Meatless Mondays: Healthy Apple Favorites

There are many many things I love about Fall.

Boots. Scarves. Brightly colored leaves. Cooler cuddle-worthy weather.

And my personal fave, apples.

Just look at these beauties.

lots-of-apples.jpg

Dreamy.

I took my love for apples to a new level of obsession with my apple recipe series last fall. In my search for Meatless Monday recipes in the archive, I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring these dishes back to the blog and hopefully onto your Pinterest boards for some healthy fall cooking inspiration.

If you’re planning on going apple picking or if you’re looking to try something new, then take a look at the links below!

Four of my five recipes in this series are completely meatless and they’re perfect for a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or treat (there’s pie after all).

This Apple, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Pizza on Multigrain Crust is an easy way to combine some truly amazing fall flavors on a healthy crust. I topped this pizza with arugula to give the pizza a peppery finish, but you can use spinach or dandelion greens if that strikes your fancy. Also, if you’re going completely gluten-free or paleo, how about you try a cauliflower crust instead?

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pizza

Looking for an easy breakfast recipe that’s perfect if you’re on the go and looking for an alternative to the eggs and bacon routine? Then check out these Healthy Oatmeal Apple Muffins, courtesy of the genius behind Cookie + Kate. My previous experience with her recipes inspired me to give these muffins a try and they were a definite hit for the week. Mental note to self: make these again immediately.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Muffins

Butter can be healthy, especially when it’s made from apples. I’m a huge fan of fruit spreads and jams. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment (or the time or patience) to work on making my own fruit preserves each season. When I found this recipe for Unsweetened Apple Butter, I knew this was the perfect way to break in my brand new slow-cooker. And the results? PHENOMENAL. No, seriously. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. You won’t regret it, I promise you. Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Butter

And then there’s pie.

Check out my recipe for Deep Dish Apple Pie with a lighter, reduced fat crust. For all you pie lovers out there, I don’t really need to explain myself here. You don’t have to wait for Meatless Monday to enjoy a slice of pie, especially one that’s truly delicious and healthy to boot. Consider this a comfort food treat featuring the very best of Fall. Plus, I offer some baking tips if this is your first time making pastry dough or baking pie. I’ve made many pies and this pie pictured here? Best one ever.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pie

Feeling tempted to pick up some extra apples this week to give these recipes a try? You’re not alone. Happy Meatless Monday folks!!!

Remember to keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Why Food Day 2012 Matters

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on this blog discussing food policy the way I originally intended. I’ve gotten caught up in the minutia of recipes and my neverending emotional journey and that’s led me astray from one of my original mission statements which is to facilitate dialogue about our global food epidemic. Yes, epidemic is the right word here. When you see the statistics for obesity balloon to over 30% of the US population with the number of diabetes cases rising in equal measure, there’s a problem. Add to that the issue of food ‘deserts’, GMOs, Prop 37, farm bill,  and the negative impact of government subsidies of big agriculture on our recommended diet via My Plate, and we have a serious problem.

There’s an irony here that never fails to surprise me. As the West continues to advance in the areas of technology and communications, our health has declined dramatically. Our access to quality food and produce has been reduced to accommodate a diet high in processed goods, sugar, GMOs, and all sorts of chemical preservatives that do nothing to enhance our health. We’re also sedentary more often than we’re moving. Even now as I’m typing this out, I’m beginning a ten-hour work shift that will see me sitting for about 80% of that time. I’ve made the effort to spend my time outside of the office being active, but how many Americans (or Westerners in general) can say the same? Poor food quality coupled with a less active population has led us to where we are now. What can we do to change this?

Education. Education. Education. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Enter Food Day 2012. The key to any major change, especially in the area of public health,  is to help people become aware of what the issues are and then teach them how to make adjustments in their homes on their own. This will hopefully trigger a response that can spread through communities and eventually towns and cities where the message can eventually be heard loud and clear. Food Day 2012 is a prime example of how to accomplish that. With events being held across the country in each state sponsored by individual volunteers,  nonprofits, teachers, chefs, celebrities, and businesses, Americans can begin to see what the benefits of having access to affordable, sustainable and locally produced food can have on their health and the economy. This can only help the cause for proper nutrition and improving the state of our food industry by encouraging the public to look deeper, ask questions, and study those labels more closely.

The changes won’t happen overnight, but the important thing to remember is that people want to change. As much of a pessimist as I can be about certain issues, I don’t believe that people are content with the current state of our public health. I believe that there is a desire to make things better. We just need to provide the tools to enable and empower families towards the healthier decisions that will improve their lives and eventually the quality of life in their communities.

I will be celebrating Food Day 2012 by attending the Eat Real festival at Foley Square in NYC, which will not only provide a farmer’s market in the middle of City Hall, but will also showcase the Big Apple Crunch, our attempt to set the world record of apple-crunching! Mayor Bloomburg has made public health and nutrition central to his policy, and despite the criticism, I applaud his efforts to shine a light on major issues that affect each community in this city. I may not be hosting an event today, but by participating in this event and talking about the issues here on this blog, I hope that I’m at least contributing to the overall conversation by promoting change and education. It’s the least I can do.

To check out which events are being hosted in your area, please go to www.foodday.org for listings. If you’re hooked up with all sorts of social media and are in support of the mission statement of Food Day, then please, by all means, use your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram prowess by following @FoodDay2012, liking the page on Facebook, using the hashtags #FoodDay2012 and #EatRight, and posting any pics via Instagram and Flickr of Food Day events in your area or how you’re celebrating at home.

For more information on these issues, please check out Elise’s blog at Enlightened Lotus Wellness. I think she does a great job of providing data and analysis on social food issues and policy.

And since infographics are always a fun and visual way to learn interesting facts, I’ve included this one here about the problems with our food system. My take? This doesn’t have to be the ending to our story. Take the initiative today to step out and try something healthy and new. Take your kids or your friends with you. Make those changes for yourself and you’ll see how powerful that can be today and each day after that. Happy Food Day everyone! 🙂

A Paleo Preview

If you’ve been following me on Instagram or Pinterest, you may have noticed that I have been hoarding recipes like a madwoman, restocking my pantry, and exploring outside dining options that all pertain to Paleo. I’ve been thinking, breathing, and mostly eating Paleo for a little over a week now and I couldn’t resist sharing at least a tiny preview here.

This will eventually become part of a bigger story I plan to tell, including an explanation of what the hell Paleo is for those who don’t know, what my intentions are with making this transition, and sharing some of the challenges. For now, I’ll just let on that I’ve been creeping the diet in meal by meal and with each passing day it does get easier and more fun. Perhaps the biggest fun I’ve had has been in the kitchen. There’s really no better way to be inventive with my cooking and baking than to work with a completely different ingredient list that doesn’t include any of my old standards: any sort of wheat flour, pasta, canola oil, butter, beans, rice, potatoes, all sugars, soy sauce, all dairy, and bread (including whole grain!). Of course processed foods are also a no-no but since I don’t eat that stuff anyway, it’s not a big deal. It’s been a trip trying to be creative with the rest.

Today I decided to tackle what for me was my biggest concern: baking. I’ve never worked with any kind of flour not based from wheat, so I had no clue what to expect from coconut and almond flour. Replacing the fat and sugar with coconut oil and mashed fruit respectively, was another unknown. I figured it was time to give it a shot. Here’s what I came up with.

Paleo-friendly ingredients all sourced at Whole Foods

PALEO PUMPKIN PECAN COOKIES  adapted from Everyday Paleo 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • *1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of cooked and mashed yam, pumpkin, or butternut squash
  • *¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup

*Notes and Alterations: Instead of using chopped walnuts, I used pecans because I like it better with pumpkin and I was running low on the former anyway. I added 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg to add some more depth of flavor.  The coconut milk was subbed with almond milk since I didn’t have any on hand. One word for these cookies: DELICIOUS.

Paleo Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

PALEO APPLE CINNAMON MUFFINS  adapted from paleOMG

Ingredients

  • *1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 cup almond flour/meal
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • *2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon (the more the better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt

*Notes and Alterations: I used one medium-sized gala apple, cored, cubed, and unpeeled. There’s debate in the paleo community about using honey and this recipe includes 2 tbsp of raw honey. I subbed with pureed dates that I made by chopping about 6 pitted dates and placing it in a food processor with a bit of water. I had the afterthought once I put the muffins in the oven that natural unsweetened applesauce would have been best for both flavor and moistness. These muffins were very good, although a bit denser than I anticipated. I’ll definitely try this again with the applesauce to note the differences. A solid breakfast muffin recipe.

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Today was a great one for kitchen experimentation. I feel open to try a lot of new things that I hadn’t really thought of before and that’s a pretty awesome byproduct of what has been an admittedly difficult lifestyle change. I still can’t let go of my greek yogurt!! Sigh. More to come folks. Stay tuned! 🙂

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