Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I love pumpkins!

I love the time of year pumpkins are harvested, I love the color of pumpkins, I love roasted pumpkin seeds, I love pumpkin pie, I love pumpkin spice lattes, and most recently I love pumpkin sausage soup. This year was our first trip to the pumpkin patch with our toddler. He was very excited to go out to the field and pick out a pumpkin, until he discovered the tractor drawn hayride. Then it was all about the tractor. We waited in line then rode the tractor out to the field, as soon as we got off the tractor he asked for more tractor. I told him we first had to pick out some pumpkins then we would get back on the tractor. He looked around pointed to the nearest pumpkin and said, "That one. More tractor?" Well it wasn't very pretty and the hayride was full for its return trip so we urged him on deeper into the pumpkin field to find the best pumpkins. In the end we got some nice pumpkins and he got two tractor rides out of the deal.

The recipe I want to share today is my new favorite, Pumpkin Sausage Soup. I was looking for recipes that would be easy to freeze and found a few websites listing pumpkin sausage soup. This one is my favorite because the only dairy it has is from the butter which could be easily replaced with olive oil. The creaminess comes from adding coconut milk at the end. Another thing this recipe gave me was the courage to find a way to use mushrooms so that I don't have to feel the texture in my mouth, I only get to experience the dimension of flavor they add. Instead of cooking the mushrooms whole I chopped them up in my food processor first then cooked them. When stirred into the soup and mixed amongst sausage and onions I didn't even notice them.

Bon Appetite!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Punkin'!

This time of year, it's all about pumpkins. First we carved our jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and now, we're getting ready for my personal favorite form of pumpkin: pie! Nothing beats a slice of pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream…for breakfast! This year, I'm hosting Thanksgiving for a dozen people and Wednesday I'm going to be baking pies—Polynesian pumpkin pies to be exact. I found this recipe several years ago when faced with the task of making dairy-free pumpkin pie (I have several friends--including Chef Brett--and family members who don't tolerate dairy and it really doesn't get along with me too well, either) and I prefer it to the pumpkin pie I used to make (the recipe on the back of Libby's canned pumpkin). Two years ago I won a pie contest with this pie—I served it topped with whipped cream flavored with a dash of spiked rum and some minced crystallized ginger. My other favorite way to enjoy pumpkin I discovered last year—a friend passed on a recipe for pumpkin pancakes that rapidly became a favorite: they taste like pumpkin pie and you get to smother them in maple syrup! I served them Christmas morning last year, with scrambled eggs and bacon on the side. I'll share both recipes at the end of this post.

Pumpkin is loaded with nutrition. The flesh is high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A, which is important for skin integrity and eye health, helps protect against cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Vitamin A is used to make secretory IgA, the major immune globulin on mucus membranes—basically, vitamin A can boosts our immune defenses on all the inner surfaces of our bodies. So, pumpkin is a great thing to be munching on this time of year! Pumpkin seeds are also great for us: they are high in protein and zinc. Zinc is an immune-boosting nutrient as well—it can shorten the symptoms and decrease the severity of cold symptoms. Zinc is necessary for collagen synthesis making it an important nutrient for skin health, wound healing, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. For men, zinc is essential for the production of fertile sperm and is protective to the prostate gland. Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all it takes! For more health benefits of pumpkin, see my post from last Thanksgiving.

So, enjoy your pumpkins this fall! Happy Thanksgiving!

Polynesian Pumpkin Pie

1 partially baked 9 ½ - 10" pie shell (see below for recipe or use whatever crust you like)
3 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup agave nectar
1 ½ cups coconut milk (do not use light or cream of coco)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (I use one 14 oz can)
1 Tbsp rum (I use either Meyer's dark rum or a spiced rum—substitute with 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract if preferred)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
dash ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and agave nectar. Stir in the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, and rum. Add salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and mix until incorporated. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 1 hour or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream (flavored with rum if you like, or skip or use a non-dairy option for those who can't do dairy) and minced crystallized ginger, if desired.

Pat-in-the-Pan Crust (original and dairy-free)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (sub all or part with whole wheat pastry flour, or use a gluten-free flour mix)
½ tsp salt
10 Tbsp unfiltered coconut oil (original recipe: 10 Tbsp butter at room temperature)
3-4 Tbsp coconut milk (original recipe: 3-4 Tbsp heavy cream)

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl or process for 10 seconds. Add coconut oil divided into small pieces and mash with a fork or process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle coconut milk over the top and stir or process until crumbs look damp and hold together when pinched. Transfer mixture to a 10 inch pie pan and pat evenly over bottom and sides with your fingers. Flute or crimp the crust edge. Prick bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Bake 10-22 minutes until golden brown, checking during cooking for bubbles (prick with a fork to pop or use pie weights). If you like a crispy crust, brush with a beaten egg and cook 1-2 minutes longer to set glaze.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour, but I don't have any)
¾ cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar (or other natural sweetener of choice)
4 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves (this isn't in the original recipe, but I love the flavor so I add it)
4 eggs
3 ¾ cups buttermilk
1 ½ cups canned pumpkin (I use one 14oz can)
½ cup melted butter (1 stick)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs then add the buttermilk, pumpkin, and melted butter—stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. Allow the batter to rest for 15-30 minutes. Heat a griddle over medium heat until a small amount of cold water dropped on its surface rolls off in drops. If necessary, lightly grease the griddle. Use a ½ or 1/3 cup measuring cup to ladle batter onto griddle. Cook until bubbles form on the surface and edges are dry. Turn and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Serve with butter, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup or other toppings of your choice. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

“Milk in the Batter! Milk in the Batter!

Stir it! Scrape it! Make it! Bake it!" – Maurice Sendak from In the Night Kitchen.

I used to love milk. My favorite snacks in high school were Tim's Cascade Jalapeno chips with a tall glass of cold 2% milk to cut the spice or any cold cereal with milk. Mmmmm yummy! Then I discovered when I drank a lot of milk within the next few hours I would have some gas. Not the kind that just sounded embarrassing but rather the kind that smelled embarrassing. So being in high school and highly self conscious I decided milk had to go. Now, 13 years later, I still avoid drinking milk or eating too much ice cream though I eat cheese and butter without incident. My husband also feels he is sensitive to it so he doesn't drink it and our son is only drinking goat's milk.

When milk has been heated it's lactose proteins have been broken down making them easier for a sensitive body to digest therefore when cooking and baking I don't hesitate to use milk as an ingredient. Most recently my favorite things to make with "milk in the batter" are pancakes. Here is a recipe that I have adapted from Joy of Cooking:

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Blueberries

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon double-acting baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons honey

1 egg

2 cups buttermilk or yogurt

1 cup blueberries

    Mix together both flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

    In a separate bowl combine honey, egg, and buttermilk or yogurt.

    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, add blueberries and stir.

Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan or griddle.

Spoon approximately 1/3 cup batter on the hot pan.

Cook 2-3 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface and check the underside if it looks good flip it!

The second side will only take 1-2 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Myths Debunked: Got Milk? Part One

Since we got our grass fed beef (and may I just say it is hands down the best beef I've ever had), I've been thinking about cows. And this logically has lead me to think about milk. Recently, I've had two very dichotomous experiences with milk: my vet recently got a cow and has been enthusiastic about her family's experience with fresh milk and I got a newsletter in the mail from the school district with an article about how they add sugar to the milk to get kids to want to drink it. So here we have two extremes: milk in its raw form as it has traditionally been consumed and milk that has been pasteurized, homogenized, fortified, and laced with sugar. So, is milk good for us? Let's explore. (An important note: I'm going to limit this particular discussion to cow milk—good old "moo juice"—and I'll save the discussion of other dairy (cheese, yogurt, kefir, goat milk, etc.) for future posts.

It is likely that humans originally domesticated hoofed animals for milk, not meat and shepherding preceded agriculture by hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Humans began domesticating and milking cows about 8500 years ago in Mesopotamia. Unlike goats and sheep which tolerate rough climates and poor forage, cows are a bit more delicate and produce best on plenty of fresh grass. So, domesticating the cow gave us access to plenty of milk—but was that a good thing?

Critiques of milk fall into three major categories: milking is inhumane to cows, dairy farms pollute the earth, and milk is unhealthy. While it can be true that industrial dairies are bad for cows and the earth, the same cannot be said of traditional dairy farming (as we'll discuss further in a moment). Critics link dairy products to acne, allergies, anemia, eczema, asthma, constipation, IBS/IBD, obesity, and breast cancer. They cite the problematic components of milk: bacteria, viruses, allergenic proteins, lactose, growth hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol, and saturated fat. So let's look at each of these concerns.

To address the first two critiques, we need to look at the industrialization of the dairy industry. This really could be a blog post all on its own but we're going to condense it down considerably (See my previous post about beef—the commercial beef industry and commercial dairy industry share many of the same problems). Industrial confinement dairies keep cows indoors and feed them grains, corn, and soybeans. Confinement increases disease requiring the use of antibiotics. Eating grain, corn, and soy gives cows acid indigestion and ulcers (the four-part bovine stomach is designed to digest grass, not grain). Cows in industrial dairies are often given growth hormone to increase milk production to unhealthy levels and requiring them to be milked up to three times a day, which greatly increased the incidence of mastitis (breast infections). The manure lagoons from industrial dairies pollute the environment. Traditional dairy farming is very seasonal—the cows graze on grass out in pastures and produce an abundance of milk and cream when the weather is pleasant and are "dry" in the winter while pregnant cows are moved indoors and fed grass hay. Cows grazing on pasture are healthier than those in confinement and proper pasture management is actually beneficial to the environment. For more detailed information about the industrialization of dairy farming (as well as tons of other foods), I highly recommend the book Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck.

The third critique about milk, that milk in unhealthy, is a major topic and I will address it in my next post so stay tuned for Got Milk? Part Two!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Here’s the Beef

A few months ago I got a call from my neighbor who owns a food cart here in Portland asking if I would like some part time flexible work. Well sure, as any mother knows, "part time" and "flexible" are magical words when it comes to juggling work and children. So I started working for Wiffies Fried Pies in their production kitchen making pies Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. It is now three months later and I just worked two 40 hour weeks in a row and my mom is here helping with my toddler and the upkeep of the house. I am enjoying my job, but missing my family, I want to throw myself into this job as I have in the past, to take over the kitchen and whip it into shape, but at the end of a 10 hour day at work I feel sad that I have missed a day with my son and we are eating Chinese food again. How do I balance my old passion for running the show at work and my new passion for running the show at home? Luckily I have an understanding husband and an understanding boss. I am shifting things around at work and making more time for my family at home. All this is helping me to prepare to one day launch my own business so it is valuable in more ways than just financially.


The reason I have chosen to share this story with you today is because I was at work one early morning thinking of recipes to post for the topic of beef. As I was thinking of this I was taking three large beef briskets out of the oven where they had been cooked low and slow for many hours. I then proceeded to chop the juicy and tender meat up and then douse it with owner's secret recipe BBQ sauce. It dawned on me that instead of posting a recipe this week I will give you Portlanders a dinner suggestion perfect for a busy summer day; head down to Whiffies Fried Pies at SE 12th and Hawthorne and try the BBQ Brisket pie and for dessert I recommend the Mixed Berry pie. The most brilliant thing about eating at a food cart lot is that there is a variety of choices so while one member of the family is eating at Whiffies the other members could be enjoying French fries from the Potato Champion (try their new banana ketchup, crazy I know, but delicious) or Pizza from Pyro pizza.


I look forward to sharing more recipes and my journey with all you readers as I start down this new path in the coming months.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Food Myths Debunked: Beef…It’s What’s For Dinner (All Year at My House!)

So, two days ago we put down a deposit on beef. In a few weeks we'll be getting a whole, grass-fed beef from Soggy Feet Enterprises on Sauvie Island. I am so excited about this amazing, grass-fed beef; a friend of mine let me sample some of their "grass burger" at it was really tasty. What makes me so pleased about this is that I'm getting a wonderful, nutritious, grass-fed, hormone-free, local beef! And because we're buying in bulk, it's really affordable (just under $4.25/lb final cost). Beef seems to have a bad reputation because it's high in saturated fat. If you have been reading our blog from the get-go, you would know that this is a misrepresentation (see my post about coconut oil). Beef can actually be a wonderful source of protein, iron, B vitamins, and even healthy fats if it is raised properly.

It is important to point out the distinction between industrially-raised beef and grass-fed beef. Industrial methods are designed to bring animals to market weight quickly and cheaply; this method involves unnatural, fattening diets, antibiotics, growth hormones (steroids), and over-crowding (less space to move means less calories "wasted" on exercise). Corn-fed beef, with its marbling (30% fat by weight) became regarded as superior to grass-fed beef whose fat content is equivalent to a skinless chicken breast. Feeding cattle grain instead of grass increases the acidity in their guts which in turn increases the risk of E. coli infection in people. Grass-fed beef is higher in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, and beta-carotene than grain-fed. Overcrowding in feed lots leads to increased disease in cattle; antibiotics are fed to cattle with the side effect of increased drug resistance in the bacteria (helping to create "super bugs" that are resistant to common antibiotics). Drug-resistant bacteria are becoming a major health crisis. Industrial cattle are implanted with hormones to help fatten them up quickly; these hormones, when consumed by people eating commercially-raised beef, alter the body's natural hormone balance and contribute to breast, prostate, and testicular cancer. Mad Cow Disease (bovine encephalopathy) becomes a problem when commercially-grown cattle, herbavores, are fed animal byproducts. In short, grass-fed beef is better for the cow, better for the environment, and better for us (and it even can be more profitable for the farmer because grass is cheap)!

So, enjoy your grass-fed hamburger! The protein helps build enzymes and strong muscles, the vitamin E and beta-carotene help boost your immune system, and the saturated fats help fight infection, aid digestion, extend the use of omega-3 fats, improve calcium absorption, and build cell walls. And remember, the fat in grass-fed beef is typically 50-55% saturated fat, 40% monounsaturated oleic acid (the same fatty acid in olive oil), and 5-10 percent omega-3 fat (the same healthy fat found in fish). Oleic acid and stearic acid (which is much of the saturated fat in beef) help lower LDL ("bad cholesterol") while maintaining HDL ("good cholesterol") levels. Grass-fed beef is also a good source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is anti-cancer and builds lean muscle.

I'm really looking forward to having a good supply of grass-fed, local beef at my disposal! I'll be making my fair share of burgers, stews, roasts, steaks and—my favorite—Shepherd's pie! I hope this inspires you to make healthy choices about your diet and bring beef to the table more often.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Date Night

My hubby and I haven't had much time in our relationship that hasn't involved kids (sorry about the double negatives…). For the last couple of years, we have tried—mostly unsuccessfully, unfortunately—to have "date nights." Tonight is Tuesday and for the last year or so, we have tried to consider Tuesday our date night. As I sit here typing, it is 10:10 pm, my children have just now gone to bed, and my hubby is taking a shower…alone. Needless to say, we were unsuccessful yet again with date night tonight. I realize that this post is supposed to be about dates the fruit, but I have this other kind of date on my mind tonight and felt like sharing. Since Chef Brett and I wanted to make this blog about our lives—and share these events and stories with you, our faithful reader—for this post I'm going to talk about the "health benefits of dates" and I hope you will pardon the pun and bear with me!

My family life is a bit crazy. I'm sure that many of you are in a similar situation. How do you balance time for work, children, home, friends, family, self, and still have time for a relationship? My husband works very hard, long hours and has a 35 mile commute each way. He leaves home most mornings at 6 am and often (especially this time of year) doesn't get home until after 6 pm. I work two days a week (outside our home) and take on most of the household duties and get to spend time at home with our boys. I am so grateful that my hubby's job supports us and allows me the chance to be home to raise our boys and also has given me the opportunity to work part time and start building my medical practice. But this definitely comes with a trade off: he and I don't get much time together as a couple.

Fortunately, we have a very strong relationship and despite the fact (hopefully not because of it!) that we don't get much quality alone time together, we are still going strong. We try to take advantage of the times we do get together, we talk to each other, we are on the same page about parenting, we have lively political and social debates (he's a bit more conservative than I tend to be), and we try very hard to keep the romance alive. So here in this public arena of my blog post, I'm going to make a promise to my hubby—for our health and the health of our relationship—to be better about date night! I love you babe! Wanna go out?

Yours in health,

Doctor Crystal

Monday, June 7, 2010

Time for a Date

I have recently rediscovered my love for dates. I regularly shop at Trader Joes and when I do I will buy a container of their chocolate covered cranberries or their raspberry sticks, which are covered in chocolate. I like to purchase these items so that I have a small treat around the house to satisfy a sweet craving rather than indulging in say a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen. It usually works but my new favorite treat I have discovered at Trader Joes are dates. In the produce section they have a package of approximately 25 dates that is easy to grab and store in the refrigerator and pluck a date or two out when the need for sweet is upon me. I know that Trader Joes is not the only place to get dates, it is just the place where I rediscovered them. I would also like to add that my 2 year old son will not touch the dates. He will eat a prune but under no circumstances will he even taste the date, I don't get it.

The recipe I want to share today I have not made yet (will do a follow-up post with a full report on the outcome). It is a bran and date bread straight out of Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Sounds healthy… or at least good for the colon, right Dr. Crystal?

Quick Bran Date Bread

2 cups chopped dates

2 cups boiling water

2 eggs

¾ cup brown sugar or ½ cup molasses

2 cups whole grain flour (divided)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups bran

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat the oven to 350®

Combine the dates and the boiling water. Set aside.

Beat eggs and slowly add the brown sugar or molasses.

Add 1 CUP of the flour and the baking powder and baking soda to the egg mixture.

Add half of the date mixture and the remaining cup of the flour, the bran, and the vanilla.

Add the rest of the date mixture and the nuts.

Place the dough in two lightly greased loaf pans.

Bake for 1 hour.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Honey for Health

I have already talked about honey as a sweetener in my post Sweet 'N' Lowdown so I'm going to focus on the health benefits of honey in this post. Honey can speed wound healing, act as a cough medicine, relieve diarrhea and constipation, and even treat ulcers.

Honey was commonly used to treat skin wounds up until World War II when antibiotics started to be more widely used. Now, honey is being used once again in mainstream medicine—to help fight skin infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The sugar in honey helps absorb moisture which bacteria need to survive; honey contains varying amounts of hydrogen peroxide; finally, raw honey contains propolis which kills bacteria.

Honey is an effective cough suppressant. Research has shown it to be more effective at relieving cough than dextromethorphan ("DM") and also improved sleep quality better than diphenhydramine (Benedryl). I would dose a two year old with ½ teaspoon and a child over 6 with 1 teaspoon.

Honey is very useful in the treatment of diarrhea & constipation. Mixed with water, honey becomes an electrolyte replacement with the added benefit of having antimicrobial properties that can kill off the microbes in the digestive tract that may be causing the problem. Honey can be helpful with constipation because it contains large amounts of fructose that sometimes arrives undigested in the large intestine. This undigested fructose draws water into the colon acting as a laxative.

A specific type of honey called Manuka, made by bees feeding on a flowering shrub from New Zealand, has been found effective at killing Helicobacter pylori—a bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. To be effective, this honey must be taken raw.

A folk remedy recommends eating local raw honey to help treat allergies and hayfever—the idea being that the honey will contain small amounts of local pollens and may work similar to an allergy shot to reduce symptoms. Unfortunately, there is little research on this topic and the research there is doesn't show honey to be any more effective than placebo. A rare but serious possible side effect is anaphylaxis if the honey contains enough of a pollen you are particularly allergic to.

A word of caution: because honey may contain trace amounts of Clostridium botulinum—the bacteria that causes botulism—honey should never be given to infants under 1 year of age.

So, you may want to start using your honey for more than just sweetening your tea! My personal favorite use for honey is to make beer—my favorite homebrew, Rocky Raccoon's Crystal Honey Lager—is made with honey in addition to the malt. I've got to say, it's a particularly refreshing way to take your honey!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Sweet Honey Baby

After my son turned one we started experimenting with honey. Honey in yogurt, honey on toast, honey in oatmeal. "Unee? Unee?" were the most common words out of his mouth when he was 18 months old. Needless to say honey is a staple in our house. We have also started using Low Sugar Red Raspberry Jam from Smucker's. The great thing about this jam is that there is less sugar than in regular jam and no artificial sweeteners, and although it is sold as a "diet" jam it is perfect for families that want to lower their sugar intake but also want to avoid artificial sweeteners.

But I digress… the real reason we are here is to talk about honey. So if we combine the honey discussion with the jam discussion we get Honey-Strawberry Jam.

4 cups strawberries, trimmed & crushed (about 2 quarts whole berries)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 package powdered fruit pectin

1 ¾ cup honey

Combine the berries and lemon juice and pectin in a 6-8 quart saucepan.

Place over high heat and stir until mixture comes to a boil.

Immediately add honey and stir until mixture comes to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Start timing at this point for approximately 10-12 minutes.

Continue to stir slowly.

Jam will foam at first, then subside and, when ready, will feel thick and sticky when stirred. The color becomes a deep garnet red.

Ladle into hot, scalded half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace, and seal.

Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 4 half-pints

A special thanks to my neighbor, Charlotte, for loaning me the book Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide
, and for making the recipe originally that got such great reviews.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I love quinoa. It's true—I love the way it pops in my mouth when I eat it; I love the nutty flavor; I love that it is high in protein so I feel good about feeding my body. Quinoa is a food that I am constantly encouraging my patients to try. It's an excellent choice for diabetics because it doesn't spike blood sugar and for pregnant women because it's a good source of protein. It is gluten-free so it's a good choice for those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Like rice, it is a great carrier of flavor—you can eat it with anything. Unlike rice, as Chef Brett mentioned in her post, quinoa is a complete protein—this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies require for building muscle, proteins & enzymes. Quinoa contains 5 grams of protein per half cup serving and is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair (it also is important for preventing herpes outbreaks). In addition to protein, quinoa is also high in iron: 4 milligrams (40% of the RDA) in a half cup serving. Compare this to brown rice which only has 1 milligram of iron per serving. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium and riboflavin, both important to heart health. So, quinoa truly is aptly named by the Inca as the "mother grain."

I'm going to share with you 2 ways that I most enjoy quinoa. I do have a disclaimer—I am not a chef (I leave this to my dear Chef Brett) and thus do not have "recipes" per se. I rarely measure ingredients unless I'm baking or making a dish for the first time. And, when I make up a recipe, I rarely write it down so it's never quite the same twice. The good news is, there is a lot of room for experimentation in the kitchen so you can take my suggestions and make them your own!

One of my favorite breakfasts is quinoa and black beans topped with fried eggs, avocado, sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro. Unlike Chef Brett, I do rinse my quinoa (that is how I learned to make it so that's how I continue to make it). I usually sauté some diced onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil, add the rinsed and drained quinoa and stir it around a bit before adding chicken stock (water works too), cover and simmer 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. For the beans, I also sauté diced onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil, add a can of rinsed and drained black beans, salt and pepper, a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, and a decent amount of cumin. I let this simmer on low to let the flavors mingle while the quinoa cooks. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, fry 2 eggs in some butter with salt and pepper. To serve, put a scoop of quinoa in a wide shallow bowl, top with a scoop of beans, the 2 fried eggs, diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, salsa (preferably fresh) and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

Another way I love to eat quinoa is in a cold salad. Cook quinoa in water with a bit of salt or in broth. While still warm, stir in diced green onions, diced fresh mango, diced red bell pepper, and lots of fresh cilantro. Make a dressing with olive oil, fresh mango juice squeezed from off the pit, the juice of 1 lime, your favorite vinegar (I like either seasoned rice vinegar or white balsamic vinegar), salt and pepper, and curry powder to taste. Stir the dressing into the quinoa mixture until well coated. Adjust seasonings as desired and serve warm, at room temp, or chilled.

I hope you have fun experimenting with quinoa and we'd love to hear about your favorite ways to eat it!

Yours in health!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quin – what?

QUINOA, pronounced keen-wah, is a seed of the Goosefoot plant which was originally cultivated in South America as far back as 3000 B.C. Beets, spinach, swiss chard, and lamb's quarters are all relatives of quinoa. Quinoa is used like a grain because it cooks so similarly to a grain. The thing that makes it stand out from a typical grain, like rice or barley, is the protein content. Quinoa is considered a complete protein and is gluten free so it is a great alternative grain from a health standpoint (which my good friend Dr. Crystal will address I am sure).

Quinoa is the size of millet but it has a flat shape. When it is cooked there is a little white curl that springs off the side that gives it its distinctive look and texture; the main part of the grain is soft but the curl has a bit of a crunch to it. There is a resin like coating on the grain that gives it a bitter flavor so before cooking quinoa it is important that it is rinsed. As quinoa has become more widely known and used the production and packaging of it has become more commercial and so the process of rinsing is mostly taken care of before you purchase it. There will be instructions for rinsing the quinoa repeatedly on the package but I must admit that I typically skip this step and have had no bitter tastes in my final product.

I recently discovered that you can buy quinoa at Costco, so on my next trip I plan on picking up a package and replacing the basmati rice I would typically use with stir frys or soups with the quinoa. This will be a great way to get more protein into my toddler's diet, assuming he will eat it (although I have discovered he will eat anything as long as I feed it to him with chopsticks). The recipe I am going to share with you today is a cold salad and is a modified recipe from The original recipe is called Quinoa and Bulgur Salad with Feta, we were trying to avoid wheat for the meal that I was preparing that evening so I left out the bulgur and added some more vegetables.

Quinoa Salad with Feta (makes 4 side dish servings)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled or 1 ½ teaspoons fresh mint, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and cut into slivers
  • 4 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 oz feta, coarsely crumbled (1 cup)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli

Cook the quinoa as you would cook rice: boil the water and add the quinoa then reduce the heat to low and cover, cook for 20 minutes

When the quinoa is done spread on a plate or cookie sheet to cool.

Meanwhile whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, salt, and pepper and set aside.

Boil 3-4 cups of water then add the frozen peas, when it comes to a boil again add the broccoli for 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is al dente. Drain.

Now toss it all together, the cooled quinoa, olive oil mixture, broccoli and peas, radishes, olives, and feta.

This can be served as is or served on top of a green salad.

Referenced: and



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food Myths Debunked: Eggs

In this our second post about food myths, we discuss the humble egg. Eggs get a bad rap because they are "high" in cholesterol; I often have patients come see me with high blood levels of cholesterol who have been told by their allopathic doctor to avoid eggs. This unfortunate advice stems from the early 70's when the link was made (supposedly) between cholesterol and heart disease. Suddenly, we were being told to limit our daily intake of cholesterol to no more than 300 mg—alas, the egg contains 278 mg of cholesterol in its yolk. Because of this, the egg industry as a whole almost collapsed and people began avoiding egg yolks. Nina Planck, in her book Real Food, helps us understand how "real" eggs—pastured eggs, are almost a perfect food. To paraphrase, eggs are a source of protein with a balance of amino acids that is so close to the ideal for humans that eggs are the model for rating the quality of protein in all foods. Egg yolks are high in lecithin (a source of choline vital to fetal brain development), carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin (which prevent macular degeneration and may help fight colon cancer), biotin (which is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nerves and allows us to digest fat and protein), and betaine (which reduces homocysteine and thus protects from atherosclerosis). Egg yolks, particularly those from pastured eggs, are also high in vitamins A & E, folic acid, and omega 3 fatty acids. To quote Food Renegade, a blog I love:

"When compared to the USDA's nutrient data for conventional eggs coming from chickens confined in factory farms, the eggs of pastured hens usually contain:

  • 1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • 4 to 6 times more vitamin D

In short, they're much more nutrient dense. And they're healthy. Rather than being loaded down with so-called "bad" cholesterol, they're actually rich in the cholesterol your body needs to keep your memory in tip-top shape, your mood serene, and all your organs and cells repaired."

Getting back to that cholesterol issue, a study of 118,000 people reported in JAMA in 1999 showed no significant association between egg consumption and heart disease and in fact that people who ate 5-6 eggs per week had a lower risk of heart disease than those who ate less than 1 egg per week! Furthermore, earlier studies linking egg consumption to heart disease used powdered eggs, which contains oxidized cholesterol—the kind that causes atherosclerosis. There is more information about the great cholesterol-heart disease debate in my first Food Myths Debunked post on coconut oil.

Supermarket eggs are NOT real eggs, despite labels like "organic," "free range," "all natural," or "cage free." All these labels mean is that the hens were fed organic food and were caged in a warehouse rather than in individual cages. It does not guarantee that these hens actually had exposure to the outdoors and a diet rich in insects that raise nutrient value. The only guarantee that you are getting "real eggs" is to raise hens yourself or get them from a trusted person who does. Luckily, this is fairly easy to do: most cities allow you to raise 3-4 chickens (no roosters), or else you can find eggs from people who are raising them (check your local craigslist and farmer's markets). I found a great website with info about raising city chickens with a great photo gallery of chicken tractors that just might inspire you to build one and raise your own eggs!

One last important note about eggs. Unfortunately, many people have allergies to chicken eggs. This may be in part due to the fact that several vaccines are grown in chicken eggs and, because children receive so many vaccines at an age before the immune system is fully developed, our bodies form an allergic response. If this is the case for you, consider trying some alternative eggs: duck eggs and quail eggs may be an option for you. Just this week, I had quail eggs for the first time: hard boiled with some sea salt and pepper and they were delicious! One of my favorite ways to eat eggs is fried in butter and eaten over quinoa and black beans and topped with sour cream, salsa, avocados, and fresh cilantro. I'll share that recipe in my next post about quinoa… (yeah, I know, it's a shameless plug but hopefully it will keep you reading!)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hard Boiled

Eggs of course.

Easter has come and gone and this means that it's deviled egg season. Here's a bit of deviled egg trivia for you. Spicy stuffed eggs date back as far as the 13th century in Andalucia. The name came into being in the 18th century. The term was a culinary term used for spicy dishes or condiments. As deviled eggs have evolved they are typically no longer spicy but have retained the name.

Growing up, the way we made deviled eggs was to mash the hard cooked yolks with some mayonnaise and some mustard, dollop back into the hard cooked white halves, and sprinkled them with paprika. Since then I have discovered that there is a way to make them tastier without too much more effort. First we'll talk about hard boiling eggs then I'll share a recipe that is quite popular that one of our Girls Night girls brings to most breakfast events.


Everybody has a different method of cooking hard boiled eggs. I am going to share my favorite with you here:

Place eggs in a pot with a lid.

Fill the pot with water so it just covers the eggs.

Add a splash of vinegar. (I've heard it helps the shell come off easier. I do it, although I have never done a side by side shell removing test.)

Bring the water to a boil, cover and remove the pot from the heat.

Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Gently pour hot water out and fill pot with cold water.

Allow the eggs to cool.

Once you have cooled the eggs remove the shell and rinse.


Now for deviled eggs:

6 hard boiled eggs cut in half with the whites and yolks separated.

Mash yolks and add:

¼ cup mayonnaise (some people say miracle whip is the secret ingredient but being a health related blog I am reluctant to recommend it as it contains high fructose corn syrup ).

1 teaspoon prepared mustard.

1 teaspoon white vinegar.

Paprika to taste.

Now dollop the mixture back into the hard boiled egg white halves and sprinkle with the paprika.

I hope everyone had a happy Easter!

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Olive’s Oil

"Olive oil is one of the first foods that Italian babies eat, and one of the last foods offered to the dying." - Nina Planck, Real Food: What to Eat and Why

Last week Chef Brett posted about enjoying good crusty bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil so we decided we'd segue into olive oil this week. Olive oil is one of the "good" fats—high in oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat), a good source of palmitic acid (a healthy saturated fat), vitamin E, and polyphenols. Monounsaturated fats and palmitic acid help lower LDL, or "bad" cholesterol while vitamin E and polyphenols help prevent cancer and heart disease. Olive oil inhibits platelets from sticking together, reduces inflammation, and lowers blood pressure.

Olive oil is great used cold in vinaigrettes or for dipping bread, but is also a good choice for cooking at moderate temperatures. The monounsaturated fatty acids are relatively heat stable (more so than polyunsaturated fats—vegetable oils—which are more susceptible to oxidation); a blend of olive oil and butter is even better because of the saturated fats in the butter.

Olive oil requires very little processing, unlike other vegetable oils. It typically comes in 3 grades: plain, virgin, and extra virgin. Virgin and extra virgin are best—particularly if made cold-pressed which preserves the vitamin E and antioxidant polyphenols. Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of the olives and retains the most nutritional and antioxidant value. Plain olive oil is usually very refined and rancid—extra virgin olive oil is usually added to make it palatable. Olive oil is very susceptible to oxidation and should be stored in a cool, dark place.

As I type this, I am enjoying a sourdough baguette dipped in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar—I'd highly recommend you do the same!

Monday, March 15, 2010

When I started to love balsamic vinegar

When I was attending Western Culinary Institute, here in Portland, Oregon, I went on the ultimate field trip. It was a culinary tour of Tuscany with two days in Paris. It was an extra expense but it was worth it. We travelled all over Tuscany in a giant bus visiting vineyards and wineries, olive groves, cheese and ham producers in the region of Parma, restaurants serving "traditional Tuscan meals", and a balsamic vinegar producer in Modena. I have always been a lover of Italian things, I took Italian in college, I love pasta, and Chianti is my favorite wine. Until I visited the balsamic vinegar producer in Modena I did not have a taste or appreciation for good balsamic vinegar. We saw how it was aged in casks like wine or whisky, every few years moved to smaller and smaller casks as the water evaporates and the flavor intensifies. Typically traditional balsamic vinegar is aged in oak for a minimum of 12 years. At this particular producer they had some vinegar aging in cherry casks and they let us sample it, by serving it over ice cream. The thought of vinegar on ice cream probably does not appeal to many people but you had to be there, in the Italian country side, wearing Italian leather shoes, and eating ice cream topped with cherry aged balsamic vinegar (for $40 a bottle). And although I did not purchase any balsamic vinegar on that trip (I had just purchased the Italian leather shoes) I have kept it in my mind that someday I will again find some that equals that experience.

This week's recipe: Bread dipped in oil and balsamic vinegar. What you will need is some good bread, some good olive oil, and some good balsamic vinegar. Pour ½ a cup of the oil on a plate then add a tablespoon or two of the vinegar, and then dip your bread and enjoy!

  • Chef Brett

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why the Kale Not?

When Chef Brett called me the other week about how she tried kale and learned that she loves it, I started telling her about my favorite ways to prepare kale. This is a really common event for us and a big part of why we decided to start this blog—we wanted to share our conversations with other people who are into food and hopefully get some more people involved in the sharing! I can't really remember when I learned that I love kale—I think it happened about 6 years ago. I prefer it steamed, but do love to add it to soups and sauté it as well. I'm going to post my favorite recipe involving kale in a minute but first I'm going to put my doctor hat on and tell you why kale is so good for you.

Kale is in the brassica family, like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, and so it contains sulfur compounds. These sulfur compounds fight cancer, aid the liver in detoxification, boost immune function, and fight free radicals. In fact, spinach and kale are the two veggies with the highest ORAC value, a measure of antioxidant strength. Kale is also really high in Vitamin C , beta carotene, calcium, Vitamin K, and fiber. Kale has seven times the beta carotene and ten times the lutein (a carotenoid that protects the eyes) found in broccoli. Leafy greens don't have as much calcium as dairy foods, but they can help you get enough—a half cup of kale has 47 mg of calcium. Vitamin K plays important roles in blood clotting, blood vessel health, and bone strength. One cup of kale provides over 10% of your daily intake of fiber (about 2 grams). So, kale is really quite the superfood!

May favorite way to eat kale lately is steamed and then drizzled with balsamic butter sauce (recipe adapted from Bon Appétit). Rinse your kale really well (it often has quite a bit of grit trapped in those curly leaves) and then remove the tough stems and coarsely chop. Steam for about 5 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Serve with balsamic butter sauce.

Balsamic butter sauce

½ c. good quality balsamic vinegar
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ stick butter, room temperature, cut into ½ inch cubes

Combine vinegar and garlic in a small heavy sauce pan over medium high heat. Boil until reduced by half. Whisk in butter, one small cube at a time until evenly incorporated.

The complete meal I usually make is pan seared mahi mahi, garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed kale. I put the sauce on everything and it is really amazing! I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time for Dinner?

A few weeks ago Dr. Crystal and I had dinner with a close group of girlfriends. During this dinner we discussed the usual: work, children, husbands/partners/boyfriends, and food. One of the resounding things that was said around the table was "How do you prepare good nutritious food every night?" As mothers we want to feed our children the best food possible but find ourselves struggling with the balance of work, family and the elusive friend get-together. The best thing Dr. Crystal and I could suggest to our group of girls was to prepare meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer to thaw when time and energy aren't available to prepare your meals fresh. To this most of the girls responded, "I don't want to spend my weekends cooking!" To Dr. Crystal and I this suggestion was logical because we like to cook, we do spend our weekends cooking because it is a hobby of ours, and after this conversation took place we realized this wasn't the case for everybody. In the last post Dr. Crystal offered up a few suggestions for remaking a few "fast food" options, I am here to offer another suggestion – add a quick punch of nutrition on the side of whatever "fast food" item you do choose to go with.

My dinner last night is a perfect example; after spending the day fighting with a two year old about putting a diaper on I was not feeling very creative or energetic to tackle the whole chicken I had originally planned on preparing for dinner. So I boiled some noodles, sautéed some onions, browned some chicken sausage and tossed it all together then topped it with some shredded cheddar cheese. My husband had a spinach salad on the side, I had some sautéed kale, and our son had some sweet potatoes.

Kale – I just discovered kale last night. I had always been scared of cooked kale because of my intense dislike of cooked spinach. Well let me tell you I am so glad that I finally tried it because I love it! See below for the sautéed kale recipe, don't be afraid! Just try it!

Spinach – Spinach salad is a popular option in my house. No matter what we are having my husband usually has a spinach salad on the side as he does not always like the other vegetable options I prepare for myself and our son.

Sweet Potatoes – I almost always have steamed sweet potatoes in the refrigerator. I buy a bag of them from Trader Joe's then cut up 3-4 in 1 inch slices then steam them with the skins on. When they are "fork tender" I turn them off and let them cool a bit. The skins peel right off and both my son and I love them alongside pretty much anything (I add a little salt to mine).You can see all the great things about sweet potatoes in our Thanksgiving post.

Sautéed Kale

·       1 bunch kale, rinsed well, drained & roughly chopped

·       2 Tablespoons olive oil

·       2 garlic cloves, minced

·       ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock or water

·       Salt & Pepper

              Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored.

Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine.

Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Enjoy it and think of all the great nutrients you are getting!

Potatoes on pizza, who would’ve thought?

Pizza is one of my favorite things to eat and make, but mostly to eat. On a particularly sinful day I would pick a Pizza Hut pepperoni pan pizza. For instance, after I walked the Portland Marathon in 2006, my walking buddy and I sat on the couch and ate pizza for most of the evening, mostly because we could not move after walking for nine hours. When I want a super delicious pizza and am feeling like money is no object I call up Flying Pie Pizzeria at 7804 SE Stark Street in Portland and order the Presto, with pesto, spinach, artichoke hearts, black olives, roasted red peppers, and feta cheese. Lately I have been interested in making pizza at home, one reason is that my son has a tomato allergy that I am hoping will go away with age, but until then I modify the things we like to eat to be tomato free, hence homemade pizza with no tomato sauce. I know for some out there there is a strong love for pizza sauce and you might not be able to envision a pizza without tomato sauce, but hear me out, it's not so bad. There are other options; a white sauce for example or pesto is a popular one but my go to option is garlic infused olive oil. So keeping this in mind I searched my favorite recipe website ( for some new pizza topping ideas. What did I find you ask? Potato, sage, and rosemary pizza. Delicious. The only addition I made was to add some cooked bacon to the top since I had some in my refrigerator I needed to use up.

The dough that Dr. Crystal referred to in her last post is a recipe I have made many times from a cookbook called Cooking (Chic Simple). It is as follows:

Simple Pizza Dough

       1 package active dry yeast

       2/3 cups warm water (110°-115° F)

       Pinch of sugar

       2 cups all purpose flour (can substitute 1 cup with whole wheat flour)

       ¼ cup cornmeal

       1 teaspoon salt

       1 ½ Tablespoon olive oil

              Stir water, yeast, and sugar together in a small bowl, let sit for 10 minutes.

              Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt in a separate bowl.

              Stir together oil, wet ingredients, and dry ingredients (by hand, stand mixer with dough hook, or food processor).

              If using a stand mixer turn up to medium/high and let go for about 5 minutes.

              If you are doing it by hand remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand vigorously for 5 minutes.

              Divide the dough (I usually just do two, Dr. Crystal did four).

              Lightly oil a baking sheet, transfer dough onto sheet and lightly brush each ball with olive oil.

Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place till the dough has doubled in size (about 1 ½ hours).

Preheat oven to 475°.

After doubled, flatten dough with the heel of your hand on a lightly floured surface. Lift and pinch each disk from the center outward until the dough is thin. (don't worry about the shape or occasional hole)

              Place dough on an oiled baking sheet and top it!

              Bake for 7-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

A caution about topping pizzas: the tendency is to load it up with sauce, cheese, and toppings, go a little lighter than you think and you will have a nice balance of toppings and crust.

We made two pizzas, the first one I mentioned above and the second one had garlic olive oil, mozzarella, spinach, rep peppers, and feta cheese. My husband likes it, my two year old likes it, and I like it. That is what makes life feel like a success.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fast Food Makeovers

Sorry to our wonderful readers that this post is late; it has been one crazy kind of week! In the midst of weeks like this, I definitely struggle with meal planning and finding the desire to get in the kitchen and make dinner. Most of the time, I love to cook but there are certainly days that I'd rather just have my hubby pick up some Thai food on the way home, or hit a drive through, or grab a pizza. With the budget kind of tight these days, fast food sometimes holds appeal – heck, you can "feed" your family for less than $5 if you want to. But we all know that fast food – particularly those items on the dollar menu – really isn't food at all! So this blog post is about making over fast food into healthy (or at least healthier) alternatives! And, remembering this crazy week where I maybe didn't ask for help when I needed it, I'm going to ask for your help in creating this post!!

What are your favorite "Fast Food Re-Dos?" Do you have any fast and easy homemade versions of fast food? Or maybe you have a more gourmet spin on a fast food? Please post your ideas and we can all reap the rewards! Here are some of my favorites:

I made pizza Monday night using Chef Brett's crust recipe and it was awesome! I made 4 individual pizzas and we all got to top our own. The boys had a lot of fun spreading sauce and pepperoni and cheese all over the place and I got to make mine piled high with artichoke hearts just the way I like it! It's easy to boost the health factor by making your crust with whole wheat flour and adding lots of veggies as toppings. My friend Billie, who has been eating gluten-free lately, says she uses rice tortillas from Trader Joe's as her crust and she makes her husband pizza on pita bread!

French Fries
Maybe my favorite fast food re-do is oven baked sweet potato fries—a much healthier potato option (see our previous post). I got the original recipe from The Sonoma Diet by Connie Guttersen but now I don't really follow a recipe. Peel 1-2 red sweet potatoes and slice into half rounds or wedges. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper. Spread on parchment paper on a cookie sheet with some sprigs of fresh rosemary if you've got them. Bake at 450 until soft inside and crisped a bit outside (about 30-40 minutes), flipping once (or just stirring them about a bit). We like to dip them in mayo mixed with balsamic vinegar.

Fish Sticks
Last week, my "Big C" asked me for fish sticks for dinner. I was making Mahi Mahi that night so I just cut fish stick size pieces, rolled them in egg and panko bread crumbs and baked them in the toaster oven. He loved them and I they were much healthier than the fish sticks from the freezer section! You could do the same thing to make homemade chicken nuggets.

Popcorn Shrimp
I went out last night with my family and my friend Dianna and we ordered popcorn shrimp—which my family loves! A couple weeks ago I made coconut shrimp at home that was so much better: breaded with panko, coconut & lime zest and fried in coconut oil they were amazing dipped in sweet chili sauce mixed with orange marmalade and lime juice! Here's the recipe from Bon Appetit (Feb 2010) – I substituted coconut oil for frying and the dipping sauce is my own creation.

So, please share your ideas – I can't wait to read what you come up with!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Check out these coconuts!

We have a lot of allergies in our family so when it came to foods that are typical allergens we avoided them for the first year. That meant no dairy, no wheat, and no eggs for the first year and no nuts till three years old. This is on the conservative side but from what I understand of food allergies in children is if they are going to have a sensitivity to a food by avoiding that food early in life it will lessen the allergy. Since you don't know what they could be allergic to the most effective tool you have is to avoid anything that is a potential allergen. That being said when my son turned one he had never had wheat, eggs, dairy, or sugar. I didn't want to give him a cupcake full of tummy ache his birthday so I asked other women I knew who had similar food ideas and babies of the same age and came up with a cake that involved barley flour, applesauce, coconut oil, and bananas. Until this day I had never cooked with coconut oil. So I bought the oil and used it in the muffin/cupcakes and promptly forgot about it in the cupboard. Now that we are having a discussion about coconut oil I am remembering that I have some and trying to think of ways I can use it based on Dr. Crystal's suggestions.

I wish the recipe I had to share with you today was for those muffins, that were pretty good, but I cannot find the recipe anywhere. I am going to do some more digging and see if I can't get back to you on that. In lieu of that recipe I want to share a dessert recipe that I feel comfortable sharing with my son (we are still being very light handed with sugar, so as to delay the inevitable sugar addiction). It is a Thai dessert made with black rice and coconut milk.

Black Sticky Rice

  • 1 cup black glutinous rice (sometimes called forbidden rice, can be found at Asian markets, just tell them what you want to make and they will help you find the right stuff)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or substitute maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 eggs
  • a little coconut cream (to serve)

    If cooking on the stove, be sure to soak the rice overnight, or for at least 6 hours (otherwise the rice will take all day to cook). Then place drained rice in a pot together with brown sugar, salt, 1 can coconut milk, and all the water. Boil half-covered until the liquid has been absorbed and rice is soft to chewy. (If necessary, add 1 cup more water and continue cooking until rice is tender)

    If using slow cooker: Place drained rice in slow cooker together with brown sugar, salt, 1 can coconut milk, and all the water. Cook overnight or all day on "low", OR for 2-3 hours on "high", until all liquid is absorbed. Rice should be soft to chewy in texture. (If the rice is too tough, add 1 cup more water and allow to continue cooking until done.)

    When rice is done cooking, allow to cool slightly. Add the remaining 1/2 cup coconut milk plus the eggs. Mix thoroughly. Dip your finger in to check the taste - add a little more sugar if needed.

    Pour this mixture into one large baking dish, or divide up into individual ramekins. Cover with tin foil (or a lid if using a baking dish). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

    Remove from the oven and either serve warm, or place in the refrigerator and serve cold (it's good both ways!). When serving, add a dollop of coconut cream on top (the solid cream from the top of a can of thick coconut milk), or whipped cream. Enjoy with a strong cup of tea or coffee.

    Recipe from:


Chef Brett


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Food Myths Debunked: Coconut Oil

This is the first of many posts we'll be doing about food myths. We want to let you know about the health benefits of supposedly "bad" foods. I decided to start with coconut oil because it seems to be coming up a lot in conversations I've been having lately. So here you have it: contrary to popular belief, COCONUT OIL IS GOOD FOR YOU!

Coconut oil is classified as a saturated fat which is why it has such a bad reputation, but contrary to popular belief, saturated fats aren't bad for you. In the 1950's, we started being told to avoid saturated fats because they raise cholesterol levels more than polyunsaturated fats (eg. vegetable, soybean oil). There was a lot of emphasis put on cholesterol levels in the medical community as being a modifiable risk factor for heart disease. Unfortunately, the recommendations to eat less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fats were misguided because total cholesterol turns out to be a poor predictor of heart disease and trans fats are the dangerous fats. We'll be doing a post in the future with more details about saturated and other fats, but for this post I want to focus on coconut oil.

Coconut oil is 64% medium-chain saturated fatty acids (fatty acids are the building blocks of fats). Medium-chain fats (MCF's) can be absorbed without being emulsified by bile so are more quickly and easily absorbed than long-chain polyunsaturated fats like soybean oil. MCF's are the favorite fuel for the heart, are the same fats found in breastmilk, can aid weight loss, and have immune properties. The main MCF in coconut oil (49%) is lauric acid which is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. Lauric acid kills fat-coated viruses including HIV, herpes, influenza, measles, hepatitis C, and Epstein-Barr. Research done in the last 30 years completely clear coconut oil in any negative role in heart disease and shows that it can raise HDL cholesterol levels, which is protective. Studies of native cultures where coconuts and coconut oil are consumed in large quantities (up to 57% of calories from fat and half of that saturated) find lean, healthy individuals with no signs of unhealthy cholesterol, atherosclerosis (arterial plaques), or heart disease.

Coconut oil is great for baking; because it is solid at room temperature, it makes great cookies, pie crusts, and pastries. It is also great for high temp cooking and stirfrying/deep frying because being a saturated fat makes it more stable and less prone to oxidize at high temperatures. The best coconut oils to buy are virgin oil (made by cold-pressing moist coconut) which retains it's coconut flavor, or expeller-pressed and gently deodorized to remove the coconut scent and flavor. I love the taste of coconut so I use the virgin coconut oil. I like to add a spoonful to oatmeal with flake coconut, sliced mango, macadamia nuts, and a little honey and milk for a tropical breakfast and just last night I breaded shrimp with panko bread crumbs, flaked coconut, lime zest, salt & pepper, and then fried them in coconut oil—very yummy! I also love cooking with coconut milk which is rich with coconut oil—it makes amazing curries and coconut ginger chicken soup is awesome.

I hope this encourages you to give coconut oil a try! I can't wait to see what recipes Chef Brett has in store for us!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Most Important Don't!!

So, coming off my detox last week I was reminded of the most important don't of detox:
DON'T COME OFF YOUR DETOX TOO QUICKLY! I started out my first day off my detox with 2 eggs fried in butter, a piece of whole wheat toast with butter and apricot jam, and black tea with agave nectar and milk. For lunch I had leftover lemongrass chicken pad thai (that was okay). I went out for a glass of wine and cheesy artichoke dip with my hubby after work then picked up pizza for dinner on the way home--with which I had a bit more wine. So, on my first day off detox, I reintroduced at least 7 foods I hadn't been eating for the previous 10: eggs, dairy, wheat, sugar, black tea, refined flour, and alcohol. Needless to say, I was a bit buzzed(who knew your tolerance could completely disappear in 10 days!) and felt lousy the next day (headache, unhappy digestion, bloated).

So, even if you are not intending to do an elimination/challenge diet as part of your detox, I recommend coming off it slowly--only reintroduce one or two foods a day and reintroduce alcohol just a little at a time. You spent all that time being good to your body--don't do what I did and blow it all in the first day off!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Dos & Don’ts of Detox

Well, I have one day left of my 10 day detox and I must say that I've learned some important things about being successful at detox this time through! I'm feeling pretty good—my energy is up and I've lost a little weight. My headaches resolved after the first 2 days. I really didn't miss alcohol or wheat or cheese as much as I thought I would. Even the MediClear shakes were better this time around thanks to a reformulation! So, I thought I'd share a few tips with you.

DO drink lots of water throughout the whole day! I think part of my headaches the first 2 days was dehydration. Also, drink water all through the day so you aren't too thirsty at the end of the day. I had a few evenings where I was playing catch up and then I had to get up a lot during the night!

DO sauna if you get the chance! I only got to go once mid-cleanse but it felt amazing and I did some great sweating to help clear out even more toxins (your skin is your largest organ of detox you know!).

DO plan ahead for meals and snacks! With the restrictions of a cleansing diet, you need to make sure you have plenty of food on hand for when hunger strikes. I realized that most of my snacks, with the exception of fruit, are foods I was avoiding. The first day, I made up a big batch of quinoa which I ate for the first 5 days (with black beans, as a side with olive oil and lime juice with fish, added to salads). Then I cooked a bunch of brown rice with homemade chicken stock. I bought frozen fish that I could thaw on the days I wanted fish. I bought a huge bin of organic baby spinach and 10 pounds of organic apples at Costco and raw walnuts, sunflower seeds, and cashews. I also ate dried fruit that I had dehydrated over Christmas. Just be prepared so you don't slip because you are hungry!

DON'T go to Costco when you are detoxing! I went on the first day of my detox and you are surrounded by free samples of all kinds of things you can't have! I did sample a marinated artichoke heart but had to resist everything else!

DON'T lose your dog! On day one, my husband took our hunting dog out and lost her in the woods. I was heartbroken and all I wanted to do was eat comfort foods like mac and cheese and drink wine. He searched for her over the next 4 days and thankfully found her. The lesson here is to try to avoid stressful situations that lead to emotional food cravings.

DON'T host a BBQ for people who aren't detoxing! To celebrate finding our dog, we invited our cousin and a friend who came out to help search for a BBQ. The two of them and my husband drank beer, ate chips, French bread, and steak for dinner—all of which I wanted to eat! I had cranberry raspberry juice mixed with mineral water, grilled Mahi Mahi, quinoa, and steamed Brussels sprouts with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (all of which was really amazingly good). But I'd advise saving the get togethers until after your detox is over.

I'm very glad that I did this detox—but I must admit that I'm more glad that it's over tomorrow!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The End – Chef Brett

Well I intended to update everyday throughout my cleanse but as usual life happened. On day three I got a cold. My husband asked if I was going to stop doing the cleanse, but since sugar, coffee, dairy, and alcohol are not good for colds either I decided to push through. My doctor, Dr. Crystal, recommended I add a little more protein to my regimen but otherwise lots of fruits, vegetables, and water. So here I am 11:30pm on day five and I feel pretty good.

I didn't lose any weight (I don't think, since we don't own a scale) but I do feel more energized, even though I have had a cold. When I weighed myself today at Dr. Crystal's office I did feel pretty bummed, I have only lost 13 pounds since my son was born almost two years ago, but Dr. Crystal pointed out that I have only been eating this way for 5 days and since I was sick I didn't really get any exercise. So my intention is to continue to restrict my alcohol, sugar, and dairy consumption and limit my carbs to good, whole carbs like oatmeal and Ezekiel bread. If I need a chocolate fix I will indulge, in moderation, and, when offered, I will try to only have one slice of my neighbor's homemade bread that they make multiple times a week. I will be drinking coffee again. I didn't have too hard a time with the no caffeine but I ENJOY having a cup of coffee in the morning with half and half and a drop of orange oil, and I don't see any reason to not have it right now.

So for my first cleanse I feel that it was a good experience and next year I will do it again (if I'm not pregnant – before anyone jumps to any conclusions there is no plan it is just a possibility).

If any of you out there plan to do a cleanse good luck to you, the results are worth it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day One – Chef Brett

So the original plan was that my husband was going to do the cleanse with me. After a tough day of being at work and not getting enough calories then breaking down and having a Pepsi he has decided this isn't the right time for him to do a cleanse. He has a problem with textures so eating oatmeal or avocados is not something that he can do without wanting to vomit. So for his first cleanse we will pick a weekend and do a two day cleanse that is more tailored to his palate. He will be eating the same food I am eating while at home, just in more quantity.

Today went fairly well. There were a few times I felt I needed to eat or drink water but I couldn't quite get to it because of changing a diaper or rocking the little one back to sleep when he woke up unexpectedly. But I felt surprisingly satisfied.

The smoothie was very gritty from the supplement I added to it so tomorrow I will probably just put it in a minimal amount of juice then throw it back so it is over faster. The salad with the olive oil and lemon juice was delicious! I was lucky to have a bottle of olive oil I brought back from a trip to Spain last October so it gave the salad a wonderful flavor, this might be a keeper for my future salads.

Everything else went pretty well, I didn't eat any of my son's Pepperidge Farms Gold Fish or any of his buttered and jammed toast. I did get a blinding headache after dinner and had to lay down in a dim room for about an hour. After drinking tons of water I was refreshed enough to read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel for the 100th time today to my son then he helped me put some laundry away.

All in all a good start to my first cleanse.

The Game Plan

This is my first time doing a detox. I have wanted to do one for a long time but have always worked physical jobs on my feet, then I was pregnant, then nursing, and now I feel I will be able to take the appropriate time and relax, while I'm running after my 21 month old son. So I am not doing a super restrictive diet. I will be cutting out all the stuff Dr. Crystal recommended and I will be using a nutritional supplement to add to my smoothies called ClearDetox by Pure Encapsulations. Since I am a beginner I will only be doing a five day detox. The one thing I will have a hard time living without, and will probably still use on occasion is salt. Salt makes everything better and when you can't have coffee, wine, or cheese you want your sweet potatoes and salad with olive oil and lemon juice to be as satisfying as possible. So Dr. Crystal has recommended I get Unrefined Sea Salt from Trader Joe's so that I can use it freely.

Here is the plan for the next five days:

½ a cup of cooked oats with honey and ¼ frozen blueberries. Oats are a good source of fiber, which is beneficial to the digestive system.


A slice of 100% rye bread with avocado or tomatoes on it.


A fruit smoothie. Possible combinations include:

Cranberry juice (no sugar added), strawberries (good source of vitamin C) and almonds (good source of poli-unsaturated fat)

Lemon Ginger Echinacea Juice (from Trader Joe's) and walnuts (good source of essential fatty acids)

Apple juice and kiwi (good source of vitamin C)

Light lunch

A low GI, wheat-free carbohydrate, like one small sweet potato, ½ a cup of cooked brown rice, ½ cup of cooked wild rice or one slice of rye bread

A combination of fresh fruit, vegetables or a salad, which may include lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red, green and yellow peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, baby marrows, celery, apple, roasted sunflower seeds and avocado. Sprinkle on some olive oil and lemon juice to dress it up.

100% juice, diluted with water / Rooibos tea with honey and a lemon slice / mineral water / fresh fruit or vegetables

The main meal

Approximately 4oz of low-fat protein, like a chicken fillet (without skin) or fish, which can be baked, stir-fried or steamed, but not fried.

A combination of veggies, which may include carrots, squash, fresh asparagus, mushrooms, leaks, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. Bake or steam the veggies with olive oil then add lemon juice, garlic and black pepper for flavor.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Improve Your Health with Detox

So, Chef Brett and I (along with our hubbies and the wonderful ladies I work with) have decided to do a detox and we invite you to join us! Detox is a great way to jump start any resolutions you might have made to lose weight or to be healthier this year. Detoxing can help you boost energy, improve digestion, improve the condition of your skin, get your body ready for a healthy pregnancy, jump start weight loss, help identify food allergies, boost immunity, and generally improve your health. Detoxification involves mobilizing stored toxins into the blood where they can be removed—mostly via the liver but also the intestines, kidneys, skin, lungs, and lymph. A detox program helps the body’s natural cleansing process by fasting to allow your organs to rest, stimulating the liver to improve toxin elimination, promoting elimination via the intestines, skin, kidneys, and lungs, improving lymph and blood circulation, and replenishing the body with healthy nutrients.

There are many different options when it comes to detox, you can choose to fast with juices, broths, or smoothies, eat an anti-inflammatory diet, or use supplements to help you. You may also support your detox with gentle exercise, saunas, castor oil packs, dry skin brushing, colonic hydrotherapy, and stress reduction. Most people benefit from detoxing at least once a year. Pregnant and nursing women, children, and those with degenerative diseases shouldn’t detox and I recommend consulting with your physician before starting a detox program.
So, there are many options for detoxing and I’ll include some links at the end of this post that you might want to try. A helpful reference is Clean Up Your Diet by Max Tomlinson. Below is a list of guidelines that can help you get started:

1) Avoid exposure to toxins: eliminate your intake of toxins such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, refined sugars, trans fats, processed foods, and food additives. You also want to avoid environmental toxin exposure: chemical cleaners, second hand smoke, and personal care products that contain chemicals.
2) You need to drink lots of water to help flush out the toxins you will be releasing. You should plan on drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink 75 ounces.
3) Give your digestion a break: eat easily digested foods, lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, drink fresh juices, smoothies, and broths; avoid high fat and protein-dense foods which are more difficult for your body to digest. Avoid any food allergies and sensitivities.
4) Love your liver: consider castor oil packs, herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle, and green tea, and adding foods that help support liver function.
5) Make sure you move your bowels: regular bowel movements ensure that toxins aren’t being reabsorbed from the colon. Consume plenty of high fiber foods and consider a fiber supplement. You may need to use herbal laxatives and may even consider scheduling colon hydrotherapy.
6) Focus on stress reduction, gentle exercise, and meditation to allow your body to rest and rebuild.
7) Breathe deeply: this helps you eliminate toxins through the lungs and reduce stress.
8) Sweat: do yoga or gentle exercise and consider saunas and hot baths with Epsom salts to help draw toxins out through the skin.
9) Brush your skin: do dry skin brushing to move lymph under the skin.
10) Move your blood: in the shower, spray your back with hot water for 3 minutes then cold water for 30 seconds then repeat 3 times, making sure you end with cold. This flushes blood through your organs and skin.

For my cleanse, my plan is to eliminate alcohol, caffeine, red meat, eggs, dairy, all processed and refined foods and all sugars. I’ll be doing smoothies, eating lots of salads and steamed veggies with whole grains. I will probably still eat a little fish and chicken. I will also be supplementing my detox with a shake mix called Mediclear (by Thorne Research). This product has rice protein, a complete array of vitamins and minerals, and nutrients that support the liver in its detoxification process. I’ll be drinking lots of filtered water and green and herbal teas and doing dry skin brushing, castor oil packs, and yoga. I plan to detox for 10 days and I’ll keep you updated on my progress!

So, pick a plan that you can work with. If it’s your first time detoxing, you probably don’t want to do anything too extreme—try a 3 day cleanse. Be prepared to feel kinda lousy at first: it’s not uncommon to feel like you have the flu and you may have headaches or night sweats. Usually these symptoms, if present, will only be during the first few days and dry skin brushing, baths, saunas, and hydrotherapy can help them resolve faster. If any other symptoms arise, discuss them with your doctor. I look forward to hearing how it goes for you!

You can find some helpful resources on my website. The following patient handouts are useful for detoxing: and click on the “Patient Handouts” link in the upper right corner:

Cleansing & Maintenance Diet
Elimination Challenge Diet
10-Day Cleanse
Foods that Love the Liver
Aiding the Organs of Elimination
Castor Oil Pack Instructions

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sweet 'N' Lowdown

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had fun welcoming in the New Year and I imagine you have made some resolutions—possibly to eat more healthily and cut back on your sugar intake? Chef Brett posted a yummy sounding sugar cookie recipe which I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to make—I made lemon thumbprint cookies with raspberry filling and chocolate cinnamon sugar cookies this year.

I definitely consumed more than my fair share of sugar over the past few weeks! For several days in a row after Christmas I had apple cranberry pie for breakfast! Getting ready to do my post this week, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to talk about; there are so many things to know about how sugar affects your health. I decided for this post to talk about various kinds of sweetners and sugars and basically create a list of sweet stuff from worst to best! I found a great reference online where I got a lot of this information and am including the link here:

The worst offenders are definitely artificial sweeteners including: Splenda (sucralose), Sweet ‘N’ Low (saccharin), NutraSweet (aspartame), and Equal (aspartame, dextrose, maltodextrin). Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar—so yes, it’s made from sugar but it definitely isn’t better for you! Saccharin is found in nature only as a component of coal tar and is carcinogenic. Aspartame converts into formaldehyde (a preservative) and methanol (which can cause blindness) when exposed to heat inside or outside of the body. These substances are all considered no calorie because our bodies don’t know how to use them because they are unnatural.

Glucose syrup, refined white sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup are next. These sugars have a glycemic index (GI) of 96, 64, 64, and 62 respectively which means the rapidly enter the bloodstream and cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin. Refined white sugar and brown sugar are basically the same as far as the GI is concerned—brown sugar is made by adding back a little molasses to refined white sugar. The refining process to create table sugar creates harmful chemical byproducts. Refined sugar greatly suppresses our immune system, wreaks havoc on our pancreas and blood sugar/insulin balance, destroys digestive enzymes, and is highly addictive. The effects on behavior and mood are wide spread (perhaps we’ll do another post about Sugar & Mood in the future). High-frucose corn syrup is made by converting some of the glucose in corn syrup into fructose, which extends shelf life and is cheaper than sugar.

Next on the list is fructose (refined), evaporated cane juice/sucanat, black strap molasses, and maple syrup. Although fructose has a low GI (22), it is highly refined which strips it of trace minerals and contaminates it with chemicals. The other three sweeteners have a GI of about 54 and are less refined so they have some nutritional value.

Lactose, barley malt syrup, and sugar cane juice have a GI of 46, 42, and 43, respectively.

Coconut sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, and agave nectar are in the next group, having GI’s of 35, 30, 22, and 15, respectively. We will be doing a blog post on honey sometime in the spring. Agave nectar is a personal favorite of mine—it is my go-to sweeter. (Baking tip: substitute ¾ c. or less of Agave nectar for each cup of sugar, reduce other liquids by 1/3, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees F, and increase bake time by 10 minutes.)

And the healthiest sweetener is… stevia! It has a GI of less than 1 and has no calories. Stevia is an herb and is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia sweeteners, such as PureVia and Truvia, are isolates of the herb made through a refining process--I'll have to do a bit more research on these... Now, I’m the first to admit that stevia hasn’t been my favorite—I think it has kind of a funky aftertaste and I’ll also admit that I haven’t tried baking with it—but I’m making it a goal to try to use it more and experiment in the kitchen. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

I hope you find this helpful—I’d love to hear some comments about baking with some of these other sweeteners so you bakers out there please share your recipes!
Happy healthy New Year everyone!