Dios Ti Agngina

Thank you in Ilocano

A gathering place of great ideas, inspiring stories, faith, family, fashion, food (with a slant on CLEAN, healthy Filipino cooking), and much more!  Welcome to Dios Ti Agngina!

I Too Believe In Syracuse

Something great is happening in Central New York.  Most recently a native who had moved back to the area started a new farm to table foodie place called The Stoop Kitchen in Armory Square.  I loved what he wrote in his blog page.  (If you get a chance you should read it as it is quite inspiring.)  Syracuse is being resurrected with already established farm to table restaurants and new up and coming ones.  Believe me.  The heat is on in Syracuse.

Syracuse is full of pleasant surprises.  Just a week and a half ago I meandered through East Syracuse with my friend and my son and discovered a wonderful gem of a place. 

Upon entering Kosta's Pizza House, I saw right away the heart and soul of Syracuse in this small 30 year old establishment.  There was nothing fancy here.   It wasn't pretentious or particularly attractive, but its appeal goes beyond its physical appearance.  What I saw was a good man making people happy by making delicious food and interacting with customers warmly and genuinely.  Everyone is treated like family.  

I love that Kosta is known as the Doctor of Hunger.  People are not only hungry physically but they are hungry emotionally and spiritually.  That's what makes Kosta's Pizza House so special.  Kosta feeds the Syracuse community physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  

That is what I felt when I met Kosta for the first time.  He not only fed me the best Greek pizza I have ever tasted in my life but I also experienced community and generosity.  I easily understood why people keep coming back here.    

As I introduced myself as Elaine and my son Constantine, he instantly connected with me.  He enthusiastically said with a smile, "Oh, St. Eleni and St. Konstantinos!  You must remember May 21.  It's a big feast day!"  He said he always celebrates on May 21.  So guess where I'll be this coming May 21!  Kosta's, of course!

A college friend asked me not too long ago, "Why Syracuse?!"  And I now say, "Why not?"  While we have lived in the Syracuse area for only a short time, we have met good people, made dear friends, and had so many positive experiences.  There is goodness, kindness and warmth in this community that we now call home.  Like the owner of The Stoop Kitchen who believes in the future of this city, the number and variety of good restaurants has exceeded my expectations.  If this is an indication of Syracuse's culinary future, then I too believe in Syracuse.

Upon entering Kosta’s Pizza house, I saw right away the heart and soul of Syracuse in this small 30 year old establishment.
A college friend asked me not too long ago, “Why Syracuse?!”  And I now say, “Why not?”

The Story Of Starvation

September 1.  I always remember giving my very good friend a call on that day because it's her twins' birthday.  I remember how tiny they were when they were born two months premature.  They had to stay in the NICU until they were strong enough to come home.  Today, they are thirteen years old and they are almost as tall as their mother.

Though we don't talk as often as we used to, it's such a joy to catch up with her talking about our kids, our husbands, our careers, and life in general.  This time around was no different but she said something that puzzled me.  

My friend reminds me of a professional model; she's tall, slim, poised, and beautiful, and has an aura of mystery like the famous model Iman, the wife of the late David Bowie.  She confided in me, "Elaine, I just don't understand my body.  I've gained 12 pounds."  I started to ponder what could be happening to my sweet, dear friend.  I remarked, "You've always been so slim!  What's going on?"  She just couldn't figure it out.  I finally asked, "Well, are you eating?  Are you eating three meals a day?"  She said, "No.  I never eat breakfast.  I don't eat much for lunch."  

The gears started turning in my head.  I said, "That's the reason.  You're starving your poor body!  Your body thinks that you're trying to kill it so it's just trying to survive."

Years ago, my dad explained to me this simple concept of survival.  My dad was an agriculture student at the University of the Philippines before he decided to join the US Navy in the early 1960's.  He shared with me that when a certain plant, the chaoyote plant or chaoyote squash which is a Filipino vine, is not bearing fruit, there is a way to make it fruitful.  You would take a BBQ stick or toothpick and poke the plant through the vine, essentially stabbing it.  In this case, the plant feels like someone or something is trying to kill it.  In order for the plant to preserve its variety it's forced to bear flowers and then fruit. It's in its nature to protect itself.  The same thing happens to the human body when it feels like the body is being starved.  Every bit of what is consumed is turned into fat.  

When I was growing up, we had a neighbor who sat outside all day long in her front yard sun tanning and drinking coffee.  She never ate breakfast or lunch but she did eat dinner every day.  So the food from her dinner was conserved and turned into fat each time.  

My friend was enlightened that afternoon.  I told her exactly what she needed to do to start getting back to her normal weight.  But foremost she needed to stop starving her body and start eating three healthy meals a day.   She contacted me the other day to let me know that she is doing well and has changed the way she eats.  So far she has lost six pounds!

The body is so smart.  When we're hungry, the stomach tells us by making sounds.  But most of the time, we ignore these signs.  The fact of the matter is that our body tells us everything.  We just need to learn how to listen and take care of it.

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I said, ‘That’s the reason. You’re starving your poor body! Your body thinks that you’re trying to kill it so it’s just trying to survive.’

Local Spaghetti

Since becoming a New Yorker I've been embracing New York products and services because I believe in supporting our local economy.  I think it's natural to be proud of where one lives and what the area offers.  

Not too long ago I was messaging my cousin recommending my favorite gluten free pasta brands on Thrive Market.  As she was browsing the site she excitedly informed me that Thrive Market carries Rao's marinara sauce.  Rao's is one of the best Italian restaurants in New York and has been bottling their special sauce for years because it's that popular. 

So I decided to order some bottles of Rao's marinara sauce and give it a try in making spaghetti sauce.  I think the results were spectacular so every time I make spaghetti sauce I use Rao's.  I love the product and I love that it's from New York! Now I just need to make it into New York City and reserve a seat at one of Rao's restaurants.  

I like meat in my spaghetti sauce so I use either local, pasture raised sweet Italian sausage or local, grass fed ground beef from my CSA Greyrock Farm in Cazenovia.  They sell quality meats and it really makes a difference in taste.

I also add anchovies.  Anchovies are one of those important foods that is so overlooked.  People immediately think, "Yuck, I will never eat anchovies.  It's smelly and gross."  They have it all wrong -- anchovies are true brain food.  And if your children don't like anchovies, just don't tell them that you put it in their spaghetti sauce.  They will never know!

I recommend using as much local, organic produce as possible.  I am fortunate because my CSA carries a lot of the ingredients I use for my spaghetti sauce.  I also don't mind traveling to other local, organic farms for my vegetables.  

This spaghetti sauce is so flavorful and delicious, and like most sauces, its taste improves if aged a day or two.  If I can get the pickiest eaters that I know to eat it I think it's a winner!


Special Spaghetti Sauce

 

Ingredients

1 bottle of Rao's marinara sauce 

2 to 3 garlic cloves minced

1/4 to 1/2 onion chopped well

3 to 4 anchovies

1 tbsp of freshly chopped  rosemary, sage, thyme

1/3 pound of sweat Italian sausage or ground beef (my meat is grass fed or pasture raised and local from Greyrock Farm), optional

1 to 2 cups filtered water

Himalayan pink sea salt

Flat parsley as garnish

 

Directions

In a large stainless steel pot, brown the sausage.  Add the onion and a dash or two of Himalayan pink sea salt to break up the cellulose fiber and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic. Saute for a minute.  Mash in the anchovies and mix in with the other ingredients.  Add the marinara sauce, the herbs, and the water.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Try this with a good organic pasta preferably made in Italy.  If you want to try gluten free pasta, try Jovial or Ancient Harvest brands.  

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Since becoming a New Yorker I’ve been embracing New York products and services because I believe in supporting our local economy.

Local Pizza

I've been meaning to continue my thoughts on local food in Central New York but I just haven't been able to pen anything due to my little boy's very busy schedule.  Summer flew by just as it always does and my son is growing up way too fast!  Can I just get a little breather?!

In Syracuse there are a ton of Italian establishments but I like to look for restaurants that use wholesome, local, and organic ingredients.  Food not only should taste delicious but it really should be sourced locally from organic farmers in your area.  This just makes sense environmentally and economically.  

Take for instance kale that was grown in Half Moon Bay, California versus kale that was grown in Skaneateles, New York.  Since I live in Central New York doesn't it make sense to choose the one from Skaneateles?  But every day consumers are thinking of convenience first instead of how much gasoline was used to ship those greens from California, the innumerable benefits of local organic farming to the local community, and the vitamins and nutrients that have already been depleted from those greens grown in California because of travel time.

One of my favorite local restaurants in Syracuse takes these simple ideas to heart and incorporates them into their outstanding menu and business plan.  That's why I love patronizing Apizza Regionale located right across the famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  They source their flour, meats, cheeses, and vegetables from purveyors of organic and local goods.

I've tried their pizzas, salads and pastas at Apizza Regionale.  What I appreciate about the organic flour is that it is fermented for 72 hours to create a very light and delicious tasting crust.  It doesn't make me feel bloated or overly full after eating a couple of slices.  You know that feeling of "oh my gosh I ate too much!"  Beforehand I usually have the Cavoletti which is comprised of some nice Brussels sprouts and pancetta and the Cavolo Nero which is a nice kale salad.  I just adore the Salsiccia pizza because it has a wonderful bite to it and because I always love sausage (theirs is homemade) on my pizza.  The Ruccolo is another delightful gourmet pizza topped with arugula and smoked prosciutto.  

One rule that I have to follow when going to Apizza Regionale is to never miss out on dessert.  They unfortunately do not make larger sizes of their Olive Oil Cake.  I wish they did because I would seriously buy a large size and serve it for special parties and get togethers.  They also offer the Chocolate Hazelnut Budino which is on the sweet side but if you're a chocolate and hazelnut lover, why not, indulge a little!  

My family and I prefer going for lunch and sitting outside on nice days.  It's more quiet and less crowded.  It is a very popular place after all.  Also, the staff is very accommodating.  When I asked for the Cavolleti with Brussels sprouts they kindly informed me that the appetizer is normally served during dinner but they served it for me and my family when we went for lunch one afternoon.  

Apizza Regionale offers the best pizza in the Syracuse area.  Central New York friends, you are missing out if you haven't been.  No one in town can beat their fresh, organic, local ingredients and their fabulous crust.  Pizza never tasted so good!

Food not only should taste delicious but it really should be sourced locally from organic farmers in your area. This just makes sense environmentally and economically.

Mushroom And Beef Stroganoff

One of the neat things that my family and I did this summer was participate in the Open Farm Day event in Madison County in Central New York.  We spent a whole Saturday visiting three local farms in our area.  

My main interest for this event was to see the mushroom farm Fruit of the Fungi.  Since it's hard to find local, organic mushrooms the idea of touring this mushroom farm was such a unique opportunity I couldn't pass it up.  

If you've been following me for a while you know about my fascination with mushrooms.  Why mushrooms?  Mushrooms are medicinal.  There are certain ones that will help control blood sugar and even help ward off cancer.  Mushrooms are certainly one of Mother Nature's gifts to us.  

Fruit of the Fungi has been growing a number of certified organic mushrooms like shiitake, reishi, lion's mane, and king trumpet for ten years.  They also sell a wonderful variety of mushroom powders and dried mushrooms.  I love the versatility of the mushroom powders. I have been adding it in a lot of my dishes.  I've even used the powder as a gluten free breading for tuna cakes.

One of the perks that I got from visiting Fruit of the Fungi besides seeing how they grow their mushrooms was picking up some of their delicious mushroom recipes.  One of the recipes that I had to try right away was their stroganoff recipe.

This recipe is a winner!  You can make adjustments when needed or to one's preference.  This recipe can be prepared dairy free and gluten free.  Mushrooms really make this meal packing it with so much flavor.  I like using shiitake and cremini mushrooms.  I've tried other combinations but that's my personal preference.  The original recipe called for venison but I used grass fed sirloin steak instead.  I've also used grass fed tenderloin and that works great, too.  

I like to use local organic wheat pasta with this recipe.  For those in Central York New my favorite pasta at the moment is Flour City Pasta.  I like fettuccine for this recipe but any one will work really well.  If you would like to avoid wheat, you could use gluten free pasta, organic rice or mash potatoes.  For a gluten free pasta option I've also tried organic quinoa pasta shells by Ancient Harvest.  It's pretty good.  

Since coming across this recipe I've made it several times adding my own spin to it.  I think this is a recipe that really can't go wrong.  Even my four year old can't get enough of it.  Like I've mentioned I love the mushroom powder.  I believe that it helps thicken the sauce a bit.  If you don't use mushroom powder you could add a few tablespoons of pasta water until you like the consistency of the sauce.  Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.  I love this recipe and I hope you and your loved ones do too!


Mushroom and Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients

3 tbsp grass fed butter or ghee

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped very small

Freshly ground pepper

Himalayan pink sea salt

1/8 to 1/4 cup red wine or brandy

4 cups shiitake and cremini mushrooms (and/or mix with king trumpets and oysters)

1 lb grass fed sirloin steak, grass fed tenderloin, or venison, cut into thin strips

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp mushroom powder

1 cup homemade beef or mushroom stock

1 cup organic crème fraiche or 3/4 cup organic sour cream (dairy free sour cream is available at health food stores if you're on a dairy free diet)

1 tsp brown mustard

3 or 4 sprigs flat parsley, chopped

Directions

Heat oil and butter in a cast iron pan and saute onions for about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms are just tender.  Remove and set aside.  Add cut steak to the same pan and quickly fry for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and mushroom powder.  Add wine and continue cooking until alcohol burns off.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release all the brown bits, they will add flavor to the sauce.  Add the stock.  Put onions and mushrooms back into the pan and cook for about 3 minutes until everything is heated through and slightly bubbling.  Stir in crème fraiche and mustard well.  Add the parsley.  Serve with pasta, mash potatoes or rice.  Enjoy!

Central New York Favorites

Fruit of the Fungi  You can order their mushroom powders and dried mushrooms on their website.  I highly recommend.  They can also be purchased through Greyrock Farm's CSA program as well as the CNY Regional Market.

Flour City Pasta  I love the texture of this pasta and that it's local and handmade the old traditional Italian style.  I get mine at Greyrock Farm.  

MacDonald Farms Mom's Mustard  I never liked mustard before until I tried this brand.  It's so delicious.  It can also be found at Greyrock Farm.

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Mushrooms are medicinal. There are certain ones that will help control blood sugar and even help ward off cancer. Mushrooms are certainly one of Mother Nature’s gifts to us.

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Best Burgers

I got the best compliment not too long ago.  It was really sweet and it warmed my heart.  We had our very good friends over for dinner.  I decided to serve something delicious and kid-friendly because I knew that our friends' youngest is a picky eater.  

After dinner our friends' youngest came up to me and softly whispered, "That was my favorite dinner."  I was so surprised but very touched.

Just a couple of weeks ago my husband and I packed lunch for my parents who were returning back to Virginia.  They spent almost two wonderful weeks with us visiting and exploring our area in Central New York. 

Midway through their trip I got a call from my mom.  She said that they were about to board again and that my dad asked her, "Why do Elaine's burgers taste better than mine?"

So good old fashioned burgers it was but with a healthy twist!

What makes these burgers are the local, organic ingredients that I put in them.  Fresh and local is really best!    

It's important to find top quality, premium ground beef.  I get my ground beef from our CSA in Cazenovia, New York.  Greyrock Farm sells grass fed meats sourced from local farmers.  I've tasted grass fed meats from the grocery store and sincerely they cannot compare to the grass fed and pasture raised meats I buy from Greyrock Farm.

 Another important ingredient in making the best homemade burgers is to use pasture raised eggs.  Pasture raised eggs are not the same as organic eggs, cage free eggs, or vegetarian fed eggs.  Pasture raised eggs have incredibly deep orange colored yolks and have more vitamins than all the other eggs out there.  So look for pasture raised eggs at the grocery.  Better yet find a CSA or local farmer who raises chickens out in the open pastures.  Happy chickens will lay the healthiest, most nutrient dense eggs.

Herbs give this burger recipe nice flavor and added health benefits.  Many people overlook culinary herbs but they can actually help with certain ailments.  I love using a variety of herbs for this recipe.  You can get organic herbs in the grocery store but I especially like growing my own in my vintage herb planter.

So here you go!  Try my favorite healthy burger recipe.  It's perfect for summer cookouts or just whenever you're craving a delicious homemade burger.    

 

Best Burgers

Ingredients

1/8 to 1/4 cup organic onion, minced

1 pasture raised egg

1 lb local grass fed ground beef

1 tsp Himalayan pink sea salt or to taste

About 3 tbsp organic herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, etc., chopped finely

Condiments like organic ketchup, local mustard, avocado oil mayo, organic lettuce, organic tomato, organic bun (wheat or gluten free)

 

Directions

Place all the ingredients except the condiments in a large mixing bowl and mix well.  Shape your burgers into 4 equally sized burgers.  Grill or pan fry your burgers.  Place on toasted hamburger buns and add condiments. Enjoy!

Central New York Local Favorite

MacDonald Farms Mom's Zesty Brown Mustard.  I've never really been a mustard fan until I tasted this brand.  If you live in Central New York you need to pick up this mustard.  It is so good in burgers and any kind of sandwich or recipe that calls for mustard.  Look for raw local mustard in your area!

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What makes these burgers are the local, organic ingredients that I put in them.  Fresh and local is really best!

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Local, Local, Local

When I was still in a fast-paced corporate life, I often heard the mantra location, location, location.  Fast forward ten years later and the world as I know it has changed.  Now my favorite phrase is local, local, local.

I have gladly changed gears and careers.  I got out of the corporate rat race and competing with the Joneses mentality for a kinder, slower paced and relaxed lifestyle much better suited to who and where I am today.   I'm so glad I did because at the rate I was going I was headed towards a heart attack.  Plus I like myself a hundred times better now.

So why have I adopted local, local, local?  Why do I live by it as much as possible and I promote it to everyone I know and meet?  It's simple.  Follow a seasonal, local diet and you will notice a difference in your physical and emotional state and your health will improve greatly.

I used to think that as long as I ate organic I would be getting the very best in nutrition.  Well, that's not necessarily true.  Many people do not consider that grocery stores source food from all over.  You will find produce from different regions of the US and even other countries.  By the time that produce hits the stores there's practically nothing left in nutrients and vitamins.  

And this was one of the reasons that got me sick in the first place.  Even though I was eating organic at the time, I was severely nutrient deficient because my body was unable to absorb nutrients. 

While I'm a proponent of eating organic I am very much in support of patronizing local produce and local farmers who grow without unnecessary chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.  God bless them because who knows how hard they are working to produce good, honest, organic local food!   

Fresh local, organic food is medicine.  I'm willing to spend on high quality, freshly picked, local and organic produce in order to avoid antibiotics and maintenance meds now and in the future.  I am thankful every day that my family and I have been able to steer clear of antibiotics, pharmaceutical drugs, and prescription medicine.  I believe that eating clean, local, and organic food has boosted our immunity.  My four year old son has never been on antibiotics and I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible.

You might be wondering how to find locally grown organic produce.  One solution would be to have your own organic garden.  Research biodynamic farming and learn how to do organic gardening the right way.  Imagine the convenience of walking out into your backyard to harvest your favorite vegetables and herbs!

If growing your own produce isn't your thing, farmers markets is an alternative.  They are an outstanding place to find local produce and products.  There's a large one in Syracuse called the CNY Regional Market (which is on my list of places to visit).  Cazenovia and Skaneateles have farmers markets as well.     

Finally, consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).  Start with  www.localharvest.org to find a local CSA.  CSAs are the solution to the concern that organic is too pricey.  CSAs are great value for what you are getting.  There just is no better deal in town.  Not sure which CSA to join?  Talk to local farmers (especially farmers who grow organic) near you and visit their farms.  They are more than happy to answer questions and many times they will give you a tour of their farm.

Know your farmer.  Eat local and seasonally.  Listen to your body.  To your health and happiness!

Favorites in Central New York

Visit www.localharvest.org to learn about local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture).

Go see my friend Emily at Greyrock Farm in Cazenovia.  She gives the best customer service and the best ideas for how to prepare the delicious organic food the farm offers.  Greyrock sells grass-fed meats and bones, raw grass-fed milk and many other local dry goods.

Black Brook Organic Farm in Skaneateles has been a certified organic farm for 20 years.  Kendra and Paul grow the best looking organic produce I've ever seen.  Every time we buy the food is super fresh and delectable.  They are also the owners of our favorite farm to food truck in CNY called Potatoes & Molasses.  

Looking to grow your very own herb garden?  Go to Lee's Feed Store in Syracuse.  They sell organic potting soil called Vermont Ag Moo Grow and Moo Doo (cow manure).  Kendra at Black Brook Organic has been using these for years.

The Yard in Manlius is a fun, unique outdoor market open on Sundays.  You can find Black Brook Organic Farm there as well as other local talented vendors.  They have live music, local beer, Ironwood pizza, and more!  

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Know your farmer. Eat local and seasonally. Listen to your body.

     

Summer Shakes

Woohoo!  Summer is finally here!  I can hardly contain my excitement.  Being new to the Syracuse area I keep hearing about countless fun family filled activities in beautiful Central New York.  

Summer means summer break, family vacations and trips, picnics and summer sports, and enjoying the good old outdoors.  It also means ice cream and other cold concoctions!  

Since my son and I have healed from our food sensitivities and other health issues and can tolerate refined sugar we partake in a little ice cream from time to time.  Eating in moderation has become a rule of thumb for us.  

We are label readers so we look for ice cream made with grass fed milk and as much pure ingredients as possible without the chemicals and preservatives.  This type of ice cream is hard to find but it is out there.

I haven't been a proponent for cold, icy shakes despite the health industry promoting shakes and smoothies.  In my opinion it's overkill.  If you feel cold most of the time or have kidney issues, having cold foods will make your symptoms worse.  This is really important.  If your body is already in a cold state, why would you put cold on top of cold?

There is a time to eat certain foods.  So eating a little ice cream during the hot summer months is alright to do.  But like I've mentioned before eating in moderation is key for us.  

I find ice cream to taste very sweet these days.  There are a few good alternatives to ice cream like blending up shakes, buying an ice cream machine to make homemade ice cream and freezing fruit popsicles.  These are super easy and fun to make for the family. 

When my son was in daycare his classmates got ice cream from the ice cream truck each afternoon.  At the time Constantine could not have refined sugar so I had to prepare something similar at home and bring it to him at his school.  This way I could control the ingredients that went into his daily snacks.

He always enjoyed these homemade treats.  He was happy and mama and daddy were delighted as well.  

Below you'll find four refreshing summer shakes to try.  Last summer I started doing what my mom does in her kitchen.  She likes to look inside her pantry and pull out things that she can utilize in her cooking, baking or what have you.  So these shake recipes are the result of that experiment.  My family and I thoroughly enjoyed these shakes last summer.  I highly recommend them on a hot summer day preferably during the middle of the day.

If your goal is to decrease your sugar intake these shakes can be a big help to you.  You will not only cut down on sugar but will still enjoy something cold, nutritious, and delicious.

There may be a few ingredients that are new to you. 

The first shake recipe uses lucuma.  Lucuma can be found in most health food stores as well as at online stores.  Lucuma fruit is also known as "The Gold of the Incas."  It is high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, and is an anti-inflammatory.  It has a natural, mild sweetness thus it's perfect to use in desserts and shakes.

For the second shake recipe I wanted to create a shake using quinoa flakes.  Quinoa contains the highest protein of all the grains so this is a really good one if you're looking for an added boost to your day.

Last summer we spent some time in Visalia, California and discovered a lovely stand that sold these addicting açai bowls and shakes.  We loved going every morning.  I asked the folks at Farm Fresh Bowls if they could make a shake specially for my son who at the time was dairy sensitive.  They were so kind to create a personalized shake for my boy.  

When we got back to the east coast I decided to make a similar shake which I am calling the Visalia shake after our trip to Visalia, California.  This recipe uses a dandelion leaf or two.  If you are unfamiliar with dandelion it can be found in your local grocery store or at the farmers' market.  Though dandelion is very bitter this shake is as sweet and delicious as can be.  Dandelion is in season so definitely add this to your diet as much as possible.  When you eat in season and locally, you get the most rich, nutrient dense produce available.  Nothing beats it!

The fourth shake recipe is a simple blend of raspberry, watermelon, Medjool date, and coconut products.  There's been some controversy about coconut lately in the media.  I occasionally use coconut oil in cooking.  Also, I will use coconut oil in baking desserts which is maybe once or twice a month.  Again the key is moderation.  My take on this subject is if you are allergic or sensitivity to coconut, don't consume it.  My ancestors had coconut in their diet from the beginning of their existence so in my book coconut is fine to eat especially for me and my family.  Know and listen to your body.  I look for non-GMO and organic coconut products.  

I really can't say which of the four is my favorite.  I like them all for the  summer months but I don't recommend them during the cold months.  Give them a try and let me know what you think, will you?   Remember to get organic and local produce as much as possible and have an awesome summer, everyone!


Lucuma Shake

Ingredients

1/2 cup filtered water

Splash of pineapple juice

Half frozen apple, half frozen peach with frozen cherries, blueberries, raspberries to total 1 1/2 cups of frozen fruit

Half plum

1 tsp lucuma powder

1 tsp coconut oil

Handful of spinach

Dash cinnamon

Directions

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend.


Quinoa Fruit Shake

 Ingredients

1/4 cup canned coconut milk

Small handful of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries

Quarter peach

Half tbsp Coconut manna

Half tbsp Coconut oil

Half tbsp Quinoa flakes

Directions

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend.


Visalia Shake

Ingredients

Juice of half of an orange

1/4 rice milk, nondairy milk, or organic grass fed/raw milk

Dandelion leaf or two

3 handfuls frozen blueberries

3 to 5 pineapple chunks

Directions

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend.


Raspberry Watermelon Shake

Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut water

1 Medjool date

1/4 cup frozen raspberries

1 cup frozen watermelon

Half tbsp coconut oil

Half tbsp coconut manna

Directions

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend.

Resources for Clean Eating

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Shop and Chop Days

There is a time to eat certain foods. So eating a little ice cream during the hot summer months is alright to do. But like I’ve mentioned before eating in moderation is key for us.

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Crazy For Caz

Caz is short for Cazenovia which has become one of my favorite places to spend with family in Central New York.  I love this place!  Whether we're in the middle of winter trekking through piles of snow or taking in the serenity of springtime, Cazenovia is really a charming place to be.

My husband brought me and our son Constantine to The Brewster Inn, a very warm and comfy country inn in Cazenovia for my birthday this past March.  He had dined there for a work event and was very pleased with his meal so we were very excited about celebrating there.  

I was surprised to see how busy the inn was for a Tuesday night.  There were patrons at the bar as well as small parties dining for dinner.  I chose the crab cake appetizer with arugula, beets, and goat cheese salad.  I also had a delectable Brewster's style shrimp scampi.  For dessert, we shared a passionfruit custard and coconut ice cream.  Overall, it was a lovely evening and the whole experience was wonderful.  I will definitely go back to bring family and friends to enjoy the excellent food and ambience at The Brewster Inn.    

The second time we visited Cazenovia, there was a lot of snow, with 28 inches having fallen a few days before.  Despite the snow, we easily made it over to discover Cazenovia.  I'm so glad that we did.

Our first stop was at a local CSA farm store called Greyrock Farm.  I was interested in this CSA for a few reasons.  Lately, I've been intrigued about raw milk from grass-fed cows.  In the state of New York the only place where you can buy raw milk is from the source so that means you would need to buy at the farm.  

Since I can remember I have never liked the taste of milk so naturally I avoided it if possible.  But just last year I tasted raw milk for the first time in Virginia Beach.  I was at Whole Foods and saw raw milk for sell.  I had recently read the benefits about raw milk from a book I was reading called Real Food For Mother and Baby by Nina Planck.  (By the way, this is an excellent book for those trying to conceive, who are pregnant, and who are figuring what foods are best for your infant.)  

So the verdict was a two thumbs up for raw milk that day I tasted it.  And I decided to add grass-fed raw milk to our family's diet and I probably will stick to this for the long haul.  The benefits of grass-fed raw milk outweigh pasteurized organic milk.  I want the very best for my family and that means patronizing local farms and companies to get the most nutritious food available to us.  We like to get at least two half gallon bottles, one to consume right away and the other to freeze.  Raw milk contains no preservatives so it needs to be consumed fairly quickly within 7 to 10 days.   

Now Greyrock Farm is not your regular CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  I had been accustomed to participating in CSAs in which you go to your weekly pick-up location to get your shared box.  That meant that the produce was handpicked for the CSA member and whatever produce the farmer had on hand was our share for the week.  When I was on an elimination diet, many times I would give away produce that was not part of my diet to friends or neighbors.  This is one small drawback but I still highly recommend joining a CSA for getting the most bank for your buck as well as the most nutrient dense food locally available for yourself and your family.  But I have noticed that more and more CSAs are offering you your choice of produce.

Greyrock Farm is unique in that you visit the farm store and browse through different offerings like produce, grass-fed meats, pasture raised eggs, local cheeses, local butter, local organic bread and pasta, local fungi, local condiments and other products.  I appreciate that you can talk face to face with the farmer, Matt Volz, and that the farm team is very accessible, friendly, and knowledgeable.   

Greyrock Farm has certainly made their CSA a step level more competitive than most CSAs.  For anyone who lives in the Syracuse area sign up at Greyrock Farm is very simple.  Just visit the farm store and sign up at the register.  The minimum amount to open an account is $500 but that amount goes a long way and you receive a discount of 5 percent.  The more you put down the higher the discount.  We were quite surprised that for our first purchase we must have picked up twice the amount that we normally get at the grocery store yet paid so much less.

A day in Cazenovia would not be complete without visiting Empire Farm Brewery.  Empire Farm Brewery has become one of my favorite farm to table restaurants in the Syracuse area.  We were amazed during our first visit.  As I've mentioned we had just gotten about 28 inches of snowfall yet this place was jam packed!  People were out and about enjoying the day despite the snow.

Being inside the brewery we took in the expansive view of pure white snow falling.  And we had the most delicious grass-fed burgers, the Meadows Farm wagyu burger, that we have had in the Syracuse area.  Nothing beats the taste of clean, farm to table food.  We also ordered their awesome mac n' cheese made with creamy Welsh style cheese and their own bacon.  The service was excellent and of course you can't leave without tasting their local beer!

Recently, I learned about the only vineyard in Cazenovia called Owera Vineyards and I had the delightful experience of tasting their Owaghena Red at my neighbor's home.  I was quite impressed with this red wine.  So needless to say we will be visiting Owera quite soon to sample their award winning wines and taste their highly rated farm to table food.  

So you can understand why I am crazy for Caz and all things organic and local!  Here's to more beautiful explorations in Cazenovia and surrounding areas in Syracuse, New York.

Resources for Clean Eating

Sign up for one of my programs!

My ON FIRE 6 Month Health Coaching Program

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Shop and Chop Days

Whether we’re in the middle of winter plowing through piles and piles of snow or taking in the serenity of springtime, Cazenovia is really a charming place to be.

Dandelion

Here's sort of a funny story.  When we were still living in Central PA, my husband was standing in line at the local Wegman's to checkout.  The woman just ahead of him  noticed that he had also picked up a bunch of dandelion leaves.  She said, "I feed my pet rabbit dandelion.  What do you do with yours?" He smiled and replied, "My wife cooks it."  She was quite surprised with that answer!

Spring is the season for dandelions.  I think everyone is familiar with the invasive dandelion that grows in people's yards.  Normally people can't stand them so they pull out the weed killer.  But dandelion leaves and roots are medicinal and are among the healthiest herbs to eat. So when you start seeing dandelions popping up in early spring it's Mother Nature's way of saying that it's time to add it to our diet.  

Dandelion is a wonderful food to eat for everyone because it supports all of your organ systems.  Anyone who has heart conditions, liver issues, as well as digestive, kidney, or lung problems will benefit from adding dandelion to their diet.  I highly recommend it to all of my health coaching clients.  

In the old days, dandelion was known as a cure all for so many diseases because of its bitter flavor.  Even today in Greece, dandelion is cooked with olive oil and a bit of lemon.  Consider adding dandelion to your diet.  Now is the time to eat this healthy and nourishing herb!

This sardines and dandelion recipe is a synch to put together and it always tastes delicious.  The sweetness from the onions with the bitterness from the dandelion, though polar opposites, is like a match made in heaven.  When you add the meaty sardines with the olive oil and garlic, this meal really comes together and becomes a complete meal.  If you don't like to eat it with rice, have it with some nice organic bread.

Another important point to make is that this is serious brain food!  For those who feel like you have brain fog or are getting more forgetful, oily and fatty fish is your answer.  So this dish is for you.  

Please note that I only use Wild Planet sardines in extra virgin olive oil.  Wild Planet has the very best sardines.  It's meaty and it's sustainably caught.  Quality makes all the difference.  

Take it from a four year old little boy.  My son loves this!  Make this for your youngsters, children in school, loved ones, and yourself.  If you've never had sardines or dandelion before, now is the time.  Like I've said this food is so good for the brain as well as all organ systems in the body.

Just like the bunny rabbit that eats dandelion, soon enough you'll have the same type of energy.  Enjoy!

 

Sardines and Dandelion

 

Ingredients

Half a bunch of dandelion leaves chopped into small pieces (I get mine from Wegman's)

2 garlic cloves minced

1 onion roughly chopped

2 cans Wild Planet sardines in extra virgin olive oil (Wild Planet brand is the best sardines; if you're still getting Ligo sardines you are missing out!)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt

 

Directions

Heat the oil in a cast iron pan.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Stir in the onions, a pinch of sea salt, and sauté until translucent.  Add in the oil from the cans of sardines.  I like to gently place the sardines in one corner of the pan to avoid mashing them up.  Next, add the dandelion and sauté until the leaves are wilted.  Serve with hot white organic rice or organic bread.  Enjoy!

 

Dandelion is a wonderful food to eat for everyone because it supports all of your organ systems.

The Gut

In 2014 my gut was a mess yet I had no idea.  When I finally decided to get tested for everything related to chronic fatigue, I started to learn more about what ailed me.  After getting my package of test results back I was overwhelmed to find a whole slew of issues including two potentially pathogenic bacteria, low bacterial diversity, low beneficial bacteria, very low glutathione (which meant that I could not detox), numerous vitamin deficiencies, as well as food sensitivities to 28 different foods.  My son tested sensitivity to 23 different foods.   

In retrospect, I was grateful and relieved to know that my health problems could be addressed one by one and that I was not dealing with a life threatening illness.  The process of healing took time but within three months I started to feel better.  

Although some medical advice I received included a significant amount of supplements, I did not want to be dependent on them.  For me, the answer was food.  I wholeheartedly believe that I have been able to heal my gut and my son's through whole food, nutrient packed, balanced meals.  

Foods That Support The Gut

When we start to think of food as medicine and use it wisely and properly, we will start to feel a positive difference and the body will begin to heal itself.  I cut out all of the packaged junk and started eating home cooked meals made with organic and fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.  I also chose fresh wild caught seafood.  The main foods that I initially eliminated were gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and eggs.  In my case, these foods may have been causing inflammation and havoc in my gut.  

Everyone is different and so it's important to listen to your body's needs.  I chose to avoid certain foods to give my body rest and help in the digestive process.  

Gut health is essential to staying healthy because most disease starts in the gut.  This is why it's important to incorporate foods that support the gut.  Traditional foods like bone stocks, soups, and miso are really the best choices to heal the digestive system.  They are fantastic because they coat and soothe the gut.  Also, probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are top picks to consider when restoring gut health.  

Happy Guts

Earlier I mentioned that I had 28 food sensitivities.  I'm ecstatic to say that I can eat all of those foods now that used to be on my avoid list of foods.  My son who had 23 food sensitivities is also able to eat the foods that he could not before.  This includes gluten, dairy, eggs, and from time to time a little refined sugar.  It's not a problem because we don't crave refined sugar but we don't have to avoid it like the plague any longer!

For anyone who is struggling with gut and digestive issues, my son and I are proof that the gut can be healed with the right foods.  For more information on how you can have a happy gut, I may be reached at info@elainejavier.com or here.  My 6 month program is available to those who are interested in supporting gut health and other health concerns as well as samples of my tea from my Health For The Holidays Tea Collection.  

This is the last segment of my Health For The Holidays series.  I hope that you found it beneficial and that you got some good nuggets to incorporate into your lifestyle.  To your health and happiness!

For me, the answer was food. I wholeheartedly believe that I have been able to heal my gut and my son’s through whole food, nutrient packed, balanced meals.

The Kidneys

This past summer Constantine was in the kitchen with me just finishing up his breakfast shake.  Suddenly, he was bent over, gently bracing his mid section and grimaced, "Mama, my stomach hurts."  As I rushed over to comfort him, I was quite alarmed and wondered what could be causing this digestive issue.    Nothing he did or ate was out of the ordinary so I was really at a loss.

The next day I had an opportunity to ask my mentor about my son's condition.  She told me, "Give your little boy a hug!  Children shouldn't be having cold, icy shakes."  

I was really confused.  For the past two years having healthy shakes for breakfast was part of our morning routine.  If you have been following my blog, you know that we do morning shakes.  Even the health gurus have plastered it all over their books, magazines, and websites promising the long-term benefits of having a daily shake in the morning.  But here was my mentor telling me something completely different.

She explained that timing is everything.  As soon as you wake up whether first thing in the morning or from a nap the body is in a cold state and it takes time for the body to warm up and get to its normal temperature.  When we sleep our body temperature drops so putting cold on top of an already cold state actually hurts the kidneys.  The food we put into our body matters and having a cold, icy drink first thing in the morning negates living a healthy lifestyle and has consequential health problems especially for the kidneys.

I cannot stress the importance of kidney health.  Kidney health is associated with bone health so if your kidneys are deficient most likely you will see a deterioration in bone health and immunity.  If you have kidney disease, kidney stones, gallbladder stones or issues, as well as knee problems, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, you should consider supporting your kidneys with the right foods.  

Foods That Support The Kidneys

For kidney support there are certain foods that help nourish the kidneys.  Warming foods like oatmeal, soups, and stews are fabulous for supporting the kidneys.  If you really need the support, I highly recommend oatmeal in the morning as well as miso soup and bean soups.  Beans like cannellini, black, and kidney are great for kidney health.  Just make sure to rinse them very well if you get canned beans. I prefer Eden brand because they've been around for a long time and their packaging is BPA-free.  

You should avoid foods that are salty and foods that cool you down or are cold, including cold drinks and ice cream.  I'm not saying to never eat ice cream (by all means ice cream is great in the summertime) but if you have a kidney problem, I would avoid ice cream until your kidneys have healed.  

Consult With Me For Kidney Health

I believe that kidney disease and related problems can be reversed.  Knowing how to take care of the kidneys is essential to living a healthy, happy life.  If you are interested in how you can better support your kidneys with delicious recipes and medicinal herbs, I may be reached at info@elainejavier.com or here.  For those who join my 6 month program, I am giving a sample of my kidney tea as well as the other teas from my Health For The Holidays Tea Collection.  It's time to start supporting the kidneys and learn how to nourish them on a deep level.

She told me, ‘Give your little boy a hug! Children shouldn’t be having cold, icy shakes.’

The Heart

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world.  It has affected my own family -- heart disease was the cause of death for my maternal grandparents who died at relatively young ages, as well as my paternal grandfather.  

My maternal grandparents had eleven children but only three are still  living.  My mom and her two younger sisters have surpassed their parents' age at their deaths.  Most of my maternal aunts and uncles died from heart complications including heart attack and stroke, and passed away in their 40s and 50s.  

And earlier this month actor Alan Thicke passed away from a heart related issue.  This sad news reminded me of how important heart health is and how important it is to care for your heart as well as the other major organs in the body.

My Health For The Holidays series is all about taking steps now to nurture and strengthen these organs in order to enjoy a fruitful, healthy life.  I am starting with the heart because heart disease is such a common health problem.

What Are The Leading Triggers For Heart Disease?

  1. Inflammation
  2. Infection (viruses, parasites, bacterial) which leads to inflammation
  3. Poor immunity which leads to infection which leads to inflammation
  4. Overeating (excessively heavy meals)
  5. Stress

 

Foods That Support The Heart

As with many other health issues, there are certain foods that can help people with heart disease and there are foods that should be avoided.  People with high blood pressure should consume less red meat, eggs and spicy food.  They should eat more fish, chicken, turkey, fruits, and vegetables.  Fried foods are harmful because they congest the heart.  Coffee should be avoided.  Water should be the beverage of choice when supporting the heart.  Herbal teas are also an excellent choice.     

Health For The Holidays Tea Collection

As part of my Health For The Holidays series, a sample blend of delicious herbal teas will be offered to anyone who signs up for my 6 month program (sample teas are available to US residents only at this time).  My Health For The Holidays Tea Collection includes Heart Tea I, Heart Tea II,  Kidney Tea, Gut Tea, and Wellness Tea.  Each tea is specifically mixed with just the right amount of medicinal herbs that target good heart, kidney, and gut health, as well as good bodily function.  All teas in my collection are made with organic, high quality herbs that have been used for thousands of years in eastern medicine.  This is food that is truly medicine that will help heal the heart.    

Who Can Drink Heart Tea I and Heart Tea II?

Heart Tea I can be taken by anyone who wants to support heart health even those who do not have heart problems.  Anyone who has suffered from a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, carditis, aortic aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, venous thrombosis, and any other heart problem will benefit greatly from Heart Tea I.

Heart Tea II is specially mixed for those of you who have high blood pressure.  

Men, women, and children can have Heart Tea I and Heart Tea II.  I would recommend smaller amounts for children since they are still growing and don't need as much as adults.  The teas are also safe to drink during pregnancy.  For adults who really need the heart support, I would replace a cup of coffee with this delicious heart tea daily.  

Consult With Me For A Healthy Heart

Want more ways to support the heart?  I am available for a free hour long consult to discuss your health history.  And of course, you can also decide to sign up for my 6 month program. 

My 6 Month Program (which can be extended) includes:

  • 1-hour scheduled coaching sessions twice a month
  • Unlimited email and phone support throughout the program
  • A pantry makeover
  • Delicious recipes and natural food recommendations
  • Guidance in making lifestyle adjustments 
  • Health For The Holidays Tea Collection gift set (for a limited time only)

You can work with me in person, virtually (Skype or FaceTime), or by telephone through one-on-one or group sessions.  To schedule an appointment, I may be reached at info@elainejavier.com or here.  

The Good News

There are studies that show that most disease can be reversed given the proper foods and timing.  My tea collection and other suggestions are not an immediate cure all for heart disease but with patience and consistent effort, you will see positive results, and in time your body will heal with the right nourishment and support.

If you would like the opportunity to try my Health For The Holidays Tea Collection, please like and comment below.  One participant will win a gift set to try out the teas at the end of my Health For The Holidays series.  

Cheers to a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy heart!  I'm giving you a huge virtual hug but give yourself a hug and your loved ones as well.  Your heart will thank you!

All teas in my collection are made with organic, high quality herbs that have been used for thousands of years. This is food that is truly medicine that will help heal the heart.

Health For The Holidays

Earlier this year we had a party at home to celebrate my 40th birthday.   As we were nearing the end of a night well spent with good friends and food, everyone was beginning to wonder why Martin had not come back down.  It was getting pretty late so we all thought that Martin was putting our little boy to bed.  But that was not the case.

Constantine was crying loudly.  And he had not stopped for several minutes.  Everyone had said their goodbyes already except for my next door neighbor who was so kind to stay and help clean up.  Finally, we started to hear footsteps.  Martin and Constantine were slowly walking down the stairs.  

I asked, "Martin, how are you?"  He replied, "Not so well."  We were astonished and realized the reason for Constantine's ongoing cries.  His daddy needed help! 

Martin was seated slumped on the last step of the stairwell, sweating profusely and looking completely wiped out.  He said that his chest felt a tightness he had never felt before.  We all were feeling the shock of the moment and wondered out loud, "Could this be a heart attack?"  

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.  In 2013, it accounted for 32.1% of deaths in the country -- that's one out of every three deaths is due to heart disease.  

However, there is good news!  There are a number of studies that show heart disease can be prevented and even reversible.  

If you are interested in learning more, stay tuned for my upcoming series called Health For The Holidays.  I will be putting up a series of blog posts about how we can support the heart, the kidneys, the gut, and your overall health, holistically.  This series is for everyone -- men, women, and children -- anyone who is interested in preventing disease.   

So was it a heart attack?  After spending some hours in the ER, visiting his general practitioner, and getting all of the test results back, Martin found out that it was not a heart attack.  Thank God for that!  But this series of events certainly gave us pause to worry.  It's so easy to get caught up with the rush in life.  We think that we can be the superhero character in the movies but we forget that we are just human and fragile.  

The body gives us signs.  Pain is actually a very good thing.  Our society is so scared to feel pain.  Let's just pop a pill here and there so we don't feel a thing, right?  We should be grateful whenever we feel pain.  It's the body's way of telling us that something is wrong and it needs help.  Many times we shrug off a little pain on the foot or an ache in the back but those are sure telling signs that something internally is going on.

As a health coach, I believe it's important to pinpoint the reason for the pain and to get to the root cause of the problem.  My Health For The Holidays series will go over important factors to consider when dealing with the heart, the kidneys, the gut, and the body as a whole.  And I'll offer ways to support each of these organs.  Talk to you soon! 


Coming soon!  Introducing a new series...

Health For The Holidays

This upcoming blog post series is for anyone interested in preventing disease and who wants to learn how to better support major body organs.  It's for everyone --  men, women, and children.  

At the end of the series, one participant will win a Health For The Holidays gift set.

We will be learning how to support:

  • The Heart
  • The Kidneys
  • The Gut
We all were feeling the shock of the moment and wondered out loud, ‘Could this be a heart attack?’

Kare Kare

 

Growing up, my brother and I were very blessed.  We wanted for nothing and got everything we really needed.  But one thing we always seemed to feel we lacked was our parents' attention.  I am not sure why, but it always seemed to be a competition with my brother in gaining their attention or approval.  Over the years it was enough to give our parents a headache.

We made it though.  We managed to survive an often less-than-harmonious childhood.  Our relationship today is so much better!  When I look back at that challenging time, I recall one thing that managed to mend hard feelings, my mom's kare kare (pronounced ka-reh ka-reh), a special Filipino dish made with oxtail and peanut butter sauce.  Everyone loved it!

I really don't know why it had that effect on all of us but it certainly was my brother's favorite food growing up and it still might be.  So when I think of kare kare, I think a lot about my brother, family, and mended feelings. 

It has become tradition in my parents' house that they prepare kare kare to celebrate my brother's birthday.  I think it is a very loving act, one I might continue not only to celebrate his birthday but also to teach my son  the importance of handing down family traditions.  

As I mentioned before, kare kare is made with peanut butter.  Luckily no one in the family had peanut or any other nut allergies.  But now that these allergies and food sensitivity issues have become so common, we were thrilled to discover that we could substitute other ingredients to make a sauce similar to the peanut butter sauce in kare kare.  Folks with peanut and nut allergies and sensitivities can finally enjoy kare kare!  

Peanuts are actually a legume.  People just associate them with nuts because of the name.  Peanuts are considered one of the top food allergens.  So why are more and more people becoming allergic or sensitive to certain foods?  There are a number of answers to that question.  But one of the reasons is our food supply which is inundated with tens of thousands of chemicals and toxins year after year.  Our society is becoming more and more sick.  And this is a major problem.  This is why I recommend organic and non-GMO foods and products and less processed foods.  Yes, organic foods and goods are more pricey but in the long haul it's so much better for people's health and wellness.

There are a number of nut butters available in the organic section of grocery stores.  You will find cashew butter, almond butter, walnut butter, pecan butter, macadamia butter, hazelnut butter, and pistachio butter.  We really like cashew butter and almond butter for kare kare.  Cashew butter tastes very close to peanut butter.  For those of you who cannot have nuts, sunflower butter is fantastic in kare kare as well as curry dishes.  

Even if you can have peanut butter, I would skip conventional brands like Skippy, Jif, and Peter Pan because these have low quality, unhealthy ingredients such as refined sugar, palm oil, and hydrogenated vegetable oils.  We are talking about altered, chemically modified, overly processed, and hard to digest junk that the food industry considers food.  Plus the real stuff tastes so much better.  Go for brands like Woodstock, Artisana, and Once Again.

One other thing to consider is the eggplant in the recipe.  I highly recommend omitting the eggplant if you have arthritis because eggplant is a nightshade and will aggravate the inflammation.  Nightshades are plants that grow during the night.  So arthritis sufferers would also want to avoid tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.

Regardless of whether it's for special occasions like birthdays or not, we love kare kare!  Here is my mom's clean kare kare recipe.  And don't forget to enjoy it with hot white organic rice.  Eat it whenever you can with the very best ingredients possible, live life to the fullest, and be merry.


Mom's Special Kare Kare

Ingredients

8 - 10 bones grass-fed organic oxtail (go to your local farmer or check out Whole Foods, about 2 packages)

4 cups filtered water

Pinch Himalayan pink sea salt or Celtic sea salt

8 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2 tbsp shrimp paste

2 tbsp of annatto seeds soaked in 1 cup water for at least 30 minutes or until the color from the seeds come out

1 bundle string beans (10 long beans chopped into 3 inches long)

2 medium Asian eggplants, sliced (if you suffer from arthritis, omit)

6 bok choy

1 can banana blossom

4 tbsp cashew butter, almond butter, or sunflower butter

 

Directions

Simmer oxtail for 2 to 3 hours until tender in a covered pot with water and a pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt.  Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté with the garlic for a minute or two and then sauté the onions.  Add the oxtail and save the liquid from the pot used to simmer the bones.  Add in the shrimp paste.  Strain the liquid from the soaked annatto seeds and add the liquid into the pan.  Sauté the meat for 5 minutes.  Keep mixing so the shrimp paste is incorporated well.  Add the liquid from the simmered bones.  Then, add the beans, the eggplant, bok choy, and banana blossom. When all the vegetables are cooked about 10  minutes, add the cashew butter.  Mix it well into the sauce to thicken.  Enjoy!


So when I think of kare kare, I think a lot about my brother, family, and mended feelings.

Sami's Bakery

If I could clone Sami's Bakery in Tampa, Florida, and put it in every city in America, I would!  Sami's bread is the best clean bread that I've found.  I was privileged to first try it when my brother-in-law graciously hand carried a number of fresh loaves for a family reunion last year.  We got the millet bread, millet and flax bread, and cinnamon raisin millet bread.  

This bread is great especially for those who cannot tolerate or have food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and eggs.  The ingredients are simple and straight forward.  But not all their bread and baked goods are gluten free, so I suggest you call the bakery first if gluten free products are what you are looking for.  

I like to place a large order online with Sami's in order to get my money's worth.  I normally order two loaves of millet, two millet and flax, and two cinnamon.  When I get the order, I'll put two loaves in the refrigerator and keep the rest in the freezer.  For my last order I decided to get two bags of the millet and flax plain chips as well.  I'm so happy that I got to try them because they were delicious and have become one of my favorite chips!  These chips are wonderfully tasty and crunchy!  

My parents kindly drove up from Virginia to visit us recently. While they were here, I noticed the loaves of bread in the fridge, and nostalgic thoughts of my dad's signature club sandwich came to mind.  I could not help but smile.  When I was a kid, his club sandwich was the afternoon snack that I always looked forward to.  I never grew tired of it.  So for old time's sake I asked my dad if he would make some club sandwiches with the Sami's millet and flax bread.  They turned out just how I remembered them but this time so much more tasty and healthy.  

Thanks dad and mom for always being so generous with your time and of course the delicious, unforgettable food that you share with us.  Here is my dad's clean club sandwich recipe.  Bon appétit!


 

Dad's Clean Club Sandwich

 

Ingredients

6 slices of Sami's millet and/or flax bread, toasted

Mayo by Primal Kitchen made with avocado oil (my favorite mayo and so healthy too) to taste

Organic chicken breast, cooked and shredded, as much as you like

Romaine lettuce

Slices of tomato

Nitrate free, organic bacon, baked crispy in the oven

 

Directions

Prepare the chicken breast.  It can be baked in the oven with salt and pepper or pan fried on a cast iron skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  Cook it on both sides and cover from time to time to make sure the chicken gets fully cooked.  Toast 6 slices of Sami's millet bread.  Spread a little mayo on the first slice, always spreading the mayo inside of the slice.  Place your shredded chicken on top.  Next place another toasted bread with a little mayo.  Arrange 1 and half slices of bacon, tomato, and lettuce on top.  Gently press the third slice of toasted bread down with a little mayo.  And place 2 toothpicks into the sandwich and slice it diagonally.  Repeat all steps to make the second club sandwich.  Enjoy!


Favorite Brands

So for old time’s sake I asked my dad if he would make some club sandwiches with the Sami’s millet and flax bread. They turned out just how I remembered them but this time so much more tasty and healthy.

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Taco Fridays

I look forward to spending Fridays with Martin.  I think every so often couples should do something special together.  It's a great opportunity to talk about each other's passions and goals and just be there for each other.  It's that one-on-one time that's necessary in building and maintaining strong relationships and to learn the importance of listening to your beloved.  So we do Taco Fridays.

We just started this as our weekly lunch date and it's been wonderful.  If you are ever in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I highly recommend a farm to table restaurant called The Millworks.  It's a relatively new restaurant that also houses a number of artists' studios.  So you could peruse the place while you wait for your lunch or dinner and talk to local artists, see them in action, or view their work.  If you are in a hurry, I recommend letting your server know because the kitchen staff tends to take their time.  

A couple of weeks ago I ordered the smoked beef taco and the beet cured smoked salmon and arugula salad.  Both were out of this world but I thought that the taco was unforgettable and somehow left me thinking of a Filipino asado beef dish.  It was gourmet all the way and now I feel like getting it every Friday for our lunch date.  The following Friday I ordered two tacos and a fresh house salad.  Every time I eat those tacos I am on cloud nine.

You may be asking about dessert.  Well, I just head over across the street to Broad Street Market and visit my favorite local food hub called Radish & Rye.  Radish & Rye is one of the reasons why I don't go to the grocery store as much anymore.  They carry the best local, fresh, and organic produce.  The only way you can beat that is by signing up with a local CSA, which is truly the best deal anywhere.  Fresh is best!  When you support local, you are actually helping your local economy, local farmers, as well as your gut.  There are millions of beneficial microbes found in the soil of local farms (as long as the farmers are organic farming and applying little to no chemicals in the soil).  It's best to talk and get to know the local farmers.  

So I like to get my eggs from Radish & Rye (they carry pasture raised eggs which is what everyone should be looking for) as well as fruits and vegetables and other wonderful items.  Going back to dessert -- next to the cash register is an assortment of sweet goodies.  I like to pick up a gluten free granola bar by Amaranth Gluten Free Bakery.  It's absolutely delicious and always leaves me satisfied!  

On Fridays I like to multi-task.  I get to spend a lovely lunch date with Martin eating gourmet tacos, go shopping across the street, and have a sweet, gluten free treat.  I just love our Taco Fridays!

I think every so often couples should do something special together... So we do Taco Fridays.

Clean Potato Chips

I'm not a huge advocate of packaged foods, but once in a while (and I mean more like once in a blue moon) I like to indulge in crunchy potato chips.  When I was recovering from debilitating fatigue I could not eat potato chips because I would feel very sick afterward.  It took me some time to find a brand that I could tolerate.  You can imagine the joy in my heart when I finally found chips that I could eat -- Boulder Canyon potato chips made with avocado oil and sea salt.  These are pretty clean potato chips.  If you look at the ingredient list it's made of potatoes, avocado oil, and sea salt.  Another plus is that these chips are gluten free.  My only wish is that they were organic.   

I've tried a number of brands but many times the ingredient lists mention way too many additives and chemicals and sometimes the chips had a funny after taste.  When eating clean consistently the taste buds finally start working properly and the body can tell the difference between fake food and real food.  Like I've mentioned before the body rejects the bad and accepts the good.  It's amazing how genius the body really is.  

Anyway, Boulder Canyon potato chips with avocado oil gets my approval for special occasions, perhaps for an important sports game or a nice reward for eating clean for a week or two.  I have tried the other flavors like olive oil and coconut oil but the avocado oil flavor remains my favorite.  I like to have my potato chips with a nut cheese brand called Treeline in scallion flavor.  The combination is so wonderful.  Treeline can be found at Whole Foods.  Boulder Canyon potato chips is sold at Harris Teeter, Kroger, and select Giant and Safeway stores.  If those stores are not convenient, Boulder Canyon potato chips may be purchased at Amazon.com.  Try it sometime and make the switch to eating relatively clean potato chips.


Buy Boulder Canyon Potato Chips

These are pretty clean potato chips.

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Brooklyn

Initially, I had imagined my family and I staying at this incredibly luxurious home called The Notorious B.N.B. in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn, New York through Airbnb.  I had planned on partaking in their highly rated breakfasts, too.  I mean, come on!  Who wouldn't want to try the butternut squash pancake with maple mascarpone topped with sage squash puree and served with house-made spiced lamb sausage or the orange blossom honey Persian yogurt with a dusting of dark chocolate and candied ginger?  Right?!  Sadly, last minute the hosts notified me of a family illness and so there went over a month's time of planning.  

However, thank God for the very hip and swank Aloft hotel located in Brooklyn near the Barclays Center.  We ended up staying for two nights.  Aloft was very accommodating and was pretty central to where we needed to be.  

In all, Brooklyn did not disappoint and our mission was accomplished.  We had planned on spending time with family and friends in our two and a half days' visit and discover Brooklyn for a bit.  Here's a look at what we did. 

Day 1

By the time we checked into Aloft hotel it was mid-afternoon and we were pretty hungry.  Thankfully, the food quality in Brooklyn is very good and there were some organic and clean restaurants and eateries still serving lunch.  We decided to take a cab to Moo Burger to have a bite to eat.  The folks there were very friendly and accommodating to my clean diet.  I ordered a turkey burger on gluten free bread as well as the mixed green salad which was really yummy.  I would definitely go back.  

Since Brooklyn Bridge Park was not too far away, we decided to walk and explore some.  I have to give it to Brooklyn -- they sure know how to create some impressive spaces for children.  If we lived in Brooklyn, we would take our son to Brooklyn Bridge Park often.  He loved the sand box areas and the slides.  This park is huge.  We only perused two small areas but they have areas for older kids, too.  

We decided to postpone dinner until 7:30 p.m.  Everyone was tired from the travel and the walking.  Reservations were made at Prospect.  Prospect is a small, casual place in Brooklyn not too far from Aloft hotel.  Service was mediocre and unfortunately we had to cut our stay short since our little boy was just too exhausted to say the least.  We asked the server to bag the whole dorade fish for two and had a late dinner in our hotel room.  I enjoyed the dorade very much with the jasmine rice and the spices.  I have noticed since eating completely clean for about a year and a half I am able to tolerate spicy foods.  Never before would you ever catch me enjoying spicy hot foods so this is a new experience that I'm quite happy with at the moment.  I give the food four stars out of five.  

Day 2

I really looked forward to day two of our trip because we scheduled a meeting with my beautiful cousin Ria for lunch and made dinner plans with my husband's oldest friend since their crib days.  Our first stop for the day was the Brooklyn Children's Museum.  This is a wonderful children's museum especially for young children.  Our son could have spent days maybe even weeks there.  We even got to see a ball python up close.  

On my father's side I am one of four female cousins.  Not that many of us girl cousins and since we are so geographically scattered it's so meaningful and precious when we get together.  I was so grateful to spend some time with my cousin Ria as the last time was nearly seven years ago.  We had a lovely lunch at Eugene & Co.  I really savored the Spring Greens salad, Roasted Broccolini, and the Chicken (without the bread).  This place was the highlight of my eating escapades while in Brooklyn.  I loved everything -- the ambience, the service, the food.  It's just honest to goodness organic food and the perfect place to catch up with loved ones.  The server even let me charge my cellular phone in his work station since my phone was about to go dormant.  Eugene & Co. is a must when in Brooklyn.

Pok Pok was highly recommended to us so that's where we decided to have dinner with my husband's oldest pal and his lovely wife who were visiting from Hawaii for their son's college graduation.   It had been thirteen years since they last met up so this was very special for them.  I liked the food very much but my expectations were set too high.  I wish we had decided early enough to get the Kai Yaang Tua (the roasted chicken) but it sold out fairly quickly.  I had the Khao Man Som Tam (the green papaya salad) and the Khao Soi Kai (the chicken curry noodle soup) which were both really good.  

Day 3

For our last Brooklyn eating excursion we had brunch at French Louie with a dear college friend that I hadn't seen in fourteen years.  Again we lucked out as the weather was perfect for walking.  This place was great for brunch because it was not crowded or loud and the food was very good.  I had the Snug Harbor Greens minus the bread crumbs, the chicken sausage, and green tea.  The food was quite satisfying and nourishing.

So mission accomplished!  My family and I got to spend some good quality time with loved ones in brilliant, awe-inspiring Brooklyn.  I was also very impressed with overall food quality at restaurants.  These days I purposefully seek out organic, farm to table restaurants most definitely when traveling.  Deep down I confess to being overly cautious and particular with food in the hopes of preventing the kind of illness I have had in the past two years for myself and for my family's sake.  As the saying goes, "Better be safe than sorry."  There are so many farm to table places in Brooklyn which I think is very encouraging.  Indeed, it is very possible to eat clean while on trips with planning and researching ahead of time.  I'm excited for our next visit back to the city!

Resources for Clean Eating

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My ON FIRE 6 Month Health Coaching Program

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My 1 Month Health Coaching Program

Shop and Chop Days

In all, Brooklyn did not disappoint and our mission was accomplished.

The Kitchen

Magic happens in the kitchen every day.  It's where I have my creative space -- my space to dream up good things to eat for my family.

In my youth I was fascinated by world class cuisine and the very best restaurants in the top, most exciting cities, and to some degree I still am.  I remember my dad talking about eating the most delicious Australian lobster he had ever eaten in Japan when he was in the Navy in the 1960s.  I dreamt of delightfully partaking from course to course and even experienced some delicious meals at well known restaurants.

Many things have changed for me and my family.  We are at a stage in which we listen to our bodies.  For us food is information and it is powerful medicine.  We have totally embraced a clean diet for life.  (I don't buy ketchup or salad dressings.  I prefer to prep and mix them myself.)

Though I am satisfied with most meals that I make I sometimes fumble and am disappointed.  But that's the journey that takes place in the kitchen when you're a newbie like me.  I'm grateful for every moment good and not so good because I get to learn and get better at my place in the kitchen.

It has been a long road for me.  I remember the days when I would buy boxed meals and pretty much eat anything at my favorite places.  Back then my stove top was almost always so spotless.  In my first two months of being a newlywed, I never stepped foot in the kitchen to cook.  My poor worried husband cooked all the meals for two months.  I couldn't even cook an egg then.  Those days are long gone.

Eating clean has so many benefits.  It fuels our bodies with wonderful needed nutrients to keep us healthy and enjoy the food that we partake.  Best of all I get to spend time with my family in the kitchen and always we give thanks for all His blessings.

If you are interested in making the switch to clean eating for weight or health reasons, I recommend taking small steps or else I think it becomes too overwhelming.  If you currently eat out a lot, I suggest choosing one day of the week or weekend to prepare a home cooked meal.  Then, gradually add more cooking days to your weekly plan.  When you have extra freeze the leftovers.  Eventually you'll have home cooked meals every day of the week.  It takes time but patience is key and at the end it's all worth it!

My Top Three Tips In Eating Clean

  1. Always choose organic apples and green beans.  Years ago when I was interested in healthy living I was dining at my favorite restaurant in Northern Virginia called The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm.  I asked the owner Beverly Morton Billand which kinds of produce she would recommend eating organic.  She said it's important to always purchase organic apples and green beans because of all produce these two have the most sensitive skins that absorb everything.
  2. Get the recipe book Clean Eats by Dr. Alejandro Junger.  Learn more about the book here.  I've tried many different diets but I've found clean eating the best for me and my family.  Many recipes in the book are very simple to prepare as well as delicious and nutritious.  Since eating clean I've been able to lose at least fifteen pounds and get my energy back.  The book offers recipes for almost every diet out there so there's something for everyone.
  3. Try a free month's membership with Thrive Market.  Thrive Market is a great place to shop online because the website lists all the ingredients for each product.  Though we buy mostly organic, non-GMO pantry staples from Thrive Market, I still review the labels because even though the packaging says "organic" or "non-GMO" it may still contain undesirable ingredients.  See some of the ingredients I avoid in my Be A Label Reader article.  We enjoy membership with Thrive Market for the savings and convenience.  I highly recommend.

Eating clean does not need to be complicated; instead it can be simple and delicious.  Eating clean is like giving yourself a massage.  In fact, you give your body an internal massage.  By eating clean, slowly chewing food, and consuming lots of alkaline water with lemon (this is my favorite water brand), it is possible to transition to a clean diet to maintain good health for you and your loved ones.  It is about carefully making healthy choices one step at a time.  

For us food is information and it is powerful medicine. We have totally embraced a clean diet for life.