Helping to get more plant foods into your bite at a time

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cut out the middle-animal
Very often I hear or read that we should eat salmon for its Omega 3 fats, eat eggs for their lutein content, or consume milk for its calcium.  Sounds like good advice, until you learn a few things...

Most of the health benefits that animal products contain are there because those animals consumed plants.  It's the plants that contain antioxidants, fiber and other health benefits - not the animal products.  So why not just eat the plants and get your fiber, nutrients and antioxidants directly from the source?  At the same time you eliminate the components of animal-based foods that negate the health benefits of the plant-derived ingredients they contain.  

Here are a few things to know:

1. The Omega 3 fats in salmon and other fatty fish is only there because the fish eat micro-algae.  It's the micro-algae that contain the healthy fats we should all be consuming.  The lovely pink color of salmon, trout and some other animals comes from astaxanthin - a carotenoid found in micro-algae.  However, most salmon sold today is not wild-salmon - it's farm-raised.  And since these farm-raised fish aren't eating micro-algae, they won't appear pink.  So fish farmers supplement their feed with a petro-chemically derived source of astaxanthin.  Yuck!  What can you do?  You can cut out the middle-fish and just eat the micro-algae.  Taking a vegan DHA supplement is a simple solution.   You can also eat sea vegetables (macro-algae) for their Omega-3 content.

2.  Chickens' eggs contain the antioxidant lutein.  Chickens that have been allowed to forage for their food in the wild consume the lutein from eating plant foods.  The eggs you may buy in the supermarket have yolks that are bright yellow because the chicken feed is supplemented with lutein.  If you were to search for good food sources of lutein, you will often find eggs at the top of the list.   But factory farmed chicken eggs contain lutein because it's put there.  It's put in the feed the chickens eat.  Along with the artificially supplied lutein, eggs also contain saturated fat and cholesterol.   If you get your lutein from leafy greens - spinach, kale, broccoli, etc., you get all the benefits of the lutein (along with lots of other antioxidants and phytochemicals) without the bad stuff.  What can you do?  Eat your greens.

3.  Milk - It's NOT what's good for you.  There are plenty of reasons not to drink milk derived from animals.  For now I just want to address the calcium content of milk that the dairy industry and many nutritionists tout to get us to drink it.  In nature cows that are allowed to graze on grass do produce milk that contains calcium.  But most milk produced today comes from cows that are fed grains.  The milk from these cows contains calcium because....guess why??? Because it's put there.  The cows' feed is supplemented with calcium.  That's why it's there.  Even if you are drinking milk from cows that have been able to eat grass, the calcium in their milk is there because of the PLANTS that they consumed.  What can you do?  Eat your greens and/or take a calcium supplement.
What I want you to get out of this post is that if you just eat the plants and cut out the animal in the middle, you get all the benefits of the plant food, none of the health risks associated with eating animal-based foods, you benefit the environment and, of course, reduce animal suffering.  And that makes us all feel better.

Inspiration for this blog from a podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks.
4:55 pm est

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies
With two feet of snow on the ground this past Sunday, there wasn't much to do except either clean or bake cookies for Christmas.  Guess which one won out?  You guessed it!  It was a no-brainer.  No silly...not the cleaning...the cookies!!! 

I rarely bake, but when I do I bake without eggs, dairy or refined sugar.  Eggs and dairy are used in recipes to either bind ingredients together, to moisten or to leaven - all of which don't require animal products.  You can easily provide these qualities using other ingredients - such as soy or rice milk, egg replacer, baking powder and vinegar, banana, silken tofu, apple sauce, and a few others.  Not only will you not miss the eggs and dairy, you won't miss the saturated fat and cholesterol.  You'll be healthier for it, and the environment and the animals will thank you.

But what about sugar?  Well of course, I don't recommend eating sweets on a regular basis no matter what sugar substitute you use.  But IF you're going to make a dessert for a special occasion, then this is the time to use more natural sweeteners. 

My favorite all around natural sweetener is brown rice syrup.  But you can also try date sugar, barley malt, stevia, maple syrup and several other natural sweeteners.

I made four different cookie recipes on Sunday.  All the recipes I used were by my favorite chef - Christina Perillo.  Here's my favorite cookie recipe from her cookbook "Christina Cooks - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Whole Foods but Were Afraid to Ask". 

Sheila's Lacy Wafers

1/4 cup avocado or light olive oil
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup barley malt
1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup uncooked quick rolled oats
1/4 cup very finely chopped almonds or walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract

chocolate filling
1 cup non-dairy, grain-sweetened chocolate chips
2 teaspoons Suzanne’s Specialties Chocolate Rice Nectar
1/4 cup Pearl Creamy Vanilla Soymilk

Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place oil, rice syrup and barley malt in a small saucepan over low heat and cook,
stirring, until loose. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in flour until smooth. Fold in oats, nuts and extract, mixing well.

Drop batter, by 1/4-teaspoonfuls onto lined sheet, allowing 2 inches in between to allow for spreading. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on sheet for 1 minute. Carefully peel cookies from parchment and set aside to cool.

Prepare the filling by placing chocolate chips in a heat-resistant bowl. Bring rice syrup and soymilk to a rolling boil over high heat. Pour over chocolate and whisk until shiny and smooth.

Pair similar sized cookies to make wafers. Spread the flat side of one cookie with chocolate and press its partner, flat side to chocolate, making a sandwich. Place on parchment to allow chocolate to set. Repeat with remaining cookies and chocolate. Makes 30-40 filled cookies.

5:00 pm est

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Christine Scalfo

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