Raw Pepermint Brownie Bites

Raw Peppermint Brownie Bites and A Dessert Ground Rule for the Holidays
 

Raw Peppermint brownie bites

We all need some sweetness in our lives. So no, desserts are NOT off the menu in a Wellness Kitchen. But instead of choosing treats with refined flours and enough sugar to send you on a blood sugar roller coaster ride, you can keep your mind and body in balance by sticking to this dessert ground rule.

My Dessert Ground Rule: Pair sugar with fiber and healthy fats.

Sugar is at the top of the Glycemic Index (GI). That means it is broken down incredibly quickly and sends our blood glucose levels soaring. A high GI meal often leaves us feeling hungry shortly after eating, results a drop in energy (think afternoon slump), and can make concentrating difficult. One way to avoid this spike – and subsequent nose dive – in blood sugar is to balance the overall meal with fiber and healthy fats. Fiber and healthy fats will slow down digestion so that your body is not suddenly overloaded by all that sugary goodness. These two nutrients will also help keep you satiated and satisfied so that you’re not digging into the cookie jar twenty minutes after that slice of cake.

What foods have fiber?

Plant foods! Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are all fiber-rich foods.

How can I pack fiber into my desserts?

  • Add pureed beans. Black beans are great for brownies, cannellini beans for blondies. Trust me, no one will even know.
  • Sub refined flours for whole wheat flour or try almond meal (high in fiber and protein). 
  • Add nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.).
  • Sub pureed pumpkin or banana for some of the liquid sweetener (maple syrup, honey, or agave). Less sugar, more fiber!
  • Flax meal can replace an egg (Google Flax egg).

What are healthy fats?

The fats from nuts and seeds (flax and chia too), coconut, avocado, cold water fish, and pasture-raised, grass-fed animal products.

 How can I pack healthy fats into my desserts?

  • Sub coconut oil for butter.
  • Sub almond meal for refined white flour. 
  • Add nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.).
  • Make a frosting out of avocado.
  • Choose pasture-raised, grass-fed butter and dairy.
  • Did you know you could make whipped cream out of coconut milk?!?

What if I don’t want beans, pumpkin, and avocado in my desserts?

Just try to eat the fiber and healthy fats along with the sugar, applying the same ground rule to the entire meal. Basically, you simply don’t want to eat the sugary food alone, after skipping lunch, as soon as you enter the holiday party. Fill up on plant foods to get that fiber in your belly and then savor your choice of dessert with mindful intention in each bite.

Bringing it all together....

Now, let’s use this Raw Peppermint Brownie Bite as an example of how this Dessert Ground Rule comes to life on the plate. First, there are no added sugars. All the sweetness comes from the Medjool dates, which are plenty sweet on their own. Second, there’s tons of fiber in these little guys from the walnuts, almonds, and (did you guess it?!) dates. Third, the healthy fats from the nuts, as well as the shredded coconut, provide the richness and fullness-factor. They feel like a treat, but are also full of nourishment - the best kind of dessert!

I make variations of these truffle-like, raw brownie bites all year round, but, today, I felt inspired to add some peppermint extract for a festive holiday version. I'm taking them to an end-of-semester pot-luck for my Nutritional Ecology class and, after tomorrow's Advanced Nutrition exam, am very excited to announce that I've completed my first semester in graduate school.

Wishing you all peace, joy, and soul-filling wellness in the New Year!


RAW PEPPERMINT BROWNIE BITES #1

Raw Peppermint Brownie Bites

These brownie bites provide a dose of sweet without the sugar spike. Full of blood sugar-stabilizing fiber and satiating healthy fats, and free of refined sugar, dairy, and refined flours, they're not your average sweet treat. They are super simple to make and come together in ten minutes flat. I find they evoke memories of peppermint patties and family celebrations, and are a sure hit at any holiday or New Year's party.

Makes 22 brownie bites

1 cup walnuts
1 ¼ cup almond meal
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz medjool dates, pitted (14 dates to be exact)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract (optional, but a fun flavor for the holidays)
½ teaspoon sea salt
Shredded coconut, for rolling

1.     Place the walnuts, almond meal, and cocoa powder in a food processor and process into a fine meal.
2.     Add the dates, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, and sea salt. Process for 1-2 minutes until the dough, when pressed together, easily forms a ball.
3.     Roll dough into small balls and roll each ball in shredded coconut.
4.     Freeze or refrigerate until serving.  

Get Your Sprout On!

WHY I SPROUT
A story about connecting to nature and feminine energy in NYC

A Northern California nature-lover who was transplanted into the concrete jungle known as New York City, I have had to continually find ways of connecting to the earth in order to maintain my internal balance and sense of peace. As a child, I played Hide and Seek in my family’s backyard that dipped down into a vine-entangled canyon. Now I practice yoga in Prospect Park on steamy summer nights. As a teenager, I explored countless hiking trails, all within a 10-minute drive from home. Now I take Metro North for two hours to explore the Tri-State’s wilderness. As a young gardener, I enthusiastically plucked cherry tomatoes that grew abundantly from our small vegetable garden in the August heat. Now I bring that essence of cultivation directly into my city apartment.

New York City in all her glory from a roof-top garden in Chelsea.

New York City in all her glory from a roof-top garden in Chelsea.

How, you might ask, do I manage to cultivate anything while living in the quintessential Brooklyn apartment with no outdoor access, limited sun exposure, and even more limited floor space?

Yes, I tend to houseplants with greater care and attentiveness than probably necessary, but I also turn to an ancient form of food preparation, sprouting, to nourish that inherent human characteristic in me that finds purpose and meaning in connecting to nature and caring for life.

When we plant a seed, thoughtfully water it, and wait patiently for the earth to bring forth a bounty, we connect with our feminine energy - the gatherer, the nurturer. Such energy (which is not exclusive to any gender) is creative, expansive, and fluid. From my experience, New York City, with its progress/goal/success-oriented culture, stomps all over my divine feminine when I’m not paying attention.

Sprouting connects us to that feminine, nurturing energy, right in our very own kitchens. And in the most full-circle way possible, the product of those labors then nourishes us right back. A seed contains the components needed for life locked tightly inside. What happens when you plant a seed and water it? Germination turns that seed into a sprout and that sprout grows into a plant and that plant produces more seeds! Water unlocks the enzymes and nutrients and puts that process of growth into action. When you eat a legume, grain, nut, or seed that has been sprouted, you are consuming all those activated components. You are eating a little plant whose nutrients are more easily digested and absorbed. To me, the life force of sprouts is exponential in comparison to its seed-bound form.

Mung bean sprout babies all grown up and ready to be enjoyed.

Mung bean sprout babies all grown up and ready to be enjoyed.


BOOSTING NUTRITION
Some facts about sprouting for my fellow nutrition nerds out there

  •  Sprouting decreases phytic acid in the seed. Phytic acid is an “anti-nutrient” that binds to minerals and shuttles them out of the body. Since we want to absorb our minerals, less phytic acid means better absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc. This is very important for bone health. [1] [2]

  • Sprouting increases protein content and digestibility. Improving the availability of plant proteins is important because our bodies are not as efficient at absorbing them as animal proteins. Sprouting is another tool to make sure you are meeting your protein needs if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or limit your intake of animal products.

  • Sprouting increases vitamin C, B vitamins, and carotenes.

  • Sprouting helps to break down complex carbohydrates so that less gas is produced during digestion. MAJOR WIN!

  • Sprouting produces enzymes that help aid in digestion. Yes, you are what you eat, but more importantly, you are what you digest. The better we digest our food, the more nutrients for nourishment and wellness we receive.


HOW TO GET YOUR SPROUT ON
(When you're ready to start a little sprouting garden in your kitchen)

1.     Rinse the beans, grains, nuts, or seeds that you want to sprout. Place them in a clean quart-sized glass jar. (A quart jar can accomodate 1/3 - 1/2 cup of most seeds, beans, nuts, or grains.) Fill the jar with water (leaving a bit of room at the top) and cover ith a sprouting lid or cheesecloth fastened with a heavy rubber band. Soak, unrefrigerated, overnight.

2.     Drain and rinse seeds with fresh water. Drain once again before inverting the jar so that the water can continue to drain out through the lid. Put your jar in a bowl to avoid a puddle. You may have to get slightly inventive with how you prop up your jar so that it’s at an angle.

4.     Water and drain your sprouts 2-3 times a day until they grow a little tail about 1/2 - 1 inch long, depending on the sprout. To turn the sprouts green, place them in indirect sunlight on the last growing day. Sprouts can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

This is a rough guide to sprouting. Different seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains have differing soaking and sprouting times. Here are the numbers for some of my favorite sprouts:

Germinating mung bean sprouts. I could not find my sprouting lid, so I fastened a nut milk bag to the jar with a rubberband. It worked just fine!

Germinating mung bean sprouts. I could not find my sprouting lid, so I fastened a nut milk bag to the jar with a rubberband. It worked just fine!

Mung beans
Soak time: 8-12 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 2-4 days

Chickpeas
Soak time: 12-24 hours
Daily rinses: 2-4
Sprouting time: 3-4 days

Lentils
Soak time: 8 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 2-4 days

Wild rice
Soak time: 48-72 hours
Daily rinses: 3-4
Sprouting time: 2-3 days

Fenugreek seeds
Soak time: 8-12 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 3-4 days

Alfalfa seeds
Soak time: 12 hours
Daily rinses: 2-3
Sprouting time: 4-7 days

CULINARY WELLNESS TIP: Try soaking and sprouting combinations of seeds with similar sprouting times together. You can create interesting flavor blends and improve the nutritional profile of your meals. I love combining fenugreek seeds with mung beans or chickpeas because of the subtle maple flavor they add.


EAT YOUR SPROUTS
So I’ve grown these little guys. Now what do I do with them?!?

  •  Sprouted legumes are a delicious addition to salads. Instead of using cooked legumes in a salad for protein, you can add sprouted mung beans, sprouted chickpeas, or sprouted lentils. They’re crunchy too!
     
  • Sprouted seeds (broccoli, alfalfa, clover, fenugreek) are really delicious on a sandwich or tossed into a salad. They add a dynamic flavor and are nutritional powerhouses.  
     
  • Sprouts don’t have to just be eaten raw. You can grow a micro-sprout (with a tiny tail just starting to poke through) and then follow normal cooking instructions. Use the method with some grains and legumes like brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans, and lentils.
     
  • Sprouted nuts are fabulous for homemade nut milk. You can also dehydrate them and then use them in any recipe or as a snack.

For a a salad recipe that uses sprouted mung beans and fenugreek seeds, click here.

My Mung Bean Sprout Summer Salad tossed with some arugula, avocado and walnuts for a light and refreshing August lunch.

My Mung Bean Sprout Summer Salad tossed with some arugula, avocado and walnuts for a light and refreshing August lunch.


[1] Ghavidel RA, Prakash J (2007) The impact of germination and dehulling on nutrients, antinutrients, in vitro iron and calcium bioavailability and in vitro starch and protein digestibility of some legume seeds. LWT 40:1292–1299

[2] Luo, Yuwei and Xie, Weihua (2014) Effect of soaking and sprouting on iron and zinc availability in green and white faba bean. J Food Sci Technol 12:3970-3976

[3] Britton, Sarah (2014) My New Roots. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. New York. 

 

Five Holistic Food Principles to Guide the Way You Think About Eating

I get it: Food choices can be hard. We are constantly bombarded by product advertisements touting health benefits, celebrities hawking diet regimens, and magazines selling the key to that summer body. And then there are the endless aisles of food products at the grocery store to choose from, potentially questionable culinary skills in the kitchen, and the struggle to even figure out what to cook in the first place. Meanwhile the takeout option sounds more and more appealing... 

In our world full of mixed food messages, it’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed by all of the noise. Rather than follow the fads, here are five holistic food principles to help guide the way you think about eating. These are my core tenets, the force behind the food I cook for my clients and, yes, myself. 

1. FOOD HEALS
By choosing a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, the food you consume has the power to fight chronic disease, promote longevity, increase vitality, decrease inflammation, and boost the immune system.  With lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer at epidemic levels, it is time to start considering food the ultimate medicine for disease prevention. Diet is a modifiable disease risk factor. This means you have the power to take action and change the way you eat to support your health. Whether you are suffering from an illness or simply want to maintain optimum health, food is a primary tool for promoting and cultivating wellness.

2. WHOLE AND PLANT-BASED 
Vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals are vital for keeping the body healthy and vibrant. The best way to ensure that you are receiving the biggest dose and diversity of these nutrients is to eat a plant-based diet with a range of colorful fruits and vegetables. Consume these foods in their whole form, as nature made them before excessive processing and refinement. Work to use all of the edible parts, like beet greens as well as the roots, which are delicious sautéed with garlic and olive oil.

3. LOCAL AND SEASONAL
Buying local produce means that you will naturally eat with the seasons and consume foods at peak freshness. The colors, flavors, and beauty will be apparent in every bite. Eating with the seasons supports the body in its transitions through the year – crisp, bright salads in summer for combating the heat, comforting root vegetable stews in winter, and detoxifying greens in spring for cleansing the body of stored toxins. Learn what’s seasonal where you live by shopping at a farmer’s market. GrowNYC has this helpful resource for New Yorkers.

4. FLEXIBLE
Some years you might try to stick to a vegetarian diet, but some days you may feel like you just really need some animal protein. When you are eating a whole foods diet you can listen to your body’s cravings and work to bring balance through food. Do it without judgment, without an ego. Be flexible enough to try something new when the old stops working. Our bodies are constantly changing, so it makes sense that our diets will too. 

5. FLAVOR
You should not have to choose between flavor and health. Nourishing food can be as vibrant, bold, and exciting as you are. By balancing flavors – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy – a whole foods diet can definitely leave you feeling satisfied and make you say YUM!