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Vegan Carob Protein Balls

April 13th, 2014

The recipe that follows is one variation of a peanut butter carob protein ball that I make frequently to snack on during lunch meetings at work or while playing at chess tournaments. They are a superb and tasty source of energy, rather filling for their size, relatively healthy compared to store-bought protein bars, and easy to make.

Recipe makes about 21 Tablespoon-sized balls.

As usual, most ingredient measurements are exact, i.e., by weight. I’ve tried to approximate the volume measurements in parentheses.

  • 120 g oats, ground to a flour (1.5 cups)

  • 10 g spirulina (1 Tb)
  • 10 g rice protein powder (1 heaping Tb)
  • 20 g hemp protein powder (2 heaping Tb)
  • 40 g carob powder (4 Tb)
  • cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  • 24 g raisins (2 packed Tb)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 64 g chunky peanut butter (1/4 cup)
  • 64 g chunky almond butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 70 g liquid sweetener of choice (3 1/2 Tb)

Step by step pictorial…

oat flour, cinnamon, spirulina, and nutmeg

rice and hemp protein powders

carob powder


non-dairy milk, nut butters, and sweetener

One thing I often do with the sweetener is to cut it in half calorically with an all-fruit jam, in this case, strawberry.

Pour wet into dry and mix well

A thick, chocolate-like dough is the result

Scoop up the dough by the Tablespoon and roll into balls. If it’s too sticky, like this batch, which had a bit more than a 1/2 cup of soymilk, moisten the palms of your hands with water. Place on a cookie sheet or, as above, in the wells of a cupcake pan, and freeze for a couple hours. Enjoy! :)

Note: If you use one of the links above, I get a small cut of the sale (at no extra cost to you). Even without this incentive, I recommend them for these treats.

Eastern Philosophy

March 16th, 2014

Recently, a co-worker asked me if I had any suggestions for books on Buddhism. As a bibliophile and one who has been interested in Eastern philosophies since college, I was only too happy to oblige and thought I’d briefly share them here.

The first recommendation was “anything by Alan Watts.” Watts was instrumental in bringing Eastern religion and thinking to the West during the late 50s and early 60s and making it accessible to the Western mind. His many books and audios are timeless to this day. In fact, you may have come across some of his lectures and/or excerpts thereof on YouTube. Especially viral is this short clip animated by the creators of South Park in their instantly-recognizable style.

One of my favorite Alan Watts books, which I’ve read multiple times now, is The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

The second recommendation was “anything by Ram Dass.” Born Richard Alpert, this amazing man’s spiritual path began at Harvard as a friend and professorial colleague of Timothy Leary. After they were dismissed from the college, Alpert traveled to India where he met a Hindu guru and was given the name Ram Dass, “servant of God.” His most well-known book is the 1971 Be Here Now.

In 1997, he had a stroke, which he speaks fondly about in interviews and his memoir Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart published last year (2013). He continues to teach to this day via webcasts and his retreats in Hawaii.

Lastly, it came as a pleasant surprise to find that Ram Dass has also co-authored with Stephen Levine whose book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last really made an impression on me when I read it over a decade ago.

I hope you get a chance to explore these authors and that their words bring you peace.

Note: If you use one of the links above, I get a small cut of the sale (at no extra cost to you). Even without this incentive, I wholeheartedly recommend these authors. Enjoy!

Is Carrageenan Safe?

February 9th, 2014

Recently, I wrote White Wave, the makers of Silk soymilk to ask if they would reconsider the use of carrageenan in their products as the safety of regular consumption seems still an unknown. What follows is their response, to which I’ve added links to the various studies they referenced.

For the most part, I tend to err on the side of caution, in this case preferring soymilk made without this additive. Better yet, should time allow, I like to make my own, which tends to be almost as creamy as those manufactured with this thickener, and certainly creamier than those without.

Thank you for your recent email to Silk®. We appreciate your interest in our products.

Carrageenan is a naturally occurring thickener derived from red seaweed. It is also known as chondrus extract or Irish moss. There are two different types of carrageenan, food-grade and degraded. Silk® Soymilk uses only food-grade carrageenan as a natural thickening agent. It is used in many other food products such as cottage and cream cheeses, pie fillings, chocolate products, ice cream and salad dressings, among others. Degraded carrageenan is never used as a food ingredient.

Recently there has been some negative press on the safety of carrageenan. An article published in 2001 by Joanne Tobacman, a researcher at the University of Iowa, claimed that carrageenan may cause lesions or cancer in the gastro intestinal tract (Tobacman: Env. Health Per., Vol. 109, No. 10, Oct 2001). However, the Tobacman study was performed using only degraded carrageenan, not food-grade carrageenan, an entirely different substance.

Many consumers express concern that stomach acid could turn food-grade carrageenan into degraded carrageenan during the digestion process. However numerous studies on the digestion of food-grade carrageenan have shown that “it is either not degraded, not degraded to the same molecular weight, or not degraded in the same way” as the degraded form, and that the limited degradation that has been detected, has had “no effect on the gut wall”
(Carrageenan & furcellaran, WHO Food Additives Series 19, Sept., 2003).

The safety of food-grade carrageenan was substantiated at a joint meeting of the FAO/WHO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in June 2001. JECFA recommended an Acceptable Daily Intake of “not specified”, the most favorable ADI a food additive can receive. The JECFA review was based on extensive safety studies of food-grade carrageenan, including evaluation of such matters as degradation and carcinogenicity.

Additionally, a review paper by Samuel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D and Dr. Nobuyuki Ito, adopted by the JEFCA in their deliberations, evaluated and rebutted the evidence of claims of carcinogenity. The paper states, “In long term bioassays, carrageenan has not been found to be carcinogenic, and there is no credible evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect or a tumor-promoting effect on the colon in rodents.” Drs. Cohen and Ito are well-known and respected cancer researchers.

A review of existing scientific literature indicates that food-grade carrageenan is safe for all food uses. It is neither toxic nor carcinogenic. Silk products contain only the highest quality food-grade carrageenan available. We will continue to use only natural and safe ingredients in all of our products.

Our Silk® Almondmilk products are the only products right now that we manufactured without the use of carrageenan.

We hope this information is helpful.

Here’s Dr. Michael Greger’s brief take on the subject:

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out the way So Delicious handled the controversy. While they too are of the opinion that undegraded carrageenan “has been proven to be safe through rigorous studies,” they nevertheless are listening to their customers and have set about reworking their coconut milk over the last two years to exclude carrageenan. The new formula will start appearing on shelves in early 2014, and they have further pledged that “from now on, every new product we release will be carrageenan-free.”

A Small Tweak For The New Year

January 12th, 2014

As you flip the calendar on another year, perhaps you’re embarking on some of the standard New Year’s resolutions, e.g., weight loss, fitness, etc.. Of course, all noble pursuits. Here’s another you might consider that will take no more effort than being mindful of your posture. Not the straight-backed kind, though that’s a good idea too, but rather your body language in general and power positions in particular.

It turns out just two minutes holding such a pose can increase your testosterone and lower your cortisol levels, making you feel more confident and less stressed, more comfortable. In this TED talk, Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, shares these findings and recommends sneaking in those two minutes prior to evaluative situations like an interview, a review at work, public speaking, etc..

I hope you enjoy the talk, as I did, and that you have a very Happy New Year! :)

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