Thursday, 10 October 2013

Healthy Holidays + Quick Recipe: Personal Vegan Apple Crisp

The days are getting cooler and darker, the leaves are transforming brilliantly before the trees shed this vibrant plumage to settle into their winter whites, and you may find your tastes and cravings run more toward warm and comforting foods.  And it's a great time to indulge them - but can we do that and still eat healthy?

In a word: yes!

The fall and winter seasons are dry and cold, sometimes crisp and even bitter - think of the crunch of dry leaves, a chill wind, or a fresh layer of ice on snow.  According to Ayurveda, eating foods with these similar Vata properties - dry, crisp, cool, bitter - can exacerbate symptoms of Vata imbalance, such as dry skin, crackling joints, and disarrayed thoughts.  To balance this, we turn to foods with opposing Kapha attributes - moist, warm, sweet, soft.

And not surprisingly, holiday fare is loaded with Kapha foods: yams and sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin dishes, stuffing... and desserts.

That said, though these foods are grounding and can help balance excess Vata, it can be easy to overindulge and feel heavy, sleepy, and over-full.  Sticking to fibre-rich vegetable and legume dishes more often than starchy grains and potatoes, keeping meat portions reasonable (4 oz. is plenty), choosing a healthy fat at each meal, and watching portions overall can help minimize overeating.  Stick to your food log habits through the holidays, but don't punish yourself for "giving in" to dessert; instead, savour it slowly as a once-a-year treat.

Of course, making dessert healthier with nutritious, clean ingredients can help minimize holiday guilt, so here I'm giving you a healthier fall dessert option that you don't have to feel bad about serving to your guests - or eating all by yourself.  This is a single-serve recipe, so multiply it for however many people you want to serve.  It's an easy-to-make crowd-pleaser that always impresses when I bring it to my family's Thanksgiving feast.  Happy baking!

 Personal Vegan Apple Crisp
- 1 small or ½ large organic apple (I used royal gala, but granny smith is amazing), cored and diced
- 1 Tbsp. organic coconut sugar (less if using a sweet apple)
- 1 Tbsp. organic oats
- 1 Tbsp. organic coconut oil
½ Tbsp. organic spelt flour
¼ tsp. organic cinnamon
- pinch sea salt
- 5-6 raw walnut or pecan halves, optional

Preheat oven to 400⁰F.
Spread the diced apple in the bottom of an oven-safe ramekin or French onion soup bowl.
Mix the remaining ingredients except walnuts in a small bowl to make the topping.  The mixture should be slightly clumpy but not powdery or pasty.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apple.
Arrange the nut halves on top.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until sugar melts and apple is tender.
Serve warm.

Optional indulgences: drizzle with 1 tsp. pure maple syrup or a dollop of cashew cream; or serve à la mode with a scoop of maple or vanilla coconut ice cream.  Great with a cup of rooibos chai tea.

Make it gluten-free: look for certified uncontaminated GF oats, such as Only Oats, and skip the spelt flour (try it with coconut, almond, or rice flour, or all-purpose GF baking flour, instead).

Bonus: double everything except the sugar to enjoy dessert for breakfast.  Serve topped with ¼ cup coconut or almond yogourt and raw pumpkin seeds.


Edit: This recipe also appears in my holiday recipe e-book, Love Plants for Life: Plant-Based Holiday Solutions, featuring 12 of my favourite allergy-friendly holiday recipes!  Available now.

The advice in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care professional.  Always consult your health care professional before undertaking any radical change in your diet.

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