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Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Almond Joy Cookies

In Nutrition, Recipe on October 20, 2013 at 11:50 pm
coconut and chocolate

Coconut and Chocolate

My ideas about dessert and sweets are changing…

As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. It’s not just the dressing up in costumes. It was the idea of going house-to-house, asking for candy, and actually being able to eat it! My childhood home was completely devoid of sugar – and I mean completely. Did you know there are 2 grams of sugar per serving of Rice Krispies? Therefore, only Cheerios were allowed. You know, only 1 gram of sugar per serving, so it was only half as bad for you.

I grew up putting taco sauce on hot dogs because ketchup has sugar in it. Yes, ketchup was banned but hot dogs were OK. I think we all have places in our lives where our decision-making is a bit contradictory. I have a close friend who is very diligent about consuming organic food and yet drinks Diet Coke all day long…hmmmmm…

I have a rule in my home that all desserts need to be homemade. The idea being that you must really want that cupcake if you’re going to take the trouble to bake it and ice it, thus leading to less sweets consumption.

cookies

Combine these two to make an almond joy cookie!

Until recently I subscribed to the idea that if you are going to indulge, you ought to do it right. Eat the butter. Eat the eggs. Eat the gluten. Eat the white sugar. Just don’t indulge so often. Lately, that doesn’t seem to be working for me. Now, when I indulge in a “real” cookie or cupcake, I feel like I’ve got a hangover. My system has become so finely-tuned towards simple preparations of plant-based foods that even the occasional rich dessert cannot be tolerated without consequence. So I am officially on the vegan-gluten-free-honey-sweetened-dessert bandwagon these days.

Back to candy eating at Halloween. As a kid, gathering all that forbidden treasure was a major high. My parents would let my siblings and I indulge in the candy for a day, maybe two, and then we turned the contraband over to them (I later learned they stashed anything chocolate in the freezer). I tell this to friends and they assume I have awful memories of that holiday. But I remember it as a non-issue. Two days of gorging on sweets was plenty. Of course, I made sure I consumed as many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers as I could before my 2 day limit was reached. I also remember wishing I could combine Mounds Bar and Almond Joy into one because I love dark chocolate and almonds.

I am positively giddy about a cookie that combines chocolate and almonds. And is gluten-free. And is vegan. And is not overly sweet. And is more simple to prepare than “real” cookies.

Start with the simple base batter using a food processor fitted with the dough blade.  I’m sure you could also blend with a wooden spoon and muscle.

cookie collage

Vegan, gluten-free, chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup honey

1 TBSP vanilla

Other ingredients: finely shredded, unsweetened coconut and block of high quality dark chocolate

Directions: Combine dry ingredients (mix and blend well) then add wet ingredients (mix and blend well). The mixture is sticky and the almond flour a bit gritty but never fear – they will be delicious! Heat oven to 350 degrees. Baking time is 6-8 minutes and cookies will stay somewhat gooey so judge done-ness by bottom browning. Also, since you will be rolling them into balls to bake, after about 3-4 minutes use the back of a large spoon to gently flatten them and then finish baking.

homemade cocoroons

Homemade Cocoroons

If you prefer a coconut-y cookie reminiscent of Cocoroons or Rickaroons (for the local San Diego folks) then form the batter into balls and roll in coconut (consider adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut to batter but not too much as it gets dry).

Or add coarsely-chopped dark chocolate to make (somewhat) traditional chocolate chip cookies.

Or do BOTH and enjoy a chewy, gooey concoction that tastes awfully close to an Almond Joy candy bar but is WAY BETTER for you! Add chopped chocolate to the batter. Form into balls. Roll in coconut flakes. Bake. AMAZING.

Just because these are vegan and gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s open season for consumption. Cookies are still a treat and are highly caloric so take it easy, people.

7 Seas Soup

In Nutrition, Recipe on October 20, 2013 at 4:16 am
4C's soup

Carrot, cauliflower, coconut milk, coconut oil, curry, cayenne, and cinnamon.

I love developing new recipes but my creative abilities fail me when it comes time to name the outcome. My tendency is toward a literal description of the food; therefore, ending up with a name that is a long, jumbled list of ingredients or an abstract label leading to confusion. Recently changing the name of Indian-Spiced Red Lentil & Beet Stew to Red Velvet Soup felt like a major creative feat and I’m totally tapped out right now.

Forgive me for the name of this particular soup, it’s quite delicious and satisfying despite the odd name. Creamy and spicy, this soup was pureed up for October’s one and only SoupAsana (more to events come in Nov/Dec) and, having so many ingredients that start with the letter “C”, was excellent fodder for my knee-jerk-literal-naming habit. I had decided on 4C’s Soup (brilliant, right?) until I realized there were as many as seven “C” ingredients. The other option was Autumn Leaves Soup. Seriously. These are the only 2 ideas I could muster up. Obviously, Autumn Leaves Soup is a most confusing contender (sounds like a bowl of crisp dust) thereby eliminating it as an option.

Being a decidedly white girl with a Persian name means that I am used to confusing, even contradictory, labeling. The awkward pauses and wrinkled brows no longer faze me so let’s move on to the “How-To” of this yummy soup.

Ingredients:

3-4 large carrots – peeled and chunked

1 head of cauliflower – just florets

1 onion

1/2 bulb garlic

1 thumb of ginger

Coconut oil (enough to coat bottom of pot)

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne

3-4 TBSP white miso paste

1 can coconut milk

Liquid (broth or water)

Sauté onions, garlic, ginger and spices in coconut oil. Add carrots and cauliflower florets and add broth or water to just cover veggies. Simmer until very soft. Add miso and puree. Add coconut milk and mix well. Top with cilantro and tamari pepitas.

Broccoli-Apple Soup

In Nutrition, Recipe on October 20, 2013 at 2:57 am
broccoli-apple soup2

Only 5 ingredients: broccoli, apples, onion, olive oil, and broth.

A shockingly simple and delicious soup. I toyed with the idea of adding a few herbs and spices here and there but decided not to complicate the beautiful simplicity of this soup. That’s all I’m going to say. Try it out for yourself.

Ingredients:

3 apples – peeled and cubed

1 head of broccoli – separate florets from stalk, slice stalk thinly

6 cups veggie broth

1 large onion

Olive oil (couple swirls around bottom of pot)

broccoli-apple soupDirections:

Once you’ve prepared apples and broccoli, assess to see that you’ve got an approximately equal amount of each. Adjust accordingly.

Saute onion and apples in olive oil.

Add broth and stalks. Simmer 20 minutes until soft.

Add florets. Simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Puree with a hand blender and assess consistency. I believe you’d want to avoid the consistency of baby food (a danger with cooked apples!).

Add more broth as needed. Salt & pepper to taste.

Serve topped with cashew cream or greek yogurt and cayenne.

The Hunger Games

In Nutrition, Yoga on October 2, 2013 at 12:00 am
beet juice and avos

Veggie juice and avocados

September was Hunger Action Month (as well as World Alzheimer’s Month, Whole Grains Month, National Literacy Month, and National Preparedness Month!). And, yes, that was last month but I’ve finally finished this post and I won’t let the small factor of time affect the publishing.

figs n goat cheese2

Figs and herbed goat cheese

It’s hard to believe that, in an overweight and obese nation, there are those that struggle with hunger; however, 1 in 5 kids live with food insecurity, meaning they are not sure from where their next meal will come. Let us contrast that with the well-known fact that I like to cleanse and restrict the types of food I eat during a particular time period. I’ve also been known to fast (or “play famine victim” as a clever friend of mine prefers to call it) only consuming water over a 48hr time period. This is not some dangerous or irresponsible game I am playing. My choices are backed by the logical (the science of metabolism and nutrition) and the mystical (religious traditions and spiritual paths). I’ve been blessed with the abundance to not have to worry about whether I will have enough food to eat. In fact, I am spoiled in that I can afford to be choosey about what food I consume going to great lengths and costs to acquire exactly the type of food that I deem fit for my body. In theory, I have unlimited access to food. This is an outrageous luxury that I don’t believe I fully appreciate as often as I should.

As I settle into my dietetic internship, which begins in food service systems management, I see a wide gulf between what I consider nutritious and fit for consumption and what is being served in the school cafeterias and eateries. I’m not the first to feel this way and I’m certainly not going to solve the complex conundrum that is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) during my 13 week rotation. The struggle to reconcile all of the contradictions and figure out where I fit into this mix is occupying way too much mental and emotional space. I want to let it all go. As such I’ve decided to take a different tack and see the issue from the practical, macro-level of scarcity and hunger.

retreat pantry

Retreat Pantry: organic, gluten-free, soy-free, blah, blah

In September, I attended a silent yoga retreat with Swami Ritavan at Questhaven, an esoteric Christian training and retreat center. When asked if I would do the menu planning and food preparation for the 18 participants, I quickly agreed then panicked, fearing I would give everyone food poisoning or have them running off-site to the nearest restaurant. As the menu-planning process began, the food restrictions, intolerances, and dietary requests from the participants started pouring in…gluten-free, vegan, no grains, soy-free, etc. I modified the menu accordingly carefully read labels as I spent many hours and loads of cash purchasing and prepping the organic groceries for the weekend’s meals. It was quite delicious to buy such high quality ingredients and lovingly prepare nourishing meals to support each participants’ spiritual journey inward. It’s also quite freeing to cook for a captive, voice-less audience who can’t complain about the food or make additional special requests!

Anyway, it was a lovely weekend. There was plenty of food and plenty of warm smiles and plenty of full bellies and plenty of nourished souls. On Monday, I quickly changed gears as I jumped into Day 1 of my dietetic internship at a high school district. There was neither a chia seed nor an organic berry to be found. I’ve spent the last month watching (and helping) prepare food – some highly processed and some made-from-scratch – on a much larger scale for growing, learning students. school food showEveryone who works in school food service is striving to do the best they can with the resources they are given. Putting together a balanced meal that kids will actually eat while factoring in labor costs makes ready-made, processed foods very appealing. With some schools having as much as 80% of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, the costs for food, labor, equipment, and benefits must be recovered through the children that can afford to pay full price. This is an important service that schools provide to improve the learning capacity of their students and should not be de-valued. School food vendors are doing their best to provide foods that meet the new guidelines for whole grains and lower fats but still, at the end of the day, it’s mostly highly-processed, pre-cooked, flash-frozen, and very low in nutrients.

During my first week, I attended a school food product show and met up with grad school friends who appear to be thriving in this atmosphere even though I am aware of their personal philosophies regarding food and nutrition. I’m introduced to quite a few people in this type of dietetic work and I’m careful to remain neutral and friendly even though I feel conflicted and confused by the fact that I would rather be teaching yoga or developing a new soup recipe.

labryinthThe next evening I hosted SoupAsana attended by a group of women I met at the silent retreat. One of participants brings her sister who (how amazing is the universe in giving me answers to my questions and doubts??) happens to be married to one of the school nutrition directors I met the previous day. He too struggles with the quality of the school lunches and strives to provide the healthiest meals possible for the children who may only get one decent meal a day.

That’s all I needed. I am exactly where I should be. Doing exactly what I should be doing. On all levels and in all places of my life. No matter that it may seem contradictory from the outside. It’s all falling into place in the cosmic realm. And it will all be OK.

Perhaps Hunger Action Month is a good time to evaluate how much of your resources go towards food, how much volume you eat, where can you increase the quality while decreasing the quantity, and, most importantly, in what ways can you contribute to organizations that support other humans in their struggle with hunger and food insecurity?

Check out these top hunger organizations: Feeding America, UNICEF (my personal favorite), Share Our Strength, World Food Programme, Generations United, and Meals on Wheels. Hunger is a year-round problem so please take action even though it’s now October.