In Sickness and in Health

There’s a lot of sickness going around lately and I wanted to spend an entry talking about what we can do to help prevent catching things as well as what to do when we have caught something, despite our noble efforts.

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Firstly we all know the basics by now of a good diet.  Eating a lot of fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables and little or no sugar and grains is key to being your healthiest all the time.  But if there’s a flu going around at work or you notice your friends are dropping like flies, then up the antioxidant power of your foods by eating raw as much as possible.  Raw vegetables will get more vitamins to your cells as well as more edible pre-biotics to your good gut microbes.  But, if you do want something hot, then make a tomato soup!  Lycopene is an antioxidant in those plump red gems which is actually released more when tomatoes are cooked, versus raw munchin’.  Carrots, spinach, cabbage, peppers and mushrooms all work well when cooked, too.  If you tire of straight up tomato, try a soup with these boiled vegetables and you could ward off sickness before it comes.

Exercise can also work miracles in your immunity’s defense.  During moderate exercise, some happy changes occur in the immune system.  As you run or sweat, immune cells pick up the pace, too, and circulate through the body faster and more efficiently.  In this way they are better able to kill bacteria and viruses.  The best part is that these effects continue even after your post-workout shower — if you exercise for 30 minutes on most days then these effects will just be a daily part of your immune cycle even on the days you rest.  Therefore being generally active can help ward off those ill bugs as well.

But we’re not super human, as I learned the first time I got sick after starting to eat well.  We do get sick sometimes, despite doing it all right!  And it’s true that it’s really hard to eat well when you’re ill!  It’s hard to be motivated into cooking or even getting off the couch.  I wanted to give some positive options for these feverish or achy or sniffly types of days.

Often I crave lots of liquids when I am sick — this is because staying hydrated is your body’s best defense.  Try to avoid drinking straight up juice (there’s more sugar, even in 100% fruit juices, then anti-oxidants in those) and instead try the following thirst quenchers:

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Popsicles can help you stay hydrated even though they feel more like a snack than a beverage.  Unfortunately finding a good-for-you pop at the grocery store isn’t very likely.  Even boxes with vibrant photos of fruit and claims of “all-natural ingredients” tend to also include lots of sugar or corn syrup.  But don’t fret — you can make your own popsicles at home!  We make ours with 100% juice, the pulpier the better.  Eating a few popsicles is better than drinking straight up juice because you use a lot less juice to make a popsicle and you consume it a lot slower than downing a glass of OJ.  Also, popsicles can be versatile — don’t forget the benefits of carrot or other veggie juices in your pops.  You could even blend up some kale or spinach with a favorite juice and freeze this.  Popsicles don’t have to be a single flavor or only made with fruit – get creative.

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For a refreshing snack when feeling sickly reach for melon.  Fresh cut melon of any variety is loaded with water, fiber, and is juicy and satisfying.  I always pick up a cantaloupe as soon as I am feeling under the weather.

Blueberries are also easy to eat when nothing else sounds goods.  They are packed with antioxidants.  Want a cool snack to ease a feverish head?  Put some in the freezer and suck on them like hard candy.

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Tea is a great idea.  You can make it hot or iced.  Adding lemon or honey can also be soothing.  I often put an entire cinnamon stick in mine, as well.  However you take yours, black, white, and green teas are loaded with anti-oxidants.  Herbal teas can also be very soothing and don’t have caffeine, which means extra hydration.  I suggest ginger tea for a stomach bug or a general feeling of BLAH.  Peppermint can make you feel less sluggish.  Lavender or chamomile tea can help you sleep.  And licorice is great for a sore throat or cough.

Often times people chug Gatorade when they are not feeling well because it has electrolytes and helps if you’ve lost fluids or need extra help with hydration.  However, Gatorade is sugar water and is always bright and abnormally colored.  Gross.  For more electrolytes without feeling like you’re drinking nuclear material, reach for coconut water.  It’s high in potassium and will replace any fluids you’ve lost quickly.  Just make sure you get the straight up kind, not one with added sugars.  If you need a splash of flavor in there, mix coconut water with a little juice or put it in a blender with some frozen fruit and make a smoothie!

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Miso soup or broth is another great tactic for when you need to eat but aren’t ready for a meal.  Miso is a fermented soy product made with the fungus Aspergillus oryzae.  Sounds weird, I know, but it’s actually really good PLUS it delivers a punch of probiotics and the important vitamin B 12.  This salty delicious broth is easily made just by first boiling water, then adding a spoonful of the miso (like a paste) and stirring it in.  You can find miso at your local grocery or Asian market.  I always make mine by the mugful and add a dash of cayenne pepper.  The cayenne is also an anti-oxidant and feels great, I think, on a sore throat.  If you are feeling hungrier add some snap peas, raw mushroom, and/or bean thread noodles (woon sen). 

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One more piece of advice for the weary – don’t forget healthy fats!  Your body needs fat to help fight influenza and often when we are sick we don’t crave fatty foods.  If all you want to eat is soup, then try adding a small pad of butter to your bowl.  If you’re craving a smoothie, use full fat yogurt.  If all you want is crackers, then I recommend the gluten free kind, with some avocado spread on them.

You get the idea — don’t let your sick foods be things like jello and apple sauce.  Hopefully with some whole foods and a little tender care you’ll soon be on your way to health.

 

 

Milk and the Alternatives

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I recently was asked about the best option for a coffee creamer.  Of course I answered “organic whole cream”, as I do believe this is the best choice, but then was posed with questions about alternative milks, such as almond milk.  I wanted to spend some time with this question and do some research.  I drink unsweetened almond milk occasionally as I do think I have some lactose intolerance (as do most people, it seems), and almond milk doesn’t make me feel gross the way drinking a glass of milk can.  I love milk, though, and I love its nutritional benefits.

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I’ve talked about this before, but let’s recap: organic whole milk is good for you.  If you can find grass-fed milk than this is even better (for you and for the cows!).  Recent studies have proven that the saturated fat in milk does not cause heart disease nor is it connected to cholesterol.  Cholesterol is caused by inflammation and inflammation is caused by: not exercising (leading a sedentary life style),  consuming oxidized cholesterol (like in deep fried foods and trans fats), using a lot of poly-saturated oils (such as soybean, sunflower, safflower, etc), and/or eating a lot of sugar and grains.  Processed foods and their food additives can also cause inflammation (but we’ll get to this in a minute).  Lowering cholesterol is about stopping inflammation and you can do this by eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet and being active.  Milk and other healthy, fatty foods help us absorb the vitamins and minerals that are in the plant-foods we eat.  They also lubricate our brains and can help with depression and fatigue.  Over all, whole-food fat is important and whole milk and cream are great sources of it.

So, if you are avoiding milk because of calories then stop it!  However, there are other reasons people may choose alternative milks.  Vegans naturally do not drink milk and those with a lactose allergy may also steer clear of the stuff.  It should be noted though that hard cheeses, goat cheese, and yogurts are generally safe forms of dairy for even the lactose intolerant.  These may be good options if you can’t ingest milk.  Also, I want to add that lactose intolerance is not harmful to your body, even if you do consume dairy.  If you lack the lactase enzymes to digest milk well it will ferment a bit in your gut, causing gas and bloating, but all-in-all it poses no long term effects.  I understand, though, if folks do no want to deal with even these uncomfortable temporary effects…  So, let’s look at the alternatives.

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Soy milk.  Ugh.  I cannot recommend this.  Soy is one of those items, like corn, that exists in 80% of all processed foods.  Soy lecithin is used in so many products, for example, and it definitely adds to increased inflammation (therefore to risk of heart disease and high cholesterol) in the body.  Humans have manipulated the genetics of the soybean to such an extent that it doesn’t resemble its former self anymore.  Most soy is genetically modified (a GMO) and although the research is slim, I steer away from foods that could contain the antibiotics, built in pesticides, and genetic mutations that GMOs may carry.  Also if you consume a lot of soy, its isoflavones can interfere with your endocrine system.  This has been known to cause various cancers, fertility problems, and hormonal balance issues for men and women alike.  I suppose if you absolutely love soymilk then choose an organic, unsweetened version and do not consume it daily.  But also, you have to consider that there are additives to soy milk when you buy it from the store.  These additives are shared by all alternative store-bought milks of all kinds, so I will review them momentarily… first on to rice milk.

Rice milk is a milky substance produced by soaking and blending a grain.  Rice is generally composed of simple sugars and this alternative milk is also not a good bet.  I try as much as possible to eliminate grains from my diet, so drinking them seems extra silly.  Ingesting a lot of grains can lead to inflammation (which, like afore-mentioned, causes cholesterol to rise) as well as can create/feed a gut bacteria known as Prevotella.  This bacteria is being studied currently and now scientists know that it can also spurt out cholesterol and cause inflammatory symptoms.  Also rice milk usually has added unhealthy oils, such as soybean or safflower oil.  These are not heart healthy.

Almond milk (specifically the unsweetened kind) definitely seems like the right choice.  It’s a nut, first of all, and nuts are great for you!  The fats in nuts like almonds are healthy fats and they are also high in protein, which provides energy and decreases hunger.  The  only issue is that store-bought almond milk, like the store-bought soy and rice milks, still contains a lot of additives. Let’s review two common additives usually present in these milks.

Carrageenan is often used to produce a better, creamier texture in alternative milks and even other products such as ice cream.  Some people think that since this is produced by seaweed, a natural and usually healthy whole-food, that it is fine to consume.  Unfortunately carrageenan has recently been studied and is now known to cause severe inflammation in rats.  As we know, inflammation causes high cholesterol and can lead to heart disease.  This ingredient should be avoided.  I want to note, though, that Guar Gum and Locust Bean Gum, which are also often used for texture in processed foods, are totally safe and come from a simple process of breaking down natural substances via cooking them.

Vitamin A Palminate is a man-made vitamin that is extracted from the fat of a variety of sources and has no actual health benefits when it is processed in this way.  Man made vitamins are not absorbed well by humans and do not act like naturally occurring vitamins.  When you eat a fruit or vegetable or meat that naturally contains a vitamin then your body can break it down and use it.  Often processed foods and milks have added vitamins or say that they are “enriched”.  Unfortunately there are many studies that suggest added man-made vitamins, such as Vitamin A Palminate, actually increase you risk for heart disease.  Also, often in processed foods the palminate is extracted from the fat in Palm Oil.  Palm Oil comes from palm trees.  This is important to note because the growth of palm trees to extract the palm oil is a very controversial issue.  Rain forests and other land is being destroyed by the unsustainable growth of palm trees for the production of additives in processed foods.  Yet another reason to avoid store-bought alternative milks.

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But hope is not all lost!  You can make your own almond milk right at home!  You only need a blender and a mesh strainer or cheese cloth.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I hear homemade almond milk has all the flavor and wonder of store-bought milk and it only contains two ingredients:  whole almonds and water.  You can’t go wrong there!

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Learn how to make your own healthy alternative milk at home : http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-almond-milk-at-home-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-189996

Truly Healthy Baked Goods

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“Healthy baked goods” seems like an oxymoron and I suppose, usually, it is.  Flour and sugar are not a pro-health combination and essentially these plus a little chemistry is what baked goods are.  Sometimes people equate words like Vegan or Gluten-Free baked goods with health-food, but usually these types of treats are just as packed with bad-for-you ingredients. Vegan baked goods usually still have a lot of sugar and/or terrible oils (vegan margarine is far worse for you than butter) and Gluten-Free baked goods also still contain sugar and usually have bad-for-you-flour-blends (potato, tapioca, millet, quinoa, soy, and rice flours are nearly just as bad for you as wheat).  So, is it hopeless for you to enjoy a muffin at brunch, or a cookie at a potluck?  Nope.  Wellness-baking is possible and although the recipes featured in this entry are, indeed, both Vegan and Gluten-free, they are also conscientiously healthful.

So why are my baked goods healthful?  The following recipes are made from almond flour – a nut that boasts of heart-health benefits, plus lots of fiber and protein.  They are sweetened with dates, not sugar, and only contain 1-2 dates per serving.  Dates, again, are high in fiber and low on the glycemic index.  They contain whole fruits, such as apples and bananas, and omega-3 charged flax seed instead of eggs or oils.  The only oil used is a tiny bit of coconut oil, which is packed with nutrients.  There is unsweetened chocolate, one of the world’s healthiest foods, which is packed with antioxidants and with none of the guilt that sweetened chocolate brings.  These baked goods are without the harm of flour, sugar, salt, preservatives, or bad fats.  Of course you can’t replace all meals with baked goods — as fresh vegetables are also super important — but these in replacement of any other desserts you’ve been eating will truly be a healthy (and delicious) choice.

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I first made these Orange Dream cookies on a whim on an evening when I had a sweet tooth.  They’re kind of like mixing an oatmeal raisin cookie and a dreamsicle.  (Except they contain no grain at all.)  Okay, I admit it — Timm and I ate 20 of them in one evening.  My mom nearly did the same thing when I made them a second time for a family get together.  There may not be a living soul who won’t love these.

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups almond meal

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tbsp grated orange peel

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp flax (milled)

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup date paste (I make mine just by adding dates to unsweetened almond milk in my vitamix, but as I’ve mentioned before, there is a more in depth recipe here:  http://thechalkboardmag.com/raw-staple-sweetener-date-paste)

2 tbsp orange juice

a little less than 1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 tbsp vanilla

Etc:

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup dried unsweetened cherries

Mix the wet with the dry, then add the items from the “Etc” column.  Drop in small spoonfuls (I like gingersnap sized cookies) onto a greased cookie sheet and flatten with spoon a bit.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 18 minutes or until firm/golden.

 

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There’s this new recipe I love which makes a moist muffin-top sort of giant cookie.  It’s great for breakfast or for dessert!  I love this recipe because it is incredibly versatile.  In fact I altered it a little bit and made three different cookies from the same recipe!  I’ll give you the original one (an apple streusel) and then show you how to alter it to make brownies and banana bread. 

Apple Streusel Muffin-Tops

Dry Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

2 tbsp coconut flour

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Wet:

Date paste – I used 10 dates and 1/4 cup of almond milk or so, til paste)

Etc:

1 tbsp flax and 2 tbsp water (stir together and set aside)

1 apple of your choice (I used gala) peeled and diced small

To make cookie, combine dry ingredients, then wet ingredients, then Etc. column into mixing bowl.  Massage dough and form into six muffin-top like patties on a greased cookie sheet.  Add streusel to top of each (recipe follows) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  You may need to flip them and bake on other side for 10 more minutes if still not done.  Final product will be very moist!

To make streusel:

take 3 tbsp coconut oil melted

1/2 cup nut meal (can use almond meal or make your own with any nut in a vitamix or food processor)

1/4 raisins and dried unsweetened cherries

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

 

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Now as I said before I turned this same recipe into brownies!  All I did was leave out the apples and cinnamon.  Then I added 1/4 melted 100% chocolate and 1/2 cup chopped 100% chocolate to the recipe.  You may also want to add 3-5 more dates in your date paste to offset the bitterness of the pure chocolate. 

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To make a banana bread muffin-top, I simply used the Apple Streusel recipe, but replaced the diced apple with two small smashed ripe bananas.  I had to add a wee more coconut flour to thicken it up a bit.  Then in the streusel topping I left out the raisins and cherries, but I added a dash of Pumpkin Pie Spice and a handful of whole oats (I don’t eat much grain but this amount was negligible and it made the texture pretty amazing).

Bowls of Joy

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My 9 year old nephew, Eli, has a meal that he calls “Bowl of Joy.”  If I remember correctly it involves Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken, rice, and maybe broccoli?  (He will be correcting me soon, I am sure!)  I truly love his title, but of course I want the bowl to be a little more me-friendly (hee).  Thus here is a post that will hopefully inspire others to turn to healthy bowl-meals for this snowy week ahead.

Often people pile layers of things in a bowl, with the bottom layer being a grain, like rice and the top layers being vegetables and meat.  I find this arrangement of food to be a warm winter comfort.   If you’re going to do rice than choose a long grain brown rice, such as brown basmati.  You could also try something new like buckwheat groats, teff, or amaranth.  I say, though, there is an option to eliminate the grain (and the meat) all together and eat a veggie heavy Bowl of Joy for dinner tonight.

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Lentils or beans make a fine rice/grain substitute.  You can season these to harbor whatever flavor you wish, then throw in some steamed and/or stirfried veggies on top.  For the above bowl I steamed cauliflower and broccoli and then stir-fried some onions and red cabbage.  I like a bit of crunch to my bowl, so the cabbage is only par-cooked, leaving its natural texture to compliment the softer ones of the lentils and steamed veggies.  For spices I used a simple combination of crushed pepper and sea salt.

In the background of the above photo you may see the exoskeleton of some oven-charred garlic, with whole cloves in the Bowl of Joy itself.  I’m a big fan of roasted garlic and find that it is an easy ‘spice’ you can add to anything.  Roasted garlic really takes it to the next level.  I have a garlic roaster – which is this charming little terracotta dome seen below (I paid $5 for this one):

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To roast garlic without the special pot, just wrap it in foil.  The trick is chopping off the top bit of the head of garlic (but leaving the rest of the skin on), dousing the whole bulb in olive oil and a bunch of spices (red pepper, oregano, salt, basil, whatever), then baking it whole at 425 degrees for about 25-40 minutes.  You’ll know it is ready when a fork easily pierces it.  I might put the garlic in the oven first, while I prep everything else, and then pull it out after.  Once the garlic is cooled (about 5 minutes) you can easily pull the soft, juicy cloves from the stiff and crumbly garlic-skin and add it to your Bowl of Joy with ease.

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Bowls of Joy can be endless combinations.  Above I used beans and onions as a base, topped with cauliflower and chard and spiced with paprika.

Raw toppings are also great additions.  Don’t forget the power of hot sauce (preferably one without added sugar), avocado, salsa, nuts, seeds, or scallions.  Even a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt can make a great bowl addition.

Sure this is an easy way to work in more vegetables in your diet.  You could simply make lunchtime Bowl of Joy time each day or a few days a week.  I think the greatest thing about making a meal in simple layers, though, is the unique diversity – you could eat this meal for seven days and it could always be quite different: the creative, healthy, and delicious combinations are endless!

So tell me, what’s in your Bowl of Joy?  I would love to hear about it.

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Soup 101

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Not terribly long ago I got a call from a friend who was looking for some advice on how to make soup from scratch.  I told them, soup’s easy.  You just cut up vegetables, put them in a broth, spice and simmer.  They pointed out, however, that there were a lot of steps that I was not including – such as, how do you make a broth?  What vegetables do you use?  What spices should I pick?  How long should I cook everything?

Ha, I’ve never been good at giving recipes probably because I rarely follow them myself — but I realized that my friend was right and although soup IS easy, it does take a bit of explanation.  So, what follows is a step-by-step “Soup Class”, with a few cooking tips mixed in.  Let’s get started.

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I made a lentil vegetable soup, but I want you to make any kind of vegetable soup you want!  Above are the vegetables I used in my soup:  red and yellow and sweet potatoes, onion, carrot, red pepper, jalapeno, turnip, and garlic — lentils come later in the entry.  Some other good combinations are: zucchini and yellow squash, onion, chick pea, tomato, garlic.  Or purple cabbage, snap pea, carrot, red pepper.  Or broccoli, sweet potato, carrot, spinach, onion, black beans.  Or blue potato, leek, dill, garlic, kale, white bean.  I mean, the combinations are endless.  I like to pair veggies with a protein though, for extra oomph.  That’s why I always add a bean or legume.

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Garlic is a great addition to any soup (or meal, for that matter).  It’s a nutritional king for one thing.  It relaxes blood vessels and helps promote a healthy heart, it aids in digestion, it has anti-fungal properties, and it helps your immunity.  It’s also great for your skin and hair health.  And finally, garlic is a prebiotic — meaning it feeds the probiotics (or good bacterias) in your gut.

A lot of people don’t mess with garlic because they aren’t sure how to peel and cut it up efficiently.  Some find it annoying to peel and end up just using garlic powder instead.  I am a believer in garlic powder as a spice, but it doesn’t give you the same healthy benefits as fresh, so let me let you in on a little secret.  To peel garlic with no hassle simply take a bulb (peel still on) and crush it as hard as you can with the back of a wooden spoon.  The peel will come off with no effort after that — and if you have crushed it hard enough, you want even need to cut it!  You can just pull apart the crushed bits with your fingers and throw them in your pan/pot.  Crushing garlic makes its juices run out and that’s exactly what you want in a recipe.

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So anyhow, back to our soup.  You chop your veggies up.  Peppers, onions, and garlic always get to go first.  This applies to mushrooms too (although there aren’t any in this soup pictured).  These four vegetables get special treatment and need to soften a bit on their own before anything else is added in.  This takes about 5 minutes, stirring a bit.  After they soften you can add your “hard vegetables”; potatoes and carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, etc.  Stir fry those with the already-softer onions and such, another five minutes or so.  If you want to make a soup with what I call “delicate vegetables” (like fragile/softer things such as peas, already-cooked beans and legumes, etc) you will add those last, when the soup is nearly done, so they don’t get too mushy.

To avoid mushiness, generally, soup is about timing.  You soften the flavorful vegetables that double as spices (garlic, onion, pepper) first to let out their juices and make them a base for the flavor, then the harder things that take longer to cook (potatoes and whatnot), then the broth (we’ll get to this in a moment), then cook, then, at the end, the soft/fragile things (pre-cooked beans, peas, spinach, etc)

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Stir up what you’ve got in there (so far the onions, peppers, garlic, then the potatoes, carrots) for 5-10 minutes and now you’re ready to add some spice.

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I wanted a curry flavor to my soup, so these are the spices I used:  black pepper, coriander, curry powder, garlic powder, basil, turmeric, ginger, cumin, smoked paprika.  If you want more of a garden soup then stick to garlic and “green spices” (basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme).  A well-stocked spice cabinet is a MUST.  If you don’t have a lot of spices then your food won’t taste as good or be as distinguishable.   Invest in a host of good spices… and experiment!  Try recipes from other countries and soon you’ll intuitively know what to add to give it that sense of flavor.   For Mexican flare you can add chili and cumin or if you want a Thai flare you can reach for curry powder, cayenne, and basil.  For Indian try coriander, garam masala, turmeric, or even cinnamon.  In Italian you must have oregano, basil, garlic.

When I spice things, I do it to taste and I never measure it out.  Start with a couple shakes of something, stir, taste.  It’s a process of figuring out the right amounts.  This might take a while at first, but the more you play with spicing, the better you’ll be at quickly spicing something to perfection.

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So let’s move to broth.  There are several ways you can make broth — for those on a time restraint there’s the prospect of buying bullion.  You can buy vegetarian bullion as well.  Or there’s buying pre-made broth in boxes or cans.  But, I want to tell you that making broth is also very easy.  You can do it in two ways.

I have a vitamix.  It’s an amazing blender that pretty much liquifies anything it touches.  A regular blender might leave some chunks, but you can still use it to make broth.  I simply boil a few vegetables and then blend them in the water I used to boil them and add salt or soy sauce or (better yet) Bragg’s Amino Acids (an alternative to soy sauce available at the regular grocery store).  I usually use: 1/2-1 green pepper, one stalk celery, 1-2 carrots, 1/2 onion, 1 inch fresh ginger, some tomato paste.  You can use cabbage too, broccoli stems, ends of zucchini, etc.

Some people even keep a tupperware in their fridge to put all their stems or ends of vegetables from the week in — at the end of the week you have enough to make a good broth.

So you boil the hell out of the vegetables in 6-8 cups water.  Then you either A) lose the vegetable and keep the water, er broth.  OR, my favorite option — you B) use your blender or vitamix to blend those vegetables right in and make an even more nutritious and flavorful substance.

Now once you have your broth, and you’re done pre-cooking a bit your veggies, just pour it on top.  Turn the fire to low, and cover.

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I told you before that I add lentils or beans to my soups.  I did lentils this time.  I love these Black Beluga lentils because they are very quick cooking.  Red lentils are also very quick to cook.  You don’t have to pre-cook them at all – just dump them in the soup and they’ll be soft in 10-15 minutes simmering time.

If you want to use green lentils that’s fine too.  They a re SUPER cheap, which is awesome, and give more of a meaty texture than the red or black.  I’d par-cook them first before adding them, though.  Cook them first separately til they have fifteen minutes cooking time left.  Then add them to your soup and finish the cooking time.

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Here’s what our soup looks like so far.  Don’t forget to stir sometimes and taste!  If it’s bland add more spice or salt.  Add a little at a time and taste often — there’s nothing sadder than an accidentally too-salty soup!

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When the potatoes and lentils are soft, it’s ready!  Sure, you can cover it and let it simmer on lowest heat for more flavor, or if you’re hasty like me you can have a bowl right away!

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Soup is always better the next day, so save some for tomorrow’s lunch!

The Great Egg Debate

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Eggs are good, eggs are bad, eggs are good again, and eggs are bad once more – so say news articles and reports from various “health organizations”, in an endless cycle of vague data and retractions of fact.  No one seems to have a definitive thing to say about eggs and now whenever we see the little yolkie things on our plates we feel both the potential for healthfulness and also a sense of reckless abandon.  So, what IS the deal with eggs?

ImageThe major point of those who are anti-egg has been that eggs are high in cholesterol.  It should be said for those considering veganhood, that the only foods that contain cholesterol are, indeed, from animals and animal products.  So plant foods do not have any of the stuff.  I agree with a mostly plant diet, of course, but I admit I am an egg eater.  I suppose I still consider eggs a “whole food” – but I only consider them to be this if they are (preferably local) cage-free, organic eggs.  I am, as I have said before, a believer in the motto of “You are what you eat eat’s” – meaning that if a chicken has a poor diet and is riddled with stress, then its eggs will not be the nutritious whole foods that I support.

But back to cholesterol.  I’ll start by saying that there is tons of evidence now that eating cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease.  After years of fretting about the evil eggs, scientists now can find no correlation between an egg’s cholesterol and heart problems.  The yolk of the egg, which is the “scary part” where all the cholesterol is, is also the brilliantly orange-sunset yellowy part that is packed full of vitamins.  SO MANY vitamins and minerals and protein and antioxidants that eggs are kind of, well, incredible.

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Does this mean that you should start eating eggs every day?  Heavens, no.  But I don’t believe in eating ANY one food every day.   The key to health seems to be a variety of plant foods.  That is to say that occasional healthy fats and proteins (like that from eggs) are a fine addition in a moderate manner.  Moderate in egg terms is about 4 eggs a week.   Even if you fear cholesterol increases, this many eggs with a healthy diet should ease your mind.  Of course, those of you who pair eggs with high nitrate processed meats, such as bacon and sausage, or carb and sugar heavy items such as pancakes and bagels — well those are your culprits, not the little whole food egg!

But, let’s get back to arguments against eggs for a minute.  Since last spring there has been a new debate over our enigmatic (or eggnigmatic? ha!) shelled friend.  Scientists are now saying that it isn’t the cholesterol in eggs that causes heart disease, no, it is the choline.  Egg yolks are a good source of choline — and choline is a very important mineral that helps with brain functioning.  Getting too much of the stuff can be a problem, though.  As choline is processed in your body it can release TMAOs.  TMAOs or Trimethylamine N-oxide are nasty little buggers that, if introduced in large amounts in your body, collect in your arteries over time, hardening up and whatnot.  These may be responsible for heart attacks.

BUT WAIT!  Don’t begin withdrawing from eggs again!  Here’s why.  Although egg studies showed that TMAO levels were slightly spiked in blood samples after eating eggs, there was no study about long term effects of the TMAOs from eggs specifically.  Like, this stuff is spiked for a bit after you eat eggs, but there is no evidence that it is the kind of TMAO that is slowly building up and causing problems.  There might not be enough of it to do so.  Animal products like beef and pork have MUCH higher TMAO levels than eggs and, surprisingly, fish and seafood ranks the highest carrier of TMAOs of all — with halibut producing over 53 times as much TMAO as eggs.  This is important to note, as doctors are always saying to eat more fish to help avoid heart disease!  The fish’s TMAO is not collecting in people’s hearts over time, because if it was fish would scare people just as much as yolks do.

Some doctors even admit that the high amounts of vitamins E, B12 and folate in eggs are shown to prevent heart disease.

It is also important to say that the choline which some think is linked to the TMAO production may have no effect on most people – as most people have a choline deficiency and are never going to get too much of it.  You might get enough choline if you eat a lot of meat and soy products – as that’s where you’ll mostly find the stuff.  It is not very present in plant foods and you’d have to eat a HUGE amount of plants to worry about it (I’m talking a pound of spinach daily).

I want to take this TMAO thing even further and reveal, also, that there is new evidence that people with particular gut microbes can produce MUCH MORE TMAOs from foods (such as animal products and soy) than those without these microbes.  Prevotella bacteria is the culprit here.  This bacteria is a primary bacteria in the guts of people who, get this, eat a lot of GRAINS.  This is so interesting!  This means that people who have a greater risk for heart disease via the TMAO issue are NOT even meat eaters or diary eaters or egg eaters, but are WHEAT eaters!

So, in the end, if you eat a mostly plant diet, with none or some meat or diary, then you should be able to handle a few eggs a week with no problems – in fact they might even prevent heart disease and encourage other healthful benefits.  One thing to think about though — the yolk is where the good stuff is.  So quit with the egg-white omelets and also stop with the whole-egg scrambles.  To preserve the vitamins and minerals of the yolk it is BEST eaten nearly raw.  So avoid greasy diner scrambled stuff and go for the local, organic over easy and over medium eggs — those are the winners in healthfulness.

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As the photos throughout this entry show, I pair my eggs with vegetables (who says greens aren’t for breakfast?!) and with splashes of hot sauce.  All around, I hope this eggsplained stuff for you.

All yokes aside, enjoy your eggs.  (ha, I couldn’t help it.)

Easy Fermentation

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I remember some years ago farming for a stint in Luck, Wisconsin with my dear friend Jenny.  Jenny, a true blue girl of the earth (and also of the city), touted a book back then with a vibrant green and pink cover called ‘Wild Fermentation’.  That was the summer of sourdough pancakes and unwashed parsley salads with small chunks of soil still in them.  At the time I often teased Jenny for her passionate embracing of tang and dirt, poo-pooing the hippy-voodoo I saw in both fermentation and unwashed food.  It is clear now, though, that my intelligent friend was quite right and you don’t have to even be an earthy person to learn of the benefits of both these fabulous things.
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Fermented foods, in particular, are packed with probiotics and have been known to help with digestive problems such as IBS and Candida to overall general health.  If you have been thinking about how to empower your microbes and create a diverse and healthy gut then fermented foods are for you.
 
Lately I have been working them into my life in a multitude of ways.  You can find fermented vegetables such as kimchee and sauerkraut and even fermented pickles at the regular grocery store or at Whole Foods.  Or for pennies you can make these things in your own kitchen!  (I have yet to do this, but it is in the plans .. so stay tuned.)  Fermented veggies are crunchy, tangy, and delicious.  They might look weird, so don’t let that turn you off.  Think of them as coleslaw from the gods.
 
Go ahead and buy a jar!  It keeps in the fridge for a long time (9 or more months even).  To use as a supplement, try to eat 1/2 cup of fermented vegetables on most days.  This should be enough to boost your microbes to new, powerful levels…and it’s also a tasty snack or a good hearty side for nearly any meal.
 
I love vegetables (duh) but my favorite fermented thing I have tried thus far is kefir.  Oh golly is this stuff the best.  Timm and I make our own and it is completely fail-proof.  I always imagined that fermenting things yourself would be scary and lead to sure botulism.  I think a lot of people think this way, but it simply isn’t true!  It’s terribly hard to mess this kefir process up, and even if you do mess it up – nothing bad happens.  It just becomes vinegar.
 
Before I tell you how easy it is to MAKE kefir, let’s talk a little about what it is.
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There are two kinds of kefir – milk and water.  Milk kefir’s final product is like a tangy yogurt drink that you can blend with fruit to make amazing smoothies.  It is so easy and plentiful and cheap that I literally drink a smoothie everyday.  AND it’s not your average smoothie, either.  With no added sugars, and with a real fistful of probiotics, it is a super-smoothie – unlike any other. 
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Water kefir is kind of a dream.  I love the aesthetic of the glass bottles in our window sill, and then popping them open to hear that glorious fizz and smelling the hard-cider-like scents of fruit rising off the top.  Have you ever had a fruit juice flavored soda?  Imagine a fizzy clear soda that tastes like oranges or grapes?  Now imagine that even though it is sweet like candy and tangy like wine, it has absolutely no added sugar or detectable alcohol, and the fruit sugars in it are less than 2 grams per bottle. 
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You see, the great part about kefir milk and water is that in order for the kefir bacteria (called kefir grains due to their grain-like appearance) to survive it consumes sugar.  It eats nearly ALL the sugar, and then, well, poops out the probiotics.  Imagine what a lovely little machine these microbes are!  Sugar is magically transformed into something healthful. 
 
To make milk and water kefir, you need the specific kind of grain.  The water goes in water, obviously, and the milk in milk.  I use local, grassfed, hormone free milk — a luxury you can’t usually find in non-homemade yogurt and smoothies.  The water for water kefir should be mineral water or at least distilled.  To make it is super easy.  When you purchase the grains online (see link at end of entry) it comes with specific instructions, but just so you know what you are getting yourself into, let me give you a lament’s version. 
 
Essentially you put the grains and liquid in a jar.  The milk gets some dried fruit in it, and the water with both some sugar and dried fruit.  Don’t worry, the kefir bacteria will eat this stuff and there won’t be any sugars left in the final product.  Then you sit these jars somewhere safe (we keep ours on top of the fridge) and at room temperature.  You wait two days and voila, the milk kefir should already be done!  (Don’t be freaked out by letting milk stay out of the fridge for two days either.  The kefir eats any bad bacteria build up and you are left with something safe.  I mean, when you open and smell and taste it – it will obviously taste like yogurt, so you’ll know it’s fine.)  The whey will have come off from the curds a bit when the milk kefir is ready, but you just shake it up to recombine it all.  You strain the dried fruit (which will be like husks now, as the bacteria sucked out all the good stuff) and kefir grains into a plastic colander (don’t use a metal one as metal kills the bacteria) and you KEEP the grains because they last FOREVER.  Sorry for the Capslock, but this is an incredible point.  Kefir grains last for all time.  All time.  So you buy them once and reuse them over and over again.  They also multiply, so soon you’ll have enough to give to your friends.  (Are you hearing this!?  Free friend gifts!)
 
So with milk kefir you literally put everything in a jar, forget about it for 1-2 days, and then strain it, blend whatever fruit you want into it, put it in the fridge, and enjoy.  This was my morning raspberry smoothie:
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Water kefir will need to sit for a couple days and then you strain the grains from it, transfer just the liquid to glass, pop-top bottles, add a tbsp of fruit juice concentrate (the kefir bacteria and probiotics are still in here even though the grains are not and it will still eat the sugars in the juice), and cap it for a couple more days.  So it takes a little longer, but is still just as easy.  You can flavor it with other things besides juice concentrate, too – such as vanilla beans, ginger, lemon, you name it.  Just don’t use honey, as honey is anti-bacterial and could hurt your kefir. 
 
To order grains, just do a google search – or go to a website like amazon to get started.  Grains are real cheap and shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars (with shipping). 
 
So there you have it.  Fermentation made easy.

The 40 Plant Challenge

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You’ve got 24 hours until the new year and sometimes people use January 1st to begin a clean slate of new healthy choices for themselves.  I think it’s great to make changes any time, but if you’re feeling excited about doing so tomorrow, well then, here’s something for you:  The 40 Plant Challenge.

ImageOver the last month or so I have been reading a lot about humans’ microbiome.  You see, we all have microbes – tons of little bacteria – all over our body and inside of our guts.  In fact, the ones in our gut are responsible for 2 lbs of our body weight AND the DNA of these little gals outnumber ours 10 to 1 — meaning, most of the DNA in/on our bodies isn’t even human.

Now, before you start “bleching” and feeling all itchy, let me assure you that most all of these microbes are there to keep us healthy and alive.  They are astounding helpers and should live in a symbiotic harmony with us.  Do you remember making diorama biomes in Science class when you were young?  I made one of a desert, I think, inside of a shoebox.  It’s amazing to think of ourselves as a human biome, a rich and complex environment for other (tiny) animals.

Scientists are starting to realize so much of our behaviors and health comes from the quantity and diversity of our microbiome – sort of like how a rainforest (or other earth biome) depend on the healthfulness and diversity of the animals living there.  They’ve found that if you take the gut microbes of happy, strong, confident mice and put them inside the guts of tentative, nervous, and unhealthy mice – then the nervous mice become strong and confident!  Poor microbes have been connected to everything from anxiety problems to obesity to asthma to immunity issues.  There’s a lot of research saying that your genes are not nearly as responsible for your foundation of health as your microbiome is.

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So, how do you know if you have good microbes?  There are ways to physically see the data.  I’ve been very excited about this research happening called The Human Food Project’s American Gut.  These scientists collect samples and data from everyday people (even you) and in return for your donation to science you get the information back highlighting the microbes that live on and inside of you!  You can learn more about this and send away for your own kit by clicking on the picture below.

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But you can also track how you feel, while making changes to help your little probiotics grow.

A lot of Americans do not have a healthy flora and fauna of microbes in their tummies.  This is because their diets do not support diverse life.  Processed foods and preservatives tend to damage or kill off colonies of healthy bacteria and people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, or get their hands dirty in soil enough, to introduce new colonies.  There’s A LOT to read up on in terms of building a good, strong, healthy microbiome — and I encourage you to do so — but here are some quick tips:

1) Play in the dirt.  Having a garden or working in someone else’s is a great way to get better biomes.  Don’t be afraid to get some of that soil all over you.

2) Keep the windows open.  It’s hard this time of year because of the cold, yes, but getting fresh air is so important in allowing new, helpful microbes into your home.

3) Do not eat processed foods and also, limit your grain intake.  As mentioned earlier processed foods can damage what you have and eating lots of grains can encourage the growth of the not-so-good microbes.  Some microbes feed off grains and sugars and these are the ones we DON’T want a ton of in our guts.

4) Buy organic when you can and don’t wash fruits and vegetables unless you think they could have pesticides on them.  Pesticides/chemicals = bad, but soil/earth = good.

5) Don’t wash your hands when dogs lick you.  Dogs are great bearers of good microbes.

6) Stay away from Hand Sanitizers, as warm water and soap is best.  And don’t take antibiotics unless it is urgent.  No precautionary anti-biotics.  Anti-biotics are anti-your-microbiome.  They destroy everything and allow the bad microbes to take over quick.

7) Eat fermented foods!  Kefir, Kim-chi, kombucha, sauerkraut, certain relishes, etc.  Even switching your beer intake to a glass of nightly red wine is a better idea.  Fermented foods introduce new microbes and there is new research that 9 ounces of red wine a day can support your microbiome.

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8) Eat plenty of plant foods – fresh fruits and veggies.  Undercooked is best – so stir fries or raw veggie snacks beat boiled/mushy foods.  Also eat the WHOLE edible plant — like not just the crowns of asparagus and broccoli but the stems too.  The rough, hard-to-chew stuff is what we call a prebiotic… or the FOOD that feeds the good (or pro) biotics.  (More on prebiotics in another entry.)

It is this last number, number 8, I want to focus on.  Eating lots of plants.  It is recommended that for a healthy gut we should eat 30-40 DIFFERENT plants a week.  That means 30-40 servings of different varieties of fruits and vegetables.  Avoid canned, but frozen or fresh are okay.  Also, different species of the same plant can count – so a purple onion is different than a vadalia onion, but also instead of onions try shallots and instead of romaine lettuce try rainbow chard and instead of acorn squash try delicata squash.  Come out of your box of what you’re familiar with and reach out to the ends of the garden.  This is my challenge to you – aim high – and try, for one week, The 40 Plant Challenge.

ImageDoing this myself it was challenging (even though I practically eat only plants).  I found myself looking differently at the produce section and asking myself “What have I not eaten this week?” to help choose my meals.  I ended up trying new things as well… such as a citrus fruit I had never had called cara cara, which turned out to be my new favorite fruit!  It’s fun to get something you’ve never had before and then use the internet as a guide on how to prepare it.  Most things are very easy and you’ll surprise yourself at your creativity at fitting new foods in.  Pictured above I worked in 10 vegetables at once!  A stir fry of yellow onion, red pepper, carrots, brussel sprouts, white beans, and sweet potato paired with a crisp salad of radish, purple onion, cucumber, and tomato.

Do it for one week, listing the foods you’ve had, and notice how you feel.  When you read your list at the end of the week you’ll feel glorious knowing how well you treated yourself.  And if you don’t make 40 but hit something in the 30-or-up range, then that’s great too!  Also, there’s the natural benefit of trying to eat this many fruits and vegetables means that you will not fill up on junk food or not-plant-food.  It’s hard to fit all that good stuff in and STILL be hungry.  (:

So, if not tomorrow, then start the day after!  It’s not too late to build your biome.  Twenty Fourteen is the Year of the Microbe.  Let’s be the first to raise our plates.

<3

Stop. Candy Time.

I know it’s been too long since an update.  These holidays are quite intense!  Of course there’s the gifts of the holidays to worry about (especially if you do the homemade thing) but also there’s the FOOD!  It’s an easy time of year to get lost in a desert of desserts, piled by the ton in sparkly sand dunes of refined sugar.  But wave away those chocolate mirages.  You are stronger than that! 

The good news is that you can basically take ANY dessert recipe, sub in almond meal for the flour and date paste for the sugar (cup for cup) and make a healthful version to curb your cravings!  Try it.

Okay, okay, maybe in a world and season so busy as ours, date paste is too much work!  For those who barely have time to gift wrap, I offer Date Sugar.  Date Sugar is the healthiest granulated sugar in the world.  Why?  Because it is JUST dehydrated and ground up dates.  This means, unlike EVERY other sugar, it is not the sweet nectar extracted from a plant, it IS the plant.  All the fiber remains in tact and you can use it just like regular sugar in recipes. 

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I am not recommending that you eat a ton of date sugar everyday (it’s ground up so you may end up eating more of the sugar granules than you would actual dates — which leads to more sugar intake than necessary), but it is great for holiday baking and candy making.  You can find the stuff at Whole Foods or other natural stores and it is about $4 for a little bag of the stuff (which looks like light brown sugar and smells like caramel).

For those of you who want a candy recipe right this instant, I offer you this idea: make peanut butter cups!  The original recipe calls for honey, but I replaced that with trusty old date paste.  (You can still use honey, if you want – it’s STILL a better choice than refined sugar).  The recipe also called for almond butter, but I like the classic PB taste, so I went for Teddy’s All-Natural Peanut Butter instead.  I also used cocoa butter as all the oil required in this recipe, instead of coconut oil.  The coconut oil batch I made first tasted a bit too much like Coconut Haystacks candy.  (This is a wonderful flavor and should be made on its own with shredded coconut, though! Another great and easy candy-making idea!)  The original recipe for the Superfood Nut Cups is found here:

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/03/superfood-nut-butter-cups/

Here’s what my version looked like (not as pretty as the pictures on the original site, but I’m more of a “realistic baker”, hee.)

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I loved using actual cocoa butter to make them!  What a treat!  You can find this at Whole Foods, too, but I found that ordering it via the internet was much cheaper.  The trick is to get the “food-grade” stuff because often cocoa-butter is used for the skin.  100% cocoa butter is edible, though, and smells heavenly!  it’s a great addition to any chocolate dessert you make — sometimes I replace other oils (such as coconut) with it in recipes to add a richer, darker, less pina-colada-like flavor.  Plus cocoa butter is pretty great for you. It is loaded with antioxidants as well as vitamin K (a wonderful heart healthy vitamin that nearly everyone is deficient from) and delivers a punch of vitamin E too, which is why it is so often used on skin.

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Another great thing about this recipe is its use of Lucuma Powder.  I had never heard of lucumas before but they are amazing!  An ancient fruit from Peru, lucuma acts as a subtle sweetener that contains only fruit sugar (and very little at that) with a treasure trough of fiber (therefore making it very low-glycemic).  it also has lots of antioxidants and protein. 

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You can get the stuff dehydrated and granulated (much like the date sugar I spoke of) but it’s not a sugar – it’s merely a powdered fruit and resembles a yellow cake flour.  It naturally has less sugar than dates, as well, and more fiber — so use it whenever you want!  As I said earlier, the powder is not extremely sweet – but it does take the edge off of bitterness, which is why it works best when using 100% chocolate in a recipe.  I add lucuma to any chocolate recipe because it makes the chocolate taste more like 70% dark instead of 100% (and it adds some variety in nutrients) without having to add a sweeter substance. 

I’ll be experimenting with more candy making in the near future (it is the holidays after all!)  but for now I hope these PB cups curve your cravings and help make your holiday season a healthful one!

 

Best Nighttime Snack Ever

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Oh man, I’ve been very busy with arts and crafts lately.  Not too busy to NOT cook delicious things, but a bit too busy to talk about them here at this site.  (A little self-promotion here, but you can see sneak peaks of my wood-burned Kitchen Ware and more of my art at my other website:  http://www.lgroverdesign.com) (!!)  But in a week’s time the craft fair will be over and I’ll be back to twice weekly posts.

For now I just wanted to give you a lil’ entry on the versatile fun-food, popcorn.

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I think popcorn is kind of The best.  It is quick, easy, and has a very satisfying crunch.  Nutritionist’s will tell you it’s low in calories (not that we care about that sort of thing here) and that it has got a bit of fiber to boot.  I’ll tell you that it’s barely got a Glycemic Load and if done right, gourmet-style popcorn will keep you from eating all the poor nighttime food choices that most American’s tend to crave. 

How do you do popcorn right?  Well, I like to pop mine on the stove, although an air popper works great too.  Basically if you eat popcorn use the real kernels and NEVER ever ever buy microwave popcorn.  Generally, marketed microwave popcorn is coated in terrible oils (sunflower, safflower, etc) and usually has a lot of other additives that are not your friends.  Avoid it like june bugs avoid winter.  Also, did you know you can microwave ALL popcorn kernels yourself just by putting them in a paper bag first?  Fact.

I have a Whirly Pop, whose little wooden handle makes it very easy to keep the corn moving so it doesn’t burn.  They are about $20 and aren’t hard to find (amazon has one, if you click the link below).  But if you don’t have either of these devices, you can easily make popcorn simply by heating a dab of oil in a covered pot, adding kernels, and shaking over medium heat.  Here’s some internet know-how on the matter: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_popcorn/

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There is always some question on what oils to use when popping corn (unless you have an air popper) and what to dress it with afterwards.  I simply LOVE this article about oils and think this is a perfect time to share it — not just for popping corn, but for all situations when you need oils!

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/healthy-oils/#axzz2jgHUjbC8

Of course I recommend olive oil.  It’s certainly the queen of the oils.  Coconut oil or plain butter will work as well.  (Fun Fact I learned from Timm: The popcorn at movie theaters is coated in coconut oil and therefore is VEGAN and not a terrible treat when you’re out at the movies.)

Here’s something else AMAZING you might have never thought of: olive oil comes in different flavors!  Yes!  You can buy flavored olive oils everywhere from grocery stores (Trader Joe’s has a cheap variety pack) to fancy kitchen stores.  I’m talking lemon olive oil, basil olive oil, hot pepper olive oil, lime, raspberry, rosemary, cinnamon!  It’s incredible what some flavor combinations will do to your ordinary popcorn. 

For Spicy Cajun Popcorn, dress with hot pepper oil, paprika, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and salt.

For Sweet Tooth Popcorn, dress with lemon oil, lemon pepper, and a dash of salt.

For Herbal Popcorn, dress with olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and salt.

For Classic Cravings Popcorn, dress with butter, salt, nutritional yeast, and black pepper.

Wait, wait.  We all know what Nutritional Yeast is, right?  This is important.  If you’ve not yet had popcorn with this stuff on it you need to immediately stop reading this and go find some.  Nutritional Yeast is well-known by vegetarians and vegans because it is an animal-free way to pack a punch of protein and antioxidant vitamin B’s (including that elusive vitamin B 12, only usually found in animal products).  The yeast itself is just a baker’s yeast that has grown-up and died, becoming a yellow powder similar in taste to cheese.  (It is no longer ‘yeasty’ and will not grow inside of you once you eat it.)  Nutritional Yeast has a terrible name and it should be called Yellow Yum Yum Powder, or something — but, bottom line: it’s delicious, trust me.  Also, for you nutrition nerds: only 2 tablespoons of the stuff gives you 4 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, plus well over your daily doses of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and 12, as well as most of your daily Folate.  You can usually find it in the bulk sections of grocery or nature food stores.  I store mine in a mason jar, like this:

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(Oh no, I am almost out!)

Popcorn is da bomb of the snack world, but did you know it has a (very) little brother called Sorghum?  The Gluten-Free tend to know Sorghum because it comes commonly in a flour form to replace wheat flour, but you can also get the tiny grain in its whole form.  Bob’s Red Mill has a version that Timm and I recently tried.  Sorghum is the only other known grain that pops like popcorn!  So, if you want a slightly different snack option that packs far more nutrition, turn to this mighty little grain.  1/2 cup of kernels gives you 6 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein!  Pop it and dress it just like your corn kernels, but then let out a giggle at how tiny and cute it is!

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Here is a picture of a grain of popped sorghum compared to a regular popcorn kernel.  It’s laughable, I know, but do not be deceived by its weak appearance – the stuff IS small, but quite filling.

 

 

ImageHappy popping!

 

 

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