Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Healthy Holiday Sweets

With visions of sugarplums dancing in our dreams, what ever your celebrations or baking traditions are this December, there are many healthy options available in this age of hyper nutrition awareness.

The sugar consumed during the holidays affects our health for the next four months, impacting the health of our cells until April. One hemoglobin test shows that sugar stays "sticky" to our cell proteins for that amount of time. I am as indulgent as the next person when it comes to holiday goodies, but as I have aged, that four month window can stretch beyond to the next year, and since I have diabetes in my genes, I can no longer afford to indulge like I did when I was young.

Behaving as a true addict, (studies have proven that sugar is as addictive as cocaine and I would attest to that, as well as treating since drug addicts who often substitute sugar for their substances whist in rehab) I went in search of alternatives that would satisfy my taste buds without leaving the evidence on my bum.

One of the best cook books on the subject is by Kelly E Keough

You can find this in most health food stores in the book section, on Amazon or through her website. When I teach gluten free holiday baking classes, this is my favorite volume on the market. Mainly because she has all these really great conversion tables, a full glossary and the desserts are absolutely delicious.

The reason white table sugar is not so great for you is it is a refined substance that is not found in nature. While a sugar soda may only have 100 calories in it, equal to a piece of fruit, the sugar goes directly into the blood stream while the fruit has fiber and releases the sugar slowly into the body. When sugar is dumped into the system, it spikes blood sugar, stimulating the pancreas to pump insulin to force the sugar into cells, often fat cells and primes the body to store calories as fat. These spikes are very stimulating to the adrenal glands creating feelings of excitement which is why we like the experience of eating sugar. So you get the picture.

In a future segment I will look at some prepared sugar free goodies, for now I will focus on alternatives you can use in baking and for flavor.

Raw Cane Sugar: I highly recommend NOT USING BEET sugar, it is GMO and well, if you want roundup pesticide in your plum pudding, go for it. C&H has lovely raw sugar products, even organic!

Florida Crystals has amazing products, and all of the ones I mentioned in the podcast. Florida Crystals has a great site, and is available in most grocery stores, through Amazon and Google as well as most health food stores.

The thing that is great about raw and evaporated cane juice products is they have nutrients in them, and also offer a caramel taste, especially the darker sugars like Muscovado or Barbados sugar. Muscovado sugar, a British specialty brown sugar, is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor. The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than “regular” brown sugar. I absolutely LOVE putting this sugar into cream cheese.

Honey: Delicious and nutritious, the body knows what to do with it. I suggest local honey and organic honey, some of the cheaper brands might have corn syrup added.

Honey attracts moisture and that is a definite plus in gluten-free baking. Use 1/2 to 2/3 cup for every cup of sugar called for and decrease the liquid called for by 3 tablespoons.
Date Sugar:  This is the product that is put into milk shakes for the famous Southern California Date Shakes. It has fiber and nutrients, and gives a carmel toffy flavor to anything you add it to. Date Sugar has a granular sugar-like texture that works well in certain cakes and cookies, but because it is dense things like meringue and very light goodies, it is not as good as other substitutes. I find it makes for a denser baked goodie.  It is not as sweet than cane or beet sugar in baking recipes. Use a substitute one-to-one in your recipes. 

Stevia is a natural calorie free sweetener from a Paraguay plant. Anything you want to know about Stevia is found here: including baking substitutions. Keough's cookbook is great, and basically advocates mixing Stevia drops with Erythriol, a sugar alcohol that is not absorbed by the intestines. More on that later, but for now, I will share my absolute secret indulgence that is helping me satisfy my sugar cravings and keep below my calories for the day: Stevia Drops.

Sweet Leaf is a company that makes several Stevia products, but the ones that are most useful for baking in my estimation are the drops I carry the Vanilla Creme with me at all times, it really helps that late afternoon sugar craving in a hot spicy tea!

I also add this to plain yogurt for a yummy topping on fruit or oatmeal. The Cinnamon flavor works really well for this, and is great on poached pears or hot baked apples. There are several flavors to choose from, (21 to be exact,) all will add healthy flavor to your baked goods.

Coconut Sugar and Syrup are also lovely alternatives, and can be used as direct substitutions in your baked goods. The great thing about Coconut Sugar is that it has minerals and antioxidants, as well as a substance called Inulin which slows glucose absorption in the gut. Inulin is also a "pre-biotic" and helps the growth of healthy microflora in the intestines. These sugars also have a caramel like flavor which adds a richness to your goodies. There are many options on the market, on line and at health food or grocery stores. I like Madhava Organic products.

And finally the "ols" of sugar substitutes. Erythritol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol and xylitol are in a class of sweetners called Sugar Alcohols. They are chemical compounds that are not absorbed into the system, which means in some people they actually cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Erythritol does not seem to have this problem, and is a wonderful substitute for sugar in your baking. It does not brown like Sugar does, so just be aware. It is also obtained from corn, so if you have an issue with that, then try something else. NOW foods has a great non GMO product called Erythritrol so that should be easy to remember! You can get this online, through Amazon, NOW Foods and at most health food stores. I have seen it at larger chain grocery stores in the Diabetic Section. You can do a straight substitute with this, and add the Stevia drops for an extra added loveliness to your goodies.

So you can see, in this case we can have our cake and eat it too for the Holidays.

Make sure to listen to the podcast 

and let me know what you would like to hear about in future shows and blog posts!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Truly Happy Halloween!

October 31st is fast approaching. If you are like me, this holiday has many happy memories associated with it. What is also true is that Halloween is a challenge for those who are suffering with food allergies, weight issues or the desire to have the celebration not take such a toll on the planet.

Retail does quite well on Halloween, with sales usually topping 7 billion per year. While this figure includes costumes and decoration, some resources state that $600 million will be spent on candy. 

There are several ingredients you should avoid when eating or purchasing candy. The best rule of thumb is to get organic, non-GMO certified candy. The great news is there are so many choices these days.

One of the best resources I found was at this site is full of options for every, I mean EVERY nutritional issue, with many snack sizes of chocolates, gummy worms, caramels and all the gooey deliciousness that makes Halloween so fun.

One of my personal favorites that I have found at several health food stores is There website has this funny saying, say yes to sweet, no to scary ingredients. A percentage of their sales goes towards environmental preservation.

If you listen to the podcast on how to have a Happy Halloween, I talk quite a bit on how High Fructose Corn Syrup is probably not the best thing for anyone to eat, particularly children. Industrially produced candy is basically full of this "biologically novel" product, that is full of things like herbicides and other toxic metals like mercury. Don't worry, if you stick to organic, you will be OK.

Some ideas for non food trick or treats:

Raisin Boxes: Organic selections are available, like Newman's Own, Made in Nature, Earthbound Organic Farms to name a few.



Tooth Brushes


For after trick or treat snacks, try the ones below, they are gluten and sugar free and so cute!

These are made with fruit. The ghosts are made by peeling firm bananas, slice in half and use raisins or organic chocolates for the eyes and mouth, you can press them into the banana. 

For the "pumpkins" peel tangerines, leave whole, then place slices of celery in the center to be the "stem."

Hot Spiced Cider is a seasonal favorite. Place un filtered Apple Cider in a crock pot, add a sliced orange or lemon, a few sticks of cinnamon, a tablespoon of whole cloves and a couple slices of fresh ginger, place crock pot on low and let it simmer for an hour, it will be good for an entire evening, and your house will smell wonderful!

And finally, since Candy Corn is one of the most popular candies of the holiday, and I can not find an organic option, here is a recipe:

Homemade Candy Corn


2 1/2 c organic powdered sugar, sifted 
1/3 c organic powdered milk 
1 c organic granulated sugar 
2/3 c organic light agave syrup
1/3 c organic salted butter 
1 t organic vanilla extract 
Food coloring


1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and powdered milk together. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, agave syrup, and butter over high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium, add the vanilla and continue stirring frequently for five minutes— the mixture will begin to reduce and thicken.
4. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in the powdered sugar/milk mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition until all the dry mixture has been mixed into the wet mixture. 5. You can either leave the dough in the saucepan or turn it out into a bowl sprinkled with
powdered sugar until it is cool enough to be handled. 6. Divide the dough into as many sections as you’d like to create colored segments for your
finished candy, and place them in small separate bowls. Mix each mound of dough with food coloring until you reach your desired color. Hint—you may want to wear gloves so your hands don’t get stained, and the longer you wait the harder the dough will be to work with.
7. On top of a sheet of waxed or parchment paper, roll out each color of dough into a long thin rope. The thinner the rope, the smaller that segment of color will be in your finished candy. I divided my dough into three colors and made four 17” ropes of each color (they were about 3/8” thick).
8. Press together your ropes of dough in whatever color combination you’d like. To make sure that each segment sticks together, press a second sheet of waxed or parchment paper on top and press with a rolling-pin or your hands.
9. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough into triangle segments. Keep a damp, clean cloth on hand to wipe off the knife if it gets sticky.
10. Let the finished kernels set for an hour or two before serving.

What ever you decide to do on Halloween, I hope you try some of these ideas. Your body and the planet will thank you!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Health with Winter Foods

December 21st is the official start of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. As we enter into the Christmas Holiday Season, something to keep in mind after all the feasting and celebrating is a great way to get on track afterwards is to eat with the season in mind.

In the not so distant past, we humans actually always ate with the season. Before the 1940's in the United States of America, most people ate the bulk of their meals made out of foods grown within a 50 mile radius. This meant eating what was available during the time it was available. Now, with the advent of mass shipping and transportation, our typical meals can log more frequent flyer miles than most global executives.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the dietary suggestions are actually quite simple and very effective at maintaining balance and harmony with the outside world. Each season has an organ system associated with it, a taste and food items that nourish.

Winter is the TCM season of the Kidney and Urinary Bladder. The elemental correspondence is Water. The Taste that nourishes this system is salty, and the health challenge is cold. The western associations we understand in correlation with the Water, to be the endocrine system, particularly reproduction and the adrenals. The Kidneys in TCM theory hold the life essence, which determines our inherent strength and immunity. Stress and anxiety tax this system, sleep and rest replenish it.

Modern life with 24 hour lighting, television and activity, particularly during the Winter Holidays is the complete opposite of what we should be doing during the Winter months. Winter time used to be quiet and internal, a time for storytelling and dreaming. One of the best things you can do for your health during Winter is to get enough sleep. The second thing you can do is eat "with the season."

The energy of the earth pulls inward and goes underground during the Winter. Root vegetables are excellent sources of nourishment during this time.

The color associated with the Water Element in TCM is Black, so Black foods are also very healthy during winter.

We often do not think of foods as "black", but things like black beans, black rice, black sesame seeds, black soy, are all very nourishing during the cold months, and are also very flavorful.

Salty and Bitter foods help guide our bodily energy in the right direction for the Winter months. Kale's, bitter lettuces, beet and turnip greens are all great seasonal offerings. The grains rye, oats, quinoa and amaranth are all on the bitter side, and go well with Winter vegetables.

While over doing on iodized salt is not good for anything, eating naturally salty foods like miso, tamari, seaweeds and naturally fermented sauerkraut are excellent Winter foods.

Miso soup is so easy to make, especially if you have an electric kettle that heats up water quite quickly. Pour one cup of hot water into a bowl, add a tablespoon of Miso paste, some chopped scallions, shredded carrots, and a small sheet of nori dried seaweed (this is the kind used in many sushi rolls and you can get it in most health food stores in the sea weed section) for a delicious quick soup.

White, Red and Dark Miso Paste
Miso can be made from Soy, Barley, Beans and Other Grains

Nori Sheets, Dried Seaweed

Fresh Seaweed Salad, available in Asian Markets and often in the 
Sushi section of most markets

Main Seacoast Vegetables is a great company, that sustainably harvests seaweed in clean waters, Their products are usually found in most grocers or you can order directly from them.

A great condiment you can use to season your salads, soups, vegetables and more is Gomasio, a sesame, salt and kelp condiment. There are many on the market, Eden Foods has a good one, and you can get it with Black Sesame seeds to be really theme! 

Making stews and soups in a crock pot is your best bet for simple meals that take little or no preparation. You can put everything in the crock pot before work and come home to a great tasting meal, ready to go, with minimal clean up afterwards.

So you can see, eating for the season is actually quite simple. With a few condiments, and emphasizing "black" foods, root vegetables and seaweeds for the bulk of your diet, you may find that cold and flu season is something that happens to other people. Enjoy!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Villa Dihovo and a Taste of Macedonia

On December 10th the program featured an interview with Pece Cvetkovski a hospitality entrepreneur from Villa Dihovo near Bitola Macedonia. I had a lovely visit to this Trip Advisor top rated inn with my cousins Valentina and Vladko Veleska during my tour in October. 

Cvetkovski is part of a growing movement in Macedonia capitalizing on the warm tradition of hospitality and incredible local cuisine. 

Pece Cvetkovski in Villa Dihovo's Wine Tasting Cellar

Dr Valentina Veleska and Pece Cvetkovski Getting Ready for Lunch
At Villa Dihovo

I visited numerous restaurants and initiatives focused on the incredible food, wine and cheese of the region. 

Traditional Sitting Room, Villa Dihovo

Many of the sites were only a few years old, but were constructed with great attention to the detail of traditional restaurants of bygone eras.

Sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and Sheep's Milk Yogurt

What makes Villa Dihova so unique, and visited by people from all over the world, is the personal catering to individual needs. Family Cvetkovski has some of the largest vineyards in Macedonia, and produces their own organic wines. Pece networks with local cheese producers in the area to serve sheep, goat and cow regional specialties. Visitors can literally pick their own salads and produce from the garden next to the guest quarters. The family and staff can cook for patrons, offer cooking classes or help you make your own creations. The goal of Villa Dihovo is to make you feel at home.

Grape Arbor, Garden and View from Villa Dihovo Macedonia

Nestled next to the Pelister Mountain preserve, the staff at Villa Dihova can arrange for hiking and biking tours, and numerous winter sports. I had visited this delightful location several years ago when it was first opened to the public. Now because if it's global popularity, I had to fit in my interview between guests arrivals.

Mountain Trails at Pelister National Park in Macedonia

Villa Dihovo and the Pelister National Park preserve will be destinations on the upcoming culinary tour "A Taste of Macedonia" a joint collaboration between Ambasador Mak Balkan Tour specialists in Macedonia and Sophia Services of Vancouver Canada. The tour will take place from May 11, 2014 through to May 24. Please visit to download the itinerary, and book through the same site. 

Macedonia has one of the most unique cuisines in the world. Villa Dihovo can prepare regional favorites for you to order, and we will enjoy their culinary offerings as well as the Pelister Park on A Taste of Macedonia. See you there!

Update: Biodiversity in the Balkans

One of the most innovative projects of Slow Food international is now underway in the Balkans. ESSEDRA or the Environmentally Sustainable Socio Economic Development in Rural Areas is in full swing. With their new website , many individual projects and several international meetings completed, ESSEDRA is truly a model for the new global economy that is based on a sustainable agricultural base.

For me ESSEDRA is the antidote to all the trade agreement negotiations and "economic" plans put forth by multinational corporations.

Casey Angelova, Chef and Organic Farmer from Bulgaria joined the program on December 9th to talk about the recent meeting in Sophia Bulgaria.

With my travels this past Autumn, the urgency of the ESSEDRA project became quite clear. We good food movement people in the West can learn a great deal from the partners in ESSEDRA. As the Balkan nations are trying to create a sound economic base as they emerge from decades of communist rule, it is important that rural lands and peoples are not lost in the transformation.

Angelova offers insights from the recent meeting at Slow Fish Istanbul and why ESSEDRA is so vital to the sustainability of Balkan lands and traditions. as a Slow Food chapter leader, as well as a farmer and chef, she has a unique perspective on the possibilities for good change in the Balkans.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fast Food Workers Strike Across US

The World was paying attention to the passing of Nelson Mandela on December 5th, but another milestone was happening in 130 cities across the United States. Inspired by Fast Food Forward in New York City, workers from fast food chains rallied for a one day strike for a livable wage. 

While the fast food industry made 200 billion dollars last year, with some of it's CEO's making upwards of 51 Million dollars in salary and compensation packages, but apparently, this industry can not afford to pay it's workers more than minimum wage or give benefits to the majority of it's employees.

We are told that our burgers, fries, tacos, pizzas and fried chicken would cost more if the workers were paid a livable wage. The food is actually costing us much more in terms of tax payers subsidizing the fast food work force to the tune of $7 billion a year. McDonald's alone cost over $1 billion. These costs come from the fact that over half of all fast food workers receive some sort of governmental assistance, in health care (mainly for children of the workers) food stamps, rent and child care subsidies and earned income tax credits. We also pay the top end of the "fast food chain" because of corporate tax loop holes allow the companies to not pay taxes (we pay to subsidize this) for "compensation packages" to their CEO's. Some of these executives make up to $51 million per year in combined salary and compensations such as stock. 

The other way we pay for the cheap fast food is through agricultural subsidies for things like corn, meat and soy. High Fructose Corn Syrup is in most everything you can imagine at a fast food restaurant, from breads to sodas, condiments and desserts. GMO corn is used to feed the animals raised in factory farms for those famous burgers and nuggets.

But the biggest way we pay as a society is through the terrible health effects of eating fast food.

Do we really want to support an industry that wastes so much tax payer money while polluting the environment with factory farms? Should we be arguing to increase the wages of workers in an industry that produces food which destroys our health?

I am all for a livable wage. Hard working people should be compensated for their time. But why not steer people to jobs that do not harm so many levels of our civilization and citizens? In American Meat, film maker Graham Merriwether shows that if we switched over to sustainable meat production , not only could we create good paying jobs, but our environment would benefit.

Fast food workers need good jobs that contribute to the betterment of society. This should be the focus of the debate.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

TPP and Food Sovereignty

When I was in Naturopathic School, I was always irritated by how the medical community could never say words, only the letters. This irritation has been with me throughout my life, trying to keep all the letters straight and what they mean. Now we have a new group of letters, which when I was young stood for toilet papering a house. 

The TPP is an international trade agreement now being negotiated, but you would never know it, since currently being made to buy insurance is heralding the end of the world in the United States of America. The TPP or Trans Pacific Pact, is a trade agreement currently being crafted by numerous nations across the Pacific Ocean. It makes NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) look like a good idea.

This trade pact, which has very little to do with trade actually, much of it concerns making laws that override national laws and protected freedoms to ensure profits for pharmecuticals, internet material and industrial agriculture corporations, is the greatest threat to our individual rights as human beings than anything ever crafted in modern history. Since our supreme court made corporations into human beings, you can see where this is going. What this has to do with food, is the TPP violates the essence of Food Sovereignty. For a basic discussion and other links, this is a good start:

When I was a student in Naturopathic School, I spent a summer preceptoring with a Naturopath in Kewlona Canada. As I was driving there along windy forested roads in rural eastern British Columbia, I heard a segment on the CBC radio station by Dr. Helen Caldicott. She was quoting a study by an Australian Industrial Psychologist, Alex Carey, on how the USA got from FDR to Reagan in 50 years. Later I found the study published in a book, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.

The main thesis of the study was looking at the major developments in the 20th Century.

1. The Development of Democracy.
2. The Development of Capitalism
3. The Development of Propaganda to protect Capitalism from Democracy

While the media swirls over jammed websites and politicians threaten to impeach over healthcare insurance we are told that our very democratic principles will be forever lost if we purchase subsidized plans on line. Government shutdowns, 40 congressional votes, and billions have been spent to shield the American people from purchasing mandatory health insurance, and being able to compare plans. While the 113th Congress has worked the least amount of days in the history of the United States of America, the TPP is quietly, secretly being crafted to the real detriment of the American and partner nations people.

The only people privy to this document are the multinational corporations crafting it. Apparently food safety and citizen initiated labeling laws are an impediment to "unfettered capitalism." Threats to our pharmaceutical, labor, health, environmental and safety laws are being written into this document, making farmers, fishermen and normal everyday people vulnerable to international legal sanctions.

The trade pact will in essence nullify any attempt at GMO labeling, and enable corporations to sue based on "trade barriers." It would become illegal to label where the food comes from, and producers from different nations would not have to adhere to our food safety laws and inspections, (which under normal circumstances are actually inadequate.)

Our very rights to choose what we wish to eat and support producers we want to support is being legislated away while we focus on a governmental insurance health care exchange website. 

The trade pact is being formed by multinationals such as Monsanto and Dupont. Monsanto's profits are decreasing mainly due to the valiant efforts of citizens across the globe that refuse to purchase their products, and work to either ban or label GMO products. Democracy has hurt their bottom line, so they are circumventing national laws passed by citizens in numerous nations, Japan and Peru to name a couple that have banned GMO's from their food system. 

Why is this not national news, international news? The only news source that is covering this to any extent is the Pacifica Network and Democracy Now If not for the leaked documents, we would have no information on this ongoing event.

I go back to that fateful drive through the Canadian Rockies all those years ago, when I heard that phrase, "The development of propaganda to protect capitalism from democracy."

It is not too late, please write your congress member, your president or prime minister. Here are the links for the United States. 

This is an excellent website with talking points and social media tools for action:

Tell your representatives and leaders that there should be no fast track on the TPP, that you want your laws to be kept in place and full disclosure on the trade pact must be made public before any agreement has been reached. The citizens of the world stopped the World Trade Organization in 1999. The multinational corporations learned their lesson, and have gone into hiding to get what they want. But there are more of us than there are of them, and we can stop this terrible trade pact that will ruin biodiversity, destroy livelihoods and dismantle democracies around the world. The program on December 4th, featured a lengthy discussion on this subject

Please speak out now, write letters to the editor, call in talk shows, spread the word via twitter, facebook and email. We stopped them before and we can stop them again.