It's January, and my holiday indulgence has left me feeling sluggish and bloated. I recently read Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet, which culminates in a 21-day adventure cleanse. And being the adventurous type, I decided to give it a try.
This particular cleanse, as well as eliminating the usual evils such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar and gluten, emphasizes raw vegetables and fruits. I decided that would be the perfect opportunity to try out some of those raw recipes that I have been piling on the edge of my desk. But one thing that I noticed as I perused these raw recipes is the emphasis on fats, and one in particular.... coconut oil. Half a cup here, three quarters of a cup there.
I've heard so many people refer to coconut oil as a healthy food. They say it's full of 'good fats'. But is that actually true? Can we honestly say that coconut oil is good for us? With so many mixed messages in the media, it can be pretty confusing. But as a scientist, I needed to look at this from a scientific perspective.
Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%) acids. As a plant food, it contains no cholesterol, so in that way it seems better than other sources of saturated fat.
However, one tablespoon of coconut oils contains 120 calories, 14 grams fat, 12 g saturated fat, and no vitamins or minerals. That means that coconut oil is almost entirely saturated fat!!
Saturated fats including that in coconut oil can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is an indicator of heart disease, and should be limited. I recommend that you check out Jeff Novick's evaluation of coconut oil. He compares coconut oil to the ultimate junk food, sugar, and claims that sugar actually has more nutrient value than coconut oil.
Being high in calories and low in nutrients makes this a food that can easily contribute to weight gain. So whether you believe it to be a source of 'healthy fats' or not, it is something that should be limited in the diet, based on it's calorie density alone.
If you want to replace the coconut oil in a baking recipe, you can use apple sauce, or prune puree or flax meal. I found these handy tips on fatfreevegan.com.
And while we're on the topic of coconut, did you know that 1 cup of coconut milk has 3 times the calories and almost 10 times the saturated fat as a cup of whole dairy milk? To replace coconut milk in a recipe try using almond milk with a teaspoon of coconut extract.
After 8 days on my adventure cleanse I am feeling decidedly less bloated. My clothes no longer feel uncomfortably tight and my complexion is clearer. I've dusted off my juicer and learned to make raw beetroot ravioli! I may even carry some of these new adventure habits on into the future!
We recently made these gorgeous little tarts at a Make Over Your Comfort Foods Cooking Class. Let's face it... ice cream is the perfect comfort food full of fat and sugar and.... fat! But this summer I discovered just how easy it is to make 'ice cream' with frozen fruit..... JUST frozen fruit!! It's sweet and cold and creamy... and when it's presented in these cute little raw tart shells they make a perfect light and healthy dessert.
The one caveat here is that you will need a pretty high powered blender for the ice cream. We used a Vitamix, which is the Cadillac of blenders, and it takes a bit of patience to keep pressing the fruit down into the blades until it is sufficiently blended into delightful creaminess. If you don't have a high powered blender, you might want to start your fruit off in a food processor first to break it up into smaller chunks. This is definitely worth the effort though!
¾ cup raw hazelnuts or macadamia nuts
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3 Tbsp. lemon zest
¼ tsp. sea salt
¼ cup agave
In a food processor, blend hazelnuts nuts until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
In the food processor pulse coconut, lemon zest and salt. Slowly pour in agave while pulsing.
Add coconut mixture to macadamia flour and mix with a spoon. Mixture should be able to form a ball without falling apart. If too dry, add more agave, if too wet add more coconut.
Line tartlet shells with plastic wrap. Place 2 Tbsp. mixture into each shell and press firmly around the sides, creating a cup shape. Pop tartlets out of shell and place on tray.
Strawberry Banana Ice
3 frozen bananas
1-2 cups of frozen strawberries
Add to a high powered blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.
Place a scoop of strawberry banana ice onto each tartlet and top with sliced strawberry and mint leaf if desired.
These little potato hors d'oeuvres are adorable, addictive and super simple to make. Three qualities that keep me coming back for more.
In my former life I enjoyed a deviled egg. But each egg contains about 200 milligrams of artery clogging cholesterol. These little babies have all the taste with none of the cholesterol. They can also be made with homemade low fat hummus if you want to eliminate the added oils. Try them out at your next party and see how they fly off the platter!
12 small potatoes
¾ cup hummus (I used roasted garlic hummus)
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 chopped green onions
a dash of hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of paprika
chives for garnish
Boil potatoes until fork tender, but not mushy. Let them cool completely.
Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out a small circle in the potato flesh with a spoon. Spoon mixture into the hole or pipe in with a piping tip. Garnish with paprika and chopped chives.
The first time I made this dip was for a brunch. We were having company and I decided to try out some new recipes on them. Not always the best plan. It's usually safer to try out your new recipes on a more forgiving audience, like your family first. Even though not everything I made for brunch that day was a hit (the fat free crust for the quiche was an absolute disaster), this dip made up for it. And I have been making it ever since. I usually serve it with nachos or pita chips. It literally takes two minutes to make in the food processor and it's totally delicious.
Black Bean Puree
1 jalapeno pepper minced
1 can (2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp tomato juice (V8 juice works just fine too!)
2 juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
¼ tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process to a smooth consistency. Transfer to serving bowl and spread evenly.
Fresh Four Ingredient Guacamole
½ a small onion minced (about 2 Tbsp)
2 ripe avocados
juice from ½ a lemon
¼ cup salsa
Peel and mash avocados in a medium sized bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. This can also be done in a food processor for a creamier consistency. You may want to add a bit of salt and pepper depending on the type of salsa you use.
Carefully spread the guacamole on top of black bean puree leaving 1 inch of black bean puree showing on the edges. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and cilantro if desired.
The Puree is extremely versatile! This dip is just one way that I use it. It can also be used as a stuffing for quasadillas with mashed sweet potatoes I often use the leftover dip in breakfast burritos with lettuce and salsa. Another great use for it is to layer it on top of fresh greens and raw veggies in a Mexican salad. Use salsa as a fat free salad dressing! Or top a piece of sweet potato with it to make these adorable little canapés. The possibilities are endless!
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend some time in London over the holidays. I love to travel. There is so much to see in this world. And this may come as a surprise to you, but food is a HUGE part of any vacation for me. I look forward to finding those hidden culinary jems in the big city, perhaps since living in a rural area with limited food choices has left me craving diversity and inspiration to bring back to my own kitchen.
Eating well on a plant based diet while away from home does take some extra planning and preparation. My first step is always to research the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in town before we leave. I always bring along a list of the plant friendly eateries including the address and a brief description of the restaurant. I check out websites and look at foodie reviews. Usually I use Happy Cow for this task, but London has its' own vegetarian society with a website just for this purpose called VeganLondon.
We arrived at our hotel just before noon after an overnight flight and a tube ride into the city. Since sleeping on the plane is not something I excel at, I was in need of a nap at this point. A couple of hours later, I was ready to hit the road and find something decent to eat. So we set out on our first walking tour of the city. We strolled along Hyde park in the rain toward Covent Garden and Leicster Square and then set out in search of a vegetarian Indian Restaurant called Sagar which has a separate vegan menu. We had a very tasty first meal in the big city including some very delicious samosas. It was a long day and at the end of it we were ready to hit the hay.
Day two in London began with breakfast at the hotel. We filled up on fruit and toast and peanut butter, oatmeal and granola, hash browns and roasted tomatoes along with a nice cup of tea. Then we walked along King's Road to Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. We had lunch at Pret a Manger on Trafalgar Square. There seems to be a Pret a Manger on every second corner in London these days. They offer a range of pre-made salads and sandwiches that are great for a quick bite. After this we walked along the south side of the Thames river all the way to Tower Bridge. The moon was full and the lighting was amazing. We took some awesome photos. Then took the tube back to the hotel to nurse our aching feet.
Full moon over the Thames River
The third day we took the tube to the Tower of London and did the tour. Awesome place, but the crowds in the city were crazy! This forced us to skip the lineup to see the crown jewels. I guess I'll have to go back at a less busy time of year. After the Tower we made our way to Oxford Street for some shopping. Oxford Street is full of shops and at this time of year it was packed with people looking for some Boxing Day bargains. A bit off the beaten path is a tiny little place called Vitao. This place had an awesome vegan buffet, fresh juices and smoothies and raw desserts. You pay by the plate (there are 3 different sizes), and mine was piled high with mushroom stroganoff, veggie dahl, mashed potatoes, rice, salad and the most amazing Thai green curry I have ever had! I have been craving it ever since. They are only open for lunch though, and close at 5pm. That afternoon was spent exploring Chelsea, Kensington and Camden Town. In Camden we found a nice Thai restaurant that we really liked. We actually went back again and order almost the exact same thing, spring rolls, Masaman Curry, and Pad Thai (minus the egg).
Inside the Royal Victoria and Albert Museum
On Saturday we headed for the Royal Victoria and Albert Museum. Did you know all the museums in London have free admission? I wish all cities were like this! That was a Saturday so we wandered around in the market on Portabello Road in the afternoon. Awesome little shops and booths. Here we found a great little kiosk making falafel sandwiches with hummus and grilled aubergine. Whenever I'm looking for food in a city which I'm not familiar with, I keep my eyes open for falafel. It's delicious, inexpensive and readily available in most cities. Once we tired of the crowds on Portabello Road we made our way to Kensington High Street. This became my favourite shopping area. It was less crowded and it had many interesting shops and a cute cafe called Down to Earth where we enjoyed a raw vegan chocolate pecan cake. Yum.
Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery
Sunday we returned to Trafalgar Square and took advantage of the National Gallery. We wandered for a few hours enjoying the Picasos, Monets and Rembrants in their collection. After that we returned to Camden Town which is home to several markets including the Camden Lock market and the The Stables Market which is housed in the historical horse stables. You could wander around in there for hours, maybe days exploring the booths filled with vintage clothing and tchotchkes. This is a very avant garde area with tattoo parlours and alternative fashion shops.
We returned to Kensington High Street the day before we left, New Year's Eve, for some last minute shopping. We had tea and lunch at Down to Earth along side THE Mr. Jimmy Page, who was out on his own for a spot of shopping. Wow! That night we had reservations at a very cool restaurant called Saf on Kensington High Street which is upstairs from the Whole Foods Market. It was a bit odd in that it was located in what I would call a Food Court, but the food and prices were very upscale. Since we had enjoyed a late lunch, we kept it light and shared a wonderful vegan cheese plate which was served with raw crackers, and then indulged in a raw dessert. I would have loved to have tried more from the menu here.
London puts on the most amazing fireworks display for New Year's eve. I didn't want to miss this show and I recommend you check out the link! By this time, we couldn't face the prospect of several hours in a massive crowd, so we opted to watch from the comfort of our hotel room as we simultaneously caught the show on BBC. We had a pretty spectacular view of the Eye, where the fireworks were set off! The next day we packed up and headed home. After a week away, I was ready to return to my family, my shower, my bed and my kitchen. We had no trouble finding awesome food, and as amazing a city as London is, after two weeks of overindulgence I was ready to get back into my normal routine.
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