Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Palisades Peach Crisp. Or Make It With Nectarines To Avoid Peeling!

This warm and delicious peach crisp makes the perfect dessert! And it's less than 150 calories per serving!

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My Visit to Grand Junction, Colorado
My good friend, Dr. Christine Gallagher, who is a Natural Health Practitioner at Journey4Wellness, invited us to visit her and her family in Grand Junction, Colorado. Doug and I had never been there so we were excited to visit. They live right at the base of the Colorado National Monument which is one of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen. 
Christine practices a modality that is quite interesting and amazing. It's called Acutonics® which is similar to acupuncture but instead of using needles, she uses special tuning forks! It's very cool. 

Me (left) and Dr. Christine Gallagher during my Colorado visit

"Coke Ovens" - dome-shaped sandstone monoliths in the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, Colorado

Colorado Grows Amazing Peaches!
Christine introduced me to Palisades peaches, one of the best tasting peaches I've ever had! Since she had a big box of them, and Doug and I LOVE crisp, we made the family Palisades peach crisp several times during our visit. Her son is allergic to sugar (a mixed blessing) so we made a sugar free version using stevia. We realized that peaches, like most fruit, is so sweet, sugar is entirely unnecessary!
When we got home, we made it again only this time we used nectarines, instead of peaches, and gluten free flour. Since nectarines have such thin skin, we decided not to peel them. It came out great! So if you aren't in the mood to peel peaches, try making nectarine crisp! The gluten free flour also worked very well so this makes a good gluten free dessert if you buy gluten free oats. Oats are naturally gluten free but sometimes they can get contaminated in the processing plant. If you have celiac or are especially intolerant to gluten or wheat, buy "certified" gluten free oats

Palisades peaches are amazing!

Try making the crisp with sliced nectarines. If they have a thin skin, there is no need to peel them. A real time saver!
Another wonderful peach recipe is Raw Vegan Peach and Blueberry Crisp 

Peach (or Nectarine) Crisp
Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free
[makes 8 servings]

For the topping
3/4 cup (gluten free) rolled oats
1/2 cup (gluten free) all purpose flour
3 packets Sweet Leaf stevia
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
For the fruit
7 cups thinly sliced, (about 9) peeled peaches or un-peeled nectarines
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh fruit protector or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 packet Sweet Leaf stevia
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C and take out a 7" x 11" or 8" x 8" baking pan. 
Make the topping by mixing all topping ingredients with a fork until well blended and crumbly. Set aside.
Place all fruit in baking pan and stir in fruit protector (or lemon juice), stevia and cinnamon.
Spread the topping evenly over the fruit and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
Remove from oven, let sit for 15 minutes and serve. Top with dairy free, vanilla ice cream or just eat as is!

Per serving: 132.2 calories, 4.1 g fat, 1.0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.7 g protein, 24.1 g carbohydrates, 3.3 g dietary fiber and 26.7 mg sodium.

Monday, September 26, 2011 Replaces The "Food Pyramid" And Harvard Recommends Improvements. Did They Go Far Enough?

I'm sure you can suggest improvements in just a quick glance!

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Where can we go for Nutritional Advice?
When advice on healthful eating is needed, many people ask their doctors. Unfortunately our medical schools spend precious little time teaching nutrition. I remember my gastrointestinal specialist bragging about a New York deli that made the best pastrami sandwich he had ever eaten after hearing I was originally from that part of the country. This was back when I was suffering from reflux! I'm sure he wasn't recommending pastrami for my reflux but I did think it was odd for him to even admit he ate food like that being a GI doctor and all.
Next stop might be the United States Department of Agriculture. Really? The same USDA that has numerous ties to the meat and dairy industries? With all the dairy they continue to push on the American people, I find it hard to believe that their hearts are in the right place. But they do have some newly published information which you can get at
I've been asked a number of times what I think of their new dietary recommendations. After much thought on how to frame my opinion, I finally decided to write a little something on the subject. I was actually inspired to do so after seeing that Harvard has come forward with their own recommendation, the Healthy Eating Plate. Although I felt the Harvard version made some good improvements, I'd like to add a few finishing touches. 

Harvard's improvements to

How they Differ
First of all, I'd like to give a standing O to Harvard for visually removing the glass of dairy from the plate and replacing it with water! Harvard also suggests coffee or tea (with little sugar). They recommend limiting milk and dairy to one or two servings a day stating that "high intakes are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer".  The USDA recommends everyone over 8 to drink 3 cups of milk per day. They are so wedded to dairy that they even recommend it to those who are lactose intolerant. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up! They say, "For those who are lactose intolerant, smaller portions (such as 4 fluid ounces of milk) may be well tolerated". I can't imagine recommending milk, in any amount, to someone who is allergic to milk!
Other key differences are:
* Although both show half the plate with colorful fruits and veggies, Harvard recommends eating more veggies than fruits. This makes sense since fruits can contain lots of natural sugar. 
* Harvard doesn't count French fries or potatoes toward the daily vegetable requirement. 
* Harvard encourages the consumption of whole grains and recommends limiting white rice and white bread. The USDA plate just says, "grains" although, in the fine print, they say to make at least half of them whole grains. Not really a big difference here.
* The USDA's MyPlate doesn't mention good fats at all. Harvard mentions using olive and canola oil on salads and for cooking and say to limit butter and avoid trans fat completely. 
* For protein, the USDA points out the need for omega-3 rich fish and recommends eating at least 8 ounces per week of cooked seafood, such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, Pacific oysters and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel. Being sensitive to vegetarians, they state that this recommendation did not apply to them although they did not guide vegetarians on what to do for this important nutrient. They also recommend lean meats, poultry, beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. 
Harvard uses the term "Healthy Protein"  and recommends fish, poultry, beans or nuts. They specifically say to limit read meat and avoid processed meat completely since "eating even small quantities of these foods on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and weight gain". 
* Harvard has a running figure at the bottom of the placemat to encourage people to exercise, reminding us that a healthy diet is just half of the equation!

My Personal Opinion
As a nutritionist (not someone who writes a vegan blog), here's my opinion:
* My favorite, healthful beverage is slightly alkaline water. After all, the body is around 60% water and our blood is over 80%! I also enjoy good green tea as a beverage. Instead of dairy milk, I use home-made, or ready-made, fortified soy or nut milks on my cereal or in my smoothies. Although I'm occasionally tempted by fresh mozzarella and aged parmesan (like most Italians are), dairy is simply not required in the diet and can be down right harmful. Although a $165M ad campaign would have you think milk is the best source of calcium, it is not. Dairy causes the body to actually draw calcium from your bones in order to neutralize its acidity. It's also mucous forming and will contribute to your child getting ear infections and other respiratory problems. Its consumption is now associated with diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and others. Learn more about milk by checking out the Got the facts on Milk Documentary.

We drink alkaline water but any fresh, filtered water will do. Water is far superior, as a beverage, than dairy milk.

* With respect to removing the potato from the veggie column, I certainly agree that French fries shouldn't count but I'll allow a nice, baked sweet potato or yam any day! Just make sure there are lots of green veggies along with it!
* I agree with the emphasis on whole grains, of course. I would even go further and encourage people to frequently include gluten free grains and pastas.
* With regard to fats, there is a big movement afoot that would eliminate concentrated oils from our diet. Unless you are trying to reverse cardiovascular disease or are on a calorie restricted diet, I do not think you need to do this. I would, however, limit oil consumption to a modest amount of unrefined oils such as extra virgin olive oil and cold pressed flax seed oil. I don't usually recommend canola oil because it's difficult to find one that is non-GMO. But if you can find canola that is non-GMO and made from low erucic acid rapeseed, it has a good omega-3/omega-6 profile. Of course the best source of good fats is from avocados, nuts and seeds focusing on the omega-3 power seeds: Chia, Hemp and Flax.
* From a strictly nutritional point of view, you can get adequate protein from non-meat sources like tofu, beans, nuts, grains, etc.  I do think, however, it gets nutritionally challenging for a vegan or a raw food vegan to get sufficient EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acid. Most people do not convert much of the ALA omega-3 obtained from flax, chia and hemp seeds to the much needed EPA and DHA. Vegans can and should take algae based omega 3 supplements, especially when pregnant or breast feeding. For those of you who eat fish, the best source is wild caught salmon and the other low mercury fish (see my post on Best fish and vegetarian sources of omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids). Although canned anchovies are a good source of omega-3, I do not usually recommend them to fish eaters due to their high sodium content.

Sprouted or regular tofu is an excellent source of protein.

* Another comment on protein - both the USDA and Harvard show one quarter of the plate filled with protein. If your source of protein is tofu or beans, this is appropriate. But if your source is animal food, especially if you are adding a few glasses of milk with it, the amount of protein can be excessive. A monumental piece of research, done by T. Colin Campbell, is documented in the book, "The China Study". When comparing the diets of 6,500 adults across 65 counties in rural China, he found that those participants who consumed only 9-10% of their calories as protein, with only 10% of that coming from animal protein sources, had cholesterol levels below 100 mg/dL! Common degenerative disorders like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and other western diseases were significantly lower in this group than in the U.S. Much of this research is described in the excellent movie, "Forks over Knives". So if you consume dairy or meat, protein should be a very small percentage of the plate.

To Sum it Up
* At least half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables (more veggies than fruits).
* Drink clean water and avoid soda and high calorie beverages. Avoid dairy milk after infancy.
* Fill the other half of your plate with whole grains and plant-based proteins such as tofu and beans.
* Avoid cheese and other dairy products.
* If you eat animal products - stick to low mercury, high omega-3 fish like wild, line-caught salmon. 
* Vegans should supplement with algae-based DHA and EPA, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
* Eat a modest amount of good fats.
* Most of all, take time to sit down with loved ones and appreciate and enjoy your meals!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Creamy Vegan, Gluten Free, Tomato Soup Thickened with Zucchini And White Beans - More Ways To Use Up Those Garden Tomatoes And Zucchini!

Less than 150 calories per serving, this healthful and delicious soup is perfect for  weight loss!

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Great Way to Use Up Tomatoes and Zucchini
Last week I showed you an easy way to Make and Freeze Tomato Sauce which used up plenty of my garden tomatoes. But now I'm also looking for things to do with zucchini. Here's a great way to combine these two wonderful foods into a thick and creamy soup. Besides the zucchini, the soup is thickened by fiber and protein rich white beans. You can use cannellini, great northern or white kidney beans - whichever you prefer.

Peel the Zucchini
To achieve the beautiful reddish orange color that you expect tomato soup to be, you'll have to peel the zucchini. If you leave the skins on, your soup will be brown and not nearly as appetizing. Save the peels and toss them with your favorite salad dressing or use them in Raw Zucchini Spaghetti and Walnut Meatballs

Peel zucchini or the skins will turn the soup brown

Save the zucchini peels and toss with fresh blueberries, raw English walnuts and balsamic

Cook soup slowly, partially covered, until flavors meld and veggies are soft enough to blend

Blend until smooth. If it's too thick, a touch of boiling water.

Eat One, Freeze One
And just like my tomato sauce, I ate some for dinner and put up the rest for winter in my new freezer jars.

Freezing a little at a time is effortless 

Creamy Tomato Soup with Zucchini and Cannellini Beans
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups diced zucchini
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme plus some for garnish
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
8 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1 large vegan, gluten free bouillon cube dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water
1 bay leaf
1 can cannellini or other white bean, drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil to medium heat in a 5 quart Dutch oven and cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes. 
Add garlic and cook an additional minute.
Add zucchini, thyme and turmeric and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is soft.
Stir in tomatoes, bouillon mixture, bay leaf and cannellini beans and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat  and simmer for 1 hour, partially covered.
Blend, in two batches, until soup is smooth. Return to pot , add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. 
Top with additional fresh thyme and serve.
For a heartier meal, stir in brown rice or serve on top of a baked potato.

Per serving (without added salt): 147.3 calories, 2.8 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 65 mg omega-3 and 443 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 8.3 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate and 448 mg sodium.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Latest On Sugar Consumption - Why This Should Make You Mad!

What the average American consumes in sugar each day!

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Choosing Twinkies Over Health
One reason I prefer to spend my time blogging and writing my book rather than have individual nutrition clients is that many people frustrate me. I've met so many individuals who are really sick, overweight, constantly fatigued and leading restricted lives and yet they show little interest in turning that around. The overwhelming majority of illnesses, like heart disease, diabetes, and yes, even the big C, can be prevented and treated just by changing your lifestyle. I am perplexed by people who would prefer to suffer with diabetes or face bypass surgery rather than eat a healthy diet and exercise. Is it really easier to take 15 expensive medications each day, give yourself insulin injections or have your chest sawed open than to prepare the delicious recipes in this blog and go out and walk for 30 minutes a day? Like I said, I'm perplexed.

New Data
I'm writing today because I discovered some startling data last week about sugar consumption. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released, for the first time ever, information on the consumption of sugary beverages. By the way, health officials say you should limit consumption of sugary beverages to less than 1/2 can per day. I ask, why don't they recommend NEVER consuming this garbage? Sugary beverages are linked to the obesity epidemic and numerous related medical problems!
Here are some statistics they presented:
* Half of all Americans drink a sugary beverage each day.
* 5 % drink 4 cans per day.
* Males drink more than females.
* Teenage boys drink the most. The average 12-19 year old drinks around 2 cans per day.
* Blacks consume more than any other ethnic group.
* Low income people drink more than the more affluent.
Sweetened teas and flavored milks, etc. were not even counted as sugary beverages in this data so the picture is even worse than this.

The Sugar doesn't End There!
An article in the October, 2011 Prevention magazine states that the average American consumes 35 teaspoons of sugar a day. That's almost 12 tablespoons or 3/4 of a cup or 1/3 pound of sugar! This added sugar from processed food is in addition to sugar that is found naturally in fruits, milk, vegetables and grains.

Where It's Hiding
Sugar has many names so when you read a label, you may not realize it's in there. Some common forms of sugar found in food are barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sugar, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, maltose, molasses, turbinado, etc. Check out the list of 50 Names for Sugar You May Not Know.

Does your office celebrate Junk Food Friday?

Why Don't People Care?
The other day my cousin (whom I know takes very good care of herself) facebooked a picture from her office titled, "Junk Food Friday". Rather than the responses saying something like, "Gosh, what crap!" or "Are you being held hostage in a Twinkie factory", people responded to her post with comments like, "Are you hiring?", "Looks like my kind of place!", and "Wow, what a fun place to work!". 
This could be anyone's office as so many are filled with candy bowls, the Friday donuts, the toxic vending machines and all the other things that sabotage our efforts to eat better, to be as healthy as we can be and to prevent illness and premature death. People not only eat poorly but they feel compelled to flaunt their attitudes on unhealthy eating and encourage all to join in! Local fairs even award prizes for the most unhealthy vendor cuisine. Fried Coke anyone? 

Why this should make you Mad!
Why should we care what other people do? If we can resist all this temptation (we usually don't), how does it affect us?
Remember back when people smoked in offices and restaurants. Besides being annoying, we now know that second hand smoke was killing us too. Well, obviously there's no "second hand" sugar danger, but what is happening is that the growth in sugar consumption and the resulting spike in illness is bankrupting our health care system and driving insurance rates off the charts. The Associated Press reported that Medicare will be bankrupt by 2024, 5 years earlier than last year's estimate. So even though many may take a "live and let live" attitude about what others do, our ability to get quality health care is being greatly diminished by those who are not taking good care of themselves.  

Change the Tone
So instead of bonding with your colleagues over twinkies, join together for lunchtime walks or share healthy recipes. Warning, there are lots of people out there who will think a day without a donut is like a day without sunshine. Like I said, I'm perplexed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Easiest Way To Make And Freeze Tomato Sauce A Few Pints At A Time - As The Tomatoes Ripen!

Nothing soothes the soul more than making tomato sauce.

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9/11 Tenth Anniversary
While the world remembered the 10th anniversary of this tragic day, my thoughts were on the town where I grew up. Although I left Manhattan when I went to college, I remember gazing at the beautiful twin towers when I came home to visit my parents' apartment on E. 8th street. At one time, my mother worked in one of the buildings. The most traumatic memory of that day was being waken up to find out that this attack happened about a mile from my daughter's apartment.
Still shaken, I could only do things that comforted me yesterday. I went to a service in the morning at the Center for Spiritual LIving and came home and cooked. Nothing soothes my soul more than that. 
I decided to put up a few tomatoes from my garden. Coincidentally, my daughter was doing the same thing. 

And Here Come the Tomatoes - Finally!
While most of the U.S. has had record breaking heat this summer, it's been cool here in northern California. And while many people enjoy this moderate climate, the tomatoes do not. So here it is, September, and I'm finally getting enough tomatoes to eat and put up for the winter. Better late than never!

Unlike a Fruit Tree
When peaches ripen, you suddenly have an entire tree of fruit that has to be canned immediately. But tomatoes ripen a few at a time. Even with 6 or a dozen tomato plants, you may not have enough ripe tomatoes at one time to inspire you to begin a big canning project. So this year I tried something different and it's so easy, I may do this every year! Instead of canning them, I'm freezing them. And instead of peeling and seeding them, I'm just throwing them in a food processor. Since it's so easy, I can make a few pints at a time and freeze the tomatoes as they ripen. Last night I had around 5 pounds of tomatoes, made  2 pints of sauce, froze one pint and used the other one for dinner. It was a breeze!

Tomatoes ripen a few at a time

The Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene - even the orange ones. This carotenoid is a powerful antioxidant and has been associated with the reduction of heart disease. Research has shown that lycopene and other phytonutrients in tomatoes can improve the blood lipid profile - decrease total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. 
But lycopene isn't the only star in the line-up. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamins A and C and contain flavonols (like rutin and quercetin), and other important carotenoids (such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene). 

Cooked vs. Raw
Although I usually promote food in its raw state, some scientists believe that lycopene is better absorbed when cooked and with some oil. So a simmered tomato sauce with some extra virgin olive oil should be a good, absorbable source of this important, fat soluble carotenoid. 

Freezing Tomato Sauce - Step by Step
1. Prep - Wash the tomatoes in cold water. Cut off the blossom end and cut into small pieces. 

Cut tomatoes in quarters or even smaller. 

2. Process - Place tomatoes in a food processor with an S blade and process until tomatoes are broken up. No need to over process. Do this in batches. No need to remove skin or seeds! It's easy!

Don't overfill the food processor - do this in batches.

3. Make sauce - You can use your favorite recipe but here's one of mine. (Or you can freeze at this stage and use tomatoes for sauce or other things later).
For every 2 pints (or 4 cups) of finished tomato sauce, you want to start out with about 6 cups of processed tomatoes. You can double, triple, quadruple, etc... this recipe.

6 cups processed tomatoes (about 4 - 5 lbs depending on type of tomato)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup red wine
8 fresh basil leaves, sliced
4 - 6 drops liquid stevia (optional)

Clean and process 6 cups tomatoes - set aside. 
Heat oil and add crushed red pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.
Add onion and cook on medium low heat until soft (5 to 8 minutes).
Stir in garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes, red wine and fresh bay leaves. Let simmer, partially covered, until reduced down to 4 cups (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or more). 
Taste, adjust seasoning. Add stevia if desired to sweeten.

Simmer until it thickens

4. Put in Freezer Cups
Let sauce cool completely.
Fill 2 (1 pint) or 1 (1 quart) BPA-free plastic freezer cups. Mark the date on the cups and place in freezer until needed. How long they keep will depend on your freezer and the container but many people say that they will maintain their flavor for up to a year.

Use BPA-free freezer jars.
BPA, bisphenol-A, is a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics and mimics the female hormone, estrogen. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Raw Vegan Watermelon Italian Ice -Fat Free, Sugar Free, Gluten Free And Delicious!

Rich in lycopene, vitamins A and C, yet each serving is less than 50 calories!

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Italian Ice
I remember Italian ices when I was a kid. They were these thin little white paper cups filled with sweet, slushy fruit flavored ice. I'd finish the ice and squeeze the paper cup until every drop was gone. Most Italian ice recipes are full of sugar but a sweet watermelon makes a wonderful frozen dessert with just a little stevia and a touch of lemon zest. And you don't have to tell the kids that they are only 35 calories each!

Watermelon Benefits
You've probably read about how tomatoes are a rich source of the carotenoid, lycopene. This plant chemical is known for its antioxidant and cancer protective properties. Well, watermelon is also a very good source of lycopene! It's also a great source of vitamins C and A.

Simple ingredients for Italian ice:  Watermelon, grated lemon peel and a touch of stevia (not shown).

Watermelon Italian Ice
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 8 servings]

6 cups diced seedless watermelon
2 packets stevia (or to taste)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to directions.
Serve immediately.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, freeze mixture in a shallow pan, place pan in the freezer and stir every 30 minutes until slushy.
Another technique you can try is to freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray. Place the frozen watermelon ice cubes back into the food processor and pulse until it's slushy being careful not to over process. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 34.6 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.8 g protein, 8.3 g carbohydrates, 0.8 g dietary fiber and 1.1 mg sodium.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Vegan Saag Aloo - Enjoy This Spicy Indian Dish With Purple Fingerling Potatoes!

This Indian Classic features fresh spinach, kale and potatoes.

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Our Visit to Portland
A week ago we went to visit our son in Portland. We always love eating out when we're there because Portland restaurants rock! My latest discovery is VegeThai on SE Hawthorne blvd. They have the best Pad Thai ever! Anyway, we did manage to cook at home one night. My son broke out one of his favorite Indian cookbooks, "Classic Indian Cooking" by Julie Sahni. This was definitely not a vegan cookbook but they had some awesome recipes that could be modified. Vaughn made a version of Saag Aloo, a simple dish of spinach, greens and potatoes. The spices are amazing and it was pretty easy to turn into a vegan dish.

The Ingredients
The basis for the dish is fresh spinach, although you can use frozen spinach in a pinch. The rest of the greens can be kale, beet, collards or mustard. My son used a mixture of kale and collards. When I came home and made the dish again, I used fresh organic spinach and Red Russian kale.
For extra color and nutritional benefits, I selected a mixture of fingerling potatoes favoring the deep purple potatoes that are rich in anthocyanins, a flavonoid associated with lowering the risk of cancer and protecting the heart. To "veganize" the dish, I replaced the ghee (clarified butter used in Indian cuisine) with Earth Balance vegan margarine. 

For convenience, I bought pre-washed spinach
Red Russian kale is a good choice for the greens
Any potato can be used but I like thin skinned fingerling, especially the purple ones!
Earth Balance is a good vegan substitute for ghee

The Wonderful Spices
The wonderful flavors in this dish come from several key spices; garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, red pepper and garam masala. The combination creates an incredibly tasty dish - so tasty that it doesn't require the amount of salt listed in the original recipe. When I made it at home, I only used 1/2 teaspoon versus the  1 1/2 teaspoons called for.

I often use ground cumin but cumin seed was new to me
Garam masala is a mixture of cinnamon, coriander, fennel, cumin, black pepper, cardamom and cloves

Making the Dish More Healthful
This dish is already quite healthful providing nearly 1/2 of your daily fiber requirement and all the wonderful benefits of the greens and purple potatoes.
To make the dish even more healthful, I made two major changes. I reduced the original recipe from 5 tablespoons of ghee to 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance. The key here was the reduction of fat (not necessarily the change to Earth Balance). For non-vegans, ghee has some benefits from regular butter in that it is clarified, has no hydrogenated oils, is lactose free and doesn't burn when used in cooking. But the 5 tablespoons in the recipe seemed a bit excessive. The other thing I did, as mentioned, is reduce the amount of salt.  These 2 simple changes resulted in significant benefits. The original recipe has 40% higher calories, 3 times the fat, 5 1/2 times the saturated fat, 41 mg of cholesterol (the vegan recipe has none) and twice the sodium. And, there was NO change to the flavor!

Two Major Steps
There's a bit of prepping for this recipe (cleaning and chopping greens mostly) and the cooking process takes a little time but it's really quite simple and is worth the time and effort. Just pour a glass of wine and start stirring!

The first step is to fry up the potatoes
Slowly, handful by handful, you will stir in and wilt the greens

Vegan Saag Aloo
[modified from the original recipe in Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni]
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 4 main course servings]

1 pound organic fresh spinach
1 pound fresh kale (or other greens like collards, mustard or beet)
1 pound thin skinned potatoes (use purple if possible)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/2 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon garam masala

Wash greens well. Coarsely chop spinach with its stems. Remove stems from kale and coarsely chop. Set aside.
Cut fingerling potatoes in 1 inch chunks. If using small round potatoes, cut in quarters or halves.
Heat Earth Balance in a non-stick Dutch oven or large frying pan. When hot, add cumin seeds until they turn dark (around 10 seconds). Stir in crushed red pepper and garlic and add potatoes. Reduce heat to medium and fry potatoes until brown, around 5 to 8 minutes, turning frequently.
Add spinach, a handful at a time. When it wilts, in about 30 seconds, add more until it is all incorporated.  
Do the same thing with the greens until they are all incorporated.
Sprinkle with ground ginger and salt. Stir well and add 1 cups boiling water. Reduce heat and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
Uncover and cook until the excess moisture evaporates, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Increase heat and stir until the greens look almost dry, about 5 minutes. 
Stir in garam masala and serve.

Per serving: 222 calories, 5.5 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 12 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 12 g dietary fiber and 495 mg sodium.

Thanks to Julie Sahni for inspiring this vegan recipe!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Raw Vegan Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie - Study Shows Chocolate Consumption May Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease And Stroke!

It may be the color of blueberries, but this delicious smoothie has the flavor and all the health benefits of chocolate!

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Another Reason to Eat Chocolate
There have been a number of studies that have shown the health benefits of chocolate. Chocolate is rich in flavonoids which are plant chemicals with high "antioxidant power". Antioxidants help us fight the free radicals produced from internal metabolic activities as well as from environmental contaminants. 
Prior studies have shown that eating chocolate can reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, elevate mood and demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties. Chocolate is high in magnesium, a stress relieving mineral which many people are deficient in.
A recent study by Oscar Franco and his colleagues from the University of Cambridge in England, showed additional benefits. After analyzing the results of seven different studies involving more than 100,000 participants, the researchers concluded that the "highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels". There was, however, no significant reduction in risk of heart failure.

What Now?
Before you start downing chocolate bars and mainlining chocolate syrup, there's a more practical way to benefit from this good news. Raw, organic, unprocessed cacao that has not been roasted or treated with alkalis, has the same beneficial flavonoids without the sugar and calories. This powder can be used to make smoothies (like the one I'll share with you today), Chocolate Crumbles to throw on top of fruit or ice cream, Raw Chocolate Almond Macaroons, or Chocolate Truffles

You can buy raw cacao powder at Whole Foods, many health food stores or you can buy it online. 

Raw chocolate almond macaroons are made with raw cacao.
Chocolate crumble makes a great dessert topping.
No need for guilt with these tropical chocolate truffels!

2 Variations 
These simple smoothie recipes have all the benefits of raw cacao, are sweetened with bananas and a little stevia and have the added antioxidant power from frozen blueberries. The first recipe is raw and uses cashew milk as the base and the second starts out with soy or any non-diary milk. Both deliver nearly 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acid and one third of your daily requirement of dietary fiber!

Raw Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie with Cashew Milk
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 2 (2 cup) servings]

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked 6 or more hours, rinsed
2 cups filtered water
4 teaspoons raw cacao powder
1 packet stevia (or to taste)
2 medium bananas, broken into pieces, frozen
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 tablespoons cold pressed flaxseed oil

Place rinsed cashews, water, cacao powder and stevia in a Vitamix or other high speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Add frozen bananas, blueberries and flaxseed oil and blend until thick and smooth. Serve immediately.

Per (2 cup) serving: 317.6 calories, 13.1 g fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.9 g omega-3 and 2.1 g omega-6 fatty acids, 6.9 g protein, 47.5 g carbohydrates, 8.7 g dietary fiber and 6.3 mg sodium.

Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 2 servings]

2 cups  soy, hemp, almond, coconut or other GF non-dairy milk
4 teaspoons raw cacao powder
1 packet stevia (or to taste)
2 medium bananas, broken into pieces, frozen
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 tablespoon cold pressed flaxseed oil

Place non-dairy milk, cacao powder and stevia in a Vitamix or other high speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Add frozen bananas, blueberries and flaxseed oil and blend until thick and smooth. Serve immediately.

Per serving using unsweetened soy milk: 294.3 calories, 9.1 g fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.9 g omega-3 and 0.6 g omega-6 fatty acids, 10.5 g protein, 45.5 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber and 89 mg sodium.