Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Granola (and a brief disquisition on protein needs)

LVV MoFo 2014 main

Snickering at the “But where do you get your protein?!” question is a bit of a shibboleth in vegan circles. It’s a tired question, one that’s inspired lots of great memes. And it has a pretty simple answer: From nearly everything I eat. This quote from the American Heart Association just about sums it up:

“You don’t need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.” (1)

Bam.

Still, protein-related myths abound. There’s a notion that plant proteins are inferior to their animal-derived counterparts because they don’t provide all essential amino acids in a single source (and are thus called “incomplete” proteins). There’s a commonly held and oft-mentioned misbelief that you must consume all of your complementary proteins in a single meal to derive the full protein benefit, but that’s been disproven. Instead, as long as you eat a variety of proteins in a single day, your body can take care of combining them. (2)

So—how much protein do you need? Turns out, not as much as lots of people think. Unless you’re very active, 10-35% of your calories should come from protein. The CDC has a basic set of guidelines here, and you can get more tailored recommendations here. I’ve done a few calculations, and I should be getting between 50 and 70 grams per day. What does that mean in real-world food terms? Well, half a block of tofu has around 18 grams, half a cup of tempeh has 15 grams, and half a cup of black beans has 20 grams. And those are just the protein powerhouses! Most of the incidental foods we eat contain at least a little protein, and those grams add up. For example, bagels often contain around 10 grams of protein. A small handful of almonds gives you around 4 grams. And you could get a whole 7 grams just from eating granola. Not just any granola—Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Granola.

This granola.

Peanut butter granola spilling from a mason jar onto a wooden cutting board.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Granola
Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup creamy unsalted natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325˚ and line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine, heating over low so that the oil and peanut butter soften. Once all four ingredients are well mixed, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the dried ingredients. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon. Once the dry ingredients are coated with the peanut butter mixture, pour the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the oats are golden, removing from the oven and stirring every ten minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least ten minutes before eating.

pbgranola3

Let’s be real—you’re probably going to eat this stuff by the handful, grabbing a clump every time you walk by the cooling baking sheet. But you could also serve it in a bowl with some cold almond milk or a dollop of soy yogurt, adding a couple extra grams of protein to your day. Yum.

pbgranola2

So, bottom line about protein? Stop worrying about it. Eat a varied, healthy diet and you’ll be just fine. And remember, protein lurks in the most unlikely places—even a bowl of sweet, salty, peanutty granola.

Sources cited:

(1) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp 
(2) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html

Note:

I’m neither a doctor nor a dietitian; please don’t treat my posts as medical advice! Consult a medical practitioner for specific medical or nutritional recommendations.

VeganMoFo 2014: But where do you get your protein?! (And calcium, and iron, and…)

VeganMoFo 2014: But where do you get your protein? ...and iron,<a href=

Much to my surprise and chagrin, it’s September already. August passed in a blur of, mostly, mucus. Mine (thanks, extremely long-lasting sinus/ear/whatever infection!) and our new doggy’s. 

luna1

This is Luna. We adopted her just a few weeks ago. I fell in love with her earnest, intense stare. She was found as a stray and came home with a severe case of kennel cough. Despite her medication regimen, she’s still coughing and hacking up mucus on a daily basis. She was also extremely emaciated, but she’s put on weight and is definitely filling out. S and I are learning her quirks and personality, but I’m already in love. I can’t wait to see how her relationship with Moria develops.

Anyway, that’s been my August. But now it’s September, and September is the Vegan Month of Food (that’s VeganMoFo to you!). This is my sixth (!) year participating, but I have to confess that I very nearly missed the sign-up. Like I said… August was a blur. I scurried to sign up, and then my theme came to me a flash of shower-inspired creativity. This month, I’ll be focusing on recipes that are high in all those nutrients that everyone thinks vegans must lack. I’m talkin’ calcium, iron, and—of course—protein. 

So stay tuned for recipes, reviews, and enough protein to get you RIPPED. (JK, vegans are all puny weaklings, amirite?!) But seriously. Strap in and enjoy the month of food!

Banana-Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

S and I share many traits. We both prefer staying in to going out and partying. We have ambitious Goodreads goals. We appreciate a solid pun. But one point of difference is our tolerance for meal repetition. Although I have no problem with leftovers in general, I need diversity in my meals. Eating the same thing for lunch or dinner every day bores me. S, on the other hand, has been known to make a giant pot of his favorite cold noodle dish on a Sunday and eat it every. single. day. for lunch throughout the week. Me? I’m bored by Tuesday. When a series of events led to him having Chipotle for lunch three days in a row a few months ago, he could’ve kept going for the next week. Me? I’m good with a monthly Chipotle fix.

When it comes to breakfasts, I have marginally more tolerance for repetition. But lately I’ve become bored with overnight oats, my typical summer staple. Well… “bored” is too weak a word for my feelings. “Repulsed by” is too strong, but it’s somewhere between the two poles. The finer distinctions of my current dislike aside, I wanted to make myself a substantial breakfast that would fill me up like oats do but would not require me to eat from a jar. (I’m so over that for now.) Determined to use the quickly browning bananas on my kitchen island, I gathered inspiration from my Blueberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies and my Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal.

Banana-Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

The result? Banana-Oatmeal Breakfast Bars, a satisfying breakfast you can eat with your hands—no jar required! My poor reviled oats take on new life in a dense, satisfying square sweetened ever so lightly with brown rice syrup. A few tablespoons of almond butter add filling protein and fat, but the nut-free among you could switch to soy butter with no major flavor changes. I left mine bare, but you could dress up your bars with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or dried fruit. (And if you have a sweet tooth, consider adding a tablespoon or two of dark brown sugar to the wet ingredients—I prefer less-sweet breakfasts, but I know not everyone does!)

Banana-Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Makes 9 servings

  • 1 C whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 C old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 2 medium-large very ripe bananas
  • 1 C unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 1/4 C brown rice syrup
  • 2 T almond butter
  • 2 T ground flax
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • Optional add-ins: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 375˚ and prepare an 8″ x 8″ baking pan. I typically use coconut oil, but any oil or spray will do.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mash the bananas very thoroughly—they should be very liquid-y. Add the almond milk, brown rice syrup, almond butter, and vanilla extract and whisk to incorporate fully. Add the ground flax and give the liquid mixture a last stir.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine using a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25  minutes, or until a toothpick or metal testing tool comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes and then cut into squares… and enjoy your jar-less breakfast.

Banana-Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

P.S. Ya dig that cute fabric napkin? There’s a set of six for sale in my Etsy shop!

 

Life, Lately

Long time no blog.

8 months, to be precise. My longest blogging hiatus pretty much ever. Why? I just wasn’t feeling it. I spent those 8 months immersing myself in new hobbies and activities, refocusing my energies and interests. Food–the act of reading about it and writing about it and talking about it–just didn’t interest me the way it used to. Instead of blogging, I knitted and sewed and got back in touch with my creative side. I opened an Etsy shop, The Pesky Pixie. I offer cruelty-free, eco-friendly items, like reusable fabric napkins and knitted coffee cup cozies. I also make super-cute bow ties for doggies (and obliging kitties!). They’re adorable. Check ‘em out.

As the weather warmed, both S and I took up an entirely new hobby. Since the new year, S has been on a dedicated weight-loss journey. Armed with his FitBit, calorie counts, and his feet, he’s lost nearly 30 pounds. I’m so proud of him. He started by walking regularly, and as spring rolled in, he began running. We began running. S started a Couch to 5K program, and I joined him about 1/3 of the way through (I thought I was too advanced for the beginning couple weeks… ha). It’s been transformative. I mean it, too. Stop rolling your eyes.

In the past few weeks, though, I’ve found myself looking at food blogs and cookbooks with increasing frequency. One night when I was having trouble sleeping, I jotted down some ideas for homemade ice creams. Basically, I’m feelin’ it again. Expect more posts soon. In the meantime, how about a recap of the past 8 months in Instagram form? You can follow me at @kelmishka to see more. As I say on my bio, I don’t have a smartphone, so all my photos are taken at home on my iPad. (Spoiler alert: They’re mostly of Moria!)

I’ll share in chronological order, because what else would I do.

Thanksgiving with my family was both delicious and delightful. Sharing it with this curious little boy was the icing on the cake (um, the gravy on the Tofurky?).

Our first Christmas tree! I cut it down myself after we wound up on a cut-your-own farm accidentally.

It was a long, cold, brutal winter (well, brutal in MD terms… not so brutal compared to the ol’ WI winters!). I spent many hours snuggled up on the couch knitting.

I told you doggie bow ties are cute.

S’s mum gave us a sprouting kit for Christmas. We’ve been putting it to good use, although we went a little overboard the first time!

I celebrated Teddy’s first birthday in RI. He’s a goof.

I raided my mom’s fabric stash for napkin and bow tie materials.

Mama painted me a pretty bowl for my 27th birthday (seen here filled with BBQ chickpeas!).

Moria find herself in the weirdest positions. How is this comfy?

My bulletin board at work.

Best Christmas present ever. Thanks, parents! This baby has revolutionized my bread-making game.

Knitted bow brooches and hair ties are sweet accessories.

My first craft show! We have them twice yearly at the office. So much fun.

Sometimes Little Dog’s tongue comes out when she’s dreaming. Probably chasing a squirrel.

Standard fare.

Ladygirl at work. She’s the boss of me.

Choosing the color palette for a new project–a bib for my baby cousin.

New home for my cookbooks and my KitchenAid–a $5 yard sale find! Still need to repaint and find some fun knobs.

S, me, and my mom right after our first 5K (the Gaspee 5K in Warwick, RI). I felt great. Like our shirts? We had ‘em made specially!

New running shirt purchased at my 5-year Carleton reunion. A rejuvenating weekend with some of my best friends in one of my favorite places in the world.

I’ve been all about salads lately. This one is marinated tofu, coconut bacon, and a homemade ranch sauce… topped with hemp seeds, of course.

Cucumbers are for pickling.

Five and a half pounds of scrumptious berries from Frog Eye Farm. Moria came, too!

My sweet new animal-product-free running shoes–Brooks Ravenna. They feel great!

I’ll be back soon with some FOOD. :)

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal

This admission may be blasphemous in most vegan and/or healthy-eating circles, but here it is: I don’t really like bananas. I’ve mentioned it before, but it remains true. We just don’t get along.

Straight-up bananas are what really give me grief. Every so often I think my tastes and texture preferences might’ve changed, and I gamely set forth in a brave quest to conquer a single banana. (Of course, it has to be on the overripe end of the spectrum; any hint of green and the accompanying less-than-ripe smell and I’m gagging before I begin.) I peel it. I take a bite and quickly chew and swallow. This isn’t so bad, I think. I can do this. Then I’m two bites in and I’m remembering why I don’t do this. There’s a slimy mass on the back of my throat and an unpleasant smell in my nose. I force myself to swallow. I gag. I hand the banana off to S, who wonders aloud why on earth I keep doing this to myself.

Why, indeed. Bananas are a perfect on-the-go snack; they come with their own protective suit that keeps them safe in your purse or backpack. I want to be able to eat an entire banana while waiting for a flight without worrying about gagging aloud or having to furtively find a trashcan to dispose of the half-eaten fruit.

But alas, straight-up banana-lovin’ doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me.

I do, however, like bananas in other foods. Muffins. Soft-serve. And of course, banana bread. I love banana bread.

The thing about banana bread, though, is that I don’t consider it an appropriate breakfast food. Which is not to say that I’ve never indulged in a slice for breakfast, but it never fills me up. Banana bread—and most quick breads—are typically loaded with white flour, oil, and sugar. Not exactly the nutrients needed to get you off to a rip-roarin’ start.

This breakfast, however, combines all the flavors of banana bread in a wholesome, protein-packed baked oatmeal. It appeases both your love (or lukewarm like) of bananas and your need for a filling, nutritious breakfast. And it’s dead easy; everything comes together effortlessly in a blender. Now that’s a banana recipe I can get behind—no gagging involved.

Almost top-down view of a square of baked oatmeal on a small white plate with two Medjool dates. In the background is a mug of coffee.

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal
Serves four

Coconut oil, oil spray, or Earth Balance for buttering the pan
3 very ripe medium-sized bananas
1 cup nondairy milk of choice
2 T ground flax
2 T maple syrup
1 1/2 T blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
2 C rolled oats
1/4 C add-in of choice (chopped walnuts, chopped dates, chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Spread the oil or Earth Balance around the inside of an 8”x8” square baking dish, making sure to cover all sides.

Add the bananas and milk to a blender and blend until fully smooth. Add all other ingredients except the oats and add-ins and blend again to incorporate all ingredients. Add the oats and blend for 30 seconds or so until the oats are partially broken into small pieces but aren’t fully blended.

Pour the mix into your prepared pan and drop any add-ins on top. Using a large spoon, gently fold in the add-ins. For an extra treat, sprinkle the top with a teaspoon or two of brown sugar.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the milk doesn’t look liquid-y on top of the oats. Remove from oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes to let set, then serve and enjoy!

TJ’s Gourmet: Polenta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and White Bean Puree

There are few more masochistic things about me than my desire to do most things The Hard Way. If there’s an easy way out… I’m probably not going to take it. There’s definitely some flawed thinking here, though I’m not sure exactly why it happens. Maybe I don’t like to feel lazy? Maybe I like to feel put-upon? I don’t know. It’s probably not good.

But.

Sometimes, even I have to admit that the easy way out is totally awesome.

Like prepared polenta.

And canned beans.

And prepared sun-dried tomatoes.

And organic kale… in a bag.

And getting all those things at a single store.

Yes, I practically live at Trader Joe’s these days. Other than Giant, it’s the nearest grocery store, and it has a good selection of vegan and organic products. Do I miss my Madison co-op and feel horribly guilty for buying non-local bagged kale? Yep. Am I willing to drive to the nearest ridiculously busy Whole Foods and spend absurd amounts of money instead? Nope.

So yeah, we have a lot of TJ’s products in our pantry. Last night, I put a bunch of them together to make an easy dinner with a surprisingly gourmet feel. Sun-dried tomatoes add a pleasant chewy counterpoint to the crunchy kale and soft polenta, and the puree ties everything together.

This is a lazy meal that doesn’t taste lazy. Whizzing up the puree was the hardest part.

Instagram photo of a bed of kale and sun-dried tomatoes with half-moon polenta pieces topped with a white bean puree.

Early sunset = bad lighting = iPad Instagram photos galore!

Polenta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and White Bean Puree
Serves two

For the puree:

  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern beans (or any soft white bean)
  • Scant 2/3 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3/4 t dried thyme
  • 1/2 t garlic powder (I would’ve used fresh garlic, but we were out!)
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and paprika to taste

Everything else:

  • A few large handfuls chopped Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (the kind that’s packed in oil)
  • Half a tube of prepared polenta, cut into rounds and then sliced into half-moons.

Combine all puree ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a smooth puree. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your preference. Transfer to a small pot and heat on medium-low while preparing the rest of the meal.

In a large non-stick pan, heat a small amount of olive oil on medium. Add the kale and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan and cook for three to four minutes. You can add some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes for added deliciousness. (Minced garlic would be yummy as well, but we were out.) After the kale cooks down and shrinks a bit, add the polenta to the pan. It will be crowded, but you can make room! Cook for another five to seven minutes, flipping the polenta once, until the polenta has a bit of a golden crust.

Turn off the heat and serve: make a layer of kale and tomatoes and top with the polenta. Ladle on a healthy scoop of puree and serve!

What’s your favorite easy “gourmet” dinner? Which Trader Joe’s products do you love? 

Cappuccino Ice Cream

Back in New England, the Hood dairy company is a big thing. Hoodsie Cups were the default low-cost, at-school celebration dessert, and Hood ice cream held a substantial share of supermarket freezer shelves. As a kid, I naturally loved ice cream, and I naturally preferred the chock-full-of-other-sweet-things varieties—peanut butter chocolate swirl was always my favorite. The simpler flavors, like strawberry or vanilla, seemed boring and bland to me. Why waste your time on a single flavor when you could have two? Or three?? And chunks of cookies or chocolate?! And the bottom-of-the-barrel single-flavor ice cream option, in my youthful opinion, was coffee. Ew. Neither of my parents drank coffee, and I did NOT like its flavor. The idea of it infiltrating my ice cream was offensive.

Until I tried Hood coffee ice cream.

I remember it as a transformative moment for my tastebuds, even if I can’t tell you when or where it happened. I remember hesitantly eating a spoonful, ready for the familiar disappointment tinged with disgust, and feeling neither. Instead, I tasted a deep flavor with more to it than just sugary sweetness. I couldn’t tell, at first, whether I actually liked it, but I soon decided I did.

Since then, I’ve had a soft spot for coffee ice cream. It’s not typically my preferred choice—I’m still a sucker for anything with chocolate and peanut butter (old habits die hard). But I appreciate it as a slightly more sophisticated option, and I truly enjoy its flavor now. Or at least I did until I stopped eating dairy—I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a vegan coffee ice cream.

So it was with a certain amount of nostalgic pleasure that I noticed a few coffee-centric recipes as I browsed through my copy of The Vegan Scoop, the cookbook my aunt gave me for Christmas last year. For my second-ever homemade ice cream (and my first-ever from this cookbook), I selected the Cappuccino variety.

Three scoops of a light brown ice cream in a glass bowl.

This ice cream gets its coffee kick from instant espresso powder, an ingredient I like to have on hand. Unfortunately, my powder sat in storage for a month and a half this summer, so it was more of a melted-then-rehardened glob than a powder. But it dissolved just fine in the hot ice cream mixture.

This ice cream-making experience was notably different from my first one—it took much longer for the ice cream to actually freeze in the machine; I wondered it if was going to stay liquid forever. And the final result was not as firm as the blueberry crumble ice cream. Instead, it’s a soft, melty ice cream that tends to get a little icy around the edges. I wish I could say that the flavor instantly transported me back to that childhood moment when I first realized that coffee ice cream wasn’t all bad, but it didn’t. The recipe called for half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and unfortunately that pungent spice nearly overwhelmed the coffee. It tastes good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little sweeter than I’d prefer and it’s definitely not straight-up coffee ice cream.

Back to the drawing board, then! Now that I’ve got the basic mechanics of homemade ice cream figured out, I might have to take matters into my own hands and come up with a coffee-centric recipe of my own.

What’s your favorite coffee ice cream?

P.S. In case you’ve been waiting for the conclusion of my bee-in-the-car saga… I don’t have one. S and I have been car-swapping since Tuesday evening. He reports that the bee has not reappeared, despite a sugar trap he craftily placed in the car. The uncertainty is killing me! What if it’s just waiting for me to get back in the driver’s seat so it can make an appearance?! What if it is too smart to get trapped in the bottle and is instead feasting by night and secluding itself during the day, growing fat on straight sugar water?! What if it decides to hibernate in my car, rather than face the incessant rain that’s been drowning Maryland for the last few days?!?

…these are the irrational thoughts of my phobic brain. Most likely it is dead or it just escaped unseen back on Tuesday, but I fear the worst. SIGH.