Most anyone who is a fan of vegan dining knows the importance of healthy eating. What may surprise some of us are the extreme consequences that are facing millions of Americans with heart disease. A new infographic from the Northwest Regional Heart Center sheds some light on this epidemic. 

Take a look at the infographic below and head over the the Northwest Regional Heart Center website to learn more.
Merry Christmas! I can’t believe it is one week away…do you think we will get a white Christmas?

Here are a few more ideas to consider as the Christmas season is upon us!

If you are at a sit-down dinner party, cut your first helping in half. That way, you can enjoy seconds (and your host or hostess will feel good about that) and the total amount of food you eat will be about the same as a normal-size portion.

Enjoy physical activity after a holiday feast. Find activities the whole family can do such as walking, biking, roller-blading or hockey, and develop family fun-time habits that can continue after the holiday season. Perhaps this would be a great New Year's Resolution for the family?

Be realistic. Don't try to lose weight during the holidays—this may be a self-defeating goal. Instead, strive to maintain your weight by balancing party eating with other meals. Eat small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can enjoy celebration foods later without overdoing your total calorie intake.

Have fun. Enjoy traditional holiday meals and party foods with family and friends while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, too.

Looking for a healthy snack packed with big flavors that will leave your home smelling great and like the holidays? Or as a treat or p

Cinnamon Roasted Walnuts


2 cups walnuts                                   
3 Tbsp. agave nectar or honey                                
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 ½ Tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp cayenne powder     


1. Place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350˚F.
2. Combine agave, oil, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne powder in a glass measuring cup. Pour over the walnuts in a large bowl and toss to coat evenly.
3. Place the nuts in an even layer on a glass baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring at 6 minutes, and checking at 12 minutes. Nuts should be soft, and will get crisp as they cool.
4. Stir nuts to cool and to continue to coat with agave mix that may have fallen to the bottom of the dish. Place on aluminum foil to cool completely, and continue to stir, to prevent them from drying in a large clump.

Merry Christmas!
I hope all of you enjoyed your Thanksgiving with family and friends! I can’t believe the Christmas season is upon us! Thanksgiving has come and gone and the challenge now begins – how do I maintain my weight during this holiday season? What healthy steps can I take during holiday parties, catering, and more?

Did you know the average American gains over a pound during the holiday season? These pounds could add up! While it may not seem like a lot…the average American doesn’t lose this pound. It may explain the average weight gain of 1-2 pounds a year for middle-aged individuals.The same study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that the individuals who weighed more at the start of the study, were more likely to experience a “major” holiday weight gain of 5 pounds or more.

Take the edge off your hunger before a party. Feeling hungry can sabotage even the strongest willpower, so eat a small, low-fat snack such as fruit or a hand-full of nuts before you head out the door. This will help you avoid rushing to the buffet table when you arrive.

Make just one trip to the party buffet. Choose only the foods you really want to eat and keep portions small. Fill up your plate one time, rather than planning on numerous small trips through the buffet – the calories can add up quickly! And first place the healthy options like vegetables and fruit on your plate, limiting the room available on the plate for only a few of the high-calorie options! Often just a taste satisfies a food craving or curiosity. Also, move your socializing away from the buffet table to eliminate unconscious nibbling.

Meet and greet. Conversation is calorie-free. Get a beverage (try sparkling water and a lime twist rather than a punch or sweetened beverage) and settle into the festivities by catching up with old friends and making new ones.

One a day. Limit yourself to one treat a day! If you know you are attending a party later in the day, save your treat for the party, rather than having a pastry or donut for breakfast! If you are attending a brunch buffet, treat yourself at the end, and know that at dinner that evening, a salad or lighter fare would be your best choice.

Some Recipe Ideas:

  • Try using hummus instead of a traditional ranch dip on your relish platter! This adds fiber and a bit of protein!
  • If it’s cold out and raw vegetables don’t sound inviting, trying preparing a roasted vegetable platter using zucchini, bell peppers, yellow squash, onions, asparagus, yam wedges and more! Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
  • Trying to use up the leftover canned pumpkin? Substitute pumpkin puree for oil in your brownies or cake! For each half cup of oil removed, you can save more than 900 calories and decrease the fat!
And what is an idea for a low-calorie, plant-based item?

Cumin-Spiced Carrot Phyllo Cups

1.5       Pounds            Carrots, baby or whole cut into smaller sections
2          Each                Garlic Cloves
¼          Cup                  Extra-virgin Olive Oil
3          Tbsp                Red Vinegar
1          tsp                   Paprika
¼          tsp                   Chili Powder
1          tsp                   Ground Cumin
1          tsp                   Ground Coriander
¼          cup                  Cilantro, fresh
2          Tbsp                Mint, fresh
32        Ea                    Mini Phyllo Cups (Available in the freezer section at the grocery store.)

1. Steam the carrots until tender and drain well.
2. In a food processor, place the carrots, garlic, and spices.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, incorporating it into a smooth dip.
3. Transfer the dip into a piping bag, or use a spoon to fill the phyllo cups/shells.
4. Garnish with freshly minced cilantro and mint.

I also wanted to respond to a frequent question/comment about nutrition facts at the LivingWell Bistro! We are in the stages of finalizing our recipes and wanted to take a year to really respond to customer feedback on our menu. That said, when recipes are changing, I don’t feel comfortable posting ingredients and nutrition facts until I know they are accurate. Thank you for your patience! Watch for these to be published in the coming months.

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful for many items…but one that I believe most of us take for granted at times, is the blessing of food – food shared with family and friends! Take some time this year to count your blessings as you celebrate with family and friends! God has blessed us abundantly…

On an earlier post, I mentioned creating a nut butter to use in the chili! I have been so surprised to discover how easy it is to create my own nut butter at home – especially with recalls of contaminated peanut products. And the best part – I can add anything I want to develop fun flavors – maple syrup, cinnamon, chocolate, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and more!

Have you made a nut butter at home? It is a simple as tossing some nuts in a food processor and letting it go! You may need to give it a rest and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, before starting it up again – but simple and without any added fats or ingredients! At first it will form a dust, but scrape down the sides and let it continue processing. Do not add any liquids. Eventually it will begin to clump, let it keep running! Allow it to reach your desired consistency!

Try roasting the nuts a bit before to give it a little added flavor. Or use a smoked nut – like smoked almonds in the chili.  To roast nuts, place them on a sheet pan in the oven at 350 degrees, for ~12 minutes, stirring frequently.

Did you know, research has shown that nuts – a wide variety – are correlated to improved health? The high quantity of phytosterols in most tree nuts, is what most like contributes to their cholesterol-lowering effect. On a different note, research has shown the protective benefits of frequent nut consumption on gallstone diseases in both sexes. And despite nuts being high in calories, “With respect to clinical studies, the evidence is nearly uniform that [nuts] inclusion in the diet leads to little or no weight gain…Moreover, adherence to a moderate-fat weight loss diet vs. a low-fat weight loss diet in free-living subjects is better and the nutrient profile of the moderate-fat diet is superior.”(Mattes, RD, Kris-Etherton, PM, Foster, GD. Impact of Peanuts and Tree Nuts on Body Weight and Healthy Weight Loss in Adults. J Nutr, 138: 1741S-1745S, 2008.)

Here is an additional recipe that includes nuts and could be an excellent appetizer for a Thanksgiving or holiday party.

Walnut-Sage Pesto & Roasted Squash Bruschetta

¼          Cup      Sage, fresh

2          Tbsp    Parsley, Italian, fresh
1          Ea        Garlic clove, fresh, minced
½          Cup      Walnuts, toasted
1          tsp       Lemon zest
2          Tbsp    Lemon Juice, fresh
¼          Cup      Olive oil
¼          Cup      Mushroom Broth
1          Cup      Sweet potato, peeled and diced
1          Cup      Butternut squash, peeled and diced
2          Tbsp    Olive oil
12        Each    Baguette Slices, toasted

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Gently toss the 2 Tbsp of olive oil with the sweet potato and butternut squash. Spread evenly in a single layer on a sheet pan and place in the hot oven for 30-40 minutes until evenly roasted, turning potatoes over after 10 minutes.

In a food processor, place the sage, parsley, garlic, walnuts, lemon zest and lemon juice, and pulse a few times. Then, when the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil and mushroom broth until it comes to a consistency you are pleased with. Season with salt and pepper as you desire.

Once the potato/squash blend is finish roasting, assemble the bruschetta. Take one slice of toasted baguette, spread a teaspoon (or more) of the pesto on the baguette and top with the roasted potato/squash blend. 

Enjoy! If you prefer, you could add a small quantity of the Daiya mozzarella cheese to the top for an additional flavor and creaminess!

So this past weekend, I had the joy of attending a “Harvest Party” in a friend’s home – held annually the weekend before Halloween. This time of year is always so much fun – visiting with friends and family, enjoying tasty meals, stomping around in the pumpkin patches, getting the last harvest of the season!

But back to the party…Delicious items surrounded me as everyone has begun embracing the holiday food season! Pumpkin fudge (awesome with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg), pumpkin cupcakes, a variety of crackers and a “cheese” log rolled in a family’s secret spice blend and more! One of the best parts of this party, however, is the “Chili Cook-Off!” This year was the first year the competition was divided into two categories – traditional and non-traditional chili!

Since chili by origin is a combination of spices and meat – my best friend and I had to enter the non-traditional avenue with a vegan submission! We had to keep the guys on their toes to try and see if they could even tell! And despite the non-traditional category, all other chili that was entered contained meat!

So, here it is…I’ll admit, I was the sous chef on this recipe, but I got permission to share the winning recipe – Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili


  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup    Onion, diced
  • 3 Cups  Sweet Potato, peeled and diced into ½” cubes
  • 3 each   Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp  Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp  Chipotle Powder
  • 1 Tbsp  Ground Cumin
  • 70 oz     Canned, Diced Tomatoes (2 – 28oz cans + 1 – 14oz can)
  • 28 oz     Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed well, low sodium
  • ½ Cup   Smoked Almonds, processed into a meal using a food processor
  • 2 Tbsp  Maple Syrup (or Maple Sugar)
  • Salt to Taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Once the oil is hot, sauté the onions until they begin to caramelize.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, garlic and spices, and sauté until the sweet potatoes are evenly coated and beginning to soften – around 5 minutes. Be careful to not burn the spices and garlic, keeping the heat on medium.
  3. Add the tomatoes and black beans. Simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. Once the almonds are well processed and similar in texture to a corn meal, incorporate it into the chili. If you don’t have a food processor, you may substitute an almond butter, just decrease the quantity to a 1/3 cup.
  5. Add maple syrup, and adjust any seasonings as needed.

Enjoy this with a homemade cornbread or fresh biscuits. This chili is great a day later too, when all of the flavors are well combined, if there are any leftovers to be found.

I hope you take the time to enjoy this fall season and fall flavors with friends. And if you aren’t feeling up to making your own chili, bring your friends into the Bistro and order some of their chili (featured on the menu daily) – using three beans, soy curls, and corn to provide it with a great flavor and texture!

We had a great turn out to last week’s class at the LivingWell Bistro! If you are interested in joining us for the next one, please put November 6th on your calendars! J Thank you to all who participated! The feedback on the previous post was fantastic. Quite a few were skeptical…but pleasantly surprised!

Portland’s fall season this year has been gorgeous! I don’t know if any of you have had the opportunity to drive through the Columbia River gorge to go apple picking and look at the leaves, but a few weekends ago I had the opportunity to drive through the gorge, visit Multnomah Falls, and pick a few apples. The variety of leaf colors that can be seen throughout the mountain ranges was (and still is) astounding – many more colors than previous years. And from what I could tell, the apple crop was abundant too!

One employee commented to me today, that this past weekend he had the opportunity to attend an Apple Festival! And when I was picking up a few groceries at Whole Foods, they were sampling about 10 different varieties of apples as well. How many varieties of apples have you tried? Most have tried a Braeburn, Granny Smith, and perhaps even a Red Delicious apple – but have you tried a Pink Lady (it really does exist), or a Honey Crisp? Did you know that the United States grows more than 2500 varieties of apples? And according to the California Apple Commission, apples can be grown in every state within the United States (including Alaska).  I’d encourage you to try a new variety – most stores would let you sample one if you are a little unsure!

While apples may seem like a common food – packed in a lunch, sliced up with some caramel dip, or made into applesauce – there are plenty of fun new ways to incorporate an apple into your diet! Apples have one average 5 grams of fiber, only 80 calories, and are naturally fat, sodium and cholesterol free.

How about combining two fall favorites – apples and butternut squash? I did just that to prepare this fantastic plant-based soup (easily organic too, just watch your labels when grocery shopping or picking items at your farmer’s market)!

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup


  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or another vegan margarine)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 large, finely diced, yellow onions  
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • ½ teaspoon thyme, dried
  • 2 large, seeded, peeled and diced, butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 pounds apples, try mixing Granny Smith and Golden Delicious (peeled)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups good apple cider (I used Columbia Gorge’s Apple Cider)

  1. Warm the margarine, olive oil, onions, and herbs in a large stockpot uncovered over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, and cook until the apples have started to gain a little color. Then add  2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Process the soup through a food mill fitted with a large blade, or puree it coarsely in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Another option would be to use an immersion blender or to slowly place batches into a blender (with the lid off), covered with a towel to puree.
  3. Pour the soup back into the pot. Add the apple cider or juice and enough water to make the soup the consistency you like; it should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Check the salt and pepper and serve hot.
  4. Garnish with additional fresh sage or a small bit of pinenut sour cream!
Additional options – try adding a little curry (and remove the herbs), or try a sweeter alternative using some cinnamon, ginger, and a touch of nutmeg and drizzle the final product with a bit of maple syrup! You may also add a sweet potato, as a substitute for some of the butternut squash!

Another item that could be served would be braised red cabbage and apple! This, again, incorporates seasonal items in a tasty plant-based side dish!

Braised Red Cabbage & Apples


  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or another vegan margarine)
  • 1 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed  
  • 1 apples, try using a Gala, Fuji or Pink Lady (peeled)
  • 2 pounds of red cabbage, finely shredded
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

  1. Warm the margarine, olive oil, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring for 1 minute.
  2. Add cabbage, apple, cider, caraway, salt and pepper, sautéing for roughly 20 minutes, until the cabbage is  tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the vinegar and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste. Serve warm!
Recipe based on recipe in Gourmet, October 2007.

Enjoy this apple season! Try a new variety of apple this season and find a new plant-based, apple-based recipe to add to your cooking repertoire.

Post a comment to share your favorite type of apple or post an idea for your favorite apple recipe!

Happy 1st Anniversary!!!

There have been numerous studies on soy and soy proteins – leading to many questions! This coming Tuesday evening, October 9th, there will be a class, Creating Health @ the LivingWell Bistro, at 7:00pm, focusing specifically on “Soy Power & Rest.”

In preparing for this class, I thought I would share a few facts and an awesome recipe that I found – perfect for an appetizer or inside a sandwich or wrap!

According to the USDA’s Nutrient Database, soy beans or edamame, served boiled/steamed without salt, contain 127 calories, 11 grams of protein, ~6 grams of fat, and ~10 grams of carbohydrate (~4 grams of dietary fiber) in a ½ cup portion. This makes soy a great source of multiple nutrients! Soy protein is the only “commonly consumed” plant protein that includes all nine essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s needs – in essence, making it equivalent to a traditional “meat” protein!

What are some other sources of soy protein? Do I just have to eat steamed edamame?

Of course not! There are the traditional sources like tofu and soy milk, as well, but countless new products are beginning to include soy protein! A great item, that has gained popularity in recent years, is Tofu Shirataki – or noodles made of tofu and a plant root! Not only is it an excellent plant-based option, it is also gluten-free. These noodles, after a quick draining and a good rinse, can be used in curries, “pasta” primavera, and more! I’d encourage you to try them. My personal preference is using the Tofu Shirataki angel hair noodles with a green curry sauce.  These noodles are available at most grocery stores – including Safeway, Whole Foods, and more – just check the refrigerated section where other tofu products are located!

Another item sometimes overlooked, but also a rising star in the soy world – is tempeh! At the LivingWell Bistro, we use tempeh in the Tempeh Wrap and frequently on a specialty pizza! I believe that one of the best tempeh recipes is in the cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Her tempeh sausage with fennel seed is awesome and a great addition to a tofu breakfast scramble, a marinara sauce for pasta or as a pizza topping! Tempeh is created by a natural culturing and fermentation process that binds soybeans into a patty or cake form, similar to a very firm plant-based burger patty. Commercially prepared versions usually include another grain like barley too - so check the ingredients if you have any allergies! Since the whole bean is used to create tempeh, it is naturally higher in fiber and other nutrients than a soy product like tofu.

And now…a promised recipe!  

Edamame Hummus*

20 Ounces of Frozen, Shelled Edamame

20 Ounces of Frozen Peas

1/3 Cup Fresh Lime Juice

2 Teaspoons Fresh Garlic, Minced

½ Teaspoon Ground Coriander

½ Teaspoon Ground Cumin

¾ Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

½ Teaspoon Fresh Jalapeno, Minced Finely

¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped

¼ Cup Fresh Mint, chopped

Gently boil the edamame and peas until tender. (It may be easiest to do these individually since they the edamame usually take a bit longer.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl of ice water – to keep them bright green! Once cool, drain well!

Using a food processor or Vita-Mix, pulse the edamame and peas into a course puree. Transfer to a medium bowl and gentle stir in the juice, garlic and spices. Once these are well combined, gradually stir in the oil, mixing well. Toss with the fresh cilantro and mint! Taste a little sample – and season to your liking with salt and pepper!


And for a fun twist, you could try throwing some fresh avocado into it for a unique type of guacamole with a super creamy texture!

*Recipe idea based on bon appetit’s recipe for Edamame Hummus, December 2011.

If you are interested in learning more, a few websites may be helpful:

Ginny Kisch Messina, MPH, RD
This past weekend, the LivingWell Bistro and Adventist Health had a great opportunity to be part of the NW VegFest, in addition to introducing a few of their guest speakers! Surprisingly, this marked the 2nd anniversary of the LivingWell Bistro's booth. Last year, we were announcing the upcoming opening of Portland's newest vegan restuarant! And this year, we were pleased to mark our first anniversary, coming up next week - October 4th!

One speaker, I had the privilege to introduce, was Ginny Messina, MPH, RD. Ginny is the author of the popular blog – The Vegan RD – in addition to co-authoring Vegan for Life.  I’ve included a picture with her on the post! I always find it helpful to look at what health professionals, like Registered Dietitians and Physicians, are saying in terms of latest research on health topics like a vegan diet! We also had the opportunity to listen to Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD speak and present this weekend – another individual who speaks publicly about the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet.

If you are looking for the latest in research and information related to a plant-based diet, please consider joining us on  October 21 from 6:00-8:00pm, to hear Michael Greger, MD present his research!

Now for a brief discussion on food...After all, we are part of a restaurant, right?

This past week, I had the opportunity to prepare a menu for physicians here at the hospital, and I decided to use an ingredient that I believe is often overlooked during the late summer and early fall season - FIGS. Many people only know of figs from their reference in the Bible, Genesis 3:7 – Adam and Eve using the fig leaves to cover themselves – but the fruit from this plant – the actual fig – is amazing!

Figs are typically thought to grow in warmer climates (and are native to the Middle East), however, figs can grow in Oregon! Look for some at your local farmer’s market or grocery store! They may be eaten fresh or dried and are an excellent plant-based source of calcium and fiber! Figs, all types, contain a variety of minerals needed in one’s diet – copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, in addition to being a great source of flavonoids, antioxidants and polyphenols.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy figs is lightly grilled (or placed in the oven under the broiler for a short period of time) to bring out some of their natural sugars! Then either eat them as is, or toss them with some fresh arugula, toasted walnuts, and a light balsamic vinaigrette for an easy salad.  

Next time you are out and looking for a new, seasonal food to try, pick up a few fresh figs!

Welcome to the LivingWell Bistro blog! I hope you have found the time to stop in and visit the Bistro! If you haven’t had a chance, please stop in and say hello!

As we develop this blog, we hope we will encourage you to try cooking and preparing a few vegan meals of your own – based on some favorites in the LivingWell Bistro, chef specials, seasonal produce and more! Or, if you currently practice a plant-based diet, I hope we can provide you with a few new ideas to enhance your current diet.

I absolutely love food – the endless combinations, enhancing natural flavors, and creating a plate that makes one hesitate before diving in! Occasionally we may highlight a few of our favorite products and brands – that you can purchase too – to help you find healthy, vegan options anywhere!

Let’s begin with something a little easier and versatile for the first recipe! J

Quinoa Bowls!

Frequently, guests join us in the Bistro for and inquire about one of our most popular menu items – the Quinoa Bowl! My recommendation would be to try it with the traditional Sesame-Ginger Sauce, and a small side of Teriyaki Sauce to finish it – absolutely delicious! That aside, what is quinoa? Quinoa is a high-protein grain with almost two times the protein content of brown rice. It was originally believed to be cultivated by the Incan tribes in South America. The grain has increased in popularity dramatically in the past few years – especially as more individuals have considered a gluten-free diet.

To prepare quinoa, use a rice cooker with a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa – using a basic vegetable broth or water! Add some freshly minced garlic and herbs to add some additional flavors if you would like!

Then, to prepare quinoa bowls…here are a few ideas, depending on your mood! Just layer the items in a bowl and enjoy.  Feel free to mix and match as you please or develop your own ideas! Garnish ideas are included, if you would like to use any of these ideas to entertain or to create a unique presentation for yourself to enjoy!




Welcome to the LivingWell Bistro Blog. We're excited to share our experience with vegan cooking with you. Check back soon for our first post.