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.”
“Wanna come back to my place and split a tofu pizza?”
Okay, so I was being a bit crafty here, since none of those is the question I’m thinking about. (But the answers to those ones are, respectively: I really do. Only in my mind. But I would dearly love to serve up some treats from my new cookbook on her show. VEE-gun, though some of us oldies still use the antiquated VAY-gun. Well. . . . okay. [That last one was an actual question posed to me many years ago on a date with Rocker Guy. The pizza was great, but too bad the relationship sucked.].
The single question, then, that is most dreaded by VEE-guns far and wide is this:
I’ve got a new Facebook page–and I hope you’ll visit me there! I’m perpetually grateful to all of you who’ve “liked” my Diet, Dessert and Dogs page, but it’s time to move on. With a new cookbook on the horizon and lots of other cool sugar-free, anti-candida and allergy-friendly offerings in the works, I wanted a Facebook page that reflected all of that (along with DDD too, of course!). To keep it simple, this one is just called “Ricki Heller,” and I’ll be posting all the same things I now do on the DDD page (which will be shut down on August 31, 2013). So please hop over to the new page and “like” it so you won’t miss out when things switch over this summer!
Hard to believe, but today is the HH‘s and my 16th anniversary! (Wait, how is that possible? I still feel as if I AM sixteen–well, internally, anyway. Externally, it’s more like, “where did those 16 new wrinkles come from?” or “how did I suddenly acquire 16 new aches and pains in my knees?” or “sixteen new gray hairs?! Wahhhh!!!”. Okay, I guess that every kind of “sixteen” tends to creep up on you). Click here to read more about our relationship (and pizza). . .
[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!]
Today I’m thrilled to share with you an interview with vegan cookbook author Nava Atlas, who runs the site VegKitchen.com, where you’ll find “Easy Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes, Tips, and Products for a Healthy, Plant-Based Lifestyle.” The popular site is a fantastic resource for all things vegan and vegetarian, from recipes to nutrition to raising veg kids and more.
Here’s your chance to learn a little more about Nava, as I had the opportunity to chat via email with her and ask a few questions about her new book and career recently. And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy!
The inspiration was my own hubby, who grew enough chard during the summer of 2010 to feed a small nation. Every time he came in with another big bunch, I freaked out. What to do with so much chard? I started searching for some ideas, and discovered that there hadn’t been a comprehensive book on greens since 1996. Added to my own culinary dilemma, I was aware of the growing craze for kale, and the idea for a book was born. Of course, now there are several books on kale alone.
Researching the book to make it comprehensive was a bit daunting, but testing the recipes was fun, and helped me to get to know several types of greens that I hadn’t had much experience with, including mustard greens and escarole. The variety of greens I grew to like more than I expected was collard greens; but I couldn’t warm up to dandelion greens at all. Greens are the best of addictions; I still use one or another or even several, pretty much every day.
You’re well known in the vegan community as a talented and prolific cookbook author. But many of your fans also know about your other talents as visual artist and writer. How would you say that these other interests have an impact on your work as a recipe creator or cookbook author?
For a long time I kept the two paths pretty separate, but I find that my skills as a food writer, designer, and visual artist are merging, and they intersect in a number of ways. I used my experience in writing recipes to create Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife , a faux-1950s cookbook in which the “recipes” and altered ads comment on contemporary relationships and issues still faced by women. I’ve also started a series of artworks under the umbrella title of “Meat Science,” all of which comment on the ethical dilemmas and environmental disasters caused by animal agriculture — which ties in neatly with my vegan ethics. In my artwork, I like to use humor and irony to explore difficult subject matter.
I’m also a completely bookish person and literature geek. Hence my book, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. No real crossover there; it’s an area of interest (reading and writing) that’s fairly discrete. If your readers are interested in my creative pursuits outside the kitchen, my art site is here and Literary Ladiesis here .
[Collard-Wrapped Yellow Rice & Black Bean Enchiladas from Wild About Greens. Recipe coming up tomorrow!]
Which three recipes from the book would you recommend for people just getting started with dark leafy greens?
At the demos I’ve done to promote Wild About Greens, people just go crazy over the raw massaged kale salads. A couple of really simple ones are Kale Salad with Dried Fruits and Nuts and Kale Salad with Asian Flavors. Stir-Fried Collard Greens are a revelation, especially after the longstanding myth that they need to be boiled to death in order to be eaten. And like kale salad, they can be varied in any number of ways. I like to stir-fry them with napa cabbage or romaine lettuce for a great side dish.
For anyone just starting with greens, it’s always a good idea to start with the familiar; baby spinach is so widely available, versatile, and easy to use, raw or very lightly cooked. One simple recipe I like is Polenta or Grits with Spinach and Caramelized Onions.
What’s your most recent new food discovery?
It’s not exactly new, but within the last year or so, hemp seeds have become a staple in my kitchen. They’re a great source of omegas, good-quality protein, etc. and you can use them in or on pretty much anything.
What’s your next culinary project?
Harper One in San Francisco approached me with an idea for which they thought I’d be the right author: It’s titled Plant Power: How to Practically and Joyfully Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life. It will be both a guidebook and a cookbook for people who want to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, starting with their own kitchen. The recipes will be vegan, of course, but we’re aiming for those who want to rethink their eating habits in a more plant-strong direction, even if they don’t go fully vegan. There will be a lot of tips and ideas for menu planning, shopping, kitchen organization, etc., in addition to the recipes. And it will be very visual and colorful, with photos by Hannah Kaminisky. This combination how-to guide and cookbook is due out mid-2014.
Thanks so much, Nava! It sounds like you’ve got more exciting projects on the way. I have no doubt that Plant Power will be another incredible book–one that I look forward to reading.
Stay tuned for a great recipe for Collard-Wrapped Yellow Rice and Black Bean Enchiladass (pictured above) from Wild About Greens on the blogtomorrow. I’ll also be giving away a copy, so be sure to COME BACK AND ENTER THE GIVEAWAY to win it!
Never miss a recipe–or a comment from The Girls! Click here to subscribe to Diet, Dessert and Dogs via email. (“We love subscribers, Mum. . . almost as much as we love treats!”)
[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.
[No, you're not in a time warp or losing your mind. . . this is, indeed, a repeat of an earlier post from January of this year, that was lost when my blog was hacked. Luckily for me, two intrepid readers, Jayme and Cristina, printed it out and were able to send it to me (thank you so much to both of you!). So here it is, re-transcribed in full, for your reading pleasure. Sadly, they weren't able to save all your wonderful comments from the original. So please do comment again--or if you missed it the first time!]
While I’m not big on “year in review” posts on the blog and I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions (though I do set goals every year), I thought it was time for another anti-candida diet update for those of you who’ve been following along this journey with me since March, 2009–and for those of you who are newer to the blog, here’s why I eat the way I do. (Oh, and if you’re here just for the recipe, feel free to skip on down to the bottom of the post and enjoy some anti-candida friendly Nachos Supreme).
FIRST, AN ANTI-CANDIDA UPDATE:
I haven’t shared much about the ACD lately. For many of us, just embarking on the diet is a Herculean task, the first three or so months so challenging that you want to vent and share and question and gain some sort of catharsis just by putting all your frustrations, fears and fury out there. For me, the beginning of the diet was like hearing from an old nemesis who’d moved away for a while and then suddenly thunders back into town, harassing you with phone calls every day and asking for all kinds of favors. You dread hearing from that “friend” again. No wonder I’ve avoided the topic.
Still, now that I’m heading into four years on the diet, I feel as if I’ve established a certain level of stability and imagine that this is the way I will live for the rest of my life. This kind of balance is, in most ways, reassuring and allows me to go about my daily business without having to pay attention to every morsel that passes my lips, and without having to worry too much that I’ll have a reaction to something I eat (though that still does happen, too–see below).
I’ve developed a strategy to deal with outbreaks and, for the most part, can anticipate them. But there are still ongoing challenges for me, in any case, that continue to this day. For those of you who’ve just started and feel as if there’s no end in sight, for those of you who may also be maintaining, or for those of you who are just curious, here’s an update, and what I’ve learned after almost 13 total years of experience with this diet.
[Faux Chocolate for when you can't have the real thing. . . or even when you can.]
1. Hold Steady on NO sugar, fungus, vinegar (except ACV), active yeast.
Over time, it gets easier to allow some formerly taboo ingredients back into your diet. I will never (NEVER) eat refined sugar again; however, my repertoire of natural sweeteners has grown from stevia and yacon syrup in Stage 1 to stevia, yacon, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, lucuma, and the (very occasional) agave. I still don’t consume maple syrup (sob) or any kind of cane sugar (take note, those of you on “sugar-free” diets: evaporated cane juice is just a fancy name for “sugar.”)
Also still prohibited from my culinary repertoire are mushrooms of all kinds (though I did take a tincture for sinus issues that contained some mushroom extracts, with no ill effects); any alcohol (double sob, especially at this time of year–Oh, Segura, how I missed thee on New Year’s Eve! Dear Glenlivet, how I wish you could warm my heart this winter; and take note, G&Ts, summers will never be the same without you), or regular vinegar (I do use apple cider vinegar, often referred to as ACV, since it’s known to have anti-fungal properties, among other myriad health benefits.)
I did re-introduce some previously banned foods once I entered Stage 3 and maintenance, a couple of years ago. These include whole-grain gluten-free flours (though I’ve come to realize that too much flour or too many flour-based foods don’t work for me), plus some lower glycemic fruits that I missed terribly and eat only on occasion (to wit, pomegranate, or goji berries in place of raisins and prunes in place of dates, plus a few others).
2. Address Slip-Ups as Quickly as Possible.
Just because I don’t eat sugar doesn’t mean I’ve beaten my sugar addiction. When I make desserts and consume them too often (which for me means once a day), I find that I crave them, begin to eat more, and eventually succumb to a “binge” (my definition of a binge these days is 3 or 4 cookies, say, nothing like the entire tubs of Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting I used to eat, straight from the can, with a butter knife).
I still subscribe to Stacy Halprin’s philosophy, mentioned earlier on this blog: if you do slip up, do not berate yourself. Simply move to the next meal, or next snack, and start over as if it never happened. Repeat until the behavior sticks. Apparently it takes 6-8 tries for a smokers to permanently quit smoking; when I learned to drive (at the ripe old age of 33!), it took me more than a year–driving every day–before that habit became natural to me and I no longer had to think actively about it. I don’t see why overriding poor eating habits and conquering sweets cravings should be any different. In other words, I’m willing to keep trying 50 times, or 500 times, to prevail with healthy eating that sticks permanently. Nine-five percent of the time, I’m successful.
Right now, my weight is “up” again. I tend to fluctuate up to 20 pounds in one direction or another (kids, do not try this at home). If I am consistent in my healthy eating and exercise, it eventually balances out again (though my naturopath is now suspecting adrenal fatigue–for which I’m currently being treated–and hidden, uncovered allergies in this case, for which I’ll follow an elimination diet eventually).
For me personally, certain carbs (mostly grains) seem to be the culprit. However, my diet also relies on fat-laden foods like nuts and seeds for much of my protein (and sweet cravings), so I am sure that my weight is connected to how much of those I consume as well; not to mention that I’m not heading into the stage of “mature woman” (though not getting those senior discounts just yet–darn!), which can cause weight gain. And, as many of you have helpfully pointed out in the comments, addressing long-standing emotional issues is essential to permanently banish excess weight. Despite many years of therapy (and continued visits), those emotional issues still hang on. But I’m working on it! If I go up a few pounds (or ten), I try not to freak out too much, which only causes stress (and then stress eating. . . a vicious cycle).
4. Pick Your Battles, in Food as in Life.
Even though I know that some foods might trigger cravings, I am not willing to forfeit all aspects of a “normal” life at this point being on the diet. My hubby and I still eat in restaurants on occasion (and that “occasion” has decreased dramatically from 3-4 times a week in our first year together, down to maybe once a month at present).
Similarly, when we’re on vacation, I do my best to ensure that the meals are ACD-compliant, but if I have some vinegar in a salad dressing, or even (gasp!) dates in a raw dessert, I do not worry about it. I find those aren’t he events that trigger overeating in any case; when I’m on holiday, I don’t have access to my own kitchen, so I won’t go bake up a brownie and scarf down three pieces of it one afternoon. For me, the triggers are much more here at home.
[Still a favorite snack and an absolute must for me when I want a "safe" sweet.]
5. When Necessary, Return to Square One.
Unlike weight-loss diets, the ACD is kind of a diet for life, and you don’t get to reincorporate most of the foods you gave up once you’ve attained your “goal.” It does afford the opportunity, on maintenance, to enjoy so many of the delicious, even decadent, desserts that I love so much; but with the ACD, I find that (for me, at least), it’s a good idea to return occasionally to the first stage of the diet, sort of like a detox or the way you can “revert to default settings” on your computer. I revisit Stage One when I feel I’ve veered too far from the strictures of anti-candida living (say, like when I’ve been baking 4 or 5 times a day over several months when testing for a new cookbook). At those times, I try to par down the diet and consume only the foods that helped to reverse the symptoms in the first place: clean veggies; fresh fruits, sparingly; nuts and seeds; less starchy legumes and beans; some grains.
When I’m attempting to reset my metabolism this way, I forfeit any baked goods and most flours as well, going grain-free as much as possible (I don’t worry about the occasional bowl of steel-cut oats or rice with Indian food, for instance, but I don’t’ mix up muffins or cakes or pancakes for breakfast during those times). After a couple of weeks on this regimen, I usually feel recharged and revitalized, ready to resume my regular ACD activities.
My goal this winter is to incorporate more fresh juices and raw foods into my winter diet. I love fresh juice–even 100% vegetable varieties–and raw foods have always been a favorite. The challenge, I think, will be to steer clear of sweeter desserts, even as I bake them up daily for the next month to complete a manuscript. [Edit, February 2013: manuscript completed--baking done for a while!]
So how will that affect what I post here on the blog? Expect to see more savory dishes and more grain-free fare (including desserts). I was delighted with your response to my detox juice post a while back and hope to post more juice recipes as well. And, of course, I want to hear from you and what you’d like to see more of: Stage One foods? Later foods? Stevia-based desserts? More main dishes? Let me know and I’ll go for it–I am always up for a recipe challenge!
If you’re on an anti-candida diet, or, like me, have been on it for a while, I’d love to hear how this compares to your experience. What are the greatest challenges for you on the diet? What has helped you to stay the course? Please share your experiences, tips and tricks, or anything else candida-related that you’d like in the comments! (Even if you’re not following an anti-candida diet, feel free to share your experiences around consuming sugar and how it has affected you as well).
And now–today’s recipe (congratulations if you’ve made it this far!). This is a dish The HH and I have whenever I’m stumped for what to make for dinner, or if we simply feel like eating something that tastes a little bit “naughty.” These are nachos fully loaded with all the toppers that we love and that make for totally indulgent “junk food.” This dish hits all the key spots for gustatory variety and satisfaction: crunchy (corn chips), salty (ditto), smooth and creamy (cheese sauce), briney (olives), hot and fiery (jalapenos), saucy (salsa), meaty (meat crumbles). Feel free to substitute your own favorite cheese sauce or even grated Daiya if it means speeding up the prep time.
This is the anti-candida diet equivalent of fast food. If you can tolerate corn, this makes a spectacular quick dinner–or plate to share with friends on a casual Saturday evening.
Toppings of choice: sliced olives, sliced onion, sliced jalapenos, chopped sweet bell peppers
Preheat oven to 400F (200 C). Line a pie plate or pan with corn chips. Prepare the cheesy sauce and set aside.
Top the chips with a layer of beans, a layer of meaty crumbles, and a layer of cheese sauce. Sprinkle with toppings of choice and bake for 25-35 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and everything is heated through. Dig in and enjoy. Makes 4 dinner servings or 8 snack servings.
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a small pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken; stir for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and use on nachos. May also be used on pasta or as a dip for raw veggies.
[Seems to be "dessert week" on DDD! Here's another healthy recipe for you today, the second in a trio of "good for you" desserts that can all be served up to those you love for Valentine's Day: the first was Butterscotch Pudding that can improve heart health; and the final installment is coming up on Thursday with a beautiful, decdadent, traditional V-Day treat revamped to be super-quick and healthier. Be sure to come back and check that one out, too!]
I’ve never really understood the expression, “easy as pie.” In the home of my childhood, it was more like “almost-unheard-of-plus-totally frustrating-and-usually-botched-results” as pie. Although my mom was a superlative baker, the one thing she almost never made (and when she did, it wasn’t very good) was pie. Give her a cookie dough, and she could nail it; a chiffon cake was her speciality; and cheesecake–no problem. But pie crust somehow eluded her.
As a result, neither one of my sisters nor I excel at pie or pie crust. In fact, the only pie my mother ever baked was called “Chocolate Dream Pie,” and as I recall, and it consisted of one ready-made storebought crust filled with chocolate cake batter and baked. In other words, the only pie in her repertoire was actually a cake.
My mom’s sister, Auntie M, on the other hand, a former caterer who excelled in the kitchen well into until her final years-well, she could bake anything.
Like so many pairs of sisters, my mother and aunt were more dissimilar than alike. Mom was softspoken, with a quiet, murmuring voice and (despite her hefty weight) a delicate frame, with tiny ankles and wrists. Her thin, fine hair was the color of wax beans. Auntie M, in contrast, was taller and broad, with sturdy legs thick as telephone poles. Her height was enhanced by the towering beehive of coarse, mahogany hair; her gravelly voice was both commanding and insistent, paired with an easy laugh and an equally easy tendency to criticize. My mother, the younger, was also “the pretty one,” while Auntie M was more what used to be described as a “Handsome” woman (think Mrs. Doubtfire with dark hair). Tough on the outside, she rarely revealed an inner softness, like a cautious turtle peeking out of its shell only when every possible threat is removed.
At once assertive and strong, Auntie M embodied the concept of pure domesticity, yet without even a whiff of the usual sense in which women are considered domestic. She was an archetypal feminist, one who encouraged independence, intelligence, strength and self-sufficiency all within the realm of marriage–and I believed she could accomplish anything. I idolized her, and in many ways wanted to be her (well, minus the shapeless legs).
When I was about 16, I spent a couple of weeks living at my aunt's house after she had broken her arm. While ostensibly there to help her keep up with housework, my role as her personal assistant quickly morphed into culinary protégé as well. It was under her tutelage that I first learned aboutmis en place (though of course she didn't call it that), which I had never encountered before; she also taught me about professional wash-up technique, filling one sink with soapy water, the other with clear and washing the least-dirtied dishes and utensils (such as glasses or cutlery) first, reusing the water for the more grimy pots and pans at the end. I discovered how rotating your baking pans halfway through the cooking time helps to compensate for uneven oven heat, allowing for a smooth, even top to cakes and breads; how sifting flours helps to aerate and separate out impurities like pebbles or bran; and how using an ice cream scoop creates perfectly measured, uniformly sized cookies.
The one thing that Auntie M never got round to teaching me, unfortunately, was how to bake a pie (though I have no doubt that, if she had, it would have been stellar). After years of promising myself that I'd tackle the skill on my own, I suddenly switched to gluten-free baking a few years back, which means that most of my crusts are now "pat-in" versus "roll-out." (Though if you're looking for a good rollable GF pie crust, you must try the one I used in this tortière, which I found on Maggie's blog). As a result, I still have a bit of an irrational aversion to making pie crust (though I did manage to create two fabulous crusts for the upcoming cookbook).
So you can see why I was elated to come across this recipe for Granola Topped Blueberry Pie Bars in Hallie's latest cookbook, Super Healthy Cookies: They're just like pie--without the pie! If you haven't checked out the book yet, I'd highly recommend it: with 50 recipes for healthy cookies from fruity to chocolate to bars to special occasion and more, it also provides a great glossary of ingredients, a resource guide, tips and tricks throughout, and a fantastic appendix of all the recipes listed by different diet type (eg, vegan and egg-free, grain-free, nut-free) plus a list according to taste prefernces (eg, sweet and salty, chocolatey, warm and toasty spices, etc.). All in all, it's full of the healthy, delicious recipes and useful information I've come to expect from Hallie's work!
This recipe is actually not even listed in the "vegan" section, but it was a snap to adapt to my ACD diet. I used The Vegg (vegan yolk) instead of the egg yolk listed, and subbed coconut nectar for maple syrup (obviously, you could make the recipe exactly as written if it jibes with your own diet). I also loved the "sweetness scale" next to each recipe (this was a "two spoon" treat, right in the middle of the scale).
These bars came together incredibly easily. In less than 45 minutes, the HH and I had a fruity, crumbly, warm and inviting pie-like dessert. To make the bars a bit more indulgent for the HH (he does love his creamy desserts), I topped his with a dollop of coconut whipped cream. These do, indeed, taste very pie-like and indulgent--and the HH consumed nearly half the pan in only 2 days! You should have no qualms at all serving these bars as Valentine's Day treats; they live up to a special occasion with the bursting-with-berries filling and yet are made with whole, healthy ingredients. They also fall into my very favorite dessert category: those that can be eaten as breakfast!
Despite the ease of preparation, I'd never call them "easy as pie," though. Unless, of course, we're talking about eating them.
Hallie says: "I took one bite of these bars and my taste buds shouted, 'Hello, Blueberry Pie!' The moist crust and crunchy topping of these bars paired with the juicy blueberry filling is just sublime. Don't let the rather long list of ingredients scare you. They're very easy to make." I agree! And equally easy to adapt to my diet. I've included my changes in square brackets, below.
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Grease an 8 x 8 inch (20 cm) baking dish with coconut oil.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the oats, brown rice flour, coconut sugar, psyllium husks, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt for 20 seconds. Add the coconut oil, applesauce, and egg yolk. Process to combine. Using moist hands, pat half of the dough firmly and evenly into the greased baking dish. Crumble the remaining dough into a bowl and mix in the the pecans and raisins. Set aside.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix together the blueberries, honey, lemon juice, and arrowroot starch. Spoon the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the blueberry layer nd press gently to adhere.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely at room temperture, then refrigerate fro 1-2 hours before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 16 bars.
[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.
Some things just never change. As a result, there are certain aspects of our lives upon which we all tend to rely.
For instance, you expect that Wile E. Coyote will tumble down the mountainside (an anvil in hot pursuit), only to re-emerge the following week without so much as a scratch–and start all over again. You can reliably presume that if you wear a white shirt on a first date, you will likely spill red wine on it. You depend on David Letterman to deliver a Top Ten list (and for there to be ten items on it). When you look in the mirror, you assume you will see your own reflection staring back at you (and not your mother’s, as I have been seeing lately). And if you’re Elsie and Chaser, you count on Mum to feed you at precisely 5:00 PM, or else feel justified executing the “border collie stare” and butting her thigh with your cold, wet nose. ["Yeah, so, and what of it, Mum? A gal's gotta eat."]. You just rely on certain things to always be. . . well, reliable.
One of the most reliable aspects of winter is that I will hate itmy whingeing against the cold and sleetRicki dreaming of the tropics comfort food. And one of the most common forms of comfort food in winter is shepherd’s pie.
[Almost makes it worthwhile to endure another winter. . . . almost.]
Interestingly enough, while my mom wasn’t a great cook, she did, on occasion, tackle this multi-layered dinner casserole. When it came to ground beef in general, her usual plated meal was grey hamburgers with a side of insipid mashed potatoes (eat up, everyone!). The burgers were always the color of lead, with a thick, tough crust on the exterior and dry, nubby bits inside; eating one felt like taking a big bite of a thick packing box filled with styrofoam chips.
But then, perhaps once a year, she’d go wild and make the shepherd’s pie. Her version involved cooking half a bag of frozen peas and carrots along with the meat, then plopping the mixture in the bottom of a square pan and topping the whole mess with homemade mashed potatoes (which were reliable as well: always full of lumps). As you can imagine, I wasn’t a fan of shepherd’s pie.
Of course, I wouldn’t have been a fan of the dish even if my mother had been a fabulous cook. Authentic shepherd’s pie, I learned with great dismay, contained ground lamb (because, well, they were what the shepherds were shepherding). Personally, I’d much rather see shepherds train their sheep to do this:
["Oh, sure, Mum, those sheep may look impressive, but don't forget that it's actually the dogs who did all the real work. I think they deserve some food for that."]
Once I left home for university, I completely forgot about shepherd’s pie. It wasn’t until my 30s here in Toronto that I encountered a stellar vegan version of the dish at a restaurant called le Commensal that I fell in love. Their shepherd’s pie featured buckwheat (one of my favorite “grains”) and a topping made with fluffy sweet potato mash. (These days, it seems, the place is no longer a vegan establishment and has added some “flexitarian” options to their menus. . . so who knows? Maybe they’re serving lamb-based sheperd’s pie after all now.)
When I began to crave comfort food, I decided to create my own riff on that buckwheat pie and soup it up a bit with lentils for additional protein. Having tried both sweet potato and regular potato, I decided to go with the regular mash as a more traditional topping. The result is a sturdy, full-flavored–dare I say, meaty--pie that will fill your belly with flavor and comfort. Because after all, when you eat shepherd’s pie, you want to be able to count on it to be just what you expect, right? Some things never change. . . .
Although it takes a bit of advance preparation, this pie comes together very easily. It also makes a large casserole, so you’ll have leftovers to freeze for another day. If you’re not a fan of buckwheat, simply double the amount of lentils.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Spray a 9-inch (22.5 cm) square pan or casserole dish with non-stick spray, or grease with coconut oil.
Make the filling: Bring the 2 cups/480ml vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the lentils. Cover, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover the pot and add the buckwheat, then replace the cover and simmer for another 20-25 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and both the lentils and buckwheat are soft. (If necessary, add a bit more liquid and continue to cook until done).
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 7-10 minutes. Add the walnuts, celery, carrots and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the walnuts are fragrant and the onions are browned, another 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the remaining ingredients including the lentil-buckwheat mixture and stir well to combine.
Turn the filling into the pan and smooth the top. Set aside until the potatoes are ready.
While the filling cooks, prepare the potatoes: Place the potatoes and water in a large pot and bring to boil over high heat. Boil until the potatoes are quite tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain and mash with the 1/2 cup (120 ml) broth and coconut oil; add salt to taste.
Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling in the pan. You can simply smooth the top, or run the tines of a fork through it in swirls in a decorative manner. Sprinkle with more paprika, if desired.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the potatoes are beginning to brown and the filling is bubbly. Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
[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.