Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fluffiest GF Coconut Pancakes--Without the Fluff!

I'm going to tell you how I really feel. I don't like the gluten-free craze. If you have celiac disease or a true allergy, then I understand, but I don't think that wheat in it's pure form is making everyone sick. Rather, I think refined, genetically modified wheat is what's making many ill, but if we could all stop eating that garbage, then I think we would find that good old humble whole wheat is not the culprit.  In going gluten-free, I think a lot of people are improving their health because this forces them to change their way of eating and thus consume less processed, chemical-laden foods, including refined, GM wheat.  But would we have the same outcomes if we all just cut out processed and genetically modified foods, increased our fruit and veggie intakes, and ate organic homemade whole wheat bread? We will probably never find out because the paleo diet appears to be taking over the world, just like its next of kin, the Atkins Diet, did before.

My allegiance to wheat now proclaimed, I will add that I make gluten-free meals and baked goods for my family not infrequently because I think that God has made all sorts of grains that are good for our bodies and that make for a more interesting palate of flavors and textures.  Wheat makes up much of our grain intake, but I want my family to also have a taste for the many wonderful grains given to us for our health and enjoyment.  So here is a GF pancake recipe I whipped up on a night of breakfast for dinner, with some coconut flour I had purchased out of curiosity. This recipe was inspired by Tessa's sweet potato muffins made with coconut flour--the first egg-free recipe I found using coconut four.  These pancakes are gum-free; frankly, I'm not sure how they hold together, but they sure did, and were adored by all. I think the combination of the chickpeas and coconut flour are what make for the magical fluffiness. As Abiline said, "We don't have a treat after dinner tonight because these pancakes are our treat!" As you can see from the picture, I also believe in chocolate chips.

1 cup roasted sweet potato flesh*
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups plain or vanilla non-dairy milk + 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract (optional)
2 Tbsp. coconut cream (You could sub oil.)
2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp. hemp seeds (optional)
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your pancake griddle or frying pan over medium heat (about 275 on the griddle). Puree the sweet potato through hemp seeds in a food processor or blender until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir until evenly moistened. The batter will be thick. Drop by 1/4 cup fulls on the preheated griddle and sprinkle with chocolate chips, if you like. After 2 or 3 minutes, check if they are firm enough on bottom to flip, then cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes more.

*To roast a sweet potato, preheat your oven to 400, line a baking pan with parchment paper, scrub the potato, and place it on the pan in the oven for about an hour. The cooked potato will be very soft and easily pierced with a fork and have golden juices bubbling from it. Do not try to steam or microwave your potato instead; to bring out the sweetness, it must be roasted.

My little helper...

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Healthy Vegan Fridays Whole Food Fridays. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Breakfast Banana Split with Chocolate and Caramel Oatmeal Pudding

I love fancy breakfast. My husband is always telling the kids that they are totally spoiled for getting pancakes, waffles and french toast almost every week.  Of course I make breakfast for my kids because I love them, but my motives are also selfish, as I need something a bit more stunning than a bowl of cold cereal to transition me from grumpy woman wishing she were still in bed to mile-a-minute mom.

This particular breakfast indulgence came about as I sought for ways to use the leftover pulp from making oat milk for my homemade yogurt. I whipped up the thickest chocolate pudding the other day using the soaked oats, which of course tasted great with banana, which got me to thinking...Breakfast Banana Split!!!

The first step to making this dream a reality is to soak your oats overnight. Then your pudding will come together in about 15 minutes in the morning: a bit more work than a bowl of cereal, but well worth it. If you have extra time to devote to your toppings, this would taste great with my pumpkin caramel sauce on top. This recipe makes enough for 4 small (1/2 banana each) or 2 large (1 banana each) banana splits.

For the soaked oats:
2 cups rolled oats
filtered water to cover (I use about 4 cups.)

For the Chocolate Oatmeal Pudding:
1 cup soaked oatmeal  (1/2 of the soaked oats)
2 Tbsp. cacao powder
3 prunes
2 medjool dates, pitted
1/2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
2 scoops stevia powder (I use Trader Joe's Organic brand.)
1 Tbsp. sunflower seed butter
1/3 cup black beans

For the Caramel Oatmeal Pudding:
1 cup soaked oatmeal
1 Tbsp. tahini
1/3 cup pitted medjool dates (3-4)
1/2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
1/4 cup chickpeas
1 Tbsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
2 scoops stevia powder
2 Tbsp. white chia seed meal (optional, but will make it thicker. You could use flaxmeal if you don't have a flax allergy like we do.)

To assemble the banana splits:
2 medium, ripe bananas

Optional Toppings:
non-dairy yogurt (I use homemade.)
hemp seeds
mini chocolate chips
sliced strawberries
pumpkin caramel sauce

1. Place the oats and water in a large bowl, cover, and soak in the fridge overnight.
2. In the morning, you can either a) drain the oats in a colander and proceed to make the pudding or b) make oat milk with the soaking water by blending the oats and the water and then straining out the oat pulp using a mesh sieve.
3. Make the chocolate oatmeal pudding by blending all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth. Empty the chocolate pudding into a bowl, clean out the blender or work bowl, and then combine all of the ingredients for the caramel oatmeal pudding and blend until smooth.
4. Assemble the banana splits by cutting your bananas in half lengthwise. (For four small splits, cut the bananas in half widthwise as well.) Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to dish up a scoop of each pudding over the bananas. Garnish with desired toppings.

Here's the other big news around here beyond fancy breakfast:

Emie is Walking!

And Sawyer and Abiline had a momentary truce.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Creamy Hummus-Infused BBQ Black Beans with Sweet Potato Polenta

Tonight I went a bit loony while making dinner. You see, dinner prep is a pretty high-stress operation around here, as my husband does not get home until after the kids need to start eating, so I become quite the juggler of pots and pans, babies and bath-time, dropping more balls on some nights than on others.  On this particular evening, the kids wanted to plant a flower they had begged for at the nursery earlier in the day. I thought, "Surely we can dig a hole in the ground, plop a flower in it, and still leave me enough time to make dinner while the baby is napping." Surely. But then the winter covering was still over the spigot, so they had to come inside to fill their watering pots. Then there was a lake in the middle of my hardwood floors. Then the baby woke up after 10 minutes and wouldn't go back to sleep. Maybe if I cried harder than Emie while mopping up the torrent, she would feel bested and relent. No such luck.  After much delirium and prayer, the dinner still gets made every night, but I wonder how it is that I still love to cook. Who knows--maybe the final product wouldn't be so enjoyable if it weren't such a  miracle!

If your situation is anything like mine, then easy meals are much appreciated. Here is a pretty simple week-night meal I came up with when I had left-over creamy cilantro pesto to use up. It got high marks, once certain parties got over their new food phobia.

Sweet Potato Polenta:
2 cups water
1 cup plain non-dairy milk
2 medium sweet potatoes, roasted and skins removed (about 2 cups)*
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 cup polenta corn grits (or I have even used plain old cornmeal to make polenta before!)
2 Tbsp. coconut cream (skimmed from the top of an unshaken can of coconut milk)

Creamy Hummus-Infused Black Beans:
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed, if canned
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup hummus
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
2 Tbsp. sunflower seed butter

1. For the polenta, heat the water to boiling in a large cooking pot. Puree the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Once the water is boiling, slowly stir in the sweet potato-polenta mixture. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. If you have trouble getting it really thick after about 15 mins., then turn off the heat and let it cool, and it will thicken right up.

2. For the black beans, combine all of the ingredients in a medium pot and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 mins. until heated through. Serve over polenta, topped with creamy cilantro pesto.

*To roast your sweet potatoes, preheat your oven to 400, line a baking pan with parchment paper, scrub the potatoes, and place them on the pan in the oven for about an hour. The cooked potatoes will be very soft and easily pierced with a fork and have golden juices bubbling from it. Do not try to steam or microwave your potatoes instead; to bring out the best flavor, they must be roasted.

Here is a good distraction tool when you need a few moments to get something done in the kitchen: window crayons!

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Gluten-Free Wednesday Wellness Weekend Healthy Vegan Fridays.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oil-Free Creamy Cilantro Pesto

We are gearing up for spring around here, with the bunnies coming out in full force.  I am excited to plant my spring garden, and this year we will definitely be doing a bunch of herbs, as they are easy to grow and quite expensive at the store. So, to celebrate the coming of spring and maybe to liven up your St. Patty's day meal, here is a nice green sauce to dress potatoes, rice, burritos, tacos, even pasta!

Makes about 2 cups
2/3 cup white beans, rinsed and drained, if canned
1/3 cup raw, shelled hemp seeds
1/2 medium, ripe avocado
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
3/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4-1/3 cup plain non-dairy milk (I usually use rice milk. For an extra creamy texture, use coconut.)

Puree all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender, starting with 1/4 cup non-dairy milk and adding more as necessary to get a smooth consistency.

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Gluten-Free Wednesdays Wellness Weekend  Healthy Vegan Fridays

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Naturally Sweet & GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Clouds

Apparently, our dining table is a jungle gym. No matter how many times I say "bum down!" the kids are climbing under it, lying down on the benches, falling off and hitting various body parts. What would a meal be without a new bruise and some tears? Don't ask me. I wish each child had a seatbelt to keep them from crashing, but apparently they only make those for high chairs.  Here is snapshot of a typical seating configuration:

Snack time seems to be the most tame time at the table, probably because it seems like more of a privilege and less of a chore than dinner. Also, I don't notice anyone lying down for a snooze during dessert...

Which is yet another reason to love treats! These cookie clouds came about as I was simultaneously trying to change the banana millet muffins from Peas and Thank You to my liking (less sugar and oil) and to make a gluten-free version of the white bean chocolate chip cookies from Happy Herbivore, which my now gluten-free friend adores.  I just love the texture of these cookies, which is why I call them clouds: they are moist, but not heavy. This is one recipe that all three of my kids seem to equally love.  I give them out as snacks, treats--I would even give them for breakfast if anyone dared to ask.  To me, they do not have a strong banana flavor, but if you are adverse to any hints of banana, you could try subbing more sweet potato or applesauce for the mashed banana.  The millet gives them a nice crunch that we miss around here in our nut-free cookies, but you could omit that as well if you prefer.

Makes one dozen cookie clouds
1/3 cup dry millet
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/3 cup potato starch
3 Tbsp. tapioca starch
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. guar gum
3 Tbsp coconut/palm sugar
1/2 cup roasted sweet potato (white or orange-fleshed)*
1/2 cup mashed, ripe banana (not overly ripe, just yellow with not too many brown spots)
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup white beans, drained and rinsed, if canned
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
4 Tbsp non-dairy milk
1/3 -1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all of the dry ingredients (millet through coconut sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a food processor combine the sweet potato flesh, banana, vanilla, beans, melted coconut oil, and non-dairy milk and puree until smooth.
3.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until evenly moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop large spoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheets.
4. Bake for 10 minutes, staggering the pans in the oven and turning them halfway through the baking time. For ultimate cloud texture, the cookies should be just barely brown on the bottom when you remove them to place on wire racks to cool.

*To roast a sweet potato, preheat your oven to 400, line a baking pan with parchment paper, scrub the potato, and place it on the pan in the oven for about an hour. The cooked potato will be very soft and easily pierced with a fork and have golden juices bubbling from it. Do not try to steam or microwave your potato instead; to bring out the sweetness, it must be roasted.

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Gluten-Free Wednesdays
 Wellness Weekend  Healthy Vegan Fridays

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Green Smoothie Pudding

This recipe is basically baby food grown up. Anyone who has made their own baby food knows that mashing banana and avocado together is an easy and almost foolproof baby pleaser.  And whenever it hasn't been, I have been happy to eat the leftovers--which led me to conclude that this winning combo must just not be for babies. And, indeed, the banana and avocado mash-up has grown with my kids. Whenever I make yogurt nowadays, Abiline always wants either purple (whipped with frozen blueberries) or green, which is how this pudding version of a green smoothie has developed over time. This pudding is great in a parfait with banana and granola, or you can go all out with the baby food idea and eat it with baby "puff" cereal on top, like Abbie likes it. Go ahead--regress! We do it all the time around here...

This recipe makes two generous or four dainty servings.

3/4 cup white beans, rinsed and drained, if canned
1 small, ripe avocado
1 medium, ripe banana
1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt (I use homemade.)
1/4 tsp. stevia powder (I use Trader Joe's organic.)
2 Tbsp. coconut sugar or 2-3 pitted medjool dates, to taste
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. spirulina powder
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup spinach leaves
2 Tbsp. hemps seeds
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1-3 Tbsp. rice or coconut milk

Combine all the ingredients (starting with 1 Tbsp. non-dairy milk) in a high-powdered blender or food processor and blend until totally smooth, adding additional milk if necessary to get the mixture moving enough to blend up. I have used both a blender and food processor successfully, but if you are using a food processor, I have had better results with using the coconut sugar over the dates.  If you want a n utterly smooth consistency, you've got to use the blender.

Some after dinner smiles from this evening. Happy tummies, happy kids...

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesdays Wellness Weekend Healthy Vegan Fridays

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sugar and Oil-Free Chewy Granola Bars

Every time I have tried to make homemade granola bars--which has been quite a few times, actually--they crumble. I just cannot get them out of the pan without the bars disintegrating into plain old granola cereal. I had pretty much given up, but then I got the idea from my cookie dough bliss balls that maybe beans and dates would make better binders then the oil and maple or brown rice syrup that are often used in vegan granola bars. Success! These came out of the pan easily in bar form and are portable if tightly wrapped and not placed where they will be smooshed. They have a crunch and toothsome texture from the steel cut oats and seeds, but they are chewy, not crispy. Perhaps, if you subbed in some brown rice cereal, you would get more of that light-airy Quaker crispiness, if that is what you want. I prefer the denser texture, though. My son ate these happily in his snack at school, and I even made some into a granola pie crust for my dairy and soy-free cheesecake by processing about half a pan with a bit of rice milk and then pressing the mixture into the pie pan.

1 cup steel cut oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sesame, hemp, or sunflower seeds, or a combination thereof
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
2 scoops stevia powder (I use Trader Joe's organic)
2 Tbsp. chia seed meal, coconut flour, or vegan protein powder
3/4 cup prunes, dates, or raisins, or a combination thereof
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened rice milk
1 Tbsp. molasses

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and toast the oats and seeds for 5 minutes. Add the coconut and toast for 5 mins more.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Mix in the salt, cinnamon, stevia, and chia seed meal or alternative.
 2. Place the dried fruit, chickpeas, vanilla, molasses, and 1/4 cup rice milk in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. If necessary, add more rice milk a Tbsp. at a time to get a smooth consistency.
3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until uniformly moistened. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Pour the granola bar mixture into the pan, and then lay another piece of parchment paper on top and press the mixture down as firmly as you can. Refrigerate for about an hour before cutting. I store mine in the fridge until I am ready to pack or eat them.    

Dress up time. Seems that no matter how much they dress up, they all still look very much alike...

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Wellness Weekend Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Better Than Chocolate Cake" Ultimate Rice Bowl

I'm sure you've all heard of that infamous chocolate cake with the caramel, whipped cream, and toffee that is so gooey, rich, and delicious. Well, this rice bowl is the dinner version of that over-the-top dessert. It has all of my favorites mingled together: guacamole rice on the bottom, topped with tahini pumpkin butter barbecue sauce, black beans, chili-maple roasted sweet potatoes, steamed greens,  "bacon" bits, and a hemp-seed ranch drizzle.  These are the kind of inspirations that strike when I am nursing my baby in the middle of the night. See what you are missing out on by sleeping all night?

Don't shy away from trying this because of all the parts; it comes together pretty quickly. I managed to get it all together between bath time and My Little Pony, with minimal crying (on my part, I mean. Emie cried almost the whole time, I think because she wanted to eat what I was making. Alas, this is a little complex for baby food. )

For the rice:
1/12 cups brown rice, I used short, but long-grain would work
3 cups water
1/2 cup guacamole

For the Chili-Maple Sweet Potatoes:
4 cups cubed sweet potato (about 2 medium)
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp salt

For the Tahini-Pumpkin Butter BBQ Sauce:
1 cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. pumpkin butter
1 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. tahini
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
dash of pepper

For the Hemp Seed Ranch Drizzle:
1/2 cup shelled hemp seeds
scant 1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried dill
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. maple syrup
2-4 Tbsp. plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk, to thin it out

To assemble:
Protein of choice: tofu, tempeh, a cup or two of black beans
Steamed greens of choice
1 recipe of my sunflower seed bacon bits

1. Cook your rice by bringing the water to a boil, adding the rice, and cooking on low for about 35 mins., until all the water is absorbed. When the rice is done, stir in the guacamole and set aside.
2. While the rice cooks, preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, maple syrup, chili powder, and salt. Roast them in the pre-heated oven for about 15-20 mins., until easily pierced with a fork and caramelized.
3. Meanwhile, prep the sauces. Mix all of the barbecue sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl. Toss your steamed greens and protein with the barbecue sauce. Combine all of the ranch drizzle ingredients in the food processor and buzz until smooth, adding more non-dairy milk as necessary to get a drizzle-able consistency.
4. Finally, prep your sunflower seed "bacon" bits. At this point, the rice and sweet potatoes will be done, and you can layer up your bowl: guacamole rice on the bottom, then the barbecue mixture, sweet potatoes,  ranch drizzle, and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Enjoy the bliss.

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Gluten-Free Wednesdays Healthy Vegan Fridays Wellness Weekend

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Build Your Own Breakfast Cookie

This past week I purchased carob chips for the first time in my life, as I was making a treat for a friend's dog and learned that chocolate is a no-no for pooches. I gave some of the chips to the kids on a whim, fully expecting that they would be promptly spat upon the table as my children dealt with the treachery of being given imitation chocolate. Imagine my surprise when they begged for more and continued to ask for carob chips every day since.  I was raised by a wonderful mother who was and is fiercely loyal to chocolate and all things sugar, who taught me at a young age that carob was an unpalatable chocolate imitation that only self-punishing "no-sugar moms" would eat. Who would have thought that I would so betray my roots and raise these carob-loving children and be feeding them sugar-free breakfast cookies. I hope my mother does not think of me as her own worst kitchen nightmare.

In my defense, I am not so pure as to be a "no-sugar mom," but I do always want my cookies to be healthier than everyone else in the family seems to prefer.  If I call my creations "breakfast cookies,"though, then everyone recognizes that they are not dessert cookies and is just happy that they are eating cookies for breakfast. I have seen a number of breakfast cookie recipes on various blogs, but they always seem to be more on the cookie side and less on the breakfast side to me. So, be warned: my idea of a breakfast cookie is like portable oatmeal, not a cookie that you eat for breakfast just because someone added flax seed and maple syrup to a Tollhouse cookie or some nonsense like that. Believe it or not, a breakfast-y treat like this can be tasty and kid-approved without any added sugar or oil.

Here is the basic formula, with some variations we have enjoyed. This makes 10-12 standard size cookies.

Basic Recipe
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. stevia powder
1/4 cup dried fruit (If the fruit is not particularly soft, soak it in boiling water for 10 mins. and then drain)
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup applesauce, mashed banana, pumpkin, cooked sweet potato, or other fresh fruit or a combination thereof
1 Tbsp. tahini or sunflower seed butter
optional add-ins: 2-3 Tbsp. additional dried fruit, carob chips, mini-chocolate chips, hemp or sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the quinoa, oats, stevia, salt, and cinnamon, if using,  to your food processor and pulse just until combined and oats are ground up some but not quite flour. Add your wet ingredients and buzz until combined. Your batter will be a bit thinner than regular cookies but thicker than muffin batter. Stir in any optional add-ins. Drop large spoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottoms. Let cool on wire racks for 5-10 mins. before enjoying.

Apple-Sweet Potato Variation
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. stevia powder
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 mins. and drained
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup cooked sweet potato,
1 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. hemp seeds

Carob-Berry Variation 

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. stevia powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup prunes
1/2 cup blackberries and/or blueberries
1/4 cup applesauce or pumpkin
1 Tbsp. sunflower seed butter
2 Tbsp. carob powder
3 Tbsp. carob chips

My little cookie-munchers, loving life!

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Whole Food Fridays Wellness Weekend Healthy Vegan Fridays

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gratitude for Food Allergies

I recently received a copy of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom, which advocates for a whole-foods, plant-based diet as the healthiest diet available to humans.  It has caused me to ponder, yet again, the question, "If my children outgrew their dairy and egg allergies, would our family go back to eating the way we used to?" Wouldn't I just be so thrilled to be able to go back to eating cheese, cheese, and more cheese, like we did when we were vegetarians for so many years? Surprisingly enough to my former self, my answer now is "no," for both health and religious reasons that go hand-in-hand.

In Discovering the Word of Wisdom, the author, Jane Birch, argues that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the diet most in accordance with the guidelines for health (known as the "Word of Wisdom") followed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For those who may not be familiar with this code of health, it is a scriptural revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that states that meat "is to be used sparingly; and it is pleasing [to God] that [it] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine" and that "All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground." Surprisingly, considering the clear directions given to us that we are to consume vegetables, fruits, and grains as the mainstays of our diet and use meat only in times of food scarcity, not many members of our church are vegetarian, let alone vegan. The book contains many testimonial accounts of people who have reversed numerous chronic ailments by switching to a vegan, whole-foods, plant-based diet, which they felt was more in accordance with what we consider to be God's law of health. The scientific and anecdotal evidences provided in the book and on the related website are compelling, and while even I had not thought that my religion encouraged a vegan diet, I found myself persuaded that such a diet is certainly in accordance with the commandments we have been given. "Perhaps," I started to think to myself as I read, "this is why my prayers for my children to be healed of their food allergies have not been answered in the way I had hoped..."

In the months following my son's diagnosis with severe food allergies, I had an almost constant prayer running through my mind, pleading with the Lord to heal him. But as I prayed, I always felt in my heart that it was the wrong prayer: I knew that I was not praying for the Lord's will, that this challenge was here for a reason and that He wasn't going to just take it away. Still, I grieved for the loss of the life I expected as a mom, with family trips to Baskin Robbins and endless boxes of macaroni and cheese. I was not ready to give it up.

 When I had my second child, I prayed that my new-born daughter would be spared from food allergies. That prayer was not answered either, and at first I despaired.  I mean, I cried and cried, and cried some real crocodile tears. I thought I couldn't have any more kids: How could I purposely give another being such a life of deprivation? How could I feed my children?  Up until that point, I had been operating on the assumption that my son's whole allergy fiasco was temporary. When I saw Abiline's numerous allergic reactions, I gave up that delusion and stopped fighting against the path God had so clearly laid out for me.  I completely changed my diet to align with my children's and went to work in the kitchen figuring out a new way to cook without dairy, eggs, or nuts.  I quickly saw the benefits of a vegan diet, as I got sick much less frequently and had revitalized skin and over-all energy. Still, if you asked me back three years ago if I would have gratefully gone back to a vegetarian diet if my kids could join me, I would have answered with an emphatic "Yes!"

So what changed my mind?  A recent trip to an organic dairy farm scheduled by an unassuming fellow pre-school co-op parent played a part. If that is how the allegedly pampered organic cows are treated-- kept in perpetual pregnancy with their calves taken from them at birth, calves that are then forced to wean from cow's milk so that humans can drink it instead--there is no way I can ever support the dairy industry again with good conscience.  If I still had some dairy desires after that, they were smothered when I read Discovering the Word of Wisdom, which gives many of the same arguments as The Kind Diet for why the consumption of any and all animal products damages our health, the earth God has blessed us with, and the animals he has entrusted to our care, coupled with many persuasive religious arguments for how God would want us to care for our bodies. (I must admit, though, I am not ready to go oil-free as the die-hard whole foods, plant-based diet eaters demand. A little olive oil on my roasted sweet potatoes? Yes, please. For those with healthy weights and cholesterol levels, I see no reason to live a completely ascetic existence.)

Don't get me wrong: I would love for my children to outgrow their food allergies, so that they would not have to live a life in fear of anaphylaxis and possible death if they come into contact with the wrong foods. We would all gratefully do without that part of the food allergy reality. But, all in all, I consider the allergies our family has been given as a blessing that has forced us to take better care of our bodies than we would have ever done if we could have chosen to keep eating dairy and processed junk foods. If the day came that we were no longer forced to eat this way, I would still choose to do so.

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Whole Food Fridays Wellness Weekend

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Blackberry Muffin Sweet Potato Pudding Parfait

I love the Thanksgiving/Christmas season when Costco stocks those huge bags of organic sweet potatoes, which turn into so many wonderful sweet potato experiments. This particular sweet potato incarnation resulted when I decided that my nine-month old was tired of all of her baby food options, as she launched the "banana beet blueberry" mush pouch at me for the eighth time.  "What could I make..." I mused as I wiped pink goo off my baby-battered forehead,  "that would be new and delicious but still meet those high baby food standards (which should be all people-food standards, really) of not being sugar, fat, and salt-laden? She's never had a muffin, I suppose..."  So I pulled out all of the odds and ends in the fridge to make these surprisingly moist and just-sweet enough muffins. To entice my three-year-old to eat them, late last night I concocted this sweet potato "frosting," which I then decided would make for a delightful parfait!  I looked forward to this morning, when Emie devoured her muffin, Abiline took delicate frosting-laced nibbles of hers, and I indulged in breakfast pudding parfait.  All were satisfied.  For the time being.  Until I offer another muffin to Emie, and she launches it at my head.

 For the Blackberry Banana Muffins:

1 medium, ripe banana
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 pouch banana-beet-blueberry baby food (or sub another 1/2 cup blackberries)
1/2 cup rice milk
1/2 cup coconut cream (from the top of the canned coconut milk)
scant 1/4 tsp. stevia powder
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup buckwheat flour

Preheat the oven to 350 and line muffin cups. I got 12 mini muffins and 6 regular-sized muffins out of this recipe.  In a food processor or blender, blend the banana, blackberries, baby food, rice milk, coconut cream, stevia, vanilla, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Add the oats and process again until totally ground up. Then add buckwheat flour and pulse just until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins until the cups are about 2/3-3/4 full and bake in the preheated oven, about 14 minutes for mini muffins and 20-22 minutes for standard-sized muffins, turning the pans half-way through the baking time. Let cool on wire racks before eating. I think they tasted best after sitting overnight in the fridge. Enjoy frosted with sweet potato pudding, or crumble into a parfait glass, alternating layers with the pudding and blackberries and/or bananas.

For the Sweet Potato Pudding/Frosting:

1 large sweet potato
1 medium banana
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (I did not melt it.)
1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1. Bake the sweet potato at 400 degrees for about an hour, until very soft when poked with a fork. Remove the peel.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine the sweet potato flesh, banana, vanilla, hemp seeds, coconut oil, and 1 Tbsp. maple syrup. Blend until totally smooth. Taste, and if you want it a tad sweeter, add some additional maple syrup.

Here is the adorable culprit of meal-time mayhem, along with her cronies:

If you are wondering what on earth my kids are doing in this picture, I must tell you that I was pretty tickled that afternoon when they decided that the most enchanting activity was to build with staples. They made a city, train tracks, and "the longest bench in the world," while I was left wondering why I had spent so much money on toys for Christmas. Move over Legos...

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesdays and Wellness Weekend.