Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Make Thick, Creamy Vegan Yogurt With An Instant Pot Or Yogurt Maker - 5 Minutes Prep Time!
No Added Thickeners Or Gums Needed

Making this organic yogurt recipe couldn't be easier!

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I Love Yogurt
When I gave up dairy, yogurt was one of the things I missed the most. Store-bought vegan yogurt is pretty terrible. I remember a while back buying 8 different brands and types in order to do a product review for the blog. They contained all kinds of gums and binders, tons of sugar, and very little yogurt flavor. In disgust, I abandoned the article as I couldn't really find one that I was excited about recommending. 

I never tried making my own yogurt until I bought my Instant Pot. Although I use it mostly as a pressure cooker, it also works as a yogurt maker. So before I gave up on yogurt completely, with its healthful and critical probiotics, I thought I would give it a try.

Between me and my friend Margarite, many many batches of yogurt have been made before I wrote this post. 

Yogurt Starter
The first thing you need when making a non-dairy yogurt, is vegan yogurt starter. I use Cultures for Health. Check their website carefully for a coupon. They have other yogurt starters that are dairy based so if you can tolerate a tiny amount of dairy, you can try them too. I imagine that they might give a different flavor and consistency but I haven't experimented with them yet.

The vegan yogurt starter is a "direct set" or "single use" starter which means that you should use a new packet for every batch. With the particular recipe and non-dairy milk I am suggesting today, it is possible to make additional batches by using a 1/2-cup of the yogurt and whey from the previous batch. Eventually you may have to use a new packet (I found that using a fresh packet results in a slightly thicker yogurt) although my friend has made countless batches with yogurt and whey from her previous batches and hasn't noticed any differences.


To maintain culture strength, store in the freezer

Next, you'll need a non-dairy milk. The only one that I have found so far that curdles and makes thick, creamy, spoonable yogurt without having to add any thickening agents is Kirkland's shelf stable organic, plain soy milk. I tried other brands as well as home-made soy milk but this was the only suitable one. It's absolutely delicious with a tiny hint of vanilla. And because it's organic, it assures you that it is non-GMO. 
Please let me know if you find other soy milks that work as well.



Making yogurt is incredibly easy in your Instant Pot.
Stir starter into the milk, pour into jars, set time and hit start!

Soy Yogurt
Vegan, Dairy Free, Mostly Gluten Free*
[Makes 1 quart or 8 (1/2-cup) servings]
Requires 2 pint glass jars and an Instant Pot or other Yogurt Maker
Allow 8 to 12 hours in yogurt maker and several hours to refrigerate

Ingredients
1 quart Kirkland shelf-stabilized plain organic soy milk, room temperature
1 packet of Cultures for Health vegan yogurt starter**

*Cultures for Health Vegan Yogurt starter may contain traces of gluten as they use barley as a nutrient for the probiotic.
** Or try using a 1/2 cup of yogurt and whey from your previous batch

Directions
Clean glass jars with soap and hot water. Dry and set aside.

Pour the room-temperature Kirkland soy milk into a clean pitcher. Sprinkle in a packet of yogurt starter and stir well. If you are using 1/2 cup of yogurt and whey from a previous batch (instead of a packet of yogurt starter), place that into the pitcher first and slowly mix in the quart of milk until it is well combined.

Pour into two pint jars. If you have a little left over, pour it into a small taster jar.

Place all jars into the Instant Pot. Push the "yogurt" button and set for 12 hours. You may use the cover that comes with the Instant Pot or a 9" snug-fitting glass lid. I like using a glass lid so that I can see what's going on. It generally sets in 8 hours but it tastes more like yogurt if you let it process longer. 





Remove after 12 hours and place in the refrigerator. Serve when chilled.

Tip: Prepare it in the morning so that it finishes in the evening and you can pop it into the refrigerator before you go to bed. Then it will be chilled and ready to use for breakfast the next morning. 

Nutrition
Per 1/2-cup serving: 50 calories, 2 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g dietary fiber, and 55 mg sodium.

Each serving also contains the following percent daily values:
5% vitamin A
12.5% calcium
4.5% iron

Making Yogurt from Almond, Coconut and Rice Milk
To make yogurt from non-dairy milks such as almond, coconut, rice and some soy milks, you will require a thickening agent. The resulting yogurt is more gel like than creamy and curdled. I also don't think they are as tart. Pretty much like the non-dairy yogurts that you buy in the store. 

If you want to try making these, your best bet is to use a recipe using Pomona's Universal Pectin.  I find that there is no need for the calcium water called for in the recipe if the non-dairy milk you are using has sufficient added calcium. 

Experimenting is Fun!
Experimenting with different milks and yogurt starters is fun so if you come up with some great creations, please share them with us!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Can Adding Fish To A Vegetarian Diet Significantly Lower Risk Of Number Two Cancer Killer?

Study shows adding salmon to a vegetarian diet
significantly lowers risk of colorectal cancer.

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Colorectal Cancer Risk and Diet
Last week there was a lot of attention given to a recent study that showed a dramatic decrease in colorectal cancer risk for people following plant-based diets, especially those that included fish. This is significant because colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in men and women combined in the United States (lung and bronchial cancer is the top killer.) 

The Study
Researchers at Loma Linda University did an analysis on 77,659 people. After 7 years, 490 of the participants in this study had colorectal cancer. Review of the participants' food frequency questionnaires revealed that those who ate a vegetarian diet had a 22% lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who were non-vegetarians and consumed meat at least once a week. 

But the results are far more dramatic when you look at the type of vegetarian diets the participants followed.

* Semi-vegetarians (ate meat less than once a week) were 8% less likely to develop colorectal cancer.
* Vegans (ate no meat, seafood, eggs or dairy) had a 16% reduced risk.
* Lacto-ovo vegetarians (ate eggs and milk products but no meat and seafood) had an 18% reduced risk.
* Pescavegetarians (vegetarians who also ate fish) were 43% less likely to develop the disease!

These are pretty startling numbers. Several things stand out.
* Eating even small amounts of meat (semi-vegetarians) appears to reduce the benefit of a vegetarian diet with respect to lowering the risk of colorectal cancer by 8 to 10 percent.
* Adding fish to a vegetarian diet seams to significantly increase protection against this dreaded disease.

Why is a Vegetarian Diet Protective?
There are countless studies that suggest that eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds protects against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. With these healthful foods comes a natural source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients linked to better health and longevity. I personally think dietary fiber is key. Although some studies have had mixed results trying to link high fiber diets to a lower risk of colon cancer, to me it is common sense that anything that helps potential toxins move through the GI tract more swiftly is going to do this.

The Benefits of Fish 
Certain forms of omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D, that are plentiful in fish, are often linked to the prevention of cancer and a host of other diseases. Unfortunately, except for a small amount of vitamin D contained in some mushrooms, these nutrients are not found in plants.
Omega-3
Vegans and vegetarians get plenty of omega-3 from chia, hemp and flax seeds as well as other plant sources. But these are short-chain alpha-linolenic, ALA, fatty acids. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are found in fish and shellfish. EPA and DHA have more potent benefits than ALA and although the body can derive these beneficial omega-3 fatty acids from ALA, it doesn't do this efficiently or sufficiently. 

Why is omega-3 important? Numerous studies have shown that omega-3, especially from fish, reduces the inflammatory process that leads to many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and more. It has also been shown to protect against depression, cognitive decline, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adding fish to a vegetarian diet, with its contribution of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acid, most certainly contributed to the decreased risk of colorectal cancer in this study. 

Vitamin D
Other studies have shown that vitamin D is effective in colorectal cancer prevention so perhaps the contribution of this nutrient from the fish consumed in this study lead to similar prevention. 

In one such study, PhD researcher Edward Gorham revealed, after examining the data from five observational studies, that by increasing the serum level of vitamin D to 34 ng/ml, the incidence of colorectal cancer could be reduced by half. He reported, "We project a two-thirds reduction in incidence with serum levels of 46 ng/ml, which corresponds to a daily intake of 2,000 IU of vitamin D. This would be best achieved with a combination of diet, supplements and 10 to 15 minutes per day in the sun." 


Spend a little time each day enjoying the sunshine but
 diet sources and supplements are also suggested.

Vitamin D Supplements
The vitamin D council recommends supplementing with vitamin D3 since that is the form produced by the skin in response to sunlight and certain studies claim higher efficacy than other forms. However, D3 is derived from lanolin and is not vegan. Vitamin D2 is the vegan form.

Some Fish Provide Both Omega-3 and Vitamin D
Salmon, trout, herring, anchovies and sardines are good low-mercury sources of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D. 

What To Do?
To minimize your risk of colorectal cancer, consider the following:

* Avoid eating meat, especially red or processed meat.

* Eat a plant-centric diet packed with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It's always best to eat organic and non-GMO when possible.

* Eat low-mercury, high omega-3 fish, such as wild salmon, to get beneficial EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Bake or broil but NEVER deep-fry fish. 

If you are a vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons and will not consider eating fish, then you can get what you need from vegan micro-algae oil. Deva makes a 300mg DHA and EPA supplement. These tend to be pricey and don't contain nearly as much as a piece of fish. It takes 5 of these capsules to get as much omega-3 fatty acid as one 3 ounce piece of salmon. But it's a good and necessary solution if you are opposed to eating fish.

Since omega-3 reduces inflammatory responses that lead to disease, you can take a simple C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test to evaluate the level of inflammation in your body. It's a great indicator for heart disease (much better, in my opinion, than cholesterol), cancer, and many other degenerative disorders. You can also test your level of DHA and EPA by taking a blood test to see if your body is adequately converting ALA to these more potent forms of omega-3.

* Besides eating fish, get vitamin D from sunlight and supplements. I personally take 2,000 IU per day. When I spend more time indoors in the winter, I increase it to 4,000 IU. Vegans can easily get what they need from the sun and supplements as well as fortified foods. Most non-dairy milks are fortified with vitamin D. 

But don't always count on the sun to give you what you need. People with darker skin, or those who wear sun block, who are older, and who live further from the equator are more likely to be deficient. In fact, MOST people are deficient in this critical nutrient! To understand if you are, take a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. According to the vitamin D council, a sufficient result is between 40 to 80 ng/ml. According to the National Institutes of Health, the normal range is 30 to 74 ng/ml.

Summary
I write this blog because I believe that diet has a powerful effect on our health. This gives us a lot of control over the quality of our life, even if we have less than stellar family genes. Studies such as this should encourage us to refine our diets even further to optimize our health. 

Many of my readers are vegans for reasons of compassion and can take this information and adjust their diets with supplements and sunshine to optimize their health. 

For those of you not opposed to eating fish and who are trying to develop the healthiest diet possible, you may want to consider a well-designed pescavegan or pescavegetarian diet that can provide the fish, fiber and critical nutrients needed for excellent health.


Salmon Recipes
Salmon, one of my Top 20 Foods for Health and Longevity, is very low in mercury and packed with EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Here are three easy and delicious salmon recipes you might enjoy:
Baked Atlantic Salmon with Roasted Onions and Cherry Tomatoes on Wilted Spinach, or Mango and Black Bean Salsa with Honey Lime Baked Salmon, and Baked Honey Mustard Coho Salmon.


Baked Honey Mustard Coho

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Easy Vegan Instant Pot Split Pea Soup With Shredded Carrots - No Blending Required

Split pea soup has never been easier using an Instant Pot.

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So Easy in an Instant Pot
Split pea soup is my "go-to" meal in the winter. It's hardy and delicious and a great source of fiber and plant-based protein. At less than 300 calories per generous serving, this recipe has a whopping 21 grams of dietary fiber and 19 grams of protein.

There are many ways to make split pea soup. Traditionally you cook it until the peas start to break apart and then you place it in a blender or use an immersion blender to get a nice smooth soup. Or you serve as is in a more rustic version of the recipe. Both are excellent but require a lot of stirring and, should you decide to blend, the trouble of doing another step and having to clean up more tools. (If you don't have an Instant Pot, see my Vegan Split Pea Soup and Carrots recipe that requires a blender.)

But to my delight, I've created a way to make this awesome soup with absolutely no trouble at all. Just pop all the ingredients in an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker, set for 12 minutes, and your have a pretty smooth soup without any stirring or blending. Including the  heat-up time and a slow release time, it takes a total of about 1 hour with absolutely NO effort at all. After it cooks, I stir some shredded carrots into the hot broth and they cook almost instantly.

Here's the recipe!

            *                      *                      *

Instant Pot Split Pea Soup
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Requires an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

Ingredients
1 pound (~2 cups) dry split peas
8 cups hot water
1 Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cube with herbs
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
1 bay leaf
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)

Directions
Pick through the split peas for small rocks or dirt and rinse well, in a strainer, under cold water.

Place the rinsed split peas in the Instant Pot along with all the rest of the ingredients except the carrots. Stir a bit to get the bouillon cube mixed into the hot water. 

I like to use water and a Rapunzel bouillon cube because it gives a nice flavor and usually provides enough salt but you can substitute the water and bouillon with veggie broth.




As a note, the olive oil is added to keep the peas from frothing and clogging up the pressure cooker. 

Place all ingredients in the pot except carrots.

Secure the lid and make sure the top vent is closed. Hit the manual button and set for 12 minutes.



When done, let the pressure release naturally. When complete, remove the lid carefully, with the steam pointed towards the back.

Add the shredded carrots immediately and stir well until the soup is smooth. It may seem a bit thin but this soup thickens as it cools. Adjust for seasonings, adding salt to taste and additional black pepper if needed. To brighten the taste, you can also stir in a tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Do not shred the carrots too thinly.

The shredded carrots will cook immediately in the hot soup.

Serve as is or over rice.

When you put the leftover soup in the refrigerator it will become solid. To reheat, you may need to add additional water. 

Nutrition
(Per serving - 6) 291 calories, 2 g total fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 70 mg omega-3 and 427 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 19 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 21 g dietary fiber, and 379 mg sodium.





Friday, March 06, 2015

Can You Reverse Cataracts With Diet?
When It's Time To Get Surgery

Have you been putting off cataract surgery?

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Can You Cure Cataracts Naturally?
I developed cataracts in my 40's. And if you know me at all, you know I will do absolutely anything to naturally cure any medical condition. Well, you may be able to prevent cataracts with a good diet, even slow their progression, but once you have them, surgery is the only sure way to reclaim your vision.

My Personal Story
For years I delayed the inevitable. After all, I could still see well enough that I could walk around without glasses. But things were getting blurrier and blurrier. Although I could read with prescription glasses well enough, my distance vision (needed for driving) could no longer be corrected. I thought that I just got a bad pair and kept insisting that the optometrist remake them but when I finally saw a really good cataract specialist, he informed me that my vision was beyond the point that glasses would work effectively.

I stopped driving at night years ago because of the glare and halos from the oncoming traffic. During the day, I could no longer read street signs so I quit driving all together. I don't like driving so I used that as an excuse but the truth is, I couldn't see. After knocking over a few water glasses, I also realized that my depth perception had become diminished. 

Did you know that by the time a person is 60, the light passing through their lens has been reduced by 50% and by 80 it can be reduced to 75%!

Types of Cataracts
A cataract is when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. There are several different kinds.
My left eye had two types of cataracts; a nuclear and a cortical.
A nuclear cataract forms in the nucleus or central part of the lens. Most people get these from aging. 
A cortical cataract (pictured above) is characterized by spoke-like opacities that start around the edges of the lens and work their way to the center.
My right eye only has a nuclear cataract.

There's a third type called a sub capsular cataract that occurs in the back of the lens. People who take high doses of steroid medications or are diabetic are at risk for this type of cataract.

Surgery
I decided to have my left eye done since it was in the worst shape. Needless to say, I was very nervous about having surgery on my eye.
What if I move my eye during the operation? I live in California, what if an earthquake hits in the middle of the surgery? I thought of at least a dozen other horrifying scenarios. But everyone I know who has had this surgery said it was a piece of cake. And they were right!

This experience is with Dr. Daniel G. Rich in Santa Rosa and the surgery was at the 4th Street Laser Surgery Center. You may have a different experience somewhere else but this team rocked!

I went in at 7:15 AM. I didn't even get into a gown. They covered me with this comfy warm blanket. First they gave me drops to numb my eye then more drops to dilate it. Now some people say that the dilating drops burn like hell but they didn't bother me that much.

I have horrible veins so I was quite anxious about getting the IV. While I was busy telling Patty, the technician, that she will never find my vein, she had already found one and completed the IV. Wow, that gave me a lot of confidence!

Then the anesthesiologist told me he was going to make me comfortable but I would be awake. AWAKE? I don't really want to be watching this thing - I'd rather be out like a light. But it turns out that if you are not awake, your eyes sort of roll back and they couldn't do the operation. Who knew?

So they "made me comfortable" which was fun and then they have you look up into a light. It was like looking at baby lava lamps - it took me back to the 60's. 

First, Dr. Rich "drew" on my eye because the lens I picked needed to be put on the proper axis. Then, he put a tiny 1/8" to 1/4" slit in my eye. Using a tiny suction device, he then removed the bad part of the lens leaving a thin capsule behind which maintains the natural anatomy of the eye. This process is called phacoemulsification. Once removed, he implanted a plastic lens where the cloudy lens used to be which should last the rest of my life. He didn't even have to stitch up the incision. Lastly the doctor gave me an injection in my eye so that I didn't have to bother with eye drops for the next 30 or 40 days. You can only imagine how "comfortable" I was not to notice him giving me a shot directly into my eyeball! 

The surgery itself only lasted about 15 minutes and I left the surgical center around 9:00 AM.

Picking a Lens
There are several types of intraocular lenses you can select. 
A standard lens is a fixed focus mono focal lens. It's great for distance vision but you will probably still need reading glasses. These work great if you don't have astigmatism. Most insurance companies, including Medicare, will pay for this lens.

A toric lens is similar to the standard lens except that it will also correct for astigmatism. I got this one. It cost $1200 extra and is usually not covered by insurance but it's worth every penny. 

There are several other types to consider like the Tecnis MF, ReSTOR that has concentric rings with 2 focal points (so you can see distance and close up) but you may see rings and halos at night so I had no interest in that.

Post Op
The first day, my vision was very cloudy and milky and my eye was very scratchy. I took a tylenol but didn't really even need that. It's important to sleep with a hard patch for a week so you don't roll over on your eye.

The next morning I removed the patch and looked out the window. I saw trees and the mountain off in the distance so crystal clear that I started to cry. I hadn't experience that type of joy since the birth of my children! I covered my operated eye and looked through my other one and saw how blurry things were. I had no idea how much my eyes had deteriorated but now that I can do a side by side comparison, it's really obvious. Colors are completely different too. With one eye I see grey and the other I see gold. I am starting to wonder how I decorated my house or selected my wardrobe.


The first day after my surgery, my vision was already 20/25.
Everything looked so much clearer.


This morning we went to the ocean. I could see the individual rocks on the breakers where before they looked like one big stone wall. My life has changed forever. 

While writing this, I am in my 5th day of recovery. Up until today, my eye felt like it had a contact lens in it but today that feeling is going away.

Bottom line, I am thrilled that I finally had this surgery. I would love to have my other eye done soon. 

As simple as this procedure sounds, every surgery comes with risks. So if you are considering doing this, find the very best surgeon you can. And get a specialist, someone who has lots of experience doing this surgery. 

The Gift of Sight
Besides being a great doctor, Dr. Rich volunteers his time to several organizations and performs free surgeries on those who do not have insurance. If you would like to help provide site to those in need, go to Operation Access or Seva

Operation Access is an organization operating in the Bay Area of California. With over 1100 medical volunteers like Dr. Rich they have provided surgeries for over 7500 low-income, uninsured workers. Besides eye surgery, they provide other types of medical care too. 

Seva is a worldwide organization that works with local partners and hospitals in 20 countries around the world including the United States. Seva focuses on eye care and has helped 3.5 million people to see again.










Monday, March 02, 2015

Ancient Einkorn Wheat
Tolerated By Many With Gluten Intolerance
Einkorn Vegan Banana Bread Recipe

Many people with gluten sensitivities tolerate einkorn wheat.
Vegan einkorn banana bread with chocolate chips and walnuts.

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Einkorn Wheat
My husband is sensitive to gluten. The minute he eats a piece of bread, he sneezes or gets stuffy. Worst of all (for me), he snores at night. So now he mostly avoids wheat.

A few months ago Doug bought some Einkorn wheat flour and Einkorn whole wheat pasta to try. It's an ancient form of wheat that was cultivated thousands of years ago. Modern wheat has been hybridized for various reasons (improve yield, increase gluten content, etc.) and some think that this has lead to the increase in wheat sensitivity. Although people with celiac should not consume any form of wheat or grain that contains gluten, some gluten sensitive people have reported little or no reaction to this type of wheat. Doug has had no reaction to items baked with All-Purpose Einkorn flour or eating Einkorn whole wheat pasta (which is very yummy.) Many claim it's even more digestible than spelt.

Einkorn wheat contains different
gluten than modern wheat

Not all Gluten is Created Equal
Modern wheat contains the A and D Genome. Einkorn does not contain the D Genome which is what is used to detect the presence of gluten in an Elisa test. Wheat gluten studies show Einkorn may be non-toxic to some people who suffer from gluten intolerance.

Oldest and Simplest Form of Wheat
Einkorn is diploid, containing 2 sets of chromosomes. Emmer wheat has four sets, and spelt and modern wheat has 6 sets (hybridizing passes the chromosomes from the different plants to the hybridized plant). With only 2 sets of chromosomes, Einkorn is the oldest and simplest form of wheat there is which may explain its naturally low gluten content.

Other Benefits
Einkorn wheat has twice the vitamin A (in retinol equivalents), three to four times more beta-carotene, three to four times more lutein, and four to five times more riboflavin than modern wheat.

You can also get Einkorn whole wheat pasta.

It's Not a 1:1 Substitute
Modern wheat absorbs more water than Einkorn so when you are baking with Einkorn, you can not just substitute it 1:1 in your normal recipes. Einkorn has some recipes that you can practice with while you are getting the hang of using this flour. Here's my favorite vegan banana bread recipe from my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen, that has been modified for Einkorn flour. 

           *                           *                            *

Einkorn Banana Bread with Walnuts and Chocolate Chips 
Vegan, Dairy Free, Less Gluten
[makes 12 servings]

Requires an 8.5" x 4.5" loaf pan or three 5 3/4" x 3" mini-loaf pans.
Best with an electric hand mixer.

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil plus some for greasing pan
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
4 tablespoons room temperature water
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas (2 bananas)
2 cups all-purpose organic einkorn flour
2 packets stevia
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped English walnuts
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease the pans.

In a small cup, make flax eggs by beating the ground flaxseeds with water. Beat well and set aside. 

In a large bowl, add oil, sugar, applesauce, and vanilla and beat with an electric hand mixer until creamy. Add mashed bananas and flax eggs and beat again until well combined.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, stevia, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and beat with electric hand mixer until well combined. 



Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared loaf pan or three mini pans.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the loaf, about 40 to 50 minutes for the large loaf pan or 25 to 35 minutes for mini loaf pans.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. 



Remove the loaf from the pan and place upright on a cooling rack for another 15 minutes. Slice and serve. 

Nutrition
Per serving: 210 calories, 10 grams total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, and 186 mg sodium.





Monday, February 23, 2015

Experiencing Nature, Food, Drinks and Dance
From Buenos Aires To Brazil

Hiking down the Gold Trail in the Brazilian rain Forest
with Michael and Harry from Paraty Explorer Tours.

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We Live Not on Food Alone
My blog is mostly about nutrition and the healthy recipes I create to help us all live a long and healthy life. I kicked off the year with my post on the Top 20 Foods For Health and Longevity. But there are other things beside food that will also help enrich and extend your life. These are the things that not only feed your body but additionally feed your soul - like adventures, dancing, music, getting close to nature, friendships, good wine, and wonderful life experiences, to name a few. 

On a quest to feed our soul, last year we took an adventure to Australia and New Zealand. And we just kicked off 2015 with a wonderful trip to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. 

It Takes More than Two to Tango
Doug and I flew to Buenos Aires to learn the Argentine tango. After taking several private lessons from Cristian Correa and Miriam Copello we quickly realized that we should have started these lessons about 30 years ago. It takes a lifetime of dancing to master this dance. But we totally enjoyed the experience and really loved Cristian and Miriam but don't look for us any time soon on Dancing with the Stars.


My tango lesson with Cristian Correa

To really appreciate how the tango is done, we went to a typical Argentine Milonga club called Salón Canning, in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Notice, no one is smiling - this is a very serious dance.


Salón Canning Milonga, in the Palermo district

Argentina's Food and Wine - Meat and Malbec
Argentinians LOVE their beef although I've read that their consumption of beef is declining. At it's peak Argentinians consumed over 200 pounds for every man, woman and child. Although it's fallen to almost half that amount (still twice the US consumption), by the looks of most restaurant menus, you would think that it is all anyone there eats. I asked my tour guide if there was nice seafood available (given that they are on the ocean) and he just said, "Sure, but no one eats it. We eat steak!) The consumption of beef is very cultural and although there is some growing interest in vegetarian diets, beef will not significantly disappear from their diet. It would be like Italians giving up pasta. 

Perhaps they eat beef because it goes so well with their wonderful Malbec wine. And yes, we sampled a bit of that. One day for lunch, the waiter wanted us to try this particular glass of Malbec. After mentally converting pesos to dollars (but paying in dollars - they LOVE them and restaurants will give you a big discount for them), we figured it was $11 a glass - kind of pricey. Well, what the heck, you only live once so we ordered some. We were shocked to discover that for $11 you got the entire bottle. And it was fabulous! I can't imagine anywhere in the US where you would get a wonderful bottle of wine of this quality in a restaurant for only $11. Besides wine, nothing else was much of a bargain.


Nicasia Vineyards Red Blend
90% Malbec, 6% Cab, 4% Petit Verdot
12 months in French Oak

So a warning to traveling vegans, the wine in Argentina is wonderful but you may have a difficult time finding meatless and dairy-free options. Argentina was ranked one of the worst countries for meat-free travelers by Lonely Planet several years back but new restaurants are opening all the time. Check HappyCow eating guide for the latest vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Buenos Aires.  

Uruguay - What a Surprise!
After enjoying ourselves in Buenos Aires, we boarded our Azamara Cruise ship and headed for Uruguay. I have to be totally honest - I knew nothing about Uruguay before last month. I don't think I could have even pointed it out on a map. So you could just imagine how surprised I was to arrive in Punta del Este with it's fancy yachts, gorgeous beaches and quirky art. 


Mano de Punta del Este - a sculpture on the beach
by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal.

We were just as pleased when we visited Montevideo, Uruguay's capital.

You won't find a Starbucks around here. The national drink is yerba maté, a very stimulating and rejuvenating tea made and served in a hollow gourd. You drink it through a metal straw to strain out the leaves. We bought this cute gourd and straw to take home. Doug and I are no strangers to this drink since we live within walking distance to Guayaki, a US company that makes yerba maté.


Being wine grape growers and wine makers, we headed out to Varela Zarranz, one of the oldest wineries in Uruguay. We were very interested in tasting their wine that is made from Tannat grapes, which you don't usually  find in the U.S. 

Tannat vineyard with split trellis

They certainly get a lot of use from their equipment. This enormous oak barrel is over 100 years old. At 10,500 liters (around 2,800 gallons), it is 50 times bigger than barrels typically used in winemaking. They use regular-size, new oak barrels for their premium tannat wine and utilize these big ones for their production, low-cost wines.



We got to taste a number of their wines and I will say, the ones made from 100 percent tannat are "muy fuerte". They are a lot easier to drink when in a blend with merlot.


Wine tasting in Montevideo


Paraty, Brazil
One of the highlights of our trip was the hike down the Gold Trail in the Brazilian town of Paraty. We took a private tour with Paraty Explorer with our wonderful guides Michael and Harry. The rainforest was absolutely breathtaking. 




Cachaça
At the bottom of the trail, there was a waterfall and a cachaça factory. Cachaça is a rum-like liquor distilled from sugar cane. Some of it is aged in oak and enjoyed like a find whiskey and some is not aged very much and used to make a popular Brazilian drink called Caipirinha - we'll get to that later. This is clearly not a health food but it was very interesting to see them make this local and traditional liquor.


Distillation unit for cachaça
Different grades of cachaça

Finally, a Simple Meal and Cold Beer
We ate some fancy meals on the cruise ship and at some very nice restaurants in the various cities but my favorite meal was in this very casual restaurant in Paraty where I could finally have a simple meal of salad, rice, beans, kale and the best beer I've ever had. Perhaps it was because I had just hiked for hours in a hot, humid rainforest and this beer was served ice cold. But aside from that, Brazil sure knows how to make good beer!


My favorite restaurant. You could get lots of veggies, beans and rice (BBQ'd meat too, of course) and they just weighed your plate to bill you.

Rio de Janeiro
Rio was the end of the line for our cruise but just the beginning of a new adventure for us. 

Dancing at Rio Scenarium
Although we made this trip to Buenos Aires to learn to tango, we fell in love with the samba in Rio. After taking lessons on the cruise ship, we decided to head out to Rio Scenarium , a three-story nightclub with two live samba bands. I've never seen anything like it.




Cooking in Rio 
Doug and I booked a 4-hour cooking class with the Brazilian chef, Simone Almeida. Simone interjected lots of interesting stories about Brazil that were just as fun as the cooking class. Our favorite being that women in Brazil will wear the same bikini that they wore when they were 18 no matter how their bodies may have changed. We experienced this first hand the following day while on the Copacabana beach. I need not say more.
In our cooking class we learned to flambé vegetables, make Caipirinhas, cook Moqueca (a seafood stew with fresh sole, lime, onions, red peppers, and coconut milk), and Farofa de Banana (bananas coated in a cassava flour).


Me with chef Simone
Moqueca, rice and farofa de banana. on the right
Caipirinhas made with lime, fresh passion fruit,
sugar and a shot of cachaça.

Farmers' Market
On Sunday, just around the corner from our hotel on the Copacabana beach, was a beautiful farmers market. The fruit was to die for. For lunch we ate 3 enormous papayas - we were in heaven!

Farmers' market
Beautiful, ripe papayas

Watermelon

Carnival 2015
We planned our trip to enjoy pre-carnival and to be gone before the craziness began. Locals and tourists begin celebrating weeks before Carnival and it was easy to get caught up in the energy and excitement!



Can't Leave Rio Without...
On our last day, we headed to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. It was totally fogged in but right before the tour guide was gathering us to leave, the clouds parted and there it was - in all it's glory. It was magnificent!




Adiós Argentina and Uruguay. Adeus Brazil. Thanks for the wonderful memories that will continue to feed our soul forever. We will be back!