Tag Archives: healthful

Savory Butternut Squash and Tomatoes

I don’t know about you, but as soon as fall rolls around, I’m ready to eat all of the squash. From October to March you can always count on at least one variety of squash (and a pile of sweet potatoes) residing in my kitchen. They’re truly fall and winter staples.

When it comes to squash, butternut and kabocha are my all time favorites. I’m pretty lazy with kabocha and generally just do a quick steam. But I’m willing to put in the time with butternut. True, it’s rich and savory simply baked in the oven with a brush of olive oil. But this dish, adapted from a 2007  New York Times recipe, turns an already beloved ingredient into a complex and comforting centerpiece. Make it for a dinner party, holiday or potluck and I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

The Times’ original recipe serves as a pasta sauce, but I’ve adapted (and veganized) it into the main affair with the addition of beans. In lieu of said beans, I’ve also used Beyond Meat chick’n or tempeh, either do nicely. Definitely serve it with a heap of broccoli rabe, kale or another dark, leafy green. The garlicky squash and deep greens are the perfect pair. But feel free to round it all out by piling the squash onto whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Either way, this is a satisfying dish that will warm and comfort you on the cold nights to come!

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup sliced shallots

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)

1 butternut squash, cubed or shredded

1 can white beans or chick peas

1 Tbsp Nutritional yeast (or to taste)

Pink salt or sea salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and pepper flakes and cook for about a minute; add tomatoes and squash, and cook with some salt and pepper.

2. When squash is tender — about 15 minutes  — add beans and nutritional yeast. Stir to incorporate and cook until beans are heated through.

Health by Chocolate

Chocolate and I are old friends. But before I became vegan, chocolate was somewhat of a toxic friend. We loved hanging out, but I tended to call on her when I was bummed out, or bored, or angry, or, well, insert any adjective really.  And while I relied on her for help in countless situations, she would invariably make me feel bad about myself. Yet I went back to her at my most vulnerable times, again and again.

It wasn’t until I went vegan that Chocolate and I developed a much healthier friendship. At first I was skeptical about the new trajectory of our relationship, now that Chocolate was breaking up with dairy. I had known them as a couple for so long! But their breakup helped to magnify so many of her own magnificent qualities.

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And so I learned to appreciate chocolate in an entirely new context. No longer did I feel the need to categorize it as my vice, I started to look at the beneficial qualities and discovered ways to both enjoy and profit from the little bean. And because I was eating so many more nutrient- dense, satisfying foods, I didn’t automatically think about that something sweet after every meal. Or worse, in lieu of meals.

While I don’t get the daily chocolate pangs I once did, now and again a minor chocolate craving gnaws at me. Those are the times I incorporate chocolate into healthy concoctions or easy recipes. Cacao nibs or chocolate chips melted in my oatmeal. My new favorite nutella-esque nut butter, for which I shall soon post a review. Nibs and/or cacao powder in coconut yogurt. Hot cocoa. Raw desserts, like a chocolate pecan tart I brought to last Thanksgiving (a big hit.)smchoclayout_0572

Last week, while buried under many a nutrition textbook, the words “chocolate shake” began to echo in my brain. I suppose a hundred pages of the words protein, carbohydrate and fat just manifested themselves into a glass. And since I didn’t feel like a heavy dessert, I set upon creating a divinely chocolatey yet marvelously healthful shake.

The results? Super rich on the chocolate and just the right density- not too heavy, but not obviously light. And while it tastes unbelievably decadent, this shake is brimming with nutrients your body will love.

As you may know, cocoa itself is incredibly healthful. (it’s the stuff that’s sometimes mixed in with it, like dairy and refined sugar, that makes a lot of chocolate less so)  The cacao bean is packed with antioxidants- I mean, packed. Cacao boasts the highest concentration of flavonoids (a powerful class of phytochemicals) of any food! Loads of flavonoids means loads of antioxidant activity when you eat cacao. But not when that cacao is mixed with cow’s milk, as dairy inhibits antioxidant function.

Antioxidants are ridiculously important- they help reduce the risk of a panoply of common diseases, and simply help our cells carry on everyday functions. So get your daily dose of phytochemicals (from a variety of sources) and if you want them to actually do their job, don’t dump animal secretions on top of them.

Love  those nibs.

Love those nibs.

Another reason to avoid those milky chocolate bars- pretty much all of the major commercial brands source their cocoa from middlemen, who buy from slave plantations in Africa. Tens of thousands of child slaves work on cocoa farms in Guyana and the Ivory Coast to satiate our appetite. (not to mention the millions of cows also enslaved right here.) There is an alternative! Buy fair trade cocoa & chocolate bars- there is no dearth of delicious, vegan candy to go around. And don’t worry if you don’t like dark chocolate. There are loads that mix the cocoa with rice milk or nut milks.  A pretty comprehensive list of fair trade, vegan chocolates is here.

Back to the shake! This decadent drink doesn’t stop at the antioxidant love. You’ll also get a good dose of protein, fiber, B12, calcium, iron, and plenty of other important micronutrients.

Yes my friends, you can have your shake and drink it too. (or have your shake and keep your shape?)  So get out your blenders, and prepare for a divine chocolate experience.

Ingredients:

1 cup Nut or Soy milk (I used 3/4 unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Soy)
1 Medjool date (or 2, if not using stevia)
1/3 container vanilla coconut yogurt
1/4 cup vanilla coconut ice cream (or soy, or almond if you prefer.)
2 Tbsp (high quality organic) cacao powder
2 ice cubes
1/8 teaspoon stevia (about 2 of the teeny spoons in the stevia container) Note: If using sweetened milks, you may not need/want the stevia.

Optional: 1 Tbsp dried coconut
Cacao nibs for topping

Method:

Throw all your ingredients into your blender- one that can handle ice cubes, like the mighty Vitamix. Blend on high for 60 seconds, or until the ice cubes have stopped making noise. (but not more than 60 seconds!) Pour into a tall glass and top with Cacao nibs. Float skyward.

Note: the nutrient values will vary depending on the milk you use- for a similar profile, use an enriched unsweetened almond or soy milk. (or other nut milk)

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Grown Up Antioxidant Slushie

vvpLOGO*A big welcome to you, virtual vegan potluck attendee! Thanks for stopping by. This recipe, an ode to beets and sweets, fit in with the potluck’s featured ingredient. But please do have a look around my blog if you like what you see here!*

I had a ridiculous sweet tooth as a kid- so bad that I recall most of my juvenile activities in the context of the garbage I put into my mouth. I can still feel my feet on the warm concrete as I stood in line at the Scarsdale Pool snack bar. French fries and ketchup wafted around me in the queue as I tried to decide- Fun Dip or those greasy fries?  Fun Dip invariably won out- I mean, it’s an activity as well as “food!” I didn’t love Sugarbush ski school, but I did look forward to a break in the toasty lodge, a mammoth chocolate chip cookie and a cup of hot chocolate in my icy hands. And after weekly figure skating lessons, I recall teetering off the ice to inexplicably consume some sugary ice. I was a sucker for a Slush Puppie.

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For those unfamiliar- Slush Puppies are like Slurpees (and I had my fill of those too, once I got to high school)- the ingredient list likely reads: high fructose corn syrup, red dye # 3 and/or  Blue #2, water. Freeze that up, swirl it around in a machine, throw in a cute doggie mascot and the kids start tugging at mom for the cash.

Many slurps later I am decidedly more conscious as to what goes in my mouth. It’s been a long haul, but since I’ve been vegan, new and healthy foods  become part of my repertoire frequently- my last hurdle was to accept veggie juices & smoothies. I spent two years talking myself out of a Vitamix, but finally ran out of convincing excuses a few weeks ago. One charge later, I am the proud mama of that gorgeous invention.

Lovely organic beets from the Union Square farmer's market.

Lovely organic beets from the Union Square farmer’s market.

Back to those Slush Puppies. I’ve been fine-tuning my juiceblend procedure over the last couple of weeks since the Vitamix has resided on my counter. Let me tell you, there is a serious learning curve here people! On first attempt my beet-carrot- pineapple juice was reminiscent of borscht. Drinkable, and certainly tasty, but more food than drink. With the addition of ice, several successive attempts yielded what might be described as pink- tinged carrot dressing. (I consumed it, sans salad.)

But today, I am in juice heaven. Doubling up on ice and extra process time yielded the perfect texture and flavor. The happy surprise was that lovely icey nostalgia of what could be called a grown up Slush Puppie. (Slush Dog?) With a glass of this slushy juice in hand, I can hear the comical tunes of the skaterink organist in 1982. Gone is the syrupy sweetness of youth’s slush, but the dayglo color is still here! (Even more beautiful, I think.) I mean, just look at that gorgeous pink. That’s the phenomenal phytochemical power in the beets.

Did you know that beets rank highest of all veggies in antioxidant concentration? At least as far as we know- in the most recent study, beets won out over the previous ruling champion, spinach, in antioxidant content. Beets get their color from betacyanins, powerful phytonutrients that protect plants from UV exposure and disease. And guess what? Those same phytonutrients protect us from disease. Diseases like cancer.

 Just as yummy slightly melted. Love the layers of concentrated, pulpy and icey.

Just as yummy slightly melted. Love the layers of concentrated, pulpy and icey.

Beetroots are a stellar source of folic acid, fiber, manganese and potassium. But don’t forget about the greens attached to those roots! Both the greens and roots are great source of magnesium, phosphorus, some iron and vitamin B6. (However not all of the iron can be absorbed due to the high concentration of oxalates in beets, so you don’t want to count on this plant exclusively for iron.) The greens are even higher in nutritional value than beetroots – they’re richer in calcium, iron and vitamins A & C. So eat both the root and the greens- a quick steam or a toss in a pan with olive oil and garlic is all you need.

The sweetness and tang of the pineapple is a lovely compliment to the beet’s earthiness. And you can just feel your body taking in those anti-cancer nutrients, thanking you with every sip.
The first glass is full on slushy, but as it melts the texture and flavor becomes even more complex, yielding layers of frozen, semi-frozen and melted- it’s almost a slushy parfait. I just loved seeing the layers of vibrant pink.
It feels kind of decadent, but it’s just so good for you. And in a way taking care of yourself is decadent experience too. So indulge away!

Had to show you that beautiful texture close up.
Had to show you that beautiful texture close up.

A note on the (very simple) ingredient list. Go organic with your beets. This gorgeous magenta root will be pulverized raw, giving you a huge boost of nutrients, but if he’s commercial, you’ll also get a nice dose of neurotoxins. Organic beets are cheap anyway- here in price engorged New York City, I get a ridiculous bunch of 12 beets for a mere $3.50 at the farmer’s market, with so many greens they won’t fit in the crisper. That’s enough juice for more than a week plus 2 or more servings of greens! Don’t skimp on your body, people.
The pineapple is theoretically ok to buy conventional, as they have tough skins and are less desirable to insects, thus fewer pesticides are needed. But if you can find organic, that’s always ideal.

So here we go.
Yields 1 1/2 pints- enough for two, but certainly drinkable by one!

Ingredients:
1 large beetroot (preferably organic)
1/4 pineapple
1 1/2 to 2 cups ice

variation: use 1 cup ice and 1 cup frozen coconut water. It will be slightly sweeter, so if you enjoy the sweetness level as is, use less pineapple or more beets!

Remove the greens from your beetroot- if you like (and you should!) reserve the greens for dinner. No need to peel your beetroots. When cutting your pineapple, keep the core in there. (fiber!the crowning glory of blended juice) Cut the beet in a few chunks- same for the pineapple. Throw beets, then pineapple, then ice into a Vitamix.
Squish down ingredients with the tamper- the beets and ice will take a little pushing just to get them going. Process on high for about 60 seconds- not much longer or you’ll just have juice.

Pour into glasses and drink immediately! Yum. Pink mustache removal is optional.

ps. While I call this “grown up,” I’m certain kids will love this juice too! What kid doesn’t love a sweet, icy treat? A perfect way to trick them into super healthy veggies.

What’s your favorite juice? Would love to hear.

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