Category Archives: dairy free

In Praise of What’s Real

I noticed this morning that the top story on Medium is basically a poor man’s version of Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture.” Thousands of people read this adaptation thinking it was a true story and a real person telling his thoughts as he acknowledged he was dying. It was just a 27 year old guy who may or may not have thought he was “being original” and who may or may not have realized he was paraphrasing a famous end of life message from a fully-realized person.

eastern sierras

So I went out yesterday on an adventure.

It was real.

Me, too.

amy january 2016 I’d rather have 5 people read my work for real than 500,000 read something I ripped off. I’d rather be me, than someone with tons of cosmetic surgery. If I am dying, I want to die at home with my family and friends.

If you are my friend, you are truly my friend. If you are my student, you are truly my student.

I wish for everyone to know who they really are, to be grateful for the immense gifts we are given each and every day of genuine life, of this beautiful world we live in, and of our true friends and those we love, and who love us.

mm mm good!

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Chicken and Dumplings

Hello, Hollywood and Redlands Woman here with a family- and man-pleasing recipe for dairy-free, gluten free comfort food! How do we make food that is healthy, comforting, affordable, and makes our family members happy? Focus on freshness, real ingredients, and read labels carefully if you are using prepared foods. There are a couple of “prepared” ingredients in this dish, especially Knorr chicken broth. The American version of this product has whey and wheat (gluten) products. But the Mexican version, at least as is currently sold, does not. And guess what? It is more affordable than the US-made Knorr cubes! You can always use your own or gluten-free-dairy-free stock or broth.

One of the recipes my grandmother made that was genuinely delicious was chicken and dumplings. She didn’t make it very often, but I remembered that the dumplings she made had parsley and maybe some other kind of green herb in them.

This recipe is similar to the one she made except no dairy (in the dumplings – she wouldn’t have put any in the chicken stew part) and no wheat!

First – the ingredients. For serious gluten-free, dairy-free eaters, I use Mexican Knorr dried chicken bouillon (buy in Mexican sections of supermarkets, it is a different formulation from US, definitely no whey) and Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 gluten free flour, and gluten free yellow corn meal.

Ingredients for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Broth/Stew
2 T olive oil
1/2 C Gluten Free flour (Trader Joes or Bobs Red Mill)
4 bone-in chicken thighs, 2-4 drumsticks
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1/2 t Smoked Paprika
1/2 t Powdered Garlic (I use organic dried spices, they have more flavor)
1/2 to 3/4 C diced carrots
1/2 to 3/4 C diced celery
3/4 onion, diced
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1 T fresh chopped chives
4 C gluten free chicken broth (see above and picture)
1/2 C apple juice or cider
1/2 C unsweetened cashew milk or almond milk (it is thinner)

1-1/2 C Gluten Free flour (same brand as above)
1/2 C Albers or other brand yellow cornmeal (gluten free – it should be!)
2 T Vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 T baking powder (use gluten free)
1 t Kosher Salt
1-1/2 C unsweetened cashew milk
1-2 T minced parsley
1-2 T minced chives

Instructions and Pictures for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chicken and Dumplings

First, rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut off any excess chicken fat that is not needed (some provides flavor – you don’t need the large pieces that sometimes come on chicken thighs).

Then, combine 1/2 C gluten free flour, salt, powdered garlic and smoked paprika. This also makes a great coating for any meat or fish you would like to lightly pan fry.


dry ingredients for chicken

Then, dredge the chicken pieces in the gluten-free flour mixture. Heat the olive oil in a 5-6 quart heavy-duty pan for which you have a good cover. This is a 5 quart Mexican rice cooker I use for many dishes like this. It is lighter weight than a typical Dutch oven.

chicken frying

Fry the chicken in two batches on medium heat. Allow 7-8 minutes per side to brown it well. It does not have to be done in the middle because it will be returned to the pan later. After the pieces are nicely browned, remove to another plate.

vegetables ready to chop

While the chicken is browning, chop up your vegetables. This is plenty!

chopped vegetables

When they are done they will look like this (1st batch of browned chicken in background). Brown these in pan for about 4-5 minutes. While this is going on, make the chicken broth. I included a picture of the Mexican type so you could see what to look for in the store.

knorr gluten free dairy free broth

Chop up enough fresh chives and parsley to go into the vegetables and chicken AND the dumplings. Our market carries fresh, unpackaged herbs and spices – I included the chive one (.99 cents) so you could see the brand. These are crazy good in scrambled eggs.

chives and parsley

After you have chopped the herbs while the vegetables are browning, return the chicken pieces to the pot and cover with approximately 4 cups of chicken broth (see above) and 1 cup of apple juice or cider (I stole this one from Pioneer Woman … she’s all about dairy and wheat but the apple juice and cornmeal are goodies and not full of gluten/dairy).


chicken before dumplings 2

When you put the chicken, broth and apple juice back in, it should look like this. Cover and simmer on low- to medium-low for 20 minutes. While this is cooking, make the dumplings.

dumpling dry ingredients

Mix the dry ingredients together. Cut in the 2 T vegan margarine in with a fork. Dumplings are basically drop biscuits. So you have to give the “drop biscuit aspect” some thought. Pioneer Woman had a very good idea with the apple juice to enrich the stew/broth part of the dish. She also got that these ultratough or noodle type dumplings are bleeeah! With gluten free flour, you do not have to worry about “gluten-toughness.” These babies will be delicious, light and fluffy!

chicken before dumplings

Your broth and chicken should look like this. Pour the 1/2 C of cashew (or almond) milk in at this time.

dumpling batter

Your dumpling batter should look like this. Drop it by tablespoons on top of the chicken/broth/vegetables in the pot. Put the cover back on and cook at low heat for another 20 minutes or so.

If you open the cover and it looks like this — it’s ready to dish out and eat!

chicken after dumplings

And mmm! Good!

mm mm good!

Apple Pie With Best Crust Ever!

Would you like to know how to have the nicest pie crust ever? Flaky, tender, a perfect complement to fruit fillings? Honey I’m not Paula Deen, but …

deep dish apple pieSo, when I was growing up, my grandmother was not the best cook. She wasn’t the worst, either and as far as nutrition goes, yes – she was the best. She had a great understanding of proper nutrition, portions, balance of vegetables, fruits, low-fat, etc.

Our desserts were few and far between, as you can imagine. The biggies were Jell-O (I know, I know) and Jell-O vanilla pudding with some type of fruit in it. This was before the days of yogurt being so popular. And Jell-O pudding made with skim milk probably is superior to the high fructose corn syrup laden yogurt products of the early days.

But for special days and holidays, my grandmother would make apple pie. This pie had the BEST CRUST EVER. It wasn’t Nana’s crust. She learned how to make it from her best friend Imo, who had learned it from the vacuum cleaner salesman. Or possibly the Fuller Brush man. A traveling salesman, anyway.

Anyway, if you eat Marie Callendar’s pies or any of the other typical restaurant pies – heck, even bakery pies – these do not have crusts like this. As you can see this is a crumbly type of crust. It has a little bit of salt to it, and a little “sandiness.” This crust will *never* be made in a food processor.

So, first, here’s the crust recipe:

2 C + 1 T unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 C Crisco – chilled in freezer
6 T ice water (or less)

In a medium-sized bowl (I use an aluminum bowl), mix the flour and salt together. Cut in the Crisco with 2 knives, 2 forks, or heaven forbid: a pastry cutter. I was taught the mixture should begin to form small pea-like shapes while most of the flour looked like cornmeal before beginning to add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stop adding water when the dough begins to hold together and will not stick to the sides of the bowl. Seriously. Stop adding the water when you can make it form in a ball. At all. Form it into a larger ball or disc. Wrap this in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for 45 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, peel, core and slice 7-8 regular sized Granny Smith or other firm pie apples (Romes, etc). Depending on the type of apple you will use, you will want more or less sugar. I use half white sugar and half brown sugar.

For the filling:

7-8 Granny Smith or other pie apples
1/2 C unbleached flour
1/4 to 1/3 C white sugar
1/4 to 1/3 C brown sugar (vary amt. of sugar depending on tartness of apples)
2-3 T Vegan margarine (or butter if you like butter
are not Vegan – if you use Vegan butter, this is a Vegan recipe)
3/4 tsp to 1 tsp salt (to taste)
some Vanilla (to taste)

Now, they add the lemon juice to the filling because many apples brown while you’re peeling and coring them, and no one likes that. But Granny Smith and other pie type apples kind of don’t. The vanilla you can splash in there and it has alcohol in it, and will stop the browning action.

Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the margarine or butter in similarly to pie crust “cutting in” (see above).

Peel the apples, core them (or cut around the core) and slice them approx 1/8 inch thick. Do not cut too thick or too thin. Put the apples into the bowl with the flour/sugar/salt mixture. If you add the apples as you finish peeling and slicing, you can toss, sprinkle with a little vanilla, slice some more, toss, etc. until you are done. You should have a bowl of yummy apples which have collected a bit of tasty, juicy goodness.

Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator. On a smooth surface (anything from your fancy kitchen marble board to a wooden cutting board (see picture), throw a handful of flour down, spread it out, then put one half of the dough onto it. Make sure the dough is formed into a flattened round. Take a good rolling pin, throw some flour on that, and gently roll the dough out to about 1.5 inches bigger around than your pie pan. It should be approx. 1/8 inch thick. Do not worry if there are breaks – just don’t let there be breaks on the bottom or the pie will stick to your pie pan.

However best you can, put the rolled out crust into the pan. Your instructions will tell you “fold in fourths, etc. Well no. Just pick that sucker up, center it, and drop it gently in there. Press gently to fill the pan. Do not worry about “cutting the edge off perfectly.” If you do, the crust will be horrible.

deep dish apple pie 2So after you get the bottom crust situated, prick it with the tines of a fork. Put the apples into the crust. You can use your hands. Pile them up in an “architectural fashion.” You will have some sugary goodness and juice in the bowl. When you are done with the sugar and flour mixture coated apple slices, pour this juice evenly over the whole thing. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees if you have not already done so.

Repeat the first procedure with your second round of dough. Roll it out a bit farther. Make sure you have good coverage as well. Delicately pick it up and drape it over the apples. Press the edges against the bottom crust as best you can. This crust is delicate so just use the fork to press the edges together. Cut 5 or 6 slashes in a “flower” type pattern around the top middle of the crust. Sprinkle a little white sugar (Organic is best) over the top. Put the pie on a baking sheet. Make a small 2-3 inch “skirt” of foil and wrap it gently around the outside of the pie. This will protect the pie through 35 minutes of baking.

Bake for 425 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the outer foil “skirt” that keeps the edges from burning 10 minutes before the pie is done.

Try to wait to eat it.




Real Mexican Food is Healthy

This is the first part of Google Image Search for “Mexican Food.”
Google Mexican Food As a woman, I typically think “the way to a person’s heart is their stomach.”

That’s why I took it upon myself over the years, to learn how to cook real Mexican food. Because it is so delicious! As to these images, what Google says is “Authentic” Mexican food as depicted on the upper left, is what’s typically served at fast-food restaurants operated by Mexicans in the U.S.

The middle picture is what children are taught to color in school (much like the unbelievable request of Minnesota schoolteachers for coloring images of “Speedy Gonzales” and “Yosemite Sam” covered by this educator’s lesson about how to make Cinco de Mayo a positive, educational time in school).

To put this into context, if I put “Italian food” into Google Image search, it would come back with cheese-laden thick crust pizzas and spaghetti and meatballs (surprise! – it does). Most people are aware these foods are not what are commonly eaten and served in Italy, and also that foods vary depending on region and town and … surprise! … family traditions and preference. They may even be aware that much food cooked and eaten in Italy is healthy, following a Mediterranean diet.

The picture on the right – the one that says “traditional” – that’s the real problem one. That’s not traditional Mexican food. It’s the Taco Bell Dog type of “Mexican food” and it isn’t just unauthentic, it’s unhealthy. It is similar to the foods served at El Torito (the chain restaurants), which are owned by Mexicans, but the restaurants serve what non-Mexican patrons request: cheese enchiladas with cheese unknown in Mexico, hard-shelled ground beef tacos laden with same bright yellow cheese (I think it’s Colby Longhorn) and cheese-coated rice and beans. The taco shells themselves are a clue. While these products are sold and eaten in Mexico, they are to real tortillas as Wonder Bread is to a great loaf of Italian or French bread.

Anyway, if all you’ve ever eaten of Mexican food is the type of dish served at chain restaurants, Taco Bell, or Del Taco, you’re in for a treat. Mexican food of the genuine traditional type is very healthy and delicious. PS – if you have trouble with corn, focus on meat and rice dishes.

First up: tamales. (Ta-mah-lay). I’m enjoying this too much. I really love cooking my Mexican food.

tamales-048Tamales are totally real. They are corn husks filled with masa and any type of filling the cook wants to put in them and then steamed. I had to look quite a while before finding real ones like this (tied on both ends in the pot before steaming). Pork is traditional in southern California, but chicken and beef are also used. It is always deshebrada (shredded), not ground “whatever” like what is in the canned tamales (Gephardt!). There are also sweet tamales, with raisins, coconut or pina (pineapple). You will see “cheese and green chile” ones everywhere, for the cheese addicts out there. Like most other countries in the world, cheese is used as a condiment or flavoring in Mexico, not the ENTIRE DISH or covering/coating every surface on a plate. Tamales prepared the traditional way with fresh masa are dairy-free and gluten-free.

mexican rice



Rice! This is one type of Mexican rice dish. This traditional or common type of rice is made by frying the rice in lard first (yeah, I know. I LOVE lard and do not consider it unhealthy in moderate quantities – yes of course vegetable oil may be used and in some places chicken fat is used). You make sure the rice is nice and brown (like “Rice-A-Roni”), then you put in a puree of seeded tomatoes, one strong onion, and some garlic. You cook this until the rice has absorbed the tomato puree and is dry. Then you add chicken broth to cover it all, and throw in some chiles (FRESH) any way you like them. I include cilantro and frozen peas & carrots right out of the 99 cent bag. If you are nuts you can chop up carrots and shell fresh peas. This all cooks and steams nicely and when it’s done? AWESOME. Also there is green rice, sometimes with epazote, which is hard to find and is often stale when found, and yellow rice and of course – white rice.

mexican beans


These are not “refried beans,” they are pot beans. But they are AS GOOD AS refried beans if cooked right. The person here has not sufficiently cooked the onion (it was from “Foodista” or whatever). But you can do this with almost any type of bean, though pinto beans are the “go-to” bean and black beans are of course, eaten, but … people who like black beans over pinto because they get them at Chipotle? Chipotle’s beans suck. I can’t stand fast food any type of bean or rice. Because I know how to make these beans which cost pennies per serving and put all canned forms to shame.

Wash some pinto beans, however many you like. Use a colander. Pick out any rocks, deformed, messed-up bean bits, and of course, dirt. Dump the beans into a good, heavy pot. Cover them with water – at least 3-4 inches worth. Add as much coarse-chopped white or yellow onion as you like. Stick a goodly-sized piece of lard in there. Turn the heat on. I add chopped green onion (scallion) and cilantro and at least one chile. Let this cook until the beans are soft. Be sure to add water so they do not burn. You can mash them right in this pot and do not need to add them to extra lard to refry.

Unless you’re like me. Salt at the end (it toughens up the skin if you add it right away). You will throw away the nutrition and the taste if you do the “pre-soak” advised on the package, either quick soak or “overnight method”. Just cook them.

I can’t say too much authoritatively about other stereotypes associated with today’s holiday of Cinco de Mayo, but I can say that what most Americans think of, and eat, as “Mexican food” is not only inauthentic, it is unhealthy, whereas the real foods that are cooked and eaten in Mexico are healthy and delicious. Mexican people eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, including numerous varieties that don’t grow well in the U.S. but grow great in Mexico. They eat foods focused on basic nutrition and do not waste a lot of food. They value delicious, real food cooked at home with love. Give those hard-shelled tacos and giant burritos a rest and try some real Mexican food for a change. I did not address “carnitas” in this post, but here is a good website with real recipes (these are definitely varying according to taste). I will take her on for the carnitas ANY old day.

My rice:

real Mexican rice

And the carnitas:

real carnitas


What to Do With That Giant Bag of Greens?

You’re at the market and you think, “That looks healthy!” but the bag is so huge!

Earthbound Farms Organic Deep Green Blends

Earthbound Farms Organic Deep Green Blends

Indeed, it is huge. The largest triple-washed bag of organic goodness from Earthbound Farm weighs in at one pound.

Remember when you were a kid, and eating plain spinach was “eeewwww!”

No longer … there’s a big difference between old-fashioned cooked-to-death spinach and delicious baby greens. Earthbound Farm sells several different green mixes that are good for salads and cooking. The Power Mix has baby kale, chard and spinach. Between baby and big kale, there’s quite the difference as well. Baby kale is tender … grown-up kale? Not so much.

Using half the bag (1/2 pound) for simple sauteed greens will serve two healthy green-eating adults. For four servings, double the recipe.

Sauteed Power Greens

  • 1/2 pound Deep Green Blend Organic Power Greens (baby kale, chard, spinach)
  • 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, chopped fine
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

Mince the garlic and chop the onion. Set aside. In a large, heavy covered pot (I use my Mexican rice cooker – this would also work in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with secure lid), heat the olive oil. Put onion in and saute until softened (only a couple of minutes). Add the garlic, saute a few seconds to mix.

Dump in the greens, straight out of the bag. Saute briefly in the olive oil. Cover with lid for 1-2 minutes. Lift the lid and continue to saute until greens are the desired degree of softened to your taste. The giant amount of greens will miraculously shrink to two serving-size. Salt and pepper at the end, also to your taste. Different flavors of salt and pepper will add interest (lemon, garlic, etc).

sauteed power greens


Super easy, super tasty, super healthy. And voila! The greens are eaten and won’t spoil.


Why My Gluten Free Bread is Making Me Sick!

Gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free … yay! Not.

gluten free bread from Costco

gluten free bread from Costco

How excited I was to see this excellent-looking pack of two loafs at Costco …

All I did when I got home was make a tuna sandwich and eat it. I continue to suffer the after-effects, a day later.

Gluten-free expert Jennifer Fugo explains what the problem is: the ingredients aren’t good substitutes for any kind of nutritious food. Gluten-free bread is bad for you: there’s no two ways about it. Rice flour has its good points: baked goods made with it are often more delicate and have a crispier crust than those made with wheat flour. Tapioca and potato flour, however, are 100% pure starch. If you’re eating “pure” you may have noticed some bad aftereffects of eating white potatoes, regardless of how they are cooked. These can include stomach pain, cramps, the unfortunate “gas” problem, and blood sugar crashes. Most people don’t down spoonfuls of tapioca flour, but this is exactly what it would do as well if eaten in quantity — and it’s usually found in quantity in gluten-free baked goods.

Good old white taters, and tapioca, are basically starch. Starch turns to sugar in the digestion process. Undigested sugars in your body ferment … voila! Gas. You are a one-person fermentation factory.

Another problem ingredient in gluten-free baked goods is Xanthan gum. What is it? I decided to find out.

The food additive Xanthan gum, which is becoming as common as the mysterious lecithin, is a “polysaccharide” (sugar) made from the secretions of a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. They make it in a chemical process that includes precipitation using isopropryl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). The “gum” is then dried and ground into powder, and later reconstituted to form the “gum” that provides the gluten-like thickening and texture found in commercial gluten-free baked goods. Oh! guess what the little dudes feed on to make their secretion? GOOD OLD WHEY. Of course! Whey, the “miracle dairy byproduct” – dairy waste that has found its way into every prepared food known to man and the main offender for those who are dairy-allergic, sensitive or intolerant (not lactose intolerant – DAIRY intolerant). The only things in whey, other than water (until it is dried) are the dairy proteins that the allergic, sensitive and intolerant cannot digest. Once the whey is dried, these concentrate to an unbelievable level. This is why those who are dairy-intolerant can usually eat a small amount of butter, which is mostly oil, and cannot eat margarine (nearly all commercial US margarine is in this category) made with whey without getting very ill. It goes without saying that products like “Cremora” and CoolWhip are nothing but high-fructose corn syrup-infused plastic containers of death for those who can’t tolerate dairy.

Rice flour and xanthan gum, as well as liberal amounts of actual sugar, are found in the “wonderful” gluten-free bread I found at Costco.

Some people may be able to eat some gluten-free baked goods as an occasional treat. They are not recommended for true healthy eating, and the ever-growing “gluten free” aisles at our supermarket are no substitute for eating real, whole foods: proteins, vegetables and fruits.

Here are some symptoms of problems after eating gluten-free bread:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Back pain (mystery type)
  • Food cravings for more and worse
  • Allergic “shiners” (dark circles or bags under eyes)
  • Skin problem flare-up (dry skin, oily skin, pimples, eczema/psoriasis)
  • Excessive tiredness/lethargy
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Flare-ups of immune-related problems – other allergies or even arthritis/joint pain

Sound familiar? Just like gluten-related problems. Because all of this STUFF is STUFF we’re not well-equipped to digest and eat.


Massively Self-Indulgent

massively self indulgentMaybe in 2007 or so, after I realized that an old negative online review from “Randolph Calverhall,” was actually written by a pseudonym for the deceased and notorious neo-Nazi/white supremacist William Pierce, I undertook  a project to look at online reviews of books by women authors to see if this was “just me” or some other force at work. I coincidentally looked first at books by Octavia Butler, noticing that she had a number of anonymous, “drive-by” reviews by people who’d obviously not read her work and who were more motivated to slag a female author just for the fun of it … with extra bonus points because she was black.

Then I looked at the work of Ralph Wiley, one of my favorite writers, an African-American sports and culture writer who had passed away. Ralph, unable to defend himself, had racist reviews from anonymous jerks slagging on a dead guy. Then Toni Morrison. I kept going. There was hardly a female writer who was writing outside of the “traditional”/ok for women topics like romance, relationships, cooking, beauty and fitness, who didn’t have at least one of these types of reviews. African-American? Phew – these appeared to be organized, sophisticated, and in the case of authors like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker who are assigned in school — aimed at convincing kids not to read their books.

I thought “at least I write mostly short fiction” so I don’t have to worry about this type of thing. I figured “Randolph” was a coincidence, attracted potentially because my first novel featured a concentration-camp type scenario (except … the camps weren’t presented favorably, nor were the eugenics plans of the book’s villain). So this a.m., I looked at Alan Rodgers’ Amazon author page because Alan’s brother Scott is now maintaining and working on it. To help Scott out with his questions, I looked at my own author page. And lo and behold!

On the Audible page of Female Science Fiction Writer I see this gem:

FSFW driveby review







Gee whiz, I’m sure they listened to the audiobook. Gee willickers.

And by cracky, yes I am self-indulgent, Amazon Customer. I just ate a whole bowl of organic chocolate pudding made with almond milk. Mmmm-mmmm.

Like Amazon Customer bought it? Oh, so sure he/she did (not).

Here’s the thing. This is somewhat organized. And apparently, acceptable.

So yes, Amazon customer, I am self-indulgent. Despite your allegations, however, not “mediocre.”

The only way to write well is to be self-indulgent. That is a lesson many women find to be very difficult, as we spend our whole lives serving others.



Food Cravings and False Hunger

fishermans restaurant san clementeWhat we eat is at least as important as how much we eat — maybe even more important. No one ever got fat eating oysters alone (raw, not fried, sans hushpuppies). I know someone who can eat a whole lot of them, too.

Two things that contribute to making people fat as a result of our Standard American Diet (SAD) are food cravings and false hunger. Food cravings lead to a compulsion to eat foods that will make us fat, or large quantities of nonfoods (low nutrition/high food sensitivity foods). False hunger is the “second step” in that process, leading to yet more bad eating.

Food cravings are compulsions to eat certain foods in quantity. Usually, the foods that are craved fit into the dairy-wheat-junk-sugar category. I’ve never heard someone say, “I’m craving brussel sprouts!” People joke about pregnancy-related cravings, like ice cream with pickles and peanut butter. When I was pregnant with Meredith, I craved the sweetest-possible Coca-Cola (not Pepsi, sorry!) and squishy white bread.

False hunger is characterized by stomach pains that, once one is familiar with real hunger, are obviously something different. True hunger does not manifest as pains in the stomach. It manifests as a strong desire to eat … real food! The so-called “hunger pains” or “hunger pangs” are at least in my case, a result of eating something I’m sensitive to. I used to get them at 10:00 a.m. all the time, after consuming a breakfast containing dairy and probably HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). It has been a very long time since I’ve gotten them.

It drives me crazy when I see the diet industry recommending foods that will fuel food cravings and false hunger. This is like a doctor recommending that a patient switch from high tar to higher tar cigarettes in order to quit smoking.

light and fit greek yogurt

Does your stomach hurt?

Eat some soothing yogurt!

When I first saw Dannon “Light and Fit” yogurt I thought “There’s a good one!” (Not). And indeed, this little container of nonfood has 80 calories, and its main ingredients are cultured Grade A nonfat milk, water and fructose. It contains less than 1% of all the other crap in the container – modified corn starch, “flavors,” artificial coloring, good old sucralose (Splenda) and numerous preservatives and stabilizers.

Eating this little goodie won’t satisfy hunger. It’s guaranteed to bring on “hunger pangs”/false hunger or food cravings within a short time that will inspire a) overeating in general; and b) overeating of the wrong/low nutrition/low health foods.

If you disbelieve me and are “dieting,” take the Casil Craving Challenge.

Eat one of these little containers or a similar product (make sure it’s low-fat, contains artificial sweetener and is otherwise junked up) as a “snack” at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. Then record how hungry you are at lunch time, whether or not you have “hunger pangs” and what you want to eat for lunch. Write down what you actually eat.

On Tuesday, instead of the little container of nonfood yogurt, eat a handful of almonds or other nuts at 10:00 a.m. and a small amount of low-glycemic fruit: common ones are apples, oranges, bananas, berries, peaches and plums. By “small” I mean one actual small apple, orange or banana. A serving. Record whether or not you have “hunger pangs” and what you want to eat for lunch. Write down what you actually eat.

If you want to eat foods that are high-calorie for lunch on the day you consume the nonfood at 10:00 a.m. – regardless of what you actually eat – you have experienced food cravings resulting from consumption of nonfood.

As to documenting the difference between real hunger and false hunger, I do not advise taking the Casil Hunger Challenge if you’re not already eating cleanly. However, our memories should all help us to remember what real hunger feels like.

When I was a kid, we often went to the beach. On several occasions, I remember playing all day in the surf, building sand castles and running around. At the end of the day, sand in my hair and my bathing suit, fully-sunburned to a crisp, I remember how good a small, plain, sandy hamburger and an apple tasted. That was my child body saying “thank you!” Even the sand in the burger and on the apple tasted good.

False hunger and food cravings are the reasons why “what you eat” is as important as how much you eat, and why the “it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you consume fewer calories than you burn each day” advice is so very, very wrong.

If you’ve already taken the step of consuming the nonfood substitute at 10:00 a.m. and seeing if it produces food cravings or false hunger, note if there are other foods which have a similar effect. I began my journey by eliminating dairy and food additives from my diet. I then eliminated high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and wheat gluten. I find myself automatically consuming much less sugar in general than I used to: because I have no food cravings. I haven’t counted calories for years.

sea turtle 1And as I am informed by the oyster-eating individual I know quite well – I have the body of a woman half my age. This didn’t happen overnight, but it’s really nice to be able to run, jump, climb, swim and do any activity I like at age 52. Recovery time fast, too!

I would not trade the ability to, 50 yards out, spot Henry emerging from his nest at 5:30 a.m. on the beach at Jekyll Island for five thousand free cases of Dannon “Light and Fit” Yogurt.



Dairy Free, Gluten Free Pancakes

I’ve made these three times now and they’re adapted from a traditional pancake recipe from my great-grandmother Nallie.

Mr. Bruce liked them, and I just made them with strawberries for dinner!

gluten free pancakes 1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3 tablespoons Fleischmanns unsalted margarine, melted

OK, you know how recipes tell you to do things verrry carefully? VERRRRRRY carefully?

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. If you are extra-lazy you can put them in a 3 to 4 cup mixing cup together so you can pour it straight onto the griddle. Make sure they are well-mixed. You can tell because there won’t be any brown sugar lumps.

Cut off a hunk of Fleischmanns and put it in a one-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 45 seconds. It should be nice and melty. Let it cool slightly before pouring it into a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Use the same cup for the almond milk. That way you will get all the shortening easily into the mixture.

Crack the egg into it and add the vanilla. Mix with a whisk until smooth.

Grease a griddle with Fleischmanns or other non-dairy margarine. Heat until a drop of water bounces off. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter onto the griddle for each pancake (these will be small – of course you can make big ones but they’re just not as good). Turn when the top is bubbly and almost dry, just like regular pancakes.

Serve with fruit, maple or agave syrup. Do not use the cheap high fructose corn syrup stuff.