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! 🙂

 

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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!

 

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

 

IMG_0780

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

IMG_0778

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.)

 

Qn of the Month: Is there a Difference Between a Vegan Diet and a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet?

 

A Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet (image credit: forksoverknives.com)

A: I think there is! Others may disagree. Let me tell you why I think there could be potential differences, depending on the actual dietary practices of the individual. A person on a vegan diet subsists on plant-based foods and excludes all animal protein foods and products from the diet. However, it is entirely possible to be on a vegan diet and still not have a very nutritious overall diet. For example, such a person could eat no animal products but still have a substantial portion of his or her daily intake from processed commercial ‘animal product-free’ and refined ready-to-eat foods, filling up on foods such as biscuits, crackers, sugary cookies, chips, cakes, and different vegetarian alternative or dairy-free alternatives that provide many calories but are not nutrient dense. The same could apply to a vegetarian who excludes most animal-based products (but still include dairy, eggs, fish or a combination of these categories). Such a person could also still eat many commercially processed and refined foods that are not ‘animal-based products’ but essentially be on a ‘junk food’ vegetarian diet. I’m not saying that one should never eat such foods (I do at times!), but the real question is what proportion these foods make up in one’s diet.

What about a whole foods plant-based diet? There is a great infographic (see above) and definition given in a Forks Over Knives post written by Naomi Imatame-Yun (see source). The definition she gives is this: “A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”

Hence, a person who is on a whole foods plant-based diet would tend to completely omit or minimize animal–based foods from the diet, while focusing on eating foods that are unprocessed and unrefined (in its natural form) that can be eaten raw or consumed after cooking. Such a dietary pattern would yield a more nutritionally rich overall diet, with many of the vitamin, mineral and nutrient benefits from eating whole foods.

This is not to say that a person on a vegetarian or vegan diet may not have the same focus on whole foods, but I think the emphasize on unprocessed and refined foods (in my mind) is stronger on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Why do I say that? Because in my experience transitioning over to a plant-based diet, I have found it relatively straightforward to gradually reduce the amount and kinds of animal-based foods from our family’s diet, while adding in more vegetables and pulses and finding commercially processed vegetarian alternatives to some of the products we have been used to having (like dairy-free cheeses and vegan margarine instead of butter). But now I see the real challenge is to incorporate more whole foods into our family’s diet, and not be simply substituting or depending heavily on the myriad of commercially processed foods out in the market that are not ‘animal-based’. These could include grain commercial products like vegetarian cookies, crackers and biscuits, as well as commercially processed vegetarian versions of familiar animal-based products, that provide calories but may not be very nutrient dense. In our modern day society though, it may be more challenging to achieve a whole foods plant-based diet because of the abundance and ease of using these ready prepared processed foods. I think there is a place for using these products, but it should not take our eyes and focus off of intentionally building a healthy eating pattern around primarily whole foods and plant-based foods.

 

(Source:

  1. Imatome-Yun, N. forksoverknives.com. Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Plant-Based Diet. https://www.forksoverknives.com/plant-based-primer-beginners-guide-starting-plant-based-diet/. January 3, 2017. Accessed October 30, 2017.)

Kitchen Spotlight: Tips on Cooking Spaghetti Squash

Based on personal experience, here are some tips for cooking and using spaghetti squash. While you can microwave or bake the spaghetti squash, I’ve found that it is easiest to boil it before removing its strand-like interior. Here is how I would recommend boiling spaghetti squash:

  1. Use a knife to make a few small holes or cut marks through the skin of the spaghetti squash.
  2. Fill a large pot with water and heat the water until boiling. Once boiling, put the squash in to cook (ease it slowly into the water to prevent burns!), turning it occasionally with a wooden spoon. The squash will likely float in the water but that is fine. After about 15-20 minutes (about 20-30 minutes for a large sized spaghetti squash), use a knife to insert into the spaghetti squash. If it goes through easily, then it is cooked through. Take out the spaghetti squash immediately and let it cool in a colander (excess water from within may also drain out).
  3. Don’t worry if the squash skin cracks open slightly. When cooled cut the squash in half and then remove the seeds with a spoon. Then use a fork to scrape out the noodle like strands into a bowl.

That’s it! If you would like to see a variety of ways to cook this delectable vegetable, check out this post I found listing 50 ways to cook spaghetti squash: http://aggieskitchen.com/50-ways-to-cook-spaghetti-squash/. Like other hard shelled squashes, you can bake it, grill it, roast it, stuff it, and even throw it in the slow cooker. Have fun experimenting!

(Source: Aggies Kitchen. 50 Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash. http://aggieskitchen.com/50-ways-to-cook-spaghetti-squash/. October 8, 2014. Accessed October 16, 2017.)

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 5

STEP #5: TRY NEW PLANT-BASED FOODS & RECIPES!

Friends, this is where the real exciting adventure begins! Personally, I find this to be the most fun part of the journey. I think my family would agree, because they get to taste test lots of new plant-based breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas…not to mention baked and no-baked goodies! Think of yourself as a connoisseur or budding foodie on the trail of plant-based goodness, searching for delectable recipes to

incorporate into your family’s cooking repertoire. Your explorations will lead you to discover new tastes, colors and methods of cooking that you previously had not envisioned. Don’t be afraid to experiment! At worst, you just end up with a result that doesn’t taste great, but then just modify the recipe or try a different recipe.

New Tastes & Textures! – Dietitianmom.com

For myself, I never thought there would be such easy substitutions for eggs in baked goods (you could make a flaxmeal egg replacer or a chia seed egg replacer easily), or learn to appreciate the flavors within an Indian dish and even make a few Indian dishes myself! I am now using new spices like coriander, cumin and garam masala in my kitchen and have even made a vegan pumpkin pie using tofu as a base!

You might find some tastes and recipes that the family likes and some that they don’t like. But regardless, you will be awestruck at the wide array of existing and newly emerging whole foods plant-based recipes on the horizon through sources like the Internet, cookbooks, magazines, library resources, friends and acquaintances. For those with a ‘sweet tooth’ out there, you might be glad to find that there are actually a lot of plant-based foods out there that are naturally sweet, and fruits like dried figs and dates can be used to sweeten baked goods easily. Call them ‘Nature’s Candy’ if you will. There are also many easy vegan baked and no-bake treats that can be found through recipe sites on the internet, which don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of time.

Here is another piece of good news. Currently, there is an abundance of plant-based alternatives on the market with new products continually emerging – you just need to be on the lookout for them in the grocery store, health food stores, ethnic food stores and online. Examples include soy based mozzarella or cheddar ‘cheeses’, dairy and soy free shredded ‘cheeses’, nutritional yeast fortified with vitamin B12, non-hydrogenated vegetable margarine, tofu dogs, tofu with different levels of firmness, veggie bologna, hemp hearts, ready-to-use nut and seed butters, ground flaxmeal, tempeh and a variety of calcium and vitamin D fortified plant-based milk alternatives. These commercial options make it much easier nowadays to maintain a plant-based diet, especially since you do not need to spend time processing or making some of these from scratch if you don’t have time (like making seed butters, tempeh or tofu!), though of course it is important to still choose whole foods where possible. It also helps tremendously that the world we live in now is a global market and foods from different countries are often imported into the nation. So take advantage of this!

Here are some key tips to assist you on your plant-based food journey:

* Don’t be afraid to try new recipes (or create your own!) and new ways of cooking (e.g., stir-fries, casserole dishes, salads, soups). If you have time, read the some reviews on a recipe before trying it. This will tell you if you need to modify the recipe, if you can use certain substitutions or whether the recipe is even worth trying! If you are just starting out in this plant-based realm, pick recipes that require 10 ingredients or less and don’t need exotic ingredients that are hard to source. There are many great plant-based vegetarian recipe websites on the Internet, with just some examples being www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com, www.plantplate.com and www.emmaslittlekitchen.com.

*Use your slow cooker! As mentioned in previous posts, the slow cooker is my new best friend, especially for recipes using legumes such as beans, split peas, and chickpeas. See below for some links to great recipes I’ve tried and tested already.

*Experiment with different nuts and seeds, including using flaxmeal in your cold and hot dishes.

*Experiment with making a variety of salads and using different toppings and dressings.

*Try different milk alternatives such as calcium and vitamin D fortified almond milk, soy milk, cashew nut milk and coconut milk. Some stores may also carry rice milk, pea milk and hemp milk. But be careful to choose the calcium and vitamin D fortified versions, as many organic and non-organic versions of milk alternatives are not calcium and vitamin D fortified. Due to the possible contamination of arsenic in rice milks, in the United Kingdom children under the age of 5 are not recommended to drink rice milk (read more about arsenic in foods here)

* Try new foods such as quinoa, chia and buckwheat

*Experiment making your own protein bars/snack bars (non-baking options and baked options available). These then become great snack options for you and your family.

* Try modifying existing recipes. For example, does a recipe call for butter in the graham cracker crust? Substitute with some vegetable oil, and it works pretty much just as well! Need an egg in a recipe? Try using an egg replacer like a ‘flax egg’ or a ‘chia egg’. Need to use cow’s milk in the recipe? Substitute with a fortified plant-based milk alternative like almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk.

Here is just a small sampling of the recipes available from the Internet. I’ve made these recipes and found them easy and delicious. My family agrees!
Slow Cooker Black Bean Pumpkin Chili
Lazy Lentil Burger
One Pot Vegan Mushroom Pasta
Slow Cooker Butter Chickpeas
Kung Pao Eggplant

Want more information? See my previous posts on this topic:
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1 (Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2 (Switch to Whole-Grain Options)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3 (Choose Smart Snacks)
Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 4 (Increase Beans & Other Legumes)