My " Summer Fields" Salad (Advanced Plan)

Have you ever unexpectedly experienced a work of art? 

I had never in my life been to an art museum of such beauty and poignancy .  I walked from room to room with the look of overwhelming shock on my face.  Thinking back I must have been quite a sight, gasping at almost every painting I came to. I walked as slow as humanly possible trying to soak in every detail of that place. I didn't want that day to end.  Ever!

The paintings each told their own story, that's for sure.  And each one was beautiful beyond belief in it's own right.  But I had yet to see the masterpiece waiting for me in the very next room.  

As I rounded the corner, there it was.  It was so large it took up the entire wall physically.  It took up the entire museum in another way.  A "Monet"...right there in front of my very own eyes.  I never thought it would happen and there it was...no warning...no advertising...not even roped off.  Just there!  The colors of the painted Lillies lept off of the canvas.  It was begging for me to touch it.  So I did.  I really couldn't help myself, I stood there and felt the almost 3D brushstrokes before I ever realized I had done it.  I wasn't supposed to touch it, and was almost thrown out for it...but I did!

What made that painting a masterpiece?  I can not tell you in words.  The combination of everything it was made it that way...that is the best I can do.

Though it may sound odd to you, often times food achieves artwork status.  And every once in a while I accidentally discover something edible that makes me feel the way that painting did.  Though I would never dare to compare this salad to a painting by Monet; it is, to me, in it's own simple way...a work of art. 

I was not expecting it to be.  And it certainly didn't look like it is at first glance. 
And then I tasted it.

The flavor combination is very difficult for me to put into words...but I will try...if only to tempt you into making it for dinner tonight!

Here goes...
Intensely red organic strawberries, fresh, juicy and still bearing a hint of the flavor of the earth.
Creamy white goat cheese, subtle then vibrant as it melted in my mouth.
Sweet balsamic vinegar with a woodsy middle note.
Walnuts and olive oil, just as they were created to be.
And fresh organic greens full of life and health.

This is how it tasted to me, in the best way I know to say it.

Of course, if you make it tonight you may judge for yourself!

My "Summer Fields" Salad
Free of: Sugar, Chemicals, Bad Oils, Rancid Fat, Gluten
Full of: Antioxidants, Folic Acid, Calcium, Vitamin A and C, Fiber, Magnesium

1 lb. fresh organic spinach or mixed greens washed and dried
1 pt. organic strawberries, washed and sliced
1/2 cup raw nuts toasted (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, etc.)
1/2 cup organic goat cheese crumbled

3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
1 tsp organic dijon mustard
3/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
Mix dressing ingredients and whisk together until mustard binds the vinegar and oil.  Pour over salad, let marinade for 30 minutes and serve.


Licuado de Banana (Honduran Banana Shake) (Core Plan)

Saying it's hot outside is the understatement of the year.

I am blaming the 100 plus degrees for my sudden longing for cold drink recipes.  I want to cook, I really do. It's just so darn hot.  So, my inspiration as for right now is mainly coming from my blender...and a little ice.

Every year when the heat comes out in full force and the scorching West Texas sun starts beating down, I remember to be thankful for what in comparison is a mild summer.

You see, when I think back to the hottest weather I have ever survived...it was not in Texas.  It was in Honduras, San Pedro Sula to be exact, and it was the summer of 1999.  It's quite funny looking back on it now.  I just happened to be pregnant but was not yet aware of it.  And the temperature for an entire 3 weeks was no less than 152 degrees with 152% humidity (what a coincidence!). 

I wasn't nauseous.  Not yet anyway.  It was just that every food I looked at was entirely  "un"-appetizing.  I went 3 or 4 days not eating anything.  I just couldn't bring myself to it.

We sat in the hotel restaurant waiting for my husband's usual and favorite breakfast..."panqueques, tocino y huevos" or pancakes, bacon and eggs. (Ooooh, on a side note they drench their pancakes in honey instead of syrup! But that is an entirely different blog.)  The waitress checked on me several times to make sure I didn't want anything. I didn't. "No panqueques?" she'd ask.  "No...no panqueques!" I would reply...even as beautiful as they were.

Next to us there was a couple enjoying their breakfast and I noticed that they were both drinking what looked like milkshakes with their meal.  I asked the waitress what it was and she (not fully understanding me) turned quickly on her heals and re-appeared within a matter of seconds with my very own "Licuado de Banana" ...whether I wanted one or not.

Good news...after one sip I did!  The waitress was so proud of herself that she smiled from ear to ear.  She smiled the entire time we sat there.  She knew she was my hero!  I wanted another one an hour later.  I also wanted one before bedtime.  And for the next 2 and 1/2 weeks I thrived almost entirely on the cold, creamy, yummy nutrition of that freezing cold Banana Shake from Honduras.

And every summer for over a decade now...I drink one every chance I get!

Please, whatever you do, don't let the fancy name scare you off from attempting this one.  That would be such a mistake.  It is a simple, almost humble recipe with the most basic of ingredients.  And anyone with a blender can master it.

Note: The fresh, raw and organic part of this recipe is so important if you want to taste this drink to it's full potential.  This is what makes it!

Licuado de Banana (Honduran Banana Shake) (Core Plan)
Free of:  Gluten, Sugar, Processed Ingredients, Chemicals
Full of:  Real food, Vitamin D, Potassium, Iron, Calcium

16 oz raw organic Milk
1/2 to 3/4 cups xylitol (depending on brand)
3 tsp pure vanilla extract (not sweetened)
2 organic bananas
4 cups ice

Place raw milk, xylitol, vanilla and bananas in blender.  Blend on high.  Add ice and blend until fully blended.  Makes 4 12oz servings.


Sweet and Sour Vanilla Lime Spritzers (Advanced Plan)

Summertime always makes me think of one fruit...the lime.  And all of the things I will do with limes during the steamy hot months!  There are endless recipes that call for lime, but when I am craving it the most I need something that I can create and consume effortlessly.  This drink does the trick for me.  It has become our regular summer treat paired with almost every nightly meal.  It is a perfect replacement for unhealthy sugar filled soft drinks. Yep...simple summertime in a glass!

Sweet and Sour Vanilla Lime Spritzers (Advanced Plan)
Free of: Sugar and Chemicals
Full of: Antioxidants, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron

8 oz Mineral Water or Carbonated Water
5-10 Drops Stevia
Juice from on lime
1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (pure with no sugar)
Ice cubes

Fill glass with Ice Cubes and squeeze in lime juice.  Add Stevia and vanilla extract.  Pour mineral or carbonated water over ice and stir.


The Big Fat Myth

I haven't blogged in four days.  I have only been doing this for a couple of weeks and am already hooked enough that four days without blogging about food seems like 4 months.

I have been on a cooking class mission.  I spent the weekend shopping, chopping, dicing, experimenting, prepping, loading, unloading, slicing, sauteing, budgeting, laughing, learning and teaching.  I wish I could have blogged the entire time but am not that talented.  So, I made it a point to find out what the most asked question was and that question would be the topic of my next blog.

That question was..."Why am I allowed to eat so much fat?"
(You have surely noticed the abundance of what are referred to as "good-fats" in my recipes.  And you will never see a "low-fat" or a "no-fat" recipe on this blog.)

The answer is not a short one, and to hear the answer you have to be open-minded.  I strongly feel that what this country has been taught for the last few decades about fat is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I think that we as a country are finally beginning to understand that the low-fat, no-fat way of doing things has made this country what it is....fat and sick.

Let's look at some statistics!

This map from the CDC breaks my heart.  And it says something very important to me.  What we are doing, in my opinion is not working.  I think we as Americans were brainwashed into thinking that eating a diet low in fat would make us thin.  I don't think we realized that taking fat out of our foods would mean that in order for it to taste good, food manufacturers would begin to add things like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fake chemical sweeteners and chemical taste enhancers.  It would appear that a steady diet of these things makes our country fatter than fat does.

Think about it.  How long have we had problems in this country with childhood obesity and diabetes in such epic proportions?  These are fairly new epidemics...they certainly were not around in our grandparent's time.  Yes, our processed, high sugar, high grain (which turns to sugar immediately), processed chemical and manufactured diet appears to have taken it's toll and unfortunately I fear our young ones are paying the high price.

And they will continue to do so until we change it!

 So back to the question: "Why am I allowed to eat so much fat?"

I am not pointing a finger.  I asked this question myself, and am I ever glad that I did.

This answer came from my Chiropractor, Dr. Narrell.  It went like this.

"Fat does not make people fat.  The inability to burn fat makes people fat.  What makes us unable to burn fat?  When we have trained our body to burn only sugar.  How do we train our body to burn only sugar (the wrong energy source)?  When we eat a no fat-low fat diet and force our bodies to burn sugar for energy.  Your body can only burn one thing for energy and it's choices are fat or sugar.  People who are overweight are 'stuck' in sugar-burning mode.  This is plan B or an emergency back up plan ONLY.  Forcing your body to burn sugar for energy causes two things...weight gain and inflammation which causes the body to not function properly and this will eventually cause disease."

And that is the answer...in a nutshell of course!

This is why eating "good-fats" is so important to me.  Additionally, from what I have read, I personally feel that my son needs a lot of "good-fats" for his developing brain.  I can tell when my family eats good fats instead of bad fats and sugar. We have more energy, our skin looks better, our thinking process is smoother, and we feel over-all healthier. 

Please, do your own research on this.  I think you will find that "good-fats" are maybe the most misunderstood food category in the American diet.

Here is a short list of sources of good-fat:
Nuts and Nut Butters
Olive Oil
Coconut Oil
Flax seed oil
Raw dairy


Coconut Oil...go get you some!!!

I know that sounds bossy but I mean it. And after I tell you everything I know about coconut oil you will say it too.

Let's start with the back label of my jar of coconut oil.  It reads like this:
"  Contains 62% MCT's -medium chain "good fats" the body uses to produce energy.  As a dietary supplement, Coconut Oil is a good addition to physical activity, exercise and weight loss programs.
  • Certified Organic Non-GMO
  • Cold Pressed, Hexane-Free
  • Zero Trans & Hydrogenated Fat
  • Pure Extra Virgin
  • Unrefined, Non-Bleached
  • Delicious, Creamy Taste 
Recommendation: As a supplement, take 1 tablespoon 1-4 times daily.  May be used as a spread or added to salad dressings and smoothies
For Cooking:  Use in place of butter, margarine, shortening or other cooking oils for baking or frying in temperatures up to 350 degrees.
For Skin Care: Use as a moisturizing lotion.  Place jar in warm water to liquefy, then massage small amounts onto the skin.
For Hair Care:  Use as a conditioner.  Place jar in warm water to liquefy, then apply 2 teaspoons to hair 1 to 2 hours before washing."

That's what it says on the back. And that is why I never go without two jars...one in my kitchen and one in my bathroom.

I know a lot of you are very concerned with your fat in-take and with saturated fats especially, which coconut oil does contain.  But I promise, if you do research on the fat in coconut oil you will be pleasantly surprised.  The more you read about it the more you will see that it is necessary as a real energy source, to aid in digestion, to strengthen your immune system,  and for the effective functioning of several organs. You will also find that it is "anti" everything...anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-viral.  Also, apart from coconut oil the only other source of lauric acid found in such high concentrations is in mother's milk. In very few words the human body absolutely loves it. 

Watch this video to see a great explanation on why coconut oil is so good for you.
"Okay, so how do I cook with it?"  you ask. 

The last thing you want to do with a good fat is damage it in the cooking process.  I only use three oils, butter (NOT margarine), extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil. These are the oils (good fats) I know were not already damaged in processing. I use butter for very low heat and never let it turn brown.  If it does I have damaged it and must throw it out.  I use olive oil either raw on salads or for medium temperature cooking.  If it gets high enough to smoke, it has turned rancid (damaged) and it also will be thrown out.  Rancid or "Damaged" fats will wreak havoc on your body, especially after you are used to only good fat sources.

I said all that to say this, I tend to use coconut oil in almost all of my cooking.  I don't like to throw out food so I cook it in coconut oil if I ever think there is a chance my heat will get high enough to damage the other two.  If I am frying anything I will use it every time because I trust it to stay true and not turn rancid.  Also, frying in coconut oil makes fried food good for you.  Yes, it's true...fried food is not the culprit...you can blame the rancid oil and go on your way making all of your fried foods again in a healthy way by only changing your oils and flours.

My family loves to fry chicken and fish in coconut oil and coconut flour.  We add lots of sea salt, cracked pepper and paprika.  Try it...you're gonna like it.

 We have fried green tomatoes the same way.  Oh and okra..."died and went to heaven" fried okra.  I recommend mixing an egg and a tiny bit of Xantham Gum (in the specialty flour section)  if you don't want your batter to fall off as much.  You are so going to thank me!

Finally, I do recommend it in a daily smoothie.  The energy benefits alone are worth it.

So run out and get some today.  Open it up, stick your nose right down in the jar and take a big whiff.  Try to hold off slathering it all over yourself as you drive home (you will be tempted).  If it smells like you were just teletransported to the Bahamas, you got the right one.  Enjoy!


Coconut Date Balls (Core Plan)

There are a hand-full of kitchen appliances that I consider a must in a healthy kitchen...even for beginners.  One of the most important is a  food processor.  (The high-powered standing mixer is another, and I want to talk about it too... but it has nothing to do with this particular recipe. So I will hold off for now.)  In this day and age of fast-food and microwaves (both of which I have come to abhor) appliances like a food processor are essential for feeling remotely like you have a life after food.  It will give you the ability to throw a lot of yummy ingredients into one container, push a button and almost magically create a masterpiece that your whole family will enjoy.  Speaking of the whole family, right after you push the button and detach the bowl, kids absolutely love to discover it's new contents.  Recipes like this take 5 minutes and are fool-proof.  And by the way, I am all about recipes that are rolled into a ball and refrigerated for several reasons.  First, kids can take over while the head chef is attending to other important matters.  They tend to always be raw, lending to even more nutrition-dense snacking.  Also,  they store and travel ever-so-easily.

Coconut Date Balls (Core Plan)
Free of:  Sugar, Gluten, Grain
Full of:  Antioxidants, Good fat source, folic acid, and vitamins

1 cup organic dates
3/4 cup organic raw walnuts
1/4 cup + 1/4 cup organic non-sweetened coconut (for rolling in)
2 tsp organic vanilla-not sweetened
1/4 cup organic raisins
2 tablespoons water
1 tbs raw cocoa powder
Put all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.  Roll into balls and roll in organic coconut flakes and refrigerate.


No-Bake Cheesecake with Blackberry Sauce (Advanced Plan) With Key Lime Variation

 I can see it now as plain as I can see the kitchen I am sitting in and the laptop I am typing this on. 
I guess I was around twelve years old and we called my mom's mother, "Maw".  We were staying in Kentucky a whole month that summer and Maw was glad we were there.  Her unfenced backyard was nothing less than a jungle to me and my favorite cousin.  We spent hours helping her in her garden and tagging along as she picked and plucked and watered.  With her age came a little wisdom so when she became tired and needed a little peace and quiet she disappeared inside with the promise of a surprise upon her return.  We waited. She did return...and we were a little thrown when she walked out with a big bowl full of white sugar.  She bent over and whispered to us as we leaned in to listen.  She told us that if we walked around the house and towards the trees we would find a secret, and that we would be the only ones with the exception of her that knew about it.  She then handed us the bowl of white sugar and made us promise not to tell anyone what we found there. Then she assured us that when we found it, that big bowl of sugar would come in really handy.  (Yes, as an adult, the "big bowl of sugar" does make me cringe a bit.  Fortunately, this blog is not about the sugar... so keep reading.)  She also mentioned that when we found the surprise she was sure we wouldn't want to come back for a while, and that she was perfectly okay with that!  It would be our secret.
 Unknowingly set up by our own beloved Maw, we began our trek around the house.  We then walked to the tree-line, which back then seemed like miles.  I carried the sugar which looked even whiter in the summer sun.  I stopped and squinted and could smell it a split-second before I could fully see it.  There, right were she said it would be, was a beautiful blackberry bush; wild as they come and  loaded with what seemed like thousands of perfect berries too big to be real. 

We dipped and ate those perfect, juicy berries.  We ate at least one hundred each.  We ate them until both our stomachs ached and we were covered in an unmistakable purple stain that would never, ever wash out.
And then we went back.  Maw met us at the door to swiftly hide the empty sugar bowl.  And our parents, very much out of character, never asked where we were or why in the world we were so purple.

Not even once.

No-Bake Cheesecake with Blackberry Sauce-Advanced Plan (with Key Lime Variation)
Free of:  Gluten, Grain, Sugar
Full of:  Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, Vitamin C and K, Fiber, Folic Acid

1-16 oz bottle heavy whipping cream-Promised Land is best
2-8 oz pkgs organic cream cheese
1/2 cup xylitol-or to taste
1 organic vanilla bean
2 cups walnuts finely crushed
4 tablespoons raw or organic butter
1 pint organic blackberries
1 to 2 tbsp xylitol for berries(depending on sweetness of berries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Allow both cream and cream cheese to become room temperature.

Mix whipping cream until stiff.  Set aside.  Mix cream cheese and xylitol until smooth.  (The longer the better to break down xylitol).  Cut open vanilla bean and scrape inside into bowl.  Mix into cream cheese mixture.  Pour cream cheese mixture into whipped cream and mix by hand well but gently.  Place bowl in refrigerator and chill.

Finely crush walnuts by hand or in food processor.  Melt butter in preheating oven.  Place crushed walnuts in pie plate.  Pour melted butter into crushed walnuts and carefully blend until mixture becomes a ball.  With fingers press and mold into the pie plate.  It does not have to be perfect, even small holes will be okay.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until butter is mostly absorbed and crust is just turning brown.

Take crust out and let cool completely.  Do not put filling in even if your crust is slightly above room temperature.  Once it is completely cool, pour in cheesecake mixture.  Place in refrigerator to set.  The cheesecake mixture will bind the crust as it sets.  

Topping:  Process blackberries in a food processor.  Pour in a saucepan with 1 to 2 teaspoons of xylitol depending on the ripeness of the berries.  Cook on low heat and allow to simmer until it slightly thickens and becomes sauce-like.  If you would prefer to avoid the seeds, pour through a strainer and place sauce in refrigerator to chill.

Key Lime Cheesecake:  After mixing the cream cheese mixture and the whipped cream mixture I add about 1/3 cup of key lime juice and the zest of one key lime.  Again, you can use more or less depending on the tartness of your limes.


The Dirty Dozen- Avoiding Pesticides

It is the opinion of many well known and respected experts that toxins and chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to human health.  This is very true where pesticides are present.  Pesticides have been linked to neuropathy, leukemia, cancers, spontaneous abortion, decreased fertility, compromised immune systems and the list goes on and on.  So why, why, why do we continue to ingest poison on a daily basis with seemingly no concern? 

The answer to that question is almost always without fail, "Because organic costs too much!"  And no matter how many times I hear that answer it saddens me.  I know it is true that organic costs "more."  But "too much" tells me that person has already put a certain value on their health, and it's value is not much to them.

There are so many reasons why organic costs what it does, and they are truly viable reasons.  First, organic farming is done on a much smaller scale and is much more labor intensive than conventional farming.  The simple rules of supply and demand apply to organic farming also.  However, organic supply is growing so we can expect the prices of organic to slowly go down simultaneously. 

Second, conventional farming is usually subsidized by the U.S. keeping the cost of conventionally grown food artificially low, meaning the prices do not reflect the true cost of growing the food.  Organic farms are not subsidized; this means the prices will reflect the true cost of bringing it to market. 

When switching over to organic produce I feel it is important to take the "Dirty Dozen" list with you shopping.  This list was compiled based on an analysis of more than 100,000 U.S. government pesticide test results.  These 12 fruits and vegetables continually tested too high to be consumed safely and therefore should ALWAYS be bought only organic.  This does not mean the others are entirely safe, but it is a great starting point.

And here they are, the "Dirty Dozen"....

Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)

This produce usually will cost about 50% more, but is well worth every penny.  After all, it's all about how much we VALUE our health.  And how exactly do you put a price tag on that?