Friday, April 29, 2011

Two Year Blog Anniversary

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog post to bring you the two year anniversary…

Where has the time gone? It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it has been two years and 2 days since I started blogging. As you can tell I lost track of time hence the two years plus two days. ;-) In a way it seems like a couple of months ago that I began blogging though clearly that isn’t the case. When I started blogging the only idea I had in my head was to share healthy recipes to make it easier for others to enjoy vegan food that wasn’t full of processed junk, sugar, salt or oil since there weren’t many people that were blogging about that particular type of vegan food. Due to requests from readers my blog morphed into more of a vegan lifestyle blog with food. In many ways I am still uncomfortable with sharing my “daily diary” (as Dan calls it) with the world but it has gotten easier over time though I don’t find it terribly interesting to write, probably because I live it. However I do understand that people who are new vegans have no idea what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I am happy to share anything I can that is helpful.

Information about us:

Given that this is the two year anniversary of the blog I thought it would be fitting to share more about myself so that you get a better picture of where I am coming from. Many of you seem to think that I have always been healthy and that is simply not true.

I was born in Baltimore but spent the majority of my childhood in northwest Indiana in a little town in Porter County, Indiana. It was not the rural existence that you are picturing since we lived in a planned community (not on a farm) and spent a lot of time in Chicago eating fantastic food, shopping and going to shows. Much of my childhood was idyllic and I loved growing up in the mid-west. However my diet was full of standard American fare like: pizza (made with white flour and cheese), pop-tarts, Triscuits with cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs, Lucky Charms, Cap’n Crunch, German bologna, steak, macaroni and cheese, and many other equally unhealthy things I would never consume now. Notice the distinct lack of vegetables? When I was growing up I hated most vegetables and didn’t eat them if I could get away with it.

I returned to Baltimore to attend college and got a Bachelor’s in Finance from Loyola, and a Master’s in Finance and Public Policy from the University of Maryland at College Park. When it was time to get a job I had no idea what I was going to do so I temped to get some experience and ended up in hospital Finance where I quickly (under two years) became a Director of Finance (hospital speak for finance department head). I worked extremely long hours in Finance and did that until I burned out and retired. Working ridiculous hours meant I started the day with coffee and possibly a Danish during a meeting. Lunch was normally from the hospital cafeteria and dinner was carry out probably Indian, Chinese of fast food *gasp*. Clearly my diet was absolutely atrocious.

During my working career I was completely stressed out, spend too much time at work, ate all the wrong things, drank wine on the weekends, didn’t get enough exercise or enough sleep. In short my lifestyle was a complete and utter disaster, I felt lousy and I looked worse. To make matters even worse I smoked cigarettes on and off before quitting in my early 30’s. As you can see I was a mess. When you wonder if I know what you are going through when you ask a question now you have a better picture of my life. This is why I understand when you say you are omni or vegetarian and are looking to improve your health. Since most of my life was spent being less than healthy I can relate to you no matter where ever you are in your journey toward health.

Fast forward a few years and the “cancer fairy” visited our home and I went into full on attack cancer mode. There was no way that I was going to give up or give in. Cancer was not going to take away the most important person in my world (Dan) without me giving it the fight of my life. We did a 180 in terms of health and I poured myself into every book, article, or paper written about health or nutrition in relation to cancer. Fortunately Dan is a sport about my OCD ways and agreed to do whatever I thought was best. In turn I told him I would not ask him to do anything that I was not willing to do myself. Eventually our diet morphed into what you see today. It was a slow process and we didn’t go from Chinese takeout to super healthy vegan overnight but we did get here.

Today we both feel better than we have since we were in our 20’s and that is saying something since I will be 49 in a few weeks and Dan is going to be 57 in September. We talk about food and nutrition often and neither of us can imagine going back to the way we used to eat. Most of our friends think we have lost our minds but they also understand that this is matter of life or death for us and I think that is why they give us a break. Now you know why I take nutrition so seriously and don’t feel like there is much room for moderation. Dan is lucky I let him get pizza when we go out because if it were only up to me that would be gone too. There is a reason he lovingly refers to me as “The Nutrition Nazi” … I have earned that title. ;-)

I hope this helps you to understand us better and why we are as serious about health as we are. Many times before I have said that eating this way is very serious for us and now you understand why. It isn’t something that we did on a whim. It isn’t something that we went into without a lot of thought. I did make the move to veganism quickly which I credit to Dr. Joel Fuhrman. His book “Eat to Live” was the turning point for us. He explained nutrition in a way that just clicked for me. Suddenly eating vegetables made so much sense. Why should we waste time or calories eating food that was less nutrient dense when we could be eating more salad, soup, etc.?

One thing I have learned reading about health and nutrition is that there seems to be only one diet that helps no matter what your health concern (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, auto immune disease, etc.). As you probably have guessed that diet is one we are following. I spend a lot of time reading about health and nutrition and the science always points back to the same basic diet. It can sometimes be confusing to read about health since everyone seems to have a natural bias toward or against some particular diet. The funny thing about me is that when my research started my diet was the antithesis of what it is today. I wanted to point that out for anyone that might be thinking I looked for data to support a particular diet which could not be farther from the truth.

Now you know why I am always reading about nutrition and looking for the latest research in regard to diet and lifestyle. Health is something that I am beyond passionate about now. If anything that I write here or link to on Facebook or Twitter gives you pause to think about what you are putting in your body than I am happy. I don’t want to see anyone else have to deal with cancer since it is largely preventable.

Happy thoughts:

• I am happy have so many people following me on the blog, twitter and Facebook. I can’t begin to tell me how encouraging it is to me that we are not alone in our search for the most healthful lifestyle possible.

• Since it is Friday I am happy that we are that start of another weekend. I love my weekends and Dan and I have another fun outing planned on Sunday that I am looking forward to.

• This afternoon I have pleasure of talking to my buddy Laura Jill for quite a while. She is always a breath of fresh air. I love her positivity and perspective on the whole. Every time we talk I can’t help but smile. Thank you LJ for being you.

• Today I am also grateful that I have the time to spend teaching myself about health and nutrition. I believe that the changes we have put into place have made a big difference in our health contrary to what most of medical science would say.

• It was nice to have a little blue sky today after our torrential downpour yesterday. It was a little cool here today but it was nice to have the rain behind us. When I checked out the garden today it seemed as though the plants had all grown inches in the last couple of days.

• Today’s lesson in the 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse was a good one. The more I read that book the more I enjoy it. I am looking forward to reviewing it for you but I wanted to wait until I have finished all 21 days so that I can tell you how it worked for me.

Signing out:

It is getting late here and is about time for us to start winding down. We are both looking forward to the weekend and the chance to relax a little. Tomorrow I will get back to my regular blog posts but today I felt like I needed to share more about us and how we came to be who we are today. With a little luck our story will resonate with one or two of you and will result in some positive change in your lives or health.

Happy Friday and I will talk to you again tomorrow. We both hope you are having a good start to your weekend. Ciao! ;-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Planeat: The Movie

Wednesday we went to the Baltimore showing of the movie “Planeat” at The Charles Theater (pictured above). The movie was sponsored by Whole Foods and was part of a multi-film series.

This movie covered both the health and environmental impact of dietary choices. Like the movie “Forks Over Knives” it focused on Doctors T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn. However one of the big differences (in my mind) between the two movies was the time spent talking to vegan chefs and showing them preparing food. Now I will be the first to admit that when they were using agave and oil I was cringing because that isn’t healthy, but we all have to start someone. It was nice that they showed that vegan food can be delicious, complex and flavorful.

Dan and I talked about the film after it was over and both decided that we thought “Forks Over Knives” was more compelling in terms of demonstrating to omnivores that there is huge health upside to them personally from making the shift. However “Planeat” does a better job of making vegan food look delicious. Additionally the environment impact of switching to a vegan diet is a big part of "Planeat" and that is a bonus. We both thought the film work was better in “Forks ...”. In the end I think we thought it was basically a draw in terms of which film we liked better with a slight nod to “Forks...”. Either way I would encourage you to see both films. When they are available on DVD I will be buying them both to have in my lending library.

I linked to the movie above and at that site you will find a trailer of the film as well as other clips and recipes that you might want to check out. I watched and enjoyed them.

Sandal Road Test:

Knowing that we were going out on Wednesday I was a bit worried about what shoes I was going to wear given the whole toe situation. I tried on many different sandals and found 4 pair that didn’t bother my foot much. Sadly the most comfortable pair was also the ugliest which meant that I didn’t wear them (crocs sandals). I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood to see how my toe was holding up. Fortunately it was fine, a little tender but not too bad.

This was also my first walk in a long time without my IPod. I decided that I didn’t want my mind cluttered with noise but instead wanted to listen to the birds and try to clear my mind. My goal was to have a sort of walking meditation and it seemed to work. I was able to notice things that I had not seen previously and I think it was because I wasn’t distracted by the noise of my IPod.
I took these pictures while I was out for my walk. I enjoyed the blooms and thought you might too. Here is the neighborhood now that things are starting to bud and to bloom.

(It is really starting to look much more green here now..must be all the rain.) 

(I love stairs and gates leading into gardens.) 

(Are you starting to notice that I like gates?) 

(This little urban garden made me smile.) 

Dinner Out:

The movie was over about 8:20pm which gave us time to get to the restaurant for dinner before the kitchen was cleaning up at 9:00. Without Ian, Will or Dani working I was on my own in terms of what we were eating. As I have said before the restaurant isn’t vegan but they will make things that I make up, or will come up with things for us if we give them notice.  Jenn helped me come up with ideas for dinner since I haven't had to do this much lately because the guys have us very spoiled.  ;-)

We started with iced green tea with fresh orange juice that Emily made for us. Knowing how much I like fruit in my tea this was perfect. Thanks Emily!

Next we had gazpacho which was on the menu last night topped with crab. It was simple to ask them to leave off the crab making the soup vegan.

We next had the antipasti that is on the menu but had them leave off the meat and cheese and add additional veggies. This was another easy vegan modification but also a filling and tasty dish that is one of my favorites.

Knowing how much Dan loves to get pizza when we are out I am sure you aren’t surprised to hear the last dish was a small whole wheat pizza topped with marinara and roasted veggies. After it came out of the oven it was topped with baby arugula, balsamic glaze and an artichoke “rose”. I think the artichoke was my favorite part because it was unexpected.  We never get tired of pizza variations.  Funny we have eaten them without cheese for so long now that I can't imagine why I ever thought I needed fake vegan cheese.  Who said that? LOL

After dinner I had a few minutes to chat to Emily and told her about “The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse”. Since she is interested I will be lending her my copy once I get through all 21 days. By the way, I liked this book from the library enoughthat I ordered my own copy from Amazon and it arrived today.  Once I get through all 21 days I will post a review for you.
Happy thoughts:

• It was nice to have my hubby home from work early enough Wednesday to make a 7pm movie. I like have a date during the week.  Having plans mid-week also made the week go by a little more quickly I think.

• I was fortunate to find 4 pairs of sandals that I can wear even with my toe still messed up. I am very happy to be getting out and about again. Thursday night when Dan got home from work we went for a walk before dinner. It is good to be mobile once again as I was getting very antsy without my favorite morning walk through the neighborhood.

• Everything is green, lush and blooming here now and is extremely pretty. I love spring since it is a time of renewal. With my dramatic change in diet came the unexpected benefit of the disappearance of my seasonal allergies. Now I am able to enjoy the blooms with sniffling or sneezing which makes spring much more pleasant.

• I also enjoyed my “walking meditation” in the neighborhood. In fact it was so nice that I am going to leave my IPod at home for a while and see if I can use my time outside every morning to appreciate nature and clear my mind of thoughts. Wish me luck, I am going to need it since I am always thinking ... much to my own detriment. ;-)

• The upside of being stuck in the house (because of the toe) is that I am a reading machine lately. I have had time to read four books this week which I have enjoyed. I read both “Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor” and “Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips”. Given the subject matter I did not expect to laugh through the books but they were very funny in parts. I can’t say that I agree with everything contained within them but overall I thought they were both good reads.

• I am grateful that the nasty weather system that spawned all the tornadoes in the south didn’t cause any real damage here. We had some hard driving rain and high winds but nothing compared to what happened in the south yesterday. When we had the first tornado warning Thursday morning I got out the cat's travel bags so that they wouldn’t run when they saw them. I was getting prepared to grab felines and get them into their carriers so I could take them to the basement. You never can be too prepared when it comes to things like this.  NO OCD here, LOL.

Signing Out:

Wednesday time got away from me. I had expected to have time to write a post after the movie but since we went out to dinner time just disappeared. However we had a nice mid-week date and that is always a good thing right?

Tomorrow I plan to discuss a book that I read recently. I have started something new and am taking notes when I read each book and keeping them in a binder by topic and book. On the books that I get out of the library I am doing this to record the source of nutrition information that I gather since I won’t have the actual book as reference. Not to mention I am hoping this will make writing reviews a little easier. We will see how that goes.

I am very happy that tomorrow is Friday. *woo hoo* We are supposed to have nice weather which may mean a nice bike ride with my sweetie. At least that is what I have in mind so hopefully Dan doesn’t need to work this weekend. *fingers crossed*

Talk to you tomorrow. I hope your week has been good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Update and Malloreddus Tutorial

Knowing lunch would be heavier than normal we opted for smoothies for breakfast on Sunday.  Dan’s breakfast was a green smoothie with the usual ingredients: 2 frozen bananas, 1 handful of walnuts, 3 large stalks kale (at least 3 cups), 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger, water and pinch of stevia.  My breakfast was also a smoothie which consisted of: 3 large stalks kale, 1 cup frozen wild blueberries, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 2 tablespoon macadamia nuts (to add body and creaminess) ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger, water, ice and pinch of stevia (which it needed).

The mid-day meal with my parents consisted of whole wheat and semolina malloreddus with thinly sliced asparagus, peas, tarragon, lemon and walnuts.

We started the meal with a simple salad of mesclun, orange, pickled red onion, raisins and sherry vinegar.

I also made my favorite artichokes with dill (thank you Ian for the inspiration) that I added red onion to for color.

Since I like to include mushrooms whenever I can, for their immune system boosting impact, I also made marinated mushrooms. I roasted the mushrooms briefly to help them absorb the flavor and to deactivate the low level toxin found in raw mushrooms. While the mushrooms were still hot I tossed them in a simple marinate of vegan Worcestershire sauce, nutritional yeast, paprika and garlic powder. The earlier in the day you prepare this dish the more flavor the mushrooms will absorb.

Additionally I made a dish of agro dolce carrots that is similar to Ian’s Tuscan carrot dish. I sliced my carrots on the diagonal (which is quicker than batons), and cooked them in a little red wine vinegar, finely minced garlic, fennel seeds, hot crushed peppers (wet hots), water and touch of stevia. Next I added some roasted red onion which I cooked earlier in the day, golden and Thompson raisins and finished the dish with a little finely minced fresh herb for color.

Directions for making malloreddus:

I started with Mario Batali’s dough recipe (cut in half) and I used ½ sprouted whole wheat flour and ½ semolina. I omitted the salt and used saffron threads rather than powder. The dough was a little on the sticky side before I wrapped it in plastic cling wrap and allowed it to sit on the counter to rest.

After the dough has rested at least 30 minutes pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a ping pong ball and roll it into a snake. Be sure to keep your board floured or the dough will stick. The snake should be approximately the diameter of your thumb.  That is the handle of paring knife next to the dough to give you an idea of scale.

Cut the dough into little pillows and toss with more flour.

Take your gnocchi board (or a fork) and flour it so the dough won’t stick to it. Place the pillow of dough on the board and press to make an indentation.

Now roll the dough so the indentation is on the inside and the exterior has ridges. Both the indentation and ridges will help the pasta to grab hold of the sauce. I make the pasta directly over a floured surface (either a platter or baking sheet) where I hold them until I am ready to cook.

To cook your malloreddus bring water to a boil and submerge the pasta. When it starts to float taste it to see if it is done. I found that I needed to cook mine for about 2 minutes after it started to float which was approximately 8 minutes total cooking time.

That is all there is to making fresh pasta and you don’t need a pasta machine.  You can use a floured fork in place of the gnocchi board and that works just as well.

Recent Topics on my Facebook page:

For those of you that aren’t yet fans of my Facebook page I wanted to give you an idea of the most recent things there. Currently I am mostly using my Facebook page to share links to interesting articles that I read. I think of it as a summary of the clipping services I subscribe too. Most of these articles are health related since that is very important to me but some are links to recipes. Also please use the link I provided above since there are two pages (one that I can’t delete which has no activity). Over the last 24 hours or so I have linked to the following:

• Cucumbers being recalled for Salmonella
• Eating adequate macronutrients can still result in vitamin deficiency
• National Cancer Institute Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
• Satiety claims on food are misleading
• Coca-cola being urged by shareholders to address BPA
• Another food safety scare in China leads to more regulation
• Consumers are fooled by healthy sounding food names
• Adding geraniol to food will make the consumer smell like roses – no I didn’t make that up
• Consumers gravitate toward vitamin fortified sport and energy drinks
• Three different links to healthy recipes that with a little tweaking can be a delicious and healthy addition to your recipe file
• Omega 3 fatty acids may be linked to an increase in prostate cancer
• People get their health information from unexpected sources: friends, family and celebrities ?
• Newer birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots more than the older formulations
• Scar creams don’t work but keeping wounds moist while they heal does
• How to make shitake tea

Happy thoughts:

Monday was a good day for me even though I did bump my toe again and I swear that I saw stars. If anyone knows how long a broken toe takes to heal I would love to hear. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• Who isn’t thankful for a great night of sleep? I didn’t wake up once last night and felt completely refreshed this morning. It was a wonderful way to start my day particularly since I am not a morning person.

• Monday and Tuesday were both good days for me. The weather was absolutely phenomenal both days. The only thing that could have been better was if my toe would stop hurting when I tried to put on shoes. I know I tend to be a bit impatient but this is getting old … I have things to do. Looking on the bright side I was able to read two books in the last two days with time left over to start a third book. ;-) It is nice to be plowing through my backlog of library books. I guess injuries are good for something. :-/

• I am enjoying the warm weather and the return of blueberry green tea. I will share the details of that tomorrow or you can see it on the Facebook page where I posted it recently.

• Jackie and Walid are joining us for Ottmar Liebert in Annapolis next month. *woo hoo* I had no idea Jackie was also an Ottmar fan until today. We will have a great time with them as always.  :-)

• Dan and I have a date planned for Wednesday (tomorrow) which I am excited about. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t have to walk far otherwise that may put a damper on the evening. I will tell you all about it very soon. I will give you a hint it is health related but in a fun way. *woo hoo*  I can't wait. 

• I can’t believe how much I am enjoying working through the “21-Day Consciousness Cleanse”. This is not the sort of thing that typically appealed to me but as much as I had been dreading some of the daily exercises they have been remarkably healing. I may have to rethink my position on all this “woo-woo” stuff as I have referred to it in the past. ;-)

Signing out:

It is a late evening here for some reason. I suppose that is mostly because Dan ran errands for me tonight (the library and Wegman’s) since I am still not fully functional. He is so sweet to do that after working late. My husband is a prince in case you hadn’t noticed. ;-)

I hope you week is going well and that you weather is as gorgeous as ours has been. Please get out and enjoy it for me too. Talk to you tomorrow….good night!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pasta Testing and Dinner on the Patio

After a rather late dinner we got a slow start Saturday morning. Dan’s breakfast was his usual green smoothie: kale, frozen banana, wheat germ, freshly ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, powdered ginger and stevia.  My breakfast fresh juice that consisted of: 1 beet, 4 carrots, 1 small apple, ½ lemon, 2 handfuls of baby collards.

Dan had to go downtown to work so I packed him lunch and got busy doing things here. I knew I wanted a pasta test run today since it has been so long since I was making it regularly. Additionally I wanted to use whole wheat flour as part of the recipe so I needed to play around with the proportions. I used this recipe from Mario Batali as the starting point.

I made the pasta with ½ whole wheat and ½ semolina and then again as ¾ whole wheat and ¼ semolina. I decided that the first version would be better for my parents though I preferred the one with more whole wheat.

Once Dan got home from the office we went out to dinner. We had warned the guys that we were coming in so they had a menu planned for us. It was a gorgeous night on the patio, the weather was darn near perfect all evening. If only my toe didn’t hurt in shoes that night it would have been a perfect evening.  I love to look up through the trees in the evening and that is what is pictured above. You can see the trees just beginning to bud...definitely a sign of spring.

We had some time to chat with Ian before he left for the evening which is always pleasant. He was leaving early because there were 130 reservations for Easter brunch which meant we was coming in to work on Sunday at 5 am. Something to think about for those of you considering a life in food. ;-)

Like always we started with a pot of tea but this time we poured it over ice. I loved the look of the light coming through the tea in the glass.

Our first course was a salad of romaine, thinly sliced red onion, olives and oranges and dressed with a tarragon vinaigrette.

Our next course was red and white grilled onions and roasted red peppers topped with a chunky tomato sauce perfumed with cinnamon. This was not something that I would have thought of on my own but now that I have had it you can expect to see my version of it in the future.

The pizza course was a small whole wheat pizza topped with artichokes, roasted red pepper sauce, olives, onions and arugula. Dan never gets tired of pizza and Will has figured that out so pizza shows up often for us these days and my hubby is always happy to see it arrive.

The last course was a red wine syrup spiced with cinnamon, cloves, all spice and cardamom that was the base for supremed oranges and mint. This was my favorite of the evening and I am not a dessert person. The aroma on this was nothing short of intoxicating.

Since we always eat a leisurely dinner we had time to chat with most people on and off all night. It was good to catch up with Ian, Corey, Jenn, Will, Michael and Jonathan.

Happy thoughts:

Things have been good since I last posted although I have been very busy.

• Easter went well, but Dan did have to work a little which in this case meant driving about an hour north to look at a construction site. Since most of this time was riding in the car I went with him so we could chat there and back. It was nice to have a couple hours to chat. Dan and I always enjoy spending time together even if it is doing something mundane like driving somewhere.

• The Easter meal with my family was universally enjoyed which was very nice. It is tough to find things that are healthy enough for us but that my parents also enjoy. It makes me happy when I can get it right for all concerned.

• Additionally my mother didn’t once mention meat or dairy during the Easter meal. This was a very welcome holiday first. Hopefully it won’t be the last time something miraculous like this happens on a holiday. LOL

• We have clearly finally entered spring here and have been enjoying some beautiful weather. Being spring we have been getting our share of rain but overall the weather has been fantastic. With all the rain things are sprouting and turning green. Everything is starting to look very lush and I love that. The farmers must be enjoying all the rain we have been getting.

• My toe is still messed up, but I think it is starting to heal. I anticipate it is going to be a while before I am comfortably wearing shoes. For now I am happy that I don’t have anywhere that I have to go so that I can continue to go barefoot for as long as necessary. 

• Dan ordered me a new electronic toy today that should be here soon. Once I have a chance to play with it I will let you know what I think of it. As you all know I am not the most technologically savvy so if I can work the new device that means anyone can. ;-)

• My little precious Masi woke me up this morning with cat cuddles. Who doesn’t love a little feline love first thing in the morning. We are so lucky to have three little fury babies to share our life with. I just love our fur kids.

Signing out:

Sorry that it took me so long to get a post up today. I was having technology problems and had to wait for Dan to get home to resolve them. I know I should learn to take care of these things myself but since Dan is so good at it I just never get around to it rather like he never learns to cook. We are the perfect pair when it comes to things like this.  ;-)

The next post be a step-by-step tutorial for making malloreddus (the pasta pictured above). Dan was kind enough to photograph the steps for me as I was making them on Sunday. It is time for me to go and spend some time with my sweetie.  I hope you had a great Monday and that your weather was as wonderful as ours. Talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday Means Dinner Out

Things are still not back to normal here due to my toe. That meant that I am not as productive as usual. I am looking forward to being able to wear shoes soon without pain. It looks like I am stuck at home for a while (except for the occasional dinner out) for at least a few more days and maybe longer. I hope I don’t get stir crazy before this darn toe heals. Okay enough whining back to the food. ;-)

Breakfast for Dan was his usual oatmeal with wild blueberries and walnuts and all the other healthy stuff I always add (wheat germ, freshly ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, and powdered ginger).

I started my morning with a huge glass of cold brewed green tea and nothing else because I wasn’t particularly hungry.

Since it was Friday I should have run errands but my foot wasn’t particularly up to it. I checked on my folks and that was it. Once I got home I still wasn’t hungry but knew I needed to eat something so I had an orange and Brazil nuts plus a few unpictured prunes.

We met our friend Louis Friday for dinner. All our favorite servers were working last night which meant that I didn’t want to pick one. Michael (aka 6’7” Shorty) was hosting and I had him pick a table for us. I am bad I know. Then I went immediately into the kitchen to give Ian a hug and talk about dinner since I didn’t make reservations until after lunch. As luck would have it Will was working and had already come up with a menu for us. When he asked if I wanted to know what was for dinner I said “no, surprise me”. Of course I wouldn’t do that everywhere but since I knew it would be vegan and something that I wouldn’t think of which means everything would be great…and it was.

We started dinner with an appetizer of watermelon and tomato gelĂ©e (which my hubby affectionately refers to as tomato guts) skews with a cilantro and lime sauce. I loved this presentation and the flavor combination was quite nice. Once I thought about it I remembered that I used to make a watermelon salad with cilantro, red onion and olives so I realized that I knew watermelon and cilantro worked together, though I had forgotten. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of flavor combinations.

The next course was a deconstructed grilled onion and Romesco salad. The dish included roasted peppers, grilled onions, grilled and steamed green onions, sliced almonds and a touch of balsamic glaze.

The final course was a small whole wheat pizza topped with roasted broccoli, mushrooms and green onions. It also included a ginger sauce and was finished with sriracha and was quite delicious. Who needs cheese on pizza? Not us! ;-)

Since Louis had to hit the road early in the morning he left earlier than we did. You know we had to stay and chat and sip our tea…that sort of thing. We wanted to hang around to talk to Will after things slowed down a bit since we haven’t seen him in weeks. The restaurant is going to be packed for Easter brunch given the reservations in the system I think they are going to be turning away walk-ins. However being full is a good thing for all concerned.

Happy thoughts:

• Friday was a great day, other than needing to wear shoes to dinner. We always enjoy spending time with Louis and everyone at the restaurant. It was also nice to see Will since he had been off for about three weeks working on his thesis. Not only did we have great food but the company wasn’t too shabby either. ;-)

• Saturday was a good day. I made two test runs of homemade whole wheat malloreddus (this is the pasta recipe I started with) to see which one would work best for Easter supper at our house. That was a fun project to work on today though it did impact my appetite for dinner which was a little sad. Poor Dan had to eat more of our dinner than usual. He was so sweet to sacrifice like that for me wasn't he?  LOL

• Dan and I had a nice dinner out again Saturday evening. I think it was Dan’s way of saying sorry that he had to work this weekend. Will made us four very nice dishes that I will tell you all about in my next post. The aroma on the fruit dessert was unbelievable (in a good way). I think a lot of you will love that dish I know we did. We had a nice dinner on the patio chatting to each other, playing with technology, and talking to almost everyone that works at the restaurant. Both Dan and I really like everyone there in case you hadn’t noticed by now. LOL

• The rainy weather skirted north of us so we were able to open up the house mid-day on Saturday which I loved. One of my favorite things about spring is getting fresh air into the house after being closed up all winter. It is also great that we will be in the 80’s the next few days. *happy dance* Since walking it out do to my toe I will need to spend time barefoot in the garden instead. Doesn’t that just sound awful? (kidding)

• The herbs in my garden are growing like weeds so far. I love that I will be able to use fresh herbs from my garden for the meal I am making tomorrow. *woo hoo* I know I am a goofball. LOL

• As much as it surprises me I am enjoying the book “The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse” enough that I ordered it from Amazon. Who knew it would feel good to write down everything that I regretted doing in my life but it was very freeing in a strange way. Not to mention it was a longer list that I realized but I suppose that is to be expected since I am almost 50 (well in a little over a year I will be 50).  ;-)

Signing out:

Like always we got home from the restaurant later than we planned. You would think we would know better by now. ;-) We were having too much fun chatting to everyone to leave. However once the other tables left and the guys could start setting up for brunch we took off so we weren't in the way.

Tomorrow is going to be a good day. I am not going to overcook for Easter. Okay… I should probably say that I am going to try not to overcook tomorrow. I will let you know if I succeed or not. Either way I have decided it is going to be a good day and that I am not going to let my mother’s comments about prime rib, turkey, ham, cream or cheese get to me. We are going to have a nice holiday. *fingers crossed* LOL

Dan and I have errands after the mid-afternoon meal with my folks. He has to do something for work and since it involves photographs, and a long drive, I am going to go with him (shoeless of course). We will make it a fun time like we always do. However it will probably mean that my post will be late on Sunday or possibly even Monday depending on traffic.

Happy Easter! I hope you have a wonderful holiday. I will talk to you again as soon as I can.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mexican Spiced Black Bean Soup

(I thought it would be nice for the post title and picture to match for a change.  ;-)   )

I hate to whine but darn it hurts when you break a toe. I tried to put on shoes Thursday morning and when that was painful I knew going for a walk was out. Darn it! I get antsy when I can’t exercise. *ugh* Needless to say I was moving more slowly than normal all day which annoyed me like you would not believe. I decided it was time for an attitude adjustment and started reading “The 21 Day Consciousness Cleanse” which has been good for me.

Dan had his usual green smoothie for breakfast.

My breakfast was savory oatmeal which included: oats, water, wheat germ freshly ground flaxseeds, cumin, oregano, no-salt seasoning, broccoli, black beans, artichoke hearts and tons of cilantro. I really do never get tired of savory oatmeal. If I were single this would be a frequent dinner for me in the winter time.

After my huge late breakfast lunch was a simple bowl of chopped walnuts, prunes, apple, cinnamon and fresh lemon juice.

I turned the leftover black beans into a pot of soup for dinner by adding: onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, water, oregano, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, paprika, bulgur, carrots, peas, green beans. I cook everything but the carrots, peas and green beans for about 30 – 45 minutes to allow the flavors to marry and correct the seasoning as necessary. The remaining veggies are added the last 5 minutes or cooking just to heat through. I finished the soup with fresh lime juice. It would also have been good with fresh cilantro but I used it all in my breakfast.

Happy thoughts:

• I am enjoying doing the work in “The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse” and will tell you more about that in a day or two. I have been surprised by my emotional reaction to the book so far. It has been a good experience to this point. I want to do another day or two before I tell you about it.

• My toe is starting to heal which means it doesn’t hurt much to walk on it but wearing shoes is another story completely, more about that tomorrow. Overall I am happy that my toe getting better but I can’t imagine how those of you that did this wore shoes and went to work. Clearly you are tougher than I am. ;-) I am happy that I have had the ability to go barefoot for a few days while the swelling was dissipating.

• Friday we had a chance to get together with our friend Louis for dinner which is always good.  We don't see Louis as much since he moved to the Delaware shore and talking on the phone is good but not the same.

• We ran into Brittany Friday night and she told us how much loved the homemade marshmallows we made for her anniversary which was very sweet. I enjoy doing things like that so it was good to hear that she liked them that much. Besides who doesn’t like getting hugs right? ;-)

• Will was back at work Friday evening which was a surprise. As always we enjoyed seeing him and liked what he made for us for dinner…details tomorrow. No surprise we had a nice evening out and stayed out later than usual.

Signing out:

It is much later here than I usually put a post up which means that I am rushing which I bet you guessed due to my brevity. Dan will be going to the office tomorrow so we need to get some rest soon. I plan to spend my day experimenting with whole wheat pasta dough and my gnocchi paddle to make malloreddus for Easter. Doesn’t that sound like fun? I decided that since it is a national holiday we can splurge a little which I am sure my parents will be happy to hear.

I hope your weekend started off well. Talk to you again tomorrow. Good night!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Invigorating Day and Gorgeous Weather

Our day started with the most glorious weather today. Who wouldn’t love a sunny April day with mid-day temperatures in the mid-80’s? Hello spring, how I have missed you. ;-)

Knowing the weather was going to be on the warm side I started a batch of cold processed green and white blend tea first thing in the morning. It is nice to be back to the cold processed green and white tea. I missed making it this winter but when it is cold outside cold tea doesn’t feel “right” to me.

While I was rushing around this morning making Dan’s breakfast and packing his lunch I bent my little toe back extremely far and immediately knew it wasn’t good. I am fairly sure it is broken because it hurts to touch and is swollen. No I didn’t go to the doctor it is only my little toe. I did do some quick research and immediately started icing it, took Tylenol and elevated my foot. Since the Tylenol was enough to take the edge off the pain I just kept going. I did skip my long walk this morning since it isn’t comfortable to be on my feet. Maybe this will teach me to wear slippers around the house from now on. Knowing how I am I can safely say that I probably won’t change my barefoot habit but hope springs eternal right?

Dan had his favorite green smoothie this morning for breakfast which included: frozen banana, kale, walnuts, wheat germ, freshly ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, powdered ginger, stevia and a little water. He loves this smoothie which makes me happy because it is more nutritious than many things he could request for breakfast.

I mentioned yesterday that I just finished reading “Clean” and that has me craving fresh juice. Additionally Emily is doing a juice fast and that also has me thinking juice and smoothies. Of course the change in weather doesn’t hurt either. I suppose I don’t have to tell you what I had for breakfast do I?

Wednesday my breakfast was fresh juice of: 1 beet, 3 stalks celery, 2 cups raw baby collards, 1 orange, ½ lemon, 1 inch fresh ginger and 1 tablespoon chia seeds which I had over ice in a frosty glass. It may be just me but I love having a tall glass of nutrition first thing in the morning.

Given the throbbing in my foot I decided today was a good day to take it a little easy. I actually didn't exercise today. Okay I did some crunches, planks and gentle yoga but I don’t think that really counts. ;-)

My lunch was an enormous salad of: approximately 6 cups baby spinach, about 1 cup cold leftover bulgur with sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, thinly sliced cucumber, salsa, and cherry tomatoes. Lunch was delicious, nutritious, very filling not to mention ready in under 5 minutes. That is my kind of lunch for sure. LOL

After lunch I had a chance to chat on the phone and found the call to be very uplifting. There is something wonderful about talking to someone that shares your views of health and nutrition. It caused me to reflect on my life and how it has changed since I gave up being part of corporate America.

Retiring is one of the best things I ever did for myself. When I “worked” I spent far too much time away from home and very little time on myself and/or my family. Additionally I never felt any joy from work; it was only what I did to make money. Of course I liked some aspects for working but overall it was a giant bust.

One of the things I love the most about my life now is the time I have to research health and being able to share it with you. I get many touching emails from people telling me that I inspire them, or asking questions about how to eat more healthfully or telling me how much they like savory oatmeal. Every time I read one of those emails I am encouraged to put more effort into blogging and to share more information. Making a difference in someone’s dietary choices and helping them to improve their health is such a high for me. Thank you for reading, commenting and emailing. All of you make the time I spend on the blog a true labor of love.

After “Chatty Cathy” (my nickname as a child for obvious reasons) got off the phone it was time to make something for dinner tonight. I decided to pressure cook black beans since we hadn’t had those in a couple weeks. You do all remember that the darker beans are higher in antioxidants right? I pressure cooked 2 cups of black beans in 8 cups of water under high pressure for 22 minutes then let the pressure fall naturally. When the beans were cool I put them in the refrigerator for later.

I also cubed two sweet potatoes and cooked them in the little counter-top halogen/convection/infra red oven and they were ready in 15 minutes without preheating the oven. I have only used my big oven twice since I bought this thing. It is the perfect for making quick food for the two of us. I love that it doesn’t need to be preheated and is almost as fast as the microwave but without the odd texture that you sometimes get when cooking in a microwave. When I bought this thing I wasn’t sure we would get a lot of use out of it since it is marketed as cooking meat quickly but I really love having it.

While the beans were cooking I grabbed package of seaweed snacks for their iodine content. When I gave up iodized salt years ago I wondered about the impact on my health but didn’t do a lot of research since I decided adding iodine to salt was unnatural and therefore not a concern. Fast forward about a week ago I read this article about iodine deficiencies in the UK. That was when I decided to add more sea vegetables to our day. We don’t eat sea veg every day but we do have it a couple times of week when I remember. With a little luck sea veg will become part of our routine like the brazil nuts, flax or chia, turmeric and black pepper, broccoli and tomatoes, walnuts, green and white tea with ascorbate C…you get the idea. ;-)

I also had my usual orange and Brazil nut snack.  When it is no longer orange season I may start adding two Brazil nuts to our smoothies to make certain we get adequate selenium.

Dinner tonight was another salad in a serving bowl. This salad contained: baby spinach, cilantro, salsa, black beans, sweet potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes, and marinated mushrooms.

Salads are one of my favorite things to eat when the weather starts to get warmer. It is hard to believe that there was a time when salad was my least favorite part of a meal. My food preferences so radically changed it is hard for me to believe. I often get asked if it is easy to eat this way and my answer is always yes. There are two primary reasons we are able to maintain our uber diet. The first is that we both feel so incredible which reduces our desire for unhealthy food. The second reason is knowledge. Once you know exactly why you should be avoiding certain foods even when our habits and memories cause us to look fondly at an unhealthy item the knowledge is enough to keep us from indulging.

I will be the first to admit that eating healthy at home is a breeze compared to when we go out. Chefs are not typically "able" to cook without oil and that is just something that I accept and don’t obsess about. Given how clean our diet is at home I can let that go when we go out. Life is always a series of trade-offs. I would rather go out sometimes and have some oil that to stay home and have a more perfect diet. I guess you could say having a little oil is my idea of moderation. Overall I am content with the healthfulness of diet at this time.

Happy thoughts:

• I am happy that my toe is improving, and that is wasn’t hurt as badly as it could have been. This morning (Thursday) my toe felt really good until I bumped it on a cat tree. *rolls eyes* I have my foot elevated and iced again and it is starting to feel better. I really need to be more careful until it heals.

• Given my toe I won’t be working out as much for the next few days at least. My plan is to use that time to be productive around the house. I have a number of projects that have been on my to-do list for entirely too long. This forced exercise hiatus will give me time to get a few items crossed off my list.

• It is nice that I have gotten the hang of Facebook since I had a lot of trepidation around starting that. I can already see that I need to be careful that Facebook doesn’t cause me to spend a lot more time on the computer since I have don’t want to give up any of my other activities and there are only so many hours in the day.

• Today I am going to take some time to work on my Easter menu. Currently I am thinking I may make fresh pasta as a treat for everyone. When I have the menu finalized I will let you know what I am making.

Signing off:

I have been lazy long enough this morning so it is time to get busy. I need to make myself breakfast and get caught up with my nutrition reading. For those of you on Facebook I will posting links to any articles that I find interesting soon.

I hope you had the same gorgeous weather yesterday that we enjoyed. Talk to you again tomorrow. Have a great Thursday!
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