3 Sweet Reasons to Boost Your Fruit Intake

StrawberriesNutrients! Fruit is an incredibly healthy source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (including antioxidants).  Choose a variety of colors for a variety of nutrients on your daily fruit choices.  Vitamin pills are a poor substitute for these and some may even prove harmful!

Fiber! The package in “real” fruit – unlike juices- includes lots of intact fiber.  This helps absorb the fructose (or “sugar”) content in the food on a gradual basis so as not to spike your blood glucose levels.  This means you won’t get hunger pangs in between meals.

Hydrate! Lots of fruit also means a natural way to stay sweetly hydrated throughout the day.  Move over expensive Vitamin Waters, Sugary Sportades or processed juices, fruit is the way to go!

Now that’s sweet!

Farm Fresh

CSAI have been a member of a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA in NYC for several years now and I love it.  Often people tell me that it is hard for them to use all their veggies from their share and thus are afraid to commit to a share.  But in my experience, supporting a local farm, in my case the organic Windflower Farm close to Saratoga Springs in upstate NY, is an invaluable learning experience to know more about your food, the time and care it requires and the people behind it.  Each week, the head farmer sends an email newsletter detailing how recent weather trends affect the produce we’ll be receiving—anyone still on the fence about global warming should read these missives from the front line!  And as the vegetables and fruits rotate from June through November you get a quick lesson in seasonality—no apples until Fall, for example.  No “convenience” supermarket store will ever come close to that.  And have I mentioned that it costs under $27 dollars a week? If you’re eating a plant-based diet (or trying to) then signing up for a CSA will give you loads of options—literally.

A picture of what I received last week is above.  And this is what I prepared:  Salad with red leaf lettuce, sliced fresh turnips (raw),  and sliced Asian cucumbers (all with balsamic vinegar).  I then proceeded to sautee the curly Kale, sweet green peppers, onions and the sweet patty pan squashes with some garlic (which I had from the previous week’s share) end garnished it with some leaves fro that thai basil plant I got.  I served all this over brown rice (not included in the share), fed 3 people and had leftovers for the next day for lunch.  We polished off the blueberries for dessert, sweet!  It seems next year, I better sign up for 2 veggie shares so it will last longer!

Bonus: I’m considering a new class where students would come with me on Tuesdays when I pick up the share and then come back to my house to cook whatever we’ve received. Like a CSA Quick Fire Challenge! Let me hear from you if you’re interested!

Recipe Repertoire: Mango and Basil Ice “Cream”

MagoesInstaThe second question I get when people find out I eat a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet is “how can you not eat ice cream?” Well, try this incredibly simple recipe full of flavor.  I use frozen packages of diced mango and a touch of instant oats to provide some texture and cream factor.  NO added sugar or any dairy means a lot less calories per serving (or in my case, larger serving portions with no guilt!).


2 lb packages of frozen diced mangos, or about 8 cups (feel free to use fresh, diced and frozen)
The Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh basil
1Ž/2 cup of quick or instant oats

In the bowl of a food processor, add the frozen mango and the quick oats.  Pulse for a few times or until broken down into very small chunks.  Add the lime juice, lime zest, and basil and puree until just combined.  Add a few tablespoons of water if too thick.  Serve immediately, or place in the freezer for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Note: this is a great recipe to use your high-speed blender.  If you have one of these, simply add all the ingredients and blend with the use of the tamper until reaching a creamy, gelato-like consistency.  This may not even need the few tablespoons of water.

Recipe Repertoire: Sleepover Oats

SleepoverOatsOften the first question people ask me when I say I eat a mostly plant-based, whole foods diet is “what do you eat for breakfast?” As if there are no good options when you take eggs and yogurt off the table!  Well, I am a big fan of this fiber full breakfast—it’s easy to put together the night before, and doesn’t even need cooking.  It packs protein, fiber and the goodness of oats, plus healthy fats from seeds and fresh fruit to top it all off.  In these hot summer days, I eat it right out of the fridge, while in cold winter days, I just reheat briefly with a splash of non-dairy milk.

2 cups rolled oats (make sure they are not instant or quick cooking ones)
5 Tablespoons of chia seed or ground flaxseed
1/4 cup of raisins or currants, no added sugar
The zest of 1 lemon or an orange, finely chopped
Fresh fruit for serving. I usually have a diced banana and some blueberries, but a fresh peach and an apricot in the summer, or an apple and a pear diced work great as well.

To prepare the oatmeal, combine oats, seeds, dried fruit, zest and add enough cold water so as to cover the oats mixture.  Use a spoon to mix well all the ingredients and allow the water to get all ingredients wet.  Add more water if needed just so that the oat mixture is covered by about half an inch of water.  Cover and place in the refrigerator and leave overnight to soak or at least for 6 hours.

In the morning, or when ready to serve, divide into bowls and add fresh fruit and enough non-dairy milk to reach the consistency that you like for your cereal (I add about half a cup or so) and stir.  Heat if you like or enjoy cold.

Variations: add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and sprinkle with about 3 teaspoons of ground cinammon to the oat mixture instead of the zest.  You may also replace raisins or currants with about 5 pieces of dried apricots, finely chopped.

Moringa Challenge


Adding Moringa powder to my no-oil hummus

An inquisitive chef like me is always looking for interesting new ingredients to add to my repertoire of healthy delicious tasting recipes.  At my latest cooking demo appearance at the Seed: Positively Plant-Based event last month, I came across an ingredient I had never heard about.  A plant native to the North of India (note to self: plan a trip to India soon) called Moringa, is currently sold in its dehydrated green powder form.  Apparently, it is the cat’s meow in terms of nutrition including a high protein and antioxidant contents.  It is sold by a company called Africrops, the plant is grown in Tanzania, Africa and takes an interest in letting most of the value added stay at the community where it is grown.  Low and behold, I was hooked to see the possibilities of this new ingredient.

And how does it taste? Ah!  Here is the challenge.  As a start, I have been adding it to my lovely Sleepover Oats recipe, every morning.  It does indeed have a very peculiarly spicy (in a kind of arugula or dried ginger sort of way) taste.  It comes front and center of any fresh fruit and oats and seasonings I have in the overnight oats and I recognize that its sharpness may not be for everyone in the morning.  I have also been playing adding some of it in a version of my no-oil hummus (see picture). A little seems to go a long way both in terms of flavor and appearance.  More calibration is needed—again, the Moringa came out strongly in the mix of flavors—but the challenge is on, and most likely you will be hearing more about it in the future as I test and try for new options.  Who knows? I may end up setting up cooking classes to introduce this ingredient to many more curious and inquisitive minds with a healthy bent like me.  Stay tuned…

Want to win some Moringa for yourself? You’re in luck because courtesy of Africrops I’m giving some away. Head to my FACEBOOK page to answer a question in order to win!

Fabulous Fiber Part 2

FIBER2Yep, I’m back on my fiber high horse, following up on my last post about the importance of adding fiber to your diet.  Some of you reached out to me asking how to measure and keep track of dietary fiber.  Well, in these app centric days, if you haven’t already, please make the effort to download one of the many apps that help you track your food on a daily basis (I like My Fitness Pal and Tap and Track which are free, but there are a lot of other ones). If anything, do it for the simple curiosity of how much fiber you are consuming on a daily basis and to take charge of you and your family’s health one meal at a time and boost that number out of the water!  My app tells me as a daily goal that I need (a meager) 19 grams of fiber.  The median consumption of fiber in the US is a sad 12 grams.  I am happy to say that I easily triple that number on a regular basis (thank you Sleepover Oats Breakfasts!).  Paleo-biologist studies from 10,000 year old stool samples found in caves in Texas point to fiber consumption back then of close to 100 grams per day!  Now that is what I can call a paleo-diet that makes sense to me (the rest of it is crazy).  Still struggling for delicious ways to add fiber to your diet? Then sign up for one of my many July small-group cooking classes and learn some new fiber tricks–Smoky Black Bean Burgers anyone?

Fabulous Fiber

My veggie burgers are one deliciously surprising way to add fiber to your diet.

My veggie burgers are one deliciously surprising way to add fiber to your diet. Next class June 23rd.

Another Sunday New York Times, another maddening article and study surrounding the very high cost of medical treatment in the US and the failure of the “free market” to provide better services at lower costs to the population.  This time around it was an analysis on the cost of colonoscopy procedures to detect colorectal cancer.  I am a firm believer that a lot more government intervention is needed to control costs, but I also like to point out that a lot of effort on behalf of individuals could come a long way to solve this problem.  Not even once in the article was it mentioned that there are plenty of studies that show a large decrease in colorectal cancers when dietary fiber is increased.  And I mean dietary fiber as in beans, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and not in dietary supplements, shakes or powders (those don’t work, sorry).

You will be doing yourself a grand favor by cutting down on any kind of meats, eggs and dairy that you usually consume and which contain no fiber at all, and load up on more whole plants (and yes, all are loaded with protein so don’t start me up on that!).  And if you missed Michael Pollan’s NYT article on bacteria a few Sundays ago, the availability of lots of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) is a key fuel for these beneficial bacteria to thrive in your gut and that will make you thrive.  So by all means, let’s complain loudly to fix the mess of the healthcare system we have in place in America, but don’t complain while you eat highly processed cheeseburgers, pizzas and the like.  Do it while you chomp a handful of carrots and apples.

Think it’s boring adding fiber to your diet? I can help you do it in fun, tasty ways either one-on-one or in my small group classes. And I’ve got a surprise for you if you take my Veggie Burger Fest class–there are delicious ways to add veggies and whole grains to even your favorite summer cookout plans. Will I see you there?

Recipe Repertoire: Smoky Red Chili and Avocado Salsa

AvocadoHandFor Cinco de Mayo (or anytime, really), make this delightful smoky and scented salsa.

The addition of diced avocado and lime juice is an incredible finish for your veggie tacos or for dipping with baked tortilla chips.

Makes about 4  cups.

4 cups chopped tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
Half stick of cinnamon
1 cup water
Freshly ground pepper
1 avocado, peeled and diced
The juice of half a lime

Steam-saute onions on a hot pan until lightly brown, adding water by the tablespoon as needed to avoid sticking, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and spices and cook for another minute or so adding water to the pan if needed again.  Add chopped tomatoes and water and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 25 minutes, uncovered, and mixing from time to time.  Allow salsa to cool down to room temperature. Remove bay leaf and stick of cinnamon and add diced avocado and lime juice, stir and serve with veggie tacos.

Restaurant Rec: Sarabeth’s

Takeaway Tip: Even at the most seemingly unfriendly vegan restaurant—inquire about options that are “off menu”

SarabethVeggieEnchiladaMy first thought as I was approaching the new Sarabeth‘s restaurant on Park Avenue South was: who eats dinner at Sarabeth’s, a place known for their brunch, jams and pastries? On top of that, the restaurant eerily replaces what used to be a steakhouse—not a promising sign. But there I was, a friend had made reservations there and I was not involved in the selection. I kept mum and proceeded to sit down and peruse the menu.  Not a single vegan (let alone healthy vegan) option once you eliminate the obligatory fries or other uninspiring sides. “Maybe they can leave the cheese out of the mushroom pizza?” I thought.  I opted to nicely ask our waiter if the chef could possibly suggest an improvised vegan option.  To my surprise, they offered these vegetable enchiladas featured on the lunch menu but not in the dinner menu.  Mildly spicy tomato sauce covering these beautiful Napa cabbage rolls filled with veggies and black and white quinoa and garnished with red cabbage and scallions. Ask nicely and with some luck, ye shall receive a vegan delight!

Recipe Repertoire: Almond Milk

Photo courtesy of VitaMix

Photo courtesy of VitaMix

Make your very own almond milk!

  • Soak about one cup of whole, raw, skin on almonds in water overnight in the fridge.  Strain and discard water.
  • Add 4 cups of fresh water and 3 or 4 previously soaked pitted soft dates for some sweetness and 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
  • Whirl in a blender for a few minutes on high speed.  (Vitamix is my favorite high-speed blender:  Use my unique code 06-008337 when you order at www.vitamix.com and get shipping and handling for free!!)
  • Strain thru a fine mesh preferably lined with some cheesecloth.

Your fresh almond milk is ready, keep in the fridge and use within 5 days.

Extra tip: save the almond grounds, allow them to dry spread on a kitchen towel on your counter and use as almond flour.