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Power Balls

power balls snacks

For some years I've been making these easy and nutritious little snack balls to save on pricey snack bars, reduce packaging waste, and better control the quality of ingredients. If you have a food processor, you too can make these little treats. What goes in them can suit your preferences and what you have on hand.

What's your favorite snack bar and what does it contain? Look it's ingredients to get inspiration for making your own flavor. If your favorite bar contains ingredients that you don't have or wouldn't ever buy... you probably shouldn't be eating it!

power balls snacks

There is a lot of flexibility in the ingredients. The two main parts are: 1) nuts and/or seeds for protein and substance and 2) dried fruit as a sticky binder and for sweetness and flavor. Any additional ingredients add mouth feel, health benefit, or more sweetness or flavor. See sample recipes below, but this is something you can get creative with. You can be as simple and easy as just two ingredients such as cashews and dates, or get complex and pack the nuggets with superfoods.

I add the "dry" ingredients first, the nuts and seeds, plus any powdered additives or spices. Pulse lightly or process more thoroughly, that's a matter of preference for a smooth mouth feel or to maintain chunky-course nuts for a little crunch. Then add the "wet" ingredients, the dried fruits, oils, sweeteners, liquid extracts (e.g. vanilla, orange, stevia).

power balls snack blending

Some items blend better when chopped prior to putting in the food processor. For example, the mango slices I currently have are very dry and tough. Even though I cut them to smaller pieces with scissors before adding them, they jam up in the blade and I need to stop it and move things around several times until they get better incorporated.

power balls snacks

Process until combined and clumping together. If it still appears dry and doesn't easily roll into balls in your hand, more wet ingredients should be added and tasting it will give you a clue which direction to go. If it is not sweet enough for you, add more honey or maple syrup, or dried fruit that still contains ample moisture. If it is sweet enough, you can add more coconut oil or olive oil for more moisture, though if it's already appearing or feeling oily, do not go this route. If it feels too wet to hold it's form as balls, you can add more dry ingredients, nuts, chia seeds, dry banana chips, shredded coconut, powdered maca, spirulina, etc.

Form into balls with clean hands. They can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks or freezer for up to six months. I like them less cold so take them out of the fridge prior to eating or leave a half dozen or so in a container on the counter for a couple days, they are not super perishable if kept sealed.

Tropical Mango

2 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hemp seed
- - process, then add:
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 Tbsp bee pollen
2 cups chopped dried mango slices
1 cup dates
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
- - roll in shredded coconut

Turkish Delight

1 cup raw pecans or almonds
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
- - process, then add:
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried figs
1/2 cup dates
1 Tbsp honey
(Olive oil is a good flavor addition here if more moisture is needed without adding sweetness, add just a drizzle at a time. Although I find the above combination usually releases a lot of oil on it's own.)

Chocolate Cherry

1 1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw or cold pressed cocao powder
1/4 cup hemp seeds
- - process, then add:
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup dried cherries (tart, sweet, or bing
1/4 cup goji berries
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp maple syrup
- - roll in cocoa powder

power balls snacks

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Backyard Breakfast

fresh eggs and potato breakfast

Breakfast the other morning was 99% fresh from the backyard: eggs, red potatoes, garlic, miner's lettuce, nasturtium flowers, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme... everything but the black pepper and sea salt. Somedays, all the work really pays off!

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Rosemary Powder

rosemary flowerRosemary is one of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, particularly in chicken, salmon, and potato dishes and in breads. Rosmarinus, "Dew of the sea", is not just delicious and wonderful smelling, but it also has many traditional, medicinal, and superstitious uses, as well as a mythological history connecting it to Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. It's a natural food preservative and moth repellent and has been scientifically shown to protect the brain from free radicals, lowering risk of stroke and diseases such as Alzheimer's, as well as having anticarcinogenic effects*. In the same botanical family as mint and sage, this aromatic herb is a drought tolerant and somewhat hardy perennial that grows well in the Mediterranean-like climate where I live.

When the plant is not flowering, and the spiky leaves are younger and less tough or woody, I'll use them fresh from the plant: whole sprigs, finely chopping the needles, or crushing them with a mortar and pestle. I also like to have dried rosemary on hand for use all year around. To dry rosemary, you can tie the sprigs up with a string and hang somewhere that gets good airflow, though keep it dry and out of the sunlight. I often dry sprigs for use later by rolling them up in a paper towel and leaving on the back of my counter for several weeks. The paper towel protects them from collecting dust—which seems to happen in the air since rosemary has a little bit of a sticky sap coating. Folding it into a paper towel doesn't cause mold or prevent the drying of the herb in my climate.

After the rosemary becomes throughly dry, strip the needles from the woody stems and put them in sealed jar to retain pungency. If the herb is fully dried, the needles should easily break away from the sticks.

rosemary sticks

rosemary in coffee grinderI keep a jar of these whole needles for cooking, but often I like to use rosemary powder for recipes such as soups and especially for adding to homemade salad dressing. Dried rosemary needles can be easily turned to a powdered herb using a coffee grinder. Clean the grinder first to remove all traces of coffee grounds and oils and then again after to remove the rosemary powder and resin. Grind for a couple minutes, until a fine powder.

Your kitchen will now smell amazing.

rosemary powder being bottled

A small funnel is a great tool to have in the kitchen for bottling seasonings, whether you buy them in bulk or make them yourself!

rosemary powder in bottle

* http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030102210.htm Rosemary Chicken Protects Your Brain From Free Radicals

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Tomatoes Are Evil

the tomato seductressI'm already fairly well practiced at avoiding refined carbs (white wheat flour, sugar, etc.) but I was looking at a lentil stew recipe and thought about how so many recipes call for nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc.), wondered about substituting different vegetables for such things, did a search and found this:
Hah! It has a few recipes, but they still contain things I avoid. I wonder if I could make alfredo sauce with goat cheese?
I wonder if goat or sheep cheese is healthier (less chemicals, less lactose) than an organic cow cheese like parmesan that's been aged a long time (aged cheese has less lactose)?
So I decided I should keep better records and begin creating recipes that only use ingredients in my diet and find the foods that really are good* for me.

It's not totally uncommon to avoid nightshades**, since it aggravates arthritis and gout, as well as the blood type thing, and the macrobiotic yin thing... so maybe there's a market for a recipe book!
I love looking at all the different theories of health and food and integrating them all with my own experience and self-knowledge, and I've been getting really into this recently thinking about creating the perfect diet for myself. If I was to write a recipe book I think it would be very integrated and talk about the reasons for my choices.

* By "good for me" I mean, more than just healthy, but also enjoyable, tasty, delicious to at least some degree, and feels good to my body without causing suffering in the short or long term. I think it's crucial that I find food that is good for me in all these ways, and stick to them at least 90% of the time... when I really think about it, I shouldn't need anything else.

** "Potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, and Tabasco sauce are classified as nightshade foods. A particular group of substances in these foods, called alkaloids, can impact nerve-muscle function and digestive function in animals and humans, and may also be able to compromise joint function. Because the amount of alkaloids is very low in nightshade foods when compared with other nightshade plants, health problems from nightshade foods may only occur in individuals who are especially sensitive to these alkaloid substances. Since cooking only lowers alkaloid content of nightshade foods by about 40-50%, highly sensitive individuals may want to avoid this category of food altogether, while non-sensitive individuals may be able to eat these foods, especially in cooked form, without problem. Green and sprouted spots on potatoes usually reflect high alkaloid content, even though the green itself involves the presence of chlorophyll, not alkaloids. For this reason, sprouted areas should always be thoroughly removed before potato cooking, or the potatoes should be discarded altogether."

I also found this article interesting:
Especially the part about how potatoes and tomatoes balance yang (in macrobiotic theory) and help digest meat and dairy fats and proteins, and that's why people crave it and why it's such a big part of the American diet. So if those types of fats and proteins are used very sparingly, I don't think nightshades will be necessary, in fact, they might be too extreme for an otherwise balanced diet. "Extreme foods have extreme effects"!

I'm especially interested in this because of the bunions I just had removed and the new pain in my elbow... "If you are healing from disease or are in pain, especially in the bones and joints, such as wrists, hips, and knees, or back, teeth, or gums, avoid nightshades. If you wish to have the strongest body possible, then reduce, avoid, or eliminate nightshades."

Update 04/25/2011: I've been doing my best to avoid nightshades in my diet for the past couple years and have found direct connection between nightshade consumption (especially chilies and tomatoes) to a rash that I am prone to called perioral dermatitis.

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5x5 for 5

I've been feeling pretty healthy, considering all I've put my body through in the past 8 months, and it being flu season right now and I've managed to fight off everything that's come my way. Except, I've had a frustrating rash on my face for about 6 weeks now. A rash of unknown cause or cure.

I've created a simplified diet, based on the blood type diet (type A+), macrobiotic diet, and some other things. The simpler the better for me, which is why the Master Cleanse is so easy for me to stick to, there's only three things I can eat on that.

For 5 days I'm preparing for the Master Cleanse and only eating:

-- 5 whole grains: brown/wild rice, quinoa, oats, barley, rye (whole grain, un-risen bread is okay)
-- 5 proteins: beans (lentil, soy, pinto, black, anasazi), fish (cod, tuna, salmon, red snapper, sardine), nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, pine nuts), plain yogurt
-- 5 veggies: kale/chard, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, carrot (some other veggies are okay, salad greens, avocado*, and sea vegetables are good, but not peppers, tomatoes*, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, eggplant, or cabbage)
-- 5 fruits: apple, pear, apricot, peach, blueberry (some other fruits are okay, but not orange, tangerine, banana, mango, papaya, or melon)
-- 5 condiments: olive oil, lemon, sesame (gomasio w/o MSG, & tahini), honey, blackstrap molasses

No eating out. No sugar, alcohol, coffee, or black tea. Green tea and mate are okay though I'm going to ween myself from those in the next few days. Herbal teas are okay if no flavors are added.

After that, I'm going to do the Master Cleanse for 7-10 days, maybe longer if the rash is improving but not totally better. Then I'll get back to the 5x5 for awhile, hopefully adding things very gradually to see how I react, and stick to the simple 5x5 until I feel back in balance.

*yes, I know avocado and tomato are fruits but since they are eaten like vegetables this is how I am categorizing them

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