Thursday, December 20, 2012

Five Tips To Make Christmas Dinner Less Stressful

Merry Christmas!

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Entertaining Can Be Stressful
We tend to do a lot of entertaining during the holidays and we want it to be perfect. So it can get a little stressful some times, especially when we invite people over who have different diets and food preferences. 
Here are a few tips that will reduce your stress and help you pull off that perfect dinner!

#1 Ask Ahead
Before you even think about a menu, ask all of your guests if they have any food allergies, dietary restrictions or strong preferences. The most common issues are people allergic to dairy, wheat and nuts. You should also inquire to see if any of your guests are vegan or vegetarian. It can be very embarrassing to have guests show up and not be able to enjoy the wonderful meal that you have prepared.

#2 Familiar Recipes
When planning the meal, especially the  main course or the desserts, stick with dishes you know or at least have successfully made once before. Christmas dinner is no time to make something tricky for the first time. Experimenting with a side dish or appetizer is no big deal but don't try to cook the majority of the meal out of a brand new cookbook.

#3 Make Ahead
Make as many dishes as possible ahead of time. Some things can even be made the day before. If the entire dish cannot be made in advance, at least have all the veggies chopped or the sauce prepared. Doing everything in the hours before the party can make you too exhausted to enjoy yourself and you want to do as little as possible after people arrive so you can mingle with your guests.

#4 Don't Do It All Yourself
If guests offer to bring a dish (especially those with dietary restrictions), say YES! Preparing a multi course meal is difficult (and expensive) so if someone offers to bring a salad or a dessert, take them up on it. Just give them some guidance as to the dietary restrictions of the other guests. Even having someone pick up a bag of ice could save you a last minute trip to the store. 
And when the dinner is over, if your guests graciously want to carry the dishes over to the sink or even put them in the dishwasher, let them help. 

#5 Write Down the Menu 
I know I've mentioned this before but this is the most important thing I do when preparing a big dinner. Write down the menu on a piece of paper. 
Even if you have all the dishes prepared and and just need to heat them or take them out of the refrigerator, there is a fair chance that you could forget something.
There is a lot going on after the guests arrive - not to mention you may have enjoyed a glass or two of wine. By having the menu written down, there will be less of a chance of finding the green beans still on the stove the next morning or those special olives you bought still in the container in the refrigerator.  

I hope these tips help you enjoy your holiday dinner a little bit more!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Paella - Perfect For Christmas Dinner! Vegan and Gluten Free

Vegetable paella is a colorful and festive dish
Perfect for Christmas and holidays

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Christmas Dinner
My son and his wife requested that we have a Spanish theme for this year's Christmas dinner. So this week I dusted off my 18" paella pan and did some experimenting.
Paella is very colorful and festive looking, especially when it's full of red and green vegetables! It's perfect for all guests as it is vegan and gluten free. 

This is my version of Paella. Being from an Italian family, the most difficult thing for me is to let the rice cook without stirring it as I would be constantly doing were I making risotto. I use arborio rice here although the proper paella rice is called "bomba". Arborio is more readily available and works just fine.
The proper pan to use is, of course, a paella pan. It's important that you have a big enough stove top to heat the large paella pan evenly. It took part of 3 burners to heat my large 18" pan.

Traditionally the vegetables are cooked in oil in the paella pan and then removed until later. I roast the vegetables in the oven instead as it uses a bit less oil and I prefer the flavor and texture of the roasted vegetables.

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Roasted Vegetable Paella
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 6 to 8 servings]
Requires large roasting pan and large paella pan (~18")

For the roasted vegetables
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced 
1/2 pound asparagus, cleaned, bottom part of stem removed
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms separated into pieces
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the paella
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 C arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
6 to 8 ounces frozen artichokes, thawed and rinsed (I used Trader Joe's)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
Place peppers, asparagus and mushrooms in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper and mix until well coated. 
Roast for 7 minutes. Stir and roast until lightly brown, another 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set aside.


Before roasting
After roasting

Heat broth in a small saucepan and keep warm. Crumble the saffron threads while adding them into the broth. Salt and pepper to taste. If you are using  bouillon cubes for your broth, they may already contain adequate salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the paella pan. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. 
Add garlic and cook another minute, until fragrant.


Cook onions and garlic

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until they are dry.This combination of onion, garlic and tomatoes is called the sofrito.


Add tomatoes
Cook until thick and dry
This is called the "sofrito"

Add the rice to the sofrito. Stir well until combined. Cook on medium high heat, stirring continually, until the rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. 

Add the white wine to the rice and cook, stirring continually, until it is absorbed.


Add rice and then wine.

Add hot broth to the rice and stir in the peas. Bring the stock to a boil.
Do not stir the rice again after the broth is boiling.


Add broth and peas

Arrange thawed artichoke hearts and roasted peppers, asparagus and mushrooms over the rice. 


Place vegetables over the rice 

Cook uncovered on medium high heat. Move the pan over several burners and rotate occasionally to make sure it is cooking the rice evenly.
Cook until the rice begins to appear above the liquid, about 8 to 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover with foil until the rice is cooked, another 8 minutes.


Rice begins to appear above liquid - reduce heat
Cover with foil

If the rice is dry and still a bit hard, add another 1/2 cup of broth or water and cook until done, another 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat with the cover on and let rest for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.




Per serving (6): 390 calories, 5 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 84 mg omega-3 and 674 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 g protein, 70 g carbohydrates, 7 g dietary fiber and 275 mg sodium (plus whatever additional salt is added to taste). 

Per serving (8): 293 calories, 4 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 63 mg omega-3 and 506 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 52 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber and 206 mg sodium (plus whatever additional salt is added to taste). 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Vegan Chia Seed Kheer - Dairy And Gluten Free!

Vegan Kheer made with chia seeds.
Each serving provides over 1 g of omega-3 and 4 g of fiber!

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Kheer
My absolute favorite way to finish an Indian meal is to eat kheer, a rice pudding flavored with cardamom, saffron and garnished with nuts and raisins. But kheer is made with dairy, which I can no longer tolerate. White rice is also featured in traditional kheer, which doesn't add much nutritional value. I wanted to create a healthy version of this wonderful dish that I can enjoy and feel good about eating. I think I did it!

This recipe uses chia seeds and cashew milk to create the creamy pudding. Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of fiber and calcium. Dates and a little stevia are used to naturally sweeten this dessert without using processed sugar. Feel free to adjust the amount of cardamom and saffron to suit your taste . 

Serve with Vegan Saag Aloo or any of your favorite Indian food recipes.

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Chia Seed Kheer
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free, Suitable for a Raw Food Cleanse
[makes six (1/2-cup) servings]
Requires high speed blender
Allow 1 1/2 days for soaking and thickening

1/2 cup raw cashews
Water to soak cashews
3 medjool dates
2 1/4 cups water
pinch saffron threads
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or to taste)
2 packets stevia powder
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoon slightly crushed pistachios
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons seedless raisins

Soak the cashews in water for 6 hours or overnight.
In a separate bowl, soak the dates in 2 1/4 cups of water with a pinch of saffron for 6 hours or overnight. 

Soak cashews
Soak dates and saffron threads in water 

Drain the cashews and rinse. Place them in a high speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec. 
Place the dates and all of their soak water with saffron threads in the blender.
Add vanilla, cardamom and stevia and process until it forms a smooth cashew milk. 
Taste the cashew milk and add additional cardamom or stevia if desired.

Process to make sweetened cashew milk

Pour the cashew milk in a 1-quart container and stir in the chia seeds. Stir vigorously with a fork for 1 minute.

Let the mixture sit for another 15 minutes and stir again until the chia seeds are well blended and separated. 

Keep stirring until chia seeds are separated

Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the chia seeds to absorb the cashew milk and the pudding to thicken.

To serve, place pudding in small bowls and top with pistachios, almonds and raisins.

Top with nuts and raisins and serve!

Per serving: 155 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1.1 g omega-3 and 1.7 g omega-6 fatty acids, 4 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber and 3 mg of sodium.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Enjoy Persimmons, Oranges And Pears In A Simple Smoothie Or Fruit Salad

Persimmon, orange & pear smoothie - deliciously high in fiber!

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Persimmons
I really love persimmons - all kinds. The Fuyu persimmons that are meant to be eaten like an apple - crisp and firm and the Hachiya persimmons that must be very soft and ripe before eating. Both are high in vitamins A and C as well as manganese. 

The hachiya persimmon is tall and long (on left). Eat when soft.
The fuyu is short and squatty (on right). Eat when firm & crisp.

Importance of Autumn and Winter Fruit
Fruit not only plays a critical role in providing vitamin C, but also in providing dietary fiber. In colder months our consumption of raw foods naturally decreases and with it, many times, our intake of fiber. So eating high fiber fruits, such as persimmons and pears, becomes very important. Here are two simple recipes that incorporate pears, persimmons and oranges. both recipes are suitable for a raw food cleanse

Persimmon, pear and orange smoothie
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 2 servings]

1 orange, peeled, seeds removed and sliced
1 very ripe hachiya persimmon, peeled and sliced
1 large pear, quartered, seeds removed (leave skin on)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk*
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shaved ice
4 drops stevia or to taste
2 teaspoons cold-pressed flaxseed oil

Place all ingredients, except the flaxseed oil, in a blender and process until smooth. 
Add the flaxseed oil and process briefly until combined.
Serve immediately.

* For a raw smoothie, use home-made almond milk.

Per serving: 247 calories, 6.7 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 2.4 g omega-3 and 0.7 g omega-6 fatty acids**, 2.3 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 10.5 g dietary fiber and 93 mg of sodium.
** The amount of fatty acids does not include any contribution from the almond milk since that information is not provided from the manufacturer.


Fruit - a critical part of our diets in the autumn & winter months

Persimmon, pear and orange fruit salad 
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes four (2/3-cup) servings or two (1 1/3-cup) servings

1 or 2 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and diced
1 large orange, skin and seeds removed, diced
1 large pear, quartered, seeds removed, diced
1/4 cup raw English walnut pieces

Place all ingredients in a bowl and gently toss. Serve immediately.



Per small side serving (4): 126 calories, 5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 668 mg omega-3 and 2.8 g omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 4.6 g dietary fiber and 1 mg sodium.

Per large serving (2): 252 calories, 10 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1.3 g omega-3 and 5.6 g omega-6 fatty acids, 4 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber and 2 mg sodium.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Veggie And Soba (Buckwheat) Noodle Soup With Shiitake Mushrooms - Vegan And Gluten Free

Did you know that buckwheat noodles are gluten free?

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Buckwheat is Not Wheat!
Although "wheat" is in the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat.  Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum is not part of the cereal grain family but is from a broad leaf plant in the Polygonaceae family. Soba noodles, made from 100% buckwheat, are suitable for those on a gluten-free diet as long as they haven't been cross contaminated during processing.

I love the chewy texture of these noodles. I prefer them over Udon noodles and always have a package of them in the pantry. Soba noodles are low in fat and high in protein and contain all the essential amino acids. They also contain thiamin, folate niacin, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.


a 2 oz serving of buckwheat soba provides:
200 calories
1 g total fat
zero saturated fat and cholesterol
6 g protein
3 g dietary fiber
43 g carbohydrates

Time for Soup
It's getting cold and although one third of my diet still consists of raw fruits and vegetables, most of my diet, in the cold months, is cooked. I almost always have a pot of hot soup on the stove.
Here's a recipe that can stand alone with just the veggies, shiitake mushrooms and soba noodles but you can also add slices of tofu or the protein of your choice to make it even more hardy. 

You can make this meal using just 2 pots: a 3-quart saucepan to make the broth and a 5-quart soup pot.

Veggie and Soba Noodle Soup
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]

For the broth
Stems from 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms used in soup
8 cups water
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons gluten free, low sodium soy sauce
1 carrot, cut in large slices
1 or 2 stalks celery, cut in large slices
2 large slices of onion (top and bottom with skin)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger 

For the soup
4 cups small broccoli florets
8 ounce package of buckwheat soba noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3/4 cups thinly sliced onions
1 small red bell pepper, cleaned, quartered and sliced
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems reserved for broth, caps cut in half
1 1/2 cups peeled and sliced carrots
Strained broth from above
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 or more slices raw jalapeño
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Make the broth. Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and place them and all of the broth ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside. 


It's easy to make your own broth. This broth makes use of the mushroom stems and the top and bottom of the onion.

While the broth simmers, prepare the vegetables and noodles. 
Place a steamer basket in a 5-quart soup pot filled with 2 inches of water. Place the broccoli in the steamer  basket and cook, covered, on high heat until fork tender. Remove the broccoli from the pot immediately so that it doesn't overcook. Set aside. 


Cut the broccoli into very small florets.
Steam briefly until fork tender and remove from heat.

Remove the steamer basket from the pot and fill the soup pot with fresh water. Boil water and cook the soba noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them well as soba noodles can be quite starchy. Set them aside. Wipe out the soup pot with a towel to dry.

Heat the sesame oil in the soup pot and cook the onions on medium heat until they begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
Add the peppers, shiitake mushrooms and carrots and cook for another 4 minutes.


Cook the onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots.

Strain the broth and pour it into the soup pot along with the slices of jalapeño. Simmer until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt if desired.

Add the cooked broccoli and soba noodles to the soup pot and heat for several minutes until warm.

Divide into 4 soup bowls, top with fresh cilantro and serve.





Per serving: 316 calories, 5 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 51 mg omega-3 and 1.6 g omega-6 fatty acids, 11 g protein, 60 g carbohydrates, 8.3 g dietary fiber and 717 mg of sodium (with the additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt - 427 mg sodium without it).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vegan And Gluten Free Spaghetti And Not Meat Sauce - Made From Lentils And Spaghetti Squash Or Pasta

Lentils form the base for this meaty tomato sauce.
Spaghetti squash is a good gluten free alternative to pasta.

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Meat Sauce Alternative
When you simmer cooked lentils in a rich, seasoned tomato sauce they not only provide a meaty texture but they also deliver protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. 
Let's compare a cup of lentils to a 3 ounce serving of ground beef.



One cup of cooked lentils has the same number of calories as a 3 ounce serving of ground beef but has only 5% of the total fat and essentially no saturated fat or cholesterol.

They are pretty comparable in protein but lentils deliver more than half of your daily fiber requirement while ground beef provides zip. And don't fear lentils' carbs. They are the complex kind that keep your blood sugar stable and slowly provide glucose to your cells.

Lentils are packed with folate, a B vitamin critical for heart health, the production of new cells and especially important for pregnant women. While 1 cup of lentils provides 90% of your daily requirement of folate, ground meat only provides 3%. And while the non-heme iron found in lentils is not absorbed as well as the heme-iron in the ground beef, well - there's 3 times as much of it so not to worry!

Ground beef has the one advantage of providing vitamin B12 which lentils do not. 

Spaghetti
Spaghetti squash is a wonderful alternative to pasta when you are trying to avoid some carbs and calories. It's also naturally gluten free. It's magical the way the cooked flesh turns into spaghetti strands. But I love this lentil "meat" sauce on pasta too - either whole wheat or, if you are avoiding gluten, served on any gluten free alternative like Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti pasta.

Spaghetti and Not Meat Sauce
Vegan, Gluten Free (on spaghetti squash or gluten free pasta)
[makes 4 servings]

3 pound spaghetti squash*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 small green bell pepper, chopped 
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (or to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can drained lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 cups prepared tomato sauce

* or 8 ounces whole grain or gluten free spaghetti cooked according to manufacturers directions

Prepare the spaghetti squash. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and place in a large pot with one or two inches of water. Cover and steam until a fork barely penetrates the flesh, about 15 to 18 minutes. Don't overcook or it will turn to mush. Remove the spaghetti squash from the pot immediately. 


Cover and steam until cooked.

Using a fork, gently pull the squash away from the sides uncovering little spaghetti-like strands. Continue to do this until all the squash is removed. Place the spaghetti strands on a platter, cover to keep warm and set aside.


Form strands with a fork

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions and peppers at medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the chili flakes and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. 


Cook onions, pepper, garlic and chili flakes

Add the basil, oregano, lentils and salt and stir to combine.


Stir in lentils and seasoning

Add the tomato sauce and simmer until the flavors blend and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes or more. If you are using this topping on regular pasta, this would be a good time to cook the pasta.


Simmer until the flavors blend and the sauce thickens

Serve on top of spaghetti squash (pictured above) or stir together with whole wheat or gluten free pasta.

Not Meat sauce on top of whole wheat pasta

Per serving (on spaghetti squash): 293 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 201 mg omega-3 and 635 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 12 g protein, 52 g carbohydrates, 14.9 g dietary fiber and 1050 mg sodium*.

Per serving (on whole grain pasta): 390 calories, 5 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 93 mg omega-3 and 862 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 19 g protein, 74 g carbohydrates, 15.2 dietary fiber and 1002 g sodium"

* sodium can be reduced by using "no salt added" canned lentils or cooking your own lentils.




Monday, November 12, 2012

Wild Rice And Aduki Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash Topped With Low Sugar Orange-Cranberry Sauce, A Great Vegan And Gluten Free Entrée For The Holidays!

Stuffed acorn squash makes an attractive holiday entrée.

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Satisfying your Thanksgiving Guests 
Entertaining is far more complicated than it used to be. Besides people avoiding meat because of ethical or health reasons, far more people are passing on wheat, dairy, nuts, soy, etc. because of food allergies. If you are having a large holiday dinner for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas, I can almost guarantee you that one of your guests will have some kind of eating restriction or preference. 
Always ask your guests ahead of time if they have food preferences or allergies so that it doesn't come as a big surprise when they arrive at your house and say, "oh by the way, I don't eat .....". It's best to know beforehand so that you can prepare something special or even ask them to bring a dish to share. 
Here's a recipe that avoids meat and most allergens and is elegant enough for your holiday menu.

Aduki Beans
The aduki (also called azuki or adzuki) is the same bean used in red bean ice cream, commonly served in Japanese restaurants. It's a small and delicate red bean that is easier to digest than other beans with strengthening and balancing qualities. They are traditionally served at festive celebrations and are said to bring good fortune. 
I like buying them from Eden since they are organic and packed in BSP (bisphenol) free lined cans.

1/2 cup serving of Aduki beans provides:
110 calories
7 g protein
19 g carbohydrates
5 g fiber
Only 10 mg sodium
High in Iron, phosphorus, magnesium & folate
Aduki beans are small, delicate red beans.

Here's a low sugar cranberry sauce flavored with orange juice and orange zest that is a great topping for this stuffed acorn squash recipe. But it will complement any Thanksgiving meal. Make it earlier in the day so it has time to cool and thicken. Or, make it the day before and refrigerate after it cools at room temperature.

Low sugar orange-cranberry sauce
Vegan, gluten free
[makes 8 (1/4-cup) servings]

12 oz package of fresh cranberries, washed
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/3 cup Sucanat or other organic cane sugar
Liquid stevia to taste for added sweetness

Heat the orange juice, zest and sugar in a small saucepan stirring until the sugar dissolves. 

Add the cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook until all the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens (8 to 10 minutes).

Remove from the heat and add stevia a few drops at a time until it reaches the desired sweetness.  Don't add too much or it can become bitter. I usually add about 8 drops.

Let the cranberry sauce cool at room temperature. It will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator.


Per serving: 66 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 0 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates and 1.5 g dietary fiber and 1 mg sodium.


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Wild Rice and Aduki Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash
Vegan, gluten and lactose free
[makes 4 servings]

2 cups cooked brown and wild rice mixture
2 acorn squash, vertically cut in half, seeds removed
2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 can no salt added aduki beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons gluten free, low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup low sugar cranberry sauce (see recipe above)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Cook a mixture of wild and brown rice, according to manufacturers directions, enough to yield 2 cups of cooked rice. Meanwhile, cook acorn squash.


Cut acorn squash in half and place on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan. Cover with foil and bake until a fork easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour.



Cut acorn squash in half vertically
Cover with foil

While the squash is baking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan and cook the onions on medium heat until soft and slightly brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.


Add the beans, soy sauce, agave nectar and black pepper and cook for several minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.


When the squash halves are cooked, remove them from the oven. Scoop out about half of the squash leaving the shell and about 1/2 inch of squash. Chop the removed squash into small pieces.

Add chopped squash to the pan of beans. 



Mixture of beans, onions, squash and seasoning

Stir in the wild rice mixture. 


Stir in the cooked wild and brown rice

Stuff the squash with the bean and rice mixture and cover with foil. Place in the oven and bake until warm, about 15 to 20 minutes.


Cover with foil and bake until heated

Serve with a tablespoon or more of low sugar cranberry sauce. 
Enjoy!

Serve with cranberry sauce

Per serving: 369 calories, 3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 12 g protein, 76 g carbohydrates, 10.3 g fiber and 374 g sodium.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lactose Intolerant? Going Vegan? You'll Need A Substitute For Milk. Here's How To Select The Best Non-Dairy Milk Alternative!

What's the best milk for your morning breakfast cereal?

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You Might Be Lactose Intolerant
Do you get bloated or nauseous after eating dairy products or do you get gas pains or cramps in your abdomen? If so, you may lack lactase, an enzyme that is needed to properly digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. An astounding 65% of adults worldwide lose the ability to produce this enzyme after weaning. The problem varies greatly with ethnicity. About 20% of North American whites have this issue while three out of four African Americans and about 50% of Latinos are lactose intolerant. Given that the average American consumes over 600 pounds of dairy per year, there may be quite a few people walking around out there feeling lousy! I personally cannot eat dairy without getting severe stomach cramps. 
Vegans and those who are lactose intolerant continually search for delicious and nutritious dairy substitutes. And now it's easier than ever.

In Search of the Perfect Milk Substitute
Years ago, all non-dairy milk products came in little boxes that sat on the shelf, unrefrigerated. Those products are still available and are quite convenient when you want to store them in your pantry or pop them into your lunch box. But today there are many "fresh" non-dairy milk substitutes that are found in the refrigerated section of your supermarket and they are quite superior in taste.  Every week for the past month or so I bought a different brand. I have now tasted them all and analyzed them for their nutritional content. You may be quite surprised at what I found.

Almond Milk
I tried 2 brands of unsweetened almond milk, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze and Silk Pure Almond. What sets almond milk apart from the others is their very low calorie count, Silk Pure Almond being the lowest with only 30 calories a cup. Nutritionally they were both very highly fortified with calcium at 450 mg per cup and also contained 50% of the daily requirement of vitamin E. They were the only milk substitute that has zero grams of sugar.  Cow milk contains 12 to 13 grams of sugar per cup. Both almond milk brands contained more sodium than the other types of non-dairy milk, 150 mg to 180 mg per cup.
I found almond milk to be absolutely delicious.


Creamy and delicious
Very low in calories
More calcium than cow's milk
High in vitamin E
Highest in sodium
Make from Non-GMO almonds
Gluten free

You can also make your own raw almond milk very easily if you have a high speed blender. 

Soy Milk
I've tried both Silk and Earth Balance soy milk and they are both creamy and delicious. They are also a significant source of protein, providing 7 grams per cup, while the other non-dairy milks have 1g or less. This compares very favorably with cow's milk which provides 8 grams per cup and has the advantage of not having saturated fat or cholesterol. Some avoid soy products because they fear that they increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence but recent data shows that soy might, in fact, reduce the risk
Warning: Soy milk can give you some gas - after all, it's bean juice! Introduce it into your diet gradually.


Creamy and delicious
Very high in protein
Contains the same amount of calcium as cow's milk
Silk contains 320 mg of ALA Omega-3
Organic soy milk is made from non-GMO soybeans
Gluten free
I also make my own soy milk with a SoyaPower Plus.

Original Rice Dream

Vegans have been enjoying Rice Dream for years and now it's offered in the fresh, refrigerated version. It's thinner than some of the other milks but it is delicious. What surprises me the most about this product is that it's very high in calories (120 per cup) and contains a high amount of "natural" sugars (10 g per cup) - as no sweeteners are added. To compare, Silk Pure Almond contains 1/4th of the calories and zero grams of sugar.
So if you are watching your weight, this might not be your best option.


Thinner consistency but delicious
Higher in calories and natural sugars
Contains the same amount of calcium as cow's milk
Gluten free

Coconut Milk
So Delicious makes some wonderful ice creams, coconut creamers and other products so I was anxious to try their dairy free coconut milk. It's hard to believe this thick and creamy milk has only 45 calories. I actually found the milk to be too thick for my cereal although it's great in a smoothie. It also is high in saturated fat (4 grams per cup). There are some who think that saturated fats from coconuts are not only safe but provide health benefits. I'm not yet convinced of that and while I feel it is probably fine to enjoy this coconut milk beverage frequently, I probably wouldn't use it as my only source of non-dairy milk. That aside, I didn't actually enjoy it nearly as much as almond, soy or rice milk.


Low in calories
High in saturated fat
Very thick and creamy (almost too thick)
Contains 1/3rd the amount of calcium as cow's milk
Made from non-GMO coconuts
Gluten free



To Summarize
There are many wonderful dairy free, gluten free alternatives to cow's milk for those of you who are lactose intolerant, vegan or on a low cholesterol diet.
Calories
The lowest calorie products are almond milk and coconut milk. Silk PureAlmond Unsweetened almond milk has the lowest amount with only 30 calories per cup. The highest calories are from Rice Dream Enriched Refrigerated Original. Soy milk contains about the same as skim dairy milk. 
Fat
All of the non-dairy products contain a modest amount of total fat ranging from 2.5 grams to 4.5 grams per cup. All, except So Delicious Coconut milk, contain insignificant amounts of saturated fat. So Delicious Coconut milk contains 4 grams of saturated fat per cup. To compare, whole dairy milk contains 8 grams of total fat and 5 grams of saturated fat. Skim milk contains neither.
Calcium
There seems to be a race among our food providers to see who can load us down with the most calcium. I worry about that because I fear that people are taking too many calcium supplements .  If your doctor has you taking 1,000 mg of calcium supplements a day and then you drink 2 cups of Almond Breeze, you just got another 900 mg of calcium. And that's not counting the calcium you are getting from tofu, greens, fortified orange juice, etc. So be aware of what you are consuming from all sources. 
Also, you should note that for the optimal absorption of calcium, you need to consume magnesium at about a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. Fortified foods, such as these milk products, add lots of calcium but don't add much magnesium. 
Sugar
Dairy milk has lots of sugar (12 to 13 grams per cup) - that's why people are lactose intolerant - they can't digest the lactose sugar. Except for the Original Rice Dream, all the non-dairy milk alternatives are very low in sugar with 1 gram or less per cup. Rice dream contains a whopping 10 grams per cup. 
Protein
If you need a good source of protein, soy milk provides 7 grams per cup, nearly as much as dairy milk. The others tested do not provide a significant amount of protein.
Sodium
All dairy and non-dairy milks have about 80 to 120 plus mg of sodium per cup except for So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage which only has 15 mg. 

Of course at the end of the day you have to love the taste of the product and that is something you have to determine for yourself. (I guarantee you that all of these will beat the taste of non-fat, skim milk!). You also will have to pick one that satisfies your dietary needs. I hope this paper helps you in the search for YOUR perfect non-dairy milk alternative!