6 tips to make any baking recipe healthier, part 1 of 2

At the Zermatt in December, I taught these six tips for making a baking treat healthier. You don’t have to know anything about recipe development. These are no-brainers. Three tips today, three tomorrow. (All of this information is in Ch. 11 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.)

1.           Substitute finely ground whole wheat instead of white flour.

What you see on recipe labels as “wheat flour” is actually a toxic, nutrition-less white gluey mess. It’s the grain with the germ (vitamins) and bran (fiber) removed).

Ask for a good grain grinder for Christmas. I love K-Tecs, which you can find here. They aren’t terribly expensive, and you’ll need one in an emergency where you have to make your own bread, so it’s a good preparedness item.

For cookies, cakes, pastry recipes, I like SOFT WHITE WHEAT, ground on the finest grind setting your mill has. Your kids won’t even know the difference. A coarser grind will cause a heavier product, and red wheat will make it look darker. (I use red wheat for breads, etc.)

Some people think they don’t like whole wheat flour products, when in fact they’re just used to eating RANCID whole wheat. When the grain is ground, the protective shell of the grain is destroyed and oils inside begin to deteriorate. Consequently, those milled grains go rancid quickly and taste bad in baked goods. (Plus, rancid oils are carcinogenic.) Bags of whole wheat flour sometimes have spent months in warehouses and in transit before arriving in your home, and then you store them even longer.

Thus a grinder becomes essential, so you can have FRESHLY milled grains anytime you want.

2.           Substitute coconut palm sugar, or Sucanat, for sugar.

I recently mentioned coconut sugar in a blog entry and since then, we’ve gotten many queries from readers who can’t find it, to buy. I spent some time looking for it and have obtained the best organic product I could find for a good price in the GreenSmoothieGirl store: get some here.

Read about it here.

I’m thrilled about this product because of its low glycemic index for far less impact on your blood sugar and pancreas. It has high vitamin and mineral content, it is highly sustainable, more so than cane sugar, and it tastes lovely. Sucanat is in my baking recipes in 12 Steps (it’s dried, unrefined cane juice) but coconut sugar is my new favorite and is an easy substitute.

Substitute it 1:1 for any white or brown sugar called for in a baking recipe.

3.           Baking powder

Please buy the kind in the health food store that is ALUMINUM FREE. Don’t buy giant quantities because it’s good for only 1-2 years. Aluminum is a toxic metal your body has a very difficult time eliminating, and it’s linked to Alzheimer’s and many other health problems. And it’s in commercial baking powders. Substitute the aluminum-free version 1:1 in your recipes.

My fabulous volunteers on Tues. and Weds. nights

Check out Lisa, and then Mike, in Orem and American Fork this week, who valiantly tried for 20 minutes to eat kale, collards, and spinach before giving up only halfway to the amount in your quart of green smoothie. (You really have to keep an eye on these people, I am telling you. I tell them to eat their greens, I turn my back, and what do they do? They quit on me!)

Just another reason to get yourself a turbo blender and start breaking down the cell walls to make nutrition very instantly available to every cell of your body….

what I’m eating on the detox

Patti wrote and said, “I hope you’ll be willing to share with us a bit about your detox experiences as well as a few ideas on raw meals for those of us who can only be with you in spirit as our budgets right now are overloaded.”

When you detox, the liver, kidneys, lymph system, digestive system, or bloodstream can sometimes get overloaded as your body throws off accumulations of chemicals and waste products. Common symptoms are headaches and digestive changes (usually diarrhea, but bloating, gas, cramps, or constipation can happen).

You can slow down a cleanse, if necessary, with a baked potato or other cooked vegetables. I stay away from grains and legumes while I’m cleansing–too heavy. (No sugar, no meat or eggs/milk products either. No drinks except water–drink lots of water!)

Debbie in Portland, who set up the three classes I’m teaching first weekend in Feb., wrote me her dietary plans, below. They look a lot like what I’ve been doing, except for the tuna & mayo, and I have just GS for dinner rather than what I make my kids. Debbie calls chocolate “non-negotiable,” LOL!

I sometimes have hot chocolate: Cocoa Mojo/Coconut Milk Powder from my store. And once I broiled quartered corn tortillas to eat with guacamole. One day I had some Turnip Leek Soup (Ch. 6 of 12 Steps, it’s really yummy). And I eat a little dried guava or mango that I brought home from Africa. Everything else is GREEN SMOOTHIE and salads and HOT PINK SMOOTHIE. I was hungry the first couple of days, but that diminishes as you adjust. Your metabolism relaxes so your body can focus on detoxification.

I love detoxing. I’m glad Tera (GreenSmoothieQueen) asked me to collaborate with her to do this with our readers. I feel light and energetic when I eat virtually all raw. I don’t have cleansing reactions, probably because I “run clean” all the time anyway, so it’s not a very dramatic shift like it will be for those eating the S.A.D. It may take you a few years of eating a whole-foods, mostly-raw diet to arrive at that place where a detox doesn’t throw you for a loop. (One reader said all she can do is SLEEP.)

Here’s Debbie’s meal plan for January, eating what she makes for her kids for dinner (and she didn’t say what that is):

Daily- pre-breakfast (about 8:30 a.m.)- 3 cups green smoothie

– dinner 1 cup green smoothie with a tablespoon hydrated chia seeds, main dish of soup, legume or starchy-vegetable based.

M-W-F– breakfast (about 11:30 a.m.)- 2 cups fruity-ish smoothie, soaked grains or sprouted bread

— lunch (biggest meal, about 3:30 p.m.)- 2 cups gr. smoothie, big green salad with pumpkin seeds/ beans/avocado for heartiness, GSG salad dressing, dark chocolate bar (quantity as needed)

T-Th-Sat– breakfast- 2 cups hot pink smoothie with about 1 tbls. flax oil added

— lunch– 2 cups green smoothie, 1/4-1/3 cup sprouted almonds or other nuts/seeds, coconut milk/cocoa (quantity as needed, again)

Sunday– breakfast– 3 cups green smoothie with 1 tbsp. flax oil added

— lunch- 3 cups green smoothie, tuna (with half and half white bean puree and mayo, onions, etc) on sprouted bread, fresh veggies, chocolate in some form

— dinner- 2 cups green smoothie and whatever is served for extended family dinner

Last night’s class in Provo

After class last night at the Good Earth, a woman named Kim talked to me about her recent venture as part of the Biggest Loser contest sponsored by Utah Valley Magazine.

She said the trainer they provided to work out with her four times a week set her up with a program requiring her to eat a large quantity of meat four times a day, including whole baggies of beef jerky.

She said, “I’ve never been so weak in my life—I could barely get through the day. The jerky tasted like blood in my mouth. And at the end, I’d gained 12 lbs.” She felt defeated and humiliated.

Two weeks ago she read my book and started drinking green smoothies. She kept telling me about how she had acne her whole life, but I couldn’t see it. Finally she said, “And look, it’s gone! And, I’ve lost 3 lbs.!”

Thanks for sharing your stories with me after class. See you in Orem tonight!

green smoothies the best way to lose weight EVER

850 of you, my friends, are going strong on the detox, and I hope you’re enjoying the rewards of it and not suffering from too many “overloaded systems” issues! I had a meeting at BlendTec this week and stopped into their Customer Support to meet a half-dozen employees who are doing the detox. I saw a lot of green smoothies and print-outs of the Meal Plan and Journal. They were having a good experience and I’m proud of them.

In addition to the detox benefits, green smoothies are the best way to lose weight! Check out my video:

Under the Big African Sky, last part

So many times, traveling in third-world countries, I find myself in bizarre situations, like being in the back of a tiny grocery store in rural Zambia and hearing David Cook and then Adam Lambert songs on the radio (American Idol contestants).

We went on a late-night safari and as Shari and I were sitting and looking for wild-game animals with floodlights, I said, “You thinking what I’m thinking?” Turns out we were both deciding, “What would I do if I were left out here all alone all night?” (Does the capacity of the human brain to think about completely inane subjects ever amaze you?)

We had a long debate only slightly less pointless than the one my kids had, driving across Nebraska a few years ago. I was amazed at how hot under the collar Cade and Emma got discussing, “Who is more famous, Akon or Gwen Stefani?”

Anyway, our consensus was that we’d climb a tree. And then if an elephant came along, we’d walk alongside him. (Trust me on this. It’s a good plan. We can defend our thesis. We know stuff, now that we’ve been to Africa.)

One time we were sitting waiting for the night-safari bus and our guide, Nick, Shari, and I had this convo as “Tiny Dancer” came on the radio and Shari didn’t know who recorded it:

Me: It’s Tina Turner. She’s gotta be pushing, what, like 70? And she has the most amazing body, still.

Shari: Thanks to a lot of plastic surgery, I’m sure.

Me: No, it’s her LEGS. They’re ridiculous. Did you see her on American Idol a couple years ago? Any 20-year old would love to have those legs. There’s no plastic surgery for great legs.

Shari: Whatever! Calf implants. Lipo. Cutting out the skin above the knee.

Me: Oh.

Nick (snorting): Geez. You Americans. That’s stupid. Just move your body around and eat salad.

Well, doesn’t that just sum it up. It’s such simple logic, you know. How much pain and agony and premature death could be avoided here in the First World if we all did that. (Around the world, by the way, women are far more natural–far less cosmetic surgery even in other First-World countries.)

Under the Big African Sky, part 5

Americans wring their hands fretting about getting enough protein. Here are some of my African friends who eat nothing but plants, mostly greens. Do they look like they lack for muscle mass? Meet the hippo, rhino, water buffalo, elephant, zebra, and giraffe. Do you know that the water buffalo is terribly dangerous to humans? Did you know that hippos kill more people than any other animal in Africa?

Did you know that when zebras get sick, they don’t lose weight? That’s because unlike the elephant, who will eat anything, zebras are very selective and will eat only a couple dozen grasses that are very high in protein. When they’re sick, the way you can tell is the way their mane falls. This seems to corroborate my theory and observation that when we increase muscle mass using plant sources, that muscle is highly durable.

So please check out photos I took of my vegetarian friends in Africa and tell me if you can’t sustain health and muscle mass eating plants. I don’t introduce you to try to win you over to being vegetarian. I say it to help you see how high-protein, muscle-building, and powerfully nutritious raw plant foods are, so you eat more of them.

My least-favorite things in Africa, part 4

Things I don’t love in Africa:

1.           Eating the Mopanie Worm. It’s a delicacy, the roads are covered with them, and locals eat them dried. Supposedly they’re very nutritious and high in protein. I have a personal philosophy of NOT eating caterpillars–in the photo below, I’m only hamming it up in my “kiss and release” program.

2.           Sugar companies and cane fields. It’s where much of the mischief begins (see me in front of the sugar cane field below).

3.           Townships. Over half a million live in this one, near Pretoria, in the photo below. I hate that so many live without things I take for granted every day.

4.           Malaria. I refused to take the pills. I bought some all-natural bug spray but used it only once. I guess I trust my immune system more than the drugs that make you nauseous, sensitize you to the sun, and you have to take for a month before and a month after.

5.           Ostrich and buffalo billatong (jerky), for sale everywhere. No thanks.

6.           The fact that making the “Go Texas Longhorns!” sign is flipping someone off. It seemed like such a friendly gesture, before, and now it will be forever vulgar in my mind. (I had a long debate with our guide regarding my opinion that the American gesture for that sentiment is so much more intuitive.)

7.           Elephant dung–it’s everywhere in the streets “on safari” and you have to dodge it. But, check out my video of a male dung beetle making good use of it, rolling the female dung beetle along, eggs safely inside the ball of elephant poo.

My favorite things in Africa, part 3

My friend Shari and I have traveled in 12 countries, in 3 continents, the past 4 years, together, plus many other countries separately. We seem to be amazingly lucky. We’ve been in, or missed by a day, five devastating natural disasters: a huge fire (South Africa), a landslide (Hong Kong), a 6.5 earthquake (Costa Rica), a volcano eruption (Iceland), and a flood (Peru).

These are things I love in Africa:

1.           Wonderful fruits I don’t even know the name of. I got out of the car to ask villagers what this amazing little red fruit is. We bought a bag of them from people standing on the side of the road on the way to BlydeRivierSpoort. What they said sounded something like “Dilahdwa.” Anybody got a better name than that? WHY ISN’T ANYONE IMPORTING THIS STUFF?

2.           There are 73 dialects in Zambia and amazingly, people seem to know what language others speak just by looking at them.

3.           Mango farms. They’re everywhere. I ate dried mango till my jaw hurt. We cut up fresh ones in our hotel room daily–the best fruit on the planet. I think avocadoes and mangoes are my two favorite foods in the universe. Right after chocolate.

4.           African babies. The people and the animals. Check out this baby elephant that crossed our path.

5.           Rocket and Peppadew Salad. They don’t use dressings in Africa, just a little olive oil. Rocket is a green, and peppadew is a sweet-sour pepper I am in love with.

6.           The South African practice of saying “Pleasure!” instead of “You’re welcome!” I can’t get enough of that. It makes it sound as if you’re completely thrilled to be doing an act of service. One of my 2011 goals is to say, “My pleasure!” when someone thanks me.

7.           That I was briefly a millionaire in Zambian ketchwa. Actually it’s horrible that the exchange rate is 5,000 to 1, allowing me to achieve that status for $300. And I didn’t even need it because everyone wants your dollars in Zambia.

8.           Nelson Mandela. Racism is alive and well in post-Mandela South Africa, unfortunately. My perception is that his tenets of tolerance and forgiveness for the oppressors who incarcerated him at Robben Island for many years are far from fully realized in the government and people of South Africa. I watched Invictus on the plane home: a good movie about Mandela inspiring and leveraging the national rugby team to unite South Africa and ease racial tensions.

9.           Lions walking in front of your car. A pack of wild dogs, or a family of 60 baboons, lounging or clowning in the road. Kid you not.

Tomorrow, things I don’t love so much in Africa.

Under the Big African Sky, part 2

In the village of Muukuni, everyone lives in huts made of mud and straw. The “palaces” of the female and male chiefs are just BIGGER straw-mud huts. Virtually everyone drops out of school at age 15 because their families cannot afford to send them to secondary school through age 18.

I am fascinated by this very large village comprised of smaller villages–with fenced compounds for each family. I believe I was there for a reason, and I intend to find out what that is. They don’t seem to have any help in sending children to school. Only 3 in the village with 3,400 school-age children have had the chance to go to college, which makes them local celebrities.

My guide, Philip Muwba, is 32 and wishes he could study to become a math teacher. Instead, he has a part time job giving tourists elephant rides. My other guide, Lumba Simulube, is a single mother of a 4-year old daughter, and she would love to study to be a nurse. I asked how many children would LIKE to go further in school, and they said, “Many! They just can’t afford to.”

But after age 11, parents must pay for uniforms, exams, and tuition. The exciting thing about this village I found in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia), different than working with villages further north in Africa, is that Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world) is just minutes away. So the large town of Livingstone has grown up around it, with secondary schools and a college where young people from the village can be educated. I am gathering more information to find out how directly I can work with those schools and the University of Zambia four hours away.

It’s very inexpensive to send an African child to school. I am hoping to put together a great way to sponsor the students who excel in school but have no way to access higher education. I have a contact in the village who is highly motivated to help ambitious, smart kids who have a desire to help their people, become educated and return to help their people. I hope to put something together that’s really cool and tell you about it, but first I have to research how you get money directly to the educational institutions to sponsor kids, etc. I’m talking to my full-time humanitarian friends.

Check out my photos of the children in the village fascinated by the photos we took of them. (You could entertain them for hours by taking their photo and showing it to them, as they have no mirrors and have never owned a photo of themselves.)  

We took four of the kids from the village (with their adult chaperon) to our five-star resort for the day. I can’t even describe how fun it was to watch 12-year old Precious, 6-year old twins Austin and Herbert, and 2-year old Kala, swim in a pool for the first time. Eat in a restaurant. Play with my two iPods. Watch soccer on TV. Kala couldn’t stop stroking my white skin and hair. All firsts for them.

They were completely fascinated by ice floating in glasses of water, and couldn’t eat enough of it. Ditto shaking salt on food. Shaking it on a plate and dipping their fingers, or their food, in it. It was an experience I will never forget.