Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Uncategorized

Nuts About Milk

Remember the days when the nightly phrase at dinner was, “Drink your milk!”? Oh, how I dreaded those words. Luckily for me, my mom gave up her attempts to get me to drink milk upon realizing the only way I could swallow cow’s milk was if my glass was filled half way with chocolate syrup. I hated the taste of it, and as it turned out my body was rejecting cow’s milk as well, in the form of exzema and digestive issues.

When I first ditched dairy, non-dairy milk choices were slim. Our local market had a specialty aisle; nestled into the corner of said aisle, were  a few dusty cartons of EdenSoy and rice milk from which to choose. Times sure have changed. These days, I am blown away by the array of non-dairy milks available at every store I visit. How convenient!

There are several  uncomfortable truths  about the store bought nut milks, though; they’re mostly water and thickener, and are  often high in added sugar. Homemade nut milk only takes a few minutes; it’s  higher in protein, minerals, and flavor.

Nuts are a great source of protein. Protein  is the building block of our tissues, and is reparative as well.  Nuts are high in minerals such as: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Selenium, and Zinc. Minerals are important for nerve and muscle function and  immunity.  Some are cautious regarding nuts because they’re  fairly high in fat. While excess  is unhealthy, fat is a necessary macronutrient essential for the good health of our skin and other cells. Fat also helps in the transport of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K). Homemade nut milk is creamier  than store bought, and making nut milk at home helps you to avoid excess sugar by allowing you to control the sweetness.

There’s a commonly agreed upon ratio of one cup  unsalted nuts to three cups of water, but you may make a lower fat milk by adding an additional cup of water. The recipe below creates a basic neutral milk for use in sauces, mashed potatoes, baking, cereal, and smoothies. Although, you’ll likely want to skip the vanilla for certain uses! The most commonly used nuts are almonds or cashews. Almonds create a lighter milk that’s lower in fat, but MUST be pre soaked overnight even if using a Vitamix. Cashews result in a richer result and don’t require soaking.

Cashew Milk

1 cup of unsalted (preferably raw) Cashews

3 cups water

3-5  Dates

1 tsp Vanilla extract  (optional)

Place in high speed blender, and blend on high for about two minutes. Chill for 30 minutes before drinking (unless you’re adding it to a hot recipe).

This cashew milk keeps in the fridge for up to five days. Shake before using.

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Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Uncategorized

Vanilla Date Bread

While I  make just about everything else from scratch, my lack of baking expertise has found me buying pre-made baked goods for my husband, and as a result feeling like a partial failure as a wife.  I’m sure I’d have long  been capable of baking a cake if I went the classic “eggs and sugar route”, but you know us plant-based folks,  we’re commited to finding  healthier alternatives, and it’s not  always simple when it comes to baking.

I’ve certainly  tried my share of online recipes with  alternate ingredients, but I haven’t  enjoy many of them.   As much as I love chickpeas and  brownies, it’s been my experience those two shouldn’t be together under any circumstances.

Not long ago, I finally created a baked good I was proud of. My husband , a self-proclaimed sweets connoisseur, raved over it, and asked me to make it for his birthday. I was nervous about baking it for guests, two of which had professional baking experience. As it turned out, the bread was a hit. This recipe is sweetened entirely with fruit, meaning there’s no white sugar.

One  challenge of baking sweets without unhealthy ingredients has always been the frosting .  Most homemade  frosting is made with large amounts of butter and powdered sugar. That’s usually the best case scenario, as frosting from a can contains synthetic colors, and flavors, as well as hydrogenated oil.  If you’d rather not put  any of the above into your body, but still love frosting, there’s a healthier option here. This frosting was adapted from a recipe found in the book, “Nourishing Meals”. Although  I’ve made some changes to their recipe, I must credit the authors of this book with teaching me an entirely new way to make frosting!  

This recipe yields about sixteen servings. This is a special occasion treat for us.  Each frosted slice contains approximately 15 grams of fat. I usually eat two slices per sitting, hence the special occasion designation! The fiber and protein conten, paired with the abscence of refined sugar ensures this sweet treat will not cause cravings or the dreaded sugar crash. It’s the only dessert I’m willing to eat for breakfast. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as we have.

 

Vanilla Date Bread

Dry Ingredients:

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 c.  Date Paste (2c dates to cup of water)

1 1/2 c. Milk of your choice

1/2 c. Butter (dairy or non-dairy)

1 tbs. Vanilla

Directions:
*Preheat the oven to 350
*Whisk the dry ingredients together.
*Place all wet ingredients into your high speed blender and blend until smooth.
* Using a fork mix the wet and dry blends until they just come together; the batter will be dense and sticky.
* Scoop the  batter into two greased loaf pans or one 9×13 baking pan.
*Bake for 22 to 24 minutes.
*While the cake is in the oven, wash out the blender,  you’ll need it to prepare the frosting.

Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting

1c. Cashews

1/4c. Water

1/2c. Dates

1/2 c. Coconut cream (Thai Kitchen is my preferred brand)
1 tbs. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Directions:

*Place all frosting ingredients into your high speed blender. Blend on high for three minutes until everything forms a cream consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula once or twice.

*Transfer the frosting into a container and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

*  Once the cake has cooled, frost it using a silicone spatula.

*Source: Segersten, Alissa, and Tom Malterre. Nourishing Meals: 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time. New York: Harmony, 2016. Print.

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Semi-vegetarian, Flexitarian, heart health

Eating for Health and Happiness

It’s no secret that the United States ranks 37th in health outcomes. The high sugar low nutrient  Standard American Diet (ironically abbreviated as SAD) is a major contributing factor to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Eating should be enjoyable. The foods we consume should appeal to our senses, and make us feel energized and ready to face the day. Our diets should nurture our immune system, and overall well being. Eating well is a form of self-respect. 

   Many remain under the impression that eating  well means sitting down to a plate of boiled carrots, plain rice, and an unseasoned block of tofu; they believe they’ll have to force down sandwiches on bread that tastes like cardboard, cut out entire groups of macronutrients, and be deprived of flavor at every turn. This is untrue. There are many options that are nutritious without sacrificing flavor, or asking you to avoid fat, carbs, or proteins. 

Today I’m featuring overviews of healthier ways of eating. Changes  can be made without sacrificing flavor or richness. Better  ways of eating can be worked into your diet recipe by recipe, day by day.

Semi-Vegetarian

Semi-vegetarian, sometimes referred to as flexitarian, is a way of eating that involves lessening ones intake of animals to the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables. Meatless Mondays took off a while back. Through this movement many have adopted the semi-vegetarian diet, lessening their consumption of animal products and increasing the number of heart healthy meals they serve.

Is it healthy?

It’s common knowledge eating  more fruits and vegetables while decreasing animal intake is a healthier choice. A large scale study has shown a semi- vegetarian diet to decrease the chance of death by stroke or heart disease.*

Vegetarian

The title “Vegetarian” denotes a person who doesn’t  consume  chickens, cows,  fish or any other animal. Vegetarians may however, consume dairy products and cheese. Such vegetarians are known as ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Is it healthy?

Vegetarians tend to consume more fruits and vegetables therefore increasing their intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  That said, one can be vegetarian but eat ice cream for breakfast on a daily basis which obviously  wouldn’t be a heart healthy choice.  According to the American Heart Association, many studies have shown the vegetarian diet to be helpful in the avoidance of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.

Vegan

Vegans are another breed entirely. In addition to not eating animals, vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, and all animal by-products including honey. Vegans  don’t wear leather or fur. Their commitment to animal rights extends to their personal care items. Vegans only use products that are free of animal by products, and  never tested on animals (look for the leaping bunny).

Is it healthy?
The nutritional aspect of veganism is entirely dependent on the individual. Oreos are vegan, but still chemical laden and filled with hydrogenated fats. There are vegans who eat well, and those who’s compassion and care for animals doesn’t  carry over to their concern for their own well-being. A few concerns about veganism are lack of  protein and vitamin B12. Both are easily corrected. We need around .35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Vegans may accomplish this with tofu, seeds, beans, legumes, nuts,  nut butters, and whole grain items. Vitamin B12 may be supplemented or made available to vegans through fortified cereals or plant milks.

Plant-Based

Plant-based eating means eating only plants or minimally processed plant foods. Those who are plant-based keep processed foods to a minimum or omit them completely. The diet of a plant-based person is filled with vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters,  and plant milks.

Is it healthy?

A plant- based diet is essentially vegetarianism in its optimal form, a natural whole foods diet. The fact that plant-based means eating mostly whole foods and keeping processed foods to a minimum makes this way of eating inherently higher in fiber, nutrients, and lower in preservatives, chemicals, and inflammatory ingredients like sugar and soybean oil. Many plant based folks avoid oils. The fats in their desserts and dressings exist in the form of nuts,seeds, or avocados either whole or blended into a cream consistency. The sweetness in their baked goods and pies comes from pureed dates. The plant-based diet contains less empty calories because each ingredient has nutritional value beyond caloric intake.

Plant foods can be prepared and seasoned in a variety of ways. If you’re looking for better health in the form of weight loss,  lower cholesterol or blood pressure, and increased vitality, fruits and vegetables seem to hold the key.

Which of the aforementioned appeals to you? Will you make changes to your diet? For which reasons?

Sources:

http://m.newsroom.heart.org/news/semi-veggie-diet-effectively-lowers-heart-disease-stroke-risk

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp#mainContent

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan.

Wholesome Hot Chocolate   (vegan-friendly/High in Protein/Non-Dairy/No Added Sugar)

Growing up in the northeast meant brutal winters, it also meant snow days. When a storm kept me home from school, my mom would bundle me up in full on ski attire (not an exaggeration) and send me out to play. Given my aversion to the cold, I’d usually last about half an hour before wanting to return indoors where I knew a mug of hot chocolate would await.

I’m not sure how hot  chocolate mix  was made in the 80’s, if the ingredients were “real”. I do know when I recently looked into buying the mix I remembered from childhood, I saw on the label: hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors. There was also alot of added sugar. I don’t know about anyone else, but  I remember always needing to add extra spoonfuls of mix because it was never quite  chocolatey enough for me; meaning I was  getting double or triple whatever was on that label each time I had a mug of hot chocolate.  No wonder my mom stopped buying it!

Eating well is a form of self-respect and self-improvement, and I knew there had to be a better way to enjoy hot chocolate that offered some nutritional value. And so  my wholesome hot chocolate recipe was born. IT’S MADE  FROM FRUIT, NUTS,H2O, AND CHOCOLATE; YOU’VE GOT TO TASTE IT TO BELIEVE IT!

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This recipe is made only from whole foods; it contains no added sugar,dairy, oil, or synthetic ingredients. At 24 grams of fat per serving, this hot chocolate is surely a rich dessert  indulgence, but it also offers in each serving: over three grams of fiber, more than six grams of protein, nearly 20% of your recommended daily iron intake, and plenty of potassium. The dates have naturally occurring sugar but are low glycemic index and won’t cause the dreaded sugar crash. Plus, you can drink it knowing  your’re only putting good things into your body!

So without further ado, here it is:

Wholesome Hot Chocolate  (Vegan Friendly/Non-dairy/High in Protein/No Added Sugar)
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You’ll need the following:
(Makes two mugs)

*A high speed blender  (i.e. ninja/vitamix/nutribullet)
NOTE: if you’re without this, you may sub store bought nut milk.

*1/2c Cashews
NOTE: If you’re concerned about fat you may half this amount, and it will  be less creamy, but still pretty darn good!

*2c Water

*6-7 dates

*4 tsp. Cocoa Powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for a full minute. Pour into two mugs and and heat in the microwave for about one minute. Enjoy.

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Recipe, simple, plant recipes, vegan, quick, and easy meal, under 30 minutes, creamy soup.

Creamy Potato Broccoli Soup -100% plant based, simple, incredibly good, and incredibly good for you!

20170222_082526.jpg     When I met my husband he told me he hated vegetables, and didn’t care for soup (What?). As a vegetarian who could eat soup for every meal, this was not exactly music to my ears. His words resound  in my head each time I set a bowl of this soup in front of him ,and several minutes later, his bowl has been wiped clean with the accompanying  baguette.

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For this recipe you’ll need a high speed blender  (ex. Vitamix or Ninja). We’ll have a few things going at once,but it’s still fairly simple. I am multitasking averse, but don’t mind doing so for this soup!

Creamy Potato Broccoli Soup -100% plant based, simple, incredibly good, and good for you!

20 minutes total
Yields two large or four small servings

Ingredients:
10-12 mini creamer potatoes
1 1/2 c mirepoix
1c broccoli  (or cauliflower)
1/2c water
2 tsp better than boullion  vegetable base
1/4c  Raw Cashews
1 1/2c water
Chives
Dill
Lemon Pepper

Tip: I buy my mirepoix ready prepped, and my broccoli pre washed. Honestly, who feels like prepping  vegetables? Not me!

In the microwave:
Place 10-12 mini creamer potatoes
Microwave for 7-8 minutes,depending on your microwave’s power.

In a saucepan:
1 1/2c  mirepoix
1 cup of broccoli
2tsp Better than buillion
1/2c water to cover.

Cover and simmer the vegetables over low/medium until they soften and the broccoli turns bright green. They should be done when the potatoes have finished cooking.

In your high speed blender:
1/4c cashews
1 1/2 c water
Blend on high until a milk forms (a few minutes)

After the veggies are done, we’re going to transfer the potatoes and the saucepan mixture into the blender.

Note: If you’d rather not have green soup, you blend only the potatoes into the cashew milk until creamed, and then add the mixture from the saucepan blending on low until the rest of the veggies are finely chopped.

Blend on high for 2-3 minutes
Pour into bowls
Season this soup with chives, dill, and lemon pepper to taste, and serve with a warmed baguette.

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan.

So, You Want to Go Plant-based? An Introductory Guide for Aspiring Vegetarians

It’s been nearly twenty years since I took the leap into a plant-based life. I was a teenager, and had found myself fully immersed  in this book  on Asian health principles, one of which was adopting a plant-based diet. I maintain that change was one of the most important positive steps I’ve taken in my life, and feel a certain level of excitement when others take interest in “going veggie”.

Below are five things every aspiring vegetarian needs to know:

1.Changes Will Occur

A whole foods vegetarian diet brings an increase  of  micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, and a decrease of hormones and saturated fats. Factor in the absence of artificial flavors, colors, and synthetic preservatives, and your body is likely to react favorably. There are countless simple recipes, and some of your favorite meals may already be meatless!

Within six months of ditching meat and dairy I’d lost twenty pounds, had more energy, my asthma all but disappeared, my life long battle with eczema finally ceased, and I didn’t see or need to see a doctor for seven years. I believe these things occurred because I was eating so well. Had I subsisted on Oreos and cereal, those positive effects would likely not have happened.

 

Another area of evolution involves reasons for going plant based. Often we become vegetarian for one reason, and this expands into many. I initially went meatless for weight and health, but those reasons later grew to include animal cruelty and environmental protection. Conversely, others may abstain from meat for animal rights and later realize they have lowered their cholestorol. Everyone’s experience is a bit different.

 

2.Plant-based Living Can Be Economical

A plant based diet consists  mostly of grains, fruit, veggies, tofu, beans, and spices. Vegetables are more versatile and economical than many realize. I just purchased our veggies for the entire week in Smith’s frozen/ refrigerated  section for under ten dollars (If I’m being totally honest and counting the six pack of avocado verde, it’s actually a grand total of $14.00). Grains may be purchased in bulk; I do this with rice, quinoa, oats, and couscous.

 

Bulk amounts of bananas, apples, and other varieties of fruit, frozen and fresh, are plentiful at Costco. Spices are a necessity and some are a bit pricey, but there are dollar spices. If money is that much of an issue,I recommend adding a new spice to your collection each week. When it comes to protein, you’ll need beans, nuts, tofu, and nut butters. Nuts are best purchased in bulk as well.

3. Some May Be Judgemental.

We all judge to an extent, because each of us holds differing opinions; however, the mention of  vegetarianism sometimes brings out the folks who live in attack mode. I went veggie in the nineties. We were living on the east coast and I dont know about the present situation, but back then I was the only plant-based person I knew!  My parents were incredibly supportive; it would’ve been crazy for them not to encourage me. While other girls I knew were drinking and smoking cigarettes, I was marinating tofu and blending essential oils. I felt happy about my lifestyle; it simply fit me.

That confidence  didn’t always protect me from critical types. These folks were far and few between, but they certainly had some strong words:  “I don’t agree with vegetarianism. You have an eating disorder.” Aside from the embarassment factor of being called out I was unsure where these comments were coming from. I realize that some meat eaters believe we’re judging them. I can only speak for myself when I say,” The choice to consume animals is between you, the animal, your conscience, and your arteries, just don’t feed them  to me.”

I’ve never engaged hyper-critical types. If someone didn’t agree they were free to eat meat. If being at a healthy weight and healing from ailments meant I had an eating disorder, alright then. It’s no longer just the most defensive  meat eaters who question us vegetarians, now it’s also a few vegans. Lecturing a  stranger in Trader Joe’s on why they’re immoral for using raw honey on a skin ailment is sure to distance people  from your cause. As is berating a person for becoming vegan or vegetarian for health reasons rather than animal activism.  Why be animal friendly, but so harsh with people? Why put our health second to an animal’s life? If  we’re not at our best, certainly we’re of little good to other beings, human or animal.

 

The good news is that some friends and family who used to lightheartedly poke fun at my meatless existence, have come to appreciate some vegetarian staples. One particularly carniverous cousin of mine texted me to tell me that he’d tried tofu, and didn’t realize just how good those smoothies I’d been obsessed with actually were.

4. People Will Have Questions

Some vegetarians  are irritated by questions, but I welcome them. Surely, I’ve lost count of the number of inquiries as to  where I get my protein, as well as the classic question,”What do you eat?” but at the same time, I Iove educating people on vegetarianism! The more you learn the more you’ll have to share, and if you’ve grown weary answering excessive questions, recommend your favorite book as a source. Which brings me to my final tip…

 

5. Seek Out Support

There are a seemingly infinite number of resources on vegetarianism: Websites, books, groups, and of course my new blog and YouTube channel: Simply Serene. Stay tuned for upcoming videos where I’ll be sharing my favorite books, recipes, products, and tips.