Saturday, April 22, 2017

5 Ways WE Can Save The Planet

Earth Day 2017

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We Must Act
Every day I worry more and more about our planet. The new administration, packed with science deniers, is gutting the EPA, rolling back environmental regulations, and now there's talk about backing out of the Paris Agreement. So we can no longer look to our government to protect our planet. It's never been more important to take matters into our own hands. Instead of feeling helpless, there are things we as individuals can do to protect the planet. If enough of us do these things, they will certainly make an impact. Here are 5 things we can do.

#1 - Eat More Plants and Less Meat

Many people become vegans because of health reasons or because of their love of animals. A growing number are avoiding animal products for environmental reasons. Becoming vegan is a huge commitment, one many are not willing to do. But let me be clear, you don't have to become a vegan to make a significant difference in the environment. If a person who consumes the national average of 200+ pounds of meat each year cuts their meat consumption in half or even a third, that's a much bigger deal than a person who eats only 20 pounds of meat each year becoming a strict vegan. Whatever your level of commitment is, eating less meat helps the environment. Here's why:
  * It take 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water to produce one pound of meat vs. one pound of soy protein. 
  * Raising animals for food now uses 30% of the earth's land mass.
  * 70% of the grain grown is fed to farm animals.
  * Nearly 70% of deforested land in the Amazon is now cattle pasture.

So if every meat eater ate a few less meat meals a week, it could make a huge difference in the worldwide consumption of meat. 

#2 - Mindful Driving

Not everyone is willing to or can afford to ditch their car for a hybrid or electric vehicle but there are certainly things you can do to reduce greenhouse emissions. Transportation is just behind electricity with respect to generating greenhouse gases . 
 * Walk or bike when possible.
 * Combine trips. Plan your outings to get as many quick stops in one trip.  Why? Pollution emissions are 2-8 times higher per mile in the first 5 minutes of running your car because the system is cold. Limit stops to 15 minutes if possible to keep your catalytic converter warm.  
 * According to the US department of energy:
  - Fixing a car that's out of tune can improve gas mileage by 4%.
  - Fixing a serious problem, like a bad oxygen sensor, can improve mileage up to 40%.
  - Properly inflated tires can improve mileage .6% to 4%.
  - Using the proper motor oil can improve mileage 1% to 2%.

#3 - Save Energy at Home

One of my corporate staff jobs at IBM headquarters was in the Corporate Energy Department. We did energy audits of each site and made recommendations. Many of these were fairly simple and the saving resulted in millions of dollars. It's pretty simple to find things to do in your home to realize great savings. Here are a few:
* Replacing your lightbulbs with LED's can reduce energy up to 75%.
* Turn off the lights when you're not using them.
* Use motion detectors or timers on outdoor lights.
* Clean your furnace and air conditioner filters.
* Ventilate your attic.
* Install new weather stripping.
* Get a more efficient water heater or set to a lower setting.
* Set your refrigerator to the proper settings.
* Let food cool before you put it in the refrigerator.
* Use a pressure cooker for shorter cooking times.
* Unplug electronics when not in use.
* Install solar panels if possible. There are solar programs in some states that do not require you to outlay any money.

# 4 - Save Water

Although it's over now, we've had a drought in California for the past 5 years, so we're pretty conscious of water usage. Here are a few things you can do to save water:
* Replace your lawn with drought resistant plants.
* Don't hand-wash dishes. You use 1/6 the amount of water by running a full load in the dishwasher.
* Install a low-flow shower head. This can save almost half of the water used during your shower. And take shorter showers.
* Don't run the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving.
* Use drip irrigation in your garden.
* Check faucets and toilets for leaks.
* Run full loads for clothes and dishes.

#5 - Buy Local and Organic

Think twice before you eat that cantaloupe from Chile or buy a bottle of wine from another continent. Shipping produce can rack up the miles. The average American meal travels 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate. So visit your farmer's market or, better yet, rip up your lawn and put in your own organic vegetable garden. 

Whether you are buying food or growing your own, select organic food, especially when eating The Dirty Dozen (strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, and hot peppers). Consuming organic food is not only healthier for you, but organic farming is healthier for the planet. 
* Organic farming promotes biodiversity of the soil. Synthetic chemicals and pesticides kill good bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.
* It also prevents hazardous chemicals from entering our groundwater and streams.

I hope this gave you a few ideas on how you can help save the planet. Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Allergic To Butter? Here Are Some Options
Miyoko's Vegan Butter, Ghee, Earth Balance

Options for individuals allergic to dairy.

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Love Butter but Butter doesn't Love You?
More than half the world's population (some put it as high as 75%) are dairy intolerant. Either they lack the enzyme lactase that allows them to digest lactose (the sugar found in dairy foods) or they are allergic to casein, (the protein found in dairy foods.) If you are dairy intolerant, you most likely cannot tolerate butter.

I can't tolerate dairy of any kind. Yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, cream and ice cream all cause me to have severe stomach pains. But through the years, more and more dairy substitutes have come on the market. Eating out can still be a challenge, but cooking at home is not.

Although Earth Balance has been God's gift to vegans and the dairy intolerant for many years, some superior products are coming on the scene. Recently I bought Miyoko's cultured vegan butter, and I was amazed and delighted with the product. More about that later.

I also discovered that I can easily tolerate ghee. Ghee is actually made from butter, so it's not suitable for vegans, but it does not contain lactose or casein and is generally tolerated by those with dairy allergies. Today I'll do a little comparison between Earth Balance, Miyoko's cultured Vegan Butter, and Ghee.

Earth Balance
This versatile buttery spread is basically a dairy-free, non-hydrogenated margarine. It can be used as a spread for toast or muffins, for cooking, frying, baking, and making frosting. 

There are quite a number of Earth Balance products available to meet people's dietary needs. 

Earth Balance comes in:
Soy Free
Organic Whipped
Olive Oil
Organic Coconut Spread

The Original Earth Balance is made with a vegetable oil blend of palm fruit, canola, soybean, flax and olive oil. It also contains water, salt, "natural flavor" (which can mean anything), pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, and it is colored with annatto extract. Each tablespoon contains 100 calories, 11 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, and 0 carbs and protein.

The Soy Free Earth Balance has the same ingredients except it omits the soybean oil. Nutritional info is also similar with a touch more sodium - 110 mg.

The Organic Whipped Earth Balance is made with a blend of organic vegetable oils including palm fruit, soybean, canola, and olive oil. It also contains water, salt, "organic natural flavor", organic defatted soy flour, organic soy lecithin, lactic acid (as a preservative), and organic annatto extract (for coloring.)  It has less calories and fat with each tablespoon providing 80 calories, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, carbs and protein, and 100 mg of sodium.

The Olive Oil Earth Balance, despite its name, is still a combination of vegetable oils such as palm, canola, safflower, extra virgin olive oil, and flax. Like the Original, it contains water, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, and annatto extract. It's lower in calories, like the whipped, with each tablespoon providing 80 calories, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, carbs and protein, and only 75 mg of sodium.

The Omega-3 Earth Balance contains a vegetable oil blend consisting of palm fruit, canola, soybean, flax, algal oil (the source of the DHA/EPA omega-3), high oleic sunflower oil, sunflower lecithin, rosemary extract, and olive oil. It also contains water, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid and annatto extract. Each tablespoon provides 80 calories, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 32 mg EPA/DHA and 320 mg ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, 0 g cholesterol, carbs, and protein, and only 80 mg of sodium.

Since coconut oil has become so popular, it's not a surprise to see the introduction of Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread. This spread is made from an organic tropical oil blend of extra virgin coconut, palm fruit, and coconut oils plus canola oil. It also contains water, salt, natural flavor, sunflower lecithin and lactic acid. Each tablespoon is 100 calories, 11 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, carbs, and protein, and only 70 mg of sodium.

Earth Balance Highlights:
* Wide variety of products to meet dietary needs.
* Similar to margarine but contains no hydrogenated oils but does contain palm fruit oil.
* Can be used to replace butter in cooking, baking, frying, or just slathering.
* Doesn't really impart much flavor, certainly doesn't taste like butter.
* Cost is reasonable. A 15-ounce tub of the Original Earth Balance costs less that $4.00. 

                  *                            *                              *

Miyoko's European Style Cultured Vegan Butter

I'm a big fan of Miyoko's cultured nut cheeses (Winter Truffle is my favorite), so I was excited to finally try her cultured butter substitute. Immediately I noticed that it's white, so it doesn't really look like butter. But as soon as I opened the package, I felt like I had just stuck my head over a fresh bucket of cream! I quickly slathered it on toast. It melted beautifully and the taste was to die for. I haven't been able to eat real butter in years so the subtle, cream flavor almost brought tears to my eyes. I have subsequently cooked with it and I look forward to making a real pie crust with it, but for me, my favorite use will be to taste it on toast or a muffin. You can't beat the flavor.

Miyoko's cultured Vegan  Butter is made with Organic coconut oil, water, organic safflower or sunflower oil, organic cashews, soy lecithin, sea salt, and cultures. Unlike Earth Balance, it does not contain any oil from palm fruit. 

One tablespoon of Cultured Vegan Butter provides 90 calories, 10 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, carbs, and protein, and 70 mg of sodium.

Cultured Vegan Butter Highlights
* Unbelievably delicious gourmet butter flavor.
* The only vegan butter alternative that doesn't contain palm oil.
* Can be used for anything that requires butter.
* Pricey at $8 per 8 ounces.
* Not yet as readily available as Earth Balance or Ghee.
* Contains soy.

                    *                                 *                                *

Organic Valley Ghee 

Ghee is made from butter so it's not vegan. But in the process of simmering the butter, the water evaporates and the milk solids fall to the bottom, leaving a concentrated butterfat that no longer has lactose or milk proteins (casein.) So for ova-vegetarians or others who consume animal products but who are dairy intolerant, ghee is an option.

Ghee has been used in Ayurvedic practices for many years for increasing digestive strength, nourishing the nervous system, boosting immunity, enhancing memory, and much much more. Organic, grass-fed ghee is rich in conjugated linoleum acid (CLA). It's rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2. It has a very high smoke point, which makes it good for cooking and is stable at room temperature so you can leave it out. It has a rich deep yellow color and has an intense buttery flavor - almost too buttery.

Has an intense yellow color and extreme buttery taste.

One tablespoon of ghee 135 calories, 15 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 0 mg carbs, protein, fiber and sodium.

Ghee Highlights
* It's butter without the lactose and casein.
* Generally tolerated by those allergic to dairy.
* Is NOT vegan.
* Has an intense buttery flavor.
* Very high smoke point (485 degrees F) so it doesn't release free radicals during cooking.
* Does not need refrigeration.
* About $15 for a 13-ounce jar.
* Rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 as well as CLA.

                       *                                   *                                 *

How Do They All Compare?

I think that Miyoko's Vegan Butter has the superior taste. It's smells of fresh cream and is light to the palate. Earth Balance doesn't have much of a flavor at all. Ghee's taste is very concentrated and is almost too buttery. But if you are cooking popcorn and want an intense butter flavor, ghee might be the better choice. But for just spreading on toast where you want the very best flavor, Miyoko wins hands down.

Earth Balance is the best price performer. At around 25 cents an ounce, it is one fourth the price of Miyoko's Vegan Butter or Organic Valley Ghee. 

Miyoko Vegan Butter and Organic Valley Ghee have the simplest and purest ingredients and contain no preservatives, no palm oil, and no "natural flavors". 

Miscellaneous Attributes
* Miyoko and Earth Balance are vegan.
* Ghee doesn't need to be refrigerated.
* Miyoko Vegan Butter and Earth Balance has fewer calories than ghee.
* Ghee and Earth Balance are easily found in local stores. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mango Cake - The Perfect Vegan And Gluten Free Easter Dessert

This gluten and dairy free dessert is the
perfect ending to your Easter Brunch.

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My Favorite Mango
Our favorite little mangoes are in season. They come with many names like Manilla, Ataulfo, Champagne, and Honey, with slight variations and places of origin. But they are all small (around 9 to 11 ounces) and as sweet as sugar.

Doug and I have been under the weather so to cheer ourselves up, and with the excuse of having to create an Easter dessert for the blog, we created a cake on Sunday with our very favorite fruit.

These are smaller, less stringy, and much sweeter than the large, more commonly found mangoes.

Easter Sunday is a great time to have family and friends over for brunch and this dessert is a good choice. It's vegan and gluten free so besides delighting everyone's taste buds, it will accommodate most everyones dietary issues. (See "Variation" below for a whole wheat version of the recipe.)

                      *                                     *                                    *

Mango Cake
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 12 servings]

Electric Hand Mixer
9" round cake pan
Waxed paper, cut in a 9" circle

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing pan 
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds 
6 tablespoons warm filtered water 
1 (10-ounce or more) Champagne mango
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill all purpose baking flour 
1½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut plus some for sprinkling
½ cup organic cane sugar 
½ cup unsweetened applesauce 
1 teaspoon coconut extract 
1 mashed ripe banana
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F; grease a 9" round cake pan and insert a 9" circle of wax paper on the bottom of the pan.

In a small cup, make flax eggs by combining the ground flax seeds with the water. Beat well and set aside. After a few minutes, beat again until gooey. Set aside. 

Peel the mango with a potato peeler. Cut the mango off the seed and dice in small pieces. Some will be used in the cake and some will be used for the topping. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the shredded coconut. 

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, applesauce, and coconut extract; beat with an electric hand mixer until creamy. Add the mashed banana and flax eggs and beat again until well combined.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat with the electric mixer until well combined. The mixture will be quite stiff.

Fold in 1/2 cup of the diced mango and set the rest of it aside. 

Spread evenly into the prepared cake pan.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the cake pan for 30 minutes. Cut around the edges of the cake pan and flip the cake out onto a plate. Peel off the wax paper.

I like the looks of the browned top of the cake better than the bottom so flip over again onto the final serving plate. Let the cake cool completely before you proceed.

Pile the rest of the diced mango onto the center of the cake. Sprinkle a bit of shredded coconut over the mango and dust the entire cake with powdered sugar. 

Slice, making sure each piece has some diced mango over it, and serve.

Per serving: 181 calories, 7 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 310 mg omega-3 and 538 mg omega-6 fatty acids*, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber, and 190 mg sodium. 

* Nutritional information for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids excludes any contribution from Bob’s Redmill all purpose baking flour and xanthan gum since that information was not available from the manufacturer.

For a whole wheat cake, replace the gluten-free flour with King Arthur’s white whole-wheat flour, omit the xanthan gum, and increase the applesauce to 2/3 cup.

For more menu and recipe ideas, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Avocado Toast - It's Everywhere!
Why It's A Healthy Dish

Sliced or smushed, avocado is a healthy and popular topping.

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A Popular Menu Item
It's seems that whenever I try a new popular restaurant, avocado toast is on the menu. I'm not sure how or when this dish became so popular, but it seems to have really taken off. And why wouldn't it - avocados are one of America's favorite foods. Their consumption has quadrupled since 2000 and by 2015, the consumption of Hass avocados surpassed 2 billion pounds! I eat avocados every day in some form or another.

Although many people worry about avocado's fat content, they shouldn't. Their combination of "good fats"  (phytosterols, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, and oleic acid), give avocados their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the root of many diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimers, and other degenerative disorders. 

In addition to reducing inflammation, they help us absorb carotenoids, an important plant chemical that protect us against numerous cancers. They are also a great source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamin C, E, K, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, and potassium.

Avocado Toast 
You don't need a particular recipe for avocado toast. Here are some suggestions and ways to prepare that it I've seen in restaurants. 

Select bread for the toast. Pick a small baguette if you are making an appetizer or a larger crusty bread if you are making this dish for a meal. Sour dough bread is an excellent choice. You can also consider using bagels. The picture above is avocado on a sprouted wheat bagel but an "everything" bagel with garlic, onions, and seeds would be an exciting and bold choice. If you want to avoid gluten, use any gluten free bread such as corn bread, homemade bread made with gluten free flour, or any commercial gluten free bread slices. Lightly toast whatever bread you select.

Slice or Smush
Avocado's will quickly oxidize and turn brown so you shouldn't prepare the avocado until you are ready to eat it. Thinly slicing the avocado is often a prettier presentation but feel free to smush the avocado with a fork and spread the avocado on the toast. Although not as pretty, it's easier to eat avocado that is smushed and evenly spread on the bread.

Select a Topping
Here are a few toppings that are healthy and popular. Select one or more.
* Seeds are my favorite topping. The above picture shows raw sunflower and black sesame seeds. Hemp and pumpkin seeds are also a good selection. 
* Crushed nuts such as walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia, pistachios or sliced almonds are great choices.  
* Raw sprouts are a healthy and attractive topping.
* Fruits and veggies can be added such as thinly sliced apples, pears, mango, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and grilled corn.
* Season with spicy chili pepper flakes or finishing salts and other spices such as fresh dill, cilantro, parsley, and more. 
* For those who enjoy fish, top with thin slices of those high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury such as smoked salmon, anchovies, herring, and sardines.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Instant Pot Matzo Ball Soup

These large, fluffy vegetarian matzo balls are 
made in an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker.

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With Passover approaching, here's an easy way to make matzo ball soup in your Instant Pot. One of the secrets of making great matzo balls is to never uncover the pot while they are cooking. Well, there's no chance of that happening while they are locked in a pressure cooker! 

For this recipe, I'm using Manischewitz Matzo Meal, not a matzo ball mix.

Matzo Ball Soup
[makes 8 matzo balls/4 servings]

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

For the Matzo Balls
1/2 cup Manischewitz Matzo Meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 eggs from happy chickens
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
For the Soup
8 cups water
2 stalks celery, small diced or thinly sliced
1 cup small diced onion
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 Rapunzel vegetarian boullion cube
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt to taste

Make the matzo balls. In a small bowl, mix the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and dried parsley. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, slightly beat the eggs and then mix in the olive oil and matzo meal mixture and then two tablespoons of water. Blend until the mixture is uniform. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the mixture firms up, about 20 to 30 minutes.  

In the meantime, add the soup ingredients to your instant pot. Using the “Sauté” button, bring the broth to a brisk boil. Stir well.

Soup ingredients

Remove the matzo ball mixture from the refrigerator. With moistened hands, form the mixture into 8 (1-inch) matzo balls. Turn the Instant Pot off (it will continue to boil), and drop the matzo balls into the pot. Do not stir.

Immediately secure the lid, making sure the top vent is closed. Press the “Manual” button and set for 15 minutes at high pressure. When done, quickly release the pressure and remove the lid carefully with the steam venting towards the back.

I was surprised to see how big these turned out!

Serve immediately.

Per serving (2 matzo balls plus soup):  185 calories, 10 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 71 mg omega-3 and 973 mg omega-6 fatty acids*, 140 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 721 mg salt (not counting salt to taste.)

* Fatty acids do not include contribution from the matzo meal since that information is not listed by the manufacturer. To increase the beneficial omega-3 content, use omega-3 eggs.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One Week Unplugged At Rancho La Puerta

Can you unplug for a week? It's not easy.

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Just What the Doctor Ordered
A few months ago my son Vaughn suggested that we do a little mother-son bonding at a in spa where we could get some rest and relaxation. He found a beautiful 3,000 acre property in Tecate, Mexico called Rancho La Puerta

Vaughn had been working furiously at his job for a while and really needed some time away. I had been recovering from pneumonia and working hard on 10 different projects and badly needed to disconnect. My husband Doug needed a break too and joined us mid-week. This was the perfect place for us to enjoy each other while resetting our busy lives.

Night Night Little iPhone
The first thing they hand you is a little sleeping bag for your cell phone. There are no TV's in the rooms. On the entire 3,000 acres, there are only a few places to get a WIFI signal and a newspaper but they are not well advertised. So we were totally disconnected!

This was a welcomed break for me as I've become a news junkie. I start every day reading two newspapers cover to cover and then have the radio or TV with some news show on in the background while I do my work. I watch news shows while I workout on my exercise equipment. By the end of the day, I'm totally aggravated and often in a negative state of mind, depending on how crazy a news day it was. I know this isn't healthy but it is hard to disconnect, especially with all the things happening in the world right now.

The grounds were filled with cactus and other native plants.
Sculptures were woven throughout the landscape.

One Week Unplugged
It's amazing how many positive things you can do when you aren't on your computer or phone or reading about or watching  the news. Rancho la Puerta offered a large selection of hikes, classes, and lectures every hour so we got to do lots of new things and hopefully we can continue to do some of these now that we have returned home.

Signs throughout the campus help
guide us to our next class or activity.

My Take-aways from the Ranch
Here are some take-aways that I got from the ranch that I want to share because many of these things can be done without going to a spa. 

#1 - Learn Something New
Probably the most fun part of this week was being exposed to all kinds of new things and getting reintroduced to others.
Vaughn took Cardio Kickboxing and Pilates. 
Both Doug and Vaughn joined me for some dance classes, like Zumba and Hot Latin Cardio.
Doug was also introduced to Pilates and Postural Therapy. 
Doug and I played Pickle Ball for the first time and are now completely addicted to the game!
I took a number of Feldenkrais classes which I've been wanting to do for some time.

Me and my son Vaughn (right) with our
Hot Latin Cardio Teacher, Manuel (center)

#2 - Sound Heals
This past week I was made aware of how sound effects our health and moods.
I listened to Gary Malkin talk about the power of Music and how some music can heal, deepen and enrich our lives while other music might have more negative effects. 

I also took a class on Sound Healing where they use the tones of quartz crystal singing bowls for healing and meditation.
Besides music and crystal bowls, I enjoyed the sound of the many water fountains throughout the campus. 

Crystal glass singing bowls used in sound healing.

#3 - Mindfulness
Perhaps the best experience I had this week was what I learned from the monk, Thich Phap Hai. I not only learned about mindfulness from the classes he taught, but I also learned something about stereotyping people.

I met this tall Australian on the bus on the way to the ranch. Head shaved and sporting a long brown robe and a fairly expressionless face, I couldn't imagine striking up a conversation with him. I knew he was one of the speakers but was a bit skeptical about taking a class from him. I cannot sit still so I've never taken a liking to meditation, so when Vaughn dragged me to the monk's lecture, I warned him that I would bolt if turned into a meditation. But the talk was incredibly interesting. The monk had an amazing sense of humor. He made me see things in a different light. I wanted to know more about Buddha and his teachings. He reminded me how important it is to be present - to truly experience each moment. 

The next day I attended another one of his classes. I was a bit concerned about going to a mindfulness class wearing my Nasty Women tee shirt but the monk made a point of walking up to me to tell me that he was a follower of the Nasty Buddhist Women Facebook page. At this point I decided that this guy is the coolest dude I've ever met! So the lesson here for me was that my first impression of seeing a monk in a long robe, someone so different from me,  someone that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, turned into a person whom I admired, respected, and grew to like a whole lot. There's an obvious lesson to be learned here.

#4 - Nature
Most of the hikes at the ranch started at 6:15 in the morning. Vaughn and Doug enjoyed these early hikes so much that by the end of the week, I willed myself to get up and go on a shorter hike that started at 7:00. Had I known how incredible this experience would be, I would have gone sooner and more often. 

But hiking, especially in Northern California, is easy to do and now I'm inspired to get out there and enjoy the air, the stillness, the wild life, and the mountains. 

Morning hike in Tecate, Mexico.

#5 - Feed our Body, Feed our Soul
The food at the ranch was all local, organic, mostly vegetarian food with a sprinkling of seafood throughout the week. This healthy diet was life changing for some of the visitors at the ranch but to us, it was how we eat every day. Even so, it was great not having to worry about going on vacation and then going on a diet when returning home. One thing they did at every lunch and dinner was to start the meal with a small, mostly blended soup. This is a great way to get lots of veggies in your diet and curb your appetite. I must remember to do that every day.

The dining hall had indoor and outdoor seating.

They had two nutrition speakers last week. One was Dr. Victoria Maizes who is the executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. I've heard her speak before at Andrew Weil's annual Nutrition Conferences that I've reported on in this blog. The other speaker was Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live and creator of the Nutritarian Diet.

Dr. Maizes was pretty chill and nonjudgmental. She believes, like I do, that one diet does not fit all. Dr. Fuhrman, on the other hand, pretty much dictated that everyone should eat his diet with the guarantee that you would never suffer a major disease. And if you did get sick, it wasn't because of his diet, it was because of some underlying issue that needs to be addressed. I'm paraphrasing of course, but I will say most of the crowd was pretty put off by his rigid message. Food is meant to be part of a daily celebration, to be shared, to be enjoyed. Yes, it should be healthy, packed with nutrients and free of toxins, as Dr. Furhman prescribes, but if you only view food as fuel and criticize others for not following as rigid a diet as you do, well, that's not healthy either. 

Lunch of roasted vegetable salad with turnips, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, eggplant, corn, zucchini, curried garbanzos, broccoli, mushrooms, and caramelized pecans.

#6 - Self Care
Last but not least, I was reminded to take the time to get a massage. Sometimes a year or more will go by and I'll forget to get one. Massages are not just for pampering - they are incredibly important for mobility, lymph drainage and release of toxins, stress reduction and more. Again, this is something I can do at home and for a lot less money than what they charge at a spa. Must remember to schedule a monthly massage!

Take the Challenge!
Try disconnecting for a week. Too tough? Start with a day. Put your phone aside. Only check your email once or twice a day. Don't look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Take all that time you would have wasted on social media and take a walk, sign up for a class, cook a new healthy recipe, book a massage, play some healing music instead of listening to the news, write in your journal (or start one), read a book, meditate or do yoga. My goal is to do "mindful social media". I'm not isolating myself from the world but I'm drastically reducing its hold on me. Let's hope it lasts.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find a pickle ball court!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Review Of Cashew, Almond And Coconut Yogurts

There are many non-dairy yogurts to choose from.

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In Search of Dairy-Free Yogurt
Quite a few people have given up or reduced their consumption of dairy. Many are either lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins, some are vegans who avoid all animal products, and others may be trying to reduce their cholesterol intake. Whatever the reason may be, the downside is giving up this probiotic-rich food. But luckily today there are many non-dairy options.

Two years ago I posted a recipe on how to make Thick, Creamy Vegan Yogurt with an Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker with 5 Minutes Prep Time. This is one of my most popular posts with over 20,000 views! So I know that lots of you enjoy yogurt and understand its importance in our diet. 

My most popular post - making soy yogurt.

But this particular recipe, that includes no thickeners or added sugar, is soy based and some of you do not consume soy. I don't like making yogurt with other non-dairy milks because they usually come out more like Jello as they require added gums and thickeners. Recently, however, I've tried several ready-made, non-dairy yogurts that are soy free that are absolutely delicious. And although they contain some thickeners, they are super creamy. Here are a few that I recommend.

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This cashew-based yogurt (they call it Cashewgurt) is absolutely divine. 

Forager ProjectCreamy Dairy-free Cashewgurt

Cashew Yogurt Nutrition
One cup provides:
170 calories
11 g total fat
2 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
5 g protein
14 g carbohydrates
2 g sugar
1 g dietary fiber
15 mg sodium
2% calcium
19% iron

It's organic
Very creamy mouthfeel
Flavorless, so you can add to salad dressing, soups, and other recipes
Low in sugar and sodium
Good source of iron
Dairy, soy, and gluten free - vegan
Has 6 live cultures

High is calories and fat
Not very tart like some yogurts
Contains "natural flavor" - whatever that means

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I love all of Kite Hill's products and this one is no exception.

Kite Hill

 Almond Yogurt Nutrition
(The container serving size is only 5.3 ounces so I've converted it to a cup for consistency.)

One cup provides:
211 calories
6 g total fat
3 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
9 g protein
1.5 g carbohydrates
0 g sugar
0 g dietary fiber
0 mg sodium
0 % calcium
0% iron

Very creamy mouthfeel
Flavorless, so you can add to salad dressing, soups, and other recipes
Contains zero sugar and sodium
Dairy, soy, and gluten free - vegan
No artificial colorings or preservatives
Good source of protein

High is calories
Not very tart like some yogurts 
Not organic although the almonds are non-GMO
Only 4 live cultures

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You will enjoy this silky yogurt if you enjoy the flavor of coconut.

So Delicious Coconut Milk yogurt alternative.

Coconut Yogurt Nutrition
(The container serving size is only 5.3 ounces so I've converted it to a cup for consistency.)

One cup provides:
106 calories
7.5  g total fat
6.8 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
0 g protein
10.6 g carbohydrates
0 g sugar
3 g dietary fiber
45 mg sodium
30% calcium
45% vitamin D
53% vitamin B12
0% iron

Very creamy 
Dairy and gluten free - vegan
Low in calories
Has 3 g of fiber per cup
Fortified with calcium, vitamin D and B12
Has 8 live cultures
Low in sugar
Contains organic coconut milk

Plain flavor is not flavorless - tastes like coconut
High in saturated fat from the coconut
Not very tart
Contains zero protein

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These three plain, unsweetened, non-dairy yogurts are all exceptionally tasting, unlike many I've tried in the past. The only disappointment is that none of them had the tartness that I enjoy in a yogurt. When I make my own soy yogurt, I can control the tartness by leaving it to process a bit longer. Also, they all contain some kind of gum and/or starch to thicken them. Once again, home made soy yogurt only contains soy beans, water, and live culture. But I still highly recommend each of these, especially if you are trying to avoid soy and you want to purchase, rather than make, yogurt.