Monday, March 25, 2019

Beautiful, Exotic Romanesco
Easy To Roast

Romanesco is almost too beautiful to eat.

I Instagrammed this picture last week and several of my east coast relatives asked, "what the heck is that?" So I guess these gorgeous veggies aren't too common. Luckily, they are readily available in our local markets here in Sonoma county. Although people compare them mostly to cauliflower, their taste is far more delicate.

For some reason, I've recently become obsessed with this tasty vegetable and have been preparing them at least twice a week for the past month - always roasting them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of spices. So simple, yet incredibly flavorful with just the right amount of crunch.

Here's how I prepare them (and although I say 4 servings, Doug and I polish off the entire head by ourselves.)

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Roasted Romanesco
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[4 servings]

Shallow baking pan with parchment (parchment is optional and just helps with cleanup.)

1 head Romanesco
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Wedge of lemon (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment.

Break up the Romanesco into small pieces. Cut the larger pieces in half.
Place on the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss until the pieces are coated evenly with the oil. Then, sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
Roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until browned and easily pierced with a fork. Stir midway through cooking.

Remove from the oven and squeeze the wedge of lemon over the roasted Romanesco and serve immediately.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Dehydrate Your Persimmons For Winter Storage

Dried persimmons make a great snack.

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Fuju Persimmons
We have two Fuju persimmon trees and this year both of them really produced. The thing I love about Fuju persimmons is that you can eat them firm, like an apple or pear. They aren't as good when they get too soft so when that happens, I dehydrate them. Dried persimmons make a wonderful snack.

You can see that we had way too many to eat.
And this is after  we gave lots of them away!
Dehydrating Persimmons
I like to peel mine but many people leave the skin on.
Place the peeled and sliced persimmons on the non-stick teflon dehydrator sheets. If you leave the skin on, you can just cut them horizontally in circles. I like mine peeled and cut into thin wedges as seen in the picture below.

Spread the persimmons on your dehydrator's teflon sheets on the trays. 
Place the trays in your dehydrator. 
We have a 5-tray Excalibur Dehydrator which we really like.

Dehydrating temperature will depend on what's important to you. If you want them to be "raw", and retain their living enzymes, you can dehydrate them at 115 degrees F. This will take 24 hours. You can cut the time if you raise the temperature to 125 or higher.

Dry at 115 to 125 until they are somewhat dry on top and start to pull up from the teflon sheets (about 10 hours). At that point, turn them over, remove the teflon sheets and place the persimmons directly on the mesh sheets. Dry another 10 to 12 hours until they are dry but still a bit pliable. 
Remove when dry but still a bit pliable.

Store in an airtight container.
Serve with an assortment of nuts when guests come. Or put this nut/fruit assortment in your kid's lunchbox or take to work as a midday snack!

A healthy snack.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Crustless Pumpkin Pie - Gluten and Dairy Free
Sweetened By Dates, No Sugar!
Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree In Your Instant Pot

Lighten up your Thanksgiving with only 135 calories of Yum.
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Guilt-Free Dessert
Having to give up gluten and dairy is really tough around the holidays, especially at dessert time. This recipe accommodates gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free diets without compromising taste in the slightest. It does, however, contain eggs so it's not appropriate for your vegan guests. 

Besides being incredibly low in calories, (weighing in at only 135 calories per serving, less than half of traditional pumpkin pie), it's super easy to make. 

This recipe starts with home-grown pumpkin cooked in an instant pot, but you can also make it with a can of pumpkin.

We grew three types of pumpkins this year and lots of them (about 40 or more.)

We grew a few dozen Racer pumpkins (in the front) which are good for Halloween. Doug drove around with them in the back of his truck and gave them to the neighborhood kids.
This is a Jarrahdale pumpkin which makes great soup and pie

This is my favorite. It's a Musque de Provence. It's so beautiful.
 I also use this one for soup and pie.

Cook Fresh Pumpkin in your Instant Pot
When you use fresh pumpkin for your pies, the most important thing is to make sure it's not watery. So after cooking it, whether it be in your Instant Pot or steaming it on the stovetop, make sure it's well drained.

You're going to need 2 cups of mashed pumpkin, so start with a pumpkin big enough to do that - about 3 to 4 pounds. This will vary with the density of the pumpkin you are using. The pumpkins I use, pictured above, weigh over 10 pounds so I just cut out a wedge and save the rest for soup or more pie.

Peel and cube your pumpkin and put it in a steamer basket in your Instant Pot with a cup of water. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes with a quick release. It should be fork tender. If not, continue to cook. 

Pumpkin in a steamer basket in the Instant Pot
Scoop the cooked pumpkin into a colander with fine holes. Let it drain until it's very dry. You can help it along by mashing it down gently with a fork or spoon.

Pumpkin draining in a colander over a bowl. 
When it stops draining, it's ready to use in the pie. Measure out 2 cups of mashed, drained pumpkin and set aside.

Roasting is Great Too!
You can easily roast your pumpkin by cutting it in half, putting it on a shallow roasting pan or on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and baking it at 375 degrees F until tender. I like to loosely tent it with aluminum foil. The time will vary with the size of the pumpkin but it cab take 1 to 2 hours or more. The advantage is that it results in a much drier pumpkin than one that is steamed but the disadvantage is the time it takes to cook. You will still have to drain it in a colander to remove any moisture.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
You can buy ready made pumpkin pie spice or make it with a combination of cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. Different recipes call for different ratios of these spices and your personal tastes. I use:

5 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoons cloves
1/4 teaspoon of allspice

 Most recipes call for more nutmeg and less ginger but I like ginger much more than I like nutmeg. So change the ratios to suite your taste. Mix them all up and store in a spice jar in a cool, dark cabinet. It will last a long time.

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Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 8 servings]

Round, 10-inch pie pan

Non-dairy margarine to grease the pan
4 medjool dates*
1 (13.5 oz) can light coconut milk
1 (15 oz) can cooked pumpkin or 2 cups drained and mashed freshly cooked pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon of stevia powder, or to taste
4 pasture raised, organic eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/3 cup gluten-free flour**
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

* Dates can be replaced with 1/2 cup sugar, but dates are healthier and contain dietary fiber and other nutrients. 
** If you are not sensitive to gluten, you can substitute all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch pie pan and set aside.

Pit the dates and coarsely chop. Pour the coconut milk in a small bowl with the chopped dates and let soak until they soften. If the dates are soft and fresh, this won't take long. If they are hard, it may take several hours. 

Place the coconut milk and soaked dates in a blender and blend until well incorporated.

Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Pour into the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until the pie barely jiggles in the middle, is set all the way through, and is brown around the edges.

Remove from the oven (test with a toothpick which should come out clean), and place on a wire rack until cooled completely. Place in the refrigerator to chill before serving.

Serve as is or with a tiny scoop of non-dairy vanilla ice cream.

Per serving: 135 calories, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 183 mg sodium.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Instant Pot Oatmeal That Tastes Like Apple Pie
Vegan and Gluten Free

This yummy oatmeal takes little effort in your Instant Pot.

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Gluten-Free Cool Weather Breakfast
When the temperature drops, my desire for cold smoothies wanes and I want a nice warm breakfast. I actually prefer eating a more lunch-like meal in the morning, such as a sweet potato and greens or a quinoa bowl. But when we are in a hurry and want something soothing, we turn to oatmeal. 

This is one of our favorite ways to make Instant Pot oatmeal - especially in the fall when we still have a refrigerator packed with apples from our Fuji apple tree. And it's pretty perfect for our dairy and gluten-free diet.

For seasoning, we use Penzeys Apple Pie Spice mix, which is a blend of China cassia cinnamon, Korintje cassia cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cloves, but you can just use whatever cinnamon you have with a pinch of nutmeg (and if you have ground mace and cloves, you can put a tiny bit of that in too.)

We use this blend in muffins, crisps, on French toast, and more.

Oatmeal is naturally gluten free but often the oats are contaminated during transportation or in the processing plant. For most people who may be somewhat gluten sensitive, it might be ok to just buy regular rolled oats. But if you are highly sensitive to gluten, or have Celiac disease, you should buy certified gluten free oats. We buy Bob'a Redmill Organic Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

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Instant Pot Oatmeal with Fresh Apples and Cinnamon Spice
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 4 servings]

1 1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats
3 3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Pensey's apple pie spice
1 packet stevia
2 cups roughly chopped, peeled apples
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in the Instant Pot and stir to mix.
Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Press "Manual" and set for 4 minutes at high pressure. When done, press "Off" and let the pressure release naturally.

Remove the lid carefully, stir well and serve.

After the pressure comes down, it will look like this.
Stir well before serving.

Per serving: 141 calories, 2 g total fat, 34 mg omega-3 and 685 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber and 147 mg sodium. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Tired, Gaining Weight, Cold, Forgetful? You May Have Hypothyroidism?
Why Normal TSH Numbers May Not Be Normal!

Millions suffer from a mild thyroid disorder but go untreated.

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Doctors have Different Approaches
I am not an endocrinologist so this post is really just about my story. But before I begin, let me speak a bit about how my doctors approached the same problem.

I have two primary physicians. One is a talented board certified doctor trained in a traditional medical school. My visits to her are generally covered by Medicare and normal insurance. The other physician I use is an Integrated Practitioner. Not only is she a board certified doctor, she is a trained herbalist and takes a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment. Insurance won't pay a penny of my visits to her. I find it very interesting on how differently the two doctors approach things. I typically listen to both and decide what I want to do but most often, I listen to my Integrated Practitioner. My thyroid is a perfect example.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where you have low levels of thyroid hormone which causes a slow metabolism. Women are eight times more likely to have this condition than men. (Thanks Universe - like childbirth wasn't enough!) 

Your thyroid releases thyroid hormone as a result of the pituitary gland releasing thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH. When the body doesn't respond sufficiently to the increase in TSH and cannot release more thyroid hormone, this is called hypothyroidism. 

Common symptoms of hypothyroid are:
  * Fatigue 
  * Weight gain
  * Feeling cold
  * Mental fogginess, trouble concentrating or remembering 
  * Feelings of weakness, aches in muscles and joints
  * Hair loss
  * Depression
  * Constipation
  * Dry and itchy skin
  * Heavy or irregular periods

The Controversial TSH Test
Allopathic (traditional) doctors and most laboratories in the U.S. consider the reference range for the TSH test from 0.5 to 4.5 to be normal. The holistic practitioners want to see the upper range around 2. So when my TSH results came in once at 4 and later at 5, and I complained about fatigue, some weight gain, always feeling cold, having some trouble remembering things, having occasional leg cramps, hair loss, and dry patches on my skin, here's how my two doctors reacted:

My allopathic doctor said "your thyroid is normal". We can consider subclinical treatment at some point. Let's keep an eye on it.

My Integrated Practitioner wanted to look further, especially because I was demonstrating  these symptoms. Here's what she did:
   * Tested for thyroid antibodies to make sure I didn't have an autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) or celiac. (These tests were for thyroid peroxidase (TPO) Ab, and thyroglobulin antibody.) Both tested normal.
   * We also tested for Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3 to further evaluate the reason for high TSH.  
   * She wanted to rule out gluten sensitivity and didn't think the blood test results were very accurate, so she ordered a more accurate gluten sensitivity stool test from EnteroLab. Sure enough, I have an active dietary gluten sensitivity and must now be on a strict and lifelong gluten free diet. 
   * She ordered a test for iodine which came out a bit low so she had me take a seaweed supplement.
   * Other supplements she had me try were L-tyrosine and forskolin. 

I retook my TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 after a few months of eating gluten free, and taking supplements but unfortunately none helped lower my TSH, although some of my symptoms improved from removing gluten but not all of them. So we finally agreed it was time for me to take thyroid medication. A dear friend who is a naturopath and also has thyroid disease advised me to take Armour, which offers both T4 and T3, as opposed to some of the synthetic medications such as Levothyroxine, a synthetic form of T4. I started on a super low dose (15mg), and will need to be retested 6 weeks from when I started taking it. 

Almost immediately, after starting the low dose thyroid hormone, my afternoon fatigue went away. I also think my mild brain fog is lifting. I'm still waiting to see more results, but it's only been two weeks and I might need a higher dosage after I get retested.

The Point of the Story
The point of the story, is that the TSH reference range is still controversial. The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry recommended reducing the reference range of TSH levels in 2002. This led to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists to recommend that doctors consider treating patients who fall between the TSH level of 0.3 to 3.0 instead of the range 0.5 to 4.5/5.0 (where it still remains today.) If that guideline was changed, it would have expanded the number of thyroid patients from 15 million to a total of around 60 million Americans, most of whom would fall in the underactive hypothyroid category.

Do I think 60 million Americans should be on thyroid meds? It depends on they feel. I would have gladly ignored the high TSH number, given my other doctor said it was "normal", had I not had so many other symptoms. So when your doctor says your test results are "normal", for whatever test you are taking, get the exact numbers and do your own research. And if you have symptoms, make sure your doctor is well aware of them and not just diagnosing you based on standard test results and reference ranges. If you can afford to visit a practice that embraces Integrative Medicine or Functional Medicine, both of whom treat the whole person, not just the disease or the "numbers", do so. Some of these doctors do take insurance, but unfortunately not all. 

This was a huge decision for me as I've been very proud to say I'm 70 and don't take a single medication. But it's a hormone, like vitamin D is a hormone - and I'm happy to take something that can prevent some of the many age-related issues that come along around now. 


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Instant Pot Delicata Squash with Cherry Tomatoes

Delicata with cherry tomatoes.

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Harvest Time for Delicata
Last week I picked all of my delicata. I had a pretty good yield - about 15 per plant using Doug's famous magic dirt formula.

Since delicata squash do not store as long as some of the other winter squash, we've been eating them in lots of different ways. Last night we enjoyed them in the Instant Pot stuffed with the cherry tomatoes from our garden. 

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Instant Pot Delicata Squash with Cherry Tomatoes
Vegan or Vegetarian, Gluten Free
[2 servings]

Miyoko vegan butter or organic ghee*
1 7-inch delicata squash
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
* although ghee is a dairy product, it is casein and lactose free

In order to fit in a 6 quart Instant Pot, use a delicata squash that is no longer than 7 inches.

Cut the stem off the squash. Then, cut vertically in half and remove all the seeds.
Butter generously with Miyoko vegan butter or ghee.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

Place a steamer basket into the Instant Pot (make sure it's one with handles) along with 1 1/2 cups of water.

Place the delicata onto the steamer basket and fill each side with 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes. Pierce the skin of each tomato with a sharp knife.

Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot for 8 minutes at high pressure. When done, immediately release the pressure and open the lid carefully. It may take longer but you should check to see if they are ready after 8 minutes by gently piercing the skin of the squash with a fork. If it's not ready, cook another 2 minutes and check again for doneness. 

When done, carefully remove the steamer basket from the Instant Pot and place each squash on a plate. I like to top with the vegan parm that's in my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen. It's a mixture of chopped walnuts, brazil nuts, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic, and parsley. 


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Instant Pot Baby Zucchini With Mushrooms And Bell Peppers On Banza Pasta

Zucchini makes a great topping for Banza Pasta!

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Two Birds with One Stone!
Our new strict gluten-free diet often leaves us wanting for pasta and Banza Pasta fits the bill. Also, having a easy and delicious recipe to use our abundance of summer zucchini comes in quite handy! 

As we are eating for brain health, besides avoiding gluten, we want to lower our carbs. Banza, made mostly from garbanzo beans, has way less carbs and much more fiber and protein than regular pasta.

Cooking Zucchini in an Instant Pot
Cooking zucchini in an Instant Pot can be tricky. If you don't release the pressure and uncover immediately, the zucchini can turn to mush. The trick with these delicate vegetables is to use LOW PRESSURE and only cook for ONE MINUTE! (For other vegetables, see Cooking Vegetables in your Instant Pot.)

Pick or purchase small zucchini so that you can cut them into small circles. The integrity of the circles will also keep the zucchini from overcooking.

I know some of you cook your pasta in the Instant Pot, but I do not recommend doing that with Banza or other bean pastas. Bean pasta needs lots of water and will foam up a lot during cooking. Without sufficient water, it will get gluey.

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Instant Pot Zucchini with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 6 servings]

Large soup pot for the pasta
Instant Pot for the zucchini 

Salt for the pasta water
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced or thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 pounds small zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ounces of Banza rotini per person*

* One box will make 4 servings. This recipe will make enough zucchini for 6 servings. I don't recommend making more pasta than what you will consume as it doesn't keep well. So if you are cooking for two, make 1/2 the box and save the rest of the zucchini for another night. It also makes a great side dish. One box of Banza is enough for 4 (2-ounce) servings.

Start boiling water in a large soup pot on the stove for the pasta. Salt the water according to the directions on the Banza box.

Press the SAUTE button on your Instant Pot. Heat the oil and then add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. Press the OFF button.

Stir in the zucchini, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot for 1 minute at LOW PRESSURE.

While the zucchini is cooking, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. It takes about 7 minutes but test it at 6. Use a big pot as it foams up quite a bit. Scoop off the foam with a spoon and discard. When done, drain and set aside.

When the zucchini is done, IMMEDIATELY release the pressure. Carefully remove the cover so that the water on the lid doesn't dump back into the pot. Discard the water on the lid.

Stir the zucchini and test with a fork. (If it's not done, just place the cover back on the pot for another minute but don't turn it back on.)

Remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot and place on the counter to keep the zucchini from over cooking. 

Divide the pasta into individual bowls and spoon the zucchini mixture over the pasta and serve.

Save left over zucchini for another night. It makes a great side dish.