosca Reno).

    Sunny Bean Burgers
    (Slightly adapted from “Eat to Live Cookbook” by Joel Fuhrman)

    INGREDIENTS:
    ¼ cup sunflower seeds
    1 (15.5 ounce can) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
    ½ cup minced green onions
    2 tablespoons ketchup
    1 tablespoon old fashioned rolled oats
    ½ teaspoon chili powder
    ¼ teaspoon sea salt, optional

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

    “Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Chop the sunflower seeds in a food processor or with a hand chopper. Mash the beans in the food processor or with a potato masher and mix with the sunflower seeds. Mix in the remaining ingredients and form into six patties.

    Place the patties on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, until you can pick up each patty and compress it firmly in your hands to re-form the burger. Return the patties to the baking sheet, bottom side up, and bake for another 10 minutes” (Joel Fuhrman).

    MY NOTES:
    You can eat these patties served on a whole-wheat bun with Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Spread (see recipe above) or wrapped in lettuce leaves. Excellent sides are carrot sticks or Alexia 98% Fat Free Roasted Straight Cut Fries with Sea Salt.

    My Nutritarian Diary: BBQ Soy Curl Salad in a Jar

    BBQ Soy Curls Header

    The web for all its glory and grandeur can be a very confusing place especially in the arena of diet advice. Today, to help lessen some of that Internet confusion, I want to talk fat with you as well as share my new favorite salad recipe.

    Let’s start with general consensus out there that the percentage of calories we need in our daily intake from fat is 20-35% (some doctors and nutritionists who advocate a low-fat, plant-based diet even take that figure down to 10-15%). In addition, the general consensus out there is that we shouldn’t consume more than 10% of our calories a day from saturated fat, to help prevent cardiovascular disease and perhaps Type 2 diabetes.

    To start breaking this down for you, I am going to examine the fat make-up of several foods and base my nutrition percentages on a 2,000-calorie diet, since that’s what our labels use. You would lesson or increase that figure depending on whether you wanted to lose weight or if you were more active.

    First, let’s look at the fat make-up of several plant-based foods in no particular order. (I used caloriecount.about.com and the nutrition labels of the items I had on hand for these numbers.)

    Food Total Fat Saturated Fat
    24 Almonds (1 oz.) 22% 5%
    1 TBSP Safflower Oil 22% 5%
    ½ Medium Avocado 20% 12%
    12 Large Pitted Olives 12% 0%
    1 TBSP Ground Flaxseed 3.5% 1.5%
    1 TBSP Peanut Butter, Natural 12.5% 8%
    Trader Joe’s High Protein Super Firm Organic Tofu (84g/1 Serving) 11% 5%
    Butler Soy Curls (3/4 cup/1 Serving) 7% 0%

    It’s easy to see that the saturated fats in this category of foods is significantly less than the total fat. Also, nuts, oil, and avocados are higher in fat, and probably should be eaten in smaller portions than I’ve listed above in order to prevent weight gain. And as much as many of us love peanut butter, it’s probably best to eat in teaspoon portions rather than tablespoon ones.

    Next, let’s look up the fat make-up of several animal-based foods that are low in fat. (I used caloriecount.about.com for these numbers.)

    Food Total Fat Saturated Fat
    Egg (Cooked, Hard-Boiled) 7% 8%
    Chicken Leg (Meat Only, No Skin) 4% 3%
    ½ Chicken Breast (Meat Only, No Skin) 5% 0%
    4 oz. Lean Ground Turkey (93% Lean) 12% 12%
    3 oz. Lean Hamburger (85% Lean) 20% 25%
    1 oz. 2% Milk Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese 8% 15%
    ½ Fillet Salmon Atlantic, Wild 19% 10%
    3 oz. Beef, Top Sirloin (Trimmed to ¼” Fat) 8% 10%

    In general, this category of food has a higher saturated fat ratio than the plant-based category (white chicken breast and salmon the exceptions in this list), and that’s even when eating these foods in very small portions. While this family of foods may not be high in total fat, their saturated fat make-up along with the realization that in general portion sizes of these foods are rarely as small as listed above, you can see why limiting this source of food may be beneficial to your health.

    To sum it up, at least for me, I have cut out of my diet most animal-based foods due to their saturated fat and cholesterol content. This choice has significantly lowered my cholesterol for the good.

    In addition, I follow a lower-fat diet, only because I think I generally eat too much fat if I don’t watch it. With that said, I also believe I should eat good fats from plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, avocados and so on. I think limiting vegetable oil intake is a must for me, as well, since I can reach the low end of my daily caloric intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet in one tablespoon of oil.

    So, while it may not be 100% accurate to say we need to eat a strictly low-fat diet, it’s probably best if we eat a lower-fat diet than most of us currently do, since fat calories add up quickly.

    If that speaks to you and you want to start eating less fat, here’s a great recipe I’ve incorporated into my diet recently that helps with that goal.

    (Please understand I’m not a nutritionist and do realize everybody has different nutritional needs. Also, higher fat diets are good for those who are very active, so I would definitely encourage you to do your own research based on your own genetics and lifestyle.)

     IMG_4424 (667x1024)
    BBQ Soy Curl Salad in a Jar

    INGREDIENTS:
    1½ cup of Butler Soy Curls*, reconstituted in warm water per package directions
    ¼ cup of BBQ Sauce
    1 cup of sweet corn, defrosted if frozen
    1 cup of cherry tomatoes
    3 cups of salad greens
    1 32-oz. mason jar
    *You can buy these online at www.butlerfoods.com

    DIRECTIONS:
    In a medium pan, pour BBQ sauce over the soy curls, mix together and cook them over medium heat until lightly browned and pan-fried. Set aside to cool.

    Soy Curls Collage

    Layer the corn, cherry tomatoes, BBQ soy curls, and salad greens compactly (but not too compactly) in a 32-ounce mason jar, and place in refrigerator until ready to eat. (Probably should eat in a day or two.)

    When ready to eat, pour salad fixings in a large bowl, dig in, and enjoy!

    I find this salad tastes fine without a dressing, but feel free to add a dressing of your choice to it (keeping in mind the recommended fat calorie intake if you don’t use a fat-free dressing). If you are packing a mason jar, place the dressing at the very bottom.

    IMG_4433 (1024x683)

    My Nutritarian Diary: Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

    chocbanpbic2
    It’s hot out. Really hot out. And it isn’t going to let up for at least another week here in Spokane, WA, as far as I know. So, today I chose a recipe that is hot-weather worthy: Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It’s a variant of the Chocolate Banana Ice Cream recipe I posted on my blog about four and a half months ago. I made this delightful version this week and was so amazed at how yummy it was, I had to share it.

    First, in the spirit of blogger full disclosure, I need to be honest with you all. I have not been as diligent eating nutrient-dense foods (especially desserts) over the last month, and I believe I paid for this in gaining five pounds. Now, if those five pounds were the result of working out, I would not even bring it up. But they are not. And that’s the other item I need to share with you. I have not been very diligent in working out, either, which is as good for me as eating well. There are three main reasons why. One, it’s hot out. Two, I am so busy, and I just can’t seem to fit it into my schedule. And three, it just hasn’t been as much of a priority to me as eating cleaner, whole foods.

    This week, though, I took small steps to improve my after-dinner sweets, this recipe being one of them, as well as to incorporate more exercise into my week.

    In his Eat to Live Cookbook, Joel Fuhrman recommends eating dessert. He writes, “One trick to prevent overeating is to have a delicious dessert at the conclusion of dinner—before you’ve overeaten. Let dessert mark the end of your day’s eating experience and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning.” What great advice! And so, I don’t deny myself sweets, I just make ones that are nutrient dense (ones that are fruit-centric and made with no sugar, except the sugar found in fruits).

    And as far as exercising, I get bored very easily. Because of that, I believe doing a variety of activities during the week is what will work best for me. This week, I did some yoga, took walks, and did some cellulite-busting exercises that I linked to on myfoxspokane.com’s facebook page this #wellnesswednesday. My husband and I also purchased a bike trailer for our daughter, which will allow me to add bicycle riding into the week. And when it’s this hot out, the wind on your face as you’re biking is a great relief.

    It is in the small steps that we make significant changes. I try to be kind to myself when I veer off the path now and then. I just make a course correction, and get back on track. So, without further ado, here’s one of those course corrections.

    IMG_4331 (683x1024) (2)
    Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
    Recipe slightly adapted from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon. (I halved her recipe for one serving.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 frozen banana
    • 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond milk, depending on desired consistency
    • 3 teaspoons of natural peanut butter
    • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Place all ingredients together in a food processor and allow the motor to run until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stop and break up large clumps with a spatula as needed.” (Lindsay S. Nixon)

    Taste and adjust ingredient amounts as preferred.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Part 2

    Nutritarian Header

    I have a feeling that writing out these tips on how to eat more fruits and vegetables in our diets have benefited me more than you, since I followed my own advice this week! There were a couple meals that I purposely added frozen green beans to (after they were microwaved, of course) to pump up my veggie intake. I also ate several large salads this week, as well as increased the amount of veggies I used in a pasta salad of mine.

    So as much as for me as for you, listed below are 10 more tiny inspirations to help you eat more fruits and vegetables every day. These are in addition to the 10 I wrote up in last week’s blog.

    1. When needing a quick meal, cook up a rice noodle soup bowl, and load it with at least a cup or two of any variety of frozen veggies.

    2. If you eat a lot of healthy frozen meals for lunch, add another cup (or two) of frozen vegetables to microwave with the meal.

    3. Add about ¼ cup of Grapenuts or similar cereal (with five or fewer ingredients) to your cut up cantaloupe for an excellent sweet and crunchy snack (or dessert).

    4. Replace chips or crackers with raw carrots and/or apple slices for a side to your sandwich, veggie burger, etc.

    5. Find a low-fat, bean dip recipe you love and make it once a week to use as a dip for raw vegetables. (This Tuscan White Bean Dip is a great recipe to try.)

    6. Use applesauce or spotted bananas instead of oil in your baking. (See Banana-Chocolate Chip Scones.)

    7. Eat fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. This maximizes the nutritional benefits you receive from eating healthy.

    8. Shop for fruits and veggies every 3-5 days or so, to keep your produce fresh and to help make sure what you are buying doesn’t spoil.

    9. Clean and cut up your fresh vegetables when you come home from the store to ensure you will add them to your meals. (I do this for, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, for example, and this makes cooking with them or adding them to salads quick and accessible.) The same for fruit. Rinse fruit like cherries and grapes right away and place them in a container in the fridge so that you have quick access to eating them.

    10. Cook around two vegetable-heavy meals a week (this could be a vegetable chili or soup, a spaghetti squash pasta dish, etc.) that have a lot of leftovers, so you don’t burn out in the kitchen. Soon you will build a repertoire of several recipes to keep your family healthy and satisfied. There are lots of books available in our local libraries that can help you discover meals that are easy for you to make and that taste great. And of course, peruse “My Nutritarian Diary” recipes to see if one of these dishes could be one of the ones you want to try.

    See also: My Nutritarian Diary: Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Part 1

    My Nutritarian Diary: Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Part 1

    Nutritarian HeaderAs a returned Peace Corps volunteer and an occasional world traveler (emphasis on occasional), I am very much aware of the blessings I have in America in the abundance of food choices I have every day. When I examine just the amount of produce I can choose from in any grocery store, I am in awe of my blessings here and just how easy it is to have access to foods that nourish my body in all seasons. I am tremendously thankful for the bounty of food I experience in America, and I think eating healthy can be one way I show my gratitude.

    Another way I can show my gratitude is to pass along to you some tips on how to increase your own intake of fruits and vegetables.

    Most of us have no trouble eating grains, protein sources, healthy fat, and so on. But what most of us don’t eat enough of are our fruits and vegetables, and what we are probably lacking most in our diets are vegetables.

    We are learning more and more in the media that these foods are so very good for us, and not only do they have the ability to keep us healthy, they also have the ability to make us healthier. Also, the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the less room we’ll have for the junk food that is hurting us.

    So, listed below are 10 tips I’ve learned on my plant-based eating journey about how to eat more fruits and vegetables. Next week, I’ll provide you with 10 more! If you have any suggestions, let me know them in the comments below, and you may be mentioned in next week’s post.

    Photo by Liz West, Wikimedia Commons

    Photo by Liz West, Wikimedia Commons

    1. Try to eat one pound of raw veggies and one pound of cooked veggies a day (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). This will ensure you receive the diversity of nutrients that come only when the vegetable is eaten raw and only when it is eaten cooked. Just for guidance four to five raw carrots weighs a pound and often store-bought, frozen vegetables are sold in pound-sized packages.
    1. Try to eat one large salad a day topped with a healthy low-fat or non-fat dressing (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). And by large, I mean at least four to six ounces of greens. That amount would probably fit the size of a medium bag of popcorn you get at a theater. Top your chosen salad greens with more veggies, about a cup of a legume or combination of legumes of your choice (flavored tofu, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, or other beans), and a tablespoon or two of raw nuts.
    1. Experiment with cooked veggies (and yes, they can be cold!) as a topping for your salad.
    1. Try to eat three pieces of fruit a day. And one of those fruits should be a banana. They are amazingly good for you and help your mood.
      1. Don’t discount smoothies that are full of veggies and fruit as part of your plan to eat more fruits and veggies. But don’t rest totally on smoothies to try and take in more fruits and veggies either. (See my Super Easy Blended Salad.)
    Photo by Ionutzmovie, Wikimedia Commons

    Photo by Ionutzmovie, Wikimedia Commons

    1. Don’t get weighed down by buying the “perfect” food item. There are some rules that may be non-negotiable for your family, but try and keep them simple and try not to have too many. Buying organic can be expensive, especially when the produce you are buying isn’t in season locally. So, if your family likes cherries, and the organic ones are just too cost prohibitive at this time, buy the non-organic and enjoy them—after a diligent rinsing, of course.
    1. Don’t use any sweeteners to sweeten your oatmeal/morning cereal. Instead, use raisins or other dried fruit, frozen berries (I prefer blueberries!), sweet apples, cut in cubes, or any other sweet fruit. That way you’re not only sweetening your breakfast, but you’re adding more fiber and nutrition to your meal, as well as working toward your fruit requirement.
    1. Have a dessert salad for your after-dinner sweet tooth. My favorite is lettuce topped with granny smith apple slices, drizzled lightly with a sweet, no-fat dressing.
    1. When making a pasta salad, halve the amount of pasta the recipe calls for and double the veggies. (And raw zucchini is an amazing added vegetable to almost any pasta salad.) (This tip could be applied to my Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad recipe.)
    1. Don’t be afraid of corn or peas. I know they get a bad rap as “starchy” vegetables, but they are better to eat than no vegetables at all. Besides, these sweeter veggies may be easier for kids to enjoy as you transition them to eating more vegetables.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Vegan Eggplant Meatballs

    Vegan Eggplant Meatballs Header
    In my opinion, great plant-based recipes taste great, are nutritious, and feature vegetables prominently. Well, this Vegan Eggplant Meatballs recipe does that and more. One of the things I like most about these little guys is that they can be eaten in a variety of ways.

    These “meatballs” are great served hot out of the oven on noodles (zucchini, wheat, or gluten free) and topped with a homemade veggie marinara sauce. They would make an excellent warmed appetizer dipped in your favorite store-bought, plant-based spaghetti sauce. And as leftovers, they taste excellent cold served on top of a large salad.

    IMG_4317 Small
    So whatever your eating style or mood, these eggplant delights are an excellent treat!

    And if you decide to eat the leftovers on a plate of lettuce, why not whip up some of Dreena Burton’s “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette to go with it.

    Or if you are in the mood for another delicious eggplant-centric meal, I recommend giving my Baked Eggplant Spaghetti recipe a try!

    IMG_4312 Small
    Vegan Eggplant Meatballs
    (Slighty adapted from skinnytaste.com, which slightly adapted it from Mark Bittman’s VB6 Cookbook)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • ¼ cup (or more) of low sodium vegetable broth, for sautéing
    • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubed pieces
    • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) sea salt, mixed
    • ½ teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves of garlic (or more depending on taste)
    • 1 cup cooked white beans (or drained and rinsed canned beans)
    • ¼ cup fresh parsley (or a ¼ cup mix of fresh parsley, fresh oregano, etc.)
    • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs or panko
    • ¼ cup of nutritional yeast, optional
    • pinch of red chili flakes, optional

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Heat the oven to 375°. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray [or line sheet with parchment paper].

    Place [vegetable broth] in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant …. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. [Add more vegetable broth if necessary to keep from sticking.] Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

    Add [more vegetable broth] to the skillet with the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add to the food processor along with the drained beans and parsley [or other fresh seasoning blend] and pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed.

    Combine the mixture with the breadcrumbs, [nutritional yeast if using] and red chili flakes if using. Taste for salt then roll into 12 meatballs, about 2-inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and browned, about 25 to 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, warm the marinara sauce and serve with the meatballs over pasta, zucchini noodles or on a whole wheat roll” (skinnytaste.com).

    My Nutritarian Diary: Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad

    Savory Pasta Salad Fireworks Header
    Sometimes simple is best. Sometimes ingredients that don’t call for a lot of work, are just what the weary cook needs. And sometimes a great, wholesome meal can include foods that are somewhat processed. I am still a huge advocate of not buying processed food, and if I do, I want to make sure it has the fewest ingredients possible. But from time to time, I need the added assistance of something already made.

    That is definitely the case with this salad. I had a couple of Trader Joe’s items I thought would mix well with fresh veggies and pasta, and in about the time it took to cook the pasta, I had a wonderful pasta salad with flavors that delighted my palate.

    Ingredients Collage
    The two ingredients I totally recommend not changing for this salad are the Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar and the Savory-Flavored Organic Baked Tofu (pictured above).

    However, use the rest of the recipe below as a guide and adjust where your inner chef takes you.

    IMG_4295
    Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 10-12 ounces whole wheat spiral pasta
    • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 medium zucchini, chopped (about 2 cups)
    • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
    • 4 green onions, diced (about ⅓ to ½ cup)
    • 7 ounces Trader Joe’s organic, savory-seasoned and baked tofu, cut into small cubes
    • ¼ cup fresh basil, finely diced
    • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely diced
    • 1-2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely diced
    • ⅓ cup to ½ cup Trader Joe’s Tuscan Italian Dressing with Balsamic Vinegar, or another Italian dressing of your choice
    • Salt and pepper, to taste, optional*
    • Salad greens to plate, optional

    *The savory-flavored tofu along with the dressing was sufficient seasoning for me, so I did not add salt or pepper to mine.

    DIRECTIONS:
    Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, combine the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, green bell pepper, green onions, baked tofu, basil, parsley, and oregano in a large bowl. Toss together. Add cooked pasta and dressing and toss to combine. Taste and adjust amount of dressing and add salt and/or pepper if needed. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow seasonings to get more defined. Serve on a plate of greens, if using.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo”

    Sun-Dried Alfredo Header
    This Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo” is a wonderful recipe for a few reasons. First, it’s absolutely delicious. The sun-dried tomato flavoring gives this sauce one of the best flavors I’ve tasted since going mostly plant-based in my eating.

    Second, it’s so easy to make! I mean the only thing you have to “cook” is the pasta. Really, that’s it. Isn’t that great?

    Third, this “alfredo” is better for you than its fat-laden (and yes, I’ll add delicious!) cousins. Using lite silken tofu and cashews helps provide the creamy texture that wonderfully coats the pasta. Cashews are a great alternative to using heavy dairy creams in recipes, and the tofu makes the sauce go further.

    Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and you have a dish that packs a nutritional punch of fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and more! And the artichoke hearts are worth a mention, too. They are full of health benefits including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol, and possessing a high amount of the antioxidant vitamin C.

    So, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think!

    IMG_4267 Large
    Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato “Alfredo”
    (Adapted from Tosca Reno’s “Penne with No-Cook Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Cream, Artichoke Hearts and Basil” recipe in The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 12-16 ounces of pasta of your choice (I used 12-ounces of tri-colored penne pasta)
    • 1 (12.3 ounce) package firm lite silken tofu, drained, at room temperature
    • ½ cup raw unsalted cashews
    • ½ cup hot water
    • 1 cup rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil), drained
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
    • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (or more, to taste)
    • 1 (12 ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
    • ¼ teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and cook the pasta according to package directions until ‘al dente’. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Do not rinse the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

    In a blender (or food processor), blend the tofu, cashews and hot water until very smooth. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, [nutritional yeast], salt and pepper, and blend until combined, but you can still see little chunks of tomatoes. Pour over the pasta, add the artichoke hearts, and toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta cooking liquid a bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency” (Tosca Reno).

    MY NOTES:
    The original recipe called for one tablespoon of chopped marjoram, which I didn’t have on hand. Also, I added nutritional yeast to my version for more of a “cheesy” flavor. And Tosca’s name for this recipe was just entirely too long for my blog post title, so that is why I’ve renamed it.

    My Nutritarian Diary: “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette

    Magical No-oil vin HeaderThis week marked the first week of #wellnesswednesday on our station’s Facebook page, and I talked a little about why I have chosen to go oil-free or nearly oil-free in my eating, which is contrary to a lot of what we read about oils in the media. While various oils may have some health benefits, they are high in calories and are actually a processed food, with no fiber, which means the “bang” for the nutritional “buck” is not there for many of us (some individuals and some illnesses are better served by high-fat diets, so I don’t mean to discount oils’ benefits for them).

    I remember reading the no-oil theory for the first time in Pamela Popper’s book, Food Over Medicine: A Conversation That Could Save Your Life, and I thought, no … that can’t be. Everywhere I read, authorities say oil is good for you. Really, I shouldn’t eat oil? I have my doubts here, but okay, I’ll gave that theory a whirl. And what do you know, there was a great benefit to me, not only in shedding some extra weight (about 10 pounds!), but also in the knowledge that I’m taking another step away from my dependence on processed and fatty foods.

    So, over the last several months, I have chosen to go oil free in my dressings, my sautéing, and in most of my baking. That’s not to say I don’t eat fat. I do! But the fats I eat are from whole food plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, and avocadoes. And I do so in small amounts every day.

    What better way to sum up that theme than to provide you with a magnificent no-oil vinaigrette I found on the web this week, Dreena Burton’s “Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette.

    And if you haven’t liked our Facebook page, yet, you should! Every Wednesday, we celebrate #wellnesswednesday, where many of our posts are focused on better health, and where every Friday, I post a link to a new My Nutritarian Diary blog post.

    SaladwithMagicalDressing“Magical” No-Oil Vinaigrette
    (From Dreena Burton’s “Plant-Powered Kitchen” Blog)

    INGREDIENTS

    • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon mild miso (ex: brown rice miso)*
    • ¾ – 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • ¼ teaspoon cumin
    • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1½ tablespoon pure maple syrup (or more to sweeten to taste if desired)
    • ¼ teaspoon (rounded) sea salt (or more to taste)
    • freshly ground black pepper to taste

    *I used a light soy miso that I purchased at a local Asian grocery store.

    DIRECTIONS
    “Using an immersion blender and deep cup (if using a blender, you may need to double the batch for enough blending volume), combine all ingredients, whizzing through until very smooth. Taste, and if you’d like a little sweeter add another teaspoon or so of maple syrup. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as well. If you’d like a thinner dressing, simply add a couple of teaspoons of water and blend through again” (Dreena Burton).

    My Nutritarian Diary: Lebenese Spinach Triangles

    Lebanese Spinach Triangles Header
    These Lebanese Spinach Triangles are the next best thing to pizza in my book, and boy, do I need an alternative to pizza for when that craving hits my family. Every week or two, I’ll commit to spending several minutes mining one of my cookbooks for recipes I want to make in the coming days, and this was one of those recipes. It lifted itself off the page and said to me, “Make me.” Last night, I obeyed that command, and it did not disappoint.

    Many studies show that dark, leafy greens are one of the most (if not the most) nutrient dense foods we can eat. Joel Fuhrman, who I quote often on this blog, says in his Eat to Live Cookbook that “Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, win the nutrient density prize. The concentration of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants per calorie in vegetables is the highest, by far, of any food.” Spinach also has a high amount of calcium, but because of it also having a substance called oxalate in it, spinach’s calcium is less available for absorption in our bodies. However, cooking spinach removes this substance and increases the amount of calcium and other minerals available to our bodies.

    Prior to making this, I had recently watched a cooking show on PBS and witnessed the awesome technique of squeezing cooked, frozen spinach dry by putting it a thin kitchen towel and using that towel to squeeze it dry. That technique worked well for these lovelies as they were dry and not dripping with spinach juices when finished cooking.

    This combination of ethnic flavoring, pizza dough covering, and green, leafy vegetable nutrient providing makes these little guys one of my favorite discoveries on my nutritarian journey so far.

    IMG_4258 (1024x683) 

    Lebanese Spinach Triangles
    (Slightly adapted from The Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook by Tosca Reno.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
    • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained with all the water squeezed out*
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • ½ teaspoon sea salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 pound store-bought whole wheat raw pizza dough, cut into 10 equal portions

    *To make sure the spinach is as dray as possible, you can squeeze it in some cheesecloth (or a thin kitchen drying towel) or press it in a colander.

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place rack in lower third of oven, and preheat to 425 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet and set aside.

    Heat a little water in a skillet on medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent but not brown, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Add drained spinach, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, parsley, lemon pepper, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

    Roll out each portion of the dough into a ball, and then using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a 5-inch circle. Place about 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling in the middle of the dough. Bring 3 edges up and pinch them together at the top, and then continue pinching the edges together, making a triangle, until the pie is sealed. Place the spinach triangle on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the rest of the dough balls and spinach filling. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from oven and serve.

    MY NOTES:
    The lemon pepper and smoked paprika seasoning was Tosca Reno’s method of making the Middle Eastern spice sumac. Of course, if you have sumac on hand, you would just use 2 teaspoons of that spice and omit both the lemon pepper and smoked paprika from the above ingredients.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Tuscan White Bean Dip

    Tuscan Bean Dip Header Merged
    We all know we are supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. Even the United States Department of Agriculture recommends a significant portion of both on its now three-year-old MyPlate nutritional info graphic.

    However, most of us, including me prior to going mostly plant-based in my own eating, actually eat a very small portion of fruits and vegetables as part of our daily diet. Our consumption probably looks something like this: a small cup of juice during breakfast, maybe an apple as part of lunch, and a side salad with our dinner. Instead, we get calories from less than desirable sources and we suffer as a result. We not only deplete our bodies of its nutrients, we don’t even replenish them.

    In the plant-based community, there are many suggestions as to how to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption. There are also many ideas about what a plant-based diet should look like.1 But all agree. We should eat more fruits and vegetables and we should all start now.

    The best advice I’ve read so far, for myself, has been Joel Fuhrman’s suggestion to try and eat at least one pound of raw vegetables and one pound of cooked vegetables daily, as well as try to eat three fresh fruits a day.

    That is not as easy as it may seem, which is why I wanted to give you a recipe this week that will help assist you in eating vegetables—the incredibly healthy and nutrient dense Tuscan White Bean Dip, from Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Cookbook.

    1For an excellent comparison of different plant-based diet philosophy’s, I recommend Dr. John McDougall’s August 2012 McDougall Newsletter article, “The Diet Wars: The Time for Unification is Now.” The comparison chart is on the second page of this link. (Accessed online: 6-6-14)

    IMG_4130 small cropped

    Tuscan White Bean Dip
    (Adapted from Eat to Live Cookbook by Joel Fuhrman / with low-sodium references removed)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1½ cups cooked great northern beans or 1 (15-ounce) can of great northern beans, drained
    • ¼ cup pine nuts (I used cashews)
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • seasonings, to taste (could be a no-salt seasoning blend or other seasoning blend of your choice)
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon fresh, minced rosemary
    • ¼ cup rehydrated dried tomatoes, minced

    Makes 2½ cups.

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Place all ingredients, except the dried tomatoes, in a high-powered blender or food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings to taste. Stir in the dried tomatoes. Chill for 1 hour before serving” (Fuhrman).

    MY NOTES:
    Fuhrman says to soak the dried tomatoes in lukewarm water until soft (about 1 to 2 hours). I rehydrated mine with boiling water for 10-15 minutes. His way probably leaves more nutrients in the tomatoes, but I didn’t have that time. I also added some of the tomato soaking water in my dip to help achieve my desired consistency.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Fruity Quinoa Salad

    Fruity Quinoa Header

    For today’s post, I decided to throw out into the world-wide web my very own recipe: Fruity Quinoa Salad. I haven’t done that yet on my blog, mainly because I still feel like a novice when it comes to making plant-based food. I love reading recipes and gleaning new ideas. I love making them and eating them, too, sometimes even adapting them to my own tastes. But to create a recipe from scratch? How do I know when it’s ready for the public? Does it taste good? Will people like it? Am I missing a key ingredient? And the worrisome questions go on and on.

    But today, I stopped the questions and began a different dialogue. This Fruity Quinoa Salad may not be perfect. But it is beautiful-looking and very delicious. I, personally, love the way the Kalamata olives compliment the overall fruity taste of the salad (my husband does not and is why I made them optional), and I think you can add the raisins or not, depending on how sweet you want the salad to taste. And if you’re not entirely plant-based in your eating, I think a ¼ cup of feta cheese mixed in would taste absolutely delicious.

    What I did do on purpose for me was keep this recipe oil free. But even that is flexible and up to you.

    In the end, what this recipe lacks in absolutes, it certainly does not lack in flavor, flexibility, and health.

    So, if you are feeling adventurous, why not give it a try!

    IMG_4238 small

    Fruity Quinoa Salad

    SALAD INGREDIENTS:
    • 1½ cups cooked tri-colored quinoa
    • 1 cup Granny Smith apples, chopped in ½-inch cubes*
    • ½ cup dried apricots, finely diced
    • ⅓ cup toasted almond slivers
    • ¼ cup raisins, optional
    • ⅓ cup Greek Kalamata olives, chopped, optional
    • salad greens for plating

    *Lightly coat cubes with fresh squeezed lemon juice (or other preferred method) to prevent browning.

    DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
    • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon grade B maple syrup*
    • Up to 1 tablespoon of water (in case dressing needs to be diluted to your taste)

    *Grade B maple syrup has more healthful minerals than its Grade A variety and is why I use it.

    DIRECTIONS:
    Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside to cool.

    In a separate bowl, combine the treated Granny Smith apple cubes, apricots, almonds, raisins (if using), and Greek Kalamata olives (if using). Add the quinoa and mix all the ingredients together.

    In another small bowl, whisk together the Balsamic vinegar, mustard, ground ginger, and maple syrup. Taste, and dilute with a little water if necessary.

    Poor dressing over the quinoa mix and coat evenly. Adjust seasonings to your desired taste.

    Put salad greens on plates and top with the Fruity Quinoa Salad. And enjoy!

    My Nutritarian Diary: Spaghetti Squash Primavera

    SpaghettiSquashPrimavera-Header

    Something happened this week along my way to writing this blog post that I have to share with you. I had my annual physical and received some wonderful results in my blood work. As of this week, my total cholesterol was 162 (six years ago, it was 199 with a lot of dietary effort—but still eating chicken, eggs, cheese, and dairy) and my LDL was 107 (down from 146 six years ago).

    As a little background, I went to an excellent nutritionist around the time of these higher cholesterol numbers. He helped me lose weight and get my cholesterol numbers in check (but still in a highish range). I learned a lot from him and was inspired to keep learning about nutrition. But over the last several years, my total cholesterol numbers have remained around 200, with and without dietary effort.

    Six months ago, I was convinced that going mostly plant-based in my eating habits was the right path for me. And this week’s blood work results prove to me that I was correct. While my health is the main focus of this dietary change, an added bonus was that I have also lost about 10 pounds.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still eat an occasional pizza or another indulgent meal or dessert, but those are treats now and not my way of life. I also know I need to add more exercise into my life, as well as lose about 10 or so more pounds. Perfection is not the goal for me, though. Improvement is. And this week’s encouragement did not come from the scale but from the results of my blood work.

    We all have different aha moments when it comes to changes we should make in our lives. My hope for you is that with this little insight into my story, you may be inspired to make changes that will make you not only healthier, but feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    This wonderful recipe below is a great start toward that goal!

    As shown in this image above, Spaghetti Squash Primavera can be served in a variety of ways.

    As shown in this image above, Spaghetti Squash Primavera can be served in a variety of ways.

    Spaghetti Squash Primavera
    (From Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Cookbook. Alterations I made are in italics below. I also removed the low-salt references that were in the original.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 medium spaghetti squash
    • 1 ½ carrots, diagonally sliced
    • ½ cup diagonally sliced celery
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I added 1 more)
    • 1 ½ cups shredded cabbage
    • 1 small zucchini, chopped into small pieces
    • 1 ½ cups cooked pinto beans or 1 (15-ounce) can of pinto beans (I used chickpeas)
    • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes (I used a can of organic diced tomatoes)
    • ⅓ cup vegetable broth
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used a little over 1 teaspoon of dried parsley)
    • 1 cup pasta sauce
    Salt, to taste
    • Nutritarian “Parmesan”

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place both halves upside down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

    Meanwhile, cook carrots and celery in 2 tablespoons of water (or vegetable broth) in a covered pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little more water (or vegetable broth) if needed. Add garlic, cabbage, and zucchini and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients, except for pasta sauce and ‘Parmesan’. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

    When squash is done, remove from oven and using a fork, scrape spaghetti-like strands from squash into a bowl. Add pasta sauce and combine by mixing thoroughly.

    Mix the vegetables, beans and herbs with the squash/pasta sauce mixture and serve on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce, if desired, or place back in the hollowed out squash bowls.

    Sprinkle with nutritarian ‘Parmesan’ (recipe below)” (Joel Fuhrman).

    Fuhrman’s nutritarian “Parmesan” is ½ cup nuts (pine, almonds, or cashews) and ½ cup nutritional yeast ground in a food processor. It stores in an airtight container in refrigerator indefinitely.

    MY NOTES:
    This meal is so versatile. You can eat it warmed in a bowl by itself. You can lightly heat it and serve it over a bed of lettuce with a ¼ cup of your favorite vegan sausage. Or you can eat it cold. Because the recipe uses squash “noodles” instead of pasta, they never bloat, which means it keeps well in the refrigerator.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Chickpea “Tuno” Salad

    Chickpea Tuno Salad Header

    What I enjoy most about Chickpea “Tuno” Salad, apart from its deliciousness, is that I feel full and very satisfied after eating a serving of it. Whether I plate it on a bed of greens or spread it across a piece of whole-wheat toast, this salad is good anytime for any meal—okay, it may be a stretch for breakfast.

    Chickpeas have the distinction of being a bean that is extremely high in insoluble fiber (which is the good fiber we need to eat for a healthy digestive system), the mineral manganese (which protects our cells’ energy systems), and protein. They also lower LDL-cholesterol and help with weight loss. You can find out more about them on the World’s Healthiest Foods website.

    Also found in this unique recipe are kelp granules (I used a few seaweed snack sheets) and lite silken tofu. The former adds the “sea” flavor to the salad, and the latter provides the perfect creamy texture you would get from mayonnaise with less fat, as well as provides the nutrients from soybeans.

    Some bites reminded me of eating a wonderful potato salad, and some bites reminded me of the ever-popular egg salad. But all bites had me hooked and inspired me to share it with you.

     

    IMG_4196_edited

    Chickpea “Tuno” Salad
    (Chef Jame Rohrbacher’s recipe in Eat to Live Cookbook. Alterations I made are in italics below)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt added or low-sodium chickpeas, drained
    • 1 cup raw almonds, preferably blanched
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste
    • 1 teaspoon kelp granules*
    • 1 (12.3-ounce) package of firm lite silken tofu
    • 3 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
    • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
    • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (I used ½ teaspoon more)
    • 3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
    • 2 medium celery stalks, diced
    • ⅓ cup red bell pepper, minced
    • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    Salt, to taste

    *I was not able to locate this ingredient so I just added a few small sheets of a salted seaweed snack I purchased for a dollar.

    DIRECTIONS:
    “In a food processor, pulse the chickpeas and almonds until coarsely chopped. Add the lemon juice and kelp powder and pulse a few more times. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

    Place the tofu, vinegar, dry mustard, yeast, and mustard in a high-powered blender and blend until very smooth. Add to the mixing bowl with the chickpea mixture, along with the celery, green onions, red pepper, peas, and black pepper (and salt). Mix thoroughly.

    Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors mingle before serving” (Chef James Rohrbacher).

    MY NOTES:
    The Eat to Live Cookbook recipes are purposely low in salt. I personally do not follow a low-sodium diet, so I do add some salt to the recipes in this book.

    When I make this again, I am going to add about ¼ cup of diced dill pickles. I think that would be a wonderful addition to this recipe.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Super Easy Blended Salad

    Blended Salad Header

    This blended salad is one of the most intriguing of all the recipes in Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live Cookbook,” a great resource for those wanting to learn how to make more nutrient-dense and weight-loss-assisting meals.

    But, a blended salad? Is that even going to taste good, I thought to myself. I wasn’t so sure. But rather than be a naysayer before even giving it a try, I decided to get the ingredients together and let the blending begin.

    First of all, 8 ounces of baby greens (I happened to use spinach, too) is a lot of greens. But don’t let that misguide you into thinking that it won’t fit in your blender because this salad drink winds up being around 2 cups of liquid. It’s also fewer than 110 calories (if you don’t add any banana). Some of its nutrient-rich benefits are fiber, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, and folate.

    But what’s more interesting about this “salad” is that when you blend salad ingredients into a drink rather than eat them with a fork, you increase your ability to absorb the nutrients.

    According to Fuhrman, “A blender crushes the cell walls of plants more efficiently than we can by chewing … [making] it easier for our bodies to absorb the beneficial phytochemicals contained in the plant’s cells.”

    And that’s what sold me into giving it a try.

    How about you?

    IMG_4183

    Super Easy Blended Salad
    (From Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live Cookbook—I added a frozen banana to mine)

    Serves 1

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 8 ounces baby greens
    • 1 orange, peeled and seeded
    • Juice of ¼ lemon
    • 1 frozen banana (or a ½ cup of frozen blueberries), optional

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Blend ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth and creamy” (Joel Fuhrman).

    MY NOTES:
    I do not have a high-powered blender and so used my hand blender to blend the ingredients together one handful of baby greens at a time. I recommend using what you have on hand to blend, since some of these high-powered blenders are cost prohibitive for some. I would like one eventually, but in the meantime, my little hand blender did just fine.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Japanese Vegetable Curry

    Japanese Vegetable Curry Header

    My journey into plant-based eating started out rather slowly. I remember sitting at a meal I had made after two weeks of trying to eat better thinking, I’m not going to make it if all I eat is a variation of flavorless rice and beans and vegetables. I was totally depressed and lacked any creative idea when it came to making plant-based meals. What I needed was inspiration in order to find my “voice” in cooking this way for me and my family.

    So to the library I went to check out books, books, and more books on vegan, vegetarian, nutritarian, and plant-based eating. All of a sudden, I went from no inspiration to too much inspiration, which was a bit overwhelming. After a time, though, I began to gravitate to certain cookbooks, and those were the ones I chose to buy so that I could reference and learn from them at my leisure. You can see the results of my current plant-based cookbook library pictured below. The one-dish vegan book on the right by Robin Robertson contains the recipe I feature today.

    Cookbook Collage

    Any step you make toward plant-based eating is a good one. Through my research so far, what I’ve learned the most is that we all need to start somewhere. I started cold-turkey and was quickly depressed by how much I didn’t know about how to cook this way. Instead of quitting, I did what I do best, I began to research. And this blog is a way for me to share with you what I’m learning along the way.

    Now, onto today’s recipe.

    Japanese Vegetable Curry

    Japanese Vegetable Curry (Gluten-Free)
    (From Robin Robertson’s book one-dish vegan)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or ¼ cup of water (I used vegetable broth)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch thick slices
    • 1½ to 2 tbsp yellow curry powder
    • 1½ tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 tbsp wheat-free tamari
    • 1 to 2 tsp of agave nectar
    • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
    • ⅓ cup applesauce
    • 3 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 tbsp mellow miso paste*
    • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu, well drained, blotted dry, and diced
    • ¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

    *You can find miso paste at your local oriental food markets.

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Heat the oil or water/vegetable broth in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, then stir in the curry powder, tomato paste, tamari, agave, cayenne (if using), applesauce, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the potato and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

    Transfer about 2 cups of the mixture to a high-speed blender or food-processor. Add the miso paste, and puree until smooth. Stir the vegetable puree back into the curry along with the tofu and peas, and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve hot” (Robin Robertson).

    MY NOTES:
    I love the way this stove-top simmer is thickened with the use of applesauce and a russet potato. The stew comes out very creamy without any dairy or fat added to it. For the meat eaters in the family, you could easily pan fry some chicken breast, lightly seasoned with curry powder and salt, to add to their curry.

    I also used a hand blender, instead of a food processor or blender, to make my puree.

    This curry would go well on top of some brown rice, any variety, garnished with a small serving of coconut flakes.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Banana-Chocolate Chip Scones

    Banana-Choc Chip Header

    This Banana-Chocolate Chip Scones recipe is my third Lindsey S. Nixon, a.k.a. Happy Herbivore, recipe featured on my blog so far. The other two are Harvest Salad and Maple Vinaigrette and Chocolate Banana Ice Cream.

    One reason she is one of my go-to gals for plant-based eating is that I love the simplicity of her recipes. She really uses minimal ingredients to get maximum flavor. This is such a timely characteristic in our land of processed foods where ingredient lists are as long as biblical genealogies. Another reason is because her recipes are generally quickly made, an added benefit for our “stuffed-with-too-many-things-to-do” schedules. But the main reason for me is that she knows how to make tasty low-fat, with minimally added sugar, plant-based treats! I think you can all agree that in our world of over-stimulated taste buds, this is a great quality.

    While maybe not as nutrient dense as other recipes I’ve featured so far, these Banana-Chocolate Chip Scones are healthy enough for me to give to my daughter for breakfast. They are also about as easy to make as putting a Pop Tart in a toaster.

    Go ahead. Give them a try. I think you will like them just as much as we do.

    IMG_4126

    Banana-Chocolate Chip Scones
    (Recipe from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 c white whole-wheat flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour)
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • ¼ – ½ c of nondairy milk (I used unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond milk)
    • 1 spotted banana
    • ¼ vegan chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Break banana in half and add both halves to the flour, and then start mixing it together with your hands, squishing the banana into the flour until you have a bowl of flour balls. Add ¼ cup of nondairy milk and chocolate chips, and stir to combine, adding more milk if necessary (when in doubt, wetter is better). Drop similar-sized spoonfuls on prepared cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, until the scones are firm and golden at the edges.” (Lindsay S. Nixon)

    Makes about six.

    MY NOTES:
    You may be surprised to know that many brands of chocolate chips are vegan, using soy lecithin instead of milk lecithin in their ingredients. My preferred brand at the moment is Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips. The package says there may be traces of milk, and that does not bother me personally. So I don’t mind incorporating them (very frugally, mind you!) into my low-fat, plant-based cooking.

    And, for those who don’t like to get their hands “too” dirty cooking, you can easily use a pastry blender to combine the banana into your flour mixture in much the same way you would combine butter or shortening to any biscuit recipe.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Baked Eggplant Spaghetti

    Eggplant Header MergedThis recipe was a very pleasant surprise to my taste buds this week. In an effort to diversify my fruit and vegetable eating (which is what plant-based doctors and nutritionists recommend), I like to purchase an occasional eggplant and make it the main ingredient of a recipe. Before going mostly plant-based in my eating, I can honestly say, I never used it in a meal as a main ingredient.

    Since cooking with eggplant, I have discovered that there is something about its taste that is perfectly complimented by spaghetti sauce.  So, after purchasing one this week, I had it in my mind that I wanted to make a lasagna-like casserole out of it.

    What resulted was amazing, if I do say so myself.

    Eggplants are a great source of antioxidants that have the ability to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and fight cancer-causing free radicals. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, and folate—all of which are great immune system boosters. And if you choose to leave the skin on when you cook with it, you would be getting Nasunin, which is another cancer-fighting antioxidant found only in eggplants (source).

    I’ll leave you now with the recipe, while I go and reheat my yummy leftovers!

    Eggplant Spaghett 005

    Baked Eggplant Spaghetti

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into quarter-inch circles
    • 1 jar of organic spaghetti sauce (I used Trader Joe’s 25-ounce Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms)
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1-2 tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth for sautéing
    • 4 cloves of garlic
    • 2 teaspoons of dried basil
    • 12 ounces of meatless ground “beef” (I used Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef (pic below))
    • 1-3 teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning blend
    • 2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast (or a 1:2 blend of nutritional yeast and ground nuts), separated
    • cooked whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta, optional

    This meat substitute is made from textured wheat and soy protein and has almost no fat, it tastes great, and has a wonderful meat-like texture. I highly recommend it!

    This meat substitute is made from textured wheat and soy protein. It has almost no fat, it tastes great, and it has a wonderful meat-like texture. I highly recommend it!

    DIRECTIONS:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8 x 11 glass casserole dish with Pam-like oil, and set aside. In a separate pan on the stove, cook onion for about 5 minutes in vegetable broth. Add the garlic and basil to the onions and cook another couple of minutes, adding more broth, if necessary, to the pan to prevent sticking. Add meat substitute of your choice to the pan, break it up, and cook it until heated through. Remove from heat.

    Put a third of the jar of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish. Place half of the sliced eggplant on top of the sauce (the slices may over lap). Sprinkle the desired amount of dried Italian seasoning on the eggplant (I used about a teaspoon). Place half of the “meat” blend on top of that and sprinkle the “meat” with about a teaspoon of nutritional yeast.

    Repeat this process one more time. Finally add the rest of the spaghetti sauce on top of the second layer, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast or nutritional yeast and nut blend on top. Cover with foil and place in oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook uncovered for 15 more minutes.

    Take out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving it on top of some pasta or on a plate by itself.

    Now, when I make this again, I am going to add fresh mushrooms to the layers. You could also fit in some fresh spinach, kale, or chard greens in the layers as well.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Wheat Berry and Black Bean Salad

    Wheat Berry Header Merged

    Wheat berries meet my readers. Readers meet wheat berries.

    Now that the introductions are over, let me tell you about this wonderful grain. I have discovered that its chewy texture and nutty flavor to be a perfect substitute for pasta in my cold salads and almost as easy to cook with just a longer cooking time. I have fallen head over heels in love with these little guys, and I am so excited to share one of my new favorite recipes that feature this grain prominently.

    Let’s dig in a little about what makes this whole grain so special, aside from the fact it’s the source of our wheat flour. First, one serving (½ cup of cooked wheat berries) contains 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, which is about the same amount of protein and fiber as the now popular quinoa. With that said, the nutritional profile does vary some depending on type of wheat berries you use. For example, Lentz Spelt’s whole grain berries, a locally-grown brand I recently discovered at Rocket Market in Spokane, WA, has 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

    But that’s not it. They are also loaded with vitamins B1 or Thiamin, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy and is good for a healthy brain, nerve cells, and heart function; and B3 or Niacin, which keeps our skin and our nervous and digestive systems healthy (Source).

    But where do you find them? As I mentioned above, I found mine at Rocket Market locally, but you can buy them in many varieties in the bulk sections of most health food stores or in mainstream grocery stores that sell healthy bulk items.

    There’s of course more to be said, but let them “speak” for themselves as you give them a try in this wonderful recipe!

    WheatBerrySalad1

    Wheat Berry and Black Bean Salad
    (Adapted from Robin Robertson’s One-Dish Vegan’s “Quinoa and Black Bean Salad” recipe)

    SALAD INGREDIENTS:
    • 3 cups of water
    • 1 cup of wheat berries*
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 3 scallions, chopped
    • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
    • 1 cup cucumber, seeded and chopped
    • 1½ cups of cooked black beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
    • ½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, basil, or cilantro
    • ½ cup toasted walnuts, optional
    • Romaine lettuce leaves, to plate salad

    *You could easily replace wheat berries with quinoa. Just cook 1 cup of quinoa according to its directions and use it instead.

    DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1-2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or a citrus-flavored vinegar), use less if you like a subtler lemon/citrus flavor
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
    • ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place the water, wheat berries, and ½ teaspoon of salt into a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer. Cooking time varies depending on the desired texture and the brand you are cooking. Generally, I prefer to cook mine for 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.

    In a large bowl, place the scallions, carrot, black beans, tomatoes, olives, and parsley. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together.

    Add the wheat berries and the dressing to the large bowl and mix well. Add the walnuts, if using. Also adjust the seasonings if needed.

    Place desired amount on a plate of romaine lettuce, and serve.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    cookie header

    This recipe is not like the nutritionally-dense recipes I’ve posted on my blog thus far, but it is a healthier alternative to the delicious, but fat- and sugar-laden, chocolate chip cookie recipes many of us love.

    Instead of granulated sugar, I use organic brown rice syrup that I can get in most local health food grocery stores (pic below, top right of collage). Instead of butter, vegan or otherwise, I use only 3 tbsp of canola oil. Instead of white flour, I use whole-wheat flour, and instead of instant oats, I use rolled oats. And finally, instead of eggs, I use baking powder to leaven the cookies.

    What results is a healthy cookie that has a touch of sweetness and a cake-like and chewy interior with a crunchy exterior. They are not too hard or too soft; they are just right. Instead of adding chocolate chips like I do, you could certainly add ½ cup of raisins and a ½ cup of nuts of your choice instead.

    And, if you would rather these be just plain chocolate chip cookies, you could replace the oats with whole-wheat flour. I haven’t done that yet, so I’m not sure what the resulting consistency of the cookie might be. If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out.

    Personally, I really love how all these healthy-ish ingredients fit together to make a delicious plant-based (vegan) cookie that you can enjoy from time to time (emphasis mine!). And if you are anything like me, I will give away at least half the cookies to family and friends so that they lessen their impact on my own waist!

    Oatmeal Choc Chip Cookie Collage

    Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
    (Based on Christina Pirello’s Oatmeal Cookies recipe in Cooking the Whole Foods Way)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
    • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
    • 3 tsp baking powder
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp of cinnamon, optional
    • 1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
    • 1 cup non-dairy milk
    • 3 tbsp canola oil (or preferred oil)
    • ¾ cup brown rice syrup
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

    DIRECTIONS:
    Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly oil baking sheet or use a silicon baking sheet liner (pic above, bottom right of collage).

    Combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, if using, in a large bowl. Mix in chocolate chips. In a separate bowl (I used a 2-cup glass measuring cup), whisk together the milk, canola oil, brown rice syrup, and vanilla extract. Fold all ingredients together. The dough will be runnier than normal chocolate chip cookie dough, so don’t fret if it doesn’t look like a what you’re used to. With that said, let the dough rest a few minutes so that it thickens just a bit as the wheat flour soaks up more of the milk.

    Drop cookie dough onto baking sheet with space between each cookie.

    Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Christina Pirello writes in her recipe to “not overbake, or the cookies will be tough. It is better to remove the cookies when they feel a bit on the soft side (they’ll firm up as they cool), rather than overbake them.” That is excellent advice!

    Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two, then gently lift them from the cookie sheet with a spatula onto a cooling rack.

    Recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Butternut Squash and Chickpea Coconut Curry

    Butternut Header

    This recipe is my ode to butternut squash. While its season has technically passed, thankfully, we still can find it in the produce sections of our favorite grocery stores.

    Butternut squash is winter squash that tastes similar to pumpkin and is often puréed into soups. I have found, however, that this vegetable is great peeled, seeded, and cut up in bite-sized pieces, roasted in the oven, and eaten hot by itself or as a large side to a meal. It can also be mashed with a potato masher and eaten like that, after it’s roasted, boiled, or microwaved into a soft consistency.

    With so many ways to eat this squash, there is no excuse to at least give it a try. It has a lovely nutty and sweet flavor, a beautiful color, and an excellent nutritional profile.  It is a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, magnesium, and potassium—a veritable symphony of healthy vitamins and minerals!

    So, before it disappears from our pantries and our food aisles until next season, I encourage you to join me as I celebrate its culinary delight in this delicious, low-fat curry recipe.

    Curry Pic for Blog

    Butternut Squash and Chickpea Coconut Curry
    (This a quick, stovetop version of Tasty Yummies “Butternut Squash and Chickpea Coconut Curry (Crock Pot Recipe)”)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 small to medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1 can (15.5 ounce) of chick peas
    • 1 can (14.5 ounce) of organic, low sodium diced tomatoes
    • 1 can (13.5 ounce) light coconut milk
    • 1 cup low-sodium organic vegetable broth plus more for sautéing
    • 2-3 tablespoons yellow curry powder (depending on taste)
    • ¼ tsp turmeric (optional)
    • Salt to taste
    • 4-5 large handfuls of bagged spinach (you could also use 1 bunch of fresh spinach or kale)
    • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
    • Shredded coconut for garnish (optional)

    MY DIRECTIONS FOR STOVE TOP VERSION:
    Preheat oven to 420 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Prepare butternut squash as directed above and place evenly on lined cookie sheet. Spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in oven and roast for about 40 minutes (until you see some browning) making sure to flip the squash halfway through so it cooks evenly. (This isn’t technically the “quick” way to prepare the butternut squash, but it’s my preferred way, as roasting brings out its flavor more.)

    In a Dutch oven (or stock pan), sauté the onions in vegetable broth until clear. Add the cloves of garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes. Then, add the chickpeas, the can of diced tomatoes, the coconut milk, the cup of vegetable broth, and all the spices. Stir, bring to a boil, and then simmer while you wait for the butternut squash to finish roasting.

    Once the squash is done, place it in the Dutch oven along with the peas and the spinach. Cook for several more minutes until the peas are cooked through and the spinach is wilted.

    Serve it over some brown basmati or jasmine rice, or eat it by itself as you would a stew. Top with some shredded coconut.

    Should you like a soupier consistency, add more broth. Or should you like this curry a bit thicker, mix a little cornstarch with some hot water and stir it into the sauce to thicken it.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Harvest Salad

    Nutritarian Header

    Lindsay Nixon’s “Harvest Salad” has been my go-to salad recipe this winter since it uses foods that are in season during the colder months. The star ingredient is the sweet potato. I had never really cooked with sweet potatoes before, but this scrumptious veggie has been one of my favorite discoveries since moving to a mostly plant-based eating lifestyle. They are especially good after I’ve roasted them in the oven.

    While their taste is amazing, sweet potatoes are also just plain good for you. Their natural sugars release slowly into our bloodstream providing a balanced source of energy that does not spike sugar levels, and so does not result in weight gain and fatigue. They have wonderful anti-inflammatory properties, and they are a good source of vitamin B6 (which protects against degenerative diseases such as heart disease), vitamin C (which helps with a number of things to include warding off colds, aiding bone and tooth formation, and helping maintain the skin’s elasticity), and vitamin A (which provides eyesight protection and is an antioxidant).

    Probably my favorite fact about sweet potatoes, though, comes from Michelle Schoffro’s article, 9 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes. “Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium, which is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Magnesium is necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function, yet experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the population in North America may be deficient in this important mineral.” (Emphasis mine.) Read more here.

    If you try this recipe, you will be able to relate to Hippocrates’ oft-quoted line, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And this recipe, not sugar, as Mary Poppins like to sing, is just one more way to help our “medicine go down.”

    Harvest Salad Collage2

    Harvest Salad
    Recipe from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon.

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 sweet potato, scrubbed, rinsed and dried
    • 4 cups spinach or other salad greens
    • ½ apple or pear, sliced
    • walnuts or pecans (opt)
    • 1-2 tbsp raisins or cranberries

    MAPLE VINAGRETTE DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tbsp Grade B maple syrup
    • 1-1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
    • dash of ground ginger

    MY DIRECTIONS:
    Preheat the oven to 420 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

    Chop the sweet potato with skin on and place the pieces on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. I prefer to use orange-fleshed sweet potatoes known as garnet yams, even though technically they are not yams, which actually have a dark, almost bark-like skin and a different nutritional profile than sweet potatoes.

    Spray them lightly with organic olive oil spray, and sprinkle them with salt. Roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking process. (You can use alternative cooking methods that are quicker for this stage, but I find roasting the sweet potatoes draws out their sweet flavor best.)

    When the sweet potatoes are cooked, put the rest of the salad ingredients together in a bowl. I chop, not slice, my apples (see picture). While not as pretty, this is a quicker method for me. I also usually use 1 tbsp of cashew pieces or almond slices, depending on what I have on hand, and I prefer Craisins in my salad to raisins.

    After all my salad ingredients are in the bowl and topped with the just-out-of-the-oven sweet potatoes, I whisk the dressing together in a separate bowl and then pour it over the salad. I use organic Grade B maple syrup in my dressing because it contains more healthy minerals (such as zinc and manganese, which are both antioxidants and support our immune systems) than the Grade A version. (I got this maple syrup tip from Rebecca Katz’s cookbook, The Longevity Kitchen, which is chock-full of interesting facts about foods that are good for us, as well as packed with delicious recipes, some of which are plant-based.)

    Now, all that’s left is to eat and enjoy!

    My Nutritarian Diary: Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

    Nutritarian HeaderMy daughter loves to go around the house and pretend she’s eating out of her toys, and afterward saying “yummy.” And that’s the word that sticks out the most for me when I just think about making homemade Chocolate Banana Ice Cream!

    I consider this treat the plant-based eater’s best kept secret. Think about it—a dessert that’s full of fiber, sweet without any added sugar, smooth like soft serve ice cream without any added fat and chemicals to make it so, and complete with the nutritional benefits of bananas and chocolate—how can you lose?

    While I am not a nutritionist, I have discovered in my studies on plant-based eating’s benefits that bananas are good for our moods, our muscles, and our hearts, to name just a few benefits. Chocolate, in a form closest to its natural state, has many nutritional benefits including reducing stress hormones and being an antioxidant that fights off cancer. Not only that, because of the natural fiber in both of these ingredients, one serving satisfies me, by making me full. I just don’t have the desire to overeat this treat. (The same cannot be said of other ice creams for me!)

    So, here’s the recipe. Like my daughter likes to say, it is yummy! And I’m not pretending.

    Banana Ice Cream Two

    Chocolate Banana Ice Cream
    Recipe from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon. (I halved her recipe for one serving.)

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 frozen banana
    • 2 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond milk)
    • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (not necessary if milk is vanilla flavored)
    • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
    • 1-2 tbsp cocoa powder (depending on your tastes / I use 1 heaping tbsp myself)

    DIRECTIONS:
    “Place all ingredients together in a food processor and allow the motor to run until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stop and break up large clumps with a spatula as needed.” (Lindsay S. Nixon)

    MY TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS:
    You don’t have to add chocolate or even the cinnamon to the bananas, if you don’t care for those flavors. I do recommend using a vanilla-flavored, plant-based milk, though, or vanilla extract with a plain milk, as I think it really gives the “ice-creamed” bananas a pop in flavor.

    Also, the riper the banana, the sweeter the ice cream will be, so I look for the “dated” bananas in my local store’s produce section, which are sometimes cheaper. I then let them ripen a little more at home before peeling them and placing them in a bag for freezing.

    A friend of mine had another excellent tip and that is to cut the bananas up in pieces before putting them in the freezer, which would save you the trouble of cutting them in their frozen state. Believe me your fingers will be happier for it!

    My Nutritarian Diary: Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup

    Nutritarian Header

    I don’t know about you, but wintertime and the colder temperatures outside make me want to cook soup for dinner, and there is nothing like a nutritious broth, teaming with vegetables that you need to eat up in the fridge, along with a hint of international flavoring, that can make a dinner better—health wise and in taste.

    The secret ingredient that makes this particular soup oh-so-yummy is peanut butter. It may sound odd at first, but I promise this recipe does not disappoint. And what it lacks in “looks,” it more than makes up for in taste and nutrition. I added a bit of turmeric, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that benefits the whole body. I also added a ¼ cup of lentils to bulk the soup up a biby adding more protein and fiber.

    It is extraordinarily filling and it is a great plant-based meal that even your non-plant-based family and friends can enjoy.

    So, let’s get cooking!

    Peanut Butter Veg Soup Pic

    Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup
    Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Vegetarian Recipes Cookbook (1993)

    Before I list the ingredients, I thought I would mention that I recommend buying organic items, when possible, especially if they are on the Dirty Dozen list of produce with the most pesticide residue. I generally don’t buy organic if the produce has low pesticide residue or is on the Clean Fifteen list. Both lists can be found here. So, the vegetable broth, the celery, the potato, the diced tomatoes, and the zucchini are items I would recommend buying organic, as they or their ingredients are found on the Dirty Dozen list.

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 3 stalks celery, sliced
    • 2 carrots, chopped
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
    • 2-4 tbsp vegetable broth or water for sautéing
    • 4 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
    • 1 potato or root vegetable, diced
    • 1 zucchini, sliced
    • ¼ cup lentils, optional
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • ½ tsp turmeric, optional
    • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes, low sodium
    • ½ cup peanut butter, natural with no added sugar or sodium
    • ½ tsp of dried parsley or 2 tbsp of fresh, for garnish

    DIRECTIONS:
    In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in 2-4 tbsp vegetable broth for about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Increase vegetable broth 1 tbsp at a time as needed to prevent vegetables from sticking to pan.

    Stir in the 4 cups of vegetable broth, the potato (or root vegetable), zucchini, lentils, if using, salt, pepper, and turmeric, if using.

    Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until the potato (or root vegetable) and lentils, if using, are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in can of diced tomatoes and parsley.

    In a small bowl, gradually stir in about 1 cup of broth into the peanut butter till smooth. Return to soup. Cook and stir till heated through.

    Ladle into soup bowls and enjoy!

    My Nutritarian Diary: Cauliflower Béchamel Pasta with Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms

    7909885092_78f7d356e1_o

    Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore this Valentine’s Day with this delicious pasta dish that is jam-packed with nutrition and flavor. It’s a perfect main course for individuals who are seeking a more plant-centric meal for their romantic evening.

    The star of this recipe is the cauliflower béchamel sauce, which is typically a French white sauce made from flour and butter and milk.

    Because the sauce’s main ingredient is cauliflower, it will be an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and so much more.  Not only that, the sauce in this recipe is very creamy, very low in fat, and a perfect complement to any pasta dish.

    Should you choose to use the nutritional yeast the recipe calls for, which I totally recommend, the sauce will also have a kind of nutty, cheesy flavor, without the cheese! You can typically buy nutritional yeast in the health aisles of grocery stores in their bulk food section, near the rolled oats, wheat flour, and sugar substitutes. (Both Huckleberry’s and Fred Meyer in Spokane, Wash., carry this item.)

    So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get cooking and let the romance begin!

    Bechamel How To Collage

    Cauliflower Béchamel Pasta with Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms

    (Based on Cauliflower Béchamel from “Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook.” All alterations I made to this recipe are in italics.)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 3 cups)

    • Unsweetened plain almond milk, as needed

    • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small

    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I used 3 frozen cubes of Dorot Crushed Garlic)*

    • 2 teaspoons minced thyme (I used ¾ tsp of dried thyme)

    • ¼ cup finely chopped basil (I used 3 frozen cubes of Dorot Chopped Basil)*

    • ¼ cup nutritional yeast, optional

    • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    • ½ bunch to a whole bunch of kale, any variety, stemmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces

    • 4 ounces of shiitake mushrooms, sliced with stems removed

    • 8-10 ounces of whole wheat or gluten-free pasta

    *You can buy this in the frozen vegetable section of Trader Joe’s. I think this is the most convenient and quickest way to get these “fresh” flavorings in a dish without having to buy fresh or without having to prepare it. (See picture)

    DIRECTIONS:

    Add the cauliflower to a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the excess water and puree the cauliflower using an immersion blender or in a blender with a tight-fitting lid, covered with a towel, in batches if necessary. Add almond milk, if needed, to achieve a creamy consistency (I typically will add about ½ cup of almond milk). Set the puree aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

    Place the onion in a large skillet or saucepan and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water or vegetable broth 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the onions from sticking to the pan. Add the garlic, thyme, and basil and cook for another minute. As I mentioned in the recipe ingredients list, I used three Dorot cubes of garlic, as well as three Dorot cubes of basil. You can add more or use less, depending on your tastes. Add the nutritional yeast (if using), nutmeg, and salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, or until heated through.

    Add the onion-garlic mixture to the cauliflower puree and blend until smooth, adding more almond milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Set aside.

    While you are cooking the pasta, sauté the kale and shiitake mushrooms in 1 to 2 TBSP of vegetable broth for about 10 minutes or until kale is wilted and soft. Continue to add broth to the pan to keep the kale and mushrooms from sticking. Also, salt (and season) the kale and mushroom mixture to your desired taste.

    Combine the sauce, the pasta, and the kale and shiitake mushroom sauté mixture and heat through. Serve and eat!

    ___________

    Do you have any other vegetable combinations or uses for this sauce you’d like to share? Or do you have a plant-based main dish you recommend for Valentine’s Day? If so, please leave a comment! I would love to read what you have to say!

    *******

     

    About Cassandra Benefield and My Nutritarian Diary

    When I’m not working for FOX 28 and its parent company, Northwest Broadcasting Inc., as an executive assistant, I enjoy spending time reading about and experimenting with low-fat, plant-based recipes. After watching the documentary Forks Over Knives  and reading the book “Food Over Medicine: A Conversation That Could Save Your Life” by Pamela Popper and Glen Merzer, I was totally convinced that I needed to change the way I looked at food and how I ate it.

    The purpose of My Nutritarian Diary, a www.myfoxspokane.com blog, is to deliver fantastic-tasting and nutrient-dense recipes that are sprinkled with dashes of nutritional wisdom each week for the Health-Conscious, Health-Adventurous, and Health Happy—at whatever stage they are in on their health journey.

    The term nutritarian was first coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of #1 New York Times best-selling book “Eat to Live,” and it is how I classify my approach to eating a low-fat and mostly plant-based diet.

    My Nutritarian Diary: Roasted South African Smoked Chickpeas

    nutritarian

    If you are looking for a healthy and low-fat snack food to add to your weekend football-cheering festivities, I have the recipe for you: Roasted South African Smoked Chickpeas! And truly it’s easier to make than it is to find South Africa on the map. OK, maybe just as easy.

    They are similar to Corn Nuts, but without the fat. Not only that, they are packed with nutrition in the form of high amounts of fiber and protein. They are perfect as a snack or as a salad topping.

    This is a great nutritarian recipe to start My Nutritarian Diary—a blog about my nutritious and plant-based eating discoveries in the kitchen.

    So, glad you stopped by. So, let’s get started, shall we?

    Roasted South African Smoked Chickpeas
    (5 minutes to prepare / 30-60 minutes cooking time, depending desired crunch)

    3 15-ounce cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and dried*
    1TBSP Trader Joes South African Smoke Seasoning Blend
    Sea salt to taste
    Olive oil spray
    Parchment paper
    Large cookie sheet

    *I did not dry my canned chickpeas, which increased the cooking time significantly.

    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

    Chickpeas Ingredients Close-Up (2)

    Put your chickpeas in a mixing bowl and spray them lightly with an olive oil spray. (You can buy this spray in any supermarket in the oil section where they sell Pam.)

    After a light coating of olive oil is on the chickpeas, season them to taste. I put about 1 TBSP of the South African smoke seasoning onto mine and about ¼ tsp of sea salt. Make sure the seasoning(s) evenly coat the chickpeas.

    Seasoned Chickpeas Before Close-Up

    Place the seasoned chickpeas in one layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (3 cans of chickpeas filled my large cookie sheet).

    Put in oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on your desired crunch (flipping the chickpeas halfway through this cooking time). If, at the end of 40 minutes, the chickpeas are still not at your desired crunch, take them out of the oven to cool completely. After they are completely cooled, put them back in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minute increments until you arrive at your desired crunch level.

    Seasoned Chickpeas After Pic

    And when they’re done, you have a yummy and healthy snack on hand for watching the game!

    GO SEAHAWKS!!!

    By: Cassandra Benefield