super breakfast week, day four: BOMB VEGAN BREAKFAST!

Today’s post comes to us from my good friend Joanne.  Joanne studied nutrition when we were undergraduates (and a cappella nerds) at USC together.  Since graduating, she’s built upon her nutritional knowledge and blossomed into a raw vegan maven.  Joanne posts her fabulous concoctions as Facebook notes entitled “Bomb Vegan Dinner 101.” As you’ll see in this post, Joanne knows her stuff! Don’t be intimidated by the bit of work it would take you to sprout those lentils ahead of time; it’ll be worth it. And I’m sure (though I haven’t tried or asked Joanne) that cooked lentils made ahead of time and stored in the fridge might also work.  Without further ado, I present to you: Bomb Vegan Breakfast 101!

Okay, so first I have a confession to make: most of the time, I actually am not much of a breakfast eater, for a few different reasons. I’m not a wake-up-hungry type of person – thirsty, yes! And after sipping on water and tea from the time I wake up, by the time I’m out the door I feel deceivingly full (of liquid)… even though it won’t be long before I’m snackin on some fruit, which I guess could be considered my actual breakfast. It also must be mentioned that having perfected my morning routine down to the minute, I need a breakfast option to be quick and easy to squeeze in between lunch assembly and dog walking, or it won’t happen. Lastly, and I may get some dirty looks here, but typical breakfasty foods just don’t excite me very much. Yeah, pancakes, crepes, and French toast are all delicious, but I just don’t feel great after eating them. I need something that will provide me sustenance and energy but without weighing me down. As a vegan who also prefers eating as much raw food as possible, my breakfast usually isn’t very thrilling – give me some fresh fruit and a handful of raw nuts and I’m good to go. But that’s not very blog-
worthy now, is it?

So, as you can see, breakfast and I have had a very casual yet non-committal relationship. It’s not that I’ve been afraid to commit to breakfast; I think I just hadn’t found the right breakfast for me! After countless mornings of slipping out the door, trying to avoid scornful glances from the fruit sitting forlorn and uneaten in their baskets, I eventually broke down and agreed to seek counseling – after all, I had been neglecting breakfast, when breakfast had never been anything but good to me. The mediator I chose to help me reconcile with the most important meal of the day is called Raw Food: A Complete Guide For Every Meal of the Day. I’ve found some recipes here that give me exactly what I’m looking for in a breakfast: light, energy-rich foods that are quick and easy to throw together in the morning with just a little preparation. Lately, my go-to has been this fiber-filled fruity delight:

Sprouted Green Lentils with Apple

  • ½ C green lentils, sprouted*
  • 1 Apple (your favorite kind!), cubed
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Honey, to taste
  • And, pictured in Joanne’s version: Walnuts and currants!

Mix it all up in a bowl and enjoy!
* You can buy sprouted lentils at a market, but they’re also easy to make! All you need are lentils (duh) and a sprouting jar – any canning jar with a mesh top, or cheesecloth stretched across and secured with a rubberband. To sprout the lentils, soak 8-12 hours, drain and rinse once or twice a day until the tails of the baby sprouts begin to show (usually 2-3 days). Sprouting the lentils transforms it from a raw food into a “living” food. This is a raw-foodie idea in which soaking or sprouting (seeds, beans, nuts, lentils) activates digestion-assisting enzymes that lay dormant in raw foods; the enzymes are awakened in the living food, aiding in the digestion and absorption of nutrients – thereby maximizing the nutritional value of the food.

A couple variations I have tried using the above recipe: using maple syrup or agave instead of honey, adding shredded carrot, or crushed nuts (try walnuts or almonds!) for extra protein and prolonged satiety. I especially like the idea of adding some sort of nut into this mix, because this creates what most vegans know very well as a complete complementary protein – when foods are combined to provide all 9 essential amino acids (the ones that can’t be manufactured by the human body). These essential amino acids are found in animal protein, leading many people to the common misconception that people who don’t eat animal protein are lacking in protein altogether. However, I’ll let you in on a vegan secret – it’s actually really easy to eat enough protein! It’s all about combining foods to form “complementary” proteins. The easiest formula to follow is to think of foods in the three categories of grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds; then, combine foods from two of the three categories. Sound complicated? How about… rice and beans! Hummus and whole wheat pita bread! And – lentils and almonds! Complete complementary proteins are everywhere! Another cool thing about creating complementary proteins is that you can space them out between meals; have some nuts in the morning, and a grain or legume at lunch and you’re good to go!

So, at this point I’ve slightly derailed the breakfast blog, but now you can see why and how this seemingly simple recipe can be so fulfilling! The sprouted lentils with apples will give you tons of energy, fiber, and keep you satiated until lunchtime. Not to mention, it’s such a sweet way to start your day! Dear Breakfast, please accept this Ode to You as a reconciliation. You really are important, and I will neglect you no longer!


don’t call it a doughnut

Sometimes we must ponder life’s big questions.  Today I find myself asking, what makes a doughnut a doughnut?  Is it the white flour used to make the dough? Is it the refined sugar, melted into a sweet glaze that coats the outside? Perhaps the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in which we fry the doughnut is its very essence.  Naively failing to consider such philosophical queries, I made these yesterday, brought them to a party, and called them “doughnuts.”

They look like doughnuts, right? They’re round, they have a hole in the middle and a chocolatey sheen with fun rainbow sprinkles.  You just might think I had Googled “doughnut” and followed a Paula Deen recipe.  Much to the dismay of my partygoing peers, this was not the case.  I had made dough using spelt and almond flours, baked it, and dipped the result in dark chocolate and coconut oil, creating in my own delusional health-nut mind something that could be passed off as a doughnut.  Here’s the real kicker, though: it wasn’t any of the above doughnut criteria that made my creation unacceptable, or at least unaccepted in the doughnut category.  In fact, I don’t think I revealed any ingredients before my plate of treats was given wrinkle-nosed glances.  The only words I uttered were, “These are vegan.”

That’s all it took.  Just that one label was enough for my goodies to be blacklisted (!).  I totally get that sometimes, people just want to eat junk; I want that, too.  But it wasn’t the lack of white flour or refined sugar or trans fat that turned people away- it was the lack of animal products.  What a strange requirement of a doughnut, I thought to myself!  Of all the things that make a doughnut a doughnut, I would not have guessed that eggs from a chicken and butter made from cow’s milk would be on the list.

To be fair, 5 of the 6 doughnuts did get eaten (one by me… and then the 6th also by me this morning).  I think the main contention held by my friends was that I chose to call them doughnuts, when clearly they didn’t size up to the prototype of doughnutship that they expected. But I was surprised at the stigma that came with the term “vegan.”  A few people mentioned doubts about texture; fine, maybe eggless baked goods are denser.  Does the mere possibility of that make them so much less appealing that you don’t dare even try it? Ultimately, I think it was my doughnuts’ unconventionality that garnered skepticism.  I don’t have to convince you that humans tend to reject things, ideas, people just because they’re different. It appears we’re the same way with food.

This stinks, especially with mounting evidence that animal products (along with processed, refined, and packaged crap) play a huge role in the development of the lifestyle diseases that plague our country.  I am not vegan, nor do I think everyone should be.  But I do think everyone should be taking a good look at what they put into their bodies, and more importantly, keeping an open mind about new ways of eating that could be change for the better.

In the meantime… more “doughnuts” for me!

me and my big mouth

Ever since diagnosing my own quarter-life crisis, two things have been occurring frequently.  One, I constantly reference the list of emotional phenomena associated with the QLC as presented in the Wikipedia article on the topic and point out how many of them I identify with, therefore reinforcing my self-diagnosis.  Two, I use this same list to diagnose my quarter-life cohorts and demonstrate how they, too, are entrenched in such a crisis.  I should tell you that this Wikipedia article I keep referring to has not one citation, source, or reference listed.  This is probably because, as it turns out, the whole idea of the QLC was pretty much made up by pop psychology in the early nineties when somebody decided to give a name to the fact that whiny twenty-somethings were unmotivated and maturing at a much slower rate than ever before.  Bogus or not, it’s uncanny how many of these are spot-on with my life right now:

My friend Jake was in denial about his QLC, even when I showed him this list and pointed out some key factors.  The other day, however, he came around.  “Emily!” he said. “You were right.  The crisis…it’s in full effect.  I couldn’t place these unsettled, frustrated feelings, but now I know.  I’m just another victim of the QLC.  Did I mention that you were, and always are, right?”

Ok, so Jake didn’t exactly say that, but he did realize that he relates to this list, and we discussed the following item at length: Tendency to hold stronger opinions. For both Jake and I, this involves not only holding stronger opinions, but expressing them freely and without regret.  Lately, I told Jake, I can’t seem to stop my mouth from being bold, brash, and one more “b” adjective that rhymes with “kitschy.”  My patience is low, and when someone or something crosses my path that I don’t agree with, I’m at the ready, paws up, opinion ready to be flung.  Jake has been having similar experiences, often being told that he’s imposing his opinions and beliefs on others too readily and forcefully.  Then, someone points out our audacity, and we find it hard to apologize.  Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, but I think the pre-QLC Emily was much more capable and willing to own up to her big fat mouth than the current Emily.  Yeah, I said it.  I’m not taking it back.

The worst part may be that the victims of my rudeness are most often the people closest to me.  This is usually true, right? That the ones we love the most, trust the most, have the most faith in not abandoning us, take the brunt of our crap.  Extremely unfortunate, but logical from a survival standpoint; we’re not going to alienate anyone who we’re afraid of judging or ditching us.  Sorry, family and friends (and 5th graders- you get it pretty bad, too)- we’re going to have to ride this wave of crisis together.  Bear with me.

And hey, there are definitely worse fates than being a temporarily rude person (I’m not confronting my own mortality or having suicidal tendencies, to name a few).  At least I realize it’s happening. Hopefully, it’s all just a part of figuring out what you really care about and where the balance lies in letting people know how you feel.  I feel pretty strongly about these cookies I made last night, and they definitely kept my big mouth busy for awhile.

pancakes and part of the “whole” story

I love waking up on a Saturday with nothing to do and plenty of time to play in the kitchen. I didn’t even intend for this to be a blogworthy project when I started, but once I got going with my buckwheat and spelt flours, I realized I had a lot to talk about.

In the last few months, my pantry has gone from scarcely populated to brimming with things I hadn’t even heard of until recently. Thanks to the blogs that I frequent (see links) and one of the books that changed my life, I now spend way too much time and money at Whole Foods, stocking my shelves with things like coconut oil, safflower oil, buckwheat groats, whole amaranth, garbanzo bean flour, spelt flour, buckwheat flour, to name a few. I have to admit, though, that while the original decision to buy these products was informed and enlightened, I had sort of lost sight of why I use them as opposed to conventional ones. If I’m going to make vegan buckwheat pancakes with spelt flour and flax meal, I’d better have a damn good explanation as to why it’s worth the effort.

So, let’s focus on the flour. I realize buckwheat pancakes are nothing new to most of you. Americans have used buckwheat flour to make pancakes since the pioneer days, long before the industrial revolution smashed all of our grains into nutrition-less oblivion. Read Michael Pollan for a better explanation, but essentially it became cheaper and easier to strip a whole grain of its nutrient-containing germ (vitamins, minerals, essential fats, phytochemicals, antioxidants) and bran (fiber!), leaving only the starchy endosperm (pure carbohydrate) from which we make white, fluffy flour that is nutritionally worthless but tastes real good and has a long shelf-life. Seriously, though- read In Defense of Food. I can’t begin to explain the complicated, deep-seated political motivations that fueled our country’s movement toward refined grains that have royally screwed our systems, but Pollan will woo you with his take on it all. The moral of the story is simple: use whole-grain flour. You’ll be getting essential nutrients that your body needs and the fiber that will keep you full. There are also oodles of different grains to choose from (I love Bob’s Red Mill– there’s practically an entire aisle at Whole Foods dedicated to ol’ Bob), all with varying textures and protein contents and levels of gluten to experiment with!

Oh, man. I could go on. There’s so much more to be said about buying and eating whole grains, especially regarding the marketing claims that trick you into thinking you’re getting the benefits of whole grains when you’re not (don’t be fooled by “multi-grain”, “seven-grain”, or the worst offender- “enriched”). But that’s another post for another time. I made pancakes with buckwheat and spelt flour because I had them in my whole-grain arsenal and I could feel good about putting them into my body. I made them vegan because I was out of eggs, and because I can’t seem to resist the temptation lately to make things without animal products just to see if they’re as good. These were great, although definitely not fluffy like a typical pancake. Recipe was my first hit when I googled “Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes.” I altered it slightly.

Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 tablespoon ground flax meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (pretty sure I forgot this, now that I’m writing this out…whoops)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
1 cup almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoons safflower oil
1/4 cup water

Mix, pour, enjoy! Oh, I greased my pan with coconut oil, but it was way too oily on the first batch so I wiped the pan clean and went sans lubrication.

toasting some coconut for toppings

I added blueberries to this batch. they were tart, but nice with the coconut

no bluebs or coconut here, just homemade dark chocolate peanut butter and a teeny drizzle of 100% pure maple syrup

yes, I ate both plates.

a very vegan weekend

I didn’t plan it this way, but I ended up eating at two purely vegan restaurants this weekend.  I’m not vegan, but veganism fascinates me.  Some really creative stuff happens in order to recreate the taste, texture, and overall experience of eating animal products.  With the blog in mind and the help of my lovely dining dates, I took some pictures and notes so I could share my vegan adventures with you all.  I’d call it a restaurant review, but I’m not much of a critic if I loved everything and have very little qualitative analysis to offer, now am I?

Friday: Real Food Daily

My friend Jess took me to a pilates class at a new studio in Santa Monica, something for which I may never forgive her.  We were the only two students, which allowed our tiny, chipper instructor with the pace and mercy of a robot to pay plenty of attention to my struggle and “make sure [I wasn’t] cheating- I can tell!” There wasn’t a moment of the 50 minute class that wasn’t the most grueling exercise I’d ever done (I didn’t know that you could be sore between each rib, but oh- it’s possible), so needless to say, I was ready for some indulging when we finished.  Jess suggested nachos and I couldn’t have agreed more.  After considering some options, we decided to try Real Food Daily.

These puppies boasted black beans, guac, and pico de gallo where standard nacho fare was concerned.  The vegan aspects kicked in with a cashew-based “not-cho” cheese sauce and taco-flavored seitan.  I could have done without the seitan; faux meats aren’t my favorite to begin with, and I couldn’t really distinguish it as anything special from the rest of the goopy deliciousness, but I suppose the added protein didn’t hurt.

As you can see, we hated them (empty wine bottle and glasses not pictured):

Saturday: Planet Raw

On Saturday I was excited to drag my carnivorous friend Josh to a lunch date at Planet Raw for a much needed catch-up.  He said he’d “try anything once” so raw vegan it was! I didn’t know much about raw food philosophy going into it, and because the waiter was minimally informative, this article helped fill in the holes.  Basically, in addition to using zero animal products, none of the food is ever heated at temperatures above 118 degrees Fahrenheit because of how heat affects the balance of nutrients in the raw food.  I’m sure you’re thinking, as I did, “That certainly makes bread tricky, now doesn’t it.”  Imagine our befuddlement when upon ordering the pesto pizza, we were informed that it wouldn’t be ready until that evening (!).  Apparently, the “dough” is cooked through a combination of low heat and dehydration over a long period of time.  The waiter mentioned something about the sun being involved, but it was unclear how.  Point being, pizza was off the table, so we went for spring rolls and a burrito instead.  See below:

Spring Rolls
These were wrapped in “coconut paper,” which was sweet with a sort of stiff tortilla texture.  Inside were kelp noodles, cabbage, avocado, and an assortment of herbs (Josh tasted basil and I caught some cilantro.) They were served with a “no peanut” sauce, which tasted like peanut sauce and confused me because I wasn’t sure why there wouldn’t be peanuts, but was delicious.

“Cheese” and Guac Burrito
As much as I love healthy, plant-based versions of typical dishes, my love of Mexican food might trump here and make it hard for me to really call this a “burrito.”  It was delicious, for sure.  But the title of burrito is sacred and must be reserved for what you can only acquire from a hole-in-the-wall that serves carne asada after a long night of imbibing adult beverages.  You might say the same for nachos, but something about the absence of the tortilla here made it especially inauthentic.  Anyway, like I said- I still loved it.  Seaweed paper subbed for the tortilla and had a surprisingly mild, un-sushi-ish flavor, as Josh pointed out.  Inside, we found tons of greens, salsa, guac, and cashew cheese just like I had the night before at RFD.  Very crunchy and flavorful.

Java Maca Shake
We just had to try a “milkshake”- how were they going to pull that off with no milk or added sugar?! Ok, maybe not so hard to guess, especially for the homemade nutmilk lady over here, that almond milk was involved.  It was sweetened with honey and flavored with raw cacao and some kind of nutty granola.  Then there was shaved maca, a Peruvian super-root that apparently has all kinds of medicinal and nutritional values.

If you’re worried that these vegscapades will pull me over into the land of diet extremism, please review Sunday’s menu.

Sunday: Vegan Detox

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and cheese on an English muffin courtesy of the Panini Garden
Lunch/Dinner: Dagwood’s tomato, basil, and garlic pizza with buttloads of mozzarella
Dessert: FROST Frozen Yogurt- dairy central!

If I could slap a moral on here, it would be that trying vegetarian and vegan food at the very least opens up your options of ways to incorporate more plants into your diet- which we could all use.  Even if you keep your meat and cheese close at hand, be adventurous with the greens and seeds and nuts and your body will reap the benefits!

thick mints

My relationship with Los Angeles has been long and complicated.  I moved here for college without really giving it much of an evaluation, and due to the fact that I lived in South Central for 4 years, quickly developed a bad taste in my mouth for the city.  Since graduating, though, I’ve tried hard to give LA a fighting chance.  Just ask my sister about the intense row that ensued this past Christmas when she argued that I should move to Portland, and I defended LA with all I had.  “But…but…I never have to sit in traffic.  I can get anywhere in 20 minutes, I swear! Who needs public transportation? Or clean air? Or self esteem?” Sister contended that my health food and fitness obsession and poor body image (and denial therein) must be attributed to the pervasive superficiality of the entertainment culture! “Nonsense!” I retorted.  “In NO way am I affected by the hundreds of thousands of rail-thin, tan, impeccably dressed women that I see and interact with daily!”

But, as hard as it is to admit that my big sister is sometimes right, I’ve started to realize my incongruity with this place.  Most people that live in LA have a really good reason to do so; they are, or are trying to be, an actor, are romantically involved with someone who is, were born and raised and have family here, etc.  I have no such reason.  I graduated, had no other good idea of where to go, and so I stayed.  And now I have a job and an apartment and friends, so it feels like I should keep staying.  But maybe I would be happier without long, polluted drives and pressure to conform to some ridiculous physical ideal.  Especially when that pressure is compounded by other pressures, like GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SEASON. What the heck, man? How can I be expected to keep the balance when I’ve got 115 pound bronzed blondes in head-to-toe, all-white Lululemon to stare at in yoga class (I mean, really. White spandex? Who can pull that off?), and a sleeve full of Thin Mints waiting in the freezer when I get home? It’s just not fair.

So until I find the right place, the groove, the peace of mind, here’s a healthful alternative to help.  These cookies are not LA-thin.  They are thick, nutty, chewy, and full of real, good food: happy fats, natural sugar, protein, tons of energy providers!  A real, down-to-earth, stick-to-your-ribs kind of cookie.  Enjoy!

Thick Mints (adapted from The Edible Perspective)

You’ll need:

  • 7-8 Medjool Dates
  • 3/4 cup nuts of your choice (I did mostly almonds, some peanuts and walnuts)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil or extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Handful of dark chocolate chunks or chips
  1. First process the nuts together- I left some big pieces to ensure some crunch. Pour into a bowl.
  2. Put shredded coconut, coconut oil, and mint into the processor and pulse until the mint is in teeny pieces and the 3 are well incorporated.  Add to your bowl.
  3. Process dates until they’re in small pieces and add them to the nuts in your bowl.
  4. Pour the contents of your bowl back into the processor, add peppermint extract, cocoa powder, and chocolate chunks, and pulse just a few times until everything is incorporated.
  5. Form ping-pong sized balls with the dough.  It’ll be crumbly, but if you squish enough and then refrigerate, they’ll hold together.  I flattened mine slightly and made them more like discs to replicate a cookie-shape. This recipe should make about nine of that size cookie (or if you eat the dough as you go like I did, eight) or could easily be doubled.

Nuts and coconut/mint mixture

Chopped dates

The whole shebang

Thick Mints!