Thursday, December 31, 2009

Exciting New Year 2010

A special thank you to all my readers for hanging along and following my new blog. Geek gone raw has not been around too long, and it is really in an experimental stage trying to find its own niche in the vast world of online blogs - any feedback is therefore greatly appreciated. I'd like to wish you all a wonderful, exciting New Year 2010 full of challenges!

Here are some snap shots of our party spread:

Indian-spiced rudabaga wedges (first pic)
Curried split pea burgers
Guacamole
Amazing Hummus (with fresh parsley, sprouted sesame seeds and turmeric)
Faux Ketchup (organic tomato puree, braggs raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, dark agave, spices)
Marinated garbanzo beans (olive oil, coconut oil, pepper, Himalayan salt, lemon juice)
Seasonal organic vegetables for dipping

We also made some raw pomegranate chocolate, which we will enjoy with a glass of real Champagne. Of course champagne isn't really health food, but there is something to be said about all things in moderation. One glass a year won't certainly do any harm.

Enjoy your evening! Eat well :)


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Strawberry spice smoothie + superfood facts

First of all, I'd like to wish all of my readers a wonderful, peaceful Holiday season! I hope you keep up the good work and choose flavorful raw desserts over the generic boxed chocolates and sugary baking. It is still good to remember that Christmas is a great opportunity to gather around the people you care about and enjoy delicious food. It is OK to indulge, but even during the Holidays moderation is the key. If you plan on eating heavier tomorrow, today may be a good idea to eat lightly: consider eating "just" smoothies, raw soups and salads. This post is not really a Xmas post, instead I chose to talk about the new up-and-coming health food bee pollen and share a recipe, which includes it.

Why is bee pollen considered a superfood?
I'm sure many of you have heard that bee products (honey, pollen, propolis) have antibiotic properties and that they are loaded with nutrients. Well, I decided to dig a little deeper before believing this and this is what I discovered:

Nutritional content:
Data: Lauks Testing Laboratories, Inc., Seattle, Washington. Tables formatted by myself.

- Pollen is the main source of protein for the bees and for many other insects living in the colonies
- Phytosterols have been reported to promote health of the male prostate and female ovaries and breasts by reducing cancer risk and slowing down the aging process. They also have clinically proven to help lower cholesterol and therefore prevent cardiovascular disease. Preventative action against lung and stomach cancer has also been observed. This is because of the inhibition of carcinogen production, cancer-cell growth, angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), invasion and metastasis, and through the promotion of apoptosis ("suicide") of cancerous cells.
- Pollen stimulates immunity and has been demonstrated to double the lifetime of test mice with lung cancer
- Bee pollen has also been demonstrated to improve liver health because it helps detoxifying the body from industrial toxins
- Bee pollen also contains flavonoids, which are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and/or antimutagenic

What happens in your body when you ingest bee pollen?
It begins to swell and the water in your body will cause it to become enzymatically active. First the external layer, the material in the walls of the pollen grain (pigment, enzymes, allergens) are leached out. Then the acidic environment in the stomach will cause the intine or the inner layer of the grain to come apart. The enzymes in the stomach start to digest pollen proteins, polymer carbohydrates and lipids. Other unbound elements such as sugars, amino acids, vitamins and fatty acids are absorbed as they are.

The pollen may directly enter the blood stream in the gastrointestinal tract (more likely for higher doses). Studies on digestibility both in vitro and in vivo (in a dish and in test mice) showed that digestion is time dependent. Substances located in the external surface as well as the inner layer are however easily reached by the enzymes and digested. No animal can enzymatically digest the sporopollenin, which is why we can only use the soluble substances and submicroscopic areas of the grain's walls as foodstuff. Though there is a need for further studies, there is also reason to believe that nutrients in bee pollen are in fact well digested and absorbed by humans.

Always consume organic pollen from a reliable source!
1) The palynological composition of bee pollen is very specific to region and the local flora surrounding the bees

2)The specific effects of pollen are influenced by various components and may have different mechanisms of action which depend on the season and the method of gathering. Ideally pollen is best when it is collected by hand, but this is not commercially attractive.

3) Scientists have succeeded in extracting chloramphenicol (CAP) from bee pollen. CAP is considered a broad-spectrum, bacteriostatic antibiotic which functions against both Gram- and Gram+ bacteria as well as other pathogenic micro-organisms. It inhibits protein synthesis, which means it makes it impossible for the bacterium to reproduce. This is not naturally present in bee pollen. Japan, EU and the US have set a zero-tolerance for CAP residues in food. It can be dangerous especially to individuals with health problems, as it can for example trigger aplastic anemia in susceptible individuals.

Note: If you are suffering from allergies, consuming bee pollen regularly may help ease symptoms of hay fever and other floral allergies in spring time. At the moment the mechanism is not fully understood nor proven beyond a doubt, but with caution and starting with small doses experimenting is relatively harmless. Start with 1/4tsp/ day or even less, gradually move up to around a 1tsp if possible.

Now for the recipe. Although I usually don't post smoothie recipes because I think everyone likes to improvise their own, I had to share this one because it was so yummy. Good way of eating pollen, maca, parsley and turmeric!

Strawberry spice smoothie
3 large glasses

2 ripe persimmons
1 banana
2 apples
1 ruby grapefruit
1 C frozen strawberries
collard greens & fresh flat-leaf parsley (use as much as you can enjoy!)
0,5tsp turmeric (or more, to taste)
3tbsp soaked chia seeds
water

Optional nutritional boosts:
bee pollen granules
maca powder

Peel grapefruit and banana, but leave the peel on for the persimmons and apples. Depending on your blender's processing power, you may want to chop up some of the fruit before tossing it in. Blend with water to desired consistency, add turmeric. Finally add the frozen strawberries and taste. Be creative! I also added 3 tsp bee pollen (for three adults) and 3 tsp maca. You really need to listen to your body and especially if you are new to these "superfoods", start with small amounts.

This smoothie is so delicious, it is almost like a dessert. It also reminds me of summer, probably because of the strawberries.. which was nice, considering it just snowed like 5 inches last night and it is freezing outside.

Sources:
"Phytosterols Added to Foods Work to Cut Bad Cholesterol. " Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter May2009, Vol. 27 Issue 3, p8-8. ISSN: 15260143.
Woyengo, T. A.,Ramprasath, V. R. & Jones, P. J. H. "Anticancer effects of phytosterols". European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Jul2009, Vol. 63 Issue 7, p813-820.
Furusawa E, et al. Antitumor potential of pollen extract on Lewis lung carcinoma implanted intraperitoneally in syngenic mice. Phytother Res 1995;9:255-9.
Ceglecka M, et al. Effect of pollen extracts on prolonged poisoning of rats with organic solvents. Phytother Res 1991:5;245-9.
H. F. Linskens & W. Jorde. "Pollen as food and medicine—A review". Economic Botany Volume 51, Number 1 / January, 1997.
Burdock GA. Review of the biological properties of propolis and toxicity of bee propolis (propolis). Food Chem Toxicol 1998;36:347-63.
"Determination of Chloramphenicol Residues in Bee Pollen by Liquid Chromatography/TandemMass". Journal of AOAC. International Sep/Oct 2008, Vol. 91 Issue 5, p. 1103-1109. ISSN: 10603271.
P. Carrión et al. "Classification of honeybee pollen using a multiscale texture filtering scheme". Machine Vision and Applications Volume 15, Number 4 / October, 2004.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Turmeric protects against DNA damage!

What kinds of ingredients should each and everyone of you be consuming as often as possible? Answer: turmeric, avocados, fresh flat-leaf parsley and organic lemons. But why?

Turmeric:
+ related to ginger, used as medicine in Asia since ancient times
+ can help fight and prevent cancer since it is clinically proven to reduce DNA damage due to potent antimutagenic properties
+ fortifies cell walls
+ detoxifying
+ strong antioxidant
+ shown to prevent peroxidative injury of DNA with approximately an 80% prevention rate
+ dietary turmeric can activate bowel motility and carbohydrate colonic fermentation
+ can help prevent and treat symptoms of atherosclerosis, Alzheimers, Cystic Fibrosis
+ superior antioxidant power slowing down and reducing the symptoms of aging
+ anti-inflammatory: could play a role in the treatment/management of arthritis
+ evidence suggests curcumin can interfere with replication of herpes simplex virus
+ might boost liver function and aid recovery of liver injuries

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as you can see from the bibliography this research is very recent. I am sure that in time, we will discover even more benefits of turmeric. So for your health, beauty and overall well-being, start inducing this true "superfood" into your diet!

To maximize the benefits it is best to consume organic turmeric raw and unheated. Remember also to always consume your turmeric with quality fats (like with avocados), because this significantly increases the absorption of the active ingredient, curcumin. Otherwise, by itself curcumin has relatively low bioavailability.

Because I do want to focus this important message, I will not flood this post with too much further info. I will remind you though that flat-leaf parsley is the best kind of parsley, and it is packed with nutrients - predominantly vitamins C, A, K, calcium, iron and folic acid (very important for women especially!). Lemons on the other hand are loaded with enzymes and antioxidants. Furthermore, just one 200g avocado contains a third of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C along with beneficial fats, protein and dietary fiber.

Try out this easy, simple and quick recipe that combines all three:

Super synergy soup:
Serves 2

1 avocado
2 medium carrots
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 small clove garlic
lemon juice, to taste
water, to desired consistency

Spices:
organic turmeric, to taste
pinch quality salt (Himalayan/Celtic sea salt)
freshly ground black pepper
chili/cayenne powder, optional

Blend soup ingredients until smooth in a high-speed blender. I highly recommend organic carrots, because you don't have to peel them and lose nutritional value by doing it. Depending on the quality of your blender, it might be a good idea to chop up the hard carrots. Use your imagination and add any other seasoning you enjoy! Fresh ginger would also add a nice touch. Pack in a bottle for an easy revitalizing meal on the go or enjoy topped with seeds or sprouts.

Bibliography (very recent innovations!):
Akito Shimouchi et al, "Effect of Dietary Turmeric on Breath Hydrogen". Digestive Diseases and Sciences. Volume 54, Number 8 / August, 2009 .

A. Ramirez Bosca et al, "Effects of the antioxidant turmeric on lipoprotein peroxides: Implications for the prevention of atherosclerosis". AGE Volume 20, Number 3 / July, 1997.

Marie E. Egan et al, "Curcumin, a Major Constituent of Turmeric, Corrects Cystic Fibrosis Defects". April 2004. DOI: 10.1126/science.1093941

Marano, Daniel A. "Currying Favor With the Brain. "Psychology Today Nov/Dec 2009, Vol. 42 Issue 6, p51-52.

Tweed, Vera. "Prevent alzheimer's", Better Nutrition Oct2009, Vol. 71 Issue 10, p26-28.

V. K. Goud, K. Polasa and K. Krishnaswamy. "Effect of turmeric on xenobiotic metabolising enzymes." Plant Foods for Human Nutrition (Formerly Qualitas Plantarum)
Volume 44, Number 1 / July, 1993.

Masazumi Miyakoshi et al. "Hepatoprotective effect of sesquiterpenes in turmeric" . BioFactors Volume 21, Numbers 1-4/2004.

IMG source: http://www.turmeric.co.in/images/turmeric_powder.gif

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Natural cosmetics and eclectic thoughts

Are you all bored with my raw desserts? I doubt this blog is ever going to have a clear focus, because it is a reflection of my thoughts and views on a healthy lifestyle. Well-being does not arise from fixing just a few aspects of your life, it requires a fundamental change in your mindset. As I have come to discover, even the smallest changes can snowball into great things. This change is by no means passive, but it is natural. Usually the first steps are the hardest, then you discover that you are already running. Finally, hopefully, you can inspire others to advance alongside you.

This blog is written by a scientist. I am skeptical, inquisitive and need reason to understand. As an example, for me it is not enough to read that aspartame is dangerous, I need to understand why (Please sign this petition against aspartame in infant antibiotics: (http://www.adressit.com/allekirjoitukset/aspartaamipoisantibiooteista/). For this reason, perhaps to my disadvantage, I find myself not believing in spiritual doctrines such as ayurvedic principles or Feng Shui. Although I do not mean to demean these philosophies in any way, they do not have a place in my blog for the time being.

I find it hard to say what this blog will be about and what I will not discuss. This is because I am going through huge changes in my life and it is difficult to predict where this is leading. Since this is my personal blog, I feel I can post about whatever seems interesting to me at the time. This post despite this long intro is about natural cosmetics. For me these changes all started from the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Like many expecting mothers, I wanted to be as healthy as possible and provide the best environment for my unborn child to grow and develop. I ate as healthy as I knew how and exercised. My food changed from low-calorie-carb-sugar (no sweeteners or MSG), to avoiding all additives and going organic. After she was born I have learned about raw foods, which really have brought my health to a new level. Before I was very ill very often, many times requiring hospitalization. I suffered from constant pain caused by chronic Lyme Disease (which the doctors initially misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia). The only way I could get through the day was horrible medication, which thankfully I stopped before pregnancy. Now, with this diet, all this is gone and I find that not only am I resilient to most infections, but if I ever feel like I might have caught something, my body fights it off immediately. This huge change has inspired me to limit my intake of dangerous chemicals from other sources as well.

Remember, that our skin is our largest organ. We absorb a large portion of the stuff we put on our skin, hair, lashes, lips etc. We even eat our lip sticks. Most store-bought cosmetics choose to hide their INCI (international list of ingredients), because it is unbelievable what can be found in them. The lists are miles long and even for a person who has studied years of chemistry in the university, they are difficult to understand. Here is a brief list of what I avoid when buying cosmetics:

- Sodium Laurenth/Lauryl Sulfate (SLS/SLES): skin irritation/corrosion, possibly harmful levels of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane , environmentally hazardous, cannot be metabolized by the liver (possible cumulative effects in the long-run, liver damage)

- Parabens (Methyl-, Ethyl-, Butyl etc): effect hormone balance (estrogenic activity, increases risk of breastcancer), skin irritation and allergies. Used as preservatives because they inhibit microbial growth.

- Ethoxylated surfactants
("PEG", polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene): could contain carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.

- Formaldehyde: used also as embalming fluid, highly carcinogenic. also causes head aches.

- Silicone derivatives (Dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, cyclomethicone): Blocks skin from getting enough oxygen. Non-biodegradable, which means they are environmentally unsafe.

I am still very new to natural cosmetics. Before I used to dye my hair bright red every 6 weeks, now I use henna and occasionally Herbatint (maybe 2-4 times/year). I am thinking of quitting the Herbatint though because it contains hydrogen peroxide. Probably just need to find the right type of henna mixture. Last time I used Macurth bright red henna with lemon juice and black tea. Next I will probably ditch the tea and add more citrus, like grapefruit juice. Any other suggestions?

Along with these changes I have made to my diet, not only have I opted for less toxic cosmetics, but also rethought what kind of make up I "need". I used to wear a fair bit of make up on my eyes, along with blush, foundation and powder. Now I have cut down to mascara, blush and powder. I find that I hardly need foundation these days because my skin is in great condition as it is. My self-esteem has also improved, which is why I don't think I need as much make up as I used to wear. I know I look just fine as I am, and I encourage you to find this confidence as well - it will make you shine so much stronger than any type of cosmetic product.

A new found natural product I have come to love is (pic is a link to where I bought it):

It's ingredients are: Silk powder, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, tapioca starch*, lauroyl lysine, mica, iron oxides. They also claim that this blush is "Made with natural ingredients from sustainable, agricultural sources. " Regardless, the color (mine is honey bronze) is amazing and natural. It blends well even without foundation, and enhances my glow.

I'm also currently using (and LOVING) this lip balm:INCI:
Octinoxate 6%, Benzophenone 3%, Titanium Dioxide .5%. Canola Oil*, Beeswax*, Lecithin*, Pineapple Fruit Extract*, Coconut Cream Flavor*, Vanilla Flavor*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Tocopherol, Royal Jelly, Propolis, Lysine.

Smells and even tastes good, of course I try not to eat any :) This is nice on occasion, I use it more as "gloss" to polish of a look.

I also ordered a number of new things to test:
Aubrey Organics Silken Earth Translucent base powder:
INCI: Silk powder, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, tapioca starch*, lauroyl lysine, cinnamomum zeylanicum bark powder*, aloe barbadensis leaf*, oryza sativa (rice) starch, tocopherol, iron oxides, silica.

Tinted lip balm:
INCI: Active Ingredients: 7.5% Octinoxate, 6.0% Oxybenzone. Hydrogenated coconut oil, beeswax, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, mica, iron oxides, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, tocopherol and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), titanium dioxide, calendula officinalis flower and echinacea purpurea extracts, natural flavor and glycine soja (soybean) oil. Not Tested on Animals.

May contain: Mica, iron oxides, titanium dioxide.

AnneMarie Borlind Eyeliner pencil:
http://www.iherb.com/AnneMarie-Borlind-Eye-Liner-Pencil-Black-03-oz-1-05-g/10306?at=0
INCI:
Hydrogenated jojoba oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, mangifera indica (mango) seed oil, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, glyceryl caprylate, copernica cerifera (carnauba) wax, macadamia ternifolia seed oil, tocopherol, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract, ascorbyl palmitate.

Does anyone know if Dr Hauschka mascara is any good? It seems to be hard to find one without any parabens or PEGs.

Very few of these ingredients are good, but most are harmless especially when only small amounts are used. From now on I will limit my daily make up to a touch of mascara (eyeliner for special occasions), blush, powder (if there is something to cover up) and tinted lip balm. This way I'll look polished enough for the office but also greatly reduce my exposure to harmful chemicals. I also have some organic eyeshadow, but I think I'll use it only for evening events.

At this moment I have no commercial ties anywhere, except an iherb discount code like everyone else. If you like, use the code BIQ066 for a 5 dollar discount off your first order. In the US, you can get free shipping for orders over 40 dollars, and Finns can get their package under 1,38kg to Finland in roughly 11 days for 4 dollars. There is also a -10% off all orders over 60 dollars valid until 31.12. I am not trying to promote iherb here, rather encourage those of you who think they cannot afford natural cosmetics.

I invite everyone to share recommendations and thoughts on natural cosmetics in the comment box! Especially links to affordable products are highly welcomed.

Edit: I almost ordered BWC (Beauty Without Cruelty) pressed powder, but then noticed that Aubrey Organics had my shade after all and seemed a much better product.

Sources:
1,4-Dioxane Factsheet. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, February 1995. http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/chemfact/dioxa-sd.txt

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16287077

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/106600317/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

Sunday, December 13, 2009

1st birthday party and double-chocolate apricot cake heaven


Apricot double-chocolate bliss

Dark chocolate cake layer:
2 C almonds
1 C raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 C raw cacao powder (or less)
1/3 C coconut oil (or less)
1 C soaked raisins (or dried sweet fruit of choice)
some dried dates
raisin soak water
vanilla
dash of Himalayan/Celtic sea salt

Process the nuts and seeds into a powder, but avoid separating the oils into a paste. Add the dried fruit, cocoa powder and as much liquid oil+water as necessary to get a uniform ball of dough you can shape in your hands. Add vanilla and pinch of salt. Taste and add more sweetener if desired.

White chocolate layer:
150 g raw cacao butter
70g ground almonds
70g cashews
1 large ripe banana or 2 smaller
Water
Agave syrup, to taste
Vanilla
touch of fine-ground dried orange/lemon peel
(pinch salt)

Melt cacao butter in a warm water bath (105F or 40C). Grind nuts, add banana and liquid cacao butter. Then pour in agave, vanilla and citrus peel. I did not measure ingredients exactly and you don't have to either. You want the consistency of a pudding and a wonderful, sweet rich nutty chocolate flavor.

Apricot preserves:
soaked organic dried unsulfured apricots (not the poisonous yellow ones!)
Agave
little lemon juice

Blend until jam consistency, or use a ready-made organic apricot preserve.

Constructing the cake:
Mold dark chocolate cake layer into 3 separate cake layers, mine were round and about 7-8 inches in diameter. Chill them first until they are firm, and once they are firmed up make the white chocolate filling. I made the dark cake layer the night before and the white chocolate layer first thing in the morning. Then place the first dark layer on a serving plate, layer with apricot preserves and a layer of white chocolate. Add another dark layer, the jam and the white chocolate. The last layer is one with white chocolate, then decorate it with grated mint chocolate and dried pink cranberries. The mint and the cranberries really enhance the experience. Chill in a fridge until ready to serve. Our party lasted for a few hours, and it still kept well in room temp.

Making the food for the party was really a series of unfortunate events. I had ordered the cacao butter well in advance, but due to some problems it did not arrive in time. We figured we could get some from Tampere once we got there, but then there was an accident where a bus caught fire and we were stuck in traffic for 1,5 hours. First we went to Ruohonjuuri, and they had none. Called Punnitse & Säästä, they didn't have it either. We thought Runsaudensarvi was closed, but thankfully they had special Xmas time hours and were still open. And they had it! So cake was still on the menu.. until the night before when our current food processor broke beyond repair. I had to use my mothers small electronic hand-mixer, which somehow got stuck and cut deep into my left index finger. For a moment I thought it was actually cut off, but the cut is "only" down to the bone. Still hurts.

Regardless, everything turned out great and all 12 guests enjoyed themselves. Everyone besides me and my husband were strangers to raw cuisine, but they still loved the cake. The complete menu was:

The Birthday cake
Raw Tzatziki dip with dipping size pieces of celery, yellow carrot, zucchini and broccoli
Organic yeast-free 100% rye bread with all natural butter (which we didn't eat, but others enjoyed)
Green shrimp garbanzo bean salad (shrimp stir-fried in garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil, with fresh cucumber, dill, mixture of green salads, boiled garbanzo beans, dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper)

Everyone ate and people were intrigued. Mission accomplished :) Unfortunately we had so much fun and our hands full with a certain little toddler that there are only a few pics. We might get some more later from friends.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blueberry tartlets


Blueberry pie in my mind is associated with numerous happy memories of my childhood. After discovering what gluten does to me and gradually finding out more and more about nutrition, I've been looking for a raw substitute for this comforting pie. There are some out there I've tried and tested, but none of them matched my idea of blueberry pie. Somehow the filling has always been either too tart, too liquid, too banana-flavored or a combination of these. I finally just sat down to think how I would make raw blueberry pie without the influence of any other recipes. This is what went into by food processor:

Blueberry crumble tartlets:
6 large tartlets

Crust:
1/2 C sprouted buckwheat groats
1/2 C dry almonds (ideally sprouted and dehydrated)
10 dried dates
4 tbsp coconut oil
0,5-1 tsp cinnamon
vanilla

Grind almonds and buckwheat, add other ingredients. Process until a uniform, thick mixture. Press into the edges of 6 non-stick cupcake molds/tartlet shells. You could make more smaller ones, the six are kind of big. Allow to chill in the fridge for about an hour, to firm up the crust.

Blueberry filling:
1 C blueberries (mine were frozen & thawed)
6-10 dried figs
small handful of pecans
vanilla agave, to taste (or vanilla + sweetener of choice)
2 tsp lucuma

Process in a food processor until a thick paste. I left mine a bit chunky, because I liked the little bits of fig in the filling. Once the pie crusts have set, take them out of the molds and scoop in the filling.

Crumble topping:
Almonds
Shredded, unsulfured coconut flakes
Touch honey
Cinnamon
(pinch himalayan salt)

Grind coconut and almonds until crumbly, mix with spices and sprinkle on the tartlets. Place back in the fridge until it's time to eat. Enjoy with someone special.

Sadly our old faithful Bosch food processor has seen better days. Some blades are broken and especially the broken grater blade is a pain. I love grated sweet potato and carrot salads, and now having to do all the work by hand kind of kills the buzz.. Luckily an elf tipped me off and hinted that Santa may be bringing a 950W food processor our way. Thumbs crossed!

Speaking of new amazing kitchen appliances, I have yet to receive our new Stöckli dehydrator. Man am I looking forward to it's arrival. There are so many ideas I have been playing with that I could finally execute with these gadgets... well, we'll just have to wait and see. As you can see from the pic, the new camera (Canon EOS 500d) is here, so once those missing appliances arrive nothing can limit my creativity :)

Meanwhile, stay tuned for my daughter's 1st b-day post. There will be a raw cake and some tips for planning a party with guests who eat (un-)normal food. This will be the first I am hosting, so I'm sure I'll learn a lot from the feedback. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Honey beets on a bed of blushing quinoa


After reviewing the poll I discovered that some of you would like to see cooked recipes. The purpose of this post is to show that healthy nutritious food does not have to be completely raw. It doesn't have to contain meat or be difficult either. Nutritional value is determined by the ingredients and how they are cooked. Naturally some cooked foods can be healthier than raw ones, but ultimately it is all about the balance. Eating lots of scrumptious desserts everyday is not good for you, even if they are raw organic ones. Needless to say it is still important to include plenty of fresh raw food in your diet, as roughly 80% of what you consume in a day should be uncooked. If you want to eat 100% raw and are certain you are getting all vitamins and minerals you need (especially B12 for vegans), there is no reason not to.

Onto the recipe. This is one of those "tastes better than it looks and sounds"-dishes. It is also one that was completely born out of improvisation and necessity, with only a limited selection of ingredients available. You know the scenario: you just start throwing things in the mix as you go along. Then when you have prepared yourself to eat something less successful, you are surprised to find that actually what you concocted is pretty genius.

Honey beets:
4 Large beets
Water
Himalayan salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Organic honey
Cold pressed coconut oil

Wash beets until all dirt is gone. Boil water in a pot and add the whole beets, some salt and allow simmer for around 30min depending on size of the beets. You want them slightly tender but not mushy. Once they are ready, take them out (reserve the pink cooking water!) and cut out the root and the end you don't want to eat. Slice them into about 1/2 inch thick discs and coat the discs with salt and pepper. At this point start making the quinoa and while it is simmering take out another pot or frying pan to heat up some coconut oil, and once the pan is warm add the honey. Add the beet slices and fry for a little while, you want to caramelize just to create a thin crispy layer, but not brown or burn the beets.

Blushing quinoa with garbanzo beans and fresh parsley
1,5 C quinoa (I replaced some with millet)
Left over pink cooking water (add more if necessary)
1 C boiled or sprouted garbanzo beans
2 large onions
Coconut oil
Himalayan salt, pepper
Lots of fresh parsley

Boil the quinoa in the beet water, add salt or more fresh water if you need. Just a gentle simmer is enough to allow the quinoa to open up and "sprout" while cooking, too high heat will only compromise nutritional value. Cut up the onions and caramelize them in a frying pan with a little coconut oil. Once the quinoa is done, add boiled garbanzo (chick) beans and the caramelized onion. Take off heat and allow to cool to around 110F or 46 C before adding the chopped fresh parsley. This is because parsley is packed with heat-sensitive nutrients. If you are using garbanzo sprouts instead of cooked beans, add them at this stage as well. Check seasoning.

It really is difficult to eat a mostly raw diet in the colder parts of the world, especially in the winter. It is so environmentally unfriendly to eat tons of green house tomatoes or cucumbers, but the veggies that are locally in season are challenging to eat uncooked. Of course you can eat them in raw grated salads and puree some into soups, but I myself don't really enjoy raw root vegetables that much. Other than sweet potatoes that is, I think the three of us eat pounds of them every week. Parsnips are ok as well. This is one reason I'm thankful of the Finnish blog society, it is nice to give and receive ideas how to eat healthy but also eco-consciously during the cold season. Especially since international raw blogs and books are filled with recipes that require young coconuts and other fresh exotic fruits and vegetables. Even zucchini pasta is not quite so feasible right now (at least not too often), because the organic ones are imported and very expensive. But let's not let the cold gray weather drag us down and instead start using this opportunity to create completely new and interesting recipes :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chocolate banana scallops

This is a very simple recipe, probably many of you have eaten similar treats. But there is something so fundamentally delicious about it, I just had to share. I swear, I'll never touch a factory-made piece of chocolate again.

The name originates from the inspiration from the banana scallops Richard Blais made on Top Chef Season 4. This is not about exact measurements, but rather the combination of premium ingredients in a perfect ratio.

The recipe:

Chocolate:
Few tablespoons liquid cold pressed coconut oil
3-5 tbsp raw organic cacao powder
1/4 tsp honey (to taste, I sometimes don't put any)
1-2 tsp raw organic bee pollen (crunch!)
1-2 tbsp maca powder
1-3 tbsp lucuma powder
dash Himalayan salt

2 sliced organic bananas

Mix chocolate ingredients in a small bowl with a spoon. Taste and throw in however much of anything you feel like. Cut up banana into "scallop" slices, dip and coat in chocolate. Place on a dish and allow to set in the fridge until firm, it won't require too much patience.

Enjoy with your favorite tea or other beverage :) Seriously, the sweetness of the banana with the lucuma-maca flavored chocolate combined with the hint of saltiness.. raw chocolate heaven.

Btw, I just ordered a Stöckli Dörrex dehydrator, which will be arriving in a week. So looking forward to that, I'll certainly post more of my recipes once I finally can execute my ideas properly! My husband also upgraded to a Canon EOS pro cam, so the pictures will also improve drastically. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 30, 2009

How much calcium do we really need?

Are you thinking about cutting out the dairy but worried about adequate calcium intake? Or are you a parent concerned about the adverse health effects of dairy products, but scared that your child will suffer from calcium deficiency without them? Is there an alternative to supplemental Calcium tablets?

From the get-go I was apprehensive about milk with my daughter because I am so strongly lactose-intolerant (and possible casein allergy). It was touted as the only way for your child, so I initially thought that she would need dairy. I proceeded to do an extensive amount of research on the subject, starting with why omit dairy. Here are the main reasons:

- Calcium from cow's milk poorly absorbed (30% or less)
- Harmful effects of milk protein, casein (increased risk for cancer, increases autism syptoms, similar to gluten and may cause problems for gluten-intolerant)
- Lactose, nearly everyone is intolerant but in varying degrees (some tolerate more than others)
- Animal protein increases secretion of calcium to urine, and this loss is much more significant in determining calcium utilization relative to calcium intake
- Cow's milk is optimal for calves until they are weaned, not meant for (excessive) human consumption
- Especially O blood group was most prevalent long before agriculture, may be the reason that individuals with O blood cannot digest dairy (or grains) too well. On the contrary blood type A is common in agricultural societies and therefore are better adapted to consuming dairy products

Then, after reviewing the potential risks, I started wondering could milk be replaced by alternative calcium sources? Straightforward answer: YES it can! And it is easy. Excellent sources include:

Chia seeds 820mg/100g (123 mg in one tablespoon!)
Sesame seeds, unhulled 640mg/100g (95mg in tbsp)
Sardines, 92mg/sardine
Sunflower seeds 116mg/100g
Rose hip puree (ruusunmarjasose) 334mg/100g
Almonds 276mg/100g
Dried figs 250mg/100g
Raisins 50mg/100g
Sweet potato, raw 30mg/100g
Breastmilk 27-30mg/100g

Compared:
Cow's milk, 1% 120mg/100g

But how much calcium is actually required? Recommendations vary a lot in different countries, in America often an adult RDA is 1200mg, whereas in Japan this is only 600mg. RDA's are however not minimum intakes, or even necessary intakes. They are based on statistics with margins to ensure that they are suitable for everyone, it does not take individuality into account. For example, consumption of animal protein increases secretion of calcium. Therefore a diet rich in plant protein and low in animal protein means you require less calcium. This is also true for infants not consuming any dairy. Many sources including AAP say that infants need 400mg calcium, but I have not succeeded in finding a minimum calcium intake for infants. This is probably because it is too risky info, they would rather have children consume an excess than risk any child getting less than what is required. I found this chart however, that lists values specific to age categories:

Infants, 0 - 6 months
210 mg
Infants, 7 - 12 months
270 mg
Children, 1 - 3 years
500 mg
Children, 4 - 8 years
800 mg
Pre-teens and Teens, 9-18 years
1300 mg
Adults (19-50 years)
1000 mg
Adults (50+ years)
1200 mg
Pregnant and Nursing (up to age 18)
1300 mg
Pregnant and Nursing (19-50 years)
1000 mg
Source: http://www.health.gov.sk.ca/calcium

This seems reasonable. I try to ensure my soon 1-year-old daughter gets 300-400mg calcium daily, and that I self (nursing) get around 800-1000mg daily. Like I said, for individuals who consume less animal protein the required intake of calcium is less. Calcium from plant sources is often highly absorbed, especially in the case of chia and sprouted sesame seeds. A diet rich in vegetables is also high in boron, which further increases calcium utilization and bone strength. Chia seeds also contain plenty of boron.

Clearly a diet rich in calcium does not need to include dairy. Contradictory to common belief, it does not require soy products either.

Tips to include calcium in infant diets:
- Chia smoothies (1 tbsp chia seeds, 1-2 times a day)
- Sprouted sesame seeds in porridges and smoothies
- Rose hip puree (on its own, smoothies, porridge)
- Mash a sardine or mackerel fillet (low sodium ones) in with a veggie meal
- Nutmilks (after first year)
- Dried dates, figs and prunes and raw grated veggies as finger foods
- Soak dried fruit or raisins in water for smoothies
- Dark leafy greens in smoothies (calcium from spinach not too well absorbed due to oxalic acid, also too high in nitrates for infants)

Remember that calcium absorption hinges on adequate vitamin D intake! And please take the time to sign this important petition againts aspartame in children's antibiotics.

IMG: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Calcium-Tablets-2007.jpg

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are you and your child getting enough vitamin D?

Do breastfed infants need supplemented vitamin D?
When to start giving your child vitamin D?
How much vitamin D do children need?
In what form should I give my child vitamin D supplements?

I'm sure these questions have plagued all parents for years now and unfortunately there still are no absolute answers. Ok, the state-provided health care system for expectant mothers and children (Neuvola), will recommend 10 micrograms (400 IU) every day after the age of two weeks. Is this reasonable? According to current research the prior RDA of 200 IU for infants is too little, and at least the current recommendation 400 IU is desirable. Last year American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) started recommending doubling the dose and starting this year the same has happened in Finland. With the knowledge we have today it is reasonable to have confidence that this dose is both safe and adequate for all children. The supplements should be started at latest at 2 weeks of age, AAP even recommends just after the first few days.

But is there individual variation? Can there really be one RDA from infancy until adolescence, which is the same even for children living in different climates? Naturally genetics, overall diet and exercise as well as sunlight exposure will affect how much supplemental vitamin D is needed. If an infant or child consumes no dietary added vitamin D, there is no indication that there is any risk of side effects due to excessive intake of vitamin D from a 10 microgram supplement. This is of course different, if a baby for example is consuming D-fortified formula or a child is drinking fortified milk and eating other fortified foods. In these cases the parent needs to make the appropriate calculations to make sure that the child is not exceeding the RDA on a regular basis.
Personally I do not advocate offering children any vitamin D fortified foods as these usually are foods that need to be fortified because they are otherwise deficient in nutrients (such as sugar-coated cereals). Some even contain the wrong form D2 instead of the needed cholecalciferol D3, such as Keiju oat milks in Finland. If at all possible, it is best to consume all food in it's natural and organic state, without anything added. Unfortunately due to our dark climate and limited sun exposure we need to supplement vitamin D.

There is some research into whether nursing babies need supplements or if they get enough from breastmilk. So far the leading consensus is that not enough vitamin D is transfered into the milk and therefore it is advisable that even breastfeed infants receive D-drops. As long as the 400 IU supplement is the only external source of vitamin D, it is considered safe.

Fatty fish are the best natural dietary source of vitamin D. For Finns I especially recommend herring (1627 IU/100g) and mackerel (cooked 345 IU/100g), because they are readily available here. Vitamin D in plants is usually in D2-form, which is why vegans especially need a good quality D3 supplement.

The best vitamin D supplement for infants 0-2 yrs and over I have found to date is Carlson's d-drops (picture above):


First of all, they are nothing but 400 IU of D3 in coconut oil. Second of all, you only literally need one DROP, which can easily be dropped on the nipple before nursing an infant or in food for older children. No GMO, gluten, sugars, additives, preservatives, alcohol or any other junk. They are even ridiculously cheap, that one 11 ml bottle contains enough for an entire year! Of course this also makes it eco-friendly. Iherb will also ship to Finland via airmail for 4-6 dollars.

Compare Carlson's drops to for example the commonly Neuvola-recommended Deetipat:
Ingredients: "Sakkaroosi, natriumsitraatti, makrogoliglyserolihydroksistearaatti, sitruunahappomonohydraatti, alfa-tokoferoli, keskipitkäketjuisia tyydyttyneitä triglyseridejä, väkiviina 96 %, puhdistettu vesi."
So 96% alcohol, sugar, saturated fats. I can't believe that this is even legal.

For adults a beneficial but safe dose is around 25 micrograms or 1000 IU. Some choose to take even more, I myself take 2000 IU daily. Now Food's supplements are high quality with minimal added ingredients and they are also far cheaper than many of the supplements sold here in pharmacies. Also available at iherb and many other online stores.

Sources:
http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/80/6/1759S.pdf
http://www.aap.org/pressroom/nce/nce08vitamind.htm
Breast milk as a source of vitamins, essential minerals and trace element. Christopher J. Bates and Ann Prentice. Nov 2002. DOI:10.1016/0163-7258(94)90011-6.
http://www.laakeinfo.fi/Medicine.aspx?m=1669&i=FERROSAN_DEETIPAT
http://www.aap.org/new/VitaminDreport.pdf
Image: http://www.vitaminshoppe.com/images/catalog/skus/l_cl-1115.png

Friday, November 20, 2009

Help ban aspartame from infants and childrens antibiotics!

Outraged after noticing that an antibiotic prescription for my daughter's ear infection contained the extremely dangerous and harmful artificial sweetener aspartame, I felt a strong urge to do something about it. I will personally campaign to get enough names to submit these pharmaceutical companies to quit poisoning small children!

Link to my petition (in Finnish):

Please sign this important petition and spread the word! We as parents and as concerned citizens need to fight for the rights and future health of our children. There is NO reason to allow our children to be guinea pigs until we know just how harmful aspartame is. As long as there is ANY doubt about the safety of aspartame, it is NOT worth the risk.

I would greatly appreciate if fellow bloggers could post the link as well. In order for us to make a difference, we need visibility.

Img: http://www.gsk.tw/pic/Products/medicines/ZINNAT.jpg

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pure and nutritious baby food, Part I

I've been talking about a baby food post for who knows how long. Here is part I, I'm predicting this is a topic I'll keep coming back to. One reason why I've waited so long to post about this is because I've been thinking about how I should phrase my knowledge into words. I have so little experience in this type of writing, which is why I ask you to be open-minded and understanding. My way is not the only way, and there is a lot I don't know. If you have something to add or want to comment on anything, please do. If you have some good recipes or ideas, please share them!

First of all, I want to begin by stressing the importance of breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Some nurses in Finland practically push you to feed solids after 4 months, even though even here the national recommendation is 6 months. I for one was accused of starving my child more than once. Even when she was always just normal in weight, developing right on schedule or even early. Their answer to every growth problem is solids - if your baby weighs too much, "your milk is not enough" and if your baby weighs too little "your milk is not enough". Well, what do they recommend instead? Formula made with cow's milk, pureed potatoes, corn porridge? If your baby is underweight, substituting your milk, the natural source of nutrition tailored to meet your child's needs, for overcooked potatoes is definitely not the answer. And no matter how much your baby weighs, breastmilk is still optimized to meet his or her dietary needs. Remember, breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts a mother can offer her child. But there is also no reason to beat yourself up, if you have a valid reason not to nurse. Guilting yourself will only hurt both of you.

But what should you do when your child is 6 months? I believe it is more important to watch for clues for whether your baby is ready for solids or not, there is no exact chronological deadline for this significant step in your child's development. Some tell-tale signs include: teeth(ing), sitting upright, signs of curiosity towards what you are eating and excessive nursing needs. My daughter actually started stealing food off our plates, which was a natural time to start introducing her new flavors.

What not to feed your baby (under 12 months):
Foods high in nitrates (beets, spinach, rutabaga), interfere with oxygen transport
Honey, increased risk of botulism
Any food additives (especially avoid artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers)
Animal milk
White, refined sugar
Fructose (not fruit sugar as it is falsely called, it is made from corn starch by microbes)
Potato, deficient in nutrients and packed with starch which can cause tummy trouble
Liver, or any other animal product high in vitamin A
Corn, very often genetically manipulated and low in nutrients
Wheat, white rice
Soy, even organic non GMO, mimics estrogen (female hormone) in the body causing a harmful hormone imbalance
Nuts, mycotoxins and risk of inhaling
Cacao, caffeine, oxalic acid (lowers calcium absorption) and other harmful compounds for your baby
Salt

What TO feed your baby:
Chia seeds, good ratio of beneficial fatty acids, high in protein and fiber
Avocados, essential fats
Hemp seeds, perfect ratio of omega's, high in protein
Fresh organic fruit, berries and vegetables
Cold-pressed organic oils (coconut, canola, camelina etc)
Lucuma (highly nutritional, improves taste)
Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet
Berry powders made by freeze-drying whole berries (high in nutrients, antioxidants and good flavor, especially sea buckthorn, cloudberry, aronia berry, blueberry)

I also believe fresh, wild-caught fish is good for you baby after 7-8 months age. Remember to give different species and to avoid ones which gather high levels of toxins, fish can be served 1-3 times a week. Avoid fish altogether if there is a family history of fish allergies, as the reaction can be severe. I do not recommend restricting your baby's diet because of your personal ethical viewpoints, but rather to ensure your baby is getting everything he or she needs. There is however good reason to avoid red meats not only due to ethics but health concerns as well. Fish isn't necessary, but if omitted care must be taken to provide your child other sources of healthy fats for optimal brain development.

Wondering what to do about milk? If you're from Finland, I'm sure you are aware of the "Calcium myth". The nurses and doctors will stress that dairy products are the only source of calcium. The national recommendation is giving your child cow's milk several glasses a day after 10-12 months of age. Did you know that only around 30 per cent of the calcium in animal milk is properly absorbed? Compare this with the 60% of total calcium content of sesame seeds that is absorbed (even higher when soaked in water for 8h and sprouted for 6h-3 days). Did you know that most zoo animal babies are fed goat milk because if they where fed cow's milk they would die or become very ill? Many of you are aware of these things, and those who aren't I strongly encourage to do your own research and then decide for yourself. Calcium is crucial for normal bone development among many other things, so cow's milk or nut milk or no milk, make sure your child is getting enough calcium. Remember also that WHO recommends breastfeeding be continued at least for the first 2 years and after that for as long as it feels natural for both mother and child. Because this is considered unrealistic and thought to guilt mothers, Finland ha s set a recommendation to nurse for the first year. My daughter will be a year soon, and I plan on breastfeeding until she is between 12-18 months (when most experts feel it is easiest to wean). I just started making her smoothies with sesame seeds a couple times a week. My husband and I both feel strongly about avoiding animal milk, especially because I get a strong reaction from it.

How to cook for your baby?
Does the food necessarily have to be cooked? All fruits and berries can be served raw for babies any age. For first foods, hard vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, can be steamed briefly and then pureed smooth in a food processor. When it is time for finger foods, serve fresh vegetables and fruit. If you want to give your child cereal/porridge, I recommend grains like millet, spelt, amarath and quinoa. In Finland Holle makes organic baby cereal where you only need to add (breast)milk. No cooking or heating necessary. NEVER, EVER use the microwave for anything that your child eats.

All this text and no recipes? Well here are some:

Berry porridge (6 months and up):
Holle-cereal, preferably millet or spelt
Aronia berry, sea buckthorn, blueberry, cranberry or other berry powder to baby's taste
Hemp powder, to baby's taste
(Breast)milk

Measure out an appropriate amount of dry porridge flakes (4 or more tbsp usually). Express milk to desired consistency, stir. The natural enzymes in breastmilk will start breaking up the protein and other nutrients in the cereal and it will get a bit runnier, but there is no need to add cereal flakes. Stir in berry powder.

Chia-banana smoothie (6 months and up):
0,5-1 tbsp Chia seeds
1/2 C water
Berry powder of choice
Hemp powder or hulled hemp seeds to taste
(Lucuma powder to taste)
0,5-1 banana

Soak chia seeds in water until a gel forms. Blend in a blender with banana and berry powder. Add hemp powder or blend in hulled hemp seeds. My daughter loved this from the get-go, it is still one of her favorites. For variety, substitute banana for a pear, apple, mango or any other fruit or berry. You can also substitute Chia for soaked sesame seeds.

Sweet-potato salmon meal:
organic sweet potato, cubed
fresh, wild-caught salmon
coconut oil

Lightly cook salmon in coconut oil on low heat on a frying pan. Cook only until just done, don't brown. Steam the sweet potato. You can also steam the fish. Process smooth in a food processor. This is another favorite of my daughter.

Vegetable-chick pea meal:
1 part sweet potato
1 part carrot
1 part chick peas (soaked and boiled, start with smaller amounts)

Steam veggies, blend with boiled chick peas. Add water if too thick. Again, one of my daughter's all-time faves.

Suitable finger foods:
- fruit chunks, vegetable chunks
- dehydrated coconut-oil coated banana chips
- sundried organic raisins or other sugar-free dried fruit
- organic boiled eggs

A basic foundation for a healthy meal:
80% parts vegetables (raw or steamed)
10% part quality grain (such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, boiled until done to avoid indigestion)
10% part protein (fish, organic chicken, chick peas, lentils etc)

Avoid all soy products. Start feeding legumes slowly to see if your child can digest them. Your baby needs protein, but quality is more important than quantity. Nuts should be avoided due to risk of mycotoxins (highly poisonous or deadly compounds from Fungi) until at least 1 year of age, which is why especially vegan families need to be especially careful about adequate protein intake.

More important than specific meals is the balance. Most of your child's diet should be fruit or vegetables, and a significant portion of the food either raw or just lightly steamed. Always organic, because even if you can't afford all organic yourself, your baby eats so little it doesn't cost much. It is still cheaper than feeding all regular can food. Check everything twice for food additives, avoid them all. I invite every mom and dad with healthy baby food recipes to share these in the comment box, I hope this will trigger discussion and that everyone learns something new!

The picture shows my daughter with her veggie-chick pea meal, after she had poured water into it and tried to eat it herself first with the spoon and then with her little hands. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Schwartzwalder Cherry torte


It's been a while, but I just got an amazing job opportunity. That along with my university studies, 11-month-old daughter and my husband doesn't really leave time for blogging. I still have to write my post on baby food and in future hopefully do more educating rather than "just" recipes. Or what do you think, would you be interested in reading about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle? How to teach your child to enjoy pure food? Maybe I should just stick to making desserts ;) 

Cherry Chocolate cake:
140g ground almonds and 1/2 C soaked pumpkin seeds
raisins and dates to desired sweetness and texture
1/2 C cacao or carob powder
hazelnut/vanilla agave
coconut oil
pinch salt and cinnamon

Process until a uniform, thick ball of dough. Shape into three about 1/2 inch 
thick round layers (on separate dishes), chill to firm up in the fridge. 

Cashew-coconut cream:
about 50-50 cashews and thick, pure coconut cream
lucuma, raw honey, vanilla, pinch cinnamon

Filling:
Organic, sugar-free (no artificial sweeteners!!!!) black cherry preserve OR
Fresh cherries pureed with sweetener of choice

Once the cake mixture is set, blend smooth in a blender. Spread first cake 
layer with cherry jam, dollop some cream and spread evenly. Add another
layer of cake, cherry jam and cream. Decorate with a layer of cream and
grated (raw) mint-chocolate. The mint really makes the difference. Put back
in the fridge until served, at least for an hour.