Posts Tagged ‘breakfast’

Have you heard of the Chinese five elements theory?

In traditional Chinese medicine, five elements of nature (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) represent different attributes of human health. Ideally we should have a balance of all five, but most of us are predisposed toward one element in excess of the others, causing an imbalance in the body with negative physical manifestations.

Check out this quiz to determine what element is most prevalent for you, and then read about your element’s characteristics and how to help yourself get back into balance.

A few months ago, my latest step in my journey to heal myself naturally of the curious skin rashes that seem to come and go, brought me to a new health practitioner: an acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) who assessed me based on the Chinese five elements theory. She asked me a few questions, looked at my tongue, eyes, and overall frame, then said my elemental type was Metal. She said that my big problem is that the pH balance in my body is off, and leaning too far in the direction of acidity.

Don’t know much about pH balance and the acid-alkaline balance in the body? Check out this nice little article to learn more, and then come on back to me and read on.

Surprisingly, one of the ways this over-acidity was manifesting, she said, was that my stomach contained too little digestive acid to properly digest my food. As such, I wasn’t getting enough nutrition from the foods I eat because my stomach wasn’t able to break everything down as it should.

She gave me nutritional counseling based on my Metal type and the over-acidity in my body, and designed a healing, pH balancing food protocol to increase my alkalinity. The new diet included the following dietary changes:

  • no beef
  • no eggs
  • no dairy
  • no bananas
  • no “vegetation” (that is, anything leafy or green, which was a pretty darned big part of my diet before)
  • more alkaline fruits and vegetables, especially with seeds (think cucumbers, eggplant, avocados, zucchini, butternut squash, tomatoes, yellow squash, etc.)
  • 90% of my diet as soups or stews (a bit labor intensive so I find I’m not doing quite as well on this one)
  • all grains pre-soaked before cooking

She also said to make broth to extract the nutrients of various foods into a form that can be consumed without digestion from the stomach. According to her assessment, I lack the requisite amounts of stomach acid to properly digest certain foods. I sat up straighter when she said this, because I already make a ton of broth and drink it every day, sometimes in the morning in a mug instead of coffee or tea.

You’re probably thinking to yourself Yes, yes Ecomama, this is all fine and good, five elements, mm hmm, interesting, but what about the coconut cream you mentioned in your title?

Well, the new diet means I’m now I’m officially dairy-free, and even though I didn’t eat a lot of dairy before, butter remains one of my true gustatory pleasures. Eliminating butter is, for me, the most excruciating part of giving up dairy. I don’t drink milk, I hardly eat cheese, I’ve gotten over the loss of yogurt, but oh … butter. How I miss you so.

Needless to say, since this diagnosis, I’ve been exploring lots of non-dairy alternatives to dairy foods. I tried some almond cheese that didn’t exactly taste like cheddar as the wrapper implied, but it melted well enough in a quesadilla to suit me.

I already make my own rice milk and almond milk, but there are certain recipes calling for cow’s milk, like my favorite healthy pancake/waffle batter or creamy oatmeal cooked on the stove, that need a little more fat to give them the fluffiness or richness they need.

One morning, as I was getting my ingredients out to make steel cut oatmeal on the stove, I found myself completely out of both rice and almond milk. I rifled through the pantry and spotted a can of coconut milk that had been waiting to be transformed into an amazing Thai curry dish that never quite materialized.

I dumped it all in a small storage container. The liquid poured out easily, and then I scraped out the thick solids that had risen to the top of the can and stuck to the lid. I topped the storage container with its own lid and with one hand, shook the container intensely to break up the solids and mix them into the liquid. With the other hand, I licked the silicone spoon I had used to scrape the can clean.

As soon as I licked, I had the flash realization that the texture of that coconut “cream” was very similar to butter, my long lost love! Be still my beating heart!

I immediately stopped shaking, but alas, the solids were already all mixed in. I vowed I wouldn’t shake the next can I opened, so that I could keep the buttery coconut cream intact.

Fast forward a couple of days, and another can of coconut milk was purchased and opened. This time, I didn’t mix the solids in with the liquid, but rather left it all separate. I toasted some whole wheat bread, and spread the coconut cream on it like butter.

I swear it spread the same way, glistened the same way, even melted slowly into the bread the same way. I sprinkled it with a generous pinch of sea salt, and while it didn’t taste exactly like butter, the fatty creaminess did hit the spot juuuuuust right.

Thank you, coconut cream. You have saved me from plummeting to the dangerous depths of severe butter withdrawal.

coconut cream toast


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We don’t drink cow’s milk in our house. I didn’t grow up on the stuff, and just never liked it. Plus it makes everybody phlegmy around here … who needs that?

I’m also not convinced it’s all that cool that ours is the only species on this planet that a) drinks milk beyond childhood, and b) drinks milk from a different species than our own. (Remember how it was so shocking to the general public when Salma Hayek breastfed another woman’s baby in Africa? Yet nobody gives a second thought to the fact that cow’s milk is collected from many, many different cows to be consumed by humans. I’m just sayin’…)

It’s easy to have a dairy-free diet nowadays, as there are lots of milk alternatives out there: soy, almond, rice, oat, and hemp for example. I’m a big fan of almond milk, and make it frequently. But Ecodaddy isn’t so fond of it (unless it’s warmed up with a splash of maple syrup, which is super-delish!), and so we still spend a chunk of change on store-bought rice milk.

Compared to nut milks like almond, rice milk lacks beneficial protein and fats and is quite a bit higher in carbohydrates. However, many like it because it is a low fat choice, and hey: sometimes you just need some cold, yummy white stuff to moisten your bowl of cereal, ya know?

Lucky for me, a few weeks ago a friend posted her rice milk recipe on Facebook, and I was ready for a new kitchen project. I am happy to report it was easy and cheap to make, and totally delicious to drink!

I’ve since tested this recipe twice using two different types of rice. I got 3 quarts of rice milk from the first batch and 4 quarts from the second. I had coupons for Lundberg organic brown rice that I held onto until it was on sale, making my final rice cost a mere $.50 a cup.

Tweaking my friend’s recipe, I added some vanilla extract to the final product, but didn’t like it because I could taste the alcohol from the extract. In batch two, I added half a vanilla bean during the cooking time instead, with much better results.

I also found that the type of rice you use determines whether you really need to add a sweetener or not. I used a sweeter type of rice the second time (Lundberg Golden Rose). Flavored with just the vanilla bean, it didn’t need any sweetener at all.

Homemade Rice Milk

  • 1 cup uncooked organic long or medium grain brown rice
  • 8 cups water for cooking
  • More water for diluting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Glass jars or bottles with lids for storage
  • Blender
  • Fine mesh strainer
  1. Thoroughly wash the rice.
  2. Put 8 cups of water in a big pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour in rice and stir.
  3. Cover the pot and lower the heat to let the water simmer.
  4. Cook for 3 hours stirring occasionally, til it looks like very soupy rice pudding. Turn off heat and stir in salt.
  5. In batches, fill your blender halfway with cooked rice mixture and halfway with water. Blend until very smooth. Strain twice through a fine mesh strainer, collecting rice milk in mason jars.
  6. Continue on with remaining cooked rice mixture until you’re finished, filling jars with rice milk and screwing on lids tightly.
Even with the extra water, this rice milk can end up thicker than the product you find in the store, almost like a rice cream. My second batch was thicker than the first and required another whirl in the blender with more water: 3 cups rice cream to 1 cup water made it perfect.

Since it doesn’t have preservatives, presumably it won’t last too long in the fridge. I’ve kept mine in there a little over a week and it was just fine.

Make sure to shake before serving, as there is some separation, plus the tiny black vanilla specks settle to the bottom.


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This is how I’m squashing my chocolate craving tonight.

photo credit Oh She Glows

While this recipe considers the buckwheat optional, I chose to add it as a tribute to my partly Russian roots, and to give a little extra crunch. My Russian acupuncturist once bought me a bag, telling me it is high in iron and B vitamins, and iz gooood toooo noooorish blaaaahd.

And by now you already know how much I love the humble chia seed, bursting with fiber and omega goodness.

Need I even say anything at all on how I feel about chocolate? It borders on obsession. The darker the better, like 70% or higher.

Here I used the standard 60% bittersweet chips, a la Nestle. Because they have some sugar, I do not use any additional sweetener. If you choose to use darker chocolate, feel free to add a squirt of raw honey or agave.

Chocolate Oatmeal Freezer Cookies

  • 1.25 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp buckwheat groats
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • Squirt of honey or agave (optional)
  1. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop banana and mash into melted chips.
  3. Stir remaining ingredients into chocolate banana mixture and stir well until oats are coated with chocolate.
  4. Spoon mixture evenly into twelve muffin liners and freeze for about an hour, or until firm.

You can leave these in the freezer and they will stay somewhat chewy, not freezing up to a completely solid state. They definitely squash my chocolate fix any time of day or night. Usually night. Late at night. Like now.

Excuse me, I think I hear the freezer calling my name …

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My Ecokids are pretty great eaters. They will gobble up just about anything I put in front of them.

However, green veggies still get a nose turned up at them most of the time, unless they are tucked away in some delicious way, like this …

Luckily, I am a master of disguise!

Here are some of my favorite ways to get greens into my kids:

Inside an omelette/frittata

We adore eggs at our house, and if our homeowner’s association would let us, we’d have chickens in the yard. Bock-bock-bock-buh-GAWK!

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Chop some onion, and finely chop or chiffonade your favorite leafy green vegetable (e.g., kale, chard, spinach, beet greens, etc). Mince a clove of garlic.
  • Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, add oil, and sauté onions til soft. Add your greens and sauté for a few minutes til wilted, sprinkling with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then add garlic and sauté for one more minute.
  • Add a little more oil to the pan, or butter if you prefer, and then add a couple of eggs. Scramble to mix it all up in the pan, then let it sit over medium/low heat.
  • When the edges start to look cooked, sprinkle with cheese (or non-dairy cheese alternative), and pop in the oven for a few more minutes until the top of the eggs are set and solid and the cheese has melted a little.
  • Slide it out of the pan to cool, and cut into wedges. These can also be eaten cold later as a nice, protein-rich snack.
Inside a quesadilla
It’s amazing how two corn tortillas and some cheese can make anything taste delicious! Leftovers included! Our favorite quesadilla fillings include leftover taco meat, soy deli meats (bologna and salami flavors are Ecogirl’s favorites), or just veggies (e.g., finely chopped greens, grated raw carrots, finely diced tomatoes, etc.).
  • Starting building your quesadilla on one of the corn tortillas, layering cheese or non-dairy cheese alternative first, then your other fillings, and a little more cheese last.
  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add some oil or butter. Carefully place your loaded tortilla into the pan and leave it for a few minutes until it starts to crisp and brown on the bottom.
  • Meanwhile, oil or butter one side of your other tortilla and place it oily side up on top of your loaded tortilla. Press down with spatula a few times, wait another minute, and then carefully flip it over.
  • Leave it in the pan a few more minutes til the second side browns, then remove to a plate, let cool, and cut into wedges. I’m telling you: no matter what I put inside, I have yet to see any left behind on the plate!
Inside a smoothie
Feel free to experiment with any liquid and any fruits, but try to choose leafy green vegetables that have a very mild flavor, like spinach, chard, or even beet greens, which are actually slightly sweet. Yesterday’s smoothie was enjoyed by both Ecogirl and Ecobaby, much to my delight. Recipe below.
  • In the blender, I added some plain kefir (liquidy, drinkable yogurt), vanilla kefir, half a banana, several frozen strawberries, and a generous handful of raw spinach leaves.
  • I blended until thoroughly combined, poured into a fun cup with an even more fun straw, and voila: Ecogirl had the equivalent of a small spinach salad first thing in the morning, but way yummier and much more fun!
Straight up, with loads of garlic
And then there’s garlic. Everyone loves garlic at my house, and some veggies will actually pass the kid test sautéed with only olive oil, several cloves of minced garlic, and salt and pepper. In fact, nine times out of ten, Ecobaby will choose garlicky green beans over a sweet fruit like bananas or pears. Remember that minced garlic cooks very quickly and burns very easily, so it should be added last, for just the final minute or two of cooking time.
  • Steam your choice of veggie (e.g., broccoli, green beans, zucchini) until slightly soft. (Note: save the nutritious steam water and use it to later cook a grain like rice or quinoa)
  • Get a large skillet or wok nice and hot, and add some oil.
  • Add your partly steamed veggies to the pan, and sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add garlic, and sauté for one to two more minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
I am always experimenting with sneaky ways to hide green veggies in various foods, so stay tuned for more ideas. Meanwhile, I would love to hear some of your favorite ideas, so please leave a comment and share what works at your house!
Photo credit: Simply Recipes

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I have always shied away from pancakes because of the heavy way they sit in my stomach. Even the so-called “light and fluffy” ones.

Yeah, right. Light and fluffy, my foot. They sit like rocks in my belly for the rest of the day.

Though not a big fan of pancakes, I was intrigued by a friend’s description of “blender pancakes” for her family’s Sunday morning breakfast. She directed me to this recipe, which she said was pretty much a staple in her household.

We’re always hearing how we’re supposed to add more whole grains to our diet, because refined white flour is totally devoid of nutrients. This recipe is an easy, painless way to up your whole grains, while pleasing even the finickiest of palates.

I made a few modifications and experimented with a couple of different grains and fruits. All versions were great and did not upset my stomach! Stay tuned for future experiments with other grains like millet, amaranth, and quinoa.

Until then, enjoy them as they are … delicious!

Whole Grain Blender Pancakes

  • 1 cup whole wheat or whole spelt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk of choice (cow, goat, rice, almond, soy, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or other vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar, Sucanat, or honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 tsp spirulina (optional; be prepared for green pancakes if you choose to use it!)
  • fresh fruit, like blueberries or sliced bananas (optional)
  • butter for the pan
  1. Blend 1 cup of milk with the wheat for 2-3 minutes
  2. Add the rest of the milk and blend for another 2-3 minutes
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend.
  4. Butter a hot cast-iron skillet over medium heat, and ladle your batter into circles
  5. If using any fruit (blueberries, sliced bananas, etc.) drop onto pancakes
  6. When tops of pancakes start showing bubbles all over, flip pancakes over
  7. Cook until nicely golden brown, and serve piping hot with lots and lots of real maple syrup
Batter should last up to five days in the fridge, if it makes it that long. This recipe also works beautifully in a waffle iron.
Sometimes, I’ll cook a whole batch just to put in the freezer for busy mornings. Just run them through the toaster a couple of times, and voila! A hearty, homemade, whole grain breakfast on the table in no time!

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Whenever I make jam, I always lament that the beautiful pure fruit I laboriously prepare is then laced with a ton of sugar. The regular recipe calls for an almost 2:1 ratio of sugar to fruit.


Even with the low-to-no-sugar pectin, if you follow the directions on the box, it’s still a whopping 1:1 ratio of sugar to fruit. I usually use organic evaporated cane juice or Sucanat, which is way better than the bleached-out white stuff, but still …

It’s sugar.

Honey is so much better. It has antioxidant and antibacterial qualities, gives a boost of energy, and is totally natural and unrefined. It has a real depth of flavor, whereas sugar is a little one-dimensional.

If you use local honey, your neighborhood bees will be helping to minimize your allergy symptoms by inoculating you against your local pollen. Goes right along with the old “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” theory … a little pollen every day helps keep the doctor away.

And get this: I recently learned that honey is the only natural food on earth that never spoils! It may crystallize and harden, but it never actually goes bad.

Honey is a staple in my household. I always have plenty on hand. But strawberries are so transient, at their peak just once a year for a few short weeks.

Lucky me, when Whole Foods had a one-day sale on organic strawberries a few months back. Not known for doing things halfway, I came home with 30 pounds.

Some are in the freezer for month’s and month’s worth of smoothies. And some became honey-sweetened preserves, inspired by Sarah’s Musings.

Finally! Easy homemade preserves that I don’t have to make with sugar!

With my Candida-related issues, sugar is always a no-no. In addition, because of my current extremely restrictive Candida cleanse diet, I’m not eating fruit, honey or fruit juice for a while, either.

Making this jam without tasting even a drop was sheer torture. However, Ecogirl and Ecodaddy assured me it is delicious without being cloyingly sweet.

At least I think that’s what they said … I couldn’t really understand them as they spooned it straight from the jar into their sticky mouths, over and over again.

Some call it jam, some call it preserves … what is the difference?

Jam is made with fruit that’s pureed to one consistency. Preserves have big chunks of fruit throughout.

Sometimes I make jam, which is just delectable thinly spread over warm buttered toast.

Sometimes I leave some chunks and make preserves, which are perfect mixed with plain yogurt.

With this recipe, it’s really up to you to what consistency you want to mash the fruit. It can be jam or preserves, you decide!

Either way, it is always delicious, and great for gift-giving. Tie a festive ribbon around the rim of the lid, and surprise the recipient with a little bit of sunshine in a jar.

paired with almond butter on toasted Ezekiel bread, mmmmm ...

Strawberry Honey Preserves

  • 6 cups mashed strawberries
  • 1 cup organic apple juice
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 package low-sugar/no-sugar fruit pectin
  • Preserving equipment: glass jars, lids, rings, canning pot or any large pot, funnel, jar tongs, and ladle
  1. First things first: get your water boiling on the stove in your large canning pot. Sterilize your clean, empty jars by letting them boil in the water. Place the jar lids in a bowl and ladle some boiling water over them … DO NOT put them in the pot of boiling water or it will compromise the rubber seal.
  2. Hull and mash your strawberries. You can leave some pieces chunkier for more texture in your preserves. If you like it smoother, you can pulse in a food processor until it’s a consistency you like.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the mashed fruit and juice. Stir in the pectin and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  4. Once it’s boiling, add the honey and bring it back up to a rolling boil for three minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove fruit mixture from heat and skim the foam off the top with a spoon into a small bowl. Ecodaddy is a big fan of eating the foam as an added bonus. You can eat it, or toss it, but definitely remove it from the preserves or it will make the final product look funny.
  6. Remove the glass jars from the boiling water with your jar tongs, shake out any extra water, and line them up on a dishtowel. Let the water in the big pot keep on boiling.
  7. Working quickly, ladle the fruit mixture into the funnel-topped jars, leaving a 1/4 inch headspace at the top of each jar. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with another damp dishtowel, and top each jar with a lid. Secure a ring on each jar and tighten “fingertip tight” … tight enough that it’s secure, but not so tight that no steam can escape.
  8. Place lidded jars into the pot of boiling water for a ten-minute bath. When the time is up, pull them out with your jar tongs and do not touch them. Just let them rest. Soon you will start hearing a “pop” from each jar as all the steam escapes and a vacuum is created inside, sealing the jars.
  9. Don’t touch the jars for 12-24 hours, then push down on each lid to make sure it is sealed. If the lid moves up and down slightly with a “click click” sound, then your jar didn’t seal. That’s ok, you can still enjoy the preserves, but the jar has to go right into the fridge to be used in the next week or two. If the jars did seal properly and the lids don’t move, then you can store your jars in the pantry at room temperature for up to a year.
Note: I used six cups of fruit, which makes a runnier, more sauce-like finished product. This is perfect for spooning over plain yogurt to make your own strawberry yogurt, or drizzling over a piece of pound cake. To make a thicker more spreadable preserve a la PB & J, use only four cups of fruit.

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Nothing gets Ecogirl’s wheels turning like food. She makes food out of Play-Doh. She adores her toy kitchen. She loves to “bake” cupcakes on a certain kiddie app on my iPad.

But doing a real live project in the kitchen … now that is her idea of a little piece of heaven.

Ecodaddy has been home sick for a couple of days, and is getting a bit cabin feverish. Today, he rallied just enough energy to volunteer to bake blueberry muffins with Ecogirl. She was overjoyed, and totally enraptured every step of the way.

These muffins are light and fluffy, and the yogurt really contributes to how tender, moist, and delicious they are. I’ll be honest though: this is a fairly “mainstream” recipe, with white flour and sugar (we used organic flour and organic evaporated cane juice), inspired by Alton Brown’s recipe.

Sidenote: Since I’m on Stage 1 Candida Diet at this point, I can’t actually taste them. No sugar, wheat or dairy, and this one is guilty on all three counts.


I’ll tell you this much though: they made the kitchen smell really good. Really really good.

So good in fact, that I threw nutrition caution to the wind and allowed Ecogirl to have two of them, buttered, in lieu of dinner tonight.

Now that’s a good muffin!

Blueberry Muffins
  • 12.5 ounces of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Heavy pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup sugar (can decrease as desired)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp grapeseed or other vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (we used full fat)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Use 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil to grease the muffin pan
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt
  4. Add the dry ingredients, reserving 2 Tbsp to toss with the blueberries
  5. Stir mixture until barely mixed, should still see a little bit of powder
  6. Toss blueberries with 2 Tbsp dry mixture to coat. Stir 1 cup of blueberries into batter, stir 3 or 4 more times. Do not overmix. Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup blueberries
  7. Divide the batter evenly amongst muffin pan to make 12 muffins, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of muffins. Press down lightly
  8. Place into the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time
  9. Remove from the oven and turn out, upside down, onto a dish towel
  10. Serve immediately or let cool, then store in an airtight container for up to three days

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