Corn Bread – Savory Southern Style

So I find it a bit annoying to have to scroll through a backstory of the recipe I am looking for before reaching the recipe so let us put that after the actual recipe.  Sound good?

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Vegan, Gluten-free Cornbread

Ingredients:

1 and 1/3 cups Cornmeal

1 cup Buckwheat flour (if gluten is no problem, Whole Wheat or Spelt also worked well for us)

1 Tbsp Oil (grapeseed)

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

1 Tbsp Flax Meal

½ cup plant-based milk

1 cup water (used as needed)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Coat a muffin tin with either cooking spray or give it a light oiling.  If using oil it will probably take about one additional tablespoon to get all 12 cups covered properly.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir in the milk and about half of the water.  The mix should be thick and scoopable but not quite pourable.  I’ve experienced life with 6 different ovens and I have come to learn that cooking times and the water/liquid of most recipes requires some adjustments so I suspect this is a universal problem.   Just add water until the consistency matches the description and be confident that cornbread is pretty forgiving.

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Bake for 25 minutes.  As with most baked muffins and breads, you should be able to poke it with a toothpick and it come out clean.  The muffins should be quite firm but not hard.

If you have much experience with cornbread it might be noted that this recipe doesn’t produce the bright light yellow color that was typical of my MeeMaw’s recipe.  The whole grain flours seem to bring it to a light tan to even medium brown, especially when using buckwheat flour.  Don’t fret, their taste is quite authentic.

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Now… Story time!

The Plant Powered Gamers have had mostly smooth sailing on our Whole-Foods Plant-Based journey as resources and recipes are quite abundant when one begins to do a little searching. I was taken aback a year or so ago when Grant requested I make cornbread. Now cornbread is a staple from my childhood, as my grandma (MeeMaw, specifically) regularly prepared this delicious baked delight and I had made it traditional style with buttermilk years earlier. As I scoured the internet for a plant-based recipe I was shocked at how much “sweet stuff” and sugar was being put into the cornbread recipes. What was this abomination that others were referring to as cornbread? It looked more like a recipe for cornmeal cake.. why not add frosting? Cornbread in my little corner of the world is always prepared as a savory bread with only enough sugar added to balance flavor and bake properly. Grant and I have since been experimenting with this recipe in order to rectify the sad lack that must sit firmly in the lives of others, having been misinformed that cornbread was a sweet bread, and introduce them all to the wonders of our Southeastern style savory cornbread. If you have tried sweet cornbread and decided it wasn’t for you, I don’t blame you. It tastes rather “wrong” to me too. Give it one more try with this recipe and don’t forget to enjoy your muffin with a glass of plant-based milk or you may not get the full experience.

One note, if you prefer the traditional bright yellow cornbread you may have to resort to replacing the wheat/spelt/buckwheat flour with white flour. That is not a compromise I would take on a daily use recipe but for a special occasion I might consider as the bread made with the whole grain flours does as previously mentioned come out a bit more brown and has the appearance of basic whole grain muffins (ranging from light to medium brown).

Second note, for an interesting twist, replace the cup of water with vegetable broth to deepen the savory flavor.

Enjoy!

PlantPoweredGamers
Grow Strong. Game On.

Fasting and Fasting-mimicking diet – conclusion

I have officially concluded my period of fasting with an extension of “Fasting-Mimicking” to make up a 5-day total. So how did it go?

Surprisingly I had very little problem with hunger or even thinking much about food on day 4 and 5. I was even able to do a light workout of pull-ups, push-ups and yoga with some band work on day 5 with no particular problem of fatigue.

For my first “regular” meal I oddly just wanted a larger serving of what had become my favorite while on the plan – roasted veggies with tofu. This is essentially a pan of chopped red cabbage, carrots and vidalia (sweet) onion, seasoned with a mix of white and black pepper and roasted at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. When finished I topped them with black olives.  One thing that I have always noticed and enjoyed when doing these kinds of resets and challenges – it really helps me appreciate the simple flavors of the food without really having to add much to them or alter them beyond some very basic prep. As a bonus a fairly small meal now feels quite satiating, my calorie log is only now approaching the 1200 mark which is quite low for me on a usual day. Not to fear, considering that it is 1200 calories of whole-food plants, all of my nutrient goals for the day were easily met. Tofu, spinach, kale and olives are the star players there, packing a huge nutritional punch with very little caloric burden.

I enjoyed my additional time each day when there was less need to be in the kitchen.  I also did a better job actually practicing my breathing exercises and yoga, both of which I do fairly regularly but could still stand to get them into my schedule a bit more often. There is also a heightened sense of presence that always seems to take hold with me when I do any sort of fasting.  It makes sense to me that so many spiritual traditions include them as a practice. I wouldn’t be able to explain the psychology of this at all, but I personally find it to be the case that I just feel a bit more awake and aware.  It also never fails to impress me at just how adaptable we are.

An additional note, anyone wishing to pursue fasting in any form should get advice from an expert – which I certainly am not! Please check into some of the resources and do a little research. If in doubt, let your primary physician or chiropractor know what you are up to in case they can offer guidance or suggestions. I mention chiropractic doctors because the two best we have ever worked with were quite knowledgeable in regards to diet and nutrition, but I suspect like physicians this is a case-by-case basis.  Also, while fasting and fasting-mimicking show promise for being healthy in limited, controlled ways, it certainly would not be advisable to use them for long-term or as a primary method of weight loss. Dr. Longo’s fasting-mimicking diet is only recommended for at most 5 days at a time and under rather controlled nutritional guidelines and he even cautions the reader in regards to the potential dangers of lengthy water-only fasts.  Please do your due diligence before setting out on any new path and research a bit!

Just to add a few additional resources, please see Dr. Andrew Weil’s web page and his book, Eight Weeks to Optimum Health.  These were the starting point for me as I tried to find my way to a healthier and happier state of being.  His advice was the first to point me in the direction of occasional, seasonal fasting and even partial/limited fasting.  Again I have to recommend Dr. Valter Longo’s book as well, The Longevity Diet.  It is a treasure trove of information and also contains some examples of what diet was like in rural Italy for him as a child which I found interesting and delightful.  Simple recipe ideas?  You bet!

PlantPoweredGamers
Grow Strong. Game On.

Plant Powered Chocolate Muffin-top Baked “Pancakes”

After deciding to go completely whole-foods plant-based vegan a little over two years ago we were a bit worried that it would be difficult to come up with proper substitutes and alterations of “classic” meals and recipes.  Thanks to a few wonderful cookbooks and bloggers that I have to give a shoutout to below (see the end of the post) we made it through and at this point have even developed our own recipes based off of what they taught us.

Breakfast was one of the trickier situations.  After removing all of the typical meat products in the “Standard American Diet” which are so common at breakfast time, removing eggs, butter and yogurt we were pretty much left with toast.  Even in the case of toast we had to do a little searching to find bread that did not contain milk or eggs.  Fortunately we were already vegetarian at the point we made this change so we had already managed to work around the breakfast meat problem.  No dead animals for breakfast seemed like a win from the earliest notion, after all.

Pancakes have always frustrated me.  They tend to do well with a brand new non-stick pan but eventually begin sticking, burning or tearing and generally just make a mess after the pan has been used a few times, even with very careful use in my experience.  One day I had had enough and decided just to bake them instead.  The first few tries were kind of tricky, deciding the correct length of time and exactly how thick to make the batter, but over time I’ve learned how to get it exactly to our liking

The Forks Over Knives Cookbook provided us with the primary building blocks for what became Grant’s favorite “pancake” recipe.  Two years of practice of making this at least 2-3 times a month we have worked it over to suit our style and the process has really opened my eyes to toying with baked goods in general as the process of adjusting and substituting in the original recipe has assisted me in creating versions of quite a few deserts, muffins and breads.  I’ve really found it an enjoyable challenge to work with the limitations and try to find work-arounds and replacements as I experiment with different recipes.  Lucky for me I have one of the most articulate and honest critiques one could hope for – my little boy!

Enough of the back story, let’s get to the recipe.

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The ingredients are lined up and ready to get to business.

Grant’s favorite Plant-powered “muffin-top style pancake” recipe:

1 Cup Whole Grain Flour – we use Spelt or Buckwheat usually if available, but they cook up fine with Whole Wheat too.  We like Bob’s Red Mill Spelt Flour and Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flour, but we aren’t afraid to try a new brand if there is a great sale at our Trader Joe’s or Sprouts stores.

1/3 Cup Oat Flour – This is just blended rolled oats if you like saving money.  If you’d rather not bother just replace with an extra 1/3 Cup flour of your choice.  This isn’t exactly rocket science, so they generally turn out just fine either way.  I usually make this call according to what is in the pantry at the time.

1 Tbsp Baking Soda

3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

3 Tbsp Flaxseed Meal

1/4 tsp Salt

2 Tbsp Maca Powder

2 Tbsp Maple Syrup OR 4 drops Liquid Stevia Sweetener

2/3 Cup Applesauce or “Simpley Sweet Potatoes” – Hybrid style, mashed

1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2/3 Cup Plant-based milk alternative (Soy, Almond, Coconut, etc.)

2/3 Cup Water

2/3 Cup Chocolate Chips – Trader Joe’s brand is the most affordable dairy-free chips we have found.  These are okay to omit or reduce if you don’t have a huge sweet tooth.  Grant contends that they just don’t quite have their magic without the chocolate chips on top, though.  Reduce or remove at your own risk!

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Method

Preparation:  Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees Fareheit (200 C);  Line a baking pan with Parchment Paper or a Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat.

Step 1:  Mix the water, milk, vinegar and syrup together into a measuring cup or small bowl and set aside for at least 3-5 minutes.  The vinegar will curdle the milk slightly, creating a “vegan buttermilk”.

Step 2:  Combine all dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

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Step 3:  Add the Applesauce into the middle of the dry ingredients then add the “buttermilk” mixture.  Mix until smooth and creamy.

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Step 4:  Stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (1/3 Cup).

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Step 5:  Scoop divide the batter onto the baking sheet into 12 “pancakes”.

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Step 6:  Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Step 7:  Remove from oven and let them rest for 3-5 minutes.

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Serve with Maple Syrup, berries, fruit, or nut butters… mix and match, experiment.  The possibilities seem endless!  Be creative and try whatever sounds tasty.

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Grant plated and arranged his breakfast himself for the photo op.  Congrats and thanks to my little sous chef!

Inspiration and Thanks

As mentioned above, the Plant Powered Gamers are strongly influenced by and owe much of the initial basis for this recipe to the following:

Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Brownie Batter Pancakes Recipe

Forks Over Knives Chocolate Pancakes Recipe (check the App Store if this is too pricey for you or just have no space for cookbooks.  They have a great deal at only $5 last I checked and regularly add new recipes for free)

Fasting – an Attempt at a 3-5 day Fast (with Fasting-mimicking dietary restriction as needed)

Fasting and intermittent fasting have been tossed around in various “health advice” circles for some time now.  I’ve read and followed some of it but wasn’t terribly convinced until I ran across a clip in a documentary that mentioned Valter Longo, a professor and researcher currently working at the University of Southern California who has produced some pretty amazing results in laboratory studies. His research is making its way into human testing and even direct marketing under the name ProLon.  Feel free to look into it and see what you think:  Dr. Valter Longo on fasting and “fasting-mimicking diets”.  Also check out his foundation’s page: The Valter Longo Foundation.  I was interested so I followed up with his new book: The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight.  Wow, that title is a mouthful!

I love a good challenge and the results looked promising, so after reading the book and listening to a few talks he has made (Here you can find his TedX Talk) I was ready to give it a try.  I have managed short fasts a few times in the past, usually using them as a sort of “reset” when I realized my diet wasn’t properly lining up with my values and plans. I am also prone to limited fasts, juice or fruit and juice only fasts during times of sickness which are thankfully quite rare. They seem to speed recovery but with an n=1 study of just myself I am giving that as my personal opinion only. There is certainly something to be said for placebo effect there and I cannot discount it.  In any case it was his rather convincing evidence of the acceleration of autophagy, which is our body’s way of dealing with old, worn out or disfunctional cells.  This helps both in general rejuvenation as well as cancer destruction; now really, who isn’t interested upon reading that?  With a load of different inflammatory disorders in my family history, my interest was also piqued at the idea of additional decrease in inflammation (which is part of the reason us Plantpowered Gamers  follow a rather strict whole-foods plant-based Vegan diet).

So how have I faired so far?

Well, I am writing this on day 3 of the fast. I actually managed two full days of water only (as well as herbal teas and a bit of lemon juice). On day 3 I brought back in a very restricted “Fasting Mimicking” dietary plan which so far has included Tofu, lots of leafy greens, olives, peanuts, tahini and a bit of broccoli. I will note that I was starting to get pretty fatigued near the end of day 2 which is largely why I shifted a day earlier than planned to the “FMD” plan. I originally wanted to do 3 full days of water only fasting followed by two fasting-mimicking days, mostly just to see how I handled it. It seems from the research he presents that 5 days of FMD gives essentially the same benefits of a full fast, so next time around I will probably just do 5 days of FMD instead and save myself the discomfort. I will note, however, that day one of the fast didn’t bother me at all so I may well stick with one day of water only. It is actually kind of cool to see how the body can react and adjust so readily to such a drastic change. I do wonder if my previous experience at fasting helped in this though, and I really have no way of knowing. It seems that one gets “better” or at least more capable of dealing with most things diet and exercise related, so I do wonder if fasting is something that one gets “better” at with practice. It will be interesting to see. In any case, I will probably make another update on day 5, so wish me luck!


Loaded with interesting information and research.  Check it out!

PlantPoweredGamers
Grow Strong. Game On.

Simply Sweet Potatoes – Hybridized Style

Baked sweet potatoes – probably everyone has had them and yet I am always shocked at how underwhelmed most people are by them.  The aluminum-foil method should just disappear, though, as I think it is largely to blame for this.  Let me introduce to you the amazing hybrid steam-bake method!

First, you will need a baking dish with a lid that can handle 400 degrees Farenheit in the oven (that is 200 degrees Celcius).  Warm up the oven and wash those ‘taters thoroughly.  You don’t want to be eating dirt and whatever else might have been in the ground when they were harvested.  Being a root veggie, sweet potatoes can be pretty dirty fellas’.  Put just enough water in the bottom of the baking dish to cover it to about 1/4″.  For my little dish that is about 1/2 cup but you can work that out after a few attempts for the dish available.  After the oven is warmed up simply cover the potatoes and bake for 60 minutes.  After that time has passed flip off the oven but leave the potatoes and covered dish in the oven.  I usually let them sit for another 30-60 minutes at least, but I have forgotten a time or two and left them in for several hours.  No harm, they didn’t mind.  You’ll find the water at the bottom has become a pretty amazing “syrup” that I often use in oatmeal or if I am having sweet potatoes over rice then it mixes nicely in the rice.  Super simple – I love these kinds of methods and/or recipes that are hard to “mess up”.

So give it a try and get rid of the aluminum foil.  There is some research suggesting that it may be bad for your nervous system anyway, so it may be advisable to not use it in direct contact with anything you’re cooking until more data is available and a more final opinion is made.

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These guys are ready to be covered and warmed up!

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Armored up to protect from scorching.  Specialized glass containment unit engaged!

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So it may be a little hard to see with the sunshine blasting into my kitchen window, but this couple is just bursting with moisture, sweetness and flavor!  The bit of water keeps them from drying out and as a bonus, sweet potato syrup is left to experiment with or just pour over the potato after you split it.  

PlantPoweredGamers
Grow Strong. Game On.

Emergency Emergen-C

So, just a quick plug here.

When I find something that seems effective or interesting I am generally pretty happy to share with others.  We do live in a world of potential abundance if we can temper that tendency to view things as scarce.

I’ve been sick over the last week which slowed up my time to write.. well my time to do everything.. as my amazing wife helped pick up the slack and help me get everything done even while recovering.  She and I are both pretty strong advocates of this amazing little drink packet, Emergen-C.  I was surprised when I was talking to my parents about it and they had never heard of it, but these little guys pack some punch.  Any time Suzy or I am feeling a little under the weather and feel there may be something creeping up on us, perhaps a cold, perhaps a scratchy throat, we usually down one of these.  They pack 1000mg of vitamin C in a dose and have a few other vitamins and minerals that have some pretty strong evidence suggesting that us humans recover quicker when they are in large supply.

Is it a placebo effect?  I cannot comment concretely on a study with an n=2, especially when we have each other’s feedback to feed off of!  In any case, I certainly feel like I shake things quicker and get back into my usual pace when I use them.  Additionally, considering that they kind of taste like a slightly tart fruit drink mix and cost only marginally more than typical drink mixes I feel like it is a worthy splurge.  Give them a try and if you do let me know in the comments what you think of them.  I’d love to increase the n-count on my “research”.

Grow Strong, Game On.

Eat Your Veggies!

“Eat your Veggies!”  That is probably one of the few bits of dietary advice that any of us likely hear that isn’t immediately conflicted or confusing.  It can be really tricky to sort out all of the information that is thrown at us daily and nutrition information is certainly no exception.  It is exceedingly important to pay some mind to our diet as poor choices can have dire consequences.  In the study,The State of US Health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors, we find that diet is actually the leading cause of early death and disability in the United States!  If you have a moment to look over some of the research with me I think we can come to the same conclusion on at least one simple rule that could be quite beneficial:  processed foods are dangerous and they desperately need to be replaced with whole plant foods.

In the paper,Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, we can find a wealth of information.  Hever and Cronise have done an amazing amount of research gathering for us and if you want to see some of the most convincing research done to date that backs up this point just check their resources section at the bottom of the paper.  In any case, one may gleam from these studies that processed foods, that is, “commercially produced products made with adulterants such as sugars, salts, oils and other food additives” (Hever, Cronise) contribute to inflammation and oxidation which increase risks of disease and injury to the body.  They also set the stage for cancer growth and can actually be carcinogenic themselves (which is to say that they can actually cause new cancers to form).  Call me an alarmist if you will, but feel free to peruse the article 17 Carcinogenic Foods You Probably Eat Every Day if you like.  Need more? World Health Organization Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer is also a fine read.  These are not articles from random bloggers or conspiracy theorists, it is actual news from the likes of the World Health Organization and the Huffington Post.

Now some of the recommendations for replacing this are quite gentle.  The United States Department of Agriculture, American Heart Association, and American Institute for Cancer Research suggest in their review of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that at least half of the plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.  The “whole-plant food” recommendation is referring to plants that are minimally processed or are as close as one can get them to the way they left their source (ground, tree, bush, etc).  The preparation argument is beyond the focus of my writing today but that is another case of there being loads of conflict.  What we can focus on is eliminating the carcinogenic meats and sugar/salt laden boxes and bags of chips, cookies and crackers.  If one gets into the habit of checking labels it is startling to find just how many of the “so-called” healthy entrees in the freezer section contain all manner of things that are unidentifiable as food ingredients.  Let us just take a few extra minutes to steam a pot of broccoli to go with dinner, that in itself would be a huge first step.

There is so much detail here that I simply do not feel like I have enough knowledge of in order to speak on the subject beyond pointing my readers in the direction of those that I feel are much better suited to inform us on these issues.  Feel free to comment back and let me know what you think on the subject.  If you would like more resources and prefer video to articles, please check out Dr. Michael Gregor at Nutrition Facts .Org.

I hope my little write up does not come across as overly opinionated.  My only intention is to spread information that I have personally found interesting and helpful.  I hope you find it to be as well!

Grow Strong.  Game On.