Friday, December 30, 2011

joy bauer's food cures

Joy Bauer's Food Cures has been revised and updated; I was fortunate enough to have a copy recently come across my desk.

As those of you reading my blog know, I am a huge proponent of food and it's ability to help support a healthy body.  We are what we eat; eating whole food and practicing wholesome nutrition goes a long way toward supporting our bodies and in dealing with health issues.

Broken down into several easy to understand categories this book covers the basics of understanding nutrition as well as how to, as Joy puts it, "think like a nutritionist."  She offers information about how to lose weight and support healthy skin and hair.

Speaking of hair, did you know the average person loses about 100 hairs each day?  It turns out that since hair is made from protein if we don't get enough we can actually cause the rate of new hair growth to slow down.  In the book Joy points out that hair is a good way to determine overall health and highlights which vitamins (and which foods contain those vitamins) are supportive for healthy hair and nails (which are made from the same hardened keratin protein as hair).  Offering more in-depth health and nutrition support, the book also delves into conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, migraines, IBS and more.

The book is easy-to-read and laid out with step-by-step encouragement and support to help the reader reach their goals for health.  The book is also sprinkled with lots of call-out boxes which cover the highlights and answer questions that the reader may have.  She includes stories and examples throughout the book which is helpful.  In addition to providing the necessary information to help the reader better understand the basics of their condition and how to best support their body each chapter has a 4-Step Program which reminds the reader of the basics, provides a grocery list, offers some additional suggestions, and then also offers meal plans with some delicious looking recipes.  Her Citrus Smooth-See recipe on page 272 is delicious as is the Vegetable Oatmeal Bisque on page 322.  And the Parmesan Couscous and Ratatouille with Olives, Tomatoes and Fresh Basil on pages 383 (listed below) is a new family favorite.

Joy Bauer's Food Cures provides what you need to know about healthy eating and whole food nutrition.  It also gives you information to help you understand how to make those healthy changes.

Parmesan Couscous and Ratatouille With Olives, Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil
Makes 3 servings (1 1/2 cups ratatouille and 1 1/2 cups coucous per serving


1/2 pound kale, stems trimmed, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow squash, cut into small cubes (about 2 cups)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/4 cups kalamata or nicoise olives (7 or 8) pitted and chopped
Pinch of ground red papper
1/4 cup whole basil leaves torn


1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 cup sugar snap peas, chopped
1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, heated
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

To make the ratatouille:
Heat a deep saute pan over high heat
Add the kale, a sprinkle of salt, and 3/4 cup water
Cook, stirring occasionally for 13-15 minutes or until softened
If the kale becomes too dry add more water
Stir in the oil, squash, tomatoes, olives, and red pepper
Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the squash is tender and the tomatoes lose their shape
Remove from the heat and stir in the basil
Set aside

To make the couscous:
In a medium bowl, mix the couscous and sugar snap peas
Pour the hot broth on top, stir at once and cover with aluminum foil
Allow the couscous to rest for 5-6 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the couscous is soft and fluffy
Fold the cheese into the couscous and season with salt and black pepper

To serve:
Spoon the couscous onto a plate or bowl and serve the ratatouille on top

To learn more about Joy and the concept of food cures visit her website.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

luscious lemon

Around this time last year I bought some fruit trees at the local County Extension Service Master Gardener's Sale.  One was a lemon.  All year long we've been watching the tree grow.  It produced just one lonely lemon fruit of enormous proportions - you can see it in it's growing phase here.  We have been waiting for it to ripen.

Today was the day.  Yellow all the way down, smelling fragrantly of....grapefruit?  We decided that this was the perfect time to harvest our one and only lemon.

Turns out it really is a lemon, in spite of the grapefruit-y aroma.  It's huge and juicy, and the flavor is definitely that of lemon.  We all stood around eating small bites of it.  We decided that it's not quite as tart as most lemons, still a bit puckery, however there is a hint of sweetness to it.

As you can see it has an amazing amount of seeds in it.  We're trying to decide if this is normal for this lemon or if it's just because there was only one fruit.

My hope is that next year we will have more lemons as the tree matures, and each year after that even more.  I have a friend whose 12 year old lemon tree is so productive she mails boxes to relatives every year.  For us even this one lemon is a delight.  It was a great moment to harvest, yet again, something that we grew and all marvel at the fact that we produced something of our very own (with the help of Mother Nature of course) from our teeny-tiny backyard.

 As I write this I am enjoying a cup of darjeeling tea with a slice of lemon and somehow, because it came from my garden?, it just tastes better.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

gluten free holidays

christmas cookies | photo:  Till Westermayer
For those who have to avoid gluten the holidays can present a particular challenge.  Especially the winter holidays.  Most of the traditional foods are cakes and cookies, made with wheat, rye, or barley, all grains which contain gluten.

If you're trying to figure out some delicious gluten-free holiday options here's a roundup of some of my favorites found around the web:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

the giving season

hot chocolate | photo: Itizdacuriz
Every year around the holiday season I always find that I need a few small gifts.  Not willing to brave the shopping frenzy at this time of year I turn to the idea of making gifts at home.  I find many people truly enjoy receiving these more personal gifts.

Confession time.  I'm a fairly decent knitter but rather slow at it so whipping out a bunch of hand knitted gifts just isn't going to happen.  (I'm still working on a gift for someone that was supposed to be last year's present.)  I have visions of all of the fabulous crafty gifts that abound on the internet that look so easy.  Following directions closely my version comes out "nice" but certainly not as full of wow factor as the originals; so that's not gonna happen either. love food.  And I love giving food.  And most people I know like getting food.  That makes it a perfect gift in my book.  The best part is that you still have time to put it all together, wrap it up in a pretty ribbon and gift it to that someone special without braving the crowds. the carols, and the olfactory assault that is commercialized holiday shopping.

  1. Chocolate Granola - This recipe is from my friend Christine and is always a huge hit.  Made in the crockpot it's super easy; set it to cook all day (stirring when you remember) while you are doing other things.
  2. Crockpot Snack Mix - There are four recipes on this post Tropical, Tex-Mex, Asian, and Curried; they're all delicious.  Another fabulous use for your crockpot.
  3. Crockpot Nuts - Okay, by now you've figured out that I love my crockpot.  These snack nuts are so tasty that I always have to make extras because they're just that good.
  4. Vanilla Sugar - This is a fabulous gift to give, especially to someone who is a baker.  One vanilla bean pod split and shoved, seeds and all, into a wide mouth pint jar full of evaporated cane juice crystals.  Tie a pretty ribbon on it and you're good to go.  It does need to sit for 2-3 weeks to allow the aroma to infuse so stick a note on it if necessary.
  5. Hot Cocoa Mix - This is based on a recipe from a major food manufacturer.  I've changed it by substituting better ingredient options and removing the requirement for name brand products. 
    • 1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
    • 1/3 Cup evaporated cane juice crystals (optional - made into vanilla sugar. yum)
    • 1 1/2 Cups organic milk powder 
    • 1/2 Cup chopped good quality chocolate (I prefer Belgian chocolate)
    • Layer ingredients in order given into a wide mouth pint jar, close and decorate with ribbon
    • Instructions for preparation:  Gently heat 4 cups of organic milk to just below boiling, add contents of the jar, whisking well until fully combined.  note:  if not using vanilla sugar include instructions to use 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.  
    • Garnish with organic whipped cream and shaved chocolate.  Makes 4 servings  
Whatever your holiday of choice, I hope it's a happy and healthy one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

heading home for the holidays

over the river and through the wood | photo: ladyheart
The winter holidays are fast approaching.  For many people this includes travel plans to spend the time with friends or family.  If you're going to be on the road, either by plane, train, or automobile plan ahead for snacks and beverages.

Of course on an airplane you can't bring beverages with you.  You can, however, bring an empty, eco-friendly water bottle and refill once you get past security.  Once you are on the plane consider getting juice mixed with seltzer rather than soda or straight juice.  Soda, of course, is not a healthy option while juice alone provides a lot of sugar; diluting it reduces the sugars while still helping you to stay hydrated.

If you're traveling by another method be sure to bring healthy beverage choices with you, such as lots of water.  This can not only help you avoid dehydration, but can also save you money as on-the-road purchases are often much more expensive.

Protein is important to help stabilize blood sugar.  Consider bringing snacks with you to avoid the munchies and the temptation to purchase non-nutritious, fatty, sugary road food choices.  Options might include:

  • my favorite trail mix (raw and unsalted):  3 parts nuts, 2 parts seeds, 1 part unsulfured dry fruit
  • a salad with some healthy protein: chicken, turkey, beef, or ham, or eggs
  • a wrap with some healthy protein: chicken, turkey, beef, or ham, or eggs
  • cheese and whole grain crackers with delicious olives, pickles  and other finger foods
  • those little pouches of tuna (w/o liquid), add your own whole grain crackers
  • preservative free turkey jerky
  • healthy protein bars
Planning ahead for your travel needs can help you avoid the pitfalls of on-the-road non-nutritious food choices.  You'll arrive with stable blood sugar and well-hydrated, a great start to a happy, healthy holiday.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

online store for grains&more

I haven't been writing much in the last couple of days because I've been busy playing with this lovely new graphic.

Some time back one of my friends, Darbi, started asking "What would Mira eat?"  She took it one step further and started sharing that question with other friends.  It became a fun joke with my friends.

But it also highlighted for me one of the challenges of being a Nutrition Educator.  Going out to eat with other people.  The situations sometimes go something like this:

  1. They wait until I order because they want to see what I'm going to eat and then they order the same thing whether they want it or not.
  2. They order something telling me to avert my eyes because I'm "not going to like it."
  3. They order something they don't really want (different from what I order) because they're afraid I will disapprove.
  4. If I want a cookie they are shocked [don't be, I'm human and yes, I do, occasionally, eat cookies.]
I tell people all the time.  I'm am NOT the food police.  Your food choices are your business and it would be rude, inconsiderate even, for me to comment on your choices unless you asked me to do so.  And truthfully I have more important things to do than to micro-examine what other people have on their place (such as enjoying the company I'm with).  If you want me to tell you I will but otherwise, what you eat is up to you.  I saw the WWME comment as a gentle way for friends to remind themselves to eat well without my having to be the food police.

So back to Darbi and the gang...another friend of mine, the talented and amazing Dawn, came up with this really cute design.  I love it.  I thought it was so much fun that I decided to throw it on a t-shirt.  Well, one thing led to another and I wound up putting it on a whole bunch of stuff.

If you like it too, and if you can see your way clear to wearing it, please visit my new store at and buy something.  I do make money when you do this, one dollar from each product.  And each dollar helps me out.  So in advance, thank you to those of you who choose to help support me in writing this blog.

Monday, December 5, 2011

the hygiene hypothesis

washing hands | photo: Lars Klintwall Malmqvist
There seems to be an increasing number of people affected by asthma and allergies.  Especially children.

One reason put forward is that as we have become more focused on cleanliness, to the point where we have created problems.  Overuse of antibiotic cleansers has reduced our exposure to pathogens, or germs, in our environment.  Because our bodies have been designed to fight these germs, to develop a healthy immune system, when we severely reduce our environmental exposures it is theorized that our bodies over-react.  They become sensitive to increasingly more substances, most of them environmental or food exposures.  As odd as it may sound, the research supports this.  Studies show that children who grow up in rural areas, especially non-Westernized countries, with more exposure to a wider range of microbes, have a vastly reduced rate of allergies.

Of increasing interest to me is the concept that this hyper-clean state that we've created has affected our intestinal health which in turns leads to more problems.  Gary Huffnagle, co-author of the The Probiotics Revolution has gone a step further with the hygiene hypothesis and developed a concept that he calls the microflora hypothesis.  He posits that our Western lifestyle and diet have altered our microflora, our ecosystem, and opened us up to more allergies and, by extension, more digestive disorders.  By not gaining exposure to a wider range of microbes we are unable to build an ecosystem that is fully supportive of our overall health.

Part of the reason that this is of so fascinating to me is because in working with clients I am also seeing more and more digestive health issues.  And I believe the numbers are rising.  More leaky gut, more IBS, IBD, more dysbiosis.  Dr. Liz Lipski, author of Digestive Wellness, in her work shows that the immune system is very strongly tied to digestive function.

In order to support our health we need to stop killing off our symbiotic partners, those bacteria that inhabit our gut, through overuse of antibiotic and antibacterial products.  We also need to feed and support these probiotic colonies.  What do they eat?  Prebiotics.  Their food comes from insoluble fibers found in our food.  Berries, onions, legumes, oatmeal, and other whole grains support not only the probiotic bacteria, but also help maintain good bowel health.  We also need to re-inoculate our systems with a steady supply of healthy bacterial colonies.  Those are found in fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, and kimchi.  Not that we need to eat an overwhelming amount of these on a regular basis, but they should be a regular part of our diet.

Research does not, as yet, appear to show how much we can reverse the affect on our immune systems, but we certainly can keep it from continuing to decline.  Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, at the recent Wise Traditions Conference in Dallas, stated, "We are a shell, a habitat for our eco-system."  We need to suport our eco-system.  We can also protect future generations by focusing on and acknowledging that that eco-system needs to be fully supported in order to function properly.

Friday, December 2, 2011

curried cauliflower

cauliflower | photo: jeltovski
In my part of the world cauliflower is in season.  Yummy cauliflower, it's so easy and versatile to prepare in a number of different ways.

One of the things that always seems to surprise people is that you can use the green leafy bits too, not just the white florets.  The greens make a great vegetable to go along with your cooked cauliflower.

In the summer I often roast the greens right along with the florets.  Drizzled with a fruity olive oil, some sea salt and fresh ground pepper they are truly fabulous.

But now that we're heading into colder weather I'm not roasting vegetables as much, preferring different cooking methods.  At this time our year with cauliflower I often like to curry it.  The flavors of curry go well with the cauliflower and greens.  Over a bed of rice with some protein on the side it's a very satisfying dinner.

Curried Cauliflower

generous pinch of mustard seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 cauliflower cut into florets
cauliflower greens cut into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat olive oil in the pan
Add mustard seeds and cook until they just start to pop
Turn heat to medium
Add onions and saute until starting to soften
Add garlic and saute one minute more
Add curry powder and stir well
Add cauliflower, greens and water
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 8-10 minutes until cauliflower is tender
Season with salt and cilantro

For another delicious cauliflower recipe sign up for my newsletter.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

holiday roundup

The holidays are rapidly approaching.  I often get questions about what would be a good eco-friendly/healthy gift to give.  Because I seem to be suggesting the same ideas to a lot of people I thought it would make sense to share my top ten list.  In no particular order they are:

  1.  Stainless Steel Drink Staws - These are on my wish list and I think they make a great gift for anyone.  Environmentally friendly and strong enough for travel it's a great way to take your straw with you.
  2. Mesh Reusable Produce Bags - I have these and think they are fabulous.  Very eco-friendly, easy to use, I often get positive comments from cashiers and other shoppers.
  3. Nourishing Traditions - I own a thumb-marked, dog-eared copy of this book.  For those who are getting started with whole food nutrition this is a great beginning.  For those who have started and want to learn more it's a wonderful resource.  Definitely one of my top book recommendations.
  4. Blendtec 40-609-BHMV 2-Quart Blender Jar - I think the Blendtec products are good ones.  For those of you who are getting into green smoothies this is a must have in order to make them.
  5.  Green Smoothies Diet - and if you're going to start making Green Smoothies you need the book that got it all started by Robyn Openshaw.
  6. CuisinartSmart Stick Hand Blender - I have this and it is one of my all-time favorite appliances.  Quite frankly I'm not sure what I would do without it, I seem to use it almost every day.
  7. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Store bought bread often has all sorts of chemical ingredients in it, dough conditioners, preservatives and the like.  For those who want to skip those unhealthy ingredients and learn to make bread at home this is a great place to start.
  8. 7-Quart Oval Slow Cooker, White - I love my slow cooker and use it frequently.  I've even use it overnight to make breakfast.
  9. Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook - if you're going to give a slow cooker you probably want to throw in a cookbook to go with it.  This is one of my favorite slow-cooker cookbooks I use it quite often.

  10. To-Go Ware Reusable Bamboo Utensil Set - and for all those eaters out there...your very own, eco-friendly tableware.  I carry a set with me all the time in my purse and it has often come in handy.  Inexpensive and good to have, consider this as a stocking stuffer.