Coconut Corn Mini-Breads (Dairy & Egg-Free!)

I knew there was a reason I bought this recipe book. Many years ago, I decided to buy a book titled ‘Quick Breads’ by Howard Early and Glenda Morris. I am a novice bread baker, so the idea of being able to make breads rapidly without much dough kneading or rising time was very appealing. However, I never made more than 2-3 recipes from this book over the past decade. This past weekend, we had company over and I decided to have another look at this dusty book on the shelves, to find something to complement the vegan lasagna I had made (we had forgotten to get dinner rolls at the store). To my surprise I found an easy recipe called Coconut Corn Bread using ingredients I already had at home, so I decided to modify the ingredients and give it a try. It was an intriguing combination: coconut and corn? I had made cornbread before but had never mixed both ingredients together before. The result? Our family and guests enjoyed it so much I wanted to share this simple modified dairy-free and egg-free recipe with you!

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used the fortified Silk brand original flavor coconut milk)
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1 flax egg (see directions below)
  • 1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 tablespoon of honey (or maple syrup for those who do not want to use honey)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch cake or loaf pan (I used silicon muffin cups instead).
  2. Make the flax egg: Mix 1 tablespoon of flaxmeal combined with 3 tablespoons of water together with a whisk or fork, then let sit for 10-15 minutes. Before using, use the whisk and give it a good mix for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  4. Mix wet ingredients together.
  5. Gently combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (or when toothpick inserted comes out clean). Optional: at about 5-10 minutes before the baking time was up, I sprinkled some shredded coconut flakes on the tops of the cornbread muffins for an extra flair!
  7. Serve warm or let cool for 5-10 minutes then remove from pan.

You may adjust the ‘sweetness’ factor depending on your preference, by adding more or less honey or maple syrup. Serve warm to complement a meal, or add a little bit of vegan butter, jam or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup on top. Th

is is such a simple recipe that you can also enlist your little helper at home to help out with measuring and mixing the ingredients together!

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3

Getting hungry? -Dietitianmom.com


Hello there! Previously, I had provided an overview of a whole foods plant-based diet and discussed the first 2 steps of transitioning to such a diet. These were “Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies” and “Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options” (see posts Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction, Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1, and Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2). In this post, I would like to touch on Step 3: Choosing Smart Snacks.

Tahini Raisin & Flaxmeal Crackers – Dietitianmom.com

STEP #3: CHOOSE SMART SNACKS
Need something to tide you over until lunch or dinner? Children tend to need to eat more frequently than adults, so would often benefit from snacks between meals. There are a few key reasons why. Children, especially younger children, tend to have high energy levels and smaller stomach capacities. In general, a whole foods plant-based diet tends to consist of foods that have a higher fiber but lower caloric content. Hence, due to the higher fiber content of these foods consumed, it is possible that in some cases a child could feel full easily at meals with their smaller stomachs, but receive inadequate calories for overall optimal growth.

 

 

Fruit Wedges with Seed Butter & Walnut Dotted Banana Coins – Dietitianmom.com

For adults, you may also feel the need to have snacks in between meals, especially if you find you are becoming more active, and if your metabolism revs up with the switch to a whole foods plant-based diet. That’s the best part of a whole foods plant-based diet – on such a ‘diet’, you actually don’t need to watch your caloric intake or restrict yourself unnecessarily in terms of how many times a day you eat, AS LONG as the foods you choose to consume are ALL whole foods plant-based foods. So this does not mean you can snack endlessly on cookies, candies, cakes, biscuits and other processed high refined sugar and high fat commercial foods since they are ‘vegetarian’. As mentioned before, being a ‘junk food vegetarian’ will negatively impact your health and reduce your intake of phytochemical nutrient-rich health boosting foods which you could be eating instead.

So it’s alright to have snacks frequently on a whole foods plant-based diet, but choose your snacks wisely! Try these tasty more nutrient dense options:

*A handful of nuts and/or seeds (e.g., pumpkin seeds, sunflower, pine nuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts)
* A piece of whole fresh fruit (kiwi, apples, grapes, melon slices, oranges, grapefruit, pears…you name it! These also work great as dessert after meals!)
* Dried fruit (e.g., dried apricots, figs, dates, raisins)
* Vegetable or fresh fruit slices with spreads or dips (e.g., bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, celery sticks)
* Soy spreads, seed butters  (such as tahini, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed butters) and nut butters (examples include almond,  cashew nut, and peanut butters)
*Vegetable and/or bean based dips such as hummus and guacamole
*Fruit/vegetable combination smoothies
*Fruit salads
*Vegetable salads
*Whole-wheat bread/pitas/tortillas for dipping into hummus or spread with nut butters for quick easy sandwiches or burritos
*High calcium and/or high iron cereal
*Bean-based or vegetable soups with whole-wheat pasta
*Soy-based or other vegan cheese slices and whole wheat crackers

 

Banana Sunflower Seed Butter Sandwiches – Yum! Dietitianmom.com

You can mix and match the above to create lots of tasty combinations! My current favorite is a sunflower seed butter sandwich with sliced banana wedges! Other ideas are a bowl of a bean-based vegetable soup with whole-wheat pasta, or some soy-based/vegan cheese slices with whole wheat crackers. Or you could have a quick bowl of calcium and iron fortified cereal with fortified almond/soy/coconut milk (and sprinkled with nuts or dried/fresh fruit on top!). Don’t forget about home-made vegetarian baked and no-bake treats which also make great snack options! Many such easy recipe ideas can be found on the internet, which don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of time. The possibilities are really endless!

 

Qn of the Month: Are Legumes & Pulses Just Different Terms for the Same Thing?

 

A: What exactly are legumes and are they the same as pulses? The terms ‘legumes’, ‘pulses’ and ‘beans’ can certainly all be very confusing. A helpful way to keep these straight is to remember that ‘legumes’ is the overall umbrella name, just like ‘fruits’ is the umbrella name for a huge category of different types and varieties of fruits. Legumes simply refer to all plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. However, pulses only refer to the dried seed itself. So under legumes are 3 main subcategories: soybeans and peanuts, pulses and fresh beans/peas. I like this graphic from Pulse Canada which illustrates these categories aptly (see source citation for more details):

 

Pulses include dried beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. Pulses are cheap, nutrient dense, low in fat, available throughout the year, and are high in protein and fiber. Soybeans and peanuts are separated out into their own separate subcategory due to their higher fat content. Legumes are also super versatile, as they can be cooked to the age appropriate texture in a variety of forms (e.g., pureed, mashed, or whole/halved but in soft cooked forms) for infants, toddlers and children of varying ages depending on their stage of oral motor development.

 

(Source: Pulse Canada. http://www.pulsecanada.com/about-us/what-is-a-pulse. Accessed March 15, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: What Are Key Infant & Toddler Feeding Transitions?

A: Have you ever wondered whether your baby or child is meeting or progressing well in terms of his or her oral motor development? For new mothers, it can be especially daunting knowing when to introduce a different texture or when to start teaching your baby how to drink from a cup. The following are key infant and toddler feeding transitions that are important for a child’s optimal growth and physical as well as oral motor development:

Feeding Transition Age of Occurrence
Establishing breastfeeding Birth to 1 month
Introduction of solid foods 4 – 7 months
Finger foods 6 – 8 months
Introduction to the cup 6 – 12 months
Introduction to table foods (texture) 9 – 12 months
Weaning from breast or bottle 12 – 18 months
Rotary chewing 2 -3 years

Even though it is true that every healthy baby develops differently and often at their own pace, it is still good to keep these general key infant and toddler feeding transitions in mind as you watch and help your baby progress.

[Source: Milano K. How Infant Feeding Transitions Relate to Feeding Difficulties in Young Children. PNPG Building Block for Life. Spring 2016, 39(2): 1-6]

 

 

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1

doubleveggies1

Double Up the Nutrition! – Dietitianmom.com

In my first post on this subject (see Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction), I gave a simple overview of what a whole foods plant-based diet is, and some of the key steps involved in a transition to such a diet. Based on our family’s experience in this transition phase, we have found the following simple steps below helpful:

Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!

In this post, let’s look at the first step.

STEP #1: HALVE THE MEAT & DOUBLE THE VEGGIES
This is an obvious initial step. But it takes some forethought. If you’ve been so used to having meat as the main entrée for every lunch and dinner, how do you really make the switch?

Well, it first takes a change in mindset. If you’ve been viewing meat as a key source of protein, you will likely be worried about what to replace it with. But be assured that in western developed countries such as America, one’s intake of protein is generally more than adequate and usually exceeds the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) protein recommendations. In general it is estimated that the average person needs only about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So halving the meat won’t suddenly cause you to have an inadequate overall protein intake. You will likely still be getting enough on a daily basis. Also don’t forget that vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grain products provide protein too, so you will still be getting protein from these sources. For example, one avocado provides approximately 4.6 grams of protein, a cup of chopped boiled broccoli provides about 3.7 grams of protein and a cup of cooked black beans gives 15 grams of protein!

Here’s an easy way to reduce the portion of meat used in recipes. Does the recipe call for 6 ounces of ground meat? Use 3 ounces. Another way to do this is to just increase the amount of vegetables used in the recipe, which is easy to do for meals such as stir-fries and casseroles. For instance, does the recipe call for one chicken breast and a chopped bell pepper? Simply cook two or three bell peppers with the one chicken breast, then eat it over more meals. That way, the amount of animal protein per serving is much reduced. This works well for a variety of dishes such as stir-fries, casserole/lasagna dishes, pasta sauces and soups.

Here are 5 other SUPER simple ways to cut down on the animal protein intake and increase vegetables:

Increase the ratio of vegetable dishes to meat dishes on the dinner table
One method of doing this is to ensure that there are always at least 2 veggie dishes and only one meat-based dish at lunch or dinner. Vegetable side dishes could be a salad, stir-fry, roasted vegetables side dish, steamed or roasted winter root vegetables, or even vegetable kabobs.

Reduce or replace ground meat in a recipe
I’ve found that the ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork or other meat called for in a recipe can be easily reduced (to even a quarter of the recipe!) and the dish powered up with vegetables, without losing the taste of the dish. In some cases, I’ve even substituted some of the meat I removed from the recipe with lentils or beans instead, with good results. For example, one could add veggies and reduce the ground meat or eggs in a dish (e.g., adding onions, carrots and bell peppers to a traditional scrambled egg and tomato dish).

Reduce meat to once a day
Stick to just having an animal based protein source at dinner, or just at lunch, instead of having it for every meal over the course of a day.

Reduce meat to a few times a week
Have meat at a meal a few times a week, instead of every day. Just as some have a ‘Meatless Monday’ vegetarian dinner once a week, you could aim to have an animal based protein source on certain set days of the week, making it more the exception rather than the norm. Or just go for a ‘Meat Monday’ instead!

Try a weekly vegetarian slow cooker recipe
One easy way to eat a more plant-based meal especially during busy weeknights, is to cook a big vault of a bean-based slower cooker meal once a week (to last 3-4 days). So the first part of the week you could prepare a greater variety of meals. In the latter half of the week, prepare a main entrée using the slow cooker and then serve vegetable sides to go with this main vegetarian entrée over the rest of the week, along with a grain staple like rice, couscous, quinoa, barley or whole grain pasta. By the middle of the week you’re probably already feeling drained from work and cooking anyway, so why spend more time than necessary in the kitchen? Just whip up a slow cooker meal!

Some of you must be wondering: why do I say increase the veggies and not fruit? Of course fruits should also be increased with vegetable intake. But I am focusing more on the veggies because most of us tend to eat more fruits than vegetables on a daily basis anyway. And who can blame us? Fruit is usually sweet!

Of course, if you like, you can cut down on the animal based protein more drastically immediately, but dropping halfway may be a more realistic first step. After you (and your family) are used to the reduced consumption of meat and other animal based protein, then you can slowly transition further off of animal-based protein, while increasing the proportion of other protein-rich plant-based foods such as nuts, beans and other legumes. This method will also help you use up all that meat sitting in your freezer!

Qn of the Month: What Kitchen Equipment Is Needed On A Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet?

A: The best part of transitioning to a whole foods plant-based diet is that you don’t need much fancy equipment! This is because most of the foods included in this lifestyle can already be consumed in their natural raw state (like nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and many vegetables). In fact, the two pieces of ‘equipment’ I have found the most useful so far as our family is transitioning to a whole foods plant-based diet are simply these:

* A plastic colander (without legs) with a mixing bowl that fits underneath
* A slow cooker

These plant-based kitchen friends are indispensable! Get a metal or plastic colander with a corresponding bowl that fits its size to use together, or simply purchase a plastic mixing bowl or other bowl that fits its size underneath. Why? This will allow you to fill up the colander with water and then you can easily lift it up to drain out the water quickly and easily. This makes it SO easy to soak and rinse vegetables, fruits like blueberries, canned and dried beans, split peas, lentils…you name it! Your prep work time will be quickly reduced and you can then get to cooking right away.

And the slow cooker? If it has been sitting dusty in a remote corner of your kitchen, it is time to bring it back out into the limelight again. There are many easy wonderful slow cooker recipes using plant-based foods that are hearty, filling and delicious. And the best part is that because the beans and legumes used in the recipes often need to cook for many hours in the slow cooker, I’ve found that they ended up being easier on my digestive system and we have been able to rapidly ramp up our vegetable and fiber intake without problems. You may not have such an issue but for those with sensitive intestinal systems, this is a factor to consider when transitioning over to a whole foods plant-based diet.

Eventually, as you begin to try more and more new plant-based recipes, you may find a hand immersion blender or food processor handy for whipping up vegan based desserts or bean dips or bean based soups.

Note: To those (like me) who are relatively new to the world of kitchen appliances, there IS a difference between blenders and food processors. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports news article, “A blender is better at mixing drinks and whipping up smoothies, while a food processor is ideal for chopping, slicing and shredding. You can puree foods in either appliance but crushing ice in a food processor can damage the plastic container.”

I happened to have both an immersion hand blender and a Ninja kitchen system at home. The Ninja has suddenly come in so useful (after collecting dust on the kitchen shelves the past 2-3 years as a long forgotten birthday present from my hubby). So far, I have made peanut butter and cashew nut butters, hummus, chickpea and black bean patties as well as flaxmeal muffins from the Ninja without problems. For split pea soups and making hummus and batches of baby food, I have also sometimes just used the hand immersion blender for easy and quick clean up.

You may already possess a blender or a food processor at home, which is more than adequate for your needs if you are just starting out in the world of plant-based foods. Eventually, as you try out the myriad of delicious healthy plant-based whole foods recipes out there, you may decide to fork out a little more money to purchase another food processor or blender. If so, there are many models and options out there!

(Source: Janeway K. Do you need a blender, a food processor or both? Consumer Reports News. June 20, 2012. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2012/06/do-you-need-a-blender-a-food-processor-or-both/index.htm. Accessed February 1, 2017.)

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

A New Year marks a new beginning, and the chance to try new things or make changes that had previously seemed daunting. Last Fall, I read the book ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and it changed my whole perspective on health and disease. I wasn’t aware that there was so much research already done supporting a whole foods plant-based diet in reducing one’s risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and in some cases even improving the health outcomes even if a person already has these medical conditions. Apparently, the lower one’s intake of animal proteins is, the lower the risk of these negative health outcomes. Our family of four has since decided to transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. This poses some challenges when you have a 4 year old, a nearly 11 month old, and a freezer packed with meat! But we have already made some (successful) changes to our way of eating and I hope to share what we’ve learned along the way and the experiences of our journey to help those who are also thinking about making similar changes but don’t know where to start.

The main tenet of a whole foods plant-based diet is to consume primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, while minimizing as much as possible animal-based proteins, excess oils as well as refined and processed foods high in fat and sugar. If you can remove all sources of animal proteins from your diet, even better! One reason behind reducing refined and processed high sugar/high fat foods from one’s diet is the tendency for these foods to take the place of more healthful nutrient dense foods that you would otherwise be consuming, so reducing your body’s intake of important nutrients, phytochemicals and minerals necessary for optimal health. A key reason for reducing excess oils in one’s diet, including vegetable oils, is so that a more desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids intake can be achieved for optimal health.

It is best to go slow and make gradual changes to one’s diet. Of course you could go off meat and other animal protein products immediately cold turkey, but our family has found it more successful to make the changes gradually, as small successes empowered us to make further changes. You may find that this approach also helps your family transition more successfully to such a diet, especially if you are a busy household and don’t have much time right away to try or create completely new recipes. This method also helps you use up all that meat in the freezer anyway!

So where should you start? Successful transitioning to a plant-based diet involves five basic steps:

Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!

In upcoming blog posts, I plan to touch on each of these steps in a bit more detail, and hope to also discuss a few tips for feeding children plant-based whole food diets. Stay tuned!