Monday, June 27, 2011

Use it up! Gluten free vegan baking

Most grain products for sale are wheat products. Bread, crackers, biscuits, muffins, pasta...

A change from wheat can do you good, even if you don't have a diagnosable intolerance.
I avoid giving Nadia (3) lots of wheat in the evenings - she regularly wets the bed on such nights.
This gluten free vegan baking mix was on special at my favourite health food store, I snapped it up.  Because I want to do more home baking anyway, right?  I got two.

Imaginary baking while shopping is so much easier than real baking!  Especially for unfamiliar ingredients.  These have occupied shelf space for too long...

The very next time I got a baking urge, I recklessly opened the first package and Nadia and I got busy.
With the suggested fruit muffin recipe I used chopped banana and chocolate chips.

These disappeared like magic when fresh.

For most cooking, and I think especially gluten free, it's never as good the next day.  But I did get at least one day of these as a lunchbox treat.

And as always, I vow to keep up the baking habit - these simple recipes are their own reward!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Women in business

Photo of vegan career woman (c) Bodyshots, Auckland
Women are naturally paid less because they take more sick leave due to, ummm, monthly women's problems and lifetime problems like children.

New Zealand Employment and Manufacturers Association (EMA) chief executive and close government advisor Alasdair Thompson has been in piles of deep embarrassment for these recent comments.
I do hope we're enjoying our extra whopping 1.6 days a year
As a voice of sanity, here's a more reasonable analysis of the gender gap.

But I've saved the best for last: strong evidence that women could be the saviour of worldwide business.

As a fulltime mother (pay: $0  sick days: 0) I couldn't possibly comment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell - hot off the press


As I near the end of Dr T Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition, one theme is clear:
Communication is key.
Much of the information we are studying is not even new.  Experts like Dr Campbell have been reporting this vital health news to the public for decades, and yet the medical model recommending barely adequate and usually damaging drugs is far more respected.

Spread the word...


Chronic disease diminishes quality of living, saps human potential, and leads to untold suffering and untimely loss of life. Compelling evidence shows that people can improve or avoid a wide variety of chronic diseases by eating a plant-based diet.

Write a press release on an issue you found particularly compelling regarding the benefits of a plant-based diet in chronic disease.

Eating plants, not animals, reverses all of the big four: obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes

June 1, 2011. Move over, miracle drugs! Obesity, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes could be wiped out in weeks all using the same simple cure - eating a plant-based diet that is lowfat and avoids animal foods. Nutrition experts like Dr. T Colin Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn, Jr., and Dr. John McDougall have the studies and real-life patient successes to prove it.

Worldwide, scientists and laypeople search for cures for these killer diseases using millions of dollars in grants and donations. This month's miracle drug is next month's horror story, and our family and friends only get sicker. Healthcare cost the US a trillion dollars in 1997, and far too many people are uninsured. With the economy in a delicate balance, applying such a simple solution to most of our major health problems is quite literally a life saver.

Drs. T Colin Campbell, Esselstyn, Jr., John McDougall and Dean Ornish have worked with patients and the public for several decades to report this information, and you can benefit right away from their solid research. Few if any special products are needed, and a plant-based diet works just as well as a preventative as a cure for young and old alike. It really is as simple as choosing different daily meals: oatmeal not eggs, salad sandwiches not ham, and veggie stirfry not steak. Heart pain disappears, pounds melt away, cancer tumors shrink and diabetics can reduce or even stop their injections. And nutrition therapy can work for people who can't even be prescribed standard treatments due to the risk.

Learn more from or from Dr Campbell's acclaimed book, The China Study.

Brought to you from the
T Colin Campbell Foundation. Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. He has more than seventy grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and authored more than 300 research papers and coauthor of the bestselling book, The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Purrrrfect vegans?

Cats are carnivores.  They are natural hunters, skilled at stalking and swift at capture.  One of my trio of housecats had a leg and a tail off a skink yesterday before I could do anything about it.

So obviously, I'm now feeding my cats vegan food.

Why vegan?

I'm vegan.  I do not claim cats should be vegan. A cat's natural diet is as much small wild prey as she can catch.
But here are two reasons why this vegan chooses to feed our cats vegan food.

Normal pet food:
  • supports the animal product industry
  • is nothing like your cat's natural diet
Savoury Chicken is unsavoury

The meat for pet food comes from animal factories.   It is the meat that they absolutely can't sell for human consumption, and that's really saying something.

As a vegan, I avoid supporting animal producers where I can.  Why then pay animal producers for their lowest quality product? 

As a shock, my previous choice of high quality cat food, Iams, has a known history of cruel animal testing.  It is not the only one, and I had no idea until recently.  Here's more information about avoiding cruelty in pet food companies.

The Natural Diet

Cats survive quite well in the wild.  But cats are also engaging company, and populations of feral cats living naturally don't mix well with human dwellings.  So we feed them to coax them inside to live with us - a major interference in the natural order. 

I don't know about you, but I don't feed my cats mice, small birds and baby rabbits.  Instead, the domesticated cat's diet is manufactured:  dry kibble and pureed meatloaf.

And the meat is domesticated pig, cow, sheep, chicken, or fish flesh.   Not animals your average housecat would be capturing in the wild.  The rest of the food is filler.  

If you feed your cats manufactured food, the "natural meat diet" argument no longer applies.  Vegan cat food (fortified with essential taurine) nourishes your feline friend just as well as one based on factory floor scrapings, and supports an ethical industry instead.

The proof is in the eating

I have two types of vegan cat food.  My friend Alice from Angel Foods kindly sent me samples of both types she had tried, and all our cats gobbled them up.

I bought a popular brand from another vegan friend who is a local supplier, and I also have the rest of one bag from Alice, whose cats sampled another type and never went back.  My cats are getting this remainder bag first in case they decide to be just as choosy.

This cat loves the food so much it was difficult to get a photo.

Is it safe?

If you are considering transitioning your cat to a vegan diet, investigate first and ensure the food you have chosen has been approved for full nutrient balance.
PETA and VeganCats both provide vital information about health considerations.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Use it up! Anyone for a nice hot pot of tea?

That 6kgs of fruit puree went into porridge, yoghurt, Chinese stirfry sauce, banana cake, banana shakes - you name it!  This was a frugal replacement for other grocery items with regular turnover like raisins (for porridge), jam (for yoghurt and sauces), and sugar in baking. 

I still have about a cup left, but I declare success.  Next!

Our coffee/tea shelf is a real clutter magnet and is quite hard to reach for vertically challenged people like me.  Several years ago, my mother passed on this very pleasant bag of barley tea she brought back from a visit home to the US.  It's naturally sweet and mildly smoky, and wow, did you click on that link and see all the health claims?  Who knew?

Anyway, these are pot sized tea bags (see pic for comparison).  I rarely have the chance to share a whole pot of the same flavour tea with others.  So this has lurked, and lurked....

Now is the time to reap all those benefits!  I've brought it to the main shelf (read low shelf).  Winter is starting to bite on this side of the world, so it's time to enjoy a nice hot cup of tea.

And then another one, using the same cup with its ginormous teabag.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell - straight from the heart

I continue to be amazed by the wealth of information in every stage of Dr T Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition.  As I approach the end of stage 3, I have enjoyed lectures from (obviously) Dr Campbell, but also Dr McDougall, Dr Esselstyn, Dr Popper, Jeff Novick, RD, and many other experts in nutrition and even environmental and sports science.  Every single lecture has vital information for improving your health.

Here's the next in the series of my answers to course discussion questions:

A common approach to dietary change includes the combined strategies of moderation and incremental progress: resisting overindulgence while taking small steps toward a dietary goal.

Dr. Esselstyn is unsympathetic to this approach, and with doctors who say his approach is too extreme. According to him, "moderation kills."

A close friend has heart disease. He is willing to consider altering his diet, but his cardiologist tells him his condition could be easily managed with medication, and the friend is concerned about missing out on all that is good (and fatty) in life. Without giving medical advice, discuss his options with him, as you see them.


It must be a real shock to find out you have heart disease - what a difficult time for you and your whole family.

I'm sure it's a relief when your cardiologist tells you your heart disease is easily manageable by medication and some small changes in your diet. You might also want to talk with your doctor about another proven treatment option recommended by other heart disease experts, including Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.

On the one hand, using medication and moderation will get you a bit better. You will be able to return to an almost normal lifestyle, and when you have pains, you know that you can take your medication. Your cardiologist knows that you will probably not return to the hospital for some time with further heart disease symptoms, and that is one marker of success. But statistics show that you will return eventually.

A comment from the editor of the Harvard Heart Letter shows the usual medical attitude toward heart disease: “The best that can be hoped for in this disease is to slow the rate of progression.”

On the other hand, the cause of your heart disease is already known, and you could actually heal it yourself - for life.

When anybody eats fatty foods, their blood vessels harden almost immediately and blood can’t get through to deliver oxygen. Heart disease is the damage to your body from years of a high-fat diet several times a day. Everyone in the USA who eats meat and eggs, or drinks milk, or uses oil, has this damage to their blood vessels by they time they reach adulthood. But this damage is reversible, simply by eating low fat plant based foods like grains, beans, fruits and vegetables instead of animal foods like meat, eggs, milk, and by avoiding oil.

People of all ages and stages of heart disease have regained blood flow throughout their bodies by changing their diets to low fat plant based foods like grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. If a 75-year-old who had a 248 cholesterol level can drop to 137 in 2 weeks, you have a great chance too.

In one of Dr Esselstyn’s studies, 18 patients had suffered 49 coronary problems (strokes, angina, surgery) prior to starting his program. 17 of them had no further coronary problems in 12 years! Whereas the six patients in Dr Esselstyn’s study who returned to their cardiologists for standard treatment had 13 new coronary events between them – and one of those “events” was death.

When you stop damaging your blood vessels with fats and oils, your amazing body sets to work and repairs the cells very quickly - within weeks. And you'll probably lose weight as well.

I don't have heart disease symptoms, but I did lose a lot of weight with this way of eating, and it really changes what you can do with your body. It may sound weird to give up so many familiar foods that your own doctor says you can still eat, but just imagine: life with no more angina pains.

And it’s not just your heart that improves. Your whole body needs oxygen from blood. How you would feel: lighter and with blood carrying oxygen to your heart and brain and arms and legs again like it should? Imagine staving off senile dementia and lack of muscle control that so many aging people suffer due to reduced blood flow to the brain.

Imagine who you would be again, to your children and grandchildren. Imagine not fearing that return trip to the hospital (or fearing that you won't even make it to the hospital). And all this while still enjoying some of your favourite meals but using different recipes - you can still have hot pizza and Mexican bean burritos!

If you want to read more about this other option, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr has all the information and references you need. I'd love to see you cured of your heart disease.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Secondhand smarts - iron in the kitchen

Cooking with cast iron

Mmmm, yummy skillet cornbread!
With nonstick cooking surfaces proving toxic, cast iron is back in fashion.  It lasts through generations with minimal maintenance - a real old-fashioned success story.

Vegetarians and vegans in particular can benefit from the iron released during cooking in cast iron.

Getting your own ironmongery 

If you can't inherit your family's cast iron yet, what to do?   Remember, violence is never the answer!

New cast iron can be seriously pricey.  And much of it is enameled cast iron - you trade durability and dietary iron for better looks and lower maintenance.
Both pans for under $20!

However, people cook less these days and most people do not know how to cook with cast iron.  (Eew, look at that heavy old dirty looking cast iron pan at the bottom of that drawer!)

So cast iron is often cast off. I went on high alert, and guess what I found at our charity shop?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell - weighing in


I've passed my stage 2 study of Diseases of Affluence from Dr T Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition and will start stage 3 in a couple of days!

While I'm sharing some of the discussion questions with all of you, I can't even begin to scratch the surface of the multi-level discussions that develop from so many student perspectives on these crucial health issues.  We are also being trained to focus, focus, focus our message and developing other communication skills so that we may be successful even when we are not "preaching to the choir".

Remember, any of you could have a opportunity tomorrow to share a healthy eating message in any of these areas.  Just yesterday I responded to the reporter of this article about a cancer sufferer who was rejected from Jenny Craig.  I hope she will pass on the information to the woman involved.  In any case, being on this nutrition course has us all fired up to spread the word where we can.


Much of America's population has strayed from the optimal range on the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale.   The statistics are ominous. Two out of three adult Americans are overweight and one-third of the adult population is obese. Diabetes often accompanies obesity, and it too is rising.

A lot of effort has gone into educating the public about the dangers of being overweight, and people have responded by trying to slim down. Many now believe that "thin is healthy" and use a wide variety of techniques--including bariatric surgery--to help take off the weight. Others try to drop pounds and fail many times, some stop trying, and some decide not to try at all, embracing excess weight: "fat is beautiful."

1. Identify a weight loss strategy that you do not think is health supporting.
2. Imagine a publication you enjoy, featuring an advertisement for the weight-loss intervention you identified in one. Write a brief (one or two paragraphs) letter to the editor to challenge the weight loss strategy and recommend a better strategy to help people struggling to lose weight--or to maintain a positive self-image at a weight heavier than ideal--begin to imagine a more health-promoting outlook on weight loss.

Dear Editor:

Upon reading your excellent publication, I noticed an advertisement for Weight Watchers. With 2/3 of our population overweight and 1/3 obese, I applaud the encouragement to your readers to regain a healthy weight. However, you may not know that the success shown in these ads is not typical of this system. Only a few percent of Weight Watchers' customers maintain their weight loss.

The Weight Watchers' system supplies very expensive special food and a complicated system of points allowed. Portions are very controlled to control calories, and no human being can control calories that way for their whole life. The focus is on calorie counting instead of how food supports your health.

There is another weight-loss method your readers might try: a highly successful one that is promoted by many doctors. Studies show that vegetarians and vegans are about 10 to 30 pounds slimmer than nonvegetarians. Plant-based foods, close to their natural state, are more satisfying, so you are genuinely able to eat all you want (with no complicated calculations). These foods are also the best choice for your health - full of fibre and antioxidants and low in fat. They also increase your metabolism. So weight loss is natural, healthy, and delicious with (for example) a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a huge whole-wheat sandwich for lunch, and a pile of tasty potatoes for dinner - with as many snacks as you need to fill you up.

You can eat this way for the rest of your life and you will only get thinner and healthier. You and your readers can learn more about this at

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gardening - not just a weekend hobby

Garden SummerSquashLast.jpg
The last of the summer squash
Change of season
In New Zealand, we are leaving summer for winter.  Many of you will be enjoying the opposite transition.  But it all comes around again as we wear shorts while barbecuing Christmas dinner on the deck.

This was the last gasp from a vine at the end of its life. 
Garden SummerSquashGarden.jpg

For some weeks I saw only many many small female blooms and tiny squash, with no male blossoms to pollinate them.  (Human women often outlive their men, too.)  So the tiny squashes fell off, one by one, still tiny. 

But one morning I spotted an open male and female flower and pounced! I hand-pollinated this as I have done others during the season.  I had low expectations, because I'd already failed in an earlier pollination.   It was a small success, but a delicious one.

Summer heat
I have enjoyed my garden this summer although it is not my favourite way to work hard.  I learned so much, including the phases and genders of summer squash blossoms.
And see all the bounty from the earth?
Garden Plate.jpg Garden Strawberries.jpg
Garden Face.jpgGarden Bowl Big.jpgGarden bowl2.jpgGarden Smile.jpgGarden Bowl1.jpg

I've also shared plants with others: as the strawberries sent out runners and the parsley went wild, other people got to dig up free fresh healthy plants for their own gardens.

As we often have beautiful weather all year round, I hoped to plant lots of our favourite winter vegies like broccoli or cauliflower, but for now, we must settle for our ever present rhubarb and a celery planted at a Small Poppies session.

As the tomatoes shivered on the vine, I couldn't resist rescuing a couple of new volunteers for an experiment in indoor growing in our sunniest location.
Garden Indoor Tomato.jpg

I hope to have a winter tomato crop to display.

From the personal to the political
Here we read about gardening not just as fun, learning, and exercise, but as a crucial skill to relearn in the face of a changing and dangerous global food culture.
When they start parcelling out our local park, Madills Farm, as a farm again, I'll be down there with my spade!