Spiced Apple Pumpkin Cake (Vegan, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free)

Here is a simple vegan baked recipe that you can serve your family or take to the next dinner party. This recipe was inspired by the Apple Cake recipe from Veg Recipes of India, just made healthier, more nutritious and less complicated. I added in pumpkin seeds for a delicious nutrient dense crunch. I love the combination of textures of warm moistness with soft sweet apple chunks and spices. I hope you do too!

Spiced Apple Pumpkin Cake (Vegan, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free) 
Author: Anna @ dietitian_mom
Prep Time: 15 – 20 minutes
Bake Time: 40-50 minutes
Serves 1 loaf cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ -½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 ½ cups apple chunks (~ 2 medium apples cored and cut into ~ ½ inch sized cubes)
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¾ – 1 cup fortified plant-based milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup roasted or raw pumpkin seeds, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (except the pumpkin seeds). Ensure ingredients are well combined and mixed. Use a whisk or fork to mash out any big lumps of brown sugar in the bowl.
  3. Add the chopped apples to the dry mixture and stir to get all the apples coated in the flour mixture using a spatula or wooden spoon.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, lemon juice, fortified plant-based milk and vanilla extract. Use ¾ cup of the plant-based milk first, reserving the last ¼ cup to add depending on how dry the batter remains after the wet and dry ingredients are mixed together.
  5. Add the wet ingredients mixture into the dry mixture slowly, stirring until a well combined cake batter is formed. Add small amounts of the remaining ¼ cup of the fortified plant-based milk to the mixture (a tablespoon at a time), until a very thick cake batter is achieved. You may not need to use all the remaining 1/4 cup of the fortified plant-based milk.
  6. Add 3 tablespoons of the pumpkin seeds into the batter and stir a few times until just integrated.
  7. Pour batter into a 5 x 9 inch loaf pan lined with aluminum foil, making sure the batter is spread evenly throughout the pan.
  8. Decorate the top with the remaining tablespoon of pumpkin seeds. You can just sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top or create a simple pattern.
  9. Bake 40-50 minutes in the middle rack of the oven, until the cake is baked through (check this by inserting a knife at the middle and 1-2 other points in the cake. It is done when the knife comes out clean).  It is best to check the cake at the 35-40 minute mark, as the cake may be done already. If not, cover the top of the cake with aluminum foil so that the top doesn’t get too burnt or dry, and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cake is fully done.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

You know the batter is good when you can’t stop ‘tasting’ it, and your little one keeps wanting to smell your batter! Increase the amount of spices in the recipes (e.g., the cloves and the ginger) if you like a stronger spice taste, or decrease it if you want less. I used fortified original soy milk in my recipe, but you can use other fortified plant-based milks like almond milk or cashew milk or coconut milk. If you don’t have any whole wheat flour on hand, just use 2 cups of all purpose flour in the recipe. Although I used a loaf pan, feel free to use a small cake pan or make these into muffins (if you make muffins, then bake for a shorter period of time of about 20-25 minutes, and then check for doneness)!

If you have only raw pumpkin seeds, it is very easy to toast them if you like. Just use the preheated oven and toast them for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the pumpkins seeds turn slightly golden in color. The cake slices are best served warm (these can be heated in the microwave quickly) with tea or coffee. Happy Baking!

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5 Minute Tahini Noodle Glaze!

This is an easy versatile recipe to whip up for a quick lunch or dinner for the family. It only involves a few simple steps and works with any kind of whole wheat pasta you would like to use. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds so it’s a great source of nutrition to add to noodles. As mentioned in my recent Instagram post, sesame seeds are nutritious little seeds. About 3 tablespoon’s worth (one ounce) provides almost 5 grams of protein, nearly 5 grams of fiber, 2 milligrams of iron and close to 3 milligrams of zinc. They are also good sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Boost the protein with cooked black beans, tofu or soy beans (edamame) and add whatever veggies you like!

Recipe by: DietitianMom

Prep time: 5 minutes

Serving: Makes about 1 ½ tablespoons of sauce (for each 1 cup of cooked whole wheat noodles)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 garlic, finely minced

Directions:

  1. Cook whole wheat pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Mince the garlic and mix together the sauce ingredients.
  3. Mix sauce with noodles.
  4. Add cooked beans, tofu and/or chopped vegetables as desired.
  5. Garnish with sesame seeds (optional)!

 

This recipe works great with any kind and amount of vegetables you would like to add. Examples include stir-fried or steamed green leafy vegetables, bean sprouts, green beans, steamed/baked/roasted sweet potato chunks, Shitake or cremini mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, diced zucchini, cabbage or even eggplant chunks. Pictured here is a noodle lunchbox I made this week using the Tahini Noodle Glaze. I just added in some carrots, leafy greens and shitake mushrooms…and of course, sesame seeds! Happy cooking! 🙂

 

Going Plant-Based: A Year In Review

This month, since it is the year end, I’m going to take a bit of time to look back and reflect. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since our family embarked on our transition to a plant-based diet. At first, the prospect seemed daunting because I was new to using plant-based foods such as chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, various beans, split peas and lentils. I also didn’t have many plant-based recipes under my belt.

Well, now a year later? I have emerged much healthier and much more confident in the kitchen now. After a year of experimentation, I now have an arsenal of loved plant-based dishes to rotate in our family meals. These include 3 pasta sauces, 2 taco fillings, 2 soups, 3 chili slow cooker recipes, at least 3 side dishes, numerous baked desserts and lots of self-created recipes! This repertoire would not have been possible if it were not for the endless supply of great plant-based whole food recipes from the Internet to try from lots of talented chefs and kitchen enthusiasts (thank you!).

In fact, my eldest daughter commented to me just recently, “Why do you always make delicious food?” To which, my reply was, “Why, do you want me to stop making so many?” and received an emphatic, “No!”

The other fun part was learning new things about my significant other in the process. First, he had quite keen insight to buy me a Ninja food processor about 3 years ago for my birthday. Although I never touched it for the first 2 years, now I am using it a few times a week to make plant-based recipes! Secondly, I never expected him to become the family expert nut and seed butter maker. His specialties are freshly ground peanut butter, cashew nut butter and sesame seed butter. Thirdly, I never knew how much my husband liked pasta and pasta sauces, until he recently told me that his favorite packed lunches of the week were the pasta and pasta sauce combos I had prepared. Who knew?

I’ve learned a lot about myself too in the process. For example, I realize that I enjoy trying out new recipes and finding ones the whole family enjoys. When my friends and relatives visit from out of town, I enjoy giving them a plant-based culinary experience over the few days they are here. They often leave with a positive experience of new tastes and textures (still working on my in-laws…). I also now enjoy photographing food…just check my Instagram account!

Some things stay the same though. My husband still has a sweet tooth (and my oldest daughter too)…just that now I try to make healthier versions of favorites (like the cashew-sesame snaps!).

It has truly been an exciting journey so far. I’m continuing to learn more about the nutritional aspects of being on a whole foods plant-based diet, and key nutrients to be aware of for adults and children. I hope to share some of this knowledge I’ve gleaned and more healthy plant-based recipes in the New Year! I’m looking forward to another exciting year ahead! Happy New Year!

 

 

Mini Lentil-Banana Pancakes

Want an easy way to make pancakes for your children without the fuss of frying them on the stove? Try these protein packed Mini Lentil-Banana Pancakes. Great for breakfast or as a snack on the go!

Recipe by: DietitianMom

Makes 36 mini pancakes (2 inches in diameter each)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup mashed or pureed cooked red lentils (drained well)
  • 3 small ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon fortified plant-based milk
  • 1/2 cup sifted all purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (can substitute with honey, maple syrup or agave nectar)

Supplies: silicon muffin cups, small pot, mixing bowl, baking tray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Rinse a half cup of dry red lentils with water in a small pot. Drain the excess water, then refill the pot with about 2 cups of water. Heat on a medium stove fire setting until pot contents are on a gentle boil. Turn down the fire and let contents cook with a gentle bubbling boil for about 10-15 minutes. You can taste a spoonful of the lentils at the end to check if they are cooked soft. Once the lentils are cooked through, turn off the fire. Remove the cooked lentils from the pot using a slotted spoon into a separate bowl. Measure out ½ a cup of cooked lentils into a separate mixing bowl. Make sure the lentils are drained really well first of any excess cooking liquid.
  3. Into this same mixing bowl with the lentils, mash the bananas, plant-based milk, sifted flour, baking powder, oil and brown sugar. You may add a little bit more plant-based milk if needed. The goal is to create a pancake batter thickness.
  4. Place all the silicon muffin cups onto a baking tray, then spoon a tablespoon of the batter into each silicon muffin cup.
  5. Bake the silicon cups in the oven for about 10-12 minutes (or until your desired level of crispness). Take out the baking tray and then remove the cooked mini-pancakes from the muffin cups onto a plate to further cool (and harden) for about 10 minutes or so. Ready to serve!
  6. Replace the silicon muffin cups onto the baking tray and repeat the process until all the batter has been cooked.

Tips: You could try substituting some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. You could also substitute the sugar with honey, maple syrup or agave nectar and adjust the amount added to your desired level of sweetness. The key is to put no more than a tablespoon at the bottom of each silicon muffin cup.

These Mini Lentil-Banana Pancakes taste great as leftovers cold or heated, or thawed and warmed up from the freezer. If you don’t have silicon muffin cups, you could use regular muffin cups, but the pancakes may stick slightly to the paper muffin cups. Another option is just to grease a tin muffin tray and put the batter directly into each muffin mold.

Alternatively, if you have a big silicon cake mold, you could use that to put a thin layer of the batter and then bake it, to make bigger pancake size pieces, or slice it into smaller pieces. Share your comments if you make this recipe! Bon appétit!

 

Qn of the Month: Besides Calcium, Are There Other Nutrients Important for Bones?

A: Absolutely!! Calcium and (to a lesser extent) vitamin D, have both long been in the media spotlight in years past for their role in bone health. However, your body needs MUCH more than just calcium and vitamin D to make and maintain healthy bones. Bone modeling and mineralization is a complex metabolically active process – one that extends throughout your life, and requires a good adequate supply of key nutrients.

Besides calcium and vitamin D, other key nutrients include protein, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Research is also now uncovering other nutrients potentially important in bones such boron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, zinc, flavonoids and soy isoflavones. Except vitamin B-12 (now found in quite a few fortified foods such as fortified plant based milks, fortified breakfast cereals and certain brands of nutritional yeast), most naturally occurring plant foods provide many of these bone nutrients, many of which can be found all within the same plant food!  Not surprisingly, there is now the view that instead of individual nutrients or supplements, a whole foods or ‘whole diet’ approach is needed to combat preventable diseases such as osteoporosis.

This in a sense is why a plant-based diet is so beneficial to the body, because the array of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and other whole foods eaten daily provide a rich substrate for bone by giving key nutrients to the body. It is possible that there are still many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in plant foods (which are not discovered scientifically yet) that work synergistically to improve or maintain bone health. Recent research also suggests that when planned well, a vegan/plant-based diet can provide adequate nutrients for good bone health. So eat an array of plant based foods regularly everyday! However, don’t forget physical activity! For to make and keep strong bones, regular weight bearing physical activity is important!

[Sources:
1. Higgs J, Derbyshire E, Styles K. Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention for the orthopaedic surgeon: A wholefoods approach. EFORT Open Rev. 2017 Jun 23;2(6):300-308. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5508855/pdf/eor-2-300.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2017.

2. Knurick JR, Johnston CS, Wherry SJ, Aguayo I. Comparison of correlates of bone mineral density in individuals adhering to lacto-ovo, vegan, or omnivore diets: a cross-sectional investigation. Nutrients. 2015 May 11;7(5):3416-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446759/. Accessed November 30, 2017.

3. Mangels AR. Bone nutrients for vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:469S-75S. Epub 2014 Jun 4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/469S.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.

4. Tucker, KL. Vegetarian diets and bone status. Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 100 (suppl): 329S – 35S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/329S.full.pdf+html. Accessed November 27, 2017.

5. Anderson JJ. Plant-based diets and bone health: nutritional implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):539S-542S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/539s.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.]

 

 

Morning Baked Oatmeal

About a year and half ago, I tasted a baked oatmeal dish made by a friend. It was the first time I had ever had a baked oatmeal breakfast, and it was so good I knew I had to try to make it myself! From the original recipe (which called for about ¾ cup of sugar, 2 eggs and cup of cow’s milk), I’ve since experimented and made some changes to reduce its sugar content and make it fully plant-based, while keeping it delicious, super-satisfying and filling. I’ve even added in some cooked red lentils to make it more nutrient dense, but you can leave this out if you don’t have it readily available in your home. This is now a recipe that is a family favorite which we make frequently in our household. As you can see, it is very versatile and you can really customize it to make it special for your family!

Morning Baked Oatmeal  

Recipe by: DietitianMom
Prep Time: 20 min
Bake Time: 30 min

Base Ingredients:

  • ½ cup vegetable oil (any kind!)
  • 1 flax egg
  • 3 cups rolled or quick oats
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 cup fortified plant-based milk
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar (adjust as desired)
  • ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup of raisins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup of cooked lentils (drained well of liquid)

Then choose your additions (whatever you fancy!):

  • ¼ -1/2 cup of fresh/frozen berries
  • Other fresh fruit like mashed banana, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, diced pears or apricots
  • ¼ cup of other dried fruit like chopped dates, apricots, currants, chopped dates, figs, cranberries or prunes
  • ½ cup of chopped walnuts/pecans or other nuts like cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, almonds or hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C
  2. Rinse a half cup of red lentils with water in a small pot. Drain the excess water, then refill the pot with about 2 cups of water. Heat on medium stove fire setting until pot contents are on a gentle boil. Turn down the fire and let cook with a gentle bubbling boil for about 10-15 minutes. Drain the cooked lentils well and set aside in a small bowl.
  3. Prepare the flax egg: mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water in a cup. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before whisking the mixture quickly for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Mix all the base ingredients together (either the night before or the day of – see below) and then add in at least 3-4 additional optional ingredients from the list!
  5. Bake in an 8 x 8 pan for 30 minutes. Remove immediately and let cool slightly before serving.
  6. Portion into serving bowls. Eat the baked oatmeal by itself, or with a ½ cup of fortified plant-based milk poured over it, like a cold cereal!

Add a little bit more fortified plant-based milk if you need to before baking, if it is looking very dry. I usually combine all the ingredients together the night before and let it sit in the fridge (this helps to soften the oats and also makes breakfast the next morning easier!). Then in the morning, when I’m preheating the oven, I just add in fresh chopped fruit to the mixture before baking it. That way, breakfast is ready in just about 30-40 minutes in the morning! The extras (if there is any left!) freeze really well too in a covered container, so you could double the recipe and make more to freeze some for later. My kids absolutely love this dish!

Additional Notes:

Timing – Don’t let the baked oatmeal overcook. Take it out exactly after 30 minutes, so the mixture won’t get too dry!

Sweetness factor – You can adjust the sweetness level according to your taste, and experiment using honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or chopped dates instead of the brown sugar. In general though, the more fresh, frozen or dried fruit you throw into the mixture, the more the natural sweetness of the dish will pop out and the less sugar you will need to add.

What I actually usually do is just put in 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in the mixture, add lots of dried and fresh fruit, then after it has come out of the oven I sprinkle over the top a teaspoon of brown sugar to make a very thin ‘fairy dust’ coating. The sweetness factor is just right for our family then! You could also drizzle a small amount of maple syrup over the top if you like instead before serving.

This recipe is egg-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, so it’s suitable for those with allergies. I love the fact that I can just literally throw whatever I have available in the kitchen (within reason) into the recipe and it will still taste delicious. So go ahead and throw in those bananas slices, fresh or frozen or dried fruit, berries, nuts, chia seeds and ground flaxmeal. It’s really hard to go wrong!

(Source: Inspired by a recipe from Shauna Lammiman. I am grateful to her and my friend Anne for sharing the original recipe with me!)

 

Toasted Corn & Spaghetti Squash Recipe

 

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Some time ago when my eldest child was still a preschooler, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Another couple brought in the vegetable dish they had made to contribute to the dinner. It was the first time I had tasted spaghetti squash and I was instantly hooked to its delicious taste and noodle-like texture. I decided to come home and try my hand at this dish. I found it extremely easy to whip up at dinnertime, so wanted to share it!

Toasted Corn & Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • A few garlic cloves (peeled & chopped)
  • 1-2 cups frozen (or fresh kernels) corn
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons unsalted vegan margarine and/or olive oil as desired
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
  • Shredded dairy-free cheese (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

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Directions:

  1. Boil the spaghetti squash (see how to do this from the post: Kitchen Spotlight: Tips on Using Spaghetti Squash)
  2. While the squash is being cooked in the pot of water, use a separate saucepan to cook the garlic. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a separate large saucepan. Once hot, throw in the chopped garlic to fry. When the garlic pieces are browned, remove the toasted chopped garlic to set aside in a bowl.
  3. Using the same saucepan, add the remainder of the olive oil into the pan. Then put the frozen corn to cook on a low-medium fire stove setting. Cook the corn until it is toasted (takes approximately 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Then season if desired with a bit of salt and pepper, and remove the toasted corn into a separate bowl.
  4. Next, put the shredded cooked spaghetti squash into the saucepan and then add back in the toasted corn and garlic. Mix well together.
  5. Add additional salt and pepper if desired and raw or toasted pine nuts. Serve warm with some shredded dairy-free cheese on top (optional)!

If you like, you can use garlic salt or garlic powder instead to season the dish, and a bit of vegan margarine instead of olive oil, or in addition to the olive oil for a more buttery taste. An alternative is to add in a tablespoon of coconut oil at the end instead of vegan margarine for the same buttery feel and texture. Feel free to also add in some other protein sources like sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, and/or sautéed black beans. You could also add some tomato pasta sauce with minced tomatoes and minced meat to form a gluten-free version of a pasta dish without noodles.

Serves 4-6 people as a side vegetable dish. It is surprisingly how filling this can be as a side to a meatless dinner! My eldest child loved this paired with mashed potatoes. I’m sure you could also just combine the strands of spaghetti squash into mashed potatoes as you are mixing it. However, it also works great separately as you can come up with all sorts of fun creations which are sure to appeal to little ones. My then nearly 4 year old loved having a monkey face on her plate using yellow spaghetti squash ‘hair’ and a white mashed potato ‘face’. If you don’t know what I mean, check out the image on my Instagram account dietitian_mom!

(Source: Mooth B. Spaghetti Squash with Corn and Roasted Garlic. Writes4food.com. http://writes4food.com/2012/09/24/spaghetti-squash-with-corn-and-toasted-garlic/. September 24, 2012. Accessed November 15, 2017.)