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From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Sweet & Easy Vegan

We start off the new year with a recipe that’s healthy, indulgent, and surprisingly vegan, from the fabulous Robin Asbell’s Sweet & Easy Vegan. Leave a comment below and you’ll be eligible to win the copy of the book we’ll reward to a randomly selected person (giveaway good in the US and Canada only).

Happy New Year!

New Year, Try Something New?

So, you relished your holiday roast, plowed through some pies, and tooted your horn on New Year’s Eve. As Edith Piaf said, “Je ne regrette rien!” But 2013 is here, and January is always a good time to adopt at least one good habit. Lest you think I’m talking about those resolutions that we make the morning after the party, and then abandon within the week, let me explain.

Nobody really succeeds when they promise to stop eating dessert on January first. Let’s face it, people who love sweets love sweets. The USDA estimates that we eat 80-90 pounds of sugar and high fructose corn syrup apiece each year, depending on how you parse the numbers. It’s hard-wired into our nature to like sweet tasting foods.

So my suggestion to you is to take a different tack. Move that sweets craving away from refined foods and go for some healthier treats. Whole grain, naturally sweetened treats will still satisfy that craving for sweetness, and treat your body much, much better.

When you make cookies, muffins, cakes and pies with real food, you will find yourself eating a reasonable portion, and being satisfied. A big, chewy, oaty cookie with filling whole grains, tasty fruit and flavorful sweetness from maple syrup or palm sugar is a joy, and a reasonable thing to eat, on top of it. Whole grain treats fill you up and nourish you, and keep you full longer. Typical white flour and sugar treats don’t, and it’s too easy to finish the whole sleeve of cookies, as your sugar rush builds.

Kicking white food may just be the wave of the future, as our blood sugar crazed masses begin to realize that they can still eat great foods, without empty calories that only cause trouble. Whole grains are delicious in their own hearty, deep way, and I promise that you can lead a very pleasurable life when you make the switch.

For genuinely “whole” treats, kick white sugar and start baking with sweetness the way nature intended. Natural sweeteners are closer to their original plant forms. Sugar cane is a plant, one that has nutrients, but in the process of making white sugar, they are all stripped away. When we bake with pure dried cane juice in the form of sucanat, we are using a whole food. Maple syrup is a source of antioxidants, palm sugar has trace minerals, and agave is very low on the glycemic index, all of which are benefits that high fructose corn syrup does not have.

So, for 2013, give whole grain, naturally sweetened treats a try. My latest book, Sweet & Easy Vegan, Treats Made with Whole Grains and Natural Sweeteners is a place to start. All the recipes have real food in them, from luscious fruit and crunchy nuts, to pumpkins and bananas, and of course, chewy oats and whole grain flours. It’s a bonus that they contain no butter or eggs, so you can rest easy on your cholesterol levels.

Oh, and if you are thinking that it’s a sacrifice, just try a few. Don’t tell your family that they are a little healthier, just serve them. Let taste speak for itself. Then ask yourself how you feel. I think you’ll feel good, and be glad you made a small change to bring more whole foods into your life.

Sweet Cinnamon Tortillas with Sweet and Fruity Salsa

Chips and salsa are such an easy, friendly food, and this sweet, healthful version has all the charm and none of the drawbacks. These cinnamon-and-Sucanat-sprinkled flour tortillas are great whole-grain dippers for a bowl of colorful fruit spiked with lime juice.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp Sucanat
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Six 6-in/15-cm whole-wheat flour tortillas
1 tsp coconut oil, melted, or canola oil

Sweet Salsa
2 large kiwifruit, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups/210 g chopped papaya or mango
1 avocado, diced (optional)
1 tbsp agave syrup
2 tsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Vegan sour cream for serving (optional)

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4.

In a blender, combine the Sucanat and cinnamon and grind until powdery. Put the tortillas on a cutting board in a stack and slice the stack into six wedges. Put the tortillas in a large bowl. Drizzle with the coconut oil and toss to coat. Spread the tortillas on two ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, flipping the tortillas with a metal spatula after 5 minutes of baking.

While the tortillas are hot, hold a small fine-mesh sieve or sifter over them and pour the cinnamon-sugar into it. Shake or sift the cinnamon sugar over the tortillas, then let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the salsa: In a medium bowl, combine the kiwi, papaya, and avocado (if using) and stir gently until well mixed. In a cup or small bowl, whisk the agave syrup and lime juice together. Drizzle the mixture over the fruit, then add the mint. Stir gently until well combined.

Serve the chips with the salsa alongside, along with sour cream if you like.

Purchase: Sweet & Easy Vegan: Treats Made with Whole Grains and Natural Sweeteners.

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