Friday, September 4, 2015

Julie Surprise: Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Yesterday marked the anniversary of my youngest daughter's second birthday. (WHAT???)
Every time we had mentioned to her that she would be having a birthday in the days leading up to it, she would always respond with, "Yeah! Cake!" Then, the night before when I told her I needed to go to bed so I could make her a cake the next day she started begging for chocolate.
Luckily, that had already been my plan. Thanks to the generosity of my awesome neighbors, I had fresh garden produce, including raspberries and zucchini from my friend Kelly. (One needs something fibrous if one is going to make a cake without flour.)
I also ended up borrowing some cocoa powder from my friend Jenni a few doors down because, wouldn't you know? I totally forgot we were all out until I started making the cake!
I just felt that I ought to mention these circumstances so that we could give credit were credit is due.
Thanks so much ladies! This cake couldn't have happened without you!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Cake
  • 1/2 cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut 
  • 1/2 cup of Peanut Butter (Or Almond Butter etc.)
  • 2 cups of Coconut Palm Sugar
  • 8 Eggs (Separated)
  • 1 Huge Zucchini, (seeded, shredded, drain then blended smooth).
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Tbsp of Coconut Oil or Butter
  • 3/4 cup of Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries (opt.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your food processor, pulverize coconut until almost a butter. Add this and the rest of the ingredients except the egg whites to your food processor or a stand mixer and mix everything together. 
  2. Finally, in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and gently fold into the rest of the batter. Some streaks may remain. 
  3. Grease three 9"  pie pans with butter and line with circles of parchment paper. Evenly divide the batter between them. 
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Carefully remove cakes to a cooling rack until cool. (You may want to refrigerate it, or put it into the freezer to speed up the process and help it firm up.)
  6. Frost with chocolate buttercream icing and top with fresh raspberries if desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
  • 1-2 cups of Coconut Palm Sugar (Ground to a fine powder)*
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/4 cups of Coconut Oil and/or Butter
  • 1/4 cup of Cocoa Powder (Or more for a darker chocolate.)
  • A dash of salt (if your butter is unsalted)
  1. Whisk together sugar and cocoa until well blended. Then add to wet ingredients and whip until fluffy.
  2. If the consistency is too runny, chill for 10-15 minutes then whip again. 
  3. Be sure the cake is well cooled before you ice it.
* I usually grind my coconut sugar in my mini food processor to reduce it's gritty texture in certain recipes like frosting. Because of this, 1 cup of sugar may reduce down to a bit less than 1 cup, so you might want to add a bit more than a cup. Also, a lot of people who use coconut sugar find it to be slightly less sweet than cane sugar so they may wish to increase the amount regardless. I would recommend using up to two cups if you want the icing very sweet, but do not go beyond that.  We tried two cups and it was extremely rich. Luckily the milder sweetness of the dark chocolate cake helped counterbalance that and the fresh raspberries added a refreshing contrast of tartness. 

The Birthday Girl really loved the cake! She kept asking for more and more. I have to admit it was pretty amazing, even if I do say so myself. 

This cake is super moist, (almost like a fudgey pudding) even after draining the zucchini as much as I had patience for. I could have drained it longer, but I wanted  to get the cake finished before bedtime. :)
Anyway, it really doesn't need frosting, and as I noted above the frosting was super rich. It was almost too much, so I would recommend reducing the sugar a bit if you use the icing, or maybe at least add some cream cheese. (We would have done that if we'd had any.)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this delectable recipe! I'd love to hear about what you thought if you try it, and seeing pictures would be great! I was so happy this recipe looked almost as pretty as it tasted because my last flourless cake was a bit less than photogenic and I really wanted a pretty cake to film for one of my upcoming music videos. Stay tuned and you might just see this cake in action!

~Julie :}

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Breadless Butter Snacks! Part 1

I have always adored butter. (Yes, as one of my sister will gladly tell you, my nickname even used to be butter-ball, mainly because of an incident that occurred when I was about 18 months old.)

While learning about food and discovering that whole grains are not the miracle of healthfulness that most proclaim they are, I have simultaneous learned that butter is actually extremely beneficial and important to a healthful diet. (Did I used to say things went together like bread and butter? Looks like I need a new adage.)

Of course, when you find the need to reduce, or eliminate grains from your diet, you will find that there are A LOT of bread-type recipes that are grain free, and these are obviously quite helpful, and awesome in their own right, especially as you begin a difficult transition away from the crumby, carb-heavy diet that most Americans consume.

In fact, I will be sharing some of my favorite grain free, bread-type recipes here shortly, but today I want to talk about something new. A complete freedom from your previous dependence on bread. Especially in regards to enjoying butter.

When my nutritionist first told me how important eating butter was, he pointed out to me that one of it's main benefits is that the amino acids in butter help us to absorb vitamin D. He suggested that any time I come inside from being out in the sun, I should not only drink water to stave off dehydration, but I should get myself a piece of bread and really slather it with some butter to help me absorb and use all the vitamin D that my skin had just created. Of course, this was before I started noticing the correlation between my digestive problems and grain based foods like bread.

So, in trying to continue following the doctors orders, but avoid any uncomfortable gastric problems, I decided it was time to get a little bit creative and come up with new ways to enjoy one of my favorite condiments. Butter.

Of course, one could obviously melt it into sauces, soups and over hot veggies, but I have always loved the flavor, texture and consistency of room temperature or slightly chilled butter.

Here is one of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy a snack with some soft creamy butter!

Spiced Butter Dip & Raw Carrots:

I believe the inspiration for this one came from a carrot cake craving that hit me a couple of years ago.
I began to wonder if I could still enjoy the flavors of carrot cake without the effort of baking (and of course without involving grains.) Somehow it came to me that if I made a dip out of the same spices that go into a carrot cake, then ate it with a raw carrot, it would be just as yummy. It is.

Since I've been doing this for a couple of years now, I've had plenty of time to experiment with the recipe, though truth be told, I never measure anymore, so giving you exact measurements would be iffy.
I usually will mix some of this goodness up in a small ramekin using roughly, a couple of tablespoons of soft butter. Sometimes I've also added coconut oil to the base, sometimes I don't. Then I've sweetened and spiced it to fit my current mood.

As you can see by the photos that I've taken over the past couple of years, the consistency can change depending on how much of each ingredient I add. Sometimes I've wanted a lighter flavor so I've added less honey and more coconut oil. It all depends on what I want the end result to be.
But the bottom line is, the measurements are of secondary concern. The results are always scrumptious.

In fact, last year I began eating so many carrots (Organic Carrots are available at our Costco, $5.99 for 10 lbs) because of this recipe, that I really did turn orange. Luckily, I'm so fair it doesn't really show much. You can only really tell if you look at the callouses on the edge of my palms.

I've also called it different names as time has gone on. At first it was 'Carrot-Cake-Batter dip,' but this seemed a bit misleading, and then I started to miss the flavor of ginger snaps and so I stopped adding raisins and went heaver on the ginger and the coconut sugar. (See first Photo) So then I called it 'Gingerbread dip' or  'Ginger Snap Dip.' Yet, again this seemed misleading. Because my dip does not contain batter, bread or cookies, it merely tastes like those things, I finally had to admit that Spiced Butter Dip is the most accurate name.

Spiced Butter Dip

Room Temperature Butter (Grassfed would of course be ideal)
Organic Coconut Oil (Either melted or thicker, doesn't really matter)
Raw Local Honey (To Taste)
Organic Coconut Sugar (To Taste)
About a 1 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, more or less.
About 1 to 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger " "
A sprinkle or two of any of the following as desired:
      * Ground Cloves
      * Cardamom
      * Allspice
      * Nutmeg
About a tablespoon of raisins, (opt.)
A sprinkle of sea salt is desired to enhance flavors (especially if your butter is unsalted.)

Mix together and enjoy with a fresh raw carrot or two!

Bonus Note:

I've tried this dip with apple slices as well, but I prefer it with carrots. The apples with a sweet dip seem a bit too sweet for me still.

However, I have also made the same dip and substituted Cream Cheese for the butter and that is extremely tasty with both carrots and apples. Especially apples because of the flavor contrast.

It's a really good flavor combo for carrots though because it's kind of like the cream cheese frosting one finds on a carrot cake. But I still find myself going back to the butter based dip for carrots because it is truly delicious and the goal is also to be getting my butter in. Thanks to some spices and a raw carrot, this is far easier than pie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is Mandating Vaccinations Really a Good Idea?

Okay, here we go . . . I realize that the moment I write the following, I am opening up myself to attack and ridicule for even typing certain words. . .

To that I say, "Huzzah!" Let's bask in our freedom of speech shall we? Hopefully it is a freedom that will not be taken from us soon. (Honestly, with a voice as small as mine, and a following to match, I doubt this will make much of an impact. Yet, what is a blog for but a container for all the many thoughts that threaten to overwhelm my busy mind if not organized in this way?)

There is a lot of controversy going on right now over the whole vaccine debate. Because of the Disneyland incident, people are taking sides in this heated argument. Some are pretty sure that the unvaccinated are to blame for this outbreak, and that they are compromising the health of those who cannot be vaccinated.

Yet, the other side, those who are anti-vaccination, or who believe in partial or delayed vaccination (The idea being that you must allow a child's immune system to fully develop naturally first, and to discover their specific, individual sensitivities before exposing them to certain chemicals in order to properly weigh the risks.) This side is arguing that the unvaccinated are not to blame.

I have been studying both sides of the argument, for some time, and believe that I, at least somewhat understand where each side is coming from, in my small way. Perhaps the unvaccinated truly are destroying the whole herd immunity concept, but then, if that is so, I can't help wondering about the immunocompromised, that everyone admits cannot be vaccinated. Their very existence proves that herd immunity might in fact be the myth that one side proclaims it to be. Plus, they also like to ask us, how did those people become that way? Are there really any who fall into this category who have not ever had a shot? Or was it the shot that caused them their current condition?

Still, I am not here today to discuss who is to blame. In fact, at the end of the day, I do not think it matters so much. It seems to me that the media is having a heyday adding fuel to the fire of this argument, but it seems to me that the argument in and of itself is rather pointless. No side is ever going to convince the other side of who is right. No one can win in this debate unless everyone suddenly had the same exact experience and circumstances, which is obviously impossible.

"The only reality that any individual knows is their own experience." Thus, with so many of us experiencing vastly different realities, it is a fruitless effort to suppose that we can all be brought to a single consensus about this issue, no matter how many experiences or opinions we are bombarded with. So why are we letting the media manipulate us? They are the only beneficiaries of this argument.

With that said, my only real concern today is the question of whether or not mandating every American citizen to be vaccinated is really as just a cause as people say it is.

Let us examine some different ideas for a moment, and try to put religion and specific political parties aside for the moment, shall we?
As far as forcing every American citizen to be vaccinated, even if that would protect us all to the degree that those who support the mandate state, what about those living here who are not citizens? Can there be herd immunity, if we are surrounded by people who are not only not citizens but have no way of being tracked by the government to mandate that they are injected?

Until we can guarantee that every person living in our country is an American citizen, then trying to force vaccination through governmental policy for the sake of making sure EVERYONE is injected, does not really make much sense to me.

Likewise, until we can prevent all tourists and outsiders from coming into our public places, whether they entered through legal means or not, we cannot possibly ensure that there will not be some germs passed around. Okay, so maybe the tourist worry isn't an issue because, according to the following report, it's usually American travelers who bring the diseases back with them. So should we ban world travel to American Citizens?
Also, just for the sake of perspective, let us see if we can find out about how many people are living here without citizenship right now? Okay, so say it's only 3-4% as the links above suggest. Are we going to mandate that they get vaccinated too? Or will they get off free because they are such a small group? Does that not seem like a double standard for Americans who have chosen not to get the injection? According to this article, the unvaccinated citizen is only about 2% of the population, despite what the media has led you to believe.
Of course, maybe we can't compare the two groups because one could argue that even illegal immigrants can receive the shots for free in some cases, where you can be so poor that the government covers the costs for you. However, chances are, even if some take advantage of this, (and the above article suggests that most will not), are they still living with others who are unvaccinated? Even children who are legal because they were born here, might be living with adults who are not citizens.

So one side might ask you to consider the possibility of another Disneyland scenario. Let's say in this case the person who carried an illness was an illegal immigrant. California is not only the location for Disneyland, it is also the state with the highest number of illegal immigrants as of 2013.
Anyone with enough money can waltz into Disneyland. Last I checked people were not required to prove their citizenship to go there. After all, we benefit from the funds of tourists from other countries who pay to see our attractions. Could we really make citizenship and proof of vaccination a requirement for entering the happiest place on earth?

What about grocery stores or restaurants? Can we deny people the right to buy our food based upon the fact that they are not citizens, and have not been mandated to be injected?
So we have this individual who comes into a public setting, and perhaps is carrying a disease. Maybe they contracted it from a visit back home, or maybe they had visitors or packages sent to them by their relatives in one of various countries (I'm not just talking Mexico here, there are other people who come here illegally, including those from India, China, The Philippines, etc.)
Now let's say that in this scenario, this person is the only one in the public place who has not been vaccinated. Despite the fact that every American surrounding that individual is vaccinated, because the injections cannot guarantee that they will protect you, then as everyone on both sides has already agreed, this person could pass on that disease to a fair number of people, even if every single one of them, our subject excluded, had been injected. Then as they leave and go to other public places, it can spread to others who have been injected and so forth.
I believe this is why many people believe that herd immunity is a myth. Unless the whole world over could be forced to be injected, there is no herd. The borders of our lands are too blurred. We are tied to the world through airlines, among other things, that make complete isolation impractical.

So here arises the question of choice. If you truly believe that removing an individual's choice in the matter is the right answer, then by the same logic we should also outlaw anything that might cause anyone harm.
Thus, knives of all types, weapons, any sharp object down to nail scissors, sewing pins and toothpicks would be illegal.
Cars would easily be illegal as they kill so many. Mosquitoes, which top the list for number one killer, should thereby be illegal. On that note, nearly all, (if not all) animals, both wild and domesticated would be illegal, based on the chance that they might cause yourself or another person harm either through direct injury or the spread of parasites or disease.

Those are obviously some of the most extreme examples, let's look at some less extreme ones that are probably already being debated.

In fact, I know that the marijuana issue is definitely being debated. Because it can be harmful when burned into a vapor of smoke (and I'd like to ask, how many things can you list that aren't harmful when turned into smoke?) many people agree that this substance should remain illegal.
Others, seeing the benefits of the plant when used in other ways, would disagree with the idea that it needs to be wholly banned.

Then there's the other smoking issue. What if cigarettes and other tobacco products were made completely illegal in the US? Studies have proven that secondhand smoke is harmful and can cause lung cancer in individuals, even if it does not immediately cause it in the person who is smoking firsthand.
Think for just a moment with me, back to the Disneyland incident. Can you recognize the parallel there? Should a person be allowed to smoke when he might possibly infect others and cause them harm or even death?
This article reports that 145,000 deaths were attributed to measles world wide last year.
Yet, tobacco products reportedly cause 148,000 deaths every year in the US alone.
Comparing the US with the rest of the world, I might also point out, is not comparing apple to apples. There are many other contributing factors to the cause, spread and ability to recover from a disease.
So let's see how many deaths were attributed to measles in the US alone last year. Wait? Zero? Hmm, okay. let's say in the last ten years . . . Still zero? Okay. I think I've made my point.

Still, I think most people, especially those who smoke or who have smoked will agree that it's not fair to force people to quit. That they should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies, knowing fully what those risks entail. Everyone also ought to admit that making tobacco illegal, despite the obvious risks to us all, will not entirely eradicate those products from society. It would only give the black market one more product to capitalize on.

And for those who think capitalism is a dirty word, consider that the pharmaceutical industry capitalizes on the distribution of vaccines.
Just imagine as a business owner, what the mandating of your product for every law abiding citizen by the government would do for your industry! You'll need to order that indoor swimming pool soon, so you can swim in your profits!
But please, try not to squeal too loudly; loud sounds should be illegal because they can cause deafness.

So you might sit back an sigh. . . If only everyone wasn't an idiot. If only everyone shared my point of view.

Yes, to be sure. If only we could just make germs illegal. Then we might get somewhere, but germs will not be controlled by ridiculous laws anymore than people will be. Sure, maybe a percentage of people will allow themselves to be controlled, but remember how there is always that 1% of germs left over by your 99% antibacterial soap? Why should we expect people to behave any differently than germs? In fact, haven't we recently discovered that killing so many germs is actually harming us? Now we're back to square one.
So maybe we should consider that it takes all kinds. In regards to people and germs, maybe we should be less judgmental about which ones have value and which ones don't. Perhaps nature has known what she is doing all along. Isn't that what Darwin would argue? Survival of the fittest? By that logic maybe we should let the diseases take whom they will and stop fighting against nature who is sure to adapt and bite back. Hmm, the mind boggles. . .

Back to the whole vaccine debate: Why don't we make it illegal for anyone to state an opinion about vaccine safety unless they have studied all of the warnings on the vaccine package inserts, and passed a comprehensive test on the same subject?

(After all, people who argue a thing based only upon what they have been told by others, with no personal research of their own, give me a headache.
Headaches should be illegal.)

Once we have perused those package inserts, it becomes a bit more clear why some have chosen to take the risk of disease which could be cured with the right treatments, over the risk of permanent side effects and life debilitating diseases.

By the same logic that anything potentially harmful should be illegal, then vaccines themselves should be illegal.

When all is said and done, I'm really not going to stress myself out about what you have decided is individually right for you . . . in regards to anything really. Which is the entire point of this post.
YOU should be allowed to decide what risks you are going to take, yes, even if those risks that you are taking might somehow affect others around you. 

If we lived in a perfect world, where every citizen of this planet was law abiding and everything was always fair. . . Where every single person---men, women and children have all of their basic needs met, and where no one ever entertains a selfish desire . . . Then we might discuss the possibility of passing a law that will benefit 'the greater good.' Until then, perhaps we could use all this energy to try and make that perfect world a reality rather than displacing our anger on each other.

Be angry at the harmful things themselves, not at the people who are trying the best they know how, to solve the problem. Actually, I might suggest that anger is pretty pointless even when directed at the source of harm. I would suggest understanding your enemies is the best way to know how to defeat them. I think we can all agree that this is our real goal. Trying different methods to defeat a common enemy. So we should not be opposing each other at all. If harm is the enemy, and we are all seeking to remove or avoid harm, then we ought to be treating each other with a huge degree of regard and respect, if not love. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

There, I said it. Perhaps you are seething with anger right now, so for your own sake, take some deep breaths, count to ten, and exercise your smile muscles. You are alive, and breathing, and you can read!
How awesome is that?

Now, I sincerely want to thank you for reading this through to the end. If you did not read every word I wrote, please do us a favor for the greater good and do not bother posting any comments. Obviously, such an action would be like drawing a consensus from a survey based on only a piece of the data.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

I will be the first to admit, that my opinions are obviously very biased to my side of the debate. (This is MY experience after all) But for me, it's still a very personal decision, based on what I have learned through studying package inserts and reading various articles, studies, and reports. If you are interested in further reading, here are some interesting tidbits, (besides what has been linked to above) that I have collected on this subject:

Here's another great article about why we should be allowed the choice.

Package insert for the Trepedia Vaccine. (Page 11 of this Vaccine is particularly interesting as it actually lists Autism as a possible adverse effect. That's from the manufacturer.)

Here is a little paradox. While this NBC news report claims that older children are more at risk for febrile seizures as a side effect from vaccine's, This site, which is where adverse effects are officially reported, states in the second paragraph down that babies are at greater risk for high fevers, seizures and SIDS. The last of which most concerns me. It also states that these things could be coincidence.
It seems pretty obvious to me that the only way to be sure they are would be to not have the vaccine, at least not in a child so young. Then if your baby did suddenly die of SIDS you could be sure that the vaccine had nothing to do with it. Otherwise, you would always wonder if you chose to allow an injection that had the side effect of killing your baby. The risks are there, you can decided which ones are worth taking.

The package inserts on every vaccine I have read, clearly state that the administrator of the vaccine needs to go over the possible risks of the vaccines and deliberating with the parents of a child before deciding if a child is eligible to receive a shot.
I don't know about you, but this is not what my pediatrician did when she injected my oldest child. The most she did was hand me a multi-page list of warnings (The package insert, perhaps?) that was overwhelming at best for any first time mom, and asked me if I wanted to read it. All the while giving the impression that her time was limited and I really ought to hurry this appointment along.
If that's not manipulation, I don't know what is.

All she needed to say was something to the effect of:

"If you choose this vaccine, your child could be one of thousands who experiences the following adverse effects:

Blindness, (7 reported last year, 2014)
Autism (46 in 2014)
Death (133 vaccine related deaths reported in 2014)

Of course these will only be blamed on the vaccine if they occur within a short amount of time.
By accepting the vaccine you also run the risk of Leukemia or other autoimmune diseases, though these side effects will take months to develop and are therefore not proven to be a result of the vaccine. Dyskinesia is another adverse effect. This one is a sign of autoimmune sensitivity and could mean your child will develop cancer or another disease later on. 123 cases of vaccine related Dyskinesia were reported in 2014."

In case you're curious about were I got the above numbers by spending a LOT of time looking through the 2014 VAERS report. You can follow the link and do your own research on the adverse effects that have been reported.
Thanks again and may you have a healthy day!