All posts by thisihavefound@gmail.com

So maybe you’re wondering who I am? A homeschooling mother, wife, passionate cook and food scientist, nurse practitioner, certified fitness coach and gardener, for starters. A lifelong learner and autodidact I hope. I help my patients to integrate a healthy lifestyle into their days so they need to see the doctor less. My goal is to promote education as your apple a day and make it fun :)

Time to Look at Thyroid Differently

I see many patients with thyroid issues and can count many friends and family among those who suffer. According the the American Thyroid Association, twenty million Americans have a thyroid condition and 60% of them are unaware. One in 8 women will have a thyroid problem in their lifetime and it targets women 5-8 times more often then men.  It is time for an overhaul of how we diagnose and treat this problem. Until we do, many will be living lives that are harder than they need to be ( isn’t life hard enough?) and predisposing themselves to other ailments in the future.

It comes down to a few issues:

1. Thyroid problems can look like many things including ‘just getting older’ so it’s not taken seriously.

2. Most doctors run only a TSH level to screen for thyroid problems due to insurance coverage and, sometimes, lack of information and then use outdated lab normative levels to determine if treatment is needed.

3. We prescribe only synthetic thyroid instead of products such as Armour Thyroid or Nature-Throid due to lack of insurance coverage, possibly giving the patient a less effective treatment.

4. We don’t advise patients how they could employ lifestyle changes to help manage thyroid problems.

The symptoms of an under active thyroid– feeling cold, lack of sweating, constipation, weight gain, brain fog, memory trouble, difficulty concentrating, listlessness, poor motivation, fatigue, needing a lot of sleep/naps, depression/mood swings, hair loss, dry skin, hormone irregularities, infertility/miscarriages, neck swelling, feel ‘not yourself’, slow heart rate and high cholesterol.

Symptoms of an over active thyroid– Feeling hot, sweating, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, panic attacks, fast pulse, palpitations, diarrhea, tremors, weight loss, muscle weakness, eyes bulge, neck swelling, irregular periods, infertility, rash or thickening of skin in front of your shins, hair loss, chronic hives.

A thyroid screening test that would really screen for thyroid problems would include: TSH, free T3, free T4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies (thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin). This is so rarely done that most labs do not have a routine panel with all the tests set up and the provider must order each individually. This is the basic set you need to ask for to get a proper screening.  You can order your own labs at places like-

www.directlabs.com

www.health-tests-direct.com

https://sttm.mymedlab.com/sttm-profiles/sttm-thyroid-baseline (this last is through the website www.stopthethyroidmadness.com that is a wealth of information for patients and really worth a look if you have the time)

Of course, if you are our patient, just ask 🙂

Then there is the problem of ‘what is normal’? Let’s focus on what is optimal.

TSH 1.0-2.0. Pregnant women should be less than 2.5 uIU/ml

Free T3 >3.2 pg/ml

Free T4 > 1.1 ng/dl

Reverse T3 < 10:1 ratio of reverse T3 to free T3

Thyroid peroxidase antibodies < 9 IU/ml or negative

Thyroglobulin antibodies < 4 IU/ml or negative

Optimal is where most humans will feel and perform their best. It is the spot with the fewest risk factors for development of other diseases and miscarriage. That being said, optimal is an individual thing and we should always listen to the person who owns the blood to guide therapy. I have had patients very happy at a TSH of 3-3.5 but unhappy at 2 or 4.5 (current local lab definition of upper range of normal). The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists urged doctors in 2003 to consider TSH normal if it fell between 0.3 and 3.0 uIU/ml but they were ignored. Later, in 2012 they tried to relax the standard to an upper range of 4.12 uIU/ml except if your pregnant, in which case < 2.5 uIU/ml is the goal. Again, the advice fell mostly on deaf ears.

And therefore we have millions of people suffering needlessly. You can do something about this. Please take some time to check out the free webinar The Thyroid Secret that is going on for the next few days here: http://urltag.net/BnIIN and learn about the problem.

Check out the book The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers, MD. https://www.amazon.com/Thyroid-Connection-Tired-Brain-Fogged-Overweight/dp/0316272868/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488567157&sr=1-1&keywords=the+thyroid+connection

Go ask questions. Stay until you get answers. Wishing you health 🙂

 

 

 

Running From Dogs

 

Between the news reports of runners being attacked and some recent encounters with hostile drivers and animals, I have become more concerned with personal safety. Not just while running. Start the conversation and listen as the stories pile up. Close encounters, narrow escapes and moments of terror. The universality of these experiences is shocking. Then there is my mom. When does your mom ever stop worrying about you??

Yesterday, on my favorite trail, I narrowly escaped an attack by dogs. I saw something looking like this:

round a building near the trail at top speed barking, growling and snapping as he tucked his ears back and fixed his gaze. The owner, thankfully present, began to yell him back but he was too far away and the dog, while a beautiful animal, was in the red zone where they are functionally deaf.  Having grown up with dogs, and loving dogs, I knew not to try to outrun them. As I cut pace and turned to face it, I saw two more of it’s pack bearing down and two more screaming owners laying chase.  With the gap closing to thirty feet, the dogs  menacing and the owners screaming, I took the safety off my electric shock ring, widened my stance, extended my arm out toward the dog now ten feet away and discharged the ring. The dog had started to prepare to lunge but the 100 decibel, 18 million volt high powered electrical arch that formed over the top of the ring when I squeezed the trigger as a warning, had the dogs skidding to a halt. The other two dogs stopped barking and slowed to a walk. I discharged the ring again as a warning. It never shocked the dogs and I am glad it didn’t. It was enough to get them out of the red zone and listening to the owners who had them in hand a few seconds later.  Surely it didn’t hurt that, due to having a ready defense, I didn’t radiate fear. The owner asked me what the loud sound was and how I got the dogs to stop. He apologized for them, told me he had just moved in yesterday and was glad I had the ring. Me too.

I carry this $23 piece of mind with me everywhere.

In case it might help you or someone you love, they can be purchased on Amazon here but not shipped to all locations as local ordinances may have laws against shock weapons. For example, in Philadelphia you can have a shock weapon as long as it doesn’t launch a projectile. In NY it is a misdemeanor to have anything capable of delivering a shock. Check the rules of your location. Personally, I would rather suffer a $300 fine (my health insurance deductible for the mauling would be much higher than this), a summary offense or misdemeanor than a mauling by dogs or humans but YMMV.  If something requires engagement of my shock ring, it is likely violating the law itself.  It, like many things, is a very individual choice which I respect.

Wishing you all many safe adventures 🙂

Rouxbe Cooking School

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Sometimes you do something in life that positively effects everything. My experience with the Rouxbe Cooking School was this type of experience. Let me share with you why.
I grew up not knowing how to cook. There was a threshold divider at our kitchen door and we were not to cross it when mom was cooking. She didn’t want anyone ‘underfoot’ either for our safety or her sanity- I’m not sure. The only thing I recall of High School Home Economics class was the F you got on the perfect dish if you didn’t dry the sink afterwards. To this day, I refuse to dry a sink as homage to that policy. The end result was years of frozen and junk food in my teens through twenties. But, with age, came the realization that cooking skills could bring satisfaction, health and bonding. Books, blogs and scattered classes were not making me into the kind of cook that could fashion a wow meal from nearly empty cabinets. I wanted in on the Iron Chef and Chopped skill set.
My brother is a chef so cooking school seemed a logical path. I couldn’t pick up and move to France or go to the C.I.A (Culinary Institute of America) without reinventing my life. Luckily, we live in the age of internet. Online cooking school would be perfect, but would it really give me the in-depth training I wanted without ensuring I would need to live with my kids when I retired? Yes- because I found the Rouxbe Cooking School.

Rouxbe offers a wide variety of online classes from single subjects such as knife skills or food safety to professional courses with certifications. The pro classes are used in cooking schools such as the Waldorf Astoria and the Cascade Culinary Institute. The professional courses are 150-200 hrs. of online lessons for $800-$1500 and the non-pro courses are fractions of this cost and time commitment.

I took food safety, plant-based cooking 1 and the Plant-Based Professional Certification as well as lessons on pasta making, knife skills, stocks, sauces and several others. All were among the most enjoyable learning experiences I have had. Rouxbe has done an exceptional job at boiling down (no pun intended) a skill to it’s essence and providing video and audio that teaches the why and how of a task. In a classroom, you might not be able to see how the teacher forms the gnocchi or shapes the tortellini, but you have a front row seat with great lighting and as much repetition as you like with Rouxbe. Each class always shows the common mistakes and how to avoid them. Quizzes and cooking assignments are part of each lesson to keep students engaged. Even the pacing of the instruction is spot-on. Once you buy a class, you can view it whenever you like. Having fallen in love with several recipes I cannot live comfortably without (I’m talking about you Plant-based Greek Moussaka), it’s nice to know I have unlimited access to the text and video of the dish forever.

So what’s it like to earn a Professional Cooking Certification online? There are Pro-certs in either plant based or omnivore versions. Don’t think you will get off easy! There are the 150+ hrs. of instruction plus online live meetings, special speakers brought in on topics of interest and SO MUCH cooking.  You start with the basics of knife skills,

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food storage and safety and progress through stocks,img_1841

dry and wet cooking technique, recipe copying and finally recipe creation.

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Each lesson had several dish options or goals. You picked the dish you wanted to make from listed choices and photographed the mies-en-place,

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the dish during cooking and the final plated product img_2263

attaching text that described technique or thought process. In some cases, your imagination was given free reign but your dish had to use certain ingredients, techniques or flavor profiles. Your uploaded photos would be shared with your classmates on the web for all to see and post comments. Your instructors would grade your work and email the grade and comments directly to you. During your course, the professional chefs at Rouxbe quickly and thoroughly answered any questions posted.  There are quizzes and tests to keep everything in your head and test reviews built into the course in the form of flashcards and online live meetings. The grade book is always open if you want to see your progress. While you can work at your own speed, all work must be completed within a certain time frame so you can never zone out. During my class I had to travel to Washington D.C. for a few days and had to book an apartment with a kitchen just to keep up with assignments. There were assignments due all the time and I would estimate the work took 10-20 hrs. a week, depending on the assignment load.

It was not a cake-walk but it was absolutely worth my time and investment. This, taught me to cook. Not from a box or a book, but from inside my head. I look at food, ingredients, recipes and cultures differently. I know how to turn almost anything into something worth eating. I make food that nourishes the body, mind and spirit. Rouxbe won’t advertise these changes in their course description, but everyone I know who has taken the Pro course, says the same thing. Professional chefs uniformly state the material presented by Rouxbe was better than anything they learned live in school.

Just because I finished my Pro-cert doesn’t mean I am done! They are releasing Essential Vegan Desserts starting November 10th and I’m already signed up for the first class 🙂 You should check out the Rouxbe site and join me in the pursuit of dessert. Cooking is something that will change your life and is worth doing well. Rouxbe is the best place I know to begin that journey.

Running HITT with Pokémon Go

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It will not be the first time it has been said that I am in touch with my inner adolescent. This week, my teen and her friends introduced me to Pokémon Go. I have dim memories of Pokémon cards littering the floor and getting stuck in couch cushions from her siblings. I thought I had this. Wrong! This is MUCH better.
Never one for card games, this appeals to my ‘movement with a purpose’ motto. Although the lack of game directions is particularly vexing to my brain, I figured it was an opportunity to lean on my intuitive side. For anyone who has not yet started to play, I recommend checking out some basic tutorials like you can find here, and here online, to help you get the most out of early game decisions.

Catching the Pokémon in my yard was easy and fun but what to do with this game? I had a scheduled interval run planned and a HITT (high intensity interval training) session to complete for the day.

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My mom multi-tasking mode engaged and I started  Map My Run and Pokémon Go simultaneously. One of my teen friends told me it was ‘cheating’ to run and play Pokémon. To that I say, haters gonna hate dude- you should start running. Here’s what happened.

About 10 mins. into the run, I started getting vibrations of nearby Pokémon. Hunting down the first 1 or 2 was quick- they were standing on the roadside. After having to stop to catch them I did a few burpees, high knee jumps or push ups off my HITT program then sprinted to keep my run times in line. I would just start to tire when another Pokémon would magically appear! A few times, a Pokémon would require me to deviate from my planned route into a neighborhood. Running up to a house where there was an Oddish in the front yard, I hesitated. Do I ring the doorbell and try to explain my urgent need to stand in their yard with my smart phone??  While deliberations circled my brain and my heart rate fell, I heard a man clear his throat. The next door neighbor was sipping his coffee with a bemused look on his face. “Pokémon in the yard right?” he queried. Mutely I nodded. He took a long drag of his coffee then said, “Owner says it’s ok. Go on in. I sit out here every morning now just to see who comes by. You’re a bit older than most”. I thanked Captain Obvious, shrugged and grinned as I caught my prey. In 4 miles I caught a ton of Pokémon. I ran the prescribed  intervals, did my HITT training, met some cool people and laughed out loud during my run like I haven’t since I tried the Zombies, Run! app.

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Adults who run (or walk) errands cover a lot of ground and find themselves in many a parking lot full of targets. This advantage deserves respect. Just saying- the Silo by Walmart, the library and the mall are great spots for Go fans:) I plan to make my to-do list a bit more entertaining and my runs laugh-out-loud fun for awhile.  This may require upping my data plan 🙁 I’m thinking  team Mystic… How about you?

Primal Chocolate

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There are days where chocolate IS medicinal. If you have felt it, you know what I mean. Problem is, most of the chocolate on the market is harmful junk. Typical candy is filled with sugars, waxes and worse. This Easter, I had sticker shock when our whole foods market was selling a 3 inch square of quality chocolate bark candy made with sugar and coconut flakes for $7.00. Even at that price, they were almost sold out. That is a sad situation. The recipe that follows is my answer. It is sugar, dairy, egg and gluten free. Nuts are optional. Not overly sweet, deeply satisfying, easy to make, it comes in at $5.50 per 9×12 inch rectangle.

Instead of sugar, this recipe relies on Xylitol and Stevia. Both are suitable for diabetics, do not seem to harm your gut microbiome (in fact the Xylitol skews the gut bacteria toward the good gram + organisms) and is fine for those battling Candida. Xylitol is good for your teeth! The bacteria in your mouth take it in as a sugar but cannot metabolize it and stop growing. Research has shown a 40% decrease in ear infections among children eating 8.4 grams of Xylitol spread throughout the day. A scant bit of salt enhances the sweet sensation to your tongue. Xylitol and chocolate are both poisons to dogs. Do not share with Fido! For those with a sweet tooth, you may want to increase the Xylitol and Stevia amounts. If sugar is not an issue for you, you can always use it or palm sugar instead. Substitute only solid or granular sweeteners or the chocolate will be too soft to cut.

The key ingredient is the Pascha 100% cacao allergen free unsweetened dark chocolate chips. Their only ingredient is 100% organic cacao mass. Pascha makes many percentages of cacao chips. Make sure you get these if you want sugar/dairy free.

I am hooked on my Wilton Chocolate Pro Pot for melting chocolate even though I take a tough stance on uni-tasking equipment in the kitchen.

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It perfectly melts a whole bag of chips in 10 minutes and beats the heck out of the microwave or double boiler. Originally I bought one at my local craft store with a half off Sunday newspaper coupon so my Girl Scout troop could make holiday candy. Since then, I have used this little pot for melting oils and icings, as well as chocolate and it is idiot proof.

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Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Primal Chocolate Candy

1 8.8 Oz bag of Pascha Organic Unsweetened Dark Chocolate Baking Chips

2 tsp. organic unrefined coconut oil

3 tsp. xylitol

1 tsp. powdered stevia

1-2 pinches of sea salt (you may also sprinkle the salt over the still soft chocolate after it’s on the parchment)

This is the base of the recipe. Into the chocolate melting pot or double boiler, place the chips, oil, salt, xylitol and stevia. Stir until chips are melted and sweeteners/salt dissolved.IMG_3278

Tasty options :

Here is where personal preference and imagination can go wild. In the picture I have added ½ cup unsweetened coconut shreds and ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds. IMG_3279

Other things I have tried and loved are unsweetened dried blueberries or other dried fruit, toasted nuts, coco nibs, rice puffs, crushed breakfast cereals or pretzels, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. If you like your chocolate sweeter, increase the amounts of Stevia and Xylitol to taste.

Pour the melted chocolate out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Spread the mixture out to form a rectangle. It should be about ¼ inch thick.

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Allow to come to room temperature and solidify before cutting into pieces.

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This made 30 1.5 to 2 inch squares. Store in the fridge to hide it from the kids. Leave it at room temperature if you want to share.

Can sticky tape make you happier?

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When I was little, mom told me not to make a bad face or it could get stuck that way. Turns out there may be several layers of truth to that adage.

Our emotions are intimately linked with our facial muscles. Just watch a young child when they are happy or sad. No matter the culture, facial movements for emotion are similar and they are linked to our emotional control center- the amygdala. Researchers  found that when the corrugator supercilli muscle (it draws your brows down and together to frown) was paralyzed by botox vs. saline injections in a double blind study, the subjects that could not frown reported feeling 47.1% less depressed than the salt water group who felt only 9.2% improved. Another study asked subjects to keep their faces neutral while looking at positive or negative images. Keeping a blank face seemed to blunt some of the emotional responses to the videos.

So where does the tape come in? I wanted to see if I would feel a difference in my mood by trying to become more aware of frowning and eliminate it, if possible. Botox is an expensive option so I set a reminder on my phone every 30 mins. to tell me to relax my face completely like we do in yoga and meditation. I was surprised to find how much relaxing I had to do. Try it right now and you’ll see what I mean. While I didn’t feel happier per say, the TMJ that makes my jaw hurt sometimes, did improve.

Then I saw an ad for Frownies– expensive bits of tape meant to reduce wrinkles by keeping your face still. Kid you not. It’s real and probably safer than household tape but sometimes one should live on the edge 🙂 I reached for the Scotch tape after finding paper medical tape fell off and duct tape was painful. Trust me- NO duct tape! New appreciation for the sisters who wax. This works best on clean, intact, dry skin and you can’t reposition it or it looses adhesion. Sensitive skinned types should test this out in a less conspicuous location before going to the middle of the face. A small, one inch, piece of tape right between the eyebrows (not over- remember the waxing shout out), will really make you aware of how your face moves during the day! I found out that my reading glasses needed to be refit since I was frowning anytime they moved down my nose. Without sunglasses, I frowned outdoors. After several days of experimentation, I would say I felt more relaxed and optimistic in frown restriction mode, but I count myself lucky to be a generally happy sort, so perhaps the difference was not as large as it was for depressed study subjects.

Is this just silly or do I have a point? When discussing this self experiment with my daughter, she shared the story of the man in the 1970’s who wrote that he was going to walk to the Golden Gate bridge and if anybody smiled at him he wouldn’t jump. No one did and he took his life. It’s never too late to smile more and frown less. Smiles ripple out from you to the world beyond. There is a small pile of win-wins in this world and this is one.

A word of warning- do not forget you have tape stuck on your face if you have to answer the doorbell. Sorry FedEx man. Yes- it was very funny. It certainly made him happier!

Performance smoothie

After giving a few demonstrations on smoothies, the topic always comes up, ‘what do you put in your smoothie?’. Since, ‘It’s complicated’ did not seem to satisfy, here’s the whole story:)

Before I show the ingredients, I want to state that I know it may seem fussy. What I put in my drink is what makes my body perform at it’s best. Since everyone’s biology is different, what works for me, may not for you. Some things to consider about my biology is that I eat a plant centered diet, cannot tolerate unfermented soy or milk, athletically train 5 days a week and I am seeking high states of mental clarity, physical energy, rapid recovery, maximal immune system function and a low state of inflammation. I am frequently adding things to test them (this month it is wild maquis powder) and use metrics such as my heart rate variability (HRV), sleep data, workout stats, Luminosity scores and subjective data from my exercise log to determine if an ingredient stays or goes. So, now you know the goals, here is what I drink at least 5 days a week:

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Into a high speed blender or (if making ahead) a freezer safe container, place the following:

2 scoops Paradise Orac-Energy Protein and Greens

½ tsp. Moringa powder

½ tsp. wild maqui powder

1 tsp. organic matcha powder

1 tsp. maca powder

1 tsp. L-glutamine powder

1 tablespoon hemp-pro 70

½ tsp. creatine

1 scoop GNC Puredge Complete aminos powder

1 tablespoon ground flax seed (not in picture)

1 tsp. chia seeds (also not in pic)

a few sprigs of either parsley or cilantro

¼ of a peeled organic beet

½ frozen banana

1-2 inch hunk of peeled ginger

½ cup slice of frozen pinapple

¼ frozen organic lemon with peel intact

small handful of wheat grass

1 cup frozen mixed berries

2 cups organic spinach

Enough filtered water or coconut water to come about an inch shy of  where the ingredients level out.

Cover and blend for about 30-60 seconds, until no identifiable bits remain. If your blender has a plunger, using it will speed the process.

Put all of the items in the blender with the powders first, the frozen fruit next, the leaves/grass on top then the water or coconut water. Powders first helps to keep the dry ingredients in your drink.

This makes 2 large tumblers for me. I drink 1 tumbler 1-2 hrs. before a workout and the other immediately after.

To make this compatible with a busy schedule, I make the 5 zip-lock bags for the week all at once on Sunday night and freeze them.

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Doing them all together takes about 20 mins. When a health shake is needed, just pull out a bag, dump in the blender, fill with water and blend. Whole thing takes less than a 2 minutes including clean up.

Some notes on the ingredients. Paradise Protein & Greens is simply the best protein powder I have found. It is not creamy and sweet like a whey powder but how it makes you feel is amazing. Smooth onset of energy that lasts for hours with 20 grams of plant based protein for a satisfying fullness. Check out the ingredient panel! Fruits, vegetables, mushroom extracts, adaptogens, probiotics, alkalizing green blend, aquatic superfood and fiber. I contacted the company about heavy metals (such an issue with protein powders these days) and received this reply:
“Our proteins and greens does not contain rice so you can feel good about it , on the other hand every single batch is tested for heavy metals , the ppm allowed by the federal government are 10 ppm and California 5 ppm so our product test below 3 or 4 ppm
So we are below of California standards”

I have found my run times, on average, 1-2 mins. per mile faster with the shake than without. I am also more comfortable during intense exercise and warmer in cold weather. To get an answer as to why, I tested both my before and after shake levels of nitric oxide using the Berkeley saliva strips. Here’s what happened:

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So you can see, especially below where the strips are shown against the scale, that I register as depleted before and at the upper end of the target zone a little over 2 hrs. post ingestion.  Sometimes it’s hard to quantify why something you do makes you feel great but this is some of the answer. My HRV baseline on the Elite HRV app for the morning after I did not have a shake is 7-8 compared to 9 or 10 if I did have one (presuming I am not nursing a cold and slept well).  Clearly, the effects last more than a few hours. My delayed onset muscle soreness from resistance work is much better post shake than if I skip a day.

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The Maqui powder is there to act as an anti-oxidant, helps regulate blood sugar and turns the drink a lovely berry color. Sometimes you just get tired of people asking you, ‘what’s that green stuff you’re drinking?’ with that face. You know what I mean.

The ginger helps with immunity, the beet boosts nitric oxide levels and assists with circulation, the wheat grass, for lack of a more scientific way to put it, makes me feel alive. That being said, I don’t always put it in since it’s not always available at the store or ready to harvest at home.  Moringa stabilizes blood sugar and acts as an anti-inflamatory. Matcha powder is ground green tea giving a slight caffeine boost but without jitters due to the L-theonine calm energy and mood-boosting effect. Parsley and especially cilantro is a detoxifying element as it helps your body rid itself of heavy metals (my old amalgam fillings and I are in the process of parting company). Chia, hemp and flax seeds (once they are ground- store them in the freezer as the oils go rancid quickly) bring in healthy fats and protein while serving to thicken the smoothie. Most athletes are familiar with the muscle promoting properties of creatine and amino acids so I won’t belabor the point except to say that as we age we need to fight sarcoidosis (age related muscle loss) and resistance exercise and sufficient intake of amino acids are key. The fruits are there for taste of course but the banana for potassium and as a thickener, the berries as antioxidants and the pineapple for digestive enzymes. The lemon punches up the taste and acts as an alkalizer in your body which spares bone and may inhibit cancer. Spinach- let’s just say mother was right- it’s really good for you:)

This smoothie is packed with vitamins, protein and fiber and, I think, tastes great. Freezing the ginger, lemon, beets, herbs and even the wheat grass ahead of time makes assembly easy. I just cut the grass off where the green part meets the white near the base and freeze it in a baggie. The grass must be dry or it will not freeze well. My Vitamix blender makes quick work of this but if you are working with a regular blender, frozen items may need to be in smaller pieces and the blending time increased to achieve a good consistency.

You can’t find a smoothie of this quality in a store! Please try it, or at least the Orac-Energy protein and greens and let me know what you think:)

The new world of food- allergens, GMO and more, oh my

It is getting harder to do the shopping. Get one allergy, intolerance, or celiac guest for dinner and it gets complicated. What if you want to avoid GMOs, dyes or artificial sweeteners? I thought I would share some simple tricks to make sense of all the options.

There is much that could be said on the topic of GMOs. The scope of that debate is beyond this post, but what I want to share is a way to use your personal viewpoint to guide your shopping.

Produce items will have SPU stickers on them. If the code number shown starts with an 8 than it is a GMO food. If the number starts with a 9, it is not GMO. Here is an example:

Any other number or a zero mean that the consumer will not be able to tell as the food producer has elected not to share the information. Safe to say, those foods would be, ‘conventionally grown’ as the lingo goes. This means probably fertilized, sprayed with chemicals while growing and perhaps treated with fumigants, irradiation or chemicals to lengthen shelf life. The SPU code is a voluntary system but it’s a start.

For the rest of the market, check out the free App ipitt.

Best Vegan Pancakes

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Sunday is pancake day at our house and we are very picky. It has taken over a year of testing mixes and recipes to finally end up with one that consistently pleases. In my mind, and to my taste testing volunteers, this recipe tastes better than others even if you are not trying to go vegan. It does take a bit more thought and planning but the taste is worth the effort.

To make this more convenient, I make up 6 batches of this at a time in individual zip lock bags or mason jars that I store in the freezer. Pull out a baggie/jar, mix up the dry ingredients with a fork, add the oil and water and you’re ready to cook.

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Vegan Pancakes

1 cup sprouted grain flour (nuts.com has a good one here or One Degree organic foods or King Arthur )

¾ cup All Purpose organic flour

¼ cup organic yellow Masa Harina corn flour

¼ cup coconut flour

¼ cup buckwheat flour

4 tablespoons coconut sugar

6 tsp. aluminum free baking powder

1 very rounded tablespoon ground flax seed

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 rounded tablespoon lemon zest (from organic lemon if possible)

1 tsp. sea salt

2 ½ cups warm water

2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

(Optional) 1 cup fresh blueberries

Mix all the dry ingredients (and the blueberries if you go that route) together and make a well in the center of the bowl. Into the well, pour the melted coconut oil and warm water. Fold the wet into the dry being careful not to over mix the batter. Here is the consistency you are looking to achieve. Depending on humidity and the flours you are using, you may need slightly more or less water than specified in the recipe. I pour about 2 of the 2 ½ cups of water into the dry ingredients then mix gently to get a feel for it, then adjust as needed.

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Ladle onto a hot skillet (this is my ceramic skillet from Scanpan shown here) lightly greased with coconut oil spray and cook on one side until bubbly then flip and cook until the other side is lightly browned.

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Transfer to warm plate and serve.

In case you are wondering about some of the ingredients, here is the inside story. Sprouted wheat flour improves the digestibility and increases the amount of nutrients your body can get from the grain. It lowers the glycemic index of the wheat so that it doesn’t spike blood sugar the way regular flour does and has lowering effects on cholesterol. I find it needs to be mixed with some all purpose flour to get the right texture and air pockets.

Masa Harina is finely ground corn flour made from lime treated corn. Treating with lime turns the corn  into a digestible grain that is sweeter, softer and holds onto moisture better in baked items. Regular corn flour is not usually lime treated so check the label.

Coconut flour increases sweetness while adding additional protein in an easily digestible form. It does not give the final pancake a coconut taste according to my tasters in case you are concerned. Coconut sugar adds inulin, a pre-biotic fiber, that helps your good gut bacteria to thrive while having a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. The coconut oil must be melted and the water warm to mix well and stay a liquid in the recipe.

Buckwheat flour is gluten free and lends a hearty and full flavor to the cakes. All baking powder should be, but sadly is not,  aluminum free due to the link  between ingested aluminum and dementia. Check your pantry and make the switch if you need to.

Ground flax seeds (always store in the freezer or the oils go rancid), serve as a binder while contributing healthy omega 3 fatty acids from it’s alpha-linolenic acid , fiber and antioxidant lignans.

Cinnamon, besides being tasty, helps control blood sugar. Lemon zest sparks up the whole flavor of this recipe so please don’t leave it out. Zest organic lemons if you can since you will be eating whatever chemicals they put on the rind. It also helps the baking powder to bubble by adding some acid. I freeze zest in a zip lock or small shaker so it’s always ready to add. In a pinch you could use lemon juice but it does not have the same amazing aroma as the zest.

So there you have it, pancakes both as healthy and delicious as I can make them. Also good for dinner 🙂

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No Peel Easy Crock-Pot Applesauce

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A strange upside to the storms of last year was that our neighbor lost a tree that had been shading our apple trees. The result this year was a bumper crop of apples. It is SO hard to let anything you grow yourself go to waste! Faced with 20 lbs. of apples in a morning picking, some decisions had to be made. Applesauce won the vote:)

Apples are full of nutrition, but the best part is lost if you don’t use the peels. Apple peels have vitamins A and C as well as calcium, phosphorus, folate and iron. Two thirds of the apple’s fiber is found in the peel. Research you can hear more about here, shows that there are substances in the peel that fight breast and prostate cancer. Bottom line- leave the peels on and with the blended method below, you will get all the taste and benefits from the fruit.

I recall, not that fondly, humid hours spent peeling, coring, cutting and stirring apples over a large pot last time I made applesauce. It was an all day affair and we hadn’t even gotten to canning. Luckily, now there is the mass wisdom of the internet and I, like many others, have discovered the joy of crock-pot applesauce. No peeling or stirring and you can leave the house while it cooks. This method is easy, efficient and doesn’t heat up the kitchen as badly. If you have a glut of apple goodness this fall, you have to try this!

Crock-Pot Applesauce

Apple pieces enough to fill and mound up in the center of your pot

½ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ cups water

½ cup lemon juice

optionals: ½ cup sugar or ¼ cup agave or ¼ cup honey, lemon or orange zest (1-2 tablespoons according to taste). If the apples you use are sweet, you probably won’t need sugar.

Wash, core and cut apples into approximately 1-2 inch chunks. Pack them into your crock pot until they mound up nicely in the center.

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The pot lid rested on the top of the apples should leave a gap between the lid and the crock.

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This is important to let some of the steam out during cooking so the resultant sauce is not too liquid.

Pour the other ingredients over the apples and rest the lid on top of the mounded fruit. Set the cooker to low for about 5 hours or high for 2-3.  Cooking time will vary by cooker brand and density of apple.  This is not an exact science and overcooking is not really a problem here. When the time is finished, mash the cooked fruit with a potato masher.

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You could leave the resultant sauce chunky if that’s your favorite and it will have visible bits of peel like this:

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If you want a classic smooth end result, puree with an immersion blender right in the crock until the desired smoothness is achieved. No immersion blender? Put one on your wish list 🙂 You can use a blender too. Ladle the sauce into the blender and puree in batches until the whole pot is done to the consistency you like.

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At this stage you can eat it immediately, store in the fridge for a few days or can the excess. If canning, ladle the sauce into sterilized canning jars to within 1 cm of the jar rim, top with new sterilized lids, hand tighten the jar bands and process for 15 mins in a boiling water bath according to the jar makers directions. Label jars before storage because we all forget exactly what’s in there and when we made it 🙂

After trying this several times this year, I will never make applesauce any other way. I have fallen in love with my crock-pot all over again.