Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies

We need time to hear our own thoughts, to pray, to ponder, to read, to breathe.

During this time we become acquainted with ourselves again, and often learn things about ourselves and about God and others that we would have never otherwise learned.

Do you know what I discovered about myself during my recent alone time?

I experience fear each time I approach a new recipe. This fear, I think, is common. When a human being is told to change, or is faced with the unknown, we experience fear.

Do you experience these fears in your efforts to eat better, and expand your eating choices?

Generally, families in America stick to about 6-7 dinners a month, and repeat these same meals over and over. Once we find a handful of favorite recipes that we know work, we find our comfort zone, and are careful not to stray from it.

During my most recent alone time, I found myself in deep thought about the relationship I have with food preparation. As I blended up double batches of the same green smoothie recipe that I have been making for the last 4 months, I thought about what would be the best use of my precious time that I have to myself. Read a book? Clean house?

...Attempt a new recipe?

Eating a whole foods, plant based diet would never be a fearful thing for anyone if we had all grown up eating this way. This way of eating, in and of itself is not scary. The change is scary. We fear failure, and we fear hunger.

If I can see someone make a recipe, then I am much more likely to try it. It takes the fear out of the equation when a recipe becomes a visual picture.

This link increased my confidence in attempting these chocolate chip cookies. It is with Dreena Burton on a vegan show called, The Everyday Dish. After watching it I felt ready to try them, and I was NOT dissapointed. It's very short, and will increase your confidence in trying out this new recipe, too.

You also help me overcome fears by encouraging me to try new things, and to branch out. I am grateful for you, your thoughts and questions; for the interactions we share. Knowing that I am not alone on this journey to better health.

Just as I am able to overcome my personal fears in the kitchen, I encourage you to do the same. Be bold. Develop a "come what may, and love it!" attitude in your kitchen.

Eventually you will have stored up a new handful of recipes that you know work for your family, and your fears in eating a whole foods, plant based diet will lessen. My challenge to you is to keep trying a few new recipes each week to shake things up a bit. Keep adding to your repertoire, and experience a little excitement in anticipating the new to counterbalance those common fears.

These chocolate chip cookies can be recommended to vegans and non-vegans alike without hesitation. Start by mixing your wet, then mix your dry.

Just as a warning, don't make these on an empty stomach. You'll eat the whole batch. Notice the green drink? Yeah, I was chugging that to make sure I was plant infused before I took a bite of my first cookie and then got addicted. Because they are. Addicting.

To make them oil free I used almond butter and applesauce. I used to make them with Chia Seed gel, but found applesauce to be preferable because it was much easier and lower in fat. If you choose to try out chia seed gel, this is how the chia seed gel should look:

If you are making the oil free version, resist the temptation to bake the cookies any longer than 11 minutes. They may come out of the oven a little gooey in the middle, but if allowed time to cool, they will set nicely.

Using the correct proportions of almond butter and chia seed gel (or applesauce) together in this recipe gives these cookies a very nice texture. They do not come out cakey, but chewy and slightly crunchy, as if they were made with oil.

These are the chocolate chips I used. A tiny bit goes a long way, and they are so yummy! Sunflower market (also called Sprouts) also carries a dairy free "Sprouts" brand that is also delicious and at a good price.

This is Dreena's secret ingredient. (Regular molasses would also work.) Don't skip it. It adds just that little buttery flavor that makes your tongue sing sweetly. I found this at Sunflower, but I am sure you could get it at most health foods stores.

Then mix your wet into your dry, and plop it out onto your cookie sheet. Make sure you have parchment paper because not using oil makes these cookies stick to the pan.

Enjoy! And make sure you've got a full tummy, cuz you are in for a real sweet treat!

Dreena Burton says, "Any vegans missing that classic home-made chocolate chip cookie indulgence? Well, now you can indulge without need for the dairy, eggs, white sugar, or even refined flour if you choose. One other bonus - these are super-easy to make!"

[9/13/2012 Update: I used to make these with oil for my kids to get the proper texture. Then I ate too many of them myself! Katie inspired me to improve the oil free texture, and by so doing, my kids LOVE the oil free version. I have updated the pictures on this post; the oil free version used to be a bit cakey. Now that they have improved in texture, the pictures needed to be changed out, also. You can see the posts that inspired these changes, here, and here in the comments section.

Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies
By Dreena Burton

1 cup all purpose flour (see note below for wheat-free version)
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 cup unrefined sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
1⁄4 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 - 1 1⁄2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup organic neutral flavored oil
1⁄3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips

Oil Free Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies
Modifications by Ashlee Crozier

1 1/4 cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄3 cup unrefined sugar
1⁄4 tsp scant sea salt
1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
1⁄4 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 - 1 1⁄2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. almond butter
1 Tbsp. Chia Seed Gel or applesauce (applesauce works really well, too, and is so much easier!)
1⁄3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup with the molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil (or oil replacements; almond butter and chia seed gel/applesauce) until well combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chocolate chips, and stir through until just well combined (do not overmix). Place large spoonfuls of the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.

Bake for 11 minutes, until just golden (if you bake for much longer, they will dry out). Let cool on the cookie sheet for about ten minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 8-10 large cookies.

Note: Unbleached all-purpose flour or Spelt flour produces a cookie with a very classic taste and texture, but you can use whole-wheat pastry flour and still have delicious cookies!

Oil note (Update 1/10/2014): Just adding 2 scant teaspoons of canola or coconut oil to the oil free version makes these cookies taste very rich. I love both versions; it's up to you!

Idea: Make a really special dessert treat... ice cream cookie sandwiches! Using two cookies, spread some softened soy ice cream on the underside of one cookie, then place the other cookie on top. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Great Soy Debate

These are the soy products I found in my fridge and pantry. Notice how they are generally unprocessed, unsweetened, and even some forms that are sprouted. Miso is considered to be a particularly cancer-protective aged soy product, and can often increase the cheesy flavor to sauces and gravies.

It seems as though conflicting nutrition information is constantly bombarding us. We are confused. Who do we listen to? One source says that a food is bad for me, the next source says the very same food is healthy, and will help me lose weight.

How do we know what information is correct?

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and Dr. John McDougall are some of my favorite go-to sources for nutritional truth. Dr. Joel Fuhrman simply asks that we consider the source of the information being presented to us. If the source is from media, such as television, commercials, and advertisements, then it is safe to say that in general we can dismiss the information they are trying to present (or push on you). They are selling something. They want your money. Do they have sound research done be mainstream scientists (not funded by or connected to the food industry!) that can back up their claims?

We cannot get our knowledge of sound nutrition from the food industry. They have enormous pressure to boost their sales, and will say or do almost anything to get you to buy their products.

Dr. Fuhrman goes on to say that there is little disagreement in the scientific world of research about true health foods. The majority of scientific research and information available agrees on what foods are healthy for us to eat, and what foods are not healthy. Dr.'s Campbell, Fuhrman, and McDougall have dedicated a lifetime to studying and researching human health. They collaborate with scientists alike, worldwide, and have both the scientific and clinical studies to give backbone to their research. They all agree in their findings on what foods are best for optimal health.

We approach the soy debate with these things in mind. Dr.'s Fuhrman, Campbell, and McDougall all agree that soy, in it's minimally processed form, and in moderation, is a health food.

Just as most plant food can be detrimental to our health in it's concentrated form, soy also is unhealthy for us in a processed, concentrated state. Also, just as abnormal amounts of one food in our diet can be harmful, so can soy products. Carrot juice for example -- is very healthy, but if you only consumed carrot juice all day, every day, and nothing else, you would be malnourished, and your skin tone may even turn orange! We need a great variety of healthy foods, in their minimally processed state (closest to their original, natural form).

Concentrated forms of soy: soy isolates (usually in powdered form), tofurkey, soy meat analogues (soy meats), soy nuts, soy cheese, soy ice cream, and generally any refined, highly processed soy products found on shelves at your grocery store (soy in cereal, etc).

Minimally processed forms of soy: soy beans, unsweetened organic soy milk, edamame, soy yogurt, tofu (I love the organic, sprouted tofu!), tempeh.

Do you need to eat soy if you are vegan?


Do you need to be vegan in order to eat soy?


A vegan diet is not necessarily healthful (if you are eating everything processed and refined). And a person can make very healthy choices and still not be 100% vegan. Minimally processed soy foods are a beneficial addition to any healthy diet.

That being said, soy, as well as wheat, are both in the top six list of foods that the general public are most commonly allergic to. If you try soy, in it's minimally processed form in your cooking at home, and find consistent negative reactions physically, then your personal decision may be that you don't want to eat it. That is okay. There are many books, such as this one from Dreena Burton that are vegan and focus on avoiding soy (and wheat, too!).

When I was first transitioning to a whole foods, plant based diet, I was very concerned about soy. Sometimes I still am, and then I read great passages from these doctors, or see them in action as they give talks at forums, etc. My fears are quieted.

From the words of Dr. Joel Fuhrman's latest publication, "Super Immunity," we find this helpful passage:

"Asian populations have a lower incidence of hormone-related diseases, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, and prostate cancer, than Westerners do. It has been suggested that soy consumption is one reason for this difference in disease incidence. Women who were born in Asia but migrated to the United States likewise have a lower risk of breast cancer, possibly due to their early exposure to soy. But obviously soy is only one of many factors that influence cancer risk, and now we know that it is many contributing factors that make a diet cancer-protective."

"It is now clear that soy intake during adolescence, a time when breast tissue is most sensitive to environmental stimuli and carcinogenesis, may reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life. Recent articles in Cancer Epidemiology and The American Jounal of Clinical Nutrition reported that soy consumption during childhood and teenage years reduced the risk of breast cancer in adulthood by 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively."

"Soybeans are rich in isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are plant substances that are chemically similar to estrogen-- and since higher estrogen levels promote breast cancer, some people predicted that soy would, too. Now we know that phytoestrogens in soy actually block the effects of the body's estrogen. Despite many myths propagated on the Internet, the most recent and reliable clinical studies support a strong protective effect of minimally processed soy foods against breast cancer."
"In 2006, a meta-analysis in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examining data from eighteen studies on soy and breast cancer that were published between 1978 and 2004 concluded that soy overall has a protective effect. Again in 2008, another meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition compiling data from eighteen studies (which were not included in the 2006 meta-analysis) also concluded that soy consumption decreases breast cancer risk. These effects were dose-dependent--a 16 percent reduced risk for each 10 milligrams of soy isoflavones consumed daily."

"Soy has protective effects even after a diagnosis of breast cancer. A new study of breast cancer survivors has shown that premenopausal breast cancer survivors who consumed more soy had a 23 percent reduced risk of recurrence."

"Soy provides protection against other hormonal cancers as well. A meta-analysis of studies on soy consumption and prostate cancer found a 31 percent decrease in prostate cancer risk with a high consumption of soy foods. Soy has also been shown to be protective against endometrial and ovarian cancers."

"Soy products such as tofu and soy milk can be useful in moving toward a plant-centered diet with less saturated fat, less animal protein, more plant protein, and more fruits and vegetables. In the United States, the majority of our soy intake, which is very low compared to that of Asian countries, is consumed via soy-based additives or isolated soy protein in processed foods."

"Please note that the most healthful soy foods are those that are minimally processed--these include edamame, tofu, unsweetened soy milk, and tempeh. You should be aware that soy nuts and other processed soy products do not retain much of the beneficial compounds and omega-3 fats that are in the natural bean. The more the food is processed, the more these beneficial compounds are destroyed. Minimally processed soy foods are a beneficial addition to a healthy diet. I do not recommend consuming large quantities of soy products in the hopes of reducing cancer risk, however. A healthy diet should include a variety of beans, all of which have beneficial anticancer compounds, and not a disproportionate share of calories from soy. I always recommend that consumption of a broad variety of phytochemical-rich foods to maximize one's health. Beans are no exception--try to include various types of beans, including soybeans."

"Processed foods, because of their low nutrient levels, high amounts of salt, acrylamides, and other toxic additives, should not be considered healthy. Vegetarians and vegans who eat tofu-turkey, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy hotdogs, soy cheese and other soy-derived processed foods on a regular basis are certainly not eating a healthy diet. Isolated soy protein is a heavily processed food with the natural micronutrients lost in processing. The key to good health is to eat unprocessed foods, because their nutrient-per-calorie density is high."

May I add that T. Colin Campbell's research on animal protein done in the labs was based on three proteins--casein (the animal protein found in cow's milk), gluten, the protein found in wheat, and soy protein. In his findings he concluded that only casein, the animal protein, caused an increase in the incidence of cancer in lab rats, while soy and gluten proteins did not.

Our family, has therefore chosen to consume unprocessed soy products in moderation. You and your family may choose differently. Hopefully this information that I have found will assist you in coming to your own healthful decisions.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Momma's Rainbow Vegetable Quinoa

When transitioning to a vegan diet, or any time veganism really, you should be eating. A lot. And the right kind of foods.

You NEED starch. Don't try to be a low-carb vegan and get rid of meat, dairy, eggs, and starches, too. Or you will be very hungry, my friend. Erase low-carb brainwaves, create high-carb ones instead.

My favorite carbs?


This was my breakfast this morning. But do you see how full my big bowl is? A lot of bulk. Covered in diced banana, organic blueberries, a touch of maple syrup, and chopped pecans. Add some creamy nondairy milk and this is oooohhhh so satisfying.

My other favorite?


My Momma has been teaching me fabulous nutrition my whole life. Only I didn't realize how fabulous until I started doing the research; reading the best nutrition books.

Many people have asked me why vegan transition has been "so easy" or come so naturally. First off, I did have to work really hard, read a lot, work more, and cook a lot. BUT, if it did come easily compared to others' experiences, I would have to credit my mother (and sisters!) for their teaching and training. Their fabulous recipes don't hurt anything, either.

My Momma's words stick in my head like glue. She's brilliant. I listen. Of so many brilliant things she has said, her comments on the simple potato stick with me.

"Everyone was always telling me, 'You can't eat potatoes. Potatoes will make you fat,' they said. Well I just got fed up with all of that and decided, I'm just going to eat some potatoes. So I started eating them, and then I lost weight!"

And on an occasion when I was (pre-vegan days) complaining how expensive my grocery bill was and how fed up I was with spending so much money on food, she said, "Buy and eat potatoes! They are so inexpensive, filling, and especially versatile. You can do so many things with potatoes every day, save lots of money, and everyone loves potatoes."

So if you are reading Mommy, thank you for teaching me.

And we cannot forget the Sweet Potato! And Quinoa!

Why not mix the two together?

Did you know that quinoa is a complete protein? It is considered a grain but actually has a closer relationship to broccoli and spinach. It is technically a seed. Well, it's my favorite!

This recipe was invented by my Momma. It is simple, and simply satisfying.

It starts with rainbow quinoa. Basically a mixture of red, white, and black quinoa. You can find this at Trader Joe's or in the bulk bins at Sunflower Market.

Then add thinly sliced carrots and celery. Vegetable broth and water. A touch of salt. Garlic.


Mix it with a baked sweet potato, and you will think you have found simple vegan heaven.

So get your carbs + plant protien when you get hungry!

Lots of Love!


Momma's Rainbow Vegetable Quinoa
By Ruth Henrikson


2 cups hearty vegetable broth
1 cup warm water
1 and 1/2 cups tricolor, or rainbow quinoa, rinsed (this step is important to wash off bitter saponins)
1 carrot, thinly sliced or shredded
4 stalks of celery, with leaves, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/2 tsp celtic sea salt


Rice Cooker: Simply treat the quinoa like rice. Add 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, add remaining ingredients, stir, cover, and cook. (I use the white rice setting).

Stove Top: Place 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups of liquid in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan, add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, for about 10 to 15 minutes. When done, the grain appears soft and translucent, and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dijon Date Dressing

I topped this

and this

with this

and although this

is my preferred way of getting my greens, I do try to eat salad, too.

Now seriously?

Who wants to come to a vegan blog and see lettuce leaves? You? Really? Okay.

Here is a salad dressing to top those lovely greens you are going to eat today. It is oil free. So now it is also guilt free.

Happy weight loss, and good feelings all around. Say goodbye to store-bought dressings filled with oil and preservatives.

Dijon Date Dressing
From Joel Fuhrman's, "Eat To Live"


Serves 4

1 cup water
1/3 cup raw cashew butter or 2/3 cup raw cashews
4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons no-salt seasoning (I used Costco's no salt seasoning, and you could back off on this a little bit -- it's quite strong)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (again, you could go lighter on this)
4-6 dates, pitted
1-2 cloves garlic, minced


Blend all the ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth and creamy.

(You could use other alternative sweeteners if you don't have dates, or if your blender struggles with these bad boys).

P.S. You may be curious as to what I put in the 2nd salad pictured above. You should be. It was delicious.

Here's what's in it

Spring mix
Broccoli and carrot slaw
Cilantro leaves

Pico de gallo
Black beans from a can, rinsed
Cucumber slices

1/2 Avocado, cubed
1 lime, juiced over top
Coarse ground black pepper

Topped with:
Hatch chile chip crumbles
Dijon date dressing (VERY lightly drizzled)

A trick with salads is that if you juice a lemon or lime over the top of it, then it adds zing and flavor and significantly reduces the amount of dressing you need to use to cover your salad, and it tastes so good and fresh, too!

There's a little southwest for ya...

And the first salad pictured above is zinged out (peppered and spiced up) by Daikon radish shreds, green onions, cilantro, and tomatoes...on spring mix.


Inspiring words from Dr. Joel Fuhrman:

"...Raw vegetable consumption showed the strongest protective effect against cancer of any beneficial food. However, fewer than one in a hundred Americans consumes enough calories from vegetation to ensure this defense."

"I tell my patients to put a big sign on their refrigerator that says, "THE SALAD IS THE MAIN DISH."

"The word SALAD here means any vegetable eaten, raw or uncooked...I encourage my patients to eat two huge salads a day, with the goal of consuming an entire head of romaine or other green lettuce daily. I suggest that you go and make the sign and tape it to your fridge now--and then come back. If you plan on doing it later, you may forget. If you learn but one practical habit from this book, let it be this one."

Feel inspired yet???

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hearty Brown Stew

I love Beef Brown Stew. If your family is used to coming home to pot roast mixed with vegetables, they will enjoy this replacement dish that is meatless.

The quartered mushrooms are the replacement for the beef chunks, so if you or your kids have not yet grown to love mushrooms, you can leave them out. Add more potatoes, celery, and carrots to make it heartier.

The base of this stew is perfect. Warm, savory. Comforting.

It can be made by simmering all of the ingredients in a stockpot on the stove, or in a crockpot all day. Or if you are like me you don't think about dinner till about 4:00 p.m. and want to just throw it all in a pressure cooker (mine is electric from Costco for $69!) and be done with it. Only one pan is dirty - easy clean up.

Let's just take a moment to recap some of the reasons as to WHY we are not adding beef to this dish.

"You know that it is not merely excess fat that causes disease. It is not merely eating calorie-empty food that causes disease. And it is not merely the high consumption of animal foods such as dairy, meat, chicken, and fish that leads to premature death in America. These factors are important, but what is most crucial is what we are missing in our diets by not eating enough produce. Let's take a look at some more of the reasons why plant foods are so protective and essential for human health."

"To illustrate the powerful nutrient density of green vegetables, let us compare the nutrient density of steak with the nutrient density of broccoli and other greens."

"Now, which food has more protein - broccoli or steak? You were wrong if you thought steak."

"Steak has only 6.4 grams of protein per 100 calories and broccoli has 11.1 grams, almost twice as much."

"...Most people think animal products are necessary for a diet to include adequate protein. I am merely illustrating how easy it is to consume more than enough protein while at the same time avoiding risky, cancer-promoting effects of too many animal products. Consuming more plant protein is also the key to achieving safe and successful (and might I add sustainable!) weight loss." ~ Dr. Joel Fuhrman, "Eat To Live."

(Please read this book. If you can't, I will try to continue to include snippets of golden info on here, but knowledge is power and if you understand the WHY, then you will actually DO.)

Can I just say something? Your body does not actually crave/need animal protein. When you start to eliminate or reduce animal proteins from your diet, you may experience withdrawals. You may get symptoms such as headaches, sleeplessness, or even light-headedness. This is a detoxifying/cleansing process because your body is addicted. It doesn't need animal protein for health, just as we don't need caffeine or drugs. It's an addiction. Your body is actually addicted to an addictive substance. How many times can I fit the word ADDICTED in to this paragraph?! You don't need it! Free yourself from this substance. Find replacements and discontinue buying and cooking and consuming and feasting on dead animal flesh. Let the detoxifying happen, and get your protein from plants.

Okay. Now that I got that out.

Back to Hearty Brown Stew!

Adapted from Mary McDougall's recipe in "The New McDougall Cookbook."

2 onions, sliced or chopped (I only used one)
1 whole bunch of celery, thickly sliced, don't discard the leaves! -- They add so much flavor!
2-4 carrots, scrubbed and thickly sliced
3-6 potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips (optional)
1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced or put through your garlic press
2 cups water
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg's liquid aminos
1/2 cup tomato juice, or 1 can of V8 vegetable juice
1/2 to 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (depending on how much you like ginger)
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot, mixed with 1/2 cup cold water


Using a food processor will greatly decrease the preparation time for the vegetables.

Combine all of the ingredients, except the corn starch or arrowroot mixture, in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cornstarch or arrowroot mixture to the stew. Stir until thickened.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The "Un-Tuna" Sandwich

I grew up on tuna sandwiches. I thought I would forever have to say goodbye to them.

And then I discovered that smashed up garbanzo beans (organic tastes SO much better then regular!) taste a ton like tuna!

I love this quick and easy, filling sandwich. I love sprouts, I love avocado, and I love garbanzo beans. Now I want to do a lot of things with them. I want to toast them, put them in salads, and make patties out of them. Like a replacement for chicken patties except now they are chickpea patties! YUMMY!

I can't believe I waited so long to discover the greatness of the chickpea/garbanzo bean.

You can use the following ingredients to have it be more tuna-ish, but I prefer them plain, smashed with a pastry blender or potato masher.

I didn't use mayo, but an oil-free cashew basil cheese sauce that was waiting to be used up in my fridge. I used home-made, whole wheat bread, and kept it open-faced cuz that's how I like'em! I like mostly veggies and plant protein for lunch; not a lot of bread. Topped it with pea sprouts, avocados and ground pepper, and tomatoes.

Have fun creating your own sandwich! Sliced celery or quartered grapes would be great! My kids LOVE these with grapes, mayo, celery, mustard, and pickle relish.

If you don't like bread, or are shooting for more rapid weight loss, you can put chickpeas with assorted toppings/fillings in some romaine lettuce leaves and turn this into a healthier lettuce wrap!

What's YOUR favorite thing to put on a vegan sandwich? Please share!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kicking Oil

I am finally doing it. I am not committing 100% here, mind you. And I'm not sayin' I like it, either. I am kicking and screaming.

My goal is to reduce refined oils to the minimum, but still leave it as an option for occasional splurge. When I do use oil, it will be cold-pressed organic extra virgin coconut oil.

What inspires the change? My skin. For all of my teenage and adult years I have struggled to have a clear complexion. Dr. John McDougall has the guts to say that after all these years of battle he can heal my skin.

Dr. McDougall, YOU'RE ON.

And you, dear reader, have also been my inspiration.

You may not feel ready to eliminate refined oils from your diet. This is still very helpful information for you because even if you choose to reduce the amount of refined oils from your diet, it will greatly enhance your health and weight loss.

As Dr. McDougall says, is change bothersome? Or exhilarating?

I choose the ladder. I accept the challenge.

UPDATE: Oil, of ALL types, are NOT a health food.

If we look at nutritional excellence as being able to find a high density of nutrients in a food, then oil, of all types, flunks the health test.

Take a peek with me inside oil. What do we find? No vitamins, no minerals, no phyto-nutrients (plant nutrients) and no water! And worst of all, NO FIBER. Fiber fills our stomachs, and moves our food properly through our digestive systems.

Oil is a super-concentrated food. Think of the cheapest, most refined white bread you can find at the grocery store. It is also super-concentrated, yet it has more health properties than oil because it at least contains fortified vitamins. Oil has been stripped of everything healthy that it had in its original form (from coconuts, olives, veggies, etc).

If you consume 500 calories of oil, it will not fill your stomach even halfway. If you consume 500 calories of nutrient-dense foods, such as kale, spinach, beans, or even the mashed potato (without butter or added oil) it will fill your stomach completely, and meet your nutrient needs. When your bodies' nutrient needs are met, it stops craving more food.

This concept is especially helpful for weight loss. So, the short of it is; oil, of ALL types, are NOT a health food.

However, I feel that if you got rid of anything, it should first be milk, milk products, and cheese. Oil is usually one of the last things to go in dietary changes, but looking for ways to reduce added oils along the way is helpful. This is why replacements can be so vital.

First get rid of milk. Then meat. It's all a process, and any progress you make to replace these animal products with foods from plant sources will increase your health.

Replacement #1: Saute your vegetables in water.

I've got this down!! It is SO easy, (I actually think it works so much better than sauteing in oil!!!) and it is amazing how clean your food tastes -- fresh, healthy, crisp. Clean really is the best word. I love that word. And I love oil-free sauteing!

It works well in any cooking pan, but I think it tastes the absolute best when sauteed in my cast iron skillet.

Enjoy reading this link from Mary McDougall about sauteing in water, and baking without oil.

You are basically letting the vegetable "cook down" in it's own natural juices (not to burning!), then adding a bit of water to deglaze the pan. Repeat.

Replacement #2: Baking without oil

This is Sunsweet Lighter Bake. Recommended by Mary McDougall. I have not yet tried this; shipping to my house would cost over $15 plus the $2 for the actual bottle. Not worth it! And I already looked for it on Amazon. Not there.

Until I find it, I will be using baby food pureed prunes. Mary McDougall says it works better than applesauce, especially in chocolaty things. And Mary's reputation is not to be messed with. Her recipes are so simple; most ingredients can be found at supermarkets, and they are SO GOOD! Posts about her recipes soon to come!

To replace the oil in a recipe, you measure out half of the amount called for and use soy yogurt, tofu, fruit juices, pureed pumpkin, mashed bananas, or applesauce. (Or pureed prunes, which I am totally going to try!)

UPDATE: I recently learned a trick with the applesauce; if you strain it in a fine metal mesh strainer first, letting the juices run out (you can save it if you are that kinda' girl/guy) and then measure out how much you need. It works much better and helps your baked goods be less dense and wet.

Using these replacements generally created denser, or more heavy baked goods. Replacing the water in the recipe with carbonated water will help create the lighter cooking texture!

And just FYI, anything on a label that says "glyceride" like triglycerides, is a fat from oil. Lecithin is also a fat.

Replacement #3: Using Chia Seed Gel (I LOVE this!)

These can also be added to your green smoothies to help you feel full, which assists in weight loss. Chia seeds are excellent binders, and can also be used as replacement for gelatin.

10 parts water to every 1 part chia seeds. (Obviously a little bit goes a long way!)

Chia seed gel recipe:

2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup chia seeds

Soak chia seeds in water for 10-15 minutes. Blend chia seeds and their soaking water in blender on high until wicked smooth. Use cup for cup in replacing oil in baked goods. Keeps well in the fridge for over a week. I recommend you make a large batch on your slow day, and store it in a glass jar with sealed lid in the fridge. Whenever you are baking, just pull it out and add it to your baked goods. I am pretty sure this would also taste great in bread machine recipes.

I used this to make chocolate chip cookies last night. Applesauce generally gives baked goods a cakey texture. Chia seed gel, on the other hand, gives cookies (and pizza crust!) a real cookie texture. So yummy. I am having flash backs to the awesome Chocolate Chip cookies I ate last night. Oil free. Cane sugar free. Egg and Dairy free. Vegan. Dreamy. (With a wheat free option!)

Replacement #4: Cashews and nuts, seeds, and avocadoes (natural, healthy fats)

This, believe it or not, is a recipe for my VERY favorite waffles EVER. It is gluten free, makes me feel awesome, and is so easy. If you look just above the golden flax seeds, you may see the cashews peeking out. It is the healthy fat for this recipe.

Often, pie crusts, salad dressings, and other baked goods can be made using nuts and seeds. Tahini dressing (ground sesame seeds) is one of my favorites. Just click on it and you will be taken to the recipe on my blog.

Replacement #5: Oil free cookbooks

Seven Secrets is one of my very favorite refined oil free cookbooks. Amazon sells it for about $12 right now.

Other GREAT oil free ones by physicians are:

"Disease-Proof Your Child" By Dr. Joel Fuhrman
"The McDougall Program" By Dr. John McDougall
"The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss" By Dr. John McDougall
"The New McDougall cookbook." By Dr. John and Mary McDougall (I STRONGLY recommend!!!)
"Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (awesome salad dressing recipes!)
"The Happy Herbivore" by Lindsay S. Nixon (not a doctor, and recipes are a bit cakey, but oil free)
"The Almost no fat cookbook" by Bryanna Clark Grogan (This is on my wish list, she is not a doctor, but a pro chef!)

You can find MANY of Dr. McDougall's recipes (developed by his genius wife, Mary McDougall!) by CLICKING HERE.

Replacement #6: Dressings from Wellness Forum

Wellness Forum's Chef Del created a book for salad dressings. One of my favorite bloggers, Janae Wise, from www.veganmothering.blogspot.com offers the option to purchase his book for about $5. I don't own this book yet, but if you buy it, let me know how it goes!

Replacement #7: Corn starch for Dressings

Janae Wise also says this:

"How many of you out there have tried to get your hands on a decent store-bought dressing, but to no avail, they either don't exist in some stores, or if they do the taste makes you want to stop eating salads, forever?

I've come across some excellent oil-free vegan salad dressing recipes, but many of them are still very high in fat or they are way to vingegar-y.

I came across this tip from Bryanna Clark Grogan's cookbook, The (Almost) No-Fat Cookbook (available for a great price at my Amazon store). To replace oil in dressing recipes, cup for cup, mix in 2 tsp. of cornstarch (arrowroot powder would also work) and 1 cup cold water. Heat and stir on medium-high heat in a saucepan, until thickened.

I used this oil-replacement for one of my favorite dressings, Cumin-Cinnamon Vinegarette (from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan) and was thrilled with the result! You know it's a good dressing when you want second or third helpings of salad. The dressing was thick, like it would be with oil, so it "stuck" to the salad. And the spices in the dressing...ah, divine!

It is simple and easy, it doesn't seem like it'd work, but it does--acts like the oil in getting the dressing to stick to the salad without adding all of the empty calories."

Replacement #8: Simply skip it.

On your toast, just go straight for the jelly, or honey. Or, spread your toast, crepes, waffles, and pancakes with either cream made from nuts, or a fruit syrup.

Also, there are option in purchasing pre-made, oil-free hash browns. You just gotta read those labels!
For fries, simply quarter baby red potatoes, toss them in vegetable broth, and bake in the oven until tender-crisp and are slightly browned.

Well, I think that's it for now! Enjoy this link with nutritional info on becoming oil free!

Inspiring quotes from Dr. John McDougall:

"All fats promote the development of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate and kidney. Vegetable oils are even stronger promoters of such cancers than are fats derived from animals. Fats are also involved in inflammatory arthritis.....Removing fats and oils from your diet will make weight loss easy if you are overweight, and permanent, too. Many disease processes can be relieved by improving your diet. Most remarkable are the reversal of atherosclerosis, elimination of angina (chest pains), correction of hormone imbalances, recovery from adult-type diabetes, prevention of attacks of multiple sclerosis and gallbladder inflammation, and resolution of oily skin and acne."

"Not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone say to me, “My diet is completely vegan, but I am still 40 pounds overweight.” The oily sheen on her face and hair are a clear give away that she hasn’t been willing to stop adding the half cup of extra virgin olive oil to her spaghetti sauce. Many people fall short of their health and appearance goals because they have yet to eliminate all the added vegetable oils from their cooking. Eating out is a major stumbling block. More often than not, even after using the best communication skills with the waiter, the diner plate still glistens with an oil slick. Avoiding free vegetable oils is the last important hurdle for people seeking better health. Take the final step—just say “No” to these really unessential added oils."

"The fat you eat, is the fat you wear."

"When I lecture I take a bottle of olive oil or corn oil with me. When someone asks, "How will I cook anything delicious if I can no longer use oil?" I respond by asking him to prove his love of oil by drinking some of it from this bottle I brought along. The audience invariably responds with a sickening moan and a few giggles. No one will drink from my bottle of oil. If they did so, their physical reaction would likely be retching, or even vomiting. Nor would anyone pour the oil over his head for me, if I asked."

"Dietary fat also detracts from your appearance by causing oily skin and hair and feeding the kinds of bacteria that cause acne."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Orange Cashew Dressing & Veggie Butterflies

Essie was excited and determined to make these cute creations after seeing them pictured in our most recent church magazine. We discovered this idea of veggie butterflies during our reading time last week. It was in, "The Friend;" a magazine our church publishes for children.

This is the second vegan snack idea we have found through our church magazines that we really love. The only problem was that they did not provide a tasty vegan dip for eating the veggies. So we set out to find one.

We then looked in Dr. Fuhrman's "Disease-Proof Your Child," and found exactly what we wanted.

I followed the directions for the dip fairly closely (I used 2 cutie oranges instead of orange juice), but regret adding the vinegar because the kids thought it was delicious until they figured out that there was a bit of a sour bite to it.

I love vinegar, so if you are making this for yourself it is oil free. It pairs nicely with a spring mix salad with sprouts, avocados, orange slices, slivered almonds, and cucumbers. Blueberries or craisins would also taste great if added to the mix.

For the Veggie Butterflies:
From, "The Friend Magazine."

4 lettuce leaves
1 carrot stick, sliced in half lengthwise
1 celery stick, cut in half
2 craisins (or raisins, or grapes)
4 cucumbers, radishes, grapes, or your favorite round fruit or veggie as decor for wings

Arrange lettuce leaves as the wings, celery sticks as antennae, craisins as eyes, carrot as the body, and round veggies as decor on the butterfly wings. Dip in Orange Cashew Dressing (recipe follows) and devour!

Orange Cashew Dressing
From Dr. Joel Fuhrman's, "Disease-Proof Your Child."
Serves 4-6

2 peeled naval oranges
1/4 cup orange juice (I used two cuties because I didn't have any orange juice on hand)
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons of blood orange vinegar or pear vinegar (optional)
3 tbsp plant milk--only if using cuties instead of orange juice

Blend ingredients until silky smooth. Use liberally on salads or as vegetable dip.

Cinnamon Sweet Tortilla Strips

These taste like churros from Costco, and are a good quick snack for kids. These lasted only a few hours in my kitchen before they were gobbled up by children and adults alike.

My kiddos had fun making it with me. Essie says she was very serious about her work.

We used coconut oil, but I am experimenting with this and wondering if it would work to lightly paint the tortilla strips with agave nectar and then sprinkle it with cinnamon. Doing this would eliminate the oil and the higher GI sweetener.

Having a good, high-quality and healthful tortilla is essential to keeping these a whole food.


Cinnamon Sweet Tortilla Strips
From Dreena Burton's "Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan."


2 (10 inch) whole wheat tortillas (with no hydrogenated oils)
1- 1/2 tbsp organic canola oil (we used 2 tsp coconut oil)
3 tbsp unrefined sugar (I am wondering how it would taste with finely ground coconut palm sugar? Or maybe even Stevia? Not splenda and/or aspartame!)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into 1-1/4 inch thick strips.

On a plate, combine sugar and cinnamon.

Take each strip and press both sides into sugar mixture, then place on baking sheet, ensuring they do not overlap.

Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over strips, lightly pressing on. We found that using less oil, and less sugar mixture tasted better than covering the tortilla too heavily.

Bake for 4-5 minutes, then flip over and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes until strips are fragrant and just becoming crispy. These are easy to over-bake so watch them carefully.

Lift the parchment paper with strips still on it and transfer to a rack to cool before serving.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Have You Lost Weight on This Diet?

I did not start this eating plan as a weight loss program. I'm not a big fan of diets; and I haven't spent a lot of time trying a lot of different diets. My OB/GYN did tell me that I needed to eat a low carb diet when he found out that my hormones are not in balance. I tried it, and hated it. This is the story of my discovering a real path to health that includes God's healthiest foods that he has provided for mankind to enjoy.

My original intention was to focus on nutrient-dense foods. Having many family members who have suffered or who have died from cancer and heart disease, I saw first-hand the pain that these illnesses can cause. I know that genetically I am predisposed to these issues. My OB/GYN also warned me, "You cannot quit exercising, you can never give up eating healthy foods if you want to avoid these problems." The weight loss has been a very nice side-benefit. I try not to focus on weight loss, and if I do, it usually backfires (I start eating like a horse!).

I have been asked many times, so I offer my weight loss story here.

Throughout my life I have been able to maintain a "healthy" weight through eating a fairly standard diet (a tad healthier because of my health conscience Mom). But I felt heavy. So I exercised a TON, and all of the time. I mean I was an exercise fanatic. I love food so I felt that I was constantly battling and fighting against my body. Eat food (pretty high in fat) and then try very hard to work it off again through exercise. I think a lot of people feel that way -- like they are working against their bodies, instead of working with their bodies.

Picture from December 2004. Newly married, no children yet. I weighed about 140 pounds.

I have never been considered overweight except for right after having my babies. The weight came off within a year, but each time I had a baby I seemed to be stuck with an additional 5-7 pounds that I couldn't get rid of.

Prior to starting a whole foods, vegan diet, I was trying to lose pregnancy weight from baby #3. It took me 2 months to lose 10 lbs by working out vigorously 4-6 times a week at New Mexico Sports and Wellness; an expensive local gym with some of the area’s best teachers.

December 2010. I had just had my third baby 3 months previous, I am 5'6" and in this picture I weighed about 164 pounds.

I continued to exercise even more vigorously for three more months, without my weight budging a single pound. Frustrated, and tired, I just about gave up and declared that I would never get my pre-pregnancy body back again. Although I had been able to use exercise to lose the baby weight in the past, this time it just wasn't cutting it.

After those three months of vigorous and intense exercise, I weighed in at 153 lbs. and continued exercising vigorously 4-5 times a week. My gym membership cost me $120 a month plus childcare. Terrified that if I quit exercising that I would gain a lot of weight back, I dedicated my whole self to working out so hard that I would come home exhausted. I felt beholden to the gym – as if they owned me. I love exercise, but because of my weight struggles it was turning into a negative situation.

153 pounds didn't look so bad on me; but in order to maintain it I had to work out 4-6 times a week VERY vigorously, and I often tried to live on home-made protein+fruit shakes until late afternoon. I tried cutting dessert and sugar, and it didn't get me anywhere.

One night my husband discovered the documentary, “Forks Over Knives.” We watched it together, decided it was sound science, and decided to try it out. I have since read many other great books from renowned doctors such as, "The China Study," by T. Colin Campbell, and "Eat to Live," by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. My favorite is Dr. John McDougall. (See my recommended book list).

The first week of trying out whole foods was tough. I remember having some decent veggie dinners, but we also remember being very hungry. Often. I didn't eat enough starch. I wouldn’t eat bread, cereal, or pasta because of my misguided low-carb mind-set, and we eliminated all dairy, eggs, meat, sugar, and refined items from our fridge and pantry. Let’s just say we ate an incredible amount of veggies, beans, quinoa, green smoothies, and more veggies.

The weight seemed to melt off. 4 lbs the first week, and then 4 lbs the second week, I thought it was all a fluke and that it couldn’t possibly continue. I kept exercising, and in the first month I lost 12 pounds. At the end of the second month those 12 pounds turned into 15 pounds.

At which point, with confidence, I quit my gym membership. Saving $120 a month, plus pain and hassle of gym attendance, I lightly exercised at home, and continued to lose weight.

I am happiest when I stick to green leafy salads, unrefined starches, green and yellow vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains (not flour) and green smoothies; a well-rounded whole foods vegan diet.

I love the power of whole foods!

As of now, I weigh in at 130 pounds; a total of about 23 pounds lost in since starting whole foods in September 2011. I went from size 10 to a size 2 or 4 in skirts, and from size large to size extra small/small blouse size depending on the store and type of shirt.

September 2012

For a while I taught classes and trained at a local gym twice a week, until the gym shut down. I now do housework, light exercise (walking/some running and weight lifting), and enjoy my life so much. I am not constantly paranoid that what I am eating is going to make me fat. I eat and prepare foods with confidence. I love that feeling. For the first time in many years, my new year’s resolution for 2012 did NOT include any goals for weight loss. It freed my mind to focus on other things.

I have learned that being vegan is not enough. I have to be a whole foods vegan. This means eliminating refined flours, processed foods, and minimize sugar and oils. I thrive on unrefined starches (beans of all varieties, oats, rice, quinoa, grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn, squashes of all varieties, and occasionally the whole grain pastas and breads), eat large amounts of green leafy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

When I focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods, the cravings for refined foods disappears. Not only does healthy eating mean that I eliminate animal foods and processed foods from my diet, it also means that I focus on incorporating the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods available, and consume a large variety of them.

My favorite part is that this is not a starvation diet. Often, the times I lost the most weight is when I ate the most. One particular meal I remember that helped me to lose weight was a 3 bean and vegetable chili spread over baked red potatoes. When I ate that I would stuff myself to the brim, and weigh less the next day!

I believe in eating dessert. I love oil free cookies, non-dairy ice cream, and other yummy stuff! Sugar is not the cause of weight loss problems, thank you, Dr. McDougall!

So I hope you explore! Try it out. Enjoy a new healthier you with a happier body! Get some plant-based cookbooks and find your favorite recipes. You’ll experience struggles, and there will be recipes that turn out badly. Don’t give up. We all have varying tastes so some foods that one person loves, you may not like. You will also find the recipes that you love; have an adventure in your kitchen, and try new foods you have never tried before.

[9/12/2012 UPDATE: I continue to experience fantastic benefits from eating whole foods. Although I am not losing any more weight (which is good!) my body shape continues to change. With a little weight lifting, my muscle mass is always increasing, and my body fat continues to decrease. My skin continues to improve, especially after removing oils from my diet. When I focus on eating leafy greens, my hair grows long and shiny, whereas previously it always broke off if it got longer than my shoulders. I cannot say it enough; I love the power of whole foods.]