Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ready To Bake Raisin & Cinnamon Mochi Filled With Dates, Nuts And Tofutti - Vegan And Gluten Free

Raisin and cinnamon mocha by Grainaissance.
Just cut, bake, fill and serve!

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Mochi, a Japanese New Year's Tradition
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake that is made from steamed and pounded mochi rice. It is traditionally eaten during the New Year holidays to bring good luck. 
The traditional way to make mochi is to steam glutinous brown rice and pound it with wooden mallets (kine) in a wooden mortar (usu). The resulting sticky mass is then formed into cakes. This process is extremely labor intensive.

Raisin-Cinnamon Mochi - so easy to make!

An Easier Way to Enjoy Mochi
As much fun as making mochi sounds, I was quite excited to find a mochi product that was ready made. 
I walked past the Grainaissance mochi packages in the market a number of times wondering what you're supposed to do with them. They look like a slab of very hard clay. Curiosity got the best of me one day and I brought home the "original" flavor which is basically unflavored brown rice. I cooked the mochi according to directions and was very excited to see how they puffed up. But I just ate them plain without filling them or dipping them in a sauce. Although I enjoyed the contrast of the crispy and gooey textures, I found the taste to be a little boring. So the next time I tried the Raisin-Cinnamon mochi. It was a lot better but it still needed something. The third time I made them, I prepared a sweet filling of dates, walnuts and Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. I also drizzled the filled puffed dessert with a little agave syrup. The result was amazing! I'm pretty certain these don't resemble the mochi cakes traditionally eaten on New Year's Day, but it's a wonderful, simple to make, vegan, gluten free dessert no matter what day it is!

Cut the mochi into 1" to 2" squares using a heavy, sharp knife.
A 12.5 oz package makes about 9 to 16 pieces.
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Place on cookie sheet at least 1 - 2 inches apart.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

While mochi bakes, chop walnuts and dates. Mix into Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese with a pinch of cinnamon

Look at how they puff up and expand. The tops are golden brown and the bottoms are softer and gooey.
Split the mochi - you'll find an empty pocket for filling.
Fill with prepared mixture, drizzle agave syrup over top and serve.

Raisin and Cinnamon Mochi with Walnut Date Tofutti Filling
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 8 pieces mochi or 4 servings]

Half of a 12.5 oz package Grainaissance Raisin & Cinnamon mochi cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup chopped English walnuts
1 large Medjool date, chopped
2 tablespoons Tofutti Brand Better Than Cream Cheese
Pinch of cinnamon
4 teaspoons agave syrup

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place pieces of cut mochi on an ungreased cookie sheet leaving at least 1 - 2 inches between pieces.
Bake around 10 minutes, until mochi puffs up and turns golden brown.
While baking, mix walnuts, date, Tofutti and cinnamon until combined. Set aside.
When mochi is finished baking, remove from cookie sheet and split each piece with a pair of scissors or just tear open.
Fill with cream cheese filling and drizzle each piece with 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup.
Serve warm.

Where to Find Grainaissance
Grainaissance mochi is found in natural food stores and selected supermarkets in the U.S. I found it at my local Whole Foods Market. Call their customer service department at 800-472-4697 to find a store near you or to ask them to get your favorite store to carry their product. They also make Amazake vegan, gluten free, rice shake in 14 flavors. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Vegan Christmas Or Winter Holiday Menu

Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays!
It's hard to believe that 2011 is coming to an end. Before I put my full attention to celebrating the holidays with the family, I will leave you with some ideas for a vegan holiday menu. All recipes, except for the celebration roast, are gluten free.

For the appetizer, try the roasted garlic and kalamata olive hummus. Hummus is perhaps the easiest appetizer to make from scratch. The basic ingredients include garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt. But you can add many different ingredients to change it around. Besides roasted garlic and kalamata olives, try adding roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, avocado or spice it up with a jalapeño or cayenne. Top with chopped parsley or a drizzle of some good extra virgin olive oil. You can even substitute the garbanzos with different beans, such as Great northern or cannellini. Don't have time? Pick some up at the store, chop up some olives and mix them in. Almost every good market offers ready made hummus.

Hummus is versatile and easy to prepare.

Now for the soup! I posted this creamy vegan mushroom and artichoke soup with 3 types of delicious mushrooms the other day and I've made it 4 times since then! I brought it to a potluck, made it for my book club dinner, and prepared it for some other friends. Everyone's really enjoyed it so I don't think you can go wrong with this one. Stir in a touch of vermouth or sherry to give it some added complexity. You can make it ahead of time but don't add the coconut milk creamer and fresh parsley until you are ready to serve it.

Mushroom and artichoke soup - perfect for the holidays!

For the main course this year I've chosen a simple celebration roast from Field Roast. Just rub with some herbs and pop it in the oven and you're done. Field roast products have the texture of meat unlike some of the other faux meat products. This "grain meat" roast is stuffed with Field Roast vegan sausage, butternut squash, mushrooms and granny smith apples. It is made from vital wheat gluten so it's not appropriate for those on a gluten free diet. Also, don't add salt to the roast until you taste it as it is already well seasoned. Find a store near you or buy online.

Rub with herbs and a touch of olive oil and bake according to directions.

For a few tasty sides, try collard greens with julienned carrots and twice baked potatoes. These can both be made earlier in the day. The greens can be heated and the potatoes can go in the oven right before dinner. 

Collards and carrots are colorful and festive looking! 

Make ahead and bake right before dinner

If you have an ice cream maker, try creamy vegan pumpkin pecan ice cream for dessert. You can blend all of the ingredients a few hours before dinner, store in the refrigerator and put in the ice cream maker 30 minutes before you are ready to serve it. You can either add the pecans to the ice cream maker a few minutes before it is complete or just serve them at the table as a topping. For added yumminess, select glazed pecans! 

Creamy vegan pumpkin ice cream

Whatever you serve, have a wonderful holiday and I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vegan Whole Grain Banana Muffins With English Walnuts (Gluten Free Option) - Perfect For Breakfast On Christmas Morning!

Warm vegan banana nut muffins.
Can you believe how high they rise without eggs?

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What's Better than Warm Muffins on Christmas Morning?
It gets a bit crazy on Christmas morning and no one is going to sit down and eat a proper breakfast. But you can most definitely get someone to munch on a warm, banana nut muffin while opening gifts!
Since the kids will be stimulated enough, the last thing they need is lots of sugar. These reduced sugar muffins only have a teaspoon of sugar per muffin. Increase the stevia and leave out all the sugar if you want but I think they taste best when a combination of sugar and stevia is used.

Mix the dry ingredients except the sugar.

Combining the sugar with the wet ingredients allows the sugar to dissolve.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Fold in the English Walnuts

Scooping the batter with an ice cream scoop makes it easy and much neater to fill  the muffin pan!

For Gluten Free Muffins
Just about any muffin recipe can be made gluten free by substituting the wheat flour with an all purpose gluten free flour such as Bob's Red Mill. For best results, combine it with xanthan gum. 

This batch of muffins are gluten free. I used Bob's Red Mill all purpose gluten free flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum.

Vegan Banana Muffins with English Walnuts
Vegan, (Gluten Free option)

Earth balance for greasing muffin pan
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons room temperature water
2 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour *
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 packets stevia
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup mashed bananas (~2 large)
1/2 cup organic, non-GMO (gluten free) soy milk
2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup raw English walnuts, chopped
* For gluten free muffins, substitute flour with Bob's Red Mill or other gluten free all purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Generously grease muffin pan with Earth Balance or a vegan buttery spread and set aside.
In a small cup, make flax eggs by beating ground flaxseed with water. After a few minutes, beat again until gooey. Set aside
In a medium bowl, mix flour, (xanthan gum if gluten free flour is used), cinnamon, stevia, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, soy (or other non-dairy) milk, apple sauce, oil, vanilla, flax egg and sugar. Beat well.
Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Fold in walnuts.
Scoop batter into greased muffin pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of a muffin.
When done, remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. 
Remove muffins from pan and serve warm or place on rack to cool before storing.

Per muffin: 187.8 calories, 8.9 g fat, 1.0 g saturated fat, 0.8 g omega-3 and 2.5 g omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 4.0 g protein, 23.3 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber and 190 mg sodium.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vegan Collard Greens With Julienned Carrots - A Delicious Way To Protect Your Eyes!

A simple and colorful preparation of collards and carrots.

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Greens Don't Need Meat!
I always wonder why chefs feel compelled to stick meat into an otherwise perfectly healthy bowl of greens. Paula Dean, the queen of unhealthful cooking, has a collard greens recipe with 1/2 pound of smoked meat for only a single bunch of greens! Why would you counteract all the goodness of this vegetable with all that meat - especially smoked meat which is thought to be a carcinogen. 
This incredibly healthful cruciferous vegetable beat out kale, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage and even my favorite Brussels sprouts in its ability to lower cholesterol. It also helps your body detoxify and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So it's perfect, just as is, or garnished with another beautiful veggie, like carrots!
Here's a simple recipe that's colorful, healthful and features the wonderful natural flavor of collards.

Clean collards, remove stem and slice into 1" pieces.
These lovely greens are from my fall garden.

Julienne a Carrot
Sometimes doing something as simple as cutting a carrot into little matchsticks can make a dish more appetizing and visually pleasing. Usually I'm in a hurry, but the other night I just felt like doing something a little special.
To julienne a carrot:
There are some cool techniques, like the one shown in where you trim and stack and slice, etc. But you can just peel and cut the carrot into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on how long you want the julienned carrots. Then start slicing until you end up with little match sticks. 

Adding julienned carrots to a recipe makes it look special 
These slender, julienned carrots only take a short time to cook.
Add them in for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Good for your Eyes
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness, retinal damage and dry cornea which can lead to corneal ulcers and vision loss. Vitamin A, when in combination with other antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, E and zinc, may decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration or AMD. 
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are also associated with eye health. Specifically, they may protect against cataracts and AMD. A large research study on carotenoids has shown that people with large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood (~5.8 mg per day) have much lower risk of getting AMD than those who have a blood level as low as 1.2 mg per day.
This recipe is a bonanza for eye health!
* One cup of cooked collards has over 300% the daily requirement of vitamin A.
* One medium carrot has over 200% of the daily requirement of vitamin A.
* One cup of cooked collards has 14.6 mg of lutein and its accompanying molecule, zeaxanthin.
Note: Vitamin A from plant foods is in the form of "provitamin A" carotenoids (mostly betacarotene) that is converted to "pre-formed" vitamin A or retinol by the body.

Vegan Collard Greens with Julienned Carrots
Vegan, Gluten Free

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 pound collard greens, cleaned well, stems removed, 1" slices
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
3/4 cup vegetable stock (or water and a bouillon cube)
2 teaspoons distilled white or balsamic vinegar
3 carrots, peeled and julienned

Heat olive oil and sauté onion for 5 minutes.
Add sliced collard greens, granulated garlic, salt, vegetable stock and vinegar. Mix well and bring to a boil.
Lower heat, cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until collards are almost done.
Stir in julienned carrots, cover, and cook another 10 minutes.
Adjust salt and serve.

Per serving: 99.7 calories, 4.0 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 149 mg omega-3 and 478 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.6 g protein, 13.6 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g dietary fiber and 201 mg sodium.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creamy Vegan Mushroom And Artichoke Soup With Oyster, Crimini And Shiitake Mushrooms - Perfect For Holiday Menus!

This delicious, vegan, gluten free soup is thick with mushrooms and artichokes yet it's less than 250 calories per serving!

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Holiday Menu
It's about time to start thinking about holiday menus again. If you love the rich taste and texture of mushrooms and artichokes, this may be the one to serve at your next special dinner! 
I used crimini, oyster and fresh shitake mushrooms in this but other mushrooms will do. I think Maitake, royal trumpet or just about any of the mushrooms I found during my tour of Gourmet Mushrooms in Sebastopol would do nicely!  

In this soup, I use crimini, oyster and fresh shiitake mushrooms but others will do nicely!

Cream Soup Without the Cream
I use several techniques to get rid of cream in my creamy soups. Sometimes I blend in silken soft tofu, sometimes I blend in potatoes. I've even sprinkled in a few tablespoons of instant mashed potatoes. But today I just cooked in small diced Yukon gold potatoes (without blending) and finished the soup with So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer. The result is a rich, thick, creamy soup with no cholesterol and very few calories. (I used the French Vanilla version of this creamer the other day in my Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream post. I love this product, although I do use it sparingly. It's especially good in chai tea.)

Folding in small diced potatoes to the mushroom mixture.
Cooking potatoes in a soup is a natural way to thicken it.

This rich creamer has zero fat and only 10 calories per tablespoon.  A perfect replacement for half and half.

Creamy Vegan Mushroom and Artichoke Soup
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 5 servings]

2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan margarine
4 ounce shallot, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/3 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/3 oyster mushrooms, cleaned and torn into large pieces
1/3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
4 cups vegetable stock
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced in 1/2" cubes
14 ounce can water packed artichoke hearts, rinsed & quartered
1/2 cup So Delicious Original coconut milk creamer
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Additional freshly ground black pepper

Heat Earth Balance in a 5 quart Dutch oven and cook shallots for several minutes until soft. 
Stir in garlic, thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes, salt and mushrooms and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.
Mix in potatoes and then stir in vegetable stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes or until potatoes begin to soften and the soup starts to thicken.
Stir in artichokes and cook another 15 minutes, partially covered.
Stir in creamer, heat thoroughly.
Serve topped with chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

Per serving: 214 calories, 4.4 g fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 32.2 g carbohydrates, 5.7 g dietary fiber and 526 mg sodium.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Fuyu Persimmons - What Are They And How Do You Eat Them? How They Are Different From Hachiya Persimmons.

Fuyu persimmons became one of my favorite fruits once I learned how to eat them!

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What a Treat!
My friend Chris came over the other night and surprised me with a big bag of fuyu persimmons from her tree. I absolutely love these little fruits and planted a fuyu persimmon tree in my backyard almost 2 years ago. Unfortunately I have not yet gotten a single fruit. I hear that it can take up to 5 years. I wanted to buy some the other day but they were charging $1.50 each! The best bet is to find an Asian market like the one I shopped in last year in San Francisco that was selling them for only 50 cents a piece. But having a friend like Chris who brings you ones from her tree is actually even better!

Fuyu persimmons are shaped like a tomato

It's Not a Hachiya!
I'm dedicating a post to this subject because of the big mistake I made many years ago. Hopefully I can prevent this from happening to you. 
When I was growing up, my father used to bring home these large, oblong persimmons. Today I know that they were "hachiyas" but back then they were just "persimmons" because I was unaware that any other type existed. He would set these out on the counter and patiently waited until they "ripened". Actually, it was more like waiting for them to turn to mush! 
At the exact moment when they are a soft, liquidy gel, they become this wonderful, sweet and creamy  fruit. However, if you eat them a minute sooner, they are extremely astringent and tart. Most people bake with them but me and my dad just ate the sweet, smooth pulp with a spoon. 
So the first time I bought Fuyu persimmons, I set them out on my counter and waited for them to turn to mush. I waited and waited only to watch them rot. I couldn't image why they never ripened!
One day at work, I noticed a table of women passing around a sliced persimmon. The slices were hard like an apple and I wondered how they could stand to eat that astringent, unripe piece of fruit! They offered me a slice and I was shocked to discover this crisp, sweet delicacy wasn't astringent at all! I then learned that this was a Fuyu, not a Hachiya persimmon and that they are meant to be eaten when they are crisp, like an apple.That was a wonderful day in my life! 

Hachiya persimmons are oblong (not short and squatty like a Fuyu) and must not be eaten until extremely ripe , soft and mushy.

High in Fiber
Persimmons in general are very high in fiber providing about 6 grams per fruit. I write a lot about fiber and I will write more in the future as it is one of the most important things missing from the American diet. There has long been agreement that fiber is beneficial in preventing heart disease and diabetes. And, of course, everyone knows that it keeps you going, so to speak. Although I think it's obvious, the jury was still out on fiber preventing colorectal cancer. Well, recently the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has upgraded their findings and now report that high fiber foods protect against colorectal cancer. They recommend women eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day and men should consume 30 to 38 grams daily. So eating fruits like persimmons (and pears, which are another high fiber fruit) is a good way to get your daily requirement.

Simplicity in Preparation
My favorite way to prepare fuyu persimmons is just to peel, slice and eat them. They also make a wonderful ingredient for a raw, fall fruit salad. Dice them up and add to diced apples and pomegranate seeds for a crunchy and colorful treat!

There's not much you can do to improve the flavor of this wonderful fruit. My favorite way to enjoy a fuyu persimmon is to just peel, slice and eat!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Arsenic In Apple And Grape Juice - Why We Should Avoid It Anyway!

Apple juice is high in sugar and should be saved for special occasions - like making toasts!
Also water it down with bubbly or filtered water.

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Latest Food Safety Issue
Consumer reports magazine tested 88 samples of apple and grape juice from grocery store shelves. Ten percent of them had arsenic levels that exceeded 10 parts per billion, the U.S. federal drinking water standards. Most of the arsenic was inorganic which is a known carcinogen that has been linked to bladder, lung and skin cancer. Twenty five percent of the juice samples also exceeded the 5 parts per billion level for lead.

Arsenic - Not the Real Issue
The associated press ran an article yesterday reminding us that it's not the arsenic in the apple and grape juice we should be worried about. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned that the juice industry is supplying products with dangerous carcinogens. I am just agreeing with the main point of the article which is:
So instead of giving your children juice, give them a piece of fruit. Pop some apple or orange slices or grapes in their lunch sac instead of a juice box. Not only does the whole fruit provide fewer calories and grams of sugar, it also provides 3 to 6 times the fiber. The fiber in the fruit will stabilize their blood sugar instead of spiking it. If you're at home sipping wine with your spouse and the kids want a "special" drink too, give them bubbly water with just a splash of juice. 

The Numbers
Since most of you will agree that sugar in excess quantities is bad for your kids, I need not dwell on that. I will, however, show you why fruit is so much better than its juice.

* 1 cup of apple slices has only 1/2 the calories, 5 times the fiber and less than 1/2 the sugar as 1 cup of unsweetened apple juice!

1 cup of unsweetened apple juice has:
114 calories, 1/2 g fiber and 24 g sugar.
1 cup apple slices has:
57 calories, 2.6 g fiber and 11 g sugar.

* 1 Navel orange has only 62% of the calories, 6 times the fiber and 57% of the sugar as 1 cup of unsweetened orange juice!

1 cup of unsweetened orange juice has:
112 calories, 1/2 g fiber and 21 g sugar.
1 navel orange has:
69 calories, 3.1 g fiber and 12 g sugar.

* 1 cup of grapes has 1/3 fewer calories, 3 times the fiber and 1/3 less sugar as 1 cup of unsweetened grape juice! Frozen grapes can be a real treat and a great low calorie dessert but be aware that for young children, these could be a choking hazard. 

1 cup of grape juice has:
152 calories, 1/2 g fiber and 36 g sugar.
1 cup grapes has:
104 calories, 1.4 g fiber and 23 g sugar.

Another Advantage of Eating the Whole Fruit
Besides having more nutritional value and less sugar, eating the whole fruit should make you feel safer. Safer because you can see what you are eating! You can tell the fruit is fresh and clean. We don't know the condition of the fruit that goes into making juice. Of course, we can assume the best apples and other fruits are sold as fresh produce. The ones that fall off the trees and have dents and worms (what a disgusting thought) are probably the ones that end up in the juice!  Add to that the fact that 83% of the apple juice sold in the U.S. is produced in other countries, (60% of which is from China), where we have little control of their food safety practices. I think I'll stick to eating nice local apples.

How to Get Kids to Eat Fruit
Eating fruit is all about convenience. I would never think of biting into an apple when I was at work. But every morning my husband put a little bag of sliced apples in my Hello Kitty power lunch box and I munched on them all morning. I would bet that your kids are the same way. If you stick an apple or an orange in their lunch box, there's a good chance that it will still be there when they get home. But apple slices, peeled orange slices and grapes plucked and ready to eat might get more attention!

So you and your children should enjoy juice as an occasional treat, not a daily beverage. Dilute it with filtered or bubbly water and use it more as a flavoring. Skip the juice boxes in the lunch sac and put in sliced, peeled or plucked fruit for your child to conveniently enjoy!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream - Made With So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer

So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer gives this vegan ice cream an incredibly creamy texture!

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Vegan Ice Cream
I typically just use unsweetened soy milk to make a healthful frozen dessert ( see my Mango Peach and Strawberry ice cream recipes) but since the holidays are here, I stepped it up a notch and added some coconut milk creamer for my pumpkin pecan ice cream. Coconut creamer is fat free but does add some calories. However, it makes a big difference in the texture and creaminess of the ice cream. Even so, this dessert weighs in at less than 100 calories per serving with less than 1/3 a gram of saturated fat! 
This ice cream has all the flavors of autumn and winter and makes a perfect topping for holiday pies or a slice of ginger spice cake. 

So Delicious French Vanilla coconut milk creamer is non GMO, vegan and gluten free! 

Texas Pecans are the Best
During my many years living in Texas, I developed a love for the wonderful pecans grown there. I'm not the only one who feels that way. Luther Burbank, the world famous horticulturist, was quoted in 1908 as saying, " If I were a young man, I would go to Texas, knowing as I do the possibilities of the pecan industry and devote my life in propagating new species of the pecan and doing the same work there in nut culture as I have done here in other lines of horticulture. Your pecan is superior to our walnut and you are standing in your own light - why not develop it?"

Pecans make a perfect addition to pumpkin ice cream.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream 
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 8 servings]

1 cup So Delicious French vanilla coconut milk creamer
1 cup unsweetened gluten free soy milk
1 large banana
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 packets stevia, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped raw Texas pecans

Place coconut creamer, soy milk, banana, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and stevia in a blender and blend until smooth. 
Add mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to directions.
Add pecans to the ice cream maker during the last few minutes of processing.
Serve immediately.

Per serving (with 1/4 cup pecans): 97.7 calories, 3.1 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.7 g protein,15 g carbohydrates, 1.7 g dietary fiber and 12.5 mg sodium.

Per serving (with 1/2 cup pecans): 121.2 calories, 5.5. g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 15.4 g carbohydrates, 2.1 g dietary fiber and 12.5 mg sodium.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Common Drugs Cause ER Visits For Seniors - How Food Drug Combinations May Contribute

The vitamin K in kale can decrease the effectiveness of the common blood thinner, warfarin!

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Common Drugs Responsible for Most ER Visits by Seniors
A new study shows that two diabetes and two blood-thinning drugs account for two thirds of all emergency room visits by older Americans. The biggest culprit was the drug warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), commonly prescribed to prevent blood clots, which was responsible for one third of emergency hospitalizations. The other medications are insulin, antiplatelet drugs like aspirin and Plavix, and oral hypoglycemic agents. 

Why Seniors are at Risk
There are probably many reasons that seniors are at risk. Anyone who has an aging parent, friend or relative know how difficult it is for them to take medications correctly. To make things worse, doctors tend to overprescribe drugs to seniors. According to the authors of this study, 40% of U.S. adults over 65 years of age take 5 to 9 medications and 18% take 10 or more! No wonder seniors experience so many adverse drug reactions. Our kidneys, liver and other filtration organs in our bodies were not designed to handle this many foreign and toxic chemicals. In addition, no drug company can ever adequately test the vast combinations of all these medications.
If you are concerned about drug combinations that you or a loved one are taking, there are a number of websites where you can enter the drugs and they can tell you if there is an issue. Some of these include: Drug interactions Checker (includes interactions of chosen drug(s) and food).
AARP Drug Interaction Checker (includes over-the-counter drugs, herbs and supplements). Drug Interaction Database (includes prescription, nonprescription, herbs, vitamins and supplements. 

Food and warfarin (Coumadin)
I wasn't surprised to see that warfarin was the drug most responsible for ER visits. It's difficult to get the dosage correct and it's effectiveness can increase or decrease significantly depending on what you eat and drink. According to Dr. Sheldon Sheps of the Mayo Clinic, vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of warfarin so you need to carefully monitor how much of this vitamin you consume daily. He recommends that people taking warfarin avoid eating or drinking large amounts of:
* Kale
* Spinach
* Brussels sprouts
* Parsley
* Collard greens
* Mustard greens
* Chard
* Green tea
(Unfortunately, these are all incredibly important foods in our diet.)
On the other side of the spectrum, some foods increase the effect of warfarin which can lead to bleeding problems. Dr. Sheps recommends avoiding or limiting these drinks when taking warfarin:
* Cranberry juice
* Alcohol
(Be especially careful during the holiday season when there is no shortage of cranberries and alcohol!)

Watch Out for your Loved Ones
If you have a loved one who is a senior, take the time to find out how many prescription drugs they are on and ask the doctor if they are really necessary. Years ago, when my mother-in-law came to live with us in a near-by nursing home, she was on about 15 medications. When we asked the staff why she was taking each one, they didn't have a good answer. Many times they prescribe drugs as a precaution and to avoid future lawsuits. By the time they carefully examined her medications, they reduced them to just a handful of prescriptions.
Once my uncle came to visit and he brought out a huge plastic bag of prescription drugs. I went on one of the drug interaction websites and discovered than several of the drugs he was prescribed should not be taken together! But he had several different doctors and they obviously weren't talking to each other.
So take things into your own hands. Challenge each prescription. Make sure they are taken regularly and consistently and check for interactions with other drugs, vitamins, herbs and food. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Organic - It's Not Just What You Eat! - My Favorite "Safe" Products and Gift Ideas.

Lulu Organics Hair Powder
A dry shampoo without the worries of talc!

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Organic - Is it Worth It?
In April I wrote about organic fruits and vegetables and if they are worth the extra money. Although many of us go ahead and spend more for organic foods to avoid consuming pesticide residues, we are less conscious of other ways that we expose ourselves to harmful chemicals. 
Think about how many products we use in or on our bodies? Shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, lip balm, shaving cream, tampons, mouth wash - and the list goes on and on. Even licking an envelope exposes you to whatever happens to be in the glue! So today, because it's a big shopping day, I'm going to share a few of my favorite products that I feel safe using on my body.

iLike and Juice Beauty Organic Skin Care Products
One of the best things I did for myself this year was allow myself to be pampered. I started going to Amazing Face Sebastopol, where I got hooked on the most pleasurable facials in the world by Marianne Allred, the owner of the establishment. Besides knowing how to pamper, she really understands skin care products and only uses those with safe, organic ingredients. I was turned on to two product lines that she uses, which I now cannot live without! One is iLike and the other is Juice Beauty.
The iLike (pronounced "ey-lee-kay) products are so fresh and natural, you feel like they just came out of your blender! Ingredients for their products are grown and harvested in the Carpathian region of Hungary. My favorite product of theirs is the Rosehip Exfoliator but, honestly, every one of their products that I have tried has been amazing. Of course it's best to support your local businesses so try to find this product locally. If you live in or near Sebastopol, you can pick these up at Amazing Face Sebastopol.  If you cannot find them locally, try sites like Skinbotanica - they carry the full line of iLike products.

iLike Rosehip Exfoliator is my favorite but ALL of their products are truly amazing!

I also fell in love with Juice Beautymy favorite products being their Stem Cellular Repair products as well as their reflecting gloss lip color. Their moisturizer smells like fresh citrus and you can almost feel it "eating up" the free radicals on your skin! I use the Stem Cellular Repair Moisturizer , Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Serum and the Stem Cellular Repair Eye Treatment. In Sebastopol, you can buy Juice Beauty products at Amazing Face Sebastopol.

Juice Beauty Stem Cell Repair Products

Dry Shampoo - Lulu Organics
OK, I admit it. Some days I just don't want to wash my hair. In fact, there are many days like that. Especially in the winter when it's cold and rainy. So being able to shake a little hair powder in my hand, rub it through my hair for a few seconds and be done for the day is a blessing!
Dry shampoos aren't new but they are usually made with talc. Turns out that there are serious concerns that talc can be carcinogenic. I shutter to think how I freely powdered my babies' bottoms with talcum powder without even thinking about that!
Out of this concern, my daughter, Linda Aldredge, created Lulu Organics and developed a "talc free" hair powder . This dry shampoo comes in 4 delicious scents, Lavender and Clary Sage, Jasmine, Patchouli and Amber, and Vetiver and Black Pepper. They come in Full 4 oz bottles which can last a long time so they are worth the $30 price or if you want to try a few different scents, you can get the 1 oz travel size which are offered in both Lavender and Jasmine. New York Magazine listed this product in The Gift Guide 2011 - Stocking Stuffer Ideas. It was also listed as the number 1 hair powder in the Zoe Report. Follow Lulu Organics on Facebook

Lulu Organics Travel Size hair powder.
Offered in Lavender + Clary Sage and

Don't Forget about those Lips!
I am especially worried about products that go on my lips. After all, we lick our lips all day long so whatever is on them, ends up in our body. A friend of mine whose wife suffered from celiac, went on a strict gluten free diet. When she found no relief, they discovered there was gluten in her lipstick! So we should worry about the ingredients in our lip products.
My two favorite lip products are Juice Beauty Reflecting Gloss and Lulu Organics Lip Balm

Juice Beauty Reflecting Gloss

Lulu Organics Lip Balm in Ruby Mint and Cardamom

Great Holiday Gifts
So when you are thinking about stocking stuffers and holiday gift giving, think about introducing your friends and families to one of these or other "safe" products. To check out how safe your favorite cosmetics are, go to EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
To sample some of Lulu Organics most popular products, check out the Travel Kits. The Deluxe travel kit comes with 2 of Lulu Organics Hair powders, both Lip balms and a travel soap in a Walker Dunham bag.
Happy shopping!

Lulu Organics Deluxe Travel Bag features Lavender + Clary Sage hair powder, Jasmine hair powder, Ruby mint lip balm, Cardamom lip balm, Lavender +Oatmeal Soap - All in a reusable Walker Dunham bag.