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Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Friendlier Kombucha

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I’m a big fan of the famous GTDave’s kombuchas, but yesterday at Erewhon (the only store nearby to get the “classic” version rather than Whole Foods’ weaker “enlightened” line)  I noticed that their price had gone up yet again, this time to $3.99.  Scanning through the other brands, I came across this:

It was cheaper, but it was also smaller; 12 oz instead of 16.  So I looked at the nutrition facts, and was completely shocked that every flavor had only two grams of sugar in the whole bottle.  Even the non-sweetened GT Dave’s have four, and fruity flavors carry 8-10.  They also have about 70-80 calories to a bottle, and Dr. Chao has only 30.  Lastly, Dr. Chao has managed to pull a gram of protein into the mix.  I figured I’d give one a try; flavors ranged from vanilla to ginkgo, and I went for the St. John’s Wort one.

Plain/herbal kombuchas are never exactly oh-my-yumness beverages compared to their fruit counterparts, which I confirmed with this one on first sip.  But a couple drops of stevia later, it’s quite good!  Also a plus over Dave’s is that when I went to their site I saw that they use organic tea and organic sugar for the brewing process.

Dr. Chao also sells vegan coffee drinks, and they aren’t even made with soy- they use almond and coconut milks.  Definitely a brand to look out for!

Yelp Doesn’t Help

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In my several years of writing reviews on yelp, I wrote nearly as many nonsense, prose reviews as I did legit ones of businesses.  I reviewed everything from a cleanse I did to marijuana to random men who hit on me.  Yelp never deleted any of those.

Today I received an email from yelp HQ letting me know that my post there about my blog had been removed due to it not being representative of direct consumer experience.  How in the world was my review of chewing relevant to consumer experience?  It wasn’t.  Nor were any of my other creative pieces.  But, in those pieces, I didn’t point out that yelp is a horrible commercial machine that always sides with businesses and refuses to protect reviewers from both angry owners and harassing fellow yelpers.

Thank you, yelp, for helping motivate me to start this blog.  I have well over 2,000 reviews in the two months since I started it, and I never have to worry about anyone flagging me for being honest.  As you continue to ignore harassed yelpers and side with the businesses who pay you to filter their bad reviews, I hope others will also flock to their own forums to make their voices heard.  You have grown into little beyond an advertising space for desperate businesses.

As much as I try not to spout anything negative, I am compelled to share this photo, which states the obvious in simple words:

Raw Vegan Cookie Dough Balls! (gluten, grain, soy & sugar free, anti-candida, low-carb)

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Recently I came across a recipe for sugar-free raw cookie dough balls.  I’m still following a candida-friendly diet, so I was excited to find a dessert recipe that I didn’t need to modify much, and that actually sounded tasty.  The recipe was only enough to make a single serving, so I modified it for quantity as well as to my personal tastes.  I was amazed by how similar to cookie dough these little balls taste! (Note that there are numerous almond-based ingredients; almonds are the only nut considered “safe” to eat raw on a candida diet. I ate no nuts or seeds for the first phase of the diet, but have re-incorporated almonds and hemp back in.)

Cookie Dough Balls Recipe:

Heat stovetop on low until melted and smooth:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut, hemp, or almond milk
1 tbls coconut nectar
2/3 dropper each toffee and hazelnut stevia
1 tsp vanilla

Add:
3/4 cup almond meal
2 scoops protein powder (optional)
1 tbls coconut flour
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1/2 tsp salt

The recipe I modified said to roll these into balls right away, but I found the batter much too sticky for that. I refrigerated it for about half an hour, then easily formed the balls. Total yield was 15 balls.

Chocolate Cookie Substitution: replace coconut flour with 2 tbls cacao powder.

Clearly, this recipe is FAR from low-fat, but when you are creating a dessert that is raw, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free, low in carbs, and grain-free, the ingredients need to be made of SOMETHING besides, you know, cucumbers. Plus, I figured people were getting tired of hearing “sprouted buckwheat” in all my recipes. Coconut oil is great for overall health, and almond butter/meal is full of protein. And while the author of the original post said that 4-5 balls was a serving, I found them to be so rich that two was more than sufficient.

Goodbye, Bill

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Sigh.

I haven’t blogged in nearly two weeks because our beloved cat, Daizy William, was dying.  We had a home vet, another home vet, and finally, a three day stint in an emergency hospital.  Bill died on Saturday, March 24th, at our home in West Hollywood.  He waited until we picked him up, gave Ace one last meow goodbye in the car, then passed in her arms on our balcony (next to plants and flowers he loved) hours before we were scheduled to have him euthanized.  It was a whirlwind of supplements, medications, force-feeding, clean up, etc., leading up to that day.  Bill survived a full two and a half years with chronic renal failure as a healthy boy before getting sicker, and was one of the sweetest, most well-behaved cats I could ever hope to love.

One person in this situation who helped make it more manageable was someone we never even met, the vet who was scheduled to put Bill to sleep.  He died while I was on the phone with her asking if we could move our appointment to earlier in the afternoon.  We didn’t know how to tell if he had died, and she walked us through where to touch and check.  The vet’s name is Robin Holmes, and her business is called Gifts of Peace.  She gave us the info for the pet mortuary while on the phone, was flexible about scheduling, and had a very gentle demeanor.

The mortuary is called Guardian Animal Aftercare and they were also incredibly kind.  They picked Bill up that afternoon, and he was ready for us the following day in a lovely little cedar box with a plaque.  The man arrived at our door with a basket and blankets, giving Bill’s send off a much warmer feeling than the bag or box I was fearing they’d bring.  He was solemn and sympathetic, and the people at their office the next day were warm and understanding.

Bill’s legacy lives on in my brand’s Buffalo Bill Cowboy Kale Chips, where his face graces the label.  If you are an RnR customer, please enjoy our snacks in loving memory of him.  Bill’s easygoing nature touched everyone he met, especially those who got to watch him lounge on his back.  He had a beautiful, regal demeanor, and Ace referred to him regularly as a politician– specifically, a Republican one, given his affinity for watching Fox News with Ace’s former office mate.

Goodbye, Bill.  We know you’re still here with us, but the pain of losing you is immense nonetheless.

Easy, From-Scratch Vegan Chili

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Beans from the bulk section of a grocery store are a staple for me, both for sprouting (plain sprouted garbanzos are on of my favorite snacks) and for making the occasional pressure cooker stew.  I have a strict no-cans policy for food; cooking your own beans is cheaper, chemical-free, and provided you take a moment in the morning to soak them in water, not nearly as time consuming as people fear.

Chili is one of my favorite things to make in the pressure cooker.  It’s under an hour start-to-finish, easy to customize for veggies and non-veggies alike, and super tasty.  My parents gave me a huge bag of Frontier chili powder blend last time we visited, and my father said it made some of the best chili he’s had.  I’ve used it in small doses in dishes lately, but nothing where it really got to shine; now that I’ve made chili out of it, I have to agree that it is pretty much the tastiest chili powder blend I’ve ever used.  It has a deep, dark, rich flavor, thanks to the addition of both allspice and cloves, with a mild heat.  Its ingredients can be viewed here.

Beyond the chili powder, my ingredient list for this is pretty standard.  I think what makes it so flavorful without any meat or fake meat is the method of cooking all aromatics first and the additions of cider vinegar and chipotle.

Super Tasty Vegan Chili:

1 1/2 cups each kidney and pinto beans OR
1 cup each kidney, pinto, and black beans
1 7 oz glass jar tomato paste like bionaturae organic (please don’t use cans! Canned tomatoes are the worst canned food of all, because the acid in tomatoes leeches all the chemicals from the can into the food.)
1 32 oz glass jar pureed tomatoes, also bionaturae organic or other organic, jarred brand (if it is spring or summer, you can puree enough tomatoes to make 32 oz.)
32 oz water or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, 1/4 separated
6 large cloves garlic, 2 cloves separated
3 jalapenos, 1 separated
1/3 cup chili blend
2 tbls oregano
2 tbls cumin
1 tbls garlic salt, or to taste
1 tsp chipotle powder
2 tbls apple cider vinegar
2 tbls grapeseed or other neutral oil

1. Soak beans in the morning in plenty of water. Drain, rinse.
2. Chop jalapenos, onion, and garlic into desired sizes; I do a moderately fine dice, and like to use both green and red chiles:

3. Saute chiles, onion, and garlic in grapeseed oil until lightly colored.
4. Add all spices, saute until fragrant.
5. Deglaze pot with cider vinegar.
6. Add tomato paste, cook until it darkens.
7. Add beans, water or broth, and pureed tomatoes.
8. Put top on pressure cooker and let cook for 35-45 minutes once pressurized. Alternately, cook in regular pot on medium-high for 50-70 minutes, until beans are tender.

Vegetable Blend:
You can use this as a side dish, add to chili afterwards to ensure that your veggies don’t get overcooked, or add it straight in to the pot. If adding directly into chili, add during last 10 minutes in pressure cooker, or last 20 minutes in a regular pot.

1 head broccoli
1 bunch arugula
1 bunch collard greens
reserved portions of garlic, jalapeno, onion
2 tbls chili powder
1 tbls grapeseed oil
1 tsp garlic salt
This is what I had on hand this week- you can change it up to any veggies of your choosing! I’ve made it with spinach, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.

1. Chop veggies into large bite size pieces.
2. Cook jalapeno, garlic, onion, till fragrant.
3. Add chili powder, saute briefly.
4. Add veggies, and stir frequently until tender-crisp, about ten minutes.

If you choose to instead cook the veggies into the chili, don’t reserve the garlic/onion/jalapenos, and add veggies raw.

Top with any chili toppings you prefer; I used almond cheddar cheese for mine.

It is thoroughly worth an hour of your time to have food you can enjoy for days and feel guilt-free about, knowing that you made it without convenience foods and chemicals.  The difference in taste alone makes it worth it!

ExpoWest: What I Loved, Laughed at, and Longed For

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The Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA is the West Coast’s largest health foods trade show.  It’s been referred to as “CandyLand for adults,” and after attending, I agree heartily with that descriptor.  We went Friday and we were planning on going back today, but unfortunately little Bill is not having a good weekend so we decided to stay home.

On Friday we visited only a fraction of the booths (it’s way too much to take in in one day), meaning my review here is missing the great bulk and majority of exhibitors, and merely highlights some of what stood out to me, both good and bad.  I could have spent the entire day just in the basement, where they keep new products, as those were some of the most interesting ones.  We are all familiar with Amy’s Organics (they had an entire cafe set up) and Zico coconut water, so it was much more interesting to me to see smaller and newer companies.  It was also fascinating to learn how little or how much the demo reps for the brands knew about the people they were hired to present!  Some were incredibly well-versed in their brands, while others didn’t have even a minimal clue about what they were trying to sell and couldn’t answer even the simplest questions.

My favorite new finds:

Comvita was sampling their manuka honey and olive leaf extract.  They sell manuka honeys with 20+ umf levels, which are the highest you can generally find.  Umf stands for unique manuka factor, and represents the level of antibiotic properties in the honey.  Manuka honey is used by the Maori tribe of New Zealand, and has been used historically for its antibiotic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial qualities.  It was even approved recently for use in hospitals to treat antbiotic-resistant MRSA, a terrible form of staph.

Comvita’s olive leaf extract liquid is unique in that it is made of fresh olive leaves, not dried like the capsules I take to keep Lyme in remission.  It was peppermint flavored and while not tasty, was palatable.  I plan on ordering it because it is more bioavailable than capsules, as well as more potent.

Inner-eco sells coconut kefir, which in the past I have found too awful tasting to ever get used to.  I made it myself for a spell, but could never get past its vinegary smell and flavor.  Through the addition of stevia and natural flavors, Inner-eco has rendered the very healthy probiotic beverage delightful.  While I am not a fan of natural flavors in general, if they make coconut kefir tasty, I’m completely on board.

One brand I’d been looking forward to trying at the Expo was Swerve Sweeteners, which is a form of erythritol that they claim tastes as sweet as sugar; erythritol usually never gets beyond 70% sweetness.  Alas, I never noticed their booth, but I did find Eco-BeeCo, a blend of erythritol, stevia, maltodextrin and honey with a pronounced honey flavor.  I’m not very well read on maltodextrin, so I don’t have an opinion on it, but it’s good to know that there are options for cup-for-cup baking, especially with honey flavor.  However, I couldn’t find any info about where they source the honey from on their site, so I am unlikely to buy this and am more just throwing it out there for people looking for other sugar free options besides the commercially popular TruVia.

Brands that I got fun samples from and enjoyed speaking with:

Redmond RealSalt, unlike Himalayan salt, is an American product.  It comes from what was an ancient sea in Central Utah, and was discovered by Native Americans in 1959.  It contains over 60 trace minerals, and I’ve been using it quite happily for about two years.  When I say “Himalayan salt” in recipes, I mean RealSalt, I’ve just never bothered discussing it before.  The adorable little shakers they gave away of it should be able to sway anyone!  It’s cheaper than Himalayan salt, supports the American economy, and is equally healthful.  And pink.  Because, really, pink is important.

SunWarrior raw vegan protein powder is something I’d wanted to try for awhile, so the ability to both sample a pre-made shake as well as take a packet for later was fun.  I enjoyed their shake a lot, and not just because it had banana in it and I’m completely sugar-starved on a candida cleanse.  Yesterday morning I used the packet at home in a shake along with sugar-free So Delicious coconut milk, baby spinach, and ice.  It is the first raw vegan protein I’ve found that isn’t chalky at all, and I definitely plan on ordering it from iHerb once I’m running low on my current powder.  Pictured on top is an “ancient grains” granola that I unfortunately threw out the packaging for before photographing.  And, of course, that’s Chessie giving it her seal (or, well, mouth) of approval.

While I’ve never used Mountain Rose Herbs before, now that I’ve scored a slew of awesome bumper stickers from them, I’m inclined to give them a try.  Other ones I got where the typical “Support Organic Farmers,” “I ❤ Herbs!” and “The Best Things in Life Are Organic.” The reps were friendly, and I wish they’d had some actual product samples.

Companies that would’ve been better served having reps who knew their products:

The first question that I, and several other attendees at this booth at the same time asked, was, “How is this product different from almond milk?” The reps for Victoria’s Kitchen had no idea what almond milk was, or how it was made.  In fact, they didn’t even seem too sure what “almond water” was, either.  The employee kept stating, “It has no milk,” as if almond milk contained dairy.  This product is sugar water with almond flavoring.  Not a health food in the slightest, this beverage contains 30 grams of sugar in a 16 oz bottle and has no nutritive value of any type.

We stopped at the futurebiotics booth wondering if the white kindey bean extract they had on display was for kidneys.  (It isn’t, it’s a carb blocker.) We use this brand’s probiotic, and I recognized the packaging so I asked her a question about that product.  The rep had no idea they even sold a probiotic supplement.  Shouldn’t people at least be given a list of all the company’s supplements, even if only a few are on display?

These people were sampling their ActiveX protein bars they said were, “raw, vegan, and organic.” I looked at the ingredients after tasting a sample bc it seemed very not-raw, and the first ingredient was peanut butter.  I asked, “Do you use jungle peanuts, since there is no such thing as raw peanut butter?” Peanuts contain aflatoxin, a mold that can only be removed through roasting.  Jungle peanuts are the only type of peanut that don’t have that mold, and are therefore safe to eat raw, but you rarely find them in protein bars.  The rep asked what a jungle peanut was, and I explained.  He then said he didn’t know, but that I could ask the manufacturer.  Upon closer look, the second ingredient was brown rice syrup, which is also a cooked ingredient.  These bars may be organic, but they are certainly not raw in the slightest and should not be marketed as such.  To make me dislike them further, their website just crashed my browser and I nearly had a heart attack when I got logged out of wordpress and thought I lost everything I typed so far on this blog.  Aside: thanks, wordpress, for being so on top of auto-saving.  You rock.

Whether or not these reps knew their products, I can’t say, because they were too busy ignoring us to even say hello.  I tried interacting, but both women just stared at me blankly and didn’t speak.  Though I have bought their products plenty in the past, I am a bit less inclined to do so now.  They were speaking to one another when we walked up, but stopped as I stood there glancing at samples, so it wasn’t as if they were too engaged in their own conversation.  The lack of response to my mentioning that I bought their crackers, and asking if it was ok to take a sample, was the opposite of how a business should behave.  They did not say a single word in reply, though they looked right at me.  I am your customer.  Don’t you know that being too cool to do your job by interacting is going to make me choose a different brand of food next time I’m at the store?

The FrankenFood Award goes to:

I feel the same about this stuff as I do meat from a test tube: progresive idea, but creepy.  EarthSpring Foods has found a way to get the estrogen out of soy, which is great, but again, creepy.  They claim they also remove the phytates, or anti-nutrients, that regular soy is full of.  I don’t personally eat soy, except in small doses of its fermented forms, because of both the phytates and estrogens it is so full of.  So, if you are looking to feed the world soy, this may be a better alternative, and they have numerous forms of it including powder, paste, butter, milk and flour.  But if you are just looking to eat food- regular, real, unadulterated food- you are probably best served avoiding this (as well as most other soy products).

My crowning jewel of the day:

Dr. Andrew Weil was a staple in my 1980s holistic home; my parents had his books, watched him on PBS, etc.  He, along with Dr. Mercola, was one of the first medical doctors to publicize the need for integrative medicine.  I’ve eaten at his restaurant as well, so seeing him there was a total starstruck moment.  Ace insisted I get a photo with him, even though she and I both feel like hell lately and weren’t much in a picture mood.  I also saw Cat Cora, but she was on her way out and the last thing I wanted to do was be invasive and stop her for a photo.

Because my brand wasn’t exhibiting this year, I feel like my attendance was a valuable lesson in how to properly exhibit and interact with customers.  Next year I look forward to Rawk-n-Roll Cuisine hopefully being a vendor at ExpoWest, and plan on doing everything possible to emulate the brands I most enjoyed here.

How to Not Go Crazy on a Candida Diet/Cleanse

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Just like my last juice fast, candida diets are beginning to feel like old news to me; I battled candida during Lyme for a long time a couple years ago, then had an unexpected bout return this past December.  In the last month, it has come back again, which is not surprising now that we’ve found out we may have mold in our bedroom.  We’ve had a LOT of health problems since moving across the hall in November, and tomorrow they are opening the offending wall and we will know for sure whether nastiness is growing in a spot under the window that sprang a leak shortly after we moved in.  We are, of course, hoping that it IS moldy in there, because if it isn’t, our household has become randomly riddled with really odd ailments, for no apparent reason.

Back to candida– and by candida, I am referring to the kind in your gut, not other areas, just to throw that out there for the record.  It’s back, it’s got me STARVING CONSTANTLY, and in turn I have of course put on all the weight I’d lost since the hormone situation (which, if there is mold in the wall, explains why all that got so bad too).  While just a month ago I was back to my normal skinny pants, those are again a lost cause.  I spent a minute (err, couple weeks) thinking, “Fuck it,” because I knew I had to wait until the wall situation was fully dealt with, and that has involved numerous inspections, tests, etc.  I didn’t go crazy and eat yeasted bread or anything, but I had wine close to nightly and what the average person may consider a slightly obscene amount of chocolate.  Now that the wall is being handled, it’s time to handle me, too, so I ordered Renew Life Enterprises “CandiGone,” will bust out the Rife machine every few days, and began a joyous standard candida diet.  Only, being me and having lofty goals, I decided to also cut out foods that I know I have been consuming way too much of, that are typically allowed.  Read: Ace has staged numerous nut-interventions on me lately, and I’ve come to realize that they are just too big a part of my diet.  So although the candida diet says they are ok as long as they’re roasted, I’ve decided to cut nuts and seeds out entirely for a short while.

The easiest way, for me, to not feel completely deprived of specific foods, is to remove myself completely from food and do a juice fast.  But since I just did that a month or so ago, and since I am STARVING CONSTANTLY, that sounds very not fun right now.  Instead, I’ve decided to switch up my normal eating life as much as possible so that I don’t notice what I am missing as badly as I usually would.  My tips for a candida cleanse overlap with those for a juice fast, but I think there are several important things that can help you get through any restricted period of time, so I am including them again here.

1. Buy a plethora of snackable green produce.  I kid you not, I have eaten an entire head of celery as a snack lately.  Candida hunger is like the munchies from smoking pot exaggerated to the millionth degree, only without any laughter or fulfillment.  Know that you will still be hungry for awhile, and plan accordingly with things you could eat all day and not have to worry about.  My two favorites for this are Persian cucumbers and celery.  Broccoli stalks also work.

2. Don’t try to substitute.  If you love, say, regular pizza, don’t think you’ll be fooled and satiated instantly by gluten free crust and Daiya cheese and pesto sauce.  Forget about pizza for a minute, and try making, say, an Indian food dish you’ve never had but have been curious to try.

3. Since you have added a bunch of new rules, release some of your standard ones.  Personally, I am mostly raw and I rarely buy products with ingredients.  So for me, buying brown rice cakes (I never buy rice cakes because puffing grains at high temps denatures them and renders them nutritionally void) is a huge treat.  What’s in my cabinet right now?  Brown rice cakes!!  What’s my treat for eating a raw greens salad with probiotic onion dressing for lunch?  Brown rice cakes!!  I also have roasted seaweed snacks, and So Delicious sugar-free coconut milk and ice cream.  (Seaweed and coconut are in the “top ten foods to eat” while getting ridding of candida, btw.)  This all helps me to feel like there are tons of “guilty” treats waiting for me, and eases the focus off the fact that I can’t currently have any fruit, chocolate, nuts, wine, etc.

4. Protein- what’s a non-meat eater to do on a diet that usually stresses meat?  I am huge on listening to one’s body, and have actually had several times throughout my adulthood where my body said, specifically, “feed me poultry.” I listened, gave it chicken a couple times, and it shut up about that for another couple years.  For reasons like that, I eschew labeling myself as anything other than a raw foodist, even though my diet is at least 90-95% plant based and I think I eat a lot more veggies than the average vegan.  (I also tried eating liver twice at the recommendation of several different alternative health practitioners, but that didn’t go over well in the slightest, and I plan pretty solidly to never try it again.)  On the regular, I consume a small amount of raw dairy in the form of raw cheese, which is, of course, not allowed on a candida diet.  To solve this issue, I prefer protein shakes.  Currently I have Rainbow Light Protein Energizer, which is brown rice protein with spirulina, greens, and herbs for energy (thanks to the health issues I’ve got lethargy, malaise, and ennui written all over me lately).  I wish it was all organic, but at least some of the ingredients are.

5. Make simple things special.  Examples of this are having a shake or juice in a fancy glass, mixing a salad in a beautiful bowl, or breaking out nice dinnerware for a regular weeknight meal.  You are doing a candida cleanse for YOU, because your body is important and you want to help it rebalance itself.  However, the more we focus on what we are missing/can’t have, the more stressed we get, and the worse we in turn make our bodies feel.  Reward yourself in every possible way!

Protein shake/faux milkshake with So Delicious sugar-free milk and ice cream, Rainbow Light Protein Energizer, coconut oil, and toffee flavored stevia. I usually add greens to my smoothies, but this was meant to feel/taste like a dessert treat- and it did. =)

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