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Finally, a Purpose for Ridiculously Tiny Crockpots!

As a person who can never turn down free kitchen gadgets from friends who are moving or trying to get rid of clutter, I have assembled a collection of those 16 ounce “Little Dipper” crockpots for ants that come free with the normal size crockpots.  Each time I accept another free tiny crockpot, it is wrapped in the original packaging, which means that my friend never used it in all the years they had it in their possession.  Despite this, I get visions in my head of an amazing Mexican-themed dinner party with several flavors of homemade cheese dip being kept warm in the little baby crockpots, all snuggled in a row.  Well, after 2 years of storing a family of tiny crockpots still in their original packaging in my cabinet, I have finally come up with a daily use for them – making oatmeal!

My husband leaves for work pretty early and I always want to send him off with a warm breakfast (especially during the winter when it gets down below 70 degrees here in Honolulu at night – freezing!) but there’s no way that this pregnant lady with a toddler is going to get up early enough to make something fresh for my hard working honey.  He really loves oatmeal and it’s actually quite a healthy and filling breakfast if it’s prepared properly by soaking before cooking to reduce levels of phytic acid (a nutrient blocker that makes grain difficult to digest).  Here’s what I do:

  • Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oats in the crockpot and add twice as much water.  I like to use steel cut Irish oatmeal but just get whatever you can find at the store that seems the least processed.  If you are a gluten-free person make sure the oats are labeled as “gluten free” because many times, oats and gluten-containing grains are processed on the same equipment so there is cross-contamination.    Gauge how much you soak based on how much cooked oatmeal you want – using 1/4 cup of oats will expand to about a cup cooked, and 1/2 cup will expand to about 2 cups.  If you have time, let this soak for a few hours.  I like to put this on before I make dinner since I’m in the kitchen anyway.  Once in a while I don’t have time for this step so I skip right to the next one and my husband seems to survive okay!
  • After the initial soak, dump out this water and then add about 3 parts of water to 1 part of soaked oats.  You can also add a dash of buttermilk or whey if you have it to help make the oats even more digestible.  I add a pinch of Celtic salt at this stage to increase the mineral content, and a dash of cinnamon so the kitchen smells warm and comforting when my husband wakes up to eat.
  • Plug in your tiny crockpot and let cook overnight!
  • In the morning, mix with any toppings that make you happy to be awake: butter from grassfed cows, coconut milk, minimally processed cow’s milk or cream, chopped raw nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, raw honey, shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped dates, apple sauce, protein powder – whatever your heart desires.  If you’re more of a savory person, you can also mix an egg and some bacon or sausage in for a salty pudding reminiscent of a big hairy Irish man.
  • Fill crockpot with water to soak so it’s easy to clean up and use for the next day, unless you’re like me and have several tiny crockpots that can be switched out so there’s no hurry to clean up the used one and it can just sit on the counter taking up space and waiting to be washed.  Not that I ever do that.

If any of you readers out there have uses for tiny crockpots (other than cheese dip, I figured that one out already) please share them in the comments section!  I love finding new and exciting uses for all my kitchen gadgets.

December 7, 2011   2 Comments

Are you a member of the cool club?

I don’t normally write posts like this, but I wanted to make sure all you lovely readers out there knew that for the rest of October the Weston A. Price Foundation is undergoing its yearly member drive.  The WAPF is a truly amazing organization that has impressed me over and over again for their ability to take biochemical truths and turn them into simple guidelines that make health available to people.  Plus, they scientifically support my innate love for butter and coconut!  If not for their impact on my life as a nutritionist, you might be stuck reading boring drivel about the benefits of a fat-free diet and why margarine is a great idea.  But instead, as my sister once told a well-meaning guy friend who pinched her side and pointed out a little embellishment to her curve – the fat is the flavor!  So, add some flavor to your life and support this foundation so they can keep getting the word out about the importance of clean food, healthy fat, and a traditional, nourishing diet.  For only $40 a year you get access to the members only section of their website, a copy of their annual shopping guide booklet, and a quarterly magazine that contains interesting and entertaining info and is great to read at the beach, on the train (or in the bathroom – wherever you do your heavy reading is your business).  If $40 is out of your budget, they actually have a discounted rate of $25 for people with lowered income due to disability or unemployment.  And I promise I am getting no commercial benefit or kickback from this – I just renewed my membership today under my new name and thought I would take the opportunity to let you all know about it also.  So join if you can, and if you can’t then at least check out their website, so that you can put on a Utopian white shirt and join the clip art circular group hug containing a disproportionate amount of Asians that is pictured above and know that you are now a member of the cool club.

October 21, 2011   No Comments

Honeymoon Nutrition

My fabulous, wonderful, beautiful, talented, brilliant, and hilarious little sister got married a few days ago and is currently on her honeymoon.  While shopping for her bachelorette party gift I came across a horrifying amount of artificial sweeteners in the various edible oils and lubricants you can buy at Victoria’s Secret and other less classy establishments (sorry Grandma if you’re reading this!).  Yes, while everyone else is enjoying the funny gag gifts at such stores, I am the weirdo in the corner reading all the labels of the freaky love potions (I ended up buying my sister a tasteful nightgown and a classy and respectable book).  On almost every single container, I found various artificial sweeteners hidden in the ingredients such as Acesulfame K, Sucralose (Splenda), Aspartame, and Saccharin.  I do understand the rationale behind using artificial sweeteners in these products – you wouldn’t want to add real sugar to an area prone to yeast infections and artificial sweeteners are cheaper than natural alternatives.  And yes, I don’t think anyone is going to buy these products and eat entire bowls of them for breakfast so it’s not like the amounts you would be exposed to are the same as those causing cancer in lab rats.  But still, with so many chemicals in our environment that are causing levels of sperm to drop worldwide and making fertility more of an issue for so many people, it seems to me that the last thing a person should do is apply artificial sweeteners to an area that absorbs so much.

So, all that to say that I was deeply troubled after my shopping excursion, thinking of all the new couples starting out with funny wedding gifts that are actually poisoning their genitals (okay maybe I am being a little dramatic).  Rather than running into the shops and breaking all the bottles on the ground while hysterically screaming about the worldwide decline in sperm counts I decided to fight back by posting a few recipe ideas for all natural freaky deaky love potions that my dear readers can enjoy and make for their friends as wedding or anniversary gifts.  Enjoy!

Warming Coconut Cream -Combine the following in a 4 oz. squeeze bottle (for warm climates where coconut oil stays liquid) or a small jar (for cool climates where coconut oil stays solid):

  • 4 oz. Coconut oil (any kind except hydrogenated)
  • 2 drops Cinnamon essential oil
  • 2 drops Orange essential oil
  • 2 drops liquid Stevia

Cooling Coconut Cream– Combine the following in a 4 oz. squeeze bottle (for warm climates where coconut oil stays liquid) or a small jar (for cool climates where coconut oil stays solid):

  • 4 oz. Coconut oil (any kind except hydrogenated)
  • 2 drops Peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops Vanilla essential oil
  • 2 drops liquid Stevia

For a gift, you can give a cutely wrapped bottle of each of the above as a kind of His and Hers gift. Please note that any kind of oil will weaken latex so even though coconut oil is exceptionally good for skin it may cause your friends to have a creature of their own before their time if they’re using any type of birth control involving latex, such as latex condoms or a latex diaphragm (though most diaphragms these days are made of silicone).

Tropical Delight– Yes, the name is creepy enough to make it just as cool as any other edible massage oil on the market.  In an 8 oz. glass bottle or plastic squeeze bottle, combine:

  • 6 oz. Jojoba oil
  • 8 drops Jasmine essential oil
  • 4 drops Vanilla essential oil
  • 1 tsp Xylitol

Since this one is oil based it will also weaken latex.  Using xylitol as a sweetener may actually have some benefits for skin, since xylitol has been shown in some studies to kill overgrowth of yeast and harmful fungus or bacteria.

Cookie Potion– This one uses glycerine as a base, which is safe for latex.  The smell I recommend is vanilla, a smell which many men associate with love.  The theory behind this is that the smell of vanilla reminds them of the childhood smell of baking cookies.  In an 8 oz. squeeze bottle, combine:

  • 1/2 cup Glycerine (look for it either in the cosmetic or baking section at your local health food store)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp alcohol-free Vanilla extract (real, not imitation) or 12 drops Vanilla essential oil

Glycerine has a naturally sweet flavor, so there is no need for added sweeteners.

August 5, 2011   1 Comment

The Nutrition of Pie

For some reason, since adding the Ask Jessica feature to my website I have gotten an inordinate amount of questions regarding the nutritional benefits of pie.  I don’t know what it is about my website that attracts so many over-the-top pie lovers, but I’m thankful for the business!  Even if some of you are creepily serious about your pie questions.  Here’s one of my favorite pie-related questions so far.  And honestly, if I get any more questions about the nutrition of pie I’m going to have to open up an entirely new page on my website because it seems that my readers care way more about pie than they do about any health topic I could write about!

Q: What kind of pie should I make? Fruity, nutty, chocolatey or custardy?  Please assume all ingredients are organic, if that helps.

A: Each type of pie you have listed has its own benefits, so why don’t I help your decision making process by listing them out below.

  • Fruity: Fruit pies contain (you will never guess) – fruit.  And fruit, being a natural produce item, has plenty of health benefits depending on which type you use.  Blueberries have been found to contain antioxidants that protect the brain, cherries contain natural pain relieving compounds and may help promote a good night’s sleep due to their melatonin content (especially tart cherries), and apples have been shown in some studies to keep those pesky doctors away (and they also contain trace amounts of chromium, a mineral that helps to balance out the insulin your body is releasing in response to a huge slice of sugary pie).  The downside to fruit pies is that they normally require the use of cups and cups of sugar.  I have found that adding a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of lemon juice helps reduce the amount of sugar you need to make the pie tasty.  You can also try substituting xylitol (natural sugar from birch trees) for all or part of the sugar in your recipe.  Just make sure that you work your way up to it – lots of xylitol in one sitting eaten by people who are not used to it may cause loose stool due to its laxative effect and may also cause a runny nose or general unwell feeling since it kills off excess yeast in the body, leading to detox reactions.  From personal experience, I have to warn you not to make a pure xylitol apple pie for your husband without telling him lest he dominate the ENTIRE pie in one sitting and then blame you for his explosive diarrhea the next day at work.
  • Nutty: Nuts contain healthy fats and also protein, both of which are very beneficial.  The downside with nut pies is that they require even more sugar than fruit pies to make them taste like a pie and not a 1970’s granola bar.  Most nut pie recipes (such as pecan pie) also require the addition of corn syrup which is not an ideal sweetener due to the fact that it mostly comes from genetically modified corn and if you have ever researched the subject or have seen the documentary King Corn, the idea of corn syrup would just give you the heebie jeebies.  You could try substituting stevia and/or honey for the sugar and corn syrup but I don’t know if that would crystallize properly.  At any rate, if you must make nut pie try using sucanat or another form of natural cane sugar that still contains the trace minerals and look for organic corn syrup, which actually does exist (Wholesome Sweeteners brand makes a variety).
  • Chocolatey:  I can only assume you are referring to a chocolate pudding type of pie here?  In that case, I would have to point to chocolate’s antioxidant properties which are highlighted over and over again especially in women’s health magazines since most writers rightly assume that the majority of women are addicted to chocolate.  My theory on this is that women especially crave chocolate because it is a source of magnesium (the mineral that balances out calcium levels) and most of us get a lot of calcium since we live in fear of bone loss but not quite enough magnesium to balance this out since there is not much press on the subject.  Magnesium is found in green vegetables, so somebody should start paying celebrities to pose for ads of them with green vegetable moustaches to bring more light to the fact that magnesium is just as important as calcium.  But back to your pie – the nice thing about pudding pies is that homemade pudding contains milk compounds and starches that have been shown to improve quality of sleep.  But if it’s chocolate pudding, the caffeine naturally present in chocolate may affect this a bit.
  • Custardy: Custard pies are made from eggs, the whites of which are an excellent source of protein and the yolks of which are an amazing storehouse of B vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and healthy cholesterol.  To get back to your original question, if I were to decide your pie fate I would pick a custard pie simply because eggs are so incredibly good for you.  Custard pies also contain milk, which may give you some of the milk pudding effect listed above.  And I would think that stevia, xylitol and/or sucanat would blend seamlessly into a custard pie.

June 13, 2011   2 Comments

Update on the Battle Against Stretch Marks and Hints for Losing Baby Weight

A few days ago I turned 30!  And I’m excited about being 30 for reasons I will explain in another post if Mr. Milk stays asleep long enough for me to enjoy some birthday week blogging.  Last year at this time I was very pregnant and wrote a blog on stretch marks.  I must admit here that I did not escape from pregnancy stretch-mark free – I do have a few souvenirs around my midriff to remind me that my little daredevil baby decided not to “drop” (the term used to describe when the baby moves from kicking you in the ribs constantly to a lower position in your pelvis which makes you waddle like a penguin and is usually a sign that they baby will be born in the coming weeks) until 8 hours before he was born.  So, rather than the gradual drop that most women get to enjoy a week or two before labor, I experienced rapid stretching of the skin as my little boy planned his great escape from my uterus which will cause some stretch marks no matter how much lotion it rubs on its skin.  But they are fading with time (and liberal application of coconut oil) so there is hope.

Stretch marks and all, I’m pleased to share that I’ve been happily sporting a bikini since my first trip to the beach a couple months after the boy was born.  And somehow I’ve managed to lose the baby weight well enough that I don’t have to wear my son as an accessory to explain to other beach goers “it’s baby weight, so stop wondering if I’m still pregnant”.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m no Heidi Klum – but I was able to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight pretty quickly without turning into a fitness freak mom.  Here are some things that helped me, hopefully they can help you too!

  • If possible, breastfeed.  Breastmilk contains about 20 calories per ounce, and with Mr. Milk drinking an estimated 40 ounces of milk daily I’m burning 800 calories extra calories a day doing nothing but sitting on the couch!
  • Eat lots of healthy fat.  The term “lots” may mean different things to different people (gauge it by how you feel when you eat healthy fat) but to me this is about 6 tablespoons of extra fat daily in the form of butter, cream, coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil on top of a base diet of foods rich in healthy fat such as fatty fish, eggs, shellfish, organic cheese, and grassfed meat.  Eating healthy fat helps your body to get rid of extra fat pounds and has the added benefit of making sure your baby is getting all the good brain fats from your milk.
  • Eat enough protein.  This helps your body to build muscle mass, repair from birth, and keep your hormones at healthy levels to prevent postpartum depression.  A good general marker is to eat the number of grams that is equal to half your body weight in pounds.  For example, a woman who is 120 pounds should eat about 60 grams while someone who is 160 pounds should eat about 80 grams a day.  If you are under more stress or are very active you may need more protein to help conserve muscle mass.  Also, if you have kidney problems then you may need less protein (ask your doctor).  To give you an idea of the protein content of foods, an egg contains 7 grams of protein, a large chicken breast or hamburger patty contains about 30 grams, a 3 oz. piece of fish contains about 20 grams, and a cup of beans contains about 15 grams.
  • Eat small meals all day (and night, if you’re up and you’re hungry).  This one is easy to do with a newborn because unless you have a live-in nanny or your mom lives next door you probably won’t be sitting down to three big meals a day for a while!
  • Drink lots of water.  Again, amounts vary but drink enough that your urine is light yellow (even if it is fluorescent from vitamins) and your milk (if breastfeeding) flows freely.  It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger and overeat the wrong kinds of foods as a response.  I have found that drinking out of a huge cup or quart-sized mason jar with a straw helps me drink enough water through the day to keep up with demand.
  • Take the baby for walks.  This was especially helpful for me in the weeks after Mr. Milk was born because I needed to get out of the house!

So that’s it!  It’s not rocket science but it worked (and was about all I could handle as a new mom figuring out how to care for my new creature).  If any of you have tips for losing baby weight please share them in the comments section!

September 27, 2010   3 Comments

Thank you Grandma

As I write this, the ashes of my Filipino grandma are being buried at Arlington Cemetery, right next to Grandpa.  She didn’t speak much English so we didn’t have a lot of deep conversations, but we had endless snuggle moments like those in the photo above (I’m the sleeper on the right and my cousin Christine is on the left).  We also had many moments centered around food!  Grandma was a great cook and stuck to the traditional Filipino style of cooking, which included lots of fat in the form of coconut, meat, eggs, broths, all sorts of shellfish, and fish (with the heads of course).  I think her way of eating and feeding her children and grandchildren the same way is the reason our family has enjoyed good health and beautiful skin for generation after generation.  Some would say it’s just genes, but I know Grandma did something to keep those genes happy and to ensure they would be passed on as her legacy.

On a personal note, I get a lot of flack for my coconut obsession but I must give credit where credit is due – my love affair with the coconut began as a very small child when Grandma taught me how to make kankanin (sp?), a  Filipino cake made of sweet rice, coconut milk, coconut cream, and brown sugar.  Thank you Grandma!

As you read this, hopefully something is coming to mind for you of what your own grandparents did to stand in the gap and eat or live in a way that would ensure that you would receive the best of their genetics.  And hopefully what you learned from them can be passed down to the next generations so we don’t forget how people ate and lived before the invention of fast food.

So, thank you Grandma for loving me and cuddling me and when there weren’t a lot of words to say that I could understand, thank you for feeding me and teaching me that coconut and shellfish and other foods that are persecuted by the anti-fat fear mongers were okay to eat.  There’s a whole lot more I could thank you for but since this is a nutrition blog I will leave it at that.

I would say rest in peace Grandma, but I know that as soon as you crossed over to that side of life, Grandpa was there to greet you and the two of you have already started your next adventure.  I miss you, but I know he missed you more!  I love you both forever.

May 27, 2010   2 Comments