Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sweet Surrender

A couple of things came out of my kitchen recently that were so delumpcious I feel absolutely compelled to share.  Trust me, you NEED to be making these, and if so, you WILL be eating ALL of them.  I feel so strongly about their deliciousness that if I could, I'd force you to try the batches I made, but then again, they're so good I might prefer hoarding them for myself.

So, barring an unexpected streak of culinary generosity on my part, here are the recipes for two fantastic copycat recipes created by talented food bloggers so you too can enjoy the fruits of their genius.  Somehow, these smart and talented people managed to create these to match my dietary restrictions, so the only thing I had to do was sub out a few ingredients and take the sugar down a notch in a few instances.  Even if you're not concerned about ingredients in the store-bought versions, you may be compelled by the cost savings to make your own.

The first recipe I managed to stumble upon while searching for a fun fall granola to make on own.  You see, I love granola, and among processed foods, it's probably on the healthier side.  BUT, I've yet to find a commercial granola that manages to be organic, low sugar AND soy-free.  Everything I've encountered on the shelves scores only a two-for-three, at best.  So I went looking on the old interwebs, and found this:

Ginger Cashew Granola

Ginger Cashew Granola

If you're a Trader Joe's enthusiast, you may recognize that TJ's has a version of ginger cashew granola that's eat-the-whole-box-in-one-sitting-kind-of-good.  In fact, I was pretty darn obsessed with it for a time.  It's that scrumptious.  The thing is, it's not organic and definitely has ingredients that I wrote off years ago as not being great for me.  So flash forward to this amazing find and I'm back in business.  I was also surprised by how easy it was to make granola.  Frankly, it's so simple Dave could make it (yes, honey, I am daring you to prove me right one of these days and make this).

Here's my take on the original recipe from www.alaskafromscratch.com.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups organic old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup organic raw cashews, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup organic shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 tablespoons coconut sugar (you can use brown sugar one-for-one if you prefer, but I like coconut sugar for its low glycemic index and the taste mirrors brown sugar closely)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (I didn't have this and found I didn't really need it)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted (you can sub any light vegetable oil, but if using canola, I strongly recommend buying organic to avoid GMOs)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, diced

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with slipat or aluminum foil  and spray the foil with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the oats, drained cashews, coconut, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, crystallized ginger and salt until well combined.
  3. In another smaller bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and toss to coat well.
  4. Spread the mixture out onto the baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring the granola every 10 minutes, until golden brown, fragrant, and beginning to crisp (the granola crisps up further as it cools).


KIND bars 

And here's the other recipe that knocked my socks of this week.  Anyone familiar with Kind bars?  They're pretty darn healthy in their own right, though they aren't organic and do have soy lethicin and cane sugar in them, which aren't really on my diet.  But even for most folks who don't need to be so particular about ingredients, they can get a little pricey.


Well, this wonderful blogger has cracked the code and provided not only recipes for each kind of Kind bar, she also offers step-by-step instructions.  The only real work here is that you have to boil the sugar mixture (honey and maple syrup) that serves as the binding agent using a candy thermometer and it takes a few minutes to get to the right temp, but honestly, it's totally worth the effort.  These suckers taste like a cross between the Kind bars they emulate and some insanely good - but healthy - candy bar concoction.  Wowa.  

I think I know what I'll be eating while all the little ghosts and goblins go out in search of treats this Halloween.


KIND Bar Copycat | Dark Chocolate, Nuts & Sea Salt

Homemade Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bar
(click here for just the recipe if you don't need the instructions)

Adapted to my specs (again, I give this amazing woman all the credit, but this version contains a few small tweaks of my own).


Ingredients

FOR NUT MIXTURE:
  • 2 cups whole roasted* unsalted organic almonds
  • 3/4 cup whole roasted* unsalted organic peanuts
  • 3/4 cup roasted* organic walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup organic crispy brown rice cereal
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
FOR SYRUP:
  • 1/2 cup honey**
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
FOR CHOCOLATE DRIZZLES:
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips**
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (you can use grapeseed or other vegetable oil)


Directions
Grease/spray large bowl, 9x13 baking sheet/pan, wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and bottom of drinking glass. Set aside.
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*IF NUTS AREN'T ALREADY ROASTED:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on large baking sheet and bake for 10 min. until lightly toasted and fragrant.
------------------------
Add  toasted nuts to large bowl, cereal and flaxseed meal. Stir to combine; set aside.

In 1-1/2 or 2 quart saucepan, combine honey, rice syrup, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and vanilla over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 260 degrees (hard ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Immediately, pour mixture over nut mixture, stir until evenly coated. Quickly transfer to greased/sprayed 9x13 pan, use spatula to spread mixture evenly in pan; press the mixture to close in holes and distribute evenly all over the pan. Using bottom of greased/sprayed drinking glass to tap and compact mixture in pan. Sprinkle top with 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Let cool 20 minutes. While still slightly warm, invert pan on cutting board and tap until mixture falls out in one piece. Cut into 20 bars. (If they cool too much and become too hard or brittle to cut easily, put in warm oven for 1-2 minutes to soften; proceed with cutting.) Allow bars to cool completely before proceeding with chocolate drizzles.

FOR CHOCOLATE DRIZZLES: Add chocolate chips and oil to microwave safe bowl. Cook on high power in 20 second intervals, stirring each time, just until last chips melt into mixture (approx. 60 seconds total). Use fork or squeeze bottle to drizzle chocolate over nut bars. Let cool until chocolate hardens.

STORAGE TIP: Store in airtight container with parchment paper between layers. For take-along convenience, use parchment paper pieces to wrap individual bars burrito-style. Refrigerate or freeze (not that they're going to last long in your presence).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Price of Healing

This 60 Minutes story came across my feed and it shocked me.  It details the price gouging of cancer patients and how several prominent doctors are fighting back.








I'm impressed with these doctors for standing up for their patients' rights, ethical conduct and common decency, and I hope they're successful in effecting positive change.  However, what struck me most was how incredibly expensive it is to heal from cancer, even conventionally.  

A number of people have told me that while they might be interested in pursuing the type of treatment I received at Angeles Hospital, they felt it would be too cost prohibitive because their insurance wouldn't cover it.  By no means was my treatment protocol cheap, but I was shocked to see how much more many patients apparently pay in a year for their drug therapies, even when they have insurance.

This story underscores yet another reason I'm grateful we were given several options to explore when I was diagnosed.  Every day, I'm reminded that my journey has been a blessing, uncovering hidden truths that surprised me.  For instance: 


  • It's not necessarily more expensive to pursue alternative therapies, or even to leave the country for treatment.  While we assumed we'd be paying a premium to travel for cutting-edge therapies, it turns out the cost of care can actually be much higher right here at home.
  • The average person could never afford to eat an all-organic diet.  Yes, buying organic is more expensive if you're just comparing the cost of conventional vs. organic items.  However, we've found we don't spend that much more because we buy fewer processed food products, eat out less frequently and know we will reap the benefits of fewer doctors' bills in the long run from our healthy lifestyle. 
  •  Paying out-of-pocket to doctors not covered by insurance can break the bank.  I see a number of doctors and practitioners who aren't covered by my insurance, but I've found that I pay the same, and in some cases even less, than what I pay for in-network visits.  In return I receive longer, more in-depth visits with these out-of-network providers.  Further, the cost of any tests ordered is provided up front.  
In my experience, the out-of-pocket costs for my conventional treatment have just been higher on average.  For example:  My thermogram - which can detect cancer 5-9 years before a mammogram using infrared imagery rather than dangerous radiation - was $300 out of pocket.  The mammogram was nearly $1,000 after insurance because I was under 40. 

I'm not saying my path is the right approach for everyone, nor do I think conventional medicine should be avoided. I truly believe healing is a very personal thing and we all need to find the care that best suits our needs and paradigms.  At the end of the day, I just want people to know that they have options and ultimately, for everyone to be able to afford treatment that will extend and improve their quality of life.  

If nothing else, survival shouldn't have to mean bankruptcy.