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Monday, May 16, 2011

My New Whole Food Favorites (Low Carb/Gluten Free/Vegan/Raw

I've been using Navitas Naturals products for a while now, but I only recently discovered 3 of their products, which I am now using on a daily basis. They are whole food/raw food/vegan items that are incredibly versatile. They are acai powder, hulled hemp seeds, and chia seeds. They are marketed as "super foods," and while I'm not sure if that's an accurate description (or if there are such things as "super foods"),  they all have definite health benefits.

The other item I'm promoting is coconut manna made by Nutiva. Unlike the others, it is not a free trade certified product, but it still falls under the category of raw, whole food and vegan.

Hemp Seeds







Hemp seeds are a good source of iron, omega fatty acids, protein, fiber, and essential amino acids.



Chia Seeds






Chia seeds are loaded with omega fatty acids, dietary fiber and protein.


Acai Powder



There's quite a bit of controversy about acai berries - it's been touted by many as being a weight loss miracle, a claim that has been debunked by many others. So, who knows if it helps you lose weight. But let's not dismiss it out of hand - they are rich in anti-oxidants, essential amino acids, and omega fatty acids. It has a very distinct flavor and can be added to all kinds of recipes.


Coconut Manna



Coconut manna is a paste made from dried coconut flesh. When heated, it has a very creamy consistency and can be a delicious addition to many different dishes. Personally, I love this stuff - and I'll be looking for more ways to incorporate it into my recipes. Coconut is a good source of fiber, healthy saturated fat, and is rich in nutrients.


Acai Protein Smoothie






Ingredients:

15 g (2 T) chocolate or vanilla whey protein powder
15 g (2 T) hemp protein powder
1 tsp freeze dried acai powder
1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk


Preparation:


*Mix all ingredients together until smooth.


Makes 1 serving and has 170.5 cal, 2.5 net carbs, g fat, 5.5 g fiber and 21.5 g protein.


There are two variations that I've enjoyed as well:


Vanilla Whey Acai Smoothie








This one is good when you want something lighter with less protein.

1 tsp freeze dried acai powder
2 T vanilla whey protein powder
1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Makes 1 serving and has 105 cal, 2 net carbs, 3.5 g fat, 1 g fiber and 15 g protein.




Acai Hemp Smoothie














1 tsp freeze dried acai powder
1/4 C hemp protein powder ( you can also substitute a raw food protein powder as well)
1 T erythritol


Serves 1 and has 185 cal, 3 net carbs, 5 g fat, 10 g fiber, and 14 g protein.





I adore smoothies, and I have one every morning no matter what the weather is like. They're quick to make and are perfect for breakfast because that seems to be the time when we're in the biggest hurry and in most need of energy. Mornings are hard for a lot of people - most of us don't wake up everyday thinking, "I feel great! I can't wait to get out of bed!" If you're like me , waking up involves bargaining with yourself for more time in bed (can I sleep another 15 minutes and still take a shower, get dressed, not forget my bag...?). So, time is short and here is one very healthy way to brave the challenges of starting your day. But by mid-morning, I need a little something more. I don't subscribe to the whole "three meals a day" thing - I think it's much healthier to have several smaller meals throughout the day. 





Vegan Hot Cereal



This can be made very quickly and is delicious and filling. Hot cereal is a comfort food of mine (I used to love Quaker Instant Oatmeal - cinnamon, of course.)  I know it's getting warmer and many people associate hot cereal with cold weather, but this cools off quickly (you certainly don't need to worry about burning off the roof of your mouth) and I just love the taste. It incorporates the  remaining three ingredients on the list - chia seeds, hemp seeds and coconut manna.


Ingredients:


1/4 C boiling water
1 T chia seeds
1 1/2 T shelled hemp seeds
1/2 T coconut manna
1/2 T erythritol or 1 packet sweetener of choice
pinch of sea salt

Preparation:

*Mix hemp seeds and chia seeds together in a small bowl. Add water and stir. Add coconut manna, salt,  and sweetener and continue to stir until you get the desired consistency.

Makes 1 serving and has 165 cal, 3 net carbs, 13.75 g fat, 5 g fiber and 8 g protein.

Add 28 g (1 oz) of fresh strawberries: 9 cal, 1 net carb, 0 fat, 1 g fiber and 1 g protein.




Chocolate Coconut Truffles




I love chocolate.  

I'm not sure I could live in a world without chocolate. 

I don't think I could survive. 

The best thing about chocolate is that it's actually good for you. Dark chocolate is rich in anti-oxidants, iron and magnesium.  Plus, it releases endorphins. No wonder it's considered to be the number one food craved by American women - it makes you happy. Until you get on the scale. But it doesn't need to be that way; there are hundreds of wonderful low carb/gluten free (and soy free) recipes that, when eaten in appropriate portions, will not vex you or your scale.


These truffles are wonderfully decadent and rich and at the same time, very healthy, low in carbs, vegan, and gluten free.

Ingredients:

1 T coconut manna
1/2 T coconut oil
1/2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 T erythritol 
3 drops liquid stevia
7 g cacao nibs
(32.5 cal .25 net carbs, 3 g fat, 2.25 g fiber, 1 g protein)

















Preparation:

*In a glass or ceramic bowl, melt coconut manna and coconut oil in a microwave, on high for about 60 seconds. Beat with a whisk until well blended. In a non-stick pan, melt the erythritol on a high heat. Add the vanilla, stevia and cocoa powder to the coconut mixture and blend thoroughly. When the erythritol is completely liquified, add to mixture and whisk vigorously. By this time, the mixture should have a paste-like consistency. If you don't have a candy mold, you can use a teaspoon and press the paste into the measuring spoon to mold it. Place on a baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper and put into the freezer for about 30 minutes. Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.

Makes 5  - 1 tsp truffles and each has 42.94 cal, .68 net carbs, 4.3 g fat, 1.05 g fiber and 1.2 g protein.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fair Trade - It's Only Fair

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "chocolate"? Do you imagine how decadent and rich it tastes, or how it seems to satisfy some part of you in a way that nothing else can duplicate. What you may not think of is child slavery, but chocolate is made from cocoa beans. And cocoa, along with sugar, coffee, tea and bananas, are some of the worst offenders when it comes to fair trade practices. They are also now available from fair trade companies (well maybe not the bananas). So, you can enjoy your chocolate, coffe and tea without supporting the exploitation of workers in poverty sticken countries. Since I'm heavy on the guilt, I appreciate knowing that I can still incorporate certain favorite things into my diet (you guessed it - coffee, tea, and especially, chocolate) while supporting a cause that means a great deal to me. It's a new thing for me; fair trade was, up until recently, something I'd hear about but that didn't have any personal relevance to me. I felt too sick to worry about eating healthfully, let alone eating with morality in mind. The truth is that food is more than just food. It can be about health, but what you eat can also have moral implications as well. And food can also be about race, ethnicity, poverty, sustainability and  making a political statement.

Coffee and tea are also products I use on an almost daily basis, which is probably true of many other people as well. Since I can no longer enjoy my decaf soy mocha (or the faux mocha, for that matter), I have been making do with cafe creme (espresso, heavy cream and natural low carb sweetener). But I also enjoy decaf chai with heavy cream and, in the summer, I love iced green tea. In an effort to incorporate the fair trade version of these beverages into my diet, I found this website:http://www.groundsforchange.com/index.php? and have made orders for medium dark decaf espresso grind and a medium dark French press grind, as well as Dragon Well Green Tea (they didn't have decaf chai, so I'll need to go looking for it elsewhere). I'll let you know how they turn out.

May 14th is Fair Trade Day and I thought I'd write a little about what it means to use fair trade products. I'll be including a list later of fair trade companies. There are some basic principles that all fair trade goods much adhere to. The production of these goods must be free of forced labor or poor working conditions. In order to be certified, the crops must be  raised through sustainable methods and no genetically modified crops can be certified as fair trade.

As for chocolate, there are many companies that now offer fair trade chocolate. The problem lies in finding 100% cacao fair trade products. Dagoba is one company, but they happen to be owned by Hershey's, which sells products that use cocoa that is produced in parts of the world known for child slavery. Newman's Own and Green & Blacks use  fair trade cocoa beans, but they don't have unsweetened chocolate.  So I turn to Navitas Naturals again - they have  unsweetened cacao paste, cocoa nibs, and cocoa powder. They also have cacao butter, which I use when I'm making chocolate candy.











For more information on which brands are fair trade here is the url for: http://fairchocolate.org/companies.html                               .


If you want to educate yourself further, watch "Black Gold: The Story Behind Coffee", a documentary about the exploitation of workers and how multinational corporations dominate an industry worth over $80 billion, making coffe the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil. Check it out at
http://blackgoldmovie.com/.

I'll be doing a post featuring recipes made with fair trade products, including hemp seeds, chia seeds, acai powder, and coconut  manna (pictured below), as well as all of the products pictured above.









I look forward to sharing these recipes with you, which use ingredients that are whole food, raw food, and vegan, as well as low carb and gluten free. See you soon!