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Garcinia Cambogia, The New Super food Wave Hitting Singapore?

Green Garcinia cambogia

This new found fruit has seen a rise in consumption in Singapore. It is mostly ingested in a pill form and is said to have many different benefits, including weight loss.

What is it?

Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit native to South and South-east Asia that is very commonly used in Asian recipes. It is green, rather small (the size of an apple), and is pumpkin shaped. It is well known for its sour taste. In the late 1960s, an acid (hydroxycitric acid) has been discovered in the fruit’s rind, which has been found to provide many benefits, such as appetite reduction, improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased weight loss, and mood enhancement.

How does hydroxycitric acid work?

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) was discovered over four decades ago, and since then studies have shown that it provides many benefits for humans. HCA seems to inhibit citrate lyase, an enzyme that is used by the body to produce fat out of carbohydrates. HCA blocks a portion of this enzyme, making it more difficult for the body to turn starches and sugars into fat. This means that rather than be accumulated as fat, carbohydrates are diverted into energy production.

What are the benefits of garcinia cambogia?

As discussed above, one of the benefits of garcinia cambogia is less energy being stored as fat, which means that it should (and does) aid weight loss. One recent study by Dr. Harry Preuss of Georgetown University Medical Center showed that participants HCAHCA lost significantly more weight than those using placebo. In another study, also by Dr. Preuss, those not supplementing HCA lost an average of 3.5 pounds, whereas those that did supplement HCA, lost an average of 10.5 pounds.

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

Back in May, I had a chance to team up with the US Dry Pea and Lentil Council on some recipe development for the International Year of Pulses. It was a real treat, a chance to show off my love for the versatility and nutrition of lentils, peas, and beans (and the result was a tasty lentil tamarind barbecue burger).

I was excited when the USADPLC circled back to me and asked if I might be interested in another recipe collaboration–this time not for a contest or for the Year of Pulses, but simply as a chance to show off another great use for lentils and/or peas. Given how often I eat and enjoy these foods, it’s always a joy to think about a new recipe concept, and today’s yellow split pea and millet cakes are no exception.


Split peas sometimes seem get short shrift in the legume world. We use them in split pea soup, of course, and in dal recipes, but they have a lot of potential beyond soups and stews. I love their chewy texture and the way they hold their shape when you boil them. I also love their nutrient offerings, including a ton of fiber, protein, folate, and Thiamine. They’re a wonderful addition for salads and grain pilafs. And they’re also wonderful in these crispy, flavorful little patties.

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

My original intention with this recipe was actually to use red lentils. But, given that I shared a red lentil cake recipe not too long ago, and I use red lentils pretty frequently overall, I decided to branch out and give yellow split peas a try. Combining them with millet resulted in a nice, firm texture (texture is always the issue with vegan burgers and cakes!).

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

 The cakes are full of garlic and ginger flavors, as well as some onion and a touch of turmeric and black pepper. But what makes the dish sing is the carrot miso sauce, which can be served under or over the patties (as pictured). It’s also a super flavorful and healthy sauce to keep in the fridge whether you use it in this recipe or not; I served my leftover sauce over brown rice, quinoa, and as a veggie dip.

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

You can serve these cakes with sauce and a big, fresh summer salad, along with a grain dish, or maybe with some grilled tofu or tempeh. They’re also great stuffed into pita with the carrot sauce for a quick lunch! Here’s the recipe.

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce 11

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce (gluten free)

Yield: 12 cakes, or 4-6 servings

Serving Size: 2-3 cakes


    For the Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes:
  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 1/2 cup cashews (walnuts and pecans will also work nicely)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1/2 cup whole grain or gluten free bread crumbs
  • For the Carrot Miso Sauce:
  • 2 cups steamed carrots
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons low sodium tamari
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste (I like to use mellow white miso, but brown or red would be fine)
  • 1 pitted medjool date (or 2 teaspoons maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil


  1. To make the carrot miso sauce, steam or boil the carrots till they’re tender (about 15 minutes). Drain them and transfer them to a blender. Add the water, tamari, vinegar, miso, the date, and sesame oil. Blend till smooth. Add extra water as needed, depending on how thick you’d like the sauce to be. Dressing makes about 1 3/4 – 2 cups, and will keep in a sealed container for up to five days in the fridge.
  2. Rinse the split peas and add them to a small pot with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Rinse the millet and add it to a small pot, along with 1 1/4 cups water. Bring both pots to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the millet has absorbed the liquid. Fluff the millet with a fork, cover it, and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Check the peas by fishing out a few and tasting them; they should be tender but firm, and hold their shape. If they’re not done, give them an extra 5-10 minutes. When the peas are ready, drain them and transfer them to a large bowl. Add the cooked millet.
  3. Heat a small or medium sized frying pan over medium low heat. Add the cashews and toast until they’re fragrant and golden. Transfer them to a food processor fitted with the S blade and process into a fine meal.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Add the two teaspoons of olive oil to the frying pan and add the onion. Sautee the onion for 5-8 minutes, or until it’s very tender and clear and golden. Add the garlic and grated ginger and sautee for another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is super fragrant, adding a few tablespoons of water to prevent sticking if needed. Stir in the turmeric powder and salt.
  5. Mix the onion mixture into the millet and split peas. Transfer 3/4 of the mixture to your food processor, adding them to the ground cashews. Pulse continuously for about 30 seconds to break the mixture down. Add this mix to the remaining, whole split peas, millet, and onions in your mixing bowl, combine everything well. Using clean hands, shape the mixture into 12 small cakes. (If the mixture seems overly dry, you can add a few tablespoons of water.)
  6. Press each cake into the bread crumbs, if using, covering both sides. Transfer them to a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they’re crisp on the outside, flipping once halfway through. Serve with the carrot miso sauce and some chopped parsley, if desired. Leftover cakes will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.


To streamline the process, you can prep the split peas and the millet a day or two in advance. You can also prepare the sauce in advance (it makes a fair amount, so you can definitely use it in other ways through the week). If you happen to have other cooked pulses handy, such as lentils or navy beans or green split peas, you can use those in place of the yellow split peas, too.

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

I hope you enjoy the recipe! It’s a nice one to share with friends, too–either as a main attraction or as an appetizer. For more about cooking with pulses (and a ton of recipes), you can check out the USADPLC’s website.

Yellow Split Pea and Millet Cakes with Carrot Miso Sauce

I’m writing this post from New Orleans, where I’m paying Chloe a weekend visit. It’s hot here, but I always love being in this city. I’ll be back on Sunday for the usual roundup of reads and recipes. Till then, I wish you all a lovely weekend!


Yellow split pea image courtesy of Wikipedia

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My Outrage Is Better Than Your Outrage

RetroRocket / Shutterstock

Now is the point in the story of Cecil the lionamid non-stop news coverage and passionate social-media advocacywhen people get tired of hearing about Cecil the lion. Even if they hesitate to say it.

But Cecil fatigue is only going to get worse. On Friday morning, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri, called for the extradition of the man who killed him, the Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Muchinguri would like Palmer to be “held accountable for his illegal action”—paying a reported $50,000 to kill Cecil with an arrow after luring him away from protected land. And she’s far from alone in demanding accountability. This week, the Internet has served as a bastion of judgment and vigilante justice—just like usual, except that this was a perfect storm directed at a single person. It might be called an outrage singularity.

Palmer didn’t just kill a lion. He killed an especially good-looking and “beloved” lion in an ostentatious and gruesome fashion that culminated in decapitation. To make things worse, that lion had a human name. To make things worse still, that name was Cecil.

It’s hard to think of a more innocent name than Cecil. Had the lion’s name been Satan or Derek, the international firestorm might have been attenuated. Had Palmer not had a past that included sexual harassment complaints and pleading guilty to lying to federal wildlife officials about killing a black bear, he might have been less hateable. He also might have been less hateable had he been a humble cobbler, or literally anything other than a wealthy dentist. But every element of this story fell into place in a way that sparked international outrage beyond any outrage storm this year.

Comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted a photograph of a lion.
The lion is not Cecil, but it went viral nonetheless.

“Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill things?” Jimmy Kimmel chided Palmer, in a rant-turned-tearful-plea to viewers to donate money to lion-tracking research. The segment got more than 6.5 million views on YouTube in two days. Palmer’s professional credibility was destroyed by a flood of Yelp reviews that gave him one star on grounds that he is a murderer, from people who know nothing of his root-canal skills. “You kill a protected lion, we kill your shitty business :),” read one.

The dentist closed his practice and went into hiding. Many people called for his death, including the advocacy group PETA, specifically by way of hanging. CNN asked, “Where is Walter Palmer?” as if people needed to find him (and maybe bring him to justice, as many already believed they were.)

The Internet has served to facilitate outrage, as the Internet does: the hotter the better. And because the case is so visceral and bipartisan in its opposition to Palmer’s act, few people stepped in to suggest that the fury, the people tweeting his home address, might be too much. That argument wins no outrage points.

Instead, the people who hadn’t jumped on the Cecil-outrage bandwagon jumped on the superiority-outrage bandwagon. It’s a bandwagon of outrage one-upmanship, and it’s just as rewarding as the original outrage bandwagon. Anyone can play, like this:

It’s fine to be outraged about one lion, but what about all of the other lions who are hunted and killed every year?  There are 250 Cecils killed annually across Africa as trophies, and that’s what you should really be outraged by. But good job caring now.

Actually, what about all of the animals? All of the cattle and fish and brilliant pigs who are systematically slaughtered for human consumption every day? Were you eating a hot dog when you posted that thing about Cecil on Facebook? Anyone who is not vegan is no better than the dentist Walter Palmer. That is what you really should be outraged by.

Actually, you only care about Zimbabwe when a lion is killed? Great of you. Killing animals is part of the circle of life, but you know what’s not? Human trafficking. People are bought and sold as slaves today all over the world. Why are you talking about one aged jungle cat in a place where the relationship between impoverished pastoralist communities and wealthy foreign tourists is more complicated than you actually understand?

And I’m glad you’re so concerned about human trafficking, but there will be no humans at all if we don’t do something about climate change. Reliance on fossil fuels and industrialized farming is the real problem, and that’s what you should be outraged by. You don’t know what to care about. I know what to care about.

The Internet launders outrage and returns it to us as validation, in the form of likes and stars and hearts. The greatest return comes from a strong and superior point of view, on high moral ground. And there is, fortunately and unfortunately, always higher moral ground. Even when a dentist kills an adorable lion, and everyone is upset about it, there’s better outrage ground to be won. The most widely accepted hierarchy of outrage seems to be: Single animal injured

Image circulating on Facebook

To say that there’s a more important issue in the world is always true, except in the case of climate change ending all life, both human and animal. So it’s meaningless, even if it’s fun, to go around one-upping people’s outrage. Try it. Someone will express legitimate concern over something, and all you have to do is say there are more important things to be concerned about. All you have to do is use the phrase “spare me” and then say something about global warming. You can literally write, “My outrage is more legit than your outrage! Ahhh!”

Don’t worry about that feeling a little too on-the-nose, because it doesn’t matter, because no one will remember it. Next month the armchair lions-rights activists won’t care about lions anymore, because lions-rights outrage will not be trending. They will be on to some new outrage. Many people are drawn to defend nature and underdogs (even when they are apex predators) and to hate wealthy, lying, violent dentists. But even more than that they are drawn to feeling superior and appearing wise, and being validated accordingly.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/07/outrage-rip-cecil-lion/400037/

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Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety

Today’s competitive society is full of stressed people. Extreme and debilitating distress, along with the fear of being judged and criticized by other people can cause panic and social anxiety, characterized by intense sweating, shaking, muscular tension, confusion, and an elevated heart rate. Social anxiety can make social situations very difficult, and if it occurs often, it can severely interfere with day-to-day activities, to the point where socially anxious people will avoid social interactions all together.

Social anxiety is also known as social phobia, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). With up to 10.7% of people experiencing this condition at some point in their life, it is the third most common lifetime anxiety and mood disorder in the United States.

Social anxiety, a debilitating disorder that makes social situations extremely distressful and difficult to navigate, is the third most common lifetime anxiety and mood disorder in the United States.

Some research suggests that phobias are, at least in part, hereditary. In fact, a recent twin-study found that the sibling more likely to develop social phobia was the one that inherited genes predisposing them to neuroticism, a personality trait characterized by the tendency to respond poorly to stressors, often leading to the experience of negative emotions, such as anger, envy, nervousness, guilt, anxiety, and depression.

Treating social anxiety

Fortunately, there are a variety of potential treatments for this disorder. Traditionally, cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used. Recently, probiotics (defined as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”) have shown promise as a supplement to the traditional treatments for social anxiety. Even though the research is still in its infancy, the fact that probiotics have excellent safety profiles and traditional treatments often only provide partial symptom relief makes them enticing treatment targets.

Research suggests that social anxiety may have a hereditary component. A couple common treatments exist, but they only provide a partial relief of symptoms. Fortunately, probiotics have shown some very early promise as a potential safe supplement to traditional treatments.

A recent study has been touted in the media as providing evidence for the anti-anxiety efficacy of consuming fermented foods that are likely to contain active probiotic cultures. Tantalizing headlines included “Sauerkraut Could Be The Secret To Curing Social Anxiety”. However, there were several limitations, warranting a much deeper look than most media outlets took. Let’s see what this study can really tell us, if anything.

The study

Researchers provided surveys to 710 university students to determine their level of social anxiety, neuroticism, and agoraphobia. The survey also asked how often the students exercised, and how often they ate fermented food. As hypothesized, students that ate more fermented foods tended to experience less social anxiety. Moreover, they found that, as seen in the figure below, social anxiety and neuroticism were positively correlated, and the more neurotic a person was the greater that chance that high fermented food intake might help reduce levels of predicted social anxiety.

However, before jumping to conclusions, there are a few extremely important limitations to consider. This was a cross-sectional study, which only shows correlation, not direct causality. The authors cannot be sure if it was the high fermented food intake that led to low levels of social anxiety or if low levels of social anxiety led to increased consumption of fermented food. It is also possible that an unknown variable caused both the increased consumption of fermented foods and the decreased social anxiety.

It’s also possible that some property of the foods other than their probiotic content affected social anxiety. Furthermore, the nature of a survey or questionnaire is subject to self-report bias. The authors can’t be sure if the participants were being truthful or could even remember exactly what they ate or how much they exercised over the past thirty days. And since the sample was made up of college students, the findings may not be applicable to the general population.
Finally, and most importantly, lower levels of predicted social anxiety were also observed in participants that ate more fruit and vegetables, as well as those who exercised frequently. It’s not possible to determine whether exercise or fruit and vegetable consumption are confounding variables or not. This is especially important in light of a recent randomized control trial that found a reduction in symptoms of social anxiety following two months of aerobic exercise.

Based on survey data from 710 university students, a recent study found that consumption of fermented food likely to contain active probiotic cultures was inversely associated with predicted levels of social anxiety. However, due to many limitations and confounding variables, further research is needed before any assertions can be made.

That being said, this study is consistent with other clinical trials that have also demonstrated anxiolytic effects of pre and probiotics in humans. Unfortunately, the exact biological mechanism behind this is still unclear. However, according to preclinical animal trials, there is mounting evidence that certain gut microbiota can have anxiolytic effects through gut-brain pathways, possibly via the vagus nerve. Supporting these findings, the ability of the gut and brain to bidirectionally communicate through neural, endocrine, and immune pathways, also known as the gut-brain axis, has long been recognized, and recent research has made it increasingly clear that interactions with intestinal microbiota are an important part of this communication.

Furthermore, a couple more specific potential mechanisms for how the probiotics confer their anxiolytic effects have been proposed. For instance, given that research has found a positive association between gut inflammation and anxiety-like behaviors, some have hypothesized that probiotics could potentially colonize the gut, displacing species that are harmful to health, and, in turn, may reduce gut inflammation and the associated anxiety-like behaviors. Others have proposed the involvement of the serotonergic system in the neurobiology of anxiety, especially since research surfaced suggesting that certain intestinal microbiota can increase levels of tryptophan in the blood, and therefore potentially facilitate the turnover of serotonin in the brain.

Overall, research on probiotics and anxiety is still in its early stages. According to the authors, this is the first study to provide some extremely limited observational evidence for the efficacy of probiotic supplementation to fight, specifically, social anxiety, and thus, they did not mean to infer causality. Regardless, due to several limitations imposed by the study design, and the huge number of possible confounding variables, this study should solely serve as preliminary evidence, especially considering how strong of a confounding variable exercise is, as several papers have demonstrated its anxiolytic effects. However, if further well-conducted RCTs can suggest a causal role, independent of exercise and other possible confounding variables, probiotics or fermented foods consumption could potentially serve as great low-risk supplement to traditional treatment for social anxiety.

While the study results seem to support probiotic supplementation to help treat social anxiety, they can easily be misinterpreted in the midst of several limitations and confounding variables. The only thing we can state for certain is that further well-conducted RCTs are necessary before we make any conclusions about probiotics and their possible, low-risk health benefits.

Mood involves much more than social anxiety and probiotics– check out our Stack Guide for mood and depression to learn more.


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A Nihilist's Guide to Gratitude

Waffle Cafe, Chicago (Kiichiro Sato / AP)

This week the eminent New York Times in-house philosopher David Brooks laments that he is “sometimes grumpier when [he] stay[s] at a nice hotel,” as compared with a “budget hotel” where even “the waffle maker in the breakfast area is a treat.”

Brooks has said many contentious things in his tenure with the Times, but the insinuation that a waffle maker is ever not a treat is a moment that will mar his career with particular shame. A waffle iron turns goo into a hot waffle that can be covered in sugar and stuffed in your mouth in minutes. You just pour in a personal serving of liquefied white flour, and then there is a buzzer, and then you flip the waffle iron over, and it works consistently and predictably. A waffle iron is always a treat and demands to be regarded accordingly.

But for Brooks, the phenomenon comes down to expectations. At a “nice” hotel, waffle-flipping is an imposition. This is a nice hotel; someone else should be flipping my waffle. Or it should be some new kind of waffle that requires no flipping at all. The astronauts probably have that. Or, you know what, it should be a crepe. Where ARE the crepes? Nowhere? My morning is ruined.

When David Brooks’s expectations are met, he is happy. When they are not, he is grumpy. In this way, Brooks is human. Regardless of how lofty or languid any particular expectation may be, the difference in happiness between one met expectation and another met expectation is small. An expensive hotel sets high expectations that are begging not to be met. A budget hotel is poised to knock your socks off with a waffle iron.

I wrote about this phenomenon last spring in a post titled “Always Make Promises.” At that point, based on social psychology research, I became convinced that making promises was a great way to set expectations for other people in my life. If I know what’s expected of me, that means less pressure. And I can make sure I’m meeting expectations (making people happy) instead of drifting around in a nebulous cloud of needs and wants and mystery. I promise you we will go on one date this weekend. That’s an example from romance. It keeps a romantic partner from sitting at home waiting for a text thinking, hey, where’s my stupid date. It keeps me from wondering if I’m doing enough date stuff. It’s great romance. It also works well with employers. By promising to complete a certain number of things by a certain date, research says you can actually make your boss more impressed than if you did more things more quickly and there was no concrete expectation in play.

But pretend for a moment that not everyone in your life is as considerate as I am, always making clear and concrete promises and fulfilling them. In that case, Brooks argues that cultivating gratitude is the answer. Indeed, experiencing gratitude has been shown in many studies to improve people’s wellbeing. “Gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart,” writes Brooks. At this point I became sick, choking it back at first gracefully and then unsuccessfully. He seems to have stolen a line from my novel Laughter of the Heart. Gratitude, he continues, “comes about after some surprising kindness.”

Traditionally, yes. But how do you decide what kindness is surprising? Can you choose to be surprised by any kindness, and receive it with gratitude? Brooks calls this “dispositional gratitude,” wherein people learn to “preserve small expectations.” That is, don’t really expect anyone to do much if anything for you ever, and then it’s always a nice surprise. He offers examples of a world where people have grateful dispositions: “We’re grateful to people who tried to do us favors even when those favors didn’t work out. … We’re grateful because some people showed they care about us more than we thought they did. We’re grateful when others took an imaginative leap and put themselves in our mind, even with no benefit to themselves.” (I don’t know what that last one means.)

Depending on how you look at this argument, and I think it’s the correct way to look at this argument, it could read as super bleak. The bleakest of the bleak is this point:

If you think that human nature is good and powerful, then you go around frustrated because the perfect society has not yet been achieved. But if you go through life believing that our reason is not that great, our individual skills are not that impressive, and our goodness is severely mottled, then you’re sort of amazed life has managed to be as sweet as it is.

So, in sum, human nature is not good or powerful. Remember that, and you’ll be much happier. Never expect a waffle iron, because goodness is mottled. Heaven help you if you expect crepes.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/07/nihilists-guide-gratitude/399869/

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Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

There are recipes we try and love once or twice, and a few that make it into our longtime dinner rotation. And then there are recipes that we make, love, and immediately turn into staples.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

For me, this recipe is the latter. It’s so simple and easy to prepare, but it’s a combination of a ton of my favorite flavors and textures in one place. It’s filling, nutritious, and–an important added bonus–it can be served on toast.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

The sauce on this salad is an enticing mixture of tahini, Dijon mustard, tamari, lime juice, and a touch of maple syrup. It’s good enough to make and serve in lots of different ways, from grain bowls to kale salads, but it’s particularly good here. Its slight sweetness picks up the the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, but the mustard and garlic give it all a little bite–as does the addition of fresh green onion tops to the salad itself.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Make a batch at the start of the week, and enjoy it for lunch or breakfast for the next few days. It would be great in wraps, stuffed into collard leaves, scooped onto salad or a bed of quinoa, or as a snack-time dipper for crackers. To save some time, you could bake or steam the sweet potatoes in advance. I baked them, so that they’d be a little creamy and tender for the salad; steaming them will allow them to hold their shape in the salad more. Here’s the recipe!

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad (gluten free)

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup


  • 1 cup dry brown lentils (will make about 2 – 2 1/2 cups cooked; you can also use 2 cups canned lentils, drained and rinsed prior to using)
  • 2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes (3-4 cups, cooked)
  • 3 green onions, green tops only, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Dash red pepper flakes


  1. To bake the sweet potatoes, preheat your oven to 400F and prick them a few times with a fork. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until they’re tender all the way through. Remove them from heat and allow them to cool, so that you can handle them easily. Scoop the flesh out of the skins and chop it into 1/2-inch cubes. To steam the sweet potatoes, peel and chop them into 1/2-inch cubes. Place a steamer attachment over a large pot of boiling water. Steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until they’re very tender. Set them aside.
  2. Rinse the lentils and place them in a small pot with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Bring them to a boil and reduce them to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until they’re tender but firm when you taste them. Drain them.
  3. Transfer the sweet potatoes, lentils, and green onions to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, mustard, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup, and red pepper, along with 1 tablespoon water. Pour this mixture over the sweet potato and lentils. Mix everything well. Check for seasoning and add extra lime juice, mustard, or salt to taste. Serve. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.


This recipe is packed with nutrition, including protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, tons of fiber, and a good deal of iron as well.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

More importantly, it’s flavorful and lovely without being too fussy. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Thanks for the many sweet words about the upcoming Food52 book. Can’t wait to share more. Have a great evening, and I’ll return with another legume recipe later this week!


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Weekend Reading, 7.26.15 (and News!)


Happy Sunday, everyone. This weekend has been marked by celebratory occasions, including my good friend Ethan’s birthday yesterday and Steven’s and my 16-month anniversary today (yes, we still count the months). These things, coupled with work for a few new clients, have helped the weekend to fly by so far. No weekend is too busy, though, for a little weekend reading!


To begin with, I’m totally smitten by the idea of these savory chickpea dumplings in a fragrant, curry tomato sauce, courtesy of Shelly at Vegetarian Ventures. The recipe sounds so flavorful and satisfying, and I love the rustic presentation. Bookmarked!


Another great dinner recipe: barbecue cauliflower chickpea tacos with a creamy lime slaw. Love the combination of spiced cauliflower and the cooling, citrusy slaw, plus they’re easy to prepare once the BBQ rub is ready. Yum.


A colorful, light, and beautiful accompaniment for summer suppers: green bean salad with peaches and balsamic bitters, courtesy of Elizabeth and Brian at Brooklyn Supper. I’d never have thought to put bitters in a vinaigrette, but it sounds interesting, and I love the combination of summery produce here.


The homemade ponzu sauce in this awesome recipe for cold vegetable and noodle salad isn’t vegan, but you could omit the bonito or make your own ponzu blend (Forks Over Knives has one on their site, and my friend Janet has one on hers) to easily veganize it. I love the bright, acidic and slightly sweet flavors, as well as all of the nutritious and high protein mix-ins. Corn is a nice surprise, too. This would be a great recipe to make on Sunday and pack up for portable lunches through the week.


Finally, you can never have too many recipes for vegan banana bread. Ever.


1. A fascinating article, via Buzzfeed, about a mysterious sleeping sickness that’s sweeping through a small, Kazakh mining region. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s all sorts of varied speculation on the origins of this inexplicable illness, ranging from radiation to carbon monoxide to government conspiracies to mass hysteria. It’s not only a medical mystery story, but also a powerful depiction of boom and bust, of uranium towns rising and falling.


2. Meditation is known for helping to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and help us to handle difficult emotions, like anger. But new psychology research also suggests that it may help to combat “compassion fatigue,” or the lowering of a person’s empathic capacities over time. “In short, then,” writes psychology professor David Denteno in The Atlantic,

our research suggests that mindfulness’s most profound benefit may not be the one that’s most often touted—adapting to a stressful, competitive, even unkind 24/7 world. Instead, meditation might fundamentally alter how we treat those around us. Corporations, physicians, and policy-makers who now push mindfulness as a technique for self-enhancement and physical wellbeing would do well to focus more on its potential for preventing everything from bullying to domestic violence to callousness and indifference.”

What a hopeful area of research!

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3. A fun, digestible (no pun intended) blog post on resistant starch and its health benefits. I consistently observe the benefits of starch-rich foods, like whole grains, tubers, and legumes, in my work, and I think it’s helpful to share information on their potential to benefit gut health and serve as an energy source–especially since many folks have come to fear the word “starch” unnecessarily.


4. Big news for genealogy studies in America: handwritten records compiled for the Freedmen’s Bureau, an administrative body created by Congress in 1865 to assist slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia as they transitioned into free citizenship, will now be searchable online. According to The Guardian,

“African Americans trying to trace family history today regularly hit the research equivalent of a brick wall prior to 1870, when black people were included in the US census for the first time.

Now a major project run by several organisations is beginning to digitise the 1.5 million handwritten records from the Freedmen’s Bureau, which feature more than four million names and are held by various federal bodies, for full online access.

All the records are expected to be online by late 2016, to coincide with the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington.”

Hopefully, this will grant more individuals access and insight into their family histories.


5. Comprehensive, on-the-ground reporting via Mosaic Science about why cholera outbreaks are so difficult to stop in Haiti–in spite of public education efforts, and in spite of the fact that cholera can be very easy to treat through rehydration.


Other news from this past week: I shared a recipe for vanilla berry baked oatmeal in my New Veganism column at Food52. It’s delicious and easy, and if you can stand a baking project in the summer heat, I promise you’ll be so happy to have at least four pre-made, sweet, and special breakfasts waiting for you as the week begins.


Bigger news: perhaps you’ve seen on Instagram or Facebook that my new cookbook, Food52 Vegan, is now available for pre-order!

The book, which expands upon the column I’ve been writing since 2012, is a labor of love from the past year. It features 60 vegan recipes. Some of them are greatest hits from the column, like my sweet pea hummus, my creamy carrot ginger bisque, or my tempeh kabobs. But more than half of them are new. In the book, you’ll find such enticing plant-based dishes as savory breakfast polenta with greens, roasted tomatoes, and lentil walnut crumbe, Jamaican jerk chili with quinoa and kidney beans, roasted cauliflower and oyster mushroom tacos, chai-spiced bread pudding, and ginger roasted pears with vanilla cream.

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The emphasis of the collection is satisfying plant-based recipes that anyone would or could enjoy. The book’s subtitle is “60 vegetable-driven recipes for any kitchen,” and it sums up perfectly what the Food52 team and I were hoping to achieve: a collection of vegan fare that can entice and appeal to a huge array of palates–whether you happen to be a longtime plant-based eater or you’re just exploring the idea of a Meatless Monday.

I learned so much writing this book, and I really believe that the experience turned me into a stronger cook. I’ll be sharing plenty more details about the book prior to its publication in September, but for now, I just wanted to share the news with this community and thank you all for the love and support that you’ve given the column since day 1. If you’re curious about pre-ordering the book, you can check out the Food52 presale now. It’s also available for pre-sale on Amazon, B&N, and Powells, and in September you’ll be able to search for it locally on Indiebound.

And with that, it’s back to work! I wish you all a restful and pleasant day. On Tuesday, I’ll be back with a versatile and tasty new recipe.


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Tess Masters’ Chai Tai Smoothie from The Blender Girl Smoothies Cookbook

Blender Girl App

Many of you are already familiar with Tess Masters and her work. Perhaps you know Tess better as “The Blender Girl,” and you already follow her site, Healthy Blender Recipes. If not, you’re in for a treat!

As you might expect from her moniker, Tess knows how to work magic with a blender. A lot of the most enticing recipes on her website are soups, smoothies, dips, shakes, and nut milks. But she also loves to review and feature cookbooks, to host giveaways, and to share cool products and brands.


Tess’ first cookbook, The Blender Girl, demonstrated that her culinary talent goes above and beyond blends. That book featured a wide array of appetizers, mains, salads, and sumptuous desserts (check out her wonderful chai rice pudding), as well as smoothies and soups. Tess’ food is always easy-to-prepare and appealing, and her vivacious personality (Tess is an actress and a voiceover artist by trade) always shines through in her food writing.

masters, tess

Fans of Tess’ first cookbook will be happy to know that she’s now returning to her roots, so to speak, with the publication of a smoothie book. I’ve had such a great time exploring The Blender Girl Smoothies and its 100 creative and unusual blends.

Mast_Blender Girl Smoothies

One of the cornerstones of Tess’ approach has always been her inclusivity. In fact, her blog name originated in many years of health exploration. Having experimented with various dietary and wellness approaches to treating a chronic illness, Tess used a “blend” of guidance and wisdom and nutritional therapy to recover. Her blog is plant-based, but her recipes usually include a bunch of options for specific health challenges, including allergen-free, low glycemic, and paleo-friendly recipes. There’s something for everyone.

Her new smoothie book channels this same approach. The smoothies range from creamy dessert blends (one of which I’m about to share) to light and fruity summer elixirs to creamy, super-green concoctions. You’ll find lower fat blends, anti-inflammatory blends, nut-free, gluten-free, and unsweetened options. In addition to a lot of familiar flavor combinations, you’ll find smoothies that are off the beaten path, like a rosemary melonade (watermelon, rosemary, pineapple, strawberries), a “pomegranate slam it” (pomegranate juice, red bell pepper, arugula, avocado, and strawberries) or her grapefruit fennel fix (fennel, grapefruit, avocado, green apple).

Blender Girl App

Each recipe also includes three optional “boosters,” each of which will either enhance flavor or add nutrition. It’s a nice touch that makes Tess’ smoothies super easy to customize–and she definitely encourages readers to make the blends their own. One thing I’ll note is that stevia appears in a lot of the recipes as a means of reducing sugar for low-glycemic readers. I don’t use stevia, so I’ll add mango, banana, or another sweet fruit in its place.

Blender Girl App

As you can see, the book also has an attractive, minimalist aesthetic that emphasizes each smoothie’s unique color and texture.

Blender Girl App

As I was flipping through the book, I couldn’t resist being enticed by some of Tess’ richer and creamier smoothies and shakes. Since I featured her chai rice pudding in my last Blender Girl review, I thought it would be fun to continue with the theme and feature her “Chai Tai” smoothie today. It’s a blend of dates, almond milk, chai spices, and bananas (all things I love), as well as a hint of sea salt. It’s absolutely delicious–a perfectly satisfying treat on a warm day. Here’s the recipe.

Chai Tai Smoothie From The Blender Girl Smoothies

Yield: Makes 2 Servings


  • 1 cup (240ml) unsweetened almond milk or other nut, grain, or seed milk (strained if homemade)
  • 1 cup (240ml) coconut water
  • 1/4 cup (43g) chopped pitted dates (soaked, if using a conventional blender)
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of natural salt (optional, to bring out flavors)
  • 2 medium frozen sliced bananas
  • 1 cup (125g) ice cubes (optional)
  • Optional boosters: 1 tablespoon soaked raw almonds, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, or 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil


  1. Throw all of the ingredients into your blender and puree on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.


If you’re curious about exploring Tess’ blends, then I’m happy to tell you that Tess and her publisher, Ten Speed Press, have generously offered one Choosing Raw reader a copy of The Blender Girl Smoothies. The giveaway starts today and runs for two weeks, and it’s open to US and Canadian readers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! And if you’re interested in exploring Tess’ recipes according to your cravings, then you should check out her very cool new app! It allows you to search for smoothies according to your own dietary preferences and flavor requests, and it also features full color photography.

I Feel I Need I Crave

Recipe Page

Finally, Tess is hosting a huge giveaway with KithenAid this month. One lucky US winner will receive a KA Gift Pack (Torrent Blender, Pro-Line Stand Mixer, and Pro-Line food processor) valued at $2,000. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the giveaway here.

OK, smoothie lovers. I hope you enjoy the recipe and that you’ll enter to win a copy of The Blender Girl Smoothies to play with. In the meantime, I wish you a very happy start to the weekend! I’ll see you on Sunday for weekend reading.


Recipe text and imagesReprinted from The Blender Girl Smoothies Copyright © 2014, 2015 by Tess Masters. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Erin Kunkel. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. Author photo: Copyright © 2014 Anson Smart

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No One Is Denying a ‘Right to Know What's in My Food’

Superjoseph / Shutterstock

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban states from requiring special labels for all “genetically modified” foods. Known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, it advanced by a vote of 275 to 150.

A deeply concerned contingent of detractors, meanwhile, calls it the Denying Americans the Right to Know Act. Which sounds much worse. And it accurately recapitulates the case for mandatory labeling, which consistently returns to the argument that people have a “right to know what’s in their food.”

“What’s the problem with letting consumers know what they are buying?” argued Peter Welch, a Democratic representative from Vermont, one of three states that has already passed mandatory “GMO labeling” laws.

Who doesn’t want to know what’s in their food? As pro-rights arguments go, that sounds pretty airtight.

Except that the act doesn’t deny people that right. Nothing will stop food manufacturers who avoid “genetically modified” ingredients from labeling and marketing their products accordingly. People who object to genetic modification—either because of concerns about the prudence of introducing certain crops into certain ecosystems, or because of patent laws and corporate business practices, or because these people are among the majority of Americans who now believe any and all “genetically modified” foods to be inherently unhealthful to consume (despite assurances to the contrary from The World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others)can continue to pay premiums for products that are marketed as “GMO free,” which implies health and safety, even while the implication is without merit. Some go so far as to call it fraud.

The central and debilitating fallacy of the “right to know” argument is the meaninglessness and misleading nature of what is being known. Humans have been practicing bioengineering for centuries with selective breeding and cultivation. The Non-GMO Project defines “genetically modified organisms” as those “artificially manipulated in a laboratory” as opposed to “traditional cross-breeding methods,” wherein a laboratory is the nidus of transgression. It was only as recently as 1979 that Gallatin Valley Seed won the All American Selection Award for creating a variety of pea known as sugar snap, which is now ubiquitous, but carries no Franken-crop warning label. Indeed, most any act of agriculture could be considered an imposition of “unnatural” human activity into malleable, unassuming ecosystems. The domain of bioengineering is too vast and complex to know what exactly to make of blanket “GMO” labels; the hopeful premise that this is a binary indicator of good or evil is false. Should I have the “right to know” if my food contains ghosts?

Long-term effects of introducing certain crops into certain ecosystems, and the business practices with which they are grown and sold, are enormously important and remain to be seen and carefully considered. Some effects of agriculture will be desirable, some untoward, and effects of both kinds will come from crops that run the gamut of what has been “modified” by human intervention, and to what degree. But “GMO-free” does not mean fair trade, and it does not mean sustainable, and it does not mean monoculture-averting, and it does not mean rainforest-enabling, and it does not mean labor-friendly, and it does not mean healthy, though it puffs its chest and carries itself alongside those claims. Activists march with signs that say “I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT.” But the state of having 7 billion food-consuming humans on this planet—6 billion more than there were two centuries ago—is an unprecedented experiment.

It’s because of this meaninglessness, and fear perpetuated by a “natural” food industry, that a right to know is in this case a right to be misled. And this act continues to give food companies the right to tout and sell “GMO-free” as some halo of wholesome virtue, which would be lovely and elegant if it meant progress toward sustainably feeding the world healthful food, but it does not.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/07/no-one-is-denying-a-right-to-know-whats-in-my-food/399536/

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Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

I’m excited about this post for a bunch of reasons. First, I love the fact that a single recipe turned into two while I was preparing this dish. To make a long story short, I had eggplant and tomatoes on hand yesterday, and I thought that I’d put them together in a summery curry dish. I was super happy with the results, but I realized that I didn’t have anything handy to scoop up the fragrant broth at the bottom of each bowl. I usually serve curries over rice or quinoa, but since Steven is a huge fan of naan, I thought I’d make something that, while decidedly not naan, is great for scooping and soaking.

Chickpea Rice Flatbread

I have a feeling that these simple chickpea and rice flatbreads (which I debated labeling as pancakes instead of flatbreads–I think they’re sort of a hybrid) are going to be a staple for us. They’re so easy to prepare, and the batter can be mixed up to a day in advance. The recipe is loosely inspired by a chickpea crepe recipe from Myra Kornfeld’s wonderful cookbook, The Voluptuous Vegan. I used rice flour in place of all purpose, and I added both cumin and chopped parsley for extra flavor. The resulting flatbreads definitely aren’t as delicate as crepes, but they’re sturdy and have a great, chewy texture.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice FlatbreadEggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

This dish is easy to make in advance, and like most curries, its flavor seems to deepen over the course of a day or two . I had leftovers for lunch today, and they were fabulous. Because the curry has all of that delicious, aforementioned broth, I actually mixed in some of my leftover quinoa today as well. It turned into a thicker curry, almost a stew, and though different from the original dish, it was also really tasty.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

It’s ideal to try the curry now, while eggplants and tomato are both in season. But even after fresh tomatoes become more scarce, the dish will work with canned tomatoes as well (I usually use fire-roasted, canned tomatoes from the Muir Glen brand).

I recommend playing around with the spice combination, adjusting the quantities a little to fit your tastes, and even adding different veggies, if you like. I’d love to try adding potatoes.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice FlatbreadEggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread (Gluten Free)

Yield: 6 cups curry, or 4-6 servings; 8 flatbreads


    For the Curry
  • 2 teaspoons olive or coconut oil
  • 1 medium sized white or yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7-8 cups, or 1 – 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 3 cups beefsteak or Roma tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups, or 1 pound–alternately, you can use 2 cans of diced tomatoes, draining some of the liquid beforehand)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, chopped parsley or cilantro leaves (for topping)
  • For the Chickpea Rice Flatbread:
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Olive oil


  1. To prepare the curry, heat the olive or coconut oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook the onion until it’s clear and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Continue cooking the garlic for 1-2 minutes, or until it’s very fragrant. Stir in the cumin, curry, turmeric, garam masala, and salt, as well as a few tablespoons of water, to help mix everything together and create a kind of slurry.
  2. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cover and cook for fifteen minutes. Uncover the curry and cook it for another 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the eggplant is melt-in-your-mouth soft. Check the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste. Divide the curry into bowls and serve over a cooked whole grain or with flatbread. Directly before serving, sprinkle each bowl with a tablespoon or two of parsley or cilantro. Curry leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
  3. To make the flatbread, whisk together the chickpea and rice flour, salt, and cumin in a medium or large mixing bowl. Add the warm water and whisk until you have a smooth batter, making sure to catch any lumps. (To make super easy work of this, use an immersion blender or a regular blender instead of a whisk.) Then, stir in the parsley. Cover the bowl and allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes, or transfer the batter to an airtight container and let it rest in the fridge for up to 24 hours before you make the flatbreads.
  4. Heat a small amount of olive oil (about a teaspoon, or use a mister or spray oil for convenience) in a medium sized frying pan or skillet (I used a pan that was about 10 1/2 inches across at the top and 8 inches across at the bottom, but I could have used something even a bit smaller) over medium heat. Add the batter to the pan by the heaping 1/3 cup. Allow the batter to cook until small bubbles are forming evenly across the top, and then gingerly use a spatula to loosen the flatbread from the pan and flip it. Continue cooking the other side for 1-2 minutes, or until it’s cooked through and can be easily removed from the pan. Continue this process with all of the remaining batter. As with pancake-making, the flatbreads will probably get more consistent as you continue to use up the batter with confidence!
  5. Serve the flatbreads with any soup, stew, or curry, or enjoy them with hummus spread on top. They’re versatile. If you’d like to make a simpler version, you can omit the parsley and cumin. The flatbreads will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.


I look forward to trying these flatbread with red lentil daal, curried yellow split peas, and chana masala. My friend Richa’s book has given me lots of Indian dishes to bookmark and experiment with. I’d also love to try them for breakfast, maybe with a savory tofu scramble. Lots of possibility, and again, I love that the batter can be stirred and stored in advance.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

I hope you try and enjoy the recipe–let me know what you think!

On Friday, I’ll be back with a new cookbook giveaway, as well as a terrific smoothie/shake recipe. Stay tuned.


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