Tag Archives: health

tips for healthy baking (that still tastes good)

10 Nov

So… I didn’t MoFo yesterday. Oops.

Today, I want to discuss baking and health. I get enormously frustrated when people say to me, “Oh, you’re a vegan baker? Your stuff must be really healthy.”

Uh, no, actually. It’s not.

And then I have to try to explain to them that while it’s not full of animal ingredients and white sugar and bleached flour, it’s still full of fat and sugar and white flour. Plenty of vegans make things super healthy but, for better or worse, I’m not one of them, at least not when it comes to my books. My objective is to make things taste as “normal” as possible. I don’t want an omni to be able to tell the difference and I don’t want a vegan or someone with food allergies to feel like they are eating anything less than.

That said, sometimes it pays to clean up your act a little bit. I tend to bake way too much quite a bit and because I don’t like not baking, I have to mix it up in order to keep us healthy. It’s no secret that the recipes in my cookbooks are sometimes foods. But because I have a particular taste pallate, I don’t want my baking to taste too healthy. Where’s the fun in that?

Here are some of my tips to help you make your baked goods healthier without sacrificing flavor.

1. If a recipe calls for sugar, use a little! Even if I’m cutting the sugar content siginifcantly or are substituting a liquid, I always add a little bit of regular sugar (I use evaporated cane juice) to a recipe. Granulated sugar breaks down differently than liquid and greatly contributes to the mouthfeel of a baked good, which is the most important consideration when healthifying any recipe. Keeping a bit of sugar in there helps retain that mouthfeel, ensuring your muffins won’t be mealy like a biscuit.

2. Always use a little bit of fat. Substitute applesauce or whatever to your heart’s content, but always use at least 1-2 tablespoons of fat. Fat-free baked goods have a rubbery texture. Fat is also important to help you feel satiated, so you don’t end up eating 3 muffins instead of just 1. Oops.

3. Blend your flours. Even when baking healthier, I always do a blend of whole wheat and white flour. This goes back to mouthfeel. Whole wheat flour is grittier and more dense. It also absorbs more liquid, so you may need to add an additional tablespoon or two of liquid when substituting flours. I usually do a mixture of white flour, whole wheat and some ground oats when I’m baking for my health. This creases the fiber and protein of the baked good without it tasting like I’m eating something that came from a 1960s co-op bakery.

3. A little sprinkle (of sugar) goes a long way. I tend to cut back significantly on the sugar content in my baked goods but often, although the texture is okay, they just don’t taste that sweet on their own. I love to add a sprinkle of coarse sugar to the top of whatever I’m baking (typically muffins or cookies). This sugar doesn’t dissolve into the baked good and is then immediately available to your tongue when eating, ensure your get that desired sweetness without ingesting a mass of sugar.

4. Mix it up. It’s amazing how far a sprinkle of chocolate chips, some berries, lemon zest or a teaspoon of ginger can take a recipe. Extracts are great, too, to help create a pronounced flavor without adding calorie-heavy ingredients.

5. Don’t forgo the topping. Find a lesser-evil if something you’re making is usually really decadent. If you feel deprived you will go to the other end of the spectrum and then binge on super unhealthy things. Trust me, I’ve been there. If a recipe calls for fatty frosting, add a light glaze. Create a fruit compote to top it off. Just because you’re making things healthier doesn’t mean you have to be without.

What things to do you do to help make a recipe healthier?

cleanin’ up my act… for now

28 Sep

*The winners are: Abby, Tracy, Hope, Aimee and Amanda! I discovered I had 5 coupons, all good for 1 free Nasoya item so yay for you guys! Email me your addresses and I’ll pop them in the mail!*

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. That good thing right now is cake.


With cooler weather on its way and the desire eat heartier foods pulling at me, I’m also feeling the need to take a step back and freshen up my palette. My recipe for recalibration = fruits and veggies, and lots of ’em!

Breakfasts have consisted of monster green smoothies which easily stick to my ribs and tide me over until lunch with a little scoop of hemp seeds. Lunch varies between salads, soups, stews and veggie chili. Dinner, we’ve been keeping light with yummies such as this:

Mexican spiced beans with sauteed bell pepper and onion and a healthy blob of guac in a crisp leaf of lettuce. Oh, guacamole-topped-anything, how I love thee.

When we don’t feel like cooking, one of my favorite places to eat (besides Blossoming Lotus, for whom my heart burns bright), Jim and I journey across the river to Prasad, which shares the Yoga in the Pearl space which BL once held. “Prasad” is a Sanskrit word meaning “holy food” and this place pretty much nails it on the head. They have that whole natural-meets-gourmet thing well worked out and some of our favorite dishes to turn to are of the raw pasta variety. If you’ve never had raw pasta before, behold:

Above is my favorite, the Love Pasta. Zucchini noodles, adorned with hemp pesto, some greens, tomatoes, carrots and a cashew cream sauce that is mouthwateringly fabulous. They even cap it off with a darling carrot heart. Aw…

Above is the Sea Ceasar Pasta, zucchini noodles coated in a seaweed spiked Ceasar dressing, with some cucumbers, raw kale and carrots tie it all together. Creamy and delicious, Prasad knows their raw pastas. Sorry that the pictures don’t do more justice to the food, as they were from my phone.

I HAVE to get one of those spiral cutters for zucchini, it’s just amazing the kind of noodles it makes! I am experiencing some serious raw food envy, between the amazing food that I get here and my raw foodie co-worker, who is always telling me about her latest adventures with her dehydrator. Ah, vegan eating… And people think we’re deprived… 🙂

What kinds of things do you like to eat when you’re trying to clean up your act? Or if you’re just a raw/whole foods lover (as I suspect most of you are), what are your favorite treats or meals? The fine folks at Nasoya have gifted me with some coupons for 1 free item and they have some yummy products to tickle your tastebuds. On Friday I’ll randomly pick 3 lucky people to get these coupons (US only again, sorry), so leave a note with your healthy eating suggestions!

it’s greeeeeeeen

24 Aug

{Thanks for your participation in my poll below! I think it stands that I’ll be playing around with cheesecake!}

While I love to talk about food and about all of the delicious vegan feasts we enjoy, I can get tired of the questions. You know the kind, where the inquirer doesn’t actually care what the answer is, they just have to ask in that pointed way, to try and make a spectacle of you.

What are you eating?”

Most people are decent when it comes to the workplace lunch room, but I do work with a couple of these people. The people who stop their conversation when I pull out my lunch to start inspecting what I’ve brought. The people who would never be willing to try the bites I offer up, but can’t help playing 20 questions to figure out what’s in it and how I made it, all while turning up their noses. The people who complain that I never bring in any cake and then won’t even try it when it’s sitting on the lunchroom table.

Whew. Apparently I needed to vent.

Anyway, those questions get old. However, there are some things I eat that I love to rub back in these people’s faces.

The greeen smoothie is alive and well in our home. I often have one for breakfast and pour them into a Mason jar so I can take it to work and enjoy it at my desk, in lieu of morning coffee. But in the world of Hot Pocket breakfast sandwiches and frozen bagel sticks piped full of cream cheese (can they produce more disgusting things?), this Hulk-inspired drink never fails to turn heads.

And you know what, while I tire of having my quinoa/salad/hummus wrap/tofu lunch selections dissected, I never tire of sucking down a delicious green smoothie and detailing all of the ingredients. I think it’s because to many people it’s the most revolting thing I consume at work yet it’s probably the most dessert-like (next to the cake they won’t touch). It’s amazing how badly we judge books by their covers.

When did green become such a bad thing?

Green Meanies Smoothie

3 full kale leaves, with stems, washed*
1 inch square patch of wheat grass, washed*
1-2 handfuls of spinach, washed
1 frozen banana
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 tbsp. coconut oil

Place ingredients in order listed into the container of a high power blender (tear the kale a bit). Process on high for 1 minute, scraping down the inside of the container if necessary.

Serves 2.

*If you don’t have a high powered blender (Vita-Mix or BlendTec), I recommend removing the kale stems and omitting the wheat grass.

health care reform- in your life

23 Jun

I don’t normally talk much about my day job, but I was at a seminar this morning that I thought was so well-timed and dovetails so nicely with the blog and things we talk about here from time to time, I can’t resist.

I work in Human Resources (and I’m a newly minted PHR, as of Sunday, for anyone who knows what that means!) and so Health Care Reform is a major item on the forefront of everyone’s minds. At this seminar we talked about the small amount of details that have been clarified by the government and what to expect in the next few years as this plan rolls out.

And… here comes the soap box. 🙂

I don’t want to get into politics on here, although I’m sure few of my views would come as a surprise, but what I will say is that the fact that we are in dire need of health care reform should not be any sort of radical idea at this point.

I’m not saying I’m in love with the proposed plan. But it’s a start. What we actually see in 2014 could look completely different that what we’re hearing about, but this needs to be a priority. And it needs to start with you.

How is it that the US spends so much on health care, yet we get the least for our money? Do you know someone who goes to the doctor every time they have a cough, rather than waiting it out and eating saltines and ginger ale? How about people who manuever elective surgeries by fabricating webs of lies or at least exaggerating symptoms to get their way? And the drugs- we turn to the pill bottle before we both to examine our lifestyles and eating habits. Not that you can really trust that many doctors to know about nutrition, as nutrition courses are a minimal, if at all measurable, part of most physician’s training courses in this country. I’m not trying to say that the country is full of abusers, but at the same time, these sorts of things make premiums go up, make doctors stuff more patients into less time and make people dependent on drugs that are more likely to kill them than the problem they are seeking respite from will!

One of my favorite restaurants in Portland, Proper Eats, has a motto: “You look like sh*t and you feel like sh*t because you eat sh*t. Eat Proper.” And it’s true. It’s the old addage- garbage in, garbage out. As our lives become more filled with chemicals and processed foods and we become more sedentary, so many of our ailments are of our own causing. Many things we think of as common place things, like heart disease or Type II diabetes, used to be considered diseases of affluence- meaning that only the rich could afford to eat such crap. 🙂 Now processed food is king (just look at the configuration of a grocery store, with the perishable, fresh foods forming a thin perimeter around the endless aisles of pre-packaged “food”). And we turn to pills we see on TV ads (with the most ridiculously common symptoms and terrifying side effects) to “cure” us.

We need more accountability. Things happen, and of course people need medical care and some things can’t be managed or avoided by diet and exercise alone. I’m not trying to downplay serious medical conditions, because of course they happen and can’t always be helped. But I know a good handful of people who would love to tell you their stories about battling (and winning) against disease through diet and exercise.

We have a greater influence on our own health and well-being that we give ourselves credit for- or hold ourselves accountable for. What can you do to take better care of yourself? How can you be proactive and preventative rather than falling victim to something that maybe didn’t have to happen? We’re not invincible, but we’re far more powerful than we realize. This doesn’t mean no more cookies or indulgences- it means smart choices and balance. And I think we could all use a little more of that.

So this is my challenge to you- what are you doing to bring Health Care Reform into your life?

Here’s what I’m doing:

Couch 2 5k a running program for non-runners. It gets you up and moving, builds stamina, increases heart and lung capacity and is good, solid exercise. There are tons of free podcasts on iTunes that provide music and cues to help you on your runs.

My regular yoga practice- good for my physical and mental health.

Continually cleaning up my diet. Eating more whole foods (which, contrary to popular belief, is not more expensive than junk food). More on this soon.

What will you do?