Cranberry Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

16.9.2016 | 19:23

Art autumn Pumpkin thanksgiving background

Okay, so maybe it’s a little early for pumpkin….  And, it’s a little early for Thanksgiving here in the States.

But….

I tested out this tasty variation on pumpkin bread recently, just because Diane and I like pumpkin pretty much any time of year.

Yes, the annual commercial pumpkin craze has started — with Starbucks’ and Dunkin’ Donuts’ yearly boxing match and many other retailers touting this or that pumpkin treat.  Though we haven’t received our Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer” featuring all the pumpkin products yet.  (Slackers.)

Since Diane and I are putting together our gluten program, I want to have plenty of delicious options for our participants, and yes, this recipe will be included, in time for Thanksgiving.

In fact, add some turkey (or Tofurkey or other vegetarian preferences), some mashed potatoes, a couple of green vegetables, stuffing/dressing (depending on where in the US you live), and you’ve got your holiday dinner!

If your traditions don’t include chocolate, you can substitute walnuts or pecans instead.  If you don’t like cranberries, raisins or currents make a nice alternative.  Ground flax seeds also work as an egg substitute (for my vegan friends), and butter works just as well as the coconut oil.

The important piece is the — you guessed it! — pumpkin!

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

pumpkin-bread-ingredients

Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 ½ cups gluten-free flour

2 eggs or 2 Tbsp sunflower lecithin as substitute

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp Himalayan/sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ cup chocolate chips

½ cup unsweetened, dried cranberries

1-2 Tbsp honey for sweetener, if desired

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips and cranberries in a mixing bowl and stir or blend until smooth.  Add chocolate and cranberries and stir until evenly spread through mixture.

Pour batter into a greased 4” x 9” bread pan or pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool and then store in refrigerator.  Keeps for at least 7 days and slices may be warmed in the oven when ready to eat.

cranberry-pumpkin-bread

Gluten-Free Can Be a Game-Changer

10.9.2016 | 00:47

When Debra and I adopted a gluten-free lifestyle several years ago, it changed everything.

And we weren’t even strictly gluten-free at the beginning – we were wheat-free, but still used spelt flour for baking (and ate spelt-flour products from the grocery store).

Sometimes we ate whole-grain rye bread too.

Even those baby steps had huge results.

We started losing weight – without dieting.

Our chronic cycle of diarrhea –> constipation –> diarrhea disappeared.

Debra’s motion sickness vanished – it takes a roller coaster level of turbulence to turn her green on an airplane now….

Roller Coaster in funny amusement park.

These things may not seem like a big deal, but they were major improvements for us.

I’d alternated between diarrhea and constipation my whole life.

Now I only tend to get diarrhea when I have a serious pathogenic gut bug or eat something that violently disagrees with me – like, say, when I accidentally get “glutened.”  (It happens to the best and most careful of us – and for the first few years, we weren’t the best or most careful….)

We’ve now been entirely gluten-free for quite a few years.

I know there’s been a lot of discussion and buzz about what’s really the problem with wheat.

Some people argue that it’s not the gluten, it’s the lectins.

Or the FODMAPs.

Or the glyphosate….

(Wheat isn’t technically a genetically-modified crop, but it is sprayed with glyphosate – the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide – before harvest.)

But does all of that really matter?

Is it just a matter of semantics?

To be perfectly honest, my opinion is that it’s most likely a “perfect storm” of all of those things coming together.

But that doesn’t mean that the gluten aspect isn’t important.

There are a lot of knowledgeable people who believe that no human being can digest gluten.  Or wheat.

Dr. Alessio Fasano and Dr. William Davis, respectively, immediately spring to mind.

The main thing to remember is that all of these components add up to a toxic “food.”

grass

They’re all problematic.

Yes, even gluten.

Have I ever been tested for Celiac Disease?  Has Debra?

No, and no.

If someone is still eating wheat, and having symptoms that cannot be explained by their doctors, it is definitely worth getting tested.

The problem is, if you’ve already been on a gluten-free diet, you have to ingest gluten for the test to be effective.

No, thank you.

I don’t really want to go back to the vicious cycle of diarrhea, constipation, diarrhea, constipation….

Close-up of toilet paper roll with diarrhea written in bathroom

I don’t want to feel ill after eating.

It can be hard adjusting to life without wheat – there seems to be a mindset surrounding bread that is hard to get beyond.

“People have been eating bread for years.”

“But it’s the ‘Staff of Life’ – it says so in the Bible.  Jesus ate bread!!  And what about ‘manna from Heaven’?”

I don’t want to argue religion with anyone, but wheat has changed since Biblical times.  That may not be the whole problem, but it is a real one, and one that everyone should consider, especially if your bread is making you ill….

Dr. Tom O’Bryan has talked about a case where a woman claimed to have gotten all of the gluten out of her diet, but still had unresolved symptoms.

It turned out that she was a nun – and the tiny amount of wheat in the communion wafer was enough to set off her immune system.

These aren’t easy issues, or easy-to-make decisions.

For me (and Debra), it was easy:

We felt so much better when we eliminated wheat from our diets, and we didn’t want to return to the days of feeling … not so great.

It hasn’t always been easy to avoid gluten – we travel quite a bit, and have other social engagements where we can’t always control what sort of food is provided.

(Hint:  If you’re flying, take some gluten-free stash with you.  Some airports have options, some don’t.  Be prepared!)

But if you’re willing to make the commitment, it can be done.

And it doesn’t always have to be hard.

Worst case scenario, you can always start by substituting gluten-free products for gluten-containing ones.

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We don’t believe that this is the best solution long-term, but it can be very helpful at the beginning, when you’re faced with the question:  “But what am I going to eat???”

Start slow, if you need to.

Eventually, you won’t want to eat the processed gluten-free junk – it’s not healthy for you, and a lot of it doesn’t taste that great.

But start wherever you are.

And if you need help, that’s why we created our program:  “Gluten-Free … Easy as 1, 2, 3.”

Our goal is to help you navigate social situations, restaurants, families who may not readily accept your choice.

We’re providing a step-by-step system, to help you understand good substitutes for gluten – and better ones … and the best ones in our opinion.

We’ve been living this way for a long time, and we made quite a few mistakes in the beginning.

That’s why we want to help shorten the learning curve for YOU.

Later this month, Debra and I will be presenting a FREE webinar:  Top 3 Mistakes People Make Going Gluten-Free.  Be on the lookout for an email announcement closer to that time, so you can be sure to sign up to attend.

Almond Bites

27.8.2016 | 14:57

Almonds on white background - studio shot

Lately, I’ve been brainstorming ideas for gluten-free alternatives for common gluten-containing foods (cookies, pancakes, breads, muffins, etc.) for our upcoming program, but a couple of weeks ago I took a break from that to try a couple of other options.

Diane requested something that didn’t include whole nuts, so I went with the almond meal.  Another gluten-free flour or meal would work as well.

This one and another plantain recipe – which will likely be featured in a future post – were the results.  Both will likely be included in our planned gluten-free recipe collection.

I’d done some good raw “macaroon” recipes a few years ago, when Diane and I were eating a raw diet, thanks to the food co-op in Wilmington, NC, who graciously shared their basic recipe.

Then, a few weeks ago, we stumbled over a nifty snack “cookie” at our local Whole Foods, and I decided to work on reverse-engineering it.  I’m still planning to experiment further, but this first attempt came out fairly well, so I’m sharing.

I used mulberries in this recipe, mainly because I had some on-hand.  Raisins, dates or other dried fruit would work just as well.  I used a minimal amount of honey, as much for the stickiness as the sweetness.

Other seeds can be used instead of pumpkin, and soaking probably isn’t completely necessary, but soaking helps make the seeds easier to digest.

Almond extract is the essential ingredient – it blends well with the other ingredients and honey.

One bite makes a nice finish to a meal.  Enjoy!

 

Almond Bites

IMG_0335

Ingredients

1 cup almond meal

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, soaked overnight

½ cup coconut flakes

½ cup mulberries or other dried fruit

1-2 Tbsp honey, to taste

2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp almond extract

 

Directions

Put all ingredients into food processor and combine to desired smoothness.  I kept them a little chunky.  The important thing is to have enough honey/coconut oil to hold the mixture together.

Shape into cookies or balls and dehydrate at 115° F for approximately four hours.  Store in fridge, where they will keep for at least a week.

Makes 12-16, depending on the size.  Mine tend to turn out a little bigger.

Safety, Support & Superheroes

20.8.2016 | 01:18

You may have noticed recently that my blogging has gotten all off-schedule.

Sorry about that.

The past couple of months have been … interesting, and not always in the good way.

(Remember that old Chinese curse?  “May you live in interesting times”?  Well, my “times” have definitely been interesting lately.  Or something, anyway.)

The main part of what happened was that my safety and support network fell apart.

One sad person with the word Help on him stands apart from the group, being rejected and needing psychological or medical attention

Like … completely disintegrated.

Or at least that’s how it felt.

There were several events where I was supposed to feel safe or have a group to support me.

It didn’t quite work out that way in reality….

I won’t lie:  It’s been really, really hard for me.  And I’ve struggled with it.  As a matter of fact, I’m still struggling with it.

The people I can normally depend on to be there for me … weren’t.

Personally, professionally … all around.

And I fell through those holes.

Hard.

Man Hand writing Indifference with black marker on visual screen. Isolated on background. Business, technology, internet concept. Stock Photo

I came this close to not caring anymore.

I didn’t want to write.  I felt like I had nothing to say, or that no one wanted to hear it.

That’s not okay.

I do have things to say, and there are people who want to hear it – or even need to hear it.

And I fell down on the job.

I wasn’t here to support you.

To be completely honest, I didn’t even want to be here.

I started questioning everything:  Do I even want to do this anymore?  Do I want to keep writing, creating content?

I was even contemplating giving up on the program Debra and I are creating.

I just didn’t care.

I’ve been telling myself that part of it is just the peri-menopause.

business concept - bored and tired woman behid the table

That little adventure can really mess with your moods.  (And boy howdy, has it ever been messing with mine….)

But I realized the other day that it isn’t just about others failing me.

One of my dear friends and colleagues, Steph Jackson, with whom I’ve been working for over a year now, said something recently that I had heard her say before, and it got me thinking.

When she coaches you, she tells you right up front that she isn’t going to have all the answers for you.

(Hint:  I’m not going to have all the answers for you either.)

She tells her clients – and I’m one of them, so I know this – that we have to take responsibility for our own health, and our own successes (or failures).

We have to be our own health superheroes.

Well, guess what?

I haven’t been a superhero lately.

I haven’t even wanted to be a superhero for the past couple of days.

My safety net and support network didn’t fail me.  (Well, they sorta did, but that’s not really my point.)

I failed me.

I allowed others to provide that feeling of safety.  I needed others to support me while I was struggling.

And hey, they didn’t.

And it really messed with my head.

Yes, we need to reach out to others when we need help.  Absolutely.  That’s part of being a community – we all help each other when we need help, right?

But we’re only human.

And sometimes … well, sometimes we’re going to screw up.

We’re not going to be there when someone needs us.

So here’s the thing:

When it gets right down to it, we have to stop giving our power away to others.

We can’t leave it to someone else to make us feel safe.

Awareness Concept - Golden Compass Needle on a Black Field Pointing.

Sometimes we need to reach out for help – and hopefully we’ll reach out to the right person, the one who can give us what we need at the right time.

But we also – sometimes – need to stand on our own two feet.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t over for me.

I need to take some time, do some deep digging and soul-searching, and figure out just what it is that I need.

I need to figure out what I can do for myself, and where I need help.

And then I need to reach out to my support network, and if I can’t find that support there, I need to try someone else.

But I need to connect with my own inner strength first – my superhero self – and stop depending on others to do it for me.

Sure, some days I’ll just want to play video games or watch “Game of Thrones” or something.  (Shh, don’t give anything away – I’ve only seen the first season so far!)

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And that’s okay.

I don’t need to be a superhero every day.

I just need to know that I can be one when I need to be.

That I can count on myself to be strong, and step up and be here for me.

Because if I can’t depend on myself to do that, then I can’t be here for you.

I can’t help you tap into your superhero self.

And that is not okay….

Because I can’t fix all your problems.  I don’t have all the answers for you, remember?

Vector illustration of a female superhero silhouette

But I can at least try to help you find your own inner superhero.

So you can be there for yourself when your safety net or support network falls apart.

Now if I could just decide whether my unlikely superhero name should be the Divine Dragon or the Fairy CatMother….

LGBT Invisibility

11.8.2016 | 23:26

Flag_Rainbow

I’ve noticed this before, but I got a major reminder earlier this week:

There doesn’t seem to be much of an LGBT presence in the health and wellness community.

I was listening to a podcast from one of my mentors a few days ago, and he alluded to next week’s episode where he was going to be talking with a male practitioner, all about men’s health.

He said that all of his male listeners would love it.

And that all of his female listeners would too.

Well….

Not so fast.

Sure, maybe from a professional perspective, if they have male clients.

But there was an underlying assumption that women would want to listen because they’d want to know what made their partners tick.

Their male partners, of course.

two beautiful girls with a baby outdoor

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m offended about this.

There was no offense intended, and none … or at least very little … taken.

But this is a very common assumption I see being made all through this little niche.

That all of our readers/listeners/viewers are straight.

Well, guess what?

We’re not.

And I see very few people reaching out to potential clients who might be gay, whether men or women.

There are a few people who use gender neutral language, or openly acknowledge the existence of gay men and lesbians.

But in almost all of the podcast or summit interviews I’ve heard, in almost all of the blog articles I read, there is this tacit assumption that partners or spouses are of the opposite sex.

Now, granted, I haven’t exactly been under the impression that there are hordes of gay men and lesbians looking for gay-friendly health coaches.

Same sex male couple having dinner with their son and daughter in their home.

But maybe they’re not looking because there’s a perception that there’s no such thing.

I haven’t seen anyone openly marketing to the LGBT population, or hinting that they would even be welcome.

A lot of practitioners are marketing to “busy moms,” or women with no libido who haven’t had (or wanted) sex with their husbands in years.

And I’ll be the first person to admit that I haven’t exactly been marketing to the LGBT crowd myself.

Mostly that’s because none of my lesbian friends seem all that interested in healthy eating, exercise or mindset tools.

But Debra isn’t gay, and so, as a business team, we don’t want to restrict ourselves to one or the other group.

Debra is what we call a “straight ally,” and we share a circle of friends that includes gay men and women, and someone who’s transgender.

Basically, I just want to remind everyone that our clients may come in many varieties, and I’d like to think that none of us would turn someone away just because they’re gay (or straight, for that matter).

Two happy senior gay couples isolated on white background. Older men and women in casual clothes holding hands. Simple and cute cartoon style.

Some of those “busy moms” needing a health coach might just be partnered up with (or married to) another woman.

And some of those super-fit, athletic guys might have boyfriends.

So I guess this is my unofficial way of “outing” myself.

I haven’t gone out of my way to advertise that I’m a lesbian, but I haven’t exactly tried to hide it from my friends and colleagues in this business either.

And if you’re reading this, and you’re a lesbian who thinks there aren’t any health coaches out there who might be able to speak to you from a familiar place – think again.

I don’t know how many of us are out there – I’ve heard rumors, but I don’t want to repeat them, in case they’re just gossip – but I’d like to think I’m not the only one.

And for those of you who write articles, record podcasts and shoot videos – and host summits – just try to keep in mind that you might be ignoring a large part of the population that could use your help.

We should all be capable of coaching clients regardless of gender, race, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity.

And that starts with recognizing – and acknowledging – that those differences exist.

Bright hearts on wooden background

[Editor:  Some online LGBT resources include the following]

Human Rights Campaign

P-FLAG

GLAAD

Sea Goddess Salad

27.7.2016 | 23:10

This week I’m sharing a tasty salad option good for hot weather.  And as most folks in the States can attest, it’s been an impressively hot July.  Here in North Carolina, we may be getting a break as far as the temperatures go, but with August comes the most impressive humidity levels of the year.

The recipe is actually two for one, since Diane’s salad included some fish and mine didn’t – so it works if you’re following a paleo diet or vegan or anything in between.  Both included some rehydrated wakame (courtesy of Emerald Cove) – a variety of seaweed – which adds a nice mineral mix and a slightly salty taste to the salad.

Emerald_Cove_Wakame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another tasty addition is Farmhouse Culture’s dill pickle flavored sauerkraut – it’s certainly one of my current favorites!

dill-pickle-kraut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can top it with any of your favorites – especially whatever goodies are in season at your local farmers’ market – tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.  With some of the sauerkraut juice to moisten everything, I skipped the dressing this time.  However, you can mix a tablespoonful each of olive oil and apple cider vinegar mixed with a little basil, oregano and garlic powder makes an easy one.

Sea Goddess Salad

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Ingredients

(serves 2)

1 medium-sized head of lettuce (romaine, green/red leaf, bibb) or 1 package of spring mix or other young greens

1 small yellow bell pepper

3-4 Tbsp dried wakame, soaked in a little water for 10-15 minutes, then drained

2-3 oz. tuna, salmon or other tinned fish

1-2 Tbsp sauerkraut

For the non-fish version – ¼ cup pre-steamed potatoes, cooled in the fridge (I happened to have some on hand, leftover from a couple days prior)

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Directions

Chop lettuce and arrange on two plates.  Add other ingredients on top of the lettuce bed, then add 1-2 Tbsp of dressing if desired.  Find a nice spot to relax and savor!

Learning to Swim

22.7.2016 | 00:36

I used to have some interesting “secret identities.”

A while back, as a writer of Young Adult fantasy novels, I called myself “The Fairy CatMother.”  It was on my business cards, and a large part of my promotional material – pens, t-shirts, tote bags….

Fairy CatMother Logo Icon Only

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was even the name of my author website.

When I started my Reiki practice, and was learning other energy work, I identified as the “Divine Dragon.”  According to Western astrology, I’m a Sagittarius (Fire sign).  As for Chinese astrology, I’m a Dragon – and my element is Fire.

I’ve got a strong affinity to the Archangel Michael – the dude with the flaming sword….

Cats and dragons … not exactly creatures immediately associated with swimming.

Yet here I am.

It started simply enough – I just wanted to study aromatherapy.

I had to read an Anatomy and Physiology textbook.

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*PANIC!!!*

“I can’t do this – I have an English degree!  I took ‘Science for Liberal Arts majors’!!”

I almost quit before I started.

But I didn’t.

I read the whole damn textbook.

(Have you ever actually read a science textbook?  As one of my mentors said, they’re meant to be taught, not read.)

After that, I studied at the Institute of Transformational Nutrition.

Having that textbook under my belt helped a lot – I actually recognized some of the scientific concepts we studied, and felt almost familiar with them.

Now I’m studying Nutritional Endocrinology with Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo.

There’s a lot of science.

A lot.

I’m even more grateful that I had to read that textbook.

I think I’m even starting to understand the Krebs cycle.  

(Editor: aka the Citric Acid cycle.)

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Repetition helps.

It’s kept me from drowning in a sea of new and unfamiliar concepts.

I always thought I sucked at science.

I had really bad science teachers back in my school days, and just thought I didn’t “get it.”

I thought I would never “get it.”

Now I watch science lectures for fun.

I keep signing up for more and more courses, diving ever deeper into some of these scientific concepts.

And … I’m not drowning in them.

I’m learning to swim!!

So yay, me – I’m turning into Science Girl.  Well, okay, maybe Science Girl Light.  I’m no Stephen Hawking.

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But have no fear – having stretched my comfort zone to include the dreaded Science, I’m now having to push a little farther….

That’s right – now I’m having to tackle something even more difficult for me:

Technology.

*shudder*

But wait – that’s Debra’s job, right?  She handles the tech side of Letchworth Sisters Wellness.  All I need to do is create most of the content.

I write blog articles!  I appear as a guest on podcasts!!  I even made my first video!!!

Super Girl in Pop Art Style with Bubble and Text I Can Do It. Vector illustration

 

What more does the Universe want from me???

The Universe wants me to learn how to navigate spreadsheets, and host group calls, and, and, and….

I know, I know:  Doesn’t everyone know their way around spreadsheets, Power Point slides, and teleconferences?

Um … no?

I don’t consider myself a Luddite, and I have no desire to live an Amish lifestyle, but I somehow thought I could do this work and just let everyone else take care of the tech stuff.

It doesn’t quite work that way.

There are things I need to know.

I need to know these things because I can’t do what I really want to do – be of service to others – if I don’t have a reasonable working knowledge of how to handle this technology.

*gulp*

I will be honest with you:

I am terrified!!

I mean, yeah, sure, I got over being perfect a long time ago, whatever “perfect” even means.

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But I don’t want to seem completely incompetent either.

Those are pretty distant points along a spectrum, thankfully, so I’m optimistic that I’ll find a comfortable – but not too comfortable; I need to grow, after all – place somewhere along that line….

I guess I’m fortunate that I share a business with a Water sign – and quite the “Dynamic Dolphin,” at that – so that I can be buoyed up during the learning process.

I’m pretty good at treading water too….

And I have the most awesome circle of friends and colleagues, people who are willing to help me, and guide me through this process.

Who knows?

Maybe once I’ve navigated my way through these treacherous (to me) waters, and found my way past Scylla and Charybdis – yes, I am still an English major at heart; read The Odyssey if you haven’t already – I’ll be able to help guide others to the other side.

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Admittedly, I can’t quite see that happening any time soon – I guess I need to brush up on my visualization skills!! – but hey, a few years ago I never would have thought I’d have a grasp on anatomy, physiology or biochemistry either….

And now I even know which section of the small intestine comes first, which comes last, and which is in the middle.

And I don’t even have to look it up in the big ol’ textbook!!

Stretching Boundaries

11.7.2016 | 23:00

Uh-oh, I’m doing it again….

I’m stretching the boundaries of my comfort zone.

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I took a big step this weekend.

It was a small thing, really, but a big step for me:

I hijacked “Debra’s Kitchen Rx’s” YouTube channel!

I know, I know – “Diane’s loose in the kitchen!”  Words to strike terror into the heart of anyone who … eats?

Okay, okay, that’s an exaggeration.

Back in the day, I used to be quite the Mistress of the Ladle.  I made a lentil soup from scratch, even a tomato soup from … real tomatoes!!  (And yes, I deseeded the damn things first!  Not a job for the faint of heart….)

But in recent years, as we’ve explored various dietary styles, I’ve actually grown less comfortable in the kitchen.

Maybe because I’m not overly comfortable with gadgets.  I’m kind of … low-tech.  I still read books in their “hard copy” form.  (Yeah, remember when we used to call “hard copies” just “books”?  Sigh.)

I had a Kindle once – got it for free.

Hated it.  Sold it at a Fantasy & Science-Fiction convention, for cheap.

I prefer to actually turn pages.  Go figure.

This isn’t to say I’m a Luddite.

I like my “mod cons,” as our British friends say.  Or used to say, anyway.  (That’s “modern conveniences,” if you don’t speak the Queen’s English.)

I like hot showers, indoor flush toilets and running water on demand.

I like DVDs and CDs – even if I play them on my laptop.  Because I don’t actually have a TV, DVD player or CD player anymore….

I like streaming video over the Internet.

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But a Vitamix is rather … expensive.  And I’m a wee bit paranoid about breaking it.

(Which is ironic, really – Debra’s the one who sometimes forgets to flip the switches in the right order….  Shh, don’t tell anyone.)

[Debra:  true, but rare these days.]

Ha!!  Here’s another little irony:

The immersion blenderThat’s my little kitchen toy!  I fell in love with that baby the first time I used it.

And Debra’s still getting the hang of it….

[Debra: true again.  Sigh.]

Yeah, I know, I’m giving Debra a bit of a hard time – but you have to understand, when it comes to the kitchen and culinary skills … she outshines me in a big way.  I’ve got to savor every tiny little talent I’ve got….  Because there aren’t many.

I can chop veggies without too many problems, but measuring, calculating, converting … ugh!  That’s math, my friends, and my degree is in English.

(I am very good at reading recipes and following directions.  Unfortunately, I follow the directions to the letter, and the recipe still doesn’t come out right.  [Head banging against desk….])

But I can’t be too tough on Debra – she is an absolute genius at reverse engineering recipes, tweaking them, and coming up with ways to make my ideas work.

[Debra: retired pharmacist.  Rx = recipe.  It was inevitable….]

Yeah, that’s right – I’m usually the one with all of the wild, crazy ideas.  Most of which actually work, once Big Sis works her magickal mojo….

It’s my job to come up with the snappy names.  English degree, remember?  Lover of words and word play?

But this week we turned the tables a bit.

I recently came up with this really neat experiment I wanted to try:

I was trying to incorporate more potassium-rich foods into my diet.  Last year’s mineral/hair analysis revealed a major sodium/potassium imbalance.

And I’d been dealing with intermittent edema (possibly caused by sodium retention).  After a year of tweaking the diet, and trying this or that supplement, I had one of those Homer Simpson moments – you know:  “D’oh!”

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Why not try adding a small amount of banana or something into my daily routine?  Try attempting a balancing act through diet, instead of mucking around with more supplements….

I wrote an article detailing this whole experiment quite recently, so I won’t go into more detail here.

But one of the potassium-rich foods I found was a nice, low-sodium (tomato-based) veggie juice.

One evening, I decided to have some before supper.  I’d been trying to drink some every couple of days, to vary up the menu a little bit, and I’d been pretty regular with the banana, so I hadn’t been drinking the juice as frequently.

Some evenings, I have a glass of water with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

Other evenings, I have a glass of Kevita, a coconut water based probiotic drink.  (I can’t drink kombucha these days – it causes gas and bloating – but the Kevita doesn’t bother me.)

And sometimes I just have a “shot” of sauerkraut juice….

Well, this one particular evening, I wondered what it would taste like if I just added that sauerkraut shot to the veggie juice….

And damn if it didn’t taste great!

Well, of course, being the clever soul that I am, I had to figure out a name for my new invention – a lovely little probiotic-rich “mocktail.”  (Someone else’s clever name for a non-alcoholic “cocktail.”)

I was wracking my brain, trying to come up with a variation of “Bloody Mary” that wouldn’t be just a copy of “Virgin Mary.”

When Debra, in her quiet, understated brilliance, just chimes in with “Microbe Mary.”  Not quite “Typhoid Mary,” of course, but somehow perfectly appropriate.

Of course I had to share my tasty little combination – to call it a “recipe” seems a bit pretentious, given that it only contains two ingredients – with my dear friend and colleague, Steph Jackson, who is always looking for ways to help us incorporate probiotic-rich foods into our diet.

She told me I had to make a video….

[video_player type=”youtube” width=”560″ height=”315″ align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″]aHR0cHM6Ly95b3V0dS5iZS9QamRUb0NaLUJ2TQ==[/video_player]
So I decided to, um, hijack Debra’s YouTube channel….

Hope you enjoy the takeover!!  And the “Microbe Mary”!

Microbe Mary

Bloody Mary.

(1 serving)

Ingredients

4 oz. vegetable juice blend

3 Tbsp Farmhouse Culture Gut Shot sauerkraut juice

Directions

Combine ingredients in drinking glass, stir and enjoy.

Curried Cabbage

6.7.2016 | 22:47

Iceberg.

Ah, cooked cabbage.  A food I pretty much hated as a child.  I liked coleslaw (Diane didn’t even like that!) well enough, but cooked?  Nope.

Brussels sprouts I was okay with.  So much for food logic.

Brussels sprouts then grew on me after I reached adulthood, and in the past couple of years, I’ve eaten quite a lot of them!

Same with cabbage, especially cooked, to the point that it’s one of my favorites.  I dabbled with making my own sauerkraut a few years ago, but the batches were so big it was hard to eat it all.  The ‘kraut came out really well, though.

Most of us have heard that the cruciferous vegetables are among the healthiest, and I’m always looking for good ways to use them as part of a meal.  (Like the tomato/cauliflower soup from several weeks ago.)

One of my next cooking projects is to look for ways to incorporate various kinds of seaweed into recipes — whether soups, salads or something else.  Stay tuned for that.

Now back to the cabbage.

Steamed, with a little coconut oil is terrific, for something really easy.

But this curried version has a little more kick to it, and a few more steps.  It was inspired by a dish at our local Mediterranean restaurant, and makes a great side dish.

Curried Cabbage

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Ingredients

(serves 4)

1 small to medium head of cabbage (roughly 2 lb.)

1-2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 Tbsp curry powder

1 dash of turmeric (optional)

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin

Directions

Steam cabbage for approximately 15 minutes.  Heat coconut oil in medium skillet/saucepan on medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, transfer cabbage from steamer to skillet.  Add remaining ingredients and stir in to mix evenly.  Continue to stir cabbage occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve with your choice of meat, fish, vegetables, etc.

 

(Sleeping) Beauty & the Beast

4.7.2016 | 22:50

We hear a lot about the importance of sleep and what’s considered good sleep hygiene, so I’m not going to belabor that.

No, what I want to talk about today is some of my sleep experience in recent years.

Sleep.

About 10 years ago, perimenopause hit me.  Hard.  It had been building up for quite some time, but then all of sudden I experienced an impressive menstrual irregularity.  Followed quickly by hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disturbances.

Admittedly, it was the mood swings that had me the most concerned.  But I wasn’t prepared for how hard the sleep thing would hit me.

Night sweats – incredible!  I went from regular sleepwear to … a lot less.

Waking up around 2 or 3 am, and awake for a good couple of hours, before (sometimes) falling back asleep for an hour or two.

Frustration mounted.  (Did I mention mood swings?)

Then Diane suggested I put the time to good use – by going out and walking around the neighborhood.  So I did – 5 am or 5:30 am walks.  I took a flashlight and walking a stick.  The light was so the rare driver could see me, the stick for protection.  I never needed the latter, and as expected there were very few cars out.

That worked well for a number of months, until cold mornings arrived.

It was during this time I started hearing this and that about sleep hygiene – routine bedtime hours, use the bedroom only for sleeping, relaxation/meditation, dark room, etc.

I tried every suggestion I found, and very little worked.  The things that did, didn’t work consistently, or all that well.

In the meantime, I kept hearing about how important sleep is and stressing about how much I wasn’t getting.  Bad cycle, but hard for me to pull out of it.

Dark room – next to impossible to achieve with a lot of ambient light around outside the home.  Room darkening curtains weren’t feasible, and I don’t like them.

Cool the room.  At one point we rented a place where one of the bedrooms was frigid on winter nights.  Diane had been using that room, and after several sleepless nights of her own, Diane begged to swap.  Half the month, I needed pajamas for the first time in a few years.  The other half?  Nope.  Still waking up hot as blazes in the middle of the night.

Domestic Cat.

Keep the pets out of the room.  Has anyone tried that?  If it isn’t one cat howling to be let inside the room, it’s another one who wants to be on whichever side of the door he or she isn’t.

Then I tried an eye mask, instead of the curtains.  Made some progress, though some nights the mask got really warm on my face and I’d end up removing it.  But still, by this point, my sleep had consistently improved.  Some.

One night, some months ago, I experienced some unpleasant GI symptoms and if I was going to get any more sleep, I was going to need to be on my back to be comfortable.  But that had its own challenges, because I was already feeling nauseous.  At the time, I wasn’t using a pillow at all for sleep.  So I went to the sofa and grabbed one of the accent pillows.

I got a little bit more sleep that night.

The surprise came the following night.  Not sure if I’d have any more symptoms, I folded up one of the afghans that was typically on the bed to have it available for my head to rest on and I used it.  Better sleep.  The same thing happened the next night.

So for me, using a pillow again made the most consistent improvement in my sleep!  Go, figure.

I thought the story ended there, and I’ve been holding this post as a possibility for a while.

But, I got another surprise less than a week ago.  On the advice of a colleague, Steph Jackson, I started taking a bifidum-only probiotic supplement at bedtime.  The first night I had the soundest sleep I’d had in several weeks.  Not necessarily MORE sleep, but BETTER sleep.

It happened again the next night.

It’s been happening every night except one, and that’s even with thunderstorms disrupting sleep during the night.

Yeah, what was that about keeping the bedroom quiet?

Bedding.

For more info on serious sleep hygiene, visit here, here or here.