I race through vegetarian/vegan cookbooks as if they were I-can’t-put-them-down romance sagas. Ditto for books on vegetarian/vegan, or plant-based nutrition, and diets. In fact, for my first post, I thought I should ‘fess up, and share with you my biases on the issue of nutrition and diets. The foundation of my thinking about eating is Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. This massive study of diet and lifestyle in rural China showed that people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease, and that a whole-food, plant-based diet was the hands-down healthiest way to eat. (I should get credit for a large portion of Dr. Campbell’s royalty income: He should only know how many of his books I’ve bought and given away.) After The China Study, pretty much anything written by Drs. Dean Ornish, Joel Fuhrman, Caldwell Esselstyn and Neal Barnard, guides the way I plan meals, shop and cook—all of their dietary conclusions reflect Dr. Campbell’s findings.
I’m always struck, or more precisely shocked, by what food writers consider “healthy”–example below–so I think it’s important for me to be up front about my perspective on this issue. Taking my cue from Campbell through Barnard, I’m more likely to write about food and suggest recipes that are low-fat (and low-calorie), vegan, heavily plant-based, and as little processed as possible: my definition of “healthy.” Now for that example I mentioned: The New York Times “Temporary Vegetarian” column, which appears to be The Gray Lady’s crumb-size concession to healthy eating in its Dining section. In a recent column, for example, a featured egg white frittata contains 1 T butter and 2 T and 2 tsp. olive oil (do you really need butter? And, that much oil to make a frittata calling for only five egg whites?), PLUS pecorino cheese (saturated fat! salt!). A second recipe, included to give you an idea of what to do with those pesky left over egg yolks, describes an egg salad sandwich that uses 4 yolks, 4 whole eggs and 1/3 cup mayonnaise (are you kidding?). To show you and your kids, though, that I’m not so ridiculously rigid about diet, at least first blog post out, I’m starting with a sweets recipe that shows you can have your cake (OK, cookie) and eat it (fairly healthily), too. Next time, we’ll talk GREENS.
The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World
(From Vegetarian Times’ Everything Vegan, Mary Margaret Chappell, ed. Wiley, 2011.)
Makes 30 Cookies
2 cups walnuts
3 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups oat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
3 3.5 oz. bars bittersweet vegan chocolate, chopped,
or 1½ cups vegan chocolate chips (12 oz.) [Elisa: my preference-easier!]
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray [Elisa: I use parchment paper; much less messier].
- Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter. Transfer to bowl.
- Bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in saucepan, Pour sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla, and stir until no lumps remain.
- Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate pieces.
- Shape dough into 2-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of drinking glass dipped in water. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. [Honestly, plates work just fine, as long as cookies aren’t stacked}.