I love fruit. I can eat it in any form – fresh, frozen, dried, you name it – and be in heaven. But people warn me about eating too much dried fruit, especially with diabetes running in my family. Traditionally, many make the assumption that dried fruit like raisins or dates is loaded with sugar. Some commercial brands have added sugars. Dried fruit appears to have a higher concentration of sugar than fresh fruit in general. So, no one would blame you if you were to assume that dried fruit was not as healthy as fresh fruit.
Yet studies looking at the correlation between dried fruit and health risks show promising results for fighting cancer, losing weight, and lowering diabetes risk. Check out the video here:
better than fresh fruit
A review of studies done on dried fruit intake and cancer risk published in Advances in Nutrition, March 2020, shows that eating dried fruit specifically can lower your risk of various cancers. And, amazingly, fresh fruit does not seem to fare as well as dried:
Overall, data presented in this review indicate that increasing dried fruit consumption to 3–5 servings/wk may have health beneficial effects related to risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the pancreas, prostate, stomach, bladder, and colon. No such effect was found for lung or breast cancers. Another, and rather surprising, finding from the selected studies is that the associations between consumption of total/fresh fruits and cancer risk were generally weaker than the associations determined for dried fruit intake and cancer.
It’s exciting to find out that I need not feel guilty about scooping up a big handful of raisins for a snack. I have a raging sweet tooth but cannot afford to indulge it very often. Consuming more dried fruits in the diet helps control diabetes feels like a relief to know. I love using dates in recipes that call for sugar or some sweetener, and now I won’t skimp on the number I use anymore.
With so many brands on the shelves, I’m careful to read the ingredients now. Some fruit brands are nearly impossible to find without added sugars. Did you know that a typical serving of dried cranberries has around 26 grams of sugar in it? No way. Even mango slices, which you’d imagine to be naturally sweet, often have sugar added.
A warning about store-bought dried fruit: it’s common to find sulfur dioxide added to store brands as a preservative. The sulfur can cause some irritation like asthmatic symptoms, stomach irritation, or itching for some people.
Dried berries, and in particular blueberries, are loaded with antioxidants. I’ve taken a liking to dried apricots, and they are a good probiotic source.
Use a convenient dehydrator at home
A friend of mine just told me that she’s getting a dehydrator. Yes, I am already trying to figure out how to fit one into my pint-sized kitchen. As you can see from the video above, the taste and quality of homemade dried fruit is a richer experience than the dried fruit product offerings we typically see at the grocery stores.
I anticipate with relish how the seasonal fruit varieties will taste dried at home. I want my dehydrator to last and work well out of the box. While the circular model in the video is interesting, I like the look and convenience of a square model.
This one at Amazon is the top-selling brand with amazing reviews:
Do you have a favorite dried fruit? Do you like them as snacks or in recipes? Let us know in the comments below!
Pumpkin bread was not a known recipe in my family growing up. The only quick bread that ever made it to the oven was banana bread, with no additions, no variations. My introduction to pumpkin bread – and its simplicity to bake – came in junior high school home economics class (yep, I’m that old). We not only learned how to bake a quick pumpkin bread, but we also baked it inside the pumpkin puree can that we had brought to school for the lesson.
Pumpkin bread in a can
That was pretty cool, to bring home a pumpkin bread that looked like a can, made all by myself. We had been instructed to bring extra empty cans if possible, as one batch would fit in two or three cans. My mom was amazed, and I had a new love for experimental baking. And pumpkin bread.
There are plenty of places around the web that will show you how to bake in a can, even decorate the cans as gifts. If you want to turn quick breads into DIY Christmas gifts, here’s a good example of how to do it. (WARNING: not a vegan recipe in the link, just an example of DIY baking with cans!)
Balancing healthy and tasty in your pumpkin bread
I’m about the taste, and I’m here to give you my favorite recipe that I’ve developed over time. It calls for oil, which, yes I know, is not the healthiest choice. Yet as one of my favorite chefs Derek Sarno of Wicked Healthy Foodfame says, “If you don’t think it’s healthy, don’t eat it and go make something else. But if you want to taste something that reminds me of my childhood, then this is the way to do it.”
With that, I’ve gone back to adding oil to my quick breads, and most often it will be coconut oil. You can use applesauce as a replacement if you want to be strict. But I love the lighter texture that you can get with the oil. If you want to go oil-free, just make sure you mix the batter as little as possible.
Baking pumpkin bread is a sweet smelling treat
The aroma of pumpkin bread baking makes the whole house feel toasty. When I was younger I preferred no added options in my quick breads. As I’ve grown older, I know how nutrient-packed huts and raisins are, so I like to include them – and they are a nice combination with the pumpkin and spices. This time I broke away from my traditional chopped walnuts and added chopped pecans. The pecans have a rich flavor similar to brown sugar – without the added processed sugar.
This pumpkin bread is moist and packed with nutrients. Have a slice for breakfast or snack. Serve as is or with vegan butter. Great recipe for holiday parties or cold winter afternoons.
1 cup pumpkin or winter squash puree (fresh or canned)
1 cup (10-12) medjool dates (soaked in one cup of water)
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted (substitute applesauce for oil-free))
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water (set aside for 15 mins.)
3 Tbsp. orange juice, nut milk or water (add sparingly if wet ingredients are too thick)
1 cup baking powder
1 cup oat flour (make with rolled oats in blender/processor)
1/2 cup almond meal or flour (nuts in the blender works)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts ((optional))
1/4 cup raisins ((optional))
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan, or line with parchment paper.
Blend all the wet ingredients together until smooth, in a blender or food processor. The consistency should be thick, almost like pudding. If it’s too thick, add the orange juice slowly and sparingly to make it manageable, but not runny.
Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. I run mine through a sifter so I won’t come across chunks of flour or baking soda in the final baked pumpkin bread. Alternatively, you can use a whisking tool to mix the dry ingredients and break up any small clumps.
Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry, a portion at a time until everything is moist. Do not over mix, as it will make the baked bread come out gummy.. Mix in the nuts and/or raisins. Bake for about 65 mins, or until a knife is inserted and comes out clean. Cool on a rack or heat-safe surface.
*A gluten-free flour blend is a nice option here. Regular white or unbleached flour is fine – personally, I’d stay away from whole wheat flour, as it is hard for many to digest.
**Or make your own blend: 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ginger powder, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp allspice.
***Add pecan or walnut halves and pieces to the top before baking. Tent the pan with tin foil for the first 40 minutes so the evans do not burn.
For treats or holiday gifts, pumpkin bread that everyone will love
I can never wait, and always dig in about 5 minutes after it’s out of the oven. Of course, it crumbles all over the place. I suggest letting it cool for an hour or so, letting the pumpkin bread set before cutting. The best is to cut it the next day, when the bread has had a chance to settle.
One thing to note about offering vegan baked goods to non-vegans: they do not always appreciate the effort. Yet this pumpkin bread is so filled with flavor that no one is going to miss the eggs. In addition, you can use nut milk for the water and liquid, but somehow I feel the orange juice is the secret here.
When my mom taught me how to make a big fruit salad for the first course at Thanksgiving, she pulled a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator. With one finger tapping the side of the carton, she said, “Here, a few splashes of this is the key to a sweet fruit salad.”
I remembered her words as I started to bake. As it turns out, a few splashes of orange juice works great in pumpkin bread, too.
The sun is shining, it’s hot, I want a snack, I don’t want to cook. In my freezer I have chickpeas, in my fridge I have lemons, a cucumber, and tahini. Hummus comes to mind, why not add cucumber to a hummus? it would make it lighter and healthier. Yes, I’ll give that a try with crackers. Goes well with a glass of chill white wine. The best thing about this recipe is, you just toss everything in a mini chopper or a food processor.
Start – pulse – ready to serve.
I use avocado oil, you can of, course use your favorite or none at all.
Why would you want to make a homemade Nutella? Because Nutella is not vegan, yet there are some Nutella-alike products for you to buy. If you are anything like me, you will spend endless hours reading the labels – yes I know you do, you love Nutella too. So Nutella is not vegan? no, read this ingredient list for the original Nutella Hazelnut Spread:
Sugar (may or may not be vegan)
Palm oil (vegan but not for the environment-friendly)
Reduced minerals whey (and that’s milk)
Lecithin as emulsifier (soy, unless labeled “organic” it’s GMO)
Vanillin: An artificial flavor (can contain anything)
Vegan tapas have called to me, and I have responded. I now have a load of new vegan appetizer ideas, or vegan tapas, to share with you. Last week was “Tapa″ week here in San Juan de la Ramba, where I’ve been staying this winter. It’s a lovely small village situated in the northern part of Tenerife, Spain.
Vegan tapas are not traditional
Ten Restaurants competed on serving the most creative tapa. All the restaurants served “their” tapa and a drink for a nice price of €2.50 ($3.10). The problem for me was, of course, that none of the tapas were vegan.
So, I decided to find good tapas recipes and recreate vegan versions for myself.
Vegan tapas to try
The start of this project was to find the recipes. Here are those that I started out with:
Let’s take the dessert first – I’ve never heard of tapas for dessert, despite having spent some time in Spain. I don’t know if it’s even a thing, but vegan desserts as tapas, well, I’m all for it!
The jalapeno poppers are too hot for me, but my “tasters” love them! So, if you are into hot stuff this is for you. making sure to remove all the seeds and the inner vein helps, as well as choosing your variety of pepper.
The cherry tomatoes with watermelon are just lovely with a nice mild taste. They can be served as palate cleansers and are great for a hot summer’s day.
For the tofu triangles, I used coconut oil, plus I added nutritional yeast and served them warm – a great “snack” taste, salty!
Radicchio cups are so packed with goodness that I can eat them as a meal. These are festive party pleasers
All the vegan tapas I tried were so delicious and well worth the effort – not that they are hard to make, but tapas often need a bit of prep time. I like to make up a batch or two and they will keep for a few days in the refrigerator if they last that long.
Tapas are appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They come in a wide variety, and may be cold or hot. It is fairly easy to make vegan versions. Here’s a fine recipe, which is even cheesy. Tapas don’t get much better than that. Well, maybe they are even better when they are vegan and raw – and you can store them in your fridge for a few days.