Category Archives: Food

Recipes, diet and health

Turmeric for Weight Loss: The Saga Continues.

This is going to play hell with my morning smoothie.

In October I posted Turmeric: The New Fat Terminator? after reading an article in First for Women about using it to lose weight. The article promised as much as a pound a day weight loss, starting immediately. Results, BTW, I did not expect to match.

The article suggested taking supplements containing turmeric extract. I hate spending lots of money to put something in a capsule when I already have it in my spice cupboard. I did a little research and found a few sites that said 2 grams was the recommended safe dose of turmeric. A little more research and I found that a teaspoon was slightly more than 2 grams. I decided to try consuming a teaspoon of turmeric a day in hot water, as a tea. I did this in the evening, before bed.

My results, as detailed in Turmeric for Weight Loss: Cautiously Optimistic, were not conclusive.

I had every intention of continuing this experiment with an increased dose of 1 Tablespoon in hot water, in the evening. Two weeks of this again had negligible results, but I intended to keep it up for at least a month to be sure. Then I launched my book and Thanksgiving hit and I fell off the wagon.

Today I noticed that I keep getting hits on those prior posts, so I thought I would do a little more research online to see if anyone had anything more specific to say about using turmeric in a diet. I was pleased to see that more information is now available. I found 3 sites that recommend taking a teaspoon of turmeric before or with each meal to assist in weight loss.

I’m going to give this one more try. Tonight I added a teaspoon of turmeric to my chicken and quinoa, and it was fine with a little salt. I suggest tossing a bit of curry powder in with your turmeric, to improve the flavor. I also read that black pepper increases the effectiveness of turmeric, so I’ll start adding that, too.

Mostly, I’ll drink it in hot water, either before or during meals. No, I am not going to dump it in my smoothies.

I should know by New Year’s if this is doing any good. Stay tuned!

Turmeric and Weight Loss: Cautiously Optimistic

On October 19, I wrote about the purported weight-loss benefits of turmeric.  Since then I have been experimenting with the spice. Below are my observations so far.

Please keep in mind that my particular case is difficult. I take medications that contribute to weight gain, I suffer from overwhelming fatigue and can’t exercise, and I need to consume a fair amount of healthy fats for proper mood management and brain function. My results so far have been interesting but not stellar. A person without my deficiencies may well have significantly better results.

I started with a teaspoon of turmeric in hot water, taken as tea. This had a mildly disorienting effect on me, so I decided to take it at bed time. In 3 days, I lost two pounds. I got cute and wondered if this would still work if I ate a bunch of carbs and sugar (well, the magazine said it would!) and gained it back immediately.

I became discouraged and decided to stop the turmeric until I had a new tin of it. For all I knew, the turmeric that I had been using came out of King Tut’s tomb.

I started up again November 5. That was 12 days ago. In addition to taking turmeric at bedtime, I am drinking 1/2 lemon squeezed into hot water first thing in the morning to promote good liver function. I’m also sticking to a reasonable diet, watching carbs and avoiding junk food. I am not controlling portions or counting calories.

In 12 days I have lost 2.2 pounds.

Not exciting. But wait! These have been very stubborn pounds, and the weight loss was steady, without the usual bobbing around on the scale. My friend, Desiree, also made the point that herbal treatments often have to build up in the system, and to give it more time.

Today I realized I have been measuring pounds, but not inches. So I got out the tape measure, and it appears I have dropped some bulk. I can’t say for certain, because I did not measure when I started this experiment. I dragged on a pair of pants that haven’t fit in a few years, and while they are not the lovely, baggy fit I enjoy, I can wear them again.

I am no longer craving junk and I am feeling fuller on less food.

I had dental surgery a few days before I started the turmeric, and turmeric eased the pain significantly. It is a terrific anti-inflammatory. and of course, I am racking up all that cancer-prevention, liver-cleansing and cholesterol-lowering power.

Bonus: I am waking up alert in the morning.

I am tolerating the turmeric well, so 2 days ago, I increased from 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. Note: if you want to try this, please see my initial post regarding potential issues with turmeric use.

I am cautiously optimistic. I’ll keep you posted.

Your Liver and Dieting

Most folks know that fat stores are created when you eat more than you burn off, and that’s the basis for most diets. For many folks, reducing calories has a limited effectiveness. What is not widely trumpeted is that some fat stores are created to protect you from excessive toxins in your system. These fat stores will not go away until your system is able to processes these toxins, and that can’t happen as long as you are overloading your system with more toxins than your liver can handle.

The easiest weight loss I ever achieved was on a >50% raw food diet. It was wonderful. I lost 60 pounds in less than a year with no portion control. Yes, the food prep was occasionally onerous, but it was worth it. Then my doctor changed my medication and the pounds started creeping back. I started writing and that cut out time for exotic food prep. I began trashing my diet again. Then my meds were changed again and I packed on 50 pounds in a few months, without changing my eating habits.

Medications put a toxic load on your liver, the same as alcohol and recreational drugs. It’s always a good idea to care for your liver. It’s especially important if you take daily medications.

Liver cleanses are available, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do one. The Dr. Hulda Clark recipe is well known and has been used by thousands. It also takes two days out of your life.

I think it’s more important to eat a diet that promotes liver health. I did some research and came up with the following list of foods that promote liver function:

Garlic; Grapefruit, Lemon and Lime; Beets & Carrots; Leafy Greens, especially Kale (the darker the better); Seaweeds and Algae; Green Tea; Avocados; Cruciferous Vegetables, such as Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower and Cabbage; Turmeric; Walnuts; Apples (be sure these are organic); Olive Oil and other cold pressed oils; Whole Grains

Salt stimulates your liver and aids in detox. If you eat a diet of unprocessed foods, make sure you’re including some unprocessed sea salt daily. Adequate water and salt intake also helps in sleep regulation as well as the retention of serotonin and melatonin and tryptamine in the brain.

It’s interesting to note that during my high-raw diet days, lemons, garlic and carrots, apples, greens and cabbage were a big part of my diet.

Lemon in water, first thing in the morning is especially cleansing to the liver. The Master Cleanse is a fast consisting of lemonade made with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. While the cayenne does not work directly on the liver, it does aid in digestion, cleansing the large intestine and improving circulation.

Turmeric: The New Fat Terminator?

Lat Spring I dumped 20 pounds in about a month on the Aztec Diet Chia Challenge. Then I went through some relationship turmoil and while I did not resume previous bad habits, I lost the motivation to stick with a reduced calorie liquid diet. Since then I’ve been wrestling with the same five pounds.

I’d like to lose at least thirty more pounds.

I still start every morning with a smoothie. I drink several Kale Blueberry Smoothies every week, on those days when I want to be especially energized. But my brain injury and struggles with depression require more Omega 3 fats than the Aztec Diet allows. I am watching my carbs. Pizza and ice cream are a non-grata foods in my house. I no longer hit the Wendy’s drive through for 1/2 pound cheeseburgers.

I’m stuck. I’m spinning my wheels and I’m tired of the mud splashing in my face.

Yesterday I picked up the November 4th Issue of First for Women because the neon-green and white headline read “The Spice that Ends Belly Fat” with “Lose 6-9 LBS Each Week + End Bloat” and “The active ingredient in turmeric collapses midsection fat cells + powers up the liver by 89%”

I’ve been interested in turmeric’s cancer fighting and skin-enhancing properties  for a long time but have limited my turmeric consumption to spicing my weekly pot of beans with curry. So I grabbed the magazine.

First declares that turmeric destroys existing fat cells, prevents the creation of new fat cells, revs up your metabolism AND repairs the liver. Sound good? They also state that mice on a high fat diet had reduced their fat by 43% in 12 weeks when fed turmeric extract in an amount equivalent to giving a human 1 tsp per day.

The article then shares a number of recipes that use turmeric. Boo. Hiss. I like what I’m eating now, thank you. They also featured expensive supplements. More boos. More hisses. I went on the internet. Turns out you can buy turmeric tea that contains the equivalent to 1 tsp turmeric.

Why buy a tea? I heated up a cup of water and stirred in 1/2 tsp turmeric, and it is palatable and savory.  I figure I can substitute turmeric tea for coffee, and easily get in 1 tsp per day.

Turmeric has many health enhancing properties. One of the better articles is here

High doses, in excess of 2 grams per day (1 tsp is approximately 2.2 grams) can cause nausea, diarrhea, increase risk of bleeding, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar. It can also cause your gall bladder to contract, causing people with gall stones to have issues.  If you are diabetic, hemophiliac, taking blood thinners or blood pressure medications, then you should consult with your doctor before taking turmeric. Even if you have none of these conditions, I would try lower amounts first to see how you react to it.

Me, I’m going to give it a try. I’m doubting the 6-9 lbs per week claim. Still, half of that would be terrific. Anything that would get me losing regularly would be a Godsend.  Will it work? I’ll let you know.

Apple-Oatmeal Pancakes

It’s Sunday Morning, so I thought it would be a good time to have my Apple-Oatmeal Pancakes. They’re Aztec Diet friendly and easy peasy to make. They’re moist and sweet, so they don’t need butter or syrup. If you want to reduce the fat, reduce the batter to one egg or use egg-whites instead.

Heat your frying pan or griddle medium (these are tender, so you don’t want it as hot as for regular pancakes)

Dump the following in a blender:

    2 eggs
    1 apple, in chunks (minus the core)
    1/2 Cup almond milk
    1 Cup rolled or quick oats
    1 TBSP baking powder (non-aluminum, preferably)
    1 pinch salt

Blend until more-or-less smooth

lightly oil your griddle (coconut oil preferred)

Pour dollar-sized pancakes (these do not flip well if they are made as full sized pancakes)

Turn when bubbles break and set in the top.

Makes a feast for one or modest portions for two.

Add cinnamon to taste
Add in a handful of walnuts and pulse once the batter is ready.
Substitute 1/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup water for the almond milk, or use regular milk
Add 2 TBSP cocoa and honey to taste for chocolate pancakes.


The Starving Artist Cookbook – Get it While it’s Free!

Click Image to see on Amazon
Click Image to see on Amazon

On August 22, Self-Publishing Guru Joe Konrath reported that he got drunk and wrote, edited, formatted, designed a cover for and published a short on Amazon in an hour. On four different occasions. He found this exercise tremendously freeing and challenged his readers to try it, giving them 8 hours to accomplish what he did in one.

On August 26, he promised to feature anyone who met the challenge in his August 30 blog: 8 Hour Contest Winners. He gave us until August 29th to complete this and send him the info (click the link to see the books, many of them are free tonight and tomorrow).

I’m not a huge Konrath fan, but I was outside of Chicago at the time visiting my stepmother. Her only computer is an ancient Dell that can surf for exactly five minutes before the browser locks up. There’s only so much I can do on my Kindle Fire. Like watch my on-line writing group buds whooping it up over the silly books they were writing under groaner pen-names. The more fun they were having, the more I felt like I was missing out.

Then I remembered. Back before Lia Anderson was a gleam in my eye, I was researching publishing options. Not because I thought I had a novel in me. Because I wanted to write a cookbook. I abandoned this project for two reasons: 1. I upgraded my word processing app and it ate my MS and 2. I thought eating right was going to cure my TBI (fool, I) and when I realized I didn’t have all the food answers, I dropped the project until such time that I did.

I never did find my answers, but I realized I had a lot of recipes I’d collected along the way. I got back into Cincinnati at 11 p.m. on August 27. Twelve hours later I sat down at my computer (lovely, lovely Mac! How I missed you!) and tossed together The Starving Artist Cookbook, skimming just under Konrath’s 8 hour deadline.

It’s not perfect. I didn’t get to include everything I wanted. The cover is, admittedly, ‘Meh.’ I didn’t have time to create a table of contents. But it’s out there. And tonight and tomorrow, it’s FREE! After that it’s $.99.

I will be adding to this book (and raising the price to a lofty $2.99) sometime this fall. Then I will contact the ‘Zon and tell them I have improved my book, and would they please let all the nice people who already bought it, download the improved version.

It’s written from Lia’s perspective, since she and I share the same quirky attitude about food. It has a large section featuring vegan smoothies, including Lia’s famous ‘pond scum’ smoothies. There’s info about making yogurt (which you can do with almond milk, if you like) and cultured veggies (yum!) and many raw food recipes. There are only a few recipes with include fish and chicken, and none with red meat. It includes several chocolate recipes, including raw fudge and my own crazy cake. One of the first things I’m going to add when I update the book will be Jim McDonald’s crazy cake recipe (which gets a mention in soon-to-be-released Maximum Security).

So, get your copy of The Starving Artist Cookbook now, while it’s free. I guarantee you’ll find at least one keeper recipe in it. And if you don’t, I’ll give you back every penny you didn’t spend on it.

Aztec Diet: Ooey, Gooey Chocolate

Pounds lost since May 5: 4.6

Last time I wrote about my diet, I talked about how I’d departed from the path of righteous food consumption and was determined to climb back up the slippery slope. I girded my loins and set forth to fight the good fight.

Then my swain dumped me.

It’s for the best, really. Still, it left a hole. I resisted filling that hole for 2 days. I tried to rationalize it away, then I cracked. I got in the car and went out to pick up a 1.5 quart tub of triple chocolate ice cream. On the way to the freezer, I detoured for a package of fudge strip cookies. Then I grabbed a jar of microwave hot fudge for a triple chocolate binge: crunchy, cold and gooey.

I ate nothing but chocolate for the next 24 hours. It made me ill. I knew it was going to make me ill, and I didn’t care. I wanted to be nauseated and bloated, and for the world to leave me alone while I ate my ooey, gooey chocolate.

I could have bought a half-pound of cacao with what I spent on junk chocolate. But I wanted the cheap stuff. Junk chocolate is my friend in low places.

Chocolate works. They’ve proven it with science. Cacao is brain food and mood food. If I’d had some on hand, I might have been able to derail that little escapade. Cocoa would have worked. I was out of that, too.

People under stress revert to old behaviors. Science has proven that, too. It’s in my nature to turn to food for comfort. I enjoy food too much. I enjoy sharing food with the people I love. I can’t be one of those people who consider food only as fuel.

The trick, I think, is to focus more on quality than quantity, and to develop go-to treats that aren’t carb and chemical mother-lodes. Treats that satisfy in low doses. Like the recipe below for raw fudge.

In case you’re wondering, I’m fine now. I went back to the grocery store and this time I have restocked my fridge with better choices. This morning I had a Chocolate Cherry Banacado> Right now I am eating Curried Black Beans, not chocolate.

Raw Chocolate Fudge

    Mix equal portions of cacao powder and coconut oil (you can substitute cocoa powder for the cacao)
    Sweeten to taste with raw honey
    Add walnut or pecan pieces, if desired (walnuts are another brain food)
    Smooth in a flat dish with sides, making a layer that is no more than an inch thick
    Harden in the fridge.
    Store in the fridge and cut off a small piece as needed. It’s very rich!

Note: heating the oil and cocoa or cacao will make for a smoother texture, but will destroy nutrients in the cacao. Cocoa powder has already been heated, so add this step if you like. I prefer not to have another pan to wash.

Aztec Diet: Climbing the Slippery Slope

It happened. When did it start? Was it Friday, when Anna wanted to have breakfast to share her fears about her schnauzer, Zipper, newly diagnosed with cancer? I chose eggs with goetta, potatoes and a pancake instead of the spinach omelet I knew I should have. The cancer turned out to be too far progressed for treatment. Saturday, Zipper got his angel wings. We went to the movies for a distraction (Iron Man 3 was excellent, BTW). That included buttered popcorn and Popeye’s chicken afterwards. I ate the biscuit and the crunchy skin. This week, I had a raspberry chocolate chip milkshake made with chocolate milk, two small pieces of cheesecake, a Dove Bar, and a Frappuccino. There was also a chicken quesadilla and a beef gordito in there somewhere. There must be other, undocumented sins. I woke up today, two pounds heavier.

I really have to go back further than Friday’s breakfast. I bought kale and spinach 2 weeks ago, and did not touch either until this morning. I was just tired of smoothies, tired of thinking about food, too tired to fix food, tired in general. Perhaps it had something to do with being out of meds for a week. My therapist says this can promote carb and sugar cravings. Switching jobs from grading tests in the evening to polishing flutes in the afternoon must have played a part.

My TBI (traumatic brain injury) has been acting up. That means that simple, everyday tasks require the herculean effort of Frodo clawing his way up the slopes of Mount Doom. “Sam, I can’t do it anymore,” is a frequent mental refrain. I eat whatever is easiest.

This is not so much about blaming or explaining as understanding. I enjoyed my little trip off the food reservation, but I don’t like the aftermath. I don’t want to do this again.

So, how does one climb back up the slippery slope? One step at a time.

Pomegranate Pleasure

    2 Cups spinach
    1/2 Cup yogurt
    1 banana
    1/2 Cup pomegranate juice
    1 Cup water
    2 – 4 TBSP ground chia

Aztec Diet, Phase II: Magical Fruit

Pounds lost since February 19: 25.5# (includes 6 weeks of relaxed dieting due to work obligations.)
Pounds lost since May 5: 3.4

Menu, 5/8: Pre-Breakfast: Coffee and 2 cuties; Breakfast: 1/2 Chocolate Cherry Banacado Lunch: Ceviche Dinner: 1/2 Chocolate Cherry Banacado; Evening Snack: air-popped popcorn

Menu, 5/9: Pre-Breakfast: Coffee; Breakfast: 12 ounces cottage cheese with 1 cup blueberries and 1 banana; Lunch: chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell; Dinner: I was too exhausted to think about food. 12 ounces of almond milk and a red bell pepper; Evening snack: 2 bananas

Thursday was busy and I was grabbing food on the go. I didn’t do too badly, considering.

I want, want, want to get back to writing Maximum Security. Life is interfering with art again. Now that the audiobook is in the pipeline, I’ve got a pile of flutes to polish for Pat and a number of practical matters that need attending. Plus, Zipper, the amazing paraplegic schnauzer has just been diagnosed with cancer. Pat and Anna are needing extra TLC. They’ll find out this afternoon about his treatment options and prognosis. As Brent says, “Life is messy.”

Now that I’m talking about Phase II and solid food, I thought I’d talk about beans.

Beans are a terrific and often un-sung diet food. Cheap, filling, nutritious, packed with fiber. On paper they have more carbs than are desirable, but beans have a high percentage of “resistant starch,” meaning they do not break down quickly like typical carbs and thus, don’t spike blood sugar.

Beans are one of the best sources of resistant starch. Green bananas are another. Other stars are whole grains, such as rolled oats and long-grain brown rice. You can amp-up the effects of your Aztec Diet by choosing resistant starches whenever possible. (Get more info on resistant starch here)

You can further increase the nutritional value by sprouting the beans before you cook them. Sprouting your beans first has the added benefit of reducing gas.

I usually make a pot of Curried Black Beans every week. I get four 12 ounce or six 8 ounce servings per pound of beans. Nuke a bowl and top with grated cheese and yogurt (a great substitute for sour cream). Stir in a scrambled egg or some sauteed veggies. Toss them on a low-carb tortilla with hot sauce.

Today I’m starting a pot. It’ll be done some time Sunday. Don’t let that scare you, the prep is super-simple and can be tailored around any schedule.

Curried Black Beans

    Soak 1 pound dried Black Beans in your crock-pot for at least eight hours (overnight works well). If you see tiny bubbles forming on top, drain, rinse and replace the water. Otherwise, the beans might sour.
    Rinse the beans, then let the damp beans sit for 24 hours or so (if the beans dry out, rinse them and drain again). By this time, you should be seeing little “tails” on some of the beans.
    Rinse again, then cover with an inch of water
    Add 2 – 3 rounded TBSP curry and 2 bay leaves
    Cook in your crock pot until soft, around 5 hours on high. If you’re going to be gone all day, put them on low and they’ll be done for dinner.
    Add 1 TSP Real Salt or other whole salt in the last 10 minutes before serving (Don’t add salt in the beginning, it prevents the skins from softening)

Aztec Diet: Raw Fish, Anyone?

cover for soon-to-be-released audiobook
cover for soon-to-be-released audiobook

Today I hit the “Publish Button” at ACX. So the audio version of A Shot in the Bark is in the pipeline and will be ready for purchase in two to three weeks. To whet your appetite, I’ve posted the five minute sample on Sound Cloud.

I’m awed by the fabulous job Jane Boyer did with the narration, bringing Lia, Anna, Peter, Bailey and the rest of the dog park gang to life. When I first contacted her, I told her that the tone of Shot ranged from creepy to cozy. I said it had a large cast of characters. She didn’t blink, and she’s been a consummate professional throughout the entire process. Jane has committed to continuing the series with Drool Baby, and I couldn’t be happier. Expect the second audiobook before the middle of August. I can’t wait, because I know the next book is going to be even better.

My evening job is over until June, so I’m back to regular hours and getting my Aztec Diet in hand. Not that it was totally out of hand, but I did make a number of concessions, including having a solid food in the evenings. I still managed to lose a few pounds. Now I’m looking at Phase II in earnest, and working on more quick and easy recipes for one to suit the Aztec Diet.

I’m a big proponent of raw food, and it fits well with the Aztec Diet. No, I can’t do a 100% raw food diet. But 50% raw food is do-able for most folks and still gives significant benefits.

Most raw foodies are vegan. I’m not. Fish is easy to consume raw. Easiest is sushi. Of course, we aren’t allowed to have sticky rice. But you can have sashimi. I occasionally stop at the sushi counter at Kroger’s and ask them to make me a sashimi plate. Sushi is still a fringe food in Cincinnati, so the sushi chefs at Kroger’s are always thrilled to get a special order. They fix it up with avocado and cucumber on a bed of baby romaine. Yum.

If you want to do-it-yourself, you can always pick up a package of individually frozen tuna steaks, a jar of pickled ginger, a tube of wasabi and a bottle of soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s. No, the tuna won’t be as tender as sushi quality, but it will be cheaper and you can have it at your leisure, at home. Be sure to slice against the grain.

Only use tuna. Sushi grade fish is frozen for an extended period at 0 degrees to kill any parasites. If you have a source for sushi-grade fish, great. If you’re like me, you’re stuck with the grocery store. Tuna is the only readily available fish safe to eat raw, as it does not get parasites like other types of fish.

Carol at MIrador del Condor

Another wonderful raw fish option is ceviche. Ceviche is a South American specialty consisting of raw fish that is “cooked” by marinating it in something acidic. I fell in love with it when I was in Peru. You can use vinegar, fresh lemon juice or lime juice. Lime juice gives the tastiest results. If you are feeling decadent, you can use vodka. Ceviche can be made from any white fish. Shrimp and scallops are also used. Tilapia is inexpensive and gives nice results. Raw salad vegetables and spices are added to the marinated fish. Often oil is included. You can check out these recipes: Tilapia Ceviche and Vodka Ceviche

Or, you can try my recipe for a single serving, below:

Carol’s Easy-Peasy Ceviche

    Dice 6 ounces of tilapia filets (or other white fish), place in a glass jar
    Add juice from 2 large limes put the lid on the jar and rotate the jar to ensure the juice has coated all the fish. Put the jar in the refrigerator, rotate occasionally to re-coat the fish. Fish is ‘done’ when it is white and opaque. Time will vary, depending on the size of the pieces. Minimum 20 minutes to a couple hours.
    While the fish is marinating, dice 1/4 – 1/3 Cup each: English cucumber, red bell pepper, tomato (optional. I don’t use tomatoes because I can’t eat them, but they are a classic ceviche ingredient)
    Thinly slice the white part of 1 green onion
    Dice 1/2 avocado (optional)
    Dice 1 serano pepper (optional)
    When the fish is ready, drain the lime juice and discard.
    Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
    Add hot sauce to taste, if desired
    sprinkle on fresh or dried cilantro
    Stir in 1 heaping TBSP mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (optional, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it)
    Stir in vegetables

Many folks eat this on saltines or tortilla chips. Since we’re all about lowering carbs, I suggest simply eating it with a fork. You can also spoon the ceviche onto baby romaine leaves for finger food.