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‘What’s with Wheat’ is a MUST SEE Documentary

“Food and medicine are not two different things: they are front and back of one body. Chemically grown vegetables may be eaten for food,  but they cannot be used as medicine.” ~ Masanobu Fukuoka

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In September 2016, I wrote a blog post “Oh Gluten, why do I not eat you so“. I do not have Celiac Disease but have chosen to exclude gluten (for the most part) from my diet. My article was a tongue-in-cheek review of societal perceptions when it comes to those of us who are ‘gluten intolerant’ and/or choose to exclude gluten from our diet.

For those living with Celiac Disease, gluten is a very serious matter.

The Canadian Celiac Association defines gluten as follows:

“Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.”

‘Gluten intolerance’ is misunderstood and, at times, ridiculed because of a limited  understanding of what is happening in the food system, where food comes from and how it is grown, harvested and subsequently processed.

Although I have read research and books upon books on gluten, non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (a term used to describe the “clinical state of individuals who develop symptoms when they consume gluten-containing foods and feel better on a gluten-free (GF) diet but do NOT have Celiac disease“) and other related conditions that are alleviated by excluding gluten from one’s diet, this radical documentary about the current state of wheat and the havoc it is wreaking on our bodies as well as the apparent rise in wheat intolerance is a MUST SEE for believers and skeptics alike!

Nutritionists, scientists, and farmers all discuss the following issues:

  • why wheat has become a major problem and
  • how today’s food production practices have led to a surge in gluten intolerance
  • ‘Leaky gut syndrome’ and what is really happening in the gut
  • the importance of the human microbiome and why it is rapidly changing (not for the better) as a result of the typical North American diet
  • how the gluten protein molecule interferes with the production of important hormones, and
  • why autoimmune issues are steeply rising

 

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The entire documentary is available on Netflix in Canada and in the United States. This is the direct link to “What’s With Wheat?” on Nexflix

 

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

Features photograph courtesy of Pexels.com

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Talking on the Radio About My Experience with Food Insecurity

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Listen to the show…click here

I am so grateful to Dr. Theresa Nicassio for having me back on her Radio Show to talk about a subject that I am so passionate about: Food Insecuritynot knowing where your next meal will come from due to financial constraint.

Last time I was on the show, I talked about the various Urban Garden projects happening around the world.  People are growing produce in the public realm as a way to tackle food insecurity in their neighborhoods and communities. These gardeners are engaged in grassroots work to compensate for the lack of direct social policies.

They are declaring their independence from the large-scale industrial agriculture system and the negative consequences of monoculture (single crop) farming on our health and the health of our environment through soil depletion, water pollution, generation of excess carbon in the atmosphere and the use of inorganic, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

Poverty is not the same as Food Insecurity. Higher unemployment, lower household assets and certain demographics (being a minority, renting vs. owning a residence) are associated with decreased access to adequate, nutritious food.

According to a University of Toronto Multidisciplinary Research Team (PROOF) for Food Insecurity Policy Research, food insecurity can be marginal where people are running out of money for food before their next paycheck, moderate, where families are having trouble putting a balanced meal on the table, or reducing portions and/or foods they eat to make ends meet, or severe, where people go without food for days.

All of these states of household food insecurity have significant impact on physical, mental and social health because people may be prevented from eating enough of the right kinds of nutrients to support and maintain good health, according to the PROOF researchers.

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This was the first time that I shared my personal experience of food insecurity with a wider audience. It was truly liberating to tell my story and give examples of how it played a role in my life. As I spoke with Theresa, I had a profound moment of realization, clarity and relief.

Being a psychologist, Theresa asked me how it made me feel to live in poverty as a new immigrant at nine years of age. The only emotion that surfaced was ‘shame’. Because I had never shared my story with anyone other than my husband, I never gave any thought to how I felt about it all and found it difficult to answer.

After reflecting on where the word ‘shame’ came from, I realized that early on, I drank the insidious cool-aid of Thomas Malthus and other such economic philosophers and social commentators whose theories continue to be debated and influential in modern society hundreds of years later despite their anachronous assumptions about human nature.

This excerpt from an article in Economist View, “Blaming the Poor for their Poverty” accurately sums up (without being reductionist) where my ‘shame’ about being economically poor came from:

“Ultimately, in Malthus’ view, the difference between the rich and the poor comes down to a difference in moral character. It is an attempt to convince us that poverty is inevitable, that it is the consequences of poor choices and the moral inferiority of the poor, and that there is little that can be done about it.

There is a long history of blaming the poor for being poor and downplaying other possible sources of inequality arising from differences in power, social position, institutional structure, and so on, followed by an argument that attempts to help the poor only serve to increase the incentive for immoral behavior.” Economist View 2006

People tried to convince me that poverty was inevitable (particularly as an immigrant) ever since my family and I came to Canada over 30 years ago. These were not malevolent strangers, these were people in my own extended family who themselves were immigrants. Interestingly, these relatives who had come to Canada with nothing managed to improve their financial circumstances through hard work but apparently did not hold the same hope for others or were perhaps using poor-shaming as a motivational technique. A very close version of Malthus’ theory became a part of my internal audio loop.

I felt there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was somehow morally inferior and our financial circumstances/low socioeconomic status, early on, were an outward manifestation, the ‘scarlet letter’, of moral baseness.

It has taken me 30 years to figure out why I felt less than and not ‘a part of’. After the radio show appearance, it dawned on me that I was playing this self-shaming loop in my head for all this time.

Why do I advocate and feel so passionate about alleviating food insecurity? Because upholding human rights and dignity of everyone on this planet through compassion, love, fairness, awareness and understanding is the only way forward.

Grow ~ Share ~ Thrive

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Surprisingly Simple Baklava Recipe (Gluten Free Option Included)

It’s been a while since I delved into recipe creation. The winter has a way of sending me into cooking hibernation. Now that the days are getting longer and I have taken a bit of a reprieve from cooking, I feel refreshed and ready to go.

Dessert is my first love. It is a pleasure in life that I never avoid.

I revel in creating desserts that utilize simple and natural ingredients. It is a way to honour both my needs and desires. It goes without saying that dessert brings a smile to my face.

When we lived in Edmonton, I was a frequent visitor to the European Bakery on 135th Avenue and 113 Street where the tantalizing sights and smells of phyllo pastry, syrupy gooeyness, nuts and spices warmed my dessert loving heart.

It has been a long time since I have encountered Baklava so the situation called for DIY time.

I have made this recipe vegan (all plant-based). A light olive oil makes the pastry light and flaky though butter does produce a more delicate pastry.

I did not put any sugar or sweetener into the filling itself. I found the sweetness of the syrup that is poured over the baked pastry sweet enough without being cloying. I found that the pinch of nutmeg in the filling provides an adequate ‘sweetness’. If you feel like  you need to add some sugar to the filling, a 1/4 cup of organic cane sugar or coconut sugar should do the trick.

For those of you who are gluten free, here is a recipe from my go-to gluten free blog Gluten Free on a Shoestring for Gluten Free Phyllo Pastry. Nicole has worked hard to develop an excellent recipe and for that I am thankful.

You can also request that your local health food store bring in pre-made gluten free phyllo pasty or use gluten free ‘puff’ pastry which is more readily available with very similar results.

If you don’t have lemon rind, cinnamon sticks or cream of tartar on hand, do without. Don’t let perfection get in the way of greatness.

Recipe

2 cups mixed nuts, chopped (walnuts, cashews, pistachios)

1 tsp cinnamon, ground

1/2 tsp mixed spice (pinch of nutmeg, cardamom)

pinch of cloves, ground

10 sheets of phyllo pastry

light olive oil for brushing

Syrup

1 cup real maple syrup

2 tablespoons organic coconut nectar

pinch of cream of tartar

1 cup water

2 strips of lemon rind (use a peeler)

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves, whole

How To

  1. Combine Nuts, spice and sugar (optional) and process in a food processor until you nuts are chopped up. Cut each phyllo sheet in to 3 even strips along the width.

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    quickly process nuts and spices to combine
  2. Brush each sheet with oil. Place approximately 1 heaped tablespoon on the end closest to you. Fold pastry over the filling and then roll up to make a cigar.
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    place spoonful of mixture at one end of phyllo pastry

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    carefully fold phyllo pastry over (it tears easily) and  roll
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 C). Place cigars on a greased baking sheet. Brush with oil and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.
  4. For the Syrup: combine maple syrup, coconut nectar, cream of tartar and water over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add lemon rind and spices. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Do not stir once it starts boiling.
  5. Pour syrup over baked phyllo cigars and garnish with finely chopped nuts or ground cinnamon. Can be server hot or cold.

 

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The Power of Inclusion ~ A Story of One Woman on a Mission

“Taking care of my little plot with mindfulness, awareness and consistent presence is the best I can do to help mother earth and mankind. Being a responsible citizen of the world, taking care of my family and my health creates one less crisis for an already burdened system.” ~ Cheryl Gittens-Jones, Author, ‘Sister Survivor’ and my friend

As I am watching the women and men give speeches in Washington D.C., I am moved to continue to share in the grassroots positive action that is gaining such momentum around the world. Large or small, action matters. Voices, big and small, matter.

Grassroots action is the only way to set into motion the potential for larger political change. This action is the bridge from grassroots projects to the lager complicated issues that affect almost everyone on this planet.

Let’s lead by example, use our skills and voices to build the bridge for top down, systemic change.

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I want to share a powerful example of grassroots action that inspires and supports positive change.

Last week, I made a trek to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to attend the Gluten Free Expo for the second time. Last year, I met Dr. Theresa Nicassio at the Expo. She was one of the vendors and, on a whim, I purchased her book YUM: Plant-based recipes for a gluten-free diet. I read YUM on the ferry ride home to Vancouver Island. I was immediately struck by the gravity of the content. Not because it was a heavy read but because, for the first time, I felt like I was reading information that made sense.

Frankly, YUM was my first plant-based cookbook. It was the first time (or the first time in a very long time) reading a bold message of inclusivity in any genre; a book  that overtly stated the intention of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who suffer from disease, food allergies or food sensitivities. It was a book for anyone about using food (plants) as a way to heal and nourish the body; a book that acknowledged the difficulties inherent in changing one’s diet; a book that acknowledged human love of pleasure and preference to avoid pain; a book that made growing my own food seem possible.

YUM accepts, embraces and honours these inherent elements of human nature….it acknowledges life as it is, instead of rejecting, judging, or trying to control it (efforts that are typically futile and not sustainable anyway). ~YUM pg. 2

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This is not just a cookbook, it is a blueprint for the way forward in all realms.  Whether intentional or not, Theresa not only made her debut in the culinary world, she blasted a way for a new way of thinking. In my opinion, YUM’s underlying message and motivation is really about social, political, economic and environmental justice, healing and love.

It is Theresa’s infectious light, positivity, love and shear determination that I want to briefly share with you. Her life and work have inspired me and opened my mind to the world of infinite possibilities. She is a renegade and this is my way to honour a woman who has inspired me to step outside fear and self-limitation and to embrace the power and responsibility I have to live out the values of acceptance, justice and equality and pass them on to my children.

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Theresa’s love and care permeates the book. Her writing sharpened my vision for my future, including my blog and writing endeavors as well as my eating habits and overall approach to stewardship and care for our planet. YUM honed my vision of vibrant health, vitality, and longevity as well as the desire to help others achieve the same.

Soon after meeting Theresa, I had the pleasure of interviewing her. Theresa was my first interview for my blog.

Almost exactly one year later, I am so thrilled and humbled to call Theresa my friend. After several conversations over the phone and email exchanges, we made plans to meet up at the Gluten Free Expo and to check out Zend Conscious Lounge in Vancouver.

Theresa says she’s a small town girl from California but her presence left us starstruck and amazed. First of all, she is a calm force of nature (so is water) and second, she looks at least a decade younger (BTW this seems to be a theme with these wonderful women who eat plant-based diets – they all look at least 10 years younger than their chronological age).  In her humble way, Theresa responded to our adoration with “I’m just a normal person on a mission to inspire and help people”.

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True to her words, Theresa spent the entire Expo doing Facebook Live with various new and start-up companies, connecting new entrepreneurs who are engaged in sustainable product development and taking in all the flavours.

Theresa’s gratitude and appreciation for life is palpable. She used food as her medicine after suffering for many years with autoimmune diseases, debilitating pain and uncertainty about her future. During her toughest days, Theresa’s goal was to make it to her oldest daughter’s high school graduation. She now shares that which she has found through her struggles with those around her selflessly.

The seriousness and ethereal beauty of her book which she painstakingly and loving brought into the world – taking all the photographs and carefully developing the recipes – is balanced by her gregarious, easy-going nature and her predilection for being a ‘shit disturber’ with a naughty sense of humor.

Since the launch of her book, Theresa has traveled to China and to Germany, won the Best in the World Gourmand Cook Book Award in the category of Diet as well as many other accolades for her tireless work.

It turns out that YUM was merely a platform for Theresa’s highly contagious spirit and determination to be of service. She is not only the ‘inclusive chef’, she is an example for humanity. Inclusion is a rare commodity and an ideal rarely espoused by society. Those who model such behavior and uphold such a personal philosophy are extraordinary.

These days, Theresa is busy with her new radio show, The Dr. Theresa Nicassio Show on healthylife.net, as well as writing key-note speeches, giving talks to aspiring, would be self-published authors and, as I witnessed first hand at the Gluten Free Expo, a wind in the sails of up and coming, fledgling companies and businesses.

Through her radio show and her Facebook Lives, she gives a voice to those who have not found theirs just yet. This all positive talk radio show casts a weekly spotlight on and celebrates everyday heroes; regular people from all walks of life who take grassroots action to help the world be a better place. This opportunity to do a radio show presented itself about two weeks before it was go time. I’m glad Theresa seized the opportunity to bring her hopeful message to a new and larger audience.

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Topics include the power of art, teaching kids with mindfulness, the impact of sharing joy, environmentalism, healthy aging, mood & brain health and list goes on. All broadcasts, starting from December 2, 2016, can be heard on demand here. Live shows are broadcast every Monday at Noon Pacific Time.

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~ G. K. Chesterton, Novelist & Poet 1874-1936

 

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Who needs Noodles when you have Spaghetti Squash

My Squack’n Cheese Comfort Food Recipe

October is all about simple, comfort foods that are just good, ‘clean’ fun.

I hope that you have had a chance to download and check out my first ever eBook, “Top 5 Desserts”, featuring the 5 most raved about no dairy, no flour, no refined sugar desserts from Recipes of My Home.  This book is for the whole family – ice cream, cake in a cup, lemon tart, strawberry pie AND chocolate coconut balls!

Just in case you haven’t, download it here. It’s Free and you don’t even need to share your email. My mission is to spread the word about #realfoodistheingredient. Although it would be great if you followed Recipes of My Home (just fill in the pop up form in the bottom right corner of your screen) as I have a lot more great gifts and ideas coming soon.

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By following Recipes of My Home, you get the latest blog posts directly to your inbox.

Once you have the eBook in your hand, you can make a delicious dessert to go with your Squack ‘n Cheese. As far as I am concerned, dessert is always in style and on the menu, especially when it has no refined sugar, flour or dairy. I know that you will find a dessert or five you will love.

In the mean time, I have been busy testing simple, nourishing recipes over the last little while and posting some pictures on Instagram. It is now time to serve up the recipes.

Squack ‘n Cheese is my version of Macaroni and Cheese, which I love and used to gobble by the box slathered with ketchup.

Roasted spaghetti squash keeps well when refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to 3 months.  This means that you can make the spaghetti squash ahead of time and use it as needed for a quick, healthy supper any time of the week. Heat and serve – it doesn’t get any easier then that.

Recipe

serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium spaghetti squash

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (available at your local health food store in the bulk bins)

pinch of fine sea salt

1 teaspoon of olive or avocado oil

2 to 3 Brazil nuts

Add your favorite topping

How To

A video is worth a thousand words. I really like this 4.5 minute video on how to roast a spaghetti squash and get those ‘noodles’ onto your plate. It is well worth watching.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F: Preheat the oven while you prep the squash.
  2. Slice the squash in half: Use a chef’s knife to cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise from stem to tail.
  3. Scoop out the seeds: Use a soup spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy bits of flesh from inside the squash. Why not roast the seeds for a healthy snack.
  4. Place the squash in a roasting pan: Place the squash halves cut-side down in a roasting pan.
  5. Pour in a little water (optional): Pour a little water in the pan, enough to cover the bottom. Your squash will roast just fine without it – the water helps the squash steam and become more tender.
  6. Cook the squash for 30 to 45 minutes: Transfer the squash to the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Smaller squash will cook more quickly than larger squash. Check the squash after 30 minutes.
  7. The squash is done when tender: The squash is ready when you can easily pierce a fork through the flesh all the way to the peel. The flesh will also separate easily into spaghetti-like strands. Taste it – if the noodles are still a bit crunchy for your taste, put the squash back in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Scrape out the squash: Use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel and to separate the flesh into strands. The strands wrap around the squash horizontally — rake your fork in the same direction as the strands to make the longest “noodles.”
  9. Serve the squash: Serve the squash immediately or let it cool before freezing it.
  10. Dress it up: drizzle with avocado oil or olive oil, sprinkle on nutritional yeast and salt, combine. Finish off by grating Brazil nuts over top. I like to use grated Brazil nuts as ‘cheese’. Or, whip up  and serve with some Hummus to give it that extra ‘cheesy’ taste and texture.
  11. Add your favorite topping. Try this Bruschetta or even this Salsa.

Please Enjoy and let me know how yours turned out.

 

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Oh Gluten, Why Do I Not Eat You So?

Do any of these phrases sound familiar or have you actually used these as reasons for avoiding gluten? 

  • I feel  much better when I don’t eat it
  • I don’t feel so bloated
  • I’m gluten intolerant
  • My guts work much better 
  • I’ve lost weight
  • I just stay away from that stuff
  • Gluten is evil (Thank you, Unknown Bachelorette: Chris’ Season)

If so, then you’ve probably come face to face with this critical question:What in the world IS Gluten? The following video provides some interesting and quasi-enlightening definitions. 

Jimmy Kimmel asks people who avoid gluten, “What is Gluten?

First things first, according the Celiac Disease foundation:

“Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. 

Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.”

In Canada, approximately 350,000 people have Celiac Disease which is the inability to process gluten. The Celiac Disease Foundation states: 

“Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. An estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has celiac disease. Celiac disease can affect men and women of all ages and races.”


There are many in the scientific community as well as in popular culture talking about eliminating ‘gluten’ from our diet. They talk about wheat belly, leaky guts, gluten sensitivity or intolerance and how eating gluten may impact the human immunize system. There are others who run in the same circles who claim that ‘gluten intolerance’ is a mere placebo effect, that is, it’s all in the mind. 

Books upon books are trumpeting the message of self-empowerment to take a stand against wheat. A simple Google search will reveal a search engine results page containing leaky gut symptoms, leaky gut treatment, leaky gut syndrome, leaky gut diet plan, and various leaky gut books. 

Dr. Davis, cardiologist, believes that current nutrition guidelines, which include refined wheat, have led the world into a whirlwind of obesity, diabetes, and other ‘modern’ health issues including rheumatoid arthritis and even multiple sclerosis. Wow. Could a few proteins be responsible for that?

Why wouldn’t you take advice from a cardiologist or a nutritionist, who tell you that eating today’s wheat (which has been genetically modified and over processed by big agro) is a major trigger for auto-immune diseases. They point out the ‘nutritional’ mistakes that millions of people are making and provide ‘genuine science’ behind the consumption of whole grains (ancient grains) over refined grains, such as wheat.

Let’s ask Dr. Weil about ‘leaky gut’ syndrome. He states that although ‘leaky gut’ is currently not widely recognized by the medical community as a diagnosis, research is finding that it is a condition that may affect the lining of the intestines. Leaky gut refers to the idea that the walls of the intestines are somehow not that good at keeping toxins, bacteria and waste on the inside. Some of those toxins may go through the lining and end up in the bloodstream, setting off an inflammatory/autoimmune response in the body.  

What do other people in popular culture say?  Here are 10 signs you may be gluten intolerant. Others feel that the ‘gluten-free’ movement is just a marketing ploy that’s ruining our relationship with food.


Below is a video titled “Is gluten sensitivity actually real?”

‘Is gluten sensitivity actually real?”

 

Why I Avoid Gluten

I often get asked why I avoid gluten since I don’t have Celiac disease. As a rule, I avoid gluten (products containing refined wheat including all-purpose flour) and here are some things I noticed when I initially stopped eating it. Obviously, this information is anecdotal and shared for information purposes only.

1. When there was no bread to dive into, fruit and veggies took its place. As soon as I eliminated wheat based food, (it was “easier” to munch on a muffin, toast or make a sandwich), I found that I was eating many more fruits and vegetables.

2. As a result of eating more fruit and vegetables, I lost weight.

3. I felt better after losing weight – the fruit, vegetables, smoothies, and proper hydration made my digestive system ‘miraculously’ work much better (I will spare you the details).

4. I know that when I eat gluten, I over eat. It just tastes so darn good. So as a lifestyle choice, I just stay away from gluten as much as possible.

Am I gluten intolerant? No. Are some people gluten intolerant? Research is on going.

What about the Gluten Free Diet and Gluten Free Products?

CBC Market place did a very informative piece on eating a gluten free diet and commercially available gluten free products. Help or Marketing Hype? You decide.

I couldn’t help but include a video that pokes a bit of fun at those of us who embrace a gluten free diet by choice (those of us who DO NOT have Celiac disease but choose to avoid gluten anyway). The video is titled ‘How to Become Gluten Intolerant”. Thank you, Cindy for passing this video on.

Additional reading on Gluten:

Live Science: What is Gluten?

Canadian Celiac Association: What does ‘gluten free’ mean in Canada?

Washington Post: How the gluten-free movement is ruining our relationship with food

FDA: Gluten free now means what it says

Dr. Weil.com: Leaky Gut

Dr. William Davis: Wheat Belly Blog