Vegan Chocolate Mousse: Avocado vs Tofu

Silken tofu mousse, soft and creamy

I have been playing around with avocado based chocolate mousse for a few months.  It’s rich and smooth, but I found myself adding more and more chocolate, vanilla, and cocoa powder because I didn’t love that little lingering background flavor.  My taste testers didn’t even notice, and a few drops of orange oil or mint extract do a great job of covering it.  I had good success with both Well Plated and Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipes if you’d like to try playing with them, they are super similar.

Just this week I tried a new recipe thanks to Veggiekins.  Very similar ingredients to the avocado recipes, except it replaces the avocado with silken tofu.  I’m so excited, it’s exactly what I was looking for in a vegan mousse!  The taste reminds me of my favorite chocolate soy milk (Silk) because it’s creamier and more milk chocolate than the avocado based recipes.  The texture is a little softer and it doesn’t get as solid as my editions of avocado based mousses.  When it first comes out of the food processor, it’s very soft but it does firm up a bit in the fridge.  One of my taste testers says it’s a pudding texture.  I think it’s between pudding and mousse, not as wet and heavy as a pudding but not as fluffy as a true mousse.

Silken Tofu Mousse

Ok, so comparison from my perspective:

Avocado Mousse

  • Darker, Intensely Chocolatey
  • Thicker, more like a frosting once refrigerated (It would probably work very well as a frosting!)
  • Smooth, rich mouth feel

Silken Tofu Mousse

  • Milk Chocolatey
  • Lighter, softer texture
  • Soft mouth feel, creamier
  • Extra bonus, a little protein

Both are super easy and quick to make with a food processor.  I was keeping these fully vegan so the chocolate was generally in the 70% range but if you do well eating milk chocolate, you should be able to trade for melted milk chocolate and get a creamier, less dark chocolate flavor with the avocado recipe!

Silken Tofu Mousse

Nutrition Thoughts

Avocado.  Elephant in the room, obviously we’re talking about a lot of fat.  These are almost entirely unsaturated fats that can help lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol.  Avocado also has vitamin K, folate, some vitamin C (and no heat to damage it!), and a few other micronutrients, including a bit of vitamin E.

Silken Tofu.  Due to the higher water content, silken tofu doesn’t have as much protein, but it still comes in around 4 grams per serving.  Lower in fat than the avocado recipes, again it is still mostly unsaturated.  If calcium set, your tofu will also offer a boost in calcium intake as well as some magnesium and selenium.

Dark Chocolate.  If you are caffeine sensitive, go easy on this recipe, sleep is important for wellbeing!  Dark chocolate is rich in fiber (which surprises me every time), magnesium, copper, manganese, and iron.  It has a few antioxidants and some other minerals as well, but also some sugar so don’t over do it.

Eating a Rainbow: Red

So last week I started the rainbow series by discussing why it’s important to get a variety of fruits and vegetables (and legumes) in your diet.  This week we’ll take a closer look at the red part of the rainbow.  Strawberries and raspberries, tomatoes, red peppers, rhubarb, and more, but also think more widely and weirdly, red kidney beans, radicchio, or maybe try a blood orange!

Fresh strawberries and blueberries.

Strawberries!  As I touched on in the fruit roll ups recipe last week, strawberries are high in vitamin C, as well as other polyphenols.  In a small study of overweight participants, consuming freeze-dried strawberries appeared to decrease oxidative stress-related inflammation as well as reduce insulin response after a meal.  The study noted that the antioxidant ability of the freeze dried strawberry powder was higher before being combined with the milk based drink that was used in the study, so the antioxidant response for plain freeze dried strawberries should be even greater.1  Strawberries may also reduce oxidized LDL as well as other cardiovascular risk factors.  Reductions in triglycerides and oxidized LDL were seen in participants with high lipid levels who consumed 10 grams of freeze-dried strawberries daily for six weeks.2  And the last one for strawberries specifically, some of the polyphenols and vitamin C may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.  Just one serving of strawberries a week was associated with a 34% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia compared to participants who ate them rarely.3 

Home grown tomato haul. Cherry or grape tomato plants can produce fruit for months!

Let’s talk tomatoes.  First of all, one of the easiest vegetables (ok, I know it’s a fruit) to grown yourself and cherry or grape tomatoes will continue to produce for months during summer. In the nutrition thoughts of my chili post, I mentioned that lycopene, an antioxidant and carotenoid (we’ll hear more about these in the orange post too!), is more bioavailable after tomatoes are cooked so eat them raw and cooked for a wide variety of nutrients.  Tomatoes have been linked to lower hypertension, reducing blood pressure in participants both with or without pharmacological hypertensives.  In the study on patients with concurrent hypertensive medications, 213 mg of standardized tomato extract was given daily for one month with a reduction of about 10/4 mmHg.4  In the second study, participants with mild to moderate hypertension but not using a pharmacological intervention were given randomized doses of tomato extract for 2 months.  The higher two doses, 15 and 30 mg of lycopene, both had significant reductions in systolic blood pressure, approximately 7 and 9.5 mmHg respectively.5  A single serving of sofrito (a tomato sauce with olive oil, onion, and garlic) also reduced inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and TNF-α.  Surprisingly the study found the correlation with total polyphenols and β-carotene rather than lycopene.6  Tomatoes may even help protect the skin from damage from UVB light.  Participants taking a tomato extract showed lower IL-6 and TNF-α upregulation after light exposure, demonstrating a reduced inflammatory response as less harm was caused by the exposure.7 

Tomato heavy sandwich with hummus and vegetables on gluten free bread with hemp hearts.

FYI, watermelon also contains lots of lycopene, no cooking necessary!  If you need a reason to eat watermelon (my household practically gobbles them whole in summer), it may reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.  In a month long study of overweight or obese participants, 2 cups of watermelon was eaten daily, while the other subjects ate low-fat cookies with the same total calorie count.  The participants eating watermelon had decreases in triglycerides and LDL while HDL (the “good” cholesterol) increased.  Total antioxidant capacity also increase in the watermelon group, showing an increased ability to detoxify and prevent damage within the body.  Watermelon also left the participants feeling more full for longer than the low-fat cookies.  There was a small reduction in both weight and blood pressure for the group eating watermelon while the cookie group rose in both measurements.8  Granted, comparing a whole fruit to a highly processed cookie isn’t really fair for a lot of reasons, but for a sweet snack, watermelon is definitely a good choice!

Chili peppers are also very red (or maybe green or orange), and full of capsaicin, the hotter, the higher the concentration.  Capsaicin will have its own article in the future because there is such a wealth of research across a broad range of benefits!

Do you have a favorite red fruit, vegetable, or other plant-based food?  I may have to come back to red options again in the future since there are so many wonderful things!

1.  Edirisinghe, I., Banaszewski, K., Cappozzo, J., Sandhya, K., Ellis, C. L., Tadapaneni, R., Kappagoda, C. T., & Burton-Freeman, B. M. (2011). Strawberry anthocyanin and its association with postprandial inflammation and insulin. The British journal of nutrition, 106(6), 913–922.

2. Burton-Freeman, B., Linares, A., Hyson, D., & Kappagoda, T. (2010). Strawberry modulates LDL oxidation and postprandial lipemia in response to high-fat meal in overweight hyperlipidemic men and women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 29(1), 46–54.

3. Agarwal, P., Holland, T. M., Wang, Y., Bennett, D. A., & Morris, M. C. (2019). Association of Strawberries and Anthocyanidin Intake with Alzheimer’s Dementia Risk. Nutrients, 11(12), 3060.

4. Krasińska, B., Osińska, A., Krasińska, A., Osiński, M., Rzymski, P., Tykarski, A., & Krasiński, Z. (2018). Favourable hypotensive effect after standardised tomato extract treatment in hypertensive subjects at high cardiovascular risk: a randomised controlled trial. Kardiologia polska, 76(2), 388–395.

5. Wolak, T., Sharoni, Y., Levy, J., Linnewiel-Hermoni, K., Stepensky, D., & Paran, E. (2019). Effect of Tomato Nutrient Complex on Blood Pressure: A Double Blind, Randomized Dose⁻Response Study. Nutrients, 11(5), 950.

6. Hurtado-Barroso, S., Martínez-Huélamo, M., Rinaldi de Alvarenga, J. F., Quifer-Rada, P., Vallverdú-Queralt, A., Pérez-Fernández, S., & Lamuela-Raventós, R. M. (2019). Acute Effect of a Single Dose of Tomato Sofrito on Plasmatic Inflammatory Biomarkers in Healthy Men. Nutrients, 11(4), 851.

7. Groten, K., Marini, A., Grether-Beck, S., Jaenicke, T., Ibbotson, S. H., Moseley, H., Ferguson, J., & Krutmann, J. (2019). Tomato Phytonutrients Balance UV Response: Results from a Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Skin pharmacology and physiology, 32(2), 101–108.

8. Lum, T., Connolly, M., Marx, A., Beidler, J., Hooshmand, S., Kern, M., Liu, C., & Hong, M. Y. (2019). Effects of Fresh Watermelon Consumption on the Acute Satiety Response and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Adults. Nutrients, 11(3), 595.

Fruit Roll Ups – Strawberry Chia

A simple one that’s worth a little work this week.  I’ve got red on the brain for the next nutrition article and the strawberries were just too beautiful at the store.  Homemade fruit roll ups are going to be more work than store bought, but healthier too and you can even make them with just fruit (or fruit and vegetables)!  I have better final textures from using the dehydrator, but it can be done with an oven as well.  On the texture note, this recipe was based off of Natalie’s recipe at  Ever since trying it, I’ve loved adding chia seeds to fruit roll ups, it adds crunch and texture and for me it feels a little more substantial than just fruit.  My strawberries were super ripe so I didn’t need much sugar but I do like a little lemon and a bit of sugar to make the flavor pop that much brighter.  If strawberries aren’t your thing, I’ve made fruit roll ups from mangoes (oh my goodness they’re amazing), apple and spinach, as well as pear and apple with black berries.  Definitely a flexible recipe!

Mango fruit roll ups and fruit strips, There are strawberry chia behind as well.

Strawberry Chia Fruit Roll Ups

  • 1 pound of strawberries (I used fresh but frozen should work as well)
  • ½ – 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ – 1 tsp sugar (I used granulated white sugar, but any sweetener should work)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds

If drying in the oven, preheat to 200°F.

Rinse, hull, and coarsely chop the strawberries.

Blend until mostly smooth, a blender or food processor should work.  I used my Nutribullet and ended up with 2 cups of thin strawberry puree.

Add lemon juice and sugar to taste, I recommend adding small amounts, blending to integrate, and adding more if the strawberry flavor needs more of a boost.

Once flavor is to your liking, add the chia seeds. I stir them in rather than using the blender.

Pour on to cooking surface and smooth, trying to keep the edges slightly thicker as those will dry the fastest.  For a dehydrator, use silpat or whatever insert came with your machine for liquid mixes.  For an oven, use a silpat mat or baking parchment on a baking sheet.  This stage is very much personal preference, the thicker the puree is, the longer it will take to dry but the chewier the final texture will be.  I tend to go thinner and my oven roll ups end up getting a little crispy, not bad, but not flexible, chewy, and fun.  This is another reason I get better results with my dehydrator…I’m too impatient but I also wander away and forget to watch them when they’re nearly done.  I spread 1 cup of puree across 14×10 inches on the silpat mat for the oven.  It ended up almost completely crispy so maybe don’t spread as thin as I did (or don’t walk away and forget about them).  My dehydrator is an older style, the insert is about 13 inches across in a weird donut shape and I used ¾ cup of puree for that tray.

I dehydrate around 125°F, checking after about 2 hours to see if it’s dry enough to peal off the tray and flip upside down.  I get a more even finish but newer machines may not need that extra step.  My dehydrator is done within 3 hours.  Check the texture and if you aren’t certain, let it cool, check the texture again and restart the dehydrator if it isn’t solid enough for your tastes.

Note for the dehydrator, I am impatient. If you have time, do these at 95-110°F, they will take longer, but you’ll have a much smoother result that’s chewy but not tacky. They many not even need to be flipped. I would if the underside of the middle areas is still quite soft while the rest has firmed up.

Properly spread and slowly dehydrated fruit roll ups.

For baking, I will also try to keep an eye on it by the 1 ½ hour mark, the edges may need to be trimmed before the middle of the pan is finished.  I will try to flip with this cooking method as well, gently peel from the edges, start from a different side if it tears.  If you hit a mushy puddle under the fruit roll up, you can either lay it back down and let it cook longer, or if it’s a small amount carefully use a butter knife or spatula to finish lifting the rest of the fruit roll up and then gently spread the still liquid puree across any thin spots on the flipped roll up.  Generally the oven trays are done within 2 ½ – 3 hours.

I store my fruit roll ups in ziplock at room temperature, that tends to soften the crispy ones a little bit and then the whole batch stays shelf stable for weeks.  You can cut strips with scissors or a knife and roll them into the classic fruit roll up shape (such fun to eat!), or just flat pack whatever shape you end up with.  My donut-esque tray lends itself to pie slices but the crispy bits from the oven tray end up stacked in a little pile of whatever shape they broke into. This batch was spread too thin and ended up looking kind of sad with mostly crispy edges, but I promise you can do better! And if nothing else, they still taste amazing.

Nutrition Thoughts

Chia seeds.  One of my common vegan omega-3 sources, I use them in my granola.  There aren’t enough to significantly increase the protein or healthy fat content, but I feel more satiated with even that small amount to help balance the sugars of the fruit.

Strawberries.  High in fiber as well as antioxidants and other phytochemicals that are beneficial for heart and skin, and anti-inflammatory.  Downside, strawberries are super rich in vitamin C but it is lost as the strawberry liquid is heated.  Dehydrating may maintain slightly more due to the lower temperature, but it looks like vitamin C begins to degrade at temperatures as low as 86°F.  Bottom line grab a box of strawberries to make strawberry fruit roll ups and another box to eat fresh for all that health boosting vitamin C goodness.

Eating a Rainbow: Variety is key!

Green, orange, and red bell pepper.

You may or may not have heard that it’s important to eat a variety of colors (aside from the international candy slogan).  In the next few articles, I’ll break down a few of the multitude of benefits found in diverse fruit and vegetable consumption.  Health benefits aside, it’s nice to not get bored with your produce options.  And environmentally, choosing some seasonal, local produce also reduces your carbon footprint.  A few farmer’s markets or farm stands even have winter hours, check around and you may find new options to play around with, that’s how I discovered sunchokes, pea shoots, and kabocha squash.

It’s no surprise that increased fruit and vegetable intake is beneficial to overall health.  In case you aren’t already convinced though, a review of 95 separate studies found a decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease (8-18%), cancers (3-4%), and all-cause mortality (10-15%).  There are a lot of numbers involved, but a loose estimate of 5-8 million premature deaths could be attributed to a daily fruit and vegetable intake of under 500 grams (cancer) or 800 grams (cardiovascular disease).  Across the board, 500 grams still improved all the health markers measured.2  And while 500-800 grams can seem like a lot, keep in mind 500 grams is about 4 medium apples, 2 small heads of broccoli, or 8-9 medium carrots.  I’m not recommending eating 500 grams of a single fruit or vegetable, but I promise the total is doable!

The Dietary Guidelines from the US government has actually broken down the vegetable recommendations.  For a 2,000 calorie diet, they recommend weekly amounts of 1 ½ cups of dark green, 5 ½ cups of red/orange, 1 ½ cups of legumes, 5 cups of starchy, and 4 cups of other vegetables.  Fruits, with an emphasis on whole fruits, are 2 cups daily.1  We’ll take a more specific view over the next few weeks, but if even the governmental organizations are getting on board, there must be something in this rainbow trend!

Green zucchini and yellow squash.

As seen with overall increased fruit and vegetable intake, a wider variety of vegetables reduced coronary heart disease in a 16 year study of nearly 39,000 adults.  In fact, the variety of vegetables was shown to be impactful against coronary heart disease even without increasing the total amount of vegetables eaten!  Variety was defined similarly to the USDA guidelines of green leafy, red/orange, legumes, starchy, and other vegetables.  There was also a trend of negative cardiometabolic health (increased risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes) with low vegetable variety, however not enough to be statistically significant.3

Related to the last study, both Framingham risk score (measuring risk for coronary heart disease and related disease events) and C-reactive protein levels (a blood marker for inflammation) were lower with increased variety of fruit and vegetables.  With a very extensive list of fruits and vegetables, consumption was marked as eating that item at least once per month.  The risk scores were not statistically significant once income was included in the calculation factors.  However, the C-reactive protein results were still nearly 3 times lower in the highest consumption group compared to the lowest.  Total amount was an average of only 6 servings a day in the highest group, but across a variety of 34 different fruits and vegetables a month compared to only 18 in the lowest group. 4  Vary your produce choices and try new things, even once a month can help!

Slaw mix of green and purple cabbage, kale, radishes, carrots and yellow bell pepper.

Variety was key for smokers with lung cancer in a European study.  Four levels of variety were calculated, the lowest being 10 or fewer and the highest being 23-40 different items per two weeks.  The higher variety groups showed improved lung cancer outcomes in current smokers.5  While reducing and quitting smoking should be high priority health goals, it is still impressive that consuming a variety of vegetables may offer some of the nutrients to help counter-balance the damage of smoking.

Finally, this report is pretty cool, and breaks down where Americans stand on each color per 14 different phytonutrients.  Unsurprisingly, we’re well below the goal on all of them.  Please note though, the study was paid for by a supplement company who would therefore profit from people purchasing their supplements to “make up” for any deficiencies.  So, while the report is an informative break down, be a little skeptical. 

Change up your grocery cart, pick up a weird looking vegetable and find a new recipe to try, grab all the colors of a fruit or vegetable you already love. Whatever it takes, increase your variety! So many vegetables can be mixed into a slaw, even some fruits if you want to get creative (apples perhaps?). If you noticed, legumes are included as a vegetable category so make some chili for the variety and the benefits of beans as well! Check out the chart below from the American Heart Association for even more colorful ideas.

If you need ideas, this chart has tons from American Heart Association!

1. USDA Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025, Table 1-1, page 20.

2. Aune, D., Giovannucci, E., Boffetta, P., Fadnes, L. T., Keum, N., Norat, T., Greenwood, D. C., Riboli, E., Vatten, L. J., & Tonstad, S. (2017). Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International journal of epidemiology, 46(3), 1029–1056.

3. Conrad, Z., Raatz, S. & Jahns, L. Greater vegetable variety and amount are associated with lower prevalence of coronary heart disease: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2014. Nutr J 17, 67 (2018).

4. Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Tucker, K. L. (2011). Greater variety in fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower inflammation in Puerto Rican adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(1), 37–46.

5. Büchner, F. L., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H. B., Ros, M. M., Overvad, K., Dahm, C. C., Hansen, L., Tjønneland, A., Clavel-Chapelon, F., Boutron-Ruault, M. C., Touillaud, M., Kaaks, R., Rohrmann, S., Boeing, H., Nöthlings, U., Trichopoulou, A., Zylis, D., Dilis, V., Palli, D., Sieri, S., Vineis, P., … Riboli, E. (2010). Variety in fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of lung cancer in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 19(9), 2278–2286.

Papusa: stuffed corn flour flatbreads

Papusa stuffed with refried beans, soy chorizo, and vegetables.

These are Salvadorian packages of deliciousness.  A savory filling, generally including beans, is flattened inside of a corn flour exterior that’s a bit thicker and fluffier than a normal corn tortilla.  The preparation and cooking of a papusa creates a softer wrap than the dense dough around a tamale.  The outside gets toasty with a slightly crisp texture, but the interior masa cooks to a soft, light texture as the filling warms.

The papusas I fell in love with were sold from a food truck at our Farmer’s Market.  Unfortunately, that market is closed through winter.  So, when I got a craving for them, I decided to play around with making them myself since the ingredients are pretty simple.  It is very common to serve the papusas with curtido which is a quick vinegar-based slaw.  I do like a slaw with a lot of my Mexican or Central American foods and this treat is no exception.  I think the zingy, cool, crunch is a good balance to the warm, soft texture of the papusas.  There are tons of papusa recipes out there, this is what worked for me when I was playing around. 

Papusa with a quick carrot and red cabbage slaw.

My filling was a quick mix of what I had on hand, refried beans, soy chorizo, and southwest frozen blend (black beans, corn, red bell pepper, onion, and poblano pepper) with spinach.  That chorizo was a new purchase for me last week, just to try it out and I found it worked well in the papusas.  The ones from the food truck were black beans and corn, I’ve also seen pinto beans and kale or some recipes that use vegan cheese options.  After making, I tried some cooked fresh and froze the others.  I liked the frozen ones more, the final texture was softer.  I put a single layer on a cookie sheet on top of a silpat mat and tossed them in the freezer overnight before stacking them in tuperwear for freezer storage.

A note:  I am a self-confessed over stuffer, it’s a severe case, terminal for a lot of my burritos and wraps.  Please believe me when I tell you that these cannot be overstuffed successfully.  I would have done it if I could.  In fact, if you want them fully closed without leaking, use less filling than I did because all of mine still have holes (I don’t mind holes or patching if needed, see Tips at the bottom of the recipe).

Papusas (this recipe will make four 4 inch papusas)

  • 1 cup masa harina or corn flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill, do not use corn meal!)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Fillings of choice – approximately 8 Tbsp or ½ cup total

Place corn flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Add approximately ½ cup water to the bowl and combine.  Add more water as needed to make a soft but not mushy, dough.  I used ¾ cup in total.

Let dough rest for 20 minutes to hydrate.

Separate into 4 balls, I used a 2-ounce cookie scoop.  Using more or less water will change the weight and size measurements.

Flatten each ball into a circle in your hand trying to keep the dough evenly thick.  I kept it in my hand to start making a slightly curved shape, creating a dip in the middle.  It may help to oil your hands lightly to prevent dough sticking to your hands.

Place 2 Tbsp of filling into the dip and gently push/pull the dough to cover the filling until it resembles a circular dumpling.

Carefully flatten the sphere.  I did this between my hands and then by laying it onto a silpat mat and gently pressing it flat, then flipping it over and pressing again, trying to spread any areas with more dough.  My raw papusas were 4-5 inches in diameter.

Don’t worry if the papusas crack as you’re doing this!  You can leave the holes to crisp the filling in that spot, press the surrounding dough back together, or use a little extra dough to patch over the hole.  If you are having a lot of cracking, your dough may be too dry and needs more water.

I strongly recommend pausing here and freezing the papusas overnight to improve the final texture. Do not thaw before cooking if you freeze them.

When ready to cook, place fresh or frozen papusa in a lightly oiled pan on medium heat, I’ve had less sticking with cast iron.  I also use a lid to hold extra heat for thorough cooking.  Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side.  I like a few toasty spots on mine, but cook until at least warm through.  The masa will be delicate when first heating so handle with care.  Once they’ve cooked, the exterior firms up for easier handling. I generally end up cooking on each side twice as I check for doneness.

Serve with slaw, salsa, guacamole, or whatever else strikes your fancy!


If you have trouble with the dumpling style process, I did see an alternative.  Split each dough ball in half, flatten each half into a circle, spread the filling across the middle of one and place the other circle on top, gently pressing around the edge to seal.  You may still want to flatten these as they will likely be a bit fat in the middle.

Chose fillings that are already cooked or ready to eat. They will only reheat while the papusa cooks. I would avoid very wet fillings, they might cause a soggy interior texture. Refried beans worked because they are easily squished. Do not use large pieces, or firm ingredients with sharper edges as they would break through the dough when flattening.

Two toasty on the outside and soft on the inside stuffed papusa.

Nutrition Thoughts

Beans. Read my post on pulses for some of the benefits of beans, they are wonderful for feeding your microbiome, weight loss, cardiovascular health, and much more!

Masa Harina. Unfortunately, this is a semi-processed corn. There is a bit of protein with very little fat, but also not a lot of fiber or micronutrients. I wouldn’t call it unhealthy, but it’s a not a superfood. Try to make the filling count with vegetables and legumes instead!

Slaw. Hey, I’ve got a post on that one too and even more information on cruciferous vegetables in my article on sprouts! TLDR, add cabbage to everything, it’s wonderful for health.

Nutrition Discussion: Sprouts!

A silly, personal story first, because if I don’t say it now, I’ll be thinking about it the whole time.  Two important facts: when I was young I had long hair, like past my behind long, and I grew up eating weird food.  I still do, obviously, but as a child I ate more carob and almond butter than pizza and chips.  After kindergarten one day, I came to my mother looking very upset and requested she no longer pack hummus and sprout pita sandwiches for me.  Apparently, looking quite stricken, I had told her that when I was eating my sandwich, “I can’t tell what’s hair and what’s sprout.”

I still stand by that problem.  For sprout’s sake, if your hair is going anywhere near your face due to wind, a fan, extra healthy curls, eating during a hair style appointment, etc., please pull it back, you will thank me.

Salad mix sprouts, broccoli, kale, alfalfa, and red clover sitting on top of my new sprouter after harvesting.

Ok, now that I’ve got that off my mind, sprouts are a personal favorite for wintertime garden blues.  I love to grow a few veggies over summer, but sprouts grow anytime and with so little effort.  If you think about it, a sprout is that first baby plant, still super nutrient rich from being a seed.  That seed was created specifically to feed a tiny plant until it was big enough to feed itself.  The seed is stuffed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are locked away, and sprouting makes those nutrients more accessible for humans, or more bioavailable.

Salad mix sprouts with baby greens, pea shoots, hummus and falafel.

Alfalfa sprouts are a contentious topic.  The FDA and CDC have previously recommended not buying or consuming alfalfa sprouts due to contamination based illnesses.  Salmonella and E. coli have both been found in alfalfa sprouts, not nearly as widespread as egg based outbreaks, however it has happened.  Personally, I do grow my own, BUT this is an individual choice each person would need to make.  I feel I am overall in good health and the risk of illness from either bacteria is higher in the very young and elderly or others with compromised immune systems.

Aside from alfalfa, the most common sprouts are cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and more.  Watercress, radish, mustard, and wasabi are also in the cruciferous, or brassica, family and offer strong flavors that add a great zing.  I touched on the benefits in my slaw article, but sprouts are even higher in antioxidants than the full-grown plants.  Glucoraphanin is one of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous sprouts, particularly broccoli, and when eaten, is converted to sulforaphane.  Curiously, growing broccoli sprouts with radish, rocket, or rape sprouts seems to increase the bioavailable sulforaphane content by approximately double!1   Sulforaphane appears to be nearly a one-stop-shop for antioxidant needs.  After 8 weeks of consuming 70 grams of broccoli sprouts daily, participants’ stomach linings showed improved protection against H. pylori damage, one of the leading causes for stomach ulcers.2 Based on a breast cancer cell study by Li et al.3, Dr Michael Greger, of, estimated a quarter of a cup of broccoli sprouts would show reduction in cancer cell size.  The lowest dose in the study showed vast improvement, but the improvements were increased with higher doses, which Dr Greger calculated at ½ cup and 1 ¼ cups of broccoli sprouts daily.  Learn more here,  Sulforaphane is an activator of antioxidant signaling within the body, and through that effect, may counter the inflammation and damage related to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.   In an integrated model, by reducing oxidative stress, insulin resistance can be improved, gut health improved, mitochondrial function improved, and obesity driven inflammation reduced, thereby improving the previous three even further.4

Within cruciferous sprouts are other phytochemicals that further promote health such as quercetin and indole-3-carbinol.  There is a concise table here if you would like a little more information:  

Peanut tofu with mung bean sprouts, broccolini, and rice noodles.

Perhaps a surprise to some, pulses can also be sprouted.  You have likely had sprouted mung beans in Asian food, perhaps on top of Pad Thai? Lentils, chickpeas, and greens peas are also common options, though personally I haven’t had much luck with chickpeas for some unknown reason.  Sprouting can shift the nutrient content.  Peas and chickpeas both showed increases in protein after sprouting, however the antioxidant capacity went down.  Curiously, things like soluble and insoluble fiber, sugars, and mineral levels shifted in different directions between the two pulses.6  Lentils also show an increase in protein availability after sprouting, and while the iron content seemed to drop, it was more bioavailable, leading to improved absorption even with less in the food!  Zinc and manganese also increase with sprouting for some types of lentils.7  I have found peas to be a sweet treat in a salad, with lentils largely blending into the savory mix of flavors.

Other things can be sprouted, such as sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds, however they can prove more difficult to sprout.  Some plants, such as sunflower, lettuces, beets, arugula, or even herbs like basil, lend themselves more to microgreens.  This is the process of planting the seeds into soil or other medium and harvesting the plant above the soil, not consuming the root.  This can also be done with many of the things that are sprouted, radishes, pak choy, kale, or cabbage.  I was introduced to pea shoots by our local organic farm stand and I’ve found them delicious.  Many pea types can be planted for harvesting shoots, though harvesting shoots can impede the eventual growth of peas depending on your local climate and season.  I only just started trying to grow microgreens, so no knowledge to share as of yet.

I did recently pick up a new sprouting system from Botanical Interests (this is NOT SPONSORED).  I had previously worked with a sprouting lid or paper towel with a rubber band on a glass or jar.  (It really is that easy if you want to try it out, seeds into glass, paper towel over the top with a rubber band to hold it in place, angle so that excess water runs out of the glass and doesn’t rot the seeds.)  This new sprouter was quite different, and I was concerned with the roots growing through the bottom but they came out with nearly no effort when I harvested.  Most importantly, my rate of sprouting was far higher with this system!  I end up with lush carpets of sprouts and far fewer unsprouted seeds, see the photo at the beginning of the article.  I’ve had luck with pea and lentil sprouts as well.

For safety, please try to source reputable seeds and this article does a great job highlighting the important tips for keeping the sprouts healthy.   A final note, if you see colored fuzz, smell something strange, or anything is mushy, compost or throw away and start fresh with sanitized and well washed equipment.

1. Liang, H., Wei, Y., Li, R., Cheng, L., Yuan, Q., & Zheng, F. (2018). Intensifying sulforaphane formation in broccoli sprouts by using other cruciferous sprouts additions. Food science and biotechnology, 27(4), 957–962.

2. Yanaka, A., Fahey, J. W., Fukumoto, A., Nakayama, M., Inoue, S., Zhang, S., Tauchi, M., Suzuki, H., Hyodo, I., & Yamamoto, M. (2009). Dietary sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts reduce colonization and attenuate gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-infected mice and humans. Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 2(4), 353–360.  

3. Li, Y., Zhang, T., Korkaya, H., Liu, S., Lee, H. F., Newman, B., Yu, Y., Clouthier, S. G., Schwartz, S. J., Wicha, M. S., & Sun, D. (2010). Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 16(9), 2580–2590.

4. Xu, L., Nagata, N., & Ota, T. (2019). Impact of Glucoraphanin-Mediated Activation of Nrf2 on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with a Focus on Mitochondrial Dysfunction. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(23), 5920.

5. Abellán, Á., Domínguez-Perles, R., Moreno, D. A., & García-Viguera, C. (2019). Sorting out the Value of Cruciferous Sprouts as Sources of Bioactive Compounds for Nutrition and Health. Nutrients, 11(2), 429.

6. Erba, D., Angelino, D., Marti, A., Manini, F., Faoro, F., Morreale, F., Pellegrini, N., & Casiraghi, M. C. (2019). Effect of sprouting on nutritional quality of pulses. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 70(1), 30–40.

7. S Santos, C., Silva, B., M P Valente, L., Gruber, S., & W Vasconcelos, M. (2020). The Effect of Sprouting in Lentil (Lens culinaris) Nutritional and Microbiological Profile. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 9(4), 400.

Slaw: a vibrant rainbow

Slaw prep, red and green cabbage, yellow bell pepper, carrots, breakfast radishes, and kale.

Alright, let’s talk about slaw.  It’s brilliant for using up all sorts of vegetables, it’s fresh produce ready to eat but fridge stable for a few days, and crazy versatile.  Slaw gives a fresh crunch with a zingy dressing that can perk up almost any meal.  I mix it with salads, even pasta salad type creations (I get a little extra creative sometimes), tacos or other Mexican inspired meals, and breakfast scrambles. 

I admit that a kitchen tool or two will make slaw prep a lot quicker.  I adore my Cuisinart, it’s almost as old as me and a complete rock star.  The grating and slicing blades make quick work of cabbage, carrots, peppers, radishes, celery, and onions.  When I add kale, I generally chop it by hand.  The other non-knife options, especially if I’m making a small batch, are a mandolin for thin slices or even a cheese grater for things like carrots and radishes.  Please be careful with your fingers and knuckles with both those tools, I’ve got more marks from graters than all my other scars combined! 

My base is always cabbage, red, green, or both, and then whatever else looks good!  Try to get a wide rainbow of colors, slaw is great for incorporating a mass of micronutrients, all the different vitamins and minerals found in varying vegetables.  I do avoid softer, leafy greens as they will wilt and spoil more quickly, but you can use up left over broccoli stems or cauliflower core in the mix.

Depending on the intended use, you can bend your slaw ingredients and dressing flavors in multiple directions.  Add snow peas and scallions with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger for a more Asian twist.  Jicama, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin for a more Mexican or Central American flavor.  I generally stick with just a zingy, slightly creamy, American dressing.  My tastes are for strong vinegar flavors so you may want to play around with the ratios of my recipe or try out other recipes, there are tons online!  I list the vegan mayo as optional, I’ve been trying out Sir Kensington’s avocado mayo and the flavor is a little too strong for me, but you can add more for a creamier texture.  I think the recipe works well without mayo as well, closer to a mustard vinaigrette.

Basic Slaw Dressing

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (gluten free if need be)
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (or agave)
  • 2 tsp vegan mayo (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red or yellow onion
  • 2 stalks diced celery

Combine all ingredients except onion and celery and whisk or stir until smooth.  Add onion and celery, stir, and let rest while preparing slaw ingredients.  This pause allows the celery and onion flavors to integrate into the dressing.  This recipe should easily flavor up to 8 cups of shredded vegetables, perhaps ½ a large head of cabbage (or 1 small cabbage), 1 bell pepper, 2-3 carrots, 6-7 small radishes, and a few leaves of kale.  I generally use a full batch within 3 days.  If need be, save some of the dressing in the fridge and prep less of your slaw or save some of the chopped vegetables in a bag, both will keep for longer unmixed.

Mixed slaw

Nutritional Thoughts

Cruciferous vegetables.  Cabbage, broccoli stems, kohlrabi, or even raw Brussels sprouts, tons of cruciferous vegetables can be shredded into a slaw mix.  These vegetables are high in glucoraphanin, a sulfur contain compound that the human body uses for glutathione production and regeneration.  Glutathione is one of our top antioxidants, used largely in the liver’s daily detoxification processes.  Bonus with slaw, the glucoraphanin is highest in raw vegetables (it is partially destroyed when cooked). There is so much more to this family of vegetables, they’re worthy of a full nutrition article in the future!

Apple cider vinegar.  There are a ton of claims on health benefits for raw or unprocessed apple cider vinegar.  There are a few smaller studies that suggest apple cider vinegar may increase insulin sensitivity for type 2 diabetics.   It may also help increase a feeling of fullness and slow stomach emptying, decreasing the amount of food eaten.  Again, they were small studies, and to be fair, there are plenty of studies showing no impact so try it and see if you like it.

Nutrition Discussion: Nuts

It’s definitely safe to say I eat at least one serving of nuts a day between granola, snacks, nut butters, and sauces (cashews to the rescue for creamy substitutions!).  They are calorie dense, flavorful, and full of healthy fats with a bit of protein.  I throw together a trail mix with nuts, seeds, and one or two dried fruits for road trips or those long days when I won’t be able to sit down for a meal.  My go to is raw almonds and walnuts, roasted sunflower seeds, and dried currants, with a sprinkle of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips if I want a sweet treat.  Grab an apple or clementine for an extra bit of fiber and micronutrients to round out the mini meal.  Please note: as with beans and legumes, each nut does hold varying vitamins, minerals, protein quantities, and fatty acids.

I’ll start the research review with one very specific study on walnuts that emphasizes omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).  This could be its own discussion, but in summary, plant-based foods are generally high in omega-6 PUFA but seeds and nuts supply omega-3 PUFA, as do most animal products.  The human body needs both.  An ideal ratio may be close to 4:1 for omega-6 to omega-3, a ratio associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality.1  The Western diet features a ratio closer to 16:1 and is associated with increased inflammation and autoimmune disease development.  In a small study regarding walnuts, eating 56 grams (about ½ cup) daily for 4 weeks increased the participants omega-3 levels, pushing their ratios closer to that ideal 4:1.2  The key plant-based omega-3 PUFA is linolenic acid, of which walnuts contain the highest amount among nuts.  Linolenic acid, or ALA, is converted to EPA and eventually DHA, these two being the omega-3 PUFA found in animal sources like fish.  Again, this topic likely deserves its own article, but the participants who consumed walnuts also showed an increase in conversion of ALA to EPA.  This might be a helpful option for vegans who do not consume EPA in their diets.

Nuts have been associated with improved cardiovascular health, part of this effect stemming from the anti-inflammatory omega-3 PUFA content.  In overweight individuals, blood vessel function improved and inflammation decreased within the blood vessels after just a single meal including either 77 grams of almonds or 60 grams of walnuts.3  A meta-analysis of multiple studies found cardiovascular improvements from eating nuts, “24%, 11%, 19%…reduction in the relative risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, [and] cardiovascular disease.”4 

Nuts also reduce the risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.  After 8 weeks of snacking on mixed nuts, overweight participants showed reductions in weight, insulin, and blood glucose.5  The control group for that study ate the same number of calories in pretzels and instead showed increased triglyceride and LDL levels, essentially an increase in “bad” cholesterol with the low fat food.

Similarly, nuts may offer health benefits when compared to carbohydrate rich foods for people with type 2 diabetes (T2D).6  In a 3 month study, hemoglobin A1c (a measurement for longer term blood glucose and insulin function) and LDL were both reduced when T2D participants consumed mixed nuts as compared to those who consumed whole wheat muffins with similar sugar and protein content. 

Another study on walnuts specifically, found extra health improvements in participants attempting to lose weight.7  Over a 6 month study, all the participants were instructed to reduced their calorie intake by 500-1000 below energy expenditure (how many calories the person used during the day) and significantly increase their daily exercise.  The experimental group also included 28-42 grams of walnuts within their diets.  While both groups improved weight and lipid levels, the group consuming walnuts showed further improvement in LDL levels as well as systolic blood pressure.

In summary?  Please include nuts in your diet!  While they are high in fat and calories, research shows they actually improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  I largely buy raw nuts as they can be used for anything.  I do store raw nuts in the freezer to prevent the fats from spoiling, but roasted nuts are more shelf stable.  Off the top of my head, I believe I currently have almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, and macadamia nuts.  As a recipe recommendation, I’ll point you towards Pick Up Limes’ homemade Nutella.  I’ve made it at least 3 times.  It’s incredible, and far healthier than the store bought options, with a hazelnut flavor that you can actually taste!

1. Simopoulos A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 56(8), 365–379.

2. Petrović-Oggiano, G., Debeljak-Martačić, J., Ranković, S., Pokimica, B., Mirić, A., Glibetić, M., & Popović, T. (2020). The Effect of Walnut Consumption on n-3 Fatty Acid Profile of Healthy People Living in a Non-Mediterranean West Balkan Country, a Small Scale Randomized Study. Nutrients, 12(1), 192.

3. Bhardwaj, R., Dod, H., Sandhu, M. S., Bedi, R., Dod, S., Konat, G., Chopra, H. K., Sharma, R., Jain, A. C., & Nanda, N. (2018). Acute effects of diets rich in almonds and walnuts on endothelial function. Indian heart journal, 70(4), 497–501.

4. Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E., Fadnes, L. T., Boffetta, P., Greenwood, D. C., Tonstad, S., Vatten, L. J., Riboli, E., & Norat, T. (2016). Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC medicine, 14(1), 207.

5. Abbaspour, N., Roberts, T., Hooshmand, S., Kern, M., & Hong, M. Y. (2019). Mixed Nut Consumption May Improve Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Adults. Nutrients, 11(7), 1488.

6. Jenkins, D., Kendall, C., Lamarche, B., Banach, M. S., Srichaikul, K., Vidgen, E., Mitchell, S., Parker, T., Nishi, S., Bashyam, B., de Souza, R. J., Ireland, C., Pichika, S. C., Beyene, J., Sievenpiper, J. L., & Josse, R. G. (2018). Nuts as a replacement for carbohydrates in the diabetic diet: a reanalysis of a randomised controlled trial. Diabetologia, 61(8), 1734–1747.

7. Rock, C. L., Flatt, S. W., Barkai, H. S., Pakiz, B., & Heath, D. D. (2017). Walnut consumption in a weight reduction intervention: effects on body weight, biological measures, blood pressure and satiety. Nutrition journal, 16(1), 76.

Sweet Potato Flatbread

Sweet potato, gluten free flatbreads

Sometimes the youtube algorithms really get a random recommendation right.  Today’s inspiration is from Off Grid with Doug and Stacy.  I’d never heard of the channel or seen any of their videos but there it was, the thumbnail tempting me with that beautiful orange shaded flatbread that I was sure had to be yam based just by color alone.  I admit I only half watched the video once as I was washing dishes but the basic concept stuck right in my head along with a certainty that I had to try making it.  She called for equal parts potato and flour, I exchanged that for gluten free flour mixes of course and used a little less flour.  I was sadly yam-less so I reached for a sweet potato instead.

I am very happily impressed with the results. These flatbreads are soft and flexible but they don’t rip or fall apart. While too thick to use for burritos, I used one as a sandwich wrap and it worked wonderfully. They have a soft sweet accent from the sweet potato, but a chewy and satisfying mouth feel.

My interpretation:

1 large sweet potato or yam (mine was 25 oz so one was plenty)

2 cups gluten free flour mixes, plus extra for rolling

1 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons cooking oil of choice

Peeled and chop sweet potato into ¾-1 inch cubes. 

Steam sweet potato until pierced easily with a paring knife, approximately 20 minutes.

Blend, whisk, mash, or use a food processor to puree potato to a smooth consistency.  I tossed the pieces into a large metal bowl and took a large hand whisk to it.  They broke up in less than 2 minutes so you really can use anything.

Measure potato puree.  I used a dry cup scoop and found I had 2 ¼ cups.

Add approximately an equivocal amount of flour choice.  I used 2 cups, mixing Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 and Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour.

Fold flour and salt into potato puree using a flexible spatula or wooden spoon.

Let dough rest for 5-10 minutes to hydrate the flour and reduce stickiness.

Start heating a cast iron flat top or other cooking surface on medium heat (non-stick should work fine).

Sprinkle flour on rolling surface and coat rolling pin.  I used cassava flour since it’s very mild.

Divide a section of dough and roll to desired size and thickness.  I was aiming for more of a tortilla rather than a thicker flatbread so about 2 ½ oz of dough rolled out to 6-7 inches around.

Pour a small amount of oil onto the cooking surface and gently transfer the rolled-out bread, brushing off excess flour as able.

Roll out the next piece while the first cooks.

After 1-2 minutes, flip the cooking bread to the raw side.  There should be some golden spots, if it is burning too quickly, turn down the stove.  You may see some bubbles appearing inside the bread, this is normal and can help it cook more evenly by creating a warm steam pocket within the layers.

I flipped the bread twice more to encourage bubble formation and make sure it was thoroughly cooked.

Transfer to a clean dishtowel and separate each bread with a layer of towel.  When stacked together they became too wet for my tastes.

Use immediately or wrap the cooled pile in dishtowel before placing in a bag or container to be kept in the fridge.

These reheat well on an open flame or in a pan.

A full flatbread bubble!


Previous practice in making chapatis was extremely helpful for me.  Youtube can teach you how to improve bubble production.

My dough and/or counter got stickier towards the end.  Make sure you keep a good bit of flour on the surface and the rolling pin to prevent having to re-roll.

Go seasoning crazy!  I’m pretty positive these would be lovely with curry powder and used as an alternative to naan bread with Indian food.  Basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes for Italian, maybe as a pizza crust?  Chilli powder, paprika, possibly even cumin for a more Mexican or Tex-Mex feel.  The flavor is mild and could be taken in most any direction desired.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I will be!

Flatbread wrap with hummus, salad greens, red pepper, sprouts, and sunflower seeds

Nutrition Thoughts

Gluten free flours.  If you want to increase protein, try using a bit of teff, chia, chickpea, or even coconut flours.  Please be aware of some stronger flavors, chickpea flour for instance is very identifiable if you do not enjoy its taste.

Sweet potatoes (orange or white/yellow).  High in fiber as well as starchy, complex carbohydrates that we can’t use but the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome enjoy greatly.  They are also high in vitamin A, B6, manganese, and potassium.

Nutrition Discussion: Legumes and Beans

Dried lentils, chickpeas, and black beans

Considering the first two recipes on this blog have included legumes, I simply had to write them up as my first nutritional article.  To clarify, legumes are the overarching plant family while pulses are the edible seed of the legume plants, the bean or lentil (or pea).  I will likely use them interchangeably within the website, but I’ll try to be precise for this article at least!  Side note, I’m highlighting broad research and effects.  Each pulse has a unique set of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, such as a variety of antioxidants.  Just like with fruits and vegetables, it’s best to mix and match everything that is available to you.

Lentils and beans are brilliant, most commonly they’re thought of as a protein source for vegans, but they offer much more.  In a meta-analysis, the population with the highest pulse consumption showed an 8% lower occurrence of cardiovascular disease, 9% lower rate of hypertension, and 13 % lower rate of obesity!1  A meta-review on weight loss, found even without reducing calorie intake, the inclusion of legumes into diet was followed by modest weight loss within 6 weeks.2

Surprisingly, there haven’t been any findings on legumes lowering the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Because pulses are full of insoluble fiber, they slow glucose absorption and prevent blood sugar spikes, this effect means pulses are low on the glycemic index (GI) scale.  There was review that did find lower fasting blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics who consumed more low-GI foods, legumes being part of the low-GI options.3  Not entirely about the beans, but good knowledge for people wanting to moderate their blood sugar levels.

My personal favorite was a small but fascinating study using Swedish brown beans. Insulin response and blood glucose were both improved the morning after the beans were eaten with dinner.  The part I geeked out over was the fact that ghrelin (a hunger cue hormone) was lowered and PYY (a satiety hormone) was increased when measured the morning after!  There was also a drop in hunger sensations and inflammatory markers, as well as an increase in markers for beneficial microbiome activity.4  Aren’t beans awesome?  Harvard School of Public Health has a great page regarding pulses if you want more information:

Frozen black beans and chickpeas in cooking liquid.

Lentils and beans are also very cost effective, often they are inexpensive food staples around the world.  The cost can be reduced even further if bought dried and prepared at home.  I typically soak dried beans for 6-8 hours during the day, then drain and rinse them before adding them to a slow cooker with fresh water (I do not have a pressure cooker).  I start them on high until simmering and then turn down to low and leave them gently cooking overnight.  I prep large batches, 2-4 cups of dried beans in a batch, and then freeze most of them, keeping some cooking water in the container with them.  Definitely not the fastest way to prepare beans, but I was raised with cooked beans on standby in the freezer and it stuck.

Discarding that initial soaking water may reduce some of the bloating or gassiness that people notice with bean consumption.  When a can of beans is bought at the store, the liquid inside was the soaking and cooking liquid so if you have a sensitive stomach with beans, make sure you drain and rinse canned beans well.  Dry lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking however, you can if you desire and it should reduce cooking time.

Pulses are extremely adaptable, savory to sweet.  I’ve shared recipes for lentil granola as well as classic bean chili.  I’m certain my bean and legume tag will get a lot more use as time goes on.  On the savory side, there are obvious recipes like soups, side dishes, and dips (think hummus). But have you tried blending beans to make a creamy pasta sauce, or even tossing some beans into your pasta dish? I have enjoyed trying the pulse pastas that have hit the market recently, especially red lentil or edamame based. Chipotle helped me learn how to creatively use beans in salads, and while a Mexican inspired flavor is classic for them, edamame can go with Asian dressings, cannellini beans with Italian, or chickpeas with Greek. Speaking of chickpeas, someone please take me to a falafel stand?

Sweet uses include black bean brownies, where the texture ends up super rich and fudgy due to the bean addition.  Alternatively, blondies can be made using white beans or chickpeas.  There are also recipes for peanut butter squares, 7-layer bars, cookies, and even no bake cookie dough for eating with a spoon!

1.  Viguiliouk E, Glenn AJ, Nishi SK, et al. Associations between Dietary Pulses Alone or with Other Legumes and Cardiometabolic Disease Outcomes: An Umbrella Review and Updated Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(Suppl_4):S308-S319. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz113

2. Shana J Kim, Russell J de Souza, Vivian L Choo, Vanessa Ha, Adrian I Cozma, Laura Chiavaroli, Arash Mirrahimi, Sonia Blanco Mejia, Marco Di Buono, Adam M Bernstein, Lawrence A Leiter, Penny M Kris-Etherton, Vladimir Vuksan, Joseph Beyene, Cyril WC Kendall, David JA Jenkins, John L Sievenpiper, Effects of dietary pulse consumption on body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 5, May 2016, Pages 1213–1223,

3. Ojo O, Ojo OO, Adebowale F, Wang XH. The Effect of Dietary Glycaemic Index on Glycaemia in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):373. Published 2018 Mar 19. doi:10.3390/nu10030373

4. Nilsson A, Johansson E, Ekström L, Björck I. Effects of a brown beans evening meal on metabolic risk markers and appetite regulating hormones at a subsequent standardized breakfast: a randomized cross-over study. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e59985. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059985

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