Thursday, January 31, 2013

Transitioning to a Healthy Vegan Lifestyle - Step 4


(roasted vegetables with goat cheese)

How are you doing make lifestyle changes?  I hope the first three changes are starting to stick now.  Let’s recap what we have done so far:
  • Drinking enough water
  • Consuming at least 10 servings of veggies and fruit per day
  • Adding at least one cup of beans to your meals per day

The most difficult change for me in this list was the 10 servings of veggies.  However once I conquered that one I felt so much better that I knew this lifestyle was something that I would do for the rest of my life. I hope you are also starting to feel the benefits.  J

Today’s step is also going to be difficult for many of you but once you have mastered it, you are going to feel incredible so I hope you are willing to at least give it a try.  The next step is to give up cheese.  Are you still with me? I am sure some of you nearly fainted when you read that and were thinking cheese would be way down the line. However there is a reason that cheese is so high on my list and I will explain it so that you understand.

(quick macademia nut cheese)

What is wrong with cheese?

In America we have been brainwashed by the dairy council that we need dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese) for calcium and protein and that is simply not true.  In fact consuming cheese is harmful for your health for many reasons.  No one loves cheese more than I used to.  In the past I would have told you there was no such thing as too much cheese.  I added cheese to anything and everything.  However in my defense this was many years ago, and long before I knew better.

Cheese is extremely high in fat.  Thing about how cheese is made. Milk is coagulated and during that process protein is removed and drained and that concentrates the fat in the cheese compared to milk.  Here is a little chart which shows the fat as a % of calories in various cheeses.  Please look for your favorite and think about this.

Type of cheese
% calories from fat
American
73%
Asiago
72%
Babybel
69%
Blue
72%
Brie
73%
Camembert
71%
Cheddar
72%
Cream Cheese
88%
Edam
69%
Farmer
57%
Feta
71%
Goat
69%
Gouda
68%
Gruyere
69%
Havarti
80%
Jarlsberg
66%
Mozzarella
68%
Muenster
72%
Neufchatel
79%
Parmesan
59%
Provolone
67%
Ricotta
64%
Romano
61%
String
58%
Swiss
64%
Taleggio
75%

Did you find your favorite cheeses on this list? Were you horrified by the percentage of calories in that cheese from fat?  My personal favorite cheese has always been taleggio. However knowing that it gets 75% of its calories from fat is something that sticks in my mind.

In addition to cheese being so high in fat it is predominantly saturated fat which is the stuff that plays a big role in: high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and inflammation.   Additionally cheese tends to lead to constipation so you will feel better if that is an issue for you.  Consuming cheese also increases your IGF-1 which fuels tumor growth.  Dr. Colin Campbell was able to show that by adding and taking away the protein in dairy he could turn on and off cancer growth in animals.   What I was saying is that if you don’t care about the extra weight that usually comes with cheese then please think about all the other problems that come with consuming cheese.

(flax crackers with nut cheese and veggies)

What do you I use in place of cheese?

This was my biggest question when we went vegan.  I felt as though I needed a little parmesan on food which I am sure is an Italian thing.  I also loved the creamy texture that cheese gives food.  Who doesn’t love a nice slab of lasagna filled with ricotta or a nice stringy queso cheese dip?   There is something gooey and comforting about cheese and I think all of us know it.  Most people don’t say to me I can’t give up milk; rather it is always I can’t give up cheese.   I still remember how hard it was to give it up.

The good news is that there are substitutes for cheese which are fairly easy to make.  While they aren’t perfect substitutes for the cheese you eat now they do mimic the texture and taste enough that they will get you through the transition.   As much as I used to love cheese I don’t miss it now.  Well I miss it when our chef friend Ian has to tell me about the taleggio he has and what he could do with it.  That Ian is a stinker. But other than that I really don’t miss cheese any more I used to eat a lot of it.

(vegan mozzarella - no soy)

When I feel that I need to aroma and umami of cheese y go to is nutritional yeast flakes. I sprinkle them on salad or veggie dishes.  If I have a bit more time I will make my walnut parmesan. That has more calories so it usually ends more on Dan’s food than mine.  When we need a cheese sauce I turn to the queso recipe which his very versatile and a good one when you are first transitioning off the cheese.  You can make almond feta if you need something cheesy on a cracker.  For ricotta you can use the tofu/cashew cheese in my vegan lasagna.  In southern Italy many recipes use toasted bread crumbs sprinkled on food in place of cheese. That is something else that you can try.  It adds a crunchy texture that I like.

Removing the cheese from your diet is a huge step.  However it is a very healthy step and I think you will feel better very quickly once you remove it.  I know that your arteries will thank you since cheese has more saturated fat than meat. 

To find any of the recipes pictured in this post enter the name into the search box on this blog in the upper left side. The recipes will come right up for you.  :-)

Happy thoughts:
  1. Today was another one of my uber busy days.  I have no idea how my life has gotten so out of control but it has.  However I am pleased that I had time to write this post during the evening.  J
  2. I am also grateful that I had time to check on my parents today and do some things for them.  Even though they know how to push my buttons they are “all mine” and I love them.  ;-)
  3. Dinner for Dan tonight was curried red lentil soup over brown rice which I also made in the pressure cooker.  I was happy for both my pressure cooker and quick and healthy recipes that Dan enjoys.
  4. I chatted with my friend Angela which is always a good time.  She cracks me up.  We all need people in our lives who make us smile.  Thanks sweetheart you are good for my soul.  J
  5. I was happy to be able to help a friend with finance homework today.   I get a lot of pleasure out of being able to do things for the people who I care about. 
  6. I almost forgot my good news from this morning.  When I got on the scale this morning it was down again.  I am now down 4.2 pounds after 3 days of juice fasting.  *woot woot*  Today I decided that I wanted to have a salad so that is how I broke my fast. But I have to tell you juice fasting can become addictive because it is so darned effective.
  7. Our weather today was glorious. It was 70 degrees in the afternoon. All I can say is wow was that a nice treat in January.  A girl could definitely get used to this weather.  Come on spring, I miss you!
  8. Next week our friends Phil and Jeff (father and son) will be in town for work and I adore going to dinner with Phil as he is such a pleasure to be around.  I am already looking forward to it.  There is nothing better than time with friends.
  9. We are half way through the week!  I am hoping for a nice weekend.  J

Signing out:

I didn’t sleep well last night so I need to be in bed before midnight tonight.  I am operating on a little bit of sleep deficit and don’t want to add to that tonight. 

I hope that your week has been good.  Talk with you again soon. Ciao for now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pantry Staple - Frozen Veggies



 (curried veggies over brown rice)

Today I want to talk about something that I rely on when I need to make a quick meal and we don’t have a lot of fresh produce in the refrigerator.  Frozen vegetables are something that I always keep on hand and after you read all the things that I do with them I think you may keep more at your house too.

Aren’t fresh vegetables always more nutritious?

I think everyone assumes that fresh veggies are always better than frozen but that actually isn’t the case.  Let’s look at the path the typical grocery store veggies take to get to you. They are picked 1,000s of miles away (often unripe) and then get sorted, packaged and transported to your store. Now they sit in the produce case at your store until you bring them home. Next they sit in your refrigerator until you eat them. Generally they are irradiated or are given a chlorine bath to extend their shelf life.  By the time you actually eat these veggies they are probably at least a week old. Since the nutrition in plant foods starts to deteriorate once they are harvested how much nutrition do you think is left?

Now think about frozen veggies. They are picked, sorted, blanched and frozen generally the same day. Sure you lose some nutrition from the blanching but I doubt that is exceeds the nutrition lost in fresh veggies. 
Of course you can buy local produce directly from farmers but not many of us do that.  Dan and I try to buy most of our veggies from local farmers when they are in season.  However even then I know by the end of the week those veggies are a week old.  The best answer is to grow your own food but most of us (me included) aren’t going to do that.

(Italian veggie casserole topped with toasted bread crumbs and pine nuts)

Are all veggies good frozen?

This is a subjective question but I think some fare better during the process than others.  Peas, corn and green beans are great frozen.  Artichokes, spinach and edamame are also good choices.  If you store carries it I also like butter squash puree.  I also keep mixed frozen veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) on hand.  There is usually a bag of oriental veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, carrots, and water chestnuts) in my freezer too though these are my least favorite.  I am not a big fan frozen asparagus as the texture is too “mushy” for my taste.

(Asian veggies with soba noodles)

Do you use frozen veggies differently than fresh?

I actually do tend to use frozen veggies differently than fresh. Once veggies have been blanched I tend to prefer them cooked. There are a couple of exceptions (peas, corn and artichokes) to that rule.  Generally I tend to use frozen vegetables in cooked dishes like casseroles, soups, and stews).

If you want to use frozen veggies cold and without cooking them further what I do is move them to the refrigerator in a strainer (with a bowl underneath) and let them slowly thaw during the day. This keeps them as “crisp” as possible.

(pizza veggies topped with walnut parm)

What are your favorite uses for frozen veggies?

I like to use the frozen Asian veggies to make quick “stir fry” (in quotes because I make it without oil).  The frozen Asian veggies are also good for a quick noodle bowl with veggies.

The mixed veggies I add to any number of casseroles, soups and stews.   For example last night I added them to the Moroccan chickpea stew to increase the nutrition.  I also recently served them under fagioli all’uccelletto (beans in the style of birds) to make that that dish a complete meal.  You can add defrosted vegetables on top of pizza as well.  I have also defrosted and then roasted frozen veggies to add cold to salads.

However my favorite use for mixed veggies is what I call veggie pizza. All I do is heat the veggies, top them with tomato sauce (like for pasta) and then add nutritional yeast and hemp seeds (or walnut parmesan).  This is hands down my favorite fast go to meal. For Dan I would serve this over quinoa and add beans to pump up the calories.

I hope this gives you some ideas for what to do with frozen veggies. They come in very handy in my kitchen when we need food and I don’t have time to cook.  For those of you who think I cook every day I don’t.  I have those days like you do where I simply can’t find the time to get into the kitchen. Busy days are when frozen veggies come in most handy.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Today was just one of those days that I am happy is over.  However even a day like this has bright spots.   I had some time to chat with my friend Angela, which was great.
  2. We got more good news from the doctor.  Things are definitely starting to fall into place. Once they are all set I will share.  J  Please keep your fingers crossed for us.
  3. I managed to get time today to catch up on some life administration (all those details that are required to get through life) which was great since I am so far behind.
  4. Unless I have lost track of time I think Wednesday will be three weeks for Matt without cigarettes.  You rock Matt!  I am so happy for you.  J
  5. My copy of “You’ve Got Mail” showed up today.  I remember seeing it years ago and being “meh” about it.  However I watched part of it recently on TV and thought it was very funny.  I ordered it this weekend from Amazon (for $3.99 I might add). Since I like Meg Ryan it would make sense that this movie would be a hit with me.  I plan to watch it all the way through soon when I get a little me time to relax.

Signing out:

Overall I had a rough day but a good day if that makes any sense.  I had some extremely good things happen and some not so good.  However I have learned that if I wait out my feelings they always go away with time.  No matter how bad something feels in the moment in the end it is always temporary.  For some of you that might make sense.  I wouldn’t have understood it myself just a few years ago. 

An odd thing happens when cancer enters your life. Things that previously would have been a big deal become insignificant.  After cancer you learn to be grateful for things like waking up in the morning, getting your first cup of tea, feeling the sun on your face, snuggling with a pet, or maybe just doing nothing.  In a few ways cancer actually brings an eerie calm to life that is hard to imagine before it happens to you.

Here’s hoping that tomorrow has more good and less bad and that your week is going extremely well.  I have a busy day tomorrow but I have to write the next transitioning to a healthy vegan lifestyle post. Wish me luck since I am going to need it.  Ciao for now.  ;-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Randomness From My Life



It was a crazy busy weekend at our place.  Just one of those weekends where I didn’t have enough time for anything that I thought I would get done, including blogging. Sorry about disappearing on you guys.  At least this time it was only for 2 days this time.  ;-)

My Monday hasn’t been much better in terms of having time.  Even though my work schedule was light I decided to try to get a lot of things done and that meant that I was a different type of busy.  Needless to say that meant I didn’t have any time to think about the post for tonight.  Translation, I am winging this completely! 

My morning started with a big glass of green juice which is pictured above.  Dan had his green smoothies today this time made with wild blueberries. 

After breakfast I waited for the weather to improve so that I could run errands.  The weather here was lousy today.  We started the day with freezing rain/sleet.  I had a few errands to run but didn’t want to drive in the weather. Then I remembered that I had a rolling cart that I used at the farmers’ market so out the door I went on foot.  I was chatting with a friend while I ran errands and took some pictures to show the area.   Since I have those pictures I decided to use them here too.

This is the old St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.


Here are two pictures of old tombstones from the church cemetery.



This is the firehouse in the CareOne commercial.


Also on the same street is this house from the same CareOne Commercial.



This is the infamous CafĂ© Hon which you may have seen in the Gordon Ramsey show.  It is a long story about the restaurant which I will save for another post. 


These are just random shots of houses along the way while I ran errands by foot.






Lunch for me was more green juice. I did a green juice fast on Sunday and when I got on the scale Monday morning I was down 2 pounds. That is what prompted me to do another day or two.  Immediate gratification has a big draw for me. ;-)


Dinner for me was … more  green juice. Dan had Moroccan chickpeas and veg over quinoa and a salad.

Happy thoughts:
  1. We got some potentially very good news from the doctor this morning. Once it materializes I will fill you in.
  2. I was able to run a few errands today by foot which was not only good for the planet (for fossil fuel use) but was also good for me.  Whenever possible I like to use my own energy to run errands. 
  3. The UPS man bought a few CDs for me to today which I have been listening to all afternoon.  Three best of CDs:  Marvin Gaye, Berry White and Teddy Pendergrass.  My house definitely had an old Motown vibe going today.
  4. I am also grateful for the warm front we are expecting on Tuesday and Wednesday.  If the forecast holds up we will be in the upper 60s on Wednesday which means boat time. I need to get down to the marina to check on our girl so why not go when the weather is nice enough to enough a little outdoor time right?  I may have to get a little exercise around the harbor while I am there.

Signing out:

Tomorrow we need to get up uber early since Dan has to be in Fredericksburg, Virginia by 9 am.  Looks like I will be getting an early start too since Dan has no idea how to make a smoothie.   No I am not kidding he really doesn’t. Can you say spoiled?  Oh well, I am pretty spoiled too.  But I am honestly not looking forward to being up at 5 tomorrow.

I have to run since I still have things to do before I can crawl into bed. Hope your Monday was great.  Talk with you soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pantry Staple – Lemons


(wilted spinach with garlic, pine nuts and lemon)

For those of you who don’t use a lot of lemon I bet this one is a bit of surprise. However I always have lemons in my house and I use them every day, multiple times per day.  I wanted to share with you many of the different uses I have found for lemons.

Health benefits of lemons

Lemons haven’t always been a staple in my house.  However over the last few years I have come to rely on them for many things.  I love that they are a good source of vitamin C and that it contains a substance (modified citrus pectin) which binds to heavy metals so those are removed through our waste rather than being reabsorbed into our blood stream.  Lemons are also a good source of vitamin A, B1, B6, potassium, magnesium, folic acid and limonene.  The limonene is found in the pith, has shown promising anti cancer properties.

If you plan to use the lemon zest it is best to buy organic lemons to avoid pesticide residue which is commonly found on lemons. Whether you buy organic or not it is important to scrub the lemon well before cutting is so that you don’t introduce any dirt of bacteria from the surface of the lemon into the flesh while cutting it.

Storing lemons

Lemons can be stored on the counter if you are planning to use them quickly.  I buy large bags so I keep mine in a bag in the refrigerator crisper to get the longest shelf life.  If you find that you bought more than you can use there is another option. Zest and juice the lemons and pour that into ice cube trays and store in the freezer.

(lemonade for sale at the farmers' market - loved the sound of this flavor combination)

Beverages

Most people are probably familiar with lemon in tea which is delicious. But did you know that adding lemon to your green and white tea enhances the EGCG you absorb from the tea?  Needless to say we add lemon to our tea.  I add the lemon after the tea has finished steeping since the vitamin C is heat sensitive.  I want to get the maximum healthy benefits from my food after all.  ;-)

(hibiscus tea with lemon)

Another favorite use for lemon at our house in the winter is to add to hot water.  Since tea (and coffee) interferes with our ability to absorb iron from green vegetables we don’t drink tea within an hour of having our green smoothies.  Instead of tea we have either herbal tea (with lemon) or hot water with lemon.  Hot water and lemon is something that I used to do 30 years ago and forgot about until earlier this year.  I really enjoy it. If you haven’t had it you might want to give it a try.  With our current cold snap now may be the best time to try it out.

You can also make healthy homemade lemonade with lemon juice, sparkling water and stevia.  We find this to be very refreshing in the warmer months.

(spa water)

There is always the classic cucumber and lemon water that I call spa water since my mother started making it after a trip to the spa 40+ years ago.

Seasoning food in lieu of salt

I have mentioned many times that we gave up using salt in our food at home so I won’t cover that again here. However, when you stop using salt you need to find other ways to enhance the flavor of your food.  Acids like vinegars and citrus juice somehow brighten the flavor of food.  I wish I could explain how and why it works but I haven’t researched it.  However I do know that it works.  I often either serve food with lemon wedges or squeeze fresh juice over the food just before serving and it does lift the flavors considerably.

(lemon marinated veggie salad)

Marinating veggies

Another one of my favorite uses for lemon juice and lemon zest is to flavor raw veggies.  You have probably seen massaged kale salads on the web.  I do something similar but a healthier version.  I use lemon juice and zest to marinate a variety of raw veggies.  All you do is thinly slice or shred the veggies and add lemon zest and juice and toss the veggies.  If you like you can add no-salt seasoning or other herbs and spices. Then put the veggies in the refrigerator to marinate.  Periodically open the container and stir the veg.  You can do this in the morning before work for lunch or dinner that day.  I have also let this sit for a couple of days and it is still fine.  The lemon softens the veggies and adds a lot of flavor. 

(green salad with veggies, baked falafel and lemon tahini dressing)

Salad dressing

Lemons make a wonderful base for salad dressings.  I like to use them in a variety of dressings. They are great in a lemony raw cashew Caesar dressing (lemon juice, lemon zest, raw cashew, water, raw garlic and a touch of soy sauce), lemony “honey” mustard (lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard and stevia) and lemon poppy seed (lemon juice, lemon zest, raw cashews, water and stevia blended then add poppy seeds).  The dressing options are endless but I wanted to mention a few of the ones that I make often.

(lemon sorbet at Jaleo)

Sorbet or Granita

I think people are either lemon or chocolate people though you may disagree. Personally I love lemon in just about anything and sorbet is one of my favorites.  I make a very intense (extra lemony and stevia) lemonade and put that in my ice cream freezer. You could also turn it into granite by freezer the liquid in a shallow pan and scraping the mixture periodically when it is partially frozen to form crystals.

Cleaning your cutting board

The last use for lemons that I will mention today is to use the juiced halves with kosher salt to scrub, bleach and disinfect your cutting board.  This is something that I do at least once a week and sometimes more often.
I hope all of these tips give you some ideas encourage you to keep lemons in your house.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Today has been a very long day.  I didn’t get into bed until 5am and was up by 8am so you know I was tired.  Fortunately it was an easy day today which is about all I could have handled. I am grateful for my easy day today.
  2. Somehow I managed to get some work done today which was surprising given my energy level. I am thankful that I found the oomph to get a few things accomplished.
  3. Late Friday afternoon I made another batch of veggie burgers which we haven’t tried yet.  I am hoping that I got the texture right this time.  If I do I will be sharing the recipe with you very soon.
  4. I want to send another shout out to my friend Matt who has still not had a cigarette. In fact it has been so many days that I have lost track but I think Saturday will be day 17 for him.  How impressive is that?  Not only has Matt quit smoking but he has dropped the meat from his life and started adding things like hemp seeds, beans and artichokes.  You rock Matt!  Keep up the great work.
  5. Friday in Baltimore was another cold (high of 27) and snowy day.  Fortunately I didn’t have to go out in that unpleasant weather.  Snow is pretty when you can stay inside and look at it through the windows.  Being outside in it, particularly when you have to drive, is not my idea of a good time.
  6. I have some errands to run tomorrow so I am grateful that the snow is predicted to end early.  Hopefully that will mean I can get out and knock a few things off my to-do list.  *fingers crossed*  If not I am sure that I can find something productive to do at home.  It’s not like there isn’t plenty to choose from.  ;-)
  7. Next week, assuming the weather forecast holds up we are supposed to reach 60 on Tuesday.  That sounds like a trip to the marina is in order to me. I have been missing my Zen boat time and just want to sit on the back deck, soak up a little sun and feed the water fowl.  Maybe a little meditation time will sneak in there too. Can you think of anything better to do for a few hours than that?

Signing out:

By the time you see this the weekend will have started.  I think we should all do something to celebrate though I don’t know what at the moment. If you have any celebratory ideas, or any other thoughts, please feel free to share.

I hope you have something fun planned for the weekend and that your weather is better than ours.  Looking on the bright side

Friday, January 25, 2013

Eating Healthy While Traveling


(black truffle hummus and cucumbers)

Like many of my posts this one was inspired by something that happened in my life.  Thursday morning I was chatting with a friend who is on the road this week for business.  I asked my friend if their breakfast today was a green smoothie since they had been making them in the hotel the last few days.  It turned out that my friend hadn’t had a smoothie but rather grabbed breakfast in the hotel.  This immediately made me realize how difficult it is to eat this way for people who haven’t lived this lifestyle as long as I have. I knew this conversation would be very helpful for those of you who are just starting out on this journey so I wanted to share.

(random crazy car I saw in Frederick, MD)

What do you do first if you need to travel?

Whenever either Dan or I are on the road the first thing I do is research the hotel.  In the perfect world it will at least have a refrigerator and microwave.  However that doesn’t all happen when Dan has to travel for work and I have figured out how to make that work.  Once you know whether you can prepare food in your hotel room or not then you can decide what to do next.
How do you find out what healthy food is available where you will be traveling?

The website I use is happycow.net.  On this site you can search by zip code, city, state or country. The site lists restaurants (both vegan, veg and veg-friendly) as well as food stores.  Since my friend was going to be in St. Augustine this week I used happycow.net to make a quick list of restaurants where it would be easy to grab a healthy meal.

I also double checked to see if there was a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Harris Teeter in St. Augustine but those were all a no go.  If this happens to you don’t worry. There will always be grocery stores in the area and you can find healthy food there too.  Not to mention there is typically at least one health food store in a town of any size.  Even the little town of 60,000 where I grew up had a health food store back in the day.

(mushroom and caramelized onion pizza - any pizzeria could make you something like this)

Assuming you have a microwave and refrigerator in your room what do you do?

If you have a microwave and refrigerator in your room you have tons of options.  My favorite options all come from the grocery store.  You can pick up any of the following:
  • Raw veggie tray and hummus (or veggies from the salad bar)
  • Prepared soup (typically found near or at the salad bar)
  • Edamame from the refrigerator case or freezer
  • Salad from the salad bar (with beans from the salad bar or canned beans)
  • Amy’s frozen vegan entrees (or something similar)
  • Soy yogurt, fruit from the salad bar and a bag of granola
  • Packages of oatmeal that you have with dried fruit and nuts
  • Small cartons of non-dairy milk for your cereal or coffee
  • If you have a portable blender you can carry what you need for green smoothies which are perfect!

(oatmeal cooked with water, topped with non-dairy milk, a banana and granola)

What if you don’t have a microwave and refrigerator?

Without a way to warm up and refrigerate food you have a slightly trickier situation. This requires you to get a little creative.  I have used the hotel room coffee pot to warm up soup and oatmeal for example.   Other options that you might want to consider include:
  • Single serving packages of non-dairy milk and cereal
  • Instant soup that you add hot water to (Dr. McDougall makes some good ones)
  • Stopping at grocery store for salad meals (see above)
  • Use happycow.net to find healthy restaurants
  • Locating ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, and Indian are good choices that can generally accommodate vegan diners without much difficulty)
If you are traveling by car you have more options than if you are flying for work.  When we are going anywhere by car I also have a cooler with us with healthy snacks.  The cooler can be used to keep food cool in your room if you don’t have a refrigerator and that is handy. In conclusion, I hope that I have given you some ideas to consider when you are traveling for work and want to stay healthy.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Thursday was a really good day for me.  It started with shoveling snow first thing this morning.  *woo hoo*  Okay I was being sarcastic but the exercise component was good at least. Plus it was nice to be able to help out since Dan usually takes care of snow removal.
  2. I had some good calls with clients today which always makes me happy.  I get so jazzed when people make healthy changes. There is no doubt that I have finally found what I was mean to do.  I still find it hard to believe that I was ever in finance.  LOL
  3. I made a delicious dinner tonight of fagioli all’uccelletto (beans in the style of birds) and served it over cheesy polenta and veggies.  Since I hadn’t made this in a while it was really tasty to us tonight.  
  4. A little while ago I ordered some reusable lunch bags that arrived today. I am jazzed that I will be using fewer plastic zip top bags.  While I realize that my personal use of them doesn’t make a big dent in the total I also know if more people tried to avoid them the environment would be better off.  I wanted to mention the idea of the reusable lunch bags to give everyone something to consider.
  5. Tomorrow is Friday!  That deserves both a woo hoo and a happy dance.  I am seriously looking forward to Friday. I have a light day which means I can be totally productive tomorrow.  Love that!  Not to mention it is almost the weekend and you all know how much I love that. 
Signing out:

Are you as happy that the weekend is almost here as I am?  While I love helping people I also love my down time.  I can’t wait to have a little time to myself to get things done that have been piling up.

I hope that you have some fun planned for the upcoming weekend. We don’t yet but there is still time to find something to get into. If the weather is good I may suggest a little DC time over the weekend.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Transitioning to a Healthy Vegan Lifestyle - Step Three

(crudite and white bean cheeze dip)

I am really curious how those of you who have made the first two changes are feeling now.  If you are inclined to share I would love to know about your experience so far.  *hint, hint*  ;-)  You can either post your thoughts on the blog or send me an email.

Thus far we have been drinking enough water to be properly hydrated and then we added a minimum of 10 servings of produce to our diet. In comparison the next step is going to be fairly easy.  Now I want you to add a minimum of one cup of beans to your diet.  I am still not asking you to eliminate meat, eggs and dairy, though that will come eventually.  For now simply drink enough water, eat at least 10 servings of produce, and have at least one cup of beans every day.

Those of you who have conquered the 10 servings of produce challenge are probably already experiencing significant results. I expect that your transit time has reduced significantly.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term, transit time is the time it takes between when food goes in your mouth and waste comes out the other end.

(chocolate and peanut butter bean spread with cucumbers)

Additionally you should be feeling lighter both in terms of total weight and how you feel after eating. This is because produce is much lower in calories than meat, dairy and processed food. Also produce is easier for the body to digest which means that your body doesn’t need to devote as many time or resources for digestion and the food moves more quickly through your body.

Now we are going to move on to step three which is to add one cup of cooked beans to your diet. Those of you who aren’t bean eats may be curious why beans are important and where to add them to your diet so I will cover both of those topics.

(white bean and kale soup with whole wheat pasta)

Why is it important to eat beans?

Beans are a fantastic source of protein and fiber and are also very satisfying.  The fiber helps to reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.  Remember swings in blood sugar can cause you to overeat so you don’t want that to happen.  The fiber also has the impact of promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut which improves your immune system and your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.  Additionally consuming beans improves your fecal eliminations. The fiber in beans also binds to the cholesterol in your GI tract so that more of it is flushed out in your waste rather than being absorbed back into your body. 

What type of beans should we be eating?

Eat whichever type of beans you enjoy. I love garbanzos and lentils but if you like black beans and pinto beans eat those instead. The important thing is to find beans that you like and eat those.  Once you cultivate a bean habit you can explore other varieties and shake things up.  For now just eat at least one cup of beans per day.

(black bean hummus and veggie panini)

What is the best place to buy beans?

This is a difficult question because it depends on where you live.  However in general the best place to buy your beans is the one that has the highest turnover (sells the most). Really old dried beans take a very long time to cook. That is the reason that you want your beans to be as fresh as possible.  I get mine from Wegman’s generally but I also buy them other places.  Other ideas include Latino markets which are a great source for unusual beans.  I have also found beans in health food stores, Asian markets, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter and at our local grocery stores (check the Latin section of your market if you have trouble locating them).  You can also buy them from Amazon which is probably a great source since they are such a big retailer.

(avocado and black bean salsa)

What are the easiest places to add beans into my diet?

Once you get started using beans you will find that they actually work in almost every dish that you have previously used meat.  My favorite uses for beans include:
  • Adding them to sauces (think red sauce for example) with veggies
  • Including them in soups (minestrone – a veggie soup with beans is a terrific example) or as soup (split pea or lentil)
  • Tossing them in grain dishes (pilaf would be a good example)
  • Adding cold beans (particularly garbanzo/chickpea/ceci) to a green salads
  • Anywhere you can add hummus, as a dip in a sandwich, as the base on pizza
(quinoa and garbanzo bean salad)

Won’t beans make me flatulent (gassy)?

If your body isn’t accustomed to eating a lot of fiber it will take a little while for it to adjust.  The easiest way to understand this is that the population of good bacteria (the ones that digest fiber) in your gastro intestinal tract need to adjust as your diet changes. Once this happens your flatulence will be reduced. There are two things that you can do to help reduce this problem.  First, you can take a probiotic supplement (Culturelle or Align) to increase the population of healthy bacteria more quickly. Second, you can take Beano which contains enzymes to help you body break down the beans.  Even if you don’t use either supplement within a short period of time (approximately a month) your body will adjust on its own and the flatulence will be reduced.

Happy thoughts:
  1. I had a number of great calls today which always makes me happy.  There is just something about helping people improve their health that fires me up.  J  I guess we all have our passions and that is definitely one of mine, among many.  ;-)
  2. While it was absolutely frigid here today I was able to stay warm at home for which I am very grateful.  I had no desire to go out the house this morning when I saw it was 18 degrees with a wind chill of minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Dan is continuing to feel good and the mystery fevers have disappeared.  Love that! 
  4. Don’t you just love that it’s Wednesday?  I am so happy to have the week more than half over. Come on Friday. I can’t wait for my weekend to begin.  J
Signing out:

Even though today was a good day it was another long one.  I spent more time on the phone today than usual and that meant I was still writing this post late into the evening.  I need to come up with a system soon.  J

I hope you are having a fabulous week.  I will chat with you again very soon. Arrivederci.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Food: Fuel Versus Pleasure


(baked zucchini balls)

A few weeks ago I was writing about something that I had eaten and the notion of how my views regarding food have changed over time occurred to me and I knew I needed to elaborate on how it happened.  In the not so distant past I had a much more hedonistic view of food. What I mean by this was that my food choices about what to eat were driven first by how much I would enjoy it and secondarily by how healthy it was.  I don’t have to tell you that when you eat in that manner it is inevitable that you are going to put on weight and I did.  I was neither happy nor healthy.  However once cancer enters your life you know that something has got to change and we did.

(zucchini and radish pasta with spinach and walnut sauce)

Today my views about food have flipped 180 degrees.  My first thought when eating now is how can I maximize the nutrition in our food?   My second thought is how can I make the food taste as good as possible without harming the nutrition?  By altering my view regarding food I was able to lose weight with little effort.  If someone had told me years ago that the key to being healthy was changing my view of food I would have thought they were crazy.  First it would have seemed impossible to me to alter my perspective. Second I wouldn’t have thought that one simple mental change would have had a big impact.  How wrong I was on both of those issues.

(Mexican-spiced tomato and bean soup with avocado salsa)

How do you start to change your perspective?

That is the $64,000 question isn’t it?  I know the specific answer is different for everyone. But I do know that whatever you use of motivation has to be critically important to you.  For us it was the cancer and being as healthy as possible in order to stand up to the cancer. When you are faced with a life or death situation changing your views on food seems easy.   It could also be that you want to lose weight and improve your health for yourself and your family.  Whatever it is the reason has to be long term in nature so that you stick with it.  Specifically what I mean is losing weight for a high school reunion isn’t going to work because when the reunion is over your motivation is gone.

Once you find your personal motivation the details are much easier.  All of us know which foods are good for us and which ones are harmful.  It comes down to eat more of the healthy stuff which will naturally crowd out the unhealthy foods. If you need more specifics I will be covering those every Thursday in my “transitioning to a healthy vegan diet series”.

I wanted to toss out this idea of eating for fuel versus pleasure to give you something to think about. Ask yourself this, which have you been doing up until now eating for fuel or pleasure? Are there foods that you are convinced “you can’t give up!”  Why are those foods more important to you than your health?  Please give that question a lot of thought because it plays a huge role in your current and future health.  Remember you have everything necessary to improve your health as long as that is what you want.

(potato gnocchi topped with zucchini and tomato sauce - courtesy of Ian)

Happy thoughts:
  1. What a good Tuesday I had!  I got a lot done at home.  *woo hoo*  I had some good nutrition sessions. Love that!  I also found time to make more bean soup in the pressure cooker.  Not bad for a crazy cold and busy Tuesday.
  2. Today I am happy for having a home gym because it was 22 degree this morning with a wind chill of 7.  Darn that is cold.  Needless to say this girl did not go outside for her cardio today.  ;-)
  3. I am also grateful that we didn’t get the predicted overnight snow which would have made Dan’s trip to work in rush hour treacherous.
  4. I have a new tea gadget that I was able to use on Tuesday and I love it.  I will be writing about that at some point because I think every tea drinker should have one.
  5. In addition to being productive today I also was able to write more of this post early which means I wasn’t scrambling at 11:30 to get this up by midnight.  *happy dance*
  6. This weekend a ceramic pan that I had ordered arrived and I had a chance to use it. I was absolutely shocked by how well it worked. There will be a write coming on that too after I have had a chance to put the pan thoroughly thru its paces.
  7. Remember my whining yesterday about the 0.6 pounds that hadn’t gone away after delicious dinner courtesy of Ian? Well apparently all I had to do was talk about it publicly because this morning all that indulgence weight disappeared.  LOL
Signing out:

I hope you had a great Tuesday and that your week is going well.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) is a going to be busy for me. However I am looking forward to writing the next of the series on transitioning to a healthy vegan diet.  For now I need to wrap this up and get some sleep.  Arrivederci!  ;-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pressure Cooker Facts: Stove Top and Electric



More than few of you have asked me which pressure cookers I own and what is the difference between the stove top and electric models.  Since it is easier to tell you all at once rather than individually by email I thought a post on the topic was in order.

Why use a pressure cooker?

The obvious place is why does anyone actually need a pressure cooker and what can it do that other cooking methods can’t.  What pressure cookers do extremely well is speed up the cooking process.  Utilizing a sealed environment within the vessel increases the boiling point.  What this means is that the food isn’t boiling at 212 degrees but rather at a higher temperature (approximately 248 degrees).  This increase in temperature decreases the time that is required to cook the food.  It also means that the high temperature steam is better able to penetrate the food. This is why the cooking time is reduced.

Pressure cookers are wonderful for quickly making infused broths (think the broth for Tom Yum or Pho). Additionally pressure cookers are good at cooking beans which still retain their shape. 

Benefits of pressure cooking in general:
  • Speed
  • Convenience
  • Better digestibility of beans and whole grains
  • Uses less energy than standard cooking methods
The difference between stove top and electric pressure cookers


My first pressure cooker was a Fagor 6-Qt which I used for a while (at least a year) before getting an electric pressure cooker. The Fagor is easy to use. It has both a high and low pressure setting which I liked a lot.  The pressure release valve is not complicated and the interior is stainless which I like. Additionally since it is a stove-top model it can be used when the power goes out. If your power is unreliable I would suggest sticking with a stove-top model.  The other benefit it has over the electric model is that it can be used on the stove-top as a regular pot. One drawback this has is that you need to be in the kitchen to turn down the heat once pressure is achieved.  Additionally you need to be available to turn off the heat when the appropriate time has expired.


My Cuisinart electric pressure cooker reminds me of a rice cooker.  Those of you who love your rice cookers will enjoy this. With this machine I choose the pressure (with buttons on the front panel), key in the time required lock the lid and walk away. The machine automatically stops when the cooking time under pressure has elapsed.  What I really like is the machine turns itself to warm when it is finished. This means I can be detained for quite a long time and my food isn’t overcooked or cold.  One drawback to this machine is that you can’t use the insert on top the stove.  Additionally the insert comes with a non-stick pan which I didn’t love. However you can buy replacement pans that are stainless from Amazon for approximately $25 if you are like me and don’t like the chemicals in “non-stick” coating.

Which type is better stove-stop or electric?

I have been pondering this question off and on all day while sketching this post out in my mind. I have electric and stove-top pressure cookers both at home and on the boat.  If I could only have one I would choose the electric model.  I have come to rely on the automatic movement to warm from pressure feature.  I often make soup or red sauce in my electric pressure mid-afternoon and then let is stay hot on warm until Dan comes home. This feature is very handy and I would miss it.

I hope this helped you to understand pressure cooking a little bit better.  If you have any questions that I didn’t cover please let me know.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Monday was a good day for me. I had some “me time” to get my life a bit more under control. It was crazy cold here Monday morning but I got my chilly behind outside for some cardio and then I felt SO much better.  No matter how much I don’t want to exercise I never regret it once I have gotten it done.  It is almost as though sweating is good for my soul.  *looks around* Who typed that?  Kidding!  *wink*
  2. I made a terrific smoky lentil and mushroom soup today in my pressure cooker.  *happy dance*  Smoked paprika provided the smokiness that you typically get from bacon.  I also added a touch of turmeric and black pepper for their nutrition components.  I just love when healthy food is also delicious.  BTW Dan really liked this so I will be making it again this winter and will measure the ingredients so that I can share it since it was such a big hit.
  3. Now it is true confession time.  That 0.6 pounds that I gained from Ian’s food on Friday has not completely gone away yet and I am a bit annoyed. I decided late today that tomorrow will be a juice fast day unless the weight is gone tomorrow when I get on the scale.  I don’t want this weight sticking around until the weekend so it is  time to ramp up the attack.  ;-)  The reason I am sharing this is to let you all know that dropping added weight isn’t easy for anyone.  This is one of the reasons that it makes sense to keep it off in the first place IMO.  This also reminds me that I am grateful for my juicer.
  4. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be brutally cold.  I can’t say that I am looking forward to that. However I have decided that cardio tomorrow will be in the comfort of my home.  I am thinking a little biking may be in order. I am grateful that I have the option of exercising at home and don’t have to go outside to break a sweat.
  5. I also want to send a shout out to Matt who is still smoke and meat free.  You are amazing Matt!  Keep up the great work and let me know if there is anything that I can do to help.  :-)  I am so thrilled for you.  
Signing out:

I have gotten into the bad habit of writing my posts later in the day which I really need to stop doing.  Scrambling at 11:30 to get a post up at midnight is a bit crazy. Let’s hope I can finish my writing earlier in the day tomorrow.  *fingers crossed*

For those of you on the US east coast please bundle up tomorrow. From what I gather most of us are in for a steep dip in the Canadian air mass.  When I last looked at the weather our high on Tuesday was supposed to be 27. All I can say to that is brrrr. That is quite a drop from the 59 we had on Sunday.  Come on spring we miss you!

I hope your week started off really well.  I will chat with you again tomorrow. Ciao for now.
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