Category Archives: substitutions


black bean brownies - delicious!

Flourless Brownies

Who doesn’t love brownies?  Oooey, chocolatey morsels of deliciousness. They’re great as a snack, as an accompaniment to a cup of tea, or even for dessert. But some people avoid brownies because they’re high in simple carbohydrates. This includes the gluten free flour versions.

So what if I told you about a brownie that isn’t so high in simple carbohydrates and actually has a fair amount of protein? And no, I’m not talking about putting protein powder into the brownie mix.  I’m talking about beans.  Specifically black beans.  This adds not only protein but is also a great source of fiber, folate, copper, manganese, and thiamine.

Before you think, “Um…no” let me assure you, these are delicious.  I’ve brought these brownies to a number of different gatherings.  Each time I share them I wait until people have eaten them before telling them the ‘secret ingredient.’  Everyone is always amazed at how moist and tasty these brownies are. They’re surprised to discover that the brownies are made from black beans. 100% black beans, no flour. That makes it perfect for those who need to eat gluten free. And tasty for everyone.

When using black beans I’ve found that it’s best to use canned. When cooking black beans from scratch, even in the pressure cooker or slow cooker, the consistency doesn’t seem to come out as well. When using canned black beans consider using a brand that does not have BPA in the can lining. (You can learn more about BPA and it’s health impact in this video) Eden Brands is one company that does not use BPA in their linings.

Black Bean Brownies
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ C. black beans
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 heaping T. ground flax seed
  4. 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  5. 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  6. 1 pinch sea salt
  7. ½ t. baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  9. 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  10. 2 t. instant espresso powder
  11. 1 C. dark Belgian chocolate w/almonds, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish
  3. Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate); blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  4. Top with chopped chocolate
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes
  6. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Giving Up Dairy

Dairy Collage

Food Intolerance Journal – Week One
With my recent discovery of food intolerance issues I’ve had to make some changes to my nutritional plan.   Honey is a little tricky and I do need to read the label to make sure that it’s not part of the sometimes cascading list of sweeteners found in some foods.  Berries, and melon are fairly easy to avoid and since they aren’t in season right now I’m telling myself that by avoiding the frozen ones I’m on a journey to heal my gut in time for them to be back in season again and hopefully back on my plate.

Dairy on the other hand?  Well that’s proving to be more challenging.  In my first week I’ve had less than stellar success with my new dairy-free lifestyle.  This is in part due to the need to travel and in part due to all the places that dairy hides in the diet.  When looking at labels remember to also look for casein, lactose, and whey or variants of those since they are a part of the milk product.

I should clarify, I need to avoid cow’s milk dairy products.  Goat’s milk is fine and sheep’s milk (if I could source it here in Texas) would also be fine.  Luckily I like goat’s milk cheese and goat’s milk yogurt is available at my grocery store.  But I’m also looking to alternative dairy (coconut, almond, rice, hemp, oat, or flax milk-based products) to help replace any dairy in baking or drinking as a less expensive and easier sourced option.  The biggest challenge with the alternative dairy is that most products come with added carrageenan.  Made from a red seaweed it’s not a healthy option for anyone, but especially for someone with a challenged digestive tract.  Found in products that come in those convenient containers in the dairy case, in the tetra-pack versions, in frozen confections made with alternative dairy, it’s really hard to get away from carrageenan.  My options are to find brands that don’t have it or to make my own.  Feeling squeezed for time I’m really not interested in making my own at the moment so my current favorite option is to purchase coconut milk in BPA free cans.

For other dairy options I am definitely looking in a more vegan direction.   I’m not switching to a vegan diet, but it does offer some great substitutions for dairy.  One that I was recently introduced to is a fabulous dish called RawFredo.  A raw vegan version of spaghetti alfredo made with spiraled zucchini and a cashew based “alfredo” sauce.  This sauce was so delicious that I can’t wait to make it again.  I’m not ashamed to confess that not only did I lick my bowl, I grabbed my spatula and, ahem, “cleaned” the blender jar.  I’m grateful to my friend and colleague, Primitive Diva, for introducing me to this delicious dish.

While it takes time and effort to make these changes the end result is definitely worth it.  In order to be successful when accommodating any shift in nutritional plans, the key is to find delicious alternatives to what you are used to eating,

 

photo credits:  MaxStraeten, wax115

Halloween

Halloween Treats – An Alternative Viewpoint

In just a few days it will be Halloween.  It’s a fun holiday, I admit.  After all who doesn’t like playing dress up and running around collecting treats.  When the kids were little it was a month-long anticipation-fest.  Deciding what to be, making costumes, participating in the neighborhood Boo Bag festivities, choosing which treats we would give out and then ::drumroll please:: the big night.

How many kids?

For whatever reason over the last couple decades we wound up living in areas where our house was part of the local Halloween central.  I’m talking, literally, hundreds of kids.  In a wide variety of diverse settings:

  • A small, rural town in Vermont where the houses on Main Street were hard hit by the hordes that came from all over town, and I mean the entire town
  • A high density Texas suburb where kids pretty much stuck to their own neighborhood but there sure were a lot of them — when your houses are on 7,00-10,000 square foot lots with 2-3 kids in most of the houses, well, you get the picture
  • A small rural Connecticut town where our street was THE place to be.  Van-loads of children from our town as well as van-loads of children from surrounding towns all descending on our doors — some of the kids employed a technique called ‘double masking’ where they wore one mask on the way down the street and the other mask on the way back, hitting all the houses both ways to try and get EVEN MORE candy

But it’s always fun to see all of the kids and their costumes and their excitement.  I love this time of year and have so much fun with it. However as the years went on and I learned more about what’s really in our food I became less and less enthusiastic about what is, after all, the main purpose of Halloween for many kids.  The sugar fest.  I began to look for alternatives that did not add carcinogenic chemicals to their little bodies, no artificial colors, flavors, or other additives which, after all, are not real food.

Alternative treats

Over the years I spent a fair amount of money on organic, natural treats but the year we hit over 300 kids I stopped.  It just got to be more than our budget would allow.  So I started handing out treats of a different kind.  And the funny thing is… the kids loved them.  I had thought that they might prefer their candies and sweets.  But really they got so much of that at other houses. Plus due to the sheer volume of trick-or-treaters, everyone was braced for the onslaught and the neighbors mostly purchased small candies.  There’s also only so many different kinds of snack-size or fun-size treats available, so the contents of the bag looked very similar from house-to-house. At our house, rather than getting the same thing that they got everywhere else, we were giving them something fun and new.

What sorts of things did we give out?  It’s amazing what you can find:

  • glow in the dark bracelets
  • glow in the dark rubber duckies (these were very popular surprisingly)
  • Halloween themed hacky sacks
  • fake creepy things – bugs, spiders, bats, and snakes
  • Halloween frisbees

There’s also a number of strategies for swapping out the candy once the kids have collected it. Here’s a great list from the Holistic Mom’s Halloween Roundup.

The real food philosophy

Alternative treats and swapping out can be a great way to be able to participate in the holiday without compromising the health of the kids.

I love the dress-up part, and admiring all the costumes that come to my door.  With the bigger kids I always ask them to do a trick to “earn” their treat.  I’ve had kids tell me jokes, do hand-stands, make silly faces, it’s hilarious.  One time I asked a young man, “What do you say?” He looked at me rather puzzled and softly said, “Please?”  To which I laughinly replied, “What about Trick-or-Treat, smelly my feet?”  He laughed and I gave him a double helping.

I love the excitement and the fun of being outdoors at night.  It’s a special time of year. But when it comes to the sugar overload and the negative ingredients I’m no longer a fan. I want to to be as true to my real food philosophies as I can.

In the meantime, if you have any alterntive suggestions or know of a place selling great Halloween swag, let me know, there’s still time to swap out the sweets or to plan for the year ahead.

Student Nutrition

The kids have gone off to college. Some for the first time, some returning to that parent-free no nutrition guidelines environment. If you’ve just sent your student back to school you may be wondering what they’re eating. Unfortunately for many of them if it’s not standard college fare (often run by cafeteria companies such as Aramark) it’s fast food. As parents we know this isn’t a great choice but now that they’re off on their own it’s tough to get information across to them.

Five fabulous tips for your college student are:

    1. Portion Control: Dining halls make it easy to overeat. Be mindful of your portion sizes. Start small. If you’re still hungry you can go back for seconds, but if you load up your plate chances are high that you will over-eat.
    2. Don’t Skip: You’re in a hurry and it’s tempting to skip breakfast but don’t do it. Eating a balanced breakfast keeps your metabolism going and your blood sugar stable all day long.
    3. Rethink Your Drink: Cool, they have soda at every meal, even breakfast! NOT! Those empty calories sure add up. And diet soda is high in chemicals that are not good for your health. Juice is also freely available but very high in sugar. Make sure you stay hydrated and drink more water. Consider adding lemon to flavor it a little. Get a water bottle and take it with you around campus.  Or see if mom and dad will spring for one of those soda makers and make your own sparkling water right in your room. [note:  FREE SHIPPING on all Home Soda Maker orders with Promo Code: FREEFIZZ]
    4. You Are Not A Hobbit: Avoid the fourth meal. That late-nite pizza or mac-and-cheese at midnight? Not a good idea. If you’re hungry have a healthy snack (such as low sugar protein bars, fresh fruit, raw nuts, fresh veggies, hot air popcorn, or yogurt) but don’t eat a full meal right before bed. You won’t sleep well and you’ll pack on the pounds.
    5. Get ZZZZZs: Sleep deprivation affects not only your ability to think straight, it also changes your metabolism and your hormones making it harder for you to make good food choices. Aim for seven or eight hours a night. The occasional all-nighter is going to happen, but try not to make it a habit.

and a bonus tip:

Exercise: Hitting the books means lots of sitting. This sedentary lifestyle can really contribute to weight gain. Remember to stay active. Walk to class if possible, go to the school gym (it’s FREE!), or join in some sort of club that encourages physical activity. Keep moving and keep off the pounds.

Other issues which may be challenging include the fact that most, if not all, fast food is highly addictive. The more you eat it the more you want. And because it’s so energy dense, meaning a lot of calories/fat/sodium/sugar, it can often lead to weight gain. Learning how to choose nutrient dense foods, or high nutrient foods, is an important part of a healthy college lifestyle. The infographic below may be a great way to share information with your college student, helping them to make better choices.

 

The Best Foods for Body and Brain

Baking Substitutions

Baking is something that many people enjoy.  But often people are looking for substitutions to decrease the amount of fat or sugar in their baked goods without sacrificing flavor.  I have used the black beans substitution for flour in brownies with great success, they came out moist and delicious.  As a matter of fact when I served them at a gathering everyone was surprised to learn that the brownies were gluten free and were were in fact made from black beans.

I love the idea of using pureed avocado as a possible substitution for buter in chocolate cookies.  Having successfully used it in pudding I can see how the flavor melds well.  The next time I’m experimenting with a new recipe I definitely plan to try this.

It’s important to note that not all of the substitutions (such as marshmallow fluff) are healthy ones and some (like chia seeds or avocado) may actually be more expensive.  It’s important to make choices that work for you and your nutritional plan.  This is, however a good general guideline for substitutions that can be made in baking.

Healthy Recipe Substitutions: Baking

 

Super Bowl Snacks

superbowl party | photo: kakisky

February 6th is right around the corner.  In case you don’t know, that’s when the Super Bowl will be happening.  While I don’t follow football very closely I do find myself curiously swept up in the party that accompanies this last game of the season.  And I admit to wanting to watch the half-time show and the, usually, creative commercials.  I find it curious that this is one day of the year when companies spend millions of dollars and put forth extra effort to make sure their commercials are smart, funny, creative, or interesting.  It’s the only time I usually enjoy watching them.  This day, Superbowl Sunday, is practically a holiday, with people making elaborate plans for parties and food.  This is one of the few traditional gatherings where the menu doesn’t often include an entree or side dishes; it’s a smorgasbord of snacks.

If you’re hosting or attending a Super Bowl Party you’re probably familiar with the traditional lineup of foods:  loaded nachos smothered in queso, buffalo wings, cheesy spinach dip, chili, and sausage-laden pizza and more.  Depending on the teams (and who you’re rooting for) the menu changes somewhat to accomodate the event.  It’s like rooting for your favorites with food.  Unfortunately many of those food choices won’t leave you in good shape.

But it doesn’t have to be a day of overindulgence in fatty foods and unhealthy choices.  Here are my Seven Super Bowl Snacks that will still allow you to enjoy the spirit of the celebration without regret:

  1. Instead of buying cheesy popcorn or sugary kettle corn consider making your own.  Hot air popped popcorn with a modest amount of melted butter or coconut oil, salt and spices to taste is a crunchy delicious treat.  Try chili powder, onion powder, or my personal favorite, ground up nori.
  2. Instead of caramel popcorn or people chow try making a healthy trail mix in your slow cooker.  It’s extremely tasty, and with four different options to choose from you can make something for everyone.
  3. Add a fruit platter with a yogurt dip for a healthy, delicious treat.  To make the yogurt dip take 1 cup plain organic yogurt and mix it with 1 heaping tablespoon of your favorite flavor of jam or with honey.  Much less sugar than already sweetened yogurts and it’s your choice of flavors.
  4. Cut a selection of veggies into strips and rounds to use as dippers instead of chips and crackers.  These go well with bean dips and even cheese spreads.  You can also serve them with a tasty guacamole or a healthy homemade salsa.  Less simple carbs, more veggies, that’s always a win.
  5. Instead of ordering giant super subs consider setting out an assortment of preservative free healthy lunch meats (Hormel Natural, Boar’s Head Natural, and Applegate are all good brands) and a selection of whole grain rolls, wraps, and sandwich thins.  Let your guest make their own winning combination.
  6. Homemade meatballs served in a marinara sauce in the slow cooker make a great snack without all the grease and fuss of sausages or wings.
  7. If you’re going to serve pizza consider getting a thin whole wheat crust and topping it with lots of heart healthy veggies, light on the cheese.  Avoid preservative-laden processed meats choosing grilled chicken breast instead (or add your own after delivery).

Saving Calories

The New Year has come and gone.  The festivities are over, the days are getting longer and we’re one week into what for many people is the annual self torture of resolutions.  As I’ve mentioned before I really don’t like the word resolution.  It seems hard and finite and often is a rather amorphous concept.  “I resolve to lose 10 pounds”  “I resolve to go to the gym more often”  and other statements.  There’s no strategy of how it’s going to happen, no defined timeline and if you don’t succeed you feel like you’ve failed.

It may seems like splitting hairs but I prefer the term goal.  The goal outlines what you hope to achieve.  And if you don’t quite get there that doesn’t mean you have to give up in dejected defeat.

Because so many people struggle with their weight at this time of year that tends to be one of the more common health goals I hear.  I’d like to start by sharing that weight loss is more than just eating less.  It’s about changing habits, moving more, changing mindsets and, yes, eating less.  But there are ingrained habit that need to change.

Spend some time focusing on mindful eating (chew, be grateful for your food, enjoy your food, take time with your meal, and chew [yes I repeated that one, it’s important and many of use don’t chew enough]).   Mindful eating helps us to better digest our food in so many ways from making sure that we are breaking down the food, getting adequate salivary enzymes, and also having our body in a calm focused place to be able to digest.  Liz Lipski, the Digestive Wellness guru, tells us that we often fuel our bodies the way we fuel our cars….stop, gas, go.  She’s right.  The next time you sit down to a meal stop a moment and recognize how you are eating.  Most of you will discover that you are rushing through your meal and if you take a few extra moments you will feel better and calmer.

Move more.  If you have a car and it just sits in the driveway and never goes anywhere when you eventually need it the tires are cracked and dry, the engine fluids are gummy and don’t lubricate well and the car may not function the way it is supposed to.  That car is a metaphor for our bodies.  Use them and they stay active and functioning.  This is nothing you don’t already know but sometimes we just need a reminder.  Park a little further away at the grocery store.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Sign up for a physical movement class or find a free one on DVD or the internet.  You’ll feel better and your body will be burning calories which can help with weight management.

vegetable broth | photo: Takeaway

I also like give you a few ways to make small measurable food changes that can add up, helping you to shed pounds:

  1. Consider changing your plate size.  We often cue in to the size of the plate to help us determine how much food to put on it.  If you use a smaller plate you often take less food but find yourself just as satisfied.  
  2. Consider changing your plate altogether.  Slimware is a company that sells some really attractive plates that have designs on them that are portion controlled.  This visual cue can help you learn how to choose portion sizes over serving sizes.
  3. Choose salsa instead of queso.  That cheesy dip or melted cheese topping adds up to a lot of calories and a lot of fat.  Substituting salsa for some, or all, of the cheese not only saves calories it adds delicious flavor.  A baked potato with black beans and salsa is one of my favorites and really needs no cheese or sour cream.
  4. Looking for something crunchy?  Forego the corn chips and snack mix.  Try air popped popcorn instead.  With a tiny bit of melted butter or coconut oil, a hint of salt and some spices you’ve got a great crunchy snack that doesn’t have nearly the same caloric count.  Be sure to choose organic popcorn to avoid any potential GM contamination.
  5. Add a cup of soup to your dinnertime routine.  A delicious strong stock with veggies and herbs or even a tomato based veggie soup is a great way to get your digestion going but also to help fill your tummy.   Barbara Rolls, a Ph.D. at Penn State shares that  “Eating a 100-calorie bowl of broth-based soup…at the start of a meal takes the edge off your hunger. Even with the extra course … you are likely to eat fewer total calories during the meal.”
  6. Remember the Three Polite Bite Rule.  If you are going to have dessert have just three polite bites.  You’ll get enough to satisfy that sweet tooth without overdoing the sugar intake.
Step-by-step small meaningful changes can add up to a healthier you.
Interested in making more changes?  Anyone who leaves a comment and their email address on the blog will receive a free copy of my “Eating Out – Eating Healthy” ebook.

Disclaimer: cmp.ly/5

Coconut

coconut | photo: Robert Wetzlmayr

This Thanksgiving we had coconut cream instead of whipped cream.  It was a delicious substitute for those at the table who could not have dairy and it paired very well with the pumpkin custard.

Coconut is a great food item to have in your pantry.  A source of phosphorus which is beneficial for strong teeth and bones as well as supporting kidney function, there are many different ways in which coconut can be added to the diet.

Let’s start, though, by addressing the allergy issue.  According to the FDA coconuts must be labeled as a tree nut.  And there does appear to be a potential for cross-reaction for anyone who is allergic, or sensitive, to either walnuts or hazelnuts.  This means that if you have a sensitivity to either walnuts or hazelnuts and consume coconut products, you may want to discuss this with your allergist or to try an elimination diet and see if you should not eat coconut.

Ways to use coconut include:

  • Coconut meat – a tasty treat which can be eaten fresh or dried.  
  • Coconut flour – the dried ground meat can be used in baking and is especially popular for gluten free baking.  It’s also a good source of protein with 100 g of coconut flour containing just over 19 g of protein.
  • Coconut water – sometimes called coconut juice, this is the liquid from the center of the coconut.  It is a fairly balanced electrolyte fluid; far tastier, and certainly far healthier, than sports drinks.
  • Coconut milk – made from the ground meat this is a tasty dairy substitute that many people enjoy.
  • Coconut cream – the solid section of the coconut milk which rises to the top; this can be skimmed off and used the same as whipping cream.
  • Coconut oil – made from the meat, this is a healthy source of medium chain fatty acids and can be used in baking and cooking.  It even makes a great facial moisturizer. 
Coconut flour, milk and water all substitute fairly well at a one-for-one ratio for their conventional counterparts.  Coconut oil substitutes one-for-one although I have found that because it melts differently it sometimes gives a different texture to baked goods.  We have added this versatile range of products to the pantry and are enjoying the tasty variety that they add to our diet.  I’m sure you will too.

Baking Mishaps

A lesson in humility… Just a week ago I posted a recipe for lemon millet muffins.  I was so happy with how the recipe came together the first time.  Often that doesn’t happen.  This next effort clearly demonstrates that.

I wanted to make cookies.  The family has been requesting chocolate chip for a while and I’ve been experimenting with lots of other types, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodles, etc, that I decided the time had come to make chocolate chip cookies.  Never content to just pick a tried-and-true recipe I wanted to make gluten free, dairy free, egg free chocolate chip cookies.

The picture shows that it was less than successful.  I will share that they taste great but they don’t look so hot.  The biggest concern is what will happen when they cool.  In my experience if they spread this much they are often inedible when no longer warm.  We’ll see how it goes.

And it goes without saying that this particular recipe is not exactly ready for prime time.

Sprouted Flours

sprouted spelt and chia bread | photo:  wattle12

I recently received a question from Hope who wanted to know about sprouted flours (specifically spelt) and how to use them.

Sprouted flours are a very healthy way to go.  Sprouting essentially deactivates some of the enzymes that can interfere with nutrient absorption.  The grains are sprouted, dried at very low heat, and then ground into flour.  If you do not own a mill (I like both the Blendtec and WonderMill) you can purchase sprouted flours from a number of different sources.

Sprouted flours can be easily interchanged with traditional flours one for one.  There is a difference between the fiber content so if you are switching it for all-purpose flour you’ll need to make some adjustments to the moisture content as well as to how long it may take to rise.

Regarding her question about spelt specifically, it is a grain similar to wheat but lower in gluten content.  Some people who do not digest wheat well find spelt to be an acceptable alternative.  For those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, spelt still needs to be avoided as it does contain gluten.

To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company has some delicious looking recipes on their website which specifically call for sprouted flours.