ANDI and some chewy cherry almond bars

Do you know what an ANDI score is? You might have seen signs advertising the concept at Whole Foods recently, as they have adopted this system of “scoring” food to help you make better choices.  ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, and it is based on the research of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, founder of Eat Right America.  I don’t know much about Dr. Fuhrman, and quite frankly, I think anyone who has a picture of themselves in a lab coat on the masthead of their website should immediately be viewed with skepticism, but ANDI scores make a lot of sense to me.  The score, a number from 0-1000, is determined by the amount of vital nutrients in the food and the calorie content.  Basically, it represents nutritional bang for caloric buck.  Of course, we can’t JUST eat foods with super high ANDI scores, like kale (what a show-off!):

…because then we wouldn’t get enough of things like important fats that obviously have a lot of calories (olive oil’s score is only 9, for instance).  However, you can use ANDI to see that some fats are going to give you more nutrients than others, like avocado versus eggs and cheese, making them a smarter way to spend your fat calories. Here’s a list, courtesy of Eat Right America, of several foods and their scores:

You’ll notice that meat, dairy, and processed foods like white bread go at the very end, which I think is the main take-away of the ANDI system.  It’s so often recommended that we base our diet in plants for a very good reason; they’re dense in the nutrients that we need most.  Dr. Fuhrman preaches a lot about weight loss, and I’m sure that following a nutrient-dense, plant-based program like his is the best way to lose weight if you really need to.  But even if you’re blessed with the metabolism of a 16 year-old cross country runner, or let’s say you ARE a 16 year-old cross country runner, your body/mind/being/self will be better off with a diverse, plant-filled diet.  Thin, fat, old, young- everyone needs what nature has grown to nourish us.

The inspiration for this recipe was two-fold: One, I saw in the bulk goods at Whole Foods that sunflower seeds are the winners of the nut/seed section:


Then, I was watching daytime television (#summervacation) and caught the end of Rachel’s Favorite Food at Home, which I believe is a British show syndicated on public access.  Anyway, Rachel was baking up some chewy apricot bars that had sunflower seeds in them, so I thought, hey, let’s see if we can’t make an even more nutrient-dense version of these with whole-food ingredients!  I used cherries instead of apricots, added some almonds, lessened the sweetener, used brown coconut sugar instead of refined, whole-wheat flour instead of white, and Earth Balance instead of real butter.  I also kiinda over cooked them, so they’re especially chewy, but tasty nonetheless. Hopefully they will be enjoyed on my week-long camping expedition to Colorado for a bluegrass festival, starting early Tuesday a.m.!

Chewy Cherry Almond Oat Bars

  • 1 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup vegan margarine, like Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or other brown/unrefined sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Mix together oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, and flour. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, syrup, and honey together.  Remove from heat, then add almond butter, sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients, butter-sugar-syrup mixture, cherries, and almonds.  Mix well.
  5. Line a 9×11 pan with parchment paper, or do a grease/flour combo. (I did a really special mix of olive oil spray and flour- not recommended. Goopy mess.) Press mixture into pan evenly.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges start to brown.  Don’t over-bake!
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares.  


And just for fun, because they were so flipping cute and I was proud of them, birthday cupcakes for my friend Josh (vanilla cake with homemade, coconut sugar-honey-buttercream frosting):

lunchtime

Just a quick post to brag about the lunch I’m eating right now.  Lunch is usually a really hard meal for me during the school year.  Like most people, I have to pack what I want to eat ahead of time and rarely have time to eat out (which is fine for money/health purposes).  Leftovers are a great idea, and I generally have a lot of them since I only cook for my own little self (wahmp wahmp), so much so that I get sick of whatever I’ve prepared and can’t bring myself to eat it all week.  Sooo…yeah, cry me a river, eating lunch is hard sometimes, the end.  Moral of the story, reason #229,583,482 I’m thankful it’s summer right now, is that I get the luxury of preparing my lunch at home and not having to think ahead.  Here’s what you need to know about this wrap:

  • Whole wheat flax tortilla, microwaved for about 10 seconds to soften it up
  • Hummus, spread in a thin layer over the tortilla
  • Red leaf lettuce- thanks CSA!
  • Tomato- woo CSA!
  • Maui sweet onion- CSA is the best!
  • Apple, sliced very thin- seriously, sign up for a CSA box.
  • Avocado
  • Queso fresco- a light, salty, crumbly Mexican cheese that I love love love.  You can use it almost anywhere you’d use feta, and it makes a great quesadilla.
  • TEMPEH! Let me introduce you if you haven’t already met my Indonesian friend, Tempeh.  Tempeh, like tofu, is a fermented soy product; however, since it retains the soybean in its whole form, it has more protein, fiber, vitamins, and whole-food swagger than tofu.  It’s also a lot firmer and more dense (it usually has other grain, nuts, or veggies incorporated into it), making it a great meat substitute.  Although, I have to say, I’m not one that feels like I have to have something to replace meat in a meal (especially when it’s replaced with something like seitan, which is just wheat gluten and arguably not great for you in mass quantities).  Plants have protein, and I eat plants.  But tempeh does offer some substantial texture in a vegetarian meal that might be mostly mush without it.  It’s also delicious.

tempeh, browned in a pan with a bit of oilve oil. you can eat it raw, too!

 

aaaand lunchtime (I had chips, too).

 

Come to think of it, this could probably be a feasible school-year lunch if I plan ahead and make sure my fridge is stocked with all of the goodies that make it so GOOD. Don’t be a weenie; try tempeh! Happy Friday!

 

prepare to stuff your face

Does anyone’s book club actually read the book and have an intelligent discussion about it? Rather, do anything other than drinking and socializing happen at the meeting? To be fair, this month’s meeting of my book club was to discuss The Hunger Games, so there wasn’t a ton of intellectual subject matter to be thrown around.  “Do you think she’ll end up with Peeta, or Gale?!” “I can’t believe they cast Lenny Kravitz as Cinna in the movie!!” And to our credit, most of the conversation did have something to do with the book; although, we spent more time stuffing our faces with dinner than we did talking.  After you try this recipe, you’ll understand why.

I have to give a shout-out to my sous-chef and co-creator of this dish, Elizabeth Barry Stocksdale, without whom my natural and whole foods path would be much lonelier and lame-feeling.  If I had a dollar for every hyphenated word in that sentence, I could buy an Enchirito from Taco Bell.  But I wouldn’t, because this is way more delicious and at least 8 thousand times better for you.  I won’t try to claim that this isn’t labor intensive, but if you plan ahead, it’s not too bad.  You could probably make it ahead of time, too- it might even make it more delicious.  Hold on to your pants; it’s time for Veggie Enchilada Casserole.

The absolute beauty of this recipe is that it is not a recipe.  More of an idea, really.  You can use any vegetables you want, mix up the layers, spice it differently- the possibilities are endless.  Get creative.  I will say, though, that what seems to really bring it all together is the mix of the heat in either the fire roasted tomatoes or the enchilada sauce if you go spicy, and the sweetness of the sweet potato.  It’s a surefire success.

Veggie Enchilada Casserole

  • 1 sweet potato/yam
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes with chiles/chipotle flavor
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can enchilada sauce
  • 10-12 small corn tortillas (I used Ezekiel sprouted grain)
  • Shredded cheese of your choice
  • Avocado, cilantro, and greek yogurt for toppings
  1.  Bake your sweet potato at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until it’s tender.  Don’t forget to poke holes!
  2. While your tater bakes, cook the rest of your veggies (zucchini, squash, corn, and onion).  For this batch, we grilled the zucchini, squash, and corn, and sauteed the onions (with mushrooms actually- but I’m leaving that out because I hate them.  Feel free to add!).  But really, it doesn’t matter much how you cook the veggies- I think in the past we sauteed everything but the corn.  Canned corn would also work.

    squash, zucchini, and sweet potato

    cuttin' the corn- thanks Liz!

    onions and (blech- I need to expand my horizons, I know) mushrooms

  3. Combine all your cooked veggies (chop them into small pieces if you grilled them whole) with beans, tomatoes, and cubed sweet potato.  Basically, you’re making a big mushy veggie hash, so don’t worry if it looks messy.

    mmmm, mush.

  4. Soak your tortillas in the enchilada sauce, then lay them in the bottom of a large baking dish/roasting pan.

    the best.

  5. Spoon a layer of veggie mush on top of the tortillas.  Maybe throw some cheese on there.  Then add another layer of tortillas.  Repeat this as many times as you want- you could have multiple tortilla layers, or maybe just a top and a bottom! It really doesn’t matter- deliciousness will ensue regardless.
  6. End with a tortilla layer, then top with remaining sauce and more cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted inside comes out feeling nice and warm.
  8.  Stick it under the broiler to make that cheese bubbly.
  9. STUFF YOUR FACE!

This is really, truly remarkably delicious and filling.  I love how simple and adaptable it is.  I personally ensure its crowd-pleasing abilities- even with meat-eaters who think they need meat to feel full.  Oh, and don’t you dare forget to put avocado and greek yogurt on top- I know it sounds weird, but greek yogurt is an amazing sour cream substitute.  You won’t even notice, and you’ll be getting all kinds of pro-biotic goodness and healthy, unprocessed protein.  Hurrah!

getting sick: check!

You’re not supposed to get sick on vacation, right? There has to be a rule about that somewhere. I think it also applies to birthdays, anniversaries, your own wedding, but most importantly, vacation. Granted, this is a real long vacation of which I’m in the midst. And I probably shouldn’t be complaining anyway, because what better do I have to do besides lay in bed, blowing my nose and reading The Hunger Games? Well, guys, I hate to break it to you, but I’ve got a pretty long list of things to do this summer, and getting sick was not one of them. In fact, I have several lists. So you can imagine my dismay when I woke up with a fever and stuffy nose and found myself out of commission, unable to check off any list items that would free up my already free time. Naturally, I went first for the Neti-Pot. It helped a little, as did the zinc supplements and gallons of water and OJ that I downed throughout the day. But I knew that at some point, I was going to have to lean on the old, tried-and-true, comforting home remedy for colds: Soup.

Sinus-Clearing Black Bean Soup

  • 1 can black beans (or soaked equivalent)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • Seasonings to taste
  • Avocado slices
  • Cilantro for garnish

Blend the beans with some of the broth in food processor or blender. Combine that with the rest of the broth and salsa in a pot and heat on medium. I added some garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Top with avocado and cilantro garnish, eat, sweat, and enjoy!


My version was preeetty spicy, but that of course depends on the kind and quantity of salsa you use. I think it made my nose run more than it actually cleared anything up, and the sweating just reminded me of the fever I was trying to kick, but it was delicious and gave me something to blog about which IS, I’ll remind you, on my to-do list. Check.