Thursday, June 30, 2016

Can't afford to eat healthy? The foods that are the most amazing superfoods are also the cheapest. Don't believe me?

Make a big difference with small change.

Let me give you my top 20 superfoods that are supercheap. Keep them in your house and use them every day and that alone will make you healthier. They are even cheap when you buy organic.

Chili Peppers
Sunflower seeds
Frozen okra
Kale and other greens
Beets (and beet greens)
Beans and lentils
Flax seeds
Bones (for bone broth)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Serrano-Peppered Chicken and Cauliflower with Raw Curry Sauce

I was feeling a bit flu-ish tonight, like I am coming down with something, and I wanted to eat something really healthy to help ward it off. I wanted something savory with lots of spice.

I've been thinking about how good raw onion and garlic are for me (since my post on guacamole). About how good the brassica veggies like broccoli and cauliflower are for me and how I really should eat them more often. I was kinda hankering for chicken (as in chicken noodle soup even though I know noodles are not good for me).

And I came up with this recipe.

I had a huge old organic cauliflower in the fridge I'd been meaning to roast with garlic and turkey bacon, but I didn't feel like roasted veggies. I wanted a comforting sauce.

I thought about what I wanted to put in my dish to make myself feel better. I knew I wanted to put turmeric and black pepper in it, after our discussion on turmeric the other day. The more I read, the more I'm convinced turmeric has magical properties. So I went to the store and got turmeric in a closed old-fashioned little tin container that didn't admit light. So it was ALIVE.

I bought some fresh peppercorns too. Remember, turmeric is better absorbed when prepared with black pepper, and there is more piperine in freshly ground peppercorns than in ground pepper that's been sitting for a long time.

They had organic boneless chicken thighs on clearance (I always wait til they are on sale). I knew I had garlic and onion at home, but I grabbed some fresh organic ginger and a serrano pepper.

Why serrano? I was reading some index the other night on foods that had the highest antioxidant count, and ginger was there at a respectable 120 but serrano pepper was above 2000. It blew my mind how those little suckers are that good for you. Cheap too. They were $2.99/lb which I thought was high til I put it on the scale. My little serrano pepper came out to a grand total of 2 cents. My nub of organic ginger ($4.99/lb) came out to 14 cents. They don't weigh much.

Here are the ingredients for the first part of the dish preparation:

6 chicken thighs
1 head organic cauliflower
1/2 serrano pepper (less or more as you like it) chopped fine
1 1/2 onion
3 tbsp grated fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, semi-crushed then sliced fine
2 tbsp whole coriander, toasted, ground coarsely
2 tbsp whole cumin seed, toasted, ground coarsely
2 tbsp whole cardamom, toasted, ground coarsely
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and cracked black pepper to taste

I put a little avocado oil in the pan, just a smidge, and on high heat, I put a good browning on my chicken thighs. When they were as brown as I wanted them to be, I added the serrano pepper, 1 1/2 chopped onion, the garlic and the grated ginger. Then I added my coriander, cumin seed and cardamomI had just toasted on the stove and ground in my mortar and pestle. Added my salt and black pepper and let it simmer covered. It all made a slight sauce after simmering covered for awhile, then I added my cauliflower that I had chopped earlier. You always want to let cauliflower sit for at least 10 minutes after chopping it before you start cooking it. It makes the nutrients more available. This is also true for my garlic and onion that I'd chopped ahead of time and allowed to sit. I stirred the cauliflower and chicken around until all the cauliflower was coated in the highly-seasoned sauce from the pan.

Now this was shaping up to be a curry, but remember what we learned the other night about how high extended heat destroys the magical properties of our healing turmeric. And remember how I wanted a comforting savory sauce...? So I decided to save the curry sauce til after it was all cooked. And I started thinking again about how good raw garlic and onion are for me and how hard they are to incorporate into my menus.

So I came up with this idea: I got out my ninja (or you could use a blender or food processor), threw some plain unflavored kefir in there, tons of turmeric, fresh lemon juice, raw garlic and onion and salt and pepper to taste. I blended it well and let it sit for a few minutes while my dish finished cooking. See what a pretty little bright yellow raw curry sauce it is. Here are the ingredients again:

Raw Curry Sauce

1 clove garlic
1/2 small onion
1/3 inch nub of ginger with peelings intact
4 tbsp turmeric powder
1/4 cup organic kefir
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp each of toasted and ground cardamom, cumin seed and coriander
juice from 1/2 lemon

When the cauliflower was just tender enough, I turned off the heat  Let it cool just a bit so the heat wouldn't kill my turmeric, then I poured the "raw curry sauce" over my chicken and cauliflower, stirred it well, then served it. Ideally, you'd have fresh cilantro (or parsley) for garnish.

Some jasmine rice would have been nice, but if I can resist it and just eat meat and veggies, I try to choose that as often as possible.

This was a delectable meal, and just what the doctor ordered. I felt better after taking in all those antioxidants and superfood nutrients.

To recap, what makes this a superfood dish? Well, let me count the ways:
  1. the use of high antioxidant spices, including the superfood spice turmeric and that lovely bit of serrano (though I wish I'd used more of it)
  2. the use of garlic, onion and ginger and especially the addition of raw garlic, onion and ginger
  3. the use of kefir
  4. the use of a healthy brassica like organic cauliflower
  5. adding a small portion of organic free-range chicken to a large amount of vegetable
  6. the use of a healthy oil like unrefined avocado oil which can handle high-heat browning and is not a refined vegetable oil like soy, corn or canola (which it turns out are so bad for us)
  7. the absence of potatoes, rice, grains, etc.
It's also practical and easy and not much of a mess of a dish. It all cooked in one pot and was served in one little bowl. I could have frozen or refrigerated the leftovers, but my daughter and son-in-law came over and polished off my remains.

Good meal to end a good day--and hopefully keep the doctor away.


I tried this a second time this week with carrots instead of cauliflower. I made a few changes. I upped the spice quotient. I put twice as much turmeric in the raw curry sauce and twice as much lemon juice. Instead of cooking six cloves of garlic with the chicken, I put almost a whole head of garlic. I put no seasoning other than salt and black pepper with the cooking chicken. I put all the coriander, cardamom, ginger and turmeric into the Ninja/blender with the onions and garlic--so none of them would be destroyed by the high heat carmelizing of the chicken, onions and garlic. In the sauce, instead of one clove of raw garlic, there are three small cloves. I also added sliced carrots into my Ninja to make the raw curry sauce have an orang-er tint and contain pureed raw carrot. So it was a raw carrot sauce, in a sense, poured of cooked carrots. Then I poured my raw sauce over my slightly cooled chicken, carrot, onions and garlic when it was ready, stirred and served. The carrots made this dish sweeter than when I prepared it with cauliflower. I liked the sweetness and it allowed me to get away with upping the ante with the spices.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream: I can combine all kinds of superfood healthy ingredients into one dish...a pie?

You read an article that says you need flax seeds. You hear amaranth is a superfood replacement for grains and high in the soluble fiber that reduces cholesterol. Another one touts virgin coconut oil as the be-all end-all. Cinnamon and clove bring down diabetic blood sugars. Black strap molasses is the ultimate source for calcium and magnesium. Grass-fed butter is high in conjugated linoleic acid. Winter squash has superpowers.

It all came together for me when I was reading about the superfood qualities of the winter squash and realized that PUMPKIN is a squash. And then I realized: A pumpkin pie could be designed to be good for me and I can put all these superfoods into a piece of PIE.

No waaay? Yes way!

My first thought was that I'd have to wait til fall for fresh organic pumpkins, then I realized how cheap and nutritious canned pumpkin is all year long. Canned pumpkin is CONCENTRATED pumpkin and is super high in fiber. CONCENTRATED GOODNESS. My sweet tooth wants to be fed now and since I'm trying to eat more squash and all those other superfoods...pumpkin pie in mid-summer it is.

Now use either fresh mashed pumpkin or canned pumpkin--but not pumpkin pie mix (which is loaded with sugar). This recipe is designed to be healthy: sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free and can be vegan (if you leave out the egg).

And speaking of concentrated goodness, let's talk about the soluble fiber in this recipe. Oats are renowned for their cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber, right? Let's compare oats to the amaranth and flax in my pie crust. There are 4 g of soluble fiber in a cup of dry oatmeal, but 9 g of soluble fiber in a cup of dry amaranth, and 13.8 g in a cup of flax seed. More than double for amaranth, more than triple for flax. And amaranth and flax aren't troublesome grains. Between the amaranth and flax in my crust and the pumpkin and figs or prunes in my filling, this pie is a soluble fiber dream. Goodbye cholesterol.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think just a 1/7 slice of this pie should meet your soluble and insoluble fiber requirements for the day (which most people never accomplish on a regular basis).

How is it good without sugar? The ceylon cinnamon oil from Florihana is a big part of it. Sweetness without sugar. Taste it and see (diluted of course). The blackstrap molasses is a low glycemic index sweetener that goes a long way toward making it taste like traditional pumpkin pie, but the high sugar taste comes from your prunes or figs, whichever you use. Think of them as concentrated goodness as well. You would not believe the research on how healthy prunes and figs are, in spite of their sweetness. I used to chew six of them every morning and it would spike my blood sugar more than I liked.  But mixed in with all the healthy ingredients in this pie, your blood sugar will behave normally and spike as it should when you eat normally. Your blood sugar won't reveal that you just had dessert. You should make this pie weekly and eat a slice every day. It'd be like a fun way to take your vitamins and get your soluble fiber.

If you get tired of pumpkin, replace it occasionally with sweet potato or carrot or butternut squash or even fresh pureed pears (also high in fiber). Play with your superfood pie recipes.

Midsummer Night's Dreamy Pumpkin Pie

To make your filling:

1 can or 15 oz. organic pumpkin puree
7 prunes or dried figs
2 tbsp ground ceylon cinnamon
10 drops ceylon cinnamon oil (manufactured by Florihana ideally-see link below)
3 drops clove oil
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup organic blackstrap molasses (unsulphured) preferably Plantation brand
1/3 cup coconut milk, almond milk, or organic half-and-half (or your favorite "milk" alternative but not conventional canned condensed or evaporated milk--bad for you!)
1/4 cup virgin unrefined coconut oil (melt on low heat before adding to mix and when it cools it will solidify)
1/8 cup sprouted organic flax seed meal (see Note on sprouting flax seeds)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-2 pastured eggs (optional, you can leave out the eggs if you are vegan, since the coconut oil and flax seed meal will both replace it and firm up your filling when chilled)

Blend all ingredients until smooth and mixed well and pour into raw pie crust using recipe below for crust:

1 cup sprouted organic flaxseed meal
1/2 cup sprouted organic amaranth flour (see link below)
2 tbsp grass-fed butter
1 lg pastured egg white
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 cup water (add more as needed to form dough)

I just mixed the crust ingredients in the pie plate, first the dry flax, amaranth and salt, then I cut in the butter, then added the egg white whisked together with the water, mixed it with a fork, formed it into a ball, then flattened it and pressed it into the plate to form the crust. Then I poured the pie filling into my raw crust and baked it 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees (covered loosely with a cheap aluminum roasting pan you buy for a dollar that keeps things from burning without touching them).

I made this tonight. It was scrumptious. My sweet tooth is so satisfied. And this was so much more fun than taking cinnamon capsules, chewing flax seeds, eating stewed prunes in the morning, steaming fresh squash or eating a tablespoon of coconut oil for its health benefits. The trick is: don't eat the whole pie.

I'll have the links for where you can easily get any hard-to-find ingredients in the next few days. I'll also have the Note for the sprouting of the flax seeds. Keep checking back if you need those.

Mr. Green Jeans

Every time I hear a reference to Mr. Green Jeans from the Captain Kangaroo shows of my childhood, I feel all good inside. Kind of like I feel when I think of oatmeal or soup. Mmm mmm good. Even though we've learned there's hardly anything good in canned soup and oatmeal is full of phytates and avenin, it turns out.

I swear I am going to ferment my oats with buckwheat one day to get rid of phytates and avenin and eat them the healthy way...but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

In the meantime, there's still Mr. Green Jeans to feel good about. I loved Mr. Green Jeans. Literally. I don't even remember why. I think of Mr. Green Jeans when I think about growing things, starting a garden, even eating my vegetables. But there's nothing like a big bowl of cooked greens to really make me wonder about Mr. Green Jeans and who he was and whatever happened to him.

Funny the things our brains associate.

I was just eating a bowl of especially healthy greens and who did I think of? You guessed it. So this time instead of wondering, I went and collected this image for you. Did you love Mr. Green Jeans too? My dad grew gardens and we had cows, so maybe it was a combination of my dad and Mr. Green Jeans that cemented in me my love of animals and all things rural and agrarian.

Oh and there was a character on Petticoat Jnction or Green Acres too. Who was that? Do any of you remember a green-jeans type of character on either of those two shows?

Back to greens. I feel so good when I eat them. This week was the perfect time to make them. I'd bought beets (with their attached greens) to make beet kvass. I had leftover kale spinach and arugala from a salad. I found organic kale on sale for 99 cents a pound. I even had wilting watercress (which I prefer to eat raw when it's not wilted) so I threw that in the pot too.

Unfortunately, I love a smoky bacon taste in my greens. Fortunately, though, you can buy organic nitrate-free turkey bacon these days, and it gets me through in a pot of greens.

Sometimes I add onions and garlic to my greens, sometimes I don't. This time I didn't.

Some sea salt and a dash of apple cider vinegar, and I can make a meal with a couple bowls of greens. Good stuff.

My question is, though...greens are goitrogenic which is a problem if you've got thyroid issues making you fat. One of my friends who is hypothyroid and gaining weight thinks she should stay away from greens. And broccoli. And a whole list of superfoods that she says are goitrogenic and can make her hashimotos and hypothyroid condition worse.

I've been wondering about my thyroid. But I can't imagine that staying away from greens and broccoli could do me any good.

Some things I read say cooking them reduces their goitrogenic qualities. Other things I read say to just supplement with iodine and not worry about it. Other articles say it's dangerous to supplement iodine if you have hashimotos. Some other articles say to limit greens to 5 servings a week. Hell, when I make a pot of greens, I might eat 5 servings in one day.

Now, I have to feel bad about eating greens? What's the world coming to? Do any of you have an opinion about goitrogenic green foods and hypothyroidism?

All these theories, it's exhausting, isn't it?

Until the science is clear, I'm not going to stop eating greens any time soon. Though it does make me feel less guilty for not liking broccoli. There are positive aspects to every negative, I suppose.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Psoriasis? What if you found a magic potion that made it disappear?

In the course of my health research, I sometimes accidentally or serendipitously come up with weird "remedies" that work for ailments I don't even have.

Do you have psoriasis? If you do, I might have a recipe for a magic potion. It's free. You try it, see if it works, if it does, all I ask is that you thank God and pass it on to somebody else who suffers with psoriasis. I don't know if it will work for everyone, but I came up with a potion of essential oils that definitely worked for a girl I know. For over 20 years, she's tried every over-the-counter and prescription drug out there for psoriasis. It had gotten so bad she couldn't leave the house. It was everywhere.

We tried this combination of oils, and within days, she had nothing left but mild patches on her elbows and knees. She stopped using it after she got comfortable without it, but her psoriasis came back. That's when we knew it really was the potion we had tried. So she started using it again.

What's the downside? It smells funny. That's why she stopped using it. But now she's using it again because she'd rather deal with the funny smell than deal with psoriasis. What she decided to do was rub it on at night, let it work, then shower in the morning before she went out the door, so she wouldn't carry the smell with her.

What's the potion we used? It's a simple combination of three essential oils that you rub onto your skin. The weird thing is, if you leave one of these oils out, it doesn't work. If you try to substitute another oil, it doesn't work. If you try to use a different concentration or different brand (because different brands have different concentrations I think), it won't work. If you vary the ratio, it doesn't work.

How did we come up with it?

I just happened to have these three brands of different oils I bought online for totally unrelated issues, and "something" (I call my something God) told me to mix them together and try them on her psoriasis. It was weird. And she took a lot of convincing. Both of us were amazed when it worked.

I don't want to sell the potion. I don't want to patent it. I want everybody to use our recipe for free. After years of watching this girl suffer, I don't want to make money off of other people's pain.

People use these 3 oils separately for all kinds of reasons. They are commonly available and not very expensive. The only magic is in the combining of them. Who would have thought, huh?

Email me and I will email you back with all the information you need to make this potion. I really want to know if it helps you or if you experience negative side effects, so that's why I want you to email me. I don't want money. I just want to see if it works for other people. All I want in exchange for the free recipe is for you to keep me posted through emails on your progress with your psoriasis.

Email me at

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why do I call myself a fat lady in my blog title? Admit it, you want to ask me.

One friend of mine said: "That is so negative. There are more positive, life-affirming names you could have chosen for this blog."

Another friend said: "Nobody sees your weight when they look at you, Donna Gail. They see your shine."

One of my best friends who really loves me said: ""Fat lady? Oh, that's not my friend, that's not the woman I know. You deserve better than that, Donna Gail. That's not who you are."

But my favorite was: "What happens when you lose all your weight and you're not fat anymore? People will be confused by your blog title when they see a skinny woman calling herself a fat lady. You'll have to change your blog name and confuse everybody even more."

That's a problem I really hope I have one day soon.

But the one question nobody has asked me yet is the only one that concerns me: will my blog title feel like some form of shaming for all the large-size women who will see this blog online?

I hope not. I hope it draws them like light draws moths. I know they too have been called fat ladies most of their lives and hate it. I hope they gravitate to someone who will talk bluntly--nakedly, if you will--about the experience of being a plus-sized woman in this world.

The title just says who I am and what this is. The title also just happens to be unforgettable. If it turns out to be controversial, well, then probably even more people will read my blog and join me on this journey.

Alot of what I talk about in this blog, these are experiences only other fat ladies (and men) understand.

But it's especially hard for overweight women. It's the difference between how John Goodman could be a sex symbol and a movie star even at his size, even as he aged and the fat jowls hung even lower...but Roseanne Barr was never anything but a joke and never could be seen as sexual.

Look at the photo up above. What do most people notice first? The fat lady serving herself too much food. I know what it feels like to be that fat lady with all eyes on me watching what I take and how much of it I take and how many times I go back. These days, though, we're less conspicuous because so many of us in the buffet line are fat. We're all gorging ourselves. We're all diabetic. We're all having heart attacks. We're all getting cancer. We're all dying. And most of us don't know what to do about it.

Several friends of mine asked (hesitantly but with real concern): How can you write a blog about losing weight and getting healthy when...well, you're fat and unhealthy? Who wants dieting and nutrition advice from someone who is fat?

Don't you love my friends? They're mostly all as bluntly honest as I am.

Well, first of all, I explained to them, I'm no nutrition expert and don't pretend to be. Secondly, I don't hide the fact that I'm fat. It's right there at the top in the blog title. Yep, I'm a fat lady. Don't mistake me for Dr. Mercola or Dr. Axe. Let's get that clear, right off the bat.

What I am is an overweight woman with serious health concerns that have emerged in part because of my weight. My blog is a chronicling of my journey to find health and to heal my relationship with food. Along the way, I will read articles and books from people like Dr. Mercola, Mark Hyman, Michael Greger, Joel Fuhrman, Sally Fallon, Dr. Axe and countless others. I've been reading things like this all my life. I am knowledgeable and I'm smart, but I'm no expert. I'm sharing what I'm reading out there and trying to make sense of it and put the puzzle pieces together. I'm trying to achieve consensus from the various schools of thought. And my life depends on finding the answers so I'm taking it pretty seriously.

As I said above, though, I've been studying food and health all my life. I've always wanted to be thin and healthy, and I've achieved it for periods of time--sometimes years. Why haven't I overcome this struggle in my life?

The short answer: I don't know. I don't think any of us know why we can't control certain behaviors we would like to change. There are a million theories in psychology and medical texts. Hell, I have a million theories all by myself just for me. Who knows?

I could quit trying. (By the way, I've tried that too, the "quit trying" cure), If I do that, I'm definitely going to die. If I keep trying, I just might figure it out and actually transform my body, my health and my life.

Then again, I may not lose weight even if I keep trying. I may die while writing this blog and never look any different. I hope not. But that is possible, and statistically, it is likely. Why? Because even if I learn everything and find the magic cure or put the puzzle of weight loss together...everyone out there understands this fact:


And that's not just true for overweight people; it's true for people with heart disease, people with diabetes, people with high blood pressure... Hell, it's true for gorgeous, skinny, young, energetic, healthy, brilliant college students trying to finish a term paper. They know what to do, they just don't want to do it or can't make themselves.

I was a smoker for 33 years. I didn't have to research what to do. I knew what to do. It was simple. Quit smoking. It took me 33 years to do it. I wish I could just quit eating. Forever. In fact, I have fasted on water dozens of times for as long as 35 days. Happiest times of my life.  Food wasn't an issue. I was free of the obsession for a period of time. That's why I love fasting. (But that's another post.)

Unfortunately, we can't just QUIT eating permanently. We have to figure out how to do it and do it well so it becomes our sustenance and (as Hippocrates said, our medicine)--not our poison. That's what this blog is about.

Whether my readers struggle with weight issues or degenerative diseases, or both, the desire is the same. It's also the same for people who struggle with other addictions. How can we restore our bodies, restore our health, be who God intended us to be when he created us. If we can come together in this blog and, as a community of seekers, find answers, we will all be helped. Some of us may take that information and transform our lives, some may make a few beneficial changes, and some of us may learn what we need to do but be unable or unwilling to do it for whatever reason.

There is acceptance here for all. I think that's another thing my title speaks to: acceptance

I'd be embarrassed to email Dr. Axe and tell him I ate a whole fried chicken. He might even be accepting. But I would never tell that gorgeous hunk of perfect man anything like that. As far as Dr. Axe knows, I only eat watercress. (Please don't tell him otherwise. I have a serious crush.)

But anybody that reads my blog won't have to be ashamed to ask me anything. I'm the fat lady. My title says: "I am you." Or probably worse. Whatever mistakes you've made, I promise you I've made more. Whatever shame you've experienced...oh, baby, let me tell you my stories. (Don't let me forget to tell you the story one day about when my underwear fell off in public after a period of dieting).

But I digress (as usual).

I was talking to a moderately overweight woman the other day about her struggles to lose weight, and I told her that her size was my goal. People don't have to be skinny to be healthy or to be beautiful. I want to be healthy and strong and beautiful and disease-free. Whether that happens at 120 pounds or 180, I'm good with either. Restoring my health does not have to mean getting skinny.

Truth be told, though, I really hope it does. I tell my friends: I just want to wear a bikini one more time before I die. They just laugh and laugh.

But then I always used to cry at the Long & Silky commercials because I wanted long, silky hair but I was born with curly frizz. You can't always have what you want, but like the song says, you get what you need. I hope we get what we need. What we need is to be healed--at whatever size that turns out to be. What we need is self-love and acceptance wherever we end up. What we need is to work do our best to be our best and to give our best. If we do that, everything else will fall into place and at the end of the road there will be...acceptance.

At the bottom of my blog (where probably no one has ever gone or ever will) there is a special note. I will post it here because it will probably never be read otherwise:
Special Note:  It is not my intention to use the term "fat lady" perjoratively. I ferociously love myself and other plus-sized women even if we never lose weight. But I chose it precisely because it is a term that has been used all my life to describe me, it is unforgettable and it stings. Being overweight and being unhealthy has not been a good experience for me. If my title is brutally honest in flavor and speaks to that--so does my blog. The name of the blog, I suppose, prepares people before they start tackling my posts. But my honesty is borne of deep love for myself and other people who have suffered because of their relationship with food. It is my hope that this blog will become a collaboration with my readers--people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, any disease impacted by healthy choices, whether they are male, female, small, or large--as we learn together how to heal our bodies and look at our eating. Please comment and interact with me as I explore issues in nutrition, psychology, medicine, fitness and...well, life. We don't all have to agree. I firmly believe healthy dialogue leads to healthy choices.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Powerful Pineapple

I've decided to eat a pineapple and a papaya every week. Remember what I said about habits? This is just something I do, week in, week out. Pineapples are a bit high in sugar, I know, but that's why I only eat one a week. I have digestive issues, and I need those enzymes. They are powerful especially for digesting meats. You want the papaya for papain and pineapple for bromelain.

Today we're focusing on pineapples.

I buy a pineapple (organic if I can afford it, but I feel pretty safe buying non-organic fruits that have a thick peeling that is removed) and I cut off the section I'm going to eat and only peel that part. Then I turn the pineapple upside down onto a flat dish so I don't have to wrap the exposed part with plastic and that's how I store it in the fridge all week as I slice off 1/7 of it a day all week. The bottom starts to go bad first, so start slicing from the bottom up. That way you can leave the stem on and it looks cheerful in your fridge, just sitting there on its little plate with its bottom gradually getting shaved away.

The trick to getting all the beautiful bromelain in the pineapple is to not cut out the center or much of the part close to the stem. The center is yucky and fibrous and hard to chew, I know, but eat it. It won't kill you. It will do you a lot of good.

I used to get pineapple slices or juice in the can for the enzymes, not realizing canned pineapple is pasteurized and all the good stuff is dead.

Pineapples are high in sugar. Don't eat them unless you eat them raw.

I don't even buy those pre-sliced pineapple in plastic containers in the produce section. The high-bromelain sections (the center and the area near the stem) have been cut out. Plus, I don't know what else has been done to them. If I'm going to ingest those sugars for the health benefits of pineapple, I'm going to make sure I'm getting the health benefits. Plus those slices have been sitting in plastic absorbing the phytoestrogens from plastic that are a big part of what caused my cancer. I stay as far away from plastic as I can. Sometimes it can't be avoided, but when it can be avoided I avoid it. Plastic is another post.

Buy your pineapple whole and eat your slice for the day right before or after you eat your biggest meat serving. Meat can really block you up and stay in your guts and rot if you're low on enzymes or healthy gut bacteria. A healthy probiotic and the enzymes from papaya and pineapple will really help.

If you are diabetic, it's a good idea to do what I do when I eat something sweet. I buy organic ceylon cinnamon in powder and oil form. When I eat something sweet, or I slip up and eat a heavy meal, I put 3-4 drops of cinnamon oil in a cup with a splash of milk. Cinnamon is so great for regulating your blood sugar levels. You've got to get the right cinnamon, though. Most store bought cinnamon is cassia,not true or ceylon cinnamon, and it sometimes has all kinds of additives. I'll make cinnamon my next post. We're talking about pineapples right now. I do digress, don't I? The journey is just all so interconnected.

World's Healthiest Foods is a great website. I don't agree with all of their thinking, but they give incredible nutritional information on different foods. Check out their article on the benefits of eating pineapple:

World's Healthiest Foods - Pineapple

And don't miss their intriguing little recipe for shrimp salad: just shrimp, ginger, pineapple and olive oil. Yum.

My blog has a Facebook page

Check out the new Facebook page for The Fat Lady's Song. Post something. Make a comment. Private message me. Now we can connect on Facebook too. Give us a like. As you can see, we're brand new on Facebook, and we only have one like (mine).

Could your deodorant make you fatter or even kill you?

Let's take a break from talking about food. This blog is about weight loss and health, and food is our best medicine. But there are lifestyle issues other than what we eat that impact us--especially those of us with illnesses like cancer, diabetes, underactive thyroid, etc.

This post is about one of those issues: deodorants. I have read so many different opinions on the safety of deodorants and what it is exactly that deodorants will do to you. Everybody has a different opinion on which ingredient is not good for you, or whether anti-perspirants are even worse than deodorant. Just google it: ARE DEODORANTS BAD FOR YOU. You'll see what I mean.

But the bottom line is: nobody wants to stink. So we all ignore the fact that deodorants and anti-perspirants may or may not be bad for us.

I tried to give up deodorant just in case it really could disrupt my hormones and make me fatter, or give me breast cancer. I have tried every natural deodorant option in every health food store, and maybe it's my French ancestry, but nothing's going to stop me from stinking but those darned chemicals in deodorant.

Or so I thought.

We're all hearing so much about coconut oil (by the way that's a coconut in the wild with its green outer shell pictured above). Coconut oil is good for everything--apparently. I'll write a post later on about coconut oil and tell you the things I've learned about it. What I like, what I don't. But one thing I know is true about coconut oil is that it is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Since it's the bacteria that develops under your arms that makes you stink, it stands to reason that coconut oil is a good, healthy base for a natural deodorant. I tried rubbing some under my arms (and this was the best coconut oil money can buy that was given to me) and 30 minutes later I stunk.

Then I started researching (and trying) different recipes for deodorants made with coconut oil. I even bought a $6 bottle of healthy roll-on coconut-based deodorant from the fancy company the fancy coconut oil came from. That didn't work either.

Then I tried mixing some extra virgin cold-pressed unrefined coconut oil from that fancy company with baking soda and a few drops of nag champa oil and tea tree oil and a bit of epsom salt, and some GMO-free organic cornstarch, swirled it all together in a little bowl and let it set. Then I put a little on my fingertips and rubbed it under each arm...

And I'm still waiting to smell anything.  I am officially odorless. Better even than with deodorant.

I already got endometrial cancer and lost all my female organs, and my risk factors that caused me to get that cancer make it likely I'll develop breast cancer. I can't play with chemicals that cause breast cancer. So whether deodorant really is bad for me or not, I'm not chancing it. My little bowl of deodorant works just fine for me and it's a lot cheaper than those expensive bottles of "good" deodorant, and it smells so natural. You can use any essential oil in place of the Nag Champa I used. Patchouli, lavender, sandalwood...just make sure it's an oil you're supposed to put on your skin and that you want to absorb into your body. I'm going to get some frankincense and try that. It's supposed to be anti-inflammatory, but I've never smelled it. That would be a great way to absorb it a beneficial essential oil.

If you want to try to make my homemade deodorant, leave a comment with your email address. I moderate all the comments, so it won't appear on the blog, and no one but me will ever see your comment.or get your email address. I never allow comments that contain personal information to appear on the blog. I want your email address because I am putting together a special informational packet making your own deodorants and soaps (like dishwashing liquid), and I will send it to you. It's too long, with lots of links, and I don't want it to take up space on my blog. My posts are already long enough. I'm still writing it, but I will send it to you as soon as it's done.

Using this concoction for deodorant is really alot easier than I thought it would be, and I'm so glad I finally made the switch. I wish I'd done it 40 years ago. I wish I'd known 40 years ago a lot of what I've learned in these past two years. Sometimes it takes almost dying to get something done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Eating Caterpillars... (not really but you'll really love the story)

When I was young, I so loved to eat and I didn't know I should be embarrassed to eat that much in front of people. I was quite the piglet. Food was just my favorite thing. And then, of course, I had my favorite foods.

I can still remember the day I discovered guacamole. Omigod. It's been a lifelong love affair. But it's so fattening...  You can imagine my joy now that research is starting to show just how healthy those little avocados are. I love being told I'm supposed to eat avocado, and that good fats like the ones found in avocados are good for me. But for fat girls like me, calories are still calories, and if I've got lots of calories coming in and not enough going out--no matter how healthy those calories are--I'm still going to stay fat. Sigh. So I had a dilemma before me: how to get skinny eating guacamole.

Let me digress for a moment and tell you a story. My very first date ever was with a boy named Tony whose little sister Vicki was one of my best friends. Vicki and her entire family were with me and Tony on our first date, and we went to a Mexican restaurant before heading to a Cowboys game. What a date. They brought three platters of guacamole to our large table, and you can guess what happened. I ate almost the whole platter that was set at my end of the table, without thinking, until Vicki elbowed me and I looked up from my food. Everybody was staring at me with half smiles on their faces.

Now, I was a semi-athletic teenager and I'd lost most of my baby fat. Their amusement wasn't mean. I'd had experiences with people laughing at me when I was a fat fourth-grader who wore cat eye glasses and had frizzy hair. This was not that. These were nice people and they liked me. But they did find my little episode of guacamole-gluttony rather amusing.

Vicki, though, had a mean streak. "Gee, you really like that stuff, don't you?" she asked. I nodded. She grimaced then added: "Do you know what it's made of?" Believe it or not, I didn't. My family wasn't big into cooking Mexican food and I didn't know how you would possibly go about making something like that or I would have made it everyday. Vicki smiled and said: "I've never been fond of green caterpillars myself."

I stopped chewing.

Tony, who was sitting across from me, scowled at Vicki while everyone howled with laughter. "It's not made of caterpillars, Donna, it's made of avocados," he told me,

Still, the question of what goes into guacamole has always puzzled me. I tried making it over and over throughout my life and never could get it to taste like the really good Mexican restaurants. Until this year. I was experimenting, trying to make a healthy guacamole that wouldn't  kill me if I ate the whole platter, and it came out so amazing, better than any guacamole I'd ever tasted--and it was good for me and I could eat the whole bowl.

Sorry but I've got to run for a minute. I'll be back with the tricks I figured out. Check back to find out how you too can eat as much guacamole as you want.

I promise tonight or tomorrow I'll continue this post...

Okay, I'm back so let's get back to guacamole. Some places serve guacamole made with nothing more than ripe avocados and salt. But really good guacamole is about alot more than the avocado. That's what you've got to remember. The only fattening thing in guacamole is the avocado (unless you do something really stupid and unnecessary like add sour cream or mayonnaise). Yes, I admit it, my first dozen attempts at it 20 years ago had either sour cream or mayonnaise in it. I couldn't imagine that wasn't how they got it so creamy. In fact, the basic ingredients are all healthy.

In all the research I've been doing about  health, there are certain super-superfoods that take your health-meter off the charts. I was enchanted to discover how many of these rock-star superfoods are supposed to be included in good guacamole:

(1) Lemon Juice: We all know lemon juice is good for us and we probably should have some daily, but I've never been able to figure out how to incorporate it into my life. Lemonade means added sugar (to make it good) and I only allow that treat a couple times a year. I find I can incorporate it into homemade salad dressings, but how often do I make those (though it's one of my goals and will be a post soon). They say put some in warm water and drink it first thing when you wake up, but I'm sorry. I'm drinking coffee when I wake up. That won't ever change. Of course, you can put lemon juice in cold water, which I try to do, but truth be told, I like my water plain. But fresh lemon (or lime) juice is essential to making good guacamole. Yeah, buddy. Addendum:  My daughter read this post and said, "Mom, everybody knows it's LIME that goes in guacamole." It may well be, but I prefer lemon. Now, we're going to do a guacamole cookoff where we both make our respective versions and the entire family votes on Guac1 or Guac2. I'll let you know the results.

(2) Raw onion. Most people don't realize just how good onion is for you. If you like it, eat it with every meal. Put it in everything. If you don't like it, then puree it and put it in everything and pretend it's not there. Go read the nutritional profile and the research studies. This stuff is amazing for everything that ails you. But most people have no idea it's like 10 times better for you if you eat it raw. Unless I'm eating a hamburger, I usually stay away from raw onion. Sorry. And I usually pull it off the burger anyway. I keep trying to figure out how to eat more raw onion without suffering. Then I might not be in every guacamole recipe you come across, but the really good guacamole I always liked best HAD RAW ONION IN IT. They did a study and raw onion reduced women's risk of heart attack by 70%.

(3) Raw garlic is even harder for me to stomach than raw onion usually. I love to put garlic in everything I cook, but some of garlic's fabled superpowers only can be experienced if you eat it raw. I have a salad dressing I put raw garlic into but it's made with mayonnaise and I'm trying to stay away from mayonnaise (though I'm figuring out how to do that salad dressing in a healthy way and I'll get back to you when I figure it out). So what I've been doing is smushing raw garlic, chopping it into tiny pieces, putting it in a mug of warm water and chugging it down without chewing. I hate doing that. Now I don't have to. I'll just eat guacamole a few times a week. I never knew raw garlic was one of the ingredients that made the best guacamoles even better.

(4) Cayenne Pepper. Now I'm Cajun, so cayenne isn't a problem for me. I know it's good for me and I put it in everything. If you like your guac hot, put as much of this in it as you can stand. Did you know cayenne pepper can heal an ulcer? I just found that out.

(5) Chili powder is another one of those foods people don't realize are good for them. It  is an essential taste ingredient in good guacamole.

(6) To-may-to, to-mah-to we all know why the licopense and everything else in tomatoes is amazing. In fact, one of my calorie-saving tricks with my guacamole is that I don't eat it with chips. I surround it with cherry tomatoes and dip my cherry tomatoes in the guacamole. Or if I don't have cherry tomatoes, I eat it with a spoon.

I would say THERE YOU HAVE IT but you'll learn:  I never leave well enough alone.

You see, even with all those healthy ingredients, avocado still has too many calories. The main ingredient, by weight, in guacamole is avocado. The rest is garnishment--albeit super-healthy garnishment. So if I want to eat a big bowl of it, what could I put in there that would make lots of it without having too much avocado. This is what I figured out. I add two things to my guacamole now that give it more bulk (and more nutrition).

First, I add nutritional yeast which is something I'm always trying to use more of because it's so good for you and is a great source of B-12. It is a salty and savory superfood in powder form. It's salty without having salt in it, so it doesn't have the downside of salt. It's a great way to season your food.. The nutritional yeast powder stiffens up your guacamole and adds bulk so you're not just eating avocado.

Second, I add some pureed raw or lightly steamed asparagus. Play with it and see how much asparagus you can tolerate before it changes the taste too much for you and see whether you like adding it raw or slightly steamed. You've got to really puree the hell out of it.

There's a third thing you can use to add more substance to the guac as well as more vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein: ground flax seed. I try to squeeze that stuff into every cold or raw dish I make. I buy whole organic flax seeds and grind them in a $5 coffee grinder reserved just for my seeds and nuts. Most people put flax in things they cook, but I prefer to eat my flax raw and not risk destroying those nutrients.

Oh, and here's a thought most of you aren't going to like and I don't do it very often myself. I've been reading alot about the nutritional value of raw eggs. I'm not advising it, but Dr. Mercola says he puts two in his smoothies every morning. Body builders do it all the time. I can't stomach it in a smoothie, and I worry about the bacteria. But with all that raw garlic in my guac, I know that'll probably kill any salmonella that wants to show up. I've tried adding one top-quality organic raw pastured egg to my guac and I didn't even notice it was there. It just added protein and nutrition. It's just something for you to think about. If you're a body builder and you've been putting eggs in your smoothies, it might be safer to add them to my guacamole.

That 's it. That's my recipe:

Caterpillar Guacamole


1 small or 1/2 large avocado
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dried cilantro (2 tbsp of fresh)
1 tsp chili powder (raw chili pepper is even better)
1/3 cup raw onion
1 clove  (or 2 if you like garlic) raw garlic
sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 stalks asparagus (raw or lightly steamed)
6 grape tomatoes

Puree asparagus then add all of the ingredients except the nutritional yeast into a food processor or ninja until mostly pureed but with some small chunky pieces. If you completely puree it, the tomatoes will change the color. If you don't like chunks, leave the tomato out or put less tomato and go ahead and puree it. Then add small chopped pieces of tomato when you take it out of the food processor. Now, it's going to be a little runny and not salty at all, so add 1 tbsp of your nutritional yeast and see if that stiffens it up enough and adds enough of a salty taste. Stir it in there really good and let it sit a bit before you taste it. You might need another tablespoon if it's not stiff enough and you think it can handle the taste of more nutritional yeast. I always need some sea salt to make it taste good to me. Then you add your cayenne pepper and stir it in really good and taste and keep adding and tasting til you get it right. You'll have a pretty good sized bowl of guac, so don't be afraid to taste test as you make it. (Add the ground flax seed if it's too runny, and add the raw pastured egg if you're feeling adventurous and will eat it right away).

Let it sit in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes before serving. 

Now you can eat the whole thing like I do, or you can share it with a friend or serve it at a dinner party, but either way, this guacamole has superpowers and eaten regularly, it will add years to your lifespan. BUT REMEMBER, RAW GARLIC LOSES LOTS OF ITS MIRACULOUS POWERS WITHIN THE FIRST HOUR OF BEING CRUSHED SO IF YOU ARE EATING THIS FOR HEALTH REASONS, CONSUME IT WITHIN THE HOUR.

And if you're preparing it for others and need to make your guacamole ahead of time, don't put raw egg in it (you should never serve raw eggs to a crowd of unsuspecting people--yikes!). If you want them to experience all the ultimate health benefits of garlic, leave out the garlic when you first make it.and puree the garlic and stir it in a half-hour before serving your guacamole so you'll preserve the health benefits.

Let me know how this recipe works for you and try to eat it with kale chips. Less fattening.

Monday, June 20, 2016

To Bean or Not to Bean...that is the question!

I would sell my last cow for a handful of magical beans.
 --Ian Caldwell, Author 

Okay, tell me if I've got this wrong. We've got zillions of people from all over the world who, for zillions of years, have subsisted on grains, beans and rice. And some of those folks look pretty skinny and healthy and live a lot longer than we do here in the good old US of A.

But the Paleo folks are telling us to avoid beans completely and live on proteins, vegetables, and small amounts of fruit and nuts. The problem is, most of us--like the folks in third world countries living on beans and rice for thousands of years--can't afford all that grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, kiwi, asparagus and pine nuts.

Now, I like the Paleo diet and there are ways to do Paleo on the cheap, kind of, but it's really hard if you're a single mom with three kids to get full on Paleo without spending some serious money you don't have. I mean, me? I personally can make a meal out of a $4.99 bunch of asparagus (I make a awesome Hollandaise sauce and nearly raw pastured egg yolks and grass-fed butter really are good for you, I swear), but for $1.99, that single mom down the road can feed her whole family for a couple of days with a pot of beans. And she can thicken a deer stew with 'em too. (Those of you who read my last post know what I'm talking about).

Still, the research is clear: there's no doubt that beans and grains have anti-nutrients in them that are causing many of us to be sick. Of course, I think fast food, refined vegetable oils, sugar, white flour, GMO corn and all the chemicals in our food have alot more to do with why we're all sick, but grains--wheat especially--can be problematic.

Now, everybody in my family, including me, is gluten intolerant. So I'm with the Paleo folks. I think we can live without grains 98% of the time (except on rare occasions when you might take a road trip to the Big Apple to find that guy who sells sourdough that celiacs can eat).

But there are lots of advantages to beans and lentils, and I don't think we should be so quick to throw out the beans with the soaking water. The problem is not that we eat beans, the problem is that we don't prepare them properly the way our ancestors knew to do. There were traditional preparation methods that our ancestors used to ensure that the nutrients in beans and lentils were accessible and the anti-nutrients neutralized. I could go into a whole long discussion about phytic acid and galacoliosaccharides but you'd stop reading my blog. So I just summarize: beans have anti-nutrients and if you don't neutralize them, they really aren't that good for you. They may not kill you...right away. But they won't do you a whole lot of good either. So if it's that simple, why don't we just neutralize them. The problem is, it's not that simple.

Let's take me and my love of hummos for example. It's made of chickpeas (that's a bean). The companies that make hummos don't neutralize the anti-nutrients. It costs too much to do all that. That's how our world got into the trouble we're in. We like to buy cheap and the companies that sell for cheap don't care about what they're selling us. Now, none of the companies can compete if they care enough to do things the right way. It's just business, right? But just-business is killing us and killing our children. But that's another post.

Back to lovely hummos. It costs $4.99 to buy a little bitty flat container of the hummos I love and they can't even neutralize my anti-nutrients. So I decide I am going to neutralize my own anti-nutrients, right? I had some chickpeas in the pantry, so I soaked them for 24 hours and they doubled in size. Everybody knows how to do that. Did I stop there? No, those anti-nutrients were still in there; heck, I think I saw one of them waving at me. So I put those little buggers in a wide mouth mason jar and instead of putting the metal lid, I put cheesecloth so my chickpeas could breathe and come back to life and SPROUT a little tail. When the sprout appears, the anti-nutrients are almost all gone. It took three days to get that little sprout going. See the picture. Oh and that's a pita with falafel, veggies, tahini and tzatziki sauce next to the sprouting chickpeas. That falafel came from the first batch I sprouted.

Now, you could ferment the beans to get them all out, but... Let's just say I have dabbled with beet kvass, but I haven't gotten the art of fermentation down yet. I'm going to a class next month though and you'll read all about it. That's another post. Back to my hummos. I took those sprouted chickpeas, washed them, then I cooked them down, and they were ready to make hummos. Three days just to get the little tail and we haven't even started making the hummos. You see why I pay $4.99 to eat hummos with anti-nutrients? That's why everybody else does it too. Paleo folks say: to hell with it, stop eating the damned beans and go eat bacon.

Basically, we're lazy. I argue with myself alot on this topic. I'm not lazy, I tell myself, there are just things I prefer to do with my time. Bullshit. We're lazy and spoiled and we'd rather have fun than do yucky stuff. And boys and girls, if we can get away with that, NO PROBLEM. I'm there with ya. The problem is, when it comes to what we eat in this country, WE ARE NOT GETTING AWAY WITH IT. God forbid the Chinese invade our country. We can't fight. Most of us can't walk down our own front stairs without holding onto something. We're driving through that easy McDonald's drive-thru or pouring boiling water in a cup of ramen noodles or popping a tv dinner in the microwave. We are killing ourselves with our easy food choices--or as a little nun I know used to say, digging our graves with our spoons. Then we spend all our time on the internet researching what's the latest supplement that's going to cure us, the latest exercise that works, the latest guru who can tell us how to fix our broken bodies, our broken lives and our broken world. If we'd spent our time growing a garden, or going to the farmer's market, and coming home and cooking, as a family, making healthy, nutritious meals, we probably wouldn't need to be fixed. But if you're like me, I whined and never paid attention when my daddy wanted me to help him in his garden. All the things he could have taught me. He was born in 1918 and he survived the depression with my mother. I want to cry when I think about all that beautiful knowledge that died with them. In just a couple of generations, we've lost all knowledge of how to feed ourselves. And the companies that sold us our food in boxes, now their poisons are killing our bees, and pretty soon we won't be able to grow gardens even if we wanted to. At universities, they are researching how to grow food in buildings with artificial means. Imagine what those groceries are going to cost to buy when that near future arrives. And we won't have any alternatives by then. Unless we start changing things now. NOW.

Now, spending three days waiting for that chickpea tail to sprout isn't going to save the world and it really, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't amount to a hill of beans if I eat my homemade sprouted hummos or the storebought one if I'm just gonna go to Taco Bell the next day and kill some Meximelts. But I still feel good when my grandkids come over and I make a big pot of Cajun red beans and rice or chili or Pakistani dal with red lentils, and my beans are soaked and sprouted and bursting with nutrition. Cheap, yummy, filling and oh-so-good for us. I'm getting it down to a science, and it's not such a big deal once you get set up and get in the habit.

That's another thing I've learned: nothing is a big deal in life if you can just make it a habit.

But back to beans...I don't think we should give up on them. I think we should have community cooking nights where we get together and make big pots of things and each take some home. Instead of staying home, isolated, on Facebook or communicating through online videos and blogs. If any of you in the Lexington, Virginia region want to join me in doing something like that, I bet my church would let us use their kitchen. Just post a comment on this blog and we'll hook up and make soups with fermented beans. I'll bring the Gas-X. (No, seriously, sprouting and fermenting beans, well, it makes them a less musical fruit.)

In the meantime, if you want to sprout beans, ask any questions you like in the comments section. If you don't sprout your beans, eat them occasionally, but don't eat too many of them. Those anti-nutrients actually bind with the nutrients in your food and trap them so your body can't use them.

If you want to buy beans that are already sprouted, there is a cool little company in Floyd, Virginia, down the road, that sprouts then dehydrates beans so you can just cook them.  In a week or so, I should have gone and picked up my five-pound bag of sprouted chickpeas, and I will make hummos and falafel and take lots of pictures. I'm going to leave you with a link for this company. They're one of those old-fashioned companies that still care about doing it right and they're local. There's a start. Shop local. Do the right thing. And support companies that do the right thing.

I'm preaching to myself primarily. Sermon over.

Click here to go to Blue Mountain Organics website and buy sprouted beans


I don't have time right now, but I have a split pea recipe that will knock your socks off. Check back on this post in a week or so, and I should have added it at the bottom of the post. You will love me forever once you taste my split pea soup.

AND SPLIT PEAS HAVE THE HIGHEST AMOUNT OF INSOLUBLE FIBER (maybe navy beans are higher) in the bean family, and they're pretty respectable in the soluble fiber department too.

I'm back! And I got back within the week or so I promised. Here is my beloved Split Pea Soup. I had originally posted it a couple years ago on Spark Recipes, and I needed to update it a bit based on things I've learned. Click the link below.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hearty Stews--healthy? Could it be true?

Hearty stews are typically wintertime fare, but here across from the creek in the mountains of Virginia, we have nippy summer evenings that call for extra covers and big steaming bowls of thick stew. Historically, heavy stews were meant to feed farmhands after a long, hard day of manual labor. I sit at my desk, working at my computer, most days. So I know I have to worry about a caloric imbalance here. Meat and potatoes swimming in a thick brown gravy doesn't exactly sound healthy, does it? Especially not for me.

But there is more than one way to skin a cat, my friends. (And no, this is not cat stew!)

However, it is venison (deer meat), the leanest meat on the planet. Don't stop reading. It's the other stew ingredients that are super-healthy improvements on traditional stew. You can replace venison with a lean cut of grass-fed beef, if you like, but I'm telling you, if you tasted my venison stew, you would think I'd put beef tenderloin in a stew.

The scrumptious lean venison meat is low-fat and incredibly nutritious, but the sauce is key. How do you thicken your stews--do you make a roux or add white flour to your meat as it fries, or maybe you add canned cream of mushroom soup, or maybe you use something else equally processed and unhealthy. If you don't--if you have discovered a healthy way to thicken stews--please share it with us. Because it took me forever to come up with a way to make a thick beef/deer stew without adding something unhealthy.

I mean, there are thickeners out there. You can use cornstarch, but most cornstarches are made from GMO corn and corn to begin with is probably something we really don't need to indulge in. And dammit, if I'm going to ingest those corn carbs, it's going to be real corn I'm dredging up with my spoon, not cornstarch. There are other things like arrowroot or tapioca or potato flakes, but the bottom line is, they all have problems and they all are starches (translate empty carbs/calories). And we didn't work on the farm today, did we?

So what's a stew-loving girl like me supposed to do?

Well, fortunately I was raised Cajun, and I learned early on that (the dreaded word) OKRA is a natural thickener. Don't howl with dismay. Okra is your friend. It is a superfood of the highest order. I'm not going to give you all the advantages of this nutritional powerhouse (google it yourself), but I am going to give you a painless way to ingest this superfood on the regular. You would never know my stew has okra in it, but it adds a certain rich complexity to my sauce.

You can puree okra and use it to thicken any dark savory dish you make, including a hearty stew like this one. But it takes a bit of time to cook down okra until you can't tell it's there. I love okra, so I don't mind it, but maybe your kids will say Ewwww and won't eat it if they see a trace of something that looks like it might once have been okra.

Have no fear, there are other options for thickening hearty stews. Simply take the concept of using a vegetable for thickening and expand upon that idea. My stew doesn't only contain okra. I pureed onions and celery into an almost clear liquid and added it to my stew when I first put it on the stove to boil. I also had chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. But those chopped bits just got soft and wilted. The pureed onion and celery boiled down into the thick stew you see before you in the photograph. Okay, so far we've got pureed okra, onions and celery as our thickening agents. We all have a hard time getting our veggies into a meal, don't we? See how niftily I slipped three invisible vegetables into that stew. Your three-year-old will wolf it down, I promise.

Did I mention I like my stews really, really hearty? Tonight I had a thought that never occurred to me before. I've been reading about the value of blackeyed peas (especially for Type Os in the Eat Right for Your Blood Type school of thought), and I haven't eaten them in forever. So I pureed a can of blackeyed peas and added that into my stew too. I was worried it would give it a beany taste, and beans don't go in beef stew EVER, but it didn't taste beany at all.  I got away with it. It added that final bit of heartiness I was looking for, and you would never know there was a bean in there. WAIT. You're Paleo and you read the word bean and you're out of here, right? Hang on, hang on. I'm kinda Paleo too. But I've done lots of research and I think we need to hold onto beans and just learn to prepare them in traditional methods so the anti-nutrients are destroyed. That involves soaking and sprouting, yes, or buying sprouted beans (I've got a great resource for you in my next post which is about beans and lentils). But there are so many people who don't think canned beans are a problem. Smart people. Scientists even. So occasionally, I don't think it hurts to eat peas or beans from a can. Though I don't really like canned foods either (but that's another post). When you need to thicken a stew in a hurry, pureed blackeyed peas from a can is a better alternative than most we turn to. We'll talk more about this later. Back to my beautiful dark brown, hearty, chunky stew simmering on the stove.

I achieved that beautiful shade of brown not with a dark roux, of course, but by browning my venison in a bit of butter in my ceramic skillet. One of the advantages of cooking venison is how beautifully it browns. Effortlessly almost. One minute it's turning brown, you throw in cold water, and you've suddenly got this scrumptious dark brown gravy, which you then pour (with the meat) into the stewpot where you are boiling down your pureed okra, onions and celery, and your cut up onions, celery and bell pepper.

Also, I had a small container of turkey broth leftover from a holiday that had been boiled for two days with all kinds of veggies, so I threw that in there for even more nutrition. I let it boil til the meat was tender enough to cut with a fork, then added chunks of carrot, mushroom and potato. Oh, did I lose you at potato. I know, white potatoes have more sugar in them than donuts practically, and I know diabetics aren't supposed to have them. I tried replacing them with turnips--yech! I'm sorry but I can't eat a stew without a couple bites of potato, and the amount of potato in my bowl is nothing like the mountains of mashed potatoes and real gravy I used to chow down on. Sometimes you have to make small allowances to keep yourself from going off the track altogether.

Other than the white potatoes and maybe the blackeyed peas, my stew is practically perfect in every way, as Mary Poppins would say. And you can take the potatoes and blackeyed pea puree out if you must. Try this: replace the blackeyed peas with pureed sauteed shiitake or portabella mushrooms. This stew is a perfect meal. We've got fat-free meat, a sauce made of veggies, water and peas (or pureed mushrooms), and chunks of carrot and mushrooms (and maybe potatoes). When the stew was done, I turned off the heat and stirred in strips of dried sage, shook in lots of dried thyme (never-enough-thyme, you've heard it said), and threw in a few bay leaves and a splash of red wine vinegar. I let the stew sit to absorb the flavors and cool down then skimmed out the bay leaves (choking hazard) and sage that hadn't dissolved.

Now, you're probably thinking: okay maybe I'll try it with beef. That's perfectly fine. But if you've got friends who hunt, or are eligible to visit Hunters for the Hungry, you are really missing out if you don't learn how to cook venison. It's one of the most nutritious meats out there with none of the disadvantages of commercial meats (fed GMO grains, hormones and antibiotics) and none of the expense of grass-fed organic meats.

My venison does not taste wild or "like deer" because I prepare it uniquely. I cut it up in pieces and soak it overnight in a marinade of apple cider vinegar, water and papaya peelings.

Yes, papaya peelings. Papain comes from papayas and most of the papain is in the peelings or seeds, which most people throw away. I get unripe papayas from the grocery store (I hate to promote Walmart, but if you can't find papayas anywhere else, Walmart has them). I buy them as green as possible, peel them and freeze the peelings, dehydrate the seeds and put them in a jar and take them like enzymes when I need help with digestion (especially of meats). The flesh I keep in the fridge and eat pieces of it as a snack. Papaya peelings and apple cider vinegar will turn a tough deer roast into tenderloin overnight. Works way better and faster than meat tenderizer and without the chemicals in most meat tenderizers. Be sure to rinse the venison well after marinating and cut off all the fat and "filmy looking skin" off your deer before you put it in the pan to brown with butter. Deer fat and that filmy white skin looking stuff doesn't taste good. The fat especially is yucky. If you have to leave a little of the white filmy skin, it'll cook down in a stew and you won't notice it.

That's it. That's all there is to the healthiest little deer stew in Virginia. My second bowl of stew has grown chill as I sat here writing. It's so good, though, it's even good cold. That is one problem with a dish like this. It's almost too good, and there is the danger you will eat too much. Fortunately, there's nothing in there that's bad for you (save those dastardly potatoes). Still, too much meat and too much blackeyed peas can be calorically dense.

What I've learned is that you can make something delicious like roasted summer squash every night if you wan--and you can eat the hell out of it. but hearty stew should only be made once in awhile--because you are probably going to overdo it. Sometimes I think I'm fat because I'm such a good cook.

The hardest thing about this scrumptious stew is not sopping sourdough French bread in it. I still haven't figured out what to do about my sourdough bread cravings. But that's another post for another day. (I did hear about a street vendor in New York City that sells sourdough bread he fermented so long, it doesn't bother people like me with gluten intolerance...road trip, anyone?)


*One other optional tip: anytime I make a soup or stew, I usually stir a tsp of miso and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast into my bowl, once the soup has cooled a bit and is no longer boiling, You don't want to cook miso or nutritional yeast. Like turmeric, high heat destroys its nutritional value. Depending on the flavor of my soup or stew, I might even stir in turmeric too (it wouldn't go well with this venison or beef stew, so don't do it here). But miso and nutritional yeast probably would be okay. They also thicken your bowl of stew. Try your stew without, then try a bowl with a half-tsp of each and see if you like it. Don't worry about it if you don't, but I find sneaking miso and nutritional yeast into whatever warm dish I can find is a great way to get these superfoods into my diet. Remember, miso was key in how the survivors of Hiroshima fared after WWII and nutritonal yeast is a great source of B-12 and other B vitamins. Of course, with this particular dish, after one taste-testing slurp of the thick broth, it was so perfect I couldn't add anything to it for fear of ruining it. Like I said, this dish is just too perfect for words.

My new favorite go-to dish--just in time for summer!

Yeah, so what if my favorite dish my whole life has been fried chicken (and I've been known to fry and eat a WHOLE chicken).  People can change.  Right?

Of course we can change. Isn't that the whole reason I'm writing and you are reading this blog? Because we believe it is possible.  And it is.

But that doesn't mean it's not a lot of hard work.

I'm 54 years old, and I think what I've learned is that I just have to figure out how to: (1) outsmart myself; and (2) make what I want to do easy and pleasant and what I don't want to do difficult and unpleasant.

Now, now, we're going to get to that go-to dish above.  If you just want the recipe, scroll to the bottom of this post. If, on the other hand, you are trying to figure out how to lose weight and restore your health, keep reading. The picture doesn't do it justice, by the way...the flavor is better than eating a cheeseburger. And I love cheeseburgers. You just have to trust me on this. Back to my story. 

When my children were young and would come home from school and smell fried chicken cooking, their first question was:  "Omigod, Mom, what's wrong?" You see, I always fried chicken when I was upset and something was wrong. I don't know why and Freud himself probably couldn't figure it out.

How to fix this? I have to make frying chicken difficult, and make eating something healthy easy and just as pleasant. So I ask myself, what would that look like:

(1) Maybe I shouldn't keep oils for frying in the house. Hard to fry chicken with no oil. Oh, but that's hard. No frying? None at all? That's right. No frying oils in the house. It's a decision. Frying is never ever not-at-all good for me. It's like quitting smoking or drinking soda. You have to stop and not look back. And you may have to stop over and over again before you stop for good. You might get in the car and go buy that oil, but that's a lot of trouble. I quit smoking 50 times before I quit for good. But thank God I didn't give up just because I kept failing. The reason I didn't give up is because a dear friend of mine quit smoking 100 times before she finally quit for good, and she kept reminding me of that. Every time I quit and failed, she said I was one step closer to quitting for good. I have to take that approach with the foods that are killing me. Make it difficult and above all, keep trying.

(2) I am trying to prepare healthy foods I like in advance and freeze portions for easy access. That takes a lot of forethought and planning and discipline, and I don't rate real high on any of those. However, it's crucial to have healthy go-to meals when you can't cook or don't trust yourself to cook. These meals should be the really, really healthy superfood meals you've perfected where even if you eat too much, it's good for you. I'm getting better at this. See my post entitled FREEZING HEALTHY PORTIONS for more on this. Doing this means coming up with recipes that you can prepare in large amounts and that will freeze and reheat well. This go-to recipe is one of those.

This go-to recipe is one of my superfood meals that I could eat a gallon of and probably still be okay...actually might be profoundly healthier.  I eat huge bowls of this and feel a bit stuffed, but it digests quickly and easily and there is no weight gain or dire impact on my health.

What makes it a superfood meal? Well, it has lots of things in it that are superfoods and nothing that is not. What do we know we need to eat more of? Veggies maybe? Nuts? Vinegar? High-antioxidant herbs? One of my tricks I've learned is that if I have a hard time incorporating vegetables into my meals, then I need to make a good many of my meals with nothing BUT veggies. Let's say I grill chicken with my favorite Cajun dirty rice dish on the side...hmmm, I may never get to those green beans on the side-side. It's not that I don't like green beans, but knowing me, I'm probably going to TEAR UP on that dirty rice and I'll be too full for the green beans and miserable when I'm done.  So these days, I'm trying to leave out the starch completely. Just fix grilled chicken and green beans. Or better yet, make a huge pot of green beans and just eat that.

Now it might be hard to just eat green beans, though I've done it (you should taste my green beans). But this go-to nothing-but-veggie meal actually eats like a meal and will satisfy you.

This dish the way I make it incorporates roasted summer squash with red bell pepper, garlic, fresh thyme and basil, toasted pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. You can eat it by the bowl full, and it's summertime, so all the ingredients are cheap (except the pine nuts but don't leave them out). Did you know that one of the most profoundly healthy veggies is summer squash? Superfood extraordinaire. Low in carbs and cals, high in everything good. Fights cancer, diabetes and probably warts too.

It's rare to find a dish that is cheap, delicious and just plain old good for you--in every way--that actually rivals cheeseburgers (and fried chicken) in your list of favorite foods. In this blog, I will share dishes I've discovered that you can make a meal of--and your body will thank you for it. I'm getting this down to a science as I journey to restore my health. As Aristotle is famous for saying: "It is hard to be good." But these dishes I'm finding make it a little bit easier.

Below is the link to a lovely version of this recipe (and others) from Eventides, purveyors of gourmet oils and vinegars in Maine. One of my goals is to link my readers with sources for good food choices, so consider this an introduction.

A few distinctions between my recipe and theirs. I use yellow squash and zucchini, as they do, but I also use chunks of red bell pepper (and sometimes green and yellow and orange too). You know the old adage: make your food colorful. When they drizzle olive oil and season the squash cubes prior to roasting, that's when I add crushed garlic to the olive oil that will coat the squash as it roasts. And when they stir in thyme, I stir in fresh thyme and basil. In a future post, we'll explore how critical fine oils and vinegars are in making healthy foods taste even better than cheeseburgers. Eventides is a fine source for those. Click the link below, page down a bit (it's the second recipe on their veggie page) and enjoy!

SUMMER SQUASH from Eventides (click here because this is the link)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

All that turmeric I've been adding to my soups and stews--and all for nothing?

Turmeric. It's a great spice for us, right? Did you know that no matter how much of it you shake into that stew or soup you are making...85% of it degrades and is useless after 10 minutes of high heat. I didn't know that. I put turmeric in all kinds of hot dishes. Organic turmeric at that. Expensive organic turmeric. All for nothing?

Did you also know that to make turmeric bioavailable, it helps to have black pepper and a healthy fat in the dish? How many cold dishes do you eat that have fat and black pepper in them? Try to make somebody eat that, why don't you?

I sat there, spooning a lovely, savory, steaming, hot, tumeric-spiced stew, as I read these disconcerting facts. (I like to sit at the computer and read about how good something is for me while I'm eating it). With all the research I do, how could I have missed this salient fact? Do you know how many blogs and websites tell you to add turmeric to hot things you're going to be cooking for a long time?

No sense crying over spilt turmeric. Mistakes can be fixed. So what are we to do to properly absorb our turmeric? I mean, this is no small matter. Turmeric is touted to be good for almost everything that's wrong with me or might soon be wrong with me if I don't get healthy: diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, aging, arthritis, kidney disease, joint pain, IBD, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, cancer, even Alzheimers, and the list is growing every day. Turmeric is good stuff clearly.

I was determined to get my turmeric--TONIGHT. I've been eating hot, dead turmeric all these years. No wonder I'm not better yet. Right?

I read some more and found that low heat levels for a short time actually enhance the bioavailability of turmeric. So I cooked up some carrots and onions in a little water and butter (there's that fat I need), and I waited until they were tender and the water had simmered off before taking my pan off the heat and adding my seasonings: grated fresh ginger, black pepper (there's that requisite black pepper), cardamom, a little raw local honey, and lastly, tons of turmeric. Stirred it all together and I had warm carrots, wonderfully spicy, just slightly sweet. Yum. And what do you know, for the first time ever, I didn't degrade my turmeric. I actually made it supremely bioavailable. Turns out quercitin also helps your body to absorb turmeric, and the onions and ginger in my little recipe are loaded with quercitin. 

By the way, if you take those ingredients (turmeric, fresh ginger, black pepper, cardamom, honey and cinnamon) and put them in warm milk, it's a renowned hangover cure. So I guess we can call my carrots Hangover Cure Carrots. Put that in your church recipe book. (hee hee)  I'm a churchgoer, by the way, not making fun of God, just my fellow churchgoers.

Then while I was eating my lovely spiced hangover cure carrots, I read that exposure to light degrades turmeric, and I realized... My turmeric has been sitting for God knows how long in the bright lights of my supermarket aisle then in my kitchen in a clear glass bottle in my spice rack that hangs on the wall near my hot stove. So I ate all those lukewarm turmeric-spiced carrots for nothing? My turmeric was already dead. Probably had been dead for months. Good thing I didn't have a hangover.

Well, one thing you'll learn about me. I always bounce back and I never give up. I thought to myself: it tasted good and the carrots and fresh ginger were good for me. And both my stew and my carrots were alot better for me than the boxed processed foods, the fast food or the deli sandwiches and donuts I'm trying to avoid.

So I guess I'll be buying my turmeric in bulk now, in a nice dark one-pound sealed bag, and I'll keep it in the fridge during summer months. I also learned tonight that using curry powder to get turmeric and its curcumin is a waste of time. There is a negligible amount of turmeric and thus curcumin in most curry powders. Additionally, it's important to find an organic turmeric that has at least 2-5% curcumin content. How do you know? If your turmeric supplier is in that range, they will usually brag about it on the label. If they don't, they probably aren't.

I just placed the order for my bag of turmeric online. I truly prefer to shop local, but none of the local stores offer what I need. My new turmeric is at least 5%, the label says, it's organic, certified free-trade, and it's sealed in a dark one pound bag.

Imagine how I'll look and feel after a year of really getting the benefits of turmeric. Yeah buddy. I'm psyched. After two years of eating dead turmeric, I can't wait to see what this revered superfood spice can do for me.

I just hope the truck carrying my bag of turmeric to me isn't sitting for several days in the hot sun.

Pretty soon my yard will be overgrown with turmeric plants. Watch and see. They say it's easy to grow.