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Whole Foods Market Darien Cooking Class Challenge - Vegan Buckwheat Beauty Crepes

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Whole Foods Market Darien Cooking Class Challenge - Vegan Buckwheat Beauty Crepes

March is beauty month at Whole Foods Markets. In honor of the theme, I was asked if my vegan cooking class in Darien and tours this month could be tied into the events. I was also asked if it could also be a brunch item.  An overwhelming yes came out of my mouth. I love to think about at the benefits of food before I decide what to eat each morning. Challenge accepted!

Whole Foods Market Cooking Class with Holly Skodis

Now that the class is about beauty that meant that the food choices have to contribute to glowing skin and get you on your way to a gorgeous healthy self.  I'm very strict with what I eat so I decided to formulate a crepe that was 100% whole foods plant-based with no oil, added sugars or refined grains and no guilt. AKA something I would eat. If I'm serving it to others it also has to be tasty. 

I absolutely love crepes. They are so versatile because they can be both savory and sweet. While traditional crepes are quite yummy, they aren't particularly good for you. I spent the next few days formulating my perfect crepe, savory and sweet.  

I decided to use buckwheat because it is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It's name is a little misleading as it isn't a grain It's a seed. It's beauty benefits include; glowing skin from relaxed blood vessels, essential nutrients to help hair growth,  protection from premature aging and weight loss. This powerhouse also is protective against breast cancer, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and is a mood enhancer that aids in depression.  

I then played around with adding some of my favorite nutrient packed ingredients; shiitake mushrooms, garlic, spinach, and garlic for the savory version and bananas and blackberries for the sweet. Both crepes would taste lovely with a cashew creme which makes a great substitute for dairy. It would also be a helpful demonstration for people new to exploring vegan foods.

The Savory Vegan Buckwheat Beauty Mushroom Crepes with Spinach and Creme provide a whopping 10g of protein and 4g of fiber per crepe. They are high in many of the B vitamins. They provide 100% RDA of Vitamin K, copper, 50% magnesium, 60% manganese, 45% phosphorus, 33% selenium and 35% of zinc for those eating 2000 calories per day. They are also loaded with antioxidants. 

The Blackberry Banana Beauty Crepe provide 6g of protein and 5 grams of fiber. They provide 60% daily copper, 50% Manganese, 32% Magnesium, 24% Phosphorus and 20% of your vitamin E. High it antioxidants as well these are a zero guilt sweet treat.

The recipes follow. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 

Vegan Buckwheat Beauty Crepes
Makes 4 crepes

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup Bobs Red Mill Organic Buckwheat Flour
1/8 cup Bobs Red Mill Oat Flour
1/8 cup Bobs Red Mill ‘Sweet’ White Sorghum Flour
1/2 cup 365 Unsweetened Almond Milk
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp arrowroot powder

Combine the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the almond milk and water to the dry ingredients. Whisk ingredients until combined and smooth. 

Heat a nonstick crepe maker or a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. If using the cast iron skillet lightly coat with olive oil removing excess oil with a paper towel. Add between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of batter depending on the size of crepe desired to the center of the crepe maker or pan. Using a large nonstick basting spoon gently spread the batter in a circular motion starting from the center towards the outer edges to thin and expand the crepe. Wait approximately 30 seconds to a minute before flipping your crepe. The crepe is ready to flip when it loosens on the edges with a spatula and looks drier throughout. Go slow to not tear the crepe. Once you flip the crepe cook for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute. If you crepe still looks a little too moist you can flip it once again and let it cook for around 10 seconds more. 

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Savory Vegan Buckwheat Beauty Mushroom Crepes with Spinach and Creme
Serves 4

4 Buckwheat Beauty Crepes (recipe above)

3 cups organic shiitake mushrooms sliced thinly stems removed

1.5 cups organic portobello mushrooms sliced into 1” pieces stems removed

2 cups organic baby spinach 

2 cloves garlic chopped

3/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp celtic sea salt (optional)
2 tbsps chopped fresh chives
ground pepper to taste
3/4 cups cashew creme (recipe follows)

Head a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms in water by adding 1 tbsp of water at a time to keep the pan moist and the mushrooms from sticking. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften completely. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 additional minute. Meanwhile in a separate bowl add 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and salt if you are using it to the 3/4 cups of cashew creme. Add 1/4 cup of water and stir. Add the sauce to the mushrooms in the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach, stir and continue to cook until the spinach just wilts. If the sauce begins to thicken too much add 1 tbsp of water at a time to thin it a bit. Add pepper to taste. 

To assemble the crepes place 1/4 of the mushroom mixture in the center lengthwise of the  crepe. Sprinkle 1 tsp of chives. Fold the left side of the crepe at an angle over the mixture. Do the same with the right side. The finished crepe will be more open at the top and sealed at the bottom. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve promptly. 

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Blackberry and Banana Beauty Buckwheat Crepes
4 Buckwheat Crepes
3/4 cups organic blackberries
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 ripe bananas thinly sliced
3/4 cups cashew creme- recipe follows

Make the blackberry sauce. Add the water, lemon juice, 1 tbsp cashew creme and blackberries to a high speed blender. Blend on medium for approximately 30 seconds. Turn off the blender and scrape down the edges with a spatula. Blend again until smooth. Set aside

Assemble the crepes. Take 1/4 of the sliced bananas and place into the center lengthwise of the crepe. Drizzle 1 to 2 tbsps of of the blackberry sauce over the bananas. Repeat with the creme sauce. Fold the edges of crepe closed at a slight angle leaving the top more open. Drizzle the top of the crepe with a little more blackberry sauce and creme for presentation. 

Cashew Creme Sauce (Yields about 1 1/2 cups or a little less depending on soaking time)
1 cup organic raw cashews
3/4 cup purified water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice 

Soak the cashews in purified water for 1-2 hours. Drain the cashews and add to a high speed blender like a Vitamix. Add 3/4 cup purified water and 1 tsp fresh lemon juice. Pulse on medium high for approximately 15 seconds. Turn off the blender. Using a spatula, push down the cashew pieces from the sides and top of the blender. Blend until smooth. You may add extra water 1 tbsp at a time if needed. Set aside

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Snacking Pancakes

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Snacking Pancakes

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I'm kinda obsessed with buckwheat right now. It's one of those foods that have no guilt attached to it. It's high in protein and fiber, niacin (b3), magnesium phosphorus selenium, b6 and iron. If you want amazing skin, improved digestion, and lower blood pressure this high antioxidant and diabetes fighter is your seed. 

I love treating myself with the dark high mountain buckwheat tea  from Arogya and have recently become a fan of buckwheat pancakes. After a bit of experimenting I've come up with what has become my snacking pancake. They are great for breakfast but dense enough to grab from the refrigerator and snack on during the day.

Vegan Banana Blueberry Buckwheat Snacking Pancakes. 
Makes 8 pancakes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1 1/2 sliced banana
1/2 organic blueberries fresh or frozen
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup organic soy milk or other nut milk unsweetened
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Combine wet ingredients, stir and set aside. Combine dry ingredients except for the bananas and blueberries in a large mixing bowl and mix. Add the wet ingredients and combine until the dry mix is incorporated into the wet. Heat a cast iron skillet on low/medium heat. Lightly grease with avocado or olive oil. Add 1/8th of the pancake batter onto the skillet. After 1 minute add 4-5 slices of banana and some blueberries to the batter. Cook for 1 or 2 more minutes until the pancake is firm enough to flip over. Flip the pancake and cook for 1 or 2 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Repeat until all 8 pancakes are completed. Either serve warm or set aside in the refrigerator for snacking pancakes. 

Enjoy!



 

 

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The Dirty Dozen and Why We Really Should Always Choose Organic

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I first learned about the dirty dozen many years ago when I had my kids. Although I wasn't vegan at the time, it was important to me that I fed the best possible food to my children. Through the years, I have refined what I consider a healthy diet to be a plant-based diet, but this is a good start for everyone. 

I'm often surprised how many people haven't heard of this list. That's why I decided to write a short post about it. The dirty dozen are the worst 12 conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables that you can eat according to the EWG. They are the fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue on them that doesn't really wash off. This year's list includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet red peppers and potatoes. This doesn't mean that all the other fruits and vegetables are fine, it just means these are the worst twelve to remember. For a complete see the EWG's article on All 48 Fruits and Vegetables with Pesticide Residue Data

This list is an informational guide for consumers. The idea being if you can't afford to buy or find everything organic at least avoid the ones that are the worst for you. I think this guide is great, but it can unintentionally mislead consumers. 

As far as vitamins and minerals are concerned, there doesn't seem to be a lot of different between the amounts in organic versus conventional product. There is however a big difference between the amount of phytonutrients. "There are  19-69% more phytonutrients in organic fruits and vegetables" according to Michael Gregor's research

If you don't know what phytonutrients or phytochemical are, you aren't alone. They aren't listed on the back of cereal boxes or even listed in the nutrition facts on food labels. 

Phytonutrients are thought to be the chemicals in plants that help them grow strong and protect them against the elements. Guess what? It's now hypothesized that these phytonutrients are also what protect our health.  When produce is sprayed with pesticides, the plant no longer has to fight against the bugs and critters that try to eat it. The basic premise is that the plant is thus weaker because it didn't have to grow as strong and that's why it has less phytonutrients. When it comes to fighting dangers that face us like cancer, don't we want the strongest ammunition?   If we are going to eat fruits and vegetables why not get the most possible health benefits?

I understand it's expensive, I really do. I have to budget all the time but I think my health is worth it.  You can buy locally grown ORGANIC fresh produce to save some money. Check out your local farmers market. Last week I went out to the Westport Farmers Market I bought so much wonderful organic produce for $40!

You will also notice savings elsewhere especially if you eat only plant-based. I don't have to buy expensive face creams to make my skin look healthy. I also don't spend a lot of time or money on doctors or prescription drugs. Each of my children have only had antibiotics once in their lives!  If you do have to choose though, please remember the dirty dozen. 

 

 

 

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Back to School- Simplifying Hectic Life with Nutrient Dense High Protein Plant Foods

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Back to School- Simplifying Hectic Life with Nutrient Dense High Protein Plant Foods

Back to School can make feeding your family a challenge, especially when you have a kid in a competition sport. I know this all too well with a high school aged daughter on a competition dance team! My life is a bit crazy, but I'm not alone. Most kids in after school activities have demands far beyond what was considered normal in my childhood growing up in the not-so-normal 70s and 80s. 

Pressure is high and family time is low. It's far too easy to grab convenience foods instead of preparing a quality meal.. While I keep my freezer stocked with quick plant-based options, it should go without saying it's not the healthiest of options. 

This year I decided to get bento boxes for my 2 daughters and husband in an effort to streamline the process. We do a lot of bowls at home because it's a really nice way to make everyone happy. 

My time during the weekdays is limited. In addition to my daughter's nutty dance schedule, I teach yoga, dedicate time to plant-based/vegan coaching and education and work part-time for my husband and my digital creative agency, Real Pie Media. As much as I would love to spend time making fabulous meals during the day, I've found it much more productive to take a few hours once or twice a week and prepare batches of food to have on hand. In addition to making it easier on me, my family tends to make better choices when the food is readily available. 

 

In addition to the food I make, I also stock the refrigerator with lots of organic fruits, vegetables and pre-washed mixed greens. This week I bought my favorite bread,  the Bread Alone Organic whole wheat sourdough, Tofurky hickory smoked deli slices, bacon flavored tempeh, organic tofu and Trader Joe's tahini sauce.  

I prepared a lot of food using my new favorite appliance, the pressure cooker and a food processor. I also usually work with 1 or 2 pieces of equipment at a time to limit the amount of clean up. In about 2 1/2 hours I made batches or fresh garbanzo beans, quinoa, brown rice, superfood energy balls from Rich Roll & Julie Piatt's The Plantpower Way cookbook and Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls. My 11 year old daughter who is almost always happy to help me cook made a chia seed pudding using the Vitamix for me as well.

We had plenty of lunches, dinners, snacks and dessert for the week. Getting the kids out the door was relatively easy. Having so many options allowed me to spend the small amount of time we have together catching up instead of worrying about what to prepare. 

 

 

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Easy Asian Bowl

Easy Asian Bowl

A healthy but tasty dinner when you're short on time. 

My family and I spent the last week vacationing with dear friends in Cape Cod. We got home around 5:30pm and I was starving. I snacked on a small handful of cashews to tie me over for a bit and thought about what I could make using the remaining groceries that we brought back home from our trip.  I knew I had to run to the market for some basics to get us by and I didn't want to spend a lot of time on dinner or cleanup. 

I had a new bottle of Cindy's Kitchen Creamy Miso Dressing, a box of mixed greens and an avocado that I wanted to use tonight. I also had a package of The Bridge Kettle Style Tofu and brown rice on hand. I put 2 cups of brown rice in my pressure cooker set it to cook and left for a quick trip to the grocery store. Since it only takes 23 minutes to cook the rice, I knew I could get to the store, prep the food and sit down to eat within an hour. 

I picked up a red pepper at the store for added vitamin c which aids iron absorption and some bean sprouts to add a live element to the bowls. I also crumbled some raw walnut pieces for omega 3s.

Dinner was fantastic! 

Ingredients:

2 cups organic brown rice

1 package organic mixed greens

1 bottle Cindy's Kitchen Creamy Miso Dressing or any miso non dairy dressing

1 avocado

1 package mung bean sprouts

1/2 organic red bell pepper

1 package The Bridge Kettle Style Tofu

1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts

Cook brown rice according to package. I prefer a pressure cooker because the results are moist like sushi rice and take 1/2 the time to cook. Alternatively you can purchase organic frozen brown rice at Wholefoods or Trader Joes. 

Heat a cast iron pan. Add a small amount of avocado oil to thinly cover the pan. Pan fry the tofu for 2-3 minutes each side. For a healthier version, steam the tofu until heated through. 

Chop the red pepper and avocado into bite size pieces. 

Place all the ingredients out on a table and let everyone choose the amount of ingredients they want in their bowls. Add dressing to taste. 

Enjoy!

 

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Transitioning from a Plant Based Diet to Vegan  -My Experience Training with Sri Dharma Mittra

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Transitioning from a Plant Based Diet to Vegan -My Experience Training with Sri Dharma Mittra

Last summer, my heart filled with excitement. I had waited 5 years to enroll in a 500 hour level yoga teacher training. The reason I had waited so long, was it never felt quite right. I had enjoyed my 200 level training at a local yoga studio in Los Angeles, California, but I knew the next time around, I would have to find a guru who truly lived a life of pure yoga.

 

During my first training, I decided to commit to a vegetarian diet for the duration of the program. While it wasn’t part of the program to eat vegetarian, I felt it would be right to honor the yogic tradition and give me the discipline I needed to see if I could commit to a vegetarian diet. 

 

As a young adult, I watched my father and mother-in-law both die from horrific cancers. In both cases they were related to lifestyle choices. I began to search for answers as I didn’t want my family and I to suffer the same demise. I read The China Study and watched as many vegan documentaries I could find.

 

When I started the first day of the 200 level training, there was eye rolling from some of the students and teachers.  A few others who were already vegetarian or vegan helped me figure it out along the way. While it seems completely bizarre now, I honestly didn’t know what to eat. 

 

After I completed the 200 hours, I decided to stay vegetarian and work on transitioning into a plant-based diet. I started to trend away from more leather but still, I was slippery. I think at the time, I was still more selfish and ultimately concerned about my own well being rather than seeing the whole picture. 

 

I continued to eat plant-based and was almost always perfect about it for the next few years. It was easy to do. I lived in Los Angeles. Supermarkets were full of wonderful plant-based options. There were vegan restaurants for any occasion popping up everywhere. My husband had joined me on the plant-based bandwagon and my daughters for the most part were vegetarian. Our friends accepted our lifestyle. All was going well. 

 

We uprooted our family in 2014 to Fairfield County area of Connecticut. We maintained a plant based diet at first but started getting sloppy. Istarted practicing yoga at an Ashtanga studio where many of the yogis were vegetarian. I found it difficult to meet new family friends and decided at that time to eat cheese. My perspective, although I completely disagree with it now, was that if we didn’t at least eat pizza, people would be too uncomfortable to invite us over. I had taken a break from teaching yoga when we moved. As I look back now, I had lost my grounding and was ignoring my inner voice. 

 

This slip from the plant based diet lasted for about a year. After 10 months of an Ashtanga yoga practice I switched back to a vinyasa style I had been practicing and teaching for the years before. As fate would have it, I ended up taking a class at a small Wilton studio called Hello Yoga.  The teacher, Molly Lehman had studied with Dharma Mittra. Her classes were wonderful! I was hooked. Very soon after that, they asked me to teach there too. 

 

As I began to teach more, I went back to the plant-based diet. I had found my yoga community and allowed my true nature to reveal itself.  The teachers at the studio and I took a field trip to NYC, to take a master class with Sri Dharma Mittra. I was blown away. This 77 year old man, kicked my ass. His class was very different from what you experience at many yoga studios these days. He had a great sense of humor and practiced the inversions in such a child like manner. The class was demanding. While physically, he was unbelievable, you could also sense his seriousness with the practice. He focussed on more than just the physical yoga poses. What I remember specifically from that particular class was the final resting pose, savasana. He led us into a 15 minute deep, meditative savasana. It was amazing. At the end of the class, he mentioned there was wonderful vegan food across the street and to go check it out.

 

About a year later, Sri Dharma Mittra was offering a Life of a Yogi Teacher Training which fulfilled the 500 hour Yoga Alliance Certification. I knew in my heart this was where I needed to be. As I applied for the training, I was so happy to see that one of his requirements to go through the program was that you had to transition to a vegetarian diet prior to your first day at the intensive. 

 

On day one of the first 8 day intensive training, he made it perfectly clear how he felt about the suffering of the animals and why he is vegan. He let everyone know that when you keep animal products, especially meats in your refrigerator, it becomes a morgue. You could see so much feeling in his eyes. I think it was at that moment, I switched my mindset from plant-based to vegan. I felt at home. I was grateful that I had found a teacher who not only was keeping the vegetarian teachings of yoga alive, he was transitioning us all to vegan. 

 

He emphasized that in order to set forth on the path of Self Realization, one must first honor the yogic ethical discipline of ahimsa. This means observing non-violence in action, thought or deed. This is why vegan is the best choice rather than vegetarian, especially in modern times with our farming commercial practices. 

 

As we neared the end of the first intensive module, we were given a diet plan to follow during the 2 month break until the next session. While we were allowed to just stick to a vegan diet which included a cheat day about once a week, what he really wanted us to do was follow the yogic diet that he designed for this portion of the training after studying with his Guru Sri Swami Kailashananda Maharaji a.k.a. Yogi Gupta, 1913-2011. 

 

The Dharma Ahimsa Diet Plan was broken down to liquid and solid food separately. While I won’t go into all the specific details, it is basically a diet which includes sprouted almonds in a specific smoothie daily each morning, along with fresh green juices,  fresh and steamed vegetables, fruits, lentils, spouted breads, whole grains, tofu, some approved oils and not too much else. There was no salt, onion, garlic, spices, caffeine, or alcohol permitted. The largest portions of food was to be eaten before 6pm. I was a bit overwhelmed. 

 

Our training materials included a CD of a recording of Yogi Gupta’s 1969 lecture in New York about Yogi Food Concepts. I listened to the CD in my car multiple times trying to understand exactly why I would make this seemingly drastic change to my diet. He spoke about how we can obtain all of the nutrients we need from food and pranayama (yogic breathing techniques).  This had been revealed to the ancient yogis through meditation and deep contemplation. The healthiest foods for consumption were live, sprouted raw nuts, beans, and lentils, raw or lightly steamed vegetables and fruits ranking next. I was impressed at how Yogi Gupta was ahead of his time. It seems like modern society and science is slowly coming to the same conclusion he revealed over 40 years ago! 

 

I adapted the diet plan. After a few weeks, my taste buds adjusted. I gained tremendous flexibility in my yoga practice as my body removed inflammation. I had more energy that I’ve every had in my life. I lost about 10 lbs. Any remaining body fat that I couldn’t seem to get rid of in past attempts was gone. 

 

After I returned to the second module of the training, we were released from the restrictive diet. We were allowed any vegan food we wished. I ended up sticking with most of his plan, while adding some different kinds of nuts along the way. I increased the amount of times I ate per day to maintain my new weight. I didn’t want to lose anymore. 

 

After another 8 amazing days with Sri Dharma Mittra, his senior mentor teachers and my lovely new student friends we were off to finish the internship part of the program in our home towns. We were given another diet to follow for the next month or two. This one was similar to the first but now included, pepper, homemade hummus, ground sprouted almonds, flax and sesame seeds. While I do use a cheat day for vegan food or caffeine, I will stick pretty close to the plan. 

 

During the training one of the mentors had expressed that Dharma makes a point to always say something about being vegan in every one of his classes. People come from all over the world to learn from this master who has taught in the city for over 50 years. He knows that sometimes he sees a new student for only one day and wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to hear that message. 

 

You can find out where you can see Sri Dharma Mitra at his site, http://www.dharmayogacenter.com. I highly recommend that anyone interested in yoga or being vegan check him out while he’s still teaching.  

 

As for me, I will continue to teach yoga and be vegan most likely for the rest of my life. I want to help people make a meaningful connection with yoga and the vegan lifestyle. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from this master teacher. 

 

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