Eating fresh herbs daily

A couple of days ago, my photo for my #100happydays was of some chives growing in our garden. I love my herb garden.  It is right by my kitchen, so it is easy to nip out there and pull off a few leaves of something or other.

I eat fresh herbs daily and so was interested in some reading I was doing for my studies which was comparing different government food recommendations in different countries.  I was looking at the the New Nordic diet NND which is a gastronomically driven, regional, organic and environmentally friendly diet from Denmark.

The NND was developed by a collaboration led by Rene Redzepi from the world-leading Copenhagen restaurant NOMA.  NOMA held the title of "best restaurant in the world" for 3 years. Shortly after opening NOMA, Rene held a conference with other chefs in Denmark and they collaborated with the University of Copenhagen to create a healthy diet, showcased in the local restaurants that could also be easily used for home cooking.



The NND is based on regional foods in season, with a strong emphasis on palatability, healthiness, and sustainability, while staying in tune with regional food culture and dietary habits.


The basis of the diet is comprised of the following food groups:
  • fruit and vegetables - especially berries, cabbages, root vegetables and legumes
  • potatoes
  • fresh herbs
  • plants and mushrooms gathered/foraged from the wild
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • meats from livestock and game
  • fish and shellfish
  • seaweed
The majority of foods are organically grown and of Nordic origin.

Yes - they include "fresh herbs" as a food group.  I don't believe any other government dietary requirements mentions herbs at all.

Herbs have lots of different effects on the body - with each having their own little "niche" of health benefits, for example oregano has antibacterial and anti fungal effects, thyme and rosemary are both good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, mint helps with digestion,  and basil helps with pain, reduces cholesterol, etc.  So using a variety of fresh herbs as part of your daily diet brings lots of benefits - never mind the flavors they impart.

The research on NND shows that eating this style of eating leads to great health improvements and weight loss, with people eating the food ad libitum - i.e. freely.  The OPUS project is continuing research on the diet.  More information on OPUS and the NND are in these links, including their research with school children.

I have to confess, there is another reason why the NND piqued my interest!  I am going to Copenhagen in May for my husband's birthday celebration.  A couple of weeks ago, I stayed up one night until nearly 2am, and I managed to get a reservation to eat at NOMA while we are there. I am so excited.  I can't wait to eat at such a creative restaurant. They employ two full time "foragers" who go out and forage for the food every day.  Apparently, if a restaurant in Denmark doesn't employ a forager, its not really a "proper" restaurant!!!!!  I love the idea.


So in the meantime, I will continue to eat my home-foraged (!!) herbs daily, until I go to Copenhagen and eat Rene's amazing creations!  

Do you grow fresh herbs? Its something easy we can all do - even if you don't have a garden.  It not only makes food tasty but is good for your health.

Watch this space….you know you'll be hearing more about NOMA and Rene (who is definitely a Great Dane!) and the NND.
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Green Tea and Ginger Oatmeal

I've mentioned before on this blog that I don't like the taste of green tea if I'm drinking it. However, I do love all the healing aspects of green tea with its high antioxidant levels, EGCG, anti cancer effects, anti-inflammatory effects etc etc and so I try to cook with it instead of drinking it.


I often boil my rice or quinoa or other grains in water with matcha green tea powder, or use green tea bags in the water. I make a green buddha bowl that I love.....but lately I've been wondering about how else I could incorporate it in my cooking - and I came up with the idea of adding it to my oatmeal water!


Ta Da!  Green Tea and ginger oatmeal was born!  Yes, it has a green tinge to it - but I - and you can get over that!


Its tasty but doesn't taste of green tea! The whole idea.

Here is how I made it:

1 cup water
1 tsp matcha green tea powder or 2 green tea teabags
1/2 cup rolled oats (I used gluten free)
2 tablespoons of ground flax seed
Ginger pieces - to your taste
1/4 cup goldenberries

Add the matcha tea or tea bags to the water in a small saucepan and bring to just below a boil.  Remove the teabags if using.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 5 - 10 minutes.  The flax does thicken it so if you prefer runny oatmeal, add some more water.

Serve with additional fruit or ginger on top and non dairy milk, if you choose.  (The ginger I used was rehydrated dried ginger - I just keep some in water in the fridge or you can use crystallized and wash off the excess sugar.)

And to think for my breakfast, I've started the day with the omega 3 fats that I need from the flax seed, plenty of fiber and vitamins from the oats, the healing benefits of green tea, anti-inflammatory effects of ginger, anti oxidants from golden berries...and its only 8am!!!

Hope your new year starts are well as my day has started today.  Wishing you a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2014. xxxx
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Health Benefits of Passion Fruit

I am excited to say we have tasted our first home-grown passionfruit this week - just in time before heading back to England for a couple of weeks.



I was very fortunate in that one of my Food as Medicine classes gave me a gift voucher at the end of their season of classes and so I bought some edible plants for our garden - including our passion fruit vine.


The vine has thrived and the fruits are just ripening now.  They fall off the plant, all round and solid looking but then you have to leave them at room temperature to wrinkle and ripen further.  They are larger than any passion fruit I have ever seen for sale.

Freshly picked on the left, and two day wrinkles on the right!

It was tricky waiting for the first one to wrinkle....but we did! Then I cut it in half one morning and put the seeds on my homemade granola.  So sweet and full of flavor.

We are just eating them 'as is'. No need to do anything at all with them - just enjoy them, full of exotic flavors.

However the biggest fan in our house has to be Harold, our parrot.  He just adores passion fruit.  I put the nearly empty half in his cage after I'd eaten most of it and left just a couple of seeds - oh, he was ecstatic!!! All you could hear were little crunches and happy noises from him!   We've left strict instructions with his pet sitters to give him treats of his passionfruit while we are away!



Unripe passionfruit
Passionfruit are basically just seeds with a gelatinous pulp coating.  This means that they are are great source of fiber - so don't strain them just for the juice - enjoy the crunch too.  Passion fruit also contain high levels of carotenoids - at least 13 different carotenoids - which are particularly good for our vision and skin.

They are also rich in vitamin C - an antioxidant - especially when freshly picked and the nutrients are at their peak level.   Surprisingly, they are also a good source of iron and have a somniferous properly, so if eaten before going to bed, help us relax and get a restful night's sleep.

No wonder Harold had a nap after breakfast!!!



I also love that its a winter/late fall fruit when most other things are all done with fruiting!  So get out there and grown a passion fruit - or buy some now from the farmers market or supermarket , while they are in season.



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Rosehip, Quince and Clove granola

What a combination: Rosehip, quince and cloves!  It tastes so rich and full in the mouth.  And this granola  - while it has these three great healthy and yummy ingredients - is also happily lacking in 3 not-so-great ingredients - it doesn't have gluten, added oil nor added sugar.

Rosehip, Quince and Clove granola served with
almond milk, pomegranate seeds and homegrown passion fruit

A healthy, spicy, rich granola - perfect for fall and winter.

For this recipe, I took some of the roasted quince that I described in Monday's blog and pureed them in a blender with just a touch of water.



The recipe for the granola is as follows:

2 cups of grains (- I used 1 cup GF rolled oats plus 1 cup of GF unsweetened puffed brown rice)
4 tablespoons rosehip powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pureed quince

Mix all the ingredients together and then place on a baking sheet or shallow dish.

Bake at 375F for 10 minutes then remove and stir well.  Put back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes until dried and starting to go crunchy. You need to keep an eye on at it during this time to check the outside parts aren't over cooking.

Remove from the oven and enjoy for breakfast or a snack.

You can add nuts and dried fruit to this recipe too. Add the nuts before cooking but add the fruit after cooking.


What a great start to the day: Serve it with non dairy milk/yoghurt and we get the fiber and catechins from the quince; more fiber from the oats and brown rice; anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects from the cloves, quince and rose hip; and plenty of vitamin C from the quince and rosehip.



And all that with NO added sugar, oil, salt and no gluten.

You will love the combination of rose hip, quince and clove.  When are you coming over for breakfast?
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A week of Quince - and its health benefits


This week I've decided I'll focus my blog posts on quince - that wonderful fruit that many people don't even know what it looks like, never mind what it tastes like.  Well, if you are one of those, you are missing out!  It is a great fruit and really is quite simple to prepare.  I'll take you through the stages today and then share some recipes on using the cooked quince throughout the week.  Yes, it is a fruit that needs to be cooked before you can enjoy it.  It is very tough when picked off the tree and too astringent to eat raw.


It's been a wonderful year for my quince tree again - with so many fruit. I've actually been keeping up with them better than before as I've perfected my cooking routine - and I've had a little help from my friends too, who took some to eat.


If you search for quince recipes, I bet every one - apart from those on this blog - will include plenty of sugar.  It seems all quince recipes involve baking the quince in a sugar syrup.  Well, I have to tell- it doesn't need any sugar at all!


How I cook mine is that I take the whole fruit, and use a vegetable peeler to get most of the peel off.



Then a put a few in a roasting dish and add some water and sprinkle some cloves over the top - or else add a couple of chai rooibos tea bags to the water to impart their flavor.


Then I put them in the simmering oven of my aga and let them roast for a few hours.  In fact, I once forgot them and they roasted overnight and were still delicious.

You can also roast them faster in a hotter oven - but as I have my aga - I love the slow roast method - often about 8 hours.


So put it in the oven and leave a note for yourself that they are in there and get on with the day. If you leave the house - you'll be greeted with a wonderful aroma of clove and quince spices as you come back in the door. "Smells like Christmas" as my husband would say - but anything with cloves smells or tastes like Christmas to him! (I try to tell him that cloves are for more than Christmas day!!!)


When they are cooked, just let them cool and then cut off the fruit from the core and either slice or puree in a blender and use in many different ways as I'll show you throughout the week.


And the health benefits of quince?

Quince is a low calorie fruit with good amounts of fiber.  There is a certain grittness in the pulp which comes from the tannins catechin and epicatechin. These are the same chemicals in green tea that contribute to its health benefits. These chemicals bind to cancer-causing toxins and chemicals in the colon and protect the mucous membrane from inflammatory bowel disease, cancers and diverticulitis.

It has many phenolic compounds in it which gives it a unique fragrance.  And has high concentrations of Vitamin C so helps boost immunity, reduce viral episodes and inflammatory conditions.

It is also a good source of copper, iron, potassium and magnesium, along with B vitamins.

So not only does it taste good - it is good for you!


As my friend just told me this week after she tried one of our quince:

"So much better than even the best baked apple I've ever eaten. What a treat, and  a happy discovery"

Get discovering for yourself and I'll share some recipes throughout the week!

It's quince time!

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Belly Button Parsnip

We are taking care of our friends' dog at the moment.  Her name is Bella...or "officially", Bella Rose.


But to us, she is known affectionately by a few others including:

Bella, Bella, Bella
Belly Welly
Belly Parsnip
Buh for Bella
Bella Basket
and most recently
Belly Button and
Belly Button Parsnip

There are reasons for each - but too complicated to explain! And she responds to all of them!

Anyhow I liked her photo today on her bright fatboy bed, taking it easy!  Oh, to have the life of Belly Button Parsnip!

There are many health benefits to having a pet including increased exercise, lower blood pressure, companionship, laughter, date magnets (!)...and many more.  What is the best thing you get from your pet?

Bella's forte is definitely laughter!
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Chia Fresca

I never thought I would, but I like chia fresca!

Never being one for tapioca because I always thought it looked like frog spawn, now here I am drinking frog-spawn-looking chia fresca!!


Chia fresca is a mexican drink - with lots of health benefits - mainly due to the chia seeds which are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids (more than flax and salmon), high in fiber (1 tablespoon has 5g fiber!), calcium ( 6 x that of milk), magnesium (15 x that in broccoli)....

Here is the recipe:
2 cups water
2 tablespoons chia seeds - I like to use the white ones in my drink
Juice of one or two lemons or limes, depending on your taste.

Directions:
Pour the water into a jug and add the chia seeds, whisking immediately.  Leave for 3 - 4  minutes and whisk again.  Leave for 10 minutes, whisk again and add the citrus juice.  The drink will thicken and become like a gel. Stir before drinking.








Don't say you can see the tadpoles starting to swim!!
Enjoy! If you can get over the look and unusual texture for a drink I'm sure you'll love it ;-D
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Spring Pesto

I made a no-added-oil pesto this week to garnish a parsnip and cauliflower soup.  I felt the pesto acknowledged that it was now spring and lifted the more wintery flavors of the soup into this early April time.


But then I finished the soup and still had some parsley and spinach left, so made some more pesto and found different ways to use it!...... as a dip, on a sandwich, as a dressing, ...

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 cup baby organic spinach
1/2 cup fresh chives
1/2 cup (packed) flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. If necessary, add more water to achieve the consistency you desire. You may have to stop the processor a couple of times to scrape down the sides so that everything is combined.



Enjoy it on a variety of different dishes! The photo above shows it on a sunflower cracker with sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber and black cumin! A tasty lunch.

You won't miss the oil at all!  The taste of the parsley and lemon just excite the taste buds too much to want oil!

Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. It is rich in antioxidant flavonoids and is a good source of folic acid.  Chives are a member of the allium family and are anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral.  They also contain quercetin which helps reduce histamine and so helps with hay fever and seasonal allergies.

Whip yourself up a dose of healthy green pesto and put a spring in your step this spring time! Your body will love you for it.
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Vibrant Quinoa Salad

I made this lovely green quinoa salad for some friends last week, when they visited for lunch.


It is very easy to make and seems so perfect for springtime with the lovely green colors.  It tastes nice and fresh with the lemon juice and mint.

Give it a try and let me know what you think:

Ingredients:
1/3 cup quinoa
2/3 cup water
4 scallions/spring onions, finely chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup frozen green garbanzos
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 bunch mint, chopped
1/4 cucumber, diced

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve to remove the bitter coating.
  2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the quinoa.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. When its cooked, the quinoa should still have a little crunch.  Rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly.  Place in a large bowl.
  3. Put the green garbanzo beans and peas in boiling water and cook briefly for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.  Add to the quinoa.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Serve.
  5. Will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Can be made in advance.
You can obviously add whatever vegetables you like to this dish. I like the green garbanzo beans - as they are new in the stores here, so its good to find a nice dish for them...but you could use sugar snaps or edamame or another vegetables instead.  You could also try celery, or green pumpkin seeds or green pistachios.


The dish provides a good protein source and calcium from the quinoa, and plenty of different phytonutrients from the vegetables and lemon.  The cumin is rich in phytoestrogens and may help with osteoporosis and diabetes.
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Spicing things up

I held two spice classes this week for my food as medicine groups, looking at what benefits certain spices have to our health and how we can incorporate them into our daily lives.

Photo From Wikimedia commons

As well as tasting individual spices, we created a variety of blends from different countries and then tasted them in either applesauce, butternut squash or sweet potato - as vehicles for the spice, so you could get the true flavors.

Tasting stations at the ready!

The key spices we focused on were

  • cinnamon - great for diabetes
  • turmeric - anti-cancer and anti- inflammatory activity
  • black cumin - immune system boosting
  • cloves - toothache, mosquito repellent, anti-infection
  • cocoa - great source of flavonols which increase nitric oxide production, and help heart health
  • Plus we looked at those spices that can affect the Cancer "Master Switch" - NFkB
The blends we made we:
  • Chai tea - India - we actually made a tea-less version
  • La Kama from North Africa
  • Garam Masala - India
  • Golden Milk -India
  • Panch Phoron - India
  • Chinese five spice - China
  • Colombo Powder - Latin America
  • Quatre Epices - France
  • Hot Chocolate - Mexican
We then ended up with a chocolate tasting of 6 chocolates with cocoa contents of >75%.  I'll tell you more about that another day!


It was a great class.  People really started to focus on tasting carefully and identifying different flavor and whether spices predominated or harmonized. 
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Golden Milk

I tried making non dairy golden milk today.  Golden milk helps you sleep - I made it at lunch time so we'll see if I nod off this afternoon! And it also helps with pain and inflammation, boosting the immune system..and many other things that turmeric is attributed too.


It is basically a non dairy milk mixed with turmeric.  Various recipes either leave it like that or add a combination of other spices. I added ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

I made some flaxseed milk to use. I've made it a couple of times before and wasn't a great fan, but Ithought I'd try it again with this, as the spices are reasonable strong.

However, you can still taste that 'flaxiness'...which is a little off-putting.  I think a nut milk would have been better, or soy milk. As I heated it, it seemed that the flax milk separated a little, which isn't so appealing to the eye!

So, the outcome is that its a good idea - but mine didn't actually turn out that great!  Here are a couple of recipes for you to try:

Golden Milk Version 1
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp turmeric powder or 1 tbs fresh, minced
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups non dairy milk
Sweetener - amount to your taste

Combine the first three ingredients and bring to a boil. Removed from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes.

While steeping, add the other spices to the milk and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the turmeric mixture and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Strain and add sweetener of your choice.


Golden Milk Version 2 - this recipe came from Yum Universe
2 cups of non dairy milk
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger
Pinch of saffron, optional

Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

I'll try it again tomorrow with a nut milk instead. Let me know if you give it a go.  I love the spice combination, just chose the wrong milk!
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Health benefits of Chai Tea

Chai tea has many wonderful healing spices in it.  However frequently when you buy it, it includes dairy products and refined sugar.  Instead you can make your own and tailor it to your own tastes.  My own taste is that I don't like tea, so I make mine without green or black tea.  But there is still plenty of flavor in it as I include 7 different spices in my recipe - plus orange peel.

(Sorry - I forgot about photographing it and nearly drank it all!)


The spices have powerful healing capacities, not just by being antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, but also because they can switch off the Cancer Master Switch in the cells, namely the nuclear factor kappa beta (NFkB).

The spices in this recipe which have this activity are:

  • black peppercorns
  • cardomom
  • cloves
  • cinnamon
  • anise
  • nutmeg
  • and ginger

When free radicals, infections, or agents that damage DNA (eg carcinogens, toxins, etc) enter the body, they are all capable of activating NFkB which is a molecule inside the cell. On activation, NFkB increases inflammation and inhibits cancer cell death.  While pharmaceutical companies are busy looking for drugs to turn off NFkB, we need look no further than spices as many of them have this NFkB switching off capacity.

And Chai tea is an easy way to get 7 spices all in one drink.

Here is a recipe that originally came from Jeanne Wallace
Chai Tea

4 cups water
1 teaspoon cardamom pods – green
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves or 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon dried orange peel or 4 teaspoons orange zest
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon nutmeg chips or 2 whole nutmegs
2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or 1 tablespoon dried ginger pieces
½ vanilla bean, chopped fine or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teabags or 4 tablespoons green or black tea leaves (TEA is optional!)
Coconut nectar or other unrefined sweetener to taste (optional)
Non dairy milk

Make the spice mix: bring water to boil, add spices but NOT tea, if using.  Reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes or longer for a spicier flavor.  Remove from the heat. Add tea and steep for 3 minutes.  Strain into a pitcher or container.  Keeps refrigerated for up to 10 days.
To make one cup of chai, combine ½ cup of non dairy milk with ½ cup of the spice mixture.  Heat and add sweetner to your taste.  Can be served iced in the summer.



Let me know how you tailor it to your particular taste.
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Eating a variety of fruit


One of the four food groups in a plant based whole foods diet is fruit (the others are vegetables, legumes and grains).  Fruit was the focus for our first meeting today with a new Food as Medicine group.


We spoke about the different phytonutrients in different fruits - from flavonoids, bioflavenoids, antioxidant activity, lycopene, carotenoids, anthocyanins etc and fiber, minerals, vitamins etc.   Then we cooked together to create a fruit based lunch. Here was the menu:

  • kiwi guacomole - adding two kiwi to one avocado gives a good boost in Vitamin C to the mix and also reduces the fat density
  • goldenberry chutney - this is a great tart chutney that you can use as a dip or spread or condiment.  Dried goldenberries are mixed with onion, jalapeno pepper, ginger etc to make a vibrant chutney
  • pear soup - made with sweet potatoes and pears, this is a great source of pectin fiber and carotenoids
  • rainbow salad with strawberry dressing - red lettuce with blueberries, cherries, blood oranges and the dressing of strawberries and vinegar
  • quinoa and goji berry salad - with spices of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cilantro....
  • raspberry crunch to go - a layered dessert (or breakfast) in a small pot with lid, made from buckwheat, raspberries, raspberry cream (made from raspberry flour and cashew nuts) and then a crunchy nut topping.

My favorites are the goldenberry chutney and the raspberry crunch.


We definitely all ate a rainbow in one meal!  Did you eat a rainbow today - ie fruits and vegetables from all colors of the rainbow? As I drove to the class, I even saw a rainbow. How fitting!
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An apple a day...... (Part 1)

....keeps the doctor away.


  • In an analysis of more than 85 studies, apple consumption was shown to be consistently associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes, compared to other fruits.  In one of the studies, Finnish researchers followed more than 5,000 men and women for more than 20 years.  Those who ate the most apples and other flavonoid rich foods such as onions, were found to have a 20% lower risk of heart disease than those who ate the smallest amount of these foods.

Harold enjoying his "lady" apple!

  • Apples are rich in a soluble fibre known as pectin, which has been shown to exert a number of beneficial effects.  Because it is a gel-forming fiber, pectin can lower cholesterol levels as well as improve the intestinal muscle's ability to push waste through the gastrointestinal tract.

One medium unpeeled apple contains 3 g of fiber. Even without its peel it contains 2.7g of fiber.

Just adding one large apple to the daily diet has been shown to decrease serum cholesterol by 8 - 11 % Two apples a day has been shown to lower your cholesterol by 16%.




  • Apples also contain malic and tartaric acids, which improve digestion and the breakdown of fats - so combining an apple with fattier food like apple sauce with pork, or apple slices with cheese, not only tastes good but helps the body deal with the fat intake.


  • Apples are helpful in the relief of the pain of gout, rheumatism and arthritis - and also help you feel better the morning after too much drinking!

An apple on our tree last year was "picked" by one of the tendrils of the grape vines!


  • They are great to eat if you have diarrhea and are one of the 4 components of the BRAT diet used for diarrhea or food poisoning - with BRAT standing for Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast.

  • Apples are also a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.  Most of the apple's important nutrients are contained in its skin - so eating them raw and with their skin is best. 



They are a wonderful substitute in cooking and baking for oils.  In my salad dressings I replace oil with unsweetened organic apple sauce and in my baking, I frequently use applesauce to replace the oil.  Not only do I benefit from no oil, but I also benefit from eating the apple!

We have several apple trees (- an old proverb says " if you can plant only one tree in your garden, make it an apple tree")  and too many to eat when they are all ripe. So I dehydrate them.  I often leave the skin on, slice them and don't feel the need to use lemon juice. The idea is that we can then enjoy them year round but this year I think we had eaten them all by Christmas - and we had a lot!  Dried apples are a lovely snack....and you can now buy freeze dried apples which have a lovely crunch.

Have you had your apple today?
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Food as Medicine - Pomegranates - Part 3

Have you been out and bought your frozen pomegranate seeds yet or your pomegranate juice or dried seeds?  In the past couple of Food as Medicine posts, I've spoken about pomegranate looking hopeful for use with prostate cancer, and also some dental problems.


Studies show that pomegranate can also help to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis.  One study looked at the carotid artery and found that the group of men drinking pomegranate juice for a year had a 30% decrease in arterial plaque, while those not drinking the juice had a 9% increase.

Doctors in UCSF studied patients with heart disease. Nearly half had suffered heart attacks, most had high blood pressure and nearly all had high cholesterol levels. They were all taking several drugs, including statins, blood thinners and blood pressure medications.  For three months, one group drank 8oz pomegranate juice a day, and the others drank a placebo.  After three months, the group drinking pomegranate juice had a 17% increase in blood flow to the heart while the placebo had a 18% DECREASE.

UCSF researchers also found that episodes of angina decreased 50% in the pomegranate juice drinking group, while increasing 38% in the placebo group.

Pomegranate seems to protect cardiovascular health by augmenting nitric oxide, which supports the functions of endothelial cells that line the arterial walls.  Nitric oxide signals vascular smooth muscle to relax, which increases blood flow through arteries and veins.  Nitric oxide also reduces injury to the vessel walls, which helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis.

These studies definitely look interesting - but as always, please remember that not one thing does it all. If you eat a bad diet and just add pomegranate juice to that, you are not going to get healthy.
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Food as medicine - Pomegranates - Part 1

Pomegranates are still in season but they are coming to an end.  Buy them while you can, as they are such a wonderful health food.

Their many benefits are too extensive for one blog post, so I'll cover them in a few.


The whole plant seems to practically burst with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols - from the seed, pulp, skin, root, flower and even the bark of the tree.  In fact, pomegranate seed extracts and juice have two to three times the anti-oxidant activity of red wine and green tea.

And while lots of foods have high levels of polyphenols, what makes pomegranates such superstars is that they are a top source of several varieties of polyphenols, namely flavenoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, punicic acid and many others.  Hundreds of scientific studies confirm these polyphenols can prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.  This ties in to the pomegranate being known as "a pharmacy unto itself" in Ayurvedic medicine.


There are several ways to get your pomegranate!

  • You can find fresh whole pomegranates from October - February, and use the seeds - arils
  • You can purchase the seeds frozen throughout the year
  • You can drink pomegranate juice 
  • You can buy dried seeds which are called ANARDANA - they can be used dried or soaked in water before use to plump them up
  • You can buy  pomegranate "spice" which is ground up dried seeds, again called ground anardana
  • You can buy pomegranate molasses

Anardana is used a lot in India - both whole and ground in curries, chutneys and as fillings for savory snacks such as pakoras and in flatbreads like parathas.


Pomegranate molasses is popular in the Middle East.  It is made by crushing the seeds into juice and cooking it until it reaches an almost black, thick molasses-like texture.  The molasses have a berry like taste with a citrus tang.  I discovered pomegranate molasses about 9 years ago and love it. If you haven't tried it before, make this your new food of the week. I frequently use it to make a salad dressing, or drizzle it on a savory or sweet dish. I also use it instead of sugar in baking - but it is thick so you have to chose recipes carefully!

Walnut and pomegranate roulade drizzled with pomegranate molasses
(sugar free, gluten free, no added oil)

I sprinkle pomegranate seeds on my oat muesli every morning....in fact, I'm getting worried about my supply running dry as its now February and the season is coming to a close. I guess I'll be using frozen pomegranate seeds instead.

A couple of quick snippets:
DENTAL 

  • researchers found that rinsing the mouth with pomegranate extract reduced bacteria-causing dental plaque 84% MORE than commercial mouthwash
  • researchers in Thailand treated gum disease (periodontal disease) with pomegranate extract and found it decreased gum erosion and plaque
  • a pomegranate formula was found to clear up denture stomatitis, a fungal infection in people wearing dentures.


I'll tell you about other specific health benefits in the next few posts, including pomegranates effects on

  • atheroschlerosis, 
  • diabetes 
  • prostate cancer
  • aging
In the meantime, try to think of ways you can add pomegranate to your diet EVERY day.....on cereal/oatmeal for breakfast, sprinkled on a salad for lunch, drizzled on a whole grain meal for dinner ...

What is your favorite pomegranate dish?

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Middle Eastern Oat Groats

I'm in love with this new dish, made from whole oat kernels, also known as oat groats or oat berries.


It is full of yummy ingredients and flavors including:

  • whole oat groats (GF)
  • pomegranate seeds
  • pistachios
  • walnuts
  • pine nuts
  • fennel seeds
  • citrus zest
  • coconut
It's one of those dishes where you make enough to last you a few days and then add different things to it each time you eat to.


My latest addition was my mandarinquats from the garden, with some kale, also from the garden and drizzled with pomegranate molasses!


Pomegranates are so beautiful  - just like jewels. I think they make most dishes look beautiful.


This is a great healthy dish, full of fiber and nutrients with no added oil.  Have you tried cooking with whole oat kernels before?
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Health Benefits of Oats

Oats are now quite famous for their health benefits and have grown in popularity.


Unlike other grains, although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ which allows them to remain a concentrated source of fiber and nutrients.  Different types of processing techniques are used to produce different oat products.

  • oat groats - this week I've been trying recipes using whole kernel oats - also called oat groats or oat berries.  They look similar to a grain of brown rice (see photo below).
  • steel cut oats - produced by running oat groats through steel blades to slice them , creating a denser chewier texture.
  • old fashioned rolled oats - these oats are steamed and then rolled to have a flatter shape.
  • quick cook oats - similar to old fashioned but these are steamed and then cut finely and then rolled.
  • instant oatmeal - these oats are partially cooked rather than just steamed and then rolled very thinly.  Often salt, sugar or other ingredients is added.
  • oat bran - the outer layer of the grain.
  • oat flour - made from the hulled oats.
Oat groats/oat berries
Oats are a very good source of the minerals manganese, selenium, and phosphorus. They are also a good source of magnesium and iron and heart protective polyunsaturated fats.  Oats have more than three times as much magnesium as calcium and are a good source of vitamin B1 and soluble dietary fiber.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats

Oat bran's dietary fiber is high in beta-glucans, which helps to lower cholesterol by binding bile acids and removing them from the body via feces.  In individuals with high cholesterol (above 220mg/dl) the consumption of 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (1 bowl for breakfast) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8 - 23 %.  This is highly significant as with every 1 percent drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 percent decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.  


The polyunsaturated fats in oats actually contribute as much to its cholesterol lowering effects as the fiber does.

Oats also have beneficial effects on blood sugar as well so are a good food for diabetics to consume.

Oats are also good for the skin.  Four tablespoons tied into a muslin bag, soaked in the bath and used as a sponge are healing and soothing for dry skin, eczema and psoriasis.  This amount is enough for 4 or 5 baths.  You can also buy oat based creams and ointments for topical applications.


There are many different ways to prepare oats.  Yesterday I shared my recipe for oatcakes made from rolled oats. Last week, I shared my prize winning marmalade granola recipe with you.  I also frequently make a simple muesli from :

2 cups of old fashioned oats, 
4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, 
handful of raisins.  
Mix the ingredients together in an air tight container and use 1/2 cup per serving, with non-dairy milk or yoghurt and fruit and nuts.


I'll be sharing some recipes using whole kernel oats soon.  If you do have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, make sure you purchase gluten free oats. 
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New food of the week - Mandarinquat

This past week we've been enjoying the fruit from our newest citrus tree - a Mandarinquat tree.  We bought the tree last year, so this is its first harvest. My husband tried the fruit first and declared that it was really too sour.


But then he read the label (!) and sure enough, it tells you that the flesh of the fruit is indeed sour but that the peel is sweet. Thus you eat both together and the flavors balance each other out.  How clever!

As you may have guessed, the tree is a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat. The fruits are larger than kumquats (about 3 inches tall) and such a lovely orange color.   More vibrant orange color than mandarins and satsuma - and teardrop in shape.



To use them, we are slicing them across - so you get both skin and flesh in each taste. I've been adding them to salads, and an oat-berry (groats) recipe I'm working on. You can also make marmalade out of them, but we don't have enough for that this year.

They taste good but it is their appearance that will make me want to use them.  They are good sources of vitamin C and as you eat the peel and flesh, you also get a lot of fiber from them.



In my food as medicine class this week we made bean brownies as our topic was beans and legumes - so we used some satsumas from our other tree in the brownie mix and then decorated each brownie with a slice of mandarinquat.  It made for a citrus brownie that seemed much more special - both in appearance and flavor.


Don't they look nice!  Have you tried a new food this week?  Have you ever seen mandarinquats for sale?

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Keeping hydrated


I've never been one to drink much water.  Didn't used to drink anything else either, no sodas, no tea, one mug of coffee in the morning..that's about it.

I'd try now and again to always carry water with me, but it only ever lasted a few weeks or so.

But now, I seem to have cracked it! My new habit has lasted a few months so I think I'm on to a winner.


It started after I saw this short video from nutrition facts.org



The video looks at a study of the anti-oxidant levels of 283 different beverages.  Imagine there even being 283 different drinks!  Anyhow the drink with the highest anti-oxidant level, by quite a margin, is hibiscus tea.  A tea made from the hibiscus flower.


So now, every morning, I make a large container (60 fl oz) of hibiscus tea using 4 tea bags, a lemon and hot or cold water. No sweetener.

I leave it in the kitchen and it is a pretty reminder for me to drink it up throughout the day.  Sometimes I forget to make it in the morning, but then I remember later on and catch up!  I don't take the tea bags out, just leave them in all day.  Now it's winter, I tend to start it with hot water and then by the evening, am drinking it room temperature.  I know most Americans prefer cold drink with and ice - but remember, I'm a Brit! Room temperature is good!!!

So now I get at least 60 fl oz every day of water plus a wonderful dose of anti-oxidants.


One of the key parts of why it works for me is that it is attractive! The lovely color of the hibiscus catches my eye. It's pretty.  When I ran out of hibiscus and tried it with white pomegranate tea, I just didn't feel like drinking it.  These are the two brands I tend to use.


So if you struggle with drinking enough fluids throughout the day, try using a large container that will hold a days worth - about 60 fl oz, and fill it with something that is attractive to you and healthy.  You can swap out one of the hibiscus tea bags and add a ginger or chamomile one instead or......

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Moroccan bean stew

Chilly nights mean a desire to cozy up with some yummy comfort food.



As I mentioned yesterday, I cooked some garbanzo beans and so used them in a Moroccan bean stew.  As well as the garbanzo beans there are black beans, red lentils and sweet potatoes plus a host of veggies and spices.


It is the combination of spices that brings this dish alive. Ten different herbs and spices to be precise!  They have a lovely sweetness to them. Its a great synergistic effect.

This makes for a really healthy dish including:

  • excellent fiber levels from the beans and lentils
  • very high antioxidant levels from the spices and beans and lentils too
  • plenty of protein from the beans and potatoes
  • good beta carotene from the sweet potatoes
  • anti-inflammatory activity from the Quercetin in the garlic and onion, and the turmeric and fresh ginger
  • anti-cancer activity from the garlic and onion and spices
  • blood sugar control from the cinnamon
  • selenium from the garlic
  • free from added fat, and gluten too - low allergy and vegan.
I made a big pot of it, so it'll keep me going through the week.  Let me know if I can bring you a bowl!  

The recipe comes from Dreena Burton's book "Let them eat vegan".   Moroccan Bean stew recipe.  It has to be the book I use most often of all my recipe books - and you wouldn't believe how many I have! 

I'll be making it again next week in my Food as Medicine class where we are focusing on the health benefits of legumes.

Hope you are cozy tonight.  Take care. 
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A pocketful of pecans

Harvesting continues....since October we've gone from grapes, to figs, to persimmons.....sort of missed the guavas when we were away....to olives and today, to a pocketful of pecans.


Yes, our pecan tree is still small so we both picked a pocketful. There were 17 in all!

Yeah. 17 pecans!  They now "cure" - i.e. dry - for 2 weeks before we open them up and see the goodies inside.


And did you know...pecans are the most nutritious nut with amazing antioxidant content.  I always thought walnuts were healthier than pecans...hmmm....our little tree better get growing! 

Check out this little video from nutritionfacts.org and see if you know how to rank nuts.



"What's next to harvest?", I hear you ask.... Citrus. Our citrus harvest is in mid flow...more on that another day.
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Truly Scrumptious - Hazelnuts

My "truly scrumptious" delight this week was a humble hazelnut.  I was cooking with some and one got away and I ate it - just raw.  Gosh - the taste was fabulous.  I rarely eat hazelnuts just as they are - but that will change now.


My first revelation about hazelnuts came when I was lucky enough to go to the French Laundry for dinner one night.  One of the courses they served had three raw hazelnuts on the plate.  When I ate one, I couldn't believe how wonderful it tasted.  I figured they must have an incredible secret place where they source them, as I'd never tasted such a fresh, flavorsome hazelnut...but then, there in my kitchen this week was another one!


Pure delight!  Go out and buy some raw hazelnuts and give them a try.  They are so delicious.  I think too often we get old rancid or salted/roasted hazelnuts and it masks their delicate flavor.  It's got to be the tastiest nut out there!


Hazelnuts are rich in unsaturated fats - which are shown to lower LDL and raise HDL.  They are also high in magnesium, manganese, Vitamin E, and B Vitamins.

You will be seeing more hazelnuts in my future!

What was the most truly scrumptious food you ate this past week?
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Getting the most benefit from your cruciferous vegetables

The cruciferous family of vegetables are unique among vegetables because of their glucosinolate content.  Glucosinolates give cruciferous vegetables their characteristic spicy or bitter tastes.


When the plant cell walls of the cruciferous vegetables are broken by blending, chopping, or chewing, an enzyme called myrosinase converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (ITCs) - which are the compounds in cruciferous vegetables with potent anti-cancer and other healing effects.  Such effects include anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic, detoxification, preventions of DNA damage, promotion of programmed cell death, anti-etrogenic activity, etc.


What this means is that cruciferous vegetables must be chopped, crushed or chewed well for maximum benefit so that the myrosinase enzyme can cause the chemical reaction. The myrosinase enzyme is physically separated from the glucosinolates in the intact vegetables, but when the plant cell walls are broken, the chemical reaction can occur and ITCs can be formed.  The more you chop or chew, the better.


However, these enzymes heat sensitive.  This doesn't mean that we should only eat cruciferous vegetables raw, but that when we are cooking these vegetables, we should chop them up in advance, and leave them for 5 - 10 minutes before cooking them, to allow the enzymes to act before they are destroyed by the heat.

So when you cook with cruciferous vegetables, chop them well, and then leave them for at least 5 minutes - go and set the table or something - and only then, start cooking them, so the enzyme has time to work before being denatured by the heat.


Cruciferous vegetables include:

  • arugula
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • chinese cabbage
  • collard greens
  • cress
  • daikon radish
  • horseradish
  • kale
  • kohlrabi
  • mustard greens
  • radish
  • rutabaga
  • homegrown sprouts
  • turnip
  • watercress

Remember: When eating raw - chew well to release the myrosinase.  When cooking, chop, wait, then cook.

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New food of the week - fresh turmeric

I've posted about turmeric before and all it's wonderful health benefits. However, I've always used just the ground turmeric you buy in little spice bottles.


Our local Whole Foods now has fresh turmeric, so I thought I'd try that for my new food of the week this week.

It's a rhizome, like ginger but it looks a little grub-like when you see it - and not terribly appetizing....Anyhow, I scraped off the outer layer with a spoon (also the best way to remove the "skin" from ginger) and grated some on my salad, using a microplane.


I often sprinkle the dried ground spice on salads as it has so many health benefits so thought this would be a good test, without cooking it.

A couple of points to note. The smell as you grate it is divine.  So pungent. Makes you just want to eat it right away.


The vibrant orange color is gorgeous - but also quite persistent...says she typing with orange finger tips and a microplane that is now stained orange in the center!!!

But the taste is wonderful.  As a spice used in many curries, it doesn't remind me of curry flavors in it's fresh form.  Just interesting flavors that change the longer it is in your mouth.  It opens up many more uses to me - I can see myself adding it to cookies, creating a buzz like the little pink peppercorn cookies did.....

It is such a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-metastatic agent - especially if eaten with pepper.  Interestingly enough, I was recently reading about a curcumin supplement (which is a compound in turmeric)  that had higher absorption rates than regular curcumin supplements which as normally very low. I wanted to find out what they had done to increase it's absorption.  The secret was that they included more of the other compounds in turmeric in the formulation i.e. they made it more like the whole food instead of an isolate!  Seems a perfect result that suggests that you eat the whole food and forget the supplement!

But don't go overboard with your consumption.  Your maximum intake should be 1 tsp a day because turmeric has high levels of oxalates in it, which can increase your risk of painful kidney stones.

Did you try a new food this week?
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Quince spice balls

With my vast quantity of quince sauce (see yesterday's post!), I thought I'd make some yummy quince balls today, with autumnal spices.


Here's the recipe.  Instead of quince, you can use any pureed fruit, such as apple sauce, or pumpkin puree or pear puree...but when you have a tree full of quince, you use quince puree!

Quince spice balls
Ingredients: - makes 20 balls

8 dates, pitted
3/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened fruit puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Add the pitted dates to a processor and process for a minute or two.  Add the walnuts and process again.  Add the fruit and spices and mix again.  Finally add the coconut and mix thoroughly. At this stage you could also add one of the following optional extras, stirring in by hand, rather than processing. I didn't - and just used the above ingredients.

Optional extras:
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 goji berries

Use a small cookie scoop to scoop the mixture into approximately 20 balls. If it is too sticky, add some more nuts or coconut. If it's too crumbly, add a little more puree.

The balls can be rolled in additional coconut or crushed walnuts.

Place in the refrigerator until chilled and a little firmer.  They will keep for a week, chilled.


The spicy flavors are what make these balls.  Spices are powerful foods and too often neglected in cooking.  When using spices, a combination tends to work better than an individual spice.



The health benefits of cinnamon include:

  • 1/2 teaspoon a day can lower LDL cholesterol
  • cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels and increases insulin production in the body
  • it has anti-fungal properties
  • it has anti-clotting effects on the blood
  • cinnamon added to food is a natural food preservative
  • just smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory
  • cinnamon is a natural remedy for headaches and migraines


The health benefits of cloves include:

  • cloves contain eugenol which has been seen to be effective in dentistry as a mild anesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent
  • eugenol is also anti-inflammatory and a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet
  • cloves are an excellent source of manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, and very high levels of anti-oxidants


The health benefits of nutmeg include:
  • can have a blood pressure lowering effect
  • can soothe an upset stomach and stop diarrhea
  • can be stimulating to the brain and improve mental function
Culinary spices are also important with cancer as they can inhibit the "master switch" for cancer genes. They do this by blocking a signaling molecule called NF-kappa beta. NF-kB makes cancer cells resistant to treatment or prompts them to behave in a more aggressive manner, so using spices to turn off this molecule can be powerful in cancer treatment.  

Pharmaceutical companies are in the process of developing drugs that are effective NFkB inhibitors, but nature has supplied us with spices that do the same thing.  So look in your spice cupboard and spice up your life.

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Quince time

Our quince tree has grown a lot this year and has many large quince on it.  Quince is not a fruit that you eat raw so I've been wondering what to do with all these fruit.  There must be at least a hundred quince on the tree!


In previous years I've used the few fruits we got in salads, an upside quince cake, making quince jelly etc.  When you search for quince recipes however, they all tend to involve large amounts of added sugar.  I wanted to avoid this. Also, quince are not easy to cut and prepare as they are very hard when raw.

So, I decided I would just peel them and then cook them in the simmering oven of my aga in water.


They came out beautifully. As they are so large, I could only cook 6 at a time, so did three batches today!  I guess that means I have about 6 days of cooking in total!


After cooking them, I then made them into quincesauce - which is really just like applesauce, but made with quince instead of apples!   I don't add any sweetener at all - and it really doesn't need it. Basically it is pureed cooked quince and delicious.  I love the fact that its not too sweet and can see myself using it in a lot of different dishes.


I used some to make a quince fool today and then made a big batch of quince granola - basically gluten free oats, puffed brown rice and quinoa flakes tossed in quince sauce and baked.

I think I will easily have enough quince sauce to last me the year, that is if I get around to cooking the rest of the quince! Wish me luck or maybe it's stamina I need!


Quince have high levels of fiber, are high in antioxidants and contain a lot of pectin.  They also help with digestion and relieve diarrhea and have been seen to have anti-viral effects.

Let me know if you'd like some.....
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New food of the week - Jujube dates

When I work with clients, one goal that I frequently give them when they are trying to make adjustments to their diet, is to try at least one new food a week.  There are so many foods available nowadays, so it's quite easy to try something new, whether that be a spice, or a fruit or vegetable at the farmers market or try a new non-dairy milk...It's a great goal to have and opens up your horizons, looking for new things rather than focusing on things you may be missing. It's OK to also choose something that you've only ever tried once too, and give it another go.



Generally each week, I practice what I preach! So I have decided that a regular blog post will be sharing with you the new foods that I try.

This week when I was in Whole Foods, I saw fresh Jujube dates on sale.  These are also known as Chinese dates. They were organic and grown from a farm a little further south than where I am.  I had heard of Jujubes before, but never seen one or eaten one, so I bought them.

There is a potent chemical in jujubes - Jujuboside A that affects the hippocampus in the brain and is often used as a natural sleep aid.  Jujubes are therefore used to treat both insomnia and anxiety.

Hmmm. I don't have insomnia nor anxiety....and having tried them,  I don't particularly like the taste.....so probably won't be buying them again!  They have a single small stone in the middle and taste a teeny little bit like an apple, but softer in texture than an apple.  I hesitate to suggest you try it, as it really doesn't do much for me.


One interesting fact however is that the smell of the flowers is believed to make teenagers fall in love!  Boys in the Himalayan regions take a stem of sweet smelling jujube flowers and put them on their hats to attract girls!  In China, the Jujube is often placed in the newlywed's bedroom as a good luck charm for fertility.  I think both of these are a better use than eating them! They don't taste bad, just not that nice either!

Have you ever had one? Maybe I should dry some and see if they improve??? Let's hope next week's new food works out better!
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Healing Trees

As I mentioned last week, I am participating in the Ceres Cancer Journey event this Sunday in Santa Rosa.

I will be in the resource room, and for some of the time, I will be doing a short cooking demo.

I will be making these little "healing trees", a recipe that I developed myself.


They are made with green tea, almonds, dates, ginger, and lemon. I'll post the recipe here next week after the demo.

The healing qualities of these bite-size morsels include:  the green tea has excellent anti-cancer  properties and is high in anti-oxidants;  the ginger and dates both help to settle the stomach and calm digestive issues;  the lemon is a great source of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals; and the almonds are a good source of easily digestible fiber, vitamins and minerals.

AND the cute shape of the trees lifts your spirits!



I hope if you are in the area that you will call by for the event and hear some wonderful speakers and experience nurturing, love and good food.

If you attend, do come and find me in the resource room.

Ceres Cancer Journey Event
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Making sultanas

We harvested our table grapes today from our arbor.  They are lovely sweet seedless grapes. Most of them I am going to dehydrate to make sultanas - or golden raisins as they are called here in the US. I still prefer to call them sultanas.


Of course, we don't use sulphur on ours as a preservative, like many store-bought golden raisins. Ours tend to come out a little darker in color than the ones we used to buy in England... I suspect it is because it is a different grape varietal.

But I use a lot of them....in baking, for snacking and daily on my unsweetened cereal or oatmeal.

On the dehydrating tray

The first three trays are in the dehydrator now. I still have loads more bunches to de-stem but that is enough for one day!  My hands still feel sticky from all that sweet juice, even after washing them a couple of times!

Sultanas are high in anti-oxidant levels and despite being high in sugar, they don't cause spikes in your blood sugar levels like refined sugar does, because they are a whole food, with plenty of fiber.  They also contain iron, calcium, protein and vitamin C.  A phytonutrient called oleanolic acid in sultanas helps promote good oral health by destroying the bacteria that cause cavities.

Just as you can use dates in baking and cooking to replace refined sugar, you can similarly use sultanas and raisins. Before using them, you should rehydrate them by soaking them in water for 10 - 15 minutes and then drinking them.

What did you harvest today?
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Add some color to your life - Chioggia beets

Look at this salad! Isn't it just a feast for the eyes with all these colors?



The prize ingredient is Chioggia beets.  I only heard about them recently so bought one to try in my salad.  You just eat it raw, thinly sliced and it puts a big smile on your face because it looks so happy there on the plate or in the bowl!


I remember being excited the first time I saw golden beets -but now, they seem positively boring compared to Chioggias!  The Chioggia beet came from an Italian coastal town called Chioggia (!), near Venice.  The beet has been around since the early 19th century and tastes a little sweeter than a red beet. 

As well as looking great, beets have lots of fiber, potassium, iron, folic acid and B vitamins.  The pigment that gives them their great color is called Betacyanin and is a powerful antioxidant.

Obviously, as well as slicing them raw in salads, you can sauté them with greens, roast them, pickle them, add them to soups etc etc, however the stripes fade a little with cooking.


They are going to be a regular in my colorful house from now on! Let me know if you try them.  Maybe I need to grow some....
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Food Facts

Add some cinnamon to your foods!


As little as 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder added to your morning oatmeal or cereal not only seems to reduce blood sugar levels, but appears to lower blood cholesterol levels too.  Some of cinnamon's helpful effects are due to polyphenol polymers in the spice that have an insulin like action.

Cinnamon is a warming spice and can also ease digestive problems.  Before you go to bed, try making a warm cinnamon almond milk drink to calm you down and help you sleep. And remember, cinnamon doesn't only have to be used for sweet dishes, try it on starchy foods too, like pumpkin, squash, and brown rice and in stews.

A. Khan et al., "Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People with Type 2 Diabetes", Diabetes Care 26 (2003): 3215-8

R.A Anderson et al. "Isolation and Characterization of Polyphenol Type-A Polymers from Cinnamon with Insulin-Like Biological Activity", Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52 (2004): 65- 70
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Health benefits of cilantro

We have so much cilantro growing and the plants are beginning to bolt so I cut a lot of it today and made a big bowl of pesto from it.

The good thing about cooking with cilantro is that the stems have the same taste as the leaves, so when you have a lot, you don't have to worry about pulling off all the leaves from the stems - just use the whole lot.


I made up my own pesto recipe, using walnuts, cilantro, olive oil, a little lemon juice and some water.

Gosh it tastes so vibrant. The way I eat it most is as a dip or spread for crackers.  When you make a large quantity as I have, you can freeze it in little muffin molds then pull one or two out as you need.

There are many so health benefits of cilantro, that it'll make you want to make some pesto too. Here they are:

  • powerful anti-inflammatory effects that may help symptoms of arthritis
  • protective against bacterial infection from salmonella in food products
  • increases HDL cholesterol and reduces LDL cholesterol
  • relief of stomach gas and a digestive aid
  • wards off urinary infections
  • helps reduce feelings of nausea
  • eases hormonal mood swings associated with menstruation and reduces cramping
  • good source of fiber for the digestive tract
  • gives relief from diarrhea
  • helps promote healthy liver function
  • reduces minor swelling
  • good antioxidant properties
  • disinfects and helps detoxify the body - especially good as a chelating agent to remove heavy metals, such as mercury
  • helps with insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar
  • acts as a natural antiseptic and anti fungal agent for skin disorders like fungal infections and eczema
  • boosts the immune system
  • acts as an expectorant
  • helps ease conjunctivitis, as well as eye-aging, macular degeneration and other stressors on the eyes
  • good source of minerals potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium
  • rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, beat carotene

Phew - after reading all that, I should be planting some more so the next batch is ready in a few weeks!

What's your favorite recipe for cilantro (or coriander as we call it in England)?
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The benefits of a smile

"Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day"


Did you have a big smile on your face today?  Here are some of the health benefits of smiling:
  • smiling makes us attractive - we are drawn to people who smile
  • smiling changes our mood
  • smiling is contagious
  • smiling relieves stress
  • smiling boosts your immune system
  • smiling lowers your blood pressure
  • smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin
  • smiling makes you look younger
  • smiling helps you stay positive
  • smiling lifts not only your spirits, but observers' spirits too
So if you didn't smile much today, make a point of smiling at a stranger tomorrow.
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Green Tea Benefits

After yesterday's post about hibiscus tea being higher in anti-oxidants than green tea, you may be left thinking you should make a switch from green to hibiscus tea....but before you throw out that green stuff, let's look at some of the other benefits, above and beyond anti-oxidant activity, that green tea has to offer.


Although coming in second place to hibiscus tea, green tea does still have a very high antioxidant value (see yesterday's table) and is also a detoxifier by activating enzymes in the liver that eliminate toxins from the body.

It is rich in polyphenols including catechins and particularly EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate-3).  EGCG is one of the most powerful nutritional molecules against the formation of new blood vessels by cancerous cells (angiogenesis) needed for tumour growth and metastases.   Green tea also facilitates the death of cancer cells (apoptosis) and has been seen to enhance the effects of radiotherapy on cancer cells.


Pretty impressive stuff heh?  And so many good clinical studies on it's effects.

Japanese green tea - called Matcha - has even higher levels of EGCG than chinese green tea, as matcha is ground up tea leaves rather than just steeping the leaves in water.



EGCG is not present in black tea as it is destroyed during the fermentation process required to make it.  However, decaffeinated green tea still contains all the good polyphenols that caffeinated green tea does, so its preferable to go with decaf.

After two or three cups of green tea a day, EGCG is plentiful in the blood and spreads throughout the body by means of our small capillary vessels.  These surround and feed every cell in the body.  EGCG settles on the surface of cells and blocks the "switches" or receptors on the cells, whose function it is to set off a signal that allows the penetration of neighboring tissue by foreign cells, such as cancer cells.  Once the receptors are blocked by EGCG, they no longer respond to the signal that cancer cells send to invade tissue and to make the new vessels needed for tumor growth.

Studies have shown green tea to substantially slow the growth of leukemia, and breast, prostate, kidney, skin and oral cancer.

It has been found that green tea has even greater effect when combined with other molecules commonly found in Asian diets, such as soy.


So hibiscus tea or green tea?  I don't see any reason to choose just one - why not just drink both?  Both have benefits and both taste very different from each other, so if you are in the mood for something fruity, try the hibiscus, otherwise, go green.

And don't limit yourself to just drinking your EGCG - you can add it to yoghurts, smoothies, ice cream, cakes, desserts - especially if you use the powdered Matcha.  Even Nestle have come out with a green tea KitKat bar in Japan!

How will you get your green tea?
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