Saturday, January 24, 2009


Someone recently asked me about carob. They were wondering what exactly it was and if the rumors of it being a substitute for chocolate were true.

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is a legume and grows on an evergreen tree. It is also sometimes referred to as St. John's Bread since, as the story goes, St. John the Baptist subsisted on carob beans mixed with honey while he crossed the dessert. It was traditionally eaten in the Middle East as a source of sugar before sugar cane and beets were used for that purpose. The seeds are also referred to as "locust beans" and locust bean gum, a thickening agent, comes from these seeds.

Carob does not have the same taste/flavor as chocolate but many people like it. Per cup carob (compared to cocoa) has more calcium (36% vs. 11%), fiber (41g vs. 29g) and less fat (1g vs. 12g). Many people also prefer carob because, unlike chocolate, it does not contain the stimulants caffeine or theobromine and it is naturally sweeter than unsweetened chocolate.

Carob is rich in tannins creating a binding effect which can be helpful when given to someone with diarrhea. I have found documentation suggesting 15 g. of carob in applesauce (for flavor and ease of ingestion) is an acceptable dose for children.

Carob usually comes in a powder form (although it is possible to also buy it in blocks) and can be substituted for cocoa in a recipe, 1:1.5. -- if recipe calls for one cup of cocoa you would use one and one half cups of carob powder. To substitute for baking chocolate you can use 3 T. carob powder plus 2 T. water for one square baking chocolate. You can also purchase carob chips, look for the unsweetened ones,

I like carob and we do use it sometimes in baking. I don't consider it to be a "substitute" for chocolate, but instead another ingredient with it's own unique flavor. Give it a try, you may discover a new flavor to use.

photo courtesy of

Saturday, January 17, 2009

think about your drink

Just back from the grocery store and I'm overwhelmed by the trip down the juice aisle.  Diana is having some friends over to watch a movie and we needed some drinks.  I really try to serve healthier drinks than soda.  I object to all of the HFCS and preservatives and even artificial colors in most drinks.

Most of the time we make iced tea or homemade lemonade but it's a lot of kids and I wanted to make life a little easier for myself by simply purchasing juice.  Except it wasn't that simple.  Finding a juice that doesn't have HFCS isn't that difficult (although I am stunned by the number of juices that add it, in my opinion fruit is sweet enough that you don't need the added sugar....but I digress).  Finding one without preservatives is a not too difficult.  Finding one where the first ingredient isn't water?  And the second ingredient isn't sugar?  That proves to be more of a challenge.  And let's not forget all the "drinks" and "cocktails" that are in the juice aisle.  Folks, these are not juices, they are concoctions that have some actual fruit juice in them.  But even the ones that blare out "75% REAL fruit juice" are not free from adulteration.

What we take in to our body is so important to our ongoing health.  Please take the time to read the label and to make sensible, chemical-free choices, for yourself and for your family.

Be well.

picture courtesy of

millet muffins

In my previous post I mentions millet muffins. Because there are not that many recipes for millet muffins around I was asked to share the recipe. It's actually the creation of Angie Needels, a co-alumnus of Bauman, who has kindly given me permission to share it with all of you. I love it, although I confess that I use less jalapeno, and find it to be very tasty. As Angie points out, it's also delicious served with a black bean chili. For more recipes and to learn more about this talented Natural Chef check out her website at A Sensational Creation.

The term millet actually encompasses a group of seeds and there are a wide variety of different kinds but they are, for convenience, referred to a millet. It is a grain that has many uses, from grinding for flour to make flatbreads, to making beer, to cook as a porridge or to eat whole. It is also a good source of magnesium which helps to build and strengthen bones and is good for blood circulation.

Many people with celiac disease use millet as a replacement for other grains as it does not have any gluten in it. It does however contain goitrogens (which impair the ability of the thryroid to function properly) and so should be eaten sparingly by people with thyroid disorder. Cooking is believed to reduce the goitrogenic properties but it is still best not to consume overly large amounts of millet if you have a thyroid disorder.

Here is Angie's recipe:

Spicy Millet Muffins
*makes 14-16 muffins

2 1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C millet
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 Tsp fine sea salt
1 jalapeno seeded and minced fine
1 T toasted cumin seeds
2 T toasted pine nuts
1 C buttermilk
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 agave
1 egg whisked

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oil a 12 cup muffin tray and line the bottom of each with cut parchment paper (you may want to do 2 pans as this recipe makes a little more than a dozen).

Mix all dry ingredients with the jalapeno, toasted pine nuts and the cumin seed. Mix all wet ingredients together then fold into the dry ingredients until incorporated well.

Fill each cup 3/4 full and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Let cool and remove from tin.

Friday, January 16, 2009

vegetarian shepherd's pie

A recent question about eating lentils brought up one of my favorite ways to eat them; in a vegetarian shepherd's pie.  Shepherd's pie is such a great dish because it is so versatile; a "crust", a vegetable filling and a mashed potato topping.  It's a great meal served with a hearty salad and a tasty millet muffin.  Because only half of us are vegetarians I usually make two, one with a ground turkey crust and one with a lentil crust.  This means that there are plenty of delicious leftovers to keep everyone happy for a couple of days.

Lentils, Lens ensculenta, also known in Indian cuisine as dal, are a legume (as are all dried beans and peas) and are very quick and easy to prepare.  Unlike other types of legumes lentils do not require a long soaking time before you can cook with them.  They come in different varieties, green, brown, black, yellow, orange, and red, although most of us are familiar with the green one which is easily available.  Lentils are powerhouses of nutrition being very high in fiber, folate, tryptophan and manganese (which is good for healthy bones, fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis, and helping stabilize blood sugar among other things).  They are also good sources of protein, iron and phosphorus (which the body needs for bone health).

When cooking with lentils they need to be sorted and rinsed before cooking.  The usual ratio is three cups of water to one cup of lentils.  Bring the water to a boil, add the lentils, cook on medium for approximately 30 minutes (if you like mushy lentils you can cook them longer), remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes for them to settle and firm up before using in a recipe.  If you are using them in a salad you'll need to cool them completely before adding other ingredients and dressing.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

prepare lentils as mentioned above but add 1/2 C. chopped onion to the water
after lentils have rested  mash them together with:
     1 T. nutritional yeast
     1 T. dried, minced veggie seasoning
form into a bottom crust in a lightly greased pie pan
fill with your choice of lightly steamed or thawed veggies (about 2 C.)
drizzle with 1 T. tamari sauce (can use worcestershire instead)
top with your favorite mashed potato recipe
sprinkle with paprika

Bake 20 minutes and serve.


image courtesy of

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

flu vaccine not effective

This year's flu vaccine has apparently proven itself to be overwhelmingly ineffective, baffling scientists and doctors alike.

Read more here

Sunday, January 11, 2009


A friend of mine recently asked me a few questions about eggs and I thought I would share them here.

1.  Are brown eggs healthier than white eggs?

No.  The color of the eggshell depends on the breed of chicken.  There is even a breed of chicken called araucana that produces blue shells on their eggs.

2.  What is the difference between cage free and free range chickens?  And are the eggs from one better than the other?  

Egg-laying chickens are usually raised in small cages stacked high called battery caging.  The cages are not very big, leaving not enough room for the chickens to spread their wings.  Cage free means that the chickens are not in cages but are in a large building free to roam around and spread their wings.  Free-range means that the chickens have access to the outdoors.  Unfortunately many times free-range chickens are raised indoors and not granted access to the outdoors until they are several weeks old, at which point they don't go outside anyway.  Although the consumer-intent for free-range eggs is that the chickens are living happy, pastoral lives, running around in the outdoors scratching and eating bugs I don't believe this always happens.  For me this means that cage-free and free-range are probably similar treatments for the birds and either one is preferable to raising them in small confined cages.  If you are certain that the free-range eggs are indeed from chickens who are running freely outside then those would be the best eggs.

3.  Is it worth it to buy organic eggs?

Buying organic eggs means that the chickens have not been fed any animal by-products, given hormones, antibiotics or eaten any genetically modified feed.  Additionally organic eggs are always from free-range chickens.  There are studies showing the organically raised fruits and vegetables have more nutrients than their conventionally grown counterparts. I have not seen any studies showing that the same is true for organically raised eggs but I feel that it is probably true.

4.  Why do they advertise omega-3 eggs and how do they do that?

I believe producers are advertising omega-3 eggs because there is a current trend or fad for foods that are enhanced with omega-3, or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).  Most of us don't get enough of this important essential fatty acid in our diet so producers think (and sadly they're mostly correct) that by advertising in big letters that their product contains ALA will convince many of us to buy it.  How do they get the omega-3's in there?  They feed the chickens a diet that is very high in flaxseeds which are one of the natural sources of ALA.  Walnuts and salmon are two other very good sources.  I personally feel that I would rather eat foods that are naturally high in omega-3's than pay extra for enhanced eggs.

5.  Does the color of the yolk mean anything?

Free-range chickens who are scratching and eating bugs tend to produce richer colored yolks because of all of the greens they are eating.  However it is possible to get a more golden color yolk by feeding corn or alfalfa to the chicken; chickens fed wheat will have pale colored yolks.   It is even possible to get an orange-y color to the yolks by feeding marigold petals to the chickens.  I believe advertisement of yolk color on the package simply means the producer is counting on the consumer to this that this means the egg is fresher or better when what they have done is feed the chicken a diet that changes the yolk color.

6.  Why do they advertise vegetarian-fed on the egg carton?

I don't really know, since chickens are not vegetarians.  I assume that it is to assure the consumer that the chickens are not being fed any animal by-products.  By natural inclination chickens would eat bugs, worms and other small animals but if they are not free-range they do not have access the these.

Hopefully this will help you make the best egg choice for your family.

photo courtesy of

Saturday, January 10, 2009

sleeping soundly

We all need sleep. Unfortunately the pace of modern life and the ability to extend daylight has taught many of us to develop very poor sleep habits. We've all seen the news reports that show how significant numbers of the population are suffering from a sleep debt, many are seriously sleep deprived. We've also seen the reports that show how sleep deprivation can cause delayed reactions and slowed or confused thinking.

Now a new report released last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that sleep deprivation can be tied to coronary calcification.  In the study calcification rates were as high as 27% of the study population who slept less than 5 hours per night.  It dropped significantly with added sleep and according to the article one hour of added sleep was considered equal to lowering systolic blood pressure 17 mm Hg (the systolic number occurs at the beginning of the cardiac cycle and is the first number in a blood pressure reading - an average blood pressure is somewhere around 115/75).

Sleep hygiene is certainly an important part of our health.  Avoiding caffeine later in the day; going to bed at approximately the same time every night; creating a sleep routine that signals your body that it is time to get ready for sleep; having a dark, comfortable room to sleep.  These are all good practices to ensure that we are getting not only enough sleep but restful sleep.  

Nutritionally there are a few things that you can do to help you sleep as well.  As mentioned above, avoiding caffeine later in the day is important.  Many people claim to not be affected by caffeine but reports from the National Sleep Foundation show that most people are not aware of how much of a sleep debt they are carrying and how it affects them.  Try switching to decaffeinated or herbal drinks in the afternoon and evening.  Carbohydrate cravings are another problem that can affect sleep and sleep quality.  For many people the mid-afternoon carbohydrate cravings are because they are producing too much melatonin at the wrong time of day, this leads to a suppression of seratonin in the brain.  This in turn leads to cravings for carbohydrates.  Getting back onto a good sleep cycle with adequate sleep can help re-regulate your brain clock.  

Many people have problems staying asleep, they wake up around 2 or 3 am.  The general suggestion here is to take calcium and magnesium before bedtime.  Calcium has a calming effect and the magnesium balances the calcium and relaxes the muscles.  Eating nuts (especially almonds), nut butters, cheese, or yogurt are good sources of these nutrients.  Bananas, dates, figs, tuna or turkey are also good choices as they are high in tryptophan which helps to promote sleep.  Remember, this is a small snack, not a meal, so don't overdo the amount that you eat.

If you take over-the-counter products to sleep please be aware that your body can become over conditioned to them and then require them to sleep.  Melatonin and chamomile should not be taken on a long-term basis and if you are allergic to ragweed you should avoid chamomile altogether.

Take care of yourself, sleep well, be well.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

but it tastes like licorice

My Aunt recently asked a question that I thought I would share.  She's avoiding licorice because it raises blood pressure.  In reading through the ingredients of her herbal teas she discovered that her favorite roiboos tea has anise in it.  Since it tastes like licorice she was wondering if she should avoid that as well.

Great question.  The short answer is no she does not need to avoid it.

The longer answer is that anise (Pimpinella anisum) is considered to be both a vegetable and an herb. It is related to fennel, both of which do have a licorice-y flavor. Aniseed oil is apparently sometimes used to deepen the flavor of licorice candy. However they are different plants, and plant families, and anise is not considered to be a blood pressure raising herb.

As always I would like to point out that if you have a serious health concern, such as very high blood pressure, it is important to be under the care of a reliable health care practitioner.

Be well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

conflicting covers

I saw the new crop of magazine covers in the store today.  All the "ladies" magazines with their supposedly encouraging messages about "90 New Ways to Organize," "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days," "Be A Better Mommy with these Top Ten Tips."  Those are actually made up headlines but they are not far off from the backhanded message the magazines try to promote about how worthless we are unless we [insert lead story here].

And if that's not bad enough I have yet to see a magazine that doesn't have some supposedly miraculous weight loss story inside that will change-your-life-forever.  And next to the LARGE BOLD font?  a dessert; usually gooey and sugary, frequently cake but always dessert.

Needless to say this drives me crazy.  No wonder so many people have such a difficult time learning to understand good food and the needs of their body.  They are being sidelined by conflicting messages.  All too often we wind up eating the cake.

It's hard to give up the junk news habit (which is what many of these magazines represent).  Unless you can ignore the negative messages it may be helpful to avoid the magazine altogether and focus instead on building a happier, healthier life by focusing on the real you, the authentic you.  Not the dreamed-up-by-a-corporation you that they try to convince you you are.

Instead of following the magazines it makes more sense to follow a whole body plan, nourish yourself with positive messages, time for de-stressing activities, physical activity, spiritual activity, and whole foods.

Take care of yourself and be well.

Monday, January 5, 2009

under pressure

A family member was recently diagnosed with dangerously high blood pressure. She had no symptoms, another health concern brought her to the doctor where a blood pressure check revealed this condition.  Although she is currently on some stabilizing medications to bring her blood pressure under control there are some foods that she needs to avoid as relying strictly on medication is not the answer.

Licorice, ginseng and ephedra are all known to raise blood pressure.  Caffeine should also be avoided.  Most people reading these items would think that they would be easy to avoid but it's not as easy as you think.  Many herbal teas contain licorice or ginseng in them as these are considered stimulants and are great for a little boost in your non-caffeinated herbal tea.  Caffeine exists in certain medications such Excedrin and ephedra makes and appearance in some energy drinks (which I don't recommend you drink anyway).

If you have high blood pressure always be sure to check with your health care professional to keep it under control but in the meantime be aware of those foods that can undermine your efforts.

Be well.


I don't know about you but I love the start of a new year. New planner, new calendar, clean paper, all that writing and scribbling to come. Every year my kids get a brand new calendar as part of their holiday gifts. I usually get one too. But there is a problem that comes with all this blank paper. Having too much of it. At one point I had a work planner, a daily planner, a PDA, a family calendar and my personal calendar and an online calendar. Then there was my husband's calendar with his schedule on it. There were too many places for information to reside all related to dates and times. Needless to say it got a bit overwhelming; one unfortunate result being the day I took the wrong kid to the dentist (a 30 minute drive each way).

My brother and I frequently talk about the best way to keep track of all of these appointments, electronic, paper, bound, unbound, it can get rather overwhelming.  Some people love their Palm Pilots, some function with a small purse-size two year calendar; I have one friend with a truly amazing huge planner-system (I wasted a lot of energy being jealous of her system and trying to adopt it for my own - it didn't work).

I've realized that the most important part of stress-less planning is to learn what your style is and go with it. For me that means a family calendar and a small planner similar to the Hipster PDA.   In order to simplify your life I suggest you consolidate your calendars, reduce your planners and go with what works for you.  

Saturday, January 3, 2009

processed people

With thanks to my friend Dawn for sharing this with me. This is really scary stuff and, unfortunately, it's all true.

Once again, eat real food, not too much. That's the "secret" to a healthy life.