Today’s Health Morsel: Peas

Ok, maybe I’m jumping the gun a little here, but it won’t be too much longer before fresh peas are coming out of the garden. Mine are currently flowering, and I’m getting excited. Like most of us, I wasn’t a big pea fan when I was a kid. I didn’t mind them – they just weren’t my favorite vegetable. Also like most of us (I think) I always thought of peas as a vegetable. After all, they were put on the side of my plate with a bit of salt and butter, just like the broccoli or the carrots or the Brussels sprouts. Nobody ever put a spoonful of plain beans with a little salt and butter on the side of my plate. But peas are actually a legume, and they have the high protein content to prove it. Like their bean cousins (& corn & potatoes), they’re also starchy. More about peas at dinnertime. First, the daily dozen meal plan for breakfast & lunch.

breakfast_text

Strawberries are in season – they tend not to last too long around here, and I have to fight to have some left for my breakfast.

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 T ground flaxseed (sprinkled on the banana slices)
  • 1/2 charentais melon
  • 1/2 c strawberries

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruits, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

Today I wanted something a bit lighter for lunch, so I made some lettuce wraps – I put the hummus, mustard, and other veggies on the lettuce, and folded it up like a burrito. Quick and painless. Add some sriracha for a little kick.

  • 1/2 c hummus
  • 1/2 c broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 c cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2 c yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 leaves romaine lettuce (this will depend on the size of the leaves)
  • mustard

Checklist items: 2 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, 2 other vegetables (7 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

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I was surprised to find that there’s actually quite a lot to say about peas! We can use peas (and other legumes) to help us improve our own health and engage in environmentally sustainable agriculture at the same time. No wonder we’ve been eating them for thousands of years! According to wikipedia, the earliest archaeological evidence of pea use by humans goes back to the late Neolithic era (which began in 5300 BC) in what are now Greece, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, & Georgia.


Sustainable agriculture

Most of us are not solely concerned with our own health, but also with the environment, the possibility of a future for humanity on this earth, and protecting the rights of other beings with whom we share this chunk of rock hurtling through space. What connects all of these concerns? Our collective food choices, and peas have a specific and vital role to play.

Peas and other legumes benefit soil in multiple ways. They feed soil microbes, which help to decompose organic matter, fertilizing the soil. If the microbes in the soil were to die all over the earth, it would be the end of life as we know it. These microbes produce the food that plants eat, ensuring that the plants are healthy and able to resist disease & tolerate environmental stresses, like severe weather brought on by climate change. Legumes produce larger amounts & different kinds of amino acids than most other crops, so that the plant residue left in the field or garden plot after harvest (or added to the compost) helps to increase not only the amount but also the diversity of soil microbes. This leads to even greater protection against disease-causing fungi & bacteria.

Nitrogen is extremely important for the healthy development of practically all plants. Peas and other legumes are unique (with few exceptions) in their ability to draw nitrogen from the air. Most plants rely on whatever nitrogen is available in the soil. This is why nitrogen-based fertilizers are of such importance. Current standard farming practices rapidly deplete the soil of nitrogen, requiring the use of manure or chemical fertilizers, both of which produce huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. And they are highly problematic in other ways. Animal feces (i.e., manure) can introduce e. coli and other pathogens into our vegetable supply, the ingestion of which can be deadly. And fertilizers don’t contain just the right amount of nitrogen to be used by the plants – they contain excessive amounts, and the excess runs off into rivers, lakes, and ocean water causing algal blooms. The algae uses up all the oxygen in the water, creating dead zones, like the massive one in the Gulf of Mexico – one of the world’s largest – read more here.

Chemical fertilizers are also increasing in price, along with the fossil fuels required to make them, which is devastating for people in developing countries who have been sold the idea that they have to rely on these chemical fertilizers for productivity.

Finally, some of the nitrogen that runs off ends up converting into nitrous oxide, a particularly damaging greenhouse gas, with 296 times the global warming potential of CO2. Most nitrous oxide production, by the way, is actually from cows and other livestock bred for meat, which create around 22 – 27 kg CO2 equivalent per kg of beef, the worst offender being Kobe beef at 36.4 kg CO2 equivalent per kg of beef. Peas and other pulses produce 0.5 kg CO2 equivalent per kg of food.

In addition to a low carbon footprint, peas and other legumes have a low water footprint. 1 kg of beef requires 43 times more water than 1 kg of legumes.


Human Health

All legumes are beneficial to health in several ways – they help to reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar, prevent diabetes, and increase lifespan in general, so what’s so special about peas? Their phytonutrient profile.

Coumestrol is a phytonutrient – a phytoestrogen – found in peas as well as soybeans, Brussels sprouts, spinach, alfalfa, and red clover. Coumestrol is thought to reduce the risk of breast, stomach, and prostate cancers. According to traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, it may also play a role in helping with menopausal symptoms and digestive issues. Plants tend to contain higher levels of coumestrol when they have been damaged by aphids, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so it may be part of the plants’ natural defense system, but this is currently not well-understood.

The scientific name for peas is pisum sativum, so you can guess where the phytonutrients ‘pisumsaponins’ and ‘pisomosides’ got their names from. They appear almost exclusively in peas. As a group, saponins engage in antitumor and antimutagenic (fighting gene mutation) behavior, as well as cholesterol reduction, antioxidant activity, and immune-function boosting. We do not yet know what the precise role of the pea’s unique blend of phytonutrients might be, but we do know that they’re both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Did you know that peas also have the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids necessary to absorb their fat-soluble vitamins, like beta-carotene & vitamin E? Small amounts of high-quality fats – just what the doctor ordered.

There’s something else rather interesting in peas – spermidine. Like pisumsaponins, you can probably guess where it was first discovered. No, not the whales. But it is also found in food, peas being at the top of the list along with whole grains, mushrooms, leafy greens, soybeans, pears, broccoli, cauliflower, other legumes, potatoes, corn, & mangoes. Though there are no completed human trials, studies on yeast, fruit flies, mice, and in vitro studies using human cells all suggest that spermidine may help to prolong lifespan by inducing ‘autophagy’ (also promoted by fasting). This is the process by which your cells take out the trash, so to speak. As we age, we tend to have less spermidine. As with almost everything that we are required to get from food, it’s probably not the best idea to take supplements. Spermidine also plays a role in cell growth and regulation, so it could be cancer-promoting in high concentrations. As always, the balance that is available in nature is most likely the balance that we evolved to be ideally suited to.

After reading all of this wonderful information about peas, I bet you’re excited to eat more of them! This recipe will accomplish just that. I first found the basis for it on Cookie + Kate, but my version is vegan, healthier, simpler, and cheaper (not that the original is expensive). It’s enough for 2 people, with the pesto liberally applied. I get annoyed with people who skimp on the sauce.

  • 2 c (300 g) peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 c (65 g) raw cashews
  • 1/4 c mint leaves (If you don’t like mint, substitute basil)
  • juice from half a lemon (1 T)
  • 1/3 c (80 ml) aquafaba
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) hot water (take some of the cooking water from the peas or pasta)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (don’t add any salt if you’re using aquafaba from canned garbanzo beans)
  • 3 c cooked whole wheat pasta
  1. Blanch the peas.
  2. Add everything except for the pasta in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pre-soaking the cashews for 1 hr in hot water is a good idea, but not essential if you’re in a rush. This blog disagrees with that last part.
  3. Mix with pasta & serve!

Checklist items: 1 beans, nuts, spices, 3 whole grains (6 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18 servings in total

We got the recommended servings of everything today.

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Recipe Review: 10-minute toddler-friendly pasta

I have a tendency to cook spice-heavy dishes. I love cumin, paprika, coriander, fennel seeds, caraway, turmeric, & fenugreek, to name a few, but it’s not for everybody.

In the region of France where I live, the craziest that people tend to get is a few dashes of nutmeg – people’s palates here are generally accustomed to much more salt, fat, & sugar (much like the standard American diet), and not to a lot of herbs and spices. I rarely have to tone it down for my partner, luckily, but if I’m cooking for his family, I have to be a little more conservative when it comes to the spice cupboard. I’ve found that the dishes my friends & family in the U.S. might consider to be “toddler-friendly” tend to go over better.

This particular recipe is an intersection – it’s friendly to the more subtle palate, and I happen to love it, too! It’s the second I’ve tried that uses a mix of hummus & tomato sauce very successfully. It was, for me, an unexpected match made in heaven. What is particularly nice about this recipe is that you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand as add-ins. They’re puréed and the flavor is masked by the stronger flavors of hummus and marinara, so little veggie-avoiders are none the wiser. If you’re making it for adults, well, most adults, you can leave the extra veggies whole. I like to add peas to the cooking pasta 2 minutes before it’s finished. It takes almost zero extra effort, and it’s both beautiful and tasty.

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I found the original recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my go-to sites for amazing vegan food. Many of the recipes I find there, I adapt by eliminating oils or reducing salt, but this one required no mucking about. The only thing I changed from the original was to exclude the hemp hearts – that’s not something I can get around here, and it’s not worth ordering online, for me. Visit the link above for lovely pictures and the original recipe. This is how I made it:

Ingredients
  • 6 c (715 g) cooked whole wheat pasta, which is 3 c (340 g) dry
  • 2 c (475 ml) marinara
  • 1/2 c (125 ml) hummus (store-bought tends to have a lot of oil, so follow the link for my oil-free hummus recipe)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 c (200+ g) chopped cauliflower or whatever other vegetable you want
Cooking Instructions

This one’s crazy fast & easy.

  1. Boil cauliflower for about 10 minutes, until softened, and drain. Remember, to get the most benefit from cauliflower, you can cut it 45 minutes before cooking it, or just mix a little bit of mustard powder into the finished dish.
  2. Combine marinara, hummus, cauliflower (or other vegetable), and garlic powder in a blender until thoroughly mixed.
  3. In a large pot, combine cooked pasta & sauce, and cook until heated through. You can skip this step if your pasta is hot off the stove, especially for younger kids – the hot pasta will warm up the sauce without making it too hot to eat right away.
Nutrition Information

This recipe is meant to feed 4 adults, so I used the appropriate amounts of pasta and cauliflower to fit in with the daily dozen. The information below is for 1 serving, or 1/4 of the above recipe, including the pasta.

10 minute pasta nutrition info
generated using cronometer.com

The high sodium content here is due in large part to the fact that I used a commercially produced marinara sauce to generate the nutrition facts. For a lower sodium content, make your own marinara or buy one that is low in sodium. My favorite thing about making my own marinara is that I can add as much tarragon as my heart desires. For me, that really makes the sauce. It’s the sole purpose for which I grow tarragon in my garden.

Hey, where is all that protein coming from? It’s not from that small amount of hummus. It’s actually mostly from the pasta! There’s a fair amount in the marinara sauce, too.

So, that got me thinking – I’ve heard people say loads of times that animal products provide us with so-called “complete” proteins, while vegan foods do not. I should look at the in-depth protein profile of whole wheat pasta versus a beefsteak! Here it is – can you tell which is which based on presence vs absence of any particular amino acids?

Incomplete protein
Generated to compare protein composition, assuming the same total amounts of protein, not the same amounts of food.  Made using cronometer.com

I’ll give you a hint – even though both contain higher amounts of glutamic acid than any other amino acid listed, it’s the highest in pasta. And that’s good news for vegans! Glutamic acid is essential for making glutamine, one of the most important amino acids. Glutamine is necessary in coping with stress and for recovery from illness and strenuous exercise. It even helps to reduce fat storage. Read more here about why scientists have referred to it as an “internal fountain of youth”.

Are any of the essential amino acids (the ones we must consume because we cannot synthesize them ourselves: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine) missing from the pasta? No! They are not. So, let’s put all of this monkey-business about incomplete protein in vegan diets to rest, shall we?

Back to the recipe. So far, everyone who I’ve forced to eat this has liked it. And so do I! Plus it’s so cheap to make, and so fast & easy to put together, that I think it could easily become a staple for a lot of people who try it.

Checklist items: .5 beans, cruciferous, 1 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (6.5 out of 18 servings)

For easy reference, here’s what you’ll need to round out the day:

  • 2.5 beans
  • berries
  • 3 other fruits
  • 2 greens
  • 1 other vegetables
  • flaxseeds
  • nuts

 

Today’s Health Morsel: Tempeh

 

 

breakfast_text

I like my fruity breakfasts, especially as the weather starts to get warmer. For me, a nice light breakfast is the best way to start the day.

  • 1/2 c strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 charentais melon

I sprinkle the flaxseed on top of the banana because, for me, the texture isn’t right with the melon or strawberries, but works well with the banana.

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruits, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

Dinner will be satisfying but somewhat heavy, so I want to have a lighter lunch and get in plenty of greens!

  • 1/4 c broccoli
  • 1/4 c cauliflower
  • 2 c chopped lettuce
  • 1/4 c red bell pepper
  • 1/8 c corn kernels
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 1 c cooked black beans

I had my salad today with My Basic Dressing.

Checklist items: 2 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, .5 other vegetables, 1 nuts, .25 whole grains (6.75 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

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Normally, if you have the option of buying a processed, packaged food or its unprocessed original form (e.g., strawberries vs strawberry jam), the healthier option is the unprocessed whole food. Not the case with tempeh! Edamame/soybeans are actually somewhat less nutritious than tempeh.

Why? Well, if you look at tempeh, you can actually see the soybeans in it – it is a whole food, but a fermented one. The fermentation process adds nutritional value to the beans by making their proteins, vitamins, minerals, & phytonutrients more digestible, soluble, and bioavailable, as well as creating smaller proteins called peptides, some of which are unique to soy itself and carry their own health benefits.

Another quality fermentation adds to soy is antimutagenicity, meaning it helps to prevent gene mutation. This is important in fighting off damage to our DNA, and it’s not small potatoes since there are approximately 800 incidents per hour of DNA damage in our bodies, on average. If that damage goes unchecked, it can lead to cancer.

Those little peptides mentioned above are important, too, as they are part of what makes tempeh an antioxidant powerhouse and anti-inflammatory, in addition to being classified as ACE-inhibitors. The peptides also aid in blood pressure and blood sugar level regulation, and boost immune function. There is also research suggesting that some of these same unique soy peptides (again, only present in fermented soy products) may help to manage & prevent obesity. They’ve been shown to decrease the formation of some fatty acids and even to inhibit the body from depositing the fatty acids into fat cells. It will be interesting to see how this research progresses.

For more information about the amazing soybean, check out this podcast.

Another benefit of tempeh is that it contains zero cholesterol, and even helps to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Today, I’m making tempeh meatballs. 113 grams (4 oz.) of 95% lean ground beef contains 24 g of protein and >70 mg cholesterol. The same amount of tempeh contains >20 g of protein without that nasty stuff. As a package deal, I’ll take the tempeh!

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I got lucky in that I stumbled on this tempeh meatball concoction after trying only 2 or 3 so-so meatball recipes. I love it so much that I don’t want to take the risk of trying others and then being sad that they aren’t as good. As usual, I’ve made some changes from the original. This makes enough for 3 meals/people.

  • 100 g tempeh
  • 1 c vegetable stock or water
  • 1 T miso paste (also a product of fermented soybeans)
  • 1 T tamari (a byproduct of miso, thus, also fermented soy)
  • 1 lg onion
  • 1 lg clove garlic
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 tsps Italian seasoning (I use a mix of oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, rosemary, & sage)
  • 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley
  • 2/3 c whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 c cooked white beans
  • 380 ml (1 2/3 c) marinara sauce
  • 57 g (6 oz) dry pasta (or 3 c cooked)
  1. Break tempeh into chunks and cook in a small saucepan with veggie stock or water and tamari until liquid is absorbed, using a spoon occasionally to break into ever-smaller pieces.
  2. In the meantime, sauté onion & garlic.
  3. Mix miso & tomato paste together.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the beans, pasta & marinara and mix well.
  5. Form into balls (mine are a/b 50 g each)
  6. Either bake them for 30 minutes at 180° C (350° F) or heat them in a non-stick pan until browned. No liquid necessary.
  7. In the meantime, boil whole wheat pasta and warm up marinara sauce & white beans.

Or, you can substitute the pasta for whole grain bread and make meatball subs! Also extremely yummy! The checklist items are for 1 serving, not for the entire recipe.

Checklist items: 1 beans, 1.5 other vegetables, 2 spices, 2.75 whole grains (7.25 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

19 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus an extra serving of spices.

Today’s Health Morsel: Black Beans

I start out with a big fruity breakfast, then a hearty bowl of soup for lunch, and an Asian-inspired dinner that is based on black beans. Plus I’ll explain why black beans are such a large part of my diet and one of the things I always have in my pantry. I’m so lucky to have them as my favorite bean!

breakfast_text

  • 1 banana
  • 1 kaki fruit
  • 1/4 c. dates
  • 1 T. ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 c. berries
  • 1/4 c. nuts

I sprinkled the flaxseed over the fresh fruit. It goes best with the banana because of it’s nutty flavor.

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruit, flaxseeds, nuts (6 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

For lunch, I just threw together a quick soup of:

  • 1/2 c. purple carrots
  • 1/2 c. black beans
  • 1 c. spinach
  • 1/2 c. mushrooms
  • 1 T. ginger, minced
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1 T. turmeric
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • a tiny bit of cinnamon

Checklist items: 1 beans, 1 greens, 2 other vegetables, spices (5 out of 18 items)


dinner_text

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Black beans are super awesome, because they have all the benefits of legumes plus black & purple foods. Black beans are loaded with both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. They are especially supportive of the health of the digestive tract, the colon in particular. The indigestible fraction of black beans is relatively high, which is probably why they are associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in some studies.

From 1 c. black beans you get 15 g of fiber and 15 g protein. Only legumes contain this “almost magical” (according to whfoods.com) combination, beneficial for blood sugar regulation, regular digestive processes, and cardiovascular health.

Just one word of warning: they are high in oxalate content, so anyone needing to follow a low oxalate diet for medical reasons may need to minimize black bean intake.

Unlike vegetables, legumes don’t lose nutritional content when canned, so feel free to buy canned beans in order to save yourself time – just be aware that some brands (perhaps I should say many brands) add extra salt and other additives. You’ll also want to make sure you buy cans that are BPA-free.

If you opt to cook the beans from dried (as I do), soak them first if you can plan enough ahead. Soaking beans overnight before cooking them improves the health benefits. Now, I know that there is debate over whether to throw out the soaking water or not. I’ve decided to follow this advice and toss it. If you don’t have time to soak, no worries! It’s not necessary. I like to use a pressure cooker to cook the beans, because it cuts down drastically on the cooking time (and thus saves some electricity or gas or whatever you use to power your stove.)

The recipe I’m making today is one I made up myself. I love sauces that I can make by just throwing everything in the blender! This is one of those. The full recipe for the sauce is here.

  1. Water-saute the bok choy
  2. Add beans and sauce and cook until heated through
  3. Pour over the pasta or noodles

Checklist items: 2 beans, cruciferous, 1 greens, spices, 3 whole grains (8 out of 18 servings)

* the amount of bok choy is enough for 1 serving of cruciferous and 1 serving of greens


Taking account of the day:

19 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus an extra serving of spices.

Today’s Health Morsel: Beets!

Today’s daily dozen meal plan starts out hot & sweet, ends with ice cream, and incorporates the beautiful beet. Plus, i’ll explain why nitrates are beneficial in beets but bad news in bacon.


 

breakfast_text

cornmeal_20160627_135454As the weather gets colder I have less desire for fruit in the morning. I’m a lot more interested in putting something warm in my belly. So, this morning I went for cornmeal mush.

  • 1/2 c. hot cornmeal mush w/
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. dried figs
  • 1 nectarine

Checklist items: 2 other fruits, 1 whole grains (3 out of 18 servings)


 

lunch_text

Even though it’s late September now, I still have loads of fresh lettuce in the garden, so I’m having a nice big salad of beans & greens, all from the garden, with Chef AJ’s House Dressing for lunch.

  • 1 1/2 c. borlotti beans
  • 1/2 c. arugula
  • 2 c. kamikaze lettuce
  • 1 T ground flaxseed to sprinkle on top
  • a little fresh basil, coriander & mint

Checklist items: 3 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, flaxseeds, spices (8 out of 18 servings)


 

dinner_text

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Surprisingly, there’s a lot to say on the topic of beets. Let’s start with nitrates. Beets are high in nitrates. Nitrates can form nitrites, which are fine in themselves, but they can go on to form either nitric oxide or nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic – cancer-causing – so we definitely want to be sure that our beets are not giving us cancer. No worries! Nitrosamines form from nitrites in processed meats, in the absence of plants. This occurs in the meat itself before it ever makes it onto a dinner plate, so, even though a measly 20 mg of vitamin C blocks nitrosamine production, adding a salad to your sausage dinner isn’t going to help.

Nitric oxide, on the other hand, is what we get when we eat beets or other nitrate-rich whole vegetables. Our bodies love nitric oxide! It makes energy production more efficient by requiring less oxygen. This increases athletic performance, as well as endurance of any physical activity in people with emphysema, high blood pressure, and peripheral artery disease. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, increasing blood-flow especially to at-risk areas of the ageing brain. A side-effect of the body being able to produce energy more efficiently is metabolism reduction. That might sound scary, like beets will make you gain weight, but slower metabolism is actually associated with longevity. Nitric oxide is also effective at removing carcinogenic bile acids from our bodies. Of several vegetables tested, beets were #1 for this particular task (even beet-ing out kale).

There’s just one down-side. Though the best way to prevent most kidney stones it cutting meat out of the diet, people who are predisposed to absorbing oxalates may want to limit their consumption of beets, as they are a high-oxalate food. And, just in case you want to be extra sure that nitrite doesn’t turn into nitrosamine – you can always eat nitrate-rich foods with a single slice of bell pepper, or eat 2 strawberries before dinner. That’s all the vitamin C you’ll need (see sources).

The recipe I’m making comes from the Kitchn: Vegan Beet Pesto Pasta. I eyed it skeptically for a while before deciding to try it. It was amazing!! I absolutely loved it. And, as you might imagine, the color of your pesto makes this a fun meal to try with kids or guests. Plus, it’s super-fast to make – you basically throw the ingredients in a blender and it’s ready, making it the perfect dinner after a busy day. I made just 1 change from the original recipe, which was wp-1474350881956.jpgto replace the olive oil with the same amount of aquafaba. The amounts below reflect 1/4 of the original recipe, which was my serving size.

  • 1 1/2 c. cooked & drained whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 2 T crushed almonds
  • 1/2 large purple beet, cooked & peeled (a/b 1 c.)
  • 5 T aquafaba
  • 1 1/2 tsps red wine vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • chives, minced (optional)

Put everything except for the pasta into a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth (or see the Kitchn’s instructions, which are a bit more…complete. Don’t worry it’s only one more step). Toss with hot pasta and garnish with chives, if desired. Also, see the original recipe for much more beautiful pictures of this dish.

Checklist items: 2 other vegetables, 1/2 nuts, spices, 3 whole grains (6 1/2 out of 18 servings)


 

dessert_text

Banana-raspberry ice dream for dessert will finish off our fruit & nut requirements for the day. Life’s hard, eh?

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T crushed hazelnuts

Put everything into a high-speed blender. Pulse until the bananas are broken into small chunks and then blend until it’s the consistency of ice cream. Serving with crushed nuts on top.

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruit, 1/2 nuts, spices (3 1/2 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

21 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus 2 extra servings of spices & one of whole grains.

Today’s Health Morsel: Whole Wheat Pasta

 

Today’s daily dozen meal plan starts with fresh fruit and ends with wholesome whole wheat pasta, plus I’ll explain how to maximize the benefits of eating whole grains.


 

Breakfast_textwp-1473665071983.jpgToday’s breakfast is canary melon and fresh figs plus the usual dates.

  • 1/4 canary melon
  • 2 figs
  • 1/4 c. dates

Checklist items: 3 other fruits (3 out of 18 servings)


 

snack_text

I need just a quick little post-run snack, so I’m grabbing a small fistful of nuts & berries.

  • 1/4 c. hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c. kumquats

Checklist items: berries, nuts (2 out of 18 servings)


 

lunch_text

I’m throwing together a green salad for lunch. Nothing fancy. But very yummy since much of it is out of my own garden.

  • 1 c. borlotti beans
  • 2 c.  salad greens
  • 1/2 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/2 c. cucumber
  • 1 T flaxseed, ground

I tossed it with My Basic Dressing, which you can find here.

Checklist items: 2 beans, 2 greens, 2 other vegetables, flaxseeds (7 out of 18 servings)


 

dinner_text

wp-1473763262330.jpgBefore I make my pasta salad, there’s something I need to consider – a phytonutrient in whole grains called phytic acid, which helps in fighting cancer, reduces cholesterol & triglycerides, improves blood sugar control, prevents osteoporosis, and works as an antioxidant. However, this same phytonutrient inhibits mineral absorption, leading to lower uptake of things like iron, which could be problematic for people who are prone to anemia. So, what do you do? How about eating whole grains along with foods that enhance mineral absorption? Garlic and onion do just that, so whenever you have whole grains, just throw a little garlic or onion or both into the mix. Another simple solution if you don’t like to eat garlic or onion, or it doesn’t go well with your meal – eat an extra half serving of the mineral source. That’s all it takes to get the full benefit of phytic acid (see sources). Now for some pasta salad!

  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat pasta, cooked & drained
  • 1 c. fresh peas
  • 1/2 c. broccoli
  • 1/4 c. onion
  • 1/4 c. zucchini
  • 1/2 c. corn
  • a few Ts each of parsley, lovage & chives

For a dressing, I used the tomato basil dressing you’ll find here.

Checklist items: 1 beans, cruciferous, 2 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (8 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

20 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus 2 extra servings of other vegetables, or 1 extra serving of other vegetables and 1 extra serving of whole grains, depending on how you want to count the corn.

26 things I always have in my pantry

These are the items that are essential to my vegan life.

1. Beans, beans, beans: I always have at least 4 kinds of beans – 2 canned, and 2 dried. For canned beans, I prefer garbanzos (chickpeas) and cannellini. For dried, at the moment I’ve got loads of black beans, plus kidney beans, coco beans, and adzuki beans. I’ve also got some borlotti beans & yin yang (a.k.a. orca) beans from my garden. I use more black turtle beans than anything else, so I maintain a sizable supply of those in particular. I’m growing my own, so that will help, but I don’t have enough space in my garden for a year’s worth.beans-1001032_640

2. Buckwheat: I really wasn’t kidding in my review of buckwheat when I said it’s my new favorite thing. I now add toasted buckwheat to every salad.

3. Whole grain rice: I like to keep a variety – black & red are my favorites.

4. Potatoes: I check my potato supply every week and make sure I have enough for at least 2 spontaneous meals. I usually have both sweet and white potatoes on hand.

5. Cashews (raw): These little guys form the foundation of the most wonderful vegan cream, sour cream, cheese and cheese-based sauces and spreads.

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6. Corn: This might sound ridiculous, but, as of this writing, I have 23 cans of corn in my pantry. What? It was on sale. Plus, my partner and I both love corn, and we add it to every salad we make, so we go through a lot.

7. Corn tortillas: I use these for lunch all the time – just toss on some lettuce, beans, a veg, salsa or other dressing, and bam – hearty, healthy 5-minute lunch.

8. Cornmeal: One of my favorite breakfasts is cornmeal mush with maple syrup & berries. And who doesn’t love chili with cornbread??

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9. Flaxseed: Aside from the fact that one of the Daily Dozen checklist items is 1 T ground flaxseed, they also make the best egg replacers for burgers, patties, brownies, etc.

10. Ketchup: Because black bean burgers & oil-free baked fries!

11. Lentils & split peas: I typically keep black (beluga), red, & puy lentils, though I don’t use them as often as beans. And I love split pea soup with smoky tempeh, so the split peas are also a must-have for me.

12. Lettuce: Okay, I don’t keep lettuce in my pantry, but I always make sure I have some. In the summer it’s easy – I keep it in my garden. The rest of the year, I buy a large head of lettuce every week, and it’s never lost.

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13. Maple syrup: This is my favorite sweetener, and I use it in dressings, desserts, and, of course, on pancakes & waffles!

14. Miso paste: Because you never know when you’re going to want to have a miso soup lunch.miso-934742_640

15. Mustard: For dressings, burgers, and much much more!

16. Nutritional yeast: Simply a must-have for, like, everything.

17. Oatmeal: Another one of my favorite breakfasts, but also an essential ingredient in the best veggie burgers ever.

18. Olive marinara: Oddly specific, perhaps, but there’s a reason. It’s amazing. And I make a vegan pizza every Saturday night using this brilliant marinara.

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19. Pasta: I try to keep at least 3 full bags/boxes of whole grain pasta. I prefer whole wheat because it’s the cheapest and cooks very well, but sometimes I’ll be in the mood for something different (see my review of corn pasta).

20. Pesto: You can’t ask for a better quick & easy pasta dinner! There’s a vegan pesto available at a shop near me, but I prefer to make my own using the basil & nasturtiums from my garden. I always have a batch in the freezer.

21. Spices: I have a crazy spice collection. They don’t all fit in my spice cupboard. But the ones I use the most are black & szechuan peppers, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, & cinnamom.

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22. Sriracha (a.k.a. Rooster sauce): I used to keep this around for deviled eggs before I was vegan. Now I use it in soups, sauces, and stir-fries.

23. Sun-dried tomatoes: I also put these on my vegan pizza, but they’re also a great addition to salad dressings, sandwiches, spreads, dips, etc.

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24. Tahini: Essential for both my favorite salad dressing, and my favorite hummus.

25. Tamari/soy sauce: I use this stuff a lot – in stir-fries, in my favorite salad dressing, pretty much anytime I eat garbanzo beans, with avocado, the list goes on…

26. Veggie stock/bouillon: I don’t keep this in my pantry, either, because I don’t buy it, I make it. I save the leftovers from herbs & vegetables in the freezer. When I have enough, I make a stock and freeze it.

 

Review: corn pasta

Why corn pasta?wp-1469009419913.jpg

Variety! And because corn pasta is a nutritious whole-grain alternative to regular pasta, (suitable for people with Celiac’s). Usually, I go for whole wheat pasta because it’s the cheapest alternative where I live, but last weekend, I sprang for the corn stuff. Here’s how it turned out…

Nutrition info

Reading the labels: corn vs whole wheat, per 100 g, dry.

corn vs wheat

Did you notice that little asterisk * next to dietary fiber? That’s because I’m a little unsure about this one. Since the information for dietary fiber isn’t listed on the package, I entered it into cronometer. According to cronometer, corn pasta has a slight edge over whole wheat. However, my corn pasta is a mix of 80% corn and 20% rice – rice pasta being much lower in fiber content – so in my case, they’re probably about even. Of course, that’s all a big guess.

Performance

I thought that this bright yellow corn pasta would be pretty on the plate. In the end, the color cooked out of it, and it looked like a regular white pasta – that’s good news if you’re trying to get a skeptic to eat it – you can serve it to them and they’ll be none the wiser until you tell them, especially since it also tastes quite ‘normal’. It didn’t stand out as having a particularly corn flavor, and I found it to be roundly fulfilling, if slightly lighter than whole wheat pasta.

A note about cooking corn pasta

While it performed well in the pasta bowl, I was underwhelmed with the cooking process. With ‘regular’ pasta and whole wheat pasta alike, you have to stir it in the beginning to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, but, once it gets rolling, you can leave it alone until it’s time to drain. Not so with corn pasta – the more it cooked, the more it wanted to stick to the bottom, so you have to stir it consistently during cooking.

It also created loads of foam. I suppose that’s neither here nor there, but it’s just one more reason why you have to keep stirring it while it’s cooking.

Overall, I like it but I won’t go out of my way to get it over the cheaper and easier-to-find (in my area, anyway) whole wheat pasta. For people who have to avoid wheat, it’s a perfectly reasonable substitution other than the hassle of constant stirring.

Have you had corn pasta? If so, what did you think?

Saturn Peaches, Beet Greens & Corn Pasta

Breakfast_textI don’t usually buy Saturn peaches because they’re more expensive than “normal” peaches, but they were on sale this week, making them the cheapest option! Yay! I ate all of them for breakfast this morning.peaches-1446378_640

I’m counting 1 Saturn peach as half of a serving of fruit because they’re pretty small.

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruits (4 out of 18 servings)


lunch_textI’ve got to take advantage of all the beet greens in my garden! I can’t seem to eat them fast enough, so some are going into the freezer, but I want to eat as many as I can while they’re fresh out of the garden. Today, I’m going for a beans & greens salad.

  • wp-1468826940639.jpg1/2 c. cannellini
  • 1/2 c. garbanzos
  • 1/2 c. peas
  • 1/2 c. yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. cucumber, diced
  • 1 c. raw beet greens, chiffonaded (my favorite way to cut greens, partly because it’s so easy!)
  • 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  • 2 basil leaves, also chiffonaded
  • My Basic Dressing

Throw everything together in a bowl. I refrigerated it for 1 hour to let the flavors really blend together, but you could eat it right away.

Checklist items: 3 beans, 1 greens, 2 other vegetables, nuts, spices (8 out of 18 servings)


dinner_textI’m trying a new kind of pasta today. It’s made from corn & rice and it’s bright yellow, so I think it’ll make a pretty plate. (Read my review of the corn pasta here.)

 

Follow the instructions in the link above with 3 simple changes: add flaxseed to the alfredo along with a little extra water, use corn pasta in place of whole wheat pasta, and beet greens in place of peas.

Checklist items: 2 cruciferous, 1 greens, flaxseed, spices, 3 whole grains (8 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything.

In addition, we had 1 extra serving each of cruciferous and spices.

Charentais Melon, Cauliflower, & Kamikaze Lettuce

Breakfast_text

It’s been hot the last few days, so I’m more excited about eating melons than anything else. The Charentais melon is a common & inexpensive variety wp-1468243086441.jpghere in France. It’s a kind of cantaloupe, but I find it to be lighter and more refreshing than the cantaloupe that I was used to in the U.S. I like it much better, actually.

  • 1/2 c. cherries
  • 2 c. cut-up Charentais melon
  • 1/4 c. dates

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruits (4 out of 18 servings)


lunch_textYou already know I love my salads. Especially with red-leafed lettuce. I’ve been waiting on a Red Kamikaze Batavia in my garden. It’s not quite ready – the red has just started to develop, but I’m impatient, so I’m taking some today anyway. wp-1468244033377.jpg

  • 2 c. Kamikaze batavia lettuce
  • 1/2 c. chickpeas
  • 1/4 c. tomato
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c. corn
  • 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c. sunflower seeds, toasted
  • Chef AJ’s House Dressing

Checklist items: 1 beans, 2 greens, 1 1/2 other vegetables, flaxseed, nuts (6 1/2 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

I have a weird relationship with cauliflower. I love the way it tastes even though I’m not a huge fan of the way it smells. However you feel about it, it makes a great alfredo – a dish that I loved as a kid.

  • wp-1468240819121.jpg1 heaping c. cauliflower florets
  • 2 T unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 sm. clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 c. peas
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked whole grain pasta

Instructions:

  1. Boil the cauliflower florets until tender, about 5 minutes & then drain
  2. Saute garlic
  3. Add cooked cauliflower & garlic with milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic & onion powders, and salt & pepper to a blender and blend until smooth
  4. Add cooked pasta, alfredo sauce, & peas to a pot and heat through

Checklist items: 2 beans, 1 cruciferous, 1 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (8 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18.5 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything.

In addition, we had 1/2 an extra serving of other vegetables or whole grains depending on how you want to count the corn.