Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spaghetti squash topped with mole sauce and tofu

Hey Mom, are those cat treats you're making?

People choose a vegan/vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons. I've chosen one for health reasons. I suffer from environmental allergies as well as food sensitivities. If you suffer from allergies, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet may offer some relief. Researchers have found that those who exclude animal products from their diet in favor of plant-based foods are less likely to need treatment for allergies or asthma.

As background, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, poultry and seafood but instead consumes a plant-based diet, including seeds, nuts, legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables. Some vegetarians will eat dairy and eggs but some do not. A vegan diet is more restrictive with the exclusion of all animal flesh and byproducts, such as eggs, dairy, honey, etc.

Vegetarian and vegan diets have been studied in the relief of allergies and asthma since the mid-1980s. A 1985 Swedish study demonstrated that asthmatics who followed a vegetarian but especially vegan diet for a full year had a marked decrease in their needs for medications, and frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

In 1994, Loma Linda University tracked how often medical treatments for ailments, including asthma and allergies, were needed for a group of nearly 28,000 people. They found that vegetarians were less likely to need treatment.

Why does a vegan diet help alleviate allergies?
  • One of the chemicals, aside from histamine, released during allergic reactions is called leukotrienes (fatty molecules in the immune system that contribute to inflammation). The production of leukotrienes is influenced by the presence of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found exclusively in animal products. A vegan diet may help reduce leukotrienes because of the absence of arachidonic acid.
  • Fruits and veggies contain antioxidants and many nutrients beneficial for the immune system and allergy relief.
  • Vitamin E seems to help ward off seasonal allergy symptoms. You’ll find it in many of the foods consumed by vegetarians, including green leafy veggies, beans, apples, carrots, celery, wheat germ and nuts
  • Many who follow a vegan diet experience weight loss which can reduce inflammation.

What are other benefits of a vegan/vegetarian diet?

  • There are other benefits to adopting a plant-based diet including lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; a reduced risk of heart disease and many forms of cancer; and diminished arthritis symptoms.

Thanks for the ice cube, Mom.

I've found that following a plant-based diet may not be able to eliminate allergies and asthma completely but diet changes can help.

Spaghetti squash topped with mole sauce and tofu

A versatile food to use on a vegan, plus anti-candida, diet is spaghetti squash. I grow them in my garden, store them year-round, top them with all kinds of delicious stuff including my latest, Spaghetti Squash with mole sauce and tofu.

Ingredients for 4 servings:
  1. 2 spaghetti squash, split, seeded and baked in oven until fork tender
  2. 1 package of extra-firm tofu
  3. 2 tsp. olive oil
  4. 1 small red onion, chopped
  5. 2 tsp. chili powder
  6. 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  7. 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  8. 1 tsp. cumin
  9. 1/2 tsp. coriander
  10. 1 T. coconut nectar
  11. 3 oz. tomato paste
  12. salt to taste
  13. 2 T. sunbutter (or other seed or nut butter)
  14. 1+ cups veggie broth
  15. 2 T. cacao powder
  16. Optional: 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  17. Additional topping: toasted pumpkin seeds, shredded vegan cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake spaghetti squash halves, drizzed with oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Spray a baking sheet with pan spray. Dice the tofu into one-inch cubes and arrange on baking sheet. Spray the tofu with pan spray. Bake for 30 minutes, turning several times, until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from oven.
  3. Saute onion in oil until softened. Add the spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring.
  4. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Cool mixture slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
  6. Return mixture to pot and add in tofu. Simmer until sauce thickens.
  7. Serve sauce over spaghetti squash. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and vegan cheddar cheese.
This heat is really making me tired!

On a hot summer day, serve the mole spaghetti squash with a green salad and a tall glass of red tea-lemonade.
Red tea-lemonade

  1. 6 cups boiling water
  2. 5 bags of red tea
  3. 2 bags of peppermint tea
  4. 1/4 cup lemon juice
  5. stevia to taste
  6. Optional: few drops of vanilla stevia
  1. Steep the tea in the boiling water for five minutes.
  2. Remove the tea bags with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the lemon juice and stevia.
  4. Pour the blend into a pitcher and chill in the fridge before serving.
Recipes contributed to:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Grilled avocado and tofu salad

Loon Lake Trail
There's something about being away from your refrigerator and eating mainly freeze-dried foods that gets your craving juices flowing. True to form, that's just what happened on my first backpacking trip of the season to Loon Lake.

I used to go on weeklong backpacking trips, and the whole craving foods thing made more sense. Back then, it was ice cream I just had to have. Now, of course, it's still ice cream I crave. But because of candida and food allergies, these days I pass on stopping for a shake or ice cream cone on the way home. Instead, I head for an eatery with the huge salad bar where I can load up on fresh produce.

Secesh River

You'd think being in such a lovely place would be a distraction from food.

Grilled Avocado-Tofu Salad
This Grilled Avocado-Tofu Salad is how I ended up rewarding myself after I got home. It wasn't ice cream but it was a lot healthier and really delicious. ACD-phase 1 (omit tomatoes)

Ingredients for 2 servings:
  1. 1 unpeeled avocado, halved, pit removed
  2. lime juice
  3. 6-8 grape tomatoes, halved
  4. 1 T. olive oil
  5. 1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 5 rectangles (stick 3 pieces back in the fridge)
  6. rub for tofu: 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 T. garlic powder, 1 tsp. curry powder, 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  7. salt and pepper
  8. salad veggies: spring mix greens, red pepper, radishes, cucumbers, red cabbage
  9. salad dressing: 2 T. olive oil, 1 T. cider vinegar, 1 T. lemon juice, salt and pepper
  1. Preheat gas, charcoal or electric grill to medium heat. Rub the tofu with olive oil and spice mixture. Season avocado with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil and lime juice.
  2. Place the tofu on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side until grill marks form.
  3. Place the avocado flesh side down on the grill and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Prepare the salad dressing.
  5. With a large spoon, remove the avocado halves from their skins and slice about 1/2-inch thick.
  6. Cut the tofu slices into bite-sized pieces.
  7. Arrange greens and other veggies on two dinner plates.
  8. Divide the avocado slices and tofu pieces between the two plates.
  9. Drizzle with salad dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Cucumber-Lime-Mint Popsicles
It wasn't ice cream but for dessert I made Cucumber-Lime-Mint Popsicles. (ACD-phase 1)

  1. 1 handful fresh mint
  2. stevia to taste
  3. 1/2 cup water
  4. 1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  5. lime juice to taste
  1. Crush mint. Combine with water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat; strain out mint leaves. Add stevia to taste.
  2. Cut cucumber into pieces and place into food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add cooled mint syrup and lime juice to cucumber puree. Mix well.
  3. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Makes 4.
Nika and Bailey chill out.
After a nice trip, followed with a delicious meal, how about a little relaxation time!
Contributed to:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chocolate-fix backpacking bars

On the trail to Loon Lake
Wahoo! It's backpacking season again! Ritalin Boy (hubby), son (Brian), fur kids (Misha and Nika) and I backpacked into Loon Lake in the Payette National Forest this week. It was a little early in the season (it dropped to 25 degrees overnight) but who can wait when you can experience scenery like this? It sure made up for last week when a chance encounter with an artificial sweetener sent my stomach reeling for days.

Loon Lake

As if being in a beautiful place weren't enough, there also was chocolate! I made Cacao Nib Backpacking Bars to munch on. Trust me. These were crunchy, extra chocolatey and satisfying.

Misha in camp

Cacao Nib Backpacking Bars
Cacao Nib Backpacking Bars

  1. 1 cup raw or toasted sunflower seeds plus 1 cup raw cacao nibs
  2. 2 T. chia seeds
  3. 2 T. raw cacao powder
  4. 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  5. 2 T. tahini
  6. 2 T. olive oil
  7. 2 T. water
  8. powdered stevia to taste
  9. pinch of sea salt
  10. Optional: 2 T. cacao nibs for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with pan spray.
  2. Grind all seeds and cacao nibs (except for optional 2 T.) in a coffee grinder. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine applesauce, oil, tahini, water, stevia and sea salt in a food processor. Add the ground seeds and nibs and process until mixture comes together into a sticky dough.
  4. Spread the dough in a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick on a sprayed cookie sheet.
  5. Spinkle optional 2 T. cacao nibs over top and press in with hands.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes. If the top is dry, cut the rectangle into about 16-20 pieces and separate the pieces to leave space between them.
  7. Continue baking for up to another hour until the bars are crispy.
  8. Allow to cool and store in ziploc bags in the freezer for your adventure plus chocolate fix.
Nika says, "More backpacking trips, please."
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Middle Eastern-seasoned tofu in garbanzo bean flour wrap

Sometimes you need a "precious moment" like this one
"That's life, that's what people say.
You're riding high in April,
Shot down in May.
But I know I'm gonna change their tune,
When I'm right back on top in June.”
Life does seem like a roller coaster of highs and lows as the lyrics go in Frank Sinatra's 60's song, "That's Life." Personally, I prefer things being more even keel, especially when it comes to my health. But this week my tummy got “shot down” by deceptive labeling on a package.

I am one of those with sensitivity to maltodextrin, along with other artificial sweeteners, and read labels like a hawk to avoid ingesting them. The other day, I received a sample package for a protein supplement that on the surface, appeared to be free of everything I need to avoid.

I read “free of gluten, yeast, milk, eggs, soy, nuts, fish/shellfish and wheat” and “free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives” on the label and got lured into trying this product on one hurried morning. Big mistake! The manufacturers had added maltodextrin as a sweetener  (even though the label said free of artificial sweeteners) to make their product taste better.

Several hours after breakfast, I experienced the dreaded gastrointestinal side effects that would last for three days. Later, I went back and carefully read the label, which I should have done earlier. It
was labeled as containing maltodextrin and even had a “Phenylketonurics - contains phenylalanine” warning. Once again, I learned how valuable reading labels “carefully” is to someone like me. That’s life, I guess, but it sure seems wrong that products, like the one I tried, can be labeled “free of artificial sweeteners” when they are not.
Not many people are aware of maltodextrin’s side effects. Those with maltodextrin sensitivity are trying to spread the word. There is even a facebook page called “Maltodextrin Intolerance Awareness” at
As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that individuals with food allergies or Celiac disease avoid maltodextrin. Side effects may include:
  1. Diarrhea. One of the most common side effects is diarrhea. Those who are allergic to or sensitive to maltodextrin, or the base starch it is processed from, can easily get an upset stomach, followed by cramps, diarrhea, bloating and watery stool.
  2. Upset stomach. Another common side effect of maltodextrin is a general feeling of sickness or an upset stomach. 
  3. Vomiting. In rare cases, individuals who are sensitive to maltodextrin may begin to vomit after consuming the additive.  
  4. Hives or rashes Maltodextrin can cause hives or rashes in certain individuals. The body will react to an unwanted additive or allergy by producing histamine, which causes hives or rashes.
  5. Asthma. In rare instances, maltodextrin may cause asthma or breathing problems in those who are severely allergic or sensitive. Consult a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any difficulties with breathing or any asthmatic symptoms.
Shawarma wrap
"But I just can't let it get me down,
Cause this big old world keeps spinnin' around.

I guarantee that I will never let my guard down again on reading labels. It's just not worth being sick for three days.

While I was "sick," I really craved salty, well-seasoned foods, like a "Shawarma wrap" which is a Middle Eastern sandwich made with seasoned meat but in my case, seasoned tofu.

  1. 1 cup shredded, peeled cucumber
  2. 1/4 cup soft silken tofu
  3. 2-3 T. tahini
  4. 2 T. lemon juice
  5. 1/2 tsp. sea salt divided
  6. 1 tsp. garlic powder
  7. 1 tsp. curry powder
  8. 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  9. 1 block extra firm tofu sliced into five lengthwise rectangles
  10. 1 T. olive oil
  11. 4 garbanzo bean flour pancakes (or tortilla or pita bread if tolerated)
  12. 1 medium tomato chopped
  13. 1 cucumber sliced
  14. 2+ cups of lettuce or mixed greens
  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan.
  2. Blend shredded cucumber, soft tofu, tahini, lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. salt in a food processor or bowl.
  3. Combine garlic and curry powder, black pepper, 1/4 tsp. salt. Rub extra-firm tofu slices with the spice mixture.
  4. Grill the tofu slices in a grill pan drizzled with olive oil (or use your outdoor grill) just until grill marks form.
  5. To serve, place a garbanzo bean flour pancake on a piece of wax paper. Spread cucumber/tahini sauce on the garbanzo bean flour pancake and top with tofu, tomato and greens. Fold like a taco or roll like a wrap. Finish by wrapping the wax paper around your "shawarma" to keep things together.
To make Garbanzo Bean Flour pancakes:

  1. Mix one cup garbanzo bean flour with 1 cup water. Whisk to combine.
  2. Heat a cast-iron tortilla pan.
  3. To make a pancake, drizzle olive oil on the pan and add 2-3 T. of batter.
  4. Cook until the batter seems set before flipping to cook the other side. (Note: don't look for bubbles like regular pancakes.)
  5. Continue cooking additional pancakes in the same manner. Stack them on a plate but separate each with a piece of wax paper to keep them from sticking together.
  6. I find medium-sized pancakes work the best for this batter but you can experiment with making them larger.
  7. The pancakes store well in the fridge for 2-3 days if you have extras.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cacao chip strawberry shortcakes

Cacao chip strawberry shortcake
What's not to love about strawberries? They are low in calories but big on nutrition. One serving (1 cup) of fresh strawberries has 49 calories, 3 grams of fiber and a hefty dose of Vitamin C, potassium and B-complex vitamins. They are relatively low in carbohydrates, compared to other fruits and berries, which makes them my fruit of choice. Best of all, they are delicious, and June is their peak growing season.

I admit I could snack on fresh strawberries just about all the time but sometimes you want something special. Strawberry shortcake is delicious but imagine a version that adds a touch of chocolate. You know me and my love of chocolate.

To create this dessert, I did some recipe borrowing from Diet, Dessert and Dogs. I used the basic grain-free coconut flour biscuit recipe ( and added 2 T. cacao chips to the dough. The chips mixed in well and voila the dessert was born.

Cacao chip strawberry shortcakes

Step 1: Make the shortcakes
  • 1 T. lemon juice, plus enough unsweetened hemp milk (or other alternative dairy beverage) to equal 1 cup
  • 3 T. ground flax seed
  • 10+ drops of vanilla (alcohol-free) liquid stevia
  • 2 T. melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 T. coconut flour
  • 3 T. garbanzo bean flour
  • 2 T. cacao chips
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large cookie sheet with pan spray
  • Place 1 T. lemon juice in a one-cup glass measuing cup and add milk to make one cup. Add the vanilla stevia and flax to the cup and stir; whisk in 2 T. of melted coconut oil until combined. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients in and stir to blend. Add in the cacao chips.Do not overmix. The mixture will be softer than regular dough but will hold together.
  • Using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop the batter and place mounds on the cookie sheet. Flatten each mound slightly with your palm, slightly dampened.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes. Optional: brush the tops with 1 T. additional melted coconut oil. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and cool. Makes 6 biscuits. May be frozen.
Step 2: Make the Agar Base for the Vegan Whipped Topping
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. agar powder (not flakes)
  • Place the coconut milk in a heavy saucepan. Sprinkle the agar powder on top. Allow to set for 5+ minutes
  • Next, bring to boil and then simmer for 5-8 minutes
  • Finally, turn off the heat and allow to set on the burner for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer to a storage container and put in the refrigerator to cool and gel
Step 3: Make the Vegan Whipped Topping

  • 20+ drops of vanilla stevia
  • dash of sea salt
  • 2-4 + T. of unsweetened coconut milk
  • agar base
  • Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until creamy. Add more coconut milk if needed.
Step 4: Assemble shortcakes
  • Cut biscuits in half. Layer with vegan whipped topping and sliced fresh strawberries

Fur kids, Misha and Nikka, spar over Misha's dinner
The fur kids can make all the noise they want while I'm enjoying this delicious dessert. Or another of my favorites for "taking me away" is a Dandy Blend Frappucino.

To make one serving:

  • Mix one cup unsweetened coconut milk with 1 T. Dandy Blend in a blender.
  • Freeze into ice cubes.

  • When ready for your treat, place ice cubes, vanilla stevia and additional coconut milk in blender to pulse into a delicious treat.
  • Top with vegan whipped topping (recipe above) and sprinkle of cacao chips or chocolate sauce.
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