Way back in this post, I asked you all if you’d be interested in tips on speeding up the process of cooking whole foods from scratch. Today, I’ll begin to answer that question. I realized there is so much to say on this topic that I’d need to split it up into two smaller posts. So today’s post covers the first four tips; come back next week for the rest of them!
If you cook 98% of your food from scratch as I do, it’s really just a basic survival strategy to find ways to speed up the process and make it easier. Below are some of the things that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve come to most of these ideas on my own over time, but have also found some useful information on blogs and sites I’ve read along the way. So thank you to all the lovely bloggers and writers whose words contributed to this post!
Note: A truly “from-scratch” meal would be made entirely on my own, without ANY help from food manufacturers. If most of the ingredients were fresh and/or cooked entirely by me, I consider that from-scratch. If I use a canned or packaged product that is basically a single ingredient and one I could also make at home (most common in this category would be canned diced tomatoes or natural nut butters, for instance, but I also do use packaged alternative milks), then I also consider that “from scratch.” Of course, you have to draw your own line where it feels comfortable to you.
When I was an undergrad, I submitted a short story to the university literary journal, which was edited by my beloved mentor, John Ditsky (I guess on some level, since we’d already become friends by then and he’d always encouraged my writing, I kind of “knew” he’d publish the story). It was a tale about a 20-something university student who arrives home for the holidays, only to find that her parents don’t recognize her. She meanders through the house, frantically seeking signs that she’d once lived there, only to find none. No matter which childhood stories she relates, or which personal items she describes, her parents don’t seem to recognize her. Eventually, confused and hysterical, she crumples to the ground, pounding her fist on the floor like Charlton Heston at the end ofPlanet of the Apes, wailing, “But I’m your daughter! It’s ME, your daughter!! I’m your daughter. . . you know me. . . Oh, my God. . . ” and runs from the house, clearly having lost her sanity. In the last scene of the story, the mother turns to the father and asks, “Who was that young woman?” To which the father intones, “I have no idea.”
[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
Some people love surprises. Me, I’m not a big fan of the unexpected. Well, let me rephrase that: I’m not a big fan of the unexpected when I’m the one being surprised. If someone else, on the other hand, is treated to an unforeseen birthday party, or engagement ring, or earwig, well, then, I just lurve surprises!
Case in point: some of you will recall my snowbound trail-walk with the Girls a couple of weeks ago, which I reported on Facebook. It was the afternoon following (yet another) snowstorm**, and I’d spent the requisite 27 minutes bundling myself in layers as protection from the cold: two pairs of socks; long underwear topped with thick corduroy pants; cotton undershirt under cotton turtleneck, under fleece-lined sweater. On top of that, I added a pair of thick rubber galoshes, a padded ski jacket, a pair of thin gloves underneath a pair of thick gloves, a fleece hat topped with earmuffs for good measure, and my hood. Oh, and let’s not forget my sunglasses, huge contraptions that I wear over my regular glasses (really).
Looking like some bizarre Alaskan zombie, I somehow managed to ease myself out of the car and waddle my way along the trail, which was still blanketed in pristine snow that had clearly not been trod by anyone else that day.
The Girls always love these walks, so I’m happy to provide them. Besides, it’s kind of fun to watch Chaser scampering and leaping, bunny-like, through the snow whenever she’s off-leash. On that day, however, she was doing something different: not just leaping and prancing, but diving face-first into the snow, burying her entire head in it, over and over, at 2-foot (3/4-meter) intervals. Then she’d surface, nose covered in powder, sniffing the air as if a steak were sizzling nearby. What was up with that? I couldn’t help but laugh as I recalled a documentary the HH had been watching a few nights earlier about foxes, who thrust their snouts into the snow in order to seize their prey. How funny, I thought. Tee hee hee. . .
And then, it happened. Chaser dove head-first into the snow and came up with. . . a mouse! A LIVE MOUSE.
IN. HER. MOUTH!!
What followed could have come straight out of a National Lampoon vacation movie. I started shrieking like a banshee: “Drop it! Drop it! DROP ITTTTTT!!!!” as I sprinted (well, more like shuffled, zombie-like) through the snow toward her, arms flailing like a flag in a hurricane. And, to her credit, she did drop it.
The mouse stumbled across the path (by this time a bit wobbly), aiming to scoot back into its burrow. By now Elsie had figured out something was afoot, and came charging; she too, grabbed the tiny rodent in her muzzle and held it aloft for me to admire, the mouse’s feet and tail flapping uncontrollably. And again, my horrified shrieking, “DROP IT!!!” as I leapt to grab The Girls’ collars and prevent any further nose-poking of the mouse across the snow. By now my voice was pretty hoarse and my face was pretty darned red.
But as I threw myself forward, I lost my footing and crashed down–thwack!–rather ungracefully onto the snow (luckily, the depth of the snow, combined with my natural padding “back there,” saved me from injury). Before I could regain my composure, the mouse went berserk, zig-zagging across my legs. All I can say is that I’m glad there was no one else around to see what ensued as I struggled to get up, legs jerking like loose wires in an electrical storm, still shrieking (shrieking even more!), still clinging for dear life to the Girls’ collars so they couldn’t dive in for Round Two.
Finally, with all three of us panting and our hearts racing, I steadied myself, once again upright and watched as the mouse ambled back to safety under the blanket of snow. Frankly, I am still not sure which one of us was more traumatized by the experience.
So as you can see, I don’t react too well to unexpected, er, “visitors.” Needless to say, we won’t be back to that particular trail as long as the snow remains on the ground.
Now, when I receive an unexpected surprise from food, well, that’s a whole ‘nother story. This spread (or dip) came about, for instance, as a serendiptious discovery because we had run out of fresh produce. What with all the book edits, I’ve had not time for grocery shopping. (I know, boo hoo for me. Okay, cue violins). The only green ingredients left in the fridge were a few limp stems of fresh cilantro, half a cucumber from our CSA, half a lime and that neglected chunk of the HH’s brie cheese, cowering way at the back. I decided I’d create something based on all the nonperishable ingredients in the cupboard that I’ve been hoarding saving for a day just such as that one. I rooted around to find a can of black beans and some almond butter. I could work with that!
A quick whir in the food processor and my slightly unconventional black bean dip was made. We ate it with leftover corn chips from our previous nacho night along with the remnants of the cucumber. The following day (after a trip to the grocery store), I smeared it on a raw collard leaf, added grated carrot and sprouts, and had a fabulous raw collard wrap. If you’re looking for a high-protein snack or light meal, this is a great recipe.
And–don’t let it surprise you–you may just discover that you love it.
** I’ve officially dubbed this season “The Winter that Refused To Leave.” I mean, really, Mother Nature? This isn’t funny any more.
DDD READERS: It May Be Time To Update Your Subscription!
I know that many of you, like me, read your favorite blogs via Google Reader. Well, if that’s how you keep up with DDD, be warned that Reader is closing down as of July 1, 2013! (I know–boo hoo).
I am always so grateful for your visits and your comments on the blog and I don’t want you to lose touch! To ensure that you continue to receive notices whenever I add a new blog post–or to get updates on the new cookbook or other happenings here at DDD–you can easily subscribe via email. That way, you won’t miss a thing! Just click here to receive every new DDD post right in your Inbox.
Thanks so much for reading. (And if any of you know of other good readers to use instead, please share in the comments!).
Oil-free Black Bean Spread or Dip
This is a super-quick twist on classic black bean dip, with more protein than the original. If you like a spicy dip, add about 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) minced jalapeno.
1 can (15 ounces or 400 ml) black beans, well rinsed and drained
juice of 1/2 lime
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) natural smooth almond butter
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
1/4 cup (60 ml) cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
2 Tbsp (30 ml) water, or more, to taste
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add more water until desired consistency is reached (you’ll need more for a dip vs. a spread). Makes about 1-1/2 cups/360 ml. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
Have you noticed that there are more Flash in the Pan (ie, quick or simple-to-make), recipes on the blog lately? Aside from the fact that many of you have requested faster and easier fare, I must admit that lately I turn to whatever thing it is I can conjure up in the kitchen with either (a) 30 minutes or less total time from prep to table; or (b) almost-instant prep time with a more protracted cooking time that allows me to go off and to my own thing for, oh, a few hours (finally, I get why so many of you love your slow cookers). These divine onion crisps fall into the latter category.
The other night, I was frying up some onions as the first step to some other recipe (which now eludes me). It was close to dinnertime, and The HH happened to walk through the door from work just as the onions reached their peak of bronzed, pliable, caramelized glory.
“Oh, wow, those smell good,” he remarked as The Girls stampeded toward the door to greet him. “There’s nothing quite like fried onions, is there.” It was more a statement than a question, to be sure. And I couldn’t agree more. When I catch a whiff of onions being sautéed up for a stir-fry, or a pilaf, or the beginnings of a soup, I often want to stop right there and just pile a bunch of the tangled golden mess on top of a cracker and enjoy.
Well, I decided to follow that urge with these crisps. I’ve feasted on kale chips and zucchini chips, and I’m always trying to find other kind of veg chips I can bake up at home. They’re a great way to consume more veggies without too much starch, fat or salt, but it’s the prep that always stops me, since I don’t own a mandoline and cutting slice after slice of zucchini or sweet potato or parsnip or whatever feels like too onerous a task.
Enter. . . onions! Onions come ready made with their own, built-in, slices! Just cut into quarters and peel apart. It’s almost instant! I took an onion, peeled it and tossed with olive oil, and popped it in the oven on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes.
[Raw onions on their way into the oven.]
. . . . And burned most of it. (It was at that moment I wished I hadn’t sold my dehydrator four years ago). Regular heat was just too intense for the delicate edges of the onion layers.
But I was not deterred! I knew that onions offered a good amount of flavonoids (a kind of antioxidant), especially quercetin, useful to reduce allergies–exactly what I need during the winter months (though it can’t actually get rid of my “allergy” to winter itself, sadly.). Onions are also rich in sulfur compounds that can help prevent cardiovascular disease; they can improve the quality of bone and connective tissue (as someone with osteopenia, I love that one); they are anti-inflammatory; and they help prevent cancer. And, of course, there’s the heavenly flavor of a well-caramelized onion. For 46 calories in an entire medium bulb, you really can’t go wrong.
In the end, I found a way to make these so that they are evenly browned and perfectly light and crisp. If you like onion rings or caramelized onion, you will love these crisps. I also realized that a dehydrator might not work quite as well, since the onions won’t actually brown if the temperature is too low. But if you’re okay with that, go for it.
So go ahead and try these out. They practically make themselves while you head out to focus on the rest of your life.
Like a feather-light crispy onion chip, these crisps make it very easy to eat an entire onion in one sitting (but no onion breath). I suspect they’d be great made with a touch of hot sauce or curry added to the oil as well, or from large, sweet Vidalia onions; feel free to experiment. Be sure to make this snack on a day you plan to be at home most of the day, though–you will need 5 hours.
2 large yellow onions
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
sprinkling of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 200F ( 95C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Cut off the root end and top end of each onion. Stand each onion up on one of the cut ends, and slice vertically from top to root end to create four quarters. Each quarter should naturally be divided into layers that can be peeled apart from the outside. Separate all the layers and place them in a bowl; drizzle with the olive oil and salt. Toss with clean hands until the slices all seem well coated with oil.
Place the onion slices in a single layer on the cookie sheets. If an of pieces is really curved, fold it lengthwise until it cracks (see photo of raw onions, above), to help it lie a little more flatly on the sheet.
Bake the onions for 2 hours (you can check at the 1-hour mark to see if they are getting too brown on the edges, but this is not likely). Go away and do your own thing. After two hours, remove the cookie sheets and flip over each slice of onion one at a time. Return to the oven for another 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours, until the crisps are very deeply browned and crisp. When they begin to brown but aren’t ready yet, they’ll appear golden but will still be pliable; you want to bake longer if this is the case. When you think they’re ready, turn off the oven and leave the crisps inside to cool to room temperture. Remove the trays and store the crisps in an airtight container.
“Mum, I’m sorry to say that those crisps don’t look at all appealing to me. . . I guess because they’re onion, which you know is poison for dogs. But then again, poo looks appetizing to me and Chaser, so what do we know?”
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*Or, My Dad Actually Cooked this Vegetable Soup for an Army
Well, howdy! I hope all of you in the US had an enjoyable President’s Day on Monday, while we here in Ontario enjoyed a statutory holiday with Family Day (translation: “Sit-on-your-butt-and-relax-inside-while-the-frigid-snow-and-wind-whip-around-the-house-outside-creating-snowdrifts-taller-than-the-HH-Day). Before I get to today’s stupendous soup recipe, I thought it might be fun to share a bit of the food that the HH and I have been enjoying over the past couple of weekends.
You see, I handed in the final first draft of my cookbook manuscript last weekend, which occasioned a brunch celebration! I’d been reading and hearing about a place called The Beet for ages, and since we were already in that general area of town to pick up photos from the photographer, we decided to drop in.
The food was AH-MAY-ZING! The place offers an all-organic menu, with many vegan and gluten free (and vegan/gluten free) options. I began the brunch with a juice called “Beet It”: a vibrant and zingy mix of beet, apple, carrot and ginger:
Next up was a main course of the Buenos Dias Wrap, a rice tortilla filled to bursting with quinoa, black beans, avocado, pico de gallo and Daiya cheese (which they gracious subbed instead of the dairy cheese):
And wrapped it all up with a rich, decadent raw chocolate cheesecake:
(The HH opted for the Huevos Rancheros with a hunk of local sausage and a big piece of Apple Crumble Cake for dessert. Two thumbs up from him as well.).
This past weekend was another brunch happening, this time to meet up with one of my favorite blogger buddies, the newly-settled, all-the-way-from-Australia, loving-her-new-job and Queen-of-all-things-chocolate: Hannah, or Wayfaring Chocolate! We met up at Fresh in Toronto, another favorite spot for healthy, whole foods dishes. After hugs and much chatter, we finally ordered once the server came by for the second time:
[Blog friends are among the best, y'all.]
My choice was the Powerhouse bowl (new to me), which was layered with avocado, chick peas, grilled tofu steaks [which I exchanged for tempeh], sunflower sprouts, toasted nut & seed mix, tomato, red onion & spicy tahini sauce. A stellar combination (despite the fact that the tempeh steaks resemble poo in this photo):
While Hannah chowed down on the Macro Greens bowl: steamed greens & broccoli, grilled sweet potato & tomato with bean sprouts and choice of dressing (she had salsa):
We had a grand time gabbing about (in no particular order) adapting to Canadian winters, working one’s dream job, family and computer experts, avoiding hospitals, cupcake cravings, funnel web spiders and drop bears. Thanks, Hannah, for meeting up! And I’d highly recommend either one of those restaurants if you’re ever in the Toronto area.
And now, from restaurant food to. . . .army food!
Although I didn’t realize it back then, there was much about my childhood that was a little “different” from the typical upbringing most of my friends had (and I’m not talking about those chartreuse bell bottoms I refused to give up even when they were almost up to my knees, either).
To begin with, my mom worked outside the home throughout most of my grade school years (fairly unusual during the era of The Brady Bunch). She and Auntie M both toiled in the same building on Monkland Avenue, at a company called International Film Distributors. While Mom didn’t actually have anything to do with the films per se, she spent her days as bookkeeper to the boss, Mr. Diamond, who reminded me a bit of a rottweiler with his black hair slicked firmly back off his forehead, his face slightly square with flattened nose and eternal scowl, and a temper that could erupt without any warning.
(“Mum, we don’t remember any of them ,either, but I’m sure we would have liked Dog Day Afternoon–I mean, what could be bad about an afternoon frolicking with other dogs?”)
In addition, my dad worked crazy-long hours; in contrast to my friends’ suit-and-tie clad, office-bound fathers, my dad often left the house before the rest of us were even awake, spent his day in a blood-stained apron sawing up cow parts, then returned home long after dinner was over. He repeated this pattern six days a week; on Sundays, he drove the rest of us back to his store for grocery “shopping” excursions. He did, however, take one Monday off every two weeks; and it was on those Mondays that he cooked this vegetable soup.
Even if I’d forgotten it was my father’s day off, I remembered the moment I strode through the door at lunchtime. On those days, I was greeted with the scent of carrots, celery, parsnip, peppers and a slew of other veggies gently bobbing in a massive pot on the stove, my dad leaning over inhaling the wafting steam. He chopped and tossed various vegetables, alternating with rice and seasonings, twirling between the counter and the stovetop like a weathervane perched on a farmhous roof. He always made a massive amount, enough to last the rest of the week for all five of us.
You see, when my dad was in his twenties, after he left Poland, he ended up for a time in the Russian army. (He still speaks fondly of the wonderful socialized medicine over there. Gee, Canada, you might take a lesson–?!). In any case, between riding horses from town to town, chopping wood in the forest, guarding an outpost in Siberia and getting into knife fights with the enemy (there’s a thin scar still visible on his waistline), my dad worked as the barracks cook for a time, so he became accustomed to cooking in bulk.
There was something magical about dad’s steaming vat of soup, too, a flavor my mother could never reproduce no matter how many times she attempted the “recipe.” His method harkened back to those days when, as a soldier, he had to make due with whatever meager ingredients were on hand. Like so many of those traditional recipes, my father’s soup contained whatever forgotten, neglected or nearly wilted vegetables were on hand, with just ingenuity and thrift guiding his movements; yet every time, it ended up exactly the same, the soup simmering all afternoon until everything in the pot softened, colors fading like paint on the side of a barn.
How did he manage it? Even when he used barley instead of rice, or green pepper instead of red, or split peas instead of baby lima beans, the end result was the same: a hearty, golden broth, steaming with pale, colorful chunks that we slurped up with gusto. In fact, the only consistent part of the recipe was that it contained no meat whatsoever, since in that case, my mom would refuse to eat it.
Well, this is my rendition of that soup. It’s not exactly like my dad’s, but like any family recipe, I’ve tweaked it to make it my own. I hope you feel free to do the same; the recipe is very fluid (fluid. . . . soup–get it? I swear, I crack myself up). If you’re not a fan of rice, use your grain of choice; feel free to substitute similar chopped veggies for the ones I use here. The end result will invariably be a good one, and you’ll have a filling, simple meal that will both nourish and delight.
Although there is quite a bit of prep here, this recipe will yield a lot of soup. You can leave the pot simmering while you go about your business, then enjoy a steaming bowl of pure, delicious nourishment–that night, and several more as well. Feel free to mix up the vegetables here to your preferences.
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 broccoli stalk, cut into florets (and dice the stalk)
1 cup (240 ml) cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 red or green sweet bell pepper, diced (or use half of each)
1 cup (240 ml) trimmed fresh green beans, cut in 1 inch (2 cm) lengths
1/2-1 cup (120-240 ml) fresh dill, chopped
1/2-1 cup (120-240 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) fine sea salt, to your taste
In a LARGE pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent, 7-10 minutes. Add the broth, water, carrot, parsnip, celery, lima beans, rutabaga, cabbage, oat groats and rice and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 40-45 minutes. As the soup cooks, a foam may form on the surface; skim this off and discard.
After about 45 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and increase heat just until boiling once again; then lower heat to simmer and allow to cook for another 1-2 hours, checking occasionally (if you feel like it), topping up the water level if you feel it’s getting too low. Add salt and taste. Adjust if necessary. Serve. Makes enough for an army (okay, not really. It actually makes 12-15 servings). May be frozen.
Note: I find that chopping all the veggies in advance really speeds the process and makes it seem less onerous; you can then just throw them in the pot and walk away.
[A bowl of pudding, a cup of herbal tea, and forget about what ails ya.]
I don’t suppose that butterscotch pudding is the first food that comes to mind when one thinks of foods that can be eaten “for what ails ya.”
Then again, it might be. . . if, when you think of butterscotch pudding, you think of Jell-O instant puddings. And when you think of Jell-O pudding, that might lead you to think of Bill Cosby, their former spokesperson, talking about puddings and kids and fun in one of his many unforgettable commercials. And then, if you happen to continue to think of Bill Cosby, that would lead you to think of all the TV shows in which Mr. Cosby has featured, such as I Spy, Fat Albert, Kids Say the Darndest Things, and the exemplar of all family sitcoms, the eponymous The Cosby Show. And when you think of The Cosby Show, you might then think of the protagonist of the show, Cliff Huxtable. Who, when you think about it, was a doctor (albeit an obstetrician) on the show. And then, once you’re thinking about doctors, you might be thinking that a doctor is a person you’d need to see, say, if you felt ill. And if you’re thinking about feeling ill, well, you might think about what you’d eat. Bringing it all together, you’d go on to think about “what you’d eat + Dr. Huxtable + Bill Cosby + pudding” sort of all mushed together in one thought. So, in the end, “food to eat for what ails ya” could, indeed, bring you to “pudding.”
[Yes, it tastes as rich and creamy as it looks. And just as butterscotchy, too.]
In my own case, this pudding is a creation I came up with as a result of a specific health condition; I’m eating it as part of my treatment. (No, really.). And whether or not you’ve got something that ails you, well, this pudding will make you feel much better. It’s creamy, it’s light, it’s velvety, and it tastes like afternoon tea and reading in front of the fireplace and knitting in a rocking chair and maybe a silky camisole thrown in as well. . . .but it’s filled with heart-healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients, too. All at 90 calories per serving.
As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, my mom died fairly young (aged 62) from complications of diabetes and heart disease. In fact, she suffered her first heart attack at age 55. Because I’m a hypochondriac health conscious, every year at my annual physical, I ask my doctor to conduct all the necessary tests to ensure that my heart is in tip-top condition. I’ve had my cholesterol, triglycerides and homocysteine levels measured regularly (all are great, thankfully). I take a treadmill stress test every other year. I sometimes undergo an EKG at my physical. And in recent years, I’ve repeatedly requested a C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test in my blood work, since it’s a good marker of inflammation in the body. Normally, my doc’s response has been, “Not necessary. Everyone has some kind of inflammation, so it doesn’t really tell us very much.”
When I started seeing my new naturopath last year, though, she wrote to my allopathic doctor and asked her to include the CRP test based on my family history. Finally, she complied. . . . and guess what? Tests revealed that my levels are elevated–gasp! I must admit this result annoyed me more than anything else. . . I mean, I eat a plant-based diet! I exercise regularly! I drink green tea ever day! My dad is 91 and in perfect health!! Why did I have to inherit my mom’s genes in that area? Et cetera, et cetera.
At the same time, I do suffer from several conditions that cause chronic inflammation. . . . definitely part of the problem. Not to mention that stress is a crucial factor that can also increase CRP levels.
[Quick--grab a big spoonful of this and lower those stress levels!]
Of course, my naturopath’s first words about this situation were, “Now, don’t get all stressed about it [she's obviously gotten to know me a bit by now]–there is a lot we can do to combat the genetic component here.” Aside from the need for stress reduction (must. get. back. to. meditation. daily.) and increasing my exercise (my regimen has definitely suffered since I pulled a tendon in my foot and haven’t been up to walking as much), she suggested taking turmeric (for general artery health and anti-inflammatory effects) as well as using lecithin (ditto). Well, I can do that. (In fact, you may have noticed that I added lecithin to my Veggie-Full Sweet Smoothie a while back).
While lecithin is a major component of most cell membranes and a key factor in heart health, it’s important to note that not all lecithin is created equal. In fact, there seems to be a bit of controversy about it on the web, with proponents on both sides of the issue. Whether pro or con, everyone seems to agree that if you do use it, you must avoid GMO soy at all costs, and that the granular form is superior. I use NOW granules.
What lecithin does in prepared or packaged food is create a rich, creamy, emulsified texture (though that type of lecithin is usually genetically modified). I tried this pudding without, and while it’s still very tasty, the lecithin is what elevated the mixure from “puree” to “pudding.” I’d highly recommend giving it a try if you can. The pudding is also super-quick to make (in fact, I daresay it takes even less time to prepare than Mr. Cosby’s instant variety).
While I may need to be more careful about what I eat from now on, it doesn’t seem so bad when I can enjoy desserts like this one, with fiber, healthy fats and even a hit of protein in every serving.
Gee, I think I’m feeling better already.
How about you? Have any of you tried lecithin? Are you in the “yea” camp, or the “nay”?
You won’t believe how rich, creamy, and pudding-like this tastes; I suspect partly because of the lecithin granules. The roasted kabocha and walnut butter combination creates a surprisingly butterscotchy flavor, too.
1 cup (240 ml) kabocha squash puree, from a baked kabocha squash*
3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened coconut milk beverage, or plain or vanilla almond milk (you may need less milk if using almond)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white chia seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lecithin granules
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Walco-Nut Butter (or use almond, cashew, macadamia or sunflower seed butter)**
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
15-25 drops plain or vanilla pure stevia liquid, or 1/8 tsp (.5 ml) pure stevia powder
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix (a food processor is not suitable, as the lecithin granules won’t dissolve). May be eaten immediately, but best if refrigerated at least 4 hours until very cold. Top with coconut whipped cream before serving, if desired. Makes 4 servings. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for 3 days.
*Note 1: I baked my squash at 400F (200C) for about an hour, then scooped out the seeds and scraped the flesh out from the skin (some people eat the kabocha skin; I’m not a fan. Though The Girls love it.) You could try this recipe with other orange squashes such as Butternut, or even sweet potatoes, but I can’t guarantee the flavor will be comparable.
**Note 2: If you use another nut butter or a seed butter, add 1 tsp (5 ml) lucuma powder or 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) butterscotch extract to achieve the same flavor.
[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]
It was almost 3 years ago that I first came across The Blissful Chef, aka Christy Morgan. I remember hearing quite a bit of buzz about this classically trained, macrobiotic-leaning vegan chef (who had received glowing reviews from her client, Alicia Silverstone!). Shortly thereafter, Christy and I somehow became friends on Facebook, and a dialogue began. I admired what she was doing and agreed to review one of her ebooks,Cooking with the Seasons: Summer. I recall being pleasantly surprised at how much the recipes focused on real, whole foods, unprocessed and without a lot of added oils or salt. I loved the dishes I tried and was happy to move on to a glowing review of Christy’s first cookbook, Blissful Bites,half a year later. That book remains one of my favorites to this day.
Today, I’m happy to share with you Christy’s latest venture: Wellness Reboot, a healthful, all-in-one online culinary and exercise program that will help you reboot your wellness goals. But Christy says it much better than I can, so take a gander at her answers to my questions, below! And don’t forget to check out the giveaway after the interview!
Q. Can you explain what Wellness Reboot is all about?
Wellness Reboot is a 28-day online wellness program. It’s an accumulation of all that I’ve learned both in culinary arts and in over 10 years in the health and wellness field. The program includes more than 15 videos on cooking techniques (stocking you kitchen and pantry, etc), a 28-day meal plan of delicious whole food plant-based recipes (no oil, no processed foods, no refined sugar, mostly gluten-free), a Getting Started Guide that explains everything one would need to know about eating healthfully and living a plant-based lifestyle, continual support from me through a private Facebook group, and bi-weekly conference calls. Not only does it have all of this, but I’ve partnered with an amazing vegan personal trainer, Chad Byers of Beyond Fit, to include a fitness element to the program, so you’ll get a workout that’s easy to do at home, along with workout videos. It’s unlike any other online program!
Q. Sounds very comprehensive, Christy! Who can benefit from taking this program?
This program is great for those who are ready to transition to a healthier way of eating and living. Whether you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, or maybe you have a health condition you would like to treat naturally, or maybe you recently switched to a plant-based diet but need guidance, this program is for you. I have a lot of people email me who have watched Forks Over Knives or another documentary and they are ready to change their diet to plant-based. This program will hold your hand and show you the healthy way to transition. Wellness Reboot is endorsed by Forks Over Knives, Dr. Neal Barnard (of PCRM.org) and many more people in the health and wellness community.
It’s also for those who have already made the switch to a vegan diet but need help in the kitchen. Wellness Reboot is being dubbed as a “cooking boot camp” from participants. If you aren’t good in the kitchen you will be after this program. So be prepared to cook your butt off (literally and figuratively). Even after one week, our Rebooters are losing weight, no longer having sugar cravings, and controlling health issues like IBS. The power of plant-based food combined with a fitness program are unbelievable!
Q.What prompted you to include the fitness element? And who inspires you to be more fit?
I’m a strong believer that we need to eat healthfully AND move our bodies on a regular basis for optimal health. Studies show that those who exercise have better physical and mental health, have stronger bones, a better sex life, less instances of disease or common illness, and live longer. But you can’t out exercise a bad diet. You need both. My boyfriend is a good example. He is a bodybuilder and ultramarathon runner. He looks about 10 years younger than he is and continues to excel post-40. He and my trainer (and fitness coach for Wellness Reboot), Chad Byers, inspire me to become more every day. I’ve signed up for a triathlon in September and I’m ready to take my training to the next level! [Congrats!]
[Carrot Hummus--oil-free and flavor-packed!]
Q. Can you tell us which are your three favorite recipes from the program?
[Indian Chickpea Wraps from the program]
Honestly I’m kind of in love with all the recipes. I feel like it’s some of my best work because they are all very easy recipes packed full of flavor using whole food ingredients. If I had to choose just a few it would be: 1. Breakfast: Maple Pumpkin Seed Cereal Parfait, 2. Lunch: Indian Chickpea Wraps, 3. Snack: Edamame Guacamole Dip, 4. Dinner: Polenta Pesto Pizza and 5. Dessert: Chocolate Coconut Pecan Bites.
Q. You mentioned that the recipes are oil-free. For those who don’t follow an oil-free diet, can they include healthy oils and still benefit from the program?
The program is kind of like a cleanse so it’s nice to eliminate oil so you start to enjoy the taste of whole foods. We have become addicted to fat, and while some fat is better than others, we leave out oil for this program. There is plenty of whole food fat like coconut, avocado, and some nut butters. It’s not about deprivation but retraining our palates and creating new healthy habits in the kitchen.
Q. If someone has time for just one form of exercise, what would you recommend as the best thing that can be done daily?
I think High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the way to go. I’ve been doing it for years and that is what the fitness program is based on. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a series of moves that use body weight (or other equipment) in fast, short bursts where you push yourself as hard as you can and take a small rest in-between each move. All the exercises in our program are shown in video and pdf form and we also have a LIVE workout class with our fitness coach, Chad Byers of Beyond Fit.
Thanks so much, Christy! I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this latest venture of yours.
And now. . . GIVEAWAY TIME!
This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! We have a winner:
Congratulations, Jessica! Christy or I will contact you via email for more information.
Christy has also generously offered to give away a FREE spot in the next Wellness Reboot($350 value!) to one lucky winner! In addition, she’s offering FIVE spots in the program at a huge discount ($100 off) for the first 5 DDD readers to claim their places. All you need to do is contact Christy here if you’re interested in one of the five discounted spots–but remember, it’s first come, first served for the $100 discount!
(Note: This is NOT an affiliate product; I am receiving no monetary or other compensation for this review. I was, however, given access to the program materials and recipes so that I could review it for you all, and I thought it was a great program.).
Wellness Reboot is a comprehensive program that not only provides healthful recipes, but teaches you how to make them; and the video workout component is something I’ve not seen anywhere else.
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me which aspect of the program you’re most interested in: cooking classes, recipes, or workout videos, or something else! You can also gain extra entries by doing any of the following (then come back and leave an additional comment telling me that you did):
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!
This giveaway is open worldwide. You can enter until midnight EST on Wednesday, January 30th, after which I’ll choose a winner at random. Good luck, all!
Christy also shared this recipe for Carrot Hummus from the program, as well as one participant’s comment about it: “I took the Carrot Hummus to work and shared with a coworker. She *loved* it and the wrap I made with it today was awesome! It was the perfect portable lunch for work. I can’t believe how much my meat-eating husband is loving all the recipes too.” I have to say, the HH also enjoyed this hummus, and I gobbled up my serving. No need for oil in this one–totally delicious!
No-Fat Carrot Hummus
Reprinted with Permission from Christy Morgan.
Who says you have to use chickpeas to make a hummus dip?! You are going to flip for this white bean version that has added carrots for extra vitamins.
2 cups (480 ml) carrots, large dice
2 cups (480 ml or one 15 ounce can) cooked white beans
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast [I'm still avoiding nooch so used 1 Tbsp/15 ml light miso and it worked beautifully]
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari soy sauce [I used Braggs]
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) garlic powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) corianderBoil carrots until tender. Drain and place in blender or food processor with remaining ingredients. Blend until well combined and no chunks remain. Add more seasoning to taste. Makes 3-5 servings.
Before we get to today’s broccoli-filled smoothie, can we have a little audience survey? You don’t have to press any of the buttons on your phone, and this call is not being recorded for training purposes. Okay, here we go:
If you recognized the allusion to “I Sing the Body Electric” in today’s blog post title, where is the first place you heard of it?
A) Original Fame movie (1980 ). (The action in the video really starts around 2:15. And say, what the heck ever happened to Irene Cara, anyway?)
C) Walt Whitman’s epic poem, Leaves of Grass (1855).(Okay, so to get this one, you have to be, oh, at least 160 years old. In which case, I’d love to know how that happened to you!)
As it turns out, this smoothie has virtually nothing to do with Fame, Lana, or Mr. Whitman (though I suppose it could be argued that ol’ Walt was fond of broccoli). The main connection between the line and the libation is the reference to “electric,” since that’s the shade of green you’ll see if you blend this up for yourself. I had no idea when I started up the VitaMix that morning that I’d end up with a psychedelic breakfast bowl. (Groovy, man!).
I actually had a little fun on the DDD Facebook page yesterday, challenging people to guess what was in this neon concoction. My favorite guess was from Chloe, who said “caramel noodle soup”! Actually, most guesses were for soup (most of which contained cauliflower, avocado and/or turmeric). I think you were thrown by my use of a bowl for my smoothie–something I do often, as I prefer my smoothies uber-thick.
Actually, if my memory serves me correctly (and at my age, that doesn’t happen too often), I first learned about broccoli in a smoothie from my friend Shirley, who told me she adds it all the time. Of course, I’m used to spinach, lettuce, kale–even collard or chard–in a smoothie, but had never thought to add broccoli. Given that it’s supposedly North America’s favorite vegetable, I figured, “why not?”. I had some leftover cooked kabocha squash in the fridge and decided to throw that in, too. I used hemp seeds for protein here, but you could always use a scoop of your favorite protein powder, too, if you liked.
I expected the smoothie to be green, but not this particular shade of radiated-neon-chartreuse! Something about the synergy of the kabocha and broccoli together worked to create this extraterrestrial hue. This is a smoothie that lights its own way in the dark (handy this time of year, both because it *is* dark when you get up in the morning, and also because you get to save on those electricity bills!). The pear and hemp seeds both contribute smoothness and creaminess. I found the texture of this to be really thick and silky, almost pudding-like; hence, the use of a bowl instead of a glass. (Of course, if you prefer a sippable smoothie, just add a little more milk, or some water).
Thanks to everyone who played along to guess the ingredients. I hope you’ll give it a try, despite the unusual pairing of veg and fruit here. And hey, if you don’t like it. . . . well, you can always use it to paint a 1960s-themed mural, alongside some hot pink flowers and peace signs.
Veggie-Full Sweet Smoothie
You don’t taste the broccoli in here, I promise. This tastes a little like pear, a little like sweet squash, and a lot like a yummy, fruity, smoothie.
1-2 cups (240-480 ml) large broccoli florets (start with 1 cup/240 ml and see how you like it)
1/2 cup (120 ml) baked kabocha squash, mashed or pureed
1 medium ripe pear, cored (I don’t peel mine)
1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
1 Tbsp (15 ml) soy lecithin, optional (you can use ground chia or flax instead for a creamy effect)
You asked for it, you got it! A couple of days ago, I couldn’t decide which recipe to post here on the blog, so I polled readers on my Facebook page, and the votes were about two to one in favor of these savory veggie-lentil loaves! I must admit I was a bit surprised given my own love of sweets. For those new to an anti-candida diet or anyone who follows a dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free diet, this recipe will meet your dietary needs perfectly–and it’s here just under the wire for the holidays! In fact, it may just make an appearance on our own holiday table this year, we enjoyed it so much. And not to worry–the sweet option will show up next time. Thanks to everyone who voted!
As a rule, I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the concept of “mini” (unless you count mini skirts, which I adored in my 20s and 30s and wore fairly frequently). One of my friends in childhood collected those Wade figurines that used to come for free in boxes of Red Rose tea–tiny birds, rabbits, puppies, frogs, even flowers and plants, all painstakingly painted and glazed. They were cute, I supposed, but I would have been worried I’d lose them too easily; and really, I wondered what the heck one would do with them except perhaps count them and then place them back on the shelf (and these days, I’d wonder how the heck one would dust them all). When I was first introduced to a platter of petits fours at a party years ago, my initial impulse was to eat four or five of them to equal the same mass as one “full” piece of cake. (Miniature chocolates never interested me, either–obviously).
The HH does keep telling me that he thinks my car is far too “mini,” but I love it even if there isn’t quite enough room to house both my groceries andThe Girls in the back seat at the same time. (“We love it, too, Mum. And I don’t mind having to drive with my head resting on Elsie’s bum because of how crowded it is. . . it’s worth it if it means we get a drive to the trail!”).
Besides, my little vroom-vroom is a Bugatti Type 41 compared to the car I once rode in on a blind date. My friend Sterlin had fixed me up with her classmate’s brother. Mr. Bro drove up in a red Alfa Romea Spider, shook my hand, then rounded back to his side of the car without so much as a glance in my direction (despite the fact that I was wearing one of those aforementioned mini skirts). Had I not rushed to grab the handle and slide into the tiny seat, I daresay he would likely have driven off without me. We proceeded to have the shortest date on record (less than 45 minutes, including dinner, as I recall), and that was the last I ever heard from him. Despite the enormity of his ego, his car remains the smallest one I’ve ever seen.
But back to the loaves. An exception to my miniature-aversion, they won my heart (and stomach). While I will always adore my full-sizednut roasts, I wanted something a little more elegant for this recipe, something you could feel proud to serve to friends–or at a holiday dinner. They provide a rather impressive presentation with their verdant cloak of rich avocado-tahini sauce, inspired by a sauce made with an avocado-tahini combo in Nava Atlas’s latest cookbook. And since the serving size is already pre-determined, there are no awkward moments after starting to cut slices too thick and ending up with only a few paltry dregs left by the time you get to Aunt Agnes if she’s the last one served.
The loaves themselves are not another attempt at mock-meat, but rather a full-on, veggie-centric offering, moist and colorful with carrot, zucchini and fennel (if you’re not a fennel fan, you can use another veggie such as celery or even broccoli in its place; but do give the fennel a try. 2012 was my Year of Learning to Love Fennel, and I highly recommend it in this dish). The mild flavor of the loaves is perfectly complemented by the creamy, savory sauce.
And it may be a cliché to say, but the loaves are big on flavor despite their diminutive size. And clearly, they won the maximum number of votes among all of you, too.
Individual Veggie-Lentil Loaves with Warm Avocado-Tahini Sauce
Delicious, nourishing and comforting, these mini loaves are chock full of vegetables and high in protein. And they make a lovely presentation if you’re serving to guests at a holiday dinner. For a weeknight meal, you can bake in a regular loaf pan. This recipe can be easily doubled.
For the loaves:
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry brown or green lentils, rinsed and picked over to remove any small stones
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) vegetable broth or stock, plus up to 1/2 cup (120 ml) more, if necessary
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 small or 1/2 large zucchini (4.5 oz or 125 g), coarsely chopped (you can leave the skin on)
Prepare the loaves: Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Spray 6 miniature loaf pans with nonstick spray, or grease with coconut oil. Set aside.
Place the lentils and broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer; cover the pot and allow the lentils to cook for 25 minutes, checking for doneness after 15 minutes or so. Once the lentils are soft and the liquid has been absorbed, turn off heat (if the liquid is absorbed before the lentils are cooked, add another 1/2 cup/120 ml broth and keep cooking).
In a large nonstick frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini, fennel, onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrot and quinoa flakes and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Add the lentils to the processor and blend until well mixed but there is still a bit of texture from the vegetables (I made mine almost smooth, but a few flecks of carrot and zucchini were still visible). Transfer to the pans and smooth the tops of each.
Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until the tops are well browned. Allow cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto serving plates. Top with a spoonful of Avocado-Tahini Sauce and serve. Makes 5-6 mini loaves.
During the final 15 minutes while the loaves bake, make the Avocado-Tahini Sauce (you can make it before hand, but note that the color will darken as the sauce sits): In a small food processor, blender or Magic Bullet, blend together all ingredients. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until just warmed through. Spoon over lentil loaves and serve. This sauce is also terrific over pasta. Makes about one cup (240 ml).