Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eating fresh herbs daily

A couple of days ago, my photo for my #100happydays was of some chives growing in our garden. I love my herb garden.  It is right by my kitchen, so it is easy to nip out there and pull off a few leaves of something or other.

I eat fresh herbs daily and so was interested in some reading I was doing for my studies which was comparing different government food recommendations in different countries.  I was looking at the the New Nordic diet NND which is a gastronomically driven, regional, organic and environmentally friendly diet from Denmark.

The NND was developed by a collaboration led by Rene Redzepi from the world-leading Copenhagen restaurant NOMA.  NOMA held the title of "best restaurant in the world" for 3 years. Shortly after opening NOMA, Rene held a conference with other chefs in Denmark and they collaborated with the University of Copenhagen to create a healthy diet, showcased in the local restaurants that could also be easily used for home cooking.

The NND is based on regional foods in season, with a strong emphasis on palatability, healthiness, and sustainability, while staying in tune with regional food culture and dietary habits.

The basis of the diet is comprised of the following food groups:
  • fruit and vegetables - especially berries, cabbages, root vegetables and legumes
  • potatoes
  • fresh herbs
  • plants and mushrooms gathered/foraged from the wild
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • meats from livestock and game
  • fish and shellfish
  • seaweed
The majority of foods are organically grown and of Nordic origin.

Yes - they include "fresh herbs" as a food group.  I don't believe any other government dietary requirements mentions herbs at all.

Herbs have lots of different effects on the body - with each having their own little "niche" of health benefits, for example oregano has antibacterial and anti fungal effects, thyme and rosemary are both good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, mint helps with digestion,  and basil helps with pain, reduces cholesterol, etc.  So using a variety of fresh herbs as part of your daily diet brings lots of benefits - never mind the flavors they impart.

The research on NND shows that eating this style of eating leads to great health improvements and weight loss, with people eating the food ad libitum - i.e. freely.  The OPUS project is continuing research on the diet.  More information on OPUS and the NND are in these links, including their research with school children.

I have to confess, there is another reason why the NND piqued my interest!  I am going to Copenhagen in May for my husband's birthday celebration.  A couple of weeks ago, I stayed up one night until nearly 2am, and I managed to get a reservation to eat at NOMA while we are there. I am so excited.  I can't wait to eat at such a creative restaurant. They employ two full time "foragers" who go out and forage for the food every day.  Apparently, if a restaurant in Denmark doesn't employ a forager, its not really a "proper" restaurant!!!!!  I love the idea.

So in the meantime, I will continue to eat my home-foraged (!!) herbs daily, until I go to Copenhagen and eat Rene's amazing creations!  

Do you grow fresh herbs? Its something easy we can all do - even if you don't have a garden.  It not only makes food tasty but is good for your health.

Watch this space….you know you'll be hearing more about NOMA and Rene (who is definitely a Great Dane!) and the NND.
Monday, March 24, 2014

Amazon Smile - support your favorite charity

Day 20 of #100happydays is signing up for AmazonSmile.  Have you signed up yet?

I use Amazon for lots of different things but now that I have AmazonSmile, I'm even happier as every time I purchase something, they donate some of that money to Ceres Community Project - the non profit organization I'm involved with in Sonoma.

Amazon Smile is easy. You sign up for it on the regular Amazon page and then it gives you options to search for non-profits in your area or wherever.  You click on the one of your choice and Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your purchases to the charitable organization you chose.  Its automatic once you've signed up.

Yes, 0.5% isn't a huge percentage but the more people who sign up, the more donations.

Some reckon that this kind of system isn't good in the long run as people don't get the "good feel" when a non profit acknowledges your donation, and some may feel this is enough and not contribute in other ways.  Also they feel it is just a good ploy to get more sales for Amazon.

I have a different view. Yes, its not replacing anything that I already do, but its just a little bonus. I also think it teaches people about philanthropy who may not give any other way, but can make a choice on amazon on who to donate to.  I still think I can feel good supporting - albeit in a small way - a local group, via Amazon. What do you think?

Its similar to iGive - which links to 1400 stores, and each store choses the percentage they donate.  Amazon is on that too, giving 0.8%, and the average amount donated by stores is 3%.  Stores include Crate and Barrel, Walgreens, Staples, Best Buy, ToysRUs, Lowes etc.  I signed up with iGive years ago.

I'm all for different ways we can encourage support to non-profits and teach people about philanthropy.
Thursday, March 20, 2014

What is Personalized Nutrition and Functional Medicine?

The Masters program of study I am working on at the moment is Personalized Nutrition and it is grounded in Functional medicine.  I'm often asked what Functional medicine is, so thought I'd take a moment to explain it here.

In functional medicine, we look at the underlying causes of disease, engaging the patient with the practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.  There is a shift from traditional medicine being disease focused to functional medicine which is patient focused, and addresses the whole person, not a set of symptoms.

Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention and treatment of complex and chronic diseases.  So for example, if someone is obese and diabetic, the approach isn't to look at their symptoms and prescribe a diabetic medicine, but rather to go back into their health history and look at what imbalance may have caused this shift.  It could be that a situation years ago affected their microbiota in the gut, which led to obesity; or it could be that they have leaky gut and food sensitivities, and that was the trigger; or there could be a polymorphism; or they could be deficient in certain co-factors (micronutrients or macronutrients) that are needed for chemical reactions in the body.

Another example would be someone who has GERD - or reflux disease and has been given Nexium by their doctor.  For one person, the cause of the GERD could be their diet and eliminating the foods that caused the program can solve it. For another, giving probiotics to adjust the microbiota and nutrients to heal the lining of the gut solved the program.  For a third person, they were actually low on HCl - the acid in the stomach and this was because of a deficiency in zinc, which is involved in forming HCl, so restoring zinc sufficiency, solved the problem.

So personalized nutrition then comes into play in trying to correct the imbalances that are at the root of the cause.   It is personalized because what causes one person to present with symptoms can be very different to what causes those same symptoms in another person. The pathway by which they got there can be completely different.

As you can see from the Institute of Functional Medicine tree, we look at all aspects of a person's life, their stress, relationships, sleep, spirituality etc, as all these can create imbalances in the body. Its not about diagnosing disease, it is about looking at root causes, some of which may have started many years ago.  The approach is evidence based.

It is grounded in nutrition and in fact, their annual conference this year is all about nutrition. Its in San Francisco in May - and nearly sold out, so if you want to know more, take a look.

IFM conference
For me personally, I am not a doctor, but after my program is completed, I can work with clients within my scope of practice to help people nutritionally restore balance and also through my health psychology background.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Quinoa berry bars

As I said in yesterday's blog post, my plan yesterday afternoon was to make some "present glo bars" from Angela Liddon's new cookbook.   But then I realized I didn't have the necessary ingredients so, not to be deterred,  I changed things around a bit - quite a bit, in fact, as I only kept 1 ingredient the same (the pepita seeds!)!  So here are my quinoa (lingon)berry bars, inspired by Angela's recipe.

1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup flaked quinoa
1 cup crisped/puffed quinoa
3/4 cup crisped/puffed rice
1/4 cup pepita seeds
1/4 cup wild lingon berries (or other dried berries)
1/4 cup yacon syrup
1/8 cup date syrup
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup walnut butter

Obviously you can alter the ingredients, use different sweeteners, grains, fruits, nut butters etc and amounts, while keeping ratios similar of wet to dry ingredients.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix.
Heat the syrups and walnut butter and water in a saucepan until just bubbling.
Add the syrup mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Line a square cake pan with parchment paper with enough overlapping so you can lift it out.
Transfer the mixture to the cake pan and spread it out evenly.  Pack down using damp hands or the end of a rolling pin or glass jar so it is firmly packed and even.
Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, uncovered.
Remove and lift out the whole mixture on the parchment paper. Place on a cutting board and cut into 12 bars using a pizza slice or serrated knife.
Wrap the bars and store in an airtight containers in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for 1 month.

They are a nice crispy crunch.  Make sure you squash them down well so they hold together.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New favorite cookbook - Oh She Glows

Photo Credit: Angela Liddon
My new favorite cookbook - The Oh She Glows Cookbook - is definitely helping me have 100 happy days.  I'll count it today as my Day 14 of #100happydays - but truly, I could count it for just about everyday.

The cookbook only came out this month and I had pre-ordered.  Its just a lovely book.  It is vegan but I think it has an appeal to everyone. The dishes are delish and will suit all palates.

First off though, it looks like a "proper" cookbook.  So often vegan or  plant based cookbooks aren't so appealing in their layout and design but this one is beautiful with gorgeous photos of every dish.

I started flipping through the pages and adding stickers to the recipes I wanted to try - but quickly ran out of stickers! It would have been easier to mark the couple that didn't appeal to me!

There are more than 100 recipes, 90 of which are gluten free. They are higher in sweeteners and oil than I typically use, but easily adaptable to reducing those levels if you so wish.  There are considerations for other food allergies too, with soy free, grain free, and nut free recipes as well.

I've really enjoyed cooking from the book. We had friends stay the weekend so I made the ultimate nutty granola clusters and they were a huge hit.

Other dishes I have tried include:

  • raw buckwheat breakfast porridge
  • taco fiesta potato crisps - with walnut taco meat
  • chakra caesar salad with nutty herb croutons
  • perfect kale chips
  • lightened-up crispy baked fries

and today I'm giving the "present glo bars" a try.  I'll let you know how they turn out.
Photo credit: Angela Liddon
Walnut, avocado and pear salad with marinated portobello caps and red onion
I highly recommend this book - for vegans, vegetarians, omnivores or whatever.  It'll make you happy.
Here's the link to it on Amazon

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#100happydays - Berr-i-licious delight

Day 7 of my 100 happy days - and this berr-i-licious delight smoothie made me happy.

No veggies in this one, just crammed with berries. We should try and eat berries everyday as they are highly nutritious fruits, lower in sugar and packed full of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients and plenty of fiber too.

Here's the recipe: Serves 2
2 cups almond milk
4 tablespoon flax seed ( use ground flax seed if you don't have a powerful blender)
2 scoops of probiotic powder
1 tablespoon organic rose hip powder
3/4 cup organic raspberries
1/4 cup dried wild lingonberries.

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Friday, March 7, 2014

#100happydays - Creamy Dreamy Greeny Smoothie

Today is day 3 of my #100happydays.  And the day started out happy with a creamy dreamy greeny smoothie!  Packed with lots of nutrients, it set my day off to a good start.

Here is the recipe:
1 cup almond milk
1 cup baby spinach or kale
1/2 banana
1 tablespoon walnut butter
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Scoop of probiotic powder
1/2 lemon

Just put it all in the blender and blended until smooth and creamy dreamy!

The lemon is all the lemon - rind, juice, pulp. Just cut the lemon in half and add it.

There are more scientific studies on the healing powers of Turmeric than any other food.  It's good to start off smoothies with 1/2 teaspoon, but as you get used to the taste, you can increase the level of turmeric.  Studies show powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

The leafy greens provide good phytonutrients and if you use kale, you get the benefits of cruciferous vegetables which help in detoxifying the body every day.

The flax and walnut butter provide a good source of omega 3 fatty acids - essential fats that we need in our diet for reducing inflammation and improving brain function.  This smoothie gives you more than 3g omega 3 fatty acids. In addition,  the flax is a good source of fiber and lignans.  The smoothie gives you 9g of fiber.

And the probiotic supports our gut health which is so key to our whole health.  I use Custom probiotics powder.

So start your day off green and maybe that will color your whole day :-D
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

100 days of happiness - or how to feel tickety-boo

Today marks the start of Lent.   Traditionally in my family, Lent marked the time when we decided to  give up something "bad" for 40 days (until Easter), like chocolate or alcohol or cakes or…..  Some of the things I gave up for lent in the past I've never started again - like milk in my coffee.  Others, it just lasted (barely) for those 40 days -  like chocolate - which always seems to want to come back.

Occasionally, instead of giving up something "bad" for lent, we would take up something good instead.  And that's what I'm doing this year - along with my sister.  Maybe we can persuade our parents to join us too this year?????

My sister, Mary gave me the idea.  We are starting "100 days of happiness".  The first 40 days will be our lent "take up something good" commitment.


The idea is that every day for 100 days you take a photo of something that made you happy that day. It can be anything - big or small. … from a photo of a person that you had lunch with, to a photo of a comfy cushion that you relaxed on when you got home after a busy day…... Just something that made you happy.  You can chose to share your photos however you want or not at all. Mary and I are going to post ours on Facebook so I may include them here, as my blog posts on Facebook.

The philosophy behind 100 days of happiness is one that I live by:   - you get more of what you focus on.  By focussing on good things in the day, you notice more good things.  Its one of the key ideas behind feeling tickety-boo!  Not everything needs to be perfect but by focussing on the good things, you can feel happy and tickety-boo.

So will you join me?  Can you spare a couple of minutes a day to focus on something that made you happy?  It doesn't matter if Lent means nothing to you, why not start 100 days of happiness with us now.  You can sign up at the link and lets share some joy. Lets be happy together for 100 days…and more.

Be Happy!
Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pancake Day!

Today is Shrove Tuesday - or Pancake day in the UK.  I remember us having pancakes at home when I was a kid every Shrove Tuesday. The idea about Shrove Tuesday and pancakes was to use up perishables like eggs and milk before lent began - a time of fasting.  My mum would make pancakes and put lemon juice and sugar on them.  It was always fun to watch her - or try myself, to flip them.

Then we had the Dad making pancakes day one time…can't remember if that was Shrove Tuesday or another day, but sadly, he mistakenly used salt instead of the sugar :-(  Poor Dad.  He was so annoyed with himself. Lovely wafer thin pancakes dredged in salt and lemon!!!

I love pancakes - but in the US pancakes aren't pancakes!  Here you have to talk about crepes if you are meaning pancakes.  In the US, pancakes are small and thick and you don't put anything inside them because you can't fold them so there is no inside!

With this in mind, you may be surprised to see an American pancake recipe here, instead of a crepe!  But it all started with a banana.

We had this banana that just looked so pretty. It's little brown spots were just perfect.  I normally like more of an unripe banana but this one caught my eye and just looked so attractive that I told my hubby I would have it for breakfast the next day and he could start on the new less ripe ones.

And so I woke up to my pretty banana and decided to make banana pancakes!  No flour. No eggs or milk getting used up either…!!

Here's the recipe: Makes 8 (US) pancakes

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground flax
3 tablespoons water
1 banana
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Process the cashews in a food processor. (If you want smooth pancakes, process until well ground. I actually like the texture so I just pulsed it a few times.) Add the remaining ingredients and process to combine.

As you will see from the photos, I cooked my pancakes on the simmering plate of the Aga (my cooker) on a non-stick sheet so I didn't need any oil. If you don't have an Aga - you'll need a little coconut oil in a frying pan and then add the batter…cook for a couple of minutes and then flip and continue cooking.

Yes - very vague directions but you've probably cooked more American pancakes than I have!!!

They are sweet from the banana so I didn't drizzle anything on them and added nothing to them. They were just yummy banana pancakes! Perfect for pancake day :-D  They aren't as firm as American pancakes made with flour but I think you'll like their taste.

Vegan, gluten free, no added oil for us Aga owners, no added sugar, grain free, Paleo,……….  AKA yummy squidgy banana pancakes!

Here are the nutrition facts for 4 pancakes (half of the recipe)
Monday, March 3, 2014

11 years in California

Today marks our 11th year since moving to California. We arrived on the auspicious date of 03/03/03.

We had driven over from Sanibel Island, Florida where we had been living.   Little Harold, our parrot does not like his travel cage so after days of being in the car, he was very happy to not have to hold on tight all the time, and be able to sit on top of his travel cage, instead of inside.  But sadly, his big cage wasn't there yet - as it had yet to arrive with all our furniture.

That first night, we planned on sleeping on the window seats.  However, as soon as we arrived, one of our neighbors called round and offered that we stay with them the night. They had never met us before, didn't know anything about us, yet still offered us their home. We knew right there and then that we were going to enjoy our home in Glen Ellen.  We actually ended up on the window seats as I'd had it in mind as part of our little adventure and it meant we would also be there with Harold!

11 years on and we still love the place.  It was just a few months later that we named it Birdland for all the birds that visit and live here with us.   The photos here are just a snapshot of our Birdland this morning - wonderful hooded mergansers in the pond.

……...and not forgetting Harold who is very chatty today.  Probably still happy to be out of his travel cage!!!

Yeah for Glen Ellen and Calfornia and all the birds at Birdland!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Two-minute fruit snack bar

This afternoon, I wanted a cookie or something sweet to go with my cup of hibiscus tea, but the cupboard was bare!

And my hubby had already made my tea so it had to be fast!  What could I do?

I decided on some 2-minute bars. It took 2 minutes to whizz some fruits and nuts in the food processor. Then I quickly cooled them. You can use the fridge, but as I was in a hurry, I popped them in the freezer, so it only added 5 minutes. They were done and ready while my tea was still brewing! Perfect timing :=D

They are one of those flexible recipes that you can swap and change.  Here is what I planned to use and then I'll tell you how I swapped it up with what was in the cupboard:

In a food processor, combine:

1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 cup dried (unsulfured) apricots
1 cup dried coconut
2 tablespoons lemon juice

until they come together.  If it is too dry (depends on how dry your dried fruit is) add a little more lemon juice. The "dough" should start to go in one clump around the food processor, but it takes a couple of minutes.

Press the dough into a parchment lined square baking tin or roll into small balls.  Chill to firm up either in the fridge or if you are in a hurry like me, just a few minutes in the freezer!  Cut into 12 bars or eat as fruit balls.

My adjustments:  I didn't quite have enough almonds so I used just over a cup of almond flour and made up the rest with Chestnut flour. I didn't quite have enough apricots either, so about 1/4 cup was prunes. The coconut I had was the wide sliced, flaked, not finely shredded.  The lemon juice was actually lemon juice!!!  Next time, I'm going to try hemp seeds instead of the coconut.

Its good to use unsulfured dried apricots, as although they aren't quite as pretty as they are brown instead of orange, sulfites can cause adverse reactions in 1out of 100 people.  This can be particularly serious in people with asthma. In a recipe like this, you don't even miss the orange color, so purchase organic dried apricots and they won't have any sulphites in them.

A quick sweet bite that is very satisfying and you don't need too much.
Saturday, March 1, 2014

Showing up

I've hardly written any blog posts this year.  Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn't.  Its been on my mind a lot and I've thought of different reasons about why I haven't: taking a break; don't know what direction I'm going; what should I write about; I need to change things up somewhat, etc.

But the real reason is because life has changed this year.   Last August I wrote a blog post about the Prochaska stages of change.  Knowing the different stages can help you recognize why you haven't quite got where you want to be.

Here's a reminder of the 6 stages:

1. Pre-contemplation - no intention to change in the unforeseeable future
2. Contemplation - seriously thinking of change; some ambivalence
3. Preparation - intending to act in the next month; reduced ambivalence and exploration of options
4. Action - taking action through modification of behavior, experiences and environment
5. Maintenance - work to prevent relapse and consolidate gain
6. Relapse - a recurrence of the undesired behavior or elimination of a desired behavior.

Looking at the stages, since January I've definitely been in action mode.  There was no thinking about it. That was all done last year. Its all action stations. But its not been easy to modify my environment and behavior and decide what I can keep doing and what I can't do.

The two big changes this year are that I've gone back to studying and am doing another Master's degree program in Personalised Nutrition.  Also, I've started working for Ceres in Sonoma as their client manager.  I've been a volunteer liaison for Ceres in Sebastopol for 3 years now and they've just started their own satellite office in Sonoma. Its a lovely role to take on but the reality is quite different from my expectation.

The studying in particular is taking up much more time than I imagined.  So there are lots of adjustments.

But I've missed my blog and missed it as a way of connecting with you.  So I'm going to try the "showing up"  tactic for a while and see how it goes.   I remember when I first started blogging for my jewelry business in 2008….. I had no idea about blogging  and how to start, but I just showed up and tried to write.  That's where I am again now.  I'm going to try showing up more often again and see where it takes us.

What about you?  Is there something that you are trying by just committing to showing up?  Let me know and we can support each other.

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