there is nothing better than a slice of warm, fluffy banana bread. at least that’s what i thought before i developed my aversion to all things eggs and dairy. and before i realized that this insensitivity was actually a blessing in disguise, i was just plain angry about it. why couldn’t i eat the comfort foods that i loved and which made me happy? why did i always have to be sick after eating things that tasted good? it didn’t seem fair.
after a bit of moping and complaining, i decided to look for ways to update the same flavors i love in ways that are healthy for my body and make me feel good. one of the first egg-free and dairy-free recipes i ever tried making is vegan banana-walnut bread. basically i just took a normal, simple recipe and swapped the ingredients for ones that fit my specific needs. the first time i made it, i was shocked that the results could taste so delicious (it’s even sugar free because i swapped the sugar for agave nectar, which not only has a low-glycemic index, but also makes the bread really moist). i wanted to share the recipe here, and plan on bringing you other ones i love in the future. i was right all along– there really is nothing better than a warm, fluffy slice of VEGAN banana bread.
EASY VEGAN BANANA-WALNUT BREAD
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/3 cup of vegan margarine
1/2 cup of agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 cup of almond milk (you can substitute rice or soy milk if you like)
1 tsp vanilla
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
A few sprinkles of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together vegan margarine and agave. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder and stir. Stir in additional ingredients.
Pour batter into a lightly greased (i spray a small amount of canola oil) 8″ baking pan. Top with a few sprinkles of cinnamon and additional spare walnuts and bake for approximately 50 minutes.
The result is a nutty, subtly sweet, fluffy bread that will satiate your sweet tooth without the heavy effects of a rich, sugary, dairy-laden dessert. I made it this afternoon with my mom and we ate almost the entire thing! Not only did it turn out perfectly, the whole house has that warm, yummy scent that you just can’t fake.
isn’t it always exciting to learn about an idea which you never spent much time thinking about but which flicks that lightbulb switch in your head and shifts your paradigm a little bit?
that’s how i felt when i read this article in the washington post today, in honor of earth day. kate heyhoe, in her new book “cooking green,” has asked that as we all reassess our carbon footprint today, we also take a look at how our “cookprint” is measuring up. it is easy to get so caught up in eating local, green food, that we forget about the energy we are using to actually prepare our meals.
heyhoe introduces the term ecovore (which i love!), explaining that while locovores buy and eat only local food (within a 100 mile radius), this is not practical for most people, and surprisingly, is not always the most sustainable food. ecovores, on the other hand, eat foods that are in harmony with the environment, both locally and globally, taking into account their current degree of harmony, and how that might change in the future. she says, “our food choices are, at any given time or in any given place, in constant flux, because of changes in ecosystems, economics, and technology.” i love this point. we must recognize the stratifications that are a result of constantly changing sociological, ecological, and economic conditions all over the world and factor them into our decisions about what we eat and how we eat it. one food that is sustainable this season, may not be next season, and we’ll need to choose something else.
heyhoe also notes that being “vegetarian” or “vegan” is self-limiting in that it doesn’t account for the fluidity of global conditions and is not enough to sustain a small “cookprint.”
most of her tips regard cooking methods and appliances in the home, illustrating how we can make smarter choices (which is what being green is all about). a few practical and simple ones are:
-use your toaster oven! heyhoe explains that a standard oven wastes 9% of its fuel through excess heat that doesn’t go into cooking your food. toaster ovens these days have the capacity to cook anything from simple toast to pizzas to roast chicken! i use mine constantly.
-use an electric kettle, but instead of using it to make tea, you can pour it into a glass baking pan and make lasagna with your boiling water, first tenderizing the noodles and then using it to blanch the vegetables as well. you can save washing extra pots and pans, and pour the water out to water your plants.
-nix the garbage disposal. it wastes energy and is antithetical to the ecovore principles because it encourages us to waste!
-fill up empty gaps in the fridge and freezer and it actually will use less fuel! of course, instead of wasting food, try to fill them with containers of water. how easy is that?
-bake multiple dishes at one time when you are using the oven in order to reduce fuel output.
-when boiling water, multitask and pour some of the water out of the pot to use on other items you are adding to your meal. it takes a lot of energy to boil just one pot of water. and you know how none of us ever add our pasta to boiling water until it is bubbling so much it is practically spitting at us? well, it just isn’t necessary. a gentle boil is the same temperature as a raucous one, so turn down the heat until it’s just boiling enough.
-freeze your leftovers and reuse them for other meals, and eat more raw foods! heyhoe makes a great point when she talks about eating lower on the food chain. it is shocking to realize how many gallons of water go into creating a single serving of beef (2600!) and chicken (408!)…in comparison, a serving of almonds takes 12 gallons, which is still a lot.
this valuable information is definitely encouraging me to think before i buy food, prepare food, or even order in a restaurant. i hope it does the same for you!
can you imagine reading that on your next prescription slip from the doctor?
as some of you know, i am going through a personal battle in my family with cancer. this is part of the reason i have decided to focus so much of my energy towards educating myself and others on wellness and nutrition. althought to many of you it may seem blatantly obvious, it is an uphill battle to convince the mainstream healthcare system to emphasize the importance of proper nutrition as a preventative measure against chronic illness and disease and also as a treatment for it. although everyone “knows” that eating right is important, as i have stated before, these are all subjective terms and clearly open to interpretation, as nutritionists in hospitals are serving sugar substitutes and nutrient-lacking foods like bagels to patients who are in desperate need of positive energy to their cells.
yet another example of a backwards, irrational bureacracy, the healthcare system that is in place just simply does not cater to the essential needs of patients, and it is frustrating and very sad. i believe that everyone truly would like to see a change, and that this is not the fault of the people within the system who dedicate their lives to attempting to make people healthier. but there is a structural issue here that regards implementing another tier to our system in which a more holistic approach can be seriously taken into account for each patient in the country. this is not a replacement for modern medicine in any way, but a supplementation that will benefit everyone and eventually be able to prevent issues such as diabetes and obesity, heart disease, cancer, and strokes. it is all about education, giving people the (simple!) information that they need to bring home with them , changing their lifestyles and improving the quality of their lives.
i was so thrilled to read the l.a. times yesterday and find this article about dr. david servan-schreiber, a brain cancer survivor. in his book “examining anti-cancer: a new way of life,” he explains that before his diagnosis, like most people, he separated medicine from food, but eventually his eyes were opened to the fact that “food is a low-grade pharmacological intervention, three times a day every day, that can profoundly influence your biology.”
i have always wondered why we consider a pill that comes from an orange bottle behind the counter at the pharmacy to be legitimized while we put thousands of other chemicals from food, vitamins, the environment, beauty products, onto and into our bodies that we simply seem to overlook, never taking into account that they might have an effect on our physical and mental chemistry.
the foods that have been studied and found to be strong cancer-prevention candidates include ones rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish and fish oil), leafy green vegetables (from the broccoli and onion families), the berry family, the citrus family, spices such as turmeric and ginger, and polyphenols such as resveratrol (found in red wine) and catechins (in green tea).
servan-schreiber also emphasizes the beneficial role of other complementary practices for the spirit and mind, such as yoga and meditation.
but the debate as to whether or not it is ethical for doctors in positions of authority to give patients advice that is not scientifically proven regarding food and spiritual choices is a hot one. on one hand, some doctors think that just because it “makes sense,” they do not have the right to prescribe dosages of recommendations for fruits and vegetables or daily yoga practices, and they would prefer to steer clear of any hot water by stepping outside of the nutrition/lifestyle conversation at all.
on the other hand, servan-schreiber believes it is wrong to wait for absolutes on this subject. “I think it’s medical negligence not to give this information to patients, because people will die without this advice and they will not hurt themselves with it,” he says.
i agree. aside from the guidelines that ARE obvious to many people and which have been proven to be sound (don’t smoke, eat less red meat and sugar, more plant food), doesn’t the public deserve information about exactly what they can do to further promote their health in more detail than that? this is not just a matter of scientifically proven facts- but that is the point. we are constantly getting information on studies that are often not “proven” until too many people have suffered. i believe that most people would prefer to have a healthcare professional at least validate that there are steps they can take that can only be beneficial, whether or not hard science can prove it on a chart or a graph. it would also empower people to know that they have some control over their health. yes, it is a responsibility on the part of healthcare professionals to give out any advice, but with this information people would also be able to, for once, TAKE responsibility for themselves, which would eventually benefit all of the overworked doctors in the longrun as well.
and i find that this whole debate between doctors on this issue to be a microcosm for the institutional inefficiencies that i was discussing earlier. the premise of the system is based on absolutes, in a world where we have proven time and time again that there are no tangible ones. isn’t it time to start making room for a complement to our system that is not considered alternative, but is welcomed inside and invited to stay for good?
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as it is with most of life’s pleasures, the debate surrounding coffee is one that never seems to end. growing up in california, it was common even for teenagers to partake in starbucks frappucinos and coffee bean ice blendeds as an afterschool snack. in college, not a cram session went by without an endless supply of coffee from the dining hall. when i lived in rome, coffee was was as much a part of the culture of the city as the sistine chapel. it always seemed to me to make people so happy, and allow them to enjoy a certain je ne sais quoi quality in their lives. i couldn’t have imagined ever giving it up.
after a few years in the grind (no pun intended) of the workplace living in new york, i began to feel like my daily coffee habit was really taking a toll on my well-being and balance. i would begin the day with a racing heart and just enough anxiety to get about 20 tasks completed. by the time lunch rolled around, i was never hungry, and my hands were still slipping and sliding all over the keyboard punching out emails at a rapid pace. by 3pm i was finally starving and had such a bad headache that i had to take two tylenols before dragging myself down to pick up a salad. by the time i left the office, my plans to work out had completely gone down the drain and all i wanted to do was lay on my couch and order in. sounds fabulous, right?
i knew something had to change. i never thought i was “addicted” to caffeine, especially because i only had a cup or two a day at most. but psychologically, i thought i couldn’t get my life in order and take care of my responsibilities without that extra push in the morning. caffeine, especially the absurd amounts in brands like starbucks, produces a surplus of adrenaline in the body which kicks into the adrenals and leads to short-term and heightened alertness followed by that dreaded crash. this is the reason so many people, like with drugs, need to pick up cup after cup. with the adrenals fatigued, cortisol levels rise, and with that, so does your blood pressure. in addition, caffeine interferes with brain chemicals that calm us, often resulting in agitation. who wants to be in a bad mood every day? i realized that these side effects were not worth the initial rush of energy i craved, and i had to find something else to get through the day. coffee also happens to be one of crops that is most heavily sprayed with pesticides. when i found this out, it was really the tipping point for me. there had to be a healthier and greener alternative.
the great thing i realized after searching for alternatives, is that there are an endless variety of health-affirming tonics and drinks that are out there that will actually make you feel great and help you stay feeling that way throughout the day, without disrupting your stress levels (we work hard enough as it is!) or another very important and often-neglected priority: your sleep.
yerba mate is a favorite alternative of mine. this tea, grown sustainably in south american rainforests, is packed with nutrients and, while it does give you a buzz, there is no crash or jitters to accompany it. you can drink it hot or cold, and sweeten it with a bit of agave for a tasty way to energize yourself in the morning. if you like the frothy taste of a frappucino, you can try making the mate, blending it with ice and a little rice or almond milk and some agave and voila! you have yourself a healthy blended treat that packs a punch that you won’t be paying for later in the day. my favorite brand is guayaki.
my other favorite coffee alternative is kombucha. kombucha is a fermented tea that originated in china and which, thousands of years ago, was called an “immortal health elixir.” the tea contains a symbiosis of yeast and bacteria that when added to sweetened tea, produce active probiotics, amino acids, and enzymes that, while not scientifically proven, are thought to be beneficial to digestion, immune system, skin and hair quality, weight loss, and energy levels. the probiotics deliver good bacteria to our bodies that we often don’t realize we even need to maintain our health. and the gluconic acid, a liver detoxifier, is a key remedy for those morning hangovers.
kombucha has a fizzy consistency and smells a bit like vinegar, but the taste is much better than the smell (trust me). gt dave’s millenium products sells them in a variety of flavors- my favorite being the multi-greens, which adds some blue-green algae to the mix and gives you that superfood kick. and don’t mind the blobs of bacteria that float around in the bottom- try to think of them like the worm in the tequila. you can drink ‘em or leave ‘em, but they won’t harm you.
so next time you are considering taking a break from your regular cup of joe, consider these options. there are healthy and delicious ways to combat stress and fatigue, and coffee, unfortunately just isn’t one of them. in fact, it adds to the equation. try these variations in your morning routine and see what happens- i bet you’ll find that you don’t even miss it!
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just to update my post on high fructose corn syrup, i wanted to make everyone aware of this feature about food companies replacing hfcs with sugar in their products due to the bad reputation it’s gotten, especially in recent months (first lady michelle obama has proclaimed she will not give it to her daughters).
now, of course, the sugar industry is marketing like crazy and restaurants and corporations are coming out with products such as pizza hut’s “the natural” pie or pepsi “natural” cola, sweetened with good old fashioned sugar. one would hope that “natural” would mean unsweetened or sweetened with agave or stevia, but the argument is that sugar can be found in fruit and is therefore “natural” in comparison to the supremely processed high fructose corn syrup.
listen, i am not complaining. i am glad to see that people are having these conversations in the public sphere and that mainstream society is starting to get some of these messages. but the messages are so confusing! one minute sugar is the devil, the next it’s hfcs. no one can keep track. ultimately, the key is not buying into the processed and heavily marketed foods at all.
it will be a long time until people stop buying pepsi or going to pizza hut, but the hope i have is that they just get so fed up with the mixed messages that people start reaching for obvious healthy and delicious choices– whole, unpackaged, TRULY natural foods. and then maybe the advertising companies will start finding ways to sell the real deal foods in ways that actually appeal to consumers. it shouldnt have to be that way, but, baby steps…right?