Sunday, February 22, 2015

Prepare to Set Sail

In just a few days my family will depart for Fort Lauderdale to board Holland America Line's Signature Class cruise ship, the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. A traditional cruising experience, which steers clear of rock climbing walls and water slides in favor of timeless touches like afternoon tea and elegant formal nights. A luxurious floating palace that moves gracefully over the ocean. 

Photo of Nieuw Amsterdam courtesy of
Our get-away is for seven days in the Western Caribbean. This will mark my third cruise as well as my third visit to The Caribbean, however, I have not been to these ports of call. Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Key West....Did I mention it is also mine and CDeuce's ten year wedding anniversary?!

My first cruise with two of the waitstaff aboard the ms Ryndam's inaugural cruise, 1995.
Although this cruise is relatively short, there is still a great deal of preparing to do. Not only do I need to get all three of us ready for the cruise itself but I also need to make sure things at home are taken care of while we are away.

My second cruising experience in Baja, Mexico aboard Carnival's ms Inspiration, 2011.
I took care of as many expenses as possible beforehand. I booked our planned shore excursions for the Grand Cayman Duck Adventure, Chacchoben Mayan Ruins and the Hop On/Hop Off Trolley in Key West. There is nothing more exhilarating than to go on a vacation and having it already be paid for. No giant credit card bill to come home to!

My last visit to The Caribbean. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 2013.
As President John F. Kennedy said at a dinner for the America's Cup crew in 1962, "I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes and ships change, it's because we all come from the sea and it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean and therefore we, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean and when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came."

The simple joy of being at sea is alive and well here. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nutrition Fundamentals Pt. 1

In my journey to regain the 17 years lost from anorexia and bulimia, I have had to rethink nutrition and the roll diet plays in maintaining health. This is where I began to explore the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet based on the research of T. Colin Campbell and his findings from The China Study. 

Because of my illness, I needed to approach nutrition from an holistic point of view and evaluate with more confidence the conflicting messages about healthy diets that come at us every day.

In this excerpt, I will discuss a few specific strategies that are helping me in my quest for health and longevity. My hope is to have a dialogue so leave a comment or send me a message with any comments or questions.

Strategy #1: All Calories are Not Created Equal

Many years ago, I was in the mindset that as long as I kept within my desired calorie range, it really didn't matter what I ate. Sure, I knew about nutrition but it's funny how all good intentions can go out the window when you are trying to lose weight. I would eat many nutritionally void foods as staples in my diet and looking back I realize that I was doing myself a huge injustice. I would survive on microwave popcorn, tuna, Cliff Bars, ice burg lettuce. I cringe when I think about it because if I had been eating nutritionally complete foods, I would have not only felt better, I would have felt fuller longer. Many of these pre-packaged food are not only overpriced, they don't satiate hunger for very long if at all.

I discovered that if you eat natural foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit, seeds, legumes and nuts in their whole, natural, unprocessed form, you will not only feel full longer, thus being able to sustain energy needs, you will feel happier and healthier. Now that I eat whole, nutrient dense foods, I can eat more and stay on the lighter end of 130 instead of the yo-yo-ing between 130 and 140. This is seems to be my natural body weight and a weight that I have to accept instead of forcing it beneath it for me to live a life free of dieting. I can have a huge plate of steamed vegetables with brown rice or quinoa, a big bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, a salad with leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and beans. It is caloric density eating at it's finest!

Which would you rather have?


...or this...

Let's take a look at the Special K Bar first. Seems delicious. Promises lots of health benefits. It's 170 calories with 5 grams of fat and 10 grams of protein. This "health" bar also contains partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. trans fats), 4 teaspoons of added sugar, barely any strawberries, fiber added in the form of inulin (not a whole food), BHT (potential carcinogen) and TBHQ (causes nausea and delirium), artificial and natural flavoring (typically from the ass of a beaver) and a laundry list of added vitamins and minerals because this fake food has no nutrients on its own.

Now let's look at the asparagus. For the same 170 calories you could have two pounds of asparagus with only 1 gram of fat and twice the protein! Asparagus is the number one plant-based source for Vitamin K, which is indicated in preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Other health benefits include Vitamin A and Folate for anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, heart health and indicated in the prevention of birth defects. Asparagus is also a good source of potassium, glutathione, Vitamin C, antioxidants and is a known aphrodisiac. Oh la la!!!

Now I ask you, which one will fill you up longer? A measly meal replacement bar the size of your finger or 2 pounds of grilled asparagus with a balsamic drizzle? I bet you couldn't even eat 2 pounds of asparagus. 

Of course, one cannot live by asparagus alone. The  point is, make your calories count. I have made cookies, breads, muffins and even ice cream that is nutritious and void of any sugar, oil or salt. More about that in another segment.

I still have slip ups where I end up eating half a dozen cookies or a few slices of pizza  in secret (vegan, of course but not always nutritionally sound). It is not so much as me wanting to eliminate those slip ups as it is me wanting to eliminate those feelings of guilt and failure then sabotage myself by eating the entire box of cookies or the whole pizza and thoughts of purging. I am figuring it all out and any step in the right direction is a worthwhile step no matter how long it takes to get there.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Road to Recovery Pt. 4

In the early days of my son's life, I started my own business cleaning very wealthy family's homes in and around Seattle. One day I was dusting some bookshelves and came across a book titled, "Facing Love Addiction". Being a person who only changes by hitting rock bottom, I realized I may have a problem. I was always one of those girls who heavily relied on other people's opinions about me for validation and self-esteem. Standing there in the library of a 13,000 square foot house, single because I had picked another "winner" of a man, I knew that if I didn't deal with this crippling character defect there was no way I could be a good mother to my child.

"None Named". Bome Bell's original birth certificate
I dealt with my "serial monogamy" issue in my own way but I was still struggling with my eating. I would eat sensibly for a few days but would eventually break down and eat until I was about to explode but I couldn't vomit. When I would vomit before I got pregnant,  I had no responsibility for anyone other than myself and vomiting made me so sick that I wasn't able to function for many hours after doing so. I would promise myself I would stop binge eating but just as soon as the rush wore off, the compulsion and obsession returned.

When my son turned two, I knew I wasn't attractive and I was very happy about that. I didn't want to be attractive. I didn't want to attract. My weight nestled in between 130 and 140, right where it is today. 

But the Universe, once again, had a different plan. So far my relationships hadn't ended with "happily ever after" so when I met CDeuce I had no expectations and yet he took my breath away. In all of my relationships, that had never happened to me in my life. My knees got weak. It was amazing and I realized in that moment, I wasn't broken.

On March 4, 2005, CDeuce and I were married. As I mentioned in Part 3, I had faith that everything was happening for a reason because a few years later, without a biological father listed on Bome Bell's birth certificate, CDeuce was easily able to adopt my son....our son.

Our wedding.
My husband has been my earthly guardian angel. Married nearly ten years, being married is far better than getting married. Ten years...but it has only been recently that I have been able to tell him, tell anyone, how I still struggle with my distorted eating. There are days that are harder than others and in spite of how amazingly wonderful my life has turned out, I sometimes find myself turning back to binging and purging. I am forever engaged in a silent battle in my head over whether or not to lift the fork to my mouth. In spite of everything he has endured and took on in being married to me, he has continued to step up and help me even with things he doesn't understand.

My unconventional family
So why in the world do I want to talk about it now?

Eating disorders are shroud in secrecy and there are so many things I have felt ashamed about. Only recently I have been able to face my demons and be comfortable telling my story. It is part of my healing process. 

A light bulb moment happened not too long ago at a doctor's appointment. With some health concerns, I had to devise a strategy to beat my eating disorder once and for all.

With a new sense of optimism, I began to read up on nutritional science and the effects food has on the body. I engrossed myself in science journals and the entire Health section at Barnes & Noble. I enjoyed this information so much that I enrolled in eCornell University's Plant Based Nutrition program....but I couldn't eat the science so I started cooking, following recipes, baking and making healthy taste delicious.

I also gave up eating animals which has been paramount in my growth as a spiritual person. It has made me aware of greed and made me more sensitive to cruelty. It has made me feel like I am contributing to making the world better and that I am connected to everything around me. I feel like I am part of the whole by respecting every living thing rather than using it and destroying it by living unconsciously, which is pretty much what I have done these last 17 years. Healing comes from love and loving every living thing in turn helps you love yourself.

(Future installments will focus on specific strategies that are helping me in my quest for health and longevity. Stay tuned.....)
"True nobility isn't about being better than anyone else. It's about being better than you use to be." - Portia de Rossi

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Road to Recovery Pt. 3

At an utter loss, I found myself struggling with bulimia, separated from my husband and definitely pregnant. I made an appointment with a doctor and while in the exam room I violently erupted into tears. I told her of my situation.

"You can do this on your own," she reassured me. 

She showed me the first image of my baby...a white kidney bean on the screen. It was clear as day that my date of conception was the last time my husband and had slept together...the night I came back into town to reconcile only to leave again a few days later after finding photos of another woman, my cousin 12 years my junior, in a drawer.

This was really happening. I finally got pregnant. For years my doctors told me that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant because my periods had stopped and I had polycystic ovarian syndrome but now, at the worst possible time, a life was growing inside of me. I knew that abortion was not an option but at the same time, this moment didn't feel the way it was suppose to.

It was when I came home, slunk into bed with a box of Kleenex I realized I had someone who was not going to leave me. Who would love me unconditionally. I knew I had to tell my husband but I wasn't going to share this baby with him (who may or may not want this baby anyway) so I devised a plan. I told him the baby wasn't his.

It was evident that the CEO I worked for had intentions beyond a business relationship so it was easy for me to get him to help me concoct a plan and tell my husband that the baby was his. Within minutes I was greeted with a madman on the other end of the phone line. Using words like "psycho", "c*nt" and "b*tch", he proceeded to inform me that, "I hope you die you manipulative b*tch". I was so thankful to be 800 miles away (another plan well thought out).

My work/romance situation was tenuous to say the least. The CEO had noble intentions but I just couldn't make myself love him. I knew I could barely support myself, let alone a baby, without him but I couldn't be with him either so I left and headed to my mom's house near Seattle.

My mom was ecstatic about the news. She had been wanting a grandchild for years. Although she was shocked and nervous that I was potentially going to be a single mother, she told me that she fully supported me and would help any way she could.  

I wasn't showing yet but I continued to binge eat which inevitably led me to gain 15 pounds in my first trimester. The one thing I wasn't doing, however, was purging. I didn't want to hurt my baby and feared somehow it might if I caused myself to vomit.

The guilt of lying to my husband overwhelmed me so I came clean and told him the truth. I told him what the doctor said about my date of conception and that two weeks prior I had a slight menses. He firmly denied my truth and said the child was not his. I think I remember sighing in relief because I still refused to share this baby. I told him not to worry. I was not going to ask for paternity or child support. As a matter of fact, everything that we shared together sans this child was his.

I later understood why he would say that. Shortly after my confession, I found out my soon-to-be-ex-husband and his girlfriend (my cousin from that photo I had found) was also pregnant. They were happily living in my ex-house with my ex-dog, enjoying my ex-boat and ex-motorcycle that I had freely given up but assumed the debt in lieu of a quickie divorce. First my best friend and now my cousin, why did this keep happening to me? Although I was a survivor and a living example of "that which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger", the notion of him wanting that child but not questioning the paternity of this one was a crushing blow. I would attend my many doctor visits where I was greeted with waiting rooms filled with pregnant women and their loving husbands or teenage boyfriends, while I sat quietly alone, with a suntan mark around my naked finger where my wedding ring once was, glaring like a scarlet letter.

At my baby shower.
At my five month ultrasound I saw my baby's heartbeat and the outline of it's limbs fluttering around inside of me. It's a boy! All of the sudden the fear and shame evaporated and I felt it for the very first time....unconditional love for the life growing inside of me and faith that everything was happening for a reason.

I delivered at 181 pounds nearly doubling the weight I was a year before I got pregnant.
I had to let go of my unhealthy eating habits. For nine months I struggled but managed to eat sensibly without purging. One day at a time, I learned to accept my pregnant body. I started the process of learning how to love myself. They say you can't truly love another until you love yourself and with this message and the life that was forming inside of me, I was finally starting to understand what that meant.

On October 4, 2002 at 3:05AM, with my mom present, I delivered a healthy 7 pound, 11 ounce baby boy. 

Baby's first photo.
To be continued...

"Perhaps it's time to stop growing flowers in bone cages." - Sophie Glynn

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Road to Recovery Pt. 2

If you missed Part 1, click here.

Early 1998, I decided on my own, to get some help but it wasn't before my hair started to fall out and I had developed an irregular heart beat. I had amenorrhea for over a year already because my body fat was too low to function. After work one day I walked down the street to Swedish Hospital and started their outpatient program. I lasted two weeks.

Between 10 to 20 percent of people with anorexia die from heart attacks, other complications and suicide. The disease has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up but I didn't want to die. I wanted to eat like a normal person but I needed to see my bones or I would hate myself even more. The thought of being "cured" scared me more than anything that could heal me.

At this time I was living on my own and working as a travel agent. Friends and family had given up on me. The doctors at Swedish dreaded treating me. I was left to stand in my empty apartment with "Ana" ringing in my ears, alone in every way that mattered.

A visit to the place I grew up.
A few months later I met someone through a mutual acquaintance. He was handsome, athletic, youthful and polite, with a slight lisp and sort of a shyness about him that attracted me. Still, I was not interested. I wanted to be alone. He relentlessly pursued me even though I had made myself a place where I wanted everyone to escape from. It was in a moment of clarity that I realized I had found a relationship with someone who cold simultaneously make me grow up and keep me forever young. 

It wasn't love and first sight but with his steadfastness and relentless pursuit, in a way I learned to. But I loved the roles that we both played a lot more. I had assigned him the role of my protector. We eventually got married and started to build a life together. The only thing that wasn't happening was a baby. I had gained a bit of weight but still was not having my period so I went to the doctor who informed me that the only way I could get pregnant would be fertility treatments. Not wanting to go through that, I resigned myself to the fact we would not ever have children. That decision adversely affected our relationship.

Summer of 1998
With marriage, I was keeping my weight between 115 and 120 pounds. I stuck to the diet I had previously, just more of it since someone was watching. I don't know what triggered it, but I was working late one evening when the candy machine caught my eye. I put a quarter in the machine and got out a Baby Ruth. I ate it with wild abandon. I grabbed another and another. I felt so guilty afterward that I purged and didn't eat for four days. This started my vicious cycle of bulimia. My binging couldn't keep up with my purging and I started to rapidly gain weight.

With all day binging and not being able to always successfully purge, my weight crept up to 149 pounds toward the end of 2001.
Everyone thought I was getting better but I had never been this bad. My distorted eating had manifested itself from anorexia to bulimia. I was told I couldn't get pregnant, we were up to our necks in debt and I felt I had lost my edge over my husband who I suspected was cheating. Eating disorders are a wonderful tool for helping you reject others before they can reject you. With calculated effort, I left him and headed for San Francisco where I had a job waiting for me with a start-up.

It was a dream job in a beautiful city. I was given the title of Executive Assistant to the President and CEO. With a decent salary and a temporary place to stay until I could find a place of my own, I thought I could pay down the debt I shared with my husband and move on.

Six weeks into my job, I found out I was approximately eight weeks pregnant.

To be continued.....

"I have a remarkable ability to delete all better judgement from my brain when I get my head set on something. I have no sense of moderation, no sense of caution. I have no sense pretty much." - Marya Hornbacher

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Road to Recovery: Pt. 1

My journey to health is just that...a journey...and each year has its ups and downs and challenges along the way. One thing I do know for sure is that I'm in a much better place than I use to be. It is a common misconception that you have to be deathly thin to have an eating disorder. Today, if you saw me, you'd probably think that I didn't suffer as much as I do. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and much of the grief is mental.

In my instance, recovery has felt like shit. Since I leaped back from 98 pounds in 2001, I haven't felt like I am doing something good. It has felt like I have failed. Like I have given up. The truth is I am about 35 pounds heavier than I was back then but I haven't overcome my eating disorder. It has gotten better and I am in a better place but it just doesn't go away. You don't have to be emaciated or vomiting to be suffering. All people who live their lives on a diet are suffering.

High school was the worst experience for me. My relationship with my parents was strained and life at home was tough. I definitely think this contributed to my over-eating, late night binges and expanding waistline in high school. School was not all that it could have been. It was a place where I determined that my goal was to get out as soon as possible and so I did. I got married. 

That marriage lasted not even a year. My ex-husband moved on with my ex-best friend. I remember a conversation I had with him where he told me that she was thinner than I was. This may have been the starting point of more distorted eating. I would restrict my intake in order to obtain this false illusion of control and then when my body couldn't take it any longer, I would overeat and binge. It was a horrible cycle that I have unfortunately went round and round on for years. I lost some weight but it didn't bring him back.

But that wasn't the monumental time when I dropped down to 98 pounds....

Yes. There was a clear turning point that drove me to lose 70 pounds. I was at my all-time high of 163 pounds. I had just returned from a sabbatical to Indonesia to combat suffering another breakup (second of three). Once I discovered that I weighed so much, I made the decision to lose some weight. Little did I know at the time I had just invited my best friend and worst enemy into my life...anorexia. Inside I was so broken but having "Ana" around I felt less lonely when I was hurting so bad.

Me in 1997
I started eliminating things from my diet....nuts, red meat, pork, egg yolks...but I also added some things in like diet soda, zero-calorie sugar packets, sugarless gum, imitation buttery sprays...anything to keep me from eating. On days that I did eat, it was typical for me to exist on an apple, potato and a can of water packed tuna. I began to be suspicious of food, not eating what anyone else would prepare for me. I remember one time throwing pancakes across the kitchen that my mother had prepared because I accused her of cooking them with oil. I felt everyone was against me, sabotaging my efforts when all they wanted to do was help.

Christmas 1997 at 27 years old and 98 pounds
I became more and more isolated. I pushed everyone away that got near me. In that isolation and quietness,  "Ana" would talk to me. She would tell me how strong I am. I had a false sense of free will. I was enslaved.

To be continued....

"We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need." - Marya Hornbacher 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tinkering School

We made it! With 200 applicants and only 140 spots, Bome Bell is going to Tinkering School

This will mark Bome's second time attending and of course I am better prepared for what to expect. We'll pack the sunscreen, the swimsuit and fill out the forms which are the single scariest document I've ever signed around my child. I understand that my son may be injured or killed at this camp. Oh, and did I mention he will fly there...alone!?!?

Bome Bell, Gever and the other Tinkerers looking at examples of Andy Goldsworthy's work to help them understand what is possible with simple materials.
Founder, Gever Tulley, is a hero around here. Bored to tears at UC San Diego, he dropped out, taught himself advanced code and eventually landed at Adobe. In 2005 he founded Tinkering School, the week long sleep away summer camp in Half Moon Bay on the premise that kids are exceedingly competent and do their best when left to their own devices. The happy campers build fantastical roller coasters, working hang gliders and houses suspended over a creek. Long division isn't learned by putting pencil to paper but by transforming 50 feet of wood into several boards to build a go cart.

Very unsure about the need for a handsaw at the beach but seemed happy to have it nonetheless.
The closest thing to a curriculum is a series of broad themes that compel students to create and learn using whatever methods, material or tools grab them. While Bome Bell was there, he torched a wire to try to bend it into a circle, thereby learning the properties of metal and how molecules react to heat. At any given week it is 15 students on individual educational paths.

Bome Bell relaxes under the driftwood canopy that he has helped assemble.
Tinkering School as well as the day school Bome Bell attends here in Los Angeles are at the vanguard of a new education revolution. One filled with idealism, optimism, fascination with technology, focus on the individual and gleeful embrace of disruption. Education is one of the most talked about things and schools such as these blithely dismiss most, if not all, of the dominant models of schooling in this country. The first wave of internet entrepreneurs have kids who are school age and are like, "screw this".

Bome Bell tries out the Flintstone-style breaks of the finicky vehicle the Tinkerers have created.
We are not interested in anything related to the current system. Today's school model was created in the 1900's to prepare factory workers. Six years in public school and shuddering memories of the small town public schools that I attended, there are well understood historical patterns of how things change. Frustration over the education Bome Bell was getting is just one of the reasons we took reform into our own hands with the help of innovators like Gever. There is an ongoing backlash against schools fueled by disappointment over rigid testing, hours of homework and dismaying failure rates. Even academically excellent charter and private schools are dogmatic and outmoded, unable to nurture the kind of creative, nimble, resilient "design" thinking needs to thrive in a fast-changing world. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bome Bell uses the opportunity to remove a sticker from his sock to watch a spider, look at a tree and talk about building with Gever.
Homeschooling is no longer a method of education that is associated with Christian fundamentalists and hippies living off the electric grid. I have seen homeschooling gain in popularity first-hand. It is the most telling sign of just how deeply the DIY education reform ethos has penetrated into the psyches of average parents. (Did I just call myself average?) It is a fast growing phenomenon with a vast array of classes and resources (many of them not at home) to provide structure and support. There is growing awareness that kids learn differently. One size fits all is suboptimal as you try to reach kids with spectrums of learning differences and different strengths.

Daniel helps Bome master the basics of cutting with a handsaw.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given our technology-oriented social circles, Bome Bell was misunderstood and bored in his former traditional environment. He has taught himself Java and is learning 3D modeling with Maya. Giftedness can come with quirky neurological behavior. He and many of his friends don't fit in a lot of ways. I think traditional school does a better job of serving kids who lie in the middle of the bell curve. At either end, it isn't easy.

Gever, Conner and Bome Bell build legs for their creek house.
The good news is that there is a revolution in education. Whether we succeed or fail, the goal is to inspire and that is something that is lacking in the traditional model right now. Yay for Tinkering School!!!!
"We start from doodles and sketches. And sometimes we make real plans. And sometimes we just start building. Building is at the heart of the experience. Hands on, deeply immersed and fully committed to the problem at hand. Acting as collaborators, keep the landscape of the project tilted towards completion. Success is in the doing. And failures are celebrated and analyzed. Problems become puzzles and obstacles disappear." - Gever Tulley

Friday, February 13, 2015

Flours and Sweeteners for a Plant-Based Diet and Banana Crunch Muffins

In this recipe, the non-specific terms "sweetener: and "whole grain" are used, allowing one to choose their preferred sweetener and whole grain types. Personal preferences vary. Here is a list of possible flour and sugar substitutions. You may know of other suggestions that work well. Be creative!

Whole Grain Flours

There is a wide variety of whole grains, part of the grain (endosperm, bran, cracked) and combinations of grain flours (5-grain, 7-grain, 9-grain) on the market. Wheat, oat, triticale, rye, barley, flax, spelt, brown rice and durham grain flours are some examples. Use whole grain products, not refined flours.

For some people, their choice of which whole grain to use will depend on their sensitivity to gluten, especially found in wheat, barley and rye. To some extent, determining which grain flour to use in order to avoid this allergy is a matter of trail an error. I have been most successful with spelt and oat flours.


When substituting for sweetness of refined sugar, try concentrated pure fruit juice, maple syrup or any wide variety of pureed fruits including applesauce, bananas and preserves. Dried fruits such as dates are my personal favorite. I use them blended, and made into a date paste or date syrup. 

For sweeteners, there is basically two categories: wet and dry. Here are a few examples of both...

Wet: maple syrup, molasses, fruit syrup

Dry: date sugar, raw coconut sugar

For this recipe, I typed what I used as they are my preferences. The use of sweeteners should be minimized as much as possible and refined sugar (sucrose, white table sugar, confectioner's sugar) should not be used. 

Happy Baking!

Banana Crumb Muffins
(The China Study Cookbook)

Prep time: 10-15 minutes   Baking time: 18-20 minutes
Makes 1 dozen per the book but made 9 using my muffin pan

2 Cups Whole Grain Flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Ripe Bananas. mashed
1 Cup Almond Milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/4 Cup Sweetener (I used raw coconut sugar)
1/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts (I omitted this)

For the Topping

3 Tablespoons Dry Sweetener (I used raw coconut sugar)
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Raw Oats (optional)

1. For the muffins, preheat over to 375 degrees.

2. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (or use a nonstick pan).

3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

4. In a separate large bowl, mix together bananas, milk and sugar.

5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir until well mixed. Add the walnuts and spoon mixture into the muffin cups.

6. For the topping, mix together the sugar, cinnamon and oats (if using) in a small bowl. Combine with a fork until crumbly. Press on top of muffins.

7. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Coll slightly before serving.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quick and Creamy Quinoa Cereal

Quinoa is a nice alternative to oatmeal in the morning. High in protein and gluten-free, quinoa is healthy and has a nice seedy texture and nutty taste. Start with this recipe and then experiment with your own additions.

Quick and Creamy Quinoa Cereal
(Cooking with Trader Joe's Cookbook)

Prep time: 5 minutes     Cooking time: 15 minutes

1 Cup Uncooked Quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 Cups Water
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Ripe Banana, peeled and diced
1/2 Cup Dried Golden Berry Blend or Dried Berry Medley (I didn't have either of those so I used Antioxidant Blend from Costco)
1/4 Cup Slivered Almonds (I omitted since the Antioxidant Blend I used above contained nuts and seeds)

1. Add quinoa, water, banana, cinnamon and vanilla to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

2. Mix in nuts and dried berries. Top with milk alternative and sweetener of your choice as desired. (I used unsweetened almond milk and maple syrup.)

Per serving: 315 calories, 7 g. fat, 0 g. saturated fat, 8 g. protein, 58 g. carbs, 6 g fiber, 21 g. sugar, 5 mg. sodium

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Does a Watched Garden Grow?

There is a sad realization that my home is a place where plants come to die. I am, however, trying to change all that. Bome Bell and I took a trip to Sperling Nursery which is a lovely little place that has bailed me out of quite a few garden related disasters.

Truth be told, Bome Bell was less interested in picking out vegetables for our garden and more interested in seeing if they had any Venus Fly Traps or Pitcher Plants in the greenhouse. I tried to interest him by pointing out the cool purple carrots that we could plant but he didn't fall for it. Never mind all of the bugs that were buzzing around were making Bome Bell irritated and cranky.

Once we managed to pick out our special plants and bring them home, we began the task of planting. 
When we finished, our small little garden area looked so much happier. And so did we. 

So, here's to a bountiful harvest of carrots, celery, kale, peas, mint, parsley, rosemary and sage. Please don't die!

Chocolate Chip Cherry Bites

I feel very privileged to personally know the author of one of my very favorite cookbooks, Chef AJ. In some respects, I feel that we are kindred spirits as her personal story reads very much like my own. It is quite a story about the powerful influence food has in our lives. Like me, she has experienced the effects of food...from very poor to very excellent health...that inspires her with such passion and desire to guide and instruct others.

For those of you who are not familiar with Chef AJ, she is a fountain of inspiration. She is a true healthy cooking coach offering classes in her home in Sherman Oaks, California. She has videos you can watch called The Chef and the Dietitian and has helped co-produce The Healthy Taste of LA bridging nutritional science with culinary arts. Basically, everything I know about making healthy taste delicious I have learned from her!

If you want a cookbook that you can trust to be given the stamp of approval from doctors I am always referring to, this is it. The accolades from Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. McDougall, Esselstyn and Dr. Lederman are all on the back cover.

So, what is her definition of Unprocessed?

Whole foods found in the produce section or the bulk bin section of your grocery store or farmer's market and found there in more or less the same state that they were harvested of a farm are unprocessed. Food that have been stripped of fiber are processed. Food that have been concentrated and separated from the rest of the plants they come from such as sugars and oils are likewise processed. Fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds are unprocessed. Fruit Loops and potato chips are processed. Brown rice, unprocessed. White rice, processed.
Adding to that, her rule of thumb is:

If I can make it in my kitchen, using whole ingredients, it's unprocessed. In other words, I can't make Fruit Loops. I can't slaughter a cow. I can't make vegetable oil. Therefor, it is processed. 
For those who are saying, "Ah but yes, technically you could slaughter a cow:

In your kitchen? Have at it.

To take it a step further, just as white rice is a polished down, refined version of the unpolished brown rice stripped of fiber and nutrients, the animal foods we are eating are equally stripped down. For starters, they are pumped up with tons of hormones and drugs, partly to get them to grow and produce in unnatural ways, partly because of how sickly they are because of how they are being raised. The same goes for nearly all animals being raised for food.

Chef AJ's book, Unprocessed, offers incredibly simple, delicious, healthy food that will help you lose weight, feel great and restore health. My only caution is many of the dessert recipes, like the one shown below, rely heavily on nuts to feel satiated. If you are trying to lose weight, do not over-consume nuts.

Chef AJ, herself, found this out when she eliminated nuts and seeds from her own diet. Even a little bit of fat beyond our caloric needs gets stored as fat, whereas this is not the case for carbohydrates and protein. AJ went from consuming 20 to 25% of calories as fat, primarily from nuts and seeds, to 10 to 15% and lost 12 pounds in 12 weeks effortlessly. 

Nevertheless, it is still okay to indulge once in a while as a treat. For those who really love healthy, simple treats, Chef AJ makes great use of dried and fresh fruit, cocoa powder and, yes, nuts and seeds. Her truffles and desserts like Chocolate Chip Cherry Bites are amazing, have relatively few ingredients and are easy to prepare using a food processor.

Bome Bell has a Valentines party to go to this afternoon so a couple of days ago, I made Chocolate Chip Cherry Bites to bring along. Last party I made Cherry Cobbler from Unprocessed and they were gone before the pizza and Oreos. I hope these are just as big of a hit.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Bites


2 Cups Raw Pecans
1/2 Cup Raw Cocoa Powder
8 Ounces Dried Cherries, unsweetened and unsulfured (I found them at Trader Joe's)
8 Ounces Pitted Dates
1/4 Cup Raw Cacoa Nibs (I found them at Whole Foods)
1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Cherry Extract (I found LorAnn Oils at a cake decorating shop nearby to be the most natural. It is a pure extract but does contain trace amounts of sugar.)

In a food processor fitted with an "S" blade, process the nuts into a flour. Add the cocoa powder and process again briefly. Add the cherries and process again, then the dates. If mixture is not sticky enough to reach the "break point", add more dates or a splash of date syrup. Add the extracts and process again briefly, then the nibs and pulse. Press mixture into a silicone brownie pan.

(Notes: Instead of a silicone brownie pan, I used Wilton's Bite-Size Brownie Squares 24 Cavity Silicone Mold found at Michael's Arts and Crafts and online here.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Good Versus Bad

It was mutually determined by myself and CDeuce a year ago that we need a big vacation. I mean really folks...he's an operations manager that does a bit of business travel and I'm a unschooler mom with very little time to myself....we should be longing for culture and adventure but, more often than not, I'm longing for a nap and he, the remote. So, in an effort to remedy things, we are going here aboard this.

That brings me to the topic of good versus bad. At this point I am assuming that no one reads this. If that changes, there is a strong possibility that I will delete this entry and pretend it never happened. February 28th I am going to go and get me some good but right now, this very minute, a bad is driving me nuts. So, I will leave you with this....heaven awaits!

Tofu and Wild Rice for Four

I enjoy scouring cookbooks and over the last month I have purchased quite a few but my favorite way to cook is how my mother, who has also decided to eat a more plant-based diet (GO MOM), has been showing me...grab things from the fridge and improvise. If you asked me to do this two months ago, I would have been paralyzed. It does get easier with practice though.

For this meal, I threw together some tofu and a mixture of brown and wild rice. While the rice was cooking I made a marinade and allowed the tofu to soak. Tofu is rich in protein, low in fat and makes a nutritious addition to a vegan meal while also providing a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.

There is no need to go to complicated measures for a meal that feels special. Sometimes simple trumps anything else.

Tofu and Wild Rice

Serves 4

1 Cup Brown Rice
1/4 Cup Wild Rice
9 Ounces Firm Tofu, drained and cubed
1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley, chopped

For the Marinade
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
2 Teaspoons Date Syrup
2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Chili Paste
2 Tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos or Tamari
Ground Black Pepper to Taste

1. Cook the rice according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add tofu and stir to coat. Leave to marinade while rice is cooking.

3. Drain the two rices. Rinse under cold water and drain again. Place in a large mixing bowl.

4. Mix the tofu, marinade, rice and parsley and serve.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Underdeveloped and Overexposed

Three years ago I started a blog. I had just pulled my son out of school and decided to create our own educational reform after journeying five years through the educational Byzantium that is Los Angeles. I had no clue what I was doing, I just knew I could do better by my son than some accredited stranger. There were some missteps along the way but three years later, our feet are firmly rooted in our unschooling venture.

More recently I decided to take control of my relationship with food. In my late twenty's, well beyond the years I should have had it, I developed an eating disorder that really never went away even after the weight came back on. I also discovered that my son and I both have high cholesterol which is in part hereditary. Genetics loaded the gun. It was my job not to pull the trigger. As quick as I could, I started researching health and nutrition studies and faster then I could type in my credit card number, I was enrolled in eCornell University's Plant-Based Studies program.

And I haven't even mentioned my passions for decorating, travel and pit bulls.....

I just have too much to talk about so Aubergine and Tangerine is born! The goal: To share parenting, plant-based nutrition, decorating ideas, dogs, places and general badassery. Do I promise this information will make your kids do their chores, make you thinner or get your dog to stop peeing on the sofa Hell no! That's a big promise. What I can promise is you will get an honest and possibly different point of view, recipes and a few kick ass moments. Do what you want with it...laugh at it, shrug it off or test run it in your own life. Basically Aubergine and Tangerine is to share juicy nuggets of life, knowledge and mistakes I have made.

Aubergine and Tangerine is also about finding simplicity in the daily chaos. I find when I write, I clear a lot of mind clutter and when I am done, I can focus on what is important, create something amazing and find happiness.

It's a journey with no destination. Join me.