Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Instant Pot Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Vegan And Gluten Free

Whipped sweet potatoes in 4 minutes!

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Reasons To Eat Sweet Potatoes
Besides being one of my favorites foods to eat, it is also one of the healthiest. Here are some reasons you should frequently include these in your diet.

#1 - Sweet potatoes are one of the best food sources of beta-carotene with the ability to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is critical for healthy skin, mucus membranes, good vision, and a strong immune system. To boost the absorption of beta-carotene, always eat sweet potatoes with some fat.

#2 - They are rich in anthocyanin and other color-related phytonutrients. These compounds have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies demonstrate the reduction of inflammation in brain and nerve tissue after the consumption of sweet potatoes. 

#3 - In spite of their medium glycemic index and being a starchy food, sweet potatoes can potentially improve blood sugar regulation, even in people with type 2 diabetes. Their high fiber contributes to blood sugar regulation but beyond that, research has shown that sweet potato extracts can increase blood levels of adiponectin in persons with type 2 diabetes. This protein hormone is a key modifier of insulin metabolism.

#4 -  Besides beta-carotene (vitamin A), sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. 

#5 - Sweet potatoes are a naturally fat free food. So they are perfect on any weight-loss program. But as I mentioned, adding a bit of fat increases the absorption of beta-carotene. 

This Recipe Retains Nutrients
When compared to roasting or baking, boiling and steaming retains more of the beta-carotene. And when you are cooking them in the pressure cooker in a small amount of water, cooking them for a very short period of time, and whipping them in the cooking water, you are retaining most of the water soluble nutrients. 

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Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 or more servings]

Requires an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker. Can also cook in steamer basket on stovetop.
An electric hand beater does a nice job, although not necessary.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 to 1 tablespoon Earth Balance 
2 tablespoons 100% maple syrup

Directions (For Instant Pot)
Place the diced potatoes, 1/2 cup of water, and salt in the Instant Pot. Secure the lid and cook, on manual high pressure, for 4 minutes. Make sure the quick release valve is in the closed position. 

When it's done, hit the off button and do a quick release. Open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. The sweet potatoes should be nice and soft and have just enough water for whipping. If you think there is too much water you can drain some but retain it all as you may whip it back in later. 

Add the Earth Balance and the maple syrup to the cooked potatoes and whip them until smooth. Test for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve while nice and warm.

Directions for Stovetop
Place the diced sweet potatoes in a steamer basket within a pot with water coming to the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam until the potatoes are soft.

Place the cooked potatoes in a bowl. Add the Earth Balance, maple syrup and salt. Whip until soft and creamy. If too dry, add some of the residual water from the pot.

Nutritional Information (using 1/2 tablespoon of Earth Balance)
Per serving: 150 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 188 mg sodium.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How To Make Your Own Cough Syrup
Avoid Dangerous Over-The-Counter Products

Over-the-counter cold remedies can be dangerous.
So try making your own!

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What's In Your Cough Syrup?
You can tell that it's cold and flu season by the melodious sound of hacking coughs in the supermarket, airplanes, schools, and in the office. A cough can disrupt your sleep and leave you exhausted. 

Most people think that over-the-counter medications are pretty safe and when faced with a never-ending cough, are desperate to try anything. But like many pharmaceutical drugs, the side effects can be more dangerous than the symptoms you are trying to suppress. Especially when you take too much. And when you can't stop coughing, sometimes it's easy to take a bigger slug that what is prescribed.

Many cough syrups contain DMX, or Dextromethorphan. Side effects of taking too much DMX can include:
* Blurred vision
* Confusion
* Drowsiness or dizziness
* nausea or severe vomiting
* difficulty in urination
* shakiness and unsteady walking
* slowed breathing
* unusual excitement, nervousness, restlessness, or severe irritability

In addition, some children do not have the enzyme to metabolize this drug so this becomes an extremely dangerous remedy. Many teens use and abuse cough medicine containing DMX to get high which can be fatal. If you have young children in the house, it's a good idea not to have these types of medicines in the house.

OTC cough medicines may also contain other ingredients such as acetaminophen. Around 80,000 people a year end up in an emergency room for acetaminophen toxicity which can lead to severe liver damage.

Make Your Own
Once again, mother nature comes to the rescue. With a few simple ingredients, you can make your own cough syrup with real health benefits and no dangerous side effects. This syrup has these healthful ingredients:

Onions are in the allium family. For centuries, they have been used as a medicine. Egyptian physicians recommended the onion for literally thousands of separate ailments.  Rich in the antioxidant quercetin (and other flavonoids), they stimulate the immune system, protect against oxidative stress, and act as a natural decongestant. 

Also in the allium family, garlic has been used throughout ancient history for its medicinal properties. Rich in the sulfur compound allicin, it bolsters the immune system and is a potent antibiotic. It has antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiviral properties as well.

My garlic harvest.

Although ginger is most notably used for nausea, it is a natural decongestant and antihistamine. It can warms the upper respiratory tract and is useful in treating symptoms of colds and flu.

Although many vegans avoid the use of honey in daily cuisine, it remains an important medicine due to its strong antimicrobial properties and wound healing abilities. These properties have been documented in the oldest medical literature. With respect to cough suppression, some believe it is as effective as dextromethorphan. It is also used to treat infections of the upper respiratory tract. 

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Here's a simple recipe for the relief of chess congestion and coughing. I make this in very small batches since it is best when fresh. Store in the refrigerator and make a new batch ever two or three days.Take as much as you need to control your cough. No one has ever OD'd on onions and garlic but I wouldn't advise going on a first date. 

Homemade Cough Syrup
[makes ~ 3 to 4 tablespoons]

Allow 8 to 24 hours for extraction. You can use an Instant Pot, yogurt maker, or just a warm spot in your kitchen.

1 organic onion
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated organic garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated organic ginger
1/4 cup raw honey

Peel the onion and cut in half vertically. Thinly slice the onion in half moons and place in a glass pint jar. 

Combine the garlic and ginger with the honey and pour over the onions. Mix well and push down so the honey is above the onion mixture.

Place the jar in your Instant Pot and hit the YOGURT setting. Cover with a regular lid and let sit until juice forms. If you don't have an Instant pot or yogurt maker, just cover the jar and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen. Either method will take 8 to 12 hours. If it doesn't get juicy enough, let it sit longer. 

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the mixture into a small jar. Cover and refrigerate until needed. It tastes better than you'd think, even with the garlic and onions! 

I hope this recipe brings you some relief.

I hated to waste the onion mixture, so I rinsed off the honey (not necessary) and tossed it in my Instant Pot with some beans. Pretty yummy.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cannellini Beans With Roasted Butternut Squash
Instant Pot And Stove Top Recipes

Roasted butternut squash adds a natural sweetness to this dish.

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Beans for Fiber, Protein and More
For those of you who have vowed to eat less meat this year, you will be happy to know that you can get lots of high quality protein from beans. Unlike with meat, this protein comes with critical dietary fiber, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates that will stabilize your blood sugar and help lower your cholesterol. The best part about this protein source is that it doesn't come with saturated fat and cholesterol. So add some to your diet each day.

Winter Squash
I had a wonderful winter squash harvest this year so I'm looking for recipes to use them up. Last week, my friend Margarite brought over some cannellini beans with roasted butternut squash. The roasted squash gave the beans a beautiful sweet flavor. Here's my attempt to duplicate this lovely recipe. You can make the beans in an Instant Pot or just cook them on the stove, but always start with dry beans. I don't think canned beans would taste as good.

Some of my winter squash harvest.
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Cannellini Beans with Roasted Butternut Squash
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Beans can be made in an Instant Pot or on the stovetop.

Allow time to soak beans overnight.

1 1/2 cups dry cannellini beans 
Water for soaking
4 cups rich vegetable stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 pound butternut squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or splash of vinegar (optional)

Pick through the cannellini beans for rocks and rinse well. Place in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and soak overnight.  If you forgot to soak the beans overnight you can place them in a pot with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil on medium heat, turn off the heat, and let the beans sit in the pot, covered, until the water cools down. One and a half cups of dry beans should plump up to about 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups of soaked beans.

Rinse the soaked beans well. If you are cooking them on the stovetop, place the beans in a large pot or 5-quart Dutch oven with the stock, onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook until tender. You may need to add more broth if it cooks down.

If you are using an Instant pot pressure cooker, place the soaked and rinsed beans in the pot along with the stock, onion, garlic and bay leaf. Hit the manual button and set for 6 minutes under high pressure. Make sure the quick release switch is in the closed position. 

When it's done, hit the off button and let the pressure come down naturally. When complete, open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. Test for doneness. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the beans are cooking, clean the squash. Check out my post on An Easy Way to Cut a Butternut Squash. Dice the squash and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried rosemary. Toss until well coated and spread out on a non-stick shallow baking pan or one lined with a Silpat silicon mat. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until cooked and slightly golden brown.

You may notice that I have heavily seasoned the squash. Once cooked, the squash will be used to season the beans so don't skimp on the salt and other seasonings.

Before baking
After roasting

Remove the roasted squash from the oven and set aside.

After the beans are cooked (using either method), stir the cooked squash into the beans. Simmer the squash and beans together so that their flavors melt together. If on the cooktop, simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes. If in the instant pot, you can either hit saute for 10 minutes or slow cook for 30 minutes. 

Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir in lemon juice or vinegar, if desired. 

Serve immediately over rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain or pasta, or refrigerate. They will thicken and become even more flavorful the next day. This is a good dish to make on Sunday and serve a few times during the week.

Cannellini beans with roasted butternut squash
served over GABA sprouted brown rice.

Nutritional Information
Per Serving: 261 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 151 mg omega-3 and 769 mg omega-6 essential fatty acids, 10 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber, and 399 mg sodium.

Monday, January 11, 2016

An Easy Way To Cut A Butternut Squash
Without A Machete

Cutting a butternut squash can be really difficult.
Here's a quick tip.

Love to Eat Them but Hate to Cut Them?
I love butternut squash. But they can be really hard to cut. The outer skin can be so tough you feel like you need a machete to cut through it. I use to wait until Doug was around to do it so I didn't risk cutting my hand off, but now I use this little trick that makes it super easy. Check it out.

The key is to peel them first! Take a vegetable peeler and peel the entire squash.

Once it's completely peeled, lay the squash on its side on a cutting board and just slice off the top and the bottom. A good knife will go through it like butter. 

Now turn the squash up on its end and carefully cut straight down to the bottom.

Clean out the seeds and then slice or dice depending on the recipe you are making.

Wasn't that simple?

I'll be posting a delicious butternut squash recipe in later this week so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Eight Things To Do For A Healthier 2016

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For a good start to the new year,
Download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen.

How Can We Improve Our Health?
At the start of every new year, I give a great deal of thought about things I can do to improve my health and yours. Each year I look at the latest research and my own personal experiences as I try to pick the highest priority items. Here are my top eight for 2016. 

#1 - Forget about Fad Diets and Load Up on Great Foods!
Weight loss is usually front and center, especially at this time of year when everyone is making New Year's resolutions. But it should be accomplished by eating lots of good foods, not by going on a fad diet or eating packaged weight-loss meals or shakes. I like to suggest diets that are for a lifetime, not just for the months it takes to get to your goal weight. In fact, a good diet should get you in the habit of eating well and making a life change.

Here are some past blog posts that can help you select the best foods. 
Fill your plates with the Top 20 Foods For Health and Longevity. 
Lose weight while keeping hunger at bay by Eating Lots of Fiber
And don't forget, you are eating for a billion as your body is genetically 99% microbes and they LOVE fiber so it's good for them too. Add more microbes to the party by eating a fermented food every day.

Beans are a great source of protein, fiber and
 other critical nutrients. Eat some every day!

#2 - Minimize Sugar in your Diet, Especially Fructose
While you are filling your plate with the most healthful foods, we must remember what foods to avoid. Perhaps the worst thing we can put in our bodies is sugar. If you want to get a good understanding why sugar overload is significantly contributing to serious diseases in this country, watch the documentary, That Sugar Film

Americans consume 126 grams or about 10 tablespoons of sugar per day. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of six teaspoons (25 grams) for women and nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men. Sounds like a lot? Well, you would be shocked to know how easy it is to rack up this amount and more. 

Fruit yogurt has 19 grams, a granola bar can have 12 or more grams, some "energy" drinks have over 80 grams! And beware of juice. A cup of unsweetened apple juice has 24 grams of sugar. If you are wondering why the kids are bouncing off the walls after drinking their juice box, well, wonder no more!

The worse sweetener is fructose. You may think that giving up high fructose corn syrup helped get rid of this poison in your diet, but even regular table sugar, or sucrose, is composed of a molecule of glucose (which the body uses as fuel) bonded to a molecule of fructose, which the body can turn into triglycerides that can lead to heart disease. Agave, popular among vegans who avoid honey, is 85% fructose. Honey is also high in fructose.

In general, excess sugar can eventually make cells resistant to insulin, a hormone that allows glucose to enter the cells. If the cells become resistant to insulin, the sugar remains in the blood which is associated with type 2 diabetes. 

In short, this country is becoming sicker and sicker because of the abundance of sugar in our food. Much of it is hidden in drinks, packaged goods, baked items, canned foods, so-called "health foods", and more. It has significantly contributed to obesity, heart disease, hyperactivity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic disorders. So read the labels and make a big effort to limit your sugar intake to an occasional treat.

Read labels to detect hidden sugars.

#3 - Get Off The Couch
Sitting is the new smoking. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of having heart disease, various types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. So if you sit at your job all day, drive to and from work sitting in your car, by no means should you go home and sit in front of the TV. 

In 2013 I gave you the One Million Step Challenge. It's easy and it's a good first step to get moving. Of course any type of movement is great - zumba, bicycling, running, rock climbing or whatever gets you excited. The more you like it, the more you will do it. And I'm always pleasantly surprised how much energy it gives me to exercise.

Put on your Fitbit and start walking!

#4 - Journal, Journal, Journal
I have been journaling for 45 years but I starting journaling on MyFitnessPal in 2015. It's a remarkable program for tracking your food and exercise. It's not perfect but it beats writing things down in a little notebook and having to look up calories, etc. Journaling can double your weight loss! Even if you don't need to lose weight, you will be able to look at what nutrients you are consuming and if you are getting enough exercise. I highly encourage you to use whatever program or App you are comfortable with but get started today.

#5 - Connect with Friends and Family
When reading Dan Buettner's book, Blue Zones, I noticed that people who live to 100 or older, had one thing in common - they all had a network of friends or family and a sense of community which gave them a life purpose. In today's world, many of us live apart from our families and move from city to city for our careers. So it's important to create a network of friends and assimilate into your community as best you can. Meet like-minded people and work at creating relationships. You can't sit at home and wait for your new best friend to come knocking at your door. And despite the miles apart, stay in touch with family and visit as often as you can.

What's better than a hug?

#6- Disconnect
OK, I know I just told you to connect but now I want you to disconnect (right after you read my blog, of course.) 
Today, most of us are continually connected to our iPhones, computers, 24/7 news, and more. People drive, sit in restaurants, and walk down the street looking at their phones. They have their phones sitting on their bed stands so they don't won't miss a text message. It's downright unhealthy. And I'm not talking about how cellphone emissions may be damaging our brains, or how men who use cellphones have a lower sperm count, or any of the other controversial side effects that may or may not be true. I'm just talking about how we have stopped smelling the roses and are continually exposed to upsetting worldwide news and annoying Facebook posts (especially during an election year). I spent 36 years in high tech so I'm addicted as much as anyone when it come to being connected. But I'm going to work on this one. 

Leave your phone in another room at night. Don't spend all day on Facebook. Check it once a day but not every ten minutes. Leave your phone in the trunk of your car when you are driving. Take a long walk without any devices and notice your surroundings. Meditate. Take a bubble bath. And please, if you have kids, limit their screen time. 

#7 - Learn Something New
Is there something you want to know more about? Is their a hobby you want to take up? Do you want to learn a new language or how to play an instrument? Learning something new relieves stress, can give you an opportunity to meet like-minded people, and can add excitement and fun to your life. 

I just signed up for two classes at the California School of Herbal Studies. One is on Herbal Medicine Making and the other is Living in Harmony with the Seasons. I love learning new things - it makes me feel like "hey, I may be 67 but I'm not dead yet." 

#8 - Unclutter
Does clutter stress you out? It does me. I look in my closet and think, "I really need to go through there and give some of that stuff away." Or I'll find a garment that forgot I had and wonder how many other jewels are lurking in there. And how does every drawer turn into a "junk drawer?"

How does every drawer turn into a junk drawer?

I know there are books and even professional organizers available to help you unclutter your closets and your life, but I'm just going to do it one drawer at a time. I have a plan to attack one closet a month until I get through the entire house. I recently organized my makeup drawer and I can't tell you how happy I feel every time I open it. 

After you've uncluttered your life and ridded yourself of things that no longer give you pleasure, make sure you enjoy the things that do. Remember, life's short so break out the china!

Well, these are my health intentions for 2016. I hope I've given you some ideas for yours. Most of all, have a happy, healthy, loving, and joyful 2016!

Friday, January 01, 2016

Instant Pot Black-Eyed Or Yellow-Eyed Peas With Corn And Greens

Easy One-Pot New Year's Day Recipe for Good Luck.

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Happy New Year
It wouldn't be New Year's without a lucky black-eyed pea recipe. This year's recipe is as simple as it gets and is made in an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker. 

I have a confession to make. This year I'm taking a big risk and making yellow-eyed peas from Rancho Gordo but of course you can make this with traditional black-eyed peas.

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Black-Eyed (or Yellow-Eyed) Peas with Corn and Greens
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 6 servings]

Requires an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker
Allow soaking time - either overnight or 2 hours in hot water.

1 cup black or yellow-eyed peas
2 1/2 cups rich broth (or hot water and a Rapunzel vegan bouillon cube)
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cloves minced or pressed garlic
4 cups packed sliced kale or other greens
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Examine the peas for rocks or dirt and then rinse well. You can either soak them overnight or place them in the Instant Pot covered with water (2 inches over the peas) and bring to a boil using the saute button. Let the peas boil for a few minutes, then cover and let sit in the hot water for 2 hours.

After they are soaked properly, rinse with fresh water. Place the peas back in the Instant Pot with the broth or a Rapunzel bouillon cube dissolved in hot water. 

Add the onions, celery, corn, black pepper and garlic and stir. Place the greens on top and drizzle the oil over the entire mixture.

Secure the pressure cooker top making sure that the quick release switch is in the closed position. Push the manual button and set for 3 minutes at high pressure.

When it's done, hit the off button on the lower right and let the pressure come down naturally. When complete, open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face.

Add salt to taste and adjust the seasoning. If you used the bouillon cube, it will already have some salt so taste the broth first.

Serve over rice, quinoa, or pasta or just enjoy as is as a brothy stew.

Happy New Year and may 2016 bring you lots of luck, joy, and good health!