Category Archives: Winter

chocolate energy bars, 2 ways: coconut mocha & chocolate, peanut butter + sea salt

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When I first changed my diet fairly drastically by removing gluten and then dairy, I did so with a totalitarian “whole foods only” frame of my mind. It was back in 2012, sort of at the onset of the gluten-free fad, when all sorts of new gluten-free processed foods were really starting to become mainstream. If I were going to be eating almost vegan and free of “normal flours,” I thought, I was going to do it all the way. I did not purchase or try gluten-free baked goods or vegan cheese.  If the ingredient wasn’t in basically the same form I could find it in nature, it wasn’t something I ate.

But there was also a double standard because I was really into baking then and still had a strong taste for sugar, so there were exceptions. Namely, I went through a phase of being obsessed with figuring out how to bake bread, pizza crust, desserts, etc. free of gluten and then dairy as well. Even though I don’t bake a lot anymore, and my flour cupboard generally gets much less use than ever before, I’m thankful for that baking phase because when I want it now, I have some really good staple recipes to draw from and the basic science of whole grain gluten-free and vegan baking down.

 

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These days, I’ve ventured into a way of eating that is a little less rigid than it was then–or perhaps it’s rigid in a different way and I can’t quite see it. In any case, I’m okay with a little more processing making its way into my recipes and meals. I began that because I recognized rigidity and eating perfectly is a hallmark of my disordered eating behavior. So recognizing that and doing something about it is why I started eating tofu and tempeh on an occasional basis. It’s why I nearly always have nutritional yeast in the pantry now, though I don’t use it super often. It’s why I made myself a big batch of Valentine’s cookies that were exactly what I wanted and then proceeded to eat the entire batch over the next two weeks, each day asking myself if I actually wanted a cookie, or perhaps many cookies, and each day eating exactly how many I was desiring. It’s also why I began to warm a little more to the idea of protein powder.

It turns out too that I might actually need more protein in my diet. Despite the general consensus (in the plant-based nutrition community anyway) that almost no one in the US actually needs more protein, I’m one of the few that might actually gain from eating more of it–for a couple of different reasons that have nothing to do with generally avoiding animal products but still add up to: providing our bodies with the right amount and types of foods is personal, and definitely not a constant. Adding more protein to my diet, strategically, is a current experiment I’m running. I’m not entirely sure it is necessary or will have the effects I’m looking for. But the protein powder is an easy way for me to adjust my eating patterns without making a drastic dietary overhaul.

 

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I want to mention too, I’m sharing these bars purposefully during #NEDAwareness week. If you aren’t familiar with NEDA, it is the National Eating Disorders Association and February 26-March 3rd is a week of increased advocacy about eating disorder recovery and awareness. If you’ve been visiting this space for some time or have read my About section, you’ll know I struggled with the eating side of that equation for several years, sometimes still do, and have since been doing much of the mental side of recovery more recently. Probably similar to many who have struggled with disordered eating behavior, I did not have much in the way of emotional support in the early years following reaching a restored weight. In fact, I often received, and still do to some extent, a lot of push-back about coming to a way of eating that works for me, and there were many individuals who really pushed me into stressful situations around food, for the sheer fact that they were completely unaware of my history or that struggling with food is about much more than a desire/dislike for eating too little or too much. And it is the part that tends to linger on. Often quite invisibly.

NEDA’s theme this year is It’s Time to Talk About It. As NEDA has stated:
It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care.

I couldn’t agree more. In the interest of keeping it really real for just a moment more, a few of you know I started writing even a little more personally about my continued recovery process in this last year. My general theme has been using that space as an online journal to completely lay out what I’m working with because writing and releasing it beyond me is immensely helpful. It has been the most intensely scary and sometimes challenging writing I’ve done. It has made me feel incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of the beliefs and views I hold on to. But acknowledging those challenging feelings has helped me to release and slowly grow beyond them as well. This is all to say, feel free to catch up with me there. And if you find that you, or someone you care for, is struggling with what might be an eating disorder, please reach out to someone. It ended up making all the difference for me.    

 

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Now, I’m sharing these energy bars because I think of them as my recovery snacks. I tend to eat granola/energy bars in the mid-mornings or mid-afternoons on a fairly regular basis and generally I make my own. I designed these with the idea of eating them after a run to kickstart the recovery process when a larger meal isn’t coming super soon. So they have more of the suggested endurance recovery carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3 or 4:1. But I also find I can handle a portion of a bar 30-45 minutes before a hard effort too with no problems. And because of the slightly higher protein content, I also have been using them whenever I just need a snack in general since they are a slightly better option right now than my old stand-by of mesa sunrise and almond milk.

I recognize these are specialty bars, designed for a specific person and purpose. But if you like the idea of a Coconut Mocha or Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar that is delicious and nutritious, these might be for you too. If you’re not overly concerned about needing more protein, there are options for alternatives as well.

 

Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Bars, makes 8
1/2 cup (100 g) peanut butter
6 (100 g) pitted Medjool dates
6 Tbs. (50 g) hemp protein powder*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. (10 ml) raw honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups (50 g) crispy rice cereal, gluten-free if necessary
2 Tbs. +2 tsp. (40 ml) water
1 square (10 g) dark chocolate, broken into chunks
additional sea salt for topping

  • Puree the peanut butter, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and honey in a food processor until completely combined.
  • Add cereal and 2 Tbs. water and pulse a few times more until it just comes together. Add a little more water as needed. Then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Then, sprinkle with a few shakes of additional sea salt, and gently press in. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and then cut into individual bars, store, and eat as needed. They will last in the fridge for at least two weeks with no change in texture/consistency.

Coconut Mocha Bars, makes 8
1/4 cup (50 g) cashew butter
2 Tbs. (10 g) coffee beans, finely ground
1/4 cup (30 g) shredded unsweetened coconut
6 (100 g) pitted Medjool dates
6 Tbs. (50 g) hemp protein powder*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. (5 ml) coconut oil
1 Tbs. (15 ml) maple syrup
2 cups (65 g) crispy rice cereal, gluten-free if necessary
2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. (40 ml) water
2 squares (20 g) dark chocolate, broken into chunks

  • Puree the cashew butter, ground coffee beans, coconut, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, coconut oil, and syrup in a food processor until completely combined.
  • Then add the cereal and 2 Tbs. water as needed. It should come together easily when you pinch the ingredients with your fingers. Add a little more water if needed.
  • Then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cutting, storing or eating.

*Notes: For a hemp protein alternative, try another plain plant protein powder such as pea or rice, or use the same quantity (by weight) of hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.


lentil tacos, a memory

 

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As an undergraduate living in a house with three other friends, we often cooked and ate meals together. Often, that meant I cooked and shared a lot. Many of the recipes were a little too inventive, had mishaps, or were otherwise freely critiqued with a good dose of humor all around.

 

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One such meal happened to be lentil tacos. I long-ago picked up the recipe from Runner’s World, back when they had a fairly elaborate recipe database on their site. The tacos were good but they were also what I deemed gringo-hippy tacos with their reliance on all the common gringo taco accompaniments, shredded cheese, lettuce, flour tortillas, etc. And the filling. It had not only lentils but also raisins, and they both finished simmering in salsa. Not exactly authentic or normal. Exactly the type of thing I would make. And still do.

The particular day I made these at that house, my roommate had a friend over who stayed for dinner. She was/is a good friend from childhood, a friend I had grown up eating countless authentic tacos with in our hometown. He was not only from Mexico, but also knew food. I was so embarrassed. I would never intentionally serve my hippy tacos to someone who knows tacos. (I had by then switched over to corn tortillas and dropped the gringo accompaniments). But still.

We all dived in and the lentil filling was met with overwhelming approval. And then I mostly forgot about the recipe, only making it a handful of times in the years since.

 

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In my hometown again over Christmas, my friend brought up that memory and asked for the recipe. Really? That’s just an old Runner’s World recipe. But when I looked, it was gone from the site. Good thing I had printed and held on to it, as I did then for all the really good recipes. So here it is, slightly adapted from the original, still in all its inauthentic-ness.

We served them this time over locally made corn tortillas and topped off with shredded carrots, diced red cabbage, and kohlrabi matchsticks, because they’re in season and were already on hand. That tends to be how we eat tacos.

 

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Lentil Tacos, serves 4-6
The Recipe Redux theme this month is Taco Tuesday and we were challenged to share our healthy, creative take on tacos. What is yours? I’d love to know how you enjoy them!

Lentils:
1 Tbs. coconut or other high heat oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, small diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-3 tsp. chili powder, start with less and build the heat level as desired
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup green or brown lentils
2 Tbs. raisins
2-3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup salsa, your choice of heat (or plain canned tomatoes and more spices)
salt and pepper, as needed

Suggested Toppings:
shredded cabbage or greens
shredded carrots
kohlrabi, matchsticks or shredded
corn tortillas, warmed
additional salsa or other

  • In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and celery and cook for five minutes until beginning to be soft. Add the garlic, stir and cook for about a minute longer.
  • Then add the spices, lentils, and raisins. Give them all a good stir to incorporate the spices well and then add 2 cups of the broth or water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Stir once or twice throughout and add more liquid if needed.
  • Stir in the salsa and cook for 5-10 minutes more. Then taste and add salt, pepper and additional spices to taste.
  • Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients, and spoon the filling and toppings atop warmed tortillas.

 

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sesame garlic tofu + rice bowl with pickled ginger

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William and I met up with a friend for dinner a few weeks back in the middle of our travels home after Christmas. He and I have been together for seven plus years now and that dinner happened to be the first (and so far only) time we’ve ever ordered exactly the same thing at a meal out.

I just about hyperventilated as he ordered the exact same sesame garlic tofu bowl with pickled ginger and seasonal vegetables. To make a quick summary of what I’ve been learning from observing William’s eating patterns throughout the years, behavior and food preferences change. For most of us, it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. This meal is an example of that. When we met, there was no way William was going to pick a tofu and vegetable bowl off an ample and varied menu, but he would have picked something with Asian flavors.

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This recipe is my contribution to The Recipe Redux theme for this month, to create and share a budget-friendly meal. I’ve spoken about my experiences with creating meals out of resourcefulness in the past and so I won’t go into specifics again here. I tend to think I eat budget meals most days but that is also a matter of perspective, since the majority of our at-home food spending goes to fruit, and during the winter season, vegetables from local farms. I also have access to several co-ops/natural food stores where I can source nearly all my ingredients save produce in bulk–including the sesame oil, tamari, rice, and vinegar featured here. I know this is not an option for many, but if there are two tips I can share, purchase from the bulk bins when you can and be resourceful; think of recipes as a template and be courageous enough to make substitutions depending on what’s on hand.

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Since we’re talking budget meals, below are a handful of recipes I’ve created over the years that are also friendly for frugal eating in this winter season:

Beans + Rice with Turmeric Special Sauce
Mejadra with Swiss Chard + Tahini
Polenta with Lemon-Garlic Raab + Chickpeas
All-the-Greens Interchangeable Pesto
Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles
Black Bean + Vegetable Grain Bowl

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Sesame Garlic Tofu + Rice Bowl with Pickled Ginger and Gomasio, serves 4
You’ll notice this is a meal of many components. I said it’s budget-friendly but I didn’t say it is super quick! :)  You can purchase the pickled ginger and gomasio rather than make them, or even leave them out, to simplify and speed things up. If you do choose to make them, the pickled ginger will need to be made ahead so it can “pickle” for a couple days. Both it and the gomasio make big batches for many future uses. Also, definitely use any vegetables of choice. I went out to harvest the last of my carrots (the vibrant purple ones!) and found a couple little salad turnips remaining so I tossed those in the mix as well. 

Sesame Garlic Tofu
1 16-oz. package firm tofu
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbs. apple cider or brown rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs. reduced sodium tamari

  • Begin by cutting the tofu in half through it’s width, so you have two rectangles. Then wrap in paper towel and press between two cutting boards for at least 30 minutes. Remove the towels, and cut into pieces.
  • Stir together the remaining ingredients in a large container with a lid and add the pressed tofu. Stir or close the lid and shake briefly. Then, allow the tofu to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or longer.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  • When the tofu is ready to be baked, remove it from its container onto the parchment. Reserve the marinade because you’ll use it for the vegetables.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are beginning to get nice and crispy, turning halfway through.

Pickled Ginger, makes 1 small jar
1 large hand fresh ginger
2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water

  • Peel the ginger and thinly slice with a sharp knife or on a mandolin.
  • Then combine the ginger and salt in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Add the ginger to a small jar and pack it tightly.
  • Make the pickling brine by combining the vinegar and water and then pour it over the ginger, filling the jar to within 1/2 inch of the top.
  • Gently tap the jar against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles, then seal it tightly.
  • Let the jar cool to room temperature and then store the pickles in the refrigerator; they will improve their flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open.
  • They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Gomasio
1 cup sesame seeds
2 tsp. sea salt

  • Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside to cool and toss with 1 teaspoon of the salt.
  • Put 1/3 cup of the seeds into a food processor and process until broken down into a powder. Remove and put into a jar or other container, add the remaining whole seeds and remaining salt and mix together.
  • Use by the spoonful to top finished dishes and store the extra in the fridge. It will keep for many weeks!

Other bowl components
4 cups cooked long-grain or basmati brown rice
4-6 cups seasonal vegetables of choice, diced (I chose carrots, broccoli, and turnips)

To bring the bowl together:

  • When the tofu and rice are nearly done, add the diced vegetables to a steamer basket in a large pan filled with water. Steam until they’re nearly soft but still have a little bit of a bite.
  • Then, remove the steamer basket, drain the water from the pan, and add in the reserved tofu marinade, along with a little extra sesame oil, if needed. Turn the pan up to medium-high and sear-sauté the vegetables in the marinade until just done.
  • For each bowl, arrange cooked rice, tofu, vegetables along with the pickled ginger, and top with the gomasio.

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