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Archive for the ‘vegan’ Category

Q&A Roundup #4

Time to answer some questions I’ve received via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail over the past few weeks.

Enjoy — and keep the queries coming!

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Why The Media Needs a Vegan 101 Course… Stat!

With vegan eating increasingly becoming more mainstream, I thought it was time to compile a list of recent articles to see how the media frames and discusses the issue. Despite some improvements, there is certainly room for more.

Below, what the media continues to get wrong — and how it can avoid making the same mistakes.

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2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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5 Problems with US News & World Report’s Diet Rankings

Yesterday marked the release of US World & News Report’s annual “best diets for healthy eating” rankings.

I am not a fan of diet rankings (our nutritional landscape’s Achilles heel is the obsession with dieting, as opposed to learning and developing healthful habits), but this list particularly disappointed and frustrated me.

Below, the five main problems I spotted.

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Giveaway: Kale Chips, Sunflower Seeds, and Fruit Leathers — Oh My!

Time for another raw, vegan, and gluten-free giveaway!

Last month, it was macaroons and “grawnola”, this time around it’s ‘cheesy’ kale chips, sprouted sunflower seeds, and unique fruit leathers courtesy of the folks at Kaia Foods, an Oakland-based company started in 2006.  Creator Nick Kelley left a career in finance to fulfill his dream of making “minimally processed, truly healthy food more readily available to everyone”.

As you know, I only do giveaways of products I enjoy myself.  Kaia Foods’ spiced sprouted sunflower seeds are a staple in my kitchen.  The teriyaki and garlic varieties instantly liven up salads, the sweet curry flavor adds a delicious crunch to soups, and the cocoa molé sunflower seeds are perfect airport food.  The lime-ginger fruit leather is my favorite (orange + banana + kale + lime juice + ginger!).  As for kale chips — there is never a wrong time for those!

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Chef Doug McNish’s Tempeh Croquettes

I know Chef Doug McNish from Twitter, but I really look forward to the day when I get to try some of his food.  How could I not, after seeing photos of his marinated beet carpaccio with Belgium endive, sprouted pumpkin seed chimichurri, and chili flax oil, or his black kale and bok choy salad with pumpkin seed ‘butter cream’, nori, and spirulina?

With chilly Fall temperatures here to stay, I asked Doug to share his favorite hearty autumn recipes with me.  These tempeh croquettes (!) are one; be sure to come back next Friday, when I’ll share the other two delectable recipes he sent me.

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Cultured Meat Is An Alternative, Not A Solution

The idea of cultured meat (also known as ‘in vitro’ meat) has been played with for several years, as scientists have attempted to produce meat from cell cultures. Over the past week, this topic created headlines once again thanks to reports that ‘cultured’ sausage and hamburgers are on the way within the next six to twelve months. That is not to say they will be commercially available, but rather that they will serve as tangible proof of this technology’s capabilities.

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What’s With The Healthy Eating Stigma?

Two hot topics in the media to dissect today.

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You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Absorption, Kidney Stone Risk, and Gelatin-Free Vitamin D Supplements

0904-calcium-supplements1. Is there research that indicates that calcium carbonate’s absorption is superior to that of calcium citrate?

2. My doctor recently suggested that I supplement my diet with calcium and vitamin D. Is there a heightened risk of developing kidney stones associated with calcium supplementation?

3. Most of the vitamin D supplements I’ve found contain gelatin as an ingredient. Do you know of any alternative products?

– Josh Griffin
(Location Unknown)

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Going Meatless, the Healthful Way

vegan-cook-book-2The exclusion of meat from one’s diet — whether completely or once a week, as encouraged by the Meatless Monday movement —  has quickly gained followers over the past few years.

For those of you considering “the switch” (or, at least, “the step down”), here are some tips to hep keep nutrition at the forefront:

1) While convenient vegetarian/vegan foods like soy burgers, soy “chicken nuggets”, and soy cold cuts can help newbies add variety to a meat-free lifestyle, most of them are highly processed (AKA low on nutrients, high in sodium).  Consider these transitional foods, rather than staples.  Make it a goal to eventually phase out these foods as situational ones (ie: mainly eaten only at barbeques or at your favorite vegan restaurant with friends).  Too often, I see “newbie vegetarians/vegans” eating diets high in processed ingredients.

2) Soy is but one source of high-quality protein.  Soy burgers, soy nuggets, soy “chicken breasts”, and soy ribs definitely impart protein into the diet, but the focus of all diets (vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore) should be vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.  One has to make a very concerted effort to not meet protein needs (yet, it’s probably the nutrient Americans are most hyper-aware of).  Nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, grains, and vegetables are all sources of protein, too, and offer significantly superior nutrition.

When consuming soy, look for minimally processed forms.  Prioritize tempeh and natto (their fermentation yields more bioavailable nutrients) and edamame (as a ‘baby’ soybean, it offers lower amounts of antinutrients found in full-grown soybeans).  When it comes to soy milk, keep in mind that flavored varieties contain a substantial amount of added sugar (‘plain’ varieties offer the equivalent of one and a half packs of sugar per cup!).

3) The fact that ice cream, hot dogs, and burritos the size of your head are vegan does not make them healthier.  A lot of these products are still high in added sugars and sodium.  Regardless of the type of diet you eat, the bulk should consist of whole foods. Too often, I see veganism touted as a cure-all for a variety of ailments.  While it is true that vegan diets are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, they can also be high in sodium, added sugars, and omega-6 oils depending on what foods are selected.

Before I wrap up, I want to address one commonly-held viewpoint about vegetarian/vegan diets that drives me up a wall: the advice that “they need to be carefully planned.”

You’ll often see this mentioned (often by Registered Dietitians, no less!) in articles that question if a vegan diet can be healthful and meet dietary needs.  The conclusion is always “of course, but they need to be carefully planned.”  To which I then ask, what diet doesn’t?

The additional planning makes sense within the context of eating out in certain parts of the country (where, at some restaurants, you’re relegated to a handful of side dishes), but the average vegan eating meals at home can find plenty of foods in a local supermarket.  While there may be a learning curve at the beginning, after a few months of meatless eating, it becomes second nature to most.

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Quick & Healthy Recipe: Quinoa Vegetable Ginger-Curry Burgers

quinoa11And so we come to the last vegan burger recipe.

This is by far the most time-intensive, as it requires you to use cooked quinoa, and then refrigerate the burgers for a few hours before cooking them. Actual prep time, though, is not long at all.

Of course, you could very well plan ahead slightly and, next time you cook quinoa at home, make an extra batch to have handy for this recipe.

YIELDS: 4 patties

1 cup quinoa, cooked (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup red peppers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp ground ginger
3 Tablespoons scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon tamari
3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Once hot, add the baby portabella mushrooms and shredded carrots. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the red peppers and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the spinach leaves and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Allow vegetables to cool for five minutes.

In a food processor, process the cooked vegetables and spices for 20 to 30 seconds.

Empty the contents of the food processor into a large bowl. Add the quinoa, tamari, scallions and breadcrumbs; mix together with your hands until you achieve a dough-like solid mass.

Refrigerate the “burger dough” for two hours.

After the two hours have passed, take out burger dough from refrigerator.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per patty):

248 calories
1 gram saturated fat
250 milligrams sodium
3.5 grams fiber
5 grams protein

Excellent Source of: Folate, niacin, thiamin, monounsaturated fatty acids

Good source of: Magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C

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Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spicy Mushroom & Black Bean Burger

Onto the second vegan burger recipe!

While this one requires a bit longer prep time than the firstblack-beans, it shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.  This burger freezes very well, so you could make a huge batch and save most of it in the freezer for hurried nights.

YIELDS: 4 patties

INGREDIENTS:

2 14-ounce cans low-sodium or sodium-free black beans, drained and rinsed for about 30 seconds
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white mushrooms
1/2 cup onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork or wooden spoon (or, if you really want to get into it, use your hands!). The idea is not to make bean puree, but to achieve a chunky mashed texture. You definitely want solid bits of bean here and there. Once done, set bowl aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Once hot, add mushrooms. Cook and stir frequently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions. Stir frequently for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic, and continue to cook until garlic is golden brown.

Increase heat and add all spices (except salt). Stir frequently for 2 minutes.

Transfer vegetable mixture into food processor. Add salt. Process for approximately 10 seconds.

Add vegetable mixture to “bean mush” bowl.  Mix with hands, compressing all ingredients together, making “burger dough”.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

NOTE: I have been able to get a solid dough without needing to use binders (that said, I don’t mind eating crumbly vegan burgers).  If you want your burgers more solid, feel free to add a half cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs or quick-cooking oats.  Or, if you don’t require a fully vegan recipe, two egg whites will work, too.  Even then, don’t expect these to be as solid as the frozen type you can buy at the grocery store.

NUTRITION FACTS (for one patty):

249 calories
0.5 grams saturated fat
375 milligrams sodium
14 grams fiber
15 grams protein

Excellent Source of: Folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin

Good Source of: Manganese, phosphorus, zinc

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Quick & Healthy Recipes: Allergy-Friendly Breakfast Pie (Wheat, Soy, Dairy, and Nut-Free!)

goodmorningiu9You can have this pie whenever you please — day or night.  However, its fruity flavors are breakfast-ish to me.  And, while it is a pie, it is made of such healthful ingredients that you can start your day off quite nutritiously with a slice.

Chock-full of fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it makes minimally-nutritious morning pastries quiver in fear!

YIELDS: One 8-slice pie

INGREDIENTS:

For crust:

3/4 cup raw almonds (see NOTES at bottom of post)
3/4 cup raw walnuts (see NOTES at bottom of post)
(NOTE: For nut-free version, you will need 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup hemp seeds, and 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds; see NOTES at bottom of post)
2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded dried coconut (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pitted dates (any variety; I like Medjool)

For filling:

1.5 cups blueberries
1.5 cups strawberries, sliced
1 medium banana, sliced
2 Tablespoons cup raisins
1 scoop unsweetened whey or hemp protein powder (optional; see NOTES at bottom of post)
1 Tablespoon water (if needed, to thin out)

INSTRUCTIONS:

To make the crust, process the nuts/seeds, coconut (if using), vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in food processor into a finely ground powder.

Add the pitted dates, 1/3 of a cup at a time, and process for 30 to 45 seconds at a time.

Once all the dates have been added, you should have a solid “dough-like” product.  If it does not stick together, add a few more pitted dates and process again.

Remove the “dough” from the food processor and press it into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan (preferably glass), forming a crust that goes up onto the sides of the pan.  Once done, place pie pan in freezer for 30 minutes.

While crust freezes, make the filling, as detailed below.

Rinse out the food processor and fill it with berries, the sliced banana, and the raisins.  Process for 45 to 60 seconds, or until completely smooth.  If needed, add up to 1 Tablespoon of water to make processing easier (careful, though, you don’t your filling to be watery!).

Once filling is smooth (and has a creamy texture), remove crust from freezer and pour filling into pie pan.

Refrigerate pie pan for at least 90 minutes.

Once pie has been fully refrigerated, cut into eight uniform slices and enjoy!

NUTRITION FACTS (for 1 slice, crust made with almonds and walnuts, filling without protein powder):

245 calories
1.5 grams saturated fat
150 milligrams sodium
5 grams fiber
4 grams protein

Excellent Source of: B vitamins (except B12), folate, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, zinc

Good Source of: Iron, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 ALA fatty acids, vitamin E, zinc

NOTES:

1. For a simpler and less costly crust, you can definitely use one type of nut or seed.  I like using a combination in order to achieve more flavors, but that is completely up to you.  If using multiple nuts/seeds, feel free to experiment with different ratios, too.  You can also try ingredients not listed in this recipe (i.e.: Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)

2. The extra scoop of whey or hemp protein in the filling provides an additional 2.5 grams of protein per slice, and thickens up the texture slightly.  I find that an unsweetened, vanilla-flavored type works best with the filling.

3. Serving this for guests?  Top it off with whole fresh berries or sliced fruits of your choice!

4. If you want to give the crust a hint of chocolate flavor, add one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the crust.  For a deep chocolate flavor, add two tablespoons.

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You Ask, I Answer: Calcium in Sesame Seeds?

SesameSeedsI have come across conflicting information on sesame seeds as a good source of calcium.

Some websites (none written by nutritionists) claim they are, others claim they are not.  A few vegan websites I’ve been to [refer to] them as “calcium superstar” or a “calcium powerhouse”.

So, do you get calcium from these tasty seeds or not?

– Evan Raggio
(City Withheld)

You do, but not as much as some uninformed individuals may lead you to believe.

Describing sesame seeds as a “calcium powerhouse” is incorrect.  In the non-dairy world, that superlative is better suited to kale and mustard greens.

There are two important factors to keep in mind about calcium and sesame seeds.

Number one: unhulled sesame seeds (ones which contain the hull) contain more calcium than hulled sesame seeds (ones without the hull).

Whereas one tablespoon of unhulled sesame seeds delivers nine percent of the Daily Value of calcium, that same amount of hulled sesame seeds delivers four percent.

You may think, “alright, so I’ll just eat unhulled sesame seeds, and make tahini from them as well!”

Here’s the other issue — unhulled sesame seeds contain a large amount of oxalates.

Oxalates severely restrict calcium absorption.  Spinach is also very high in oxalates, which is why it is not a good source of calcium (I am flabbergasted by the amount of articles I have seen written by Registered Dietitians which tout spinach as an “excellent source of calcium” — it is NOT!).

So, while you do get some calcium from sesame seeds, they are certainly not a powerhouse or an “excellent source”.

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A Literary Giveaway

51uXbW31x6L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am excited to announce the next Small Bites giveaway.

Three lucky winners will win a copy of The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook, written by Neal Barnard, MD, and nutritionist Robyn Webb, MS.  Ms. Webb is also the food editor of the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Forecast magazine.

The book, which was released on June 8, currently tops both the Healthy Living and Vegan cookbook lists on Amazon.com!

If you’re in need of easy and delicious vegan fare, check out the entry and participation details below:

  1. Send an e-mail to “andy@andybellatti.com” with the subject line “Cookbook Giveaway” anytime between 12:01 AM (Eastern Standard Time) on Sunday, June 13 2010 and 11:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time) on Saturday, July 10 2010.
  2. Only one e-mail entry per person.  Multiple e-mail entries do not increase chances of winning.
  3. Winner will be selected at random on Saturday, July 10 and will be contacted by me via e-mail.
  4. Winner must reside in the United States.

Good luck!

Many thanks to Robyn Webb for generously donating copies of The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook for Small Bites readers.

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