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Try these Hot Cinnamon Rolls for the Holidays

These super fast home-baked organic cinnamon rolls are from Costco. When you and your friends/family are together for the holidays, this is one of the comfort foods. On top of being organic, they are also vegan/plant-based.

Prior to baking it in my toaster oven, I did not space the rolls out like it recommended on the label. Makes for a prettier presentation with the rolls touching side by side. In the box, there are 3 individual containers containing 5 rolls per container. Fifteen cinnamon rolls did not last long at our house. Label does say potential milk contamination. So many labels say this for (maybe) liability reasons. But if you have a serious allergy or intolerance, better not risk it as cross contamination is a real thing.

For the purist, this is a cheat. But a good cheat nonetheless. Not the healthiest but not the worst. Who has time to make this from scratch? Your time is better spend relaxing and enjoying your family and friends.

I love Costco and the affordable organic options they have. My biggest concern with Costco is the packaging overkill. The double packaging leads to excess garbage. I sent Costco an email about my concerns. If you agree with me, please take the time to send them an email too. Hope they take heed especially if many of us write in.

Finding the Perfect Gift

A Holiday Inspiration: Expanding Your Happiness

What is a gift? A gift can be a natural talent, an emotion like joy, an object or a service. By discovering your own gifts you are better able to give a gift to another. I was inspired to write this because of the holiday season and at the same time listening to Oprah and Deepak Expanding Your Happiness 21-day Meditation experience (I am a huge fan of of those two).

This meditation series introduces Oprah’s prayer. It is like a mantra to get her into her Flow Zone. This is what she said to herself prior to each one of her shows. “Use me God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself. How can I be of service? ”

Wow, that is powerful. Oprah’s mantra, along with mindfulness, has helped me find my gifts.

But what if you are stuck and can’t seem to be able to discover your gifts? They could be hidden behind all the mind chatter. You need to go to a deeper level of consciousness to discover them. Meditation, even 10-20 minutes everyday is a start to help you get rid of the useless chatter in your head that fogs up your concentration. Many great minds meditate for 2 hours or more every day! This training provides a background for your mind to be receptive to inspiration and knowing.

Your purpose and gift(s) will be something that flows so easily for you and it will feel grounded. It resonates within you and the universe. It will feel uplifting and a sense of belonging (to your authentic self). Hopefully, purpose won’t feel like work but bring you joy whenever you engage in it.

Of course, you can have more than one purpose. Or it can evolve over time. Gandhi’s method of finding purpose or gift is: the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. That is the secret to expanding your happiness. Give from your heart. 

When you are serving others, on the soul level, you are really giving yourself the perfect gift.

Whether you give service or something tangible, feel joyful when you give and bless the person to whom you give. Through out this coming new year, be conscious of opportunities to bringing joy to those you love and care about. Sometimes, you will get an aha moment and know that that will be “the gift to give”. Joy is always the perfect gift.

In this same meditation series, Deepak talks about Karma Yoga. The Karma path is whenever  you give in the spirit of freeing someone else from “care and want” and while at the same time your action brings you bliss. When choosing a gift let your ego go. It’s not about you but the recipient. Ask yourself, what would bring them joy?

Remember your soul expands when you help others. The joy of helping others is its own reward. Here are some examples gifts that bring joy: shoveling your neighbors walkway, picking up their newspaper or mail when they are away, baking them some goodies, walking their dog, offering help to an older person with groceries or taking them on an outing or doctor’s office or walking with them, giving a meal to a panhandler who you know who can’t find a job because no one will hire them, pay for the pizza lunch ordered by the guy beside you who is wearing his custodian uniform and likely is making minimum wage, volunteer at a local organization that you believe in, give a great big smile, and a tiny flower, etc (future blog on the “etc” part coming soon).

This holiday and throughout the year, always give in the spirit of bringing joy to someone else. The joy is the perfect gift. Make this the purpose of all your gifts. It does not have to be tangible.

As the recipient of any gift, never look disappointed. Always be grateful and appreciative no matter what. Someone thought about you. That’s the REAL gift. Remember it is the thought that counts. For those people who make the disappointed face, it is telling of their soul.

Deepak’s advice: Go beyond your ego and experience Unity consciousness where you perceive no division between you and anything you perceive.

My advice: finding the perfect gift starts with finding yourself.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

The above photo is from our office’s Charlie Brown Holiday Tree. Inside the pyramidal boxes are Rishi Organic Valerian Dream tea bags. The gift of sleep. That is powerful too 🙂

Olive Oil Secrets

World’s oldest Olive trees are found in Greece with estimated age between 2000-3000 years old. Drought tolerance, disease and fire resistance has contributed to their longevity.

We toured the The Governor Olive Mill on Corfu, Greece.  This particular farm grew the olive variety Lianolia, native to Corfu. It has the reputation of producing an exceptional quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with unusually rich content of beneficial polyphenols. Harvesting begins in early October, usually within a 3-week window, and the pressing of the olives must been under 24 hours. A fast harvest and processing time is needed to preserve the nutrients. Green olives have more beneficial compounds than the more ripe black ones.

During our tour, we learned 4 important facts about olive oil.

The beneficial olive oil compounds are destroyed by Heat, Oxygen and Light. Hence quality olive oil must be made by Cold press (versus chemical extraction and warmer temperatures). Extra virgin is defined by lower Fatty Free Acid (FFA)) content. The better Olive oils have a low acidity. . EVOO should have acidity of < 0.8% acid (Less than 2% is called virgin, 2% to 3% acid content is called “pure”). The highest quality oils have < 0.3% and this fact should listed on the container. As olive oil begins to degrade, the FFA content increases. To reduce the exposure to oxygen, the milling should to happen quickly ie < 24 hours. Finally the bottle or cantainer must be completely opaque. You should not be able to see the oil at all, meaning zero light exposure. Those dark glass bottles would not be good enough, if you are a purist.

Olive oil should not be used for cooking as heat destroys the health benefits. Also olive oil has moderate smoke point of 350 F degrees. This means Olive oil will start to create smoke at around 350 F (range 325-374 depending on the quality of the oil). When an oil started to create smoke, carcinogens start to form. I recommend if you have to fry with olive oil, do it at low heat, quickly and use a cheaper brand because you are losing the healthful nutrients anyway. Hence, heating olive oil means you are just using it for flavoring and not the health benefits.

Best to consume olive oil raw, uncooked such as in salad or with bread or directly in a spoon like a medicine. If you do the latter you need to remove from your diet some saturated fats or carbohydrate calories to remain calories neutral ( 1 tbsp EVOO = 120 cal). Also once the container of EVOO has been open, best to consume it within 30-60 days. With exposure to oxygen, EVOO starts to degrade.

A good EVOO should have a fruity smell (not rancid). It should taste slightly spicy, bitter and fruity. It creates a tingle in your mouth and throat as you swallow it.

When purchasing high quality Extra Virgin olive oil look for certifications of California Olive Oil Council (COOC) or North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA). Much better if it is organic and the acidity is listed on the container. Make sure your container is opaque such as in a can or a non see through glass bottle. In my local groceries stores, I could not find any with EVOO in opaque containers. Trader Joe’s had an organic Tunisian Olive Oil no the acidity is listed but there is a date. That date says expiration is 2 years form canning. Not sure if canning happened here in USA or Tunisia. EVOO should be consumed within 12- 18 months of harvest. So I cannot vouch for the quality of TJ’s EVOO but I will email TJ and ask what their date means and update you when I find out. The Governor EVOO is rather pricey in the USA but there are high quality EVOO from California. I will be ordering those once my supply from Greece runs out.

Now that you know what to look for in a top notch Olive Oil, here is a list of the health claims from from the The Governor Olive Oil Mill, specifically for their EVOO. We were told that they alone can make these claims because it was their oil that was used in several medical studies. On the tour, the owner showed us a binder full of medical studies where they supplied the oil.

The Governor EVOO, “Our premium olive oil has been subjected to exacting scientific testing, and has been found to contain extraordinarily high levels of polyphenols, with a rare concentration of Oleocanthal. These compounds are at the heart of our extra virgin olive oil’s benefits”.

The Governor extra virgin olive oil has been awarded a prestigious health claim report from 3 universities: The National Kapodistrian University of Athens, in cooperation with UC Davis Olive Centre; Hunter College, in cooperation with the University of New York; and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Health benefits of EVOO based of daily intake of 20 gr (1.46 tbsp) of Olive oil containing >5mg of Hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol or its derivatives:

Biological Properties of Oleocanthal:

Action against Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, inhibition of the cycloxygenase enzyme COX-1 and COX-2 , anti-cancer activity, prevents skin aging, antibacterial action. Researchers estimate that the amount of oleocanthal in 50 ml (about 3.4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil exerts effects similar to 10% of the adult ibuprofen dosage for pain relief.

Biological preterites of Oleacin:

Antioxidantive action, anti-ageing action, anti-Inflammatory action

Biological properties of aldehydic form of oleuropein aglycon has protective effects against Diabetes

Oleic acid, the most prominent fatty acid in olive oil, has been found to reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, and beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer (30).


Keep in mind that chronic, low-level inflammation is usually fairly mild, and it takes years or decades for it to do damage.

EVOO protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms (16):

  • Reducing inflammation: Olive oil protects against inflammation, a key driver of heart disease
  • Reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol: The oil protects LDL particles from oxidative damage, a key factor in the development of heart disease
  • Improves blood vessel health: Olive oil improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels
  • Helps manage blood clotting: Some studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent unwanted blood clotting, a key feature of heart attacks and strokes
  • lowers blood pressure: One study in patients with elevated blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and lowered the need for blood pressure medication by 48% (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29141571)

These benefits mirror the Mediterranean diet which is low in saturated fats and high in olive oil (mono-unsaturated fats)

With very low acidity (0.17%) – The Governor EVOO, Total phenolic compounds: 1.427 mg/Kg (Harvest 2018) – (CERTIFICATE OF ANALYSIS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST)

One tablespoon (13.5 grams) of olive oil contains the following:

  • Saturated fat: 14%
  • Monounsaturated fat: 73% (mostly oleic acid)
  • Vitamin E: 13% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin K: 7% of the DV

Given the biological effects of olive oil, it’s not surprising that people who consume the greatest amounts of it are significantly less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes.

In fact, the evidence is strong enough to recommend that people who have or are at a high risk of developing heart disease include plenty of extra virgin olive oil in their diets ( remember when you add calories to remove (esp the unhealthy ones) calories eslewhere) in your diet or you will gain weight.

Let every bite of food help you heal.

References: http://thegovernor.gr

http://thegovernor.gr/images/pdf/pharmacological-and-biological-properties.pdf

Fabulous Greece

Our summer trip to Greece was fabulous. We saw the country from the comfort of a 7 day Princess Mediterranean and Aegean cruise ( I know purists will criticize a cruise is not really visiting Greece. But it is what it is). We started in Rome and ended in Athens. The ship was clean and beautifully new and up to date. The variety of delicious plant based foods was sufficient to satisfy my vegan appetite. Every restaurant, the service was top notch and did their best to accommodate my dietary needs. Kudos to Princess.

Our first stop was Salerno (close to Naples), Italy. We took a private tour of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius and Naples. For 4 people, this was more economical than a group tour plus we got to see much more.

Next port was Kotor, Montenegro. In the morning, we kayaked, swam at the beach and biked back into town for lunch. Then we walked around the impressive ancient walled city of Kotor.

The next port of call was Corfu. Here we toured an Olive farm. This tour is worthy of its own blog (next month in November).

Then off to Crete where we snorkeled. It was refreshing but no comparison to Great Barrier, Belize or Hawaii. Nothing to see except a few small fish. The city of Chania was worth wandering around.

Then to island of Mykonos. Too much to do on your own for one day, so we took another tour that included the highlights of the town’s maze of blue and white buildings and across the water to the ancient ruins of Delos. Out tour guide told us some trivia that is too “cool” to forget. She said the building were painted white with lime, which is alkaline, hence making the buildings antimicrobial. This apparently helped to reduce the spread of the Plague. In addition, the white color reflects light to help keep homes cooler during hot summers. The Loulaki blue roofs because that color is abundant and inexpensive. The town was purposely built like a maze, so it allowed easy escapes for the locals from invading pirates. Invaders would get lost in the maze of all white. I can vouch for the latter!

Final destination was fabulous Athens. Friends had advised not to stay too long in Athens because of congestion, heat, and pollution. Due to time constraints and this advice, we only stayed in Athens for 2 nights but could have easily enjoyed a few more days .

We arrived in Athens in the early morning. Luckily we were able to check into our Airbnb early too. It was perfectly located on a side street off the main pedestrian walk way, Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. From there we could walk to plenty of cafes that were conducive to people watching. It is a very walkable city. Close by was a lively night market. The night view of the acropolis was spectacular.

Athens Night Market

I was impressed by how the Greeks we met were so easy going: life is to be enjoyed and worries pushed aside.

On our first day we took a Segway tour of Athens (Athens Segway Tours). During our introductory lesson, we were told number one rule is: do not hit any pedestrians! That was good to know especially as we zoomed through winding paths in the busy market place weaving in-between pedestrians. It was a blast.

The next day we took a comprehensive full day tour of Athens (Keys Tours was discounted by purchasing tickets from our bank’s travel site). It included a tour of the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. Warnings: don’t leave the museum unless you have a ticket in hand – that includes going to book store or cafe. We did that and they absolutely would not let us back in. (Being part of a tour, our guide had on 1 ticket for our whole group. It was impossible for him to get more than one ticket). Also, wear pants, shorts or some very good underwear if you don’t want o expose yourself. The glass floors become glass ceilings for the floor below so if you look up, you can potentially see underwear, etc. Could have been better designed, such as installing reflective see thru glass facing the floor below. But maybe this is part of the whole experience(?).

Acropolis Museum Ceiling

As part of your full day tour with Keys Tours, we had lunch at the lovely Arcadia Restaurant. I was served a delicious plant based meal. Highly recommend this restaurant. It is within walking distance from the Acropolis Museum.

On another note, it was shocking to see how much the Greeks smoked. That was the only downside. Suppose you could bring a N99 face mask. But on average, Greeks people live longer than Americans despite the smoking. Some explanations for this are: they have fewer gun deaths, lower suicide rates, more doctors and hospital beds per capita, they are able to express their emotions better than we do hence less stress despite high unemployment and financial crisis.

Comical Store Window in Mykonos

Comments and Questions always Welcomed!

Medicare for All: Been There

With all this talk about Medicare for All going on, I thought now is a good time present this.

It is a myth that “Medicare For All (MFA)”, will cost more. If you do the math, it would actually cost less. Gone will be high paycheck deductions and employer contributions to private insurance companies. Any additional taxes will be much less.

I have practiced medicine both in Canada and the USA. Canada has a MFA health care system. Canadian doctors enjoy much more freedom and autonomy as to how they practice medicine compared to American doctors. 

The American patients that I see are presenting with much more serious levels of illness, and the amount of time I am given to see them is less. I witnessed how high out of pocket costs to consumers and reduced access to primary care are deterrents to getting care in a timely manner. The intense workload American doctors are expected to work under is overwhelming. 

The typical American response to MFA is that “it is a form of socialism and Canadians have prolonged waitlists for this and that.” Contrary to those beliefs, the large majority of Canadian doctors are actually in private practice and self-employed. Canadian patients are not limited to which doctor they can see. There are no HMO’s in Canada. Meanwhile, in the United States, our “waitlists” are our preauthorization, appealing of denials of care, denial of care and inability to afford the deductible and/or copay. No matter how much Americans fear a Canadian-like health care system, the bottom line is Canadians live longer and are happier people than Americans.

Private health insurance companies control financial health dollars and physicians are caught in the middle between insurer and patient. This results in burned out doctors and dissatisfied patients. 

The American healthcare system feels more “socialist” than the Canadian. Millions of Americans pay into an insurance “pool” of multiple private health insurance companies. This creates an inefficient system with high overhead costs and long non productive hours to handle the unnecessary bureaucracy and administrative chaos. Corporations dictate how doctors practice medicine and what patients can and cannot receive for medical care. The spin on “it’s socialism” comes from those who gain profit from the status quo. Large corporate entities have created fear in patients and doctors that a single payer system would be catastrophic.

But data shows Medicare is our most efficient system. Americans with government plans are more satisfied than those with private plans. If anything, private health insurance companies delay care by prerequisite amounts of paperwork and creating disincentives that deter people from getting care.

Canadians spend 50% of what Americans pay for health insurance.  If we implemented a similar single payer system, the amount we would save per year would be about 1.5 trillion dollars. We are paying double and NOT covering 44 million people.

MFA has transparency. The reimbursement fees and costs are public information. The game of hidden costs can be abolished. 

Employer savings and a healthier workforce will make us more competitive in the international market. Expanding Medicare will also help it stay solvent for our current seniors and for future generations. With MFA, the substantial savings are obvious.  Yet there continues to be powerful rhetoric against the cost savings.
Let MFA compete with private, for-profit insurance companies. Let the consumers decide which option is best for them. No one will be forced to use a single payer plan, but it gives all of us more choices. Let the market place decide. Let doctors be independent and work for our patients and not private corporations. Our economy will gradually absorb the change. Change is our only constant.

References

  1. Berg, S. (2019, Jan 24). Physician burnout: Which medical specialties feel the most stress. Retrieved from https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/physician-burnout-which-medical-specialties-feel-most-stress?&amp;utm_source=BulletinHealthCare&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=012519&amp
  2. Gordon, S.F. (2018, Oct 25). Why Canada’s Docs Never Burn Out. Retrieved from https://opmed.doximity.com/articles/why-canada-s-docs-never-burn-out
  3. * This is evolving, something phone are reminebured by some insurance companies but not consistently 

(3)  Brody, B. Is Medicare Cost Effective? (2003, Jun13). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/about/Crossroads/06_13_03.html

(4)  Archer, D. (2017, Feb 8). America’s Public Medicare Program Costs Less and Is More Efficient Than Private Health Insurance. Retrieved from https://scholars.org/brief/americas-public-medicare-program-costs-less-and-more-efficient-private-health-insurance

(5) Riffkin, R. (2105, Nov 6). Americans With Government Health Plans Most Satisfied. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/186527/americans-government-health-plans-satisfied.aspx

(6)  Torrey, B.B. and Haub, C. (2004, Nov). Why Do Canadians Outlive Americans? Retrieved from https://www.prb.org/whydocanadiansoutliveamericans/

(7)  Gonzales, S. and Sawyer, B. (2017, May, 22). How does U.S. life expectancy compare to other countries? Retrieved from https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/u-s-life-expectancy-compare-countries/#item-start

(8) World Happiness Report (2019). Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/WHR19.pdf

(9) Farley, R. (2018, Aug 10). The Cost of ‘Medicare-for-All”. Retrieved from https://www.factcheck.org/2018/08/the-cost-of-medicare-for-all/

(10)  Remen, R.N. (2001, Jan). Recapturing the soul of medicine Physicians need to reclaim meaning in their working lives. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071213/

Healthy Blender-Free Smoothie Recipe

This is a great smoothie. Easy to make. Healthy ingredients. Sugar free. Tasty. I make it the night before, leave in fridge overnight and grab it on my way out the door in the morning. It will be my lunch. All of the ingredients are from either Costco or Amazon.

The amount of each ingredient is variable. How much you put in will be dependent on your current diet, supplements and health status. Remember to treat food as medicine. The right balance both in ingredients and amounts (calories) is important. You want to get the correct nutrients by eating foods that will prevent disease and the right amounts to prevent obesity. You don’t overdose on your medicines, so you don’t overdose on your food.

With all of these ingredients, you can check the packaging for serving sizes and nutrients.

Here is how I make mine. I start with a pinch of mushroom powder and Dulse seaweed. Then a teaspoon of beet powder. Then scoop of protein powder.

Add one frozen fruit smoothie pack, few spoons non dairy yogurt, some green drink and fill up the rest of my smoothie container with a non dairy milk (I have been avoiding the organic almond milk from Costco because it lacks calcium and protein). Shake and refrigerate.

You will need a thermo container that comes with a shaker ball. This is a must because the protein powder clumps and the shaker ball breaks it up.

Other options to add instead of fruit or green drink.

To wash my smoothie container, I put in some hot water and dish soap then shake it around. If the water is very hot be very careful when opening the top. It can be under pressure and spray all over. Need to open it gently as possible as far away from anyone and yourself as you can. Release the pressure first before you continue to open.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Mother Earth has Given Us So Much. It is Time to Take Care of Her

We have taken so much from Mother Earth. She has always provided and nurtured us. She has sustained us. It is time we take care of her.

We have used her resources. Her abundance has always been there for us. We took it for granted. We wasted and destroyed. It has caught up with us.

For example, every piece of plastic that I have ever used is likely somewhere still on the Earth. The amount garbage that we have produced has reached a critical threshold. But with our ingenuity and innovation, we can solve this.

40 Kilograms of plastic in this whales stomach. (The Leaders Online)

We need to get better at recycling, reusing, and buying products made from recycled and or compostable materials. For the most impact, let’s focus on the most common single use products found in the ocean.

National Ocean Service

The worse offenders are cigarette butts, bottle caps, straws, cups and plates, single use plastic bags, food wrappers, and beverage bottles.

Here is how we can easily reduce the use of these products:

  • Cigarette butts – the best solution is DO NOT SMOKE. But if you must, consider rolling your own or purchase brands without filters. The filter don’t provide any benefit.
  • Bottle caps – re-attach them to their original bottles and recycle them together. Avoid using plastic bottles. Bring the tops back to recycle centers.
  • Drinking straws- Many options for reusable straws (a subject of a previous blog) or switch to 100% compostable straws made from materials like cornstarch, wheat, avocado seeds, paper, bamboo, etc.
  • Cups and plates – use non plastic products that are 100% compostable made of same material as the straws above or better yet reusable dishes.
  • Single use bags – Bring your own reusable bags including those in which you put produce. Ask your grocer to use compostable bags.
  • Food wrappers – use beeswax food wraps, compostable wrappers, buy products in bulk.
  • Beverage bottles – use metal, glass or reuse your plastic one. See the links below as to how some communities are making use of the ones we already have on the planet… So innovative!

Plastic Bricks
Plastic Roads

We need to create a thriving market for products made from recycled or compostable materials. There are products like clothes, shoes, rugs, household products, feminine sanitary items, etc made from recycled or compostable materials. When ever we can, we should buy these types of products. This will make recycling financially sustainable.

We can all participate locally. Bring our own bags, useable containers, straws etc. The worse plastic offenders are starting to be banned at the municipal level. You can engage in local politics to ensure this happens in your community.

Some other Earth friendly solutions: Put solar panels in parking lots. It keeps cars cool while generating carbon free electricity.

Plant and also protect as many trees as you can.

Human over population is the core cause. More people more garbage.

To be Green is to be Cool.

Green Tea Instant Oatmeal

Thaw out berries in a covered glass container in fridge. Keeps for a few days.

Make a cup green tea with hot water. Steep for 3-4 minutes.

Put Oatmeal in a bowl. Add the hot green tea. The amount of tea you use will be determined by how thick you like your oatmeal.

Top with Berries.

Optional : Raw honey, Non Dairy Yogurt. You can use flavored oatmeal like cinnamon or apple, flax, etc

How to make “decaf” Tea

Add your tea bag to hot water. Wait 30 seconds. Pour that water out and add fresh hot water to bag. Steep for another 3 and half minutes.

When tea is steeped for more than 4 minutes total, the oxalates start to leach out. Oxalates are associated with renal stones.

Now I don’t have any proof of any of this. I learned this at a nutritional seminar years ago.

If anyone has the ability to test for caffeine or oxalates, let me know if the above formulas hold true.

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Fact or Myth? “There is not enough protein in a vegan diet.

Let’s analyze this comment by doing some calculations on a vegan/plant based diet.

To get a complete protein with all your essential amino acids when eating only a plant based diet, it is best you eat two of the three of the following food groups every day :

#1 Nuts

#2 Whole grains

#3 Legumes

The one nutrient that is impossible to get enough of is Vitamin B12. So you have to supplement with Methylcobalamin supplement. This is available at Costco!

How to calculate your daily Protein needs:

  1. You need to know your ideal body weight. NOT your actual weight unless you are one of the fortunate few whose weight is between a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 19-24.9. Majority of Americans have a BMI is 25 or more (Asians that number starts at 23 or more). A BMI of >25 is in the overweight or obese categories. This would not be considered your ideal body weight. To calculate your ideal body weight use a BMI chart to figure this out. Below is a BMI chart I screen shot from internet (apologies for blurriness but you can get a better view from this link https://www.hmrprogram.com/resources/getting-started/bmi-chart ).
  2. Find your height by looking in the first column- I circled 5’4″. After you find that on chart, go across to your weight. If it is not in the Green zone, then you need to calculate your ideal weight. Go back to Green zone for you height level. Pick any of the weight from Green zone for your height. Big boned folks pick BMI of 24. Average person pick 23. For example for someone who is 5’4″ and a BMI of 21. That persons ideal body weight is 122 lbs. For BMI of 23, that 5’4″person’s ideal body weight would be 134 lbs.
  3. This will be the weight you use to calculate your daily protein needs.
BMI chart

3. Once you know your ideal body weight, you will need to multiply it by the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of protein per pound of ideal body weight. So for average adult that factor would be 0. 36.

RDA is Recommended Daily Allowance

The chart below gives you some estimations.

Estimaton of RDA of Protein based on weight in pounds for Average Adults

Back to our example. Ideal body weight 122 lbs X 0.36 = 44 gm of protein per day is the RDA. Using the weight of 134 lbs ->48 gm

4. Here is a chart of foods and the amount of protein that it contains.

Sample diet for our 5’4″ example person who needs 44gm pf protein per day.

As you can see a Vegan Diet supplies plenty of protein.

Our example person needed 44 gm of protein a day and the sample diet supplied 55-72 gm of protein per day.

Of course if you are a bigger person, you portion sizes would be larger and hence protein amounts increases accordingly. Plus for athletes, there are many varieties of protein powders and drinks to meet increase protein needs.

So there we have it. “There is not enough protein in a vegan diet.IS A MYTH

Vegan Shaming :(

I recently hosted a 12 person dinner party with the following Vegan Menu:

Appetizers– Tomato salsa, guacamole, organic blue corn chips, olives, crackers w vegan cream cheese topped with Seaweed Roe and Habanero salsa, grapes strawberries, popcorn, dark chocolate almonds

Main Dish – Homemade vegan burgers with these side dishes: Eggplant Moju, Pumpkin Curry and Kale-coconut Sambol

Dessert -Vegan Strawberry chocolate cake (Whole Foods) w coconut ice cream

So shocked to be subjected to these negative comments from some of the guests:

  1. It’s not enough protein for me
  2. I can’t live without my red meat
  3. I love red meat
  4. Who cares about getting Alzheimer, I will be comfortable in a nursing home
  5. Cows and global warming it’s fake news
  6. I have fatigue when I do not eat meat
  7. Too many pesticides in vegetables. Organic is fake
  8. No human studies to show pesticides, GMO are bad for us. So what if bad for animals
  9. Something was wrong with me (the host) bc I only ate plants

Wow. One person starts a negative comment and then others feel they have permission to join in. Herd mentality. Next thing you know everyone is making fun of people who eat a plant based diet. I felt like everyone was ganging up on me, the person who spent hours preparing a homemade meal. Rude. Is this what it is like in the school yard when a kid who is different gets bullied? Have people lost their sense of grace? Sense of appreciation? What was their intention? Lucky, I am grounded enough not to let this phase me.

I am not sure how these people were brought up, but I teach my kids this: Always be a great guest, no matter how much you disagree with something or someone. Find something positive to say. Be grateful that you were invited and thankful for friendship. Appreciate the work your host put into the dinner.  Go out of your comfort zone and try something new and different. Practice giving positive compliments. If you don’t, you might not have another chance because likely you will not be invited back.

It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green…Kermit

“Roe” from Ikea and so are the quality of these directions 😉

Step by step guide for Successful Dinner Party for 8-12 people

This blog is a step by step guide to hosting a successful 4 hour dinner party.

  • Make everyone feel special by considering your guests’ dietary needs like food allergies, intolerances, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, lactose free, gluten free, etc. You can ask this question in the invitation. You want to be inclusive of everyone’s needs at your party. Something for everyone. People gave up their time to come, so make it worth their while 🙂
  • Request an RSVP at least 1 week before the event so you can plan things properly. Always plan for an extra guest or 2.

Some preliminaries to set your foundation for success:

  • Timing is important. You want all your hot foods to be ready at the same time. Slow cookers, rice cookers, and chafing pans are very useful to keep food warm until ready to serve. The food for dinner needs to be ready all at the same time. Write down a protocol with a timeline. What you are going to do and when. It starts days before and the day of the event. Included on this list should be cleaning up your place before the party.
  • You can always get hired help to assist in clean up at beginning and end, cook and serve. Local High School may have students willing to help especially those who have studied culinary arts or worked in a restaurant.

As the host, make sure everyone is engaging in the activities or conversation.

Menu wise, I always avoid Dairy (with some exceptions ) and sugar (honey is OK). Try to keep local and seasonal and organic.

Sample Menu: Appetizers, Drinks, Main Meal, Desserts

Standard Appetizers: Purchase these 2-4 days before event or if you are really busy most groceries stores deliver.

  • Comte Cheese from French Alps made from Raw milk and fermented 8-36 months, Brie, Vegan Cashew and or coconut milk cheese. Serve with Crackers of your choice.
  • Smoked Wild Salmon decorated with thin Lemon slices, Capers and or Dill. Serve with Crackers of your choice.
cheese serving tray
  • Fresh finger fruits like grapes , strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and or blackberries
  • Olives or Olive Tapenade. Serve with Crackers of your choice.
  • Guacamole or Salsa served with Corn Chips

Drinks:

  • Red and White wine. My general rule- no red wine drinking near carpet. In a small group people generally respect this
  • Beer(s)
  • Kombucha is very popular these days
  • Iced tea
  • Water, plain and carbonated, lemon and or lime slices
  • Coffee and Teas
  • No soda, no juice

Make sure you have lots of ice on hand.

Main Dish :

Stews can be made 2-3 days before and heated up on stove or microwave and kept warm in chafing dish. Slow cookers are also handy for stews. Good to do this so you can focus on your guests during party. On the day of party, if serving rice, use a rice cooker. Set this up the night before. You can set timer so it can be ready when dinner starts or kept warm until you are ready to serve it. Some pastas can be ready in 5-10minutes. I boil some water in electric kettle and some on stove. Then combined the 2. This saves time.

Having your party catered in another option or bring in a chef. But that really adds to the cost. I have not done well with potlucks. The flavors of dishes that people bring don’t always complement each other and some people can bring some very unhealthy foods eg. Deep fried foods, processed foods, meaning they buy them because they don’t cook to have time to cook.

Easy Vegan main dish: examples Baked Tofu Bowl , Spaghetti or Fusilli with garlic marinara sauce or capellini with olive oil, chopped garlic, olives, and fresh basil (pescatarian can add chopped anchovies). I have posted other dishes on my blog, plus more to come in future. You can even have as an activity, all your guess make their own food, like rolling sushi or spring rolls. It is rather a fun thing to do together.

Toppings:

Pickled Beets*, Kim Chee and or Pickled Asian greens/veggies ( fermented food benefits) , Dulse dried Seaweed, Nutritional Yeast (latter is a vegan substitute for Parmesan Cheese).

Sides:

  • Spinach with onions can be prepared night before, then heated up and kept warm in a Chafing pan
  • Roasted Cauliflower
  • Make a salad dressing night before. Buy pre-washed organic baby kale or your favorite greens. Some come as mixes with carrots, cabbage etc. Open when ready to serve and mix with dressing. You should own a large wood salad bowl for tossing (Ikea has these).

Dessert:

Prepare 1-2 days before.

Examples

  • Chocolate Pudding
  • Vegan ice cream or sorbet topped with fresh berries, sprinkle with liqueur (optional). Top with a tablespoon of almond or coconut yogurt. Then decorate with a mint leaf and or dark chocolate shaving. Skip the ice cream/sorbet if you want to keep sugar content down.
  • Offer coffee and tea (black and herbal)

Teach the practice of Hara Hachi Bu

The Japanese phrase, Hara Hachi Bu, means eat until you are 80% full. Higher caloric intake and overeating is common in USA. The Okinawans have a custom of self-imposed calorie restriction and regularly consume only 1,800 to 1,900 calories a day. This is a few hundred calories less than what the average American consumes. This is likely a major contributor to Okinawans remarkable health and long life spans.

*Beets contain Nitrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It has heart, BP, cognitive and endurance benefits https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/are-nitrates-and-nitrites-harmful#section

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below

Baked Tofu Bowl as Main Dish

Topped with Kim Chi and Asian Pickled Greens, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach

This recipe is for the Baked Tofu. The bowl is filled with Brown Rice, then topped with Seasoned Tommy’s Sweet Potatoes from Costco, Spinach, Pickled Veggies, Baked Tofu recipe is below. To keep it low carb, you can skip the rice and use a bed of your favorite lettuce.

Set Oven for 400 degrees.

One package of Organic Extra Firm Tofu (14oz). Do not buy the super extra firm because it is so hard, it does not absorb the marinate, hence lacks flavor.

Drain fluid off Tofu. While still in box, cut Tofu into 1/2 x 2 inch pieces.

Cut Tofu in the box

Place into a medium glass dish and pour in enough marinate to cover the tofu pieces. Examples of marinates are Teriyaki, Curry or Gyoza dipping sauce. Cover. Marinate at least 2 hours to over night in refrigerator.

Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil. Spread out the Tofu pieces evenly onto sheet.

Bake at @ 400 degrees 15mins x 2 -> At 15min mark, flip tofu over and continue to bake for another 15mins. Although I don’t bother with flipping. It seems to turn out ok. You could use a metal rack to have the underside bake. I prefer to use Pure Convection setting on my oven. You get crispier results. For my oven, if I am using convection, I lower the temp by 25 degrees and reduce time by 10%. You need to know your oven…bon appétit.

Let me know how yours turn out in the comments.

Iodine in our Diets and Cancer Risk

Unfortunately, most Americans are not getting enough Iodine. It is important to get the correct amount because it affects your thyroid function therefore your metabolism. Plus Iodine may help reduce the risk of our most frequent cancers: breast and prostate. (1)

Prior to 1920’s, around the Great Lakes, Appalachians and Northwest were known as the “goiter belt.” People had significant iodine deficient. 30-40% of the population had goiters as a result. (2) This decreased significantly when iodine was added to table salt.

Thereafter, Americans are getting most of their dietary iodine from table salt. 1/4 teaspoon of iodized table salt contains about 71 mcg iodine along with 575mg of sodium. We now tell people to reduce/avoid salt for health reasons.(4) Plus if your salt has been sitting around, the iodine added to your salt has an expiration date of 5 years from manufacturing date.

The amount of iodine you need each day depends on your age and health circumstance. Average Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg). (3)

Life StageRecommended Amount
Birth to 6 months110 mcg
Infants 7-12 months130 mcg
Children 1-8 years90 mcg
Children 9-13 years120 mcg
Teens 14-18 years150 mcg
Adults150 mcg
Pregnant teens and women220 mcg
Breastfeeding teens and women290 mcg

Besides iodized table salt, other sources of Iodine in diet are: (mcg of iodine)(5)(6)(7)

  • Iodized salt: 1/4 tsp 71mcg
  • Kelp, 1/4 cup wet: 415 mcg or more. Amount is highly variable
  • Seaweed, dried, 1 ounce: up to 18,000 mcg. Amount is highly variable
  • Oysters (per 100gms): 160mcg
  • Canned salmon (per 100gms): 60mcg
  • Bread (except organic) (per 100gms): 46 mcg
  • Haddock, 3 ounces: 104-145 mcg
  • Cod, 3 ounces: 99 mcg
  • Shrimp, 3 ounces: 21-37 mcg
  • Processed fish sticks: 17 mcg per piece
  • Tuna, canned, 3 ounces: 17 mcg
  • Milk, 1 cup: 55-60 mcg
  • Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup: 25-75 mcg
  • Egg, 1 large: 18-29 mcg
  • Turkey breast, cooked, 3 ounces: 34 mcg
  • Ground beef, cooked, 3 ounces: 8 mcg

Other sources

  • Vitamins (prenatal, labelled content per daily serving): 75–200 μg4
  • Amiodarone (per 200 mg): 75,000 μg
  • Iodinated contrast (free iodine content, per CT scan): 13,500 μg
  • Topical iodine (povidone iodine): variable, usually 1–5%
  • Expectorants, mouthwashes, vaginal douches: variable
  • Saturated solution of potassium iodide (per drop): 50,000 μg

Not getting enough Iodine can be related to cancer. But so can too much. The Japanese have less breast and prostate cancer than Americans. (8) A possible explanation is that they consume a lot foods originating from the ocean. They consume up 10-100 times more iodine in their diet than Americans. (9)(10) Now I am not saying we should eat that much. The upper limits of Iodine ingestion is maximum 1,100 mcg of iodine per day. (3)

When you consume too little or too much, it likely will cause thyroid dysfunction and poorer health outcomes. How your thyroid is going to react is not predictable. There have been some cases of thyroid cancer in Japanese who consume too much iodine. (11)

The upper limits for iodine by age and health circumstance are listed below. These levels do not apply to people who are taking iodine for medical reasons and or under the care of a doctor.

Life StageUpper Limit
Birth to 12 months:Not established
Children 1-3 years:200 mcg
Children 4-8 years:300 mcg
Children 9-13 years:600 mcg
Teens 14-18 years:900 mcg
Adults:1,100 mcg

When consuming natural forms of iodine from diet, the amount consumed can’t be exact because nature is not exact. For example, Dulse flakes, a 3 gram (one tablespoon) serving equals 330% RDA, meaning a one teaspoon amount is all you should take per day. Hard to know how much exposure you get to heavy metals when eating things from the sea. Consuming it with cilantro and garlic may reduce the absorption of some of these heavy metals.

How your thyroid reacts to too much iodine is not predictable. Getting the Recommended Daily Amount is important.

(1) Pearce, E.N. (2015, Winter). Is Iodine Deficiency reemerging in the United States? Retrieved from https://journals.aace.com/doi/pdf/10.4158/EP14472.CO

(2) Meletis, C.D. and Zabriskie, N. (2007, Jun 29). Iodine, a Critically Overlooked Nutrient. Retrieved from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/act.2007.13309?journalCode=act

(3) NIH, (2016, Feb 17). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-Consumer/

(4) Leonard, J. (2018, Jul 30). Does pink Himalayan salt have any health benefits? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315081.php

(5) Leung, A.M. and Braverman, L.E. (2013, Dec 17). Consequences of excess iodine. Retrieved from http:// https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3976240/

(6)Diet Health, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.diet.com/g/iodine

(7)Food Standards. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/nutrition/iodinefood/Pages/default.aspx

(8) Kargar, S. and Shiryazdi, S.M. et al. (2017). Urinary Iodine Concentrations in Cancer Patients. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5464505/

(9)Rappaport, J. (2017, Jan 13). Changes in Dietary Iodine Explains Increasing Incidence of Breast Cancer with Distant Involvement in Young Women. Retrieved from http://www.jcancer.org/v08p0174.htm

(10) Zava, T.T. and Zava, D.T. (2011, Oct 5). Assessment of Japanese iodine intake based on seaweed consumption in Japan: A literature-based analysis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204293/

(11) Michikawa, T. et al. (2012, May). Seaweed consumption and the risk of thyroid cancer in women: the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22414981

American Thyroid Association. (2013, Jun 5). ATA Statement on the Potential Risks of Excess Iodine Ingestion and Exposure. Retrieved from https://www.thyroid.org/ata-statement-on-the-potential-risks-of-excess-iodine-ingestion-and-exposure/

https://www.veggiechallenge.com/concerns/vegetarians-veganssalt-high-blood-pressure-iodine-and-soy/

Roasted Cauliflower with Vegan Aioli Dip

Ingredients:

One head of cauliflower cut into floret pieces, or buy ready cut

olive oil spray

salt and pepper

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Vegan Spread and dressing

1 tsp minced garlic

Sriracha Sauce optional

Prep:

Spray a baking sheet pan with olive oil. Put the florets in pan, spreading them out. Spray the Florets with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 425 deg x 25-30 mins. Until tips are golden brown. I use pure convention, adjusting the time and temperature accord to your oven.

Meanwhile to make the dipping sauce, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.

Serve while still warm. Use as appetizer or side dish.

Honey Tofu Chocolate Pudding

Does not require any cooking

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

5 tbsp raw honey,

1/4 tsp salt.

One squeeze of lemon,

1/2 cup Cacao powder

14 oz soft Tofu- put into a food processor or blender 

Coconut oil 2 tsp

Coconut milk  3-6 tbsp

Vanilla 1 -2 tsp

18 Raspberries and Fresh Mint leaves to decorate

Prep:

Blend all the ingredients (except Raspberries and Mint) until smooth, divide up to fill  6 ramekins. Cool in refrigerator at least 30 mins or cover tightly store overnight.

Top w fresh berries and garnish w fresh mint before serving.

Sauté Spinach and Onions

Side dish for 6

Ingredients:

1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped

1-2 tsp garlic, chopped

1 tsp ginger, grated

2 tbsp Avocado oil

1 – 16 oz bag of frozen organic spinach

1/2 cup Vegetable broth or 1 tsp Vegan Bouillon

Squeeze of lemon or sprinkle of apple cider vinegar

Salt and Pepper

Prep:

Heat oil in a wok. Add onions, garlic, ginger, sauté over medium heat, until onions look clear.

Add bag of spinach, broth, continue to stir until liquid evaporates. Add rest of ingredients

You have option to add 1/2 cup mushrooms in with the onions

Serve on top of brown rice, noodles or pasta along side a protein like grilled Tofu or Vegan Chili.

On Bringing Flight Attendants Gifts

It is a very tough job being a flight attendant. They really do work hard with very little thanks or appreciation. Some passenger behave like they are entitled to the service (and this behavior is in public…wonder home they behave at home..).

I recommend we all bring them something. Everyone loves a gift. Luggage limitations means it has to be physically small in size.

I like to gift this natural spray hand sanitizer from Trader Joe’s. If they don’t always in stock, you can always make one too (click on Homemade Hand Sanitizer). The aromatherapy of the essential oils can change the mood of the air plane cabin. Quite often people will say what is that? It smells wonderful.

I like the spray sanitizer over the gels bc I can use the spray to sanitize my seating area too. The screen, tray, arm rest and seat belt. The natural wet wipe that I use to wipe down is typically gray after wiping everything. These areas never get wiped clean so I am doing the airlines a favor.

***********

The basic essentials oils that I usually mix are:

  • Citrus for cheering things up – favorites are tangerine, lemon, grapefruit. Also consider sweet orange, bergamot.
  • Peppermint to energize.
  • Lavender to calm.

At the time of writing, the TJ hand sanitizer costs $1.99.

I have brought extra viral face masks with me on flights and offered it to coughing people with runny noses around me, so that they don’t make me or anyone else sick. Amazing how many people will say, “I am not sick, it is just allergies”. I don’t get it, Denial, selfish or what? In those situations, I put on the mask. They do reduce respiratory germ transmission.

If you have any suggestions for gifts, please write it in the comments. I avoid candy, cookies, etc bc they are unhealthy empty calories. Except maybe dark chocolates. Although that can be difficult in hotter climates, as chocolate tends to melt. Make sure any food you give is well wrapped and sealed.

Other gift suggestions: Luggage tags that represent where you are from or tell a story.

Follow up to this gift giving business. I usually bring 3 gifts per flight. I wish I could bring more but only so much one can bring on a carry on. So far three gifts seems to cover the number of flight attendants on my part of the plane. The three with whom I interact with anyway.

My recent flight from Athens to JFK, one of the flight attendants gave me a gift back. A bottle of wine. He said one good deed deserves another. How sweet. Exactly the joy that I want to spread. It works folks.

Using Reusable Straws

Headline: Los Angeles County to ban Plastic Straws. About time. These images of plastic straws polluting our earth’s water ways and hurting wild life are disturbing.

Since I last wrote about using metal reusable straws, I discovered silicone and bamboo straws. Straws are useful if you have sensitive teeth, want to keep your teeth from staining, have orthodontic work or unable to drink from a cup bc of health reasons. I like the silicone ones the best due to their “flexibility” but bamboo straws are 100% natural and biodegradable. The hole in the bamboo straw is smaller than silicone, so not useful for thick smoothies. The metal straws can feel harsh against your teeth.

I needed the longer the 11 inch silicone straw for my 20 oz stainless steel thermo container.

After use, the silicone straw tucks nicely into my container for storage until I get home. Otherwise a wet straw is a messy thing to handle. Checklist when purchasing a container:

  • dishwasher safe for lazy cleaning
  • wide mouth so you can add powders and or pour smoothie in it easily and also easy cleaning
  • an attached smaller lid so you won’t lose it.
  • the part that touches your mouth is completely covered by the lid to avoid contamination and dirt getting on it
  • if going to use in car, make sure not so wide that it will not fit into a cup holder
  • avoid plastic. BPA and BPS (the BPA substitute) are both bad for you
  • stainless steel and glass are the most neutral. The silicone covered glass is less breakable
  • Double thickness containers insulate better so drinks can be kept either hot or cold longer. Plus the neutral temperature of the exterior of the container makes it more comfortable to hold onto

How to fold your silicone straw into your container when finished

The silicone ones have the advantage of being folded into a small container like a pill bottle or extra orthodontic retainer container. This makes it much easier to carrier around with you.

To clean these straws: You can do by hand or put the silicone ones in the dishwasher. Since these silicone ones are larger, they do not fall threw the holes in the cutlery rack. I would not recommend putting the bamboo ones in dishwasher bc they might splinter and crack. The straws almost always come with a brush too.

Hand washing: Soak for minute or two in soapy water, make sure some of water gets into the center of straw. Wiggle it around a bit. Clean inside with brush. Rinse. Dry on a rack that drains.

My vegan lunch smoothie recipe to be posted soon.

Please leave me any comments or questions. I look forward to them!

Biodegradable Dental Floss

For proper oral hygiene, you need to floss daily. Ever wonder what happens to the plastic dental floss like Glide? I can just imagine it gets into our Oceans, resulting in choking and or strangling of marine life.

Now there are other options. Biodegradable silk or bamboo floss. They are a little thicker than Glide so it your teeth are tight, it could takes some time to get use to it. But it works. With the extra thickness, it removes more food particles per swipe! Give it a try. You help the planet, the planet helps you. Karma.

I bought these on Amazon.

Note: If you have short roots, I would not recommend. If you must use a traditional plastic product, and the floss remains in good shape after use, you can rinse the floss and let it dry and re use it again and again. 🙂

Valentine Almond Cookies

This is a recipe from the Island of Malta. You can shape them into Hearts and decorate with a Maraschino Cherry (Whole Foods has sans food coloring). These cookies have 2 versions: vegan and traditional with egg whites.

Bake @ 400F for 8-10 mins. Makes 84 x 2inch round cookies

Ingredients:

4 cups ground almonds

1.5 cups oat bran

2 cups sugar

5 egg whites (or egg substitute)

2 Tbsp Almond Essence

Pinch of salt

Sliced Almonds or Maraschino Cherries, cut cherries in half, let it drain, set aside.

Edible Premium Wafer Paper 8.25″ x 11.75″ Pkg of 20 for Cake or Food Decorating (I bought these on Amazon) – cut these into circles or hearts for Valentines one sheet should give you 12 circles (about 2 inch or so diameter) or 4 hearts

Mix almonds and bran in a large bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except decorating cherry and sliced almonds) and mix with an electric beater until well mixed. Fold this into the dry ingredients.

Put the Wafer Paper cutouts on baking pan. Roll the cookie mixture into 1 inch balls and place on Wafer Paper. Use dampened fingers and press down dough, leaving a small edge of Wafer Paper.

Be careful not to get the dough onto the baking sheet as the dough will stick to the pan. Decorate with sliced almond or cherry before baking.

Bake 400 degree F x 8-10 until cookie edges are a very light brown

Will be bringing these to share at work on Valentine’s Day.

Remind people that the paper is edible. Some people waste quite a bit of time trying to peel the paper off 😉

Best face mask for cleaning and refining pores

I bought the clay from Amazon and organic Apple Cider vinegar is sold in most grocery stores. I use a large stainless tablespoon to mix the ingredients.

Scoop some clay onto spoon and add some apple cider vinegar about 1:1 (the vinegar has healthy probiotics and the acidity exfoliates). It will start to bubble. Mix the solution well with finger or cotton swab. Then apply to face, avoiding eyes. Let dry about 5 minute-10 minutes depending on how thick you make the mask. You will feel your skin tightening.

I remove mask by gently wiping off some of it with either a hypoallergenic natural facial towelette or a moistened tissue before rinsing off with water. This is to prevent the clay from accumulating in the drain and risk clogging up the sink.

Voila- nice smooth skin and smaller pores. Of course don’t do this if your skin is sensitive.

Holiday Vegan Main Dish – Stuffed Squash

This is easier to make than a Turkey….

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Acorn Squash
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 good sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Wild Rice
  • 2 tbsp Avocado oil or coconut oil
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • Spices- 1/2-1 tsp Curry powder; 1/2-1 tsp Cinnamon; 1 tsp Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Dried Cranberries or Cherries
  • 1 cup fresh Parsley, then chop (save 4 pieces for garnished)
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add wild rice. Stir until rice is well coated and slightly toasted. Heat 2 cups of Vegetable Broth in microwave for about 2 minutes. Put broth and wild rice into Rice Cooker. Cook as per your Rice Cooker. Rice grains will split open when done.

Microwave Acorn Squash one at a time for 1 minute (this will make it easier to cut in half). Let it cool and cut each squash into 2 equal halves. Remover the seeds. Place 2 halves face down in a microwavable dish, with about 1/4 inch of Orange Juice in dish. Microwave until soft – about 8-10 minutes. Repeat with the other Squash. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the center of squash, leaving 1/4 inch rim of squash on rind. Set aside.

Add rest of oil to pan, medium heat and then add onions. Stir until onions are browning. Stir in the rest of the ingredients ( except walnuts) including scooped out Squash pieces and cooked rice.

Scoop this mixture back into the Squash Halves. Sprinkle with walnuts and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

For sides you can serve Miso Soup, Mash Potatoes with Kim Chi, Stir fried Spinach or kale with garlic and onions.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I want to hear…

Forest Bathing In Your Own Home this Holiday

The concept of Forest Bathing derives from Japan. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku. They have discovered that by breathing in alpha-pinene, an essential oil from Pine trees, there is an increase in human Natural Killer (NK) Cells, NK activity and anticancer activity in lymphocytes. To achieve this, it is recommended that you slowly walk in a pine forest covering about 1 mile in 2-3 hours. This is slow enough that it is mediative too. That slow unhurried pace is, in itself,  healthful. The average walking speed is about 2 miles per hour. In Forest Bathing, you are then walking at a maximum speed of only 25% of the normal walking pace.

Not all of us can easily access a forest. But what about a Fresh cut coniferous tree for the holidays? For many years, I have avoided a fresh Holiday tree because of the concern for fire. But this year, I was not motivated to do a fake tree. The subtle smell of plastic has become depressing. 

So I filled our home with a fresh pine tree and garland*. It smells so good. Nature does take care of us. I am, like most others, naturally attracted to the aroma of pine. The whole process of Shinrin Yoku, forest bathing can be described as Biophilia: our innate tendency to seek connections with nature. The stimulations of NK cells must be the evolutionary advantage.

Happy healthy decorating to all!

For fire and smog prevention, fireplace use is forbidden. The tree came from a YMCA fundraiser for underserved youths. These trees are farmed for the purpose of decoration. 

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

*For those with allergies to coniferous trees, sorry. 

Reduce Flu, Cough and Cold Transmission… it is the season

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 7.38.11 AM

You can reduce spread of Respiratory Infection by wearing a mask. You can reduce the spread  by up to 60-80%. Of course good hand washing is a must too.

This is common practice in Asia. Healthful cultural practice we should adopt.

It is the season. Be a trail blazer. Just do it.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm

 

My Tibetan Vacation

Mt everest 3

I would like to share with you my journey into Tibet and some of the wisdom I gained from this experience.

Tibetan culture is very spiritual. Tibetans believe that there are 3 evils in society: Anger, Greed, and Ignorance. Throughout their life time it is a person’s responsibility to overcome these 3 evils. Tibetans pray to become kind and compassionate; honest, and generous. To spend a lifetime gathering wisdom from education, to know right from wrong, and to learn from the teaching of your elders. It’s a main focus of their culture. 

Individuals in Tibetan society have a collective goal to grow beyond these human weaknesses. It is just a beautiful way to live.  They use meditation with various mantras to help reach a special spiritual place they call Nirvana. To become enlightened – which can be defined as a state of perfect happiness; an ideal or idyllic place, with neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. Tibetan society and its people have a defined path to Nirvana. Along the way, they teach and reach beyond themselves and selflessly give back. 

Now contrast this to life in the United States. There is an abundance of anger, greed and ignorance in our current American culture. It seems we as a collective entity have forgotten to address the existence of these negative and hurtful attitudes. How and when we got off track is difficult to say maybe we just started this way. Unfortunately, it has become part of the fabric of this country. Just read some of the hateful comments on the internet. So much negativity. I wish we had a clear path to rise above the 3 evils, to become better people in a society without anger, greed, and ignorance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could call out people when they embodied the 3 evils? Wouldn’t it be nice if Anger, Greed and Ignorance became shameful?  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear people say I am working on raising my level of enlightenment? How much more advanced would our society be if we spent our collective energy, intelligence and spirit on positive creativity rather than trying to keep the negative energy of the 3 evils at bay? For example the amount of time we need to spend to fight against hackers, corruption, arguing amongst each other, etc. It is not productive.  It is such a waste of the short amount time we all have on this planet. We could be so much more advanced if we spent our time creating and working on new, inspirational and positive ideas. Our society is stuck at the level of the 3 evils. The anger gets us into aggressive behaviors, high murder rates and generations after generations of wars. The greed can make some people extremely rich and self-centered, instead of using their platform to help others rise up for a more balanced society. How many billions is enough? Yet there will never be enough to fill the inner emptiness. Our ignorance is reflected in our failing educational system. A future of ignorant people is a formula for a society to fail.

These 3 evils aren’t in our conscious minds. How we behave and what we accept as decent and graceful behavior has been lost. Sometimes our own truth is too difficult to face or we don’t know how to find it. So we hide it behind protective layers of facades, live in denial, blame others for our problems. But if we ignore our own inner truth, it will bubble up as anger, greed, anxiety, and depression that has no end. We use addictive behaviors to cope. That’s what happens when we are ignorant of our true selves. Our society does not provide a pathway, such as in Tibet. Americans have to purposely seek this out.

Then an inspiring turn of events.  

As I was contemplating these ideas,  I coincidently (although maybe there are no coincidences), I watched  a documentary called “The Work”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm6fiDXmTkw on the airplane back to USA. 

“The Work” is filmed in Folsom prison, a  Level 4 prison in California. They follow the transformation of “lifers” defined as those who are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole: people who have committed horrific crimes. 

In this film, we follow selected lifers as they go through 4 days of intensive group therapy where the wall that they have erected to hide their true selves is torn down. The truth can be unbearable and so difficult to face that one subconsciously lives a life of crime rather than face the real issue. That protective wall that separated themselves from their true selves allows them to disconnect. This disconnection in part enables them to perpetrate those heinous crimes. 

During the therapy sessions many of the prisoners broke down into tears, to reach that emotional state of who they really are and to face the truth about themselves. When the tears start, “The Work” can begin: breaking down all those tough guy hard core barriers and finding the path to discover their truth. The truth can be very painful. Those deep feelings of not being good enough, feelings of inadequacy, shame, fears of being (self) judged and not being accepted and loved as a child can consumes one’s spirit. Acknowledging them is the beginning to healing. Many of the individuals open up about their unbearable childhood. The damage of adverse childhood events, including chronic racism, exposure to violence, abandonment, etc., no matter how subtle, can cause a lifetime of illness and dysfunction.  https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html . Our painful truth. 

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. The Folsom program has had impressive results. For those lifers who qualified for and completed the program, some were subsequently released back in society. So far none have returned.

We all live at various levels behind our protective walls, the highest wall being the most exterior of walls, the wall that is furthest from your true self. The higher the wall, the higher the level of disconnect and dysfunction. 

There are 5 levels of walls that need to break down before we get to the level of Nirvana.

Starting with the most exterior wall to the inner wall:

Level 1 – This level would be the people with severe disturbances in thought patterns. 

Level 2 – Level where the people have little insight to their behavior- examples sociopaths, borderline personalities, narcissists. 

Level 3 – The “Robot” level – people who function without emotions and lack empathy and compassion.  

Level 4 – The majority of us with our anxieties, worries, depression and neuroticism

with various stages of severity. 

Level 5 – Nirvana recognizing and living as your true self – the inner core

It takes constant work to get to break down the barrier and stay at level 5, the ultimate level, But the more you practice, the more it stays with you. 

It takes work (with or without trained professional guidance). You have to keep digging and when you  dig deep enough you will get there. Sometimes on the other side of the protective wall is a deep dark space. That dark reality about yourself may not be easily confronted. Rather than do the work, it is easier to stay the course at the familiar superficial layer. Not to step out of the comfort zone. But the shorter, seemingly easy path will end up the most difficult path of a life of anxiety, depression, chronic illness, pain and addiction. The (self) hate and racism, stems from this space. 

Discovering your truth, helps you to understand why you behave the way you do and your emotional reactions towards life events. To face your shame and your emotional pain. Take the path that moves away from the 3 evils. Your behavior and actions mirror the feelings you have for yourself. If you hate someone, look at what you hate about yourself. 

Getting back into your inner layer is where the healing starts. Start with building yourself up with self love and self compassion. Then this can become your new mirror. A new reflection that is available to you and that you can have if you do the work. Shift your path towards acceptance, kindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom and being enough.

How do we do “the work” within ourselves? 

There is a path. Rather, there are so many paths and options to reach to your inner spiritual true self. A combination of them is ideal, but there is no magic. You have to do “the work”. Examples of healing modalities are: mindfulness, meditation, healing touch, aromatherapy, Reiki, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga, books, hypnotism, Classical 5 elements acupuncture, music therapy, art therapy, talk therapy, connecting with nature, community connections, friends and family. Of course proper nutrition is assumed (covered in my other blog posts).  

Life is a truly a journey to finding your path and then bravely taking it. Let your adventure begin. 

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Epilogue

To see and feel the auspicious mystical energy of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world soaring up with a peak of 29,035 feet is a truly transformative experience. We saw Mount Everest from the Tibetan base camp which is at an altitude of 16,900 feet. We lucked out, as the clouds cleared for the 2 days that we were there in July. We were able to see Qomolangma (the Chinese name for Mount Everest, which sounds much like its Tibetan name Chomolungma) in all its glory. 

The altitude of the base camp is above tree line so zero greenery. Just rocks and snow. In this barren landscape, there is a sense of solitude. As we stood in awe of Qomolangma’s grace and beauty while immersed in Tibetan culture, one can’t help but become inspired and to contemplate the meaning of one’s own existence and ask who am I really? What does it matter? The hypoxia at this altitude may have contributed to these questions 😉

On a practical note about traveling in Tibet: 

The Chinese side of Mount Everest, one can easily drive up to Everest Base Camp (like a true Californian :). Whereas in the Nepalese side, one needs to hike in several days before getting to the base camp. 

The cuisine at high altitudes is was not great because food can’t be heated to high temperatures. 

The non flushing stand/squat toilet are to say the least yucky. I coped with the thought that most of the world lives like this. Still I really appreciate home and my flushing toilet.

My Tibetan references include the information that was gathered from our Tibetan tour guide, Gyaltsen from Wonders of Tibet. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294223-d557334-Reviews-Wonders_of_Tibet-Lhasa_Tibet.html

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Veterans Day: We Remember

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In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

This is part of a poem that I grew up reciting every year at school in Remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

https://www.history.com/news/world-war-i-poppy-remembrance-symbol-veterans-day

I wish America had a larger tradition of using a poppy symbol to visibly honor our Veterans.