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cashew sour cream… and some thoughts on calcium

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Sour cream made from cashews… sounds cool, right?

But why not just use regular sour cream and save myself the trouble? Why is everyone trying to avoid dairy these days? Milk has been part of our diets forever! This must be another one of those hippie food trends, like avoiding gluten. And if I cut out dairy, where do I get my calcium?

This used to be my train of thought, until a few years ago when I decided to change several areas of my life, my diet being one of them. I’ve always been health conscious, but it never occurred to me to cut animal products from my diet until I began researching plant-based eating, and decided that 1) my body simply didn’t need meat or dairy, and that 2) I would actually be healthier without them. Not to mention, I would also be contributing in a way that was kinder to animals and our environment.

Initially I went vegan, then “downgraded” to vegetarian, and have since decided to drop the labels, which tend to carry a little more judgement than I’m personally comfortable with. On rare occasions, I still eat a turkey sandwich or have one of my step dad’s famous Italian meatballs, but I fully believe that meat and dairy are unnecessary and do more harm than good to our bodies and our impact on the world around us.

I don’t worry about getting enough protein or calcium, and based on my blood work and how I feel, I know that I am. This article explains it well:

“Like iron, magnesium, and copper, calcium is a mineral. It is found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of plants. Animals get their calcium by consuming these calcium-rich plants. So even though we are all conditioned to believe that calcium comes from milk and dairy products, the real source of calcium richness is the earth. No wonder that a whole-food, plant-based diet has plenty of calcium.”

It’s also true that the amount of calcium we ingest is not equivalent to how much we absorb. The calcium in plant foods is more bioavailable. For example, we absorb about 30% of the calcium in a cup of milk, but the absorption rate from kale and broccoli is closer to 50-60%. Therefore, a plant-based diet may be lower in total calcium intake, but much higher in absorption due to better quality.

Okay, enough science.

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Cashew sour cream is much easier to make than I anticipated; it’s simple and it tastes great. I’ve used it on veggie chili, tacos, and chips and salsa. And it more than meets the requirements: rich and creamy, slightly tart, and the right consistency for a dollop. It also keeps really well in the fridge for several days.

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3-4 hours, or overnight

1/2 cup water

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Steps:

1. drain cashews and put in high speed blender

2. add water, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to blender

3. blend on high for a few minutes, until fluffy and smooth

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sweet potato chips with black bean pineapple salsa

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This is easily one of the simplest light meals I’ve ever made, and considering it only takes 20 minutes start to finish, the results far outweigh the minimal effort involved. My kind of recipe. All that’s required is preheating an oven, mixing in a touch of coconut or olive oil and seasonings with the sliced sweet potatoes, and chopping fresh vegetables, which, as strange as it may sound, is probably one of my most favorite things to do – in a meditative sort of way. The hardest part, for me, is being patient for 20 minutes. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true… hence needing meditation.

But I didn’t discover the best part until today: the leftovers. This recipe is even better the second day, after the peppers, black beans and onions have marinated in the pineapple and tomato juices. The sweet potatoes will be softer rather than crispy, but they too have soaked up the glorious flavor, so really who cares. I just topped everything with Sriracha and packed it for my lunch tomorrow at work, but realistically speaking, it will probably be my breakfast. That darn patience thing again.

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Ingredients:

2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced 1/8” thick – try to make as uniform as possible for even cooking

2 T coconut oil

2 T garlic powder

1 T cayenne pepper

1 T black pepper

2 medium banana peppers, seeded and sliced into rings

3-4 small vine ripe tomatoes, diced

1/2 small red onion diced

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 avocado, sliced into chunks

1/2 can diced pineapple

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

3. Combine potato slices with oil and seasonings (I used my hands in a big bowl), then spread evenly across baking sheets

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip potatoes, bake another 10-15 minutes until slightly browned and crispy

5. While potatoes are baking, combine all other ingredients in a large bowl

6. Top sweet potato chips with salsa mixture

Serve with cashew sour cream and cilantro

Makes enough for 2-3 people.