Lemon Cake

15 08 2012

This dish is a dance that took 12 months to create.  The foundation was simple:  Make a cake.  The rhythm was more challenging:

No animal products… no eggs, butter, dairy.

No refined sugars… no honey, agave, stevia.

No oils… not olive, not coconut, not avocado.

Only whole wheat flour.

And make it taste good.

After 12 months of practicing the steps, this is my dance.

Lemon Cake

Serves 8

2 tablespoons flax meal

½  cup dates, soaked in warm water

1 tablespoons dried lavender buds

½ cup raw cashew butter, no-salt-added

1 cup non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

To make flax eggs:  Combine flax meal with 6 tablespoons warm water.  Whisk together and let sit 5 minutes, until mixture is gelatinous and slimy, like eggs.

To combine wet ingredients:  Remove dates from soaking liquid.  Place in a blender or high-speed food processor with ½ cup of the soaking liquid.  Puree until well-blended and smooth.  Add dried lavender, cashew butter, non-dairy milk, and vanilla.  Puree until smooth.

To make cupcakes:  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Add the lemon zest and juice and vinegar.  Stir well to combine.  Line an 8” round cake pan with parchment (or use a 12-cupcake silicon baking mold).  Pour the cake batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake 20-25 minutes for regular cake (10 to 15 minutes for cupcakes).  The cake will be done when it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Let fully cool before frosting.

Lemon Frosting

Makes 1 cup

1 cup raw cashew butter, or 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained

8 dates, pitted and soaked in warm water

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

To prepare the Lemon Frosting:  Place the cashew butter (or soaked cashews), dates, vanilla, and ¼ cup warm water in a high-speed blender or food processor.  Pulse the mixture several times, and then blend until the ingredients are thick, smooth, and creamy.  If needed add 1-tablespoon at a time of water to the blender until the desired consistency is achieved.  Cream can be use immediately or may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.    

Freezes beautifully.


Apricot Bean Salsa

8 08 2012

Salsa comes down to a few key ingredients: jalapeno, lime, and cilantro.  From there, the possibilities are endless, making it the perfect setting to use summer’s ripest fruits.  Adding beans takes it from side dish to main course.

2 cups cooked yellow eye stueben beans

2 large apricots, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 lime, zest and juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

To make salsa:  Combine all just before serving. Enjoy in bibb lettuce cups.

If making a day ahead, layer all of the ingredients in a large bowl, with the beans and cilantro on top.  Toss just before serving.  If you toss any sooner, you beans and apricot will get mushy.

Fear Not Carbs

3 07 2012

Recent tidbits in the media have reiterated the strengths of eating a Plant-centric diet.
Check out this fun video featuring some of our favorite diet guru.  Dr. Atkins is on there, as well as the writer of the Paleo Solution and some other low-carb heavy hitters:

Low-Carb vs Plant-Based

I’m usually not one to judge by someone’s personal appearance, but I highly doubt that ripped Cross Fit junkies would be motivated by the Paleo grandfather, Loren Cordain.
Beyond carbs, though, what is most important is eating whole foods.  So many times we think of “carbs” as the refined foods that have added sugars and fats.  We think of processed breads, cookies, crackers, pastries, doughnuts, and fries.  None of these are whole foods.  They have been stripped of fiber, protein, and nutrients and fortified with fats, oils, and flavorings to seem like food.  These are food imposters.

Whole carbs are plants.  They are whole grains (rice, oats, quinoa, corn).  They are potatoes (loaded with fiber, nutrients, and even protein and fat).  They are beans and legumes.  They are fruits.  They are complex, which means the body breaks them down slowly so that it can absorb all of their goodness without spiking blood sugar levels or raising insulin.

Even Women’s Health spent some time to quiet some of the myths of meatless eating:

5 Vegetarian Myths

The coolest thing I like on this list is that a Plant-Based diet is often more diverse then a meat-inclusive diet.  I think back to my chicken days.  The same chicken, 4 different ways, week after week.  Now, I eat all colors and sizes of grains.  I’m cooking beans I never knew existed.  I’m tasting different varieties of dark greens, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, spices, and more.  And if I do eat chicken?  Well, it tastes the same as it always did — boring.

Good luck, Plant-friendly eaters.  Please keep me posted on the progress.  May the plants be with you!

Berry Oatmeal in a Jar

19 06 2012

Who has time for breakfast?  Make a full supply of these Sunday night for Breakfast-on-the-go all week.  Or, do like me, and chow on these for a post-workout refuel.

Makes 6 jars

3  cups oats (thick-rolled have a nice chewiness)

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 tablespoon grated nutmeg

3 cups berries, any variety, let your nose and eyes choose

6 mason jars (holds at least 2 cups each)

Clean out jars.  Open lids.  Place 1/2 cup oats in each jar.  Combine the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a small bowl, then even disperse among the jars (about 1 tablespoon in each jar).  If you have Pumpkin Pie spice mix on hand, this will also work.  Evenly disperse the berries among the jars.  Frozen berries or cherries also work.  Add enough water to each of the jars to cover the oats and come almost to the lip of the jar, about 1 1/2 cups.  Screw the lids on the jars, and refrigerate.

To enjoy: Simply screw the lid off the jar, microwave for a minute, stir, then another 30 seconds.  Enjoy warm.

The longer the oats soak in the water, the softer they’ll get.  Feel free to add in chopped, toasted nuts or fresh vanilla seeds for extra flavor.

Lower on the Chain

6 06 2012

To produce one pound of US steak (less than 1,000 calories of food), 45,000 calories of fossil fuels are required. 70 percent of the antibiotics we make are used on our livestock. And while Africa starves, half of the food we grow in this country goes to feed our livestock.

There was a time when meat cost more than vegetables. Chickens were reserved for special Sunday dinners, and, even then, every part of the bird found its way into giblet gravy and leftover soup. Now, these birds come in perfectly-portioned, uniformly-sized pounded breasts that cook in ten minutes. As Americans, we spend a smaller portion of our family budget on food then any other developed country. This is probably why we’re okay with the genetically modified wheat and under-tested pesticides that are banned in the European Union: It’s cheaper.

A challenge to eat healthy and sustainably is a challenge to change the way we look at food. Take the meat off. Switch the plate around so that vegetables and complex carbohydrates are the foundation while meat is the rare treat. Eat whole foods. Eat more plants. You’ll still get plenty of protein and fat, but probably in a form that is friendlier to your waistline and your arteries.

Other cultures have been doing this for centuries. Use them for inspiration. Mexico has its rice and beans. India has its red lentils and curried dal. Even our Native Americans shared corn and bean succotash.

Here we still have our grand images of the cowboy lassoing tonight’s dinner in a heroic display of the hunter feeding his family a hearty meal. This is an idyllic image of the past, though. Our current image is the truth of claustrophobic factory farms filled with sick, mutated animals. Our image for the future is our choice, a choice we make three times a day, plus snacks. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. It just means a little extra attention and one simple rule: Eat lower on the food chain.

For more information, check out these worthy reads:

Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma

Northwest Earth Institute’s Menu for the Future

Green with Envy

31 05 2012

My recent love of broccoli for protein comes only after my love for its beautiful green and sweet, buttery flavor.

Flavor first.

There you are, dear broccoli, hiding amidst your comrades on the produce shelf.  Beside you, crisp romaine reaches tall with its vibrant stalks.  Golden onions shine for your appreciation.  Even drab white cauliflower embodies untouched purity in its individually-wrapped package.  Yet broccoli rests with little enthusiasm.   Store employees bunch you to attain some form of cohesion, but your woody stalks and tufted florets scream more “alien” than “appetite”.

Broccoli, old pal, you just need a friend.

I gladly pick you up and invite you over for dinner.  I happily cut your stalks long, making tiny trees from your bulky frame.  Water is boiled and salted — heavily.  “To taste like the sea” echoes the voice of a past chef.  In the rolling, bubbling jacuzzi, down go your drab greenness.  In minutes, there is magic.

Your faded color makes way for glowing emerald.  Your woody trunks soften.  The salty cloud of water brings out the earthy, sweet flavors that hide in your stems.

A few minutes later, a knife easily slips out of your thickest stalk, and you are ready.  A quick shock into a bath of ice water locks in your crisp green.

Tossed with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper, you are beautiful.  You put romaine to shame.  Somehow you have transformed into this delight that plays between my teeth while also melts on my tongue.  Broccoli, my friend, you are ALIVE.

Take that, cauliflower.

The other veggies are green with envy.


Enough Protein

30 05 2012

“How do you get enough protein?”

That’s one of the most frequent questions I hear when discussing plant-centered eating.  I hear it at the gym, where I work, from medical professionals, fitness experts, fellow cooks, and knowledgeable friends.

My favorite answer “I love broccoli.   Broccoli is loaded with protein.”

But not everyone likes broccoli.  Or they don’t believe me when I say I get protein from broccoli.  You mean in the whole history of humankind, vegetarians were dieing from lack of protein?  Now we know!  Really, though, my question for them is “How much protein do you need?” and then “How much are you getting?”

The tricky part here comes with the math.  Now, I love math and numbers.  Some people don’t.  The simple math:

Let’s take a healthy female.  She’s 140 (64 kg) lbs, moderately active.

She  needs about 1600 calories a day.

RDA is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight.  For our healthy female, that’s  about 51 g of protein.  1 gram of protein is 4 calories, so that means 204 of her calories should come from protein (about 8 percent of her total calories for the day).

If you love more math, check out my friend Jeff Novick’s post on Protein Requirements.  He’s a Registered Dietician and takes a calculator to the grocery.  He loves math.

So, back to broccoli.

98 calories of broccoli has 28 calories (more than 28%) protein.  When doing the math, remember 1 gram of protein = 4 calories.  I won’t even get into the fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron that also comes with broccoli.  You probably already know all of that.  If our healthy female ate only broccoli (1600 calories worth!) all day, she’d get 114 g of protein by the end of the day.

100 calories of oats has about 20% protein.  Oats!  A day of only oats would be 69g of protein

Tomatoes.  32 calories of tomatoes (that’s a whole cup of tomato slices!) has 25% protein.  (2 grams of protein = 8 calories.  8/32 = 25%)  A day of 1600 calorie tomatoes? 100g of protein.

I haven’t made a single mention of beans, lentils, nuts, or tofu.  I also haven’t mentioned fake-meat products or processed products.  When we eat food that is stripped of its bran and fiber (aka refined flours, sugars, and oils), we strip it of its protein.  Then we usually pay for it in a bright shiny label that advertises “now with extra protein”.  Pass on the labels.  Eat your broccoli.