Category Archives: Food

Food

Switching to a Plant Based Diet After 50

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Numerous empirical studies have established the advantages of eating a plant based diet over one that is heavy in meats and related saturated fats.  This is old news.  A “less meat, more plants” style of eating can definitely improve the quality of one’s life, and it is better for the planet.

I’ve been a part-time vegan, and full-time vegetarian for more than 40 years now, and I still hear people comment on my high energy levels, my  nice complexion and my abundant, full hair, which are all associated with eating in this way.  I often work from 12-14 hours a day, and still manage to cook whole meals, keep my house spotless, and go out dancing at night, when I feel like it.

In addition, vegetarianism is associated with higher levels of short-chain fatty acids in the gut.  Additional research suggests that it also lowers the risk of heart disease, inflammatory diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

Vegetarianism Over 50

Can changing your diet to a meat free or low meat diet after age 50 still make a difference?  Absolutely, it can, according to experts. “It’s never too early or too late to embrace a healthier lifestyle,” says a leading cardiologist. “The benefits come quickly and continue to accrue with time.”

In one study, women in that age group who ate a mostly plant diet were 34 percent more likely to be free of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and chronic diabetes, 15 years later than women whose diets included more meat.

According to a study in the medical journal, Neurology, a  Mediterranean-style diet,  which is based on legumes,  produce, grains, and healthful oils, such as olive oil, is connected with better cognitive brain health in older adults. Those who favored fruits and vegetables in their diets, and who ate only minimal amounts of lean meats and fish, if any at all,  had less brain shrinkage—linked with a reduced risk of cognitive decline—than those who ate meat on a regular basis. Eating no more than 3.5 ounces of meat daily may also help prevent the loss of brain cells equivalent to about three or four years of aging, researchers say.

How to Make the Switch

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The beef and dairy industries have been allowed to thrive at our expense. Coverups of toxic situations weren’t report it to the public because they didn’t want to scare them! It’s time to put that fear into action for the sake of our planet and the lives of our children. As long as people continue to buy their products, these industries have the power and resources to fight reforms and pump money into the schools with educational propaganda. Let’s help the next generation just say NO to meat!

Any step you take will help, but the more plants and fewer animal foods, the better. Try these easy tips to help you design a plant-based diet:

  1. Up your vegetable and fruit intake. 

Even if you decide that you can’t give up meat altogether, increasing the amount of produce that you consume will help you develop a taste for plants, and can help you transition to a higher fiber food intake.   Gradually adding veggies in unexpected places, such as sliced tomato or avocado on toast, can help.

2.  Resign your plate.

Try filling at least half of your plate with grains, fresh produce or beans, and downsize your meat serving.  When you do choose meats, choose those lean cuts that are healthier.  Think of a stir-fry heavy on the veggies and grains with thinly sliced strips of beef rather than a big steak with a spear of broccoli.   Swap in chopped mushrooms or tofu for half of the ground meat you’d normally use in meatloaf, tacos, chili, or pasta sauce. Or try veggie-based dishes like burritos.

  1. Find your semi-veg style.

Even when you don’t eat a vegetarian diet every day, eating plant based meals once each week is a great way to start.  You can replace meat ounce-for-ounce with one of the new faux meats, such as Quorn or Fieldroast brands.

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Vegetarianism for Pain Relief

Because of the anti-flammatory aspects of a plant-based diet, many people who suffer from chronic pain have discovered the benefits of cutting meat out of their diets. Inflammation is a pathological condition underlying a number of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Diet provides a variety of nutrients as well as non-nutritive bioactive constituents which modulate immunomodulatory and inflammatory processes. Epidemiological data suggest that dietary patterns strongly affect inflammatory processes. Primarily the intake of fruit and vegetables as well as of whole wheat is inversely associated with the risk of inflammation.

In addition to observational studies there are also data from human intervention studies suggesting an anti-inflammatory potential of these plant foods. At the level of bioactive compounds occurring in plant foods, primarily carotenoids and flavonoids seem to modulate inflammatory as well as immunological processes. In conclusion, there is convincing evidence that plant foods and non-nutritive constituents associated with these foods modulate immunological and inflammatory processes. By means of anti-inflammatory activities a plant-based diet may contribute to the lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. A high intake of vegetables, fruit, and whole wheat as recommended by all international nutrition authorities provides a wide spectrum of bioactive compounds at health-promoting concentrations.

Arrive as Friends – Leave as Famly – Casa Mia

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Casa Mia

The Detour coffee shop was a popular landmark at 3035 Division Street, but its owners decided to move on, and now we are graced with a fabulous new replacement, Casa Mia. This is the Italian restaurant the Richmond neighborhood has needed for a long time. It is quaint, cozy, and lacks the corporate vibe that so many of the new neighborhood restaurants have. What it lacks in the hip and cool area, it makes up for in its genuine charm,  pleasant atmosphere and friendly service.

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The interior has been completely revamped since the cramped days of the Detour in a pristine solid wood and black metal decor.  Fresh roses grace each table, sleek silver mirrors reflect the soothing pale gray interior, framed, Italian-themed posters add to the decor, all tempered by the rustic cement floor.   The place looks nice!

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Chef Benito Omana, originally from the Mexico City area, loves Italian food. His humble restauranteur beginnings were that of a dishwasher who keenly observed the chefs in the restaurants where he worked, learning bit-by-bit as he observed, and who gradually worked his way up through the ranks by demonstrating his own talent as a chef. In 1992, he began cooking at popular Portland restaurants, such as Pazzo, Piazza Italia, Southpark, Wildwood, El Gaucho and ElGuero.  In 2014, Benito opened Bellino Pasta & Cafe in Hillsboro, but he lives here in my neighborhood, and when the opportunity arose to open Casa Mia, he jumped on it.

I stopped by for lunch and immediately felt a little wary, because no one else was there. I was further dismayed to note that there were few, if any, vegetarian entrees on the menu.  However, when I expressed this to Benito, he told me he could whip something up off menu, the sign of a truly good restaurant, if you ask me……and he did!  He said that he plans to add more vegetarian options at some point.

I was first greeted by a plate of delicious house made foccacia bread with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I was starving, so this tasted really good.  I was half way through my first piece when my husband, John, decided to stroll over and meet me. He polished off the rest with great enthusiasm.

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Benito served us a moderately priced Italian wine made from  Nebbiolo, Nascetta, Eau-de-Vie, Pelaverga, and Dolcetto grapes, which went perfectly with our entrees.

Benio whipped up a delicious penne dish for me that had outstanding fresh tomatoes, lots of garlic, basil and some of the best parm I have ever eaten.  It was simple, and quite delicious.  I loved the fact that it was served at a very hot temperature, too.  Great mouthfeel.  Teriffic flavor that made me smile.

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John had the fresh minnestroni, right off the stove.  Every ingredient was fresh and delicious, and it went beautifully with the wine and bread.

We had cappuccinos and some of the best tiramisu we had ever eaten for dessert.  We’re talking some serious dessert here, folks. It was out of this world delicious!

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The entire meal cost less than $30, and we made a new friend in Benito, so I’d say we made out pretty well.  Wouldn’t you?

Because of its location along Division street, and the manner in which it is set back from the street, Casa Mia is easy to miss….which is why  I am writing this blog article to urge people in the Clinton-Division-Richmond neighborhood to stop by and check it out.  Benito has big plans for weekend brunch, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long.  This is a call to action to stop in and introduce yourself to the chef and delight in the wonderful food that John and I experienced at Casa Mia!

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Casa Mia – Affordable fine dining in a quaint, friendly atmosphere.

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Boutonniere Inspirations for a Wedding

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Long ago and far away, I worked as a freelance wedding planner.  My specialty was economical weddings in dramatic settings, such as beach weddings, foreign destination weddings and weddings in authentic Texas locations.  I once planned an elegant wedding in an old Austin Texas  barn, attended by some famous C&W musicians.   As they invited me to participate in the wedding celebration, we all had the times of our lives. The juxtaposition of elegant finery contrasted with the rustic elements provided by the barn was just perfect, and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts.

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As part of my promo literature at the time, I gave tips about wedding attire, honeymoon accommodations and other useful things.  What follows is some advice I had for boutonniere inspirations.:

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Nothing can quite add the panache to a groom’s wedding attire  like the classic style embodied his boutonniere. This traditional symbol worn on the lapel of the groom’s jacket is a gesture brimming with meaning that reaches  far beyond the flower itself. Boutonnieres symbolize beauty. They symbolize the fragility of life, and love undefined all captured in a single blossom.

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Classic Wedding

A classic wedding calls for a classic symbol. A single red rose boutonniere with, perhaps, a tiny spray of baby’s breath embodies all of the characteristics any bride could wish for in a groom. The red rose symbolizes courage, sincere love, respect and a hearty congratulations to the happy couple. The baby’s breath symbolizes everlasting and undying love.

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Beach Wedding

Keeping things natural at a beach wedding is the way to go. Tiny white lily boutonnieres trimmed with raffia and miniature seashells can add a nice touch, or for something more ornate,  earthy boutonnieres with lavender, green blueberries, wax flowers and rosemary can add a subtle, yet beautiful touch the blends right in with a stunning ocean environment.

Western Style Wedding

A sunset wedding on the ranch, or at the beach, calls for shades of yellow with a boutonniere made from dusty miller, billy balls and handmade wooden button flowers tied with twine. This is a winning combination that can dress up any groom’s lapel without going over the top.

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Castle or Mansion Wedding

Any  groom can  look like a prince in a beautiful purple boutonniere made of royal ranunculus buds and rose hips that are wrapped with white or purple velvet ribbon.

High Desert Wedding

Ranunculus and rice flowers in soft desert pinks, corals and yellows are a perfect combination for a high desert wedding boutonniere. An alternative choice is silvery brunia and tiny, mint green succulents wrapped in a pale pastel ribbon.

Elegant Cocktail Lounge Wedding

Imagine the beauty of an elegant cocktail lounge wedding atop a skyscraper overlooking the glittering lights of the city. What better boutonniere could adorn the groom’s lapel than one inspired by the fresh ingredients and herbs found in the fine spirits that are served there. An aromatic boutonniere made from cinnamon sticks, Douglas fir, hops, bay laurel, grains, juniper and rosemary will be the highlight of the groom’s suit.

Hawaiian Wedding

Hawaii is one of the most popular destination wedding locations in the world. The groom will fit right in with a simple orchid boutonniere, or, for a little more flare, a boutonniere made of astrantias and jasmine blooms against a background of local foliage.

Remember, a successful wedding celebration is all about the details.  The marriage?  That’s all about the couple.

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Do I Stick it in the Fridge?

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Some foods need to be refrigerated.  Others don’t.  This is a list of  foods that do not need to be chilled.

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1. Bananas – Storing bananas in the refrigerator can actually disrupt their ripening process.  Once refrigerated, a banana may never be able to resume the ripening process even if returned to room temperature.

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2. Yams and Sweet Potatoes – When exposed to cold temperatures, starches found in potatoes will turn to sugar, disrupting their flavor and texture. If you prefer tasteless potatoes that cause weight gain, however, please refrigerate.

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3. Tomatoes – Have you ever tasted a really amazing tomato right out of the fridge?  Nope, Me neither.  Tomatoes LOSE their flavor and become mushy when refrigerated.

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4. Apples -Apples  lose their texture and flavor when refrigerated.  If you want a cold apple, just stick it in the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to eat it.  Otherwise, store them at room temperature.

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5. Onions – If you love soggy onions while also causing the rest of your food to taste and smell like onions, then you’ll definitely want to refrigerate your onions immediately.  Otherwise, try storing them in a paper bag (within a cool, dark cabinet) for maximum shelf-life.  And by the way, did you know that storing onions with potatoes will cause the potatoes to ripen too quickly and to spoil sooner?  The onions give off a gas that causes this, so be sure to separate them for storage, m’k?

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6.  Avocados – Much like the banana, refrigeration shuts down an avocado’s ripening enzymes.  If you want guacamole next month, this may be OK, but if you’re like me, you probably want guacamole today.

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7. Coffee – Contrary to popular belief, coffee is best stored at room temperature to allow the natural oils within the coffee beans to activate its pungent aromatic scent. Refrigeration can actually cause coffee to absorb odors from other foods in your fridge.

Speaking of coffee…I haven’t had mine yet this morning, so off I go.  Have a happy day everyone!

Moroccan Carrot Salad

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One of my favorite types of meatless “meats” is that manufactured by Gardien.    Last night, I tried this Moroccan Carrot Salad and it was absolutely divine.  Served it with Gardien chicken.    The recipe is from Tal Ronen from Crossroads Restaurant in LA.

Crossroads offers diners Mediterranean-themed small dishes, salads, farm-to-glass cocktails, and desserts in a fine-dining dinner style that encourages exploration. With its stylish atmosphere and refreshing sensibility, Crossroads isn’t just a leap forward in refined plant-based cuisine — it’s one of the most innovative culinary destinations in Los Angeles. It’s a decadent and indulgent dining experience approached in a conscious and cohesive manner.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

  • 1 1/2 lbssmall rainbow carrots (about 24), tops trimmed
  • 1/4 cupmicro greens
  • 1/4 cuprosemary-fried almonds (recipe follows) or toasted Marcona almonds, smashed
  • flaked sea salt

marinade

  • 8dried red chilies, such as guajillo, stems removed
  • 1/2 cupred wine vinegar
  • 3garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tspground cumin
  • 1/2 tspkosher salt
  • 1/2 tspblack pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tspred pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cupextra-virgin olive oil

rosemary-fried almonds

  • 1 cupexpeller-pressed canola oil
  • 1 large sprigfresh rosemary, leaves stripped from stem and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cupswhole Marcona almonds
  • 1 tspkosher salt

preparation

1. To prepare the carrots: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding a tray of ice cubes.

2. Blanch the carrots in the boiling water until tender when pierced with a knife, about 3 minutes. Drain the carrots and plunge into the ice bath to shock them—i.e., stop the cooking and cool them quickly; this procedure also locks in the carrots’ bright color.

3. Drain the carrots again. You want them to be relatively uniform in size, so if any of them are large, cut them lengthwise in half.

4. To prepare the marinade: Put a small dry skillet over low heat, add the chilies, and toast for 1 or 2 minutes; shake the pan so they don’t scorch. Break up the chilies and put them in a food processor. Pulse the chilies to a coarse powder; you should have about ½ cup.

5. Put the chili powder in a mixing bowl, add the vinegar, garlic, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, and whisk until blended. While whisking, slowly pour in the oil in a stream until emulsified.

6. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl and pour in the chili mixture, tossing to coat. Marinate for 1 to 2 hours, tossing periodically. 7. To serve: Crisscross the carrots on a platter. Scatter the micro greens and almonds on top and season with flaked sea salt.

To Make the Almonds:
1. Put a cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil, add the rosemary, and stir to infuse the flavor into the oil. Heat the oil to around 300°F. (You don’t need a thermometer for this: Drop an almond into the oil. When it sinks a bit, then floats right back to the top and starts sizzling, the oil is hot enough.) Once the oil is ready to go, add half of the almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and toasted, 10 to 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the almonds from the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle them with the salt while they are hot. Repeat with the remaining almonds. Use to top the marinated olives or serve as a snack.

Want to Up those Seratonin Levels?

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Want to Up those Seratonin Levels?

Do you suffer from depression?  Dr. Michael Greger teaches us the scientific reasoning behind why eating an animal-protein diet may exacerbate the problem.

Tryptophan is one amino among many found in proteins, and they compete with one another for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. And since tryptophan is present in most animal proteins in relatively small quantities, it gets muscled out of the way. If you eat plant foods, though, the carbohydrates cause a release of insulin, which causes your muscles to take up the nontryptophan amino acids as fuel, and so your tryptophan can be first in line for brain access.

Animal foods can even make things worse: “When tryptophan is ingested as part of a protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise, but brain tryptophan levels decline due to the mechanism of transport used by tryptophan to cross the blood–brain barrier.”

The tryptophan levels in those given a high protein turkey, egg, and cheese breakfast dropped whereas in the waffle-OJ group, their trytrophan levels went up.

This may actually explain the carbohydrate cravings one sees in PMS—your brain may be trying to get you to boost tryptophan levels to feel better. “Consumption of a carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor evening test meals during the premenstrual period improved depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness, and calmness scores—significantly–among patients with premenstrual syndrome.”

“Because synthesis of brain serotonin, which is known to be involved in mood and appetite, increases after carbohydrate intake, premenstrual syndrome subjects may overconsume carbohydrates in an attempt to improve their dysphoric mood state.”

 

An Outstanding Vegan Cauliflower Soup Recipe

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Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 4.59.57 PMThis is one of the best vegan cauliflower soup recipes I have ever tried.  It is very light and low-cal.  If you want to add a potato or two, it will make the soup thicker and creamier, but it is fine without them.

Vegan Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Prep time
15 mins
Cook time
40 mins
Total time
55 mins
Recipe type: dinner, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian
Cuisine: savory, soup
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbl Earth Balance or other vegan oil spread
  • 2 cloves fresh, organic garlic, minced
  • 1 medium organic onion, diced  (I use Walla-Wallas or Videlia’s)
  • 2 stalks of organic celery, diced
  • 1 head of organic cauliflower, chopped
  • 4 cups of vegan chick’n broth, vegetable broth or mushroom broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbl fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 slices veggie bacon
  • ½ cup unsweetened, original almond milk
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
  1. In a large stockpot, heat butter over medium heat. Add your garlic and onions and sauté until they’re translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in your celery and cauliflower and coat with the butter mix, stirring for about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add in your broth, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme, bring to a boil. Reduce heat down and let simmer over medium low heat until your cauliflower is very tender for about 15-20 minutes. In the meantime prepare your tempeh bacon.
  4. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add in your tempeh bacon and cook until crispy for about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Once all your ingredients are tender, remove your bay leaf and discard, and either wait until your soup cools and transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until your soup is at your desired consistency, or use an immersion blender (aka handheld blender), blend until your soup is to your desired consistency.  Chunky is good, if you ask me.
  6. Add in your almond and coconut milk and whisk until thickened, about 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Top with your veggie  bacon, and enjoy!

Naan and Kabob, ETC, Reno

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Naan and Kabob, ETC, Reno

Located at 2740 South Virginia St in Reno, Naan & Kabob, etc. came highly recommended by my best friend.  I don’t think we would have tried it, if not for the recommendation, but both of us were happy that we did.  The chef, Maurice Afraimi, was a colorful character who strolled from table to table telling tales of being the former neighbor of Steve Jobs in Palo Alto, and about how he prepares his delicious cuisine.   When he stopped at our table, he told us about his former restaurant, Bourbon Street, that was for many years, located in Palo Alto, California.  After we tried his delicious food, we begged him to open another in Portland.  He said he would consider it.

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Chef Maurice Afraimi

The prices were low and the food was outstanding.  Chef Maurice accommodated our vegetarian preferences perfectly!  We started off with pita bread and a freshly made red sauce, which is presented to each table with the chef’s compliments.  Additionally, we ordered the Tzatziki, which is a delicious blend of yoghurt, lemon juice, dill and garlic.  I serve this dish at home a lot, and is one of my favorite summertime snacks.  It was cool and refreshing served with cucumber slices and Kalamata olives.

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For my entree, I had Maurice’s Vegetable Pasta Barcelona, which was a dish consisting of penne pasta tossed gently in a creamy saffron/garlic sauce with delicious fire roasted vegetables.  It was garnished with mild, crunchy, raw onions and chopped parsley, which  gave it that certain je ne sais quoi.  This dish was delightful.

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I felt it fitting to include a glass of Greek wine with my meal, and enjoyed a glass of light, dry Boutari Moschofilero for the first time.  It was the perfect compliment to the pasta.

John was not feeling as adventurous as I, so he ordered the very safe and typical vegetable combination of falafel, dolmads, tahini and hummus.  It seems like he always orders the same thing, when we go to Greek restaurants.  sigh….but he did comment that this particular food was delicious.

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We split a baklava, which was atypical to most baklava, as you can see in the picture.  This pastry was huge and absolutely wonderful!  It was filled with pistachios and honey in a light, flaky crust….but it looked more like an egg role than a piece of baklava!  Who’s complaining, though?  We loved it!

The chef gave us cards that we can redeem the next time we’re in Reno, for yet another dessert.  Both of us really enjoyed this little restaurant with its quaint atmosphere and friendly service.  We shall definitely return!  Thanks to my sweetheart friend for the recommendation!

Day #7-Forgotten

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Salicornia Maritima – Something New for Dinner

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Salicornia Maritima – Something New for Dinner

I had seen salicornia maritima, AKA “sea beans” growing alongside the Pacific for years, but never bothered to investigate it.  Then, last Tuesday, when the organic produce delivery came, I reached inside and pulled out a small paper bag filled with it.  Sea beans.  They smell fishy….not all that great….but when I tasted one, it wasn’t bad at all.  Had sort of a lemony taste…very salty…and I figured that if I still ate fish, I probably would have served them up with salmon.  They are dark green, and I thought that since they were in my produce delivery, they had to be good for me…so I looked ’em up online.  It seems they are high in iron and super nutritious.

I learned that they are usually steamed or boiled.  I sauteed them with some tiny shiitake mushrooms in lemon juice and olive oil. Added some freshly cracked pepper and pink Himalayan sea salt and that was it. If I had it to do over, I would not have salted them…but I only added a dash,so it was ok.  Delicious!

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I served them up with some vegetarian chick’n a l’orange and a nice helping of creamy polenta with chopped spinach and diced carrots.  Paired the meal with a nice glass of Malbec and really enjoyed it.  So.  There it is.  Something new for dinner.

Day #20 – Equal

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Place Your Bets….

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Place Your Bets….

I’m not a gambler….but if you are, and would like to place a wager on the Kentucky Derby, this is a venue online where you can not only watch the race.  You can also place your bets!   (Am posting this for a friend who just won $7,000 on a $2.00 bet.)

CLICK HERE!

Nepal

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Click HERE to learn how to offer relief effort to the victims of the earthquake in Nepal.

(Thank you, Karma Hallmark)  xoxo

The Dessert Bullet – Singing its Praises Highly

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The Dessert Bullet – Singing its Praises Highly

I have to write about the Nitribullet Dessert Bullet….simply because it is one of the best ways I know to make a delicious dessert in no time flat, without the fat and processed sugars found in other desserts.    Ok….It does require a little preparation ahead of time, but my freezer is chock full of organic fruits…bananas, berries, stone fruit, et al…anyway, so I don’t really think about what comes first.  For me, it is already there.

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I love this machine.  It is easy to assemble and the results are fantastic every time.  All you do is put it together, add the fruit, turn it on and watch as a delicious ice-cream-like dessert comes out the other end.  Granted, you can do the same thing with a blender, but the texture is different.  I’ve been blending bananas and a little water forever, to make “ice cream”…but trust me when I say that this Dessert Bullet produces superior results.

 

Pinterest has a plethora of Dessert Bullet recipes.  Click HERE to find the ones you want to try.

The following video is a demonstration of the Dessert Bullet.  It is very cool!

Also, if you are worried about fructose and the nutritional content of fruit, please check out THIS  information  found on the website of my fitness guru, Dr. Michael Greger.

 

Orange Aromatherapy for Anxiety

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The following article is by my nutrition guru, Dr. Michael Greger.  Each year, this Cornell medical physician conducts a search of empirical medical literature and publishes all the new findings on his website at http://www.nutritionfacts.org.  Viewers can search the site by topic.  He has  plethora of scientifically substantiated information about nutrition.  It is the most comprehensive website of its kind on the Internet.  The man knows of what he speaks!  Have questions?  Take them to Nutrition Facts dot Org!

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Aromatherapy — the use of concentrated essential oils extracted from plants to treat disease — is commonly used to treat anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent class of psychiatric disorders in the general population. However, their treatment is challenging, because the drugs used for the relief of anxiety symptoms can have serious side effects.

Thankfully, credible studies that examine the effect of essential oils on anxiety symptoms are gradually starting to appear in the medical literature. However, in most of these studies, exposure to the essential oil odor was accompanied by massage. This makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about the effect of the aroma itself.

A typical example includes this study where patients in the intensive care unit the day after open-heart surgery got foot massages with orange-scented oil. Why not back massages? Because they just had their chests cracked open so they have huge sternotomy wounds. Patients showed a significant psychological benefit from the aromatherapy massage.

But how do we know the essential oil had anything to do with it? Maybe it was just the massage. If that’s the case, then great—let’s give people massages! I’m all for more ICU foot rubs. “There is considerable evidence from randomized trials that massage alone reduces anxiety, so if massage is effective, then aromatherapy plus massage is also effective.” One study where cancer patients got massaged during chemo and radiation even found that the massage without the fragrance may be better. The researchers thought it might be a negative Pavlovian response: the patient smells the citrus and their body thinks, “Oh no, not another cancer treatment!”

More recently the ambient odor of orange was tested in a dental office to see if it reduces anxiety and improves mood. Ambient odor of orange was diffused in the waiting room and appeared to have a relaxant effect—less anxiety, better mood, and more calmness—compared to a control group where there was no odor in the air. No odor, that is, except for the nasty dentist office smell. Maybe the orange scent was just masking the unpleasant odors. Maybe it had nothing to do with any orange-specific molecules. More research was necessary.

So in another study, highlighted in my video, Orange Aromatherapy for Anxiety, researchers exposed some graduate students to an anxiety-producing situation and tested the scent of orange, versus a non-orange aroma, versus no scent at all. The orange did appear to have an anxiety-reducing effect. Interestingly, the observed anxiety-reducing effects were not followed by physical or mental sedation. On the contrary, at the highest dose, the orange oil made the volunteers feel more energetic. So orange aromatherapy may potentially reduce anxiety without the downer effect of Valium-type drugs. Does that mean we can get the benefits without the side effects? I’ve talked about the concerns of using scented consumer products before, even ones based on natural fragrances (Throw Household Products Off the Scent), and there have been reports of adverse effects of aromatherapy.

Alternative medicine isn’t necessary risk-free. For example, there are dozens of reported cases of people having their hearts ruptured by acupuncture. Ouch.

But the adverse effects of aromatherapy were mostly from skin irritation from essential oils being applied topically, or even worse swallowed. Certain citrus oils can also make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

Lavender may also help for both anxiety (Lavender for Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and migraines (Lavender for Migraine Headaches).

Bow Ties for Dogs??!! (Straight out of Portlandia)

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Bow Ties for Dogs??!!  (Straight out of Portlandia)

I have written about the food cart “pod” that is a couple of blocks from our house.  It is an amazing gathering of carts that serve gourmet quality international food selections on the cheap.  We love it, both for the food and the low prices, as well as for the diversity of the crowd that gathers there.  In addition to the food carts, there are also a couple of cool shops, one in a double decker bus.

My daughter, Sarah, her daughter, Ingrid, and I took a stroll there over the weekend just to see what was going on.  They usually have music on the weekends and sometimes jugglers or acrobats or other types of free entertainment that Ingrid loves.  This week, we met a nice guy named Josh who had his sewing machine set up at a little table and was making bow ties for dogs.  Said he makes enough to support himself, which you have to admit, is very cool.

See?  This is what I love about Portland.  When people are broke, they don’t just sit around and complain about the economy.  They invent ways to make money.  This is my own way of thinking.    Here is a little video that I shot of Josh.  You’ll probably get a kick out of it.  Looks like a scenario straight out of Portlandia: