Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Low Libido? Before Popping The Little Pink Pill, Women May Want To Try This First

Herbs can increase a woman's libido
without the risks of the new drug, Addyi.

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Is This Really a Win for Women?
I know a lot of women are happy to see the drug companies finally develop something besides boner pills for men. For years now, many women with waning libidos have been less than thrilled about their husband's new chemically-induced erections. But is the approval of the "Little Pink Pill" a big win for women or Wall Street? 

What It Does for Women
The benefits of the pill known as flibanserin or Addyi are minimal. In clinical trials, women who took the drug had an average of 4.4 "satisfying sexual experiences a month" compared to 3.7 for those women in the trial who took a placebo. That's not even a gain of 1 extra satisfying sexual experience a month! They would probably have benefited more from watching Dirty Dancing or the Masters of Sex TV series on Showtime. 

Besides having to take a pill every single day of the month to get these minimal benefits, a woman also has to risk some very serious side effects such as severely low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Now if you are only going to experience an additional 0.7 satisfying sexual experience in a month, I would certainly think you'd want to remember it! And you know that little glass of bubbly that allows you to forget about life stresses and helps you get in the mood? Well, the doctors and pharmacists must now advise you to abstain from alcohol or the risks of this drug are increased. In fact these risks and the dangerous interaction with alcohol are so severe that this drug was rejected by the FDA twice, in 2010 and 2013. But have no fear. I'm sure the strong warning on the label telling woman not to mix sex with alcohol will be as effective as the anti-abstenance campaign for teens. 

What it Did for Wall Street
Within just a few days after this drug was approved, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the North Carolina company with less than 3 dozen employees that developed Addyi, was acquired by   Quebec's Valiant Pharmaceuticals for $1 billion dollars in cash. Enough said.

What Else can Improve Libido
A while back I was taking a supplement to balance out my hormones. I noticed that it significantly increased my libido. I had no idea why. Then a few years ago my naturopath gave me a tonic to strengthen my lungs. The tonic had a similar effect on my libido. Since both the supplement (Estrotone by New Chapter) and the custom brewed tonic from my naturopath had multiple ingredients, I compared all the ingredients to see if they had anything in common. I was more than curious to discover what was supercharging my sex drive. It turned out to be the herb Schizandra. 

Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Schizandra is an adaptogenic herb, a class of herbs that increase the body's resistance to disease and long-term stress. Schizandra is a berry native to northeast China and parts of Russia which is dried and used in various preparations. This herb has been used in Chinese medicine for several thousand years to decrease fatigue, beautify the skin, sharpen the mind, slow the aging process, protect the liver, and as a sexual tonic for both men and women. 

Schizandra is known to increase the "Water Qi in the Kidney" and increases the circulation, lubrication, and sensitivity in the female genitals. 

Take as a Tonic
You can take Schizandra as a tincture such as the one made by Herb Pharm. This organic liquid extract comes in a 1 fluid ounce bottle.


Shake well before using.
Best taken between meals.

Schizandra can also be taken in capsule form like the ones sold by Dragon Herbs.


Organic Shanghai Mountain
Northern Schizandra fruit

You can also buy dried berries but you would usually use them to make a tea and not eat them like you would a goji berry. 

As I mentioned before, schizandra is a key ingredient in New Chapter's Estrotone.



Herbs before Pink Pills
Lack of libido is a serious issue. It can be caused by many different things and can have serious consequences. But before you resort to a risky and minimally effective pharmaceutical, consider taking herbs. Herbs like schizandra and others such as muira puama, damiana, and combination tinctures have been supporting female sexuality for hundreds if not thousands of years. They don't work overnight so be patient and give them a little time to do their magic. Best of all, you don't have to give up that glass of bubbly and will remain conscious for the entire experience!

A combination tincture from Herb Pharm
that supports female libido

Herbs are potent drugs in their own right so you should discuss them with your naturopath or herbalist before adding them to your daily health regimen. Some can interact with medications you are already taking so be mindful of that too.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fruit And Nut Breakfast Bowl
An Easy Back To School Breakfast

Healthy breakfast bowl takes advantage of late summer fruit.

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My New Favorite Breakfast
The end of the summer brings us so much wonderful fruit. Sweat peaches are their peak ripeness, the pears are ripening, strawberries are still around, and so much more. A big bowl of fruit may be delicious but it's certainly not filling.This breakfast bowl adds nuts and seeds, cereal, and some probiotic packed, home-made soy yogurt. This provides the protein and healthy fats that will keep you satisfied until lunch time.

I Can't Believe School is Starting!
Although my children are grown, I still get those feelings of disbelief when kids start getting ready to start school in what seems like the middle of the summer. Getting kids fed and ready to leave for school, or even summer day camp for that matter, is one of the hardest thing a parent has to do. Perhaps feeding them this yummy breakfast bowl will get them to eat up without prompting them through ever bite! It's so easy, they can even help you make it.

Feel free to change up the ingredients. Basically you need 3 fruits, 3 nuts/seeds, some healthy cereal for more crunch, and your favorite yogurt. The ingredients below are for two servings but it' easy to double to make it for four.

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Fruit and Nut Breakfast Bowl
Vegan and Dairy Free (if using vegan yogurt) 
Gluten Free (if using GF cereal)
[makes 2 servings]

Ingredients
1 large peach, diced with skin
1 large pear, diced with or without skin
6 large strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup cereal (such as puffed rice or granola)
1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon chopped raw walnuts 
1 tablespoon chopped or sliced almonds
1/2 cup yogurt



Directions
Divide the chopped fruit between two bowls.



Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cereal over each bowl. I like to use a mixture of puffed rice and puffed kamut because it has a nice crunch and very few calories. Granola would be very yummy and hearty in this recipe too but adds more calories and sugar.

Puffed brown rice and gamut

Divide the nuts and seeds among the two bowls.

Sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts

Gently stir each bowl to mix the ingredients. Top with your favorite yogurt and serve immediately.




Saturday, August 15, 2015

Kale And Herb Vegan Pesto
Freezing Garden Pesto For Winter
Another Great Weekend Project!

Make pesto with kale and your favorite herbs, freeze for winter.

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It's Time to Harvest Kale and Herbs
Last weekend we made and canned Tomato Salsa with Blistered Padron Peppers. Here's another great weekend project to preserve your summer harvest.

To look at it, my garden kale is absolutely gorgeous but it's also that time of the season that the aphids start to attack the bottom of the leaves. They seem to be bathing in the organic insecticidal soap that we spray that's supposed to deter them but at some point I just have to accept that it's time to harvest it all and get ready for the fall crop. 

Late summer kale in northern California

My herbs are beginning to flower and bolt so they need to be harvested as well. Here's a great way to save your kale and herbs while, at the same time, having a versatile go-to seasoning for quick winter meals .


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Kale and Herb Pesto
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
makes more than 1 cup

Ingredients
2 cups packed de-stemmed and sliced kale
1 cup packed herbs such as basil, cilantro, or parsley
1/3 cup English walnuts
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest 

Directions
Place all ingredients in a food processor with an S blade and process until smooth but do not over process.

Use 2 cups of kale to 1 cup of herbs

Place all ingredients in the food processor

Process until smooth but where you can
still see tiny pieces of kale leafs and herbs

The pesto is now ready to use or freeze.

To freeze, place round tablespoons of the pesto on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until the pesto hardens.

For easier removal, place pesto on a silicon sheet or parchment.

Once frozen, place the individual frozen pesto balls into a freezer bag and pop in the freezer for later use. Don't forget to mark it with the date and contents.



Defrost and use to flavor sauces, soups, beans, veggies, pasta, rice, and just about anything. 

For more tips on how to make pesto and many other healthy plant-based recipes, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen available on Amazon or iTunes




Thursday, August 06, 2015

Can Your Own Spicy Tomato Salsa
Great Project For The Weekend!

Tomato salsa with blistered padron peppers.

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Canning Salsa 
I love growing tomatoes but there are just so many we can eat. So Doug and I do a lot of canning, usually tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. But last weekend we tried our hand at making and canning our own spicy salsa with tomatoes, padron peppers, fresh garlic, and jalapeños - all from our garden. 



This salsa uses padron peppers but you can also use other types of peppers too. The reason I favor padron peppers, besides the fact that I have so many of them, is that there is no need to peel them after they are blistered. Anaheim, poblanos, etc. usually need to be peeled after charring them. That can be a tedious step.

Padron peppers are so easy to grow.

Of course we throw in a few jalapeños too just to give it a bit more heat but that depends on how hot you like it. I find that a few small ones do the trick. You can add them with or without their seeds or omit them completely. It's up to you.

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Spicy Tomato Salsa with Blistered Padron Peppers
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes about 6 pints]

Requires a water bath canner, jar lifter, 6 pint glass jars with lids and rims.

Ingredients
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound padron peppers
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 pounds tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small jalapeños, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Fill a large canning pot with water with the steamer rack inserted in the bottom. Bring to a boil. Wash the jars in soapy water. Once washed, submerge the jars in the boiling water of the water bath canner. They can remain there while you prepare the salsa.

Place the lids and rims in a small pot of boiling water and let simmer until needed.

Wash and dry the padron peppers. Place them in a bowl and drizzle with oil. Toss them until they are well coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.

Spread them out on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast until the peppers blister, around 5 to 7 minutes or more. Shake or turn so that they blister evenly.



Remove the blistered peppers from the oven. Pull or cut off the tops but leave the seeds. Dice and set aside.

Prepare the tomatoes. You'll need a medium sized pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water. Score the tops and bottoms of the tomatoes and boil until the skin starts to peel off, about 1 minute. Remove from the boiling water and place in an ice water bath until they cool. Peel the tomatoes.

Chop the tomatoes and place, along with their juice, in a large stainless steel or ceramic coated pot. Do not use aluminum as it will react with the tomatoes. I always use my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven with its enamel coating. 

Add the onions, jalapeños, garlic, vinegar, prepared padron peppers, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt (or to taste) to the pot of tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. 


Fill each jar to 1/2 inch from the top. Run a knife around the edges to remove any air bubbles in the jars. 


Wipe the tops of the jars clean with a paper towel. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rims (snug but not too tight). 

Carefully place the jars in the hot water bath covered with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring to a rolling boil and process for 15 minutes and longer if you are at higher altitude (20 minutes at 1,000 to 6,000 feet and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.)

Lift the jars out of the hot water bath using a jar lifter.



Place the jars on a towel or a cooling rack and let them remain untouched until they cool completely and the lids have popped and sealed. Lid should not move up an down if it's properly sealed.




Monday, August 03, 2015

Peach And Peanut Butter Smoothie With Chia Seeds

Peaches and peanut butter pair beautifully in this smoothie.

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Peach Season
We found some big, beautiful, juicy peaches at the market the other day. This morning we decided to blend some up into a smoothie.

Now peaches and peanut butter might seem an unlikely combination, but they pair beautifully. Besides being delicious together, the peanut butter balances the carbs of the fruit with some fat and protein which keeps you full longer. Almond butter will do the same thing so if you are allergic to peanuts, you can make that substitution. Using peanut butter, each serving provides 5 grams of protein.

I also add some soaked chia seeds to this recipe to improve the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids since peanut butter (and almond butter too) is far richer in omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This recipe provides close to a gram of omega-3 per serving. Chia seeds are also a good source of fiber and calcium. Each serving of this smoothie has 7 grams of dietary fiber!

And let's not forget the star of the show. Peaches are a great source of fiber and vitamins A and C, each large peach providing 3 grams of dietary fiber, 19% of your daily requirement of vitamin C and 11% of vitamin A.  

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Peach and Peanut Butter Smoothie
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes 2 servings]
Requires a blender.

Ingredients
1 large banana (cut in 4 pieces, frozen)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 cups water, divided
2 large peaches, pitted and sliced with skin
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter
4 drops of stevia or other sweetener

Directions
The night before, cut the banana into 4 pieces and place in the freezer. If you plan on using frozen instead of fresh peaches, you don't have to freeze the banana.

About 20 to 30 minutes before you make the smoothie, soak the chia seeds in 1/2 cup of the water. Stir vigorously and set aside. Stir again from time to time until the chia seeds absorb most of the water.

Place the frozen banana, soaked chia seeds and all their liquid, the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water, the peaches, peanut butter and sweetener in the blender. 

Blend until smooth and serve immediately.

Nutrition
Per serving (2): 204 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 906 mg omega-3 and 1,546 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 5 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 7 g dietary fiber and 34 mg sodium.



Friday, July 31, 2015

Trombetta, Trumpet-Shaped, Climbing Squash
You Will LOVE Growing These!
Trombetta With Garlic And Basil Recipe

Climbing trombetta summer squash.

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Love at First Sight
My friend Chris has the most beautiful garden. Every time I visit her I get inspired to plant new and different vegetables and herbs. Last year I fell in love with her trombetta squash (also known as trombocino) and this year she gave me some seeds. Four seeds (I really should have only planted 1 or 2) has covered about 15 feet of my fence. They grow quickly and plentifully (what squash doesn't?) In fact it's grown up one side of my fence and down the other side and is now crawling along the ground! 




Trombetta is a vine that can grow 8 feet tall or more. 

They are absolutely delicious with a delicate, artichoke-like flavor. They are best when picked very early since they are capable of turning into baseball bats like their zucchini cousins. I like to pick mine when they are about 12 to 18 inches long, their long necks only an inch to 1 1/2 inches wide and before the bases become more than 2 inches thick. Of course I don't always get out there in time but they are still very enjoyable even if they grow larger.

How to Prepare
You can slice these up in a soup, dice them up in a raw salad or gazpacho soup, pickle them, or simply steam them. They pair nicely with corn so I often make them together as a raw or cooked side dish.

Here's a simple preparation with garlic and basil.

Trombetta with Garlic and Basil
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes 4 to 6 servings]

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 (12-inch) or 2 (18-inch) trombetta squash
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 1 cup veggie broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Separate the long neck of the trombetta from the fatter base. Slice the neck at an angle about 1/4 inches thick. Cut the base in half vertically and cut the pieces into 1/4 inch half moons. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan to medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until they are fragrant and just begin to turn brown. This will only take a minute or two.

Stir in the sliced trombetta along with the fresh basil until they are coated with oil and garlic. Add just enough broth or water to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/4 inches high.

Cover and cook, adding more broth or water when necessary. Cook until they are fork tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve immediately as they will continue to cook and get too soft if you leave them in a covered, hot pan.


A simple preparation with garlic and basil.

Enjoy and try growing them in your garden next summer!

Nutrition
Per serving (6): 55 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 130 mg omega-3 and 290 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, and 3 g dietary fiber. 



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What To Do With Garden Cucumbers And Veggies
Make Probiotic-Rich Fermented Pickles

Living, probiotic-rich pickles.

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My New Crock
I received a beautiful fermentation crock from Ogusky Ceramics for my birthday (thanks Matthew, Alina and Sammy!) and I couldn't wait to try it. I know I mention this ever chance I get but consuming lots of probiotic-rich fermented foods is one of the most important things you can do for your health. One of the many ways to do that is to make your own pickles. I don't mean the kind that you find on the store shelves pickled in vinegar. Those pickles do not have any probiotic value. I mean the kind that are made from the simple process of fermenting your veggies in brine and spices. You won't believe how easy it is!

And you don't need a fancy crock like this to ferment foods. You can use a big glass jar like I did when I shared the Curtido Kraut recipe in June. But I must say, I've been really enjoying this crock.


Fermentation crocks handcrafted by
Boston potter Jeremy Ogusky

Cucumbers plus....
Today I'm pickling cucumbers with some padron peppers (for some zing) since I have tons of them in my garden. But you can pickle any vegetable using this technique. You also don't have to use "picking cucumbers" and can use any cucumber you want. Just pick them early and don't let them get too fat and full of seeds. The dull skin varieties with thin skins are probably a better choice than those with shiny thick skins. Never use cucumbers that have been waxed.




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Spicy Fermented Cucumbers
Raw Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free

Requires a glass or ceramic containment vessel

Ingredients
Brine (2 tablespoons of pickling salt to 4 cups water)
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, skin removed
Other pickling spices and herbs (optional)
2 fresh grape leaves or other tannin source
Enough cucumbers for your vessel
Handful padron peppers, several jalapeños cut in half, or small amount of crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

Directions
Make the brine by adding 2 tablespoons of pickling salt to a quart of spring, distilled, or filtered water. (Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation). Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.

I learned the hard way that all salt is not equal when it comes to pickling. You can use other types of salt but make sure that they do not have anti-caking agents or your brine will end up cloudy. I also avoid iodized and sea salt. If you use kosher salt, you also may have to change the amount of salt you use per quart of water. 

A note about Kosher salt. Morton's uses anti-caking agents so avoid using that brand. Diamond Crystal is good but it's less dense than pickling salt so you have to use more of it. Some people weigh the various salts, but when I try to decide how much to use, I compare their sodium content. For example:


Table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium per teaspoon.
Pickling salt has 2,360 mg per teaspoon (about equal).
Diamond Crystal Kosher salt only has 1,120 mg per teaspoon.

So if you were using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt instead of pickling salt, you would need 4 tablespoons per quart of water versus 2 tablespoons of pickling salt.

Pickling salt is also very fine and it dissolves much more easily than Diamond Crystal kosher salt so from now on I'm just going to use pickling salt.

Once you've made the brine, place your spices in the bottom of the crock. Ironically my husband and I are not big pickle fans so we avoid the usual pickling spices like mustard, coriander, and dill. But we love the subtle taste of garlic, pepper, and bay leaves and the zing of spicy peppers so that's enough for us. So select the pickle spices that you enjoy.




Cover the spices with a fresh grape leave or another source of tannin like oak leaves. You can even add a teaspoon of loose tea to a half-gallon jar. See the Cultures for Health website for other tips to keep you pickles crunchy. Since we have a vineyard, we have plenty of fresh grape leaves so that's what we use.




Slice the cucumbers in half inch slices and cut the tops off of the padron peppers. If using jalapeños, slice them in half lengthwise. Now place your cut up veggies on top of the leaves. Leave 2 to 4 inches of headroom.




Pour enough brine to cover your veggies by at least 1 or 2 inches.




Place something over the veggies to keep them submerged in the brine during fermentation. My crock came with a top but you can use a small plate. If you are fermenting in a quart jar, you can weigh down the veggies with a smaller jar filled with water and capped (like I did in the Curtido Kraut recipe.)





Cover the fermentation crock with a small dish towel or dinner napkin and set in a quiet corner of your kitchen. Peek in once a day to see if it's bubbling. If mold forms, just scoop it out. It's best if the temperature is between 65 and 85 degrees. 




Let fermentation progress for one or two weeks. The best way to see if the pickles are done is to taste them. 

When completed, place the pickles and the juice in a Fido jar or a capped mason jar and store in the refrigerator. If you live in a cool climate, you can store them in a cool root cellar. They should stay crisp for several months. 

Enjoy!