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herbal medicine diaries

You know you’ve been studying herbal medicine for a minute when someone tells you that their diverticulitis symptoms have returned and you grab a shovel to go dig up some burdock root to make tea.

Freshly harvested burdock root

Turns out a different symptom precluded including the burdock right now. Not deterred, I formulated a different tea to soothe and protect the irritated and inflamed tissues of the GI tract using calendula flower, matcha, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and whole stevia leaf. I’m drying the burdock root to grind into a powder for a tea once precluding symptoms abate 🙂

I know it’s odd, but I find so much joy in learning about human, plant, soil, and microbial health. And because hefty research like this always leads me to heightened curiosity, I wound up diving headlong into the nutrition profiles of plants, fungi, and microbes, and how and why they ameliorate health conditions in humans. Why? Because I’ve found that learning more about our natural world increasingly liberates me from the yoke of industry’s consumerisms.

And if anyone’s curious, burdock, and a TON of medicinal plants, are commonly considered weeds (to anyone but herbalists) and are sprayed with Round-Up, a weedkiller that kills the plant and its soil microbiome. Is it surprising that Round-Up is owned by Bayer, a pharmaceutical company, and the weeds that are often targeted by Round-Up are medicinal? Or that use of Bayer’s Round-Up on crops is now being shown to alter livestock and human microbiomes, which correlates with increased gut problem prescriptions? But I digress ?

Plants are medicine. We choose to grow food and medicine, not lawns 😀

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Quinoa bread, cornbread style

I’ve been meaning to play with making plant-based whole-food breads for a while, and when Joe said that he’d like cornbread and beans for dinner some time soon, I thought I’d try making a cornbread-style quinoa bread … and upped the challenge by making it sugar-free, too!

The sweetener? Roasted sweet potato puree.  Yep, just a roasted sweet potato that’s been whipped around in the food processor for a minute. 

Oh. My. Goodness. The taste and texture of this bread is nothing short of amazing. I never would have thought that quinoa could be a step-in substitute for cornmeal. 

This is seriously nommable.

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa flour (If you have a high-speed blender, you can blend up the whole grain to make the meal)
  • 1/2 cup tigernut flour (If you don’t have tigernut, add 1/2 cup quinoa)
  • 1/2 cup cassava flour (If you don’t have cassava, add 1/2 cup quinoa)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (roasted and pureed with skin)
  • 6 tbsp water (warm)
  • 2 tbsp flax meal (If you have a high-speed blender, you can blend up the whole grain to make the meal)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup soy milk (Or other nondairy milk of your choice)

The Basics

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Put a well-seasoned 10-12″ cast iron skillet in the oven to heat up.

Prepare items that need to sit

  1. Mix flax meal with water and set aside.
  2. Mix nondairy milk with vinegar and set aside.

Prepare batter

  1. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk to thoroughly incorporate. Tip: Double, triple, or even quadruple this dry mix and store in a cool dry place. You’ll always be ready to whip up a batch!
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry mix.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato puree, nondairy milk mixture, flax meal mixture and mix well.
  4. Pour sweet potato mix into dry mix and stir until just moistened.

Bake it!

  1. Pour batter into hot skillet and use flat edge of a spatula to smooth the top.
  2. Bake 17-20 minutes, or until a clean knife comes out clean from the middle and the top is golden brown.
  3. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!
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invited to the pulpit

Jazzy speaking at the Rogers Seventh Day Adventist

I’m a plant-based health nut. I get it. Most people generally aren’t interested in hearing about plant-based nutrition or changing their dietary habits. Maybe it’s because the connection between their diet and the way they feel day-to-day in relation to their overall health isn’t strong enough. Or maybe it’s because the dietary shift is perceived to be too strange, too costly, too time-consuming. Or because they think the benefits of keeping meat/fish/poultry and their by-products in their diets are greater than the benefits they think they will gain from eliminating them. Or simply because they think eating only whole plant-based foods is too restrictive and unpalatable.

Whatever the reason, I get it. I’m a plant-based health nut and any extended conversation with me is bound to wind up somewhere around nutrition and our microbiome.

One of my best friends told me that I sometimes sound like I’m talking about a religion when talking about my dietary lifestyle. I really appreciate when people are open and honest about things like that, and I’m always receptive to hearing personal observations and constructive criticism. I truly value her opinion, so I paused and reflected, and right then and there decided that is not how I want to be perceived.

I treasure that my inner circle of family and friends finds my special brand of goofy and enthusiastic plant-based superhero antics both entertaining and a testament to my undying affection, but I have chosen to give everyone a break for a while .

Why? Because they’ve heard my spiel before. More than likely more than once, too. And although it’s ridiculously hard to only offer a compassionate ear and lots of long squeezy hugs as they tell me about all of the health and weight issues troubling them and their circle of family and friends, I have to zip it or risk isolating the people I care about most.

With all of this zipping going on, it was beyond wonderful to be invited to share my plant based health journey with the congregation at the Rogers Adventist Church. Here’s how it happened:

I became a co-Leader of Eat Green NWA last month. Eat Green NWA is a local grassroots chapter (called a pod) of the PlantPure Nation. Our goal is to inform and support the population in shifting away from the Standard American diet (SAD) and towards whole-food plant-based nutrition.

My co-Leader Sean suggested that we have our first meeting at the vegetarian soup kitchen at the Rogers Adventist Church.

Shameless plug: If you’re in the Northwest Arkansas area and are curious about plant-based nutrition … check us out of Facebook at EatGreen NWA!

Sean had been meaning to go to the soup kitchen for a while, and I’ve been curious about it every time I pass by the sign for it, so this was a great opportunity for us to check it out together.

Not only did Sean and I discuss future chapter activities over a tasty and well-balanced meal, but we were also engaged by quite a few church members who overheard our conversation and started to ask questions. We had a great time answering questions about our plant-based lifestyles, about our outreach and activity plans for the pod, and about our individual plant-based pursuits. And we especially enjoyed hearing about the soup kitchen and the church’s efforts to help improve the health of its congregation and broader community.

I was happy to share that my husband and I have recently decided to build a commercial kitchen to develop and sell my very own line of plant-based products. Stay tuned. ?

I was surprised when Marc, a leader in the church, invited me to address the congregation “this Sabbath” (yesterday). Both nervous and excited, I accepted, and organized my main talking points over the next few days.

Remembering my previous frustration at not having business cards to distribute, I seized this opportunity to finally order them. It’s not like I haven’t had the design completed for months now  I was lucky enough to find a place that printed my cards and had them on my doorstep in 2 days. Yay!

JCK Business Cards

I arrived at church early and sat in the fellowship hall listening to the lovely sounds of choir practice. When Marc arrived, he greeted me warmly and later introduced me to the pastor and members of the church involved with the soup kitchen and fellowship nutrition. They were all pretty busy with greeting other members and doing last minute tasks before service, so I sat in the dining hall until the service started.

When the time came, Marc made opening comments and began introducing me. I was humbled by what he said.  He spoke about how he had been wanting to find ways to help the congregation improve their health through plant-based eating.  About how he usually doesn’t go to the soup kitchen, but happened to go on the same day that Sean and I happened to visit the soup kitchen for the first time.  About how this seemingly random meeting at the soup kitchen was a predestined divine appointment. And now let us welcome Jasmine. Oh my goodness.

I don’t know about predestination, but I do know that his welcoming introduction and invitation to share my experience and knowledge was exactly what I needed. It helped quell the frantic butterflies in my stomach and make them fly in formation. And more importantly, it helped bolster my confidence in this crazy pursuit of mine to share plant-based nutrition in a meat-crazed world.  Here was an audience that wanted to hear about taking charge of their health through plant based nutrition.

And when I recognized that, I walked more confidently up to the pulpit and began sharing my lifelong history of chronic sickness and autoimmune conditions. You know, the usual … food and skin allergies, regular sinus infections and issues, susceptibility to colds and flu, days missed from school, weight struggles … all that good stuff. Doctors prescribing prescriptions, not lifestyle changes. New autoimmune conditions expressing themselves every few years as the pounds continue to pile on, along with the “necessary” prescription and medical care costs. I stopped weighing myself when I reached 230 lbs in my 30s. I was only 5’2″ (I’m 5’3″ now, but that’s a tale for another time). And then after an emergency room visit, I started asking myself can “how I change this?”.

From there, I went on to share how I took charge of my health by adopting a whole food plant based lifestyle, and I did it with the guidance and tireless support of my amazing friends at Delicious Healthcare. Phree (my high school friend) and Erin (his lovely wife and my health muse) have been saving lives using plant-based nutrition for almost 20 years, and I gotta say that they probably saved me, too, even from thousands of miles away. I’ve always been a bit of a chef, but they vegucated me and helped me shift my culinary talents away from animal products and towards the widest and most colorful array of nutrient-dense plant-based foods I can find or grow. And now, at 50, I’m in the best health of my life and am doing my best to share the health with others. Mahalo, my friends.

I’ll share my story another time. This post is about the importance of this speaking engagement, not its content. ?

But I will say that speaking to this congregation felt good. I never thought I’d hear an “Amen!” after anything I said, but different members of the congregation sprinkled Amens throughout my little 11 minute talk. I felt like I connected with many of those attentive people in the room and that I might really be able to help someone make a positive difference in their health and life. Maybe even someone in that room.

After the talk, members of the congregation went to different rooms for bible study (though agnostic, I respect all religions based in compassion and listen and learn about the beliefs of others with an open mind). I was invited to one of the bible study groups, and enjoyed chatting with different people as we made our way to the room. We started the study with more conversation about our experiences with plant based nutrition and then read a few verses before moving along to service and then fellowship dinner.

ScobySnax and Cultured Veggie Samples at Rogers SDA
Probiotic treats and cultured vegetable samples at Rogers SDA fellowship dinner

I laid out samples of my probiotic treats and a few quarts of my fermented veggies for the congregation. I was overwhelmed by the amount of feedback and questions about my journey and about my food. I completely bubbled over when a former plant-based instructor said, after tasting one of my probiotic treats for the first time, in an amazingly appropriate hushed tone: “this is perfect”. He went on to say that he wants to help me because my energy and enthusiasm about plant-based nutrition reminds him of himself 10 years ago.

And he wasn’t the only one to offer help or suggestions and requests for collaborative efforts.  I feel so much more hopeful now about our pod’s success in advocating and supporting plant-based nutrition in our area, and of setting Jazzy’s Creative Kitchen up in its very own plant-based commercial kitchen.

Mailing List Signup Sheet
Mailing List Signup Sheet – we actually had quite a few signups! 

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the puerto rican vegan – dinner @ mom’s

The Puerto Rican Vegan - Dinner @ Mom's

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of my mom preparing some amazing feast while I was also in the kitchen doing my homework or getting into mischief or when — oh joy! — I was old enough to help her conjure up that gustatory magic. She was the first one who showed me the beauty of delicious cooking, how different foods work together, and especially how we all come together during dinner to spend time together as a family with no interruptions. Phones and the TV were a hard NO. This was our time to catch up, listen, help, share.

Flash forward a few decades and my favorite times with her still center around food. After Joe and I switched to to a whole food plant based lifestyle, she stressed about what to cook for us, because feeding us deliciously enjoyable meals is one of her core expressions of love and devotion. And man, I felt homesick for getting absolutely stuffed with her food. Stealing a taste here and nibble there, it has been an ongoing challenge to satisfy myself with just a taste instead of a meal, especially when she cooked our native Puerto Rican foods.

Yesterday she decided to try to veganize some of our Puerto Rican favorites. She made sancocho – typically a beef stew with yuca and plantain dumplings. She simply substituted the beef stock with veggies and swapped out the beef with extra veggies plus calabaza. She also made mofongo (mashed fried plantains), and to accommodate our preference for little to no oil, she used just a dash of Goya olive oil when lightly pan-frying the plantains. I tell you … Goya olive oil has such a lovely flavor that other brands of oil simply do not have. She also made rice and beans (no pork or oil) and a simple but lovely salad, the greens for which came from my garden. It was a spectacularly tasty meal. Chowing down on those rich and familiar flavors brought back so many happy memories and my taste buds are finally satisfied.

I’m SO HAPPY she sent us home with TONS of leftovers (a habit which I’ve picked up from her over the decades … a habit which my guests LOVE lol).

My sweet mom is such an inspirational woman, an exceptional friend, and the bestest and most caring and loving mom I could have ever have wished for.

Not to mention … she’s a damn fine chef !

P.S. Stay tuned! Yesterday’s dinner was such a success that I convinced her to join me in my upcoming videos to veganize several Puerto Rican dishes!

  • Me and Joe (that’s my hungry look)
  • Mom knows how to lay out a table!
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inspiration through learning – chocolate-making class

I love how every new class I take inspires more kitchen creativity.  It doesn’t matter if the class is about cooking, gardening, or even project management, business development, or research and analysis … every tidbit of new knowledge is saved in that hard drive I call my brain, and a variety of creative multidisciplinary solutions always seem to pop out whenever I’m faced with new challenges or lines of inquiry.

I previously tried making chocolately stuff from cacao nibs and powder.  Utter, utter failures 🙂 ritty and granular and poorly emulsified.  It looked and tasted like what it looks like and so I moved on to different experiments, figuring the magic of conjuring chocolate out of beans was out of reach for the home enthusiast.

But then Facebook (oh, Facebook!) recommended a Chocolate-Making class at Markham and Fitz Chocolates, a chocolatier in Bentonville, Arkansas not far from home.  Of course, my interest revitalized and  I immediately bought a ticket to demystify the metamorphosis of the humble cacao bean into glorious chocolate.

Arrival and Initial Impressions

I arrived early to Markham and Fitz, and was impressed by their bright and welcoming shop.  Their chocolate kitchen is in clear view of the dining area, and the heavenly aroma of cacao beans roasting perfumed the air.  I looked around at their offerings, which included a variety of chocolate bars, baked goods, and lo and behold, adult beverages.  I abstained from all goodies, waiting to see which samples we might be offered during class.

While waiting for class to start, I chatted with a gentleman who drove 2 hours from Branson, MO, just to attend this class.  He’s a local supplier of prepared snacks to local Branson entertainment businesses and I was intrigued about his enthusiasm to learn about chocolate making to build on his offerings there.

Cacao Bean Sourcing

Raw cacao beans

Class begins.  After donning hairnets and gloves, we entered the kitchen area, where our instructor, Preston ‘Stu’ Stewart (aka “Chocolate Dad”), began by explaining how cocoa, like coffee, was traded as a commodity, but is now starting to be sold as fair trade cocoa.

Cacao, like coffee, grows in the tropics, and is typically traded as a commodity, but they’re helping support the supply chain by purchasing higher quality cocoa beans and the farmers are able to sell their cocoa beans at a much higher price.

Fair Trade (fair trade is mostly a marketing term) means that the cacao is grown sustainably and fosters sustainable incomes for farmers and their families.  Fair Trade cacao is exciting because the industry is following coffee’s footsteps and we are now seeing more premium bean varieties, something uncommon in commodity markets.

Markham and Fitz carefully selects their cacao beans from growers in several countries including Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua.  The variety allows them to tailor their chocolate for different flavor profiles and fat content.

Sorting and Storing

Growers sort the beans after harvest to remove debris like underformed beans or  broken shells or husks.  “Chocolate Dad” however, insists that their local team sorts the beans again upon receipt to further improve the purity of their chocolate.

The sorted beans are stored by variety until ready for roasting and winnowing.

Roasting and Winnowing

Winnower, hacked with a shop vac to create a negative vacuum to suck up hisks
This was their original cacao grinder. Now that they've upgraded to a massive grinders, this one is used for their chocolate experiments and testing.

After sorting, the beans are roasted, which helps loosen the outer husk, and then the husk is separated from the nib in a process called winnowing.

Markham and Fisk demonstrated impressive ingenuity when developing their roasting and winnowing processes.  They added a rotating drum inside the roasting oven to avoid hot spots in the oven and enable even roasting.  It reminded me of the drum use for drawing lottery numbers.  Then they connected a shop vac to a container in the winnower to create negative air flow.  Once the seeds are added to the jumper, the cacao bean is cracked into nibs and the granular material is sucked into PVC tube leading to the shop vac and the heavier cacao nibs drop into a bucket.  Genius!

After they are winnowed, the nibs are ground with cocoa butter in a grinding machine for 7 days.  Yep.  7 days.  It is ground with cocoa butter and sugar for up to 7 days.   This releases the natural fat found in the cocoa beans and refines it along with the sugar so that the particle size is so small that you can’t feel any texture on your tongue.  It also evenly distributes the fat (cocoa butter) and the solids to make a smooth emulsion.

Tempering and Pouring into Bar Molds

Tempering chocolate stabilized the cocoa butter molecules to give the chocolate a shiny finish, a good ‘snap’, and a longer shelf life.  

Cocoa butter is high in healthy fats: oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), and stearic and palmitic acids, both of which are forms of saturated fat.

During tempering, the chocolate is heated in the mixing bowl before it is drawn into a cooling mechanism and returned to the mixing bowl for more melting and mixing. This process is to ensure that all fats are completely melted and homogenized into chocolate before dispensing it into molds and setting.

When the chocolate is at the right temperature (around body temp), the tempering machine is set to measure out bars, 2 ounces at a time, with pauses in between to allow the human operator to move the mold tray to the next bar.  Once filled, the chocolate molds are placed on a vibrating plate to even out the bar and remove air bubbles.  Toppings are added to the bottom of the bar, the mold is tapped hard on the counter to set the toppings into the soft chocolate.  The bars then are put in the fridge to set and then they’re ready to eat!https://www.youtube.com/embed/eSmScKxlEH0?feature=oembed

I made these 

Final Thoughts and Notes

  1. I thought it was interesting that theobromine, a bitter alkaloid (methylxanthine) in cacao is a mild stimulant that is very similar in chemical structure to caffeine.  Theobromine can kill dogs; this is why dogs should never eat chocolate.
  2. Cacao is the raw, pure chocolate found in the cacao plant; cocoa is made through heat-processing the cacao beans, like powdered cocoa for drinking or chocolate.  Ha! Finally!
  3. This was an extremely fun and tasty class that gave me a lot of ideas.  Will I be making chocolate at home in the future?  Maybe, maybe not.  But now I understand why my previous chocolate efforts have failed and I now have a new appreciation for the complexity and richness of fine chocolate.

Takeaways that Inspired Me

  • If a tool doesn’t exist, create one.  I was impressed with Markham & Fitz’s ingenuity of rigging up a tumbler inside of the cocoa bean roasting oven and creating a vacuum chamber for a winnower out of a shop vac.
  • Just as with fermentation and culturing, slow and steady wins the chocolate race.  The smooth creaminess of the chocolate after being ground for several days is unsurpassed. Some things simply cannot be rushed.
  • Cacao nibs are absolutely delicious when freshly roasted.  The stuff I bought on Amazon years ago nearly broke my teeth. I forgot to ask them if they sell just the nibs, but I’ll be back next month for their BonBon making class!  YES!!!
  • I need a multi-timer with a little dry-erase board in my life. Class was interrupted a couple of times for the timer to give the croissants and egg wash 
  • Learning is always fun ?

Links and More Reading

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Salsinara! Versatile Marinara Salsa with Chickpeas

  • 2 medium onions (chopped)
  • 3 tsp garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 28-oz cans petite diced tomatoes (Tip: reduce sodium by getting “No Salt Added”)
  • 1 28-oz can chickpeas (Tip: reduce sodium by getting “No Salt Added”)
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)
  1. Chop onions. If using a chopper, remove the ends and outer skin of the onion. Cut the onion in half, and cut each half into quarters. Push through chopper. No chopper? Grab a good knife and start chopping!
  2. Heat large skillet and dry-fry the onions with medium-high heat until translucent, stirring regularly to prevent sticking and burning. About 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and mix well. Cook for another minute.
  4. Add wine to skillet and scrape down the sides and bottom of the skillet. Cook the wine down until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add all remaining ingredients to skillet. Mix well and adjust salt and pepper.
  6. BTB/RTS: Bring to boil/reduce to simmer, and cover for about 10 minutes.
  7. Correct seasoning and remove from heat.
  8. Serve with zucchini spirals, use as a dip or salsa, use it however you want!
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time, quality, cost – pick any TWO

What an odd title for a post about food prep, but it applies perfectly.  Everything that we do which involves a combination of time, quality, and cost will have a trade-off.  This means that you can only pick two of the three at any given time.

For example, if you subscribe to plant-based meal delivery services, you will save time on shopping/meal prep and will receive quality, nutritious food, but at a significantly higher cost than if you prepared it yourself at home.

Similarly, when you prepare food yourself starting from wholesome ingredients (dried beans and legumes, raw whole fruit and veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds), yes, you spend more time preparing quality food, but you not only experience a lower cost once you find your groove, you also have the peace of mind knowing that you are feeding yourself and your family food that positively contributes to their health and longevity.

At the same time (if you’re so inclined to this line of thinking), you can know that you are helping to reduce the demand footprint on foods that are inherently unhealthy and/or whose manufacturing or packaging practices are unhealthy, inhumane, and globally unsustainable. (I’m here to help YOU become healthy.  Your reasons for choosing to eat more plant-based whole foods instead of animal products in your daily lifestyle are your own, as are mine.)

Because you’re here, we can assume that you have made a decision to invest some time to control your food to better control your health (congratulations!! best. decision. ever.).  Lowering your food budget is an added bonus, and the more time you’re willing to invest, the more money you will save.   Eating well from your own kitchen will also improve your long-term finances because you will be taking an active role in avoiding the need for costly medical attention and prescriptions by strengthening your body’s immune system to proactively combat preventable medical conditions … not to mention the temporal (time), emotional (mind), and monetary ($£¥,etc.) costs associated with them.

Now all of this may intimidate you.  Most of us usually feel intimidated when faced with new territory, especially those that require us to challenge our preconceptions. That new territory is most uncomfortable when those challenges require effort to change existing habits/practices and learn new ones.  Don’ t freak out on us here …  it’s normal.  It may intimidate you, but don’t let it frighten you.  You can do this.

Bottom line is “you do you”.  For example, if you have money, but absolutely zero time, a wonderful option would be to subscribe to a whole-foods,plat-based meal delivery service.  If you have some time and a little extra cash, use canned beans; if you have time but prefer the lowest cost, go with dried beans. In either case, the most important things is that your don’t get frustrated and wind up driving up to order a loaded chili-cheese baked potato at Wendy’s (confession time – this was one of my old favorites, but no longer).

If all you can do right now amounts to heating a can of organic beans in a saucepan with some added wholesome seasonings, and plopping it on a baked potato or organic taco shell with some shredded vegan cheddar (and topped with some green onion and/or steamed veggies if ya wanna get fancy nourishment) … your rock, and you can eat that meal without guilt, knowing that your body is better off than it would have been with the Wendy’s lazy mass-market food alternative which is laden with excessive salt, sugar, fat, and artificial additives. See what I mean?

When no current health ailments need Sickcare medical attention, I’m a big proponent of baby steps, and recognize that it takes some longer to walk, and then run, than others. But if you have a personality that needs to see results quickly or your become disinterested, OR have a medical issue that can worsen in the near future without dietary change, yeah, I strongly recommend a full kitchen reset and start on your whole foods plant based journey 100% now (yep, I mean this very second … no games with your health, please).

Pick a day and DO it, and be sure to let your doctor know so that they can monitor your prescriptions; some prescriptions may need to be reduced or eliminated due to you enabling your body’s normal healing systems to repair your body through nutrition instead of masking symptoms with prescriptions.  I  learned this the hard way.  After a couple of months of guiding my brother to better nutrition, he became increasingly light-headed and faint.  A trip to the doctor later proved that plant based nutrition works.  His light-headedness was caused by taking prescribed blood pressure medication when his body no longer needed it, and his doctor told him to stop taking that prescription. SUCCESS!!!  Popping veggies is so much better than popping pills!

Let me know you’re increasing your plant based food intake, and I’ll cheerlead you along the way.  I kid you not.  I cheerlead, in the most comical way I can muster.  (That’s me, Jazzminion, and my wonderful, sexy hubby, Joe.)

My husband and I have full-time jobs that I calculated consumed about 65 hours of our waking hours a week (getting ready + work hours + commuting), not to mention the inevitable shop talk at night and evening email checks.

Add to that the competing time with extra-work events, family, and friends, so we often wind up doing a combination of food prep strategies.  As an example, some weeks, we use canned beans (organic, BPA-free cans); others, we use dried.  While our goal is to always use organic dried beans (good+lower cost = quality food in more time), sometimes, the best we can do is organic canned beans (good+more costly = quality food in less time).  However, every time I’m caught using a can of organic beans has been an opportunity to learn better strategies at personal and food prep time management.  Don’t worry … the mysteries of our lessons learned will be revealed sooner than you think 

The biggest lesson:  Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Once you become acclimated to thinking about what you’re going to eat in advance, you’ll find yourself putting beans to soak at night, throwing them in the slow-cooker in the morning with some pre-chopped onions and peppers to let them do their magic while you’re at work, and when you get home, you steam some raw veggies and reheat some grain or starch that you made and froze on a previous batch-prep day.  15 minutes is all you need for super fast, fresh and nutritious meal … when you take the time to plan.

As you can now see, we can adjust the time and/or money we put into food prep as needed.  The one thing we will not trade off or compromise on–and neither should you–is food quality, which for us means our ability to eat only foods that nourish our bodies without causing harm.  Tenet 1: Whenever possible, DO NOT COMPROMISE ON QUALITY (whole-food plant-based nutrition, organic, and non-GMO whenever possible).

Money was very tight when I started on a whole foods plant based diet a few years ago, so I began the transition by gradually replacing pantry and fridge items as they expired or depleted.  So when I ran out of canned or packaged food, I started buying the whole food and carved out a few extra minutes to prepare it.  For example, the first time I ran out of mayonnaise, I learned how to make my own using whole foods, plant based ingredients (it’s really only nuts or soy with lemon juice, mustard, and a little oil … and it’s so much more tasty) and the bad-food to good-food ratio started shifting from there.  As a few extra dollars permitted, I made small leaps and bounds, and after time, only healthful food exists in our kitchen.   I’ll repeat … be patient.  Nothing worthwhile comes easy.

I will not lie; the initial cost may be higher than you may be comfortable with.  Why?  Because we have been taught throughout our lives to stock our kitchens with foods suitable for the Standard American Diet (SAD), which contains unhealthy–and sometimes not even real–food.   Unfortunately, it’s what we know, it’s what we grew up with, but it’s not healthy and needs to be changed for our long-term health.

It’s not our parent’s faults, either.  They adopted the food of their contemporaneous culture, and we ate what they were taught, and now it’s our turn to teach our parents a better way to eat.  As you learn, Share the Health with them, too.

While it is ideal to do a full kitchen reset and get rid of every unhealthful food item at once and restock everything with organic whole foods, if you cannot afford that (as I couldn’t), take it at the pace you are able, but always be mindful of the goal.  You do you.  We are all trying to take care of our health and the health of those we feed and help as best we can.  Ubuntu and all that beautiful stuff.

Transitioning to a whole-foods, plant-based kitchen, and learning new cooking methods will take more time than you anticipate.  It’s new.  Be patient with yourself.  You didn’t learn how to walk, talk, reason, or socialize in a day, and changing our dietary lifestyles may at times feel like you’re starting over with food.  In a way, you are.  And this is a VERY good thing.

Challenge your preconceptions of what “healthy food” means, learn how to efficiently make it, and LIVE HEALTHY!

Have ideas you’d like us to write about?  Add a comment below!

Welcome to your happier, healthier life!

Jazzy


  • BPA-free cans aren’t yet determined to be harm-free.  Manufacturers are always looking for cheap, BPA-free alternatives, but that doesn’t mean that the chosen alternative may not turn out to be harmful over time.  Organic, non-GMO canned goods will be the best currently-available option in the face of changing industry.

P.S. A heartfelt thanks goes to JSO, who initially showed me the time-quality-cost paradigm many, many, many moons ago.  I’ve been applying it everywhere ever since.

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food prep : the mandatory pop talk

Many people say that preparing healthy whole-foods plant-based meals takes too much time and money. Yes, it takes a bit of both, but the results are worth it – and both time and cost diminish as you gain experience in the kitchen. Here’s a short pep talk on why you should take the time to prepare your own food at home.

Time is one of the most precious resources there is.  Whether you have a demanding job, a spouse, kids at home, family, friends, and any combination thereof, it seems like there are constant demands on our time.  Who has time to prep food?  It’s so much more convenient to stop at a fast food joint at lunch or have a freezer-full of TV dinners or pick up some take-out on the way home instead of taking the time to prepare healthy food at home.  Why take the time to shop, prep, and cook when it takes so much less time to eat convenience foods?

Let’s try a little perspective.  The three things that sustain human life on a biological level are air, water, and food.  You might switch jobs or move to a new home or expand or shrink your social circles, or any number of changes in your life, but you will always need to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat nourishing food.  Failing to do so will detrimentally affect the quality of all other aspects of your life over time.  How?

Our friends at Delicious Healthcare put it this way:

“What would happen if you put a drop or two of water in your gas tank every time you filled it?  It probably wouldn’t affect the performance of your car today, tomorrow, or maybe even next month or year, but over time, the increasing amount of water in your gas tank will increase the risk for performance issues … because cars need gas, not water.”

Human bodies run optimally on whole or minimally-processed foods.  They don’t run on things like deep-fried foods, meat-lovers pizza, bacon, Big Macs, or donuts.  If you said “why yes, yes they do!”  that’s your appetite talking.  Appetite (mental desire) and hunger (biological need) are two different things, and we need to grow more mindful of which is telling us to eat, when it’s telling us to eat, and what it’s telling us to eat.

Do you know anyone who appeared healthy and energetic earlier in life and later started to appear less so, or begin to need medical treatment for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic illnesses?  Could this describe you?

Healthy Food is the True Healthcare, and we need to understand the fact that most medical doctors have had very little to NO education in nutrition(1).  In other words, most doctors are Sickcare mechanics who know primarily how to write prescriptions to treat the symptoms of illness.  Very few know how to naturally fuel the body for optimal performance, or more importantly, for the prevention or reversal of the causes of illness.

What if you knew the right foods to eat and how to efficiently prepare them in order to obtain and maintain optimal health?  Would you eagerly take ownership of your health back from those who enjoy profits from your poor health such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies, doctors, clinics, and hospitals?  How about from those Big Food corporations that cater to the primal fat, salt, and sugar cravings of our bodies?  That said, it’s OUR responsibility to learn the proper care of our bodies and to take the time to do it.

Yes, it takes thought and it takes time.  It’s hard at first, but push through and keep it up.  Once your body starts consistently getting the nutrition it needs to thrive, the emerging vitality and mental clarity you will feel will fuel your effort going forward.

Here at Jazzy’s Creative Kitchen, I will help you minimize your kitchen time while maximizing nutritious output by sharing my tried and true food prep strategies and tips.  Join in on the fun and you’ll see that it’s not that hard.  It’s worth the effort. You got this!

Have ideas you’d like us to write about?  Add a comment below!

Welcome to your happier, healthier life!

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adventures in aquafaba

Today’s goal was to make aquafaba (and wound up doing mealprep along the way!).

What’s aquafaba, you might ask?

Aquafaba (literally, “bean water”), it is the liquid left over from cooking beans.  Garbanzos (aka chickpeas) is a great choice because of its neutral flavor and color.  This cooking liquid is extra, extra special because it emulates the functional properties of egg whites when whipped or cooked, and is used for things like emulsifying, binding, gelatinization, foaming, or thickening.

Think meringues and mayonnaise and quiches and macaroons and marshmallows and light, fluffy muffins and you’ll start to get the idea of the egg-replacement magic we all (used to) pour down the drain without a second thought.To prepare for today’s aquafaba adventure, I soaked 2 cups of dry garbanzos overnight in 6 cups of water and rinsed them in the morning.  Because I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to test my new stackable pressure cooker inserts to see if the tiers would cook evenly, I evenly divided the soaked garbanzos between them and stirred in 3 cups of filtered water to each insert.

Then, I stacked and snapped the inserts together and carried that bad boy effortlessly to the pressure cooker using the the handy carrier the inserts came with.

15 minutes later (plus time for the natural pressure release), the garbanzos were perfectly cooked in both tiers. I strained the aquafaba into a large bowl, reserving the garbanzos.  (Saying it in that order feels oddly reversed.

Stackable Pressure Cooker Inserts

Aquafaba is so magical that it works as well fresh as it does thawed, so because there’s no way I’ll use  almost 3 cups of it within the next week, I poured it into silicone ice cube trays, 2 tbsp per cube; each cube equates to one egg white.

For the “reserved” garbanzos, I measured out 1 quart for the week and submerged with the last of the aquafaba, and IQF’d (individually quick froze) the rest to use on future lazy days.