Friday, April 22, 2016

Walnut Fig Bars

     I adore figs for their syrupy sweetness, their sensuous jam like texture, and the unexpected beauty of their hidden interior. Figs are one of my favorite indulgences. And although they lose some of their more sensual qualities when dried, they do not lose any of their sweet flavor or their nutrition.  

     Figs contain many essential minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and zinc. They are also a good source of  B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, K, and E. Plus their high fiber content puts them right up there with prunes in the laxative department.

    I also love figs because they remind me of India, and I love India. When I lived there (many years ago), I had this ritual that I would perform every time I went to Mumbai during fig season. I would walk down Causeway St., in Colaba, in search of a fruit vendor. There were usually a couple within walking distance of my (cheap, decrepit) budget hotel. I would buy three perfectly ripe fresh figs. Then I would cross the street and make my way to Theobroma, a chocolate pastry shop, where I would buy myself a piece of chocolate decadence. Filled with desire, I would rush back to my hotel room with these culinary treasures, and lay them out picnic style on the bed, and forget all else while I savored the moment. Oh yah- heaven-chocolate and figs.  

   These days I would have to forgo the sugary baked good, but figs are still one of my favorite indulgences. That is why I am thankful for recipes like this. These bars are full of fig flavor and nutrition. But instead of being degraded in the usual way of baking-by adding lots of sugar and dairy fats- instead these have the addition of healthy ingredients, such as nuts, oats, and chia seeds.
   The recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, My New Roots, by Sarah Britton. Her book is full of inspiring healthy recipes. And although I tweaked her recipe a bit, she gave me the inspiration to make these.

Walnut Fig Bars
adapted from  My New Roots
yields 12-16

1 1/2 T. chia seeds soaked in1/4 c.of water until gelled
1 c. raw walnuts (you will toast them in the oven)
2 cups of oats
1/4 c. applesauce (unsweetened)
1 T. coconut oil melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Start by preheating your oven to just under 350 degrees.
Spread the raw walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the preheating oven until toasted. Remove and set aside to cool.
In a food processor, process 1c. of the oats until a rough flour like texture. The remaining 1c. will be left whole.
Add the walnuts and process again until coarse to medium in texture. 
Add the salt and baking powder and pulse for a couple of seconds to combine.
Next mix all of your wet ingredients. And then add these to the nut oat mix, and pulse until combined.
Put this mixture into a bowl and add the remaining 1c. of whole oats. MIx well with a spoon or your hands.
In a greased (with coconut oil) 8x8 baking pan, press a bit more than half of the mixture into the bottom for the crust. The rest will go on top.

Make the filling.
2 cups of dried figs roughly chopped
1tsp. of cardamom (or more to taste)
1 tsp. of lemon juice
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

Wipe out the food processor bowl and pulse above ingredients until desired consistency. It can be completely smooth to chunky. Taste it and add more cardamom if you want a more pronounced taste.

Spread this mixture over the crust.

Add 1-2T. of maple syrup to the remaining nut oat mix and crumble over the top, covering as much of the filling as possible.
Sprinkle on a few extra raw walnuts if desired, and press gently into the topping.
Note: you could skip the maple syrup, but that would make the topping drier and less likely to stick together.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until it starts to get golden and toasted.
Cool completely before cutting.
These will keep for 5 days well wrapped and refrigerated.

Like any dried fruit, dried figs are very concentrated in sugar, so I suggest cutting these into 16 pieces, and then trying to eat just one!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Chocolate Strawberry Chia Pudding Parfait for breakfast

Yes...for breakfast. It's that good for you.

   I have become obsessed with chocolate, or I should say, cacao. It all started at Easter time when I made a chocolate cream pie for dessert for my family. Well, given that pastry cream is my all time hands down, favorite food on earth, you can imagine the internal strife this pie caused me, given that I couldn't eat it. NO I didn't even lick the spoon. It wasn't easy, but luckily that same weekend I started reading about super foods. Foods that are super dense with nutrients.

   I have explored these foods in the past. I once dabbled with chia seeds, and then went through a goji berry phase, but never realized that chocolate held superfood status. Now that I have discovered cacao, I am committed. And I have since forgotten all about that heavy, lethargy inducing, unhealthy chocolate cream pie. Cacao, and other delicious super foods, will now be a regular part of my healthy diet.

   Cacao is a raw form of chocolate, and is one of the most anti oxidant rich foods on the planet. It also provides minerals such as, iron, calcium, and magnesium, as well as mood enhancing amino acids. Magnesium to calm us-mood enhancing amino acids- and delicious flavor-now that's a superfood. No wonder we all crave it. Eating cacao, as opposed to cocoa or chocolate, which have been roasted, is the best way to retain all of its nutritional benefits (and of course without the added fat and sugar found in candy). 

   Cacao is milder in flavor than it's roasted counterparts, and it's stimulating effects are more subtle. Unlike when I eat chocolate, when I eat cacao I don't experience a spike in energy, followed by a quick decline and craving for more. It's more of a slow energy release that makes you feel relaxed, satisfied, and makes the corners of your mouth quietly turn upward into the subtlest of smiles.

   I always considered myself a healthy eater, but I now realize that eating for your health takes "healthy eating" to a whole new level. It takes a deeper level of commitment, and a deeper level of understanding of what our food does for us, physically, emotionally , and spiritually. I believe it can be transformative.
   The standard american diet ( or SAD as it's called) is so full of sugar, salt and other flavor enhancers that it screams at you in a way that is immediately overstimulating. This makes it impossible to notice that it has provided you with little to no nutrition, and has burdened your digestive system to the point of leaving you with less energy in the long run. A healthy diet is quiet and peaceful. It shows you it's true flavors, and provides your body with adequate nutrition and energy. But eating for your health is different. It has a subtleness to it that is intriguing, and makes you pay attention. It's hard for me to explain, because it has been over time that I have felt the shift, but I am starting to look at my food in a different way. 

   I have gone beyond food cravings, and have moved toward nutrient cravings. My focus now is to provide my body with life giving nutrients. I haven't given up taste, as you can see in this chocolate chia breakfast, but I have an increased awareness of how the foods I put in my body are affecting me. Maybe I can explain it by saying it is like the difference between seeing yourself as a body, and seeing yourself as an organism made up of  trillions of cells.  And realizing that every cell needs to be provided with the fuel (nutrition) it needs to function individually, bodily, and universally.

   Eating for your health is about eating with intention.  It is setting the intention to provide your body with nutrients, and to not harm the environment that we rely on for survival. It is about choosing foods first for their optimal nutrition, and then combining them for optimal taste and pleasure. And it is intentionally, providing a calm focus to the experience of eating. It is eating with complete awareness-no distractions. Above all, it is understanding the profound significance of the simple statement-you are what you eat. 

   Chia seeds are another superfood. They are an excellent plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, and are high in antioxidants. They also provide a significant amount of fiber.  Because they have no discernible taste, they can be added to almost any food for added nutrition. I like to add some to my salad dressings, and drinks. They can also be used in baking to bind together ingredients. When hydrated chia seeds form a gel around each seed, and become mucilaginous. They are the base for the recipe below.

Chocolate Strawberry Chia Pudding Parfait
serves 5-6

For this parfait layer the chocolate chia pudding with the strawberry chia jam, and add fruit and nuts of your choice between the layers. I used sliced strawberries, bananas, and walnuts. You could also add coconut. 

Chocolate chia pudding
2 c. almond milk ( or other non dairy milk)
5 T. chia seeds
1/4 c. cacoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 chopped dates
small pinch of salt

Mix the first 6 ingredients in a blender. Then adjust for sweetness by adding a bit of stevia, or honey or maple syrup. Don't make it too sweet. The fruit will add sweetness. Let this sit for several hours.

Strawberry chia jam
1 lb of strawberries washed and sliced
3 T. of chia seeds
1 tsp. of lemon juice
sweetener to taste

Mix all the ingredients in the blender. Again adding the sweetener last. Let sit for several hours.

Assemble the parfait. Don't forget the nuts, or other crunchy topping. You will want it to contrast with the (mucilaginous) texture of the chia seeds. 

It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

Note: chia seeds and cacao can be found on a Amazon. Click  HERE for chia seeds, or   HERE  for cacao powder.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cucumber Noodle Salad with Spicy Sweet "Thai" Almond Butter Sauce

    This morning was a perfect example of- it all depends on how you look at things. If it was the middle of January right now, and there were big, fluffy snowflakes falling gently to the ground, I would have thought how lovely. Everything is snowy white and peaceful. But since yesterday was the first day of spring, I thought- really? Snow! No wonder I didn't hear any birds singing this morning. Even they know this sucks.
  Luckily the sun came out and changed my attitude, otherwise I probably would not have made this recipe. I would have curled up on the couch and said forget it. But happily since it is now sunny and spring like, I broke out my spiralizer for the first time this year, and made this salad with a thai inspired nut butter dressing.

     I was inspired to make this after having dinner with my friends Jenna and Jeff on Friday night, when they were nice enough to invite me to their house to join them and Jenna's mother and sister, who were visiting from Maine. I offered to bring something to contribute to the meal, and asked Jenna for ideas. First she suggested  these collard wraps. Which I would have been happy to make, but I didn't know if they were very Mom friendly, since they are vegan and raw. Jenna agreed, and knowing that her mother likes Thai food, suggested Thai lettuce wraps instead. Keeping her mother in mind, and knowing everyone at dinner ate meat, I made Thai meatballs to go in the wraps with a peanut dipping sauce, along with piles of crunchy veggies and tender herbs. They were well received, but I couldn't eat them. I don't eat meat or peanuts, so today I made a version of the sauce with almond butter, and am very happy with the results. 

     My intention was to make lettuce wraps again, like I did Friday night, except without the meat, but they ended up being overstuffed and messy, so I am calling it a salad. You could use less filling and roll them up like a wrap, or you could use the sauce as a dip for summer rolls. Basically you can use it any way you use peanut sauce. I might try it on rice noodles some day, which you are welcome to use here instead of the cucumber noodles. If you do, I recommend adding some cucumber slices to the salad. Their cool clear flavor contrasts nicely with the spicy complexity of the sauce, which is quite sweet from the dates, with a bit of heat from the cayenne, and a pleasant tang from the apple cider vinegar. It's delicious, and I think, very Mom friendly. I wish I had thought of it last Friday.

Spicy Sweet Almond Butter Sauce

2 dates chopped
1/2 c. hot water
1/2c. + 2 T. almond butter
1 small garlic clove chopped (1/2 tsp.)
1T. grated ginger
1T. tamari
2T. +2 tsp. cider vinegar
cayenne to taste-start with a couple of good pinches

In a small bowl add the dates and soak them in the hot water until soft (5 minutes).
Add the rest of the ingredients, and using an immersion blender or small food processor, puree until smooth. Adjust cayenne to taste. If you like a more salty sauce, I suggest adding a bit of sea salt, and not adding more tamari, which tends to get overpowering when there is too much. You could add a bit more vinegar though if you want it more tangy.

Prepare vegetables and herbs for the salad.
Note: if you don't have a spiralizer, that's fine. Just slice the cucumber.

carrots cut into matchsticks or grated
red pepper thinly sliced 
red cabbage thinly sliced or grated
cucumber noodles or slices
scallions thinly sliced
lettuce leaves

chopped cilantro
chopped basil
lime slices (optional)
chopped roasted almonds


Friday, March 11, 2016

Budwig Raspberry Parfait Recipe

   In yesterdays post about the Budwig diet I forgot to mention that I really like the taste of this mixture, so I am very happy to be eating it every day. What I can't believe though is that I waited until today to try it with fruit. After more than two months of being satisfied with mixing in some chopped raw veggies, I was feeling like it might add a little bit of excitement to my morning routine if I tried something different, something special. So, I made a parfait.

Budwig raspberry cheesecake farfait

     I took one bite, and thought Oh My God is this good! I don't know what I was expecting, something marginally good I suppose. This was creamy, and fruity, with a hint of cheesecakiness, and a bit of crunch. It really felt like something I shouldn't be eating. I kept running the ingredients through my head. Cottage cheese with flax oil, I can have that, and fruit, they said I could add fruit, nuts, seeds, no problem. I did add a bit of vanilla, but decided that was okay. Again, Oh my God I can eat this. And I did, a bit too quickly, so I have a bit of a  heavy stomach, the same heavy feeling you get from over indulging in any decadent dessert.
I could probably have done with half  a portion........

parfait recipe
Serves one, but really it's enough for two

Start by mixing your cottage cheese flax oil mixture of 1/2c. cottage cheese to 1/4 c. oil (see yesterdays post , Budwig Diet Basics, for the correct way to do this). Click HERE to read Budwig Diet Basics.

add 3/4 of a tsp. of vanilla extract
add a pinch of stevia ( to taste) but not too much because the fruit will add extra sweetness

add about 3/4c. of raspberries (frozen and thawed) to 3/4 of the cheese mix

prepare some chopped nuts for the top and flax seeds to hide between the layers 

I started by layering some chia jam in the bottom, that I made the night before, for an extra layer of fanciness and nutrition.
Then I put in 1/4 of the plain vanilla cheese mix and topped it with the flax seeds.
Then I mixed the raspberries into the remaining vanilla cheese mixture, and put that as the top layer.
I then sprinkled the chopped nuts on top with a few extra berries.

REMEMBER this should be eaten as soon as you make it. The cottage cheese, flax mix cannot be made ahead.

chia jam

1c. thawed frozen raspberries crushed
1/4 c. water
2 T. chia seeds
pinch of stevia 
1/2 tsp.cinnamon (optional) 
mix and let sit until the seeds absorb the liquid - about 1 hr. 

Of course you could just mix it all together in a bowl and be done with it, but then you can't call it a parfait. Then it's just a mess in a bowl, and even though it would probably be just as delicious, I don't think it would be as special. You couldn't call it a parfait! And parfait is such a fun word that it would be a shame to replace it with mess in bowl. Wouldn't it?

p.s. I'm sure you wouldn't even taste the flax oil in this.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Budwig Diet Basics

    A few months ago I started sharing what I call my Beat Cancer Bootcamp routine. You may remember the post about coffee enemas. If you missed that one, you can read it here.   Today I want to tell you about the Budwig diet, which is based on a mixture of cottage cheese and flax oil. But before I begin telling you about that, I want to share a bit of cancer news.

   In the article in which I talk about how to do a coffee enema, I also mention the Navarro urine test. It is a test that anyone can do on their own by sending a urine sample to the Navarro  Clinic.  Click here to find out how to do it.  The test is a reliable way to monitor your progress, and see if your cancer fighting protocol is working.  I did my first one in January, after my CA 125  (blood test) jumped from 70 to over 300 in just two short months. I then did another one in mid February. I just got my results this Monday. It can take a few weeks to get the results, since your pee is going first class (mail) all the way to the Philippines. The news is that there has been no change since January. While I would have liked to have seen it go down, the point is it did not go up! That means that the amount of cancer in my body has not increased.  

   A test result of less than 50 means that you do not have cancer. A result of 50 or above indicates that, yes, you do have cancer. While some cancers can push this number very high, 50-70 is the typical range. Mine was 52.2 both times. This has given me the validation that I needed to continue treating cancer on my own. I am more determined than ever that I CAN DO THIS!

    The Budwig Diet is a cancer fighting protocol that was developed by Johanna Budwig back in the  1950's. It includes a diet free of processed foods, sugar, and meat. It includes pure water, sunshine, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a mixture of cottage cheese and flax seed oil. 

   Dr. Budwig was a leading authority in the study of dietary fats. While studying the metabolism of fats in the body, she discovered that blood samples from people with cancer lacked phosphatides and lipoproteins . In order to replenish these essential nutrients, and maintain good health, one needs to have adequate essential fatty acids (omega 3's, and 6's) in their diets. Essential fatty acids are important components of our cell membranes, and are needed for proper cell respiration, and cell division. 

   Dr Budwig discovered that when you mix flax oil with sulfur rich proteins (such as cottage cheese) the oil becomes water soluble, and increases oxygenation of the cells, as these essential fatty acids bind with the oxygen in our blood, and get pulled into the cells.

   The cottage cheese mixture can be eaten plain, or with added fruits, nuts, etc..  I like to eat it with some raw broccoli florets, red onion, and red pepper mixed in. And I always add a bit of turmeric and black pepper for added cancer fighting properties, and top it off with 1 T. of freshly ground flax seeds. Flax seeds should be eaten within 15 minutes of grinding, because their oils go rancid quickly after they are ground.

   The recipe is simple. It is two parts cottage cheese, to one part flax seed oil.  Some recipes call for 2/3 c. to 1/3 c. oil, others 1/2 c. cottage cheese to 1/4 c. oil. Both the cottage cheese and the oil should be organic. I like Barleans flax oil, and Nancy's Cottage cheese, which has a bit of a tangy flavor from the probiotics.

   Start by adding your measured amount of cottage cheese to the mixing container. Then add the measured amount of flax oil. The oil must be completely incorporated into the cheese, and I believe you need an immersion blender to do this. At least to do it easily. If you don't have one, they are not that expensive, and come in handy for so many other things. Such as making salad dressing. I have this one by Cuisinart. You can buy that or another one online here.  

   Once the mixture is completely smooth and homogenous, with no streaks of oil, let it sit for a few minutes, and then mix in whatever you like, by hand. I usually eat it for breakfast as pictured above, but sometimes I divide the portion size in half, and have it as a snack with carrot and celery sticks.You can also add spices and vinegar to make it more like a dressing. One thing to note though; is that this should be eaten shortly after it is made. You cannot make it ahead and save it for later. So if you divide the recipe, you will have to make it twice that day to get the full amount, and it can be difficult to mix the smaller amount due to the height of the blade in most hand blenders.

   Due to the fact that I have had chemo-twice, I expect that my body has a lot of repairing left to do, and I may not see a drop in my test number for a couple more months, but the fact that it is stable makes me feel confident that I am on the right track. I believe that this diet, juicing, supplements etc, have been instrumental in supporting my bodies efforts to heal.  I will do another test in a few weeks. If the results do not show improvement, then I will add some other things to my protocol to strengthen it's ability to fight cancer.
   Even though I call this my Beat Cancer Bootcamp, it's not because I see this as a war. No, cancer is part of my body. Cancer is something my body makes. It is not an invader. So I have always seen this as more of a journey than a battle. But we're not in the Girl Scouts here. No! This is hard core training for a new life. It takes hard work, dedication, and faith. And there are no cookies allowed, just major cancer ass kicking nutrients! So eat your salad soldier!


To read a great article/ interview between two of my favorite cancer blogggers  chris beat cancer and green drink diaries, who both used the Budwig Diet as part of their healing
click here.

For books and sites providing more info on the Budwig diet and other cancer protocols check these out: cancer tutor website, and Cancer Free a book by Bill Henderson

p.s. This isn't just for people with cancer-the cottage cheese flax oil mixture is a great way for anyone wishing to maintain good health to get their  essential fatty acids. If you don't have cancer you could eat half a portion.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Full Circle

      I'm feeling a bit worn out these days. February was a bit complicated, and all the gear shifting  I did has left me feeling a bit numb, and unable to process it all.

    I started the month in the peace and quiet of the Insight Meditation Society retreat center, focusing on my inner terrain in noble silence. I left the retreat feeling rejuvenated by the deep sense of calm and focus that I gained there. When I returned home I got the results of my PET scan, and found that while some of my tumors are still stable, the ones in my liver are very active, and there is a new one just outside of my spleen. This news was disturbing, but at this point in my cancer journey it caused a ripple, not a wave of emotion. More than anything it let me know that as hard as I am working at rebuilding my body, in order to stop it from making cancer, I have to try harder. Then my 84 year old father ended up in the hospital. He had pneumonia which turned into sepsis. He is home now, and seems to have made a full recovery - thankfully. But for the first time in my life, I found myself feeling like he needed me to take care of him.
   So, here it is March first, and I'm trying to make sense of the past month. I'm not worried about my dad anymore, but his illness has altered our relationship. I feel like the experience has brought us closer together. Illness can do that. At least one that shoves your own (or a loved ones) mortality in your face.

    I know that my own cancer has brought me closer to myself.  It has shown me my strengths, and my weaknesses. It has put me in touch with my true feelings, and what I value most. It has not taken away the fear, or the anger, or the sadness that are all a part of life. I still deal with those. But it has taken some of the strength away from these emotions by giving me the courage to explore them more deeply, and to recognize when and if they are imprisoning my true self. 

   I also believe that my cancer has made it easier for me to understand my Dad at this point in our lives, since we are both quite possibly near death. For my Dad this is almost certain. As for myself, even though I feel I have the chance to live many more productive years, at 52 years of age, I know what it's like to live with death just a breath away. 
   I thought about death a lot during my meditation retreat. I thought about it in a straight forward manner, as just another experience in life. I thought about it in practical terms-burial arrangements, wills etc.. I thought about it with wonder. Would it be beautiful? peaceful? scary? All of this may sound morose, but all this thinking about death actually relieved me of any lingering fear I may have had of dying. It made me realize that when my time came, I could welcome this inevitable natural event. It also made me wonder if I could actually control the experience. If I didn't fear it, and it had no power over me, could I choose how I experience my own death?  And could it be beautiful? I believe it could.

  Thinking about death in this way has given me even more courage to face my cancer, and to take even more control in how I choose to live with cancer. When I found out the results of my PET scan, I knew I would have to go it alone from now on-no chemo, no oncologist. I would have to direct my own healing. I couldn't let myself be a cancer patient for the rest of my life. Whether I drove myself to a full recovery or my own funeral, it would be okay. I'd be driving myself to where I need to be.

  It seems that instead of shifting gears as I called it at the beginning of this post, I have come full circle this month in accepting the inevitability of death- both my own and my fathers, whenever they may be.
                                          May we both live and die without fear.




Friday, February 19, 2016

South Western Sweet Potato Skillet

with egg
      It's not that I don't know where eggs come from, but after a lifetime of seeing them neatly organized into convenient  packages of 6 or 12 in the brightly lit refrigerated section of the supermarket, I wasn't prepared for the emotional experience of lifting a freshly lain egg from its nest, and holding it in my hands. The feeling was somewhere between finding an unexpected gift under the tree on Christmas morning, and reaching into the candy jar when no one was looking. I felt exhilarated, wide eyed with wonder, and well - a little bit guilty. I then decided that this egg was given freely, and accepted it with deep gratitude.