So, What About All That Halloween Candy?!

I have three kids and they have been looking forward to Halloween for over a month.  My eight year-old has actually been counting down and regularly announces how many days are left.  I am secretly pleased that they’re more excited about what to be for Halloween than about how much candy they’ll be getting, but I can’t stop thinking about all that candy.

Every year I fret about the sugar, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and food allergens we’ll have to try to avoid.  I wonder whether I should just let them stuff themselves for one day and then throw the rest out, or dole it out piece by piece until it’s gone.  I wonder if it’s too late to introduce the "Halloween Fairy" or the "Sugar Sprite", who will come to my house to magically transform all the candy into fairy dust and presents.

I remember how much fun Halloween was when I was a kid.  My mom would help us create whatever bizarre costume we got it in our heads that we had to have.  My sister and I were witches and gypsies, princesses and doctors.  One year I was actually the Ace of Hearts.  And the candy!  We would go out and spend HOURS walking through our neighborhood trick-or-treating.  There was the weird guy who gave rolls of pennies and the dentist’s wife who always gave out toothbrushes, but mostly there was candy!

So this year I’ve been thinking about how to change our Halloween tradition for the better, because I want my kids to have great memories too, and I’m not convinced that wallowing in junk has to play such a big part.  Here is some of what I’ve come up with:

What To Give Out

After searching a bunch of websites for ideas, I found three that I thought had the most to offer.  (Thank you to Suzi Milovanovic on, Jayne Pupek on, and Emily’s blog, PaperSeed.)  Here is a list of "treats" that you don’t eat:

  • Art supplies: activity pads, coloring books, crayons, chalk, notepads, pencils, pencil toppers, erasers, play-doh, stampers, stickers, paint sets, child-safe scissors, modeling clay, markers, glitter, colored pencils, origami paper and instructions
  • Toys and activities: balls, bubbles, glow sticks, maps, mini globes, books, mini magnifying glasses, matchbox cars, toy dinosaurs or animals, whistles, yo-yos, marbles, dominoes, decks of playing cards, small dolls, coins
  • Dress-up: false teeth, temporary tattoos, bracelets, necklaces, key chains or clips, sunglasses, hair clips, ribbons, scarves, eye patches

Some of these are more expensive than others, but you can make some of them, or find many of them at a dollar store or thrift shop.  You may want a separate stash of child-safe goodies for the 3 and under crowd.

Halloween Traditions

I know that there can be much more to the fun of Halloween than just walking around the neighborhood getting candy.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  • In Fort Collins we have a fun Old Town tradition for younger children, Tiny Tot Halloween, a morning-time trick-or-treat parade around Old Town Square.  This one does involve candy, but it’s always so much fun to see all the kids in their costumes, and they don’t have to be out after dark.
  • Also, the Gardens on Spring Creek have a Halloween Enchanted Garden, complete with a garden tour, pumpkin painting, magic show, and stories.  Kids 2-8 are encouraged to get dressed up and come  have fun.
  • There are many other events in our area for both kids and adults.  The Coloradoan has a list here.
  • When my oldest was little, a group of friends arranged our own "trick-or-treat street" at our school.  We set up "houses" using sheets and the kids would go from "door" to "door", getting treats that we all felt comfortable with them having.  All the fun of the "real" thing, at least for the toddler and preschool bunch, without the stuff mom and dad don’t like.
  • For each holiday, we try to share with our kids where the holiday came from, its place in the cycle of the seasons, and different cultural ideas and celebrations.  Samhain, All Saints Day, and Dia de los Muertos are just a few that happen this time of year.
  • One tradition that I would like to be more consistent with is taking a picture of each of my kids in their costume each year.  It is so fun to look back and remember the creativity and silliness from Halloweens past.

So, What About All That Candy!?

Now we’re left with what happens when your little monsters (and ghosts and stockbrokers) DO go trick-or-treating and come home with all that sugary loot.

  • Some families have started their own "Halloween Fairy" tradition, along the lines of Santa or the Tooth Fairy.  The kids leave their candy out, and in the morning the Halloween Fairy (or Sugar Sprite or Great Pumpkin…) has left them a little present.  I personally think this is a great idea, but I have a feeling my eight year-old wouldn’t buy it at this point. 
  • Which leads me to the next idea – candy bartering.  Although it misses out on the "magic" of the Halloween Fairy, it gives kids the chance to pick their own gift.  Essentially, kids trade in their bag of candy for something else – a toy, tickets to a movie…whatever you and they can come up with together.
  • Next is what I like to call the "Gorge and Purge" method.  It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of junk food – for one night only.  The benefits are that the kids get that liberating feeling of being able to eat as much candy as they want, and then they get the lesson of why that maybe isn’t such a good idea. 
  • Or there’s the "Trickle-Down" method.  A few pieces on Halloween, and then one a day until it runs out.  (Or whatever mom and dad decide.)  The benefit of this is that the junk is sandwiched between all the healthy food.  The biggest downside we’ve found in our family is that the candy lasts until the next Halloween.
  • And then there’s the one that my parents instituted:  mom and dad’s candy tax.  When we got home and started counting out our treasure, 10% was swiped right off the top.  Laughing  
  • Or you can mix-and-match one or more of these.

I’m going to try some new things at Halloween this year.  My hope is that Halloween can be a fun family celebration with a lot less of the junk.  We can do it!  And if any of you have great ideas for reducing the Halloween candy load, or if you would like to share your family’s traditions, I would love to hear from you!

Happy Halloween!

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Birth On Labor Day 2009

If you haven’t yet heard about the play, Birth, you are missing out!  Written in 2006 by playwright Karen Brody, Birth is a series of interwoven monologues that follow the birth stories of eight modern women. 

Birth On Labor Day (BOLD) is the name given to events worldwide which combine local performances of the play and "Red Tent Events" (sacred spaces offered for women to share their birth stories).  BOLD was created as a way to inform people about modern birth culture and to empower women to have the best birth experiences possible.

In 2008, The Family Journey brought BOLD to Fort Collins to enormous support and rave reviews.  This year, the event is even more exciting, with a new venue (the Lory Student Center on the CSU campus), a birth art show, a mother-baby friendly vendor fair, the Red Tent Event, and a talk-back panel after the play.  This year’s panel includes Mothering Magazine editor Peggy O’Mara, a long-time champion of natural living and empowered birth.

This amazing event is happening Saturday, September 26th, with the Red Tent Event on Sunday, September 27th.  The performance is powerful, funny, transformational and enlightening.  Tickets can be purchased through The Family Journey’s website.  Come and experience it for yourself!

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What About Swine Flu?

What is swine flu?

Novel H1N1 is a new influenza virus causing illness in people.  Early testing found genes in this virus that were similar to flu viruses found in pigs, which led to the name "swine flu".  We now know that it actually has genes like those in flu viruses found in pigs, birds, and humans.

This new virus is found in the United States and it is contagious.  There have been 55 people hospitalized with confirmed novel H1N1 in Colorado in the last four months, one in Weld county and none in Larimer county.  It spreads in the same ways as seasonal influenza – through coughing, sneezing, and touching.  It does not spread by preparing or eating pork, or through drinking water.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.  Some people also have had diarrhea and vomiting.  Severe illness and death has occurred, although most people have recovered without needing treatment.  Diagnosis requires a lab test.

Who is most at risk?

About 36,000 people die from seasonal flu-related complications in the US each year and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized.  Of those hospitalized, 10% are children younger than 5 years old.  Over 90% of deaths and about 60% of hospitalization occur in people over 65.

About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with the novel H1N1 virus are members of high risk groups for seasonal influenza.  This includes pregnant women, those with suppressed immune systems, and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.  In contrast to seasonal influenza, however, novel H1N1 seems to predominantly affect people ages 5-29. 

When should you seek medical care?

Children should get urgent medical attention if they:

  • have fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • have bluish or gray skin color
  • are not drinking enough fluid
  • are not waking up or not interacting
  • have severe or persistent vomiting
  • are so irritable that the they don’t want to be held
  • have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
  • have fever with a rash
  • have fever and then have a seizure or sudden mental or behavioral change.

Adults should seek urgent medical attention if they:

  • have trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • have pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • have sudden dizziness or confusion
  • have severe or persistent vomiting
  • have flu-like symptoms that improve, but then come back with worsening fever or cough.

How can you keep from catching this virus?

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze.  Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.  (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

What does conventional medicine have to offer?

Your MD or DO may prescribe oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) for treatment and/or prevention. These are antiviral drugs, which are prescription medicines that fight against the flu by keeping the viruses from reproducing in your body.

Clinical trials of a vaccine for novel H1N1 are underway.  Production and distribution may happen as soon as September 2009.  It is not yet clear which version of the vaccine will be used, or what else may be in the vaccine.  So far, getting this vaccine will be voluntaryImportant to note:  just as with the seasonal flu vaccine, the novel H1N1 vaccine is grown on chicken eggs, so those with egg allergy should talk with their doctor about whether it is safe for them.

Once a vaccine is available, priority will be given to immunizing pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months, health care and emergency medical services personnel, people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.  

What does naturopathic medicine have to  offer?

Your ND, first and foremost, will work with you before you are ill to optimize your diet and lifestyle (things like stress management, exercise, and quitting smoking) so that you have a strong immune system.  That way, if you do catch the flu your body will be better able to fight it.

If your naturopathic doctor practices classical homeopathy, you might also receive a homeopathic remedy, either before the fact or when you are ill, or both.  Taking a remedy to prevent an illness is called homeoprophylaxis and can be quite useful in an epidemic because local homeopathic practitioners communicate with each other about the remedy or remedies which seem to best fit the symptoms of the patients they’ve been seeing (called the genus epidemicus).

Homeopathic remedies have historically been shown to work very well during epidemics of influenza and other infectious diseases, surpassing conventional treatment in many cases.  For an enlightening article about this topic, please read "Swine Flu and the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 – the Similarities and What History Can Teach Us," by Dr. Molly Punzo, M.D.

Naturopathic doctors are also highly trained in the use of nutritional and herbal supplements and can recommend those which may help you fight the flu, support your lungs and immune system, or ease symptoms if you get sick.  Vitamins A and D and herbs like echinacea, oregon grape, and elderberry are just a few of your ND’s "tools".

The Bottom Line

Maintain good hygiene practices like using tissues and washing your hands often.  See your naturopathic doctor about ways to strengthen your body and increase your resistance.  Consider whether the vaccine, when it is available, is right for you.  If you get sick, call your naturopathic doctor for help with easing symptoms and getting well.  If you get very sick, seek urgent medical care.  And don’t panic!  Remember, most people who have gotten this flu have recovered without needing treatment.  

For more information about naturopathic medicine, see my website, the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors website, or the American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s website.

For more information about homeopathy and swine flu, see the National Center for Homeopathy’s website.

For more information about the novel H1N1 virus, the status of the disease in the US, and vaccination, see the CDC’s page.

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Open House

This August marks the three-year anniversary of my Fort Collins naturopathic practice!  As a way of saying "thank you" to all my wonderful patients, I am having an Open House at my office on Saturday, August 15th, from 11 am to 2 pm.

Current patients, prospective patients, family and friends are all welcome. There will be light refreshments and a door prize each hour. 

Don’t miss it – I’m looking forward to seeing you!

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Why Regulating NDs Is Good For Colorado

More Colorado consumers are turning to naturopathic medicine and naturopathic doctors every day for help with their health concerns, but NDs are currently unregulated in the state of Colorado.  House Bill 1175, now before the legislature, attempts to address this.

HB 1175 is a very specific bill with two very specific purposes:

  1. to set up a 3 year task force, run by the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) and consisting of NDs and MDs (with input from any other person they feel necessary to give information about the issues) to study ND regulation in Colorado and present their findings to the legislature. 
  2. to register eligible NDs in Colorado (those with a 4 year degree from an accredited, in-residence – vs online or distance – naturopathic medical school) and set up a scope of practice and other rules and regulations.  The bill "sunsets" (ends) automatically in 2014, by which time the task force must make recommendations about regulation.

There is clear, concise language in the bill which states that it does not apply to any other person.  Those affected by the bill will be:

  1. those eligible to be registered as naturopathic doctors in Colorado and
  2. anyone else calling themselves a naturopathic doctor or practicing naturopathic medicine (which, by definition in the bill must include diagnosis and treatment). 

There are those with non-accredited, distance learning, online degrees who currently call themselves naturopathic doctors.  They would not be allowed to portray themselves as such, but would still be allowed to use the term "naturopath". 

In fact, these people are already in violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, which reserves the title "doctor" for those who have received a doctorate through an accredited program.  HB 1175 simply reinforces this title protection and allows for regulation by the medical board.

This bill would have no effect on homeopaths, herbal practitioners, massage therapists, reiki practitioners, health coaches, dieticians, cooking schools, natural food/vitamin stores or anybody else, except as defined above.  In fact, Vitamin Cottage supports the bill and has sent people to testify FOR it.

I support this bill for many reasons, but the three most important are

  1. it would allow me to practice legally in Colorado, albeit with a very limited scope compared to my training
  2. it would protect the public from potential harm by both registered NDs and those falsely calling themselves such, and
  3. it creates a group to study this specific issue in depth and present their findings to the legislature, who has little time for a real understanding of every issue.

I understand the desire to keep the government out of our business.  I support free enterprise and I believe that people should be able to offer and receive services of their choosing.  I don’t think the government has any place in medical decision making. 

In my opinion, however, one of the functions of even a very limited government is ensuring public safety.  There are those who will say, "I can research my own health care practitioner, I don’t need the government to do it for me."  To that, I have a couple of thoughts: 

First, there are those out there right now whose only drive is to make money.  They put fake diplomas on their walls and websites, list fake degrees and fake association memberships.  And, in fact, some of them hurt people.  At best, they are defrauding the public.  At worst, they are killing people.  And even if you are a person who will look beyond the fancy-looking diplomas (and I would offer that many people are not), it can be difficult to get to the bottom of who they really are.  Will you call the school they list to see if they are actually a graduate?  Will you find out if the "board" that supposedly "licenses" them is even real?  Will you find out if they actually belong to the professional association they claim to belong to, or if it is a real association?

Second, imagine, even for a moment, that all doctors were unregulated.  Would they have your best interests at heart?  Are you prepared to research where they went to school or if they actually did?  Will you put your health or life on the line to see a doctor?  There are good reasons for regulating doctors.  There is a higher standard for those holding themselves out as experts in their field.  I believe it is wishful thinking to assume that just because someone claims to be a healer or doctor, that they are honorable.

What it boils down to in my mind is this:  "Buyer beware" is not an appropriate standard for doctors.  You are not just putting your money on the line when you seek professional health care.  You are putting your health and potentially your life on the line.  It is an incredible honor and responsibility to be a doctor.  It takes real training and clinical experience.  If a person is going to call themselves a doctor, then I believe that the public has a right to know that they are, in fact, getting a doctor. 

This is where a well-informed government has an appropriate role, and this is what HB 1175 will provide – a means to not only regulate naturopathic doctors and provide for the public safety, but also to actually educate our legislators about this complex issue.

If you would like to read the most current version of the bill (including amendments), it can be found here.

I did my training in Oregon, a state which has licensed NDs since the 1920s.  I am trained as a primary care physician.  I completed over 4,000 hours of didactic and clinical work to acheive my 4 year ND degree.  In my years at school I worked together with many different practitioners to provide quality care to patients.  There is no shortage in Oregon of other alternative health care providers.  Regulation of NDs doesn’t preclude the practice of any other profession.  What there IS is a wealth of licensed NDs who can legally offer their kind of care to whoever wants it.  (And many insurance providers will even cover it.  Imagine that.)

I appreciate you taking the time to understand this issue fully.  I know many of you will be inundated with emails from those who oppose this bill and I’m glad to be able to present the facts as I see them.  If anyone has questions about the bill, about what I do, or anything else, I welcome your emails. 

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5 Ways to Stretch Your Organic Dollar

I’ve written before about the importance of eating organic foods.  Organic foods are richer in vitamins and minerals than conventional foods.  Eating organically minimizes your exposure to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.  And organic farming practices are healthier for our environment.

Organic foods usually cost more, though, and in hard economic times it can be especially difficult to justify the extra expense.  Fortunately, there are several ways to get the most "bang for your buck" when it comes to making this healthy choice.

1. Be flexible and shop the sales:  Shop for an entire week in a single trip.  Going shopping once a week decreases the amount of driving you have to do, saving you time and money.  And whether you are at a "conventional" grocery store or a "natural" one, you can plan your weekly meals around the foods that are on sale.  Shopping the sales will allow you to buy more organic food.

2. Use coupons:  Stores and organic food manufacturers offer coupons in flyers, newspapers and online.  Some stores will also double coupons, increasing your savings.

3. Buy in bulk:  Many foods such as grains, beans, nuts and dried fruits are significantly less expensive if you purchase them in bulk rather than buying them prepackaged.  Natural food stores generally have a wide selection of bulk foods, but conventional stores are beginning to add bulk departments as well.

4. Buy the store brand:  Some stores carry their own organic lines.  Whole Foods and Safeway are two stores that come to mind.  Store brand products usually cost less than other brands.

5. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to help you choose the most important fruits and vegetables to buy organically, or if you cannot afford organic produce, which fruits and vegetables you should emphasize in your diet instead.  From the EWG website: 

"An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead."

As we increase our awareness of the benefits of organic food, demand will increase and the cost of organically grown food will go down.  Until then, a little flexiblity, planning and smart shopping will help you eat well with less of a pinch on your wallet.

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A Happy New Year Treat

Happy 2009 everybody!

It’s New Year’s Resolution time again and many of us have made ourselves promises to become healthier in 2009.  In that spirit, here’s a vegan, dairy-free, grain-free, sugar-free treat that everyone is sure to love.  Orange Julius shakes were a childhood favorite of mine, and this recipe really comes close!

"Orange Juli-esque"

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1-1 1/2 cups of homemade almond milk*
  • 1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together in a blender, adjusting the amount of almond milk depending on the consistency desired.  For a non-vegetarian protein boost, blend in an organic raw egg.  Serves 2.

*For about 3 cups of homemade almond milk, blend 1 1/2 cups raw almonds with 3 cups water and strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth.  Optionally, you can add 1 tablespoon of honey and/or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Gingerbread Cookies

All right, it seems like I’ve been doing nothing but talking about food lately, but ’tis the season…

My kids and I made some delicious gingerbread bears today.  We were going to make men, but that cookie cutter is hiding somewhere.  These cookies came out crunchy and sweet with just a hint of spice.  There’s nothing like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves to warm you up on a cold winter day!

I adapted this recipe to fit the ingredients I had on hand.  It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free:

Gingerbread Bears

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (I think 2 tsp would have been fine)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (may contain corn starch)
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 5 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine (I used Whole Foods’ brand), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • extra rice flour for dusting when rolling and cutting out cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets.

Cream margarine, sugars, agave, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients.  Dough will be stiff.

Roll out dough on waxed paper or parchment paper dusted with rice flour until dough is 1/8 inch thick.  Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut out cookies.  Use a flour-dusted spatula to transfer cookies to baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated oven, or until cookies are firm to the touch.

Cool and decorate if desired.  We couldn’t wait and gobbled them up "naked"!

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The Breast Art Show Ever!

Coming up this weekend!

This effort was inspired by a group in Oregon who made prints of their breasts on canvas, sold the paintings, and donated the money to a breast cancer organization. (

Many of you know Heather Janssen because she is the editor and founder of the magazine ‘get born’ (  She gets to choose where to donate the proceeds from the sale because she’s fighting and winning her own battle with breast cancer.

I hope to see you there!


What:     Unique artwork created by the talented ta-ta’s of

    Heather Janssen and friends.

When:    Saturday, December 6, 2008  6 – 9 pm

Where:   Sage Moon Originals

   116 E. 4th Street

   Downtown Loveland


  • Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments
  • Additional art and prizes to be given


Sale of the "Breast Artwork Ever" will further the fight against breast cancer in Heather Janssen’s name.

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Healthy Thanksgiving Treats – Day Five

Gravy, mmmmmm gravy…..  It’s like the magic that brings the Thanksgiving meal together!  Here are two gravy recipes sure to delight – and they’re dairy-free and gluten-free!

Turkey Gravy Recipe

  • 1 cup turkey drippings
  • 2 cups water, turkey stock, or chicken stock
  • tapioca flour
  • black pepper

With the turkey drippings still in the bottom of the roasting pan, place the pan over 2 stove burners and heat each burner to low-medium heat.  Add 1 cup water or stock and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

Transfer mixture to a saucepan and add the second cup of water or stock.  Bring to a simmer, stirring often.

In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons tapioca flour with enough of the liquid to make a smooth paste.  Stir the paste into the simmering liquid a teaspoon at a time until the gravy is the desired thickness.

Add black pepper to taste.  The finished gravy is a dark brown color with a satiny consistency.


Mushroom Gravy Recipe

(From Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, by the Moosewood Collective)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups hot potato water (from boiling mashed potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or tapioca flour or arrowroot) dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Heat the oil in a skillet.  Stir in the mushrooms, tamari, and black pepper.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender.  Add potato water and bring to a boil.  Slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook at a low boil, continuing to stir, until the gravy is clear and thick.

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