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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cherry Crumble

I think most people would agree that Summer conjures up fond memories of vacations, camping, outdoor activities, and hours spent in the sunshine (well, after the month of June in Seattle).  When summer is upon me, I think of all of these things followed by, "When are peaches in season?"

Peaches are my favorite fruit and I have to wait until the end of summer to have them.  This would be a tragedy... if cherries and raspberries didn't exist.  

I am fortunate to live in the state of Washington.  We have a very temperate climate on the western side of the state, contrasted by starker extremes east of the Cascades.  Washington leads in sweet cherry production (1) and grows about 40% of the nation's crop (2) - the majority produced in the eastern side of the state.  Yakima Valley, Wenatchee, and Columbia Basin apparently have particularly ideal conditions, and after June you can see small, improvised canopies and card tables stacked with boxes full of bright red, dark purplish red, and yellow cherries dotting the roadsides boasting Bing, Rainier, and the generic "Sweet" cherries, even in Western Washington.  Quite simply: we're spoiled.

My in-laws were in town about a month ago and we had a surplus of cherries in the house.  Eight pounds is too much for even five people.  Even with my high fiber tolerance, there exists too much of a good thing and cooking seems (to me anyway) to lessen the effect that stone fruit can have on the stomach.  Drying the fruit, of course, amplifies it, so I decided to make a cooked dessert with the cherries and add in some apples so we didn't waste any of those beautiful cherries.  And because we were entertaining a household of people from out-of-town, it had to be something I could do quickly.  Well, fairly quickly.  Let's be honest, if you don't have a cherry pitter, you're in for some manual labor.  Fortunately, my mother-in-law is a doll and was quick to volunteer to prep fruit while I worked on dinner.

The sign of a successful dessert is that people enjoy it regardless of what "normal" ingredients are missing.  I tend not to tell people that something I cook is vegan, gluten-free, or "different" to see the reactions I get.  I'm not sadistic.  I'm just really looking for honest opinions.  I've seen people bite back comments because they thought it wasn't possible to have "normal" flavors when they knew something was gluten free.  We had about twelve "normal diet" people over for a feast, and this cobbler was the star of the show.  In fact, I wasn't allowed to the July 4th picnic without bringing a generous amount of crumble.

This dessert lives up to its crumbles!

Cherry Apple Crumble
Serves 8 hungry people
2 pounds of Sweet Cherries, whole, or 4.5 cups loosely packed pitted Sweet Cherries
2 Apples, peeled and cut to 1/2" cubes
1 Vanilla bean, scraped
2 T Tapioca Flour 
1 c Turbinado Sugar, split evenly
1/4 c Water
3/4 c Millet Flour
3/4 c Teff Flour
1/3-1/2 c Palm Oil
1/2 t Cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the cherries and apples in a large bowl and pour in 1/2 cup of sugar.  Stir until the sugar is distributed evenly.  Mix the vanilla bean and tapioca flour in a separate small bowl and then add 1/4 cup of water.  Stir until well combined.  Pour the tapioca mix over the top of the fruit and stir to coat the fruit evenly.  Pour the mixture into an 8X12 baking pan.

I reuse the fruit bowl and add the millet, teff, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir and then add the palm oil.  Start with 1/3 of a cup.  Use either a pastry cutter or fork to combine the palm oil.  It should start to stick together in small chunks, about the size of small gravel.  If you pinch the flour combination together and it isn't sticking together, there isn't enough oil, but it should be loose until you pinch it.  The dough shouldn't stick together like pie crust in large clumps - that means there's too much moisture.  The mixture should resemble a streusel.

Spread the flour mixture evenly over the top of the berries.  Put in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla coconut ice cream or plain.

You could substitute with other types of sugar, but I like the added crunch that turbinado gives.  I have also switched the millet or teff out for brown rice flour.  They both work equally well. I prefer the Rainier variety of cherries, but any sweet variety will do.


1.   Boris, Hayley and Henrich Brunke and Marcia Kreith.  Cherry Profile. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.  March 2006. <>

2.  Smith, Timothy and Dr. Eugene Kupferman.  Crop Profile for Cherries (Sweet) in Washington.  December 2002.  Web March 2003.  <>

Monday, March 5, 2012

Flax Crackers - Mmmmm Fiber

Fiber is a non-digestible part of the plant that passes through the GI tract, absorbing fluid. It helps bind stool together and keep things moving. Recommended fiber intake is about 20-35 grams, but the average American only eats about 12-18 grams. Why so little? A LOT of our food is highly processed and we are a convenience-minded society. Is it easier to dehydrate your own crackers for 3 days, or grab a box of tasty but nutritionally defunct crackers at the grocery store? Most bread and pasta has little to no fiber, and many Americans do not consume even the minimum suggested amount of fruits and vegetables. Americans and other Western societies tend to eat a high amount of meat (20% or higher of daily food volume), which has zero fiber. Higher fiber intake correlates to lower incidences of colorectal cancers and digestive issues, better heart health, and lower incidences of cancer. I do wonder whether it's strictly the fiber intake, or whether it is a combination of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber working together because over the counter fiber supplements do not provide as much benefit in colorectal studies as individuals who eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Flax is not the most absorb-able plant food. There are a lot of omega fatty acids in flax, but only a small fraction is absorbed. I generally turn to other oils and chia for fatty acid intake, and I take those with vitamin C to up absorption. Flax is a great fiber source, and I usually combine my crackers with a wide array of veggies to make the crackers more nutrient rich. The toughest part about making these crackers is waiting for them to dehydrate completely. I tend to pick at them, testing for how done they are of course, and I catch Lance doing the same. They are really tasty with Dr. Cow Cashew Cream Cheese or miso spread. I also enjoy breaking them up over salad as croutons. Lance is a conventional food kind of guy, but he really loves these cracker as well.

Flax Crackers

Makes 4 dehydrator trays

1 c flax, ground
1 c flax, whole
1 c almonds
1/2 c sunflower seeds
4 T chia, ground
2 t salt
1 T marjoram
1 T basil
1 t herbs de provence
1/2 t turmeric
3 T dulse, ground
2T parsley (dried - or 1/4 cup fresh)
1 onion, run through a mandolin slicer or food processor
1 3/4 c green juice
4 c juicer fiber
3 c water
1/2 c apple cider vinegar

Run the almonds and sunflower seeds through the food processor with an s-blade until you have an almond meal consistency. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the flax, chia, salt, herbs, seaweed (dulse), and onions. I left the onions in long slices but you could easily put them through the s-blade or blender and combine them that way as well to get the flavor without the strings of onion. Combine the dry ingredients, juicer fiber, and onion thoroughly and then add the wet ingredients.

I made the green juice out of one bunch of kale, one heart of celery, 3 carrots, 2 stalks of broccoli (I had used the heads in a salad), and a head of romaine lettuce. There was quite a big of fiber left in my juicer container, and I just incorporated that into the crackers as well. The juice was pretty good on its own, but it lent well to the crackers.

I spread the ingredients on teflex sheets on the dehydrator trays and put them in at 150 for an hour. If you want uniform little crackers, use the non-business end of a spoon or fork and make square shapes in the batter before dehydrating. After an hour at 150 degrees, I turned down the temperature to 110. After 24 hours, I flipped the crackers onto a mesh sheet and let them dry the remainder of the time on the mesh. If you cut the batter into smaller crackers, it will probably be done a day earlier than leaving them in sheets and then breaking into uneven shapes after they are done dehydrating. You will know they are done when they are brittle and have a good crunch to them. It took about 3 days, but it's been very humid here and I don't think that helped with the time table.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Flying Apron - New Location In Redmond

I wanted to raise awareness that Flying Apron has opened a second location in Redmond. My mom, husband, and I all stopped in to check things out and pick up some treats for us and my nephew Owen. Owen has a long list of fairly severe allergies, and it's really nice to have a place we can go that we don't worry about him getting a hold of something he's allergic to or cross contamination. There is a really large selection. Owen prefers the cookies and the adults enjoy the cookies and cupcakes but prefer the garlic herb bread.

The staff are courteous and helpful. One is a former teacher of Owen's and has first hand knowledge of food allergies - I'm not sure about the others but they are all respectful and diligent. The location is clean and well lit, and conveniently located near Redmond Town Center. They also have a great policy - if you try something new and don't like it, they offer a refund.

I remember how difficult it was as a child to go to birthday parties and not be able to eat any of the food, and this seems like a great solution. The baking is done for you so you don't have to make an entire batch, and it's quick. I would recommend going early in the day. I think I overheard one of the staff say a lot of the baking was done off site, and they tend to run low on several items.

For more info and directions:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eating for Stress

Zap! Stress be gone!

I'm not a doctor or a trained nutritionist. I've done a lot of research and found a diet that works for me. I don't suggest it works for everyone and I recommend folks do their own research to find a solution that works for them.

The last few months have been very stressful. VERY stressful. Stress is often unavoidable and it's toxic. Higher stress levels are tied to higher incidents of illness, inflammation, and is thought to be linked to cancer. That's all well and good but life happens! I have been trying a lot of different things to help me maintain productivity at work, avoid picking fights or responding inappropriately to confrontation, and avoid having a lupus flare up. A large portion of that effort goes into what I eat.

Even institutions like the American Cancer Society and MD Anderson recommend diet alterations to help reduce the risk of the return of cancer and to avoid feeding cancer cells. Many of the recommendations are practical for people with auto-immune issues and inflammation (this includes allergies....). I went to a cancer treatment center that also treated auto-immune conditions and received brief counseling on what to avoid. The list included white flour, processed sugar, milk, red meat, white rice, alcohol, and potatoes. These foods are often eaten in excess, don't have a lot of nutritional value, are tied to inflammation and weight gain, and are really starchy.

Additional foods that are good to avoid:
  • Meat - animal rights aside, red meats are high in iron, which feeds cancer cells. Animals are usually confined in unnatural conditions and spend their lives stressed out of their minds, and I have to imagine it's not a huge leap that all of those hormones and chemicals don't do a body good. Cured meats contain nitrates which have been correlated to stomach cancer. Burned meat contains mutagenic compounds. Then there's farmed fish.
  • Fried Foods - Mmmm...acrylamide. A by-product of frying that's also used as a neurotoxin and a known carcinogen.
  • Gluten - especially if there's a possibility you're intolerant, although doctors are starting to admit that intolerance is more common than previously though and only extreme intolerance is caught by current testing. A good way to find out if it's really what's causing you to be tired? Avoid it for 2 weeks and then eat it again.
  • Canned foods - Cans are usually lined with resin, which is high in BPA, which leeches into your food.
  • Sugary Drinks - I'm not buying the "Corn Sugar is like any other sugar" commercials
  • Sulfites - they are in a LOT of foods. Capers, many vinegars, kalamata olives, and many sandwich shops use it as a preservative.
How can you be stressed surrounded by puppies? (We still just
have the sitting)

Even though I am gluten free and vegan, I'm a sucker for baked goods and comfort foods, just like anyone else. If I bake, I eat, so my recipe development has suffered. However, I'm getting really good at making salads, smoothies, and cooked veggie dishes. I'm trying to exceed the recommended "balanced plate" recommendation of 2/3 of the plate filled with fresh fruits and veggies. A typical morning starts off with a smoothie, I have salad and miso soup for lunch, and usually cooked veggies and either brown rice or quinoa for dinner. There's more variety, but that is a typical day. I make all of my own food, and it's not nearly as daunting as people think, even with a chronic illness and a full time job. Salads have very low prep time (compared to cooking something, especially), and what's easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients in a blender? If I don't even have time for salad, I grab some dried wakame or kombu, a jar of miso, and dice some onion. Add hot water, and you have instant soup.

Curries are fantastic. Turmeric and curcumin are antioxidant power houses.

Smoothie Base:
  • 1 heaping TB Warrior Food (hemp & brown rice protein - Vanilla is my favorite)
  • 3 TB Tocos Plus (vitamin E supplement)
  • 1 tsp Premier Research Lab Max B-ND (vegan B complex supplement)
  • 1 tsp Maca
  • 2 TB ground flax or chia
  • 1 TB flax, chia, pumpkin, or hemp oil (I rotate through these)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 lemon juiced or buffered vitamin C (helps to absorb healthy properties of the oils)
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp chlorella or blue green algae
Optional Additions:
  • 1 cup of berries and 2 cups of greens
  • 1 cup of berries
  • 1 heaping TB cacao and 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice and a pinch vanilla bean

So many options! Mangoes, oranges, pineapple, oh my!

Easy Salad Dressings

Miso Dressing
1 heaping TB non-soy Miso
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Apple Cider Vinegar or 1/2 Lemon, juice
1 TB onion, minced
pinch of dried ginger

Nut based "Ranch"
1/3 c macadamia or cashew
1/2 c water
liberal amount of dill
1/2 lemon, juice
garlic powder to taste
onion powder to taste
pinch salt

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For easier mixing, soak the nuts for 15-30 minutes beforehand.

Salad Blends

I'm not beneath saying that I eat a ton of greens in one sitting. As in a full head of romaine. Plus sprouts and other toppings. The saying that lettuce has low nutritional value is a farce. Leafy greens, including romaine lettuce, are nutritional power houses that have compounds that fight stress, are high in essential vitamins, and contain amino acids that are the building blocks that we refer to as protein. Costco now carries large bags of baby kale and arugula. Arugula has to be my favorite because of that peppery kick it gives. It goes really well with my vegan "Ranch" dressing. Kale pairs really well with the miso dressing. I like to use multiple greens in one salad. Arugula, spinach, and romaine are my favorite. Kale is great with romaine for the more robust dressings.

Kale, lettuce, and spinach are all part of the "dirty dozen" or the fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide ratings when grown conventionally. It's best to buy organic and soak them in a large bowl of water with apple cider vinegar or food grade hydrogen peroxide (it only takes a few teaspoons) to help clean off bacteria and parasites. I choose to eat sprouts, but douse them with liberal amounts of food grade hydrogen peroxide and rinse thoroughly to help prevent getting ill from food borne bacteria.
Sprouts, a couple tablespoons of almonds, and a mixture of kale and romaine make a tasty salad

Parting Thoughts

Food is a large aspect of what has been keeping me energized and sane during this time period, but supplements and exercise have played an equally important role. I had a period of extreme nausea and dizziness and started supplementing with even more vitamin B12, and within a week, I felt my energy and balance come back. I have always struggled with maintaining balance in my GI tract, and was dealing with B12 shots and supplements well before I became vegan. B complex, buffered vitamin C, MSM, and several of the supplements listed in my smoothie base are tools I use to help ensure I'm lowering inflammation levels in my body. I'm going to add curcumin and turmeric, and am hopeful that these will help as well.

I try to make it to the gym every work day and garden, walk the dogs, and Zumba on the weekends. On days I feel lazy and have to drag myself down to the gym, I'll be content with 45 minutes on the recumbent bike or elliptical, but usually I'm mixing cardio with balanced weight training. There are mornings when I want to go running out of my office building and not come back - I go to the gym for an hour and all the sudden things are in a new perspective and more manageable. My boss encourages me to take time to work out because he has seen a dramatic increase in productivity and focus, especially in the afternoons, and he has been not-so-blunt about the fact that I'm just more amiable. I was reading Oxygen while on the bike yesterday, and I can't say I was too surprised that exercising just one hour can elevate your mood for 12 hours!

Is there anything better than finding something beautiful in nature to study for a few moments? I'm making a new resolution to try to get outdoors and enjoy my surroundings more. I'm lucky to live in Seattle, within short driving distance of 2 mountain ranges and scores of hiking trails.

I hope everyone finds a Zen moment and finds a working balance that works for them.

Some Resources:
Livestrong - Top 5 Cancer Causing Foods (Livestrong was a great resource when my family was helping my brother deal with cancer):

Raw Vegan Source - Supplements and Reading Materials:

Gone Raw - Raw vegan community forums and recipes: