Saturday, May 16, 2015

breathing exercises

Breathing well is increasingly rare these days! We're so stressed and busy and we're thinking about everything except our bodies - thank goodness that our lungs breathe on their own, whether we think of it or not!

But, breathing deeply, slowly, with volume and mindfulness has wonderful benefits to our bodies. I'm going to recommend that you follow the link below and read a blog (that I follow) from Elizabeth Walling, who lives and writes about nourishing our bodies, minds, lives. I really like her philosophies, and so I'm sharing her article about the benefits from daily deep breathing. Enjoy!

from with Elizabeth Walling

Sunday, May 10, 2015

breathing... we all do it!

Have you ever considered how amazing it is that our bodies breathe without our conscious control? Whew! Thank goodness, I don't have to always keep in mind "breathe in" and later "breathe out." If I can't find my car keys, imagine what would happen to my lungs!!

It's interesting, however, that we also have conscious control over our breathing, if we choose. So, we can take a big breath in preparation for yelling. We can breathe shallowly if the air is toxic. We can take long, slow breaths to calm down. Manipulating our breathing turns out to be one of the best things we can do to help ourselves feel better. How? In the next few posts, I'll tell you!

I was first introduced to the importance of breathing as a singer in our school chorus. Our teacher taught us about breathing from the diaphragm (not the birth control device, but the muscle in your middle) to support high or loud singing. Later, working in the theater, actors must master their breathing in order to portray their characters so that the audience can hear and understand them. But, the most life-changing experience with breathing came when I started to meditate. Meditation, especially focusing on the breath, has helped me to calm my nervous system and relieve pain.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"z" is for zuccini


Zucchini and Yellow Squash are staples in the summer here in the South. They tend to overflow from backyard gardens and farmers' markets. They're wonderful sautéed with onions, battered and fried, or grilled on skewers with other veggies and chicken. Yum! But, my new favorite thing to do with Zucchini is to SPIRAL IT!

My new SPIRALIFE (or is it Spiralizer or Spiraler?) is a really cool contraption. You stick the zucchini in it and get ribbons or noodles of veg! Put it on my plate, cover it with tomato sauce and meatballs, and I actually like it BETTER THAN PASTA! Really! I might put the 'noodles' in a sieve and hold it over the sauce as it cooks, just to steam them a little bit. But, it seems more flavorful than pasta, and certainly not the caloric minefield that pasta can be!

Have you spiraled any veggies lately?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"y" is for yogurt, yams


I have always enjoyed yogurt as a treat (especially the frozen kind), but since I've been more nutrition-oriented, I really appreciate yogurts many fine qualities. First, it's delicious! I have started having Greek yogurt for breakfast. I start with PLAIN yogurt. (Really! It's yucky when eaten alone, but sweetened with fruits and nuts it becomes yummy!) Second, it's high in protein. As a person whose body really likes more protein, I'm always looking for new sources (even I get a little tired of eggs and meat). Third, it's useful in many different ways. It can be substituted for sour cream (although I prefer to use the actual stuff). It can be used in many recipes as a substitute for either eggs or oil. There's even a "chocolate chip cookie dough yogurt snack" recipe that I just ran across that appears to be delicious! I'll be trying this soon!

Yams (and sweet potatoes)

I have also always like yams, but only had them occasionally (like at Thanksgiving, covered in marshmallows). But, since we've learned that they are much more nutritious that white potatoes, I often substitute yams as my side dish of preference. Especially at restaurants, where I'm tempted to load a white potato with all kinds of yummy and less-nutritious toppings, I can have a sweet potato with nothing added and still enjoy it fully.



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"x" is for xylitol and xylimelts


Xylitol is a sugar alcohol (like isomalt, from yesterday's post). It's wonderful when used in small quantities, and I am still consuming rather large quantities of sweetener. (Although I'm using far less than I used to, I think it's still too much for me to switch. It's actually one of my goals to swap Splenda for Xylitol.)

Have you tried it? It's used in many "sugar free" products. My naturopath, Jill Clarey, recommends it. But I always like to have more than one opinion!


I struggle with dry mouth, due to some of the prescriptions that I use to manage my chronic pain. Especially at night, sometimes it feels like my lips are glued together, or I wake coughing because I have no spit left! My dentist gave me a sample of Xylimelts, and I'm hooked! They are like breath mints (you can get mint or mint-free) but they have a sticky disc on one side so that it actually sticks to your teeth. So, I stick it to a molar and my saliva glands work more and I can sleep better. I have found that these last between 2-4 hours - much longer than pastes, gels, or tapes. They are sweetened with xylitol, which doesn't cause tooth decay or sugar issues. I highly recommend Xylimelts (even though they're not actually food) for those who deal with dry mouths.


Monday, April 27, 2015

"w" is for werther's and water (and it's not what you think)

Werther's Sugar Free Hard Candies

As much as I am working to stay away from "foods" that my great-grandmother wouldn't recognize, I'm making an exception for Werther's candies! I get the sugar free kind (because even a small amount of sugar is enough to put me on the 'rollercoaster'), and it's sweetened with isomalt. (According to Wikipedia: Isomalt is a sugar substitute, a type of sugar alcohol, used primarily for its sugar-like physical properties. It has only a small impact on blood sugar levels and does not promote tooth decay, i.e. is tooth-friendly.) Sugar alcohols cause side effects when consumed in quantity, but I've found that eating even 4-5 of these causes no trouble for me. They are satisfying, long-lasting, and they help me through my sugar cravings!

Water (and a new perspective on how much to drink)

So, I have written pretty extensively about drinking more water starting in January and several posts continuing through February. I am personally a great fan of drinking more water. Most of the folks I know really don't drink much at all during the day, and water is not high on their list of things to drink. I have found for myself that drinking more water does several pleasant things: (1) it crowds out my ability to drink other (less healthful) drinks, (2) my skin feels much more supple and moist, (3) my digestive system works better, (4) I feel better overall.

How much water to drink? There's the question. My answer, generally, is MORE THAN YOU DO NOW. For most folks, that's good advice. However, I have recently come across an article that challenges the idea of drinking 8 glasses of water every day (which has become the 'norm' for water-drinking advice). Read it yourself and see what you think. I really appreciate that the author's primary concern is respect for your own body, rather than following some abstract number that somebody else decided. Here is Butterbeliever's article: as an alternative.

Whichever way you land, consider how water affects your own body, and drink accordingly!



Saturday, April 25, 2015

"v" is for vanilla, vinegar


I find myself adding many more "spices" and flavorings than I ever did before, not just for the flavor but also because spices have nutrition. Vanilla is one of those. Just be sure that you're getting actual pure vanilla! (Aren't you sad at how many "imitations" are out there?) Last year, I was privileged to cruise with some friends, and during a stopover in Mexico I got some Mexican vanilla - best I've ever had! So, now I have to buy "good" vanilla, and it's worth it!


Vinegar has become another flavoring I use more and more. I especially like balsamic vinegar (with hand-picked tomatoes and basil and fresh mozzarella is one of my favorite summer treats). It's flavor and thicker consistency make it a contender for salad dressing just on it's own, without (much) oil.

Apple Cider Vinegar is experiencing a nice trend these days as a health "fix-for-everything." I've seen it touted as a cure for skin problems, digestive issues, and serious diseases! Although I doubt the validity of many of these claims, nonetheless Apple Cider Vinegar (especially with the "mother") is a nice healthy way to add more nutrition as well as flavor.

I have also recently discovered the joys of using white vinegar for cleaning and other non-food purposes. For instance, when I bring home produce, I fill up my sink (cleaning it first) with plain cool water and a cup of vinegar. Then I dump in my produce - apples, oranges, mangoes, tomatoes, cucumbers. (Not so much the parsley or broccoli, but I suppose I could.) Soaking them for 10 minutes in vinegar water not only removes the "store gunk" (everything from wax to other people's finger germs) but also helps them stay fresh longer (guess it removes mold spores and the like, too). I've also found a recipe for "grass-weed killer" (1 gallon vinegar, 1 cup salt, 1 tbl dawn dish liquid) that will kill anything it touches and not harm animals or the environment. Also, cheaper than Round-Up! I'm using it in the driveway cracks, along the north wall of the house, in beds where I want NOTHING to grow. I don't know the results of this work yet, but I'll let you know. It seems to me that the salt itself would do the trick, but I'm applying the recipe.

So, add some vanilla and some vinegar for two very different tastes in your food!



Friday, April 24, 2015

"u" is for unknown (new) foods

Since I've been eating to nourish my body, one of the important things that I've learned is that variety is one key to healthier eating. I find that I often get stuck in a "food rut," having the same foods over and over (breakfast is especially prone to this). In order to break out of my "rut," I determined that I would try some new produce item at least once a month. (I started trying something new every time I went to the store, but sometimes I'm in a rush! So, I gave myself a break.)

Here is a list (in no particular order) of things that I have tried over the last 18 months, along with what I think of each item. Some of them I have tried sometime in my life, but they never became part of my "repertoire."

  • Fennel (love it in smoothies, can blend the tops as well as the bulb)
  • Kiwi (eat it with a spoon, yum)
  • Bean sprouts (love the added crunch in my salads, but goes bad quickly in the fridge)
  • Bok Choy and Napa cabbage (although regular cabbage seems boring to me, I really like these two varieties)
  • Lemons and Limes (I tried a head-to-head test again just this week, and I really do prefer limes, but if unavailable lemons will do. I can't imagine a day now without a sour citrus wake up!)
  • Fresh Cherries (can't get enough of them; my Mom never liked them, so they weren't a part of our household growing up, but now I'm making up for lost time!)
  • Brussels sprouts (the darling of the 'healthy food' trend these days, but I really don't care for them. I've tried roasting, sautéing, and slaw but I do not like them. Oh, well)
  • Mangoes (love them in smoothies, not to just eat plain)
  • Papaya (doesn't really taste like anything... maybe it wasn't in season? I will try again)
  • Pomegranate (love them! Especially in smoothies, so I don't have to deal with seeds. Getting the seeds out used to be a problem, but check here for some easy ways to open one. I prefer method #4 - whacking it with a spoon!)
    Carrots (I've been eating carrots my whole life, but I only recently discovered carrot chips - where they have cut the raw carrot so that it looks like a thick, wavy, potato chip. I eat them with sandwiches.)
  • Avocados (I've already sung the praise of avocados; love them!)
  • Frozen Fruit (only ever used in pies and crumbles before; now they're in my yogurt in the mornings)
  • Plain Greek Yogurt (needs a little sweeting - I've been using Stevia lately - but great protein and yummy with fruits and nuts)
  • Beets (I just don't like them, except for the green tops. Like Brussels sprouts, I've tried them roasted, sautéed, raw, and in smoothies, and they just aren't my favorite. From time to time I make myself buy a bunch and include in smoothies, just because they are so healthful. But not yummy)
    Turmeric Root
  • Turmeric and Ginger Root (I buy both fresh and put them in my smoothies. Good for fighting inflammation. Ginger is a little stronger "kick;' Turmeric turns everything golden yellow. I like them both!)
  • Other grains, like Farro, Quinoa, Wheat Berries (nice change from rice, but none of them will be my favorite. Better to cook them in broth.)
Some things I have yet to try:
  • Jicama (I've seen it on cooking shows, and my local grocer has it. Time to try!)
  • Star fruit (isn't it sour? Now that I like sour more, I may like it)
  • Broccolini (I love broccoli, so I'm not sure why I've never tried broccolini... but I will!)
  • Daikon Radish (it looks intimidating, plus I'm not crazy about regular radishes, but I understand that these are milder... so it's on the list to try)
  • Miso (seen it on cooking shows, and I understand it's great, but I can't figure out what to use it in - except maybe soup?)
  • Daikon Radish
  • Bone broth (I've heard a lot about its nutritional qualities lately, and it's not hard to make, so I want to try.)
I hope that this list has given you some ideas of unknown foods to try. How about you? Have you tried some new foods lately? What did you think? Give me some more ideas of things to try!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"t" is for tea, tomatoes


I drink a LOT of iced tea. I mean a LOT. Pitcher after pitcher, day in and day out, at home or in restaurants, I drink iced tea. When I decided that I wanted to consume things that nourish my body (rather than tear it down), I was pleased to find out that iced tea is good for you! Since green tea is even better for nutrition and detoxifying, I have switched to green tea (decaf) most of the time. I still occasionally brew up a pitcher of black (decaf) tea, or sometimes I mix the two - just for a change of pace.

What's not great for my body is the Splenda that I use to sweeten my iced tea... I know, I know, I've even written about the problems with artificial sweeteners. And the good news is that I've been able to cut my quantity of sweeteners in half over the last year. Yay! But, still... with the sheer quantity of tea that I drink, the amount of artificial gunk that I put in it is embarrassing (and it feels hypocritical). However, it is a good reminder that I am still a work in progress - not finished yet! (And I don't think we ever really "finish" or "get it perfect" do we? Do we want to?)

Here's my latest experiment with my tea: when I go to restaurants, I order unsweetened iced tea and I USE NO SWEETENER! I just started last week, and so far, it's not too hard. I'm always eating with someone, and usually chatting up a storm, so I don't pay as much attention to my tea as I normally would. I hope that this will help reset my taste buds so that I can eventually be sweetener-free at home, as well. Wish me luck!


I adore tomatoes. I like them cooked, roasted, grilled, in sauce, in salad, mixed with basil, mozzarella, and balsamic, on a sandwich with white bread and mayo. Tomatoes are the first vegetable that I attempted to grow on my patio. Although I've had success growing the plant, I haven't yet grown my fill of tomatoes. Since I'm growing from seeds this year, I expect to have 6-8 plants... Whew! Maybe I'll have all I can eat!



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"s" is for seeds, salad


Seeds are new to my every day eating since I discovered that "fat doesn't make you fat." Turns out that some fats (especially plant-based fat) are actually GOOD FOR US! So, I've been experimenting with all kinds of seeds. Like nuts, you need to read the label to see what they've done to the seeds before packaging - they'll often deep-fat fry them, adding salt and other chemicals. I try to purchase the "raw" version, and I roast them myself. It doesn't take very long, and it makes the house smell great! For just munching or adding to salads, I like sunflower and pumpkin seeds. For cooking, I really like adding sesame seeds to all kinds of dishes (right at the end, for a bit of crunch and flavor). In my smoothies, I add flax (must crack/crush them first) or chia seeds. I have really grown to like chia seeds for their protein, soluble fiber, and when added to liquid they exude a gelatinous substance. There are recipes for "chia jam," which are basically fruit and chia seeds all smashed together and then allowed to sit and "gel." I really want to try this, but haven't yet. The one seed that I haven't tried is hemp. My trainer recommends it, but I have a glitch. As part of my health agreement, I submit myself for regular drug-testing. My doc recommended that I NOT consume hemp seeds during this time, as it may produce a false positive. Interesting, huh? Oh, well... lots of other seeds to enjoy!


Only recently have I begun to really enjoy basic salad. I have always like the kinds of salad I can order at restaurants: the kinds with cheese, meat, bacon, blue cheese dressing. Who wouldn't like that? Really, the lettuce is just there to hold together the good stuff. My sister makes a really good salad at home, but when I try to emulate her, I end up putting too much stuff in... and salad should really be simple. Since eating more nourishingly these days (and for the last 18 months or so), my tastes have changed, and I find myself sometimes WANTING a salad! Really! And, when I started to add beans into my regular eating, that made salads into a meal. So, now I keep salad fixings in my fridge all the time, and I'm making quick salads several times each week.

The secret to my new salad-loving is my salad dressing. I always want the creaminess of blue cheese, but the calories (and lack of nutrition) are a problem. I've solved it with a mixture of hummus and Newman's Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing. I take 2 tbls of each and put them in the salad container. I put on the lid and SHAKE IT until it's all mixed up and a little bit wilted.

Here's what I like (I cut all my ingredients into small pieces):
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cucumbers (I especially like the English long seedless)
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans (whatever can is open: garbanzo, black, white, kidney)
That covers the basics of every salad. The following are add-ins dependent on whether I have them in the fridge and whether I need more protein or more fat.
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Olives
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Bean sprouts (these don't last long in the fridge, so they're a treat)
  • Avocado (1/2)
  • Meat (grilled or rotisserie chicken, salmon, pork, beef, whatever's leftover in the fridge)
For me, the trick has been to keep it simple. More is not better when it comes to salad. Also, it's faster to make this way, so I'm more likely to do it!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"r" is for rice, raspberries, raisins


A staple of our household, I like rice for its varieties and its simplicity. I like both white rice and brown rice, and I've been following a new blogger who makes a interesting argument FOR white rice (Butter Believer). Like quinoa, I cook my rice in broth for the flavor and more nutrition. It's also soothing to the stomach, so rice is a "go to" when it's upset. (The BRAT diet is good for tender stomachs: bananas, rice, apples, tea.)


Truthfully, I don't like raspberries very much. They are too tart for my taste. But I have discovered that just adding one or two, mushed up in my yogurt along with other fruits, gives my breakfast a little 'zing.' Plus, I'm grateful for raspberries for making such a great sauce to put on rich desserts (like cheesecake). So, this summer, I'm going to try more fresh raspberries to see if my taste buds are more accommodating than they have been!


Raisins have become my favorite "cravings quencher." When I really need something sweet, I put together a small bowl with 2 tbls of raisins and 2 tbls of almonds. This simple trail mix is hearty, sweet enough for my sweet tooth, and long-lasting so that I don't get a "sugar crash" afterwards. I am careful to measure because both raisins and almonds are high in calories - but also dense in nutrition! So, have some raisins and enjoy!


Monday, April 20, 2015

"q" is for quinoa, quince

OK... not many foods start with a "Q," but it turns out that I'm interested in two of them!


Part of the "healthnut craze," quinoa is actually quite a nice food. I use it often instead of rice, not because I dislike rice, but just for the variety. (I also like Farro very much.) It cooks quicker than rice, and is tastier when cooked in broth. (Have you heard about bone broth? Another new favorite of mine!) Like rice, quinoa doesn't have much flavor of it's own, so cooking it in broth gives it flavor and more nutrition, too!


I will confess that I always thought that a quince was a kumquat! Yikes! Wrong! So, I need to try quince! It's one of the few fruits that is in season in the winter, and I don't see it in my regular Harris Teeter... So I want to go to Fresh Market or Whole Foods or somewhere else so that I can try quince.

Anyone out there a quince-lover? Suggestions? Ideas?



Saturday, April 18, 2015

"p" is for protein, peaches, pumpkin


I have discovered that my body really likes protein. My Fitness Pal recommends that we get 25-30% of our calories per day in protein, and if I don't get that amount my energy and sense of well-being suffers. Somehow, I feel weaker without it. And, yet, it seems like I struggle to get that much protein into the balance of food for the day. The addition of beans and eating more eggs is helping that process. But my body also likes meat every day. I'm not ashamed to be an OMNIVORE! I feel better when I eat both plants and meat, in balance, on a regular basis. I even require red meat fairly regularly. I've been on "diets" where I was recommended to consume no red meat, and I've never felt as weak and sluggish. I know that sounds like just the opposite of what current understanding tells us - generally, it's thought that eating meat makes you sluggish, since it requires so much energy and time to digest. But, I have learned that we each have to find what our bodies want, whether we're talking about food or exercise or sleep or time outside or quiet time or any of the healthier attitudes. So, don't be ashamed if you eat meat; don't be ashamed if you don't! Be happy that you've discovered what your body needs, and (as best you can) give it that on a daily basis!


Last summer, the fresh peaches were so delicious that I just couldn't get enough! And, then, suddenly, they weren't good. They went from amazing to rotting from the inside so quickly that my taste for them wasn't satisfied. So, all winter long I've been getting frozen peaches and putting them in my morning yogurt (along with cherries and almonds)... really yummy! I wonder what this summer's peach crop will be like?


I never considered pumpkin as a regular part of my diet; mostly it was relegated to pies on Thanksgiving. But, pumpkin is a really nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, yummy fruit. Vegetable? Fruit? Anyway, I really like it! But, it's difficult to wrangle a fresh pumpkin; it's flesh is incredibly hard and the peeling doesn't come away easily. So, I have been using canned pumpkin. (If you buy canned pumpkin, be sure its 100% pumpkin and not prepared pumpkin pie filling!) I have a GREAT recipe for pumpkin custard, and I have make this treat at least once a week. I like to top it with pecans and a little half & half. Hope you enjoy!

Healthy Pumpkin Custard: Gluten Free & Low Carb

  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (author used 1%, I use cashew milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (sometimes I add extra cinnamon or nutmeg)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid stevia (I use bulk dry stevia and I need 1 1/2 tbsp. Plus I like to add 1 tbl of real sugar - generally honey or agave. Just that little bit make a difference.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Spray 6 ramekin or custard cups with nonstick cooking spray (I use 3 larger vessels, and so I consume "2" servings each time).
  • In a large bowl, mix together eggs and everything on the list. Adding the pumpkin last helps insure that everything is well mixed.
  • Pour evenly into custard cups.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
Author prefers this served cold; I like it both hot and cold. Thanks to

Friday, April 17, 2015

"o" is for onions, olives, oranges


On the "M" post last week, I noted that mushrooms and onions are surprisingly nutritious, and so I have been adding them to meals on a regular basis. Onions are especially delicious when cooked (I really don't like them raw), and if you haven't tried caramelized onions - you're in for a treat! Basically, just sauté them with a little fat (I like butter or olive oil) on low heat for a LONG time! My favorite way is to make a foil pouch full of onions and a little fat and seasoning, then put it on the grill before I grill out anything else. I leave it on a cooler spot and just let it cook. Many years ago, I was at a group cookout where a friend brought onions to be cooked that way, and we forgot about them until after we were all finished eating. When we finally opened the packet, they were golden brown and smelled so sweet! We couldn't resist enjoying them for 'dessert'!


I have always loved "pickled" things, and olives (black or green) top that list. Ever since we were privileged to visit Israel, where I saw my first living olive tree, I have enjoyed them even more. I don't really need to remind us that Olive Oil was the original 'healthy fat' in our Western culture; now that there are others widely available, we may forget about our old friend EVOO... but don't!

These days, I'm enjoying green olives chopped in my salads. I count out 6 (which are 40 calories), and cut them into small bits. They add an enormous amount of flavor and good fat, which a salad needs. And my local grocery store has an "olive bar," which allows me to try out new varieties in small quantities. I've never had a martini, but I think I'll order one this year... with extra olives!


Oranges, especially the little clementines available in the winter (sometimes marketed as halos or cuties), have become a staple in my fruit bowl. They last a long time, the clementines are easy to peel and have no seeds, and they're yummy! You can't beat an orange for sweetness and juiciness. I love them as a snack alone, in my smoothies, sectioned into my salads, or in a fruit mixture as part of dessert.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"n" is for nuts & nut milks


I was so happy to discover that plant fat is actually good for our bodies! (See my post on "fat.") I have always liked nuts, but have generally refrained from eating them because of their high calories. They are still high in calories, but the fat they contain is the kind that our bodies NEED and know how to handle. It doesn't generally get stored as fat - yay! So, I keep myself limited to 2 tablespoons per serving (I use a coffee scoop to keep tabs on the serving size)

So, I keep raw nuts in my freezer all the time. I like to toast them myself, so that I know that nothing strange goes into them. (Did you know that most nuts are deep-fat fried? How weird is that? So, if there's any "oil" in the ingredients label, you'll know what's happened.) It's really easy to roast them in the oven, and it makes my house smell great; plus, nuts taste better when they've been roasted.

Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews, Macadamias, Brazil, Peanuts... I like most kinds of nuts (I discovered that I don't care much for pistachios, however). And, I use different varieties to keep my tastebuds (and body) happy!

By the way... I need some input. Are PINE NUTS actually nuts? Do they come from pine trees? Are they nutritious? I've had them in prepared dishes, but I've never used them on my own. Any suggestions?

Nut Milks

Being a lactose-intolerant-person, I haven't had a glass of milk since the mid-1990's. So, I'm really grateful that other kinds of milk have become widely available. Soy milk was the only alternative, and it's not great... but it's better than nothing! And, it's perfect for putting on cereal. When Almond milk came out, it was a great improvement. And, now, Cashew milk is my new milk of choice! Creamy, actually tastes good, and still 25 calories per cup! I first used it to make snow-cream in January, and now keep it in my fridge regularly! Have you tried it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"m" is for mangos, mushrooms, and mustard (not mayonaisse)


Mangos were not a part of my dietary habits until I started eating cleaner, looking for whole produce especially. I actually don't like eating mangos just by themselves; there's something about the texture of a mango that doesn't sit well with me. However, putting a mango into a smoothie does all kinds of good things. It makes it sweeter, thicker, juicier, and yummier all around. They also seem to be cheaper throughout the winter; I'm guessing because they come from tropical places, our winter time is their harvest season. Anyway, mangos are now regular staples in my fruit bowl!


I have always loved mushrooms, and I always considered them a treat. For instance, when Daddy would grill out steaks or even hamburgers on a Saturday night, Momma would make them "special" by sautéing some mushrooms to go alongside.

I always thought of mushrooms, onions, and garlic as just nice additions to a meal, when I thought of it. However, I've discovered that these items are powerhouses of nutrition, especially for some minerals that we don't often get enough. There is a diet called G-BOMBS, which stands for: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds (and nuts). These are the primary foods that you eat for this diet, and it shows the power of the humble mushroom! So now I regularly stock up on mushrooms: little white buttons, portabellas, baby bellas. I haven't really experimented with the more expensive varieties, but I will add that to my repertoire!

I love mushrooms in omelets, on pizza, in sandwiches (especially hamburgers). For many suppers, I'll just have a separate sauce pan with a little water, soy sauce, garlic, and add a whole chopped onion and an entire package of mushrooms. Let it simmer, and 20 minutes later we have a yummy side dish that also is good for us!

Mustard (not mayonnaise)

First, I want to say that I love mayonnaise. Really, I do! And, some dishes just require mayonnaise - like a tomato sandwich or a BLT. Neither would be the same without mayo. However, I learned (to my dismay) that mayo is not a healthy fat. Even if it's labeled "healthy," it generally isn't. Mayo is actually just eggs and oil, and I could make it myself and eat to my heart's content (within calorie reasonableness, of course). But, manufactured mayo has so many more ingredients, and tends to use the cheapest (and worst for us) oils to produce their ingredient. So, instead of turning to mayo for all my sandwiches, I've been experimenting with other condiments.

I like hummus and/or avocados (smushed) as sandwich condiments very much. But, mustard has renewed itself in my regular eating habits. I like the tanginess and the difference of mustards. The graphic above shows yellow, brown, Dijon, and whole-grain varieties. I am especially fond of the "sweet-hot" mustards, like the Hickory Farms variety.

Mustard.... not just for hot dogs any more!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"l" is for limes (or lemons, if you prefer) and lentils

Limes & Lemons

I am in love with limes. I read an article once that differentiated limes from lemons, and there wasn't too much difference as far as nutrients and "good-for-you" qualities. But the tastes are apparently quite different: lemons are sour, while limes are both sweet and bitter. Does it say something about me that I prefer limes to lemons? Probably best to NOT go there...

Actually, the biggest reason I prefer limes is that they are seedless. I squeeze a half of a lime into a bottle of water and begin my day that way. Yep - straight, sour/bitter water right to my body after I wake up. I find that it clears the funk out of my mouth and my brain. And, scientifically, it works to rebalance the pH of my systems after a night's haitus. I also love limes in smoothies, on avocados, mixed into ricotta cheese for a quick 'dessert' (thanks, South Beach, for teaching me that one). Limes also seem juicier than lemons (at least most of the time).

I never grew up with fresh limes or lemons, and it's a real treat to have them regularly in my fruit bowl. I even used fresh lemon juice on my hair (and then sat in the sun) today - yay for 'natural' blondes!


As I have continued, little by little, to add more healthy items to my eating habits, my Naturopath (the excellent Jill Clarey) challenged me to eat more beans - plant protein, lots of fiber, good nutrients. You may have seen my post on beans (along with a little ditty to make you smile). Turns out that lentils have similar qualities to beans (maybe they are beans? I guess I need to research a little more), they're faster to cook, and I like them very much! Just as a side item, instead of rice or potatoes, or in a soup. Try them yourself - yummmmm!


Monday, April 13, 2015

"k" is for kombucha, kale, and kelp


I've written about kombucha before (see "new things to drink"), but it's worth repeating here. If you haven't discovered this fermented drink, I recommend that you try it. It's very distinctive (not sure if it qualifies as enjoyable), and it provides prebiotic and probiotic material that is often missing from our regular diets. It comes in different flavors, although I tend towards the green stuff (just because I'm obsessed with green stuff). It has a quality of pickle-juice and sauerkraut-juice, with algae. I know... I said it's not really delicious. But, there's something about the sharp taste and slightly fizzy fermentation that I really enjoy! Not to drink all day long, but as a treat a few times per week.


I have a confession... I don't like kale. EEK! "But, I thought all healthy eaters loved kale and ate it every day"... possibly, but not this one. I've tried to like kale (as I've tried to like beets): I've tried it raw, in smoothies, baked into "chips," sautéed with garlic and olive oil, mixed in with other greens (it's palatable this way), massaged into salads, and as part of soup (the best way for me to have it so far).

For those of you with thyroid issues, you should be aware that cruciferous veg (like kale, broccoli, cabbage) needs to be cooked before eating. Otherwise, raw cruciferous vegetables interfere with struggling thyroid function. If you have no thyroid issues, then have it any way you like. I need to cook it first. And to my taste, cooking doesn't improve kale much. So, I just skip it.

For full disclosure, I like many other leafy green vegetables: spinach, mustard/turnip/collard greens, fennel, cabbages, etc. But, I apparently won't be a part of the "Kale and Quinoa Crowd" (although I do like quinoa fairly well). Ahhh, well... I think my self-esteem can handle it!


Drinking Kombucha first introduced me to algae, seaweed, and other green growing things from the ocean. It turns out that these are powerhouses of nutrition and therapy for our bodies. The problem is, they don't taste very good (at least to my Western palate). So, I've begun to consume them in powdered (sometimes encapsulated) form. And, I can really tell the difference. My energy increased and my oversall feeling of health has gotten stronger since I've been ingesting kelp and other seaweeds and other ocean-growing-green-colored-strange-flavored goodies. Who knew?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"j" is for jello & juicing


I realize that Jell-O is not an especially healthy food. I'm not sure it counts as food at all. And, I would normally put it on the "do not eat" list... but sometimes, when I'm craving something sweet, I really like to eat Jell-O with fruit and nuts and cottage cheese mixed in. Because I put actual food into the Jell-O, it comforts me that I'm eating mostly food! At one point, I attempted to research "clean eating" or "whole food" Jell-O, and it had to do with actual gelatin and other things. I could probably figure out how to make Jell-O from scratch, but honestly, how much healthier could it be? There is something strangely comforting about the unnatural colors, jiggliness, transparency, and texture that is uniquely a powder from a box. And, I like it. So there.

Juice and Juicing

Juice is often considered a healthy drink, but the vast majority of juices we can purchase are simply glorified sugar drinks, with perhaps some small percentage of actual juice. If you want to drink juice, read labels carefully! But, I just don't consider juice a beverage any more (like I don't consider Diet Dr. Pepper a beverage any more). When you juice a fruit, you lose all the other good stuff that makes a whole fruit good for you: fiber, especially. If I'm craving some orange juice, I'll eat an orange. If I really want to drink, then I'll put the orange in the blender! (An interesting discovery, just orange juice by itself is not nearly as good as if it's mixed with another fruit; I especially like mango and orange mixed together.) So, forgo drinking juice for eating the entire fruit!

Juicing is a little different. Juicing is done with a machine at home, where you put in fruits and vegetables and extract just the nutrient-dense liquid. This kind of juice is a powerhouse of goodies for your body, in a format that is quickly and easily digested and absorbed. The reasons that I don't juice are twofold: (1) I haven't wanted to pay $$$ for a piece of machinery that only does one thing. (2) Like purchasing juice, juicing loses all the fiber, pulp, and other goodies that came with the fruit. What to do with the "leftovers" is a problem for daily juicers (unless you are industrious and do your own composting or make 'crackers' from it). So, I have opted to get nutrient-packed liquid into my body with smoothies (which keep all the other stuff in the fruits and veg), since they are also easily digested and quickly absorbed. Just my way of doing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"i" is for ice cream

So... not many foods that begin with "I"... but I do love things with "ice" as part of their name, and I do like adding ice to my smoothies (sometimes I pretend that it's a green Frappuccino!)...

Ice Cream

Ice cream is my downfall. It is my kryptonite, my weakness, my favorite sweet thing in the whole world. When I was in my 30's, I began to have digestive distress for no known factor - they tested me for colitis, ulcers, and other stuff but found nothing. Then, my husband was reading an article about adults developing lactose intolerance (long before food intolerances became fashionable). So, I stopped drinking milk and in 3 days my symptoms were gone. But, then I realized the horrible truth - ice cream is made from milk products. OH NO! At that time, there were no pills to take and no variations on ice cream for the dairily-challenged. So, I went for almost a decade with no ice cream. So sad... Then, Breyers (wonderful, adorable, fantastic company) started making Lactose-free Vanilla ice cream, and I could enjoy my favorite treat again! It wasn't easy to find, but it was great to have the option. Of course, as time went by, companies started making frozen yogurt (which I can handle on occasion), soy-based ice cream, and lots of other alternatives. But, none as good as plain old ice cream.

Then, 2 years ago, some friends and I went on a cruise. If you've ever been on a cruise, you know that ice cream is self-serve 24 hours every day. I made the decision that I would try the little pills and see if I could eat some ice cream with their aid. Guess what - I could! And, I did! Over and over again! That one week on the ocean started what I have termed "THE YEAR OF ICE CREAM." I couldn't get enough. Now that I had the magic pill, I could have ice cream whenever and wherever I wanted. I could go to Cold Stone Creamery and order anything! I could go to any grocery store and pick up any flavor! I could get drive through milkshakes again! Heaven!

Can you guess that there might have been a down side to the year of ice cream? Yep, you're right... I put on a few pounds... more than a few. And, I began to discover that the sugar content of the ice cream was making me feel bad, even though the lactose issue was handled. So, I had to stop. It wasn't easy, and I slipped up often, but I knew that I couldn't have as much ice cream as I want. I also discovered a very important principle for eating in general: if I buy it I will eat it!  So, I don't buy ice cream much any more, and when I do, I try to get a really small carton. Or, I get something my husband will share with me. And, I know that I will eat whatever amount of ice cream is at hand and then still want more. I don't think I'll ever be able to balance my ice cream eating so that I can just have a "little bit." But, I'll keep trying. Because, I want to enjoy ice cream sometimes. I don't want to go back to "I can't have any." And, I don't want to go back to "I have to eat all there is." Somewhere in the middle, somewhere beyond the rainbow, somehow, I'll figure a ways to enjoy some...

Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"h" is for herbs


I am really enjoying both growing and eating more fresh herbs than ever before. I put them in my smoothies, in my salads, I create dishes with them in mind. Here are some examples.


Nothing smells quite as great a fresh basil. It grows pretty easily (meaning that I don't often kill it in the first month or so). When summer is in full swing, I go out to my deck (where I grow stuff in containers) and pick some basil and some cherry tomatoes. Then, I open my fridge to one of my favorite splurges: fresh mozzarella. Not the stuff that comes in sticks and strings, not the lowfat-part-skim-low-flavor stuff, but the real white soft yummy mozzarella that I should be eating all the time (except that it's expensive!). So, I save it for just this treat: fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar. YUM!


I was surprised last year to find that parsley is pretty easy to grow, too. I kept two plants growing all season, and I would tear off the outermost branches whenever I felt like adding parsley to something. The cooking shows add chopped parsley to almost everything ,and I'm starting to try that concept with my food. I find that it adds a lovely freshness to most dishes. And, if you eat a sprig after dinner, then it freshens your breath and helps with digestion. Not the most delicious dessert, but it's interesting!


I've always wanted to try a watercress sandwich (like you might find in a English Tea). My only experience with watercress so far is a couple of sad bunches at either Fresh Market or Harris Teeter. Apparently, I haven't found growing season for watercress yet. But, even those sad bundles went well in my smoothies, and a variety of greens make for better health.


My mother is obsessed with cilantro. Whenever we eat at a Mexican restaurant, she orders extra cilantro. Her order is usually accompanied with a grin; maybe it's an inside joke I don't get. But, I have learned to love it in my homemade guacamole. I won't say it's a favorite herb, but in the interest of variety, it's pretty good!


The difference between fresh dill and dried dill is unbelievable. Those fresh fronds go wonderfully well with eggs, salads, and (of course) smoothies. Although it's taste is not for everyone, and it's rather strong in a smoothie, still dill is a thrill!


Chives were the first herb I ever grew that I didn't kill! So, I have a soft spot in my heart for these hearty little plants. I have even been known to divide my large plant and create new ones! If you're concerned about having a "black thumb", chives are a good first plant. The are the only "oniony" flavor that I like raw (I enjoy cooked or caramelized onions very much), and I eat them on potatoes of any sort.


Another great grower, I love the smell of thyme (although I confess that I don't use it very much). I grow it mostly for the carpet of tiny green leaves that smell fresh and woodsy and a little sweet. Any suggestions on how I might use thyme more often in my daily eats?


The firs time (thyme?) I really saw rosemary in all it's glory was on our first trip to Israel. Because it tends to be hot and dry there (at least in the southern part), they plant rosemary in the same way we plant boxwoods. They use it along their homes, in medians of streets, beside sidewalks, anywhere that needs a pretty plant and won't get much TLC. Rosemary is tough to kill, so long as it doesn't get too much water. I actually had a wonderful rosemary bush that I had planted in our NC red clay soil, and it did just fine for a few years. Then, we had a bunch of rain one spring, and it died. Rats. So, now I'm ready to have another rosemary that I'll keep in a pot, mix sand in the dirt, and forget to water it. Not only does rosemary smell divine, its blooms are pretty, too! And, I love to roast lamb with rosemary and garlic.

I really could go on and on about herbs, but you get the idea. Try some new ones for yourself; try growing them and then eating them. It's fun!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"g" is for green smoothies

Green Smoothies

I believe that Green Smoothies have revived the health of my body. Seriously. Nearly two years ago now, I wanted to discover what it means to use food as medicine. I turned to a recommended Naturopath (Jill Clarey) for suggestions and help. And, I chose to rethink my relationship with food. I was not originally interested in weight loss, which was the only reason I have ever changed my eating habits (to either start or stop a diet). I wanted to learn about nutrition, more than just "eat your veggies."

I knew that juicing was a great way to get nutrients into my body, but I didn't want to purchase an expensive piece of equipment. Also, it seems to me that juicing removes all the good pulp/fiber that naturally comes in fruits and veg; not having that part seems wasteful. So, I decided to try blending fruits and veg into a green smoothie. I don't remember exactly what I put in my first one - but I remember vividly that I felt great right after drinking it. My body relaxed a little, my mind seemed to clear, and I thought to myself: "This feels healthy." I haven't had that reaction since, so don't expect it - but it was a nice way to begin. The infographic to the right is from Kris Carr; if you aren't familiar with her, please check out her website "Crazy Sexy Wellness." She has a great story and is a good source of encouragement and ideas. This can give you some ideas of juicing vs. blending to choose for yourself.

At first, I didn't bother to make the smoothies taste good. I was primarily concerned with the "medicine" I was ingesting, so if it tasted gross... well, it was medicine after all. However, after just a few weeks of gagging a little as I drank, or holding my nose, or drinking quickly through a straw... I started experimenting with things that tasted a little better. Then it became easy to incorporate a green smoothie into almost every day's intake. I started trying things I had never liked as "food" - because, when you blend them with other things, the individual taste dissipates. Some things I still didn't like - beets, for example. I've tried them raw, roasted, mashed, and in smoothies... and I just don't like them. Oh, well. I still sometimes add them to a smoothie, just because they're so full of nutrients. I like alfalfa sprouts on sandwiches and salads, but they make a smoothie taste like grass.

There are some fruits and veg that I like to eat just as food, so I don't usually put them in my smoothies. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, apples, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, garlic (I was warned about using garlic in a smoothie - whew!). Instead, I use smoothies to get more nutrition from things that I don't necessarily want to eat by themselves.

Then I found things that I've never really eaten that I just love in my smoothies. Fennel, for instance, has become a staple of smoothies - because I can use the entire vegetable. I especially like the fronds (which are inedible by themselves); they provide a nice freshness without overpowering. I also enjoy adding ginger root and/or turmeric root to my smoothies. They both add a little "zing" to the flavor, and they are both anti-inflammatory. I like parsley in smoothies; again, lots of nutrients and a gentle fresh flavor. Here are some primary ingredients that I now use on a regular basis, and I try to use fresh, seasonal produce most often:
  • Spinach (my favorite green, since it's flavor is mild)
  • Parsley
  • Watercress
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Fennel
  • Cucumber
  • Clementine Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Pomegranate
  • Lime
  • Ginger Root
  • Turmeric Root
  • Wheat or Rice Bran
  • Chia Seeds
  • Protein drink or powder (I like to add this when I make smoothies as my evening snack, it helps me not be hungry overnight)
  • Yogurt
  • Cashew Milk
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Ice Cubes (sometimes I make it like a "frappucino" with coffee, cashew milk, etc)
Here is a helpful way to think about putting together smoothies. I hope that you will try some for yourself!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"f" is for fresh and fat

Fresh Food

Ah, the joys of purchasing fresh whole foods. Although I'm not much for farmers' markets (I don't like getting up early in the morning), I am enjoying discovering CSA's (who deliver), Farmer Brown (who drives a mobile farmers' market and stops at my local YMCA), and Summerfield Farms (which I just found, and it has a shop open all year round).

In addition, I have learned to shop the PERIMETER of the grocery store. Have you heard of doing this? Most of the processed foods are in the interior of the store and most of the whole food is on the outer edge. Try it for yourself! It helps me resist temptations!


Have you heard the good news that fat doesn't make you fat? Woohoo! It's been all over the news (here's a Fox News article from 2012). Apparently in the 1970's, when fat was derided as the enemy, we started making and eating everything "low fat." Unfortunately, that's not the only change. In order to make "low fat" things taste good, our manufacturers starting adding chemicals and sugars. As I've learned to read labels, it seems to me that "low fat" really means "high sugar." And "low sugar" really means "high fat." And "low calorie" really means "no nutrition."

Instead, let's eat fat! But, of course, not jut any fat. In general, plant fats are great: avocados, coconuts, seeds, nuts, olives. Animal fats can also be fine, if the animals have been raised without hormones (which reside in the fat) or antibiotics or other toxins. Grass fed beef, free-range chicken, wild fish, etc are all great sources of fats. Even grass-fed butter turns out to be healthy for us! Yay!

Monday, April 6, 2015

"e" is for eggs, endive/endive, and enjoyment


"The incredible, edible egg!" Remember that jingle?  I just love eggs, and I'm so happy that the most recent science has shown eggs to be a wonderful source of protein and don't increase my cholesterol numbers. Yay! I have never enjoyed egg whites only or egg substitutes, and so I continue to happily enjoy whole eggs a couple of times each week. One of my "comfort" dinners is an omelet with asparagus, mushrooms, and cheese. Yummmm!

Endive and Endive

I have discovered that there are two plants named endive! The first, pronounced "EHN dive" (like "dive" into the pool), is a cousin to chicory and is a curly green leaf. You can use it like lettuce, but it has a very bitter taste (which some people really like). It's too strong for my smoothies, but I love knowing about it!
The second is Belgian endive, pronounced "ahn DEEV," and looks like a little alien pod. Again, it's a little bitter, and I don't recommend eating it by itself. But, peel off an outer leaf and stuff it with something delicious (cream cheese, hummus, chicken salad), and you have instant finger food!


OK, I know, I know....
Enjoyment isn't a food. But, I do think that food should be enjoyed - and we don't often do that these days. However, there is scientific evidence to back up several points of enjoying food.
  1. Cook at home. Home-cooked meals are healthier than almost anything you can order at a restaurant or buy pre-processed. Even if you're splurging as you cook, you are unlikely to add extra chemicals to it. Cooking at home brings the family together, and provides kids with a good model of working together to produce something worthwhile (a good meal). Cooking at home fills your house with delicious smells, stimulating the sensory nerves associated with memory. Smelling and anticipating eating the food that you're cooking will help your body prepare for digestion. Finally, eating at home is good family time. ENJOY time with those you love most.
  2. Indulge. Even for those of us who have to be aware of what we eat so that we don't abuse our bodies with extra weight or toxins (and I wonder if any of us are exempted from this category), we must indulge from time to time. I don't want to live in a world where I can't eat chocolate ice cream. I understand that I can't eat it every day, nor can I eat an entire gallon at one time, but I want to indulge on a fairly regular basis. So, I ENJOY my indulgences, rather than feeling guilty about them.
  3. Tastes change. I think one of the biggest surprises is that my taste buds seem to have changed in the last couple of years. As I've added green smoothies to my regular intake, and I'm eating more fruits and veg, my tastebuds are adapting. There are actually times now where I CRAVE a salad! Really! Not something I would have ever considered before! But now sodas of any sort taste very bad to me (where 2 years ago, I had several sodas every day). Now, I truly prefer steamed broccoli to broccoli casserole. Who could have guessed? So, if you don't like something now, that's OK. Leave room for the possibility that you could ENJOY it in the future.