Saturday, November 24

Crazy Healthy Food, Part II

As promised, my senior thesis as I graduate myself from my self-created culinary school. Here you have my nominations for the Top 25 Raw Vegan Super Foods:

Apples – Help women lose weight, and lower the risk of death from heart disease, lung cancer, and type-2 diabetes.

Apple Cider Vinegar – In its raw, organic, unfiltered form, ACV helps manage diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels. Studies show it may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, and decrease the appetite.

Asian Pears – Extremely high fiber content, which lowers bad LDL cholesterol levels, aids colon health, and promotes weight loss. Also a good source of vitamin C, which prevents macular degeneration and the growth of cataracts.

Avocados – Lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration. Great source of soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate, and potassium.

Beans, Sprouted – Packed with fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Reduce heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.

Blueberries – Lower risk of heart disease and cancer, anti-inflammatory, and prevent memory loss, urinary tract infections, and eyestrain.

Broccoli – Fights cancer, heart disease. Also acts as a hypoallergenic, which means that it lowers the impact of allergy-related substances on the body.

Cinnamon – Found to stabilize blood sugar and relieve indigestion. Cinnamon is a potent antiviral, and helps prevent colorectal and skin cancer, as well as the development of Alzheimer's.

Dark Raw Chocolate/Cacao – Very high in antioxidants, mood-elevating nutrients like tryptophan (which improves sleep), and chemicals that mimic the brain's chemistry when in love. It can also lower blood pressure. (By the way, “cocoa” and “cacao” differ only in English. Cacao is commonly used to describe raw cocoa; cocoa describes the ground bean after it has been roasted. Carobis a different bean altogether, though it shares some properties.)

Dark Greens – Best source for an array of vitamins and minerals. Rich in antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. The beta carotene and lutein in dark greens can improve eyesight. High fiber helps with weight management. Lipoic acid regenerates the body’s vitamin C and E stores, defends against free radicals, and regulates blood sugar.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cold-Pressed –Monounsaturated fats lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol. Heart healthy and full of antioxidants that help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Figs – A primary source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure and prevents muscle spasms. Also a major source of calcium, vitamins A and C, and laxative substances.

Flaxseed – High in dietary fiber as well as lignans (an antioxidant), micronutrients, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Flax helps prevent cardiovascular disease, decreases insulin resistance, and decreases waist circumference.

Garlic – Boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, prevents heart disease. People who eat a lot of garlic have low rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers. Its allicin fights infection and bacteria. Let crushed garlic stand for 30 minutes before heating or adding acids (such as lemon juice), to activate and preserve enzymes that protect the heart.

Guavas – Five times the vitamin C of an orange, and more heart-disease-preventing lycopene than tomatoes. Full of dietary fiber, vitamin A, folic acid, and potassium, copper and manganese. Microbiologists say they can protect against certain foodborne pathogens (Listeria and staph).

Lychees – More heart-healthy polyphenols than grapes. These polyphenols fight the flu, and help prevent degenerative diseases such as cancer. Low calories and high fiber are an aid to weight loss. Rich in potassium, copper, B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. And they’re my kids’ favorite fruit.

Miso – A living food. Contains lecithin (a kind of phospholipid caused by fermentation), which is effective in preventing high blood pressure. A top food source of probiotics, high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. Find it in paste form in the refrigerated section of Asian and well-stocked Western markets.

Nuts – The most popular vegan protein source, but also a good place to get your calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, vitamin-E, and B-complex vitamins. The monounsaturated fatty acids in nuts help lower "bad" cholesterol and increase "good" cholesterol," which may prevent coronary artery disease and strokes. Nuts are an important source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory that may decrease blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes and breast, colon and prostate cancers, and help with arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s and even schizophrenia. Also contain certain antioxidants that protect against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, viral and fungal infections, and degenerative nerve disease.

Quinoa – A gluten-free grain and a complete protein, with all eight essential amino acids. It’s also a source for calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. Sprout quinoa to get your daily dose of dietary fiber.

Red Bell Peppers – A better source of vitamin C than citrus. People who eat more vitamin C have less arthritic knees, better skin (fewer wrinkles, less dryness), faster recovery from colds and flus, and a much lower risk of stroke.

Spinach – Spinach is famous for its iron and folate (a B vitamin that prevents birth defects). But did you know the yellow pigment lutein in spinach protects your eyes from age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness? It also keeps the walls of your arteries clear, which may protect against heart attacks.

Spirulina – Sprinkle this microalgae into salad dressings, smoothies, spreads, dips, and juice to get the benefits of this chlorophyll-rich, protein-laden brain food. Spirulina is an immune booster, and an anti-fungal with antibacterial properties that come from high levels of GLA (an essential fatty acid), RNA, DNA, folate, vitamins A through E, vitamin K, a large number of important minerals, calcium, carotenoids, omega3, and omega 6 (which help protect cells from damage).

Sweet Potatoes – Full of beta-carotene, and the best source of vitamin A, which protects mucus membranes, skin, vision, and the lining of the urinary, respiratory, and intestinal tracts. Also contains essential vitamins such as vitamins B-5, B-6, and thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Tomatoes – A primary source of lycopene, an antioxidant reported to protect against heart disease and breast cancer.

Turmeric – A natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflamatory. May fight cancer because it contains curcumin, a tumor inhibitor that also suppresses the enzymes that activate carcinogens.

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Collected and cross-checked and refined from lots and lots of resources, but my primary sources are: Health Diaries, LiveStrong, Nutrition and You, Prevention Magazine, WebMD, Wikipedia, and World’s Healthiest Foods.


Friday, November 23

Crazy Healthy Food, Part I

When I left home to go to college, the sum total of my food knowledge was:
  • Apples, bananas, and oranges are the fruit.
  • Lettuce comes in a ball. You chop it, add a tomato slice, and call it salad.
  • The vegetables are frozen peas and canned corn.
  • The spices are salt and pepper. And cinnamon sugar.
  • If you buy stuff in boxes, the directions are right there on the label.
  • Meat comes in packages. You put it in a frying pan until it's done.
  • If you're hungry, put peanut butter on bread or pour cereal from a bag.
Hey. It was the 70s. Women's lib, and all that. Real women didn't cook, or raise children, or wear makeup. That Leave-it-to-Beaver stuff was for repressed Barbies who didn't have careers -- and being a homemaker was just a shameful excuse for not getting a job.

A few hundred epiphanies later, I have become something of a foodie, somewhat proudly mom-ish, and even a competent makeup-putter-on-er. I'm a happy stay-at-home mother, a homeschooler, an amateur gardener, and an aspiring housekeeper.

But the foodie part has been the real education. I thought I had made real progress over the years, but eating raw food has required me to learn an awful lot more about food than I'd ever understood before. Until this undertaking, I would virtuously purchase a bundle of kale, and then let it sit in my 'fridge until it rotted. It never tasted very good, and I really didn't have a clue what to do with it. Spices would sit on my pantry shelf for -- honestly? -- for years, untouched, because I didn't know what they were for. If they weren't used in a standard recipe, I didn't use 'em. Ever.

I'm now spending hours in the kitchen, playing around with all sorts of things I'd never even heard of before. And y'know what? It's fascinating! I read obsessively about the science behind food, compile information in a database, interrogate my smarter friends, and experiment with everything I read about. This is a fascinating educational undertaking. My database now contains 4,000-plus raw food recipes, definitions for 400 cooking terms, and descriptions, nutrititional profiles, and culinary applications for more than 10,000 varieties of food, of which more than 6000 are raw, vegan, or vegetarian.

I think I'm ready to graduate from my own cooking school. Tomorrow, I'll share some interesting things I've learned during my research. My senior thesis, if you will. Stay tuned!

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It's upon us. Here's Andrea Bocelli ushering in the Christmas season with a beautiful medley in English, Italian and a bit of Latin.

Wednesday, November 21

Giving Thanks for Raw Veggies

There's a large dead bird dripping blood in my outside refrigerator. And it reminds me of a story.

When my youngest son was still sweet and kind and tenderhearted, he came downstairs on a Thanksgiving morning, rubbing sleep from his eyes. I was in the kitchen appeasing the Gods of Gluttony by shoving bits of this and that under the skin of that year's offering, as it sat fleshy and raw in a large roasting pan. I stepped away from the pan just as my little boy entered the kitchen. He stopped, looked at the bird, and screamed.

"What's wrong?" I asked in alarm.

"Oh, GROSS!" he shrieked. "I thought that was a baby!"

And for the next ten years, my sweet young son refused to eat another bite of animal...until, that is, something evil appeared in the night, took over his teenaged body, and turned him into a flesh-eating monster. But it was a fun decade while it lasted.

Anyway, I'm in charge of eviscerating another bird tomorrow. Guts. Entrails. Cavities. How does my now-vegan self feel about this?

Oh, GROSS. That's somebody's baby!

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I'll be spending an awful lot of time in the kitchen tomorrow. Here's my inspiration: Raw vegan thanksgiving. We'll see how many of our guests are willing to ladle raw veggies alongside their platters of dead bird.

Sunday, November 18

Requiem for a Fruit Pie

My first year at university, I had a love affair. It was unrequited -- for my true love stuck by my side, but never genuinely loved me. I was loyal, nonetheless, and we met each afternoon to spend a few quiet moments together.

I grew increasingly despondent over that long year. I was alone in the world, but for my true love. My school was far from home, my family never called, money was tight, and my friendships felt fleeting and temporary. At the same time, my clothing was growing uncomfortably tight. But there was one comfort in my world: That love affair.

Oh, it was a tawdry thing. I worked at the city paper, and I met my love at a nearby convenience store during my afternoon breaks. Each day I'd watch the clock inch toward that magic moment when I could race for the door and down the block to the Seven-11, where my love awaited my daily appearance. My heart would race, but as I'd approach the door, I'd slow down, adjust my skirt, and try to calm my beating heart. I couldn't let strangers see how much I looked forward to these afternoon trysts. I'd enter the store, stop by the poorly stocked produce section -- perhaps strangers would think I was there to buy an apple -- but then my obession would drive me into the arms of my waiting love: the Hostess fruit pie aisle. Would it be cherry? Should I spend my ducats on an apple fruit pie? Or would today's indulgence be a berry pie? Perhaps a lemon? Or would I really, really indulge and buy a chocolate pie? No! Too much! Eat the healthy pie!

And so it went. Yes, I eventually married, and lived overseas, and had children, and travelled the world, and even graduated (in that order, I'll have you know), but whenever I was in the States, my One True Love and I would pick up again where we'd left off: The pie, callous and unfeeling; me, obessessing, longing for a sweet, joyful reunion. We've had short break ups, from time to time, my Hostess fruit pie and me, but we've never truly ended our relationship.

So when I started this raw food journey, I secretly kept HFP on a mental shelf, knowing it would always be there for me if I needed it. I could go into Seven-11, look triumphantly at the pie aisle, and sneer: You'll be waiting for me. You'll never truly leave me. You still love me.

Try to imagine, then, how I'm feeling right now. My one true love has dumped me. Hostess is shutting down. The bakery nazis have proclaimed No Pie for You. I have been abandoned.

But I have to take responsibility for my part in this debacle. Oh, I'm no innocent.

You'll recall, I quit going to Arby's. They went out of business. I didn't mention it earlier, but I quit going to my favorite gyro shop. Last month, they went out of business. In the past few weeks, not one, but both, of my Indian joints boarded their doors. And now -- oh, I'm so filled with shame -- I've single-handedly shut down Hostess.

Don't get too close. I have a lot to process.

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First I was afraid. I was petrified. Just thinkin' I could never live without you by my side. But then I spent so many nights thinkin' how you did me wrong. Now I'll grow strong. And I'll learn how to get along...Sing it, Gloria!

Monday, November 12

On Broadway...and James

Headed to downtown Seattle over the weekend with my favorite crew of teenagers, and found ourselves without food in hand.

Stopped by a local deli for lunch, and did the raw-est meal I could come up with: A plate of veggies and hummus.

Red onion, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and large leaves of romaine lettuce make what? Why, a fabulous wrap sandwich, of course.

Walked out of the place stuffed. Yow-za!

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Be glad I wasn't there in the evening, or Seattle would've witnessed me disco-ing to the BeeGees: Nights on Broadway.

Friday, November 9

Fall Gardening Lessons

Went to visit my dear friend Kristine, the Herbal Momma, on her farm out in the country. We're in the trailing edge of growing season, but she blessed me with fresh produce including carrots and this gorgeous cabbage straight out of the garden.

Also grabbed up a box of fresh pears she'd collected from the farmers on the far side of the mountain.

Then we played with chickens and the goat, and had an altogether lovely afternoon. It was a delightful way to shake off my funk.

I need to spend more time in gardens.

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I take a perverse pleasure in being citified...but sometimes, your true self reveals itself. I can't claim to be a country gal, but my toes tap and my heart goes pitty-pat when John Denver Thanks God He's a Country Boy

Wednesday, November 7

Food for Thought?

Depressed by the election results? Overjoyed? Either way, here's a sobering thought: A hundred years, all new people.

So speaking of resurrecting the dead (That is what I was doing there, right?), today's discussion addresses the difference between raw food, processed raw food, and living food.

Raw food was attached to the ground, or was plucked off a vine or a stem, or was gathered from the water. It's a carrot, an apple, or algae. You eat it.

Processed raw food started off as a cashew or a dandelion or a strawberry, and was then
  • squeezed
  • juiced
  • grated
  • blended, or
  • dehydrated (at a low temperature).
It retains its amino acids (the building blocks of protein), its enzymes, its vitamins, and its essential raw nature. It was neither cooked nor hydrogenated nor homogenized nor pasteurized. It's just raw food you played with before biting into it. And you do remember what your mother said about playing with your food? Umm, yeah. Ignore that.

Living food is a whole 'nuther animal -- er, vegetable -- altogether. Generally speaking, living food is food that is still growing, still alive. No, we're not talking about live goldfish. Living food generally started out raw (though some of it passed through heat), then it becomes living -- resurrected? -- food through:
  • fermentation
  • soaking (to remove inhibitor enzymes)
  • sprouting
Living foods include miso, soaked raw beans, wheatgrass, raw apple cider vinegar, and lots of other foodstuffs loaded with nutrients (phytochemicals) that do wunderbar things for your health.

And that, dear friend, is the least you should know about raw food!

* Click here for an excellent primer on the role of enzymes in digestion and health.

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Greetings from the state that legalized both pot and same-sex marriage yesterday. The gay stoners are Livin' La Vida Loca.

Monday, November 5

Recipe: Fraises à la Chocolat

That's Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries, to those of you who prefer to sprechen sie Englisch. And hard chocolate on fresh strawberries is a treat not to be denied. Especially when the whole endeavor is raw and vegan.

Here's how I did it:

Pint of chilled strawberries.
3 Tbl. coconut oil, warmed to just above room temp so it's liquid
1 Tbl. raw cacao powder (in any language but English, that's cocoa powder)
A few drops of liquid sweetener of choice (agave nectar/maple syrup/raw honey)

Stir together ingredients for chocolate sauce. Dip strawberries, twice. Chocolate hardens in about two minutes. Enjoy, or refrigerate to serve later.


Friday, November 2

Recipe: Asian Kale Salad

We do Moms' Nights, my girlies and I, and tonight's theme is Asian Food.

My offering?  A raw salad that's chockfulla Asian stuff. Turned out mighty fine. Here's the recipe:

  • 1 large bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn to bite-sized pieces
  • 1 heaping Tbl. miso paste (found in the refrigerated section of Asian markets -- and my local Safeway)
  • 2 Tbl. rice vinegar (or mirin for a slightly sweeter taste)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. Nama Shoyu (a raw soy sauce substitute)
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2-inch section of grated ginger root
  • four mandarin oranges, sectioned
  • 3 scallions (green onions), chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. seaweed (wakame, dulse, or crumbled nori)
  • 1/2 C sliced raw almonds.

Wearing kitchen gloves, vigorously massage miso, vinegar, salt and sesame oil into kale, until kale is soft and wilted, about two minutes.

Toss in other ingredients, and transfer to serving bowl.

Next time, I think I'll add additional greens to contrast with the wilted kale, and a bit of pineapple to add sweetness.

- - - -
Time to get up and dance to Ladies' Night.

Thursday, November 1

Salt. Oh yes. Salt.

Today's random act of stupidity: I drove my car into a mud pit. Yes, I did. And got stuck there. (Oh, I could blame the construction workers, or the sign makers, but let's be honest: I'm living proof that college doesn't make you smart.)

So I called Triple-A, and settled in for a long night of...well...being settled in mud. Then I conducted a resource assessment.

Step one: Check batteries. Phone battery? One backup. Car battery? Good for an hour or so of reading.

Step two: Clothing. Check. Found a pair of warm gloves under the seat, leftover from the haunted forest.

Step three: Food. My daughter's box of energy bars contained only a deck of cards. But what have we here? A big bottle of sel gris...French gray sea salt. Oh...kay!

Salt, you say? Oh, yeah, baby. Nothin' finer to resolve 80 percent of food cravings.

But, you say, salt's bad for you! Salt raises blood pressure, causes hypertension and strokes, and kills people!

Turns out, not so much. (Unless you're a rat from the early 70's eating 60 times the average salt intake of a 200-pound human being. If that's you, then sure, cut back on the potato chips.)

For the rest of us, cutting down on salt can actually "worsen health outcomes." Here's the truth about restricting your salt intake: "The less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely." (1)

Yup. Seriously.

And sea salt? Apparently, it's lower in sodium and much higher in mineral content than the stuff you pour out of the Morton's container. And my sel gris is hand-harvested (which sounds healthier) off the coast of Brittany, France (which, everyone knows, is superior to salt hand-harvested off the coast of Forks, Washington.)

So how did I spend my evening in the mud? Munching some sea salt, reading a book, Facebooking, and -- when Triple A was a no-show -- being driven out of the mud pit by my heroic husband, who trudged through mud and water to rescue me.

All in all, not a bad night.

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Tonight's sound track: Fontella Bass, Rescue Me. Naturally!