Teaching Nutrition Education

When I decided that I would switch my career from Teaching to Nutrition, I had a feeling that the departure from teaching would not be a forever goodbye. I was right.

Last summer, at the very beginning of the nutrition graduate program I am in, I had the opportunity to help out at the Food As Medicine Everyday (FAME) series through the Food As Medicine Institute. At the core of this program is the empowerment of others to take the reins of their health. This is accomplished by a series of classes that combines, in each class, hands-on cooking experiences with nutrition lessons. I  can’t begin to tell you how much this experience with FAME meant to me. That summer with FAME showed me that I can still teach and help others on their own health journey through nutrition. That summer with FAME, a program that is meant to empower its participants, empowered me.

famifames Get a FAME book today!

I stuck around FAME and the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI) to learn from them in other ways, but that experience with the nutrition education aspect of FAMI was definitely a spark that was ignited. By continuing to work with the program and furthering my own education in nutrition, that spark turned into a flame and that fire needed an outlet.

class2  Natural Grocers kitchen space

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In November, with a local plant-based chef from La Vida Veggie (Heather Solano), I co-presented my first class at a Natural Grocers grocery store for the local community and what an experience that was! I experienced several emotions that day from being a nervous wreck to worrying about how many people would show up to “Oh my gosh, we have 22 people in this kitchen; we can’t screw up!”  Heather and I taught a full-on vegan Thanksgiving menu to those 22 guests who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the nutrition component just as much as the cooking and eating portions. The fire kept growing.

I remember washing the dishes after that vegan Thanksgiving class and feeling so elated about what I was just a part of. I went home that afternoon exhausted, but completely motivated to figure out how to again achieve that feeling of elation. It didn’t take me long to connect with two other local grocery store chains: New Seasons Market and Fred Meyer.

I just taught my first New Seasons Market class on Mindful Eating and what an experience that was. There was no cooking involved, but the health and wellness topic still managed to get a group of eight individuals to commute through the slushy roads from Portland’s melting snow and ice. I may have led this class, but it was more of a facilitation experience thanks to the wonderful conversations and participation of the individuals who were in the room. I have another Mindful Eating class scheduled at a New Seasons Market and I’m definitely looking forward to connecting with another group in an attempt to strengthen their and my own connection to food in a more nourishing way.

fredmeyer Beautiful 20th Century Workshop kitchen space at Stadium Fred Meyer.

With Fred Meyer,  I knew of a local store equipped with a kitchen space that they used for classes. You can probably guess what happened next…I met with the kitchen coordinator, we were both mutually interested in coordinating a class or multiple classes, and we scheduled the first one. I just taught that class a week ago (Jan. 21st) and again I had an amazing experience that was very different from the Natural Grocers class. At this class, the smaller group allowed for a completely hands-on cooking approach that had us all huddled and cooking together while learning about the nutrition and health benefits of 3 plant-based breakfast recipes and enjoying conversations about nutrition and health.

The fire continues to burn and I have scheduled more classes at these listed grocery stores and am even going to begin co-teaching Food As Medicine Everyday classes at an elementary school twice a month. How amazing does that sound?! You’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that I am  currently planning a career that includes community nutrition education because of how inspired I am each time I conduct a class. Teaching at these stores and interacting with their customers has been a phenomenal experience. At a grocery store, you never know who to expect. It’s a wonderful place where different socioeconomic statuses, different levels of nutrition backgrounds, different health perspectives and experiences, and more, are all represented and can be present in the very room you are about to teach your class in. This is what community education is all about–bringing in and interacting with different persons and perspectives while teaching and learning from  each other through the sharing of questions and stories–and I’m grateful for these opportunities, but especially to FAME for igniting that initial spark.

willatgreenfest Manda (friend and FAMI staff) and I working the Food As Medicine Institute contest booth at the Portland Green Festivals, December 2016.

 

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Winter Foods for Healthy Running

Note: The following post was originally written for Eugene Marathon as I am a 2017 Ambassador for the race organization (Use code “AMB2017WB” when registering for the Half or Full to save money!).

Depending on where you live, winter training can be challenging. Morning runners may be lacing up before work which could mean pre-sunrise runs in the finger-numbing cold which could very well limit the kind of workout that realistically takes place: really fast runs because your body is dying to warm up or rather slower runs because it’s sub-40 and you are out there before the sun has woken up. Evening runners can’t catch a break either; it might be a tad warmer than in the morning, but probably not by much. No matter your struggle though, you choose to train throughout this season because you are a force to be reckoned with; because you don’t back down when it gets tough; because…you are a runner. And you already registered for Eugene 2017. (Right? Right??)

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Training outdoors during the winter months takes a lot of will and a lot of energy, but it should also include some cautionary steps. Generally, people get sick more often during the winter months and because training for a half or a full marathon can take quite a toll on the body, it is ever-important to make sure you are taking the proper steps to make sure you are handling winter training well. Of course, this means the common sense stuff such as wearing gloves and hats if necessary and certainly running in long sleeves and perhaps a jacket if it’s raining, but what is also very important to not forget is that the food you eat during this time is more than just fuel for the furnace, but fuel for recovery and nourishment as well.

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You can’t train if you can’t train so the most important goal for every runner no matter the season should be to remain healthy. “Healthy” can mean injury-free, but it can also mean free of sickness and with both of these definitions, proper nutrition is important. Eating healthily is not something that comes easy for many people during the winter season so thinking about ways to help you stay on top of your nutrition game can be helpful. One way to do this is to make a list of winter foods local to this area and keep it on your fridge or wherever you will see it often. When you are going grocery shopping or looking for what to make for dinner, play around with a couple of those foods and reap the benefits of the nutrition of the seasonable fruit or vegetable. Below is a short list of only some of the foods that are in season or still in season in the Pacific Northwest area during some or all of the winter months. As you’ll see, it’ll be rather difficult to sustain yourself on only these foods, so remember that this is just a way to get you to include healthy, in-season produce into your diet.

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Beets (and beet greens)          Brussels sprouts

Carrots                                     Cabbage

Chard                                       Collard greens

Cranberries                               Kale

Leeks                                       Mushrooms

Mustard greens                          Potatoes

Shallots                                     Spinach

Winter squash                           Turnips

Watercress

“Winter foods” can also mean foods that one generally eats when the weather gets colder, a.k.a. comfort foods. One of the common realities of winter-eating, for many, is eating foods that make us feel full and warm. Let’s face it: watercress and kale just won’t cut it and that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean that watercress and kale can’t be added to foods that we do love to eat in the winter, such as chili, vegetarian or otherwise. Great idea huh? Or add some of these and other ingredients into a hot, easy-to-make stir fry with some potatoes or brown rice. Talk about a filling meal that would provide a ton of nourishment and nutrients! Adding a ton of vegetables to your soups and even some seeds or nuts (cashews would be great!) is another easy way to make sure you are getting the extra nutrients you need when training such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium, and more.

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My go-to winter foods that are not in the produce aisle include oatmeal, brown rice, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. And how would I “nutritionize” these dishes even more? Adding kale or spinach to the brown rice or mashed potatoes is simple enough. Adding hemp hearts or ground flax seeds to oatmeal is a great way to boost its nutrition profile, but so is adding a few leaves of spinach if you’re up to it. Savory oatmeal, anyone?

So think about the foods you gravitate toward in the winter months and brainstorm some ways to add some vegetables, fruit, or whole grains and seeds to it to give it the nutrition kick that it and you could use during your training.

–The author is a sucker for a good peanut butter and jam sandwich and challenges all to add spinach, turmeric, and cinnamon to their next PB&J. See you in Eugene, May 5-7!

 

PS: If you have any questions about nutrition in general or nutrition with regards to training, please don’t hesitate to comment here or email me (info in About page).

 

 

Ground Up Nut Butters- Nutrition Spotlight: Cashews

The following post/article was written as a partnership with Ground Up nut butters, a Portland women-owned and run small business. Part of Ground Up’s mission:  “[T]raining disadvantaged women in the Greater Portland area in marketable skills through the production and sales of delicious & nutritious nut butters!….Our goal is for women to engage in creative self-expression with the hope of gaining confidence and realizing their full potential. Women will work with us for 6-9 months and then transition into full-time employment at Portland-area businesses.”

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Nutrition Spotlight: Cashews

By Wilfredo Benitez, www.EatRunandDone.com

Disclaimer: While the nutritional information contained within this article is supported through research, individuals on a strict diet plan or with a condition should consult with their physician before introducing cashews or other tree nuts into their diet.

If you were to guess which of the most commonly consumed nuts in the U.S. has the lowest lipid profile, would you guess cashews? If so, you’d be right and if not, well now you know. But that’s not to indicate that the fats from nuts and seeds are bad and that consumption of them should be avoided. For some, the lower fat profile is an added benefit for a variety of reasons, but with the many benefits of cashews, this is one nut that should be added to your grocery list if it is not already a regular.

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Let’s take a look at what the health benefits of cashews are and what these benefits are attributed to.

There are different types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats (these include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids). Cashews have a greater amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids compared to other fatty acids and this is where most of the benefits of cashews come from. It is well supported that monounsaturated fats can help reduce triglycerides which are normal to have in the body, but a high amount of this form of fat has been linked to a greater risk for heart disease. One study even found that the risk of heart disease was 37% lower for individuals who ate nuts more than four times a week compared to those who never or rarely consumed nuts. To apply this to real life, and with the disclaimer that I am not a medical professional, it may not be a bad idea to enjoy a tablespoon of nut butter a few times a week, perhaps much more depending on your metabolism and lifestyle.

groundup8 Oatmeal for breakfast with some cashew nut butter is a great way to keep full longer and to get healthy fats, protein, and other minerals in your diet. 

 

If you’re worried about gaining weight from including nut butter or nuts in your diet, think again. There are numerous studies that debunk the idea that eating nuts leads to weight gain. Sure, having a diet very high in fat without the lifestyle to warrant it, may indeed lead to weight gain and other issues, but that can be said for almost anything. In fact, many studies have shown that a diet that includes a healthy amount of nuts is linked to better weight control and prevention of weight gain.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be doing cashews justice if I didn’t speak to them as an excellent source of copper, a mineral that we need to get from our diet. This essential mineral is necessary for utilizing iron in the body, energy production, eliminating free radicals in the body that damage cells and organ systems, and for formation of collagen which is essential for bone and tissue health. Not much copper is needed on a daily basis, but an inadequate intake of copper can lead to issues with blood vessels, joint problems, undesirable cholesterol levels, and possibly iron deficiency anemia. It should be good to know that just two tablespoons of whole cashews (about 1 tablespoon of cashew butter) offer about 40% of one’s daily recommended intake of copper.

                      –The author of this article thinks that carrot sticks and Ground Up nut butter is a phenomenal combination and a great way to absorb the fat soluble Vitamin A in carrots. Feel free to connect with him via his blog or on IG: @eatrunanddone.

Beanfields Recipe #2: Roasted Bell Pepper and Eggplant Dip!

Who doesn’t love a good dip? I absolutely love hummus, but I don’t want to eat hummus all the time. So I decided to create this Beanfields Snacks recipe for a dip that I know you’ll enjoy! It’s vegan and gluten-free and it can be used as a spread or, as I can attest to, be eaten straight out of the bowl!  And do you see those ingredients? It’s completely guilt-free and full of nutrients! That’s what I call Food As Medicine.

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Nutrients of this recipe (only some!):

Bell peppers – Vitamin C (157% in 1 cup!), B6, Vitamin A

Eggplant- Not an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, but a source nonetheless. Instead, though, eggplant provides us with nasunin, a potent antioxidant compound that protects cell membranes from damage.

Chickpeas- Manganese, Folate, Copper, Fiber, Phosphorus, Protein, Iron, Zinc

Health Benefits: In short, this recipe is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to keep us well. Don’t know what phytonutrients are? Think again. I’m sure you’ve heard of  carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols before. Well, this recipe is full of phytonutrients that work to keep our body healthy and functioning properly. I won’t make specific health claims, but I recommend that if you are really curious about them, visit WHFoods.com to research some of the foods in this recipe and read about the numerous health benefits and you can follow up with the studies that support the claims.

Admittedly, as I’m learning as a nutrition student, it is best to eat bell peppers and many other vegetables without exposing them to heat (i.e. raw) due to the loss of some nutrients, but who says both can’t be done? I mean, what’s to stop you from enjoying this dip with slices of bell pepper, carrots, or celery? So, go ahead and have fun making this dip and eating it too!

ROASTED BELL PEPPER & EGGPLANT DIP

Ingredients

Red bell pepper- 1 medium

Eggplant- ½ medium

Chickpeas- 1 cup

Beanfields Jalapeno chips- ¼ cup crushed

Nutritional yeast- 1tbsp (optional)

Garlic- 1-2 cloves

Onion- ½ onion, sautéed

Olive oil- 4 tbsp (1/4 cup)

Water- 2-3 tbsp

Salt- ¼ teaspoon (more or less to taste)

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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Coat roasting dish with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Slice bell pepper and eggplant and coat with oil using an oil brush. Place on roasting dish and roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  4. Pour and spread teaspoon of olive oil on sauté or frying pan and heat skillet on low heat.
  5. Chop onion and garlic and sauté in skillet on medium heat until almost fully cooked (approx. 5 minutes).
  6. Add chickpeas to pan for another 3-5 minutes. Add another teaspoon of olive oil if necessary.
  7. Take out the bell pepper and eggplant and place all ingredients in a blender, including remaining olive oil, Beanfields chips, and nutritional yeast if you are using it.
  8. Blend the ingredients on a lower mode until a proper dip texture is formed; the dip should not be too thick when in blender as it will thicken more when it sits and cools. Pour/scoop the dip into a bowl or container and place in fridge for an hour or so to cool. (This dip can also be enjoyed hot as a topping or as a side.)
  9. Enjoy however and with whatever you please!

 

Happy Eating & Cooking!

Pump(kin) Up Your Health!

 

The following blog post was written for and published on the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI) blog.

 

Everyone knows that we are in pumpkin season right now. If you weren’t aware, it’s about time to get your head out of the gutter. Actually, since those gutters are probably full of fallen autumn leaves, you may want to get back to work. I digress…

Did you know that pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family which include melons, cucumbers, gourds, and squashes? That’s right: pumpkins are related to cucumbers! Neat, right? As a cucurbitacin, pumpkins are high in phytonutrients that will help keep you healthy and well throughout the fall season. But that means you have to eat them, not just take pictures of an orchard or create jack-o’-lanterns with your kids. Sadly, that just won’t cut it.

Healthy because its orange.

The more colorful the food, the better they are for you. If only it were that simple. Well, actually, it often is, with several exceptions of course. Don’t toss out that cauliflower or onion just yet!

The orange hue of the pumpkins’ skin and flesh is due to specific phytonutrients, chemicals found in plant foods. The phytonutrient category that lends the orange color to pumpkins are carotenoids which include specific chemicals you may or may not have heard of such as beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, lycopene, and others. Is there another vegetable that you can think of that is orange and might have carotenoids in it?

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But how are pumpkins healthy?

Due to the nutrient profile of pumpkins, this winter squash variety, like most winter squash varieties, is an anti-inflammatory and even an anti-cancer food. While most of the studies on winter squash’s benefits for health have been conducted on laboratory animals, there have been numerous studies on the various nutrients in pumpkin that support the claims made here.

One of the many benefits that the beta carotene nutrient in pumpkin provides for our bodies is reducing organ damage brought on by oxidative stress in the body. What causes oxidative stress? A poor diet, smoking, drug use, and environmental pollutants are among the sources. And what does oxidative stress lead to if left unchecked? Disease and possibly cancer.

Some studies show that adequate or higher levels of carotenoids may result in a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer and a reduced risk of breast cancer for women. And there is adequate research to show that the nutrients found in pumpkin have been shown to improve blood sugar regulation and possibly improve cardiovascular health. Even iron deficiency anemia may be prevented or treated with Vitamin A supplementation and pumpkin has plenty of Vitamin A.

So what are you waiting for? Start pump(kin)ing up your health today!

 Health properties (not every micronutrient is included)

Based on 1 cup:

Calories: approx. 50

Rich in: Vitamin A

Good source of: B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Copper, Iron,

Decent source of: Manganese, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

Bonus: Pumpkin has minimal amounts (but amounts nonetheless!) of all of the essential amino acids.

The pumpkin oatmeal recipe that I wrote up for this blog post can be found on the FAMI blog. 🙂

Enjoy your health!

 

References:

  1. Jansen RJ, Robinson DP, Stolzenberg-solomon RZ, et al. Nutrients from fruit and vegetable consumption reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. J Gastrointest Cancer. 2013;44(2):152-61.
  2. Esrefoglu M, Akinci A, Taslidere E, Elbe H, Cetin A, Ates B. Ascorbic acid and beta-carotene reduce stress-induced oxidative organ damage in rats. Biotech Histochem. 2016;91(7):455-464.
  3. Jayaprakasam B, Seeram NP, Nair MG. Anticancer and antiinflammatory activities of cucurbitacins from Cucurbita andreana. Cancer Lett. 2003;189(1):11-6.
  4. Eliassen AH, Hendrickson SJ, Brinton LA, et al. Circulating carotenoids and risk of breast cancer: pooled analysis of eight prospective studies. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012;104(24):1905-16.
  5. Semba RD, Bloem MW. The anemia of vitamin A deficiency: epidemiology and pathogenesis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002;56(4):271-281.

Baked Tofu Fries: A Beanfields Recipe

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to join Beanfields Snacks as a food/recipe blogger. I’ll be writing up a more detailed post about why I love Beanfields, so I’ll keep this post to just sharing my first recipe for them that it also available on their site.  This recipe for baked tofu fries is dairy-free, gluten-free, corn-free, and vegan!

I hope you enjoy!

Print

Baked Tofu Fries

Ingredients    (Serves 2)

Tofu – 1 package

Beanfields Nacho Chips- 1/3 bag (or another flavor you love!)

Olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Nutritional yeast – 2 tablespoons (more or less based on preference)

Sesame seeds – 1 teaspoon

Garlic powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Onion powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Cayenne pepper – 1/4 teaspoon

Smoked paprika – 1/4 teaspoon

Salt – 1/4 teaspoon (a tad more if desired)

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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spread the olive oil in baking sheet or baking dish.
  3. Slice the block of tofu into strips resembling French fries. Keep in mind that the thicker they are, the longer they will need to bake and if the strips are too thin, they make break apart as you try to handle them.
  4. With an oil brush, or something similar, brush the tofu strips with oil and place in baking sheet or dish.
  5. Crush the Beanfields chips until they are finely ground (can be done mortar-and-pestle-style or using a blender).
  6. Mix powders, ground chips, spices, salt, sesame seeds, and nutritional yeast in a bowl and, with a spoon, distribute the flavor mix onto the light oil-coated tofu strips. Be sure to not only coat one side of the strips with the mix.
  7. Spread out the tofu strips so they are not touching each other. Place coated tofu strips into the oven for 35-45 minutes (length of time depends on the quality/power of your oven).
  8. Enjoy with or without your favorite condiment(s)! My favorite is Valentina’s hot sauce!

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Happy Cooking!

 

 

 

A Summer of FAME

Update! — The Food As Medicine Institute is a finalist for the Green Festivals Community Award. This award is for $5,000 and will help spread nutrition education to schools and other communities. I have worked for this program and I know the doctors and people who are involved and you can trust me when I tell you that great work is being done. Please take 10 seconds to click on the link above and vote for the Food As Medicine Institute to win this award! 

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This past summer was extremely busy and went by rather quickly due to starting grad school again at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM). This may or may not mean that I’ve still not been to the Oregon coast and now likely won’t get there until sometime next year (eek!), but I did participate in something else that I’ll certainly remember Summer 2016 for: FAME.

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FAME stands for Food As Medicine Everyday and it is a cooking series of (generally) 12 weekly classes that combines simple and fun cooking experiences with nutrition education. The two naturopathic physicians who primarily led this summer’s Food as Medicine Everyday series used the recipes from their book  to teach participants simple cooking techniques right in Charlee’s Kitchen in NUNM’s Helfgott Research Institute building. It was so inspiring to watch everyone become so comfortable with a knife, a Vitamix, with spicing foods, and with having fun while cooking, and then return to the dining table as a group to learn about a health and nutrition topic that varied with each weekly class. And by “inspiring”, I mean that my experience with the cooking classes and with FAME behind-the-scenes a bit more has made it clear to me that community nutrition education is an area I want to explore for my career after graduation.

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My role and the role of the other two or three staff who I worked with throughout the summer was to supervise one of three cooking stations as well as initiate and/or facilitate conversations about meal prep, cooking, or even the nutrition of the foods we were preparing and boy was that a fun experience. I mean, I got paid to help supervise cooking and to socialize with new people who really want to be there. How sweet is that? And how do I know they actually wanted to be there? Well, they told me. But also because they signed up for a class that started at 6pm on Wednesday…in Portland. If you’ve driven near downtown Portland at 6pm on a weekday, you know the level of commitment I’m talking about.

I know that the participants learned quite a lot over the 10 weeks of the class (it was shortened for the summer) such as various cooking techniques, recipes, reading labels, and a great deal on pertinent health topics, but the FAME series proved to be a learning experience for me as well. It is always invaluable to practice skills such as supervising, teaching, listening, and working on a team and that’s what working the FAME series this summer allowed me to do.

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I’m incredibly grateful for the experience that I was given and for the opportunity to continue working with the Institute this fall as a blogger and with other tasks. I feel a calling to learn all I can from everyone at FAMI and the work they do and I can actually see myself following their lead after graduating from this nutrition program. I believe that when one is in school, they often learn or experience the most valuable things outside of the classroom and I think FAMI is and will continue to be that valuable experience for me.

Update: I’ll be tailoring and teaching (possibly co-teaching) FAME classes to two 5th grade classes to a school in West Linn, Oregon. I cannot wait for this awesome experience! I’ve been wanting to teach nutrition education to kids for sometime now and I’m humbled to do this while still a student (though I am also a licensed teacher so that helps!).

In February, the Institute will be putting on their 4th annual Food As Medicine Symposium  and you can bet I’ll be there. I hope to see you some of you Portlanders there, too. Until then…

Happy Eating! And Cooking!

 

Vegan & Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m pretty sure it’s been way too long since my last blog post, but it’s okay because:

1) It’s like riding a bike…you know the rest; and

2) I have a really, really good reason for why I’ve been MIA.

I started a Master’s of Science in Nutrition program at the National University of Natural Medicine where Val is studying Naturopathic Medicine and I’ve been pretty busy ever since. I started the program right after July 4th weekend and since then, running, school, and healthy socializing are areas where I’ve been putting my energies.

What’s brought me back to writing a post for ERaD–and for this I’m grateful–is actually an assignment for my Culinary Skills class. Don’t worry…My instructor didn’t go and say, “I know this is a school that believes in ‘food as medicine’ but go on and bake some chocolate chip cookies for homework.”  The assignment was to get us to bake and work with a leavening agent and who can’t appreciate that? So the baking soda that you’ll see in the ingredient list will react with acidic ingredients–brown sugar and dark chocolate chips in this recipe–and cause a reaction that releases carbon dioxide that causes the dough to rise and gives the cookies a more open interior structure. Cool right? You all probably knew this already, I know.

So I rummaged through my cabinets to see what I had and I found everything necessary for some delicious gluten free dark chocolate chip cookies that are obviously vegan as well. So without further ado…

 Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free & Vegan)

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Ingredients (Makes about 10 small-medium sized cookies)

~Brown Rice flour (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp)

~Coconut flour (1/4 cup)

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~Baking soda (1/2 tsp)

~Nondairy milk (1/2 cup; I used almond milk)

~Coconut oil (1/3 cup)

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~Brown sugar (1/2 cup)

~Ener-G egg replacer (equivalent to 1 egg)

~Dark chocolate chips (amount based on preference; I used ¼ cup)

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~Cacao nibs (1 Tbsp)

~Salt (2 tsp)

~Vanilla (1 ½ tsp)

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~Cinnamon (1 tsp; optional)

baking6 Reasonably speaking, it’s hard to go wrong with cinnamon. 

Instructions

  1. “Mise” your prep area as much as you can. This comes from “mise en place” and involves you getting all of your ingredients in place before you start anything. This allows you to see if you are missing anything and saves time when you are making or cooking other dishes.                     baking  All mise’d and ready to go! Brown sugar was added later.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°.
  3. Mix the flours, baking soda, egg replacer, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. baking8 Give the bowl some love, would ya?
  4. Add the dark chocolate chips and the cacao nibs into the bowl and mix. baking4  Heaven in a mason jar. Soon to be: Heaven in a mixing bowl.
  5. Add into the bowl the coconut oil, almond milk, and vanilla extract and stir until smooth.
  6. Form cookie dough balls and place on a pre-greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before enjoying.

There you have it. Gluten free. Dairy free. They may or may not be guilt free, but they sure as heck should be! Yeah, I just dropped a rhyme for you.

Go ahead and try them out for yourself! One of these would probably be great with your morning coffee or tea about 30 minutes before a run. Oh and while your enjoying your cookie(s), go ahead and check out the programs the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) has to offer. You never know what might strike a chord in you!

Happy Baking…and Running!

Own The Day with Nii.

 

If you were at Portland VegFest this past November, it is likely you were introduced to a new food bar that, if you are into bars and healthy snacks, should be in your pantry. For that matter, keep one in your glove compartment and your office desk while you’re at it. Nii (rhymes with “bye”) Bars are nutrient-packed and have ingredients that make for sustainable, long-term energy to keep you fueled throughout your workday afternoon as well as your outdoor adventures.

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I came across Nii bars while grocery shopping one day. I picked up what I thought was a “Knee” bar and the simple, whole foods ingredients led me to grab a couple more. What caught my attention right away was the first ingredient of the Almond Chocolate Chip bar that was in my hand: raw organic almond butter. Listen here people: a nut butter as the first ingredient is something you just don’t see in other food/protein/energy/nutrition bars; typically you’ll see dates or some form of syrup sweetener.

I did some research and realized I could totally get behind what Nii was and is about. Their “Own the Day” philosophy is one I try to live by each day and their ingredients are what I look for in a food bar. They’re not only vegan which is a huge plus for me (obviously), but they are organic and made of whole foods ingredients which is exactly what I want to be putting in my body especially as fuel for my running. Not much time had passed before I was accepted as a Nii Ambassador and I’ve been happy to spread the Nii love and awareness of this delicious and nutritious bar for those who want to maintain or pursue healthy and active lifestyles, especially for those in the Portland area (home for me).

They’re good all year round!

I’m ecstatic to finally publish this  post because just today, Nii Foods has launched their new website and it is a beauty!! The new website isn’t something that is just a new URL address or a prettier online space for customers and potential customers. This undoubtedly marks a new chapter for the Nii team just as turning That Vegan Runner (my previous blogspot site) into Eat, Run, and Done. marked a new chapter for me. For example, in addition to the site, Nii simultaneously launched their Nii Tribe which was a project  that I know they’ve been looking forward to putting together for a while now. I know, because I’m in the tribe! Click on the link and scroll down to check it out and see who else is part of this great community.

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Nii Foods founder, Shanais Pelka (above right), was kind enough to answer some Nii questions that I was curious about and I figured the curious potential consumer would like to know as well.

W is me (Will) and S is Shanais. Sorry if I just insulted some people’s intelligence.  😮

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W: What does Nii mean? What was the inspiration behind calling your bars, “Nii Bars?” 

S: Nii is my nickname. It is short for Shanais and it is what all my closest friends called me in middle school. 

W: They may go by different names (e.g. nutrition bar, protein bar, energy bar, granola bar, adventure bar, etc.), but there are hundreds of bars out in the market. What made you dissatisfied with the options enough to get you to start creating what would become Nii bars?

S: I was dissatisfied with the other bars on the market for numerous reasons. Many bars contained soy protein or GMO whey protein. I wanted to create a bar made of real, whole foods.  Out of all the organic bars on the shelves, the sweetener, such as dates, agave, or rice syrup, was generally the first ingredient. I wanted to create a bar with nut butter as the first ingredient, therefore making a nutrient-dense sustainable food that would provide long-lasting energy. Finally, I worked very hard to avoid agave syrup, and so I chose to use coconut nectar, which is sustainable and is loaded with enzymes and nutrients. 

W: Did your children have any role in the five flavors of the Nii Foods bars? 

S: Yes, my children spent many hours in the kitchen with me as we mixed different nut butters, seeds and fruits. My children and their friends were the taste-testers with each new prototype.

W: Some potential consumers may say that the fat content in Nii bars are too high. What is or would be your response? 

S: This is a common misconception. Fats are, in fact, an essential macronutrient. Every single cell membrane in our body is made of fat and fats are needed for muscle and tissue health, metabolism, energy, and hormonal balance. Omega 3 and 6 fats, as well as medium chain fats from coconut, are extremely important in hormonal balance, gut health, muscle and skin health, and in moderating inflammation.

W: You are a mother first, I’m sure, but you are also a nutritionist and an educator. Do you find yourself combining those two titles at times and becoming a nutrition educator?

S: Yes, in fact, I do combine both of these titles frequently.  Prior to starting Nii, I worked as a nutritionist in a holistic pediatrician’s office and I taught Environmental Science for a local college.  There is nothing that I enjoy more than teaching people about health, nutrition and holistic healing. 

W: Before they were Nii bars as we know them, they were Nii nut butterballs. Did you have any initial plan to keep them in ball form?

S: I did initially pursue keeping the Nii balls in ‘ball’ form.  Unfortunately, it was more expensive to create. I do still have hopes of creating small Nii ball bite-sized snacks in the near future. 

W: Is there anything that consumers can expect from Nii Foods in the near or not-so-near future that you are willing to disclose? 

S: I have some new superfood flavors I have been working on. I am hoping to make one of these new flavors a charity bar.

W: Now, here is the big question: What is your favorite Nii Bar? How about your children’s’? 

S: My favorite Nii bar is the cacao coconut flavor because I love raw coconut and raw cacao nibs.  My children’s favorite flavor is peanut butter, hands down. 

niibar6 Decisions, decisions.

For those of you who are curious which my favorite Nii Bar would be, I’d have to agree with Shanais’ children on this one and say Peanut Butter with Almond Chocolate Chip as a very close second, but they’re all delicious…and nutritious.

Check out the videos below for some inspiration and knowledge about what Nii Foods is all about.

Happy Snacking/Eating/Running/& Living!

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And don’t forget to Own The Day.

 

Potlucks are the Best!

Potlucks can be one of the most fun events that people participate in. Friends and food. What more can you ask for? No, seriously. What more would you like there to be, because so much more can go down at your weekly, bi-weekly, or perhaps monthly potluck. In addition to the food and socializing, some of the following can be happening: board games; video games; book club reading; knitting; watching the “big game”; watching the presidential debate (I would so be there for this!); listening to a speaker; and so much more. And if that wasn’t enough, you can also attach a theme to the potluck that can be applied to the food as well as the dress-code and activities.

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I was able to head to a potluck this past weekend, but all this writing about potlucks is making me want to find out on Meetup for tonight! Northwest Veg , the group behind Portland VegFest (Oct. 22-23 this year) , puts on 2-3 potlucks a month so the opportunity to attend one is never hard to come across. Lucky me, I know. I actually don’t take advantage of these potlucks often, but on Sunday I went to their Portland potluck with a presentation by Dr. Craig McDougall  and definitely enjoyed all the food and the educational information that was presented. And when I say, “I enjoyed the food,” I really mean it. The pastas, salads, lentil loafs, quinoa dishes, cookies, muffins, and other creative recipes…how can you not enjoy yourself?

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There are so many reasons to attend a potluck (and I guess there are equal or more reasons to not attend one, but we’ll ignore those) so let’s delve into a few of them…

Share your favorite recipe.

Potlucks may or may not be the best place to try out a new recipe. I guess it depends on your confidence and cooking skills! Regardless, they are definitely a great place to share your favorite recipe and the food that recipe leads you to create. The people in attendance may love your dish and may want your recipe so it’d be a great idea to bring copies of your recipe to share with those who may ask you!

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Try a new food/recipe. 

Just as you may be asked to share your recipe(s), you may love a dish so much that you find yourself seeking out its creator! Potlucks are a great way to try something new (and maybe different) which can be great for giving you ideas and  helping you branch out. You may be inclined to gravitate toward the food you know you’ll like…the safe food…but push yourself to try at least one or two dishes you normally wouldn’t try. You may end up loving your decision!

Meet new people.

This is an obvious one, but it will only happen if you are open to it. Talk to someone in line or start up a conversation with the chef of your favorite new dish at the potluck. Meeting new people doesn’t mean you have to become friends with them, but why waste an opportunity to do just that or perhaps expand your network which could benefit you socially and/or professionally.

Introduce people to your favorite snack.

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I actually really like this part of potlucks and yes, it’s a bit different than following and swapping recipes. Let’s face it: we don’t always have time to cook a fresh dish let alone find a new recipe. So many things can get in the way of that such as not having the right ingredients, car problems, and, you know, life. Sometimes the best thing we can do to not show up empty-handed is pick up some chips and salsa. We’ve all done it! But how about instead of picking up the usual, grab your favorite snack that people may not have had before. For me, my favorite snacks that come in a package and would be good to share in a potluck-like setting are Beanfields Bean and Rice chips and Pacific Superfood Snacks kale chips (soon to be Made in Nature). Why Pacific Snacks? Because they simply make the best kale chips on the market. I’m not exaggerating. They are always the first to go whenever I bring them out. And Beanfields..Well they just up the chip game tenfold. With flavors such as Sea Salt, Barbecue, Pico de Gallo, and my favorite Nacho, they are great to enjoy in so many ways. You can dip them in hummus, guacamole, salsa, a bean dip or anything else you can think of. I’ve also crushed them up and sprinkled them in salads, soup (like what is about to happen in the picture above-left), a hot bowl of quinoa, and a veggie stir fry. Orrr you can just have them straight out of the bag! Whatever you decide to do, just be careful you don’t end up eating the whole bag before you even get to the potluck!

2 Ready to have some Beanfields and King Harvest hummus.

If you are in the Portland area, I highly encourage you to consider coming to a Northwest Veg potluck. There is always some kind of presentation happening so your bound to learn something new and the food that is brought never disappoints. If you are not in the Portland area, you can still find some potlucks. I’m sure a quick Facebook or Meetup search will produce some results, but if they don’t or if you aren’t interested in that, then start your own potluck. You can invite family, friends, colleagues, and/or even neighbors. It can be a great way to try some new food, meet some new people, get to know some people better, and just have fun! You won’t regret giving it a shot.