Thursday, October 27, 2016


I've always been a fan of  drinking lots of liquids, water especially, which has helped my skin tremendously. I gave up Diet Coke a few years back (I was drinking a couple cans a day) and was amazed how my skin cleared up when I stopped.

Smoothies are consumed probably 5 times a week, but I was wanting to add juices, natural ones, not the ones from the store with additives and sometimes extra sugar added.

I picked up the New York "Times Best Seller by Joe Cross - "The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet".  Now, I didn't pick it up specifically to lose weight, but to greatly increase my phytonutrients, and get away from sports drinks or other sugary afternoon temptations. It has a plan for incorporating juice into your diet as well as a number of great juice receipes and vegan recipes for your non juice meals.
I owned a juicer years ago, and honestly, sold it at a garage sale as it was a #%)@ to clean, and weighed about 87 pounds.  I did some online search for "easy to clean" juicers and came up with a Breville Juice Fountain Compact which can be found at Amazon and other places online for right about $100 with a year warranty.

Not surprisingly, as I started reading Joe's book, that's what he used when he documented his 60 days of driving and juicing across the country in the hit film "Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead" which was very informative and entertaining.

So I asked for one for my anniversary.  I know, not the most romantic gift but I'm not a fan of purses or jewelry so there it was with a bow on it

For starters:

It's LIGHT, not cheap light, but "I can actually get this off a lower shelf easily" light.

It was super easy to assemble, I almost didn't need directions (but I ALWAYS recommend reading the safety instructions for anything with a blade)

My first juice was what was on hand.

a good chunk of fresh pineapple (about 1/3 of what you see pictured)
a cucumber
2 Granny Smith Apples
a squeeze of lemon (to keep the apples from getting brown)
and a big huge leaf of kale

It took less than2 minutes after the fruits and veggies were cut into pieces that would fit into the feeding tube to make the juice, enough for two nice sized servings.

The juice pitcher has a little top for it that allows you to pour without getting the foam" but I didn't discover that until I'd already drank my first cup. :-)
a little foamy but REALLY tasty

Now for the true test.

Cleaning it.

It could NOT have been easier, just four parts that you can wash with hot water and soap (all but one of which will wash in the top rack of a dishwasher) and I had it clean in about 90 seconds after I removed the pulp. It comes with a long handled brush so you can get the bladed filter basket clean without getting a finger near the sharp bits.
You don't have to compost the pulp. If using an all veggie mix use it to make vegetable stock for soups or stews or add to a veggie loaf.  Carrot/orange juice pulp is great added to whole grain muffins for extra fiber and flavor.  You can also mix a small bowl of pulp with a block of cream cheese (or soy cream cheese) for a great wrap or sandwich spread on which you can pile more veggies.
Juicer Pulp Muffins

Makes10 Vegetarian muffins (use banana and maple syrup for Vegan)
  • 1 and  1/2 cups plus 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Cardamon (substitute nutmeg if you wish)
  • 1 cup fresh fruit/veggie pulp from your juicer
  • 1/4 cup vanilla flavored coconut or soy yogurt
  • ½ banana, mashed or one egg
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup  plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
Note:  If using a pulp that's high in fruit (and thus water content),  you may wish  to omit the extra 2 Tablespoons of "milk"   You want it thick, but not with dry bits in the batter.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom together. Then add in the pulp followed by the yogurt, banana (or egg) almond milk, maple syrup (or honey).  If you use plain yogurt add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  3. Mix until just combined and  moist adding more milk if needed.
  4. Add batter to lightly sprayed muffin tin. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Muffins will be done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the bottoms and sides are just starting to brown.
Now go get JUICING!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Green and Mean Smoothie

After  a LESS than low-fat breakfast (my husband's favorite yeast buttery muffins)
Danger Will Robinson, DANGER

I decided to go lean and mean for lunch.  This recipe, adapted by one of the same name by Joe Cross, turned out VERY delicious, tasting very light and refreshing with a hint of citrus. My husband came in the room when I'd finished preparing itand commented on how good the room smelled.

If you don't  have a juicer, you can peel all the fruit and veggies first or turn them into sludge in a food processor, then strain through a sieve for the juice - which is what I did,

It was REALLY yummy though and only 150 calories with the extra green powder I added to the recipe.

1 cucumuber
2 Granny Smith (green) apples
1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
1/2 of a lemon peeled, or scooped out with a spoon, removing seeds
4 big leaves of kale.
1/3 cup spring water
1 heaping Tablespoon Amazing Grass Green Superfood in pineapple/lemongrass flavor (I love this flavor)

Wash your veggies with a gentle organic soap, rinse thoroughly and prepare in juicer or food processor.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

DIY "Amy's" Vegan Burritoes

With storms in the forecast, I did my grocery shopping early.  I shop at a small family-owned grocery. It's not tiny; they have an in-house butcher and baker, but it's MUCH small than a chain grocery, probably a sixth of the size.  But I like that I can wander down EACH aisle looking for things marked down that may not be in their flyer.  I can't do that at the little hell on earth that is Jewel-Osco on a Saturday morning where you almost need a Sherpa to find everything as they are constantly moving items so you have to HUNT for them (oh look, while I'm on this aisle spray cheese for $8!).  I have lots of veggie soups and stews in the freezer, so I will cook the roast as my husband will enjoy that with the cooler weather but we have lots of healthy meals to make out of leftovers.

The sourdough starter is on the table as I drained off several cups to make my bread, rolls, and muffins for the week. I trade loaves of bread for fresh produce, milk, cheese or eggs with some hobby farmer folks I know so I always make extra.
Wild Yeast Sourdough Beer Bread

With it being super busy, the last couple of weeks I had been toting an Amy's Organic burrito to the office, as it's quick and nothing around work is cheap to eat at.  That with a  homemade oatmeal and raisin cookie and an apple I'm set as they are very filling.  Then I realized, I was spending about $40 for lunch for two weeks and they are HIGH in sodium, as is most processed food. I can DIY that.

So my goal today was to come up with a healthy, low sodium, high protein frozen burrito that was as tasty and healthy as the Amy ones.  I think I did OK and husband gave them two thumbs up.  
Start with cooking up 3/4 cup of dry rice in 1 and 1/2 cup water.  In the steamer, brown rice needs about an hour, white only 40.  I used some of the liquid from a can of Rotel to replace the water.  I used brown rice.
While that steams, get out your seasoning.  I added a Tablepoon each of Adobo seasoning, cumin (or you could use 2 Tbsp of your favorite Mexican seasoning) and

Cowboy Crooner Hot Sauce (or your favorite MILD hot sauce, if using a hotter sauce, use just a teaspoon) to 3 cans of drained and rinsed pinto beans which I had simmering with 1/2 cup water, 1/2 a chopped onion and some fresh garlic (optional, use bell peppers if you don't like garlic or onion).  Simmer til the beans are softening and the liquid is gone. On medium heat about 15-20 minutes.
 When the rice was done, I put it in a bowl to cool faster.
And then I added a can of Rotel (tomatoes and green chilis) and a small splash of lime juice.

Using some store brand generic whole wheat tortillas (fajita sized) I started assembling when the rice and beans were cool to the touch (so the tortilla doesn't get soggy) using a generous 1/3 cup each of beans and rice and about 1/4 cup veggie cheddar style cheese. You can add a bit of green or red chili sauce, but I kept mine simple so it didn't drip on my desk while I work.
Don't use so much filling you can't roll it up and tuck the ends under.  You're not going for a Burrito the size of your head but a protein filled, healthy meal or post workout or run snack.

I ran out of tortillas before I ran out of filling so I used a half dozen leftover smaller Sprouted Grain Tortillas from when I made soft tacos one night.
To those, I added scrambled tofu with peppers and some salsa for a breakfast burrito.

In a little over an hour, most of which was rice cooking time, I had eight lunch sized burritos and six smaller breakfast burritos.   The cost was less than $8 and most of that was the tortillas.  Buying the same amount of Amy's burritos would have been  $56 at our nearest health food store price.

The larger burritos are about 400 calories with close to 20 grams of protein and very little sodium since I used low sodium beans and rinsed them thoroughly.

These will go into the freezer.
To serve, unwrap, wrap in a paper towel and nuke from frozen for 3 minutes for the larger burrito and 2 and a half for the smaller (may vary depending on microwave).  You can use less hot sauce if you like yours really tame, add some corn or other veggies, this are endlessly versatile.

DIY - not because you have to, but because it feels good to do something yourself and come up with a cheaper, reduced sodium meal that you love.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Monte Cristo

This is not a "healthy" recipe in that it is cooked in butter, but it is WAY healthier than any restaurant version of it

I don't see Monte Cristo sandwiches on the menu often, but my husband always orders one when he sees it.  They are usually more limp than golden in the crust and covered in way too much powdered sugar with a side of fries.  He's young, but that's not something I wanted him eating so I made a healthier (though not low fat or cal) version for him that he likes so much better.  A friend sent the recipe and I did a vegan version of it.   I'm so glad I tried it.

This is a sandwich you can easily make at home and once you do, it will be a regular.

You can make this with ham, but for a veggie version I have made it with this, one of the better veggie "hams"

You will need: (1 sandwich)

3 slices of white bread.  I used Dave's Killer Bread "better white".  You want a fairly soft bread but not a squishy soft one. Dave's is a good sized slice so when you cut the crust off you still have a good sized serving. It's also made with 5 whole grains, no bleached flour, and no high fructose corn syrup.
1/4 pound of ham or veggie ham substitute
1/2 cup grated smoked gouda (or your favorite soft yellow "veggie" cheese)
2 teaspoons  mayo or veganaise


Carnivore version:

1 large egg

1 teaspoon paprika
a drop or two of honey or a tiny pinch of sugar
1 Tablespoons milk
2-3 Tablespoons of butter to cook it in.

Vegan substitute:
1 cup almond milk
2 Tablespoons millet flour, or substitute spelt or whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon paprika
a pinch of white sugar
vegan butter to cook it in

This is a double decker sandwich.  Assemble 3 pieces of bread with 1/2 of the ham and cheese on each side of the middle slice of bread on which you've put the veganise, to help hold it on there. Cut off the crusts.

bread/half the ham and cheese/mayo/bread/mayo/half the ham and cheese/bread

Set on a clean towel, then set a plate on top and top with a cast iron skillet, or a bowl with water to slightly "press" the sandwich (you don't want it panini squished but it should be pressed until it's about the height of a two piece of bread sandwich). Pressing keeps the sandwich dense, the middle bread almost disappearing and ensures it doesn't soak up too much of the egg mixture (why the restaurant ones are often soggy).
Don't you want to just make one right now?

Mix custard in an 8 x 8-inch square casserole dish.  Dip sides and edges of bread in this, it will be more of a layer on top of the bread rather than soaking in.  Cook in melted butter over medium heat, 4 minutes each side, cooking the edges briefly in the butter before removing from pan by gently standing it on each side with a couple of spatulas.

This doesn't need powdered sugar and will soon become your favorite brunch sandwich, served with just fresh fruit.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Homemade Kefir for the BEST Smoothie

If you've been in the yogurt section, you may have noticed some colorful quarter sized containers. Those are generally Kefir - a fermented beverage. Kefir is a cultured probiotic beverage similar in taste and texture to a drinkable yogurt. Originated more than 2000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains, it is a deliciously mild beverage, with a naturally sweet, tangy flavor, and a refreshing hint of natural carbonation. It's easy to digest and has a slight tang that is really great in smoothies.  Unfortunately, many of the commercial flavored ones are high in sugar, so it's easier to make your own and blend with a little fruit for a smoothie with no refined sugar.

Making your own is cheaper when you make them with dairy milk, but you can make them with goat milk or coconut milk (coconut milk kefir does tend to fizzle out sooner than cow or goat milk though).  This batch is made with goat milk from RedHill Farms.  It's the best goat milk I've tried and made without any artificial ingredients, preservatives, or powdered milk.  Like their yogurts, it is free of gelatin, refined sugar and artificial colors or flavors (you don't want to read the ingredient list of cheap dairy yogurt). They are certified organic and humane and 70% of the goat diet is hay, and vegetarian otherwise (you know that saying, “you are what you eat”? Well, are are also "what your food ate".) They don’t serve their goats animal by-products and corn, so this is a good thing.

Yes, they make a kefir too, and it's awesome, but I make my own to save a few cents while ensuring the freshest product.
Goat milk benefits are many! Many people who are allergic to cow milk products or who suffer from lactose intolerance may be able to enjoy goat yogurt, kefir and cheese. Yogurt cultures convert lactose into lactic acid, making yogurt easier to digest than milk. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus can help to restore normal intestinal flora after antibiotic therapy. It maintains and supports the immune system, and I found that when eating kefir regularly I rarely have a cold or the flu. No matter what medical issues you are dealing with, gut health is of key importance and it is sometimes the simplest things that can help us to be the healthiest.

I normally make mine with grains but I wanted to try this "quick kefir" so here is a review:

To Make: Start with a clean quart jar and a quart of your beverage of choice. I used Redhill Farms full-fat goat milk.  I digest full-fat milk products better, and it makes a better kefir but you can use lower fat milk.

Stir in one packet of "Real Kefir" Kefir starter, available at most health food stores.  This is a powder, not grains, as you can buy on-line fresh to make your own.  It may contain a trace amount of soy (meaning, it's not an ingredient, but it's made at a plant that processes things with soy) so if you are very allergic I'd make the kefir with grains you can buy online.

Using the Real Keeper powder  - simply stir gently, cover with a paper towel or coffee filter, secure with a rubber band and let sit where it is 72 to 74 degrees for 12 - 18 hours.  Since my home in on the cool side, I simply place the jar on a heating pad set on low, like I do in baking  my wild yeast sourdough bread. That works great.  When the milk has thickened to where it looks like heavy cream it's ready to go into the fridge to be consumed within a week for optimum flavor but will keep up to 3 weeks (retain 1/4 cup to make a new batch). To make another batch, simply keep 1/4 cup minimum kefir and fill the quart jar back up with fresh milk, put the filter on the top and keep in a warm place 12-18 hours and store again.  It says you can make up to 7 batches with one packet, keeping 1/4 cup behind.

Pros:  Easy!


-More expensive in the long run than grains and will take several batches to get a really good flavor going. The flavor was fine, it just wasn't as good as when I got a good batch going with grains.  

-You can only restart it about 5-7 times, then you have to start from scratch with new powder

If you just want to TRY kefir, it would be worth it, but I definitely prefer making kefir with kefir grains. as they last forever.  I ordered my latest ones (the first did not survive the move after I got married) from:

You can drink Kefir plain, use in place of buttermilk in pancakes (awesomely light and fluffy) 
or make smoothies with it. This is my regular smoothie recipe which is fun to make with different add in's for more nutrition or a slightly different taste.

Berry Kefir Smoothie Recipe (serves 1)

1 cup kefir
half a banana
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries (I like blackberries or boysenberries)
1/4  teaspoon cinnamon (omit if using red berries only and use up to 1/2 tsp if using all blueberries)
1 teaspoon of honey or a little maple syrup or stevia (optional)
a few ice cubes (if using fresh, not frozen berries.


1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 Tablespoon flax seeds or chia seeds
1/2 Tablespoon maca or cacao
1 serving of your preferred protein and or green superfood powder.
1 small handful of  organic spinach/romaine mix (the romaine counters the bitter taste of the spinach)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

An Overlooked Vitamin

Sometimes we do all the "good" stuff" and find out we missed one thing that could make us feel better.

So not alarm anyone, it's something for me that was easy to fix but had it not been detected, it could have caused serious health problems.

As part of my yearly physical, since I'm approaching 60 in a few short years, my Doctor ran a complete blood work up.

Normally my numbers are really good, but I hadn't had it checked in about a year and a half.

So last week, she asked if I could come in to review them in person as soon as I could.

That didn't t sound good.

I'd been really tired the last 2-3 months but thought it was all of the extra work on the book.

Fortunately,  my cholesterol numbers and other heart health indicators were great, giving me a total cardiovascular health score that meant I am 1/4 as likely to have a heart issue as other women my age.

But there was something else that could have done some damage in the long run.

Apparently, my Vitamin D levels are less than 10% of what a normal persons' should be.  That explains just feeling lousy and tired, things  I just thought were "getting older."

I walk a lot and usually don't put sunscreen on my arms, so I get a bit of Vitamin D, and I eat fortified foods but apparently, I'm seriously low and we're not really sure why.

So I have to take a prescription strength Vitamin D capsule for the next four months, then daily supplements as well as taking off the hat and getting some sunshine a couple of times a week.

Lessons learned.  So go out and get some sunshine.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Gluten Free Deep Dish Pizza

I realized I hadn't posted in a while, as I had a month long "burn the candle at both ends" to finish my latest novel which is finally off to the publisher.

I have a friend with Celiac, she was down to 90 pounds when it was finally diagnosed, the damage to her intestinal track so bad.  But she is thriving now and I like to try new gluten free recipes to share with her as I don't digest wheat very well, though I've never been tested for the disease.

This one is from King Arthur flour (my favorite flour for all purpose baking) and it's a dandy. Their flour has extra ingredients that keep it from developing the "gritiness" often found in gluten free products, and it has a good shelf life.

1 1/2 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour or brown rice flour blend*
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder (found in the grocers baking section) or nonfat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (for dough)
2 tablespoons olive oil (for pan)

*See recipe for this blend below.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the dry ingredients (except the yeast and honey, if you're using it) into a large mixing bowl; the bowl of your stand mixer is perfect. Mix until thoroughly blended.

Place the honey, warm water, olive oil, yeast, and about 1/2 cup of the dry mixture into a small bowl. Stir to combine; a few lumps are OK. Set aside for 30 minutes or so, until the mixture is bubbly and smells yeasty.

Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, and beat on medium-high speed for 4 minutes. The mixture will be thick and sticky; if you've ever applied spackling compound to a wall, that's exactly what it'll look and feel like. Note: you must use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer to make this dough; mixing by hand doesn't do a thorough enough job.

Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes or so.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil onto the center of a baking sheet or 12" round pan with high sides. Scrape the dough from the bowl onto the puddle of oil.

Using your wet fingers, start at the center of the dough and work outwards, pressing it into a 12" to 14" circle.

Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes, just until it's set; the surface will look opaque, rather than shiny.
Remove from the oven and top with whatever you like. Return to the oven to finish baking, about 10 to 18 minutes depending on the toppings you've chosen. I used a thin layer of tomato sauce, lots of cheese and some bits of leftover veggie "sausage".

Remove from the oven, and serve warm.

Yield: one 12" to 14" pizza.

*Make your own blend

The following make-at-home blend, featuring stabilized brown rice flour, works pretty well when substituted; and it tastes better than a blend using regular brown rice flour. 

Whisk together 6 cups (28 1/2 ounces) King Arthur stabilized brown rice flour; 2 cups (10 3/4 ounces) potato starch; and 1 cup (4 ounces) tapioca flour or tapioca starch. Store airtight at room temperature. Note: You can substitute white rice flour for the brown rice flour if you like; it'll make your baked goods grittier (unless you manage to find a finely ground version)