Monday, July 30, 2012

0 Recipe #316: Coconut Oatmeal Rum Raisin Cookies

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These cookies are dark brown because they're made with organic, blackstrap molasses instead of refined sugar. :)

You might've been wondering why a lot of the recipes I've been posting lately are vegan or contain vegan-friendly modifications, including this one. :) Well, that's because I've been writing recipes (and shooting photos) for the upcoming publication, The Vegan Athlete, by Ben Greene and Brett Stewart, which is now listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and is currently available for pre-order. :) Still pinching myself because it feels so surreal that our book title is now listed there! We're all super-excited about this book, and of course, have been working very hard on it to make it the best it can be! :-D

Both Ben and Brett are multi-talented -- they are both certified personal trainers and amazing athletes, which only begins to describe everything they are and can do :) -- and have been a lot of fun to work with from the start. You might recognize Brett's name from his popular 7 Weeks to Fitness series (i.e., 7 Weeks to Getting Ripped, 7 Weeks to 300 Sit-ups, 7 Weeks to a Triathlon, and many more titles!). Both Ben and Brett have been featured in various fitness magazines: Ben's been interviewed by Triathlete magazine and the Miami Dade Health Department for their Healthy Stories series, which was made into a book, and he'll also soon be featured in The Huffington Post. Brett's been featured in a multitude of magazines (Men's Health UK, Fitness Magazine, etc.), and most recently, in the August 2012 issues of SELF and Max Muscle magazines. Pretty freakin' cool, eh?! :)

The Vegan Athlete is part of the 7 Weeks to Fitness nutritional and fitness lifestyle series, "The Athlete's Cookbook" (from Ulysses Press). In keeping with the tone of previous 7 Weeks to Fitness books, The Vegan Athlete takes a practical, no-nonsense approach to addressing the fitness and nutritional needs of the vegan athlete. The book not only covers the benefits and specific dietary needs of the vegan athlete lifestyle, but also provides a detailed program that covers everything from how fuel for training and events, tips for scheduling/timing meals and grocery shopping, and even a guide to vegan entertaining, to a 3-step guide on how to go vegan, a nutritionally balanced 4-week meal plan to help maximize athletic performance, and three separate, multi-level training programs that correspond to three different goals (weight loss, strength, and endurance). There's also a maintenance section at the end, as well as a training log and section on stretching, warm-up, and injury prevention. And, oh yeah, my recipes are in that section too. :) The recipes are not only super practical and busy-athlete-friendly, but they can be plugged directly into the 4-week meal plan. How's that for user-friendly?! :) Plus, there's a heck of a lot more to this book too! In future, I'll be sharing more news about this book as well as other titles from this series that I'm part of too. Some of these upcoming titles include 7 Weeks to 10 Lbs. of Muscle, Paleo Fitness, and The Athlete's Cookbook. If you'd like to read more about these titles, you can always check the "books" tab of this site for information and updates.

Many of the recent recipes you see on this blog, including this one, are a preview of some of the recipes that will be featured in The Vegan Athlete. Gee, that provides the perfect segue into a brief culinary and nutritional overview of these cookies. :)

Moist and chewy, and crisp around the edges, these vegan coconut oatmeal rum raisin cookies are loaded with lots of healthy, yummy ingredients. The coconut flour, oil, and flakes lend a wonderful nutty flavor to the cookies and make them extra chewy and delicious, not to mention these ingredients have got some excellent health properties too. To enhance your guilt-free enjoyment, here's just a small sampling of their health benefits:

  • Coconut is excellent for athletes, because it provides an immediately usable but sustainable source of energy. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) that actually helps the body to rapidly burn fat. Since the body cannot readily store MCTs, it must burn them, thus resulting in an increase in fat oxidation and energy expenditure. And when coconut oil is ingested in moderation, that can lead to weight loss.
  • Both oats and raisins are rich in antioxidants, and provide many other excellent health properties as well. Raisins are one of the best sources of boron, a mineral that’s essential to bone health, and have been shown to provide protection against osteoporosis. Oats are a decent source of fiber, protein, and carbohydrates, and have very strong anti-inflammatory properties. It also stabilizes blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, protects the heart, boosts the immune system, and lowers the risk of Type-2 diabetes.
  • And lastly, organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses, which is what gives these cookies their distinct dark brown color and rich flavor, is actually good for you, unlike refined sugar. It contains a variety of minerals -- iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6.

And the kicker?! These yummilicious cookies contain ZERO refined sugar and only healthy, energy-burning fats that help you to lose weight versus packing it onto your rear end. Yep, that's right. You heard me correctly. It's a cookie that not only tastes good but is good for you too. I'm not making this stuff up, people. (Except for the recipe. Lol.) Cookies like this DO exist. :) OK, so now what are you waiting for? ;) Get into that kitchen and start making some of these cookies NOW. Hahaha.

Coconut Oatmeal Rum Raisin Cookies

2 c. extra virgin coconut oil, plus more for buttering cookie sheet (or unsalted butter, at room temperature)
1 c. organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. rum
2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/4 tsp. ground clove
1/4 c. ground cinnamon
3 c. oats
1/2 c. shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 c. ground golden flaxseed + 3/4 c. water (or other egg replacement like Ener-G Egg Replacer; if you aren't vegan, just use 4 eggs)
2 c. dark seedless raisins

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour ground flaxseed into a small bowl, add water, and stir until well combined. Allow mixture to sit for about 10 minutes, or until it puffs up a bit and forms a gel. Set aside. (This mixture replaces eggs as the binding agent for the cookie dough.) In a large mixing bowl, mix together coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, rum, and flaxseed mixture (or 4 eggs if you're not vegan) until well-combined and smooth. Set aside. Next, mix together all dry ingredients -- minus the oats, raisins, and shredded coconut -- and then gradually incorporate the dry into the wet ingredients and mix well, until combined. By hand, fold in oats, coconut, and raisins until well combined. Drop about 1/4 c. of cookie dough onto an ungreased, parchment-covered cookie sheet. Flatten dough slightly using a fork. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake at 375°F for 12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container (to keep cookies soft and chewy).

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2 Recipe #315: Southeast Asian Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

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Cool and refreshing as well as quick and easy to make, these bite-sized bundles are the perfect appetizer to serve at spring and summer parties. After all, who can resist fresh and delicious finger food that also just happens to be good for you too?!

Unlike spring rolls, summer rolls are served raw and cold. So, clearly, they're much healthier for you than their deep-fried counterpart. :) They are served throughout Southeast Asia (i.e., Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, etc.). In Asian restaurants, they are sometimes listed on the menu as “garden rolls,” “fresh spring rolls,” “fresh rolls,” or sometimes “summer garden rolls” (less common). They are called “pa pia sod” (in Thai) or “gỏi cuốn” (in Vietnamese).

Even though the traditional version is typically made with shrimp, crab, or meat (chicken, oinkity-oink, etc.), this particular recipe is vegan. If you'd like to make the non-vegan version instead, just substitute the seafood or meat for the tofu. :)

These are so fresh and yummy, you won’t be able to keep yourself from chomping down on these vermicelli rice noodle wrappers stuffed with vermicelli rice noodles, tofu, avocado, and all sorts of cold, crisp, and delicious fresh vegetables! They are the perfect way to revive yourself after being outside on a hot summer’s day. :)

Summer Roll Ingredients:
10 sheets vermicelli rice paper wrapper
1 3 ½” x 3 ½” brick vermicelli rice (i.e., “cellophane”) noodles (makes about 1 c. cooked)
1 c. firm, non-GMO tofu, diced into 1/2” cubes
1/4 c. carrots, julienned into 1 1/2”-long matchsticks
1/2 c. shredded cabbage (or lettuce)
1/4 c. non-GMO mung bean sprouts
1/2 c. cucumber, julienned into 1 1/2”-long matchsticks
1/2 c. scallions, (green and white parts), julienned into 1 1/2”-long matchsticks
1/4 c. mushrooms, julienned
1/8 c. fresh cilantro leaves, densely packed and finely minced
1/8 c. mint leaves, densely packed and finely minced
1/8 c. sweet Thai basil (use regular, if unavailable), densely packed and finely minced
1/8 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 c. Haas avocado, sliced (about 1 Haas avocado)

Peanut Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1 c. dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 Tbsp. garlic (about 4 medium garlic cloves), peeled & minced
1 Tbsp. ginger (about 1" piece), peeled (using the side of a spoon) & minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/8 c.. fresh cilantro, densely packed and finely minced
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. honey (strict vegans can substitute with molasses)
1/8 c sesame seed oil
1/2 c. lite, unsweetened coconut milk (from a can)
1/4 c. water (or more if necessary)
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Directions: Make the peanut dipping sauce: (This step can be done in advance to reduce meal-time prep. Sauce will keep in the fridge for several days.) Add all sauce ingredients, minus the sesame seeds, to a food processor and pulse until smooth, and then transfer ingredients to a small sauce pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat, or until raw garlic smell disappears, stirring continually to avoid browning it on the bottom. (Add more water as necessary to prevent burning and achieve desired consistency.) Set aside. Gently fold in sesame seeds until combined.

Assemble the summer rolls: Place all summer roll ingredients -- minus the vermicelli rice paper, vermicelli rice noodles, and avocado -- into a large bowl and toss until well combined. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time. About 15-20 minutes before serving time, bring a medium-sized pot of water to a rolling boil (on high heat), about 8 minutes, and then add vermicelli noodles and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove pot from stove, drain noodles into a colander, rinse with cold water, and then drain again. Allow to cool completely. When ready to serve, place vermicelli rice paper in a large bowl filled with hot water for about 10 seconds and rotate until all areas have been moistened. Remove it from the water and lay it across a large plate. Place a 1/2 c. of the vegetable mixture onto the rice paper wrap, then lay an avocado slice on top. Gently lift up two opposite ends of the rice paper wrapper and fold them inward, towards the center of the wrapper. Next, gently lift up an open, adjacent side of the wrapper and tuck it over the filling, and then starting rolling the wrapper forward until the final, remaining end has been sealed. (Use a slight amount of pressure when tucking and rolling, so that the roll is somewhat tightly wrapped, but do not pull or stretch too vigorously, or wrapper paper will tear. It's pliable and can take a bit of expansion, but it's not Silly Putty. Lol.) Repeat process until all summer rolls have been made. Serve with peanut dipping sauce. Consume immediately (or at least within an hour of making them) for the best flavor and consistency.

Yield: 10 summer rolls, or 5 servings of 2 rolls per person.

Chef's Notes: IMPORTANT: When shopping for the vermicelli rice paper, make sure you buy the ones labelled “fresh spring roll rice paper,” sometimes labelled as “bánh tráng gỏi cuốn” (in Vietnamese). The other kinds require cooking.

The trick to easily handling the rice paper is not to leave it soaking in the hot water for too long; otherwise it'll become way too soft, and the will weaken and very likely tear. Also, it helps if you lay the rice paper on a plate that's slightly wet on the bottom, which prevents it from sticking to the plate. Once you soak the paper in the hot water to soften it, it's important to work quickly, so that the paper sticks together and seals after you roll it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

0 Recipe #314: Apricot & Papaya Pudding Parfait

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Here's an easy-to-make recipe I created earlier this week (on 7/21/12), but didn't get around to posting until today. Since I'm super-busy and currently trying to meet a book deadline, I'm going to keep this morning's recipe exposition rather brief, almost as brief as the recipe itself. :)

So, in short, here it is: this parfait is naturally sweet and very low-fat. Plus, with all its layers, it's also fun to eat as well, so kids will love eating it too. :) It can be eaten either as a dessert or as a post-exercise recovery snack. As a recovery option, it’s got the perfect combination of ingredients -- plenty of electrolytes and antioxidants, a decent amount of quality carbs to replenish depleted glycogen stores, and protein to help repair the tiny muscle fiber tears that occur during exercise. So, regardless of how you classify this recipe, how you decide to enjoy it is up to you!

Apricot-Papaya Pudding Parfait

Ingredients: (Makes 2 c. pudding)
1 1/2 c. fresh apricots, pitted (about 4 1/2 apricots)
1/4 c. dates, pitted (about 8-9 regular dates)
1/2 c. papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 c. unsweetened, organic non-GMO soy milk
1/16 tsp. (pinch) salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

2-3 c. plain nonfat Greek yoghurt (vegans can substitute vegan, non-dairy whipped topping or plain/vanilla soy yoghurt) (about 1/2 c. per serving)
4-6 c. fresh apricots, pitted and diced (about 1 c. per serving) (about 14-16 apricots)
4-6 Tbsp. chopped walnuts (about 1 Tbsp. per serving)
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon (for dusting) (about 1/16 tsp. per serving)

Directions: Toss all of the pudding ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add a layer of diced apricots to the bottom of a parfait (or martini) glass, followed by a layer of yoghurt (or non-dairy whipped topping), and then a layer of pudding. Top parfait with more diced apricots and then sprinkle with walnuts and some ground cinnamon. Repeat procedure for each parfait glass. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Chef's Notes: This pudding would also work really well as a tart filling using an almond-based crust with toasted almonds on top for decoration.

Susbstitutions: I realize that for some, papaya might be an acquired taste. However, there's not much papaya in the recipe; in fact, once it's all blended together, you can barely taste it. :) However, if you still prefer to you could also substitute another mild or mellow-tasting fruit, like cantaloupe, for the papaya. The reason I added the papaya, other than for its nutrients and health benefits, is that it's fairly neutral in terms of flavor balance -- it's not too sweet nor is it too tart. If the entire pudding was nothing but apricots (and some Medjool dates, which are intensely sweet!), it'd be a little mouth-puckering. Lol.

0 Recipe #313: Mexican-style Gazpacho

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Revive yourself with this tasty, tangy Mexican-style gazpacho. Rich in antioxidants, electrolytes, and Omega-3 fatty acids, this soup is a superfood extravaganza! It's also got TONS of health benefits that are just PERFECT for athletes and other healthy-minded individuals! The ingredients in this soup promote cardiovascular and eye health, regulate blood sugar levels, increase nutrient absorption, lower cholesterol levels, help fight cancer, and provide a wide range of anti-inflammatory benefits, which are of course useful in reducing post-exercise soreness among other things. Drink this soup and you'll be drinking to your health! :)

The flavors of this particular gazpacho recipe have a Mexican twist to it. The traditional Mexican flavors of cumin, lime, oregano, and cilantro complement the soup's base of tomato, cucumber, red onion, garlic, and avocado. The avocado adds just the right amount of creaminess to give this soup some extra "oomph," while the addition of mint balances out the soup's tangy, slightly spicy taste with a fresh, clean flavor that goes hand in hand with the crisp, cool flavors of cilantro and cucumber in this soup.

Not only is this recipe super-quick and easy to make, but there's no cooking required. And on a really hot day, like the ones we've been having lately (!), you'll be glad that you won't need to turn on your stove. :)

Mexican-Style Gazpacho

3 c. grape tomatoes
1 c. cucumber, peeled (in alternating vertical stripes) and diced*
1/2 c. red onion, peeled & diced (about 1/4 small onion)
1/8 c. garlic, peeled & minced (about 4 large cloves)
1/2 c. Haas avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced (1/2 Haas avocado)
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, densely packed
1/8 c. fresh cilantro, densely packed
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/8 tsp. Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 c. V-8 tomato juice (for milder gazpacho, add another 1/2 c.)

Optional Garnishes:
3-4 Tbsp. cheddar or Parmigiano-Reggiano (or vegan) cheese, shredded (about 1 Tbsp. per serving)
1/2 c. Haas avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced (1/2 Haas avocado)
fresh mint &/or cilantro leaves, finely minced
1/4 c. scallion, (green and white parts), sliced crosswise into 1/4”-thick rounds

Directions: Add all solid ingredients to a blender, pulse to combine, then add liquids, and pulse again until desired consistency has been reached. Divide into equal portions and pour into bowls. Top each portion with avocado slices, shredded cheese, &/or other desired garnishes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Yield: 3-4 servings.

Chef's Notes: *For higher nutritional value, peel the cucumber in alternating vertical stripes. This way, you'll preserve more of the nutrient-rich peel.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

0 Strawberry-Kiwi Fizz

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Made this last Sunday and drank it with a friend while we were cooling off at the pool in 102°F weather with 60% humidity (!). My friend loved it! She brought the watermelon and I brought the refreshments. :) Both really hit the spot!

Please note, this drink is similar in concept to a sangria. If you wish to consume the fruit in this drink, either use a pitcher with a wide spout so that the fruit pours into the drink or better still, transfer the fruit from the pitcher to the beverage glasses and then use a pitcher with a narrow spout to pour the liquids to avoid a big splash. ;) If you only wish to drink only the liquid essence of this drink's ingredients, then use the same type of pitcher but of course strain only the liquid into the glasses. You can always drink the liquids and then consume the solid fruits separately. I personally prefer eating the fruit in this drink for its fiber and other nutritional benefits. :)

Strawberry-Kiwi Fizz

1 liter bottle seltzer water
1 c. strawberries, well-rinsed, hulled, and sliced
1 c. kiwis, ends removed, peeled, and sliced into 1/4”-thick rounds
1 c. limes, sliced crosswise into thin (1/4") rounds (about 2 1/2 large limes)
1/8 c. (2 Tbsp.) mint, finely minced
1/2 c. honey, or to taste
2 c. ice cubes

Directions: Add mint and limes to a glass pitcher. Mull these ingredients by pressing them against the sides of the pitcher with a spoon. Add all other ingredients, solid ingredients first followed by liquid ones, to pitcher and stir until well-blended or until honey has dissolved. Add ice cubes immediately before serving. Serve and enjoy!

Yield: 78.8 fl. oz., or about 1 large glass pitcher.

Chef's Notes: Open seltzer water bottle very slowly and carefully, as it's a carbonated beverage and will explode if opened too quickly! Also, don’t let this drink sit for too long or the mint in it will turn bitter.

This drink is the perfect thing to serve for summer parties on the back deck patio. Instead of traditional cocktails, serve a pitcher of strawberry-kiwi fizz, and then if you like, spike it with a bit of vodka or gin. Now you're all set for some summertime fun!

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