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?

muffins on the boob tube

5 Jan

Hey there! I was featured on a morning show here in Portland, talking about vegan baking in the new year. You can check out the segment here.

*sorry, it won’t let me imbed the video.

Yay, vegan baking!

Oh, and here is the recipe.

You Are My Sunshine Loaf (or Muffins!)

This bread is so bright and sunny you can almost feel the sunshine on your face. If California could be made in the form of a bread, this would be it. With its lovely orange color and citrus notes, along with sweet bursts of raisins, this is a welcome breakfast bread on the grayest days.

1- 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white-wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded carrots
1 medium apple, peeled and shredded
1- 1/4 cups grain or nut milk
¼ cup oil
zest of 1 medium orange
juice of one medium orange
½ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with margarine or oil.

In a medium bowl, combine all-purpose flour, white-wheat flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, combine shredded carrots, shredded apple and milk and mix until well-combined. Add oil, orange zest and orange juice. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in two batches until just combined. Gently mix in raisins and walnuts.

Spread batter in the loaf pan and bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until bread is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack until the pan is cool enough to touch, about 40 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of the loaf to separate it from the pan, and turn bread out of the pan to finish cooling on a rack.

If making muffins, bake in greased or lined muffin tins for 22-25 minutes. Follow cooling instructions for loaf.

Store leftover bread (or muffins) covered at room temperature.

Yield: 1 loaf, 10 slices or 12 regular sized muffins

*this recipe is slightly amended from the version in “The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes”. Please see this page for more information.

a baker’s tour of portland

20 Jul

Portland is a great place for foodies, no doubt. Whether you’re vegan, omni, microbrew aficionado or mixologist, Portland has you covered. That’s all fine and good if you wish to be served, but what if you want to be the one behind the apron? One of the things that Portland has going for it, that appears to be underrated, is that it’s a great place for bakers.

In Milwaukie, a southern suburb of Portland, a large red barn houses the holy land for baker’s and conscious eaters alike: Bob’s Red Mill.


This water wheel operates a large display grind stone inside.


In a standard grocery store, even in many co-ops, you are lucky to find a little sections featuring Bob’s grains. If you have ever looked for wheat gluten, alternative flours, or gluten-free mixes, chances are you’ve come across Bob’s, no matter where you live. And with good reason. Bob’s Red Mill has been leading the way- with wholesome stone ground grains, beans, and baking mixes- for several decades now.

At the Red Mill, you can order up some food for breakfast or lunch. They have a separate vegetarian menu featuring a few vegan options. The staff there are very helpful in answering any menu questions you have, as well as welcoming substitutions.

Rather than having a little section to select from, the store carries the whole line of BRM goods, seeing as it’s only about 1/2 mile from it’s actual processing facility. That means over 300 products made by BRM. It’s easy to get lost for hours, reading over each little bag and oogling all of the exotic baking goods.


Pretty much anything under the sun that you could need is housed within the big red barn. This picture shows only about 1/3 of the store. There is also a huge bulk section, some ready-to-eat food and baking/cooking supplies. You can buy grains in bags as small as 16 oz. or you can pull out the big guns and haul home a 25 lb. bag of grain for a very reasonable price. They also have a large filing cabinet stocked with free recipes for nearly all their products.

If you are lucky, you may run into Bob himself. There is an upper level with some festive decor and a sitting area for those enjoying a meal. I have seen him up there a couple of times, sitting at a table doing paper work. He wears the Bob attire, the famous hat and vest ensemble. This last trip, he actually saddled up to an upright piano and played some music, as well as sang a tune! I would have taken a picture, but that would have involved leaning over some poor diner’s table to get a shot, so I erred on the side of good manners and held back.

Directly across the street is vegan bread headquarters: Dave’s Killer Bread.


This is the outlet for Dave’s Killer Bread and it’s sister company (actually brother company) Nature Bake. Everything that Dave makes is vegan and most of Nature Bake’s products are as well. DKB is truly the most amazing bread I have ever tasted. When you toast a slice of it, it smells as if you are baking a fresh loaf at that very moment. Dave takes Bob’s excellent ingredients and makes magic with them.


Inside the outlet you’ll find racks and freezers full of bread, buns, rolls and cookies for lower prices than the store. Depending on whether you get day old loaves or frozen loaves, you can save over half of what some local stores charge. The other advantage is that you can get some of Dave’s low production goodies that are normally only available at the farmer’s markets, such as the infamous Cinn-dawg or these yummy looking Good Seed hoagie rolls.

daves good seed

I replenished our bread supply and came home with my loot from Bobs.

Bob's loot

Wheat and spelt berries for the Vita-Mix, spelt flour, millet flour, barley flour and some regular all-purpose flour. I also picked up tapicoa pearls to make some long-awaited pudding (I haven’t had tapioca pudding in probably 6-7 years!) and semolina flour to make some homemade pasta. Before I got on this whole canning kick, my original summer project was to make homemade pasta noodles, so I picked up a very reasonably priced pasta maker as well. A packet of sourdough starter and some (not pictured) evaporated cane juice rounded out my purchases.

Whether you call Portland home or are just passing through, it’s worth the trip to the big red barn to fill up your pantry and your tummy with all sorts of wholesome goodness.

fruits and little labor

2 Jul

The Foodie Fights results are not up yet, but I will update when they come in.

Jim and I are working on a bunch of stuff for the cooking show. We’ve got some exciting plans up our sleeves, so expect a new episode in a few days and some surprises this summer.

Well, summer is truly here. It’s supposed to hit 95 today and I’ve got produce coming out of my ears! Between the farmer’s market, stores and friends, I can barely keep up with the bounties of summer. If you’ve managed to avoid eating well and getting in shape before summer rolled out, there is no time like the present. Plus, it couldn’t be easier when the weather is great and fresh food is abundant.

My lovely friend, Sandy, gave us some goodies from her garden, including these beautiful flowers.


With some fresh lettuce from her garden and berries from the farmer’s market, we made an awesome salad including walnuts, chickpeas, mandarin oranges and a raspberry vinagrette.


Sandy also gave us some basil and arugula, which I turned into a yummy pesto.


I cooked up some tricolored shell pasta and sauteed some veggies- asparagus, zucchini (leftover from the challenge), bell pepper, Walla Walla onion, garlic and chickpeas. Yummy…

pesto skillet

Tossed together with the pasta and pesto, this made a wonderful dinner after a long workout. Plus, leftovers never hurt. I also had some leftover raw crackers from Blossoming Lotus, which topped off our dishes perfectly.


Paired with our new nightly ritual- a Vita-Mix smoothie. This one was kind of sickly colorwise, but tasted great. It included a whole apple (including the core), strawberries, kale, spinach, Very Green powder, raspberries and almond milk. Yum! I’m really loving having Edgar around. We’ve gotten into the habit of having smaller dinners and giant smoothies- perfect for warm summer nights. Or post-workout I throw in a big scoop of hemp protien powder and call it good. All hail the Vita-Mix!


I’m on a new nut kick with pistachios. So underutilized are these delicious nuts! They cannot simply be confined to holiday nut bowls. They are so fragrant and beautiful. I am working on a bundt recipe some ground up pistacios in it. I tossed in some fresh raspberries for good measure.


It was pretty darn good, but still needs some tweaking.


Have a Happy 4th and I’ll be back with episode three of the cooking show early next week!