Make Smart Substitutions

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I am excited to share with you that I completed my first Fresh Formula publication outside of my blog.  🙂  I completed an article for the Adjunct Faculty Association spring newsletter, The Connection, and was among only five adjuncts selected to write in the health and wellness section.  Today, I thought I’d share that article with you.

If you’re a regular subscriber of The Fresh Formula, some of the article’s content won’t be new information, but a refresher never hurts.  I also included the recipe for my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie, which was one of my first blog posts.  Click the link above to see the original article or read the text below:

On my plant-based living blog, The Fresh Formula, I share information and recipes for healthy eating.  One of the easiest changes we can make to our diets is to consider healthier substitutes for the items that we are using regularly.  Below, I have listed some examples of substitutions that I have made in my own kitchen:

  • White flour –> Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, graham flour
  • White granulated sugar –> Turbinado sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, medjool dates
  • Iodized table salt –> Pink Himalayan sea salt

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  • Nut butters with additives –> Nuts-only nut butters
  • Eggs –> Chia seeds or ground flaxseed (mixed with water), bananas, steamed apple puree
  • Dairy milk –> Unsweetened almond, cashew, coconut, grain, and hemp milks
  • Canned beans –> Dry beans or unsalted canned beans (beans only)
  • White rice –> Brown rice, farro, quinoa, wheat berries, cracked wheat, barley
  • Prepackaged popcorn –> Bulk popping corn (made on the stovetop)

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  • Vegetable or canola oil –> Coconut, avocado, sesame, peanut, and olive oils
  • Boxed/canned stock/broth –> Unsalted homemade stock (can also be used as a flavorful substitute for water when cooking whole grains)

While many of these substitutions are more expensive, some are cheaper than their preservative-laden brethren; I believe that the health benefits are worth it either way.  I adopted a plant-based lifestyle because I had high cholesterol, so eggs, for example, were one of the first items to cross off of my shopping list.  Chia seeds, by contrast, are cholesterol-free sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium.

I have included my irresistible chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie recipe incorporating many of the aforementioned substitutions.  It is so decadent, it can serve as dessert, but is a healthy option for a meal or snack, too!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and a few ice cubes)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (nuts only)
  • 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 pitted medjool dates
  • Unsweetened almond milk to achieve desired consistency (start with ½ cup)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until silky smooth.

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For more valuable health tips, information on plant-based living and eating, and tons of delicious recipes, visit thefreshformula.com and subscribe for regular updates.  Cheers to good health!

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Nothin’ Like the Smell of Freshly Baked Bread!

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I love bread (who doesn’t?!) and I insist on the absolute best if I’m going to buy it premade. I’m talking whole grain, organic, all natural, no preservatives, and loaded with extras like seeds and nuts. When it comes to bread, high quality will cost you; my favorite pre-made bread is $7.00 a loaf. Between me, Travis, and Nolan, that bread could easily disappear in less than five days.

I’m a big proponent of DIY and prefer, when I have the time, to go the extra mile and make food items from scratch that I could easily buy in the store. Travis and I have made our own plant milk, pasta dough, extracts, beer, wine…and the list goes on! I had been making quick breads for years, but knew when the price of my favorite pre-made yeast bread went up again that I had to learn how to make it myself.

Making yeast bread, I found, it actually quite simple, but time-consuming. Thankfully, most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise, so I take the opportunity to do a short workout, clean the house, or do some more cooking during this time period. The best part? I can make my own bread, meeting all of the above criteria and loaded with extras, for about ONE THIRD of the price of my favorite $7.00 loaf!

Is yeast bread vegan? Yes, it is. It’s true that the yeast is “alive” when you go to make the bread, but it is a simple organism, incapable of pain, emotions, or thought, just like plants. At one point, the bananas on your counter and kale in your fridge were living, growing organisms as well. It is impossible to avoid eating something that was once living and any moral dilemma you may face with yeast certainly barely compares to that that you might experience with cows, pigs, birds, and fish. 🙂

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the ingredients I’m using today, pictured below.

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SPELT FLOUR: Although I am a fan of whole wheat flour, spelt flour is even richer in vitamins and minerals, and more flavorful.

PINK HIMALAYAN SEA SALT: HSS is naturally high in iodine, among over eighty other vitamins and minerals, including iron. It contains less sodium per serving than iodized white table salt. I don’t use a lot of salt in my cooking in general, but I’ve made this bread with and without and it just doesn’t taste the same without.

YEAST: I use rapid rise yeast. It does the same job as active dry, but faster.

GROUND FLAXSEED: Flaxseed is a super food high in Omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber, and may even reduce the risk of major diseases like cancer and diabetes. NOTE: You must eat flaxseed ground in order to reap its nutritional benefits.

AVOCADO OIL: Avocado oil is high in vitamin E and potassium and contains more protein than any other fruit. It can lower blood pressure and increase absorption of carotenoids from other fruits and vegetables.

Like my other fresh formulas, I’m using what I have available on hand. You can substitute any flour or oil you have in your pantry. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: YEAST BREAD

Makes 1 standard size loaf

  • 3-4 cups of flour, plus more for dusting your workspace –> I’m using 2 ½ cups spelt and filling in as necessary with whole wheat.
  • ÂĽ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ tsp salt –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil –> I’m using avocado.
  • 1 Âľ cups very warm water (hot, but touchable)
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (optional) –> I’m using equal parts chia seeds, hemp seeds, and raw sunflower seeds.

Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer (you can make the bread entirely by hand, but it will be a little workout!).

DSC_1780 Thoroughly clean and dry your countertop and sprinkle with flour.

DSC_1784 Have any specialty ingredients of choice nearby to eventually knead into your bread dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and a loaf pan.

Combine 3 cups of flour, salt, and yeast in the mixer on low. Add any additional spices or sweeteners, if using. Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl before starting the mixer. Start on low speed and increase the speed as the dry ingredients become incorporated into the wet.

Add all of the flaxseed and then, additional flour gradually until your dough forms a minimally sticky ball on high speed. I can tell that the dough is ready for kneading if it is still somewhat sticky to the touch, but does not stick to the mixing bowl itself when whipping around on a high speed.

DSC_1792 Flour your hands, remove the dough, and place the dough onto your floured countertop.

Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, until it makes a smooth ball. If you are adding ingredients like dried fruit or seeds, stretch the dough open 3 times throughout the kneading process to sprinkle in ingredients before folding over the dough and kneading again.

DSC_1793 Knead for 5-7 minutes total and then place the ball into your oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

DSC_1794 DSC_1795 After 45 minutes, punch down the dough, reform into a loaf shape, and transfer it into your oiled loaf pan.

DSC_1798 Cover the dough and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the time that it takes the oven to preheat, your dough will rise again and then be ready for baking. Bake for 35 minutes. The bread should come out of the loaf pan fairly easily and onto a wire rack to cool.

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Dessert for Breakfast? Yes, Please!

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Today, I made my favorite dessert smoothie for breakfast. Above, you can see the finished product, ready for consumption by one busy mommy and on-the-go toddler.  While you’ll love this sweet treat in a traditional post-meal capacity, it can serve as a decadent start to your day, too. Jam-packed with protein and calcium, it puts many other breakfast options to shame.

A few words about some of the ingredients (pictured below) in this chocolate peanut butter banana concoction…

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First, we have cocoa power. To keep the sugar content low, it is imperative that it be unsweetened. Cocoa powder, which contains powerful antioxidants, has numerous health benefits, so it may be tempting to add a lot, but its flavor is quite intense. Start with a tablespoon and slowly add more if you want your smoothie extra chocolaty.

Secondly, seek out a peanuts-only peanut butter. Many peanut butters contain added sugar, oil, and salt, which may result in you initially finding a simpler peanut butter bland. The purer taste, however, will grow on you over time; I now find myself off-put by peanut butter with unnecessary additives.

Lastly, because the cocoa power, peanut butter, and almond milk in this recipe are all unsweetened, you have only the bananas to rely on to give this smoothie a dessert-like quality. Riper bananas will be sweeter, but if even that is not enough for you, add medjool dates–which are rich in fiber and vitamins–for a little something extra. As you can see in the photo, they do contain pits, which can be easily removed by splitting the dates in half with your thumbs. Medjool dates are very soft, easy to work with, and blend well, if you have a high quality blender.

That leads me to my blender: the Ninja, which includes pitchers in two different sizes. The most basic model will run you about $100, where the more advanced models with more equipment will be over $300. While I would love someday to own one of the hailed Vitamix or Blendtec processors, for a little less coin, I’m happy with the Ninja for now. If you do not own a blender with advanced capabilities and fear that the less-than-perfect puree of the dates would result in an unappealing texture, you could substitute another sweetener of your choice.

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Overall, this smoothie blends up nicely, with the exception of the chia seeds, which I’m not sure would completely puree in any blender. Their texture reminds me of the tiny seeds on strawberries or in kiwis and does not bother me, but you can eliminate them if you so choose. I have chia seeds in many of my formulas/recipes, as they are a super food loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, and protein.

But the seeds and peanut butter are fattening, right? Yes, they are. I’m happy to report, however, that seeds and nuts contain cholesterol-free fats. If you’re following a fairly strict plant-based diet, seeds and nuts are among the only sources of fat that you will ingest. Think about that squishy, white-ish edge of a pork chop or the grease that floats on top of a cheesy pizza and you will celebrate the addition, in moderation, of a different kind of fat to your diet. Also, this smoothie need not be your everyday breakfast (I make it once or twice a week) – check out my fruit and veggie smoothie formula, too.

With that said, on to dessert!

FORMULA BASE:  DESSERT SMOOTHIE

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –>  I’m using ½ cup peanut butter and 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ÂĽ-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –>  I’m using no extract in this recipe.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness  –>  I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz)  –>  I’m using unsweetened almond milk.

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Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.  Enjoy!