Stuffed Baby Squash

Stuffed Baby Squash

Now that Autumn is upon us the markets are full of gorgeous brightly coloured pumpkins and squashes. I couldn’t resist the gaudily striped carnival squashes I found in my local Wholefoods. I wanted to serve them whole as they look so attractive and that’s how my husband’s new favourite meal came about. This is so easy to make, most laborious part of this recipe is waiting for the squash to bake but it gave me chance to prepare the stuffing mixture and the side vegetables and still have plenty of time to take the dogs for a short walk! I have made this twice in the last week as Paul adores it; a perfect warming evening meal now that the days are shorter and the nights cooler.

Stuffed Baby Squash- Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 baby squash-( about 5″ diameter) I used Carnival but Acorn works well, too!

2 carrots- finely chopped

1 rib of celery- finely chopped

1 cup of roughly chopped raw unsalted walnuts ( sprouted are best but either will do) – soaked for 1 to 2 hours.

1 medium potato- finely chopped

2 spring (green) onions- sliced including green part (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon pure unrefined coconut oil

Himalayan Mountain Salt and black pepper to taste.

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 F ( 200 C).
  • Cut the top off the squash about one inch from top, scoop out seeds and ‘guts’. Smear the squash with a little coconut oil, season with salt and pepper then replace the lid. Place on a baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour or until squash is tender.
  • While you wait for the squash to cook ( it is worth the wait!): heat coconut oil on a medium heat ( do not heat coconut oil on a high heat) in a large frying pan or wok. Add curry powder and cumin to the oil and heat for a minute then add carrots and celery- sauté for 2 to 3 minutes then add potatoes. Sauté until vegetables are tender. Add a little vegetable stock if the pan becomes too dry- I used Better than Bouillon as it is so concentrated and has a deep, rich flavor.
  • Add walnuts and spring onions to the pan – place a lid on the pan and steam on a low heat to soften walnuts slightly and infuse the flavours.
  • When the squash is cooked scoop out the flesh and add to the walnut and vegetable mixture. Combine thoroughly until squash is smooth and then stuff the squash.

Serve with garlic sautéed broccoli, courgette ( zucchini) and kale.

This meal is full of antioxidants, potassium, Vitamin B6, high in Vitamin C, is anti inflammatory; walnuts are excellent for brain function- not only is it delicious but it is good for you, too!

Any leftover stuffing mixture can be turned in to quinoa burgers:quinoa burgers

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups stuffing mixture

1 to 2 tablespoons chickpea (garbanzo) flour

  • place the leftover stuffing mixture in a blender and pulse til combined but still a little chunky.
  • stir in quinoa and a tablespoon of chickpea flour. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  • coat hands in chickpea flour and form in to 8 patties.
  • heat a little EVOO in a frying pan and brown the burgers on each side ( 1 to 2 minutes).

The quinoa is packed full of heart healthy protein- so these burgers are a winner!

We enjoyed the burgers at an evening picnic on the beach. I used gluten free burger buns with baby spinach, sliced tomato and avocado. Paul added mango salsa and hummus to his! Delicious!

WinterSquash

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Overcoming Fear

‘Fear makes idiots of us all, at some time or another’. Patricia Briggs

water

Every body is afraid of something ( though some won’t admit it!). There are fears that are recognized across all cultures and are given a ‘phobia’ suffix to make everyone feel like they are not alone in their irrational fear: arachnophobia ( spiders) and agoraphobia ( open spaces) are common but did you know that anablephobia is a fear of ‘looking up’ or that melanophobia is the fear of ‘the colour black! Go and Google ‘phobias’ and see the enormous list of all the strange things we can be afraid of. Does this mean we are all living in fear? How do we handle our fears on a day to day basis?  Well! I managed to avoid my big one for many years- you must understand I’m not naturally a scared person- I’ve handled snakes and tarantulas with no problem; I’ve been to areas in inner city Johannesburg that people said I was crazy to go to and I married an Australian! So I know how to be fearless. My own big fear is Aquaphobia, the fear of water, or to be more specific in my case, the fear of putting my face in the water. I nearly drowned when I was eleven and this started the fear ; I mastered the skill of swimming breast stroke with my head out of the water; I could swim with a full face of makeup and not get it wet! As time went on I just avoided getting in the water, if you are afraid there is always a way to present an excuse for not allowing yourself to confront the fear. On family holidays, I would sit by the side of the pool reading a book, whilst my husband and girls had fun in the water- well someone had to look after our belongings, didn’t they?

ape-swimming

‘Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.’ Dan Brown , The Da Vinci Code.

Last year I went to support a friend who entered the Westchester Sprint Triathlon and witnessed children with prosthetic limbs swim, cycle and run despite their challenges. It made me feel so humbled and I declared that “next year I will take part.” A few weeks ago the time for registration rolled round and my husband reminded me of my declaration. I hesitated, the 6 mile bike ride would not be a problem ( I cycled further regularly), the 1 mile run I could manage ( I run 3 miles when the urge takes me); it was the thought of the 300 yard swim ( in Long Island Sound I might add not a clean swimming pool!) that filled my heart with dread- I couldn’t do it. I felt a failure; frustrated and angry with myself. Some how , I’m still not quite sure how it happened, my husband got me to agree to register, on the condition he gave me swimming lessons.

‘Fear cuts deeper than swords,’ George R R Martin, A Game of Thrones.

The first 10 minutes in the pool I wanted to cry and go home. The visceral effect of being in the water and just putting the swim goggles on was debilitating. The intensity of my fear when Paul asked me to put my face in the water shocked me. I knew I would find it difficult but I hadn’t dreamed I would feel so paralyzed by my emotions. I was shaking and hyper ventilating, the effort to swim just one length made my chest heave as I gulped for air. I ,also, felt incredibly foolish and embarrassed as I watched the other swimmers fearlessly gliding up and down the lanes. I would have to swim the equivalent of 12 lengths for my triathlon, it seemed an impossible task. Throughout it all Paul remained calm and encouraging, I think I only continued with the session to please him. I swam 16 lengths in total that first day- stopping every 2 to catch my breath and try to build up my courage. The last 2 or 3 lengths seemed a little easier but I hated every stroke.

5 days later I cycled to the pool on my own, I chose a time when it was quiet, just a few elderly ladies gently swimming laps. I noticed that the overwhelming fear I had felt a few days earlier was less pronounced. I was still panting after every 2 lengths but felt I could push myself a little further. I swam 32 lengths that time- I was so proud of myself. The next time was a week later and, after a couple of lengths gasping for air, I got in to a smoother breathing pattern and things began to click in to place- I swam 40 lengths and boy did I feel good. An elderly lady spoke to me and as I explained my fear, she told me that she had swum several times a week for decades and gave me an insight in to the joy swimming gives to many people: “It’s the nearest thing I can get to feeling like I’m flying.” I cycled home feeling elated and sure that I had taken a huge step towards conquering my fear.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who  conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

 

 

 

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Is Maple Syrup the Healthy Sweetener Option?

 Maple syrup from LA Sucrerie De La Montagne

On a recent road trip to Canada we stumbled across a little gem in Quebec, tucked between Montreal and Ottawa. La Sucrerie De La Montagne is owned and run by father and son Pierre and Stefan Faucher and their immediate family. We thought we had taken a wrong turn as the maple syrup farm is tucked far away from any road; in the Winter they have to transport guests by sleigh to the site.  Pierre looks like Father Christmas and has a pet wolf called Loup Loup ( French for wolf wolf) which was an instant attraction for our sixteen year old daughter.  Stefan greeted us warmly in French and then switched to perfect English when he realised, despite my wonderful attempts to respond in French, that we were English speakers! We were expecting a commercial shop selling maple syrup and were delighted by the vision before us.

Pierre & Stefan Laucher outside the restaurant at La Sucrerie De La Montagne

Pierre & Stefan Laucher outside the restaurant at La Sucrerie De La Montagne. Photo from http://www.lasucreriedelamontagne.com

Pierre bought the property in 1978 and started serving food all year round in 1981. We were told that Pierre built most of the wooden buildings himself which make up the accommodation, shop, bakery and maple evaporating rooms. They have 1,500 tapped trees over 120 acres ; the family collect the buckets by hand but the processing and bottling is done, in the wooden shed next to the bakery, by two exceptional ladies who have been doing it for years. The care, love and pride that the Laucher’s show for their product is reflected in the quality and flavour- their maple syrup is the best we have ever tasted and we even allowed ourselves the indulgence of heavenly pancakes, made by Stefan’s wife, smothered in their ambrosial maple syrup- one of us even had three helpings!! We enjoyed our meal in a restaurant which smelled of  wood burning fires and kerosene lamps, we felt as though we had been transported back in time and oh my did it feel good.

So is maple syrup good for you?

After leaving La Sucrerie De La Montagne with 2 bags full of bottles of maple syrup we asked ourselves ‘just how healthy is maple syrup?’ I decided to do some research.

Maple syrup is only produced in South East Canada and New England; 75% of the world’s supply comes from Quebec in Canada ( where La Sucrerie is situated). The sap of the sugar maple is tapped in early Spring; this involves piercing the bark with a metal tap and draining the sap in to metal buckets. The sap is clear, almost tasteless and low in sugar when first tapped; it is boiled to evaporate the water and leave the delicious gooey syrup. Large commercial operations use reverse osmosis to speed up the process which impairs the depth of flavor.

Loup Loup guarding the maple trees at La Sucrerie De La Montagne

Loup Loup guarding the maple trees. Photo from http://www.lasucreriedelamontagne.com

In 2010 the University of Rhode Island published the research done by Navindra Seeram on the health benefits of maple syrup. Over 20 new compounds were found in maple syrup; “many of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illness.” stated Seeram .

Pros of eating maple syrup:

  • It has fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey- 1 tablespoon = 50 calories.
  • Contains calcium and potassium- in 1/4 cup of maple syrup there is more calcium than in the same amount of cow’s milk plus more potassium than in a banana.
  • Also contains B2, B5, B6, niacin, biotin, folic acid, magnesium and phosphorous.
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup is an excellent source of Manganese ( 22% RDA)-  an anti- oxidant and needed for energy production.
  • It provides a good source of zinc- reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol, reduces the risk of prostate cancer and boosts the immune system.
  • Less likely to cause gas, bloating & indigestion than processed sweeteners.

Cons of eating maple syrup:

  • It is still a sugar and must not be over eaten.

How to choose and store maple syrup:

The grading on maple syrup is based on the official USDA  (US dept of Agriculture) system. Grade A- light amber; medium amber & dark amber- the lighter the colour the more subtle the flavour. Grade B has the strongest taste and is used in cooking and processed foods. Beware of imitations- much of the pancake syrup on supermarket shelves is actually corn syrup in disguise- it must be from pure maple sugar sap to be classed as maple syrup.

Unopened bottles should be kept in a cool, dry place; once opened store in a fridge; it can, also, be frozen but defrost before using!

Maple syrup is not just for pancakes:

  • Maple syrup has anti aging properties- try a maple facial scrub/mask: mix together 1 tablespoon warm almond milk and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup then add 3 tablespoons of finely ground oats. Massage on the face for a few minutes, leave for 5-20 minutes; rinse and moisturize. soft and silky skin maple style.
  • It is wonderful in marinades. For an oriental style sauce mix 1 tablespoon of maple syrup; 2 tablespoons of orange or lemon juice; 2 tablespoons of soy sauce ; 1 tablespoon of tahini ( optional).
  • Add to your morning porridge ( oatmeal) with dried fruit and nuts.

For more information about La Sucrerie De La Montagne visit their website link below:

http://www.sucreriedelamontagne.com/eng/index.php

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The Beauty of Brazil Nuts- the secret of selenium revealed!

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I have a guilty pleasure! I watch Doctor Oz! It is a bit of a love/ hate relationship- sometimes I love what he recommends and I nod frantically at the television but other times I get really annoyed that he is confusing his audience. Last week he had a segment on some vital minerals that we may not realise we are deficient in.
I have always been a little confused about selenium
What is it and why do we need it? So I did a little research…
Here is what I found out:

What is selenium?
It is a micro mineral that we need in our diet in small amounts every day.

How important is selenium?
– It protects cells from free- radical damage.
– It enables the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone.
– helps the body repair itself when fighting cancer and inhibits cancer cell growth.
– It protects joints and prevents inflammation.

How do you know if you need more selenium?
– if you have pain or weakness in your muscles?
– skin or hair are discoloured.
– if your finger nail beds are white.

How do I get more selenium?
– eating a food source is preferable to taking a supplement. If you take supplements you are just taking the nutrient and your body knows that the food is missing and may not absorb it properly.
– Excellent sources of selenium include brazil nuts, button mushrooms, cod, shrimp, tuna, halibut, salmon, and mustard seeds.

What quantities do I need to eat?
– 8oz ( 200g) tuna or 100g (4oz) of shiitake mushrooms.
Or you can eat just ONE RAW BRAZIL NUT a day to get all the selenium you need- so simple?

Homemade muesli – serves 2
1 cup organic rolled oats
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
2 teaspoons hemp hearts
2 or 3 chopped Brazil nuts
Handful of chopped mixed raw nuts ( almonds, walnuts etc)
4 chopped dates

Cover with non dairy milk ( I prefer unsweetened almond milk) and leave to soak for 30 minutes to soften and swell the oats and chia seeds. I fresh fruit before serving- blueberries taste delicious with this and are full of antioxidants.

Selenium may play a role in the prevention and/or treatment of the following health conditions:

Acne
Asthma
Cervical dysplasia
Colorectal cancer
Esophageal cancer
HIV/AIDS
Infertility (male)
Kashin-Beck’s disease
Keshan’s disease
Multiple sclerosis
Ovarian cysts
Parkinson’s disease
Periodontal disease
Psoriasis
Rheumatoid arthritis
Senile cataracts
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
Stomach cancer

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Do Juice Cleanses Really Work?

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I had always been suspicious of the words juice ‘fast’, ‘cleanse’, ‘detox’??
They would make me shake my head and wince at the thought of frothy green gunk that strange health freaks drank – no normal, sane person would do it would they? ‘ I like to CHEW my food and WHERE do they get their protein?’ I imagined a multitude of people feeling faint from hunger but suffering on in the misconception that ‘its good for you!’
Over the last 18 months I’ve watched Joe Cross’ documentary movie ‘ Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ ( at the insistence of my freaky husband, Paul) and seen how juicing helped Paul lose 50lbs ( 22.7 KG) and has given him a new lease of life. However, it took until 2 weeks ago for me to actually try it myself- I had worked up to this moment- starting last year with just fruit juices , then moving up to carrot, celery, apple and ginger. Paul started to sneak spinach in to the juices and I didn’t even notice! I became aware of how my taste buds had changed: strange earthy coloured juices no longer repulsed me , as long as I knew what was in them and I began to recognise which taste combinations worked for me- kale is amazing as long as I add lemon juice. Sometimes we use the juicer and sometimes place everything in the Vitamix for a super healthy blended juice which is full of fibre.

So I’d overcome the taste aspect, now I needed to find out how you could get all the nutrients you need by just drinking juices. The amount of information on the net is mind blowing ( and confusing) so I turned to my own knowledge from my Integrative Nutrition studies and Paul’s experiences ( he is ‘juicing god’ now as he has been juicing for over a year!).
Green leafy vegetables are THE top super food, so they were first on my healthy juice list- kale, spinach , collard greens, arugula ( rocket) , parsley & cilantro- they provide protein, calcium, anti oxidants, amino acids which nourish the body and boost energy.
Lemon to aid detoxification, digestion and alkalise the body plus it is high in vitamin C.
Berries are fabulous anti oxidants and high in vitamin C.
Ginger has the added bonus of magnesium , a natural pain reliever.
Chia, flax and hemp seeds provide vital omega 3, protein and calcium plus give a pleasant nutty flavour to the juice.
Pineapple contains the alphabet with vitamins A,B,C & D and oh do I love it’s sweet tropical taste.
Coconut water as a liquid base provides valuable electrolytes, a must after exercising or exertion.
So, I’d done my homework and was sure I would get all the nutrition I needed from drinking just juice for 7 days but I was still worried that I’d feel hungry, only time would tell!
The catalyst to actually starting the juice fast was listening to my own body: I had been bloated for a week and for 2 days had stomach cramps- my second brain ( the gut!) was definitely trying to tell me something.
The Results: Within 12 hours the cramping stopped and by day 3 my stomach was flatter than it had been in years- I was amazed. But what astounded me was the fact that I felt ‘full’ , without my usual desire to snack mid afternoon or evening. I felt energised and had a clarity of mind that has to be experienced to be believed. People started to notice the change in me and after a week my skin was glowing and friends were complimenting me- definitely a bonus I hadn’t expected. I didn’t have headaches or the upset stomach that some people experience as their body detoxes, I think that was due to my vegan diet and I don’t drink coffee, though I do like a glass of Champagne at the weekend!
I was able to keep up with my usual exercise routine and added in a 10 mile bike ride on Memorial Day in the glorious sunshine- my goodness did I feel fabulous! I thoroughly enjoyed concocting different juice combinations and excitedly sharing my photos on Instagram and Facebook !
After the week was up I continued to drink the juices for an extra day as I was feeling so good and have made the decision to have one day each week that is ‘ just juice’. I now , also, have at least one juice every day as I find my body craves them. All this from a girl who a year ago thought juicers were bonkers!
If you are thinking about trying a juice cleanse ; try it and see for yourself , you will be amazed at how good you feel. The long term benefits for your health and vitality are worth the effort.

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Super Green Cleansing Juice kale, pineapple, apple, lemon, orange, parsley and ginger.

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Vitamix packed with goodness and ready to go – spinach, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, sprouted quinoa, beets and coconut water.

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Paul and I on our Memorial Day bike ride, day 5 of my juice cleanse.

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Raw Food Diet ? Is this the answer for diabetes?

RAW-food

After 30 minutes waiting in anxious anticiaption in the long queue outside 82 Mercer Street for The Seed Vegan Expo, we entered in to a room buzzing with excited vegans- boy were they loud! Our senses were immediately overwhelmed, not just by the noise but also, by the tantallising aromas coming from the stalls selling vegan foods and offering free samples. Next came our taste experience: so many wonderful fresh cold pressed juices to try; delicious delicasies from our favourite restaurant Pure Food and Wine ( we came home with a bag full of tasty treats ) ; cashew nut cheeses, aduki burgers to name just a few we devoured in the first 15 minutes!

 I had noted which of the guest speakers I wanted to hear: top of my list was Dr Kirt Tyson, who I mentioned in this blog last week. He spoke about how at 25 he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after displaying dreadful symptoms , even starting to lose his sight. A normal blood sugar reading is 80-100, when he was admitted to hospital his was 1200- he should have been dead! Medication was not working and he felt dreadful all the time-this led him to take part in the  Tree of Life project seen in the fascinating documentary Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days‘. Within 2 weeks of starting the raw food vegan diet he was off his diabetes medication. His continued diabetes free life induced him to change from a convential medical degree to becoming a naturopathic doctor and spreading the word. If you, or someone you love, has diabetes please watch this film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0Le4VjQPlg

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Type 2 diabetes cases have more than tripled in USA in the last 10 years and cost the country $174 billion each year! Current medical predictions state that 1 out of 3 children born after 2000 will get diabetes. The statistics are shocking- this is a totally diet and lifestyle related illness. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the ibl gene which is triggered by high fat in the diet. Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune condition, usually recognised at a young age and has conventionally been considered ‘incurable’ as the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. The biggest link to type 1 diabetes is cow’s milk consumption. Kirt was later diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic, but he has shown conventional medicine that it is possible for a, suppposeldy, non working pancreas to produce insulin through a raw food plant based diet and regular exercise.

Dr Kirt’s top tips to reverse and prevent diabetes:

  1. Eat a plant based diet- as much raw food as possible.
  2. Drink plenty of filtered water- breathing, sweating and urination are the best body cleansers.
  3. Regular exercise- aerobic and weights- diet alone will not make you totally well.
  4. Take a vitamin D supplement ( vital for Type 1)- vitamin D regulates the immune system.

These are simple steps and with support everyone can achieve a level of wellness they never imagined. There are so many useful resources on the internet that provide recipes and advice for becoming vegan and a raw foodist. I am always willing to help anyone who is considering changing, or has just changed, to a plant based diet. I have useful recipes and tips on my facebook page: Lightning Health and my website www.lightninghealth.com . Becoming completely raw is not for everyone, particularly if you live in an area with long cold winters ( as we do in New York!). However, everyone can benefit from incorporating raw plant based foods in to their diet; try it and see how fabulous you feel!

Dr Kirt , also, stressed that a plant based diet prevents heart disease and cancer. Bill Clinton and Rosie O’Donnell both became vegans after experiencing severe heart problems. The three main causes of cancer are sugar; dairy and animal protein. Studies show that if you consume the Standard American diet (SAD) for a year your blood is only capable of fighting off cancer at 7%. If you look at someone who has been vegan for a year the blood fights cancer at 72%.

Find Dr Kirt’s latest health info on his facebook page= Dr Kirt Tyson-raw doc

Rawfoodpyramid

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The Seed- Vegan Expo in Manhattan: May 18th & 19th

the seed

http://vimeo.com/user1552919/theseed

We have our early bird tickets booked for this weekend’s vegan expo in lower Manhattan!My husband, Paul, is very excited as the vegan ultraman Rich Roll will be speaking at the event.rich roll Rich was fat at forty and extremely unhealthy, he turned to a vegan diet and began to get fit. Rich’s book ‘Finding Ultra’ has been a great inspiration for Paul and his own triathlon training- so many people told him he wouldn’t get the nutrients ( especially protein) he needed, for training and competing in endurance races, on a plant based diet. Rich is living proof that it is more than possible; it is preferable!

Dr Kirt Tyson, who participated in the illuminating documentary ‘Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days’, will ,also, be one of the guest speakers. His approach to curing diabetes resonates with everything that I believe in, it will be thrilling to hear him and get a real life close up of his charismatic smile!

dr kirt tyson

I am literally jigging with exitement when I think about the scheduled cookery demonstrations and on Saturday I will be poised , notebook in hand, to get as many tips as possible to share with you.

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