Friday, February 25, 2011

Derek's Dreams

I just received an announcement in my mailbox about another Derek's Dreams fundraiser for ataxia telangiectasia. This terrible disease is a degenerative neurological disease suffered by a sweet young man in the Princeton community. If you would like to support a worthy cause, please consider attending the dinner at Nanina's in the Park in Belleville, NJ or donating if you can't make it. Derek's disease is progressing, and we need to fund research to discover the cure for this terrible condition. Some recent research on Huntington's disease has broken new ground in the search for a treatment for Huntington's (another incurable neurological disease), proving yet again that the most useful action in curing disease is to fund the research, and that we must not give up hope.

More information can be found at Derek's Dreams.

Women Aware

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying Shutterbug to the SmartTalk series, which featured speaker Barbara Corcoran. The SmartTalk series invites famous women such as Jane Goodall and Maya Angelou to share their experiences in enlightening conversations held in theatrical venues around the country. Women Aware, Inc. is a charity partner with the SmartTalk series currently running at the State Theater in New Brunswick, and I thought that you should know a little bit about their work.

I spoke with Phyllis Adams, Executive Director of Women Aware, Inc., before Barbara Corcoran's speech on February 15.  She was proud to inform me that Women Aware, the domestic violence agency for Middlesex county, is celebrating 30 years of service. Gloria Steinem was a keynote speaker at the 30th anniversary fundraiser and gifted $5,000 in matching funds as a result of her talk "Moving Beyond Abuse".

Gloria Steinem stated in her talk the necessity of moving beyond words in describing what we need to do about domestic violence. She said that "Thirty years ago, domestic violence was just called life."

Phyllis told me that Women Aware is committed to ending domestic abuse for all men and women. Women Aware, Inc. is the only domestic violence agency partnering with SmartTalk and is in a pilot program for permanent housing acquisition. Housing has proven to be essential for clients because it removes the client from the harmful relationship s/he may be in.

It is one of the first agencies to issue housing vouchers and in 2009 started the "Esperanza Domestic Violence Project," which raises awareness of domestic violence in the Latino community. Their work is supported through the Jessica Gonzales grant, whose three children were killed because the police didn't enforce a restraining order against her husband.

A person in crisis should first call the domestic abuse hotline. S/he might be referred to a shelter and eventually be supported through nonresidential services.

Phyllis Adams had some suggestions for anyone who is a victim of stalking/abusive behavior:
  • Document every incident with date and time. Think like a lawyer in recording harassing or abusive activity. The police will need to see the whole picture of the stalker rather than one or two extreme incidents.
  • If possible, invest in surveillance equipment to record the stalking activity around your house or apartment.
  • Carry pepper spray.
  • Modify your routines: try to change your route to work or school.
  • Get a large dog to accompany you when you go out.
  • Don't ever be ashamed about the situation and keep it to yourself! Make sure your neighbors know about it and show them a photo of the stalker if you have one.
  • If you are ever followed in your car, immediately drive to your local police department and put your hand on the horn. Do not get out of the car.
  • If possible, get the stalker/abuser's own family and friends to confront him about his aberrant behavior.
  • Even if the stalker is not in your town or county, make sure to file a complaint and get a restraining order from your local police department.
Women Aware is a 5013C nonprofit agency with state, federal, county aid and corporate and foundation grants. For further information, visit Women Aware to view a copy of their annual report.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Follow Your Coconut Bliss

Imagine my joy last week when I received some gift certificates from Coconut Bliss to review their product for Health Fare. Coconut Bliss is an organic coconut milk ice cream company started by Luna and Larry, a couple in Eugene, Oregon who have sworn off dairy products. Not only are they concerned with the ecological impact of dairy farming, they just plain didn't like the way dairy products made them feel.

In 2004, they discovered a hand-cranked ice cream machine at Goodwill, and decided to make ice cream with coconut milk. Friends and family had an extremely "blissful" reaction to this frozen treat, and before you knew it, they were selling their product to local natural food stores the Sweet Life Patisserie and the Red Barn Natural Grocery. A perfect example of the old adage "Necessity is the mother of invention," and lucky for us, too!

Now Coconut Bliss is available in thousands of natural food stores and supermarkets. I was able to buy a pint of Vanilla Island and a pint of Cappuccino from Whole Earth Center in Princeton, and according to their website, you can also buy Coconut Bliss at Wegman's.

According to their product literature, their coconut milk is shipped by boat from an organic family-owned farm in Thailand. The wonderful thing about coconut is that they tend to grow on their own without much human (and pesticide) interference.

Coconut milk has been "discovered" in recent years by nutritionists, doctors and naturopaths, who now believe coconut oil to be the healthiest oil for human consumption, and beneficial for cardiac health. The Coconut Bliss literature states that it is superior to the polyunsaturated vegetable oils that have been promoted by health organizations. According to World's Healthiest Foods, the saturated fat in coconuts is not long chain but medium-chain fatty acids, and that coconut oil contains between approximately 55-65% 62% medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), including the healthy fats, lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid.  The website also states that MCFAs have been used for many years as dietary supplements in situations where absorption of nutrients needs improvement, including situations involving premature infants, and adults with compromised bowel function, perhaps suffering from digestive ailments such as ulcerative colitis and Krone's disease.

The antiviral characteristics of lauric acid are much touted on the web but according to George Mateljan of World's Healthiest Foods , the research is not as definitive as one would think. The most neutral desciption I've found so far is the terse lauric acid entry in Wikipedia, which also subscribes to its antiviral properties.

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that Coconut Bliss is aptly named. I am a sucker for coconut milk, it is a staple in our household, and I was pleased to see another use for it besides the Thai curries I cook weekly. The sweet, creamy flavor of the coconut-based ice cream is apparent immediately upon the first bite, and it is something else. You have to be a fan of coconut milk to enjoy this product, and I am, so it was extremely appealing to me.

I tend to like cappuccino ice cream and found this flavor to be solid with the robust, cinnamony flavor of a good cappuccino (but without being overpowering). It was very layered, with the coconut milk base making its presence known and the coffee flavor as an overlay. Perhaps the more you eat Coconut Bliss, the greater the melding of the two flavors. I found that the vanilla flavor of the Vanilla Island Coconut Bliss lent itself a bit more to the coconut milk base, and it was scrumptious. However, I truly enjoyed both the Vanilla Island and the Cappuccino flavors.

Flecks of bean permeated both flavors, vanilla bean in the Vanilla Island and coffee bean in the Cappuccino. Coconut Bliss lacked the smooth, rich aftertaste that milk-based ice cream has but it also didn't fill you up or give you that bloated feeling you might experience after consuming a bowl of ice cream.

It is apparent to me that this is a terrific product and should not be limited to the lactose-intolerant or vegan market.  There is no reason anyone should feel committed to eating dairy all the time, as coconut milk has a great many nutritive properties, as well as being quite high in the YUM factor. The coconut is indeed, as the Coconut Bliss literature calls it, "The Marvelous Drupe."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Food Corps

Food Corps, a new national service program designed to improve childhood nutrition while cultivating a new generation of farmers and public health leaders, is now accepting applications from potential Service Members. Spend a year (August 2011 - August 2012) of paid public service building and tending school gardens, developing Farm to School programs and conducting hands-on nutrition education in communities of need. Application deadline: April 10. You must be 18 years or older at the start of service

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Roasted Turkey with Raspberry Salsa, Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Stew

Have you ever had the experience of attending a luncheon or supper in honor of someone? It's an exciting event, all friends and admirers gather from near and far with the intention of honoring this fine individual.

But what do you do when your guest of honor never arrives?

We were supposed to have as our guest of honor, Dr. Bonnie Camo, former Monday Suppers attendee, current resident of Trebisacce Marina, Calabria, Italy. She is an MD who now practices homeopathy and holistic medicine, and she has written a number of articles for the Suppers program. Brain Health explores methods of maintaining your brain function against the onslaught of memory loss, Alzheimer's, mental imbalance and other ailments. Biotypes of Alcoholism was presented at the National Council on Alcoholism in 1982. She has served as a medical adviser to the Suppers program before her move to Italy.

Unfortunately, despite the turnout of over a dozen members, Dr. Bonnie was unable to make it. She didn't have a car and since we were unaware of this fact until after the meal, no car (or limo) arrived to take her to the Suppers luncheon. 

However, she might (hopefully) be happy to know that the Monday group created and enjoyed another successful Suppers meal. Since it was February 14, the theme was "red" foods, so we had a raspberry salsa, roasted butternut squash soup (with its orange-red carotenoid) and as a special Valentine's Day treat, living foods carob coconut candy. As much as we missed Dr. Bonnie's presence, everyone had a great time catching up with old friends. It seems she brought Suppers members together just by the possibility of her presence, which certainly is a good thing.

I helped chop vegetables and fruit for the raspberry salsa. This salsa was an intriguing mix of savory vegetables, herbs and sweet fruit, not committing itself to any one category, and subsequently a refreshing harbinger of spring/summer without being too cloying. I can't recommend this salsa enough. Not only is it a healthful, nutritious choice, it is positively addictive. I asked Dorothy where the recipe was from, and she said, "There's no recipe, I just made it up, like I usually do!" It really is a gift to be able to throw together ingredients that seem so disparate and to end up with something so scrumptious. Inspired by Marcia Willsie's flavor demo, I recently purchased "The Flavor Bible" with the intention of developing this talent. The book is a reference point for experienced cooks who want to take their cooking to another level. I was pleased to see that the couple who started Vij's in Vancouver were contributors to this book, along with other noted chefs such as Alice Waters and Eric Ripert.

This salsa was intended to be served with roasted turkey or chicken, but it certainly can hold its own as a side dish. I can't wait to make it when the pertinent vegetables, herbs and fruits are in season in New Jersey. I imagine farm fresh raspberries, greens and orchard apples would create an even more delectable and unforgettable raspberry salsa.
The vegetarians ate the Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Stew, which was also a nice, hearty dish. Even though Monday was warmer than usual, this stew was fine even in the milder weather.

Butternut squash is sweeter and not as low carbohydrate as spaghetti squash, so you must be aware of this fact if you have any tendency toward high blood sugar. However, squash is rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red cancer-fighting carotenoid.

For dessert, one of our members arrived with some living food Death By Chocolate macaroons made with carob. She owns a dehydrater and put them in the dehydrater at 100 degrees for 24 hours. I am not sure what the oven equivalent would be. I would bake them for the same amount of time as any macaroon.

As you can see from this Valentine's Day bounty, our luncheon was a sweetheart deal. I'm just sorry that Dr. Bonnie was unable to savor it, but she is returning to Italy, which is certainly no hardship when it comes to fresh, healthful and delectable food choices.

Roasted Turkey with Raspberry Salsa


  • 1 turkey breast, 6 – 8 pounds
  • High quality, coarse salt
  • olive oil

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 3 bell peppers, red, yellow or orange
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 apples, unpeeled
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 orange
  • ½ - 1 whole bunch parsley
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • juice of one lemon


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Rinse the turkey breast and pat dry.

Place breast up in a roasting pan.

Rub it with a little salt and drizzle on a little olive oil.

Roast the turkey, basting a couple times, for about 3 hours or until the thermometer registers done for turkey.

Let it sit for 20 minutes before carving.  Serve with pan juices.

Salsa Directions:

Juice the lemon and put it in a mixing bowl and toss the following ingredients as you add them.

Finely chop the peppers, onion, apples and orange. 

Mince the herbs.  Toss in raspberries and serve.

Serves 10 – 12.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Stew


  • 1 pound dried chick peas, prepared according to package directions, or two large cans
  • olive oil or coconut fat
  • 2 butternut squashes
  • 2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 TBS ground cumin
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches collard greens, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • water
  • salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce to taste


Clean and peel the squash and cut into thick rounds, at least an inch thick.

Coat a cookie sheet with olive oil.  Lay each round on the sheet and flip it so that there is a film of olive oil on top.

Roast the squash at 400 for about 25 minutes and flip.  Continue roasting until it’s fork tender.  Allow to cool enough to handle.

In enough oil to coat the bottom of the soup pot well, sauté cardamom and cumin for a minute, then add the onions and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add the collards, chick peas and vegetable broth and just enough water to cover the greens. 

Simmer until the greens are tender enough.

Cut the squash into large chunks and add them to the stew.  Heat through and serve.

Makes 8 – 10 dinner portions.

Death by Chocolate Macaroons

  • 2 cups dried coconut flakes
  • i cup carob powder or chocolate powder
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. Himalayan salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with your hands or a spoon.  
Form the mixture into one-inch balls and place them on Teflex-lined dehydrator trays.  
Flatten the cookies with your hands or a fork and dehydrate at 115 degrees for 20 to 30 hours, depending on the size of the cookie.

Suppers Program on Television

Just a brief note to post the Health & Healing link to Dorothy Mullen and Karen Tank describing the Suppers program on television.