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.