Saturday, July 30, 2011

It is too hot to cook!

Why heat up the kitchen and the rest of the house when the heat index is in the triple digits here in Missouri? This evening instead of eating another salad or a cold sandwich, I prepared a delightful dish of raw spaghetti with raw marinara sauce. No really, it is very good and very nutritious since it’s not cooked. Plus, it’s extremely fast and easy to make. Here’s how it is done. You take;

½ cup tomato, chopped
½ cup sun dried tomatoes soaked for 30 minutes or you can use oil packed.
½ of a red or yellow bell pepper
1 tbsp fresh minced basil, if you have it
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 small garlic clove or less depending on the individual, minced or crushed in a garlic press.
1 pitted date
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Dash of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a food processor fitted with an S blade until the mixture is blended thoroughly. You may need to scrape the contents off the side of the processor with a plastic spatula a few times. I let this sit for about 30 minutes so it can come to room temperature and so all the flavors have a chance to blossom. See, easy peasy!

Then place about 3 inches of a medium zucchini or yellow squash on the plate of a spiral slicer and spiral away. You can also use a peeler and make lots of thicker fettuccine type pasta. Place the vegetable pasta on a plate and top with the marinara from the food processor. I top that with parmesan cheese and devour it with great pleasure. This can be served alone or with a side salad. Sometimes I soak ½ cup walnuts for a few hours and add that to the marinara for a more meaty texture. This sauce will keep for a few days in the fridge if needed. I rarely have any left over to store. Give it a try and leave a comment about how you like it.

Cat Rescue..... again!

A couple of months ago I saw a beautiful and well-developed adult tortoise shell type calico cat walking across our backyard. When I opened the sliding glass door to get a better look, she ran like the wind and I never saw her again. Until a few weeks ago when she appeared on our deck, looking quite emaciated with a large patch of hairless skin on the back of her neck. I sneaked around the back and took a small bowl of dry food to the deck and rattled it to get her attention. She was panting and looked very weak but got up so fast she startled me. She ate all we gave her and drank a good amount of water as well. As she ate, we got a good look at her. Given her emaciated state, we decided she had been either dumped or possibly abandoned. We knew of a family up the road that recently left the area. In addition, that large patch of bare of skin on the back of her neck, well of course, it was full of ticks.

The weather in Missouri has been wickedly hot and humid this summer and in her condition, we knew she would not last much longer on her own. We gave her for all the food and water she wanted that day and continued on day 2. She slept under the deck but came out quickly when we called to her from the patio. She was weak but still had a loud purr and definitely used it to her advantage. We also found that when she meow’s she does a cute two-part meow that really sounds like she’s saying “hell llo”. Later on day 2, we carefully removed all her 30+ ticks from the back of her neck and one toe. I then applied some antibiotic ointment to help heal and soothe those tick bitten areas. We checked carefully for fleas but amazingly, she had none!

Still unsure what to do with this gal, we continued to care for her, but outside since we have 4 cats in the house. On day 3, she was looking weaker and pretty heat stressed so we decided to bring her into the house and close her in the office in order to keep her segregated. She rested on the floor for 2 days getting up only to eat, drink or use her litter box. I watched for signs of disease like diarrhea, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, gait, eye changes and so forth, but nothing appeared. By now, she had won our hearts and we decided she could stay but as an outside cat after she was healed. On day 5, we took her to our Veterinarian in Columbia. She received a general health exam, rabies injection, worming, an antibiotic injection and blood tests for all the bad stuff cats can get like FELV, FIV and heartworm. So now, we need a name for this gal. After a lengthy search on the internet for ideas, I came up with a few names that I liked and ran them by Bill. We both decided we liked Aurora since she has so many colors on her coat.

After she passed her quarantine period, we began introducing Aurora to our cats since she is still recovering from her emaciated state, still in the house and the weather continues to be so wickedly hot that she cannot be outside in her condition. Aurora initially flunked house cat 101 by being snarly to our cats for days on end and her incessant desire to be on our kitchen counters. My bet is that she was an only cat and perhaps even abused as she has an aggressive response to feet if they pass her to fast. After a few weeks and much tolerance from Bill, my cats, and me, Aurora is finally beginning to settle into our house routine. Aurora has her issues and she still has a lot of healing, both physical and psychological, in her future but unless we are able to find someone that is willing to take a very pretty cat that has issues, she is welcome to stay with us either indoor or outside, for the remainder of her days.

We didn’t take any pictures of Aurora in her worst condition. However, this is how she is looking 3 weeks into her recovery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Green Smoothies for Life

I can’t remember how far back it was when I first began hearing about green smoothies, perhaps back in the ‘70’s, I believe the focus at that time was as a method of weight loss. I never paid any attention to the information, because I have never been overweight. A few years ago, I began hearing about green smoothies again but this time the focus was on the nutritional benefits of the raw ingredients included in them. This time I took notice, because I am always interested in learning more about nutrition. Today with the internet, we have a huge database for learning about nutrition, so I began reading about green smoothies on my own. There is an abundance of information on the Raw Food movement if you are interested and the USDA has a site that also gives everyone information related to the nutritional content of the “raw” fruits and vegetables you decide to include into your smoothies. I’ll post a link at the end of this blog post.

Recently, I’d grown so tired of eating a cooked or cereal breakfast that I began experimenting with making green smoothies. Just a basic recipe like the one below which was all it took for me and now I’m hooked! For me, green smoothies have become a great way to include more fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables into my diet since I have a busy schedule. Now I can get 2 vegetables and at least 2 fruits consumed in a delicious smoothie, which makes it so much easier for me to get my daily 5 vegetables which is needed according to the most recent nutrition trends. After drinking these green smoothies for a couple of weeks, I realized that I had more energy and felt more alert. Then it dawned on me, that the difference was that I was actually eating real food and not my previously overly processed or sugar laced mush.

Today my smoothie was my Basic Smoothie Recipe
• a good handful of raw spinach,
• ½ raw zucchini
• one small peeled apple,
• one banana,
• 1 cup coconut milk,
• as well as about 3 tablespoons raw Chia gel and 2 tablespoons raw hemp seed protein powder.

Chia gel is another way to supplement my diet with vitamins and minerals in a natural way and Chia seeds are known to be an appetite suppressant so I feel satiated longer into my morning – I’ll post the easy recipe and information link at the end of this blog post. My smoothies are not 100% raw but that isn’t my focus either. I want as much nutrition as I can get in a low processed smoothie that I can drink while I’m getting ready for work. My morning smoothies are loaded with vitamins and minerals, taste great and make me feel wonderful. Later in the summer, I’ll add some information related to some wonderful herbs you can add for the benefit of immune system nourishment as well. That will be a whole blog post in itself.

Since variety is the spice of life, I also use watermelon, cantaloupe, peas, a carrot, kale, dandelions greens, collard greens, spring lambs quarter shoots, cucumber, yellow squash, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, papaya, mango, orange or red bell pepper, corn, shitake mushroom, nectarine, and alfalfa sprouts. The selections are vast; however, I don’t have access to as much as some folks do that live in more temperate climates. The key for me is to use only four items excluding the liquid, otherwise my smoothie is either too thick or the quantity is more than I can consume in the morning.

I’m very aware of a growing debate over Raw vs Cooked vegetables and fruits, and the final decision lies with the consumer. In my research, I have found that there are nutritional benefits to both raw and cooked vegetables however; in some cases, the difference is minor. The key I believe is in moderation. In addition to a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, I also eat cooked (steamed) vegetables and I believe I am getting the best from my foods that my body can receive. Another interesting tidbit that I’ll include is that science has found that cooked foods actually acidify your body and, that acidic environment has been linked to cancer related ailments. Well if raw fruits and vegetables alkalize your body, then I am all for eating more alkalizing foods so I can decrease my chances of my developing cancer. With the growing disease and obesity rate in the US, it is prudent that we all become more aware of our food choices and make healthier decisions.

You may want to visit this site to help determine which fruits and vegetables you wish to include in your smoothies.
Ex: Carrots have much more nutrition raw than cooked per this “Self Nutrition Data- know what you eat” web site. The calcium data in cooked is 2.9 mg as opposed to 42.2 mg in raw. Apples in the raw have 5.5 mg of calcium and boiled have 8.6mg.
Moutain Rose Herbs has some wonderful products and loads of information as well. For information on Chia Seeds and the recipe for Chia gel follow this link please.
I grind mine up then make the gel. Try it both ways to find the way you like it best.