Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Make Powdered Coconut Sugar

I like to use coconut sugar when making a treat for our family and friends. It has a rich, caramel-like flavor that isn't too sweet. Plus, coconut sugar doesn't have that heart-palpitating affect like cane sugar does. This powdered coconut sugar recipe can be used to make icing for cookies and cakes, or used wherever powdered sugar is called for in a recipe.

Coconut sugar is a low-glycemic granulated sweetener, with an index of 35. Compare that to honey with a glycemic index of 75, cauliflower at 30, lentils at 35, and watermelon at 100.

Coconut sugar comes from the sap of the coconut palm blossoms. It is dried and granulated making it perfect for cooking and baking. Use it to replace any other granulated sweetener in equal amounts. Coconut sugar is dark so keep in mind that it will turn your "white cake" brown. It is best used in chocolate or spiced molasses type treats. Use it in sweet or savory sauces and in marinades. Use it basically anyplace a granulated sugar is called for. Now you can also replace regular powdered cane sugar with coconut sugar using this method.

Powdered Coconut Sugar

Powdered sugar is harder to replace, but you can make your own by grinding granulated coconut sugar in your Vita-Mix or coffee grinder. Please read my Cranberry-Pear Sauce post where I talked about potential gluten cross contamination in some coconut sugar brands before you go out and purchase any coconut sugar.

1 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

Place the coconut sugar and arrowroot into the dry container of your Vita-Mix. Place the lid on tightly. Start on low speed and gradually work your way up to the highest speed. It will take a few minutes to powder the sugar. You can start and stop the machine if you need to. Just don't open the lid or you will have powdered sugar floating everywhere in the air! The dry container of the Vita-Mix is designed to keep dry ingredients moving and not get hot and cake to the bottom of the container. I don't think the regular liquid container would work for this recipe but you could try it.

Keep blending the sugar until it is all powdered and light brown in color. Keep the lid on for a few minutes to let it settle to the bottom. Then place into a glass jar and cover tightly with a lid. Store it in your pantry until ready to use. Source:

Use powdered coconut sugar to make icing for cookies!
The above photo of gluten-free gingerbread cookies is a recipe that will be coming soon. So stay tuned! If you do not own a Vita-Mix and have been thinking about getting one, the Super Package which includes the dry container is on sale now (11/28) on the Vita-Mix website!

Other recipes using coconut sugar:
Coconut Sugar Apple Crisp
Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
Vegan Corn Muffins

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Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Make Turkey Stock

For many of you Thanksgiving revolved around a turkey, right? You can make good use of the leftover bones and skin and create a nourishing bone broth. Stock made from leftover vegetable scraps and the bones of animals is extremely economical. Think of how much that box of organic chicken broth costs at your local grocery store? And think of the added flavors and strange ingredients in those store-bought stocks. A gigantic pot of homemade stock can be made for less than the cost of one store-bought carton of stock.

Turkey stock is dark and richly flavored. It can be used to make soup (such as wild rice and veggie soup or turkey-noodle soup), turkey tetrazzini, turkey meatballs, in sauces, or simply heated with garlic and herbs to sip on if you have a cold. And it is remarkably easy to make! All you need to do is add veggies, water, and the leftover turkey bones and skin. Then cover and walk away from it. Come back a few hours later and strain into jars. That's it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yam Casserole with Pecan Streusel Topping (Grain-Free)

This is my healthier take on the traditional Thanksgiving yam casserole recipe. It has a delicious grain-free crumble topping made from ground pecans, a little arrowroot, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and real butter. I think the topping would also work on top of an apple or pear crisp/crumble. It could also be the streusel topping to an apple pie. Lots of ways to use it!

Please read my last post on possible gluten cross-contamination in coconut sugar before making this recipe. I like to use coconut sugar because it is a low-glycemic sweetener, meaning it doesn't cause huge fluctuations in blood sugar. Plus, I can't stand how sweet cane sugar is now if I ever try it, yuck! But I also don't crave sugar. Ever. When I was pregnant I craved raw sauerkraut and ate it daily. Large bowlfuls with quinoa, avocados, and toasted sunflower seeds. That was my first trimester staple! However, if you want to use something other than coconut sugar, you could try maple sugar, brown sugar, or Sucanat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cranberry-Pear Sauce (refined sugar-free)

This year's cranberry sauce recipe uses ripe pears to sweeten up the tart and tangy cranberries. I've added a smidgen of coconut sugar to help balance the flavors but I imagine that stevia could be used instead. Coconut sugar is a low glycemic sweetener but stevia is a "no-glycemic" sweetener meaning it doesn't raise blood sugar at all. This recipe can be made days ahead of the big day and served cold or warm.

If you are gluten intolerant be sure that the coconut sugar you are using is gluten-free. Anything that is dry or granulated like sugar, flours, cornmeal, polenta, etc. can be processed in a facility where wheat or gluten products are processed. I use coconut sugar from Big Tree Farms, which is sold under the brands, Sweet Tree and Essential Living Foods. Our wonderful local food co-op also stocks coconut sugar in the bulk section but it is NOT gluten-free. It comes from Glory Bee Foods. I called them and none of their products are anywhere near gluten-free, so beware. Our other health food store in town, Terra Organica, sells coconut sugar in bulk and it comes from Essential Living Foods so it is okay. My friend Melissa from Gluten-Free For Good made a comment in the post we recently did on gluten cross-contamination pointing out that some coconut sugar brands are contaminated with gluten. Other than the one I mentioned above, I have not seen any sold around here. If you know of one, please leave a comment to help each other out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Hello dear readers, Tom is posting something today for a change. I will be back later this week with a few Thanksgiving recipes for you! -Ali :)

I was asked to do a book review of the new illustrated version of Food Rules by Michael Pollan. What an honor! I have truly appreciated all of the thought provoking pages of Botany of Desire, and my personal favorite for getting a nutrition debate rolling, In Defense of Food. Ah, how simple it was for us to leave In Defense of Food with just seven words to guide us. “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  Food Rules is an extension to that message, or as Michael puts it “I unpack those seven words of advice into a comprehensive set of rules, or personal policies, designed to help you eat real food in moderation and, by doing so, substantially get off the Western diet.” Simple. Noble. Effective?

There are 83 different rules laid out amongst playful and colorful images from Maira Kalman. Some of these “policies” are timeless and eloquent like this one under Rule #8: Avoid food products that make health claims. "The healthiest food in the supermarket---the fresh produce---doesn’t boast about its healthfulness because the growers don’t have the budget or the packaging. Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about your health."

I love this one: Rule #12: Get out of the Supermarket Whenever You Can "You won't find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer's market. What you will find are fresh, whole foods harvested at the peak of their taste and nutritional quality..."

A rule I found to be a little misleading if the goal is to “substantially get off the Western diet” is rule #45: Eat all the Junk Food You Want as Long as You Cook it Yourself. It is possible that someone could take this recommendation and run with it right back into poor health. 

While this light-hearted, at-a-glance rules book has some decent food for thought, I found some core principals of nutrition either completely missing, or entirely miss-represented.

1.     Food Sensitivities:
I have a few rules in my practice as well. The first is to do no harm. The second is to assist people in finding options that make them feel good and function better. As many of our clients and readers have testified to us over the years…the food for one can be a poison for another. Many people (at least 1/3 of our general client base) have a negative reaction to gluten, dairy, soy, or some other food component in their diet. Whether it is the gluten that is contributing to intestinal issues, chronic fatigue, ADD/ADHD and iron deficiency, or the dairy that is contributing to asthma, arthritis, or autism, many clients have not gotten better until these foods were removed from their diets. I would add Rule #84: Do an Elimination Diet, to determine what your individual body may be reacting negatively to.

2.     GMOs:
No one really knows the possible ramifications these engineered foods may have on our health, and our environment. There were no rules in this book that addressed this specifically. I would add Rule #85: Eat Foods Mother Nature Can Recognize.

3.     Environmental Pollutants/Organics:
As the onslaught of industrial chemicals continues to build on our planet, we are finding samples of environmental pollutants in wild animals across the globe. Some researchers are theorizing that our own bioaccumulation of these chemicals may be changing the behavior of our children, our immune system functions, and numerous other pathways in our bodies. I would add Rule #86: Don’t Panic, Eat Organic.

As a whole, I like the vibe that Michael sets up in the book. It is obvious in the introduction that Michael is fed up (pun intended) with the pseudoscience and misleading trends in the field of nutrition (aren’t we all), and would like people to get back to the basics of preparing, eating, and enjoying unadulterated wholesome foods in a form that nature had originally intended. Within the rules, there is an underlying pleading with the reader to stop thinking about the minutia of what biochemical properties foods may or may not have, and savor the essence, and the true genius of the whole food itself. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Black Quinoa and Roasted Pumpkin Salad

Ever tried black quinoa? It is delicious, and very nutty-flavored. A bit fibrous. Great for salads. Cooks up quickly like its white counterpart. This quinoa salad embodies the flavors of autumn. Roasted sugar pie pumpkin with a hint of cinnamon combined with dried cranberries, roasted pecans, shallots, and a zesty dressing. Perfect for a simple, nutritious lunch or as part of your Thanksgiving feast.

Black quinoa is colored by a class of compounds called anthocyanins which protect the plant against oxidation and UV damage. Anthocyanins act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that when ingested, protect our bodies against chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Our modern lifestyle has caused many people to become chronically inflamed. Stress, nutritional deficiencies, elevated toxins in our environment, and lack of sufficient antioxidants causes our bodies to produce higher levels of cytokines which cause inflammation and tissue damage. Cancer cells grow and reproduce under inflammatory conditions. Anthocyanins decrease inflammation and cause cancer cells to die (apoptosis).

Not only is black quinoa a rich source of anthocyanins but also are blueberries, black rice, black beans, blackberries, black raspberries, purple broccoli, purple cauliflower, red cabbage, cherries, and many more. Just think black, purple, dark blue, and dark red.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lentil and Kale Dal + a Video!

Lentils are what we make for dinner if I have not planned ahead of time to soak beans or buy ingredients for a meal. Lentils are inexpensive and cook quickly without the need for soaking. However, if you are gluten-senitive or celiac, there is one thing you need to know about lentils. They are often cross-contaminated with gluten grains. We made a short video in our kitchen to show you. Hope you enjoy!

Gluten Cross-Contamination in Lentils from Whole Life Nutrition on Vimeo.

We have found that the contamination is not happening in the bulk bins, it happens before the lentils arrive to the co-op. The best thing to do is to sort through them and pick out the gluten grains then rinse them thoroughly and proceed with the recipe. One of those grains in a pot of soup can adversely affect someone with gluten issues for weeks or more. You can either remove the grains or remove lentils from your diet to avoid possible cross-contamination.

Lentil and Kale Dal

I add kale to everything because we love it, and we grow it in our backyard green garden. Of course, you could add spinach, chard, broccoli leaves, or any other green you have on hand. You can also add diced zucchini, diced carrots, and whatever vegetables you like to this. I like to keep it simple, this way I can prepare it in 10 minutes or less then walk away from it while it is simmering on the stove. Serve this with a dollop of Spicy Peach Chutney and cooked Sticky Brown Rice.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups French lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
4 cups chopped kale
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
handful cilantro, chopped

Heat a 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Then add the onions and saute for 6 to 7 minutes. Then add the ginger and spices; saute a minute more. Then add the lentils and water; cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the kale and the salt, stir, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes to cook the kale and reduce the liquid. Continue cooking if you like your dal thicker. Turn off heat and add the cilantro. Serve over rice or quinoa.

Yield: 6 servings

Note: I like to add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne for my taste but two of our children find this too spicy. They prefer it when I add 1/8 teaspoon or less.  Source:

More Main Dish Recipes:
Summer Vegetable Kitcheree
Collard Wraps
Chipotle Chicken Stuffed Squash