Monday, November 30, 2009

Fresh Food in the Off-Season

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and we are now beginning the seasons of Advent and Christmas... and for some of us, it's going to start getting COLD quickly. Hello, winter! So, during these long months of winter coming up, how does one continue to eat plenty of salads with health-promoting raw fruits and vegetables while the grocery store produce is not at its peak? Well, here are a few ideas:

  • Greens are ALWAYS available, so don't think you're off the hook because the garden is buried under snow! ;)
  • Try sun dried tomatoes! We dry our own in the dehydrator when we have a garden bounty, and then stick them in the freezer. As you can see, they keep their lovely red color too! If you buy some at the grocery store and they are super hard, try pouring some hot water over them and letting them soak until softened. They are an excellent topping for a salad.
  • Frozen peas... Pour hot water over them and let them sit a couple of minutes until thawed. You don't even have to turn on the stove! Add to a salad, or serve on the side. Talk about FAST FOOD!
  • Root vegetables are in season! Get some carrots or try beets! Try slicing them thinly or grating them to add to salads.
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower: raw on your salad, or try lightly steaming them and then adding some coconut oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. It seriously tastes like butter, but dairy-free and with all the health benefits of coconut oil. An excellent side dish too.
  • Grow your own sprouts: I like sprouted lentils and adzuki beans. Alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts are easy to find ready to go at the grocery store. Just rinse them first to avoid the possibility of mold contamination.
  • Seasonal fruits: Experiment with chopped apples or pears, pomegranate seeds, grapes, kiwis, or citrus fruits. Chopped dried fruits are a nice addition too. Ever tried dried peaches or pineapple?
How do you get raw food in your diet in the winter? What are your favorite salad toppings?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deuteronomy 8 Thanksgiving Salad

Happy Thanksgiving! Okay, so it's a couple days late, but surely some of you out there are still eating leftover turkey and cranberries! ;) In the spirit of feasting... I thought I'd share a rather special salad with you, a salad with a story to tell about that for which I have the most to be thankful.

I actually came up with this salad combination a week or so ago, just because it seemed to be a good combination of flavors to complement the fresh pomegranate I had. But at our Thanksgiving service Wednesday evening, I was inspired by the meaning behind this combination...

You see, this is the Old Testament text that was read:

Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (NIV)
Do Not Forget the LORD
1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.

This text really struck a chord with me. After all, It's been since 2006 that I've been dealing with these health issues... sort of wandering around in the wilderness of conventional treatments and natural health... unsure where to turn for healing. At times I was literally starving to death as my body rejected food. However, all along God has continued to take care of me, keeping me fed, clothed, and sheltered. At least for me it's only been about 4 years, rather than 40. Now I am on a raw vegan diet (eating lots of things like figs and pomegranates and grapes), and under the care of a doctor who is a descendent of Israelites. I think that's pretty neat. This diet seems to be the best to keep me healthy, and I'm so thankful to finally have some answers, and to be on the right road to health.

So anyway.... back to the salad. It occurred to me while listening to the OT reading, that I had pretty much made a salad out of the foods that were listed there-- at least the ones I can eat. Since I can't have wheat, barley, or honey due to food sensitivities, those were out. However, if you were to include the wheat and/or barley in the form of croutons, you would have a salad that tells quite a story. Here's the (more or less) recipe, and then I'll explain:

Deuteronomy 8 Thanksgiving Salad

Salad ingredients:
Mixed baby greens/spring herb mix
dried figs, sliced lengthwise
fresh pomegranate seeds from about 1/2 pomegranate
red grapes, sliced lengthwise
wheat/barley bread croutons

Dressing ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
honey to taste
sea salt to taste

First, mix the dressing ingredients and adjust to taste. Then, mix the salad ingredients (minus the croutons) together in a bowl other than the serving bowl, reserving a small amount of each to arrange on top of the finished salad. Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing to coat. Empty mixed salad into a pretty serving bowl. Arrange the reserved ingredients artistically on top, now including the croutons. Serve, and reflect on the following:

The FIGS remind us of the Garden of Eden: the beautiful world God created, and all his creatures. God created man in his own image, both male and female: Adam & Eve. Mankind fell into sin by disobeying God, and covered their nakedness with fig leaves.

The WHEAT reminds us of Bethlehem, the Hebrew "house of bread." There, God sent His Only Son into the world as a tiny baby to live a perfect life and suffer the consequences of man's sin by dying a terrible and cursed death on the Cross. We are also reminded that Christ is the Bread of Life, and that He gives His Body to us in the form of Bread in Holy Communion.

The BARLEY reminds us of the five barley loaves (John 6) given to feed the 5,000. It reminds us that God provides for our daily needs: "Give us this day our daily bread."

The OLIVE oil reminds us of the Garden of Gethsemene on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus was delivered into the hands of those who would nail Him to the Cross.

The POMEGRANATE has traditionally been a symbol of the resurrection. It reminds us not only that Christ rose from the dead, showing us that His death was indeed accepted by God the Father as the full payment for our sins, but also that we too shall rise, and live forever in heaven if our faith and trust are in Christ.

The HONEY reminds us of God's promises: He has given us His Holy Word, especially the Gospel, which is "sweeter than honey" (Psalm 19, 119; Ezekiel 3, Rev. 10) and has promised to ultimately bring us to "a land flowing with milk and honey" in Heaven.

The GRAPES (fruit of the vine) reminds us of the Feast in Heaven and the way in which Christ is now present with us in the Wine of Holy Communion.

The Story of Salvation. Now THAT's something to be Thankful for! Thanks be to God for sending Christ to pay our debt and invite us to the greatest Thanksgiving Feast of all in Heaven!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conventional Wisdom on Organic Food

Thanksgiving is almost upon us! Since food is a major focus of the week, I thought I'd share some thoughts on eating organically. There are many reasons to consume organically grown food. From what I've read, the main reasons can fit into these categories:

1. Better for your health
2. Better for the environment
3. Better flavor
4. Supportive of small family-owned businesses

Those are reason enough for me! If you'd like the details on those tenets, I commend to you the articles listed at the end of this post.

How do you make sure you are picking the right produce? The PLU# can be quite helpful:

  • Conventionally grown produce has a four digit PLU, generally beginning with a 4.
  • ORGANICALLY grown produce has a five digit PLU, beginning with a 9.
  • Genetically modified produce (GMOs) has a five digit PLU, beginning with an 8.
  • First Choice = 9_ _ _ _
  • Second Choice = 4_ _ _
  • Don't eat 8_ _ _ _!!!
Is it necessary to buy organic 100% of the time? Well... it would be IDEAL. But---Sometimes it's just impossible to get certain items organic, and one must either forego the item or simply buy conventional. Sometimes one might also like to save a few $$$ on food items less likely to have a high pesticide residue. In these cases, it's nice to know which things in the produce department one can get by with buying conventional.

Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group has put together a list of fruits and vegetables they tested for pesticide residues and ranked 47 different foods according to the pesticide levels found. The "Dirty Dozen" --the ones to always buy organic-- are the following:
  1. (worst) peaches
  2. apples
  3. sweet bell peppers
  4. celery
  5. nectarines
  6. strawberries
  7. cherries
  8. kale
  9. lettuce
  10. grapes --imported
  11. carrots
  12. pears
The "Clean Fifteen," as they call them, are the following:
  1. (best) onions
  2. avocados
  3. sweet corn
  4. pineapple
  5. mango
  6. asparagus
  7. sweet peas
  8. kiwi
  9. cabbage
  10. eggplant
  11. papaya
  12. watermelon
  13. broccoli
  14. tomato
  15. sweet potato
You can see the full list here, or download a free shopper's guide for your wallet or iphone. You can even donate to the EWG and receive a magnet reminder for your refrigerator.
HOWEVER... keep in mind the following:
  • most corn is genetically modified to produce some of its own "natural" pesticide or herbicides, and you NEVER want to consume GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) if you can help it. We don't even know the long-term implications of such a practice. (Check the PLU). Corn is really not a highly recommended vegetable/grain anyway. And even the "clean" organic version is easily cross-contaminated by GMO varieties. I'd limit your corn intake to some occasional organic popcorn.
  • Imported pineapple is one to look out for, as it can be heavily sprayed, and/or gassed to ripen.
  • Papaya from Hawaii is usually genetically modified. (Check the PLU)
  • Tomatoes can be GMOs (Check the PLU) and are often gassed to ripen them.
I didn't even mention buying organically raised, grass-fed meats, raw (unpasteurized, unhomogenized) grass-fed dairy, and eggs from free-range chickens. That is a GIVEN if you eat animal foods. Since I'm on a raw vegan diet, and have begun to see the advantages of eating this way, I have focused on fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, mushrooms, nuts & seeds, etc. would follow the same rules. Always buy organic whenever possible to minimize your intake of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc., and ALWAYS buy whole foods; NEVER processed devitalized foods. The closer to the way God gave us these foods in nature, the better.

SO... Why Buy Organic??? Here are some resources for you:
Top Six Reasons to Eat Only Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Organic Foods Provide More than Health Benefits
Buying Organic is Well Worth the Cost even When Times are Tough

I'll include one more in the next post...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's Easy... Eating Greens

"Ewwwwwww! GREEN stuff!" Why do people (okay, mostly children) tend to respond this way to God's most nutritious gastronomic gifts? I mean, it's not like you have to sit down to a plate of plain, dry spinach, and eat it a leaf at a time. And although a good parent will insist on children eating their green vegetables, I can't say that I see a lot of adults craving collard greens over coffee break or slurping a spinach green smoothie as a Saturday afternoon snack. Let's face it: we all need some encouragement and inspiration to get our daily dish of greens.
Getting your daily ration of green leafy vegetables does not necessarily mean subsisting on "rabbit food," munching on plain salads three meals a day, although I am a big fan of salads. There are all kinds of options-- delicious too!
  • Green Smoothies: A great start for the day! Green Smoothies are an excellent and satisfying breakfast. See an earlier post devoted entirely to the subject of Green Smoothies: how to make them, and their health benefits.
  • Salads: Think they're boring? The possibilities are endless!!!! ~Time to get CREATIVE!!!
Here are some ideas for adding variety to your salads:
  1. A Variety of Greens: mixed baby greens, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, bok choy, mache, endive, escarole, collard greens, curly kale, dinosaur kale, purple kale, spinach, foraged greens... whatever you can get your hands on! Really try to buy organic greens. They are lower in, if not devoid of, pesticides and other toxins, and higher in nutrients. You get more "bang for your buck."
  2. Vegetables of all Kinds: carrots (shredded, coins, matchsticks, etc), beets, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, zucchini or yellow summer squash (use a vegetable peeler or even a large-holed cheese grater to make noodles!), onions (white, red, yellow, scallions, chives, shallots, leeks), garlic, asparagus, celery, green peas, roasted butternut squash... whatever is available and delicious!
  3. Vegetable-like Fruits: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocados.
  4. Fresh Fruits: apples, pears, plums, peaches, berries, kiwis, oranges, pomegranate seeds, star fruit, persimmons... whatever is ripe and in season!
  5. Dried Fruits: dried pineapple, dates, dried figs, dried apricots, craisins,
    raisins, dried peaches, prunes, dried mango, dessicated coconut... whatever you can find that isn't sweetened with sugar or fructose, and that is unsulfured.
  6. Mushrooms of all Kinds: lightly sauteed in olive oil or marinaded.
  7. Sprouts of all Kinds: Try bean sprouts (lentil sprouts, chickpea sprouts,
    adzuki bean sprouts, mung bean sprouts), seed sprouts (sunflower
    seeds, clover, broccoli seed, radish seed), or grain-like seed sprouts (buckwheat, quinoa). That's only a small sampling of what's available. Learn more, including how to grow your own sprouts, at
  8. Herbs: "parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme"... or cilantro, basil, oregano
  9. Nuts and Seeds: especially soaked and sprouted and then dried in the dehydrator to make them nice and crispy. See the "how-to" here: Crispy Nuts. Try almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, or ground flax seed.
  10. Dressings: try different combinations of oils (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil), vinegars (balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider, raspberry, herb), citrus juices (lemon, orange, grapefruit), blended avocado, soaked and blended nuts, tahini, and other additions such as herbs, chopped shallots, and citrus zest. (Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste).
  11. Other Interesting Additions: Dehydrated sweet potato or beet "chips," a dollop of guacamole, hummus, pesto, or fresh salsa.
  • Green Leaf Wraps: Use cabbage (green or red) leaves, collard leaves, or butter lettuce leaves for excellent "low-carb," gluten-free, grain-free wraps! Fill as you would any wrap, maybe some tomato, avocado, sprouts, yellow peppers, cucumbers, and fresh basil!
  • Steamed Greens: Kale, collard greens, chard, bok choy, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, turnip greens, mustard greens... even broccoli and their greens. Add a drizzle of olive oil or coconut oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.
  • Egg Dishes: If you eat eggs, try adding greens to scrambled eggs, quiches, or omelets. Spinach, chard, mache, broccoli, parsley, basil, and rosemary are excellent additions. Sauteed greens alongside poached eggs are an elegant pairing.
SEE??? It's Easy... Eating your Greens!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hot Beverages for Cold Days

As we are phasing out of fall and drifting into winter, there's a definite need for beverages that warm us from the inside out. However, not all the options out there promote good health. You know which ones I mean... Hot Cocoa with marshmallows, Coffee, Tang, any powder in a packet that says "just add hot water." The main things to avoid in these things are 1) artifical colors and flavors and other additives, 2) Sugar, 3) Caffeine, 4) Pasteurized, homogenized Dairy products with their added hormones and antibiotics.

Hopefully I don't have to explain the reasons why we wouldn't want artifical colors and flavors and other chemicals in our food. Sugar and Caffeine each warrant their own post. Suffice it to say for now that both suppress the immune system, tax the adrenal glands, and lead the body into an acidic state, which opens it up to all kinds of illness and disease.

There. Now, don't get all distressed about not being able to enjoy these common comforting "cuppa"s. There are all kinds of delicious alternatives that not only don't do damage, but do promote good health and well-being:
Herbal tea: Herbal teas contain no caffeine and are very satisfying, comforting beverages. These are a few of my favorites (I recommend organic):
  • Peppermint (soothes the stomach and promotes relaxation and calm)
  • Licorice (excellent for your poor, overworked, underpaid, adrenal glands)
  • Chamomile (also soothes the stomach and relieves anxiety)
To "spice" things up a bit, try the recipe for a soothing peppermint tea-based chai on Elana's Soothing Chai.

Herbal "coffee": Herbal coffees are made up of a combination of roasted roots, grains, and dried fruit like dates and figs. They may not taste exactly like the real thing, but they are caffeine-free and definitely give the same impression as coffee. You can even add some coconut milk for a vegan "cream." I think the following ones are especially delicious.
  • Mountain Rose Herbs Herbal Coffee: (Gluten-free!) Comprised of roasted Dandelion root, Chicory root, roasted Carob, and Maca powder. 100% organic too.
  • Teeccino: Comes in all kinds of flavors. Comprised of things like roasted barley, dates, figs, carob... depends on the flavor. I like Mocha, but there are so many I have yet to try! Check out their website: It has all kinds of information about why you should switch from caf or decaf to "no-caf." If you sign up for their newsletter, you'll get a free sample in the mail, plus a coupon for $1 off your first purchase!
Rooibos: Rooibos is an African red tea. It is very high in antioxidants, AND it's caffeine-free!!!According to Mountain Rose Herbs' website, it's also high in Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Sodium, Copper, and Manganese. --Not bad for a soothing evening treat. It comes in all different varieties-- sometimes as a blend, sometimes with spices added. I especially like my loose-leaf vanilla rooibos. For a Thai-style hot tea, try a plain version with some coconut milk and maple syrup to taste. AMAZING:

1 bag Rooibos tea
1/8 cup coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup

Steep tea first for 3-5 minutes. Then add coconut milk and maple syrup as directed, or to taste. Enjoy!!! (Serves 1)
Hot Lemonade: Originally from the book The Master Cleanser, by Stanley Burroughs. The recipe I have actually calls it "German Warfare," and basically says it'll cure what ails you. I drank cups of it when I had a sore throat, and found it to be both soothing and effective. Here's the recipe for one serving:

2 Tablespoons of organic lemon Juice (about 1/2 a Lemon)
2 Tablespoons of Organic grade B maple syrup
1/10 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper powder
Ten ounces of filtered water
Combine first three ingredients. Then, I add hot water to make a tea. It is so soothing and satisfying-- especially if you have some kind of cold. If you want more information about the benefits of this combination, check out the book: The Master Cleanser. It's not a huge investment: about $6.

Pumpkin Latte: The blog "The Nourishing Gourmet" has an excellent recipe here. It's dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and caffeine-free! Why go to Starbucks or Caribou Coffee when you can make a healthier and less expensive version at home?

Russian Tea: The Whole Foods Market recipe collection has a great healthy version of a childhood favorite, Tang.

Blackstrap Molasses Tea: Organic Blackstrap Molasses is really some kind of superfood. It's really high in minerals and has been said to reverse graying hair! Why not give it a try? If it works, let me know!

1 Tbsp, or so organic blackstrap molasses (to taste)
8-10 oz hot water
Coconut milk (as cream)

Serves One. Also: blackstrap molasses goes really well added to your herbal coffee. It has a nice subtle sweetness. If you want it sweeter, add some honey to taste.

Warm Coconut Milk Egg Nog: Okay, so this is really supposed to be chilled in the refrigerator for an hour or two, but... I couldn't wait! ;o) Turns out, it's especially good while it's still hot~! Yum...

2 egg yolks (from free-range chickens)
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Heat, but do not boil, coconut milk and honey. Beat egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl. Add half the milk mixture to the egg yolks and stir. Add back into coconut milk and stir. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and will coat the back of a spoon. Add the spices, and cool until... it doesn't burn your mouth. Pour in dainty little glass punch cups (or whatever you have), and sprinkle with nutmeg. Enjoy!

And of course there are infinite varieties of Spiced Hot Apple Cider. A word of warning though: conventionally-grown apples have one of the highest rates of pesticide residues. Buy ORGANIC.

Enjoy these hot beverages for the cold days ahead. Do you have any to add? Let me know if you give one a try!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's November!

Let the feasting begin!

 ...And look out for all those rich foods and junk foods coming your way!

It seems as though the trick-or-treat candy of Halloween marks the beginning of a season full of candies, rich foods, and baked goods. The fresh produce of summer and harvest time seems to fade into oblivion while rich meats and sugary treats take center stage. And it takes a toll on our health and well-being too. I do rather wonder if there's any connection between the increase in colds and flu as winter approaches and the increase in these less than ideal culinary indulgences...?

Here are a few ideas for HEALTHY SWAPS this upcoming holiday season:

Instead of: heavy, fattening stuffing or dressing...
Why not try: a lovely wild rice pilaf? (onions, pecans, parsley, dried apricots?) You can even add the additions after cooking the wild rice on its own. OR... you can sprout the wild rice and create an all raw dish!

 Instead of: adding butter and brown sugar to steamed squash...
Why not try: coconut oil (which aids in weight loss) and raw honey or organic maple syrup, plus some spices like cinnamon (stablizes blood sugar) and nutmeg?
Instead of: a creamed vegetable side dish...
Why not try: a crisp salad of romaine lettuce, fresh pears and/or apples, raw nuts, and dried cranberries, with a homemade vinaigrette?

Instead of: coffee with cream and sugar...
Why not try: caffeine-free rooibos (red) tea with coconut milk and organic maple syrup?

 Instead of: gooey sugary caramels...
Why not try: naturally sweet and chewy Medjool dates?

Instead of: the traditional baked apple pie...
Why not try: a raw version with nuts and fresh fruit?
What kind of healthy food options do you have in mind for these upcoming weeks as we approach Thanksgiving?