Yogurt and Probiotic Wisdom

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I remember a couple of decades ago, when my grandfather’s physician recommended he “have some yogurt,” to restore intestinal flora that was lost in an intense round of antibiotics prescribed. With a bit of confusion, my grandfather showed the family the frozen yogurt he was eating. Apparently, the regular yogurt he’d tried had a taste too new or too sour for him to embrace. Still, he wanted to follow doctor’s orders. I tried to explain that the probiotic count of live bacteria was likely nonexistent in the highly processed, frozen yogurt my grandfather was dutifully ingesting each evening. I noticed the concept fell on deaf ears of every family member present.

I had found out about probiotics just a few years earlier, when a psychic healer recommended I take a probiotic supplement to battle a mild but persistent fungal skin condition that ran in the family. (Alternatively, my mother’s physician simply told her to stay out of the sun, which unfortunately only makes the condition less visible) Years later my rather brilliant holistic practitioner explained it further. The white spots on my skin were created by live organisms that ingested the melanin in my skin, leaving it paler in small round spots. The healthy bacteria that limited the existence of those invisible culprits would normally be all over my skin, but they were destroyed by my antibiotic use decades earlier. Thankfully, the spots were few and I had identified stress as a trigger to the condition flaring. By then, antibiotics were long out of my protocol as an acceptable route to maintaining health, but unless probiotics were reintroduced and multiplied both on and in my body, those healthy bacteria would be absent for the rest of my life.

Somewhere in between, my dearest, most valued heath practitioner, an acupuncturist par excellence, Dr. Wade suggested yogurt, as well, and gave specific brand advice for one with higher probiotic count and a number of probiotic strains. Acidophilus, which is often the only live probiotic strain in yogurt, has, for instance no effect, on small intestine health issues. For that one needs probiotics in the bifidus strain. There are many others worth researching, as are specific enzymes that allow digestion of particular food groups. (Research digestive factors such as amylase, protease, lactobacillus, bifidiobacterium.

Detractors think it’s all pseudo-science, when people claim one food allergy or another, probably because only decades ago, food allergies were rarely discussed. In actuality, according to my aforementioned holistic practitioner, what is really happening is not food allergies. They are food sensitivities, meaning that in medical terms, no allergic reaction is triggered, but the inability to digest a substance does exist due to the absence of the intestinal flora in the colon. Doubters and many of them MD’s, aren’t accounting for the common use of antibiotics in the livestock that supply our meat, poultry and dairy, as well as antibiotics all too commonly prescribed to people by physicians, both of which have destroyed our beneficial bacteria’s existence in our bodies.

Many of those same naysayers think humane treatment of animals doesn’t effect them, but it does. Crowded animals are often raised in their own fecal matter and stressed to the point of cruelty instead of being allowed to roam and graze as they were for millennia. Both conditions lead to disease and the inordinate amount of antibiotics they are fed over the full course of their lives. If they think those antibiotics’ effects are not absorbed by ingestion of those animals and their milk, they’re not being realistic. Add to that the highly questionable safety of animal feed from GMO crops, and it feels as if it’s an unfixable situation that’s spiraling to further diminish the health of people worldwide, but there is a way and some good people leading it.

So what can one do? Vote with your dollars! The fact is major corporations change their practices, when they have a monetary incentive to do so. Go ahead and give them one by buying products, whose manufacturer’s practices you believe in and hitting social media about which ones are good or bad. When a company sees they are losing a market share, they will research and accommodate the public outcry and implement the changes needed to regain those buyers. Dannon, for instance, has a new voluntary transparency pledge, to label GMO status on their products. In 2017, they have promised to work toward using exclusively only non-GMO ingredients and forming relationships with farmers who’s values are to raise cows more naturally and without GMO feed. Already 90% of the milk Dannon purchases is from Validus Certified compliant farms. Because Dannon is largest company in the yogurt business, others companies will follow their lead, so they don’t lose business. Which and how many probiotic strains they include in their 3 brands, Oikos, Daninals and Dannon, remains to be seen. With the “lite” food trend thankfully far behind us, Dannon is responding with a focus on whole milk yogurt, since it’s now common knowledge that it’s more carbohydrates than fat that leads to weight gain. Dannon’s widespread changes in company policies do appear to be a very promising step in the right direction, so let’s watch and see if they up the ante with the inclusion of several probiotic strains and a high count of them to truly support the backlash of antibiotic use. Remember, whatever probiotic source you use, be sure to uncover outside the refrigerator and let it sit in room temperature conditions for a while, so that probiotic count multiplies in the warmth before it reaches your stomach acid. Higher numbers in the millions or even billions of active probiotics are what you need to maintain your own level of healthy bacteria.

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Dannon Yogurt, part of the Danone company. Danone is the parent company of Stonyfield, Dannon, Evian & Nutricia North America. Danone is making changes such as this all over the world as part of their commitments to be more sustainable and healthier. The opinions expressed in my blog are my own.

Smoked Salmon, Tomato and Bermuda Onion Salad

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Instead of chopping salads and tossing in a bowl, consider layering a few simple, main ingredients. Here nitrate-free smoked salmon is rolled and tucked into the layers of thick cut tomato and red onion. You might have to put that store-bought tomato in the sun for a solid week, to get some real tomato flavor, but buy ahead and don’t be tempted to refrigerate it into mealiness.

Salad of Layers of Smoked Salmon, Heirloom Tomato and Bermuda Onion

Dotting the presentation with briny capers and bright-flavored flat, Italian parsley tickles the eye even further. Drizzle with a simple fresh lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard dressing. Finish with a dusting of ground fennel for extra flavor and as a digestive aid.

Agvolemono The Phenomenal Greek Soup Perfect For Citrus Season

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If you’re in California or Florida, you’ve probably got friends with a bumper crop of citrus. My friend Howard brought me 10 sensation pink grapefruits from his tree in Palm Springs. Magnificent Meyer lemons came through Greg, who got them from a mutual friend, Les, who has a lemon tree that fruits profusely.

So here’s a unique and wonderful thing to do with those lemons, because they won’t last forever without spoiling. I first had it a a Greek friend’s house and it blew me away. It’s easy, but there is one trick you’ve got to get right. Temper the egg and lemon mixture with hot chicken stock and don’t boil it or you’ve got scrambled egg in chicken soup, not the fabulous, phenomenal––

Agvolemono Soup

8 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked rice (optional)
4 eggs, separated
6 or more T lemon juice
salt and white or black pepper to taste

Prepare 2 cups of rice according to directions on the package.

Heat chicken stock to a simmer. Remove from heat and keep warm while preparing agvolemono sauce.

With an electric hand mixer or wire wisk, beat 4 egg whites until foamy in a large bowl. Add yolks and beat well for 2 minutes more, then gradually mix in the lemon juice. Beating constantly, temper the mixture by very slowly incorporating hot chicken stock into the lemon-egg mixture, slowly and one ladle at a time until four cups have been added. (Adding the hot stock too quickly will curdle the eggs instead of creating a velvety texture.) Then slowly reverse the process; stirring the remaining chicken stock in the pot constantly, slowly transferring the lemon/egg/ broth mixture from the bowl to the pot.

Add the cooked rice, and gently reheat the soup on a very low heat, being sure not to boil it. Remove the pot from heat and let sit 5 minutes before serving. Very finely ground pepper and salt are optional. Serve with lemon wedges and buttered toast.

Sun Chlorella Is My Favorite Supplement

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While at a health food store in Malibu, CA this week, I had the fortune opportunity to chat with Sun Chlorella’s rep, Nicola. When I saw here what I was touting, I just had to stop her and confess that of all the supplements I’ve ever taken, I’ve found the most spectacular results from Sun Chlorella. I was aware that it was grown in huge vats, but Nicola informed me further on how the company crushes the cell walls of their chlorella for digestibility.

Super high in chlorophyll, chlorella is the best overall detoxifier I’ve ever encountered. The amino acids in it, are a fantastic substitute for animal protein. In fact, chlorella is such a powerful and efficient nutrient, we’d probably be more helpful to starving peoples if we sent them chlorella instead of rice,

Because chlorella is an adaptogen, it’s powerful nutrients and detoxifying power go to the sites of the body where they are needed most. My experience is that after taking it for about 6 weeks, eyes and skin are sparkling, which is an excellent indicator that the body is thoroughly purified.

Tart Summer Tart!

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Quick Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

With very little added sugar and the tartness of rhubarb, this fruity tart exactly that––tart! Sweeten it up a la mode with vanilla ice cream or simply enjoy it’s snappy flavor.

1 t butter
6 -8 squares puff pastry
2 cups strawberries halved
2 cups rhubarb sliced
1 t tapioca starch
1 T turbinado
1 T black strap molasses
2 T lemon juice
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 t vanilla extract

Lightly coat a baking dish with butter. Then cover the bottom of it with puff pastry. Bake at 350º until golden. Allow to cool a bit.

Cut rhubarb on diagonal into ½” slices. Add to pot with turbinado. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Stir occasionally.

Trim green ends of strawberries and cut in half or quarters to equal 2 cups. Add to softened rhubarb with remainder of ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Spread mixture evenly on top of crisp puffed pastry and top with remaining raw puff pastry squares. Fold seams into a decorative design and perforate with 3 or 4 holes with a paring knife to release steam.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350º or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Serve with a drizzle of pomegranate or vanilla ice cream.

3 Fool-Proof Steps to Moist Chicken Breast

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Part of the key to sticking to a diet, is that it has to satiate. Chicken breast is a great part of a diet designed to reduce weight, but they are so low in fat, they can be chalky and dry. Follow these 3 steps that add moisture, not fat. They guarantee moist, juicy chicken breasts every time!

1. Brine As soon as you get it home, rinse it and soak it in salt water until cooking.

2. Use a splash of white wine and fresh herbs to add lots of flavor. I used sprigs of mint, lemon verbena, tarragon and basil freshly clipped from my garden.

3. Cook on a very low temperature and with a lid to trap moisture. That means 250º in the oven or super low flame under your skillet. It will take longer at this temperature, but you can set it up and walk away. Cut with a sharp knife in the thickest part. As soon as the pink is gone, its done. Remember not to overcook it even at this low temperature and to remove it from the hot pan or baking dish or it will continue to cook. Cooking time will depend on your oven and thickness of the chicken breast, but expect about 60 minutes.

BBQ Tamarind Ribs

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Finger lickin' good BBQ Tamarind Ribs

BBQ Sauce:
1 cup tamarind sauce (alt: tamarind paste & water)
½ cup tomato paste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 T peanut butter
1 T black pepper
1 ½ t pink peppercorns
1 t salt

Crush pink peppercorns with a mallet or heavy-bottomed pan. Chop fresh basil. Combine with all other ingredients for the sauce. Slather the ribs liberally and place into a baking dish. Marinate overnight if possible.

Oven or Combination Oven/Grill Method
Cover and bake at 300º for 1 hour. Then reduce temperature to 175º and bake covered, for another 3-5 hours. This can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight. Uncover and broil for 3 min each side immediately before serving or place on a BBQ grille to thicken the coating and brown.

Grill Method:
Grill with indirect heat (coals on one side and ribs on the other side) with the lid down. For that fall-off the-bone tenderness, use few coals and replenished when necessary so temperature is very low over a prolonged period. Soaked wood chips make a nice extra touch of smoky flavor. Slather with additional coat of BBQ sauce and finish for 3 minutes each side over direct heat for that finger-lickin’, sticky goodness that says 4th of July!

A Freelancer’s Lunch

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Those with office jobs or regular gigs all too often think freelancers are loafing at home, when we’re actually hard at work, though there are a few differences in our daily routines, to be sure. We race to our computers with a cup of morning caffeine and our office counterparts tout a cup-o-joe that’s probably cost them $4 and then crawl their way to work in their vehicles. Sure freelancers often don’t hit the shower until 3pm or 30 minutes before our first outside meeting, whichever comes first, but don’t let our bunny slippers convince we’re not as hard at it as gals in their pencil thin skirts and sensible pumps.

Now that I’ve defended freelancers’ work ethic, lets talk about the lunch time advantages! We break up the day by having lunch out once in a while, but for the most part, we eat when we are hungry and make it from home. It’s best of we can prepare something quickly so we can race back to work, but it can still be fabulous. Last Tuesday, I took a bowl of clams I soaking in water overnight and made a scrumptious noodle dish, you can concoct, too. I even tossed in leftover caramelized boc choy from last night’s supper.

Use this ingredient list strictly as inspiration, because when it comes to a noodle dish and fresh clams, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. The most important thing to remember is to get he broth going long before adding the clams to the pot, so those clams stay tender. Just cook ‘em until the shell pops and not a minute longer!

1 T coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2″ fresh ginger root
1 whole leaf lemongrass
1 stalk celery
1 T coconut oil
8 oz clam brine
3 oz white wine
3 scallions
3 oz dry rice noodles
1 over-ripe tomato
2 baby boo choy heads
10 pink peppercorns
1 t dulse or kelp flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 T hemp seeds

Freelancer's Clam 'n Noodle Lunch

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan set on medium-high. Toss in the garlic cloves, halved. Mince the ginger and add it. Slice the celery on the bias into 1/4″ slices and add to the pot to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the briny water in which the clams have been soaking, lemongrass, pink peppercorns, salt and pepper and the dry noodles and push the heat to high until it boils. Toss the noodle around and remove them when they are almost tender enough to eat.

Chop the tomato. scallions, dulse or kelp and any left over cooked veggies on hand. Add the wine and stir. Add the clams and cover with a lid. In 3 minutes with the pot boiling, remove the lid add the noodles back in and wait for the clam shells to pop open. Remove one by one as they do. Pour the contents of the pot over the clams once the noodles are reheated through and soft. Garnish with hemp seeds for a great dash of amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids!

Note: Food continues to cook even after its removed from the heat, so pull it off the heat and out of a hot pot just a little before its perfectly done.

Pulled Chicken Molé

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Pulled Chicken Molé


3 cups vegetable stock
1 pound boneless chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 cup minced onion
2 t crushed garlic
1 t coriander
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t cinnamon
¾ t sea salt
1 t powdered arrowroot or kudzu
2 T cocoa powder
1 cup extra-ripe fresh tomato

Simmer the chicken cutlets in the vegetable stock in a 2-quart pot until only the center remains slightly pink. Reserve the stock in a glass jar or bowl and remove the chicken breast to a cutting board.

Mince the onions and the garlic and sauté them in the olive oil in the same pot on a medium heat. When the onions are translucent, but not brown, add all the spices and cook for 1 minute as you stir with a wooden spoon. Then add 1/2 cup of the reserved stock and slowly sift in the flour. Stir continuously adding the rest of the stock a little at a time. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to reduce, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce cooks down, tear the chicken into shredded pieces about 1 1/2” inches long and 1/2” thick with your fingers.

When sauce has thickened to consistency of heavy cream, remove it from the heat and puree with a pistol style hand mixer until it smooth (or puree in a blender.) Stir in the cocoa powder. Add the tomato, which has been cut into 1/2” cubes. Add the chicken and stir well to coat the chicken evenly. Gently reheat on a medium-low heat to finish cooking the center of the chicken pieces. Do not overheat or the cocoa will make the sauce bitter. Serve with soupspoons in deep bowls to savor every drop!

Real Margaritas

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Almost 20 years ago, my ayurvedic doctor said that if one is going to ingest alcohol, fine tequila and vodka were the best choices. (I had thought beer or wine for the lower alcohol, but she said it’s the sulfites in wine that are very unhealthy.) That’s the day I started trying good tequilas. Until then, like most Americans, Cuervo Gold was the only tequila I had ever had, but today, frankly, I pass on that brand.

The easy-to-find tequila brands that are my personal favorties are Tres Hermanos, Heradura, Cazadorez, and Centenario. Always choose reposado or añejo so to enjoy the nuances aging brings to tecquilas. Even silver tequilas are too medicinal tasting. Go for premium ingredients and sip, don’t chug!

There is nothing more delicious as the tartness of a real Margarita made from scratch with the finest, aged tequila plus a great liquor and fresh citrus juice.
In addition to foregoing the poor quality tequilas, I recommend never, ever using Margarita mix. All that high fructose corn syrup, synthetic yellow-green coloring and artificial flavors are as responsible for the morning after headache most people associate with Margariatas, as bad tequila is. I don’t even like bottled lime juice or those plastic limes that masquerade as real lime juice. What’s so hard about squeezing a real actual lime, anyway?

Buy most yellow tinged, softest fresh green limes you can find. To help release their juice, press on one firmly as you roll in between your hands or on a countertop. If it’s really unripe and hard, put it in the microwave for 5 seconds to soften it.

This is the classic, exalted to its greatest possible heights.

Tuxedo Margarita–the Premium Classic

1 1/2 oz anejo or reposado tequila
1 oz Grand Manier
1 oz lime juice
tad agave syrup to make it sweeter, if preferred

The best Margarita I ever had was at the One Aldrich Hotel in London. It’s easily recreated at home, if you prep a week ahead.

Blackberry Margarita

1 1/2 oz top shelf tequila reposado or añejo only
3/4 oz Chambord
2 oz fresh lime juice

Poke a pint of washed blackberries into the mouth of the tequila bottle and let them infuse for at least a week.
Use this flavored tequila and Chambord instead of the usual orange liquors. Shake vigorously and pour “straight up” into martini glass.
Garnish with a fresh blackberry and a slice of lime.

If that seems like too much work, here’s a good substitute for a Margarita:

Floridian Shortcut

3 oz fresh squeezed pin grapefruit juice
1 1/2 oz anejo or reposado tequla
pour over ice in a highball glass and stir
garnish with fresh lime wedge