Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Bowl Champions and Eating Out

Sorry that I haven’t gotten a post up the last two days.   We have been busy the last few days. First there was Baltimore’s second Super Bowl win since I have lived here. I don’t have to tell you what sort of pandemonium something like that brings to a town.  However I don’t see anyone complaining since we were all too busy celebrating.

Monday I was also busy. First I had to get a lot of things done at home since I knew I was going with my father for an outpatient procedure Tuesday morning. Everything turned out fine, by the way.  ;-)  Monday night Dan and I had dinner with our architect friend Jeff who is from Missouri. For those of you who were expecting Phil (he is Jeff’s dad) he had to stay in Missouri for two funerals so it was just the three (Dan, Jeff and myself) of us.  Since I know you all enjoy a good meal I thought I would share the evening’s food in today’s post.  

In a very uncharacteristic move I have also decided to share a pic of me from Monday night.  I hate pictures of myself because all I see is “old” but for those of you who are curious what I look like here I am.  ;-)  See, I am definitely more of a curvy vegan than Kate Moss look-a-like.  Don't get to used to pics of me since I really don't like them.  Just thought you might be curious and felt like "running with scissors" today.

When we arrived at the restaurant we hear that Ahmad’s last day will be this week.  L  But on the bright side he will be making more money and he’s engaged so that part of the story was great.  We chatted with him for a while and he “convinced” Jeff that the jalapeno margarita was the way to go.  I had a sip Ahmad was right.  Jeff thought so too since he had 2 of them.

While we were chatting Ahmad told me about some of the infused spirits he was working with.  The first was the jalapeno tequila but there were also others that he was also infusing. When he asked if we wanted a taste I was very quick to say yes.  So he bought out a flight of infused spirits including:  grapefruit infused gin, Tahitian vanilla infused rye whisky and blood orange and pineapple infused rum.  The grapefruit gin had the most intoxicating aroma.  I will be infusing some for us soon. I think it will make a kick butt gin and tonics this summer on the boat.

After the adult beverages and green tea it was time for us to eat food.  ;-)  Dan and I started with a bowl of white bean and kale soup which is usually on the menu and is vegan so you know we like that.  Not to mention can you ever get enough kale? 

Jeff ordered the Caesar salad with the marinated white anchovies. If there is one thing I miss about being vegan it may just be the Spanish marinated white anchovies that Ian always has. Those briny little fish are the bomb!

Then Dan and I ordered the kale salad which we split. This one has lemon juice, olive oil, pine nuts, tomato, golden raisins and olives.  Delicious!  When I make it at home I omit the olive oil and it is just and good and maybe better. But that is because we don’t eat much oil now. Sorry there is no picture of this dish. I only  took one shot and it was blurry.  Oops!

Next Dan and I split the Sicilian penne. It is a red sauce with eggplant, onions, artichokes, capers and olives.  It has a little bit of heat in the background as well as fresh basil. It is a delicious dish.

Jeff went with the crispy salmon over gnocchi, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I know this because he told me that was full but that it was too good not to keep eating. That is definitely the sign of a well prepared meal.  ;-)

For those of you looking for recipe ideas, we often order the cauliflower dish on the menu that is vegan.  It is delicious if you want to try your hand at recreating it at home.  ;-)

As usual we ate slow, chatted a lot and were the last ones to leave the restaurant.  Basically it was a typical evening out with us.  ;-) 

One of the topics of conversation over dinner was about eating slowly. Jeff was big into martial arts earlier in life so we were chatting about health and exercise which you know I enjoyed.  Since I only know Jeff as an architect I have to remind myself that he used to own and operate a martial arts studio. I find people and their interests so fascinating.  Jeff’s point was that by eating slowly and stopping when you are satisfied most people can make a big difference in their health.  I added that if you also focus on eating your produce first that will make an even bigger difference.  ;-)

Happy thoughts:
  1. Monday was busy but productive. I was able to cross a few things off my to-do list which was a good way to end my day.
  2. We had a wonderful evening meal with Jeff. What more could you want other than to spend time with people you like, good food and good conversation?
  3. Tuesday morning I could not find a single pair of pants that fit me well. I found one pair which worked with a belt but that was it.  While it is good that all my pants are too big it was also a bit annoying to find it out when I was trying to get dressed. I knew my jeans were too big but didn’t realize it was all my pants until this morning. Darn, it looks like it is time for me to go clothes shopping.  You know I hate that right?  LOL
  4. I am very stoked to try my hand at making grapefruit infused gin for the summer.  I love gin and I love grapefruit and the combination last night was amazing.  Ahmad had a brilliant idea with that combination.  Now I just need to be careful that this doesn’t lead to too many adult beverages while on the boat.  I can’t wait to share this with our neighbors Reuben and Eric.  *happy dance*
  5. Speaking of Eric, I had a lovely conversation with him yesterday. Booz Allen is interested in talked to him about a job and I couldn’t be happier. Congrats Eric!!
Signing out:

I am typing this sitting in the waiting room of the outpatient surgery center while I wait for my father’s procedure to be completed.  I decided this was a great time to catch up on the blog since I had a little waiting time on my hands.  However I will say that you learn a lot sitting in waiting rooms. I enjoy watching people and noticing how different yet similar we are all.

I hope that you are having a fabulous week so far.  Assuming father continues to recover as expected I am hoping not to miss too many days blogging.  Worst case I expect to be back to blogging by Friday.  Talk with you all again very soon.  Ciao for now.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Busting a Weight Plateau

(beet, orange, walnut and upland cress salad at Zaytinya in DC)

“How do I bust my weight plateau” is one of those questions that I hear all the time so I know that it is a topic that is near and dear to many people’s hearts.  You’ve been doing the exact same thing that resulted in weight loss for some time and then it’s like someone hit the brakes and the scale refuses to budge.  You stay with your prior program and every time you get on the scale … nothing happens!  What the heck is going on? Does this sound familiar to you?  Weight plateaus happen to all of us no matter who we are, what we are eating and how much we are exercising.  However there are things that you can do to get the scale moving again and I am going to discuss those in this post.

(balsamic roasted pears over spring mix topped with hazelnuts)

Why do weight plateaus happen?

People are always asking me why they are doing the same thing that caused them to lose XX pounds and then suddenly those healthy habits stopped working.  Everyone seems to be baffled when this happens to them. It is very easy to get stuck in your habits.  It is human nature to think that what worked for you in the past will continue to work in the future but that is not always true. 

I am going to use a little math to show you why the same habits won’t continue to work over time.  Hopefully seeing why this happens will help you to shake up your routine if/when you hit a weight loss plateau.

Assume you are a 50 year old, 5 foot 2 inch, 150 pound woman (using those numbers because the math is easier).  To estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) the formula is 655 + (4.35 times weight in pounds) + (4.7 times height in inches) – (4.7 times age in years).  This equates to 655 + (4.35 x 150) + (4.7 x 62) - (4.7 x 50).  When you run the numbers you get a BMR estimate of 1,364 calories.  Don’t gasp… I hear you.  It isn’t as bad as it sounds you get to add the calories that you burn with exercise to your estimated BMR to calculate your allowable calories for the day. I hope this helps you to see why exercise makes a difference both when you are trying to lose weight and when you are working to maintain your weight.

Now let’s assume that you lost 20 pounds so now you are the same woman but you weigh 130 pounds. When you run the numbers you now get a BMR of 1,277.  The only thing you changed was that you lost weight and somehow you now must eat approximately 100 calories less.  Does this help you to understand why you can’t keeping doing the same thing and get the same results?  As we lose weight it our bodies require fewer calories to maintain themselves. That is what BMR is trying to calculate. BMR is basically the calories required to maintain your body, your muscle mass, to fuel your brain that sort of thing.

Since I know we have male readers the BMR formula for guys is 66 + (6.23 times weight in pounds) + (12.7 times height in inches) – (6.8 times age in years). The gentlemen also get to add the calories they burn with exercise to their BMR to determine how many calories they should be eating daily.

(the aftermath of exercising at my house)

What can you do to get the scale to move?

Now there are two obvious things that any of us can do to get the scale moving. Those would be eat fewer calories and burn more calories with exercise.   After seeing the formula to calculate BMR above I am sure you all those two suggestions coming a mile away.  ;-)

However there is another possibility that is not as obvious to the ladies. That would be to create more lean muscle which requires more calories for maintenance. This is actually also the reason that men can eat so many more calories than we ladies.  Men are naturally larger (bigger frame) and they have more muscle mass. These two things mean our men get to eat a lot more than we can.  Think about that the next time you are serving yourself dinner.  If you are eating anywhere near the same amount as your man you are going to be as big as he is if not bigger and we certainly don’t want that now do we?  *shakes head no*

(one of my exercise toys)

Men seem to be born knowing how and why to increase muscle mass.  Women tend to run away from it which is a shame.  I hope you all know that weight lifting will not result in a masculine physique on a woman unless she has a serious hormone problem. Trust me masculine/muscular appearing women don’t happen naturally. The odds are very high that those women took steroids in order to look like way.  For those are you who are reading between the lines yes this means that I am advocating strength training for the ladies.  That is too big a subject to get into here. However there are many places you can turn to for help on this subject.  One of my favorite books on the subject is “The New Rules for Lifting – for Women”.  If you are new to strength training this book is a wealth of knowledge and will get you started in the right direction.  It also contains a lot of information for those of us who started lifting decades ago.  Darn I sound old when I say things like that. LOL

(healthy food away from home ... aka on the boat)

How long should it take for you to see results from changing your habits?

This is one of those questions that I get asked often. Everyone wants to know long things will take to work.  However this isn’t an easy question to answer. How long it takes depends on how many calories you reduce from your intake and how many more you burn with exercise.  Don’t forget you have to factor in your body composition (fat and lean body mass percentages).  What I can say is that if you make changes and stick with them you should expect to see at least some movement in a few weeks.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Saturday was a pretty good day at our house. Let’s hope that fuzzy little ground hog is correct and winter will be over in 6 weeks. Wouldn’t that be lovely?  Can you say sailboat time? *woot woot* 
  2. As is typical for this time of year it was absolute frosty outside today. Our morning started with a “balmy” 21 degrees.   *ugh* Fortunately I didn’t freeze to death this morning when I went out.  ;-)
  3. Since Dan needed to go downtown to work today I had some extra time in the kitchen today and used it to my advantage. I pressure cooked some dried white soy beans for veggie burgers, made brown rice and pot of minestrone soup. Tomorrow all I have to do is put the soy and rice veggie burgers together and bake them and they will go into the freezer for quick meals. BTW the burger recipe will be coming soon since I perfected it last weekend.  As you know, I love having a well stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Let’s not forget that having a good supply of quick healthy meals is one of the secrets to maintaining both this lifestyle and your health.
  4. I also found time to get some pizza almonds in the dehydrator for a friend.  It makes me so happy to share my healthy food with my friends who are trying to eat better.  I still believe that the best way any of us can make an impact on the world is by being a good example for those around us.  None of us can reach everyone, but we can make a difference for those we know. 
  5. I ordered a really cute summer dress from Zulily today. Have you noticed that my Zulily time out seems to have expired again?  Yeah, Dan noticed that too though he doesn’t really care. I may have to stay off the site for a little while again. Since I get such great deals I don’t feel so bad about shopping there. That darned site is addictive.
  6. Its official I don’t have a single pair of jeans that fit me right any longer.  Since they are all too big I am not complaining about this fact.  Sometime next week I need to get out and buy myself some jeans.  *woot woot*  Don’t you just love it when your hard work pays off?  I know that things like this just make my day.

(today's purchase at Zulily)

Signing out:

Since I was “home alone” without a defined schedule I had more time to work on my post which means this actually went into the scheduled posts prior to 11:30 at night.  Sad isn’t it?  I totally need to work on my time managements skills.

I have no idea what I will be getting into tomorrow.  I hope your weekend has been good so far and that you are having fun or relaxing whichever you need at the moment. Chat with you later.  Ciao for now.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pantry Staple - Marinara Sauce

(intentional leftovers:  red sauce with eggplant)

One of the most common reasons that people give me for not eating like I do is that it is far too time consuming.  Generally people are surprised to learn that I do not spend hours in the kitchen and that I don’t even cook every day.  I can make this happen using a few tricks and techniques. One is that I intentionally overcook when I do cook. Those of you who have been reading me a while know that I refer to this as making “intentional leftovers” and it makes my life SO much easier.  I keep these intentional leftovers in both the refrigerator and freezer.  Additionally I keep items in the refrigerator which have multiple uses.  For example when I make red sauce (marinara as we refer to it in the US) I always make a large quantity because if freezes beautifully and it has many uses.

Why cook your own red sauce when you can buy jarred?

Depending on the brand of red sauce you buy it can have HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), too much sodium, added oil and it is not uncommon for it has either cheese or meat.  Sometimes it contains chemicals and preservatives also.

Not only will undoubtedly contain at least one thing that you don’t want it to have it may not be flavored the way you like. I solve all these problems by making my own red sauce.  You can simmer you sauce on the sauce, put it in a crock pot or make it in a pressure cooker. As you probably guessed I make mine in the pressure cooker these days because it is the quickest and easiest for me.

(farro topped with tomato and bean sauce topped with parsley)

What can you do with red sauce other than use it with pasta?

(whole wheat pasta with summer squash, seitan sausage and peppers)

In America red sauce is almost predominantly found on past and that is a shame because it works with so many things.  I almost always add some variations of vegetables, mushrooms and beans to it and use it alone (with more veg like my pizza veggies) or on top of any cooked whole grain (which I also make in large quantities) and top it with nutritional yeast or walnut parm.

(Green salad topped with defrosted veggies, marinara sauce, and raw pumpkin seeds)

Another use for red sauce that happens often at my house is to use it cold for salad dressing the same way you have seen me use salsa. It makes a very flavorful non-fat dressing to moisten salad.

(zucchini spaghetti with creamy tomato sauce and artichokes)

You can take a little marinara sauce and combine it with raw cashews and make a creamy salad dressing.

(Pizza topped with red sauce, veggies, fresh arugula and sriracha)

Red sauce it great if you want to make homemade vegan pizza or calzones.

(pureed tomato soup topped with dandelion walnut pesto and olives)

I use the red sauce as a base for soups if I want an Italian flavor.  For example you can combine red sauce, raw cashews and other seasonings in your Vitamix and make a delicious cream of tomato soup. But you can also use the red sauce like you would canned tomatoes to start soup.

I hope hearing what I do with red sauce gives you insight into its many uses.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Friday was a crazy day at my house. I was expecting it to be low key and relaxed but it turned out to be anything but that. However I am happy to say that it was nonetheless a good day.  I managed to get a few things accomplished with was a miracle given my day.  :-)
  2. We woke up to a beautiful light snow fall just before dawn.  Mother Nature puts on quite a show doesn’t she?  I never get tired to seeing the beauty in nature. I hope you find time to enjoy it too.
  3. Dan actually came home at a reasonable hour for dinner on Friday which was nice.  :-)  However he did this because he has to work on Saturday so that happy thought could be better.  ;-)
  4. I made a quick delicious curried tomato sauce with “almond coconut milk”, frozen veggies and previously cooked chickpeas.  I added fresh cilantro and whole wheat pasta and topped it with some sliced almonds. Dinner was ready in the amount of time it took to cook the pasta. Darn I love meals that come together that quickly and easily!
  5. My father was busy today obsessing over a minor medical procedure next Tuesday.  While this isn’t easy for the rest of us to deal with it does remind me how lucky I am that I don’t make mountains out of molehills like I used to.  That was a difficult habit to break but it made such a huge difference in overall level of happiness.
  6. We reached our high temperature in the morning on Friday and it got progressively colder throughout the day.  I don’t have to tell you that I stayed in today do I?  LOL
  7. Today I got a serious bargain on two items at Zulily (again). The first was a faux leather jacket in orange.  The second was orange and fuchsia patent leather pumps. Both are pictures bellowed. The best part of this is not only are they cute but with shipping I spent less than $100.  If you enjoy a good bargain please check out Zulily. I have gotten some great deals here and you all know I don’t need any baby or kid stuff.  ;-)
(Curried veg and ceci in tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta - Dan's dinner on Friday)

(my new orange faux leather jacket)

(my new orange and fuchsia patent leather pumps)

Signing out:

I didn’t sleep well at all last night so I am definitely looking forward to getting some rest tonight.  It is funny how you take sleep for granted when you get plenty of it and miss it terribly when you don’t get enough.  ;-)

Tomorrow I have a few things to accomplish and Dan has to go to the office. However I should have time to write a post.  *fingers crossed*  Let’s all hope the ground predicts the end of winter and that the little rodent is correct. Ciao for now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How to Stop Dieting and Start Losing Weight

(dog and his human mother taken a year or so ago at Tide Point in Baltimore)

Every time I talk to a friend who is going on some new diet I know immediately what the end result will be. They will lose weight for a little while and then some event will come up and they go off this diet. The next thing you know they have stopped losing weight and generally they regain everything that they had lost. I see this over and over again and yet people continue to “go on and off” these crazy diets.  

I want to say this in the clearest way possible, Diets Don’t Work!  Those of you who have been reading me for a while know this s a recurring theme with me.  The reason that I continue to bring it up is that I am constantly talking with people who are going on diets and have high hopes of success only to see those same people back to life as usual (and the same weight) within a relatively short period of time.

(typical farmers' market haul at our house)

If diets don’t work what does work?

The answer is simple yet few people actually figure it out how to make it work.   In order to change your weight you have to change your habits.  Think about all the habits you have that impact your weight.  I will use an unnamed friend of mine as an example to illustrate my point. This friend always “talks” about wanting to lose weight but when I make suggestions the excuses start flying.  I hear things like, “my spouse won’t eat this way with me so I can’t do it.”  Sometimes I hear, “I don’t want to cut (insert unhealthy food here) out of my diet.”  Or my favorite, “I’m too lazy to exercise”.   By thinking of reasons why they can’t succeed this person is actually rationalizing why they won’t be successful.  In essence when people give themselves excuses they are harming themselves and ensuring that they don’t succeed.  Please think about the next time you make up an excuse, like that you are too tired to exercise after work. 

By the way, not being able to exercise at night was one of my favorite excuses.  A friend of mine (waves hi to Matt) exercises multiple times per day and generally in the evening after work.  When I said that I couldn’t exercise after work because it would keep me awake he called me “on my stuff”.  Guess what?  I tried exercising later in the day and it hasn’t impacted my sleep at all.   This is exactly the sort of thing I mean.  Even if you think what you are doing is the only possible answer, be open to other options particular those that you are know are better/healthier.  In this case exercising versus not seemed the clear choice and it was.

In addition to problem with excuses there are the people who want to eat unhealthy food in moderation and yet they expect to get big results.  For example I have worked with people who want to get healthy, but they tell me that they will reduce but won’t give up (insert any unhealthy food you like) from their diet.  Often it is cheese that people are addicted too. Sometimes it is something really absurd like soda or candy.  Whatever it is that you think you can’t give up that is a sign that the food is in control of you rather than you are in control of the food.  It is time to take back control.  I would strongly suggest that any food that you feel like you “have to have” in your diet needs to go.  By eliminating it for a month you give yourself time to regain control.

Here is the ugly truth.  Everything that you put in your mouth and every physical activity you did or passed up has resulted in the health that you have now. If you want your health and weight to change you have to change what you do.  You can’t take a pill to kill your appetite and expect it to keep weight off you long term without other side effects. You can’t buy an ab belt off TV to stimulate your abdominal muscles and expect a flat stomach. The sad fact is that in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight you have to eat right and you have to exercise.  Ok, I can sense the groans as you read this. But you didn’t really think there was some magic answer did you?  People who are a healthy weight have healthy habits and it really is that simple.

(My "girlie"  adjustable dumbbells LOL)

How do you start to change your habits?

This one I have talked about many times but I think it is important so I will discuss it again and maybe this time it will click for some of you.  I always start working with people by asking them what they don’t like about their current physical condition and how it impacts their life.  This is something that I have them work on for days to get down into what they don’t like.  The reason I have them do this is cement in their mind why they need to change.   Losing weight for the sake of vanity is generally not enough for people. It works for some people but not many.  Most people have to embrace the health, wealth and quality of life consequences of being unhealthy/overweight before they are ready to change long standing habits. Whatever you come up with that will motivate you long-term to stick to healthy habits use that. Remember motivation is a choice. You either decide to be motivated or you decide to return to your unhealthy but comfortable habits.

I hope my description of this issue was different enough that maybe I made some sense to those of you who need a little nudge in the right direction.  One thing that I always remind myself that may help you is that each choice makes a difference. Each meal is a chance to nourish myself or to harm myself.  Each choice to be active or not is going to have positive or negative consequences for your health.  It helps keep me on track and hopefully it will work for you too.  *fingers crossed*

Happy thoughts:
  1. Our lovely unseasonably warm weather from Wednesday has disappeared. Today we experienced temperatures 25 degrees colder than yesterday and crazy winds. All that meant that this girl was happy to be busy inside today. ;-)
  2. I had some nice calls today which is always a great way to spend the day.  When people are open to changing their habits there is nothing better than helping them improve their health. Seriously I get so much enjoyment from it I would do it for free. I think that is when you know you have found what you should be doing.  Love that!
  3. Today I had a friend say one the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.  This person told me that they considered me "a gift in their life". Seriously guys I almost started crying. Can you think of anything nicer than that for someone to say?  Here is hoping that all of you have people in your life who consider you a gift too. J
  4. Even though I broke my juice fast yesterday with an enormous salad the scale this morning was exactly the same as the day before, down 4.2 pounds.  *happy dance*   See why juice fasting is addictive?  ;-)
  5. I have some new “gadgets” that I have been using in the kitchen that I need to tell you about soon. I get so happy when I find useful new kitchen items. I am such a geek sometimes.  LOL
  6. Last week I ordered Barry White’s Greatest Hits and have been enjoying it ever since. Every afternoon when I finish working I put Barry into the CD player and dance.  Yes I actually do this, no joke.  After sitting a lot of the day it good to get up and move around. Not to mention who doesn’t love to dance?  There is something very positive and uplifting about dancing so I go with it.  J
  7. I was chatting with an online friend this morning that just happened to be traveling through my childhood hometown and he sent me photos. It was wonderful to see my childhood stomping grounds.  It is crazy how you meet people and they bring something unexpected into your life.  However I love that aspect of life. Sometimes the littlest things just make my day.  

Signing out:

Once again I am writing this late in the evening. I really need to work on writing this earlier in the day and on my breaks.  In the past I was great with time management so I am not sure what happened.  But hopefully I will figure it out soon.  J

Here is hoping that you have a wonderful Friday and a fantastic weekend.  Ciao for now.

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
Cream Cheese

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.  ;-)
Related Posts with Thumbnails