Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

A few quotes to think on today:

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

- Thucydides

The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.

-Thomas Campbell

True bravery is shown by performing without witness what one might be capable of doing before all the world.

– Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld

I hope you have had a wonderful day, full of family, fun, and food - but also of thanks and respect for what all that we have, and all that we can have! My prayers and thanks to those fighting for us, and the families waiting anxiously for them to return in time.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Natural Sun Protection?

(pic courtesy of David Besa)

As the sun starts a'beating down, many of us dream of some good, relaxing sun-filled afternoons! And the media pelts us with two sides of the issue: sunscreen.

One side proclaims that we need to let the sun come! Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, and the sun is a way to naturally trigger your body's production.

On the other side, too much sun may put you at risk for skin cancer.

What, oh what, is a person to do?

Eat tomatoes, of course!

*Huh? *

Several studies have been done looking at protecting the skin via diet, and what components may offer protection. Antioxidants are, of course, an important component in health, maintaining skin integrity and cell health - keeping you healthy and younger looking. But some studies are looking more specifically than that.

One study had participants eat tomato paste daily for 4 or 10 weeks, and saw less erythema, or reddening of the skin when exposed to UV light in BOTH groups. Yup, less propensity towards burning by 35%! Nice!

You probably don’t need to be slurping paste – they were using that in their study, but they noticed higher levels of serum lycopene and total carotenoids in the skin – things that you can raise through any form of tomato intake (the deeper the red, the better), and pushing some of your other orange foods too – like carrots and squash! If you go with ketchup – a staple during the wonderful grilling season! – see if you can find Organic. It has been found to far surpass conventional ketchup for lycopene content.

Whichever form, DO try to combine it with a little bit of healthy fat as this will help you absorb more of the fat-soluble carotenoids. In fact! Selenium, a mineral found in Brazil nuts, has ALSO been shown to have sun-protective effects!

At the University of Dundee in Scotland, another study was done looking at phytochemicals as protectors. They were looking at phytochemicals with fun ‘n’ fancy names like alkaloids, flavonoids, carotnoids, and isothiocyanates. “These phytochemicals have been consumed by humans for many centuries as part of plant-rich diets and are presumed to be of low toxicity, an essential requirement for a chemoprotective agent. Mechanistically, they affect multiple signalling pathways and protect against UV radiation-inflicted damage by their ability to act as direct and indirect antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory agents.” So some of their excitement is in the fact these are all plant-based components – which means more natural and pretty darn hard to overdose on! (Now don’t any of you run off and drink 5 straight gallons of tomato juice just to prove I’m wrong! BALANCED EATING, my dear! You CAN overdose on water too – just so ya’ll know that NOTHING should be over consumed!)

So in the study, they turn to produce for these phytochemicals. Cool bonus? Unlike sunscreen, which – in blocking your skin from the UV light – blocks your body’s ability to synthesize much-needed vitamin D, protection from foods “is comprehensive, long-lasting, and unlikely to cause pro-oxidant effects or interfere with the synthesis of vitamin D.”

There are a slew of other foods that can also offer you protection from the potential damage caused by UV sunlight: raspberries and blueberries, cherries, and citrus all contain various health properties. Green tea and its epigallocatechins block damage. So keep up with your fresh food – you never know when another study will come out showing other benefits to produce!

So, rather than slathering yourself with chemical-packed sunscreens (and your skin - your largest organ - just loooves to absorb things that are rubbed on it!) make sure you're keeping a good, steady supply of lycopene- and carotenoid-rich foods in your daily consumption even before beach-season!

Well, ok, not too rich - if your skin starts getting slightly red-orange even before hitting the beach, you may have had more than ya need! But don't worry – “lycopenodermia,” when your skin takes on a deep orange discoloration, is a harmless, reversible coloring that lessens if you cut back on your lycopene intake.

Of course, always remember - YOU know YOU best! If you have fair skin, weight the cost/benefits of diet and sunscreen. Perhaps with some precautions, you can just use less or lower powered sunscreen, for example – and less chemically-hazardous ones. Burnt-dead skin is not a pleasant feeling!

So later, I’ll post a little bit about picking a sunblock should you choose one. Just in time for Memorial weekend!

Have an amazing evening and wonderful Memorial Day!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy Omega-Rich Apple Snack

Good morning, lovely people! I hope your week has been going well! It has been a busy week at the homestead, continuing some spring cleaning and downsizing. It is such a liberating feeling throwing away bags and bags of junk! We’ve recycled box-loads of old paperwork, and unloaded a car full of items to Salvation Army. And I want to get rid of more! Seriously! It is addicting! Kind of like cleaning out your body of unwanted clutter and trash – feeling better and better the cleaner you get! (Oh yeah, I went there.)

So while you’re trying to simplify a diet with a return to whole foods, return to a simpler home life! GET RID OF CLUTTER! (I don’t have a whole lot of room to talk… my hubby is a pack-rat. But we’re working on it!) Plus, it’s always nice to give up some nice things to others who may appreciate it.
So anyways! Today is another easy spin on a classic childhood favorite: apple with peanut butter. Only, this time, it’s getting a crunchy addition.

I used to enjoy dipping my apple wedge in the peanut butter, then in Grape Nuts cereal – that extra crunch made it more enjoyable for me.

But, I now use almond butter, and don’t have any Grape Nuts hanging around the place right now, so I went for a different crunch – seeds! Chia and flax, specifically. (Yes – chia as in “Ch-ch-ch-CHIA!” Chia Pets. But I wouldn’t go buy a chia pet and steal the seeds… who knows if they’re treated or fertilized or something! Just check out your natural health store to see if they carry them)

Chia has become lovingly nicknamed “Alien Pods” at our place because of their look when they’re soaked and swollen. Toss some chia in a bit of water or milk, and they expand almost 3 times their size (great for helping you feel full as they expand!) – and they look like a little black dot in a clear egg shell :)

That's not water surrounding the pod - that's a gel formed on the seed! Alien pods!!!

But these little guys are little wonders. A single ounce of chia seed will provide 11 grams of fiber – helping you feel nice and full while pushing things through, cleansing as it goes. They are a complete protein, providing all of the 9 essential amino acids, as well as being a good source of Calcium, Manganese, and Phosphorus. These little guys are also a great source of Omega oils! …Which, you may have guessed based on the title of this post :) That 1 ounce serving contains almost 5 GRAMS of omega-3 fatty acids, and 1.6 grams of Omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega’s are being touted for so many benefits – for the heart, the mind, the hair, the skin, the joints. They help with bone health, inflammation, disease prevention…

Chia seeds are not always financially viable, though. I don’t mind paying for them now and then, because they add some fun variety. I like to sprinkle them on salads, in cereal, or soak them and add them to smoothies. They really don’t have much flavor – more just for texture!

Another good Omega source that works for this apple snack is flax seeds, the emblem of Northern Ireland! While not a complete protein, it’s darn close! Flax is a good source of Manganese and Phosphorus, but also give you a good dose of Copper, Magnesium, and Thiamin as well as a bit of Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Selenium. Flax offers 6.4 grams of Omega-3 and 1.7 grams of Omega-6 per ounce!

And flax is pretty cheap! At my Kroger, I can get it at $1.99 per pound. And they’re light little buggers! You can get them golden yellow or a richer brown – I don’t notice a taste difference. Both have a slightly earthy, nutty flavor.

So enjoy either chia or flax seeds. Or, as I do, enjoy both!

Whichever seed, you’re getting a serving of goodness and a much healthier snack than something like potato chips or Nutter Butters!



Monday, May 24, 2010

The Changes Exit

I finally got out to get a new blender over the weekend! But before I could get around to using it, I wound up sick with the flu. Bleh.

So, instead of lots of smoothie goodness, my weekend was filled with sleep and water. And not much time to figure out a good recipe to post!

So today, just a quick little quote that I like:

"Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."
-Mark Twain

I hope you're taking each step to health a bit at a time. In our instant-gratification society, it is so easy to fall into the SitCom trap that every problem must be solved in 30 minutes; every habit can be broken with a good joke and half an hour...

I was reading some article about farmers, and how they do not have the luxury of procrastinating - if they put off plowing or sowing or harvesting, they could likely go hungry! But we've come so far from our farming roots. Most of us instead follow the school path where - let's face it - procrastination and cramming are the daily way of life! But we then become accustomed to "sound bites" explaining everything, that we can "fix" a bad diet over night or with a three day fast, that it's too hard to stick to changes for the long haul because we want results, and WE WANT THEM NOW!

So lets hop on that CHANGE lane and plan to cruise for a while! Put on some good music, keep good company, brew some tea, and settle in! :) Just one simple change at a time - maybe start with a green smoothie tomorrow instead of coffee!

A lifetime of bad habits may not be an over night change - but it will be worth it! Keep at it :)


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunny Apple Trail Mix Cereal

Happy Wednesday, friends! You're halfway through your week! I know I’m excited about that :) And I have an evening planned of yoga, apple fun in the kitchen, and relaxing!This morning I tried another apple recipe – basically a hodge-podge of stuff tossed together to make a cereal. It reminded me of trail mix, with so much variety and simplicity! But healthy and so filling! A great combination. And I love when recipes are flexible – who wants to strictly follow a recipe, then find out their missing an ingredient? Or take the time to measure everything out? Not with this! Simple guesstimations, my friend – and it all worked out!

Sunny Apple Trail Mix Cereal:

½ apple, diced

¼ cup oatmeal (I prefer using soaked steel-cut oat groats, but I was out :( I’ll post on that later – why I think they are healthier for you!)

Small handful of sunflower seeds - 2 Tbs? (These are amazing sources of the anti-inflammatory antioxidant vitamin E as well as Magnesium for nerves and muscles, Selenium for healthy cell integrity and cancer prevention, and the B vitamin Thiamin for heart function and efficiency of energy supplies. Of commonly eaten nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds have the highest concentration of phytosterols, which may help lower cholesterol.)

Small handful of almonds - 2 Tbs? (Almonds help control the rate the sugars enter your blood stream – nice and easy, baby! Like sunflower seeds, they are a good source of Vitamin E and magnesium; but these guys also contain a good dose of manganese, tryptophan, copper, B2 riboflavin, and phosphorus – all important to balance health.)

Small handful of organic raisins -1/4 cup? (A sugary food, so use in moderation. But they have their place. Raisins contain some of the trace mineral, Boron, which is needed for healthy bone formation. Some studies are finding boron to protect postmenopausal woman from osteoporosis.)

A drizzle of agave - 2 tsp?

A dusting of Cinnamon -1 tbs? (You may know by now that I love this spice! A good blood sugar regulator; and oh so yummy in my book!)

Toss it all together, and top with your choice of milk! Remember – if you pick to drink dairy or soy, PLEASE go organic! I used coconut milk today.

I got about halfway through my bowl (enjoying every bite) when I realized that trail mix usually has chocolate chips in it. Well, I didn’t want to go tainting my organic and natural breakfast with chemicals and sugar, so I instead grabbed my bag of organic cacao powder, and sprinkled some of that on top! Yum! Just a slight hint of chocolate to balance the nuts and fruit, and another little ninja kick of antioxidant power! Hiya!

Another addition I threw in as I went: chopped up a banana. Hooray for extra potassium!

So enjoy mixing and matching fruits and nuts; try different spices or milk types. Loads of simple breakfasts here!

So see what you can do – try to break away from all that processed, sugary stuff that's harsh on your body and health: pop tarts, sugary cereals, pastries… get yourself some good, natural energy to start off your day!! (The green smoothies are great, too! But… without my blender, I’m looking to other power-packed foods to get me going.)

Have fun!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Green Thumb?

I have never had luck with gardening. That could be from a few factors - and a big one would be that I haven't tired much! Yeah... that'll make progress slower...

But I've also had some bad luck with keeping things (or people!) out of my garden. I have twice tried growing from seed, and twice had things either pulled up or demolished. And I don't mean by rabbits or the like - we can see shoe prints in the area! A neighbor said the same thing happened to her - anything she'd planted in the ground had disappeared over a weekend while she was away. But what remained were things growing in buckets and pots.

So, try Number 3!

Yesterday we went to Marvin's Organic Gardens where they were holding an Organic Container Gardening class - and I guess fate was smiling on us! Five people called to cancel, so Dave and I got some one-on-one time with the teacher, Leslie. She walked us up and down row after row of organic plants that were started right there from seed! We got to sample nibbles of plants as we went - orange mint, chocolate peppermint, blueberries, celery, basil... amazing! I have never enjoyed blueberries until this visit! I still didn't love them, but they were much better than any thing I'd purchased at a store!
They even grow Stinging Nettle. I was shocked - I couldn't believe someone would choose to grow that plant! It burns when you get rubbed by it! But she said the leaves of the Stinging Nettle plant can be boiled into a tea that helps with arthritis. How cool! Add that to another weed with benefits :)

I wish I had gotten pictures there! Leslie was so patient with all of our questions, and didn't seem to mind that we kept walking her in circles as we wanted to revisit plants in the green house! I guess we'll just have to go back some time - I saw they had a whole wall of sprouting seeds! I haven't yet done sprouting, but it is something I want to try some day.
So, Leslie helped us narrow down our choices, and we finally decided on five plants that she said would grow well in our large pot: stevia, spinach, broccoli, Greek oregano, and chocolate peppermint mint (which I plan to brew a leaf of tonight after work! And maybe sweeten with a leaf of Stevia!) We gathered up our finds, and she helped us plant them in organic potting soil, topped with organic fertilizer and mulch. We somehow managed to lug the thing home, and set it on our back porch.

So, here's hoping trial #3 is more successful! I am not anticipating a huge bounty of food from it, but the experience that will lead to excitement for growing more at home some day! It doesn't get more local than your own home!
I'll be sure to post here some more of our container gardening :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Apple Week!

I am a woman of themes. I don't know why - but I always have theme parties in the back of my head. Sadly, most of these theme dreams are never realized (though I did get to do a little Harry Potter themed party once!) but it has still stuck with me.

So I thought - why not have a theme for new recipes? What's on sale at the store - and what can I make from that?

This week: the simple apple!

I already discussed many of the benefits of this little guy in an earlier post with the Winter Salad; but it's been a while, so I thought I'd refresh a few points and share a few ideas!

The apple - a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, insoluble and soluble fiber, and flavonoids - if you eat that skin!

The University of Illinois has a page on some fun facts about apple. My favorites:

*The crabapple is the only apple native to North America (yay crabapple! These grow near my apartment, and every spring, people make sure to avoid the one parking spot under that tree as those mushy apples topple down, leaving your car looking like a poor, helpless victim!)

*2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States (And yet, I feel like I only see 4 or 5 different types in my store...)

*The pilgrims planted the first United States apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

*In colonial time, apples were called winter banana or melt-in-the-mouth
Hmmm... I saw no mention of Johnny Appleseed....

Ah well - on to the recipes!

The first recipe I found was for an apple-carrot "cake" (though I would describe it more as a dough; I should try dehydrating it!) It called for carrot and apple pulp which meant it was time to pull out the juicer!!

So, I guess, technically, the first recipe we made from the apple was fresh apple juice (yum, yum, yum, and YUM! SO much better than store-bough processed stuff!!) And then we had to juice the carrot to get the pulp, so that added an interesting tang of apple-carrot juice. Still delicious! Dave has asked to make fresh juice a bigger part of our diet. Sure thing! So I just need to find some more recipes that use the pulp - I hate the idea of just throwing that away! (...unless I started composting at some point.)

So, the next recipe was apple and carrot pulp mixed with blended raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon. The recipe also called for shredded coconut, but the store was out :( I think it could add a good texture to the "cake." Instead, I topped it with more raisins and walnuts. Some oats may have been good too!

It will need some tweaking, but all in all, not bad! The taste is good - just want to work on the texture to make it a little drier, and hold together better.

Veggies, fruit, and nuts; dairy free, gluten free... All natural, all health! So I ate some for breakfast this morning :) Cake for breakfast - what a good life!


Other recipes planned this week: Sauteed apples; apple cabbage slaw, and baked apples!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Purple Power!

(Picture taken by J.E. Fee, as posted on Wikipedia)

Today I am researching a vegetable that I know little about: the Eggplant! (Ok, I know - it doesn't come ONLY in the purple power variety, but that's the commonly known color!)

Normally, this has been an item I have avoided. I had no idea what to do with one! But I am facing that mystery, and going to find some healthy recipes with this violet gem!

And what’s so good about the eggplant? While it is not quite the ninja-kick power-house of nutrients like that of some other produce items discussed, it still has its unique benefits, and can be a very healthy addition to your life!

It does contain good fiber to help keep ya regular! It’s also a good source of potassium, manganese, copper, thiamin, B6, folate, magnesium, and niacin. And it’s near fat free! (You get a whopping 0.2 grams per cup. And of course, trans fat free)

Nasunin is a component of eggplant skin that’s being studied for its antioxidant affect. In some animal studies, it has been shown to help protect brain cells! Nasunin also plays a role in keeping your iron levels in check.

This purple produce also contains chlorogenic acid, which is being studied as a major “anti” compound: anti-cancer, anti-LDL cholesterol, anti-viral, and anti-microbial! Niiiiice!

Eggplants used to be blamed for causing insanity… but I’m glad the view on that is not holding! This sounds like a great food to add to any diet! So, keep an eye on me… if I start behaving… oddly…


So, if you have any simple, healthy recipe ideas, please share them! This will be a new addition for me!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


'Tis a sad day...

My poor little blender finally kicked the bucket this morning. And not something easily replaceable! The whole blade gear snapped in half! I guess being a smoothie fanatic finally caught up with me.

I had been reading about high-quality blenders, but the cost has always kept me at bay. I thought "well, I've gotten by on my $20-$30 blenders this long... they work well, right?" And they did... until I really started to use them!

This is my second broken blender in 9 months. Gaaa!! With the frequency I use them, and the volume of produce and frozen fruits that go in them, perhaps it's time to shell out for something sturdier.

Rest In Pieces, Blendy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More Squashiness

After my post yesterday, I was thinking that the squash info was a little limited.

One recipe, one style.

But squash is a little more versatile than that, so I wanted to toss out a few more ideas!

I have a massive sweet tooth - so that dish from yesterday leaned towards a sweet dish. But what if you prefer savory? No problem!

Instead of syrup and spices, you can add some savory flavors!

Try onion, garlic, cumin, ginger, or cayenne! Or add some chives and black beans! (Ok, you'd probably want to cook the black beans first)

A simple soup:

Cut squash in half lengthwise (no need to peel for this one!), prick with fork, then bake in oven seed-side down in a pan of water. Bake 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until flesh is soft. Let cool, then scoop out and throw away seeds. Scoop out flesh and put into food processor or good blender with some water or broth. Blend away for a simple butternut squash soup! Add a little sea salt and pepper for flavor if you like.

If you feel like being less healthy, blending in some low-fat cream cheese can make a special smooth soup ;-) But eat in moderation, then!

Enjoy some simple squash, warm or raw, for many health benefits!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sweet Squash Dish

Don't run!!!

I know most people cringe at the thought of squash, but it can be really good! (Sadly, I can't guarantee you'll like this recipe... but I like it!) If you like fall harvests and pumpkin, this may be up your ally!

Technically, butternut squash is a winter squash. But I had one sitting around (I guess they went on sale near the end of winter) and that hardy little sucker was still good! But, more than just a long-lasting product, squash of all sorts have many health benefits!

Squash is an amazing source of vitamin A - over 100% of your needs in a cup! It is also a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and manganese. Plus is contains some folate, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, niacin and copper! Power packed! So, as always - that wonderful vitamin A + Vitamin C combo is great for healthy, supple skin!

In addition to its long list of health-promoting nutrients, squash - like basically all produce - is also a disease fighting fiend! It has good antioxidant power, helps with inflammation, may help with a healthy prostate, helps prevent lung cancer, decreases risk of colon cancer, and may help prevent the progression of atherosclerosis!

Most people think of squash as a food that needs to be cooked - but it can be enjoyed raw, too! I was quite skeptical at first, but have found this little dish to be quite good!

Sweet Squash Dish

(Experiment with what ratio you like of squash to dried fruit to walnuts!)

-1 butternut squash
-1 cup dried cranberries
-1/2 cup walnut pieces
-agave or maple syrup to taste
-spices to taste (I like pumpkin pie spices, with extra cinnamon!)
-dash of sea salt

1. Peel the squash (yup - just like a potato! Grab that peeler, and go to town!) and cut off ends. Cube into roughly 1" chunks.

2. Put squash in food processor and process into rice-sized pieces (You may want to do 2 batches if this is hard on your processor)

3. Dump squash bits into a bowl. Add cranberries, walnuts, syrup, and spices. Mix well!

Simple, quick, easy, and healthy! You can warm the mix if you prefer. Sometimes in the fall, I like it warmed just a bit - maybe 90-100 degrees! But with the warmer weather we've been having, I enjoy a cool spiced bowl of this instead!

Happy Squashing!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Life is Nothing But A Fat Rat Race!

That was my theme song this morning as I joined my sister on my first official 5K run! That song is favorite of mine to loosen up and goof off. When it's cranked, we love to "dance like a goober!" Meaning, let loose, lose yourself in the silliness, and dance without caring how odd you look - and maybe even challenge yourself to intentionally look goofy! (No, sorry, I have no videos of this that I know of.)

But my dear sister invited me to pace with her as she ran the 3.1 miles of downtown Columbus. To try to keep her smiling, I began the singing! And - rock on sister - she hunkered down, took the deep breaths, and sang along with me! We got a few odd looks, but who cares?! We had fun!
No matter where you are in your health plan, exercise is a must. And no matter how fit you are, just getting up and moving will give you benefits! My other sister is lucky to make it 3 blocks before making me stop! But that's where she's at, and maybe someday she'll work from there.

Being outside is invigorating - and I challenge you to find something you like! Stay motivated with roller blading, hiking in local parks, playing with your local softball team. Whatever you like! If you're not having fun, you won't stick to it. I am blessed that running gives me a "runners' high" and excites me. I smile and enjoy my run - sometimes laughing and making crazy dance moves to my music. But that keeps me going!

Where are you on your path to health, and what are you enjoying? Smile! Your heart is happy when it gets to work and stretch!

(I also spent a 3-day-weekend hiking - and that was AMAZING! Ate like a pig all weekend - shhh! - and still ended up a little lighter at the end! Maybe I should look into that more! I'll try to post some picture of that later!)