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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Avocado Enchiladas (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free) + Importance of Healthy Fats

 How genius is the concept of avocado enchiladas and why hadn't I found them earlier? I was inspired to create this recipe thanks to one of my favorite dishes at a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant called Blue Mesa Grill. I had never heard of avocado enchiladas before discovering this restaurant but it makes so much sense for a vegan because it gives bulk to a meal and a creaminess much like cheese, not to mention all of the fantastic health benefits of avocado. 

This meal is incredibly simple to put together on a day when you don't feel like spending a lot of time preparing a meal ("Claire, that's most days!" - I hear you) but you also don't want to settle for a frozen dinner, takeout at a restaurant or worse, a fast food establishment... gasp!

I actually made these avocado enchiladas several days in a row because they're so darn tasty, filling and easy. I usually eat a salad beforehand or steam some veggies to accompany this entree. You could also serve with a side of brown rice or sweet potato fries.

Today's ingredient spotlight goes to...

Avocados - Ohhh, beloved, avos! These creamy delights are in my top 5 favorite foods of all-time and it is not hard to see why. Not only are they filling, creamy and silky in texture making them an excellent substitute for recipes calling for dairy, but they are also bursting with nutrition. Avocados are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat, which is easily burned by the body and also helps in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein. In addition, 1 medium Hass avocado contains twice as much potassium as a banana and has 3 grams of protein. They also contain vitamin E, fiber, B vitamins, and folic acid [source]. Studies have also shown that avocados can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

The other wonderful thing about avocados is that experts say that they are one of the fruits that you don't have to buy organic because the skin protects the inner flesh from pesticides. Hooray!

I do want to mention that just because someone follows a vegan diet doesn't mean that they're healthy. There are lots of processed vegan (and gluten-free) junk foods out there that when compared with a person who does consume animal products, the vegan who eats in this unhealthy manner is not any healthier and is oftentimes more unhealthy than someone who consumes high-quality animal products in moderation.

I personally found myself eating a lot of high-fat foods often, even though they were healthy sources of fat. Healthy fats can still be clogging if eaten in excess and can cause health problems. Just be wary of it. I still cook/bake with coconut oil often, use extra virgin olive oil sparingly, and eat avocados, nuts and nut butters, but I am now more conscious of the amount, though I don't count calories. I base much of it upon how I feel. If I've eaten too much healthy fat, I feel so bloated and weighed down and I get cranky because of it. I swear to never do it again because I feel so miserable. 

Remember that a low-fat diet isn't necessarily healthy either. We need fat for energy, healthy skin, healthy cells, optimal brain function, to cushion our organs, for fat-soluble vitamin absorption, and to make hormones [source]. Plus, healthy fat containing whole foods like nuts are not only high in protein and vitamins and minerals, but also contain fiber which keeps us full and as a result can keep us from overeating to assist in weight loss. Not to mention, on a low or fat-free diet, people may tend to consume low-fat or fat-free processed foods which contain health depleting ingredients. Read labels - you hold the power.

The daily recommendation is usually 1-2 oz. of nuts (1 oz. = 24 almonds 6g protein & 16-18 cashews 5g protein) or 2 Tbsp nut butter and 1 small avocado or 1/2 of a large avocado. Don't deprive yourself of coconut oil and nut butters. This type of restriction may cause you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Focus more on what you do daily than what you do every once in awhile. For instance, many gluten-free vegan desserts are high in fat but as an occasional treat, you'll be just fine. Enjoy in moderation, friends!

TIP: Portion your nuts (1-2 oz.) into baggies and keep them in the fridge for easy access so you're not tempted to eat from the bag they come in when hunger strikes. Or measure out 2 Tbsp nut butter instead of eating directly from the jar.

I recommend to consume mostly whole foods in a balanced way with little to no junk food of any kind. And remember, the occasional setback won't kill you. Progress not perfection. I'm still working on it too! But I am proud to say that I am 100% vegan now. :-) I'm in the process of changing out all of my cosmetics/personal care products and apparel with respect to this lifestyle as well. I've never felt better physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Avocado Enchiladas

YIELD: 2 servings (1 serving = 2 enchiladas)


• 2 small avocados
• 4 organic corn tortillas *make sure they're organic to avoid GMOs
• 2/3 cup tomatillo sauce (bought mine at Whole Foods)
• 1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
• 2 Tbs, coarsely chopped
• 3 Tbs, diced
• 1/4 tsp chili powder
• Few pinches of cumin
• Pinch of sea salt
• Vegan cheese (such as Daiya), to top (optional)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the corn tortillas on a baking tray/pan and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the lime juice, cilantro, red onion, chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and mix well. Cut the avocados lengthwise around the pit, twist each half in opposite directions to separate then remove the pit. Slice the flesh crosswise.

3. Assemble the enchiladas by scooping 1/2 sliced avocado into each corn tortilla (1/2 avocado per tortilla) and distribute the cilantro/red onion filling mixture equally per each tortilla. Fold each tortilla and place each with the fold side down on the baking tray and top with the tomatillo sauce. Place in the oven and cook for 12 minutes.

4. Remove the enchiladas from the oven and top with cilantro, red onion and vegan cheese (as I did above), if desired. Serve and enjoy! :-)

What is everyone doing for Thanksgiving? What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? I keep asking myself, "how on earth will I make it through without eating any animal products?! Will I just starve myself all day? Eat a huge breakfast to keep me full most of the day? What if I eat something made with animal products?"After much contemplation, I think I may have to bring my own personal Thanksgiving dinner, despite how ridiculous that sounds and how nuts I will look. But luckily I don't really care about looking like a looney tune anymore because I always keep in the forefront of my mind the reasons a gluten-free vegan lifestyle is so important to me both ethically (first and foremost) and nutritionally. 

The more I learn about changing to a vegan diet, the more I learn the importance of standing by your beliefs and values wholeheartedly and not compromising or becoming small just to please others or to avoid confrontation. I think overall, people respect those who have strong beliefs and believe in them with their whole being and stand by them even when they're challenged. Even so, I also strongly believe in open-mindedness, being educated on both sides of an issue and listening to what others have to say with an open heart and with love. Ignorance is the other option but I'd rather keep my distance because it certainly hasn't solved any problems.

Anyway, before I carry on too long, I just want to wish you all a love-filled Thanksgiving and I hope you are all fortunate enough to spend it with your family and friends, with nutritious and delicious food on your plates, and that you keep those who aren't as fortunate in your thoughts or better yet, volunteer time, money and/or goods this holiday season in any way you can. <3

"View your life with kindsight. Stop beating yourself up about things from your past. Instead of slapping your forehead and asking: "what was I thinking?" Breathe & ask the kinder question: "what was I learning?"


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