Veganoogle Search


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Start Your Summer Morning with a Cleansing Ayurvedic Breakfast

I'm pretty certain that I've written about ayurveda before - the 5,000 year old ancient healing system from India. Basically, there are 3 mind-body types called doshas. Today's recipe helps to balance excess kapha dosha - when you might feel bloated, congested, sluggish, depressed, stubborn, and clingy. The recipe comes from a great ayurvedic resource, Joyful Belly. The site allows you to design your own ayurvedic diet based on your mind-body needs, and it provides recipes appropriate for your diet.

Here is my version of the recipe:
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp. raw honey
  • 1 tsp. cold-pressed flax oil (also beneficial for kapha - less congesting than other oils)
  • 1/8 tsp. cardamom powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger powder
I just sliced the grapefruit into flat rounds, then sprinkled the remaining ingredients on top. Then I cut the grapefruit into smaller pieces, tossing the pieces to spread everything evenly. Don't forget to drink the bit of spiced grapefruit juice that's left in your's delicious and refreshing!

Although this breakfast seems light, it's actually quite filling. Grapefruit is a great way to boost your metabolism in the morning. However, if you take any prescription medications please research the food-drug interactions! Grapefruit may interfere with certain drugs, leading to toxic side effects.

While ginger is well-known for its digestive properties, I was curious to learn more about cardamom. I found that cardamom also has an impressive array of benefits

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Homemade Nondairy "Milks"

Sorry for the super-long hiatus! Quick update: I finished my graduate degree in nutrition and didactic program in dietetics at CUNY Hunter College! I was also accepted into the dietetic internship program at Stony Brook University. Phew...what a HUGE relief! I start orientation for the internship after labor day, and then begin rotations after that. During the internship, I'll rotate sites every couple of weeks...clinical nutrition (inpatient, outpatient, long-term care), food service, public health nutrition, research, and an elective rotation. Once I complete the 10-month program, I can sit for the RD exam to become a registered dietitian (hopefully by this time next year)!

As a vegan RD-in-training, I don't advocate nondairy alternatives to milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc. While they are appropriate in moderation when transitioning from animal foods to a plant-based diet, I find that they contain too many food additives (and cost too much)! For example, carageenan is found in most nondairy milk alternatives. It is used as thickening and stabilizing agent - think vegan gelatin alternative. Although carageenan  is a natural seaweed extract, it has raised some recent health concerns. It has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease and tumor promotion. If you simply can't give up some of your favorite products, don't despair! Head to The Cornucopia Institute for a shopping guide of carageenen-free foods.

If you would like to ditch the boxed nondairy milks altogether, homemade "milks" can be fast, easy, and cheap. Most recipes for nondairy milks will require you to blend the ingredients, then strain using a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or even a new pair of pantyhose. This process takes longer, and you end up losing the "pulp" (which contains fiber and additional nutrients). If you're creative you can use the pulp in other recipes (like cookies, crackers, etc). This method also yields a super smooth milk (for those of you who like to drink a nice cold glass of milk on its own).

If you generally use your nondairy milk in cereal, baking, etc., and don't mind a bit of texture, then my method is for you! Here's the very general recipe:
  • 1/4 cup nuts/seeds (ideally soaked for a few hours beforehand - this softens them and makes them more digestible)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 date (soaked to soften) OR sweetener to taste (pure maple syrup, raw honey, agave, stevia)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
  • optional additions: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cocoa powder, carob powder
Blend until smooth! It may take a few minutes of blending to break up the nuts/seeds and dates. Keep in mind that you will still have particles (good fiber!)...just shake before use. This only makes about 1.5 cups. It's best to make a small amount at a time to keep it fresh. Homemade milks should only be kept about 3 days in the refrigerator.

I've experimented with many different milks...almond, brazil nut, sesame, hemp. Last night I was inspired by this recipe and tried flax milk. I ground the whole flax seeds first using my blender with the grinder blade attached to get them as fine as possible. Then I added the liquid and other ingredients. Besides being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, flax is a great source of soluble fiber. Like oats and chia seeds, the soluble fiber in flax allows it to form a gel when placed in water. I liked the thick and creamy quality that the soluble fiber gave to my flax milk. I also added a tablespoon of cocoa powder to make it chocolate flax milk!

If you're really in a pinch or don't have nuts/seeds on hand, you can make "cheater's" nut milk: just blend about 2 tbs. nut butter with 1 cup water and sweetener/flavorings of choice. I do this with almond butter to make milk for baking recipes or cereal.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Smoothies

Sorry to keep you folks waiting all summer. I was busy working, cooking, and starting my mornings with sun salutations outside in the summer sun! Another thing that gets my morning going? Smoothies! My smoothies go beyond your basic strawberry banana or chocolate banana (although I do love adding bananas to them!) These smoothies are a complete meal in themselves, and they have a secret ingredient....veggies!
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and lucky for me, it's the most important. It gets your metabolism going, helps maintain weight, and gives you energy to start your day. It is extremely rare for me to skip breakfast. I started working part-time at Starbucks 2 years ago, and I usually work the 5am shift. I still make sure to wake up a few minutes early to squeeze in breakfast. I don't drink coffee (and I work at Starbucks? doesn't make sense, I know), but I would start my morning with some herbal tea and steel-cut oats or whole wheat toast with almond butter and jam. I used to feel super bloated and tired after eating that (especially since it was before 5am).
I got into juicing last year, but my awesome Breville juicer (from Craigslist!) was too big to keep on my counter (and too loud and hard to clean for 4:30am!). I got myself an inexpensive, but powerful little Tribest personal blender, and my breakfast dilemma was solved. Yes, it's still noisy, but not as loud as my big juicer. My smoothies keep me feeling full for hours, and I feel wide awake even at 5am.
So what's my secret to super smoothies? First, start with your "base." I usually load a tablespoon or pinch of the following into the blender: nuts/seeds, nut butter, coconut flakes, coconut oil, cacao powder, cacao nibs, maca powder (energizing Incan superfood), spices (ginger, cinnamon, cayenne), etc. Then add 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid: non-dairy milk, coconut water, filtered water. Throw in some chopped veggies for an extra nutritional boost. My favorite green smoothie additions are: cucumber (so refreshing!), celery, spinach, romaine lettuce, parsley, spearmint, kale, and avocado (adds a creamy touch). Then, blend the base until smooth. Next, add chopped fresh or frozen fruit. Don't overdo the fruit - it has lots of sugar. You want an alkalizing blend that will keep you full and prevent a sugar crash. Aim for more veggies than fruit in your smoothie. I love adding frozen fruit, which turns my smoothie into an icy treat. I use frozen bananas (just peel super ripe bananas and freeze in a ziplock bag), blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, and pineapple. I use my morning smoothie as a way to utilize the fruit and veggie "scraps" in my crisper drawer, so the recipe always changes.

Some smoothie-making tips to get you started:
Experiment to get the right consistency and flavor
  • Depending on your blender, you may have to play around with the liquid to solid ratio and blending time.
  • Use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes  for a guilt-free ice cream style treat!
  • Bananas are cheap and work great as a base for any smoothie. Peel and freeze overripe bananas in a large ziplock bag. 
  • Slice large frozen fruits, like bananas, into bite-sized pieces if your blender is small.
  • If you don’t have nondairy milk on hand, throw a small handful of nuts or seeds into the blender.
  • While blending, pause every so often to stir if you don’t have a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec).
Make great-tasting smoothies with less sugar
  • Use whole fruit in place of added sugar.
  • If you prefer to add a sweetener, use dates, agave, raw honey, or brown rice syrup. 
  • Gradually transition from fruit-based smoothies to fruit and vegetable blends. 
  • A large handful of greens can be added to most smoothies without any noticeable aftertaste.

Here are two of my favorite smoothie recipes. These are a bit sweeter than typical "green" smoothies, so they are great as you make the transition to a healthier morning routine!

Great Greens
Sneak a full cup of greens into your breakfast! You will feel so energized after this!
  • 1+ cup Greens (parsley tastes best in this recipe)
  • 1/3 Frozen banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup Frozen mango chunks
  • 1/4 cup Almonds or brazil nuts
  • 1 tsp. Almond butter or coconut butter
  • 1 tsp. Bee pollen
  • 1 tsp. Maca powder
  • 1 tbs. Ground flax, hemp seeds, or chia gel (for omega-3 power!)
  • 1 tbs. Cacao nibs
  • 1tbs. Coconut flakes
  • 1/2 to 1 cup liquid of choice

Chocolate Covered Raspberry
Completely decadent and completely guilt-free! This makes a great breakfast, snack, or dessert.
  • 1 Frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup Frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup Nondairy milk
  • 1 tsp. Almond butter or coconut butter
  • 1 tbs. Cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs. Cacao nibs
  • 1 tsp. Maca powder
  • 1 tbs. Ground flax, hemp seeds, or chia gel
  • Pinch of cinnamon, ginger, chili, and cayenne
Now go get blending!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eating for your Dosha

Aside from grad school, I have also been busy working on something else. I recently graduated from a Yoga Alliance 200 hour teacher training program, so that makes me an RYT-200 - a Registered Yoga Teacher! I discovered yoga after a chronic injury stopped me from doing what I loved most - running. I was a competitive runner on my high school and college cross-country and track and field teams. When I hurt my lower back during freshman year, my doctor suggested yoga or pilates to strengthen my core. I bought a pack of yoga and pilates dvds to try in my dorm room. As a runner, I was more enticed by pilates because it felt like more of a "workout." After graduating from college, I spent a year in Korea. I was still unable to run, so I bought a yoga mat and dusted off the yoga dvds that I had brought with me from the States. I was doing power yoga, which is very athletic, but places little emphasis on the spiritual or meditative quality of yoga. I enrolled in this teacher training program in hopes of learning more about traditional yoga and deepening my own practice. I learned a great deal more about yoga and about myself than I had anticipated.
          At the same time that I began studying yoga in depth, I became interested in ayurveda. Ayurveda is the Hindu system of traditional medicine that dates back over 5,000 years. It is a holistic system that promotes self-healing and overall wellness. In the ayurvedic system, yoga is used frequently as a healing tool. Ayurvedic theory is based on three mind-body types, or constitutions, called doshas. Each person is typically dominant in one of the three doshas (vatta, pitta, or kapha). Ayurveda provides lifestyle guidelines and healing methods to bring the doshas into balance. You can complete a simple questionnaire on the Chopra Center or Ayurvedic Institute websites to determine your constitution. I have taken a half dozen or so questionnaires, and each one has been consistent in determining my constitution as half vata, half pitta.
      So you know your what?? Ayurveda prescribes specific diets, yoga postures, breathing exercises, sleeping and eating patterns, and other lifestyle practices for each of the three doshas. Here are some general guidelines for eating according to your dosha: 

  • avoid raw foods
  • avoid cold foods or beverages
  • eat warm, moist, slightly oil foods
  • eat warming spices
  • keep a regular routine  
  • avoid warm foods or beverages
  • avoid excessive oil
  • limit salt intake
  • eat cooling, nonspicy foods
  • drink cool (but not iced) drinks 
  • avoid heavy foods
  • avoid dairy foods
  • avoid iced foods and drinks
  • avoid fatty or oily foods
  • eat light, dry food
  • vary your routine
By eating the right kinds of foods for your constitution, you will maintain vitality and balance. The wrong kinds of foods and lifestyle will promote disease. Ayurveda may raise some skepticism because of its stark contrast to conventional Western medicine. However, I have applied some ayurvedic methods to myself and others with great success. A system that has been developed and improved for over 5,000 years must be doing something right! A fantastic book on ayurveda is The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, by Vasant Lad. The author founded the Ayurvedic Institute, a non-profit educational center in New Mexico.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Coconut Oil: Friend or Foe?

Sorry to keep you all waiting! I just finished my first year of graduate school! By this time next year, I will have a masters in nutrition and completed a didactic program in dietetics. Then I will have to complete a 9-month dietetic internship and pass an exam to become a Registered Dietitian (RD). In plain English: it will take about 3 years in total to become a "nutritionist" (or 4 if you count the year I spent doing pre-requisite course work). In the meantime, I'm glad to pass on some of the knowledge that I am learning in school and on my own to you :-)

I wasn't cooking as much as usual during the spring semester (and my recipes were been pretty unimaginative - salads, soups, and the occasional Trader Joe's frozen meal during a study session). I've decided to focus more of my blog posts on super foods - whole foods that offered vitality to ancient civilizations and have stood the test of time. In my last post, I blogged about chia seeds, which were used by the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incans and remain a South American staple today. I've been on a coconut kick the past few months - coconut butter, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and of course - coconut oil. A high saturated fat content has given coconut oil a bad rap in the past. However, coconut is seeing a renaissance in the health food industry these days.

Coconut oil in its "pure" form - organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed - has numerous health and functional benefits. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which are believed to function differently than other types of saturated fats in the body. It can be used as a cooking oil, as a butter replacement in baking, in smoothies, etc. It does have a slight coconut flavor and aroma, but this complements some Asian and sweet dishes. It has been used in clinical trials to treat Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart disease, IBS, thyroid conditions, etc. I keep a separate jar in my bathroom to use as a face and body moisturizer, conditioner for dry hair, or lip balm. Coconut oil is also used both internally and externally for its antimicrobial properties. This promotes immunity and healing.

I usually purchase Nutiva or Nature's Way organic extra-virgin coconut oil in bulk on Amazon. If you really want a decadent treat, try Artisana's coconut butter!

Still not sure what to do with coconut oil? Here are 122 uses for your body and home!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Remember Chia Pets from when we were kids? Well it turns out that the same seeds that gave your pet a nice little 'fro are one of the most powerful foods in the world! Chia seeds are an ancient superfood that is making a recent comeback (and I predict that they will be hotter than flax seeds!) "Chia," which is Mayan for "strength," gave Mayan and Aztec messengers endurance for their super long runs. These black and white seeds, which look like little dinosaur eggs, form a thick gel when placed in liquid.

Here is just a preview of some of the incredible benefits of chia seeds:
  • 2 times the protein of any other seed or grain (a complete protein providing all essential amino acids)
  • 5 times the calcium of milk, plus boron which is a trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones
  • 2 times the amount of potassium as bananas
  • 3 times the reported antioxidant strength of blueberries
  • 3 times more iron than spinach
  • Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (even more than flax seeds!)
  • Incredible source of soluble fiber
Unlike flax, chia seeds can be kept in dry storage for years without spoilage. They are mild in taste, inexpensive, and versatile. I could go on and on....!

For the past year or so, I had a big 3lb. bulk bag of Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds from in my pantry. I would occasionally toss a spoonful into oatmeal, but they seemed too small and crunchy to chew. I recently discovered "chia gel," which is super easy to prepare and versatile. Store it in a mason jar in the refrigerator for up to a week and spoon into smoothies, oatmeal, cereal, salads, soups, beverages, etc. 

Chia Gel
Makes about 1 cup
  1. Combine 1 cup water and 2-3 tbs. chia seeds in a bowl or jar. 
  2. Stir with a fork to wet the chia seeds.
  3. Continue to stir every few minutes to prevent clumping until seeds absorb all water (usually 5-15 minutes)
  4. Add more seeds or water as necessary. 
My most recent obsession is chia pudding, which makes a quick and easy raw breakfast, snack, or dessert. It's basically chia gel with nondairy milk as the base instead of water. 

Chia Pudding
Serves 1-2
  1. Combine 1 to 1.5 cups nondairy milk and 2-4 tbs. chia seeds in a bowl.
  2. Stir every few minutes until chia seeds absorb liquid (see directions for gel above). 
  3. Store in the refrigerator or serve right away with your favorite add-ins:
    • Cacao/carob powder
    • Nuts, seeds
    • Fresh, frozen, or dried fruit
    • Lucuma powder
    • Vanilla/almond extract
    • Spices 
    • Sweeteners (maple syrup, agave, honey)
Some of my favorite combinations for chia pudding are: 
  • Maple syrup + lucuma powder + pecans + dates + cinnamon + nutmeg + cloves
  • Cacao powder + cacao nibs + walnuts + banana (or frozen raspberries)
  • Vanilla powder + almonds + frozen blueberries

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tried and True Home Remedies

The winter season is upon us, and colds, flu, and seasonal blues start kicking in. A safe and effective way to treat common ailments is through home remedies. These trustworthy treatments have been used for hundreds to thousands of years. Over-the-counter treatments, like pain relievers and cold medicine, often mask symptoms, rather than treating the condition. Many home remedies have been proven as effective if not more effective than modern drugs. I stopped using over-the-counter treatments several years ago, and along with a healthy diet, hydration, exercise, and the use of home remedies, I have found that I get sick less often. Here are some of my favorite natural healers:
  • Aloe Vera - I use a product called Aloe Life Skin Gel, but if you have an aloe plant in your home it is best to use the fresh gel from a cut leaf.  Aloe is beneficial for acne, athlete's foot, dry skin, sunburn, blisters, canker sores, dry hair, etc. 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar - Look for an organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, like Bragg's, in the grocery store. You can use it in cooking, but it is also great at fighting bacteria and fungi. It's beneficial for acne, athlete's foot, diaper rash, itching from insect bites, and heartburn (place 1 tbs. in a glass of water and you can say goodbye to indigestion!)
  • Arnica Montana - A mountain herb that is used for its painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties to treat bruises and injuries. I use Boiron Arnicare Gel, but you can find it in cream, ointment, and tincture forms as well. 
  • Chamomile - Famous for its calming properties, I like to drink chamomile tea before bed or when I'm stressed. It can also be used to aid digestion and sooth menstrual cramps. When applied externally in a cream form, it can help cuts, burns, and rashes heal. 
  • Garlic - Not just for keeping away the evil spirits! Add raw garlic to dishes or take a garlic supplement to fight colds and flu. Garlic works like a natural antibiotic to stave off infections, such as athlete's foot, yeast infections, and ear infections. Garlic also fights cancer and heart disease by improving blood flow throughout the body. 
  • Ginger - This is one of my favorite healers, which I use daily. It is famous for it's stomach-soothing properties, especially for digestion, motion-sickness, nausea, flatulence, menstrual cramps, and morning sickness. When taken at the first sign of a migraine, it can reduce the severity of the headache. Ginger is also used to boost immunity, ease arthritis, and lower cholesterol. I use ginger in the form of tea, easily portable ginger chews (which you can buy at Trader Joe's), or ginger powder added to daily meals and beverages.
  • Goldenseal  - This potent herbal remedy is recognized as a medicine in some countries. It is used in fighting bacterial, viral, and fungal infections and boosting the immune system. I recently purchased Nature's Answer Goldenseal Root, which is a tincture that you can add to a beverage. The tincture is bitter, but I find that it is barely detectable when added to 100% cranberry juice. I immediately notice a difference if I take goldenseal when I feel a stuffy nose or cold coming on. 
  • Lavender & Peppermint - This power combination can soothe stomachs, calm anxious nerves, and treat insomnia and headaches. Not to mention they smell wonderful! I combine lavender and peppermint teas or oils. My favorite product containing these herbs is My-grastick, which is a roll-on stick with essential oils to treat migraines and soothe stress. 
  • Oregano Oil - A natural antibiotic that fights against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Oregano oil is also high in antioxidants. It can be used to ward off colds or to treat diarrhea and constipation. I use Oreganol, which is pricey, but a little bit goes a long way (just 2 drops under the tongue does the trick). 
  • Sea Salt - A simple warm salt water gargle can ease a sore throat, gum problems, and toothaches. Rinse with salt water as soon as you sense allergies, colds, flu, sinusitis, and earaches coming on. 
  • Valerian - A natural alternative to sleeping pills, without the nasty side effects. It is also great for easing anxiety. I spray a bit of Elixir of Dreams Pillow Mist on my pillow before bed. The mist contains valerian and lavender to help put you to sleep. 
  • Witch Hazel - Contains the active ingredient tannin, which is a natural astringent. It tightens pores and reduces redness like a skin toner. It balances the moisture level of both oily and dry skin. Witch hazel can also be used for insect bites, poison ivy, razor burn, and sunburn. Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel is organic and does not contain alcohol, which can aggravate sensitive skin. 
My two favorite resources for home remedies are the Reader's Digest book, 1,801 Home Remedies, and the website, which has user ratings and reviews for trusted remedies.

Although herbal remedies are natural, be sure to check with your doctor or research drug interactions before introducing these herbs into your daily routine.