Thursday, April 27, 2017

8 Healthy And Delicious Vegan Bagel Toppings

Bagels ideas for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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Bagels Make a Quick and Easy Meal
Who doesn't love a good bagel? But we mostly just toast them, slather cream "cheese" or "butter" on them, and call it a meal. But there's so much more you can do to make these little platters of goodness more interesting. And they can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Starting Out
Start with a good bagel. I'm in love with the Sprouted Wheat bagels by Alvarado Street Bakery. They are not gluten free but they do not contain added gluten, like so many baked goods do. Their main ingredient is Sprouted Organic Whole Wheat Berries. As stated on their package:

"We sprout the whole grains by soaking them in filtered water for several days, until they begin to grow. We then transform these living sprouts into the unique dough that becomes the basis of all our recipes. Sprouting grains helps to increase the availability of some nutrients, are easy to digest, and contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber."

Each bagel provides:
250 calories
0.5 total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol
51 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar
10 g protein
3 g dietary fiber
410 mg sodium
 Of course if you cannot tolerate wheat, then start with a gluten free bagel. 

#1 - Super Seeded Bagel
If you like seeded bagels, you will love this one. When you buy a seeded bagel, the seeds are baked in the process of making it and then toasted when you take it home. All this cooking destroys the delicate essential fatty acids which is why I always prefer eating raw seeds and nuts. For this recipe, just slather Kite Hill vegan cream cheese on your bagel (toasted or not), and cover it with raw seeds, such as hemp, sunflower, and pumpkin. 

Super Seeded Bagel

#2 - The Elvis Bagel
This recipe pays homage to Elvis, who loved his peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We top this one with walnuts for a little extra omega-3 fatty acids. I don't think Elvis paid much attention to that :-) Spread organic peanut butter (creamy or crunchy) on the bagel and top with ripe banana slices and crushed walnuts.

Elvis Bagel

#3 - Avocado Bagel
As I posted earlier this month, Avocado Toast - It's Everywhere! Why It's a Healthy Dish, avocados contain healthy fat, have anti-inflammatory properties, and are a great source of fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals. They also help us absorb cancer-fighting carotenoids. So just slice or smush avocado on your bagel and top with raw seeds, sprouts, fruits, veggies, herbs, or whatever suits you.

Avocado Bagel

#4 - Garlic Toast Bagel
A garlic toasted bagel makes a tasty side to a big raw salad. Just make a paste by mixing a tablespoon of room temperature Miyoko's vegan butter, (or your favorite spread), with a clove or two of pressed or finely minced garlic and dried parsley flakes. Spread it on the bagel and toast until brown and bubbly.

Garlic Toast Bagel

#5 - Jalapeno Hummus Bagel
This bagel is sure to spice up your life. Spread your favorite hummus on a toasted bagel and top with pickled jalapeños and raw pumpkin seeds, or "pepitas."

Jalapeno Hummus Bagel

#6 - Sweet Mango and Almond Butter Bagel
Sweet Ataulfo mangos are in season now and they pair beautifully with almond butter. Mangos are packed with vitamin A and C and a good source of dietary fiber. The almond butter is a great source of vitamin E, which is hard to get. Spread creamy or crunchy almond butter on your bagel, top with finely diced mango and top with black sesame seeds.

Mango and Almond Butter Bagel

#7 - Pizza Bagel
This makes an easy lunch or dinner, with a raw salad. Just toast the bagel first then cover with thick (not runny) tomato sauce, and shredded vegan "cheese". Broil until the cheese melts and then top with whatever you like. I used artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, peperocini, vegan "parmesan" topping, and chili flakes. Toss under the broiler again the heat the veggies and serve.

Pizza Bagel

#8 - Strawberry Fields Forever Bagel
Strawberries are in season now and they make a great topping over Kite Hill's vegan cream cheese. Toast and slather cream cheese on the bagel. Top with strawberry slices and hemp seeds, for that extra omega-3 punch. I also sprinkled it with some blueberry finishing salt to introduce extra flavor.

Strawberry Fields Forever Bagel

I could go on and on with this post but I think I'll leave it here. If you have some interesting concoctions, please comment and share!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

5 Ways WE Can Save The Planet

Earth Day 2017

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We Must Act
Every day I worry more and more about our planet. The new administration, packed with science deniers, is gutting the EPA, rolling back environmental regulations, and now there's talk about backing out of the Paris Agreement. So we can no longer look to our government to protect our planet. It's never been more important to take matters into our own hands. Instead of feeling helpless, there are things we as individuals can do to protect the planet. If enough of us do these things, they will certainly make an impact. Here are 5 things we can do.

#1 - Eat More Plants and Less Meat

Many people become vegans because of health reasons or because of their love of animals. A growing number are avoiding animal products for environmental reasons. Becoming vegan is a huge commitment, one many are not willing to do. But let me be clear, you don't have to become a vegan to make a significant difference in the environment. If a person who consumes the national average of 200+ pounds of meat each year cuts their meat consumption in half or even a third, that's a much bigger deal than a person who eats only 20 pounds of meat each year becoming a strict vegan. Whatever your level of commitment is, eating less meat helps the environment. Here's why:
  * It take 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water to produce one pound of meat vs. one pound of soy protein. 
  * Raising animals for food now uses 30% of the earth's land mass.
  * 70% of the grain grown is fed to farm animals.
  * Nearly 70% of deforested land in the Amazon is now cattle pasture.

So if every meat eater ate a few less meat meals a week, it could make a huge difference in the worldwide consumption of meat. 

#2 - Mindful Driving

Not everyone is willing to or can afford to ditch their car for a hybrid or electric vehicle but there are certainly things you can do to reduce greenhouse emissions. Transportation is just behind electricity with respect to generating greenhouse gases . 
 * Walk or bike when possible.
 * Combine trips. Plan your outings to get as many quick stops in one trip.  Why? Pollution emissions are 2-8 times higher per mile in the first 5 minutes of running your car because the system is cold. Limit stops to 15 minutes if possible to keep your catalytic converter warm.  
 * According to the US department of energy:
  - Fixing a car that's out of tune can improve gas mileage by 4%.
  - Fixing a serious problem, like a bad oxygen sensor, can improve mileage up to 40%.
  - Properly inflated tires can improve mileage .6% to 4%.
  - Using the proper motor oil can improve mileage 1% to 2%.

#3 - Save Energy at Home

One of my corporate staff jobs at IBM headquarters was in the Corporate Energy Department. We did energy audits of each site and made recommendations. Many of these were fairly simple and the saving resulted in millions of dollars. It's pretty simple to find things to do in your home to realize great savings. Here are a few:
* Replacing your lightbulbs with LED's can reduce energy up to 75%.
* Turn off the lights when you're not using them.
* Use motion detectors or timers on outdoor lights.
* Clean your furnace and air conditioner filters.
* Ventilate your attic.
* Install new weather stripping.
* Get a more efficient water heater or set to a lower setting.
* Set your refrigerator to the proper settings.
* Let food cool before you put it in the refrigerator.
* Use a pressure cooker for shorter cooking times.
* Unplug electronics when not in use.
* Install solar panels if possible. There are solar programs in some states that do not require you to outlay any money.

# 4 - Save Water

Although it's over now, we've had a drought in California for the past 5 years, so we're pretty conscious of water usage. Here are a few things you can do to save water:
* Replace your lawn with drought resistant plants.
* Don't hand-wash dishes. You use 1/6 the amount of water by running a full load in the dishwasher.
* Install a low-flow shower head. This can save almost half of the water used during your shower. And take shorter showers.
* Don't run the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving.
* Use drip irrigation in your garden.
* Check faucets and toilets for leaks.
* Run full loads for clothes and dishes.

#5 - Buy Local and Organic

Think twice before you eat that cantaloupe from Chile or buy a bottle of wine from another continent. Shipping produce can rack up the miles. The average American meal travels 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate. So visit your farmer's market or, better yet, rip up your lawn and put in your own organic vegetable garden. 

Whether you are buying food or growing your own, select organic food, especially when eating The Dirty Dozen (strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, and hot peppers). Consuming organic food is not only healthier for you, but organic farming is healthier for the planet. 
* Organic farming promotes biodiversity of the soil. Synthetic chemicals and pesticides kill good bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.
* It also prevents hazardous chemicals from entering our groundwater and streams.

I hope this gave you a few ideas on how you can help save the planet. Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Allergic To Butter? Here Are Some Options
Miyoko's Vegan Butter, Ghee, Earth Balance

Options for individuals allergic to dairy.

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Love Butter but Butter doesn't Love You?
More than half the world's population (some put it as high as 75%) are dairy intolerant. Either they lack the enzyme lactase that allows them to digest lactose (the sugar found in dairy foods) or they are allergic to casein, (the protein found in dairy foods.) If you are dairy intolerant, you most likely cannot tolerate butter.

I can't tolerate dairy of any kind. Yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, cream and ice cream all cause me to have severe stomach pains. But through the years, more and more dairy substitutes have come on the market. Eating out can still be a challenge, but cooking at home is not.

Although Earth Balance has been God's gift to vegans and the dairy intolerant for many years, some superior products are coming on the scene. Recently I bought Miyoko's cultured vegan butter, and I was amazed and delighted with the product. More about that later.

I also discovered that I can easily tolerate ghee. Ghee is actually made from butter, so it's not suitable for vegans, but it does not contain lactose or casein and is generally tolerated by those with dairy allergies. Today I'll do a little comparison between Earth Balance, Miyoko's cultured Vegan Butter, and Ghee.

Earth Balance
This versatile buttery spread is basically a dairy-free, non-hydrogenated margarine. It can be used as a spread for toast or muffins, for cooking, frying, baking, and making frosting. 

There are quite a number of Earth Balance products available to meet people's dietary needs. 

Earth Balance comes in:
Soy Free
Organic Whipped
Olive Oil
Organic Coconut Spread

The Original Earth Balance is made with a vegetable oil blend of palm fruit, canola, soybean, flax and olive oil. It also contains water, salt, "natural flavor" (which can mean anything), pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, and it is colored with annatto extract. Each tablespoon contains 100 calories, 11 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, and 0 carbs and protein.

The Soy Free Earth Balance has the same ingredients except it omits the soybean oil. Nutritional info is also similar with a touch more sodium - 110 mg.

The Organic Whipped Earth Balance is made with a blend of organic vegetable oils including palm fruit, soybean, canola, and olive oil. It also contains water, salt, "organic natural flavor", organic defatted soy flour, organic soy lecithin, lactic acid (as a preservative), and organic annatto extract (for coloring.)  It has less calories and fat with each tablespoon providing 80 calories, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, carbs and protein, and 100 mg of sodium.

The Olive Oil Earth Balance, despite its name, is still a combination of vegetable oils such as palm, canola, safflower, extra virgin olive oil, and flax. Like the Original, it contains water, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, and annatto extract. It's lower in calories, like the whipped, with each tablespoon providing 80 calories, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, carbs and protein, and only 75 mg of sodium.

The Omega-3 Earth Balance contains a vegetable oil blend consisting of palm fruit, canola, soybean, flax, algal oil (the source of the DHA/EPA omega-3), high oleic sunflower oil, sunflower lecithin, rosemary extract, and olive oil. It also contains water, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid and annatto extract. Each tablespoon provides 80 calories, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 32 mg EPA/DHA and 320 mg ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, 0 g cholesterol, carbs, and protein, and only 80 mg of sodium.

Since coconut oil has become so popular, it's not a surprise to see the introduction of Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread. This spread is made from an organic tropical oil blend of extra virgin coconut, palm fruit, and coconut oils plus canola oil. It also contains water, salt, natural flavor, sunflower lecithin and lactic acid. Each tablespoon is 100 calories, 11 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, carbs, and protein, and only 70 mg of sodium.

Earth Balance Highlights:
* Wide variety of products to meet dietary needs.
* Similar to margarine but contains no hydrogenated oils but does contain palm fruit oil.
* Can be used to replace butter in cooking, baking, frying, or just slathering.
* Doesn't really impart much flavor, certainly doesn't taste like butter.
* Cost is reasonable. A 15-ounce tub of the Original Earth Balance costs less that $4.00. 

                  *                            *                              *

Miyoko's European Style Cultured Vegan Butter

I'm a big fan of Miyoko's cultured nut cheeses (Winter Truffle is my favorite), so I was excited to finally try her cultured butter substitute. Immediately I noticed that it's white, so it doesn't really look like butter. But as soon as I opened the package, I felt like I had just stuck my head over a fresh bucket of cream! I quickly slathered it on toast. It melted beautifully and the taste was to die for. I haven't been able to eat real butter in years so the subtle, cream flavor almost brought tears to my eyes. I have subsequently cooked with it and I look forward to making a real pie crust with it, but for me, my favorite use will be to taste it on toast or a muffin. You can't beat the flavor.

Miyoko's cultured Vegan  Butter is made with Organic coconut oil, water, organic safflower or sunflower oil, organic cashews, soy lecithin, sea salt, and cultures. Unlike Earth Balance, it does not contain any oil from palm fruit. 

One tablespoon of Cultured Vegan Butter provides 90 calories, 10 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, carbs, and protein, and 70 mg of sodium.

Cultured Vegan Butter Highlights
* Unbelievably delicious gourmet butter flavor.
* The only vegan butter alternative that doesn't contain palm oil.
* Can be used for anything that requires butter.
* Pricey at $8 per 8 ounces.
* Not yet as readily available as Earth Balance or Ghee.
* Contains soy.

                    *                                 *                                *

Organic Valley Ghee 

Ghee is made from butter so it's not vegan. But in the process of simmering the butter, the water evaporates and the milk solids fall to the bottom, leaving a concentrated butterfat that no longer has lactose or milk proteins (casein.) So for ova-vegetarians or others who consume animal products but who are dairy intolerant, ghee is an option.

Ghee has been used in Ayurvedic practices for many years for increasing digestive strength, nourishing the nervous system, boosting immunity, enhancing memory, and much much more. Organic, grass-fed ghee is rich in conjugated linoleum acid (CLA). It's rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2. It has a very high smoke point, which makes it good for cooking and is stable at room temperature so you can leave it out. It has a rich deep yellow color and has an intense buttery flavor - almost too buttery.

Has an intense yellow color and extreme buttery taste.

One tablespoon of ghee 135 calories, 15 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 0 mg carbs, protein, fiber and sodium.

Ghee Highlights
* It's butter without the lactose and casein.
* Generally tolerated by those allergic to dairy.
* Is NOT vegan.
* Has an intense buttery flavor.
* Very high smoke point (485 degrees F) so it doesn't release free radicals during cooking.
* Does not need refrigeration.
* About $15 for a 13-ounce jar.
* Rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 as well as CLA.

                       *                                   *                                 *

How Do They All Compare?

I think that Miyoko's Vegan Butter has the superior taste. It's smells of fresh cream and is light to the palate. Earth Balance doesn't have much of a flavor at all. Ghee's taste is very concentrated and is almost too buttery. But if you are cooking popcorn and want an intense butter flavor, ghee might be the better choice. But for just spreading on toast where you want the very best flavor, Miyoko wins hands down.

Earth Balance is the best price performer. At around 25 cents an ounce, it is one fourth the price of Miyoko's Vegan Butter or Organic Valley Ghee. 

Miyoko Vegan Butter and Organic Valley Ghee have the simplest and purest ingredients and contain no preservatives, no palm oil, and no "natural flavors". 

Miscellaneous Attributes
* Miyoko and Earth Balance are vegan.
* Ghee doesn't need to be refrigerated.
* Miyoko Vegan Butter and Earth Balance has fewer calories than ghee.
* Ghee and Earth Balance are easily found in local stores. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mango Cake - The Perfect Vegan And Gluten Free Easter Dessert

This gluten and dairy free dessert is the
perfect ending to your Easter Brunch.

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My Favorite Mango
Our favorite little mangoes are in season. They come with many names like Manilla, Ataulfo, Champagne, and Honey, with slight variations and places of origin. But they are all small (around 9 to 11 ounces) and as sweet as sugar.

Doug and I have been under the weather so to cheer ourselves up, and with the excuse of having to create an Easter dessert for the blog, we created a cake on Sunday with our very favorite fruit.

These are smaller, less stringy, and much sweeter than the large, more commonly found mangoes.

Easter Sunday is a great time to have family and friends over for brunch and this dessert is a good choice. It's vegan and gluten free so besides delighting everyone's taste buds, it will accommodate most everyones dietary issues. (See "Variation" below for a whole wheat version of the recipe.)

                      *                                     *                                    *

Mango Cake
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 12 servings]

Electric Hand Mixer
9" round cake pan
Waxed paper, cut in a 9" circle

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing pan 
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds 
6 tablespoons warm filtered water 
1 (10-ounce or more) Champagne mango
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill all purpose baking flour 
1½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut plus some for sprinkling
½ cup organic cane sugar 
½ cup unsweetened applesauce 
1 teaspoon coconut extract 
1 mashed ripe banana
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F; grease a 9" round cake pan and insert a 9" circle of wax paper on the bottom of the pan.

In a small cup, make flax eggs by combining the ground flax seeds with the water. Beat well and set aside. After a few minutes, beat again until gooey. Set aside. 

Peel the mango with a potato peeler. Cut the mango off the seed and dice in small pieces. Some will be used in the cake and some will be used for the topping. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the shredded coconut. 

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, applesauce, and coconut extract; beat with an electric hand mixer until creamy. Add the mashed banana and flax eggs and beat again until well combined.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat with the electric mixer until well combined. The mixture will be quite stiff.

Fold in 1/2 cup of the diced mango and set the rest of it aside. 

Spread evenly into the prepared cake pan.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the cake pan for 30 minutes. Cut around the edges of the cake pan and flip the cake out onto a plate. Peel off the wax paper.

I like the looks of the browned top of the cake better than the bottom so flip over again onto the final serving plate. Let the cake cool completely before you proceed.

Pile the rest of the diced mango onto the center of the cake. Sprinkle a bit of shredded coconut over the mango and dust the entire cake with powdered sugar. 

Slice, making sure each piece has some diced mango over it, and serve.

Per serving: 181 calories, 7 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 310 mg omega-3 and 538 mg omega-6 fatty acids*, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber, and 190 mg sodium. 

* Nutritional information for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids excludes any contribution from Bob’s Redmill all purpose baking flour and xanthan gum since that information was not available from the manufacturer.

For a whole wheat cake, replace the gluten-free flour with King Arthur’s white whole-wheat flour, omit the xanthan gum, and increase the applesauce to 2/3 cup.

For more menu and recipe ideas, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Avocado Toast - It's Everywhere!
Why It's A Healthy Dish

Sliced or smushed, avocado is a healthy and popular topping.

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A Popular Menu Item
It's seems that whenever I try a new popular restaurant, avocado toast is on the menu. I'm not sure how or when this dish became so popular, but it seems to have really taken off. And why wouldn't it - avocados are one of America's favorite foods. Their consumption has quadrupled since 2000 and by 2015, the consumption of Hass avocados surpassed 2 billion pounds! I eat avocados every day in some form or another.

Although many people worry about avocado's fat content, they shouldn't. Their combination of "good fats"  (phytosterols, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, and oleic acid), give avocados their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the root of many diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimers, and other degenerative disorders. 

In addition to reducing inflammation, they help us absorb carotenoids, an important plant chemical that protect us against numerous cancers. They are also a great source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamin C, E, K, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, and potassium.

Avocado Toast 
You don't need a particular recipe for avocado toast. Here are some suggestions and ways to prepare that it I've seen in restaurants. 

Select bread for the toast. Pick a small baguette if you are making an appetizer or a larger crusty bread if you are making this dish for a meal. Sour dough bread is an excellent choice. You can also consider using bagels. The picture above is avocado on a sprouted wheat bagel but an "everything" bagel with garlic, onions, and seeds would be an exciting and bold choice. If you want to avoid gluten, use any gluten free bread such as corn bread, homemade bread made with gluten free flour, or any commercial gluten free bread slices. Lightly toast whatever bread you select.

Slice or Smush
Avocado's will quickly oxidize and turn brown so you shouldn't prepare the avocado until you are ready to eat it. Thinly slicing the avocado is often a prettier presentation but feel free to smush the avocado with a fork and spread the avocado on the toast. Although not as pretty, it's easier to eat avocado that is smushed and evenly spread on the bread.

Select a Topping
Here are a few toppings that are healthy and popular. Select one or more.
* Seeds are my favorite topping. The above picture shows raw sunflower and black sesame seeds. Hemp and pumpkin seeds are also a good selection. 
* Crushed nuts such as walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia, pistachios or sliced almonds are great choices.  
* Raw sprouts are a healthy and attractive topping.
* Fruits and veggies can be added such as thinly sliced apples, pears, mango, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and grilled corn.
* Season with spicy chili pepper flakes or finishing salts and other spices such as fresh dill, cilantro, parsley, and more. 
* For those who enjoy fish, top with thin slices of those high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury such as smoked salmon, anchovies, herring, and sardines.