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My Nutritarian Diary: Fruity Quinoa Salad

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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!

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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.