Sunday, November 2, 2014

Recipe: Raw Coffee-Cashew Cake

The cake still inside the spring form
One of my favorite aspects of the raw food movement has been the discovery of absolutely delicious desserts that are also quite easy to make. And for me, as I prefer not to eat dairy or regular sugar, they provide a great alternative that I can bring when I am invited for a dinner, picnic or any kind of celebration.

I have tried many recipes by now, and there is one cake in particular, which everyone seems to love. It is the “Cheese” Cake from the Rawtarian, a young lady from Canada who also has many other wonderful recipes. If you can, give it a try. It so tasty! I make it with just a few variations on the crust, which I may post about another time. 
But today I want to share a cake that I have come up with, based on that recipe and another one, but which uses coffee as one of its main ingredients. I stopped drinking coffee maybe five or six years ago, and although I do not mind not drinking it, I do miss the flavor of coffee in desserts like ice cream or custards. I found a raw coffee cake, and made it, and although it was great, I felt I could come up with something we could like better. So I combined both recipes in a way, and this is what I came up with. So far, everyone who has tried it has absolutely loved it, and most of all, myself. I didn't know I had missed the flavor of coffee so much! I honestly cannot seem to get enough of this cake. So, here is the recipe, so you guys can try it too. One note, I make it with a Vitamix and a food processor. I am not sure how it would work with a regular blender, but you can try soaking the cashews overnight, so they become very soft.

There are three steps to the cake:

CRUST (from this recipe)
1 cup pecans
1 cup dates
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Put the pecans in a food processor and process until it becomes like rough flour. Then add the rest of ingredients. Pat it down into a spring-form pan.

3 cups of cashews. soaked in water for at least 3 hours, then rinsed
3/4 cup brewed coffee
3/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Put everything in blender and mix well. Add it to the crust and freeze. The next day do the other two steps.

4 dates
about 1/2 cup of coffee (whatever is left over from the filling) or more
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 teaspoon salt

Soak the dates and cashew in the coffee for at least two hours. Then put it in blender with salt and blend well. You may need a bit more liquid. Add water. Pour over frozen cake.

1/2 cup raw walnuts
2 dates
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping, put everything in food processor and grind. Use it to decorate the pie.

Let me know if you try it, or ask me to make one for you. I love making them! And we can have it together. Even better.

Lots of love.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tip #70: Believe in the future

Thanks to the Swell app, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I discovered the TED Radio Hour program. Recently they had a very interesting show called Predicting the future. As always, the program has several parts, but there was one in particular that caught my attention, "How personalized will medicine get." They interview the engineer Nina Tandon about her TED talk (embedded below) on tissue engineering. She has also just published the Kindle book Super Cells: Building with Biology. She mentions the potential of something called induced pluripotent stem cells, which was just discovered in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John Gurdon and which garnered a Nobel Prize of medicine for them in 2012. What she mentions in her talk, and I have seen first hand unfortunately, is how each disease is different in each person and how a medicine or treatment that I may take or do will have completely different results in somebody else. But this kind of stem cells are induced in the lab from our own cells (so they also don't carry the ethical problems that embryonic stem cells have) and thus, we can try medicines in the organs created with them with the benefit that we will know for sure how our own organs will be affected. Her talk is only seven minutes, so I encourage to watch it, as it gives us much needed hope.

It also gives me immense hope that, although the talk is from 2012, I myself just heard it about three weeks ago, but since then, even more exciting news have come out in relation to this line of research:
  • They have just discovered a process that is even faster and cheaper to get stem cells. (NYT article)
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells will be tested in people with age-related blindness ( article). This is very important because in her talk she mentions that, treating a disease this way with people will be the first step to using this method for everything. So, this was just a hypothesis in 2012 and now it is a reality. 
  • Creating platelets through induced pluripotent stem cells may also be a possibility. (Science Mag. article)
These news make more tangible the idea that we can create personalized medicine for each one of us. I believe we live in an age of miracles, and this looks like another one to me.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tip #69: Do a photo challenge

(Let me just warn you that there will be some shameless self promotion at the end of the post. I just want you to be aware of it from the beginning)
"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."
                                                Dorothea Lange

When the first cell phones which took pictures came out I remember thinking that that was the stupidest idea I had heard. Who, in their right mind, would use a phone to take a picture? Well, I'm glad I don't work as a consultant for a phone company, for I was clearly completely wrong. Now, we use our phones to take pictures so often that many of us (me included) have forgotten when was the last time we actually used a real camera.

One great advantage of this is, of course, that we carry a camera in our pocket almost constantly. And people, particularly the younger generations, are taking advantage of it and snatching images at a frenetic pace. Not only many more people are taking more pictures, but we are sharing them publicly in social media sites built exclusively around these images, like Instagram or Snapchat. I, myself, am a devoted user of Instagram. I started like one does these things, just getting my little toes wet with a picture or two and following a couple of friends, but it then grew to a very nice group of friends, family and admired people and/or photographers. My Instagram feed has become a daily source of inspiration.

I noticed one day that people on Instagram were doing these challenges, which consisted of taking a picture a day for a period of time, following a specific prompt. You would also add a special hashtag (the # symbol) and when you would click on it, you could see all the other pictures which had been posted following that same prompt. When I decided to do one, I observed that strangers were liking my pictures, but actually these were other people who were doing the challenge and had also seen my picture when they clicked on their hashtags. I then followed their lead, and every time I posted a picture for a challenge, I would also "like" several other pictures from strangers that I enjoyed. I have tried doing at least three of those monthly challenges and although I never really finished the whole month, it was still fun to participate and be part of a community.

So, today, I'm suggesting here that you do a challenge too, because they just may make you happy. These are the reasons why I like them:

  • They make you look at things from a different perspective.
  • They force you to stop what you are doing, pause, and consider the beauty around you. 
  • They make you more appreciative of what's around you.
  • You feel connected to other people and to humanity in general.
  • At the end of the challenge, you have a very nice set of pictures to show of.
Here are some possible challenges for your consideration, included one a friend and I created:
  • #fmsphotoaday: The ones I participated in before, created by a designer in Australia, Chantelle. I like the prompts she suggests, because sometimes, they really make you think and look for beauty in simple things.
  • #100happydays: This one does not have prompts. Instead, you have to take a picture of something that makes you happy every day for 100 days. I like the premise of this one and I think I would do it if I was not already doing one. I learned about it from my friend Deanna.
  • #365project: As the name indicates, you take a picture every day for a year, to document your life.
  • #InstagramELE: This is the one my friend Adelaida, who also teaches Spanish, and I created for our students, or anyone who wants to practice Spanish, so they can practice by taking daily pictures after prompts and, if they want, also commenting and enjoying other pictures from others trying the same. (Here is the total shameless self promotion I mentioned at the beginning)
The truth is, even if you decide to do a challenge, you actually don't need to share your pictures with anyone. You can save them in a folder on your computer or your phone. I do like the added social aspect, but I know many of you are shy and that's fine. In any case, you will have those beautiful moments saved, which otherwise may have just disappeared.

Well, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tip #68: Listen up

Today, I would like to share a great app for the iPhone that I recently discovered. It's called Swell and it is described as "the Pandora for news radio." You can tell the app what kind of programs you like or not and it will find recent tracks that match your taste. If something comes up, and you don't like it, you can swipe it and a new track will start playing. They also intersperse top of the hour news bulletins from your favorite news media. In other words, absolutely heaven to my ears.
Here are some of the programs I have discovered thanks to the app and some episodes I heard lately and liked:

  • Freakonomics Radio: I had heard of the book and some of their controversies, but this podcast is quite surprising and entertaining. I enjoyed this episode about the new Pope and his recent comments about the free market (40 minutes). 
  • NPR's Planet Money: Again, surprised that I could like economics so much. Loved the latest one I heard, perfect for February, Dear Economist: I need a date (21 minutes).
  • Five Minute Dharma: Just as the name indicates, these are short Buddhist lessons about practical issues.
  • 99% Invisible: It is described as "A tiny radio show about design." I liked this one about Bubble houses
  • NPR's TED Radio Hour: I saw this program in the NPR line up and thought to myself that I did NOT need any more TED talks in my life. Well, I was wrong. This program is wonderful, as it will select a topic, then choose two or three related TED talks, show some snippets from them but also interview the speakers, giving the listeners a more current version or commenting on the other talks. I really enjoyed this one, and probably will write a post about it soon, Predicting the Future (about an hour, but it is divided in segments).
There are other radio shows and podcasts that I already knew and this year I am making more of an effort to hear them, so I put their feeds in my Podcast app. Here they are:
  • On Being: This show is a conversation by its creator, Krista Tippett, and very interesting guests, covering all kinds of human endeavors. I have not heard one I did not enjoy or learned something new in. I'm leaving you with an older episode, because what was said about business could be so well applied to teaching and other aspects of our lives: Seth Godin on the Art of Noticing and then Creating (about 1 hour).
  • Sounds True Producer's Pick: These are short (about 10 or 12 minutes) podcasts, which represent selections from larger shows. If you need quick inspiration, these are phenomenal. Here's one I heard last week and enjoyed: "What is Interpersonal Neurobiology?" with Daniel Siegel (iTunes link). 
  • Sounds True Insights at the Edge: These are longer conversations (one hour or slightly more) and maybe they are also a bit challenging, but I feel I learn so much from any of them. 
  • Dan Pink's Office Hours: This show is described as the "Car Talk for the human engine." Many different and interesting topics, often about education, but also about business or life. I liked this interview of Tom Rath about his latest book, Eat, Move, Sleep. An eye opener.
I also have old favorites, like This American Life, On the Media or Radio Lab, which I still listen to, although not as often.

So, how do I have time to listen to all these? I don't, but, by using my phone as a radio, I am able to sneak in parts of these shows when I'm doing things like laundry, sometimes walking and definitely in the car on my commute to work. I also like to snooze for my naps to the sound of the radio, so I technically do not hear everything, but, that's one more thing I like about Swell, that I can go back and check on what I missed. I definitely am watching less TV these days as well, but the shows my family likes are a bit too violent or scary for me, so I'm glad I have a radio near by. I feel that by listening to these shows I continue my learning and am entertained at the same time and I decided to write this long list because I'm hoping someone else may like these shows and see their value as well.

What do you listen to? (¡Y perdonen por el rollo tan largo mis lectoras de España!)

Lots of love to everyone.

photo credit: bricolage.108 via photopin cc

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tip #67: Spend time with your "friends"

Last weekend, my husband and I went to New York City to see Kris Carr on an event called Crazy, Sexy, Miracles that she had with her friend, the motivational speaker Gabrielle Bernstein. I think that, by now, every one who knows me, also knows that I am a total groupie when it comes to Kris Carr. I love her, admire her, follow her on Twitter and Instagram and go to her events whenever I can.

This was actually the third time I had gone to see her, although I don't have a picture of the first time I did, in 2011. At that time, a very kind soul had given me a ticket to see her in my town, as this person (whom I hardly knew) had found out that I had just being diagnosed with a recurrence of my cancer. At the time of the event, I was actually in between scans and consultations and we still did not know exactly what stage my cancer was, but things were not looking rosy. So I went to see her alone, on a cold January night, and after hearing her story (she has a rare form of cancer and 20 tumors in her lung and liver) I remember thinking, "Wait, this lady just said that she has done a huge number of things to keep herself healthy, including putting coffee up her butt, and she still is not cured???" And although I had a book from her (the same nice person gave me the ticket and book), I did not stay for the book signing portion of the event, as I just felt like running home and shutting my mind altogether. But, eventually, I did read her book, and together with the Anticancer book from Servan Schreiber, it helped me understand that being cured maybe is not so much the goal, but instead, we need to try to be as healthy as possible in our every day and hope we can stay that way for a long, long time. And the truth is, this does apply to everyone, not just cancer patients. So she became my hero and my inspiration.

Last weekend's event was wonderful, and although she did not really say anything new, it is very nice to hear her talk about the evolution of her journey. She also signed her Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen book for me (highly recommend it, if you want to eat healthy and delicious recipes) and we had a chance to talk for 30 seconds. I told her that by now, she is indeed my friend, although she just doesn't know it (of course, she does not remember me). She was kind and gracious and she said that she was glad to know. I was happy I had another opportunity to thank her for having guided me so well in this adventure.

And the rest of the weekend was also perfect, as we had a chance to meet a dear group of friends in New York City and spend a lazy Sunday in a charming restaurant having brunch with them. Perfect recipe for me before the whirlwind of the academic semester swallows me and I forget to take time to connect with my soul. These friends are as important in my life as my new, fictional friends. I'm very happy, and thankful, I have both of them to rely on.

Well, I know I have already talked about the importance of friends in other tips, but I think it is nice to remember it often. Don't you agree?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tip #66: Sleep

Think about this fact: If you live to be 90, 32 years will be spent asleep. That's one of the facts mentioned in this TED Talk from Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist who studies the sleep cycles of the brain. He also talks about how this third of our lives has been considered in history, and how our view of it changed, from something that is soft and delicious to a superfluous waste of time (he mentions many interesting quotes about these two poles). And it seems like the invention of the light bulb might have been the beginning of this shift, this idea that we had conquered darkness and therefore we may not need sleep. But, of course, this is not the case. More and more research is showing that, in order to feel well, to be healthy, even to have less mental problems, we need adequate sleep. Three years ago, one of the things my nutritionist advised me to do, together, of course, with eating healthier, was to make sure I would sleep enough hours, and in order to do that, I was told to use a dark eye pad, make sure there was absolutely no light in the room, move all electronic devices away from your head, and other tidbits like that. I was surprised at the recommendations, but there is powerful research that shows that there is a clear correlation between lack of sleep and breast cancer

Just in the past months, I have been made even more aware of how the importance of sleep is finally being recognized. Here are some links:
  • Sounds True Dr. Ruben Naiman : Falling in love with sleep. This is an hour long podcast, but well worth it if you have the time, because Dr. Naiman clearly explains how we need to start looking at sleep as something beneficial. We have been brainwashed into thinking that "sleep is for wimps" (according to the the TED Talk, Margaret Thatcher said that), but it is in our detriment to keep that attitude. He gives good, specific advice about how to achieve a good relationship with sleep. 
  • In this article (How to Improve (and Increase) your Sleep), the author of the book, Eat, Move, Sleep, explains how we need to prioritize sleep. I heard him (Tom Rath) being interviewed by Dan Pink in his Office Hours show, and it is another interesting podcast to hear.
  • From a coupe of weeks ago, this New York Times's article, explains the recent discovery that we need sleep in order to clean the junk out. So, that's why we need it.
  • And here's the TED Talk from Dr. Rusell: Why do we sleep

Being from Spain, I still love to take naps. Of course, I cannot take them as often as I like, but I'm glad at least that this is finally not seen as a lazy's person hobby (and if it is, too bad).

Lots of love as always.

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tip #65: Practice empathy

Last December, I ran into this cute video, which is an animation of a fragment of one of Breneé Brown's talks, The Power of Vulnerability. It is very short (under 3 minutes), so I encourage you to watch it. It explains the difference between sympathy and empathy, and how empathy is really much more important and difficult.

It is funny and poignant, and when I saw it, it made me realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many people who have shown immense empathy for me when I have needed it. They have gone down the hole and have held my hand and stayed there with me. But the clip also made me think that this is, indeed, a difficult skill and I would like myself to get better at it. It is challenging to bite your tongue and not say an "at least ..." sentence, when that's exactly what you are thinking. Or even avoiding to try to come up with a solution, when, of course, there is none, but arriving to your friend's home empty handed makes you even sadder. I also think sympathy is very valuable, maybe more than what the clip would indicate, but I agree that it is just a first step. In her book Daring Greatly, Breneé Brown also says that empathy requires some vulnerability, and that's probably another reason for my difficulty. 

Well, I hope you enjoy the clip. As always, this blog is just my "folder" of ideas to improve my life, and your comments (online and off) make it so much richer. When you see me, let me know if my exercises in practicing empathy are working. :) 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Recipe: Bread with tomato (Pan con tomate)

This is a new category of posts that I'm starting this year, as some of my friends have asked me about the recipes I use. Some will be recommendations about recipes from other websites, some will be my own, and some, like today's, will be my interpretation of a classic or well known recipe.

I would like to start this category with a very simple breakfast idea which we just ate. If you are a Spaniard, I think you can stop reading now (if you hadn't already when you saw the title), as this is a very common dish in Spain, and I'm sure you already know how to make it (or, if you are in Spain, you can just go to the corner cafeteria and ask for one, the preferred method of eating this dish while one is there). It is also very similar to an Italian bruscheta. As with everything, I'm sure mine will be slightly different from the traditional one, as I like to add herbs to everything because of their high antioxidant content in just a little pinch, plus the added flavor they provide. Well, here's the recipe I use:

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 or 2 T of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt to taste
  • Oregano to taste (I put at least a tablespoon)
  • 2 pieces of toasted bread (my favorite lately is Ezequiel Sesame Sprouted Grain Burger Buns, but it is absolutely delicious on  any baguette style bread)
  1. Cut the tomato in half, from the middle (not from top to bottom).
  2. Using a cheese grater (like the one in the picture) grate the tomato until you only have the skin left. I usually do this on a large plate, which I will use later to serve it.
  3. Add the olive oil, salt and oregano and mix well.
  4. Cut the garlic clove in half (you can leave the skin on, it will peel off by itself) and rub the clove on the toasted bread, as if you were applying a cream to it.
  5. Now you can spoon the tomato mixture onto your garlicky bread.
  6. Enjoy!
This, of course, can have many variations: my husband skips the garlic, my oldest son prefers to add basil instead of oregano. You can get very creative with something so simple. And I like it for myself because it is very nutritious, as these videos from Dr. Greger remind us:

Dr. Greger also reminds us that each single meal should contain foods that are high in antioxidants, so this breakfast can fit the bill so we start the day on a good foot on that respect.

I hope you like this new section and let me know if you try this pan con tomate!