Plummy Blueberry Cherry Cake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a while since I’ve made one of my famous raw cakes, much to the distress of my poor husband, who then has to resort to junk-food sweets to stave off his inner sugar-monster. Part of the problem has been my new blender. I was kind of dreading facing the reality of having swapped out a seriously mean machine for a pathetic piece of you know what.

It’s part of being a mum. When your son says how much he loves and misses the blender (after he moves out) and you know he probably won’t eat fruit otherwise, it’s hard not to resist giving him the mean machine. The things that love does. Sigh.

So I went shopping for a new blender/food-processor and was mildly traumatised to discover they no longer stock Ninjas. Honestly, what is wrong with these people?! The best they could come up with was a Nutribullet, and me, not knowing any better, bought it. To be fair, I LOVED the book and recipes that came with it, but that ‘thing’ is completely incapable of whizzing a frozen banana, even when you chop the banana into small pieces… which takes all the fun out of fruit smoothies for me.

Sauces, though, it can handle with fair aplomb, and I’m eternally grateful for the lemon tree in my back yard, which, when added to any nut, with a dash of salt and some water, makes for a delicious sauce, cream, dressing, liquid cheese, (whatever fancy name you want to give it) depending on the consistency, ratio of ingredients and what herbs you add. My favourite herb to add is basil (think pesto) but I made a pretty good pasta sauce the other night using tofu, macadamia nuts, lemon, salt and fresh mint.

Cakes. What about cakes? That was the big question and I wasn’t feeling confident. I told myself to try whizzing the dry ingredients first, but as usual I was multi-tasking and force of habit got the better of me. Before I knew it, all the ingredients were thrown in, which would have been a non-issue if I was using a Ninja (I really miss that thing).

Before I started, I raided my fridge, freezer and cupboards for possible ingredients. Then I sat down with pen and paper and mocked up a plan. I put my ideas in the left column and left space in the right column for the inevitable modifications. Impatient as I am, I’m a complete sucker for a three-layered raw cake. I decided to use less dates because even my sweet-tooth husband says my cakes are too sweet, and the end result has been a resounding success.

I was grumpy about the whizzer not being able to blend properly without me adding a lot more liquid than I’m used to using, but the resultant consistency was lovely. My cakes are usually freezer cakes, pulled out for 5-10 minutes to defrost slightly, but we’ve decided this one is best stored in the fridge, because the softness of the top layer is fantastic at that temperature. Obviously they won’t store as long in the fridge, but this will be polished off within days anyway!

Here’s the recipe below. If your blender is pathetic like mine, you might need to add more non-dairy milk if you want a smoother finish. My husband and I prefer a more chunky consistency because we enjoy the different textures and flavour surprises. A chunky base is particularly satisfying, so I never over-blend the base.

BOTTOM LAYER

1/4 cup of oats (skip this, obviously, if you are sensitive to oats!)

7 x medjool dates, pitted

1 cup of almonds

1/2 cup of walnuts

1 tablespoon of coconut or any other non-dairy milk, or water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlend your ingredients together. You can actually use any nut, these are just my favourites. If you have a brilliant whizzer-upperer, you don’t necessarily need any liquid, but if you do, using creamy liquids like coconut milk or nut-milks, often makes for a better consistency than adding water. I used coconut as my liquid throughout each layer. Decadent bliss!

Spread your blended mix into the bottom of a dish. If you want to, you can press whole blueberries into this later, like I did. It can help to put the dish in the freezer while you are making the next layer, to firm it up a little.

MIDDLE LAYER

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup of macadamia nuts

6 x medjool dates, pitted

1/2 cup of coconut or any other non-dairy milk, or water

1/2 to 1 cup of blueberries

Blend everything up! Use more liquid if the consistency isn’t as smooth as you’d like it to be. An optional extra might be a dash of vanilla essence, or if you love vanilla beans like me, the inside of one vanilla pod.

Pop the dish back in the freezer while you make the last layer.

TOP LAYER

1/2 cup of walnuts

1/2 cup macadamia nuts

1 plum, chopped into pieces

1/2 cup of cherries

And however much liquid (non-dairy milk or water) you need to blend

In essence, I was just using the fruit I had available in my fridge and freezer! I also added a ‘secret’ ingredient which I felt really made a different to the flavour: 1 heaped teaspoon of dried hibiscus, rosella and rosehip petals from my dried herbal tea collection. As a herbalist, I LOVE adding dried herbal teas to my raw cakes! This ingredient isn’t imperative, but any one of these three herbs would be fine, if you can get hold of them.

Blend everything up, and spread this mix over the existing two layers. Top with blueberries and sprinkle with chia seeds and dried flower petals, if you have any.

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Ta-dum! Keep your raw cake in the fridge, covered, and consume within days. If you aren’t going to gobble it all up this quickly, keep it in the freezer. We often like to freeze to a certain firmness where it’s easy to cut into portions which can later be removed and defrosted as needed.

 

 

 

 

Understanding Zinc

zinc

ZINC and the IMMUNE SYSTEM

I can’t say that zinc is a go-to solution for me when I’m boosting the immune system, even though deficiencies in zinc can impact the immune system. In part, this is because I know immune boosting herbs tend to be rich in zinc as well as the many other nutrients required for healthy immune functioning.

Zinc is not the only or even the best answer for immune deficiency, by a long shot. It’s worth noting zinc is often prescribed or self-prescribed for immune deficiency even when there is no evidence of a zinc deficiency. The thing is, while correcting a zinc deficiency can help improve immune function, boosting zinc levels when they are already fine won’t do anything to improve your immune function, and may actually be counter-productive.  Continue reading

The Super Hero

I had a lovely morning talking with my daughter and she has inspired some blogs. Here’s the first one, before I forget everything she told me!

“I don’t understand. You get these people who go vegan, but they haven’t done their research and they aren’t eating properly, and they get sick, and then instead of fixing up their diet, they just decide veganism is bad for them and they stop altogether. Where’s the sense in that?

It’s like being a super hero and burning out because you are saving too many people and doing it all night when you should be sleeping. So you go to the doctor and you ask him for advice and he says ‘Oh you should stop being a super hero, it’s bad for you’.

If you really loved helping and saving people, you wouldn’t accept a lame kind of response like that. You’d think ‘This doctor is useless. If he was a decent doctor, he’d say ‘Let me help you organise your time and energy better, and set some limits on how much work you do and when, so that you can keep doing what you love’.” Continue reading

Injury healing and tissue repair- Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at the role of inflammation in wound repair and the management of inflammation. Part 2 is about tissue perfusion. A lot of this information is applicable for preventing tissue damage in the first place and explores practises that ensure better recovery. Injuries, wounds etc obviously come in many different forms, so this information is general only.

What are tissues? Tissues are groups of cells that are bound together or are working together as a team to do a special job. You could think of cells as being the bricks in the house, and tissues as being the walls i.e. the bricks/cells combine together to form the walls/tissues. Just as cells combine to create tissues, tissues combine to create organs. Using our house building analogy, an organ would be a group of walls working together to become a room! And all of our organs working together as a team are the equivalent of the house as a whole.

Good tissue perfusion is a good blood supply to the tissues. Good tissue perfusion is really helpful when it comes to repairing wounds and/or reducing excess inflammation. When enough blood is being delivered to our body tissues, the cells in our tissues are being nourished with nutrients and oxygen from our blood. As well as delivering what the cells need to survive and thrive, our blood also helps to remove waste products from the tissues and cells, which is just as important for maintaining healthy tissue and cellular function. Continue reading

Injury healing and tissue repair – Part 1

 Managing inflammation

Inflammation is often what causes pain but it’s important to understand that inflammation is the bodies attempt to repair a wound and resolve or prevent infection. When there is a broken bone or broken skin, inflammation is the magical process that helps knit everything back together again.

A little bit of inflammation is natural and helpful, but quite often when it comes to healing, it can help to dampen the inflammation process slightly, because our Western/modern diet and lifestyle tends to tip inflammation into overdrive or to steer it in unhelpful directions that hinder rather than help healing.

In some scenarios, inflammation is a natural response to irritation and friction. For example, in osteoarthritis the loss of friction-avoiding, shock-absorbing cartilage means that bones start to touch and rub against each other. This causes inflammation. Friction-based inflammation can occur on a day-to-day basis when we neglect our posture, put too much pressure on the musculoskeletal system by being overweight or ignore injuries and continue to aggravate them rather than resting and getting help to recover properly. One of the most important things you can do to prevent inflammation is to avoid sitting too much, pushing your body too hard, and engaging in repetitive physical movements that result in wear and tear of specific muscles and joints. Continue reading

Probiotics, prebiotics and gut flora

Taking a probiotic or fermented food can be helpful to our gut flora but only to an extent. They really don’t survive long if they aren’t being fed and the quantity of microbes in the tablets or fermented food compared to the the population in the gut itself…. well, think of it as being a bit like asking one doctor to service an entire hospital. A mere drop in the ocean so to speak!

Probiotics and fermented foods can add new strains (species) but they don’t do a lot to really boost numbers. What really makes a difference is your diet. Within days of changing what you eat, your gut flora changes too, because it’s your diet that boosts or starves each strain. And the healthiest bacterial populations in our gut feed on plant foods (indigestible fibre) so this is what we need in order to nurture and build a thriving healthy gut environment. Animal products don’t contribute to this healthy population because they don’t contain fibre. In fact, by having too much animal foods in your diet, you risk starving your healthy gut flora, and as I’ve pointed out previously, this can lead to inflammation both in the gut and the body as a whole. Continue reading

Nourish rather than destroy

Your microbiome is your personal ecosystem of microbes that live in and on your body. Microbes are small organisms, e.g. bacteria and viruses, more commonly known as ‘germs’ or ‘bugs’. These microbes out-number our cells 10 to 1, and while most of us think of microbes as being bad, the vast majority of microbes within and around us are friendly or benign. Many of the microbes that share our body with us are vital to the function of body systems, and we could not survive without them. While most of them live in our gut, they inhabit every surface of our body that comes into contact with the outside world, such as our skin, throat, nose, lungs, bladder, vagina and so on.

A healthy balance of microbes in your body is very important to the healthy functioning of your immune system. Imbalances in our micro biome can contribute to many modern diseases involving inflammation and immune dysfunction such as allergies and automimmune disease. In a way, you could think of your microbiome as being part of your immune system, because it helps keep bad bugs under control. I think of these microbes as being a support team for our white blood cells. Continue reading

Enhancing Iron Absorption

When we source iron from animal products and/or supplements, our body isn’t able to intelligently modulate uptake. The iron is absorbed, whether we need it or not, and this can put us in danger of iron excess. Iron is pro-oxidative and hence damaging to DNA and other molecules.

Iron excess is associated with a broad range of chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal and other cancers. Chronic (long term) iron overdose can result in aggressive behaviour, fatigue or hyperactivity, gut damage, seratonin imbalances, liver damage and so on.

When we source our iron from plant based foods, our body automatically adjusts how much we absorb based on what we need, which means we are in no danger of iron excess. If we need less, we will absorb less; if we need more, we absorb more. Vegans and vegetarians typically develop lower ferritin stores and this optimizes their absorption of iron.

WHAT ENHANCES IRON ABSORPTION?

You can dramatically enhance this absorption process by making sure you have vitamin-C rich foods with (or around about the same times as) iron rich foods. Most fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but some of the richer sources are broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley, capsicum, black currants, guava, kiwifruit, mango, orange, pineapple, rockmelon, and strawberry. The citric acids in citrus fruits also enhance absorption, as do the beta-carotenes in yellow, red and orange foods. Continue reading

St Johns Wort- safe use

St John’s Wort is probably one of the most researched and self-prescribed herbs around, so I thought I’d let people know some info for safe usage. These are some of the things I have to think about, as a professional, before prescribing:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: while this herb appears to be safe so far given studies on both pregnancy and breastfeeding, I tend to err on the side of caution in pregnancy and use less or no herbs (or only miscarriage-prevention herbs), especially if there is any history of miscarriage.

There is a wonderful word we use in herbal medicine called ‘contraindicated’, which is the opposite to ‘indicated’. When someone says “St John’s Wort is indicated in ___”, this means “use this herb for this condition”. If a herb is contraindicated for a particular condition, it means DONT use it.

For example, St Johns Wort is contraindicated for people who have skin photosensitivity, and people taking high doses should be careful if they get a lot of sun exposure or artificial UVA irradiation.

St Johns Wort has been listed as contraindicated with the following drugs: warfarin, digoxin, cyclosporin, indinavir and related anti-HIV drugs, the contraceptive pill… and many others! This is because doctors are worried that something in SJWort may make the body metabolise prescribed drugs faster and thus reduce their effectiveness. It looks like the cause for this might be a specific phytochemical called hyperforin that is present in some subspecies of STWort and not others. Low SJW doses of no more than 2g per day, and/or a form containing less hyperforin (e.g. liquid herbal extract like the ones us herbalists use!) can make SJW safe to use with prescribed drugs, but it should still be done with professional supervision. I’ve certainly seen people get pregnant while on the pill due to taking SJW concurrently (at the same time). So basically, if you are on prescribed medication, don’t self-prescribe SJW- get professional guidance. Continue reading

Diarrhoea

I’m writing this blog to answer a question in the Ask the Vegan Naturopath Facebook group. The question is about chronic diarrhoea, with a known gluten sensitivity. While the person I’m answering has had medical testing done and was able to provide a fair bit of information, I’m answering this in a more general manner for the benefit of others who may be suffering from diarrhoea without the benefit of having done this investigation:

First, make sure you have fully researched all gluten sources. Make sure you haven’t missed anything. And double check the ingredients labels on everything he is eating. Has this been medically diagnosed? I’ve seen children who appear to have diarrhea but it’s actually constipation with loose stool running out around this blockage.

If it is diarrhea, ask yourself if there is too much raw food or fruit in his diet. These can lead to diarrhea in some people. Loose stool in Chinese medicine is often thought to be due to weak or deficient spleen-pancreas qi, or if it gets really bad, deficient digestive fire. These people can have a pale tongue with a thin white coating, tend to be tired, have food sensitivities and other digestive troubles. They advise reducing excessive raw vegetables, fruit (esp citrus), sprouts, cereal grasses, tomato, spinach, tofu, wild blue-green microalgae, seaweeds, salt, dairy, sweets and vinegar (eg fermented foods). Helpful foods to add or increase are: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, turnip, garbanzo and black beans, onions, leek, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, nutmeg, and fruits cooked rather than raw. Food needs to be chewed well! Continue reading