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.)

Fresh Cranberry & Pear Crisp

I initially created this recipe below to use up some fresh cranberries I had on hand from the winter holidays. But my husband and child loved it so much that I’ve made it a few times since, including taking it to potluck meals. Enjoy!

Fresh Cranberry & Pear Crisp

Recipe by: DietitianMom
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2 pears (ripened pears work best)
1 cup fresh cranberries, pierced
4 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼-1/2 cup brown sugar (depending on sweetness desired)
1 cup old fashioned/rolled/large flake oats

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Peel and cut pear into slices. Layer the pear slices, covering the bottom of a baking dish.
  • Rinse and wash the fresh cranberries, then pierce each with a toothpick. Then throw the cranberries into the baking dish, evenly dotting the pear slices.
  • In a bowl, mix the oats, brown sugar (add the amount you desire), cinnamon, nutmeg and oil together.
  • Sprinkle this oats combo mixture over the pear slices and cranberries in the baking dish.
  • Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly then serve!

Feel free to double or triple the recipe if you like. This is a great recipe to involve your preschooler or older child in, as it’s easy to make and is ready to eat in no time! My preschooler had lots of fun helping me pierce each fresh cranberry with a toothpick. The best part? Since the ripened pears are already sweet, you don’t really need to add too much additional sugar to sweeten the dish. So adjust the sweetness level to what you prefer by the amount of brown sugar you add. This crisp keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and tastes delicious cold too!

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2

 

Choose Whole-Grain Options! Dietitianmom.com

In this post, let’s look at the second step of transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

STEP #2: SWITCH TO WHOLE-GRAIN OPTIONS

This is an easy 2nd step. Right here, you can immediately make a big difference to your diet by choosing whole-grain options the next time you go grocery shopping. Examples are brown rice, whole wheat flour, bran, whole wheat tortillas, whole-grain pasta and whole-wheat breads or bread products. The increase in nutrient and fiber content in these alternatives will help to keep you fuller after meals and cause your blood glucose levels to rise less dramatically post-meals. For instance, 1 cup (85 grams in weight) of whole grain pasta contains as much as 3 times the fiber content and slightly more protein and iron than an equivalent cup of white refined pasta! Another example are bagels. A regular bagel will provide approximately 2 grams of fiber but a whole wheat bagel can provide as much as 7 grams of fiber so more than three times the amount!  If you are worried about the cost factor, there are a few ways to get around this. Buy and store up larger packages of whole grain pasta if brands carry a larger more economical packaged option, or purchase the regular sized packages at larger grocery stores where the prices tend to be lower. Another idea is to keep your eye out for discounts and sales at your local grocery store and stock up when the prices drop (but take note of expiry dates!).

A note about rice: when purchasing rice, be careful to note the country and place of origin due to the varying levels of arsenic found in rice grown in different parts of the world. To reduce one’s intake of arsenic, rice from California in the United States and India are generally among the safer options to purchase, but it is best to avoid rice grown in the southern part of the United States. There are also ways to cook the rice to reduce the arsenic content within it. A recent news article brought attention again to the arsenic content within rice and the importance of being careful of your method of cooking to reduce arsenic levels. See also my previous posts on this important subject [Arsenic & Rice (Part 1): Why this Affects You and Your Family, Arsenic & Rice (Part 2): Action Steps You Can Take Right NOW, Arsenic & Rice (Part 3): What Are Others Saying About It?, Qn of the Month: How Can I Reduce the Arsenic Content of Rice Through Cooking?].

(Source:
Common method of cooking rice can leave traces of arsenic in food, Queen’s University Belfast scientist warns. Belfast Telegraph. Published February 8, 2017. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/health/common-method-of-cooking-rice-can-leave-traces-of-arsenic-in-food-queens-university-belfast-scientist-warns-35434905.html. Accessed February 22, 2017.)

 

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.)