Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hemp, and no we're not talkin marijuana!

I was looking for simple but healthy tortilla chips in Trader Joe's the other day, and lo and behold, they now have Hemp Tortilla Chips with black sesame seeds.  Cowabunga! (Wow I haven't said that since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies came out.)  

So interesting how hemp has become another touted trendy health food like soy, probiotics, organic foods, etc.  It is, in fact, not just a food for the dreadlock divas and granola guys.  It's great for everyone, despite the bad rap about it being related to it's THC-filled brother.

Hemp seeds are rich in easily digested vegetable protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants like vitamin E, and an array of minerals.  Some traditional cultures even use this seedy guy for clothing, paper, lantern and vehicle fuel!  But I would just stick to throwing some onto your morning yogurt or oatmeal, and even cookie batter for some extra protein, fiber, and nutrients.

Check out those dynamic tortilla chips at Trader Joe's, and look for hemp seeds and protein in Whole Foods.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Power of the Artichoke!

Spring is the time for liver cleansing, and what better vegetable than the artichoke to assist you!

 Excerpted from

Since ancient times, the artichoke has been used for liver and gallbladder conditions, 'cleaning' the blood, as well as the bladder. The Egyptians highly prized it as a health and diet food and Plinius described it as the 'food for the rich' because of the health problems contributed to a 'rich' life style - excessive in rich foods, fats and wine that led to liver illnesses (such as cirrhosis), gout and a general run down condition.

Today we know that the artichoke is very high in fibre, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and other trace elements important for a balanced system. It is known to positively help poor liver function (thus helping to lower the blood cholesterol), arteriosclerosis, gout, supports the treatment of hepatitis and improves the gall secretions. It can slightly lower the blood sugar, improve the appetite and digestion, is diuretic and may help some migraine conditions (most especially those caused by toxins in the blood). As it helps the body rid itself of excess water and moves toxins it also has the added side effect of an improved skin luminosity. 

In a poor diet of excessive drinking (most especially strong alcoholic drinks), high red meat and fat consumption, the artichoke can boost the liver's ability to regenerate its cells. Obviously, nothing can help advanced cirrhosis of the liver. Most liver problems by the way, are self-inflicted.

The liver's main function is the metabolic transformation of nutrients from the food we eat. It also detoxifies certain poisons. An overstressed liver obviously cannot function properly, which among other things results in poor assimilation of nutrients and increased toxins in the blood. This will eventually adversely affect the entire body causing numerous ailments that are often only symptomatically treated. What is amazing are the numbers of people who abuse their livers and hence their bodies, think they eat well, yet are suffering from a form of malnutrition - a word one associates with poverty and third world countries.

What to do? Take an honest appraisal of your diet, recognize unhealthy habits and develop a better understanding of the importance of a properly functioning liver. After serious drinking and weeks of fat-rich foods, do something good for your liver. Give it a break and help it to recuperate. 

When artichokes are  in season, go on a short term Artichoke 'Cure' (treatment, diet)! Discover new recipes and eat them as a main meal for several days. Repeat for as long as they are in season, varying the menu with small amounts of meat and other vegetables. Artichokes only have about 25 calories. Eat fish and poultry 3 times a week and cut out red meat for while. Avoid all animal fats during this time, use olive oil instead and avoid all strong alcohol. A few glasses of red wine a day helps the red blood cell production as well, however abstain from even wine for the several days to a week before adding a small glass with your meal. Another positive side to artichokes and improved liver function is that weight loss is easier as the metabolic assimilation of food is more efficient. 

Infusion: use the leaves you normally throw away. You will need about 12-15 leaves per half litre (approx. 2 cups) of boiling water. Pour over the chopped leaves and allow to brew for 5 minutes. Strain and drink 2 cups during the day. You may sweeten with honey if you like. However, an easier method is to purchase an excellent extract by the W. Schoenenberger, Salus or A. Vogel companies from the health food shop).

Versatile: once trimmed, the versatile Spanish or Italian artichoke (remember you can eat the whole choke) can be cooked whole, sliced lengthways, halved, quartered or chopped, pre-cooked in a little water or broth and used in rice dishes, potato dishes, salads or as a topping for pizzas. They can be fried, steamed, boiled, stuffed, chopped with other ingredients for a filling for tomatoes, served with sauces. Chop the hearts very fine and they can be used in vinaigrette, mayonnaise, mixed with cooked egg or grated cheese or used in omelettes.  Then there's quiche, pasta and risotto dishes - you are only limited by your imagination!

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

I can imagine, that if you didn't grow up eating artichokes and if you were encountering them for the first time, they might seem a little intimidating. How one cooks and eats an artichoke is not obvious from its appearance. If you've always wondered how to cook and eat the darn things, here are the steps:

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How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke


How to Cook an Artichoke

1. If the artichokes have little thorns on the end of the leaves, take a kitchen scissors and cut of the thorned tips of all of the leaves. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke.

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2. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.

3. Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.

4. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. Alternatively you can cut off the stems and peel the outside layers which is more fibrous and bitter and cook the stems along with the artichokes.

5. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.

artichoke-3.jpg6. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket. Add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

How to Eat an Artichoke

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot, but I think they are much better hot. They are served with a dip, either melted butter or mayonaise. My favorite dip is mayo with a little bit of balsamic vinegar mixed in.

1. Pull off outer petals, one at a time.

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2. Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.

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Continue until all of the petals are removed.

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3. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke") covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scrumptious Pancakes!

You must must must try these pancakes, they're phenomenal AND healthy.  Notice the gluten-free ingredients.  Many of us have wheat-intolerances and don't even know it, so it's good to go without it for a while and see how you feel.  Then when you reintroduce the wheat, see how your body reacts.  Mine usually FREAKS!

These pancakes are loaded with fiber, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, and the cinnamon helps to stabilize blood sugar.  Power breakfast!! I also like to eat these as a post-workout snack with a little almond butter for protein.

1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup fresh ground raw almonds or almond meal
1/3 cup ground flax seeds (or flax meal)
1/4 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
2 organic, free range eggs
2 cups organic milk or any milk substitute
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 t vanilla

Mix the first 8 ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Mix the remaining wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour into the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly. Heat a large fry pan or griddle on medium heat, add butter and/or coconut oil to coat. Add batter to preferred pancake size and cook until the first bubbles pop. Change heat to lowest setting and flip. Cook for about a minute or 2 and serve with drizzles or puddles of your favorite maple syrup.

Optional:  Add blueberries or mixed berries to the batter right before cooking.  OMG they are delicious!  They might turn a funky gray color, as my roommate cheerfully pointed out.  But you won't care about color once you taste them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Facial time!

After a long day of cleaning and exercising (2 walks and lifting at the gym!), I relaxed on the couch for a couple hours with my roommate, then headed to my room to read before bedtime.  My skin was feeling a bit greasy and yet dead at the same time, so I ran to the bathroom and put a layer of honey on my face.  

Honey? Are you thinking I'm absolutely nuts?  Perhaps.  Just hear me out.

First of all, let's look at the properties of honey  Did you know it's antibacterial AND antimicrobrial?  And what causes blemishes?  Bacteria and dirt clogging pores.  Great.  Plus it's chock full of antioxidants, helping prevent UV and free radical damage from the sun and pollution, and is anti-inflammatory.   

Second, it tastes so freakin delicious, you can lick it right off.  I'm about to go to bed, so I probably won't.

I wouldn't slather it on by itself like I did.  It started to itch my face and drip down towards my chin like drops of sticky rain.  So for a facial mask, mix 2 tablespoons of honey with 2 tablespoons of milk or rice milk.  Spread the mixture over your face and throat, leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.  

You can also make masks blending avocado and honey, chocolate and honey, olive oil and honey...see what your skin likes! Go crazy! 

Honey also keeps your skin smooth and soft.  Even Cleopatra used it with milk in her baths.  It's a great moisturizer!  Try adding 2 tablespoons of honey to 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice for your own special dry skin remedy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Laugh your butt off!

No foodie tips today.  Today we focus on fun and laughter as healing mechanisms.  

My friend Hilary and I went to Disneyland for her birthday today.  I had never been there before, and it truly was the happiest place on Earth.  Neither one of us could focus on our worries or insecurities while screaming our heads off in Space Mountain.  Or while we laughed till we cried when Hilary made me sit in the front of the Splash Mountain ride and I got completely SOAKED with freezing cold water.  Or when we sat in tea cups to have our pictures taken.

And if you can't go to Disneyland, here are some Fun Commandments written by Dr. Kuhn, who saw incredible results from bringing laughter into hospitals.   You can easily implement his tips into any lifestyle:

Dr. Kuhn's Fun Commandments

  1. Always Go the Extra Smile
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one provides you with the most energy. It is the one strategy 
    most effective for increasing the fun in your life. Smiling is a way to open your heart and at the same time touch the hearts of others. We have measured decreased stress, improved immunity, increased tolerance for pain and frustration, and higher levels of creativity - even from a "fake" smile!
  2. Tell the Truth
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one helps you keep an inventory of yourself. Our humor natures are open windows to the truth; therefore, if you want your sense of humor to be strong and available, 
    you must make the effort to be true to yourself. This Commandment promotes trust in yourself and keeps you on a steady, forward pace since you will be much more cognizant of what is working in your life and what isn't.
  3. Laugh With Yourself First
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one helps you take yourself less seriously. When you make a mistake, laughing with yourself keeps you from beating up on yourself. It is a boost to your self-esteem because it is a vote of confidence in yourself. This Commandment sends a clear message to 
    you that you are okay. You know that your foibles do not form links in an unbreakable chain, because you are learning from them and becoming more effective.
  4. Welcome Your Mistakes
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one allows you to stop being so hard on yourself. Jerry Lewis once told me that he is always nervous before he goes on stage, but "the trick is to harness the fear and make it your ally." In other words, 
    don't be afraid of your mistakes - welcome them! In fact, your mistakes can be so helpful to you that I suggest making them on purpose. You're going to make mistakes anyway. Making them on purpose helps you turn your fear into fun.
  5. Listen Very Carefully
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one keeps you from being too self-centered. Successful comedians will tell you that the capacity to listen is their number one creative tool. Yet listening is an often overlooked and under taught skill and most of us are very poor at it, preferring to form our next phrases rather than hear what is being said to us. To really listen we must turn the volume down on our own internal chatter and this allows us to
    communicate from our hearts rather than our heads.
  6. Let Go Frequently
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one provides you with serenity. If you've ever learned to juggle you quickly discovered that we all have a tendency to hold on to objects for too long. The same phenomenon occurs in life and, since we are all jugglers - juggling our family, our work, our community responsibilities, and our own care, letting go is a vital skill that will
    prevent stress and give peace of mind.
  7. Challenge Your Assumptions
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one keeps you open minded and learning. It is also an effective way to bring humor into your life. We make assumptions because it saves us time and energy in our busy lives, but assumptions can keep us from growing and changing if we are not capable or willing to see new perspectives. Get in the habit of 
    seeing things around you in a different way and your sense of humor will become supercharged.
  8. Stay Focused, Yet Flexible
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one eases you through changes and transitions. This strategy is about keeping your priorities clear, but keeping your options open. You can't help but 
    become an inspired opportunist when you develop a trait for seeing the victories inherent in what you used to call defeats. As you'll come to find out, this trait is shared by all successful people.
  9. Act and Interact with People
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one gives you a constant and reliable source of amusement. Reaching out and touching someone is often a learned skill, but it pays big dividends. Realize that taking chances means you will make mistakes, but they will happen less often if you are willing to learn from them. You'll also find that 
    a failed action is much more valuable to your health and success than a failure to act.
  10. Practice Wanting What You Have, Rather Than Getting What You Want
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one helps you attract, and hold on to, abundance. One of the great paradoxes of life is that, as long as you try to fill your inner void with things outside yourself, your void only gets bigger. Learning to 
    love what we have and who we are - right now - opens us up to receive so much more, because we want things for the right reason. We're no longer trying to "fix" ourselves.
  11. Choose to Motivate Yourself With Fun Rather Than Fear
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one teaches you how to set goals and achieve them. You really only have the choices of fun or fear when it comes to motivation and they both work well. The problem, however, with choosing fear is that it is impossible to sustain the motivation without harming ourselves through burn-out and stress. Choosing fun to motivate ourselves is the simple difference of 
    striving toward positive goals, rather than escaping negative ones.
  12. Celebrate Everything
    Of all my Fun Commandments, this one provides you with abundant joy every day. If you make a practice of celebrating events you normally treated as mundane, you will 
    be filled with an energy and spirit that you haven't felt since childhood. Left to choose between feeling like a jaded pessimist or a naive optimist (of course, I'm using two extremes as examples), why wouldn't you choose the latter? Either way, your life will still unfold around you - but you will see it as a gift.
Taking a break from our serious adult brains today was absolutely rejuvenating.  When was the last time (sorry but without alcohol!  That's not really a true release...), that you did something spontaneous, fun, and laughed till your abs ached?  If you can't remember or it's been even over a month, I BEG you, go do it now now now!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Are you addicted to salt?

If so, you may be sending yourself down the road to high blood pressure, bloating, cellulite, clogged arteries...okay okay I'll stop there. But seriously, let's go over this salt thing briefly.

Our bodies do need sodium for proper transportation of nutrients to cells, and healthy function of blood vessels.  We lose sodium through our sweat and urine, especially athletes, and so some replenishment is needed.  However, our requirements can be met by eating foods naturally containing sodium and therefore we do not need to turn to the highly concentrations in the salt shaker.  These foods include seaweeds, celery, fish, eggs, nuts, pineapple, and even cow's milk.  

Be sure to watch out for hidden sodium in processed, canned and boxed goods.  Salt is used as a preservative to add shelf life to products.  And most restaurants love throwing in the salt "for flavor" rather than other fantastic and healthier spices, so be wary when dining away from home.  

Eating from the organic, whole food source ensures we don't overdose on our sodium levels and put ourselves at risk.  The human body needs the delicate balance between sodium and potassium, and too much of one throws off the other.  Fresh fruits and vegetables will add potassium to your diet.  Hence another reason why you should eat an apple a day!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Cleaning-Part 2

Today we turn to spring nutrition.  This is the season to tend to our livers.  Our bodies have processed and stored Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas cookies, New Years' champagne, and Valentine's Day chocolates, and now it's time to let it all go.  If we don't clean out now, we shall be holding excess fat over summer, and thus become overheated as we literally bake our own fat in the sun.  Not to mention all the toxins floating around in our blood.  Gross.

Think green.  The more green vegetables and salads you can eat, the better.  It would behoove you to eat only the most natural, unprocessed foods you can find.  These are easier for your body to break down, and the less work your liver has to do in terms of digestion, and therefore can work on more important functions.  

Natural and unprocessed means nothing that comes in a box!  Stay away from the inner aisles of the grocery store and instead turn to organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains (brown rice, oats, whole wheat, rye, millet, quinoa), and beans.  Dairy, eggs, fried foods, and meat tend to be acidic and mucus producing.  And we want to clean out the mucus during springtime.  Think again of your fat and mucus baking in the summertime.  Yuck.  You're just asking for weight gain and blemishes.

To support your liver, besides the cleansing food choices, Dr. Elson Haas gives these 5 tips:

1. Avoid toxins such as household and industrial chemicals, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and many prescription drugs. 
2. Drink lots of fluids and use fresh lemon in your water for liver cleansing.
3. Fresh organic cold-pressed olive oil is the best for the liver.
4. Exercise and sweat regularly to help with liver detoxification.
5. Milk thistle herb (silymarin) and olive leaf extract support and disinfect the liver.

Also consider fresh vegetable juices, or greens powders.  Cell-nique is a great detoxifying beverage that actually tastes delicious.  Check the fridges at your local Whole Foods or health food store, or check  

And always email me if you need more suggestions or help with your spring cleansing!  I'll be back later this week for another posting!