2 Weeks of Meals under $99

After writing the meal planning post earlier this month, the c-virus ramped-up and the closings, cancellations and run on toilet paper are now in full swing. As everyone is getting creative while in quarantine, with kids who are now off from school for at least a month, and adjusting to the different work environment, I thought I’d share some recipes you might like to add to your list of creative activities because you’ll actually be home and have a little more time to cook. These recipes really don’t take much time, just a little planning.

I planned a two week menu. I chose 8 meals because I like flexibility and sometimes just having a salad is enough and allowing for a take out meal to support the local restaurants is important to me. I did have a couple things in my pantry or freezer already, but most of the ingredients were purchased for a total of less than $70. That’s pretty good for 8 dinner meals and some leftovers for lunch. I typically cook for two people now, but most of these recipes are for four servings, some serving six.  Follow the links to the actual recipes.

BBQ Shrimp & Tahini Greens is a quick meal that comes together in under 30 minutes, if your shrimp is thawed.  (I eat an occasional meal with clean/wild caught animal protein, maybe once or twice a month.)

Chickpea Hot Pot and the Ginger Carrot Soup are recipes that are quick to put together because everything can go into one pot and allow time to cook. These two recipes hold well when frozen and can be made in larger batches to have one for the week and another to freeze for a later time.

Peanut Soba & Broccoli and Pad Thai take a bit of chopping and preparing vegetables, but once that’s done the cook time is minimal.

Veggie Enchilada Bake, Curry Red Lentils and Walnut Falafels take a little time but not difficult and definitely worth the time. These are great dishes to make a head and freeze as well, or double the recipes and make one meal for you and another to bless a neighbor.

If you want to limit your trips to the store during this time, pick up enough greens and salad veggies that you can eat in a week, kale lasts for more than a week if wrapped well and kept cold. Then rely on frozen vegetables: chopped spinach and kale, broccoli and cauliflower for sauteed sides or in the above recipes. Root vegetables and cabbage will last well and can be made into soups, roasted and served over boiled grains. Think about having canned tomatoes and beans on hand as well as dried lentils, rice and quinoa. Those things could carry you for two weeks at least, before having to shop again.

For breakfast, having oats and fruit combined with plant milk is delicious, or freeze or buy frozen berries and spinach to make green smoothies. If green is a turnoff, be sure to blend any greens with blueberries or cherries, for a beautiful purple shake. Check out the recipe page for more ideas.

For lunches, eat any leftovers from dinner, try different kinds of toasts, salads or even smoothies.

I know you don’t want to be spending more time in the kitchen than you need to. But I hope while you have some extra time at home, you’ll take a look at the recipes and try a few. They don’t take long, just a little planning. If you want more info about meal planning, check out THIS post.

Let me know how you like the recipes!

 

 

A Little Meal Planning Goes A Long Way

Are you wracking your brain every day on your way home from work about what you’re going to fix for dinner? Or are you running from soccer practice to piano lessons after school and don’t have time to make a home cooked meal? Or do you hate cooking and rely on the drive through or order takeout to save time but know your health and your family’s health is being compromised?

Life is busy but I believe food should be prioritized as family health care. The foods you choose to eat really do impact your body’s ability to repair, recover, grow,  protect and function optimally. The nutrients in food determine the quality of your cells. Cells are always dying off and being replaced. If you eat poorly, your cells will be compromised and weak. If you choose to eat high nutrient dense foods, whole foods, mostly plants, your cells will improve their integrity and perform better. Your health will improve.

So then, food is important! And planning makes home cooking doable. Home cooked meals will help you save money, lower stress and improve your health. It looks a little different for each person or family. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Make a list of your favorite meals, ask family members to participate.
  • Determine how much time and where in your schedule you have time to prep some things ahead of time. (Can you chop veggies in the morning to use for dinner? Can you load the slow cooker before work? Do you have two hours on Sunday to roast a sheet pan meal, cook a pot of rice and make a soup?)
  • Get the kids involved, they are more inclined to eat what they help choose and prepare.
  • Always keep certain ingredients on hand for a go-to meal in case things don’t go as planned. (My go-to meals are: black bean & sweet potato quesadilla and broccoli coconut soup, I always try to have those ingredients.)
  • Use a weekly or monthly calendar to plan out what meals to have on which night and generate a grocery list for the recipes. Make a list and stick to it, less impulse buying means better choices.(There are online templates you can print & there are grocery list apps for your phone, choose what works for you.)
  • Starting slow with one or two meals per week might be helpful until you get into the hang of it.
  • For a healthy start with breakfast, think about making a large batch of regular or baked oatmeal, chia pudding or smoothie bags. Oats are easy to warm up quickly, chia pudding goes into a bowl and add fruit and nuts to it, or dump contents of smoothie bag (fruit, greens, protein) into a blender and add plant milk or water.
  • For lunches, make enough dinner to have leftovers for lunch or think about layering ingredients into jars to make different salads in jars or even burrito in jars, ready to grab and take to work or school.
  • When you’re in the kitchen prepping food, turn on some music, an audio book or listen to podcasts, it helps to keep you going.
  • If you’re really short on time , take advantage of fresh ingredients that are already chopped, either packaged or in the salad bar at most grocery stores. Having frozen peas, corn, squash, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower rice and grains can make tossing dinner on the table quick. Have canned beans, tomatoes and fish for convenience and quick turnaround. Meal delivery services can be helpful as well, for those short on time, but they will not save money.
  • Make a quick dressing or sauce each week to have for salads, roasted veggies or grain bowls. (I think dressings are one of the worst things on the grocery shelves, they have so many additives for shelf life and the oils used become rancid.)
  • Meal bowls like THIS ONE are easy to put together from ingredients you’ve prepared ahead of time or from frozen. (Combine a grain or starchy vegetable + raw or sauteed greens + plant protein + non starchy vegetable + herbs, spices + condiment dressing)

Providing nourishing home cooked meals are more nutritious than restaurant and convenience foods because you are in charge of the ingredients. Most restaurants and convenience foods have high salt, sugar and fat /oil.  Your meals don’t have to be fancy, but you can definitely express your creative side with the colors, flavors and textures you choose.

It does take time to plan, but after a long day, knowing what to have for dinner, reduces stress and brings mindfulness to the act of nourishing yourself and those you love.

I have partnered with another plant-based chef who offers an online plant based meal planning service. Meals are science based, delicious, hearty and tailored to your lifestyle, health goals, prep time available and kitchen appliances. A mobile grocery list is generated and can be linked to Amazon Fresh or Instacart. Each recipe has the nutrient breakdown and you choose your level of culinary skill. If you want to take a look go HERE and use the code KIM10 for a discount. I really enjoy the variety and it makes deciding what’s for dinner much easier. I hope you check it out.

I have checked out other meal planning services: meallime app, realmeals.com and emeals.com, however the plant based meals are lacking substance and creativity, or the option of plant-based is not available. Keep in mind that having meals that are plant focused are more nutrient dense than those meals that are primarily animal based. You can supplement a plant focused meal with a clean animal protein, if you choose.

Meal planning will get easier with tools and practice and I’m confident that if you take a little time to plan, you will see great rewards in your health. Food is the best medicine!

Quick Whole Food Snacks To Have On Hand:

Whole fruits and fruit salad

Raw Vegetable sticks or sliced, in separate containers ready to go.

Thinly sliced root vegetables, tossed with aminos or a little olive or coconut oil spray, baked until crispy chips

Dates stuffed with a whole almond or pecan or nut butter and kept frozen. This is like caramel candy.

Trail mix– combine nut and seeds mixture with chopped dried fruits, cacao nibs and coconut flakes, optionally season with spices, cayenne and salt

Kale chips– Tear leaves off the stem, massage with olive oil or aminos and sprinkle with herbs/spices, salt and toss. Or for a sweet salty chip toss with a teaspoon of coconut sugar and salt. Bake at 300 for 15 minutes, turn and bake another 5-10 checking so they don’t burn. If you have a dehydrator, dry overnight.

Popcorn – toss with 1 T each of coconut oil and maple syrup, sprinkle with cinnamon

Popcorn – toss with coconut aminos and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor

Spiced nuts/seeds – toss choice of nuts/seeds with coconut aminos, garlic powder and cayenne or a little maple syrup and water, sprinkled with cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and pepper, bake at 325 until dry and crisp.

 Fruit Sorbet – 1 frozen banana, 1 cup frozen cherries or berries, ¼ cup dairy free milk blended together on high speed until smooth, thick and creamy soft serve texture. Use a food processor if you don’t have a high speed blender.

Fight Back Naturally

You can’t escape hearing about the Flu or Coronavirus right now. (My daughter lives in Beijing, China, so this is information I’ve sent to her as well.) But knowing that pathogens are always lurking and understanding what you can do to prevent infection is important to know. There are very effective means of fighting back naturally and building up your immune response. Obviously the following should be practiced:

  •  Frequently washing hands and nails with warm water and soap is important as is refraining from touching your face and eyes.
  • It’s okay to NOT shake hands, instead, show your jazz hands for a fun way to welcome someone.
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well and encourage others to do the same. Do not send achy and feverish kids to school.
  • Drinking a lot of water is beneficial in keeping you hydrated and flushing of toxins. Warm/hot water is especially helpful in reducing viruses in the throat area, so try warming teas, or hot lemon water.

Doesn’t it make sense to boost our immune systems rather than relying on vaccines or treatments after we catch something. Did you know food significantly impacts the immune system’s response against pathogens?  For starters, sugar and refined grains can actually depress the immune system for 4-6 hours (that’s with just 1 T sugar). So, eliminating foods made with refined flours and sugar can allow for better immune response. Also, dairy products are often mucus forming, which becomes a favorable environment for pathogen growth. Eew!  You don’t want to make it comfy for them.

Thankfully, some foods have specific immune modulating effects and increasing their consumption during the times when your immune systems are bombarded can reduce your susceptibility and improve our risks of getting sick.

Some of these foods include, garlic, onion, ginger, and medicinal mushrooms. Incorporating them into meals is ideal. See a Chimichurri bowl here.  But also focusing on foods high in vitamin C, zinc, selenium, antioxidants and probiotics are key to supporting the immune system. See this immune boosting tea.

Try to incorporate foods that contain specific Immune boosting nutrients:

  • Vitamin C is important for immune, antioxidant, cellular function. Food sources: peppers, broccoli, berries, mangoes, rose hips, cranberries, cherries, citrus
  • Zinc enhances the immune system and may reduce the intensity of cold symptoms as well as the duration of colds. Plant Food sources: lentils, peas, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao
  •  Selenium is important for many functions in body including the formation of the master antioxidant, glutathione, and proper thyroid hormone conversion, and immune system function. Plant food sources: Brazil nuts, mushrooms, mustard seed, chia, oats, goji berries, sesame seeds, lentils, carob
  •  Phytonutrients are so important for boosting immune system and the darker the color the higher the nutrient density available. “Eat the Rainbow”   Food sources: sweet potato, red and yellow peppers, dark leafy greens, red cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, beets, squash, berries
  • Probiotics found in gut influence the immune system, so making sure you have a good population is important. Acidophilus and bifido-bacterium make a big difference in immune response and recovery time – Food sources:  kefir, active cultures yogurt, miso, tempeh, raw krauts and pickles, cultured vegetables and fruits.

There are also specific foods that have direct immune boosting and anti-pathogenic properties:

Shiitake mushrooms possess benefits ranging from anti-cancer to immunity-boosting and stress relief.  Also in China and Japan, they are a long standing remedy for colds and flu.  Shiitake mushrooms add a delicious meaty flavor to soups and dishes.

Garlic is a strong antimicrobial food and boosts the immune system. Garlic has a full spectrum effect as antibiotic, anti-virusal, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. It’s important for colds AND flu.  Garlic is most potent if chopped or crushed and allowed to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before eating. This significantly increases the amount of allicin it produces. Allicin is the component responsible for its powerful affects. Try it in hummus, pesto, garlic paste on toast or Juice it and add it to other juices, or make this Immune Vinegar.

Onions are natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has shown to suppress the rhinoviruses which are the underlying cause of the common cold. Add to vegetable sautes, salads, soups and roasted vegetables or heat on med low heat to caramelize and use as a topping for almost anything…so good.

  •  Onion honey cough syrup – Cut onion into slices, place in a jar, cover with raw honey and allow to sit overnight (8 hours), strain off onions and seal, jar keeping in fridge for a month.  Onion and honey are active against microbes and pathogens commonly found in the throat or pharynx and often associated with sore throats or infections that cause cough.

Ginger is a spicy root that can promote digestion, quell nausea, lessen headaches, reduce pain, fight intestinal infections, and is particularly famous for treating cold and flu. Ginger can be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea. Use 2 tablespoons ginger powder in bath to induce sweating and break a fever, while sipping ginger/mint tea.

Certain supplements may also help, look at adding a vitamin D3 and zinc for fighting infections and improving immune response. But remember whole foods provide many more nutritional cofactors and phytonutrients that help nutrients work optimally and improve the body’s assimilation of those nutrients.  To ensure you get plenty of immune-boosting nutrients, eat  fruits and vegetables, fresh or frozen. Eat vegetables raw or lightly steam them for best nutritional density.  Avoid frying anything as this introduces harmful free radicals that increase your toxins and inflammation.

Herbs and spices are also helpful agents against the cold and flu. Try different herbal teas, but the following have historically been used in these circumstances:

  • Fever:  Ginger, mint or catnip teas
  • Cough/sore throat:  Throat coat tea*, single or blend of Chamomile/slippery elm/licorice/marshmallow root, lemon and honey tea, or thyme tea
  • Flu: Echinacea/golden seal, green, garlic, or ginger tea

 Green Tea is known to help prevent flu and the common cold. Catechins, the same compounds that are responsible for green tea’s weight loss promoting properties, have been shown to inhibit the activity of the common cold adenovirus as well as certain influenza viruses. To maximize the release of catechins, add a bit of lemon juice or other vitamin C rich juice to your tea

Golden milk has some powerful herbs and spices that are great immune modulators: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper in warm plant milk. See recipe HERE

Rose Hips are high in vitamin C, and great if used in teas, smoothies, cooked into pies and cobblers. Reconstitute dried hips with warm water.

Essential oils are another natural source for fighting pathogens. Many oils have pathogenic properties. Here are a few to consider: Eucalyptus oil, Thyme, Rosemary, and Wild Oregano.

You can help your body fight effectively against whatever-is-going-around by using foods, herbs and spices and essential oil that naturally have anti-pathogenic and immune boosting properties. I hope this information helps with your strategy to stay healthy this time of year.

Should You Eat the Impossible Burger?

Eating more plants is one of the best things you can do for your health. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet and were created to be the perfect foods for us (at least that’s my perspective). From nutritional research I’ve learned that plant foods are key players when it comes to supplying the nutrients necessary for the body to recover, prevent and reverse disease. Clinical studies show a positive impact in all body systems from gum health to immune regulation to heart disease and more when plant foods are increased.

There’s been a lot of interest and marketing hype about the plant burgers on the market now especially with the introduction of the Impossible burger. Although the Beyond burger has improved it’s original formulation and is “meatier’ and has been available for a couple years now, the Impossible burger is new and has been reviewed as tasting so close to beef, that it’s hard to tell the difference, it even bleeds like beef. (For those who are grossed out by meat, these burgers would not be appealing.)

So should the Beyond burger and Impossible burger be thought of as healthy and a beneficial plant based option for those seeking to increase their plant consumption? Many people think that because they are plant-based, they must be good for you. However, to determine that, the ingredients should be considered even when the nutritional label looks good, as I recommend with any food product.  Both burgers have highly processed ingredients. There is not one whole plant food in either one. Take a look at the labels…

Beyond Burger ingredients: water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, contains 2% or less of the following: cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, natural flavor, maltodextrin, yeast extract, salt, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, dried yeast, gum Arabic, citrus extract (to protect quality), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), beet juice extract (for color), acetic acid, succinic acid, modified food starch, annatto (for color).

Impossible Burger ingredients: Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12

Both burgers are formulated to be similar in protein content, fat and taste to beef. Although neither burger claims to be whole food based, the “plant-derived” and “plant-based” marketing message makes them seem healthy and appealing to those consumers who are interested in increasing their plant consumption or for those concerned about reducing the environmental effects of the meat industry.  They may certainly be better for animals and the environment, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy for us to eat?  They should be considered  a processed food, and should make up only a very small portion of the diet, if any. To maintain or improve health, whole plant foods should make up the majority of food that’s consumed.

Is one burger healthier than the other?  I believe the Beyond burger is the better choice, mainly because it does not contain GMO leghemoglobin-yeast and soy, which are present in the Impossible burger. There are studies that show the detrimental affects of consuming different GMO foods (See Institute of Responsible Technology and Genetic Roulette).  For that reason alone, I will not eat the Impossible burger. There have not been any long term human studies evaluating the consumption of that particular kind of GMO food. It is something our bodies have never been exposed to before. So no one really knows what will result. The Center For Food Safety, which is a watchdog group that opposes genetically engineered food, has asked the FDA to recall the Impossible burger because of safety concerns about the genetically engineered soy and heme.

The fact that these burgers are created in a laboratory and they are not something I can replicate in my kitchen also influences my choice not to consume them. The whole foods created for us by the Creator provide better health results. Those foods are whole plant based foods including: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If animal products are included, keeping the quantity low and quality high (studies show that it should be 2-3 oz. 2 X week or less and grass fed, organic and wild caught) has shown positive results in maintaining health.

But please keep in mind, that with increases in animal based foods, health risks also increase. The imitation burgers can possibly meet a need for those transitioning to a more pant focused diet. But whole foods need to be the focus with the occasional processed or animal based food.

For a plant-based burger recipe that does not mimic beef, check out my recipe HERE

Sugar Fasting

I just finished 40 days of fasting sugar and for me that meant cutting out all forms of processed and “healthy” sugar options and sticking with only fresh, frozen and dried fruit. It wasn’t like I had candy hiding around the house, but I would add honey or maple syrup to my coffee, tea and oats, snack on granola, chips or a square of dark chocolate and then more dark chocolate after dinner. (Maybe there was chocolate hiding, but I hadn’t labeled it “candy” because dark chocolate is good for you, right?) But what made me decide to do this was to become more aware of habitual eating I may not have paid much attention to, and to intentionally let go of a substance that doesn’t offer much in return.

It started when I saw this opportunity to join an online group for the 40 day fast with daily encouragement and accountability. Guess what? My husband decided to join me, and he’s used to having a soda and several sweetened teas at work and then an afternoon trip to the candy bowl and joins me for a square of chocolate after dinner. With a little creativity on my part, we both made it through without too much fuss. It is interesting what we learned and how we’re feeling now.

To begin, we committed to drinking more water whenever we had an urge for something sweet, and then to having a piece of fresh fruit. Apples, oranges, kiwi. pineapple and berries filled our fruit drawer. My husband, Barry, would take fruit to work and make his own unsweetened tea. I drastically reduced my coffee, because I don’t like bitter coffee and drank more herbal and green teas which tend not to need sweetener. The first couple days I used a few stevia drops in coffee, but I really preferred plain tea to the coffee with stevia . For my typical winter breakfast of oats, instead of adding the honey or maple syrup, I just loaded it with a chopped orange and some raspberries, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Delicious!

I did need to find a way to only use fruit in the granola I make, which is what Barry takes for breakfast. So instead of melting coconut oil and mixing it with maple syrup, coconut sugar and vanilla to pour over the oat, nut and seed mixture, I blended a half banana, two apples, a couple dates and cinnamon with a little water and poured that mixture over the oat, nut, seed mix and then baked. It was a little less sweet than my original. but nicely flavored.

I also kept a small jar of dates soaking in water in the fridge. I would use the water to sweeten some things (coffee, if I really wanted it) and the soft dates in a recipe I was making if it needed a sweetener. But for the most part, I cooked simply, enjoyed a little more fruit than I usually eat and did not bake, except for a date sweetened chocolate birthday cake for Barry, (It was good!).

When I wanted a crunchy snack, I had mixed raw nuts and seeds on hand, as I always do, and I made some kale chips a couple times. But I really missed the after dinner chocolate square. So as a fruit based replacement, I pitted 6 dates and put a small scoop of almond butter in the center of each and kept those in the freezer. Oh my! They have taken the place of the chocolate, at least for now.

I think doing the fast helped both of us think and be more mindful of what we were eating and at the same time, reflect on why we were inclined toward sugar. Reasons like boredom, avoidance, sheer habit and feeling down surfaced. Also sharing a little more sweetness and more hugs with each other helped too! We both benefited by feeling less achy and slept better and Barry lost a couple pounds and saw improved focus at work.

We haven’t returned to our pre-fast behavior and plan to keep a better balance on the use of sweeteners. Whole fruits really can be used in place of sugar and sweeteners in most recipes and I’ll be putting some sugar free recipes together if you need some inspiration. But if this is something you’re interested in doing, I encourage you to go for it.

It’s More than Food

When we talk about getting healthy, the first thing that comes into the conversation focuses around eating the ‘right’ foods, or the excuse that healthy foods don’t taste good. Well, I have my opinion on both of those issues, but Health has more to do than with food. (I like talking and eating food, but there’s more) It can seem complicated, thinking about everything that affects us, but if you can think about it in categories, I think that simplifies things a bit.

Take a look at the categories that make up YOU. For example, there are relational, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, environmental, and intellectual  components of your life. To be ‘healthy’ I believe you need to have balance in each component and should be working at improving or nourishing each area. But there is only one person that needs to decide what should be done, that’s you.

It’s a good exercise to divide a piece of paper into squares and right these categories at the top of each square. Then rank your satisfaction of that area of your life with a number from 1-10 in the upper corner of each box. Write down a few things you do already to address each category.  Once you’ve thought about that, notice the box with the lowest ranking number(s). Ask yourself, ‘What’s going on? Whats missing? What is one thing you can add or subtract that would make a small difference and improve how you feel in that category?”

I’ll share ways I’ve nourished each area of my life. For my relational category, I try to connect with a far away friend twice a month and meet up with local friends to catch up on life. I also try to have meaningful conversations with my husband and friends. My emotional component is nourished by talking out concerns or fears with a trusted friend or my husband and knowing absolutely that God is in control and has my back, so I can trust that the things happening that affect my emotional state may be hard, but they will turn out to be good.  Physically, I try to get in veggies of some kind at each meal and do some intentional movement and activity everyday it may be following an online exercise class, walking around the lake, or quick burst exercises. In the Spiritual category, I’ve been able to incorporate an online morning devotional that gives me a way to delve into the Bible while I have golden milk, tea or coffee in the morning before getting into the action of my day (I use the First 5 app). My financial component is my weakest cog, I want to make a difference and help others with the knowledge I have, but finding the best ways of doing that and making money has been a challenge. So I’m expanding into some new territory that aligns with my passion for helping others overcome the stress around food and gain more health.  I think the issue in this category is feeling like you’re living out your purpose. Environmentally I’ve changed things over several years. I made a switch to eliminate toxins in my cleaning solutions, soaps, shampoos, laundry supplies and skin care. I do have an EMF protector on my cell phone, but I think there is a need to take a break and unplug from social media and the constant demands that we feel from always being ‘connected’; If we are not careful, we will be living in response to everybody else’s desires put upon us rather than living proactively. And lastly, in the intellectual category, I try to make it a priority to read for enjoyment and to learn more.

I encourage you to take a little time to evaluate your Health in all areas of your life and see if there is room to grow or balance some things out. Reply if this has been helpful. Thanks again for being in my community of friends

June is Dairy Month?

In Wisconsin, I thought every month was dairy month.  Milk and cheese are major players in Wisconsin cuisine, it is the biggest dietary issue I see for people living here who want to regain their health and reduce the inflammation and acidity they are dealing with.  Many people are not willing to take dairy products out of their diets to even check the possibility of them being the cause of discomfort and dis-ease. I believe this is because, if they felt better, than they would know dairy is causing their problems. And just the thought of not being able to have a slice of cheese, is enough for some people to give up on getting better naturally and instead rely heavily on prescription and OTC drugs.  That is such a sad scenario because more and more research is surfacing showing that Food is one of the main factors in staying healthy and reversing poor health. Lifestyle choices have shown to be even more influential than your genes.  Epigenetics is the focus of study that is actually showing how food can regulate whether certain genes are turned on or off, causing certain genetic dispositions to surface. In other words, if you have a gene for a certain illness or disease, but you are not showing any signs of that disease yet, your diet, environment, and emotions play a significant part in whether or not you will show signs of that genetic disease in the future.  Also, if you already have symptoms of disease, diet changes have actually been shown to reverse disease, especially in the case of certain cancers, diabetes 2, gastrointestinal diseases, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. Food can be your medicine, either by omitting certain food from your diet or including specific foods. It is usually a combination of both to achieve the greatest impact.

I have taken dairy out of my diet since  about 2010, and I can say I do see a difference…definitely less mucus in my respiratory tract. I used to wake up every morning and have to hack up phlegm that collected in my throat while sleeping (I know, too much information). I do not have a tendency for colds or sinus issues since getting dairy out of my diet. And I do not have the bloated feeling after eating. If I decide I want some cheese, a nut cheese or even goat cheese seems to digest much easier and not have the mucus forming result for me. But the craving for cheese isn’t there anymore. I believe your body craves poor quality food when it doesn’t know better. Once you begin supplying better food options with higher quality nutrients, over a relatively short period of time, your body stops the junk cravings and starts craving the foods it knows will nourish and fill in where nutrients are lacking. I was amazed when my body started craving greens and green smoothies…Huh? We are all ingrained with the idea that cravings are things that are “bad” for us. But I really think we crave nutrients and our body counts nutrients, not calories.

My dairy symptoms were pretty mild things to be dealing with, but just so you know how significant dairy can be in the system, I wanted to share some research that used exclusively the dairy protein, casein.  Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD researcher and author of the China Study, used two diets of differing casein percentages, 5% and 20% to show the influences on cancer cell growth. In the case of the mice eating 5% casein and having been injected with cancer causing agent, none of the mice grew cancer cells, all had a normal life span and good health. The other group of mice, eating 20% casein, being injected with cancer agent, like the first group, all developed cancer tumors and died early. Then repeating the study, the diets were switched mid stream to show how changing the diet can influence cancer growth and it was indicative, that the higher the casein protein amount, there was greater influence on cancer growth, and if decreased, lesser cancer growth and effects.  Tests were repeated and results were consistent. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about how food affects disease manifested in the body. Your body can keep disease/genes under control, or it can lose control and the disease takes over until the body is given what it needs to overcome. I would risk saying that for most people, food is a main issue that allows the disease to take over and the body to be deficient…but to me that also means there is always hope for a reversal, if food is considered part of your health care!

So, Because June is “Dairy Month”, maybe you would like to start eliminating dairy by the end of the month, so you can see if this omission will allow you to feel better by mid July.. Removing dairy, which includes, milk, yogurt, cheeses, ice cream, cream, whey, casein, derivatives found in processed foods, etc. can seem like a very difficult undertaking. But keep in mind that there are a lot of alternatives that can take the place of, or fill in, where you would have a tendency to have dairy.  Almond and coconut milks are great for basic milk substitutes and can be used in cooking. You can cultured them to make yogurt and kefir and use them as a base for ice creams.  Making your own with a blender is ideal, but some of the commercial brands are decent.

To make your own almond or coconut milk, you will need a blender and a nut milk bag or sieve. For almond milk: soak 1 cup of raw almonds in a bowl of water for 8 hours. Rinse, strain and place in a blender. Cover with three cups of pure water, blend and strain. If you want to keep the milk from separating, place strained milk in blender and add a teaspoon of powdered lecithin and blend for a minute. Pour into a jar and keep refrigerated up to 5 days.  Save the nut pulp for baking or raw crackers or breads. For milk, you can also use almond butter and water blended, straining is optional.  You can use most nuts and seeds to make milk, just soak, rinse and adjust water amount to 3X the nut amount. adjust the amount lower for a thicker/creamier milk.  HERE is a link for more plant milk variations and ideas. And  Ice Cream without dairy, (pictured)

For coconut milk: you can use a young coconut and blend the flesh and the water to make a milk. If young coconuts are not available, you can use dried shredded coconut and water, blended and strained. Coconut butter and water blended will also make a nice milk. The ratio of dried coconut to water is about 2 parts water to one part dried coconut, be sure to use the unsweetened coconut shreds. You can sweeten the home-made milks by blending with one or two dates or adding a bit of stevia or honey.

Tools and Equipment for Kitchen Adventures

I am often asked what tools I use or where to get the items that I use during cooking demonstrations. So I have compiled a list of tools and equipment that I personally use and enjoy using along with a short description of why I like it. (If you decide to purchase through any of these links, I will receive a small affiliate fee for sharing. Thank you.)

This Spiralizer I use to make three thicknesses of fruit and vegetable noodles. It makes great apple noodles for adding to breakfast puddings or salads, along with colorful beet, sweet potato, squash, turnip, carrot and zucchini noodles to make interesting pasta, noodly salads and stir fry recipes.

This Handheld Mandolin  is one that I grab for quick slicing. It has three settings for different thicknesses. works great getting thin sliced potatoes, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, parsnips, beets, onion and lots more.

This Julienne Peeler makes quick Julienne slices that when used on long vegetables mimic the spiralizer making thin noodles. The head is double sided with a straight peeler and works great on thick skinned vegetables like kolrabi and squash, as well as carrots and potatoes.

This Dehydrator does a great job making kale chips, flax crackers, fruit leathers, dehydrated cookies and bread, wraps and preserved vegetables. The timer makes it nice because it will shut off even if you’re not there. You can use the timer for marinating vegetables and to time items you don’t want to get crispy.

This blender is professional high speed and has the shorter container that fits under cabinets and because its wider at the base, it’s easier to get everything out of the bottom of the container. This blender makes super smooth nut creams, milks, frozen fruit ice creams, smoothies, soups, dips and so much more.

I use this Springform pan for making all of my large raw cakes and individual tarts pans for individualized treats  Its is heavy weight and has a nonstick surface that releases easily.

This  Kyocera Ceramic Knife is lightweight, easy to hold and will not cause brown oxidation on cut surfaces of fruits, greens and vegetables.

Wusthof Sharpener is for steel knives with coarse and fine making for a nice sharp edge and precision cuts. A sharp knife is safer and makes food prep quicker.

Wusthof Chef Knife is a nice quality steel knife for the professional and home cook.  the handle is easy to hold and molded to fit nicely in the hand. I like this style for ease of cutting and chopping large quantities of veggies. You can do almost all food prep with a good chef’s knife. (But some gadgets make better time)

Slow Juicer  will make high quality cold pressed juice that will last with active enzymes for up to three days.  I like this style for the ease of adding vegetables at the top and being able to regulate the amount of pulp in the juice.  I think its easy to take apart, clean and put back together.

This Food Processor makes an easy job of grinding nuts, fruit and mixing up hummus and all kinds of dough.

A large Bamboo Cutting Board set makes for a great surface for cutting fruits and vegetables. These have a drip groove around the perimeter to catch any drips from juicy fruits.

Please let me know if you’d like me to review or suggest any other tools or equipment you might have questions about. I hope you have some wonderful kitchen adventures!

Healthy Traveling Tips

Love to travel, but not sure how to eat in airports, on the plane or while running from one gate to the next? Airports are notorious for unhealthy food choices, but in the last couple of years there have been some attempts to bring in some healthy options. To stay on top of your health, you have to have time to look for them or pack your own, so your not consuming coffee, sugar, and fat while compromising your health. You want to arrive feeling your best, so you can enjoy time exploring and enjoying your designation. I’ll share a couple tips for traveling healthy from my own experience.
Fist, staying hydrated is so important, so drink 20 oz. of clean water before leaving home, and take an empty water bottle with you. A bottle with a filter is ideal, because you can fill it with tap water once you get through security and save $5 you’d sped on a bottle. If you plan to dine in one of the many airport restaurants, ask for water wth lemon. Water helps everything in the body work better, it even relieves pain. Carrying chia seeds to add to the water can provide a boost of protein, omega 3 fat, fiber and they help the body to absorb the water better and fill you up between meals.
Packing or purchasing fresh fruit and veggies gives you the highest amount of nutrients per calorie. Fruits are the highest food source of vitamins and vegetables are the highest food source of minerals and fiber. Fruits that travel well include, apples, citrus, bananas, and cutting up pineapple ,grapes and kiwi into a disposable cup makes a great meal on the go. Vegetable sticks with hummus or nut pates or spreads are stable unrefrigerated for several hours and travel well. Many airport restaurants offer fresh fruit and salads, and it is possible to find juice and smoothie bars.
If you plan ahead a bit, you can make some great travel snacks. If you have a dehydrator, flax crackers and dried fruit are quick and easy to put on trays and then you take them out when dry. Making power balls are an easy stir together snack that packs a good protein boost. Place a half cup of nut or seed butter into a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of honey or coconut nectar and a pinch of salt. If you like add a scoop of protein powder and some superfood powder, I like maca. Then add seeds, dried berries, chopped figs, apricots or raisins. You can add soaked chopped nuts or crunchy brown rice cereal if that appeals to you. You will stir to coat everything and decide if it will stick together in a ball. If not add a little more nut butter or honey, if it’s too loose add more powder or seeds. Roll into balls and roll in shredded coconut and refrigerate. Place in a Baggie to travel. If there is no time to make your own, shop for organic fresh and dried fruit, trail mixes, protein or nut bars and individual packets of protein and/or greens powder.

I’m traveling to Rome as I write this and I have  a full day of flights and layovers, and I want to share with you what I’ve packed for snacks and found in airport venues. On the way to the airport, I drank a mixture of barley grass juice, protein powder, chia seeds and water. In my carry on, I brought dried cherries and dragon fruit, flax crackers, kale chips and dark chocolate covered almonds. In Detroit my husband and I dined at a Mediterranean restaurant and I had lemon water, chick pea hummus, tabouli and side salad. At JFK, I found a Jamba Juice and ordered the whole super greens juice, which is blended apple,carrot, spinach and kale with a bit of water. On the airplane, it is possible to request a special meal when booking, but the vegetarian meals are usually high in cheese and milk components. I did not order a special meal, but one of the options onboard was a salad topped with asparagus, squash, peppers,onion and a couple shrimp with a side of fruit. It is becoming much easier to travel and stay plant-based with tasty options along the way, but I try to be prepared in case I can’t find anything that fits into my criteria for staying healthy wile traveling. Now, I am much more careful about my choices while traveling to and from my destination because for me it is a stress on my system with the rushing, anxiousness, eating at off hours and the immune attack that is encountered along the way. Once I arrive, I love experiencing the food and culture of a new place – they both go hand in hand most of the time. But I continue to eat a majority of plant based options because they are available and delicious. Other countries are also making allowances for people with compromised systems, such as celiac disease.  I hope these simple ideas I’ve shared will benefit you in your travels.  I wish you a wonderful holiday season.