Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Strategies for making diet and lifestyle changes: When in doubt, throw it out

How did you get on last week in finding daily motivations for change? Did you spend a little time writing out your "advantages" card which tell of the advantages of making changes in your lifestyle and diet?  I hope you did and didn't let that sabotaging voice in your head stop you from doing it.

This week we are going to look at preparing your home for diet change. Its time to get organized. The state of your kitchen can influence how your follow your diet or lifestyle chosen plan. If these rooms are messy and disorganized, it can make you feel out of control and less confident.

So spend a little time organizing your food space.  If you have food items in your cupboard or fridge that aren't on your current eating plan - just throw them out.  You may hear a voice in your head saying
I don't want to throw away food. It's a waste of money.

But the money is already gone so don't add to the waste by wasting calories on bad food.  If the food isn't in your current eating plan, eating it means you waste the food in your body. Your body doesn't need that food and the likelihood is that it doesn't contain good nutrients for healing and health.  So in my reckoning, I'd prefer to see it as a waste of money and thrown in the trash instead of a waste in my body.  Let the garbage have the waste instead of my body.  I want to focus on putting food in my body that is healing and nourishing.  Not waste.

See if you can spend sometime in your kitchen and reorganize.  Throw out those foods that aren't nourishing for our bodies.  Get rid of that processed food. You can do it and then you'll feel more empowered to stick to your plan.

If you look at something and aren't sure if you want to keep it or throw it - remember
When in doubt, throw it out
You want to put good nourishing foods in your body, not waste.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Harvest continues

The yum continues!  This has been a fabulous month for our home grown fruit and vegetables.

Delicious juicy nectarines!
Top of the list this month has to be our nectarines.  They are large and juicy and picking one perfectly ripe from the tree and enjoying its flavor is like a slice of heaven.  It feels like such a luxury to eat perfection twice a day!

But that doesn't take anything away from all our other goodies.

This month - in fact this evening- we've polished off the apricots.  We've enjoyed them most of all cooked with a little water and a single cardamom pod (removed before eating) and some cinnamon and cloves. The spices complement the fruit so nicely.  I was amazed at how the cardamom brought all the flavors together.

The tomatoes are coming along well now.  Here they are prepared with some fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and Kite Hill Cassucio cheese which is a non dairy, vegan cheese made using traditional cheese making techniques, but using almonds and macadamia nuts.

Yes, our new collapsible bucket came out again for the harvest and was quickly filled up!

But I'm sad to say that our one failing this month was the padrone peppers. We had been enjoying them so much but couldn't keep up and have now learned our lesson. If you let them grow large, their heat grows exponentially!  I prepared one each for us to top a yummy mushroom risotto when my friend was here for  the weekend. I was the first to taste it - and gosh - was it powerful! To think that when they are small, they are quite delicate and you can eat them whole, seeds included.  Be warned - at 3 inches long - don't try eating them at all! Phew!

Yes, the red cabbage, purple potatoes and cucumber also continue. How many rainbows can two people eat????

Roll on August and lets see what yummies that brings. What's been your favorite this month?
Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Power foods for the brain

This week's book for my review is by Dr Neal Barnard and is entitled: Power Foods for the Brain: an effective 3-step plan to protect your mind and strengthen your memory.

The book is about how you can use foods to protect your brain and optimize its function and even reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease, stroke, general cognitive decline,  and other less serious disorders such as low energy, poor sleep patterns, irritability and lack of focus.

Dr Neal Barnard is President of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is a non-profit organization involved in promoting preventive medicine and responsible research in medicine.

He has written many other books : Neal Barnard Amazon Book list, many of which I have read.  Power Food for the brain is his most recent, just out this year.

The book clearly takes you through a 3 step program to protect your brain:

Step 1 deals with what foods are "power foods" for your brain - which can shield you from toxic metals, which can protect you from harmful fats.  It also tells you which foods you should avoid.

Step 2 looks at how you can strengthen your brain through exercise - both cognitive exercises and also physical exercises.

Step 3 shows you tips on how to improve your memory while you sleep and goes over which medicines and health conditions affect memory.

A final section then helps you put all this into practice and includes some menus and recipes, written by Christine Walternyer and Jason Wyrick.

Dr Barnard has a great way of providing clear and easy to understand information, all based on plenty of scientific research. I've attended several of his lectures in the past and he is a great educator. This comes over in this book. As does his sense of humor.  His use of analogies really helps get the information across to the reader.

Dr Barnard advocates a plant-based diet and offers the evidence behind this - but also demonstrates the real power of good nutrition.

Here's a short video of Dr Barnard on the Ellen DeGeneres Show discussing Power Foods
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

It shows you what an approachable guy Dr Barnard is. You'll find lots of other videos of his online - so have a search and learn more!

This is a great book. If you are beginning to notice some cognitive decline, get a copy and even if you don't do his whole program, you'll find lots of little tips for improvement.
Friday, July 26, 2013

Kitchen tools - four way timer

When I teach my cooking and nutrition classes,  a frequent question asked is "what is my favorite gadget or kitchen tool?"

I don't hesitate in my reply.  However, my response isn't what they expect - some cool, unusual tool that does something fancy and clever.  No, my favorite tool has to be my kitchen timer.

It is definitely my favorite because without it, I'd hardly cook anything successfully!  I'm one of those people who becomes very focussed on what she is doing.  So if I've put something in the oven for 20 minutes or so, I then move onto doing something else and my attention has a new focus.  Then suddenly a bell rings and I'm reminded that something else is going on!

I can't tell you how many meals or dishes I'd have ruined without a kitchen timer. Every time something goes in the oven I know I have to use the timer. That's just the way I am!

But in a way, my timer isn't just a basic timer.  It is a four way timer, meaning that I can time 4 different things at 4 different times.  This is really useful in classes when 8 people are cooking different things.  I assign them a number and when the timer buzzes, I just read out the number on the timer and they know who its ringing for.

Surprisingly, I also use all four timers just when I'm cooking alone too.  I love multi-tasking and if I'm cooking, I can be doing lots of cooking.  So then the only tricky bit is my trying to remember which dish is timer 1 and which is 2 and 3, 4!!!  My mum bought me this timer a few years ago in England.  Good choice mum!

I do actually have another timer  - but he just sits in the drawer.  Here he is:

This duck timer was bought for me for Xmas by my hubby.  When the time is ready, he quacks. The only problem is, he quacks randomly also.  He sits happily in the drawer and all of the sudden, nothing has happened, but we hear this quacking noise!  He does 3 or 4 quacks and then shuts up for a couple of days, and then starts again!

He's not a great timer and my husband has suggested throwing him away - but I feel there is this sort of life to him and it seems too mean to throw him!  Also, it brings a smile to your face when you suddenly hear this quack, out of the blue!

What's your favorite kitchen gadget? Is it fancy or is it just a life saver?  Do tell.
Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vegan gluten free scone recipe

In my book club this month, the chosen book was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I'd never read any Daphne Du Maurier books before but really got into Rebecca and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The person hosting our discussion decided, true to the book, that she would put on an English tea with scones - as Mr and Mrs de Winter had every day at Manderley, in the book.

As I need gluten free food and don't eat animal foods or sugar, I offered to make my own scone - rather than have her make something special for me. I've actually never made gluten free scones before, never mind vegan gluten free scones, so it seemed like a good challenge.

And I've had some success.  I did actually use a little fat in the recipe. Normally I bake without oil but I was changing so many things in a recipe that I left in the fat.

The scones have a wonderful texture to them and taste just like a good scone should.

They didn't rise in the oven however and didn't brown on top as you would expect from a traditional scone but I rolled them thick so they didn't look flat - and the taste more than made up for lack of browning.

I had them with homemade sugar free plum chia jam.  Delicious.

Here's the recipe: Makes 6
150 ml non dairy milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
270g gluten free flour mix
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp vegan margarine (I used earth balance)
25g raisins
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 425F or 220C.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
2. Add the vinegar to the milk and let sit.
3. Sieve the flour into a bowl and stir in the baking powder.
4. Rub in the margarine with your fingers until fully incorporated.
5. Stir in the sugar and raisins.
6. Add nearly all the milk solution and bring the mixture together with your hands to form a soft dough. Don't over work.
7. If necessary add the remaining milk to bind it all together.
8. Roll out gently on a floured board to a thickness of about 1 inch.
9. Cut out the dough with a pastry cutter and place the scones on the baking tray.
10. Reroll the dough scraps as needed to use it all up.
11. Bake the scones for around 20 minutes.
12. Leave to cool and enjoy with sugar free jam and coconut cream, if desired.

They are best eaten the same day that you make them. I will be trying the recipe again, without the fat and will let you know how I get on. I think I'll do savory scones next too.....with some nutritional yeast in them to give a cheesy flavor.

I hope Mrs de Winters would be satisfied and wouldn't return them to the kitchen!  I think she'd enjoy them, like I have!
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Strategies for making diet and lifestyle changes: Part 1. Motivate yourself daily

This is the first of a series of blog posts about different strategies that will help you make changes to your diet and lifestyle.  While we may have a diet all planned out, the kitchen stocked and know what we should be doing, sometimes our head gets in the way and the thoughts we have can sabotage our plans. So each week, we'll look at a different strategy for coping with changes.  We'll try and figure out what to say to ourselves, when we have sabotaging, unhelpful thoughts.

To start off, we'll look today at how to motivate yourself daily.  You can start using this even before you make any diet and lifestyle changes.  Its all about reminding yourself of why you want to lose weight or increase exercise or stop smoking/drinking or.....whatever change you are contemplating.

Maybe you are thinking that you don't need reminding - you'll always remember.   But that's not always the case when temptation arises or you start thinking the following kind of thoughts:

  • it's okay if I eat this
  • it doesn't really matter
  • I've been good all day
  • Just a little bit
  • It's too hard to resist
  • Just a little taste
  • I deserve it
  • Everyone else is eating it
To combat these thoughts or visual temptations, you need to have a written compelling list of reasons as to why you are making these changes.  And then you need to read this list regularly several times each day.

Examples of reasons or the advantages these changes will make in your life could be:
  • losing weight will improve my self confidence
  • I'll feel much more at ease with my partner if I lose some weight
  • I'll be able to join in family activities better without getting puffed and exhausted so quickly
  • I'll be proud of myself for my achievement
  • I can bend down without groaning
  • My health will improve
  • I'll be able to get off/reduce my medication
  • I'll look better
  • I'll feel better about myself
  • I won't have to worry about diabetes
  • I'll be able to go up the steps
  • I won't feel self conscious when I go into a room of strangers
  • I'll enjoy shopping for clothes
  • I can wear more fashionable clothes
  • My husband will stop nagging me
Whatever your reasons are for making the changes you want to make, write them out on one or more index cards. List them all.  Using an index card means that they are all listed on something small enough that you can carry with you. You can put it in a pocket, or a purse or handbag.  

When you've done this - read the card every morning before you have breakfast to create a reminder for the day ahead.  As you read them, think about achieving every advantage. Reading actually makes you reflect more, rather than just recalling them in your head - so take that minute or two and read through each one.  If other advantages occur to you, add them to the list as the days go by.

Now you need to read them again at least once or twice during the day, so consider putting reminders like a sticky note in the kitchen or bathroom or in the car, saying something like "take 30 seconds".  This will act as your reminder to read the list again, and reinforce your motivations. 

You may find yourself resisting reading the cards, but use those reminders and take those few seconds, as the more you do it, not only do you continue to motivate yourself, but you will also build your self-discipline. Go find some index cards now and start writing your "Advantages Card".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July Harvest

I bought my husband a new collapsible bucket this week.  I know - how romantic can I get?  I was really tempted with the lime green one - but that is my favorite color, so I got him the blue one - as that's his favorite color! Only seemed right!!

The reason for the purchase - (in addition to my loving him :-D) - was that we do a lot of harvesting of fruits and veggies in our garden,  and we have big things to collect fruit in but not really anything nice for smaller harvests.  So if we are picking a whole tree of apples, that's fine - or 12 trees of olives or loads of problem but just a few items tended to go in a horrid old red bucket.  But no longer!

The new collapsible blue bucket  now comes to the rescue and it got its first use this week! And it did a fine job.

We put in some:
padrone peppers - these are my 2013 new favorite food
green figs
black figs
peaches and

What a colorful harvest.

I'm so happy to have an early fig harvest this year. Some years we only get them in the fall but we've had quite a few July figs this year and it looks like an amazing number will ripen for the fall.  We will definitely be figged out! Glad family will be staying with us to help us out.

What did you harvest this week?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: The Vegan Cheat Sheet

This week's book review is for a book just out this past week: The Vegan Cheat Sheet by Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey.

It is described as
a take-anywhere resource that puts all the essential information about eating vegan at your fingertips.
Basically it teaches you how to become vegan by offering:

  • information on myths vs truth about vegan lifestyle
  • describes what foods to eat and which to avoid
  • reasons to go vegan
  • vegan replacements
  • shopping lists to stock your cupboard
  • recipes
  • a 21 day vegan program with meal plans
  • how to eat out  - including restaurant guides
and more!

Authors Amy and Lisa
I like the book.  It's one I would recommend to my students and is ideal for someone wanting to move into a vegan lifestyle.  It covers all the basics. 

The recipes are easy and relatively quick.  Nothing fancy but there were quite a few that I marked and may make, like chana masala, mushroom risotto, creamy corn chowder.  Throughout all the recipes, they don't use any added oil - which is how I cook too.

The book isn't gluten free but you can make the usual gluten free substitutions to the recipes. 

I'm never sure about the 21 day people really want every meal laid out for them for 3 weeks??  Maybe they do, or maybe they are just examples to play with.

The "Party" chapter was a good one -  where they group together different recipes that would work well for a gathering.  For example, for a 'French gourmet' evening, they suggest their recipes for white bean pate, cassoulet, mushroom risotto, ratatouille followed by chocolate mousse.  For 'Passage to India' there is curried butternut squash soup, chana masala, saag paneer, brown rice, whole-wheat pita bread and chia pudding.

Like last week's book, this was a quick read.  It's a nice introduction to starting a vegan lifestyle and covers all the bases.  And its written in a friendly accessible style.
Saturday, July 20, 2013

When I'm feeling blue.....

Snoopy always knows what to do.
Friday, July 19, 2013

Kitchen tools - Lekue steamer

The latest addition to my kitchen is a Lekue steamer.  Its a Danish design and I'm loving it!  I've never done much steaming - but in this past week, that's changed. I think I've done some every night.

The only problem is that I have steamed food and then eaten it and forgotten to take any blog worthy photos.

Who knew how tasty steamed food, picked straight from your garden, could be?  Well, maybe loads of people - but I've only just found out.

It seems my favorite is steamed potatoes and steamed broccoli.  Even my husband loves the steamed broccoli.  Neither of us thought he'd eat it but I put it on his plate -and he more than ate it - he enjoyed it!!

And the steamed potatoes?  Amazing.  I LOVE steamed potatoes. Dig them out of the ground, wash them, cut them up, steam for 6 minutes.  It cooks them so beautifully - really evenly cooked throughout.

Anyhow - enough drooling. Onto the Lekue.  It's a silicone piece of cookware and I bought the bright lime green one - as that's my favorite color. It also comes in white and red.  The one I bought was for 3-4 people.  It really shouldn't be labelled 3 -4 people. Not if you are a big veggie eater like me.   I can't imagine the 1 - 2 person size. You could hardly fit anything into it.

So go for the large size.

You put 2 tablespoons of water in the bottom and then add the little tray.  Add the food. Close it up and now you can steam it in the microwave or in the oven.  Perfect!

Open it up carefully so you don't scald yourself and your food will be perfectly steamed and delicious and nutritious.

I've done apples in it too and lots of different vegetables.  I can't believe its taken me all these years to get into steaming. But Lekue has done it!  I wonder what tonight will bring?????

My new kitchen tool of the week.
Thursday, July 18, 2013

Healthy fudge recipe

If you are fancying a tasty treat, or want to make a healthy gift for a friend's birthday, try this healthy walnut fudge recipe.

Don't be put off by the ingredients - yes, it has black beans in it.  You don't taste them at all - and they provide a nice texture and great fiber in a treat.

Here is the recipe:
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 banana, cut in slices
1/2 cup raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup pitted dates
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup ground rolled oats/oat flour (grind rolled oats in coffee grinder or food processor)
2 tbs ground flax seeds
2 tbs chia seeds

Ground walnuts (ground in a coffee grinder or food processor)

Combine all the ingredients, except the ground walnuts, in a food processor and blend well until thoroughly mixed and a dough is formed.

Divide the mixture into 2 and from two long logs of dough on a board.

Roll each log in the ground walnuts to cover completely and as rolling, shape nicely.

Use a sharp knife to cut the logs into discs/rounds.  Store in the fridge and enjoy!

The recipe was inspired by Including Cake. It's a wonderful vegan fudge recipe with fruit, beans, no added sugar or oil, no dairy, and a good source of omega 3 plants based fats from flax and chia seeds.  They also add to the fiber content too.  In the photos, one fudge log was rolled in dessicated coconut and the other log in ground walnuts. I liked the walnut ones better than the coconut ones.  The coconut seemed to be a little overpowering and took away from the fudge, in my opinion.  You could try other ground/finely chopped ingredients too.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Prevention Poem

Are you waiting to rely on the ambulance or putting up a fence today for your health?

A fence or an ambulance

A Fence or an Ambulance
Joseph Malins (1844 – 1926)
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
“For the cliff is all right, if your careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”
But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Love yourself - like your life depends on it

I am restructuring my blog posts here, to have more regular weekly posts.  Part of my plan is that each Monday ( or maybe that is most Mondays!) I will do a book review.  I read so many books, so I thought I'd let you know those books - ( both books to read and cookbooks) - that I recommend and those I don't.

This week, the book is "Love yourself - like your life depends on it" by Kamal Ravikant.

It's a small book - something you can read in one sitting. Only 50 or so pages.  Quick and to the point. Kamal doesn't waste your time with lots of words.

The book briefly describes how Kamal transitioned from sickness to health by learning to love himself.  At his lowest, he was miserable and couldn't get out of bed.  He reached what he felt was his breaking point and made the following vow to himself:

This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply - in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF"

He then discusses how he went about this and gives a few techniques and practices on how to try this for yourself, such as a daily 7 minute meditation - the 7 minutes is how long his favorite piece of music was, so he'd play it and use that time to meditate. Another 5 minute meditation involves you looking at yourself in the mirror.

If you are feeling down on yourself, lacking confidence or self esteem - this short book may just help with its straight forward, no mess simple concepts. While you may not love yourself to start with, these exercises can help - and are quick.  We love others around us unconditionally - so why not love ourselves?

However, as Kamal reminds us, this is a practice.  You don't go to the gym once and think you are fit - you keep going.  Similarly, we need to keep working at loving ourselves.

Love yourself available at Amazon.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Small things

I need reminding of this....maybe you do too. We don't need to look for great things...just little things make a difference too.
Friday, July 5, 2013

Red cabbage or Pink cabbage

We harvested our first red cabbage this week!  Look what a pretty cabbage it is.  But it's definitely a pink cabbage, not a red cabbage.  Who ever named them red cabbages?  Pretty, pretty pink! Or is it purple? or Magenta? Or Fuchsia? Or violet? or.....

I made a coleslaw, of course - as we eat a lot of coleslaw in this household.

Along with the "pink" cabbage there are:

  • spring onions/scallions
  • sugar snap peas
  • raisins
  • carrots
and a dijon mustard  fat free dressing.

It was delicious as well as colorful!

Today  I used the coleslaw in coleslaw tacos, topped with hemp seeds.  

So what color was the last "red" cabbage you ate? Red? Pink? Purple?

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, and the red/pink color shows its full of anthocyanins, which are anti-oxidants and also anti-inflammatory. Cabbage also has anti-cancer activity, but it's consuming a variety of vegetables that has the most health shown in this video:

So don't forget to eat a rainbow a day

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