Kitchen Experiments – Strawberries with Coconut Whipped Cream

Have you been hearing non-stop now about coconut oil, milk and water?  Even coconut flour and sugar have found their way to the shelves! It seems like not long ago when coconut anything was a definite no-no.  Well, not anymore. It seems the more coconut the better!  Actually, when I went to school to get my masters in nutrition at Bastyr University in the 1990’s they were already talking about how good coconut oil was for you, it just took the mainstream community a few more years to catch on.  Basically the fats that are found in coconut are made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which do not get processed the same way that the short or long chain triglycerides do and therefore are able to be used directly for energy.

Well, honestly, the “good for you” part is nice, but I just love the versatility of coconut and of course the taste.  I was looking for a recipe for whipped cream made from something other than heavy cream when I came across this recipe for coconut whipped cream.  It looked so easy so I just had to give it a go!

straw and whipped creamIsn’t it beautiful!  Now, it does not taste like the whipped cream that you know, so don’t expect it to, but boy is the flavor delicious.  The best thing about it is that you need very little sweetener to make it taste good.  It was really the perfect pairing for these strawberries.  I think it will replace regular whipped cream in my house.  I can’t wait to make pumpkin pie!  I will let you know how that turns out!

COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM

1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight

1-2 Tbs. maple syrup 

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place the coconut milk in the can in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 3 hours, but better overnight.  When removing from the refrigerator, try not to agitate the can. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the top layer of white, fatty goodness into a decent sized mixing bowl (discard the coconut water or save it for smoothies). Blend the chunks of coconut milk with a hand mixer on high-speed for 15-20 seconds, just until the mixture turns to liquid. Add the maple syrup slowly (amount depends on how sweet you like it) and mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and blend on high-speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and creamy. Whipped cream is best served immediately, but can be stored in an air tight container for up to three days. It will harden in the fridge, so when ready to serve, simply blend with a hand mixer on high-speed until creamy again.

Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

Sunflowers

Can you believe how beautiful these are?

dried pineappleActually, I think the photo is not even doing them justice.  No, they are not sunflowers but dried pineapple!  I had bought some dried pineapple from Trader Joe’s several months ago and just devoured it!  It was so sweet and chewy, but then I really love dried fruit. I was afraid that if I dried the fruit myself in the dehydrator that it would turn brown.  The pineapple from Trader Joe’s was not this yellow, but more of a brown color.  I always assumed that when they put the sulfites in the fruit, it helped to retain the color.  I will have to try some apricots when they come into season and see what happens!  So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when these were finished drying to see the bright yellow color!  They are thin and chewy and oh so sweet!  I really have to remember to get out my dehydrator more often!  If it wasn’t so big, I would find it a home in my kitchen.  For now, it has to live in the basement but it definitely will be visiting the kitchen way more often!

Inflammation – Musings from Anita

Inflammation is the hot topic in my world right now. I cannot seem to open an email or a newsletter without being bombarded with the latest research and ideas about how to combat it in our bodies, minds, and hearts. How it is the major cause of almost all disease and illness.

We can easily find the 10 worst foods for inflammation (gluten, sugar, alcohol, etc). We can read about too much time in front of the computers, TV, and negative news contributing to our stress which is a major component of increased inflammation in our bodies. We can also find evidence that harboring negative feelings, engaging in angry outbursts, and chronic worrying
are also causing inflammatory conditions inside and out.

Personally, I have been watching an interesting finding in myself and I dare say, my clients: we seem to be addicted to inflammation! We continue to engage in all of the behaviors that cause it and have a ton of excuses about why we just can’t seem to change or how we are “trying” to change. As chronic as our inflammation is, so is our complaining about our aching joints, problems sleeping, troubles in our relationships with friends and family, and our dissatisfaction with our work and lives.

What does it take to change? I am beginning to take this question seriously as if my life depended on it because, guess what? IT DOES! I am carefully and consciously making choices that I know are good for me. Not easy choices, not quick choices, but good choices. We all know what those are when it comes to food, work, family, and friends. No one needs to tell us and we don’t need to spend countless hours researching it. If we are really honest with ourselves, we know exactly what to do. I hope you will join me.

Make the good choices, even though they are hard. I really do understand. It is much easier to take the quick and easy road as I did it for years. Looking back though, there have been a lot of casualties and standing in the present there is a lot of pain. So looking forward I choose “the road less traveled” and trust that will make all of the difference. Stay tuned.

Acupuncture’s Five Elements

5e
Acupuncture is on my mind this month! I (Louise) have been taking a 2 year course in Stockbridge, MA with Lonny Jarrett and it is very thought-provoking. I am enjoying re-learning about the five elements and how to look at my clients differently from that perspective. So, instead of always talking about food and recipes, let’s delve a little deeper into my other life which is acupuncture!
There are five elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood and they each have specific characteristics that are present in nature and in each of us. We can look at each person and see which element predominates. It is almost like saying that each person looks through glasses that are colored by one of the five elements. So for example, Earth is related to the color yellow, the emotion of worry, singing in the voice, and sweetness in odor. So in a person who is more like Earth, I would expect to find these attributes. Each element is also related to a season: winter is water, spring is wood, summer is fire, late summer or harvest is earth and fall is metal.  During that season, the element predominates and we may notice more attributes in ourselves and others. Before spring ends at the end of this week, let’s talk more about the element of wood.
The color of wood is green, the odor is rancid, the sound is shouting, the emotion is anger and the taste or flavor is sour. Spring is a time of growth, when the shoots that have been sleeping all winter, begin to awaken. In order for those shoots to survive, they must have within them the ability to bend and stay supple. Any rigidity in the plant will cause the new growth to break off and die. The wood element gives the plants and us the flexibility in life to grow. If we hold on too tightly and become rigid, nothing happens.
The liver and the gallbladder are the organs associated with the wood element. The liver helps us to plan and the gallbladder makes decisions.  You may find that during this time of year you either are great at planning and decision-making or you always get stuck. This is pointing to an imbalance in the wood energy. You may also notice in spring the tendency towards irritation, frustration or anger in yourself or in others which also is pointing towards an imbalance.
How to balance the wood element? Acupuncture, energy work and food can all help to smooth out the wood element.  Check out some of
the recipes posted on the website and blog.
Stay tuned for more information on the five elements specifically the Fire element which is predominate during the summer months!

Calcium Conundrum

I have a confession to make. I am the worst pill taker. I am always so impressed when I ask people if they take supplements and they proceed to rattle off a list about a mile long. I am lucky if I can remember to take one supplement, let alone two. It is not that I mind swallowing pills, because if I have to, I can take 10 pills at once. No, it is really a matter of remembering to take them. I am lost if I have to remember to take something two or more times per day. However, as we age I know there are certain vitamins and minerals that I should be taking or at least making sure they are found in the foods that I am eating as part of my daily diet. One of these important nutrients that everyone “should” be including is calcium. Most people think of calcium for bones or that only women need to be taking it, but calcium is not just for women and not just for bones!

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body and one of the most important. Calcium and magnesium work together in the body on blood, nerves, muscles and tissues. In particular, they work to regulate heart and muscle contraction, as well as nerve conduction. Heart function, in particular the regulation of the heartbeat, is aided by calcium because of its ability to stimulate contraction of muscles. The way that calcium aids the nervous system is through nerve transmission. It influences nerve and cell membranes and the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This is often why calcium is said to have a calming effect on the nerves and in higher concentrations tends to decrease nerve irritability. If there is not enough calcium circulating in the blood to aid in these functions, the body naturally pulls the calcium from the bones, weakening them and possibly causing osteoporosis.

Calcium is the primary mineral needed to build bones, but it also needs other vitamins and minerals to aid in its absorption and function, such as magnesium, boron and vitamin D. Women are not the only group susceptible to osteoporosis, although it is most common in elderly, white women. Calcium deficiency is common in adults, often because their dietary intake of calcium is reduced. This deficiency is also common among pregnant and nursing women and supplementation of this important mineral may help leg cramps during pregnancy as well as fatigue and depression after delivery.

Other problems that are often solved with calcium supplementation include: leg cramps in children; menstrual problems such as menstrual cramps, irritability, and muscle cramps that occur around menstruation; PMS; generalized muscle cramps or leg or foot cramps; loose teeth, gingivitis, and periodontal disease; and regulating the contraction and relaxation of the heart, which may in turn aid in congestive heart failure.

In order for enough calcium to be available in the body for all of these functions, it is important to look at the general absorption of the mineral and what factors aid or reduce it. Most likely, 50-70% of the calcium ingested will get absorbed into the body. Vitamins D, A and C can help support normal membrane transport of calcium. Protein intake helps absorb calcium, but too much may reduce it. The same may be found with fats, some dietary fat may aid it, while too much may reduce it. Having good stomach acids will also help in calcium’s absorption, as will exercise. (This is why taking TUMS as a calcium supplement is not a good idea – calcium needs the stomach acid for absorption so while TUMS may contain calcium it is also reducing the absorption by decreasing the acids in the stomach.)  Calcium absorption may also be reduced by phosphorous rich foods, such as soda, diet sodas, processed foods such as lunch meats and cheese spreads.

There are two options for increasing the consumption of calcium in your diet:

1. Take a supplement, or

2. Eat more calcium rich foods.

When looking into a supplement, it is important to look at what form of the calcium is being supplied, how many milligrams is in the supplement, as well as what other vitamins and minerals are in the supplement to aid with its absorption. There are many different forms of calcium to choose from and the appropriate form depends upon your specific needs. Calcium citrate malate (CCM) is well absorbed by the body and may be more effective in keeping bones strong than some other forms. Calcium carbonate absorbs as well as the calcium in milk, it’s inexpensive, and also requires the fewest number of tablets to reach an appropriate level, which makes it a popular choice for many people. Calcium carbonate is the main ingredient of coral calcium supplements and also antacids, such as Tums®, which is why some people rely on those as a calcium supplement. Calcium amino acid chelates have not been well studied, though they appears to be well-absorbed by the body. Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite is a bonemeal variation that has been shown to build bone mass in people with certain conditions.

It is important that you are getting the most for your money, so look for a supplement that contains at least 300-500mg per capsule, depending on how much you need to take daily. The recommendation daily allowance (RDA) has increased in the last several years. Doctors and nutritionist are now recommending that children get at least 800mg per day while women and men should have between 1000-1300mg/day depending upon the age.

It is also important to make sure that there is at least Vitamin D and magnesium in the supplement, along with the calcium in order to insure the proper absorption of calcium. Most doctors prescribe calcium with vitamin D because they are unaware of the importance of magnesium. Since magnesium and calcium compete for the same absorption site, taking one without the other will lead to an imbalance, which then will lead to unwanted symptoms, depending upon which is out of balance. Avoid this by taking a complete formula. If you have been diagnosed with osteopinea or osteoporosis, look for a formula that has even more absorption boosters and other vitamins and minerals that will help with bone formation. When in doubt, ask your health care practitioner for help in choosing the best formula for you.

Personally, since I am not a consistent supplement taker, I try to get most of my nutrients from the food that I eat. Foods that contain dairy are good sources of calcium, but sometimes not the most absorbable. Surprisingly, there are many foods that are probably already part of your normal diet which also supply a good amount of this bone-building nutrient. For example, almonds, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, figs, collard, dandelion, beet and turnip greens, broccoli, buckwheat (kasha), parsley and many more. Click here for a more complete list.  So, if you also have a bad memory when it comes to taking pills, try incorporating more calcium rich foods into your daily menu.  Here is a recipe for a great snack to have on your desk or to carry in your purse!

sweet nut mix

Sweet Nut Mix

1 c. nuts and seeds (almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds plus any other favorites)

1/3 c. maple syrup

¼ tsp. Cinnamon (optional)

In a small bowl, coat the nuts and seeds evenly with the maple syrup.  Spread on a sprayed cookie sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350oF for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately place the nuts on a plate to cool.  Nuts should become crunchy.  Toss on salads or straight in your mouth.

Kitchen Experiments – Buckwheat Applesauce Cake

I had no idea when I started to experiment with recipes for this ALCAT diet how to bake things without eggs. I always imagined that the baked items would not be as light and fluffy as their egg counterparts, but I will admit that I was wrong!  This is the third, fourth or fifth time that I have made this recipe over the past six months and I am thrilled every time I bake it and see it rise to the top of the pan.

The other thing that I am thrilled with is the flavor of buckwheat flour that is freshly ground from raw buckwheat groats.  (I think that I have mentioned in a previous post that I bought a Vitamix machine specifically so that I could grind my grains into flour and I am not sorry that I spent the money.  I love it! When I eat my freshly baked item and I think that I made it all with the freshest ingredients that I could find, it really makes me quite happy!  It’s the small things that do it for me!)

raw groats (Raw Buckwheat Groats)

Buckwheat flour that you buy at the store must be ground from toasted buckwheat because it is very dark in color and has a very distinct flavor.  I tried making 100% buckwheat pancakes with flour from the bag and they had a very strong buckwheat flavor that really did not appeal to me.  It was only when I saw the raw buckwheat groats at Earthlight Natural Foods that I realized there were the raw and the roasted.

Buckwheat is not wheat, nor is it related to wheat nor is it even a grain or a cereal. It is gluten-free and derived from the seeds of a flowering plant so technically I think that you would consider Buckwheat a fruit. This is a great recipe to make in a pan like cornbread or in muffin tins.  It is a very tasty breakfast bread delicious when spread with almond butter.  Enjoy!

buckwheat cake

Buckwheat Applesauce Cake

1 ½ c. Buckwheat Flour (ground white buckwheat)
½ c. Almond Meal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
2 Tbs. arrowroot powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
 
1 c. applesauce
¼ c. applebutter
½ c. sweetener (Agave Syrup, Maple Syrup)
1 Tbs. oil
¼ c. water

 Preheat oven to 350oF.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients.  Place wet and dry ingredients in a food processor and process until mixed.  Pour into an oiled 8”x8” square pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Gluten-Free, Yeast-Free Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza! Well, I do think that there are those odd few that really don’t care for it, but in our house homemade pizza has always been a real treat.  I can remember growing up and having friends over so that we could teach them how to make pizza – the right way!  We always looked forward to those pizza parties!  Since doing the Alcat diet, we have not been able to have pizza because it is not quite “pizza” without good mozzarella cheese, or at least that is what my husband Tom said.  I make my pizza with dairy-free cheese, but he wanted to wait until he could have “real” cheese.

So, the three months were up on our dairy restriction so it was time to make pizza! The only problem was that not only could my husband not have cheese but he also has a severe intolerance to yeast.  I wasn’t sure how it would be to have yeast-free pizza but I was up for the challenge.  In the past when I have made homemade pizza I always have made my crust with spelt or kamut flour but this time I needed to make it gluten-free.  Well, just another obstacle to work around!

Luckily the internet is a wealth of information and I found about a thousand recipes for gluten-free, yeast-free pizza so I was good to go! Did I already mention that I am not good at following recipes? Well, I am not.  It’s hard for me to make anything exactly the way it says – I always seem to need to tweak something.  First problem – most recipes want you to use eggs, but it is not egg day, so I needed to either find a different recipe or change it.  I changed it, of course! I used arrowroot in place of the eggs.

My other bad habit is not reading all the way ahead in a recipe. I made the dough and rolled it out and proceeded just like I would have if I was making gluten pizza.  Oops, big mistake. You need to cook the dough first before adding the toppings.  Oh, well.  It was still delicious!

pizzaIt was a little gummy in the middle but it was rolled out pretty thin so it really wasn’t terrible!  But I wasn’t done, I needed to try it again. I searched the internet again and found this recipe:

2 cups water, 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 cup rice flour, 1/2 c. almond flour, 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds, 2 tsp. baking powder.

I decided to give it a whirl, with a few embellishments.  It is not buckwheat day so I used Fearn Brown Rice Baking Mix which has brown rice and soy flours in it + 1/2 cup Teff flour and the rest of the ingredients.  I wanted to add gum just because I thought it would help with the texture.

I read the directions all the way through this time and remembered to cook the crust first.  This is not a crust that you roll out – more just spread in the shape you want.  I think I made it a little too thick, but overall I really liked the flavor and texture of this crust.

pizza2This is definitely a recipe that I will be trying again.  I think I could use it to make foccacia or spread some pesto on the crust and cook it.  I will keep you posted!  I think I could even turn it into a sweet bread.  Oh, too bad it’s late – I may have gone back into the kitchen to invent some dessert!