Crunchy Kale and Nut Salad

If you live in New York, this past weekend you were most likely stuck indoors due to the snow. This past weekend during the blizzard, I was supposed to be teaching my first donation-based yoga class, but that just wasn’t going to happen due to the weather, so my yoga class has been rescheduled for next month. If you read my last post about yoga, you know how excited I am about teaching this class! Getting back to being stuck inside, one of my favorite ways to pass the time when stuck inside is to cook. Or in my case, un-cook. I love kale and I especially love kale salads. The following kale salad will satisfy a crunchy craving and supply a good dose of healthy fats and fiber. It’s vegan, and if you use gluten-free soy sauce (tamari or shoyu) it can also be gluten free.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish, 2 if served as a main dish)

Salad

  • 4-5 cups kale, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, shaved into slices or diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered raw almonds

Dressing (makes several servings, refrigerate and save remaining dressing)

  • 1/4 cup tahini (hulled sesame paste, can be found at most health food stores)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

 

Directions

  • For the salad, cut veggies and set kale in a large bowl. Massage olive oil onto kale using your hands so that the kale becomes softened. Add veggies and slivered almonds.
  • For the dressing, measure and whisk together ingredients in a large bowl until uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and mix with a large spoon. There will be a large amount of dressing leftover. Store the remaining dressing in a sealed cup or bowl and use within a few days.
  • Share with friends and enjoy!

 

-Jess

Feed Your Soul!

I’m finally done with another semester of being a nutrition student, yay! This semester was probably my toughest one yet because of the amount of courses I decided to take, along with yoga teacher training, balancing a job, and trying to fit in time for my own yoga practice. One thing that definitely helped me this semester was fitting in time to de-stress. Yoga helped, as did some other activities, such as baking, spending time outdoors, and curling up with a good book. If you find yourself overwhelmed, I recommend doing some activities that take your mind off whatever is stressing you out. During my finals week, I realized how important it is to do things that feed your soul instead of focusing either exclusively on work/obligations or doing things that provide a sense of fleeting fun.

Although technically the following recipe isn’t a “baked good”, it still kept me occupied in the kitchen and turned out to be a really healthy, filling little treat. Coming up with cheaper alternatives to my favorite packaged snack foods is now an official hobby, so I present to you, my raw balls. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. These delicious balls are made of (mostly) all raw ingredients and are chock full of healthy, plant-based fats and fiber. They also make a great present if you haven’t bought your holiday gifts yet.

 

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Chocolate Chip Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates (make sure you take the pit out of them!)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s sells a vegan version)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine pitted dates, nuts, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a food processor and process/pulse for a minute or two. The mixture should be easily moldable with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon, and continue to use the food processor. If the mixture has too many nuts and won’t mold together with your hands, try adding a few more pitted dates. Transfer back into the large bowl and add chocolate chips. Mold into ball shapes with your hands and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder

Directions:

Combine pitted dates, nuts, dried cherries, and cocoa powder together and transfer to a food processor. Process until blended for about a minute of two. If the consistency is too dry and the mixture won’t mold with your hands, try adding a few more dates. If it’s too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon. Transfer to a bowl and then using your hands, mold the mixture into ball shapes and refrigerate. Enjoy!

-Jess

Raw Vegan Blueberry Almond Balls

The combination of almonds plus dried fruit is one that I always gravitate towards. As I wrote in a previous post, I love larabars, which are my go-to energy bar for when I don’t have time to sit down for a meal or snack. I decided to make my own version of a larabar, in “ball” form (instead of a bar). After experimenting with a few different combinations of dried fruit to nut ratios, and looking at a few recipes online (specifically, I mainly adapted Angela Liddon’s dark chocolate cherry bite recipe found here), I made the final product which I really enjoyed! Here it is:

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Ingredients:

  • 8 medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries (found at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2-3 large prunes, pits removed
  • a dash of salt

 

Directions:

  • Process almonds and dates in a food processor, until fine chunks appear
  • add the dried blueberries, salt, and prunes
  • remove from the food processor and with your hands, mold into ball-shapes. Enjoy, or save for later by covering and storing in the refrigerator.

 

-Jess

Would You Follow a Raw Food Diet?

If you follow food and diet trends, you’ve probably noticed that the raw food craze began a while ago with adherents swearing by its weight loss and healing properties. I first became intrigued of raw foodism several years ago when I was a strict vegan, but I couldn’t commit to it for an extended period of time. Now, I find myself cooking (or un-cooking) more raw food dishes, but I’m still not a raw vegan for the record. The raw food diet promises many things, but is it all too good to be true? Not necessarily. First, let’s discuss the “rules” one must follow on this diet.

Rules of the Raw Food Diet

If you’re following a 100% raw food diet, nothing on your plate can be cooked above 140°F. Grains are typically not included in this diet, unless they’re raw (under 140°F). Dairy and meat are not usually included because of the risk of pathogenic bacteria that spreads at low temperatures. Most of your meals will come from your own preparation because most restaurants, delis, and other eateries don’t have too many raw options. The diet is mainly fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, extra virgin oils, and sprouted raw grains and legumes.

Health Benefits

Because it is so high in fruits and vegetables, the raw food diet has many benefits. To start, you’re going to get more vitamins and minerals at a lower calorie intake than if you obtain your calories from processed, enriched/fortified foods (processed foods, such as cereal and bread, which have vitamins and minerals added to them). The high water content of fresh fruits and vegetables may lead to a lower calorie intake because of how filling these foods tend to be. Less processing of food typically means that use of oils will be limited because cooking is kept to a minimum. Fiber intake tends to be very high on this diet, which is also a major benefit, as most Americans do not meet their daily fiber requirement.

Anecdotally, many people who follow the raw food diet not only mention the above, but also claim to be healed of various health issues. Research has yet to prove anything substantial, but the high phytonutrient content of fruits and vegetables, along with fiber, has been proven to lower the risk of several cancers and heart disease.

Pitfalls of the Raw Food Diet

Convenience may be an issue on this diet, as going out to a restaurant and trying to find something other than a salad may be an issue (but if salads are your thing, go ahead!). Many raw food dishes require specialty kitchen items such as a vegetable spiralizer (to make raw vegetable “noodles”), a dehydrator (which cooks food to a temperature lower than 105°F, a food processor (to make gourmet raw meals), and a juicer or blender. Adequate protein may be difficult to achieve on this diet without some planning. As mentioned in previous posts, most people need just under 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (to find your weight in kg, divide pounds by 2.2). Calcium and Vitamin D intake may also be low, so if that’s a concern for you (especially if you’re a woman) and you want to try the raw food diet, you may want to add a Calcium and Vitamin D supplement.

My View of the Raw Food Diet

I think this diet has many benefits, but also falls short in several nutrients. The “science” behind this diet is also faulty, as some claim that cooking destroys essential enzymes in food that the body needs. The reality is our digestive system produces the enzymes which break down our food. Any enzymes present in raw foods are destroyed in the acidic environment of our stomach, before absorption of nutrients even occurs.

Still, with so many people claiming that raw food has changed their lives, I can’t be too hard on this one. If you can envision yourself living as a raw foodist for a while, then I say, go for it, or if you just want to try it, be my guest. I’m slightly biased on this one because of my past as a strict vegan, and I admit I tried this diet for a month in 2008, but didn’t really feel any different, however I’m still intrigued. As a result, I made some (mostly) raw vegan treats this weekend and I’m sharing the recipes below! I used a dehydrator (that I purchased in 2008—yep, I went all out during my raw food trial) but if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can either omit the cooking part and eat these as is, or freeze for a frozen treat.

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The goodies in my dehydrator!

The goodies in my dehydrator!

(Mostly) Raw Vegan Almond-Brownie Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw almond meal (you can find this at Trader Joe’s or usually at your local health food store)
  • 2 dates (pitted), pulverized in a food processor with ¼ cup or less of water (you want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce or, peel and cut an apple, pulverize in a food processor until paste-like (the latter is the more authentically “raw” option)
  • 1 oz (or about 20) almonds, cut or crushed
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate chips

Directions

  • Process dates and water in a food processor
  • Measure almond meal, cocoa powder, and almonds and add to a bowl
  • Add dates, vanilla extract, applesauce, and chocolate chips, and mix together to the dry ingredients.
  • The mixture should be like a thick cookie dough. If the ratios are off, you can add additional almond meal by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Form into balls using a tablespoon and place on a dehydrator sheet. If not available, enjoy as is, or place in the freezer for 20-60 minutes.
  • Dehydrate for 2 hours and then let dry overnight.

Raw Vegan Almond Raisin Bites

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup raw almond meal
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or make your own apple-paste using the method listed above in the previous recipe)
  • 2 dates, pitted, and pulverized with some water in a food processor (you want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp. raw almond butter (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  • Process the dates and water in a food processor
  • Measure almond meal and put in a bowl
  • Add applesauce, dates, vanilla extract, and almond butter to the almond meal.
  • Add raisins and mix until a thick cookie dough consistency is reached. If the mixture is too thin, add additional almond meal by the tablespoon. If too thick, add a little applesauce.
  • Form into balls using a tablespoon and place on a dehydrator sheet. Again, if unavailable, enjoy as is, or place in the freezer for 20-60 minutes.
  • Dehydrate for 2 hours and then let dry overnight.

Enjoy!

-Jess

Healthy Gluten-Free, Vegan Microwave Brownies

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Microwave brownies are an easy way to treat yourself and a great way to exercise portion control. I know when I make brownies in the oven, I’m tempted to eat more than I even want just because I have a surplus of freshly baked goods. If you’re like me, having a single-serving of dessert is an easy remedy for this problem. Not only will the following recipe satisfy your chocolate craving, it also provides some healthy nutrition. Using almond meal is a great alternative to wheat flour or rice flour, the latter tends to be low in fiber and high in carbohydrates. Almond meal is a great source of vitamin E and contains fiber and healthy fats. Using 100% cocoa powder along with dark chocolate chips is a delicious way get some flavonoids that may help you decrease cholesterol and blood pressure over time. Instead of using sugar or honey, using whole dates (just remember to remove the pit before grinding) provides a little fiber (which will slow down digestion and won’t lead to high and then low blood sugar). I chose not to use eggs in this recipe because it tasted fine without them, but if you’re not a vegan and you want a thicker, more solid/cake-like brownie, feel free to add an egg white and microwave as described below.

Here’s my latest healthy, gluten-free, vegan microwave brownie recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (you want enough apple sauce to allow the almond meal to not be in flour-y chunks)
  • 1 tbsp. 100% cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 medjool dates, remove pit (use a food processor + 2 tbsp. of water to turn this into a very thick liquid, or grind with a hand tool– you just want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter

Directions:

  • Mix almond meal, cocoa powder, applesauce, vanilla extract, and ground dates together in a microwave safe bowl
  • Microwave for 2 minutes and check to see if the mixture has thickened or stiffened. This recipe won’t get too stiff, but it’s more of a soft-fudgy consistency.
  • If not yet thick and if the mixture is still liquid-y, microwave for 45 second increments until it has thickened
  • Wait for the mixture to cool for a few minutes (2-5 minutes)
  • Top with chocolate chips, almond butter and sprinkle with cinnamon

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Enjoy!

-Jess