Sunday, April 17, 2016

An Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong

You may be wondering where I have been. Why haven't I been posting colorful vegan food photos? What happened to all the nutrition info I usually post on social media?

Well, to be honest, I didn't like my food enough to take pictures of it lately. I have been EXPERIMENTING and today I'm going to tell you what I have learned.

I was frustrated with my weight. I have about 12 extra pounds on me that just won't budge. I decided to switch up my diet and see what happens. I mean really, really switch.....

Last year I saw an alternative medicine doctor. I was frustrated with my weight then, too. She recommended a paleo diet. I declined to take that advice, because I was committed to being a vegan, or at least a vegetarian. Lately I've seen several people touting the Bulletproof Diet (basically paleo, and ketogenic as well). The seed was planted....

So for the past month I've been trying to keep my carbs below 50 gm/day. It's nearly impossible to do as a vegan, but as a vegetarian it is possible. The only problem is that I hate eggs.... so in order to get enough protein, I either have to eat a ton of whey or give in to meat.

I actually ate meat several times a week. I also went back to eating Quest Bars (whey), as I had done years ago, in order to get the minimum protein requirement of the ketogenic diet. The first few tasted weird because of the artificial sweeteners, but I got used to them. I also ate some of the Dales Raw Protein Bars (vegan and CLEAN) but they contributed more carbs. I tried adding collagen protein to my Shakeology, but even my Shakeology seemed to contribute too many carbs in one meal. I added MCT oil and even tried Bulletproof Coffee. (google it)

So what happened after a month of this paleo/keto/bulletproof/whateveryoucallit diet? Here's what I learned:

  1. I lost NOTHING. Not a pound. I tracked every carbohydrate, fat and protein gram and every calorie and I'm still the same weight.
  2. I got SICK... after the first week I caught a cold (I never get sick) and it lingered and turned into sinusitis that hung around for 3 weeks! I even went to the doctor and got prescriptions, and it didn't go away!
  3. My skin looked worse... the first week I got pimples! I'm 55 and I broke out! After that my skin just looked dull and more wrinkled.
  4. I missed oats. I can do gluten free, but I really wanted overnight oats.
  5. I missed fruit. Four strawberries or ½ cup of raspberries a day is NOT enough.
  6. I missed VARIETY. All the colors, textures and combinations of the plant kingdom were missing. I was tired of zucchini and asparagus!
  7. I was TIRED. I don't know who these people are that claim by eating copious amounts of FAT and moderate protein with very little fruits and veggies, and no grains or legumes you get more energy. I was so tired and could barely get through my workouts! Sure, bulletproof coffee got me going for a few days, but my body soon adjusted to the caffeine levels. Sure all the fat kept the hunger pangs at bay, but I had very low energy...and I was CRABBY.
  8. Something curious: after a couple of years as a 90% vegan vegetarian, with only a few burgers as “treats” that I always regretted... I had no trouble eating or digesting red meat. I actually LIKE the taste of red meat. I thought I would enjoy uncured bacon, but it only tasted overly salty and greasy, and I could barely look at chicken. I was going to make a chicken curry one day and the raw meat grossed me out so I put it in the freezer for the hubby and substituted tempeh. The curry was delicious, but the tempeh added a few carbs.
  9. I found the diet very hard to stick with. I ate a lot of nuts. I ate a lot of bars. I don't like eggs or fish. Cottage cheese and yogurt have carbohydrates, o the protein choices were very limited. This “lifestyle choice” is very restrictive.
  10. I spent more money on groceries. Animal products are expensive, especially organic and grass-fed ones.
Yesterday, after stepping on the scale and seeing that I had actually gained a pound from the day before I temporarily became determined to cut the carbohydrates even more.... and then after wasting 2 hours browsing recipes and blog posts I came to my senses. I QUIT. I had a bowl of brown rice to celebrate my nutrition freedom! It was glorious! I ate an apple! It was like Christmas! I made vegan pancakes with berries for breakfast! IT WAS HEAVENLY!

Today I have a ton more energy, and my head is clearer! It's been just one day since ditching the high-fat and protein based diet and I already feel better. I may not ever lose these 12 pounds, but I'm going to FEEL better and enjoy my food!

I proved it to myself. A variety of plant based foods will give you all the nutrients and antioxidants you need to fight off disease and keep your body energized. Plant based diets cost less than clean animal based diets. Plant based snacking is easy. You get enough fat in whole foods. You get enough protein for your metabolic needs in a well-rounded plant based diet. Never again! No more adding fat to my food just because I need to reach a number. No more obsessing over ratios and grams. I'll still cheat now and then with my personal kryptonite, pizza, and feel bad the following day. I might still indulge in a slice of cheesecake on my daughter's birthday. But for 90% of the time, this girl is back to vegan, mostly gluten-free and limited added oils.

A plant-based diet is right for me, right for the animals and right for the environment.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

It's Sunday, which means pancakes or waffles for breakfast at our house. I have been working my way through a bowl of pomegranates this week, and I modified a recipe I found online and came up with this today. I'm pretty sure you could switch out the flours for a gluten-free blend, such as Bob's Red Mill. Maybe I'll try that next time. 

Cacao and Pomegranate Pancake Stack


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cup  + 2 Tbls sparkling water (divided)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 tablespoon agave or honey
½  tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2  teaspoon Cocoa Powder
1 large or 2 small Pomegranates, seeded

Deseed the Pomegranate. Click here if you don't know how (bonus recipe, too):
In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix.
Add in the cup (minus 2 tablespoons) of sparkling water, the agave or honey and oil. Whisk until smooth.
Pour half of the batter in a second, small mixing bowl.
Add in the vanilla extract to one of the bowls and whisk again. Fold in ¼ cup pomegranate arils. 
Add the Cocoa Powder and the remaining 2 tablespoons sparkling water to the other bowl and whisk.
Heat the griddle to medium heat. 
Pour the batter and cook pancakes until bubbly and the edges are dry, then flip and cook another minute or two until done.
Alternate the vanilla pomegrante and cacao pancakes on plates and top with additional Pomegranate Seeds and honey, if desired. 
We found Pomegranate Syrup at a gift shop recently and that was a superb topping for these.

Pomegranates are in season now!
Pomegranate is a nutritionally rich fruit with unique flavor, taste, and heath promoting characteristics.

Health benefits of Pomegranate
*100 g provides 83 calories, slightly more than that in the apples. 
*It is a good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, providing about 4 g per 100 g (about 12% of RDA)
*Boosts immunity, improves circulation, and offers protection from cancers.
*Certain ellagitannin compounds such as Granatin B, and Punicalagin are found abundantly in the pomegranate juice. Studies suggest that punicalagin and tannins are effective in reducing heart-disease risk factors by scavenging harmful free radicals from the human body.
*High in antioxidants (ORAC 2341)
*Regular consumption of pomegranate has been found to be effective against prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), diabetes, and lymphoma.
*A good source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), folates, pyridoxine and vitamin K, and minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, and manganese.

Enjoy pomegranates in your pancakes, salads, and more! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Safe Cookware

Someone asked about safe food storage containers and cookware in a group I'm in, so it inspired me to show you what I use regularly.

Part 2: Cookware

As for cookware, I regularly use stainless steel saucepans, ceramic lined skillets, a giant steel wok, lots of old Pampered Chef stoneware, and a I have 3 sizes of stainless steel pressure cookers. I have a stainless steamer basket, too.
I use the smaller pressure cooker at least once a week.

The pressure cookers save a lot of time when prepping for the week. Cooking time is cut significantly for beans and brown rice. The pressure cookers are also great as stock pots for soups and stews and can be used for canning and preserving.

10' braiser/baker comes with silicone handle grips

I recently invested in an Xtrema Ceramcor Braiser/Baker with cover. If you choose to go the full ceramic route, be prepared for a learning curve. These pots and pans heat up slowly, and retain heat well after the stove is turned off. They are versatile for the stovetop, oven and broiler and pretty enough to serve from at the table. Learn more about their products here: Ceramcor

While I do own a cast iron skillet, I rarely use it. I do use my wok regularly.  I use the stoneware for
baking, but if I were to buy new I might go with glass baking dishes to save money and be able to stick everything in my fancy new dishwasher. I  have a 13 x 9 x 2 glass baking dish and several of my glass dishes that I regularly use for storage are also able to go in the oven.

I have a wide range of stoneware, and it's lasted me 15-20 years so far. I have 3 sizes/shapes of flat stones, a loaf pan, a square pan, an oval pan, a muffin pan, a bar pan, a mini bar pan, and 2 sizes of round bakers. It sounds like a lot, but they were collected years ago over time when those Pampered Chef parties were all the rage.

The one item I don't think I could do without is my Vitamix. While technically not cookware, I feel the need to include it as I use it every day. I make my own nut butters, flours, hummus, dressings, smoothies, whole food juices, and more. I grind my own coffee beans and when my kids were little I made baby food in it. I've even cooked hot soup with it.

I had my machine for 22 years when I recently called for a blade replacement because it wasn't performing up to snuff. . For about $80 more than a new blade assembly, I got a refurbished new model, with a 5 year complete warranty, with their trade-in program. My “new” Vitamix ended up costing me half of what I could buy one for at Costco! While others may balk at the price, I feel like I got a great value and a product that served me faithfully for over two decades. Here's the model I currently own: C Series Vitamix

Friday, September 11, 2015

Food Storage

Someone asked about safe food storage containers and cookware in a group I'm in, so it inspired me to show you what I use regularly.

canning jars, vacuum canisters & snaptop glass storage containers

Part 1: Storage Containers

The storage container I use most often is the lowly canning jar. You can buy a case of them at almost any grocery store or Target, Walmart, etc. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from tiny 2 oz jars all the way up to 2 quarts.

I use plastic reusable lids for them since I'm not using them for canning, and the regular lids and bands rust over time. You can get some here:Reusable Lids. There are also flip top lids available for pouring liquids. 

I also use glass storage containers with plastic snap lids. They are available at Costco, Target and similar stores. While all of my glass containers have lids, not all of them have lids that truly seal. Some of my glass dishes are suitable for the oven, which is a big plus.

I have a vacuum sealer that I use to extend the shelf life of many items. There are plastic vacuum bags which work great for freezing, flours, and things you don't open often. Meat will keep longer without freezer burn, if vacuum sealed in the bags. There are canisters of various sizes for things like rice, flours, beans, etc.

If I make a big batch of soup or vegan chili I freeze it in a vacuum bag that is clipped shut with a binder clip. Once it is frozen solid I seal it. I still cook meat for my husband, and one of his favorite dishes is beef stew. I brown stew meat and seal it in vacuum bags and then chop stew veggies and sealed them. I store a bag of meat and a bag of veggies together in a zipper bag in the freezer. Then when I want to make beef stew for him, I simply empty the bags into the crock pot with some liquid and spices and voila! I can prep several batches of stew at once and not have to deal with browning meat again for months.

I've bought nuts in bulk and vacuum sealed them in bags and stored them in the freezer. I've also used the bags for freezing firm fruits and vegetables. I freeze individual servings for hubby's dinners when I will be away. All he has to do is heat them up. (never microwave in plastic, btw)

The bottom line is that I use mostly glass for food storage. The plastic vacuum bags that I use are reused until they become too small to be useful, and I never reheat food in them. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Should You Eat Raw?

Raw food diets are gaining in popularity. One such example is the 80-10-10 Diet, in which the goal is to get 80% of your calories from carbohydrates--primarily raw fruit--and 10% each from raw, plant-based protein and fat. While I am all for people eating more produce and no processed foods, I don't think this plan quite hits the nail on the head.

In this diet, you eat a lot of sugar. It's all from fruit, but it's still sugar. If you have diabetes or hypoglycemia, this could be a problem. If you want to eat more raw foods, eat loads of veggies but stick to no more than 4 servings of fruit a day.

I've posted before on vegan protein sources. See Where Do You Get Your Protein. While I do believe that the low-carb, high protein trend is also unhealthful, I also think that cutting back too far on protein, especially if you exercise daily, is also a bad idea. Protein is important for regulating appetite, maintaining lean muscle mass, tissue repair, and healthy brain function. Losing weight on a diet like the 80-10-10 plan, especially if you are over 50, could mean you are losing muscle. 

Finally, let's address fat. Fat used to be a bad word, but now we know that the right kinds of fats are very important for good health. Fat helps slow down the absorption of sugars, thereby stabilizing blood glucose levels and providing a steady supply of energy and tempering appetite. Without enough fat, important fat-soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E and K cannot be absorbed. Did you know your brain is made up mostly of water and fat?

Also, some foods’ nutrients are better absorbed if they are cooked slightly. Here is an example using spinach:
Raw spinach is  rich in many essential nutrients, some of which are more available to our bodies when we consume them raw. These nutrients include folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium.
When you eat spinach that has been heated, you will absorb higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron. Important carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, also become more absorbable. 

The 80-10-10 diet also eliminates all legumes and grains (as well as meat and dairy). While I do not usually eat meat and dairy, I do eat a lot of legumes and a moderate amount of grains. This is where my complete proteins come from. I would be worried about someone becoming deficient in important nutrients like B vitamins, proteins and healthy fats on this plan. 

I strive to eat at least 50% raw food each day. Sometimes is a little less, sometimes much more. I think eating 80-10-10 is OK for a day or two at a time, but as a lifestyle, it is too extreme. 

That being said, here is a tasty raw food recipe for you. Try it for breakfast or an afternoon snack! 

Blueberry Cereal

1 cup of Blueberries 
2 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp crushed almonds or walnuts
1 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
1Tbsp crushed Flax seed

Pour fresh non-dairy milk over all. (By the way, I soak all of my nuts)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Big Prep Day...and a Couple of Recipes

I spent the whole day in my kitchen yesterday! While I do food prep every week, I don’t normally dedicate an entire day to it!

Usually, on Farmers Market Day I wash, dry, and store all of my produce, and assemble salad greens for the week. I always make salad dressings for the week and cook things like chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, etc. that are more time consuming while I wash and chop produce. That is easy, but yesterday was a Stock the Freezer Day. I love my vacuum sealer. I can use the bags for freezing soups, burgers and more, and also for storing flours and grains in my cupboard. I also have the handy vacuum canisters for things I open often, like beans, lentils, and oats. I keep my week’s worth of salad in a big vacuum-sealed canister in the refrigerator, where it stays fresh and crisp all week.

I had an abundance of zucchini and cauliflower in my frig, so I started there. I made an awesome Zucchini Dip which I will use as a raw veggie dip, and in my daughter’s lunchbox wraps. I used it as a condiment on her veggie burger yesterday, and it was a hit. The recipe is on my Facebook Fan Page here:

Next I made a curried cauliflower soup. I put half in a mason jar in the frig for the coming week, and the rest I froze for the future. I also made a double batch of lentil soup and did the same. 

I also made two kinds of veggie burgers. Crispy Chickenless Burgers are one of my kid’s favorites. They are made with tempeh and quinoa, so they pack a lot of protein (more than a hamburger!). I also made Black Bean Burgers, which are our standby burgers. Now we are all set for summer BBQ season! Here is a tutorial on how I make them:

I made turkey and veggie meatloaf in muffin pans for the husband. They freeze well and he is able to feed himself by just heating up a couple of them with a potato. Yeah, he’s a basic unit. 

I used a fresh young coconut to make some coconut milk for my grain-free blueberry cereal, and I made some hemp milk for the week ahead. I whipped up some Ginger-Miso dressing for salads this week, too. 

I made a couple of salad dishes, Moroccan Carrot Salad from the Ultimate Reset and Blackberry Green Beans, and I cooked Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes from the Team Beachbody Recipes section and Curry Spiced Spaghetti Squash for dinner. 

Tomorrow is Farmers Market Day and I’ll be washing fresh produce. Other than that, there will be little to do the rest of the week for lunches and dinners, which makes me happy since it’s a busy last week of school full of fun activities.  As a matter of fact, we are headed to the beach with the musical theater families now!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Just Rolling Along...

One of the best ways to relieve sore muscles is to gently stretch and ROLL. I use a combination of foam rolling and my Roll Recovery gadget for myofascial release. 

Dr. Mark Cheng recommends rolling BEFORE your workout, to “take off the parking brakes.” Try taking 5-10 minutes before your workout to loosen up and see if that doesn't help with your soreness today.

Don't have a foam roller? Do you have a pool noodle out in the garage? A scrap piece of PVC pipe? Try a rolling pin or a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. 

Here is a link for some tips on how to foam roll from Dr Cheng. 

Here is the Roll Recovery website:

If you are in a rehabilitation situation from an injury, surgery, or accident, Dr. Cheng's program, Tai Cheng, could be for you. Here is a video about it: Tai Cheng Video It is available here:  Tai Cheng
I have done the program...and even went back to it 3 days post-knee operation! It's great for gaining flexibility, strength and balance with absolutely no impact. This is not a weight loss or fitness program, per se, but excellent for gentle rehab and recovery.