Nov 152011

Recently I flew up to Jersey, well doped for flying with a glass of wine or two at the airport Chili’s, with high hopes of a Snooki sighting upon arrival.

I know, I should be dealing with my fear of flying rather than drinking wine but that just isn’t as much fun.  And luckily I was flying up at night because technically this was a work trip.

The group that went up with me was an easy going and fun. We worked hard during the day and then after work we all gathered to have a drink or two.
After a few drinks our lively group checked out the menu for dinner.

The topic of what to eat came up and, of course, that led to a discussion about proteins after it was obvious I was looking for a plant based dish.

I was promptly advised that I can NOT get all the essential amino acids from plant based sources.

I asked which ones I’m missing out on then.

No one really knew.

Not one to shy away from a good challenge, especially one dealing with food, I got right to researching.  I knew you could get them all from plant based sources but I didn’t know exactly which ones.

Keep reading to see what I found….

These 9 essential amino acids are the only proteins our bodies can’t formulate on their own so we must obtain them from food sources.

(Here comes the technical info that I researched and compiled for the very noble purpose of winning the argument. Skip to the bottom if you are just here for the cake.)

Plant Based Sources of Essential Amino Acids.

Isoleucine (Ile)  muscle production and recovery, formation of blood clots
Some plant based sources. (Source)(Source)
Soy products such as Tofu
Low fat sesame seed flour

Leucine (Leu) tissue production and repair, produces growth hormones
Some plant based sources.(Source)(Source)
Raw peanuts
Sesame seeds

Lysine ( Lys) needed for calcium absorption and bone development, production of antibodies
Some plant based sources. (Source)
Soybeans (particularly tofu, isolated soy protein, and defatted soybean flour)
Spirulina, and fenugreek seed
Brewer’s yeast
Beans and other legumes

Methionine (Met) fat digestion and prevention of plaque in arteries
Some plant based sources (Source)
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
(To a lesser extent grains and beans.)

Phenylalanine (Phe) brain function and mood
Some plant based sources (Source)(Source)
Soy products
Sesame Seeds

Threonine (Thr) protein regulation and recycling in the body
Some plant based sources (Source)(Source)
Wheat germ
Many nuts
Sesame Seeds

Tryptophan (Trp) – produces serotonin, regulates sleep and mood, pain management
Some plant based sources (Source)(Source)
Evening Primrose
Brown rice
Sesame seeds

Valine (Val) muscle growth, repair and endurance, treats brain damage from alcohol, regulates nitrogen
Some plant based sources (Source)(Source)
Sesame seeds

Histidine (His) –“ the ‘growth amino’ essential for young children. Lack of histidine is associated with impaired speech and growth.” (Source)
Some plant based sources (Source)

Now everyone is very concerned about getting all the essential amino acids in one sitting. Though it has been proven that we don’t need to do this, it’s always a good idea to eat great variety of natural foods in various combinations such as veggie, legume and grain.

How about pumpkin, chickpeas and oats to start?

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Serves 10
Vegan, Gluten Free
1 cup gluten free rolled oats, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 ½ cups sucanat or brown sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or more if you like a lot of spice)
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 cans (or 500g cooked) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup canned pureed pumpkin
3 Tbsp coconut oil (melted) or oil of choice
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped dried fruit such as cranberries, dates, cherries and apricots
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Pour 1 cup gluten free rolled oats into a food processor or Vitamix.  Process until well ground.
3. Add 1 ½ cups sucanat and process to fine powder; add salt through baking powder and mix well; pour into a medium bowl.
4. Add 500 g chickpeas, ¼ cup pumpkin, oil and vanilla to processor or Vitamix; process until smooth.  Stir in dry ingredients; blend until well mixed. Stir in dried fruit and press into a 10 inch spring form pan sprayed with cooking spray.
5. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes; let cool 10 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

10 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 267.2
Total Fat 5.4 g
Saturated Fat 3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.6 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 267.5 mg
Potassium 239.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 54.3 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Sugars 36.2 g
Protein 4.0 g

Vitamin A 24.6 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 12.8 %
Vitamin C 3.6 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 1.0 %
Calcium 2.7 %
Copper 6.7 %
Folate 8.7 %
Iron 8.1 %
Magnesium 4.8 %
Manganese 19.3 %
Niacin 2.1 %
Pantothenic Acid 2.2 %
Phosphorus 5.5 %
Riboflavin 1.6 %
Selenium 2.5 %
Thiamin 1.1 %
Zinc 3.9 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Oct 192011

Everyone knows what chili is right?  When you ask most folks what they put in theirs you typically hear beans, beef, tomatoes etc. 

But how do you make a meatless chili that is also filling and flavorful enough to satisfy those die hard meat lovers? 

By adding a few elements of mole sauce.  And beer.

Mole is a sauce that can vary greatly by ingredient list but typically involves chili and, yes, a bit of chocolate.   I know this can sound a little weird but what it adds isn’t necessarily sweetness; it provides a deep rich layer of flavor, and with the added full bodied beer, this makes for a pretty hearty meal. 

As for the pumpkin?  That was all me.  I can’t seem to get enough of it, especially when the weather gets cooler and the fall season settles in.  It is a bit sweet, adds tons of fiber, is low in fat and high in vitamin A.  But don’t tell the meat lovers about that part.

My meat eating, self proclaimed non-vegetarian hubby went in for two bowls and ate leftovers over some barley I had cooked up.

I feel enough has been said here.

Pumpkin Chili Mole
About 6 1-cup servings
Vegan, Dairy Free

Organic Ingredients

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
14 sweet peppers or 2 bell peppers, chopped
1 hot pepper of choice, diced (optional) such as arbol
1 15 oz (425 g) can kidney beans
1 15 oz (425 g) can black beans
1 15 oz (425 g) can pumpkin puree (or butternut squash puree)
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 12 dark beer

Seasoning Mixture

1 tsp raw cacao powder (or unsweet baking cocoa)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp chipotle powder

**Add salt to taste.  I didn’t add any as with the canned beans and tomatoes it was salty enough.


1. Heat a Dutch Oven or large stock pot over medium high heat; spray with cooking spray, add onions and peppers; saute about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add garlic; saute an additional 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile mix spice mixture in a small bowl.

3. Add spice mixture to pot and all remaining ingredients; bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

About 6 1-cupServings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 250.9
Total Fat 1.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 765.5 mg
Potassium 720.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 45.3 g
Dietary Fiber 14.2 g
Sugars 5.6 g
Protein 12.8 g

Vitamin A 118.2 %
Vitamin B-12 0.2 %
Vitamin B-6 14.2 %
Vitamin C 130.5 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 1.2 %
Calcium 8.6 %
Copper 18.0 %
Folate 40.5 %
Iron 22.7 %
Magnesium 21.6 %
Manganese 33.1 %
Niacin 7.7 %
Pantothenic Acid 4.9 %
Phosphorus 21.4 %
Riboflavin 11.6 %
Selenium 4.1 %
Thiamin 20.4 %
Zinc 9.9 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Feb 172010

Dear Aunt Owney, if you are reading this post this one is for you.

What?  No tahini, agave and flax seed in the pantry?  Sheesh, I thought everyone had this stuff!  ;) 

I will admit I do buy most ingredients at my local natural food store, Native Sun.  However, you can get almost all the ingredients shown here, as well as agave which is not in this particular recipe, at local grocery stores.  Check for an organic/all natural section or talk to the store manager.

I love looking back and seeing how my pantry has evolved.  Finding out about my daughter’s allergies definitely propelled me in the natural food direction and to tell you the truth, not only are her allergies under control, I feel great too!  I have been working to eliminate white sugar from my diet and my cravings have almost ceased (for me this is really amazing as someone with a horrendous sweet tooth).

Pumpkin is a great source of fiber and vitamin A and is very low on the glycemic index. Even though these started out as a dessert truffle, they ended up not quite as sweet.  The pumpkin provides something more like the taste of a very moist granola bar.

I ate so much of the batter when I was making these around 10AM I wasn’t hungry until 4:30! Needless to say these little guys are very filling and tasty.

 Raw Tahini Pumpkin Truffles
Vegan, Gluten Free

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp tahini, I used JoYva
1 cup dates
2 tsp maple extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup rolled oats, I used Bob’s Red Mill
2 Tbsp flax seeds, I used Bob’s Red Mill
2 Tbsp apple juice
1/4 cup raisins


1. Add pumpkin puree through apple juice to a food processor; blend well, scraping down the sides of the food processor frequently until mixed to desired consistency.

2. Fold in raisins.

3. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls into balls and place in small muffin cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon and stevia and a few raisins for garnish (optional).

Feb 152010
Weekend visits with my grandmother while I was growing up were magical.  First on our list to do was a trip to Kings Castle Land.  Upon arriving at this small amusement park in Whitman, Mass you would cross a drawbridge over a moat.  As a child I found this sort of thing very entertaining. 
Nothing is better than a drawbridge and moat.  
Ok maybe there are a few things just as good.
Such as a roller coaster, petting zoo with very cute goats, play ground, slides, house of mirrors and the most wonderful gift shop you ever saw filled with all kinds of enchanting trinkets and toys.
Now for the Debbie Downer part.  Very sadly, the park closed in 1994 and became a used car lot and later a Stop and Shop but the memories from there are irreplaceable.  Is that even legal?  To crush childhood dreams for a used car lot and a Stop and Shop?  Well it most definitely should not be.
Back to the point.  Secondly on our list of things to do was to head for the local natural food stores.  My grandmother followed a macrobiotic diet which is grain and plant based and promotes whole, unprocessed foods. I love the smell of the small, local natural food stores.  Don’t you?  They just smell healthier.  Maybe because they don’t use harsh chemicals for cleaning.  While we were there she would buy me dates rolled in coconut flakes.  Have you ever had those?  There is no candy out there that can compare to how sweet and soft they are with just the right hint of coconut. 
Fast forward to 2010.  I came across a charming blog called Chocolate Covered Katie. Here I was reminded of those date rolls my grandmother always bought me because she makes what are called Fudge Babies.  Aside from the memory factor what appeals to me about them is they are raw and contain no butter, white sugar and white flour that severely tamper with my insulin levels.  And no one likes an insulin level that has been tampered with.
Raw Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cup Truffles
Vegan, Gluten Free


1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup dates
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp cocoa powder, I used Hershey’s Special Dark
1/2 cup rolled oats, I used Bob’s Red Mill
1/4 cup carob or chocolate chips sweetened with natural sweetener such as SunSpire
2 Tbsp PB2 Chocolate (optional)
1. Add the puree through rolled oats to a food processor; blend well, scraping down the sides of the food processor frequently until mixed to desired consistency.
2. Fold in carob or chocolate chips. 
3. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls into balls and place in small muffin cups. Sprinkle with optional PB2 chocolate and a few carob or chocolate chips.