Chewy Gooey Maple Oatmeal Banana Squares

Categories: Breakfast,Desserts,Gluten-Free,Uncategorized,


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Well these were just a little bit delicious. Okay, maybe tremendously delicious. Tre-mend-ously! However, this is my opinion and you might have to prepare a batch for yourself and taste test them. Heck what am I writing, how could you simply taste test these beauties? Realistically, you are going to consume at least one if you are human and didn’t just come back from a huge all you can eat buffet or an extremely delish, completely filling dinner. Odds are neither of these scenarios are the case {please let this not be the case} and hopefully this recipe post is making you and your mouth on the hungry side and yearning for your own batch of these banany treats.

The truth is that this simple recipe should have been invented and taken residence on this blog a long time ago because if I had known how easy and banana maply heavenly these bars would be, I would have shared them with your eyes and taste buds on the day I invented this blog. Okay, maybe the same month I invented this blog because I do remember that being an exceptionally busy time of my life, but I would have done it within at least a month of blog inception. If only I had known! Of course, we must not and should not go back and time. We can only move forward now with this superb recipe. And move forward with this new recipe we shall! It took me less than 20 minutes to prepare the entire batch and I can enjoy one for breakfast every day this week if I want to! You may want to follow my lead because this recipe is just too easy.

Now, a bit about me and bananas. Perhaps you can relate with some other food. While I abhorred bananas in my youth {I was a strange anti-banana child}, I love them now, especially as sweeteners in my plant-based dessert recipes. I hope you are more like the adult me and less like the child me and agree that bananas are delicious either on their own or in desserts like this one. It’s remarkable how much our food preferences can change from childhood to adulthood.

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If there are any munchkins in your life {munchkins subjectively defined by me as humans under the age of 13}, I believe there is a high likelihood that they will find this recipe as delicious as I do now. I hope most children are not like the childhood me and do enjoy bananas and banana flavored foods. There are too many delicious bananas in this world and it would be tragic for them not to get eaten by human youngsters.

These beauties melt-in-your-mouth like maply butter, yet they are 100% devoid of any animal-derived ingredients. You can make them gluten-free by replacing the whole wheat pastry flour with oat flour, just make sure that the oat flour is labeled “gluten-free.” Oats are naturally gluten-free, but cross contamination from other grains can occur in some factories, which is why people who are gluten-free should seek the “gluten-free” label when purchasing oats. Then again, if you are gluten-free you probably already know this. Now onto the recipe!

Ingredients (makes 6-8 squares):

2 medium to large very ripe bananas, peeled
½ whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour for gluten-free version
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or another vegan margarine
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground vanilla or vanilla extract
2 cups steel-cut or rolled oats (just not instant)

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a square baking pan. This recipe filled my 8×8 pan half way, so you can use a smaller pan and it will still fit with no trouble. Another option is pouring the batter into muffin tins and making these squares circular. Options abound!

Once this step is done, add all ingredients except the oats to a food processor and thoroughly process. Pour this mixture into a large bowl along with the oats and mix the oats together with the mixture. Pour the now very oaty batter into your baking pan and bake for 2o minutes or until the batter is slightly golden colored and the top has hardened. Cool for at least fifteen minutes before slicing into squares and enjoy these beauties, perhaps with a cherry on top for good luck!

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As always, thank you for reading!

Talia

“Skinny Fat”: Why Skinny Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

Categories: LIVIN’ LA VIDA HEALTHY,NUTRITION IQ,Talia's Must Read,

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This photo is by my talented photography friends, Ben and Kadin. I strive to exercise 4-5 times each week and stay fit and healthy and at an ideal weight that suits my body type. We should aim for health, not simply being skinny!

Not everyone who is skinny is healthy. This isn’t difficult to prove. You can smoke and do drugs and be skinny. You can be bulimic and be skinny. You can be diabetic and be skinny. This last combination is actually much more common than most of us would surmise. New evidence supports risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease at weights categorized in the normal range of the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. Excess fat is detrimental to our health, especially fat that is stored internally versus underneath the skin.  Too much belly fat is also a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Poor lifestyle habits can lead to too much internal fat and belly fat for skinny people too and this can put them at a high risk for health problems down the road. While we can’t see internal fat as much as fat directly underneath the skin, this does not mean it isn’t dangerous.  In the name of educating ourselves and protecting our health, we should learn that simply being skinny does not make us invincible to health problems normally associated with the overweight!

Astonishingly, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that almost 1 in 4 skinny people have pre-diabetes and are “metabolically obese”.[i] Crazy daisy, right?! Houston, we have a problem.  A big problem! Adults who are skinny yet have diabetes are twice as likely to die than those who are overweight and have diabetes. While we don’t have concrete evidence as to why this is the case, researchers have proposed that excess muscle may provide a protective effect against the excess fat.  Another study on teenagers found that 37 percent of the skinny teens had one or more signs of pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood sugar or high cholesterol.[ii]  Wow, this statistic makes it clear that ill health comes in all shapes and sizes.

One way to avoid skinny fat? Eat your veggies!

The reason why people pre-diabetes and diabetes are appearing in supposedly normal weight individuals is quite simple; we aren’t doing enough vigorous exercise and weight training and we aren’t eating enough healthful foods. After all, a person can eat nothing but French fries and donuts and still be skinny if they don’t overeat on these foods. This person would also likely suffer from pre-diabetes in the present and prone to deadly health conditions later in life. While this is an extreme example, there is no denying that “skinny fat” is on the rise in America and is coinciding with the rise in diabetes. Yikes! We all have it in our power to take care of our health and help reduce these statistics.

Skinny fat isn’t limited to adults either. Although one third of children in America are classified as overweight or obese, much more than that are pre-diabetic and show signs of ill health.  According to the above study, published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, less than 20 percent of children and teenagers in America are healthy. Another reason why we are seeing an epidemic of “skinny fat” people is that American classifications for normal weight do not coincide with the weight ranges proven to be optimal for longevity and to prevent chronic diseases, such as the big killers, heart disease and cancer. My dad, whom has devoted his life to studying the parameters of human longevity, has found that BMIs of 23 and above are not favorable to long-term health and maximizing lifespan. This contrasts with the American National Institutes of Health guidelines for a normal weight, which classify a normal weight as a BMI between 18 and 25. I covered this topic extensively in chapter 3 of LYB!

To support the findings above, that a normal weight classification does not equal healthy, another study followed 100,000 people for nine years and found that waist circumference correlates with risk of death, even for people in the “normal weight” range.[iii] A 4-inch increase in waist circumference was associated with a 16% increase in mortality risk in men and 25% increase in mortality risk in women, regardless of BMI. It really is not how much we weight that matters as much as the size of our waists.

So how can we protect ourselves from a scary case of skinny fat? In addition to exercising 3-4 times each week, it’s important that we choice plenty of nutrient-dense plant foods that maximize disease-protective vitamins and minerals and minimize calories. We can’t chose where our fat is stored, but we can control how much fat we have. As usual, our health is in our own hands and we should strive to be healthy rather than simply skinny!  Healthy is beautiful, empowering and worth being proud of, unhealthy fat skinny will never be.

Hopefully these skinny girls are living a healthy lifestyle too!


[i] Carnethon MR, De Chavez PJ, Biggs ML, et al. Association of weight status with mortality in adults with incident diabetes. JAMA 2012 Aug 8; 308(6): 581-90.

[ii] May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008. J of the American Academy of Ped 130

[iii] Jacobs EJ, Newton CC, Wang Y, et al. Waist circumference and all-cause mortality in a large US cohort. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Aug 9;170(15):1293-301.

 

Does Going Gluten-Free Equal Fabulously Healthy or Fabulously Foolish?

Categories: Nutrition Tips,Talia's Must Read,

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Gluten-free foods are all the rage these days, but is going gluten-free necessary for ideal health? 

Gluten free breads, pizzas, muffins, cookies, cakes, crackers, pretzels and more are everywhere. If there was a good time to have Celiac Disease, today is the day.  Now more than ever we can find yummy looking items in the grocery stores labeled “Gluten-free,” advertised ostensibly in shinny, attractive print.  Pop-culture abounds with messages to, “go gluten free” and the media shouts to us to, “become a gluten-free goddess and embrace feeling better and more energetic.” Just as low-carb everything was in vogue during the days of Atkins and South Beach, gluten-free foods have become the go-to products for health conscious consumers and weight loss seekers. However, does avoiding gluten really confer health benefits? For most people, the answer is an unequivocal no.

First of all, it would be helpful to us to understand what gluten is so we know what we are avoiding.  Gluten is simply a compound made of two proteins, gliadin and glutelin, bound together by starch (a carbohydrate). Grains themselves contain three parts: the bran (or hull), the germ and the endosperm.  Whole grains contain all three parts, while processed or refined grains contain just the endosperm.  Because gluten is found in the endosperm, it can be found in all grain products, regardless of processing.  Gluten is pretty much your typical grain product’s reliable sidekick, but unlike processed white bread, odds are eating it will not make you look like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal (in which she wore a fat suit).  Additionally, unless you count yourself among the less than 10 percent of people with gluten sensitivity, the consumption of gluten will not be too difficult for your digestive organs, result in undesirable aches and pains or an allergic reaction.

Celiac disease, aka gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a disease in which the immune system attacks gluten as if it were a threatening invader, such as a pathogen or a parasite.  The inflammation that results can damage the intestinal lining, leading to malabsorption of many nutrients- including many essential vitamins and minerals.  Symptoms for a person with this carb-lovers nightmare can range from abdominal discomfort, to an itchy rash, to the manifestation of nutrient deficiencies.  Over time, for someone with celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten can increase the risk of intestinal cancer.  There is no doubt that celiac disease can be lethal if gluten is continually eaten and failing to address this condition can result in an tragic, early visit from the grim reaper.  For most people with celiac disease, it was pretty easy to detect  because the symptoms are so obvious- quite simply, you eat grains and you feel awful.  However, this can be a hidden cause of health problems, especially in its milder forms that then go undetected.

Besides celiac disease, it is possible to have gluten sensitivity, which is more common than celiac disease, but much less worrisome.   It is very different from celiac disease because there are no antibodies for gluten present or observed damage to the lining and architecture of the intestine.  People with gluten sensitivity are not at risk for intestinal cancer and are less likely to have nutrient deficiencies as a result of gluten ingestion.  What is intriguing is the numbers of people who are showing signs of gluten intolerance today.

Compared to ladies living a half-century ago, the women of today are up to four times more likely to develop celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten.[i]  I repeat, four times from just 50 years ago! This is shocking and I am disturbed that increasing numbers of women cannot enjoy a hearty, all natural fruit pie, or pita pocket unless going out of their way to find gluten-free bread or other grain product.  More women than ever are dealing with grain product hell and no one really understands why it’s happening, although there are a few theories.

It’s been suggested that there are new-age exposures to gluten that may be more likely to trigger immune system responses. Genetic modifications to grain products have increased the gluten content of wheat and other grains in some cases.  It’s also possible that genetic modifications are introducing new chemical compounds into our diets, and some reactions to gluten may be a result of the new company it keeps.  Also all the processed foods eaten today, including white flour products, oils and fried foods damage human immune function.  And thanks to modern food processing, we are now finding the presence of gluten in everything from candy and meats to potato chips and processed breakfast cereals.  The addition of gluten to these low-fiber and low micronutrient-containing products might spark immune reactions in some people.  All of this is speculation and further studies need to be done to figure out why more people are developing adverse reactions to gluten.

While this mystery remains, what is important to keep in mind is that while the number of people with gluten sensitivities may be rising, the number of people who don’t digest it well is still relatively small.  Only 1 percent of the entire population has celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity still only effects 5-10 percent of the population.[ii],[iii]  For all other people, avoiding gluten provides no health benefits.  Avoiding gluten for 90 percent of the population is like avoiding peanuts when you don’t have a peanut allergy. It is totally needless.  If you experience unpleasant symptoms or stomach upset after eating grain products, then it is well worth a trial of avoiding all gluten containing grains and products and also getting a blood test done to test for celiac disease.

As for the recipes that appear on this website, my book and future projects, some recipes will contain gluten from whole grain products, but others won’t. I will label all recipes that are gluten-free as such! I hope this recipe helped you understand the gluten-free trend more clearly and you can make the right decision for you and your body!

As always thank you for reading!

XO,

Talia


[i] van den Broeck HCde Jong HCSalentijn EM. Presence of celiac disease epitopes in modern and old hexaploid wheat varieties: wheat breeding may have contributed to increased prevalence of celiac disease. Theor Appl Genet. 2010 Nov;121(8):1527-39. Epub 2010 Jul 28.

[ii] Rewers M. Epidemiology of celiac disease: what are the prevalence, incidence, and progression of celiac disease? Gastroenterology. 2005;128(4 suppl 1):S47-S5

[iii] National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement on Celiac Disease, June 28-30, 2004. Gastroenterology. 2005;128(4 suppl 1):S1-S9.

Black Bean Dark Chocolate SuperFood Cups I Heart You

Categories: Desserts,Gluten-Free,LIVIN’ LA VIDA HEALTHY,Uncategorized,

I have decided that my love of cooking and baking is an adult manifestation of my Play-Doh loving childhood. And silly putty. There was a lot of silly putty in my childhood. In fact, my grandmother almost married the inventor of silly putty. Not kidding. I was told that story when I was young, which made me even more obsessed with playing with silly putty. I am sure I would have loved silly putty anyway though because I’ve always loved creating things with my hands. Some things don’t change.

I am very happy my grandmother didn’t marry the inventor of silly putty because I wouldn’t be alive if she did. Thank you, grandma, you made a good choice.

Now, I have had a lot on my mind lately. When do I not have a lot on my mind? Um neverrrr, so this was also nothing new, but as I was playing with Play-Doh baking in the kitchen today, I was contemplating my fashion choices. I’ve very much liked the idea of incorporating more fashion on this website, but I was facing an internal battle. You see, I have not been a cruelty-free fashionista. I have been a Bloomingdale’s-loving, not-always-animal-loving, run-of-the-mill fashionista. Wow, was that a lot of —-‘s or what? Forget actually writing the word hypen. Writing — felt more like showing and not telling. And isn’t that what we were told in high school level writing classes? “Show, Don’t Tell!” was the common reprimand. Although, I don’t think that’s what my teacher meant when she said that. My mind just scolded, “Stop being such a digresser, Talia…do you want this blog post to go on forever?!” And with that chide from my perpetually thoughtful mind, let’s continue…

What was I going to do about this not-always-cruetly-free issue if I began blogging about fashion? And how did I feel about still owning items made from leather, silk and a few from cashmere? My conscience was pulling me in one direction and my love of the items I owned were pulling me in the other. Before you can say, “First World Problems!” I figured out what my plan was going to be.

I want to be 100% upfront with you about my lifestyle, so as I post more fashion on this website, I will post as many animal-friendly, eco-friendly recommendations as possible and I won’t recommend any clothes that aren’t vegan. I can’t say that I will be throwing out what I already own, so if you see me wearing any shoes that are made of leather, it is probably an item I’ve already had in my closet. I will be doing what I can and you can make your own choices about what is best for you and what you feel good about doing. Hopefully I can help us find some great cruelty-free pieces!

Now for this recipe!! SOOOO GOOD.  I am working on a book full of healthy dessert recipes, so my kitchen and I often find each other working together for very long hours. I live in a warm beach town in Southern California, but sometimes I feel like I live by the equator. Thank you, kitchen, for making me sweat sparkle more.

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Black Bean Dark Chocolate Superfood Cups

I’d love for you to learn about why I am so keen on using beans in my recipes when taste and texture allow. Beans are an ideal food for weight loss because you don’t absorb all of the calories when you eat them. It’s true! The beans make this recipe creamy, but you can’t taste them. The hemp seeds and pecans make these cups a bit nutty in flavor. I love chocolaty, nutty richness. This is all very good stuff.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 yummy cups):

1 cup black beans (I used Eden’s BPA-free canned brand)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon cacao powder
1 teaspoon Tahitian vanilla or vanilla extract
½ cup pecans or walnuts
½ cup hemp seeds or more pecans/walnuts
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon Stevia powder (optional, but highly recommended)

Optional toppings: Raw cacao nibs, pomegranates, coconut flakes, fresh fruit, whatever you love, etc!

Directions:

Melt dark chocolate chips in the microwave for a minute, stir and add them to a food processor. A blender is not recommended for this, but you can try using one that is high-powered. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until a creamy and smooth chocolaty mixture is formed.

Lightly grease a muffin tin and pour about 3-4 tablespoons worth of the creamy chocolaty batter in each tin, or enough batter so that each tin is just over 3-4 of the way filled. Swirl your spoon so that the top of the cups have a nice decorative swirl on top. Although, only do this if you want to! No need to bake these. They are delicious warmed and soft or hardened and chilled. It is a taste preference! You can let them harden in the freezer for 15 minutes and they will be cold and yummy or you can bake them at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes and they will be soft, warm and chewy. Enjoy!

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