All posts by Mira


About Mira

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glyphosate, is it safe?

The Dangers Of Glyphosate

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, popular weedkiller, currently used in yards, parks, and farms all over the world. Controversy has long reigned over the use of this highly effective herbicide, due to its potentially dangerous effects on health and on the natural environment. Many highly respected researchers, including Dr. Stephanie Seneff at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, have been looking into the effects of glyphosate for many years. As a result of all of this research, there is now a considerable body of evidence against its use in gardening and agriculture.

In agriculture, we have seen a sharp rise in the amount of genetically modified crops, created to be resistant to Roundup, i.e., glyphosate. By modifying the crops, so the thinking went, farmers could spray Roundup on the crops with abandon. Although we have seen an increasing amount of genetically modified crops, we also now have a number of glyphosate-resistant weeds. This, quite obviously, defeats the purpose of spraying crops with herbicide.

Not Just For Weeds

In addition to its uses as a weed killer, glyphosate is also being sprayed on a variety of crops to dry them out before harvesting.  Currently, it’s being used on a wide variety of crops including:

  • buckwheat
  • corn
  • flax
  • lentils
  • millet
  • non-GMO soybeans
  • oats
  • potatoes
  • rye
  • sugar beets
  • wheat

This widespread usage is causing more glyphosate to appear in the food supply. Even at levels above EPA guidelines, which have been already been found by experts to be too high. This excessive exposure only adds to the overall body burden and increases the damage to the environment and to our health.

Health Risks

For many people, the biggest concern around glyphosate is its potential effects on human health. The health risks could be wide-ranging. Scientists have suggested links between the use of glyphosate and conditions including auto-immune diseases, autism, and problems with the body’s natural microbiome. Some studies even suggest that it could contribute to a range of common cancers, including breast cancer and certain types of leukemia.

The Microbiome

In 2013, a study by Dr. Stephanie Seneff and Dr. Anthony Samsel showed that glyphosate inhibits the activity of cytochrome P450, which is an important human enzyme. By interfering with this enzyme, it increases the damaging effects of other dangerous chemicals, reduces the body’s resilience to toxins, and contributes to inflammation. The results of these effects include gastrointestinal disorders which are associated with disturbances in the gut microbiome.

Gout

In another study, Dr. Stephanie Seneff and her colleagues argue that glyphosate-induced changes to the microbiome contribute to the epidemic of gout that is present in the developed world today. Like many gastrointestinal diseases, gout is a condition that is characterized by inflammation. Seneff’s findings suggest that traces of glyphosate in the diet could be the primary factor in the recent dramatic rise in gout cases in the United Kingdom.

Cancer

In another study, Dr. Anthony Samsel and Dr. Stephanie Seneff found correlations between the use of glyphosate on crops and a rise in the number of cases of a range of common cancers, including breast cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer, and myeloid leukemia. These findings reflect the World Health Organization’s labeling of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic.” Some proponents of glyphosate argue that the amounts that are used on food crops are not large enough to cause cancer in humans, but it is difficult to precisely control the size of the dose of glyphosate that any particular individual receives from their diet.

Effects on the Natural Environment

In addition to its potentially harmful effects on human health, glyphosate also poses dangers for the environment. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, recommends that people do not use the product close to fresh water because of its harmful effects on amphibians and other wildlife. However, it is not clear whether farmers and gardeners follow this recommendation. Even if they do make an effort to keep glyphosate away from sources of fresh water, rainwater, runoff can carry the product into streams and rivers, where it can wreak havoc on the health of fish and amphibians such as frogs. Furthremore, even if glyphosate does not directly kill fish and other wildlife, it can kill plants that these animals depend on for survival, causing ecological devastation that extends all the way up the food chain.

Depleting Nutrients From Soil

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate binds tightly to particles of soil and can persist in the ground for up to six months after it is applied. Bacteria will gradually break it down, but many experts argue that the effect on the soil is long lasting. Healthy soil contains a range of minerals that plants need to grow, including magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Glyphosate can affect the concentrations of these nutrients in the soil, which could affect the ability of plants, including food crops, to grow and produce healthy fruits, vegetables, and seeds.

Friend or Foe?

Many gardeners and farmers rely on glyphosate because it is very good at killing unwanted plants and weeds. However, the dangers of glyphosate mean that its ability to get rid of weeds might not be worth the potential damage to our health and the environment. In particular, concerns over the damaging health effects of dietary glyphosate, as highlighted in the research of Dr. Stephanie Seneff, should give us pause before using glyphosate or purchasing foods that have been grown using this dangerous herbicide. The effects of glyphosate on the natural environment also should also not be ignored, as it could have potentially devastating effects on natural freshwater ecosystems.

Sources

 

The Thanksgiving Leftovers Plan

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  That delicious feast where we cook all of our favorite foods and enjoy family and friends gathered around the table.  A bounteous array of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, family favorite recipes, and an almost endless parade of desserts.  It is a holiday of plenty.

 Erma Bombeck once said, “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not a coincidence.” While I agree with the eighteen hours to prepare, hopefully, your meal lasts longer than twelve minutes. 

In our rush to get to the big feast we sometimes forget some of the other important stuff. I’ve put together some thoughts on things to remember for the holiday so we can all have a happy, healthy, safe, and delicious day surrounds by those we love and enjoying our favorite foods.

Food Safety

According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from foodborne illness. That’s about 48 million people. As many as 128,000 of these people will wind up in the hospital. And raw foods of animal origin (such as poultry) are most likely to be contaminated. The holidays can present an enormous potential for foodborne illness. Combine a busy kitchen with a hectic schedule, a possible overload of guests, and high levels of cross preparation with raw meats and vegetables, and it all combines to make a perfect storm for food safety problems.

The CDC recommends the following rules regarding food safety:

  • Cook – make sure all foods, especially meats, are thoroughly cooked, a meat thermometer is especially helpful at this time of year
  • Separate – don’t cross-contaminate your cooking surfaces and be sure to clean all boards and utensils between foods
  • Chill – bacteria can grow on foods left out more than 4 hours so refrigeration is advised
  • Clean – thoroughly wash your veggies, your hands, your utensils, your prep surface, repeatedly
  • Report – if you or someone you know becomes sick and you suspect foodborne illness report it to your local health department

My suggestions  are:

  • Have multiple sponges, one for surfaces, one for pots, one for dishes
  • Microwave your sponges often, on high for 2 minutes, to kill bacteria
  • Have multiple towels for separate uses, hands, drying produce, drying counters, drying dishes

Feeding our fur-babies

While we’re enjoying the plenty that comes with this particular holiday, we need to be mindful of the fact that many of the foods that we eat for the holiday are not good choices for our dogs. Many people give their dogs “table treats” throughout the year.  On Thanksgiving, with so many people in the house, our furry friends may pull out all the stops when it comes to the piteous they-never-feed-me eyeball action.  Many of those around our table might be tempted to sneak them “just a little bit.”  The challenge is that all of these “just a little bit” pieces add up to quite a bit of food.  Add in the fact that many of these foods are, in fact, not safe for consumption by dogs and you wind up with very busy veterinary emergency centers.  No matter how much they try to convince us we need to remember that the following can be dangerous for dogs:

  • Turkey skin, gravy, drippings – loaded with fat and spices, it’s difficult for them to digest and could lead to pancreatitis
  • Turkey bones – these are very brittle and can splinter causing damage to the stomach and intestines
  • Bread, bread dough, stuffing, cookies, or other baked goods – dogs cannot digest these very easily and they can cause bloating or severe digestive distress
  • Onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, mushrooms, and nuts – these all contain different substances which can make your dog very ill
  • Chocolate – dogs cannot process the theobromine in chocolate. Consuming it can, depending on how much and how big your dog is, cause serious digestive upset and possible toxicity
  • Alcohol – especially beer, is very toxic for dogs

Leftovers

And after the big feast there will be leftovers.  Probably lots of leftovers.  Because let’s face it, isn’t that how most of us prepare for the big day?  We pretend we’re feeding an army (and maybe some of us are).  Partly because we enjoy the cornucopia of favorite foods. But also because after cooking for two days, it’s a great feeling to enjoy all these delicious treats again as leftovers. When we’re planning for leftovers, however, we need to have a plan.

Substitutions

In order to make sure you have the healthiest leftovers possible be sure to start with the healthiest ingredients:

  • This soup base is an excellent substitute for that chemical-laden standby cream of mushroom
  • If your family are biscuit fans do this instead of the whack-and-bake variety
  • Don’t buy the stuff in the can, it only takes a few minutes to make your own delicious cranberry sauce
  • If you eat gluten avoid the chlorine bleaching and bromates found in many commercial flours by choosing unbrominated and unbleached flours instead
  • Skip the crispy onions which come loaded with GMO ingredients and negative additives. Make delicious caramelized onions as a topping instead
  • Canned gravy usually has MSG, trans fats, sulfites, and caramel color, you can easily make your own 
  • Pie fillings often come loaded with GMO ingredients, MSG, plus artificial flavorings and preservatives, making your own is fairly easy. 

The plan

Most people plan their cooking day in great detail. What needs to go into the oven when, what gets cooked in which order, when family is arriving, and how to make the feast all appear on the table at the same time. While it’s great to pay all that attention to the meal, we also need to be mindful of how to plan for after the feast. These are my top tips for dealing with leftovers after the holidays:

  • Don’t throw out those bones, use them to make this delicious broth
  • And here’s a couple of recipes using it plus a wonderful one for my favorite meatball soup
  • Leftover wine can be frozen into ice cubes and used later. A standard ice cube tray is 1 ounce which is the equivalent of 2 tablespoons
  • Instead of storing each leftover item in its own container make them into Meal Jars using wide mouth pint jars for a quick and easy lunch or dinner 
  • Pie for breakfast – okay so it’s not nutritionally very sound, but when you’ve got a delicious gluten-free, lower sugar pie, there’s nothing wrong, in my humble opinion, with enjoying a slice of pie with breakfast
  • Here’s a blog post on one of my favorite leftover strategies, Sequential Eating
  • And another article Musings on Leftovers

However you celebrate, whatever is on your table, whoever your gather with, I wish you a holiday full of joy and gratitude, health, and happiness. 

When Probiotics Are Not A Good Choice

Health supplements are expected to reach a global market share of $278 billion by 2024. That’s a sizable market and it continues to grow. Probiotics are one of the fastest growing items in the category in the U.S. With so much focus on the microbiome and the as more information points to their effectiveness in minimizing digestive issues and promoting gut health, the demand for probiotics is all set to explode.

A recent report reveals that Canada could save up to $100 million CAN per year through probiotic use designed to minimize instances of upper respiratory infections. The supplement market in China, with probiotics at the top of the list, is also set for rapid expansion.

However, while probiotics are a great choice to combat many digestive issues, they are not always the best choice. That’s why it is important to know when to take probiotics and when to seek alternative treatments.

What Are Probiotics?

While bad bacteria can make you sick, good bacteria can help break down food and support your immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that work in harmony with your biological systems. Many probiotics specifically help support good digestive health, combating issues like diarrhea, nausea, malabsorption, and dozens of other symptoms of a leaky gut. 

You can get probiotics through consuming probiotic-rich foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables and yogurt or through beverages like kombucha and kefir. Or you can get them through supplementation. However just because they can have some health benefits doesn’t always mean that they always have health benefits. There can be times when it’s best to not take probiotic-rich foods or supplementation and you should actually avoid them.

3 Reasons to Avoid Probiotics

Below is a quick list of those occasions when it might be better to seek alternative treatments for digestive issues. In each of these cases, use of or consumption of probiotics is contraindicated until the condition has been resolved.

1. SIBO

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) refers to a condition where you already have too much bacteria in your small intestine. Adding more is not a healthy solution to anything, even when it is otherwise helpful bacteria. For those with SIBO getting a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult. But once you have a diagnosis there’s a specific dietary protocol and supplemental support required to support your system.

The symptoms of SIBO are quite diverse and can include

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • and more

2. Candida Overgrowth

Candida is a type of yeast that can overrun your intestinal tract and cause a variety of symptoms. When your candida levels are under control, this yeast helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. When levels get too high, symptoms can range from simple things like a white coating on the tongue to more serious symptoms like:

  • Exhaustion
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic sinus and allergy problems
  • Gas and bloating
  • Weakened immune system
  • Frequent UTIs

This is just a small sample of the potential problems associated with an out-of-control candida overgrowth. While some low-level imbalances can be treated with over-the-counter medications (such as fluconazole for yeast infections), chronic overgrowth needs to be addressed through dietary changes, nutritional support, and possibly antifungal medications. The use of a self-scoring quiz can be helpful for diagnosis. Many people who switch to a candida protocol after scoring high on the test have good results ranging from clearer skin and better digestive function to clearing of infections and weight loss.

3. Probiotics Don’t Fix Everything

The effectiveness of probiotics depends entirely on the cause of your problem. If your gut flora is out of balance or you have too little bacteria to help with digestion, probiotics can be a great way to rebalance everything. If you have been on antibiotics, pairing those with probiotics might help prevent conditions like H. Pylori. Since H. Pylori can cause systemic and prolonged digestive upset, a bit of prevention is well worth the investment in probiotics. If you don’t suffer from any of these conditions or your digestive upset has nothing to do with your gut biome, probiotics won’t help.

While probiotics can be a great way to improve your digestive health, it is important to know when to take them. Unless directed by a doctor, you likely won’t want to take probiotics on a daily basis.

Added Probiotics

Unfortunately with all the news about the benefits of probiotics many food producers are starting to add them to a wide variety of items at the grocery store. Cereals, chocolate, cold brew coffee, salad dressings, and more are all being promoted as a healthy choice due. However, overconsumption of probiotics can lead to an imbalance of the gut and is not a healthy choice. 

If you suspect you have gut health issues it’s best to work with a health professional and be evaluated to see if you need to add or avoid probiotics in your diet.

superfoods for Fall

Seasonal Superfood Recipes For Fall

Fall has arrived. And with the change in seasons comes a completely different way of eating. Instead of light and refreshing salads, it’s time for nourishing, warming, nutrient-dense foods. If you’re not familiar with the term, nutrient density is the concept of eating foods which provide a lot of nutrients for not a lot of calories. This is contrasted with energy dense foods which provide a lot of calories but not a lot of nutrition.  An apple, for example, is a more nutrient-dense food than fried apple fritters which are calorically (energy) dense.

Benefits of seasonal eating

When we change what we eat with the seasons there are many benefits for our health.  The health benefits come in part from the fact that seasonal foods are usually picked at their peak of ripeness. This is when their nutrient value is highest. It’s a distinct difference from when they are picked early, stored, and force-ripened. While it may be nice to have apples, strawberries, or lettuces year round, the truth is they each have a season.

Taste is another health benefit of seasonal eating. Being fully ripe when picked often means the produce will taste better. That’s because it’s fully ripe so the flavors have had a chance to really develop. Anyone who questions this should think about the difference between cardboard tasting winter tomatoes and a mouthwateringly delicious vine-ripened summer tomato.  There’s a huge difference, one that we shouldn’t ignore because the more flavorful tomato delivers more lycopene, vitamins C and K, biotin, molybdenum, and more.

Variety in the diet

Another important health benefit to seasonal eating is that it introduces more variety to your diet. When we eat the same foods all the time we can miss out on different nutrients from different foods. Micronutrient profiles are broad and varied among different foods, we can take advantage of that by eating with the season. For the Fall season, that means consuming a lot of foods that are rich in Vitamin A, a beta-carotene found in the red, orange and deep yellow foods of this season. Vitamin A is beneficial for eye health, hair, skin, nails, and can be supportive for respiratory health as well.

Just because a food is in season does not, unfortunately, mean that what you are buying at the grocery store is truly fresh. It is possible that foods traveling a far distance can be picked early and stored while they are shipped across the country or around the world.  In order to ensure that you are getting in-season foods, it’s best to shop locally from farmer’s markets and CSA’s or to look for locally grown signs at your grocery store.

Five Recipes

To help you add some of the delicious superfoods of Fall into your diet we’re sharing a few of our favorite recipes below:

Cauliflower

The mild taste and slightly rough texture of cauliflower make it perfect to add to many dishes at this time of year. Rich in vitamin C, K, pantothenate, and folic acid, cauliflower is also excellent for helping with cholesterol health. You can use it as a mash in addition to or instead of potatoes, make lots of types of rice with it, or even make cauliflower steaks.

This recipe is a testament to my friend Padma who taught me so much about Indian cooking.  Every time I wanted to learn how to make something she kindly and patiently invited me into her kitchen to guide me in learning to understand her cuisine.  This recipe is one that I came up with for a quick and tasty curry.  It’s become a family favorite, I’m sure your family will love it too.

2 C. red lentils, cleaned, washed, and cooked
2 T. olive oil
½ t. yellow mustard seeds
½ t. cumin seeds
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ginger, grated
1 T. curry powder
1 t. ground turmeric
2 C. tomato sauce
½ cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 t. sea salt
1 T. minced fresh cilantro

The curry sauce is made while the lentils are cooking.  If the lentils finish before the sauce is ready, take them off the heat and set them aside until it is time to add them to the sauce.

In a large saucepan heat the oil

When the oil is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, stirring constantly cook for 1 minute

Add onion and sauté until onion is golden and slightly wilted

Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and turmeric, cook 1 to 2 minutes

Add tomato sauce and cauliflower

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until cauliflower is al dente, approximately 7-9 minutes

Add cooked lentils, sea salt and cilantro, cook 2-3 more minutes

Leeks

Mild yet flavorful, leeks are a wonderful addition to any fall or winter dish. A great source of sulfur compounds leeks are also high in vitamin K and manganese. This particular recipe is from my Aunt Haya and is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods for this time of year. This recipe makes a large quiche and is great as leftovers.

Haya’s Spinach Leek Quiche

4 slices gluten-free bread
3 T olive oil
1 pound spinach leaves
2-3 leeks (depending on size), white parts only
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 eggs
1 cup organic milk
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground
1 T. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 C organic grated cheese (any flavor will do but I particularly like swiss)
1 C sliced mushrooms

Preheat oven to 350F

Lightly grease springform pan (place base or foil under the pan to prevent liquid seeping out)

Pulse bread in food processor until it turns into crumbs

Line bottom of springform pan with breadcrumbs

Slice leeks in half and then cut into 1/2” thick semi-circles, wash thoroughly to remove dirt

Heat wok or large pan

Add 2 T olive oil

Add spinach and saute until it starts to wilt

Add leeks and salute, adding more olive oil if needed

Add minced garlic

When spinach and leeks are fully wilted remove from heat and pour into springform pan

In a separate bowl mix together milk, eggs, and herbs beating well

Pour egg mixture over the greens

Top with grated cheese

Top with mushrooms

Bake 1 hour or until set

Let cool 10 minutes before slicing

Pumpkin

One of the easiest healthy food swaps you can do with your fall superfoods is to use pumpkin puree in baked goods. You can often use it in place of other moist ingredients like oil and eggs. When using pumpkin you are also adding fiber, vitamins A and C, plus potassium.

Pumpkin Date Cake

1  cup almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
Juice and zest of one orange
1/2 C evaporated cane juice crystals
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chopped dates
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 x 12 baking pan

Mix together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and whisk to combine.

In a separate mixing bowl beat the eggs; add the orange juice and zest, cane juice crystals, pumpkin puree, dates, and vanilla. Beat well. Add the dry ingredients into the wet, and beat for two minutes.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and done in the center.

Note:
– this cake freezes well
– can also be used to make snack loaves or muffins

Quinoa

The last substitution you can make for a healthier superfood-rich meal is to replace your rice with quinoa. Most types of rice, including white rice and brown rice, are okay in moderation, but they lack the nutrition you need for a well-balanced meal. Quinoa is considered a superfood, so it is the perfect alternative when you want to have a side dish. It’s also a great way to add a little extra protein, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium to desserts such as in this recipe.

Quinoa stuffed baked apples

4 apples, washed, dried, and cored

Filling:
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
3 T organic butter
3 T evaporated cane juice crystals
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup currants

Use a square cake pan to hold the apples

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Mix all filling ingredients together until well combined

Stuff equally into apples

Bake for 18-20 minutes until apples are tender and filling bubbles slightly

Serve immediately

optional: if desired drizzle with organic heavy cream

Sweet Potatoes

Many people enjoy potatoes, especially in the fall when you want more savory dishes, but they tend to be high in carbs and fat, and not very nutritious. Instead of having traditional white potatoes in your dishes, try sweet potatoes. These are a superfood, so they are filled with nutrients, and are amazing to enjoy during the fall season. You can have stuffed sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, or even sweet potato soup.

This recipe owes it’s start to a much-loved favorite from my husband’s family.  Made for nearly every big family gathering everyone pitches in to roll the croquettes and then eagerly awaits the finished product.

Updated to use sweet potatoes and cinnamon, plus a few other healthy changes, these are a wonderful way to get beta-carotene as well as vitamin C and manganese.  The recipe makes a lot but this is because we tend to make them for large family gatherings.  You do not need to bake them all at once and can, if you like, freeze some to bake at a later time.  While they take a while to assemble they are certainly worth the effort.

For croquettes:

5 pounds of sweet potatoes, baked and peeled (be sure to not overbake so they are not mushy)
1 stick organic butter
2-3 eggs
1 C organic milk
¼ t. fresh ground nutmeg
½ t. ground cinnamon

For coating:

beaten egg
gluten-free breadcrumbs
Puree baked potatoes while still hot

Add other ingredients and mix well

Roll into croquette shape (an oval tube approximately 1 ½ inches long)

Prepare a pie dish with beaten egg (beat eggs one or two at a time to ensure you don’t make too many)

Prepare a separate pie dish with breadcrumbs

Dip croquettes into beaten egg

Dip egg-coated croquettes in bread crumbs

Place croquettes on an un-greased baking tray, cool 2-4 hours (we usually cool them overnight)

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until golden in color

 

For more seasonal and superfood info check out these posts:

fruit smoothie

Four Delicious Superfood Smoothies For Fall

While smoothies are certainly more popular during the warmer months of the year, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them during the Fall season. A smoothie can be a great way to add superfood nutrition to your diet. To bump up your nutrition you can simply change the ingredients in your smoothies. This allows you to take advantage of the season by eating those superfoods that are available at this time of year.

A few important notes about the smoothie recipes below:

  • By using bone broth instead of plain ice cubes you’ll be adding a small amount of a wonderful nutrient dense liquid that adds to the health benefits of the smoothies.
  • For added protein in each of the smoothies listed below add 1-2 scoops of collagen powder.  This odorless, flavorless powder is also highly beneficial for gut health but won’t change the delicious flavor of the smoothie.
  • When using almond or coconut milk be sure to read the label and avoid carrageenan. This ingredient, made from a red seaweed, can be highly irritating to the gut.
  • Each recipe below makes 2 servings, if desired you can cut the recipe in half to make just a single serving.
  • If you want to make two servings and save one for later it’s recommended that you freeze the second serving in order to prevent the ingredients from oxidizing. When you are ready to drink it, thaw a little more than halfway (overnight in the fridge should work) and re-blend. The frozen one may have a thicker consistency when blended depending on how much you let it thaw.

Winter Walnut Smoothie

This delicious and refreshing smoothie is full of powerful antioxidants. You may want to add the cinnamon last in order to be able to flavor it to your personal preference

2 cups almond or coconut milk
2 cups frozen organic wild blueberries
2 tbsp fresh-ground flax seeds
2 tbsp organic molasses
1-2 tsps cinnamon
4 bone broth cubes

Cran-Orange Smoothie

Packed with vitamin C this smoothie is a great booster for your immune system. With the addition of kombucha, you’re also adding some wonderful gut-supporting probiotics to the smoothie

6 oranges, washed, peeled and sectioned
2 cups frozen cranberries,
1 16-ounce bottle cranberry kombucha
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
6 bone broth cubes

Almost Like Pie Smoothie

This smoothie packs a nutrient dense punch because of the pumpkin and apples. Because of the oats, yogurt, and frozen banana its quite thick. With the addition of protein powder, this would be a meal replacement smoothie. You may need to add a little more almond milk to get it to blend well.

1/3 C gluten-free oats
½ C pumpkin puree
1 ½ C organic Greek yogurt
2 medium organic Fuji apples (about 2 cups)
1 banana, frozen and broken into pieces
1 C almond or coconut milk
¼ t pumpkin pie spice
6 bone broth cubes

Carrot Cake Smoothie

This smoothie is practically a dessert. Packed with flavor it’s a perfect treat for breakfast or as a snack in the middle of the afternoon.

1 frozen banana, broken into chunks
¼ cup shredded carrots
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1- 1½ tsp cinnamon (to taste)
generous pinch nutmeg
1 C organic yogurt
½ C almond or coconut milk
¼ t ginger
4 bone broth cubes

superfood pumpkin

Three Delicious Pumpkin Recipes For Fall

Pumpkin season is here!

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and all those scrumptious, warming, Fall foods are appearing at your grocery store. This includes pumpkin, one of my favorite, most versatile vegetables. Fabulous in soups, baked goods, as a side vegetable, and even as a snack using the seeds. Pumpkins are so tasty that I find it surprising how in the United States we spend nearly $600 million on pumpkins just to carve them up for Halloween and then discard them. They’re so nutritious and delicious that I think we should all be eating more of them.

Superfood benefits of pumpkin

Qualifying as a superfood, pumpkins are a wonderful source of potassium, vitamin A, a good source of vitamin C, and also provide quite a bit of fiber. Health-wise, due in part to their high antioxidant status, studies show pumpkin may be supportive in decreasing the risk of cancer. They’re also believed to help with improving insulin regulation, lowering blood pressure, providing lignans (which can have an antimicrobial benefit), and consuming pumpkin may even be helpful for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It’s not just the flesh of the pumpkin that’s good for you. The seeds also have health benefits. Helpful for cholesterol metabolism and in addition to being a good source of protein, the seeds also deliver tryptophan, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and zinc. All of this goes a long way towards making pumpkins and their seeds something you definitely want to add to your nutritional plan.

Pumpkin Recipes

While almost everyone is familiar with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and possibly even pumpkin soup, there’s so much more you can do with them.  Here are a few delicious ways to add more pumpkin to your Fall menu and bump up your nutrition.

Pumpkin Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
15 ounces pumpkin puree
juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tahini paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp sea salt 
2-4 Tbsp chickpea liquid, as needed for consistency

Blend all ingredients except salt and liquid together
If needed, add chickpea liquid 1 Tablespoon at a  time for smoothness and consistency
Once fully blended add salt to taste
Best served at room temperature

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 pound gluten-free tagliatelle (my preferred brand is Jovial)|
2 Tbsp organic butter
2 Tbsp gluten-free flour
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
4 cups organic milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
shaved parmesan for topping
minced rosemary for topping

Cook, drain, and lightly rinse pasta
Heat butter in a saucepan, add flour and whisk until combined
Add garlic, pepper, rosemary, and milk, reduce heat
Whisk all ingredient together until fully combined
Add pasta to the sauce and combine, coating noodles well
Garnish with extra minced rosemary and shaved parmesan

Superfood Pumpkin Shake
makes 2 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree, cold, not freshly cooked
2 bananas
½ cup plain organic Greek yogurt (full fat if possible)
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (avoid carrageenan)
2 tbsp protein powder
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp bee pollen granules
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups ice

Blend well until fully combined
If needed add extra liquid to fully blend ingredients together

For a few more Fall posts be sure to check these out:

 

Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

Coloring for adults

When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

  1. Stress reliever
  2. Elevates mood
  3. The Un-tech Effect
  4. Improves focus
  5. Anyone can color
  6. Highly portable


STRESS RELIEVER
According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

ELEVATES MOOD
Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

THE UN-TECH EFFECT
Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

IMPROVES FOCUS
Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

ANYONE CAN COLOR
Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

HIGHLY PORTABLE
Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.

Replacing The Mighty Avocado

A Journey in Taste and Texture

Whether you have a general aversion to avocados or just an aversion to their cost — the price of avocados increased 125 percent in 2017 — you have plenty of healthy ingredient substitutions that not only save you money but diversify the taste and texture of a variety of dishes, guacamole included.

Guacamole

Don’t let an avocado shortage slow down your guac game. For each avocado used in your guacamole recipe, substitute one cup of steamed, blended spring peas, organic edamame or chopped asparagus. Check out our recipe for Sweet Pea Guacamole below.

Sauces, Dips and Spreads

Avocados give sauces and soups a unique, creamy texture few ingredients can replicate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same consistency without avocados–you just need to apply a little creativity.

  • Create the satisfying freshness of your favorite avocado dressing using Greek yogurt, cilantro, and an optional tablespoon or two of sour cream. For every avocado called for in the dressing recipe, substitute ½ cup Greek yogurt and 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves (minced or processed in).
  • Hummus makes a great substitute for avocado dip on its own, but you can add an avocado-esque touch with a few extra ingredients. To every ½ cup of chickpea hummus, add ½ cup steamed organic edamame, ¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, ¼ cup basil or cilantro, 1 teaspoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
  • Avocado toast went from fad to foodie staple almost overnight. Take the concept a step further with a clever, spreadable substitution, such as a chunky cashew spread. Soak cashews for a few hours and blend until coarse with a little water or stock and your secondary ingredients of choice, such as pesto, steamed squash, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs or chipotle peppers.

Salads

With their lush consistency and laid-back taste, avocados complement just about any salad. No avocados, no fear! Try sliced peaches (briefly steamed), seared artichoke hearts or farmers cheese (for creaminess) in your next salad for an exciting new texture.

Southwestern Food

Southwestern-style cuisine and avocados go hand-in-hand–they contrast the spiciness and hearty textures of tacos, salsa, corn salads and other rustic dishes beautifully. Next time you need avos in tacos or other Southwestern dishes but come up short, try roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chayote squash, queso fresco, roasted cauliflower or oven-fried plantains instead.

 

 

Sweet Pea Guacamole
Print
Ingredients
  1. • 2 cups (1 pound) shelled spring peas, steamed for 2 minutes and cooled to room temperature
  2. • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  3. • ½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  4. • ¼ cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  5. • 2 ½ tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  6. • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  7. • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more, if needed
  8. • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
  9. • ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt, plus more to taste
  10. • Pinch of cumin
  11. • Pinch of crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until nearly smooth.
  2. Adjust the consistency and seasoning as needed with olive oil and kosher salt.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Favorite Instant Pot Tools

I was a little late jumping onto the Instant Pot train, but now I really can’t remember what I did without it!  It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen. Pressure cooking made easy-as-pie (hmmm… I haven’t tried making a pie in my pot yet…)  The ease alone would be enough but Instant Pot takes it even further – a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer and sauté pot, and that’s just the 6-in-1 model.  The 9-in-1 model also makes yogurt, cooks eggs, sterilizes AND makes cake. All this multi-tasking, no hogging my kitchen counter space – it’s a keeper. So I’ve given my Instant Pot it’s very own drawer, to store all its handy accessories.  Here are my favorites.

TEMPERED GLASS LID
A clear glass lid is perfect for when slow cooking, sautéing, keeping food warm, or even serving direct from the pot.
Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid

STAINLESS STEEL INNER COOKING POT
Having a second inner pot makes it really easy to prepare multiple dishes. I find it especially handy when I’m meal-prepping. I can make a main dish, and then quickly pop in a new inner and make quinoa, rice a veggie and such. It’s almost as handy as having two Instant Pots.
Instant Pot Inner Cooking Pot

SEALING RINGS
The Instant Pot lid sealing ring is made of silicone. It’s really durable and will last you a long time. It can, however, hold onto food odor. I wash mine in my dishwasher after each use. I also periodically “steam-clean” it in the pot – toss a couple cut up lemons and a cup of water into the pot and cook on manual high pressure for fifteen minutes. I do have a second ring to use when I make a neutral or sweet dish and I really want to ensure no savory aromas are transferred.
Instant Pot Sealing Rings

STACKABLE INSERT PANS
Stackable insert pans are great when you have more than one dish you can cook at once – steaming, cooking veggies and rice. Or cooking two dozen hard-boiled eggs at a time. These make reheat leftovers in the Instant Pot so easy and fast, a much better choice than using a microwave.
Stackable Stainless-steel Insert Pans

STEAMER BASKET
A steam basket or rack is essential for Instant Pot cooking. I especially like one with moveable sides so it can adjust and accommodate food of all shapes and sizes. I like the extendable removable handle on this XOX model, it’s handy when lifting hot food from the pot.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Handle

TRIVET-RACK-STAND
I use a taller trivet in addition to the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot, so I can cook in several layers. I’ll often cook things like sweet potatoes on the lower level and place an entrée in a pan above on the higher level. If you do this, take care that the height of the tallest item is not higher than the pot’s maximum fill line.
Trivet Rack Stand

RAMEKINS – OVEN-SAFE DISHWARE
I love my porcelain ramekins and love that they work so well in my Instant Pot. The perfect size for single serving dishes and porcelain doesn’t absorb odors or flavors.
Ramekins

HOT POT GRIPPER CLIP
Sort of like a hot pad’s much stronger studier weight-lifter cousin. Just clip the grip end onto the hot pot, or pan or basket and lift it from the Instant Pot. My friend Coleen, an Instant Pot veteran, gave me these when I first got my pot. She was absolutely right about how much I’d love them!
Hot Pot Gripper Clip

CHEESECAKE PAN
Perfect for cheesecake, tarts, quiches and more cheesecake. This pan was designed with Instant Pot cooking in mind, it has a handle for lowering into and lifting out of the pot. The only problem I have found with this pan is that it is too easy to make cheesecake. It’s very tempting to have cheesecake every week. LOL
Stainless Steel Cheesecake Pan

YOGURT MAKER CUPS
My Instant Pot doesn’t have the Yogurt function (sad face) so this yogurt maker cup set is on my wishlist for now. When it’s time to give my pot an Instant Pot sister, it will be the yogurt-making 10-in-1 model.
Yogurt Maker Cups

 

If you loved this list, be sure to check out my Favorite Kitchen Tools list. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to!

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: Recommendations I share on my website may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your purchases from these companies through my links helps me continue to bring you free information on my site.

 

 

beaver butt - castoreum

Are You Eating This Ingredient?

Is the “Natural Flavoring” in Your Food Really from a Beaver’s Butt?

You’re probably aware that most modern foods contain flavoring agents that are less than natural and wholesome. What you may not know, though, is that even natural flavorings aren’t necessarily what you think they are. A great example of this is a chemical called castoreum, which under FDA rules can be simply labeled as “natural flavor.” Though it is absolutely natural, castoreum is probably the last thing you’d willingly put on your food. The reason isn’t that it tastes or smells bad, but that it’s sole natural source is, somewhat disturbingly, a beaver’s bottom.

Harvesting, History, and Uses of Castoreum

Castoreum originates in pouches known as castor sacs, which can be found near a beaver’s pelvis and anal gland. Though it may seem disgusting to think of your food being flavored with something that basically comes from a beaver’s butt, castoreum serves several useful functions for beavers themselves. In its raw form, it is a thick, waxy substance that beavers rub onto their fur to lock out water. Thanks to its strong odor, beavers also use castoreum mixed with their urine to mark their territories.

Castoreum can be harvested in two ways, neither of which is particularly easy or convenient. The first method involves killing a beaver and harvesting its castor sacs. Though the sacs are valuable, beavers are rarely killed exclusively for them; instead, fur trappers typically harvest and sell the castor sacs to increase their profits. The second way to harvest castoreum is more disgusting, but also much more humane. When a live beaver is sedated, its anal gland can be “milked” by hand, forcing it to secrete raw castoreum.

No one knows exactly when castoreum’s use as a food additive started, but a 2007 safety review estimated that it had been in use in the food industry for at least eight decades at that point. Its earlier use as a perfume ingredient may have inspired experimentation with it as a flavoring agent. Castoreum is known to be useful in simulating raspberry, strawberry and vanilla flavors.

Perhaps the longest-standing use of castoreum is for medicinal purposes. The secretion appears in Roman medical recipes and its gathering is even mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Today, it is still used by believers in homeopathic medicine as a remedy for everything from tetanus to digestive disorders.

Castoreum Today: Are You Eating Beaver Butt Secretions?

With all of these different uses, you might be wondering just how much castoreum you’ve eaten over the years and how many beavers have had to be milked or killed to produce it. The good news, if you’re currently eyeing everything in your pantry suspiciously, is that castoreum isn’t at all common as a food additive. In the United States, only about 292 pounds of castoreum are used each year. The difficulty of extraction usually makes other flavoring agents much more cost-effective, as evidenced by the fact that 20 million pounds of vanilla is still used in the U.S. food industry each year to provide vanilla flavoring that could, in theory at least, be simulated just as well with castoreum.

With that said, some specialty products have leaned more heavily on castoreum as a flavoring agent over the years. Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris, maker of the Marlboro brand, is known to have flavored some 400 billion cigarettes with castoreum in 1991. The inclusion of extremely tiny amounts of castoreum was used to make the cigarettes sweeter and better-smelling. Incredibly, the entire production run used just 8 pounds of the substance. So, if you smoked Marlboro cigarettes in the early 1990s, you probably inhaled a minuscule amount of castoreum.

castoreum, beaver butt whiskeyAnother specialty product that has historically used castoreum, and still does to this day, is a Swedish schnapps that is actually supposed to taste like a beaver’s butt. The liquor is referred to as bäversnaps, literally meaning “beaver schnapps” in Swedish. The drink has a strong, musky flavor that is produced by soaking castoreum in high-proof alcohol, which takes on the flavor over time. Though it may not be for everyone, at least bäversnaps uses castoreum openly, rather than labeling it as a “natural flavor.” And an American company is producing a Eau De Musc, a castoreum flavored whiskey. This represents the first time I’ve seen castoreum openly labeled on a food or beverage product. 

So, while the natural flavor in your favorite foods could hypothetically contain castoreum, the odds are that you’ve either never eaten it or have only ever had an extremely small amount. Still, the fact that castoreum was used in the past and is still used in rare cases today is just another reason that you should always make a point of avoiding those ingredients labeled as “natural flavor.” It’s important to know exactly what’s in your food.