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.

Ingredients
  • 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 chopped

Method
  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.

Conclusion
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.

References:
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!" 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dairy-free probiotic coconut smoothie


We all know the importance of eating probiotic-rich foods for good digestive health, but it can be difficult to find probiotics that aren't dairy-based, making it tricky for people with a dairy allergy to eat this life-giving food.

It is possible to make probiotic rich milk kefir out of coconut milk. It's best done with water kefir grains, which can feed off the coconut sugar, but milk kefir grains work in a pinch. Just rinse them really well before putting them in the coconut milk, to get rid of any trace of milk if you have a true dairy allergy. You will need to return the milk kefir grains to dairy milk after a few batches so they can re-feed on lactose. 

Coconut milk kefir. 

Large milk kefir grain.

I love to make a refreshing berry smoothie out of coconut milk kefir. I store it in a large jar in the fridge and pour a glass as desired over the course of a day or two. Smoothies keep well for 24 hours in the fridge if you don't add banana to them. Some separation does occur over time, so stir your smoothie to reincorporate everything before pouring.

Ingredients
  • 400mls coconut milk kefir (1 tin's worth)
  • 1c water or almond milk
  • 1c frozen strawberries
  • 1/2c frozen raspberries
  • 1/2c frozen blueberries
  • 2T Natvia
  • Zest and juice of one lime or lemon, or 1000mg vitamin C
  • Pinch natural rock salt (I prefer Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Rock Salt)
  • 1t natural vanilla essence

Method
Mix coconut milk kefir (first strain to remove kefir grains) with all the other ingredients in a blender and whiz for a minute or two to thoroughly combine. 

Serve in your favourite glass. Enjoy!

~ Browse more Craving Fresh recipes here ~


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Allergy-friendly recipe: Chocolate muesli bars


This recipe was kicking my butt. I just couldn't nail it. I tried so many variations and they all fell flat. But I didn't give up. I knew the perfect allergy-friendly muesli bar must be possible; Something delicious, nutritious and free from the most common allergens.

Well, I'm happy to say, this is the recipe.

I love it.

It tastes rich, sweet and chocolatey, yet it's full of highly nourishing flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut and cocoa butter. I've used brown rice syrup combined with Natvia to sweeten these muesli bars without overly spiking blood sugar levels. You are welcome to substitute those sweeteners with honey or unrefined sugar cane sugar if that's what you have on hand. Children should be fine with those more fructose-rich sweeteners as they are growing and need lots of energy, but adults will need to be more careful.

These muesli bars store well in an airtight container, making them an easy breakfast option for those mornings when you need to grab and run.

Otherwise, try wrapping them in baking paper secured with twine to pack into lunchboxes.

These muesli bars are free from dairy, nuts, gluten and refined sugar.

Ingredients
  • 1/2c cocoa butter (I got mine from Bulk Foods in Mount Eden)
  • 1/2c organic rice syrup or honey
  • 1/4c Natvia
  • 1/4c cocoa
  • 1t vanilla essence
  • 2c coconut chips/flakes, or desiccated coconut
  • 1/2c chia seeds
  • 1/2c ground flaxseed
  • Pinch salt
  • 1t ground nutmeg

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F. 
  2. Melt cocoa butter, honey/rice syrup, Natvia, cocoa and vanilla essence together on a medium-low heat.
  3. Mix the coconut flakes, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, salt and ground nutmeg into the melted chocolate syrup until well combined.
  4. Spoon mixture into a greased and lined 20cm x 20cm baking pan.
  5. Spread and flatten mixture with a silicone spatula, compressing it as you go.
  6. Bake at 150°C / 300°F for 20 - 25 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool before slicing into bars or squares with a very sharp knife.
  8. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fresh reviews: ecostore Geranium & Orange Laundry Powder



I’m trying to picture what a geranium smells like, and I’m coming up blank. My scent bank is empty when it comes to geraniums.

I do, however, know what a geranium smells like when mixed with orange essential oils, because that’s the scent of ecostore’s new laundry powder, aptly named Geranium & Orange Laundry Powder.

It is heavenly.

ecostore sent me a box of their new Geranium & Orange Laundry Powder to review for Kiwi Mummy Blogs.

I didn’t know what they were sending me before it arrived, so had to laugh when I opened the box and found the exact same laundry powder I’ve already got sitting on my laundry shelf.

Oh yes ecostore, I have discovered your new laundry powder and am quite the fan.

In fact, I’m a fan of all your products, especially after reading ecoman and realising what a clean, green and ethical company you are.

Anyway, back to the Geranium & Orange Laundry Powder.

I love its smell. I take a deep breath every time I pour a scoop into the washing machine, and feel like I’m getting my aromatherapy hit for the day.

ecostore worked with a French perfumer to create the new fragrance, which is an essential oil blend that has an uplifting, summery feel.

Normally I would be a little fearful of breathing in cleaning chemicals, but I don’t worry about that with ecostore products because they don’t contain anything nasty.

All ecostore laundry products are plant and mineral based, while being free of water pollutants like phosphates, and the skin-irritating chemicals you’ll often find in other laundry products like enzymes, optical brighteners, synthetic dyes and perfumes.

I feel really good about using ecostore’s Geranium & Orange Laundry Powder to wash my children’s clothes.

It does an excellent cleaning job too, even on my seven-month-old’s cloth nappies. I’d say it’s as good, if not better than any other laundry powder I’ve used.

And did I mention the smell?

It’s lovely because it leaves our clothes with that refreshing hint of geranium and orange fragrance, without being overpowering.

Since the laundry powder is super concentrated, a 1KG box lasts a long time in our home. Using full scoops, it’s designed to last 32 washes, but I use a little less than a scoop each time, so I stretch a 1KG box to 40 or more washes.

It’s a great product. 

Give it a whirl in your washing machine and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My patio garden

We've been living in Mount Eden for nine months now and I've missed having a vegetable garden. There isn't anywhere good to put one that the landlord will approve of, so I've been living without.

However, this week I started reading the books Embrace Your Space by Janet Luke and One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein, and they got me thinking about what I can do in the space I have. 

I had already been growing herbs in pots against the sunny side of our house, so I decided to think bigger in the same space and grow vegetables there too. 

I went to Kings Plant Barn today to check out what they had and found wooden planter boxes on sale. 

Perfect! 

I bought three of them.

I half filled the planter boxes with Pea & Lucerne Straw to bulk them out without adding too much weight, and then topped them up the rest of the way with Container Mix. 

Over time the straw will break down, fixing nitrogen into the soil above it. It will also heat up as it decomposes, which will encourage plant growth over the coming winter months. 

I planted my new boxes with various kinds of lettuce, kale, spinach and silverbeet. 

Our patio container garden.

Then I reorganised a couple of big pots I already had to make better use of them. I shifted strawberry plants out of one large pot and replaced them with spring onion seedlings and carrot seeds. I've been spending a lot of money on organic carrots from the supermarket, so it's high time I grew my own again. I'm hoping the odour from the spring onions will deter any carrot-loving bugs.

I replanted a lime tree I already had into the other large pot, which my mother-in-law recently gave me, because the lime tree wasn't doing well in our shady garden. I planted blue lobelia around it to attract bees for pollination.

I have to say, it does my heart good to have these pots and planter boxes full of edible joy.

I can't wait till morning when I can go and inspect my new garden again and anticipate my first harvest.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Allergy-friendly recipe: Chocolate covered banana pops


These Chocolate Covered Banana Pops are the perfect ice-cream like treat for people wanting to avoid dairy, eggs and refined sugar.

These delicious little morsels keep well in the freezer, or can be stored in the fridge for a few hours to create a softer centre.

Thanks to the creamed coconut and coconut oil in the chocolate coating, these treats are nutritional powerhouses, making them a dessert you can feel good about eating. Don't consume too many if you're trying to lose weight, however, as bananas contain a lot of natural sugar.

My thanks to the Coconut Oil Shop and Natvia for providing ingredients for my test kitchen.

Ingredients
  • 3 bananas
  • 3T coconut oil
  • 3T creamed coconut (fibrous part, not the oily part as that's accounted for above)
  • 3T Natvia (Stevia/Erythritol blend)
  • 2T dark cocoa
  • Pinch salt
  • Dash vanilla

Method
  1. Peel bananas and place in a container to freeze for two hours or more.
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan on a medium-low heat and melt together, stirring until well combined and looking like chocolate sauce.
  3. Take chilled bananas from freezer and slice into 1cm thick pieces.
  4. Place banana slices in saucepan of chocolate sauce, turn to coat using a spoon, them remove chocolate covered pieces with the same spoon (allowing excess chocolate to drip back into saucepan) and place on a tray lined with baking paper to set. 
  5. Place chocolate covered banana slices in freezer to set, then peel away from the baking paper and either transfer to a freezer-safe container, or serve immediately.

Enjoy!