Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Best, Healthiest Mashed Potatoes EVER!

I love potatoes. They're so versatile, healthy, filling and cheap! Potatoes are rich in fiber, Vitamin-C, B-complex and minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.  Despite popular belief, potatoes are good for you and a necessary part of a healthy diet.

What really matters is how you prepare potatoes and what you mix in them or what you choose to pile on top of them!

Skip the deep-fryer. Bake your own homemade fries instead.  And forget all that butter, sour cream, bacon and melted cheese on top of baked potatoes. Yes, I know it's delicious but you're just eating fat on top of fat!  End result: all that fat makes you fat! No doubt about it.

My favorite way to eat a potato is baked or boiled. I slice the potato in half and pile it high with tossed green salad mixed with balsamic vinaigrette.  YUMMY!  Sometimes, I will top a baked potato with steamed, chopped broccoli and occasionally some melted vegan cheese. That's a whole dinner for me.

So what about everyone's favorite - mashed potatoes? They're usually prepared with loads of butter and cream. So delicious, but you can pretty much forget all those great health benefits. Reserve mashed potatoes for special occasions!

Or.....you can make mashed potatoes MY WAY!

I serve mashed potatoes very often to my son because they're filling. He loves them!  The best part--my mashed potatoes are VEGAN.  Not an animal product in sight. :)

Here's what you need: (this recipe will serve about 5 -6 people)

4 large organic potatoes, scrubbed well (peeled or unpeeled- your choice. I NEVER peel potatoes), and cut into quarters. They will cook faster and will be easier to mash if you cut them up.
3 or 4 cloves of quick roasted garlic (instructions to follow)
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
a dash of olive oil
organic vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper

1.Sprinkle the potatoes very lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Break off the individual pieces of rosemary and toss those over the potatoes and mix very gently.  Take a large pot with a lid, add about a cup and a half of water. Place your potatoes in a steamer basket and add to the pot of water. Cover, bring the water to boil, reduce heat and allow the potatoes to steam for about 20 - 30 minutes. You want the potatoes nice and soft so they're easy to mash- but you don't want them to fall apart and you don't want the water in the pot to evaporate. Check them often as they steam and add more water as needed.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, quick roast your garlic by spreading individual, un-peeled cloves evenly on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil, and bake about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until soft. Roast a bunch of garlic cloves. If you store them in a sealed container in the fridge, they will keep for 3 days.  Roasted garlic is delicious spread on toast, freshly baked bread, mixed with vegan mayo for sandwich spreads, or added to salad dressings.

3. Remove steamed potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl.

4. Take 3 or 4 of the roasted garlic cloves. You can add more if want your potatoes really garlicky. Gently squeeze the garlic out of their skins right into the pot of cooked potatoes. Discard the skins.

5. Start mashing. I like  rustic-looking mashed potatoes, so I just use a fork to do this.  A potato masher works well, too.

6. Add a bit of the vegetable broth to the potatoes for extra moisture while mashing them. Just add a little at a time. You don't want watery potatoes.

7. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Another great variation is to simply toss your raw, quartered potatoes gently with a bit of olive oil, season with salt, pepper and the rosemary and roast them in the oven until soft, but not browned. Then, you can mash them. Roasted mashed potatoes are also SO good!

If you really want your mashed potatoes creamier, substitute the vegetable broth with a bit of vegan creamer, or even vegan cream of mushroom or potato soup. I love using the vegetable broth, however, because other than the small amount of olive oil, my mashed potatoes are virtually fat free!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sixty Second Fruit Salad!

This is my favorite treat when I have an after dinner sweet craving.  Tropical Fruit Salad!  I even love this instead of dessert or as a quick breakfast!

This is so delicious. And it literally takes less than a minute to prepare. At about 70 calories for 1/2 a cup, it's guilt-free. It's naturally sweet and good for me.

Here's what I do:

I open a can of Native Forest Organic Tropical Fruit Salad, and pour about one half a cup into a wine glass. I add a bit of the juice the fruit is packed in, as well. Most of the time, I toss in a few almonds, too. The almonds increase the calories a bit but not by much. Almonds add a nice crunch and protein, vitamins and minerals. If I have shredded coconut on hand, it makes this even more tropical and delicious.

I very rarely use canned goods but here's my logic: when I want a treat, it has to be quick and simple. It's so easy to open a bag of chips, reach into the cookie jar or help myself to a slice of pie.  I could make my own fresh fruit salad.  It would be much healthier but I don't always have the time to do that. All that peeling, cutting, slicing, and mess? Forget it!  Who wants to get involved with all that, especially when a snack attack hits?  There are times when it is justifiable to use canned products and this is certainly one of those times. I always keep several cans of tropical fruit salad in my pantry.

If you can't find an organic brand and don't want to order it on-line, buy conventional tropical fruit salad. Tropical fruit salad is different than regular fruit cocktail. Read the labels and look for cans that only contain fruits that have thick peels like pineapple, mango, papaya, and watermelon.  And make sure it's packed in juice.  You don't want fruit in heavy syrup or sugar-free. Sugar-free means artificially sweetened!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Make Snacking Healthier with Kale Chips!

photo from Seventh Generation

If I had to choose only vegetable to eat for the rest of my life, it would definitely be KALE! It can be prepared so many different ways. You can even turn those gorgeous green leaves into delicious, nutritious Kale Chips!  Here's the recipe from Seventh Generation-- the recycled paper product people!

We Love Kale Chips

Try these instead of the usual greasy, unhealthy potato chips.  This is Cynfully Good snacking at it's best!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Healthy, Delicious Pumpkin Bread!

photo from vegnews.com
I am totally loving all things pumpkin this season!  I carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and decorate my house with them until it's time to break out the Christmas Tree.  And of course, what's Thanksgiving without home made pumpkin pie?

There's so much more you can do with pumpkins.  I add it to stews, bean dishes, bread, muffins.  Mashed pumpkin with salt, pepper and a pat of vegan margarine is delicious instead of mashed potatoes. To satisfy a sweet craving, mash up cooked pumpkin and add cinnamon, nutmeg and very light drizzle of organic maple syrup.  I roast peeled, cubed pumpkin in the oven, too. Just toss them with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I even throw cubes of cooked pumpkin in my tossed green salads.

If you're not cooking with pumpkin, you should be!  IT'S LOW IN CALORIES, HAS VIRTUALLY NO FAT, AND IS LOADED WITH VITAMINS AND MINERALS.  Here's a little info on the health benefits of pumpkin: Eat Pumpkin For Health and Weightloss.

Pumpkin: buy it, cook it, and eat it.

Those are just a few ideas on what to do with pumpkin for every day eating. Now, let's get into the "sweeter side" of pumpkin!

It doesn't get sweeter than this: Pumpkin Bread from Veg News. This is a bit of a splurge but it's a healthy splurge. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and so begins The Season of Eating. It's time to gather with family and friends and indulge a bit. I don't believe in starvation or deprivation when it comes to weight loss and good health. But I do believe if we're gonna indulge, we need to make it count! This bread is perfect! Sweet, satisfying and loaded with good stuff: sunflower and pumpkin seeds (good fat), cranberries, a little fresh orange juice, and course, pumpkin. Slice it up and serve it warm to guests instead of cake or pie. It's really good for breakfast, too. Just be sure to skip the butter or cream cheese. If you want, toast the bread lightly and top it with a bit of applesauce.

Makes one loaf
What You Need:
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
  • 1-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup Sucanat
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for oiling pan
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
What You Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a loaf pan and toast for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a small bowl. When pan is cool, lightly oil with olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, Sucanat, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add pumpkin purée, orange juice and zest, water, and oil, and stir gently to combine all ingredients.
  3. Stir in cranberries, ginger, and 2/3 of the toasted seeds. Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining seeds and press into top of loaf. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
If you are interested in more pumpkin dishes, check out these other Cynfully Good recipes:

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters
Pumpkin Curry

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Delicious and Healthy Sweet Potato Fries!

photo from Eatingwell.com
Who doesn't love french fries?  I know I do but I avoid them like the plague because they're usually soaked and fried in oil and grease. That means fat and calories I don't want or need. Some people order sweet potato fries thinking they are healthier. Yes, sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C; fiber, thiamine, niacin, potassium and copper. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin E.  Once you dip them in a vat of hot oil, however, most of those health benefits fly right out the window.

I make sweet potato fries all the time.  They are so simple to make and they're baked, not fried.  Baked sweet potato fries are good for you, delicious, and satisfying. Serve them for lunch or dinner. . You can even snack on them instead of the usual chips, popcorn or cookies.  Snacking is okay, if you make it count! And these little vitamin packed sweet potato fries pack a healthy punch!

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sweet potato wedges with oil, salt and pepper. Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.

You can get creative with your sweet potato fries. Add a pinch of cajun seasoning instead of the cayenne pepper. I happen to love mine with Old Bay Seasoning. To satisfy a sweet craving, I add a pinch of cinnamon, let them bake for about 15 minutes, drizzle them very lightly with organic maple syrup and pop them back into the oven for another five minutes. DELICIOUS!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters with Sage Cream Sauce!

What can you do with a can of chick peas, pumpkin and some sage? Make these delicious fritters with a sage "cream" sauce, of course!  YUMMY!

Here's a wonderful recipe I found on Happy Healthy Life. Perfect to serve as appetizers OR as a meal.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters
vegan, makes 6-7 small round fritters

1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree (canned)
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 tsp garlic granules
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
a few dashes of pepper, cayenne and salt to taste

optional: 1-2 tsp flour to assist in binding if needed
1 cup panko bread crumbs for coating
1/4 - 1/2 cup safflower oil for frying

*baking note: you could also bake these little cakes instead of fry them if you'd prefer! Bake on parchment paper or a lightly greased baking sheet at about 350 degrees for about 20 minutes - or until toasty. BUT the panko bread crumbs are really made for a light fry. So if you can't fry - perhaps use a finer, moister bread crumb.

To Make:

1. Add the chickpeas and pumpkin to a large mixing bowl. With a large fork or potato masher, mash the beans until at least 75% of them have been mashed together with the pumpkin.
2. Add in the spices, apple cider, hemp seeds and optional flour. Fold together until a moist mixture forms.
3. Preheat a few tablespoons of safflower oil in a large skillet.
4. When the oil is hot, for the mixture into golf ball sized balls and roll in your panko crumbs

until well covered - pat down into flatter cakes and place int he hot oil - carefully.
5. Continue until the pan is full - leave about an inch space between each cake for easier flipping. Cook on each side only about 1-2 minutes - or until toasty brown. Try not to burn, although a bit of crisping is nice.
6. Transfer cooked fritters to a paper towel to cool. Serve in about 5 minutes after cooling a bit.
Store in the fridge and reheat in the oven if desired. You can freeze as well. However, these fritters are best hot off the skillet!

Sage Cream Sauce of the side (super easy)

I blend up 4 fresh sage leaves with 1 cup silken tofu, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 heaping spoonful of vegan mayo and a pinch of  fresh parsley. For a spicy sage sauce I add in either cayenne or a Tbsp of chopped jalapeno.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Season of Eating: White Bean Dip with Poblano

Photo from Food52.com
Before we know it, Thanksgiving will be upon us and so begins the Season of Eating. From Turkey Day through New Years', we are busy and on the go: cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping gifts, entertaining, traveling, sipping cocktails, attending office parties, family gatherings, and eating.......

This is the time we put on weight because we just can't say no to the cookies, pies, mashed potatoes, eggnog, and the chips and dips!

I am a planner, so I am currently gathering all my healthy and delicious recipes for the holidays.  There is always someone stopping by this time of year and course it is my moral imperative to feed them.  If they are not staying for dinner, then I'll serve platters of Vegan cheese with fruit and nuts or fresh guacamole and salsa with tortilla chips.  In a pinch, raw veggies and dip always goes over well with guests.  And no one ever says no to a cup of coffee or tea and a slice of home made pie or freshly baked cookies.  Regardless of who my guests are or what I am serving-- everything is always nutritious and Vegan.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorite holiday entertaining recipes with you: appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes, main dishes, and desserts.
For starters, here is a delicious bean dip recipe from Food52.com: White Bean Dip with Poblano.  A poblano is a chili pepper and in this recipe, you roast the pepper to enhance the flavor. You can find poblanos in the ethnic food section of your grocery store or in Latin markets.  This dip is quick, easy and packed with protein- thanks to the white beans.  Serve it with good quality tortilla chips or raw veggies.

White Bean Dip with Poblano

Different, healthy and Cynfully Good.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Photo from Sunny Seed Up

OH MY GOODNESS!! You have to try these.......

I roast brussel sprouts to munch on at night while watching TV. So much better than chips!

Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

A Healthier, Vegetarian, BBQ Rib Sandwich!

Photo from morningstarfarms.com

The McRib is back! Everyone is talking about it, posting the news on Social Networking sites, and lining up at their local McDonald's to get their  'available for a limited time' sandwich. Thank goodness the McRib isn't a regular item on McDonald's menu.  It's one of the unhealthiest, fat and calorie laden sandwiches you can possibly eat. Don't believe me? Check out my article in which I deconstruct the McRib to reveal what you really are eating! The McRib- deconstructed. 

Run away from the McRib! The combination of that thick, sweet (artificial) BBQ sauce and all that added salt will seduce your tastebuds into wanting more and more. Just a couple of these sandwiches a week - and you will be packing on the pounds!

For those of you who LOVE the McRib, but want eat healthy, here's an alternative. This is a delicious sandwich you can make at home. Yes, this recipe does include a packaged product, Morningstar Farms Hickory BBQ Riblets. However, when you compare the ingredients, THIS  is the better choice. Give it a try. I know you'll love it.

2 teaspoons butter, margarine or Earth Balance Vegan Spread, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
4 (1/2-inch-thick) sliced sourdough bread
1 package (10 oz.) MorningStar Farms® Hickory BBQ Riblets
2 slices pepper jack cheese or Vegan alternative, halved diagonally
2 lettuce leaves
2 thin slices red onion, separated into rings

1. In small bowl stir together butter and garlic. Brush 1 side of each bread slice with butter mixture. Place, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Cook MORNINGSTAR FARMS HICKORY BBQ RIBLETS according to package directions. Top each riblet portion with two half slices of cheese. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

3. Meanwhile, broil bread slices 4- to 5-inches from the heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning once. Top buttered sides of two bread slices with lettuce, riblet portions and onion. Top with remaining slices of bread, buttered sides down. Cut into halves. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Health and Healing in a Pot: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup!

photo from Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Ahhh. Soup. Nothing is more comforting or healing. I make countless pots of soup in the fall and winter: lentil soup, carrot soup, butternut squash soup, and of course, my famous "un-chicken" noodle soup.  

Soup is perfect for breakfast, lunch and supper. I'll sip soup all day on a Monday if I overindulge in too much food over the weekend. Soup cleanses my system- like the old-fashioned Italian Belly Wash. There's really something to all that!  It's great for weight loss, too. Have a soup course every evening before dinner. You'll eat less!

Soup can be a mind, body, spirit experience when you make it yourself. A jar or can of soup you dump into a pot or stick in the microwave to reheat, just doesn't cut it. You'll never get the full effect of soup unless it's homemade.

That being said, here is a wonderful recipe I found for Coconut Butternut Squash Soup. This is pure health and healing in a pot.  If you don't believe me--take a look at some of the benefits of Butternut Squash:

Health benefits of Butternut squash

  • Butternut squash contains many vital poly-phenolic anti-oxidants and vitamins. It is very low in calories; provides just 45 cal per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich source of dietary fiber and phyto-nutrients. Squash is often recommended for cholesterol and weight reduction programs.
  • It has more vitamin A than that in pumpkin. At 10630 IU per 100 g, it is perhaps the single vegetable source in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 354% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Butternut squash has natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds like α and ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein. These compounds convert to vitamin A inside the body and deliver the same protective functions of vitamin A on the body.
  • It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
  • It has a similar mineral profile as pumpkin, containing adequate levels of minerals like iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Convinced?  Good! Now take out your big soup pot and get cooking!

Vegan Holiday Kitchen’s Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Once you’ve got the squash baked, this soup comes together quickly. The mellow flavors of squash, kale and red onions synergize delectably and look gorgeous together as well.

1 large butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 large yellow or sweet white onion, chopped
1 medium apple, any variety, peeled and diced
2 cups prepared vegetable broth, or 2 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 teaspoons good-quality curry powder
2 teaspoons grated fresh or jarred ginger, or more, to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg or allspice
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 medium red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 good-size bunch kale (about 10 to 12 ounces)

1. To bake the squash, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut in half and place halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking dish and cover tightly with more foil. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, until you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife. Scoop out and set aside.

2. Heat about half the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the apple, squash, broth and spices. Bring to a steady simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Transfer the solids to a food processor with a slotted spoon, in batches if need be, and process until smoothly puréed, then transfer back to the soup pot. Or better yet, simply insert an immersion blender into the pot and process until smoothly puréed.

5. Stir in the coconut milk and return the soup to a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until well heated through. Season with salt and pepper. If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two, then heat through as needed before serving.

6. Just before serving, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the red onions and sauté over low heat until golden and soft.

7. Meanwhile, strip the kale leaves off the stems and cut into thin shreds. Stir together with the onions in the skillet, adding just enough water to moisten the surface. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kale is bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes.

8. To serve, ladle soup into each bowl, then place a small mound of kale and onion mixture in the center.