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  1. Thursday, April 25, 2019

    Chocolate Cashew Energy Bites, a.k.a. Jane’s Addiction (Plant Based, Gluten Free)

    Before I get to today’s recipe, how have I never used the phrase “Jane’s Addiction” on the blog before?!?! Speaking of Jane’s Addiction, I have a new one. (How’s that for a segue?) Okay, so now that I am not eating wheat and peanuts and almonds and dairy and shellfish and apples and cucumbers and basically have become one of those annoying people with too many dietary needs, I am exploring all kinds of great cookbooks for new inspiration. Nate’s cousin Amanda, who is on a low-FODMAP diet, recommended a book called The Low-FODMAP Diet for Beginners. I have already tried a few recipes and flagged about 20 more to try, and so far every recipe is a winner. Today I’m sharing one of them with you, the peanut-butter energy balls. Except I can’t eat peanuts. So I changed it to cashew butter. And made some other changes to the recipe. So actually I’m sharing a recipe for cashew energy bites and not peanut-butter energy balls. 

    Cashew Energy Bites

    These cashew energy bites are not just Jane’s Addiction but Anna’s Addiction and Nate’s Addiction, too. (You’re welcome for the cool band name ideas.) They are super easy to make, pretty darn wholesome, completely plant based, gluten free, and only have 2-3 grams of sugar per bite. Seriously, these little cashew energy bites are the best. Enjoy!

    Forming Cashew Energy BitesContainer of cashew energy bites

    Chocolate Cashew Energy Bites
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    Adapted from a recipe for Peanut-Butter Energy Balls in the book "The Low-FODMAP Diet for Beginners" by Mollie Tunitsky
    Author:
    Serves: 20 bites
    Ingredients
    • 1½ cup rolled oats
    • 2 generous tablespoons chocolate chips
    • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    • ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt (if you use kosher, use a little less than ¼ tsp)
    • ⅔ cup cashew butter
    • ¼ cup maple syrup
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Instructions
    1. In a blender or food processor, add the oats, chocolate chips, cocoa powder and sea salt. Pulse until the oats and chocolate chips have been broken down. If you like your bites chunkier, pulse less! If you want things finer, pulse more! I go for a coarsely ground mixture.
    2. Combine the dry ingredients with the cashew butter, syrup and vanilla in a mixing bowl, stirring to combine thoroughly.
    3. Form bites into 1 tablespoon sized balls, place on a cookie sheet, and flatten them out with wet fingers so you have nice thick discs. Refrigerate until firm and store in the refrigerator.

     


  2. Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    Gluten-Free Vegan Cashew Butter Cookies

    In the last of my cashew butter cookie recipes, I wanted to provide a completely plant-based, vegan version. My regular cashew butter cookies and molasses cashew butter cookies both use an egg. Given my new year’s resolution, I wanted to see how these cookies would do with an egg alternative. It worked and so I definitely want to share this recipe for gluten-free vegan cashew butter cookies with you.

    Gluten-free vegan cashew butter cookies cooling on a rack with backlightingStack of gluten-free vegan cashew butter cookies on a blue plate

    The vegan version of these cookies come out wonderfully, but they do in fact have a different texture than the version with eggs. The cookies come out much flatter and are a little more “wet,” if you will (i.e. they stick to your fingers a little bit when you eat them). They taste awesome, however, and the texture is delicious, so if you want a plant-based alternative, these cookies are great. (See picture below comparing the two different versions of the recipe.)

    Top view of two racks of cookies, comparing two cashew butter cookie recipes - one made with an egg, the other made with ground flaxseed.

    In addition, if you want to add chocolate chips, go right ahead! And if you want to molasses-ize them, use the molasses cashew butter cookie recipe and sub out the 1 egg for the ground flaxseed and water, like you see in the recipe below. As with the other two cashew butter cookie recipes, these cookies are dairy free and gluten free. Enjoy!

    Side view of a stack of vegan, gluten-free cashew butter cookies

    Vegan Cashew Butter Cookies
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Serves: 12-16
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup cashew butter
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (or flaxseed meal)
    • 3 tablespoons hot water
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla
    • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
    • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
    2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground flaxseed and hot water. Let sit for 5 minutes.
    3. In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients, including the flaxseed mixture. Stir well.
    4. On a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet or a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat, drop cookie dough balls, evenly spacing them like you would chocolate chip cookies. I used a medium (2 tablespoon) cookie scoop. The dough is quite wet and the scoop makes it easy to create the cookie dough balls. If you don't have a scoop, use a spoon and wet fingers to form your dough balls.
    5. Bake for approximately 11-15 minutes, or until the cookies are starting to brown lightly around the edges. They will look cooked, if you know what I mean - if there is cracking, the cookies should no longer look wet inside. (See pictures as a guide.)
    6. Let cool at least 10 minutes before eating.

     


  3. Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    2019 New Year’s Resolution: More Plant-Based Eating

    Each year I pick a New Year’s resolution that ties what I do in the kitchen with some sort of positive environmental impact. (Click here to see past years’ resolutions and related posts.) My 2019 resolution is no different: more plant-based eating. This goes beyond just eating less meat and I have lots of ideas for making this year’s resolution a success!*

    Fresh produce, oat milk and canned beans for the 2019 New Years Resolution for This Week for Dinner More Plant-Based Eating kick-off post

    Over the past year, due to some health reasons, I’ve really changed how I eat (there’s another post about that experience coming soon!). One of the changes has involved finding dairy substitutes. I haven’t given up meat completely, but I have started looking at more plant-based options. Looking for milk alternatives kicked that process off for me and really got me thinking about more plant-based eating overall.

    So why should we care about plant-based eating? Bottom line: animal-based food takes more of a toll on the environment (especially food coming from cows). When you talk about vegetarianism or veganism, many omnivores get nervous and feel like it’s just too hard to make that kind of switch. But focusing on more plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go vegetarian or vegan. There are lots of ways to incorporate plant-based foods and ease yourself into a new way of eating. In addition, looking at where the highest environmental impacts are in the food system and then adjusting from there can have a really big impact, beyond just plant-based foods.

    For example, take a look at the chart below (data taken from an article published in Nature assessing land use changes and climate change). It is both surprising and unsurprising. First, a vegan diet clearly has the smallest negative impact on the environment. But what pops out at me is the impact foods sourced from cows have. A vegetarian that eats dairy has a larger carbon cost than a person who eats poultry and eggs but skips dairy and beef. That is excellent food for thought.

    Chart showing the carbon costs of different diets, with vegan having the smallest carbon footprint

    As I was getting ready for my resolution, I came across a journal article published in Nature. I turned to my friend Dr. Megan O’Rourke, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food Production Systems at Virginia Tech, with some questions I had. Megan and I have known each other since middle school (in fact I introduced her to her husband of 20+ years!). As Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech, Megan examines the value of biodiversity in agriculture and the environmental impacts of different food systems. Megan’s interest areas include sustainable agriculture, organic production, international development, land use change, and agroecology. She has extensive international and policy experience working with the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service as the organization’s climate change advisor. In addition, Megan studied farming systems and deforestation in Cambodia where she worked for the United States Agency for International Development as their senior climate change advisor.

    Dr. Megan O'Rourke of Virginia Tech in CambodiaThat’s Megan on the right! This is a photo from when she was in Cambodia. Image Source: Virginia Tech

    As Megan and I got to talking about food issues, I felt like I just couldn’t keep her to myself and, lucky for us, I convinced Megan to contribute to the blog. Now I get to share Megan and all the awesome stuff in her head with you. Welcome, Megan!

    Over the next year (and hopefully longer) I will share tips and tricks for more plant-based eating and Megan will offer her expertise. I’m really excited about this year’s resolution and for you all to join in on the journey.

    To kick things off, here’s a little something from Megan (she does a good job of filling in between the lines of the chart above):

    Recent research is showing how eating a plant-based diet may be good for slowing climate change. You may be thinking, what does a plant-based diet have to do with slowing climate change? Everything we eat has a carbon cost and some foods have lower carbon costs than others. Too much carbon in the atmosphere is what traps solar energy and causes things to heat up. The total carbon cost of food includes how much carbon is directly emitted during production from inputs such as fertilizers, tractor fuel and pesticides. It also includes an opportunity cost for using the land for agriculture.

    The carbon costs of agricultural inputs are pretty straight forward to wrap our heads around; growing stuff takes energy and releases carbon. But understanding carbon opportunity costs is a bit trickier. Think about a forest and a corn field. The forest has much more plant mass than a corn field and stores more carbon, so cutting down a forest to grow corn has a large carbon opportunity cost. If you think about how much land and inputs are required to produce beef (about 2 acres per cow) compared to corn (2 acres for about 20,000 lbs) you start to realize that eating beef requires a lot of land and has a much larger carbon cost than eating a plant-based diet. In fact, one pound of beef has a carbon cost almost 75 times higher than a pound of corn and 40 times higher than a pound of rice. In addition, not all animals are created equal.  The carbon cost of beef is 14 times higher than chicken and nine times higher than pork.

    When we start to compare different diets, we also come up with vastly different carbon costs.  If we compare a typical western diet with a 50% less meat, vegetarian, no beef or dairy, and vegan diets, we find that a vegan diet has the lowest carbon costs.  The total carbon costs of each diet are about 9, 6, 5, 3, and 2 tons of carbon dioxide per year, respectively.

    Now does this mean that everyone should run out and become vegan?  Well, maybe. Climate change is one of the most serious environmental threats facing our planet. But there are, of course, many other things to consider. Lifestyle and proper nutrition are important personal choices. Preference for local foods is another. Animals can be produced on dry hilly grasslands in places like Oklahoma, which are terrible for growing many plant-based foods (remember the dust bowl?). Environmental impacts besides carbon should also be considered. Many more species of birds and plants and insects can coexist with livestock on grazing lands compared to in the typical monoculture crop field. While this new research makes a compelling argument to shift to a more plant-based diet, it’s one more data point to help us make informed choices and navigate our complex food system. — Dr. Megan O’Rourke, Virginia Tech

    *In case you’re wondering. Last year was the first time I completely failed at my This Week for Dinner new year’s resolution. I had planned to learn how to can food. Well, I did not can one piece of food last year. Not one. Nate canned some peppers, so at least a little bit of canning happened in our house. So, nevermind, I totally completed the resolution…by proxy! 😉


  4. Wednesday, April 25, 2018

    Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing

    Today I have a recipe to share with you that is now my favorite. It’s a lentil rice bowl with lime-tahini dressing. That may or may not sound good to you, but no matter what you are thinking right now I promise you will like it. Well, okay, there may be someone out there not down for the lentil rice bowl but I kind of doubt it.

    Last week I had a photography job in Orange County. I needed to grab lunch on the road and noticed a place called CAVA. Now that I’m not eating wheat, dairy and sugar and my diet is still quite strict (waiting to get that allergy testing done!), eating out is tricky. CAVA looked like it could be promising so I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did, I love this restaurant!

    Recipe for Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for Dinner. Healthy and delicious!

    Heartbreakingly, we do not have a CAVA restaurant anywhere near my house. (Insert trombone.) I think the best way to describe CAVA is that it is essentially a Mediterranean-inspired Chipotle. You create a bowl, choosing your grains, greens, proteins, veggies, etc. While there were ingredients that did have wheat and dairy, there were plenty that did not. There was so much to choose from it made me happy! I ended up creating a lentil rice bowl with lime-tahini dressing and was, quite frankly, surprised how much I liked it.

    I had a bit of my bowl left over when I picked up Owen from school. He ended up stealing the rest of my lunch…I have never seen him inhale unidentified vegetables and grains that way! For the last week he has been begging me to recreate the bowl at home, so last night I gave it a go.

    Recipe for Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for Dinner, delicious and healthy dinner that makes great leftovers!

    This is my new favorite meal. It took some effort to get all the ingredients prepared, but the final dish was worth it. And now I have a fridge full of ingredients I can easily throw together for lunch or leftover dinner this week.

    Nutritious and delicious recipe for Lentil Rice Bowls with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for DInner

    I did include leftover rotisserie chicken in our bowls to use it up, but you could easily leave the meat out and the bowl would be just as delicious…and completely plant based! Yay for delicious vegan food! (Update: the last time Nate and I ate this, we decided it really truly does not need chicken. This bowl is hearty and filling and delicious without meat.)

    Animated GIF showing how to create a Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for Dinner

    I am going to list below exactly how I built our bowls. Obviously you can mix and match ingredients or come up with your own creation. The CAVA menu provides some pretty great cooking inspiration, click here to check it out. (CAVA also has locations in 9 states as well as Washington D.C. If you live near one, I highly recommend it. Go and enjoy it for me!)

    Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Brown Rice
    • Lentils (Green, Brown and/or Black)
    • Cooked chicken, bite-sized pieces (leave out to make this dish vegan)
    • Carrots, diced
    • Golden beets, diced
    • Cauliflower, bite-sized pieces
    • Super or Power Greens, chopped (I bought a mix from the grocery store produce section)
    • Broccoli Slaw (no dressing, again, I bought a mix from the grocery store produce section)
    • Hummus
    • Chimichurri sauce
    • 3 handfuls grape tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 cucumber, chopped
    • Olive oil
    • 3 limes
    • ⅓ cup tahini (stir well before using)
    • ⅓ cup water
    • 1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a garlic press
    • ¾ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    Instructions
    1. Combine the juice from 2½ limes, tahini, water, garlic, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside.
    2. Roast carrots, beets and cauliflower together in a 425º F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with salt before roasting.
    3. Cook brown rice and lentils as directed on the package.
    4. Put tomatoes and cucumbers in a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil and squeeze the juice from the final ½ lime you haven't yet used. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
    5. In a bowl, layer the ingredients as follows: brown rice, lentils, chicken (if using), roasted vegetables, greens, slaw, spoonful of hummus, spoonful or two of chimichurri sauce, cucumber-tomato mixture. Drizzle generously with the tahnini dressing, mix all together and enjoy!
    6. Tip: I mixed and prepared all the individual ingredients in the containers that I would be storing them in the refrigerator in after dinner was done. It made clean-up much easier!

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    EQUIPMENT I USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE: