Sweet & Spicy Orange Cauliflower “Chicken”

In the plant-based world, cauliflower is a great stand-in for Buffalo chicken wings and it really does that job well. It’s also a fantastic alternative to Asian-style chicken stir-fries. I love Orange Chicken and this version does not disappoint. What’s better? No oil (apart from a smidge of sesame oil for flavour, not frying. You may leave it out to be totally oil-free). I think the orange zest knocks it out of the park.

 

Sweet & Spicy Orange Cauliflower "Chicken"

Fresh take on Asian Chicken using cauliflower and fresh orange juice.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Chinese

Ingredients
  

For the Batter

  • 1 cup flour (whole wheat, all-purpose or gluten free as preferred)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 head cauliflower Medium size

For the Sauce

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes If you like it super spicy add 1/2 tsp or more to your taste.
  • 1 cup orange juice, freshly-squeezed if possible
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar OR date syrup OR maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce OR tamari OR liquid or coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water

Garnish

  • 1-2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Step 1 - Batter the cauliflower florets

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, garlic and onion powder, then slowly whisk in water to make a smooth batter
  • Rinse cauliflower and break up into florets
  • Option 1 - "Shake and Bake" technique: Pour batter into a plastic produce type of bag . Add cauliflower florets to bag and shake until all are coated with batter. Pour breadcrumbs into second bag, followed by battered florets and shake again until florets are coated in breadcrumbs
  • Option 2 - If you do not like the "shake and bake" technique or prefer not to use plastic, feel free to have batter in one bowl and crumbs in second bowl. Dip cauliflower in batter, shake off excess, then dip in crumbs and shake off excess
  • Lay crumb-coated cauliflower florets on parchment lined baking sheet, making sure they are not touching
  • Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and crispy, flipping florets after first 15 minutes

Step 2 - The Sauce

  • While the cauliflower is almost done baking, heat a large stir-fry pan and add all sauce ingredients except the cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, and cook for a minute or two.
  • Mix the cornstarch and water to combine, and then add to the pan. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens. This should just take a few minutes.
  • Add baked cauliflower florets to sauce and mix in very well until all florets are coated
  • Serve with brown or white rice, or any other grain you may prefer. Garnish with thinly-sliced green onions and sesame seeds.
  • NB: If you like a LOT of sauce, simply double the sauce recipe.
Keyword Asian, Cauliflower, Oil-free, Vegan

If you stumble, make it part of the dance

I feel as if I keep apologizing every time I slip off the path toward my goals and then repeat my sorry tale ad infinitum. Sometimes avoiding salt, oil, sugar, meat or processed stuff is hard.  Sometimes fitting in exercise seems impossible. Little slip after little slip and suddenly it’s a mountain of excuses, mistakes and regrets. 

Today I came across this quotation which I fell in love with: If you stumble, make it part of the dance. Trying is never a bad thing. Failure is just a word – every time you try again, whether once, twice or five-thousand or six-million times, you are not giving up on yourself. You are loving yourself enough to try again. That is everything. 

 

Simple Oil-Free Vegetable Broth / Stock

Photo by Bluebird Provisions on Unsplash

Vegetable broth is a staple in so many recipes. I have tried using the Tetrapaks or canned versions and to me, they are completely lacking in flavour. The bouillion-cube version is so high in sodium it is almost unpalatable, especially for those who are watching sugar and sodium intake.  

It is really so simple to make a healthy homemade broth. It is such a good way to use up veggies that are soon to “expire” in your fridge, plus you can assuage your guilt about food waste as well! 

I don’t have a tried-and-true recipe because each broth I make is totally different depending on what is in season, what is in my fridge and what is in my garden.  Here are some basics:

My 3-layer system for making the best broth (This IS practically fool proof)

BASE LAYER:  

Aromatics (one or more of the following): Onions, Shallots, Leeks, Garlic, Ginger PLUS carrots, celery. Dice them up. Add enough to cover the bottom of the pot.

Whole spices: pepper, allspice, bay leaf  (For those who have no problem with sodium, you may add some good quality salt here as well. Not too much. Just enough to brighten flavour)

Heat a stock pot or big soup pot to Medium-High. To keep it oil-free, put a few tablespoons of water and add your aromatics. Stir-fry until softened and fragrant. Keep adding 1 tbsp of water whenever things get too dry.

MIDDLE LAYER: 

Add other vegetables, roughly chopped, especially: Greens (kale, spinach or collards), Fennel, Mushrooms (fresh or dried), Parsnips, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Broccoli or Cauliflower, Zucchini, Squash, Green Beans, Cabbage (Red or Green), Brussels Sprouts, or any others that you love. (I would not include beets because of the red colour, but you can definitely add this broth to borscht with beets in a separate recipe.)  Any combination of veggies works. You may also add dried herbs at this point: dried oregano, basil, marjoram or dill if you like.

To Prep: Roughly chop.  You don’t have to be precise as you will be straining the stock, so no need for the perfect dice. 

At this point you should also add water – enough to cover all of your veggies, plus an inch or two. I sometimes add 1/2 to 1 cup of Mott’s Low Sodium Garden Cocktail which adds a little something to the flavour.

Bring to a boil, then immediately lower to simmer, for at least one hour. 

TOP LAYER:

Once your veggies are softened, add additional fresh herbs and spices. Fresh oregano, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, sage, dill – whichever ones you love. Also, freshly ground pepper. If you are avoiding salt, herbs are the way to go to infuse big flavour. Herbs should be added at the last possible moment. 

Turn off heat. Let the broth sit for at least one hour (or longer, or in the fridge until the next day). Then pour through colander/seive over another pot. Compost the veggies. The stock is ready to go! You may store it in 1L jars in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, or freeze in freezer-safe ziploc bags for several months. The broth usually is a golden brown colour and has a deep, complex taste that compliments any savoury dish. I use this broth in so many recipes, often replacing water. It adds a ton of flavour!

Plant-based (vegan) breakfast inspiration

Diabetics and those trying to lose weight often avoid fruit, worried about its sugar content. There is no need to worry if you eat whole fresh fruit. It is nature’s perfectly packaged food, complete with fibre, water, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The fibre and water naturally slow down the sugar uptake. Eating more fruit is associated with lower risk of disease, heart attack and stroke. In fact, several randomized controlled trials have shown that increased fruit intake can lower blood pressure, reduce oxidative stress and improve glycemic control in diabetics. 

Contrary to popular opinion, eating fruit can definitely help with weight loss. Fruit is a nutrient-dense food, high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. It ranks high on the satiety index — it will fill you up until you are stuffed, but with way fewer calories than if you were eating, say, chips, or hamburgers. (Not to say you should ever eat until you are stuffed – better to eat until you just feel satisfied).

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, “the edible skins of many fruits – including apples, apricots, blueberries, figs, grapes, pears, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, and strawberries – are all sites of important biological activity in the life of the fruit. The skin is one of the places where the fruit interacts with sunlight, and forms a variety of coloured pigments that absorb different wavelengths of light. These pigments, including carotenoids and flavonoids, are well researched as nutrients that protect our health and nourishment. The skins of whole fruits like grapes have actually been studied for their ability to help lower risk of cancer and help provide protection from ultraviolet light.”

Dried fruit or fruit juice are not in the same ball park as whole, fresh fruit. Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, sugar and calories are concentrated in a much smaller package. With fruit juice, the fibre has been removed and without fibre, the sugar in the fruit is absorbed much more quickly and may result in sugar spikes and a far higher caloric intake.

Here is some fruit inspiration, for breakfast or snacks. A lot of these ideas use the exact same fruits, but presentation is everything. If your plate looks colourful and appetizing, it’s more fun to eat it. 

 

Fermenting 101 – Sauerkraut

   

The importance of gut health is finally getting the attention it deserves. Trillions of bacteria and micro-organisms make up the microbiome in our gut. Studies show that these little guys play a critical role in maintaining health by aiding in digestion and strengthening the immune system.  They keep the bad bugs at bay – dangerous bacteria like Campylobacter or Clostridium difficile (C.Diff), which can cause serious illness.

So many of today’s health issues may be traced to what’s going on inside the gut. Poor diet, illness, stress, antibiotics, and environmental toxins disrupt the ecology of the microbiome, which puts it into a  “dysbiotic” state. When the system is out of whack, it shows up in different ways:  obesity, type-2 diabetes, irritable bowel disease, and colon cancer (), periodontal disease and dental decay (), atherosclerosis and endocarditis (), anxiety, and depression (). 

It’s crucial to bring the good bacteria back in to rebalance the microbiome and get it back to work as it should. (Guess why fecal transplants work?) Naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh do exactly this – they reintroduce good bacteria – the probiotics – to help diversify and “feed” the helpful flora in our gut.

One of the easiest foods to ferment for beginners is cabbage. The end result, sauerkraut, is the perfect introduction of beneficial bacteria into the microbiome. 

Equipment

My family has been making sauerkraut for decades. I inherited a vintage cabbage shredder from my parents, at least 60 years old. It came from Poland, travelling in a trunk on the Stefan Batory in the mid-1950s.   It continues to shred today and will always remain a family heirloom. I recently discovered newer versions, handmade in Poland and distributed by a company out of British Columbia – https://cabbageshredder.com/.  

New shredder has arrived, but I will never part with the vintage one!

Using a regular mandolin works fine for small batches, but these big shredders make short work of cutting a whole head of cabbage in minutes, in the perfect, classic, consistency for the best fermented sauerkraut.  A food processor isn’t ideal. When I tested using a Cuisinart, the shreds were a bit too short and thick for my liking, but if that’s all you have, it will still ferment just fine.

You will also need a large bowl for mixing the cabbage with the salt. I use a giant salad bowl I found at IKEA. A stock pot could work too.

Next is the fermenting vessel. Back in the day, my parents used a wooden barrel, making enough sauerkraut to last the whole winter and then some. Smaller ceramic crocks with weighted plates are wonderful alternatives. They come in different sizes and although a bit pricey, should last a lifetime. Although I pine for one of those, it is completely unnecessary and you can make your sauerkraut in a mason jar. 

A 1 Litre / 1 Quart mason jar is probably the smallest size to use and this is big enough for one medium head of shredded cabbage. A large head will fill at least two jars, or alternatively,  one bigger 2L jar.

I use weighted glass disks to keep my cabbage submerged (to avoid mold), but if you don’t have these, you can use a folded cabbage leaf packed at the top before you screw on the lid. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large head of cabbage
  • 1-3 carrots, peeled (depending on size and your own preference) 
  • Non-iodized sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

Sterilize Jars:

Wash and sterilize your jar(s) using one of these options:

  • In your dishwasher on sterilize cycle 
  • In your oven – heat to 275 F for at least 20 minutes
  • In your microwave – place wet jars in the microwave for 60 seconds on high. 
  • Boil lids for 5 minutes or use new ones.

Let jars and lids cool before filling.

Shred:

  • Remove and rinse the outer leaves of the cabbage. Set them aside.
  • Cut the cabbage into quarters for shredding
  • Shred using cabbage shredder or mandolin into a large bowl or stock pot. Be very careful as you get close to the ends. The blades are extremely sharp!

  • Peel and shred the carrots using the large holes in regular box grater. Add to cabbage.

 

Salt:

  • Add approximately 1 measured tablespoon salt for every 1.5 lbs of cabbage. It should taste salty, but not gross. If you don’t add enough salt, you may get mold and soft (not crisp) sauerkraut. Too much salt will inhibit fermentation and will also taste bad.
  • To be more precise, use a digital scale to weigh the shredded vegetables and use the 2% guideline. Multiply the weight in grams by .02 ( 2%) to get the required amount of salt in grams. 900 grams of vegetables would require 18 grams of salt. In my real life example, my very large head of cabbage/3 carrot mixture weighed 2283 g (X .02) = 45.6 g of salt, which, after weighing, I measured as 4 flat tablespoons.

Mix, Squeeze and Pack into Jars:

  • Mix the carrots and cabbage until the carrots are well distributed. Squeeze and toss the mixture with your hands for several minutes. This breaks down the cell walls so the cabbage can release its liquid. The volume will reduce a fair bit as the liquid is released. If it drips when you squeeze it, it is ready to be packed into the clean jar(s). 

Pack the squeezed cabbage mixture into the jar firmly to eliminate any air pockets. Push it down super hard. For the 1L jar, it may be difficult to fit your hand in to pack it down, so you may wish to use the pestle from a mortar & pestle, or the handle of your potato masher or other kitchen tool. Keep filling and packing until you near the top of the jar.

The cabbage must be submerged under the liquid. Top this with one of the large outer cabbage leaves removed earlier, folded to fit into the top of the jar. Alternatively, use a glass weight. This air-lock keeps the oxygen out which helps to keep mold and slime from forming. (Please note if you purchase the weights, they come in two sizes – for both regular or wide-mouth jars.)

Screw the lid onto the jar and place jar out of direct sunlight. I leave mine in a corner on the kitchen counter. Please note that the fermentation process creates carbon dioxide, so for the first few days in particular, make sure to “burp” the jar, loosening the lid briefly to let the gas out. It’s a good idea to keep your jar on a plate or tray, as the liquid sometimes seeps out a bit as it starts fermenting.

Warning

Fermenting cabbage has a natural, gassy smell. Bubbles rising in the jar mean it’s working. A little bit of a white film on top is nothing to worry about. BUT if you see black, green or grey mold or if the smell is unbearably bad, something has gone wrong. To be safe, dispose of it and start a new batch. 

Ferment Time

Fermentation speed depends on temperature. If it’s warm, it will ferment faster or vice-versa. Taste is the next variable as some prefer a light ferment, while others (like me) prefer a more sour, acidic flavour. You can start tasting after a week, but it’s safe to leave it for up to a month or even longer, tasting a little every once in a while. When it tastes good, refrigerate to slow any additional fermentation. The last batch I made was perfect after exactly one month on the counter.

Recipes and suggestions on how to use sauerkraut to follow soon! 

Enjoy!  

 

Goodbye 2020! Grateful for this brand new year.

A few months ago, I told myself I would blog more regularly. I downloaded a schedule where I could slot in timely topics on a weekly basis and then I stared at it, completely uninspired. It  has been this way for weeks now. Is it COVID fatigue leading to writer’s block, or depression? Or is it just me, disappointed with how things have been working out in terms of my whole-food plant-based lifestyle because I have been less than perfect?

My sister-in-law says that you can’t take breaks from a lifestyle and she is right. COVID is no excuse for making repeated trips to the fridge even if it is only steps away from my home office. The holidays are no excuse to throw caution to the wind and start pouring cocktails and inhaling cookies. 

My daughters often justify reckless choices by shouting out “YOLO!!” (You Only Live Once) and sometimes I have to hand it to them, especially during a pandemic where lives are at risk every day and we just don’t know what the future will hold. 

I guess the trick is to walk slowly and carefully on that thin high-wire, finding the elusive “balance”.  I need to work more on reigning in the impulsive part of me that acts quickly and with reckless abandon – whether it’s with regard to eating, buying things on Amazon or staying up until 2 am reading when I know I have an early morning ahead. 

This sounds a lot like where I was last year at this time, and probably the year before that as well. Since Facebook began “On This Day” flashbacks, I have noted that “on this day” I am often doing or thinking exactly the same thing I was thinking or doing five or 10 years ago. Rinse. Repeat. Nothing changes, if nothing changes. 

None of this sounds very positive, does it? But it is. This is me switching things up. Recognizing that I am a self-indulgent sloth (adorable as they are)  who seems to take decades to progress, heigh-ho, onward we go. I am deciding to not berate myself for less-than-stellar past choices and to take the promise of this sparkling new year to move forward in the best way I can – with forgiveness, love and compassion.

The first steps for 2021 are to remind myself what I am doing and why I am doing it. A little motivational kickstart, but also keeping it realistic.

  1. Nutrition – For me, for the animals, for the planet. Continue eating a whole-food plant-based diet in order to lose weight and regain health, particularly to reverse Type 2 diabetes. While I try to limit salt, sugar and oil, I find that eliminating them completely is a huge challenge for me and will work more diligently to that end. I also wish to help others who are interested in moving towards plant-based eating. 
  2. Exercise – this goes hand-in-hand with nutrition and is non-negotiable. Daily movement, whether walking, hiking, jumping on the mini-trampoline, dancing, doing video aerobics, using the stair-stepper, lifting weights – it doesn’t matter what – just do itEvery day.
  3. Meditation – I need to do this to calm my mind, reduce stress and lower harmful cortisol levels. For me meditation comes in many forms: walking in nature, cooking, music, or yoga.  I need to grow my practice and make time to meditate every day.
  4. Gratitude – Appreciate and give thanks every day. Show compassion and kindness to others always.

Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

Curried Buttercup Squash Soup

Soup is the Song of the Hearth..and the Home.

LOUIS PULLIG De GOUY – the soup book (1949)

Nothing brings me as much comfort as a simmering pot of soup on the stove. As the days get shorter and darker and colder, my yen for salad wanes and I reach for the big pot again and again. 

On the menu today, roasted buttercup squash soup, fragrant with spices from India with a hint of creamy coconut.

Buttercup seems a bit more dense and sweeter than butternut after roasting, ideal for a curried soup. Its brilliant golden-orange flesh not only adds a gorgeous hue but is a great source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and fiber. 

So let the wind howl and watch the rain turn into sleet, then snow. This soup will keep you warm and toasty inside. 

Curried Buttercup Squash Soup

This delicious creamy soup strikes a perfect balance between sweet and spicy!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine East Asian flavours
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 buttercup squash, roasted
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder Shan curry powder is one type that works well
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 small dried red chili peppers (optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk, light or regular
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Pre heat oven to 400 F
  • Cut 1 buttercup squash in half and scoop out seeds (which are excellent toasted on their own)
  • Roast squash cut-side down on parchment-lined baking sheet until fork-tender (approximately 30-40 minutes)
  • Let cool, then scoop the baked flesh from the skin and set aside (compost skin)
  • In soup pot on medium heat, saute diced onions, garlic and ginger until softened (if avoiding oil, saute in water or broth)
  • Stir in curry powder and garam masala until fragrant (it's quick, don't let it burn)
  • Add 4cups vegetable broth ( or water with low-sodium vegetable boullion powder)
  • Stir in roasted squash - if too thick, add an additional cup of broth or water
  • Add dried chili peppers if including
  • Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer
  • Simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove chili peppers if using
  • Stir in coconut milk
  • With immersion blender, blend until velvety smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree in small batches in regular or high-speed blender with vented lid.
  • Taste and adjust spices to your liking
  • Serve, garnished with a sprig of cilantro or a few toasted, shelled pumpkin seeds or a light sprinkle of cinnamon
Keyword Autumn, Oil-free, Vegan, Winter

Cauliflower, Potato & Bean Soup

Just in time to take the chill off, a nice comforting bowl of warm soup, chock full of cauliflower, white beans, barley and potatoes. Slivered collard leaves (or alternatively kale, or Swiss Chard) add a little extra “green” nutrition. This tasty soup is chunky and filling, low in calories, and very high in fibre and Vitamins A and C plus iron.  To keep calories down, sauté the veggies in a bit of water rather than oil — you won’t miss it. While the recipe does make a big pot, leftovers taste even better the next day or you can freeze individual portions for later.

Cauliflower, Bean and Potato Soup

A comforting bowl of chunky soup that will warm you and fill you up!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 140 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 8 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium preferred
  • 1/2 cup dried barley
  • 1 19 oz can white kidney beans (Cannellini), no salt added
  • 1/2 cup strained tomatoes (passatta) - optional
  • 2 cups cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp ground pepper (or 10 twists of the grinder)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large potato, diced in large chunks
  • 3 collard (or kale or Swiss Chard) leaves, stems removed and leaves sliced very thinly Tip: Roll the leaves up into a tight cigar and then thinly slice across. If the slivers are too long, chop once again sideways to shorten them.
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, with a little extra left to garnish

Instructions
 

Instructions

  • Heat large soup pot on medium heat until a drop of water sizzles. Pour in a splash of water
  • Saute onions, carrots, parsnip, celery and garlic, splashing in a bit more water if it starts to dry out
  • Once fragrant, add vegetable broth, cabbage, barley, beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes and spices
  • Bring to a boil, then stir in collard greens
  • Lower heat to low simmer and cook covered, stirring occasionally until potatoes are fork tender (approximately 45 minutes). If the soup gets too thick, add 1 cup of water to simmering stock
  • Once done, stir half cup parsley into soup
  • Taste and adjust any spices
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with a little extra parsley
Keyword Autumn, High-Fiber, Oil-free, Vegan, Winter

Changing one taste bud at a time

Autumn energizes me, with her crisp sunny days and cool nights, such a welcome change from summer’s sweltering heat. Now we are heading into winter and a sort of settling in. 

Except that in our area, the pandemic is rearing its ugly head in a second wave.  We know co-morbidities put some of us at higher risk for complications from COVID-19:  diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, cancer. I have  some of these. For me, weight loss and healing my body with the best possible nutrition are my primary goals. I’d like to kick Type 2 diabetes and potential heart disease out the door forever. 

I know that a plant-based lifestyle is not a panacea. It will not cure everything and it certainly won’t prevent me from contracting the virus. It can, however, give my body a bit more of a fighting chance. Nutrition is an extremely powerful thing.  Studies show that a plant-based diet reduces inflammation and feeds the gut microbiome which is directly connected to a stronger immune system.  Antioxidants defend cells from attack and plants are full of flavonoids, powerful antioxidant agents. For people who are compromised, like me, that is nothing but good news. Is it real? Will it help? I can only hope so.

Just to recap, a whole-food plant based diet means:

  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Avoiding packaged and processed foods, caffeine, alcohol
  • Avoiding animal products: meat, fish, shellfish, dairy
  • SOS version (for additional health benefits) means avoiding salt, oil and sugar 

A foodie at heart, when I started this I went through a period of mourning. In fact, I may still be mourning a bit. I was famous for my white chocolate cheesecake and boeuf bourguignon.  Would I long for lasagna? BBQ? I fell off the 100% plant-based wagon countless times with this mindset and kept starting over again and again. Then I committed and when i made that decision, it took. I will not eat meat or dairy or seafood. It has become so much easier since that proclamation. Cooking is still an adventure, even more fun and creative. I still have kitchen disasters but also thrilling wins. 

It is a process. My taste buds were used to huge hits of salt, sugar and fat, so at first, everything tasted bland. Unless perfectly ripe, fruit tasted sour. Learning to sauté without oil was scary until I started to experiment using broth or water or cooking wine instead. Herbs and spices are more amazing than ever. Berbere anyone? Neat tricks like making whipped cream out of aquafaba (aka bean water) still blows me away.

After two weeks of honest effort, the magic happens. Taste buds change. They literally change – taste cells are continually renewed in adults, with an average lifespan of 10-14 days. Cravings subside. Bite into a peach and it is the sweetest thing on Earth. The produce aisle or farmer’s market becomes a favourite hangout and the world of vegetables, mushrooms, beans and grains becomes an intriguing place.  Curries and stews and soups, oh my!  Accidentally tasting something enjoyed from the past, say, a bite of KFC or a sub or a donut,  will be shocking — so salty or cloyingly sweet as to be inedible. How have we, as a society, moved so far away from eating real food? 

Here is Mother Nature’s version of whole-food plant-based candy. Medjool dates have a sweet and sticky texture that resembles caramel.  When coupled with nut butter and a little cacao dust, they are great stand-ins for Hallowe’en size Snickers bar.  Guaranteed to please any sweet tooth with zero added fat or sugar. 

“Date Night” Candy

Take two Medjool dates and slice length-wise into halves

Fill each half with pure almond, peanut or any nut butter (ie/ nut butter with no additives).   If  allergic to nuts you can use sunflower seed butter.

Top each filled half with chopped nuts, cacao nibs, raisins, craisins, shredded coconut, or a dab of fruit butter or fruit jelly

Dust with cocoa powder

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Fiber Fueled Challenge

 

I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m out walking, most of them focused on health and wellness. When I heard renowned gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewicz (“Dr. B”) speak about the importance of fiber in our diets, I immediately ordered his book, Fiber Fueled.  

Backed by science, Dr. B. challenges elimination diets like Keto and Paleo, which he says may be hazardous to our health. It turns out that gut health may be the most important thing we need to worry about and the best way to build a healthy gut microbiome is to eat a lot of fiber. Fiber helps our gut microbes to create short-chain fatty acids that are essential to our health, proven to promote weight loss, repair leaky gut, optimize the immune system, reduce food sensitivities, lower cholesterol, reverse type 2 diabetes, improve brain function and even protect against cancer. 

Of course, fiber comes from plants – fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes. A diversity of plants is essential for ideal gut flora. Dr. B says we should be eating at least 30 different plant foods per week.

He also promotes F GOALS – essential foods you should try to incorporate daily in order to build a healthy gut:

F – Fruits and Fermented foods

G– Greens and whole grains

O – Omega 3 super seeds: chia, hemp, flax

A–  Aromatics: onions, garlic, leeks  (Dr. B suggest you “chop and stop”  ie/  chop your aromatics and let them sit for 10 minutes before using in recipes, in order for the healing enzyme allicin to form.)

L – Legumes

S – Sulforaphane – this is a natural plant compound found in many cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Also under S category: seaweed and ‘shrooms

My plant-based challenge to each of you is to try to include 30 or more different plant foods in your diet over the next 7 days. 

Click on photo below to order Fiber Fueled from Amazon.

 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a tiny commission from qualifying purchases of books or items. This does not increase your price at all. I never list or recommend anything I don’t own or use myself.