Make it a Plant-Based Winter, Part 4: Astounding Artichokes

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Welcome to post number 4 in my 5-part series on winter fruits and vegetables! Be sure to check out the first three posts for more seasonal deliciousness:


Okay, I cheated a bit for this post. Today, it’s all about artichokes, which are technically a spring vegetable with a harvesting season beginning in March. That means you have a little under a month to get ready to enjoy all the amazing ways artichokes can be eaten and be ready to pick the perfect specimens when the time comes. As someone who has only eaten the “heart” of this veggie, I’m excited at the prospect of trying a fresh one this year!

What is an Artichoke, Anyway?

Did you know artichokes are edible flower buds from a species of thistle plant? The most common type to appear in grocery stores is the green globe artichoke, although there are also purple and white varieties. These unique veggies were introduced to the U.S. in the 1600s, courtesy of the Spanish. Today, almost 100 percent of the crop grown in the country originates in California, with three-quarters being grown in Castroville, the “Artichoke Center of the World.”

Domestic artichokes begin to appear in stores around March and stick around until June. You might be able to find them later into the season if the weather stays favorable in warmer areas of California.

Admirable Artichoke Benefits

When you want to go all in and enjoy artichokes before they’re stripped down to hearts and canned or packed in jars, it takes a little work. But with the benefits you can get, it’s well worth the time (and potentially getting poked by the leaves). Here’s what you’ll find in a 100-gram serving of artichokes:

  • 47 calories
  • 5.4 grams of dietary fiber
  • 20% daily value of vitamin C
  • 12% daily recommended intake of vitamin K
  • 27% daily value of copper
  • A wide range of B vitamins
  • Trace minerals, including phosphorous, magnesium, manganese and iron

Fiber gives artichokes the apparent ability to lower cholesterol, binding with excess and escorting it out of the body before it can enter the bloodstream. Artichokes are also considered a bitter vegetable. Bitters contain compounds like cynarin, which stimulate the liver and gallbladder, help support healthy bile flow to provide a second avenue for clearing cholesterol. Better bile production and movement also aids in absorption of nutrients, especially fat-soluble vitamins.

Silymarin, caffeic acid and other antioxidants found in artichokes protect against free radical damage, which can cause inflammation and a multitude of other health problems if left unchecked. In tandem with fiber, these compounds may be part of the reason why artichokes are associated with a reduction in IBS symptoms. Vitamin K and phosphorous both play a role in maintaining bone health, working to fix calcium into bones and maintain proper mineral balance.

Selecting and Preparing Artichokes

Fresh artichokes can be intimidating if you’ve never cooked one, but picking the perfect green specimen is simple. Just look for artichokes with all the petals still closed, no bruising or splits and that feel heavy for their size. Ripe artichokes will squeak when squeezed (so of course, I’m going to have to try this). For recipes requiring artichoke hearts, look for canned varieties packed in water with minimal salt, or grab some frozen and thaw before using.

Fresh artichokes keep for up to a week when stored in the refrigerator in sealed bags. Don’t wash the artichokes before storing; instead, moisten the stem to promote freshness. When you’re ready to use the veggies, rinse thoroughly or soak in water with a bit of lemon juice to remove any grit. After cleaning, artichokes can be:

  • Boiled upside-down in a pot of water until soft
  • Steamed for about half an hour
  • Baked
  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Stuffed

Serve whole cooked artichokes as appetizers or side dishes, pulling off the leaves and scraping out the soft flesh with your teeth. The stem is also edible and can be eaten along with the bud or saved for use in another dish.

An Appendix of Artichoke Recipes

  • Vegetable Pallea — Total bias here; this is my favorite recipe featuring artichoke hearts, and one of my favorite recipesĀ ever. Each time Robin Robertson updates this dish, it gets better, and she really hit the nail on the head with the version from Vegan Without Borders.
  • Pizza with Onions, Peppers, and Artichokes — From Nava Atlas’ VegKitchen
  • Vegan Artichoke Pizza — Featured in The Daily Green
  • Walnut-Crusted Artichoke Hearts — Spied on One Green Planet, these little appetizers are fried, but they look so good with the walnut coating that I couldn’t resist including them. I’m sure they could be baked instead!
  • Healthy Spinach Artichoke Appetizer — Parties for Pennies lightens things up a bit with bite-sized stuffed mushrooms.
  • Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip — It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken seems to have a thing for creating vegan cheese dishes that include the often-elusive “stretchy” element of dairy cheese, and this dish is no exception. (I’ve tried the stretchy mozzarella. It’s amazing.)
  • Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip — A quicker version of the iconic dip from Forks Over Knives, made with beans and nutritional yeast

Have you cooked whole artichokes, or are you more of an artichoke heart fan? Tell me how you plan to use artichokes in your spring meals!

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Make It a Plant-Based Winter, Part 3: Compelling Cranberries

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Have you seen parts 1 and 2 of this series? Don’t miss the chance to add more flavor to your winter:


Most people are only familiar with them in the form of a jelly-like sauce appearing on Thanksgiving. Occasionally, they’re features dried in granola bars, muffins or bagels, usually sweetened to excess and coated in oil. But these little fruits are one of winter’s most amazing sources of powerful phytochemicals.

What are they — why, cranberries, of course!

Craving Cranberries?

Cranberries are often associated with Thanksgiving, but you can find them fresh in stores from the fall through the winter and in the freezer section all year long. Native to North America, cranberries grow on shrubs and are cultivated in the northeastern part of the United States, in Oregon and Washington states and in parts of Canada.

When it’s time to harvest, most growers flood cranberry beds with water and run harvesters through to remove the berries from the plants. The berries float and can therefore easily be collected. However, this method tends to damage the fruits, making them more suitable for freezing or turning into canned cranberry sauce than selling fresh. Between five and ten percent of U.S. crops are still harvested dry, producing a more attractive yield that can be bagged or sold in bulk.

cranberries in a pan by Keira freeimagesBerry Benefits: Antioxidants for Health

With only 45 calories per cup of whole berries, cranberries are a low-calorie way to add beneficial phytonutrients o your diet. These tart little gems pack one of the biggest antioxidant punches in the fruit world with an ORAC value around 9,000, falling just a little short of wild bluebrries. ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” and expresses the level of antioxidants in a food, providing an indication of how well the food may combat oxidative stress in the body.

Eating 100 grams of cranberries also provides:

  • 18% daily value of manganese
  • 18% daily value of vitamin C
  • Small amounts of vitamin E and vitamin K

However, the antioxidant compounds are what really steal the show. With phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavanoids and triterpenoids (among others), cranberries deserve the title of “superfood.” All of these substances work together to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects in the body.

Part of the way cranberries fight inflammation is by blocking the action of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), part of the body’s pro-inflammatory cascade.Research into the cancer-protective effects is ongoing, but it seems cranberries are able to inhibit key enzymes in the cancer formation process and promote the natural death of damaged cells. The compounds in cranberries may also be able to keep enzymes related to the development of atherosclerosis in check, providing a dual benefit with the power of the antioxidants to protect against the free radical damage which can contribute to heart disease.

When it comes to gut health, cranberries play a role in lowering inflammation thanks to compounds such as quercetin. Inflammation can cause damage, including leaky gut syndrome, and result in symptoms ranging from discomfort and digestive distress to intolerances and allergies. There is some evidence cranberries may even increase the good bacteria in the gut, thereby boosting the health of the colon walls and providing potential protection against colon cancer.

And here’s one I found particularly interesting, mostly because it’s not an effect you hear touted much about superfoods: cranberry phytonutrients can protect against periodontal disease by lowering the production of the inflammatory cytokines that lead to puffy, red gums and subsequent tooth decay or loss.

If you’re curious about what else cranberries can do, WHFoods and Dr. Greger both have even more fascinating information on their power.

holiday cranberries by jynmeyer freeimagesSelecting and Preparing Cranberries

To purchase the perfect cranberries, look for plump, shiny fruits free of winkles. The deeper the color, the higher the antioxidant content. As with all fresh foods, you’re better off consuming the whole fruit than processed juices. Bottled juice not only tends to be full of sugar but also lacks the full complement of nutrients necessary for cranberries to exert their protective effects.

Fresh cranberries last for one to two months in the refrigerator, but they can be frozen for as long as a year — so don’t hesitate to stock up when you find a sale! Simply toss the whole bag in the freezer without opening it, and the berries will be there waiting if you find yourself craving a tart treat in the middle of the summer. Dried cranberries have a long shelf life and can be kept in the fridge for up to a year after the “best by” date and indefinitely in the freezer.

People with kidney disease or who take warfarin should be careful with cranberry intake, as the fruit may increase oxalate excretion in urine and has the potential to increase the effects of certain pharmaceutical drugs.

Ready to pump your meals full of antioxidants just by adding this one seasonal fruit?

  • Go sweet by adding dried cranberries to oatmeal or museli
  • Mix fresh or dried into baked goods before cooking
  • Use dried or fresh cranberries in savory pilafs or stuffed squash filling
  • Throw fresh or dried onto salads
  • Add dried to trail mix or homemade granola bars
  • If you’re into tart flavors, eat them raw, straight up (Not for the faint of heart!)
  • And, of course, homemade cranberry sauce!

Looking for specific recipes? Cranberries can star in many varied dishes:

Note: Most dried cranberries contain sweetener, oil or both. I’ve seen oil- and sugar-free ones in some local museli, but haven’t been able to find where to buy them myself. You can try making your own with this recipe, omitting the honey and oil. If you do, let me know how they turn out!


I’d love to hear how you’re enjoying cranberries this year. Share your favorite dishes in the comments!

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Make it a Plant-Based Winter, Part 2: Delicious Daikon

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Welcome to part 2 of my 5-part series on winter fruits and veggies! Today I’m singing the praises of daikon radishes, a variety of Japanese radish available all year but with the best flavor during cold weather.

Did you miss part 1? Check out what you can enjoy by adding persimmons to your diet this year.

Meet the Daikon

Daikon radishes bear little resemblance to the little reddish-pink orbs most of us picture when we hear the word “radish.” According to The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, this winter veggie can be up to three feet long and weigh as much as 100 pounds, although a size of 12 to 18 inches and a weight of 1 to 3 pounds is more common. No wonder they were given a name meaning “long root!” Also called a Japanese radish, the white root is firm, slightly watery and crisp with a light “peppery” flavor.

Daikon radish leaves are also edible and have a flavor similar to other leafy greens but with the zip you’d expect from a radish. You can find these vegetables at Asian markets, farmers markets and well-stocked grocery stores.

How Healthy is Daikon?

A 100-gram serving of daikon radish contains:

  • 18 calories
  • 37% of your daily intake of vitamin C
  • 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • Trace amounts of folate, copper and potassium

The same amount of greens delivers:

  • 24 calories
  • 400 milligrams of potassium
  • 2.4 grams of protein
  • Moderate amounts of iron
  • Six times the vitamin C found in the root

As cruciferous vegetables in the same family as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, daikon roots and leaves contain sulfur compounds with multiple benefits for the body. The greens are slightly bitter and support healthy bile flow for better fat digestion and improved health of both the liver and the gallbladder. A compound called glucoraphenin makes sulphoraphene in the body, which in turn stimulates phase 2 liver detoxification pathways to help clear toxins from the body. Sulfur compounds are known to have anti-cancer properties, and if all this wasn’t enough, both the root and the leaves may also protect against inflammation!

healthy winter veggies -- daikon radishSelecting and Preparing Daikon Radishes

When you’re ready to try daikon, look for smooth roots with uniform holes on the bottom and a color as close to white as possible. The radish should be heavy for its size and not have too much green on the root. Small daikon radishes have a milder flavor. Larger roots have more of a bite and a tougher texture. Extremely fibrous radishes may need to be peeled before eating, but try to avoid this if you can. As with many other vegetables, the skin of daikon radishes contains many beneficial compounds you don’t want to miss out on.

Once you have your daikon, try these tasty preparations:

  • Pickled with carrots, two ways
  • Diced raw in salads
  • Sliced raw with hummus
  • Boiled or roasted like turnips
  • Stir-fried strips
  • In Daikon moshi (radish cakes)

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods suggests sprinkling daikon pieces with salt after cutting and letting them sit for 20 minutes before cooking to keep them crisp. Rinse the salt off before adding to recipes.

If the radish comes with the greens attached, don’t throw them out! As long as they’re still green and not wilted, you can use them as you would any other bitter green. Cut them off the radish and store separately to prevent the root from becoming soft. Use leaves in recipes calling for greens such as dandelion, broccoli raab or kale, add them to salads or saute them with a little garlic and black pepper for a simple side dish. Cooking destroys some of the vitamin C, so try both raw and cooked recipes to get the most benefit.


What do you think? Will you be trying daikon this winter? Do you already enjoy it as part of your diet? Tell me about it in the comments!

Featured image: Dried daikon radish by Hidetsugu Tonomura, CC2.0 license, text added

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Top 10 GreenGut Wellness Recipes of 2016 & Sneak Peeks for the New Year!

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It’s been a big year here at GreenGut Wellness, and, as has become my habit, it’s time to look back on the best of the year!

The biggest news, of course, was changing over from Quantum Vegan to GreenGut Wellness. I knew it was time to narrow the focus of my wellness consulting services, so after a lot of research, planning and prayer, I launched under the GGW banner in October. Having suffered from a chronic digestive condition for many years and seeing it improve greatly after adopting a plant-based diet, I’ve become very interested in the “ecosystem” of microbes living in the human gut. Interest is exploding in the scientific community, too, so there’s a lot of fascinating research and some fantastic books to read. There’s even a Microbiome journal!

Gut health really is the key to overall health (more on that later), and your digestive system is at its best when you eat — you guessed it — a lot of plants. My recipe collection can help you do that — and you’ve all been enjoying some tasty selections from the list this year. Thank you! Your interest in eating more vegan meals made these ten recipes the most popular on the blog for 2016.

Top Plant-Based Recipes of 2016

Remember if you make these (or any other recipe from the GGW archives) to tag your Instagram posts with #greengutwellness or give me a shout at @green_gut so that I can see your creations!

What’s New with GreenGut Wellness in 2017?

I love sharing the plant-based life with you. For me, diet and lifestyle changes have meant moving toward greater health over the course of many years — giving up self-destructive habits, poor food choices and unsustainable exercise regimens in favor of a balanced approach to workouts and a whole, plant-based way of eating with a little wiggle room for my own psychological health. I still stumble and struggle, but that’s all part of the journey, right?

In 2017, I want to help you take control of your health. That’s why I started Quantum Vegan and re-imagined it as GreenGut Wellness. As much of a sucker as I am for the science, what I really want to do is help people. We all have so much stuff we’re dealing with, and everybody needs somebody to guide them in the toughest things. And let’s face it, making diet and lifestyle changes is hard, no matter how dedicated you are. It means reversing a lifetime of bad habits and rethinking the way you approach some of the most basic parts of daily life. But the changes are worth it. The road may be a little rocky at the start, but navigating the bumps pays off when you start to see and feel improvements in your health.

With this in mind, I’m offering two ways to help you get started and stick with a journey toward better health this year. The first one is going on right now with a range of fun health tip sheets to power up your daily diet. From now until January 6th, all sheets are on sale for only $2.50 (they’re usually $3), no code required. That gives you you plenty of time to load up on tips for making salads, crafting the perfect smoothie, batch cooking and more. All sheets are delivered in PDF format after purchase, so you can print them out and stick them up on the fridge to help with meal planning or carry them around on your mobile device to give you guidance when eating out.

The second is a little more comprehensive and designed to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions when you start to feel like giving up. It’s normal to hit a patch somewhere in mid-January when you wonder why you bogged yourself down with such huge expectations for change and are ready to throw in the towel. So from January 14th through January 20th, I’m starting a Resolution Revolution. Using the code RESOLUTION10 gets you 10% off any wellness consulting package:

Every package includes a detailed health history so that I know exactly what you’re dealing with and can tailor services to meet your specific needs. You get phone, email and text support to ask questions, educational handouts for additional guidance, relevant recipes and more to help cultivate ongoing diet and lifestyle changes — and to empower you to take care of you own health for years to come. I can work with your doctor to address more complex issues by looking at blood work and suggesting additional tests. And it doesn’t matter where you are — all services can be conducted via phone or Google Hangouts.

No more sifting through endless lists of what to eat and what not to eat, trying to decipher the truth in the midst of the hype. You don’t have to try and go it alone this year. I want to show you how proper planning, personal accountability and individualized nutrient support can create a sustainable diet and lifestyle plan you can follow indefinitely. So whether you’re looking to eat more plants, get rid of stress, cook more variety or kick a sugar habit, I’m here to help you do it.

You can find all of this in the GreenGut Wellness shop. It’s a one-stop marketplace for every handout and service I offer. More details are also available on my services page.


I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions for myself, but I do have one big dream for 2017. I’d love to write a cookbook! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I’ve been saving up some interesting new recipes to put together into something that’s a bit different than the other (very lovely) plant-based cookbooks out there now. Most of all, I want to spend the year going where the Lord leads me in my personal and business life, helping as many people as possible along the way.

What are your plans for 2017? Share in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe to the GreenGut Wellness mailing list for updates, sales, news and recipes throughout the year.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

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Have a Peaceful Plant-Based Holiday: 2016 Christmas Recipe Roundup!

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Can you believe Christmas is less than a week away? Time flies around the holidays. Preparing for the arrival of family and friends, grabbing last-minute gifts, heading to parties and trying to squeeze in sleep can make planning food for the actual day seem like an insurmountable task.

But let’s face it: food is part of the holiday fun! There’s nothing like throwing together a special dish and filling the house with the smell of cookies baking. The best part is settling down to enjoy the fruits of all that labor with the people you love.

In the spirit of holiday food sharing (and because it’s all so darn fun to make), I’ve rounded up recipes for every meal, plus desserts, snacks and drinks to make your Christmas a little merrier. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Breakfast

plant-based oat almond muffinsBreads& Muffins

Mains

Sides

pinwheel cookies christmasCookies

Even though I’ve already done a vegan Christmas cookie roundup and shared recipes in my cookie Q&A, there are still plenty of delicious holiday treats to try.

Other Desserts

Snacks

christmas tree closeupDrinks

And of course, there are always cookbooks for recipe inspiration. Check out my reviews of Zel Allen’s Vegan for the Holidays and Happy Herbivore Holidays & Gatherings by Lindsay S. Nixon, two small but extensive volumes packed with holiday goodness.


In the midst of a busy season, I’d like invite you to take a moment to reflect on the true focus of Christmas. The story of Christ’s birth is familiar to most, and nativity scenes pop up everywhere this time of year, but it seems rare to consciously take a step back, pause and really think about the impact the event had on all of humanity. When Jesus Christ came into the world, angels praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Though the world didn’t yet know this tiny baby was the Savior of all who would put their trust in Him, shepherds rejoiced at His coming, wise men brought gifts and powerful men feared Him.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. — Isaiah 9:2

Christmas is more than the story of a baby born to a young virgin in a stable in Bethlehem. It’s the celebration of the reality that God Himself stepped down from the glory of Heaven into time to save the world from the darkness of sin, setting mankind free for all time from the curse that started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. ~ Galatians 4:4-5, KJV

Because of Christ, we have the chance to enter into an intimate relationship with the God who created everything and who sustains us day by day. Christmas is a shining ray of hope for all those yearning to be free from sin, for all those who are tired of trying to be good enough and never quite making it. Because of Christmas — and the sacrifice Christ later made on the cross — nobody has to stay in that place. We all have access to peace with God if we only put our trust in the One who came as a tiny baby, leaving behind the glory and majesty of heaven to take on human flesh and do what no one but the Son of God could: be the Savior of the World.

Merry Christmas!

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Peanut Blossom Bites — Plant-Based Christmas Cookie Makeover!

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I’ll admit it: when I was a kid, I snacked on cookies. My family was big on homemade baked goods, and I was kind of in love with Oreos. I would come in from playing in the snow and have a few Christmas cookies with hot chocolate or munch my way through the classic cookies and milk after school. And, of course, cookies were always a good option for dessert.

peanuts in a dish

Not unusual, right? But not the best idea when you’re trying to follow a healthy diet. That’s what inspired me to create Peanut Blossom Bites.

I may have mentioned before that I eat a lot. Currently I’m about ten pounds below what I consider to be an ideal and healthy weight for my height, which calls for a consistent strength training program and a high caloric intake. That means eating six times a day to spread out my calories in a way my digestive system is comfortable with.

Am I complaining? Nope. I love food, and I love eating. But snacks can get a little boring if I don’t make an effort to mix things up now and then. Sometimes the kid in me just plain wants to eat junk. What to do? Make something healthy that zings all the same “junk food” pathways as the cookie snacks of days gone by!

Inspired by classic peanut blossoms, these 100% healthy snack balls have it all: oats, peanuts, peanut butter, dates and chocolate. All you need is a food processor and about 15 minutes to make a batch of “cookies” you can happily snack on any time. With only three steps, it’s probably the easiest cookie recipe you’ll make all season. No more scrambling to bake something for a potluck — although it’s tempting to keep them all for yourself.

drinking cocoa for ChristmasAs I mentioned in my Cookie Q & A, these wound up tasting remarkably like Reese Puffs cereal. I think it’s because I used the Trader Joe’s peanut butter made with Valencia peanuts. I’d never tried it before — and didn’t even know what a Valencia peanut was — but wound up with a jar when my amazing landlady offered to pick up groceries for me while she was at TJ’s recently. Since I neglected to specify which peanut butter I usually get beyond “unsalted creamy,” she naturally assumed I was a fan of organic and picked up that variety.

I’m glad she did. The peanuts have a slight sweetness, making it perfect for recipes like this. (The linked article references the salted variety, but the flavor profile is the same.) The majority of Valencia peanuts in the U.S. are apparently grown in West Texas and New Mexico and are common in roasted peanut butter. Who knows, I may have tasted them before and never known it! But their particular sweetness is why I recommend Valencia for the bites. Regular unsalted creamy peanut butter also works, but I’d imagine the flavor would be a little deeper.

Peanut Blossom Bites
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Peanut blossoms are a Christmas classic, but they're not exactly healthy. These plant-based bites are the perfect snack when you want that traditional cookie taste without added oil or sugar.
Author:
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 20 bites
Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup pitted medjool dates
  • ¼ cup natural unsalted creamy peanut butter (I used Trader Joe's organic with Valencia peanuts)
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp raw cocoa powder (can substitute regular or Dutch processed)
Instructions
  1. Place the oats and nuts in high-speed food processor, and process until chunky and well-combined.
  2. Add the dates, peanut butter and vanilla. Process until a sticky "dough" forms. (Add more dates or peanut butter if it's stubborn about sticking together.)
  3. Form into balls, rolling each in raw cocoa powder to coat.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
So go ahead, be a kid again and snack on cookies. I’m not judging!

vegan peanut blossom bites

If you make this recipe, tag @green_gut on Instagram so I can see your photos!

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Make it a Plant-Based Winter, Part 1: Pleasing Persimmons

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It’s easy to sing the praises of fresh produce when the weather is warm and farmers markets and roadside stands are bursting with vibrant edibles in every color of the rainbow, but when winter rolls around, the food selection can seem as dreary as the weather.

Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m fortunate enough to live in an area with a year-round market and several grocery stores with ample supplies of locally grown produce, and I can tell you firsthand that winter veggies and fruits are just as exciting and delicious as what you find at peak times during spring and summer. This is the first in a five-part series on winter fruits and veggies I’ll be posting from now through February to offer insight into the delicious (and healthy!) foods winter has to offer and inspiration for adding them to your meals.

Today I’m focusing on persimmons! Quite possibly my favorite quirky fruit, these little orange oddities pop up in co-ops and at well-stocked grocery stores when other juicy delights like peaches have long since disappeared.

Persimmon Basics

Out of the 2,000 cultivated varieties of persimmons, only two are commercially available: Hachiya and Fuyu.

Hachiya persimmons look somewhat like large orange acorns. Fuyus are more squat, like flattened tomatoes, and both varieties sport a “hat” of hard, dry leaves. The fruit originated in China and was brought to Canada in the 19th century. Today, it appears in stores from late fall through December. It’s a short window of time, so grab them while you can!

An abundance of natural sugars gives persimmons a sweet, almost candy-like flavor when ripe, so they can satisfy a sweet tooth in place of unhealthy processed sugars.

Health Benefits of Persimmonschopped fuyu persimmon by librafan freeimages

In addition to zapping your craving for sweets, persimmons have a variety of other health benefits:

  • Good source of the precursors to vitamin A
  • Good source of trace minerals, including copper and manganese
  • 6 grams of dietary fiber in a 168-gram fruit — that’s twice the fiber of apples! — to promote a diverse gut microbiome
  • 80 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake in an average fruit, which can boost immunity, support healthy connective tissue and aid in natural detoxification
  • Contains phenols that exhibit protective effects against cancer, anti-tumor properties and benefits for heart health
  • Contains carotenes, including zeaxanthin, an important phytonutrient for eye health

At 70 calories in 100 grams, persimmons are a little more calorie-dense than other fruits. But don’t let that dissuade you. With all of their health benefits, you can be sure you’re getting plenty of nutrients in every bite!

One word of caution: consuming unripe persimmons may lead to the formation of a bezoar, a “food ball” created when the tannins in the fruit cause other food fibers to stick together. Small bezoars pass on their own, but large formations have the potential to be obstructive. Fortunately, persimmons taste so bad when they’re not ripe, you won’t want to eat one. The feeling is sometimes described as “fuzzy” or having all the moisture sucked out of your mouth.

Selecting and Preparing Persimmons

You can bypass the bezoar problem and avoid a nasty surprise by looking for persimmons that are soft to the touch. Fuyus generally have a firmer texture than Hachiyas, but both varieties should have a little “give” before you consider eating them. Most persimmons in the U.S. are grown in California, with the season peaking around November. If you’re far from the West Coast and find mainly unripe persimmons at the store, place the fruit in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana to facilitate ripening.

The perfect persimmons are “bright and plump and feel heavy for their size. They should have glossy looking skin without any cracks or bruises.” I’ve noticed this when shopping for them myself. A ripe persimmon seems oddly dense, and this characteristic is also noticeable when you slice or bite into the fruit. Fuyus can be eaten like apples with little preparation aside from washing and removing the tough leaves. Since the Hachiya variety tends to be softer, it’s best to slice them in half and use a spoon to scoop out the inside.

Persimmons are also great ingredients and garnishes! Put them in smoothies, on oatmeal or in salads to add a bright, sweet flavor, or roast Fuyus for a unique snack. Hachiyas are generally considered to be better for baking and cooking. These recipes give you a chance to try both varieties:

Are you a fan of persimmons? Share your favorite ways to eat them in the comments!

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