Sunday, September 21, 2014

National didn't go

National won the New Zealand election. I didn't cry, but I also didn't sleep well.

I'm so gutted about this, but I'm going to share a lovely, uplifting post that my friend, Catherine, wrote on Facebook this morning. It helped me swallow the bitter pill...
"Feeling a bit disappointed about the election result not going how I hoped it would. But I still have hope. The leaders of our nation have been chosen by the people and I love that we live in a country where that is able to happen.  
"I am a little concerned that some of the issues that were important to me when considering my vote may not be addressed in the way I hoped they would.  
"Those issues for me are: closing the gap between the very rich and the very poor; and ensuring that the Kiwi kids living in poverty are looked after. If those issues are also important to you, no matter who you vote for (and I believe every vote is valid - we all want the best for NZ, there are just different ways of doing it), election time is not the only time you can make a difference.  
"If you are able, you can donate time or money to organisations such as Kids Can or the Auckland City Mission, or donate food to local food banks.  
"You can support businesses that are working towards offering a living wage to all their employees like The Warehouse and write to those who are not and explain to them why you think this issue is important and how it influences where you spend your money.  
"Vote with your wallet!  
"But most of all, you can offer hope to those around you. Smile at everyone you come across and encourage them if you can because you never know what they are going through.  
"New Zealand is more than the government that runs it. It's the people that live in it."

Isn't that just beautiful? I hope you're as inspired to action as I am. Bless you all. And thank you Catherine for easing the tight knot in my chest that was preventing me from sleeping.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chocolate caramel protein shake recipe

This chocolate caramel protein shake recipe is big and super refreshing after a workout. I make it in a large jar and store it in the fridge, so I can pour a glass as desired over the course of a day.

Make it at night and you've got an easy breakfast ready to go for those busy mornings.

I love to use mesquite powder in this recipe, as it gives a taste of caramel in superfood form.

Not familiar with mesquite powder? One Green Planet has done a cool overview of it; here's a quote...
"Mesquite is high in protein, low on the glycemic index, and a good source of soluble fiber, meaning it digests relatively slowly and does not cause spikes in blood sugar. This gluten-free powder is also a good source of calcium, iron, lysine, manganese, zinc, and potassium."
I use mesquite powder like I do other spices, as an accompaniment to sweet things like my Chocolate oatmeal breakfast pudding. You only need a little bit, but it really rounds out the flavour of chocolate goodies, especially helpful when you're trying to make sugar-free versions.

  • 1c almond milk (I either make my own or buy a sugar-free version from the supermarket)
  • 1/2c cottage cheese
  • 3T protein powder (I buy the Evolv Whey Protein Isolate version)
  • 2T cocoa powder
  • 1T Natvia
  • pinch of salt
  • 1t natural vanilla essence
  • 1t mesquite powder (I buy the Lifefoods brand from my local health food shop)
  • 1.5 cups ice
  • 1 cup water

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or, you can do as I do and blend directly into a large jar using a hand blender. 
  2. Serve in a tall glass, topped with whipped cream if desired.

Makes four servings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Books, books and more books

OK, so the ol' blog has been a bit quiet of late and some of you may have been wondering where I've been. Thank you for wondering!

I have been lost in the world of books. You see, now that I'm an Aucklander, I have access to the Auckland Library network, which is immense and amazing.

Every book I could wish for is here and able to be reserved for FREE online and sent to my local library for me to pick up. So I've been reserving and reading by the bucket load over the past few months. It's been fun.

Most of the books I've read are dystopian YA/Teen fiction. But I've also read the odd Fantasy novel and other fiction.

In case you're looking for good reading material, below I've listed the books I enjoyed. I've read more than this, but won't bother telling you about the duds.

My friend Angela, from Striking Keys, recommended many of these books to me, so I'll link her reviews where she's done them.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I loved this. So witty, insightful, heartbreaking and joyful. The characters are fabulous - all of them.

The Birthmarked series (Birthmarked, Prized and Promised) by Caragh M. O'Brien. (Read the Striking Keys review here.)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor - conclusion to the wonderful Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Read the Striking Keys review here.

The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet and Cress) by Marissa Meyer. Read Striking Keys reviews here and here. I'm hanging out for the next book in this series to be released.

The Partials series (Partials, Fragments and Ruins) by Dan Wells. Read the Striking Keys review here.

Inside series (Inside out and Outside In) by Maria V. Snyder. Lots of twists and a courageous female protagonist.

The Slated series (Slated, Fractured and Shattered) by Terry Teri. An interesting series that kept me guessing.

Two books in the Graceling Realm Series (Graceling and Bitterblue) by Kristin Cashore. Read the Striking Keys review here.

The Princess Academy series (Princess Academy and Palace of Stone) by Shannon Hale. Read the Striking Keys review here.

The Divergent Series (Divergent, Insurgent and Allegient) by Veronica Roth. Read the Striking Keys review here.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (Conclusion to the dreamy Shiver trilogy)

The Inheritance Trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdoms of Gods) by N.K. Jemisin. This series swept me off my feet.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (book 1 in the Raven's Shadow series). Read the Striking Keys review here. I'm waiting for Tower Lord (book 2) to arrive at my library.

The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan (book 1 in The Black Magician trilogy)

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (a fun and light modern take on Pride and Prejudice, my favourite Jane Austen book.)

Always Emily by Michaela MacColl - a historical fiction novel based on the lives of Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I found it an interesting insight into their world.

Other authors I LOVE are Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. I will read anything by these guys and am hanging out for the third book in Rothfuss's Name of the Wind series. My favourite dystopian series is The Hunger Games. I haven't read it this year, so I haven't included it in the above list, but it's the best in my opinion.

What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chocolate oatmeal breakfast pudding recipe


This chocolate oatmeal is my go-to breakfast these days. Truly, I never get sick of it; I always look forward to it.

I simply cook it up the night before and pop it in the fridge in a bowl covered with a side plate, ready to pull out in the morning. So easy.

Now, you may be wondering about some of the ingredients I've included in this recipe, so let me talk you through them.

Salt is great with stevia-based sugars (like Natvia), because it helps balance out some of the bitterness.

Natvia is a healthy natural alternative to sugar as it doesn't spike blood sugar levels.

Mesquite powder is a MUST in this recipe. Find it at your local health food store (I buy the Lifefoods variety). It adds a butterscotchesque back flavour to the oatmeal and really takes this dish into the heavenly realm. I've made this oatmeal without Mesquite powder many times when I was out of stock, but it is FAR better with it. Trust me.

Chia seeds help the pudding to set and they're a great source of omega 3 essential fatty acids so I like to pop them into various things I make.

Protein powder makes this breakfast a complete meal, rather than a carb fest.

  • 1/2c rolled oats
  • 1c water
  • Pinch natural rock salt
  • 1/3c almond milk
  • 1.5T cocoa
  • 1.5T Natvia
  • 1T Mesquite powder
  • 1T chia seeds
  • 3T protein powder (I use this brand)
  • Dash of natural vanilla essence

Place rolled oats, water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and keep stirring oats until they soften and the water around them thickens.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and blend with a stick blender until a smooth, pudding-like consistency is achieved.

Serve warm, or transfer to a bowl or lidded container and refrigerate overnight.

~ Find more Craving Fresh recipes here ~

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Chicken enchilada bake

Here's a dinner recipe I've been enjoying lately. It is quick and easy to throw together, and imbued with the beautiful Mexican flavours I love so well.

  • 1T olive oil, butter or ghee
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 x 395g jar enchilada sauce
  • 1/2c water
  • 2 free range chicken breasts
  • 1.5c cooked cannellini beans (I make my own using this process)
  • 1/2c cottage cheese
  • 6 large tortillas (make your own healthy ones with this recipe)
  • 1/4c Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Saute diced red onion in oil in a frying pan on medium heat until softened.

3. Add 1/2c water and 2/3 of the enchilada sauce to the frying pan and stir with the onion to combine.

4. Place chicken breasts in the enchilada liquid, turn heat to a medium high and cover pan with a lid to poach for 10 minutes.

5. While chicken breasts are cooking, blend cannellini beans and cottage cheese together in a bowl with a hand blender until smooth. Set aside.

6. Uncover chicken breasts and turn over in the sauce, cooking uncovered for a further 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced to a thick sauce and chicken breasts are cooked through. (Add more water if it looks like the mixture is drying out before the breasts are cooked.)

7. Remove cooked chicken breasts from heat and shred with two forks.

8. Mix shredded poached chicken in its sauce with the cannellini bean and cottage cheese mixture.

9. Spread 1/6 of this mixture in a line along the centre of a tortilla.

9. Roll tortilla up and place at the end of a 20x30cm rectangular oven proof dish. Continue this process with the rest of the chicken mixture and tortillas, until oven dish contains six filled tortilla wraps.

10. Pour the remaining 1/3 enchilada sauce in a line down the centre of the 6 tortilla wraps and sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the top.

11. Place in oven and bake at 180°C for 25 minutes, or until the tortillas are golden brown.

Serves 6. Enjoy with a crispy green coriander and lime salad.

~ Find more Craving Fresh recipes here ~

Friday, July 4, 2014

Gluten-free feijoa muffin recipe

These sweet and nourishing feijoa muffins are free from gluten and refined sugar.

I set about making this oven-cooked version after my sister-in-law, Louise, recently made me a delicious microwaved Trim Healthy Mama feijoa muffin in a mug.

Since I try to avoid the microwave, I wanted to come up with a bulk recipe I could make in the oven to last me several days.

Feijoas are naturally a low-carb fruit, so these muffins don't overly spike blood sugar levels, especially with the combination of fibre-rich flaxseed and protein-rich eggs and hazelnut flour.

During feijoa season, I peeled and froze a bucket of feijoas in small ziploc bags, so now I can make this recipe whenever feijoa cravings hit. I especially enjoy these muffins warm, fresh out of the oven.

  • 100g butter (or coconut oil for a dairy-free muffin)
  • 2t vanilla essence
  • 1/4c Natvia (or xylitol, erythritol, THM Sweet Blend)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3c ground golden flaxseed
  • 2/3c ground hazelnut or almond flour
  • 1/2t ground nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 1c feijoas, peeled and mashed

  1. Preheat oven to 180C / 350F and line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake patties.
  2. Beat butter, vanilla and Natvia together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  4. Fold in golden flaxseed, ground hazelnut flour, nutmeg and salt.
  5. Stir through peeled and chopped feijoas.
  6. Divide mixture evenly between the 12 muffin holes. 
  7. Place muffin pan in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and spring back when lightly pressed.

This recipe makes 12 medium muffins. 

Enjoy warm with a pat of butter or freshly whipped cream.

~ Find more Craving Fresh recipes here ~

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A hopeful Alzheimer's experiment that has possibly failed - guest post by my Dad

Laury and Trevor (Mum and Dad).

When Miss S was a baby, my mother, Laury, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. We had noticed memory problems and disorientation in her for a number of years, so although the diagnosis was not a surprise, it was still very sad. 

We've all dealt with it in our own ways. Mine has been through prayer and trying to find natural food-based cures. Recently I came across the book, Alzheimer's: What if there was a Cure? on The Coconut Oil Shop. I told my Dad about it and we both got copies to read.

My Dad wrote the following article based on his experience trying to treat Mum's Alzheimer's Disease through the suggestions given in the book. 

A hopeful Alzheimer's experiment that has possibly failed
This article describes an experiment that was apparently unsuccessful in our case, but which I believe may still give worthwhile results for other people, for reasons that I will explain.

In 2011, my wife Laury was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease. The outward symptoms are not too great so far. She has some memory problems, and household tasks that she used to be able to do easily now take thought and concentration, but she is still able to be a sociable companion and friend to me and life remains sunny for both of us.

An exciting prospect
Despite our present good times, we are alert to any possible treatment that might alleviate Laury’s condition, so were interested when we came across the book, Alzheimer's Disease: What if There was a Cure?

The author, Mary T. Newport, is a paediatrician whose own husband, Steve, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in about 2003. Five years later, Dr Newport stumbled upon a report that a biotech company named Accera had developed a drug that showed promise for alleviating some forms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The rationale behind the Accera drug was this: in some forms of Alzheimer’s it appears that problems arise because brain cells (neurons) do not obtain sufficient energy from glucose, so suffer irreparable damage and die. 

However, it is possible for the neurons to obtain energy from an alternative source, ketones. 

The theory is that if a patient with glucose-deficiency Alzheimer’s were to start soon enough on ketone treatment, the dying-off of neurons would be stalled and so too the progress of the Alzheimer’s symptoms. Accera had therefore developed a drug that could, they believe, deliver high but safe doses of ketones to the brain.

When Dr Newport found this information in 2008, Accera had only just reached the stage of applying to the FDA for approval to carry out a rigorous trial of the drug. An approved drug was obviously going to be years away, but the theory behind the drug seemed sound, and Steve Newport needed help immediately. Therefore, Dr Newport asked if there were any natural products that might deliver ketones to the brain in the interim, even if at a lower level than the drug. She learned that coconut oil was one such source. Having checked that there was no likely conflict with Steve’s existing medication, Aricept (i.e., Donepezil) she immediately began to include coconut oil in Steve’s meals.

The results over the following weeks and months were dramatic:
  • A test called the Mini-Mental Status Exam (MMSE) can be used to assess the state of a person’s short-term memory. The maximum possible score is 30. Steve’s score climbed from a pre-coconut oil low of 12 to 20 after two months on the new diet. Dr Newport doesn’t mention any further change, so it seems that his score remained at 20 subsequently.
  • The day before starting the coconut oil trial, Dr Newport had Steve try to draw the face of an analogue clock. The result is shown on page 63 in her book. If you had not been told what you were looking at, you might well not guess. She repeated the experiment two weeks later, and again after 67 days (pages 71 and 72). The second drawing is unmistakably a clock, though still imperfect, and the third even crisper.
  • An MRI scan in 2010, after two years on the coconut oil diet showed his brain atrophy had stabilised, with no deterioration since Steve’s prior scan in 2008. This contrasted with the huge deterioration seen when the 2008 scan was compared with one from 2004.
  • Steve moved from needing help pre-coconut oil with even simple tasks such as putting on his shoes, to holding down a part-time volunteer job in 2009.

Coconut oil and Laury
Dr Newport’s book also contains anecdotal evidence from other Alzheimer’s sufferers who learned about her theory from papers she had published prior to the book itself and who had successfully tried out the coconut oil diet.

Therefore, encouraged by the book, we began on 11 February 2014 to include coconut oil in Laury’s diet.

No MMSE tests or MRI scans would be available to measure her progress, but the day before the diet started, I got her to draw a clock. It was recognisably a clock and much better than Steve Newport’s first attempt, but still well askew even though Laury was a capable artist in pre-Alzheimer’s days. 
Laury's first clock drawing, 11 February 2014.

I hoped she would draw better and better clocks as the test progressed, as Steve had done.

We began by including 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, three meals a day, but after a month there had been no tangible improvement in Laury’s problem-solving ability or short-term memory, so I didn’t even ask her to draw a clock.

I reread Dr Newport’s book to see what I might have missed:
  • We had been using mid-priced oil (“blue coconut” brand). It was not virgin oil cold-pressed from raw coconut, but neither was it hydrogenated. So far as I could see, its processing method would have reduced its Vitamin E content but not the ketone content. Nevertheless, we switched to using virgin oil at about double the price, just in case.
  • Dr Newport also suggested (p. 319) that the supplements Coenzyme-Q10, L carnitine, magnesium and D-ribose could be useful adjuncts to the treatment, as they all have a role to play in the processes by which a source such as glucose or ketones are converted to usable energy within the body’s cells. Therefore, we began to include those four supplements in Laury’s diet, too.
  • Prednisone and similar drugs can cause problems (p. 155-156, 244). Laury was on a small dose of prednisone, at the tail end of treatment for polymyalgia. We stopped that dose and the polymyalgic pain did not return, so we dropped the prednisone from her daily regimen. 
A second month went by, and we still saw no evidence of improvement Laury’s memory or the way she functioned at tasks. 

I scanned the book again and spotted a recommendation to increase the coconut oil intake to whatever level the person could tolerate without suffering diarrhoea or other gastric upset.  In Laury’s case, that turned out to be four tablespoons full of oil per meal, so that was the dose we used through the third month.

However, there has still been no tangible change in her memory or task skills, and just one small possibly hopeful indication. A clock drawn on 12 May 2014 is distinctly better than the one drawn three months previously, but without other evidence of change, it is difficult to be sure that coconut oil is the reason. 
Laury's second clock drawing, 12 May 2014.

We will continue to use coconut oil in our diet, as this whole project has alerted us to its general benefits, but not at the elevated levels of the past three months. I think we need to conclude that in Laury’s case, the coconut oil will not provide a sufficient benefit to warrant the expense of using high amounts of it.

A possible indicator of likely success or failure
On page 35, Dr Newport mentions that around the time her husband’s Alzheimer’s was diagnosed in 2003, he had developed a craving for sugary foods, though blood tests at the time ruled out diabetes. She has since learned from other sufferers or their families of a frequent correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and a craving for sugar.

Laury, on the other hand, has never shown an abnormal craving for sugar, so I wonder if this is a way to discern beforehand whether the coconut oil diet is likely to benefit a particular Alzheimer’s sufferer – if no craving for sugar, then probably not.

Stop press
Emma has sent us a gift of MCT oil, which is a derivative of coconut oil that has an even higher concentration of Medium Chain Triglycerides. Dr Newport recommends using a combination of MCT oil and coconut oil if possible, but doesn’t think it is absolutely essential. 

Blood tests have shown that MCT oil raises ketone levels higher than coconut oil, but the levels drop off more quickly than ketone levels that result from coconut oil (about 3 hours for MCT oil vs 6 to 8 hours for coconut oil). Combining the two oils yields the valuable early boost from MCT oil and the longer-lastingness of coconut oil.

As a result of this gift, we will extend the full-scale trial with Laury for another month, to see if the MCT oil proves to be the trigger that makes the difference.

As clinical trials and other studies continue, it seems that we should have definitive answers regarding ketone therapy and its range of applicability within the next four or five years. In the meantime, the theoretical background and anecdotal evidence that Dr Newport’s book provides leads me to believe that it would be worthwhile for anyone who cares for someone who is in the early years of Alzheimer’s to trial them on a coconut oil diet, and especially so if their Alzheimer’s symptoms are accompanied by a craving for sugar.

Note: the Alzheimer’s related medications Aricept (Donepezil), Namenda (Memantine), Exelon (Rivastigmine) and Razadyne (Galantamine) are known not to conflict with the use of coconut or MCT oil, (Newport, 2013, p. 60), but  if the person is on an Alzheimer’s medication other than these four, or is on meds for other conditions, you should check for possible conflicts before starting the coconut/MCT oil diet.

Newport, M. T. (2013). Alzheimer's Disease: What if There was a Cure? (2nd ed.). Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Note from Emma: The last email I had from Dad said, "Mum thought she felt an immediate impact in her brain from the MCT, so let's hope that continues!"