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Fitness expert shows how to improve holidays with healthy vegan recipes

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
holiday recipes, vegan, health, nutritious, Brendan Brazier, free Webinar

This time of year many of us gather with family and friends for festive holiday meals. In so doing, we often forsake a healthy diet for lavish, calorie-laden meals.

Brendan Brazier, vegan, professional Ironman tri-athlete champion, and performance nutrition consultant offers recipes that are tasty, nutritious, and healthy. In addition to the recipes listed below, he is hosting a free Webinar on 6 p.m. PT on December 3, 2012. The Webinar will present simple ways to reduce stress and strengthen immunity this season, through plant-based performance nutrition.

The webinar will present simple ways to reduce stress and strengthen immunity this season, through plant-based performance nutrition. Brendan Brazier will share tips from his new personalized e-learning program, Thrive Forward, launching in January of 2013.

Brendan Brazier’s healthy winter recipes:

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake with Chocolate-Almond Crust

Cacao butter is the secret ingredient to making this phenomenally smooth and sophisticated non-dairy cheesecake. Not only does the cocoa butter perfume the mixture with white chocolate luxury, but it also helps solidify the cheesecake. The cocoa paste has the same effect in the dark chocolate almond crust, which retains a satisfying chocolate crunch because of the hint of cocoa nibs. Mesquite powder enhances the chocolate flavor even further, serving as a natural flavor match for cocoa.

Time: 20 minutes active; 30 minutes to freeze • Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake
or 6 5-inch mini cheesecakes
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup Medjool dates, pits removed (about 8)
2 tsp mesquite powder
3 tbsp melted cocoa paste (approximately ¼ cup unmelted shavings;
melt using a double boiler method)
½ tsp almond extract
Pinch sea salt
1 tbsp cocoa nibs

Use a food processor to blend the almonds, dates, mesquite, cocoa paste, almond extract, and sea salt together into a crumbly dough. Add the cocoa nibs and pulse several times until just combined but not blended through, to retain a bit of crunchy texture.

2 pints fresh raspberries
2 cups raw cashews
3 ½ ounces melted cocoa butter (about 1 cup dry shavings;
melt using a double boiler method)
½ cup agave nectar or maple syrup
2 tbsp lucuma powder
4 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Simple Chocolate Sauce (see p. 276; optional)
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Use a blender to purée the raspberries. (If you wish, you may strain the berries to remove all the seeds but retain the liquid, then place the juice back in the blender. If you don’t mind a few seeds in the cheesecake, you can skip this step.) To the raspberries, add the remaining ingredients and blend until very smooth (this may take a few minutes).

To serve
• Use a 9-inch spring form pan and press the crust evenly across the bottom to form a dense, flat layer. Pour the cheesecake mixture on top.

• Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to set; freeze until ready to serve.

To serve, drizzle with Simple Chocolate Sauce if you wish, then decorate with fresh raspberries.

Variation: Make mini cheesecakes instead. When the cake components are ready, line six 5-inch ramekins tightly with plastic wrap, allowing extra wrap to flow over on all sides of the ramekin to ease later removal (alternatively, simply use mini-springform molds). Make the mini cakes just as you would the larger one. When ready to serve, simply lift the cheesecakes out of the ramekins by pulling up on the plastic wrap.

Yacon Dessert Ravioli

The mild taste and satisfying crunch of reconstituted yacon is complemented by a delectable sweet citrus-spice filling. Serve with a good non-dairy vanilla ice cream, or make the raw version below and keep this recipe 100 percent raw. An impressive holiday dessert with gorgeous flavor notes that are not to be forgotten!

Time: 10 minutes active; about 6 hours to freeze • Makes 12 ravioli (serves 2–4)
2 cups orange juice, or enough to immerse yacon slices
24 large yacon slices (try to pick larger, rounder slices)
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup raisins
1 ½ tbsp yacon powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp orange zest (grated orange rind) + some for garnish
One recipe Vanilla Protein Ice Cream with Caramel Swirl (see p. 279)
Yacon syrup, for garnish

• In a large bowl, pour orange juice over yacon slices until submerged. Allow to reconstitute for 1 hour.
• In a food processor, combine walnuts, raisins, yacon powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and orange zest. Process until a sticky filling has formed. Remove the mixture from the processor and knead to combine ingredients completely, if necessary.
• Remove yacon slices from orange juice and blot on a paper towel to remove any extra juice. To make the ravioli, place a small teaspoon of the filling in the center of a yacon slice. Top with another yacon slice, and pat the edges slightly to form a ravioli. Repeat until all yacon slices are used.

To serve
• Place 3 or 4 ravioli on a dessert plate, and top with a scoop of Vanilla Protein Ice Cream. Drizzle with yacon syrup and dust with orange zest, if desired.

No-Bake Double Chocolate Chip Maca Cookies
Soft and sweet. The secret is in the toasting of the coconut, which gives these the taste of “baked” cookies. For the chocolate, use the darkest chocolate you can find.

Time: 15 minutes • Makes about 1 ½ dozen
¼ cup shredded coconut
1⁄3 cup coconut flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp maca powder (gelatinized)
2 tbsp palm sugar
Pinch sea salt
2 tbsp almond butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup Medjool dates, pits removed (about 6 large)
1 ¾ ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

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• Heat a small frying pan over low heat and add the coconut. Toast the coconut until it has turned an amber color (about 1 minute), stirring constantly as coconut will burn easily. Remove from heat.

• Place the toasted coconut, coconut flour, cocoa powder, maca, palm sugar, and sea salt into a food processor and start the machine. Add the almond butter and vanilla extract, then, one at a time, add the pitted dates and process until a crumbly dough has formed.

• Stop the machine and check the consistency: the dough should stick together easily between two fingers when pinched. If too wet, add additional coconut flour. If too dry, add water about ¼ tsp at a time until correct consistency is reached.

• Transfer to a bowl and mix in the dark chocolate chunks. Using clean hands, grab a small amount—about a tablespoon—and squeeze and roll to form a tight ball. Flatten the ball using your palm or the back of a glass to form a small cookie.

Apple-Pear Energy Tartlets
Of course, simply doubling the recipe and making one large tart works too.
Time: 10 minutes • Makes 6 3-inch tartlets
1 medium sweet crunchy apple (Fuji or Gala work well)
1 medium soft pear (Bartlett or Bosc)
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice, or cinnamon
1 tbsp yacon syrup (optional)
3 Vega Whole Food Vibrancy Bars, Original Flavor

• Chop the apple and the pear into a fine mince. Toss with pumpkin pie spice and yacon syrup until well combined. Set aside.

• Using a standard-size muffin tin or tartlet molds, tuck a layer of plastic wrap into one of the cups to use as a mold.

• Break the energy bars into halves. Take one of the bar pieces and press it firmly into the lined cup, coaxing the bar “dough” evenly along the bottom and up the sides about ½ inch with your fingers to form the tartlet base.

• Use the plastic wrap to remove the packed base from the muffin tin, then peel away the plastic. Use the plastic again to form the remainder of the tartlets.

• Liberally spoon in the apple-pear filling evenly into each of the tartlet crusts and serve.

Garlic Thyme Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Delicious and very filling.
Time: 5 minutes active; 35 minutes to cook • Makes 2 servings
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp thyme
1 ½ tbsp coconut oil
½ tbsp basil
Sea salt to taste

• Preheat oven to 300°F.
• Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges or chunks. In bowl, combine the garlic, pumpkin seeds, thyme, coconut oil, basil, and sea salt.
• Add the sweet potatoes, stirring with your hands to make sure all the pieces are covered with the mixture.
• Spread the sweet potatoes on a baking tray lightly oiled with coconut oil; bake for about 35 minutes.
• If you prefer the potatoes crispier, leave in the oven for an extra 5–10 minutes.

Purée of Turnip Soup
A comforting holistic soup made from the delicious yet often forgotten turnip.
Time: 40 minutes • Makes 4 servings
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3–4 turnips (about 1 pound), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium sweet potato (about ½ pound), peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ tsp salt, or to taste
½ tsp black pepper

• Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Melt the coconut oil, and add the onions and garlic. Sauté for 3–5 minutes or until onions begin to turn translucent.

• Add the turnips and the sweet potato and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Pour in the vegetable broth and almond milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes, or until turnips and potatoes are tender.

• Transfer soup contents to a blender, and purée until completely smooth (blend in a couple of small batches, if necessary).

• Pour soup back into pot and reduce at a low simmer for 5 minutes longer. Add salt to taste and black pepper.

Mashed Kabocha Squash with Toasted Coconut
This delicious recipe makes a great side dish.
Time: 10 minutes • Makes 4 servings
¼ cup shredded coconut
1 pound cooked kabocha squash
3 tbsp light coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

• In a pan over medium-low heat, toast the coconut for 1–2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Coconut burns easily, so remove from heat immediately after cooking.

• Mash the squash and coconut milk together with a fork or handheld blender. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and top with toasted coconut.

See also: Performance consultant offers tips for a healthy and nutritious holiday