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vegetarian

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Almond Meal Pancakes

March 28, 2013

Almond_Flour_Pancakes_2

Breakfast is my carb meal. Most mornings I find myself plopped down at my kitchen table with a bowl of oatmeal, breakfast farro, or toast with peanut butter and bananas. Aside from a short and very dark period in high school when I cut out all carbohydrates and ate nothing but meat and vegetables (no butter, oil, condiments, or sauces allowed!) until I almost passed out at band camp (don’t judge, band was cool), I’ve always believed that healthy carbohydrates have a place at the table.

Despite my best attempts, I have never been able to develop a love for eating eggs, especially not first thing in the morning. Now and again I’ll order eggs while eating out, but I hardly ever eat eggs for breakfast at home. From a nutritional perspective I love what eggs have to offer and the fact that they are packed with protein. So when I finally settled on a recipe for almond flour pancakes that suited my carb-loving breakfast style while being packed with eggs, I feel in love. I believe that, technically, these pancakes would also be considered paleo (paleo friends, correct me if I am mistaken!) though that wasn’t my mission in creating these pancakes. What I was going for was a hearty, filling and protein-packed breakfast that would leave me full and satisfied for hours. Mission accomplished.

A few notes about the pancakes:
-The flavor of the pancakes is pretty spot-on with traditional pancakes. The almond meal does not give much almond flavor to the end product. However, the texture is a bit different. The almond meal (and lack of gluten) prevents the pancakes from having very much chew to them. They stay quite soft no matter how long you cook them.
-I was pleased with the way they held together in the pan while cooking. I didn’t have any issues with the pancakes falling apart while I was cooking and flipping the pancakes.
-A single pancake (about 1/3 cup of batter) seemed to be enough for me for breakfast when topped with some peanut butter and banana. However, if you want a very decadent and large breakfast for multiple people, I would plan on two pancakes per person.
-It’s important to spread the pancake batter out slightly when you first pour the batter into the pan. The batter won’t spread much on its own like a typical pancake might.

Almond Meal Pancakes
Makes 3 Pancakes
Ingredients
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 packets stevia natural sweetener or 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk or milk (I use almond milk)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup almond meal (I buy mine from Trader Joe’s)

Directions
1. In large bowl, whisk together the eggs, stevia, milk, cinnamon and baking soda until well combined. Stir in the eggs and beat until well combined.
2. Heat a little butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spoon batter, 1/3 cup at a time, into skillet. Spread the batter out slightly to form a 5-inch circle. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until edges are set and the center bubbles slightly. Flip and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.
3. Serve with butter, syrup, fruit or peanut butter.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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Eating Optimally for My Body

March 24, 2013

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For the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer and contemplation regarding the foods I choose to eat and the foods that I choose not to eat. And in the last week, I’ve decided to fully shed the “vegetarian” label and shift my diet to incorporate seafood. Technically, I guess my new label would be “pescatarian” though I’ve never been a huge fan of food labels since they seem to be less about what is best for the individual and more about fitting yourself into a narrow box.

Perhaps it sounds silly to say I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer regarding my diet, but the food we put in our bodies makes a big impact on the way we live our lives, so it seemed appropriate to bring this to God just like I would anything else. As most of you already know, I’ve been a vegetarian for three years this month. Just writing that, I can’t believe that it’s been three whole years since I dramatically changed my lifestyle. I started eating vegetarian out of curiosity, but found that the lifestyle suited me so well that I didn’t want to return to my previous way of eating. My meals became heavily focused on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and non-meat sources of protein, like hummus, beans and lentils, veggie burgers, Greek yogurt and my beloved nut butters.

I felt fantastic and enjoyed pushing myself to think about meals in a different way. Instead of planning what meat I was going to eat and deciding on vegetables and whole grains later, I started thinking about my meals in a different light. My job as a food editor prevented me from eating 100% vegetarian; every now and again I would take a bite of a meat-based dish at a taste panel because developing meat-based recipes was part of the job description. Additionally, I would take a bite here and there of something I made for Joe that contained meat because I was curious about the flavor profile. For me, being vegetarian was never about not eating animals because of ethical reasons, it was about eating as healthfully as I could and doing what felt right for my body. For the past three years, being vegetarian has felt very right.

However, over the past few weeks I felt a strong prompting to more closely examine the way I was eating and how my body was responding. I would absolutely not say that I felt bad, but I would say that I wasn’t feeling 100% optimal. Something started to feel lacking in a way that I can’t fully describe. I’m sure some people will jump to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing vegetarianism “right” – that I wasn’t eating varied, balanced meals with plenty of protein. I can promise you that is not true. I tracked protein consumption and food combinations religiously, closely examining what I consumed each day to make sure that my diet was well-rounded and complete.

But despite those efforts, there were a few troubling things that I can’t pretend don’t exist. My period hasn’t been consistent in over a year and my skin (which is often seen as a window to your health) has been unhappy. And then there are the issues that I’ve had with my hair over the past seven or eight months. Nothing major but enough to make me do a double take and think a little bit more about my diet. Will eating fish and seafood change this? I have no idea but I guess I’ll find out.

I prayed, I read more articles on vegetarianism (and articles from those who used to be veg) than I ever did in the past, I tried to imagine eating different types of seafood. It sounded just fine to me. I tried to imagine eating chicken, beef or pork. The thought made me want to gag. The hardest thing for me to get over was, by far, the idea that the way I described myself would have to change. For three years I’ve been a vegetarian and identified myself as such. It’s guided my conversations, my blog, and who I am as a person. Diets are deeply personal and become a part of who we are as people in the process. But for me, my body and my health, it seems more important to identify with the food that makes me feel balanced.

So where does that leave me today? I’m hoping to incorporate fish or seafood into our meals at least three times a week in some way, shape or form. Other than that, I don’t think much will change. I am still planning on eating the way I have been the rest of the time, so day-to-day I don’t think my meals will look all that different. No matter how my eating style changes and evolves throughout my life, the vegetarian style of eating (thinking about veggies, whole grains and non-meat proteins first) is something I think all of us can reap a lot from health-wise.

I would love to open this up for discussion and hear from any of you who have had experiences with different eating styles, vegetarianism, or eating vegetarian for a time and then shifting your eating style to something else that suited your body better. Since diet can be deeply personal, I’m hoping that we can keep the dialogue respectful and kind, while also sharing differing points of view. I am so excited to read what you guys have to say!

Madison

 

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Almond Meal Everything Cookies

March 3, 2013

Almond_Meal_Breakfast_Cookie_2

I think it’s safe to say that breakfast cookies, however you want to define them, have become a thing over the past couple years. Go into any grocery store or gas station and chances are you can get your hands on a cookie that’s billed as being an acceptable form of breakfast. I like cookies and I love breakfast, but I’ve never really been a fan of breakfast cookies mainly because they are usually not all that more healthy than a regular cookie. Sure, they might have some oatmeal or granola thrown into the batter, but adding oatmeal to dessert does not a breakfast make.

Also: granola bars. Most of them fall into the same category as breakfast cookies. Billed as healthy, nutritious snacks but usually just filled with scary ingredients. Case in point? I was studying the label of a granola bar the other day only to notice that the second ingredient was sugar and the third was corn syrup. Yum?

These cookies are my answer to breakfast cookies and granola bars all at once. Inspired by this almond flour cookie recipe from The Minimalist Baker, these cookies are completely grain-free, low in sugar and packed with protein from the almond flour, sesame seeds and almond butter. But don’t let the healthy ingredients fool you. They are also completely delicious.

Almond_Meal_Breakfast_Cookie_1

A few recipe notes:
-When making the cookies, the dough may feel a little soft, oily or struggle to hold together. Don’t be alarmed since this is totally normal. That’s where the refrigeration of the dough before baking comes into play.
-The cookies do not spread out since they are of the slice and bake variety.
-Cooling the cookies completely on the baking sheet and then allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack before eating is important. The cookies will be crumbly if you don’t follow this step.
-These cookies store well in a zip top bag or storage container and stay chewy for a couple days following baking. I would imagine that they would freeze well, too, but I haven’t tried it.

Happy Baking!
Madison

Almond Meal Everything Cookies
Makes 8 to 12 cookies
Ingredients
*1 1/4 cups almond meal
*1/4 cup sesame seeds
*1/4 cup unsweetened flake coconut (can use sweetened if you can’t find unsweetened)
*1/4 cup chocolate chips
*3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
*1/3 cup brown sugar
*1 tablespoon chia seeds
*3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
*1 large egg, lightly beaten
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Heaping tablespoon almond butter

Instructions
*Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, sesame seeds, coconut, chocolate chips, flax, brown sugar and chia. Stir to combine.
*In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, vanilla extract and almond butter until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
*Roll dough into a log about 8 inches long (dough will be slightly hard to keep together) and wrap the log in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
*Cut refrigerated dough into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. This is important that you allow them to cool completely or they will be crumbly when you try to eat them. Store cookies in a plastic container.

Happy Baking!
Madison

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Cooking with Farro: Breakfast Edition

February 4, 2013

Breakfast_Farro_1

Good morning, friends, and happy Monday. I’m entering the home stretch of my break between jobs. This week is my final week at home before I start the new gig next week. And while I was pretty nervous about being bored or restless during my time off, I have been loving my down time, staying busy with errands, blogging and things that needed to be done prior to our house closing this Friday.

One of the biggest perks about my mini stay-cation has been the fact that I’ve had more time to play around in the kitchen and make breakfasts that take more than five minutes to prepare. Last week while I was browsing Trader Joe’s I noticed they had three different small bags with quick-cooking grains: farro, barley and bulgur. The packaging was so darn cute I couldn’t resist picking up a couple bags.

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I’ve only had farro a couple times and both of the times that I had farro it was prepared in a savory manner From what I remembered about the grain, I thought it would make a fantastic substitute for oatmeal when making a bowl of hot breakfast cereal.

For those who haven’t made or eaten farro before, it’s a fantastically versatile grain with a chewy, hearty texture that falls somewhere between brown rice and pasta. It’s more calorie dense than rolled oats, clocking in at around 290 calories per 1/2 cup dry farro, but I find that it keeps me incredibly full, especially when topped with peanut butter and bananas. As a vegetarian, I was also pleased to see that a serving of farro contains 10 grams of protein. Pretty great, huh?

Breakfast_Farro_4

These days I rarely drink cow’s milk, choosing substitutes like almond milk and soy milk instead. So I decided to make this recipe vegan, simmering the farro in unsweetened almond milk instead of cow’s milk or water. Doing so gives the farro a creamy texture with only 30 extra calories per serving. However, if you are going to use milk or almond milk in place of water, keep an eye on the farro while it is cooking. The almond milk I used had a tendency to bubble over if I didn’t give it a stir every now and again. A small price to pay for an incredibly tasty breakfast.

Vegan Breakfast Farro
Makes 1 Serving
Ingredients
*1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
*1/2 cup Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro
*Pinch of salt
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*2 packets stevia no-calorie sweetener (sch as Truvia) or 1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions
*In a small saucepan with a lid, bring almond milk to a boil. Add farro to the almond milk and reduce heat to low so mixture is at a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be careful to keep an eye on the mixture because the almond milk tends to bubble over.
*Once farro is cooked, remove from heat and stir in the salt, vanilla, ground cinnamon and stevia or brown sugar. Transfer to a bowl and serve with desired toppings, such as chopped nuts, nut butter and/or bananas.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Spaghetti

October 17, 2012

Lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a cooking rut. It’s not that Joe and I have been eating takeout every night, but I haven’t really been cooking anything interesting. Most nights, I find myself falling back on easy staples like roasted veggies, baked chicken breasts for Joe, and some whole grain, such as quinoa, whole wheat pasta or brown rice. Tasty? Sure. But I’ve hardly been pushing myself out of my culinary comfort zone.

This week, I set out on a mission to get back on my cooking game by making our meals from real, actual recipes. Beef stew and biscuits one night, sweet potato and black bean enchiladas another. It’s amazing how putting a little extra effort into meal planning can have incredibly tasty results. But the recipe I was most excited to try was a recipe I found on Cooking Canuck’s site for Cannellini Bean “Meatballs” made with beans, bread crumbs and Italian herbs.

I tweaked the recipe slightly to suit the ingredients I had in my pantry, and added a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese to the mix, too, since I don’t think adding cheese is ever a bad decision. And although Joe was pretty skeptical of the recipe while it was cooking, he was pleasantly surprised with the end product. I don’t think anyone will be fooled into thinking these are actual meatballs, but once they are tossed with marinara sauce and served over whole wheat pasta it creates an incredibly satisfying, flavorful dinner that will keep you full for hours.

We had quite a few leftover “meatballs” and I found that they heat well in the microwave for lunch the next day or dinnertime leftovers. The second time around, I served them alongside a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts. So tasty!

Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Spaghetti
Inspired by Cooking Canuck’s Bean Balls
Ingredients
*2 1/2 cups canned white beans, drained or cooked dried beans (such as cannellini beans or my new favorite, cranberry beans)
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2 medium yellow onion, grated
*1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
*1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
*1 large egg, lightly beaten
*1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
*Whole wheat angel hair pasta (enough to serve 4)

Instructions
*In the bowl of a food processor, combine the beans and garlic and process with on-off turns until beans are broken up and begin to hold together but are not so processed that they form a paste. Transfer bean mixture to a mixing bowl and add in the onion, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs, egg, Parm, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
*Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop bean balls by heaping tablespoons and shape into circles with your hands, about 2-inches in diameter. Place balls on the baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp around the outside. Remove from oven. Toss with warmed marinara sauce and serve atop whole wheat angel hair pasta. Makes 4 servings

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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