Saturday, November 15, 2014

Plant POWER: by Nava Atlas Giveaway and Chickpea and Kale Sandwhich Spread

Perhaps one of the best known vegetarian and vegan cookbook authors, Nava Atlas, released the stunning new cookbook, Plant POWER. Containing more than 150 new and inspiring recipes, Plant POWER is much more than your average vegan cookbook. It’s a primer and guide for regaining your health and vitality from the food at the end of your fork. The subtitle, Transform your Kitchen, Plate, and Life, sets high standards for what follows, and remarkably, this book delivers all it promises. 

As some long-time readers will recall, I reviewed and loved Ms. Atlas’s last cookbook, Wild About Greens and I’m happy to report that Plant POWER supersedes it's predecessor. From the moment it arrived, I knew I was holding something special. In fact, it has become my go-to recommended book for anyone interested in learning more about plant-based diets or healthy cooking.

Besides the 150 + recipes, Nava Atlas has dedicated nearly half of the book to introducing readers to different aspects of plant-based diets. This section touches on the health, environmental and animal rights reasons for eating a plant-based diet, as well as includes tips on how to live a plant powered life. The book includes over 70 stunning and full color photos (my only complaint about Wild About Greens) and most recipes include variations so you can easily make the recipe fit any preferred eating style (I was particularly impress to see she included substitutions for recipes with oil).

I often say that eating a healthy, whole food vegan diet is becoming easier than ever. Plant POWER practically takes the challenge out of meal-planning and I can say with conviction that there is something for everyone contained within these pages.

The recipes focus on simple and healthy foods made with real, fresh, and easy to find ingredients. Most are prepped, cooked, and ready to be served in thirty minutes. Because of all of these successes, I guarantee that Plant POWER will not be spending too much time on my bookshelf, as I will be referencing it frequently for inspiration and new tips.

Chickpea and Kale Sandwich Spread (From Nava Atlas’ Plant POWER)

I served the spread open-faced style with chopped purple cabbage and tomatoes on top of toasted, sprouted bread. It was absolutely delicious, and only takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

Serves 3 to 4

2 medium kale leaves, rinsed well (or a handful of baby spinach or arugula)
1 medium carrot, cut into chunks
2 cups cooked or 1 can of chickpeas (drained)2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise or tahini (I did tahini)
2 teaspoons mustard
1-2 scallons, green parts only (optional)
¼ cup fresh parsley or 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Green Sprouts (optional)


Combine the kale and carrot in a food processor or multi-speed high powered blender and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the remaining ingredients and pulse again until the chickpeas are evenly chopped and everything is nicely blended – don’t overprocess.

Serve as is, or cover and refrigerate until needed.


Now for the part you have been waiting for. I am happy to announce Nava Atlas has agreed to send a copy of her new book to one lucky reader! Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). Second, you must be a subscriber to BYOL. There are a few ways to win. First, leave a comment on this blog post about why you think this book will be useful. You can also like BYOL on Facebook, or follow BYOL on Twitter. You can get points by liking and following Nava Atlas on Facebook or Twitter as well. Finally, share this on your social media by tagging both BYOL and Nava Atlas in your post. The contest will end on Friday, November 28th at 12:00 a.m. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apple pie cookies (gluten free and with a raw option)

Some people claim that fall is pumpkin everything, and while I love pumpkin as much as the next person, for me, apple will always make the best fall time desserts!

Recently, I created these cookies to help my close friend celebrate finishing their US medical USMILE examations – a grueling two eight-hour day exam. While we are still awaiting the results of the exam, the cookies turned out to be amazing and since Halloween and Thanksgiving are both right around the corner, I've decided to share this tasty treat with you all. Apple Pie Cookies! These little pie-like patties are perfect to get you in the mood for fall and can be made raw or baked. I baked these.

Makes about 20 cookies

5- 6 red apples, cored (I used a mix of New York grown gala and honey crisp)
1 cup date paste*
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup old fashioned oats
1 cup raisins
1 handful of cacao nibs (optional)
½ teaspoon of Cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg and clove to taste

* making date paste is easy. Simply put 3-4 dates in a blender or food processor along with ½ cup of water (to start) blend until smooth and add more water incrementally until you have enough. I like to add a teaspoon of maple syrup to round out the flavor. It should be relatively think and very sweet. If you don’t have a high powered blender, soak the dates in the water for a few hours prior to blending to help soften them.

Blend the raw almonds and cashews together until they are roughly ground but not a complete powder. Some small pieces of nuts are ideal. Add the roughly ground nuts and the oats to a mixing bowl.

Now core the apples, and using a food processor with a shredder, shred three and a half of the apples. Set these in the large mixing bowl and now using the slicing attachment, slice the remaining apples so that you have shredded apples as well as sliced apples.

Add the sliced apples to the mixing bowl with the nuts and oats. Add in the raisins and cacao nibs (if using) along with the spices. Add the date paste on top and using your hands, mix all of the ingredients well.

(Raw option): Using your hands, create small cookie sized patties and place them onto your dehydrator’s food trays.  Put into the dehydrator and set to 115° and dehydrate for 15 hours until the cookies are firm.

(Bake option): Using your hands, create small cookie sized patties and place them onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Have the oven preheated to 250°. Place the trays into the oven and cook for 45 minutes, checking the cookies to make sure they don’t burn about half way through. 

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quick Three-Bean Chili

Truth be told, I’ve struggled with chilis in the past. They either come out too water or too bland, however recently a friend tipped me off and shared with me his phenomenal and lightning-quick recipe that makes a delicious, nutritious, and hearty meal. 

I hope you all enjoy it and have a great October! Also be sure to check back soon for some exciting news and big changes to BYOL! I like to serve this piping hot on top of a fresh bed of chopped greens.

Perhaps the best thing about this recipe is it takes only 20 minutes prep and just another 10 to cook!

There are two additional serving options below to help jazz this recipe up if you choose.

Basic recipe:
1 16 ounce jar of your favorite salsa
1 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I like to us Pomi)
1 can no-salt added pinto beans
1 can no-salt added kidney beans
1 can no-salt added black beans
½ cup of water or veggie broth
1 red onion – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
½ jalapeno pepper - diced (more depending how spicy you want it)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ginger
Black pepper and salt to taste
Fresh cilantro and cubed avocado to garnish (optional)

Start by chopping the onions and carrots and placing them in a large pot and saute them together for 4 or 5 minutes until the onions starts to soften. Then add the diced jalapeno and garlic and continue to saute for two more minutes. 

Then add in the crushed tomatoes the jar of salsa and the three cans of beans. Now add the spices and mix well. Taste and adjust the spices to your preference. Bring the entire pot to a simmer. Once everything is hot it is ready to serve. 

Option 1: Blend ½ cup of cashews with nutritional yeast, 1 clove of garlic, juice of ½ a lemon and some salt in ½ cup of water to make a smooth, creamy but still thick cashew cheese. Once done, stir in finely chopped green onions and fresh mint until well combined. Place a dollop on top of the chili to simulate sour cream.

Option 2: steam or bake two large potatoes while chili is cooking. Once soft, cube the potatoes and add to the chili to make it extra hearty!

Happy fall!

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Power of Flax

It’s been a little while since I last posted a research piece. Honestly, these pieces often are very time consuming. On top of this, I realized that more recipes were needed. It’s one thing to tell you why you should eat healthy, but it seems impractical to not also show you how to do so.  

Flax seed has been around for quite some time. Treasured for it’s medicinal uses throughout the Roman Empire, it was also one of the first “health foods” used by Hypocrites. In fact, whenever I’m asked for a recommendation for a single healthy food to include into a diet, flax seed always makes the short list of possible contenders. But why is flax so well regarded?

Flax are available almost everywhere in the US and are relatively cheap – typically just $2 a pound. They’re two main verities, gold and brown. They are essentially the same nutritionally so either is just fine.

Now because the seeds have a strong fibrous outer shell, our bodies are often unable to digest them and access their full benefits. It is possible to chew them, but it is much simpler to just buy pre-ground flax seeds, or toss the whole flax seeds into a blender or coffee grinder and give them a few pluses. If you grind them yourself, you’ll want to keep them refrigerator or frozen to prevent them from going rancid. They will last several months in the fridge. 

The seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. While Hypocrites didn't have the details, he was clearly onto something. They are one of the richest sources of lignans. Lignans are a type of antioxidant that have been demonstrated to have a multitude of positive health effects. Some of them include the ability to help regulate hormone levels, they help support the immune system, can inhibit certain enzymes from becoming free radicals and may help reduce the stress hormone cortisol among others.

They also contain iron, zinc, copper, calcium, protein, magnesium, folate, and even a trace mineral known as boron that helps bone health. They also help decrease the amount of estrogen, which may help lower breast cancer risk.

On top of this, just 7 grams of ground flax seeds (roughly 1 tablespoon) contains 1.6 grams of Omega 3 fatty acid. That represents the recommended daily dose of Omega 3. To make flax seeds even more appealing, they have just .4 grams of Omega 6 (another essential fatty acid, that most people simple get way too much of.) This means the important Omega 3 to 6 ratio is a great .25. Chia seeds by comparison have .3 grams of omega 6 per 1.6 grams of omega 3, meaning that flax seeds actually has the more favorable omega ratio. Flax seeds are also far cheaper, so per dollar, you are getting more for your buck!

Flax also helps control our cholesterol and blood pressure levels and has also been shown to help with hot flashes in menopausal women.

Honestly, one tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily is one of the best foods you can include in your diet. Because they have such a neutral taste, you can use them in almost any way you desire, but heating them will destroy some of the nutrients so try and include some in their raw, ground state. I sprinkle them on my morning oats and in smoothies as well as on top of salads and pastas. You can also see this post about how to use flax as a replacement for oil in many recipes. 

G.K. Paschos et. all. “Dietary supplementation with flaxseed oil lowers blood pressure in dyslipidaemic patients.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61 2007.

Jeff Novick, “Nuts?” on McDougall Form Jan. 8, 2008.

Zhang, Wang, et. all. “Effects of dietary flaxseed lignan extract on symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Journal of Medical Food, 11 2008.

Zhang, Wang et. all. “Dietary flaxseed lignana extract lowers plasma cholesterol and glucose concentrations in hypercholesterolaemic subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. 99 2008.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Oil-free Baked Falafel

In my last post, I shared a hummus recipe that got some really kind feedback, well today I’ve got another chickpea-based Middle Eastern inspired recipe: oil-free baked falafel.

As I mentioned in my post about mung beans, legumes are one of the healthiest foods available worldwide, and some recent research suggests that bean intake is the most important factor associated with longer lifespans! Not only this, but beans are some of the cheapest foods making their nutrition value a huge bang for the buck!

This falafel recipe is super easy, essentially fool-proof, and tastes phenomenal.

I’m also including a very basic tahini dressing recipe. This is one of those once-in-a-while foods. Tahini is a thick paste made from pulverized sesame seeds, which sounds healthy on its face. However, it is very high in calories with most of those calories coming from fat. Unfortunately, most of that fat comes from Omega-6, an essential fatty acid, but one that most westerners get too much of in relation to their Omega-3 consumption. It is also possible for tahini to oxidize as it ages, which can cause the release of free radicals in your body.

That said few things are so cut and dry. Tahini is rich in phosphorus, lecithin, magnesium, potassium and iron. It’s also a good source of methionine and very high in calcium. It also boasts vitamin E and many of the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15). Most tahini’s are around 20% protein as well. So feel free to weight the costs for yourself. If you’re healthy and fit, including tahini in your diet won’t have a negative impact on your health when consumed sparingly.

Oil-free Falafel:

1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
1 small sweet onion
1 cup fresh parsley (it’s important to use fresh for this recipe)
Juice from ½ of a lemon
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax in 1 tablespoon of water)
Pinch of baking soda
1 tablespoon cumin
Black pepper and salt to taste

Soak the chickpeas overnight or for several hours. Try adding some citrus (like apple cider vinegar) to speed up the process and help with digestibility. Once the beans can be crushed by pinching them between your fingers they are ready. (Note: if you don’t have time to soak them, boil the chickpeas until they are about half cooked. Roughly 30 minutes).

Now, put all of the above ingredients into a food processor or hand held blender. Process until well combined and relatively processed, but not completely smooth. Stop the food processor and push the ingredients down towards the blends when needed. The entire mixture should turn into a light green from the parsley and have a pleasant cumin smell.
Now pre-heat the oven to 350 and line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture into small 2 inch balls and put onto the pan. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes and check. The falafel balls should begin to brown. Flip them over and return to the oven for another 8 – 10 minutes. Take out and let cool.

While the falafels are cooking making the tahini sauce.

Tahini sauce:

2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
Onion powder
¾ cup water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined and smooth.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cumin-spiced Hummus and Gluten-free Lentil Flatbread

I've been told that in certain parts of Asia, every family has their own kimchi recipe. You can travel to a dozen different towns, and in each one, you’ll experience a dozen different varieties of the fermented dish. 

Hummus is like that in the United States… particularly among vegan bloggers. And today I’m going to share with you one of my oil-free hummus’.

Hummus is great as either a snack, appetizer, or as part of dinner. It can be used as a simple dip or used as a dressing. Literally, there is no limit to what you can do with this versatile spread. Typically made from cooked chickpeas, it has a nice blend of the macro-nutrients, and also offers several micro-nutrients as only plant-based foods can provide!

This recipe is for a simple and fast hummus and can be made with either canned or soaked and cooked chickpeas. Feel free to stray from the original recipe and start to create your very own variety!

Makes 2-3 servings

1 or 2 cans of chickpeas or 1 cup cooked chickpeas*
1 teaspoon of tahini
Juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 bayleaf
1 clove of garlic
Cumin seeds (or powder), salt, and black pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor (a hand blender also works well) and blend until smooth and creamy. Slowly add water or veggie broth for desired texture. Taste the hummus and adjust spices and seasoning as needed or desired.

*Pro tip - save the water from the can to use for the hummus

Lentil Flatbread

Now hummus is amazingly healthy, especially when it’s served with veggies like carrots, bell peppers, or cabbage. However, if you are looking for something a little hardier, give this great BYOL-original Lentil and brown rice flatbread a try! Not only is the bread made from whole food ingredients rather than a refined flour, it only requires four essential ingredients, and can be made relatively quickly when in a bind! That being said, I suggest soaking the lentils and rice over night to help with digestibility.

While I’m suggesting pairing it with hummus here, the bread makes great toast with apple butter for breakfast, is perfect with all types of soups, Indian daals and curries, a nice snack with your afternoon mate, and can easily be brought to work or a picnic (It is literally the easiest way to BYOL!) You can also change the thickness by altering how long you let the bread rise and by how thick you make the batter.

Makes One Flatbread loaf

½ cup green or brown lentils (soaked)
½ cup brown rice (soaked)
½ teaspoon or half of an 8 gram packet of Active Dry Yeast
½ teaspoon baking powder*
¼ - ½ cup of veggie broth or water
Add optional spices and herbs such as a bayleaf, basil, or rosemary.

After soaking and rinsing the lentils and rice, put them either in a blender or food processor (again, a hand blender can work well for this). As you blend, slowly add a little bit of water or broth until you start to reach a dough-like consistency. It should be a little runny. Then add the baking powder and active yeast. Now let the mixture sit for 45 minutes to one hour. Pour the batter onto a parchment paper lined baking pan or pizza stone (I often use my cast iron pan) and place into the oven for 20 -25 minutes on 350. Once you’ve achieved the desired crispiness of the bread, remove from the oven and let cool. 

I hope two recipes help power your weekend! 

* If you are highly sensitive to gluten, or have celiac disease, make sure you get a certified gluten-free baking powder. 

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Yerba Mate: A beautiful South American Tradition

As many of you know, I was recently traveling in Buenos Aires. The city is beautiful and rich with tradition. While Buenos Aires operates on a pretty regular schedule, most still practice what is known as “merienda” which is like an afternoon siesta, typically in the middle or later part of the afternoon.  Part of this break includes sharing Yerba Mate (In Argentina it’s pronounce Chur-ba Mate).

Yerba Mate is a South American tea that is most popular in Argentina and Uruguay and in some southern parts of Brazil. It is made by steeping the ground leaves and steams of the yerba mate plant. In America you can find Yerba Mate tea bags, however, that is not how you should enjoy it. Instead, you serve the loose leaf Yerba in a gourd or small container called "mate" (which is Spanish for gourd) and drink small “shots” of tea through a metal straw known as a bombilla (bom-bish-a). 

This is where most American’s get uncomfortable. Because Argentina is a much more open and receptive society (I guess that is a result of not being settled by Puritans!) everyone shares the same mate and the same bombilla. Basically you pour hot (but not boiling) water onto the yerba and then sip the water until there is none left. Then you pour more water in the mate and pass it to the next person. I shared mate with friends while watching Argentina defeat the Netherlands to advance to the World Cup final. It was such a fantastic moment and memory, made all the more special by sharing mate. 

Historically, yerba mate has been being enjoyed since before Europeans arrived on the American continent. In the early 16th century, Juan de SolĂ­s, a Spanish explorer of South America's famed La Plata River, reported that the Guarani Indians of Paraguay brewed a leaf tea that "produced exhilaration and relief from fatigue." Today it is commonly drank multiple times a day. Often with toast, jams, or dulce de leche for breakfast or as a snack. 

Good quality Yerba Mate is available both online and in most health food stores in the US, and you can easily find inexpensive mates and bombilla online as well.

What better way than to reconnect with friends and family than by sharing mate while discussing the day?

Besides being a fun way of reconnecting with loved ones, yerba mate also has some amazing health benefits as it contains numerous nutrients. While it does have caffeine, its content varies, and can range between 25 – 75% less caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. However, according to Brendan Brazier, the caffeine in yerba mate does not cause a spike in cortisol the same way coffee does. As a result, some sensitive to the caffeine in coffees and teas may not be impacted by the caffeine in mate. That said, the Argentine futbol star Lionel Messi drinks mate before every single match, to help energize him to perform on the pitch, and former Ironman athlete Brendan Brazier used it before races.

The Pope and Lionel Messi both enjoying mate.

Yerba mate has roughly 90% more antioxidants than green tea, making this a true powerhouse drink. It contains vitamins B-1, B-2, A, riboflavin, carotene, colin, pantothenic acid, inositol and 15 types of aminoacids! It also contains a significant quantity of potassium, sodium, and magnesium.

Thanks to the antioxidant called polyphenols, yerba mate can help boost immune function and can also slow the signs of aging while also helping to detox the body. Furthermore, (and I almost feel like Dr. Oz for saying this) but several research article report that the consumption of Yerba Mate can help reduce the accumulation of lipids in adipocytes, (or in common talk, can help reduce fat storage) both of which lead to weight gain. Another study done on post pregnancy women showed that Mate consumption can decrease overall calorie consumption, suggesting that Yerba Mate may help one lose weight, and keep it off once they do.

Perhaps we should all start partaking in the merienda’s of South America! Clearly it will benefit our health! 


Just a few photos from the trip. Enjoy

Heckman, MA. Et al. “Caffeine in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters.” Journal of Food Science. 2010.

Po, E. et al. “The Effect of Yerba Mate Supplementation on the Productive Performance of Dorper Ewes and their Progeny.” Asian-Australas Journal of Animal Science July 2012.

Kang, Young-Rye et al. “Anti-Obesity and Anti-diabetic effects of Yerba Mate in C57BL mice fed a high-fat diet.” Laboratory Animal Research March 2012.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.