Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vitamin D - Do The New Recommendations Fall Short? What Vegans Need To Know About Vitamin D.

IOM Triples Recommended Vitamin D Intake
In 1997, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) set the adequate intake level of vitamin D at 200 IUs for people less than 50, 400 IUs for those 50 to 70 and 600 IUs for people over 70. The new recommendations call for 600 IUs daily for everyone, including children, up to adults age 70 and 800 IUs for those over 71.
Although this triples the amount recommended for younger people, many health professionals feel that this new level still missed the mark.

What is Vitamin D and Where does it come from? Is it Vegan?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. There are two forms.
* Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is made by converting a sterol found in plants and yeast. Since it is plant based, it is considered vegan. Mushrooms, when exposed to sunlight, are another source of this important vitamin.
* Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is produced by the skin when exposed to the sun. It is also found in animal products and some fatty fish. Vitamin D3 supplements are made from lanolin from the wool of sheep and are not considered vegan.
* 25-hydroxyvitamin D is the hormonally active form of vitamin D that the body makes from Vitamin D2 and D3. When you test your blood levels for vitamin D, they are testing for 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Is D3 Better then D2?
Several early studies showed that vitamin D3 was more effective in raising the serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D when taken in very high doses. In a more recent study by Holick, it was found that both forms are equally effective, when taken in more typical doses of 1,000 IU per day, in increasing and maintaining serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is good news for vegans who prefer the plant based vitamin D2.

But I'm a Sun Loving Vegan, Isn't that Enough?
I too love getting as many nutrients from nature as possible. But trying to determine the amount of sunlight one can safely take to provide adequate vitamin D levels is difficult. Reading some of these descriptions is almost comical so I'll defer to other sources to tell you how much, what longitude and latitude, time of day, time of the year, color of your skin, how much suntan lotion you're wearing, etc.. I'm getting exhausted just listing these! This vitamin is critical to so many things, why not just supplement?

Why is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D has long been associated with bone health since it regulates how body absorbs calcium and phosphorus. Recent studies have linked low vitamin D levels to:
* Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
* Higher incidence and severity of depression
* Higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women
* Increased risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers
* Severe asthma in children
* Cognitive impairment in older adults.
Research also has shown that vitamin D shows promise in preventing and treating:
* Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
* Multiple Sclerosis
* High blood pressure
* Significant reduction in the incidence of seasonal influenza.
* Parkinson disease

Did the IOM Fall Short?
OK, I must give credit that the IOM actually raised the bar but many experts do not feel that they raised it enough and I agree. Much of the controversy centers around the optimal blood level of vitamin D. Vitamin D advocates, such as the International Osteoporosis Foundation, feel that 30 ng/ml is the optimal level. Some experts feel that this level should even be higher than that. Life Extensions recommends levels as high as 50 ng/ml. But the IOM panel dismissed these recommendations and concluded that for 97% of the population, 20 ng/ml of vitamin D is sufficient.

Who is at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency
Some people have a much higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. These include:
* Those with osteoporosis
* People over age 50
* People with dark skin who have reduced capability of converting the sun's rays to vitamin D
* Obese people
* People on certain medications like prednisone and anti-seizure drugs like Dilantin
* People with fat malabsorption as is associated with those with Crohn's, celiac and other diseases
* People who work indoors and avoid the sun

Can you get Too Much?
Since vitamin D is fat soluble, the body stores it. Taking excessive amounts can potentially result in hypercalcemia, or too much calcium in the blood. Hypercalcemia symptoms include:
* Loss of appetite
* Constipation
* Confusion
* Weakness
The IOM panel increased the acceptable upper limit of daily intake of vitamin D from 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU from supplements and food sources.

What Should I Do?
If you are a RAW FOOD VEGAN who doesn't supplement, you have a high chance of being vitamin D deficient since there are NO ADEQUATE plant sources of vitamin D. Of course it you work shirtless in a field all day and you are light skinned and close enough to the equator, this may not be a problem. (But your chances of skin cancer exceed you likelihood of vitamin D deficiency!)
Vegans in general may also be vitamin D deficient since they don't eat fatty fish and may avoid foods fortified with vitamin D3.
Here's what my husband and I do:
* We asked our doctor to test our blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
* Doug and I want our levels to be over 40 ng/ml based on what we've read but ask your doctor what he or she recommends. Hopefully the answer will be at least 30 ng/ml. If it's 20 ng/ml, find another doctor.
* Our intake is at least 2,000 IU per day. Nature's Life makes a 2,000 IU vitamin D2 supplement in a vegetarian capsule.
* Be sure to include amounts found in fortified foods like soy milk. Hats off to Silk for supplementing their soy milk with vegan D2 !

Mushrooms, an Interesting Development
It turns out that mushrooms can convert the sun's rays into vitamin D too! In fact, the USDA has been working with the Monterey Mushroom company to grow a mushroom with increased levels of vitamin D. By exposing the mushrooms to UV light, the mushrooms create a stable amount of the nutrient which is maintained even after cooking or freezing! I actually bought some this weekend so they are now on the shelves!

Don't Forget the Kids
A study in Japan found that giving 1,200 IU per day to school age children from December through March cut down the incidence of seasonal flu by 42% so don't forget the kids this winter!

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spicy Vegan Shepherd's Pie - A Quick And Easy Way To Use Up Leftover Mashed Potatoes!

Leftover mashed potatoes on spicy beans, corn and peppers.

What to do with Leftovers
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you did the cooking, like I did, you are probably looking at a bunch of leftover stuffing, mashed potatoes and other food - except pie. I bet that's all gone!
Here's a very quick and easy dish to make from your left over Creamy Vegan Mashed Potatoes.
Classic Shepherd's pie has ground beef or lamb. Vegetarian Shepherd's pie recipes usually replace the meat with mushrooms, lentils or other beans. I made a quick bean chili for the base and the spicy flavor goes well with the creamy mashed potatoes. I like making this dish in 4 small, individual casserole dishes.

Low in Calories and High in Fiber
After eating way too much on Thanksgiving, I'm definitely watching every calorie that goes into my mouth today. Christmas and New Year's are coming soon so it's a good time to lose a few pounds before another holiday. For those of you celebrating Hanukkah, I'm afraid you don't have much time to shed the Thanksgiving weight since it begins in just a few days!
This recipe is very filling and it's less than 300 calories per serving. It has less than a gram of saturated fat, provides nearly 19 grams of protein and over 11 grams of dietary fiber!

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Spicy Vegan Shepherd's Pie
[makes 4 individual servings]
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup bell green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced and chopped
One 15 ounce can corn kernels, drained
One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
One 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 servings leftover mashed potatoes (about 3 cups)
Some chopped parsley for garnish

Take out 4 small, individual baking dishes.
Place rack close to broiler and turn oven to broil.
In a Dutch oven, sauté the onion and peppers in olive oil until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook for another minute. Add corn, tomatoes, pinto beans, and chili powder and cook until bubbly and most liquid is absorbed.
While cooking bean mixture, warm up mashed potatoes.
Put hot bean mixture in individual baking dishes and cover with a layer of mashed potatoes.
Put baking dishes under the broiler for a few minutes until slightly brown.
Garnish with parsley and serve.

Per serving: 275.4 calories, 5.0 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 18.7 g protein, 35.1 g carbohydrates and 11.3 g dietary fiber.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When Meat-Eaters And Vegetarians Share Thanksgiving

The Vegetarian at the Thanksgiving Table
The other day CNN had a lunchtime poll – “The Vegetarian at the Thanksgiving Table”. Their question was: “Should a meat-eating Thanksgiving host be expected to accommodate a vegetarian guest?” This provocative question certainly stirred up a lot of strong opinions and emotions.
* Forty three percent stated that if they invited a vegetarian to Thanksgiving dinner, they would put a lot of effort into their dishes. But some weren’t that gracious.
* A little less than a third of the respondents said if they were given fair warning, they would make one or two things they can eat. (How terribly generous of them!)
* About 8% (1,234 people) said they wouldn’t make anything special, but they’re free to bring their own food.
* Three percent (502 people) said, “You come to my house and you eat what I serve you. It’s rude not to. Just pick the meat out”.
* Nearly 2% (260 people) actually stated, “vegetarians aren’t welcome in my house”.
* The hostility came from both sides with approximately the same amount (252 votes) claiming, “meat-eaters aren’t welcome at my table”.
* But some kindness prevailed as 138 people said, “if they won’t eat meat, I won’t even allow it on the table. We’ll all be vegetarians today”. But that was from less than 1% of the participants.

Would People with Other Food Restrictions Face Such Scrutiny?
I wonder where all this hostility is coming from? It’s Thanksgiving! A day when we all should be loving and thankful? If someone couldn’t eat the oyster stuffing because they had a seafood allergy, I don’t think they would meet such opposition. But there are two sides to every story. Let’s try to understand each one.

The Vegan Guest's Point of View
From the vegetarian or vegan point of view, Thanksgiving can be the most uncomfortable day of the year. After all, it’s a holiday where one of the main events is cooking a poor bird that, from their view, has spent its entire miserable life waiting to be killed, stuffed and eaten on Thanksgiving. This is especially uncomfortable for the vegan who has chosen this lifestyle for reasons of compassion. For those who eschew meat for environmental reasons, not to contribute to the harmful effects that industrial farming is having on the planet, watching this ritual can be equally distasteful. The “vegan for health” may be the least offended as their avoidance of animal products may not be as deeply rooted in their beliefs.

The Meat Eater's Point of View
From the meat-eating hosts’ viewpoint, this is a significant occasion and the site and smell of the turkey roasting in the oven brings back wonderful memories of past holidays. It may have taken them years to perfect grandma’s sausage stuffing and there’s no way they are going to make something different. And making mashed potatoes, or any vegetable for that matter, without butter is just unthinkable. Don’t even mention that the sugar in the cranberry sauce may have been filtered through bone char and would also be off limits to their vegan guests – that might push them completely over the edge!

The Family Dynamics
What makes this situation an order of magnitude more sensitive is when family is involved. A mother thinking, “where did I go wrong? Why did my child adopt such freakish eating habits?” Or “why does she have to be such a pain in the ass on such an important holiday?” (At least that’s what my mother would have said!) The child feeling so disappointed that her parents not only won’t empathize with her cause but chastises her for taking it on. Perhaps she was wishing that the entire family would share a compassionate, meat free holiday together. What was she thinking?

Remember, It's a Joyous Occasion
At the end of the day, Thanksgiving should be a joyous holiday to be happily spent with friends and family, not a day to argue about religion, politics or whether or not to be a vegetarian. A meat-eating host should make an effort to have ample dishes for their vegetarian guests to eat and encourage them to bring a dish to share. A vegan host must also be open minded enough to allow someone to bring a turkey for those who want to eat it. You can mail them a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s, “Eating Animals” or T. Colin Campbell’s, “The China Study” next week - after the holiday. Most importantly, everyone has to respect each other’s lifestyle.

So for you vegans out there who will share a table with meat eaters next Thursday, do the best you can. Try and catch a vegan potluck later in the day where you can actually get something to eat and share your Thanksgiving stories with your like minded friends.
For those of you who must have your turkey on Thanksgiving, at least take a moment and thank the little guy for making the ultimate sacrifice for you on this holiday.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Healthy Vegan Thanksgiving Menu And Recipes For 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving!
Well, here it is - this year's complete Thanksgiving menu! And just in time as there's only one week left until the big day. I hope you enjoy it - I think I've gained a few pounds creating and testing all of these recipes but it was for a good cause. Now, vegan or not, you can create healthful holiday dishes for you and your family.
This year's menu has the look, feel and taste of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

For starters, serve Sweet and Spicy Kalamata Olive and Artichoke Tapenade. With all the cooking you have to do on Thanksgiving, you can make this quick and simple appetizer the day before so it's ready to go as soon as your guests arrive. Serve with crackers or a sliced baguette.

Main Course
* Stuffing:
One or two days before Thanksgiving, make your cornbread, leaving enough time for you to make cubes and dry them out for a Healthy Vegan Cornbread And Cornbread Stuffing. For an alternative "main attraction" dish, this can be used to stuff a sugar pumpkin or acorn squash.
* Green Veggie:
Last year's Garden Fresh Green Beans may be a safer choice as some guests may not be big Brussels Sprouts fans, but this Raw Vegan Brussels Sprouts Salad with Orange Chia Seed Vinaigrette, Dried Cranberries and Almonds won't disappoint. The orange vinaigrette can be made ahead of time.
* Cranberry Sauce:
Here's a choice of Two Different Cranberry Sauces: Raw Cranberry Relish, a simple combination of fresh cranberries and Medjool dates, or Low Sugar Cranberry Sauce sweetened with apple juice, a small amount of organic cane sugar and stevia. Both can be made the day before.
* The Main Attraction:
For that "meat and potatoes" part of the meal, we're serving Vegan Sliced Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy. The turkey is made from Butler Farms' Soy Curls, a minimally processed soy product and it really has the look, feel and taste of poultry. For the best flavor, make these right before serving. The mashed potatoes are light and delicious, made from Yukon golds whipped together with silken tofu. The gravy has plenty of mushrooms in veggie broth easily thickened with cornstarch. You can make this ahead of time also.

Save Room for Dessert
I went a little cranberry crazy this year but I won't apologize. This Orange Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake is not only delicious, but it makes a beautiful presentation and is less than 200 calories a slice.

For More Raw and Cooked Vegan Thanksgiving Ideas
If you want more recipes to choose from, check out 2009's Healthy Vegan Thanksgiving Menu and Recipes featuring 8 recipes from an antipasto appetizer to our popular sweet potato casserole and two wonderful desserts.
If you want a "raw" experience, check out A Complete Raw Vegan Thanksgiving Menu. From pesto stuffed mushrooms and sprouted garbanzo hummus appetizers to a raw pear and apple crisp, these 8 recipes are sure to satisfy all your guests.

Vegan Thanksgiving Potlucks- Why take the chance?
There are vegan Thanksgiving potlucks all over the country. It's a place vegans gather after having spent their first Thanksgiving dinner, earlier in the day, with their families picking at the cranberry sauce and vegetable crudité. This will be a place to gather where everything on the menu is edible. Call me a control freak, (I am), but why take the chance that everyone will show up with pumpkin pie and no one will show up with appetizers? Why not print out these Thanksgiving recipes and assign them to different people so that you end up with a well coordinated meal?

Most of All
I want to wish everyone of my readers a happy and healthful Thanksgiving!
I've only been blogging for a little less than two years now and because of you, the site has exceeded 80 thousand hits and 150 thousand page views! You inspire me every day to create simple, healthful and delicious recipes.
My site originated as one with healthful recipes and nutritional information. Although mostly plant based, these included a modest number of recipes with eggs, some dairy and seafood, etc. But four months ago I changed the site to focus exclusively on vegan nutrition and recipes due to my concern for health, food safety, and my profound commitment to the environment and the welfare of helpless farm animals. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, omnivore or just on a journey to a healthier lifestyle, I hope you continue to join me each week as I discover and create recipes with Foods For Long Life!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Healthy Vegan Cornbread And Cornbread Stuffing - Perfect For Thanksgiving!

Make a loaf of cornbread 1 to 2 days before you make stuffing.

Cut cornbread into cubes and let dry for a day or two.

Grated sweet potatoes - the secret ingredient!

This Stuffing has a Secret Ingredient!
There are many variations of Thanksgiving stuffing. People add chestnuts, pecans, cranberries, sausage, even oysters; and the list goes on. I wanted to try something a little different, something healthful, something colorful, and of course, plant based!
Shredded yams or sweet potatoes make an excellent addition to this recipe, especially if you've decided not to add the sweet potato casserole to the menu this year. They add color and a sweetness that goes well with cornbread.
Not enough sweet potatoes for you? Then you definitely must try our very popular Healthy Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole. After all, you can never get too much of this sweet and healthful spud.
If you are only serving a few items, this recipe will serve 8 but if it's one of many dishes, as is typical of a Thanksgiving feast, you probably can feed 10 or 12.

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Vegan Cornbread
[serves 8, as cornbread - makes about 8 cups of cubes for stuffing]
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
3 tablespoons water
1 cup degermed cornmeal
1 cup white whole wheat or all purpose flour
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus some to grease pan
1 cup soy or other non dairy milk

Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Make a flax egg by mixing the ground flax seed and water. Set aside, mixing it occasionally until it gets gooey. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and sea salt.
Add oil, soy milk and flax egg and mix thoroughly.
Spread batter evenly into the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cornbread comes out clean.
Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the pan and remove.
Serve as cornbread or reserve for stuffing.

Per serving: 221.7 calories, 8.5 g fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4.5 g protein, 31.8 g carbohydrates and 2.6 g dietary fiber.


Vegan Cornbread Stuffing
[serves 8 to 12]
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoon vegan buttery spread, like Earth Balance
1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, coarsely grated
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning *
2 tablespoon dried or 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, (or to taste)
8 cups cubed, dried cornbread
1 cup veggie broth
* you can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground sage and 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme for the poultry seasoning.

Grease an 11x7 inch baking dish and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
On medium heat, in a Dutch oven, sauté the onion and celery in olive oil until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat, add buttery spread, sweet potatoes, poultry seasoning, parsley, salt and pepper and stir until buttery spread melts and the sweet potatoes are well coated.
Gently stir in the dried cornbread cubes and slowly add the veggie broth until all of the cubes are well coated.
Pour into the baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes to brown up the top.

Per serving (8): 292.6 calories, 12.0 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5.5 g protein, 41.3 g carbohydrates and 4.4 g dietary fiber.

Per serving (12): 195.0 calories, 8 g fat, 1.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.7 g protein, 27.5 g carbohydrates and 2.9 g dietary fiber.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Orange Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake - A Healthy Vegan Dessert For Thanksgiving And It's Low In Calories!

Sprinkle brown sugar over buttery spread.

Spread cranberries and pecans evenly over buttery spread.

Spread cake batter over cranberries and pecans and bake.

Bake 45 minutes, until golden brown.

After cooling 15 minutes, turn over onto a serving platter.

Something Besides Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving Dessert
Don't get me wrong. I love pumpkin pie as much as the next guy but it's nice to have something else to serve. Something that doesn't involve a pie crust. Something colorful. Something that's less than 200 calories a slice!
I looked at a lot of recipes for inspiration. Most of them were pretty unhealthy. One cranberry upside down cake called for 2 sticks of butter and an entire cup of brown sugar just for the topping! So in my sleep last night, I came up with this recipe. Seriously, that's where I do my best work. Once in college I solved an engineering problem to two decimals places in my sleep which I had unsuccessfully been working on for 2 hours before bed time!
This recipe melds the flavors of orange, cranberries and pecans; ingredients you often find in cranberry relish. It's low in oil (only a quarter cup) and has 2/3's cup of sugar total for the topping and the cake. This 9 inch cake will serve 12, especially after a big Thanksgiving dinner.


Orange Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake
[makes 12 servings]
For the topping
2 tablespoons earth balance or other vegan buttery spread
1/3 cup organic vegan brown sugar
6 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped
For the batter
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
6 packets stevia
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F.
To make the topping:
Spread 2 full tablespoons of buttery spread (make sure it's usable for baking) on the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan. Put some up the sides as well but most of it should go on the bottom.
Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom.
Spread cranberries and pecans evenly over the brown sugar and butter.
To make the batter:
Make a flax egg by mixing the ground flax seed and water. Set aside, mixing it occasionally until it gets gooey.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, stevia, salt, sugar, and baking powder until combined.
In a smaller bowl, mix orange juice, applesauce, olive oil, vanilla and the flax egg. Beat well.
Pour the orange juice mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Spread the mixture carefully over the topping and place in the preheated oven.
Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack.
Loosen cake from the sides of the pan using a butter knife or narrow spatula.
Place a plate upside down over the cake and invert the cake pan onto the plate. Wait a few minutes and remove the pan.
Serve warm.

Per serving: 198.5 calories, 9.9 g fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.6 g protein, 25.5 g carbohydrates, and 3.1 g dietary fiber.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Sweet And Spicy Kalamata Olive And Artichoke Tapenade With Hazelnuts - A Great Vegan Appetizer Or Sandwich Spread

Sweet and Spicy and other Wonderful Flavors
This olive tapenade has some unusual flavors. Dates and crushed red pepper gives this spread a nice contrast. I love the taste of hazelnuts and added them to give the tapenade a bit of a crunch. The marinated artichoke hearts and salty kalamata olives provide the background flavor for the dish.

Most of the Ingredients are in your Pantry!
This is a great last minute appetizer when guests drop in over the holidays since most of the ingredients can be bought way ahead of time and kept in the pantry. And if you have a little flower pot of fresh parsley on the window sill you have it made! It takes only minutes to prepare and it can be made ahead of time - even the day before. (I just ate the tapenade I made yesterday and it tasted even better because the flavors had a chance to meld).

Not Just an Appetizer
This spread makes a tasty foundation for a vegan sandwich. For a hearty lunch, put a generous amount on a slice of crusty bread with some veggies like: roasted red peppers, tomatoes, avocados, English cucumbers, butter lettuce or some grilled eggplant, Portobello mushrooms or zucchini.


Kalamata Olive and Artichoke Tapenade
[makes 1 1/2 cups or 24 tablespoons]
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup marinaded artichoke hearts
4 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped plus some for garnish
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor with an S blade and process until broken up.
Add the rest of the ingredients except a bit of the chopped parsley.
Process until the mixture is spreadable but not too smooth.
Garnish with parsley.
Refrigerate or serve immediately with crackers or a sliced vegan baguette.

Per tablespoon: 37.7 calories, 2.6 g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.2 g protein, 4.5 g carbohydrates and 0.8 g dietary fiber.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Raw Vegan Brussels Sprouts Salad With Orange Chia Seed Vinaigrette, Dried Cranberries (Or Pomegranate Seeds) And Almonds - Perfect For Thanksgiving!

Love Them or Hate Them?
Most people have a strong opinion about these petite little cabbages. Me and the kids love Brussels sprouts and I made them every Thanksgiving when they were young. But my husband's not a fan and my daughter-in-law, who is just starting to come around, has in the past practically banned my son from eating them. But fear not, Brussels sprouts lovers, I think I've developed a recipe that everyone can enjoy. Try presenting this colorful dish at your next Thanksgiving or winter holiday feast! Double or triple the recipe for more guests. If you'd like, substitute pomegranate seeds for the dried cranberries.

Complete Raw Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
Last Thanksgiving I posted a Complete Raw Vegan Thanksgiving or Winter Holiday menu from raw appetizers to dessert. It's been a very popular post so check it out for lots of great "raw" ideas for Thanksgiving.

Amazing Health Benefits
On cup of Brussels sprouts provides over 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C and K. Besides broccoli, it contains more glucosinolate (a phytonutrient associated with protecting our cells against cancer) than any other vegetable! They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese.
This recipe also gives you all the benefits of the amazing chia seed! Each serving provides over 400 mg of ALA omega 3 fatty acid. Check out all my Chia Seed Recipes.


Raw Vegan Brussels Sprouts Salad with Orange Chia Vinaigrette
[makes 4 servings]

2 teaspoons dried chia seeds
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon raw agave nectar
1 tablespoon raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 packed cups thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons dried cranberries (or pomegranate seeds)

In a small bowl, mix chia seeds with water and stir well. Stir several more times over the next 30 minutes while the chia seeds absorb the water.
After the chia seeds have formed a gel, add zest, orange juice, olive oil, agave nectar, apple cider vinegar and sea salt and mix thoroughly. (This dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated).
Mix dressing with the thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, almonds and cranberries and serve.

Per serving: 74.8 calories, 3.2 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 404 mg ALA omega 3 and 603 mg omega 6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g protein, 11.5 g carbohydrates, and 2.7 g dietary fiber.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Yale Rudd Center Evaluates Fast Food Nutrition And Marketing To Youth - Did You Buy Fast Food For Your Kids This Week?

Fast Food Harms Young People's Health
OK, this may not be a shock to you but the results of this comprehensive study by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity should be. Here are some of the facts they have uncovered about the fast food industry's relentless marketing to youths and poor level of nutrition. You can read the 200+ page Complete Report on their website.

How Fast Food Companies invest in Getting Your Children Addicted to Fast Food
* The fast food industry spent more than $4.2 billion for marketing in 2009.
* The average preschooler, ages 2-5 years old, saw 2.8 TV ads for fast food every day.
* Children 6-11 years of age saw 3.4 TV ads for fast food every day and teens 12-17 years of age saw 4.7.
* McDonalds's web-based marketing targets children as young as 2 years of age at Ronald.com.
* Each month McDonald's 13 websites attracted 365,000 child visitors and 294,000 teen visitors on average.
* 9 fast food restaurant Facebook pages had more than one million fans as of July, 2010.
* Smartphone apps were available for eight fast food chains so they can reach your children anytime, anywhere.
* The average fast food restaurant had 15 signs promoting specific menu items, but only 4% of them promoted healthy menu items.

And it's Working!
* 84% of parents took their child to a fast food restaurant at least once in the past week; 66% went to McDonalds.
* 40% of parents reported that their child asks to go to McDonald's at least once a week.
* 15% of preschoolers ask to go to McDonald's EVERY DAY!

What they are Serving Your Kids
* Just 12 of 3,039 (less than 1/2 percent!) possible kid's meal combinations from fast food restaurants met nutritional criteria for preschoolers; 15 met nutritional criteria for older children.
* When ordering a kid's meal, restaurant employees at McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell automatically served french fries or another unhealthy side dish more than 84% of the time. A healthy beverage was offered less than 50% of the time.
* Subway, on the other hand, offered apple slices, yogurt or 100% juice with their kids' meals 60% of the time, making it the only fast food restaurant in their study to routinely provide healthy choices.
* Teens between 13-18 years of age ordered 800 to 1,100 calories in an average fast food visit.

The Study's Recommendations
* Fast food restaurants must establish meaningful standards for child-targeted marketing.
* Fast food restaurants must do more to develop and promote lower-calorie and more nutritious menu items
* Fast food restaurants must do more to push their lower-calorie and more nutritious menu items inside the restaurants when young people and parents make their final purchase decisions.

What You Can Do!
After looking at this report and their recommendations, I am not very hopeful that this multibillion dollar industry is going to suddenly stop targeting our young children nor are they going to start feeding them healthy meals. Why would they? Their past strategies are paying off handsomely even if it helped cause the significant rise in child and adult obesity.
So it's up to you. Here are some tips to avoid the relentless marketing and the dependency on fast food.
* Restrict or eliminate unaccompanied TV watching. Entertain the kids with thought provoking games and books.
* Too busy to do that, then rent or buy educational videos. At least they're not getting brain washed while you are preoccupied with other chores.
* Talk to them about these fast food companies, their unhealthy food and underhanded marketing tactics. Even my young grandchildren understand how McDonald's should be avoided and tell others not to go there.
* Have some simple meals on hand so when you are too busy to cook, you resist the urge to buy fast food. Remember, even a bowl of healthful cereal and berries or an almond butter and "all fruit" jelly sandwich for dinner is healthier than anything you will find in a fast food restaurant.
* Avoid fast food restaurants at all costs. Even if they have some healthy offerings, once you enter the door, what is the chance you are going to really order them? Who can resist the aroma of french fries or the advertisements plastered all over the walls for unhealthy but tempting meals?
* Develop your child's palate for healthful foods. The most important thing you can do is get them used to eating good, wholesome food. My daughter-in-law helps drive a student garden program at the elementary school. Now, to the utter shock of the parents, the kids go home and ask to eat salads!
* OK, at the risk of getting arrested for promoting child labor, teach your kids how to help fix meals. With my busy career, my kids found their way around the kitchen pretty early in life. Today they are excellent cooks. I'm not saying you should hand them a Ginsu knife, turn on the oven and leave the room. But you can have them help you prepare a salad, or fix their own sandwich. Seriously, it will eventually pay off.

Remember, we vote with our forks. When we spend our hard earned money on fast food, it just propagates this industry putting small, more healthful eating establishments out of business. Make a special effort and help break our youth's addiction to fast food.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Go Nuts For This Raw Vegan Pecan Pie, Made As Cute Little Tarts - A Great Thanksgiving Dessert

This recipe calls for 4 1/2 " tart pans with removable bottoms.

Press walnut mixture into and up the sides of the tart pans.

Fill with cashew and date filling. Then top with pecan halves.

A Special Dessert
I love pecans, especially raw Texas pecans. Unfortunately whenever I've been served pecan pie, I generally just pick the pecans off the top and leave the rest. Traditional pecan pie is made from processed white flour, lots of sugar and corn syrup, butter and eggs. This delicious raw dessert has no processed sugar - it's sweetened by dates. Three kinds of heart healthy nuts are used in this tart: English walnuts, cashews and, of course, pecans. Some ground flaxseeds are added to the crust to optimize the omega 6 to omega 3 balance to 4:1.
But as "non-processed" as it may be, this dessert is very rich so save it for special occasions like the upcoming holidays. You also only need to eat a small portion. Last night Doug and I each ate 1/4 of this small tart and it was plenty.

Tart Pans
I use 4 1/2" tart pans with 3/4 inch sides for this recipe. I found some on the King Arthur website. You can use others that are close to that dimension. But whatever you use, a fluted tart pan is very elegant.

Complete Raw Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
Last Thanksgiving I posted a Complete Raw Vegan Thanksgiving or Winter Holiday menu from raw appetizers to dessert. It's been a very popular post so check it out for lots of great "raw" ideas for Thanksgiving.


Raw Vegan Pecan Tart
[makes two 4 1/2 inch tarts, 8 servings]
For the crust
Some extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil to grease the tart pans
3/4 cups raw English walnut pieces
4 teaspoons dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large Medjool dates, pitted
4 teaspoons ground flaxseeds
For the filling
10 large Medjool dates, pitted and soaked for 1 hour
Some reserved date soak water
1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked 6 hours or more
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unrefined virgin coconut oil, softened
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
20 perfect, raw pecan halves

You'll need two 4 1/2 inch tart pans with removable bottoms.
Oil the insides of each tart pan with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
To make the crust, place English walnuts, coconut, salt and cinnamon in a food processor with an S blade. Process until crumbly.
Add dates and ground flaxseeds and process until the mixture begins to stick together.
Divide mixture among the two tart pans and press firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pans. You can use your fingers or the back of a teaspoon. (No need to clean the food processor, you'll be using it again).
To make the filling, drain the dates reserving the soak water. Drain and rinse the cashews.
Place the dates, cashews, lime juice, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and sea salt in the food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides often. If it is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of the reserved date water but only if needed. Save the rest of the date water to sweeten your morning smoothie.
Fill the crust filled tart pans with the date filling.
Top each tart with 10 pecan halves.
Refrigerate for several hours. Carefully push tart up and remove side pan. You can serve tarts on their removable disk or carefully try to remove it.
Cut each tart into 4 pieces and serve. Or, more easily, set tarts on the table and hand your guests forks!

Per serving: 247.5 calories, 13.3 g fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.3 g ALA omega 3 and 5.4 g omega 6 fatty acids, 3.1 g protein, 33.4 g carbohydrates and 6.2 g of dietary fiber.


Saturday, November 06, 2010

How To Make Healthy, Low Fat, Creamy Vegan Mashed Potatoes. Also, A Recipe For Mushroom Gravy And A Delicious Vegan Substitute For Sliced Turkey.

Soy curls are a great substitute for chicken or turkey.

You won't believe these creamy mashed potatoes are dairy free!

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving
I'm dedicating the entire month of November to developing more raw and cooked vegan recipes and menus for my favorite holiday - Thanksgiving. Last year I posted A Complete Raw Vegan Thanksgiving menu as well as a Healthy Cooked Vegan menu so do check those out.

Best Ever Vegan Mashed Potatoes
I had some silken tofu left over from the Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe I posted on Monday. (By the way, this could also make a good side dish on Thanksgiving or just use the cheese sauce for your side dish of broccoli). Anyway, I thought that this light and fluffy tofu would make a great dairy substitute in mashed potatoes - a mandatory Thanksgiving dish. Together with Yukon gold potatoes, a touch of vegan buttery spread and seasoned with salt and pepper, these were simply the best mashed potatoes ever! And healthy too. Without the addition of heavy butter or cream, each serving is just over 100 calories with less than a half gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol! Whether you are a vegan, lactose intolerant, cooking for guests who avoid dairy or just love mashed potatoes, you need to try this recipe. For best results, use the silken tofu in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, not the kind they sell in boxes. I also love using thin skinned Yukon gold potatoes. After boiling, the skin peels off very easily.

Soy Curls Make a Great Meat Free Substitute for Sliced Turkey
You can host a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with nothing but side dishes but if you want something that looks and tastes like poultry, give these Soy Curls a try. Made from whole soy beans, these are far less processed than other fake meat products made from processed vegetable protein or wheat gluten.They take on the flavor of the spices with which they are seasoned. For this dish, I sprinkle them with poultry seasoning.


Creamy Vegan Mashed Potatoes
[makes 8 servings]
2 pounds Yukon gold (or other) potatoes, cleaned and quartered with skin
Water for cooking
1/2 teaspoon sea salt for cooking
1 cup silken tofu, warmed (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon vegan buttery spread
Reserved cooking water, if needed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until soft. Drain and peel off skin.
In a deep bowl, combine potatoes, silken tofu, buttery spread, salt and pepper and beat with a hand beater until smooth. Add a tablespoon of hot reserved cooking water if needed. Do not over process. Yukon gold potatoes can get pasty.
Serve immediately with mushroom gravy.

Per serving: 109.3 calories, 2.4 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4.4 g protein, 4.3 g carbohydrates and 2.5 g dietary fiber.

Mushroom Gravy
[makes about 1 1/2 cups]
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
8 ounces organic white button mushrooms, thinly sliced (or other mushrooms)
1 cup veggie broth, room temperature
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
2 shakes garlic powder
ground pepper to taste

On medium low heat, in a saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, about 4 minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook until they soften and release liquid, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix broth with corn starch until smooth. Add to mushrooms and onions and stir until it thickens.
Stir in salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

Per tablespoon: 8.9 calories, 0.6 g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.3 g protein, 0.8 g carbohydrates and 0 g dietary fiber.

Vegan Turkey Slices
[makes 8 servings]
One 8 ounce package of soy curls
Hot water to cover
4 tablespoons Red Star nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place the soy curls in a bowl and cover with hot water for 10 minutes.
After they rehydrate, drain and squeeze out excess water. Return them to a clean and dry bowl.
In a small bowl, combine nutritional yeast, poultry seasoning, black pepper, salt and garlic powder.
Sprinkle the mixture over the soy curls evenly and toss well.
Heat oil and sauté the soy curls until golden (about 5 minutes) and remove from heat.
Serve immediately with mushroom gravy.

Per serving: 149.8 calories, 8.3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 12.6 g protein, 7.3 g carbohydrates and 4.3 g dietary fiber.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Vegan Mac And Cheese - A Hearty Favorite Without The Dairy. Also Makes A Great Cheese Sauce For Broccoli And Cauliflower

Broccoli with cheese sauce provides even more veggie power.

Mac and Cheese goes Totally Vegan
A year ago I posted a recipe for Healthy Mac and Cheese that not only greatly reduced the amount of cheese and fat in the traditional mac and cheese but also provided extra servings of veggies. I did this by blending butternut squash into the cheese sauce.
I continued to work on this recipe to totally eliminate the cheese and I think I finally did it! This dairy free, vegan cheese sauce can also be used on broccoli or cauliflower. Just think, instead of negating the benefits of eating healthy veggies like broccoli and cauliflower by smothering them with fatty, high calorie cheese sauce, you can now double the benefits by smothering them with even more healthful veggies that just look and taste like cheese sauce! This recipe also provides vitamin B12 from the nutritional yeast, critical for vegans and vegan children.


Vegan Cheese Sauce
[Makes 2 1/2 cups, enough for 8 ounces of pasta]
1/2 small onion, chopped, (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups butternut squash, diced
2 tablespoons reserved cooking water from squash
1/2 cup silken tofu, (4 ounces)
1 tablespoon vegan buttery spread
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

On medium low heat, in a small saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, about 4 or 5 minutes.
Steam the butternut squash and reserve some of the cooking water.
Place sautéed onion, steamed squash, 2 tablespoons of the cooking water, silken tofu, vegan buttery spread, nutritional yeast, salt, cayenne, garlic powder and lemon juice in a high speed blender and process until smooth, hot and steamy, a minute or more. Use immediately on cooked pasta or on steamed veggies.

Per 1/2 cup serving: 77 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.2 g protein, 9.6 g carbohydrates and 2.3 g dietary fiber.

Vegan Mac and Cheese
[makes 4 main dish servings or 6 side servings]
8 ounces of elbow pasta
2 1/2 cups vegan cheese sauce

Prepare pasta according to package. Drain and return to pot.
Add hot vegan cheese sauce and stir well.
Serve immediately.

Per 4 main dish servings: 296.2 calories, 5.4 g fat, 0.9 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11.0 g protein, 53.9 g carbohydrates and 4.9 g dietary fiber.

Per 6 side servings: 197.5 calories, 3.6 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7.3 g protein, 36.0 g carbohydrates and 3.3 g dietary fiber.