Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Hot Sauce -- How to Avoid Unhealthy Additives

Recently, I began re-reading the ingredients of my favorite hot sauces.  Depressing.  With the latest information coming out about inflammation, diabetes, candida, etc., this was a sobering exercise.

Hot sauces all seem to have either preservatives and/or vinegar (bad for candida overgrowth and certain diets) and/or sugar (bad for candida overgrowth and also not paleo, keto, or diabetic friendly). Not to mention that many don't use good quality salt.

Years ago I made my own healthy, raw, fresh, 3-ingredient hot sauce.  I noticed that Tabasco only has 3 ingredients: vinegar, cayenne, and salt. So I decided to try lemon, cayenne, and salt as a hot sauce. It was delicious, but took all of 10 minutes to make, because I would try to make a few helpings and mix it in a small pitcher (salad dressing size). I didn't keep up with it, because it required this monumental 10 minute effort and involved a small pitcher!

So I reverted to bottled hot sauce.  Fast forward several years to when I decided to re-read the ingredients.  Yikes! I decided to try making my simple home made version again, but I'd simplify it further.  Rather than a recipe involving mixing and trying to make a small supply, this time I'd try to put it together right on my plate.  If something is simple enough, I won't be deterred from doing it. So I asked myself, how can I make this so easy I just have to do it?  I experimented, and: Success!  I'm pretty sure this recipe is safe for keto, paleo, raw, vegan, and diabetic diets. For those with inflammation, the quality and quantity of salt should be considered.

Of course when I first tried to switch from the bottle to the unprocessed/homemade, at the moment of truth, I found myself thinking, "can't I just grab this hot sauce in the fridge? I am short on time! And anyway, I don't use much!"
And at first, that's what I did.
I gave up and grabbed my bottle of Tapatio from the fridge.
(As to the rationalization of using just a little bit of bottled hot sauce -  I was using about a bottle every month.  All that sauce goes somewhere!  The preservatives, vinegar, or sugar - stuff that my body simply does not need)

Then I asked myself, "how long does it really take to give my brekkie a dash of salt, cayenne and a little squeeze of lemon? The cayenne stays in a condiment tray right on the counter....the lemon is easily accessible on the door of my fridge.... Less than a minute?   Am I worth a minute? Does being short on time mean I devalue my health?  When I thought about it, it seemed ridiculous!


So the ingredients are:
Good quality salt (Himalayan or Real are my first choices)
Cayenne (you can get various heat, some is not so hot at all)
and a little fresh lemon juice.

I usually add salt to taste while cooking (or if a raw dish -- while I'm prepping).

I sprinkle the cayenne on once I have plated the dish.  I use a lot, but I don't use the really hot stuff.  Again this will be to individual taste (remember it is easier to add than subtract)

I keep a lemon in a small cup or bowl in the fridge, easily accessible.  I have my cutting board and knife out from cooking.  I slice a small wedge from the lemon, and squeeze over the cuisine on my plate and put the rest of the lemon back in its spot in the fridge. Obviously I don't hurry when handling a knife, but the whole operation takes about 30 seconds.

I recommend using up the lemon wedge you cut (which is why I recommend cutting a small one), because the lemon flavor loses integrity once the wedge is squeezed, so trying to squeeze it again later is a little funky.

I hope this recipe helps readers avoid some unneeded, unhealthy additives.  Let me know in comments!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Life Saving Salads

Have I mentioned how good green and raw veggies are? How much better I feel when I get plenty of green? The thing is, life happens and despite what I know, I constantly forget to get the green I need to feel at my best.  

Recently, after several long work days, and weekends spent just catching up, I asked myself, am I missing something? I remembered my "choppy salads" and how much of a boost they are to my sense of health and well-being.

My "choppy salad" usually consists of a dark green base ("base" meaning it is the prominent ingredient - about 50% of the salad), like kale and/or parsley, mixed with whatever other veggies I have handy.  (There are alternatives to the base such as zucchini, or other summer squash)  Sometimes I shop for specific veggies, of course, but the choppy salad is more of a concept than a recipe designed to get some deep nutrition in a quick, tasty, and convenient way using whatever you have on hand.

Start with your base (i.e. kale and/or parsley), using a small bunch of kale or a large bunch of parsley, or a combination.  

Chop your greens and put in a food processor.(If you don't have one, the Braun and Aicock got good reviews. I have a Cuisinart for years, but reviews on recent products are mixed)
(They don't have to be finely chopped; large chucks will work - see images below)
Pulse your "base" (i.e. greens) in the food processor until they are almost finely chopped 

Add your other veggies - these can be any combination of what you have handy - a couple of carrots, zucchini, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, a green onion, sugar snap peas, a small quantity of broccoli or peeled broccoli stems
Chop the veggies into large chunks and add into the food processor 

Add 1 tsp Himalayan salt or Real Salt
Squeeze the juice from a slice of lemon into the mix
Add extra virgin olive oil (at least 4 tbsp, more if you love olive oil as I do)
A dash of cayenne (don't over do it, you can always add)
Add 1 medium tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes

For variety you can add dried or fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, basil, dill - whatever you prefer.
Pulse until the salad is fairly uniform small chunks (you may need to stop and open the food processor in the middle of this process if you have large chunks hanging out on top. Just use a spatula to turn them to the bottom of the processor bowl)

Taste before you take it out of the food processor bowl. You may want to add something to the dressing - more olive oil, more lemon, more salt.  This is the time to make adjustments to taste if you want to mix in the food processor.  Some friends have told me they add a little goat cheese with the olive oil. If you like a heavier dressing, there are great creamy raw dressings made with avocados, pine nuts, cashews.  (I plan to share a couple of my favorite dressing recipes soon, so please stay tuned!)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Love, Flax, and Chocolate

I love almond milk. I love chocolate. Sometimes I want something quicker and cheaper and easier than almond milk, though.

 Flax milk offers the nourishment of germinated flax seeds without the cost of raw almonds (which in California one must get directly from farmers in order to avoid pasteurization) and without having to strain through a nut milk bag.

To demonstrate how little work this is, I added time estimates to each step.

Start by making your flax milk.

Put 1/4 cup dry, raw, organic flax seeds in a bowl to soak
Let it stand at least an hour - best is overnight
(the work takes 1 minute - I'm not counting the soaking into the work time)

Put the soaked flax and 4 cups of filtered water in a blender (hi speed is best) and blend -- start on low and increase to high speed for about a minute
(takes about 3 minutes to get the blender out, add the water and soaked flax seeds, and blend)

That's it - Now you have your refreshing, inexpensive, healthy Flax Milk!

If you are a chocolate lover like me, make it chocolate.
Put a half tablespoon of cacao powder in a cup and pour the flax milk over it
Use a spoon or small whisk to stir

I don't use any sweeteners like honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc. to my cup of chocolate milk.  I add a very little stevia in the raw or sweet drops -- just enough that it tastes slightly sweet but not like stevia -- or a teensy bit of monk fruit sugar (like stevia it has no glycemic spike).
(this part takes maybe a little over 1 minute).

Wash out blender (blend soapy water starting on low and increasing to high speed for a minute).
This is not a big operation. What is that 5 or 6 minutes altogether?

Pour the remaining flax milk from blender to jar to store in the fridge (note that there will be settling at the bottom of the jar, but this blends in when you shake it up)

Note for making chocolate milk with refrigerated flax milk: The surface tension of liquids increases as temperature decreases. This is why cacao powder doesn't mix so well with chilled liquids. So once the flax milk is cold, I prep the cacao before I mix in the flax milk. I add the cacao powder to a dry cup, then add a little warm water to blend the cacao powder. My electric kettle has temperature controls, so I can bring water temperature up to about 130 degrees.  I add a little of this water to the cup of cacao powder and mix before adding cold flax milk.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Get SOMETHING Green on Your Plate!

You know green veggies are good for you, but do you find you keep telling yourself you'll be better about eating them - in the future?  Does it seem like too much to deal with today? When it all seems too much, I seek SIMPLE solutions. 

Why eat fresh green veggies?  Green veggies help digestion and help you feel satisfied with less likelihood of overeating. They can help avoid acid reflux and indigestion.  The chlorophyll in your green veggies is said to improve anemic conditions, the action of the heart, reduce high blood pressure normal blood count and platelet levels; to contribute to healing of hepatitis and other liver diseases, asthma and hay-fever, pyorrhea, varicose veins, ulcers - internal and external, high and low blood sugar, offensive body odors, sore throat; to shield the brain from antioxidant damage; and to add power to an anti-aging program. My article on chlorophyll details all kinds of the amazing benefits of green stuff.

{You can find chlorophyll here}

Despite all this goodness, it is so easy to find your meals have little or no green! (And don't try to cheat yourself with canned vegetables - they do not have the nutritional value of fresh veggies)

A little bit of iceberg lettuce (what I sometimes call "green water") a slice of insipid tomato, a few bits of shredded carrot are of little help.  Remember the more veggies you eat, the easier it is for your body to process your meal - leading to weight loss, better digestion, blood sugar balance, and all around real nourishment and health improvement.

It may seem that getting around to creating a routine of eating plenty of green veggies is impossible.  It just isn't happening.  I have been through stages like this - I found myself thinking:
- Oh my gosh HOW do I get something GREEN on this PLATE??  I can barely manage to get myself fed in the first place!
Well, the first thing is to commit to making the habit of veggie.  Start with just the idea of it,  like "I am okay with eating more green veggies. I can make it happen (as long as they taste good). I just have to keep it really simple to start."

Now, I realize that even my super simple Perfect Green Veggie Sautee and Kale Salad can seem a little daunting if you are living life in overwhelm. So for this post I got down to basics. I found that when there is too much going on in my life, the minimum was all I could do - maybe you feel like that too.  So let's break it down - what is the one thing you can do - one thing you can manage to get yourself to do? Start with veggies that need little or no preparation.

Baby Steps:
(this is all I could manage for a couple of weeks!)
Just slice some celery, cucumber, and/or decent tomatoes.  A handful of snap peas also work well (remove the strings). Baby carrots are better than nothing. (Okay, okay...tomatoes and carrots aren't green, but I feel better if I have them with a meal than if I have no veggies at all!) In my experience, if I could get one or more of those vegetables on my lunch or dinner (or breakfast!) plate, I felt better.  If I felt better, I found I was able to do it again -- if by no other means than by remembering feeling better.

Get the green on your plate! Veggies aren't taking anything away from you.  They don't make you fat! They don't give you health problems! Just add them to what you are already eating, whatever that is.

Once you take the first steps, try some variety: Super Simple Chunky Salad
  • Super Simple Chunky Salad -- For one serving, cut 1 Persian cucumber or half of a regular cucumber in half lengthwise, and then cut these halves the long way again, then I cut these long quarters into bite sized chunks; toss in a medium bowl with virgin olive oil, Himalayan or other quality salt, any savory dried spices that are handy (oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary) and similarly sized chunks of tomatoes.  

    Variation #1:  Add more green veggies to your chunky salad, cutting them to about the same size as your cukes and tomatoes: Try celery, sugar peas, even leftover steamed asparagus or broccoli.  
    Hey, it's summer, so grab some decent tomatoes at the farmers' market or if you can't get there, you can get organic Del Cabo Cherry tomatoes at many grocery stores.
    Variation #2: Add fresh herbs, such as chopped basil, Italian parsley, mint, or dill. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Good-For-You Foods That Are Bad For You?

Have you ever found out that something that was supposedly good for you is now bad for you?  And vice-versa?  Remember the egg saga?
With eggs it was on again off again like a bad romance.  

Well, Pop-eye may have been wrong about spinach.  
What!? Isn’t spinach high in vitamins A and C and folate? A good source of riboflavin, vitamin B-6, calcium, iron and magnesium?  
Well--Perhaps not!  There is some controversy regarding its super high oxalic acid content (about 50 times higher than other leafy green veggies) 

What is an oxalate, you ask? 
Wikipedia explains:
Oxalate (IUPAC: ethanedioate) is the dianion with the formula C
4, also written (COO)2−
2. Either name is often used for derivatives, such as salts of oxalic acid, for example sodium oxalateNa2C2O4, or dimethyl oxalate ((CH3)2C2O4). Oxalate also forms coordination compounds where it is sometimes abbreviated as ox.

Many metal ions form insoluble precipitates with oxalate, a prominent example being calcium oxalate, the primary constituent of the most common kind of kidney stones.
Oxalates are common in many vegetable products, though they play a much worse role in some. Soy, for example, also contains the “anti-nutrient” called oxalate that binds to calcium and prevents its absorption in the human body.  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Don't Hold On To Toxins! How To Do An Easy and Inexpensive Daily Detox

Accumulated toxins will get you down! Age you! Cause health problems!
Get rid of them! Give your digestive tract a loving massage. Give your body some help.

Digestive difficulties are common.  A seemingly endless supply of supplements and medicines exist to combat them.  The most effective treatment I have ever come across, however, costs very little - WATER.

Water is the mildest, least invasive way to hydrate and to aid in flushing out accumulated toxins and debris in the digestive tract.

This is not to say that I gave up my probiotics or roughage.   I read that Mae West and other diva super stars tout weekly colonics for health, anti-aging, and beauty,  For me, I would rarely go to the trouble and expense of colonics. But clearly, one should do something.  I found this morning cleanse, and subsequently discovered several friends were doing it.  So now it is part of my daily morning routine.

GOOD MORNING CLEANSE: You simply drink 3 glasses of WARM water right after you wake up. The reason this works so well is that the water can do its work when it is not inhibited by the presence of digesting food.  The WARM temperature is key:  it soothes all the digestive organs on its uninhibited path downward. The warm water goes straight out of the stomach because of the warmth and washes you right through.  Another key: Don’t sip! Drink it down.  The water should not be so warm that you can’t drink it straight down.

If you don’t have the budget or desire to engage in weekly colonics, you can still do your body a favor by helping it flush out the colon using this simply good morning warm water technique. Leave yourself time afterwards to allow the water to do its work.  Try it out first on a weekend.  The first few mornings may be a little uncomfortable as accumulated waste becomes unstuck!  I haven’t met anyone who isn’t glad to get rid of  it at such a small cost!

You can heat your water in an electric thermos, bpa free plastic or glass electric kettle, or regular tea kettle.  You don't need to boil it.  175˚ to 190˚ water (you can hear it sizzling, before boing point) is fine for mixing with room temp water to get your preferred temperature.  Fill your glass about 1/4 full with room temp water and then add the warm water.  Taste for temperature. You might need to add a little warm or a little cool water to adjust as needed.

Cleansing is an important practice to add into life’s routines, because our bodies can only do so much without a little help. It is kind of like cleaning house. Give your body/home some love.

Electric thermos - Choice of 3 temperatures
BPA free plastic electric kettle
Glass electric kettle
Stove-top kettle

Saturday, May 20, 2017


I learned a fantastic lesson a while back.  I found that by eating more veggies with every meal, I lost weight. I didn't eat less food overall - more of what I ate was veggies.  The key is to make them yummy.

What happened was that by eating more veggies at meals, I was not so hungry for the other heavier foods or even for sweet desserts.  I truly believe that this is because when the body is getting better and more various nourishment (via veggies), it isn't continuing to trigger a hunger action in the brain.  In other words - when you don't get certain nourishment you think you are still hungry.  I believe it may be impossible to overeat vegetables! The more veggies you eat with your meal, the less you will eat the stuff that keeps weight on.  When you go for seconds - go for veggies!

By my mid-20s I had normally been a little chunky.  I experienced an epiphany after a long bout of flu -- I decided to try to eat more veggies for my general health.  I realized the reason I didn't eat enough vegetables was because either 1) there weren't many veggie options on the menus at restaurants where I ate; and 2) they usually weren't delicious.

I realized that the first priority is to make veggies at home and make them delicious. Later tackle the restaurant question.

For emergencies keep some celery, cucumbers, and tomatoes available. In a pinch you can simply slice cucumbers into big chunks and drizzle with virgin olive oil and a little good quality salt. Or make a quick salad with any combination of the 3 (cucumbers, celery, tomatoes) tossed with your olive oil and salt, adding fresh herbs like parsley, mint, tarragon, oregano.  For cooked green goodness, I have included below a recipe for green veggies that has won fabulous feedback from family and friends.

At every family holiday I make broccoli or kale. My young niece once requested "Stefanie's Signature Kale" for her birthday dinner.   Wow, that is a compliment. Okay - This is how I do it.

Some folks like to use a steamer - broccoli and kale only need a minute or two - I prefer to cook quick, edible green veggies quickly, using fairly high heat in a skillet with a lid. I often use a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet (mine is a 12 inch).  These are perfect for some kinds of high heat cooking, quick cooking. They are durable, difficult to damage.

I have kept the following recipe simple, in case you are a beginner.  You can get fancy with garlic, onions, spices, or other variations once you get the hang of the basic method.

For quick and tasty kale, broccoli, green beans, sweet peas, snow peas, asparagus, etc.
1 skillet (this can be done in cast iron, ceramic or pretty much any other type of skillet)
Green veggie of choice (broccoli, snow peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, kale, rapini, etc.)
High quality salt (i.e. Himalayan or other mineral salt)
1 Tbsp of water

Put your veggies in the pan, but don't add water or oil at first. Let the pan heat up, and then add