All posts by Darlene & Ken

About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.

June 2018 Cooking Class – Burger Time

June 10, 2018

Burger and a salad

Just in time for summer, June’s cooking class focused on summer favorites – burgers, Caesar Salad and a cool frozen dessert. This month we continued our talk on the importance of fibre in our diet, and the great source of fibre and protein found in beans.

Our smoothie of the month was ‘berry delicious’, a combination of kale, banana, mango, orange and blueberries with added nutritional value from turmeric, ginger and flax.

Green Smoothie

• 2 cups greens (we used kale)
• 2 cups water
• ¼ tsp turmeric
• 1 inch piece ginger
• 1 tbsp ground flax
• 2 cups fresh or frozen fruit (we used a combination of banana, mango, blueberries, and an orange)

Place all ingredients in a blender in the order listed. Blend until smooth.

Making Burgers

Summer is burger time, but burgers also make great fast meals any time of the year. This is a great burger as it holds together well, but it is important to let it sit to thicken up. It best if you make the burger mix and let it sit for at least 1/2 hour before forming the burgers. However, in a pinch you can make them up right away, just be gentle when cooking. I prefer to bake the burgers then freeze them for later use. However, in class we make the burgers and fried them up immediately. They were a bit more fragile but still delicious. If you plan to throw these on the barbecue, I recommend baking ahead of time, then warming on the grill. We made our burgers with grated beets which gave them a real ‘meaty’ look; however, they are also great make with grated carrot.

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Grillable Veggie Burgers
• 1 cup cooked brown rice (I use short grain rice, or substitute couscous, millet or quinoa)
• 1 cup raw walnuts (or substitute sunflower seeds, bread crumbs or oatmeal)
• 1/2 white onion (about 3/4 cup), finely diced
• 1 beet or carrot, grated fine
• 1 pepper (red, yellow, orange, green or poblano), diced fine
• 1 to 2 cups mushrooms, diced fine
• 1 1/2 cups (227 g) cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
• 2 tbsp ground flax soaked in 6 tbsp water
• 1 cup oatmeal (old fashioned, large flake)
• 4-5 Tbsp vegan BBQ sauce
• 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1 Tbsp each chili powder and smoked paprika
• 1 tsp garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and salt
• 1/2 tsp black pepper

Grating beets

Chop walnuts fine in a food processor, coffee mill or by hand.
In a skillet, over medium heat, sauté onion, beets, pepper, and mushroom for 3-4 minutes or until tender, adding small amounts of water or broth to keep it from sticking to the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a food processor, place chickpeas and process until slightly mashed but not a mushy puree. Alternatively you can mash with a fork.
In a large bowl, add the ground flax and water and let soak for 5 minutes. Once soaked, add cooked rice, chopped walnuts, sautéed veggies, mashed chickpeas, oatmeal, BBQ sauce, nutritional yeast, seasonings. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes, or until a moldable dough forms.
If too dry, add extra 1-2 Tbsp BBQ sauce. If too wet, add more oatmeal. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Let sit in fridge for several hours or overnight. Form into patties using wet hands. (I use 1/3 cup mixture per patty – will make about 14 or 15 burgers). This is important to make sure the burgers hold together well for grilling. (for best grilling results, bake at 350 for 20 minutes then freeze for later grilling)
If grilling, heat the grill at this time and brush the grill surface with oil to ease cooking. Otherwise, cook in a skillet or bake (20 minutes at 350F).
Remove burgers from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving.

An all time favorite at our house is Caesar Salad with this creamy picante dressing.

Caesar Salad Dressing
• ½ cup raw cashews
• ¼ cup water
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• 2 cloves garlic
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• 1 ½ tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
• ¼ cup nutritional yeast
• ½ tsp black pepper
• 1 tbsp miso (or ½ tsp salt)

Soak cashews for 2 or more hours. Drain cashews and place in blender with all other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

Nothing says summer like ice cream. This creamy frozen dessert is a favorite, and is my take off on a traditional Indian Mango Lassi beverage. Since I always keep coconut milk and frozen banana and mangos in stock, I can whip this one up quickly. You can substitute any frozen fruit you like for the mango – blueberry, strawberry, etc.

Mango Lassi
• 1 can full fat coconut cream
• 1 frozen banana
• 2 cups frozen mango
• 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
• ¼ tsp turmeric
Place coconut cream in a blender or food processor. Add ginger and frozen fruit. Blend until smooth. Keep in a freezer until ready to serve. Best if made 2 to 3 hours before serving. If frozen hard, let sit in the fridge for ½ hour before serving.
Substitute other fruit for the mango (blueberry, raspberry, cherry, peaches, etc) or other seasonings for the ginger (cinnamon, nutmeg). For a sweeter dessert, add an extra banana or some date paste.

Thanks to James for the great pictures. And thanks to my granddaughter Katie who was a great assistant.

 

 

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May 2018 Cooking Class – Beans, Greens and Berries

May 2018

I know I am terrible late in posting the recipes for the May class, but its garden season. Now that the garden is in, I have time to catch up on my posts.

May cooking class meal

May’s class focused on beans, greens and berries, three important foods that you should try to add to your daily diet. They offer great fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. All that wonderful fibre is great for feeding those lovely probiotic bacteria in your gut. Happy guts, happy life!

Berry Banana Green Smoothie

As usual, we started the class with my favorite – the green smoothie. I used to love my smoothies green, real green. However, smoothies are a great way to add berries as well as greens to your diet. So now, most of my smoothies are more muddy colored than green. But they still taste delicious. This months smoothie was a mixture of kale, bananas and blueberries with the addition of an orange and some ginger and turmeric. When I can find it, I buy fresh turmeric, chop it up and freeze it for use in smoothies and salad dressings. However, ground turmeric works just as well, just don’t add too much.

Berry Banana Green Smoothie
• 2 cup water
• 2 cups leafy greens (kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, etc)
• 1 orange, peeled and quartered
• ¼ tsp ground turmeric or ½ inch fresh turmeric root
• ½ inch fresh ginger root
• 3 fresh or frozen bananas
• 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries or mixed berries

Put all ingredients in a blender in the order given. Blend until smooth.

One Pot Mexican Quinoa

Our main dish this class was a bean and quinoa dish that only requires one pot to make it in as the quinoa cooks right in the pot. Fast, simple and delicious. While most quinoa that you buy has been prewashed, its always a good idea to rinse your quinoa before cooking to make sure all the bitter soponins on the seed have been washed off. The saponins are the plants natural defence mechanism, to keep the birds from eating all the delicious seed.

One Pot Mexican Quinoa
• 1 onion, diced
• ½ jalepeno, chopped fine
• 1 pepper, diced (your choice, red, yellow orange or green)
• 1 carrot, diced fine
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
• 1 can beans, drained and rinsed (your choice black, pinto, kidney or mixed beans)
• 1 cup tomatoes, tomato sauce or salsa
• ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed
• 1 tsp chilli powder
• ½ tsp cumin
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 cup vegetable broth

In saucepan, sauté onion, jalepeno, pepper, carrot and garlic with a small amount of water or broth until onion is softened. Add corn, beans, tomato and spices. Add quinoa and broth and simmer for 20 minutes or until quinoa is cooked. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with diced avocado and tomatoes.

Chop Salad with Vegan Ranch Dressing

Our salad dressing for this month is a creamy Ranch type dressing. It goes great on the chopped salad below, but also good on any salad. The recipe is from Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not To Die Cookbook. The recipe uses Dr. Greger’s Savory Spice Blend, a favorite in many of his recipes. I’ve included the recipe for the spice blend as well, as it is good in almost any recipe you are making. However, if you don’t want to make a whole batch just use a couple of teaspoons of nutritional yeast.

Chopped Vegetable Salad
• 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into bite sized bits
• 2 radishes, chopped
• 1 ripe tomato, chopped
• 1 cup chopped cucumber
• ½ small red or orange bell pepper, chopped
• ½ cup chopped celery
• 1 ½ cup cooked cannellini beans, cooked and rinsed

• Ranch Dressing (recipe following)

In a large bowl, combine all veggie ingredients. Add Ranch Dressing and toss until well coated.

Ranch Dressing
• ½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 or more hours
• 2 cloves garlic
• ½ cup almond milk, unsweetened and unflavoured
• 3 tbsp rice vinegar
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 2 tsp savory spice blend (recipe below)
• 1 tbsp white miso paste
• 1 tsp date paste
• 1 tbsp fresh parsley, or 1 tsp dried
• 1 tsp fresh dill or ¼ tsp dried

In a high speed blender, combine all ingredients except parsley and dill. Blend until smooth. Add parsley and dill and pulse just until mixed in. Transfer to a glass jar and let sit at least 1 hour to let flavors develop. Stir or shake before using.

Savory Spice Blend
• 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1 tbsp onion powder
• 1 tbsp dried parlsey
• 1 tbsp dried basil
• 2 tsp dried thyme
• 2 tsp garlic powder
• 2 tsp dry mustard powder
• 2 tsp paprika
• ½ tsp ground turmeric
• ½ tsp celery seeds
Combine all ingredients in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or blender. Blend until pulverized. Store in a tightly sealed container.

BlueBerry Cobbler

And of course, no class would be complete without a dessert. My criteria for a great dessert is that it should be nutritious enough so that you can eat the leftovers for breakfast without any guilt. The blueberry cobbler fits the bill perfectly. It is chock full of blueberries and has only a small amount of sweetener added and no oil. The original recipe, from Kim Campbell’s PlantPure Kitchen, uses whole wheat flour, but I prefer to use oat flour instead. I make my own oat flour by blending old fashioned slow cook oats in a blender until smooth. (use certified only oats for a gluten free dessert)

Berry Cobbler
• 6 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (or mixed berries)
• 1 tbsp brown sugar
• ¼ cup water
• 2 tsp lemon juice
• 2 ½ tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 1 ½ cups old fashioned oatmeal (blended in blender until fine)
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• ½ cup unsweetened plant milk
• 2 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400F

Blueberry Filling cooking

In medium saucepan, combine berries, brown sugar, water, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until bubbling and thickened. Spread berry mixture evenly in an 8 inch square baking pan.
In medium mixing bowl, mix oat flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add milk and maple syrup and stir until combined. Drop dough mixture by the tablespoon over the berry mixture. You should be able to cover most of the berries.
Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve warm.

 

Hope you enjoy the recipes. Thanks James for the great photos.

Where Do You Get Your Fibre? Baked Bean Recipe

April 5, 2018

Pretty much the first question you get asked when someone finds out you don’t eat animal products is, “Where do you get your protein?” However, protein is easy to get. All plants contain protein. Our body requires about 6% to 10% of our calories to come from protein. Even fruit averages 5.5% to 10% protein by calories, and beans are about 25% protein. Leafy greens are 35% to 51% protein. So if you are eating a whole food plant based diet (ie large amounts of calories not coming from refined oil and sugar), protein is not an issue. In fact, protein deficiency is seldom seen without a calorie deficiency.  The real question we should all be asking is “Where do you get your fibre?

The diet of almost all North Americans is deficient in fibre. Why is fibre so important? Until relatively recently, it was thought fibre was for regulating bowel functions. Consuming lots of fibre rich foods made you feel full without added calories and made sure waste was efficiently expelled out our body. But recent research shows that fibre is important for so many more reasons, including boosting our immune system,  feeding the cells that line our intestinal walls, and feeding our good gut bacteria. As well, recent research shows that beans have a modulating effect on blood sugar. Watch this short 3 minute video on Beans and the Second-Meal Effect.

Much is made these days of probiotics – which supply a host of good bacteria to our gut. But what happens if we fail to feed those good bacteria? They starve and die. Of course, you could continue to ingest more probiotics, but a far better solution would be to feed your good bacteria and let them multiply on their own. What do those good bacteria eat – fibre.

Where do we get fibre? Animal products – flesh, milk, cheese, eggs, etc. – contain no fibre. However plants – whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes are great sources of fibre. Stay away from the refined/processed foods plant fragments like white flour and white rice – which have been processed to remove the fibre component.

Beans Beans – Navy, chickpeas, kidney, black eyed peas, chili, pinto and black

One exceptionally good source of fibre is beans.  Beans are undervalued in the modern North American diet. Often considered “peasant food”, beans are infrequently consumed. However, beans are superfoods, loaded with protein, iron, zinc, folate, potassium and fibre.

Being a long time plant based eater, I thought I consumed a lot of legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils, dried yellow or green peas.  However, I was only consuming an average of five servings a week.  Since making use of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen recommendations, I have been striving to eat three servings per day. At first, this seemed like an impossible task. However, one serving of beans is only a half a cup. With a bit of planning, this is not as difficult as it seems. Most days I am able to get my three servings in. The secret is staying mindful of what you are eating. I keep a good stock of frozen cooked beans and lentils; and in addition to great main dish legume meals they can be added to pretty much anything you are cooking.  Add chickpeas or lentils to your rice stir fry, add beans to your soup, serve seasoned beans as a side to any plate or add hummus to a wrap. Think outside the box, many cultures eat legumes for breakfast and baked beans (recipe below) is becoming a breakfast favorite for me. I made a great Yellow Split Pea Dahl that I plan to use for a spicy start to my day. I will share that recipe with you soon.

One of the biggest reasons people give me for not eating more beans is gas. However, I am finding that the little ditty “Beans, Beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot.” should actually be changed to “..the more you eat the less you toot!” The gas is caused by bacteria in our gut consuming undigested bean sugars, producing gas. The sugar is undigested because most of us lack the enzyme to digest it. But, our bodies are truly miraculous creations and incredibly efficient. If we don’t eat a particular food, it does not bother making the enzymes to digest it. However, when we start consuming the food regularly, the body will adapt and produce enzymes required to digest it. So if bean induced flatulence is an issue for you, have faith and stay the course. Eat small portions often (several times a day) and if necessary, use digestive enzymes (alpha-galactosidase).  Have confidence – this too shall pass. LOL Besides, intestinal gas is normal and healthy, even if it is occasionally embarrassing.

Below are some of my favorite bean recipes.  I will post a few more new ones in the upcoming weeks.

Baked Beans

Baked beans at the ready in Jars

This is an adaptation of a traditional homemade port and bean recipe from Diane Bachewich in the Sandy Lake Cookbook. I have included two versions – one quite similar to the original but veganized; and the other – a whole food plant based version using dates and tomato paste instead of sugar and ketchup. Either way this recipe is one of my favorites. Its great served with baked or scalloped potatoes and a large salad; as a bean side to any meal, or for breakfast along with whole grain toast or roasted potatoes.

This recipe makes about 12 cups  of baked beans, enough to feed a crowd. I like to pack it into 2 cup containers and freeze them. Then I can keep a container in the fridge all the time for a quick bean add on to any meal.

Version 1:

  • 3 cups dried small white beans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup

Version 2:

  • 3 cups dried small white beans
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup tahini

Soak the beans in plenty of water overnight.  (for version 2, soak the dates in water as well.)

In the morning, drain the beans, add fresh water and boil for about 1 hour or until tender.  Drain the beans. (Version 2 – Do not drain the dates. Place soaked dates and soaking water in a blender and blend until pureed. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well combined)

Place the drained beans in a large oven safe pot or roaster. Add remaining ingredients and enough fresh water to cover the beans. Mix well and bake at 350F for about 1 hour. If the beans are still very runny, continue to bake until the right consistency is reached.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

More Recipes

13 Bean Soup Mix

Soups  are a great way to add beans, lentils or chickpeas to your diet. Check out this post on Soups for my favorite recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

Astrid licking the spatula with hummus

Hummus is another delicious way to add legumes to your diet. 1/4 cup of hummus is one serving of beans. Add hummus to a wrap or sandwich or try it as a topping on potatoes instead of butter and sour cream. The recipe for my all time favorite hummus is a sweet and spicy Sweet Potato Hummus can be found at this link. My grandkids love hummus and like to dip pretzels or veggies into it.

 

 

 

One Pan Mexican Quinoa

Main Bean Dishes – these are some of my favorite fast and easy one dish beany meals:

White Beans:

Small white beans, also called navy beans (so called because they were used aboard ships) are one of my favorite beans. They are versalite and great for bean dishes like baked beans but also for creamy sauces.  I often make cashew sauces using half cashews and half cooked white beans. Or substitute some of the cashews in a creamy oil free salad dressing with cooked white beans. Or try adding mashed white beans to mashed potatoes for a boost of nutrition including fibre. You won’t even know they are in their! Or try my Creamy White Bean Soup.

 

Crispy Quinoa Patties with Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

February 14, 2018

After visiting my grandkids last month, I’ve been thinking about healthy meals that are also toddler friendly. Quinoa is a perfect food for toddlers – a good source of good quality protein, delicious nutty flavor, and easily digested even if not chewed completely.  However, on its own, it can be a bit messy to manage by little hands.  These quinoa patties fit the bill perfectly. Delicious, nutritious and a finger food.  Perfect for adults too.

After serving Barbecued Beans with quinoa yesterday, I wondered what to do with the leftover quinoa. Then I remember this recipe from the Oh She Glows website. I used it for a cooking class back in September 2014, before this blog began.

You want your patties to be nice and firm, so they stick together well, so be sure to chop your veggies very fine – onions and kale – and grate the sweet potato with a small holed box grater. Chop your kale first thing, so it can stand about 40 minutes before cooking. (check out this video by Dr. Greger on sulfuraphane for an explanation) You can roast your red peppers for the dip while you let the kale sit.

The original recipe was already oil-free except for the oil packed sun-dried tomatoes. I substituted them with dried sun-dried tomatoes and pulverized them in the blender along with the rolled oats.  If using oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drain and chop them fine.

The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of flour, for binding. Since I cooked my quinoa yesterday, it was flaky and dry today and I did not need any of the flour to bind the patties. However, if your quinoa is on the moister side, you may need a tablespoon or two.

The recipe calls for fresh basil, which of course I don’t have in February. I used 1 tablespoon of dried (from my garden) and it provided a wonderful basil flavor. However, if you are not a fan of basil, you might want to reduce the basil by half.

For little dinner guests, I would suggest omitting the red pepper flakes. The recipe makes 12 –  1/4 cup patties.  For toddlers, make them half or even smaller for bite size portions. (watch the cooking time for smaller patties) If you want to use them for burgers, make them 1/2 cup size.

If you cook up 1 cup of quinoa, you should get enough cooked quinoa to make a double batch. These patties freeze wonderfully and the left overs are great for quick easy meals or snacks. As a bonus, the patties firm up even more after being frozen. If you are new to cooking quinoa, directions are below the recipe.

The patties are great with this simple roasted red pepper dip, but they are also good with ketchup. Served with a simple salad or raw veggie sticks for the little ones, this is a satisfying meal.

Crispy Quinoa Patties

• 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
• 2 tablespoons ground flax + 6 tablespoons water
• 1 cup destemmed and finely chopped kale
• 1/2 cup finely grated sweet potato
• 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoon runny tahini paste
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1 1/2 teaspoons red or white wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup rolled oats(use certified gluten-free if necessary)
• 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dried, not oil packed)
• 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
• 3 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour or regular flour (only if necessary)
• red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Chop the kale into very small pieces and set aside for about 40 minutes.

Mix the ground flax and water in a large bowl and set aside for 5 minutes or so to thicken.

Add the quinoa, kale, sweet potato, onion, garlic, basil, tahini, oregano and vinegar to the flax mixture and stir well. Add red pepper flakes if using (I used 1 tablespoon) Put the rolled oats in a blender along with the sun-dried tomatoes and salt. Blend until oats are ground to a flour. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse a few times to chop them but not pulverize them. Add to the quinoa mixture and stir well. If the mixture is too moist, add the flour, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is firmed up and holds together. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop out ¼ cup of mixture and shape mixture into patties with wet hands. Pack tightly so they hold together better. Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully flip cakes, and bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden and firm. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet. Enjoy immediately or for firm patties, freeze and reheat in a skillet.

To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Place quinoa in a medium pot and cover with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and then cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer covered for 14-17 minutes until most of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and then place lid back on to steam for another 4-5 minutes. Note that this makes almost 3 cups of cooked quinoa and you only need 1 1/2 cups for this recipe, so you will have leftover quinoa.

Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

I have never had much luck roasting peppers over an open flame as most sites demonstrate. Instead, I use an easier method I learned from an Italian friend, Sara. Place your whole red peppers in a covered baking pan and roast for about 45 minutes at 350F or until tender. Leave the lid on and let them cool until they are cool enough to remove stems and seeds. You can peel the skin off as well. Be sure to save the liquid from the pan and use it for soups or stock.

For this recipe, you could use jarred roasted red peppers but I roasted two large red peppers instead. After roasting, I removed the stem and seeds but did not peel. I threw the flesh and liquid into the blender along with the almonds, garlic, vinegar and salt.

I am not sure where I got this recipe from, but its delicious and super easy.

Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce
• 1 ½ cups roasted red peppers, drained
• ½ cup whole almonds
• 1 clove garlic
• 2 tsp. red wine vinegar (more to taste)

Purée all ingredients in food processor until smooth.  Taste and add a pinch of salt and a bit more vinegar to taste.

 

How Not To Die

February 8, 2018

I find “How Not to Die” an odd name for a book. After all, we are all going to die, someday.  However, this book by Dr. Michael Greger, outlines how not to die from preventable causes. I must confess, that although I have known about the book for a while (Dr. Greger was a guest lecturer for the Plant Based Nutrition Certificate course I took), I refused to read it just because I did not like the title – until recently. Apparently, I was meant to read the book, as the universe sent Dr. Greger to me.

Katherine, Dr. Michael Greger and myself

I was thrilled when I learned that Dr. Greger would be speaking in Manitoba, and even more thrilled that the event was sponsored by The Wellness Institute.  The Wellness Institute is affiliated with, and attached to,  the Seven Oaks General Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For a hospital associated organization to sponsor a talk on using whole food plant based nutrition to heal is big news in my books.  Perhaps the science on plant based nutrition is beginning to be recognized by the medical community.

Apparently, tickets to How Not To Die where the hottest tickets in town last week. Only 140 tickets were available to the event, and they sold out quickly. Luckily, my friend Fran is a member at the Wellness Institute and gave me the heads up as soon as they were released. I attended the talk with friends Fran, Theresa and Katherine.  Dr. Greger is a great speaker. Very humorous, personable and extremely knowledgeable. The talk, follow up question session, book signing and taste testing were fantastic. During book signing, Dr. Greger took the time to speak to each person in line, and even pose for pictures. He was very happy to hear of the Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Classes we are holding here in Winnipeg and happily agreed to let me post his picture on this blog.

The first thing I did after purchasing tickets to the talk, was to order the book How Not To Die. I am a bit of a geek, so of course I had to read up on the subject before attending the talk. Dr. Greger has an interesting story and a unique historical connection to the plant based movement through his grandmother.

The book is divided into two parts. The first section focuses on individual diseases and the research showing the effect of nutrition on the disease. How Not to Die from Heart Disease, How Not to Die from High Blood Pressure, How Not to Die from Lung Disease, How Not to Die from Diabetes and How Not to Die from Parkinsons are just some of the chapters.  A very lengthy foot note section at the back of the book provides the links to the scientific research behind the information provided (for a science geek like me that is important). These chapters are in depth and full of information, so much so that I would recommend reading only one chapter a day as it is heavy reading. By the last chapters I found myself skimming the research. However, it is a great resource book for your library when you are looking for info on a specific disease. I found it interesting to look at diseases that tend to run in my family – heart disease, Parkinsons, high blood pressure – and see what can be done to reduce the chance of these genes expressing.

The second section, is all about the food, with a chapter on each of Dr. Greger’s ‘Daily Dozen’ food groups. The Daily Dozen is the foods that Dr. Greger himself tries to consume each day. This was the my favorite part of the book – real down to earth practical advise on how to eat well. The Daily Dozen focuses on what you should strive to eat daily.  I love the checklist and have been incorporating it into my everyday routine. Beans, Berries, Other Fruit, Cruciferous Veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc), Green Leafy Veggies, Other Vegetables, Flax, Nuts, Spices, Whole Grains, Beverages and Exercise. On a daily basis you can check your list and see how you faired.

Dr. Greger is the founder of the website NutritionFacts.org which reviews new scientific research on nutrition and provided the ‘Coles Notes’ version for you. It free and provides over 2,000 videos on health and nutrition topics. Its a great site to bookmark for where to go for scientific based information rather than relying on the sometimes questionable opinion based information available on the internet.

I have been a vegetarian for almost 40 years, solely plant based for seven years, and whole food plant based for three years. My diet was already heavy in beans, whole grains, greens, veggies, fruit and nuts. What more can I do to improve my diet? I found out there is still room for improvement. Since reading the book I am:

  • Reducing the salt in my diet.
  • Eating more legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc , making sure I get two or three servings of them every day not just every week.
  • Making sure I get at least one serving of cruciferous veggies each day – usually cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, or kale. (read the book to get fascinating info on how to prepare crucifers to preserve the cancer fighting properties)
  • Getting at least two serving of leafy greens every day, in a smoothie, salad or steamed greens
  • Making sure I get at least one serving of berries each day. Since they are out of season now in wintery Manitoba, I am using frozen berries in my smoothies, chia puddings and cobblers. Before I would have berries in my smoothie once or twice a week.
  • Having 1 tablespoon of ground flax daily. I like to dissolve mine in lemon water and let it hydrate before drinking. Or add it to a smoothie.
  • Ramping up the spices, especially turmeric. Adding 1/4 tsp of turmeric to my daily smoothie is a fast and easy way to get more turmeric without eating Indian food every day. Herbs and spices in general are great sources of antioxidants and nutrients.

With plant based diets becoming more mainstream, it is good to focus on the quality of the diet rather than the label. After all, a diet of potato chips and coke is vegan but it is not healthy. And so many would like to improve their diets but don’t know where to start. Cutting out meat often leads to eating more carbs – bread, pasta and rice which are often refined, white and lacking fibre.  By reducing meat and dairy consumption and increasing beans, whole grains, veggies and fruit, you will be adding so much more fibre to your diet. And it turns out that fibre is not just good for regularity. It also serves as food for the good bacteria that inhabit your gut. These good bacteria are a vital part of your immune system. So eat more beans!

I would recommend reading the book How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger, despite the title. The first part on individual diseases is great reference information and the second part provides vital information on how to eat every day. I can’t speak for the companion cookbook, as I have yet to try any of the recipes. However, if the appetizers served at the talk are any indication, the recipes should be great. Check out the website NutritionFacts.org and also The Wellness Institute. In their introduction to Dr. Greger, the Wellness Institute stated that this talk was only the first of a series of talks on how to improve health and prevent disease. Hopefully Winnipeg will see more high profile nutrition experts in the near future.

 

 

 

Make Ahead Meals

February 1, 2018

In our busy lives, it is sometimes hard to make time everyday to cook meals from scratch. However, there are ways to optimize your cooking time so you are not spending all your free time in the kitchen. Some strategies to use are:

  1. When you cook a dish, make a double batch. That way you can eat one now and freeze one for later. Generally, it doesn’t take that much longer to double the batch. This works great for soups, stews, chilies, and many main dishes.
  2. Make a double or triple batches of salad dressings to have on hand.
  3. Make a big batch of your favorite stir fry sauce. They will generally keep in the fridge for over a week, or you can freeze the in serving size amounts. Frozen mixed veggies are a great time saver. Add brown rice or whole grain noodles for a quick meal. Top with chick peas, toasted cashews, tofu or sesame seeds for an extra nutritional boost.
  4. For fast and easy breakfasts, prepare overnight oats the night before. In the morning, add plant milk and extra toppings and go. Or make a triple batch and have enough for three days.
  5. Keep hummus on hand for sandwiches, wraps and baked potatoes. Hummus is easy to make and freezes well.
Baking with Jacob

In January, I spent three weeks with the grandkids, so I did quite a bit of food prep for the hubby back home before leaving. That way he could spend more time on my “Honey Do List” instead of cooking, LOL. In the week before leaving, I made extra of each dish I cooked, freezing one or two meals for later. I made several salad dressings, so throwing together a big Caesar, Spinach or Kale salad is a simple process. I also made a litre of Chinese 5 Spice stir fry sauce, to go with frozen veggies, rice or noodles. And for a treat, I made a batch of Sweet Potato Brownies which freeze really well. See below for the links and recipes.

SOUPS

Red Lentil Carrot and Coconut Soup

Soups are a regular go to lunch meal for us in the winter, and I often make up several different soups each week. Since a pot of soup is generally three meals for us, it is easy to eat one and freeze two. Served with whole grain bread, a hearty soup is a comforting winter lunch. In the week before I left, I made four soups – Red Lentil Carrot and Coconut Soup, South American Black Bean Soup, 13 Bean Soup, and Caribbean Pepper Pot Soup. The recipes can be found here. 

Hummus

Astrid licking the spatula with hummus

Hummus is another staple in our house. We use it instead of margarine or butter as a spread on bread or for topping a baked potato. Our favorite hummus is made with chickpeas (or while navy beans) and roasted sweet potato. I generally make a large batch and freeze it is smaller containers so we always have it on hand. This rich and creamy hummus, paired with a baked potato and green salad makes a delicious, easy to prepare and satisfying meal. It is also good as a pasta sauce.

The recipe for Sweet Potato Hummus can be found here. The recipe calls for cayenne pepper and is quite spicy. However, you can eliminate the cayenne all together for a delicious hummus for kids or those not fond of spices. This recipe, without the cayenne, is taste tested and approved by my granddaughter Astrid.

Stir Fry

Another great quick and easy meal is a stir fry. Make a big batch of your favorite sauce and keep it on hand in the fridge, or freeze it.  Frozen mixed vegetables are a real time saver.  All you need to do is make a pot of rice or noodles and sauté the frozen veggies in a bit of broth and add the sauce. Top with cashews or sesame seeds and your set.

Don’t forget that rice also freezes well. When you cook rice, make a big pot. You can keep enough for a week in the fridge and freeze the rest in one meal portions.

My favorite recipe for Chinese Brown Sauce can be found at this link, along the recipe for Chinese 5 Spice Sauce, a spicier version of the same sauce. These sauces will keep in the fridge for at least 1 week. However, you can make a big batch and freeze in 1 meal portions.

Chilli

A big pot of chilli makes a filling meal and is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day. While most chillis are meat based, they are also easy to make without any animal products. If you have a favorite recipe, make a plant based version using the same sauce and spice mixture. Add beans, lentils, veggies or mashed tofu to replace the meat. One of my favorite chilli recipe can be found here. Make up a big pot and freeze the leftovers for a later meal.

One Pot Meals

One Pan Mexican Quinoa

One pot meals are real time savers – in prep, cooking and cleanup. Chop up your veggies and throw them into a pot with the sauce, simmer and serve. Great when you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry.

Two of my favorite one pot meals are:

Rotini in a Coconut Sauce – I love this recipe because the pasta cooks in the sauce. No need to dirty another pot to cook pasta.

Mexican Quinoa – Quinoa is a quick cooking seed that packs a nutritional punch and has a pleasant nutty taste. This Mexican dish can be spiced up or down to suit everyone’s taste.

Salad Dressings 

Salads make great quick, easy and hearty meals. Keep a couple of your favorite oil free salad dressings on hand in the fridge at all times. A great meal is a simple as tossing some greens with additional veggies, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, grains or beans. A salad with a baked potato or slice of hearty whole grain bread is a great meal. Oil free dressings are flavorful, easy to make and offer plenty of nutrition without the heavy calorie count. The recipes for some of my favorite salad dressings can be found here.

Sweet Potato Brownies 

Sweet Potato Brownies

Its always nice to have a little something sweet in the freezer for capping off a meal. These brownies are just sweet enough to satisfy and nutritious enough to be served at any everyday meal. They are packed with sweet potato, dates, oats and almond flour. I find them perfect just as they are: however, if you wish, you can increase the maple syrup to make them a bit sweeter.

The recipe makes a large cookie sheet or about 30 brownie squares, so they last a while. Slice them up and freeze them. They are great straight out of the freezer. Find the recipe here.

 

Sweet Potato Brownies

January 31, 2018

Sweet Potato Brownies

I came across this recipe from Bosh TV and it has quickly become one of our favorite everyday desserts. Its not too sweet and loaded with nutrition, I like to think of it as part of the meal, not dessert. It is sweetened with a mixture of dates and maple syrup. For those of you who like things a little sweeter, you can increase the amount of maple syrup used. The original recipe calls for coconut oil, but I substituted almond milk instead with great results.

• 4 medium sized sweet potatoes (cubed & roasted for 35 mins) (about 2 cups mashed)
• 1 1/2 cups oats
• 10 medjool dates (pitted & chopped) (about 1 cup dates)
• 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
• 1 cup cocoa (or cacao) powder
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 5 tbsp almond milk
Icing
• 1/3 cup maple syrup
• 1/3 cup nut butter
• 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate squares

• 1/4 cup cocoa powder

Sweet Potato Brownies baked and ready for icing

Make oat flour by blending 1 1/2 cup rolled oats in a blender or food processor until fine. Remove from blender or processor and add dates, sweet potatoes, maple syrup and almond milk to the machine. Blend until smooth. Add ground almonds, oat flour and cocoa and blend until smooth. (If your machine won’t handle this thick mixture, mix the dry ingredients in by hand). Spread the batter on a rimmed baking sheet (cookie pan) lined with parchment paper. Smooth top and bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.

Make the icing by placing the maple syrup, nut butter (I use almond or peanut), and chocolate chips in a small pan and heat over low heat until chips are melted. Stir in cocoa powder.

Icing ready to spread

Spread over brownies. Refrigerate until icing is set. Slice into squares and freeze.